January 20, 2008

Yet another stupid act by the BCCI

It has just been a day since India won the hard fought Perth test and the BCCI is back at doing what it does best- experimenting. The moment I heard that Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid had been left out of the Indian ODI squad for the tri-series involving them, Australia and Sri Lanka, I was shocked. Moreover, they also decided to leave out Murali Kartik from the squad and didn't even bother recalling V.V.S. Laxman. This, in my opinion is a big selection blunder that has been committed by the BCCI. Their alibi is that they want a youthful team that is energetic and consists of good fielders. I agree, that Ganguly hasn't been a remarkable fielder but what about Dravid? Isn't he a good fielder? Another important mistake is not picking Murali Kartik who spun India to victory against Australia by taking 6 wickets in the 7th ODI against Australia at Mumbai last October.

Dravid didn't play the 7th ODI against Australia and was left out of the ODI squad for the series against Pakistan as well. Though Dravid has a slow scoring rate, he isn't called Mr. Dependable for nothing. On the other hand, Ganguly was India's most successful ODI batsman last year scoring 1240 runs with an average of 45. He also took 7 wickets to go with his wonderful batting. He performed very well after making a comeback and was very good in England. He also played well against the Aussies when they toured India. He also had six partnerships of 100+ for the first wicket with Sachin Tendulkar in ODIS in 2007. The two also happen to be the most successful opening pair in ODI history. Ganguly will be really missed in the games against Sri Lanka as he has a brilliant record against them and is regarded by most cricket experts as the batsman who can play ace Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan the best. His wonderful knock of 183 against the Lankans at Taunton during the 1999 World Cup is regarded as one of the best knocks in ODI history. Incidentally, it was Dravid who was involved with a huge 318 run partnership for the 2nd wicket with Ganguly. Dravid scored a masterly 145 and both of them shared the man of the match award. The partnership between them was the first 300+ partneship in ODI history and was quite obviously the highest partnership for any wicket in ODIs at that time, a record which was broken at Hyderabad 6 months later when Tendulkar and Dravid put on 331 for the 2nd wicket against New Zealand. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 186, the highest individual score by an Indian batsman (the record was held by Ganguly before this, when he scored 183 in the match mentioned before this) and Dravid stroked a classy 153. It really is surprising to see a player like Ganguly dropped when he is in such good form! The last time India played a ODI series in Australia was in early 2004, Laxman had scored 3 brilliant hundreds- 2 against Australia and 1 against Zimbabwe.

Coming in for Ganguly is Suresh Raina, who last played an ODI in January 2007. He doesn't have a very impressive record against Australia but is a good fielder. Piyush Chawla, who was impressive on last year's tour of England, gets the nod for the second spinner's spot ahead of Murali Kartik. Chawla was preferred because the selectors were of the opinion that a wrist-spinner would be handy on Australian pitches. It is believed that the captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, wanted to stick with a majority of the squad that won the inaugral ICC World Twenty20 last September. Explaining why Ganguly was overlooked, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said, "The emphasis was on fielding abilities and they (the team management) wanted a young fielding side for the series. That's why you see a lot of youngsters in the side." Well Mr. Shah, if you wanted a good fielder why not take Mohd. Kaif, he is also from the Uttar Pradesh Ranji team like Raina and is a brilliant fielder (probably one of the best in the world)? In fact, Kaif is the captain of the team and has played quite well in the domestic circuit.

India's fast-bowling attack will be led by R.P. Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth, who missed the Test series against Australia with a shoulder injury. Joining them will be Praveen Kumar, who played a ODI in the series against Pakistan. Zaheer Khan hasn't been considered as he is still recovering from the heel injury he got during the first test at Melbourne. The BCCI plans to send him to South Africa for treatment. Gautam Gambhir and Dinesh Karthik have also been included. Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan and Munaf have been placed on standby and will join the squad in case of any injuries.

I also feel that the BCCI made a big mistake by announcing the squad for the sole Twenty20 and the tri-series before the fourth test at Adelaide. It may divide the team and disturb the players a lot. News channel sources say that Ganguly and Dravid are highly disappointed at them being left out of the ODI team. Dravid was hoping to make the cut after having played well at Perth and Ganguly was reportedly shocked about the entire incident as he had a wonderful 2007. These 2 players need to keep their cool at Adelaide as they have a big role to play if India are to level the test series.

Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar is under fire from many quarters after what I would call an extremely stupid decision. In fact, Navjot Singh Sidhu challenged Vengsarkar on NDTV's cricket talk show "Cricket Controversies". He said that if Vengsarkar can prove Ganguly's exclusion then he (Sidhu) would stop doing whatever he does to earn money. He also said that Raina's experience was nothing compared to Ganguly's and that if India has managed to survive in Australia, it is all because of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman. He went on to say that dropping a player who scored 1200 odd runs in a calendar year amounts to sacrilege as it would not only affect the player psychologically but will also divide the team. It didn't there, Sidhu later said that the selectors didn't know how to treat its heroes. All this shows just how foolish the selectors have been. What needs to be seen is what they can do to counter this outcry.

Given below is the squad for the sole Twenty20 and the CB tri-series:

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain and Wicket Keeper)
  • Sachin Tendulkar
  • Yuvraj Singh
  • Virender Sehwag
  • Dinesh Karthik
  • Robin Uthappa
  • Gautam Gambhir
  • Suresh Raina
  • Rohit Sharma
  • Irfan Pathan
  • Praveen Kumar
  • Ishant Sharma
  • S. Sreesanth
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • Piyush Chawla
  • Manoj Tiwary
  • Yusuf Pathan
  • Munaf Patel

January 19, 2008

History repeats itself as the Aussies fall back on the Earth

When India was playing in the second test against Australia at Kolkata in February, 2001 they were in a big mess. Sourav Ganguly's men had been thrashed by the Steve Waugh led Aussie "invincibles" in less than 4 days in the first test at Mumbai. The Australian team had won a world record 16 consecutive tests till then, the previous record being 11 by the West Indies. Australia played well in the first innings until Harbhajan Singh turned the tide with the first ever hat-trick by an Indian in test cricket. But, in the second innings India was bowled out for under 150, thus following on with only V.V.S. Laxman scoring a gritty half century. What followed was a dream as Laxman scored a magnificent 281 (the highest individual score by an Indian in test cricket at that time) in the second innings and put up a huge partnership with Rahul Dravid who scored a determined 180 to set the Aussies a huge target. The Aussies crumbled to the brilliant bowling display by Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar (who scored only 10 runs in both the innings while batting). This ended Australia's winning streak and the Aussies also lost the third test at Chennai handing India the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

India beat Australia twice in tests after that- at Adelaide in 2003 (another wonderful game) and at Mumbai in 2004, where the Aussies were bowled out for a paltry 93! Other than these two losses, the Aussies lost to the West Indies in 2003 (when the Windies succesfully chase down a mammoth 418 which is the highest target ever chased successfully) and twice to England in 2005 (thus handing over the Ashes to England after a very long time). But, the last for losses mentioned all took place away from home which shows that if there is any country that can beat Australia at home, it surely is India.

When the Border-Gavaskar Series started with the Boxing Day test at Melbourne a month back, India was outplayed. The second test at Sydney, however, was a different story altogether. The match was evenly contested but was drowned in controversy over dubious umpiring decisions, the racism issue and unsportsmanlike behaviour by Ricky Ponting's men. After the brouhaha at Sydney, the Indian team had two options- to cancel the series and go back home; or to stay back and fight the Aussies with all their effort, they decided to stay. The first two days of the third test at Perth completely belonged to India, who outplayed the Aussies in every department. The Indian bowlers used the famous Perth pitch better than their Aussie counterparts. The much hyped Shaun Tait was a disaster for the mighty Australians as he wasn't even able to take a single wicket in the match.

The third day's play had its moments. Sehwag continued his assault on the hapless Aussie quickies until he was done in by a brilliant delivery by Stuart Clark which shattered the stumps. The triad of Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly fell in quick succession putting India in a spot of bother. Ganguly scored his first duck in about 10 tests as India were 5 down for 150 odd rus. Irfan Pathan who had come in as the Night Watchman hung in for a while and contributed a good 46 runs. He played some wonderful strokes and may well be India's missing link in the middle order. After Pathan's fall, Laxman and Dhoni had a crucial partnership. Dhoni played a good innings of 37 under pressure, he was also succesful in clearing the ropes twice. He fell to Symonds when he miscued a sweep with Gilchrist completing a fine catch. Laxman played wonderfully to be the top scorer with 79. His partnership of 52 for the 9th wicket with the unusually calm R.P. Singh helped India score 294, setting Australia a target of 413. Singh scored a good 30 runs and even cleared the ropes once! Stuart Clark was the best Aussie bowler picking 4/66.

Coming to facts and figures regarding chases, the highest successful run chase on Australian soil is 369, when Australia chased down the score against Pakistan at Hobart in 1999. Only thrice in the history of test cricket has a team chased down 400+ runs in the fourth innings- Australia did in the late 1940s against England, India did it in 1974 against Wet Indies and the West Indies chased down a world record 418 against Australia in 2003. Also, the highest fourth innings score at Perth is 341.

At the end of the third day's play, Australia was 62/2 with Ponting and Hussey on strike. The openers were done in by Pathan in the second innings too. Kumble was able to extract spin as well as bounce on a pitch that was slowly getting dangerous for the batsmen. The match had been a wonderful one until that moment and the only result that could be ruled out was a draw. If India won from that position, they would halt the Aussie winning streak at 1 again and become the first team to beat Australia in 3 years and the first team to do so on Australian soil in 5 years (the last team to do so was also India). Also, it would be the first instance of a sub-continent team winning at Perth. If Australia won, they would create a new world record of 17 consecutive wins and would have the second highest succesful run chase in tests to their name.

The fourth day's first session was an extremely interesting one as one saw a brilliant spell of fast bowling from 19 year old Ishant Sharma, who troubled Ponting as if he was one of the best fast bowlers in the world. Ponting appeared extremely uncomfortable facing Ishant and was finally done in by him an over before lunch. That was the only wicket to fall in the first session, but was a big wicket. Ponting scored 45. It was Sehwag who convinced Kumble to let ishant bowl an extra over and he struck immediately. After lunch, R.P. Singh bowled a brilliant ball moving into the left handed Hussey and trapped him in front for 46. Symonds hit Kumble out of the ground but was given LBW to the same bowler in the next ball. Replays showed that the ball had nicked the bat before hitting the pad and Symonds showed his displeasure, but I personally feel that justice was done. Symonds, after all he was the player who wasn't given out when he was 4 times in the Sydney test and also got a wicket which he didn't deserve to have. Kumble, surprisingly, celebrated a lot more than he usually does on getting Symonds wicket. I think that it was in response to Symonds doing the same when he got Kumble's wicket in India's second innings.

Michael Clarke was playing his shots very well and when Gilchrist came in after Symonds, one thought that the fireworks would soon begin. Just then, Kumble decided to give the ball to Sehwag who struck twice in quick succession. Firstly, he bowled Gilchrist round his legs for 15 and got the better of Brett Lee for a duck. Then, Kumble bowled a wonderful delivery which both spun and bounced. Clarke came forward to the ball but was completely bamboozled by this delivery and Dhoni promptly stumped him. Clarke scored a fine 81, which I feel was his coming of age knock. With the fall of Clarke, no recognized Australian batsman was left with the Aussies being 253/8. The tail enders, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark frustrated the Indians with a 9th wicket partnership of 73. Clark scored 32 and even hit a six during his knock. Irfan Pathan got the wicket of Clark and the Indians could sniff victory. Johnson continued to frustrate the Indians and scored his first half century. He hit Kumble for 2 huge sixes. However, he did have two reprieves when Kumble bowled him off a no-ball and Sehwag dropped him near the boundary. The catch was a very tough one and Kumble was the unlucky bowler this time too. When the Aussies were 340/9, R.P. Singh breached Shaun Tait's defences and gave India a well desrved victory. Australia was halted by India while going for the 17th win yet again as history repeated itself. I would give most credit to the brilliant bowling by the Indian fast bowlers, who for long haven't shown their skills. Irfan Pathan got the man of the match award for his all round performance. The comeback of Pathan and Sehwag played a big role in India winning the match.

The Indian team has proved to everyone that they made the right decision by staying back after the Sydney test. Many people in the world will now consider India as the main challenger to Australia's supremacy in the game. It was wonderful to see the smirk disappear from Ponting's face and also to see him struggling to play young Ishant Sharma. The Autralians have also been charged 10% of their match fee for their slow over rate. But the loss of the match will probably sting them more than the loss on the pocket. Heres hoping that India carries forward their form into the fourth test at Adelaide, where they won last time round in 2003. Till then, HAPPY PERTH DAY!!!!

Some wonderful quotes during the course of and after the Perth test:
  • "That's another appeal. No it's not, it's a replay."
    The excitement at the WACA gets a bit too much for Michael Slater.
  • "Ek aur over karega?"
    Anil Kumble asks Ishant Sharma if he'll bowl one more over after having bowled seven. Ishant did and got the wicket of Ricky Ponting on the first ball. It was Virender Sehwag who asked Kumble to let Ishant bowl.
  • "It would have been great if you had been my 600th victim."
    Anil Kumble to Adam Gilchrist when the latter congratulated him on his feat.

January 17, 2008

A debacle, a farewell and an unbelievable comeback

It has been quite a while since my last post and over the past week I have decided to make this blog a topical one. So now, this blog will be completely dedicated to the game of Cricket and as a result we also have a change in the name

The past week was quite an eventful one for the sport- both on the field and off it. It started off with South Africa thrashing the West Indies in three and a half days in the third test match between the teams thus taking the series 2-1. South Africa won by a huge margin of an innings and a 100 runs! West Indies was put into bat and were bowled out for a paltry 139 in a little more than a session on the first day thanks mainly to Shaun Pollock's brilliant bowling display. At the end of the first day's play, the Proteas had already put up a 150 run lead and went on to score a lead of 417 by the end of the second day. West Indies batted for a day and a half but that just wasn't enough. For South Africa, skipper Graeme Smith scored a superb 147. A. B. De Villiers and Ashwell Prince also scored centuries with Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis scoring valuable half centuries. It was a terrific display by the Proteas after they had lost the first test. During the course of the match Shaun Pollock announced his retirement. What a wonderful player this man has been. Probably one of the few excellent bowling all rounders in the game.

Over the past few days, it was the peace making meeting between Indian captain Anil Kumble and Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting that was in the news. The meeting was presided over by ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle. The meeting went off quite well and the captain's agreement about taking the fielder's word for disputed catches was scrapped. Ricky Ponting also promised to look into his team's on-field behaviour as the ICC reprimanded Cricket Australia for their team's behaviour. In a rather surprising move, India took back all the charges put on Aussie spinner Brad Hogg who had allegedly used foul language on Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the field during the controversial third test in Sydney.

The much anticipated third test between India and Australia started at Perth yesterday and the match is already poised in a very interesting position.Perth has always been a very fast and bouncy track and is feared by batsmen all over the world. As a matter of fact in the 1980s there was an occasion when Australian fast bowling legend Jeff Thompson bowled a bouncer which went over the wicket-keeper's head and pitched just once before reaching the boundary thus giving 4 byes to the batting team! There was a lot of hype before this match and I must say that the pitch hasn't lived up to expectations. That doesn't mean that the pitch wasn't fast and bouncy. A lot was said about young Australian quickie Shaun Tait who finally made it to the playing eleven replacing spinner Brad Hogg. Shaun Tait is currently the fastest bowler in the world (disputed) and everyone expected him to strike the Indian batting line-up hard, but that wasn't to be. Australia played a team with 4 fast bowlers and no specialist spinner as they obviously thought that bounce will play a key role in this match. On the other hand, India took 3 quickies and dropped Harbhajan Singh, one of the 2 specialist spinners. Captain Kumble, who is the other specialist spinner obviously played. There were 2 changes for both the teams. For the Aussies, Tait came in for Hogg and Chris Rogers came in for the injure Mathew Hayden. For India, Irfan Pathan came in for Harbhajan and Virender Sehwag came in for the out of form Yuvraj Singh. Sehwag had score a 79 ball hundred against the ACT Invitational XI in the practice game at Canberra last week. Sehwag's selection meant that he would open with Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid would come back to his normal position as number 3.

India won the toss and elected to bat, which experts consider a bold move for a visiting team. India had to play the first half hour extremely carefully and they managed to do just that. Australia had literally packed the slip cordon knowing that the Indians were sure to nick some behind the wicket. The opener's got the best start in the series so far putting up 57 runs for the first wicket. Sehwag was at his belligerent best as he was hitting Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson for boundaries at ease. Unfortunately, he got out just as he was set for a big innings as he nicked Johnson to Adam Gilchrist. He scored 29 of 57 deliveries. It may be quite a small score in tests but it set the foundation for India. Jaffer followed Sehwag to the pavillion soon as he too was caught behind off Lee. With the score reading 59/2, one would have thought that the slide had begun but the partnership that followed put India right back into the game. Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar put up 139 runs for the third wicket. Tendulkar was in imperious form as he tackled the bounce with ease after a few initial hiccups. His duel with Lee was something which can be watched again and again. Tendulkar hit 6 of his 9 fours behind the wicket, which itself shows how well he negotiated the very controlled bowling of the Australian bowling. He took a special liking for Shaun Tait, hitting him for some really brilliant boundaries. Tendulkar had scored a brilliant century for the losing side at this very ground 16 years ago. That was the last time the Aussies had played with an all pace attack. The most notable shot that he played during his innings was the late upper cut which he played to perfection after not quite getting the shot earlier in the innings.

Tendulkar would have surely gone on to make a hundred, but his innings was cut short by a bad LBW decision by Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf. He didn't consider the bounce on the pitch and gave Tendulkar out for a well made 71. Replays clearly showed that the ball would have bounced over the stumps. Ganguly came in next but didn't last for long scoring just 9, his lowest score in a very long time. He hit 2 glorious boundaries and was looking good until he was dismissed by Johnson. The shot was quite good and would have easily gone for four but Mike Hussey pulled off a stunner of a catch. Laxman and Dravid steadied the ship but got out in quick succession playing 2 really terrible shots. Laxman holed out straight to Tait at mid off for 29, the wicket being taken by Lee and Dravid miscued a slog sweep off Andrew Symonds and Ponting took a very easy catch. Dravid scored a brilliant 93. India ended day 1 at 297/6.

Day 2 began quite well with India hitting 31 runs with ease until disaster struck as Dhoni was given LBW by Rauf to another very doubtful decision. I recall Ravi Shastri saying that if an umpire turns down LBW appeals of well pitched deliveries at Perth, then he will be right 9 out of 10 times, and I completely agree with him. After that 3 wickets fell for just 2 runs as India went from 328/6 to 330 all out.

It was expected that Australia would come out with all guns blazing but the Indian bowlers had something else in mind. Irfan Pathan swung the ball brilliantly and accounted for both the openers- debutant Chris Rogers and Phil Jaques . R.P. Singh bowled a superb delivery to get Hussey out for a duck, his first duck in his career. Ishant Sharma struck twice with the wickets of Ponting and Clarke as Australia were reduced to 61/5. It is rather strange to think that these 2 wicket were Sharma's first wickets in this series. Symonds and Gilchrist performed a counter-attacking resurrection with a 102 run stand as both scored attacking fifties. Symonds had got a reprieve when he had only scored 3 runs when Tendulkar dropped a simple catch at first slip, Pathan being the unlucky bowler. It was Kumble who got the wicket of Symonds and that was his 600th test wicket. He is the third player in the history of the game to have taken 600 or more wickets, the other two being Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. Gilchrist hammered three successive fours off R.P. Singh after which Singh surprised him with a superb delivery and Gilchrist was caught behind by Dhoni. Symonds and Gilchrist scored 66 and 55 respectively. The Aussie tail-enders didn't last long and Australia was bowled out for 212 giving India a lead of 118 runs. Dhoni taking 5 catches was quite impressive behind the stumps. R.P. Singh bowled brilliantly taking 4/68.

India got off to a flyer in the second innings, thanks again to Sehwag who as usual was in attacking mood. The openers had put on 45 runs when Clark accounted for Jaffer who was caught behind the wicket yet again. Irfan Pathan was sent in as the Night Watchman and he staved off the Aussie quickies till the end of the days play. India is batting with 52 runs on the board for the loss of a wicket and has extended its lead to 170 runs. Lets see what the third day's play holds.

January 9, 2008

"The Dubious Cricket Awards", a tennis player's reaction and a day out at the beach

Well, I never had any intention of posting today but some forwarded stuff regarding the "Sydney Test Fiasco" made its way into my mailbox and I decided to share it.


Best Umpire : Ricky Ponting
Best Australian Players : Steve Bucknor, Mark Benson
Honest Team : Australia
Best Actor : Michael Clarke
Honest Player : Andrew Symonds


Characters- Ponting, Symonds (Roy), Harbhajan (Bhajji) and the ICC Match Referee- Mike Procter

Ponting and Co: Harbhajan called Symonds a "monkey"!!! It amounts to racial abuse!!!!
Procter: Did you call Symonds a "Monkey"?
Bhajji: No, I addressed a monkey as "Symonds"
Procter: So you did
Bhajji : (Silence)
Procter : How dare you insult a monkey.You are now banned for 3 matches.
Bhajji : (Sad)
Ponting & Co : ????
Ponting : Hey, Roy.What did Procter say?
Symonds : Who cares, he's banned now.You can bat well in the next game.
Ponting : No, Anil is also there. Ask Procter whether he can ban him too.
Symonds : We'll see in the next match, if he takes your wicket, we'll complain.
Ponting: That is an awesome idea!!!

There was this weird drama that took place yesterday in a tennis match. Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt complained against umpiring in a match he played with Chris Guccione which Hewitt lost 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2). And the coincidence didn't just end there as the name of the umpire was a guy with the name Steve Ullrich! That is what I call "The Steve Connection"! Empathising with the Indian Cricket Team's complaints he said, "I feel like the cricketers, I think. What's going on with all the refs these days? They're useless!" I agree with you too, Mr. Hewitt and so do many other cricket lovers.

In the meanwhile, the Indian team finally came out of their hotel room in Sydney and went to the famous Bondi beach where they had a day out after some of their complaints were addressed to by the ICC. This is what Indian skipper Anil Kumble had to say about the media coverage of the outing- "I never thought we played such good beach volleyball. There were about 15 journalists to cover that." The Indian team has received overwhelming support from a large section of the Australian public and media and are no doubt going to be the followed very closely till the end of the tour.

January 8, 2008

A Question of Integrity, Arrogance and Racial Slurs

It has been about two days since the events at the Sydney Cricket Ground and there is still a lot of speculation surrounding the issue of India being "cheated" of a fair result. The inquiry into Symond's complaint about Harbhajan racially abusing him has a rather weird result- Harbhajan being banned for 3 Tests. Now, you may think why I am calling this "weird" and not "unfair", "shocking" or something more intense. It is just that there are a lot of loopholes in this verdict. It may actually be fair to call this entire affair "unfair"! But instead of doing that, I would like to bring forth some facts regarding the case.

According to Symonds, Harbhajan apparently hit Brett Lee during the course of his partnership with Sachin Tendulkar. Symonds couldn't take this and hit out at Harbhajan who allegedly called Symonds a "monkey". Now, the umpires had not heard anything (which is quite obvious as they couldn't even hear the ball hitting the bat!) and the ICC Match Referee, Mike Procter too didn't hear a word. Moreover, there wasn't any proof- be it audio or video and all that was relied upon by Procter to make this decision was the collective witness account delivered by Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mathew Hayden. Sachin Tendulkar wasn't even asked for a witness account throughout the inquiry which lasted four gruelling hours. As Navjot Singh Sidhu pointed out on a news channel, not listening to a person of Tendulkar's stature, one who has played the game with dignity for 18 years and instead accepting Clarke's word is utter nonsense! Clarke is literally a baby if you compare him to Tendulkar in terms of experience and his integrity too is in doubt after the incident regarding Ganguly's dismissal during the last day's play. His arrogance is just like his captain Ponting, while Ponting keeps saying that the match was played in the right spirit, Clarke still believes that he took Ganguly's catch cleanly, as if the videos are lying!

With the overwhelming support for the Indian Cricket Team even by the Australian public, it will be interesting to note where the issue goes from here. In the polls conducted by Australian newspapers a majority of the Aussies feel that the umpires gave India a raw deal and that the Australian team isn't a bunch of sports. Also, most of them feel that Ponting isn't a good ambassador for the game. Peter Roebuck, who is probably the most respected and celebrated cricket
writer in the world too gave some really harsh comments about Ponting's captaincy and even went on to say that he should be sacked! He wrote, "In the past few days Ponting has presided over a performance that dragged the game into the pits. He turned a group of professional cricketers into a pack of wild dogs. As much can be told from the conduct of his closest allies in the team. As usual, Matthew Hayden crossed himself upon reaching three figures in his commanding second innings, a gesture he does not perform while wearing the colours of his state. Exactly how he combines his faith with throwing his weight around on the field has long bemused opposing sides, whose fondness for him ran out a long time ago." He also went on to write, "Beyond comparison it was the ugliest performance put up by an Australian side for 20 years. The only surprising part of it is that the Indians have not packed their bags and gone home. There is no justice for them in this country, nor any manners."

India in return has filed a charge of abuse against Aussie spinner Brad Hogg, who allegedly used foul language on Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni during the course of the match. Also, the ICC has removed Bucknor as the umpire of the 3rd Test and has replaced him with Billy Bowden. India has also filed an appeal against the decision taken on Harbhajan Singh.

Personally, one thing that I won't forget about the television coverage of the match is Sunil Gavaskar's commentary for Star Cricket. Given below are the Youtube links for the comments made by him-
Someone on BBC's Cricket Blog wrote this comic news headline when Bucknor was removed as the umpire for the 3rd Test at Perth-

Bucknor out, Hayden doubtful for Perth.

An Australian side, which is already suffering from the non-availability of key player Mark Benson got another setback today, when star all-rounder Steve Bucknor got banned by the ICC. His partnership with super hero Andrew Symonds and Tricky Ponting has been the foundation of the glorious Australian win. When left handed opener Matthew Hayden got injured, that became a minor concern for Tricky, who can't believe the decision of the ICC to ban his Star All-rounder. Tricky will also have to deal with Harbhajan Singh, who showed the whole world that Tricky has no idea about playing quality spin, and therefore can never be considered in the same class of King Brian Charles Lara or the Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar.

I loved the way he presented his comments. Funny and at the same time conveying how much the umpires helped the Australian cause. Some people actually say that Benson and Bucknor were competing with each other to give favours to Australia! It would also be notable to add that 63% of the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald agreed with Peter Roebuck's stance about Ponting being sacked as captain of the Australian Cricket Team. Now, its time to wait and see the spirit in which the next Test is played.

Have a look at the links below for an insight into the farcical affair-

January 6, 2008

How Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson contributed to the cause of making Cricket an "un-gentlemanly" game

I must say that I wasn't amused by the habit of blogging which many netizens possess and as I write quite a lot I was repeatedly advised by friends and well-wishers to start blogging but I hardly paid heed to them. I just made an account and left it at that. Over the past year I always had a passing thought to actually begin blogging- if not for myself than for others, but something more important always came in my way. After more than a year of procrastinating I finally decided to start blogging. And the reason was my obsession with the game of Cricket (I like it so much that I have made it a proper noun!)

My day began on a sour note personally and to forget my own problems I decided to watch the last day's play of the 2nd Test Match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Now, for those who don't know- the Border-Gavaskar trophy is the Test Series played between India and Australia and on this occasion India is touring Australia. The first 4 days of the test match have had their moments but what I will remember this Test Match for is for the rather (in)famous umpiring controversy due to some atrocious umpiring by Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson.

Now, lets look into each issue in detail:
Issue 1) Ricky Ponting edged a ball bowled by Sourav Ganguly and was caught by wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni when he was batting on 17 in the first innings. Given not out. Ponting went on to score 55. The decision was made by Mark Benson.

Issue 2) Ponting adjudged LBW to Harbhajan Singh when on 55. He clearly had an inside edge before the ball hit the pads. But that sort of made up for the earlier decision. This decision too was made by Mark Benson.

Issue 3) Andrew Symonds edged a ball to Ishant Sharma and was caught behind when he was on 30. Not given out by Steve Bucknor. Went on to make 162 not out- an expensive mistake.

Issue 4) Symonds was out stumped when he was batting on 48. Not given out by the third umpire. (Can you believe this? The Third Umpire goofs it up!)

Issue 5) Symonds was stumped again in the same innings but umpire Bucknor did not even care to refer it to the Third Umpire!

Issue 6) In India's crucial second innings, Dravid was given caught behind where the ball clearly went off his pad. Bucknor adjudged him out.

Issue 7) An edge off Ganguly's bat went to Michael Clarke. There was a doubt in umpire Benson's mind whether the catch was taken cleanly. Rather than consulting the Square Leg Umpire or the Third Umpire, he consulted Ricky Ponting. Why did he have to do that? Isn't it obvious that Ponting would say that it is out as Sourav Ganguly was the main obstacle in Australia's attempt to win the game?

This match also showed to what extent Team Australia can go to achieve their ends. Ricky Ponting had always seemed an arrogant man to me and I must agree to the famous saying- "Looks can be deceptive" But my feelings were limited to Ponting, Hogg, Johnson and Symonds. I never expected the entire team to be nothing but a bunch of cheats who can do absolutely anything to cling on to their "World Champion" tag! The very credibility of Team Australia is in doubt now. When Rahul Dravid got out, it was Adam Gilchrist who had claimed the catch. A few years back when Gilchrist was given not out when he was actually out, Gilchrist walked out of the ground saying that his conscience wouldn't have allowed him to continue batting as he would have been nagged by the fact that he was actually out. That decision by him, made many cricket lovers like me respect the man. After the batsman, it probably is the keeper who knows whether the ball actually nicked the bat or not and for a person of Gilchrist's stature claiming the catch while knowing the truth is shocking, especially after "walking" when he was sure of himself being out!

Then comes the instance of Michael Clarke claiming Ganguly's catch. It may be doubtful whether the ball bounced before coming to him or not but he wasn't in "complete control" of the ball after claiming the catch as the ball was clearly touching the ground! Ponting too unsuccessfully tried to claim a similar catch off Dhoni as the "complete control" definition came into view.

How can I miss making a comment on Man of the Match Andrew Symonds, who probably was the most fortunate man in the game after being given not out on three occasions when he was actually out and also taking Dravid's wicket in India's second innings, which by now we all know wasn't actually out. On the third day's play he complained to the Match Referee that Harbhajan Singh had "racially abused" him. And as I type news comes in that Harbhajan has been banned for 3 Tests for this very reason. I find it very difficult to judge the credibility of this complaint after all the above events. I feel this is nothing but a "mind game" by the Australians to remove Harbhajan from the attack. The press had reported that none of the umpires on the field had heard any abusing and even then Harbhajan is punished! What proof did the Australian's have? Can't they present it to the outside world to give us a clearer picture?

The unfortunate incidents in this test match have pained an entire nation where Cricket is an obsession and has a religious cult-like following! At the end of the day Cricket is the loser. I am deeply pained by this horrendous showing of favours by the umpires to the Australians thus proving that Cricket is not a "Gentleman's Game" anymore.

To sum it all up, I would quote what the Indian captain Anil Kumble said about the outcome of the match- "Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that's all I can say"

Other notable quotes after the match include-
  • "Batsmen usually say to each other 'you take care of this bowler etc'. [In] this match the Indians might have to say 'you take care of Bucknor, I will take care of Benson'."
    Ian Chappell on commentary during the final day of the Sydney Test following two doubtful decisions that went against India.
  • "If Steve Bucknor walks the streets of Mumbai, he won't be alive for more than an hour."
    A comment on a TV debate in India in the aftermath of the Sydney Test. The remark received warm applause.
  • "This has been going on in all countries for many years and it's only happening against India and has only been exposed because of TV. There were 12 decisions when we were batting and 12 when we were bowling."
    A balanced view on world cricket from an expert on the same show.

  • Former Indian Test Cricketer Syed Kirmani.
  • "Sorry I think you have got something wrong. There's no way that I would have grounded that ball and I think if you are actually questioning my integrity in the game, you should not be standing here. What I did in the first innings doesn't that explain the way I play the game. Well okay I am 100 per cent sure of that catch of Dhoni today. As it turned out wasn't that given not out. Am I right or wrong?"
    Australian skipper Ricky Ponting reacting angrily when asked by Indian reporter if he had cleanly caught Mahendra Singh Dhoni off the bowling of Brad Hogg. A ridiculous comment in my opinion.
  • "When you pick up a pack of Benson & Hedges you get a statutory warning: 'Smoking cigarettes is injurious to health.' From this day on, the firm of Benson & Bucknor may well have to come with some sort of warning. It's a shame when you have to spend more time talking about the umpiring than the wickets taken or the runs scored, but when the errors umpires make play a big role in deciding the course of a game, there's little choice."
    Cricinfo's cricket expert Anand Vasu in his post match bulletin.
  • "The umpires on the field are supposed to be neutral."
    Colin Croft starts 2008 with a controversial and ill thought-out on-air comment.
  • "How can the third umpire not see that? He's not got anything to do other than watch TV!"
    Sky TV's Charles Colvile offers a blunt take on the third umpire's decision to rule Andrew Symonds not out on a stumping referral.
  • "I was out when I was 30 - given not out. I can sit here and tell you about some bad decisions as well, but I won't. That's the game."
    Andrew Symonds tells it like it is about what went down on day one of the SCG Test.
  • "It was a match that will have been relished only by rabid nationalists and others for whom victory and vengeance are the sole reasons for playing sport ... It was a rotten contest that singularly failed to elevate the spirit."
    Peter Roebuck delivers his verdict on the second Australia-India Test in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Check out the links below for more on this issue-