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Cricket News & Views

India -- where the blame lies

INDIA’S captain Rahul Dravid today denied claims that Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly had been disruptive during the World Cup and his rebuttal rings true, but the coach Greg Chappell seems to have departed with little credit.
 

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Recriminations flew thick through the air from the moment India were eliminated after defeats by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Trinidad, and Chappell was criticised this week by a selector for failing to understand Indian cricketers’ psyche. “He was more like a schoolmaster than a friend,” Ranjib Biswal said on the Indian news channel Headlines Today .

Another selector Bhupinder Singh said: “Greg wanted to show everybody he is the boss. He was not happy with anybody.” He claimed that Chappell was not on talking terms with Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh for days during the South Africa tour that preceded the World Cup.

During the programme there were allegations that Tendulkar and Ganguly undermined Dravid’s leadership, but Dravid denied this at a media conference  before India’s one-dayer against Bangladesh in Dhaka. “To be honest with you, I felt I had as much support as I needed,” Dravid said. “I was very happy with the team that I had and the support that I had.”

CHARLIE SAYS: Greg Chappell and the selectors themselves on the programme should carry the can for a dire Indian track record that stretched back before the ICC Champions Trophy in India last October. As with Duncan Fletcher and England, the wrong players were selected to provide the nucleus at the wrong time. India, an ageing team, were weak in the Champions Trophy, and the World Cup was simply an extension. 

Posted by Charlie Randall
09/05/2007 13:48:01

Australians hold broken trophy

England would be jolly good at celebrating

THE World Cup trophy has been broken again. The victorious Australian party arrived in Sydney after their 44-hour journey from Barbados to Sydney with its central bolt broken, requiring another trip to the silversmiths in London. It was damaged in India during the winter, and details of both incidents have been discreetly withheld.

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At a news conference the captain Ricky Ponting said that the match officials in the final had given him a choice of returning the following day to finish, but he preferred to play out the remaining minutes in the dark with the game already won. “It sounded a whole lot better to us to get those three overs out of the way that night than come back the next morning,” he said. “I'd have been struggling to find someone to bowl the three overs the next morning.”
Ponting added: “The celebrations were long and hard which is what they should be after you win a World Cup. There were some pretty amazing scenes coming back to Australia from guys with not a lot of clothing on at different hours of the morning, but we celebrated as we should.”

CHARLIE SAYS: If only England could win the World Cup, we would be jolly good at celebrating – double somersaults on pedalos, the whole works.

Posted by Charlie Randall
03/05/2007 11:50:18

England need clone scientists

AUSTRALIA’S crushing victory over Sri Lanka in the World Cup final underlined that England would have needed to clone three more Kevin Pietersens to have competed effectively in this tournament. In other words England had no chance whatsoever of winning.

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For Hayden and Gilchrist read Vaughan and Joyce or Strauss, for Ponting read Bell – strike a light. For Symonds read Pietersen, and that's better. When the ECB start employing a cloning scientist at Lord’s, we might have a chance. It is true that the presence of Marcus Trescothick would have made a difference to upper order power, but the team sent out to the Caribbean was one of Blackadder’s futile gestures. Only the system and Ireland’s amazing upset over Pakistan kept England within reach of the semi-finals for so long.

Australia always scored at well over six runs an over in the tournament and never lost more than six wickets. That lifted so much pressure off the bowlers. The Aussies were under the cosh in the field at times – even England managed that – but Ricky Ponting’s men pressed on knowing events would turn.

Peter Moores, the new England coach, has a massive task to turn the one-day results around. The first step must be for his players to gain more experience at county level. It is quite possible the Twenty20 world championship in South Africa in September will arrive with our players still virtual novices at the 20-overs format. Another humiliation looms.

Posted by Charlie Randall
29/04/2007 14:03:55

ICC posterity for McGrath

GLENN McGrath retires from international cricket at the age of 37 with a fine record in the ICC rankings. Measured by the best rating achieved, the Australian finishes fifth among all-time Test bowlers, a retrospective list headed by Sydney Barnes and George Lohmann, two England seamers from the ‘golden age’.

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McGrath was given his highest computer rating of 914 points during the Ashes series against England in 2001. Barnes, in a 13-year career from 1901, only played 27 Tests, but he took 189 wickets at an average of 16.43 and achieved the highest rating of any bowler in history of 932 points in February 1914.

Barnes bowled fast-medium, with wicked cutters for variety. Barnes lived to a great age, though Lohmann, his predecessor in the England attack, died of tuberculosis at the age of 36 in 1901. The computer rankings have proved very effective, taking into account the standard of opposition and state of the match without relying solely on statistics.
 
In 124 Tests, McGrath took 563 wickets at 21.64, with only his former team-mate Shane Warne (708) and Muttiah Muralitharan (674) have remained ahead of him.
In one-day games McGrath finished fifth in the all-time rankings headed by Joel Garner, the tall West Indian.

All-time Test rankings: 1 S Barnes, 2 G Lohmann, 3 Imran Khan, 4, M Muralitharan, 5 G McGrath, 6 C Ambrose, A Lock, 8 I Botham, 9 M Marshall, 10 R Hadlee, Waqar Younis, S Pollock.
All-time one-day rankings: 1 J Garner, 2 R Hadlee, 3 S Pollock, 4 M Muralitharan, 5 G McGrath, 6 E Chatfield, 7 M Marshall, D Lillee, 9 C Ambrose, 10 M Holding.
World Cup all-time wicket-takers: 71 McGrath, 55 Wasim Akram, 53 Muralitharan, 49 Vaas, 44 Srinath, 38 Donald. World Cup 2007: 26 McGrath, 23 Muralitharan, Tait, 21 Hogg, 18 Malinga, 16 Vettori, 10 Bracken.

Posted by Charlie Randall
29/04/2007 14:01:11

Ireland continue their advance

IRELAND, those World Cup celebrities, play a big four-day match at Leicester next month when they meet Canada in the final of the ICC Intercontinental Cup.

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The Intercontinental Cup seems to be one of the successes of the ICC as a competition designed to expose players outside the Test nations to long-form cricket. Ireland, as holders, have benefited most and have carried their hardened experience into one-dayers, most notably in the Caribbean.

The final takes place at Grace Road on May 22-25. Ireland, who declined an offer of open-top bus treatment in Dublin for their World Cup wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh, start as favorites. In the previous final in 2005 they beat Namibia, though improving Canada should provide stronger opposition.
 
The new format in the Intercontinental Cup has meant sides playing a minimum of three four-day matches. This increases to seven four-day matches this year and 2008, when a full round-robin format is planned.
 
In the 2006 event Canada finished on top of Group B having got off to a flying start. Outright victories over Kenya and Bermuda at the Maple Leaf ground, near Toronto, in late July and early August were enough to ensure top spot. Centuries for John Davidson (165), Ian Billcliff (126) and Abdool Samad (119), all in the first innings, set up a stylish nine-wicket win over Bermuda. The Kenyans were defeated by only 25 runs, thanks in no small way to an undefeated 91 by Qaiser Ali in the first innings and a classy 136 by Geoff Barnett in the second. Canada’s opening bowling partnership of Umar Bhatti and Henry Osinde were also instrumental in their success.
 
Canada stumbled in their final game of the group stage with a seven-wicket defeat by Holland in Pretoria, thanks mostly to the influence of the Essex all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate. He took match figures of 9-112, including 6-20 in the first innings, and scored 259 in the first innings and 31 not out in the second.
 
On the other side of the draw, it always looked like it would be between 2005 winners Ireland and the 2004 champions Scotland. Their match in Aberdeen was a rain-affected draw, but with Scotland taking more points, it was always going to be difficult for Ireland to top the table.
 
Both sides beat Namibia, but Scotland left the door open for Ireland by failing to overcome the United Arab Emirates at Sharjah Stadium in January. Ireland’s outright victory over the UAE in Abu Dhabi the following month took them to the final. Eoin Morgan became the first Ireland batsman to make a double century, and Ireland’s bowlers did superbly well in getting the 20 UAE wickets needed for victory.
 
The ICC president Percy Sonn said: “The ICC Intercontinental Cup is an excellent opportunity for the Associate players to improve as all-round cricketers. They tend to play a lot of one-day cricket. So I think it is important that they be given the chance to learn the skills needed for the longer form of the game as well.”
 

Posted by Charlie Randall
27/04/2007 13:02:24

World Cup's staggering legacy

By Gayle Alleyne in St Lucia

EHSAN Mani, the former ICC president, has described ICC Cricket World Cup as “absolutely wonderful”, noting that the exposure which this tournament has generated for the sport should help push cricket’s global development.
 

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Speaking as he watched yesterday’s semi-final in Saint Lucia, he said that the ICC – cricket’s world-governing organisation – was “consciously trying to grow cricket around the world”. He said the biggest medium to projecting this message had been the television and media exposure which the game had in countries such as China.
 
The spectacle of this event in the Caribbean shown to billions of people worldwide has been “amazing” and could increase interest in the sport, added the Pakistani, who stepped down from the ICC’s top post last July.
 
In addition, Mani said the legacy of CWC 2007 for the region would be the magnificent stadia built or almost completely refurbished for the showpiece tournament. “We see the superb infrastructure which probably wouldn’t have happened but for the Cricket World Cup. This has put the West Indies on the map in the cricket world,” he declared.
 
The executive d of the previous World Cup in South Africa, Dr Ali Bacher, concurred with Mani. “The main legacy will be that of the grounds. I’ve been to the West Indies on many occasions and it staggered me that, with ordinary grounds and practice facilities, you have produced all these brilliant world-class cricketers through the years.
 
“This is going to be the legacy – these beautiful, new cricket grounds. I’ve been to Kensington Oval in Barbados and it’s a beautiful. Grenada is lovely and here in Saint Lucia as well,” said Bacher, who witnessed his Proteas wilt against the Australians.
 
Another legacy, he noted, will be the indelible memories that fans take home from their Cricket World Cup experience. “The Caribbean is the most beautiful part of the world,” Bacher said. “I love being in the Caribbean. People here are friendly and very hospitable. It’s a great part of the world and visitors have had a fantastic time.

“Every South African will go back enthralled by the people, the warmth and the lovely countries. It’s a tourist destination par excellence and I’ll be back again.”
 
Kenneth Gordon, chairman of the West Indies Cricket Board, said a lot of compliments had been paid to another aspect of the World Cup’s legacy – the volunteers, who had worked diligently at matches in the nine host venues. “They have been excellent,” he said.

CHARLIE SAYS: Quite right for Ken Gordon to mention the volunteers. These marvellous people take a day off work to help the cause. From personal experience in St Lucia I can say they are smartly turned out, extremely efficient and friendly.

Posted by Charlie Randall
26/04/2007 18:35:45

Saluting Glenn McGrath

THE World Cup final on Saturday will be Glenn McGrath’s final match for Australia. He walked away from Test cricket after the 5-0 Ashes victory last winter, but he allowed himself some lingering limelight in the one-day arena.

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This extraordinary seam-bowler goes into his farewell game against Sri Lanka in Barbados with the most wickets in a World Cup tournament, achieved at the age of 37. Only last October he was being written off by some journalists – in my case through wishful thinking.

McGrath went into the ICC Champions Trophy in India last October as an unknown quantity, because he had spent almost a year out of the game resting an ankle injury and helping his wife Jane through her cancer illness. He lost his new-ball privilege and looked uneasy as a change bowler after so long as the senior man.

A couple of teams, England included, tried to exploit the Australian’s unease with early attacks, walking up the pitch on occasions. He was indeed hit for boundaries, but his captain Ricky Ponting nursed him through, and by the end of the tournament McGrath was running in athletically, hitting the seam with his old accuracy. I watched him against New Zealand in the semi-finals at the magnificent Mohali stadium in Chandigarh when he was effectively bowling 80mph leg-breaks. It hardly was surprising he sliced through the opposition and would continue to do so until this week in the Caribbean.

Australia won the Trophy convincingly in Bombay, and McGrath was predicting a 5-0 Ashes win, damn him. And, to him, only Australia would win the World Cup. Even the man himself might not have suspected he would enter the final with an unprecedented 25 wickets. Close behind him on 23 wickets are team-mate Shaun Tait and, an opponent in the final, Muttiah Muralitharan.

McGrath has taken 70 wickets in his World Cup career, spanning 38 matches. That is far more than anyone else, though it must be to his advantage to belong to such a successful side. England’s best bowler in history is Ian Botham, with 30 in 22 games. Even Wasim Akram, the great Pakistani, took only 55 wickets in as many games as McGrath.

Posted by Charlie Randall
26/04/2007 12:54:03

Jamaica umpires erred

THE experiment in English one-day domestic cricket of allowing players to appeal against umpires’ decisions starts at Taunton on Sunday when Somerset play the holders Sussex in a Friends Provident Trophy group match. The idea of umpires having their honest opinions challenged by television replay made many people in the game uneasy, but human frailty was cruelly exposed in the World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Jamaica on Tuesday.

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The umpires Rudi Koertzen and Simon Taufel made an absolute rickets of four lbw decisions between them, the only four given in the game. Silva’s thick deflection off the bat was missed – though Bond’s passionate appeal suggested otherwise – the Oram ball that removed Dilshan was missing leg stump by a couple of feet, Taylor fell swinging at a Vaas delivery across him that would sailed past off stump, Vettori missed a Muri doosra that might, just might, have clipped his off stump – no benefit of doubt for him.

These four gaffes by two of the world’s best umpires were ‘confirmed’ by Hawk-Eye, by no means 100 per cent reliable, but even to the naked eye on television the decisions looked wrong, dubious at best. The mistakes did not affect the result of the match, but maybe players should be allowed to expose injustice.

Hawk-Eye will not be used in the Friends Provident Trophy group matches so that the third umpire will have to rely on foreshortened television image – dangerous in itself. One suspects that replays will have to be 150 per cent conclusive, to borrow football-speak, for an umpire to embarrass one of his own.

The ICC are keeping a close eye on the experiment – the ECB concede that experiment is all it can be – and are to discuss progress during the general meeting at Lord’s in June. Perhaps video justice beyond mere line calls, as now, will be meted out in the next World Cup. Appeals to the third umpire will be limited to two rejections per side per innings. The ECB have confirmed that Law 23.3 on dead ball following dismissal (or not) will have to be suspended in this competition.

Posted by Charlie Randall
25/04/2007 12:44:46

Chris Dehring remains upbeat

THE World Cup attendances have averaged 8,500 per match, including the opening ceremony, group matches and all the Super Eight phase, the organisers disclosed today. 
 

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The highest crowd was the 22,452 at Kensington Oval in Barbados for the final Super Eight game last Saturday, featuring England and the West Indies. Though the game had no bearing on the tournament, the attraction was the farewell appearance of Brian Lara after 17 years on the international stage.
 
England’s previous match against South Africa, also at Kensington, drew the second-highest attendance with 17,013. The third-highest attendance was 16,574 for West Indies versus Pakistan in their Jamaica group match. The organisers corrected a figure published for India versus Sri Lanka group game in Trinidad, saying the report of 16,000 should have been 10,660.
 
Chris Dehring, the tournament managing director, said: “The Caribbean is well on track to recording the highest ticketing revenue for a Cricket World Cup – beating the US$22 million in England in 1999 and US$10 million in South Africa in 2003. This is a significant achievement for a cluster of small developing nations, whose combined population is a fraction of that of countries which have customarily hosted the Cricket World Cup.”
 
He added: “People around the world have been spellbound by the images of this event which are being shown across the globe and, as we have moved closer and closer to the business end of the event, the momentum has increased tremendously.”

CHARLIE SAYS: This 8,500 average is half-capacity. Prices set by the ICC were too high for the locals, which drastically reduced interest in lesser games. But from what I experienced in St Lucia, the organisers had much to be proud of.


Posted by Charlie Randall
24/04/2007 11:11:43

King next in coach swing-door

THE imminent announcement of Bennett King's resingation from the West Indies management will raise the total of departing World Cup coaches to 10 if Tom Moody leaves Sri Lanka as has been indicated. Only South Africa and New Zealand, of the major countries, are not affected by the swing doors.

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King’s exit would seem logical after two extremely difficult years for the Australian, buffeted by off-field problems such as the mobile phone endorsements row and the on-going feud between the Board and the players organisation.

The departure of several World Cup coaches was planned in advance, most notably John Buchanan standing down for Tim Nielsen. Added to that are Adrian Birrell, handing the Ireland reins to Phil Simmons, and Andy Pick, on loan to Canada from the ECB. Seven men leave in less predictable cirmcumstances, including coaches of all four of the subcontinent teams. Even Bob Woolmer resigned from his Pakistan post before his death.

The six countries apparently retaining their coaches are New Zealand (John Bracewell), South Africa (Mickey Arthur), Zimbabwe (Kevin Curran), Kenya (Roger Harper), Scotland (Peter Drinnen) and Bermuda (Gus Logie). Curran’s future with troubled Zimbabwe seems in doubt.

The resignations list covers England (Duncan Fletcher), India (Greg Chappell), Bangladesh (Dav Whatmore), Pakistan (Bob Woolmer) and Holland (Peter Cantrell). Added to that is likely to be King (West Indies) and probably Moody (Sri Lanka).
  
CHARLIE SAYS: Bennett King is a decent man with excellent credentials for the West Indies job. To guide players from so many far-flung countries into one unit has proved impossible for him while the rest of the cricket-playing world has moved onwards.

Posted by Charlie Randall
23/04/2007 14:09:22
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