The venue: The Wanderers, Johannesburg. The occasion: The World Twenty20 final. The scene: The post-match press conference. Half an hour after India and Pakistan have wound up another satisfying cricket potboiler — three packed hours of compelling twists, suspenseful turns, a nerve-wracking finish and an India win — Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik is asked an enigmatic question by an Indian journalist: “Are you more happy that Pakistan made the final or more sad that you lost to India again in a World Cup?” Malik shoots back: “Aap movie bana rahe ho (are you making a movie)?”
The packed room bursts into laughter but the question isn’t as out of place as the sarcastic retort suggests. The reporter persists, and Malik gives in: “Definitely I’m happier that we made the final. India-Pakistan is just another game. That is the way players have always approached it. We have a job to do on the field.”
For the millions watching, though, it often hasn’t been that simple. Cricket between the two countries has always been associated with jingoism, yet it has made for some of the greatest on-field encounters the sport has provided.
Unfortunately, there have been many disconcerting incidents at grounds and political relations have all too often impacted spectators. But there’s still no better barometer for changing cultural processes than a fierce Indo-Pak cricket match. And gradually, attitudes appear to be evolving.
It’s remarkable how, post-Kargil, and following India’s ice-breaking 2004 tour to Pakistan, a soothing of public antipathy has helped Indo-Pak cricket grow. For example, Test matches now produce more results. Hanif Mohammad’s assertion that many matches had been drawn in the past (notably the dreary 1954-55 and 1960-61 series) because players were afraid to lose doesn’t hold ground anymore.
On the spectator front, passions have cooled but the appeal has increased. The excitement in both countries during the T20 final was unparalleled in recent memory. But Malik’s controversial statement after the game thanking all Muslims for supporting Pakistan didn’t generate as much public frenzy in India as it could have a decade back. This time, thankfully, the issue died the early death it merited. So on this tour, there’s no ‘Tebbitt test’, or should we say ‘Thackeray test’, for anyone: cricket might be the winner.
There were signs last time too. On Pakistan’s previous visit here in 2005, during the fifth ODI in April, a section of the Green Park crowd in Kanpur was needlessly raising anti-Pakistan slogans, and flinging chappals at a special enclosure for spectators from across the border.
Suddenly, Shahid Afridi, who eventually scored a 46-ball 102, decided to launch a furious onslaught. A flurry of fours and some booming sixes later, the same section was applauding, the hooting had stopped, the focus had shifted back to the game. It didn’t matter that Afridi was taking the game away from India. It was a knock too good to miss.
These are the sort of incidents which make India-Pakistan matches special. Players seem to raise their game, and spectators their attention spans. Everyone has their own ‘aha’ moment etched into memory: It could be Javed Miandad’s last ball six at Sharjah, it could be Tendulkar’s upper cut off Shoaib Akhtar for six at the Centurion World Cup game, it could be Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s winning run at Dhaka or Sunil Gavaskar’s mesmerising knock on a devil of a turner at Bangalore in his last Test.
Pakistan fans, of course, have more to choose from: for the best part of a rivalry dating back to 1952, they have dominated.
As another series looms, it’s cricket’s time to break down the wall again.
Lahore : As expected, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Wednesday named senior batsman Younis Khan as vice-captain for the Indian tour starting from November 5.
The PCB said in a statement that Younis would be deputy to Shoaib Malik for the five one-day internationals and three Tests in India.
The Pakistan team leaves tomorrow for India.
The appointment of Younis in place of opener Salman Butt will be seen by many as the first step towards his eventual appointment as captain, at least for the Test side, a position he had refused after the World Cup in March due to various reasons.
Younis was the vice-captain when Pakistan last toured India for a Test series in 2005 under the then captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.
For Butt, the sudden demotion is indicative of the fact that he has lost favour with the board and selectors and may soon find himself out of the team unless he performs well.
Butt was not picked for either of the five one-dayers played against South Africa this month.
MUMBAI : With just over a week to go before India take on Pakistan, TOI spoke to Sourav Ganguly, India’s captain in two of the last three series between the two sides. Ganguly exuded confidence that India could come through the next six months with a good show.
How would you look back at the recent Australia series?
They were a good side and we played well in patches. The final scoreline (4-2, Australia) was far more closer than it looked.
Any particular gain from this series?
It is difficult to say. Murali Kartik bowled very well in this series; it would have to be his bowling.
We have a tough season coming up, how do you view it?
Oh yes, it is going to be six months of tough cricket. We have to be fit, fresh and back ourselves. Pakistan, Australia and South Africa are good sides and it will be good to play them.
Pakistan will be without Inzamam-ul Haq (retired) and possibly Shoaib Akhtar (fitness, disciplinary etc). Does that mean we start favourites?
I think the only person they will miss is Inzamam, the rest will be available for sure. I don’t believe in this favourite tag, but yes we have played good consistent cricket over the last eight-nine months… Belfast, England, Twenty20 World Cup. So we will have the confidence. Moreover, I also think that we have the players to beat them.
The last two times we’ve played, Pakistan’s batsmen rattled up big scores. Do you see a change this time?
Last time they had Inzy, who is a big influence. Pakistan will find it difficult to fill up his spot. But even last year with him in the side we beat them 4-1 in the One-dayers, as also in 2004. Anyway, it is all about how well a side plays on that particular day.
Their Test attack has a very dangerous look with Shoaib and Mohammed Asif?
They have a good attack, Shoaib and Asif are a good pair. But it will be different and difficult as they will be playing in India.
Two of their batsmen — Younis and Yousuf — have been very prolific. Will they impact the series as well?
But we have beaten them even when they had Younis, Yousuf and Inzy in the side. And the last time they toured we didn’t lose the Test series it was 1-1. We were pretty unfortunate not to win the first Test at Mohali, after we won in Kolkata, we had just one bad Test (Bangalore). That too we were unlucky to lose. Anyway, the past has no meaning because it will be a fresh start.
Will the Pakistan series be the right preparation for the Australia tour?
Australia will be a different kettle of fish. It will always be good to win against them.
In 2003-04 we surprised Australia by playing well in Test matches. Can we repeat that this time?
It all depends on how well we play. There is no reason why we can’t do it this time as well. We have a good Test bowling line-up with Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and, now, Murali Kartik is also bowling well. A good attack is always the key to winning a Test match.
On the last tour it was our experienced batting line-up which batted them out of the series. Do you see a similar role for the senior batsmen this time?
We have an experienced middle-order and the batsmen are in very good form at the moment. It was because of our batting line-up we have been able to beat England recently in the Test series. No other side except Australia has managed that in the last seven years. But this of course is a new series.
The Aussies have started targeting each and every player. Are they affected by the fact that Indians are giving it back to them?
I don’t read too much into this talking bit. What is most important is what you do in the middle. When you play hard cricket a lot of things happen, but ultimately what you do in the middle counts.
Finally, will a Test series win in Australia be the most satisfying moment of your career?
Well there have been quite a few moments like playing well against Australia, winning the 2001 series against them (Aussies), and winning in Pakistan, reaching the World Cup final, two Champions Trophy finals and playing a part in a winning squad in England. Yes a series win in Australia will certainly add to it.
MUMBAI: With his bundle of big energy Robin Uthappa provided the new Team India with the gilt edge at the World Twenty20 and also in the recent clash against the Australians. His positive approach and awesome abilities have impressed everyone. The stocky and robust Uthappa seems here to stay with promises to deliver more and big in future.
We’ve seen a new Robin Uthappa post the Caribbean World Cup. What has brought about the big change?
I am a lot more open-minded now and that has worked for me. It has helped me use the opportunities that have come along. I’ve always said that I’d bat anywhere in the order if required, and I was again open to that idea. For me, the wont to do it was there and it has really worked.
Where do you draw all your positive energies from?
It’s just the way I am. I’m a very positive person. The fact that I’ve got a bunch of youngsters with me in the team also really makes the difference. I really enjoy the fact that I play with some very good colleagues, people who call spade a spade and who are honest. Also, from my faith. I am a believer in the Lord and I believe he’s got a purpose for everybody. And my purpose is to play for the country to the best of abilities. It’s a real good feeling.
You’ve played some good knocks of late but haven’t gone on to score big. Any worries on that count?
You do feel bad when you fail to get a big score. But, I enjoy the fact that I could contribute to the team and make the difference. That is what really matters. To score valuable 30 or 40 runs is also important as it could change the course of the game. A hundred is equally important and I am now looking to consolidate, score big. I believe in my abilities. Big scores will come.
Where did you learn playing the walking shot?
It’s something that I’ve actually picked up from Aussie opener Matthew Hayden, with my own little additions and subtractions to it. It works well for me. Basically, I visualise what I need to do. Even while preparing to play a shot, I see it in my head first. I only play it when I realise I can do it. I don’t practise these shots, it’s played more on confidence.
Do you fear any bowler?
Nobody in particular. But I find South Africa’s Mornie Morkel good. He’s sharp. I am yet to come across someone who’s exceedingly good.
Sunil Gavaskar feels you should bat up the order. What’s your take?
I have no complaints. In fact, I love playing the new ball. I firmly believe that there is no better place to bat than right at the top in any form of the game.
How difficult is it to shift from Twenty20 to One-Dayers?
Not much but going back is the big problem. Your muscle memory goes awry. You just keep going after the bowling and forget that you need to be calculative.
Are you yearning for a place in the Test team?
Yes. Very much. That is something that I really want to do and hopefully I will play well in the future and get there. In fact, most of my runs in domestic cricket have come in the longer version of the game. It suits the kind of player I am.
People are talking about some flaws in your batting?
A lot of people have been talking about my big initial movement and playing across, something that I have being trying to correct over the years. But things are in my control and I’m trying to iron it. I am doing my best to ensure that the bad habits don’t come back.
You have played under Rahul Dravid and now MS Dhoni. How different is their captaincy?
Both are very good and there’s not much difference between them. But their approach has been different. Dhoni’s ability to remain so cool and confident in any pressure situation makes him different. Who would give the ball to Joginder Sharma in the last over of the final. Also, the confidence Dhoni showed in RP Singh after he was hit for four overs in Mumbai (against Australia). In comparison, Dravid is a lot more composed and copybook in approach. I guess, Dhoni has his own style of doing things.
What has brought about the big difference in this Indian team?
Most of us have a similar approach. We have also played together at the junior levels. All of us have the on-your-face kind of attitude. It is that confidence which we’ve carried along into the team and maybe it’s showing.
Do the juniors find it difficult to get along with the seniors?
There is nothing like senior and junior in this team. This is the best phase of Indian cricket. Everything is so wonderful. I can put an arm around a Yuvi or a Bhajji and talk to them. It’s really really nice to have people like Sachin Tendulkar and others also around, who care for the youngsters.
Do you think there is a need for a chief coach?
A coach would surely make some difference. Strategies will be different, we can have more team meetings and the fringe players would be kept ready.
Isn’t too much of ODI/T20 cricket tiring?
It could be tiring. The body doesn’t have much time to recover, sometimes your mind also needs time to recover. Then you need to be strong to play so much cricket and you need to exercise to gain strength. I guess good space between games is good.
Will there be less pressure playing Pakistan than Australia?
Pressure will be pretty much the same. India-Pak always sees high-intensity games. But we are quite high on confidence at the moment. We made Australia quite uncomfortable. This is not the Indian side of the old. We aim to carry the same zeal forward and hopefully win the series, both ODIs and Tests.
Loots Bosman, the South African opener, has rejected a deal with the Indian Cricket League (ICL), and instead signed with the Indian Premier League (IPL), the ICC-sanctioned Twenty20 tournament.
“It was a tough decision. I still have the ICL contract. It’s difficult having a contract in front of you. It makes it tough to say no,” Bosman told Die Volksblad, a Bloemfontein-based newspaper.
The ICL was reportedly prepared to increase their initial offering of 2.3 million rand (approx US $350,000) for a two-year commitment after they learned of Bosman’s negotiations with the IPL. “I could have delayed my decision and dragged out the process. At the end of the day it’s still my decision. I also decided what was in the best interests of my wife Mandisa and our four-year-old daughter, Khanyi.”
Bosman said wanting to return to the domestic fold influenced his decision – the South African board has imposed bans on players who signed with the ICL, a move which will affect Lance Klusener and Nicky Boje. He becomes the seventh South African to join the IPL, increasing the strength of foreign players to 44. The US$2 million tournament starts on April 2008.
He could make his comeback to domestic cricket for the Eagles’ four-day match against the Titans starting on November 8, after completing a one-match suspension for his outburst against Mickey Arthur, the national coach. Bosman missed out on the ICC World Twenty20, as Arthur wasn’t convinced about his fitness.
KARACHI (Reuters) – Senior Pakistan batsman Younis Khan believes India have made a mistake by omitting former captain Rahul Dravid for their first two one-day internationals.
Pakistan travel to India on Thursday for five one-day internationals and three tests.
“Dravid has led from the front and he is a fantastic player,” Younis told Reuters on Wednesday.
“If India doesn’t perform well in the first two games the blame game will start, and their selectors and team will come under more pressure. It is to our advantage.”
Younis, who was named vice captain for the India tour, said the series would be a defining one for the younger players and those still establishing themselves in the team.
“The pressure is very high playing in India. People have a lot of expectations from you and the media attention and hype is also great,” he said.
“It is a make or break tour for players.”
CHANDIGARH: The Association for Twenty20 Cricket (India) today announced Rs one crore Prize Money Six-Team ATC Twenty20 League for ATC (India) registered players. Besides, the prize money of Rs one crore to the winners, the ATC (India) will also give match fee to all players who figure in the ATC (India) League.
This decision was taken in the meeting attended by representatives of 21 states affiliated to the Association for Twenty20 (India) here. Giving details of the prestigious project ATC (India) president ID Kamboj said “a total of 18, including 15 league matches will be played in different cities of the country. All matches will be shown live. Negotiations are underway in this direction.”
Asked where the ATC League will stand between the Indian Cricket League of Essel Group and Board of Control for Cricket in India League, Kamboj said “we are an independent and democratic body. Our functioning is transparent. This league is meant only for domestic cricketers. We are promoting entertaining twenty20 version and providing a platform to the young cricketers. However, we will not put any restriction on our registered players from participating in the BCCI League or the ICL League.”
Regarding mode of selection for the ATC (India) League, Kamboj said ” a panel of experts would select 120 players for coaching camp and out them 90 would be finally selected and divided into six teams. The selection for probables will be made during the Senior National Twenty20 Cricket Championship which has been allotted to Andhra Pradesh in May next year.”
The Senior Nationals will be played either at Vijayawada or Vishakhapatnam. Asked whether, the ATC have stadia at its disposal for the league, Kamboj said that Kerala had assured the ATC (India) to provide grounds and other related facilities for conducting any activities of the ATC (India) Other state associations have also assured to make available the best playing facilities for the ATC League and other tournaments.
Regarding funding for the league, Kamboj said “we are negotiating with a number of corporate and business houses for sponsorships. Some of them have already shown interest in our entertaining product.”
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Twenty20 Cricket Association has been allotted Under-17 Nationals Championship to be held in December while the Andhra Pradesh Twenty20 Cricket Association will host the Under-19 National Twenty20 Championship in February next year.
The Chandigarh Twenty20 Cricket Association has conducted the first Under-15 Twenty20 Cricket Championship which concluded at the Sector 16 Stadium here. As many as 19 state teams competed and Haryana emerged winners.