Read More »from High-profile star, low-profile venue
WAR OF WORDS
Simplicity may have its upshot but not when it comes at the expense of basic convenience. Hosting its biggest match in memory, the Palam 'A' Ground left a lot to be desired so far as arrangements for mediapersons were concerned. For one, there were no chairs to sit. For another, there was no water. Leave alone internet access and five-star food, the press contingent was expected to cover a match as important as a Ranji Trophy semifinal without even primary facilities in place.
After numerous requests were unceremoniously ignored, a few journalists made their way to where they suspected the organisers were housed. Imagine their state of mind when they were summarily shunted out by an officious gentleman, and left to file reports on parched throats and shared a shared access to plug points.Things came to a head at the end of play, when a journalist was involved in a loud slanging match with an official. With four more days of play to go, watch this space for how this story
Blog Posts by Kunal Diwan
SIDELIGHTS — Services vs Mumbai, Ranji Trophy Semifinal, Palam A GroundBy Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Wed 16 Jan, 2013 6:03 PM IST
Read More »from High-profile star, low-profile venue
PREVIEW: The low-profile Palam Ground will host some high-profile guests when Mumbai meet Services.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Tue 15 Jan, 2013 6:21 PM ISTTendulkar's net session was shortened by a tricky pitch. (File photo)
NEW DELHI: A thin mist shrouds the Palam Cricket Ground on the eve of the second Ranji Trophy semi-final between teams from polar opposites of the domestic spectrum. It’s past 3 p.m. and yet visibility is at a premium as Services coach Raju Singh soaks in the feeble January sunlight at the fringes of the maidan, facing the vacant patch of green with a mocking half-smile. The reason for the smile may be deduced from what took place just a few hours before.
Preview: Punjab vs Saurashtra
SACHIN'S SHORT PRACTICE
This morning, Palam, an unheralded venue for an equally unheralded team, was sanctioned its place in history when Sachin Tendulkar strode out for a session of nets before the customary adulatory crowds that have marked his presence for over two decades. The stint lasted all of four balls, the last of which was delivered by young Mumbai left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar and died after pitching, scrunching the maestro on the toe of his boot.
On account of uneven bounce on the two Read More »from David vs Goliath battle in Ranji semifinals
The top moments at the 2012 World Twenty20By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Mon 8 Oct, 2012 8:18 PM IST
The top moments at the 2012 World Twenty20
Asian teams are safe bets. But there's no clear favourite at the World Twenty20 2012 that begins on Tuesday.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Mon 17 Sep, 2012 8:30 PM ISTWorld Twenty20 2012 — Click for full coverage
Another World Cup in the subcontinent! However deflationary the exclamation, our intent is quite the opposite. A fifth world championship (sixth, if you count the 2009 Champions Trophy) in five years reflects just how pervasive the game has come to be, which makes it obligatory for moralistic quill-wielders to fan interest in view of possible overkill.
The notion of overkill, though, exists only in the minds of cynics. Figures across Twenty20 tournaments and leagues indicate that the watching public - despite predictions of imminent TRP doom - continue to unwrap their TV dinners to the accompaniment of Trishal's now-ubiquitous horn. We know the IPL is hugely popular, the Big Bash and other fledgeling leagues taking wing elsewhere; even perennial struggler Bangladesh has a Twenty20 hoopla to its name.
Nine years since it was conceived by the ECB, the brevity of Twenty20 has reengineered the profession and commerce of cricket. Administrators have discovered in it a packageable, saleable golden goose, whose eggs they're showing all the keenness in the world to scrape out.
Players have been lent a hand and can now plan their careers on personal whim - no longer is servility to national boards a prerequisite to the pursuit of wealth. And there is a serious amount of money swirling around, much more - as a redoubtable social commentator observed - than the game needs, its magnitude dictating course of events through the greed of man.
In an ideal world the wealth from Twenty20 would sustain Tests and ODIs, a format whose relevance was somewhat in question until the 2011 World Cup gave it a shot in the arm. But an ideal world is an imaginary concept and cricket's most succinct version may eventually attain primacy over it's prolonged cousins. In more ways than one, its easy money and palatability has begun to alter, for good or bad, the overall structure of things via overcrowded scheduling, changed priorities, altered mindsets, bruised bodies and custom-moulded audiences.
The ICC World T20
Where does this situate a Twenty20 World Cup, a fourth - if you need any reminding - in five years and one that comes after the dizzying high of 2011's pinnacle ODI event? Even the ICC World T20 - as it's called - has transformed over half a decade. From an experimental sortie that soared over and beyond expectation to the Sri Lankan carnival that will be telecast to an audience of 1.5 billion across 200 countries - the tournament is a robust, frothy head on top of two seasons of soap-operatic domestic T20 activity.
The tournament began with a made to made-to-order India-Pakistan final in 2007. India's win - achieved without Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly and under rookie captain MS Dhoni - floored its cricket fraternity, one which had until then viewed Twenty20 with casual suspicion. The success sent imaginary cash registers ringing in the heads of officials. The IPL was conceived and unleashed upon the sub-continent, a spectacle as tantalising - and as meretricious - as curves sheathed in silk. It was really India's 2007 triumph that pushed Twenty20 to its menacing momentum.
Pakistan reedeemed itself by winning the second edition in England, after the tournament had begun with unfancied Netherlands toppling the hosts by four wickets at Lord's - thanks to Stuart Broad's brainless overthrow. England turned it around in the West Indies in 2010, largely through Man of the Tournament Kevin Pietersen, their best bat across formats, a lover of Twenty20 and who, for reasons bizarre, finds himself out of the team this time.
So, the defending champions set about their task without their most prolific scorer. Will that be motivation enough for a bunch of whiners to reprise their 2010 act? Highly doubtful, but in Eoin Morgan and Graeme Swann, in Johnny Bairstow and Stuart Broad, in Jos Buttler and Craig Kieswetter, the Poms have the professional firepower to place themselves in a position from where to have a tilt, however slim, at regaining the title.
No Clear Favourite
Sticking one's neck out for a winner is hazardous at the best of times. In this format it's sheer stupidity. And in a tournament expected to be one of the most open in recent times - what with an battalion of domestic league mercenaries running amok across national teams - predicting a champion is impossible.
India have the batting might and pedigree; Pakistan have the experience and the most eclectic bowling attack; Sri Lanka are nigh unbeatable in their backyard; the West Indies, with match-winners such as Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine, appear to be customised for hit-and-giggle dos.
Anybody, save for the Associate also-rans, could go all the way, and nothing would please the watching public more than a West Indian win, finally a glimpse of hope, finally a throwback to the heady days of the early 1980s. With short games bridging the gap between good and mediocre sides, matches could change course drastically within the span of a few overs.
"It's the sort of format where nothing can be taken for granted. We have seen one ball change the whole game. The idea is to do well for all the 40 overs. That is all that matters," said India skipper Dhoni, who has already won ODI and Twenty20 World Cups.
Can Dhoni add another Trophy here? India's middle order is in ship shape. Spin appears to be in safe hands. If there are areas of concern they lie with an iffy opening pair and lack of an outright bowling spearhead (Zaheer Khan is not really one for Twenty20 cricket!). India also has Virat Kohli who has made a habit of chasing down impossible scores, although he did have a poor IPL this year, and all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who has been in good form.
On evidence of the practice games, the tournament is likely to be a low-scoring one. The conditions in Sri Lanka are expected not only to favour spin, but also allow movement in the air. But if the home side is being considered a hot favourite, it has little to do with dust bowls being reared for a televised massacre.
"Be ready for a stiff breeze in Hambantota, swing and seam in Pallekele and a good batting surface at the Premadasa (stadium) in Colombo," warned former Sri Lanka star Kumar Sangakkara. "Each venue will have a different challenge and sides will have to adjust accordingly. It will make the tournament more exciting."
The hosts' MSD (Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan) are in rip-roaring form, Lasith Malinga is always a threat and the recent experience of playing in the SLPL is likely to prove beneficial to the young nucleus of players (Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera) who now man crucial positions in the Lankan setup.
Australia's Poor Record
For Australia, this is the only crown they haven't worn, having lost the 2010 final to England. The Aussies presently lie below Ireland in the Twenty20 rankings, which is more a reflection on the redundancy of the assessing system than anything else. In David Warner, they have a firebrand opener, in Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, a strong young pace bowling partnership, and an explosive middle order comprising David Hussey and Cameron White.
Still, it is to the usual suspects Australia would look to for inspiration: Michael Hussey, 37, played a blinder (60, 24b) in last editions's semifinal against Pakistan and is still going strong, while Brad Hogg, 41, should revel in the conditions.
Veterans abound elsewhere too. South Africa will be served by all-rounder Jacques Kallis, 37, who is making a comeback to T20 Internationals. The Proteas have attacking openers, incendiary all-rounders, blistering fast bowlers, an economical offie - all well-versed, thanks to the IPL, in the ways of this part of the world.
South Africa, who boast the best winning percentage across three World Cups, would be wary of tackling slow bowling during high-pressure chases, but really, there is no reason why they shoudn't win. In fact, there is no reason why any of the top eight teams shouldn't have an equal chance of lifting the trophy.
The Pakistan Threat
Read More »from Open season
It's only when you're closest to greatness that you realise how far you really are.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Thu 16 Aug, 2012 6:42 PM IST
BANGALORE: I am two feet behind Sachin Tendulkar as he takes guard. Considering my flailing career and our sexual orientation, this is possibly the closest I will get to the great man.
This is Tendulkar’s second day at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. The first – Independence Day – passed without incident as the closed holiday somewhat smothered news of him landing in the city.
Today is different. There is a junior selection trial camp in progress, which has been consensually interrupted as young cricketers drop whatever is it they’re doing to catch Tendulkar at what he does best.
Tendulkar has been vacationing in Europe for the past two months, and the holiday – notwithstanding the toll on fitness such jaunts usually foster – appears to have done him a world of good. The 39-year-old looks leaner than ever, as eager to get to the middle as he ever was.
It also helps that the beacon of Indian cricket has opted out of the straight-hair look, the one that appeared like greased Read More »from Stalking Sachin
Skipper Unmukt Chand hopeful of a good show at Under-19 World Cup.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Thu 2 Aug, 2012 5:09 PM ISTUnmukt Chand: Smooth careers begin this way!
A scaly white patch makes itself visible on Unmukt Chand’s nape as he moves his neck torsionally, taking in the limited audience of three he has to address before leaving for the Under-19 World Cup in Australia.
“I was wearing a chain, but there was some allergic reaction on the skin so I took it off,” says India’s Under-19 captain, rubbing the shiny lesion with his fingers, brandishing in the process a heap of rakhis tied untidily to the wrist.
Possibly the most exciting young batting talent in the country, the 19-year-old from Delhi is a picture of poise as he tackles questions on the huge expectations from India’s Under-19 squad, the precedent that has been set by former juniors such as Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli, and how his team plans to overcome the setback of losing key players to injuries right before the commence of the big event.
Read more: Yuvraj praises colts
Read more: Perfect platform for youngesters
Unmukt and the entire squad, under the watchful eyes of coach B. Arun, Read More »from Indian colts ready to gallop
The injured pace bowler is training at the NCA in Bangalore.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Thu 2 Aug, 2012 4:56 PM IST
Vinay Kumar, India’s out-of-action medium pacer, is waddling about in the swimming pool at the Karnataka State Cricket Association, attempting something of a cross between a floating exercise and an underwater trod.
“Ravi Shastri does this all the time,” says an informed observer from the community of pen wielders, “It’s great for the calf muscles.”
Vinay emerges from his watery abode moments later, toweling himself zealously, and struts past us, calves safely shielded from prying eyes by a navy track suit.
What is obvious, however, is an incipient tummy that jiggles along to the thrum of his footsteps.
Vinay, who has taken 28 wickets from 22 ODIs, pats it with something that derives equally from affection and embarrassment.
“I have been out of action for some time,” he offers by way of an explanation.
Named in the squad for the make-shift ODI and Twenty20 tour to Sri Lanka, Vinay dropped out of contention following a right hamstring injury during training, and was replaced by all-rounder Read More »from Vinay raring to bounce back
From what transpired at Wimbledon this past week, one is led to believe that 30 is the new 20.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Mon 9 Jul, 2012 9:04 PM IST
Read More »from Life begins at 30
Never ask a woman her age, nor a man his salary. Ask an athlete either and you’re likely to receive a rude glare, if not a brazen lie.
Shahid Afridi was stuck in his teens for an inordinately long time, contrary to what radiographic evidence seemed to suggest.
Some of our own cricketers have been known to fudge records to prolong their selection to junior competitions. A star out-of-action Indian all-rounder is – say people in the know – at least two years older than his billed age.
Can’t really blame the offenders – if an army general can (allegedly) do it, why not a lowly civilian, stacked or not!
Some people though continue to outfox the turning of the clock without the need for falsified papers.
From what transpired at Wimbledon this past week, one is led to believe that 30 is the new 20, so far as tennis is concerned.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the men’s and women’s singles champions, are all above the jagged red line of 30 annual earthly
And from the looks of it, neither
The round-up from the NCA where India's finest are getting ready for the gruelling season ahead.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Sun 1 Jul, 2012 8:16 PM IST
Read More »from All in a day's work
The National Cricket Academy at Bangalore is teeming with familiar faces.
Indian cricketers in various stages of disrepair and amotivation are scheduled to arrive in batches at the Academy to gauge their preparedness, or lack thereof, for the impending obligatory ODI series against Sri Lanka later this month.
Ishant Sharma, with all the poise of an ostrich on the run, is hurling a mean ball in the nets, watched from the sidelines by a rather trim Virender Sehwag.
The weather is typically Banglorean and Sehwag seems to be enjoying it, before he hurriedly rises and removes himself to the middle as a portly gentleman – an insufferable collector of memorabilia, I am told – tries to sidle up to him.
In the time it takes for one of his cover drives to crash into the fence, the dashing opener disappears from sight, leaving the collector smiling foolishly, clutching uselessly at an empty canvas bag that he would have had high hopes of filling out by the end of the session.
The art of passive
After a 25-year-long stint at the MRF Academy, Lillee leaves India richer in pace bowling. But even he has some regrets.By Kunal Diwan | Yahoo! Cricket – Tue 26 Jun, 2012 8:46 PM ISTThe likes of Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Zaheer Khan owe their success to Lillee.
High excitement preceded my first visit to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. Having spent many a childhood winter evening with a dog-eared copy of ‘The Art of Fast Bowling’, I was bounding about expectantly at finally getting to meet Dennis Lillee, a great fast bowler and as close to being a childhood idol as anybody else.
Lillee, in conjunction with Jeff Thomson - or even without, was a ball of energy on the field. He returned from debilitating stress fractures of the back to rule batsmen the world over, and kept the dailies happy with his entertaining dalliances with an aluminum bat, betting and – most infamously – one Javed Miandad.
My counterparts from other newspapers on that blazing Chennai afternoon shared very little of my enthusiasm. Lillee’s visit was – as I would find out in due course – one of his three annual appearances at the MCC High School (where the Foundation is housed) and a triple fixture in every cricket hack’s diary for eons.
It did not help that the Read More »from Well left, Lillee
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