Saturday, February 16, 2008

IPL faces another Australian stumbling block

The number of Australians who will be involved in the IPL is still in doubt...

A quirky Cricket Australia regulation has provided a last-minute hitch in negotiations to allow its contract holders to take part in the Indian Premier League. Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, has set a Sunday deadline for registration for Thursday's player auction, but that is in doubt due to a condition that prevents more than two Australians appearing in the same overseas team.
Sixteen Australians have expressed interest in joining the Twenty20 competition starting in April, but Cricket Australia wants to wait until after the draft before releasing any of them to satisfy its limit. The move extends the uncertainty over how many of the country's players will be involved in the IPL.
Modi has previously said anyone who didn't sign by Sunday would have to wait three years for another chance to join, but Cricket Australia believes the BCCI understands its situation. However, the news has not been as well received by some of the eight franchises who are preparing bids to develop their squads.
"The long-standing regulation, which was around back when Cricket Australia was the Australian Cricket Board, means we won't give clearance to more than two players in an overseas domestic team," Peter Young, Cricket Australia's general manager of corporate affairs, told Cricinfo. "We don't want something that could be seen as a de-facto Australian team.
"It's a condition that has been around for years in county cricket and has been well understood. As long as it is understood by everyone it will be fine."
Until now there has not been significant interest in groups of players appearing in countries other than England, and a board meeting would be required to change the regulation. Cricket Australia has no intention of relaxing the rule, which would prevent one of the franchises stacking its team with Australians.
The development came as Indian board officials were confident of solving the outstanding issues. Cricket Australia and IPL representatives in India and London have been trying to resolve the contract concerns throughout the week and the main problem centres around protecting its sponsors.
Another roadblock to the current players being involved is whether the March tour of Pakistan goes ahead. The country will hold an election on Monday and Young expects some "clarity" on the situation over the next week. The timing of the trip to the West Indies, which starts early in May, also means the squad members will only be able to participate in the first half of the IPL.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gilchrist signs off in style at the WACA

Adam Gilchrist made a memorable hundred in his final international innings at the WACA...

You have to give it to Adam Gilchrist - he does have some sense of timing. In his last innings at the WACA, with Australia under a little bit of pressure half-way through the final edition of the CB Series, Adam Gilchrist and his little squash ball treated an adopted home crowd to a measured hundred that was exactly one half of his side's 236.

That total seemed rather disappointing given how well Sri Lanka did to dismiss Australia in 49.4 overs, but it was a similar pattern when they came out to bat. Australia's pace bowlers got stuck in early and Kumar Sangakkara - left to resuscitate a haemorrhaging run-chase - waged a lone battle with 80 as Sri Lanka fell 63 runs short, handing Australia a bonus point.

Forced to bowl on a hard surface, Sri Lanka struck early to get rid of Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, leaving Gilchrist with plenty to do. This wasn't a typical Gilchrist innings for sheer exhilaration or devastating off-side flaying - he scored 58% of his runs on the leg side - but it was determined in execution. He didn't entirely hook or cut on dancing feet; instead he nudged and pushed and drove, relying on placement over power.

Without any needless risks, Gilchrist ticked along at a fine strike-rate and kept the run-rate at near five an over. Still, he whet the appetite with two sixes as he raised fifty from 57 balls. Gilchrist dominated the century stand with a patient Michael Clarke, flicking and pushing singles and became the fourth batsman to aggregate 9000 runs as an ODI opener.

Given a life on 78 when Lasith Malinga failed to judge a catch at midwicket, Gilchrist raised his 16th ODI hundred after Sri Lanka hit back with the wickets of Clarke and Andrew Symonds in succession. He previously only had one hundred at this venue, against Sri Lanka in 2005-06, and his effort was appreciated with a tumultuous din. Promptly, he celebrated with a huge six over deep square leg off Muttiah Muralitharan.

Sri Lanka did well to run through the lower order inside 50 overs - while Gilchrist was there it seemed Australia would touch 275 - but they floundered with the bat. With 29 in three overs a needless shot from Sanath Jayasuriya, giving Nathan Bracken the charge, went straight to a well-positioned third man. Mitchell Johnson went right through Tillakaratne Dilshan's defences with a yorker-length delivery. Ponting dropped Jayawardene at second slip but managed to hold onto one later to send the Sri Lankan captain on his way for 21. The fourth wicket fell as Chamara Silva drove hard at Bracken and Symonds, diving to his left at cover, intercepted it one-handed - except replays suggested that Symonds may have grounded the ball.

While the rest of his top-order team-mates flashed and faltered, Sangakkara was firm. Shoring up the situation he put away the expansive shots and stuck to tight defence and pushed the two inclusions for this match, James Hopes and Brad Hogg, into the leg-side spaces. Hayden dropped Chamara Kapugedera on 16, at second slip, but Hopes, with his slow-medium pace, snapped a threatening partnership of 53. Hopes slipped in a well-directed bouncer and a pulling Kapugedera was well held by Michael Hussey, diving forward from deep midwicket.

Sangakkara went past his half-century from 80 balls as Sri Lankan hopes faded. With no one around to work the strike, Sangakkara began to chance his arm and a chipped shot fell about a yard short of Lee at long-on. Having just been reprieved by a fielding error when he ended up at the same end as Sangakkara, Farveez Maharoof slogged Hogg to deep midwicket to make it 6 for 159. Chaminda Vaas went first-ball courtesy an awful swipe across the line and Johnson and Lee nipped out the last two wickets.

Australia ultimately had Gilchrist's excellent hundred to thank and the home crowd acknowledged their hero with another standing ovation. At the twilight of his international career Gilchrist showed how much he will be missed in this unit.

Collingwood restores England's pride

Paul Collingwood: a captain's performance to haul England back into the series...

England's chastised cricketers demonstrated a new-found resolve in the third ODI against New Zealand at Auckland, and hauled themselves back into contention in the series with a hard-earned but ultimately comfortable six-wicket victory. After winning the toss and bowling first, England might have imagined an easier day's work when New Zealand slumped to 95 for 6 midway through their innings, but a flamboyant 88 from Jacob Oram ensured a stiff rain-adjusted target of 229. Fittingly, after one or two alarms, it was left to England's captain, Paul Collingwood, to seal the match with a fusillade of boundaries. He finished on 70 not out from 50 balls.

For Collingwood personally, it was a triumphant day - he also picked up 3 for 43 with his medium-pacers. But the collective morale boost was of far greater consequence to his side. England's one-day fortunes have known some dog-days in recent years, but their ten-wicket defeat at Hamilton on Tuesday was about as bad as it has ever been. At 2-0 down in the series, anything less than victory in this game would have been curtains for the series.

That prospect, however, didn't look remotely likely during the opening exchanges of today's contest. At Hamilton, New Zealand's openers, Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder, added 165 unbeaten runs in just 18.1 overs. This time they were parted before the end of the second over, and New Zealand went on to lose three more wickets inside the first 15. It was James Anderson who removed both men - McCullum to a fifth-ball bouncer and Ryder to a mistimed pull to deep midwicket - having located that extra yard of pace and aggression that he had mysteriously mislaid in his previous outing.

Stuart Broad also struck twice in his first spell. Jamie How steered a low catch to Collingwood in the gully before the off-colour Scott Styris top-edged a bouncer to midwicket, and at 53 for 4, New Zealand's ropey middle-order had been exposed. Collingwood picked up his first wicket when Peter Fulton, with his feet stuck in treacle, was bowled through the gate for a tortuous 4 from 25 balls, and he struck again soon afterwards when Ross Taylor was adjudged lbw by a flustered Asaf Rauf. Rauf had just been forced to call a dead-ball for a slogged six over midwicket, because he had not been watching the action when the delivery was bowled.

At 95 for 6, all New Zealand's hopes were invested in Oram, and he didn't disappoint. On 5, he was very lucky to survive a confident lbw appeal from Ryan Sidebottom, but he made his life count with another innings of intense power and perfect timing. He combined with Daniel Vettori in a seventh-wicket stand of 74 to take the sting out of the scoreline and then, when Vettori picked out Owais Shah with a flat pull to wide long-on, he took up the cudgels with a stunning square drive for six off Mascarenhas, and consecutive sixes in Broad's final over, to dent his otherwise excellent figures of 3 for 32.

Ian Bell produced a superb catch running back at midwicket to deny Oram a shot at a century, but New Zealand's total of 234 for 9 was considerably more than England had bargained for. It was soon put into some sort of context when England lost both their openers inside the first eight overs. Phil Mustard slogged two fours and a top-edged six in another frenetic innings, but then became England's seventh run-out victim in 21 dismissals when he unwisely took on Vettori's arm at mid-off. Then, following a brief rain break, Alastair Cook lost patience after batting out consecutive maidens, and pulled loosely to mid-on.

The sting of England's chase, however, was absorbed by Bell and Kevin Pietersen, who added 107 for the third wicket in unexpectedly contrasting styles. Bell was the aggressor, using his feet well to force the ball through the covers and over long-on; Pietersen was strangely subdued, trying but failing to find his timing as New Zealand's medium-pacers cramped his style. Nevertheless, while the pair were in harness, England were in full control of their destiny. The threat of rain spurred Pietersen into action with three fours in a row off Paul Hitchcock, but Vettori tipped the scales once again when both men fell lbw in consecutive overs. Bell was decidedly unfortunate - the ball clearly deflected off an inside edge - but Pietersen could have no complaints as he once again stepped across his stumps to be rapped on the shin.

At 149 for 4, England still required 80 to win from 14 overs, but Collingwood was in no mood to succumb to another embarrassment. With Shah alongside him, England ticked off the singles until they were within striking distance, and then Collingwood cut loose. A volley of four sixes and two fours in nine balls - including a cheeky reverse dab and an effortless pick-up over the ropes - allowed England to coast home with a full three overs to spare. It might not be enough to expunge the memories of Hamilton, but it was just the tonic the team needed. And more importantly, it kept the series alive.

Contracts issue with CA resolved - IPL

With the contract dispute between Cricket Australia and the Indian Premier League resolved, the scene's all clear for the players...

The contracts tussle between Cricket Australia and the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been resolved, ending weeks of uncertainty over the availability of top Australian players for the Twenty20 tournament.

"The issue has been resolved," IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi told Cricinfo. "Two or three Australian players have already signed up with IPL. Hopefully, in the next 24 hours, this will go down the line. The process has already begun. Now it's just a matter of getting through to the Australian players and their agents," Modi said.

The dispute revolved round protecting the rights of the Australian team's global sponsors during the tournament, which will be telecast live in Australia by Channel Ten. However, asked whether the compromise that has been worked out involved compensation or protection to Australia's sponsors, Modi said: "No. We have made it clear."

A resolution to the issue was on the cards, given that the last day for players to sign up for the IPL - as indicated by Modi - was Sunday. On Thursday, a senior Indian cricket board official had told Cricinfo that the contracts tussle was nearing a resolution. "It's not a conflict situation any longer. We are looking at a resolution now," the official had said.

The IPL organizers are now looking for some clarity to emerge on Australia's impending Test tour of Pakistan before the deadline. Cricket Australia's security advisors have warned against going ahead with the tour and a cancellation will enable the biggest names, including Ricky Ponting, the captain, and fast bowler Brett Lee, to appear for the IPL.

Pakistan mull ODIs with India if Australia pull out

The Indian team may well be playing an ODI series in Pakistan in case Australia don't tour in March-April...

Pakistan are considering inviting India for a quickfire series of ODIs if, as is becoming increasingly likely, Australia pull out of their scheduled tour in March-April.

Doubts about whether Australia will come for their first tour in nearly a decade have increased day-by-day over the last week, the latest coming from Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain.

The Pakistan board has all along insisted it's priority is to get Australia to come to visit, but has privately admitted they are working on alternative options, which include inviting another country over.

And a well-placed source revealed to Cricinfo that informal talks had been held with the BCCI about a series of ODIs in Pakistan in case Australia don't come.

"There have been informal discussions with the BCCI but nothing has been firmed up. Things will become clearer in a day or so," the source said. "The first priority is still to get Australia to come over but if they don't come, options have to be and are being examined."

Two PCB officials, including the chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi are currently touring India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for bilateral board talks regarding scheduling ahead of an ICC meeting to devise the Future Tours Programme (FTP) till 2013. The ostensible purpose of the mission is to fill the gaps in Pakistan's schedule in the current FTP.

The current Pakistan administration is said to be unhappy over their predecessor's work on the last FTP, which has left Pakistan with a number of gaps in their cricketing calendar. "Pakistan played half the number of Tests that Australia did according to that FTP and that is something that needs to be rectified," the source said. But as a result of Australia's hesitancy, the trip has become an opportunity for Pakistan to try and arrange an alternative contest with countries who are free in March-April.

Both boards, however, are officially denying the development. India, as ever, is hemmed in by a hectic schedule. Between their return from Australia and the first Test against South Africa, an ODI series, even just across the border, seems unlikely. "It's not possible," a senior BCCI official told Cricinfo. "The Indian team returns from Australia on March 8 and the first Test against South Africa starts in Chennai on March 26. Where is the time?"

Ahsan Malik, the PCB spokesman, explained the board's focus was on getting Australia over. "This is an official trip with regards to the FTP till 2013. They wanted to meet boards and have a pre-scheduling round of meetings with them. Our full concentration is on playing Australia."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fleming to retire after England series

Stephen Fleming will leave the game as New Zealand's leading Test run-scorer, most capped player, and most prolific captain...

Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's most-capped player, has announced he will retire from Test cricket at the end of the upcoming home series against England. Fleming said it was better for his family if he quit the game ahead of the return tour of England in May and June.

"I always indicated that I was likely to retire from international cricket at some point in the near future and the time is right for me and my family to do that now," Fleming said. "Retiring before the tour to England will allow me to be with [my wife] Kelly for the birth of our second child."

Fleming, 34, will take part in the Indian Premier League, however, and said it was a good way to stay involved in the sport. "It is an exciting opportunity and one that I will be pursuing with the full support of New Zealand Cricket," he said. "The IPL only takes a short amount of my time each year, and allows me to continue pursuing my new endeavours outside of the game."

One of those aims is to start his own marketing, media and sports management business but NZC's chief executive Justin Vaughan hopes Fleming will play a part in the country's cricketing future. "Stephen's presence and leadership qualities had a tremendous impact on the team and he will be missed by New Zealand Cricket and the Black Caps," Vaughan said.

"He has made a huge contribution to cricket in New Zealand and I sincerely wish him all the best. I'm sure we have not seen the last of him and we are working to ensure that he has a role within cricket in New Zealand in the future."

Fleming departs with a sackful of New Zealand Test records. No New Zealander has played as many Tests (108), scored as many runs (6875), taken as many catches (166), captained as many games (80), or led as many wins (28) as Fleming.

Appointed at 23, he was the country's youngest Test skipper and only Allan Border, who led Australia through 93 Tests, guided his team in more games. When Fleming retired from one-day international cricket last September he left with a similar bunch of records. At the same time as Fleming quit ODIs New Zealand handed the Test captaincy to Daniel Vettori, which disappointed Fleming, who wanted to see if separate captains could help New Zealand's consistency.

"I felt in New Zealand cricket whenever our one-day cricket was going well our Test cricket suffered and vice-versa," he said. "One of the ways to combat that was to step aside as one-day captain. I would have liked the opportunity to be working away at our Test game, to be exploring how we could beat England in the Tests."

After the powers that be decided against splitting the captaincy, Fleming admitted he had contemplated his future and seriously considered a substantial offer from the Indian Cricket League. It became clear his time at the top level was drawing to a close.

The only question was when in 2008 he would end his career. Would it be before the home series against England, after it, or following the return tour of England in New Zealand's winter? Fleming, a man who avoids fanfare where possible, has opted for three final Tests at home with his last set to start in Napier on March 22.

That will give local fans an opportunity to farewell a man who has defined New Zealand cricket for more than a decade. When he made his Test debut in 1993-94 it was immediately apparent the selectors had found an important player for the future success of the side. In a team led by Ken Rutherford against India in Hamilton, Fleming made 92 in his opening Test, and he followed it just days later with 90 in his ODI debut in Napier.

Stephen Fleming will continue to be involved in the game and will play in the Indian Premier League...

But triple-figures never quite agreed with Fleming, who ended up with nine centuries and 43 half-centuries in accumulating a Test average of 39.73. It took him 23 Tests to make his first hundred and a month later he was thrust into the captaincy when Lee Germon was unavailable for against England due to a groin injury. Germon did not return and Fleming began a ten-year reign during which he eventually became regarded as arguably the most astute leader in the game.

Through it all runs kept coming for Fleming, though not in the proportions he or his country would have liked. He was sometimes accused of lacking concentration as he tried to build big scores and that trend looked set to continue in Colombo in 1998 when he absent-mindedly strolled to the crease without his box and had to rush back to retrieve it.

A lazy shot brought his dismissal for 78, but in his second innings he displayed a rarely-seen resolve, batting for nearly eight hours to finish unbeaten on 174 and setting up a 167-run victory. It was his second Test century and New Zealand hoped it would be his turning point. He didn't reach triple-figures again in a Test for nearly four years.

A highlight eventually came in the same city five years later when he batted for nearly 11 hours to register an unbeaten 274 - it remains his highest score - and then made an unselfish declaration that left the door open for a result. He finished the match having been on the field in searing heat for all but the first 44 minutes of the draw and any suggestions that he lacked application were finally put to rest.

As if to prove that his double-century was no fluke, he rattled off several more mammoth efforts in Tests: 192 against Pakistan, 202 in Bangladesh and 262 against South Africa. There were outstanding one-day innings along the way as well, and an unbeaten 134 against South Africa in a must-win World Cup match in 2003 was particularly important.

But more than individual performances, Fleming was proud of the times he led his small country to big successes. Guiding them to a 2-1 Test win in England in 1999 was particularly special, although Fleming was also pleased with the 0-0 drawn series in Australia in 2001-02. Another highlight came in 2000 when he led New Zealand to their first triumph in a major tournament - the Champions Trophy in Nairobi.

The one-day arena was also where Fleming experienced some of his biggest disappointments, and failing to get his team into a World Cup final was a regret. Following last year's semi-final knockout at the hands of Sri Lanka, Fleming quit the ODI captaincy, which precipitated a chain of events that gradually led to his removal from the Test leadership. Fittingly, though, he has been afforded the right to end his playing career on his own terms.

IPL contracts 'no longer conflict situation' - BCCI

James Sutherland: 'We are approaching this with an open mind on trying to resolve the issue in a manner which allows the IPL to go ahead with Australian player participation'...

The Indian board is confident the current contracts-related tussle between the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Cricket Australia "will be resolved by Saturday evening". The dispute, which has put the participation of top Australian players in the BCCI-backed IPL in some doubt, revolves round protecting the rights of the Australian team's global sponsors during the tournament, which will be telecast live by Channel Ten in Australia.

"It's not a conflict situation any longer. We are looking at a resolution now," a senior board official told Cricinfo. "In fact, we expect Cricket Australia to make an announcement in this regard by Saturday."

The mood seemed to find echo in Cricket Australia's chief executive, James Sutherland, who said on Thursday he wanted Australian players in the IPL. "We are approaching this with an open mind on trying to resolve the issue in a manner which allows the IPL to go ahead with Australian player participation, when available," he told AFP.

The statements represent a softening of stand by both sides after the hardline stands taken in the past few weeks. Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, has repeatedly stated there will be no compromise on the issue, and Cricket Australia has refused to clear its players for the IPL till the issue is sorted out. The tussle reached a flashpoint on Tuesday with Modi saying the IPL will sign on Australian players even if they are not cleared by Cricket Australia.

The Indian board expects some clarity to emerge on Australia's impending Test tour to Pakistan before Sunday, which is the IPL's deadline for players to sign up for the tournament starting April 18. Cricket Australia's security advisors have warned against going ahead with the tour and a cancellation will enable the biggest names, including Ricky Ponting, the captain, and fast bowler Brett Lee, to appear for the IPL.

Meanwhile, the Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA) has endorsed the players' contract offered by the IPL. "I can confirm that I am now satisfied in principle with the form of the IPL Player Contract," FICA's chief executive, Tim May, said in a statement on Thursday. "I am waiting to see a copy of the final draft of the agreement, following which I anticipate recommending to our members that the agreement is satisfactory for players to enter."

Captain cool

Stephen Fleming gave away little on the field, but his plans were always meticulously prepared...

In a country used to being dismissed, perhaps unfairly, as a minor player in world cricket, Stephen Fleming has been a giant. New Zealand's population of four million is smaller than most of their rivals, they have produced fewer superstars and enjoyed less major tournament triumphs, but they provided one of the most respected captains of the modern era.

That Fleming led his team in more Tests than any player other than the indefatigable Allan Border should not be underestimated. That he did so with a winning ratio of 35% in a team that lacked flair and often appeared out-matched on paper, is testament to his skill as a leader.

Fleming said last month that although he spent a decade as captain, he felt only the final three or four seasons were really his. In the time leading up to that New Zealand simply had no other options. Even if that were true, repeated failures would not be tolerated and his ability to retain the job for so long made him a rarity in the modern game. During his reign West Indies went through six full-time captains, and even the stable Australia had three.

It is true that Fleming was thrust into the top role when New Zealand were running out of options. He was 23 when Lee Germon's groin injury left the captaincy vacant and Fleming became the youngest man to lead New Zealand in a Test. His appointment was not totally without objection - two years earlier he had been slapped on the wrist for smoking marijuana on a tour of South Africa - but his calm guidance of the squad soon won him admirers. If Border had been Australia's captain grumpy, Fleming was New Zealand's captain cool.

Fleming had idolised Martin Crowe for his innovation while leading a team thin on natural talent, a situation Fleming would know all too well. Steve Waugh was another who influenced Fleming's later years, and holding Waugh's men to a 0-0 draw in 2001-02 ranked as a career highlight. But for some final-day fight from Waugh and Adam Gilchrist in the third Test in Perth, New Zealand might have stolen the series.

The result was no fluke. Fleming proved himself a top tactician by asking his fast men, who with the exception of Shane Bond were not that quick, to bowl short at the 36-year-old Waugh twins, taking advantage of their age and slowing reflexes. He also negated the impact of Damien Martyn, who was coming off a highly productive Ashes tour, by setting grouped fields between point and gully that forced the batsman to alter his natural game.

It was a classic example of Fleming doing his homework. And like a student whose essays were always handed in ahead of time, Fleming's thorough preparation calmed him when the real deadline arrived. On the field he gave little away as he often rubbed his chin, deep in thought, but much of his work would have been done in the days leading up to the game.

Sometimes his ideas did not work, and he was sorely frustrated not to fare better in the World Cup than to reach semi-finals in 1999 and 2007. But outsiders admired the way he got the most out of a side devoid of superstars. Just as Fleming looked to Crowe and Waugh, a new generation of leaders will surely take inspiration from the Fleming years.

Five of Fleming's best

Stephen Fleming's tenacious 274 in Colombo in 2003 made it hard to believe he was ever accused of lacking concentration...

116* v Australia, Melbourne, 1997-98

New Zealand's only win on this tour of Australia came as they overhauled the hosts' 251 in a one-dayer at the MCG. An under-strength Australia attack still managed to have New Zealand at 3 for 42 and by that stage the bookmakers had the visitors at 20 to 1. Things hadn't improved much as they strolled past 100 in the 30th over but Fleming gradually reeled in the target - he only hit eight fours in the innings - and finished unbeaten on a superbly-paced 116. It was one of many big knocks Fleming would play in come-from-behind victories.

174* v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 1998
Before this match, it was sometimes said that Fleming could not concentrate for long periods. That trend looked set to continue when he absent-mindedly strolled to the crease without his box and had to rush back to retrieve it. A lazy shot brought his dismissal for 78 but in his second innings he displayed a rarely-seen resolve, batting for nearly eight hours and setting up a 167-run victory. It was Fleming's second Test century and New Zealand hoped it would be his turning point. As it turned out, Fleming didn't reach triple-figures again in a Test for nearly four years.

134* v South Africa, Johannesburg, 2003
This was a match New Zealand simply had to win. They had lost their World Cup opener to Sri Lanka and were about to give up a forfeit to Kenya because of security concerns. Another loss and they might not reach the Super Sixes. The home side piled on 306 but Fleming was not giving in. Wisden called his 134 an innings of "graceful power" and after rain and electrical failure shortened the match, he guided New Zealand to their revised target with a four off Allan Donald. It was Fleming's fourth century in 192 ODIs and it gave his team their first limited-overs win in South Africa.

274* v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2003
Fleming's tenacious performance in this match made it hard to believe he was ever accused of lacking concentration. He batted for nearly 11 hours to register an unbeaten 274 - his highest score in Tests - and his unselfish declaration left the door open for a result. But Sri Lanka refused to play ball, batting so long that a draw became inevitable. Fleming added 69 not out in the second innings and was on the field in searing heat for all but the first 44 minutes of the match.

262 v South Africa, Cape Town, 2005-06

With his side down 1-0, Fleming lost the toss in the second Test and New Zealand were sent in on a dreary day. James Franklin made his maiden century but Fleming was the star, racking up 262 and becoming the first New Zealander to score three Test double-centuries. He batted positively - his strike rate was 61 - but the home side's hefty reply was slower and the match petered out to a draw.

Players want Pakistan tour cancelled - report

Cricket Australia says it is aware of the players' concerns over visiting Pakistan...

The chances of Australia going to Pakistan next month grow slimmer by the day with the Australian reporting senior players would pull out of the trip if it goes ahead. The visit is dependent on a security inspection, which is currently due to occur after the country's elections on Monday, but Cricket Australia said in a letter to the Pakistan Cricket Board it has been advised not to travel.

"We are aware of the significant concerns that the players have and they are concerns we share," the Cricket Australia public affairs manager Peter Young told the Australian. "We're still moving through a process and we have a way to go before that process is finalised."

The paper reported "most of Australia's senior players have made it privately clear they would pull out of any visit". The violent situation in Pakistan may force the security visit to be cancelled, but Young said no decision had been made, believing there were "significant obstacles" which need to be worked through. "But that's not to say the obstacles are locked doors," Young said.

Nasim Ashraf, the Pakistan board chairman, raised suggestions of a boycott for the return 2009 tour if Australia did not take part in next month's series. "We're obviously keen to see them here and the circumstances of them visiting here have to be considered in isolation at that time," Young said. "The particular circumstances this time include significant concerns about safety and security that we just can't ignore."

The Fleming era

Stephen Fleming was the face of New Zealand cricket for more than a decade...

January 1992
Makes his first-class debut for Canterbury in Hamilton at the age of 18 and is promptly removed by Richard de Groen without troubling the scorers.

March 1994
Gives a glimpse of his talent in his debut Test against India - again in Hamilton - scoring 92 and earning the Man-of-the-Match award. Follows this just days later with 90 on his one-day international debut at Napier.

He is busted by team management for smoking marijuana on tour in South Africa, for which he is later fined the princely sum of $175.

January 1997
In his 23rd Test he scores his first century when he makes 129 against England .

February 1997
At 23 years and 319 days, becomes the youngest Test captain in New Zealand's history when he leads the side against England in Christchurch. He is initially standing in for Lee Germon, who cannot play due to a groin injury, but the position soon becomes permanent.

February/March 1999
Injury keeps him out of the home Test series against South Africa and Dion Nash takes over the captaincy. Nash's aggressive tactics win many fans and there are calls for Fleming to be sacked because of his more laid-back style. Fleming keeps the job and captains New Zealand in every Test for the next eight years.

October 15, 2000
Leads New Zealand to their first triumph in a major tournament, winning the Champions Trophy final against India in Nairobi.

March 2001

In Christchurch
he captains New Zealand for the 35th time in a Test match, breaking John Reid's record of leading the side 34 times.

March 31, 2004
Fleming is named New Zealand's Cricketer of the Year after a season that includes his highest Test score - 274 not out against Sri Lanka in Colombo - as well as a hefty 192 against Pakistan in Hamilton.

July 2004
Leads his side to victory in the tri-series with West Indies and England. New Zealand cruise to a 107-run win in the final against West Indies at Lord's and Fleming is named Player of the Series for his 254 runs at 50.80.

October 2004
Continues his remarkable year with 202 against Bangladesh and in the process enters the record books as New Zealand's most capped Test player and their highest Test run-scorer, surpassing Martin Crowe's mark of 5444.

September 17, 2005
Captains Nottinghamshire to their first County Championship title since 1987 with a comprehensive win over Kent in Canterbury. Fleming's form throughout the tournament is outstanding as he scores four centuries and finishes with 908 runs at 60.53.

November 2005
Has a potentially cancerous tumour removed from his face but recovers quickly and misses less than a month.

April 2006
At the aptly-named venue of , Fleming becomes the first New Zealand player to reach 100 Tests. Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock also reach the same milestone in the match and South Africa win by 128 runs.

October 25, 2006
Fleming breaks Arjuna Ranatunga's record of 193 one-day internationals as captain and becomes the world's most experienced ODI leader. He celebrates by making 80 in a convincing win over Pakistan in Mohali.

April 24, 2007
Quits as New Zealand's limited-overs captain after they are eliminated from the World Cup at the semi-final stage in Kingston. Finishes his reign with a record 218 matches as leader and a winning percentage of 48.04.

July-August, 2007
Is approached by the Indian Cricket League to captain a side in its new competition. Fleming does not publicly announce his intentions, leading to speculation he is considering retirement from the New Zealand team.

September 2007
Is replaced as Test and ODI captain by Daniel Vettori. Announces he will stay on as a Test player but retires from one-day internationals.

February 2008
Announces his retirement from Tests, effective after the home series against England.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Symonds and Ponting high on franchise wishlist

Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds are among the must-have players of at least three IPL franchises...

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, and Andrew Symonds, the allrounder, are on the list of top five must-have players of at least three franchises in the Indian Premier League, Cricinfo has learned, belying fears in the fallout of the Sydney Test that public sentiment would jeopardise their involvement in the big-money tournament.

The IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, had voiced those fears, saying there would "definitely be some casualties" of the controversy.

However, one week before the players' auction, representatives of the IPL's Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi franchises - who say "public memory is short" and "everybody has moved on" from Sydney - are working their budgets around Ponting and Symonds and the other top draw, Adam Gilchrist. Each of the eight IPL teams can recruit up to eight overseas international players and field four of them in the playing XI.

"Any Australian player would figure high on our list, just for the sheer professionalism and commitment they bring to the field," says the former India international VB Chandrasekhar, now a key operations man in the Chennai franchise, owned by India Cements. "I don't think there will be any negative impact here on the Sydney incident."

"There is a different kind of passion involved here. We are looking at inter-city rivalries here, not between countries. In fact, I think having Ponting and Symonds play here will only alleviate whatever tension there might have been following the Sydney incident."

The former India fast bowler, T A Sekar, who is the vice-president of sports administration for the Delhi team, says he would be "very keen" on Symonds as he is looking out for multi-skilled players. "More than Ponting, I would go for Gilchrist and Symonds because they fit the bill. In this format, our eyes will be on multi-skilled players."

Charu Sharma, CEO-designate of the Bangalore franchise, believes public memory is short. "Once Symonds and Ponting are part of your team, and they walk out in the field, you will hear their names chanted from the stands. The backlash in India and Australia was to a particular incident, in a particular match. Everybody has moved on."

Sharma, a television commentator, explained why Symonds and Ponting were so sought after. "Cricket-wise, Symonds brings an enormous batting ability in a Twenty20 situation, gives you a bowling option and a fantastic fielding option. In Twenty20 you need a player who can change the game in two or three overs. Symonds clearly has that ability."

Ponting, he said, might take an over or two to get going. "But he can then hit the ball as hard as anybody else. He's got great eye, great feet, brings a lot of experience, and a sound cricketing background with him."

There is still some doubt over the participation of current Australian players in the inaugural IPL, given that the team is scheduled to tour Pakistan around the time the IPL begins. However, Sharma said the IPL had informed franchise owners that the status of these Australian players would be confirmed before the auction, on February 20.

Sign by Sunday or stay out, IPL tells Australians

Australia's retired players might get the go-ahead from Cricket Australia, but will a refusal for the rest lead to a revolt?...

Australia's cricketers have been issued an ultimatum by the Indian Premier League (IPL) - sign up by the Sunday deadline or stay out for three years. And in a move that might undermine Cricket Australia's authority, Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, has indicated Australian players can take part in the tournament without "no objection certificates" from Cricket Australia, contrary to an earlier guideline that players needed permission from their respective national boards.

"They [the players] are running out of time," Modi told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I am not the type that won't follow through with what I say: if the contracts are not signed and returned by Sunday the Australian players will not be allowed to take part in the IPL for three years. We are taking a list to owners on Monday.

"Each franchise has a US$5 million cap for its team, and the contracts are for three years, so when they bid for players at the auction they will use up all of their cap - there will be no money to buy other players later. We will gladly take the Australian players without no objection certificates, we don't want to go down that path but if we have to, we will."

The move comes on the heels of a tussle between the Indian board-run IPL and Cricket Australia over corporate issues. Cricket Australia is reluctant to let its contracted players appear for teams having competing sponsors to its own.

Modi has stated continually that Cricket Australia's demands over sponsor protection can't be met, and this latest statement could increase the rift. A few Australian players such as Ricky
Ponting and Andrew Symonds have also voiced their disappointment over Cricket Australia's interference.

With big money at stake, the tournament is too tempting for players to ignore, and many believe it could lead to an exodus. ''The cricket world is going to have to respond to the IPL given its magnitude,'' the IPL's Australian-based agent Neil Maxwell told the Daily Telegraph. ''I know [Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive] Paul Marsh made the logical suggestion that ultimately there needs to be a six-week window carved out of the playing itinerary, the Future Tours Program.

''Otherwise players will be leaving. Players will be retiring. Unfortunately at the moment we have a conflict. If that is taken out, there won't be conflict.'' Australia's international schedule clashes with the IPL, but the players might be free if the tour to Pakistan doesn't happen.

Mohammad Sami among eight new ICL signings

Mohammad Sami is among the ICL's latest signings.

Eight Pakistani players, including fast bowlers Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, have signed up to play in the unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL).

All eight players have represented Pakistan at the international level. Sami, Naved-ul-Hasan, Mushtaq Ahmed, Humayun Farhat, Shahid Nazir, Hasan Raza, Imran Nazir and Riaz Afridi will now join six other Pakistan players who are already part of the league.

The Pakistan board, meanwhile, showed no sign of softening their stance towards players moving to the league. "Our domestic teams and players are like a family for us and we have worked for their welfare and betterment," said Zakir Khan, director operations PCB.

"Players are given salaries and retainers at domestic level now. If after all this these guys want to join the ICL, we wish them well and good luck. Our stance remains the same still [barred from selection for Pakistan and domestic cricket]. A number of these players are in the twilight of their careers anyway."

Sami is the most high-profile signing, having played for Pakistan as recently as December last year, in the third Test against India in Bangalore. Humayun, who kept wicket in one Test and five ODIs, joins his brother Imran, while Raza, who, in 1996 became the youngest Test cricketer at 14 years and 227 days, last played for Pakistan in 2005. Shahid Nazir, a promising fast bowler when he burst onto the scene in 1996, has also been in and out of the side over the last decade.

The youngest of the lot is fast bowler Riaz Afridi, an Under-19 World Cup winner in 2004, who has one Test under his belt. Imran Nazir, a batsman touted as the next big thing after a scintillating hundred in Barbados in 2000, made a comeback last year to the team, but played his last one-dayer against India in November and was overlooked for a central contract by the Pakistan board.

There are reports that Arshad Khan, the offspinner, was to join as well, especially after he resigned from the PCB's junior selection committee. "Arshad Khan, who is the member of the Junior Selection Committee of Pakistan Cricket Board, tendered his resignation yesterday in view of better opportunity elsewhere," a board statement said. "The management has accepted his resignation with immediate effect." However, the Zee Group, who are behind the ICL, insist that this is the final list and that Arshad isn't part of the league as of now.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar, Shabbir Ahmed, Abdul Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood signed up when the league was launched last year. Mohammad Yousuf decided to join too before pulling out. The Pakistan board subsequently barred the players from representing Pakistan or playing domestic cricket.

"We are extremely pleased to welcome these players to the ICL family," said Kapil Dev, the former Indian captain who is currently the chairman of the executive board for the ICL. "These talented & experienced cricketers will definitely be a great source of learning for the youngsters who will play with them. Under their guidance, the Indian Cricket League players will develop skills comparable to the best of international cricketing talent."

Kapil Dev files petition against BCCI

Kapil Dev has filed a petition against the Indian board for stopping his pension after he joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL), an initiative not backed by the BCCI.

Kapil levelled the charge that the board had "deliberately amended the rules" following his move to the ICL by altering the word 'pension' with 'Benevolent Fund'.

Kapil's affidavit, which was filed in the Delhi High Court, read: "The only way of earning a livelihood for us retired cricketers is through the game and the board cannot, by illegally changing its rules and regulations, deprive us of the benefits."

He also contested BCCI's decision to sack him as the chairman of the National Cricket Academy, a post he held till joining the ICL as the chairman of its executive board.

The BCCI members met for a special general meeting last August where the decision to remove Kapil from the chairman's post at the NCA was made along with decision to deny players the right to derive any benefit from the BCCI if they were associated with the ICL. This meant former players, Kiran More, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Sandeep Patil, EAS Prasanna, Madan Lal, Rajesh Chauhan, who joined the ICL in various roles, also had their pensions revoked by the board.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The lion roars, finally

Farveez Maharoof came back into Sri Lanka's side and picked up the important wicket of Sachin Tendulkar...

A 21-over match should have suited the reigning world Twenty20 champions India, but a revised-down total and some blistering early strikes from Sanath Jayasuriya lifted Sri Lanka to their first win of the CB Series. Rain reduced the target to 154 and Tillakaratne Dilshan's half-century eased Sri Lanka home with 12 balls to spare.

India were on the wrong end of the weather adjustments after Rohit Sharma's career-best 70 not out set up what should have been a competitive total following morning showers. But further rain during the innings break meant Sri Lanka could pursue a victory in Twenty20 style.

The chase of 196 from 29 overs had been reduced to 154 from 21 but Sanath Jayasuriya appeared to be still aiming for the original target from the smaller amount of overs. He had his team rattling along at nearly 12 an over when he top-edged an attempted pull to Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Ishant Sharma.

Jayasuriya had taken only 13 deliveries for his 27 and he left Sreesanth with the ugly figures of 0 for 34 from his first two. Sreesanth's second over went for 23 as Jayasuriya casually flicked a six off his pads over midwicket - the ball nearly left Manuka Oval - and followed with another six lifted over backward point. There were also a couple of cracking drives through and over cover before Ishant's pace earned the prize wicket.

But with just over a run-a-ball required it was simple for Sri Lanka to keep the score ticking for such a short period, and Dilshan anchored the chase with an unbeaten 62. Dilshan cut hard and pulled impressively, reaching his half-century from 47 balls. The milestone came off Sreesanth, whose horror day continued as fielders fumbled off his bowling and Ishant misjudged what could have been a catch off Dilshan, but turned into a six.

On a day when Australia's capital city experienced the first sitting of parliament under a Labor government in nearly 12 years, Canberra's residents also enjoyed the end of another lengthy era. There had not been a one-day international played there since the 1992 World Cup, when Kepler Wessels' South Africans beat Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval.

It looked for a while like the local fans might be disappointed as the scheduled start time of 10am came and went with heavy rain falling. After three and a half hours and some frantic work by the groundstaff, a 29-over game was announced and Mahela Jayawardene asked India to bat in the still damp conditions.

India initially struggled to adjust to the unusual-length match, although Sachin Tendulkar was typically dominant in posting 32 from 30 balls, including plenty of runs worked to the leg side from outside off stump. But when he and Virender Sehwag were both caught at third man the runs dried up for a while.

Rohit Sharma made an entertaining 70 not out but it wasn't enough for India to secure a win...

Rohit and Gautam Gambhir had trouble deciding on the right tempo and India went for nearly nine overs without a boundary until Rohit cut hard for four in the 15th over. Gambhir (35) showed glimpses of his best with a couple of brazen drives over cover to the boundary but he was caught short thanks to a snappy piece of work from Lasith Malinga, who took a hard throw at the bowler's end and flicked the ball backwards onto the stumps.

At 3 for 113 after 20 overs India needed to get a wriggle-on and the 46-ball partnership of 68 between Dhoni and Rohit was ideal. They often manufactured boundaries from deliveries that weren't that bad, and it was their second important stand in three days, having saved India from a late scare to beat Australia in Melbourne on Sunday.

Rohit's half-century came with a four bunted over the wicketkeeper's head when he backed away and Nuwan Kulasekera followed him with what appeared a sensible piece of bowling. But everything went right for Rohit, who at one point had seemingly dawdled to 29 from 45 balls.

His perfectly-timed slog-sweep six off Muttiah Muralitharan inspired the late charge and soon he was backing away to create space, premeditating sweeps, and finding runs where they did not seem to exist. His 64-ball innings was complemented by Dhoni, who struck three fours in his 26-ball 31.

But India's chances drained away with the further showers - they had already suffered two wash-outs to open the CB Series in Brisbane - and Sri Lanka's first victory evened up the tournament with all three sides sitting on one win. Australia's tri-series is being axed after 29 years but the farewell competition is shaping up as a classic.

Gibbs dropped for Bangladesh tour

Poor Test form in the last year has cost Herschelle Gibbs a place in the squad for Bangladesh...

Neil McKenzie and Andre Nel have been passed fit for South Africa's 14-man Test squad for the tour of Bangladesh, but there was no place for Herschelle Gibbs. Gibbs' recent Test record - he averaged 22.40 from six Tests in the last 12 months - has gone against him, and he has been replaced by JP Duminy.

Duminy, a left-handed batsman, scored 227 runs at 113.50 in four innings during South Africa's 5-0 ODI rout of West Indies recently.

There were few surprises in the rest of the squad, whose announcement was delayed amid reports of a bitter row between Norman Arendse, the Cricket South Africa (CSA) president and coach Mickey Arthur. The row stems from Arendse's complaint that the team selected for the tour of Bangladesh did not conform with CSA's transformation policy, which calls for seven players of colour in a touring squad of 15. Arthur apparently wanted to take the best possible team to Bangladesh to acclimatise to the conditions on the subcontinent ahead of a tour of India. Ultimately, Arthur got the team he wanted as the original squad presented to Arendse was selected.

Arendse denied reports that he wanted Gibbs and Monde Zondeki, both of whom are coloured, to be included in the squad. Zondeki, a fast bowler, has been omitted, despite finishing the SuperSport Series as the second-highest wicket-taker with 54 wickets for the Cape Cobras.

However, Arendse reportedly wanted Gibbs and Charl Langeveldt, another coloured player, to be included in place of Nel and McKenzie.

"But the CEO [Majola] has effectively over-ridden my veto, and I suppose the team that was announced today is the one that will go to Bangladesh," Arendse told Sapa news agency. "I don't have the financial resources to send another team, and I can't stop players from getting on the plane on Wednesday."

The squad was to be finalised on Tuesday and Arendse attributed the delay to the fitness of McKenzie and Nel. The duo, who picked up calf muscle and neck injuries respectively, were assessed today and declared fit.

The first of two Tests gets underway on February 22 before three one-day internationals next month.

South Africa squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie, Morne Morkel, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn.

MCC raise £650,000 for tsunami projects

MCC have raised over £650,000 to fund recovery projects in Sri Lanka following the devastating tsunami in December 2004. Representatives from MCC visited Sri Lanka recently to witness the region's regeneration, and a short video has been released to promote the achievement.

Two fund-raising matches were organised in the wake of the disaster, the first in Melbourne and the second, in June 2005, at Lord's between MCC and an International XI. A host of star players - including Shane Warne and Brian Lara, helped attract a packed crowd, with all proceeds going towards the recovery programme.

MCC in Sri Lanka - The Legacy of the Tsunami Match is a 20-minute film that tells the story of how the London match has helped thousands of people rebuild their lives in Sri Lanka. The film, narrated by the BBC's Jonathan Agnew, also features music from Eric Clapton.

"What the tsunami fund-raising match of June 2005 has achieved is astonishing. It was an honour for me to meet some remarkable people of vision and to see first hand a number of projects we have been able to associate with," Mike Brearley, the MCC president, said. "It was an inspiring visit and I believe the film captures this sentiment perfectly."

The charities and organisations to benefit from the match were Leonard Cheshire Disability, British Red Cross, Sri Lanka Cricket and the Foundation for Goodness, a charity supported by Muttiah Muralitharan. In addition, a new purpose-built cricket ground, pavilion and indoor nets were opened at Sri Sumangala College, a state-run school of over 1,600 pupils.

"This film clearly demonstrates that the money raised in 2005 has not only been spent well, it has gone a long way and been spent with an eye to the future," Keith Bradshaw, the MCC chief executive, said. "It's humbling to be a part of something so extraordinary and fitting, I believe, that the projects we've financed include a number of measures designed to help inspire future generations of Sri Lankan cricketers. We must thank again all those players from around the world who gave us their time and skill to make this happen, and to MCC Members, spectators and TV viewers for contributing so generously to the cause. I would urge all cricket lovers to take a look at this film."

Australia unlikely to tour Pakistan

Heavy security enveloped the South African team on their visit to Pakistan in September-October 2007...

Australia's tour to Pakistan, scheduled for March-April, is looking increasingly doubtful following last week's meeting between the chairmen of both boards in Dubai.

Following the interaction, Creagh O'Connor, the Cricket Australia (CA) chairman, sent a letter to the Pakistan board expressing reservations about the security situation inside Pakistan.

"We received a letter yesterday from CA following our meeting and though they reiterated their commitment to supporting Pakistan cricket, they said that security briefings they have received in Australia are advising them against touring," Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, told Cricinfo.

A CA security delegation is due to visit the country in the aftermath of general elections, to be held on February 18. But a report in the Urdu daily Jang said CA were unsure whether sending a delegation would serve any purpose now, indicating perhaps that a decision to not tour had already been made.

"They have asked us whether we still want a security delegation sent here and if so when," Ashraf said. "In response to this, we have told CA that we still firmly believe that the environment for cricket and cricketers is still safe here. We have also said that the security team should visit Pakistan from February 25, exactly one week after the elections."

Australian players have expressed concerns about touring Pakistan for what would be their first tour in a decade, following a year of increasing violence and instability through the country. Despite this South Africa and Zimbabwe have both completed tours in recent months without any glitches.

But privately, board officials now concede that the tour is becoming an unlikely prospect and the board has already insured the series, in anticipation of a cancellation. "Certainly public utterances coming from Australia seem quite indicative of them not wanting to tour Pakistan so it wouldn't be a surprise if they pulled out," one official told Cricinfo.

Pakistan will, however, continue to press for the tour to go ahead. Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, is scheduled to meet James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, in Kuala Lumpur and further discuss security arrangements. "We stress that incidents could happen anywhere in the world," Ashraf said. They happen in Sri Lanka, they happened in Glasgow last year when we were there for an ODI and bombs went off in England in 2005 when Australia were there. We have to make decisions not just on perceptions, but ground realities."

"We are making every effort to ensure the tour goes ahead. It would be a big loss to Pakistan cricket if they didn't tour."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Team Australia Wallpapers

Brett Lee, Adam gilchrist, Ricky ponting, Glenn macgrath, Matthew hayden, Simon katich, Michael clarke, Andrew symonds, Nathan bracken, Ian Botham, Ashes, Shane warne wallpapers

Team india wallpapers

Sachin Tendulkar,Virender Sehwag, Sourav ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan Wallpapers