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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Commissioner decides Harbhajan's fate by applying "comfortable satisfaction" standard

I'm not surprised that, after the quasi-judicial hearing held in Federal Court no1 in Adelaide , the ICC appointed Appeals Commissioner, New Zealand Supreme Court Justice Hansen has overturned the three Test suspension on Harbhajan Singh imposed by match referee Mike Procter.
Harbhajan has not got off scot-free: he pleaded guilty to and was was fined 50% of his match fee on a lesser charge of abusive language.

Justice/ Commissioner Hansen gave his decision on Tuesday and then published his reasons (see link) yesterday. Between these two events he learned that Harbhajan had in fact previously been reported for various matters not once but three times. The ICC had apparently not been able to inform him of this before he delivered his findings orally.

The whole thing reeks of a deal worked out behind the scenes even though the Commissioner, and just about everyone else involved in an official capacity, seems to have gone out of their way to deny this. At the end of his written decision, Justice Hansen stated [Paragraph 70]:

I have read some of this morning’s media reports of the outcome of the hearing. I trust now that the full facts are known and my reasons are available there will be a greater degree of proportionality and rationality. I wish to make it quite plain that as a Code of Conduct Commissioner appointed by the ICC I am independent of that body. I have brought that independence to this hearing. It was not the ICC that reduced the charge against Mr Singh from a level 3.3 offence to a 2.8. That was my decision and my decision alone. I made that decision on the basis of my factual findings and my legal interpretation of the Code of Conduct. An interpretation I may add that counsel were by in large in agreement with. I also wish to disabuse the media of any notion that there was some “sort of deal”. While I was tendered an agreed statement of facts at the commencement of the hearing, I still insisted on counsel assisting me to call the players that could give relevant evidence and to hear that evidence viva-voce and to have them cross examined. The decision that I have reached is based on my findings on that evidence. It is incorrect to suggest that there was some sort of an agreement reached between Australian and Indian cricket authorities that I simply rubber stamped. I also wish to add that while I was aware of the media furore surrounding this matter no-one has attempted to apply direct pressure to obtain an outcome. In any event as I said earlier it would be a breach of my judicial oath, and a dereliction of duty as an independent Code of Conduct Commissioner, to succumb in any way to such pressure. I repeat I have independently reached my decision based on the evidence as I have found it to be and in accordance with the applicable standard of proof and interpretation of the Code of Conduct Regulations.

The Agreed Statement of Facts to which he refers is included at Paragraph 6. It makes interesting reading (apart from the typos):

During the 116th over on Day 3 of the Sydney Test, Harbhajan Singh made friendly contact with Brett Lee. At the end of the over while the umpires were changing ends and the fields was crossing over to their new positions, Andrew Symonds approached Harbhajan Singh and told him that he had no friends amongst the Australians (he admits he used the word ‘fuck’ or a derivation thereof). Singh used similar language to Symonds and neither took offence at that stage.

However the exchange caused Singh to become angry and he motioned to Symonds to come towards him. Singh then said something to Symonds. There is a dispute as to what was said. However all of the players who gave evidence to the hearing before Match Referee Procter of what was said between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds namely, Harbhajan Singh, Andrew Symonds, Mathew [sic] Hayden and Michael Clarke, are all clearly of the view that in the circumstances, Harbhajan Singh used language that was (and intended by Singh to be), offensive to Andrew Symonds. Symonds took immediate offence at the language and behaviour of Singh.

After the exchange between Singh and Symonds, Michael Clare [sic] spoke to umpire Mark Benson and complained about Singh’s behaviour, Clarke then told his captain Ricky Ponting what he had heard. Ponting went to Umpire Benson and told him that he had been informed by Clarke of the use by Harbhajan Singh of offensive language towards Andrew Symonds. On his way back to the slips position Ricky Ponting spoke with Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar then approached Ponting and Singh and asked Ponting to allow him to manage the situation.

Ricky Ponting then went into the slips. During over 117 Mathew Hayden informed Ponting that he had heard Harbhajan Singh use offensive language towards Symonds at the conclusion of the preceding over. At the end of Over 117 Ponting went of [sic] the field and told the Australian Team Manager (Steve Bernard) about the incident.

Harbhajan Singh (Signature), Ricky Ponting (Signature), Andrew Symonds
(Signature), Adam Gilchrist (Signature), Sachin Tendulkar (Signature), Michael
Clarke (Signature) and Mathew [sic] Hayden (Signature).

In arriving at his decision the Commissioner considered what standard of proof was appropriate. He chose to follow [see Para 30] Clause 4.1 of the ICC Anti-Doping Code:

The standard of proof shall be whether ICC has established an Anti Doping Code violation to the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing body bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegation which is made. This standard of proof in all cases shall be greater than a mere balance of probabilities but less than a standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.

At Paragraph 40 the Commissioner explained what he thought the "comfortable satisfaction" standard is:

I take it to be that the finder of fact does not need to be sure or satisfied beyond reasonable doubt but it is not sufficient if his mind is swayed only to the extent of the balance of probability, in other words, to the comfortable satisfaction of the person hearing the matter. I am also satisfied that the more serious the allegation made against a player or official, the more improbable the event so the evidence must be stronger to establish it. In this case, with a Level 3.3 offence alleging a racist comment, the allegation is clearly of a very serious nature. In such a case it requires strong evidence to establish it. For the reasons that follow it is tantamount to the criminal standard.

I could go on (and on) about this but won't; though I recommend that, if you're in the slightest degree interested in the matter, you read the entire 22 page decision.

Needless to say, elsewhere there's been plenty of comment: even the Governor-General has stated his views.

For a survey of the controversy since it began 27 days ago see .

For a sample of Indian media perspectives see
Hindustan Times and The Hindu : "Indian cricket may pat itself on the back for winning this final encounter following a four-Test series in which it played splendid cricket to challenge the hegemony of cricket’s superpower, Australia. What was indefensible, from the standpoint of the spirit of cricket, was the BCCI’s unsporting tactics to pre-empt due process and the threats or implied threats to call off the tour. By behaving very much like cricket’s bullying financial superpower, it has lost goodwill round the cricket world. "

For Australian comment see The Age, which has a link to video and stump microphone audio of the incident as well as a conciliatory piece by Harsha Bogle, and various items in The Australian.

Monday, January 28, 2008

No unexpected turns (or turn) as match peters out: Fourth Test Day 5

India 526 and 7/269 dec (V Sehwag 151) drew with Australia 563.

As expected, if not as hoped, the fourth Test fizzled out in a draw today, after Virender Sehwag, having been dropped by Michael Clarke yesterday evening, played an innings of 151 which took India to safety and allowed them to declare at 7/269 late in the day. At this point both captains agreed that the match should end. .

Sehwag's innings followed an extraordinary course: his first 50 took 78b, the second 45b and the third, just when he seemed about to go into orbit, a tortoise like 105b. It goes without saying that without his contribution (the next highest scorers were Extras 26 and M S Dhoni 20) his team would have been in dire straits.

The Australian bowling was patchy: Brett Lee once again was very good (and showed great stamina), Mitchell Johnson had his moments, but the others varied from bland (Stuart Clark: match figures 0/129) to expensive (Brad Hogg: match figures 2/172). I thought that Michael Clarke deserved more than one over, especially if, as looks increasingly likely in the absence of a quality front line spinner, he and Andrew Symonds are going to have do more bowling in future.

So Australia retain the Border - Gavaskar Trophy 2 - 1, yet the results of the last two Tests (some India supporters might claim the last three) show that the gap between the teams has narrowed, perhaps even closed.
I'll post more thoughts about this soon.


Cricinfo Bulletin

PS A fresh hearing of the Harbhajan Singh matter will begin in Adelaide tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Australia draw ahead but draw ahead after gritty day at the workplace: Fourth Test Day 4

India 526 and 1/45 lead Australia 563 ( R Ponting 140, M Clarke 118, M Hayden 103, I Pathan 3/112, I Sharma 3/115) by 8 runs with 9 wickets in hand.

After a couple of spectator intrusions onto the arena during the afternoon, the ground PA announcer asked everyone to respect the players' workplace. This is the first time I can recall hearing that term used during a game, though it was an apt description of the Adelaide Oval for much of the day's play, during which Australia moved from 3/322, losing only 6 wickets in overtaking India's first innings score, then to 563 all out.

241 from 70 overs was hardly scintillating cricket yet this included two workmanplace like centuries from Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. The is not intended to be too critical, merely to suggest that both Ponting and Clarke have batted better and more fluently. The captain had back trouble and needed a runner for the latter part of his innings, yet it was clear from his onfield workplace demeanour that he had some points to prove, not least that he had mastered Harbhajan Singh. His hundredth run came up, by his design I'm sure, with a single off Bhajji's bowling. He then continued to 140 from 266 b, surely one of the slowest innings he's played in any form of cricket.

Clarke looked more fluent, yet he had his quiet passages and the scoring rate of his 118/242b was a tad slower than his captain's.

Everyone present looked forward to Adam Gilchrist's innings. As you'd expect he was given a standing ovation when he appeared at 6/490 He hit one 4, a straight drive which had Umpire Bowden ducking for cover, and seemed
set to produce more when at 506 he was caught by Sehwag at cover off Irfan Pathan, for 14/18b. made in 19 minutes. He departed to another standing ovation.

At 6/506 Australia were close to overhauling India's first innings. They did so wiithout further loss: just. The 7th wicket fell at 527 and the rest didn't last long.

Of the the Indian bowlers though Ishant Sharma (40-6-115-3) was consistently good until he lost his rhythm in the later stages of the innings and Verinder Sehwag ((19-2-51-2) extracted more zip from the pitch than his fellow, and supposedly more proficient, offspinner Harhajan.

Irfan Pathan also had his moments during the 36 overs he bowled (for 3/112) but he still opened the batting in the second innings. It was hardly surprising that he didn't stay long: lbw Johnson 0. Sehwag and Rahul Dravid played out the 17 overs to stumps, watching the quick bowlers carefully. Sehwag was given a life by Michael Clarke in the slips off Brett Lee but took 20 from the three overs bowled by Andrew Symonds.

With one day's play, ie 90 overs, remaining the game looks set for a draw. There is little in the wicket or the course of the match so far to suggest that it will end otherwise, though if the Australian attack could, with support from the fielders, work through the formidable Indian batting line up, an Australian win may not be out of the question. It's hard to see how India can win from here: they would need to pile on the runs, declare and bowl Australia out. Unlikely in 90 (or considerably more) overs.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Adam Gilchrist announces retirement

Adam Gilchrist, IMO one of the greatest ever Australian cricketers, today announced his retirement from international and domestic first class and limited overs cricket. The current Test will be his last and he will step down from 50 over cricket at the end of the forthcoming tri-series.

Whatever his reasons I think it's a pity that he feels the need to retire now, when he is still such a capable player, even if he has recently fallen a little short of the extremely high standards of wicket keeping and batting which he has set.

I shall have more to say later but in the meantime will enjoy the few remaining times I'll be able to watch him, either in person (as in the current Test) or on TV.

A hard day's grind: Fourth Test Day 3

Australia 3/322 (M Hayden 103, R Ponting 79 no, P Jaques 60, M Clarke 37 no) trail India 526 by 204 runs on the first innings.

Today is both Australia Day and India's Republic Day, so play in the test match was preceded by a lengthy ceremony which included the singing of both countries' national anthems.

Then the battle on the pitch recommenced. Australia grafted throughout the day, losing only three wickets to an Indian attack which was steady without, apart from a few spells, being menacing.

In the first session, during which 30 overs were bowled, in spite of the mid 30s heat and two drinks breaks, Matthew Hayden and Phil Jaques advanced the score from 62 to 158. Spinners kept one, and sometimes both, ends going. Harbhajan Singh began at the southern end, while Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar each had a turn (Kumble's being by far the longer) before lunch. R P Singh was still sidelined with hamstring problems so the quick bowling was left in the hands of Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan, each of whom occasionally got one past the edge of the bat but didn't cause either batter much trouble.

Immediately after lunch Kumble broke through, bowling Jaques for a solid 60/159b. Enter Ricky Ponting, who dug in for the rest of day. I can only recall two of his trademark pulls to the leg boundary, but his determination was obvious.

Hayden completed an excellent, if by his standards relatively subdued, hundred: his 30th in test cricket. Shortly after doing so he was bowled through the gate by an excellent Sharma ball which came in the middle of a 9 -2 - 10 -1 spell for 103/200b (10x4, 1x6).

The occasional ball kept low or, when bowled by a spinner, bounced, which may have put some doubts into the batsmen's minds and, coupled with the tight bowling, pegged the scoring rate back to pre-1990s levels. Even so, only one more wicket fell for the rest of the day. Mike Hussey looked ill at ease by his standards, but he seemed to be finding his feet when he was bowled by Irfan Pathan for a laboured 22/66b.

At this point Australia were 3/241. Michael Clarke joined Ponting and took a while to settle in, but by the close of play was looking more assured. The captain, despite his doggedness showed a greater willingness to play strokes in the final overs, when the new ball was at last taken after 107 overs. At stumps he was 79 no/150b and looks set to continue tomorrow, when spectators will hope for a more positive approach as the follow on is passed and the Indian bowling tires.

While there are some parallels with the Second Ashes Test played here in 2006 it is IMO too much to expect a similar result this time. Both sides in the current match have strong batting but bowling which appears to lack the penetration required to dismiss the opposition in two or three sessions. This means that the draw is looking as the likeliest result, but then I thought that about the Ashes Test until some time into the final day.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lower order batting takes India to strong position: Fourth Test Day 2

Australia 0/62 trails India 526 (S Tendulkar 153, A Kumble 87, Harbhajan Singh 63, V Sehwag 63, VVS Laxman 51, M Johnson 4/126, B Lee 3/101 by 464 runs with 10 wickets in hand.

The photo on the left shows Australia, with field scattered to all points of the field, on the defensive against some obdurate Indian lower order batting which took the total to a healthy 526. The one on the right shows the Indian field crowding the Australian openers in the closing overs of another good, though not quite vintage, day of Test cricket.

Those who came to see Sachin Tendulkar add to his overnight 124 saw enough of him, as he added a further 31 runs in his typical style, to be able to tell their grandchildren that they'd seen the little master at his best. Even so, while these 31 runs helped take the total to 359, when he was struck by a blow on the knee from a Brett Lee delivery. After a few minutes a few minutes of on field treatment he lofted Lee's next ball high to Brad Hogg at backward square leg, who, after a moment's uncertainty, held the catch. Tendulkar's 153 in 205b (13x4, 3x 6) was an undoubted masterpiece, yet while it was not as many as I thought he needed to make to give his team the whip hand, he was primarily responsible for putting it in a reasonable position, and one which could be augmented to perhaps 400 or so by some sensible tail end batting.

As it happened Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh added 107 for the eighth wicket with a combination of stout defence, hard hitting and some high quality stroke play. The Australian bowlers could not extract much life from the pitch. At times they compelled respect, at others they were wayward: at one stage Mitchell Johnson conceded 32 from 4 overs before recovering to bowl two consecutive maidens. The fielding didn't help either as the first day's butterfingers virus spread to other team members.

Harbhajan was eventually caught by Adam Gilchrist running to square leg to hold a miscued pull off Andrew Symonds (who, for some unexplained reason, didn't bowl yesterday) for 63 / 103b (7x4). R P Singh went for a duck but Ishant Sharma stayed with Kumble to make 14 not out of a 58 partnership for the last wicket which last long enough to require the tea break to be postponed for half an hour. The tea interval had to be taken at 9/525 with Kumble on 86, and no doubt thinking about a century.

That wasn't to be, as he added only one more run after the resumption before he was caught behind off Johnson, which put Gilchrist ahead of South Africa's Mark Boucher as the holder of the record for the most dismissals by a keeper in Tests. Kumble's 87 took him 205 balls to compile, and included 9 fours. He was dropped once, at short leg from the ball immediately following Tendulkar's dismissal, when he was 7 but after that showed, before he tired in the 34 degree heat, that in the later part of his Test career he can claim to be a genuine all rounder whose batting ability opposing teams should not underrate.

526 was a good score, not least because it didn't look likely for large parts of the Indian innings. It was the post-Tendulkar 8th and 10th wicket partnerships, of 107 and 58 respectively, which gave India the ascendancy over Australia.

By the close the play that ascendancy remained, though the manner in which
Matthew Hayden and Phil Jaques added 62 without being parted (or really ever looking like being parted) suggested that they will be able to lead a good Australian response. Whether this will eventuate, and if it does whether it will be sufficient to gain a first innings lead, will be decided over the next day or so. The weather forecast is good from a cricketing point of view (30 deg+ with no rain expected ) and for the moment the wicket is still playing well but things can change direction, as some recent Adelaide Tests remind us, quite suddenly.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tendulkar's class keeps India in game: Fourth Test Day 1

India 5/309 (S Tendulkar 124 no, V Sehwag 63, VVS Laxman 51) v Australia.

Test cricket returned to the Adelaide Oval today to what used to be its traditional place in the cricket calendar: around Australia Day.

A crowd of just under 20,000 turned up to watch an intriguing day's play which was shortened not, as seemed likely when it rained overnight and early this morning, by the weather but by the slow Australian over rate. Only 86 of the scheduled 90 overs were bowled in the six and a half hours which are nowadays allowed to complete a notional six hour day.

Both teams made changes. Australia's were predictable: Matthew Hayden, recovered from injury, for Chris Rogers and Brad Hogg for Shaun Tait. India raised some eyebrows by restoring Harbhajan Singh at the expense of Wasim Jaffer: the opening batting vacancy was filled not by Rahul Dravid but by Irfan Pathan, who looks like being the first test player for a long time to open both batting and bowling.

India won the toss and chose to bat in bright sunshine: the temperature hovered in the high 20s for most of the day and there was a breeze which varied from north-westerly to south-westerly.

Virender Sehwag got off to a cracking start, despite occasionally playing and missing: the photo on the left is of the second ball of the day's play. For the first 45 minutes or so the scoring rate kept pace with the clock, despite the loss of Pathan, who didn't look comfortable, at 34. Thereafter until lunch the Australian pace bowlers kept a pretty tight rein on the innings: Mitchell Johnson picked up his second wicket, Dravid caught in the slips, and at lunch the Australians would have been satisfied with 2/89 from 26 overs.

In the second session Sachin Tendulkar began to assert himself. Three fours in an over from Johnson, all along the ground and each to a different quarter of the oval looked ominous but then a couple of wickets (Sehwag caught at slip off Brett Lee for 63/90b and Saurav Ganguly lbw to Hogg for 7) fell leaving India a below par and, were it not for the presence of Tendulkar and VVS Laxman at the crease, precarious 4/156.

At tea the score had reached 187 from 53 overs without further loss. Both batsmen looked comfortable and often exceedingly so, against the Australian spin attack of Hogg and Michael Clarke. But Lee rose to the occasion and pegged both Tendulkar and Laxman back, even though they brought up their century partnership in 159 balls, and Tendulkar reached his century (see the photo on the right above) in 133 b (9x4, 3x6).

Lee should have had Laxman caught behind for 37 but Adam Gilchrist fluffed a straightforward catch to his right. Fortunately for Australia the lapse was not too costly as Gilchrist caught Laxman off a much simpler catch from Lee's bowling for 51.

5/282 still didn't look enough but Tendulkar remained in command, despite easing off a little in the overs before stumps; M S Dhoni supported him with a stubborn and uncharacteristically dour 6 no/ 54b. Australia should have had Dhoni but Hayden, in another senior player's moment, grassed a standard slip catch.

Australia took the second new ball in the last over. Oddly enough, given that today he had the lightest workload of the four frontline Australian bowlers, Stuart Clark was given first and, as it turned out even though he ran (yes, ran) back to his mark to try and make time for another over, the only over with it. So the day finished at 5/309 with only three innings of any size, and a substantial number - 31 - of "sundries", as the classic Adelaide Oval scoreboard calls extras.

Lee, who bowled 22 overs, and Johnson, who bowled 25, were the backbone of the attack.

I've heard some commentators award the day to India.
I wouldn't go that far but will sit on the fence for now. Before the start of play I thought that India needed to score at least 450 to be competitive. If they are to do so Tendulkar will need to continue in today's vein of watchful defence mixed with occasional aggression and receive some support from the tail.

What everyone who was at the ground today will agree is that Tendulkar's innings was memorable. What those who attend tomorrow (and there should be more than today) will hope is that he adds to his total and demonstrates more of the masterly strokeplay we were privileged to see today. Even if he doesn't do so there should be plenty of other things to sustain the interest of cricket followers.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

PS A word of praise for Umpire Bowden who today showed considerable restraint in his on field demeanour. He signalled three sixes without the ostentatious waving of arms and legs we've come to associate with him, though you could see vestiges of his repressed flamboyance in some of his signals for four and leg byes. I'm happy to allow him those signs of individuality.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fourth Test preview

Tomorrow the Fourth and final Test of a contentious but, latterly at least, tightly contested series begins here in Adelaide.

India's victory in Perth has put the Australians, metaphorically speaking, on the back foot but whether Matthew Hayden's foreshadowed return and Ricky Ponting's modest form improvement will continue and be enough to reverse the result are but a couple of several interesting questions which I expect will be answered over the next few days.

For example:
  • Who will play for India? There's talk of them fielding five front line bowlers (ie bringing Harbhajan Singh back, but at whose expense isn't clear)
  • Who will play for Australia? Hayden is likely to come back for Chris Rogers; IMO Brad Hogg should replace Shaun Tait even though neither has been very penetrative to date.
  • Will the weather have any impact? Rain is forecast for some of the time, but how much is open to question. Protracted rain delays will increase the likelihood of a draw.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

India win (quite) comfortably:Third Test Day 4

India 330 and 294 defeated Australia 212 and 340 (M Clarke 81, M Johnson 50*, I Pathan 3-54) by 72 runs with a day to spare.

India eventually won, though by a smaller margin than, when Ricky Ponting was dismissed by Ishant Sharma for 45 at 3/117,
seemed likely.

Michael Clarke's 81/134b was the most productive innings, but when he was eighth out at 253 the game was effectively over. Except that Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark thought otherwise. They added 73 in 78b and put the wind up the Indians before their Mr Fixit Irfan Pathan (why didn't he play the first two tests?) removed Clark. Shaun Tait, who has never played in a winning Australian team and, it has to be said, didn't contribute much in this game, followed soon after leaving Johnson 50 no/80b (5x4, 2x6).

India deserved to win. They did so because they had fewer passengers than in the first two tests. I wonder what would have happened had Pathan and Virender Sehwag (two useful innings and a brace of second innings wickets) played then. While his figures suggest that Ishant Sharma has done little on the ground he's troubled most of the Australian top order batsmen. Perhaps a better return is just around the corner.

At least the Adelaide Test will not be bereft of interest.

Cricinfo Bulletin.

India maintain ascendancy thanks to Laxman and Pathan: Third Test Day 3

India 330 and 294 (VVS Laxman 79, S Clark 4/61, B Lee 3 /54); Australia 212 and 2/65 . Australia need 347 more runs with 8 wickets in hand.

Normally a scorecard showing Rahul Dravid 3, Sachin Tendulkar 13, and Sourav Ganguly 0 in the same innings would presage an Indian defeat. But in this situation the team, thanks to its healthy first innings lead, had a margin of safety. Its fourth great batsman, VVS Laxman with a doughty 79/ 156b and support from nightwatchman Irfan Pathan 46/64b and a restrained M S Dhoni 38/87b set Australia a seemingly unachievable 413, of which they'd knocked off 65 for the loss of 2 wickets by stumps.

The Australian bowling was uneven in quality: Stuart Clark was at his accurate best and Brett Lee consistently hostile, but when they were away from the bowling crease (as they were for some time while the part-time spinners tried to improve the very sluggish over rate) the pressure on India was reduced.

It goes without saying that if Australia are to win, and only their track record over the last few years makes it feasible to contemplate, then at least two players will need to play large innings. Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey,
despite their recent relatively modest form, must perform otherwise the psychological effect of wickets lost will kick in. But another 347 runs....? Unlikely, but not impossible.

Cricinfo Bulletin.

Friday, January 18, 2008

India and Perth turn up heat: Third Test Day 2

India 330 ( M Johnson 4/86) and 1/52; Australia 212 (A Symonds 66, A Gilchrist 55, R P Singh 4/68).

After Australia didn't take too long to clean up the Indian tail the Indian attack, led by the restored Irfan Pathan and the tenacious RP Singh, brought Australia to its knees at 3/14 (including Michael Hussey's first Test duck) and then Ishant Sharma struck twice: 4/43 (Ricky Ponting 20) and 5/61 (Michael Clarke 23).

Andrew Symonds (66/70b, 7x4, 1x6) and Adam Gilchrist (55/61b, 9x4) added 102 in their characteristic styles. But nobody else stayed long and 212 all out gave India a substantial lead which they extended to 170 with 9 wickets in hand by stumps.

India played extremely well in the heat and ought, repeat ought, to be able to win from here.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fortunes fluctuate: Day 1 Third Test

India 6/297 (R Dravid 93, S Tendulkar 71) v Australia

The class and determination of Rahul Dravid (93/183b) and Sachin Tendulkar (71/128 b) put India in a good position before Australia struck back with the late wickets of Dravid and VVS Laxman (27/56b) to leave the match evenly poised.

It's early days but if I had to call it I'd say that while India has the runs on the board Australia would probably be, given the trends of the first two tests, satisfied with the position.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Monday, January 14, 2008

Olive branch or plea bargain of sorts offered

Tonight comes news that India has withdrawn its charge against Brad Hogg.

Earlier today, in the column appearing under his name in The Australian with the headline "Team pledge to learn from past" Ricky Ponting fudged a bit but seemed, if not contrite, then a little more open than he'd been before to a broader view of the situation:

I have been surprised by the reaction of some in the broader community who believe we did not play that amazing Sydney Test in the spirit of the game.

We take the spirit of cricket very seriously and are determined to ensure we are not only remembered as a good team but one that is respected throughout the cricket world for the way we play.

That is why I led a meeting this afternoon of our team and other cricket officials, where we revisited our spirit of cricket pledge.

We looked back at last week's game and discussed little areas where we believed we could improve things.

No-one is beyond criticism or bigger than the game.

Life's all about learning little things day by day, and it's no different playing in a successful cricket team.

You always find little ways of improving yourself.

I know, and the players know, that we are not going to keep everyone happy 100 per cent of the time.

I am always happy to cop that sort of criticism and go away and find ways and means of how we can make things better, as we all are. We are certainly not brushing off the criticism because if there is a public reaction like there has been; there are some areas we need to improve.

I know when I was given out in the first innings in Sydney I should have left straight away instead of hanging around for a few seconds, and I know I should not have lobbed my bat into the dressing room.

Michael Clarke also knows that he should have gone straight away too, after cutting the ball to first slip. He knows he did the wrong thing, but at the time he was just shocked at how he had got out first ball.

I believe there are no glaring issues we need to address, but when they are all added together in the heat of such a tense and dramatic final day, they caused a reaction, so we need to tighten up on how we play.

We are very keen to ensure we get the balance of how we play the game right so we can focus clearly on another very big match coming up, this time the third Test in Perth, with the possibility of a record 17th consecutive win if we're good enough in this game.

Elsewhere, while Sunil Gavaskar , chair of the ICC Cricket committee, has criticised Second Test match referee Mike Procter for "taking the white man's word against that of the brown man", Peter Roebuck hopes that "the peace pipes have been smoked in both camps" (in my western movie watching experience peace pipes were smoked in one camp, not two).

The Australian Open tennis started today, so that will deflect some of the attention away from cricket, at least in this country, for the next day or so before it's game on, or battle resumed, or whatever.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is paintball a sport? What about poker?

On Friday Crikey published a letter from Peter Holmes A'Court , co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team, in which he defended the club's decision to play a game in Florida.
In it he said, among other things :

Is there a place for Australian sports in the US? The age of the hegemony of the big four sports in the US (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) is clearly over. The fastest growing sports today are soccer, arena football, various forms of dirt bike riding, paint ball and poker. Lacross [sic], previously considered a preppy past time [sic] now has a professional league. A rugby union tournament recently drew 50,000 spectators, and its [sic] a country where more people play rugby union than play it in Australia by some enormous factor.

I'd like to know how Mr Holmes A'Court and his business partner Russell Crowe define "sport" (or "sports" as the Americans and some Australians, including Mr H A'C, call it - or them) .
The "big four" he mentions (if I've interpreted the acronyms correctly) are all professional games played in arenas in front of spectators, and nowadays often broadcast by radio, television or online. There is no question that rugby league is a sport, and most people would probably agree that some contests between individuals, eg athletics, tennis, and others between animals ridden by humans, would also come within the "sport" classification because they require the exercise of considerable athletic skill by their human participants.

Is paintball a sport? I don't think so, but then , to my surprise, I've found the National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) website, which suggests that it is. OK, I'll concede that one.

What about poker? If it is, and it certainly has many of the indicia of a sport, eg it requires skill (albeit not of an athletic kind), is played by professionals, and enjoys considerable media coverage then shouldn't all card games, eg bridge, be so classified?

I have a problem with games which require a high level of skill but little physical exertion, eg card games, chess, being classified as sports. It looks as if I'm fighting a losing battle though and that Mr Holmes A'Court and his like will have their way.

Update 14 January

Is darts a sport? asks Patrick West at Spiked

No, he answers, " it is not a sport. It is only a game - but an excellent game, nevertheless. Even better than Trivial Pursuit and Connect Four."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What would Doug Walters think?

In his latest column in The Times Shane Warne acknowledges that there have been rumours about his position with Hampshire in 2008. "At the moment" he says, oblivious to the irony of using the same phrase which the Indian team management is using as a Damoclean sword over the ICC, "I am committed to coming back this season. I am in constant touch with Rod Bransgrove, our chairman, and needless to say, I would love to lift the championship in September."

But "There is a deal in the pipeline with a poker company that will involve playing in certain events through the year. I can fit what I do around the cricket. The World Series takes place in Las Vegas at the same time as the Twenty20 Cup. I definitely want to go to Las Vegas and I have not played Twenty20 for the past few seasons. It has always come at an ideal time to take a break. I am 38 and, after 20 or so years in the game, I need a rest at some point during a six-month campaign."

If he's spurning the Twenty20 comp because he believes it's Mickey Mouse, that's fine, but then might you not expect a county captain to be supporting, even if he's not actually playing for, his team in all forms of the game? Didn't he say something the other day how how captains were much more important than coaches? (He certainly was reported as saying that Ricky Ponting's "man management skills are good" and that Anil Kumble is "one of the gentlemen of the game")

And hasn't there been talk of him signing up for the ICL T20 competition (or is he waiting for them to change the rules so that he only has to bowl, and not field?).

Years ago Doug Walters was renowned as a dressing room card player. I'm sure he didn't interrupt his cricket season to play cards. He saw the two activities as mutually compatible. Of course Dougie was, like Warne is, a confirmed smoker and drinker, but in his playing days he (at least as far as we know) kept his priorities in the right order. Or am I being too hard on the great leggie in the twilight of his career? He does have the right to make (or lose) a buck as he pleases, whether by playing cricket, playing poker or advertising beer.

Quieter day on the Bollyline front

In the last few days "Bollyline" has become a popular media tag (perhaps more so outside Australia) to describe the current situation. It's got a nice ring to it, but I'm not sure whether the jaunty, lavishly choreographed, happy ending style of Bollywood movies is apposite.

Perhaps at the moment we are only in the intermission, another defining characteristic of most Bollywood movies, as we await the next steps, most of which will be attempts to resolve the issues which have arisen in the last week (has it all really happened in such a short time ?).

Only The Advertiser of the papers I've looked at today (the others are The Australian and The Age) has a big front page splash "Ponting: we're not arrogant or cocky", which is watered down on the Adelaide Now website to "Ricky Ponting denies his team arrogant, big-headed".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Passions cool... for the moment

Cricket was still on the front pages today: "Spoilsports leave Test tour up in the air" was TheAustralian's (inaccurate by this morning) front page headline, accompanied by photos of Bhajji on the beach at Bondi and Brett Lee filming a Bollywood movie at the SCG , together with another review of the situation by Peter Lalor .

The Advertiser reached for the big fonts for its headline: "India gets ump fired", while The Age's was longer, but said essentially the same thing: "Howzat? Bucknor gets his marching orders as cricket's bosses try to appease angry India."

The Age did print some pieces which provided more food for thought (what a banquet we've had this week): "Cricket's racism bogy" Waleed Aly,(which includes the Spooner cartoon I mentioned in another post) and "Without grace, winning is nothing" by Philip Pond "a British expatriate living in Melbourne", which reads like a Private Eye Rev J C Flannel parody.

Peter Roebuck has been put back from page 1 into his kennel on the sports pages with a more even handed piece ("Australians not the only ones with issues here") than yesterday's, which elicited a stern rejoinder ("Indians find support in Pommy critique") from The Australian's
New Delhi correspondent Bruce Loudon. The Age's man in New Delhi Matt Wade ("A nation's wrath over honour slighted") reports on how he was hung out to dry as the token Australian on a TV panel discussion program.

The Australian has a photo gallery of some t-shirts on sale in India (with the option to switch off the captions) .

One for the road: after all the carrying on (and the opportunity for the Indians to spend more time in Sydney) the team bus was apparently involved in a minor accident, though the Indian media manager has denied that this happened. Hmm.

Australian media on back foot with online polls

In today's Crikey Thomas Hunter asks "Australian Test team: do we really hate them?" and claims, on the basis of online polls conducted by The Age, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, Today Tonight and Fox Sports, that the Australian cricket team is on the nose.

Some commenters have pointed out that such polls are statistically dodgy. OK, but why are they so common nowadays?

Others say that people from overseas (code for Indian diaspora) can vote and thus skew the results. If so, why don't the pollsters break down the responses according to country of origin?

IMO a problem with polls (online or other) is their wording. Adelaide Now (aka The Advertiser online) ran one recently, posing the question: "Do the Australian cricketers play within the spirit of the game?".

The results are published in today's Advertiser (p79)
  • Yes, they always do: 288 votes (12%)
  • Yes, but in the heat of battle things aren't always clear; 464 votes (19%)
  • No, they'll do anything to win: 1500 votes (63%)
  • No, in the professional era there is no such thing: 128 votes (5%)
Dan Lato , the blogger/ columnist, comments (in print at p79, but not online):

This week Adelaide Now 's coverage of the aftermath of the Sydney Test has gone global as is obvious by the poll we ran this week. Indians are passionate about their cricket and the stirring online defence of their team is testament to the devotion they have to Indian players.

Questions for Mr Lato: (1) how many Indians voted in the poll, (2) how does he know?, and (3) if he does know why doesn't he come out and produce the figures?

Revised rules?

New rules proposed by an Indian blogger with, I think, tongue in cheek, though I'm not so sure about some of them, eg

(5) All AUSTRALIAN players are eligible to keep commenting about all players on the field and the OPPONENT TEAM should never comment as they will be spoiling the spirit of the AUSTRALIAN team. Any comments made in any other language are to be considered as RACIALISM only.

(6) MATCH REFREE decisions will be taken purely on the AUSTRALIAN TEAM advices only. Player views from the other teams decisions will not be considered for hearing. MATCH REFREES are to be given huge bonus if this rule is implemented.

(7) NO VISITING TEAM should plan to win in AUSTRALIA. This is to ensure that the sportive spirit of CRICKET is maintained.

Update later 9 January

In today's Age there's a Spooner cartoon (p13, though not online as far as I can tell) showing an Australian batsman grovelling before a weeping Indian player, with this text:

Kindness before cricket (An official amendment to the spirit of the game)

Section (axi): Whenever a team perceives that losing a match has caused or may be likely to cause, incredibly awful rage or horrible disappointment, then the match referee must instruct the insensitive winning team to forthwith surrender its advantage so as to accord the persecuted losing team a full victory and, where appropriate, an abject apology.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bucknor defelicitated, and tour expected to continue

In March 2005 umpire Steve Bucknor was, as The Hindu reported at the time,

felicitated by the BCCI for becoming the world's first umpire to stand in hundred Tests on Wednesday.

Cricket Association of Bengal President and former BCCI Chief Jagmohan Dalmiya handed over a plaque to Bucknor shortly before the start of the opening day's play of the second cricket Test match at the Eden Gardens.

Dalmiya was accompanied by BCCI Joint Secretary Goutam Dasgupta during the brief function. Around 30,000 spectators broke into spontaneous applause as Bucknor raised the silver plaque in acknowledgment.

Today probably millions of Indian cricket followers will be applauding the news that the same umpire Bucknor has been defelicitated, ie removed from the umpiring panel for the Perth Test. His replacement is Billy Bowden, he of the flamboyant mannerisms , who a couple of years ago was rated the second worst umpire in the world". In Billy's defence he has claimed assistance from a higher power in his decision making ("God- is my third umpire in a way"). We must hope that God has access to good slo-mo replays from many angles, Hawkeye, Snicko et al, otherwise further controversy will almost certainly ensue.

As a consequence of Mr Bucknor's defelicitation it is now likely that the tour will go ahead.

Other news

Before tonight's news broke, media scrutiny of the situation had intensified following the statement issued by the Board of Control for Cricket in India

The Board of Control for Cricket in India has viewed the happenings during the second cricket Test between India and Australia in Sydney with great concern as some of these can have a far-reaching impact on international cricket.

Some of incidents are highly regrettable considering the warm and friendly relations between the Indian and Australian cricket boards.

The incident involving Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds and the subsequent hearing by the ICC match referee and his conclusions are, to say the least, distressing.

The Indian board does not accept the findings of the match referee and has decided to challenge the unfair decision to suspend Harbhajan Singh as it deems it patently unfair.

The board will appeal to the International Cricket Council to review the decision of the match referee and suspend its operation till the appeal is disposed of.

The Indian board realises the game of cricket is paramount but so too is the honour of the Indian team and for that matter every Indian.

To vindicate its position, the board will fight the blatantly false and unfair slur on an Indian player.

The board also questions the very conduct of the hearing as the match referee, before reaching his decision disregarded the essential point of any inquiry, that it should be based on facts, rational, detached and objective.

The board, in particular, is unhappy with the charge of racial slur against India's off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.

Here it may be mentioned that it is an avowed policy of the Indian government to fight racial discrimination at every level and the India board has been at the forefront to eradicate it from the game of cricket.

For the Indian board anti-racial stance is an article of faith as it is for the entire nation which fought the apartheid policies.

The board has always fought the racist sledging of players and spectators and it will continue to do so.

Here in Australia a large proportion, perhaps a majority, of the public and, in the media, Peter Roebuck in The Age and, to a lesser degree, Mike Coward in The Australian expressed similar sentiments. Roebuck didn't mince his words (though IMO went too far) :

Ricky Ponting must be sacked as captain of the Australian cricket team.

If Cricket Australia cares a fig for the tattered reputation of our national team in our national sport, it will not for a moment longer tolerate the sort of arrogant and abrasive conduct seen from the captain and his senior players in the past few days. It was the ugliest performance by an Australian side for 20 years. The only surprising part of it is that the Indians have not already packed and gone home.

That the senior players in the Australian team are oblivious to the fury they raised among many followers of the game in this country and beyond its shores merely confirms their own narrow and self-obsessed viewpoint.

Coward was more restrained, but still made his point forcefully:

Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble's denunciation of the way Australia plays cricket will be widely supported throughout the international cricket community.

The Australian cricket team has been accused of boorish behaviour.

By so publicly questioning the manner in which the Australian cricket team plays he is expressing a view held by many people in this country and many more beyond the Indian diaspora...For someone renowned for his thoughtful and measured approach to matters on and off the field, his statement was a damning condemnation of the operational methods of the most powerful and successful cricket team in the world


With the full support of the team management, his employer, the Board of Control for Cricket in India and, unquestionably, a partisan and ropeable Indian media, Kumble has loudly questioned the ethics of the Australian team.

As a counterweight to these views each paper published alternative (or pro- Australian) views, viz "If petulance has no place at junior level, it has no place at all in Tests" by Greg Baum in The Age, and Malcolm Conn in The Australian "Calls for Ponting's head ludicrous" .

Ponting himself in his column in The Australian says " I was doing the right thing by the game".
The views of Indian newspapers are outlined in The Australian, The Age and the London Daily Telegraph (whose story includes an interesting photo of the front pages of several Indian English language newspapers).

The Telegraph also has a background piece about sledging by Leo McKinstrywhich includes a couple of good (perhaps apocryphal) anecdotes about Australian sledging in the distant past (ie in the early days of my interest in cricket).

To finish on a lighter note, The Hindu reports that the Indian lawyers team have just won the Lawyers' cricket world cup. Perhaps their legal skills will be called upon to help the BCCI with its appeal against the Harbhajan Singh ban.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Threats and recriminations abound in wake of Test

Harbhajan Singh's three match ban for making a racist comment has added to the bad blood resulting from the circumstances in which Australia won the Second Test, and the manner in which they celebrated their victory.

Yesterday I said that Anil Kumble and the Indian players had accepted their defeat gracefully. This was true only of the immediate aftermath of the game. The Indian media, as I mentioned yesterday, have led (or reflected) public opinion in their country to excoriate the umpires for incompetence (or worse), the Australians for cheating (or worse) and the ICC match referee Mike Procter for various things including buckling under the demands of the Australians.

In Australia there is, as exemplified by online polls and suchlike, a broader range of opinion with many, to their credit, prepared to criticise aspects of the conduct of Australian players.

At the moment there is some doubt as to whether the tour will continue. My guess is that it will: there is a sufficiently long break in the program to allow for some repair work, if only papering over a few cracks, to be done before the Perth Test begins on 16 January. How, and by whom this might be done I'm not sure, but reckon that the ICC needs to get involved pronto with the peak governing bodies of Australia and India.

Things are unfolding (not I hope unravelling) rapidly so for now I'll just link to some comments:

#Peter Roebuck in The Age
today "Rotten from first day to the last", which begins :

India has been dudded. No-one with the slightest enthusiasm for cricket will take the least satisfaction from the victory secured by the local team in an SCG Test match that entertained spectators at the ground, provided some excellent batting but left a sour taste in the mouth. It was a match that will have been relished only by rabid nationalists and others for whom victory and vengeance are the sole reasons for playing sport. Truth to tell the last day was as bad as the first. It was a rotten contest that singularly failed to elevate the spirit.

# Peter Lalor in The Australian's "A win, a hangover and a sense of dread" (with 212 comments as I post).

# ABC TV's 7.30 Report: including comments from

-Gideon Haigh:
"It's a shame that Australians, in the way that they play the game, aren't actually doing themselves many favours at the moment... someone calling someone else on the cricketing field a monkey that's like someone saying squashing an ant is murder. The confrontation on the field was extremely unedifying and I'm sick and tired of these kind of contrived aggressive, overbearing tactics from both sides.

- Malcolm Conn: the Australians are" not a bunch of cheats and anyone who calls them a bunch of cheats I think should really have a good think about what's considered cheating and what's not"

- Harsha Bogle, "
The moment you say, "Take my word for it", you're committing yourself to being honest in every sphere. Then you cannot say that I will appeal when a batsman is not out, but you take my word when I've taken a catch. See, you cannot be selectively moral."

The ABC's Jim Maxwell also appeared:

HEATHER EWART: Finally, who's right and who's wrong here in your view?

JIM MAXWELL: Well, there's always the grey area. The umpires are certainly in the wrong and they're the ones in the middle that may have caused a lot of the trouble. The players do need to understand that there are certain limits and they need to play within those. Almost everything they do on the field is going to be scrutinised. Unfortunately, it's the nature of the game with television getting in so close to it these days. But I just think they need to go a bit more quietly about what they're doing. Because the fact is Australia plays some of the best cricket of any team of all time. Just get on with playing the game and forget all the other nonsense, stop trying to bait people. If something goes wrong, deal it with it on the field, don't let it be carried on in another place because there'll be no end to it, as I say. The lawyers will love this.

R K Raghavan in The Hindu "Investigating cricket misconduct":

We initially believed that the controversy could hardly be resolved because it was a question of one man’s word against the other.

If Harbhajan’s conviction was based on the greater credibility of Symonds’s version of the incident, it is grossly unfair to him and a clear violation of the principles of natural justice, even conceding that Harbhajan was not facing a judicial enquiry.

#Cricinfo's The Surfer blog links to many other media comments from around the world.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Australia win aided by more doubful decisions: Second Test Day 5

Australia 463 and 7/401 dec (M Hussey 145 no, A Symonds 61, A Kumble 4/148) defeated India 532 and 210 (S Ganguly 51, Kumble 45 no, Symonds 3/51, M Clarke 3/5) by 122 runs.

Yes, Australia did play the better cricket over the five days of the game but they were fortunate to win (and by doing so to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy). Without several doubtful decisions by the umpires today it is more than likely that India would have hung on for another 7 deliveries for a draw.

The questionable decisions

In particular:

# Rahul Dravid was given out by umpire Bucknor c Gilchrist (why did he appeal so forcefully?) b Symonds for 38 when replays showed the ball passing clear of the bat.

Cricinfo described it thus:

Symonds to Dravid,
OUT, oh dear, looks like there's been another questionable decision there, Dravid given out caught behind when he padded up to it outside off, the bat behind his pad and nowhere near the ball.

Saurav Ganguly was adjudged by umpire Benson c Clarke b Lee 51.

Cricinfo described it
Clarke is adamant he caught the ball low in front of him at second slip though replays (as they often do in such situations) suggested a degree of uncertainty.

R P Singh adjudged by umpire Benson (without a second's hesitation) lbw Clarke 0 (first ball).

Singh's front pad was well down the wicket and the ball struck it above the roll so IMO it was a bold call to predict that it would "clip the top of the stumps", as the Cricinfo commentator, and presumably umpire Benson, thought. If anyone was out lbw it was Ishant Sharma next ball, but Mr Benson, perhaps contemplating the implications of a hat trick including two lbws granted by him, may have paused for a second's thought, by which time his self-imposed time frame for decision making had passed.

Of these three, the Dravid decision was by far the worst, partly because it was so blatantly wrong and partly because Dravid was batting solidly at the time.

These incidents are sure to redouble calls for greater use of technology. After today, I'm more inclined to support them.

The rest of the day's play

Mike Hussey and Andrew Symonds batted solidly and gradually increased the tempo, taking advantage of a widely scattered field, until Symonds was well caught by the - unusual for a wicketkeeper nowadays - capless M S Dhoni off R P Singh for 61/100b (7x4). Others sacrificed their wickets seeking quick runs before Ricky Ponting declared just before lunch.

I thought that the declaration may have been delayed too long to allow Australia a reasonable chance of bowling India out, but Wasim Jaffer's brief stay and lunch score of 1/6 would have given the bowlers heart.

After lunch Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and, to a lesser degree, Mitchell Johnson bowled well. Clark was typically himself and removed two of India's big four: VVS Laxman lbw and Sachin Tendulkar bowled off an inside edge. Johnson was unlucky not to snaffle Dravid caught at slip (dropped, not an umpiring mistake) but after Dravid was sent packing Yuvraj Singh, like Jaffer a fish out of water in this company, surrendered meekly.

At 5/115, and 6/137, when the pugnacious Ganguly fell for 51/56b, India could not have been too confident of saving the game, but skipper Kumble and the hitherto out of form Dhoni fought back. Dhoni was lbw to Symonds for 35. Harbhajan joined Kumble and, with the overs slipping away, looked to have saved the game. Then Ponting called upon Clarke's occasional left arm spin, Harbhajan edged him to slip. The rest is described above.

For all their disappointment India accepted their defeat with good public grace: Kumble, left high and dry on 45/111 b, led his team to congratulate the Australians on their record equalling 16 consecutive Test wins.

Now there's a 10 day break with only a scratch match scheduled. A wasted opportunity for the Indian fringe and out of form players to get some match practice before the Perth Test?


Cricinfo Bulletin

Update 6 January

The Hinduhas just posted a story headlined "India laid low by Bucknor-Benson duo".


A 'blind' Steve Bucknor and an equally erratic Mark Benson again did their bit to ensure that the second cricket Test between India and Australia would be remembered more for its long list of umpiring howlers than cricketing action.

If the opening day set the tone with three dubious decisions, the final day which saw India crashing to a shock 122-run defeat witnessed a number of horrendous decisions which proved costly for the visitors.

The series of blunders in this Test will further strengthen the demand for the use of technology to minimise human error.

Both the umpires knocked the life out of India's second innings resistance with two decisions and the visitors could not recover from the setbacks.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Storms in Sydney as rain and controversy deflect attention from Australian revival: Second Test Day 4

Australia 463 and 4/282 (M Hayden 123, M Hussey 87 no) lead India 532 by 213 runs with 6 wickets in hand.

On the field, Australia batted through a shortened day's play, losing 4 wickets while adding a further 269 runs in the 78 overs that rain and the umpires allowed. Off it, controversy over alleged racist remarks and continuing debate about the ethics of walking or otherwise occupied a lot of media and the the public's attention (for more examples see here and here).

Back to the match itself. Phil Jacques and Matthew Hayden rubbed out Australia's first innings
deficit and took the score to 85 before Jacques (42/82b) was caught in the outfield pulling Anil Kumble. Enter Ricky Ponting, who, on the cusp of the lunch interval, once again fell to Harbhajan Singh, who celebrated his success with a triumphalist gallop across the ground topped off with a double sideways roll.

At lunch Australia were 2/90: only 21 ahead. It was anyone's game.

Thereafter Hayden, batting with a runner (Ponting) and Mike Hussey reclaimed the initiative for Australia by judicious strokeplay, which over time wore down the Indians, especially Harbhajan who for several overs either side of lunch made the ball turn and bounce almost at will.

At 177, with Hayden 77 and Hussey 43, the rain returned. Sensibly the match schedule was rearranged, tea was taken and a final session of, notionally, almost 40 overs began soon after the rain stopped.

Hayden duly proceeded to his century, and Hussey to his 50 before the next interruption, at 213. When the 250 was posted Hayden attempted one more reverse sweep but was caught for a magnificent 123/196b (12x4). Michael Clarke was lbw first ball, leaving Andrew Symonds to avert the hat trick, which he did courtesy of umpire Bucknor, who turned down a very confident appeal for lbw (in Bucknor's defence, on this occasion, Hawkeye predicted that the ball would pass over the stumps).

With 7 overs still to be bowled the rain came back and the umpires called off play for the day, with Australia 213 in front: not enough to declare yet and, even allowing for some extra time to be played tomorrow, there's probably not enough time left to force a result. But then, the Adelaide Test in last summer's Ashes series looked dead in the water at the end of the penultimate day, and we all recall what happened on the last day then.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Friday, January 04, 2008

Game and series on at last as little big man stars: Second Test Day 3

Australia 463 and 0/13 trail India 532 (S Tendulkar 154 no, VVS Laxman 109, S Ganguly 67, Harbhajan Singh 63, B Lee 5/119) by 56 runs with 10 wickets in hand.

India exceeded my (and probably many other cricket followers's) expectations by batting through most of the third day. More to the point, they led Australia by 69 runs on the first innings thanks principally to the contributions of their big four: Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman yesterday, and Saurav Ganguly and the little big man Sachin Tendulkar today.

Today Ganguly led the way with an aggressive 67/78b (7x4, !x6) before holing out to midwicket off Brad Hogg. Tendulkar watched as Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni and Anil Kumble succumbed to Brett Lee's pace and persistence before Harbhajan Singh joined him to add 129 for the 8th wicket which put India's nose in front. R P Singh and Ishant Sharma turned the nose into a couple of lengths before Lee (32.2-5-119-5) ended the innings with a deserved fifth wicket.

Tendulkar was left unvanquished on 154/243b (14x4, 1x6). His was yet another top quality innings at the SCG (not that he's been a slouch elsewhere, but the Emerald City ground clearly brings out the best in him). It looked very good on TV, so good that I wished that I'd been there to watch his strokeplay from the perspective of a seat in the stands (the varied angles and multiple replays of television are fine to confirm one's first impressions but can't always convey the exciting immediacy of seeing good strokes played). Another good thing about Tendulkar was that he had enough faith in his lower order partners to let them, contrary to received wisdom, have their head (ie share of the strike).

The Indian batters, that is the four best ones with support from the tail, have brought their team back into the game, which is now evenly poised. The Australian attack, or some members thereof, looked a bit threadbare in the face of determined resistance, judicious (occasionally injudicious) aggression and Tendulkar's strokeplay. Australia will now need to wipe off the deficit, then try to build a lead sufficient to give India food for thought or cause for concern on the final day, if the threat of rain, which didn't materialise today, allows the match to run its scheduled course.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Thursday, January 03, 2008

India in with a chance...of a draw: Second Test Day 2

India 3/216 ( VVS Laxman 109, R Dravid 53) trail Australia 463 (A Symonds 162 no, G B Hogg 79, B Lee 59, R Ponting 55, A Kumble 4/106, R P Singh 4/124) by 247 runs with 7 wickets in hand.

Australia won the first session and the last few minutes of today's play. India won the rest, which does not give them the upper hand, but, with rain forecast ("showers in the vicinity" as Yahoo weather puts it) a draw looks possible.

In the morning session the Australian batting machine, represented by Andrew Symonds, Brett Lee and, briefly, Mitchell Johnson, piled on another 87 runs in 22.3 overs. Symonds 's
162 no/226b (18x4, 2x 6) confirmed his standing as a big occasion Test match batter while Lee's 59/121b (10x4) showed once again that he is probably the best Test no 9 in world cricket at present.

The Indian innings began with an echo of Melbourne: Wasim Jaffer bowled Lee for 3; 1/8. I expected the others to follow fairly closely on his heels, but it didn't happen. VVS Laxman stroked his way to a third consecutive century at Sydney with an ebullient 109/142b (18x4) while Rahul Dravid plodded to a valuable if rarely eyecatching 53/160b ( nine 4s meant that his other 17 runs came from 151b). The pair added 175 before both were dismissed within 7 balls, leaving their team precariously poised at 3/185. A circumspect Sachin Tendulkar and a more forceful Saurav Ganguly steadied the boat somewhat and took the score to 216
without further loss.

India still have a long way to go to trouble Australia, but at least the match is set up as a contest. The possibility of Tendulkar and Ganguly jointly or severally putting the Australian attack to the sword is something which will keep me glued to the TV tomorrow.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Parkinson's lore

Today, during the lunch interval of the Test, Channel Nine's Cricket Show featured an interview with (now Sir) Michael Parkinson in which, prompted by Mark Nicholas, he talked about cricket and some other sporting topics.

The full interview doesn't seem to be available anywhere: Channel Nine seemed to have stopped archiving the Cricket Show this season, which IMO is a pity, but an edited version was shown on tonight's A Current Affair.

Sir Michael began his media career as a sports reporter and, as he was a Yorkshireman, this naturally involved a good measure of reporting cricket. I remember reading his columns in The Sunday Times when I first went to England in 1968 . One phrase that sticks in my memory is his description of the life of a sports reporter in those days: "cycling the backside out of a pair of trousers". How things change.