Saturday, October 25, 2008

Intikhab Alam offered coach's role

Pakistan's coaches in the last 10 years

  • Sept 1998: Javed Miandad takes over from Haroon Rasheed.
  • April 1999: Miandad resigns after falling out with senior players and is replaced by Mushtaq Mohammad for the 1999 World Cup.
  • Aug 1999: Mushtaq is sacked after the World Cup. Wasim Raja steps in.
  • Nov 1999: English-born Richard Pybus becomes Pakistan's first foreign coach.
  • Dec 1999: Intikhab Alam takes over after Pybus is axed following Pakistan's 3-0 rout in a Test series in Australia.
  • March 2000: Miandad replaces Alam after Pakistan lose the home series to Sri Lanka.
  • April 2001: Miandad is replaced by Pybus after Pakistan's tour of New Zealand
  • Sept 2001: Pybus refuses to come to Pakistan for security reasons after 9/11. Mudassar Nazar takes over.
  • Sept 2002: Nazar summoned home midway through ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka and Pybus returns for a third stint.
  • March 2003: Pybus says he does not want to stay on after Pakistan were knocked out in the first round of the World Cup. Miandad returns as coach.
  • June 2004: Miandad sacked after Pakistan lose the one-day and Test series against India at home.
  • July 2004: Bob Woolmer takes over.
  • March 2007: Woolmer is found dead in his Jamaica hotel room hours after Pakistan crash out in the first round of the World Cup in the West Indies.
  • July 2007: Geoff Lawson is appointed as coach.
  • Oct 2008: Lawson two-year tenure is cut short; Alam appointed for ODI series against West Indies to be played in Abu Dhabi.

Intikhab Alam has emerged as the leading contender for the position of Pakistan coach after the removal of Geoff Lawson yesterday.

Intikhab said he has been offered a two-year contract but added that an official announcement will come from the board. "Yes, chairman Ijaz Butt has talked to me and offered a contract for two years. But they will officially announce it next month," Intikhab said.

There was initially some confusion, however, as Butt said Intikhab had only been appointed for the one-day series in Abu Dhabi against West Indies in November. "Intikhab will be coach for the Abu Dhabi series but we are considering two or three candidates for a long-term contract," Butt said.

But it later emerged that Intikhab was the leading long-term candidate and only a formal approval was needed. "We would like to appoint Alam for a two-year contract, but the final decision will be announced after we take the approval of (PCB's) governing board members," Butt told AP.

On the task at hand, Intikhab said, "It's not an easy job and I have taken up this assignment as a big challenge. Nobody is (player) bigger than the game and instilling discipline among the players will be my priority."

The PCB released Lawson from his contract with three months compensation pay insisting they were not satisfied with his performance. Lawson, who was supposed to complete a two-year contract with the national team next year in August, is still in Lahore. The new administration has been keen to hire a local coach, and the names of Javed Miandad and Aamer Sohail have also cropped up.

Intikhab has a successful track record as coach, having first been at the helm when Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup and then in 2000. He has also coached the Indian Punjab team in their domestic Ranji Trophy tournament for two seasons, taking them to the final in 2004-05.

Since 1997, Pakistan have had nine different coaches, some of whom, like Javed Miandad and Richard Pybus have been in the position more than once.

Confusion over Lawson's outstanding payment

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has downplayed the prospects of impending legal complications with Geoff Lawson, the outgoing Pakistan coach, of outstanding dues owed to him after the termination of his contract.

Lawson was removed from his post yesterday and given three months salary as per his contract agreement. But as Cricinfo reported yesterday, it is believed that the amount given to Lawson with his termination notice was "thousands and thousands of dollars" less than what it should have been. As a result the cheque was sent back to board officials by Lawson and the discrepancy in amounts pointed out.

"I believe something has come back from Lawson regarding the outstanding payment," Salim Altaf, director-general PCB, told Cricinfo. "There is no major problem and if there is a difference then it will be handled by our lawyers as per the contract and sorted out."

The error may have come from the fact that Lawson had apparently been paid his salary in advance till December 31, 2008. As he was fired on October 24, a three-month compensation package would mean that he was paid till January 24, 2009. Having been paid till the end of the year, he is now, according to the PCB, owed money for 24 days.

It is believed that Lawson has contacted the Australian High Commission for legal advice on the matter and will not leave Pakistan until the matter is satisfactorily resolved.

'Nowhere did I accuse Sachin of lying'

Adam Gilchrist: "I am pleased to say that at the conclusion of our chat the same respect Sachin and I have always had for each other continues to exist".

Adam Gilchrist has insisted that he did not accuse Sachin Tendulkar of lying while presenting evidence in the racism hearing after the controversial Sydney Test. He also denied calling him a “bad sport” after observing that it was often hard to locate Tendulkar for an after-match handshake following Indian losses.

Gilchrist's comments, quoted from his soon-to-be released autobiography True Colours, caused a stir in India and both players confirmed they had spoken to each other and agreed that the remarks were taken out of context. The main issue surrounded the racism hearing of the Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh.

Harbhajan was accused of racially abusing Andrew Symonds and was suspended for three Tests but later had his ban overturned on appeal. Tendulkar was batting with Harbhajan when the incident occurred and Gilchrist observed that the evidence Tendulkar gave during the match referee’s hearing was different from that he presented during the appeal.

“All I stated are the facts that everyone knows, that initially Sachin mentioned he wasn't sure what Harbhajan had said, then later confirmed his support when Harbhajan said he'd used a Hindi word in the heated exchange with Symonds,” Gilchrist wrote in his column for the Times of India. “Nowhere do I accuse Sachin of lying. So to have spoken directly with Sachin about these matters was a great relief for me."

However MV Sridhar, the Indian team manager for the tour who was present at both the hearings, first with Mike Procter and then with Justice John Hansen, contradicted Gilchrist's statements. Sridhar said Tendulkar had told Procter that he had heard some form of abuse but the match referee did not probe further. Later, Sridhar said, Tendulkar told Hansen he had heard Harbhajan say teri maa ki but clarified that it was an abbreviated form of an abuse.

“I am pleased to say that at the conclusion of our chat the same respect Sachin and I have always had for each other continues to exist. The headlines arose from the manner in which some journalists interpreted a couple of points I have made in an about-to-be released autobiography.”

Gilchrist said the Harbhajan hearing was too big an issue to ignore in his book. “My only real reference to it was to recall the way the events unfolded from the initial hearing, the night the match finished, through to the final judicial hearing a few weeks later.”

Gilchrist said the references to Tendulkar not shaking his hand in the changing rooms after Tests were merely to highlight the cultural differences between the two countries. He said he never intended to question Tendulkar’s sportsmanship.

“In the book, I mention that a cultural difference between our team and that of the Indians was the importance of shaking hands with the opposition after a loss," he said. "It's simply my thoughts and from my experiences it seemed that this routine wasn't as important to some oppositions as it was in Australia, where it is drilled into us from an early age.

”I made the comment that Sachin and Harbhajan were sometimes not around to shake hands. Whether that is right or wrong is not my point. It was more the cultural differences I was trying to highlight, which it's fair to say, have been integral in most disputes or flare-ups between these two proud nations in the past.”

Gilchrist said he had nothing against India and that he had always enjoyed touring the country. “I also feel that people who know me, or people who read the book in its entirety, will know only too well the sincere affection I have for India as a country and the very friendly, passionate people that live here.”

Angry Harbhajan lashes out at Gilchrist

The war of words involving Adam Gilchrist, Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh has continued.

Harbhajan Singh has hit back at Adam Gilchrist’s comments on Sachin Tendulkar and said that Gilchrist was not respected anyway due to his own on-field behaviour. Gilchrist labelled as a “joke” the evidence Tendulkar gave in January during the hearing into Harbhajan’s alleged racist remarks against Andrew Symonds.

“He should not be talking about Sachin. It is all rubbish," Harbhajan told the Age. "We don't respect him. He pretends to be a saint and people say he walks when he nicks, but why did he appeal when batsmen don't nick?

"He always changes his mind according to a situation. If Australia is close to a victory he is always going up [appealing], whether it is out or not out. We don't need him to say these things [about Tendulkar] just because he is retired."

Harbhajan was alleged to have called Symonds a monkey and was initially suspended for three Tests, although the ban was overturned on appeal. Gilchrist was annoyed that Tendulkar told the appeal Harbhajan had used a Hindi term that sounded like monkey, although he had earlier given evidence that he could not hear Harbhajan’s comment.

"I don't want to talk about that episode again and again. It is over," Harbhajan said. "If you talk to any guy who plays or follows cricket about Sachin Tendulkar, they will talk about the respect he commands. These guys can't come close to him. I am really shocked."

Harbhajan said the ill-feeling between the two sides that spilled over in the series in Australia had long since passed. He said both teams had played in the right spirit in the first two Tests in India this month.

"We are very focused on cricket and on the next Test in Delhi," Harbhajan said. "We know Australia will come back very strong. It has been a great series so far. There have been no dramas in the first two Tests. I hope the next two will be played in the gentleman's spirit."

Rain washes out first day

Bangladesh v New Zealand First day washed out

No play was possible on the first day of the second Test between Bangladesh and New Zealand in Mirpur because of incessant rain. Umpires Daryl Harper and Asoka de Silva and match referee Javagal Srinath inspected the pitch before calling off play at 12.30pm local time.

Play is expected to start half an hour early, at 9am, on Sunday but the possibility of catching up on the time lost is unlikely with heavy showers forecast over the next two days. The Mirpur game will decide the two-Test series after New Zealand won the first one in Chittagong.

New Zealand received a blow to their plans for a series whitewash when Jacob Oram was ruled out because of a back injury. Grant Elliott, the allrounder who made his debut against England in Napier in March, has replaced him in the squad.

New Zealand chased down 317 to win the first Test but they were given a scare when Bangladesh bowled them out for 171 in the first innings, with Shakib Al Hasan taking career-best figures of 7 for 36. But Daniel Vettori scored half-centuries in both innings and picked up nine wickets to take the visitors to a three-wicket win. New Zealand won the preceding ODI series 2-1.

New Zealand: (likely) 1 Aaron Redmond, 2 Jamie How, 3 Jesse Ryder, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (wk), 6 Daniel Flynn, 7 Grant Elliott, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Iain O'Brien, 11 Jeetan Patel.

Bangladesh: (likely) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Junaid Siddique, 3 Rajin Saleh, 4 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 5 Naeem Islam, 6 Mehrab Hossain jnr, 7 Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 9 Mashrafe Moratza, 10 Abdur Razzak, 11 Shahadat Hossain.

Johnson happy with his solid results

Mitchell Johnson has been Australia's leading wicket-taker in the series while the rest of the bowlers have battled for impact.

The state of Australia’s bowling is shown through Mitchell Johnson being the leading wicket-taker with eight victims, double that of Brett Lee, Cameron White and Peter Siddle, in the opening two Tests. By the tourists’ standards Johnson has been a revelation, but by a more traditional measure his overall contribution has been solid.

In the first Test in Bangalore he performed strongly before tailing off in Mohali when the bowlers were under heavy fire. He tried to operate in one-day mode when India were on the way to a lead of 516, but it didn’t work and Australia eventually lost by 230 runs.

“I’m not feeling too bad, I was a little bit disappointed in the second innings,” he said. “Other than that, I’m pretty happy with where things are at.”

The mood is not shared by the bowling line-up as a whole, which has taken 27 wickets in the opening two matches. Lee has been below-par while the fresh men of Siddle, White and Shane Watson have performed to expectations. Stuart Clark, who has an elbow injury, will add some experience in Delhi from Wednesday if he can recover in time.

Australia’s fast men have been behind Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma when it comes to reverse-swing and are exploring ways to catch up. Bowling cross seam is one possibility to achieve quicker deterioration of the ball, but not all the tourists are comfortable with the unconventional grip.

“I don’t feel too bad with it,” Johnson said. “Sometimes with my bowling technique and wrist position I don’t need to bowl too many with a cross seam because I tend to hit the rough side anyway. That’s something we’ve tried to do. I might be brought on to really roughen up one side.”

Australia have been gaining reverse shortly before the new ball is due while India have managed it within the first 15 overs. Johnson believes variation is essential to breaking up the rhythm of India’s batsmen and he has been particularly successful with a slower off-cutter. His main victim with the ball in the first Test was Sachin Tendulkar, who pushed the delivery to cover.

“Variety is key over here, definitely on the wickets we play on,” he said. “There’s not much in it for the quicks, so you need the off-cutters and the slower balls and changes of pace. Also, short balls can come into it a bit, especially if the wickets are staying a bit low.”

Johnson showed a glimpse into the current Australian mindset when he said “a lot of the guys – most of the guys – are confident” when discussing the team’s prospects of overcoming the 1-0 deficit. “We can put a lot of pressure on the Indians,” he said. “They’re going to feel it, going 1-0 up. All the pressure is on them now. There is disappointment in losing, but we’ll get back on track."

Johnson had a run-in with Harbhajan Singh during the final day of the second Test, but unlike in the 2007-08 series, there has been no lingering resentment from a handful of minor issues. “I thought I was going to get run out so I basically put my head down and ran straight and ended up running into him,” Johnson said. “Harbhajan said: why did you push me?

“I apologised. It was an accident. I basically ran my line and he was in my line. It was all over and done with out there."

Arthur's contract extended until 2011

Mickey Arthur will keep his job till at least 2011.

Cricket South Africa has extended Mickey Arthur's contract as coach until the 2011 World Cup, and appointed Mike Procter as convener of selectors. The new selection panel also features former South African vice-captain Craig Matthews, Winky Ximiya and Mustapha Khan, who has been a selector for a number of years.

“I am delighted to be back in the South African cricket fold. It’s a great privilege and honour to be convenor of selectors," said Procter, the former international and current member of the ICC's elite panel of match referees. "I realise that it is one of the most important jobs in South African cricket and look forward to meeting some of the players who I haven’t met, and it is obviously exciting taking over with a side that has been so successful in Test cricket.” Procter, 62, played seven Tests for South Africa.

Gerald Majola, CSA's chief executive, said Arthur's contract extension was based partly on an "in-depth report" on the past few seasons. “The contract of Mickey Arthur has come up for review [and] Mickey presented a strategic plan to overcome the challenges of the next few seasons leading up to and including the ICC World Cup on the subcontinent in 2011.

“Mickey presented to a panel comprising Dr. Logan Naidoo, Andrew Hudson, SA Cricketers' Association representative Gerald Dros and myself," he said. “The panel was impressed with his results as coach of South Africa, who recently completed their most successful season since unity as well as his plans for the future. The board had no hesitation in accepting this recommendation and we congratulate Mickey on a job well done so far.”

Arthur said: “It’s a great honour. I thank the board for showing their faith in me and buying into the plan leading up to the 2011 World Cup and we hope we can deliver as we have in the last couple of seasons.”

After former convener of selectors, Joubert Strydom, resigned last season, Majola stood in and a panel was established to interview applicants. “We have followed an extensive process that was urged by the [CSA] general council and board of directors following controversies over selection policies and the so-called presidential veto," Majola said. “CSA was adamant that a proper HR process be implemented, including advertising and head-hunting, to replace the former system under which selectors were nominated by affiliates."

Dr Mtutuzeli Nyoka, the president-elect of CSA's new board of directors, appealed cricket be put above personal interests. "Let us subordinate our private and sectional agendas to what is good for our game," he said. "Our love and respect for the game must forthwith begin to assert themselves. Let us bend our energies in looking after and further developing this precious treasure we have, and that is the wonderful game of cricket.

“The challenge is therefore not mine, or at least not mine alone to establish unity in this organization. It is also a challenge for each and everyone here. It is a challenge for the provincial administrator or selector who refuses to acknowledge the winds of change in our sport. It is a challenge for the official who is embittered over the injustice of the past that he refuses to accept that what binds us is far greater than what divides us.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lawson sacked as Pakistan coach

On the way out: Geoff Lawson has been given the marching orders by the new-look Pakistan board.

Geoff Lawson has been removed as Pakistan coach, just days after it was announced that he would see out the rest of his contract, ending in August 2009. The announcement came shortly after a meeting he had with PCB chief Ijaz Butt - responsible for the recent public flip-flops on the coach's future - at which Lawson was told a decision would be conveyed to him by Saturday, following discussions within the board.

“Geoff Lawson has been relieved of his duties as coach of Pakistan,” Raza Rashid, PCB spokesman, said. “He will be paid three months’ salary as agreed in his contract in case of termination.” The contract of David Dwyer, the trainer Lawson brought with him, has not been ended though it is understood that he is reluctant to stay without Lawson.

Surprisingly, Lawson is believed to have heard of the decision after it became public. In fact, as news emerged, Lawson was on his way to train with some Pakistan players. “I have heard nothing yet from them,” Lawson told Cricinfo at the time. Later, he confirmed receiving a letter from the board informing him of the decision.

A PCB official denied this, claiming Lawson “had been informed by the board" when the decision was made public. Earlier in the afternoon Lawson had met Butt for the first time since the former Test player took over as chairman. It is believed Lawson’s performances as a coach weren’t discussed at the meeting.

it brings to an end an uncertain experiment, which began in July 2007 when Lawson beat the much-fancied Dav Whatmore to succeed Bob Woolmer as Pakistan’s coach. At the time it was widely thought a number of players in the national side had preferred Lawson, possibly because they were wary of Whatmore’s tougher attitude.

The start was promising, as Pakistan reached the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa in September last year. But from then on problems emerged. A new, unsettled team under Shoaib Malik, an inexperienced captain, lost vital series against South Africa at home and India away. Pakistan’s frontline fast bowlers, expected to prosper under a former fast bowler, were plagued by injuries, and the losses only added to the pressure on the new pair of Lawson and Malik.

It didn’t help that 2008, Lawson’s first full year in charge, was a disturbingly barren one for Pakistan. Australia pulled out of a full tour, the Champions Trophy was postponed and Pakistan was left to feed off minnows from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The opportunity to mould a team never arose, so that by the time Pakistan lost in the final of a Twenty20 tournament in Toronto, the push to remove Lawson, with a new administration in place, was higher than ever before.

Matters weren’t helped by the increasingly tetchy relationship with the local media, where rarely an opportunity went by from either side to have a dig at the other, as well as the previous selection committee, with whom Lawson had several run-ins. Ultimately he was only in charge for 15 months and five Tests.

Though it is early still, replacement names have been predictably bandied about, with Javed Miandad once again apparently in contention. Miandad, along with Aamir Sohail, have met board officials in recent days, though Miandad is reported to be in the running for a position in the governing board.

Intikhab Alam is also in the running, at least in the short term. "Inti might go along with the team to the Abu Dhabi series in the capacity of coach," a board official said. "Nothing is certain yet but a number of options are being looked at, including looking at the whole question of whether we need a coach as such."

Chennai favourites in away clash

Can Paul Nixon come up with the goods against Chennai Superstars?

Match facts

Oct 24, 2008
Start time 7.30pm (1400 GMT)

Big Picture

A tough task awaits Delhi Giants for their first game on home territory in Gurgaon. With the ICL legs in Hyderabad and Ahmedabad over, it's the Chennai Superstars who are on top, and it would take Delhi - "one of the weaker teams" as their wicketkeeper Paul Nixon admits - a lot of discipline to overcome their opponents on Friday.

Chennai's only loss in four games came against Chandigarh Lions, and their youngsters stepped up in the absence of key players such as captain Stuart Law and Hemang Badani. But, with the two back, and the team having scored a morale-boosting win over defending champions Hyderabad Heroes, Chennai will be a hard nut to crack. Ian Harvey has been on the mark with both ball and bat, providing quick starts along with G Vignesh; Russel Arnold has held the middle order together; Rajamani Jesuraj has been able to contain and pick up wickets, while Nantie Hayward, albeit a touch expensive, has proved effective as a strike force.

Delhi's batting clicked in their first match of the tournament, with Nixon chipping in with a quick 43, but they have disappointed in the other two games. They will need both departments to come good against Chennai.

Players to watch

Medium-pacer R Jesuraj has been a "real find" for Chennai, says Badani in his blog. Jesuraj has surely made up for injuring his captain - a yorker during practice resulted in a hairline fracture on the toe for Law, picking up six wickets in four games at an average of 14.16 and impressive economy-rate of 5.66. Law would expect more such yorkers from Jesuraj, for opposition batsmen that is.

With just 29 runs in three games this season, the pressure will be on Delhi captain Marvan Atapattu. A strike-rate of 80.55 is much to boast about either and a win will only help his captaincy record.

G Vignesh has got off to quick starts at the top of the order, but he would want to better his tally of one half-century in 15 ICL games.

Shane Bond recently called for international players to come out in support of the ICL, and speak out that the bans on ICL players from international games are wrong. His team would hope he takes that fiery attitude to Friday's game.


"Chennai are a good side. Man for man they are probably the best with players like Ian Harvey, Russel Arnold and Stuart Law."
Paul Nixon, the Delhi wicketkeeper, knows which is the better team

"The team haven't been getting starts, though, and I've been going in with us needing 10 and 11 an over and having to hit boundaries from ball one."
Nixon also know the problems his side are facing

"The boys understand what is expected from them and they are doing their best to improve their game. My job is to motivate them and see that they realise their talent. It's great being the coach of our side. The players are fantastic."
Coaching has not been a tough ask for Michael Bevan

Three nations plan joint IPL spin-off

Australia's existing state-based Twenty20 tournament will be retained despite plans for a multi-nation event in Australasia and Africa.

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have confirmed they are planning a multi-nation franchise-owned Twenty20 tournament based on the IPL, which they hope to launch by 2011. Although the competition is still in the planning stages, the idea is to have city-based teams and schedule it at a time that would allow Indian stars to take part.

The concept will involve two separate conferences - an eastern division based in Africa and a western division in Australasia - and the top sides from each will progress to the finals. It will not replace the existing domestic Twenty20 competitions; instead it is most likely to be held in October with each nation free to also retain their state- or provincial-based tournaments.

The organisers want the competition to feed teams into the Champions League Twenty20. The southern hemisphere-based tournament, which as yet has no name, is another indication of the growing dominance of Twenty20.

The first season of the IPL was massively popular this year in India, where there is also the unsanctioned ICL competition, while England will soon be playing for US$20 million in the Stanford Super Series. Peter Young, Cricket Australia's spokesman, conceded it will be a challenge to squeeze the new tournament in but the organisers were confident it could be achieved.

"It'll be short, sharp and very focused but the exact number of games is yet to be determined," Young said. "Strategically we see that there's a finite amount of Twenty20 cricket that's likely to be ideal, with a number of major global blocks."

There is still a way to go before the finer details can be finalised, including the number of teams. There is also potential for the African conference to feature sides not based in South Africa and for the Australasian division to have teams from outside Australia and New Zealand. Domestic players are likely to feature heavily but the three boards are keen to ensure international stars, from India or England, for example, take part.

"Gathering a large number of the world's marquee players into a single competition over a compressed time-frame can capture the public imagination and create new audiences for cricket," Justin Vaughan, New Zealand Cricket's chief executive, said. "The challenge for the three southern-hemisphere boards is to create the stage for that opportunity to be captured in a way which complements international cricket."

Cricket Australia has been considering a franchise-based Twenty20 system for some time. James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, said it had become clear that to reach a critical mass, a regional approach was needed.

"The idea developed out of blue-sky Twenty20 thinking over the past 18 months," Sutherland said. "Regional-level Twenty20 cricket played at the level immediately below international cricket has shown it can capture the public imagination and create new audiences for cricket.

"But as we have seen in India, it needs critical mass to generate major public excitement. The regional concept we have been charged with developing provides that critical mass."

Cricket Australia is also keen to increase the international focus of its state-based Twenty20 tournament. From 2009-10 it will encourage the six state teams to recruit star players from overseas.

Gilchrist slams Tendulkar in autobiography

Adam Gilchrist has questioned Sachin Tendulkar's evidence in the Harbhajan Singh racism case in Sydeny earlier this year.

Memories of the controversial Sydney Test that threatened to derail India's tour of Australia earlier this year have been revived with Adam Gilchrist questioning Sachin Tendulkar’s evidence in the Harbhajan Singh racism case in his soon-to-be-published autobiography.

Gilchrist called his evidence a "joke" and said when Tendulkar told the first hearing that he could not hear Harbhajan said to Andrew Symonds, he was "certain he was telling the truth" because he was "a fair way away". But Gilchrist said during the appeal, Tendulkar said Harbhajan had used a Hindi word that sounded like monkey.

Harbhajan's three-Test ban for racial abuse of Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test was overturned on appeal on the basis of oral evidence from Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden and Tendulkar. Harbhajan had been earlier found guilty of the charge levelled by Ponting, who complained to the umpires that Harbhajan called Symonds a monkey. India threatened to boycott the tour if Harbhajan was found guilty of the racism charge but the tour went on after the appeal went in his favour.

"The Indians got him off the hook when they, of all people, should have been treating the matter of racial vilification with the utmost seriousness." Gilchrist said India's threat to boycott the tour was "a disgraceful act, holding the game to ransom unless they got their way".

Gilchrist also raised questions over Tendulkar's sportsmanship and said he was "hard to find for a changing-room handshake after we have beaten India".

"Harbhajan can also be hard to find. I guess it's a case of different strokes for different folks." Gilchrist said Australians played hard and were quick to shake hands and leave it all on the field.

Niranjan Shah, who was the BCCI secretary during the Sydney Test, said Gilchrist was looking for "cheap publicity" for his book. "First of all, the matter is over now," Shah told Mid-Day, a Mumbai-based tabloid. "Since I was actively involved in the whole matter as the BCCI secretary, I have seen how neutrally the ICC has conducted the hearing. Despite all this, if Gilchrist feels otherwise, then rather than him questioning someone else's credentials, we should examine his credentials. By doing all this, he is doing nothing but getting his image tarnished."

Court lifts life ban on Saleem Malik

Saleem Malik gives the thumbs up as he leaves court in Lahore following the overturning of his life ban.

A Pakistan court has lifted the life ban imposed on Saleem Malik, the former Pakistan captain, for his involvement in match-fixing. Malik, 45, is now free to involve himself in cricketing activities and he spoke of plans to start a cricket academy.

"I have served cricket for 19 years and today I feel vindicated," Malik said outside a sessions court in Lahore on Thursday. ""I hope that talk of fixing never haunts cricket. Cricket is a pure game and is played by some nice and passionate players."

"Nothing can compensate the last eight years as I had to sever all contacts with cricket. But I am now definitely looking ahead to renewing my links with the game by starting my own cricket academy for youngsters and will soon begin the project."

The Pakistan Cricket Board banned Malik in 2000 after an inquiry commission led by Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum found him guilty of bribing Australian cricketers Shane Warne and Mark Waugh to lose the 1994-95 Karachi Test.

Warne and Waugh have always strenuously denied accepting money from him. Malik, who maintained his innocence, appealed the next year. After his appeal was rejected, he approached the Supreme Court which, on May 22, 2008, said the appeal should be heard at a lower court.

The case came before civil judge Malik Mohammad Altaf who was originally due to hear it last month but adjourned the hearing as he was unavailable.

The PCB said it would respect the ruling. "We will honour the decision of the sessions court and will not appeal against the ruling," its legal advisor Tafazzul Rizvi told AP. "The PCB did not impose the ban. We just implemented the recommendations of the inquiry tribunal."

Coaching an option now - Saleem Malik

Saleem Malik said he has an offer to play from the ICL.

Saleem Malik, the former Pakistan captain, has said coaching is an option now that he can legally participate in cricketing activities. On Thursday Malik had his life ban for his part in the 1994-95 match-fixing scandal lifted by a Pakistan court and he is now looking at options to resume his involvement in the game.

"I was also offered to play in the ICL by my good friend Kapil Dev,” Malik told the Times of India. "IPL is an option too, if a team wants me as a coach.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board banned Malik in 2000 after an inquiry commission led by Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum found him guilty of bribing Australian cricketers Shane Warne and Mark Waugh to lose the Karachi Test in 1994-95. Malik, who maintained his innocence, appealed the decision in 2001.

After his appeal was rejected he approached the Supreme Court, which decided in May this year that the appeal should be heard at a lower court. Malik said he had gone through hell for nine years.

"I was even exonerated by the Justice Ebrahim commission, but the PCB weren't satisfied," he said. "They were out to get me and Justice Qayyum got me banned. What bothered me was seeing the sense of shame in my kids' eyes.

"I came from a humble family and could not study much. My dream was to seek admission for my sons in Aitchison College, Lahore's best school. But after my life ban, my kids were denied admission there. Now they can hold their heads high.”

Malik hoped the former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin would also have his life ban for his involvement in match-fixing lifted. "I can imagine what he's going through,” Malik said.

Watson health kick works wonders

Shane Watson is pleased to finally be injury-free.

Shane Watson is unique for an Australian cricketer: he doesn’t drink or lift weights. Since injuring his hamstring for the umpteenth time during the World Twenty20 last year he has restructured his training and cut out alcohol in an effort to get the most out of his body.

So far it is working and he has contributed with bat and ball in the opening two Tests, which took his career tally to five games. “I’m off drinking while I’m playing and training to give myself every chance I possibly can to be right throughout this big workload,” Watson said. “It’s important to look after the body.”

Only at the end of the Indian Premier League, when his Rajasthan Royals team won the competition, did Watson break his ban and have a couple of glasses of champagne. “I’ve saved money and a few headaches as well,” he said, smiling. He still joins the celebrations but his new tipple is diet Pepsi or soda water.

Until the change in regime he was hurt a couple of times a season, but with the new approach he was able to string enough state and one-day international games together to prove to Australia’s national selectors he was the man to replace Andrew Symonds. He picked up 3 for 45 and scored 41 in the first Test in Bangalore and added a fine 78 in the first innings in Mohali.

“To me it’s not a sacrifice,” he said. “The things I’ve been able to achieve over the past six months are not things I thought I could do 13 months ago.”

He has been working with Brisbane health expert Victor Popov and now does pilates, running, cycling and swimming instead of lifting weights. His old programme had him training like a rugby league player.

“I haven’t touched a weight for 13 months,” he said. “The things I’ve been doing are pilates, hamstring strength, calf strength, which is just body weight stuff. I don’t know the inside of a gym. Bowling is the thing I need to do, running and bowling. I feel my body shape is changing, it’s a lot lighter, but I feel I haven’t lost strength.”

The old aches don’t return so frequently, and if he notices any changes he can adjust quickly to limit the pain. “My inner core strength wasn’t great and my pelvis was moving around quite a bit,” he said. “When it’s out of line, my hamstring gets tighter and so do my glutes.

“Also, because of the stress fractures early in my career, I’ve had nerve issues through my back into hamstrings and lower legs because of the healing I’ve had since I was a young kid. I have to make sure my nerves are not irritated, which is another piece of the puzzle.

“Other things are maintenance every day, making sure I’m warm, and swimming. It’s quite a big puzzle to make sure everything is in alignment, but I love doing it. I’ve learned so much about my body. It’s also exciting to know where I’m at. If something is slightly out I understand how to get it fixed or under control.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coach complicates Ponting-Lee clash

Ricky Ponting did not entrust the ball to Brett Lee on the fourth morning in Mohali.

The on-field dispute between Brett Lee and Ricky Ponting has taken a twist with the coach Tim Nielsen saying a poor over-rate was not the main reason the strike bowler was not used in the first session of the fourth day in Mohali. Lee, who has failed to penetrate in his first two Tests in India, argued with Ponting on a morning when the part-time medium pacer Michael Hussey, the debutant Peter Siddle, regular Mitchell Johnson and spinner Cameron White were all preferred to him.

Ponting and Michael Clarke, the captain and vice-captain, both justified the decision by saying the team was about five overs behind the required rate - they also wanted to slow the speed of the ball down - but Nielsen said they were only three behind. It's not a level that would cause any player to fear a fine.

"We made a decision to take pace off the ball," Nielsen said. "You don't see Hussey bowl too often. We changed things around because things weren't working for us. The over-rate wasn't crazily out of control: three down at the time. In the end it was a tactical decision."

The team believes the incident, which featured heavily in Australian papers, was blown out of proportion and Ponting and Nielsen said there was no lingering resentment between the players. However, Nielsen's explanation shows how worried Ponting was over the form of his main bowler, who he did not want to risk when India resumed their target setting at 100 for 1.

"When you're losing Tests, there's a lot of things being made of little issues," Nielsen said. "When you're winning, that's not the case."

Lee delivered eight overs after lunch on the fourth day and took the wicket of Sourav Ganguly before India's declaration. Siddle bowled admirably in his first Test, collecting four wickets, but Lee almost has 300 victims.

"He certainly hasn't got the results he's been looking for," Nielsen said. "He's been indicative of the performances over the two test Tests, he's been a little inconsistent."

Nielsen said Lee was "frustrated" but was fine mentally after a difficult off-season, which included separating from his wife. "He's come from a 15-month period where he's had real impact every time he's been required," he said." In some regards, we've built this series up, it's got a bigger status than normal.

"Brett was keen to have a real impact and when that happens it is easy to get impatient and search for results. He's working hard, he's come off a break from his personal issues and has had a break from not playing in Darwin. All those things have added up to him being a little bit off the boil."

Nielsen felt the bowlers were too impatient in Mohali, where India's batsmen worked the side into a position to set Australia 516 for victory. "We were searching for results quickly because we felt like we were under pressure," he said. "These conditions are unrelenting, if you're not quite right with your skills you get shown out."

"He's working hard, he's come off a break from his personal issues and has had a break from not playing in Darwin. All those things have added up to him being a little bit off the boil"Tim Nielsen on Brett Lee

When the squad reconvenes in Delhi on Sunday the bowlers will continue their quest to discover the secrets of reverse-swing. They were behind when England used it spectacularly in 2005 and are desperate to catch up following the highly effective tricks of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma over the past two weeks.

"We've tried a few different things, like bowling across seam," Nielsen said. "We're working on getting one side rougher, and doing it legally, which is the challenge." Troy Cooley, the bowling coach in charge of England three years ago, should be able to help and has told the bowlers to hold the ball across the seam, like the Indians do.

"We haven't been able to put the ball in the right place often enough, when it's been swinging or not," Nielsen said. "Sharma and Khan build up big pressure and it's difficult to score. There's more pressure on batsmen for longer periods."

Stuart Clark's fitness will be tested early next week after he missed the second Test with an elbow injury. He had a cortisone injection before the second match and will be expected to bowl regularly before proving he is ready to return. If he can, he will get his spot back.

"Stuart has played so well for us over the past couple of years," Nielsen said. "Given his elbow comes right, you'd expect him to come back into the team."

'I am duty-bound to fully back Lawson' - Butt

Geoff Lawson has been promised full support till his contract ends in August next year.

In what appears to be a softening of his earlier stance, Ijaz Butt, the new chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, has said he bears no grudge against Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach, and that the PCB will continue to support him through the rest of his contract period.

"As the PCB chairman, I am duty-bound to fully back Lawson and to take care of all his liabilities," Butt told Dawn. "What I said in the press conference was my personal opinion which I had also given to the then chairman Nasim Ashraf." Butt added that Lawson would be given whatever support was needed to help him improve Pakistan's performances on the field.

In his first press conference as chairman, Butt had given an unusually harsh assessment of Lawson's tenure as coach, concluding that Pakistan had "no utility for him." He also said that his contract would not be renewed once it was over.

Cricinfo has also learnt that efforts at a reconciliation of sorts with Lawson have been made by the chairman. Speaking to Cricinfo, Lawson revealed that there had been no contact with Butt since he took over. But it is believed that a message has been passed on to Lawson through a third party that there "may have been some misunderstanding" over the initial comments made by Butt.

Lawson has also received unexpected backing from former Pakistan captains Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. Both felt it was unfair to blame Lawson entirely for Pakistan's inconsistent performances since he took over last August.

"How can you blame the coach for Pakistan cricket's ills when your domestic structure is stagnant," Imran told Reuters. "Don't expect miracles from the coach."

Miandad, who had three stints as coach, felt the players should also shoulder the blame. "It is not just an issue of coaching," Miandad said. "Lawson should not be blamed solely. The players should also take responsibility and I think they should be held accountable as well."

Lawson told Cricinfo during the four-nation Twenty20 tournament in Canada recently that he was unfazed by the criticism directed at him.

PCB not to renew Lawson contract

Ijaz Butt, the newly-appointed PCB chairman made it clear that the day Geoff Lawson's contract expires after April 2009 "he will be no more with the Pakistan team".

The ongoing cull in Pakistan cricket took a high-profile turn today with the announcement by the PCB that Geoff Lawson's contract as national coach will not be renewed after April 2009.

"The day his contract expires he will be no more with the Pakistan team," the newly-appointed PCB chairman Ijaz Butt said at his first press conference at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. "We have no utility for Lawson."

Lawson was appointed by Butt's predecessor Nasim Ashraf in 2007 on a two-year contract but his impact since then has been sketchy: though Pakistan reached the final of the World Twenty20 last year and won the Kitply Cup this year, they also lost major series at home to South Africa and away to India. They also failed to qualify for the final of the Asia Cup earlier this year.

As a result Lawson has been the target of intense media criticism almost from the day he arrived and matters haven't been helped by the run-ins he has had with them. The serious lack of cricket has also not helped Lawson settle down and gel a team together: Pakistan haven't played a single Test this year and most of their ODIs have been against minnows such as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. If Lawson does go in April, he will have effectively been judged over only eight Test matches.

There appears little chance for him to impress until then either. Pakistan have only a three-match ODI series against West Indies and a Test series against India at home between now and April. Butt explained the decision to keep him until then was purely a financial one.

"We will suffer a huge financial loss if we terminate his contract now. Since we cannot afford a heavy loss, we will continue with him," he said.

The Pakistan daily Jang reported that the PCB pays Lawson a monthly salary of US$30,000 and in case it terminates the contract, the board has to pay him a salary for three months.

However, the change that many other people have also called for doesn't appear to be as forthcoming. Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's captain, has been given guarded support by Butt, at least until December this year, according to his original appointment.

"Malik was appointed for one year, but his performance will be reviewed after his contract ends in December," Butt said. The chairman said that appointing a young captain over senior players was not a novel idea and most teams with young captains had done well.

"Look at Australia and South Africa, they have relatively young captains despite some seniors in their squads, but they are doing well. For me there's no senior or junior, it's the performance that counts," he said.

Since Butt took over on October 7, a number of senior officials in the board and team management have either resigned or been forced out.

PCB not to renew Lawson contract

Geoff Lawson's contract as Pakistan coach will not be renewed, though nobody has spoken to him directly.

Ijaz Butt, the newly-appointed chairman of the PCB, announced yesterday that Geoff Lawson's contract as Pakistan coach will not be renewed, but Lawson himself has not been told anything by the chairman. Nevertheless, Lawson is getting on in the immediate future with "business as usual."

In the two weeks since he was appointed, in fact, Butt has had no communication with Lawson at all. Most tellingly, the chairman met with the captain Shoaib Malik and the temporary chief selector Saleem Jaffar on Saturday but not with Lawson.

Unsurprisingly, the development has increased speculation that Lawson might leave before his contract finishes, though understandably he was reluctant to comment on the matter. "I have not had a meeting with or indeed heard a single word from the Chairman since he was appointed," he told Cricinfo.

"At this stage it is business as usual for all the coaching staff as we prepare for the Pentangular Cup, the West Indies ODI series [in Abu Dhabi] and give players tasks to perform during the Pentangular Cup as we also begin preparation for the India Test series in January."

Though Butt said Lawson will leave after April 2009, the original contract he signed runs up to August 2009. If that is the case, then it means Lawson is likely to be at the helm through the India series in January 2009, the Twenty20 World Championships and the tour to Sri Lanka next summer. Favourable results in any of those contests would raise questions about why the decision to not retain him was taken so early.

One senior player also raised the possibility of the changed dynamics of the player-coach relationship and its likely effect on the team. "Knowing that he is leaving will change how players respond to him and deal with him," the player told Cricinfo. Maybe they could have taken the decision closer to the time, or told him privately,"

Butt was unusually harsh on Lawson's performance in his comments, concluding ultimately that "we [PCB] have no utility for Lawson." The reason cited for keeping him on till April was financial: Butt said the board would suffer a "huge financial loss" if the contract was terminated immediately.

West Indies on standby to replace Sri Lanka

West Indies are on standby to replace Sri Lanka if, as it is feared, Sri Lanka Cricket send an under-strength XI to England next May.

A number of Sri Lanka's leading players are contracted by the Indian Premier League, and there are concerns that the likes of Kumar Sangakkara will be allowed to fulfil these highly lucrative contracts instead of playing for their country. The consequence would either mean Sri Lanka fielding a substandard team, or the total cancellation of the tour.

The Daily Telegraph revealed at the weekend that the ECB have asked the West Indies to be on standby and, although they too have players in the IPL, they are expected to honour playing for their country.

If the substitute tour materialises, it would mean six Test matches between the two countries inside four months. England are due to play a four-Test series in the West Indies next February and March.

An ICC spokesman told Cricinfo that they still expected Sri Lanka to honour the tour, in spite of the cancellation fears.

Stanford to make use of TV replays for all decisions

The use of TV replays is intended to avoid any contentious decisions with such high money at stake.

Umpires will be allowed to make use of TV replays for all contentious decisions during the Stanford Super Series, which concludes with the US$20 million Stanford 20/20 for 20 between England and Stanford Superstars on November 1 - the biggest prize on offer currently in the game.

The Stanford 20/20 also announced the panel of umpires for the tournament; it includes Simon Taufel, who's won the ICC umpiring award five years in a row, Rudi Koertzen, Asad Rauf and Steve Davis. Jeff Crowe, the match referee, will decide the on-field appointments prior to each of the six games in the series.

The ICC has been conducting trials involving the use of TV replays, but it remains at an experimental stage and has divided opinion among officials and players alike. Such is the huge amount of money at stake in the forthcoming Stanford 20/20 for 20, however, that the organisers are keen to avoid any on-field disputes for controversial decisions and, presumably, to lessen the pressure for the two umpires in the middle.

"Stanford 20/20 believes it is essential that this simplified and modernised innovation is in place to ensure that incorrect decisions are eliminated and the integrity of the game is maintained," Mike Haysman, Stanford 20/20's director of cricket, said. "Simply put, the umpires will control and officiate the game and the players will get on with the business of playing.

"Stanford 20/20 feels that this umpire referral process is the most practical means to eliminate obvious mistakes and we see it as the way forward."

The tournament, from October 25 to November 1, starts with the clash between the Stanford Superstars and Trinidad and Tobago.

India's winning habit

Fittingly the defeat in the second Test has been inflicted by India, who have stood up to Australia, competed against them more consistently than any other team in the past decade.

Trucks in the Punjab are famous for the one-line messages they carry. One of the typically earthy ones is, "Vekhi ja, par chedi na [Keep watching my truck, but don't fiddle around]." For four days and a bit in Mohali, India were the runaway truck that Australia could only watch and do nothing about.

It is a rare happening: When was the last time a team toyed around with Australia? When was the last time Australia were so dominated? One has to go back more than 10 years, to the same opposition and country, to Eden Gardens 1997-98. So long ago that only five players, on both sides, from that Test played in this match. Between Eden Gardens and Mohali, Australia played 117 matches, losing 15, without being so completely outplayed even once.

What would be more satisfactory for India, though, is that this win didn't come on a crumbling dustbowl; home advantage counted for nought this time. It was a good batting track, looking like any Australian pitch, with a little less bounce, on the first day. Contrast this with Eden Gardens 1998, when India played with three spinners, and Sourav Ganguly opened the bowling. Over the last five days, though, and on the same pitch, the ball would lose all potency the moment it was handled by Australian bowlers.

To be fair to the Australians, this isn't the same team that dominated the world over the last decade. Some of the best players in that side - Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer - have gone. Also, they embarked on this tour - possibly their toughest assignment of recent times - without Andrew Symonds; discipline problem or not, it's a mistake they may yet come to regret. Even so, it would take a special effort to put the boot in, simply because of their winning habit and the belief that they can pull themselves out of any kind of strife.

"Especially at one time in the first innings, they [Australia] were 22 from 13 overs. I said to Rahul [Dravid], 'Look at the board, we won't see that again'"Mahendra Singh Dhoni

It's perhaps fitting that this defeat has been inflicted by India, who have stood up to Australia, competed against them more consistently than any other team in the past decade. And India are the only team who constantly threaten to outskill them: once it was their mysterious spin bowling and imperious batting, here the biggest difference between the teams was the quality of the pace bowling.

While Australia struggled for any disconcerting movement, the Indian bowlers got prodigious swing, both conventional and reverse. A TV split-screen visual of the six-over-old ball being used by both the teams told a story. While the one Australia used was scuffed up all over, the one India used had two markedly different sides, shiny and rough. That meant the ball started reversing as early as in the ninth over at times, a sensational phenomenon. And since it's still hard and new that early, as MS Dhoni suggested, it was all the more difficult to face. "The ball [from Ishant Sharma] that got me would get me 95 times out of 100," Ricky Ponting confessed.

The batsmen and the spinners did their job too. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag gave India two fiery starts, putting Australia on the back foot right away. The middle order revived them after a brief blip. Amit Mishra's debut was phenomenal, a throwback to the old days of classical legspin bowling. And Harbhajan Singh fast-tracked Australia to their demise in the second innings.

Right from the toss, India did little wrong. The one potentially distracting period was when Tendulkar moved towards his record but India regrouped well. They were aggressive throughout, and there wasn't a single player in the side they needed to hide. You could say they had nine potential Man-of-the-Match winners, something we rarely see with the Indian team. Perth, earlier this year, was a team performance, but not nearly as destructive.

Once it was India's mysterious spin bowling and imperious batting that undid opponents, here the biggest difference between the teams was the quality of the pace bowling.

It can be argued the destruction started even before the toss. Perhaps Zaheer Khan had sensed in Bangalore that this Australian team could do with some dominating. The debate over who won the moral victory in Bangalore can continue but it's clear who gained more from that result.

Two moments summed up the match for India and Australia. One of them came early on the second day. India had contrived to keep Australia in the game on day one, even though the latter chased leather throughout the day. At 326 for 6, India were still capable of being bundled out for a below-par total. In walked Dhoni, and he got a bouncer first-up. He hooked that for four, then hit another for a six, and "the most defensive side in a long time" was being taken to the cleaners.

Then, on the fourth morning, India played Australia at their own game, applying ruthlessness and urgency - and clarity of thought - in their approach to setting the target, and giving themselves close to 130 overs to bowl out a side low on confidence. And when Matthew Hayden tried to intimidate the bowlers, they didn't take a step back. The inevitable soon happened and, as it usually happens in India, it happened too fast once it started.

Naturally Dhoni was pleased with his team's effort. "I've never seen anything like that," he said. "Especially at one time in the first innings, they were 22 from 13 overs. I said to Rahul [Dravid], 'Look at the board, we won't see that again.'"

The way this Indian team is playing, don't bet on it.