7th ODI: India wins, yet again

Batting second seems to have become Team India’s big plus these days. The last three series have shown this ability ample number of times. Once gain, Dravid deserves credit for leading from the front.
Robin Uthappa: Uthappa did a superb job of staking a claim for more opportunities. He played a controlled innings and appeared determined to crack a century until his dismissal. With Viru sorely out of form, Uthappa is bound to have a few more chances in the months ahead. Hats off to the team management for trying Uthappa despite a fairly ordinary domestic season after his fine show at the Challenger tournament.
Sreesanth: Finally, he had a creditable outing. His performance this series has been fairly inconsistent and with Munaf around he will still have to fight for a spot in the playing 11. VRV and RP Singh haven’t performed very well this series and one or both of them might not make the WI tour. India’s fast bowling pool seems to be pretty good, though a tearaway fast bowler is still lacking (barring Munaf’s occasional burst).
BTW, is Balaji ever going be fit again?
Dinesh Karthik: He did a fine job behind the stumps. This went completely unnoticed, unfortunately. Understandable though, given the Dhoni phenomenon and the other performances in this match. Dinesh held on to two superb catches.
Yuvraj Singh: He has been in tremendous form. He does strike the ball with great confidence right from the word go. I fully agree with David Gower who recently compared his batting style to that of Brian Lara. He strikes the ball with a lot of power and has a huge backlift. His consistency is questionable at times.
Suresh Raina: He is clearly the find of the series. He showed his class with three crucial fifties and some superb fielding. He is a perfect replacement for Kaif if it came down to it. Unfortunately, his bowling was never tried this series.
A word of caution: All the recent victories by Team India are great. The Ganguly scandal is behind us. The team is winning matches (ODIs) with amazing consistency. There are many youngsters who are performing exceptionally. The future looks bright. But one must remember that all this recent action has occurred on sub-continent wickets. Playing in other parts of the world will most likely be a different ball game. It remains to be seen if the magic can persist!
The WI series will be a good test.

Rajkumar: Death of An Icon

The Kannada film industry lost its biggest ever star.

Its unfortunate to hear and read all about the rioting in Karnataka. Thankfully, no other Kannada star comes anywhere close, so rioting of this nature is unlikely to happen anytime soon in Karnataka!

I haven’t seen a whole lot of Rajkumar films. Of what little I have seen I must admit its a complete mystery to me as to why he is so popular. Actually, I think he is a better singer than an actor!

He was different from other south indian megastars in that he never dabbled in politics, though he stood up for issues that he thought were important to Kannadigas.

Time to kiss Rumsfeld goodbye

President Bush has a golden opportunity to improve his approval ratings. Besides, there are simply too many reasons not to heed the call for Rumsfeld’s ouster.

Troop Levels: Rumsfeld made some gross miscalculations about the troop levels in Iraq, refused to listen to his generals and landed the US in this mess. Its about time someone paid the price for the mess in Iraq.

Approval Ratings: The US electorate rewarded Bush with a second term and is now having to live through a worsening nightmare in Iraq with no change in sight. This is clearly reflected in his approval ratings. This a great opportunity to bump up his approval ratings.

It can’t hurt: Rumsfeld appears to be universally hated. I am yet to hear of anyone besides the President who still stands up for him! Getting rid of him can’t hurt. The war It can only help.
Time for a fresh look at Iraq: The current leadership has certainly failed in Iraq. A fresh look at the situation will certainly help the crisis. It might at least help launch a PR effort to lessen the hatred for the US in general.

Legacy Planning: Lastly, this decision might actually help soften President Bush’s hard-assed image and actually set the stage for perhaps a better legacy than what he appears to be headed for now. Changing the Chief of Staff doesn’t help beyond a certain point. President Bush needs to do more than that. Getting rid of Rumsfeld might be a good start.

Chucking Problem Needs Immediate Fix

The chucking controversy is back in the news. Thank you Michael Holding for bringing this back to the forefront. I think this is going to seriously impact the game unless addressed immediately. The ICC should take a tough and immediate stance on chucking.

First and foremost, the 15-degree rule is too complicated. How can this rule be implemented at all levels of the game especially when the required technologies are available only at the highest level? You don’t want a cricketer to work his way up the local leagues and suddenly face undue scrutiny at higher levels and then be told that the action needs fixing (Shhabir Ahmed is a good example). This can destroy careers and can be a complete waste of everyone’s time (the record- keepers included).

Next, if chucking is not addressed on a war footing, the game is going to spawn many more bowlers with suspicious actions!

(I got a taste of this the other day when I had the opportunity to play “gulley cricket” with a handful of 6 to 10 year olds in Dubai (ironically, not far from the ICC headquarters!:-). I was shocked to find almost all of them had a few suspicious deliveries! While the leg breaks were delivered perfectly. The off breaks and shot balls were what I would term as “chuck”most of the time! The off-breaks in particular were so Murali-esque! (which to me btw is very suspicious, though I think the ICC messed up in his case in a big big way!))

The truth is that the next generation of cricketers are going to imitate the present day stars. So if the ICC does not fix this immediately, its going to reach a stage when the frequency of “chuck” balls might skyrocket and at some point this might actually threaten the validity of the very game! Imagine if every ball had to go through some kind of litmus test! Why not? It won’t be long before sophisticated cameras and software can track the trajectory of the bowlers arm and compare it to a specific requirement (range) and pronounce legitamcy almost instantaneously. But can this made available at all levels? Probably not.

I am not sure what the exact fix is for this problem. At a minimum the ICC must come up with something less complicated than the 15 degree rule. Something that can be implemented at all levels of the game. The Shoaib Akhtars of the world must be seriously brought to book for sneaking in “chuck” balls. Else it encourages others to do the same.

Every bowler must be reviewed after each match. Perhaps an automated technology assissted mass review of each bowlers action on each and every ball at the end of each match must be put in place. More than a certain number of suspicious deliveries and you get fined, docked etc.

The fix for this problem is needed immediately before chucking proliferates beyond control and threatens the game as a whole!

Ponting Backtracks on Bangladesh Cricket

Ponting has had a change of heart or so it seems. He now thinks its cool that Bangaladesh has Test status. This is easily the most self-serving statement from the master batsman. I had a lot of respect for Ponting when he openly criticized the Test status of Bangaladesh a while back.
But now its a different spin. Ponting is on a century scoring spree and a few more to his century count is certainly on the cards. If Ponting and Cricket Australia had the true guts and believed in Ponting’s words, they should have sent in a second string team to Bangladesh. This gives a good chance for new Aussie talent, and at the same time it would have been a good Test of the Bangaldesh team’s true Test status worthiness.
Ponting who is in the form of his career knows that its an opportunity of a lifetime for him to knock a few more easy centuries to his tally. So why bother belittling a struggling Test team. Enjoy it and add a few records. That’s what matters at the end of the day. What a shame!

Dubai: Bursting at the seams

Dubai has been in the news lately, mostly for the wrong reasons. I was in Dubai for a couple of days after a long gap of about five years. During this time, Dubai has grown significantly in terms of buildings, traffic, population among other things.

Like Vegas, Dubai is permanently under construction. I had the pleasure of seeing the Burj-al-arab Hotel. What a cool design!

Traffic seems to have become a complete nightmare. The infrastructure needs to keep pace or else this could soon be another Bangalore (based on traffic comparisons).

The summer had not yet set in. So the weather was quiet pleasant.

College education in Dubai has now become an option with several foreign colleges and universities establishing Dubai campuses (BITS Pilani). In the past most people sent their kids to Europe, America or India for their college education.

It is now possible to own land/property in Dubai. There are some cool villas being built on land reclaimed from the seas. The going rate is around $8M and celebrities such as Shahrukh Khan, Tiger Woods and other have apparently signed up to purchase these villas. (this is through the grapevine).

Dubai now has a stock exchange, an in-door Ski slope, cricket ground (Sharjah), the world ICC headquarters, etc.

Slowly but surely, the UAE Shiekhs are putting their money to create the best from around the world in their own backyards. If they don’t plan the infrastructure to keep pace with their growth plans, it could be a nightmare waiting to happen.