Can Australia, England or India lift the Cup?

It is worth a thought. But can Australia, England, India or South Africa succeed in lifting the cup? Based on the cricket played in the past one year it is clear that these teams are well placed above the rest to lift the coveted cup. Australia, having soundly beaten England in a recent one day series, while India and South Africa have triumphed over opponents have made their case for lifting the trophy very strong.

Pakistan has not shined in a worldcup since their final appearance in 1999. In fact, since that time, they have had spectacular exists in 2003 and 2007 worldcups. Making the worldcup campaign moot. This time round, they are without the services of some of their best fast bowlers (Asif and Aamir) who are sadly banned for at least two worldcups (including this one) and therefore, are limping into the tournament with not a strong bowling attack. Their openers are beginning to score runs, which is rare, but can they last the form in the tournament only time will tell. Without the top order firing, Pakistan will have a hard time even winning the quarter final.

New Zealand have had a torrid time in the recent past and therefore their chances of even making to quarterfinals are remote. While Bangladesh cannot get their act together for more than a game to even scare any of their opponents. They might win an odd game here and there but that’s where their World Cup campaign will wither away.

West Indies have not really fired since the 1983 World Cup Tournament in England. Heck, they have not made even the semi finals since that time. And that is almost 30 years. Their chances of winning quarterfinals are very remote considering that they have hardly won any matches in recent past.

Sri Lanka, is probably the only team capable of breaking into the semi final lineup by causing an upset between our favourite four (India, Australia, England and South Africa). However, it is only an outside chance. They are the finalists of the 2007 worldcup so they do have some match winners among them, but time will tell if their campaign will go beyond Quarter finals.

The teams that make it to the semi-final are going to be India, Australia, South Africa and England. All these teams have tasted victory at all levels of the game and know what it takes to win. They will be pushing each opponent to their limit and will make it harder for the rest to win this tournament. If I had a choice of a winner among them, I choose a final between England and South Africa with South Africa finally lifting the Worldcup.

But in cricket, one never knows what is going to happen till it happens. So we shall have to wait, watch and see who finally lifts the coveted trophy.

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Today, Cricket Died. Period.

Stunned. Anguish. It does not even begin to express my emotions at this time.

Watching Pakistan under perform on such regular basis is always heart wrenching. Watching them lose matches from seemingly a winning position, was depressing and incredulous. But, as die hard fans of our team, we would always come out supporting the green shirts no matter how they fared in the field. Hoping against all odds, they would eventually overcome their short comings and give us victory like yester-years. Today, all that changed.

After shocking revelations in News of the World which was lapped up by the international media  on spot match fixing in cricket, I am now not only disturbed but utterly disgusted with the players who have literally played with our emotions for such a long time.

The under cover investigation claims that this has gone on for over two and half years and possibly much longer. And that the players themselves initiated this ring is rather alarming. The investigation claims as many as seven players are fixing the outcome including the captain Salman Butt, fast bowler Asif and Aamir and wicket keeper Kamran Akmal. The other players names were not revealed, but it is safe to say they are probably all batsmen. It did mention though that Shahid Afridi is not involved and that all these seven players are ganging up against him to oust him.

Last year, Yunis Khan dropped out of the cricket world saying he has lost the confidence of his players. Or was it the same players orchestrating his ouster, like they are doing today of Shahid Afridi? All these stories of infighting among team members really revolving around the match-fixing gang? If so, then the problem is far deeper than the seven named.

This is not the first time we have heard of spot betting and match fixing. The first I heard was in early 1990s when Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, two great Australians, were caught sharing some match information with bookies. Not dissimilar to what has happened today. However, they were fined (AUS$5,000 each) and the story was not aloud to go out till leaked many years later. Similar claims were made in India for Indian team when it was failing to win critical matches. Pakistan, South Africa also suffered from those allegations. Eventually, Hanse Cronje (South African Captain), Mohammad Azharuddin (India’s Captain) and Salim Malik (Pakistan Captain) received life bans and made the scape goat of the corruption within Cricket. Sadly, Australia never banned any of its players.

What the Cricketing body, ICC, did not do is investigate thoroughly and capture the rest of the gang of players in each team. Surely, Warne, Azhar, Hansie and Malik cannot throw a game or bowl/bat badly alone to change the outcome. They need support of others. Shockingly, ICC left it for the boards to decide the course of action for them and went sleeping. Players like Shane Warne (Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Wasim Akram (Pakistan), among many others were internally reprimanded but never publicaly punished. They, like many other team members, were far too big a star and cricket brand to be publicly lynched. Sadly, spot fixing survived, under closed doors till this day.

ICC has no clue what is going on out there. Today, could be a great eye opener for them. But judging from their previous conduct, they will not budge from their sleeping position and refer it back to respective boards to sort out internally.  But if they continue to turn a blind eye to such matters, it is no secret that more people, like me, will turn their eyes away from cricket. In not so near future, we will have a time when young fans will no longer come out to support their teams. They will switch to other cleaner sports and ICC, which is now banking on a billion people audience for their billions in rights, will be competing for their attention with other sports. Time has come to not only fix the game but to catch/ban all those old timers who are still playing and enjoying the protection of their boards while participating (covertly) in spot fixing.

Its no secret that we have all heard of spot fixing, and we have all heard of incidents in cricket matches for many decades. We all know that incredible collapse and that spectacular batting performance is not always genuine. Especially, if the batsmen is part-timer and the bowler has bowled his first 5-wicket haul.

Dear ICC, your fans have been jolted to the reality. It’s time that you also wake up and smell the foul stench that surrounds your sports stars. Its not just limited to Pakistan, it has roots in every major Test playing nation. Standup and clean the cricket field, before we clean the bleachers and head for other sports arenas.

>ICC Farce Awards 2009

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It is disappointing to say the least. And each year my passion for following them weakens and desire to write a review disappear. Next year, I may not even comment about the ICC Cricket Awards.
It seems you have to be an Australian or an Indian to have an impact at the award ceremony. All other players will be ignored even if they perform extraordinarily. Umar Gul, has been a master in the death overs for many years. His performance has twice taken Pakistan to the final of World 20/20 and winning many other crucial matches. Shahid Afridi’s leg spin, in all forms of the game, is now the most lethal among all currently playing spinners. Greme Smith has led his team to a Test #1 spot and many great victories during the preceding year. Yet, all these and more such great players do not find themselves ranked among the best. Or even worthy of any awards.
Dhoni being named captain of Test and One-day eleven is nothing but a farce! Chosen over Greme Smith, Ricky Ponting and even Yunus Khan! I mean, all three captains performed far better than Dhoni in the preceding year and yet they were left out. If it were Ricky Ponting or Greme Smith, I could have understood. But please, Dhoni! He is worthless when they play outside India and against great teams.
Gautham Gambhir as the best test cricketer! Really, he cant even be a regular in the team and keeps getting dropped and yet he is awarded with the Test Player of the Year! Whatever happened to all other great stars during this time? What happened to greats like Kevin Peterson, Kumar Sangakara, Jayawardene, Greme Smith, AB DeVillears, Yunus Khan, who are regulars and perform well in all conditions. What wrong did they do for not being chosen!
As regards, the Test team of the year. It does not feature anyone from Pakistan or South Africa. It’s a shame not to include anyone from there especially when Greme Smith, Yunus Khan and Muhammad Yusuf are currently ranked among the top 10 batsmen in the world. It seems, stats count for nothing and performance is secondary when it comes to ICC annual awards in cricket.
ICC seems to only reward Indians and Australians more so over the rest of the world. It not only belittles the world’s contribution to the game of cricket, it actually makes the award biased. If the award does not get balanced soon, it will loose its charm and will only be remembered as a ICC Farce award!

Who will win Cricket Champions Trophy 2009?

ICC Champions Trophy Cricket

ICC Champions Trophy Cricket

Champions Trophy has always produced topsy turvy results. Giants have always crashed out early, while relative minnows seem to get to the top fairly regularly. There was even an instance when Sri Lanka and India shared the title rather than any single team declared victor (2002). And by the way, this is one tournament that South Africa actually has won. Yes, the inaugural tournament held in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 1998 and a young and upbeat South Africa coached by Bob Woolmer beat out West Indies in the final. And West Indies, who are never ranked among the top 4 in one day cricket won it themselves in 2004.

This year the event is being held in South Africa. Based on the form of the teams and the unpredictable nature of the tournament, it is difficult to predict who will win it. Having said that, I will still predict the semi-finalists for this tournament.  Based on the consistent performance put up by the teams, I believe, the following four teams shall reach the semi-final

Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan

Sri Lanka is probably the most consistent side of them all. They have the most number of match winners whom one can rely on and therefore, their chances of not only making it to the semi-final but going beyond it are good. Their weakness will be batting on bouncy South African tracks. In the last T20 world cup final, Pakistan exposed this kink in their armor. All great teams get over their weaknesses, and if they did, then Sri Lanka may go on to win it again.

South Africa has begun to shape up like a team possessed for some greatness. They have started to win crucial matches with more consistency and therefore, with current form, it is likely they will reach the semi-final stages of the tournament. Their only weakness will be if their batsmen are able to keep the consistency going throughout the tournament. If not, then early curtains for them.

Australia after a complete drubbing of England (in one day matches) are poised to reach the semi-final. The team is learning fast and new boys are settling in. Most of the players have it in them to make the difference and therefore, it is easy to see them make it to the final four. Their only weakness would be if their batsmen fail to fire at the right times. If that happens, then early curtains for them.

I chose Pakistan as the fourth team over India and New Zealand. India, having just defeated both New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Columbo put up a strong case, but one reason for my dropping them is that they are not consistent enough outside of the subcontinent. Their fielding is weak and at times laughable. And in big tournaments like the Champions Trophy, it counts a lot. Hence, they are not likely to get among the top 4.

New Zealand have an outside chance but nothing more. Their team is suffering from lack of quality cricketers. They lack bowlers who can take wickets at crucial junctures and batsmen who can win them all on their own on a consistent manner. They have sparks of brilliance but nothing to write about.

And now why Pakistan? I must admit they are an outside chance. Only because, they now play the least amount of cricket among all the Test playing nations. Heck, Bangladesh gets away with playing more matches than them in a year. Pakistan’s lack of international cricket is what hides their true strength. They have superb match winning bowlers in Umer Gul and Mohammad Asif. Their batsmen like Yunus Khan and Mohammad Yusuf can win matches all on their own. With able support from Afridi and Ajmal in spin, Pakistan currently has a far balanced squad than either New Zealand or India.

Their lack of Cricket is also one of their strengths. The team is extremely well rested and hungry for victory. So they might seem rusty, but once they get going, boy it will be a treat to watch. T20 World cup a few months back showed their class and their strength. They demolished their opponents so consistently and with such finesse that cricket seemed like a child’s play.

I will not be surprised if Pakistan comes home with the Champions Trophy.

Australian Cricketers Lust for Cash

Greed and Lust has no boundaries in Cricket

Greed and lust finds no boundaries in Cricket

Here is a team that refused to play in Sri Lanka during the 1996 cricket world cup due to remote security concerns. Australians have also avoided to tour Pakistan for over 10 years citing various security concerns. Recently, they were at the forefront of refusing to play in the Champions Trophy to be held in Pakistan again citing vague security concerns. Despite the fact that a successful and safe Asia Cup was held there just weeks before their refusal.

But today, the lure and lust for cash has changed all that. India, which is experiencing a surge in violence and terrorist activities not unlike Pakistan, is now being considered by them a complete “safe” country to visit and play.

Its not just huge amount of cash that each player will earn against match fees, but also the numerous personal endorsements and lucrative advertisements that they will feature has over ridden everything else.

With such rampant greed and lust, it is quite disheartening to see, ICC sitting idle and not doing anything. Letting players and countries chose tours on their own citing whimsical double standards and has made the cricketing governing body a laughing stock.

ICC MUST get strict on such issues and make sure that such tours continue as planned.

As regards Australian crickets lust for cash, it can only be said, that they are losing fans faster than they can accumulate cash from around the world.

http://content-pak.cricinfo.com/indvaus2008/content/current/story/370137.html

Ball Tampering – The accusers are the accused!

For decades, British cricketers and their press has been trying to implicate (quite unsuccessfully) Pakistani great fast bowlers like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis into ball tampering. These and other such great fast bowlers were able to mesmerize their batsmen for decades. Match after match, the English batsmen would fail miserably against their style of attacking fast bowling.

However, a revelation by Marcus Trescothic (a former English batsmen) in his recently published autobiography reveals that he used mint induced sliva to shine the cricket ball so that it would swing ominously. This “tampered” ball was able to let England win back the Ashes after over 21 years from Australia in a tightly fought battle in 2005. Now, however, we know, it was not all fair play.

Angus Fraser reacted this revelation saying,

“To me it is a total hypocrisy on what is deemed to be ball tampering. When Pakistan were accused of ball tampering it was built into something that was abhorrent. Ball tampering is ball tampering whether you scratch the ball or whether you deliberately put in sugary saliva on it to aid its shine so I don’t see any difference between one and the either.

Somehow, it does not feel right. When Pakistan is blamed for ball tampering, a whole match gets awarded to England and players get banned. The press cries foul and blames everyone in Pakistan. And when Englishmen do the same and admit to the guilt, nothing happens.

The Australians were asked of their opinion of Englismen using illegal methods to defeat them during the Ashes battle, they simply brushed it away. Which is quite odd, as they were up in arms against Pakistan when the same thing was accused on them.

If English Cricket Board choses not to take action against its players who were involved in ball tampering then it would be a clear message to the cricketing world.

It is ok for us, the Englishmen to cheat, as long as we can win.