Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka acclimatise to a new venue

A relaxed and refreshed Sri Lanka are looking forward to the new experience of playing in the United States this weekend, according to the batsman Mahela Jayawardene. It's a week since they lost their World Twenty20 semi-final to the eventual champions England, and while the time off wasn't exactly part of their plan it has given them time to focus on this weekend's Twenty20s against New Zealand in Florida.

"We wouldn't have wanted to have that much downtime, obviously we would have wanted to go all the way in the tournament," Jayawardene said. "After a long season it's been good time off for some of the guys to recuperate and get their rehab and strengthening done before we start all over again.

"Miami is a new place for all of us. Most of the guys haven't been to the States. We've had a look around, went to a baseball game. I'm looking forward to it. It looks like a very decent venue. It's something different, going out of your routine of playing against top nations in venues you're quite familiar with. It will be good fun."

The matches on Saturday and Sunday will be the first internationals held in the United States. The venue, Central Broward Park in Lauderhill, is an impressive looking stadium and Ross Taylor, the New Zealand batsman, said the conditions at the ground were a mystery to the players.

"The wicket is under cover at the moment," Taylor said. "There's a New Zealand groundsman here looking after it and preparing it. To be honest, we don't really know what to expect but I'm sure it will be a decent Twenty20 wicket."

The stadium was opened in November 2007 and it has taken a strategic partnership between New Zealand Cricket and the USA Cricket Association for top-level teams to finally make the trip to Florida. Don Lockerbie, the chief executive of the USACA, hopes this series will be the first of many to be held in the US.

"We've been waiting a long time for this," Lockerbie said. "This is part of what we've been calling Destination USA. We took, with the board's help, a view to try and bring in the best teams in the world and show that the United States is open for business as far as cricket is concerned.

"We have the stadiums, the only full- fledged cricket stadium in North America. With other temporary improvements it could one day hold up to 20,000 people. We're hoping we can get a good crowd this weekend and fill it up to 5000 to 8000 seats a game and show that down the road we want to see more teams come and play and get the whole US experience and the cricket experience can grow in the US."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

England celebrate emphatic Twenty20 triumph

England, still the spiritual home of cricket, had not won a limited overs world title till Sunday evening. Since then, this island's cricketing fraternity has not stopped celebrating Paul Collingwood-led team's most emphatic triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

For decades, English cricket lovers have moaned about the marginalisation of the game in Britain's sports media, as football increasingly hogged the headlines. But in a number of UK papers on Monday, cricket was not merely the banner heading in the sports section, but the main photo feature on the front page. "England lift the World Cup!" was the caption in the Guardian, with an apologetic note in brackets saying, "OK, it's only Twenty20".

In its sports segment, the Guardian blared: "England conquer the world." The Daily Telegraph thundered: "England fearless and peerless." In an accompanying tribute to the former Zimbabwean batsman and England's coach Andy Flower, it declared: "Flower power fuels England rise."

It's a patently heady moment even for a country tied to tradition, where Test cricket still matters most, without ignoring the entertainment value of shorter varieties. With the Gillette Cup in the 1960s, England introduced one-day cricket. Earlier this decade, they launched Twenty20. Then came WT20 in 2007.

All these years it rankled at Lord's, property of cricket's founders, the Marylebone Cricket Club, which also houses the offices of the England Cricket Board, that half a century of innovation had been to no avail. Three times - in 1979, 1987 and 1992 - England qualified for World Cup final, but without success. In the past decade, they seemed to simply lack the aptitude for the instant stuff.

Flower, a brilliant wielder of the willow, has been in-charge for a little over a year. The results are beginning to show. Last summer, England regained the Ashes, over the winter it drew a Test series in South Africa and in the corresponding period began demonstrating greater purpose in over-limit cricket. These were no mean achievements, for they coincided with the infrequent availability and then retirement of Andrew Flintoff and a relative lack of form and long absences of Kevin Pietersen, both talismanic as well as invaluable components in the squad.

Adjudged the player of the World T20, Pietersen ominously remarked: "This team is hungry for success, we want to win."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clinical England thrash Aussies to win T20 crown

A clinical England thrashed favourites Australia by seven wickets yesterday to clinch the World Twenty20 title and end their 35-year wait for a global cricket trophy.

After winning the toss and opting to field first, their bowlers sent Australia crashing to eight for three in the third over of the Championship final before they recovered to make 147 for six off their 20 overs.

Chasing a moderate target, England's batsmen then dominated, making light work of the run-chase to reach 148 for three with three overs to spare at Kensington Oval.

They were led by the aggressive opener Craig Kieswetter, who smashed 63 from 49 balls to earn himself Man-of-the-Match honours, and Kevin Pietersen, who carved out a carefree 47 from 31 balls.

The duo staged a dashing 111-run stand for the second wicket off just 68 balls, which erased any chance Australia had of winning after they claimed Michael Lumb for two with the score on seven in the second over of the run-chase.

Earlier, Australia's recovery was made possible by David Hussey, who cracked 59 from 54 balls with two fours and two sixes, and Cameron White, whose 30 came from 19 balls and included four fours and a six.

They posted 50 for the fourth wicket before David Hussey was joined by his elder brother, Michael, in a partnership that yielded 47 runs for the sixth wicket. Mike Hussey finished on 17 not out from 10 balls.

The loss was Australia's first of the tournament after they played unbeaten throughout the preliminary phase and the Super Eights, second round.

Australia started disastrously when the prolific Shane Watson (2) was caught at slip off the third ball of the innings with the score on two. The right-hander top-edged a slash off left-armer Ryan Sidebottom to wicketkeeper Kieswetter, who parried the catch to Graeme Swann at slips.

In the next over, a costly misjudgement cost David Warner (2) his wicket as captain Michael Clarke called for a sharp single to cover, only for Michael Lumb's throw to find Warner short of his ground at the striker's end.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

India's T20 performance report submitted

Indian cricket team tour manager Ranjib Biswal on Saturday submitted his report to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on the team's performance at the T20 World Cup in West Indies, NDTV reported.

According to the report, the report focuses on the team's cricketing failures.

The report states that players failed to implement coach Gary Kirsten's inputs on facing short-pitch bowling.

It also says that the Indian cricketers need to play on bouncy wickets before big tournaments in order to acclimatize, the report added.

The resut of the meeting between Biswal and BCCI remains to be seen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Indian cricket team returns home

The Indian cricket team, seven of whose members were declared "unfit" by coach Garry Kirsten, returned from its disastrous World Twenty20 campaign on Friday.

The team landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here after a 28-hour flight.

India, which had won the inaugural World T20 tournament in 2007, failed to win three of its Super Eight matches in this year's tournament.

The performance has led to many questions being asked of skipper M S Dhoni and his teammates.

On Thursday, Kirsten, reportedly slammed his players for their poor fitness levels and lack of commitment.

He pointed out that even he was fitter than some of the players and gave the players a month's time to shape up.

Kirsten also said the team was content to be number one in Tests and number two in ODIs, but had not shown enough commitment to scale the summit at the World T20.

Kirsten who has been coach of Team India since March 2008, would submit a report to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on the T20 World Cup performance.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deepika comments on Dhoni Video

The Indian Premiere League's (IPL's) Pandora's Box just refuses to close.

Former Miss India Mehr Jessia, wife of actor Arjun Rampal, whose jointly-owned event management company, Chasing Ganesha, organised the much-hyped IPL nights, has not taken kindly to M S Dhoni laying part of the blame of the team's poor performance on the parties.

Under fire after India's exit in the Super 8s stage of the ongoing World T20, the Indian skipper said on Wednesday that the team's jaded performance could, in part, be attributed to the glitzy IPL post-match parties and the extensive travelling during the league.

"I have been watching television and have heard what is being said about the IPL nights. Dhoni is welcome to blame these nights. I do not need to stand up and defend them," Mehr said, promising that she would talk when the time is right, but added, "Today, this has become a joke. The IPL party nights have been misunderstood. But, well, if people are saying things, let them. I also have enough people patting my back saying it (the IPL nights) was a job well done."

"A lot of foreign players attended these IPL nights and their teams are doing brilliantly in the T20 World Cup. What about them? Even the common man has the same question," Mehr further pointed out.

Rubbishing claims that a clause in the players' IPL contracts forced them to attend the parties, Mehr said, "Nobody can force any sportsman to attend the parties. Some players did not attend the IPL nights. It was not binding on them."

"I think it is very demeaning. Now, it is all about 'let us blame late night matches and parties.' Where was this thought when the players took the cheque for the IPL -- they always knew there were late night matches," she said.

When asked about allegations of womanising and alcohol being served in large quantities at the parties, a fuming Mehr said, "Excuse me? We had a mix of international and Indian models at these parties. Besides, the players brought along their friends and families, the team owners and designers had their invitees, and the playing teams had backup personnel. So it is absolutely ridiculous to say such things. We have had great IPL nights in Ahmedabad, where not a drop of liquor was served."

Mehr also slammed allegations that players did not have time to recover from parties. "I challenge you to show me any itinerary in which a team had a match, attended a late night party and then had to play the next morning. They all had a break in between, so these accusations are absolute rubbish."

The media did not escape the supermodel's ire either. In fact, it came in for rather pointed criticism. "People, including, the press, need to get the facts right. A lot of negativity has crept in about these parties, also because the press was not allowed to attend them. We had done this keeping in mind that the parties would not be the proper forum for the players to be asked questions or interviewed."

When asked about the fashion shows, with leggy models sashaying down the runways at these events, Mehr said, "Yes, we had fashion shows. A lot of players wanted to buy things for their wives and families. It was all done in good spirit. You know, cricket and Bollywood entertainment are on the same platform. The IPL nights were a great success, even if I do say that myself. They were a good way for the players to have a break and chill out."

"What the IPL nights meant to do was to bring the cricket fan closer to the player. We have had some fabulous parties and, when the time is right, I will bring the entire group of people behind the nights' success together to talk about them," Mehr signed off.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

India Takes on Sri Lanka Hoping to Set Things Right

India clashes with Sri Lanka in the group F after a ray of hope still exists for their entry into the semifinals of the ICC T20 world cup at the Beausejour stadium. India’s chances had been severelt lowered after successive defeats from Australia and West Indies. They lost tothe Aussies by 49 runs, and to the Caribbeans by 14 runs.

India vs Sri Lanka should see the former win by a high margin, but at the same time, Australia will have to outplay West Indies convincingly for India to boost their chances. This would enable to consider the net run-rate in deciding the fate of three- India, Sri Lanka and theWest Indies for the semi-finals. India’s batsmen had failed to deliver causing their run rate to slump down drastically. They will have to prudently execute their batting skills to get over the sharp attack from the opponent’s bowlers, especially after their failure in managing the short-pitched deliveries. However the less-bouncy pitch is expected to come to their aid.

At the same time leaving their defeat at the back seat, Lanka is hoping to set things right and turn the run rate in their favor. They have high expectations from players like Lasith Malinga, Chanaka Welagedara and Angelo Mathews. They are confident of their win and expect themselves to play against England in the first semifinal. In toto, India vs Sri Lanka encounter is a clash between the desparates.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Swann backing Bopara

England spinner Graeme Swann is backing Ravi Bopara to step up to the mark and fill the void left by Kevin Pietersen.

Bopara is set to replace homeward-bound Pietersen in the line-up to face New Zealand in the final Super Eights game at the ICC World Twenty20.

Pietersen has been in imperious form in the wins over Pakistan and South Africa, however he will miss the clash with the Black Caps as his wife Jessica is due to give birth.

Pietersen is expected to return in time for Thursday's semi-final, should England progress, however Swann believes Bopara is the ideal candidate to come into the side.

Swann said: "It's obviously a loss not to have Kevin for the next game. But after winning these last two, it probably makes it a little bit easier.

"We've got Ravi to come back, who in this form of the game can be as destructive as anyone - even Kev.

"He'll come in and stake a claim to be involved. If we qualify for the semi-final he'll want to get a spot in it.

"It's obviously disappointing to miss Kev. But I think everyone in the squad understands why, and we're 100 per cent behind him."

If Pietersen has provided the impetus with the bat, it is Swann's partnership with Michael Yardy that has been the highlight of England's bowling.

Together, the spin twins ripped out the South African top order in Barbados - and Swann has been full of praise of the Sussex captain.

"We don't talk on the field. It's all done beforehand," added Swann.

"We go out there knowing exactly what we've got to do, who to do it to, and when to do it.

"He certainly doesn't say anything to the batsmen; he gets on with his game. He just runs up and does his job.

"I'm sure he's annoying to a few batsmen at the minute, because he keeps getting them out."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Afghans in search of new horizons after T20 heroics

Barbados — Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan wants professional teams around the world to help his players build on their performances at the World Twenty20.

Afghanistan bowed out of the tournament with a 59-run loss to South Africa after being dismissed for 80 as they collapsed in the face of hostile fast bowling from Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn.

But earlier they held the Proteas to 139 for seven, a decent effort in any terms and one all the more impressive given some Afghanistan players only took up the game a few years ago and that the side were recently competing against the likes of Jersey and Denmark.

Afghanistan fast bowler Hamid Hassan, who took three wickets for 21 runs against South Africa and then struck 22, featuring two huge sixes, has been on the Young Cricketer scheme run by Lord's based Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC)

Mean while off-spinning all-rounder Mohammad Nabi has played domestic cricket in Pakistan.

Khan, himself a former Pakistan pace bowler, said: "In Afghanistan the team was already heroes, but it was good to see them on the television and they have been exposed.

"As a coach that's what I'm happy about because we want them to play tough professional cricket in other countries with a contract in South Africa, Australia, England or India.

"If you want to get used to facing the likes of Steyn or Morkel or anyone on top of the world they have to play against them in domestic cricket.

"We haven't got a domestic structure in Afghanistan (the security situation in the country makes matches there a rarity) and preparing for a World Cup for three or four weeks isn't enough.

"We want all the big cricket countries to help us in that. We've got talent, the boys are quite ready and they are quick learners.

"They (other nations) could invite players for training camps, they could invite them into the domestic games as professional or semi-professional we don't mind but they should play cricket."

Meanwhile Afghanistan Nowroz Mangal was proud of the way his played against South Africa.

"We bowled and fielding really well to restrict South Africa to 139 as they have a lot of good players, but they bowled really well.

"They were really quick, bowling at 90mph and there was swing as well so it was very difficult for our batsmen to face them. But it was a good experience for us." I think the whole past two years has been their experience.

"With each stage they are going a step higher.

"As a coach I am quite satisfied with their performance against two top nations in the world.

"Against India (where opener Noor Ali made 50 in a total of 115 in St Lucia last week) there was all sorts of pressure on them, there was television, there were the big stars, there was the crowd and they coped with it very well.

"Today (Wednesday) to restrict a batting line-up like South Africa to 139 is a big achievement so there are all sorts of pluses for them.

"The key is they need to be exposed to that pressure again and again and then they'll get used to it.

"We were talking about practising for the pace bowlers and on a bowling machine you can put it to 90mph but you can?t have Dale Steyn bowling at you and swinging the ball.

"So you have to face those bowlers to get the experience. Because my team are quick learners when they play against South Africa or India again they will do much better."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Twenty20 World Cup: New Zealand enters Super Eight

New Zealand entered the Super 8 stage in T20 World Cup with a victory over Zimbabwe in a rain-hit match tonight. Sri Lanka too reached the Super 8 from Group B.

New Zealand won the toss and elected to field first. Zimbabwe bowled out for 84 in 15.1 overs. Tatenda Taibu was the top scorer with 21, while Hamilton Masakadza made 20.

For New Zealand, Nathan McCullum and Scott Styris took 3 wickets each, while Daniel Vettori took 2 wickets. Chasing a victory target of 85, New Zealand were 36/1 in 8.1 overs, when rain stopped play.

The match could not be resumed and New Zealand were declared winner by 7 runs as per the D/L method. Nathan McCullum was adjudged "Man of the Match".

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

West Indies support England's call for Duckworth/Lewis review

West Indies captain Chris Gayle expressed his sympathy for England and supported Paul Collingwood's call for a review of the Duckworth/Lewis system in the Twenty20 game following their eight-wicket win.

England captain Collingwood called for urgent attention to be turned on the D/L method in the game after his team suffered an undeserved defeat to the West Indies in their World Twenty20 group opener.

It left England needing to beat Ireland today to ensure their place in the Super Eights.

West Indies faced a difficult chase of 192 on a slow pitch which was eventually cut to 60 from six overs because of heavy rain.

With the hosts restarting after the rain on 30 for no loss, they needed only 30 more off 22 balls with 10 wickets in hand. A target they met with only ball to spare.

"I'm happy, but it's just unfortunate for England," Gayle said following their victory which booked them a spot in the Super Eights.

"I would support what Collingwood said. I could have been in the same position as well.

"It's something that can be addressed, so it can be 'even Stevens' for both teams in the future."

One of Duckworth-Lewis's advantages is that when a game is being threatened by rain the system is flexible enough for the target to change depending upon the number of wickets lost, rewarding the fielding side for dismissing opposition batsmen.

Now though the problem seems to be when play resumes after a rain break and the team batting second is left with a fixed target in a compressed number of overs that bears little relation to the first innings total.