Partab Ramchand

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Blog Posts by Partab Ramchand

  • The gap has narrowed

    As I write, the 100-day countdown for the ICC Cricket World Cup has just started and the excitement may have officially begun. Already talk has commenced about which team will win the mega event to be held in the sub continent and if the atmosphere is not exactly at fever pitch it will soon be.

     

    The months will become weeks and the weeks will become days and before you know it, India and Bangladesh will be squaring off in the tournament opener on February 19. And, then for the next six weeks our lives will centre round the happenings in the ICC Cricket World Cup and nothing else will matter.

     

    This has happened every time without fail since the inaugural edition in 1975. Even though the media hype was predictably not as high as it is these days, I remember we could not wait for the action to start on June 7 of that year. There were just eight participating teams but among them were West Indies and Australia, the two leading competitors for the title. Everything pointed out to these

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  • An uphill task

    I must confess I am baffled by the steep fall of the Aussies. Admittedly, it is not easy to replace players like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn and Stuart MacGill overnight, but the Australians have depth in their reserve bench and it was thought they had discovered cricketers good enough to maintain a tough challenge at the top. 

     

    Ricky Ponting was still around as elder statesman and the batting and bowling seemed to be in capable hands. At worst, it appeared that they might struggle to stay No 1. However, it was taken for granted that they would still be formidable at home. All these theories have been hit for six.

     

    The Australians are now starting to experience a slump similar to the one they endured in the mid-80s when the simultaneous retirements of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh saw the team's fortunes nosedive. They were beaten by almost every team at home and abroad. In fact, one recalls how New

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  • Kirsten has made the right moves

    Reading about the praise being heaped upon Gary Kirsten, I can't help smiling wryly. As he completes three years since he took up the offer in late 2007, the 43-year-old former South African opening batsman while being pleased with all the nice words being said about his contribution to Indian cricket and his role in lifting the team to the top slot in the ICC rankings would also be giving a thought to the initial misgivings he had before taking over.

     

    In contrast to all the good things being said about him these days it is interesting to note that there was a lot of criticism when he was the front runner for the job. 

     

    For starters, former England captain Tony Greig hit out at the BCCI's decision to rope in Kirsten. His theory was that Kirsten would be nothing more than a puppet in the hands of senior players. "Kirsten's appointment came as a bit of a surprise to me. It probably has something to do with employing someone who is likely to let the senior players have their way and

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  • England’s glorious record

    This is the season it seems to be coming up with the greatest teams. The all time greatest World XI, the best left-hander's team, an eleven of most elegant players, the stodgiest XI and so on. There are also serious debates as to the greatest teams of all time and going by the discussions it would appear that the West Indian teams of the 80s and the early 90s would appear to have the edge. Also figuring in the discussions are the Australian teams of the new millennium under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh and Don Bradman's "Invincibles'' of the 40s.

     

    Let me intensify the argument by saying that there is one more team that should be right up there as a contender – the England side of the 50s. The squad had the personnel that constitute a great team – outstanding batsmen and bowlers, a great all rounder and a wicketkeeper fit to be ranked with the best. England overran even strong opponents with a degree of comfort and two rather telling statistical points would underscore their awesome

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  • Team India seeks ruthless streak

    New Zealand haven't had a great record in this country and a look at the composition of the visiting side – as also the fact that India are the No 1 Test team and No 2 ODI team in the rankings – makes me stick my neck out and predict a one-sided outcome in both contests.  The tourists are to play three Tests and three one-day games and on both past record and present form it is difficult to see them stretch a confident Indian side. I would love to be proved wrong for there is nothing as insipid as a lop-sided result.

     

    The Kiwis have won just two Tests in India while losing ten out of 26 matches spread over eight visits dating back to 1955. Admittedly, they were rather unfortunate not to win the three-match series in 1969 due to a combination of circumstances, but undaunted they hopped over to Pakistan and promptly won their maiden Test series. This record alone should be more than just a comforting factor for the Indians, while the fact that they won their first series in New Zealand

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  • Selectors have a thankless task

    Now that India is firmly perched on top in the ICC Test rankings and are second in the ODI rankings there is praise being heaped all round. Not unexpectedly, the batsmen have received the lion's share of the encomiums but the bowlers too have garnered their share of praise. There have been plaudits too for Dhoni's leadership qualities – though he is still considered by many to be the Man with the Midas touch – while a few good things are said every now and then about coach Gary Kirsten. 

     

    But there is one set of people associated with the game who never get any praise even when the team is doing well. And, they are harshly criticized when the team fares badly as if it is only their fault. Oh yes, selectors have a thankless task. They cannot please everyone and are sitting ducks for potshots. Some of the comments on the selection of Indian teams can be downright uncharitable. A few years ago, a website carried a scathing article terming the selectors as 'five blind men'. The piece was

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  • The value of an all-rounder

    MS Dhoni's candid confession that the Indian team was still looking for an all-rounder to fill in the No 7 slot has not come a moment too soon. As the ODI team prepares for the World Cup in real earnest it is imperative that the crucial slot is filled. The value of an all-rounder as different from a utility or bits and pieces cricketer cannot be overemphasized.

     

    In four successive campaigns from 1979 to 1992 the team had no worries, thanks to the presence of the peerless Kapil Dev. For good measure in a couple of those campaigns he had Ravi Shastri and Manoj Prabhakar for company.

     

    In 1996, Prabhakar and Ajay Jadeja were assigned the double duties while three years later Ajit Agarkar and Robin Singh were picked for the dual roles. None of the four really did a commendable job with the result that in 2003, with no ubiquitous player around, the team generally took the field with seven batsmen and four bowlers with a couple of batsmen sharing the ten overs. It worked like a dream. 

     

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  • No team can be on top forever

    No team can be on top forever. If it is particularly formidable it can be No 1 for an extended period at most. But sooner or later it has to come to terms with the fact that their superstars are aged, are past their best or have called it a day and the replacements are just not good enough for the team to remain numero uno. And, even as this process continues another team is able to have the right composition to make their way to the top.

     

    A look at the game's history will unearth many such cases. Perhaps the earliest example is the Australian team of the 20s. With the awesome figure of Warwick Armstrong in command and with players of the calibre of Jack Gregory, Ted McDonald, Charlie McCartney, Warren Bardsley, Jack Ryder, Bill Ponsford, Bill Oldfield and Arthur Mailey in the ranks they simply outplayed both England and South Africa. Along the route they won eight matches in a row against England, including the first 5-0 clean sweep in Tests. It was not that England and South Africa

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  • Bench strength rose to the occasion

    The most positive aspect of India's series victory over Australia was the unveiling of the bench strength. I have always believed the bench strength is strong and that is why there will be nothing really nothing to worry about in Indian cricket once the stalwarts of many years call it a day. This is also one reason why India are the No 1 Test team in the rankings.

     

    There is a lot of depth in Indian cricket at the moment and that is why I wrote in an earlier article that the cynics who advocate that the Indians are a wobbly No 1, that they are just hanging in there by the proverbial slender thread and that they don't give the impression of lasting very long at the top might be in for a surprise.

     

    Just consider these facts. Yuvraj Singh is ruled unfit to play a Test in Sri Lanka, Suresh Raina is drafted in and promptly scores a hundred on debut. An injured Gautam Gambhir is out of the second Test against Australia, Murali Vijay is his replacement and he gets a maiden Test hundred.

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  • Milestones just don’t stop

    He is the marathon man and the milestones just don't stop as far as Sachin Tendulkar is concerned. The first to get 12,000 runs in Tests, the first to cross 13,000 runs and now, inevitably the first to cross 14,000 runs. The 15,000 run mark beckons as inevitably as night follows day. Allied to this is the hundreds milestones – the first to cross 35 centuries, the first to cross 40, then 45 and now again the 50 century landmark beckons as surely as 100 international hundreds.

     

    To make predictions about records staying for any length of time is fraught ith danger what with the proliferation of Test matches, but Tendulkar has climbed a summit which does seem to be beyond the reach of lesser mortals. There was a time when a galloping Ricky Ponting appeared to be a serious challenger for both the main records.

     

    In keeping with his reputation as Australia's best batsman since Don Bradman, Ponting's average soared past 59 and seemed headed to the 60-mark. He had also scored 33 hundreds to

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