Tag Archives: Pakistan

Sad day for Pakistan, cricket and cricket fans

Pakistan cricket was already in tatters. Controversy seemed to follow it like a shadow -  Drug scandals. Match fixing scandals. Dressing room spats. Ball tampering claims. The Oval fiasco. Bob Woolmer’s death. Financial problems and Political issues. The list goes on. Sure, other teams have had their share of controversies, but nothing like the sort Pakistan have had.

And now this – The visiting Sri Lankan cricket team being the target of terrorist attacks in Pakistani soil. Like India, the sport is said to be revered in Pakistan. With these attacks, that claim comes into question. Imran Khan once said that cricketers would never be under any threat from terrorists

…cricketers would never be under any threat from terrorists. Reason is that the terrorists rely on support from the masses because that’s where they get their recruits and cricket is a game which is so loved and there’s such passion in Pakistan, that the terrorists know that if a cricket match is bombed, they’ve had it. I mean the public will just turn against them.

He will have to eat his words now. Before the start of the tour,  Javed Mianded, the former Director General of PCB, said

…we want to prove to the world that Pakistan is safe and secure for cricket

The exact opposite has happened and the message has gone out that Pakistan is no longer safe for cricket.

Many countries have already been refusing to tour Pakistan. The ICC Champions Trophy was also called off. And now with this incident, Pakistan being a co-host to the 2011 WC will come under serious scrutiny. In fact, it will take a few years before another team even decides to tour Pakistan and local papers have already started writing obituaries for International Cricket in Pakistan.

Before we start talking about the future, let us spare a thought for the people with were killed and injured in the incident. My heartfelt condolences to all those who were affected.

This is really a sad day for Pakistan, cricket and cricket fans around the world…

-Mahesh-

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On why the game needs more Asian Match Referees…

I know I have said a few times that cricket needs more Asian Match Referees. I will qualify that a bit more. The game needs more new-age Asian Match Referees. Currently, we have Asian gentlemen like Ranjan Madugalle, Roshan Mahanama and Javagal Srinath as match referees (G. R. Vishwanath was a Match Referee from the recent past).

The current Asian Match Referees are, in my view, not strong enough, in my view, and do not make the decisions against the old-block countries that Chris Broad and Mike Procter are regularly able to take against Asian players! Furthermore, the current Asian Match Referees are, in my view, not able to afford the Asian Teams the same amount of largesse that old-block Referees like Procter and Broad afford to non-Asian players!

This is a potentially inflammatory statement and I am certain there will be many from Sampath Kumar to Peter Lalor that will jump up and down and scream “shades of racism” in the statement above.

But this statement is beyond racism, in my view. It can be supported by documented evidence from a catalogue of wrong-doings. It is even beyond a need that I and the average sub-continental fan may have to throw off the shackles of imperialistic overtures that some of us have had to live and work through. It is even beyond feelings of inadequacy that one may — perhaps even legitimately — be accused of. Although I am leaving myself exposed to all of the above, I do believe that the game needs a good hard re-jig if it needs to move forward in an environment of trust.

And that shake up can and must occur through the induction of more new-age Asian Match Referees and officials.

I would like a new-Age match umpire, for example, that has the guts to put his finger to his lips and shut Ricky Ponting up when the latter argues vehemently with the match official. Is that possible? Well, when Billy Bowden can shut up V. V. S. Laxman’s polite protest, I am not sure why he would want to tolerate a spray from Ponting? Unless of course, he felt
(a) fearful of Ponting or
(b) that Laxman was a piece of dispensable old cloth
(c) that unlike Laxman, Ponting was a “good bloke who ought to be implicitly trusted but is just indulging in bit of a decent argument after all”?

I suspect it is a bit of (a), (b) and (c) above!

This is why I, as a fan, have a deep sense of mistrust towards someone like Billy Bowden or Steve Bucknor. It has nothing to do with the colour of their skin or indeed the colour of Laxman’s skin! It has more to do with consistency. A person that deals with Laxman with utter disdain and can yet tolerate virulent abuse from Ponting is inconsistent and does not engender trust in me the viewer! I suspect that such a person will not have the trust of a player like (say) Gautam Gambhir either.

This is why I feel that change is necessary before an environment of greater trust can be built. This environment of trust does not exist in world cricket and the ICC is incompetent to do anything about it.

I have felt that this change was necessary since the fractious SCG Test.

India has not been able to forget the anger, the utter pain and the agony of the fractious SCG Test and went to extraordinary lengths — like the setting of 8-1 fields — to win the recently concluded Test series in India against Australia. That one SCG Test was responsible for the breakdown of a talented player (Symonds) and triggered the retirements of two of crickets’ modern-day greats (Gilchrist and Kumble).

The SCG-anger led to M. S. Dhoni digging into the Mahabharata to explain why he adopted 8-1 fields in a bid to win the Nagpur Test match at “all costs”.

Dhoni used the epic battle in the Mahabharata as his motivation for the win in Nagpur.

In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna told the archer, Arjuna, to forget everything else in the epic battle against the enemy and aim his arrow not at the dangling fish target but instead at the eye of the fish. Dhoni took inspiration from this Epic and told his troops to focus on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and nothing else. Nothing else mattered. Everything else was left in the peripheral vision. Even Dhoni’s own natural aggressive instincts were discarded. Nothing else was important. The team went to extraordinary lengths to deliver that single-minded — ruthless, perhaps — focus in order to secure the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. I can’t imagine that this was just because they played Australia.

Indeed, I am certain that it was because they were playing the team that played against them at the SCG.

The ghosts of the SCG had to be purged. Has that SCG Test anger been purged? It is hard to say. For the Indian fan, it may never ever be purged. For the team, perhaps under Dhoni and with newer players on the scene, the anger may dissolve over time.

This anger and fire is constantly stoked by counter allegations from the likes of Gilchrist, Ponting and Symonds who continue to yell out that they were right and the Indians were all wrong.

Perhaps we are all at wrong here.

But there will be many more fish that lose eyes before we can all sit down and understand the deepness of the hurt that was caused in Sydney.

That is a back-drop and provides further context for the contentious and anger-laden statement I made above.

I will say it again: The current Asian Match Referees are, in my view, not strong enough, in my view, and do not make the decisions against the old-block countries that Chris Broad and Mike Procter are regularly able to take against Asian players! Furthermore, the current Asian Match Referees are, in my view, not able to afford the Asian Teams the same amount of largesse that old-block Referees like Procter and Broad afford to non-Asian players!

Let is consider two two acts that provide the benchmarks for the above, perhaps startling, call for more new-age Asian Match Referees.

Act-1:

In August 2006, Darryl Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering at the famously chaotic and horribly ill-fated Oval Test against England. Hair was a good umpire. In my view, he was also an umpire who thought he was bigger than the game — how else can one explain his no-balling of Muralidharan on Boxing Day when all the cameras were on him? He was bigger than the game itself! At least, one can discern quite easily that he and Simon Taufel do not share any genetic material!

But be that as it may. On that day in 2006, Hair had basically insinuated that the Pakistan team was a collection of cheats. Maybe they were? Who knows? But the events that led to that public insinuation raised more than eyebrows! Hair plucked the ball, kept it and pronounced his judgement in an utterly callous fashion. Did he have evidence? No. Did he check footage from any of the 20-odd cameras at the Oval ground to verify if his — perhaps valid and perhaps even legitimate — suspicions were valid? No. He ploughed on regardless like a crazed bull that ran amok in a busy China shop! Indeed, the subsequent investigation revealed that apart from a few dints and dents suffered from some brutally hammered boundary hits against the boundary advertisement hoardings, the ball was, in fact in perfectly good shape!

Was Hair prejudiced? You make up your own minds!

And by the way, here is the answer to the question you had perhaps asked earlier… You perhaps asked innocently “Who was the Match Referee in that infamous game at The Oval>”. Did you not?

Well, it was Mike Procter! The same Match Referee that handled the SCG Test match!

Cut to 2008, to the Test match just concluded in Nagpur.

During a bizarre passage of play when the wheels were falling of the Australian truck named “sanity”, we saw TV footage of an incident that would have made an average cricket fan draw breath! The footage showed Cameron White plucking something red off a red object in his hands! The red object that he had in his hand wasn’t an apple. And the stuff that he plucked from what may have looked like an apple wasn’t a dead leaf or residual stem. He had plucked leather that was sticking out of a badly scuffed up cricket ball. TV cameras captured this. Everyone saw what happened. Chris Broad, the Match Referee, would have seen that too.

Was the ball altered in any way whatsoever? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt.

Cameron White would have known that what he did was utterly wrong. He was captain of Victoria when Michael Lewis was probed for ball-tampering. Thumbnails and seam were allegedly involved in that incident. Cameron White would have attended the enquiry and would have known what constitutes ball tampering. Cameron White would have known from that at least — if not from playing at junior level and club level — that a player cannot alter the condition of the ball. He did. If there is a problem with the ball, you simply hand it over to the umpire.

It is quite likely and indeed, highly probable that Cameron White was not malicious in his intent. He had just pulled leather off. He had not lifted the seam. But was he wrong? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, yes. Vehemently yes.

But it does make me angry when I think that Chris Broad, the Match Referee did not — to the best of my knowledge — even question White on that incident! It is quite likely that he thought, “I trust my basic instincts that Cameron White, this good, honest Australian bloke did something silly and not something with unscrupulous intent.”

I have nothing against that instinct. But I have to ask, “Would Chris Broad afford the same luxury to an Asian bloke?” My view is “No”.

Cut to South Africa in 2001.

Sachin Tendulkar had cleaned dirt off the seam of the ball. No finger nails were used. Just thumb. This was captured on TV cameras.

Why was Cameron White’s action different from Sachin Tendulkar cleaning the seam of the ball with his thumb (not thumbnails) in South Africa? The Match Referee in that instance was Mike Denness, in that initial dark hour of world cricket when India first flexed its muscles on the world stage.

Mike Denness first accused Sachin Tendulkar of “ball tampering” and and then issued this statement that claimed that he fined Tendulkar for not cleaning the ball “under the supervision of the umpires, which Tendulkar failed to do”.

Was Cameron White doing anything different? Was he not, also, cleaning the ball in a manner other than under the supervision of the umpires? Was he not, therefore, altering the condition of the ball?

He was.

The umpire in this instance was Aleem Dar, a mild natured man. A good man. If the umpire had been Darryl Hair and if the offender had been Sachin Tendulkar or Salman Butt, the player would have been accused of being a cheat! After all, Hair had acted pompously at The Oval with far less to go by way of evidence!

Aleem Dar had a quiet word with Ricky Ponting and the issue was killed then and there. There was no grandstanding. The game was bigger than Allem Dar, the man. The game moved on.

Chris Broad could have done something about it. He did not.

My point is that Broad did not have either the bravery or the integrity to pull up Cameron White when the evidence was there for all to see, while Hair, Procter, Broad and Denness would have no problems at all in picking off the Pakistani team or a randomly dispensable Indian player in order to prove that the game is beyond an individual.

To men like Broad, Denness, Procter and Hair, it would seem that rules must be obeyed by Asian players. However, there is an implicit level of trust deeply embedded within them that “players from Australia and England are good, honest blokes who play good, hard cricket and occasionally make genuine errors”.

Now, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that implicit level of trust. What is, however, wrong is that that same implicit level of trust is not afforded to the average Asian player — not even to Sachin Tendulkar!

When I saw the Cameron White incident, I commented about it and immediately thought back to Darry Hair and The Oval! Scorpicity, who comments on i3j3Cricket frequently, has written about this too.

What is required is that we have Match Referees that have the integrity and the courage to act against unacceptable behaviour of Australians and Englishmen.

Remember that Procter was the Match Referee who once said, “[Team-X] has always played pretty tough cricket, I don’t think anyone wants them to change the way they play. They are a wonderful side and play in the spirit of the game.”

What was “Team-X” in the above direct quote? Australia.

What was the context of the quote? The McGrath-Sarawan incident.

What did Procter do at the time? Nothing.

[Exit Stage Left]

Act-2:

Act-2 has borrowed heavily from Samir Chopra’s article in CricInfo’s Blog “Different Strokes” titled ‘Why is the Indian Fan So Angry’.

Samir Chopra is spot on.

My distrust with the officials that run the game comes from the totally insulting and perilously supercilious (in my view) actions of umpires like Billy Bowden when they deal with Asian players. Picture these following scenarios and take a check of your heart-rate if you are from the subcontinent. Let me know if it is anything below 85 bpm!

  • Peter Willey shooing away the 12th man in Kolkata who was bringing in spare gloves for the batsman, as though the 12th man were nothing but odour coming out of rotting food,
  • Steve Bucknor reprimanding Partiv Patel in Sydney as though the latter were a truant schoolboy,
  • Billy Bowden shutting up Laxman in Delhi (in the recently concluded Test) as though the latter were an irritating fly.

In the third example above, Laxman had just attempted to complete a run. Bowden had ruled that Laxman had run on the pitch and deducted the run. Fair enough. But Laxman said, “How else could I complete the run?”, to which Bowden put his fingers to his lips and shooed Laxman back to the crease.

Now if that was the way Bowden always acts, that would be perhaps fine. But the same Bowden was repeatedly abused by Ricky Ponting questioning the authority of the umpire on everything from the legitimacy of an overthrow that went for 5 runs to the shape of the ball!

There are many many more examples that I can cite like the ones above. But these give you an example of the images that stay in the mind for a long long time. I have absolutely no trust in these gentlemen that run our beautiful game.

I would like to know that these images that I have are because Indians are inherently bad and not because it is inherently possible for the Bowedns, Bucknors and Willeys to act in this manner with Indians and get away with it.

As Samir Chopra says, these images make even the unthinkable very possible! For an Indian fan, what is perhaps most inconceivable, seems totally accceptable: Aleem Dar, Asad Rauf and even Ashoka DeSilva seem more acceptable as officials in a game involving India! They provide a calming influence!

Now, coming from a generation of Indian fans that were fed a staple diet of mistrust of Pakistani officialdom that included officials like Shakoor Rana, that statement is actually saying one heck of a lot!

[Exit Stage Left]

So, when I wrote above (and on previous occasions) that new-age Asians ought to be queuing up for ICC Match Referee positions this is exactly what I meant.

I would like Sourav Ganguly, for example, be a Match Refereee. I’d like him to officiate the game from an Asian point of view. Is it necessary? I do think so.

I would have wanted Billy Bowden to put his fingers to his lips when Ricky Ponting was abusing him on the field. Ponting was abusing Bowden’s authority. No doubt about it! And this was not the first time Ponting was doing it. He did it at Mohali too. But the officials will not pull Ponting up. They would rather concentrate their energies on the Laxmans of the world.

Chris Broad lacked the integrity to pull up Cameron White. He ought to have.

Just as there is no way Billy Bowden will put his fingers on his lips and motion (say) Matthew Hayden to shut up when the latter asks a genuine question of him, there is no way Chris Broad will pull Ponting up for anything other than kicking an opposition player!

This is the cricket world we live in. And I just don’t think it is good for the game.

We will see many more SCG Tests and many more Asian cricketers will re-read the Mahabharata (or similar Epics) to draw inspiration from before delivering ruthless focus to their game in a bid to “win at all costs”.

There will be fewer fish around — or plenty of fish with only one eye!

The game will be the loser for it all…

– Mohan

On ICL-bans and bombing-hypocrisy…

Sampath Kumar, in his usual style, tried to bait me into an argument on ICL, Pakistan’s security-related isolation and other issues. I took the bait! I will try and address these here. These are just my opinions, of course.

On the banning of ICL players:

I do believe that the BCCI was partially right in seeking — and enforcing — a ban. The coming months will test the BCCI’s resolve totally in this regard, especially with the actions of the Sri Lanka Board to lift their ban on ICL-contracted players. But I do believe that the BCCI was partially right in seeking this ban. In saying this, I must say that I am approaching this purely from an academic perspective and am not being an apologist for the BCCI. I do not like the way they function (that being an operative word in this case and I would normally wash my mouth after using “function” and “BCCI” in the same breath!). I do believe that they need a big scare before they get their house in order on most things to do with cricket — and I do believe that they are getting just that.

I’d like to separate my argument along two modes (a) Players from India, (b) Players from other countries. I am clear that Indian players that are contracted with the BCCI ought to banned if they play in the ICL. The waters get a bit muddy when we deal with non-Indian players contracted by the ICL. I reiterate that mine is a non-legal opinion on this issue.

Indian ICL-players

I do not often agree with the directions, approach and strategy of the BCCI. However, I do believe that the BCCI is right to seek exclusivity as the body that governs cricket in India. You can’t — just can’t — have two bodies that govern and run cricket in India. That doesn’t mean that the ICL is wrong to organise cricket — anyone can organise a game in their backyard or local park. It is a free world after all.

However, a player who is contracted to play in ICC-approved tournaments in individual countries cannot and should not be allowed to play in competitions that are organised by bodies other than the officially recognised representative body in that country.

Suddenly there is talk of restriction of trade practices? Well, I am not a legal expert and would need to read up on this material a bit before commenting with authority. However, I can’t imagine too many employers giving all of its employees free reign to work with its competitors! If you are contracted to a company — and all players in India have some form of contract with BCCI, the official governing body that is recognised by the ICC for organising and running cricket in India — then, I suspect your contract would say that you have to stick with that company and offer your services to that company.

As an employer, your contract would ask for exclusivity of your services to your employer in return for monetary and other considerations, so that your employer (in this case, the BCCI) can maximise — in a tightly governed manner — the deals that it can make with TV companies and marketing companies. Its contracts with its employees — its players, ground staff, coaches, et al — assure the organisation that it is able to satisfy the exclusivity clauses that would dominate such external contracts.

Indian Players are contracted to the BCCI to play in BCCI-approved tournaments — from Buchi Babu Trophy to Tests. So, the moment they play in a tournament that is not “approved”, they can be deemed to have reneged on their contract. That much is clear to me!

Why is this exclusivity important?

Let us imagine that the ICL is recognised by the ICC as a body that also runs and organises cricket in India. Apart from TV and marketing deals with sponsors which would fall through, is it not conceivable then, if we take the argument to its logical conclusion, that the ICL would put up an alternate “Team India” to the “Team India” that the BCCI put up? Which India will Australia (for example) face when it tours India? Will it ask the real ‘Team India’ to stand up every time it tours?

So the ICC should only recognise one governing body in each country. The fact that the market in India is large enough to allow for 3-4 bodies for organising cricket is, in my view, irrelevant.

Now whether or not the BCCI should have actively negotiated with the ICL in talks around when the ICL was being set-up is a different matter altogether.

And whether or not the BCCI is disorganised and bad is also a different matter.

My point is that there can only be one governing body for cricket in each country, just as there is only one governing body in each country that is a part of the International Olympic Association (or FIFA, etc).

So let us accept that there can only be one representative governing council in every country for any sport. Further, let us also accept that all employees of that governing council’s jurisdiction sign-up to the policies of that governing council (no performance enhancing drugs, fair play, will not play for an unauthorised body, etc) when they sign their employment contracts. Then, logically, all Indian-players should expect a BCCI-ban if they play in the ICL.

Overseas ICL-players

The waters get terribly murky when dealing with overseas ICL-contracted players — say Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or England.

The argument here is that the bleeding of talent from Bangladesh to the ICL would erode the talent-base in that country. And that is fair enough. The Bangladeshi cricketers took the opportunity for a quick pocket-fill before their careers crash and burn. However, if the ICL did not exist, the only way the Bangladeshi cricketers would have been able to do a pocket-fill would have been to be good enough to be playing in the IPL, the officially-recognised tournament.

Clearly, the BCCI has no contractual basis for stopping players contracted with the ECB, say, from playing in the ICL. Nor does the BCCI have an automatic right to seek the home Boards to impose a ban on ICL-players by using its financial muscle-power. The only way it can impose some implicit pressure is by banning players with ICL contracts from playing in one of BCCI’s own torunaments — like the IPL. And that, to me, is fair enough.

The BCCI should stop being negative about all things ICL. They should, instead, concentrate on making the IPL brand stronger than it is. And if that brand needs the protection of bans, then that is fine as long as it is all above-board and as long as it affords a “duty of care” that an employer has to afford its employees.

The ICL could and should exist, in my view! In a way, it is good that it exists. Why not? After all it keeps the BCCI honest. Moreover — and I say this without a tinge of either sarcasm or patronization in my tone — it provides safe passage to a few geriatrics and some not-so-good players to earn some moolah before they exit the game completely. Who would really care if some unheard of and long-since-retired Bangladeshi player plays in the ICL and makes some money before retiring? In my view, it is good that there exists this cash-grab opportunity for a few not-so-good players! Do we really care that a now-retired Mohammed Rafique, Manjural Islam, Mohammad Sharif and Tapash Baishya play in the ICL? With the successful launch of the IPL, the BCCI has shown that it can get its house in order — and that is the space and brand where most good players will be attracted to. It is worrying, however, that the ICL is hastening the retirements of players like Habibul Bashar, an attractive and dashing player. But them’s the breaks. One has got to live with the fact that, occasionally, a Bashar or a Rayudu may get lost to the rebel-league.

Incidentally, the ICL season kick-starts on October 2, a day after India take on Australia in the 1st Test. Clearly, the ICL has India’s cricket excellence top-most on its priority! Not!

However, in a bid to strengthen its own Flagship brands (IPL, Champions League, etc) it can and should rule that no ICL-contracted can play in any tournament that it organises. Clearly, all Indian ICL-contracted players cannot play in the IPL or Ranji Trophy or Buchi Babu or anything else. This has been extended to non-Indian ICL-contracted players too. And that is fair enough. After all, it is the BCCI that is organising the tournament.

Once you accept the above argument — that it is ok for the BCCI to ban any ICL-contracted player (Indian or overseas) from playing in BCCI-approved-and-run tournaments like the IPL — then, the argument can be extended to say that, any team that includes an ICL-contracted player will also be excluded from BCCI-run tournaments like the Champions Trophy. So, if for example, Durham or The Colombo Titans (hypothetically) includes ICL-contracted players, while the BCCI cannot demand that Durham or The Colombo Titans bans these players, it can say that these teams just cannot play in BCCI-approved tournaments. That is totally above-board, in my view.

That is the only way the BCCI can apply implicit pressure on Boards like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, England, etc. The ICC does not function in a manner that allows these rules to be formulated at the top! That is the unfortunate state of world cricket, in my view!

This is just the start of the debate. I jotted down some of my views and thoughts. Let the arguments begin!

On Australia’s bombing-hypocrisy:

Sampath Kumar’s point is that Pakistan is right in making claims that Australia has double standards. While Australia shunned Pakistan as a destination for the Champions Cup (or whatever that tournament was called) due to a worsening security situation in that country, Australia has decided to continue on with its tour of India despite recent bombings in India.

This is too much of a political hot-potato for me to comment on in depth. However, I’d like to think that the ability, the capacity and willingness to deal with such security threats is different in each country. Therefore, I’d like to believe that we are not dealing with a level playing field when comparing security risks! And to suggest that we have a level-playing-field is, in my view, nothing short of immature naivety. Any security and threat assessment should take into account the preparedness and capacity of the authorities on the ground to be able to deal with threats.

I hope I would not be accused of double standards for not rushing to my travel agent in a tearing hurry to book my next holiday in Dafur although I might book one in Bali — after all, both places have seen security troubles in the recent past! I’d like to believe my own assessment of the threat to my personal security might lead me to conclude that, just at this moment, Bali is a place that would offer me greater security than Dafur! No doubt, I will visit Dafur when my own assessment of the security-risk improves!

— Mohan

India run risk of crash-and-burn out of Asia Cup

India lost to Pakistan in last nights’ game in Karachi. The Pakistanis put up a spirited performance and out-batted and out-bowled India.

India started as if Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had more concerns for the tournaments’ carbon credits. It looked like they wanted to finish the game off before the lights came on in the evening. But that frenetic start was always going to be hard to maintain and when Sehwag, Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh fell quickly, it took some effort for M. S. Dhoni and a-somewhat-out-of-sorts Rohit Sharma to rebuild the innings.

The two Indian batsmen did rebuild, thanks to the strategy of the stand-in Pakistan captain, Misbah Ul-Huq, who strangely did not attack at that stage. Dhoni and Rohit Sharma compiled the easy singles and twos and kept the scoreboard moving till a rush of blood saw Rohit Sharma depart at a crucial time — just when the accelerator was being engaged! That dismissal and the immature dismissal that followed — of Yusuf Pathan — may have meant that India fell short by about 20 runs in the end. That was perhaps what mattered most in the end result. Yusuf Pathan came out and had a huge heave against debutant off-spinner Saeed Ajmal who looked quite tight and impressive in his first game. Given the number of doosra’s Ajmal bowled though, it may be more appropriate, perhaps, to catalog Ajmal a “Doosra” bowler who occasionally bowls the off-spinner as a wrong ‘un! Dhoni and Rohit Sharma had some difficulty picking his doosra.

The Pakistanis came out purposefully and batted brilliantly to take the game away from India. In particular, Younis Khan and Misbah Ul-Huq were excellent, controlled and effective. Younis Khan appeared to be a man in control. He came in when a solid foundation was ruined by a needless runout. He shepherded a somewhat frisky, young Nasir Jamshed to a 50, saw the youngster retire hurt and just kept motoring on through it all. His was a terrific innings.

The Indian bowlers did not really come to the party. Praveen Kumar bowled tragically. After a wayward first over Ishant Sharma did manage to bowl reasonably well in his subsequent overs. And although Irfan Pathan bowled steadily for most part, he did bowl at least one “hit me” ball every over. And that, really, was the difference. Piyush Chawla was also largely ineffective.

At the end of the game, M. S. Dhoni said, “On flat tracks like this one, scores like 300 or 310 is just not enough if you don’t have an experienced spinner. There is not much help from the pitch for the spinners and it’s rather easier for the batsman to go after the spinner than rotate the strike. There you need experienced spinner.”

Hmmm! Let’s see. The spinner in the winning team had bowling analysis of 10-0-47-1. His name? Saeed Ajmal. Experience? Debutant.

It is, in my view, not experience that mattered most. It was attitude that was the difference. The Indians batted in two modes when they batted. They swung from “reckless abandon” to “caught in the headlights” and never really settled the pendulum in a safe and controlled zone in the middle. That allowed even the inexperienced debutant bowler — Ajmal — to bowl with control and dictate terms. India perhaps went into the game thinking that they would win it. Pakistan, on the other hand, went into the game with a hint of desperation and a heck of a lot of grit and attitude. The results showed. The better team won on the night.

India have to win tonights’ game against Sri Lanka or risk bowing out of the Asia Cup finals. Strangely enough, I am not too fussed either way! I suspect that an early exit may be a bitter pill for most Team India fans to swallow!

I can’t believe that India can go in with the same team sheet that it presented against Pakistan. However, there don’t appear to be too many options. One option may be to swap Manpreet Gony for a somewhat listless Praveen Kumar. But that could be somewhat of a risk in what is essentially a do-or-die game for India. I’d go with R. P. Singh for Praveen Kumar who has looked somewhat out of sorts in these listless tracks.

Yusuf Pathan has blown a few opportunities to express himself. He needs to come good. He had a perfect opportunity with both bat and ball last night and messed up both facets. His heave that he affected against Ajmal in last nights’ game is not quite a reflection of his batting capabilities. He is better than that and has to make his appearances and opportunities count. India has the opportunity to bench him for a regular, front-line bowler. It is an option that they may well exercise in what is essentially a knock-out semi-final.

On another note… Having already played and beaten Pakistan in the preliminary rounds and having carried over the points into the Super-League, pray why did India have to play Pakistan again? Is this just so that the organisers can collect more gate revenue?

— Mohan

Team India for Asia Cup game against Pakistan

After a mid-innings sputter, India cruised home to record a facile victory over Hong Kong in its Asia Cup opener. The business end commences today with a game againts hosts Pakistan.

Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina, Dhoni, Chawla, Praveen Kumar and R. P. Singh had good outings against Hong Kong. Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa did not get an opportunity to do much! Irfan Pathan will probably get back into the side provided his side-strain is no longer restricting his bowling.

Rohit Sharma had an ordinary game against Hong Kong and apparently looked listless in his 29-ball-11-run essay.

The India side is likely to be:

Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa (or Yusuf Pathan), Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma

— Mohan

India Vs Pakistan, 1st ODI, Guwahati :: Highlights (Pakistan Innings)

[YouTube = http://youtube.com/watch?v=F2BSDSh1CwQ%5D

Likely team for India-Pakistan 1st ODI

And so, another series starts today in India. India play a 5-match ODI series against Pakistan with todays’ first game being played at Guwahati.

oN paper, India appear to start as favourites in the ODI series — at least, in the judgement of Rameez Raja and Sanjay Manjrekar! And I think that is fair enough. The team is more settled under its new captain who seems to exude confidence with every game. Despite the dropping of Rahul Dravid, they have a more settled team that has just been through a tough series against Australia. Although Pakistan have come through a tough series against South Africa, there is an unsettled look to the team and one never knows what Shoaib Akhtar’s presence will do in the dressing room.

This is the team that I think India should go with.

Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly (Gautam Gambhir)
Virender Sehwag (Rohit Sharma)
Yuvraj Singh
Robin Uthappa
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Irfan Pathan
Praveen Kumar
Harbhajan Singh
R. P. Singh (Murali Kartik)
Zaheer Khan (Sreesanth)

My team selection is motivated by a few factors. The early start would necessitate the inclusion of a few pace options. The game commences at 8.30am so that the game can complete by 4.30pm, when the sun starts to set in these parts! Why play in these parts at this time of the year may be a question that one could conceivably pose. But given that the recepient of such questions would be the BCCI and a certain Niranjan Shah, “save breath” would be a safe alternative to a poser that would definitely be met with nothing more than a vague retort!

The ground at Guwahati is, at about 60 yards, quite small by international standards. Dhoni, in his pre-match said, “This is one of the grounds where we could have extended the boundary ropes.” Given this, I doubt India will go with two spinners.

I’d play Virender Sehwag who is supposed to be in “good nick” according to his captain. Unfortunately, this will mean that Gautam Gambhir misses out.

Given the early start and the possible dewey conditions, I would also play the new-lad, Praveen Kumar in the team. However, I feel that the Praveen Kumar play may be a bridge too far for this team. The team may go down the safety-path and select Sreesanth or Murali Kartik instead of this young, capable allrounder who was recently described to be as being “in the James Hopes mould”.

— Mohan