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Archive for the ‘Indian Cricket’ Category

Sri Lankan series: An unnecessary outing

Posted by Sports Snob on February 4, 2007

The upcoming Sri Lankan series is another example of bad planning by the BCCI. A series so close to the world cup with matches on featherbeds, under lights is a reflection of the mercenary attitude of the board. All they care for is finding a slot and throwing in whatever matches they can.

This series could prove to be extremely costly if any of our major players gets injured. And this, for the sake of some more money in the BCCI coffers. Even if they felt the series was essential, what is the point of holding matches under lights – no match during the world cup will be played under lights and on batting paradises- the Windies wickets are generally more slow and low with a bit of spin these days.

The argument that it gives us a chance to test out players like Sehwag and Munaf Patel under match conditions is unacceptable. The lack of form and injuries were unexpected and the schedule was drawn up a long time back. It will prove to be a blessing for Sehwag though. He has had a break from cricket though not long enough out of the team in my opinion.  But it has given him time to reflect on his game and hopefully some of the reflection will translate into reults on the field. But on the whole, I think it is a badly times series and the hope is some players will find form and no one will get injured.

Watch out for a sportsnob World cup squad…. hopefully!

Prof  

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Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 1 Comment »

Ranji Trophy Semifinals, Cricket ignored

Posted by Sports Snob on January 23, 2007

“It’s Indian cricket that is a religion in India.”
-Sanjay Manjrekar

So very true. While almost the whole of the country has been rejoicing in the aftermath of Dada’s comeback, a group of 44 people took the field today in an attempt to reach the finals of the Ranji Trophy. The Ranji semis started today but the people who matter, the selectors and the team management, just seem to have ignored it. Instead the focus is the pat on the back that Chappell got.

Nothing else proves the ad-hoc-ness of the BCCI in general and the selectors in particular than the selection of Robin Uthappa for the ODI series. He did have a great Ranji season and was rewarded with a place in the squad for the Windies. But instead of warming the bench in Cuttack, it would have been better for him to have had some practice against the likes of the formidable Randeb Bose in the Ranji semi. No, but the powers that be just turn a blind eye to the Ranji.

Instead of wasting time on belters of pitches very different from the ones at the World Cup, it would have been better practice for the likes of Dada and Dravid to be playing on the green top at the Eden Gardens, and it might have also ensured some crowds at the matches. And at the same time it would have given chances for some lesser knowns to stake a claim for the WC team. Dada, Sachin, Dravid, Kumble and Zaheer Khan are certainties in the WC team, so make them play the Ranji while let a second string Indian team take the field against the Windies.

How else will a Sehwag get his form back? Just practice in the nets is not enough as has been shown in the past. Match practice is needed and with Delhi out of the Ranji, there is no other proper way to get his form back than play in the ODIs.

The Ranji semis started today with Karnataka playing Bengal at the Eden Gardens and Baroda meeting Mumbai in Baroda. Without Uthappa at the top of the order and Ranadeb Bose on the other end and a green top (must be as Karnataka are also playing 4 medium pacers), the team I am supporting, Karnataka have collapsed big time, losing 7 wickets by lunch. So now I will be supporting Baroda to win the Ranji Trophy. Baroda have started better in their match, with the good news for Indian fans being that Irfan Pathan got Wasim Jaffer.

Thanks to cricinfo for covering these matches live. One of these matches should be coming on Neo Sports also, the highlights come sometime around 10 pm.

Kesavan Mukunthan

Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 3 Comments »

Is it time for Sachin to go?

Posted by Sports Snob on January 20, 2007

“…The next six weeks will decide the fate of many cricketers who will be playing against the West Indies and Sri Lanka, and Sachin Tendulkar is no exception to that…”

This line in an article here passed off rather silently without raising too many eyebrows and with good reason. After the batting performance in the third test in South Africa, I started writing a post on why Sachin should take a break from the game and come back with renewed energy.

But the selectors had different ideas. Vengsarkar and co have made him vice-captain and if the team fails in the upcoming series, Dravid could very well be on his way out. But is making Sachin captain the right move in that case?

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A long bad run

Sachin’s performance in the final test match against South Africa was embarassing. He was doing no justice to his stature as the world’s premier batsman or a senior member of the Indian team. This isn’t a recent phenomenon though. The little man has been in poor form in both forms of the game for around two years now. He has made just over 1000 runs at an average of 38 in the last 2 years in the one day game and around 800 runs at an average of around 34 in the test game. These numbers stack up poorly against his career statistics and have now put him as far outside the top 10 bracket of International batsmen as he has ever been in the last ten years.

Is it time?

So, is it time for Sachin to leave while still being regarded as a force to reckon with? While he is the best judge of that, I am fairly sure every man and his dog have an opinion on this one. That he still loves the game is obvious from the enthusiasm he displays on the field but seventeen years at the top have taken their toll. There isn’t an unbroken bone or untorn muscle and the body takes longer to respond to what the mind asks of it. Add to this the media and general public speculation on his form, stance, inability to play left-arm spinners and what not. Throw in the burden of expectations that he has worn so lightly for over a decade and we can still hardly fathom what this man goes through. Sachin has rendered yeoman service to Indian cricket and that is irrefutable.

But even a player of Sachin’s stature must deliver the goods regularly and prove himself to be in the team. Atleast that is the expectation, given that the team and the game are bigger than any individual. Sachin has failed to deliver over an extended period now. The fact that he was the second highest run-getter against the Proteans speaks badly of the rest of our batting and is no excuse.

Do I suggest that Sachin be dropped? Sycophants will want to hunt me down for this sacrilegious thought but anyone who has been following his career is now wondering how much longer Sachin will agonize us with his form. He will show us glimpses of genius with stunning drives and powerful cuts and then edge a ball to the slips when on 30. Another bad series and the blood-bayers would probably be right in their demands for a Sachin exclusion.

The End: A forced retirement?

The selectors though, will not drop Sachin, not unless they want to earn the wrath of the entire country and looks like he isn’t going to take the break I suggested. So, the only way for the career to end is a retirement but not just yet. His continued inclusion in the team should be contingent on the performance in the next series. If he fails, I don’t think there is anything blasphemous about dropping the great man from the team the euphemistic way of doing which would be to demand his retirement following a farewell series (which might or might not be the World Cup). But why one more series? Well, most players performed considerably worse in the South African series and I don’t see any replacements really. Also, while he looks like he is over the hill, he might turn in performances in this series and the World Cup that make me look like a fool.

A wish …

These are the last legs of the greatest Indian career ever seen. Miles and miles of newsprint will be devoted to the years at the top and the spanking shots when he is gone. But most cricket lovers around the world would like to see this symphony rise to a crescendo and go out at the top. I hope it starts to build-up now or it might remain forever unfinished.

Prof

What are your views on this issue? Leave a comment. (If you think that I might be missing some parts of my anatomy or should stick things up some place, please keep those opinions to yourself, Thank You. )

Related Post: Sachin’s greatest one day knocks

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Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 3 Comments »

Indian Cricket, year in review: 2006

Posted by Sports Snob on December 31, 2006

The Indian team flattered to deceive yet again. It is disappointing that we refuse to learn from past mistakes. Memories of Durban ten years ago came flooding back in as the Indian batsmen failed to put up a fight at Kingsmead. This series best encapsulates Indian cricket this year: incredible performances followed immediately by stunning ineptitude.

Vs Pakistan in Pakistan

This test series was a bowler’s nightmare. The pitches were featherbeds and the batsmen on both sides amassed runs like it was nobody’s business. Mohammed Yousuf, Younis Khan, Rahul Dravid, Sehwag all made big centuries in tests 1 and 2. In the deciding test of the series, Shoaib Akhtar provided the match-winning breakthrough. Needing to play out the final day at Karachi, India was looking towards Rahul Dravid to bat for a significant portion of the day. Akhtar, in a spell of consistent bowling (!), removed Dravid and with him, our hopes of saving the game.

The pitches

The pitches designed for the series were absolutely unsuitable for test cricket. The ball doesn’t have to jag around and seriously maim batsmen for it to be a disgrace for test cricket. If the wicket fails to produce an even contest between bat and ball, we might as well be playing on mats. With test cricket’s popularity dropping precipitously, series such as India vs. Pakistan provide an opportunity to revive the mass appeal for test cricket. The organizers have failed miserably in their duty towards the game.

High point

The 148 by Dhoni in partnership with Pathan in the second test was a revelation. We needed over 100 runs to avoid follow-on and the century that followed was a Dhoni special. He showed that he was capable of delivering on the big stage when it really mattered. He needs some more work on his keeping but India has found a wicket keeper for the future.

One-day Series

This is where Indians realized their ability to chase down big totals successfully, surprising fans around the world. Followers of Indian cricket know that Indians choke under pressure. We can make heavy weather of chasing even moderate totals and we can’t bat out a day to save a test even if our lives depended on it.
This series was different. The batsmen seemed to come out believing that no total was beyond reach . Has Greg Chappell bought about this change? I don’t know but my own guess is, it is more a reflection of the confidence of our times. Beating Pakistan 4-1 in their own backyard was a perfect beginning to the ODI calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 3 Comments »

Ganguly: Against the Wall?

Posted by Sports Snob on December 13, 2006

 

Tony Grieg once famously remarked during 1996 when India was touring England, that 1973 was the best year for Indian cricket. It was not just because it was the year that a certain Sachin Tendulkar was born, but because the year also saw the birth of the two batsmen that Grieg claimed at that time had the capability to overshadow the genius of Tendulkar; Sourav Ganguly, ‘The Prince of Calcutta’ and Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid. Both made their debuts at the Mecca of cricket – Lords, and both announced their arrival in typical fashion. Saurav Ganguly, at number 3, smashing 20 boundaries, a good chunk of them in the point region that he made his own, and scoring a 131 that is still etched in many a cricket fan’s memory. Rahul Dravid, coming as far down the order as number 7, scoring a patient workman like 95, with hardly half a dozen hits to the fence, but showing enough resilience and skill to prove to the selectors that he was the answer to all of India’s batting crises. Of course, as the years passed by, a lot of things changed. Rahul Dravid soon became the greatest Indian batsman to have batted at number 3, and Ganguly slowly slipped down the batting order as far down as number 7, and eventually out of the team. With Ganguly back in the scheme of things, this might be an opportune moment to reflect on the paths that the test careers of these two batting stalwarts have taken over the past decade.

The Prince

After a blazing start to his test career, though there weren’t too many memorable knocks (with the exception of probably the Brisbane ton which set the tone for India’s awesome display for the rest of the tour), Ganguly’s ability to galvanise his side into a fighting unit, his ability to effortlessly pierce a 7-2 offside field when he was in the mood for it, his aggression that was a rarity among Indian cricketers, and to some extent the destruction he havocked at the top of the Indian ODI top order meant that Ganguly’s position in India’s all-star batting order was relatively safe and cemented.

But then, post 2004, the downward slide took a turn for the worse, patchy batting form aside, his injuries, some real, and some apparently-not-so-real meant that he missed quite a few matches, where Dravid riding the crest of his life, would lead quite impressively (impressively enough to even let critics praise in hindsight the decision to declare an innings when Tendulkar was on 194*). The powers-that-be soon realised that Ganguly’s captaincy skills were not enough anymore to override his batting failures, and after the much talked about Ganguly-Chappell fiasco, the board decided that it was time to take away the crown from the Prince.

The Wall

Unlike Ganguly who took the scene by storm, Dravid almost nudged into the team without being noticed. Over the next few years, with his dependable batting, he laid stake and won his rightful number three position. He was building his career as he did his innings. He recognized fully well, the importance of staying there and that the runs and power would both come to him when they were due. Over this period, he proved himself to be the complete team man: batting at number five if required, keeping wickets in the shorter version.

Dravid’s batting is the work of a mechanic. Imagine Dravid batting and the picture is one of immense concentration, sweat dripping off the forehead, the perfectly poised head, the back-lift just right. When the stroke is played, the head is steady, the footwork decisive and the follow through complete. Every ball is a test and every shot is an answer, evaluated in terms of runs and correctness (defined by a copybook). He was making runs where everyone else was failing and significantly, when everyone else was failing. The chips are down? Dravid is the man. He had become the most prized wicket for any opposition. Dravid was also the poster boy of the Indian middle class: an educated youngster who had worked hard, understood his limitations and risen to the top through sheer hard work and strength of performance in the domestic league. Dravid’s was another face of the new India, reflecting a quiet confidence of the times.

Over the period of the Ganguly captaincy, Dravid had risen up to the top rungs of power and was the trusted ally of the Prince. When the opportunity presented itself, Dravid took over the reins with a defining victory in Pakistan. As a respected senior, an astute thinker of the game and the most prolific batsman, Dravid seemed the right man for the job. In fact, Team India was as much Dravid’s as it was Ganguly’s. He had the support of all members and with Greg Chappell backing him, was turning things around for the team. The team had become the most successful chasers in history, youngsters like Raina, Dhoni and Pathan were playing well, Dravid was batting well, the birds were singing and spring was on.

The future

The honeymoon is now over: poor forms of Sehwag and Pathan, dismal Champions trophy performance, inept display in South Africa means that Dravid is under some pressure. And to strengthen the middle order, Ganguly has been resurrected. It will be interesting to see what happens in the upcoming series. Ganguly has shown that he is a hard man to keep down. With the fighting innings in South Africa he has indicated that he is likely to breathe fresh life -or atleast try to- into his rather ordinary test career. Dravid is too much of a team man and nice guy to field anything but the best eleven of the fittest for the test. This probably means that Ganguly will play the first test against the Proteans. But with all this history behind them, how will their relationship develop from this point on? As a lover of Indian cricket, I hope to see another successful Ganguly-Dravid partnership. Ganguly batting in the form that earned him praises in Brisbane and Dravid doing what he does best, bat intelligently and score prolifically, and a resurrected Indian team coming away with a drawn Protean series would be a good start.

Will we see a beautiful friendship or are there more surprises in this story? I don’t expect another era of Ganguly captaincy but we will wait and watch this space for further developments.

Prof and Thejaswi Udupa

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The Ranji Trophy “Cup” and the Duleep Trophy “Cup”

Posted by Sports Snob on November 15, 2006

So yet another Duleep Trophy final seems to be headed to a dreary draw, with North Zone showing no signs of “showing mercy” on the Lankans and allowing them to bat again. For they know that they don’t need to win the game to win the trophy – the first innings lead will do.With domestic competitions largely consisting of four-day matches, the powers-that-were decided that in case of drawn ties in knock-out matches of domestic tournaments the first innings lead would prove to be the tie-breaker. And this “rule” seems to be a good reason for the rot that has set in to Indian domestic cricket and a large number of batsmen with obscene domestic averages failing miserably at the international level.

What the first innings rule has effectively achieved is to convert two-innings matches to one-innings matches! Result being that teams don’t try to win the game anymore – just gaining the first innings lead will do. The bowlers don’t need to take twenty wickets to win a game – they only need ten. And on the featherbed wickets, batsmen can afford to play on as long as they wish (score triple centuries and boosting averages) and there is no compulsion to work towards a result!

Another fallout of this rule is that there is no incentive for groundsmen to prepare balanced wickets and they can easily get away with a wicket full of runs – once again leaving a huge gap between domestic and international standards. There have been numerous calls to prepare sporting pitches for the domestic matches at least, but why would the groundsmen take the pains to prepare one?

Actually, a fair bit of progress has been made in this direction, with the new format of the Ranji trophy keeping knockout matches to a minimum. What this also means is that we could experiment with a new format of knockout which encourages teams to produce results, rather than deciding games on first innings leads.

In the FA Cup football tournament in England, in case of a draw, the match is replayed and in case of a further deadlock, extra time and penalty shootouts decide the matter. Given the small number of knockout matches (3 Ranji Elite, 3 Ranji Plate and 1 Duleep), we could experiment with the same home-and-away format, with a bowlout to decide the deadlock! For example, suppose the Ranji Semifinal between Baroda and UP at Vadodara ends in a draw, with Baroda failing to capitalize on a 200-run first innings lead. Instead of awarding the tie to Baroda, the match will be replayed in say Kanpur. In case of a deadlock there also, a bowlout will decide. For the finals maybe we could have a single leg in a neutral venue followed by a bowlout if necessary.

For a start this new format will give due respect to the true format of the five-day game – that you must dismiss the opposition twice to get a result. It will lead to teams trying for a win, and thus “normalize” the averages of a large number of “tigers at home”. Sporting wickets will be prepared, thus enabling us to look at a batsman’s “true colors” before calling him for international duty. Also, result-oriented matches means enhancement of spectators’ interests, and I am sure our domestic matches could use some crowds. And a chance to play more matches might mean more money for the board!

Another important thing to be kept in mind is that there should be absolutely no incentive for just a first innings lead. A draw is a draw is a draw. Right now a team gets 2 points in the Ranji league for a first innings lead, with the team that conceded the lead getting none. Both should be awarded a point apiece.

I am sure such a move will be really good for the game, and will help produce better cricket at all levels. It is left to be seen if the board will move in this direction, or continue to sleep and get rich as it has been doing over the years.

Karthik S a.k.a. Wimpy

(a senior of mine and a good quizzer. Read his blog at http://skthewimp.livejournal.com/ )

Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 2 Comments »

The Usual Suspects.

Posted by Sports Snob on November 7, 2006

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Well, it was Malaysia all over again. After pulling off a stunning upset in the league matches, the Carribean batting order collapsed in the final. (they lost the last 8 wickets for just 58, somehow they keep pulling this off!). And the Australians emerged champions. Full credit to them. Guys like Bracken put their hands up and deliver in the big games. Something, that is sorely lacking with the other teams.

Ultimately, the tournament turned out to be a damp squib. Poor pitches and poor crowds played a huge role in this. And the tournament should have been spread through the country to ensure better crowds. Somehow, I get the feeling that the 2007 World Cup is going to be no better. And the television ratings are going to take a massive nosedive if the Indians don’t do well. (maybe the Carribeans should prepare pitches suiting our style!)

There were a couple of good games in the tournament but largely the games were one-sided affairs. After a couple of hiccups, the Australians were back on top again. And it is not good for cricket. One team (or an individual) dominating a sport is never a good thing. As much as you can admire their brilliance, skill and athleticism, one of the biggest attractions of sport is the sheer thrill of watching a great contest unfold.

Barring the two India-Australia test series and the Ashes, no team has been able to match the Australians over an extended period of time. The South Africans manage to beat every team and yet find it hard to even compete against the Australians. The Indian team somehow finds itself in transition again. The West Indies are too inconsistent for their own good. Thanks to injuries and some pathetic one-day form England have not been able to build on their Ashes success. The Lankans find it hard to compete outside the subcontinent (and the Oval).

The good news? This Australian team is old!

Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 2 Comments »

Champions Trophy: Great start by India!

Posted by Sports Snob on October 16, 2006

Well, all it took was one glimpse of the navy blue kit worn by the English team for the Indians to find form. Without getting too carried away with the result (England after all were just hammered 5-0 by the Lankans in England) it has to be said the win was very convincing. I wouldnt read much into the fact that we lost so many wickets, low totals can be notoriously hard to chase- batsmen often in two minds on how to approach the target.

Somehow, the victory coincided perfectly with the fact we got to see the Irfan Pathan of last year. He ran in with a lot of energy, swung the ball and also looked very enthusiastic. He is a champion player for us and could be one of the most important factors at next years World Cup.

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I still cant grasp the reason why Pathan is being sent at no. 3. Yes we need to be more flexible, but with the World Cup less than six months away, we should be playing everybody in their best positions? And Dravid HAS to occupy the #3 slot. He is our best batsman for crying out loud! It is one thing scoring against Vaas and Anderson and quite another thing scoring heavily against Ntini or Lee.

Picture this: Its the World Cup final and we are chasing down 250 scored by Australia. Sehwag has just gotten out to a snorter from Lee. So, who is next? Dravid? Pathan? If you make the score 300- it still does not make sense. Dravid should still walk in and provide the solidity. I rather have Pathan facing men like Symonds and Hogg and getting 7 or 8 runs per over.

Anyway, I think India should comfortably make the semifinals from here on in. I fancy a Australia Vs Sri Lanka final. The Lankans have been playing brilliantly of late and interestingly its the same group of players who were hammered last year in India! What a difference a year makes.

ZTechnorati Tags: , , , , Dravid

Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 5 Comments »

Letter to Greg.

Posted by Sports Snob on September 22, 2006

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Dear Greg,

I think you have done a great job so far. You have put together a young team with a lot of potential. You have got through a series of controversies and I think you have finally learnt that being outspoken and blunt is not the best thing to do in India. You have also learnt to shut up when it comes to the Ganguly issue. Sure, test series wins against England and Pakistan would have made things sweeter but nevertheless the team has made a lot of progress under you. But the time has come for some hard decisions and as things stand the Indian team going to the World Cup has a much better of winning then any Indian team that has taken part in previous editions.

1) Sort out the mental blocks in Sehwag and Pathan.

Two of our best match winners have been performing poorly for quite some time now. Nobody is doubting their abilities but they will have to turn it around. And fast. Sehwag has not been firing on any cylinder and a variety of reasons have made Pathan from a dependable swing bowler into a sunday-leaguer. True, Pathan’s batting has blossomed but he is in the team as a strike bowler first. We need Pathan the bowler a lot more than Pathan the batsman. And the drop in pace has been rather alarming. Maybe we will need a bowling coach (like Bruce Reid or Trevor Cooley) after the World Cup but as of now its up to you and Rahul.

2) Sort the batting order.

Lets face it, you have been lucky. The emergence of Dhoni has saved you a lot of trouble of fielding Dravid as the wicket keeper. As things stand, Dhoni would walk into any lineup in the world right now (barring Australia ofcourse). You have experimented quite a bit (more than probably necessary) but now its time to stop. People need a good run at fixed positions to the world cup. Is Dravid going to open? Are you going to go in with 5 batsmen with Pathan and Dhoni or a sixth batsman and four bowlers?. Start with the champions trophy

3) Draft Kumble back. NOW.

In fact I wrote about this quite extensively. Two spinners in the Carribean might seem a totally insane thing to do but just look at how part time spinners like Gayle and Samuels were effective earlier this year. if you are really interested- you could go here.

4) Develop the siege mentality-

The siege mentality could make a good side into a champion side. Look at Italy at the 2006 football world cup. With the Italian Corruption scandal making more headlines than the squad, the team stuck together, avoided the media, played their hearts out and emerged on top.

Besides, it has worked with the Indian team before. During the 2003 World Cup, the manner in which the Indian team rebounded after a thrashing at the hands of Australia and the subsequent criticism was in part due to the US Vs Them mentality. Even average blokes like Asish Nehra stepped up and fought hard (remember that 6 for 23 against England?) . This could just work. Hopefully, this will result in you guys coming home with the trophy.

Thanks,

Z

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Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 16 Comments »

Cricket Controversies!

Posted by Sports Snob on August 21, 2006

Two events last week have left cricket lovers all over the world disappointed.

South Africa pulling out of the Unitech Cup

A player who fears for his life can’t really play cricket! But the South Africans may have over-estimated the danger: there are over 1000 athletes competing in the SAF games being held in the island. This event has been surrounded with controversy: rumors rife about the differences among the members of the squad, the improper security review by the ICC appointed agency etc. In these circumstances you really cannot fault a team for pulling out. Although, I don’t think the South Africans would have pulled out if they were touring England when 7/7 happened.

The farce at the Oval

Pakistan accused of ball tampering, they refuse to come out after tea, umpires award the match to England and when Pakis are ready to play, the umpires led refused to budge. And surprise one of the umpires was: Darrell-“Murali Chucks”-Hair, a man who loves his controversy. Pakistan’s protest did not keep the best interest of the game at heart. You must be out of your mind to expect that you can hold up the game and come back on the field and play as you choose. Also, I think a complete inquiry is in order and umpires must be held accountable under these circumstances. There is no love lost between the Pakis and Darrell Hair and to be honest I would only be too happy to see the back of that man!

It has to be said that as of this moment there is no video evidence of Pakistanis actually tampering the ball but according to various journalists, the ball did seem pretty disfigured on one side. That said, what was the ICC doing when the whole controversy broke out? Somebody should have taken charge.I don’t think any other sport is so dominated by the sports boards of the members.

This is absolutely unprecedented; in over 130 years of Test Cricket this is the first time that a team has actually gone so far as to forfeit a match. The next week promises to be rather fascinating as the inept ICC tries to bring the whole situation under control. Watch this space for updates!

-Prof

Posted in Cricket, Indian Cricket | 4 Comments »