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Archive for November, 2008

India and Pakistan

Indian television is reporting that India’s tour of Pakistan has been cancelled. This isn’t a surprising development, but it is a significant one. Pakistan have already gone nearly 12 months without playing a Test due to security concerns, India is in danger of becoming similarly ostracised, and growing tensions between the countries mean that they cannot even play against each other.

Whilst it is crucial to the security of the region that India and Pakistan manage to find some common ground, it is also important for cricket that two countries of such significance are able to compete against each other. If the best response to terrorism is, as many argue, to continue one’s life unbowed, then recrimination is counterproductive.

I hope that the cricketing authorities of all countries involved are allowed to make decisions based purely on the best interests both of their players and of cricket in general – not decisions forced upon them by fear.

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Cheteshwar Pujara

Before the cancellation of England’s remaining ODIs in India and the subsequent doubt cast on the Test series, my attention was drawn to an emerging Indian batsman who some have been tipping for a spot in the home side’s Test squad: Cheteshwar Pujara.

The young right-hander (he will turn 21 in January) has been in scintillating form of late, scoring two triple centuries in an under-22 tournament, and another in the Ranji Trophy which was part of the highest ever first-class 5th wicket partnership.

It seems Pujara is another one for followers of cricket outside India to keep an eye out for. Those who follow cricket in that country already seem well appraised of his talents.

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Aaron Redmond thinks New Zealand can make it near 500 against Australia in the Second Test. I think that may be a little optimistic, but 262-6 with McCullum and Vettori both still there isn’t a bad platform (although not as good as it might have been – the Black Caps were 101-1 at lunch).

Redmond himself is the top scorer so far with 83, but it seems likely that at least one of Australia’s batting lineup will surpass that on such a notorious batsman-friendly pitch as Adelaide. Matthew Hayden, playing in his 100th Test, must be desperate to get out there and bat, especially given his recent form.

UPDATE: New Zealand actually managed something almost as unlikely as 500 – they collapsed from 262-6 overnight to 270 all out.

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Bangladesh, despite another good performance from Shakib Al Hasan, weren’t able to capitalise on having South Africa 134-5 during the Second Test between the sides. Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher both ended the day unbeaten, having also both made centuries.

Yesterday, the Bangladeshi batsmen continued their lacklustre form, with only two batsmen making decent scores as the side made 250. There are signs of some progress from the kittens/cubs, but not enough to suggest that they’ll win a Test anytime soon.

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Events in Mumbai

Confusion reigns in Mumbai at the moment, following yesterday’s terrorist attacks. As well as the obvious reaction of horror and concern for those involved, the cricketing world is starting to wake up to the realisation that it will be deeply affected by these terrible (and ongoing) events.

England are considering abandoning their tour (indeed some reports suggest they already have – not surprisingly as Britons were amongst those targeted), the Twenty20 Champions League may not go ahead, and the future of several other scheduled events in Indian cricket are also shrouded in uncertainty.

I fear that the situation may lead to Mumbai, and India in general, being considered by the outside world as an inherently dangerous place, with consequences similar to those seen recently in Pakistan.

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Just how good is Sehwag? Is he one of the greatest ever One Day cricketers? Is he worthy of his own cult? Should everyone else just give up and go home?

His strike rate is phenomenal for someone who has scored so many runs (better even than Shahid Afridi’s), his style is relentlessly aggressive (especially when opening with Gambhir), and his reputation amongst neutrals could hardly be higher.

As one of those neutrals, my fervent hope is that he gets the recognition he deserves as one of India’s greatest batsmen. There is, I realise, a lot of competition, but who ever heard of Gangulyology?

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Much like the way Pakistan’s cricket fans now have an ‘unnofficial’ side to follow which plays more often than the ‘official’ side (two if you count both the Lahore Badshahs and the ICL Pakistan XI), there are now two Bangladesh teams to follow.

One, that backed by the official governing body, will play in the Second Test against South Africa tomorrow, hoping to salvage some pride. The prospect of a win in that contest seems exceedingly unlikely, given (as Will Luke puts it) the fact that “their form guide, a string of ‘Ls’, reads like a Welsh railway station“.

Meanwhile, the unofficial, ICL side had some success today, beating their Indian equivalents with 3 balls to spare mainly thanks to the efforts of Shahriar Nafees. If the ‘real’ Bangladesh keep losing, then more and more casual fans may be drawn to the glamour and relative success of the ‘fake’ ICL side. That would, in my view, be a shame, but I can’t blame those fans if they feel they’d rather watch a half-decent Twenty20 side than see the Test side get hammered repeatedly.

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