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 Glenn McGrath- 300 and many more to come 
By Ruchika Khanna

Call him lethal; call him devastating, still it would not be enough to describe the kind of excitement McGrath creates on the field with his colossal talent and deadly bowling. He has been a tremendous asset for the Australian team with consistent match winning performances. Seldom has Australia found him wanting in his effort, as his levels of performances have been phenomenal. He sets such high standards for himself and for him to reach higher than them, is the biggest task. His line and length is so nagging that even the best of batsmen end up playing a false stroke. This man doesn’t make many mistakes and to take 300 wickets in 61 test matches is a tribute in itself for the tireless effort that he has put in to help Australia reach such amazing heights.

McGrath has been the backbone of the Australian line up simply because he revels under any condition, against any opposition. The best part about him is that he relishes a big challenge as he clearly says that he likes to bowl at the opposition’s best batsmen. That speaks highly of his caliber. He has taken Lara’s wickets thirteen times in test matches, which is a great achievement and as he wanted, his 300th victim was Lara. To add icing to the cake, he went on to take a hat- trick, a feat not everybody can achieve. He made history in more ways than one and at the rate at which he is going, there will be many more such achievements.

There was a time, when he was struggling with his injuries and his form as well, and anything could have happened. But the strength of character is tested when the odds are against you and those who are brave and determined, come back strongly. Australia depends strongly on him because he gets them early breakthroughs. He was largely instrumental in Australia’s victory in the World Cup and their success in test cricket. Even the emergence of Brett Lee did not change his style. In fact, it inflicted a healthy competition between these two and brought out the best in him. On one hand, Lee was breaking the oppositions back with his sheer pace and on the other, McGrath slowly but surely creating havoc in the batsmen’s mind and winning matches for Australia. 

McGrath has given a new meaning to pace bowling and has made test cricket much more interesting. It’s thanks to bowlers like him that test matches have started getting results. One can only hope that he gets better with each passing match so that we as an audience can marvel at this amazing talent.  

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 The life of a bookie

This is cricket off the field played far away from the noisy, floodlit grounds. It is played down in the dungeons or in some room of a five star hotel. This game is dirty, vicious and is based on greed, as everyone involved is trying to make a quick buck. A bookie gave a crystal clear picture of the life of a bookie to The Hindustan Times: 

When our game is on, we don’t even have time to use the bathroom. The phones ring incessantly and the bets keep pouring in,” he says. In the case of big bookies, an office is set up in a five star hotel room. There are mobile phones, charged and ready: an accountant is at hand to keep track of transactions. Each bid is taped because people often back out of commitments. And of course the TV sets: It is important to watch the match on different channels so that we don’t miss anything because of a commercial break,” the bookie explains, “ for odds keep changing with each delivery”.

Away from the luxury of swank hotels, ‘D’ category bookies solicit bets in cars parked on the highway or from shacks in the slums. They are armed with portable TVs and mobile phones. Unlike their wealthier counterparts- who won’t touch anything below half a peti (Rs 50, 000)- they will take bets starting at Rs. 2000. But even though they make similar profits, they are the ones who face the heat: there aren’t any ‘do not disturb’ signs on their doors to keep cops out. 

The Rule Book The Pecking Order
No walk-ins. Only punters with introducers allowed A. Category: accept bets between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 25 lakhs.
Cash down bets until you earn the trust of the bookie. B. Category: Accept bets between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 2 Lakh.
Pay-up on losses the next morning or face the army of collecting agents. C. Category: Accept bets between Rs. 5,000 and Rs 25, 000.
Written records torn up on payments D. Category: Accept bets between Rs. 2000 and Rs. 15,000.

People like Mumbai bookie Sopan Mehta - one of the select 100 odd invitees to Tendulkar’s wedding- open the odds”, says the Delhi bookie who books himself in the B+ category. The punters then start placing their bets, ignorant of the “color” of the match. But the bookie invariably knows which way the match has been fixed. He places his own bets accordingly- mocking the cliché about the game’s glorious uncertainties all the way to the bank.

But it is not always a win-win situation. Vinod Chembur, a Mumbai bookie, lost Rs 6 crore on a match that was washed out. Ruby Dilli, lost Rs 4.29 crore. He tried to slime out of his liabilities but was pressured into paying back half the amount. And Mohan Khattar , also from Delhi, has taken a well-timed holiday from his creditors.

But most of the thousand odd bookies in Delhi have the safety net of a second profession. Mukesh Gupta, the bookie who sang for the CBI, has a jewellery store. Others are into construction or run factories or shops. During cricket season, however, they evidently have no time for anything else.

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Should Eden Gardens be banned for a year as a punishment!!!
Ruchika Khanna

It all started with the semi-finals of the 1996 World Cup. Indian team was cruising along chasing a target of 220 plus against Sri-Lanka. Tendulkar and Manjrekar were batting and the score was at 97-1 when India lost the wicket of Sachin and there started the worst Indian batting collapse seen in a long time. From 97-1 Indian were reduced to 121-8. About 2.5 lakh people in the stadium were stunned, as they could not believe what transpired in those 30 minutes. To express their anger and shock they disrupted the game by throwing water bottle at the players. 

Inspite of repeated requests the crowd did not stop and the match was handed over to the Sri-Lankans who were the deserving winners. A similar kind of scenario took place in 1999 when Pakistan was playing a test match against India in Calcutta. Tendulkar got out after colliding with Akhtar and the crowd got angry and did the same thing as they had done 3years ago. There was a lot of criticism from all quarters but as it so often happens in this country the issue just died on its own. For a World Class venue to have such a rowdy crowd who can stop the game at their own will is a shame. To handle a crowd of more than 2 Lakhs is not an easy job and if something is not done to stop this then there will be more matches which will not be able to get finished. For once the BCCI should take a bold step and ban the venue for a year from holding any test match or one day international. To control such a huge crowd is not an easy thing and Indian police force has other duties to perform as well. If this venue is banned then it will be a lesson for those who have created such ruckus and have deprived millions of people from watching their teams play. Calcutta is a cricket crazy state and Eden Gardens is known to host the biggest matches, as it is no doubt a World Class stadium and it creates the best atmosphere for the game. But it doesn’t give anyone the right to forget that there are others as well. If this decision was to be taken than it will also be a message to other venues as well who have been culprits of the same crime but at a lesser degree.

The BCCI should take a serious look at it because if something is not done than such incidents will occur again and again and then it will set a trend for others to follow. People should be taught that loving your team is different than imposing those feelings on others. Let the game be the winner and the decider and not some crazy cricket fans.

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 Zahir Khan : Is he the right answer to India's pace bowling vows 
Ruchika Khanna

As Zaheer Khan ran into bowl against Kenya in the first match of the ICC Knockout Tournament, one could feel that this man had some talent. His run up and action was a bit reminiscent of Sri Lankan spearhead Chaminda Vaas and his pace was something of new sight to the Indian fan who has been tired of watching one medium pacer and the other being thrashed by the other teams. What was striking was the ease at which he was bowling and the temperament that he had. 

His Yorkers were too good for the batsmen and he was a perfect foil for Agarkar and Prasad. Though it is very early to pass a judgment on him as his real test would be against the Australians who are masters of playing pace bowling but we can only hope that even if he goes for runs, he should be given a lot of opportunities and should be nurtured. He should not meet the same fate as Ankola did, as not only was he given a break much later than he should have, but also he was not given ample opportunity.

Indian selectors must look towards the future and look for more young players. Zaheer Khan seems to be a good find and all he needs is proper guidance and lot of experience. He might fail also but at least he won’t have any complaints. Someone who has an eye for detail would realize that he has potential and he needs grooming. Indian team has been fairing rather poorly in the past few years and their fans trust has gone down considerably. To restore some faith in them, the board and the team should be focused in their approach and give the right break to the deserving candidate. Lets hope some sense will prevail into them and things will change for the better. 

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New Rules on cricket: A step towards a positive direction

In the past few years many have questioned some cricketer’s behavior as they have crossed the basic limits of sportsmanship. Ball tampering or obstructing the field or delaying the games proceedings is well worth being called unsportsman like when your job is to play with the true spirit of the game. Yet a lot of them went unnoticed and only some of them were penalized.  

In a bid to make rules more stringent for “unfair” play, ten new offences have been introduced in cricket laws, which will attract a five-run penalty, besides new powers to the umpires to restrain abusive behavior on the field. It is a positive step towards cleansing the game, which has been badly affected by all the controversies and the scandals that have hit them.

The “laws of cricket (2000 code)” lists five-run penalties for - among others - ball-tampering, deliberate distraction or obstruction of a batsman, time wasting (either by the fielding or the batting side), damaging the pitch (either by fielders or batsmen) in addition to the existing offences of illegal fielding or the ball hitting helmet on the ground. The runs will be known as “penalty extras”.

Some teams have this bad habit of taking a long time in finishing of their overs and some code of conduct would put that into place. In the same way it is against the spirit of the game, the code says, to appeal knowing that the batsman is not out, to advance towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when appealing or to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one's own side. It says that it is against the Spirit of the Game to dispute an umpire's action by word, action or gesture, to direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire or to indulge in cheating or any sharp practice There is also the significant change in the code over the controversial topic of “chucking”. The earlier code stated in its “definition of a throw”: a ball shall be deemed to have been thrown if, in the opinion of either umpire, the process of straightening the bowling arm, whether it be partial or complete, takes place during that part of the delivery swing which directly precedes the ball leaving the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from using the wrist in the delivery swing.

The relevant law 24.2 in the 2000 code on `fair delivery - the arm' states: for a delivery to be fair in respect of the arm the ball must not be thrown.” Definition of fair delivery - the arm” further states, "a ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing. The bowler who is no-balled for contravening law 24.2 more than two times in an innings will not be able to bowl again in the same innings.

All in all these rules are implemented in order to restore some sort of discipline into the game and deter the offenders from repeating their mistakes and to make the game clean. Lets hope that it would achieve its purpose and would also emphasis that no one is above law.

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