Indian Cricket League
Pacer Munaf Patel has been included in the Indian team for the third and final Test against South Africa to be played in Kanpur from April 11.
Patel replaced RP Singh in the squad announced in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Anil Kumble and Ishant Sharma, who are nursing injuries, will undergo a fitness test on April 10 before the final 14 is selected for the match.
Off-spinner Ramesh Powar has been drafted in as cover for Kumble.
South Africa lead the three-Test series 1-0 after beating India by an innings and 90 runs in the second Test in Ahmedabad.
Squad: Anil Kumble (captain), Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla, Mohammad Kaif, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Ramesh Powar.
Panchkula : Darren Maddy is ‘Dazza’ to friends. And here at the Indian Cricket League, he has a lot of friends – “I am trying to pick up the local language”. Playing for the Kolkata Tigers, Maddy had a dream spell against the Chandigarh Lions (4 for 6) but he still feels the Twenty-20 format is loaded in batsman’s favour.The English player is also hopeful that the England and Wales Cricket Board would not banish him from playing at the ICL, and feels that a players body in India could have averted the situation the Indian ‘rebels’ are facing.
Sportline spoke to him even as he was preparing for Kolkata Tigers’ next match.
* How do you feel playing such cricket outside of England, especially in India? What are your thoughts on the ICL and the pitch here at Panchkula that has been reworked for this championship.?
Maddy: Oh, I am enjoying every bit of touring and playing my cricket in India. It has been five years since I last visited India. Although, one doesn’t find seaming pitches in India but it is always a challenge to play on the Indian strips. The pitch here (Panchkula) was initially very slow and had unpredictable bounce. But as the tournament is progressing it is now an even contest between the bat and ball.
* What made you join ICL, knowing the fact that the England and Wales Cricket Board was apprehensive in allowing its players to take part in the championship?
Maddy: Well, my experience has been spectacular till date. It is an innovative concept which has given a good chance to the cricketers from all over the world to share a common podium and perform. It would be wrong if I say that the money offered by the organisers wasn’t a major factor. Moreover, we are getting to play competitive cricket at this time, which happens to be an off season in county cricket. For sure my game would get better and I would be raring to go when the county games start in April. Yeah, ECB had some issues with England players joining the ICL, but due to the backing of Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) I went felt encouraged to play.
* How important was PCA’s role in this issue? Don’t you think it is high time the Indian players too had a body that safeguards players’ interest and represents them?
Maddy: All the credit goes to the PCA for convincing the ECB on the ICL issue. It is really sad to realise that the Indian domestic players of such talent won’t be representing their country anymore. There is an urgent need of a body such as PCA here in India for the benefit of the players.
* Do you think that your participation in the Championship will act as a deterrent to your cricket career?
Maddy: No at all, I am confident that my participation in the Indian Cricket League will not harm my future in the game.
* What are your thoughts on the Panchkula Stadium?
Maddy: The Stadium is an absolute stunner knowing the fact that it has been re-worked in just a month. The craze for the game in India is tremendous and it is visible when spirited spectators turn out to witness the ongoing matches. The electric atmosphere at the Stadium turns the heat on while playing.
Panchkula : It’s Thursday morning in Panchkula and Vikram Solanki, in defiance of a famous description often used against him by Ian Botham in the commentary box, is out there for the fitness sessions scheduled for the day. In fact, one of the most illustrious county cricketers of Indian origin could not look more happy or content, as he wanders along the fairways of Tau Devi Lal Stadium, venue for the Indian Cricket League 20-20 Championship.After playing for Rajasthan in the 2006 season, the Worcestershire captain is now playing for Mumbai Champs in what is considered to be his second outing for a domestic side in his native country.
Excerpts from an interview
* You made your debut for Worcestershire as a 16-year-old in 1992. In 2005, you were appointed as the captain of the side. How has the experience with Worcestershire been?
I was fortunate to be picked for Worcestershire after playing for Wolverhampton Cricket Club. I still remember when I made to the Worcestershire; there were big players like Graeme Hick, Tom Moody and Chris Tolly, who were playing for the county at that time. I have always looked up to Graeme Hick, and he has been a huge influence in my stint with Worcestershire. The last couple of years have been very good for the club. We won the one-day Championship in 2006, and the club now also has got a new ground equipped with floodlights.
* After playing for England in the early part of this decade, you and Kabir Ali also played in the 2006 Ranji Trophy Super League representing Rajasthan. How did it come about, and how difficult was it playing in the domestic circuit in India?
Last year, both of us were free during the winter season, and I always dreamt about playing for my home side. The conditions are suited for the batsman in India, and it was a great learning experience for us. I got a chance to play against most of the big names in Indian cricket. It always feels great to play in India. And since it was my first tour to India as a cricketer, I have very fond memories of representing Rajasthan.
* Your career has seen quite a few highs and lows. After a disappointing debut for England in 2000, you were again recalled for England in 2003. You started gloriously, hitting a sparkling century against South Africa at The Oval. But after that, you have been on the fringes of the England squad. Where do we see you in the coming years?
The last few years have been good for me. I remember that I got a score of 24 as my highest score in my first eight ODI’s, and I was quite ordinary in the field. But after that I have worked on my fitness level. I think I am having my best time of my career with Worcestershire. Although I was picked up for the Twenty-20 World Cup held in South Africa early this year, I think I need to perform better to stage a comeback into the England squad.
* After playing in Twenty-20 version of the game for the last three years in England, how does it feel to play in Twenty20 cricket in India? And what are your views about the Indian Cricket league?
Twenty-20 Cricket has revolutionised domestic cricket in England. The kind of crowd support it has got over the last three years has been tremendous, and I enjoy being a part of it. I have been working on my bowling to adapt to this format of the game, and I expect I can be of some help for my team, Mumbai Champs. We have already seen plenty of action in Indian Cricket League, and I think this format of game will generate a lot of interest in India too.
Mervyn Dillon is one of the few good fast bowlers who have emerged from the West Indies in recent years.
Tall and endowed with a powerful physique, like many of his fearsome predecessors, he appeared capable of scaling dizzy heights, especially when young and at the peak of his prowess, but did not.
Nevertheless, considering his chequered international career, his record in both Tests and ODIs is more impressive than many members of his tribe across the cricketing globe, not just on the Caribbean.
Dillon granted Haresh Pandya an exclusive interview on the eve of the Indian Cricket League tournament at Panchkula near Chandigarh.
You haven’t been around, nor in the thick of action, for quite some time now. Have you decided to stop playing international cricket?
Well, I haven’t called it a day! Not yet. It’s a bit touchy. I’ve still a lot of cricket in me. I’m still available for the West Indies. It’s all but over. Events like the ICL here and Stanford competition back home have given me an opportunity to continue playing and there is no reason why I shouldn’t enjoy that.
Is it due to frustration, or at not been considered for the West Indies any longer, that you have joined the ICL?
Not really. I’m a very realistic person. I tend to accept life as it comes. You’ve your ups and downs. Life is like that. It’s the understanding that the people in charge of West Indian cricket pick the best possible team. And they’ve been doing that. So even if I’m not involved with the West Indies team, it’s all right. Life goes on. I’m still very fit in body and mind and the ICL and Stanford tournaments are ideal for me.
You bowled many good spells for the West Indies. But taking into account your genius, one is inclined to believe that your best has never been seen on the international stage. What is your personal assessment?
I agree with you. I’ll always be the first to admit that my best has never been seen in international cricket. I remember talking to Steve Waugh and he said that I was one of he biggest underachievers in terms of cricketing talents and resultant performances. Of course, I’ve always played true to my potential during my career. But I don’t want to offer any excuses as to why I didn’t do full justice to my talents. Of course, there’re a lot of things happening in and around West Indian cricket and that’s how it ended up. But I think my best cricket is yet to come. Though I’m 33, I don’t think I was fitter than today in my life.
But why hasn’t your best come out yet?
I think I should have tried harder at times. There is no question about that. But again this isn’t an excuse. I’ve myself to hold fully responsible for what I’ve achieved and what I haven’t. I always tried to give my best regardless of the events off the field.
How was it playing under different captains?
It isn’t so important for me to have played under different captains. It’s not a big issue. My job is to go out there and perform, and take as many wickets as I could, irrespective of who leads the team.
Unfortunately, the system in the West Indies isn’t the best in terms of infrastructure. The things aren’t being done ideally. There is no professionalism in our players.
And it shows up in our cricket there. We’ve abundance of talent but for some reasons we aren’t as consistent as we should be. And consistency comes only when you’ve a proper system that encourages the players. Also, there is no substitute for hard work and ruthless professionalism in contemporary cricket today.
As a fast bowler, did you miss someone at the other end to complement you? Did you have good support from other fast bowlers?
Well, when you look back, one of the players I did very well with was actually a spinner, Dinanath Ramnarain, who was also from my country. But if you look at that particular history, almost every time I was opening the bowling with someone else. Was it a good thing? I don’t think so. I think we looked for too many quick fixes as the years went by.
And too much chopping and changing meant that the guys never got a chance to really settle down. You came in the team and started wondering whether you would be there in the next match or the next series. It put a lot of pressure on them.
There was a time when the West Indies used to produce a plethora of express fast bowlers with frightening regularity. Why is it that not many quality pace bowlers are emerging from the Caribbean?
There are a number of issues. There is so much cricket being played in the world and, like I said, the West Indies has been sort of left behind in terms of modern era of the game and how things are done at the international level. There is a whole science behind the game in the modern era and everybody is moving forward. But we are one of the teams that is lacking in all these things.
Look at Australian cricket and the Australian team. Look at their domestic cricket and their structure. They put just professional players. We’ve a lot of talent but how professional these guys are is a question. If we nurture that talent with a totally professional attitude, I think we’ll get more consistent performances from the players.
Aren’t more and more youngsters in the West Indies preferring basketball and other professional sports to cricket, and going to the USA?
No, no. I totally disagree with that. Cricket is still the biggest sport in the Caribbean. There is no question about that. Yes, we aren’t what we used to be, a lot is lacking in the West Indies, but still more and more youngsters are coming forward to play and take up cricket. This is an encouraging sign.
But people are discouraged by the domestic structure and the way cricket is being run in the West Indies. A lot could be done to improve the standard of cricket, not just in the West Indies, but in many other countries.
You have played with some of the greatest cricketers of the modern era, including Brian Lara. Did you ever imagine, when you started playing cricket, that you would be rubbing shoulders with them?
It’s a dream come true for me. I said it very early in my career that I never thought it was possible for me to play cricket for the West Indies. But it happened. And I played with some of the best players in the world, including Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop — to name only a few. And I’ve also played against some of the best players in the world. So it’s really a dream come true for me. My only regret is that I didn’t justify my own talent the way I should have.
Could you name some of the finest batsmen you came across as a fast bowler?
Talking about the best batsmen, you had Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden. All of them top players. It was always a pleasure playing against them.
If given an opportunity, would you like to serve West Indian cricket in some capacity?
Definitely. In fact, it’s one of the things why I’m in the ICL. Cricket has given me a lot. It has given me everything. And I want to pass on my knowledge to the youngsters. I’m thankful to the game for whatever I’m today. Who will be thankful to the game?
Will the West Indies ever regain past glory in cricket?
I think so. I think we are going to get people who understand the game. Cricket is no longer a sport; it’s a business. It has to be run that way. I think the Stanford competition is a brilliant idea. I think it’s something the West Indies Cricket Board should look forward to. It’s well-planned, organised and thoroughly professionalised.
MUMBAI : Since the news of his Monday night interview with the BCCI became official, former South Africa opener Gary Kirsten has been inundated with calls from the media. “I have had plenty of calls. I have tried to answer quite a few,” joked Kirsten as he took time off for an interview with TOI . Excerpts:
How did this interview happen?
About two weeks ago, I got a call from a member of the BCCI asking me if I was interested.
What was your first reaction?
I was pleasantly surprised when I got the call. But I considered it as a huge honour because right from my playing days I believed that I had a lot to offer. That (BCCI) call just gave me a sense of confidence that they had belief in my credentials.
Was coaching a national side always on your mind?
I run my own coaching academy in South Africa and have been with Cricket South Africa (CSA) as a high performance manager. So coaching a national side was always something I wanted to do down the line.
Have you finalised any agreement with the BCCI? Is it likely that you could join the side in Australia only mid-way through the tour?
We have a lot of issues to discuss and both sides will get back in a week’s time. I have to sort out a number of longstanding commitments and the date of my joining is something that is yet to be decided. I have two young kids, so have a lot to decide.
Did you get a chance to speak to skipper Anil Kumble?
Anil and I did have a chat. We have played a lot against each other. So it was an easy discussion around the team and current scenarios. There was nothing specific about it.
Have you been keeping a track of the Indian team’s performances in recent times?
I have been watching them. They have got a very experienced side and was very impressed with what they have done. I was particularly impressed with the Twenty20 performance where young players showed they could handle the pressure at the highest level.
What has struck you most about the Indian team?
I think it has a fantastic structure with a number of senior players at the core of the team. They have done well without a coach and it is now for me to add some value and continue the good work.
Did you do any sort of research before you came to India? Or was it all about your own experience?
Most of what I know about India is drawn from my experience as a player. I am aware of Indian cricket, its culture and the way people follow it passionately over here. I have been fortunate that I have toured India four times. So I have a fairly good understanding of the country. If I do take up the offer, I will continue to research and learn.
Would it have been easier, if you had taken over ‘at home’ rather than in Australia?
Again I must reiterate that there has been no final decision on my appointment. But we all know Australia will be a tough tour. They (Australia) have a great cricket side. In fact, it will be a clash of two great sides. It will be a tremendous challenge to add some value. If the side performs well and that is what you will be measured against.
What will your basic role with the Indian team?
Well, it is really to optimise the performance scale and put it on the upward curve. If I am able to do that atleast for 70 to 80 per cent then it will be very good. The good thing is India have a lot of Test cricket coming up and going on to win those series will be my objective. Getting up everyday and working on all the different aspects will be my job.
What is your best moment of playing in India?
There are many, but one that I remember most is the double hundred in the 1996 Kolkata Test. That was one of the highlight of my career. Playing at Eden Gardens was a tremendous experience. Everyone must get an opportunity to play there.
Marvan Atapattu retired from international cricket at the end of Sri Lanka’s Test series in Australia. A technically correct batsman, he finished his Test career with an average just below 40 and was instrumental in the team’s revival after he took over as captain in 2004. However, a back injury in 2006 saw him increasingly sidelined, and losing the captaincy to Mahela Jayawardene. His career ended in less than happy circumstances: he just might end up being more remembered for calling the selectors – with whom he had a series of spats – a “set of muppets headed by a joker” before calling it quits.
Atapattu, now headed to India to lead the Delhi Jets in the Indian Cricket League, spoke to Sa’adi Thawfeeq.
What made you retire from international cricket so suddenly?
Two main reasons: I did not wish to continue in a system where I don’t have faith and belief, and two, I wanted to give an opportunity to a suitable youngster who is coming through.
Was it the situation with the national selectors that forced your decision?
It wasn’t a sudden decision. I had been giving thought to it. The tour of Australia, I thought, was a good time. It’s always good to go out on a high. I had indicated to the previous administration and selectors that, had everything gone according to plan before I got injured, I was to retire from Test cricket after the 2006 tour of England and after leading Sri Lanka in the 2007 World Cup.
What are your immediate plans? Your name has been linked with the ICL, and also there have been reports of you playing club cricket in Sydney and doing television commentary for Channel Nine during Sri Lanka’s one-day triangular in Australia in January.
ICL has been finalised. I am on contract with them till December 18. I am captaining a team from Delhi. The Sydney club and TV commentator matters are still on the surface at this stage. There is nothing in black and white. There are opportunities if things fall into place. I still believe I’ve got two to three years of cricket left in me.
How will you reflect back on your career?
It has not been a rosy start, but to come all the way and to captain your country and score more than 14,000 runs in both forms of the game – you couldn’t ask for more. The principles I had, playing over 18 years for Sri Lanka – I’d rather be remembered for them than the runs and records. I am a person who spoke and worked straight or made an effort to do that.
Considering the start you had to your Test career and to finish with an average of almost 40 with six double-centuries … how would you rate yourself as a batsman?
It is up to the public and the media to assess my performances. From my point of view, after 17-18 ducks from 90 Tests, if I can still average nearly 40, I have done pretty well. My fifties were almost on par with my hundreds. I believe that if you get a start, you go on and get a big one. That’s my attitude. Maximise when you can.
What would you want to be remembered as?
If I have given somebody entertainment over the years in my own way, that’s the satisfaction I get. Staying in a system for 17 years you get your fair share of compliments and criticism. Constructive criticism I don’t mind.
What were your most memorable moments?
Being part of the 1996 World Cup winning squad. Scoring 132 at Lord’s to win the Emirates Cup one-day final in 1998. Scoring my maiden Test century in Mohali. Sourav Ganguly walked up to me and said the first hundred is very hard to come by but after that you will know how to make a hundred. How true.
Your biggest disappointments?
My biggest disappointment was having an [back] injury and losing the captaincy. To have captained the 2007 World Cup team and quit from cricket would have been a dream. But God has given me more than enough.
How would you rate Mahela Jayawardene as a captain?
He is good. In time to come he will get better. Everybody has his own way of leading and it shows in their personality.
What contribution did you make as captain?
I tried out a couple of things, starting with senior players taking on more responsibility to finish matches off rather than leave it to others. What we lacked as senior players was at the top of the order we didn’t finish the job as expected. Over the years it has changed. With the competition you have in world cricket, you don’t sit comfortably on past performances but always look to raise the bar.
What did you tell your team-mates in the final speech you made in the Hobart dressing room before you announced your retirement?
I told them that we had enough talent in the room and it was a matter of putting heart and soul into it if you want to achieve anything. As individuals, by the age of 20-25 you’ve got to stand on your own feet and know how to handle situations. You’ve got to have your say because you owe it to cricket, because cricket has changed your lifestyles. Over the years we have come a long way in cricket and made a name in the world. We cannot go downhill.
What needs to be done to keep Sri Lankan cricket on top?
The school and domestic structures leading up to Test cricket need to be streamlined in a way similar to Australia so that players don’t feel the transition from domestic to Test cricket. The entire process of selection, in my view, is highly subjective. An objective selection process needs to be adopted. Personal feelings and vested interests should be set aside and cool judgements made. For that to happen, the selection committee should constitute of honourable personalities with cricketing knowledge and administrative ability. We presently lack this. The concept today is, ‘Show me the man and I will show you the rules.’
Who was your best Sri Lanka cricketer?
In bowling nobody can match [Muttiah] Muralitharan. He is nearing the world record but still keeps on working hard at his game. This has been the success story for him. In batting there is no one to match Aravinda de Silva. The amount of time he spent at the nets and at physical training was unbelievable. I only saw six or seven years of Aravinda but his commitment was fantastic. His thinking on the game was out of this world. [Kumar] Sangakkara ranks close to him.
The best bowler you faced in world cricket?
All bowlers tend to give you a torrid time. But for consistency Wasim Akram has to be one.
Do you think Sri Lanka has enough players to replace the likes of you, Sanath [Jayasuriya], Murali and [Chaminda] Vaas?
It is the responsibility of the selectors to groom players to take over. I don’t think they have planned it right. Cricket cannot suffer because of one or two people. No cricketer or the cricketing public has openly stated that what I’ve said about the national selectors was wrong. It is not something new; I have expressed this to many differently, but this time I was more emphatic and I hope what I said of the selectors will ring a bell with the authorities concerned and changes [are] made for the betterment of the game. I do stand by what I have said and I don’t think it has tarnished mine or my country’s image in any way, although elements with vested interest are attempting to paint a different picture to what I have said. How many players have confidence with the present selection committee? I have spoken to some of them and they are demoralised by the present system. It is sad that they cannot talk and are tongue-tied by contracts.