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Aug 31, 2010

Muttiah Muralidaran looks ahead to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

On this week's ICC Cricket World audio show Sri Lanka bowler Muttiah Muralidaran looks ahead to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 which will be staged in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from 19 February to 2 April. 

"I'm excited about this year's ICC Cricket World Cup being played in the Asia sub-continent, last time it was played in the sub-continent we won the trophy. We have a good side so hopefully we have a good chance this time too," says the spin bowler. 

"It's a big event and people are excited about hosting part of the tournament in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans are thrilled to be able to see the World Cup live in their own country and we have a semi-final here too which is also great for cricket in the country. We're all very excited to be hosting lots of different teams in Sri Lanka for the tournament". 

Joining Muralidaran on this week's show is former England bowler Angus Fraser who was one fifth of this year's selection panel for the LG ICC Awards 2010 long list. 

Fraser comments on the task, "It was an honour to be contacted by the ICC to help judge who should be part of the long lists for the ICC Awards. 

"It was an extremely difficult task with some outstanding performances deserving to be on the lists. I was particularly pleased to be able to nominate someone like South Africa's Hashim Amla who has done particularly well in Test cricket this year but has also shone in the one-day format of the game".

Also on this week's show, Steve Massiah, captain of the USA side that recently won Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 4 (WCL Div. 4) in Bologna talks alongside fellow Division 3 qualifier Italy captain Alessandro Bonora about promotion to the next level of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League. 

Massiah says, "This was a very important result for us and by winning the tournament in Italy it will help us to continue in our attempt to qualifying to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. 

"The player of the tournament, Sushil Nadkarni, was an integral part of the side with his skills with the bat and being the only left-hander in the side, while man of the final Lennox Cush is equally important with the bat and ball". 

Italy captain Bonora says, "Going into the tournament in Bologna we always had it in our minds to get a top two finish and although we didn't win the finals to have qualified for Division 3 is fantastic. 

"We've played a few of the sides in the Division 3, the only side we've not face is Oman, so we'll need to make sure we come out firing on all cylinders when it comes to the tournament in Hong Kong in January". 

Apart from the above interviews, the show has the usual round up of cricketing news and an update of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test and ODI cricket.

Aug 28, 2010

Dhoni Focus On their Fielding....

Dambulla: The two league matches between India and Sri Lanka were embroiled in controversies, the first a no-ball incident and the second one was ruined by dodgy umpiring decisions, but Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hoped that final will be played in good spirit.

India have beaten Sri Lanka in four finals in the past two years in the Island country, with the most recent being the Asia Cup in June, and the visitors would seek their fifth successive win in the Summit Clash on Saturday.

“I think it is a small thing that really matters, you know. If you take care of small things the big steps they take care of themselves. So it will be all the small and basic things,” Dhoni told a press conference which he addressed 45 minutes after the schedule time.

“Depends on what you are doing first, batting or bowling. If bowling first try to make use of conditions. There will be a strong breeze going across the field. If the bowlers can take help of that and if we get early wickets and restrict the opposition in accumulating too many runs,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s final.”

“Fielding will be crucial because we have seen every 10 runs the opposition scores it can really count at the end of the game. I think we will take care of the basics and stick to the basics,” he insisted.

Dhoni said all the three teams in the tri-series have struggled at the sporting pitch at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium and his side would not worry about their performance so far.

“We try to keep it simple. If you look worried about something then the players will always look worried. I think this has been a series of ups and downs. Not only for our batsmen but for all three teams which participated.”

“The new ball spell has been important. What we have seen is there have been batting collapses and sides have been bundled out for 100, 120 or 140 odd runs,” he said when asked about the poor form of the middle order batsmen.

“I think the new ball will be very crucial. It is important to just see the new ball off. How you do that it is not really important, whether it looks good or does not. I think it will be crucial not to lose too many early wickets. That will be one of the main strategies that will be used by both the teams,” he said.

Dhoni was also hopeful that Saturday’s final will be played in good spirit.

“We try to avoid as much controversy as possible. But in between we have seen some of the batsmen get fine. Either the skipper gets fined for bowling slow. You can go on with that. Hopefully no more controversies and as far as going hard is concerned we try to do things in our groove that is what our strength is,” he said.

“Our strength is not to go out and be really verbal. We have been a side that cheers up the bowler but at the same time try not to get very personal with the batsmen. So we have tried to keep a distance with the opposition batsman batting at the crease. I hope to keep it the same. Hopefully it will be a non controversial final and will be a good final for the spectators as well,” said Dhoni.

Asked about the inconsistent batting show of his side in the series, also involving New Zealand, Dhoni said, “Well of course it is. Specially if you see the number of runs scored by the batsmen. That is a major concern right now. But we are hoping it turns out well tomorrow.”

“We will get a par score that the bowlers can help us defend. How we achieve that par score, who scores does not really matter till somebody scores and we get those 220 or 240 odd runs,” he said.

“Our lower order batting has got affected as Harbhajan (Singh) and Zaheer Khan contribute with the bat also. However the role of the bowler is to bowl well,” he added.
Virender Sehwag has been the only batsman who has been performing in this tournament and Dhoni hoped the other batsman would also click tomorrow so that too much pressure is not put on the swashbuckling opener.

“We don’t want to put undue pressure on Sehwag. He is a free flowing cricketer. He is a natural aggressive cricketer. I think he should still back himself and bat the way he bats. As far as form is concerned, one gets back to form in one match and he could get out of form in two matches. Being the finals, a contributory effort will be needed.

“As long as you are there you try to make a platform wherein the other batsmen who come after you they are able to perform. I think it will be a very contributory effort. But if we win the final because of an individual brilliance the team wont really mind it. But hopefully it being a team sport everyone will try to do his job. I think it is the result that
will matter,” he said.

Asked about his strategy tomorrow, Dhoni said, “There is no fixed plan. Lot of time we slogged. After Asia Cup there were about 10-12 matches where there had been no chance to slog. We are just feeling the flow of the bat. It is not because of any strategy.”

Dhoni refused to reveal the team composition and whether Ravinder Jadeja would be be brought in or not, saying it would depend on the playing conditions tomorrow.

“Winning combination is important but we have to see what kind of wicket is given to us. And accordingly we will select our eleven. So if we feel that the wicket is dry and is not very hard and can assist spinners then definitely Jadeja will get a spot.

“But if we feel that the spinners will not get that much assistance and we will need another batsman then Jadeja will have to miss. We will see exactly and decide after we see the wicket before the game,” he said.

Dhoni was happy that his side had a good practice session ahead of the final.

“It was a good practice session (today). The centre wicket practice session is always a better one because you exactly know where the ball is going and whether you have fielders there or not. I think we made the most of it. We had a long practice session and we are just hoping that everybody gears up well,” he said.

Asked what has changed since winning four finals in Sri Lanka, Dhoni said, “Well we have won many tosses. Before the Asia Cup I think it was in Premadasa Stadium where we won four tosses out of five.

Before that we played at Dambulla in the initial part of the series. Even in that we won many tosses.

“I think in this tournament we have found that toss is not the factor unlike in earlier series when you win the toss and make 240-250 runs and the opposition finds it difficult to score under the lights while chasing. But we found a change when we played at the Asia Cup. I think when we played on a fresh wicket instead of a used up wicket then we found that chasing was not that difficult.”


Aug 27, 2010

Eleven talents that kept me very busy - Ponting's XI

In "The Captain's Year", Ricky Ponting names a World XI hand-picked from the best cricketers he has played against in the past decade 

Virender Sehwag (India), Graeme Smith (South Africa) and Jacques Kallis (South Africa)
As a selector, I like the fact that I've picked a right-hand/left-hand combination for my opening partnership. I've always thought it is harder for bowlers and captains when there is a left-hander and right-hander batting together. When that happens, the bowlers are constantly being asked to change their line and the field is always changing, which has to be to the batting side's advantage.
And what a contrast my two opening bats offer. Virender Sehwag, the right-hander, has an almost unique ability to be able to take an attack down and change the course of a Test in an hour, even half an hour. When he is on top of his game he is as good as anyone who has ever picked up a cricket bat, but it is also true that when he is out of touch he looks like he has never batted before in his life. Indian conditions suit him because the ball doesn't swing much over there, so he can get away with not using his feet much. He's scored two triple centuries in Tests, both on the sub-continent, but he's also reached three figures in Tests at Melbourne, Adelaide, Bloemfontein, St Lucia and Nottingham, so he is certainly capable of making runs anywhere in the world.
Maybe it's because we've both been captains for a while, but I've built up a great deal of admiration for my other opener, the left-handed Graeme Smith. I know what it's like to bat in the top order and also be leading the team; that it's often not an easy thing to do. Yet Graeme's Test record is excellent, averaging more than 50 over more than 150 innings, almost all of them as an opener. His style is a little unorthodox, and he is one of those guys who is pretty hard to bowl to because he is so strong through the legside and can be ruthless on anything even remotely short. Initially, we thought he had a weakness on or outside off stump, but he's developed his offside game significantly in the past couple of years.
I've always thought of myself, as a No 3, as being part of the top order, so I've included Jacques Kallis here, with the openers. When you look at what Jacques has been able to do with the bat, averaging more than 55 in 140-odd Tests over the past 14 years, making something like 35 hundreds and taking more than 250 wickets, that is simply amazing. What I like most about his batting is the consistency he's achieved over such a long period of time; maybe he is not quite as dominant a batter as, say, Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara, but he is a guy who knows his own game and has the mental strength to stick with what he believes is best for him and his team.
Sachin Tendulkar (India), Brian Lara (West Indies) and Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
I guess it's fair to say the Sachin Tendulkar of the 21st century hasn't been quite as good as the Sachin of the 1990s, but he's still been a fantastic player who remains the wicket every bowler in world cricket would most like in their resume. The way he batted against us in Hyderabad a couple of months ago is proof he's still a genius.
I guess many people will think of Sachin and Brian Lara together, because they emerged at roughly the same time and then were considered by most experts to be the best two batters in the game for the best part of a decade, from about 1994 to 2003. When Sachin was at his best, we often felt like he was never going to get out, whereas with Brian we always thought we had a chance, especially in his first few overs because he might just go for a shot that wasn't really on. But if you didn't get him out before he faced 60 balls, then look out! After that, he played the way he wanted to play, and there was nothing we could do to change that. He was a master at manipulating fields, in the process putting bowlers, fielders and captains under pressure.
I know a lot has been made of the burden Sachin has had to carry during his career, from being the most popular Indian cricketer in history, but Brian had his own stress to deal with which in a way was just as confronting. Sachin was usually part of a batting order that also included gifted batters such as Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and, lately, Gautam Gambhir; in contrast, Brian always batted with the pressure of knowing that the only way the West Indies could possibly win was off his bat. It's amazing looking at his record to see how many of his centuries were scored while the Windies had their backs against the wall.
Kumar Sangakkara is this team's wicketkeeper, but he deserves to make the line-up for his batting alone. There have been few finer knocks played against Australia in the past decade than the 192 he made in Hobart in November 2007, when he was in the middle of an unbelievable run of form. When Adam Gilchrist was at his best, averaging 60 with the bat in Tests and wicketkeeping to a high standard, too, I wasn't sure we'd ever see another keeper/all-rounder capable of influencing a game in the same way, but Kumar at his best is not far behind.
If I was picking the keeper for this team purely on the quality of his glovework I'd go for South Africa's Mark Boucher, but that is not to say that Kumar is not efficient behind the stumps. A good way to measure the quality of a keeper is how many errors they don't make, and I can't recall seeing Kumar making too many, which is not a bad trick given he is often working with Muttiah Muralitharan. And as Murali will be my spinner in this team, picking Kumar as the keeper makes a lot of sense, because from what I have seen the two work well together.
Andrew Flintoff (England)
I am tempted to pick Jacques Kallis as my all-rounder, which is actually very logical given that his Test statistics measure up even against Sir Garfield Sobers, or maybe I could have called Kumar Sangakkara my all-rounder, in the way we used to think of Gilly as an extra frontline batter even though he went in at No 7. This would have given me the opportunity to include another batter probably one of India's Rahul Dravid, Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf or England's Kevin Pietersen or perhaps a second spinner, most likely Anil Kumble, who was always a handful for us when bowling at home in India.
At the same time, Freddie Flintoff was one of the most talented cricketers I saw during the past 10 years. However, I can't help thinking he should have achieved more than what he did. He was superb against us in 2005, when he had a large influence on just about every game of that famous series bar the first Test at Lord's. His hitting was often prodigious and as a bowler, when he was firing, he was one of those blokes where you never felt like you were truly on top. Freddie also had that rare ability to change the mood of the game through his presence as well as his cricket ability. In recent Ashes Tests in England, the crowd was invariably more involved if he was playing -- the difference between the vibe at the Headingley Test in 2009, when he was out injured, and the other Tests of the series was remarkable.
Curtly Ambrose (West Indies), Wasim Akram (Pakistan) and Shaun Pollock (South Africa)
I can hear you saying, 'You can't pick Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram, they hardly played in the 2000s!' And in one sense, you're right: Curtly only played 10 of his 98 Tests after January 1, 2000, and made his farewell to Test cricket in early September 2000, while Wasim's final Test appearance came in January 2002. But they are clearly the best two fast bowlers I have faced during my career and they both played in the decade, so that's good enough for me.
Wasim's ability to swing the ball, whether it be old or new, was second to none. And he could do it at high speed. He had that short run-up and a rapid-fire arm action, which meant I always felt under great pressure when I was trying to survive against him. It didn't matter whether I was on zero, fifty or even 150, it always felt like he could get me out at any time.
The pressure Curtly exerted was different, but just as unrelenting. With him, it was more a case that I just didn't know where my next run was coming from. There were times when it was simply a case of waiting for his spell to end, or taking an undue risk to try to get the scoreboard moving. To me, he was Glenn McGrath, only taller and a few kilometres quicker. I always took some satisfaction from surviving a spell from either Curtly or Wasim; if I ever made a decent score against them, the feeling afterwards was that if I could survive that, I could make runs against just about anyone.
My choice for the third quick was the trickiest call in this whole process. I thought about South Africa's Dale Steyn and New Zealand's Shane Bond, but in the end I've decided to reward longevity at the top level through the decade. To be able to combine excellence and durability is an achievement I will always rate highly, so my decision came down to one of Shaun Pollock or Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas. To me, though they are different styles of bowlers, there is little between the two. In the end Shaun got the nod because he was a fractionally better all-round player as well as taking 421 Test wickets (Chaminda took 355) he averaged more than 30 with the bat in Tests, and he was probably a slightly more effective bowler in ODI cricket (I know that shouldn't be a factor when picking a Test XI, but as I said it is very hard to split the two). But please don't think I am underrating Chaminda at all; to open the bowling for Sri Lanka in more than 100 Tests, often in conditions that are unsuitable for pace bowlers, and to be as successful as he was is in my view an amazing effort.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)
What sets Murali apart is that he spins it both ways, and I, like many other batters across the planet, have rarely been able to pick the difference out of his hand. If he was a traditional off-spinner, with the ability to spin the ball into the right-hander and with a well-disguised arm-ball, then he'd be a totally different kettle of fish. He'd still be a really good bowler, but not the lethal wicket-taker he's been for more than a decade.
Knowing that an off-spinner can turn the ball "the other way", away from the outside edge of my bat, means I can't use my feet against him in the way I would against a normal offie. Thus, if I don't get right to the pitch of the ball, then it might spin away from me and I'm gone. Murali has only got me out stumped once in Test matches -- at the Gabba a couple of years ago -- but that's more a reflection of the way I have to play him, the way he's pinned me to the crease, rather than evidence that I've been able to handle him effectively. His method is to build pressure and bring his bat-pad fielders into play, and he's been the best in that business for 15 years, superior to others of a similar style, like Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq and India's Harbhajan Singh.


Aug 25, 2010

Wayamba confident ahead of Champions League

Wayamba, the Sri Lankan domestic Twenty20 champions, are one of the low-profile teams heading for the Champions League, but could surprise some of their more famous competitors with a squad containing 11 players who have international caps. They exited in the first round of the Champions League last year but the biggest name in their line-up, Mahela Jayawardene, said that experience will help Wayamba put up a better show in South Africa next month.
"Last year was a bit of an eye-opener for us, participating in that kind of an event," Jayawardene said at a press conference where the team's new shirt was unveiled. "We had quite a few players who hadn't played against international teams. It was a great opportunity for them. We realise where we went wrong; most of our guys now have much more experience playing T20 cricket, playing domestically as well."
Wayamba played both their matches in 2009 on a difficult Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, losing to the Delhi Daredevils and beating one of the favourites, Victoria, before bowing out on net run-rate. Their captain, 29-year-old Jehan Mubarak, was also confident the lessons learnt in India last year, and Wayamba's thorough preparation for this campaign, will yield results.
"We are much more prepared than we were last year, we have had the experience of playing in a previous Champions League," Mubarak said. "Our preparation has been quite extensive this year; we have been practising for at least three months. We have the talent and experience among us to deliver the goods."
In the domestic competition, Wayamba steamrolled their way to the title, winning every game, most of them by big margins. Asked about his team's strengths, he mentioned the opening combination of Jayawardene and 36-year-old Jeevantha Kulatunga, who was Player of the Tournament. "We won most of our games quite easily, lot of that due to Mahela and Jeevantha who gave us brilliant opening stands right throughout the tournament," Mubarak said. "But apart from that there's the bowling and the fielding, the combined team effort and the unity with which we played."
Another of Wayamba's strengths is their spin department, spearheaded by left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis, who could fluster the many batsmen in the Champions League who have never faced him. "It is very tempting [to play both spinners], depends in addition to the conditions on the opposition as well, how well they play spin," Mubarak said. "It is early summer in South Africa, pitches might be on the slow side, might take a bit of turn."
The team have a couple of warm-up matches, against Royal Challengers Bangalore and local side Titans, who did not qualify for the tournament, to get used to the South African conditions. Jayawardene said holding the Champions League in different countries will help increase the number of cricket fans around the world. "Taking the Champions League across makes sense, you create a new audience," he said. "We saw the second IPL, when we played in South Africa, fan base that was there surprised everyone, taking it across the cricket playing countries would create a different brand itself and a new fan following as well."
Wayamba's first game is against South Africa's Warriors on September 11. The other teams in their group are IPL champions Chennai Super Kings, Big Bash winners Victoria and New Zealand's Central Districts.

Aug 24, 2010

Taylor-Dhoni "Do or Die" situation...!

Actual Semifinal to the Tri Series Final.....

Match Facts
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Start time 14.30 (0900 GMT)

The word most conspicuously absent in all press conferences this tournament is 'momentum'. The schizophrenic performances of all three teams in Dambulla - crushing opponents one day, and being crushed themselves the next - has meant no team could claim whatever advantage momentum allegedly provides. The topsy-turvy league phase reaches its conclusion on Wednesday when India and New Zealand face off in an elimination match.
New Zealand's inexperienced batting line-up remains their biggest concern. The relaxed format of the tournament and the unseasonal rain which washed out their match against Sri Lanka means their batsmen have, amazingly, not had a bat in the middle for a dozen days, which the captain Ross Taylor said is "going to give a little more anxiety than the actual game itself."
MS Dhoni's captaincy record of winning every tournament in Sri Lanka is also under threat after India's batting failures in two matches. One heartening factor for Dhoni is the glimpses of form Yuvraj Singh showed during Sunday's humiliating defeat. India have alternated between wins and losses in the previous six matches, a trend which Dhoni will hope extends for one more game.
Form guide
(most recent first)
India: LWLWL
New Zealand: LWWLL
Watch out for...
Scott Styris is enjoying a run-filled year and his 168 one-day caps will be essential to a batting unit light in international exposure. He has found the conditions in Dambulla helpful to his steady bowling, finishing with 2 for 36 in ten overs in the previous match.
MS Dhoni is the top-ranked one-day batsman in the world, but has been part of two shambolic Indian collapses. With some of the youngsters in the middle order finding it hard to adjust to the seaming pitches in the tournament, the team is looking to their captain to deliver.
Team news
New Zealand welcome Martin Guptill back at the top of the order after missing a game due to injury. Their only fitness concern is Kane Williamson, who has a bicep injury and couldn't bowl or throw on Monday. If Williamson is missing, Nathan McCullum's place is likely to be secure.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 BJ Watling, 3 Ross Taylor (capt), 4 Kane Williamson/ Peter Ingram, 5 Scott Styris, 6 Grant Elliott, 7 Gareth Hopkins (wk), 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Daryl Tuffey, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Andy McKay/Nathan McCullum
India had no injury worries on the eve of the match. Despite the pummeling against Sri Lanka, it's unlikely there will be too many changes to the side. Again, the decision will be on whether to bring in Virat Kohli at the expense of either Dinesh Karthik or Rohit Sharma.
India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Dinesh Karthik, 3 Rohit Sharma/Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra
Pitch and conditions
A fresh pitch will be used for the match but MS Dhoni, who inspected the pitch after the Indian net session, expected it to behave similar to the ones used earlier in the tournament. "Initially, there will be a bit of help for the seamers. During the daytime, they can swing the ball with the breeze. And under the lights, it always swings here."
Of as much interest is the weather. It was cloudy on Tuesday and drizzled in the morning, and light rain is predicted for Wednesday. Taylor has shown a preference to chase if there is a chance of the D/L method needing to be applied, but could stick with the bat-first policy captains have traditionally favoured in Dambulla day-nighters if the skies are clear.
"It's just a game of cricket and every game you play you play to win, we don't want to put any more pressure on ourselves and that's the attitude we'll be going with."
Ross Taylor isn't getting too worked up about the hype of a must-win match
"We just have to be careful not to fish at the ball. Rather we will have to just leave or play a shot."
Some words of advice from MS Dhoni about tackling the moving ball


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