Wednesday, December 24, 2008

India takes series from England

As expected, the Mohali Test petered out to a draw with Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh getting some functional but meaningless batting practice on a hollow final day. Neither got to their centuries and India's declaration left England a hypothetical 403 to win or, more pragmatically, 44 overs to bat.

Ishant Sharma removed Alastair Cook cheaply, but that was as good as it got for India - Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss denied them further success, batting out the remainder of the Test.

The fourth innings was but a formality. Cook nicked Ishant Sharma to VVS Laxman at second slip, and an out-of-form Bell poked and prodded, shuffled and swayed against pace and spin to accompany Strauss to the close. The match was dissolving into a farce when Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought himself on to bowl slow dibbly-dobblers, after which the umpires called off play.

Resuming on 134 for 4, India added 82 without fuss in a truncated 13-over morning session after thick fog delayed play by two-and-a-half hours. Gambhir and Yuvraj started cautiously before opening up with a range of aggressive strokes, Yuvraj fetching himself three sixes.

By the time lunch was taken, India's run rate for the morning was well over six and the way Yuvraj, especially, and Gambhir were batting, it appeared a spent England were cruising towards a bruising. Instead the two batsmen came out of the interval quite content to bide their time, but England snapped up three wickets.

If Bell's demolition of the stumps yesterday snubbed Virender Sehwag before he could ignite, his direct hit cut Yuvraj short of a century. Yuvraj swept the ball towards short fine leg and Bell swooped in to nail down the stumps with an accurate throw after Yuvraj had turned back.

Eight deliveries later, England saw the back of Dhoni, who handed Monty Panesar his easiest wicket on a thoroughly disappointing tour. Bell then stunningly intercepted a loose cut to his left at backward point, leaving Gambhir short of his hundred by three runs and prompting India to declare.

For practical purposes, it should have happened earlier, after Yuvraj and Gambhir batted England out of contention. India had dug themselves into a pattern of nervous watchfulness yesterday afternoon, their strenuous approach numbing a sparse crowd into a coma, but Yuvraj's sparkling innings before stumps had livened up proceedings.

This morning, as the gloom steadily cleared, Yuvraj carried on in the same vein and succeeded in drawing some aggression from Gambhir too, whose bat had attracted barnacles on day four.

Yuvraj grabbed the initiative with a medley of punchy drives and slogs, including one particularly disdainful six off James Anderson. The last couple of Yuvraj's sixes came against his old sparring partner Broad and recalled images of that famous over in Durban, when he hit six in a row.

First came an audacious shot, a front-foot, flat-batted bludgeon over mid-on, and then a scoop over backward point. Broad then bowled a clever wide yorker which Yuvraj edged to third man for a single, and Gambhir saw out the over.

India's decision to come out after lunch will draw plenty of debate. The two set batsmen had already shoved England into a deep corner, and it appeared the only reason to continue batting was to hunt individual records.

In the end, neither Gambhir nor Yuvraj raised landmarks while India scored just 35 runs in the last 10 overs. After the thriller in Chennai, it was the weather, ultimately, that scuppered what could have been a great Test.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gambhir holds fort, prevents collapse

Gautam Gambhir stone-walled even as Yuvraj Singh cut loose. Cricket is a team game that is often played out in partnerships. And India has been finding the right answers in stressful situations this home season.

The 54-run unbeaten association between the two left-handers of contrasting heights — the duo forced the bowlers to bowl different lengths — swelled India’s lead to 285 with six wickets remaining going into the final day.

Outside chance

At stumps on day four of the second and final Test at the PCA Stadium, India was 134 for four in its second innings. England was in with an outside chance after V.V.S. Laxman was run-out and India was down to 80 for four.

Then, Yuvraj (39 batting, 40b, 5x4, 1x6) joined Gambhir. Kevin Pietersen, rightly, kept attacking fields for most part but missed a trick by not employing Andrew Flintoff for a longer period against Yuvraj. Flintoff has troubled Yuvraj with his bounce and movement in this series.

Panesar gets the stick

Monty Panesar had dismissed Yuvraj in the first innings but then a left-arm spinner is hardly the right option against a left-handed batsman in a pressure situation. Yuvraj took a heavy toll off Panesar even as the left-armer struggled with his action. Under the circumstances, Flintoff was under-bowled.

Gambhir’s innings (44 batting, 155b, 3x4) was a lot about character and fight; the Indians have played tough, hard-nosed cricket this year. Ahead 1-0 with just one full day left in the series, India’s ploy was to completely shut the door on England.

When the Indians batted again, the England pacemen hit the right areas. There was a measure of assistance for the pacemen from the surface as well. Wickets had fallen in clutches in this Test and India — despite a 151-run lead — had to ensure against a collapse.

Gambhir’s determined knock has to be seen in this context. He concentrated hard and put a lid on his attacking instincts. The left-hander played close to the body, was sure about his off-stump, and countered movement with front-footed play.

Creating pressure

James Anderson and Stuart Broad created pressure from either end with the new ball. The duo, rightly, employed a fuller length and got the ball to deviate late.

It was, however, a brilliant display of fielding that ended the opening partnership. Racing in from short cover, Ian Bell dived full length to shatter the stumps and catch Virender Sehwag short of the crease.

England continued to strike. Rahul Dravid committed the error of not getting on to his front foot to a good length off-cutter from Broad and Sachin Tendulkar opened the face of the willow to an Anderson delivery well outside the off-stump.

Flintoff steamed in to bowl an unerring stump-to-stump line and Anderson probed the batsmen with two-way movement. There was some encouragement for off-spinner Graeme Swann but the England close-in fielders failed to snaffle half-chances.

Fog delays start

Earlier, fog delayed the start by two hours but the Indians brought the England first innings to a swift conclusion. In a collapse beginning late on Sunday, England slumped from 280 for four to 302 all out.

Harbhajan Singh varied his trajectory and spun the ball in from a shade outside the off-stump for most part. However, he struck with a different kind of delivery — one that pitched on middle and spun to leg. Attempting to work the ball, Matt Prior got a nick.

Then, the left-handed Broad shouldered arms to a Harbhajan delivery angled into him from round-the-wicket. The off-spinner had done well to switch angles to the southpaw.

Impressive record

Harbhajan extracted turn and bounce, bowling in a relaxed frame of mind. His bowling has often come under the scanner in the last few months but Harbhajan — to his credit — has 63 wickets in 13 Tests (including the on-going match) this year.

He is snapping at the heels of South African paceman Dale Steyn who leads with 64 scalps in 12 Tests so far.

Left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan bowled with precision. Zaheer is at the peak of his ability; his run-up, load-up, wrist and seam positions, and the release blend into one synchronised motion from both over and round the wicket.

Zaheer speared one through Swann’s defence; swing does sting.

The paceman is just three short of 200 wickets in Test cricket.


  India — 1st innings: 453.

England — 1st innings: A. Strauss lbw b Zaheer 0, A. Cook lbw b Zaheer 50, I. Bell b Ishant 1, K. Pietersen lbw b Harbhajan 144, P. Collingwood c Dhoni b Mishra 11, A. Flintoff c Gambhir b Mishra 62, J. Anderson (not out) 8, M. Prior c Dhoni b Harbhajan 2, S. Broad b Harbhajan 1, G. Swann b Zaheer 3, M. Panesar c Gambhir b Harbhajan 5; Extras (b-1, lb-7, nb-6, w-1): 15; Total (in 83.5 overs): 302.

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Strauss), 2-1 (Bell), 3-104 (Cook), 4-131 (Collingwood), 5-280 (Pietersen), 6-282 (Flintoff), 7-285 (Prior), 8-290 (Broad), 9-293 (Swann).

India bowling: Zaheer 21-3-76-3, Ishant 12-0-55-1, Yuvraj 6-1-20-0, Harbhajan 20.5-2-68-4, Mishra 24-0-75-2.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir (batting) 44, V. Sehwag (run out) 17, R. Dravid b Broad 0, S. Tendulkar c Swann b Anderson 5, V.V.S. Laxman (run out) 15, Yuvraj (batting) 39; Extras (b-4, lb-3, nb-2, w-5): 14; Total (for four wkts. in 50 overs): 134

Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Sehwag), 2-36 (Dravid), 3-44 (Tendulkar), 4-80 (Laxman).

England bowling: Anderson 15-8-32-1, Broad 11-2-22-1, Flintoff 9-1-16-0, Swann 8-2-20-0, Panesar 7-0-37-0.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


England bounce back as India bundled for 453 runs

With the help a 314-run stand between Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid, India on Saturday finished their first innings with a total of 453 runs on the board against England in Mohali. Bad light again played a spoilsport and stumps were called before England could start the chase on the second day. Gambhir, who had slammed fourth Test hundred on Friday to raise his second consecutive hundred at the PCA Stadium, became the fourth Indian to complete 1000 Test runs in the calendar year. Other three batsmen to achieve this feat are - Virender Sehwag (1445), VVS Laxman (1071) and Sachin Tendulkar (1047).Dravid came out of his prolonged slump to slam his detractors with a hundred. The former India captain, who averages 32 in 2008 in comparison to his career average of 52, slammed 26th hundred that is his fourth against England. His second hundred of the year came after nineteen Test innings as his last hundred came in March against South Africa (111) in Chennai.The duo of Dravid and Gambhir resumed batting with their overnight score of 179/1 on Saturday and added 314 runs for the second wicket. This was the highest partnership by any Indian pair for the second wicket. Their stay frustrated English bowlers who went wicketless in the first session.However, they bowlers were rewarded for their hard work and picked four wickets after lunch. England spinner Graeme Swann not only broke the lethal partnership but also picked three wickets. The first to depart was the Indian opener Gambhir. Gambhir came out to drive a short pitched delivery but the ball took the top edge of his bat and flew into the hands of Alastair Cook at short third man region for 179 runs.Dravid fell 22 balls later as Swann's next victim when he tried to clear the long-on boundary through the aerial route. He lofted the ball across the line to find Monty Panesar at mid-off. He went for 136 runs. Their dismissal brought 'hero' of the Chennai Test Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman out in the middle. Tendulkar tried to play sweep-turned-paddle but was struck on the front pad for 11 runs to walk back as Swann's third wicket. Laxman too was trapped in front of the wicket as an Andrew Flintoff-delivery rapped him on the pad. He fell without any addition to the score.Local boy Yuvraj Singh, who made his Test debut in Mohali in 2003, made 27 runs and added 40 runs with Dhoni for the sixth wicket before falling to Panesar. Indian skipper Dhoni too made an early exit. He tried to loft the ball but was caught by Owais Shah (substitute fielder) at midwicket for 29 runs.Panesar came back to see Harbhajan back in the hut for 24 runs. The Indian tailender went for a biggie but found Swann at mid-off. Zaheer fell as Flintoff's second victim as he lost his leg stump while trying to play a short stuff across the line. He made just seven runs. The English all-rounder wrapped the Indian innings with the wicket of Amit Mishra who was bowled for 23 runs.English openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss came out to begin the chase but poor light conditions saw them return without facing a single delivery. The third day's play will start on Sunday at 9:00 IST.

Rahul Dravid 26th Test century

After a year when the words "wall", "falling" and "crumbling" were never far from the headlines, Rahul Dravid could have been forgiven for thinking he had become Humpty Dumpty, instead of the most prolific No.3 batsman the world has ever seen. It really had been a wretched 2008, with 669 runs from 14 Tests before he arrived in Mohali. This, remember, was the man who made more than 600 runs in series in Australia and England when he was in his prime.

There were no clenched fists or frenzied waves of the bat when he reached his century on Saturday, but the man who sat behind the microphones later in the day looked like someone who had finally seen the light after weeks of confinement in an underground cave. "There was no statement," he said when asked about the muted celebrations for his 26th century. "I was just happy. I'm older and wiser now. I don't jump around and get excited.

"I'm relieved. It's nice to be contributing again. It's been a tough year, and it's good to make an important contribution, especially with the conditions that we've had in this game."

The partnership with Gautam Gambhir was worth 314 runs in 107.5 overs, its significance evident when the next highest stand was 40 runs. "Hopefully, it will be a match-winning partnership," Dravid said. "Gautam batted beautifully and took the pressure off me. He rotated the strike and was positive against both the pace bowlers and spinners. He's having a phenomenal year."

England fought back spiritedly after breaking that partnership, but they should also be worried at how subsequent batsmen failed to make much headway on a pitch that's sure to play a few tricks over the next three days. "At 300 for 1, we were looking around, wondering where we were going to get a wicket from," said Graeme Swann, who along with the indefatigable Andrew Flintoff was the pick of the bowlers. "The way Dravid played, he hardly gave us any chance. He was exceptional."

Dravid himself couldn't really pinpoint a reason for the turnaround. "This year, I've tried everything," he said with a laugh, when asked if he'd gone back to videos or books to get out of the slump. "I watched a few old videos of me batting well to recreate some of those emotions and feelings.

"But the last two series, I've just enjoyed each net session, trusted my instincts and watched the ball.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cricket-England security expert to inspect India venues

NEW DELHI, Dec 3 (Reuters) - An England cricket security expert will begin his inspection of the proposed venues for a two-test series in India from Wednesday before the tour is finalised, an Indian cricket official said.
"He is coming to the stadium today and then he will go to Mohali," he said, referring to the proposed second test venue.
The security consultant was in touch with British authorities in India, added the official, who did not wish to be identified. England have agreed to return for the series, due to start on Dec. 11, but will take a final decision only if the security report allays the team's safety fears following last week's militant attacks in Mumbai, which killed 183 people.
The visiting side returned home after the attacks, having called off the last two games of a seven-match one-day series.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are likely to ask for commando protection for their players in the series, the Hindu newspaper reported.
The Indian board switched the tests out of Ahmedabad and Mumbai after England expressed concerns for their players' safety.
The team also cancelled a three-day warm-up game originally scheduled from Friday.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

India ready to face Australian cricket team

Even as much of the attention seemed to be on who would make the Test squad, India's pre-series camp reached its highest intensity during the open-wicket session today that went on for more than four hours. Captain Anil Kumble and coach Gary Kirsten were absent, though, for they were attending the selection meeting in Mumbai.

"The players have worked a lot on their fitness and this whole camp was all about intensity in training and in our skill work," Venkatesh Prasad, India's bowling coach, said. "We have been busy the whole day till about 4 pm. In the morning we had a training session and immediately the players had to come here for a long session. So there is a lot of intensity going on in the last four days after a pretty good Irani Cup."

On the third day of the camp, the claustrophobia that nets may induce for some batsmen was gone; the campers took a pitch adjacent to the one that will be used for the first Test. The batsmen could hit to any area they wanted, save the main pitch, which was segregated by a net.

The batsmen batted in pairs, but from one end only, rotating the strike every six balls or so. The open-wicket practice gave them the freedom of batting in whichever way they wanted. Virender Sehwag, after getting his eye in, tried to hit the bowlers all over the ground, smashing sixes regularly. Harbhajan Singh suffered the most at the hands of Sehwag.

Rahul Dravid, on the other hand, looked to perfect his defence, testing his judgement of when to leave outside the off stump. Ishant Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar had a good little session, too, walking up to each other after almost every delivery and discussing what was right and what was wrong.

The bowlers got an intense workout as well: Ishant Sharma bowled for an hour and 10 minutes in two spells, Zaheer Khan bowled his two for an hour, and Munaf Patel bowled for an hour without a break. Besides the normal stumps, the bowlers had a fifth stump as a guide so that they could get used to bowling the just-outside-the-off-stump line.

Prasad was pleased with the rhythm his pace bowlers have hit leading up to the series. "A couple of them have come back, like Ishant who returned home after the Test series in Sri Lanka," Prasad said. "He has come back pretty well and he is working on his rhythm basically. As far as the pace, bounce and carry is concerned there is no problem whatsoever for most of the bowlers whether it is Zaheer, Munaf, RP [Singh] or Ishant. It is just a matter of time before they are consistent in bowling in those right areas, which we are discussing."

The day ended with speculation over whether they would get a new colleague tomorrow in Sourav Ganguly, who has been selected for the first two Tests. Nobody seemed to know, though.

Cricket calendar 2009 - India, Australia & S. Africa

  • Common events for all three countries
  • Apr 10 - May 29: Indian Premier League
    Jun 5 - Jun 21: World Twenty20
    Sep 25 - Oct 10: Champions League

  • India
  • Jan 6 - Feb 19: Tour of Pakistan
    Mar 6 - Apr 7: Tour of New Zealand
    Oct 13 onwards: ODIs v Australia
    Nov and Dec: Home series v Sri Lanka
    Dec: Tour of Bangladesh

  • Australia
  • Till Jan 30: Home series v South Africa
    Feb 1 - Feb 15: limited-overs matches v New Zealand
    Feb 20 - Apr 17: Tour of South Africa
    Jun 24 - Sep 20: Ashes
    Oct 13 onwards: ODIs v India
    Nov: Home series v Pakistan
    Dec: Home series v West Indies

  • South Africa
  • Jan - Apr: Series v Australia
    Nov and Dec: Home series v England

Australian team in India

Ricky Ponting is confident that Shaun Tait can make a successful return to Test cricket following his self-imposed exile from the game. Tait is preparing for his first-class comeback with South Australia after appearing in Australia A's one-day tour of India last month.

Tait believes his best chance of again featuring in the international arena will be in ODIs. His decision to walk away from the game in January due to mental and physical exhaustion followed his unsuccessful return to Test cricket and a disappointing run with injuries.

"We all want to see him do well for South Australia when he goes back home as well," Ponting told AAP. "Once he gets some Shield cricket under his belt for South Australia, his opinion on playing Test cricket then might change, but at the moment he's only played the shorter versions really and lots of positive signs there.

"For someone like Shaun that [one-day cricket] would be the easier way back. The rigours on your body and your mental state I guess through a Test match or a tough Test match tour can really wear you down, there's no doubt about that."

Tait, 25, has proven a destructive force in ODIs and has 33 wickets from 18 games, including an outstanding tally of 23 victims in the 2007 World Cup. His three Tests have been less successful - he has five wickets at 60.40 - but Ponting believes that Tait could still be a useful addition to the Test attack in the future.

"I think he can be a match-winner for us in Test cricket," Ponting said. "If he gets his body right and his mind right then we'll hope down the track he does want to play five-day stuff with us."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Australia's tour of India in threat !

India cricket officials say Australia's upcoming tour should proceed as planned despite the tourists' concerns about security risks following bomb attacks in New Delhi that killed at least 20 people Saturday.

Cricket Australia said Sunday it will seek expert risk assessment in the wake of the bombings. Its 15-man squad is due to depart on Sept. 21. The third test of the four-match series is scheduled to start in New Delhi on Oct. 29.

"We are concerned and saddened about the news that there has been these bombings overnight in New Delhi," Cricket Australia public affairs manager Peter Young said.

"Whenever something like this happens we have a formal process that we invoke and we do that in conjunction with the Australian Cricketers Association. New Delhi is still a fair way off but it's obviously a concern. We'll get some specialist advice and seek to understand what's going on and what the risks are."

Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah said the bombings will not derail the much-awaited tour.

"I have not heard about any communication from Australia and I don't think there will be any change to the tour schedule," Shah told reporters in the western Indian city of Rajkot on Sunday.

"I hope Australia also understands our position. The situation is normal and the Australian tour to India will go as per schedule.

"If there are any concerns, a security team will come. I don't think there will be any problem in Australia coming to India."

As well as the deaths, almost 100 people were injured in a series of at least five explosions that struck a park and shopping areas in New Delhi just after sundown Saturday, a prime time for weekend shoppers in the crowded city.

An Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the bombings in an e-mail sent to several Indian news organizations.

Australia pulled out of a tour of Pakistan earlier this year, and was one of the nations that pressured the ICC into delaying the Champions Trophy tournament on security grounds. The Champions Trophy was to have been held in Pakistan this month, but was ultimately postponed for a year.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tri-Series Cricket after Champions Trophy postpone not finalized !

Negotiations are still underway for a tri-series tournament in South Africa, involving Pakistan and potentially Sri Lanka, as Pakistan continues to find ways to fill a depleted international calendar.

Though talk of the series has been rife since the Champions Trophy - originally scheduled to be held in Pakistan from September 12 - was finally postponed at the end of last month, progress in bringing it about has been slow.

The PCB's international cricket committee met today to review the situation arising from the postponement and discussed several options for Pakistan. Time, though, is against Pakistan as realistically, most teams have international commitments from October 1 and any commitment has to be arranged before then. The committee discussed the South Africa tri-series proposal as well as alternatives within and outside Pakistan.

"They [Cricket South Africa] are still looking at various commercial options and opportunities for the series," Shafqat Naghmi, chief operating officer, told Cricinfo. "The situation will be clearer once the commercial viability of the proposal is assessed."

It is believed that the PCB, eager for the series to go ahead, has offered to help CSA in trying to attract a broadcaster as well as sponsors. As of now, however, no dates are confirmed and neither is the availability of Sri Lanka just yet.

Australia tour of India - Schedules

1st Test v India at Bangalore - Oct 9-13, 2008 (09:30 local, 04:00 GMT)

2nd Test v India at Mohali - Oct 17-21, 2008 (09:30 local, 04:00 GMT)

3rd Test v India at Delhi - Oct 29-Nov 2, 2008 (09:30 local, 04:00 GMT)

4th Test v India at Nagpur - Nov 6-10, 2008 (09:30 local, 04:00 GMT)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Champions Trophy 08 postpone is a blow to Pakistani Cricket

Postponement of the Champions Trophy, which was slated next month in Pakistan, is a huge setback for cricket in the trouble-torn country, according to former pacer Wasim Akram.

"I should say yes, the postponement of Champions Trophy is a big blow for Pakistan," Akram said on the sideline of a seven-day cricket camp on Friday.

"I really don't know why the South Africa team refused to participate in the tournament in Pakistan, even after initially giving their nod. It is also unfortunate that Australia and England also raised security concern," Akram, who has served Pakistan in 104 Test matches, said.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) postponed the tournament till next year after some cricket boards voiced concern about the players' security in the volatile country.

Akram was equally disappointed with the scenario back home and said the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was struggling to put the things in order after its Chairman Nasim Ashraf resigned recently.

"The PCB is in shambles now. They have no Chairman, no direction. We are really struggling to recover," he said.

On Mohammad Asif, who is facing a dope charge, Akram said the pacer was young and he would give him another chance.

"He is only 23-year-old now. He has committed a mistake, but I would like to give him another chance," he said.

The former captain, however, was harsh on Pakistan skipper Shaoib Malik and felt he needed to lead by example.

"Once I recommended his name as Pakistan captain to the PCB but he has not delivered. Malik should believe on himself and lead from the front," said Akram, who scalped 414 Test and 502 ODI wickets in his kitty.

Friday, August 22, 2008

S. Africa to boycott Champions Trophy

South Africa announced on Friday it would not send a team to the Champions Trophy cricket tournament in Pakistan next month.

South Africa is the first country officially to boycott the tournament. The decision follows a meeting involving Cricket South Africa, International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat and ICC security officials.

“After extensive discussions and a frank exchange of views, the board resolved not to send our team at this time to Pakistan to take part in the ICC Champions Trophy,” Cricket SA President Norman Arendse said in a statement.

South African players, through the South Africa Cricketers Association, again expressed “major concerns” about playing in Pakistan.

Cricketers from England, New Zealand and Australia have expressed concerns over security and reluctance to play in Pakistan.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Is Pakistan a suitable venue for ICC Champions Trophy 2008

An ominous uncertainty continues to surround the fate of this year’s Champions Trophy which the International Cricket Council (ICC) had decided two years ago to be hosted in Pakistan in September this year. Pakistan’s status as host of this tournament had been in serious jeopardy in recent months with national cricket bodies and player representatives from Australia, New Zealand and England expressing concerns about security. These fears, howsoever exaggerated, are not entirely unfounded.Pakistan Cricket Control Board’s non-cricketing dual nationality chairman, however, has made it a question of his own “life and death.” He has been using all the PCB “resources” including the monetary ones at his command to ensure that the Champions Trophy does take place in Pakistan at any cost and by all means.
The only other example of this remarkable perseverance is that of his boss and mentor, who has been waging a war of “one against all” since March last year only to remain in power at any cost and by all means.Dr Nasim Ashraf’s excessively euphoric expressions after ICC’s decision last week reconfirming Pakistan as the host country for the 2008 Champions Trophy remind us of T S Eliot’s famous lines conveying a message of limitless perseverance: “We shall not cease from exploring; And at the end of all our exploring; Will be to arrive where we started; And know the place for the first time.”Announcing ICC’s decision after its teleconference in Dubai, Dr Ashraf was wildly ebullient in appreciating the “great spirit and friendly atmosphere” that characterised the Council discussion leading to what he described the “right” decision taken in the “larger interest” of the game.
In one hurried breath, he also thanked a whole bunch of persons and countries for their “kind” support in facilitating the ICC consensus in favour of Pakistan. Alas, his idyllic delight was short-lived, and his euphoria totally misplaced.Players from Australia, New Zealand and England had already been expressing reservations on going to Pakistan for the mega event. During the Council’s Dubai teleconference, similar concerns were repeated on behalf of several stakeholders like broadcasters, players’ association and others over the “troubled” security situation in Pakistan, citing security agencies’ reports. South African team were also disappointed with the decision and extremely concerned about “safety and security” in Pakistan.Should the top players from Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa refuse to play in the tournament, those countries will have no choice but to send weakened teams or pull out.
The ICC President David Morgan confirmed this scenario when he admitted that a number of countries might send only depleted squads. According to him, “as things stand currently, these countries will find it difficult to guarantee their first-choice elevens or squads’ participation at the ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan.”Against this backdrop, PCB chairman’s obsession to bring unwilling cricket teams and reluctant cricketers to our country is incomprehensible. He is wrong if he thinks he will manage to strike a deal. Earlier this year, he tried to induce the Australians to come to Pakistan. He failed. He used every argument to convince the Australians not to postpone their Pakistan tour scheduled for March. In order to allay their security fears, he offered the Aussies a paradigm framework of “foolproof” security arrangements while in Pakistan.Our doctor friend’s security ingenuities could be appreciated from what the Sydney Morning Herald had depicted the PCB-proposed security scenario for the Aussies’ aborted Pakistan tour in March: “Personal security guards will shadow Australia’s cricketer’s throughout their stay in Pakistan as part of stringent security usually reserved for visiting heads of state.“Bodyguards will be assigned to each Australian player, bomb-detection dogs will be used and all roads closed to traffic nearby as the team travels to and from grounds. When they are entering their team bus, it will be checked by bomb-disposal units. There will be sniffer dogs, too.
If a player is travelling in a lift, there will be security with him. If he goes to eat somewhere, he will have protection. There will be man-to-man security even in bathrooms.”This could easily pass for a comic-horror movie script. Only an expatriate anokha laadla PCB chairman with total “disconnect” with home realities could offer such “watchful” security package. No wonder the Cricket Australia were not convinced. In fact, even the Indians whom he then tried to rope in for a short three ODI series just to fill the gap expressed their inability to oblige. It was understandable. No one could trust our security situation, all the lofty assurances by PCB chairman notwithstanding.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pakistan waiting for ICC Champions Trophy Go Ahead

Pakistan will find out on Sunday if they can host the Champions Trophy in September as security concerns continue to be a causer for concern. The ICC said all eight participating teams will receive security briefings about the nature of the problems in Pakistan at their Dubai headquarters over the weekend.

A suicide bombing in Islamabad earlier this month which killed 19 people renewed the fears of staging the yea's big one-day tournament in Pakistan.Players from England, Australia and New Zealand have already expressed concerns about playing in Pakistan - where Indian, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies join the hosts.Pakistan officials will now have to wait until Sunday to see if they can stage the tournament, which is due to be held in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

"The timing of the briefing was agreed upon during the ICC's annual conference in early July to allow the ICC's security consultants to provide a comprehensive report," said an ICC statement.
"Prior to the meeting, the ICC will not indulge in speculation and, at this stage, the tournament will proceed in Pakistan, as scheduled."

The ICC has said it could move the tournament away from Pakistan if the threat of violence is too strong, although they did successfully host the Asia Cup recently.
The Pakistan Cricket Board are keen to insist that they can successfully stage the Champions Trophy and believe there is no need for it to be moved.

"We have assured fool-proof security measures for the Champions Trophy," said PCB chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi."There is no reason for us to believe that the tournament will be relocated from Pakistan.

"Everything that needs to be done has been done to ensure that the Champions Trophy is held smoothly and safely."We've informed the ICC, the security experts and the competing nations about it and now hope that all the stakeholders will consider it objectively."
Sri Lanka is a designated alternative venue for the tournament, but Interim Committee chief Arjuna Ranatunga has said they would be happy to play in Pakistan."We have no problem in playing in Pakistan," the former captain said."Pakistan hosted six teams very well recently at the Asia Cup and I was there for the final. It was very well organised.
"As far as we are concerned, the championship is still in Pakistan. But we have been told to be on standby mode."England and South Africa have also been mooted as possible alternative venues as Sri Lanka themselves have been facing violence between Tamil Tiger rebels and government troops.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shoaib may miss ICC Champions Trophy 08

Shoaib Akhtar could be left out of Pakistan's preliminary squad for the Champions Trophy despite being cleared to play by the Lahore High Court as the maverick pacer has not yet paid the fine imposed on him for disciplinary violations. Shoaib has been told by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to pay by tomorrow the fine of Rs seven million imposed on him by the appellate tribunal that reduced his original ban of five years to 18 months last month.

The 18-month ban has been suspended by the Lahore High Court but the fine remains which Shoaib has not paid as yet.

"We have sent the notice directly to him and if he does not agree to pay the fine then we might not consider him for the Champions Trophy preliminary list (to be announced tomorrow)," a senior board official told PTI today.

Shoaib himself has been untraceable and his legal counsel Abid Hasan Minto said the fast bowler has not contacted him for consultations on whether to pay the fine or not.

"Nor have we received any copy of the notice by the board," he said.

The names of Shoaib and Mohammad Asif were included in the preliminary list by the national selectors last week but the board put its foot down and asked the selectors to come down to Lahore for further discussions.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shoaib & Asif to play in ICC Champions Trophy 2008

Controversial Pakistani pace duo of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif got some reprieve after the national selectors included them in the shortlist of 35 players for the Champions Trophy, although the final decision on their participation rests on the Cricket Board.
Sources close to the selectors said that a shortlist of 35 players had been sent to the PCB out of which 30 would be approved for the tournament. The International Cricket Council regulations state that all the participating teams have to submit names of 30 probable two months before the start of the tournament and the final 15 squad a month before the event.
"The selectors have included Shoaib and Asif because they believe that since there is much time left before the start of the Champions Trophy, they should not be ignored for selection," one source said. "The selectors believe that if available they should play for Pakistan and strengthen the pace attack," he added.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

ICC Champions Trophy 2008 in Pakistan

International Cricket Council's Champions Trophy, also popularly known as the Mini World Cup among the cricket world, is cricket's One Day International tournament 2nd in importance to the Cricket World Cup Tournament. The first tournament was inaugurated as ICC Knock Out tournament in the year 1998 and has been played every two years since then. The name of the tournament was changed to the Champions Trophy in the year 2002. Originally, all ten full ICC members were taking part, together with (for the first four competitions) two associate members. As per ICC announcement, from 2008, this will be changed to the 8 highest-ranked ODI teams as placed 6 months out from the tournament.

ICC's Champions Trophy is very popular and considered very prestigeous among all the cricket playing nations. This year the Champions Trophy has been decided to be played in Pakistan from September 11-28.

Following are the participating nations in the 2008 Champions Trophy Tournament;

Group A

Australia (1), India (4), Pakistan (5), West Indies (8)

Group B

South Africa (2), New Zealand (3), Sri Lanka (6), England (7)

The currently planned schedules for the series is as follows;

11 September - Pakistan v West Indies, Lahore.

12 September - New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Karachi.

13 September - Australia v India, Lahore.

14 September - England v Sri Lanka, Karachi.

15 September - South Africa v New Zealand, Rawalpindi.

16 September - West Indies v India, Karachi.

17 September - Pakistan v Australia, Rawalpindi

18 September - South Africa v Sri Lanka, Lahore.

19 September - England v New Zealand, Rawalpindi.

20 September - Pakistan v India, Lahore.

21 September - Australia v West Indies, Karachi;

England v South Africa, Rawalpindi.

24 September - 1st Semi-Final, Karachi.

25 September - 2nd Semi-Final, Rawalpindi.

28 September - Final, Lahore.

However with the increasing terrorist related violences in Pakistan, including the deadly suicide blast on the night of the Asia Cup final has thrown cloud on the security measures for holding such an important event in Pakistan.Rawalpindi, one of three venues for the ICC's Champions Trophy tournament, adjoins Islamabad where 14 policemen and five civilians were killed and scores injured in Sunday's attack.As per World cricket chief Haroon Logart "The ICC will not compromise the safety and security of any individual at one of its tournaments and if it is not appropriate to play in any country then we will not do so". said in a statement. Besides players from Australia, New Zealand and England have expressed concern over playing in Pakistan.
Currently Sri Lanka is the designated alternative venue but is also facing similar internal violences between Tamil Tiger rebels and government troops, with South Africa mentioned as a possible replacement.

On the contrary PCB is very confident that the ICC Champions Trophy will be held in Pakistan even as a deadly blast killed 19 people in Islamabad on Sunday when the country was hosting the Asia Cup final in Karachi. Shafqat Naghmi, PCB's chief operating officer said "The ICC has been supporting us on the Champions trophy and we are confident that it will continue doing so,"

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Asia Cup '08 Final - India VS Sri Lanka

A few days back when local scribes asked M.S. Dhoni about his team and about missing Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, the Indian skipper paused and said, “what I say on this issue gets misinterpreted at times but all I can say is that this team has done well over a period of one year, be it batting or bowling.”

The STAR Cricket Asia Cup final against defending champion Sri Lanka at the National Stadium here on Sunday evening, presents Dhoni and Co., another opportunity to assuage genuine fears about the Indian team’s resilience in coping with a rich legacy and the resultant vacuum as Tendulkar copes with a body that has stretched itself thin over 19 years of top flight cricket while Dravid and Ganguly have been omitted on the basis of ageing shoulders.

India and Sri Lanka clashed in the tournament’s last final at Colombo in 2004 and the Islanders won by 25 runs. Only three players from the current Indian squad played in that match — Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Irfan Pathan while the Sri Lankans have seven players from that final doing duty here.

And the Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene did probe about the young Indian batsmen’s ability to cope with pressure in the final.

Jayawardene’s comments may be part of the verbal jousting that precedes key clashes but India’s batting has to stick to its preamble of consistency that has bailed out the team all through the tournament as the bowling has lacked imagination and the fielders in the deep have resembled the walking-wounded.

Change in pace, subtle changes in angle or even the deployment of the slower delivery, have been on the wane though placid pitches that have smiled at the willow wielders often mean that bowlers walk in with slumped shoulders.

The Indian batting with the Sehwag-Gambhir duo at the top and a sedate Dhoni anchoring the middle overs, seems to be in the pink of health. Add to it Suresh Raina’s form, Rohit Sharma’s belated return to runs against Pakistan and Yuvraj Singh’s lusty strikes through the ‘V’, and you have a slew of batsmen capable of bolstering scores or dismantling targets.
Lankan attack

Yet the Sri Lankan attack with the crafty Chaminda Vaas, nippy Dilharo Fernando along with Muttiah Muralitharan and the much-discussed mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, cannot be discounted for potency as well as the ability to stifle.

The Sri Lankans with their double-barrel-gun combine of Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara, have bludgeoned bowlers without any remorse.

Jayawardene has slowly found his feet and Chamara Kapugedera and Chamara Silva too have chipped in and the Indian attack needs to shrug its rust and stick to the basics as emphasised by bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad.

India last won the Asia Cup at Sharjah in 1995. It is time to regain the cup that at one stage was India’s monopoly since its launch in 1984.

India has won the tournament on four occasions. But before that Dhoni’s men should forget about cramped schedules, flat pitches, sultry weather and perhaps take a leaf out of their rivals who always seem to be on their toes in the field.

For Sri Lanka, playing in Pakistan is often about revisiting memories of that famous 1996 World Cup triumph at Lahore and for added inspiration, all they have to do is to look at the VIP enclosure on Sunday evening as the then skipper Arjuna Ranatunga will be around in his latest role of being the Asian Cricket Council’s president.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dhoni pats Batsmen for Asia Cup Semi Victory

Team India captain and Man-of-the-Match Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked a relieved man in the post-match presentation ceremony, after making sure that his team reached the Asia Cup final.
Following are excerpts:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

It’s a good win for our side… We wanted to bowl well today (Thursday). It was great to see R.P. (Singh), Ishant (Sharma) and Pragyan (Ojha) bowl well. Viru (Virender Sehwag) and Gauti (Gautam Gambhir) again gave us a good start today… We finished well. We were right up there today (Thursday), though we were a bit tired. Our batting was not only about hitting boundaries today. Sehwag and Gautam also ran very well… I was telling Suresh (Raina) if we put pressure on the fielders, we will get couples… We don’t need to hit boundaries. We would like to improve a bit in the fielding department and also in bowling. We have a couple of days off now thankfully… Looking forward to a good game of cricket in the final.

Mahela Jayawardene

The wicket was pretty good… They got away from us in the first 10-15 overs. Raina’s catch became very vital. There was no question of complacency… We went flat out, we played to our plan. The Indians batted really well…

Must win match for India to be Live in Asia Cup

Younis Khan's whirlwind 123 changes the nature of Thursday's clash. Pakistan managed to chase a target of 309, and instead of a dress rehearsal for the final, the contest against Sri Lanka becomes India's chance to seal outright a place in the final without waiting for the outcome of the last Super Four match between Pakistan and Bangladesh - a win then will be enough for Pakistan to go through.

The batting has clicked for both India and Sri Lanka so far in the tournament but Pakistan's performance against the two teams highlighted how undercooked India's bowlers are. They have failed to come to grips with the flat decks in Karachi and it's their batsmen who bailed them out in the wins against Bangladesh and Pakistan. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had complained about the gruelling schedule for his team after playing three games in four days, and they will have to bounce back less than 24 hours after the loss to Pakistan.

Sri Lanka have sealed their spot in the final, and have the luxury to rest key players, something Pakistan won't want them to do. However, they will look back to the loss to Australia in an inconsequential game last year, when they rested key bowlers for tactical reasons after having sealed their spot in the semi-finals of the World Cup - the same bowlers proved ineffective in the one-sided final.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

India takes on Pakistan in Asia Cup Cricket '08

Having got three full days to recharge their batteries, a rejuvenated India will take on arch rivals Pakistan in a Super Four match of the Asia Cup cricket tournament here tomorrow, fully aware that a victory will ensure them a berth in the final.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was visibly miffed when he complained about the tight schedule of the tournament that required his team to play three matches over four days."It is too tight. I am not happy with the schedule.
Two teams have to play back-to-back matches while two others got a day off," fumed Dhoni after his team had tamed Bangladesh in their previous match.Much to his relief, a three-day break allowed the side to get over the fatigue and the players should be raring to go when they have the traditional rivals at sight.
The cloud of doubt over Irfan Pathan's fitness, however, hovers and though the left-arm seamer slugged in yesterday's optional practice session, it's not known if the Indian think-tank would risk playing him tomorrow.
Though predicting the outcome of an India-Pakistan match can be inviting embarrassment, Dhoni's team seems to have a certain edge, having beaten the hosts in the group stage.The Indian batting line-up, especially the top order, has been firing on all cylinders and though the tight schedule made it quite taxing for them, runs have not stopped flowing from their blades. PTI

Saturday, June 28, 2008

India & Srilanka moving ahead in Asia Cup Cricket 08

Titleholders Sri Lanka and India enter the Asia Cup Super League matches starting here on Saturday in fine form after coming through the initial group stage unscathed.
Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh and United Arab Emirates in Group A, while India downed archrivals Pakistan and Hong Kong for maximum points from Group B.
India, three times champions, take on Bangladesh here on Saturday to kick off the Super League stage, where all teams play each other once to decide the July 6 finalists.
The fourth team involved are hosts Pakistan.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni paid tribute to batsman Virendar Sehwag, who has been in swashbuckling form.
"He plays in his own style and although there is a fair amount of risk involved, we always want him to play in his own style. Hopefully he keeps his form in the Super League matches as well," said Dhoni.
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was happy with his team's form.
"We had good work-outs but there is still hard work ahead. The expectations are high as defending champions but we are capable of doing well and realise how important it will be to win all the matches," said Jayawardene.
Sri Lanka play Pakistan in their first Super League match on Sunday.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

ESPN STAR Sports to telecat Asia Cup ' 08

ESPN STAR Sports has retained the title of Asia Cup 2008 to promote STAR Cricket, its 24 hour dedicated channel on cricket targeted at the Indian subcontinent. All the 13 matches of 'STAR Cricket Asia Cup' will be broadcast live and exclusive on ESPN and STAR Cricket starting June 24, 2008. Speaking on the association of STAR Cricket with the Asia Cup, R C Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd, said, "STAR Cricket is a dedicated channel for the Indian subcontinent and there cannot be a better association than aligning with the Asia Cup where all the major cricket forces from the sub continent including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are participating. I am confident that this branding and marketing initiative will go a long way in promoting the channel.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pakistan won Bangladesh Tri-Series !

There are different ways of setting a match-winning total and the approaches adopted by India and Pakistan during the Kitply Cup were outstanding examples of contrasting methods which produced the same result - a total in excess of 300. India were 143 for 0 at the end of the 20th over in the first match against Pakistan; at the same stage in the final, Pakistan were 75 for 1 and yet they scored only 15 runs fewer than what India did in the end.

In the league match, India's openers - Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir - carted Pakistan's wayward attack all over the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Their rapid partnership set up a solid platform for the rest to build on without worrying about the run-rate.

Pakistan, on the other hand, chose caution over aggression during the Powerplay overs in the final. It was their capitulation to 26 for 3 that had shut them out while chasing 331, and today, Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal were watchful against Praveen Kumar, the bowler who took the first four wickets in their previous meeting.

After Akmal fell, Younis Khan and Butt continued to build a steady foundation. More significantly for Pakistan, they carried on and seized the initiative. "They were 100 for 1 after 25 overs," Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, said. "After that they took on the bowlers and played some good shots. It really put the bowlers under pressure. And under the circumstances, we couldn't recover from that."

With Praveen having wrecked Pakistan and restricted Bangladesh in India's earlier games, the rest of the bowlers had the advantage of bowling to under-pressure batsmen trying to rebuild. But today, India's support bowlers were faced with the task of making inroads. Although he dismissed Akmal, Irfan Pathan failed to create any pressure, conceding six boundaries in his first spell of six overs. Piyush Chawla, who had taken 4 for 40 to clean up Pakistan's lower order in the earlier encounter, haemorrhaged runs once Younis and Butt consciously began to attack. The four part-timers Dhoni used were also ineffective: Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina conceded 71 for no wicket between them.

Faced with an attack lacking incisiveness, Younis and Butt shifted seamlessly from first to fourth gear. Their approach was that of a calculated assault - aggression with minimal risk. They batted with authority, picking out the gaps. Younis and Butt scored 84 runs between deep midwicket and long-on, but surprisingly the gap was never plugged.

"He [Younis] was scoring through square leg as well, he was sweeping," Dhoni said. "You hardly have fielders in that zone, you know the country [the area between deep midwicket and long-on] area. Having a long-on and a country is difficult. He was picking it from outside off and most of the times he cleared the boundary. He took on the bowlers and he was successful."

Between overs 20 and 40, a period heavily criticised for its lack of intensity after the arrival of Twenty20, Younis and Butt plundered 150 runs, even more than what Sehwag and Gambhir had managed during the Powerplays on Tuesday. When Younis finally got out, Pakistan had eight wickets in hand for the last eight overs, a luxury that allowed them to bat with a carefree approach.

Dhoni admitted there was not much that could have been in the wake of a superlative batting performance. "It [scoring] was really hard to control, you try many fields, you try many lines. There were errors from the bowlers but you can't really blame them. They were batting well and scoring off good balls."

Call it cautious or old-fashioned, Pakistan's methodical approach gave India no footholds from which they could climb back into the game. They came out with a plan, which according to Shoaib Malik, their captain, was to "survive initially and then accelerate", and executed it with precision.

Friday, June 13, 2008

India Vs Pakistan : Tri-Series Final !

Match facts: Saturday, June 14, 2008
Start time 15.00 (local), 9.00 (GMT)

Ancient history favours Pakistan, but more modern events give India the edge going into Saturday's encounter. Pakistan have usually fared better in ODI finals between these traditional rivals, winning five of the seven tournaments where the two sides met in the title clash - but the last of those was in 1999. India have had the upper hand in recent matches, winning five of their last seven games and with their rampaging top-order firing, have steamrollered their way to the final.
A victory on Saturday would add to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's growing reputation as an ODI captain, having already tasted success at home against Pakistan and in the CB series in Australia.
On the other hand, Shoaib Malik is yet to win a ODI series against significant opposition since beating Sri Lanka last May. His side's 12-game winning streak was emphatically snapped by a 140-run defeat in the league match against India, prompting a stinging and public rebuke from PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf.
While this is a battle between arch-rivals, the frequency of matches between the two sides has taken the edge off this game. As Shahid Afridi said, "some of the jadoo (magic) has gone out of the atmosphere and build-up." A win here, though, will be the perfect tonic ahead of the Asia Cup.
Team Performance - IndiaLast five matches: WWWWW (most recent first)
Player to watch: Praveen Kumar's ability to move the new ball both ways has made him a tricky customer for batsmen to deal with. He dismissed Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting cheaply in both finals of the CB series and continued the good work in this series - running through the Pakistan top order and stifling the Bangladesh batsmen. With India's batting in top form, another incisive spell from Praveen could prove very costly for Pakistan.
Team Performance - PakistanLast five matches: LWWWW (most recent first)
Player to watch: Mohammad Yousuf has perfected the art of scoring quickly while rarely seeming flustered or hurried at the crease. An array of conventional shots has ensured the runs keep flowing with minimal risks. He's averaging a phenomenal 81.76 in his last 21 matches, and with Younis Khan and Afridi not in the best of form, he is the lynchpin of the Pakistan middle-order.
India: (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Ishant Sharma.
With the team progressing smoothly to the finals, India may not tinker too much with their combination. The only change could be Ishant Sharma coming back in place of RP Singh.

Pakistan: (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shoaib Malik (capt), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9, Umar Gul, 10 Wahab Riaz / Sohail Khan, 11 Iftikhar Anjum.
Besides Malik and Afridi, Fawad Alam is the only spinner in the squad and he might not be risked in the final as he hasn't made much of an impact in his limited chances at the international level. Pakistan are likely persist with four fast bowlers in their XI.
Pitch and conditions: The pitches used in the tournament have come in for praise from Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach. "The ball has not spun much but it has good bounce. It has been a terrific pitch to play on," he said. India's coach Gary Kirsten was also satisfied with the pitch and felt it would remain good for batting through the match, reducing the importance of the toss.
"It's always a great clash and we know it's not going to be the same as it was the other night. It's going to be a different Pakistan team out there."Kirsten warns his team against complacency. Source:

Dhoni hardly worried for Tri-Series Final against Pakistan

Rampaging form and beleaguered opponents tilt the scale pretty much in India's favour but complacency, and not Pakistan, pose the most serious threat to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team in the final of the cricket tri-series here tomorrow.
With runs flowing from the top order blades and the bowling attack mowing down rival line-ups with regularity, Dhoni hardly had a reason to worry as his team bulldozed Bangladesh and pounded Pakistan with characteristic ruthlessness in two lop-sided league contests to storm into the final.
In contrast, a depleted Pakistan reached the summit showdown not before India had inflicted on them their worst defeat against the arch-rivals.The 140-run thumping in fact had a ripple effect with a livid Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Nasim Ashraf shooting off a stinging e-mail to team manager Talat Ali seeking immediate explanation and questioning the team's ability, along with that of coach Geoff Lawson and the captain Shoaib Malik.And with Ashraf set to attend tomorrow's final, Malik and his teammates would surely feel the heat.
In contrast, Dhoni's team has hardly put a foot wrong since their arrival here and the India captain said he was expecting the openers and new ball bowlers to give the side a good start tomorrow.
"I am really happy about the team performance. We have played two matches and in both ties, we had good starts both in batting and bowling. I wish the same kind of performance continues in the final against Pakistan also," Dhoni said. PTI

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gambhir century helps India to easy win against Bangladesh

India 223 for 3 (Gambhir 107*, Sehwag 59) beat Bangladesh 222 (Raqibul 89, Ashraful 36, RP Singh 3-46) by seven wickets .

A fifth ODI century for Gautam Gambhir and another quickfire fifty from Virender Sehwag extended India's domination in the Kitply Cup, as they thumped Bangladesh by seven wickets and 14.5 overs to spare in Mirpur. Bangladesh needed to win by a bonus point to book their place in the final, but they always going to fall short of a fighting total after a miserly opening burst from Praveen Kumar. Raqibul Hasan's 89 would have given the most die-hard of supporters a glimmer of hope during the break between innings; however, once Sehwag and Gambhir found their rhythm, an India-Pakistan clash for Saturday's final was never in doubt.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bangladesh Tri Series - Pakistan's True Test

Pakistan have won 12 ODIs on the trot - beginning with a dead rubber against India in November 2007- but, as impressive as that feat is, don't let it fool you. Eleven of those wins came against relatively weak sides: Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Pakistan have not faced tough opponents since their tour to India and Tuesday's match will provide a fair indication of their progress.
Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach, said the emphatic nature of the wins against Bangladesh - six in a row, the smallest margin being 23 runs and the largest being 152 - was down to his team's clinical performances. "After the Bangladesh series in Pakistan, I sat down and analysed the games," Lawson said. "In the end I was really happy with the way we played. We played well enough to not let them into the game. We've won 12 in a row for very good reason. We haven't let Bangladesh sneak into the game and show what they've got."
That maybe true but the Asia Cup, which starts later this month, and Champions Trophy in September will test whether Pakistan have built a formidable outfit under Shoaib Malik, who began his tenure as captain in May 2007. Especially since Pakistan's two most recent series against strong teams - India and South Africa - ended in defeats.
"One of our goals is to equal Australia's record [21 consecutive wins]," Lawson said. "To get to 22 wins we've got to play every game seriously and probably have to beat India a few times." For that to happen, the players who have been cashing in against the weaker teams must continue to churn out match-winning efforts, while the others must raise their performance.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Asia Cup Cricket is all set to start on the 24th of June in Pakistan. This will be a big tournament for all the three Asian Cricket Giants. Srilanka are the defending champions but off late their performances have been disappointing. Pakistan have never won the Asia Cup and geoff lawson has a lot to prove in this tournament. India are the team in form and the clear favourites to win this Tournament, but it certainly wont be easy while Bangladesh will look to cause a few upsets as they did in the WC.The bangladesh Tri series is a sort of warm up tournament before the Asia Cup, starting on June 8th.Get all the information about the ASIA CUP CRICKET HERE.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rajasthan Royals - IPL Champions 2008

League or knock-out there was only one champion. It was fitting that the most consistent side in the tournament held their nerve to clinch a thriller. The Chennai Super Kings summoned every ounce of their reserves to take the match to the wire but a calm swat from Sohail Tanvir, when one was needed off the last ball, sparked some heady celebrations in the Rajasthan Royals' dug-out. The least expensive side in the league had completed the coup that had them winning 13 of their 16 matches.
A galaxy of international stars might have added fizz to the IPL but it was India's most improved domestic player who sparkled in the tense final at the DY Patil Stadium. Few outside India might have heard of Yusuf Pathan before this tournament but he imposed himself on the grand stage, snaffling three wickets before smashing a scintillating 56, setting the stage for the inspirational Shane Warne to pull off the last-ball nailbiter.
Chasing 164 wasn't going to be easy on the slightly two-paced surface and Rajasthan were hobbling at 42 for 3 but the 65-run stand between Yusuf and Shane Watson provided the impetus. Another mini-collapse put them in a spot but Warne and Tanvir put on 21 in a harum-scarum final leg. Chennai's sloppy fielding didn't help but the batsmen ensured they didn't lose their head.
L Balaji, who got a pasting in the first three overs, was brought on with eight needed off the final over. Three tight deliveries piled on the pressure before a costly wide, which also produced a bye, tilted the balance. With three needed off 2 balls, Tanvir hurried two to deep midwicket before settling the victory in the final ball. The best bowler of the tournament did his side a big service with the bat. Warne's mighty embrace suggested much.
The base was set by Yusuf's ballistic, yet fortuitous, fifty. Chennai will rue the chance they missed in the 11th over - Yusuf tried to loft Muttiah Muralitharan but Suresh Raina, one of India's best fielders, couldn't latch on to the skier after running from mid-on. With the asking rate approaching 10, that could have been a big blow. Murali had no answers against him in the next over, though, when he was blasted for two successive sixes over wide long-on.
Yusuf soon pounded Balaji, backing away and blitzing thunderbolts down the ground, and looked more like a veteran accustomed to such high-pressure situations. He looked set to run away with the match but Raina's dart-accurate throw from gully added another twist.
Yusuf was instrumental with the ball too. Just as Chennai appeared to be building partnerships he pegged them back with his fastish offbreaks. S Vidyut holed out to deep midwicket, Parthiv Patel snicked to the wicketkeeper, and Albie Morkel top-edged towards short fine leg. Not only was he the most effective of the bowlers but also the most economical - showing the ability to raise his game at the crunch.
Chennai weren't outclassed, not by a long way. Against an efficient bowling attack, with a slow outfield to consider, they strung together a fighting total. Raina and Parthiv, the duo who took them to victory last night, put on a useful 25-run stand through accumulation rather than attack, ensuring that the platform was laid for the rest of the order.
Morkel's two sixes injected some verve into the innings before Raina and Dhoni upped the ante. What could have cost them is the decision to send Chamara Kapugedera ahead of S Badrinath. Kapugedera pottered around for a 12-ball 8 and it was left to Dhoni to up the rate. The 17th over, bowled by Watson, where he conceded just three and picked up a wicket, appeared to tilt the scales but a few mighty hits from Dhoni pushed them to 163. It was the highest total at the DY Patil Stadium but only for a couple of hours.
© Cricinfo

Friday, May 30, 2008

Watson helps Rajasthan march into final

Rajasthan Royals 192 for 9 (Watson 52, Yusuf 45, Maharoof 3-34) beat Delhi Daredevils 87 (Dilshan 33, Watson 3-10, Munaf 3-17) by 105 runs.Shane Watson's all-round show turned the match into a one-sided affair.

This was Shane Watson's match. Imposing himself on the first semi-final, he boosted Rajasthan Royals with an electric fifty before rattling Delhi Daredevils' top order with an outstanding opening spell. Shane Warne had complained about being deprived of home advantage but his side adjusted perfectly to the conditions at the Wankhede Stadium, putting on a show that illustrated exactly why they have been the stand-out team in the competition.

Delhi were like a side struck with stage fright. Their bowlers were rattled by a brand of unconventional strokeplay - even the peerless Glenn McGrath went wicketless for 38 runs - before their batsmen succumbed against a disciplined attack. Virender Sehwag's decision to field may come under scrutiny but Rajasthan's ruthless efficiency might have steered them to the final either way. The farcical end to the match - when Mohammad Asif took an age to get his bat into the crease - summed it up.

The scorecard may indicate a hopelessly one-sided contest but Rajasthan had their shaky moments. Losing the toss meant facing up to McGrath and Asif on a juicy pitch and three quick wickets for Farveez Maharoof pushed them from 65 for no loss to 76 for 3.

Graeme Smith, who was aided by a runner once his hamstring injury resurfaced, and Swapnil Asnodkar, who broke a window pane at fine leg with an audacious pull, provided the early impetus but the innings could have easily lost its way with Maharoof, utilising the bounce and movement on the surface, luring the top order into loose strokes.

Watson's arrival put the innings back on track. From the moment he took 21 off the 11th over, with two ferocious pulls for six, only one team bossed the contest. With the high, straight back-lift that's been the feature of his batting in the tournament, Watson swung through midwicket and square leg. He targeted specific bowlers and went through with shots even if he wasn't to the pitch of the ball, allowing the timing to take care of the rest.

Amit Mishra, the legspinner, teased with his flight and loop but Watson was intent on spoiling his rhythm - going down on one knee, he slog-swept him over midwicket, a technique that Yusuf Pathan was to pick up later.

Such a commanding total wouldn't have been possible without the final flourish. Yusuf celebrated his recall to the one-day squad with a blistering 21-ball 45, an innings where four mighty sixes dripped off his bat. Without the Watson back-lift, without too much initial movement, he showed what brute force could do, blasting over long-on and midwicket. He spotted slower balls too, smearing McGrath over midwicket for the shot of the evening.

Delhi have their fielders to thank for avoiding further embarrassment but their effort was put in the shade by some acrobatic catching by Rajasthan. Shikhar Dhawan pulled off a diving catch to dismiss Smith but it was Tauwar Kohli's peach of a dive, throwing himself to the right of cover to latch on to a Gautam Gambhir slash, that will stick in the mind.

Watson may have top scored for his side, but his job wasn't done yet. Up against one of the most formidable opening combinations in the IPL, he cranked up his pace. Sehwag was done in by the extra bounce, holing out to deep point, Gambhir was frustrated into slashing in the air and Dhawan pulled straight to square leg. Every wicket was accompanied by an ecstatic expression - one that indicated the triumph of a well-laid plan.

Tillakaratne Dilshan's furious swinging was never going to be enough against a constantly mounting asking-rate and he kept losing partners who misread the bounce in the track. Manoj Tiwary top-edged a bouncer from Munaf Patel and Yo Mahesh struggled against a short one directed at the shoulder. The rest were clueless against Warne's fizzers.

He admitted he would have bowled first if he had won the toss but would have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of turn and bounce the surface offered. He toyed with the tailenders, mixing legbreaks and sliders as if this was a Test, and he could afford to wear an impish smile through the spell, considering the match was long gone.
© Cricinfo

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Road to semis: Team Jaipur

After almost 40 days of criss-crossing and big-hitting, the last four have been left standing. As the stage readies for the semifinals TOI looks at the Fab Four.

Lost to Delhi Daredevils by 9 wickets

Beat Team Mohali by 6 wickets

Beat Team Hyderabad by 3 wickets

Beat Bangalore Royal Challengers by 7 wickets

Beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 45 runs

Beat Team Chennai by 8 wickets

Lost to Mumbai Indians by 7 wickets

Beat Team Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Beat Delhi Daredevils by 3 wickets

Beat Bangalore Royal Challengers by 65 runs

Beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 6 wickets

Beat Team Chennai by 10 runs

Beat Mumbai Indians by 5 wickets

Lost to Mohali by 41 runs

Total points: 22

Won: 11

Lost: 3

NRR: +0.632

The captain: Shane WarneA leader who knows how to motivate his players. Warne distributed responsibility among his players and made them aware of their capabilities. The players responded by producing some match-winning performances. He arrived early in Jaipur to get personally acquainted with the players. Every player was made to feel he had a crucial role to play. Praised his players for good performances but lashed out after every poor show.
(Source : TOI)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bangalore Royal Challengers v Mumbai Indians, IPL

Bangalore Wednesday, May 28

Start time 16.00 (local), 10.30 (GMT)

Deflated Mumbai look to avenge defeat Nagraj Gollapudi
Chennai enter semis, ends Mumbai's IPL dream

Captain MS Dhoni hits a shot straight over the bowler's head for a six

Chennai Super Kings grabbed the last available semifinal spot in the Indian Premier League after beating Deccan Chargers by seven wickets in their last league match in Hyderabad today (May 27).

Chasing 148 to win, the visitors overhauled the modest target with four balls to spare, thanks to sensible batting by Suresh Raina (54 not out) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (37).

The Chennai team not only sealed a semifinal place for themselves they also broke the heart of Sachin Tendulkar led Mumbai Indians team, which is now out of the tournament.

A lose of Chennai today and a Mumbai win tomorrow against Bangalore Royal Challengers would have enabled Mumbai to enter the last-four stage of the tournament. Now Mumbai's last league match has been rendered inconsequential.

Dhoni played some blistering shots in his 25 ball knock which included four fours and one six and shared a crucial 55-run stand with Raina for the third wicket. Skipper's fall brought Albie Morkel on the crease and he together with Raina saw their team home, though some tight bowling at death made the encounter interesting.

Pragyan Ojha had Dhoni caught in deep by Gibbs and that put brakes on run-flow.

Chennai required 17 runs off the last two overs. RP Singh bowled the penultimate over, which fetched the visitors 10 runs.Raina hit Vjaykumar for a six on the second ball of the last over to seal the victory for his team and also brought up his half-century. Raina consumed 43-balls for his brilliant 54-run innings, adorned with five boundaries and two shots over the fence.

P Vijay Kumar drew the first blood when he dismissed former Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming (14) but the hosts could build on the early success as Parthiv Patel and Suresh Raina did not give them any chance.Fleming went for an extravagant shot outside the off-stump but ended up in the gloves of Adam Gilchrist behind the wickets.

Raina played some elegant shots on the off-side and together with Patel put up 34-runs for the second wicket before the Gujarati batsman walked back.Patel hit straight to Shahid Afridi at covers to become the victim of P Sravesh Kumar.Earlier, a heroic 76-run fourth-wicket partnership between Y Venugopal Rao and D Ravi Teja propelled Deccan Chargers to 147 for eight. Rao (46) and Teja (40) joined hands when their team was stuttering at 57 for three, after deciding to bat on a good batting pitch. Only Rao and Teja batted with guile and grit as all other batsmen struggled to find rhythm and big hitters like Hershelle Gibbs (8) and Shahid Afridi (1) disappointed once again.Rao's 46-ball knock, which included three fours and one six, was mixture of aggression and caution while Teja was furious right from the word go. Teja hit four fours and a six in his 28-ball knock.

Once the duo departed, the hosts wickets fell one after another as they crumbled under pressure of putting up a big total.Gibbs found it tough to negotiate a disciplined pace attack on a bouncy wicket and eventually departed while trying to break the shackles.

The South African slashed one off compatriot Makhaya Ntitni over the point region but only managed a thick edge which was accepted gleefully by L Balaji at third-man.

Skipper Adam Gilchrist (5) perished in the same way when he tried to loft a good length delivery by Manpreet Gony and just managed an outside edge, which flew to third man Abhinav Mukund.Runs were tough to come from the blade as first five overs fetched just 18 runs and that too at the cost of two wickets.

Rao and Scott Styris (20) then steadied the rocking boat by weaving a 39-run stand for the third wicket before the latter was undone by Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.

Styris, who played some good shots in his short knock, gave charge to Muralithran but missed the line completely and was bowled by Sri Lankan.

All the bowlers from the visiting side kept a tight line until Balaji was hit for 14 runs in the 14th over, which also witnessed first six of the innings.Albie Morkel and Balaji took two-wickets each while Ntini, Goni and Muralitharan claimed one wicket each.