Saturday, June 12, 2010

Benn gets a five wicket haul!

Since the time Benn got a chance to play for Westindies, I have seen many questioning his place in the side, but yesterday,  he showed that he has a great attitude as he kept coming hard at the batsmen and deservedly got a five wicket haul. He would have better career figures, but the Westindian fielders haven't helped him or  other bowlers in the side, as they can't catch a cold.

Anyway, coming back to our man, Benn, it is crystal clear to anyone that he isn't the next Bedi or Underwood, but his ability to bowl long spells and not give away too many runs makes him a vital cog in their side. More importantly, he doesn't get flustered by batsmen going after him and doesn't lose heart when he sees fielders drop even simple catches. For instance, last year KP was smashing him all over the park at Kingston and at Chester le Street, Benn though, didn't lose his patience and finally got him out. Yesterday too, from whatever little cricket I could watch, I could see that he didn't lose his patience and rarely ever bowled a bad delivery and even when De Villiers or Boucher attacked him,  he didn't lose confidence in his ability.

Last year, Benn showed that he has a great temperament on a flat pitch like Adelaide  in Australia as   even though their fielders dropped easy catches, he just continued to do what he does best and that is, to bowl decent line and length and deservedly got a five wicket haul in that match.

Among other bowlers, Shillingford looks like a decent prospect, but would be tested on pitches that aren't helping the spinners and I liked the look of Pascal, as he can bowl decent line and length and hurries the batsmen for a bit a of pace.

For the umpteenth time though, I didn't like Gayle's captaincy as he was too passive. For instance, Benn was getting bounce and Saffer batsmen were going hard at the ball yet, he didn't had a gully for  him. Shillingford kept bowling over the wicket though, it can be said that Prince is vulnerable against off spinners who, can go  around the wicket and finally, Gayle himself got Prince out by coming around the wicket.

For South Africa, Boucher, Prince and De Villiers all played useful knocks as they showed the advantage of using their feet against the spinners to smother the spin. Boucher was under a bit of pressure as he was dropped from the one-day team, but just like the test series against England, he showed that he is a gutsy player and his partnership with Steyn perhaps would turn out to be the turning point of the match. He may get beaten about thousand times, but that won't worry him as he would be up and ready to face the next delivery. Prince too was in bad form before this series, but  scored a timely half century in the first innings. As Prince tends to push hard at the ball and plays from the crease, he still looks vulnerable against quicker bowlers who, can consistently make it to leave the lefthander and against off spinners who, can bowl around the wicket.

As far as the match situation is concerned, South Africa are on top as I  expect most of the Westindian batsmen would try to hit through the line and gift their wickets away! Of course, if their batsmen can show a bit of patience, they can get a decent score on the board as at least on the second day, the pitch did turn, but it was slow turn and batsmen can get runs in the first innings.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Benn for getting his second five wicket haul. He won't bring spectators to the ground   and neither would  too many articles  be written  about him, but has a great temperament and  would likely continue to succeed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mexico v South Africa

The opening encounter of the world cup would be between the hosts South Africa and  Mexico. Both teams aren't expected to progress too far in the tournament.

South Africa

Most of South African players play in the local leagues and may lack the experience to win matches on the big stage and they are ranked as low as 83. One key point in their favour is, the home support and they have a good coach in Perreira.

South Africa likely would go for a 4-4-2 formation. If they have to progress to the next round, they need their inspirational play maker from Everton, Pienaar to fire. Mphela can be a decent striker upfront. Both wingers Modise and Tshabala can also play key roles for the Bafana Bafana side.


Mexico had a good result against Italy in their warm up match as they defeated them and they too have a  good chance of winning the first match against the hosts.

I do expect Mexico to dominate the possession with their quick passing. Mexico may depend on their skipper Marquez to stop the threat of Pienaar and if he succeeds in doing it, South Arica are in trouble. Upfront they would look at Santos, Blanco and the talented Hernandez for inspiration.

To be frank, It is tough to pick a winner in this match. Mexico are perhaps more talented, but as South Africa have the home support, they may just get a narrow win. Actually, I would always like to see the hosts do well!

France v Uruguay preview

To start with, during this month, there would be some great sporting events like the Wimbledon, British open golf and  the greatest sporting extravaganza on earth, the football world cup. Yes, this is a cricket blog and I do like to blog  mainly about cricket, but I also like  motorsports, tennis, football and many other sports. So, I would like to have  a look at least a few matches in the football world up and of course, the Wimbledon.

Today, all eyes will be on South Africa as the world cup kicks off in the rainbow nation  with the Bafana Bafana side  meeting Mexico and the French team playing Uruguay. I would like to preview both the matches.

First up, I would  look at France v Uruguay as I'm more familiar with players of both teams! Both France and Uruguay struggled during the qualifying stage of the tournament and had to take the route of play offs to qualify for the world cup. Uruguay squeezed past Costa Rica who, had incidentally qualified for the last world cup in Germany and the French team qualified with the help of Henry's infamous handball against the Irish team. If I'm right, the French team even struggled against teams like Lithuania  and Faroe Islands in the qualifying round!


If I look at the French team, they have few players who, seem to be well past their best and the most notable among them is Henry as he found himself on the bench at Barcelona and likely won't  start in the match against Uruguay.


The French team would likely play with a 4-3-3 formation, partly because of the absence of  Diarra, who was able to do the job of a holding midfielder, but has been ruled out of the world cup and they perhaps want to look at a new strategy.

The French team have played warm up matches against weak teams like China, Costa Rica and Tunisia, so it is hard to judge how well the new formation would work, but they even lost to China which is a worry.

In my opinion, the other major worry can be, Malouda, the talented footballer likes to play further up in the field on the left wing but for that Ribery has to sacrifice by moving to the right and that won't happen. I just don't think Malouda is happy playing in the centre midfield. France also may struggle to score goals as Anelka has been in poor form when playing for the national team and they tend to depend a lot on the left back Evra in the defence.. 

Division in the camp

I have also seen lots of articles about the French squad being divided and aren't playing as a team. For instance, I have seen a few saying that  Anelka refused to pass to Gourcuff in the friendly match against Costa Rica and with football being a team game, it won't help France.

The coach Domenech has been rightly criticised as he seems to be bereft of ideas and not picking the Arsenal playmaker Nasri though, he is perhaps  better than Diaby looks like a poor decision taken by the coach. France have also left out Real Madrid striker Benzema though, it can be said that he wasn't in good form in the La Liga.

Key players

Ribery, Malouda, Evra and the very good goalkeeper Lloris.


Unlike their opponents, Uruguay don't have problems like infighting, but as I said, they too struggled during the qualifying stage of the tournament, but Uruguay played better than France during their warm up matches as Uruguay defeated both Switzerland and Israel.


Uruguay would likely play with their tried and tested formation of 3-5-2. The strategy may work against France as it may push Malouda and Guorcuff into more defensive roles. Uruguay no doubt would depend on their formidable strike force of Forlan and Saurez for the goals.

Key players

Forlan, Saurez and maybe Gonzalez.

I think it would be  a closely contested match. The disharmony in the French camp, lack of penetration in the attack and a suspect defence made up of  Gallas who, has been injury prone of late and Abidal may mean that Forlan and co. can spring  a surprise against France.

Finally, I just hope that on the first day of the world cup, we can see some very good football and please, we won't want a repeat of the dull match played between Uruguay and France in the 2002 world cup held in Japan and South Korea!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hazlewood fast-tracked into the Australian squad and Bell getting a recall

I see that as Johnson is unfit, Australia have fast-tracked the 1.96 m. tall Hazlewood into the side. He is just 19 and has only played 8 list A games.

I have seen a bit of Hazlewood, but that was in the under 19 world cup at Malaysia and in the Kiwiland respectively.  I do remember him looking like a giant in front of dwarfs in Malaysia and as expected getting bounce. He surely has the potential as he can bowl a heavy ball and has decent control for a 19 year old quick. As expected, I have seen a few comparing him with McGrath which is nothing new as nowadays, every promising tall quick bowler is compared to McGrath, but if I have to compare him with someone, I would say that  he bowls more like the underrated quick from WA Jo Angel. He may straightaway not make his mark at the international level, but I would be surprised if he doesn't lead the Australian attack in the future.

I also see that Bell has been recalled back into the side. Yes, he has been doing well for his county, Warwickshire, but can he score quickly at the international level? I have my doubts over it.  Actually, I just can't fathom the revolving door policy of England's selectors, as sometimes Cook is picked, sometimes Trott is picked and he can feel a bit hard done by as he was reasonably good in South Africa and now Bell has been recalled. The fact of the matter is, in  modern times, a score of 300 has become a regular feature yet, the above mentioned players have strike rates in low 70's and England are going to play a world cup in the subcontinent with batsmen needing to play more lofted shots. It is also interesting to see that Prior has been dropped. He too can count himself unlucky, but Kieswetter can score quickly and also get useful scores. Of course, I can't write any article without discussing about the undroppable Siders. He averages almost 36 in one-day cricket and has a grand average of 75.6 in his last nine matches.

Finally, it is always great to watch a young promising quick bowl and I would surely look forward to seeing Hazlewood bowl in the onedayers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Can Anderson succeed in Australia?

At present, one of the frequently debated topics in cricket is, can England's pace attack succeed in Australia and more so, can Anderson succeed in Australia. The general feeling is, if the pitch  isn't helping the swing bowlers, he is ineffective. So, just let us have a look at Anderson's career.

His critics would just point to his high average away from home and say that he isn't good enough on flat tracks, but averages don't tell everything. If I look at Anderson's career, one can safely say that England's management haven't handled him that well. His action was changed three times and that is absurd as one can't tinker with a young bowler's action all the time. Ironically, in the end, he got injured due to the change in his action. He was also made to play, when he wasn't match fit in Australia 06/07 and South Africa in 04/05.

If I look at the tours of Australia and South Africa more elaborately, I can see some interesting facts. Jimmy Anderson didn't play a single match for five months before the tour of South Africa in 04/05 yet, Fletcher and co. made him play at Johannesburg and as expected he failed. Before the Ashes in 06/07, Anderson had got injured, so he was coming back into the team. Interestingly, between March 2006 to November 2006, Anderson had bowled just 29 overs in a fc game played in England and 24.1 overs in a warm up game in Australia. So, England were expecting a bowler, who had bowled just over 50 overs to do the job on a flat track like Adelaide! He should have played a few more warm up matches in Australia and could have played  in the third test at Perth which did help the quicker bowlers in that series, but that wasn't to be.  Anderson is also a swing bowler and if he is picked, likely should be given the new ball, but in half of his tests under Fetcher and company,  he was bowling as a first change bowler. Leave alone the fact that he wasn't match fit, but nothing can beat the fact that Anderson was the drinks carrier for 24 tests before he got a decent run in the side in 08 and during that time Fletcher didn't allow Anderson to play CC either. I just don't see anything wrong in saying that Anderson was messed up early in his career. 

Since 08, he has been given a decent run in the side and has done better as in his last 31 tests, he has got 123  wickets at an average of 28.4 which shows that he has improved. Away from home, he bowled reasonably well in the Caribbean especially, when one thinks of the fact that wickets were extremely flat in the Caribbean. The tracks at Barbados, Trinidad, and Antigua had nothing in it for the bowlers and anyone, who averaged around 35 in that series would have been happy. The only track that offered a bit of tennis ball bounce in that series was Jamaica, but Anderson didn't play at Jamaica yet,  was able to average around 35 which is pretty good. I still think that his spell in the second innings at Trinidad was one of the better spells of that tour. In South Africa, everyone said to me that Harmison shouldn't have been left out and Anderson would get punished. In the end, at his peak Harmison averaged 73 in South Africa in 04/05, but Anderson averaged 34 in 09/10 and he was troubled by a troublesome knee problem in South Africa. I know that many may point to his below average performance in India in 08/09  but that was the series in which the coach seemed to be obsessed with bowlers bowling short and as expected, on slow Indian tracks bowlers got smashed around yet, Anderson was a touch better than Broad and surely Harmison.

So, if I look at the series against Australia, I would say that he can do reasonably well. Yes, it would be  unrealistic on my part to expect him to average in low 20's as leaving Steyn, most  bowlers from visiting teams haven't done well in the last 10 years in Australia, but I think he can average around 30 in Australia.

First of all, the wickets in Australia in the last two or three years have assisted the quicker bowlers more as tracks like Brisbane and Perth have offered a bit more help than what we used to see when they had great flat wicket bowlers like McGrath and Dizzy. I have left out the Sydney ground as last year, it did help the quicker bowlers mainly because there was lots  of rain during that time and as a result, there was more moisture in the wicket.  Secondly, Anderson has learnt to reverse swing the old ball, so this time around, should do ok on that flat track at Adelaide.

The worry with Anderson or even England's pace attack in general is, if things aren't going their way, the bowlers can lose their patience very quickly. Another key point can be,  when Anderson looks for the inswinger, he tends to swing it too much and it just beats everything. Just look at Steyn, who looks to bowl the outswinger and the one that goes straight on to get the wicket. Anderson can even look to bowl a touch fuller and look for yorkers with the old ball. Yes, he can reverse it, but seems to have forgotten that he could bowl a fine yorker in his younger days. Nowadays, he is also trying to bowl around the wicket which isn't a bad tactic as the lefthanders would be forced to play at his deliveries.

Finally, it is hard to expect any quick bowler to do very well in Australia as it isn't easy to take wickets against Australia in Australia and most bowlers leaving Steyn, have come a cropper in Australia, but I'm pretty confident that just like in South Africa, a fit Anderson would do reasonably well.

(I would like to thank slipstream/1000yardstare for  some of the information in the article)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bangladesh and test status

As expected, Bangladesh's batsmen were exposed on a pitch with bounce and sideways movement at Old Trafford and with their capitulation, calls for revoking their test status has again started. So, is it right to take away their test status?

Bangladesh weren't ready when they first played test cricket, but that is expected of a new team. In recent times though, their batsmen have started to deliver as in the Kiwiland they got over 400 runs. Yes, the conditions in NZ have got better for batting yet, it was a good achievement for a team like Bangladesh to score over 400 runs.

At home, they did give England a bit of fight and in England, they played reasonably well at Lord's. Yes, they failed miserably at Old Trafford, but I would like to ask how many teams have been able to do well in England when it is helping the swing bowlers? Last year, Australia failed to do well when it helped the quicker bowlers in the first innings at Lord's and in the first innings at Edgbaston and they have far better players than Bangladesh. It isn't a piece of cake to face Anderson when the conditions suit him..

It can also be said that most of their batsmen now average around 30 or over 30 which wasn't the case before. Yes, they tend to depend a lot on their star batsmen Tamim, but when compared to their batting line-up in the past, they no doubt have a better batting line-up now. Bangladesh though, may have to drop Crashraful forever and it is high time, Mohammadullah bats higher up the order. Bangladesh also need to find good seamers. Yes, Shafiul isn't bad as isn't Shahdat, but they aren't bowlers, batsmen are going to really worry about. Bangladesh have Sakib, but he is a spinner and one bowler can't do everything. I'm optimistic with time, they would find at least one good quick.

Teams like Lanka and NZ took a longtime before they succeeded in test cricket as playing test cricket isn't easy. Yes, they were given test status too early and patience is running out with Bangladesh, but I see some good signs with Bangladesh especially, in their batting and I do believe at home, they would give teams like NZ and West Indies a run for their money and may even defeat them!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rafa's masterclass!!!!!!!!!!

It was a pleasure to watch Rafa at his best as he gave a great exhibition of clay court play to win his fifth French open. Soderling too played reasonably well, but when Rafa plays at his best, it is next to impossible to defeat him on clay.

Just like a true champion, Rafa raised his game for the final and that proved to be too much for Soderling. First of all, Soderling didn't get too many short returns to smash his big forehands. The key factor of the match though, was Nadal's retrieving skills and of course, the amount of top spin he could generate of his forehand. I do remember, Nadal coming up with couple of passes in the second set which was breathtaking to watch as he was about six metres behind the baseline yet, was able to hit couple of passes on the run and I do believe that was the moment when Soderling's chances of winning the match went up in smoke as it looked like those couple of shots, just took the wind out of his sails. Rafa's exemplary retrieving skills also meant that Soderling was made to play the extra ball and in the end, he usually would lose patience and make the unforced error.

If I look at the statistics for the match, it is clear that Rafa dominated the final. His domination can be seen by the fact that he only made 16 unforced errors and that is when one thinks he is at his best. Until the final match, he was making a few uncharacteristic unforced errors, but in the final he didn't. As expected, he also got a lot of first serves in and in the final set his first serve percentage was over 90%! Soderling though, served at just 56% in the match which wasn't good enough. Another interesting fact was Soderling couldn't convert even one of the eight break point chances he had but Rafa was able to convert four of the 12 break point chances he got.

So, one can say that Rafa seems to be back at his best though, has to be careful about his schedule and look after his knees. Soderling had a wonderful tournament, but just like last year, lost at the final hurdle. He has a big serve and his ground-shots have excellent depth, but perhaps needs to work on his footwork. He would be no doubt be a huge threat on hard courts.

Finally, I would like to again congratulate the great player from Mallorca for playing some exhilarating tennis and winning his fifth title at Roland Garros.

Soderling v Nadal preview

To start with, it has been another French open in which, there have been lots of upsets with seeds being knocked out by unfancied players. In the end, there are two players who are vying for the title and they are, the emperor of clay, Nadal and the only player to have defeated Rafa at Roland Garros, Soderling. It is no doubt a mouth watering clash on the cards as in the last couple of matches Soderling has met Rafa, he has been able to hit him out of the court with his powerful serves and his long reach. So, Rafa would be looking for revenge against a player who, in recent times has troubled him.

I'm a fan of Rafa as he is gutsy player who, never gives up and I just love his court coverage, but he should be careful against Soderling as in this tournament, he has tended to make a lot of short returns of his backhand and unlike Melzer whom, Rafa defeated in the semifinals, Soderling would jump on any short return from Rafa. Rafa also has a tendency to play it safe and not go for the winners.

Soderling on the other hand, caused a huge upset when he defeated the defending champion, Fedexpress for the first time in his career in the quarterfinal stage. He came through a gruelling five setter against another powerful hitter Berdych and looks match fit. In the match against Rafa, Soderling would look to get as many cheap points as he can with his serve. Unlike Rafa, he may not always hit lots of first serves, but he keeps guessing the opposite player with variations in his serve and of course, can hit serves at even 220kph. Soderling has a good forehand and Rafa won't be able to target his double-handed backhand as he has a powerful backhand combined with depth in those shots. He also has a long reach and it would be tough for Rafa to move him around the court. Soderling would no doubt pounce on any short return that Rafa makes in the match.

If Rafa would like it to be a nice sunny day as it would bounce more and he can get more top spin on the ball, Soderling would like it be damp and damp conditions helped him against Fed. For Soderling, cool and wet conditions would help him to hit the ball without making many unforced errors as if the wind is blowing, he loses his timing and with Soldering having a powerful forehand means that it would get magnified and would lead to unforced errors.

Yes, Rafa is a all time great player on clay, but it would be a tough match for Rafa and if he wants to win it, he has to tighten his game and try his best to not let Soderling to dictate on the back of the court with his powerful shots that have excellent depth.

Most players dislike Soderling, but if he plays at his best, Soderling has a decent chance of again beating Rafa at Roland Garros.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cricket in Nepal

If I think about Nepal as a country, naturally I would think about the highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest. Nepal is also a country, known for beautiful valleys, lakes and it is a great place for trekking. All such factors can arouse the interest of any tourist.

Cricket in Nepal

Leaving the geography of Nepal aside, Nepal is also fast becoming famous for its passion towards cricket. In the past, football was said to be the main sport in Nepal, but from whatever little I know about Nepal's cricket, the advent of private channels gave the chance for people of Nepal to watch international cricket as it slowly gained ground in the country and now it is the number one sport in Nepal.

Nepal became an associate member of ICC in 1996 and a lot was expected from them as one could see a lot of raw talent in Nepal, but compared to few other teams like Afghanistan, Nepal haven't progressed as much as expected. Yes, they recently qualified for division four of world cricket and have been reasonably strong at the junior level in Asia, but a lot more was expected of a team that has so much passion for cricket. It isn't like they don't have talented players as cricketers like Binod, Paras, Alam and co. are all said to be good players, but they perhaps haven't been able to progress due to the incompetence of the board.

Domestic structure

For any team to succeed at the higher levels of cricket, a strong domestic structure is needed. For instance, Australia have been successful over the years because of a strong domestic structure. If I look at the various articles written on domestic cricket in Nepal, it seems like they don't have a good domestic structure. The problem usually with associate teams is, they don't play three day, or four day matches which is essential for a player's development as he can hone his skills in first class matches.

In Nepal too it looks like only T/20 matches and onedayers are held.They usually hold it during the monsoon and all the matches are cramped together in just a week or two. It is surely not the way to run a competition and it is even more worrying to see that selection for the national team is based on such competitions.

I have seen a few Nepal's cricket fans saying that cricket was organised better when it was run by the privateers and a few enthusiastic fans. I have also seen comments like once the board took over in 2000, a few tournaments have been scrapped.


For the players to develop their skills, they at least need the basic infrastructure, but going by what I saw on various blogs related to Nepal's cricket, one can safely say that it isn't the case.

Nepal's former player, Bardan Chalise about the infrastructure,

"Sports equipment: we have 2 old bowling machines. Players do not even get a full kit. Just a kit bag. National League: One national league. CAN do not organize any other tournaments and no one else is organizing any tournaments as well"

I have heard that they don't have many turf wickets nor, the board has an academy for the upcoming players to hone their skills. One academy has been started, but that is run by a former player called Amir Akthar.

Bardan Chalise on annual budget of Nepal's cricket board,

"CAN –annual budget of Rs. 68,213,244.

Rs 32,400,000 for infrastructure development, Rs. 19,683,190 for national leagues, sports equipment purchase and administrative costs and Rs. 16,130,054 will be spent for international participation and event hosting.

CAN has also requested for Rs. 15,112,500 for infrastructure development with ACC; Rs. 4,598,000 for the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 with Nepal Government and Rs. 3,300,000 for participation in SAG with National Sports Council"

If the above mentioned information is true, one can ask where is all the aid from ICC and ACC going? Most former players and fans in Nepal say that there is no infrastructure for cricketers to develop their skills, but the Nepal board is showing that they are spending a lot for developing cricket.

Nepal's national team

It is good to see that Nepal has qualified for the fourth division, but a lot more has to be done for the welfare of the players. The general feeling is, Nepal's players get a pittance, as it is said that they get less than one dollar per match. Actually, the Nepal's team led by their captain, Paras recently went on a strike as the board wasn't doing much with regards to welfare of the players and for the development of cricket in Nepal. In the end, the players agreed to call off the strike, as a new committee was set up to look into the development of cricket in Nepal.

The captain of the side, Paras on the committee,

"We agreed to form a seven-member committee including three players, three CAN officials and a coach which will bridge the gap between board and players,”

It would be interesting to see whether the new committee would look at developing cricket in Nepal or is it just an eye-wash by the board. It is no wonder that a few of their players like Bardan, Kanishka, Bataju, Pradhan and co. have left playing cricket and even their present captain, Paras is said to be thinking of pursuing his studies abroad. I also saw a few, who regularly watch Nepal play cricket say that players lack fitness and that may again indicate to lack of back up support for the players.

It is sad to see that there is so much passion for cricket in Nepal, but they haven't been able to perform as well as expected. Just raw talent won't help, but for Nepal to do well in cricket, they need better infrastructure. One can change numerous coaches or captains at the national level, but any team can progress, only if they look at improving cricket at the grassroots level.

(If not for a few Nepal's fans at cricket Nepal website, I wouldn't have been able to write this blog as I got a lot of the above mentioned information from them. So, I would like to thank the fans of cricket Nepal website)

Finally, the below mentioned video shows the passion for cricket in Nepal.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Zimbabwean spinners choke Indian batsmen

To start with, when was the last time we saw the Indian batsmen look clueless against spin? I have seen the Indian batsmen being bounced out by the opposition, some have been exposed on pitches that have a bit of sideways movement in it, but I have hardly seen or heard Indian batsmen being at sixes and sevens against spin. In yesterday's game that is what exactly happened as the Indian batsmen could score just 165 runs of 40 overs overs against spin. In modern times, scores of 300 can be easily chased down as there are 20 overs of field restrictions, pitches are flat and of course, the batsmen use some fantastic bats, but India got a score of only 194. Even if a time machine brings back bowlers like Holding, Marshall, Garner and co. they may struggle to defend it.

The problem for India started at the top itself as Vijay went at a snail's pace and scored 21 of 56 balls which is just unacceptable. Having watched a bit of Vijay, I feel that he is one of the most overrated batsmen going around. Vijay has to remember that he won't get to bat all the time on a batting paradise like Madras. The problem though, wasn't just Vijay as none of the Indian batsmen scored at a strike rate of even 75+ which is hard to fathom as the pitch was good for batting. Jadeja scored a half century and took a few cheap wickets in the end, but I'm not convinced that Jadeja or Pathan can succeed against better teams as both seem to be bits and pieces players.

As far as Zimbabwe's team was concerned , spin again did the trick for them as they used four spinners, who just went for a touch over 4 runs per over and more importantly the four spinners shared six wickets between them. Nowadays, one expects Price and Utseya to come good as both are good spinners, but it was a bit surprising to see Lamb getting three wickets as he usually has been ordinary as a spinner. Cremer too is developing into a fine leg spinner. Zimbabwe may have a small talent pool to choose from, but unlike their big brother South Africa, have been able to produce leg spinners like Strang, Huckle, Murphy and now they have Cremer in the side. It was also good to see the talented, but the temperamental Blignaut able to bowl his quota of 10 overs for just 22 runs. Blignaut can swing the new ball, when he bats, can hit it into the orbit and has a rocket arm. He is a natural talent, but due to the political situation in Zimbabwe has suffered. He also tried his hand at modeling, but thankfully he is back and has started to do well.

Once India scored only 194, they were always in trouble and the pitch at both Harare and Bulawayo being good for batting meant that Zimbabwe won the match in a canter as they lost only three wickets and got the runs with almost 12 overs to spare. It was even more embarrassing for India that Zimbabwe got a bonus point! Among the Indian bowlers, I thought Ojha bowled well and I still can't understand why he didn't play in the T/20 world cup as he is a good attacking spinner. India though, would be worried about their quicker bowlers. Yes, the pitch didn't have much in it for the quicker bowlers, but if Dinda continues to bowl as full as he is doing now and him being very skiddy through the air means that batsmen would make merry against him. I do like swing bowlers, but he bowls too full and the batsmen won't miss out on such juicy half volleys. For Zimbabwe, Taylor and Mazakadza were again impressive and it looks like they would become pillars of Zimbabwe's batting in the future.

For India to reach the finals, they need to improve big time and as far as Zimbabwe are concerned, they are progressing well as they have a good opening pair, good spinners, all-rounders like Blignaut and the captain Chiggy himself. Actually, if they find another decent seamer, they can even look to comeback into test cricket.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Women's world cup

A lot has been talked about the men's fifty overs world cup. I have seen lots of articles, blogs and expert comments being made about the tournament with every minute detail being covered about the world cup, but what about the women's world cup? I hardly see any coverage given to it. So, I thought of looking at every world cup that I have been able to follow from 1993 to 2009.

If I look briefly at the history of the tournament, the first world cup was held in 1973 in England which shows that women's world cup started before the men's world cup! England won the first edition of the tournament which was held on a round robin format with England being the only undefeated team. Australia though, proved to be the stronger team in 78, 82 and 88 as they went onto lift the trophy in all three editions of the tournament.

So, now let us look at the 1993 edition of the tournament

It was the first women's world cup that I was able to follow. The 1993 edition of the tournament was held in England. For the first time, as many as eight teams participated in the competition. Teams like Denmark and West Indies played for the first time in a world cup( As far as I know in the past, West Indies didn't compete though, teams like Jamaica and Trinidad perhaps played in one of the tournaments)The international team which tended to depend a lot on the Welsh player, Lynne Thomas and struggled to compete was no more in the competition.

The tournament almost didn't happen because of the lack of funding, but at the last minute, £90,000 grant was got from the foundation of sports and arts and the organisers also got some high profile individual gifts which meant that tournament went ahead as scheduled.

The matches were played at relatively unknown grounds like Collingham, Beckenham, Roehampton, Warrington, Finchampstead, Slough, Ealing though, the match between Australia and West Indies was played at Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells( the ground that hosted the famous match between India and Zimbabwe with Kapil dev scoring 175) and the final was played at home of cricket, Lord's.The players encountered problems like England's players were made to roll the pitch at Ealing for the game against Netherlands which was a disgrace!

As far as the format of the tournament was concerned, it was all about eight teams playing against each other once with the best two teams qualifying for the finals. Four points were awarded for a victory, two points for a tie and one point for a no result. The games were played over 60 overs.

Anyway, let us look at some of the better teams in the tournament

As expected, England and Australia were considered as favourites with New Zealand having the team to defeat both. India were the darkhorses of the tournament as they had some good spinners in the side. Newer teams like Netherlands, Ireland( both playing in only their second tournament) West Indies and Denmark were just making up the numbers.

England led by Smithies looked a very strong side. The highest run-getter in test cricket and the run machine, Brittin was always a huge threat to any opposition team. The squad also had batswomen like Barbara Daniels, and Carole Hodges, who was incidentally playing in her last tournament. Jo Chamberlain was a fine bowler, who could also bat, Hodges herself could bowl effective off spin, Smithies too was a fine all-rounder and of course, there was the ever present medium-pacer Clare Taylor.

Australia too looked strong as they had all-rounders like Goss, Broadbent and Calver. Haggett was a fine opener and they also had Clark, who was one of the better batswoman I have seen. Australia also had Fitzpatrick, who was a great quick bowler though, only played three games in that tournament.

New Zealand also had a good side as they had the experienced campaigner and the ever present Hockley opening the batting and Drumm was a fine player in the middle-order. Bowlers like Turner and the off spinner Campbell too were in the side. Illingworth was the captain of the side.

India were improving as a side with the classy spinner Diana Eduijee leading the attack and Rao, Maben as well as Pramila supporting her.

Now let us look at some of the important matches of the tournament

The match between India and England turned out to be a cliffhanger as England made 179 in their alloted 60 overs with Brittin as expected making a superb hundred. For India, the veteran spinner Eduijee came good by taking 4 wickets for just 12 runs, but unfortunately her efforts went in vain as India could only manage 176 runs and lost the game by just three runs. India also bowled well against Australia by restricting them to just 152, but again couldn't chase down the target and with that whatever slim hopes they had of making into the finals went up in smoke.

New Zealand played brilliantly in the round robin phase by defeating all the teams. The big match for them was against England. England bowled superbly to restrict NZ to just 127 with Taylor and Smithies doing the trick. For Kiwis, both their main players, Hockely and Drumm got starts, but couldn't convert it into big scores. NZ though, came back strongly to bowl out England for just 102 and win the match. Brittin for once failed as she made only 14.

Leaving the game against New Zealand and some anxious moments against India, England did well in that tournament with Brittin as expected doing extremely well at top of the order. Hodges too had a very good tournament. Taylor and Smithies were the main bowlers for England in the tournament. It was expected that in the end, the battle for a spot in the finals would be between three teams, Australia, New Zealand and England. New Zealand were beating everyone, so the match between Australia and England became crucial.

In the match between England and Australia, thanks again to the ever consistent Brittin and Hodges, England got to a respectable total of 208 and bowled out Australia for just 165 with Smith taking five wickets. The loss meant that chances of Australia qualifying for the final was almost over as they now had to defeat the all conquering New Zealand team. A team with players like Haggett, Clark, Fitzpatrick, Calver, Goss and co. was expected to reach the final, but for once they didn't as they also lost the important game against New Zealand by getting bowled for just 76. New Zealand cantered to victory without losing a single wicket!

So in the end, the final was played between the all conquering New Zealand and the formidable England team at the home of cricket, Lord's. If anyone can remember that was the year in which England's men's team was getting hammered in the Ashes by Australia, so there was something to cheer about for the home fans as the women's team was doing well in the world cup. The media coverage which was non existent suddenly got a bit more interested and as many as 5000 people saw the final match creating an electric atmosphere. Brittin herself said that she had tears in her eyes after she got a standing ovation from the Lord's crowd.

In the final, Brittin and Hodges, who was playing in her final match did well by getting crucial 40's and Chamberlain played a typical aggressive knock of 38 of just 33 deliveries to help England make 195. The most important factor was, the Kiwis dropped four easy chances including one of Chamberlain.

So, New Zealand had to chase down a target of 196 which at that time wasn't said to be easy in women's game even though they had 60 overs to bat. The task for New Zealand became even more difficult as England fielded brilliantly and got wickets at regular intervals. One of their main players Drumm got out for zero and the day couldn't have got worse for her as she was responsible for two of the drop catches. Hockley tried her best, but some incisive bowling by Taylor, Smithies and co. and backed up by agile fielders meant that England won the match and lifted the coveted trophy as New Zealand were bowled out for just 128!

England won the world cup after a gap of 20 years, but one felt sorry for the Kiwis as they defeated every team in the round robin, but on th big day were disappointing.

So, it was a tournament that nearly didn't take off due to lack of sponsorship, but the credit has to go to the organisers as well as the players for making it a success.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Associate X1

Experts have many times picked all time teams for the full members of ICC, but what about the associate teams? I just thought of selecting 11 players from associate countries who, I have seen and admired over the years.

My team

Porterfield(Ire))- As we know that Porterfield is the present captain of the Ireland team and has been a consistent run-getter for them. Porterfield also plays for Gloucestershire in county cricket.

It was a close call between Shah, Otieno both of Kenya and Porterfield, but I just felt that Porterfield is more consistent, though I won't mind having the very talented Shah in the side either.

Davison(Can)- Davison was born in British Colombia, but moved to Australia at a young age. He struggled to get into the Victorian side and when the Canadian board approached him in 99, he made up his mind to play for Canada.

Davison's finest moment came at Centurion in 2003 as he smashed 111 of just 76 balls against the West Indies team. He hit six sixes in that game and some of the pull shots he played were breathtaking to watch. His knock of 111 against the West Indies team was the fastest century in a World cup at that time and that knock showed he had a great hand-eye co-ordination. He also took Bond and co. to the cleaners in another league game in that tournament. Davison wasn't at his best in the 07 world cup yet, he scored a fine half century against the Kiwis. He could also bowl clever off spin. His class can be seen by the fact that his strike rate was 105.8 in one-day cricket and took 31 wickets with his off spin bowling.

Tikolo(Ken)- He perhaps would be remembered as the best batsman among the associate countries and he would be the first name in any all time team picked from associate countries. Sir Viv Richards is his idol and one can see a bit of Viv in his batting as he is a fearless batsman who, also has a good technique. He was at his peak in the 96 world cup and his class could be seen by him making 96 against Murali and co. in that tournament. In recent times, The Kenyan team has tended to depend a lot on him, but he continued to be a prolific run-getter for them. Tikolo also bowls useful off spin  and captained  the Kenyan side, when they shocked the cricketing world by reaching the semifinals in the 2003 world cup. One has to consider the fact that Kenyan cricket hasn't been run well in recent times yet, Tikolo showed his skills as a captain in the 03 world cup. It was a sad day for cricket, when he announced his retirement from the game, but the good news is, he has made a comeback and is available for selection. Surely no one can doubt his class as he has 3304 one-day runs to his name!

Maurice Odumbe(Ken)- Odumbe and Tikolo were the pillars of Kenyan batting for a longtime. Odumbe was a technically gifted batsman and could bowl useful off spin. He also played a key role to help a very good Kenyan side to reach the semifinals in the 2003 world cup as they stunned the cricketing world, but his name was somewhat tainted by allegations of him being involved in match fixing and was banned for five years in 2004, but I really liked his batting and would have him in my side.

Niall 'O' Brien(Ire)- He is the best wicketkeeper I have seen among the associate countries. He is also a gutsy batsman who, has played some crucial knocks like that half century against Pakistan in the 2007 world cup. He may yet play for England in the future, but at present he is still playing for Ireland and I would select him in my team lol. He plays for Northamptonshire in county cricket.

Doeschate(Holl)- He is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball I have seen and has played some memorable knocks for his county, Essex and Holland. His class can be seen by the fact that he averages 67 in one-day cricket. Doeschate can also take crucial wickets with his medium-pace bowling. He is easily one of the better cricketers to have emerged from associate countries.

Odoyo(Ken)- He is another of those golden generation of Kenyan cricketers who, started playing international cricket in the 90's. He took up the game because he saw Richards batting in a international game and smash the opposition bowlers to smithereens on T.V.

Odoyo himself can play some eye-catching shots and is a fearless player of fast bowling. Just like Tikolo, Odoyo oozes with so much natural talent. Odoyo can also bowl at a nippy pace and troubles the best of players.

Lefebvre(Holl)- The former Glamorgan, Somerset and Holland seamer was a epitome of consistency especially, in one-day cricket as he rarely gave away runs and was also a fine batsman lower down the order. He also played in the 96 world cup at the ripe age of 33, but on the flat tracks of subcontinent, he could still bowl reasonably well and got useful runs lower down the order. Many consider him as the best cricketer from Holland.

Johnston(Ire)- Johnston started his career playing for the strong New South Wales side in the late 90's before he thought of playing for Ireland.Johnston's greatest moment came in the 2007 world cup, when he led the side very well as Ireland shocked Pakistan to reach the super six. Johnston with age has lost pace, but can still bowl line and length and get a bit of bounce. He rarely ever goes for runs as it can be seen by his economical bowling figures against England in the recently concluded T/20 World cup. Johnston can also slog a few as a batsman. He is the captain of my side as he can motivate the players and tactically too he is good.

Karim(Ken)- The left arm spinner from Kenya was another bowler who, rarely went for runs. He was tall and could get bounce. Karim also captained the Kenyan side in the 99 world cup and was an integral part of the Kenyan side which shocked the cricketing world by reaching semifinals of the 2003 world cup. Half-tracker reminded me about Seelaar and he too is a fine spinner. Actually, I won't mind having either Karim, or Seelaar in the side as both are fine spinners.

Rankin(Ire)- Rankin is a strapping fast bowler who, can get bounce and can bowl quick. He has been injury prone, but has been an integral part of both Ireland and Warwickshire side in county cricket.

12th man- Kevin 'O' Brien

It was tough to leave out the brother of Niall 'O' Brien as Kevin himself is a fine all-rounder, but as it is said that only 11 players can be picked in a side!

I would also like to mention Bart King from US as he was said to be a very good fast bowler with judges like Pelham Warner rating him highly, but he played cricket for the US team in the 19th century lol.

I haven't included Ed Joyce, D.Brown, Hamilton, Morgan, Amjad Khan and co. as I just don't feel it is right to include them as they all went onto to play for England, though it has to be said that both Hamilton and Brown came back to play for Scotland and Ed Joyce is again thinking of playing for Ireland.

Honourable mentions
Rahul Sharma(Hong Kong), Stuart Brew(Hong Kong), Blain(Sco), Majid Haq(Sco), Coetzer(Sco), Watson(Sco), Nel(Sco), Hoffmann(Sco), Bray(Ire), Dockrell(Ire), Botha(Ire), Nabi(Afg), Hassan(Afg), E.Odumbe(Ken), K.Otieno(Ken), C.Obuya(Ken), Chudassuma(Ken), Shah(Ken), Modi(Ken), Bakker(Holl), Klass Van Nortwijk(Holl), Seelaar(Holl), Bunge(Holl), Andre Van Troost(Holl), Zuiderant(Holl), N.Clarke(Holl), Edgar Schiferli(Holl), Bagai(Can), Cheema(Can) and many more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The art of bowling quick on flat pitches

Nowadays, cricket more often than not is played on unhelpful tracks. It makes bowling quick an arduous task, especially under extreme conditions like heat and humidity. The administrators also tend to prepare flat tracks so that play can be extended till the fifth day. The batsmen nowadays use some great bats which can make even a average player look like a world beater. So, it is a tough world for the bowlers, but one can't complain and the quick bowlers have to find ways of defeating the batsmen.

First of all, any quick bowler should always believe that he is there to take wickets. The bowler can't shy away from the challenge in front of him, but has to show a big heart by coming hard at the batsmen.

Anyway let us look at some of the ways a bowler can defeat the batsmen on flat pitches even though many factors are against him.

1)Patience- The most important factor for any bowler is patience. It is hard for the quicker bowlers to remain patient as it is an arduous task to come from a long run-up, bowl a good delivery, yet not get the reward for it, but patience is the key to success. For instance, one can look at what Shaun Pollock used to do on subcontinental pitches as he has been successful in Pakistan, Lanka and India by bowling line and length and not getting frustrated. Any bowler needs to have a big heart and bowl basic line and length to succeed on flat pitches.

2)Use the crease- Secondly, just going through the motions won't do the trick against international class batsmen. So, a bowler can look to use the crease by occasionally going a touch wide of the crease to create the angle. It would make sure that batsmen would be kept guessing. For instance, if a right-handed batsman is facing a bowler, who is coming close to the stumps and is mainly looking to shape it away from the righthander, he would keep leaving it, but if the bowler just goes wide of the crease he can just create a bit more angle and the batsman may suddenly be tempted to play at it as he would have settled into a routine of playing a particular type of delivery. Another tactic can be, a right arm quick bowler can look to go around the wicket to the left-hander and a left arm quick can go around the wicket against the right-hander to change the angle of the delivery. Akram was a expert at going around the wicket to the right-hander and he caused lots of problems to the righthanders by going around the wicket.

3)Use bouncer as a surprise element- Nowadays, most batsmen like to come well forward as they have the protective gear, pitches are flat and there aren't too many out and out quick bowlers going around. So, it is important even for a medium-pacer to bowl the occasional bouncer to show that he is up for the challenge and to warn the batsman that he shouldn't come forward. Bowling a bouncer is a difficult task as it requires lots of effort and shouldn't be too high as the batsman would easily get underneath the ball. One of the best exponents of the bouncer in the modern game is Steyn as whenever he bowls it, he usually doesn't waste it as he makes the player play and sometimes can be hard to pick because he has a quick arm action. I have seen a few old-timers compare him to the former England's quick bowler Snow though Snow was taller than Steyn. Quick bowlers though, have to keep in mind that they can't over use it as it becomes predictable and they can lose their rhythm.

4)Reverse swing- Reverse swing is something that is widely talked about in the last thirty or so years. Sarfraz Nawaz is credited with being the first one to bowl reverse swing and other Pakistan's bowlers like Imran, Younis, Akram, Akthar and co. have followed in his footsteps by succeeding in getting it to reverse. So, what is reverse swing? I have seen many theories about reverse swing. I'm not any expert but I would look to explain it briefly.

It is about maintaining a smooth shiny side and the opposite side is left to deteriorate because of normal wear and tear. A bowler with an outswinger's grip would move it back into the batsman and the inswinger grip would make it go away from the batsman. For reverse swing to happen, a few factors have to be considered.

A) Ground conditions- A wet and grassy pitch with a lush outfield won't help in getting reverse, but it needs to be abrasive for the ball to get roughed up on one side. Most Pakistan's pitches help reverse swing because of the abrasive nature of the pitches. In Australia, Adelaide is a good ground for reverse swing, Old Trafford too helps reverse swing as the square is usually bald and I found the ground at Kandy in Lanka too good for reverse swing.

B) Slingy action and pace- Bowling with a slingy action is a important factor as it helps the bowler to bowl a fuller length which is needed for reverse swing. It would be better if a bowler can bowl quick as the general held theory is, quicker a bowler bowls, more reverse swing he would get. For instance, both Akram and Younis would bowl quick and even Gough, or Jones could bowl at a nippy pace. Shorter bowlers tend to have more success with reverse swing as they usually would have slingier action. The one bowler who did get a bit of reverse swing though was tall, had a high arm action and wasn't quick was McGrath but even he in Pakistan in 1998 reportedly did tinker slightly with his action by bowling with a slightly lower arm and succeeded in getting five wickets at Karachi. In 2000, Gough did the same in Lanka. Yes, Gough does have a slingy action, but bowled with even more of a lower arm and was very successful. It shows that bowlers can make subtle changes in their action to be successful.

c)Seam position- The seam position is very important for reverse swing. Of course, quicker bowlers grip the seam vertically. The middle and index finger on either side of the seam and the ball resting in the third finger and thumb. The straighter the seam at the point of delivery, better the chance of reverse swing. Dale Steyn is a good example of a bowler, who has a very good seam position and one could see Morrison in the commentary box getting excited about Steyn's seam position during the India v South Africa test series.

So, reverse swing has become a huge weapon in a quick bowler's armoury especially, on tracks that are flat and abrasive one can get reverse swing when the ball gets worn out. It has to be also remembered that bowlers who have mastered the art of reversing it both ways like Younis, Jones, Akram, Gough, Akthar, Sarfraz, Imran and co. have been more successful as the batsmen have to think about the ball reversing both ways.

5)Slower deliveries- Slower delivery has become another good weapon to surprise batsmen on flat pitches. A batsman would have got settled against a particular bowler bowling at a certain pace, but a sudden change in pace can help the bowler to deceive the batsman. Most bowlers these days bowl off-cutters, one can also see bowlers trying back of the hand stuff and a few like Bond could bowl effective slower bouncers! Slower bouncers? Oh god a fast bowler thanks to flat pitches is trying to bowl a slower bouncer lol. Among the bowlers, in the past Steve Waugh had a very effective slower delivery. At present, Bravo bowls some well deceived slower deliveries. Yes, he just bowls medium pace, but I'm still amazed about those different grips he has for bowling slower deliveries and how effective he is with those slower deliveries.

6)Field placements- if a bowler is looking to get reverse swing, attack the stumps and slip in the odd slower delivery, it becomes important to set the fields accordingly. So, the captain may look at straight fields like mid on, mid off, cover, fine leg and of course, it would be always better to have at least one slip as however flat the pitch maybe, the fielding team should believe that any batsman can make a mistake and edge it to the slip fielder. I have seen captains also employing a short extra cover fielder on a slow pitch as the batsmen may spoon a catch to the short extra cover fielder of a slower delivery. Recently, the plan worked in a county game with Robert Key getting out caught at short extra cover.

Bowling on a flat deck with sun around is never an easy task, but some of the above points may help a quick bowler to out think the batsmen of the opposition team.

Finn continues to impress

It was a pleasure to watch a young bowler bowling with such a wise head on his young shoulders at Lords as he deservedly got nine wickets to help England win the first test against Bangladesh. Of course, I'm talking about the promising Finn.

The first time I saw Finn was in the under 19 world cup in 2007/08. The first thing that one could notice about Finn was, unlike so many other tall bowlers in recent times like Tremlett, Broad, Morkel etc, here was a bowler, who didn't believe in banging it half way down the pitch, but could consistently bowl at a good length spot and the odd ball fuller to induce the edge. I'm not surprised that Finn's idol is Mcgrath as Finn has modeled his action and approach to bowling on McGrath. He has a very strong action and keeps it simple by looking to hit the deck hard and hit the top of off stump. I wonder why do bowlers like Broad not follow the simple, but the effective approach of Finn. I don't see too much benefit in a bowler being tall if he keeps banging it short and it is even more puzzling with Broad as he crouches at the point of delivery and that doesn't help him to get as much bounce as he should. So, he should bowl a fuller length.

Anyway, coming back to the hero of the match Finn, he has shown that more than pace it is about bowling line and length. He is nippy, but more importantly looks to make the batsmen play and makes use of his height by bowling a fuller length. I do remember a few, who were not impressed by Finn when he first came onto the scene as he wasn't an out and out quick bowler, but if a bowler is tall, he doesn't need to bowl really quick as he can use his height to his advantage.

He also should do well in Australia as he doesn't seem to be a bowler, who would get carried away by the extra bounce on Australian wickets and bowl half way down the pitch.

As far as the match was concenred, Bangladesh showed that they belong to test cricket though, they need to work on their bowling attack. England too have to look at their bowling as, especially Bresnan looked short of international class, but the management would no doubt be happy about the progress, the young and very promsing Finn has made.