Category: Cricket and Sports



“I kept getting tripped up and kicked to pieces …,” said Brazil’s superstar player, “and the referee did nothing to protect me or my teammates from these rough-house tactics.”

Neymar, describing how he was battered at this World Cup and is now out after a Colombian opponent fractured his back?

No, this was Pele, recalling opponents’ vicious fouls that hobbled him at the 1966 tournament, part of what prompted a (later rescinded) vow from the king of futebol never to play in the World Cup again.

In short, the warning signs that Neymar was going to be targeted, that rival players without his genius would use force to stop him because they don’t have his skills, were decades old. They were there for all to see in Brazil — except, clearly, for referees and FIFA officials who are as guilty as Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga for Neymar’s ruined World Cup. They did too little to protect the 22-year-old from football’s brutes, the cynical masters of the dark art of kicking rivals black, blue and out.

And now it’s too late. Time will mend Neymar’s fractured third vertebra. But it will never be able to give back the one chance he had to win the World Cup on home soil. He will have retired whenever football’s showcase tournament next visits these shores. That wound can never be healed.

Zuniga’s post-match explanation — “I didn’t mean to hurt him” — was as worthless as Brazil’s currency in the days of hyperinflation. Zuniga may not have intended to break a bone. But any time anyone takes a running jump at the small of someone’s back with their knee raised like a battering ram, physical damage is likely, predictable and so also avoidable.

At best, Zuniga was reckless. We would call police and personal injury lawyers if someone charged us like this on the street, sending us to hospital. In football, Zuniga’s lack of care toward another human being didn’t even earn him a caution.

FIFA and the Brazilian government needed so badly for the football to be brilliant at this World Cup. And it has been, partly because FIFA referees are being lenient with fouls, not handing out as many cautions and red cards as they should and letting play run on. That is what Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo did when Zuniga ended Neymar’s World Cup, leaving him face down in agony on the pitch.

But what Carballo didn’t do is as much of a concern. He blew for 54 fouls but handed out just four yellow cards, two to Brazilians and two to Colombians. In short, he saw ugly play all around him but didn’t do enough to stop it.

That is being repeated across this World Cup. There was no caution for Belgium players who hacked in succession at Lionel Messi’s legs as he made a first-half run for goal in Saturday’s quarterfinal The slow-motion was hypnotic, revolting, showing boots aiming not for the ball but for the calves, shins and ankles of the four-time world player of the year.

The hatchet-men are so good, trained even, at hiding their destructive intent. They leave seemingly innocent legs trailing like trip-wire. When they could land on grass, they instead come down on opponents’ ankles and feet, fragile bones vulnerable in today’s ultra-light shoes.

They tag-team, taking turns to foul particularly gifted players to lessen the risks of a referee’s card for repeat offending. They pretend to look elsewhere when they thunder into a collision. When he flattened Neymar, Zuniga was looking up at a ball he was never going to get, because it was falling for the Brazilian in his path.

And don’t fall for the myth that Brazil players are above such cynicism. They targeted Neymar’s opposite number for Colombia, James Rodriguez. Watching two 22-year-olds being bullied was not pleasant.

FIFA statistics counted 35 tackles on Neymar at this World Cup. Just one player so far got more, Chile’s Alexis Sanchez, with 36. FIFA’s tallies also show Neymar was one of the most fouled players. That is to be expected given that he runs at opponents and, as an attacker, is at the heart of the fray.

But unexpected and alarming is why referees are being more lenient than they have been for decades. According to FIFA, they have shown an average of fewer than three yellow cards per game, a rate lower than at any World Cup since Mexico in 1986.

“The bar for yellow cards has been set much too high,” retired Swiss referee Urs Meier, who officiated at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, wrote Saturday for the website of German weekly Focus.

“An awful lot is being tolerated,” he added. “No one should be surprised that people are injured.”

But with FIFA’s referees curbing their interventions, games have been end-to-end and goals have rained in. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, both eyeing re-election, are delivering World Cup bread and circus. The pulsating football has, for now, largely pushed aside bothersome questions about spending billions on stadiums and suspected corruption.

Even without Neymar or Messi or Mueller, the show must go on.

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Chris Gayle has got four whirlwind hundreds in the IPL this season. But it’s an eye-opener to find how he plays an ‘average over’. That is six balls. Let’s get down to the number-crunching game.

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RCB’s Gayle has score 512 runs in those four innings facing 232 balls. In that, he has played 78 ‘dot’ balls, hit 40 fours and 46 sixes, played 154 scoring shots, scored 436 runs in boundaries and 76 runs in other ways. He has played 68 balls which were neither boundary balls, nor ‘dot’ balls.

Based on this information, we can conclude that he had scored at 13.24 runs per over during those century knocks.

And ‘on an average’ (collating the above stats), his six balls went like this: two ‘dot’ balls, two singles, one four and one six. That’s 12 runs. Those additional 1.24 runs are offset because of his sixes and additional singles. He had hit a six per five balls in those tons. So in five overs, he had hit six sixes. 

His four IPL hundreds came against KKR and Kings XI (both in 2011), vs Delhi (2012) and vs Pune this year.

Without taking any credit away from Gayle, it must be said that the Jamaican has feasted on ordinary attacks due to his amazing skills. He faced 26 bowlers in those century knocks. But only two (Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar) seem to be world-class.

Here is list of bowlers from Gayle’s hundred knocks.

KKR:
 Irfan Pathan, Balaji, Unadkat, Shakib, Bhatia, Tiwary, Abdullah.
Kings XI:
 Praveen Kumar, Harris, McLaren, Ablish, Chawla, Nayar.
Delhi:
 Irfan, Umesh Yadav, Aaron, Russell, Negi, Venugopal Rao.
Pune:
 Bhuvnesh, I Pandey, Dinda, M Marsh, Murtaza, Finch and Wright.

Of these, seven are foreigners and 19 Indian bowlers (most of them don’t play in international T20s).

Though the runs scored by Gayle per over during his century knocks against the Indian bowlers (13.03) and foreigners (13.7) don’t differ much, he had hit one boundary per three balls against foreigners; and one boundary per 2.72 balls against Indians.

Gayle had faced 19 combined balls of Yadav and Bhuvnesh scoring 26 runs with two fours and two sixes with nine ‘dot’ balls. That comes to just 8.21 runs per over, way low than his overall 13.24.

Of these 26 bowlers, he had played ‘dot’ balls against 24 of them, excluding Ablish and Finch. But then, these two bowlers are a part of those six (others being Tiwary, Abdullah, Nayar and Rao) who didn’t bowl a minimum of six balls to Gayle.

It’s clear that Gayle manages his dot balls, nerves and singles remarkably well; plans his assaults; and executes his boundaries in cold-blooded fashion.

His cool exterior hides his basic instinct to attack. It’s quite clear that the relative quieter moments that he spends on the crease help him hit boundary shots at will.

So, the challenge for the opposition think-tank remains in forcing him reach to the ball with marked front-foot movement; bowling with wicket-taking, and not containing, intentions with quality bowlers (preferably swing or offspin); or unsettling him so that he can come out of his well-spread routine of dots, singles and boundary balls.

If Gayle continues to bat like this, even attempts of mental disintegration through verbal volleys, or other innovative means, can’t be ruled out.


Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, whose flamboyance on and off the cricket field remains unrivalled, died on Thursday in New Delhi. He was 70. Pataudi suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis ‘ an irreversible progressive lung disease ‘ and was admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on August 29. Hospital officials said his immediate family members ‘ wife Sharmila Tagore, son Saif and daughters Saba and Soha ‘ were with him for the past three days. Pataudi’s last rites will be held on Friday.What kind of cricketer was Mansur Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi, junior?

As a schoolboy in England, then known as the Nawab of Pataudi, junior, he was coached by a former Test all-rounder named George Geary. Geary was so impressed by the soundness of his technique and the range of his strokeplay that he predicted that his ward would become the next Donald Bradman. The Englishman knew what he was talking about, for he had bowled to the Don in the summer of 1930, when the Australian scored 974 runs in the four Tests he played.

The young Nawab went on to Oxford, where he hit a hundred against Cambridge, and two hundreds against an exceptionally strong Yorkshire side which included three Test bowlers. With four matches left to play in the summer of 1961, he was 92 runs short of his father’s record for most runs in a season for Oxford, when he met with a road accident, and lost the use of an eye.

Pataudi learnt how to bat afresh, and fought his way into the Indian Test team. Asked when he thought he could conquer his handicap, he answered: “When I saw the England bowling.” A year after making his international debut, he became the youngest ever Test captain. That was merely one of many records that he, a man who did not otherwise care for personal achievement, was to set.

Pataudi was the only man to score Test hundreds with the use of one eye. He was one of 10 sons to emulate their father in scoring a Test hundred ‘ but the only one to do so while playing for another country. Pataudi was the first Indian captain to win a Test series abroad (in New Zealand in 1967-68).

These records testify to Pataudi’s cricketing prowess. But he also holds a more curious distinction. To my knowledge, there are only three people who have played Test cricket under two different names. Two were converts: thus Yousuf Youhana became Mohammed Yusuf after embracing Islam, while Amritsar Gurugobind Kripal Singh was known as Arnold George Kripal Singh after marrying a Christian girl and accepting her faith. Pataudi’s own change of name had to do with the march of history. When, in 1970, the Government of India abolished princely titles and privy purses, the captain of India, henceforth known in the scorebook as “Nawab of Pataudi, junior”, became, simply, “M.A.K. Pataudi”.

Beyond the personal records ‘ curious or substantial ‘ Tiger Pataudi shall be remembered for two large contributions to Indian cricket. Apart from his batsmanship, he was a top-class fielder. Old-timers in the Sussex town of Hove still remember an impromptu competition, called when rain had stopped play, between Tiger and the great South African cover point Colin Bland. The two men, in turns, were given balls to chase and hurl back at a single wicket behind which stood a journeyman in gloves. The Indian matched the Springbok both in fleetness of foot and in the accuracy of his arm.

As captain of India, Pataudi set high standards in the field. He had a special eye for younger cricketers who matched him in that department. Eknath Solkar, Syed Abid Ali and Srinivas Venkatraghavan were three great fielders who made their Test debuts under him. Pataudi was the first Indian captain to emphasise the importance of fielding, throwing, and catching. And he was the first Indian captain to be completely non-parochial. He worked heroically to challenge the sectarian tendencies that then beset the game in this country ‘ with selectors promoting players from their own state, and even senior players doing likewise.

Pataudi himself encouraged talented youngsters regardless of class, caste, religion, or linguistic group. Among his proteges were the aforementioned Solkar ‘ the son of a groundsman in Bombay ‘ two lower-middle-class boys from Karnataka (G.R. Viswanath and B.S. Chandrasekhar), and the Sikh slow bowler Bishan Singh Bedi.

Pataudi was the son of a nawab whose mother had married into the most famous Muslim family in north India. His own wife was a celebrated, and high-born, film star. Despite a background steeped in ‘ and consolidated by ‘ privilege, he played always for the team. In 1971 Pataudi lost his place in the Indian Test side as both captain and player. He fought his way back, returning eighteen months later to play under the captaincy of the plebeian Ajit Wadekar.

He gave nothing less than his best, as in a match-winning innings in the Madras Test, where his sweeps and cuts were a simultaneous affirmation of his team spirit and his continuing scepticism about the quality of the England bowling. Pataudi’s love of cricket contrasted sharply with the love of self-promotion that marks some of his contemporaries.

During the telecast of the ceremonies at the conclusion of the last Test series in England tells me that after giving away the trophy that bears his family’s name, Pataudi began speaking, in his characteristically polite and euphemistic way, of the fact that a good Test team required a robust domestic first-class competition. The Indian television commentators, sensing a challenge to their own complicity in the destruction of the Ranji Trophy, steered the conversation into safer channels.

When he had two eyes, Tiger Pataudi bid fair to become the next Bradman; with only one he was capable of scoring runs against the best attacks. And whether playing with one eye or two, he remains one of the finest fielders to wear Indian colours.

What kind of sportsman was M.A.K. Pataudi? That question can best be answered by setting him alongside his contemporaries. Think then of a player who was as charismatic as Salim Durani, as brave as Mohinder Amarnath, as independent-minded as Bishan Singh Bedi, and as affable in personal demeanour as G.R. Viswanath.

That man was Tiger Pataudi.

(This is an excerpt of an article by Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph. )

Some call him Loinel. I won’t be surprised if the odd guy calls him Linen.  No matter how people pronounce his first name, the sports news of the moment is that Lionel Messi will play here, in India, today. The Argentine football wizard traps and dribbles as if the ball were an extension of his body.  It is pure magic. Many football lovers will place the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona ahead of him. However, Messi is assured of a high rank in practically any list of great footballers of all time.

Argentina played a friendly match with Venezuela in a while.  However, we,  the Indians, were ecstatic since Messi was expected to showcase his enviable skills on our turf. Fans both old and young were eager to catch a glimpse of the man, if not in the fortunate city of Kolkata, at least on the television. TV watchers experienced a special pleasure because Messi, accompanied by cheering Indian fans inside the stadium, was psychologically closer. Although the master has stayed away from the spotlight and did not deliver as expected, photographs and articles have created so much curiosity that even non-watchers of the game wished to witness the moment when he will touch the ball for the first time.

Life, in other words, is so Messi. As the magic promises to unfurl, we are waiting with bated breath. One possible consequence of his coming lies beyond his playing in a friendly outing. While watching Messi and co. do magic with the ball, chances are that we will think about the state of Indian football.

Despite having a fairly high football-playing population – especially in the rural areas – India is an insignificant player in the arena of international football. Are we okay on the talent front? That question can be conclusively answered only when we start delivering on the big stage. As of now, the possibility seems remote. What we do know is that Indian football, like its many other counterparts barring cricket, is a hapless victim of inadequate facilities and very little exposure. Those  players who promise in the initial stages do not go beyond a certain – exceptionally limited – level since they aren’t well looked after. What is worse, far worse, is that few seem to care. The voices of some who do get buried in the sustained cacophony of cricket.

It is in such a nation that Messi will unveil his magic. As we watch him play, some of us might ask ourselves: when will an Indian footballer run with the ball so smoothly, dodging human obstacles with divine ease as he does? While football is an ignored sport, shall we ever produce a Pele who practiced with a sock stuffed with paper since he could not afford the real thing?

How and when Indian football will attain some significant recognition is a question that all lovers of the game wish to answer. That we had a decent enough team is a reality of decades ago, its counterpart of today being thoroughly incapable of making an impact on the big stage of the world.

When Messi plays, our journey through the match will be a trek in trance. But, once the show is over, some of us might sit back and think: when will India’s footballing poverty finally end?


The little master can work wonders with his bat, but when it comes to captaincy, it just doesn’t click for Sachin Tendulkar!!. It has happened in his two stints as India skipper and even after his fourth year as Mumbai Indians captain, it’s the same old story. The world knows that Tendulkar has one of the shrewdest cricketing minds, but when it comes to taking decisions as captain, all the moves seem to backfire.

It happened in last year’s IPL final when he held back Kieron Pollard till the 17th over and the West Indian just did’nt have enough overs to take them to the title. This time too, some of the decisions Tendulkar took at the MA Chidambaram Stadium against Royal Challengers simply defied logic.

It started with winning the toss and choosing to field first on a pitch where teams batting first have won six out of the seven games this season. Tendulkar had an explanation to give at the prize distribution ceremony but it hardly had any takers. “When we were playing CSK in the first season, they scored more than 200 and we lost by three runs,” Tendulkar said. Three years have passed since then and Tendulkar has played enough games here to know that the pitch has only got slower. Daniel Vettori, the Royal Challengers’ skipper, made it clear that Tendulkar, by opting to field, had made things a little easier for him. “If we had won the toss, we would have batted first. But then, sometimes, it works, sometimes it does-n’t,” Vettori said.

Mumbai Indians’ James Franklin looked like a lamb to the slaughter as he was made by the management to face the barrage of questions. “The toss decision was team management’s. I did not know much about it.” Journos across the media room couldn’t hide their smiles when the Kiwi came up with that explanation. If the toss decision was the first one, the second one was to make Abu Nachem Ahmed bowl the first over. With Lasith Malinga in the line-up, one could not expect that the Sri Lankan would be unleashed to keep Chris Gayle in check. The Assam bowler just not know where to bowl as Gayle plundered 27 runs off the first over to set the tone for the game.

Vettori, quite predictably, avoided the query whether he was surprised, saying “someone had to bowl,” but the fact remains that Mumbai Indians struggled to fight back after than one over. Tendulkar said that he would have expected the middle-order to be a little more consistent, but then he didn’t specify why Harbhajan Singh got promoted to No.3 while a chance was never taken with somebody like Pollard. Harbhajan may have a couple of test hundreds under his belt, but he is not known to anchor an innings coming in at No.3. “He hit the winning runs for us against Kolkata Knight Riders,that’s why we took a chance with him,” Franklin’s explanation was again very weak.

But then, the Little Master will probably try his luck once again next year, an who knows, something better may just be in store!!!

IPL – 4 Dream Team


To select a dream team is an invitation to create fuss. It is an opportunity to contemplate and then bicker on whom to take and whom to leave out of the elite list. With a vast pool of superlative displays in IPL-4, it becomes all the more difficult to pick and choose just eleven players in a group where many others have performed well. Fully aware of the pitfalls of creating a ‘Dream Team’, I have sourced from India Syndicate and MSN and tried to stagger an outline of what can be called as the best eleven cricketers in the ongoing IPL. The final stamp of authority though, lies with you the reader. If you think my eleven is no match for yours, sign into the feedback section below and pour your heart out.

Chris Gayle (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

He came, he saw and he did not wait too long to blast away. Chris Gayle joined Royal Challengers Bangalore after two weeks of IPL action and slammed a ton in his first match against Kolkata Knight Riders. Thereafter, he continued to provide rocket-paced starts and soon notched up his second century against Kings XI Punjab. Bangalore produced a series of flops in their initial matches, but once Gayle came into the picture the team surged ahead in the rankings table.

Matches Runs Highest Average
10 519 107 74.14

 Virender Sehwag ( Delhi Daredevils)

To leave Virender Sehwag out of any team sheet would be a grave folly. Sehwag was on song in the IPL, but sadly most of his team-mates performances were way out of tune. And thus, Daredevils failed to finish among the top four teams even though Sehwag consistently fired with the bat. The Sehwag showpiece this season was a blistering 119 against the Deccan Chargers at Ferozeshah Kotla, which singlehandedly lifted Delhi to a much-needed win.

Matches Runs Highest Average
11 424 119 38.54

 Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

That Virat Kohli is the only player in the IPL whose average touches fifty without ticking off the century box is enough proof of his consistency. There has been a certain confidence in Kohli’s demeanour at the crease and the runs have flowed in buckets. What makes Kohli a valuable player is the ability to change his game according to the situation. He can run hard to steal that vital single or hit-out to up the scoring rate.

Matches Runs Highest Average
14 514 71 51.40

Michael Hussey (Chennai Super Kings)

How quickly Michael Hussey changes gear? A tough middleorder Test and ODI batsman to an explosive opener in IPL, Hussey has not only thrived successfully season after season, he has also made heads turn with his match-winning ability. The left-hander has been solid at the top for Chennai Super Kings without losing pace, and it is this quality which makes him all the more valuable.

Matches Runs Highest Average
13 429 83* 39.00

Ambati Rayudu (Mumbai Indians)

Out of the twelve fifty plus partnerships by the Mumbai Indian batsmen, Ambati Rayudu features in half of them. Rayudu has contributed in two of the three century-stands for Mumbai. Such has been Rayudu’s influence in the team which supposedly banks heaviest on its captain, Sachin Tendulkar. Rayudu has been almost a perfect T20 player for Mumbai. He lifts the run-rate at will and when the need of the hour is to keep a cool head, Rayudu does not disappoint.

Matches Runs Highest Average
15 395 63* 30.38

Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians)

There was never an iota of doubt about Rohit Sharma’s class but his temperament and fitness constantly came under the scanner. Watching a slimmed down Sharma unfurling lofted drives and elegant pulls was a refreshing change from his previous slothful efforts with the Indian team. Rohit looked hungry to score runs and a tally of over 300 runs in the tournament is not a bad harvest for someone who had been out of action for a considerable period of time.

Matches Runs Highest Average
15 359 87 35.90

MS Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings) 

Dhoni’s Midas touch continues in the fourth edition of the IPL. Captain Marvel has once again guided Chennai into their fourth consecutive IPL final. And it has not only been about astute captaincy and brilliant bowling changes and field placements. With the bat in his hand, Dhoni has answered the call most number of times. A fourth IPL-final spot sealed, Dhoni would now aim for a second successive title win.

Matches Runs Highest Average
15 370 70* 47.25

Lasith Malinga (Mumbai Indians)

In one word, Lasith Malinga, has been breathtaking this IPL. The Lankan pacer has ripped open batting sides like a can of beans and in the process won many games for the Mumbai Indians. A hostile spell of bowling against Delhi Daredevils saw Malinga bag five wickets. The ruthless display was just the beginning of what turned out to be an amazing tournament for Malinga.

Matches Wickets Best Economy rate
15 28 5-13 5.94

Amit Mishra (Deccan Chargers) 

Apart from smacking Munaf Patel for four boundaries in one over, Amit Mishra did a lot more to book his place in India’s ODI squad for the five-match series in the West Indies. The legspinner bagged 19 wickets in the tournament and took his second hat-trick in the IPL against Kings XI Punjab.

Matches Wickets Best Economy rate
14 19 4-9 6.71

Ravichandran Ashwin (Chennai Super Kings) 

Dhoni has often thrown the ball to Ashwin in the opening overs and the offspinner has come out with flying colours. His frugal bowling spells have ensured that the opposition openers don’t run away with the game and more often than not his tidy efforts have resulted in a much-deserved wicket. The offspinner has used his ‘carrom’ ball with devastating effect and it is this special delivery which ended Gayle’s innings early in the qualifier against Bangalore.

Matches Wickets Best Economy rate
15 17 2-12 6.30

Doug Bollinger (Chennai Super Kings)

Bollinger’s left-arm bowling has fetched him 16 IPL wickets this season. His exploits in the IPL had already made Bollinger a hot favourite with the Chennai crowd, and the Australian pacer’s sturdy displays have ensured that he loses none of his fan following. In spite of playing lesser games than some of the other top-wicket takers in the tournament, Bollinger has still made an impact on the list of highest wicket-takers.

Matches Wickets Best Economy rate
12 16 3-21 6.84

Paul Valthaty (Kings XI Punjab)

Valthaty’s unbeaten match-winning 120 runs pushed the Punjab into the limelight. But the fact is even after that blistering century, Valthaty came up with some handy knocks for KXIP and finished with a creditable 463 runs in 14 games. Adding to his batting exploits, Valthaty’s four-wicket haul against the Deccan Chargers early on in the tournament makes him a hot pick for the twelfth man spot.

Matches Runs Highest AVG
14 463 120* 35.61


If T20 cricket is the dumb man’s Cricket (one can’t call it the poor man’s cricket can one?), then Ambati Rayudu is the dumb man’s Javed Miandad. Both Cricinfo and the Times of India have alluded to the Miandad comparison. An accomplished batsman, once the brightest star in India’s age group batting firmament, Rayudu should be embarassed. The similarity between the two events is limited to where the ball was hit – square on the leg side, what type of ball it was – a full toss, and the number of runs needed off the last ball – 4. Beyond that, those two events are as different as chalk and cheese.

It does not suit the IPL or Cricinfo or any media organization, to write headlines in negative terms. “Mindless Final Over Madness Ends In Indians Victory” or “Bala Bombed, Indians Win” or “Franklin Edges Indians past Knight Riders”, would have all been more accurate headlines, but there are no heroes or villains in those stories. There is a suggestion of incompetence in the second one, accident in the third. This type of headline making is not limited to India’s shamelessly forward news outlets. TV New Zealand has run the headline “Franklin Powers Mumbai into playoffs”.

Miandad’s century (he made 116 in 114 balls) came in a run chase in a final. Pakistan were chasing 246 which in 1986 was akin to a 275 chase today. Miandad batted for over 200 runs in  Pakistan’s chase and saw Pakistan lose 7 wickets at the other end. That six off Chetan Sharma’s full toss was prefaced by a long and grueling battle in a high pressure situation. Every time someone hits a six to win a limited overs game, it can’t possibly be called a Miandad Moment. This has nothing to do with the deep wound Javed Miandad caused on that April day on the psyche of the Indian cricket fan, but simply to do with seriously watching cricket.

Here is something that seems to happen with remarkable regularity in T20 cricket. A serious reading of the game leaves one with the conclusion that the losing side did not deserve to lose and the winning side did not deserve to win. Batsmen take chances, and more often than not, with only 9 fielders and a wicket keeper available, miscues go to the boundary. And given how short the contest is, a few miscues are usually enough.

Yet, these things have to be papered over in the reporting. The language of T20 Cricket is borrowed wholly from the language of Test Cricket or even ODI Cricket – both games in which chance plays a much lesser role in the outcome – both contests which have to be affirmatively won and which are never won by accident. This use of language serves the purpose of legitimizing T20, undeservedly in my view, and also allows news reporters to get away with being lazy. For example Cricinfo’s “Plays of the Day” makes no mention of the fact that off the 21 required in the final over, Franklin scored 12 off the edge of the bat, or that 4 of the six balls were full tosses.

In the 2011 IPL, a boundary (4 or 6) has been hit once every over on average, while a six has been hit once every 26 balls, if you look at all the 199 batsmen who have faced at least one ball. In the 1985-86 ODI season, a six was hit once every 209 balls, while a boundary was hit once every 20 balls.

Whatever it may have been, Rayudu’s slog was definitely not a Miandad Moment. It was to Miandad’s effort what a bad spoof of Sholay would be to that film genre. The same can be said of T20s relationship to Cricket. But you wouldn’t know that if you read the coverage of the IPL. There are no glorious uncertainties in the IPL, not even inglorious ones, only accidents.


The latest of the series on the recently concluded ICC Cricket world cup is the players who were missing from the latest edition.

Hershelle Gibbs, South Africa: His autobiography may have been a gripping read, but its vivid depiction of the cliques in the South African dressing room helped end his international career. Which is a great shame, because, even at 36, Gibbs’s panache and audacity at the crease, best illustrated in his 111-ball 175 against Australia, have the capacity to thrill – as does his fielding.

Marcus Trescothick, England: For a man often described as ‘stand and deliver’ in his style, Trescothick is remarkably nimble on his feet. Of all the examples of his clean striking in the opening overs of ODI innings, perhaps the best was against Glenn McGrath in the Champions Trophy in 2004: Trescothick, happy to charge virtually any quick, drove McGrath for four consecutive boundaries. If he made himself available, there is no doubt Trescothick would have been opening for England: Andrew Strauss’s forays down the wicket look almost apologetic in comparison.

VVS Laxman, India: Too orthodox for ODIs? Perhaps, but tell Australia, against who he’s scored four centuries at an average of 46. If Hashim Amla can become the top-ranked one-day batsman in the world, it seems strange that there is no place for Laxman in India’s side. His classical style looks incongruous in Twenty20, certainly, but a man with his range of shots and ability to accelerate could be invaluable in ODIs.

Brad Hodge, Australia: Despite seven centuries in his past 20 Australian domestic one-day games and a limited-overs know-how few batsmen can match, there’s no place for Hodge at the World Cup. Labelled the “hard-luck story of the century” by Matthew Hayden, it’s pretty hard to argue – rumours that he never fitted into the Australian dressing room are one potential explanation.

Owais Shah, England: Overly intense and a shoddy fielder he may be, but Shah has a six-hitting ability England appear to lack in their middle-order. That much was epitomised by an 89-ball 98, with six maximums, against South Africa in the 2009 Champions Trophy. And his ease against spin helped him average 59 in England’s last one-day series in India. In the absence of Eoin Morgan, could Shah have been England’s finisher?

Zulqarnain Haider, Pakistan: Remembered for fleeing mid-series against South Africa last year, promising to blow the whistle on match-fixers, Haider retired from cricket aged just 24. Those who saw his superbly gritty 88 on Test debut last summer will know he should be in South Asia now, rather than England.

Albie Morkel, South Africa: The ‘next Klusener’ did not appear in the World Cup. For a fifth bowler, he was always too liable to be expensive with the ball. Nevertheless, South Africa may long for him when chasing eight-an-over: Morkel can exploit the batting Powerplay like few others, most notably when looting Australia for 40* (off 18) and 40 (off 22) in two match-winning innings down under in 2009.

Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s skipper will rue the change in the format from 2007: if 16 teams were permitted as they were then, he would have appeared in the World Cup. An off-spinning allrounder who also has a first-class hundred to his name, Nabi is a useful cricketer who, with 13 wickets at 10 in the World Twenty20 qualifiers last year, did more than anyone to secure Afghanistan’s place in that tournament.

Mohammad Amir, Pakistan: Yes, yes, we know why he won’t be playing, and that is right. But there’s no denying the sight of Amir’s mastery of the left-arm craft would have added to the tournament. Facing him under lights is not a prospect any opener would relish.

Simon Jones, England: The notion of a fit Jones may seem ridiculous, but his performances in the Caribbean Twenty20 competition, including claiming 4-10 in four overs, served as a reminder of his reverse swing mastery of ’05, as well as his oft-ignored subtleties. Still capable of touching 90mph, could he yet play for England again, if used in a manner akin to Australia with Shaun Tait?

Shane Bond, New Zealand: A slight cheat of a selection in that he’s retired, but what a shame it is. His last series – nine wickets at 21 against Australia last year – suggested Bond still possessed a genuine threat at international level. With express pace and canny use of bouncers, yorkers, cutters and slower balls alike Bond, even at 35, would have provided New Zealand’s attack with the cutting edge they are conspicuously lacking.


After the posts on the scoring trends and the report card for the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, this post is for eleven of the best players whose World Cup is over, featuring at least one player from each of the six knocked-out sides. Sit back, read, enjoy and comment…

Imrul Kayes, Bangladesh: While Tamim fired only briefly, his less obtrusive opening partner was the nearest Bangladesh had to a reliable batsman this tournament. Kayes provided the backbone for their successful chases over England and Netherlands, winning the Man-of-the-Match award in both games.

Ed Joyce, Ireland: His long-awaited return to Ireland colours was a disappointment in many ways – how Joyce will rue his soft dismissal against Bangladesh. But his 84 against West Indies, which begun with consecutive boundaries, was a testament to his class: he is surely the most aesthetically pleasing batsman any of the Associate nations possess.

Collins Obuya, Kenya: He is remembered for his sharp-turning leg-spin in the 2003 World Cup, when he took 5-24 in the victory against Sri Lanka. Obuya’s bowling has since subsided, but he has reinvented himself as a top-order batsman of genuine quality, as 243 tournament runs illustrates. It was a great shame he ended 98* against Australia, after he had handled Tait, Lee and Johnson with the calm of a Test player.

Niall O’Brien, Ireland: O’Brien will be extremely frustrated reflecting on this World Cup: he made starts in every innings but only once past 50. O’Brien’s relish for a challenge was illustrated by hitting Morne Morkel for six over long-on, one of the shots of the tournament, and an average in excess of 40 shows the quality of this most industrious of cricketers.

Ashish Bagai (wicketkeeper), Canada: Bagai was one of the best wicketkeepers on display in this World Cup, keeping with poise to seam and spin alike. And with the bat he was easily Canada’s best player, taking them to victory over Kenya and scoring an elegant 84 at almost a-run-a-ball against New Zealand.

Ryan ten Doeschate, The Netherlands: Ryan ten Doeschate came into the tournament with a reputation as the best Associate player in the world, and, with a century of both brawn and finesse against England, he quickly went about justifying it. Though runs proved harder to score thereafter, he chipped in with a half-century in difficult circumstances against Bangladesh, before ending the tournament with another magnificent hundred. His wicket-to-wicket bowling also troubled England.

Kevin O’Brien, Ireland: Critics will say he only played one innings of note, but what an innings. O’Brien 113 against England – including 45 off 15 balls during the batting powerplay – will be remembered for decades. As a display of brutal, calculated hitting it is hard to beat – and an IPL contract could be the ultimate reward.

Shafiul Islam, Bangladesh: Belying his ODI average of under 6, and three ducks in five innings this tournament, Shafiul proceeded to smash Swann and Anderson down the ground en route to raiding England for a match-winning 24*. His pace, movement and accuracy earned him 4/21 to clinch a narrow win over Ireland. But, like his team, Shafiul was hopelessly inconsistent, leaking 124 runs from 14 overs in Bangladesh’s three defeats.

George Dockrell, Ireland: When was there last an 18-year-old spinner with Dockrell’s control and big-match temperament? In the intense pressure of the opening game in partisan Dhaka, Dockrell’s wonderful 10 overs, in which he returned 2-23, ought to have secured Ireland victory. Thereafter, he only continued to impress, with the only shame that his skipper didn’t trust him to bowl to Kieran Pollard. What odds him representing England in 2015?

Ray Price, Zimbabwe: The man with the most theatrical expressions in world cricket illustrated his guile and skill with some admirable performances, notably 2-21 of eight overs against Pakistan, and was equally effective opening the bowling or bowling in the middle overs. Nine wickets at less than 19 deserved better support from his disappointing compatriots.

Harvir Baidwan, Canada: Canada’s bustling seamer was impressive throughout, making up for a lack of express pace with nagging consistency and a touch of movement. He will be rightly proud of his haul of 13 scalps, which included Brendon McCullum, Shane Watson and Younis Khan.


A blog dedicated to another favorite cricketer, a champion, a gentleman and a great ambassador of the game…

When it was suggested to Winston Churchill that it might not be a good idea to finish a sentence with a preposition, his response was “This is the sort of English up with which i will not put”. In a superb eighteen year career, Anil Kumble’s has been a comparable response to the spin bowling orthodoxy which insisted that it was absolutely paramount that a spin bowler turn the ball as much as possible.

Any discussion of Anil Kumble’s cricketing life must began with this astonishing reality – that he barely turned the ball. Of course, its not quite as simple as that, for he did give it a rip, delivering top-spinners and googlies, with the occasional leg-break which turned just enough to beat the width of the bat. He bowled faster than the classical leg spinner, and was also more accurate than the classical leg spinner. Anil Kumble was a unique spin bowler, just as Lasith Malinga is a unique fast bowler. This i think has been an under-appreciated point, especially in recent years.

Anil Kumble’s make up as a spin bowler must have a lot to do with his original ambition of being a fast bowler. That his bowling arm is higher than most orthodox leg spinners, is no surprise. His success as a bowler was down to his accuracy, and his ability to bowling tirelessly all day. He could outlast most batsmen if he didn’t deceive them. His early success came because batsmen, and especially tailenders could not come to terms with his unorthodoxy. They played him like an orthodox leg spinner. This was a ploy doomed from the outset, for given the speed of his bowling, the most potent weapon a batsman can have against an orthodox leg spinner – the ability to step out and loft the ball, was fraught with difficulty. Kumble would bowl wicket to wicket, and unless a batsman settled in on a good wicket, would ultimately reduce the batsman to prodding and block his way to a close in catch or an LBW. In his early days, Kumble’s bowling was about metronomic accuracy, bounce off the wicket, and a lethal faster one.

Towards the second half of the nineties, batsmen figured out a way to play Anil Kumble. The mantra was to play him as a seam up bowler who basically moved the ball in to the batsman. This was a successful play against Kumble. Batsmen were also getting used to facing Anil Kumble. He needed to reinvent himself, and did so by modifying his bowling style – bowling slower through the air, and adding a more orthodox googly. He was never a sly spin bowler in any classical sense. Instead, he was uncompromisingly competent. His bowling can be summed up by something he said after the 2003-04 tour to Australia about his newly developed orthodox googly. He said “I think they pick it, but they still have to play it”. Even though he was bowling differently in the second half of his career, he was at his core, the same bowler.

This change in approach dovetailed nicely, or was prompted by (take your pick) a change in India’s Test Match playing commitments in the 2000’s, compared to the 1990’s. The 1990’s was the decade of Anil Kumble’s absolute dominance in India. He was to India, what Muralitharan has been to Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in this decade. Overseas, Kumble was panned for not being as effective, but the telling fact of the 1990’s was, that with 101 wickets at 38.21, Kumble was India’s most prolific and most effective bowler overseas in the 1990’s. Srinath took 85 wickets at 35, but he was a fast bowler! In fact, Kumble has also been India’s most prolific wicket taker in overseas Tests in the 2000’s, but has had better support (Zaheer Khan 136 wickets at 32, Srinath 43 wickets at 31, Pathan 73 wickets at 25.57).

This has been the abiding reality of Anil Kumble’s epic eighteen year career as a Test Cricketer. Consider the fact, that from the time Kumble made his debut in England in 1990, the best Indian Test bowlers after him have been Harbhajan Singh (299 wickets at 30.96), Srinath (236 wickets at 30.49) and Zaheer Khan (188 wickets at 34.11). Anil Kumble has been responsible for one in every four Test wickets taken by an Indian bowler since his debut. He finished his career with one Test cap more than Kapil Dev, bowled in 9 innings more than Kapil Dev, and took 185 Test wickets more than Kapil Dev, at an identical bowling average. He took 5 wickets or more in an innings 35 times (only Murali, Warne and Hadlee have done it more often).

The comparison between Kumble and Warne is instructive. Warne was the better leg spinner without doubt, but consider this. Warne took 5 wickets in an innings 37 times in 273 innings for Australia, had a career bowling average of 25.41, and took at wicket every 57 balls. Anil Kumble took 5 wickets in an innings 36 times in 236 innings for India, had a career bowling average of 29.65, and took at wicket every 66 balls. Kumble and Warne had nearly identical economy rates, and despite having bowled in 37 fewer innings Kumble bowled 145 more deliveries in Test Cricket than Warne did. This statistical disparity has a lot to do with the amount of support both enjoyed at the other end. For one thing, the lack of support at the other end meant that Kumble ended up bowling on average 29 overs per Test innings, compared to Warne’s 25. In India, Kumble has invariably enjoyed quality spin bowling support at the other end (Raju, Chauhan, Harbhajan), and the results are evident.

This, in my view is the enduring fact of Anil Kumble’s career – he carried a weak Indian attack for most of his career, and did it in a way that no other bowler amongst his contemporaries anywhere in the world (with the exception of Muralitharan) has done.  He may have led India only in the last 12 months of his Test career, but if it is true that bowling wins Test Matches, then he has been India’s de facto leader in Test Cricket for most of his career.

619 is a lot of Test wickets, and any Indian bowler who surpasses Kumble’s tally will be a very very tired man at the end of it. The greatest tribute that coming generations of Indian Test bowlers can pay Anil Kumble, is to ensure that no single Indian bowler should have to carry the Indian Test Match bowling attack the way Anil Kumble has had to carry it, for it is unlikely that there.