December 30, 2009

Hail the Warrior


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Australian cricket captains have been known for their aggression and passion for victories whenever they have had the arsenal to topple their opponents. They have lost quite a few of their legends in the recent past but Ricky Ponting has continued to lead the side with enormous confidence and self belief.

Ponting, with his positive instincts, has thoroughly deserved the records coming his way. With the massive victory Pakistan at the MCG on December 30, he now holds the records for the most wins by any Test player and the most victories for any Test captain, It was his 93rd win as a player and 42nd as captain.

Didn’t it look a stunning move when he declared Australia’s first innings so early on the second afternoon in the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan at the gigantic Melbourne Cricket Ground! With Michael Clarke going strong and the likes of Marcus North and Brad Haddin sitting in the hut he chose to close the innings at 454 for five, cosuming only 38 of the minimum of 90 overs of the day.

The cricket fans in Pakistan viewed it as a crazy decision. But little did they know that Ponting had actually assessed the conditions perfectly and he was not going to take chances. With the intent on winning the game rather than establishing total supremacy he must have desired providing more opportunity to his bowlers.

As it turned out, the early declaration took one result out of the equation. There was no way the match could have ended in a draw. Either the hosts were going to win it or if the Pakistanis played better than anticipated the match could have been in their bag.

So it wasn’t crazy stuff but a calculated risk to some extent. Ponting must have been aware of the limitations or the lack of depth in Pakistan’s batting. Yet he allowed his bowlers more time to do the job with peace of mind rather than pushing hard for it.

Ponting described the 170-run victory as one of the team's best in a long while and praised his young attack for as good a bowling effort as the side had displayed in the last two years.

"The bowling through the game has been as good as it's been in our team for the last couple of years. The way we bowled in the first innings in particular was just outstanding. The way we used the new ball and we were able to maintain our discipline and execute our skills over such a long period of time at the start of their first batting innings was a real factor in the game,” the triumphant skipper remarked at the end of the match.

"It's been a great game for us. It's one of our best Test wins in quite a while, starting right from the start of the game from the Katich and Watson partnership which really set the platform and set the foundation for a very good Test match for us," Ponting observed.

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Feroz Shah Kotla blown out of proportions


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

India are at the receiving end once more. After being robbed of a possible victory in the fifth and final One-day International against Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in New Delhi on December 27, now efforts are being made to deny the historic venue the opportunity of hosting matches in the World Cup 2011.

The Indian cricketers did their job by winning the ODI series 3-1. They were on course of making it 4-1 when their opponents, not surprisingly, prevailed upon the match officials to call off the game in the 24th over.
Now the ball is in the court of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) who now have to deal with the International Cricket Council (ICC) over the issue of the Kotla pitch.

The BCCI, in the past, had been soft on such matters and the Indian cricketers were being taken for a ride. While all the sub-continental teams had suffered due to the dual standards carried out by the ICC match referees it were the Indians in particular penalized for offences that were ignored in the case of other countries.

Interestingly both the contestants of the game in question at the Feroz Shah Kotla were Asians. Sri Lanka’s reluctance to continue playing the game allowed the ICC match referee, Alan Hurst, to exercise his powers and he acted within his rights.

Hurst, in his statement, said the decision to abandon the match had been taken in consultation with both captains and the on-field umpires Marais Erasmus and Shavir Tarapore, after they had given it enough time to see if the pitch would settle down.

"It was clear that the pitch had extremely variable bounce and was too dangerous for further play. I'd like to commend the on-field umpires and captains for continuing as long as they did in the hope that the pitch may settle down. Unfortunately, this did not happen,” the former Australian fast bowler said.

“Before abandoning the match, consideration was given to shifting the match to a secondary pitch. However, it was deemed impractical as the secondary pitch was not adequately prepared,” Hurst added.

Meanwhile Chetan Chauhan, a foromer Indian opening batsman and Vice President, Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA), did not mince words in stating that Sri Lanka "chickened out" out of the final ODI against India after finding themselves in trouble at 83 for 5 in the 24th over.

Chauhan, who was known for his solid batting, also questioned the officials' decision to call off the game and said the pitch was neither unplayable or dangerous.

"We offered another wicket and said 'give us one hour and you would have it ready'. But Hurst decided to call it off. The match should have continued because some 45,000 people were in the ground and another 2-3 crore were glued to the television. An honest effort should have been made to save the match," he contended.

He claimed while the match at the Feroz Shah Kotla was held up, with the officials pondering whether it would be wise to carry on, the ICC match referee told him that the visitors were reluctant to carry on.

"The match referee told me unofficially that one side did not want to carry on and he could not force them It could not be India since MS Dhoni was willing to continue. Sri Lanka were at 83 for 5 and that's why they backed out... it was the Sri Lankans who chickened out,” Chauhan felt.

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