Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dhoni too busy for domestic cricket

New Delhi: It looks like Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have to pay a price for enjoying a break away from cricket. The Indian skipper has lost his captain's cap of the East Zone team to Orissa's Shiv Sundar Das for the upcoming Duleep Trophy matches.

It is believed that the East Zone selector Raja Venkat, after having repeatedly tried and failing to get in touch with the Indian skipper, handed the duty to the Orissa opener.

Dhoni is said to be on a holiday in Coorg with billiards champion Pankaj Advani and former India team mate Robin Uthappa.

The East zone team is slated to take on the West Zone at the Brabourne Stadium from January 29.

Jharkand State Cricket Association selector Jodh Singh was clueless about Dhoni's availability.

A source close to Dhoni told PTI in Ranchi that the Indian skipper was busy with his commercial commitments and so could not be contacted.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hero rises from horrors of Mumbai to fashion fated Test victory for India

Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar

Was this karma, the cause and effect as defined in Hinduism? Was this Test match, not just India's stunning beautiful victory but the fact that ultimately it was fashioned so perfectly by the genius of Mumbai's most celebrated figure, simply meant to be after the atrocity inflicted on that vibrant city a fortnight ago? Or was it merely a magnificent sporting contest, as good as any cricket can be when given extra meaning by the peculiar circumstances that surrounded it?

I'm a romantic and lean towards the former. I like to think that sometimes things happen for the right reason and although the England team would have been disconsolate in the immediate aftermath of the match, with the celebratory clamour around them, the softer hours of their wind-down time may persuade them that this was one such occasion.

There was no disgrace to be had in losing at Chepauk. I hope, indeed I'm sure, that Kevin Pietersen will have reminded his team of this and then of the part they played in an event of massive significance on the subcontinent, firstly by turning up to play where others may have allowed their natural reservations to take precedent, and then, as with their opponents, competing in such a feisty manner. The financial donations they made towards emergency funds were a fine gesture but the biggest gesture of all was being there.

By all the natural laws that govern the progress of Test matches, England should have won the match. Another time they would have. The batting of Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood (two players, lest it be forgotten, who have been scrabbling for their Test careers throughout the past year) and disciplined bowling from an attack properly balanced for the anticipated conditions had set up a situation as the fourth day headed into the final session for which they would have grasped greedily had it been offered before the match began. On a wearing fifth-day pitch, slow but offering help for spinners and reverse swing for seamers, they might expect to win perhaps 19 times out of 20.

Then, though, comes the genius factor. The fast bowlers broke ranks with the new ball, feeding Virender Sehwag's insatiable appetite for the cut (with Alastair Cook like a coconut in a shy in the gully), and by the start of the final day the brilliant, calculated, carefree assault had reduced the target to manageable proportions. England could no longer afford the cĂ´terie of close catchers that would have been expected when the declaration came, leaving the gate ajar.

Sehwag, however, had set the stage for the master. Sachin Tendulkar had a score to settle with this stadium, having once previously, with a stupendous century — one of his very finest, scored despite labouring with a bad back — taken his side to within a spit of a successful run chase against Pakistan, only to falter, along with the India lower order, with the finishing post in sight. This time, in the course of constructing an innings so sublimely suited to the conditions that it should be made available to coaches everywhere, he found an ally in Yuvraj Singh, a devastating one-day batsman returned to the Test side to resume an unfulfilled career, susceptible to the fast short ball from which he is given immunity by unfair one-day regulations, and worked over magnificently by Andrew Flintoff in the first innings in such a way that it reinforced how Test cricket can provide scintillating passages of play for which there is just no time in the limited-overs game.

Yuvraj played his perfect part but the day, the match and the country demanded it belong to Tendulkar. It could not have been scripted more perfectly: a boundary to win the match and complete a century. It had to have been preordained. Had to be. And Tendulkar's articulate, measured summary of what it all meant, even as the euphoria reigned all around him and the adrenalin still coursed through his veins, placed it all into a proper context.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

India and Australia - cricket as a relational metaphor

Cricket, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest, was and is, the true national game in both India and Australia. This is precisely because it could be played against the English as part of the great imperial project. Hockey in India or Aussie Rules in Australia could not, and hence their legacies, like their origins, remain very curious in the sporting hierarchies of the two countries. It is important to answer, Why cricket and not hockey in India? Answers lie in the George Orwell axiom, “Serious sport is war minus the shooting.” If sport is in fact a metaphor (and in some cases a metonym) for war, then cricket simply was the necessity in India. Prowess in sport wasn’t enough.

Accomplishments had to be demonstrated in empire sport, which would mark a symbolic victory against the ruling colonial state. To substantiate the point: even when India won gold medals in field hockey in the Olympic Games in the years 1928-1956, hockey could never rival cricket in colonial India. This is because Britain refused to participate in Olympic hockey contests in the years 1928-1936, knowing that the Indians were favourites to win the gold. This is especially interesting because Britain had won the Olympic gold in field hockey in 1904 and 1920, the only years when hockey was played before 1928 and years when India did not participate. Absence of competitions against the coloniser, it can be argued, relegated hockey in the Indian sporting hierarchy.

Speaking to the press at New Delhi on 8 June 2005, the former Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer stated: “I think Australia and India, which have a long historic relationship, can build on some of the history of our relationship. Now…our two countries love cricket and the Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee and I both love cricket. So, we spent a good deal of time over the lunch talking about our respective cricket teams and their prospects. We think that what we should do between us, between Australia and India, is to have a touring exhibition of Sir Donald Bradman’s memorabilia here in India. And we think that this exhibition, which should be jointly supported by Australia and India, would be very popular and this exhibition of Bradman memorabilia would go to major centres in India — New Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Chennai and so on.”