Monday, July 28, 2008

Appealing against Umpire- taking the mystery out of Test cricket

By John Cheeran
One of the great charms of Test cricket is its open-ended nature. If you are a batsman, you can score as many runs you wish till you run out of company.
And eleven men are something of a company, if not a crowd.
If you are a bowler, you could bowl till you tire out from wheeling the arm. Or until the last batsman departs.
Test cricket is not a precise science though as in any other sport it too has a scoreboard. But it conceals more than it reveals.
And both bowler and batman get a second chance to redeem himself in Test cricket, a luxury life does not give you.
Be that as it may, the decision to implement the Review System in Test cricket is shocking.
A system that forces Umpires to depend on television replays to reach a decision on a dismissal takes away the crux of cricket, its mystery. And if the Colombo Test match between Sri Lanka and India is any indication even the Review System cannot get everything right. Read elsewhere how the camera cannot detect the deviation and other devilries of a cricket ball.
You cannot expect umpires to be infallible in their judgments just as you cannot expect batsman and bowler to be infallible. Just as mistakes are part of life, mistakes are part of Test cricket. Umpiring errors do not matter much in Test cricket as everyone get more than ample chance to set right other’s mistake. Even if a Virender Sehwag is unjustly dismissed a Sachin Tendulkar gets an opportunity to undo the damage. That’s what is sport is all about, especially team sport.
And what relevance the Review System had on the outcome of the Colombo Test?
India lost the match all the way. Their spinners – captain Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh could not get wickets and their batsmen trembled at the sight of Muttaiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.
Kumble’s men lost by an innings and 239 runs, one of the worst defeats India has ever suffered in Test arena.
So what does review do to the fortunes of batsmen and bowlers?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Colombo Collapse: Muralitharan and Mendis strip India bare

By John Cheeran
India lost the first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo by an innings and 239 runs on Saturday, on the fourth day of the match.
Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka always have been formidable opponents but Indian batting's inability to offer even token resistance to spinners Muttaih Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis and take the match into the final day is total disgrace. And that includes celebrated men such as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. It is a pity that in the first innings almost all of the front line batsmen got onto a decent start but none succeeded in playing a big innings, without which you cannot survive in Test cricket.
In fact in the Indian first innings, it was the last wicket partnership between VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma that emerged as the biggest in terms of the number of balls played. So there were some good balls sent down by Muralitharan and Mendis but lack of application played a significant role in Indian batting's failure.
You go to South Africa, you struggle against pace.
You go to Sri Lanka, you struggle against spin, a diet as staple as rice and curry for an Indian.
India is the economic engine of world cricket, there is no doubt on that. But do we have quality batsmen and bowlers who can perform on all sorts of wickets and all sorts of climes?
Yes, winning the toss would have held its own advantages on tracks such as in Colombo but can't we expect some good old hard grind at the wicket from some of India's famed batsmen?
I know that it was not Tendulkar alone who failed with bat, but his failure to rise above the ruins once again will make his eventual tally of runs in Test cricket less brighter.
So the wait goes on for another moment of record as Indian cricket covers its shame with the fig leaf of Twenty20.

Tendulkar's date with record number of runs in Test cricket

By John Cheeran
On the eve of India's first Test against Sri Lanka the hype was on Sachin Tendulkar's date with another record, the biggest of them all in Mumbai batsman's refulgent career, the maximum number of runs in Test cricket.
Now that India has completed its first innings and began to follow on, Tendulkar's date with Brian Lara remains remote at least in this Test.
Or I'm mistaken yet again.
Tendulkar made 27 in the first innings and the follow on has presented the batting maestro another opportunity to overtake Lara as the highest run getter in Tests here and now.
The pathetic Indian batting, except by VVS Laxman, in the first innings should put Tendulkar's record hunt in perspective. What profits Indian cricket when a batsman runs after runs with no significant consequence for his team in the process?
I know that none, well, no bowler that is, will be able to stop Tendulkar from becoming the leading run getter in Tests. He will do it in this series, or in the next one.
But if Tendulkar could do it in the second innings of the current Test, at least one of his numerous records will have some meaning. At least it can avoid an innings defeat for India.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CPI (M) expels Somnath Chatterjee from party

By John Cheeran
Finally CPI (M) has acted against Somnath Chatterjee by expelling the veteran comrade who fell in love with limelight in his twilight.
There is no surprise in the decision taken by the CPI (M).
Surprise was the long rope given to the Bengal comrade by the Party General Secretary Prakash Karat, despite defying and embarrassing the party during a critical ideological battle against the ruling Congress.
Somnath now will continue as the Lok Sabha Speaker, and his last supper will be prepared by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Madam Sonia Gandhi.
Again, I'm quite happy to see that the UPA survived the Trust Vote yesterday in the Parliament and the nuclear deal with the United States would be taken to its logical finish. It's a pity that Karat and comrades cannot invent a party line beyond the Anti-American slogan.
That does not exonerate Somnath from his crimes against the Party. The cheap stunt that Somnath put up over the week and during the Trust Vote debate should shame not only any comrade but anyone who has ventured into political life.
Anyone can fullfil a school master's role.
CPI (M)'s woes, however, do not end with the expulsion of Somnath. These are challenging times for the party and Karat has an onerous task ahead of him to position Indian communists in the Post-American world while swimming against the tide in the company of Mayawatis and Chandrababu Naidus.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Trust Vote Cup: UPA chasing a winning target of 271

By John Cheeran
The chase for the Trust Vote Cup India-US Nuclear Championship has begun a few minutes ago at the Parliament House in New Delhi.
After winning the toss, UPA Captain Manmohan Singh has decided to chase the target of 271, set by Left-UNPA-NDA captain Prakash Karat.
The match will finish only late tomorrow (July 22, Tuesday).
Left-UNPA-NDA bandwagon captain Comrade Karat sounded confident of preventing the UPA achieving the coveted mark of 271 in the two-day Test, which would give the green signal for the Congress and Manmohan Singh to go ahead with India-US nuclear deal.
But UPA Captain Manmohan Singh ruled out any absence of MPs in his coalition and was upbeat that they will win by a handsome margin tomorrow.
Mr Vayalar Ravi, an emerging spin doctor in the Congress ranks, even went to the extent of predicting the runs UPA will hammer against the Combined Opposition Team. “280 will be a winning score on a wicket like this,” Ravi ascertained.
With brilliant all rounders such as Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav, one cannot rule out the UPA’s chances though they are battling on a sticky wicket made more sticky by the latest move by the Western Uttar Pradesh Jat leader Ajit Singh to the Left-UNPA-NDA camp.
“We are in terrific form,” beamed L K Advani, the leading middle order batsman for the Left-UNPA-NDA bandwagon. “Our pinch hitters like Ajit knows the UPA game inside out. And our new teammate Karat’s ideological googlies are difficult to score off. Madam Sonia knows how difficult to bat against the Left. And our dark horse, Mayawati, can outclass Sonia in the crunch overs, “ Mr Advani added.
Both teams, however, are worried out about weather conditions in New Delhi. Though political temperature has risen, visibility is low owing to hazy seat-sharing arrangements and counter offers. Abstaining by MPs in certain parties is quite likely and will have an impact on the outcome of the Trust Vote Cup.

Somnath Chatterjee: Old man and bomb

By John Cheeran
Why has Somnath Chatterjee struck a defiant position and refused to quit as the speaker of Lok Sabha as per his party’s instructions?
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Comrade Prakash Karat has made the party’s stand clear very early in the nuclear issue and had told Somnath to quit speaker’s post and strengthen the Left’s numbers to pull down the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Somnath’s refusal to do so, even as of July 21, is a major embarrassment for Karat and CPI (M).
I welcome the India-US nuclear deal.
I’m not a CPI (M) member and I’m entitled to hold an independent political opinion, which comrade Karat will agree.
But Somnath was elected to Parliament on a CPI (M) ticket. He has professed to be a communist throughout his 70-plus active political career. Communists, at least in theory, do not set much store by parliamentary practices, essentially a bourgeoisie exercise. They are revolutionaries. So why has Somnath fallen in love with parliamentary frolicking?
I, however, want to state that in India, starting from A. K Gopalan, India’s first Opposition Leader, to Indrajit Gupta, communists have been nation’s finest parliamentarians both in principle and practice.
But a Parliamentarian has to listen to his Party and its position, rather than indulging in conscience somersaults.
Somnath has taken a moral high ground saying that as speaker of the house he is above party politics. I must remind him that he owes his high horse to CPI (M) and as a true parliamentarian has to acknowledge and strengthen his party’s position. The only way he can do is that by quitting as speaker.
But Somanth today does not look like a communist. Somnath comes across an old man who has been enamoured by media attention in the twilight of his political life, and taken in by delusions of playing an impartial role in Indian history.
Please not mistake Somnath Chatterjee for a rebel with a cause.
He is the self-seeking rebel not much different from Ajit Singhs of this world.
His defiant position that if he is forced to quit as speaker he will quit as MP too, shows what an honest communist he has been! He even raised the quibble that Karat is forcing communist to vote along with Hindu right wingers, Bharatiya Janata Party.
It many not be pertinent at this juncture, but Somnath’s father was one of the founding members of Hindu Maha Sabha in Kolkata.
So much for ideological purity.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Manmohan and UPA favourites to win trust vote

By John Cheeran
Who will win the trust vote on July 22?
My take is that the UPA and Manmohan Singh will survive.
The parliamentary flotsam in New Delhi stands to gain zilch if the government is defeated on trust vote. If defeated, Manmohan Singh will continue as a caretaker Prime Minister, though nuclear deal will collapse.
But if the flotsam characters such as Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and Janata Dal MPs vote in favour of the UPA, they can nibble at some sort of power for the next nine months, or till when Sonia Gandhi decides to go for the polls.
Given the political climate, Congress will find it tough to return to power at Centre. Even the NDA will have strenuous times to muster the majority. That’s why splinter formations are in vogue.
That’s why the Price for an MP has gone up to Rs 30 crore.
Democracy is a costly enterprise.
We have to pay for it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gulf News and its quote maker in Kolkata

By John Cheeran
A fellow blogger points out how a gentleman named D Datta manufactures quotes of international cricketers for Gulf News and makes a living out of it. Readers of Gulf News Sport section are subjected every other day to an interview from this quote maker from Kolkata – one day it is with Brian Lara, the other day with Gordon Greenidge and then, you have Sarfraz Nawaz.
Does he speak to the cricketers he allegedly interviews?
This blogger friend doubts. He points out the Zaheer Khan interview by D Datta published by Gulf News on April 8, 2008.

Wisden honour will motivate me to perform better - Zaheer

What was the recipe of your success?

I want to credit the Derbyshire Cricket County Club for the success. I was then out of the national squad, but Derbyshire helped me to get back into rhythm. My sincere thanks to Graeme Hick too, who was inspirational at the initial stages.

D Datta claims Gulf News spoke to Zaheer Khan.

Zaheer or Graeme Hick never played for Derbyshire.

For the record, ZK represented Worcestershire. Hick is a Worcs legend...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Asif fails WADA dope test and exclaims "who done it"

By John Cheeran
Poor Mohammad Asif. The plight of Pakistani fast bowler is quite similar to that of the duchess who exclaimed:"I'm pregnant. Who done it?"
Asif, of course, is innocent.
The bowler has no doubts on that score. But the the Indian Premier League says according to WADA's dope tests, it is Asif who has come out positive.
Is this, then, the work of India's dirty tricks department Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to sully the name of Pakistan cricket?
"I am shocked and surprised because I was extra cautious and never used any banned substances," Asif told AFP. "I don't know what to do. I will decide the next course of action only after consultation with my lawyer."
Excellent response.
Was this the same bowler who had an extended all paid holiday in Dubai International Airport as recently as last month?
Was this the same bowler who failed another dope test nearly two years ago?
I have heard that Delhi has quite a few feisty djinns and they must have turned dare Devils to spoil Asif's IPL party and put some substance into Asif's lassi.
But there are more powerful djinns in Pakistan Cricket Board and International Cricket Council, and I'm sure, traces of the positive substance in Asif's system soon will be miraculously wiped out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Internet Fix: Journalism Made Simple at Gulf News

By John Cheeran
Old habits die hard.
Ask any journalist, s/he will tell you.
Internet has eased the lives of typists masquerading as journalists. Offenders often try to couch their plagiarism by claiming to do research. And in the Middle East journalism, ‘lifting’ stories is a way of life.
On July 12, 2008, Gulf News Sport section carried a horse racing preview for the Ascot Summer Miles Stakes, where the Dubai-based stable Godolphin ran, as the lead story.
It’s a by line story. When a newspaper lets you take a by line, it’s a signal to readers that here the writer has done some hard work to ferret out information. A newspaper, normally, should take pride in by line stories because that’s what it gives a distinct voice in a crowded media market.
In this STAR RETURNS story, the Gulf News journalist has stooped so low to denigrate the newspaper and his profession by lifting the entire story from the website of the stable Godolphin,
The Gulf News horse racing expert normally pretends that he has a direct line to trainer Saeed bin Surour’s thoughts. So in the second paragraph itself, the Gulf News writer says Surour is ‘excited’. In fact it is the Godolphin website which says the trainer is ‘excited.’ The Gulf News expert only swallows the same feeling.
And he goes on to quote Surour three times in the story without spelling out whether he actually spoke to the trainer. Camouflaging, at its best.
All quotes attributed to Surour is a straight lift from the preview www.godolphin has published on its site. Godolphin has uploaded its preview at a convenient time for would be plagiarists. At 14.55 hrs. (Read the original preview at
That gives plenty of time for journalists to cook up their own by line stuff.

By not attributing Surour’s quotes to, the Gulf News horse racing specialist has misled his readers and editors. To anyone believing in the integrity of journalism this is nothing but unabashed plagiarism.
No one who has left some pride in his profession and integrity (after more than 20 years in the business) would resort to such desperate measures while taking a by line.
Only when quoting Simon Crisford, the Gulf News horse racing expert refers to the Godolphin website, but again without naming the website’s details.
So by carefully not attributing Surour’s comments to, the Gulf News horse racing expert has tried to claim that his quotes are exclusive.
Take out quotes from this preview which are straight lifts from the godolphin website, there will be only a gaping hole in the place of preview. For that the writer has shamelessly taken a by line!
And any defence on part of the writer that he has not committed plagiarism but only research is shredded to pieces by the last paragraph of his preview.
The Gulf News Preview’s last paragraph, which is not a quote, is a word-to-word lift from
In fact the last seven paragraphs of the Gulf News Preview, by lined by its horse racing expert, is a word-to-word lift from the
Respected sirs, ladies and gentlemen, what should one call this? Please advise me.
Is this journalism?
Faithful Xeroxing of another’s Intellectual Property?
Today I find it highly embarrassing to recall that I once worked for Gulf News.
As the BONEY M song said about Rasputin, “It was a shame how he carried on.”
The tragedy is that he still carries on.

Dhoni Drop Out: Gavaskar forgets his own words

By John Cheeran
Sunil Gavaskar is a one-man circus show in cricket. Gavaskar’s adroitness to perform breathtaking u-turns and somersaults should give Nadia Comaneci blushes.
This morning I read Gavaskar’s column in Hindustan Times where he has dwelled on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to take a break from the international game. The Mumbai oracle finds Dhoni a brave man.
Let me quote Gavaskar from his column.
“The reaction to Dhoni's decision looks a lot more mature. They seem to have appreciated Dhoni's honesty in not playing on if he is mentally and physically tired.”
But what about SMG’s own reaction?
That is less forthcoming.
Gavaskar, however, dwells a great deal on what happened in 1978 when he was captain but is happy that the BCCI has accepted Dhoni’s decision to stay away from the action.
All that is fine.
But in his column Gavaskar does not refer to his own reaction two years ago, on April 18, 2006, on the same subject. When players all over the world complained there was too much cricket, as the head of the cricket committee of the ICC, Gavaskar fulminated against them.
Let me quote Gavaskar’s statement he made on April 17, 2006.
“I can't see the problem, these players are turning out for their countries, it's an honour to represent your country. I would be willing to sweat 365 days in a year for India. Those who can't stand the heat should stay out."
Yes. Dhoni has heeded Gavaskar’s words.
Now why has Gavaskar fallen silent on ‘honour and playing for his country’?
But rather tactfully Gavaskar has held back himself on the big questions – is there too much cricket?
Is the BCCI the villain by flogging its hired cricketers?
It was a delight to watch Gavaskar on back foot at the crease during his hey days.
But not now.

Kumble's googly clean bowls Vengsarkar

By John Cheeran
Anil Kumble, India’s Test captain, has invited the ire of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for letting the ‘classified information’ regarding a selection committee meeting.
The man upset by Kumble interview is Dilip Vengsarkar. For Kumble vetoed Vengsarkar’s idea of burdening Rahul Dravid with the role of second wicketkeeper during the forthcoming tour to Sri Lanka.
It is pretty much evident that Vengsarkar has an axe to grind with Dravid. Chairman of national selectors finds Dravid not good enough for one-dayers, but at the same time, he thinks Dravid should be burdened with wicket keeping duties, a legacy of the self serving interests of former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.
But Kumble is no Ganguly. Kumble and Dravid, of course, are friends. They are from Bangalore. But that’s not the point. Kumble knows how to stand up for someone who has served Indian cricket with dignity and unmatched integrity.
I’m quite happy that not only did Kumble outsmart Vengsarkar in the selection committee meeting, but the Indian captain let the world know what sorts of manipulative forces are in action in Indian cricket by giving an interview to a Mumbai-based tabloid.
Anil’s Googly had Colonel clean bowled.
Here are Kumble’s comments to Mumbai Mirror that exposed Vengsarkar.
“I insisted on the second wicketkeeper because there was a view among some of the selectors that we could do with one specialist.

As captain I am aware that there could be problems if the specialist were to pull a muscle or have a runny stomach on the morning of a Test. There was a suggestion that Rahul (Dravid) be the second wicketkeeper, but I persuaded the committee to view things from Indian cricket’s point of view and advantage.

I contended there was nothing wrong in taking the additional specialist wicketkeeper. I know Rahul would not like to be saddled with such a responsibility.

He has enough as a batsman and does not want a repeat of his wicketkeeping experiences in ODIs. On Dhoni’s withdrawal I have nothing to say as it is a personal decision. He knows his mind and body.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Adoor Gopalakrishnan in Abu Dhabi

By John Cheeran
The National, the Abu Dhabi-based English newspaper, today has devoted two full pages in its Arts and Life section to a profile of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, one of India’s finest film makers.
Despite the lavish display, there is hardly anything that is insightful in the profile by Gautaman Bhaskaran.
The journalist writes: “Gopalakrishnan’s cinema is about real people and real ¬issues.”
Aren’t all people real, all issues real?
Read the profile online.

Gulf News carries on with its assault on readers

By John Cheeran
Gulf News refuses to learn. Or better still Gulf News revels in its own mediocrity.
Here are two gems from the paper's sport section in the last two days. On July 7, 2008, Gulf News sports editors honoured the BCCI president Sharad Pawar making him a 'double'. (view the image and headline.)
On July 8, 2008, an interesting story on Sri Lankan spinner Ajanatha Mendis was ended abruptly. (view the image and headline).
I could have understood the errors made by the paper but for the boastfulness of the paper and its illiterate editors. In fact I had heard 'quiet' a smart editor there saying 'even New York Times makes mistakes.'
Read Gulf News at your own peril.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Why Yuvraj Singh is not getting tired?

By John Cheeran
One Indian cricketer who is not going to complain of getting tired, definitely, is Yuvraj Singh.
Yuvraj started staking his claim for a Test spot much earlier than many of the selectors’ chosen ones who have made into the Test squad for the Sri Lanka tour.
Look at the irony of it.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni cries that there is more than he can play. At the other end of the spectrum Yuvraj Singh curses his luck for again missing out on the real cricket. Yuvraj too cries.
It is no small thing to be at the right place at the right time. Dhoni walked into Indian cricket at the right juncture. Yuvraj came on the scene when four Indian batting greats – Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly – were making runs. And to India’s blessing, these Fab Four are still in the business.
There is no guarantee now even if one of them fades Yuvraj will be able to get into the Test bandwagon.
Already signals are there. Rohit Sharma has been rated quite high as a middle order batsman suited for the sterner Tests compared to the prince of Twenty20. Being schooled in Mumbai batting tradition will indeed help Sharma to get a look in, especially the way the power equations are drawn out in Indian cricket now.
May be Yuvraj should learn to enjoy his holidays.

Indian Test team for Sri Lanka tour: Anil Kumble (captain), Virender Sehwag (Vice-captain), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Vangipurappu Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Pragyan Ojha, Parthiv Patel.

The Tests will be played in Colombo (July 23-27), Galle (July 31-Aug 4) and Colombo (Aug 8-12).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

BCCI's PR Coup: It's Dhoni's Choice to Stay Away

By John Cheeran
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it seems, has dramatically improved its Public Relations (PR) and it showed when it handled the vacation for its one-day skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Before the selection committee got together to pick the side, Ratnakar Shetty, one of the BCCI officials, has said that Dhoni himself has pulled out of the Test series in Sri Lanka. That makes the life easier for chairman of selection committee while explaining his picks later in the day to the Indian media.
Whatever the spin, whether Dhoni pulls out of the race for runs and dollars, or the BCCI taking the youngster’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, the fact remains that the cricket showbiz will go on waiting for none in the process. Dhoni and Pepsi, his principal sponsors, will have to accept this and take it easy.
But sport, and cricket, is a strange beast, as much as life is. Some of the vacations of athletes are not a choice, but inevitable. Ask the soldiers of cricket, the fast bowlers. In professional sport, injuries can happen at any moment, and you cannot do anything about it.
There is always a life outside of cricket too.
Dhoni has a right to think beyond the boundaries but such a decision is always fraught with the danger of being ignored too soon by the madding crowd and the manipulators in the boardroom.
One should, however, note that Dhoni has contributed a great deal in writing a new chapter in Indian cricket history. It is for the first time a leading, unhurt Indian cricketer stays away from the circus, and if we can believe Dhoni, of his own choice.
Sourav Ganguly was dropped.
Rahul Dravid was dropped.
Even Kapil Dev and Lala Amarnath were dropped.
All of them were fit and eager to play when they were ignored by the Indian board.
I wish the luck stays on with Dhoni. May be like Samson, Dhoni should grow his hair back to recover his energy.
Mind it!

Dhoni made to pay for his grand stand against the BCCI

By John Cheeran
India’s one-day and Twenty20 skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is in a bind. Dhoni, in all likelihood, will be a given a short vacation by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by leaving him out of the national team that will tour Sri Lanka for a three-Test series.
Dhoni cannot complain, if chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar follows a plan charted out by the Indian board and picks the side. Dhoni himself is aware of what’s happening around him for he only set the ball rolling. Dhoni has been conveyed the message by the BCCI and the player has hinted that he may skip the Sri Lankan series. It was Dhoni who embarrassed the BCCI by venting his frustration on poor scheduling in Karachi during the recently concluded Asia Cup.
So despite Pepsi refreshing himself, Indian cricket and Youngistan, Dhoni is mighty tired. But Dhoni is a brave man. He spoke for himself and his team mates. Now he is made to pay for his bravery and grand standing.
You cannot ignore that Dhoni suddenly finds himself under tremendous pressure after losing three consecutive finals.
The IPL final, Kitply Cup and Asia Cup. It all adds up. Though Dhoni has an air conditioner inside his brain, he needs to refill the gas.
He needs a break to recharge himself.
But there are two questions that need to be answered by Dhoni. There were back-to-back matches in the Indian Premier League. Did he feel fatigue then? Or Money kept him refreshed?
And the second question. If he is really drained out after the Asia Cup, why was he wasting his time and energy by involving himself in a sponsor’s circus in Mumbai on Monday?
All this brouhaha over too much play and too much pay should make Pepsi executives really worried. Their biggest investment in future since Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni, the zeitgeist of the Youngistan, is bloody tired. That’s after drinking Pepsi after Pepsi. How can they now tell the Youngistan that Pepsi refreshes Indian cricket in this searing summer?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Nadal vs Federer: men's tennis reaches tipping point

By John Cheeran
When John McEnroe says the 2008 Wimbledon men's singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is the best match he has ever watched, then it must be true. Nadal triumphed 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.
I too watched the epic match when Federer, the senior pro, clawed back into the game, and almost won the match against his aggressive challenger in the gloam that enveloped the Centre Court. It was not the longevity of the match that mattered in the end, but the sheer brilliance of shot making and the spirit of fight back.
Certainly 2008 Wimbledon final and Nadal's triumph marks a tipping point in contemporary tennis. Though Federer played and regained some of his touch and composure towards the final stages of the clash, there was something about the Swiss ace that he has lost that X factor that made him the argubaly the finest tennis player the game has seen.
Strictly from the tennis context, Federer lost the final and the chance to overcome Bjorn Borg's record of five consecutive Wimbledon singles title thanks to his poor net play. His other strengths are intact and especially the ability to fire aces at critical juncture (Federer sent down 26 aces in the final compared to seven of Nadal).
It is not that Federer has lost the Wimbledon final that is significant. The fact is that since 1980, for the first time a men's singles player has won French Open and Wimbledon in the same year. It's a feat last achieved by the incomparable Borg. Since then the vast difference between the French clay and Wimbledon grass courts have been viewed as such a challenge that both championships are considered different versions of tennis. It was a challenge which the great Ivan Lendl, who had a terrific record in French Open, bowed to. Boris Becker never won the French Open.
So Nadal has bridged the chasm. He has proved that he has a complete game suitable for any surface. This indeed is the tipping point in modern tennis and we should appreciate the magic of the moment.
Now onus will be on Federer to conquer the clay at Rolland Garros. Though Federer was not defeated in the normal sense of the word at the centre court on Sunday, and emerged as a winner for fighting in the inimitable way he did, and won more ovation than the champion Nadal himself, a return to glory will be a hard act to follow.
But I will wait as much as the rest of the world and will live in hope.

Dhoni surrenders in another final. India has no strategy to counter Mendis

By John Cheeran
Mahendra Singh Dhoni won India the Twenty20 World Cup. But that was a long time ago.
Now what worries many is that Dhoni has lost three finals in a row as a captain. He first lost the Indian Premier League final while leading Chennai Super Kings to Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals.
Later, Dhoni’s India lost to Pakistan in the final of Kitply Cup in Mirpur, Bangladesh.
And yesterday, despite striving hard as a batsman, Dhoni lost another final as India surrendered to Sri Lanka in Asia Cup.
So with every ambush such as that happened in Karachi last night, we realize that nothing has changed in Indian cricket. Dhoni, coach Gary Kirsten and other seniors of the team failed to build a strategy for the Asia Cup final and there cannot be any excuses on that front.
It was pretty clear before the final that the contest will boil down to a battle of wits between the emerging Sri Lankan slow bowler Ajantha Mendis and Indian batsmen.
Were there any tactics to counter the carom-ball bowler?
None was evident. May be only plan was to get as many runs as possible before Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene introduced Mendis. Virender Sehwag, to his credit, did that hammering the Sri Lankan pacers to all corners of the field. But to lose two wickets in the space of first five balls sent down by Mendis shows how vulnerable the famed Indian batting line up against accurate bowling.
Skipper Dhoni said after the match that they had tried to figure out Mendis’ way of bowling watching a few video clips. But there was hardly any hint of sensible approach to read Mendis’s bowing. In fact the Sri Lankan reduced Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa to the levels of school boy cricketers. May be worse than me!
The point is that Dhoni can trot out novelty as a factor for succumbing to the guile of Mendis. But can a professional side console themselves on such pathetic explanation?
Sri Lankan cricketers, including skipper Jayawardene and wicketkeeper Kumara Sangakkara, say that Mendis can bowl up to five different balls in an over and the way Mendis flicks the ball while delivering it, batsmen finds it impossible to handpick the bowler. The only way to read Mendis, is off-the pitch. But Indians failed in that task. It is not even certain whether they attempted any such thing while on the crease.
And it is quite interesting that suddenly a boring tournament came alive on the final day. Bowlers, Ishant Sharma for India, and Mendis for Sri Lanka, tested and teased batsmen. It seemed there was a new sky, and a new earth in Karachi.
May be we are mistaken.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ajantha turn Indians into stones at Karachi: Sri Lanka thrash India by 100 runs to lift Asia Cup

By John Cheeran
India's famed batting lineup collapsed without figuring out a 23-year old Sri Lankan spinner in the final of Asia Cup in Karachi yesterday. Ajantha Mendis totally outwitted the Indians, who have a reputation of handling spinners, including the great Shane Warne, with disdain.
Pakistani spectators would have been happy at the defeat of its neighbours, who pushed the hosts out of the final, but for the Melody bomb blasts in Islamabad the same evening.
With Mendis taking six wickets for less than 10 runs in six overs, India, who had began its chase of 273 runs with a blitzkrieg from opener Virender Sehwag, lost its way. Even skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's doggedness at the crease was not enough to turn the things around.
Till the 10th over of the chase, things were going in India's way (76 for one). But Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene introduced the mystery man Mendis in the 10th over and with second ball of his over the spinner had Sehwag stumped. One ball later Mendis bowled Yuvraj Singh. The match by and large had been won and lost in that crucial over. India never recovered from that double blow. Soon Suresh Raina was deceived. In a blink five Indian wickets collapsed. And Muttaiah Muralitharan had not even started his bowling.
As Sri Lanka celebrates the Asia Cup triumph it would not go unnoticed that two outstanding contributions made the victory possible in a contrasting manner. Veteran batsman Sanath Jayasuriya lifted his side single handedly from the abyss that Indian pacer Ishant sharam had pushed them into with a innings that bore the hallmark of a untainted genius, after all these years. And later, a young Mendis made an improbable victory possible in a single over. One should say that not even Muralitharan in his pomp had troubled and hurt an Indian batting lineup the fashion in which Mendis did in Karachi.
Sri Lankan cricket has discovered a gem and I'm sure time will add more lustre and variety to Mendis's craft.

Zimbabwe, ICC and the art of possible

By John Cheeran
More than the moral drama surrounding the future of cricket in Zimbabwe, attention should have been paid at the annual conference of International Cricket Conference (ICC) in Dubai to a decision that will have deep influence on the way the game will be played.
Michael Holding, former West Indies fast bowler and now renowned television commentator, did the right thing by pulling out of ICC’s cricket committee in protest against the decision to alter the result of the Oval Test between Pakistan and England in 2006.
Pakistan was originally ruled to have forfeited the match, something never before seen in a Test, following their refusal to take the field after tea on the fourth day having previously been penalised five runs for ball-tampering by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove.
A subsequent hearing cleared Pakistan of ball-tampering and, on Thursday, the ICC took the extraordinary step of altering the match result.
Holding made his point quite clear. He does not believe that the Pakistani cricketers indulged in ball tampering but failure of captain Inzamam-ul Haq and his team to return to the field for the resumption of the match should not go unpunished. I think the majority of game’s followers would share that sentiment.
It is good policy and smart tactic to snub the imperialist moral posturing by indulging in crass, vote politics and there by avoiding the extreme step of banning Zimbabwe from the ICC corridors. But bad behaviour is bad behaviour by any reckoning and Asian brotherhood should not come in the way of upholding the sanctity of the game.
I will not blame the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and its President Mr. Sharad Pawar for supporting the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Yes, many of us cannot reconcile with Robert Mugabe and his regime. But banning Zimbabwe from the ICC is not going to have any impact on that country’s political and economical situation.
But much leading sport organizations such as IOC and Fifa have not banned Zimbabwe from their fiefdom. Zimbabwe is competing in Beijing Olympics. They are taking part in World Cup qualifiers. So the moral outrage in England, Australia and New Zealand over Zimbabwe cricket is uncalled for. By getting rid of Zimbabwe from the ICC, the Western bloc would have succeeded in denying the Asian Brotherhood a crucial fifth vote by Peter Chingoka.
But where the ICC has erred in is letting expediency overrule over the integrity of the game such as in the Oval Test outcome.

Cricket controversies: When Rameez Raja reads too much into the game

By John Cheeran
When teams meet each other quite often, twice every month, as is the case with cricket, it is difficult to keep the intensity intact.
Today’s Asia Cup final between Indian and Sri Lanka in Pakistan will be a tired show in every respect. In that case only your interpretation of the action on the field can leaven the encounters.
A foolish comment from former Pakistan cricketer, and now a television commentator, Rameez Raja, has given desperate sports journalists some talking point. I had heard Raja’s observation during the Super Four match between Indian and Sri Lanka on Sri Lankan cricketers lack of will to come ‘hard on India and defeat them,” and thought that here is a worthy who could be paired with Arun Lal and banished to hell for ever.
Raja had a really interesting theory to tell and sell. He reasoned that Sri Lanka should defeat India in that match, which was crucial for both India and Pakistan’s entry into the final of the Asia Cup, so that they will have a weaker rival in Pakistan in the final. India is a tough side, so if Sri Lanka let India win and enter the final, they will be making their own lives tougher in the final. By saying so, Raja was admitting that Pakistan was an inferior side compared to India. High treason, to say that in front of a Karachi crowed.
But what Raja did not tell at that time was that the host nation’s entry into the final solely depended on India’s defeat. So clearly Raja, as a Pakistani, was making a case for his nation and his team, though he claims to be a professional commentator.

And I was shocked to find out later that Raja’s observation was trotted by a section of desperate Indian cricket media as an insinuation for a staged match between India and Sri Lanka. So what do you do? You ask for a quote from any of the BCCI official available on Raja’s comment. And there you have another cricket controversy.
Sri Lanka, of course, had rested its experienced seamer Chaminda Vaas and emerging spin star Ajantha Mendis.
That’s part of the Sri Lankan strategy and none can quarrel with that after they moved into the final with a consistent show of strength in all departments of the game. So how can Rameez Raja cast doubts on the attitude and approach of Sri Lankan side? And consider that this Asia Cup had been criticized for its poor scheduling that made for back-to-back matches in searing heat with pitches offering little support for bowlers.
So can any one, who knows his cricket, blame Sri Lankans for giving some rest to their key bowlers ahead of the final?
The fact that Raja, a former cricketer, could do that and tick off the hungry media tells a story about the quality of contemporary cricket reportage.
Read the game, as they say.

India has better chances to win Asia Cup

By John Cheeran
Sri Lanka is the stronger team, but I’m putting my money on India to win today’s Asia Cup final.
Well, it is a long time since India won the Asia Cup.
Last time India won the Asia Cup was in 1995 when it beat Sri Lanka in final.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side has the batting resources to chase down a total, so that represents a bright chance for India to correct the record books.
Sri Lanka has two crafty bowlers in off spinners Muttaiah Muralitharan and the relative newcomer Ajantha Mendis. These two could trouble Indian big hitters.
But this India is capable of overcoming all odds, despite its apparent weakness in bowling.
And winning the Asia Cup when the nation is celebrating the silver jubilee of its 1983 World Cup will be a true tribute to Kapil’s Devils.
I may sound foolish, but folks put your money on India to lift Asia Cup.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dhoni helps Indians take their seat in Asia Cup final

By John Cheeran
India is in the final of Asia Cup. A forced opportunity to chase the target, 309, a target which Pakistan overcome easily on Wednesday, gave India and Mahendra Singh Dhoni the ideal chance to move into the final and make amends for the defeat to Pakistan.
Skipper Dhoni deserves praise for his initiative, if not for tactics, while promoting himself in the batting order after the opening blitz provided by Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir came to an end. That's welcome sign from a leader of men.
Among the Sri Lankan bowlers only Muttaiah Muralitharan presented any danger for Indian batsmen, and the Indian victory was never in doubt after the atomic start in the first 10 overs.
Sunday's final will see the same rivals clashing again.
The thought itself brings yawns as I type this, and imagine the amount of boredom among the Indian cricketers, though they are after all are paid to suffer the slings and arrows of international schedule.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A back breaking match for India and Dhoni against Sri Lanka

By John Cheeran
India and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have a match on their hands against Sri Lanka today. It is a back-breaking back-to-back match for Dhoni.
And India must win today’s clash to progress into the final of Asia Cup. Sri Lanka has already reached the final and is free to try out a few tricks on the Indians.
Basics remain the same for India.
Its batsmen are among runs but bowlers are struggling on wickets that lend little support. The question is how deep, how big, the Indian batsmen can perform on the big day.
Sri Lanka is a side that Indians respect, and to a certain extent, fear.
Pacers will not trouble batsmen on the sort of wickets Pakistan has prepared for this tournament, and hence, spinners Muttaiah Muralithran and Ajantha Mendis will have a great impact against Indian batsmen, provided the Sri Lankan team management decides to play both bowlers today.
In the context of the tournament, today’s match is inconsequential for the Sri Lankans since they have already reached the final.
But any chance to hurt India, and in this case, an opportunity to shut the doors of Asia Cup on the rich men of the cricket, will be pounced on by the world cup finalists.
And, a last word.
If Dhoni wins the toss, as he did against Pakistan on Wednesday, the Indian skipper would do well to chase so as to have the best chance to beat the Sri Lankans.
Good luck.

Dhoni gives Pakistan a helping hand in Karachi

By John Cheeran
So I made money yesterday by betting on India to help Pakistan win and bring Asia Cup alive.
India’s weakness in bowling was put in sharp relief by Pakistan opener Salman Butt, and later by centurion Younis Khan.
So the theory has again gained credence that when pushed to a corner Pakistan fights back with venom. But the match in Karachi last night was nothing but a test of staying power at the crease.
Indian batsmen did their job, posting a 300-plus total. But then on tracks such as the one in Karachi, if you can pace your innings, scoring six runs per over is not a daunting task anymore.
Now Pakistan is into its best sport, prayers. They need quite a lot of it to ensure that they keep their last Super Four match against Bangladesh meaningful and leave the doors to the final ajar. Pakistan need Sri Lanka to beat India today so that it can sneak into final with more Super Four stage wins compared to India.
So what matters if coach Geoff Lawson stands clueless to handle the side?
What matters if there is a new captain for every other match?
Bet on Pakistan to win the Asia Cup.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

On why Pakistan should beat India today in Asia Cup

By John Cheeran
This is the perfect opportunity for Pakistan to bounce back in the Asia Cup. Pakistan has already lost to Sri Lanka and India in the tournament, and losing to India should push the hosts into the sidelines of the tournament.
As is the fashion, when the team is losing all the squabbles take on a new meaning. Pakistan’s Australian coach Geoff Lawson lost his cool the other day when reporters told him that he cannot dictate terms to the media. Poor Lawson cannot control the affairs in the dressing room, and now Pakistani media was adding insult to defeats.
But it is such crisis that invigorates Pakistan and I will not be surprised if Pakistan seeks India’s help to maintain peace at their own turf, by winning today’s match.
India, despite skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni feeling the pressure of back-to-back matches, enjoys a good batting lineup though its bowling can go to pieces if any determined opposition decides to launch an attack.
So let’s come to the point. Who will win today’s India-Pakistan match?
Pakistan. So that fight and hate can go on.
John Cheeran at Blogged