Monthly Archives: January 2008

Harbhajan Singh cleared of racism charge

The charge of racist abuse against Harbhajan Singh has been lifted. The Indian off spinner has been, instead, charged with abuse, which is only a level-2 charge. This invites a fine rather than a level-3 charge.

Harbhajan Singh was duly fined 50 per cent of his match fees for the Sydney Test by New Zealand judge John Hansen, the ICC-appointed commissioner who was hearing the appeal against Mike Procter’s earlier verdict.

It appears that Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting had written a joint letter to John Hansen asking that the charges against Harbhajan Singh be reduced to a lesser level charge.

This was a workable solution struck between Craigh O’Connor, Cricket Australia Chairman, BCCI officialdoms’ I. S. Bhindra and the two teams! Australia had wanted that Harbhajan Singh not be totally let off. India would not accept a racism charge against its player. Sachin Tendulkar continued to maintain that his co-batsman at the time had not said anything racist to Andrew Symonds. Cricket Australia wanted the tour to continue. BCCI wanted the tour to continue. The players wanted to play cricket. The ICC wanted an end to the controversy.

Now everyone is happy. The credits can roll…

— Mohan

Sehwag – Future Test Captain?

The re-emergence of Virendar Sehwag is a great sign for India. His performance at Perth and and an amazing century in the second innings at Adelaide and the manner in which he got it are strong indications that he is here stay the course. His astute advice on the field, especially his masterstroke advice to Kumble to continuing bowling Ishant Sharma at Perth, and his ability to pick wickets at crucial juncture make him a valuable player once again. With Dhoni’s up and down form in the test arena, at least as far as his batting goes, could this mean that Sehwag may be the better candidate to don the captain’s role after Kumble’s stint? I would certainly consider him as a strong candidate.

– Srikanth

Gilly – Thanks for the memories…

I am stating the obvious here – Indians love their cricket. Cricket in India is not a sport – it is a religion. Actually it is a bit more than that – and that is what prompts extreme behaviour whether it is burning effigies or building shrines. They also love great cricketers, whether they play for India or the opposition – and one of the cricketers they will truly miss after this summer is Adam Craig Gilchrist.

“Gilly” is not only admired for his great stroke play and ability to change the game on its head, but also his sportsmanship. If you ask the Aussies, what they would like to see in a test against India, they would probably say a century for Tendulkar, but a victory for Australia. The Indians would probably say a quick fire fifty by Gilchrist and a win for India 🙂 (We generally don’t like to see a hundred from Gilchrist – it usually means Australia would win the game!)

We will surely miss you, when you leave the game, Gilly! Thanks for the memories…

-Mahesh-

Adelaide Test heading for a draw… Or is it?

Days 3 & 4 of this Test match have been a slow grind… At least for me.

Australia started day-3 on 82 for no loss. Australia’s intentions were made clear in the first half hour of play. It seemed that safety was the first priority. The Australians did not want to lose to India and would do everything it could to shut an Indian win out of the equation. Despite Matthew Hayden’s thunder at the post-day interview and despite the matching upper-cut from Virender Sehwag, I did feel that Australia could have gotten on with it if it wanted to. Australia did not want to. They have batteled negative bowling in the past and come out on top. Here, they just did not want to risk it. They dropped their aggression for defence. It was boring. But at the same time, it was a fascinating battle. There was nothing in the pitch. The bowlers toiled. And rewards did not come easily.

At lunch on day 4, Australia finished at 158-0. Although only 66 runs were scored, this was clearly an Australian session this. The SBS Score was Australia, 4.0 :: India, 3.0

The second session of day-3 saw what was probably the ball of the series. Young Ishant Sharma who has impressed with each spell bowled a beauty to clean-bowl a set Matthew Hayden who had moved on to a well-made century. Hayden was missed in Perth and here, he showed why. He steadied the innings and gave it a stability that was absent in Perth. Before he got out though, Phil Jaques was out, bowled to a slog-sweep-swish off Anil Kumble.

After the loss of those two wickets, there was an interesting passage in play with Harbhajan Singh attacking Ricky Ponting. When Ponting walked in to bat, Anil Kumble had Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma bowling to the Australian captain. Smart captaincy. However, India was let down by a Harbhajan Singh who toiled in a lacklustre manner.

At tea on day-3, Australia ended on 225-2 off 78.0 overs with Ricky Ponting on 28 and Mike Hussey on 20. This was an even session in my books. The SBS Score was Australia, 4.5 :: India, 3.5

The new ball was delayed until after 107 overs and this was the point Matthew Hayden made when he referred to negative tactics! I am not sure I would agree with that! India was a pace bowler short and Kumble had exploited the reverse swing that Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan had been getting. The new ball was perhaps taken about 10 overs later than it could have been. But I do not believe that that necessarily pointed to negative tactics. Bad tactics, perhaps.

At the end of day-3, Australia had reached 322-3 in 111 overs. The over rate had been terrific. Australia could learn a thing or two from the India over rates! The game finished just 10 mins late, if my memory serves me right.

I score the last session in Australia’s favour too. The SBS Score was Australia, 5.0 :: India, 4.0

Day-4 started off with the announcement of Adam Gilchrists’ retirement. Much of the focus of the day was on that; something that Gilchrist did not want!

The fourth day was a bit of an up and down day for both teams. Ponting got to his century and so did Michael Clarke. India wrapped up the tail easily and Australia ended the innings with a lead

I scored the first session to Australia, the second session as even and the third session to India. Thereby the SBS Score at the end of the day was Australia, 6.5 :: India 5.5

Australia made 563 all out in 181.0 overs. This was grinding cricket by the World Champions. But they had effectively shut India out of the game! Now it was a question of whether India would survive. The game is heading for a draw. However, the Australian team can never be written off. They could pull a surprise here and if they do, it would be a fitting goodbye to Adam Gilchrist.

— Mohan

Adelaide Test match evenly poised at the end of Day-2

Andrew Symonds, quite possibly the protector of Australian player body-parts, appeared to either be asleep at the wheel or far away from the action. Either that or he must have thought that Stuart Clark’s chest wasn’t as valuable as Brett Lee’s bottom! Lucky, for otherwise, we may have had a repeat of the Sydney explosion that rocked the cricketing world!

If Mike Proctor’s judgement withstands legal scrutiny, then human beings are bananas! (to borrow a most famous quote by Ian Hislop, then Editor of Private Eye)

Read on…

First two days of the Adelaide Test match

At the end of day-2 of the final Test match of this pulsating Australia v India Test series, the game is evenly and interestingly poised.

In Perth, Anil Kumble withdrew the Brad Hogg allegation/complaint a day prior to the game and claimed moral high-ground where there appeared to be none for either team! He started well there and continued to do well by winning the toss and batting! India started the Perth game better than Australia even before a ball had been bowled!

So too in Adelaide. India started the game with a bold statement of intent! Harbhajan Singh, the off spinner, had been included at the expense of Wasim Jaffer, the opening batsman. India declared that they were going to press for a victory.

Day-1

Irfan Pathan opened with Virender Sehwag. India began well, but lost two wickets in each of the opening two sessions of the Test match to be pegged back. Partnerships were hard to come by.

At Lunch India was 89-2 off 26.0 overs with Virender Sehwag on 56 and Sachin Tendulkar yet to score! Again, a session which would have been India’s had been ruined minutes prior to the close of session — for the umpteenth time in this series — by Rahul Dravid, who poked at a Mitchell Johnson angling delivery to be caught at slips by Ricky Ponting.

That gave an even Session By Session (SBS) Score of Australia, 0.5 :: India, 0.5

The second session saw Virender Sehwag depart reasonably early to a waft outside off stump. But he had done the hard work and justified his inclusion as opener. He started briskly and then played sensibly. Just when he was looking set though, he departed into an unusual shell and that, perhaps, was his downfall.

Sourav Ganguly can perhaps count himself unlucky as it appeared that the Brad Hogg ball that got him out LBW should not have been given. But then Asad Rauf has been consistent in giving these line-ball decisions in favour of the bowlers! Moreover, that ugly sweep was misplaced for that straight ball and perhaps Ganguly deserved to go!

India went to Tea on 187-4 off 53 overs. The scoring had been brisk but then India lost two more wickets! Sachin Tendulkar was batting beautifully on 50 off 77 balls. However, with one less batsman in the make up, things were starting to look a bit ominous for India. Partnerships were hard to come by too. Just when the batsmen were appearing to get on top, Australia pegged India back with a timely wicket. Brett Lee, in particular, was bowling sensationally on a track that offered little help.

My SBS Score reads Australia, 1.0 :: India, 1.0

And finally, India did get a century partnership in the post-Tea session. Sachin Tendulkar and V. V. S. Laxman had put on a 100 runs in 159 balls. Soon after, Tendulkar reached his own century off just 133 balls (9 fours and 3 sixes)! Laxman celebrated his half-century soon after. And just when things were starting to look good for India, Brett Lee produced a brute of a delivery that rose to Laxman’s face. The resulting “fend off” lobbed to Adam Gilchrist.

India ended the day on 309-5 off 86.0 overs. Tendulkar was on 124 and M. S. Dhoni was on 6!

The Australian bowlers bowled really well to restrict the Indians. At times, India appeared to be heading away. But the bowlers pegged them back. There were two easy dropped chances in the field — one by Adam Gilchrist and one by Matthew Hayden. Had these been taken, things may have been different. Indeed, the Australians have been dropping quite a few right through this series, with Gilchrist being a major contributor in this statistic!

Although that last session perhaps belonged more to India than to Australia, the fact that India had one batsman less in its lineup meant that my SBS Score at the end of the day read Australia, 1.5 :: India, 1.5

Day-2

On Day-2, India commenced with positive intent. The first ball of the day was cracked by Tendulkar for a four! The first 3 overs yielded 24 runs! Clearly, the Indians had come out with a plan of scoring fast. In his bid to do just that, Dhoni skied a Mitchell Johnson outside-off bouncer in the deep to be caught.

One thought that, at 336-6, this would be curtains time for India. India only had Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma in the hut! The fact is that these four added nearly 200 runs!

Immediately after Dhoni got out, we witnessed the second best spell of bowling in this series. The best spell of bowling in this series, in my books, is the one that Ishant Sharma bowled to Ricky Ponting in Perth. Here, Brett Lee bowled a terrific, hostile and accurate spell to Sachin Tendulkar. The bowler, Lee, won in the end, with Tendulkar top-edging a hook to Brad Hogg in the deep. India were in trouble at 359-7.

However, Harbhajan Singh had other ideas! He played with abandon mixed with caution, aggression, comic intent and inventiveness. The resolute Anil Kumble kept the singles and twos — and the occassional knees-bent cover-drive — and the scoreboard kept ticking. India went to lunch at 405-7.

Yet another even session in my books and the SBS read Australia, 2.0 :: India, 2.0

The lunch-tea session was the first clean session for any team in this match so far, in my view. India lost just two wickets — but these were wickets #7 and #8 — and had added 120 runs in the process. At Tea India was on 525-9 off 151.0 overs with Anil Kumble on 86 and the young Ishant Sharma on 14. One saw Australian shoulders droop. The fielding was somewhat lethargic and there were plenty of dropped catches. Anil Kumble was looking set for an improbable second Test century and Ishant Sharma, who had already had two lives by then, was looking to provide his captain with support!

At the end of that session, the SBS read Australia, 2.0 :: India, 3.0

After tea though, the romance of a second century for Kumble was squashed. He was out and Australia had 21 overs to negotiate.

The importance of Matthew Hayden was not lost in this game. He was a steadying influence at the top for Australia. He played with calm and composure and balance at the top and showed why he was so missed in Perth! His confidence and calm seemed to rub off on Phil Jaques who batted sensibly and without the fidgety edginess that we saw in Perth! Australia ended the day 62-0.

At the end of day-2, the SBS read Australia, 3.0 :: India, 3.0

Touching gesture!

There was an incident when Harbhajan Singh was batting that threatened to explode but disappeared without a whimper. Harbhajan Singh squirted-cut-glided-squished a Stuart Clark ball to third man for a four. He ran to the bowlers’ end. Both bowler and batsman were looking at the ball and proceeded to collide mid-pitch. Harbhajan Singh stopped and Clark drew a sharp breath. But the situation was quickly diffused as Harbhajan Singh tapped Stuart Clark on his chest and muttered what appeared to be “Sorry mate”.

Andrew Symonds, possibly the protector of Australian player body-parts, appeared to either be asleep at the wheel or far away from the action. Either that or he must have thought that Stuart Clark’s chest wasn’t as valuable as Brett Lee’s bottom! Lucky, for otherwise, we may have had a repeat of the Sydney explosion that rocked the cricketing world!

And so, this incident disappeared from the radar without much of a trace!

Mike Proctor took the Australian team’s word

We are perhaps on the brink of another round of word-wars in the cricketing world. In a leaked report, it has been revealed that Mike Proctor indeed took the word of the Australians over that of the Indians in slapping a Level-3 violation on Harbhajan Singh.

His report says: “I have heard evidence from Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden that he did say these words. Harbhajan Singh denies saying these words. Both umpires did not hear nor did Ricky Ponting or Sachin Tendulkar. I am satisfied and sure beyond reasonable doubt that Harbhajan Singh did say these words. I am satisfied that the words were said and that the complaint to the umpires, which forms this charge, would not have been put forward falsely, I dismiss any suggestion of motive or malice.

If Mike Proctor’s judgement withstands legal scrutiny, then human beings are bananas! Let us just strip this right open. The Indian legal team can then drive a posse of trucks through these pronouncement!

  • First, we have the victim as a witness.
  • Second, no one, apart from the accusers heard anything!
  • The chief complainant — Ricky Ponting — did not hear anything.
  • The accused denies saying anything — and so he would!
  • There are no independent witnesses.
  • All witnesses have vested interests!
  • How can Proctor prove that the complaint would not have been put forward falsely!
  • How can Proctor prove that there are no suggestions of motive or malice?

This Kangaroo-court ruling must be chucked out. There will be calls for Mike Proctor to be retired and put to pasture. I will readily support such calls for the man seems to have lost his marbles.

In my view, this system of delivering justice by inept and untrained Match Referees will, itself, come under sharp review. This whole process ought to be banned and more power must be given to the on-field umpires through a football- and field-hockey-style green-yellow-red card system. This would put an end to “jobs for the boys” as well as ineptitude.

— Mohan

Onwards to Adelaide.

 There are seminal, never to be forgotten times in every one’s life. One such for me was actually being present at the Adelaide Oval during India’s famous victory there in 2003.

I contrived to travel to Adelaide on Business and finish all my meetings by lunch, whereupon I took a taxi across town to the Adelaide Oval to a press pass organised by a relative who was with ESPN.

I watched Dravid get his double from the George Giffen stand and post lunch, went up to the press box from where I watched Ajit Agarkar get his immortal 6-for. This was as close to cricketing heaven as it got. I was directly behind the bowler’s arm. On either side were the Channel Nine, ESPN, ABC and other media boxes.

Tony Greig, Ian Healy, Wasim Akram, Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle, Geoff Boycott-they all came to stretch out in this area and grab a drink or two. Gavaskar played tennis ball cricket with, I think, Jim Maxwell’s son while he was waiting for his lunch of naan and subzi from the local Indian restaurant.

Various print and internet journalists flitted about-Roebuck especially stood out in his kurta-particularly appropriate wear for that hot day. When I gushed to Sambit Bal that Cricinfo was my homepage, he asked politely whether I also subscribed to Cricinfo magazine. When I said no, his look, I imagine, seemed to say “Kanja Pisnaari payal” (Tight fisted so-and-so).

It was an unforgettable day, made particularly eventful when India won the next day.

Here’s hoping there’s an encore this time around and we are celebrating it in full measure over the Australia Day/Republic Day long weekend!

Soundar

Ruffians and Angels…

This was a terrific win by India in Perth. As Mahesh said, this was an inspirational win.

Sunil Gavaskar, in his post-match, called it the “biggest win by Team India ever!”Now that’s a huge call to make!

Angels replace thugs:

This win just showed to me what can happen to a champion team when the common-ruffian and the street-hoon is removed from an Australian cricketer. Here were 11 terrific cricketers playing against a bunch of committed Indians who had a point or two to prove. But unlike previous efforts from these champion cricketers, the thug was replaced by the angel. The Australian players were on a best-behaviour notice. The whole of Australia had spoken. They did not like the hoons that they were getting to see regularly in cricket matches. The angels, who replaced the hoons in the bodies of the Australians were almost on even-keel with the Indians. Soon, Australia crumbled to an embarrassing loss on a wicket that suited Australia’s style of play.

Team-spirit:

This was a huge victory for India after the serious morale-busting loss in Sydney. The team had been through a lot in Sydney. The aftermath was globally embarrassing. The spotlight was constantly on the Indians. Opinions were being expressed by everyone. The team spirit that was on view right through the week was nothing short of sensational.

But the Indians rose above that and were helped by the sportsmen that they faced. The thugs were locked away. India won.

17th win:

In an amazing coincidence, the last time they went for a 17th consecutive win, India stopped Australia in its tracks. So also here at Perth. India won the 17th match and denied Ricky Ponting the 17th that he so badly wanted.

What a start by Kirsten!

And what a brilliant start for Gary Kirsten! This was his first match with the Indian team — and he was at Perth just as an observer! And India won. Hope this points to a better future for the prospects of the Indian team under Gary Kirsten!

Test ranking:

India now have a chance of climbing to 2nd spot on the ICC Test Rankings – India was 3rd on th table on 2 January.

Over-rates:

Finally, it was nice to see Mike Proctor finally fine the Australian team for slow over rates in this match. In my opinion, he ought to have done it in Melbourne and in Sydney too.

Now the show moves to Adelaide and then the ODI circus. Early news is that Ganguly and Dravid have been dropped from the ODI team — we may see them retire from the ODI scene soon.