Friday, July 30, 2010

Birthday boy comes to the party!

Today is Anderson's birthday, though he doesn't seem to be very happy about it, as I saw on his twitter page that he doesn't like getting a year older, but he at least can celebrate the five wicket haul he got at Trent Bridge against Pakistan.

Pakistan's batsmen though, may not be sending him greeting cards  on his birthday as against some high quality swing bowling in helpful conditions, they collapsed like nine pins. I don't expect the inexperienced Pakistan's batsmen to do well in alien conditions, but they could have put up a better show. The tailenders did show better application and maybe, the front line batsmen can learn from them.

Anyway coming back to Anderson, I have been a fan of his bowling as he swings it so late. I know that his critics would always say he is good only in conditions that helps swing bowlers and he averages around 34. I don't think anyone can convince his detractors, though it is a fact that his action was messed up when he was younger, was picked when he wasn't match fit in Australia and in South Africa and never got a decent run in the side. In fact, it was only since England played in New Zealand has he got a decent run in the side. In his last 29 matches, he has got 108 wickets at 30.29 and that is good in modern days as the wickets aren't always helpful to quicker bowlers.

Today, he got it to swing late and all Pakistan's batsmen were at sea against him. I also liked the fact that he came around the wicket to the lefthanders. In recent times, when he has bowled from over the wicket, he has mainly angled it away from the lefthander. Actually, this year it seemed like the lefthanders had worked him out as they were playing inside the line of the ball, but in the second test against Bangladesh, he looked to come around the  wicket and that helps as it would force the lefthander  to play at his deliveries. The ball that he bowled to Farhat was a gem, as he came a bit wider of the crease and got it to swing it away from him to send his stumps for a walk.

I do get worried about Anderson, when he beats the batsman and doesn't take wickets as he tends to get frustrated  and bowls a long hop. The fact is, if a bowler is beating the bat, a wicket is around the corner, but the bowler has to show a bit more patience. I would also like him to use the yorker with the old ball and it would be better, if Strauss uses a third man for him as it may encourage him to bowl a fuller length.

I have to say some good words for Finn as he too bowled well. I did get a bit of stick, when I mentioned him as a future England bowler after watching him play in the under 19 world cup, though nowadays everyone is perhaps  hyping him too much. His ability to change the length helps him as unlike say his teammate Broad, he can easily hit the good length spot and bowl the odd ball fuller to get the edge. Any tall quick doesn't need to bowl at 90 miles per hour, but if he bowls at around 87-88 miles per hour by consistently hitting the good length spot and makes the batsmen play, it is more than enough.

Finally, it is always a pleasure to watch some good swing bowling in an era made up of McGrath clones, though most of those tall bowlers with manufactured actions don't tend to be successful as they  bowl too short.

Pakistan let England off the hook

Any sport is full of uncertainties, as who would have thought a player called Gomez can win a grand slam in tennis in 1990, Oliver Panis beating favourites like Hill and Schumacher to win the Monaco grand prix in 1996, Denmark and Greece winning Euro championship in football, or even Mcgrath scoring a test fifty in his career, but when it comes to cricket, I am certain that two things would never change and they are Kamran Akmal's atrocious keeping and Chris Martin's batting. My feeling is, if Kaneria gets the chance to select the all time worst team in the world, he would pick Akmal without blinking an eyelid as he has at least cost him 50 wickets.

If I have to think of yesterday's play, Pakistan had England in a spot of bother at 116 for 4, but lack of back up support for the opening pair Ameer and Asif as well as the hero of Sydney, Akmal again acting as the 12th man of the opponent team meant that England was able to post a very good score. Akmal's keeping though shouldn't overshadow the fact that both Morgan and Colly played very well.

As far as Morgan is concerned, I did say in one of my previous blogs that he reminds me of England's coach Andy Flower and should go onto become a very good test cricketer. His critics would always point to his mediocre first class average, but just like Trescothick, another player, who didn't had a good fc record when he came into the team, Morgan is made for international cricket as he has a steely temperament and a wide range of shots. He can be very unorthodox too and that can take the mickey out of the opposition bowlers. Yes, Butt's tactic of using spinners at both ends under overcast conditions was perplexing to say the least, but the credit has to go to Morgan for silencing his critics by getting a hundred. I have to say some good words for Colly too. He has long been overshadowed by others in the side, but just like he has done many times before, the admirable Colly came good when England was in a spot of bother by giving Morgan good support.

As far as Pakistan's bowling is concerned, both Ameer and Asif were good, but their back up bowlers Kaneria and Gul were disappointing. The young kid Ameer has huge potential as he can swing it late and Asif too is a very good bowler as he knows what is line and length all about. Both were at their best after lunch as they reduced England to 116 for 4, but Gul on a pitch that was assisting the quicker bowlers mainly thanks to the overcast conditions on view was again disappointing with the red ball. Kaneria's bowling has always been a mixture of some great deliveries that has the wow factor followed up by long hops and yesterday too he was the same old Kaneria. Time is running out for Kaneria and there is Ajmal waiting in the wings too.

One key point about bowlers though is, they need agile fielders and a good keeper to take wickets, but unfortunately, that isn't the case with Pakistan as they have Akmal as the keeper. As expected, Akmal yet again made couple of blunders. The only keeper, who I can think of being as bad as Kaneria is Baugh of West Indies, but even the Windies selectors have seen the light and have dropped him. Yesterday, he missed couple of chances which would have been taken by even a schoolboy keeper. Akmal isn't nimble footed like others and stands too far back. He never seems to be relaxed as a keeper either. Both Sarfraz and Haider may not be good with the bat, but it would be better to try one of them as Akmal can't continue to make so many mistakes as a keeper.

Yesterday also saw cricket fans again debating about UDRS. I am not averse to using UDRS, but it should be either used for every series that is played, or shouldn't be used at all. Secondly, the same technology should be used in every series. A few decisions given through UDRS were hotly debated and both involved KP. The lbw of KP was 50-50 and could have gone either way and as far as the caught behind decision is concerned, KP didn't seem to nick it. The key for any captain when using the UDRS is to perhaps go for it, when he feels a bad decision is given, but not for decisions that can be said as 50-50. UDRS surely helped both Trott and Morgan to escape from the clutches of Ashocker as both were clearly not out.

Anyway, coming back to the match on hand, it is clear that England now have the upper hand and Pakistan have a uphill task ahead of them. England would look for a huge score today and see how Pakistan's brittle batting line-up cope with it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Azeem Rafiq and twitter

I see that England's under 19 player Rafeeq has got into trouble for foul mouthing the coach on twitter. Oh, God! if any player wants to vent his frustration why would he want to use a site like twitter and to make it worse, he  was  the captain of the side before being stripped from the post for his outburst.  Rafiq  is even  understood to have said that he was unaware his Twitter site could be viewed publicly lol.

If the coach thinks his attitude isn't good enough, he could have approached the coach and had a frank discussion with him. Just take into consideration a player like Haydos, as he wasn't even selected for the Australian academy, but took the disappointment of not being selected in his stride, worked hard on his game and became a successful cricketer.   

Azeem Rafiq isn't the first one to foul mouth when using a social networking site though, as in recent times, I have seen many, who have lost the plot when they  use social networking sites.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Can KP score a hundred?

I have been a great admirer of KP's batting over the years and it can be seen by the fact that I followed his progress even when he played for England's Academy side that toured India in 2003. He has come a long way since then, as he has now scored sixteen test hundreds and over 5000 test runs, but the worry is, he hasn't got a hundred since the test at Antigua against West Indies back in March 2009. I know that he had to overcome the troublesome Achilles-heel problem, but the time has come for KP to add to his tally of sixteen hundreds.

I did watch all the five one-day matches against Australia and I do agree with England's coach Flower that KP is hitting through the off-side as well as he has ever done. Yes, in South Africa he clearly lacked match practice, but since then, he has looked good though, a big score has eluded him.

The next series for England is against Pakistan and  KP  has to clearly look out for Asif, as he has troubled him before by bowling full and swinging it away from him. KP's tendency to play across the line hasn't helped him against Asif. Ameer is another fine bowler as he can swing it both ways. Ameer is also a left armer and in the past, KP has struggled a bit against left arm swing bowlers. For instance, RP.Singh troubled him at Trent Bridge in 2007. Pakistan  also has Gul, so it won't be easy for KP to get big scores.

Actually, since he made his debut against Australia in that famous Ashes series in 05, KP has consistently scored runs in all formats of the game, but 2009 was a bad year for him as he had that Achilles injury and in 2010, he has threatened to get a big score, but only to disappoint his fans and get out. I do hope that he scores a hundred against Pakistan, as it has been more than a year since he got a test hundred.

Sixteen years ago.......

Twenty fourth of July was a red letter day for test cricket as the test match between Australia and Pakistan turned out to be a cracker of a contest with the match going down to the wire before Pakistan finally was able to cross the finishing line and win the match.  The victory also made me remember those heady days for Pakistan's cricket in the 90's, when they won the world cup and were a force to reckon with. In this article, I would look at the test match played between Australia and Pakistan at Karachi in 94. Just like the test at Leeds, it went down to the wire and the significance of that test was, before winning at Leeds, it was the last time Pakistan ever won a match in a live series against Australia!

Back in 1994, I was only a ten year old  and wasn't a huge follower of cricket. Those were the days, when West Indies was still at top of the tree in test cricket, England was almost as bad as Zimbabwe,  Lara had just broken the world record for the highest individual score in test cricket, the two  W's were feared by every batsmen and of course, there wasn't anything called T/20 cricket!

1994 was also the year, when the Australian cricket team was  going through a transitional period as their inspirational captain and the highest run-getter at that time, Border had just  retired from cricket,  Geoff Marsh wasn't around as wasn't Dean Jones or Merv Hughes who, was reportedly dropped for his lack of fitness. Yes, a few old-heads like Boon, Healy, the older Waugh and McDermott were still around, but the side  had a youthful look to it. Afghan  had established himself in the side, Warne was  a huge star and there were new faces like Beven, Angel and a  a lean looking McGrath. Yes, we are talking about Glenn McGrath, the one who went onto to become a great bowler, but that was the time, when he was a unknown quantity and bowlers like Angel and Holdsworth were said to be ahead of him in the pecking order.

On the other hand, Pakistan had lots of seasoned campaigners like their captain Saleem Malik, Sohail, Anwar, little Mushie and  the much feared, the two W's. I do remember there was a bit of hype surrounding that series in Pakistan. Yes, Australia had a few changes in their side yet, had a formidable team. Pakistan  had won the world cup and was successful in England. It seemed like a contest for the number two slot in test rankings behind the West Indies.

As expected, Pakistan were the favourites to win the series as they had the home advantage and the most feared opening pair of bowlers at that time, Younis and Akram.  Australia won the toss and Taylor electing to bat first on a track in subcontinent was of  no surprise.  Australia found themselves in a bit of trouble as Akram and the little Mushie threatened to run through Australia's batting line-up, but thanks to the rescue act done by the older Waugh and Beven, they were able to post a score of over 300.  After a good start given by the ever present opening pair of Sohail and Anwar, Pakistan faltered and were bowled out for a score of 256 to give  Australia the vital first innings lead. Interestingly for Australia, their front-line seamers were Angel and McGrath as McDermott wasn't playing in the match, but both greenhorns bowled well and shared five wickets between them. Over the years,  I have read a few reports of that series in Pakistan and as per those reports,  both Angel and McGrath bowled well in that series, but Healy and Taylor dropped some easy chances of their bowling. In fact, it is said that Mark Waugh got so frustrated with those drop catches and unhelpful tracks for the seamers that in one of the tests, he just banged everything short and even hit Sohail flush on his face and got Zahid Fazal out.

Anyway, coming back to the match, Australia was said to be cruising in the second innings  with both Boon and Mark Waugh taking the formidable opposition attack to the cleaners, but those were the days, when Younis and Akram were unbelievably good with the old ball and once Afghan was sent back to the pavilion by the deadly Younis, it opened the flood gates for Pakistan, as Akram took five  wickets in just one spell and was ably supported by Younis who, added couple more wickets to his tally and finished with four wickets in the second innings. Interestingly, after Afghan got out, not a single player reached double figures! Oh! it would have been great to watch Younis and Akram ripping apart a batting line up that had class players like Waugh twins, Boon and co. I would surely have to say a bit more about Boon too as he made a fighting hundred. I always believe that Boon didn't get his due recognition, though he played many fighting knocks against great pace attacks of West Indies and Pakistan.

So, Pakistan was set a target of 315 by Australia. Now, chasing 315 in the fourth innings is never easy and it becomes even more difficult, when there is a certain bowler called Warne in the opposition ranks. As expected, he started to weave a web around Pakistan's batsmen on a pitch that is said to have helped the spinners from the fourth day onwards. Pakistan though, at the end of the fourth day was well placed at 155 for 3, but with Warne around, a collapse can always be expected and soon they started losing wickets. Warne got yet another five wicket haul to his name and what made it more special was that newbie McGrath had a hamstring injury and his spinning partner May too was injured, but Warne carried the attack on his shoulders and bought Australia to the brink of victory.

So, with Warne bowling another great spell on a turning track, Pakistan looked dead and buried as the score read 258 for 9. Yes the fatty Inzy was still there, but to support him, there was only  little Mushie left and he was a rabbit with the bat in hand. Most journalists and even a few players who played in that match reckon Pakistan could have been dismissed for a score of even less than 250, but for a top notch captain like Taylor taking the strange decision of going for the new ball on a turning track with one of his main bowlers McGrath suffering from a hamstring injury. Pakistan did take advantage of it by going after Angel and Steve Waugh who, had to bowl with the new ball as McGrath wasn't on the field. I wonder how could Warne have agreed to give away the ball though he was bowling a magical spell!

Latif on that decision,

"Surprisingly Taylor asked for the new ball, and that turned into a sort of advantage for us. I managed to hit a few boundaries off Angel and Steve Waugh, and all that pressure that had built up was released. It suddenly seemed that the wicket had turned into a batter-friendly one. Before I was trapped by Steve Waugh, I managed to make 35 of the 52-run eighth-wicket partnership"

Anyway, with just one wicket  left and only the rabbit Mushie to support Inzy, it didn't look like the decision of taking the new ball would cost the OZ team, but there was another twist in the tail, as the rabbit Mushie started to look confident and Pakistan edged closer to the target.  Aussies just couldn't break the last wicket partnership and from nowhere Pakistan needed only four runs to win, but Warne is said to have bowled one great last delivery from around the wicket and almost bowled Inzy.  Inzy was out of his crease too, but Healy missed the stumping chance and it went for four byes as Pakistan won the match by one wicket!

Healy on that stumping,

"From round the wicket Warney bowled a beauty and Inzamam, I'll never forget it, went to work it through the leg side, his feet came together, and the ball spun through him, between bat and pad. I thought it was going to bowl him and got a bit stiff with my gloves and body - if your eyes don't stay with the ball as it spins past the bat, you are in trouble. The height wasn't a problem, but my glove didn't move to the ball, so when it missed the off stump it buzzed low between my legs and down to the boundary. Four byes! It wasn't an easy stumping but I should have made it, especially in that pressure situation. I couldn't believe it. While my team-mates choked on appeals and held their heads, in total despair I kicked over the stumps"


"They took out the midwicket trying to tempt me to step out and hit through that region. I tried to do exactly that, but completely missed the ball"

I would surely  have liked to  watch that match as it was a match that had lots of twists and turns and went down to the wire. It would have been great to watch the two W's bowling in their pomp and  Warne spinning a web around the batsmen. Unfortunately, the match as well as the series perhaps would be remembered for those match fixing allegations leveled at Malik by May, Warne and Junior, but lest we forget that both teams played a cracker of a match at Karachi.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Srilankan batsmen make merry

On a hot and humid day,  a pitch that can be best described as a batting paradise, Lankan batsmen made merry against help yourself bowling by the Indian team. The credit though has to go to Sanga, Paravitana and co. for making it count and getting hundreds.

The only chance India had was to win the toss and get a big score, alas! it was Lanka who won the toss and once they won the toss, it was more, or less a foregone conclusion that Lanka would get a big score. To get wickets upfront at SSC, any team needs disciplined bowlers, who can consistently hammer the good length spot with the odd ball fuller in length. Among visiting teams, I can only think of Kasper, Gough and Asif, who bowled well in Lanka in the last ten years. Kasper was a hugely underrated bowler and even the Aussies seem to hate him for his lack of penetration in Ashes 05, but in 04, he was a different bowler in Lanka as under hot and humid conditions, he did the hard yards by bowling long spells and got it to reverse swing. Gough was another bowler with a big heart and was a fine exponent of reverse swing. Asif is a quality bowler, though as far as I know, he got wickets in 06 at SSC, under overcast conditions.Unfortunately, India has a seam attack consisting of a greenhorn playing in his second test and another, who isn't bowling with good rhythm.

I just don't know the problem with the tall and lanky Sharma, but the simple fact is, he isn't bowling with good rhythm. Yes, one can point out to his release which can be worked upon, but the fact is, he isn't bowling with good rhythm. Mithun impressed me in his first spell, but seemed to be affected by the hot and humid conditions at SSC and lost his way. He seems to be a quick learner though, as he has worked hard on his delivery stride, but he can still get better with it. Two spinners were again disappointing with Harbie even looking to bowl wide of off stump! India could have gone for Mishra as he is a wrist spinner. Actually, my good friend and fellow blogger, Soulberry did say that Mishra should be  picked. To make matters worse, Dhoni set defensive fields which can be seen by him having a deep point already in place after Lanka had got just about 20 runs on the board. The credit has to go to Lankan batsmen for getting big scores, but the opposition bowling was listless.

The SSC pitch is traditionally a batting beauty for the first couple of days, though it may help the spinners later on in the match. So, with the pitch being great for batting and the opposition bowling attack listless, I see the Lankan batsmen yet again sending India on a leather hunt tomorrow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The long wait is over!

The long wait is over for Pakistan's fans as after fifteen long years and sixteen test matches, Pakistan has finally beaten Australia. To be fair, they have played all their matches against Australia in the last twelve years either in Australia, or at neutral grounds, but never at home, though it still doesn't explain the number of times Pakistan's batting has collapsed like a pack of cards.

Anyway, coming back to the just concluded match at Leeds, it is crystal clear that major share of the credit for the victory has to be taken by the quicker bowlers, as both Ameer and Asif were impressive not just at Leeds, but at Lord's too. I enjoy watching the young Ameer bowl, as at a tender age, he has the ability to swing it both ways with ease and can bowl at good pace too. He bowled couple of magic deliveries in the first innings, though they were wasted on tailenders lol. Asif has always looked like a quality bowler and for Pakistan's sake, I hope that he stays away from again getting embroiled in drugs controversy. On the other hand, Umar Gul has always been better with the white ball as in test cricket, he has never found the late swing that he can get with the white ball, but even he supported both Ameer and Asif in the series. Gul should surely work on his no ball problem too.

I can't be lavish in praise about their batsmen though, as yet again their batsmen let the team down. Yes, it isn't easy to play in alien conditions, but some of the shots Pakistan's batsmen played in this series were just comical to watch and is fit for street cricket. In fact, they almost lost the match today as Pakistan's batsmen did hara-kiri while chasing a relatively low target of 180. Pakistan's batsmen either seem to slog, or they go into panic mode and would start pushing and poking at each delivery. Today, all their batsmen played like they are batting for the first time in their life, but thankfully in the end, Pakistan were able to cross the finishing line and win the match. The one positive sign for Pakistan is their new captain Butt has been in good form in recent times, though someone has to tell him that it isn't just about doing well against Australia lol. He has to work on his captaincy as he set defensive fields and did panic when Smith went hammer and tongs at the bowlers, but to be fair to Butt, it was only his first test match as a captain. I also liked Pakistan's fielding as they fielded well in this series and dare I say, Pakistan caught better than Australia.

As far as the Australian team is concerned, Ponting would no doubt be worried about front-line bowlers not stepping up-to the plate. Johnson was yet again all over the place and he rarely ever bowls with upright seam, but as he gets awkward bounce, he would always prove to be useful in Australia. Bollinger bowled better today, but I expected a lot more from him. Hilfy is good, though it would be better, if he improves his inswinger. Australia's trump card in this series was no doubt Watson. I have always rated him as a bowler, but to be known as a good all-rounder, he has to remain injury free which is a big if with him.

Putner won't be entirely happy with the batting either, as he himself hasn't been in great touch of late and what is North doing in the side? Yes, he took six wickets with his friendly off spin at Lord’s, but he is in the side for his batting. I just don't think his technique is good enough to survive in test cricket and England would no doubt like him to be in the Ashes side! I do like the youngster Smith though, as he is a very powerful batsman, who seems to have the temperament to succeed in test cricket.

Finally, I would like to say that it was an entertaining match with both teams having their flaws and were evenly matched which always makes for keenly contested matches. Congratulations to Pakistan for drawing the series, though their batting continues to be brittle. Oh for another woodchopper like Ijaz Ahmed!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kane Williamson gets a contract

It is good to see that Kiwis have taken a step forward by giving the promising batsman from Northern districts, Kane Williamson a contract.  He may still not be ready for test cricket, but I have a feeling that he has a bright future ahead of him.

First of all, I have to admit that I have seen little of Williamson,  as I have only seen him play in the under 19 world cup in Malaysia in 2008. For an under 19 player, he did look promising and his record in Plunket Shield, or New Zealand's first class competition is good as he averages over 46 as a batsman. What impressed me most at the under 19 level was his ability to play late and his back-foot play. It would be great for international cricket if he does well, as back-foot play has almost become extinct in the modern game. He can bowl a bit of off-spin too.

Another key point to consider is, due to a combination of too much chopping and changing and lack of talented batsmen in domestic circuit has resulted in NZ's batting line-up being brittle. Too many times, they have depended on Ross Taylor to get the runs with others collapsing like nine pins around him. So, they need  young batsmen like Williamson to step up-to the plate and succeed in international cricket. I also hope that Kiwi selectors give him a decent run in the side, though with New Zealand's selectors, one can never be sure about it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Watson again comes to the party!

I see that Watson has again sliced through Pakistan's middle-order to give Australia a chance of coming back into  the match. He has no doubt been a trump card for Australia in this series.

Contrary to what many think of Watson, I have always felt that he is a decent bowler.  Yes, he has been injury prone and had to go under the surgeon's table umpteen times, but when he bowls a fuller length, Watson can be a handful in conditions that offer sideways movement. In the ongoing match at Leeds,  all Aussie seamers leaving Watson have struggled with their length and the duke ball, but Watson has bowled a fuller length and has found appreciable movement off the pitch. I do agree that Pakistan's batsmen have played a few slogs and got out, but the credit has to go to Watson for finding the right length.

In my opinion, the breakthrough series with the ball for Watson was in India in 08/09 as he bowled well on unhelpful tracks by getting the old SG ball to reverse and troubled the Indian batsmen. Since then, barring a few hiccups like being injured before the Ashes, Watson has been taking vital wickets for Australia. It can be seen by the fact that in his last 15 tests, he has taken 33 wickets at 23.12. Another key point to consider is,  he can extract reverse swing with the old ball  and also has a decent slower delivery  which shows, he isn't a one trick pony. 

Yes, he has been injury prone in the past, but I do believe, Watson now is at the peak of his prowess as he is also doing well as a batsman and if he is injury free  for the next couple of years, he may be known as a very good all-rounder.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mark Waugh -The connoisseur's delight

It is 21st of May 1993, the arch rivals England and Australia are battling it out for the prestigious texaco trophy. On that day, we saw two contrasting knocks which would be etched in my memory. On one hand, there was a batsman whose knock can be described as violent. He didn't bat, but butchered the opponents with supersonic cuts and pulls. On the other hand, there was also a batsman from Down Under, who played like as though poetry was in motion, he constructed his innings with filigree precision by playing silken smooth drives, flicks and cuts. I was already a fan of the butcher, but the man from Down Under just made me to forget all my worries about my homework and I became an instant fan of him.

If you haven't guessed it yet, the Butcher in this case was none other than Robin Smith and the other cricketer was the elegance personified Mark Waugh. I would talk about my love for Robin Smith's batting on some other day.Today though, it is all about the man, who made batting look so easy that you wanted to pay him million dollars to make him bat in in front of one of the wonders of the World Taj Mahal and that is of course Mark Waugh.

When Mark Waugh played, he was like the Mozart who wrote symphonies with a bat in hand. If Afghan played a shot, you wondered whether is he an expressionist painter, who uses his painting brush to draw cuts, flicks and drives. It wasn't just his batting, but even when he was fielding at slips, early in his career at backward point, or occasionally in the outfield, he made fielding look as easy as he would do with a bat in hand.

So, to trace the career of Mark Waugh through the years, let us go back in a time machine to the 80's and have a look at the tough and competitive Australian domestic cricket. Here, you have to think of someone, who was Afghan's greatest admirer and sometimes a critique too Bob Simpson.

The former Australian coach on Mark Waugh,

"When I first saw him, he was a real tearaway with quite a lot of pace. In fact, in his first season in first class cricket, in 1985-86, I had him opening the bowling for New South Wales and he could send them down as quickly as anyone in the side Mark loved to bowl bouncers and would take on any batsman regardless of his reputation"

It is very interesting to note that at the start of his career, Mark was a decent bowler too. Simpson also  said that he wanted Mark to develop as a batsman in Sheffield Shield cricket as he thought that he was too much of a leg side player. So, his elder twin got the first chance to play for Australia. Mark had to be content with playing the odd onedayer for Australia and had to wait for his chance to make his test debut.

In-fact, at that time everyone started calling him Afghan, the forgotten man, as in-spite of doing reasonably well as a batsman in the Sheffield Shield, he had to bide for his time. In hindsight,  it was a shrewd decision taken by one of his greatest admirers and the then coach of Australia Bob Simpson, as he wanted Junior to toughen up in the Sheffield Shield, so that he can survive  the hard grind of test cricket. During that time, he also played for Essex on a recommendation from another  great admirer of his batting Allan Border, who was also the captain of Australia.

Mark Waugh's chance finally arrived in 1990/91 against England, when he replaced his twin brother Steve in the team. On one hand, the Waugh family must have felt like celebrating on that day, as the younger twin finally got a chance to play, but at the same-time,  he was replacing his elder twin in the team. It surely must have been a bittersweet day for the Waugh family. Waugh's debut though, was nothing less than spectacular as he made a classy 139 against England. When I see the highlights package of that innings, I can see those trademark flicks, drive and  cuts which made Mark such a graceful player to watch. His greatest admirer and tough task master Simpson though, is believed to have said to him, you still have to work on your off-side play!

 Junior continued to show glimpses of what he can do, when he made a majestic 116 against the likes of Marshall, Amby, Walsh and Patterson in West Indies. Here, the main factor to consider is, his ability to come good when the team was in trouble, as OZ were in a spot of bother when he came to the crease. In that series against West Indies, he also averaged over 60 and topped the batting charts for Australia. I can just laugh, when a few say that against good pace attacks he was vulnerable. Surely a bowling attack of Amby, Walsh, Patterson and Marshall isn't a pop gun attack.

After a good start to his career, he did go through a horror period in Lanka as he could not even buy a run. A few jokingly even started him calling Audi as he made four consecutive ducks and 0,0,0,0 resembled Audi's symbol. A few also said, if he makes another duck, he should be called as five rings of Olympics.

Poor Afghan, he didn't know what had hit him, as in-spite of being a very good player of spin and having a decent start to his career, he wasn't able to buy a run against journeymen bowlers like Hathurasinge, Liyanage, Wickramasinge and co. Oh! what a cruel world it can be? During that time, Indian swing bowlers like Prabakar and Kapil also found a chink in his armour, by constantly getting him out on helpful tracks of OZ with swing.

On expected lines, there was immense pressure on him, when the Windies met the Aussies in 92/93 to do well. Mark Waugh though, responded to it magnificently with a fine hundred on a difficult pitch at Melbourne yet, I see comments like he was a fair weather batsman. Other than Boon, he was the only player, who stood up-to the might of Amby, Walsh, Bishop and co. I tell you that is some attack. He and his Aussie mates though had to watch the Windies retain the Frank Worrell trophy especially, that heart-wrenching defeat at Adelaide must have been hard to digest for the Aussies.

Yes, Mark was inexplicably dropped after two bad tests in the Land of Long White Clouds, but he came to UK in 1993 more or less having established himself in the Australian middle-order. During that series, he was very consistent as a batsman. Here, who can forget his sublime knock of 138 at Trent Bridge, which came when the Aussies were in trouble. Mark with his trademark flicks, drives, pulls and cuts lit up the stadium and turned the match on its head. He continued his good form on Samba Mamba tracks of the Rainbow Nation. Actually, if not for Junior, Border wouldn't  have retired with good memories as in Border's last test, Junior played the entire last day to take Australia to shores of safety against the Saffers on a bouncy track at Durban in 93/94.

During that time, there was also an interesting incident of Mark bowling just bouncers in Pakistan, as he was frustrated by the flatness of the wickets and the number of catches that were dropped by the usually reliable Taylor and Healy. As per reports, he even got one of the deliveries to get big on Sohail and it did hit Sohail flush on his face. Sohail did comeback with stitches on his face and made a fine century, but it reminded me of what Simpson said about his bowling during his early days.

In 95, when the Aussies went to the Caribbean Islands a lot was expected from Waugh twins and both of them responded to it in a great fashion. When Australia locked horns with the Caribbean team in the last test at Jamaica, the series was on a knife edge as OZ won at Barbados only to lose at Trinidad. The match in which the groundsmen perhaps on instructions by the Windies management, left so much grass on the wicket that it looked more like a cattle grazing ground rather than a cricket ground . No wonder, the giant Ambrose cleaned up the Aussies on that pitch.

 So going into the crucial last test with everything to play for, Australia went hard at the Windies and as a result bowled them out for a score of just over 250. The mighty kings from the Caribbean though, were smelling blood when Steve joined his twin brother in the middle and they were yet again facing up-to their old nemesis, the deadly duo of Amby and Walsh, or as popularly known as Wambrose. Just before lunch,  Mark launched into the WI attack with his trademark elegant cuts which in turn changed the tone of the match, as after the lunch session, both the twins looked in very good touch.

In that innings, Junior didn't just play like a Mozart who wrote beautiful Symphonies with a bat in hand, but played like a true gambler. No wonder, other than cricket, Mark Waugh loves gambling and horse racing. He took the mickey out of Amby and especially Walsh, by deliberately backing away and tempting both of them to follow him and bowl bouncers.Incredibly, Mark somehow would get under the ball and play cheeky little upper-cuts over the keeper's head for fours. As expected, the giants Walsh and Amby glared at him, but I am sure Waugh would have a chuckle every-time he played that shot. Mark went onto make a sublime century and his elder brother made a typical gutsy double hundred. Soon, Australia were celebrating a famous victory against the Windies. It was no doubt a path-breaking victory, as it ended the domination of Caribbean kings and heralded a new era in which we saw the Ozzies dominating the cricketing world.

The next time I watched Junior play a knock which can be described as masterclass was against the formidable Pakistan attack of Akram, Younis, Saqlain and Mushi in 95/96. On a turning wicket at Sydney, he tamed Saqlain's new discovery doosra and Mushi's potent googly by beautifully using his feet to the spinners. The innings was just poetry in motion. Every-time Saqlain, or Mushi gave it a bit of air, Mark  came down the wicket and played those silken cover-drives and lofted shots overs long on, long off and midwicket. This was also a match in which, all other Australian batsmen were at sixes and sevens against the Pakistan attack, but not Junior. Mark Waugh though, failed in the second innings and as a result, OZ lost the match. If I am not mistaken, it was the only time when Mark Waugh scored a hundred and Australia lost the match.

By the time of  96 WC, Mark Waugh had even started to open the batting in O.D.I'S and he did make a great impact in that tournament as he scored tons of runs. I still remember that classy knock at Madras against the Kiwis, when he looked all at ease with his trademark flicks and drives. In that WC, he even got the little master Tendulkar stumped with his off-spin by bowling a wide delivery. Mark Waugh saw SRT coming down the wicket and pushed it wide to get him stumped.

In 96/97 in South Africa at Port Elizabeth, he made a hundred which can be described as his best knock. The Saffers had lost the first test at Johannesburg on a relatively flat deck, so under pressure, the groundsmen at PE spiced up the wicket. Yes, the wicket was still slow, but there was grass on the wicket and it was uneven too. It made sure that batting on the wicket against, let it be genuine quicks like Donald, dibbly dobbly medium pacers like Cronje, or wrist spinners like Bevan, Adams and Warne a nightmare.

In that match, Australia required 270 to win, but when one considered the nature of the pitch, it looked like a daunting task. As I said though, Mark had this uncanny ability to come good when the conditions were difficult and the chips were down. In the second innings, Donald bowled at the speed of light, but Mark showed great temperament and exemplary technique to handle Donald.

In-fact, it was a knock which was constructed with filigree precision, as Junior would wait and wait for the fearsome Donald to bowl on his pads so that he could play those majestic flicks. There was also an on-drive he played against Donald which looked more like a top spin forehand played by a tennis player. Mark Waugh just flicked his wrists at the last nano second to play the on-drive. Donald must have thought what is the use of running in from the boundary and bowling quick, if the batsman just flicks it nonchalantly for a four? The left arm chinaman bowler Adams wasn't spared either. The Saffers finally dismissed him, but it was too late, as Aussies went onto defeat South Africa. The Wisden in its rankings rightfully recognises it as one of the best innings of all time.

In 1997 itself, I surely remember his fabulous shot of Vettori against NZ at Perth. He just came down the wicket and hit him with such effortless ease that you would wish to watch the shot forever. Till now, I have not seen a six which was more elegant to watch and that six went a long way. In that year, he also played a gusty knock at Adelaide against SA to take Australia to shores of safety.

During Australia's subcontinental sojourn of India and Pakistan in 98, he came up with a couple more superlative efforts. In India, he played a fine knock at Madras against Kumble and co. During this innings, Mark was said to be very sick, but in-spite of that he made a hundred.

In Pakistan, Junior came to Australia's rescue in the last test. Up against the wise maestro Akram, the young tearaway quick Akthar and potent spinners, Australia were in a spot of bother before Mark Waugh made yet another elegant hundred. Let it be Akthar's pace, Akram's wizardry, or the bagful of tricks of spinners, Mark Waugh had answers for all. He used the depth of the crease beautifully to counter the spinners by coming down the wicket and going back to play a few sumptuous late cuts.

In 1998 though, the betting scandal did affect Mark Waugh, as his form got worse. Yes, Mark Waugh did show glimpses of what he can do with a superlative effort at Sydney against England and on a difficult track at Auckland in 2000. The track at Auckland turned miles and there was uneven bounce too. Vettori almost looked unplayable in that match, but Mark played a delightful knock of 80 odd which helped the Aussies to gain the vital first innings lead. It was something to see batsmen struggling at one end, but on the other side, Mark was using his feet brilliantly to Vettori and taking him to the cleaners.

As the time went on, his form became erratic. Yes, he still had his moments like in England in 2001, but he played his final test in 2002 at Sarjah against Pakistan. I still remember that final innings of Mark, when he played two glorious cover drives of Saqlain only to lose his concentration and get out to Saqlain. It was like watching the Mozart still writing beautiful symphonies, but with a few unusual errors in between. It was sad to see him play his final knock in front of empty stands at Sarjah, but as it is said that all good things have to come to an end. Mark Waugh finally retired in 2002 after the final test in Sarjah.

Here a question may come to someone's mind like did Mark Waugh ever look ugly, when he tried to play a shot? The only time I have seen him play an ugly shot was when he tried a reverse sweep against Tufnell and got bowled at Gabba in 94/95. Sorry Mark Waugh, reverse sweeps are for men with lesser gifts.

I surely have to touch a bit on his fielding skills too as he was an outstanding fielder. A few of the catches he took like that of Haq at Hobart in 99/00 and the slip catch of a miscued cut shot by Kris Srikkanth going at the speed of knots were just outstanding catches. Early in his career, he would even field at backward point and do a good job. In the onedayers, he was occasionally seen patrolling the outfield too and even then he didn't look out of place. His greatness as a fielder can be seen by the fact that even when the ever reliable wickie Healy and the captain fantastic Taylor were dropping catch after catch in Pakistan in 94/95, Mark Waugh reportedly didn't drop a catch.

To end it, history may remember him as a player who didn't play to his potential as an average of around 42 doesn't do justice to his talent. One has to consider though, he played in an era in which, the pitches were more helpful for the bowlers and there were some mighty fine bowlers going around too. For me though, he was a match winner, who also made batting a pleasure to watch. Yes, he wasn't a great batsman, as he didn't get big scores like his elder twin, but his knocks helped OZ to win lots of matches.

To be honest, leave all those debates about averages, as watching Mark Waugh bat was the icing on cake. The fastest of bowlers and the best of spinners were dispatched to the boundary not with brute force, but with silken drives, cuts, flicks and lofted strokes. He was no doubt a connoisseur's delight.

In short, they don't make players like Mark Waugh anymore!

Tough road ahead for Butt

I see that this week Pakistan have another captain in charge and that too in the middle of a important test series, but it is hardly a big news as every tom, dick and harry is appointed as the captain of Pakistan side.

Just a few days back, Afridi now the  former captain of Pakistan, seemed to be confident in a interview that he gave to cricinfo, though he always came across as reluctant to lead the Pakistan side in test cricket. Now of course, he has resigned from the  post of being the captain, but what makes it worse is, he resigned from the post in the middle of a test series and PCB even thought of appointing him as the captain of the test side, though he was reluctant to lead the side in tests in first place and was never good enough to play in test cricket. Former players have rightly critcised both Afridi and PCB and Asif Iqbal has aptly described PCB as Pakistan confused board!

Now, the onus would be on their new captain Butt. Butt is another player, who would likely agree with Asif Iqbal's description of PCB as he has never been given a decent run in the side. Pakistan has always been famous for chopping and changing, but thankfully, the talented Butt seems to be finally finding his feet in test cricket as in his last six tests, he has averaged 46.41 and  most of  those six test matches came against the formidable Aussies. The sad part is, just as he was about to crack the code of playing  test cricket, he has been made the captain of a side that seems to be always in chaos.

I don't think I need to talk too much about senior players  getting banned and bans being lifted,  Yousef announcing retirement and as expected, changing his mind very soon,  reports of internal fights within the team and whatever that goes on in the Pakistan side as that has now become a common feature with them, but poor Butt has to now lead that side. He doesn't have too much time to get prepared for the enormous task that lies ahead as they are going to play their next match tomorrow against the formidable Aussies.

 I just hope that Butt concentrates on his batting and improves his consistency as a batsman by scoring runs not just  against his favourite opponents Australia, but also against other teams (Butt averages 47.41 against Australia and two of his three hundreds have come against them)  If he along the way is successful as a captain it would be great, but Butt should take it match by match and look at  captaincy purely  as a bonus as with Pakistan,  there is a good chance of Butt even finding himself in the wilderness after the next match!

Monday, July 19, 2010

In support of Kieswetter

I see that things aren't looking too rosy for the golden boy of Somerset, Kieswetter as after his struggles against Australia, he is now struggling to score runs even in FP T/20 matches. In theory, T/20 matches should suit him, but unfortunately, even in t/20 matches, he has now become a super dud.

Couple of monts ago,  everything looked different for Kiewetter,  as he took to batting like a duck to water by scoring  a hundred in Bangladesh, got the man of the match in the final of the T//20 world cup and was a world cup winner,  but  international cricket can be  a tough grind and the opposition would all the time look for even minute flaws in a batsman and at present, it seems like Kieswetter has lost confidence in his ability and is just looking to slog everything out of the ground .

l  surely believe that Kies has lots of talent as a batsman as he has quick hands, is powerful and some of the shots he plays square off the wicket on the off side makes my jaws drop, but just raw talent isn't enough as to succeed in international cricket, it requires a good defence and a player needs to be mentally tough.  Kieswetter should go back to the drawing board and work hard on his technique  and also should look to expand his game by playing more in the V.  Actually,  Somerset's inspirational player Tres did say that they are looking at ways to make him play more in the V which is good news. Recent failures would also test his temperament and hopefully, he will become mentally tougher and come back a better player.

Recently, England cricket's director Andy Flower also said that hopefully Kieswetter would learn from the experience and come back a  better player. I'm sure a coach like Flower would keep faith in Kieswetter. Even I do believe that Kieswetter can succeed as a batsman as he has lots of talent and  he is young though, I am not very sure about him as a keeper.

West Indies all time team

Just like cricinfo, I thought of picking an all time team for West Indies. As expected, I found it a task of mammoth proportions to pick the  all time West Indies team as over the years, many legends have played for West Indies.

Anyway, my team



George Headley


V.Richards (c)







It was tough to leave out so many legends, but as we  know that only eleven players can be picked in a side. Anyway, my explanations for leaving out some of the great players.


I  picked both Haynes and Greenidge as they forged together a great opening partnership. Between them, they have amassed as many as 6482 runs, which even now stands as the record for the highest number of runs scored by any pair in history of test cricket. It was very tough to leave out Fedricks and especially Hunte, but Haynes and Greenidge were so good at top of the order  that I won't like to separate them.


In the middle-order, there are so many great players to consider like Richardson, Kahnai, Kallicharan,  Nurse, 3 W'S,  Loyd and even Chanders, but I couldn't find a middle-order better than Headley,Lara and Richards. I did consider Loyd as well as Sir Frank Worrell as they were great captains, but I just couldn't think of leaving anyone out  of Headley, Richards and Lara.


I don't think anyone would argue with Sobers being the all-rounder in the Windies side, but there were a few cricketers, who were very good in their own right like Learie Constantine, a bowler who could bowl at real pace and was said to be a fine striker of the ball too. Another player who is worth a mention is Gomez. He did well in the 50's as a all-rounder, but when it comes to choosing a all-rounder in the Windies all time team, it is hard to look past Sobers!


I did think of Walcott, but he was mainly a batsman.  I also thought of Deryck Murray, but Dujon was perhaps the best keeper of the three and was a fine batsman too. So, I went for Dujon.

Fast bowlers 

It is always a real headache to select fast bowlers as West Indies in the past, has seen so many legendary fast bowlers playing for them. One can think of great bowlers like Ambrose, Holding, Walsh, Marshall, Garner, Croft, C.Griffith, Roberts, Hall, Garner, and maybe S.Clarke. (He could have become a great fast bowler, but played in an era, when they had great fast bowlers and eventually, joined the rebel tour)  Actually,  even bowlers like H.Griffiths, Martin Dale, Bishop, W.Davies, R.Gilchrist, Francis and co. would do a fine job, but unfortunately, one can't select everyone. So, I went for Holding, Ambrose and Marshall.  Holding was a strike bowler, Marshall was a complete fast bowler and I selected Ambrose for his ability to get awkward bounce and for his unrelenting accuracy. I found it tough to leave out Garner as he was similar to Amby, but I grew up watching Amby destroy so many batting line-ups which perhaps made me prefer Amby. Actually, I have seen equal number of supporters for both Garner and Amby, so it maybe better to toss a coin to see who should get selected!


Finally, let us look at selecting the spinner in the side. Actually, I was tempted to select four fast bowlers as so many great fast bowlers have played for the Windies side and Sobers could bowl chinaman, but Gibbs was himself a great bowler and I would like to have variety in the bowling attack. The tall off spinner took as many as 309 wickets and was rarely ever hit around.

I would just say that selecting the all time West Indies side can be a real headache as they have produced so many legendary cricketers. Actually, one can come up with few more teams, which can look as good as the team that I have selected or maybe  better!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Having a look at Mithun

In the test match at Galle, Indian bowlers had a very bad day in the office as all of them  looked innocuous  on the first day's play. Sharma looked a pale shadow of his former self and was even looking to bowl well wide of off stump to escape from  further punishment, Harbie seemed to be troubled  by a sore knee and  Ojha rarely got anything to turn. Actually, Sehwag looked more threatening than both Harbie and Ojha.

Today, we also saw the greenhorn Mithun making his test debut and I have to say that for a debutant, he bowled reasonably well.  So, in this article, I would like to have a look at the newbie in the Indian team.

In recent times, Indian cricket has seen promising quickies like Pathan, RP.Singh, Shama, Sree and others fading away very quickly.  It maybe a combination of bowlers not working hard on their fitness, lacking in temperament and too much tinkering by the coaching staff,  but the simple fact is, the above mentioned bowlers haven't performed to their potential. Today, yet another quick bowler made his debut for India and that was of course Mithun. He is another bowler, who has some potential though he is still raw. If he works hard on a few technical aspects and works on his fitness, he can be a good find for the Indian team, but with so many Indian bowlers losing their way in recent times, I am a bit wary of saying good things about his bowling!

So, let us briefly look at Mithun's bowling

Mithun has a good build for a quick bowler and as he has a open chested action, he can angle it back into the batsmen sharply. He has a bustling run up, hits the deck reasonably hard and has a well directed bouncer. I also feel that it isn't easy to pick his bouncer as he has a quick arm action and that may have helped him to get Dilly's wicket.  I think with his action, he can develop a lethal bouncer and even a yorker.

Mithun has to work on a few things and they are mainly technical. The first time I saw him was in IPL 08 and one could clearly notice that his legs were collapsing in his final delivery stride which meant that he was losing out on pace. He seems to have worked a bit on it, though it is still collapsing a bit.I would like his front foot to point towards the batsman. His non bowling hand  also collapses a bit. I don't want to be too technical, but there are a few technical flaws which should have been corrected when he was playing junior level cricket, but unfortunately it hasn't been done.

If he works on his fitness and maybe a few technical aspects, he can be a fine bowler for India as he seemed to have the heart to bowl long spells under humid condtions at Galle, but that is a big if , as more than just a few Indian bowlers have shown potential only to fade away very quickly. I also saw a few comments about why Munaf wasn't selected, but I won't bet on him being able to bowl even 10 overs under hot and humid conditions in Lanka!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tim Paine and wicket-keeping

To start with, I do like test cricket as it requires a player to show patience, determination and it tests the skills of a player. Yesterday though, wasn't a great day for test cricket as it was devoid of a true contest. Pakistan's batsmen perhaps thought they were still playing street cricket and fell like a pack of cards to North's innocuous bowling to hand Australia an easy victory. Thankfully though, there was a wicketkeeper called Paine, who was able to raise above the mediocrity on show as he came up with a fine stumping of Butt. Yes, on the scoreboard it would be shown as a wicket for North, but the credit has to go to Paine for showing quick reflexes to send Butt back to the pavilion.

Now, let me frankly say that I don't know much about keeping as I have never been a keeper, but even I can say that in recent times, some of the keepers like Baugh, Akmal, Jones and now Kieswetter can't be called as wicket-keepers. All those players were selected as the selectors thought they can bat. Ironically, most of the above mentioned players failed as a batsman. Other keepers like Dhoni, Prior, McCullum and co. are just about average though, I feel that Dhoni and to an extent Prior have improved. I can only think of three keepers, who can be considered as good and they are, the veteran Boucher, P.Jayawerdena and our man Paine. Jaya only plays test matches and Paine is still the understudy to Haddin which leaves only Boucher, but he is coming to the end of his career and was recently dropped from the shorter formats of the game.

So, with so many mediocre keepers around, it was refreshing to see a fine piece of keeping by Paine. Actually, Paine has been impressive since he made his debut last year in England. He has good reflexes and I can't remember him giving away too many byes which is the hallmark of a good keeper. At present, Haddin is Australia's number one wicketkeeper as there is a perception that he is a better batsman though, Paine has already shown that he is no mug with the bat either. For instance, he did well in the second innings against Pakistan with Australia finding themselves in a spot of bother at 208 for 8.

Sometimes, I feel like disliking Gilly lol. Yes, he was no doubt a great player, but because of Gilly's success as a batsman, it has made other teams to look for keepers who can bat. In an attempt to find another Gilly, every tom, dick and harry is given a chance, but more often than not they end up as failures. I just hope that one-day selectors would realise finding another Gilly is a futile exercise and instead of dreaming about finding another Gilly, they would select good keepers like Paine!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Now North gets onto the honours board!

Oh god! it can't get worse as North now has got a five wicket haul and his name would be on the honours board at Lord's!!  Nothing  can beat North's name being on  the honours board for his bowling at Lord's. It is like Agarkar getting a century at Lord's in 2002.

As far as the match was concerned, on a good pitch for batting, Pakistan's batsmen played poor shots to gift their wickets away. Butt played a lazy shot to get out. Actually, the credit has to go to Paine for coming up with a fine stumping. If that wasn't enough, Umar Akmal played another bad shot as North got his second though, it has to be said that ball did seem to bounce off the rough, Umar's elder brother tried to play another slog and got out,   Afridi played like he always does to gift his wicket to North, the tailender Ameer followed in other batsmen's footsteps to gift yet another wicket to North.  Pakistan were soon bowled out for 289 to hand the Aussies an easy victory.

Actually, just a few days back, I was thinking about North being dropped from the team, but now he has got a five wicket haul. Yes, credit has to go to him for being persistent, but Pakistan helped him by playing a few slogs.

So, it has been a strange test match as to start with, the injury prone Watson got a five wicket haul, Hilfy scored a fifty and now the mother of all surprises, North getting a five wicket haul. A few things though never change like  Afridi slogging and getting out and another defeat for Pakistan against Australia. Australia haven't lost a single match to Pakistan since 1995 and in that period, have won 14 out of 16 tests. In fact, if my memory serves me right, Australia have won all their last 13 matches against Pakistan!

Is Sutil a future champion?

As I have said before, along with cricket, I would like to blog about other sports too. So, this time around, I would look at F-1.

If I think about F-1 this year, the big question on everyone's lips is about the fight between Webber and Vettel on who is the number one driver in Red Bull's team, but at Silverstone, another driver who caught my eye was the young German, Sutil.

Background about Force India

Mallya brought the Spyker team and called it Force India in 2007. The Silverstone based outfit has been making steady progress what with Fisi getting a podium finish last year at Spa and this year, they have almost collected 50 points and are placed a creditable sixth in the constructors championship. 

Sutil's progress

In F-1,  for a driver to do well the car has to be good, but at the same time, any successful team  also needs a fine driver behind the wheels and in my opinion, Force India have got a gem of a driver  in Sutil. When Sutil was signed to drive for Force India, a few weren't sure about his pontential, but with time, he has improved and with Fisi leaving the team, he has now become the number one driver.

Sutil as a future world champion 

So, coming back to the topic on hand about Sutil being a future champion, I would definitely say  that with a better car, he can at least win one  championship. Sutil has the ability to get the best out of a average car like he did at Monaco grand prix in 08 and again at Chinese GP in 09 and that is a hallmark of any champion. Yes, last year, at times he was over enthusiastic and made a few mistakes like at Spa, but that is expected from a  youngster. In 2010 though, he has consistently scored points.

In the last race at British GP, he showed good defensive skills as well, as he was able to hold up Vettel for more than just a few laps. He cleverly took defensive lines and used Force India's straight line speed to frustrate Vettel  for a considerable period of time.  In the end, Vettel was able to muscle past Sutil as he had a better car, but Sutil again showed that he is a driver with a bright future.

The big boys, Mclaren, Ferrari and Red  bull should look at signing the young German as he has the makings of a future champion. For starters, he would surely do better than Massa!

Can Pakistan make history???

I see that Pakistan have made an encouraging start in the second innings as they look to chase down the mammoth target set by Ozzies. So, can a batting line-up that tends to fall like a pack of cards make history by creating a world record for chasing down the highest target ever?

Yes, it can be said that chances of Pakistan winning the match is remote as chasing a target of 440 is indeed a daunting task, but if the sun comes out today, they can at least make a good fist of the challenge they are confronted with. Under overcast conditions and with humidity around, Lord's assisted the quickies, but if the sun comes out, the pitch at Lord's is not much different from what we see at Lahore, or other Pakistan's grounds. In recent times, the pitch has become a belter and even on the fifth day, it doesn't break up.

Secondly, in recent times, teams have been able to successfully chase down huge targets on a regular basis. For instance, South Africa defeated Australia at Perth in 08/09 by chasing down a target in excess of 400 and India were able to do the same against England at Madras in 08/09. Batsmen friendly tracks, batsmen with a positive outlook, maybe poorer bowling attacks and sometimes, defensive captains have contributed to teams chasing down huge targets which, in another time, would have been thought of as a improbable task.

For Pakistan to have any chance of winning the match, the promising, Azhar Ali and Butt have to come up with a huge partnership and rest of the batsmen can chip in with useful scores. If they get a good start on the fourth day, there is at least a chance of creating a bit of panic among Aussie players. Moreover, Australia don't have McGrath, or Warne in the attack. The young spinner Smith is promising, but is making his debut. I also feel that Ponting presses the panic button too soon so, if Pakistan can get to a score of 200 for the loss of say couple of wickets, it would be interesting to see Ponting's tactics.

Yes, realistically, Australia should win this match comfortably, but if Pakistan make a good start on the fourth day, who knows? They may pull a rabbit out of the hat and win this match.

Anyway, even if Pakistan lose, I have been impressed by the commitment shown by their players  in the field as they have taken their catches and for once, Akmal hasn't dropped a catch of Kaneria. I also hope that young batsmen in the side can learn from the mistakes they made in the first innings. The only negative point has been Afridi, as his tactics of using the spinners with cloud cover around was bewildering. Less said the better about his batting!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pakistan's young batsmen need encouragement

After a bright start on the first day with the ball, Pakistan's inexperienced and brittle batting line-up crumbled under pressure to hand over the advantage back to Australia.

So, could have anyone envisaged a different outcome to what we saw yesterday? Pakistan went into this match with  two debutants,who were made to look like lambs led to slaughter as they were batting at three and four in conditions that were completely alien to them,  Kamran Akmal batting at six and Afridi at seven won't make the opposition bowlers have sleepless nights, and the  opposition have some useful bowlers like Bollinger, Hlify and Mitch in their ranks. It can surely be said that Pakistan's collapse was on expected lines.

The key point to consider about yesterday's play was about the two greenhorns in Pakistan's side. I really feel sorry for both of them as they play all their cricket in Pakistan where the new ball  won't move an inch, but suddenly they are thrust into batting at key positions on a pitch that is offering help to the medium pacers . It has to be said though, Pakistan don't have  too many options as both their senior players, Yousef and Younis aren't in the squad. The only option they have   is to move Umar Akmal up the order, but even he has played only a handful of tests.

I am also worried about the fact that Pakistan rarely give anyone a decent run in the side. For instance, Khurram Manzoor may not have the best technique going around, but I do remember that he scored a fighting half century in the final test in Australia, but now he finds himself in the wilderness. Alam did score a hundred on his debut, but hasn't got a decent run in the side either. The same can be said about the talented Butt as he has been in and out of the squad. Pakistan are known for chopping and changing, which never helps younger players in the squad.

As Yousef and Younis aren't in the squad, batsmen like Azhar Ali and Amin don't have anyone to look up-to  either.  Young players take sometime before they learn the tricks of the trade and if they have senior players to guide them, it would help the youngsters enormously. Actually, when Yousef  made his debut in 98, he wasn't rated highly by Aussies, but with experience, hard work and with senior players like Ijaz, Sohail, Anwar and Haq around to guide him, he was able to make his mark as a batsman. Secondly, they also have a captain, who believes in slogging everything out of the ground, so he isn't someone they can look up-to for sure.

It is a tough road ahead for Pakistan's young batsmen as because of the situation back home, they have to play in alien conditions and they don't have senior players like Yousef, or Younis to look up-to for guidance.  One can just hope that young batsmen like Azhar Ali, who actually looked good in his short stay at the crease work hard on their batting and do well for Pakistan, but with the way Pakistan's cricket is run, it is perhaps a wishful thinking on my part.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

North and his problems

I see that North has failed in the first innings of the first test against Pakistan at Lords. Since his debut against South Africa in 08/09,  North has been a boom and bust player as he has got a few hundreds, but also has made more than just a few low scores. So, a few questions like should Australia drop North and why has North been so inconsistent may arise?

If I look at North's career, I do remember that when he played in the under 19 world cup in 98, a few former Aussie cricketers tipped him to be a future Australian player, but as North wasn't consistent for his state side, Western Australia and with Australia having a strong middle order, North had to wait for a long time before he could break into the Australian squad. It was only in South Africa in 08/09 that he got a chance to play for Australia. 

He had a great start to his career as he made a century on his debut and even in the Ashes, he did well by scoring three hundreds and at that time, it looked like he may play for Australia for a few years to come as he can also bowl useful off spin. However, it started to go all wrong for him  at home as he averaged 33 against the Windies, but worse was stiil in store for North,  as he averaged just over 8 against Pakistan! Yes, he did redeem himself with a career saving hundred albiet against an inexpereinced Kiwi attack, but question marks still remain about his technique.

Swing bowlers as well as spinners have troubled North in recent times. His tendency to move his front foot  too much across the stumps means that when it is swinging around, swing bowlers can shape it back into him and he would likely get out lbw. It can also mean that he would struggle to drive in the V and whenever he tries it, there is a decent chance of him getting bowled and his dismissal can look awful. I didn't see yesterday's dismissal, but it seems like he played another loose drive and got out. As he goes hard at the ball, he can also look vulnerable against spin.

Yes, he did score a hundred and made another useful score of ninety in New Zealand,  but as I said, it was against an inexperienced attack as Bond and O'Brien both had just retired, but even in the match at Hamilton, I do remember the young Southee getting him out lbw in the first innings by bowling a fuller length and shaping it back into him.

North may get a few more chances to prove himself as he does average over 40 in test cricket, but in my humble opinion, Australia should look at future and blood the youngster Khawaja.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What next for Bangladesh?

I see that Bangladesh are collapsing in a heap in the final onedayer at Edgbaston. So, a question may surely arise regarding Bangladesh's victory at Bristol being a false dawn?

In the past, I have made my views clear that Bangladesh need encouragement and the cricket experts calling  for them to be relegated are  too harsh on Bangladesh as they have a young team and to expect them to play well when they are confronted with conditions like what we saw at Old Trafford with the pitch offering sideways movement is just ridiculous  as even better teams like Australia struggled  in England when there was sideways movement on offer, but at the same time, Bangladesh's team should look at ways to improve.

Bangladesh's fielding- I am still surprised by the fact that Bangladesh's young team struggle in the field. Just like many, I do expect a team made up of youngsters to show a bit of spunk in the field, but they seem to be listless in the field. I am sure that Siddons is concerned about Bangladesh's fielding and is looking at ways to improve it.

Batsmen throwing their wickets away- For a outsider, it seems like everyone in the Bangladesh team want to play like Tamim Iqbal. Now, it is evident that Tamim Iqbal has a wide range of shots and has a great hand-eye co-ordination. It doesn't mean that Tamim can continue to play reckless shots, but it is crystal clear to anyone that he can get away with some of the shots which others can't. I am especially disappointed with Sakib as he continues to get out to soft dismissals. So, it is high time that Sakib, Imrul and even Tamim learn that there are 50 overs to bat and there is no need to slog at everything.

Quicker bowlers lacking in discipline- I know that quicker bowlers in the Bangladesh's squad  are young, but with time, I hope that they understand their limitations and not try to bowl just quick. For instance, I see that in an attempt to bowl like Lillee, or Thomson, Shahdat Hussain tries to put in a lot of effort into his run up and as a result even grunts at the time of delivery, but ironically, he is losing out on pace as he doesn't flick his wrists at the time of delivering the ball.  At present, he is losing out on pace and struggles to bowl line and length.  Another bowler who, I think has promise is Shafiul Islam as he can get a bit of swing with the new ball, is useful with the older ball and can bowl a useful off cutter, but he is another bowler who, tries to bowl quick and as a result, struggles to bowl line and length.

It isn't rocket science that if a bowler runs up straight,  gets through the crease straight and   follows through straight, he can bowl line and length, but to bowl line and length, Bangladesh's bowlers have to work hard on their basics. Sir Alec Bedser, Statham and co. became fine bowlers by sticking to their basics and the same can be said about modern day bowlers like McGrath, or even the underrated McDonald.

To end it, yes, it was good to see that Bangladesh won their first ever one-day match against England at Bristol which shows that they are improving, but at the same time, if Bangladesh want to be a force to reckon with in international cricket,  lots of work is still to be done.

Spain crowned world champions!

First of all, I would like to congratulate Spain for winning the World cup. Spain were no doubt the best team of the tournament and deserved to win the championship for the first time ever. On the other hand, Dutch played a physical game and made some very sharp tackles, but to their credit were able to keep the Spanish midfield at bay for long periods of time.

First half

If I look at the first half of the match, it has to be said that there were quite a few tasty tackles on view, especially by the Dutch. I would surely say that the beast De Jong deserved a red card for his kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso. Van Bommel who, in this tournament has been lucky to escape with fouls wasn't far behind either though, this time around, was given a yellow card. The first half didn’t make for great viewing as the Dutch team forgot that it was a football game and even the Spanish team made a couple of uncharacteristic fouls. The plan of Dutch team to disrupt the game of Spain though worked as both Alonsos and Busquets struggled to make those probing passes. Actually, whenever the Spanish team came forward, it seemed like the Dutch would have three defenders waiting for them. The only bright moments of the first half was a header by Ramos and Robben's shot of his left foot which were both saved.

Second half

The second half made for better viewing as Iniesta started to come into his own as he created space and opportunities by making a few good runs through the Dutch defence. I also liked the young winger Navas. He is said to be suffering from homesickness, but him coming as a sub helped to inject some pace into the Spanish attack. Spain even got a chance to go ahead only for Ramos to hit the header wide off the mark. The Dutch team too missed a few glorious opportunities as Robben twice missed chances to put the Dutch team ahead. Sneijder made a great pass to release Robben, but Casillas perhaps made the save of the match and that too  with his legs! Robben had another chance when he was again one- on-one up against Casillas, but this time around, the lion-hearted defender Puyol pulled him from the back and Robben couldn't score the goal. Puyol perhaps deserved another yellow card which would have meant that he would have been sent off, but it wasn't to be.

Extra time

It was 0-0 by the end of the second half as the game went into extra time The Spanish coach Bosque went for the inspirational Fabregas as the sub who, repaid the faith of the coach by making a couple of good moves, but only for the Dutch goalkeeper to foil it by making another save and the second time around, he wasn't able to find the target. The turning point of the match came during the second period of the extra time when Heitinga made his second foul and was sent off. So, suddenly the Dutch team were left with just 10 players and were on the back-foot. Spain continued to penetrate deep into Dutch's defence and finally the moment came that everyone were waiting for as the wily Fabregas made the most of a Torres cross that Dutch's defence looked to clear, but it kindly fell for Fabregas who, made a precise pass for Iniesta to hit the winner and break the deadlock. The Spanish fans and players erupted in joy  as they knew that unless something dramatic happens, they have won the World cup for the first time ever. The Dutch tried their best for the equalizer, but it was Spain's day as they went onto win the coveted World cup trophy.

It can be said that the Dutch came out with a plan of disrupting Spain's game of looking for short passes and to an extent they were able to do it, but in the end, Spain had too much class in store for the Dutch team and deservedly won the World cup.

Stand out performers

In my view, the stand out performers of the match were both the goalkeepers. Buffoon may have been outstanding in 06 and Kahn in 02, but there is no denying the fact that Casillas is one of the better goalkeepers the world has ever seen. The Dutch goalkeeper, Stekelenburg may have been suffering from a hip injury before the match, but he showed no effects of it as he too had a superb game.

Iniesta, Robben, Navas, Bommel( in the end, credit has to be given to him for disrupting the game of Spain), Fabregas, Ramos(he did miss a header) and Puyol( though his lack of pace was exposed by Robben) also had good games.

The disappointments

Fouls- The game was littered with too many fouls and most of the time, it was attritional football. The Dutch team were successful with their tactics, but the beautiful football for which they are known for is now a thing of the past.

Spain not being able to convert chances- Spain play a brand of football that is good to watch as instead of looking for long balls and counter attacks, they look for short, precise passes and move forward, but the downside of their game is, they haven't been able to convert the chances they tend to create. In fact, among all the teams who, have won the World cup, Spain have scored the least number of goals.

Free kicks- I can't remember even one good free kick in the final.

Torres- Poor Torres, he came in with a big reputation, but wasn't match fit and when he came on as a sub in the final, he got injured. He would though have the consolation of knowing the fact that he was involved in the goal that helped Spain to win the World cup.

In the end, kudos to South Africa for organising a great World cup though, the standard of football wasn't always good.

As far as the champions Spain's team is concerned, they deserved to win the world cup and what more, they have a nucleus of a great side and should be able to dominate world football in the near future as well!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A tribute to Murali!

In history of cricket, there have been only a handful of cricketers who, can be called as all time greats. We are thinking of cricketers who, could captivate the imagination of the paying public with their cricketing skills and fill the stadiums. In Murali, we are looking at a cricketer who, can be known as a smiling assassin as he consistently bamboozled the best of batsman with his bowling, but always had a smile on his face which made me think of him as a smiling assassin.

If we look at his stats, it can be said that he has broken most of the records in international cricket, let it be the highest number of wickets taken in test and one-day cricket, most number of five and ten wicket hauls and many more. However, I never really like to dwell too much on stats as for me, it can get boring.

Murali's early career

So, if we think of Murali's early career, we have to go as far back as 1992 when he made his debut against the formidable Aussies. In the opposition ranks, there was another spinner called Warne who too was a novice and in his debut test against India, Shastri made him look like a club level spinner. It is always interesting to note that during that time both were no hopers and no one expected them to succeed.

Anyway, in his debut test there is an interesting story of Border thinking of him as a leg spinner as it can be said that he is a wrist spinning off spinner. It was Mark Waugh at the other end who, signalled to Border that he indeed was facing an off spinner and that took Border by surprise which is on expected lines as to the best of my knowledge, Murali is the only wrist spinning off spinner to have played the game.

If we think about his early career, it can be said that he looked short on confidence and tended to bowl a negative line as he bowled a middle and leg stump line. I vaguely remember Murali bowling quickish off cutters and being hammered by the Indian team in 1993/94. During those days, Indian opener Sidhu was in great form and he was a fantastic player of spinners. So, when he saw a bowler who perhaps lacked the self belief, he just took the chance and made a mincemeat of Murali as he was hit all over the park. I also remember the former Indian captain Azharuddin being critical of Ranatunga and co. for using Murali in a negative fashion.

The coming of age of Srilanka and Murali

As the years went by, the Srilankan team started to become a competitive unit as can be seen by them beating the Kiwis away from home as well as Pakistan away from home. The team under the able leadership of Ranatunga, suddenly had a transformed look to it as they were beating other teams on a regular basis. Yes, they went through tough times on their tour of Australia, especially Murali had to endure the ignominy of being called for chucking in Australia in 95/96, but that tour seemed to have made them tougher as they went onto to win the coveted prize in one-day cricket, the world cup in 96 by defeating Australia which made the victory even more sweeter for Srilanka!

The success of Srilankan team was because younger cricketers under the able leadership of Ranatunga and their coach Whatmore started believing in themselves and as a result they were able to beat most of the teams. It was also the time when Murali started to come of age. I vividly remember in a cricket magazine Murali saying that just like Saqlain, he also wanted to develop a doosra and would like to perform better for the team. The tour of Australia surely seemed to have made Murali stronger as a person.

The improvement in his bowling could be seen by the fact that he took his 150th wicket in his 36th test and since then I can hardly remember Murali taking more than ten tests to reach every milestone. Actually, he took just five tests to move from 150 wickets to 200 wickets! He was no doubt devastating in the one off test Srilanka played at Oval. During that time, England's batsmen were never prepared to come out of their crease as most of them were leaden footed. In fact, in that match at Oval, I can remember only Crawley and Hick being prepared to be aggressive against Murali. As a result, on a dry pitch Murali took 16 wickets and completely bamboozled the batsmen as Srilanka made history by winning their first test in England.

Murali at his peak

As the entire world stepped into the new millennium, facing Murali became even more of a daunting task. It can be seen by the fact that even the gifted players of spin, the India batsmen, found it hard to tackle the menace of Murali. In 2001, Murali took as many as 23 wickets at just 19.9 against India. It included a couple of five wicket hauls as Lanka defeated India 2-1.

England team did well to comeback from behind to defeat Lanka 2-1 in 01, but Murali was waiting for them and when England came to the shores of Lanka in 03/04, he was ready for them as at that time he had fully developed the doosra. Now, let me frankly say that England team that played in Lanka in 03/04 had some fine players of spin like Thorpe, Tres and Vaughan, but all the batsmen were just bamboozled by Murali's ability to bowl doosra. He took 26 wickets at just 12.3 in that series as Lanka won the series 1-0. I do remember only Vaughan coming good in that series as he scored one of the better hundreds I have seen against Murali at Kandy, but as expected, most journalists only think about the knocks that Vaughan played in the Ashes and this knock at Kandy rarely gets mentioned!

The world champion team Australia whitewashed Lanka 3-0 in 04, but even they couldn't handle Murali's threat as he took 28 wickets in that series! He even went to India and took a seven wicket haul in 05, but couldn't get much support from the other end as Lanka lost that series.

Murali was a prolific wicket taker for Lancashire in county cricket as well as he helped the team to almost win their first title for more than 50 years. I do remember the former Warwickshire and Scotland all rounder Dougie Brown once saying that when he played against Murali, he saw the ball being delivered, but the next thing he knew was he was bowled! He just was too good for county batsmen as they were all at sixes and sevens against Murali.

It was also the time when Murali started to come around the wicket as most of the opposition batsmen were taking the off stump guard and blocking most of the deliveries that Murali would bowl by playing him with their pads. It would mean that batsmen can't be given out as he would have played that delivery outside the line of off stump. Murali coming around the wicket made him even more potent as batsmen couldn't block him and with the amount of turn Murali could impart along with that deadly doosra meant that batsmen were all at sea against him.

The decline of Murali

I once thought that Murali may even reach 1000 test wickets, but sadly for Murali it wasn't to be as this week he announced his retirement from test cricket. The amount of overs he bowled just took a heavy toll on his body as he started to get injured lots of times and as expected, he announced he would retire after the test series against India as it isn't a child's play to bowl 30, or 40 overs in a test match at the age of 37. As it is said that all good things have come to an end and sadly we aren't going to see Murali in 2011 in test cricket, but thankfully, we would see him for one last time against India and he may also play the world cup in subcontinent in 2011. One thing is for sure that batsmen would be happy Murali is going to retire!

Murali's wickets against weak teams and his struggles in Australia

One criticism leveled against Murali is that 176 of his wickets came against weak teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but the fact is, leaving Australia, he has succeeded against most other teams. It can also be said that players like Goodwin and Whittall were decent players of spin and of course, I have to talk about the underrated Andy Flower who, developed into one of the best players of spin. People who support Murali can even say that Zimb batsmen were perhaps better than England's batsmen in the 90's as most of England's batsmen were afraid of leaving their crease.

People also talk about his struggles against Australia, but it has be said that it isn't easy for any bowler if crowd starts chanting no ball every time a bowler bowls and even the Prime Minister of the land calls him a chucker.

Murali and his batting

I would also like to talk a bit about his batting. He was a natural number 11, but there was never a dull moment when he was batting. He would make room and either look to slog the bowler over the cow corner, or  through the long off region. He surely annoyed a few teams with his batting as I can remember him scoring a crucial half century against India in 01, he also was able to consistently annoy England’s bowlers in 03/04 and recently he won a game against Zimbabwe by coming up with some big hits. The simple fact is, there was never a dull moment when Murali was batting!

Batsmen who played well against Murali

The first batsman that comes to my mind would be Lara as he was just amazing against Murali in 01. Other Windies batsmen were at sixes and sevens against Murali, but Lara got huge scores against Murali on turning tracks. Even now Murali rates Lara as the best batsman he has bowled to.

Early in his career, Andy Flower struggled big time against Murali, but once he got the hang of playing spin, he became a nightmare for every spinner going around. At his peak, from 97 to 01 he was outstanding against Murali both at home and in Lanka. I still rate his knock of 129 at Harare in 99/00 against Murali and co. as one of the best knocks I have seen against spin. Infact, after that series ended, Ranatunga jokingly said the only way to get Flower out was through a run out!

Haq too was very good against Murali and was rarely troubled by Murali. In fact, other Pakistan's batsmen like Yousuf and Younis Khan too were good against him.

Thorpe and Fleming too had success against Murali. Thorpe was at his best against Murali in 01 and Fleming was at his best in 03 when he made a double century at Galle.

Of course, I can't leave out the Indian maestro Tendulkar, but I always thought that he was at his best against the other great spinner of modern times  Warne.

Among others, KP played a devastating knock on a slow pitch at Edgbaston, but struggled on slow pitches of Lanka. He still has the time on his hands to correct it. Cronje had some success against Murali in 98 as he used his reach to good effect to come down the wicket and play that slog sweep. Vaughan played one glorious knock against Murali in 03/04, but one knock doesn't make anyone a very good player. Sidhu had lots of success against Murali, but that was the time when Murali seemed to be lacking in self belief though, it has to be said that Sidhu was no doubt one of the best players of spin.

Murali and controversy

Of course, I can't write an article on Murali without discussing about the controversy surrounding his action. He was first called for chucking in 95/96 at Melbourne by Hair. Interestingly, Hair had already stood in few series in which Murali had bowled like the Sharjah champions trophy and didn't find anything wrong with his action, but at Melbourne he called him for chucking. He was cleared by the ICC, but in 04, question marks were again raised over his doosra which made ICC take up the help of bio-mechanists who, after an extensive research came up with some startling revelations.

At that time, the limit for spinners was five degrees, but based on studies of bowling actions it revealed that leaving Sarwan, 99% of the bowlers exceeded the elbow flexion limits. As a result, ICC revised the limits applying to all bowlers and Murali's doosra falls within those limits.

I have to admit that in the past I had my doubts over Murali's action, but  now I think his action is legitimate.

Albondiga who surely knows a thing or two about cricket on Murali's action,

"Muralitharan will always bring out opinions regarding bowling actions . Me ?? I simply believe that it is impossible to effectively throw when the ball follows the hand on its path. To throw it is necessary to have the hand and the fingers behind the ball otherwise there is nothing to be gained from any straightening of the arm"

I also remember even the great Sir Donald Bradman saying that there is nothing wrong with his action.People may always have question marks over his action as it is unique and looking at it for the first time, it seems like he is throwing. I don't mind anyone questioning his action as they have the right to do so, but the kind of abuse he received in Australia was very unfortunate.

Murali is also a gentleman on and off the field and when the tragic natural disaster tsunami befell on Sri Lanka, Murali did a lot of charity work.

Anyway, I would always be grateful that I was able to see two of the greatest spinners of all time Warne and Murali bamboozle the best of batsmen. I would end it by saying that Murali may not have been a purists delight like Warne, but in my humble opinion, he is the most effective spinner of all time and if I pick an all time world team, he would be in the team.