Friday, April 17, 2009

World Cup matches moved out of Pakistan

Pakistan has been stripped of hosting rights for the 2011 World Cup because of the "uncertain security situation" in the country, the ICC said.

"It is a regrettable decision (but) our number one priority is to create certainty and...deliver a safe, secure and successful event," ICC president David morgan said in a statement.


  • Saleem Altaf: "I don't know what has transpired at the ICC meeting in Dubai for this decision to be taken. But it is disappointing as we were keen to host the World Cup matches and were working hard on a security plan to convince the ICC and other countries."
  • Javed Miandad: "Pakistan cricket is going through bad times and unfortunately the support and understanding we expect from the ICC and other countries is not forthcoming. There was still time left for the tournament and the board was willing to do everything to keep the World Cup matches and host them safely."
  • Ramiz Raja: "The World Cup is a global event and I don't think the Pakistani people will like this ICC decision. How do you expect the sport to survive in Pakistan when the ICC is isolating Pakistan as a cricketing nation. This decision will hurt Pakistan cricket no doubt about that. It is a big setback for us."

"However, our number one priority was and is to deliver a safe, secure and successful event and the uncertainty created by events within Pakistan created a huge question mark over our ability to do just that."

The ICC added that Pakistan was unlikely to resume hosting any cricket at all until 2011. It also said the World Cup secretariat would be moved out of Pakistan to a location to be decided by the organising committee. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the other co-hosts, will now share the 16 matches that were to be held in Pakistan.

Ijaz butt, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, expressed regret. "It's a disappointing decision but it can't be helped. Nobody wants to play in Pakistan following the attacks in Lahore," Butt said. He was referring to the attack on Sri Lanka's touring cricketers in Lahore on march 3, in which eight Pakistanis were killed and seven Sri Lankan players injured.

Pakistan were due to co-host the event with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka but the deteriorating security situation has posed a serious problem for the PCB. The news came during the first day of the ICC board meeting in Dubai.

Pakistan's status as a host of international matches has been uncertain for some time - the Champions Trophy was shifted out last year and, in January, India became the latest country to cancel a tour when they pulled out of a bilateral series. However, the Lahore attack seemed to have sealed their fate on hosting the World Cup.

The attack itself also came up for discussion at the meeting, with match referee Chris Broad, who was on duty for the Test, and Sri Lanka's Mahela Jaywardane (via telephone) giving their version of what happened.

It was decided that Lord Condon, chairman of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, would lead a task team - including ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat and directors Jack Clarke and Shashank Manohar - would conduct a review of security arrangements for all international cricket.

The review, Lorgat said, would include an assessment of whether current security protocols employed by ICC Members were adequate and, if not, how they could be improved. It would also, if necessary, approach other sports to see if there was scope for information-sharing in the way security is conducted across major events around the world.

Dhoni and Tendulkar lead starcast in opener

The formidable Andrew Flintoff makes Chennai stronger.

Match facts

April 18, 2009
Start time 12.30pm (10.30GMT)

Big Picture

On last year's form, Chennai Super Kings will be favoured to make a winning start to their IPL campaign on Saturday, but Mumbai Indians have a couple of key factors going in their favour which could well make all the difference. Sachin Tendulkar, who missed the first part of the tournament last year, is fit and available from the start this time. Shaun Pollock will be missed with the ball, but his presence as mentor and Jonty Rhodes' as fielding coach could be key, especially since both will be familiar with South African conditions.

The big addition in the Chennai ranks is Andrew Flintoff, who will be available for the first part of the tournament. His bowling, especially, could be hugely vital for a team which struggled occasionally in that area last year. MS Dhoni has gained plenty more leadership experience since last June, and he'll also have the vast tactical knowledge of Stephen Fleming, the coach, to tap into.

Unlike some of the other line-ups, both sides have been pretty low-key so far, keeping the frills out and concentrating on the cricket. Chennai arrived early in South Africa to acclimatise to the conditions, while Mumbai have been in the news mainly for the announcement of their South African coaches. For a tournament which has been in the news for so many non-cricketing reasons, it can't be a bad thing that it kicks off with teams high on talent but low on controversy.

Player form guide

Chennai: Suresh Raina sparkled in New Zealand, scoring an unbeaten 61 in a Twenty20 game and consistently getting the runs in the ODIs too. Dhoni has been consistent too, while Flintoff is coming off a superb matchwinning five-for in the last ODI against West Indies.

Mumbai: Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh were outstanding with the ball in New Zealand, while Tendulkar was prolific in the Tests and the ODIs. JP Duminy has had a quiet series against Australia, though he managed quick cameos in the third and fourth ODIs.

In from the cold

Matthew Hayden last played an international game in early January this year, and it remains to be seen if he can replicate the form he showed for Chennai last year, when he hammered 189 runs at an average of 63 and a strike rate of 144.

Watch out for

Harbhajan v Murali: Harbhajan had an excellent tour of New Zealand, and he loves to bowl in the short formats. Muralitharan didn't do the damage he was expected to in the last IPL, and this is an opportunity to make amends.

Flintoff v Mumbai openers: It remains to be seen if Flintoff gets the new ball, but the fans could be in for a treat if he gets an opportunity to bowl at two of the most prolific ODI batsmen, Tendulkar and Jayasuriya.

Friendly fire

MS Dhoni v Sachin Tendulkar: They are easily the two biggest names in Indian cricket, but come Saturday, and they will walk out for the toss captaining rival teams to kick off a high-profile tournament. Knowing the respect they have for each other, though, there's little chance of anything more unsavoury than the odd friendly banter.

Team news

Chennai need to decide on the opening partner for Hayden. The contenders are Parthiv Patel, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan and M Vijay. The first two played last year, but neither was entirely convincing. The other issue is deciding on their four foreign players. Matthew Hayden, Andrew Flintoff and Albie Morkel are near certainties, but Muralitharan might pip home boy Makhaya Ntini for the fourth spot.

Chennai Super Kings (probable) 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 5 S Badrinath, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 L Balaji, 9 Joginder Sharma, 10 Manpreet Gony, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.

Mumbai's batting appears fairly well settled, but at least one bowling spot is up for grabs. With Sanath Jayasuriya, Duminy and Dwayne Bravo almost sure to play, the fourth foreigner's spot will probably be a tussle among Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga and Kyle Mills. Malinga could add firepower to the attack, but his inconsistency might tilt the scales in favour of Mills.

Mumbai Indians (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Yogesh Takawale (wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Kyle Mills.

For Morkel, Duminy and perhaps Ntini, it'll also mean playing the IPL opener within hours of finishing the day-night ODI against Australia in Johannesburg.

Head-to-head record

The two teams split the two games they played in 2008, with each team winning at home: Chennai squeaked through by six runs at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, but Mumbai took revenge in convincing fashion, winning by nine wickets at the Wankhede Stadium.


"Whatever has happened is over and done with. We all make mistakes learn from them. I've moved on as a cricketer and I'm looking forward to doing well for the IPL for Mumbai Indians. Keeping my fingers crossed that I perform the way I have been."
Harbhajan Singh isn't looking back at what was a forgettable IPL 2008 for him

"The expectations have definitely increased this time after we finished runners-up last time. If you compare us to the other teams, I think our team is well-balanced and definitely one of the favourites to win the tournament."
Suresh Raina has high expectations from the Chennai team

Indian Premier League 2009

Cricket extravaganza set to begin

The mass transportation across the Indian Ocean Lalit Modi referred to has been reasonably fluent, which reflects well on the ad hoc hosts and the drive and efficiency of Modi himself.

On Tuesday evening, at a press conference that turned into a double act between Lalit Modi and Shah Rukh Khan, the chairman and commissioner of the IPL began an answer by waxing eloquent about a 'carnival of cricket' and ended it by referring to the testing conditions that await Indian batsmen in South Africa. The order in which he made his points may have been instructive: this year, as last, the IPL is basing its ruthless business model on entertainment. Now, as then, cricket feels suspiciously like a means to an end. Perhaps the sooner we get used to the idea, the sooner we can all move on.

It may not be easy. An email that landed from the company employed to do the IPL's public relations cheerily alerted us to the floats which were scheduled to drive around Cape Town as part of Modi's plan to seduce the locals. They would, it said, contain players and other celebrities. No matter that the IPL has moved to another continent: Shah Rukh and Preity Zinta, interviewed by Mark Nicholas during the mid-innings break in Monday's one-day international between South Africa and Australia in Port Elizabeth, remain irrepressibly to the fore.

The mass transportation across the Indian Ocean Modi referred to has been reasonably fluent, which reflects well both on the ad hoc hosts and the drive and efficiency of Modi himself. Blockbusters are not supposed to take an unexpected twist as early as the second chapter, so the fact that a 36-day, 59-match tournament is taking place at such short notice is a miracle in itself, even if Modi's claim that all has been 'smooth sailing' is stretching the self-congratulation a little.

In reality there are plenty of thorny issues beneath the surface. The small matter of the suiteholders at Newlands, who pay good money every year to watch cricket from the comfort of their own personalised boxes but have now agreed (some of them, at least) to make way for the IPL's great and good, needed hours of Easter-holiday meetings to resolve. Castle Lager's parent company, SABMiller, have reluctantly consented to pay for the privilege of serving beer at the grounds which have been their own private drinking dens for years. And now we are going to have time-out dreaded by those who fear the Americanisation of the sport but regarded as a no-brainer by the money men who spy extra advertising opportunities.

These, though, are the details, and the bigger picture, for the time being at least, is less finicky. Ticket sales for Cape Town's back-to-back double-headers (expect more new terminology as the tournament progresses) have been so overwhelming that Newlands was a sell-out within a couple of hours of tickets being made available; this week an extra 5,000 seats were conjured from very nearly thin air. That probably tells us what we already knew: that South Africans love their sport and Cape Townians their cricket, even at the end of a domestic season which might have sated other nations' appetites. But it's impressive nonetheless: grey England, with the competing attraction of the County Championship, could not have pulled off a similar stunt.

Modi has made all the right noises, of course. He was gratitude personified on Tuesday evening, cooing over Cape Town's welcome and even tugging at the heart strings by claiming that the decision to relocate to South Africa was the 'most difficult of my life'. Shah Rukh, meanwhile, did his bit by pointing out that it was in South Africa in late 2007 that he first fell for short-form cricket. India pushed him in the right direction by lifting the World Twenty20 and even revealed that his house is full of South African furniture. This is a tournament that knows it is a temporary guest, but as the thorny issues indicate it is clearly determined to behave like the man about town.

All of which leaves us with the cricket, for it's easy to forget that all the celebrities, all the mutual back-slapping, all the professed affinity between two nations, would be nothing without a bat and a ball. Genuine questions await. Will Shane Warne overcome a year of rustiness to rip his legbreaks and rally the Rajasthan Royals? Will Kevin Pietersen slip effortlessly back into the role of captain? Will Sourav Ganguly overcome his irritation at John Buchanan's multiple-skipper theory? Will Delhi Daredevils live up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites?

Last year the cricket provided its own answer to the hype and hyperbole. If it does the same again, the minor inconveniences of the build-up may even be forgotten.

No IPL-style timeout for World Twenty20

Steve Elworthy: "The playing conditions don't stipulate for a break in this World T20 and I would like to see the game continue, rather than being broken up all over."

The World Twenty20 tournament will not adopt an IPL-style "tactical timeout", the event's director, Steve Elworthy, has said. The ICC playing conditions for the tournament - which takes place in June - have been fixed, he says, and he wouldn't want the game to be "broken up all over" anyway.

Elworthy also believes the IPL will have no impact on the ICC event - which starts on June 5, 12 days after the IPL ends - either in terms of player fatigue, motivation or even TV viewership.

The nation vs nation concept is the key behind the World Twenty20's success, Elworthy told Cricinfo, and the sheer thought of "pulling on the jersey and representing your country" will lift all those players who move to England for the ICC event.

The IPL has adopted a seven-and-a-half minute timeout after every 10 overs, officially to enable teams to talk tactics but with one eye on the commercial possibilities. Elworthy ruled it out for the ICC event. "Not in this World Twenty20; the playing conditions have been set. I am not sure of the reasons behind it (the IPL timeout); whether it is commercial or cricket-playing reasons. From our perspective, the idea is that the game needs to have that momentum. It needs to keep the pace and the momentum going. The playing conditions don't stipulate for a break in this World T20 and I would like to see the game continue, rather than being broken up all over."

Elworthy, the former South Africa seamer who is now based in London, was tournament director of the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007, a hugely successful event that laid the foundation for the IPL. But he will not be part of next year's World Twenty20 in West Indies - he will instead stay back in England to help set up the ECB's Twenty20 league, which is tentatively scheduled to start next year.

Elworthy is currently busy preparing for the June event and is confident that national pride will work in the ICC's favour after the BCCI's 59-match IPL, which features most of the world's best cricketers who have been recruited on contracts worth millions of dollars. "Every cricketer, from when he's a child, wants to play cricket for his country," he said. "It's not about the money; it's about pulling on the jersey and representing your country. That's the difference. Clearly, the two don't compete because the IPL is basically a domestic product and the World Twenty20 has national teams playing."

Besides, the Twenty20 format itself will ensure that the players stay fresh across the two tournaments, he said, and not all the World Twenty players will be part of IPL. "It is only a three-hour game," he said. "There are a number of players and they will be rotated. There are some high-profile players playing in the IPL, but a bulk of the national teams are not playing in the IPL. They will be preparing separately. There might be one or two individuals who are affected but I don't see how there should be any effect on all the players."

It's not about the money; it's about pulling on the jersey and representing your country. That's the difference. Clearly, the two don't compete because the IPL is a domestic product and the World Twenty20 has national teams playing

The India vs England or India vs Australia feel will again work in favour of the World Twenty20 in terms of spectators and TV viewers, a chunk of whom will be from India, he said. "It's the same difference between watching a province or a city team and watching your country play," Elworthy said. "In the World Twenty20, it's India playing Australia, England, or South Africa and the rivalry is not quite like the Mumbai Indians playing Rajasthan Royals. It's a different mindset from the viewers' point of view when you are supporting your country as opposed to supporting your domestic team."

Elworthy admitted, though, that the IPL has helped raised the profile of the game "across the board" and carved a position for itself from a brand perspective. "It is very much a music-based tournament; it appeals to a younger generation," he said. "Having said that, a lot of older people love this format of the game as well because it does have that excitement. And we are competing in an entertainment industry now; it's not necessarily competing with other sport, you are competing with all forms of entertainment. To pack it all into a three-hour time slot is the key to it all; that to me is the success of it."

That apart, the explosion of interest in the Twenty20 format after the inaugural world event in 2007 has been an eye-opener, Elworthy said. "In 2007, we had certainly realised that Twenty20 had some serious potential," he said. "Even earlier, I was involved in the setting up of Twenty20 cricket in South Africa in 2003, and saw the potential because we were selling out tickets for domestic matches. But where it has gone from September 2007 in South Africa to where it is now, it really has taken the cricketing world by storm. So I wouldn't say it's surprising, but it really is a great eye-opener."

I would have quit if I was caught in crossfire - Younis

Younis Khan walks past the bullet-ridden Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore.

Younis Khan the Pakistan captain, has said he would have retired from international cricket immediately had he been caught in the kind of terror attacks carried out on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore last month by militants.

Younis, in Dubai preparing to play against Australia next week, is due to brief an ICC board meeting with his account of the incident alongside his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardene and other match officials caught up in the attacks. The Pakistan team bus narrowly avoided getting caught in the crossfire, having left the team hotel five minutes later than the Sri Lankan bus and then turned around once the news reached them.

The attacks have forced Pakistan's players to come to terms with even greater security around them. Security was intense when the team practiced at the Gaddafi Stadium before leaving for Dubai, with reports claiming that hundreds of security personnel guarded the squad as they walked barely 200 meters from the National Cricket Academy (NCA) to the stadium itself.

Similar levels of protection have been provided to the team in Dubai, both at the ground and the hotel where access is restricted. "When we left for the airport to fly out to Dubai at 2am in the morning there was just so much security around us, it was unbelievable," Younis told Cricinfo.

"We were on the bus and it was on everyone's minds, so much security for us, in our own country. There was talk among the players that maybe we should have travelled separately," he said. "I asked Misbah [ul-Haq] what he would do if something like that [attack] happened to us and he didn't really know. If something like that did happen, in our own country, on us, I would retire from cricket the very next day. How can someone do it to anyone, let alone their own countrymen?"

The players - young, old, experienced and inexperienced alike - have all been deeply impacted by the incident, says Younis. "All of us were just shocked that something like this can happen. We have talked about it…you know you read about these unfortunate things in papers or see it on TV, but when it happens so close to you, to sportsmen it is difficult to fully comprehend.

"To take someone's life, or try and take it, is the lowest thing anyone can do and to try and do it to people who are considered heroes around the world, is just impossible to grasp," he said.