Dileep Premachandran

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Blog Posts by Dileep Premachandran

  • Series won’t be all one-way traffic

    In cricket, there are few things that guarantee disappointment like a clash between the No.1 and No.2 sides in the world. You have to go back to the late 1980s, when West Indies were still top of the ladder with Pakistan clinging on to their ankles, for contests that justified the lofty billing. In 2001-02 and 2005-06, Australia annihilated South Africa both home and away, and even the series between the two in 2008-09 turned out to be damp squibs, with the away team wrapping up the contest with a match to spare.

     

    This, though, could be different. Despite the grey skies and the drizzle that restricted India to just a session of yoga on the eve of the Centurion Test, there's genuine anticipation that this three-match series won't be all one-way traffic. The last contest here, four years ago, was an epic one, settled only in the final session in Cape Town. Having squandered a 41-run first-innings lead, India were left to reflect on a pathetic second innings with the bat and the folly

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  • To Stick or Twist?

    Darren Lehmann was just 34 when Michael Clarke announced himself with a fleet-footed and fluent century on debut at Bangalore in October 2004. Just months earlier, he had been one of the key performers as Ricky Ponting's team pulled off one of cricket's Labours of Hercules, beating a Sri Lankan side with Muttiah Muralitharan 3-0 on home soil. Yet, after Clarke's wonderful debut, Lehmann – who had waited so long for his chance – announced that he would happily step aside for the young tyro. By the end of the year, still short of his 35th birthday, he was gone, though one of the most gifted strokeplayers of his generation would go on to torment Sheffield Shield attacks a while longer.

     

    In Dubai earlier this week, Younis Khan's classy hundred defied and frustrated South Africa in the first Test. Each stroke that he played was a slap in the face for Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, whose treatment of him was as despicable as his continued maladministration of the country's

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  • The Greatest Team. Ever

    In the trailer of Fire in Babylon, destined to be top of the Christmas wish-list for any serious cricket fan, Viv Richards says: "It's history that you'll never forget". It's also a requiem for an Empire that time forgot, a team that evoked such awe that those who didn't watch them will never quite fathom just how good or intimidating they were. Years ago, when I asked Michael Holding about Steve Waugh and 'mental disintegration', he just smirked. "We spoke with the ball," said the Rolls Royce of pace bowlers. "We didn't have to say anything."

     

    Just how good were they? Well, between March 1976 and March 1995, they lost just one series, in New Zealand, a contest marred by officiating so wretched that it should have hastened the emergence of neutral umpires. There was also a 2-0 loss in India in 1978-79, of little relevance when you consider that the cream of Caribbean talent was on show in Kerry Packer's World Series at the time.

     

    Rob Steen, who reviewed the movie recently, put their

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  • Not a fine balance

    Oh, for a Roger Binny or a Madan Lal. Or an Anil Kumble. Without someone emulating their feats next February and March, Indian dreams of World Cup glory are likely to get a cold-water reality check long before the final on April 2. If history has taught us anything, it's that the team with the best bowlers wins the competition. It may have evolved from a two-week sprint in 1975 to a six-week marathon these days, but the formula for success has changed little. Teams that bowl the opposition out win trophies. Those that bowl waist-high full tosses and concede 84 runs in the final five overs, as India did during the victory in Vishakapatnam, usually end up watching the final stages on television.

     

    Back in '75, not one West Indian batsman made more than 200 runs. But with Bernard Julien and Keith Boyce taking 10 wickets and Andy Roberts eight, the men from the Caribbean weren't handicapped by the inconsistency of the batsmen. It was a slightly different story four years later, with Gordon

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  • India, Oz: Thanks for the memories

    Every great Test series, like an unforgettable book or movie, has a strong narrative. It has twists, sharp turns, moments that make you laugh out loud and scenes that make you cry. If you go by what we've witnessed over the past decade, five-day games between India and Australia can safely be compared to the body of work left behind by a Hitchcock or Kieslowski.

     

    For me, it began in 2001. I wasn't at the Mumbai game, but my colleagues and I watched open-mouthed over an extended lunch as Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist treated India's spinners with a contempt that they had seldom been subjected to on home soil. The highlights reel also features Michael Slater's tirade at Rahul Dravid, and two wonderful innings from Sachin Tendulkar, one of them cut short by the most bizarre of dismissals.

     

    The Eden Gardens game was the first Test I covered. Like Bob Beamon and the 8.90m leap or the true love that leaves you behind, I could say that it ruined my life. Where do you go from a match

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  • Oz cricket in search of its soul

    The Wong Kar Wai movie, In the Mood for Love, has the lines: "That era has passed, Nothing that belonged to it exists any more..." How often must those words, or sentiments to that effect, pop into Ricky Ponting's mind these days? Having come into a team that was on the cusp of world domination, he became an integral part of a side whose like we may never see again, but has since been asked to pick up the pieces as a golden generation moved on.

     

    When Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh raged against the dying Caribbean light at Bridgetown in 1999, Ponting was still making his way in the game. The century that he scored in the first innings of that game was only his third, but he had already played in a World Cup final [and lost], been part of an Ashes-changing partnership [with Matthew Elliott at Headingley in 1997] and been at the wrong end of a fist in a Kolkata nightclub.

     

    As it turned out, that Barbados defeat would be no more than a pothole in Australia's path to

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  • Cash versus country conundrum

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines loyalty as "a strong feeling of support or allegiance". If you talk to sportsmen though, you'll get vastly different definitions. In this era of millionaire players and super agents, it's the fan who's finding out the hard way that loyalty does come with a price-tag attached.

     

    Was it ever any different though? In the old days, team owners and chairmen dictated terms, and players were little better than cattle in a pen. What was misconstrued as loyalty was often nothing more than a lack of options, a player's awareness that displeasing his employer meant joining the dole queue.

     

    The balance has swung to the other extreme now, and you'll hear few sportsmen complain. This summer saw two especially interesting loyalty debates. First, Lebron James decided to ditch the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and move to Miami. "The major factor was the best opportunity for me to win, to win now and for the future also," he said in a special TV announcement.

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