The Indian run machines
Harmed & Hogged
In the news
shots & strokes
steals the show
PAKISTAN must be wondering what might have happened had rookie seamer Umar Gul played in the Multan Test. Things could have been better for Pakistan had the gangling seamer been in action at Multan. Surely, even a half as good Gul would have served Pakistan well.
Ever since he prized out cream of the Indian batting in Lahore in the first innings, Gul has been the toast of the cricket-crazy nation. Gul, in fact, seems to have benefitted the most from the tongue-lashing to fellow seamers by skipper Inzaman and Imran Khan. The lanky seamer playing only his four in Test stuck to the basics, giving a lie to the notion that sheer pace is a big factor against good batting sides.
Gul, when came in languorously to bowl to Virender Sehwag, immediately gave an indication of the things to come. Bowling in the "corridor of uncertainty" and well within himself, he sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of Virender Sehwag in his first over. This, after Sehwag had once again made the new-ball pair of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami look pedestrian without wasting much time.
The way Gul fared—bowling straight, pitching just short of length and letting the ball do the rest— would have done Australian spearhead Glenn McGrath proud, whom Gul idolises.
The 20-year-old Gul was bound to come good as he was spotted by legendary Pakistan bowler great Wasim Akram, who was impressed by his height and natural bowling action.
"I thought we had someone here who could make it big and ensured Gul got all the help and facilities from PIA," Akram revealed after the brave efforts by Gul.
Hailing from the north-western areas, known more for producing top-notch squash players, Gul was included in the team after a forgettable World Cup last year for Pakistan, which proved disastrous for so many Pakistan players. Efforts made by the Pakistan Cricket Board to build a new team for future saw the blooding in of Gul along with others.
"He capitalised on the conditions and is a good prospect for Pakistan," Yuvraj Singh, who made his maiden Test century in Lahore Test, said.
Gul first served notice of
his talent in the third Test of the series against Bangladesh, where he
took four wickets in each innings. But the type of performance Gul gave
in Lahore Test will be remembered by the Pakistan fans for long. For
Gul, it could well turn out to be a defining moment of his career.
Indian run machines
In this new-style Indian team, batsmen notch up big individual scores regularly. Gone are the days when big scores were the domain of only a select few. Sunil Gavaskar would pile up big scores and occasionally Ravi Shastri or Mohammed Azharuddin would chip in.
Today’s batting line-up of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag have put 15 big scores in the past four years, at an incredible speed.
In the past six months alone there have been seven scores of 175 or more by Indian batsmen. Sehwag has two (195 at Melbourne in December and 309 at Multan in March). Sachin has two (241 not out at Sydney in January and 194 not out at Multan) Dravid has two (222 versus New Zealand at Ahmedabad in October and 233 at Adelaide in December. Laxman had 178 at Sydney in January. India have played only seven Test matches in this period, meaning an average of one big score by one batsman in each match.
The resurgence had its beginning in the last decade when Dravid and Sachin were maturing. They have come into their own and Laxman and Sehwag have emerged.
The present batting line-up has a penchant for big scores. In total Indian batsman have got to a score of 175 or more on 50 occasions in Test matches. Fifteen of these occasions have come since the start of this millennium.
The more dramatic turnaround and consistency have come into Indian batting in the past five years. Seven of these big scores have been double centuries and one triple hundred scored by Virender Sehwag recently. Out of the double hundreds Dravid has four and Tendulkar has two while Laxman scored epic 281 at Kolkata.
Four Indians have got
these big scores against feared bowling in Australia, Pakistan and
England. For long Indian batsmen had lacked the kill, especially on
foreign soil. The sole exception was the great Sunil Gavaskar, who made
most of his runs against the fearsome West Indians.
BOWLERS turned unlikely heroes for England as the West Indies plunged to new depths against the tourists. England ended a 36-year wait to win a Test series in the Caribbean.
England discovered an unlikely heroic pace quartet in Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard. All of them took turns to rattle and shake the West Indian batsmen. The ripples are still being felt all over the Caribbean.
All talk of the West Indies' revival seem too far-fetched as they have been thoroughly trounced and humiliated by the unheralded English medium pacers.
If Steve Harmison was the hero of the first Test, then Simon Jones took centre stage in the second. Andrew Flintoff finally did justice to his talent and selectors' faith reining-in the West Indians in the third Test. Not to be left behind Matthew Hoggard devastated the hosts in the second innings of the same Test.
Before this England had last won a Test series in the Caribbean in 1968.
A series that was supposed
to be competitive turned horribly one-sided. It unfolded as a horror
story for the West Indies. Not even the best of clairvoyants could have
foreseen such a rout of the team which had successfully chased the
highest total in the final innings against the mighty Australians. They
had played as a team then. Now they look a haggard bunch who have no
idea how to climb out of the hole they find themselves in.
THERE seems to be no stopping the six-time world champion Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari. The German raced untroubled to be the first past the chequered flag in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
While Formula One's debut in the Middle East provided novelty and a change of scenery, the result remained the same as Schumacher posted 73rd win of his record-breaking career. Schumacher never faltered as he blew away all opposition in one hour 28 minutes and 34.575 seconds.
Schumacher has won all the three races this year, in Australia, Malaysia and now Bahrain. There may be plenty of races to go in the season but on current form Schumacher looks unbeatable. Standing alone at the very top of this sport of man and machine he is his own competitor, no one else seems anywhere in the sniffing distance.
In his endeavour he has been greatly aided by the Ferrari bosses and engineers. They have provided him with a perfect foil to translate his talent into reality.
shots & strokes
SERENA Williams was word perfect last week. She nailed her return to competition on the first take.
There was the raunchy wardrobe, immediately subject to censorship from across the Atlantic by Wimbledon officials.
There were demure waves and kisses to the Florida fans. There was a neat script and there was Williams in the starring role.
"I honestly didn’t expect this," she said after winning the Nasdaq-100 Open title on her first outing in eight months.
Her good grace was welcome, but there was no need for it. The younger Williams sister — sportswoman, socialite, actor, model, role model — cannot suddenly fool us into thinking she is mortal.
A more appropriate insight was apparent in a teleconference interview she gave just days before she made her comeback from the knee surgery/acting/illness hiatus.
Told that most people would not be able to cope with a joint career in tennis and Hollywood, Serena replied: "I am not most people."
Critics may still try to undermine the America by suggesting she would not have casting calls without the multi-million dollar tennis career. They forget the black, ghetto-born child worked harder than most to earn privileges.
Others will demand she continue to give back to the tennis community what it has given to her. Even in eight and a half years on the professional circuit she has already paid her dues.
If her quiet boast about the acting portfolio she is sending to producers is well-judged, she could indeed successfully alternate between shots and strokes.
The only worry is that Serena might, justifiably, become bored with the lack of a challenge in the sport.
After hearing her peers tell her how difficult it would be to win following such a lengthy absence, Serena could have been forgiven a hearty laugh.
The accepted wisdom is that world No 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, absent last week, will give Williams’s comeback a sense of perspective when they compete on the green clay of Amelia Island this week.
"I don’t care who I play," said Williams. "(Right now)" there’s just so much I want to do better (on court).
There is room for improvement this week, but defeat will not change the bigger picture: that Serena transcends the game in a way Henin-Hardenne does not.
All the WTA can do is hope that theirs is, at least, a worthwhile rivalry on court. The only other point of interest at Amelia Island this week is the return of 47-year-old Martina Navratilova to singles play.
Navratilova, winner of 167 singles titles, is the sort of figure Serena can strive to emulate.
India’s purple streak
INDIA maintained their purple streak to record an emphatic 40-run victory over arch rivals Pakistan in the final of the Samsung Cup at Lahore. India kept their reputation intact with another outstanding display of skill and temperament. Our team played with determination and dedication. Credit goes to the young bowler Irfan Pathan who took three top order wickets and broke the backbone of Pakistan. Hyderabad’s stylish middle order batsman VVS Laxman also gave a marvellous performance. India batted magnificently and bowled superbly.
ANKIT ARORA, Rohtak
The Indian cricket team chalked out victory in the fourth ODI at Lahore in superb fashion. From 162 for 5 and with most of the top batsmen back in the pavilion, the Indians came back to score a memorable win. The role played by Dravid , Kaif and Yuvraj was commendable. Of course, the top batsmen gave a brilliant start which eased the pressure on Dravid and Kaif. It was indeed a memorable series.
Brig H.S. SANDHU, Panchkula
Congratulations to the Indian cricket team for clinching the five-match series against Pakistan. The talented Indians made history by winning the first ever one-day series in Pakistan. It is hoped that this momentum will be maintained in the Test series as well. Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq deserved the ‘man of the series’ award. The spectators also played their part well. They cheered not only their own team but the opposition as well. There was clapping for Indian bowlers and for every four or six scored by Indian batsmen. The spectators created a congenial environment for the historical series.
VIPIN SEHGAL, Ladwa
Ton in vain
The century scored by Sachin Tendulkar at Rawalpindi went waste as India lost the match to Pakistan. The stumping of Saurav Ganguly by Moin Khan caused a great setback to India.
Dr RAJAN MALHOTRA, Palampur