WC portal launched
Inzy seeks Waugh-style swansong
Aussies a spent force: Barry
They are favourites: Imran
Akram tips Lanka to win WC
Captaincy hinders Freddie’s natural game: KP
Nafees stars in B’desh win
North Zone win
Pak veterans clinch series 3-0
Pak appoints new hockey coach
East Bengal down Mohun Bagan
Mumbai, February 27
Chappell said the team was well prepared to counter the conditions in the Caribbean and now it was only a matter of executing the plans on the field.
“I think we are in as good a position as we could hope to be. We have a good, balanced squad, good experience combined with youth. We have good variety in bowling and batting that would give us a wide range of options no matter what the conditions or the opposition”, Chappell said at the pre-departure media conference here today.
“We go with confidence and with plenty of hope. We have got cover for all the key players and the key positions. We have got flexibility in bowling and batting.
“We have got a squad we can expect to do well with. We have done all the preparations. But really now it’s going to be about performance on the day in each game and that’s where the pressure is going to be.” Chappell admitted that the players will be under some pressure as the main eight teams were evenly balanced.
“We are going to have a lot of close games. Probably a lot of middle scoring games which means they are going to be close games.
“The pressure will be on and that’s where our experience and flexibility are going to be very positive for us,” the former Australian skipper said.
Skipper Rahul Dravid, who was also present at the conference, expressed confidence and said that the goal was to play tough and fighting cricket in the mega event to be held for the first time in the West Indies.
“Our goal is to go and play good cricket and try our best. We want to compete and play some tough and fighting cricket, take one step at a time,” he said.
Dravid insisted that no unfit players were in the team and that he was happy with the pace bowling department.
“I am quite happy with the pace bowling. Munaf Patel has come back well from his (ankle) injury and has become one of our best bowlers in one-dayers over the last 15 games.
“Sree (Sreesanth) is a wicket-taking bowler. Zaheer (Khan) and Ajit (Agarkar) are playing well”, he said.
On Irfan Pathan, who was unfit for the entire duration of the four-match series against Sri Lanka at home, the Indian captain felt he needed a little more bowling under his belt before India's first match while adding the Baroda left arm bowler was fit and has overcome his shoulder problem.
“Irfan needs to have a little more bowling. But with 20 days to go before our first match, some of our niggles would have been sorted out. I don’t think we are taking anyone who is not fit,” Dravid emphasised.
Dravid said that the middle overs was just one crucial area and not the only one for teams to surmount during the World Cup.
“It’s just one important area. But I feel all the teams can improve in this area. All the teams now know what to do in the first 15 and last ten overs. That’s why more teams are focusing on the middle overs now,” he said.
Dravid shared his coach’s opinion that the World Cup would be a close affair but felt Australia were still the favourites despite their recent losing run.
“Australia are still the favourites and have a good record. But the competition is going to be tight and all eight teams (reaching the Super 8 stage) can back themselves to make the semis,” he said.
“Performance on the day and ability to adapt to conditions will be important,” he said.
Chappell felt that Australia will come out strongly from their recent reversals and that the victories scored over the Cup holders recently by England and New Zealand indicated these two teams had the potential.
“New Zealand showed they are a good side and England have improved. It’s going to be an even competition. Australia will be affected by the injuries to Brett Lee and (Andrew) Symonds.
“But the losses would have made them (Australia) a lot hungrier and more determined to do well,” he said.
“Yes, that’s an option we have. But we will wait till we reach the West Indies to decide on these matters,” Chappell said when asked whether Sachin Tendulkar would bat one down like he had done in one of the matches against Sri Lanka at home.
Chappell and Dravid said they cannot say with certainty on how the wickets in the West Indies would behave though the coach felt they were unlikely to be different from what they have been over the last thirty years. “We have some experience of West Indian wickets through our last visit there. But we did not play in all the stadiums where we may play in the World Cup.
“But I don’t think the conditions would be different to what I have experienced over the last thirty years,” he said.
“This being the World Cup the intention would be to make the best possible batting wickets. Batting is one of our strenghths. “The execution of what have been planned is going to be more important for all the teams. Teams playing good cricket on a particular day will win,” he said. — PTI
Precision is his key
Mohammad Asif may be relatively the least experienced seam bowler in the side being last entrant to the pace bowling quartet of Pakistan, others being Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Rana Naved-ul Hassan. He hit the headlines sooner than expected. Within no time, he has established himself as the crucial bowler Pakistan has to plot the downfall of opposition batsmen.
He is not the bowler who will blow away a batsman with sheer pace like Akhtar or Brett Lee. The lanky bowler, with an impeccable bowling action, is blessed with the ability to be naggingly accurate. He scalps his victims bowling in the "corridor of uncertainty."
Keeping the ball a shade outside the off stump and getting it to deviate in and occasionally making it move out at a decent pace, he keeps the batsmen on their toes all the time, a la, Glenn McGrath or Courtney Walsh. With Asif operating from the one end, batsman has no time to relax.
Ever since he made his ODI debut against England in December 2005 at 23, Asif has not looked back. He bowled seven incisive overs, claiming two wickets for 14 runs. Soon, Asif won the toast of the team winning the confidence of skipper Inzamam-ul Haq and coach Bob Woolmer with his matchless bowling skills.
In the Karachi Test when India toured Pakistan early last year, Asif proved what he is capable of. The mean seamer was at his best and pierced through the defences of Virender Sehwag, V.V.S Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar in a jiffy to enable Pakistan register a come-from-behind victory.
Having gone through probably the worst nightmare in his fledgling career along with Akhtar, when both were accused of
taking performance enhancing drugs. They were tested positive last October and got varied bans. Asif and Akhtar missed the Champions Trophy in India. The ban has since been overturned and the Pakistan Cricket Board is dealing with the matter.
Though slated to be tested again to find the level of drugs, they are almost certain to take charge of Pakistan's bowling attack in West Indies.
After the ban was revoked, Asif bowled beautifully in South Africa, while Shoaib also dealt crucial blow in one Test before breaking down due to a recurring knee injury.
"He is the modern fast-bowler based on likes of (Shaun) Pollock and McGrath. He has the ability to hit the seam and make the ball move both ways," coach Bob Woolmer said about Asif.
No wonder, Inzamam is pinning hopes on Asif along with Shoaib to take charge and make Pakistan a serious title contender in the World Cup. — TNS
Karachi, February 27
“He is out of the World Cup and we have called up reserve Azhar Mahmood as his replacement,” Mir told Reuters.
Coach Bob Woolmer added Razzaq’s injury was a blow as “he is one of our key players”. The 27-year-old has played 229 one-dayers for his country.
The team, however, were relieved when the board’s medical panel cleared Gul.
The 24-year-old was sent home from the recent tour of South Africa without playing in the test or one-day series after developing a shin problem as a complication from an existing ankle injury.
“Gul is fine now and has been bowling in the nets with the team. His availability is a big boost for the team,” Woolmer said.
Gul, who has taken 30 wickets in 25 one-day internationals, is considered as key member of the bowling attack with doubts remaining over new-ball pairing Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif for the March 13-April 28 tournament in the West Indies.
Woolmer said he had no new details of Shoaib and Asif’s progress, with the pair receiving treatment in London for their knee and elbow injuries.
“Gul is the most improved bowler over the last year,” Woolmer said of the injury-prone player, who also has 61 test wickets. — Reuters
WC portal launched
New Delhi, February 27 The cricket portal, www.cricketworldcup.com, will give a comprehensive coverage of the World Cup to be held in the West Indies in March-April. The website has been set up in collaboration with the International Cricket Council (ICC). Brian Murgatroyd of the ICC said it was a delightful feature that an official website has been created for the ICC Cricket World Cup which will give a comprehensive coverage of the mega event with facilities for call back.
New Delhi, February 27
The cricket portal, www.cricketworldcup.com, will give a comprehensive coverage of the World Cup to be held in the West Indies in March-April.
The website has been set up in collaboration with the International Cricket Council (ICC). Brian Murgatroyd of the ICC said it was a delightful feature that an official website has been created for the ICC Cricket World Cup which will give a comprehensive coverage of the mega event with facilities for call back.
Karachi, February 27
Former Australia captain Waugh was on the winning side in his first World Cup in 1987 before leading his team to glory in his last in 1999.
“It would be a great achievement and I dearly want what Steve had,” said Inzamam, who not only had to step down as vice-captain but was also dumped after scoring just 19 runs in six World Cup matches in 2003.
Eleven years before, in 1992, Inzamam had a meteoric rise at international level when he heralded his arrival with a 37-ball 60 against New Zealand in the semifinal and then a robust 42 when Pakistan beat England in the final.
At 22, he became one of Pakistan’s most recognised cricket heroes.
One of Inzamam’s early admirers, and his 1992 captain, Imran Khan compared him with batting geniuses Brian Lara of the West Indies and India’s Sachin Tendulkar.
“When I saw him batting in the nets I realised he had the potential of a Lara and Tendulkar and given the confidence he was one of our stars in the 1992 World Cup,” Imran said.
Inzamam established himself as one of the most attractive strokeplayers in the game. His deft drives, powerful pulls and cuts have forced many bowlers around the world into submission.
A team man to the core, 17 of Inzamam’s 25 Test hundreds have come in the winning cause-and it was also for the squad that he shed 15 kilos (33 pounds) to get fit for the 2003 World Cup.
Ironically, the loss of weight accompanied an unfortunate loss of form. Those were Inzamam’s darkest days in an otherwise illustrious career.
So miserable was his form that he hit just two boundaries as Pakistan were unceremoniously ousted in the first round of the World Cup in South Africa.
Despite fears he would never play again, it took just six months for him to regain his spot.
A match-winning Test hundred from a losing position against Bangladesh in his hometown of Multan revived his career. A month later, he was appointed captain and things were looking up.
Former captain and 1992 team-mate Ramiz Raja said Inzamam had earned respect with his performances.
“When Inzamam came he was like a sleepy young man but his looks were deceptive and he proved an explosive batsman. Now he commands respect in the dressing room and younger players look to him as a role model,” said Raja.
And to his advantage, Inzamam used his stature and skill with the bat to transform an unpredictable Pakistan side into a resilient unit and is fast overcoming a static approach as captain.
He is not without controversy as the infamous forfeited Test against England at The Oval in 2006 shows.
Imran says Inzamam needs to be pro-active in the Caribbean. “Inzamam will have to lead from the front, both as captain and as leading batsman. He is batting at five or six, which is not the right spot for him. He needs to bat at four so that he has maximum overs to play.”
With age not on his side and his back not as firm as it was in 1992, Inzamam has little cricket left in him. And another World Cup title would be the ideal curtain call. — AFP
Melbourne, February 27
In a stunning reversal, Australia lost five one-day internationals in a row against England and New Zealand just before the mega event.
“Ever since England won the triangular series in Australia, a lot of people have been saying that Australia are going to come back even stronger. I am not convinced,” Richards said.
“A lot of the other sides see the Aussies as a team with stars of the past nearing the end of their careers. They now believe they can beat the Aussies - and none more so than South Africa and New Zealand,” he was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun today.
He also said it was possible that several other top-ranked teams might struggle, with their coaches set to relinquish their roles after the World Cup.
“Apart from Australia’s John Buchanan, there are four others in the exit lane - Bob Woolmer with Pakistan, Duncan Fletcher with England, Greg Chappell with India and Tom Moody with Sri Lanka,” Richards said.
“The players know this and you have to wonder how it will impact on their preparations. How do you respond to a man who you know is leaving?” he said.
Former New Zealand wicketkeeper Adam Parore also said Australia was “very beatable”.
“Australia will remain the favourites, and they will be a much tougher side to beat with Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and the other big guns back. But they are very beatable,” Parore said. — PTI
Doha, February 27
Imran, who ended his career leading Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1992, said Australia should win its third successive World Cup.
“Australians are favourites to win the World Cup, although they will miss Brett Lee. But Ricky Ponting’s side is still very strong in every department,” Imran said at a business conference yesterday.
“Australians have this winning habit, which is hard to break for other teams. They may have lost the recent one-day series at home and in New Zealand, but they are still very difficult to demoralise as a team.” He said fast bowler Lee will be missed. “It is not easy to find a replacement for a bowler like Lee. He is a genuine match winner for Australia,” he said.
Neither was he ruling out Pakistan’s chances.
“Pakistan and India are also good sides with a lot of good players. But in Pakistan’s case, it will all depend if Pakistan pace bowlers (Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif) are going to the World Cup. If they are, then Pakistan also stand a chance to win.” Imran introduced Inzamam-ul-Haq to international cricket in 1991 and said the Pakistan captain must bat higher for the team to have a better shot during the World Cup.
“You can’t lead a team if you are batting at five or six.
You must lead from the front for the team to do well. Inzy is not doing that now. You can’t inspire the team to fight if you bat so low.” — AP
Karachi, February 27
“They have some extremely talented players and in my book they can upset anyone to win the title,” Akram said of the 1996 edition title holders.
The former tearaway bowler said Pakistan’s strength was its middle order which had a lot of experience behind it and was “one of the best in the world”.
But at the same he was candid in saying that Pakistan’s chances in the tournament were 50-50 as they were struggling with a number of issues.
“Pakistan have too many injury and other problems and their is also a problem in finding a reliable opening pair.
Their chances are 50-50.
“Pakistan are struggling with injury worries to key bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif and without this duo the team will definitely find it difficult going in the tournament,” he said on the sidelines of a function.
He also said Pakistan did not have a great fielding outfit and no solution had been found to finding a good opening pair.
“This is why I don’t think Pakistan are favourites this time and will find it tough going in the tournament.” Criticising the team management, the veteran of 356 one-day internationals, said the captain, coach and selectors were responsible for not being able to settle upon a suitable opening pair as yet and had experimented a lot.
He praised the selection of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria as a good move, which would help the team in the tournament.
“He can be the surprise trump card for Pakistan in the West Indies,” he said. —PTI
London, February 27
Citing the 0-5 Ashes drubbing at the hands of Australia, in which Flintoff was captain and could only show glimpses of his all-round ability, Pietersen said having to lead the side clearly affected Flintoff’s own form.
“It’s a real hard trip. The Australians target the captain; they think that if you break the captain, you break the team. I thought it would be different because Fred is such a good player and they respect Fred because of how good he is, but they got hold of him and I think it probably played a big part in his series,” Pietersen told The Sun.
“They do fear him as a bowler and they do fear him as a batter and he showed glimpses of it (his best form). I just wonder whether the burden of captaincy hindered his performances,” he added.
Pietersen said being captain required a lot of thought process and being an all-rounder, the responsibility only added to the burden on the charismatic player.
“He didn’t show it, he wasn’t different, but there were little things that maybe hindered his performance,” he said. — UNI
St John’s (Antigua), February 27
Nafees hit eight fours and three sixes in an undefeated 104 from 112, as Bangladesh successfully chased 206 for victory and reached their target with 12.3 overs to spare.
For the Bermudians, an ICC Associate side and one of the real minnows of Cricket World Cup 2007 which is being staged in the Caribbean for the first time, it was a reality check ahead of the competition which officially opens on March 11.
Ironically, Bermuda and Bangladesh have been drawn in Group B of the preliminary competition along with India and Sri Lanka.
After losing Tamin Iqbal early for 11, Nafees added 58 for the second wicket with Aftab Ahmed and then on 134, unbroken, for the third wicket with Saqibul Hasan to take Bangladesh to victory.
Ahmed struck seven fours in 40 off 27 balls and Hasan collected two boundaries in 42 from 70 balls.
Earlier, several Bermuda batsmen got starts, but failed to carry on, after their side won the toss and chose to bat. — AFP
Ahmedabad, February 27
Gambhir, who opened the innings, glued together a 142 run partnership for the third wicket with Shikar Dhawan (51) and guided the team to victory with with 16 overs to spare as Central Zone slumped to its second consecutive loss in the tournament.
Central, which had lost to West Zone by three wickets on Sunday, crumbled again this afternoon in the day-and-night encounter and managed to score only 195 runs before being all out in 47 overs.
With today’s comprehensive win North Zone jumped to the top of the points table with five points which includes a bonus point.
Needing just 3.92 runs per over, North Zone opener Karan Goel (9) was dismissed early by R P Singh in the seventh over.
Skipper Dinesh Mongia (18) who came into bat at the fall of Karan's wicket, struck three consecutive boundaries of R P Singh's same over before being dismissed by a brilliant diving catch by rival skipper Mohammed Kaif in the first slip off Pankaj Singh. — PTI
New Delhi, February 27
Chasing an imposing total of 284, Indian veterans could muster only 240 at the loss of eight wickets in the stipulated 40 overs.
Razdan played a superb knock of 102 off 103 ball studded with fives hits to the fence and three over it as he added 93 runs for the fifth wicket with Sanjiv Sharma (33).
Although he could not steer India to victory, Razdan was adjudged Man of the Match for his heroic effort. Pakistan’s Mansur Khan claimed the Man of the Series award.
Earlier, skipper Mohd Azharuddin won the toss and invited Pakistan to bat. Opener Azam Khan (57), Amir Akbar (55) and Ijaz Ahmed (64) struck half centuries propel the tourists to 283 for five in 40 overs. — UNI
Pak appoints new hockey coach
Karachi, February 27 “Islahuddin has loads of experience and has managed the team before quite successfully. He was the best choice for this position in what is trying times for Pakistan hockey,” Pakistan Hockey Federation president Zafarullah Khan Jamali said. Islahuddin, who replaces another former Olympian, Shahnaz Sheikh, said his first target would be preparing the team for the Beijing Olympics. —
Karachi, February 27
“Islahuddin has loads of experience and has managed the team before quite successfully. He was the best choice for this position in what is trying times for Pakistan hockey,” Pakistan Hockey Federation president Zafarullah Khan Jamali said.
Islahuddin, who replaces another former Olympian, Shahnaz Sheikh, said his first target would be preparing the team for the Beijing Olympics. — PTI
Dynamos beat Shers
Chandigarh, February 27
Chandigarh Dynamos who have equal points with Bangalore Lions are now in third position on better goal difference but Lions have one more match in hand. Dynamos have kept themselves in the race for the bronze medal.
In cold and windy conditions, both the teams played at a slow pace and took time to settle down. Shers, who have already qualified for the best-of-three finals, rested star players Santi Freixa, Baljit Dhillon and Baljit Singh Saini. Even Olympian Gagan Ajit Singh came in only towards the end of the first quarter.
Dynamos opened their account in the 17 th minute following a long corner. Skipper Rajpal Singh got the ball after a goal-mouth melee and gave a pass to Ravipal Singh near the top of the circle. With two defenders all over him, Ravipal managed to find space and scooped the ball into the net (1-0).
The second quarter saw mediocre midfield play and was completely bereft of any action. However, both the teams picked up speed and started playing attacking and open game in the second half.
Shers could manage to score the equaliser through Gagan Ajit Singh in the 40th minute. Their Spanish import Santi Freixa dodged the defenders putting Gagan in possession of the ball where he wasted no time to bang the board (1-1).
However, Dynamos took the lead once again with some good moves upfront where skipper Rajpal Singh and Prabjot Singh combined well. Inderjit Chadha played a crucial role in distributing the passes. Jugraj Singh found the net in 52nd (2-1).
But their joy was short-lived as Shers struck the equaliser within two minutes when Santi Freixa proved equally good with his drag-flick from Shers’ fourth set-piece drill (2-2).
Dynamos continued to put pressure and forced two more penalty corners before posting the match winner in the 61st minute. Jaswinder Singh began a move from the middle and put Chadha in possession. Chadha sent a short pass after entering the circle to Mandeep Singh on the left. With rival custodian Kamaldeep advancing, Mandeep used the back pass to find Prabjot unmarked near the far post. The Dynamos' star just nudged the ball into the goal (3-2).
An elated Inderjit said, “ I am happy that Chandigarh Dynamos kept themselves in the race for the bronze medal in the league. I hope we would live up to the expectation of the home crowd.”
Kolkata, February 27
The young Soumik Dey showed fine opportunism to score the all-important goal as early as the 14th minute to boost East Bengal's points kitty to 14 from seven matches.
A measured long ball from skipper Alvito De Cunha was quickly redirected from the right by Izumi Arata towards Soumik, who nodded home after running in from the other side, as the Bagan defence was caught napping.
It was not Bagan's day. Seasoned striker Bhaichung Bhutia could not take the field as he was yet to recover from his injury, while key Brazilians Jose Barreto and Fabio Crotez Vidal had to leave the ground in the opening half itself following a pulled hamstring and a twisted ankle, respectively. Despite their depleted strength, the green and maroon brigade put up a heroic performance in the latter session when they came close to scoring on several occasions, but the goal continued to elude them.
The game at the floodlit Salt Lake stadium provided the large turnout their money's worth as East Bengal's domination prior to the breather was matched by Bagan's tireless assault on the rival citadel after lemon time.
While the upcoming Bagan striker Lalan Puiya spelt danger time and again in the East Bengal box, the ultimate winners were well served by their goalkeeper Abhra Mandal, who brought off some fine saves. — PTI