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Dec 31, 2008

Australian media slams loss

Australia's first series defeat in 16 years on home soil hasn't gone down too well with the local media.

Aaron Timms of Sydney Morning Herald says: "Our cricketers are turning into Pinters. Already there are signs of irreversible Pinterisation among many members of this Australian team: recall any of the Ford backyard cricket ads from this season and it is abundantly clear that most of our cricketers are hopelessly in thrall to their own acting talent. But it has not all been in vain. Yes, Hussey's batting may be atrocious. But his acting is even worse."

In the Courier Mail Robert Craddock writes that "Australia's capitulation against South Africa is embodied by the story of Andrew Symonds and the shameful way he was mismanaged this summer. By picking Symonds in the first place at the start of the summer, the selectors ignored whispers on every street corner in Brisbane that the all-rounder was simply not mentally ready to return after being dumped for the "gone fishing" scandal."

"South Africa knew early in the first Test Australia were not the team of old because of how timid they were. Australia are now the oldest Test team in the world. But when you are in a recession that normally means it is time to change."

The Daily Telegraph came out with a mock obituary of Australian cricket and Ray Chesterton believes that "Australian cricket is dead and buried, the echo of the ball flying off the confident bat of South Africa's Hashim Amla yesterday was the death rattle of Australia's record 16 years without a series loss at home. It simply followed a short illness complicated by player arrogance, chronic selection short-sightedness, poor captaincy decisions, unreliable batting, indecisive bowling and fielding clumsiness."

Mike Coward of The Australian thinks "the South Africans were smart enough and good enough to exploit Australia's yawning weakness - the impotence of its bowling. South Africa took 40 wickets while the Australians scratched and scraped for 25 - 13 of them to Mitchell Johnson who will enter the fray on Saturday feeling considerably older than 27 having bowled 108 overs in Perth and Melbourne.

While the criticism levelled at Andrew Hilditch and his co-selectors is appropriate after the bizarre selection of Andrew Symonds here, there is an urgent need for cool heads and calculated thinking at this time in evolution of the Australian team."

Indian Cricket in 2008: A review (Part 2)

In the second part of the series, we review India's performances in the second half of the year.

Asia Cup

India were pitted against Hong Kong and Pakistan in their group. India won both their games easily and defeated Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Super Fours to set up a final clash against Sri Lanka. In the finals, Sri Lanka unleashed on India their newest mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis - he had been rested in the previous game - and the Indians were clueless against him as Mendis ran through the Indians to pick up 6/13 and complete a crushing victory. India hadn't seen the last of him though.

India in Sri Lanka

This was one of the few Test series which was dominated largely by one man - Ajantha Mendis. With his unpickable varities of googlies, flippers, leg breaks and 'carrom balls', the famed Indian batsmen were clueless against Mendis, who went on to take a record-breaking 26 wickets in his debut series. Virender Sehwag was more succesful against him due to his aggressive approach but he could only win his side one Test match as India went down 2-1. The series will also go down in history as the first one to implement the umpire-referral system where in a player could challenge the on-field umpire's decision if he felt hard done by it. The jury is still not out on that system yet.

India put the Test loss behind them and won the 5 match ODI series 3-2 after having lost the first game.

Australia in India

India were hurting after their loss in Australia earlier in the year and the series provided the perfect platform to avenge the defeat. Sick and tired of the controversy surrounding his selection, Sourav 'Dada' Ganguly declared he would be retiring after the Australia series.

The tourists arrived in India with two inexperienced spinners. 36-year old Bryce McGain had to return home due to a shoulder injury while off-spinner Jason Krejza was thrashed in a warm-up game, which prevented Ponting from using him until the final Test.

In the first Test, Australia had India on the mat but a wonderful rearguard effort from Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan proved to be the difference. MS Dhoni, the stand-in captain in the second Test, didn't lose his Midas touch as India won quite convincingly at Mohali. It was the same Test in which Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara's record and went past 12000 Test runs.

Anil Kumble aggravated his injury in the drawn third Test and announced his retirement after the game. Dhoni maintained his 100 percent record as captain in Nagpur where Krejza picked up 12 wickets on debut but still ended up on the losing side. Nagpur was also host to one of the most bizarre periods of play. India were in a spot of bother in their second innings but instead of going for the kill, captain Ricky Ponting opted to go in with part timers to make up for the slow over rate. The partnership proved to be telling as Australia fell 172 runs short and lost the series 0-2. India went from strength to strength but the misery for Australia wasn't over just yet as they lost their first home series in 16 years, going down to the Proteas.

England in India

England would have never imagined that they would be so comprehensively outplayed when they arrived in India. After being dismissed for a measly 98 against Mumbai in a warm-up game, England failed to recover. Yuvraj Singh single handedly destroyed their attack in the first two ODIs and even though the victory margins became less embarrassing as the series progressed, England never really looked like they would win a game.

But the unfortunate terror attacks in Mumbai meant that the last two ODIs were put off with India leading 5-0.

England would have not tarnished their reputation had they not returned for the Test series. But they did, and with a full-strength squad despite reports that some of the leading players might be opting out.

Twin centuries from Andrew Strauss could not save England in the first Test as India scripted the most memorable of victories. Virender Sehwag's blitzkrieg of an innings, Gautam Gambhir's 64, a brilliantly compiled century from Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh's mature 85 helped India chase a mammoth 387 at the Chepauk.

The second Test couldn't match the first in terms of excitement but it will be remembered for a gutsy and dogged innings from Rahul Dravid. Dravid had struggled to even make it to double figures in the recent past but silenced his critics with a typically patient innings.

India in 2008

Tests Played: 15 Won: 6 Lost: 4 Drawn: 5

ODIs Played: 29 Won: 19 Lost: 8 No Result: 2

Dec 30, 2008

Indian cricket in 2008: A review

With India's international commitments over for the 2008 calendar year, we look back at Indian cricket in the first of two parts.

India in Australia

India went to Australia with a real chance of toppling the world champions from their perch. After being routed in the Boxing day Test match at the MCG, they came to Sydney with their morale down and what followed was hard to believe.The Sydneygate/Monkeygate, as it is now famously referred to, threatened to split the cricket world. India issued an ultimatum to the ICC to tone down the charges of racism levelled on Harbhajan or it would scrap the remainder of the tour. Finally better sense prevailed and the tour continued, but that did not mask some of the unforgettable action of the Test which the Aussies snatched from right under the Indians' noses.

The match also witnessed some dubious umpiring from Bucknor and Benson, and India suffered ultimately. So two down and with so much chaos, with their morale at an alltime low, India arrived for the Perth Test. No one even in their wildest dreams would have imagined an Indian victory at Perth. But what followed was one of India's greatest Test wins. It was a total team effort with everybody chipping in handsomely. It also brought an end to the sixteen match unbeaten streak of the Aussies, more importantly the lion had been tamed in it's own backyard.

India gamely held on to a draw at the Adelaide oval thanks to some wonderful rearguard batting from Sehwag in the final innings. The series had been lost 2-1 but India returned home with their heads held high. This series also saw the emergence of the tearaway fast-bowler Ishant Sharma, the 19 year old from Delhi, who bowled one of the finest spells of the year to Ponting at Perth and has dismissed him 5 times since.

The Test series will certainly be most remembered for a long time to come, whether it was the controversies or the action on the field, it kept the audience spellbound and speechless.

After the euphoria of the Test series, the young Indian side led by Dhoni comfortably reached the finals of the CB series and then in the best of three final series, Sachin Tendulkar took over and crafted two masterpieces in both the finals to help India sink the Aussies. The win was the perfect way to finish the tour on a high and also marked the beginning of Australia's slow decline.

South Africa in India
South Africa came to India on the back of some great form. Having crushed New Zealand and West Indies at home, they even boasted of defeating the Pakistanis in Pakistan before mauling Bangladesh in Bangladesh.

India were on a high after their spirited performance in Australia, both in Tests and in the one-day series that followed. It was going to be an intriguing series.

The first Test at Chennai will always be remembered for Virender Sehwag's magnificent triple century. He plundered the South African attack to all parts of the ground and became only the third cricketer in Test history to register two triple hundreds as the game turned out to be a high-scoring draw.

India capitulated to an embarrassing 76 in exactly 20 overs in the first innings of the second Test and unsurprisingly South Africa completed an innings victory.

With India needing to win the last Test of the series, a dustbowl greeted the Proteas at Kanpur. MS Dhoni triumphed in his first Test as captain after Sourav Ganguly scored a gritty 87 to give India a priceless lead.

Dale Steyn proved he could take wickets in all conditions, Neil McKenzie's dream run continued and Hashim Amla continued to prosper.

India and South Africa have since been involved in a tussle for the second place on the Test rankings but it appears that India might have to wait a little longer after South Africa's stellar performances down under.

Indian Premier League

The IPL lived up to all the hype it generated, and then some more. The launch of the IPL marked cricketers being sold like stocks and eyebrows must have been raised when some of the lesser known players earned fatter pay cheques than their more illustrious counterparts.

Apart from some wonderful cricket on the field which included Brendon McCullum's pyrotechnics on the opening night and a final which went down to the last ball, the tournament was rife with off the field controversies as well. Topping the list was the infamous incident of Slapgate which involved Harbhajan Singh slapping India teammate Shantakumaran Sreesanth right across the face. The former was banned from the rest of the tournament and both players involved literally kissed and made up before the incident was brushed aside.

The IPL proved to be a platform for Shane Warne's captaincy, which was earlier witnessed by only a handful who had seen him leading county side Hampshire. It also threw up a number of young talents including Shaun Marsh, Manpreet Gony and Shikhar Dhawan.

Kitply Cup - Bangladesh tri-series
India had earned the reputation of making it through to the finals of one-day tournaments but faltering at the final step but when they toppled the Aussies in their own backyard in the CB series, it looked like India had turned the corner. But it wasn't to be. Having defeated Pakistan comfortably in their league encounter, they fell short in the finals by 25 runs giving cricket-starved Pakistan something to rejoice about.

Dec 23, 2008

India end 2008 with another series win

India won the two-Test series against England 1-0 after the second Test ended in a tame draw in Mohali on Tuesday, the hosts preferring to play it safe rather than push for an improbable victory.

Set a near-impossible target of 403 from 43 overs, England scored 64 for 1 in their second innings before the curtain came down on an emotional series that got underway barely two weeks after the Mumbai terror attacks.

With fog robbing play for much of the opening session on most of the days, a draw was the likely result as both teams took the field on the last day.

As the Indians were in no mood to take any risks, the final day's play turned out to be quite dreary, with Gautam Gambhir (97) and Yuvraj Singh (86) briefly providing the sparks before the belated Indian declaration came shortly after the lunch break.

Resuming at the overnight score of 134 for 4, India declared at 251 for seven wickets in the post-lunch session, a total they owed to the 153-run stand between Gambhir and Yuvraj.
It was the second successive Test series triumph for India after beating Australia 2-0 in the four-match series in October-November.

But, more than the result, the series will be remembered for reasons beyond cricket, as it was played under the shadow of terrorism in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage.
With the possibility of an outright result bleak, both the teams decided to stop the pointless exercise an hour before its schedule close.

To inject some life into the dull match, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhonitook his pads off and bowled the last over as VVS Laxman donned the wicketkeeper's gloves.

This was the first time that India drew under Dhoni's captaincy. The match was in sharp contrast to the epic first Test in Chennai, where India successfully chased down 387 runs for a memorable win.

The 153-run stand between a sedate Gambhir and a sizzling Yuvraj was the lone highlight of India's second innings.

A thick fog that became a ritual during the match again threw the schedule in complete disarray and play finally got underway at 1130 IST, with a one-hour morning session.

That India would not go out of the way to press for a win was completely evident as the hosts batted on. By the time India declared following Gambhir's dismissal some 10 overs after lunch, the prospect of a result had long gone up in smoke.

The only point of interest seemed whether Gambhir would notch his second century of the match. The pint-sized left-hander from Delhi could not, falling three runs shy of the milestone.
It still turned out to be a memorable match for the diminutive Delhi player, who scored 179 in the first innings.

It was rather surprising to see both Yuvraj and Gambhir return to continue from where they had left. By then it was clear that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men were playing for a draw.
Playing without purpose, India suddenly lost three wickets in six overs before Dhoni felt it was safe to set England on a chase.

An almighty mix-up with Gambhir saw Yuvraj falling short of the crease as Ian Bell's direct throw broke the stumps. It was a sad end to Yuvraj' entertaining 93-ball 86, which was studded with four sixes and six fours.

Dhoni's innings was a two-ball duck. He offered a tame catch to Monty Panesar and Gambhir then fell to Swann in the 73rd over when Bell took a brilliant catch at backward point.
It was an uncharacteristically patient knock by Gambhir, who spent five-and-half hours in the middle, facing 229 balls, five of which were hit to the fence.

For England, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann got a wicket apiece.

With India not interested in a win and an England victory just not a possibility, the only task at hand for the visiting batsmen was to bat out the rest of the day and return with honours even.
Opener Andrew Strauss avoided the pair and remained not out on 21, while Ian Bell was unbeaten on 24.

India tour a lesson for Pietersen's England

England captain Kevin Pietersen said on Tuesday the tour of India had provided his team a learning experience after losing the two-Test series 1-0.

"It's been a good tour. We have got a lot to learn from this tour," said Pietersen after the second Test ended in a draw at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium here.

The tourists, set an improbable victory target of 403 in 43 overs, had made 64-1 when the match was called off with 15 overs remaining on the fifth and final day.

India won the first Test in Chennai by chasing down a tough target of 387 on the back of Sachin Tendulkar's 40th Test century, and left-hander Yuvraj Singh's 85 not out.

Pietersen said he was happy England decided to return to India for the Test series despite last month's Mumbai terror attacks.

"We have enjoyed ourselves, everyone's been very hospitable in India," he said. "We have enjoyed our time here and in Chennai.

"I am just really proud to be captain of bunch of lads who jumped on a plane to come here and play some really good cricket.

"They have concentrated solely on their cricket, they have enjoyed their cricket, they have played with smiles on their faces. You can't ask for anything more.

"We have got to take our hats off and say congratulations to India for a fantastic tour. They have played some fantastic cricket."

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni described the series win as a team effort to which everyone contributed, either with the bat or the ball.

"The conditions were tough for fast bowlers but they took the responsibility when it was needed," he said after seamer Zaheer Khan was named man of the series for his eight wickets.

"As for the batsmen, whenever we needed a big partnership, there was one.

"There were situations where we lost a few wickets, but someone stood up and said, 'I will be the person that takes the team through'.

"So, it was a very good team effort."

Dhoni downplayed India's rise to number two in the International Cricket Council's world rankings behind Australia after the series win.

"We just concentrate on preparing and executing our plans," he said.

"Whether we are top of the chart or third or fourth position does not matter. We are enjoying the cricket we are playing. We are backing each other and enjoying each other's success. That is what is important."

England coach Peter Moores endorsed the team's decision to return to India for the series, despite security concerns.

"We made our statement as a team and I think it is the right one," he said.

"Since we have been here, it has felt very secure. It is a great place to play and everybody has learned a huge amount.

"There have been some tough lessons. We have got to take them away, improve ourselves and go to the West Indies after Christmas and move it forward.

"It was definitely worth coming here. We have learned something, there has been some good cricket played and we move on to the challenges of 2009."

Dec 22, 2008

Umar Gul to play for WA in Twenty20 series

Leading Pakistan paceman Umar Gul will play with the Western Australia Warriors in the 2008-09 domestic Twenty20 Big Bash competition, the Western Australian Cricket Association said Monday.

Gul, 24, was one of the stars of the Pakistan team that reached the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa last year and also played for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2008 Indian Premier League.

Gul has an outstanding record in the Twenty20 format, with 20 wickets in 13 international matches at an average of 12.20 and economy rate of 5.11.

He also has 46 wickets in 29 domestic Twenty20 matches at an average of 14.52 and economy rate of 6.25.

Warriors coach Tom Moody said that having an international cricketer of Gul's talent in his squad would assist the team's goal of reaching the Twenty20 Big Bash final.

"The importance of the Big Bash competition has risen considerably in the past two seasons with places in the ICC Champions League Twenty20 tournament up for grabs," Moody said in a statement.

"Every team has to make sure that they have the right personnel on board in their quest to be successful.

"Having Umar in our ranks, who is without doubt an excellent Twenty20 performer, is very timely given the unfortunate run we have recently experienced with injury and form."

WACA chief executive Graeme Wood said that, having missed out at the recently cancelled first Champions League Twenty20 in India, Western Australia were determined to qualify for the inaugural tournament in October 2009.

Gul is expected to arrive in Perth Wednesday.

AB de Villiers guides SA to record victory

AB de Villiers inspired South Africa to record breaking win in the first Test against Australia at Perth. Chasing a daunting 414 for victory, the visitors got home with six wickets to spare to complete the second highest successful chase in the history of Test cricket.

The chase was set up by a magnificent innings by captain Graeme Smith, who compiled a superb century despite a lingering elbow injury. Hashim Amla chipped in with a mature innings of 53 as well.

AB de Villiers then added 124 runs with Jacques Kallis for the fourth wicket before an unbeaten 111-run stand for the fifth wicket with debutant JP Duminy as South Africa completed an emphatic victory.

The enormity of the task was underlined by the fact that the highest run chase at Perth was 342/8 in 1977. South Africa had only won one Test in Australia since their reintroduction into world cricket.

Kallis and de Villiers were watchful during the early part of the day as they kept Australia's strike bowlers, Lee and Johnson at bay. Once set, the two pounced on the part-time tweakers of Michael Clarke to help themselves to some easy runs.

For Australia, Johnson was the only bowler who impressed, taking his match tally to 11 wickets but received little support from Lee and the two rookies, Siddle and Krejza.

South Africa seemed to be running away with the game but Johnson struck a crucial blow half an hour before lunch as Kallis flashed at a wide delivery to be caught at gully with the Proteas still needing 111 runs to victory.

JP Duminy was greeted with a barrage of short deliveries but showed good resilience and focus to get through the initial period. The off spin of Krejza proved to be easy pickings for the debutant as he grew in confidence.

South Africa put to rest their reputation to choke in big games when Duminy drove Johnson into the covers, sprinting three to complete his maiden fifty and a historic victory before hugging de Villiers.

AB de Villiers received the Man of the Match for his all round efforts. He scored 63 in the first innings and held onto 4 catches, 3 of them spectacular, followed by a match-winning century.

Australia have much to do before the second Test starts in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

Dec 18, 2008

England wavering on team for tough India Test

An unpredictable wicket and India's awesome recent form have forced England to delay naming their team for the must-win second Test starting here Friday.

England captain Kevin Pietersen said a final decision on the playing XI would be taken just before the toss as the tourists attempt to level the two-match series.

"The surface is a bit different from the first Test and a little abrasive, so we want to see how it will turn out before deciding who will play," said Pietersen.

India won the first Test in Chennai by six wickets after surpassing a seemingly improbable target of 387 on the final day to achieve the fourth-highest run chase in Test history.

England resume battle at the Punjab Cricket Association ground in the northern town of Mohali, where their predecessors were hammered by 10 wickets in 2001 and suffered a nine-wicket defeat in 2006.

The Indians also inflicted a massive 320-run defeat on world champions Australia at the same ground in October on their way to a 2-0 series win in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

England need to decide if middle-order batsman Owais Shah, who hit three half-centuries in the preceding one-day series, should be brought in for his third Test match in place of Ian Bell.

With fast bowler Stuart Broad fit after missing the Chennai Test with a hamstring injury, England may have to choose between spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, or drop one seamer from Steve Harmison or James Anderson.

Pietersen, himself recovering from a fractured rib suffered while playing squash before the series, said he was not in favour of reshuffling the team after just one defeat.

"We have got to try to win the game and get the victory, that's our sole purpose now," the England captain said.

"I think the boys played brilliantly last week, they played great Test cricket, but we just unfortunately got pipped on the last day.

"I don't see a reason to change much. If a few things had gone our way on the final day we would have won that Test and been 1-0 up.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow but at least we got a lot closer than we thought in really pushing this strong Indian team to the last session of the Test."

Pietersen said England were beaten in Chennai by Sachin Tendulkar's brilliant 103 not out on the final day and Virender Sehwag's blistering 83 off 68 balls on the fourth evening.

"You've got a freak of a bloke (Tendulkar) who bats at number four for India, and a freak who opens the batting (Sehwag)," said Pietersen.

India, meanwhile, are set to play the same team with the struggling Rahul Dravid getting another chance to redeem himself after making just 342 runs in his last 10 Tests.

"We have a lot of faith in Rahul," said captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"The important thing for him is to get to the 30-run mark, which will give him a lot of confidence. Unfortunately, he is getting out before settling in."

Dravid, who turns 36 next month and is one of only four batsmen after Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting to score 10,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket, made just three and four in Chennai.

Dhoni said he was undecided on pushing Dravid down the order from number three to release the pressure on the beleaguered batsman.

"It can work both ways," he said. "If (Venkatsai) Laxman goes in at three and gets out early, the pressure will return to Dravid.

"At least he gets a chance to prepare himself mentally at number three, knowing he will go in at the fall of the first wicket."

Dec 17, 2008

Akhtar urges board to launch Twenty20 league

KARACHI (Reuters) - Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar said on Tuesday that a lucrative Pakistani Twenty20 league would offset the reluctance of foreign teams to tour the country for security reasons.

Akhtar urged the country's cricket board (PCB) to start its own professional league similar to the multi-million dollar Twenty20 Indian Premier League launched this year.

"We need to find our own solution or else cricket will die in Pakistan," the paceman told reporters

"We should have our own twenty20 professional league. The money is there and that is one way to get foreign players to play in our country."

"I know personally there are wealthy individuals and companies in Pakistan and abroad willing to put money into such a project because cricket has big commercial pull in Pakistan."

Akhtar, who commended England on returning to India for their test series following the Mumbai militant attacks, said Pakistani players have been frustrated by the lack of opportunities to play international cricket this year.

"We have played no tests this year and teams always have issues with the security coming to Pakistan," he said.

"The Indians and other teams need to show the same respect (shown by England) for our cricket and play in our country if our government is giving them security assurances."

Akhtar is appearing in the national one-day championship organised due to the lack of game time and added that despite suffering disciplinary and fitness problems this year, he wanted to continue playing until the 2011 World Cup.

"I am working hard on my fitness and I am going to nurse myself through matches. If I can do that properly I see myself completing 400 wickets in one-dayers and playing until the next World Cup," the 33-year-old said.

An appeal by Akhtar against an 18-month ban and seven million rupees ($86,515) fine imposed by the PCB this year is pending in the Lahore high court.

He has been able to continue playing after the court suspended the ban until the appeal was decided.

Dec 16, 2008

Sachin- a true hero

If there is one match that Sachin Tendulkar cannot forget in his career then it is the one against Pakistan here at the Chepauk in 1999.In that epic match he had played an innings of such breathtaking passion and intensity in the face of Excruciating pain and some sensational bowling from Wasim Akram who was making the ball talk and it was heartbreaking for him to see India embrace defeat from the jaws of victory. He has held himself responsible for that loss as he had played an ill advised stroke of Saqlain Mushtaq when India were on the doorstep of victory.

It is learnt that he was inconsolable after the defeat and spent many a sleepless night thinking about that game, in fact he didn't even turn up for the post match press conference, so distraught was he at the loss . So it must have been a case of old memories coming back to haunt him as he took guard on the final morning of the first test against England at the Chepauk.

There was an eerie sense of similarity to that game here, when he came in the game was on a Knife's edge as was the case against Pakistan almost a decade ago and The situation demanded great application and character since Andrew Flintoff was bowling a fiery spell and a wicket at that stage could well have swung the game decisively the Englishmen's way. Many are convinced including Your's truly that Tendulkar has not won many games for India while batting in the fourth Innings of a Test match, great people love challenges and that spurred him on today.

If there is one thing that critics would have against the little maestro is that he doesn't have a great fourth innings record, that he has not won many games for India in the longer format of the game

and that hurt Tendulkar for he takes great pride in wearing the India cap. It was not a question of records, they were questioning his legacy and that can be a dangerous thing to do when you are talking about someone as big as a Tendulkar, geniuses have a way of pushing the limits just when you think that there is nothing left in the tank they produce a shower. For Sachin making the critics eat humble pie is like taking his swanky red Ferrari Modena out for a long drive.

In fact there is practically nothing left for Sachin to prove to anyone anymore, he has achieved everything in his career, even if he doesn't score another run or play another match for India his place is assured in the pantheon of greats but that is not the way he thinks, he still retains the energy and the drive that he had when he started his career 20 summer's ago, that is no mean achievement considering the amount of wear and tear that he has gone through and the amount of pounding his body has taken.

Right from the time he took strike today he seemed a man on a mission, so transfixed was his mind on the job that he seemed more like a monk carrying out his rituals than a player on the ground. So sure of his footwork was he that he never put a foot wrong, surely this must rank as one of the finest if not the best innings that he has played in Test cricket right up there with the one he made at Perth in 1991-1992

or the one against Pakistan here at Chepauk in 1999, the only difference being both the above mentioned hundreds were in losing causes whilst this one came in a winning cause.

Today's innings was a classic for the true connoisseur, there were no flashy strokes or blistering spells of stroke making that you would have associated with a younger Sachin, for him this was a match he wanted to win at any cost, this was his way of paying tribute for the people who sacrificed their lives for the country in the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and also he wanted to remove the scars of the defeat to Pakistan from his memory permanently, the platform and the setting was perfect for him and he seized it both hands, in the beginning he was rightly watchful against Andrew Flintoff and when the loose stuff came he promptly dispatched it to the boundary and along with Gambhir first and later on with the Flamboyant Yuvraj took India to a famous victory.

Funnily enough this his first hundred in the fourth innings of a Test match that has won a game for India, all the other hundreds have either resulted in a loss or a draw, this was a staggering piece of statistic that was worrying him and he set that right today with an innings of monumental concentration and patience.

In these times of distress and despair when people are losing their jobs to recession and their lives to mindless acts of terrorism they needed a smile to be put back on their faces and a hero to look up to and who better than Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar to provide the answer, he has once again lit up the faces of millions of countrymen and provided them a reason to smile albeit temporarily but that is good enough for all of us, for there is no greater joy in this world for an Indian than seeing SRT bat and India win.

This victory should rank as one of the greatest alongside the ones at Perth, Adelaide,Headingley, Joburg and finally the ghost of Chepauk 1999 versus Pakistan have been exorcised forever, Sachin will sleep well tonight and so do we.

Dec 15, 2008

Tendulkar ton scripts India's historical win

Chennai: Riding on a sensational knock by Sachin Tendulkar, India placed themselves in a great position to create history at the MA Chidambaram stadium on Monday. Chasing a daunting 387-run target, India need 83 more runs to win in the last session with six wickets in hand.

Tendulkar led the Indian run chase on the decisive day of the first Test against England with a peerless knock of 65 not out. With able support from Yuvraj Singh, Tendulkar steered India to 304-4 at tea.

India, who started the second session on a poor note losing VVS Laxman, added 91 runs after lunch without any further damage.

Tendulkar was a picture of poise as he batted with effortless ease on a slow turning track, plundering six boundaries in his unbeaten innings.

India suffered a big blow after lunch when Graeme Swann had Laxman caught at short midwicket for 26.

England at that stage had India under pressure at 224-4 but Yuvraj ignored both the nerves and the words that came his way from Andrew Flintoff to punch a determined 45 not out that included a huge six off Monty Panesar. He added 80 runs for the fifth wicket with Tendulkar.

India started the day at 131-1, needing 256 to win on the final day at the MA Chidambaram stadium with Gautam Gammbhir and Rahul Dravid in the middle. But England got the perfect start with Andrew Flintoff removing Dravid, who could add only a couple to his overnight score of two. Dravid, who has been in dismal form throughout 2008, edged an outgoing delivery and Matt Prior made no mistake behind the stumps.

Gambhir reached his half-century soon after Dravid's dismissal but he once again fell to a poor shot. He poked at a wide delivery from James Anderson and Paul Collingwood leaped to his right to take a neat catch. The southpaw made 66 with seven boundaries to his name.

The Indian chase seemed to be going downhill but the experienced pair of Tendulkar and Laxman negotiated the rest of the session confidently.

Dec 10, 2008

England to donate funds for Mumbai victims

England will donate half their match fees from the first Test against India to the families of victims of last month's attacks in Mumbai, batsman Alastair Cook said on Tuesday.

England flew into this southern city on Monday to resume the tour that was interrupted by the attacks on November 26 that left 172 dead and more than 300 wounded.

A team meeting on Tuesday decided to pledge fees of around 35,000 pounds (52,000 dollars) to the victims, Cook said after reading from a prepared statement at the Chidambaram stadium.

"Following a very difficult period for the last two weeks, the England cricket team would like to recognise the following reasons for returning to India for the Test series," the statement began.

"As an open and public statement of support for the Indian people following the tragic events in Mumbai recently.

"To extend our sincerest sympathies to those families that have lost loved ones in the Mumbai attacks.

"As cricketers, first and foremost to win a Test match series against India.

"Finally, the England players will donate half their match fees from the first Test match to the families of those victims of the Mumbai attacks."

Cook, the team's opening batsman, added: "We have made a massive pact this morning at our meeting when we came up with the statement that this is it and nothing else can distract us from playing cricket.

"It was something that everyone wanted to get across because as a side we felt we wanted to do it," he said.

England had flown home on November 28 after cancelling the last two matches of a seven-game one-day series, which India won 5-0.

They agreed to return for the two-Test series, after a brief stopover in Abu Dhabi, following security checks by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

The first Test starts here on Thursday, while the second will be played in the northern town of Mohali from December 19.

Cook, the Essex left-hander who turns 24 on Christmas Day, said the disrupted tour and the return to India would bond the team together.

"What has happened recently has been taken out of our control but this side has got behind each other and made some tough decisions," he said.

"We are here as a unit now and we have to play some good cricket. The preparation is not ideal."

Cook took heart from the events two years ago when he scored a century on his Test debut in India after being rushed from the England 'A' tour of the West Indies in place of the injured Michael Vaughan.

"I came here two years ago, flying half way around the world and had one training session and then played, so it can be done.

"You don't just suddenly lose your technique overnight.

"I remember turning up for my first Test match and jet lag does not really affect you when you have got adrenalin kicking through your body. If you are mentally switched on you can achieve things and that's what we need to do as a side now."

Dec 9, 2008

England arrive in India to resume tour

CHENNAI, India (Reuters) - England were escorted to their hotel by around 50 armed commandos after returning to India on Monday for their two-test tour.

The England team, who decided on Sunday to resume the tour aftger curtailing a one-day series following last month's militant attacks in Mumbai, arrived in two batches from Abu Dhabi.

All-rounder Andrew Flintoff said it was tough for players to dismiss security concerns but added they had been united when they finally voted to go ahead with the tour.

"Everyone has decided to go, we have decided to go as a team," Flintoff was quoted as saying on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) website ( on Monday.

City police and commandos cordoned off the Chidambaram stadium by the Bay of Bengal with heavily-armed guards lining the boundary line as some of the Indian team practised on Monday.

"The police have taken over the gates," a regional cricket board spokesman said. "Usually the security hired by the state association man the spectator entry points. This time it is a complete police show."

The one-day series between the two teams was cut short following the attacks that killed at least 171 people in India's financial capital. England returned home after the last two games were called off with the hosts leading 5-0.

International Cricket Council chiefs spoke to officials from both countries to push for a resumption of the tour, while the Board of Control for Cricket in India promised stringent security measures and moved the venues for the tests.

The first test, starting on Thursday, was switched to Chennai from Ahmedabad and the second to Mohali (Dec. 19-23) from Mumbai.

The Chennai city police commissioner told a news conference on Monday that a 3,000-strong force drawn from police and commando units had been assigned for player security.

ECB managing director Hugh Morris, security advisor Reg Dickason and Professional Cricketers' Association head Sean Morris travelled to Chennai last week to check security measures.

Among those killed in the Mumbai attacks were 22 foreigners and the teams would have stayed in one of the two hotels that were raided by the militants.

Indian board officials have secured most of the rooms in the heavily guarded team hotel in Chennai.

The high security measures, however, have not deterred fans in the cricket-crazy city, who are eagerly awaiting the match.

"Hat's off to England's show of goodwill," engineering student Vijay Guruswamy told Reuters outside a ticket counter.

"Whatever has happened has happened but life must go on, cricket must go on."

Dec 8, 2008

Full strength England to arrive in Chennai

A full strength England cricket team will board the flight to Chennai Monday for the first Test starting Thursday but doubts still remain on Mohali as the venue for the second Test.

The team was camping here since Saturday en route India for the unfinished series, which was cut short after the terror-attacks in Mumbai last month.

It was only after a closed door team meeting Sunday night with Hugh Morris, managing director of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), as well as security advisor Reg Dickason, that the players agreed to catch the flight to India.

The three officials toured India last week to assess the security situation. Mumbai and Ahmedabad were the original venues but after the terror attacks the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) changed the venues on ECB's request.

Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison, who were reluctant to travel to India, changed their minds after the briefing.

'The players have made a very brave and very courageous decision that I'm sure they will be hugely respected round the world for,' said Hugh.

PCA chief executive Sean said the players challenged Dickason's report but the security advisor assured them of the steps in place for the tour.

'I spoke to Steve. He has been fantastic and it is a tough call with a young family. Ultimately, he's representing his country and hats off to him,' said Sean.

Hugh admitted that Mohali had still not received security clearance and Dickason will fly to the northern Indian city Monday to begin another detailed investigation.

'We are going to India with a view to playing two Tests. The second will be in Mohali, subject to the assurances we can get on security grounds,' Hugh said.

If Mohali, which is in the state of Punjab bordering Pakistan, does not get the green signal then the Test might be shifted to Bangalore or Delhi.

Hugh said the English cricketers would be remembered for doing something that transcends cricket and goes beyond the boundary. He also said the series could 'galvanise India and help to rebuild it after the tragedy in Mumbai'.