Riveting opener on the cards
Windies will feel home pressure
Ponting hits back at Gavaskar
3 Sher-e-Jalandhar players face ban
Canas stuns Federer
Ex-football star Gurung dead
On with the Cup
Montego Bay (Jamaica), March 12
Titled ‘West Indian Energy’, the opening ceremony unfolded in true West Indian style showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean, as boundaries disppeared with nine Island nations joining hands in an unprecedented effort to host the mega event.
Three decades after their triumph in the first World Cup in 1975, the twice World cup champions sang and danced their way into 47-days of cricketing carnival.
Reggae, dancehall, calypso and different musical genres, were pieced together featuring Caribbean dance sequences, fire-eaters and stilt-walkers playing cricket in a spellbound three-hour opening ceremony, watched by about 10,000 at the Trelawny Stadium and over 150 crore through television.
Former West Indian all-rounder Sir Garfield Sobers, now in his 70s and acknowledged one of the greatest cricketer, officially declared the tournament open. “On behalf of the West Indies it is my honour and privilege to declare the ninth World Cup officially open,” he said.
Particular attention was paid to the region’s commitment to Carnival in the opening ceremony which cost $2.5 billion and brought to life with the help of over 2500 singers, dancers and performers.
The biggest pan-Caribbean gala of West Indian music, culture and way of life was unfolded in front of 10,000 spectators present at the stadium.
Region’s top international artistes such as Sean Paul, Gregory Issacs, Beres Hammond, Buju Banton and Half Pint regaled the assembled audience with their musical genius and the list also included Allyson Hinds, commonly known as soca queen of the Caribbean.
Sixteen teams paraded in alphabetic order but the West Indies being the hosts were the last to take the field.
The only disconcerting notes for these squads, numbers 362 in all and 385 if one includes also the support staff, was that they were made to occupy the Eastern Stands of the stadium where red hot sun made them squirm in their seats.
Most of them lost little time in getting rid of their blazers.
Also noticeable was that no national flag was displayed in front of participating teams, probably to balance out the fact that West Indies, a group of islands, didn’t have a uniform flag.
The teams paraded with a child, intended to highlight the united stand for children and against the deadly AIDS epidemic.
The Indian team, as most others, paraded in manner of hierarchy: captain Rahul Dravid walking out, followed by Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, two senior most cricketers of the side, who in turn had Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag walking behind them.
The players’ declaration was done by West Indian captain Brian Lara while Steve Bucknor, the longest serving umpire, read the officials’ declaration before Sir Garfield Sobers declared the World Cup open.
Set in golden sunshine against a backdrop of pristine blue sea, the ceremony also featured introduction of World Cup mascot ‘Mello’, the orange raccoon like creature wearing a blue shirt over a white vest, and the official song of the World Cup ‘The Game of Love and Unity’, sung by the trio of Rupee, Shaggy and Fayann Lyons. — PTI
Riveting opener on the cards
The seconds are out of the ring; pugilism of a cricketing kind and partying Caribbean style is about to begin. The first pair scheduled to enter the arena are the hosts, the West Indies and Pakistan tomorrow. The setting: the historic Sabina Park at Kingston, Jamaica, now renovated but still nestling below the island’s majestic Blue Mountain, after which the coffee is branded.
If most recent evidence is of any relevance, the West Indians, winners in 1975 and 1979, would be worried about the capitulation to India in the warm-up game on Friday; and in contrast, Pakistan, champions in 1992, should be elated with their victory over South Africa, currently number one in the ICC rankings, on
But as history reveals, such results are often immaterial, more so in the limited overs format, where the luck of the draw and the form on the day concerned count considerably.
Over the years, the two have had a number of riveting run-ins, most notably in the 1975 World Cup, when a last wicket partnership of 64 runs between Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts edged out Pakistan.
But in their last seven meetings, Pakistan have prevailed in six - 3-0 in the Caribbean in 2005 and 3-1 at home last winter. However, after Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif - who should not have been selected in the first place after testing positive for intake of performance-enhancing drugs - and Abdul Razzak missing out because of injuries, London bookmakers have lengthened the odds on the Pakistanis from 7-1 to 10-1, whereas the price on the West Indies has remained constant at 7-1.
No host has ever won the World Cup, other than Sri Lanka (who were joint organisers with India and Pakistan) lifting the trophy in 1996. Yet, few forecasters ignore home advantage. On paper, the West Indians, to start with, have less of a chance of wearing the crown than South Africa had four years ago. But their performance in the past year has noticeably improved, including reaching the Champions Trophy final last year, not to mention their upset win in this tournament in 2004, en route to which they tamed Pakistan in the semi-finals.
As matters stand, the West Indies desperately need Chris Gayle to combust at the top and at least one among Ramnaresh Sarwan, skipper Brian Lara, making his fifth and final World Cup appearance, and Marlon Samuels to click in the middle order. On the other hand, Pakistan’s unpredictable openers tend to exert unwelcome pressure on the middle order of Younis Khan, Mohammed Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq, also playing his fifth World Cup.
At the end of the day, though, either can lose and still make it to the Super Eight, if they beat Zimbabwe and Ireland in their Group D thereafter.
Meanwhile, Roberts, who has been supervising pitch preparation for the World Cup, has contested claims that wickets in the competition will be slow turners. Indeed, he expects “sporting” surfaces at Barbados and Antigua, with an even bounce and decent “carry” to the wicket-keeper. But he’s unsure about Guyana, where India are slated to play South Africa, if both qualify for the last eight.
Windies will feel home pressure
The very least the Pakistani and West Indian teams can do on the eve of their battle is focus on the process rather than the result.
There is nothing much to choose between the two. But the hosts might just be feeling the heat a little bit more.
As each and every current and former Indian and Pakistani cricketer will readily admit, ‘home advantage’ can be your biggest strength and also your biggest weakness. The West Indies’ loss to India in a practice game hasn’t gone down very well with the public, and serious questions will be asked if they fail to get off to a good start in the World Cup. But Brian Lara and his men will be aware of what they will ‘earn’ if they start well.
The spectator-support will increase in terms of numbers and intensity, and the side’s opponents in the latter stages of the competition will have to produce something extraordinary to halt its march. Those of us who have played in the Caribbean know how passionate the average West Indian spectator can get about his cricket team. But it is necessary for the players themselves to merit such support through their deeds on the field.
Pakistan will try to do what the West Indians themselves did to South Africa in the inaugural match of the 2003 World Cup. The team has given a reasonable account of itself in the warm-up games, despite the absence of its two wicket-taking bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif. Abdul Razzaq’s withdrawal is another blow. I do feel that the team should play to its strengths by focussing on the spin department.
In Kaneria, Shoaib Malik and Afridi, the team possesses canny slow bowlers, and they should be looked upon as the mainstays of the attack. The wickets in the Caribbean are nowhere as quick as they were in the heyday of the pace quartet in the 1970s and 1980s.
The strips have been relaid, and I suspect that not even the home team has a clue as to how they would behave. Given the circumstances, Inzamam would be better off batting first and then putting his spinners into operation. Of course, the batters will have to put up a reasonable score for the spinners to defend.
It will do the batsmen of both teams a world of good if they concentrate on playing each delivery on merit instead of aiming for a 300-plus total the moment they reach the middle. Going out ‘all guns blazing’ from ball one rarely works, even if your name is Shahid Afridi. But I still hope he opens. He made the biggest difference when Pakistan beat India 4-2 in a one-day series in early 2005. Is playing him in the middle-order any less of a gamble? Even his miss-hits clear densely populated infields in the initial overs. So why not give him every opportunity to get cracking? If he gets going, the middle-order gets a solid foundation (and deliveries), and a total of 300 or more can be achieved virtually on auto-pilot.
It’s also imperative that the rival captains bat higher up in the order. Holding yourself back in the hope that the opposition will be wary of your imminent arrival is not only a defensive tactic, but also a disastrous one. You may be a gifted batsman, but there is no way you can play your normal game if you come in after the fall of three or four quick wickets. Inzamam and Lara should look to bat for as many overs as possible. Surely they know what they are capable of after getting set. — PNG
The West Indies and Pakistan, who clash in the opening match of the World Cup tomorrow, may not like this piece of trivia. Only once in the history of the premier tournament has a team that played in the opener went on to win the Cup. Incidentally, that side was the West Indies, who thrashed India in the first match of the 1979 edition and routed England a couple of weeks later in the final.
Call it a jinx or something else, but things have not gone smoothly for a majority of the teams that have set the World Cup ball rolling.
Four matches were played on the opening day (June 7) of the inaugural edition in 1975. For the sake of record books, the England-India encounter is regarded as the opener. England walloped their rivals by 202 runs in this match, which saw Sunil Gavaskar play that infamous knock of 36 not out. England made it to the semifinals, where they lost to Australia in a low-scoring humdinger, while India were knocked out in the first round itself (India fared as badly in 1979).
The opener of the 1983 edition pitted Pakistan against Sri Lanka at Swansea on June 9. Pakistan won by 50 runs, and made it to the semis, where they lost to the West Indies. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, bowed out in the first round.
In 1987, the two subcontinental teams met again, with Pakistan winning by 15 runs at Hyderabad (Pakistan). In a replay of their 1983 fortunes, Pakistan lost in the semis (to Australia at Lahore), while Lanka again failed to cross the group stage.
The 1992 opener witnessed New Zealand shocking co-hosts Australia by 37 runs at Auckland. The Aussies never recovered from this upset, and they ultimately fell short of a semis berth. The Kiwis went from strength to strength, until they were ousted by Pakistan in the semifinal at Auckland.
New Zealand defeated England by 11 runs at Ahmedabad in the 1996 edition’s first match. However, both teams were not able to go past the quarterfinals.
In 1999, hosts England outplayed Sri Lanka at Lord’s. Both did not even make it to the Super Six stage.
Four years later, the West Indies scraped past hosts South Africa in a thrilling opener at Cape Town. Disappointingly, neither of the teams reached the Super Six round.
Let’s see if the West Indies or Pakistan are able to reverse the trend this time. — TNS
Melbourne, March 12
Ponting said it was natural that Australia’s world domination consistently for well more than a decade invited a variety of criticism while other teams and captains like Gavaskar were always smarted from their defeats.
“I don’t know if there are too many popular winners. If you are really dominating teams for a long period of time, I don’t think you end up having too many supporters around the place,” the Aussie skipper was quoted as saying in the media here today.
“I don’t mind if ‘Mr Perfect’ comes out and goes on about our team. I know we are all not perfect. We are not going to keep everyone happy 100 per cent of the time.
“But for some of these guys that have done it all themselves, it’s pretty high and mighty for them to say that.” Mentioning India’s miserable Test record last year when they won just three of their 12 Tests, Ponting said Gavaskar would do well to look at his own team whose development programme he has been part of at various levels.
“I know who I would rather be going to watch. Have a look at how many Test matches they have won,” he said.
“They might want to start to look at the way they play their own cricket rather than looking at us.” For a good measure, Ponting reminded the former Indian captain that he had nearly walked out of a Test match along in protest against an umpire’s decision.
Gavaskar dragged his opening partner Chetan Chauhan from the MCG during a Test in 1981 after the master batsman had fallen to a contentious umpiring decision. — PTI
3 Sher-e-Jalandhar players face ban
Patiala, March 12
Confirming this development, IHF President K. P. S. Gill said the federation was in receipt of tournament director Shakeel Quereshi’s report.
He added that in his report Quereshi had recommended that Sher-e-Jalandhar striker Tejbir Singh, goalkeeper Kamaldeep Singh and reserve goalkeeper Maninder Singh should be banned for the next three editions of the PHL.
However, barring PHL, all these three players will be able to play in domestic meets, including the national championships. Both Tejbir Singh and Kamaldeep Singh represent ONGC while Maninder Singh turns out for Punjab and Sind Bank (PSB).
When contacted, Jyothikumaran, Secretary of the IHF, said the federation had received Quereshi’s report and that the federation would
The IHF, taking cognisance of the incident, has already taken punitive action against the Sher-e-Jalandhar outfit by drastically slashing its prize money amount. A fracas had erupted in the third and last final of the PHL when the Jalandhar players assaulted Sharma, who is on the elite FIH panel of umpires and is widely known for his cool temperament even during intensely contested national and international matches.
The entire episode happened in the presence of Gill and Jyothikumaran. This act of indiscipline on the part of the Jalandhar players was telecast live on TV.
The incident happened in the last quarter of the match when Sharma signalled a penalty corner taken by Orissa Steelers’ captain Dileep Tirkey as a goal which ultimately paved the way for Steelers’ 4-3 triumph over the Jalandhar team. After facing a volley of abuse, Sharma had refused to officiate in the match which prompted the organisers to call in reserve umpire Suresh Bhatia.
Indian Wells (USA), March 12
Federer, seeking his fourth Indian Wells Masters Series title in a row, received treatment for blisters at the end of the first set and looked sluggish throughout as his 41-match winning streak was ended by the world number 60.
The Swiss 10-time Grand Slam champion, whose last defeat was inflicted by Murray in Cincinnati in August, was hoping to break the professional era record of 46 successive wins set by Argentine Guillermo Vilas.
Federer said the pressure of closing on another record had not contributed to his defeat.
Former world number ones Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin also bowed out, the former losing 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 to Serb Janko Tipsarevic and Russian Safin going down 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.
Briton Andy Murray, the last man to beat Federer, reached the third round, however, along with Australian Open runner-up Fernando Gonzalez and eighth seed Ivan Ljubicic.
“It’s no pressure at all because I take it match by match,” Federer told reporters. “I’m concerned about winning my first-round match against a lucky loser. — Reuters
Ex-football star Gurung dead
Chandigarh, March 12 A key member of the Punjab team in the Santosh Trophy in the late seventies and early eighties, Gurung also represented India in the pre-Olympic tournament in Singapore in 1980. He also donned national colours in the Merdeka Cup in 1986. The
cremation will be held at Jalandhar tomorrow at 11 am.
Chandigarh, March 12
A key member of the Punjab team in the Santosh Trophy in the late seventies and early eighties, Gurung also represented India in the pre-Olympic tournament in Singapore in 1980. He also donned national colours in the Merdeka Cup in 1986.
The cremation will be held at Jalandhar tomorrow at 11 am.