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.

India-England 4th ODI: India wins, Again

Team India seems to have made winning a habit. India once again opted for the five bowler combination and restricted England to a achievable total and knocked off the target with near clinical precision.
Immediate Post Match Moves: Dravid has been rested and Viru named captain. Both excellent moves. Viru will feel re-assured. Dravid gets a much needed rest and the team continues to explore the Dravid-Chappell mantra of experimentation. It might have been ok to stretch this a little further and rest both Yuvraj and Pathan. VRV’s addition is a great move. Hopefully, Robin and Venu will get to play the remaining three ODIs.

Second and Third ODIs: Experimentation Continues, Results Impress

Team India continue to reap the benefits of investing in the future of Indian cricket. This team management has definitely made some very bold decisions when it comes to experimenting with the team composition. Raina clearly has staked his claim to a spot in the crowded middle order. Kaif should be under pressure to deliver. Yuvraj has reminded everyone of his talent like he does every five matches. Sreesanth has been reminded that it doesn’t take too many failures to return to the bench. In short, these experiments have been producing excellent results as witnessed in the last two ODIs.

Opening slot: Rahul Dravid in the opening slot in ODIs is something completely new. To the credit of the team management I have never come across this suggestion from any experts. While this might not be a permanent arrangement it does open up some avenues for changes that are likely to unsettle or keep the opposition guessing. This change let the team accomodate five bowlers.

Five Bowlers: Two off spinners in the team is producing very good results too! The idea of playing two off spinners would surely have always been questioned and criticized. But this team has experimented with it and it seems to have worked! Moreover, Powar is a decent batsman too and might just be the answer to India’s quest for an all rounder.

Uthappa on the Menu: The inclusion of Robin Uthappa continues the trend of experimenting in order to find the right combination. This is a golden opportunity for him to cement his berth for the WC. The timing could not be more perfect. Viru is in bad form. Gambhir just blew it. Sachin is unavailable. The captain and India’s MVP, Rahul Dravid is from his home state and is sure to give him the necessary support and encouragement. He couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect platform to launch his international career. (Will someone take Javagal off the microphones please when Robin is batting. Javagal goes way to ga-ga over his home state players, Dravid and Kumble. Now he has another! Or is its just me?:-)

Kochi ODI: The next ODI does bring up some interesting selection challenges. Will Sreesanth be brought back to play in his home ground? Will Robin get a shot? If so, who will make way? Munaf did well too. The two spinners have done well so far. Dropping Kaif to make way for Robin might be a little to hasty especially with Venu on the bench. Even Agarkar had a good outing in third ODI for a change.

Interesting challenge, but with this team management anything is possible. So stay tuned for the next surprise. My guess is that Dhoni will open sometime this series.

Bring back Dada? Lastly, for all those who are/were crying for Dada’s return, would any of this have been possible with the Dada still captain. Very unlikely the supposed More-Chappell nexus not withstanding!