Rajan Bala

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Blog Posts by Rajan Bala

  • Fleming was an ideal captain

    Stephen Fleming has bid adieu as a New Zealand cricketer and captain, when he could have played - always a tricky choice - and when old enough to decide he had had enough. He would have had a major role in enabling his successor, left-arm spinner, Daniel Vettori - a man after his heart and temperament - to take over with no questions asked.

    One will always remember Fleming as the modern role model as captain, even with Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting on the scene, as he matched wits and tactical skills, despite lacking top quality resources, which has always been the history of his country's cricket.

    There have been exceptional individuals of course, batsmen, bowlers and wicketkeepers. New Zealand, like its closest neighbour, Australia has produced athletic citizens, and this has to do with their interest in the outdoors. Without a population to worry about - there are certainly more sheep if not deer than people - life is comfortable for most and the climate sport friendly.

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  • Kumble is India’s first statesman captain

    By all accounts that one has heard emanating from Australia and more recently from V.V.S. Laxman, Anil Kumble has qualified to be India's first statesman captain. It has been someone that Indian cricket has been looking for more than seven decades and when he does eventually arrive, he is 37 years old and almost ready to be put to grass in a manner of speaking.


    For long, Kumble was intrigued that he was never a candidate of the powers that be as captain, though every other aspect of his CV is probably better than his so-called rivals. Maybe, he was taught very early that they also serve who stand and wait!


    The statesman captain in the game has always been rare. As far as Indians are concerned, historically the two who come to mind at once are C.K. Nayudu and his protege, Lala Amarnath. Both were larger-than-life personalities and wielded tremendous influence on the players they led, with the odd exception. But, they captained in difficult times - with India in the throes of its

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  • In practice home advantage can backfire

    Over the last few days, it has been amusing to read so much written about the so-called home advantage that enabled India to win the third Test in Kanpur and square the three Test rubber against South Africa. That too, after having been mauled in the previous Test in Ahmedabad by an innings and 90 runs.

    It was only to be expected that the pitch in Kanpur would be different from the one in Ahmedabad on which India had been bowled out for a paltry 76 in the first innings. It was expected that the pitch would in essence be slow in nature, but where the top would crumble and bring in the elements of variable bounce and turn. No wonder match referee Roshan Mahanama did not think twice of reporting the sub-standard state of the pitch to the International Cricket Council. Knowing Roshan only too well, I am sure that he would have done the same had South Africa won the Test in the same conditions. There is neither an excuse nor a justification for a sub-standard pitch.

    Of course, India

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  • Saying it was one bad day will not do

    It is no surprise that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has had no questions to ask of the Indian team and its management about the recent debacle in the second Test in Ahmedabad. There has not even been the sort of reaction which is to be only expected when the much hyped Indian team gets the sort of hiding it did and in three days. All the gains reportedly made on the tour of Australia seemed to be nullified. But the skipper, Anil Kumble and even the senior players have glossed over it by saying that it is one of those things that can happen, "one of those bad days" that can afflict any team.

    Can you imagine the reactions from the public and the media had this happened to Australia? The team would have had hell to pay and the criticism would have been unforgiving and vicious. The Australian team would not have had any excuses to make and since it is a country that has always taken great pride in its cricketing and overall, sporting achievements, a defeat rankles and all the

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  • Few young off-spinners? Tell us why Greg

    The Chappell brothers, Ian and Greg, have always impressed me as serious students of the game.

    Hence, when there is a tricky question or an intriguing situation in the game, they would be the first to apply their minds. This is one of the reasons why I admire them. While the elder, Ian, has wisely decided that his association with Indian cricket would be restricted to the commentary box and columns - "I'd be mad to accept an offer to coach" the younger, Greg, cannot stay away, despite his unfortunate experiences with the top job in the country. The verdict has to be that vested interests and envy combined to conspire to work against his success and the best coach India could have had, was reduced to a victim of Chanakyan intrigue.

    Even then - may be the feeling that he has much to contribute to Indian cricket in an unofficial capacity keeps him here under the aegis of the Rajasthan Cricket Association and the patronage of Indian cricket's latest kingmaker and money spinner, Lalit Modi.

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  • To win, one cannot always play safe

    If India are to win more home Test matches - which they must, as they have begun winning overseas - then the team needs to have the right balance according to the prevailing pitch and weather conditions. And, this implies that the team has to do away with the additional specialist batsman, at present a sort of safety clause from possible defeat.

    The replacement has to be a bowling all-rounder or a specialist bowler, pace or spin.

    The thought must have already crossed the minds of the national selectors headed by Dilip Vengsarkar and the captain, Anil Kumble. To see a visiting team like South Africa - whose batsmen are quite unfamiliar against quality spin bowling - hold their own and walk out of the first Test in Chennai with heads held high, and even look to surprise the home outfit in the subsequent two Tests, is not really within the script that has been written. Kumble's problem, as far as one can see, is to bell the cat and that is to tell one of the specialist batsmen that he has

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  • Chennai history must not escape SA openers

    My preoccupation with history is at times looked upon as unnecessary and, probably, even a measure of one-upmanship. Not that it has ever concerned me in the least. One of cricket's premier historians, H.S. Altham, did ask, "Can they do without us?" The historian and the statistician are essential in any field of human activity and cricket is privileged that it has always had more than its fair share of such invaluable contributors. Like Altham, let us in the same breath bless the admirable statistician, Bill Frindall.

    In the middle of the first Test between India and South Africa at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, the record-breaking opening duo of South African skipper Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie might be interested in seeing a slice of history which concerns it. It is always possible that these players might or might not come back to Chennai, so there can be nothing better than getting things over and done with. Even a photograph or two might help, though is little evidence these

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