Archive for December, 2008

A MEMORABLE YEAR FOR TEAM INDIA

2008 was a spectacular for the Indian team. We are now approaching the end of the year and India is ranked no 2 in Tests and 3 in ODI’s, being only marginally behind the 2nd placed South Africans. This thread will consider those individuals who made this possible for India, and also those who were not that impressive.

ODI’s

Raina established himself as a formidable middle order batsmen in 2008

Raina established himself as a formidable middle order batsman in 2008

In ODI’s, the three best batsmen of India were the openers Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhoni, averaging 50, 47 and 58 respectively. However special mention must also be made of Suresh Raina who clobbered 680 runs in 19 matches at a striking average of 45. In fact, it won’t be wrong to say from the ODI batting point of view, this year belonged to the left handers Gambhir and Raina who were not as impressive before this year. From the batting point of view the two disappointments have to be Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa. Waqar Younas famously said, “This Robin, he is a good Batman” but that was not the case in 2008 because Robin only averaged 20 from 13 matches.

Dhoni was imperious this year, averaging 58 in ODI's and developing as a captain

Dhoni was imperious this year, averaging 58 in ODI's and developing as a captain

Sharma was touted as the next big thing of the Indian batting line-up, but he could only muster an average of 25 in 28 matches.

Zaheer had a special 2008, and rose in world rankings

Zaheer had a special 2008, and rose in world rankings

On the bowling front, Zaheer Khan was the key bowler taking 17 wickers at an average of 20 and strike rate of 30 balls per wicket. However Ishant Sharma was the pleasant revelation for India, being the leading wicket taker with 27 wickets from 19 matches at a wicket per every 33 balls.

The bowling pair of Ishant and Zaheer has emerged as one of the more successful ones for India

The bowling pair of Ishant and Zaheer has emerged as one of the more successful ones for India

Praveen Kumar also deserves mention for his 21 wickets in 14 games.

TESTS

In Tests, India’s most successful batsmen were again unsurprisingly, Gambhir and Sehwag.

Easily the best opening pair of 2008 in any form of cricket

Easily the best opening pair of 2008 in any form of cricket

Gambhir averaged 71, which has to be one of the highest averages of all time in a calender year. Gambhir has provided some sense and stability to the Indian top order which India had been looking for some time. His consistency this year was unbelievable and he smashed 3 hundreds and 6 50’s. The best aspect of Gambhir’s technique is the way he can switch very easily between attack and defence. Sehwag averaged 56 in 2008.

Tendulkar was the 3rd most successful batsman of the Indian line-up, showing some consistency this year and fans will be hoping this consistency remains. He averaged 48 with 4 hundreds and 3 50’s.

Rahul Dravid was a disappointment this year, with many

Suffered many failures this year, one which he will want to forget

Suffered many failures this year, one which he will want to forget

people including Sunil Gavaskar calling for his retirement. Dravid averages 31 this year but more than figures, what was saddening to see was his slow reflexes and vulnerable defence. He did strike a century in India’s last Test of the year, but it remains to be seen whether that will save his place in the team.

Ganguly was also not brilliant this year but he has retired from international cricket as one of the best batsmen to ever play for India and the best captain India produced.

India bowled very well in Test cricket this year and all the leading bowlers have negligible difference in stats. India’s leading bowlers were Harbhajan,

Mishra had a dream debut and outshone Kumble and Harbhajan

Mishra had a dream debut and outshone Kumble and Harbhajan

Ishant, Kumble, Mishra and Zaheer. From this list, Mishra should be considered in some detail because he made his debut this year. Mishra bowled in the right places, applied pressure and took wickets when they mattered. India did not miss the legspin of Anil Kumble because the new kid on the block, Amit Mishra, is very good and he left everyone behind.

Speaking of Kumble, 2008 also saw this legend’s exit from the game. Kumble was India’s greatest match winner, and the travesty is that he never got appreciated for it. Appreciation or no appreciation, his name was always be mentioned amongst the legends of Indian cricket.

No bowler playing a reasonable number of matches disappointed for India in Tests, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why India is placed at no 2 in the world today.

So many names to mention and so many astounding performances; this was an amazing year for the Indian cricket team. The world order in international cricket definitely seems to be changing and it seems soon there will be 3 top sides in the world as opposed to just 1. India is quite busy in 2009 and the way things are going at the moment, it is very likely we will sing the same praises for the Indian team this time next year.

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INDIA GOING BACKWARDS

After Mumbai Attacks, people of Gujrat wants Pakistan to be declared as a terrorist country.

After Mumbai Attacks, people of Gujrat wants Pakistan to be declared as a terrorist country.

After reading Pawan &

khansahab’s comments on LS, this is an impromptu from me. I am motivated to write this thread. Although, I was neither surprised nor shocked on India’s canceling Pakistan’s tour next month. In fact I have been saying that people like Misbah are dreaming when two days ago Misbah said, India must tour Pakistan.

Hindu Extremist don't want Pakistanis on their soil either

Hindu Extremist don't want Pakistanis on their soil either

As a Pakistani origin Canadian I would have wanted Pakistan to take this initiative and cancel this tour after seeing and hearing all the news that is on TV and the Internet. Butt & Co. were gyrating their hips in front of India with a “kashkole” (begging bowl)  and literally begging them to come or at least agree to play at a neutral ground. Any Pakistani with some self-esteem and self-respect wouldn’t have done what Butt & Co. had done. Even Ramiz Raja pointed out the samething what we here at the LS have been raving and ranting from the beginning that Pakistan should not loose its respect and dignity. This is what Ramiz Raja has said in his recent article:

“Reports confirm that while India is reticent, Pakistan is bending backwards to lure them into a contest, even at a neutral venue. I guess the prospect of a cash stimulus has got Pakistan thinking excitedly. Agreed, an Indian series is too lucrative to pass over, but is making overtures and running after India with a begging bowl the way to conduct cricket business? Doesn’t the PCB get the message that India is not yet emotionally ready to play Pakistan?”

Although Ramiz’s view on team building is something entirely unrelated to the current situation where he said, “Pakistan missed an opportunity. If the PCB had capitalised on its marquee team in the 80s and 90s, Pakistan would perhaps not be world cricket’s outcast today.” Pakistan is a victim of terrorism right now and whether the team had remained number one in the world, would not have changed the situation. But, India on the other hand could have played a better role by being fair. Instead their role is very hypocritical and double faced.

Shashank Manohar the President of BCCI said, “as the dust settles cricket will resume between the two countries.” This is absurd, the situation will worsen further if they don’t play cricket. The way the Indian officials persuaded English team to come back and assured them of security and the England team also accepted and came back shows their dual standards too.

Imran Khan in London speaking against India's calling off the tour to Pakistan

Imran Khan in London speaking against India's calling off the tour to Pakistan

Imran Khan who is currently in London said, ” This will not help build up trust (between the two countries) and it is a wrong decision by the Indians. When some English cricketers had security concerns going back to India they were told if they didn’t return it would be a victory for the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks. While deciding on the Pakistan tour they should have thought in similar fashion. The cancellation of the series is not good for cricket in the region.”

Shahid Afridi  told Geo TV: “sports is the best way of bringing nations closer. Cricket should go on if they (India) want to normalize relations with Pakistan. And, Pakistan toured India in 2005 and 2007 despite a tense security situation. Pakistan never refused and we went there with open hearts because their government and the cricket board gave us the security assurances. When our government and the cricket board had given them security assurance this time, I think they should have believed us.”

Afridi talking to the media, upset on India canceling the tour

Afridi talking to the media, upset on India canceling the tour

Now, all eyes are focused on Sri Lanka who are already throwing tantrums, as we heard through the media that for going to South Africa and play a tri-nation ODI tournament, between them, SA and PAK they were offered $300,000 and they were demanding $1,000,000. It shows that when your chips are down and luck is not in your favour everyone seems to be hurting you from every nook and corner. The cancellation of this tour means a lot to Pakistan, its not just the $25-30 million financial loss of revenue but, Pakistani team is getting deprived of playing international cricket. And Sri Lanka is trying to take advantage of the situation.

The reason India has begged England to come and play the test matches wasn’t simply to prove that they can provide security to the players and more than anything they were worried about the next year IPL and the 2011 World Cup financial losses. Whether the Pakistani players play for IPL or not is not India’sconcern, because people like Glen McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Andy Symonds etc., have already confirmed their participation in the next IPL. Flintoff and Pieterson is also willing to play for the IPL. India will not be displaying their cards and the BCCI will be keeping a poker face and leaving everything for their government to decide. For them it is not important whether Pakistan will host the 2011 World Cup or not, because they would like to have the cake and it too.

It is not that Pakistan would not like to host the WC in 2011, but the big teams would not like to come to Pakistan and play and India will say, they are there to host the whole of the WC tournament  “avec plasir” (with pleasure). I am very disappointed – not because India is not touring – but because of India’s hypocrisy and dual standards they have displayed in this situation. And this is not a victory for the terrorist, but it is a victory for the Indian Hindu Fundamentalists Neo-fascists who are out there vowing to take revenge from Pakistan if their player (or any Pakistani) if they come to India.

Mind you not a single political, religious, ethnic or any party in Pakistan has said anything against India or Indian cricket team, in fact they have always gone out of their way to extend hospitality and entertained them, protected them, accommodated them offered free gifts and free food at the restaurants, in other words, “Sir pay bithaya” and this is what we got in return?

Yes, like most of you I am hurt by this stupid decision. I would like to tell the Pakistan cricket team through our blog that this is not the end of the world and, I advise them to take it calmly and gracefully. Perhaps this is what is Allah’s will and, there must be something good that will come out of it. Perhaps this is a moral victory for Pakistan and from here they will rise above everything – Inshallah. Not only I wish, but I also pray for them very sincerely for their success in their future endeavours – Ameen.

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CRICKET IS THE SOLUTION

Cricket fans received some positive news yesterday, that the England players decided to resume their tour of India. For those who need reminding, the tour was temporarily called off in the wake of the terrorist attack in Mumbai. What’s more, Flintoff, a key England player, also returned to India. There were some initial doubts regarding whether Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison would be returning because of the terrorist threat, but almost everyone is applauding the England team for making the right decision. This can only be good for world cricket.

Why should cricket suffer?

Why should cricket suffer?

An interesting series looms ahead. India most certainly starts as favourites, due to its in-form opening pair of  Sehwag and Gambhir (both average 62 and 64 respectively, this year) and in form strike bolwers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. With Harbhajan Singh leading the spin attack, India also appears convincing from the spin front. Hence, England will have to play out of their skins to match India in this series. When England plays as a unit, it can pose problems for the opposition and it has players like Pieterson and Flintoff who are proven match winners. Yet, the England side misses that spark that results in competitive psyche and consistent positive results. England’s openers lack consistency, its pacers are too prone to injury and it does not have a quality spinner who can turn things around on spin-friendly pitches. If that is not enough, most England players are replaced very quickly as soon as some decline in performance is noticed. Some would say Pakistan and Indian cricket administrators should adopt this line of strategy as well with a few players, but the answer is to find the right balance.

We don't see them celebrating a lot these days

We don't see them celebrating a lot these days

The recently concluded ODI series between India

When he gets going, he is unstoppable

When he gets going, he is unstoppable

and England showcased just what is so brilliant with India and what is so lacking with England. India dominated England completely and seemed like it was thrashing a minnow team. Three out of the top 5 batsmen were Indians, and 4 out of the top 5 bolwers were Indians, too. India were revitalised with the return of Yuvraj Singh, who tore the England bowlers apart, smashing 325 runs at an average of 108. On his day Yuvraj seems as dominating and as majestic as any Tendulkar or Lara. He has been an enigma for Indian cricket, monstrously talented, yet has been unable to make a name for himself in Test cricket. Ganguly’s exit gives Yuvraj the chance of a permanent place in the Test side, and he must capitalise it because he certainly has the talent to become a consistent match winner for India.

India should win this series without many problems, but must be aware of the

Karachi-born Owais Alam Shah has shown tenacity and guts playing for England

Karachi-born Owais Alam Shah has shown tenacity and guts playing for England

ability of a few England players to surprise. Pieterson and Flintoff seem the obvious threats, but Owais Shah’s ODI performance and county cricket reputation means India should not take him lightly. Similarly, Harmison and Anderson, although suffering from inconsistent form of late, can be destructive on their day. Nevertheless, Dhoni has transformed India into a winning unit and India currently ranks no 3 in ODI and Test cricket, only marginally behind South Africa, the 2nd placed team.

To conclude, it was great news for cricket fans that the tour is being resumed and a full strength England side is playing. Cricket is ultimately the solution, regardless of all politics and terrorism. England have taken a positive step and Pakistani cricket fans will hope India makes the same sane and encouraging decision to tour Pakistan for the January series. Hopefully we see some calm, some peace and some excitement now from this series. The terrorists who wanted to destablise proceedings have suffered a huge setback because fans are looking forward to cricket, and if and when India tours Pakistan, the terrorists will receive a further blow. We can’t fight them with bombs and bullets, but we can thwart their intentions by thinking logically, reasonably and by encouraging peace and stability.

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