One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

Possibilities in Pool B

With West Indies taking on Sri Lanka today, it is a good time to look at the possible qualifiers from Pool B into the Super Six.

The upset win by Kenya over Sri Lanka and the fact that New Zealand forfeited four points to Kenya has thrown open a host of possibilities. I came across the following analysis by S Rajesh at wisden's site. Makes a wonderful read, so read on ...

A pool which was already rife with plenty of possibilities just got a few more. Assuming that Kenya beat Bangladesh, and the minnows cause no further upsets, the results of two more matches � Sri Lanka v West Indies on February 28, and South Africa v Sri Lanka on March 3 � will decide which teams progress to the Super Six.

Scenario 1: Sri Lanka beat West Indies and lose to South Africa
South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Kenya will be tied at 16 points each. South Africa and Kenya will progress, on the basis of having beaten two of the three other teams. Net run rate will decide which of New Zealand or Sri Lanka qualify.

Scenario 2: Sri Lanka lose to West Indies and beat South Africa
West Indies will be the clear leader in the group with 18 points, leaving Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Kenya tied on 16 points each. Sri Lanka and Kenya will qualify, as New Zealand have lost to both those teams.

Scenario 3: Sri Lanka beat both West Indies and South Africa
Sri Lanka (20 points), Kenya (16) and New Zealand (16) qualify, and Kenya will go into the Super Six carrying forward the highest number of points.

Scenario 4: Sri Lanka lose to West Indies and South Africa
West Indies will top the group with 18 points, with South Africa, New Zealand and Kenya tied at 16. With one win for each team against the other two, the net run rate will come into play.

All this, assuming, of course, that the weather plays no further part in the rest of these matches

Cheers All !!!

Sultans of Swing !??!

My belief in the theory "There's extra swing when the lights are on" (especially after the Eng-Pak game) made me feel very happy that Ganguly had called correctly at the toss. Moreover, when the Sachin-Sehwag show was on, I was ecstatic as I couldn't help imagine the perverse pleasure I would have in seeing the English chase nearly 300 (maybe more) in 'swinging' conditions.

When we managed only 250, I couldn't agree more with Mark Nicholas who, just prior to the start of the English innings, said, "I had predicted an Indian win if they got over 250 and an English win if they folded within 250. Now that the score is exactly 250 it's anybody's game".

As Sameer said in his preview, it was just a 'par' score and I think we got the 'par' due to the beautiful 'tee' shots by Yuvraj and Dravid which got us the 'birdies' to negate the 'bogeys' of the middle-overs.

When our guys came on the field, the intensity showed in their eyes. The energy level was further boosted by the spectacular effort by Kaif in running Nick Knight out. People compare this attempt with the Jonty-Inzamam incident, but there is one crucial difference .. I read an article recently where Jonty admitted that his was not a particularly good bit of fielding as he was hesitant to throw the ball at the stumps and therefore threw himself on the stumps. If the master of fielding says "throwing" the ball is better, which is what Kaifi did, then there's no doubt in my mind that this was a better fielding effort.

I was wondering what the Indian bowler's had had during the break, it was surely not the Aloo Paratha I had managed to cram in during the break, at the nearby joint. While they were making the ball speak, I sat in disbelief - practically mesmerised. Experts had also warned India of the potential hazards of having no regular fifth bowler, plus the injury to Nehra meant Srinath and Zaheer had to pack atleast the first 4 wickets in their first spells. They bowled with a lot of heart as the balls seemed to go straight through the batsmen, but try as they may, the English batsmen just couldn't knick those peaches.

When Nehra was given the ball, I felt it was a just a touch too soon, maybe just one more over from Zaheer and possibly we would have got another wicket. When the first few deliveries from Nehra drifted down to the legs of Vaughan, I wondered if he knew that the two left-handed English openers were back in the pavilion. I think it was the fourth ball that he got on-and-around the off-stump and Vaughan was beaten. Hmm... this could be interesting, I thought. How wrong was I ? It turned out to be much more than plain interesting. Once he was in his rhythm, Nehra was unstoppable. I have rarely seen such control by a pace bowler. Five of the six wickets that he took were caught behind the wicket. But the one wicket of Alec Stewart proved that he has re-discovered the ball that 'Akramesquely' swings back in to the right-handers. It is this that I consider is his main weapon.

Andy Flintoff and Caddick resisted for a while, but by then the writing was already on the wall. By the time Zaheer caught Anderson with his now-patented toe-crusher (just ask the Namibians!!), I was left wondering if I had ever seen 3 pacemen from the same team bowl so well together. It could very well have been the World XI team with McGrath (Srinath), a left-handed version of the Donald-of-yore (Zaheer) and Akram (Nehra), all bowling at their best. Surely, these must be the new "Sultans of Swing". Only time will tell I suppose !!

Cheers !!!

Match Review: India Vs England

...the team batting second will have to face the daunting task of negotiating a fast, swinging ball, under artificial lights.

This is what I had said in my preview yesterday. And yes, the lights were artificial, the bowling was fast and the ball swung... though only in the minds of the clueless English batsmen, as they were brought to their knees by one of the best first-change bowling spells you will ever see in international cricket.

Take a bow, Ashish Nehra!

Bharat Army steamrolled the Barmy Army in more ways than one as India snuffed out the English challenge like a kid gleefully blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

Now before my Sameerisms start rivalling the Sidhuisms, I'll start reviewing the match.

As was widely reported, both the captains were wary of each other and were wishing for a lucky break in the form of the toss. Ganguly called correctly and promptly elected to set a target. It was one of the easiest decisions to make. History has shown that batting second is a nightmare in South Africa, especially at Durban, where the ball starts swinging like a drunk driver in the evenings, under the lights.

Tendulkar and Sehwag took guard against the consistency of Caddick and the raw pace and swing of Anderson, on a fast, bouncy pitch of Kingsmead under blustery conditions with winds swirling furiously. The first few overs were quiet and it was as if two prize-fighters were trading sparring blows in the first round, sizing up their opponents. Then suddenly, without warning, a gale struck the English ship. Sehwag and Tendulkar cut loose and turned the steady start into a blitzkrieg. Tendulkar was in sublime form as he Caddick to all parts of the ground with exquisite timing and near-perfect placement. Caddick was made to look worse than a club bowler when Tendulkar pulled a short delivery out of the ground for as huge a six as you'll ever see.

After the dismissal of the openers at the hands of Flintoff, Ganguly (and John Wright) made the blunder of sending a woefully out-of-form Dinesh Mongia and it was like a calm after the storm as the flow of runs trickled into nothingness. Now, I feel Ganguly should sit down and do some serious thinking about Mongia's raison d'etre in the team. He adds no value to the team given his current form and in fact drags the team down with his inept batting efforts. He's no great shakes with the ball either and is good enough only to be posted at deep third man when it comes to fielding. So, why is Ganguly sticking obstinately with him?!! Can anyone answer this question?!! ... It surely cannot be the lame reason that it is dangerous to change a winning team!

Yuvraj and Dravid resurrected the Indian innings with some intelligent cricket and shot-making. But it was comical to see four wickets go down in the final four balls of the Indian innings.

When England began their reply, the tension was palpable. The English batsmen were tense, the Indian team was tense, the crowd in the stadium was tense and the audiences worldwide, watching the match on TV were tense. 250 was just about par for the course. It was neither a big score nor a easily gettable one. It was always going to keep both sides interested.

Srinath and Zaheer produced one of the most disciplined bowling performances by an Indian new-ball attack. It was just amazing how many thimes the ball whizzed pass the outside edge of the bat and thudded into Dravid's gloves. Srinath gave Trescothick a thorough working over with an exemplary line until the frustrated Marcus pulled a short, rising, outside-the-off-stump Zaheer Khan delivery which went straight up in the air and was pouched by Tendulkar. I think it was Srinath's wicket even though Zaheer Khan gets the credit. Harbhajan Singh, I thought was just missing the plot. He was bowling an innocuous leg-stump line which negated his effectiveness. Ganguly's bowling was just about adequate.

Trescothick will no doubt be slammed by the unforgiving English media, as will be the rest of the England batsmen... and rightly so! They were all at sea against a disciplined attack. But they played horrendously against bowling that was essentially straight. There was almost no swing in the air and all the movement that was present, was off the seam. The English batsmen, playing for the swing were defeated in their intentions by the ball that just ever-so-slightly deflected off the seam. Surely, beter was expected from the likes of Vaughn and Hussain and Stewart who played like a bunch of school boys.

Flintoff was the only English player to come out of the match, with his head held high. His bowling was exemplary and his batting was determined and effective. He has that confident air about him that makes the opposition sit up and take notice. Too bad that he had to end up on the losing side.

The Indian fielding was quite special too! The Nick Knight run-out by Kaif will become an enduring image of this World Cup as one commentator rightly mentioned. It was out of this world!

No words can describe the spell bowled by Ashish Nehra. It was truly a class exhibition of fast, straight bowling in the corridor of uncertainty. He mesmerized the batsmen and had them fishing for the balls outside the off-stump. The lethal combination of line, length and pace worked wonders for Nehra. Now, I can use the luxury of hindsight and gloat on the fact that I had said this in my pre-match preview...
I, for one, would love to see how the English bastmen tackle the fastest left-arm speedster in this World Cup
And sure enough... I loved seeing the English batsmen embarass themselves playing atrocious cricket against Nehra. I hope Nehra continues to keep up his efforts.

It was a thoroughly professional performance by the Indians. It would be a folly to attribute the English defeat to the feact that they batted second. Firstly, because that's the nature of a contest. Secondly and more importantly, the conditions did not suit the bowlers as much as they did when England played Pakistan. The conditions were blustery and did not help the bowlers get any swing. all the work had to be done by the bowlers... which they so admirably did!

India come away from the match, victorious and with many positives... like Tendulkar's complete return to devastating form, Yuvraj's and Dravid's return to form, effectiveness of the Indian new-ball attack, Nehra's impressive form, improved fielding and catching. One thing that India will have to think about is Dinesh Mongia.

England however will come away from the match with many negatives and one big positive. The negatives include, the realization that non-ideal conditions reduce Anderson to an ordinary bowler, Nasser Hussain's unimaginative captaincy on the field and pathetic (gee! I'm running out of adjectives, here!) batting English top-order. But the biggest positive from the match is the form of Flintoff. Too bad, England had only one Flintoff!... Well, too bad for England. Very good for India! :-)

A well-deserved victory to the Indians. They will breathe easier from now on. Things have begun clicking for them. I hope the clicking continues till all the pieces fall into place. Well done, India!

Hi all,

The Top 5 on 26/02/2003

1. Ashish Nehra - 128 (One of the finest spells of swing bowling I have ever seen. 10 overs 23 runs 6 wickets)
2. Andrew Flintoff - 109 (Another good spell 2 wickets @ 1.5 rpo + 64 in 73 balls + 2 catches ... truly an all-round performance)
3. Rahul Dravid - 75 (A decent innings of 62 in 72 balls + 3 catches)
4. Shane Bond - 72 (3 wickets @ 3.3 rpo + 2 catches)
5. Virendra Sehwag and Craig McMillan - 60 each (VS - 23 runs in 29 balls + 3 catches, CM - 75 runs in 83 balls)

Cheers all !!!

Match Preview: India Vs England

"This is actually a no contest!", I said on this morning while talking on air with my favourite RJ Malishka on Win 94.6 FM. "The Indians are gonna kick some English... ummmm.... ", I stammered... having been requested not to use "ass" on air. "Posteriors!", Malishka completed the sentence for me!

I guess, reading the lines above, you know where my loyalties lie... ;-)

Kingsmead, DurbanIn any case... I preview the crucial India - England Day/Night match to be played at Kingsmead in Durban.

This is going to be one of the matches of the tournament. Two equally matched sides will battle it out on the bouncy pitch at Durban under lights. Can't have anything better than that, can we?!

The Englishmen are on a high after their emphatic drubbing of Pakistan. They played near perfect cricket to skittle out the Pakistani challenge. The batting line-up fired to produce a decent, if not imposing, score. The English batsmen showed character after losing their star batsman, Marcus Trescothick, very cheaply. Michael Vaughn, the best English Test bat this year, began scratchily but managed to prop up the English batting which was given the finishing touches by the "finisher" Paul Collingwood. Battingwise... England are looking settled and confident. Their worry is the possible knee injury of Michael Vaughn who was limping noticeably towards the end of his innings against Pakistan. He will have to undergo a fitness test before today's match. Other than that I do not think England will be worried too much about their batting... especially since they know this Indian bowling attack so well, having played against them a lot in the last year.

The English bowling looks formidable too... with the coming-of-age of James Anderson, the rookie pacer, who till last year was still playing club cricket in England. Anderson's lively pace is not enough to cause any concern to the Indian batsmen. It is his natural ability to swing the ball away from the right-handers, that will trouble the "fishermen" in the Indian line-up. Caddick, the grand old man of English bowling is steady but with occasional spurts of aggression. The rest of the bowling attack consists of Flintoff, Craig White and Ashley Giles. I am sure, Nasser Hussain will play Giles in today's match and bring him on quickly against Tendulkar to bowl that nagging negative line that frustrates The Master. If he doesn't do this, I'll be surprised! The Indian batsmen too have a very good idea about the English bowlers and there will be no secret weapons or surprise bowlers on either side.

Coming to the Indian batting... Sehwag and Tendulkar will open the batting again. Ganguly will come in next, wearing shoes gifted to him by Harbhajan Singh (for those who don't know, Ganguly attributed his return to form to the shoes he was wearing. They were gifted to him by Bhajji and he reckons they are his lucky shoes!). I again feel that Yuvraj should come in at two drop followed by Dravid. Kaif and Mongia should follow. Having regained his lost touch against Namibia, Ganguly would no doubt be looking to score another biggie to prove, to himself and his critics, that he indeed is back to form and his hundred versus Namibia wasn't a fluke. But this doesn't mean he should be daft enough to come back to open the innings. Let the Master and the Clone do that. But it will not be half as easy as it was against Namibia. The Kingsmead pitch will bounce and the English bowlers, knowing the Indian Achilles heel, will capitalize on the nature of the pitch to deny Indians free scoring opportunities off the front foot. But I guess, in Sehwag and Tendulkar, we have batsmen eminently capable of punishing the short of length stuff that is marginally off-line. Ganguly should realise that his coming in later will enable him to face the left arm spin of Giles. If this confrontation takes place, we will no doubt see some balls sailing into the crowd at long-on and mid-wicket.

Surprisingly, in this world cup so far, it is the Indian bowling that has fared better than the batting. Srinath, like an old wine that he is often compared to nowadays, is also being compared to McGrath for his consistency and stinginess. Zaheer Khan was a revelation in the match against Namibia. Obviously stung by his demotion to a first-change bowler, he fired on all cylinders when he was given the ball after Nehra slipped and sprained the ankle. His initial overs were so lethal that every ball that he bowled looked like getting wickets. His, newly-developed, ability to bring the ball back into the right-hander adds a new dimension to his bowling. It was good to see him bowl fast inswinging yorkers that had the Namibians dancing in the crease. I would love to see Nehra back in action. He gave a brief preview of his speed against Zimbabwe and I, for one, would love to see how the English bastmen tackle the fastest left-arm speedster in this World Cup (Nehra was consistently bowling over 150 Kmph). I believe Kumble should make a return into the side... even if it is at the expense of Mongia. Bounce is something that Kumble thrives on, and the Kingsmead pitch will certainly help him there. Moreover, we have kept him out for long enough to make him hungry for some action. Today is the chance to unleash him... because he will be wasted against the Pakistanis. Agarkar will unfortunately have to sit out once again.

The pitch at Durban is bouncy normally. But I doubt that it'll be as bouncy as it normally is, especially since its a World Cup match and the organizers will want a feast of runs than a feast of wickets. So, there is not much to worry about on that front. However the pitch will be fast and unlike the low and slow pitch that the Indians had to confront in Pietermartizburg. The weather should be fine too. But the biggest worry for both the captains will be the fact that this is a day-night game and one side will have huge advantage while playing under lights. We have seen in the England-Pakistan match how the ball began swinging once the lights were turned on. If the same thing happens, the team batting second will have to face the daunting task of negotiating a fast, swinging ball, under artificial lights. On the other hand, if the dew-factor comes into play in the evening, it will prove to be a major headache for the fielding team. The ball will be wet and swing will be non-existent. In that case we will also see some fielding lapses. So, both captains will be hoping desperately to win the toss as it would help them put their carefully chalked out plan into action, rather than being forced to draw up alternate plans.

Ganguly has rated this game as being a 50-50 game. Any side could win. Hussain has already announced that this is the toughest game that they have in the preliminary rounds. Both of them are wary of eadh other. None of them want to make the first move... to commit before its absolutely necessary. This makes for a great match in prospect. But then... like most hyped-up games, this could well be a let-down... a damp squib... a one-sided affair. I hope this doesn't happen... but if it does, I want Ganguly to be the one to bare his torso on the dressing room balcony!

My prediction: A toughie!! ... but I'll go with India! I'm banking on India batting first and batting England out of the contest!

Hi all,

I'm back to meet the popular demand of publishing the Top 13 list among all the players selected by various teams in our own little contest !!!

1. Herschelle Gibbs - 290
2. Sachin Tendulkar - 258
3. Muttiah Muralitharan - 224
4. Lance Klusener - 217
5. Brian Lara - 210
6. Sanath Jayasuriya - 193
7. Wasim Akram - 188
8. Wavell Hinds - 187
9. Andrew Flintoff - 162
10. Ramnaresh Sarwan - 160
11. Ricky Ponting - 155
12. Harbhajan Singh - 154
13. Stephen Fleming - 145

People who just missed the cut ...
Sehwag, Ganguly and Gillespie - 142 each,
Akhtar, Hooper - 138 each
Pollock - 136.
Mervyn Dillon - 132.

BTW, the team currently leading our contest, 'Dare Devils', has 8 players from the top 13, including all the top 6 players ... Do I hear of vacancies in selection committees the world over !!??!!

Cheers all !!!

Hi all,

Its your friendly statistician again !!!
It certainly feels good to be back in action after a bout of flu over the weekend !!! Sorry for not posting the 'Top 5s' over the last couple of days.

I feel it is a good time to take a look at the Top 13 among all the players as per our own unique points system !!
These points include all games till close of play yesterday - 24/02/2003.

1. Herschelle Gibbs - 290 (Gibbs has rushed to the top of the charts by striking yet another brilliant century, albeit in a losing cause, against the Kiwis)
2. Chaminda Vaas - 270 (Devastating bowling by Vaas has seen him maintain his position at the top)
3. Jon Davison - 266 (A true all-rounder, has scored 150 runs with a good strike rate + 5 wickets with a good economy rate)
4. Sachin Tendulkar - 258 ('Back-in-business' or 'business-as-usual', you decide. Has scored 321 runs so far which is the maximum number of runs in this edition of the cup)
5. Muttiah Muralitharan - 224 ('Vaas' partner-in-crime, 10 wickets already at a measly economy rate)
6. Lance Klusener - 217 (Just cannot keep Zulu down for long, 90 runs in 2 innings at more-than-healthy strike rate + 5 wickets)
7. Brian Lara - 210 (Seems to be backing his instincts in this World Cup, the glorious innings against SA was followed by spectacular hitting against Canada)
8. Grant Flower - 196 (The lesser-known of the two Flower brothers is making his presense felt this time around)
9. Gary Kirsten - 195 (Like Lara, Kirsten has also made a good comeback to his side.. some people still argue that had he opened with Gibbs against the Kiwis, instead of Graeme Smith, it would have been better for the SA cause)
10. Sanath Jayasuriya - 193 (Deadly batsman, good flat-bowler, excellent fielder and a decent captain, what more can you ask for ? ... perhaps a better innings against Kenya ?)
11. Wasim Akram - 188 (Like old wine, he seems to be getting better with age. Has 499 ODI wickets, who can bet against him getting #500 against Holland today ?)
12. Wavell Hinds - 187 (Surprisingly he has bowled well in this tournament with 5 wickets to his name + he hit 64 runs in 31 balls as WI blitzed past the Canadians score)
13. Andrew Symonds - 178 (Still seems to be enjoying the fruits of the big knock against Pakistan ... well who can say that he doesn't deserve to ?)

Cheers all !!!

It was really, as Peter Roebuck says, A firework lighting the skies. Jon Davison played the innings of the day and his lifetime when he blitzed the fastest century ever to have been scored in a World Cup match. He scored the century in just 67 balls with the help of 6 towering sixes to go with his 8 boundaries.

And I must say, I was privileged to watch him play!

Match Preview: India Vs. Namibia

Last time around, when I wrote a preview for an India match, it was India taking on the world champions, Australia. And, unfortunately, Indians proved to be cannon-fodder for the strong bowling that the Aussies have. The much-vaunted Indian batting line-up wilted under pressure as they were skittled out for a paltry total.

Pietermaritzburg Oval, Pietermaritzburg I do not expect the same to happen this time around as I preview the match against Namibia.

Namibia have proved to be the surprise packages of this World Cup. Though they haven't won any of their matches, they certainly have looked far better than their position in world cricket. And Indians would be well advised against taking this opposition lightly. After all, had the weather intervened in their match against England, Namibia could have well won that match, courtesy of Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis.

Not much isknown about the Naimibian batting or their bowling lineup, but based on their performances so far in this World Cup, the Burgers looked to be decent players so does Koetze. More than relying on the talent or genius of their players, Namibia relies heavily on doing the basic things right. Their bowling, while not half as threatening as any of the top teams, is adequate. We know all too well how the Indians struggled initially against the disciplined Dutch attack. So, Sehwag and Yuvraj and co. should look to rein in their attacking instincts before getting their eyes in. Then, the inexperience of Namibia will work to the Indian advantage.

About the Indian batting order, rumours mills are working overtime once again, as they do before any Indian match these days. It is certain that Sehwag and Tendulkar will continue to open the innings. But Saurav Ganguly is supposed to come in at one-drop. I think that is an excellent move. For one, a class player like Ganguly should get maximum number of overs to bat. Secondly, Ganguly looked to be getting back to his ways in the last match against Zimbabwe. His huge six was an indicator of some confidence returning. Thirdly, Ganguly is not as good as Dravid as partnering the tail-enders. So, dropping Ganguly down the order will leave him clueless as "a child in a topless bar"!! (sorry!!... but just could not resist that Sidhusim!) My man at two down is Yuvraj. He has not been getting much of chances lately and it shows in his approach in batting. I mean he looks to reach out for the ball too early in his innings. He needs a good long outing in the middle and this particular match is as good as any to let him have it. Dravid should come in after him, followed by Kaif. And my view is that instead of having the 7th batsman, India should fortify their bowling attack. Which could mean the inclusion of either Bangar or Agarkar. But I am partial towards the inclusion of Agarkar, simply because he is much much experienced than Bangar and knows how to play in a World Cup match. The rest of the bowling should not be tampered with. I am not in favour of playing Kumble in this match. Nehra who bowled accurately at speeds of 150 Kmph should be encouraged to do the same in this match so that he gets into the groove of bowling at express speeds consistently. Bhajji and Srinath pick themselves up.

All this talk of team compositions and strategies may well come to naught if the weather gods play spoilsport at the Pietermaritzburg Oval on Sunday. The clouds have been gathering with the sun appearing as if for an entr'acte. If that happens, and the teams have to share points, the path to a SuperSix spot will become all the more rocky for the Indians. So keeping the fingers crossed for fair weather in Pietermaritzburg. One last thought on the weather and the team composition... Having an extra bowler like Agarkar would be ideal since it would lend some more teeth to the Indian attack which is vital since the Duckworth-Lewis rule takes into account the number of wickets to have fallen.

So, there you have it... a preview with a strong Indian bias... which is solely because Namibia is a completely unknown factor.

My Prediction: Indians should walk away with the match, period. Any other result would be a disappointment! (and that's putting it very mildly!)

Tendulkar, Sehwag will open against Namibia. There will be no change at the top of the Indian batting lineup in Sunday's match against Namibia. It will again be the Master partnering the explosive Virender Sehwag. I think this is the right move, especially against minnows Namibia about whom Ganguly has already predicted, "Namibia can't beat us".

The Indian team, with its new mantra of "Now or Never" are looking to enter into contest with Namibia with Ajit Agarkar and Anil Kumble. Ashish Nehra who bowled extremely fast in the match against Zimbabwe will retain his place in the squad.

But even as the Indian team looks confident about the match, the weather might just have different ideas. There could be showers on Sunday and with Indians fighting to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Super Six, Ganguly was critical of the tournament organizers for failing to allocate reserve days for rain-hit matches. "It happened in the last World Cup, why can't they do it this time round?" he asked. And I agree completely with Ganguly on this point.

Did Shoaib bowl the fastest ball?
The Speed Gun at the Newlands recorded Shoaib Akhtar as having bowled the fastest ball ever hurled across 22 yards of a cricket pitch in the Pakistan-England match Saturday afternoon. 161.3 kilometres per hour of blistering pace. Or just over 100 mph
Now, at 161.3 Kmph, it was the fastest ball ever recorded in the history of modern cricket. But was it the fastest ball ever bowled in modern cricket?

What's the difference, you would ask!

The reason why people are asking this question is, the very next over was bowled by Wasim Akram. And after Akram had delivered a ball in his over, the speed gun showed... 161.3 Kmph!!

Fastest ball... or... dysfunctional speed gun?!!

Chris Cairns cuts lip in a bar brawl. More than half the New Zealand team was involved in a bar brawl outside a nightclub, in which Chris Cairns was assaulted and subsequently he suffered a cut lip.
Read more about it here

Was this necessary?? During the presentation ceremony after the Indian win against Zimbabwe, Saurav Ganguly was asked by Sanjay Manjrekar about the "huddles" that were seen in the field today after every Zimbabwean wicket fell. To this Ganguy replied saying to the effect of "We realise we don't get much support from outside, we gather around and support each other".

Now this was perfectly unwarranted, if you ask me! I don't think there's any other cricket team in the world that gets quite as much support as the Indian team does, from its fans in the country. Once in a while when the fortunes of the team turn the other way and the team does not seem to be doing enough to turn things around, it is natural for the adulation to turn into disappointment which, sometimes, boils over into violent protests. While I do not condone the pathetic behaviour of some idiots with no knowledge of the game, I certainly did not expect this statement from Saurav Ganguly!

What do you think??

Indian 'bat' themselves into possible trouble! The already battered Indian team may find itself in a new controversy, with the match-referee for the India-Zimbabwe tie reportedly finding the bats of skipper Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag "broader" than the prescribed limits.

Match referee Clive Lloyd is believed to have checked the bats of players of both the teams and found at least seven of them using willows that exceeded the International Cricket Council's specifications by five millimetres.

Read more about it here.

Top 5 'point winners' on 19/02/2003

1. Prabath Nissanka - 92 points ('wrecker-in-chief' for Sri Lanka today 4 wickets at 1.7 rpo)
2. Ronnnie Irani - 82 points (12 runs in 7 balls + 3 wickets at 3.75 rpo)
3. Zaheer Khan - 78 points (13 runs in 9 balls + 2 wickets at 3 rpo + 1 catch)
4. JB Burger - 75 points (85 runs in 86 balls)
5. Andrew Flintoff - 72 points (21 runs in 24 balls + 2 wickets at 3.3 rpo + 1 catch)

Just the lone 'batting performance' in the top 5, surely a day for bowlers and allrounders.

Best of Luck all !!!

Some bits of news from South Africa... and some questions!

Indian coach John Wright says "
As of this point in time, my thinking is that Sachin Tendulkar should open. I also believe that Virender Sehwag should be used to the maximum possible, which means he should open."
But then he also says, "It is of course the captain's prerogative to decide the batting order."
So... does that mean our Captain and the Coach are not completely in sync about what the batting order should be?!!

After the statements by the Captain and the Vice-captain apologizing for the debacle against Australia... could The Master have stayed far behind? In an extraordinary plea for support from enraged fans, Tendulkar said, "This is to all the well-wishers in India. I am here on behalf of the Indian cricket team...We ourselves are very disappointed with the kind of performances we have put up and I also understand the disappointment you have gone through. I am just here to assure all of you that we will be fighting in all the games until the last ball is bowled...so please continue to support us, as you have done in the past, which will surely help us."
Is this charade really warranted?? Does this mean the Indian team was giving less than 100% (which many would say was obvious!) in their matches upto now??

Some pearls of wisdom(??) from the mouths of Captain Clueless and Vice-Captain Wall
I have never seen Indian batting line-up play like this. I am a bit worried.
Sourav Ganguly

We understand your disappointment but no one is more disappointed than us. The World Cup is not over and we urge you to keep showing the faith you have shown all these years. All is not lost and there are four more games to go. There is lot of cricket left and our test of character would come when we pick ourselves out of the mat.
Rahul Dravid to Indian supporters after landing in Harare

Top 5 players (on 16/02/2003)

1. Wasim Akram - 122 points (20 runs in 14 balls + 5 wickets at 3.11rpo)
2. Stephen Fleming - 105 points (classy innings of 134 runs in 132 balls)
3. Herschelle Gibbs - 105 points (another great innings of 143 runs in 141 balls)
4. James Anderson - 82 points (4 wickets at 2.5 rpo)
5. Ian Blackwell - 77 points (2 wickets at 3.7 rpo + 22 runs in 11 balls)

Best of Luck all !!!

�You�ve just dropped the World Cup, mate�. For almost four years now, Steve Waugh's legendary words have haunted Herschelle Gibbs. Gibbs had failed to pouch Steve Waugh's catch in the 1999 World Cup. After the reprieve, Waugh went on to score a match-winning 120 not-out. On Sunday, 16th February, Gibbs took a giant step towards redeeming himself, when he blasted the New Zealand attack to all corners of the park in his score of 143.

But, history seemed to repeat itself, when Boucher failed to hang on to a catch offered by the New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming while he was on 53. Fleming took full advantage of this let-off and went on to score 134 not out to carry his team to an almost unbelievable win over the hosts, South Africa.

The question to be asked is... Did Boucher drop the 2003 World Cup?.

While I don't always agree with Prem Panicker's anti-Ganguly-as-captain postures, his latest column, Captain clueless, on Rediff, makes a lot of sense. It's a good read.

I really do wish that Ganguly stops being pig-headed and does not continue to use the World Cup as the tournament to come back in form by hitting his way out of trouble.

The top 13 players amongst those selected by various teams in our own little contest (upto 15/02/2003)
1. Sanath Jayasuriya -- 169 points
2. Lance Klusener -- 162 points
3. Herschelle Gibbs -- 140 points
4. Ramnaresh Sarwan -- 115 points
5. Muttiah Muralitharan -- 100 points
6. Ricky Ponting -- 95 points
7. Jason Gillespie -- 92 points
8. Harbhajan Singh -- 92 points
9. Mark Boucher -- 85 points
10. Nathan Astle -- 82 points
11. Shaun Pollock -- 80 points
12. Sachin Tendulkar -- 78 points
13. Mervyn Dillon -- 78 points

Others who just missed the cut,
Brian Lara -- 75 points
Carl Hooper -- 72 points
Alok Kapali -- 72 points
Ravindu Shah -- 70 points
Chris Cairns -- 70 points
Adam Gilchrist -- 70 points.

Cheers !!!

The top 13 players of the week (upto 15/02/2003), how many of them does your team have ????

1. Chaminda Vaas -- 174 points
2. Sanath Jayasuriya -- 169 points
3. Andrew Symonds -- 162 points
4. Lance Klusener -- 162 points
5. Craig Wishart -- 160 points
6. Scott Styris -- 150 points
7. John Davison -- 146 points
8. Herschelle Gibbs -- 140 points
9. Gary Kirsten -- 120 points
10. Austin Codrington -- 120 points
11. Grant Flower -- 118 points
12. Andre Adams -- 117 points
13. Ramnaresh Sarwan -- 115 points

Other 'centurians', Thomas Odoyo 112 and Muttiah Muralitharan 100 points.

Cheers !!!

The top 5 'point winners' on 15/02/2003 ...

1. Thomas Odoyo - 112 points (27 runs in 42 balls + 4 wickets at 2.8 rpo)
2. John Davison - 98 points (31 runs in 32 balls + 3 wickets at 1.5 rpo)
3. Jason Gillespie - 68 points (3 wickets at 1.3 rpo)
4. Brett Lee - 52 points (3 wickets at 4 rpo)
5. Maurice Odumbe - 50 points (26 runs in 19 balls + 2 wickets at 4.55 rpo)

Three games on the 16th, be prepared for plenty of changes on the leader board !!!

Best of Luck all !!!

Sigh !!!

Australia vs India, touted as one of the matches of the tournament, turned out to be a damp squib as the Indian batting failed to reach the potency levels prior to the NZ tour. The batsmen maintained their 'consistency' in not being able to bat the full fifty overs as most of the dismissals were self-inflicted.

I really wanted Ganguly to elect to field first once he had won the toss as it would have given the Indian batsmen some sort of a target to chase as they seemed to have lost the plot after the dismissal of Sehwag.

For once, the Aussie bowling did not look sharp in the first 10 overs but even then Ganguly and Sehwag gave their wickets away chasing deliveries wide outside the off-stump. Dravid came in and the momentum was lost completely as even Sachin went into his shell. Dravid's dismissal was shocking, it was a nothing-shot to a ball that literally begged to be sqare-cut to the fence, instead Dravid chased it down with a 'straight' bat and managed to drag the ball onto the stumps. After that umpire D'Silva came into the act and the in-form Yuvraj Singh was given leg before wicket and was off without troubling the scorers. Kaif pulled a short one straight to the lone man in the deep (and with that shot he might have ruined his chances of playing any more part in the playing XI for the rest of the Cup). Just when Mongia and Sachin were rebuilding the innings, Sachin mis-judged the pace on a Gillespie ball and was caught plumb in front of the wickets. Brett Lee was brought back to wrap the tail but instead Mongia obliged and threw his own wicket away. The spin twins then forged a partnership which saw India cross the three figure mark. Zaheer and Srinath did not last long and 125 was all that the team could get.

Hayden, along with Gilchrist and then Ponting, completed the formalities but not before being troubled a little by the spinners and it is then one thought how different the game could have been had the batting put on atleast 260-270 on the board ??

Match Preview: India Vs. Australia

One of the biggest matches in the preliminary round of the World Cup 2003, will take place today. It'll be played, at Supersport Park in Centurion, between the defending champions, Australia and India.

Supersport Park, CenturionAustralia and India have had contrasting victories in their previous matches in the tournament. While Australia overcame a shaky start to trounce Pakistan by over 80 runs, the Indians, on the other hand, made a mess of their batting display against minnows Holland only to recover the situation through some good bowling by the duo from Karnataka. Though Indians won comfortably in the end, it was their batting that let millions of their fans down.

Let us not review the performances in the past... let us only look forward... to the upcoming match.

It is an open secret that apart from the Proteas, it is the Indians that cause the most sleepless nights in the Australian camp. The coming together of the spin twins is the fact that is causing so much insomnia among the Aussie batsmen. Looking through the Aussie batting line-up, we see that Matthew Hayden is perhaps the only batsman that has given India a hard time in the past. Adam Gilchrist, the scourge of bowlers worldwide, hasn't really clicked against the Indians in the past. Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Jimmy Maher are all good batsmen, very good in fact. But they are not the best in the world when it comes to playing against quality spin bowling... and in Bhajji and Kumble, India have probably the best spin bowling attack in this World Cup. Symonds, the hero from the match against Pakistan is perhaps one batsman that Indians should look out for. In the past, it has always been batsmen like Andrew Symonds or the West Indian Powell, who have come in at the fall of the top order and taken toll of the less-than-incisive support bowling that India has. The rest of the Aussie batsmen are not a problem for the Indians.

The Australian bowling, however, is an entirely different proposition. An attack made up of McGrath, Lee, Gillespie can strike fear into hearts of any batting line-up. Even during the last World Cup, it was the accuracy of Glenn McGrath that proved to be the undoing of the Indian batting stars like Tendulkar and Dravid. Added to that accuracy, is the raw pace of an often-erratic Brett Lee. However, in my view, the most dangerous bowler in the Aussie line-up, as far as the Indian batting goes, will be Jason Gillespie. With his combination of pace and line, Gillespie has often troubled the Indians. Apart from these three, the bowling of Symonds and Hogg holds no devils, though it begs to be pointed out that Indians are suckers for bowlers like Symonds (remember the success that Andre Adams had in the recently concluded New Zealand tour)

Lets have a look at the Indian batting. With Tendulkar opening the batting alongwith Ganguly (a move that should have been resorted to, in the NZ tour itself), the top of the Indian batting looks solid, on paper of course. Ideally, I would have liked Sehwag, in the prime form that he is, opening the batting with Tendulkar. But since the team management has decided to stick with the out-of-form Ganguly at the top of the order, so be it. Sehwag will be playing against the Aussies, on such a big stage, for the first time... and will naturally look forward to the occasion. But he would be well advised to rein in his instincts just a little bit, since it is a foregone conclusion that the Aussies will set up a trap for him. Either a short ball on the leg stump, into his rib-cage or a short ball just outside the off-stump, inviting a cut, but without any room to execute it, will most probably be the option against the butcher from Najabgarh. Rahul Dravid will provide solidity to this highly talented, if temperamental, line-up. Yuvraj Singh, whose 81 against the Aussies in his debut match still ranks as one of the most memorable innings by an Indian against the Aussies in an ODI, will look to play the role that is played by Symonds in the opposite camp. By the looks of it, Kaif is all set to miss the match, with a string of failures in the last few matches Talk of Bangar replacing him is rife in the media circles. Bangars entry boosts up the bowling attack slightly. But he looks decidedly uncomfortable against big-gun bowlers while bowling. So, its not the most positive of moves. The Indian tail leaves a lot to be desired. And this is putting it mildly.

The Indian bowling looks settled, for once. The in-form Srinath (the newest 300-wickets club member) and the vastly-improved Zaheer are competent enough to trouble the Aussie top-order. But one thing that goes against Srinath is his inability to cope with pressure that is caused by an opposition onslaught against his bowling (as was evident in the NZ tour match where Astle tore apart his bowling in one over). The strong Aussie top-order will belooking to exploit this weakness. Zaheer is much better at handling pressure. The spin bowling looks incisive and stingy at the same time. So, the top four bowlers are decided. It is the fifth bowler that may cause India the problems. But theinclusion of Bangar will sort out that problem to a large extent. Rahul Dravid's wicket-keeping will be thoroughly tested in this match.

Australians are much much better in the field than the Indians, and the Indians will have to field out of their skins to make a match of it. The athletic abilities of Kaif will be sorely missed, should he not play today.

All in all, a very exciting match in prospect today. The Australians are wary of the Indians and that should work in the favour of the Indian team. Moreover, the Indian team should remember, that they had beaten Australia in that ICC knockout in Nairobi a few years back, completely on the basis of the principle that "Attack is the best form of defense". And so, Indians will have to go all out and try to dominate the Aussies from the word go, if they want to cause an upset and stay in contention for the Super Six berth.

My prediction: As usual, the head says that Aussies are the favourites. But the heart dictates that it'll be the Indians that will be doing the victory lap of the Supersport Park today evening!

Hi everyone,
A very interesting article posted on rediff.com by journalist Faisal Shariff. Gives a beautiful insight on what actually happens in the nets and the strategies employed by teams before a match. Definitely a must-read .

Hi all,

It's me again with the top 5 performers of the day (14/02/2003)

1. WPUJC Vaas (Who else !?!) -- 138 points -- (excellent, record breaking bowling spell 6 wickets at 2.7rpo + 1 catch)

2. Muttiah Murali (partner in crime ?) -- 70 points -- (3 wickets at 2.5 rpo + 1 catch)

3. Marvan Attapattu -- 60 points (outscored Jayasuriya today !!! -- 71 ball 69 runs)

4. Sanath Jayasuriya -- 55 points (57 ball, 55 runs + 1 catch)

5. Alok Kapali and Mashrafe Mortaza -- 30 points each (AK - 32 in 37 balls, MM - 23 in 28 balls)

There is a big game tomorrow, with plenty of potential 'point-winners' in action.

Best of Luck all !!!

My head says Australia, but my heart says India

Hi all,

Here's the list of the top 5 'point-winners' (on 13/02/2003)

1. Andre Adams -- 107 points (this pocket-sized dynamo scored 35 in 24 balls + 1 run out + 4 wickets at 4.55 rpo) An all rounder indeed !!!
2. Wavell Hinds -- 52 points (surprisingly got all these points for his bowling, 3 wickets at 3.5 rpo)
3. Jacob Oram and Merv Dillon -- 48 points each (Oram - 2 wickets at 2.6 rpo + 1 catch; Dillon - 1 wicket at 3 rpo + 2 catches)
4. Nathan Astle -- 46 points (70 ball 46 runs + 0 wickets but at an economy rate of just 3.5 rpo)
5. Ramnaresh Sarwan -- 45 points (another good knock by him, 75 runs in 99 balls)

Sri Lanka play Bangladesh today, who would bet against another Jayasuriya century ?

Best of Luck all !!!

An article by Faizan Chaudhary

The stage is set for arguably the biggest clash in group A. If there is
any side that can beat Australia in this group its India. Yes guys its
the clash of the Titans. Its India V/S Australia, this saturday.Heres a
quick preview of the two sides

Arguably the best batting line up in the World. With the likes of
Sachin, Sehwag, Dravid, Ganguly and the youngsters , they are a force to
reckon with. I guess Ganguly should make way for Sehwag to open the
innings. Ganguly can chip in at 4 or 5 to take the attack on the
spinners and the part timers. The youthful exuberance of Yuvraj and Kaif
would definitely help India. These two guys at such a young age have
become icons of Indian cricket. They understand modern day cricket
better than anyone else. The only concern being they should not get
complacent. The bowling has always let us down. But I think with Zaheer,
Srinath and Bhajji we form a decent (if not good) bowling attack. The
fielding has on many occassions left a lot to be desired. I am sure that
this saturday the legs wont get tired and there will be desperate stuff
from the Indians. A win here will get them closer to the second round.

The best side in this world cup with fantastic all round abilities.
Though they will be missing the services of Warne(not atleast against
India) they surely are the number one contenders for the biggest
sporting honour in cricket. With Gilchrist and Hayden opening the
batting the Indians have their work cut out. To add to their worries the
aggressive Ricky Ponting comes one down. Damien Martyn's effortless
timing has gained him praise throughout the world. We all have seen
Andrew Symonds taking apart the pakistani attack. Mcgrath, Gillespie and
Bret Lee can rip through any batting line up in the world. The
Australian fielding has always been a joy to watch.

All in all its going to be a great match.

The Indian streets will be empty. Everybody will be home cheering their
heroes.Hope they dont let us down this time as well.

My money's on India. wheres urs?(dont keep the money in ur pocket)

Jonty Rhodes out of the World Cup!!!. Close on the heels of Warne's unceremonious exit from the World Cup, comes another piece of news that'll sadden cricket lovers' hearts.

It has been confirmed that the injury to the hand of Jonty Rhodes is indeed a fracture. This essentially rules him out of the rest of the World Cup tournament. In him, South Africa lose their talisman who's come to be regarded as an icon of fielding.

I hope this is the last of the "celebrity exits" from this World Cup!!

Hi again,

Seven matches over.

The list of top 5 point winners (on 12/02/2003)

1. Herschelle Gibbs -- 110 points (for a boundary studded knock of 87 in 66 balls + 1 catch + 1 run out)

2. Lance Klusener -- 102 points (4 wickets at 2 rpo + 1 run out)

3. Kumble, Srinath and Tim De Leede -- 72 points (4 wickets each at an economy rate between 3 and 4 each).

4. Gary Kirsten -- 65 points (63 balls 52 runs + 2 catches).

5. Harbhajan Singh -- 62 points (1 wicket at 2 rpo + 13 runs in 8 balls which took him marginally over our cut off).

One of the in-form batting line-ups nowadays, West Indies, take on one of the better bowling line-ups, New Zealand, today.

Keep a close eye on Lara and Cairns.

Best of Luck all !!!

Hello all,

Five matches over now.

The list of the top 5 point winners (on 11/02/2003)

1. Andrew Symonds (what an innings!!) -- 130 points (for his 125 ball 143 runs + a catch in the outfield).
2. Austin Codrington -- 104 points (excellent bowling analysis of 9 overs for 27 runs and 5 wickets).
3. Ricky Ponting -- 65 points (67 balls, 53 runs + 2 catches)
4. Rashid Latif -- 55 points (quickfire 33 off 23 balls + 1 catch)
5. John Davison -- 48 points (2 wickets at 3 rpo + 1 catch) and Sanwar Hossain -- 48 points (2 wickets at 2.6 rpo + 1 catches)

Other decent point scorers yesterday were Ian Harvey -- 46 points and Wasim Akram and Alok Kapali with 42 points each. Lots of points at stake today as well with both India and South Africa in action and that too against relatively weaker opposition.

Best of Luck all !!!

Shane Warne out of the world cup!!!?? A report on Rediff gives the sensational news that Shane Warne has pulled out of the world cup!!
The report says...
Australian television stations reported on Tuesday that leg spinner Shane Warne had pulled out of the World Cup after apparently taking a banned substance inadvertently while recovering from a shoulder injury.
Don't know is this is authentic information. But it is a big big blow to the World Cup and not to mention Australia's chances!!

Hello once again,

Three matches over, fifty-one still to go. An 'upset' in the very first match of the tournament. Four centuries in three games, well, what more can a cricket buff ask for ?

The list of the top 5 point winners (for this day)
1. Craig Wishart -- 160 points (for his 151 ball 172 + a catch in the outfield).
2. Scott Styris -- 140 points (excellent innings of 141 in 125 balls + 2 catches)
3. Grant Flower -- 118 points (quickfire 78 off 55 balls + 1 wicket at an economy rate of 2.5 rpo)

... pity not one of the top 3 was selected by anyone of us. But here's some bit that should cheer exactly 25 of us

4. Sanath Jayasuriya -- 114 points (120 in 125 balls + 1 wicket at an economy rate of 4 rpo)

.. The other Flower is not too far off the action as well.
5. Andy Flower -- 55 points (39 in 28 balls + 1 catch)

Plenty of points at stake tomorrow, when Australia play Pakistan, with possibly 19 of the 22 players playing the game being potential 'point earners'.

Best of Luck !!!

Hi all,

The registration for the contest is over now and we have 33 teams fighting it out for the honours.

Here's a peek into the psyche of all us contestants ...

The top 13 with respect to the number of teams the players feature in (does anybody have exactly the same team ??)

Adam Gilchrist - 32
Virendra Sehwag - 26
Sanath Jayasuriya - 25
Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis - 23
Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock - 22
Sachin Tendulkar - 21
Wasim Akram - 18
Matthew Hayden, Rahul Dravid - 17
Muttiah Muralitharan - 14
Shane Bond - 12

The rest ...

Marcus Trescothick - 10
Yousuf Youhana, Shoaib Akhtar - 9
Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee, Chris Cairns - 8
Lance Klusener, Carl hooper - 7
Shane Warne, Brian Lara, Chris Gayle - 6
Zaheer Khan, Michael Vaughan, Nathan Astle, Yuvraj Singh - 5
Mark Boucher, Abdur Razzaq - 4
Andy Flintoff, Nick Knight, Shiv Chanderpaul, Shahid Afridi - 3
Sourav Ganguly, Jonty Rhodes, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Daryl Tuffey, Mahela Jayawardene, Andy Flower - 2
Harbhajan Singh, Damien Martyn, Brad Hogg, Jason Gillespie, Michael Bevan, Nicky Boje, Taufeeq Umar, Waqar Younis, Azhar Mahmood, Jacob Oram, Stephen Fleming, Craig McMillan, Marvan Attapattu, Wavel Hinds, Mervyn Dillon, Alec Stewart, Paul Collingwood, Alok Kapali and RD Shah - 1

The remainder don't find favour in any of the 33 teams, the chief omissions being that of Aravinda De Silva and Saeed Anwar, who are probably out of contention just because of the nature of this contest.

Now for a list of countries and the number of different players selected from it.

Australia - 10 players
Pakistan - 9 players
India, West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand - 7 players
England - 6 players
Sri Lanka - 4 players
Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Kenya - 1 player each.

The player and team analysis both show the Aussies to be the favourites, with South Africa, India and Pakistan playing catchup.

But really, statistics can all go out of the window once the games start ...

Best of Luck to all !!!

Match Preview: South Africa Vs. West Indies

The hosts South Africa take on the past champions, West Indies in the opening match of the ICC World Cup 2003. Lets have a quick preview of the encounter

On paper and current form and according to cricketing common sense, South Africa look favourites to steamroll their first opponents, the West Indians. The South African team looks very strong. Check out South African team's analysis done by Abhijeet to judge for yourself the pedigree of this power-house of international cricket. At home, the South Africans will be doubly dangerous against the flamboyant West Indians. South Africa will rely heavily on their pace attack led admirably by their captain Shaun Pollock and Mkhaya Ntini. The pace of Ntini and the guile and discipline of Pollock will be a tough proposition for the West Indian team, especially for the young openers Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds. But do not underestimate the determination of these two youngsters who proved to be hard nuts to crack on their recent Indian tour. Gayle who cracked three tons in that series can be a dangerous customer if he can get through the first few overs where he is circumspect and has a tendency to play far too much inside the line of the ball, as a result. Hinds is equally explosive and together they form one of the most dangerous opening partnerships if they play to their potential and talent.

If they can somehow manage to play out the initial burst from the South African opening pacemen, they will face the pace, cunning and experience of "White Lightening", Allan Donald. Added to this is the underrated pace of Jacques Kallis. A tough proposition for the West Indians, indeed. But it gets better for the West Indians as the gaze travels down their batting line-up. Brian Lara, the Prince, is looking to make a grand comeback onto the world stage that he ruled like a proud lion for many years before Tendulkar rightfully claimed that honour. Then comes the shrewd cunning of Shivnarine Chanderpaul who can be a really sticky batsman whom even the best bowlers find it difficult to dislodge. The return of Marlon Samuels to the West Indian team is a great news for them. Samuels is the future of West Indian cricket... their most talented batsman. Their captain Carl Hooper is the most experienced batsman in their team. He can play equally well against the pacemen and spinners and can stay at the crease with a icy cool temperament that rivals that of the ex - Australian captain Steve Waugh. Even the combined strength of the Protean pace bowling can pale into insignificance if the West Indian batting line up fires, as it has been doing for the past year.

Reversing the roles, let us look at the West Indian bowling and South African batting...

As much as the West Indian batting is full of talent and flair, their bowling is their weak link. Still floundering after the retirement of their legendary pace bowlers, Ambrose and Walsh, they have not managed to piece together a stable pace attack which can threaten the opposition into submission. Mervyn Dillon is their best bowler and most llikely to provide the early breakthrough against the strong opening partnership of talented but mercurial Herschelle Gibbs and the workman-like Gary Kirsten. Dillon's main weapon is his ability to continue bowling to a plan, much like the South African captain. His discipline would be a great boon against the flamboyance of Gibbs. The frisky Cory Collymore can bowl at a lively pace. Vasbert Drakes proved to be a valuable bowler against the Indians and then in Bangladesh. Nixon Mclean is the fourth pace bowler in the West Indian line-up. But as good as these bowlers can be, they simply cannot match up against the South African batting line-up which boasts of the hugely talented Jacques Kallis, the young Boeta Dippenaar, the hyperactive and innovative Jonty Rhodes and the determined Boucher. Shaun Pollock who comes in to bat late in the order is no bunny with the willow in his hands. But the best thing in the South African batting line-up is the presence of "Zulu", Lance Klusener who wields his "Big Bertha" like an ironsmith's hammer. He can either bat up the order at one-drop or can come in late at the 40-over stage, and can be just as effective and destructive. However, Klusener has not been in the best of forms lately and one area that he is vulnerable in, is his ability to face quality spin bowling. Unfortunately, West Indies do not have a quality spinner and have to make do with the dibbly-dobbly off-spin dished out by Carl Hooper. But Carl Hooper, with his flat deliveries can restrict the big swing of the the Zulu's bat.

The pitch at Newlands in Cape Town, witness to the glittering opening ceremony yesterday, is said to be "sticky". The ball does not come on to the bat as much as it does on other pitches like the one at Bloemfontein. This means that the flair will have to give way for discipline in batting. The flamboyance will have to be curbed in favour of a more workman-like approach. The Chanderpauls, Hoopers, Kallises and Dippenaars wil be the key players in today's match rather than the Gibbs, Gayles and Zulus. Moreover from the bowling point-of-view, the sea-side Newlands pitch will not provide much assistance to the out and out pace bowlers. Added to this is the rain that has been falling in the last few days. The over-cast conditions and the winds coming in from the sea will be helpful to the swing and seam bowlers. The sticky nature of the wicket will not provide huge turn to spinners, so their part in the drama will be reduced to a supporting role.

All in all, the stage is perfectly set for a keen tussle between the bat and ball, without a tilt either towards the willow or the cherry.

Let the contest begin! ... May the best team win!!

My prediction: South African win. But like the Libran that I am, I would not rule out a West Indian upset. 'coz mark my words... these West Indians can prove to be silent killers!

In the World Cup special edition of India Today, Rahul Dravid has written an article that gives us an insider's view of that wonderful match at Lords last year, the Natwest Trophy final, when the Indians successfully completed a dream run chase against England. I reproduce excepts from that article...
England have made 325. The mood is subdued, a case of "here we go again". It appears another final is heading for a disappointing conclusion. We lost in Harare, Sharjah, Colombo, Johannesburg -- it is a long list and a heavy burden.
Haha! ... for all the bravado in public saying that losses in finals do not matter to us, the Indian team does feel the pressure and the burden of that shameful statistic.
Ganguly gets the guys together for our customary team chat and says, "Let's give it our best shot. Look for 100 in the first 15 overs and take it from there."
Attaboy, Cap'n!! ... that's the way to go!... Nice pep talk!... It worked!!
Viru and Ganguly set off at a frantic pace and it is amazing how swiftly the mood turns upbeat; there are smiles on faces and endless chatter in the room. "Great. Now we can get 120 in the first 15." "No, let's keep wickets in hand." "C'mon Viru, take it easy, not that shot." "Abhi Dada maarega isko sar ke upar."
Well, they're not the only ones who started smiling and chatting when Viru and Dada blazed off to a great start. Millions of Indians watching the match did just that!
It is too good to last. Saurav and Dinesh Mongia return quickly. The silence returns, settling like a shroud. The next few overs leave us gutted. Viru, me and Sachin gone. Some think we panicked, but the batsmen don't say much, they sit quietly reliving their dismissals a hundred times.
Yuvraj and Kaif begin mission impossible. The mood lifts, the anticipation returns. The advice to the two batsmen -- as if they can hear every word shouted from the dressing room -- is relentless; "well played", "look for the gaps", "run hard".
As the partnership builds in the middle, nobody moves from his seat for the fear of "changing the luck". Any attempt to shift position is met with shouts of "get back to your seat" or sometimes the more threatening "better get back or else...". Sehwag is lying on the floor watching TV and he hasn't moved; Tinu watches the game from the corner window.
Didn't I tell you... this was an insider's view??
We are getting there -- the run rate is manageable. These two young boys are becoming men before our very eyes. The crowd sense they are watching something special.
Disaster strikes. Yuvraj is gone. On the balcony our faces are long in disappointment. Everyone has an opinion -- from "yeh shot kyon khelta hai" to "single lena tha". But when Yuvraj enters we give him a rousing ovation, acknowledgement of a job well done.
But it has to be finished. Harbhajan is our hope. He goes out with words of encouragement -- "C'mon, you're the man" -- to join a remarkably unflustered Kaif.
... Bhajji and Kumble are dismissed. But it is not over yet. Ashish Nehra sitting padded-up in the dressing room, is assaulted by advice from everyone around him. It's enough to confuse a regular batsman. What must it do to Nehra? We, Nehra included, are too charged up to care.
Kaif hits a crucial four off Gough. Then he and Zaheer scamper through for the winning run. There's pandemonium in the dressing room. We all hug each other before racing down the steps, through the Long Room (what must have the members thought?) and on to the ground for a long and boisterous celebration that last well into the night.

Amazing, wasn't it?!! ... And come to think of it! ... I missed watching it live. I was in a place where unfortunately there was no TV... only a radio and my trusty Nokia. Regular updates on the radio and frequent checks of the score over the cell-phone were my only means of keeping track of the match. And I came to know that India won, by the bursting of crackers and the shouts of joy in the streets. It was a truly amazing win!

I have mentioned this win and Dravid's account of that win because it fills us with optimism that Indians can do it all over again in the world cup! And after the horrors of New Zealand, we do need ll the optimism we can have!!

Best of Luck India!!

Hi all,

Once again, it's review time and the team under the spotlight today is none other than our arch rivals Pakistan.

The Pakistani team this time, as always, has a list of talented youngsters with a few thouroughly experienced guys to help them through. They are probably the most unpredictable team in world cricket with performances that touch mercurial heights one day and ocean depths the very next. They are the same team who beat Australia in Australia in an ODI series and the same team who lost to Bangladesh in a World Cup encounter !

Their strength lies in their bowling attack, which, according to me, is the best in the world at the moment. Wasim and Waqar could very well have been spelled as 'W-i-c-k-e-t', they are the two leading wicket takers in the ODI format of the game with 899 wickets between them. Wasim has 490 while Waqar has 409. Once the two Ws are through their first spells, we could see the 'fastest' bowler of our times Shoaib Akhtar in action. Followed by the person who is ranked 7th in the list of highest wicket takers in ODIs, Saqlain Mushtaq. (new find) Sami, Azhar Mahmood, Abdur Razzaq and Afridi are no cakewalks as well and it would take a very good batting side to score runs off this attack.

The problem area is definitely the batting, which is markedly inconsistent and fails to provide their bowlers a defendable total on a regular occasion. It is this that other teams would try and capitalise on. The batting also has an inexperienced look to it with youngsters Salim Elahi, Taufeeq Umer set to play key roles in the line-up at the top of the order. Inzi and Yousuf Youhana would bolster the middle-order while the rest of the batting depends heavily on all-rounders Abdur Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood. Although Saeed Anwar was re-selected in the squad for the World Cup in place of Imran Nazir (an excellent fielder), Akhtar nearly ended the World Cup campaign for him by hitting Anwar's hand with an express delivery (hee hee). It seems Anwar is available for the first game against Australia but would not play the warm-up games. Afridi is like a lottery ticket but doesn't look comfortable on pitches which offer even a bit to the bowlers.

Pakistan is also one of the most 'consistent' teams when it comes to performances in the World Cups (I am not referring to all the losses to India). Take a look at their progress in all previous World Cups and you shall know what I mean ...
1975 Group stage
1979 Semi-finals
1983 Semi-finals
1987 Semi-finals
1992 Winners
1996 Quarter-finals
1999 Runners up

They were ousted in the Group Stage only once (in the first Cup) and since their worst performance has been a Quarter Final send-off. The conditions at South Africa should favour their fast bowlers but the batsmen would have to do their share of the work as well.

Lastly, going 'purely' by historical tendencies, Pakistan are definitely one of the favourites again, unless IF they clash with India in the semi-final or the final .... touch wood.

Pakistan XV
Batsmen: Saeed Anwar, Taufeeq Umer, Saleem Elahi, Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul-Haq
All rounders: Shahid Afridi, Abdur Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood
Bowlers: Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Mohammed Sami, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq
Wicket keeper: Rashid Latif


India are fit, settled and ready for the World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar said on Sunday.. Now doesn't that sound like sweet music to the ears of the Indian cricket fans!!

I only hope that these words translate themselves into reality on the field once the World Cup begins.

Read more about Tendulkar's thoughts here.

PS: Hey people! ...Feel free to leave your comments. Just click on the link just below this line and leave your thoughts! :-)

An interesting news over the weekend was that South Africa 'managed' to lose to the state champions Western Province in the first of their 'warm-up' games. They set the state side a measly target of 156 runs. Most of the runs were scored by the lower order batsmen as the top order failed miserably and at one stage were 69 for 6. All of it was in vain as even the bowlers couldn't make a game of it with Neil Johnson scoring 71 off 53 balls.

Coming to think of it, the Indians have their warm-up game tomorrow against KwaZulu-Natal. A convincing victory should not only raise our confidence but would also make other teams wary of us. Anyways, any team who writes off India would be doing so at its own peril.

Coming back to South Africa, they have an excellent World Cup record and once again start as one of the favourites. They have home advantage as well and they would be very keen to get rid of the 'chokers' tag that has been placed on them especially after the games against Australia and the ICC Champions Trophy semi final game against India. South Africa was also hard done by the rain restriction rules in place during 1992 and suffered in the semi-final game against England. Their performances in World Cups to-date stands thus ...
1992 Semi-finals
1996 Quarter-finals
1999 Semi-finals

A highly enviable record, but a clear case of 'so near, yet so far'.

This year they look well placed in group B, with Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand as their main rivals for the Super Six slot. I think they should top their group with ease with only NZ providing some resistance. West Indies could catch them sleeping as it is their first game, but I am sure South Africa should tackle them well enough.

The players to watch with the bat would be Gibbs, Kallis and (back-again) Kirsten. Dippenaar has been selected but is not too consistent with the bat for a number 3. Jonty Rhodes, a very under-rated batsman, has played quite a few key innings recently and has a habit of keeping opposite fielders on their toes by constantly stealing singles. Followed by Boje, Boucher, Zulu and Pollock, it is a formidable batting line-up. As far as the bowling is concerned there isn't much variety with Nicky Boje the only spin option, but Donald's experience, Pollock's consistency, and the sheer pace of Hayward and Ntini should see them through many matches.

The only worry is that Klusener is now a pale shadow of what he was in 1999 and South Africa would need him to fire if it harbours any hopes of avenging its defeat to Australia four years back. Can you believe that in the last 'warm-up' game, although Zulu got 19 runs off 43 odd balls ... they were all singles !!! That alone underlines the lack of confidence in the man.

South Africa proved that they would go to any extreme to get the trophy, by imparting commando-style training to all players in the remote jungles of the country with neither a bat or ball in sight. This seems to have backfired with all the players looking rusty in the game against the Western Province plus Donald has got a "tightness in his buttock muscle" (hee hee!!) with all the training there.

I think they would all do well to get rid of their commando fatigues and get in their cricketing gears, pronto !!!

The South African XV

Batsmen: Gary Kirsten, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Jonty Rhodes
All rounders: Shaun Pollock (captain), Nicky Boje, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Robin Peterson
Bowlers: Allan Donald, Charl Langeveldt, Makhaya Ntini, Monde Zondeki
Wicket keeper: Mark Boucher

As usual all comments welcome.