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Island Cruise After African Safari
Ganguly And Co On A Retreating Prowl
By S Zeyaur Rahman

It is perhaps useless and irrelevant to bemoan the heavy schedule of the cricketers, the over commercialization of the game, the consequent deterioration in the standards and stuff like that. The triangular series in Sri Lanka close on the heels on the one in Zimbabwe does tend to induce such obsolete thoughts, but I guess that it has been going for far too long and we must have got used to it by now.

No doubt we are suffering from a fatigue due to surplus of cricket. Under such circumstances, an electrifying contest could have been of much help. But the coca Cola Cup has been far from that. In fact it has been mired in controversy right from the start and till date has done nothing to be memorable.

The internal politics in the Sri Lankan Board has been hardly internal. It has been prone to intervention from the politicians and that is not good for the game. We have seen Boards getting dismissed, the ruling parties cornering plum posts for themselves, and all at the cost of cricket. The recent match-fixing episode has provided a valid excuse for the powers that be to interfere more openly in the affairs of the board and exercise its influence on matters out of their domain. We have not heard anything like players list getting scrutinised and being subjected to clearance from the sports ministry. I am not sure if that is the right thing for the game.

The fiasco regarding the inauguration of the new stadium did not create a good impression or atmosphere. Four stadiums in a city are anyways enough. Instead of taking the game to distant places the board has contributed to its concentration in and around Colombo. The prevailing political situation is of course responsible for that to a greater degree. But how does one explain the corruption charges and the cancellation of the venue anticipating protests from the builders responsible for the stadium.

Then there is the weather. It is rainy season in Sri Lanka and one has had very bad experiences of tournaments played in Sri Lanka at this time of the year. Matches getting reduced to 25 over a side affair or getting abandoned altogether was a common sight.

To add to these disadvantages, the pitches through out have been substandard. The condition sin the subcontinent are known to favour batsmen, but till date we have not had a single game where any side has touched the 225 run figure. It is not because the pitches are bowler friendly or the bowling side has been great. It is simply because the pitches have been bad and the team batting second has been left struggling in a dust bowl.

I am not presenting this long list as an excuse for India's poor performance. It has been a very sub standard performance by a side that was playing so well a couple of weeks ago. True they lost the finals at Zimbabwe, but they won like champions and lost like champions. And before I complete the sentence, an overwhelming majority of us will jump to the conclusion that it is all because of the absence of Tendulkar.

I do beg to differ from this perception. I do acknowledge the negative impact of Tendulkar not being in the team. But one must realize that Tendulkar plays an important role in Indian victories. He does not win matches for India alone. There are ten other guys in the team who make that possible by their little contributions. If Tendulkar could win matches on his own then India would have not lost a single match in which he had featured. There are instances, albeit rare, when India had won matches without significant contributions from Sachin.

Sachin's absence is psychological blow for the team and like any nature bunch, this team can and will cope up with it. What has really mattered is that his absence has upset the balance of the side. It would be foolish to think that Sachin could be adequately replaced by any one, and of all people by Khurasia. Apart from being a devastating batsman, he was extremely handy as a bowler, especially in critical situations. And more importantly, his absence has split India's corner stone in the batting department, i.e the world-class opening pair.

Ganguly is not in the best of touch and losing a trusted partner has not helped him at all. Now he is all at sea. He has been forced to go on the defensive and demoted himself down the order. Now he has been left with finding not one but too openers who can launch a decent assault and carry India's challenge to the other territory.

It is not that Ganguly does not have options. In fact he has too many of them. Sadly enough none of them have clicked. It was Ganguly who pressed for the discarded Khurasia and the forgotten Yuvraj Singh. He gave them a golden chance to prove themselves, but both of them have let him terribly down. To add to his woes, the other youngsters like Badani and Sehwag have failed to bat with responsibility and circumspection, which has resulted in India ending up with such poor scores. More than Tendulkar's absence, it is under performance by the new comers that have cost India dear and unless the new blood raises its game, it will be difficult for India to make a place in the finals with the help of Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman alone.

One can also accuse Ganguly of playing it safe instead of attacking and panicking when the move backfires. Promoting Harbhajan Singh is one such move. One expects Ganguly to handle the side much better. The open criticism of Yuvraj Singh in particular and the youngsters in general will not boost the morale of the side. It is crunch time for him and he is facing the heat.

India does find itself at the end of the table. Luckily enough the tournament has a round robin format where teams play each other thrice. That means there is greater chance and possibility of teams bouncing back when compared to leagues having two rounds each. There are a lot of new faces in all the teams and there is not much of a gap separating the teams. The team performing on any given day will walk away with the honours and one can expect India to tone up its game.

Will India ever win a Test series abroad?
Blame it on the public !!
By Ali Yawer Usmani

It is said that when it gets tough, the tough gets going, but in the case of Indian Cricket team, when its gets tough, the tough gets tumbling. And tumble they do at the first sight of the trouble. This is exactly what happened at Zimbabwe where the Team panicked and turned, what could have been a memorable series won, to another routine overseas defeat. The last time we tasted an overseas Test win was way back in 1986, under Kapil Dev when India defeated England in England. Since then we have had fourteen normal monsoons but same number of droughts on the field. Do we have a correlation of ‘Away Win’ with the monsoon?

Monsoon apart, do you really feel that India has what it takes to win a series abroad? So many reasons have been given about the lack of ‘away-series’ win like the domestic pitcher, lack of fast bowlers etc. but then even a team like Srilanka, which more or less enjoys the same conditions manages to win the series abroad. Then why do we fail to do so?

Other than the lack of qualities that make you win Tests abroad, there is something more that leads to this situation. And it has got to do with us – the public. Yes! Surprised? Well look at it this way, we patronize a player not on the basis of what he does for the team but what he does for himself. We place much emphasis on individual records and not win. It has led to a situation where we have many world-class batsmen who have many records to their credits but few innings, which have won the series for India. Another fact; their records are mostly in one-dayers and not in Tests. Then again most of their records are simply more of a milestone than true records as they are there only because of one-day matches that we play. Records are a ‘means’ to an ‘end’ and not an end in itself. But somehow we are convinced that the records are what matter. Look at the Aussies, they hardly hold any record but when it comes to record wins, no one can beat that record. Even the greatest of them all Don Bradman is considered great more for his overall performance than for his records. Our players fair poorly in Tests and once the one day starts, where the whole game is loaded in favour of batsman, they score centuries and every sin of theirs committed during the last Test is forgotten and forgiven. This only results in more dismal performance in Tests abroad.

Another fact is that we are afraid to lose and whenever our players go abroad they play for themselves to secure their place in the side than to win the Test. The collective effort then goes towards drawing the Test and no one wants to take the risk. The result is that we become negative and defensive and in the end lose the Test. This is the precise reason why the team of 1986 won because they were led by a man like, Kapil Dev, who, at that time was not averse to taking risk and hence won India a rare overseas win.

Add to that, the fact that we have wicket keepers who are not among the best of batsmen unlike others such as Gilchrist, Andy Flower, Boucher or even Ridley Jacobs. It robs India of a major backbone support and contributes towards the loss. At Harare we had no major contribution from the Keeper. This is not to say that our players are not talented enough or they aren’t capable. The problem is with the attitude. Less of the players and more of ours, the supporting public. If we don’t care who wins the match for India as long as our favorites player keep making records the players will be least bothered about it. Because at the end of the day, cricket is a sport and all the sports are played for an audience. If the audience wants records at the cost of match-winning knocks, it will get the same. If we start valuing a 30 or a 40 more than a hundred, if it wins us a match, then the day won’t be far when we will start winning matches.

As you all will see, all the past performances of the same player will be forgotten, once the same player starts making runs in the forthcoming one-days. As they say, it is not easy to change attitudes. Also public memory is short.

Future of Indian Cricket Team
Steps to help Indian cricket reach newer heights
By Subodh Grewal

A lot is being said about the current Indian Cricket team with Sourav Ganguly as the leader after the stunning win against mighty Australians in the home series. I think it is a great opportunity for India to build a formidable team, which can serve them for a long time to come since the current team is very young and talented. All we need is some sensible decisions and planning by BCCI. I have discussed some of the strengths, weaknesses and issues with the present team, which can prove to be critical.

After long, India has found an opening pair which seems to be getting comfortable against good bowling as the team management is believing in them. We need to let Das and Ramesh grow as an established opening pair and at the same time look for a third opener as a replacement as and when required. Indian middle order looks rock solid with Laxman, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. The only thing they can improve on is self-belief. I think after series with Australia, Indian batting line up must have learnt a lot of that specially after the wonderful partnership of Laxman and Dravid at Calcutta. They just need to build up on that foundation.

Another aspect of the Indian team of late has been lack of penetration and variation in bowling department. Now with Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Agarkar as pace bowler and Kumble (when he makes a comeback), Harbahajan Singh and a yet to be found left arm spinner, Indian bowling offers a great amount of variation and penetration. A few things need to be worked on though. Srinath needs to be bowl to his potential all the time and he should realize that now he is the strike pace bowler with a lot of experience. One important aspect is Zaheer Khan not bowling at his peak pace. I have noticed it during the test series with Zimbabwe and also Australia that he has been bowling 7 – 10 kms below his peak pace. He is capable of bowling consistently at around 140 km/h. Everyone must have noticed what those extra 7-10 kms can do even on dead Indian wickets by watching Gillespie bowl on Indian tour. Zaheer Khan should be bowling at his peak speed, as he is the one who will be the next Srinath of Indian pace attack. Ajit Agarkar looks a lot more determined while bowling. He just needs to get the same when he is batting as he can be the next all rounder for India. Other candidates for that can be Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh as both of them have shown promise of being genuine all rounders. They need to be groomed as India desperately needs its lower order to put in some runs. Also, India should find and settle down with a good left arm spinner as no one seems to impress at international level and stay in Indian team as left arm spinner for more than a couple of games. Other than that the spin department looks impressive as watching Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble bowling in random will be interesting.

India also needs to settle with a wicketkeeper. We have enough good wicketkeepers in India. We just need to settle with one. Recent statement by Ganguly about Sameer Dighe don’t seem too appealing to me as he is already past his prime and is not even among the best 5 wicketkeepers in India. India does not need to select wicketkeepers based on their batting with Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman in their lineup. We should be looking for a good wicketkeeper who can bat and is a team man. Vijay Dahiya suited that although his wicket keeping can improve. If the selectors do not find Vijay Dahiya suitable enough, the next candidate in my opinion would be Ajay Ratra of Haryana. He has been pretty decent at the junior level and while playing for Haryana, he has shown that he is a good wicketkeeper and he can bat too. Another plus with him is that he is really young. It is time now for him to be given a break at the highest level.

With all these things, it seems that by the next world cup, India can be a formidable force in world cricket if the board and players along with coach go for a plan and stick to it. BCCI needs to be come out of regional politics and work together as one team and help Indian cricket reach newer heights.

Too much Technology spoils the game
Cricket with some more decorations
By Avik Das

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the years as humans continued to evolve. Technology has always been with us and aided us right from the invention of the wheel to the invention of cultivation techniques to the modern day software inundation. As the various technologies being used have increased, so has their influence in our lives. Initially technologies were developed out of ardent need. But later on comfort requirements and other beneficial factors such as speed and accuracy which technology advances offered, substituted ‘ardent need’ as the most important factors for extensive use of present technology and further advancement of the same. I feel this has had a somewhat negative effect in our lives, to the extent that nowadays we are totally dependent on the latest technologies and many of us are unable to do the simplest of things without their use. Otherwise, why would we find that the children of today have to use a calculator to find say 216+424!

In this article, I’d specifically like to talk about the way technology has changed the face of cricket.

My earlier notion about the gentleman’s game was that the game is simple. All it needs is a cricket field, twenty-two young players, and last but not the least, the umpires. But the encroachment of technology has changed all that. New and unheard things have become an essential part of the cricketing arena these days. These include massive floodlights, ten to fifteen television cameras, stump microphones, stump vision cameras, spin vision cameras, electronic sight screens, electronic advertising boards, electronic score boards, gigantic replay vision screens, so on and so forth. None of these could have actually been the product of ‘ardent need’. The game still remains the same while these are just decorations.

Though television viewer’s satisfaction might be one of the plusses of the above-mentioned decorations, there are a few prominent negatives as well. The most significant one is that they have successfully managed to curtail the functionality of the umpire. The umpire, the upholder of the game and the man in charge when at the ground, today finds himself equivalent to any other spectator, maybe with just a better view. The cricket umpire was one of the game’s original charms. He took all decisions on the ground and he commanded the respect of both the teams. Gone are the days when even some dicey umpiring decisions taken by the umpire used to be taken in the right cricketing spirit. Umpires are under the toughest scrutiny these days due to the abundance of telecast cameras on the ground and even the most ordinary humanly error earns them considerable flak from the media. What’s more, his authority over run-out, stumping and low catch decisions have been considerably undermined as he has been instructed to refer such decisions to a person who sits in front of the television screen and decides accordingly. While some say that decisions are much more accurate now, for me it amounts to a loss of charm and needless waste of time. The umpire has been reduced to a ball counting machine. If this goes on unabated, someday we might really see a machine stand at the umpire’s position!

Apart from that, gigantic floodlights, which have enabled the playing of the game at night, for me, are of limited use. At most venues, dew plays a major part at night affecting the ground conditions. Also, a majority of the batsmen would prefer batting in daylight rather than in artificial lights. Night cricket had started purely due to commercial reasons and hence the expensive floodlights are just for fuelling the commercial interests of the cricket administrators and not for helping cricket itself.

Cricketers quite often get aggressive on the field and very often expletives come out from their mouths in the heat of the moment. Instead of leaving these ugly utterances on the field, stump microphones are transporting them directly to our drawing rooms. Considering the presence of young audience for cricket telecasts, this is distasteful and dangerous.

Replay vision screens have in the past played a part in inciting crowd violence. When spectators see their favourite player being given out due to an unfair decision, it sometimes can lead to missile throwing and other disturbances on the field.

These things can be easily done without, even if it means sacrificing the petty benefits that they provide. The money and resources thus saved can be used for things that would genuinely help the game and the negative aspects arising from them can also be eliminated. The relation between technology and man is quite delicate. It should be ‘man uses technology’ and not the other way round. Technology no doubt plays a very important role in our life but it should be only used when genuinely required.

By the way, did you know that the visiting Australian team had ordered special ‘cool vests’ to help them tackle the heat of Indian summer for the Test and the ODI series.

That’s some use of technology, isn’t it?     


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