Tuesday, July 24, 2007

India escape defeat at Lord's

By John Cheeran
How unexpected defeats strike us. Argentina entered the Copa America finals without a loss yet they were outclassed by Brazil. Even after losing their World Cup campaigns, Brazil and Argentina are still held in high regard in world football.
Argentina, despite their loss in the Copa final, are most attractive plotters of the ball movements on the field. Every time they step out on the field they command respect; the lineage of Alfred Di Stefano, Mario Kempes and Maradona are kept alive by Lionel Messi.
And just two days ago, Argentina won the world youth championship, a tournament that is considered as one of the finest platform for emerging talent, defeating Czech Republic in the final.
Let’s come back to Argentina’s trait of living in dignity despite setbacks.
India, and England, too failed in their World Cup cricket campaigns. But can India command respect from their rivals as well as from television watchers despite their poor show in World Cup?
India have floundered again in the first serious Test that they faced since the World Cup. I guess, the level of expectations from the fans are so low, there are hardly any heartbreaks.
Skipper Rahul Dravid had a disastrous outing as batsman at Lord's Test against England.
VVS Laxman, finally given his chance, struggled to do himself and his team much good. Only Sourav Ganguly showed he could still play within his limitations to ensure his own survival.
And do you think that rain would have helped India if Greg Chappell was still around as coach?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Messi: Emerging from the shadows

Maracaibo, Venezuela (Reuters)
Sweltering Puerto Ordaz, lying halfway between the Caribbean coast and the Amazon jungle in the heart of Venezuela's savannah, is not noted for being one of international soccer's great venues.
On Wednesday, however, the remote, riverside town witnessed a rare moment of football magic when Lionel Messi stamped his indelible mark on the Copa America with a sublime goal.Picking up a short pass from Carlos Tevez on the right, Messi spotted Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez off his line and chipped the ball delicately over him from the edge of the area.
The goal, the second in Argentina's 3-0 semi-final win over Mexico, was arguably the best goal of the tournament and one of the best scored this year anywhere.
It signalled a great transformation for Messi, who only a year ago sat forlornly on the bench as Argentina lost to Germany on penalties in the World Cup quarter-final in Berlin.It was also a fitting reward for the Venezuelan organisers who have invested in state-of-the-art stadiums for an event where, in recent editions, facilities have often been basic.The Venezuelan government has spent an estimated $1 billion, building three stadiums from scratch and refurbishing another six beyond recognition, to bring the Copa to what is primarily baseball territory.The Cachamay stadium where Messi scored his goal was, until recently, a humble arena with no terraces behind the goal, where the tropical sun beat down on hapless fans.It is now an impressive, covered 41,000-capacity stadium.
When Brazilian pair Ronaldinho and Kaka announced earlier this year that they would not take part because they were too tired, it was feared that other top players would follow suit and the tournament would become a damp squib.Their decision seemed typical of an era in which top players ply their trade almost exclusively in Europe, leaving regions such as Latin America and Africa to act as nothing more than providers of raw material.So, the decision of Argentina to bring a full complement of players was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Venezuelan public.
Messi, in particular, has been greeted rapturously every time he appears on the pitch.Wednesday's goal, almost inevitably, sparked a war of superlatives among the media and led to comparisons with Diego Maradona.
"The Maradona of the 21st century scored an anthological goal," said the Argentine sports daily Ole.La Nacion described it as "a magic touch" and wrote: "On Sunday, Argentina will have to show against Brazil (in the final) that they are the best team in the Copa America."Argentina coach Alfio Basile quickly played down comparisons with Maradona, who never won the Copa America as a player.
"His career has just got off the ground and you can never compare Diego's career with a boy who is starting out," he said.
"The only thing the coaches should do is not inhibit him in the slightest, we have to let him fly."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Nine all out in 10 overs : An Arabian Tale

By John Cheeran
Cricket's unlikely headquarters is at Dubai in the UAE.
And what's the status of cricket there?
The UAE women's cricket team suffered an embarassing 10-wicket defeat to Bangladesh, in the opening fixture of the ACC Women's Tournament in Malaysia.
After being put into bat the UAE, a team comprising expatriate players, were bowled out for only nine runs in 10 overs.
Bangladesh seamer Panna Ghosh (five for 6), did most of the damage as she ripped through the UAE line-up before the batswomen cleaned up in just 8 balls.
The UAE are captained by 13-year-old schoolgirl Natasha Michaels, while Bangladesh are led by 29-year-old Tajkia Akhtar who has been playing cricket since childhood.
UAE team spokesperson Sheila Razdan took the defeat in her stride saying, "We are building for the future."
Ghosh, who had the UAE batswomen in trouble from the start, said " I can bowl a lot faster, but I assessed the situation and decided not to bowl as quick as normal.'
"We're delighted to have won so well and so easily" said Tajkia Akhtar afterwards. "We feel we have a good chance to beat anybody in this tournament."
Brief scores: Bangladesh beat UAE by 10 wickets. UAE: 9 off 10 overs (P. Ghosh 5-6, S. Akter 3-2) Bangladesh: 10 for 0 off 1.2. overs

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Chandra Sekhar, former Indian Prime Minister: An Obituary

By John Cheeran
One of the main privileges that an Indian Prime Minister gets is a final resting place at prime real estate in New Delhi. Chandra Sekhar ensured that in the nervous 1990s, by discarding the political position he had taken hitherto, to become India’s 11th Prime Minister, using the crutches offered by Rajiv Gandhi and L K Advani.
Chandra Sekhar is no more with us.
The one time Young Turk lost his fight to cancer and has embarked on his final journey.
Tradition is that one must not speak ill about those who have left us. But truth is that Chandra Sekhar’s political career was, in the end, an irredeemable tragedy. No pill could cure his loneliness; no pill could restore his thwarted ambitions.
Chandra Sekhar’s tragedy is that though he realized his lifelong ambition by becoming Prime Minister of India, none recalls him as such a man. History did not forgive him so easily.
Chandra Sekhar scored a pyrrhic victory when he became the PM at the fall of Vishwnath Pratap Singh’s government. He never won a mandate to become India’s Prime Minister.
What happened to the Young Turk’s secular credentials when LK Advani’s BJP withdrew their support when VP Singh stopped the Rath Yatra?
It is a travesty that obituaries that churned out by agencies and newspapers today extol the departed leader’s secular credentials and ideals. Like most of the Indian politicians, what acted as the soul force for Chandra Sekhar too, was the maddening allure of power.
Chandra Sekhar became what he sought all along his political pilgrimage. To his credit, it must be said that he displayed the nous to reinvent himself at the crisis points of Indian parliamentary history. As a Congressman, he was in a hurry to break free from Indira Gandhi’s fold but was too young to become Prime Minister (with stalwarts such as Morarji Desai calling the shots) when Janata party swept to power in the post-emergency elections held in 1979.
With in the next 10 years, in 1989, Chandra Sekhar reached the end of his political tether when VP Singh stole the thunder as the Congress dissident, a role Chandra Sekhar played without enough success during Indira’s time. Chandra Sekhar was pushed to the sidelines as the intrigue for Prime Minister’s seat was played out between Devi Lal, Chandra Sekhar and VP Singh. Though the electoral victory of the anti-Congress front was shaped by VP Singh, Chandra Sekhar believed that he had an inalienable right to lead the country.
Chandra Sekhar was forced to wait, and his day did come.

Zee.. ing is believing: Chandra's letter to the BCCI

New Delhi
If Mahatama Gandhi conducted experminets with truth and told the world about it, Zee TV mogul Subhash Chandra has revealed that he too is following in the footsteps of Mahatma.
Chandra has revealed his intent to hold experiments with Indian cricket.
Chandra, in his own words, wants to use India as 'the laboratory to innovate new methods of cricket' through his Indian Cricket League (ICL) - a copycat attempt of what Australian media merchant Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket (WSC) that shook the cricket world in the late 1970s.
In a letter to Sharad Pawar, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Chandra said the ICL, to be launched in October, would be based on a new "vision-cum-action model", which was actually a "3-D approach - diligence, discovery and display.
Let's hear out Chandra.
"The idea is also to develop India, a leading cricketing nation, as the laboratory to innovate new models of cricket so that we set the agenda for innovation for others to follow," Chandra wrote in a three-page letter to Pawar faxed April 3, the day he announced the formation of ICL under the Essel group banner.
"The Essel initiative on cricket involves a 3-D approach that integrates the vision and action on diligence, discovery and display," Chandra wrote in the letter, a copy of which is with IANS.Chandra said he plans to innovate, unearth talent and transform "midgets" into mature, mentally strong and confident players. Since the announcement, ICL has roped in former India captain Kapil Dev, former players Kiran More and Sandeep Patil, former England skipper Tony Greig and ex-Australia batsman Dean Jones to either conduct the tournament or coach some of the six teams. The matches will be 20 overs per side.
The winner in the first tournament will receive $1 million. The matches will be telecast on Zee's in-house Zee Sports channel. Each team will have two players from India and four from abroad.The only step that the BCCI has apparently taken so far is to write to its affiliated units to warn their players and umpires not to associate themselves with ICL and not to lend their infrastructure.
Zee is, however, going ahead with its preparations. Outlining the aims of ICL, Chandra said he would go for "meticulous and out-of-the-box approach to the game to raise its standards, which involves creation of international standard infrastructure".
He plans to tap talent "with the aid of modern technological and communication tools" and provide them financial assistance.Besides, providing "encouragement to the deprived but deserving" players, Chandra wants to "build a transparent national directory of cricketing talent which cricket lovers can view by clicking on the network."This will also include a certain element of character-building through meditation and yoga models that will enable them to withstand and digest the pressures of popularity and prosperity that overawe the young cricketers before they mature into greats," he wrote.
The Zee boss admitted that the "establishment-directed approach to cricket" is "best suited" and that the national board "is the only way to make cricket competition between national teams work". But at the same time, the history of modern cricket shows that innovations have taken place mostly outside the establishment approach, he held. "In my understanding, their constraints rob the cricket establishments of the flexibility needed to adopt a new vision-cum-action model like the 3-D approach."
Chandra also said ICL would "build a national pool of cricket talent that is transparently captured on a national cricketing talent register" from which BCCI and state teams could pick players for their teams. "I assure you that Essel group conceives this as a genuine effort to fill gaps in the present establishment-directed and establishment-managed approach to cricket and will be wholly supportive of the BCCI...," he wrote.

A deserving break for Indian cricket's trinity!

By John Cheeran
National selectors have wisely left skipper Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly out of the probables list for the Twenty20 World Championship to be held in South Africa in September.
The likes of Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif, who was also named captain of the India 'A' team for the tours of Zimbabwe and Kenya, and Irfan Pathan are there in the list for the Sep 10-24 tournament that will be held in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
Squads: For Zimbabwe/Kenya tours: Mohammad Kaif (captain/Uttar Pradesh), Parthiv Patel (vice-captain/wicket-keeper/Gujarat), Robin Uthappa (Karnataka), Cheteshwar Pujara (Saurashtra), S. Badrinath (Tamil Nadu), Rohit Sharma (Mumbai), Rajesh Pawar (Baroda), Mahesh Rawat (wicket keeper/Haryana), Piyush Chawla (Uttar Pradesh), Arjun Yadav (Hyderabad), Pragyan Ojha (Hyderabad), Irfan Pathan (Baroda), Vikram Raj Vir Singh (Punjab), Yo Mahesh (Tamil Nadu), Pankaj Singh (Rajasthan) and Niraj Patel (Gujarat) Support staff: Chandrakant Pandit (Coach), T.C. Mathew (manager), Vaibhav Daga (Physiotherapist)
Probables for Twenty20 World Championship: Virender Sehwag (Delhi), Robin Uthappa (Karnataka), Yuvraj Singh (Punjab), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Jharkhand), Mohammad Kaif (Uttar Pradesh), Dinesh Karthik (Tamil Nadu), Rohit Sharma (Mumbai), Gautam Gambhir (Delhi), Yusuf Pathan (Baroda), Suresh Raina (Uttar Pradesh), Manoj Tiwari (Bengal), Neeraj Patel (Gujarat), Karan Goel (Punjab), Cheteshwar Pujara (Saurashtra), Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (Bengal), Rudra Pratap Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Ishant Sharma (Delhi), Zaheer Khan (Mumbai), Irfan Pathan (Baroda), Ajit Agarkar (Mumbai), S. Sreesanth (Kerala), Munaf Patel (Maharashtra), Joginder Sharma (Haryana), Piyush Chawla (Uttar Pradesh), Harbhajan Singh (Punjab), Ramesh Powar (Mumbai), Rajesh Pawar (Baroda), Niranjan Behara (Orissa), Anirudh Srikant (Tamil Nadu), Praveen Kumar (Uttar Pradesh).

Magic figures and Indian Icons

By John Cheeran
Life’s obscure parallel is death.
That’s from poetess Madhavikutty (Kamala Das.)
May be scoreboard’s obscure parallel is stock exchange. A few days after Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar crossed 15,000 run mark in One-day internationals, the top-30 Sensex hit 15,000 mark.
Parallels do not end there. Just as Sachin Tendulkar’s 15,000 runs have not fetched India World Cup, the Sensex’s 15,000 crossing has not brought cheers to vast majority of the nation.
Yet we celebrate. Bulls and Bears, Ups and Downs.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yuvraj Singh? Best Finisher?

By John Cheeran
No contest is meaningless.
Still two half-centuries by Yuvraj Singh against South Africa that helped India win those two games have come in for much praise.
Very well. Suddenly Yuvraj Singh is hailed as the best finisher in the game. Best finisher in the game? After two innings in what could be termed as neither there nor here contest in Ireland?
The best are those who could overcome adversity. The best are not those who make runs when they make runs. The best are those who make the runs when their team needs it desperately.
I watched Yuvraj’s knock in the second One-Dayer against South Africa. Yes, Yuvraj outscored Dinesh Kaarthick in the end, but the gutsy Punjabi was all at sea except for the last two overs of the Indian innings.We often forget that batsmen are supposed to score runs. That’s simply their job.
None is doing a great favour for the BCCI or Indian Republic if they simply do their job.
And Indian cricket writers would do well to temper their thoughts and words with a sense of history.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

PTI's Dream Indian Team: Dravid out; Azhar In

By John Cheeran
Press Trust of India has done a wonderful thing.
To mark India's 75th year of Test cricket, they have chosen a dream team.
Dream team: Sunil Gavaskar (captain), Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, G R Vishwanath, Kapil Dev, Syed Kirmani (wk), Javagal Srinath, EAS Prasanna, Subash Gupte. 12th Man: Vijay Manjrekar.Reserves: Mohammed Nissar, B S Chandrasekhar, Rahul Dravid.
The team was chosen by a panel consisting of Prasanna, PTI editors and veteran journalist Rajan Bala from a list submitted by eight former Indian captains G R Vishwanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, S Venkataraghavan, K Srikkanth, Ajit Wadekar, Nari Contractor, Syed Kirmani and Abbas Ali Baig.
Isn't it ironic that the Indian with the highest batting average (57.46) Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble the highest number of Test wicket taker (552) are not included in the eleven?
What do you think?

Monday, July 02, 2007

India's triumph in Ireland: Freedom from the tyranny of coach?

By John Cheeran
It would be foolish to assume that not having a coach has worked wonders for the Indian cricket team. They have beaten Bangladesh in their own den, and now have clinched the three match series over South Africa, the No 2 One-day side, away from India, in the face of a fever and common cold outbreak.
And there was no Greg Chappell in Ireland and Bangladesh to put Rahul Dravid and company through their paces. No thinking hats, no rope way danglings.
Is not having a coach such a morale booster for this side?
Or was it the fact that there were certain changes in the team composition, notable among them the dumping of Virender Sehwag?
Absence of Sehwag has ensured that Dinesh Karthick gets his opportunity purely as a batsman. The Tamil Nadu man is capable of thinking on his feet and someone who thrives in crisis and these two attributes come to the fore in a tantalizing scoreboard chase.
In India’s Future Cup victory over South Africa, the imprint left by Sachin Tendulkar’s bat is far too obvious not to be seen. Tendulkar is back to his preferred opener’s slot. Though Tendulkar lost opportunities to score centuries he has grabbed the chance to disprove a theory by giving India a solid platform for victory.
Here it would not be amiss to quote my driver when he commented in the wake of India’s first-match loss to South Africa, after Tendulkar ran himself out at 99. “How could India win this match? Whenever Tendulkar scores heavily (read century), India loses the match.”
It is not the statistics that should worry one, and even Tendulkar.
It is the sentiment.
And Tendulkar has done his best to reverse that sentiment sacrificing his centuries and in the process playing with a sense of urgency in Ireland. Let’s us note that opening the innings in One-dayers, indeed, is a vantage point for a batsman, and especially so for someone of the caliber of Tendulkar.
It is no secret that India’s last coach Chappell looked at things rather differently. Chappell had convinced skipper Dravid that India’s problem in one-dayers is our inability to handle the last 15 overs well. Chappell believed that failure to consolidate the scoring in the last 15 overs took the match away from India’s grip. Chappell wanted Tendulkar to ‘fix’ this condition and the Chinese whisper had it that the Mumbai hero was not at all amused with his downgrading to the middle order.
I’m not too jumpy at these turns and twists in Indian cricket. Greater challenges are ahead of Dravid and his men. The immediate one is the clashes against Pakistan. And, then, there are the Test and one-day series against England. India, like any other team in the fray, are bound to taste success as well as defeats.
To form an opinion at this stage of the ‘freedom from the tyranny of coach’ should wait till the series against England is played out fully.
For the BCCI, they can point out to their trenchant critics to the infinite wisdom the 72-year-old Chandu Borde has brought into the Indian dressing room.
May be Sharad Pawar has known it all along. All things come to pass.
John Cheeran at Blogged