29 January 2008

When cricket experience just ain't good enough

Quite unfortunately, the match refree has almost always been asked to adjudicate on questions which a lawyer or a judge will be more comfortable dealing with.

Most evolved criminal justice systems rely on that "golden thread" - the presumption of innocence. In England, Australia, India, USA and New Zealand for instance, the judiciary will try its utmost to insist that an accusation is merely that; that an accused is considered innocent until proven otherwise, beyond "reasonable doubt". Any question involving misdemeanour on the field, whether it involves racial connotations or not, has to be dealt with using a procedure that mirrors the criminal trial systems of constitutional democracies. As insignificant as sporting disputes may seem when compared to cases of murder and rape, there is an accused who stands to lose something if a charge is proved. In Harbhajan's case it was three Test matches and his reputation.

This means that questions of admissibility, reliability of evidence(s) and burden of proof will automatically arise. Of course, these need not always be complicated questions that require the particular expertise of a trained lawyer, but the point is that if there is one case in five that requires such expertise, that is reason enough.

For anyone with half a brain, it was clear when the shit hit the roof that there was no way anyone could prove the racism charge on Harbhajan "beyond reasonable doubt". There simply was not enough proof to deprive Harbhajan of three Test matches and call him a racist.

But we must not be too harsh on Procter. All evolved judicial systems allow for judges to make mistakes, and do so without fear. Any criminal trial can be appealed against and if a superior court annuls the trial, the lower judge in question does not automatically become a wrongdoer. But all evolved judicial systems will try to minimize damage caused by incompetence. We must give Procter the benefit of doubt. We must try to believe that he was not malicious - merely incompetent.

It is time the ICC clearly defines the role of the Match Refree to those instances where an ex-cricketers particular set of skills will be useful. Malcom Speed is a lawyer. He should know better.

25 January 2008

Getting Hayden

Right now, Haydos is sitting pretty and looks set to make a mountain of runs tomorrow. How India deals with hungry Hayden will be decisive in how the contest pans out.
The ball isn't swinging now and is unlikely to swing through the first session tomorrow. India will need to use intelligent defense as an attacking strategy. Hayden gets really restless when he is tied down, and invariably looks to manufacture shots. He gets away with it some of time, but if India are pig headed, they can win this mini-battle. Extremely tight bowling, protection of the square boundaries and curtailment of singles. This may mean taking a few slips out until the ball starts to reverse, but that looks like their only chance if he is going to survive the first five overs tomorrow.
If he starts walking down the track, Dhoni may need to stand up to the stumps for Pathan.

Brett Lee is a stud

Saw some highlights of the action that happened today, before I woke up to find Bhajji and Kumble batting.

Tell you what, if you go to sleep dreaming of Tendulkar's triple ton, and you wake up to find Kumble and Bhajji managing to survuve at the crease, you start to think negative. How much worse could the day get?

But the Kaptan and his Crazy Spin Twin, with a little help from Ishant, did what I thought was impossible. If India lose from here, it will be because of inept second innings batting and horrendous umpiring.

Coming back to those highlights, I am convinced that there is no better bowler in the world than Lee. If bowling is about sustaining pressure till the batsman breaks, Lee is its premier exponent.

24 January 2008

Another one?!

Sehwag was caught at slip off a superb Lee delivery. It was a no-ball and Billy did not see it! And as far as no-balls go, this was a pretty big one. Somebody has got to do something soon, about these wrong no-ball calls.

22 January 2008

Paandav kitne the? (Or the power of five)

If you're not the kind of Indian cricket fan who goes only by the scorebook, the end-of-Perth analysis of this series is this:

Bowling has been excllent. Batting has been ho-hum, but all but one have shown they are in good form. Regardless, they won a game which people are calling the greatest win ever. So, excellent.

It would be unreasonable to burn effigies now, even if they come back 3-1, even if the fourth was an huge innings defeat. Let me be clear that I think it is unreasonable to burn effigies anyway.

This means that the Indian team goes into this match with a license to thrill, and so it does not make sense to go in without the power of five. Arpy-Pathan-Ishant-Kumble-Bhajji.

Looks good on paper, and even better in the first three matches. Be sure that they won't reduce the Aussies to dust at Adelaide, but we know they can trouble their best.

Is this series a statistical anomaly for Michael Hussey (avg of 54 only)? Or will we learn that Michael Hussey is a statistical anomaly? The bigger threat is Mathew Hayden. How does one get Hayden out cheap? Especially if he just wants to score runs and nothing else will do. Well we can start with throwing five decent bowlers at him.

What of the batting? There is no doubt that Jaffer has been the weakest link, and if Kumble's thinking concurs with what I have said above, he will have to get the chop. I would have preferred it if it were a middle-order batsman, but none of Ganguly-Laxman-Dravid can be dropped at this point.

Your best batsmen or your best openers?

At the same time, everyone but Jaffer have shown some excellent form, and what is rumoured to be a batting beauty is perhaps, just what the doctor ordered. Ganguly has a point to prove and this is his best chance. And Sachin and Laxman are not without a sense of occasion - their last chance(?) against the best team in the world playing at home. And there is Dravid with all those happy meories at this ground.

But this should, by no means, be the end of the road for Jaffer. I suspect there is an even chance that it may be, but that would be very cruel to a man who made runs in England, West Indies and South Africa.

Is there a case for a parallel change to bring in Dinesh Karthik in place of Dhoni? There is, because then we can continue to keep Dravid at number three. But is this going to happen? No.

Australia does not need to play five bowlers. Also, with Brad Hogg into the batting at Adelaide, there is a lot more sting to the tail than merely that other statistical anomaly-Mitch (avg of 99 only).

I hope Mitch continues to play, and I hope he overcorrects his wide outside offstump line and bowls on the pads.

21 January 2008


I'm all for the BCCI's bold move where an ODI batting lineup will take shape under the tutelage of Gary Kirsten and Sachin Tendulkar, in harsh Aussie conditions.

But timing is a gift. Ganguly has it. The BCCI does not. I will be very interested in Dada's response at Adelaide.

19 January 2008

All's well with the world

Right now, life seems to be clothed in a mellow light, there are birds singing outside my window and they aren't annoying, and the weather in Delhi is just the perfect mix of cool, breeze and sunshine. Also, India have just won themselves the most signifcant match since I started watching the game.

Even if India go on and lose badly at Adelaide, to script the first half of a turnaround from 2-0 down, is remarkable for a touring Indian team. Forget the events at Sydney. Forget that it was Perth. Forget that the legendary Hayden was sitting out. This match is one for the ages, simply for the confidence-injection that it will give the likes of Arpy, Pathan, Ishant, Dhoni and Sehwag. Here is a team that can now create its own winning streaks, provided they continue to look forward.

Ishant Sharma will leave Perth knowing that he made the best batsman in the world today, look like a tailender. Pathan and Sehwag know that they belong in the international arena. Arpy knows for sure that he can lead an Indian attack in years to come. Dhoni hasn't messed up with the gloves all series.

Can we forget the role of the Chief? Lead kindly Kumble. Credit to him for lifting the team from Sydney. Hope he lingers as captain for more years. What a champion! Nineteen wickets in the series already. Talk about leading from the front!

Pathan has become a very smart cricketer, and I suspect he is fast turning into what Uncle J Rod calls a Probot. When asked to bowl when the ball is flying around, even a television viewer is arrested by the sense of calm that he brings in. You can almost see him make an assesment of the situation, and quitely determines the line and length that is largely required. That he had evolved into someone who could look beyond the storm, was clear in the T20 World Cup itself. In Tests, he is not only a bowler who can make the new ball talk in helpful conditions, but also someone who can be relied upon to keep it tight when the strokemakers are set, and perhaps induce an error. With such an abundance of left arm swing bowling options, he may not always make the team, but his presence will make Zak and Arpy persevere for improvement. Man of the match in the T20 finals, a hundred in his comeback Test match, and now another MoM performace when it counts.

Sehwag should go forward from here and he should not give anyone a reason to question his spot at the top of the order. His contribution to this team cannot be measured in terms of his runs, wickets and strike rates alone. "Work ethic" was one of those sound bytes floating around when he was dropped and it is up to him to make sure that not even demented selectors and BCCI mandarins have a reason to say that again. But what a bowling performance, na?

Jaffer remains the only one to have not made a contribution in Australia, and the knives are out. I hope they persist with him, but I have no words in his defence. But I will stick by my point that as a team looking to challenge Australia consistently, a settled opening partnership is important, and that means identifying openers who will do the work for you over the long run and then sticking with them through good times and bad.

Australia will need to reconfigure their bowling attack, and in all probability, so will India. But Mitchell's skills as a swing bowler are under some doubt, and Wasim Akram keeps criticizing his new bowling action on air. Ponting needs to do something about that fast, or find a better third seamer. He also needs to ask himself if he got carried away by the hype. Why did he not include a spinner at Perth? Was it because the part-time spinners did better than Hogg in Sydney? Or did he believe that this Perth wicket required a four-man pace attack? He will need to question how he arrived at that conclusion. It is strange when a visting team assesses conditions better than the home team.

As for Adelaide, expectations are already sky high. Mather Hayden will be back, and India have a chance to level the series. I cannot wait.

18 January 2008


The way Arpy handled pace and bounce almost like a proper batsman, makes me worry. If Australia break a record to set a record, and if India cannot dismiss them before that, they obviously deserve to win this match. The difference between 414 and 500 may yet prove crucial, especially in a situation where Hussey can sit back, chill, and not worry about cutting too many balls.

Dismissing Hussey will be the key becuse he will need to drop anchor like Laxman did today and Dravid did in the first innings, while Ponting-Clarke-Symonds-Gilchrist attack around him, and I don't see anyone else able to hide their strokes like he can.

Sehwag is truly back, and in this match, he has already been worth the changes in the batting order. If he can continue to give us these starts and if the managment can assess them as adequate and anything more as a bonus, India is back to having a winning batting combination. Sorry Dinesh, Gambhir, Chopra, this is really unfair on you guys, but you will need to push much harder and displace Jaffer. Because you see, in this case, it is not just about how many you score.

Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly: One of them should have pushed for a bit more and Sachin was looking in really fine touch. He needs to get a second innings contribution going in this series. Top order implosions in the second innings. Will we ever get this m****y off our back?

Pathan, when he bats, has the brain of Hussey and looks a bit like Kambli. He is a determined man, is he not? And with two openers in his pocket, we can look forward to a confident bowling display from him tomorrow.

Laxman, you stud. I think it is time we said that graft now comes as naturally to him as flair. He has batted at number six (unfairly) so often now that he has become used to responding to crises, as opposed to setting the agenda. After doing it in in South Africa, in England, and now in Oz too, you are now as much of a king of attritional batting as Dravid or Kallis are. The Laxman-Dhoni partnership rescued India from gloom to a position where Kumble can now attack for at least two sessions. (Assuming the Aussies can be kept down to less than 120 a session). Arpy came out firing, and then bowled like a spearhead.

Ishant was not on target today, like he was in the first innings, and the sooner he realizes the importance of getting it right from ball one, the better it is for India. But if his wheels come off tomorrow, we are in for a mauling, and Soulberry and others would stand vindicated in wanting to opt for five bowlers.

One wicket with the new ball. Hussey's indiscretion, caught at second slip off Arpy. And then India can dominate.

The evolution (or regression?) of Dhoni

Dhoni has just crossed the 25 Test landmark. Since he is now ODI captain, it is clear that he will be given a longer rope than other contenders for the wicketkeeper-batsman's spot. So instead of talking in terms of drop-him-retain-him, it is more useful to evaluate how much Dhoni has grown or regressed in his time as a Test wicketkeeper and batsman.

Dhoni's batting brings to mind contrasting images. There is the memory of him hoicking the ball in the air to give a catch to Panesar, a few balls after he was dropped playing the same shot, by the same fielder, hastening India to defeat in Mumbai. Then there is image of him counterattacking Shoaib Akthar with fierce pulls. Then the stoic resistance to avert defeat at Lords after he was worked over by Anderson in the first innings like he were a schoolboy.

Has he evolved? Is he a better batsman now than when he started out? What about his wicketkeeping abilities?

I feel that India has made a good investment with Dhoni. He is a much improved 'keeper, particularly with Kumble and Bhajji, and standing up to Pathan in ODIs, he has made some amazing stumpings down the leg. As far as his batting is concerned, he has done well in the subcontinent and adequately enough in England. Though subdued, he did pull his weight in the second innings today on the pitch that was supposed to suit his style the least. He will be a much better batsman for his graft today.

What say?

17 January 2008

What you may call Test cricket

Saw the first couple of sessions and they ended up being some of the best hours I 've stolen off work. A hint of a partnership from Dhoni and Pathan was quickly snuffed out by Asad Rauf, and Australia will thank him and Tendulkar at the end of the day for a state of affairs that is not yet entirely out of their control. The lower order should have contributed more and Kumble needs to ensure that he and those batting below him can contribute a minimum of forty runs in every match. Even without Bhajji. But Lee was fierce again, though Mitch got most of the wickets.

After Pathan and Arpy gave Mitchell a lesson in left arm swing bowling, Ishant's first spell was real quality. He may look retarded when he chases the ball, but to pig headedly pursue the channel on a track where a young quickie is liable to get too excited, showed he had a brain, precariously perched on that spindly body. Michael Clarke and Ponting are good scalps to have, on what the experts were calling a batting beauty that was expected to become even better for batting.

We are building a good bowling attack here, fellers. Both Arpy and Zaheer have shown a taste for the spearhead role. Pathan showed today with the new ball (with a li'l help from Rauf) that he is more than just containment, and what is more, he has the experience of having gone through a lot of shit form to make a comeback. There are Sree, Ishant and Munaf competing for
the right arm quota, with Praveen Kumar nipping at their heels, see what he did to Delhi today - along with Pankaj Singh and VRV. Options galore with left arm and with the right. Swingers and skidders too.

Anyway, then Symonds and Gilchrist survived a good spell from Arpy and then decided to show us why exactly the Aussies have won sixteen on the trot. Sachin spilt one and then they scored at seven an over from a situation of 60/5, and I cannot imagine Dhoni/Yuvraj being able to do that, and I do not understand why. Please someone explain to me what Symonds and Gilchrist eat before they go out to counterattack. What is the source of their fearlesness?

Anyway, Kumble had to call himself in to quell the rebellion, and Arpy cleaned up after him, in what was one of India's best bowling performances in recent years. All is not ost yet for the Aussies and Tait may yet come to the party and cause what Sidhu calls the "cycle stand theory of Indian batting". But he seems to be running into the sort of trouble that was plaguing Sree at Trentbridge. His spell early tomorrow will reveal a lot about his character and Ponting's skills of managing the wild ones.

India should try to bat through the third day, and that should get them to 400, which is the bare minimum with so much time left in the match.

Basically, doesn't look like it will be a three day rout, but the doomsayers may yet be right.


Give him the Ratna.

Tired as your are, sir, of bowing to acknowledge us mortals, you are welcome to do so once more.

Moment of the day (so far)

Yorker from Arpy bowling over the stumps to Symonds who gets the bat down. Ball meets bat, continues in the direction of middle stump, bounces lightly and then spins off trajectory, down leg. After that, Symonds went crazy.

16 January 2008

Didn't see no blood

That's it, it is settled then that only the Aussie media can compare with the Indian media when it comes to creating hype. After all that talk, I thought I'd see at least Jaffer taken to the hospital by the end of the day. On the contrary, both Jaffer and Sehwag did their job, but no more. Sehwag got out to a ball he need not have played (what's new) and Jaffer got out playing a shot that deserved criminal consequences as he was looking comfortable, using his height to get on top of the bounce. Both fell in quick succession, leaving Tendulkar and Dravid to counter a pumped up Lee and nagging Clarke in a period of play that was really exciting. Lee brought out his entire armoury and even had Dravid nick one to The Next Captain of the World who dropped it. Tendulkar had to work really really hard.

And it paid off in the second session with Tendulkar running a lot of singles and audaciously slicing a few over slips, while Dravid looked much more fluent than he has al series. Through all this, one wondered who let the hot air out of the Tait balloon, but it is early days yet to say anything. A few balls of his today deserved wickets, but the pace certainly did not match the hype. Tendulkar's dismissal was not the cleverest of umpiring decisions, getting hit above the knee roll at the WACA, but it evened out when Billy gave Dravid a reprieve after he was struck plumb in front by a Johnson yorker. Both Johnsons were on view today. Stunning inswinger was followed by short ball outside off, cut away, quite regularly.

Ganguly came and went. He need not have played that ball, but on another day that would have scorched the grass on the way to the fence, we should not be too critical, but he really must make better use of his good form. And after Laxman played a few brave strokes, both him and Dravid started treating Symonds and Clarke as if they were Kumble and Bhajji bowling on Day 5 at Chennai. Perhaps it was because of the impending new ball and the unwillingness to expose Dhoni and Pathan, but they only ended up getting out to rubbish shots. Dravid in particular. Played like Dravid, got out like Afridi. And Laxman, ended up looking very stupid when he misread the line on a bouncer. And then another searing spell from Lee which Dhoni and Pathan managed to keep out.

Brett Lee is the Dude of the Day.

Moment of the day

Screaming bouncer from Lee, pitching on off and climbing to kiss Tendulkar on the nose. He moves to duck, gets under the bounce and at the last moment, sticks his bat out. Over the slip cordon, couple of bounces and into the boundary.


Following Kumble's pullout from the catching agreement, the Australian government, in a tit for tat move, went back on a commitment to sell uranium to India. These Aussies play hard. But fair.

14 January 2008

My choice for Perth


12 January 2008

The long rope

How do you deal with someone like Yuvraj? Or Afridi or Sehwag? Even Gibbs and Gayle. These players have promised so much at several points in their careers, threatening to need just to turn up to become a legend of the game, but never delivered consistently enough to merit that badge. So much so that at several other points in their careers, they are accused of blocking another cricketer's spot in the national team. Are there any managment dicta that work with such players? At what point does the managment say, yes you have shown us that there is promise and we know you can stop bullets and we have persisted with you, but increasingly we get the feeling that you may not necessarily be the One, the Oracle was on crack most of the the time, and Morpheus should have been in a staitjacket - also there is a must-win match in four days, so please if you could make it easier for us and get injured or something...

These players make captains age faster than a racism hearing. The teams have invested a lot of faith in them and carried them around the globe for close to ten years. And when carrying such a player starts to hurt the team when they should have been at the peak of their careers, it casts doubt on the foundations and future of the team. When the Fab4 leave, are we going to rely on Yuvraj for solidity in the middle?

How long is a long rope?

11 January 2008

What's up with Sree?

India's best chance of beating the Aussies was if we had a fit Zak and Sree to partner the outperforming Arpy. But now, we will have to make do with Ishant, and maybe Pankaj Singh or VRV to partner him.

But that will not stop me from talking about Sree. (This is your cue, you regional bias chanters) Very unlike him, he has not even been in the news for a really long time.

Buried, deep in The Hindu a month back, was this article on Sree who was in Coimbatore to recieve a cheque and this was what he had to say.

The 24-year-old paceman from Kerala, who was left out due to a shoulder injury, was however confident of being back in the team. “I am undergoing a treatment (Ayurveda) for my shoulder and the recovery rate is very strong. I feel all of a sudden that I am getting the strength back because I am able to bowl a lot better. However, at the moment my focus is to stay fit and play for my State in the crucial Ranji semifinal.
“I want to do well there and probably wait for the selectors to decide what next is in store for me,” said Sreesanth, who made it clear that he would not be undergoing a surgery for his shoulder.

What is your opinion, Soulberry? If I have paid any attention at all, it must mean you are some sort of a doctor. Is he being foolhardy, rejecting any suggestion of surgery? Non-doctors and even random drunks are permitted to comment.

09 January 2008

Bowling at Perth

Unc J Rod reminded me that there was a Test series being played, and here are my thoughts on the bowling attack at Perth.

We don't need five bowlers. Sharma, Arpy, Kumble and Bhajji were able to take close to 25 wickets at Sydney, and my guess is that four bowlers will be more than adequate. Question is, do we need to go in with both spinners or do we need to shore up the pace attack with Pathan/Pankaj Singh? This is Perth. Oz will be throwing all four pacers at us.

Obviously, if one spinner had to sit out, it would have to be Bhajji since the other guy is a captain and a legend. I almost thought Procter had done us all a favour, and made the decision much easier. But now, it is not so simple - Ponting's been in Bhajji's bag for two matches now. I can't make this decision, I really can't.

So please people, for the fourth spot in the bowling line-up. Between Bhajji, Pathan and Pankaj Singh, but really it is between Bhajji and Pathan, isn't it?

07 January 2008

Guess who's back?

Yes, him, the Ugly Indian Cricket Fan.

The effigy burners were out in force last night. On a talk show, one proud participant claimed that Steve Bucknor would not last a walk on Mumbai's streets, and was loudly cheered. Nationalists, regionalists, centrists and all manner of scum were on hand to extract their measly mileage from some dangerous ideas of 'national pride'. The killers of Rizwanur and religious extremists only took this warped logic a step further.

The Hindi newsmedia had no pretence of balance. The English media had that, politely wiping the froth at the edges of their mouths. As a society, we need to introspect. On the same day that eight died in a fire tragedy at a Delhi slum and a historic Himalayan village fell victim to another, it was a game in faraway Sydney that seemed to find more use for the term, 'disaster'.

06 January 2008

On line calls

Jaffer was bowled by a scorcher from Lee in the first innings. Problem is, the ball wasn't entirely legal, like doing a line of coke isn't entirely legal. It was a no-ball.

No-ball calls require an umpire to look down at his feet and then adjust his line of vision to meet the stumps at the other end, before a leather ball delivered at speeds of up to 155 kmph crosses 22 yards.

The argument that an instant call made by an umpire allows a batsman to take advantage of the
ball's illegality and adjust his stroke is specious. Most of the time, it is only after a stroke has been played that the players realize that a no-ball call has been made.

It does not need Stephen Hawking or Michael Hussey to tell me that error can be reduced if the umpire did not have to adjust his line of vision, in the split second prior to being called to make an LBW or edge decision.

The case with other line calls is similar. They are the one proven area where it has been found that technology can reduce error in close to a 100% cases. There is no need for the human element to be involved in run outs, stumpings and no-balls. It only gives the disgruntled another reason to complain. Not only should umpiring be fair, but it should also appear to be fair, and making every attempt to reduce error is the way to go about it.

For run outs and stumpings, the umpires are required to make a determination of whether there is enough doubt to make the referral upstairs. This is unnecessary. The fielding team should be allowed to appeal directly to the third umpire. As far as decisions regarding whether a fielder or ball has touched the boundary rope is concerend, the present system of referring a question works fine and there is no need to change it. For no balls, most certainly, the decision must be exclusively that of the third umpire.

No system will be 100% perfect. There will still be instances where a batsman will escape the third umpire's finger, like Andrew Symonds did, despite evidence to the contrary. But we will have to live with it, just like we will need to live with humans making edge and LBW decisions until we can conclusively say that technology will bring greater certainty to the decision.

By the way, this is not the first time I have let off steam on line calls.

Shafted without mercy but we had it coming

We got shafted but we had it coming. Congrats Australia. You played hard but I will not trust you for the longest time. Not like you need my trust, but I am just letting you know.

Congrats India for a well-played four days. You came closer to challenging Australia than any team I can remember in the recent past.

Anil Kumble may not be a brilliant tactician, but if there is one man who can lead by example, it is him, it is him. If India feel done in by the umpiring and other events out of their control, and find it hard to pick themselves up for Perth, they only need to look towards their captain.

India are really bad in the fourth inings. In fact, if you leav the Indian batting with seventy odd overs to stave off defeat, chances are that we will get bundled out. Whether there is an enticing declaration or not. More often than not, the top order does not pull its weight. Jaffer, Laxman and Tendulkar are better than the manner of their dismissals suggest. Laxman got one that stayed low, but he gets out to ones that stay low with annoying frequency. We also needed Sachin to stay there for a while more. Is it cruel to ask this of batsmen who have ruled the ground since what seems like the beginning of time?

I think Dhoni did well. At least better than the man just above him in the batting order.

Eight balls.

Both Dravid and Ganguly have reason to suspect umpiring neutrality today. But a better team would have been able to take a couple of bad decisions in its stride. Don't whine.

Bucknor needs to retire. Now. Benson needs to read the little black book of rules.

Yuvraj Singh is not a good number six. Any captain will bring a reasonably good spinner on when he walks out, and he will lose his mojo. This series has also showed that spin his not his only weakness. But I still will not drop him for Perth. If there is one place in Oz where Yuvi has a better chance to succeed, it is there.

I'd stick with the same team, but Jaffer and Yuvi are on notice.

05 January 2008

Why Jaffer needs a media guy

Wasim Jaffer came to Australia on the back of a very good year. He made runs against Ntini, Pollock, Nel, Mashrafe Mortaza, Syed Rasel, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom, Tremlett, Shoaib Akthar and Mohammed Sami. In 10 Test matches in 2007, he averages 46.55 with three hundreds that include a double against Pakistan at home.

This means that he has batted at least as good as Alastair Cook and Jayasuriya have for the last couple of years. He has been much better than Grame Smith and Chris Gayle have. The only opening batsman who has done better than him over the last ten Test matches has been Mathew (Alone at the Top) Hayden.

Jaffer has failed thrice this series and there is a clamour for his exclusion from the side at Perth. Apparently we need to take the attack to Australia and Jaffer is incapable of doing so. Not only that, he is said to lack the technique required for horizontal strokeplay, which is so important to flourish in Australia. And the conclusion that the experts are only too easy to arrive at is that Jaffer is keeping Sehwag out of the side.

Jaffer's double at Kolkata came off 270 balls.

Life has been tough on Veeru and it was unfair to drop him from the Test side when he was. However, cricket selection is not about correcting historical wrongs. Having already unfairly glossed over the claims of his Delhi mates Gautam Gambhir and Akash Chopra, everything should not be given to Sehwag on a platter. Not when Jaffer and Karthik have been a prolific opening combo over the past year. It was a mistake to break them up, but that does not justify an even bigger one.

Jaffer's problem is that he does not give off the "confident vibe" which Yuvraj seems to ooze without effort, or Sehwag is rumoured to bring into the batting order, and is an easy scapegoat. He needs to start wearing shades and start talking more maybe. Or at least louder and in better English.

Hayden is a bully

Mathew Hayden refused to give an inch. Bhajji was bowling so well, had he been luckier the Aussies may have been bowled out with a fourth innings target not more than 200. That might still have proved a lot for the brittle Indian fourth inning batsmanship, but you have to give credit to Hayden, the habitual bully. Another batsman might have tried to bide his time and wait for the bowlers to make their mistakes, but that is why they are not Hayden, and Australia is the best side in the word. Hayden did not let Bhajji settle, and Bhajji is the kind of bowler who does not let up if he gets a prized top-order wicket. Thanks to calculated sweeping and reverse sweeping, Australia are on top and in a position to decide whether to dangle the carrot or not, despite India having one of their better days on the field. Sexy.

03 January 2008

On Dravid

Is there another batsman in the world who can be so woefully out of form, but at the same time have the mental resources to stick around so that the Divine Belly at the other end may do justice?

Uncle J Rod has suggested that Dravid be put out of his misery.

There was another man about whom similar suggestions were being made. He made a double hundred through the leg side. Some still say that Tendulkar epic in Sydney was pathetic. I say that genius reveals itself after being condemned to work.

No kamikaze for Dravid, and certainly no hemlock. He will tattoo his name on a scorecard somewhere before the series is over.