Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lord's and The Oval may host IPL exhibition games

Could the IPL be coming to London?...

Two of England's leading international grounds, Lord's and The Oval, are considering offers to stage exhibition games involving teams from the Indian Premier League, according to a report in The Times.

Although the venues for the initial games have already been allocated in India, there seems an increasing likelihood that other international venues will be also be used, as a way to promote the tournament around the world as much as provide world-class facilities. As it stands, however, the London venues will only host exhibition matches.

Paul Sheldon, the Surrey chief executive, declined to comment to The Times, while a spokesman for the MCC also refused to make a statement.

Meanwhile, the Domestic Structure Review Group, chaired by Glamorgan chairman Paul Russell, will go before the ECB on April 9 and is due to suggest a radical response to the IPL. The committee proposes two new Twenty20 competitions, the first of which will run in early summer along similar lines to the old Benson & Hedges Cup which ran for 30 years from 1972. It will feature Minor Counties, the universities and Ireland and Scotland.

The second tournament, according to today's Daily Telegraph, will be called the English Premier League, taking place at the height of summer and consisting of 21 teams in three groups of seven - with county sides supplemented by international players from India, Australia and South Africa. The idea falls in line with the suggestions made by ECB's chairman, Giles Clarke, that England should mirror some of the IPL's makeup: namely, that Twenty20 sides field three overseas players and four players under the age of 23.

"We wanted to see something radical come out of this committee," an insider told the Daily Telegraph, "but instead it is as if they have put all the same balls into the hat, shaken them around a bit and taken them out again.

"The idea of restoring the old Benson & Hedges Cup under a different name is just crazy. What this needed is some vision, a different pair of eyes. The DSRG should have gone out and sought the input of the players, the press, television. What about city teams, for instance, rather than counties? If we don't take this thing by the scruff of the neck, we will find that the game has been pinched off us by other operators."

PCA warns England over IPL

Kevin Pietersen has shown no interest in the IPL so far, despite the prospect of earning huge sums of money...

The Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) has refused to rule out the possibility of England's leading players joining the Indian Premier League (IPL). Only Dimitri Mascarenhas has so far signed up to the IPL, while the likes of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen have poured water on suggestions that they and their team-mates could be lured to the IPL by money.

Currently, the IPL clashes with England's county season but Lalit Modi, its chairman, maintains his willingness to shift the dates of future tournaments in order to accommodate English players. The ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, strongly believes that England's players would rather play for their country than an Indian franchise, but Sean Morris, the PCA chief executive, is aware of the need for a balance.

"We will ask the players how they feel," he said. "We need to sit them down and ask their personal views - some might have different opinions to others. But I would like to think on behalf of the players we would be able to take advantage of this concept and allow them to reap the benefits.

"There may be a very strong collective view but there may also be different circumstances for each individual which would affect their decision. We have a very open dialogue with the ECB right now, we met this week and will be meeting with them again next week, so there is a strong channel of communication.

"Mr Modi is saying that he's prepared to move his tournament to accommodate English players and that is music to everyone's ears in this country."

The issue the PCA are trying to address with the ECB is the potential restriction of employment.

"Their priority is England, they've all said that," Morris said. "But I just hope we can come to a point where they're comfortable with their arrangement with the ECB as their employers and take advantage of the increase in income into the game, because you're a long time retired.

"Restricting employees anywhere will cause friction in a relationship - over a period of time that will break it down."

Meanwhile Dougie Brown, the PCA chairman, insisted that for all the players' loyalty to England, "IPL is not something that is going to go away - it's going to be around for 10 years" and the ECB need to act sharply.

"So we have to compartmentalise it within our own calendar, create a window of opportunity, or it will be a precarious situation that the ECB will find themselves in. You might find guys coming to the end of their careers will not sign a central contract, they will go and sign with the IPL instead. Suddenly you will be losing people a couple of years earlier than you might have."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dravid joins 10,000-run club

Rahul Dravid has now become the sixth batsman in Test history to score 10,000 runs or more...

A match that's already witnessed a slew of records saw Rahul Dravid become the sixth batsman in Test history to break the 10,000-run barrier. He reached the landmark with a clip towards midwicket off Morne Morkel and raised his arms aloft mid-way through the run.

He reached the milestone in the 119th over of the first innings, when he went from 79 to 80. There was a standing ovation from the audience at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, a ground where he is yet to get a century. He acknowledged the cheers from the dressing-room and also received a congratulatory hug from Sourav Ganguly at the non-striker's end.

Dravid joined two other Indians - Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar - in

the list, which also contains Steve Waugh, Allan Border and Brian Lara. Dravid managed to reach the mark in his 120th Test, in a career that began in 1996. 23 of those runs, though, came for the ICC World XI against Australia in October 2005

During the course of the innings Dravid also became the first batsman play 150 innings while batting at No.3. Though his was a sedate knock, his 268-run second-wicket partnership with Virender Sehwag allowed India a chance to harbour hopes of an unlikely win.

South Africa say no to Tests in Pakistan

South Africa, who won 1-0 in Pakistan last year, have declined touring for a Test series in the immediate future...

South Africa will not be playing a Test series against Pakistan in the near future, scuppering the Pakistan Cricket Board's increasingly frenzied efforts to try and fill up an empty international calendar.

Pakistan sent an official proposal to Cricket South Africa (CSA) yesterday, though local reports had revealed the proposal some time ago. Yesterday, some Urdu newspapers carried quotes from Nasim Ashraf, chairman PCB, claiming that South Africa had agreed to play a Test series in October, though the venue had yet to be agreed upon.

But another PCB official told Cricinfo that the proposal was only sent yesterday and is unlikely whether CSA would have received it. "We are free during October and South Africa are also free, so we have proposed a three-Test series in that period, to be played in either Pakistan or South Africa," Shafqat Naghmi, chief operating officer PCB, said. "We only sent the proposal yesterday so are not sure how they will respond."

A CSA official, however, said that no such proposal had yet been received and even if there is one, South Africa will not be available. "Statements in the media attributed to the Pakistan Cricket Board relating to a possible Pakistan vs South Africa Test series, are without substance," a statement from Brian Basson, General Manager Cricket Operations, said.

"Cricket South Africa is yet to receive a formal request from the PCB. Should a request of this nature come through from PCB, CSA would unfortunately not be in a position to accept such a proposal due to its intense tour schedule."

After the ICC Champions Trophy in September, to be held in Pakistan, South Africa are due to host Bangladesh in November, before heading off to Australia. Not only does the refusal come as a further blow to the PCB's efforts to fill up its calendar, it will raise further questions about the method in which the board has approached the task.

Since Australia pulled out of its tour for March-April, due to security concerns, Pakistani officials have scurried around trying to line up commitments in a calendar where they play six Tests between December 2007 and November 2009.

They have succeeded only in inviting Bangladesh for a series of five ODIs in April and though Sri Lanka agreed to a similar series, a clash with the Indian Premier League (IPL) has temporarily sidelined that. Though the PCB denied that the IPL had anything to do with it, Cricinfo believes that alongside SLC, both boards agreed to not play the series as originally proposed between April 23 and May 5 as it would deprive the IPL of several big names from either side.

The Pakistan board says the series could instead be played in June, but in the same breath mentions a possible tri-series in Bangladesh, also in the same month. June in any case is earmarked for the Asia Cup, due to be held in Pakistan for the first time. Additionally, the extreme summer temperatures make cricket impossible in most parts of the country, except Karachi.

Earlier in March, board officials were '99%' convinced that India would agree to play a three-match ODI series in Pakistan, a conviction never shared by the BCCI. The series with Sri Lanka, also apparently confirmed, seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Now South Africa have refused a proposal before even receiving it, confirming perhaps that the PCB is approaching the problem with a series of knee-jerk reactions and ill-conceived proposals as opposed to a proper strategy.

PCB claims three-Test proposal has been sent

Indian board seeks answers over ICL rebels

Niranjan Shah: 'We have an understanding with the other countries' boards that they can't allow players who are associated with the ICL to be allowed to play at any level'...

The Indian board (BCCI) has told Cricinfo that it will be lodging a complaint with the ECB following confirmation that the
PCB has issued No Objection Certificates to Mushtaq Ahmed and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan
, allowing them to play county cricket in 2008.

The two players are involved with the unauthorised Indian Cricket League and Niranjan Shah, the BCCI's secretary, told Cricinfo that "we have an understanding with the other countries' boards that they can't allow players who are associated with the ICL to be allowed to play at any level, regardless of the reason the player has a contract with his board or not.

"If the news is true that the two players have been given NOCs by the PCB then we will take up the issue with the ECB since the two counties - Sussex and Yorkshire - come under the jurisdiction of the England board."

The ECB, however, is legally powerless to take any action in the light of the NOCs being granted and is likely to pass the matter back to the Indian board to sort out directly with its Pakistan counterparts.

The situation is further muddied by confusion within the PCB about the issuing of an NOC to Naved-ul-Hasan. On Thursday, Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told Reuters that "the factual position is that some counties had asked the PCB to issue NOC's for these players. But we've now informed them very clearly that since these players are not contracted to us nor eligible to play in Pakistan we don't come anywhere into this issue at all."

But less than a day later, Naghmi gave Cricinfo an altogether different picture. "Our board's policy on the ICL remains as it has always been and these players cannot play in Pakistan," he said. "But the board also felt that there is no legal or moral reason in stopping someone from playing cricket in another country. That is subject to their laws. So, on this basis, we have sent an NOC, which maybe wasn't as well-worded as planned, but the intention was made clear."

Stewart Regan, the Yorkshire chief executive, told Cricinfo that the NOC had in fact been received last week and was dated March 17. "We have a signed letter that is very clear in confirming they [the PCB] have no objection," he said. This was then sent to the ECB, along with the player's registration form, and was accepted by the board.

Today's news follows the revelations last week that the ECB had refused registrations for five players because of their participation in the ICL. But with Pakistan approving Mushtaq and Naved-ul-Hasan, and in so doing leaving the England board with no room for manoeuvre, there are certain to be some terse exchanges between the PCB and the BCCI in the coming days.

Pakistan in firing line after issuing NOCs

Fastest triple hundred

Test matches

Balls faced

Balls faced Batsman Match Location Year
278 Virender Sehwag India v South Africa Chennai
362 Matthew Hayden Australia v Zimbabwe Perth 2003-04
364 Virender Sehwag Pakistan v India Multan 2003-04

Minutes batted

Minutes Batsman Match Location Year
288 Wally Hammond England v New Zealand Auckland 1932-33
336 Don Bradman Australia v England Leeds 1930

Note: Accurate information is not available about the balls required to reach a triple-hundred in earlier matches. It is estimated Hammond took approximately 355 balls.

Fastest double hundreds

Test matches

Balls faced

Balls Batsman Match Location Year
153 NJ Astle New Zealand v England Christchurch 2001-02
182 V Sehwag India v Pakistan Lahore 2005-06
194 V Sehwag India v South Africa Chennai 2008
211 HH Gibbs South Africa v Pakistan Cape Town 2002-03
212 AC Gilchrist Australia v South Africa Johannesburg 2001-02
220 IT Botham England v India The Oval 1982
222 V Sehwag India v Pakistan Multan 2003-04
229 PA de Silva Sri Lanka v Bangladesh Colombo (PSS) 2002


Minutes Batsman Match Location Year
214 DG Bradman Australia v England Leeds 1930
217 NJ Astle New Zealand v England Christchurch 2001-02
223 SJ McCabe Australia v England Nottingham 1938
226 VT Trumper Australia v South Africa Adelaide 1910-11
234 DG Bradman Australia v England Lord's 1930
240 WR Hammond England v New Zealand Auckland 1932-33
241 SE Gregory Australia v England Sydney 1894-95
245 DCS Compton England v Pakistan Nottingham 1954

IPL 'interested' in England players

The Indian Premier League has leading England players in its sights, according to its chairman, Lalit Modi, and is prepared to look at its future dates to accommodate them.

Speaking to the BBC, Modi said: "I know a lot of them are interested but we don't want to conflict with the English season. If that means we have to move our matches a few weeks in advance, we would be happy to do that to accommodate the English players. We would like to see a lot of the English players in the IPL but I cannot commit to them until the ECB actually finds a window and clears them."

Modi has said several times over the past month that English players were interested, and his latest comments seem to be a response to Giles Clarke, the England board (ECB) chairman, who said at the weekend that no English-qualified players could be poached by the IPL. "We have a contract with the BCCI [Indian board] ... in that contract, they're not allowed to take any English players of any kind to play in IPL if there is no No Objection Certificate. The IPL will not play any player who has not received an NOC."

Modi has maintained that the IPL will work with the England board, although earlier this month he suggested that the ECB might "move their season back by a few weeks ... then we can have a window. It would be a win-win situation for everybody."

That idea, aside from the meteorological issues, left Clarke distinctly unimpressed. "We are not interested in people playing in the IPL," he said. "The IPL is a domestic competition and we're not going to alter our season for a domestic season in another country."

Modi is aware he has to be careful. While as chairman of the IPL he can say what he wants, he has to balance that position with his role as vice-president of the Indian board.

The IPL is already impacting on England with several overseas players preferring to play in it rather than start the season with their counties. And while only one England player - Dimitri Mascarenhas - has signed, it has been announced that five of the New Zealand squad for the tour which starts in five weeks will miss two warm-up games because of their IPL commitments.

Clarke has maintained that the large sums of money on offer are still not enough to tempt the best in his country. "I don't think the rewards being talked about are particularly ones England players would be interested in," he said. "Should any player give up his English contract he would, of course, risk losing his England place. We play international cricket during the time the IPL is on and most players don't want to lose their international place."

Asked about Mascarenhas, Clarke made clear his position. "As far as the ECB was concerned it was entirely a matter for his employer. Hampshire are taking a serious risk, which they acknowledge, that Mascarenhas might get injured while playing in the IPL and be out for the whole English summer."

One England player who might sign, Modi hinted, is Steve Harmison. Although he has a central contract, it appears increasingly unlikely that will be renewed after a string of substandard performances led to him being dropped from the side in New Zealand.

The signs are that the relative harmony that has so far existed between the IPL and the ECB could start to be tested in the coming months as the IPL's desire to sign up as many of the leading stars grows. That, in turn, could test the relationship between the board and its contracted players.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Naved-ul-Hasan and Mushtaq cleared to play for counties

Rana Naved-ul-Hasan has been given the nod to play for Yorkshire...

Yorkshire have confirmed Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, the Pakistani fast bowler, will be available to play for them in the 2008 season. Naved-ul-Hasan's participation was in doubt after he signed up for the unsanctioned Indian Cricket League (ICL).

Meanwhile, another ICL player from Pakistan, Mushtaq Ahmed has been given the go-ahead to appear for Sussex. In Mushtaq's case, the confirmation was a mere formality, as the Pakistan board had issued a second No Objection Certificate (NOC), which the county had forwarded to the England board.

Yorkshire revealed in a statement that the decision on Naved-ul-Hasan had been conveyed to them after protracted negotiations between the England and Pakistan boards. The move means the PCB has issued an NOC for Naved-ul-Hasan to play in England's county season. It had been thought the PCB would refuse an NOC in view of his ICL links, and even when Mushtaq was granted it last week, it was believed that was not relevant to Naved-ul-Hasan as he had played international cricket more recently.

Naved-ul-Hasan's registration with Yorkshire is subject to his obtaining a valid work permit, which the county believes will not be a hurdle given his previous spells at Sussex. "I have maintained throughout the last few weeks that I would be allowed to play cricket for Yorkshire and that my participation in the Indian Cricket League would not get in the way of that dream," Naved-ul-Hasan said. "I am not contracted to the PCB and could not see why they should wish to prevent me from playing the game I love in Yorkshire."

Yorkshire have said that they will give the player time and assistance to recover from the shoulder injury he sustained while playing for Sussex at the end of the 2007 season. He has been bowling for the Lahore Badshahs in the ICL, but Yorkshire will take no chances. "We are conscious that he needs time to fully recover from his shoulder injury, which is why we have Morne Morkel for the early weeks of the season, but a fully fit Rana will be a huge boost," Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire coach, said. "He has proved in India recently that he can bowl and take wickets but we want to be satisfied that he can also cope with the demands of fielding, especially throwing, before we play him in the first XI.

"He is a very determined man and his desire to play for this club and cut through all of the politics involved, has been particularly impressive."

County news

Warne retires from first-class cricket

Shane Warne: 'This was not an easy decision to make'...

Shane Warne has announced his retirement from first-class cricket while ending his eight-year association with county side Hampshire. Warne, 38, had been a regular with Hampshire since 2000 and captained them since 2004. Dimitri Mascarenhas will succeed Warne as captain.

Both sides reached a mutual agreement after prolonged discussions between the player and Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman. Warne's diverse business interests, his participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL) - where he has been named captain-cum-coach of the Rajasthan Royals - and his need to spend time with his children in Australia meant he would not be able to commit time to Hampshire over the coming seasons.

"This was not an easy decision to make," Warne said. "But due to some exciting business opportunities, I had to make this call. My eight years with Hampshire have been a wonderful experience, memories that will last with me forever, and likewise the friendships that have been formed at the club.

"Unfortunately I am retiring from all first-class cricket but will participate in the IPL with the Jaipur franchise as captain and coach. Good luck to all involved at the Rose Bowl. I wish you all the best." Warne will be joined in the Rajasthan Royals by Hampshire players Mascarenhas, one of his best friends, and Shane Watson, the Australian allrounder.

"I know this will be a major disappointment to many fans of both Hampshire and Shane but, after much discussion and soul-searching, it has become clear to both of us that Shane can no longer make the commitment required to continue to lead Hampshire," Bransgrove said. "After the commitment and loyalty he has shown to this club over the past few years, I can only wish him all the success and happiness he deserves.

"Hampshire Cricket has been hugely privileged to have enjoyed the unstinting loyalty of this living legend since 2000," Bransgrove said. "The most effective and entertaining bowler of all time, Shane Warne was also a brilliant leader and strategist. As our captain, his influence was instrumental in the development of Hampshire into one of the country's top sides and he enriched the game wherever he played."

Warne made his debut for Hampshire in 2000, and took 276 first-class wickets at an average of 25.59, besides scoring 2040 runs.

He had retired as Test's cricket leading wicket-taker after the Ashes early last year, and his first-class appearances since then have been for Hampshire during the 2007 season. Although Muttiah Muralitharan surpassed his mark of 708 Test wickets, Warne is undoubtedly one of the game's greats. In 2000, he was named among the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century.

Legspinner will not return to Hampshire

ICL planning makeover with international matches

The ICL has 46 international players in its roster...

A year after its launch, the Indian Cricket League (ICL), is planning a makeover with significant changes to its structure and schedule. The revised blueprint, revealed by its business head, Himanshu Mody, includes matches between international XIs, four-day matches and opening up team ownership to minority stakeholders.

The changes are being announced weeks before the launch of the Indian Premier League, backed by the Indian board and launched as a hostile response to the ICL.

"We will soon be having matches between international teams like an India XI, a Pakistan XI, an Australia XI and even a World XI," Mody told Cricinfo. "This is a very distinct possibility that will turn into a reality in the very near future, as soon as this year."

Currently, the unauthorised ICL has eight teams representing various Indian cities and Pakistan's Lahore, with a list of 46 international players, including 16 from Pakistan, eight each from Australia and New Zealand, and seven from South Africa. Prominent among the international stars who are currently involved in the second edition of ICL are Inzamam-ul-Haq from Pakistan, Shane Bond from New Zealand, Jason Gillespie and Damien Martyn from Australia, Chris Cairns from New Zealand and Justin Kemp from South Africa.

Mody also said they were looking at four-day leagues, which will probably be aimed at the Indian players in the league, who have been barred from domestic cricket and are known to be missing the longer version of the game.

Significantly, the ICL, owned by the Essel Group, has also opened up team ownership for the first time by getting the Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty on board as co-owner and brand ambassador of Kolkata Tigers. The actor's roots are in Kolkata, and he still has an iconic presence there. The deal, Cricinfo has learnt, is worth around US$ 6-8 million.

"Mithun expressed interest in joining us some time ago," Mody said. "Everything has been tied up, and he is now the first co-owner of an ICL team. He is a celebrity in India and brings along tremendous value in terms of promotion, which is most welcome."

The decision signals the ICL's intent to spread some of the liability and move away from the single-ownership business model. That moves it closer in structure to the IPL, which is based on a franchise model with all eight teams owned by various business interests.

Mody said the ICL is in talks with other celebrities who have expressed interest in co-owning some of the other seven teams, but added that the sale of only minority stake is being considered at the moment. He clarified, though, that actors Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor are no longer in the frame though they had initially shown an interest in this option.

Indian Cricket League

IPL players will arrive late for England tour

Jacob Oram, who missed the third Test with a hip injury, has been allowed to extend his IPL participation...

Five New Zealand players signed with the Indian Premier League have been given permission to miss the opening two matches of the England tour so they can appear in more lucrative Twenty20 games. In another shift from tradition caused by the IPL, Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Ross Taylor and Kyle Mills will arrive after the one-day warm-up against MCC on April 27 and the three-day fixture with Kent.

The delay means the quintet will be able to turn out in more matches - and gain larger payments - for the IPL teams, which start the competition on April 18. New Zealand Cricket wants the men in England by May 1 so they can be involved in the clashes with Essex and England Lions before the first Test at Lord's on May 15.

Justin Vaughan, the NZC chief executive, called the decision "fair" and the move was backed by the country's players' association. "When the itinerary for the England tour was put in place it was not envisaged that a number of our players would be playing quality cricket in India," Vaughan said. "For players that are playing a high standard of international cricket two weeks is a good level of preparation."

Vaughan said the IPL had the board's full support and the changing global landscape meant flexibility in decision making was required. "I am very happy with the attitude shown by the affected players," he said. "They have shown loyalty and commitment to New Zealand and were willing to abide by whatever decision NZC reached."

Oram and Mills will face further scrutiny with their playing choices over the next month as they both missed the third Test against England with injury. Oram is recovering from a hip problem while Mills has a torn calf muscle and any more mishaps during the IPL would intensify the country-versus-money issue.

Five New Zealanders cleared to skip two warm-up games

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sri Lanka close in on maiden Caribbean win

Dwayne Bravo's 83 gave West Indies the first session's honours but Sri Lanka came back strongly to raise hopes of a win at Providence...

Chaminda Vaas' double-strike just after lunch, sandwiched between the key scalps of half-centurions Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and another from Muttiah Muralitharan on the stroke of tea left Sri Lanka needing four wickets to win their first Test in the Caribbean. Bravo relished his first time opening the innings by scoring a fluent 83 and Sarwan's obdurate 72 gave West Indies hope of salvaging a draw but Sri Lanka came back hard to set up a tense final session. At 229 for 6 the hosts were battling the odds to pull off a great escape at the Providence Stadium.

West Indies began the final day facing a mountain to climb and Bravo and Sarwan took to it step by step. From the go it was evident they were playing for a draw; the first 15 overs yielded just 25 runs. Sarwan didn't score a boundary all session, reluctant to take any risks, and puttered along with tucks to the on side.

With fielders in the deep it appeared Sri Lanka weren't keenly trying to take wickets. Mahela Jayawaredene swapped himself from slip to leg slip and there was another catcher close-in against the spinners but men manning the boundaries encouraged easy singles. There were even doubles pushed into the covers, hardly something expected from a side with a shot at creating history.

Refreshingly, Bravo flourished in his promotion as opener. Though nowhere near as fluent as on the fourth evening - where runs came at a limited-overs rate - he and Sarwan patiently defied Murali's threat. Murali fizzed it up occasionally but Bravo released the pressure with tucks past the two leg-side catchers. Having been flummoxed by a doosra for cheap in the first innings, Bravo played Murali with aplomb. His tenth Test fifty came up with a thin outside-edge just wide of Mahela Jayawardene at slip, off Murali.

Bravo's second boundary came 124 deliveries after the first with a lovely pick-up flick over midwicket. Midwicket came in closer and Bravo repeated the shot before flat-batting another through the same region. It was against the run of play that he fell, at 156 for 1, popping a return catch back to Murali's right after he advanced and was beaten in the flight.

West Indies played out the session but came out rather lackadaisical after lunch. Marlon Samuels fell as he had in the first innings, pushing at one slanted across him for Kumar Sangakkara to take a diving catch. That was precisely what Chaminda Vaas was trying to do after lunch, push the ball across and away from Samuels, but there was no need to play at that particular delivery.

Twenty-one deliveries later the writing was on the wall. Vaas knew all too well that Shivnarine Chanderpaul had issues with the ball that comes in and that's precisely what he bowled to peg back his middle stump. Vaas continued to push the ball across Sarwan in a long spell but he remained obdurate and only picked the odd single off his pads. It took him some time to settle after lunch and his first boundary of the day came with a loft over midwicket in the 63rd over.

Thirteen overs later, with West Indies 212 for 4, Sarwan fell for 72 from 206 balls as he tried to tuck away Thilan Thushara, the left-armer. He copped the ball just on the knee roll and the umpire Billy Bowden upheld the appeal, even though the ball was sliding down leg stump.

Mahela Jayawardene's decision to delay the new ball worked superbly. With tea just moments away Ryan Hinds chose to sweep one from Murali down the leg side and was adjudged to have tickled an edge; replays, however, were inconclusive.

After quiet 16 overs on the trot in the first session Murali raised his decibel levels against Chris Gayle as the ball repeatedly struck his front pad. Gayle's 14 runs, from 59 balls, came mostly with flicks and hard-hand inside-edges past Sangakkara - besides good defence against a few from Thushara that kept low.

West Indies are two hours from safety but its going to be extremely difficult to stop Sri Lanka.

Panesar bowls England to series win

Monty Panesar claimed a career-best 6 for 126 on the final day...

England secured their first overseas series victory in three years with a convincing 121-run win in Napier, even though they were delayed by a thrilling onslaught from New Zealand's impressive debutant, Tim Southee, who clubbed his country's fastest Test half century off 29 balls and finished on 77 off 40 deliveries with nine sixes. However, Monty Panesar was the final-day match-winner and ended with career-best 6 for 126 despite a late mauling from Southee.

It was an enjoyable end to a series that has been played in fine spirit. Southee's display gives New Zealand something to cling to after a summer that has seen their resources stretched to breaking point by various departures. For a while his mighty swinging after lunch rekindled memories of Nathan Astle's onslaught at Christchurch seven years ago. He took 41 off two Panesar overs on his way to a fifty, and then continued to swing hard when England went back to pace. But when he lost the strike in Ryan Sidebottom's comeback over he left Chris Martin five balls to face and it only took four as Sidebottom, England's outstanding bowler of series, fittingly finished the match by plucking out the off stump for his 24th wicket.

Although some of England's cricket has been far from impressive it's a commendable fightback after going 1-0 down after their humiliation in Hamilton. They also had to fight back from a disastrous start in this match when they slumped to 4 for 3 on the first morning. A number of players have rehabilitated themselves after lean spells, notably Andrew Strauss with his 177 and today it was the turn of Panesar, who continued his probing display from the fourth day even if he was clinging to his career-best at the end.

This was his seventh five-wicket haul and first for nine Tests dating back to his successful series against West Indies last year. He finished the Sri Lanka tour before Christmas with a few questions being raised over his effectiveness and this match-winning contribution is a timely boost. Panesar's role in the second innings was crucial because there was nothing in the surface for the quick bowlers.

New Zealand raced out of the blocks against the new ball as Michael Vaughan set attacking fields. Ross Taylor took three boundaries off Sidebottom's opening over and a slew of shots took him to fifty off 85 balls and carried him top of the series run chart. With New Zealand searching for someone to replace Stephen Fleming's runs, Taylor has a huge role to play. He also took a positive route against Panesar, but then one gripped a little and took the outside edge for Paul Collingwood to take a sharp low catch at slip.

The sixth-wicket stand was worth 104 with Brendon McCullum for once being overshadowed, providing 38 of the partnership, and after cutting a short ball from Panesar through point he was beaten on the back foot by a quicker delivery. Sidebottom and Stuart Broad looked tired after their earlier exertions , while Jeetan Patel showed there were few demons even for a limited batsman as he twice drove Sidebottom straight down the ground.

Patel and Daniel Vettori added a comfortable 48 in 14 overs with threat only coming from one end. Panesar broke through again when Patel swept firmly to backward square-leg and was well held by Broad diving low to his right. Vettori flayed away merrily while he could before providing James Anderson with his first wicket of a disappointing match when he gloved a pull. It came in rather curious circumstances as the previous delivery had been called dead ball to Anderson's annoyance, but he made the next delivery count.

With Martin the last man it looked as though England would be able to celebrate over lunch. Anderson struck him a nasty blow on the helmet with the first ball of the final over, but Martin then squeezed a single. Southee swung the last delivery before the break onto the midwicket stand roof, a prelude to what was to follow as 71 runs came off 6.5 overs. It was far too late to save this series, but Southee is part of the young brigade who will have a key role to play when these two teams meet up again, at Lord's, in six week's time.

Gavaskar to decide on future with ICC

Sunil Gavaskar will make a final decision on continuing as chairman of the ICC cricket committee after the body's meeting on May 5-6...

The ICC has told Sunil Gavaskar that he would have to quit from the post of the chairman of the cricket committee if he wishes to continue as a media columnist and commentator to avoid a potential conflict of interest between the two roles.

Gavaskar was told "very clearly" by Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, during a meeting between the two in Dubai on Wednesday that the ICC expected a final decision. The ICC's cricket committee will meet on May 5-6 and Gavaskar has been given the same deadline. The ICC board will review the issue at its next meeting, during the ICC Annual Conference week, between June 29 and July 4.

Speed had last week been authorised by the ICC board to ask Gavaskar to choose between the two roles. "That situation still stands, and Gavaskar will have to convey his decision to the ICC after the cricket committee meeting," an ICC source told Cricinfo. "The message was conveyed very clearly to Gavaskar. But the meeting, as such, was held in a cordial atmosphere. Speed and Gavaskar have been working together for so long, that was not a problem."

The issue of a potential conflict of interest came up in the aftermath of the Sydney Test between Australia and India last January, when Gavaskar criticised match referee Mike Procter in his newspaper column for banning Harbhajan Singh for alleged racial abuse.

After the ICC's executive board meeting in Dubai last week, Gavaskar criticised the boards of England and Australia in another syndicated newspaper column. "Gone are the days when two countries, England and Australia, had the veto power in international cricket, even though the dinosaurs may not open their eyes and see the reality," he wrote. "The cricketing world has found that India has no longer a diffident voice but a confident one that knows what is good for its cricket, and will strive to get it."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

England to play only two Tests in India

A scheduling crunch means India will host England for only two Tests later this year...

India are blaming the Future Tours Program (FTP) for snipping one Test off England's visit in November-December later this year. England were originally scheduled to play three Tests and seven one-day internationals.

Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told Cricinfo the board had no other option but to reduce one Test from the England series to accommodate various commitments the team needs to oblige under the FTP. "What can we do?" Shah asked. "Because of the FTP we need to squeeze other events too."

BCCI's main grouse is with the ICC Champions Trophy that is slated for September, without which the board would not have had to trim the itinerary for England's visit. After the Champions Trophy, India play a four-Test series against Australia at home in October before England arrive.

Although ECB are still believed to be in negotiations with BCCI, it is nevertheless expected the latest proposal will go ahead, since England want the tour to be over before Christmas. "The England players want to return home for Christmas and the second Test is scheduled to finish on December 23", Shah pointed out.

Meanwhile, India will tour Bangladesh in June for a one-day tri-series also featuring Pakistan, N Srinivasan, the BCCI treasurer, confirmed. The team will then head for Asia Cup in Pakistan before flying out to Sri Lanka in mid-July for three Tests and five one-day internationals.

England in India 2008-09

Gavaskar will be asked to choose between conflicting roles

Sunil Gavaskar: a conflict of interests...

Sunil Gavaskar, whose dual role as chairman of the ICC's cricket committee and trenchant columnist has caused concerns in several quarters, will be given the option to choose either function, the executive board of ICC has decided.

Gavaskar's position came up for discussion at the ICC board meeting in Dubai last week and Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, has been authorised to take up the matter with Gavaskar. The decision was unanimous.

They are expected to meet in Dubai later this week, an ICC spokesperson confirmed to Cricinfo. It is believed that Gavaskar is currently holidaying in Dubai.

"Gavaskar is a cricket legend, but it was felt that his as ICC cricket commitee chairman was in direct conflict to his role as a journalist and commentator," said a source close to the situation. "ICC has not taken a decision in this regard. It is Gavaskar who has to decide now which role he is comfortable with. It's completely up to him."

The spotlight trained on Gavaskar's conflicting duties when he criticised match referee Mike Procter in his newspaper column for banning Harbhajan Singh for alleged racial abuse against Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test in January. Gavaskar later denied that he called Proctor a racist in his column.

However, after the ICC's meeting in Dubai last week, Gavaskar slammed England and Australia in another syndicated newspaper column. "Gone are the days when two countries, England and Australia, had the veto power in international cricket, even though the dinosaurs may not open their eyes and see the reality," he wrote. "The cricketing world has found that India has no longer a diffident voice but a confident one that knows what is good for its cricket, and will strive to get it."

International Cricket Council

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sri Lanka's tour must not clash with IPL - Mendis

Sri Lanka have asked Pakistan to schedule their bilateral one-day series, which was proposed to fill the gap caused by Australia's pull-out, so that the dates do not clash with those of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chairman, had agreed in principle to a one-day series in Pakistan after Australia postponed their tour due to security concerns but the reported dates were between April 23 and May 5, which coincide with the IPL, which runs between April 18 and June 1.

"We have told Pakistan that we are keen to help Pakistan only if it [the series] did not clash with the IPL," Duleep Mendis, the chief executive of the SLC, told AFP. He said that the SLC had already released players for the IPL.

Cricinfo had reported that the IPL could affect the series because several Sri Lankan and Pakistan players had been bought by the franchises during the first auction on the basis of their availability, and a newly scheduled series would be an inconvenience. The PCB said that it was willing to offer SLC $800,000 for the five ODIs but only if they sent their full team.

Player sources denied any pressure was placed on SLC by the cricketers to delay the tour: "Media speculation over the weekend that some of Sri Lanka's players might have been considering an early retirement or a series boycott to play in the IPL rather than tour Pakistan is totally unfounded. Playing for Sri Lanka is the No 1 priority."

Meanwhile, Niranjan Shah, the secretary of the BCCI, which is running the IPL, told Cricinfo he had contacted officials of the PCB and the SLC regarding the proposed series. "But it was just at the proposal stage. So we didn't go any further into it," Shah said.

Indian Premier League

Gavaskar slams Anglo-Australian 'dinosaurs'

Sunil Gavaskar, who polarised opinion with outspoken comments during the recent Australia-India series, has hit out at England and Australia, describing their approach to the global game as being akin to "dinosaurs".

Gavaskar has a foot in two camps, working as a journalist and also as chairman of the ICC's cricket committee. In his syndicated newspaper column at the weekend, he said that England and Australia needed to come to terms with the new world order.

"Gone are the days when two countries, England and Australia, had the veto power in international cricket, even though the dinosaurs may not open their eyes and see the reality," he wrote. "The cricketing world has found that India has no longer a diffident voice but a confident one that knows what is good for its cricket, and will strive to get it.

"What may have worried these people was the manner in which India defended Harbhajan Singh on the 'racist allegation made against him [in Australia in January]. When all the technology in the world was unable to prove that he had indeed said anything, these guys, especially those in Australia, were unable to stomach it.

"Those worried of the prospect of India's hegemony were conveniently forgetting that only a few years back, there were two Australians at the top of the ICC. It is a misplaced belief that they are the only ones with honesty, integrity and have the welfare of the game at heart, while the 'subcontinentals' do not."

In January, Gavaskar's remarks about Mike Procter, the ICC match referee during the infamous Sydney Test, were commented on by David Morgan, the ICC's president-elect. "Conflicts of interests pervade our sport," Morgan said. "In terms of Gavaskar, within the ICC, there is a concern now that he's chairman of the cricket committee and a journalist who has expressed some fairly outspoken comments."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

ICC calls for improved player behaviour

The ICC doesn't want any "obscene, offensive or insulting language" on the field...

India's often ill-tempered tour of Australia, during which players from both sides were hauled up by match officials, has prompted the ICC to formally stress on the need to avoid "obscene, offensive or insulting language". A note, urging players to improve their behaviour, has been issued by the ICC chief executive, Malcolm Speed, and its general manager, David Richardson, to the captains of international teams, Elite Panel umpires and Referees and CEOs of Full Members.

"Recent events and, in particular, the series between Australia and India have highlighted the issue of 'sledging'," the note said. "We seek your support in learning lessons from these issues and moving forward in a positive way."

It pointed to "several controversial incidents" on the field in international cricket which "originated from the use by players of language or gestures which are considered obscene, offensive or insulting."

The Indian board had proposed a ban on sledging when the ICC executive committee met in Kuala Lumpur in the third week of February.

The note also asked players to be more respectful towards fellow players, umpires and referees. "Players are asked to take their responsibility as role models seriously and to make an effort to improve their behaviour in this regard. Captains are requested to lead by example and to ensure that they keep tight control over the behaviour of their players. There is no question that international cricket must be played with intensity and with no quarter asked nor given but within the bounds of mutual respect and the spirit of the game."

The ICC also acknowledged that it was difficult to define what combination of words and gestures would be construed as offensive, and asked umpires to apply "a degree of individual interpretation and judgement" to determine whether a player's behaviour had fallen below acceptable standards.

Harmison hits out at Boycott

'You get the feeling that Boycott is an insecure man who needs to be heard,' says Harmison of Boycott...

Steve Harmison, the England fast bowler, has struck back at Geoff Boycott after the former opening batsman had launched a scathing attack at him in a column for Daily Telegraph.

Boycott had virtually written off Harmison after his poor display in the first Test against New Zealand in Hamilton, urging the selectors not to give him a central contract. "Since the Ashes series of 2005 he has been poor, indifferent to bad. He's not got enough wickets and been given so many chances," Boycott wrote in his column. "There comes a point when the public and selectors get fed up and disillusioned with a guy not delivering. That time has come. If he gets a central contract this summer over some of the new kids, or any sort of central contract, then a lot of us will be screaming: favouritism and a total waste of money. England should forget him."

Harmison's reply was equally cutting. In his column for Mail on Sunday, Harmison wrote: "No one can dispute the man could bat but over the years he has developed an equally well deserved reputation as someone who thrives on kicking a man when he is down ... Enough is enough. His remarks about me this week have gone beyond what is acceptable and it is time someone stood up to him and told him so.

"People who only have a passing interest in the game hear the famous Geoff Boycott Yorkshire accent and may think it gives some status to his opinions. But inside the dressing room he has no status, he is just an accent, some sort of caricature of a professional Yorkshireman."

Harmison went on to add that a couple of batsmen currently in the England team didn't have a high opinion of Boycott either. "Their shared experience was that when things weren't going well for them all they heard from Boycott was him nailing them in the newspapers or on radio or TV, then, if they made a century or played well, he would come up to them full of compliments and try to ingratiate himself with them. I'm not the only England player who has been forced to take it in the neck from Boycott and I won't be the last."

Harmison also took a dig at Boycott for his comments on Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait's decision to take a break from the game due to exhaustion. Boycott had said Tait's decision had "lacked character".

"I wonder what Australia's Shaun Tait thought recently, when, after announcing he was taking an indefinite break from the game due to physical and emotional exhaustion, Boycott reacted by claiming he should have shown more desire to work through his problems," Harmison wrote. "You get the feeling that Boycott is an insecure man who needs to be heard."

As a parting shot, Harmison had this to say to Boycott: "You say that if England give me another central contract come October that would be waste of money. To me, you are a waste of space."

Spat between Boycott and Harmison

'Our strength lies with our bowlers' - Kallis

Paul Harris: "I'm looking forward to bowling to all of the Indian top order. I've been waiting my whole career to play a series in India - probably the best place for a spinner to come and test his skills"...

Cricket matches in Chennai usually mean a lot of rain. Water scarcity is a big problem in the city but schedule a game and you can be pretty assured about the heavens opening up. The steady pitter-patter this morning brought with it a sense of déjà vu.

Over the last four years, two Tests, two ODIs and a premier domestic one-day final - all of which were played between October and December - have been disrupted by rain. But this time, at least, the board seems to have got the timing right - since 1995, games held in March have gone the course.

A bit of rain, though, brings with it humidity and it was no surprise to see Jacques Kallis and Paul Harris spent after the session. It was also fitting that they sat alongside each other - one will lead the batsmen's challenge against turn while the other will spearhead the spin department against quality opposition.

Kallis was pretty clear about the conditions his side could expect for the first Test. "I don't think there's going to be too much swing happening here," he said with a wry smile. "The way the wicket has been prepared, it's going to be a spinner's paradise. We've had trips to the subcontinent recently and the guys are playing spin as well as they've ever played. I think the myth that South Africans do not play spin well is pretty much out of the window now."

While South Africa go into the series without any practice match, Kallis felt the tour to Bangladesh was a good preparation. "The guys have played low and slow wickets in Bangladesh, so technically they're well prepared. Mentally - to bat time, face the heat and humidity - needs an adjustment. So at the moment it's probably a more mental adjustment we need to make."

Sitting next to him was Harris, somebody who's waited for this tour all his life. South Africa's only previous series win in India - back in 1999-00 - was set up by a fine spell by another left-arm spinner - Nicky Boje. While India's power-packed batting order has dealt successfully with legspinners and offbreak bowlers, it's the left-arm variety - Raymond Price, Ashley Giles and Boje - who have turned into irritants. Joining Harris in the spin department will be Robin Peterson, another left-arm spinner, who is expected to land on Monday.

"I'm looking forward to bowling to all of the Indian top order," Harris said. "I've been waiting my whole career to play a series in India - probably the best place for a spinner to come and test his skills. I'm looking forward to bowling to some of the best players in the world. It's a pity I missed the Test matches in Bangladesh. I was injured for that. But I have a great coach at home - Richard Pybus, he's coached Pakistan - and he's helped me."

Harris showed his match-winning ability on the trip to Pakistan late last year, with 12 wickets in two games. It included a telling 5 for 73 in the Karachi Test, setting up a famous win. However, while recognising that performance, he thought he gained more from the two home series against India and Pakistan [in 2006-07].

"In Pakistan they prepared wickets for their spinners - especially in Karachi. It turned a lot and there was actually quite a bit of bounce there [in Pakistan]. So I felt it was less strenuous than in the home tours against India and Pakistan before that. It was nice to go there and do well but those wickets really did suit me."

With conditions likely to drain the energies of the faster bowlers, Harris is expecting to shoulder a large part of the burden. However, Kallis was clear that only a collective effort - from both the quicks and the spinners - would win them the series. "I think we have an attack that can take 20 wickets, which is what you need to win a Test. For the first time in a long time, our strength lies with our bowlers. And I think they're going to come through. If they can have a good series here, we're in with a big shot."

South Africa in India 2007-08