Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Chopra in Blighty

My apologies for having fallen off the blogging map recently (well, last week). As I explained, I was moving, and lacked Internet access. Then, I had to travel to Chicago, and getting cheap, convenient Wi-Fi access seemed pretty tough; I'm not sure why. In any case, I'm back in Brooklyn, and trying to get life back to normal. On that note, I'd like to acknowledge Akash Chopra, who will be writing about his experiences in English League Cricket again this summer. I personally consider Chopra's dropping for the third test against Pakistan in 2004 to be the start of a small slide in India's test fortunes. (Despite India winning that match, yes; the result merely covered up an astonishingly bad decision to send Pakistan in to bat, and postponed a resolution of India's opener problem, one still not solved). Chopra is an articulate man (No, I'm not biased because I share a last name with him!); I wish we had more like him in Indian cricket. Check out his first piece; and keep an eye on him. He probably will never make it back to the Indian test team, but he'll give Delhi yeoman service for sure.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Not really heretical

I do not think, as many Australians might, that it is heresy to suggest that England will retain the Ashes when they tour Down Under some months from now. If the English pace attack is healthy, some reasonably rational bets could be placed on them winning or drawing the series (they hold the Ashes, remember?; now, they are the ones to go into a series with this luxury). A foursome of Flintoff, Harmison, Jones and Hoggard will be a handful for any Australian batting line-up, whether or not Hayden has sorted out whatever problems afflicted him during the Ashes. Reverse-swing, genuine pace and awkward bounce (and backed up by the big hearts of those four) will always come through. Australian teams will still be subject to noisy crowds getting on their nerves (despite the supposed machinations of the ACB to reserve the majority of tickets for Australian fans, I predict that the scalping market will see plenty of Barmy Army types sneak in at the last minute), and their pitches will aid both the English batsmen and bowlers. All in all, it should be an absolute cracker. (This post is remarkably premature, I realize, but so is all prognostication on the Ashes, and my thoughts were only sparked by reading about Steve Waugh making similar remarks).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dhoni's music video

A Dhoni music video (made by a amateur fan, I hasten to add, lest I be sued by someone for false promises). The editing and music choice, sure, could do with some work, but its good value nonetheless. This one is just one amongst quite a few Bollywood-flavored cricket videos available at Google Video. I still haven't seen my perfect music-video-cricket blend yet. Its got to feature a slightly more hard-edged soundtrack, and the editing needs to be a bit snappier. But the opening sequence of the Dhoni video is quite inspired and gives a hint of what could be possible.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Back you go

John Sutton did think that my comments on Bangladesh were harsh (see below - I'm not 100% sure which of my three or so posts he was referring to, but probably the one where I took Rabeed Imam's slightly flowery language to task) and to a certain extent, after the first test, I agreed. I didn't think my remarks about not remembering all the names of the Bangladeshi players was harsh, as it was a honest one. They just haven't made that much of an impact on me. In any case, with the second test in the series now behind us, it seems that Bangladesh have, to trot out a well-worn cliche, taken two steps backward in their quest for respectability. Losing by an innings was not a good idea; letting Jason Gillespie score a double hundred bordered on the ridiculous. Talk about ensuring that, for a long time, all centuries against Bangladesh will be devalued. Its not too difficult to imagine the conversation "Well, Strauss did score a century against Bangladesh.." "What? Come off it...even bloody Gillespie got a double ton off that lot!"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The presence of cricket

In my new neighborhood in Brooklyn, I was able to sample the pleasures of chancing upon a cricket telecast in completely unexpected fashion. I strolled out to the corner grocery store to pick up something to drink before settling down for a day's work at home, and walked in to see two Pakistani youngsters staring towards the ceiling with rapt attention. I followed their gaze upwards to see a television - mounted high on a wall bracket - showing the Abu-Dhabi game. I didn't stick around too long, and quickly completed my transaction (with their absent-minded participation) before heading out. Not having access to the sights and sounds of a cricket game has always held back my reconciliation with the US; it was the one thing that made my stay in Australia more centered and nourishing; even if I won't go to a grocery store to watch a game (lack of seats, bad viewing angles, shopkeeper impatience all rule against that), just knowing the game is out there, part and parcel of people's daily routine in this 'strange land', much like the radio commentary of yesteryears was part of mine, is an oddly reassuring thought.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gulf cricket

And this bauble is what India will miss out on if they fail to beat Pakistan tomorrow for the DLF Cup? Sigh, cricket in the gulf, complete with its full assortment of dodgy cricket, grounds, and offensive audience members (dictators, jingoistic expats, dorky sheikhs, Bollywood airheads) is well and truly back! And to think that this promises to be a yearly event for the next five years.

Sensible stuff

Over in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan seem to be strolling to a win against India, as they need 52 off 13 overs, with seven wickets in hand. But the Indian captain doesn't seem to have lost the plot: he has seven men inside the fielding circles. Good thinking; pushing the field back would only give easy singles to Pakistan to knock off at leisure; keeping men inside the circle makes them go over the top and take a risk or two, and perhaps lose a wicket. Its the only chance India seem to have at the moment.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hectic stuff

Thanks to moving, always a pain in the neck at the best of times, I've been unable to blog for a couple of days. In betwen there was the seventh one-day international between India and England, and two tests began. I'm not surprised players find the pace of the modern game to be too hectic (witness Afridi's bailing out of test cricket), heck, us fans find it a bit hectic too. All I have to do is find a machine that I can blog on, but these guys have to turn up and play. Or you could be like Yuvraj, who when asked about the workload issue during the Man-of-the-Series award ceremony, replied, "Well, the more you play, the better you become, so its good for the players". Gower's slightly incredulous expression said it all. (Mind you, McGrath expressed sentiments similar to that when asked about his decision to play county cricket during the Australian off-season, saying that he was better able to guard against injuries and loss of form by playing more cricket). Any takers for these theories? I somehow understood McGrath's claim a little better in the context of vulnerabilities to injuries being a function of bad form creeping into fast bowler's actions. Meanwhile, its off to Abu-Dhabi for the BCCI's band of merry one-day cricketers, as test action continues (service back to normal in Bangladesh v. Australia, while New Zealand give the Proteas a hard time).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Close shaves and saunas

If Bangladesh have indeed arrived in test cricket, as has been suggested after their three-wicket loss to Australia (a much closer result than I had thought, and indicative of some serious fighting spirit), then it can only be good for test cricket. I must confess, I do not have a clear handle of the composition of the team, or even who their stars have been, or could be. But after this test, some of that has changed. I think I can name a few of their players, and I'm already looking forward to the second test of the series.

I'm probably more interested in that game now, than I am in this increasingly desultory one-day international series that is headed for its anti-climactic end in Indore tomorrow. Hopefully, the terrible roasting the players suffered in Jamshedpur will convince someone that its not a good idea to be playing cricket this late into the so-called season.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A little harder

I've clearly been too optimistic about how quickly Australia would score while chasing 307 over at Fatullah, but with Ponting still there, I'd still put money on Australia to win. Tomorrow's play however, will be tense, and not the canter that I expected it to be today. Full credit to Bangladesh, they've come on a lot, and this test, (despite my betting tendencies), could still be a very tight one.

Subsiding to normal?

Well, well. Australia have rolled Bangladesh for 147 at Fatullah, and are now chasing 307 to win. I'm willing to bet a small amount that Australia will win by five wickets or more today itself. The initiative has been surrendered by Bangladesh rather spectacularly. Day three still remains a problem for them. While the game isn't over yet, their collapse for 147 after having scored 427 in the first innings and obtaining a lead of 158 indicates that they have some distance to go. No worries; a full day of cricket lies ahead

Sliding down

India are now three wickets down; a rather lazy looking Yuvraj is gone; and with Powar coming in at seven, I'm starting to wonder about this line up. Will Dhoni have to - gasp!- play the role of sheet anchor? This pitch has a fair amount of bounce and carry, and certainly isn't like one of those oft-disparaged subcontinental flat-trackers. India have a fight on their hands here, and this very strange looking line-up has a lot of work to show that they can beat England. (and Raina has just been caught down the leg-side; phew! 63-4...)

C'mon Kaif, get it right

Sadly, for I am a huge Kaif fan, his batting travails continue; despite getting a life from Collingwood, who dropped an absolute sitter off Anderson at point, he's gone and gotten out LBW to Sajjid Mahmood. Groan, double moan, mutter, grumble and hope. Please, please, get it right. How long can you go on like this?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Throwing bats

India's batsmen are trying to get off to a flyer at Jamshedpur; Sehwag lashed the first ball of the match for four, but then proceeded to get out a couple of balls later, edging Anderson to slip; Dhoni then hammered Hoggard for 14 including a savage pull that almost took out Rudi Koertzen at square-leg (after Collingwood had stopped a screamer at point; and now, Kaif, has just hit two lovely fours off Anderson. 27 off three overs. One wicket down. Frenetic stuff

Awkward times at Fatullah

So, even though Australia have fought back very well in this test match, they still face a very awkward two days ahead. They are 282 runs down, and Bangladesh have five wickets left that could push that upwards of 350. And that, would be a very stiff ask indeed, given the Aussie problems against Rafique. Chasing 350 plus is never easy, no matter who you are up against. There is the sheer numerical size of the target, the finality of the fourth innings, and in Australia's case, the memory of the first-innings slump. Great teams like Australia (perhaps not this combination, sure), are capable of using that memory to motivate themselves to turn it around. Bangladesh will find the going tougher from here on (indeed, this last day has already seen that happen) but no matter what, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have shaken up the Aussies good and proper.

Monday, April 10, 2006

An Aussie take on Fatullah

Yeah, I know, lazy blogging, but this is good stuff. An email from my friend Joe Thurbon (tearaway fast bowler on our C-Grade team in the Northern Sydney Suburbs League):

"They've (the Bangles) been pretty good this test I think (obviously, I guess). It's not the first time they've been very competitive in a test. The last series they played they (for a while) looked like they might roll Sri-Lanka. Their real test comes now, I think. If they can keep up their intensity today, they're in with a real shot of a bigger upset than that ODI that never happened. This has been where they've fallen over in the past, about day 3.

That said, the Aussies have been pretty dreadful in a lot of ways. Damien Martyn's shot to get out before lunch was ridiculous, Hayden had a brain fade (I had assumed that the ball he got out to had swung down the line, but it didn't really, just moved a bit off the seam. Punter got done by one that kept low and moved dramatically, although the commentators blamed him for not getting forward enough, I thought he did everything pretty reasonably. I didn't see any of the other dismissals. I would be willing to bet that the next innings is a different story (but not bet a huge amount, though)

I also thought we bowled like we were still in S. Africa, far too short for this pitch. It's no surprise that the wickets went to people who didn't bowl in the last series. But, ugh, Stuart MacGill. Is there a bigger wanker in world cricket (especially when Warne is off the ground)? Anyway, I think the Bangles have looked pretty good. They batted well, and more impressively to me, have bowled with a plan and stuck to it. They've been helped by a pretty lacklustre Aussie side. Perhaps most importantly, they don't look as overawed as I had thought they might. Dav Whatmore is something of an emerging cricket nation specialist, I think.

The pitch has been interesting, too. It's kept a bit low (much more on day two than on day one), but it hasn't done any 'leaping up off a length' that I've seen. So, I think that the Aussies can bat on it if they adjust a bit and stop playing back so much. I think the true nature of it is somewhere in between 435 and 6/90, to tell the truth. It's no road, but its also no minefield (although the commentators were predicting it to fall apart today or tomorrow).

Finally, how good is the timezone for this series? Cricket from early afternoon to late evening. Can we tour Bangladesh more frequently?"


Over at Fatullah, Bangladesh are putting the squeeze on Australia, which has provoked this excited reaction from Rabeed Imam:

"Now surely there won't be any nagging complaints from the perennial Bangladesh bashers. This team can play, maybe better than a lot of other international sides who face Australia in a Test." ("a lot of"? Like who? Zimbabwe? Is that such a good comparison?)


"[D]on't ever underestimate the Tigers again, because they are fast learning the art of biting back. India in 2004, Australia in 2005, Sri Lanka in 2006. This can't be mere coincidence" (Well, coincidence in that all of those games were one-day internationals?)

Then, the clincher:

"In the real world a kangaroo is no match for the Royal Bengal Tiger. For the past 48 hours, Whatmore's Tigers have maintained that balance of nature." (In the real world, kangaroos don't encounter tigers.)

Phew. While Bangladesh's performance in this test has been fantastic, a little caution is needed, something that Imam himself alluded to: "There has been an Aussie style implementation and ruthlessness from the Bangladesh side in this Test so far..."

Yes, so far. Theres three days of cricket to go. I wouldn't write off the Aussies just yet. In the next post, a nice analysis from a friend Down Under.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fubar in Guwahati

Policemen were knocked unconscious in the melee that ensued; some of the miscreants causing the damage got thrashed; the sixth match might be affected if the camera equipment is not replaced; Guwahati will probably lose its international status; the BCCI, of course, will do very little beyond mouthing inanities; it is, all in all, the kind of situation for which the term "fubar" was devised.

Cameras not people?

Run, don't walk, over to Cricinfo, where the headline reads "TV cameras damaged in violence" in reporting on the riots that broke out at Guwahati after the abandonment of the fifth one-day international. Private property trumps human lives; its apparently more newsworthy to report on the damage to expensive equipment (owned perchance, by large corporations whose impression of India is so important) than the injuries that human beings (alas, only brown-skinned types) might have suffered.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Guwahati promises

Yet another city in India that I've never visited prepares to play host to England and India as they gear up for the fifth one-day international. What with all the lexicographic corrections going on as far as place names are concerned, I'm not sure any more about how to spell or pronounce Guwahati. Most folks I know would go with Gauhati, but there you have it. Assam demands fidelity, as do other regions and languages, and so it shall be. I've only flirted with the borders of Assam, while visiting a friend's tea estate in the Dooars (in West Bengal) a long, long, time ago (back in 1981 in fact), and the highlight was, sorry to be such a cliche, a tiger sighting. We went for a late afternoon/early evening swim, and on the way back, stopped in the late dusk to ogle a tiger standing by the roadside. I was stunned; I had been to national parks like Bandogarh before but other than a few remote roars, had never come close to actually seeing a tiger in the flesh. After a few seconds of lazy observance, the tiger bounded away, leaving us all breathless.

I doubt anything quite so dramatic awaits the English tourists. Mainly, they'll be hoping for good weather, cool winds, low humidity, perhaps some assistance for the swing bowlers. India will be hoping that old hands like Sehwag and Kaif will regain form, and new hands like VRV Singh and Rao will strike it rich. England will play for pride; India too (despite what people say about the lack of attention paid to test cricket, the score in this series is viewed by lots of fans as partial recompense for the Mumbai disaster).

Assam's recent political history has been volatile; but today, if no thunderstoms interfere, most of the volatility should come from the youngsters straining to make their presence felt on an international arena. It might be India's wild north-east, but its still international cricket.

Friday, April 07, 2006


"Right-O, lads, now, anyone got any ideas on how we get back into this series?"


"Skip, I reckon I got a suggestion that might just work, a bit of the 'ol psychological warfare, if you will"

"Go ahead, Hoggy, don't be shy"

"Well, me and Kabir (living up to the wisdom of his namesake, as you'll see), think we should get the Indian media going to the other extreme now"

"Come again?"

"Well, if you'd noticed after the Mumbai test, everyone and their dog was going on about how the Indian team should just be sacked, including Dravid and Chappell?"


"Well, how about we call them the best team in the world?"


"Well, excuse moi, but can't you see whats going to happen? They'll get a barrage of questions about that, no one is going to bother with us any more, we can go back to playstations by the swimming pool, and if India even drop a single catch, or god forbid, lose a game, they'll have the devil of a time playing it down"


"Hoggy, ah reckon you're a genius"

"Thanks, skip, anything for you and England"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Heat and hype

As usual with these one-day internationals, I come with tidings of two games. In the first, England lost two early wickets and then started to run India ragged through the Pietersen/Collingwood (England's two best one-day cricketers?) combo. And then in the second, India cantered to a win, but not before their two tyros, Raina and Singh, both lost their wickets in the same over. England have simply not been able to pick themselves up off the mat, and the intense heat of the South looks like it has sapped them mentally and physically. And frankly, I'm amazed that cricket is being played in the kinds of conditions we witnessed yesterday. It wasn't any surprise that the Indians were suffering as well. I lived in Delhi for fifteen years, and our summers were scorchers, brutal absolutely, with temperatures zooming to the 47C mark. But they were dry heat - not the stifling humidity that is the hallmark of southern summers (New York's summers are pretty humid, the kind in which you "swim to your car" but they aren't as bad as those most of the time). And even in that heat, very little cricket was played in Delhi in the summer months. When cricket was played in months like April (which I always will associate with final exams and summer's brutal onset), we did so early in the mornings, running out to the park to get in a game before 8AM, and then after 7PM in the evenings. The question of playing during the day did not arise. I remember being amazed by Ranji Finals being played in the month of April. Under these circumstances, there was very little chance that England's players would have the legs to build long innings or have the energy for a high-level performance in the field. It didn't help that they were dealing with an Indian unit that has now won 15 matches in a row.

Which in turn brings me to the hoopla that is now being generated aplenty by Indian journalists about this side. Please folks, give it a rest. India beat Sri Lanka 6-1 at home; they drew 2-2 with South Africa at home; they beat Pakistan 4-1 away, and they now lead England 4-0. The nature of the pitches has not changed much between India and Pakistan, and before anyone starts to get too worked up about these results (in the interest of avoiding much teeth-gnashing down the line), please wait till we have seen the Indian team play in a variety of conditions. The new youngsters are admittedly, wonderfully promising, but the validity of some of the extravagant claims put forward for them will only be determined when that has happened.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

New quicks and new words

I almost feel like there is too much to blog about today, and as a result, I'm feeling slightly incoherent. For one, there is the matter of Pakistan's stunning win against Sri Lanka. Why do I get the feeling that they seem to specialize in these sorts of wins? Even accounting for Jayasuriya's injury, to blow away Sri Lanka for 73 in the second innings took some doing (and as usual, they did it on the back of a new quick!).

Then there is RSA's dispiriting loss to Australia; much as they have scrapped hard at times over the southern summer, its ended with five losses in six tests, and that, any way you look at it, has got to count as a hiding. The 3-0 win is an amazing letdown after the one-day series, but South Africa have only themselves to blame if they imagined that that match was going to have any effect on the tests (other than perhaps the first session of the first test, for once a game starts, it develops a momentum of its own very soon, and carried over momenta (ooh, is that a word?), don't last too long). Nested parentheses? I really am a geek.

And finally, there is the small matter of thinking about what is going to happen in the cauldron called Cochin when India take on England. Over at Cricinfo, Dileep Premchandran can't seem to stop sneering at England, and English journalists all over the place can't shake themselves out of the gloom and doom. So in all this mess, let me just point out that I'm glad to see a new word make its way into cricket reports, as Richard Hobson over at the Times, describes Flintoff as a "locum captain". Gee, I actually had to go look that up. You should too; I plan to use it sometime myself. (yes, its "locum", not "loco", no matter what you might think about Flintoff's captaincy in this series).

Monday, April 03, 2006

Aussie sweep? predictions haven't done too well recently, but here goes: I think Australia will win by two wickets tomorrow, and wrap up the series 3-0.

Honoring greats - correctly

The post-game ceremony featured a little item that had much potential, but which went wrong. The local cricket association decided to honor Dilip Sardesai with a little cash award (I forget the amounts, one check was for Rs/5000). Ok, so far so good. Unfortunately, no biographical information was given to Atherton (I very much doubt Michael knew who Sardesai is), and no one said anything about Sardesai's contribution to Indian cricket. Dilip walked up, accepted his check, no quick words for him on the mike (I guess the producers had no time), and that was it. As far as the crowd was concerned, it was just some old geezer rolled out from the Senior Citizen's home. If only a little bio-sketch had been read out, the crowd might have learned that Sardesai grabbed the intiative for India in the 1971 series win against the West Indies. How? Well, by scoring a double-hundred in the first test at Kingston, and ensuring that the West Indies followed-on for the first time. As many cricket writers noted, it shocked the Windies and gave India an advantage they never let go in that series, which they won 1-0, thanks to their win at Port-of-Spain in the next test. Sardesai's contribution to that win? A century in the first innings, which secured a vital lead, while building a vital 96 run partnership with a debutant called Sunil Gavaskar.

And I wish we could have been spared the smarmy little corporate ceremony at the end to announce the Abu Dhabi cup or whatever it is that the BCCI has come up with in an effort to squeeze more money out of the players. Lalit Modi sounded like an insufferable corporate drone; crikey, its going to be painful putting up with this lot!

Bike rides and snipers

So India wrapped up the Goa game after a little partnership between Collingwood and Jones got in the way of a Indian cruise sparked off by the now-usual early strikes by Pathan. The obligatory post-match ceremony for man-of-the-match saw Yuvraj and Dhoni ride off into the sunset (May I make a suggestion: if Dhoni wins the award in the series, he should offer a ride to one of the English players - it'd be a nice touch, I think).

Almost as interesting (well, I exaggerate) was the sniping match between Srinath and Hussain in the commentary box (while Collingwood and Jones attempted dig in a bit after six wickets). Srinath went on bleating on about how England were letting the run rate mount too high, and about how this was going nowhere and so on. Nasser attempted to steer clear of this by suggesting that England needed to last the 50 overs, and get stuck in. Sri persisted, so at one point Nasser decided to bring up the collapse on the last day of the Mumbai test ("the boys don't want to let England down; I was disappointed with India on the last day of the Mumbai test; after 15 days you just throw it away"). Well, the two soon left the air, but Nasser came back later and repeated his point to Sivaramakrishnan, and then Sri went on to try and make his case (inarticulately as usual) twice in the closing wrap-up. Geez. Give it a rest. I wouldn't mind Srinath's point if he could just express himself clearly and not sound so damn pompous and judgemental.

Goa, someday

I wish I could say something about Goa - the city where today's one-day international is being played - but other than the usual beaches, feni, church-and-bar-on-every-street, Goa trance, raves, sunshine, tourist huts, Catholic South India, Israeli kids, beautiful sunset, the Bombay-to-Goa movie and journey, Christmas and New Years parties, hippies, Sobhraj's arrest, fish curry, cold beer, honeymoons, ferries, and yes, Roger Binny, the man who helped India win the 1983 World Cup, I've got nothing to talk about. I've never been there; a huge, gaping hole in my set of travel experiences. Someday, perhaps even to watch a one-day international cricket game. Hope springs eternal and all that.

Asians, old-timers, ghosts

On seeing that Sajid Mahmood and Vikram Solanki were both playing in today's international, I began to wonder if England would set some sort of record by playing four players of Asian origin. That was before I found out that Kabir Ali had been dropped. Ah, well, but the original thought that was sparked by this news remained: England's team is starting, slowly, or so it seems to me, to reflect the growing Asian presence in its domestic cricket scene (one that apparently, has taken a long time happening in itself).

Meanwhile, on the Indian team end, a huge retrograde step taken by playing Ajit Agarkar. I don't get, what with all the talk about building a new team, what this man is doing in there. He's never been more than a occasionally useful quick (no, I haven't forgotten his first 50 wickets in ODIs and I haven't forgotten Adelaide 2003 - they prove my point!), an inconsistent batsman, and a regular fielder. So much spring cleaning done, and this man survives? Wait, let me float a conspiracy theory: maybe he is a Pawar man. So there.

And, when will Sehwag return to form? That double hundred in Pakistan is such a distant memory now; he's been missing in action all season long, and the devastating effect this has had on India's fortunes is all too apparent. He looks terrible (watch how Anderson cleans him up in the highlights film), and by all rights, should/could have been dropped by now.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mere mortals but champs

The Macquarie University Cricket Club wraps up their first Premiership since the 1995-96 season as they romp to victory in the 4th-grade final (defeating Burwood-Briars) in the Shires competition in Sydney. Check out the match report and photos. As my friend John Sutton (check out his beaming mug in the front row of the team photo on that link - and how he's already updated his home page with the result!) reported, "we won the bloody premiership yay!". And as I wrote back, "Well, us Centrals never won the comp - only a semi-final loss, and one heartbreaking one-wicket loss in the Grand Final." (Someday I'll post some match reports from those heady days - to make things worse, I dropped a catch in that one-wicket loss!)

A real blood feud

Time to make a little voyeuristic confession: I'm feeling a bit cheated at not being able to get any access whatsoever to the extended spat/verbal duel/sledgefest masquerading as a cricket series in South Africa. I find the bad blood between the two sides quite breathtaking. Nothing in the world comes close to it. I don't think the Australians have ever been so up the noses of any of their opponents (yes, including the English, to whom they were rather nice last summer). For sustained nastiness, this particular spat, going back to December when the South African team toured Australia, easily takes the cake. Despite spending two years in Australia, and often talking about this phenomenon with my Aussie friends, I never quite understood what sparked this edge. Players on my C-Division team disliked South African cricketers more than anyone else (well, Ganguly took top honours but after that the South African team lined up), and I don't think I ever heard any admiration in any of their comments. Similarly, when I went to South Africa, I was struck by how much dislike there was for the Australian team. One suspicion I have is that the Springbok-Wallaby rivalry, which is quite nasty, spilled over into cricket, and then sustained itself long after the edge went out of the rugby rivalry. Whatever its grounding (in the case of the English, the reasons are straightforward), its the only rivalry I know of, where even the precious beer-after-the-game has been dissed (I've always felt, as I've written in these pages before, that the healing qualities of the after-game handshake and beer are overrated - it took Boucher's interview earlier this year to make that explicit). And when the beer-after-the-game is not enough to heal, and is called out for its failure, then you know you are in the middle of a real blood-feud.

More videos for youse

Just a quick link to a site that promises to be of really good value for folks like me that fall asleep while trying to follow all the late-night action during cricket series in inclement time zones. Its a video highlights site; check it out. A public service if you will. No sneering from those readers that are in India and used to round-the-clock coverage of international cricket.