The 10 Ways of Getting Out in Cricket

There are 10 different ways a batsman can be out in cricket. The outs are also known as methods of dismissal, as the bowling team can appeal to the umpire so they can judge if the batsman is out or not. Here are the 10 ways, from most common to le4ast common, a batsman can make an out.

1. Caught – If a member of the bowling team catches a ball before hitting the ground, the batsman is out. This is the most common out in cricket. There are typical fly outs and sensational and diving ones, but they all equal one thing and that is an out.

2. Bowled – If the batsman does not protect his stumps and one becomes dislodged they are out. One or both balls have to hit the stumps for the out to occur.

3. Leg Before Wicket – This out is simply referred to as an LBW where if the ball hits the batsman and would have likely hit the stumps it is an out. The bowling team has to field an appeal to the umpire for the out to occur if they believe the stumps would have been hit if not been hit by the batsman’s body first. This type of out has conditions, as the ball has to bounce outside or in line with the stumps, the hit batsman has to be in the line of the stumps, the ball cannot pitch outside the stumps, and the batsman has not shot. Also, for this out to occur the ball cannot hit the glove or bat of the batsman.

4. Run Out – If the batsman cannot make his ground before the fielding team dislodges the ball they are out. Typically, the wicketkeeper and bowler are involved in run-outs where they get the ball from another fielder and hitting the bails off while the ball is still in their hands.

5. Stumped – The batsman can go outside of the batting crease when attempting to make a shot and they miss the ball completely, and the wicketkeeper moves the bails before the batsman gets to their ground than they are out. A stumping out will typically happen off-spin bowling considering the wicketkeeper will have to be standing next to the stumps.

6. Hit Wicket – The hit wicket does not happen very often, and it happens a batsman hits and knocks over a wicket with either the bad or their body. You will usually see a hit wicket out when a batsman either hits the wicket with a wilder swing or steps backwards dislodging the wicket. If a batsman’s helmet falls off and hits the stumps, it is also a hit wicket out.

7. Handled the Ball – If a bowled ball hits the hand of the batsman and does not get permission to do so from the fielding team, they are out. However, in cricket etiquette, this does not often happen, as the fielding team will not lodge an appeal with the umpire unless the handles ball affects the play.

8. Obstructing Field of Play – If a batsman gets in the way of a fielder, they can be out. This is a little dicey in the rules, as there are collisions that are common with the batsman running and the fielder trying to get the ball. If the collision is deemed an intentional one, they will be out.

9. Hitting the Ball Twice – If the batsman hit the ball twice with the bat or their body they will be out, but the 2nd hit has to be an intentional one. If the 2nd hit from the batsman is intentional and it keeps the ball from striking the stumps that is ok, and there are not out. An out for hitting the ball twice has never occurred in international cricket.

10. Timed Out – If a batsman does not come to the crease after three minutes of the previous batters out they are timed out. Again, rare air here, as a time out has never happened in international cricket.

10 most memorable moments in India Pakistan World Cup clashes

As India heads into its first World Cup clash against arch-rivals Pakistan sans the services of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, a confidence built up on empirical data is getting slightly tempered by the team’s current form, which can at best be termed pathetic.

However, the World Cup is a different prospect altogether, and to push that envelope a bit further, I have put together some of my favourite moments from Indo-Pak clashed in the marquee event over the years.

Whether February 15th 2015 will add to the list or take away some of this pleasant nostalgia remains to be seen, but till then, if you are an Indian fan, enjoy!

#10. Miandad emulates a Jumping Jack, 1992

In an era when the game of cricket could, with a certain degree of honesty, pass of as the gentlemen’s game as per its original christening, the Javed Miandad-Kiran More episode was one of the earlier instances of well-documented animosities, something commonplace in today’s camera-friendly game.

The stakes were high. Arch-rivals India and Pakistan were meeting for the first time in a World Cup, at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground. Pakistan were under pressure during the tricky chase of 217 after a couple of quick wickets fell, and though opener Aamer Sohail and Miandad steadied the ship, runs were being scored in a trickle.

Miandad, famous for his ‘getting under the skin of the opponent’ skills, was getting a dose of his own medicine, looking visibly disturbed by the incessant appealing synchronized with  spasmodic  leaps of wicket-keeper More at almost every opportunity.

Words were exchanged, and Miandad even complained to the umpire, but More was unflappable. A few overs later, Miandad disposed of the flimsy thread of sanity that was holding him together. After surviving a run-out attempt at the wicket-keeper’s end, Miandad, displaying a flexibility which belied his bulky frame, leapt up and down animatedly several times, in a bid to imitate the diminutive wicket-keeper’s enthusiastic appealing style.

Viewers, umpires and commentators looked on in shock and awe, as the moment went on to register itself as one of the most poignant visuals in the history of Indo-Pak cricket rivalry.

#9. Yuvraj-Dravid partnership, 2003

At a time when India still held the tag of shaky chasers, the unbeaten Rahul Dravid-Yuvraj Singh partnership which led India to victory against Pakistan at Centurion Park went a long way in changing that perception, before finishers like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli established chasing as one of India’s strengths, as opposed to a weakness.

After Sachin Tendulkar had laid the foundation with a brilliant 75-ball 98, the two got together with the target still about 100 runs away. Thanks to Sachin’s belligerence, the Required Run Rate was well under control, but a couple of wickets would have exposed India’s wobbly lower order.

What followed was a masterclass in batting. Dravid was solid as ever, while Yuvraj exuded a degree of control over the flamboyance the world had come to associate him with, opening out only when the target was well within reach. There were no further hiccups, as the unbeaten 99 run partnership carried India comfortably over the line.

#8. Sehwag cameos, 2003 & 2011

Virender Sehwag may not have fired on all of his ballistic cylinders in Indo-Pak clashes in the World Cup, but his cameos on both occasions the teams met on his watch, completely took the pressure off Sachin, allowing  the master blaster to play match-winning knocks both times.

In 2003, at the SuperSport Park, Centurion, chasing a stiff target, Sachin had channelized some of his nervous energy (more on that ahead on the list) towards dispatching Shoaib Akhtar to all corners of the park, including the uppercut, before the wily Wasim Akram turned on the screws with a one-run over.

That’s when Viru took matters into his own hands, with Uppercut 2.0 off Waqar Younis and a couple of spanking boundaries against Akram. Though he fell soon after, Sehwag’s 14-ball 21 set the ball rolling and put India on course for a memorable victory.

The Nawab of Najafgarh’s innings in the crucial semi-final clash at Mohali during the 2011 World Cup was even more vital. Sachin, in a complete departure from his 2003 avatar against the same opposition, was a picture of concentration, perhaps sensing it as his final opportunity to make a mark against the famed rivals.

While the sense of finale would have been as applicable to Sehwag, given his non-selection in the 2015 squad, the right-hander went about his task with gay abandon, doing what he does best – categorically providing the cricket ball with an all-expenses-paid trip across the vast expanses of the ground.

Sehwag was particularly severe on strike bowler Umar Gul, who he took for 21 runs off one over, and struck two more boundaries for good measure, in his next.  Even if the most experienced batsman in the team was feeling touch anxious, given the occasion, the Delhi opener’s 25-ball 38 would certainly have eased any jangly nerves, and set India off on a path which would take the team within striking distance of the most coveted trophy, one it ultimately secured.

#7. Srinath yorking Miandad, 1992

I am not sure how highly this moment rates itself in the minds of avid Indo-Pak fans, but for me, the annihilation of ‘Jumping Jack’ Miandad not just exacted sweet revenge for the unnecessary histrionics against More, but was also the turning point in a keen contest.

Though wickets were falling around him like nine-pins, Miandad’s presence at the crease, though he was crawling along at a snail’s pace and looked mentally agitated, continued to be a danger, his finishing abilities fresh in mind 6 years after Sharjah, 1986 (fresh even today, as a matter of fact).

That was when India’s new-found tearaway quick Javagal Srinath decided to claim a piece of history. Often accused of sticking a tad too frequently to the incoming length ball, the Karnataka speedster bowled a perfect searing yorker, which Miandad, perhaps still intoxicated by all the jumping around, played like a length ball – trying to run it down to third man, to have his timber disturbed.

Almost equally momentous was the dignified celebration of the Indian fielders, which, given Miandad’s dramatics, was in stark contrast to some of the exaggerated send-offs which have become the norm of modern game-play under the guise of aggressive cricket.

#6. Sachin announces himself on the biggest stage

The clash at Sydney had aspects of an Olympic relay race, with a distinct phase in the latter part of India’s innings when the country’s greatest ODI player till date, rubbed shoulders with, and eventually passed the baton onto the man who was to hold on to that crown for decades, perhaps even pipping his predecessor in the contest for the all-time recipient of the abovementioned laurel.

The 19-year old Sachin Tendulkar was already a household name, thanks to a couple of brilliant Test innings in England and Australia, though he was yet to create such an impact (by his own lofty standards) in the shorter version of the game, and did not play much of a role in the first two games of this tournament.

When Sanjay Manjrekar fell for a first-ball duck with the score reading 148-5, Sachin was joined by the beyond-his-prime rockstar  of Indian cricket, Kapil Dev. In an absolute gem of a ‘passing-the-baton’ partnership, the duo put on 60 runs in just 8 overs.

Kapil launched into the bowling with gusto, slamming a 26-ball 35, while Sachin played a more controlled, albeit delightfully strokeful 62-ball 54, the little master’s first half century in a World Cup.

The Mumbaikar, then a regular fixture in India’s bowling line-up as well, returned to snare Pakistan’s best batsman that day, Aamer Sohail, to claim his first Player of the Match award on the biggest stage, signing off a glorious opening chapter in an epic journey he was to dominate over the years.

#5. The Prasad and Srinath show, 1999

In what was perhaps the least intense, at least in terms of visible activity, World Cup encounter between the two sides, even as the countries’ respective armies faced off in Kargil a short while back, India’s new ball pair of Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath decimated the Pakistani batsmen, accounting for 8 wickets between them.

At the quaint Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, India, after winning the toss and electing to bat, set up a moderate total of 227, built around solid if not spectacular innings by Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Azharuddin.

Often the bane of the Indian bowling attack through the 90s, Saeed Anwar got the team off to a brisk start, though Srinath got rid of the dangerous Shahid Afridi and stalwart Ijaz Ahmed in quick succession.  Post that, his Karnataka teammate Prasad, no stranger to being in the thick of action in Indo-Pak clashes, took over, breaking the back of Pakistan’s batting line-up with 5 wickets, an assault the men in green could never quite recover come, surrendering tamely 47 runs short of the target.

#4. DRS and butterfingers aid Sachin’s last stand, 2011

Pakistan stood between India and a famous second triumph, when the two teams met in the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup, at Mohali. If the immense pressure associated with Indo-Pak clashes was not enough, the presence of both countries’ Prime Ministers, the knockout stage and the inevitability of the tournament being the final opportunity for Sachin Tendulkar to add the one piece of silverware missing from his overflowing awards cabinet, transformed the park into a cauldron.

After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Sehwag blazed away in his customary fashion, while the little master was highly circumspect. The heart-in-the-mouth moment came in the 11th over, when a Saeed Ajmal delivery rapped Sachin on the pads, and umpire Ian Gould immediately lifted his finger. The diminutive right-hander immediately sought the services of the Decision Review System (DRS), a contraption which India looked at (and still does) with mistrust and suspicion.

DRS overturned the umpire’s call, a momentous decision which triggered punches and counterpunchesover its authenticity, well after the match was over. The little master had survived, and only by the skin of his teeth.

In a departure from the uber-confident Sachin we saw against Pakistan in the 2003 edition, the maestro trudged along, in a last stand which was significantly aided by four dropped catches by the Pakistan fielders.

Sachin stood tall amongst the ruins of a middle order which saw Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh fall cheaply, his 115-ball 85 lending respectability to the Indian total, one which the Pakistanis fell 29 runs short of.

In a circle of life scenario, Sachin picked up his final Player of the Match award in a World Cup, nearly 20 years after his first, against the same opposition, to lead India to the threshold of what would be their greatest triumph on this side of the millennium.

#3. The Sachin uppercut, 2003

Perhaps the most visually stunning moment in this entire list, Sachin upper-cutting then fastest bowler in the world, Shoaib Akhtar, for a six, set against the backdrop of the picturesque Centurian Park, is my favourite Sachin-moment – not just against Pakistan in World Cups, but his cricketing career as a whole. No mean achievement, given the numerous moments the master has given us those 24 sparkling years when he donned Indian colours.

Getting back, Sachin admitted to being under tremendous pressure going into this match, having not even slept properly for the past 12 days, as reported by ESPNCricinfo. India’s bowling attack, and in particular Ashish Nehra, who was most impressive in the previous match against England, had been taken for plenty and a good start to the chase was imperative.

All of Sachin’s pent up anxiety lent weight to that stunning stroke off Akhtar . The moment transformed into something much more than a cricket shot; a knockout punch in a slugfest between two heavyweights may have been closer to the statement it sent across – that the balance of power, till then somewhat in Pakistan’s hands, had been firmly wrested back.

The six was followed by a couple of breathtaking boundaries off Akhtar’s next two deliveries, and with Sehwag providing able initial support, Sachin settled down into what was, in my opinion, his best non-century making World Cup innings ever. The maestro’s 75-ball 98, while falling tragically short of an immensely deserved century, relegated the Required Run Rate factor to a mere number, allowing his successors to knock off the target without too many risks.

#2. Jadeja takes on Waqar, 1996

The M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore played host to a high-voltage clash, the most intense in my opinion, between the two sub-continental neighbours, in the quarterfinals of the 1996 World Cup, and bore witness to not one, but two of the most memorable moments in Indo-Pak clashes, both of which figure right up there in my list.

India, batting first after winning the toss, had built a solid platform on the back of Navjot Singh Sidhu’s 93, augmented by 20s and 30s by others around him. At 200-4 in the 42nd over, when Ajay Jadeja strolled in, the X-factor was missing from an innings which looked set to fold up in the vicinity of 250, hardly a match-winning total on a placid pitch.

The normally chatty Jadeja was, as former Pakistan wicket-keeper Rashid Latif recalls, quiet and focused. It was, perhaps, the calm before the storm, which, when it did come, blew away the reputation of one of the most fearsome quick bowlers in international cricket at that time.

Waqar Younis, in that era, at the death, was what Lasith Malinga, at his best, is in the current – virtually unplayable with pin-point inswinging yorkers. While most batsmen would have looked to save a toe, Jadeja went deep in his crease, and with what could be termed an improvised version of the helicopter shot branded by MS Dhoni, lofted two such perfect yorkers into the stands.

The assault was just beginning, and when the dust settled, the veteran pacer’s final two overs had gone for 18 and 22 respectively, Jadeja had conjured 45 runs off just 25 balls, and the Indian score had surged to 287, X-factor very much included.

#1. The Prasad-Sohail camaraderie, 1996

Finally, my favourite moment in Indo-Pak clashes – ever! If the entire history of the rivalry between these enigmatic teams were converted into an infographic, the heading visual would undoubtedly be this timeless classic of a bullfight, which at the end of the day, was the turning point of in that eventful 1996 World Cup quarterfinal clash.

Ajay Jadeja’s heroics looked in danger of being in vain, as Saeed Anwar and stand-in captain, Aamer Sohail, smashed 84 runs off the first 10 overs, silencing the crowd which was dancing in the aisles a short while back.

Though Anwar fell, Sohail looked at complete ease, dictating terms against bowlers, in the process reaching his half century with a Strike Rate in excess of 100.

Then came the moment, or to be precise, the prelude to the moment. Sohail stepped out of the crease and slashed a length delivery from a till-then lacklustre Venkatesh Prasad to the extra-cover fence. To rub it in, Sohail pointed out the path traversed by the ball to Prasad, either asking him to fetch it, or suggesting extra protection.

The very next ball it happened. The stuff scripted in fairytales. Or perhaps at the movies. Prasad ambled up to the stumps and hurled down a seemingly innocuous delivery, this time on the stumps. The charged up Sohail, without moving his feet, took an almighty swipe, only to miss, and found his off-stump uprooted.

Prasad’s humiliation was avenged in the space of just a single delivery, and even as the lanky pacer issued a fiery send-off with the crowd exulting in the background, the tide had turned firmly in favour of India.

This article was first published in Sportskeeda:

http://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/10-most-memorable-moments-india-pakistan-world-cup-clashes-cricket?imgid=45436

Cricket World Cup XI with only one player from each team

How many World XIs can boast (if I may use the term) the presence of players from Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the Netherlands? None that I have come across, in a season where World XIs are quite the flavour, and more often than not, capture the reader’s attention and inadvertently let loose their own imaginations on the topic under consideration.

My current task at hand is to unearth an all-time ODI World Cup (WC) XI, with a tiny condition which requires that not more than one player be selected from each team. The ‘tiny’ requirement kept increasing in stature over the course of the assignment, with players jostling with rivals as well as compatriots for a place on this list, compounded further by trivial matters like line-up alignment and team balance.

I have displayed an intentional bias towards specialists as opposed to all-rounders, in this selection. Historically, teams packed with all-rounders have made it to the final stages of a WC (prime examples being South Africa, New Zealand and England) without ever crossing the line. India in 1983 was an exception to this rule, but otherwise, WCs have been won by teams possessing specialists excelling in their chosen field.

Looking back, this XI is a heady cocktail of some of the greatest names in cricket garnished by a few who made a back-door entry, thanks to the one-player-per-country rule.

This is not a team one would like to run into at the 2015 WC, though by no means is it perfect. But then again, it was never meant to be.

#1. Sachin Tendulkar (India)

The list opens with someone widely regarded as the greatest cricketer of this generation. Some even opine that he is the greatest of all time. While the latter tributes are debatable, there is absolutely no doubt that Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest Indian cricketer of this generation, more so in the 50-over format than the longest version, where a certain Rahul Dravid may stake claim to the top crown.

Besides being the highest run-scorer in the history of WCs and playing several match-winning knocks spread across six tournaments, Sachin inspired a generation of young superstars to stretch their limits, the epitome of which is Yuvraj Singh, to win for the maestro the one trophy missing from his overflowing cabinet.

Tendulkar’s selection closes the door on Sourav Ganguly, India’s second highest run-scorer in WCs, and a wonderful ODI opener in his own right, and Zaheer Khan, the country’s highest wicket-taker in WCs, and an outstanding contributor when playing on the highest stage of ODI cricket.

#2. Graham Gooch (England)

The master blaster will be joined by Graham Gooch, England’s immovable opening rock and highest WC run-scorer, the man who was present during every one of the country’s three unsuccessful forays into the tournament final, a feat not repeated after his retirement post the 1992 edition.

Among English batsmen, none really hold a candle to Gooch, as far as the marquee tournament is concerned, though Allan Lamb, Graeme Hick, and Kevin Pieterson are notable mentions. Among pure bowlers, I was really tempted to include Bob Willis or Chris Old, the first perhaps the quickest Englishman since Frank Tyson, and the second, a swing connoisseur with outstanding WC stats, but their short careers in the marquee tournament forced me to move on.

My first choice from England, before consulting stats, was Ian Botham, undoubtedly the greatest all-rounder the country has ever produced. Beefy has, however, been a notorious non-performer (by his standards, mind you) in the batting department, as far as the WC is concerned. He is England’s leading tournament wicket-taker though, but his woeful batting prevents his inclusion as an all-rounder.

Gooch’s strike-rate of 63.25 is no match against openers like Adam Gilchrist and Sanath Jayasuriya who have not made it to their list. Let me assure you that it is not Gooch but their countrymen who have kept them out. Besides, Goochie is the glue which holds this team together while others go slam-bang around him.

#3. Viv Richards (West Indies)

Brian Lara is the highest run-scorer in WCs for the West Indies. Courtney Walsh, Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Michael Holding have been the best performers with the ball at the gazebo tournament. Yet, all pale in comparison before a gum chewing marauder who goes by the name of Sir Vivian Richards.

The only batsman to have a 60+ batting average while aggregating more than 1000 runs in the tournament, Richards instilled the kind of fear in a bowler which the latter is usually expected to exude. The Antiguan carried the Caribbeans home in the 1979 WC and it was his spectacular dismissal in the 1983 edition which ensured India their first piece of cricketing glory.

A better number three batsman cannot be envisaged; Ricky Ponting may beg to differ, but the Australian is weighed down by the awesomeness of not just the aforementioned champion, but also his compatriot waiting patiently in the wings, and hence loses out.

#4. Martin Crowe (New Zealand) (C)

The brilliant tactician whose game-changing ideas nearly won the Kiwis the 1992 WC, Martin Crowe is entrusted with not just the top job, but also the important role of manning a relatively weak lower middle order.

Stephen Fleming and Scott Styris have scored more runs for New Zealand in WCs, but they are no match for the outrageous mastermind of Crowe. Among bowlers, I would have loved to include Shane Bond, who was almost unplayable during the 2003 and 2007 WCs, but I have already lined up a great quick bowling attack (or so I would like to believe) and the Kiwis’ fine lineage of all-rounders – almost all of them characterised by unbridled aggression with the bat and dibbly-dobby bowling, have not been considered.

This meticulously put together line-up may be torn to shreds by the eccentric genius, who could turn it inside out in a bid to confuse the opposition, or simply in the quest to follow cricketing knowledge like a sinking star (to borrow from Homer). With Crowe at the helm, this superstar ship is in excellent hands; the journey may experience plenty of twists and turns, but the destination will be a wee bit closer under his watch.

#5. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe) (WK)

Andy Flower would be a genuine contender for membership into a World Test XI. In the ODI, and especially the WC context, he makes it due to the unique criteria of selecting one player from each team.

Though his ODI credentials are significantly weaker, Flower is Zimbabwe’s highest run-scorer in WCs and his reliable glove-work seals the deal. Dave Houghton is his closest contender as far as batting skills go, his epic 142 against New Zealand in a losing cause at the 1987 WC bearing testimonial to the oodles of talent and grit he possessed.

Purely going by the heart, Neil Johnson would have been an excellent addition to this list. The man who punched opponents way above his weight, with both bat and ball, during the 1999 WC, could stake claim to the opening position as batsman and bowler, but I have opted for experienced solidity over one-tournament brilliance in this selection.

#6. Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)

Technically perhaps the only genuine all-rounder in this team, the inclusion of Shakib Al Hasan is one of my easier decisions. As the country’s highest run-scorer and second-highest wicket-taker in WCs, Shakib is undoubted the best to arise from Bangladesh, definitely within the scope of WCs, and perhaps even beyond.

Shakib will be the first of two ‘floaters’ I will have in the team, whose batting positions are interchangeable, depending on the just fallen wicket, in order to maintain a left-right batting combination which can make the opposition’s lines and lengths go awry.

Of course, if Crowe has his way, we could see Shakib open both batting as well as bowling!

#7. Ryan ten Doeschate (Netherlands)

With 10 Test playing nations (2 of them not exactly the strongest) and 11 players in a team, it would require no rocket science to appreciate that, at some point, one would need to play the ‘hide the minnow’ game.

It’s another thing altogether that, with 435 runs at an average of 62, and a few wickets to boot, Ryan ten Doeschate may not need to be hidden – Andrew Strauss can definitely vouch for that.

Tendo’s international career may have ended, but he remains one of the most sought after cricketer in franchising circles, and is, in my opinion, the most dangerous cricketer to have ever emerged from the minnow nations, WC or otherwise. He will be the second floater in this team.

Kenyan Steve Tikolo and Irishman Kevin O’Brien, another person for whom Strauss could pen a recommendation letter, were other contenders for this position, the first eliminated due to batting position non-compatibility, and the second, for never giving us an opportunity of an encore.

#8.Wasim Akram (Pakistan)

Perhaps the best left-arm quick to have ever graced a WC, Wasim Akram takes the new ball in this attack, unless Crowe suffers from a major Dipak Patel hangover.

As an individual, Akram can waltz his way into most World XI lists, but in this exercise, it’s essential to keep an eye on the men he eliminated. For a team delivering mercurial performances through its history in the WC, Pakistan can boast several contenders, the strongest among whom is undoubtedly Imran Khan.

Imran is a better batsman and leader, and at his peak with the ball, may have given Wasim a run for his money. However, Imran is in competition not just with Wasim, but also with Crowe, a man he came up against and successfully countered, during Pakistan’s triumph in 1992.

Imran is an inspirer of people, a captain ticking all the boxes for hero-worship from a young team. Crowe, on the other hand, can utilize resources better, as well as take controlled risks. In a World XI, the requirement for inspiration would not be as much as the need to optimally deploy resources, an attribute Crowe excels in.

Ideally, I wouldn’t want Imran to play under Crowe; to have a personality as strong as Imran play under another strong personality, could sow seeds for discontent, and even mutiny. Imran is therefore eliminated, making Wasim the undisputed representative from Pakistan.

#9. Shane Warne (Australia)

This was definitely the most difficult decision to make. Not the inclusion of Shane Warne, who has been a class act in his limited appearances in WCs, but the exclusion of other Australians, two to three of whom are usually present in most World XIs.

While the exclusions of Ponting, Gilchrist and Mark Waugh can be justified on the basis of a strong top order, the mercurial spinner’s brilliance cannot overhaul that of the highest wicket-taker in WC history – Glenn McGrath. Pigeon towers over Warnie in WCs, and not just literally, but had to be sacrificed in the interest of team balance.

My initial choice for specialist spinner was Muttiah Muralitharan, with McGrath and the number 11 on this list rounding things off. A second glance however clarified that all three of them were notorious bunnies in their own right – certified number 11s for their respective teams. It would be almost criminal to play any of them higher.

A plethora of permutations and combinations later, I realized that McGrath could not be Australia’s representative, though he is undoubtedly the best WC performer from the country. The final choice had to be made between Warne and Brett Lee, who had almost similar stats in the tournament, but the requirement for a specialist spinner (sincere apologies to Brad Hogg here) eliminates the tearaway quick.

#10. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)

Once it was determined that a Sri Lankan representative would be slotted into the bowling department, and Warne and Wasim knocked out Murali and Chaminda Vaas respectively, selecting Lasith Malinga was a bit of a no-brainer.

Returning outstanding fingers in the 2007 and 2011 WCs, Malinga will partner Wasim for a short opening spell, before returning later in the innings to issue those devastatingly accurate sling-shot reverse-swinging yorkers.

Though he may not have the numbers to prove it, the Galle slinger is a more accomplished batsman than Murali, and could also be called upon to deliver a few almighty heaves, if the need arises.

#11. Allan Donald (South Africa)

Allan Donald closes the curtains on this rather taxing exercise, and should not come across as much of a surprise for those who have been ticking off the countries as they moved along.

The highest wicket-taker for the Proteas in WCs, White Lightning makes the cut, besides obvious reasons, due to his ability of juggling bowling positions (opening or first change) with equal ease. This is a precious quality to have in this team, and will give Crowe a much greater flexibility in handling Malinga, or whosoever he deems fit to open the bowling.

Donald shuts out allrounders like Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener, all of whom can stake claim to any ODI World XI, because my focus  has been to acquire specialists from among the big boys, with players with multiple abilities coming from the ‘lesser’ nations.

Of course, Donald will not be my favourite candidate to be at the crease in the event of a last over finish (Klusener may agree), but hopefully, Goochie and the master blasters around him will ensure that this eventuality never arises.

This article was first published in Sportskeeda:
http://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/cricket-world-cup-xi-one-player-each-team

All-time left-handed World Test XI

This is a World XI like no other – eleven of the best left-handed Test cricketers collected from across ages and banded together. It is a team truly capable of invincibility, shrouded in the elegance that comes naturally to their ilk while possessing the ability of switching over to charmless aggression if and when required.

Putting together a group as unique as this is, anyway, challenging; to do it without a selection criteria, however, is next to impossible. The blueprint for mine is as follows:

  •  Contrasting openers: one dominating, the other solid
  •  Number 3: More Rahul Dravid than Sir Don Bradman in style
  •  Briskly scoring 4 and 5
  •  A genuine all-rounder at 6
  •  Aggressive wicket-keeper batsman
  •  An out-and-out quick bowler
  •  Two masterly swing bowlers
  •  One specialist spinner

The all-rounder I have in mind is of the spinning variety, which is why I have opted for just one specialist. While this blueprint is by no means the best possible, it is the skeletal structure of the upcoming list.

Here is the final list:

Openers: Matthew Hayden and Arthur Morris

Matthew Hayden is an easy choice when compiling a World XI. Big, imposing and adept against both pace and spin, Haydos gets the nod ahead of former South African skipper Graeme Smith due to a couple of reasons:

  1. Overall technical superiority
  2. No bunny-ish traits against particular bowlers (read: Zaheer Khan)

I did not consider Smith for the second opener’s role in a quest for more variety. Besides, it would be against the law of nature to have opposition fast bowlers stared down at both ends, rather than the other way round.

Biff has superior leadership skills and would have been an automatic choice in a weaker team, but he finds no place in a World XI.

Hayden’s greatest weakness is perhaps the tendency to be over-aggressive, and an absolute reluctance to let a ball go. The casualty of this blemish is his long-time opening partner, Justin Langer – who, as an elite member of the Invincibles at the turn of the century, was as disdainful of opposition bowlers and, therefore, a risky proposition to include.

Hence the quest for someone old-school comes to a screeching halt in front of another AustralianInvicibles member, albeit from half a century earlier.

Described as calm and compact by ESPNCricinfo, countryman Arthur Morris will be the ideal foil to a headstrong Hayden. But can he bat? A certain Sir Don Bradman definitely thought so, dedicating pages to Morris’ skills in his memoir, Farewell to Cricket, and hailing him as one of the best batsmen of the (then) new generation.

Morris even outscored the great Bradman during the latter’s farewell series, the 1948-49 Ashes in England, making 696 at 87.00 as opposed to the Don’s 508 at 72.6. The baton was well and truly passed during the 301-run partnership between them at Headingly, which helped Australia easily overhaul the stiff fourth innings target of 404.

At the Oval, when Bradman fell for a duck in his final innings, Morris made 196: a trivia easily forgotten amidst the Don’s famous failure.

Morris was averaging approximately 75 at that time and may have even threatened the Don’s figures, but his form dipped significantly post 1950. And his wife’s terminal illness led to an early retirement at 33.

#3. Kumar Sangakkara

Many choices in this list involve a trade-off between flair and steadiness. In Kumar Sangakkara, I find a good mix of both. Very capable of playing in both Hayden and Morris mode, depending on who falls first, the Sri Lankan also provides an excellent option as a back-up wicket-keeper.

Sangakkara’s biggest asset is his tenacity, which is evident from the number of double centuries he has notched up till date. His closest contender for this slot would be Graeme Pollock, whose batting average of 60.97 is second only to Bradman (minimum of 20 innings – my sincere apology to Mominul Haque fans). Couple of factors tilted the scales in the Sri Lankan’s favour:

  1. Experience of playing 100+ Tests more than Pollock
  2. Pollock is more of a dasher, while team balance called for someone more solid
  3. Back-up wicket-keeping abilities

Apartheid cut short Pollock’s promising career at the age of 26, and, while his 20,000+ First-class runs provide ample proof that the Test average was no flash in the pan, I would stll stick with Sanga as my number 3.

#4. Brian Lara

The first among a few easy decisions in the middle-order, Brian Lara receives a unanimous vote from all my grey cells for the number 4 position on this list. Probably the best Test batsman in the modern era and easily the most flamboyant, Lara’s ability to play his natural game irrespective of the state of the match makes him an invaluable asset.

If Haydos stays long enough to witness the departure of Morris and Sangakkara, the pair could have a wonderful discussion on the breaking and reclaiming of a trifling record that goes by the name of ‘highest Test score.’

Is there a concern? Well, maybe. If we cast our mind back to the famous 2003-04 Antigua Test, several players and experts, led by Ricky Ponting, questioned the self-centred late declaration by captain Lara in the quest for his quadruple, which allowed England to escape defeat by the skin of their teeth.

Individualism over team will always be an elephant in Lara’s room, but his talent is a perfect mahout on most occasions.

#5. Clive Lloyd (c)

The toss-up for this position, in my mind, was always going to be between Clive Lloyd and Allan Border. While Border was perhaps a slightly better batsman, Lloyd was definitely a better leader: a fact endorsed by the Australian himself, in conjunction with Kapil Dev and Imran Khan – a pair I, thankfully, do not have to pit against each other for a position on this list.

The need of the hour is that of a great captain, one experienced in handling a star-studded team, and the big West Indian gets my nod. An Ulyssessian obsession for the pursuit of excellence would be the perfect icing on a ‘World XI-cake’, and that is precisely what Supercat brings to the table.

Famous for turning a highly talented but equally rudderless group of individuals into one of the most potent units during the 70s and 80s, his captaincy could be tested against individuals already stars in their own right – and not hero-worshipping him.

Much like Captain America, out of time and place among the rest of the Avengers, the gentleman cricketer (though his wife may not necessarily agree) will surely command respect from the rest of the superstars within a short span of time.

#6. Garry Sobers

You could accuse me of stuffing the middle-order with West Indians, but no other cricketer – right or left handed – can stake a claim to the best ever all-rounder crown, which rests perfectly on Sir Garfield Sobers’ head. As concluded by ESPNCricinfo after several rounds of analyses, Sobers is not just the greatest all-rounder ever, but the greatest player.

Born with six fingers in each hand, the freak of nature almost seemed superhuman as far as his exploits go. He was a batsman par excellence, scoring 8000+ runs at an average of nearly 58, and was the proud owner of our old friend – highest Test score – for close to fifty years, before a couple of batsmen earlier on this list meddled with it.

His 235 wickets at 34 apiece may not sound earth-shattering (isolated from his batting, of course), but his versatility – he could bowl at decent pace with the new ball and return to bowl orthodox left-arm or even chinaman – has never been matched, before or hence.

Add to that his exceptional capabilities in the field, at every position conceivable, and you get a number 6 who can walk into any World XI in the sport with ease.

#7. Adam Gilchrist (wk)

Definitely the easiest choice on this list, Adam Gilchrist would have given stiff competition to the best of them in the wicket-keeping business even if the left-handed parameter was nullified, as duly acknowledged by The Independent.  With this criterion, he wins almost unopposed, with his closest rival already a part of this team at number 3.

The history of the wicket-keeper specie can be perfectly segmented into two ages: the pre-Gilchrist era and the post-Gilchrist era. Before Gilchrist, wicket-keepers were expected to contribute with the bat and put up some sort of a resistance as the more accomplished middle-order survivor took on the bowling.

The Australian, however, seemed quite unaware of these ‘rules’ as he smashed bowlers to all corners of the park and counter-attacked with the kind of gusto that would have put the fictitious Rocky Balboa to shame, en route to rewriting history.

Not many wicket-keepers have made such an impact, at least in Tests, in the post-Gilchrist era. It’s not that the standards have fallen, but just that the bar has been raised to levels quite difficult to meet or surpass.

It would be unfair to not mention Andy Flower, who loses out against Gilchrist, overpowered by the man’s sheer awesomeness. He may have still found a place on this list as a specialist batsman, but there is no way into his favourite batting positions of 5 and 6 – sealed tight by the yesteryear West Indian superstars. His short-lived ineffectiveness at number 3 (5 innings at 16.20) also eliminates a back-door entry at the expense of Sangakkara.

#8. Wasim Akram

Selecting Wasim Akram was also pretty much a walk in the park: the man is the best left-arm pace bowler, ever!

A tear-away quick during his younger days, Akram was usually given absolute freedom by captain Imran Khan to bowl as quick as possible without worrying about no-balls, a confidence that the southpaw repaid with interest by bowling a few dream spells towards the business end of the ’92 One Day International (ODI) World Cup, which Pakistan won.

As the years passed, pace gave way to a magical control over the red cherry. Akram’s exploits at his best were like a Christopher Nolan movie – thrilling, surreal and a world in itself. His monumental achievements came against all kinds of odds. His bowling action, which pounded his groin and shoulder often into submission, is described beautifully by Gideon Haigh for ESPNCricinfo:

‘Akram’s technique was one of cricket’s great wonders, defying all the usual injunctions of coaches. After a breakneck sprint, Akram barrelled through the crease, front foot pointing down the pitch, back foot toward the sightscreen, arm a blur. That he was able to repeat this almost 41,000 times in international cricket beggars belief.’

Diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 31, wrecker-in-chief for a sportsman, amid a plethora of other physical infirmities, Akram continued dismantling opposition batsmen with clockwork precision over the course of his career.

A more than capable willow-wielder down the order, the Lahorite, thankfully, channelized his energies more on his bowling throughout his career, thus sparing viewers the tragedy of an Irfan Pathan prequel.

#9. Mitchell Johnson

As I am the think-tank-cum-selection committee for this XI, an out-and-out quick is an absolute necessity, and therefore, Mitchell Johnson fits the bill perfectly. The slowest among the quickest of this generation (Shoaib Akhtar’s and Brett Lee’s quickest deliveries were about 5 kmph ahead of Johnson’s), the southpaw’s superior accuracy when on song, especially with the bouncer, makes him a much deadlier proposition than the aforementioned tearaways.

Johnson trades in the business of fear, one that a year ago practically ended the career of one of England’s best batsmen, Jonathan Trott, and had several of them fearing for their lives, according to Kevin Pieterson, as reported by Wisden.

The fear of getting hit is an acute reality, heightened immeasurably in the aftermath of the inconsolable Phil Hughes tragedy.

Johnson sleepwalked through 2011-12 and the first quarter of 2013; we, then, witnessed a miraculous turnaround, perhaps spurred by a cocktail of Homework-gate and an excellent IPL 2013, to which England and South Africa can bear painful testimony.

#10. Alan Davidson

This one had me in a bit of quandary. My heart instructed me to go for Zaheer Khan, who, when considered at his peak, is an absolute asset to have in any Test side. However, my head quickly reminded me that whatever Zaheer did Akram did it better, and he was already in the team.

This brings me to Alan Davidson, the big-broad shouldered Australian whose bowling speed and movement often belied a very economical run-up to the crease. Davidson was a late bloomer, and his first 10 Tests only yielded 13 wickets. For the record, in Test history, only Andrew Flintoff has done worse.

Davidson’s career took an upswing post the South Africa tour of 1957-58, and, over the next 5 years, he was phenomenal, finishing with 186 wickets in 44 Tests at an average of 20.53.

While the southpaw is generally bracketed as fast medium, his pace was subject to mood swings. According to Sobers, Davidson was ‘lightning fast when the mood took him’. Keith Miller, probably Australia’s greatest all-rounder, found Davidson’s bowling ‘deadly and devastating’.

According to former Test cricketer Ashley Mallett, the quick from New South Wales was just as good as Akram and perhaps better in using his lead arm.

Besides being a very useful contributor down the order, Davidson’s grit seals the deal – he went into the famous 1960 tied Test against West Indies with a broken finger on his bowling hand and emerged as the first man to take 10 wickets and 100 runs in the same match.

#11. Bishen Singh Bedi

Having someone like Sobers in the team grants me the luxury of going in with only one specialist spinner. For me, it was a toss-up between Bishan Singh Bedi and Derek Underwood, the ‘Deadly’ Englishman. While Underwood may have slightly better figures, Bedi gets the nod for the following reasons:

  1. He managed to make a significant impact on the Test landscape even while sharing space (and wickets) with three of the best spinners ever produced by India
  2. Superior technique, especially the ‘guile’ factor
  3. Willingness to take a few hits to ‘buy’ a wicket

With Akram, Johnson and Davidson allowing very little breathing space to the batsmen, they will inevitably go after Bedi. Even if they don’t pre-plan it, the tempting loop would be too much to resist. Like several before them, they would commit to an aggressive stroke, when faced with what looks like a half-volley for 90 percent of its trajectory but dips wickedly at the last moment, which in all probability will lead to their doom.

Besides, Bedi adds some well-needed flavour to the team. From the Vaseline controversy to threatening to throw the entire team into the sea during his coaching stint, the outspoken Punjabi will be a wonderful presence in this champion dressing room.

This article was first published in Sportskeeda: 
http://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/all-time-left-handed-world-test-xi-cricket

Top 10 Indian cricketers who could not realize their full potential

Over the last two and a half decades, Indian cricket has seen it all; the 90s were perhaps the darkest years in modern cricket history where India won only one away Test, that too against Sri Lanka, and was then dragged into the quagmire of match-fixing towards the end of the millennium. 2000-2010 was a definite high, with India registering several overseas victories under the able captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, and later Anil Kumble.

The team has experienced mixed fortunes post 2010: while they have lifted the World Cup and the Champions Trophy, they have also embarrassingly lost a number of Test matches on foreign soil. This article looks at some of the players during this period who possessed great potential but have been unable to realize it, for a variety of reasons. The slideshow captures, in order of gap between potential and realized talent, the top 10 Indian cricketers during this time frame.

#10. Hrishikesh Kanitkar

Hrishikesh Kanitkar shot into prominence in his 3rd One Day International: not with a century or a 5-wicket-haul, but with a score of 11 not out; avid followers of the game will recall the 1998 Independence Cup final at Dhaka (a triangular involving India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) where, in near darkness, with India requiring 3 runs off 2 balls, young Kanitkar swung an in-form Saqlain Mushtaq to the mid-wicket boundary for 4 runs, sealing a famous victory.

In his very next ODI, against Australia in Kochi, Kanitkar scored 57, proving that he could not only keep his cool in adverse conditions but also had the ability to make runs against quality bowlers like Shane Warne. Given that he could also roll his arm over in the middle-overs, India’s quest for an all-rounder seemed over, and he was being hailed as the next potential superstar of Indian cricket.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be his only half-century; though he continued playing some useful innings over the next two years, his last international ODI was at Perth versus Australia in January 2000. His Test career was even briefer; he played a couple of Tests against Australia in the 1999-00 series, and, though he managed a decent innings of 45 in Melbourne, he was discarded after the January 2000 Test at Sydney, and not selected again.

Though Kanitkar has not played international cricket for nearly 15 years now, he was impressive in the very conditions Indian batsmen are currently toiling in; in 2006, he played for the Brentwood Cricket Club in Essex and scored over a 1000 runs that season at an average of approximately 76. His leadership acumen also came to the fore during the 2010-11 domestic season when he captained Rajasthan to their maiden Ranji trophy victory.

#9. Sadagoppan Ramesh

Though he had a fair run in both Tests and ODIs, it was in the longer format that Sadagoppan Ramesh exuded strong potential. Ramesh made his presence felt in his very second Test match, against Pakistan in February 1999 at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi; the match is remembered not for him, but for Anil Kumble, who got all 10 wickets in the second innings. The performance was undoubtedly special, as the leg-spinner became only the second person after Jim Laker to take all 10 wickets in an innings; however, it relegated to the background Ramesh’s knocks of 60 and 96 against one of the strongest Pakistan bowling attacks I have ever seen: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed.

Had it not been for the once-in-a-decade performance by Kumble, Ramesh would have walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award. He continued performing impressively in Tests against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, and his batting average after his first 7 Test matches was nearly 56. He suffered a setback during the 1999-00 Australian tour when a Brett Lee delivery injured him and put him out of action for a while. He returned to international Test cricket towards the end of the year but did not seem the same player again; he got several starts but did not make any big scores. Ramesh played his final Test in August 2001, and Virender Sehwag played his first Test in November 2001; no wonder the door never opened again for Ramesh.

#8. Sanjay Manjrekar

Somewhat like Ramesh, though having played as many as 74 ODI matches, it was in the Test arena that Sanjay Manjrekar was considered special. His obsession with technical perfection resulted in a strike-rate of only 64.3 in ODIs, which, even in those days, was not particularly encouraging. In Tests, however, his technical mettle drew comparisons with the great Sunil Gavaskar, and not unduly so. In only his third Test, facing up to the fearsome West Indies pace quartet of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop, in their own backyard at Bridgetown in April 1989, Manjrekar scored his first century.

India’s tour of Pakistan later that year established him as the next best thing to happen to Indian Test cricket when he made scores of 113*, 76, 83, 218 and 72 against a bowling line-up that included Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir. He failed during the New Zealand tour that was up next, and, though he bounced back with a better performance in the 1990 England tour, he could never again recreate the 1989 magic.

In his own words, his form declined after 1992-93; though he continued to contribute, his performances were a shadow of his initial years. Given his potential, he was persisted with till 1996 when injury and the simultaneous rise of two Indian greats Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly – both of whom made their debut together the same year in England – drew down the curtains on his career.

#7. Amol Muzumdar

I will not be surprised if many people have not come across this name, given that he has not played a single international match. Avid cricket followers and Mumbaikars will vouch for the fact that there was a time that Amol Muzumdar was being touted as the next Sachin Tendulkar, with his penchant for scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket. Mazumdar has scored more than 11,000 runs in First-class cricket, behind only to his Mumbai team-mate Wasim Jaffer.

On his Ranji trophy debut, under Ravi Shastri’s captaincy, against Haryana in the 1993-94 season, Mazumdar cracked 260, which continues to be the world record for the highest score made on a first-class debut. I read an interesting article, which said that Mazumdar was padded up and waiting to bat during Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli’s epic 664-run partnership for Shardashram Vidyamandir school during the 1988 Harris Shield trophy. Mazumdar’s wait then was perhaps symbolic of his never-ending wait to get into the Indian cricket team. Despite consistently scoring runs throughout his domestic career, he never got a call-up to represent the country in either format.

He did not exactly sizzle in List A cricket, so, if selected, Test cricket would have been his calling. Perhaps, the only thing that went against him was that, at the peak of his form, there was no place in the Indian middle order that included Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly and VVS Laxman.

#6. Munaf Patel

Munaf Patel is one of the rare cricketers who shot into limelight even before he had bowled a single ball in First-class cricket. Noticed by Kiran More in early 2003, and sent to the MRF Pace Foundation, he caught the eye of none other than Sachin Tendulkar who recommended him to the Mumbai Cricket Association. Hailed as the fastest bowler in the country at the time, his services were sought after by Gujarat, Baroda and Mumbai; he finally chose Mumbai, possibly influenced by the maestro.

Even at that early stage, he was injury prone, and it was only in March 2006 that he earned a call-up to the national side for the 2nd Test against England. He was extremely impressive in his debut match, particularly in the second innings, where he demolished the English middle and lower order with a barrage of reverse-swinging yorkers at close to 150kmph, collecting 4 wickets in the innings and 7 wickets in the match.

He continued to impress with his pace in the next few Test matches and ODIs but was sidelined after a poor show in South Africa in 2007; he particularly received flak for declaring himself fit when he wasn’t, highlighted by the fact that he bowled only 1 out of India’s 64.1 in South Africa’s second innings. Over the next few years, he suffered from a dramatic drop in pace, seemingly rebranding himself as a line and length bowler as opposed to the tearaway fast bowler he used to be. He enjoyed some level of success in ODIs and was the third highest wicket-taker for India in the 2011 World Cup, but the promise with which he exploded on the Indian cricketing scene has not been realized. With none of the IPL franchises selecting him for the 2014 edition, the future does not look too bright for Munaf.

#5. Mohammad Kaif

In a situation reverse to that of Ramesh and Manjrekar, Mohammad Kaif, despite a few Test innings, one of which was the majestic 148* against West Indies at St. Lucia, was always considered an ODI specialist. Unlike some of the other players on this list, Kaif did not shoot to fame immediately. After his ODI debut in January 2002, he played about 35 innings before playing a match-winning knock of 87* against England in the Natwest Trophy final in July 2002.

Till that day, and for a better part of that innings, he was considered a good support player, but the Natwest final established him as a batsman capable of pacing his innings splendidly and also showcased his power-hitting and excellent running between the wickets. His next ODI innings produced the first century of his ODI career, against Zimbabwe, and his reputation as an excellent finisher was further enhanced. Over the next four years, Kaif knit together several crucial innings, which included several 50s and a century against New Zealand in Harare, 2005.

With the exception of the Natwest final, flamboyance was not a characteristic usually associated with Kaif; this made him less noticeable than some of his more dashing peers like Yuvraj Singh. This stodgy positioning combined with the meteoric rise of MS Dhoni as a finisher saw him play his last ODI in November 2006. For someone who possessed great cricketing acumen, had an entire repertoire of strokes, and was an excellent fielder, Kaif achieved relatively little. He continues to play domestic cricket and, after a 16 year association with Uttar Pradesh, will lead Andhra Pradesh in the 2014-15 Ranji trophy; his return to international cricket is, however, doubtful.

#4. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth

My earliest memory of Sreesanth, the quintessential ‘bad boy’ of Indian cricket, is of him dismissing Tendulkar in the 2005 NPK Salve Challenger Trophy. I read much later that controversy did not evade him even that that stage; during that match, he allegedly sledged Tendulkar to the extent where the maestro told him not to come anywhere near him. Sreesanth emerged the leading wicket-taker in that edition of the Challenger trophy and was selected for the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka.

Consistent performances in the shorter format earned him a selection for the home Test series against England; while he impressed from the onset, his breakthrough performance came during the 2006 India tour of South Africa. In the first Test match at Johannesburg, maintaining a perfect wrist position and swinging the ball both ways at good pace, Sreesanth grabbed 5 wickets to skittle South Africa for 84 runs in their first innings. South Africa could not recover, and India went on to register their first ever Test victory on South African soil, Sreesanth winning the MoM award for his match-haul of 8 wickets.

He went onto take 10 more wickets in the series, winning accolades from cricketing greats around the world. Though plagued by injuries and inconsistency in the years that followed, when on song, he could make the ball talk and was soon hailed as the second-best swing bowler in the country behind Zaheer Khan. However, his on- and off-field antics and frequent brushes with controversy significantly affected his career. He even made captain cool MS Dhoni lose his cool; in 2011, the Indian captain commented that Sreesanth should irritate opposition players, and not his own. Sreesanth was involved in multiple controversies, from the slapgate scandal during IPL 2008 to various disciplinary misdemeanours, culminating in being the prime accused in a spot-fixing scandal during IPL 2013, which resulted in the BCCI slapping a life-ban on him.

#3. Ajit Agarkar

I could be chastised for including someone who has played nearly 200 ODIs and secured close to 300 wickets at a very acceptable average of 27.9, on this list, that too so high up; however, having followed Ajit Agarkar’s career from even before his international debut, I am convinced that the man has achieved nowhere close to the potential he kept exuding. In early 1998, sports magazines flashed news about an impressive all-rounder on the India A tour to Pakistan. I kept a track of the series and noticed that Agarkar picked up wickets and scored runs heavily in almost every match.

He took 23 wickets and made buckets of runs, including a century, resulting in a landmark victory for the ‘A’ side. He made his ODI debut against Australia at Kochi later that year and established his pedigree by becoming the then fastest man to 50 ODI wickets (in 23 ODIs), breaking the great Dennis Lillie’s record. The 1999-00 Australia tour, which had proven to be a low for a couple of other players on this list, included a bizarre run of seven consecutive ducks for Agarkar, which earned him the nickname ‘Bombay Duck’ and would surely have impacted his confidence.

His redemption came during the England tour of 2002, when he scored a century at Lord’s, where most Indian batsmen failed. In ODIs, he played several crucial knocks lower down the order, including a 21-ball half century against Zimbabwe, which remains the fastest ODI half-century by an Indian batsman. Though hailed more as an ODI specialist, his finest bowling moment came during the 2003-04 Australian tour at the Adelaide Test where his six wickets in the Australian second innings laid the platform for a famous Indian victory.

Despite his small frame, he managed to extract significant pace and bounce even on tepid Indian pitches, and his ability to bowl accurate yorkers saw him forge a great death-bowling partnership with Zaheer Khan in the early 2000s. While his economy rate was always on the higher side, his inconsistency and tendency to keep getting hit once batsmen started going after him proved to be his bane. He kept getting in and out of the side, but his final career statistics do not do justice to the talent the man possessed.

#2. Irfan Pathan

Irfan Pathan is an exception to the rule I have generally followed in compiling this list, because, being below 30 years of age and fairly active in domestic and IPL tournaments, the door is not yet closed on him. Without a doubt, Irfan, in his prime, was the second-best seaming all-rounder India ever possessed, behind the great Kapil Dev. Pathan burst onto the scene during the 2003-04 tour of Australia, when, in only his second Test, he castled Adam Gilchrist with an unplayable yorker. What was particularly impressive was the fact that the youngster combined raw pace in excess of 140kmph with a calm demeanour that marked him out as special.

He impressed one and all with his pace and control during the Pakistan tour of 2004, where, in partnership with another youngster, Lakshmipathy Balaji, consistently troubled Pakistani batsmen. In what turned out be a decisive turning point in his career, coach Greg Chappell, keen on ‘discovering’ the batsman in him, regularly promoted him to no.3 in the batting order; while he did not disappoint in terms of his batting scores, he inexplicably lost his bowling mojo. He lost his ability to swing the ball and, suddenly, was bowling in the 120s as opposed to the 140s a while back.

He was axed from the team after the 2007 World Cup debacle; though he made an impressive return, in the inaugural T20 World Cup, by then he was more of a containing bowler than an aggressive one. He continued getting opportunities till the next year and played an all-round role in helping India win the 2008 Adelaide Test match; he only played two more Tests, the last being against South Africa in Ahmedabad in April 2008. He lasted longer in ODIs but has been in and out of the Indian cricket team owing to a mix of inconsistent form and frequent injuries. In hindsight, he comes across as an example of gross mismanagement of talent of the highest order, achieving only a shade of his potential.

#1. Vinod Kambli

Not many cricketers can claim to be referred to as “more talented than Sachin Tendulkar”, but that was exactly the tag Vinod Kambli carried with him on Test debut v England in January 1993. After his first 8 Tests, he proved why exactly that tag was applicable to him; he had equalled Don Bradman and Wally Hammond’s record of scoring double centuries in back-to-back Tests and had a Bradman-esque batting average of 99.75. His form spiralled over the next two years, and that, combined with several allegations of indiscipline and off-field controversies, swiftly drew the curtain down over his Test career in 1995.

Even after taking into account his loss in form, he ended his Test career with a batting average of 54.2; I am not sure how many other cricketers ended their Test career after only 17 matches with an average like that. It did not help that, as a middle order batsman, he had to dislodge one of the ‘Big 4’ post 1996, something he could never manage to do. His ODI career, though much more mediocre, lasted longer and ended with a whimper in 2000. Kambli dabbled in multiple domains post his international career, including politics, television and even movies, none with much success. He stoked controversy in 2009, when on a reality show, he voiced his discontent against Tendulkar, later claiming that India’s 1996 World Cup semi-final match against Sri Lanka was fixed. Having retired from all forms of cricket in 2011,  Kambli remains the biggest example of ‘what could have been’ in Indian cricket.

Top 5 World Cup Underachievers: Part 1 – Bowlers

After compiling lists for World Cup (WC) specialists, it is time to look at the mirror image – players who faltered when playing on the greatest stage in cricket. Part 1 looks at the bowlers who could not achieve the potency they did in their other One Day International (ODI) engagements.

Interestingly, two out of five bowlers on this list are from South Africa, and with two more Protea greats, Allan Donald and Makhaya Ntini knocking at the door, it perhaps explains why the talented bunch has not yet won a WC,  a failure normally associated with their batsmen ‘choking’.

#5. Shaun Pollock

Shaun Pollock burst onto the scene as a very promising all-rounder, and while his batting statistics may not do justice do the alleged talent he possessed, the right-hander ended up as the 5th highest wicket-taker in ODI history, with 393 scalps. He was, however, a bit of a let-down in WCs, with only his ER over the marquee tournament matching up to his impressive overall figures.

The right-hander plodded through most of his four WC appearances, a far cry from the strike-bowler status he maintained in other ODI engagements. His best showing in a Cup was as captain, in 2003, at home, when he appeared to be in rhythm throughout, picking up 8 wickets at an average of 21.5, before the Proteas’ disastrous campaign ended with a flabbergasting confusion regarding the Duckworth-Lewis par score in a must-win game against Sri Lanka, resulting in his sacking from the top job.

Towards the fag end of his career, Pollock’s pace dropped significantly, but he still managed to bowl nagging lengths to prise out wickets in regular ODI engagements, but found the going extremely tough when again confronted with the WC, this time the 2007 edition, finishing outside the top-25 wicket-takers in the tournament, to sign off with a whimper.

#4. Harbhajan Singh

Though not exactly known for setting the ODI stage on fire, except perhaps the 2001-02 season, where, buoyed by a successful Test series against Australia, he picked up 29 wickets at a sub-20 average, Harbhajan Singh’s WC career would still be considered abysmal, managing only 20 wickets, with part-timer-like average and SR of 40.4 and 57.7 respectively.

While he did a decent job in the 2003 World Cup, picking up 11 wickets on South African pitches not conducive to spin bowling, it was his performance in the 2011 WC, on home soil, which ended up being a major disappointment, and perhaps drew the curtains on his ODI career (he only played 3 more ODIs after that, till date). His only performance of note came against South Africa, when he picked 3 wickets, though conceding 53 runs, and could only add 6 more scalps in his other 8 outings, finishing with a bowling average of 43.33. His high point in the tournament came when he picked the crucial wickets of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi in the semifinal, but not before the pacers and Yuvraj had derailed their chase.

Where Harbhajan was relegated to keeping an end tied up in 2011, Yuvraj Singh stepped up to the occasion and picked 15 wickets to don the strike spin bowler’s mantle.

#3. James Anderson

It may come as some consolation to Indian fans, that our wrecker-in-chief during the recent Test series in England, James Anderson, has not been able to bully his way to success in the marquee ODI tournament, picking just 22 wickets in 19 games, with an Average of 38.0 and SR of 44.4.

Like Harbhajan, the Englishman was very effective in his first WC, in 2003, where he picked up 10 wickets in only 5 games, before England’s early exit, at an impressive average of 22.5, including two 4-wicket hauls. His WC woes began from the 2007 edition, where he went wicket-less against Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies. Strikes against teams like Bangladesh, Canada, Ireland and Kenya enabled him to finish the tournament with 8 wickets, at 41.12 apiece.

The worst was yet to come. Anderson had a nightmarish start to the 2011 WC, getting thrashed for 91 runs, against India, for the worst bowling figures by an Englishman in WCs – the same month, just prior to the WC, he was carted around the park for exactly 91, by Australia, in a painful coincidence for the man from Lancashire. This time around Anderson could not even pick wickets against Bangladesh and Netherlands, with England’s early exit possibly providing him respite from the torturous tournament.

#2 Daniel Vettori

Daniel Vettori made his debut just after the 1996 World Cup and was not given a single game in the 1999 edition, when New Zealand laid faith in an all-seam attack en route to the semi-finals. His unhappy association with the WC, therefore began in 2003, where, despite being economical, the bespectacled cricketer could just manage 2 wickets in 7 matches, with a ghastly average of 129.5.

He had a much happier outing during the 2007 WC in the Caribbean, where he picked up 16 wickets at a very respectable average of 27.9. While several of his wickets were against weaker oppositions like Canada, Ireland and Kenya, Vettori’s 3-wicket haul against the host nation was instrumental in a victory in the Super Eights, though the Kiwis could not make it beyond that stage.

The Caribbean sojourn could not however be replicated in the 2011 WC in the Indian sub-continent, where, as captain, Vettori’s tournament haul of three wickets, two of which were against Zimbabwe, in conditions tailor-made for spin bowling, was inexcusable.  He continued to be economical, going at just 3.6 runs per over, but his inability to pick wickets was a major factor in the Kiwis yet again faltering at the second-last step of the greatest tournament in cricket.

#1 Jacques Kallis

Probably the greatest all-rounder of our era, Jacques Kallis not only makes it to this list on account of his stand-alone bowling performances being superior to several specialist bowlers, but also tops it because of the huge dip in output when playing in a WC.

Though the burly all-rounder made his debut in the 1996 WC, he was hardly used as a bowler, sending down 13 wicket-less overs against the Netherlands and UAE. In 1999, Kallis found the seaming tracks in England much more to his liking, and this was easily his most productive WC, picking up 8 wickets, all of them against top Test teams, which included a devastating opening spell against Sri Lanka that accounted for their top three batsmen with hardly any runs on board.

Kallis continued to be a huge disappointment with the ball in the 2003 and 2007 editions as well. All of his 3 wickets in the former came against the Indian Ocean islanders, who were perhaps single-handedly responsible for bringing some respectability to the Capetonian’s WC figures, in the famous tied match which ejected the Proteas from the tournament. Kallis continued to be below par in the 2007 WC, picking just 5 wickets at more than 50 apiece.

Skipper Graeme Smith handled him well in the 2011 edition, using him in short bursts as a change bowler, and he did break a few crucial partnerships, registering acceptable bowling figures for the first time in his WC career.

This article was first published in Sportskeeda: 
http://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/top-5-world-cup-underachievers-part-1-bowlers

Top 5 player-coach feuds in the modern cricketing era

Grouchy coaches who bring out the best in their protégés have been part of movie folklore since time immemorial. The basic storyline is usually predictable – we have a young sportsperson who is yet to realize his or her full potential. Throw in a no-nonsense coach who chips away at the raw edges and chisels the perfect athlete, usually after tormenting them with intense training schedules and inspirational pep talks (read, verbal lashings). Everything ends well, and the moviegoer returns home happy.

Al Pacino has done it, Clint Eastwood has done it, and even Shah Rukh Khan has done it. While such coach-protégé stories provide excellent material for blockbusters, real life stories – particularly within the cricketing domain – haven’t all ended happily.

This article explores the top 5 coach-player feuds in modern cricketing history, a majority of which have ended badly for one or both involved.

(Some of the notable omissions from the list are as follows:

1. As I am only focusing on international cricket, the article does not consider the Sourav Ganguly – John Buchanan feud during IPL 2009, which deserves an entire article to itself, and redefined the concept of cricket blogging. However, both feature prominently on the list, albeit with different opponents.

2. John Wright’s Sehwag-collar-grab and Mickey Arthur’s homework incidents: While both generated significant public interest at the time, none were long-lived enough to be considered feuds.

3. Ross Taylor vs Mike Hesson: Definitely significant, but misses out due to the heavyweight feuds in the list.)

#1 Sourav Ganguly vs Greg Chappell

The most ironic thing about the Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell feud is the fact that the Australian may not have got the job as coach of the Indian national cricket team if not for the captain’s backing. A relatively inexperienced Chappell came on board in 2005, seeing off competition from Tom Moody, Mohinder Amarnath and Desmond Haynes, impressing largely through his presentation on developing a superior Indian cricketing structure.

Chappell’s first tournament, the Indian Oil Cup in Sri Lanka, coincided with Ganguly’s 4-match suspension due to India’s slow over rates against Pakistan earlier that year. This led to Rahul Dravid leading the team throughout the tournament, and Ganguly playing under him after his suspension term was reduced. Though India lost in the final, the tournament advertised Dravid’s captaincy skills, and would have sowed the first seeds of doubt in Chappells’s mind.

The tumultuous Zimbabwe tour
The next tour of Zimbabwe is possibly the most controversial in the history of Indian cricket. After rumours that Ganguly faked an injury in the first Test, where he crawled to a century against an extremely weak Zimbabwean attack, the southpaw, in a media conference, accused the team management of pressurizing him to resign. If that was not controversy enough, an email sent by Chappell to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), where he stated that Ganguly was unfit to lead the team, was leaked in public, triggering widespread outrage. One can only imagine the repercussions in the Indian dressing room during the period.

With the situation resembling a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) verbal brawl more than a cricketing scenario, it seemed likely that one of the two would have to go. However, the BCCI, after a four-hour long meeting, brokered peace between the two, and issued a statement that the feuding duo would work together for the best interests of Indian cricket.

From bad to worse
Matters were to get worse; after an injury forced Ganguly out of the first four One Day Internationals (ODIs) in a total of seven against the visiting Sri Lankan side, Dravid donned the makeshift captaincy mantle again. India cantered to a 4-0 lead, on the back of superlative cricket and innovative captaincy, which included the promotion of Mahendra Singh Dhoni to number 3 in the third ODI. Dhoni announced himself to the world with an imperious 183 not out, and India eased to the nearly 300 run target with almost 4 overs to spare.

This led to the first of several snubs meted out to the Prince of Kolkata during Chappell’s reign; though he was available for the remaining three ODIs, Ganguly was overlooked, and Dravid continued to lead. The southpaw was again omitted for India’s next home series against South Africa; sentiments ran high, particularly in Ganguly’s hometown, Kolkata, and when the teams arrived in the city for the third ODI, angry mobs greeted the team, with anti-Chappell protests in full swing. The coach did his cause no good by allegedly showing the middle finger to the crowd.

Indian cricket hit a particularly low point during that match, with crowds booing Indian players, and cheering South Africa on to a 10-wicket win.

A cat and mouse game ensued, with Ganguly being ignored on several occasions over the next year. What began as a clash of egos between two aggressive personalities had now become a national spectacle, even triggering debates in the Indian Parliament.

The last laugh
Ganguly forced his way back into the team after a disastrous batting performance by the Indians in the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy and the South Africa ODI series. His modified batting style saw him accumulating several significant scores, and helped cement his place in the side, albeit for the time being, across both formats. India’s stunning ouster in the first round of the 2007 World Cup, one in which they were considered among the favourites, resulted in Chappell’s resignation, bringing to an end one of the most tumultuous coach-captain relationships in cricketing history.

To rub salt into the wound, Ganguly emerged as the second highest run-scorer in Tests during the year, behind Jacques Kallis, and the fifth highest in ODIs.

The uneasy relationship did not end there, with Chappell ranting about the southpaw’s inadequacies and insecurities in his 2011 released autobiography, Fierce Focus. Ganguly paid back the compliment by highlighting Chappell’s inability to help Australia when he was invited to speak to the Australian team ahead of India’s tour.

One can safely conclude that this is one relationship which has withstood the trials of time!

#2 Kevin Pietersen vs Peter Moores

In spite of a striking resemblance to the aforementioned Ganguly-Chappell saga, the Kevin Pietersen-Peter Moores episode had a very different climax – both men lost their jobs, Pietersen as captain and Moores as head coach, with the latter being dumped more unceremoniously.

According to the Daily Mail, though revealed much later, Pietersen was not a fan of Moore’s training methods from the onset. The former Sussex coach’s focus on tactical and statistical tools as a mode of training was diametrically opposite to Pietersen’s beliefs.

2008 tour of India
England’s 2008 tour of India was fraught with tension of a kind not normally associated with cricket. The seven-match ODI series was cut short (with India leading 5-0) by terrorist attacks at multiple locations in Mumbai, which left hundreds dead and brought the country on the brink of a possible war with the alleged perpetuators of the attack, Pakistan.

The England team was whisked off to safety, but in a move which won Pietersen significant praise and goodwill in India, something still evident today, the English returned within a fortnight to play two Tests, drawing one and losing the other. Though the series, in India, will always be overshadowed by the tragedy surrounding it, for England, it was one without a single victory across both formats, including a humiliating 0-5 defeat in ODIs (with every possibility of a 0-7 whitewash, but for the terror attacks).

In a move apparently aimed at contingency planning, in January 2009, Pietersen requested the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for an emergency meeting to discuss Moores’s role in the team, in a gamble which did not exactly pay off for him.

The Vaughan angle
According to most reports, Pietersen was infuriated by the omission of Michael Vaughan from the team selected to tour West Indies in January 2009; he felt that the former England captain was an absolute requirement in the side, and had thrown his weight behind his inclusion. The final squad announcement, without Vaughan’s name in it, appeared to be the spark which ignited the dynamite.

An alternate view
The Mirror added a twist in the tale, when it published an article stating that at no point had Pietersen argued over Vaughan’s inclusion in the side; the main trigger allegedly came from a clash between the duo’s wives. Mrs. Moores considered herself a bit of a mother figure to the English cricket Wives and Girlfriends (WAGs), and severely criticized Jessica Pietersen’s handling of the media, something which was not taken lightly by the Liberty X pop star.

The final showdown
The stage was set for a classic showdown – Pietersen had already set the tone by tipping off the media about the unhealthy situation prevailing in the England team, and voiced his displeasure about Moores’s coaching methodologies in his emergency meeting with the ECB. The board, however, did its homework, and appointed managing director Hugh Morris with the task of researching the facts behind the dispute, and to identify which party commanded more backing in the dressing room.

Morris’s report, which indicated that Pietersen was not backed by all players in his criticism of the coach, severely undermined the captain’s all-or-nothing gamble. After a telephonic conference on January 6th 2009, the executive board of the ECB formally sacked Moores the next day, which also saw the resignation of Pietersen from his captaincy.

While Andrew Strauss took over as captain, Andy Flower, Moores’s assistant coach, was appointed the interim coach for the Caribbean tour. Pietersen’s run-in with Flower is equally colourful, but that is another story – deservedly getting a mention in this article.

#3 Kevin Pietersen vs Andy Flower

Exactly five years after the Pietersen-Moores double-execution, on January 7th 2014, the Daily Mail reported that England coach Andy Flower had issued an ultimatum to the ECB: to choose between him and Pietersen. One of them had to go.

It was a gamble similar to the one Pietersen played five years back, the only difference being that this time the former Zimbabwean wicket-keeper batsman succeeded, with his move effectively ending the international cricketing career of the flamboyant right-hander.

The rant which set the ball rolling
The saga began on December 30th 2013, though I am sure misgivings between the two predate the day, when Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, captain and vice-captain respectively, called for an emergency team meeting without the knowledge of coaching staff, after being walloped by Australia in the 4th Test of the 2013/14 Ashes.

The premise of the meeting was that the players were being over-reliant on Flower, and needed to be more responsible. Pietersen, possibly muddled by his own feelings about Flower, interpreted it as an accusation against the coach’s domineering nature, and started ranting about him. The players listened in shocked silence for a while before Pietersen was stopped and the premise was re-explained to him. The news of the rant got back to Flower, who was not impressed at all.

A slightly different version of the story is that, during the meeting, all players agreed that Flower’s behaviour was too schoolmaster-ish, but it was Pietersen, as the knight in shining armour, who took it upon himself to break the news to the headmaster, er…coach. While what exactly transpired in the meeting is not known (due to legal reasons), Pietersen clearly did not sugarcoat his opinion.

Irrespective of which version is true, the bottomline is that Pietersen ranted about the coach, and it got back to him, either directly or indirectly, and he wasn’t very happy about it.

Twitter war
The battle soon spilled over on to Twitter, with Pietersen finding support from Piers Morgan, notorious in his own right, and wife Jessica, who was allegedly in the eye of a ‘coach-storm’ even earlier. As reported by the Telegraph:

“It also turned nasty as Prior was drawn into a row on Twitter with Piers Morgan, Pietersen’s loudest public ally, over the events in Melbourne. Morgan said that Prior addressed the team meeting in Melbourne and “slaughtered” Flower. He also said that Prior “stabbed” Pietersen in the back when he spoke to Flower about the meeting.

Even Pietersen’s wife took to social media to attack her husband’s critics. She described Dominic Cork, the former England player turned broadcaster, as a liar for suggesting her husband and Cook nearly came to blows in Sydney. Cork had told Sky Sports that there was an altercation between the pair at the SCG. Jessica Taylor, a member of the pop group Liberty X, tweeted: “Dominic Cork – there was no ‘squaring up’ to Alastair Cook or ‘off-field antics’ in Australia – you are lying, plain & simple.”

Flower’s response and Pietersen’s unceremonious exit
This is where we head back to the opening of this story. Flower, who had positioned himself as a strict disciplinarian, laid out the ultimatum to the ECB – one that he later denied, but which in all probability is true. While he himself stepped down as team director after a successful five-year stint (yes, one that began after Moores’s exit), he wagered a continued relationship with the ECB in lieu of Pietersen’s career.

The board, probably fed up with Pietersen’s constant brushes with controversies (this article limits itself to coaches, but the big right-hander would probably find a mention across several other parameters), issued a statement in February 2014 declaring the forced retirement of the cricketer, in one of the most unceremonious sackings in modern cricket history.

#4. Chris Gayle vs Ottis Gibson

While not as heated as the previous cases, the Chris Gayle-Ottis Gibson story was an important sub-play within the Jamaican’s overall feud with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). While Gibson, the coach of the West Indies national cricket team from 2010 to August 2014, was the more diplomatic of the two, the big left-hander frequently complained about the former quick’s double standards in his context.

First signs of the grudge
The known beginnings of Gayle’s tiff with Gibson slightly predate his more well-known dispute with the WICB. After losing to Pakistan in a one-sided quarterfinal during the 2011 World Cup, Gibson had severely criticized the senior members of the team, Gayle included. The Jamaican hit back strongly, posting on his Twitter account, “It is easy to blame the senior players but difficult to accept the truth!!! Curse me blame me!!!!”

What appeared to be a minor tiff, soon escalated into a full blown battle, with Gayle being omitted from the team for the initial part of the home series against Pakistan. The Jamaican retorted by signing up for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for the entire Indian Premier League (IPL) 4 season, after declaring himself unavailable for national duties. A fired up Gayle had a majestic IPL season, after which the WICB tried to end the dispute. But the initial meetings bore no fruit, with Gayle tracing the discontent back to 2009, when current (2011) WICB chief Ernest Hilaire had expressed concerns on his ability to lead the country.

Tirade against Gibson
While Gibson tried to maintain a diplomatic stance during the period, Gayle came out in harsh criticism of his coach. As reported by Cricinfo, Gayle said: “He [Gibson] is a man who sought my advice when things were not going well. I could never imagine he would deliberately try to destroy my character, reputation and livelihood or question my commitment to West Indies cricket. I would not have believed, until I saw it in black and white, that he would devalue my leadership and try to destroy me without giving me a chance to respond.”

Very strong words, indeed. Gibson, however, appeared unaffected, and responded by saying that he was dealing with larger issues within the team, and could not afford to get distracted.

Peace brokerage
After a long drawn process, which also included intervention from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government, Gayle’s self-imposed 15 month exile ended in June 2012, when he was picked in the West Indies squad for ODIs in England. Gibson’s calmness ensured that the public was not granted the entertainment some of the other cases mentioned here provided, but after an uneasy calm of more than two years, Gayle is likely to breathe easier after the coach’s exit last month.

#5. Shane Warne vs John Buchanan

It may come as great news for fans of Sourav Ganguly that John Buchanan, his chief tormentor during the elegant left-hander’s unhappy IPL voyage, has been at the receiving end of a series of insults from Australian spin legend Shane Warne for several years now. Warne shared an unhappy, if not disrespectful, relationship with Buchanan during the latter’s eight-year stint as Australian coach (1999-2007), which ended shortly after the iconic leg-spinner finished his Test career in early 2007.

Jibe at Warne’s fitness
Buchanan had no clue that he was playing with fire when, during Australia’s unsuccessful Test series campaign in India in 2001, he took several pot-shots at Warne’s fitness. After Australia lost the 2nd Test match in Kolkata, Buchanan observed that Warne was “not one of the fittest characters running around in world cricket”. He even expressed doubts over the leg-spinner’s inclusion in the 3rd Test, stating that he was looking for “11 blokes who can give five days of hard cricket and not be affected by any sort of physical limitations”.

Back then, Warne played down the incident, stating that Buchanan had apologized for his comments. “I said he would probably need to get to know me a little bit better,” the leg-spinner clarified. Buchanan has come to know Warne ‘very well’ in the coming years, and continues to learn new things about him even today.

Warne’s comments on Buchanan
With most of Warne’s warfare against his coach being verbal as opposed to action-oriented, the best way to capture his sentiments would be to share some of his quotes:

“These boot camps are a big waste of time. We were forced to push a car uphill, and after a bit I just turned to the coach and said: ‘I’m as weak as p—, I hate your guts and I want to go home. You’re a d—head.'”

“Im a big believer that the coach is something you travel in to get to and from the game!”

“He has been our coach during a successful era but that begs a question – does the coach make the team or does the team make the coach?” (In 2006, after being hauled off to one of Buchanan’s boot-camps)

“I disagree with John Buchanan all the time. I don’t think he has made one good point in a long time, actually. Everything that I have read that he says, he is living in pixieland. It just shows what us players had to put up with. We had to listen to his verbal diarrhoea all the time. He is just a goose and has no idea and lacks common sense, and you can put all that in there.” (In 2007, post retirement)

“I think that’s a great move because that means we’ve got more of a chance. Hopefully Buck (Buchanan) will be doing his stuff and he’ll be working and doing all his things and hopefully over-complicating things. I reckon it gives our chances a big boost and makes our blokes more hungry.” (In 2009, after hearing that Buchanan had accepted a role to coach England’s budding cricketers)

“John Buchanan had no idea about coaching. The Australian team I was part of hardly needed a good coach. Even my 13-year-old son could decide when to bowl (Glenn) McGrath, (Brett) Lee or (Jason) Gillespie.” (In 2013, during an interview)

Buchanan: the puppet or the puppet-master
In an interview with Fox Sports in 2013, Michael Hussey revealed that Buchanan was deliberately harsh with Warne so that he could fire him up and extract the best out of him. Mr. Cricket’s stance was that Buchanan was not really affected by Warne’s open hatred of him, and in the larger interest of Australian cricket, was actually puppet-mastering one of the biggest talents in the game.

Buchanan himself doesn’t seem as confident; in his book, The Future of Cricket, released in 2009, the former Australian coach expressed disappointment at Warne’s continuing criticism of him.

With no signs of a hatchet burial in sight, and the former leg-spinner very much active on commentating and social media circuits, we can continue to expect more insightful observations on Buchanan in future.

This article was first published in Sportskeeda:
http://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/top-5-coach-captain-feuds-fights-modern-cricket-era?imgid=26777

Top 5 World Cup specialists: Part 2 – Batsmen

The following  is the Part 2 of a dual series dedicated to identifying World Cup (WC) specialists, with the current instalment focusing on batsmen who have upped the ante when their country needed it the most. You can view Part 1 here.

The selection is made on the basis of a quantitative methodology, the key criteria of which are as follows:

Minimum qualification: 1000 runs in WCs

Score: This has been calculated by multiplying the two essential parameters a batsman is assessed upon – Average, and Strike Rate (SR). For example, a batsman with an average of 50 and an SR of 100 will have a score of 50 x 100 = 5000. As with most statistics associated with batting, higher the score, better is the performance.

Greater the difference between their career scores and the WC scores, the higher will the batsman feature on this list.

To give an indication of the batsmen knocking on the doors of this list, had the qualification criteria been reduced to 900, two Aussie greats, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden, would have broken their way in, and the list would have been topped by an unheralded New Zealander, Scott Styris; with Jacob Oram featuring prominently in the bowling compilation, this perhaps explains why the Kiwis have been so consistent in WCs.

#5 Viv Richards
Arguably the most feared batsman of his time, Sir Vivian Richards, after a forgettable 1975 WC, one in which he made his ODI debut as well, dominated the next three between 1979-87, finishing with an aggregate of 1013 runs at a batting average of 63.31 (surprisingly, the only other batsman with an average above 60 among top-25 run-scorers in the 50-over WC is Rahul Dravid) and an SR of 85.05, and would have been placed much higher on this list but for his equally good performances outside of the WC.
The Antiguan’s first dominating innings in a WC could not have come at a better time – during the final of the 1979 edition, against hosts England. After West Indies were put into bat in bowler-friendly conditions and pressed on to the back-foot after the relatively cheap dismissals of the celebrated opening duo of Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge, Richards strode out to the middle with his trademark swagger and pulverized the English attack into submission with an unbeaten 138, to help post a strong total of 286 in 60 overs, one which the famed Caribbean pace battery defended with ease to lift the biggest title in limited overs cricket for the second successive time.

The ‘King’ was at his most devastating in the 1983 WC, especially towards the business end of the tournament: scores in his three innings leading into the final read: 119(vs. India), 95*(vs. Australia) and 80*(vs. Pakistan, in the semi-finals). Halfway into the final, against India, at Lord’s, the score was eerily similar to what their sub-continental neighbours had put up: India were 183 all out as compared to Pakistan’s 184/8. West Indies’ chase also began in a similar manner, with both openers back in the hut with not many runs on the board.

On the previous occasion, Richards’ 80* saw the Caribbean team romp home to an 8-wicket victory, and he looked set to repeat the show, having bludgeoned 33 off just 27 balls, with seven boundaries. When he mistimed a short-arm pull off Madan Lal – such was the power of the man that even the miscue went miles into the air, the ball appeared destined to crash into the mid-wicket boundary after a couple of bounces, but Indian skipper Kapil Dev, in a supreme display of elegant athleticism, sprinted several yards from his position at mid-on and held on to the over-the-shoulder catch to bring about the moment acknowledged by many, including Cricinfo, as the turning point of the match.

The remaining West Indian batsmen, except Jeff Dujon and Malcom Marshall, who put up a brief resistance, collapsed in the face of incisive medium-pace bowling, to allow India to lay their hands on the coveted trophy for the first time.

Richards was equally disdainful during the 1987 WC –  his final appearance on the biggest stage, aggregating 391 runs, which included his highest score of 181, in a WC, against a hapless Sri Lankan bowling attack. He followed it up with a half-century against England and two more against Pakistan, facing a pace attack that comprised Imran Khan at the peak of his skills and a tearaway quick Wasim Akram.

While the Caribbean batting line-up continued to be star-studded, their famed pace battery was visibly depleted, with only Courtney Walsh and Patrick Patterson making an impact. It was a disappointing outing for third seamer Winston Benjamin, and, with Curtley Ambrose’s international debut still a few months away, the Caribbean attack failed to invoke the fear they were famed for, and their earlier-than-expected exit probably marked the beginning of the end of the dominance of West Indian cricket on the international stage.

Overall Score: 4239.4
WC Score: 5384.5
Differential: 1145.1

#4 Sachin Tendulkar
Akin to Glenn McGrath in the bowling list and Richards in this, arguably the greatest ODI batsman of our generation and the highest run-scorer in the 50-over WC history, Sachin Tendulkar finds himself in the bottom half of this list, in spite of outstanding WC performances, because he has been almost as good throughout his illustrious career in lesser ODI engagements, as well.

While the young Tendulkar made his mark in his very first WC, in 1992, held in Australia-New Zealand, finishing inside the top-15 run-makers of the tournament, with scores that included a quick-fire 54* against arch rivals Pakistan and a couple of 80s against Zimbabwe and the Kiwis, it was in the 1996 edition, held in the sub-continent, that the maestro really stamped his class over the marquee event.

He topped batting charts, scoring 523 runs with the help of two centuries, and looked completely at ease on a treacherous Eden Gardens pitch during the infamous semi-final against Sri Lanka, till his freakish dismissal set the tone for the ugly collapse and the uglier crowd reaction that followed.

Tendulkar may not have been at his run-scoring best at the 1999 WC when he was possibly at the peak of his batting abilities, which, in my opinion, were at its zenith during the Sharjah Storm a year earlier; however, his sheer passion for his country and towards the game was highlighted when he returned a day after his father’s funeral to smash a century against minnows Kenya, which the Guardian hailed as ‘idolatry.’

The master blaster rewrote WC history in 2003, when he crunched 673 runs, which is, till date, the highest amassed in a single WC. Such was his dominance that he was more than 200 runs clear of the batsman next on the highest run-scorers list in that edition. Tendulkar’s signature was scrawled over the breadth of the tournament – he scored only a single century, but had crossed 80 on four more occasions, which included the physically testing 98, against Pakistan (yes, the one in which he uppercut Shoaib Akhtar for a six) where he battled cramps and probably the best ever pace attack of our sub-continental neighbours, for the match-winning knock. He faltered at the last hurdle, in the tournament final at Johannesburg, losing the battle against another WC behemoth, Mcgrath, to sign off India’s brilliant run thus far on a disappointing note.

After India’s short and unhappy campaign in the 2007 WC, the diminutive batsman returned for the 2011 instalment in the Indian sub-continent, in the twilight of a fantastic career, amid customary allegations against his dwindling form and questionable fitness. The man who always let his bat do the talking, went, perhaps unknowingly, one step further this time –  not only did he emerge the second highest run-scorer in the tournament but also inspired the young generation of Indian cricketers, led by Player-of-the-Tournament Yuvraj Singh, himself battling cancer, to desperately seek the most coveted trophy for the man who had conquered almost every other silverware there was to be won.

 

It was something they did achieve, and history was written the second time in the country.

Overall Score: 3865.7
WC Score: 5067.4
Differential: 1201.7
#3 Sourav Ganguly
The man who, in my opinion, deserves the maximum credit for turning around the fortunes of an Indian team tottering from the match-fixing saga of the late 90s and ushering in a golden era in Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly, while performing admirably over the course of his ODI career, took his game to a different level altogether in the 1999 and 2003 editions of the WC.


The elegant southpaw scored 1006 runs in a mere 21 innings; to put things in perspective, this is at par with Richards (1013 runs in 21 innings) and significantly superior to some of his more worshipped peers, Adam Gilchrist (1085 in 31), Steve Waugh (978 in 30) and Kumar Sangakkara (991 in 28).  The Prince of Kolkata made an impact on his World Cup debut itself, against South Africa at Hove, where he made 97 runs before getting run out, in a losing cause.
A couple of matches later, when India met Sri Lanka at Taunton, it was the first WC meeting between the two sub-continental giants after the 1996 semi-final fiasco, and emotions were bound to be high, especially on the Indian side. After Sadagoppan Ramesh fell early, Ganguly was joined by Dravid, and what followed was the translation of pent-up emotions into run-scoring of the highest order, with elegant as well as agricultural hits to all parts of and over the boundaries. The blitz yielded a 318-run partnership for the 2nd wicket, hailed by the Guardian as ‘the thrilling feat, in tandem,’ with Ganguly playing one of the best-ever WC knocks (183), and Dravid not too far behind, scoring 145. India racked up a humongous 373 and crushed the Islanders by 157 runs in what must have quelled, to some extent, the painful memories simmering over the past four years.

The southpaw was the second highest run-scorer in the 2003 WC, behind Tendulkar, and while it could be argued that his tally was boosted by three centuries against the weaker nations, there is no denying the fact that Ganguly raised his game, both as batsman and skipper, to steer India to a step short of what would have been the nation’s greatest moment since the summer of 1983, when Kapil Dev held aloft cricket’s greatest trophy at the Mecca of the game.

Even during India’s nightmarish campaign in the 2007 WC, Ganguly, himself fraught with issues arising out of his tumultuous relationship with then coach Greg Chappell, gave India a fighting chance against Bangladesh in their opening encounter and continued his penchant of feasting on minnows with an 89 against Bermuda. However, he could not prevent India’s ignominious exit in the opening round, ending his short but glorious WC career on a low.

Overall Score: 3023.2
WC Score: 4330.7
Differential: 1307.5

#2 Mark Waugh
One of the most stylish cricketers to have graced the game, Mark Waugh had an excellent record in WCs, especially the 1996 and 1999 editions. After a mediocre 1992 WC in home conditions, Waugh was at ease on sub-continental pitches in the next instalment, scoring 484 runs at an average of 80+, including three centuries, to finish behind Tendulkar as the second highest run-scorer in the edition.

While all of them were important, the most crucial was against New Zealand in the quarter-finals at Chennai, where, facing a stiff target of 287, the right-hander’s calm 110, which Cricinfo acknowledged as one of the top performances of the tournament, took Australia beyond the 200-run mark, after which he passed the baton to brother Steve, who, along with Stuart Law, guided the team home with a little more than two overs to spare.

Though the 1999 edition belonged almost exclusively to his brother, who not only made 398 runs at an average of close to 80 but also was involved in a couple of gritty battles with South Africa, the only team, which, on paper, appeared to have enough firepower to surpass the Aussies, Mark’s contribution was no less significant – his 375 runs as an opener ensured that the team rarely got off a poor start and gave his opening partner Gilchrist the extra leeway to attack opposition bowlers with unbridled gusto.

The right-hander’s most important knocks came in the Super Sixes: his 83 against India shepherded the rest of the team, none of whom reached 40, to a strong total of 282, which was enough for a 77-run victory. In the very next game, facing up to possibly the strongest ever Zimbabwean bowling attack, comprising Heath Streak, Henry Olonga, Neil Johnson and Paul Strang,  Mark cracked his only century of the tournament to take Australia over the 300-mark, which the African nation could not overhaul.

In his last WC game, against Pakistan in the final at Lord’s, Mark had the best ‘seat’ in the house to watch the Gilchrist show as the left-hander’s swashbuckling half-century tore into the low victory target of 133. He himself scored 37* to usher in a decade of Australian domination with respect to WC triumphs, where they would go onto win three tournaments on the trot.

Overall Score: 3026.0
WC Score: 4424.3
Differential: 1398.3

#1 Herschelle Gibbs

Known more for flirting with controversy than realizing the immense potential he was touted to possess, Herschelle Gibbs perhaps played to the best of his ability only when the calling was of the highest order. Ironically, though, his brilliant batting during the WCs was often marred with heartbreaks in which he was usually a central figure.


The Capetonian turned in a solid batting performance during the 1999 WC, but his finest hour with the bat, against Australia in their Super Sixes encounter at Headingly, where his 101 was the backbone of a challenging score of 271, soon transformed into his darkest when his premature celebration on ‘catching’ Steve Waugh, off Lance Klusener, led to the ball dropping the ground and the catch being disallowed.
Waugh, then on 56, went on to play probably the best innings of his ODI career, his 120* helping the Aussies over the line with two balls to spare and cementing a place in the semi-finals, once again against the Proteas. The Australian skipper is known to have famously remarked to Gibbs: “I hope you realise that you’ve just lost the game for your team”. Had he replaced ‘game’ in the sledge with ‘World Cup’, Waugh would have been right on target, because the tense semi-final – which ended in a tie on account of the dramatic mix-up between Klusener and Allan Donald in the final over – resulted in the Aussies qualifying for the final on account of their victory over the Africans in the Super Sixes: an outcome that is bound to have haunted Gibbs for several years to come, though he himself denies it, as reported by The Australian.

Gibbs was at his absolute best during the 2003 WC at home, scoring 384 runs at an unbelievable average of 96.00, finishing 5th among top run-scorers in the tournament, while playing at least 4 games fewer than those above him on that elite list. Two of the right-hander’s best innings of the tournament, however, came with the customary heart-break now commonly associated with him in the context of a WC – Gibbs’ spectacular 143 against New Zealand, in the opening round, which propelled his team to 306, was nullified by Stephen Fleming’s 134, which inflicted a defeat on the Proteas in the rain curtailed and Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) implemented match.

The method devised by two English statisticians, Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, still followed today, has never been too kind on the South Africans, dating back to their WC debut in 1992, when the highly talented and enthusiastic bunch of cricketers saw their target against England, in the semi-finals, being revised, as if by magic, from a very gettable 22 off 13 balls, to a stiffer 22 off 7 balls, till finally settling down on the impossible 22 off 1 ball, all within a few moments of brisk calculations based on D/L.

The dual force of D/L and ‘tied game’ was to hit the Proteas hard a few games later, in a must-win encounter against the Sri Lankans in Durban. Set a target of 268, Gibbs beautifully negotiated a rampaging Chaminda Vaas en route to a well-constructed 73; however, after his dismissal, the Proteas displayed yet another instance of brain-freeze, when Mark Boucher blocked the last legal delivery of the match, with the batting team on 229 – the specified D/L score at the end of the 45th over.

What Boucher, and apparently everyone in the South African team management, were not aware of was that the required  D/L score shared by umpires is always the ‘par’ figure, i.e., the runs required to tie the match, not win it. The match ended as a tie, and the host nation was subject to the ignominy of an early exit.

While Gibbs did return for a solid, if not spectacular showing, in the 2007 WC, one in which the Proteas were ousted in the semi-finals by the unstoppable Australians, the right-hander’s associations with his team’s bizarre exits in the past is likely to override his tremendous contribution when playing at the highest level of the game.

Overall Score: 3008.2
WC Score: 4906.4
Differential: 1898.2

This article was first published on Sportskeeda:
http://www.sportskeeda.com/slideshow/top-5-world-cup-specialists-part-2-batsmen-cricket?imgid=31553