Lahore attack and the future of cricket in the sub-continent!

March 03, 2009 will be marked as a black day in the world of cricket! The touring Sri Lankan team and the match officials were attacked by armed men in broad day light when they were on their way to play the third day of the Lahore test.

What concerned most people around the cricketing world and political circles was the fact that there was not adequate secrurity provided to the players and officials. The terrorists came walking casually and started firing at the players’ bus and Lahore attack on Srilankan cricket team there wasn’t anybody to fire back at them! Sri Lankan ace cricketer Murali was of the opinion that the attack sounded like pre-planned with more leaked out information. Chris Broad the match referee claimed that there was absolutely no policemen around to protect them. All these may fingerpoint to the PCB’s inability to take care of the security of the players and Pakistan’s inability to protect its VIP visitors. It may be recalled that the Sri Lankan team decided to visit Pakistan after India pulled out of the Pakistan tour following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

It is not just about Pakistan

A lot of people must be happily blaming Pakistan alone! As an Indian and knowing the security system here I can tell you that India is not better either in terms of the law and order enforcement – So is the case with Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. However, the security (Z Category) provided to the cricketers are usually slightly better than that in Pakistan. Basically the entire sub-continent is not that safe.

The future of IPL 2 and the World Cup 2010…

The Champions League was alreadyh called off due to the terror and unfriendly political situations in Pakistan. Now, the future of World Cup is also at stake – not just for Pakistan but for the entire sub-continent. And the immediate impact is for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2. Pakistan players have already pulled out of IPL and some New Zealand, England and Australian cricketers have already raised their concerns about visiting India for IPL. To make things worse, the Indian home ministry has requested BCCI to postpone the event as General elections in the country is clashing with the IPL schedules. I guess, the Government of India‘s stand on this is right! What is more important is the human life, then the democratic process (elections) and then comes cricket. BCCI, Lalit Modi and co may loose some money but anyhow, that money is going to only the players, sponsors and franchises and not the poor of this country (Probably making the IPL event shorter – perhaps 20 days or so – would have been the ideal thing to do)

Whether it’s IPL or the World Cup, I guess cricket – and subcontinent cricket in specific – is not going to have a good time in the near future!

Weekly Tidbits: Australia, Pakistan in more trouble, IPL auctions…

It was quite an interesting week of cricket – ODI cricket for a change, though I would have preferred to talk more about Test cricket.

South Africa mows down the clueless Australians

South Africa won the ODI series 4-1 thereby going on top of the ICC ODI rankings. The last match that was played last week had a new fast bowling hero – Tsotsobe – who ran through the Australian top and middle order after Hashim Amla‘s matured innings gave them a big total. Tsotsobe’s left arm seam bowling is a good asset to their attack which is otherwise dominated by right-armers.

Australia deep down under further

Soon after the South Africa’s successful visit, the Kiwis started their campain in Austraila on a winning note as well. In fact, the New Zealand’s batting lineup is not anything great but the Kangaroos were tamed by the Kiwis in the low scoring first ODI in Perth, mainly due to the lack of confidence with the Aussies.

The Australians managed to create controversy as well with their Wicket Keeper Haddin calling it all wrong and cheating the spirit of the game. With Symonds‘ radio outburst not settling yet, clearly Cricket Australia is not heading anywhere in particular. Moreover, Australia’s decision to rest Ponting came as a huge surprise as this could be the indication that the dashing Australian captain could be soon axed – from his captaincy responsibilities – ahead of the Ashes series in England during June-September this year.

Pakistan cricket in dolldrums

Though with the axing of Shoib Malik the Pakistan team as a whole may benefit, the governance of the PCB and its future took a beating when ICC decided that Pakistan will not get to host Champions Trophy due to the perennial security issues there. On top of that Miandad, the ever controversial Pakistan cricketer, has resigned from his role of the PCB Director. In another setback to PCB, a court has now suspended PCB’s ban on ICL players. With the injury scares, dope scandals still on and no team visiting Pakistan, it’s not going to be a good year for Pakistan Cricket.

India is doing good

The Indian cricket team touring Sri Lanka right now had a couple of good outings whereby they took a 2-0 lead. The Indians, despite lack of match practices, did not look rusty and the batting, bowling and some exceptional fielding of the younger side overpowered the Lankans. It looks like Mahendra Singh Dhoni hardly misses a toss.

The week ahead

England is taking on West Indies in their first test match on 4th Feb where as Australia will play New Zealand in Melbourne and Sydney this week. India’s remaining one dayers in Sri Lanka will also be completed this week.

The high-profile IPL Season 2 auctions will be kicked off this week as well. The main focus will be the English players who are first-timers at IPL.

On a low profile there’s also a Kenya-Zimbabwe match this week.

Looking forward to the exciting week of cricket, in particular the England – West Indies test match and Australia – New Zealand one-dayers.

Lankan tigers roar!

The first test match between India and Sri Lanka has been something that I was looking forward to due to the changes in umpiring rules. Though it was exciting to see that a couple of umpiring decisions were taken after referrals to third umpire, the whole match was pretty boring with the clueless Indians succumbing to a superior side that was brimming with confidence, skills and professionalism.

Ajanta Mendis, after his heroics in the Asia cup, led by the wizard of spin, gave no chance to the Indians to even put together a decent fight. If you consider the rain affected time, the Lankans managed to beat the Indian in roughly three days, a feat that Australia has been doing for a while.

Momentum favored Lanka

Following their Asia cup win, the Lankans really managed to maintain the momentum. The good thing with them was that the majority of their one-day players also figure in the test team and hence the momentum clearly favored them. The decision to debut Mendis was a great one and the youngster did not disappoint the selectors, his captain and his country men. The Indians on the other hand have been fielding a bunch of middle-aged men that have been lacking match practice and athleticism for a while now.

The Twenty20 hangover

The Indians (and their cricket body) are also not really getting out of their T20 mode yet. Though the side claimed to have the best test batsmen combination on earth, that was only on paper. Moreover, they lacked a game plan against the best spinning side in the world! There have been complaints that the placid pitch did not add to the spirit of the game, but that was only a lame excuse and the batting collapse cannot be forgiven.

In the meanwhile, the Indian cricket think tank is busy taking on ICL and the English Cricket board in order to secure more money via the T20 format for the future as well. They are also helping out Pakistan’s cause to make sure that the Champions trophy is played in the neighbor country. Among all these high profile agenda items, test cricket seems to be taking the backseat. The Sri Lankan board at the same time is reiterating the fact that they have a clear plan for the test cricket. Arjuna Ranatunga even made a statement that the Sri Lankan players should quit IPL 2009 in order to take part in the England tour completely. I liked that attitude of the Lankans.

I hope that in the coming matches, the Indians would regroup and adapt. As I mentioned in the last post, the ideal thing to do was not to play all five or six old men together but rest one at a time and rotate them with youngsters. The case is the same with the spin bowlers as well (even if it would mean that Kumble has to rest in a match). If not, the Indians can expect a 0-2 or even 0-3 loss at the hands of the Lankans.

Indian test squad for the tour to Sri Lanka

The Indian team for the test series in Sri Lank has been announced! There are no real surprises after the ODI captain and wicket keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted out of this tour due to the need for some good rest.

The inclusion of Pragyan Ojha and Rohit Sharma into the test squad is the right move. Both of them definitely have shown much more maturity than their age demand and have been professional in their approaches. Ojha could also use this opportunity to play with an experienced spin legend like Anil Kumble. Rohit Sharma, I feel, has nothing more to learn to qualify for the test team but just need to learn to stay at the crease a little longer.

Yuvraj Singh’s omission is a very good message to youngsters that ‘performing in patches’ will not help anybody to be part of the test team. I always thought Yuvi doesn’t have what it takes to play test matches and extremely low on temperament to play longer. He is a poor player against spin bowling and Sri Lanka has some great spinners around right now.

In the pace bowling department, I thought Manpreet Gony could have been given a chance ahead of Munaf Patel as the latter has the history of getting injured or loosing confidence half way through test series, more often than not. Gony is a better batsman and fielder as well. Probably, the selectors are over worried about the fact that Sreesanth is not available for this tour to open along with Zaheer and Ishant Sharma has been looking a little bit different of late as compared to his form in Australia last year. The decision not to consider Irfan Pathan for the sub-continent wickets sounds reasonable as well.

Now that the team is selected, the team think-tank needs to do a couple of things to get the results right and also to nurture the youngsters for the future. As a basic rule probably they should allow only three out of the big five (Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and Sehwag) to play in any match together. Otherwise, the youngsters will not get any chance to perform along with the experienced ones. I hope that Gary Kirsten and Anil Kumble will give some thought to plan towards the future. Also the big six (with Kumble) should realize that time has come for them to rotate and slowly retire over a period of one to one and half years.

Dhoni opts out
Dhoni’s decision to opt out of this test series sounds more like a ‘forced’ supporting act to his statements earlier in the press. While players definitely need some break and probably have rotation policy what they have to cut down is the number of one-dayers and Twenty 20 matches. Hope he gets some good rest and greater number of endorsements during his much needed break from test matches. Or is it a silent protest against the selectors for not considering him for the test captaincy of an aging team?