Who after the BIG three?
Cracks surface in ‘The Wall’
Hollow feeling if personal milestones don’t help team: Clarke
‘Perth to offer plenty of bounce’
India set to lose 2nd rank
Gavaskar blasts India for skipping training
Bhaichung upbeat to lead team for last time
Murray claims Brisbane title
Time to experiment for Ronjan Sodhi
Wozniacki's eye on Rory not ranking
Patiala XI beat Phoenix Club
Pietersen for Daredevils
Surprise recall for Morkel
Who after the BIG three?
Perth, January 8
First Suresh Raina and now Virat Kohli have let a lot of fans disenchanted. Rohit Sharma will have his chance next week to prove the disbelievers wrong. A careful grooming of these youngsters was seen as a step in the right direction. They all were allowed a fair run of exposure in one-dayers before gaining a Test breakthrough -- yet it all has come to a nought.
Raina had played a record 98 one-dayers before he gained his Test spurs and his record after 15 Tests reads 710 runs at 29.58 average.
Kohli got his breakthrough after 59 ODIs. His Test record of six matches and 234 runs at 21.27 isn't a pretty reading either. Sharma, if he gets his moment next week, would've already played 72 one-day internationals.
Most of their failing has been due to their poor ability on the backfoot against bouncing and seaming deliveries. On dull sub-continental pitches, it's easy for them to plonk their front foot and hit through the line.
On foreign pitches, it bounces more than the knee height and they don't have the technical skills to play horizontal shots. The result -- they are no better than sitting ducks.
Most experts believe the frenetic hitting in Twenty20 and one-day internationals have muddled their skills for the real examination of Test cricket.
Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar feels it has increased the bat-speed of young batsmen and they don't follow the method of letting the ball come to the bat and play with soft hands.
The conditions back home actually work against the development of these batsmen. The pitches in the Ranji Trophy are featherbed tracks, 80 per cent of international cricket is played at home and there are riches galore from ODIs and IPL.
The coaches don't have the gumption to go against the grain and ask their wards to knuckle down and polish their techniques. Riches and stardom are disincentives for the growth as a batsman.
Former Indian batting technician Sanjay Manjrekar recalls they used to get a slap on the wrist when an extravagant stroke was attempted at nets.
"It's alright here but it wouldn't work on bouncy pitches," used to be the snub of the coaches.
A few former Indian batting stalwarts indeed recall how they were made to run rounds of the ground, with bat held behind their head, as punishment for playing lofted strokes. Present Australian captain Michael Clarke, the triple centurion of the SCG Test, can work as a good example. He says that he turned his back to IPL and Twenty20 Big Bash because he wanted to be the best player that he possibly could be.
"To me, I made the right decision to leave Twenty20 and concentrate on ODI and Tests. I thought I had to improve my game and become player I possibly could be. The 4-5 days of work before I play a Test is paying off. In the last 12 months, my game is in better place," said Clarke after the Sydney Test. — PTI
The inconsistency of Kohli (pic) and Raina is cause of great concern for the team as they have been often billed as the ‘future of Indian cricket’.
Perth, January 8
For 15 years and 162 Tests, Rahul Dravid has risen to be the second highest scorer in Test history on the basis of his technique. Any condition, any opponent, any quirk was never good enough to breach the defence of the admirable batsman.
Now he has been out bowled in the last six of his nine Test innings that's discounting the no-ball bowled at MCG and a total of 13 times in the last 12 months.
Ian Chappell suggests that Dravid is too worried he hasn't covered the out-swing of a delivery enough and hence is tending to play outside the line of a delivery.
Dravid's two dismissals to Ben Hilfenhaus in the two Tests against Australia support this theory. On both occasions, he played outside the line of the delivery and left a gap between his bat and pad.
Hilfenhaus is usually a bowler who would only bowl outswingers. His action rarely permits an incoming delivery. That Sydney dismissal was due to an off-cutter which Hilfenhaus managed by under-cutting the seam of the delivery. It took Dravid completely by surprise.
Sourav Ganguly is equally bewildered and wonders if Dravid is not going forward enough and with his bat always in front of his pads, it is leaving a gap big enough for the ball to breach his defence.
A senior player of the side thinks there has always been a particular spot on which Dravid has found it difficult to go full forward throughout his career. It has led to 52 dismissals by way of bowled — second only to Allan Border's 53 rattling of timber.
Somehow all these dismissals never registered in discerners' mind, so elegant was his presence at the crease, the crispness of his strokes and masterly negotiation of the short stuff.
Dravid has easily spent more time at the crease than anyone in the history of the game. Even though his strike-rate was never better than 42.56, no battle for India was ever over till Dravid was at the crease.
Now Dravid looks fallible and he knows it and it explains the unusual fretting he indulged in before the second Test at SCG last week. He asked fielding coach Trevor Penny and main coach Duncan Fletcher to have a closer look at his technique. Every throw-down negotiated was followed by a technical inter-exchange among the three.
Should Dravid open up his stance a little? is his head falling over on the off-side a little? is he playing too early at deliveries? All kind of possibilities were explored. Yet the outcome of the Sydney Test was the same.
Coach Fletcher admits "Dravid is presently a little off-form." The batsman himself doesn't believe so.
"I feel I have been batting well. Hopefully, in the next couple of Tests, I will be able to convert one of these starts. Sometimes you can't read too much into things," said Dravid. "To be fair, there have been couple of pretty good balls. It's not like I have got out, you know, inner-edging. A couple of good balls, and then a couple of things I could have done differently," he insisted.
Dravid is one of the neatest presence at the crease. The Test at WACA, Perth later this week would reveal if the repair in technique has been worked out and if 'The Wall' is impregnable as it always has been. — PTI
Sydney, January 8
Clarke scored an unbeaten 329 in the second Test against India here which Australia won by an innings and 68 runs.
He was widely lauded for putting team ahead of himself when he chose not to go past Sir Donald Bradman and Mark Taylor's 334 at the SCG and declare the innings after Australia took a lead of over 400.
"It would have been a very hollow feeling to score so many runs and not win the Test. I can vividly recall that hollow feeling in South Africa just two months ago," Clarke wrote in his column for 'The Daily Telegraph'.
"The 151 I made in Cape Town was probably my best Test innings given the conditions were so heavily in favour of the bowlers and the quality of South Africa's pace attack," he recalled.
But that aside, Clarke said he still can't believe he went past 300, that too on his home ground.
"I still can't believe I have scored 300 runs in a Test. It hasn't sunk in and I don't think it really will until I retire and look back on my career," he said.
"I think that's the same with any player. You live in the moment, concentrating on the next ball you have to face or the next Test you have to play. There is little time for reflection. And the only reason you score runs or take wickets is to win games," he explained.
"So I never let myself get carried away with my score at the SCG last week. It was all about scoring enough runs quickly enough to win the Test and go 2-0 up in the series after our strong performance in Melbourne." — PTI
‘Perth to offer plenty of bounce’
Perth, January 8 "We think it will play pretty similar to last year against England, where it had a bit of colour and had a bit of grass on it. It's kind of a different grass we've used over the last couple of years. It's really fine,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Sutherland, as saying. “So even if you leave grass on it and it has a bit of colour in it, it doesn't seam excessively. It just gives a bit to the new ball and then it settles into a pretty good batting wicket," he added.
Perth, January 8
"We think it will play pretty similar to last year against England, where it had a bit of colour and had a bit of grass on it. It's kind of a different grass we've used over the last couple of years. It's really fine,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Sutherland, as saying.
“So even if you leave grass on it and it has a bit of colour in it, it doesn't seam excessively. It just gives a bit to the new ball and then it settles into a pretty good batting wicket," he added. — ANI
India set to lose 2nd rank
Dubai, January 8 If the series in Australia ends in a draw, then India and South Africa will be locked at 117 ratings points but the Proteas will be ranked ahead of India when the ratings are
calculated beyond the decimal point. If Australia wins 3-0, it will move to 110 ratings points, two behind India, while a 3-1 series win will mean India will drop to 113 ratings points while Australia will rise to 108 ratings points. However, if Australia makes a clean sweep of the series, then both sides will be locked at 111 ratings points but India will still be ranked above Australia by a fraction of a point.
Dubai, January 8
If the series in Australia ends in a draw, then India and South Africa will be locked at 117 ratings points but the Proteas will be ranked ahead of India when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.
If Australia wins 3-0, it will move to 110 ratings points, two behind India, while a 3-1 series win will mean India will drop to 113 ratings points while Australia will rise to 108 ratings points.
However, if Australia makes a clean sweep of the series, then both sides will be locked at 111 ratings points but India will still be ranked above Australia by a fraction of a point. — PTI
Perth, January 8
"Christmas is big in Australia and it's understandable for Australian players taking off after first Test, but what were our players doing? Why were not they doing practice? Have they gone there for sightseeing or to play cricket?” Fox News quoted Gavaskar, as saying.
"The first Test ended on the fourth day and it's OK if they took off on the fifth day but why don't they do practice after that? I don't know what is the attitude of the players.
While on tour they should practice, practice and practice to have in proper frame of mind to be competitive. Why nobody is asking questions? These questions should be asked," he added.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stressed that his side have got sufficient practice for the Test, and has advised them to switch to recreational activities to help them de- stress.
"You don't want to over-do it. There may be a few individuals who want to spend a bit more time on the field but I feel it's always important to switch off in cricket,” Dhoni said. — ANI
Manchester, January 8
United surged into a 3-0 halftime lead after the controversial early sending-off of City defender Vincent Kompany and looked poised to exact full revenge for their humiliating 6-1 home league drubbing by their neighbours this season.
But goals from Aleksandar Kolarov and Sergio Aguero gave City hope and United needed the calming presence of 37-year-old Paul Scholes, on as a second-half substitute after coming out of retirement, to knock out the FA Cup holders at the third-round stage for the first time since 2007.
City started the match brightly under slate grey skies, stretching the United defence with slick passing around the penalty area but it was the visitors who went ahead with a goal from their first attack after 10 minutes.
Wayne Rooney spread the ball wide to Antonio Valencia on the right and the England striker continued his run to head the Ecuadorean winger's cross into the net off the underside of the bar.
Two minutes later, Kompany was harshly sent off for a clumsy challenge on Nani, the Belgian going in with two feet to stop the Portuguese winger but appearing to win the ball cleanly.
City moved Micah Richards into central defence and their 10 men continued to provide a significant attacking threat with David Silva's clever prompting and Aguero working tirelessly on his own up front.
The sight of United's young defender Phil Jones shouting at his teammate Rio Ferdinand for giving the ball away carelessly would have cheered the home supporters but they suffered another blow on the half hour.
Nani cut in from the left and although his ambitious shot ballooned up off a defender, the ball fell kindly for Danny Welbeck, who swivelled cleverly to hook it into the far corner of the net.
The United fans celebrated wildly and cries of "Championes" rang out across the stadium as City tried to get back into the match, but their plight worsened before halftime.
Welbeck was tackled late by Kolarov and referee Chris Foy pointed to the penalty spot. City's reserve goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon brilliantly palmed away Rooney's penalty but the striker followed up to head in the rebound.
City pulled a goal back immediately after halftime when Kolarov's powerful free kick pierced a flimsy wall and beat goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
United kept possession for long periods without threatening a fourth goal and soon after Scholes came on, the hosts struck again, Aguero pouncing from close range after Lindegaard had failed to deal properly with his first shot.
City poured forward in search of the equaliser but their tired legs could not find the necessary inspiration and United hung on, reviving their season after two successive defeats had left them three points behind their opponents at the top of the Premier League. — Reuters
New Delhi, January 8
"I am mentally fit and prepared. But in terms of physical fitness I am not 100 per cent in the sense required to play against a top international side like Bayern Munich. But I will give my best," Bhaichung told reporters after national team practice session here.
"I will start the match for sure and want to play full 90 minutes but let's see. The injury I had suffered is such that it can occur anytime. I hope I don't get injured," said Bhutia, who appeared to be in full flow during the team training session under the watchful eyes of coach Savio Medeira.
Bhaichung admitted that there was no question of comparing the national team with Bayern Munich but said Tuesday's match would be an opportunity for the Indian players to find out how much they need to improve.
"You cannot compare the Indian team with Bayern Munich which is as good as the German national side. But it's an opportunity for the players to know how much they need to work on to take themselves to the level of top international players," he said.
"But we want to do well. For me, it is just enjoying my last match and enjoying the moment. International players normally retire during a tournament or an international match but that did not happen for me due to injury. I feel honoured to play my farewell match against a top side like Bayern Munich," added Bhaichung, who retired from international football last year.
Savio hails Bhaichung
Indian football coach Savio Medeira hailed former captain Bhaichung Bhutia and said, "Services Bhaichung has given to the country for the game cannot be compared with anybody. I am happy that he is playing his farewell match against such a good team like Bayern Munich. He deserves a farewell like this. No other team would have been fitting for a player of his stature," Medeira said. "It will also be difficult to find a replacement of Bhaichung as a striker. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri are doing well but they have a long way to go," he added. — PTI
Indian football coach Savio Medeira hailed former captain Bhaichung Bhutia and said, "Services Bhaichung has given to the country for the game cannot be compared with anybody. I am happy that he is playing his farewell match against such a good team like Bayern Munich. He deserves a farewell like this. No other team would have been fitting for a player of his stature," Medeira said.
"It will also be difficult to find a replacement of Bhaichung as a striker. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri are doing well but they have a long way to go," he added. — PTI
Chennai, January 8
Third seeded Indo-Serbian pair of Leander Paes and Janko Tipsarevic defeated Israeli combine of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
Also, fourth seeded Canadian Milos Raonic played the game of his career to snatch the singles title from the jaws of defeat by beating top seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in the final.
The match also tuned out to be the longest final in the history of the Chennai Open. Sending out 35 aces against Tipsarevic's eight, Raonic colleted 250 ATP points and a cash prize of $71,900 besides the glittering trophy, while the runner-up received $37,860 and 150 points after the 193-minute duel.
Regarded as the most feared talent on the circuit, Raonic's biggest weapon was his booming serve. This is Raonic's second tour title. — PTI
Brisbane, January 8
Murray, runner-up at Melbourne Park for the past two years as he chases his first Grand Slam, showed no mercy against the number 15 from Ukraine as he cruised to win the title 6-1, 6-3 in the Pat Rafter Arena.
With former great Ivan Lendl watching on for just the second time since being appointed Murray's surprise new coach, the Scotsman's emphatic performance got their high-profile partnership off to the perfect start. The top seed was lethal in all departments as he dominated Dolgopolov, a player who pushed him to four close sets in the Australian Open quarterfinals last year, but who took a slight groin injury into the final.
"I served pretty well again, it got close in the second set but I stayed focused," Murray said, with the first Grand Slam of the year barely a week away. "He started going for his shots and hit quite a few winners but I didn't let it get to me."
Murray broke Dolgopolov twice in the first set and did not lose a point on his first three service games to claim the opener in just 26 minutes. He went on a run of nine consecutive games from 2-1 in the first to 4-0 in the second before the Ukrainian finally stemmed the flow by holding serve for only the second time in the match.
That signalled a slight rally from Dolgopolov, who then got a service game back and fought to make it 4-3. But Murray held on to his game later to clinch the Roy Emerson Trophy and his 22nd title on the ATP tour. — AFP
New Delhi, January 8
The Punjab lad will be country's big hope at the London Olympics and his confidence is backed by some stunning performances in the last few years.
He excelled in different conditions consistently whether it was winning gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in 2010 or the defence of his world title in 2011 in Abu Dhabi.
Now that his current training regimen and technique has given him outstanding results, he won't tinker with that but would try a few things before the Olympics.
And the first opportunity for the experimentation is Asian Championship in Doha, starting next week.
"This is the time I can experiment. I don't want to experiment two months before the Olympics. There are not many things but a little adjustment with gun-setting and technique," Sodhi told PTI before leaving for Doha.
"I lost weight over the last few months. I am working on fitness and with that your gun settings change. I don't want to experiment many things. Let's see how it goes," he said.
The Asian championship is significant for those Indian shooters, who have not yet qualified for the Olympics as it will be there last chance to do so. But Sodhi, who has already qualified, is also giving a lot of importance to the event, in which he will be competing for the second time -- the last time being in 2007 when he failed to qualify for Beijing Olympics.
"Since it is the first tournament of the year, I want to start on a strong note. And it will be challenging since extreme windy conditions would be there," Sodhi said. — PTI
Sydney, January 8
After saying she was unaware that Petra Kvitova would overtake her as the world number one if the Czech left-hander won this week's Sydney International, Wozniacki then proceeded to happily answer a stream of questions about McIlroy. The high-profile couple in sport are constantly photographed together, talk about each other in interviews, boast about the gifts they share and write to each other - for the world to see - on Twitter nearly every day.
"It's very difficult to keep it really private because everyone knows who we are," Wozniacki told reporters in Sydney of the relationship. "People are interested. I don't mind if there's a camera here or there - it's fine. But we do have a line where certain things are private. Something might come up and we say OK, we're going to keep this to ourselves.
“The rest is no big deal. Like, we have little bets. We had one bet about who was going to win a tournament first, and I did. Right now we don't have any bets going on, though. I just think it's great that he's doing so well. I'm really happy for him."
Wozniacki declined to reveal her prize for winning the bet but suggested it might have entailed a photograph of Northern Ireland's McIlroy, a Manchester United supporter, in the team shirt of her favourite English Premier League side, Liverpool. Wozniacki won a Liverpool shirt, signed by the club's midfielder Steven Gerrard, on court at the 2011 Qatar Open.
"I can't tell you what I won," she said. "It's something I had to put on Twitter but I didn't do it because I thought I should be nice. Actually, I still have that ace in my hand in case he's not nice to me." An incriminating photo, perhaps? "We're big fans of different football clubs, let's just put it that way."
Back at the tennis, Wozniacki and Kvitova have first-round byes at the start of a week that could end with the Dane's 64-week stay as number one coming to an end. Asked if she was aware of that scenario, Wozniacki replied: "No. Now I am. It doesn't really matter. To be honest, I don't think about it. I do what I'm best at and that is playing tennis.” — Reuters
Patiala XI beat Phoenix Club
Patiala, January 8
The whole team could manage only 105 before being shot out in 17.5 overs. Aman 23 and Manpreet 17 were the main scorers from Patiala XI while Chobey claimed 4 for 4 and Vishnoi took 3 for 14 for Phoneix club.
In another match Black Elephant Cricket Club won the toss and elected to bat first. Prabjot 62, Abhinav Mehta 48 and Mukesh 23 not out were the main scorers for BECC. The team scored 151 for 2 in their allotted 20 overs. Chasing the target, Royal Crusher started their innings in a disappointing fashion by losing three wickets in the first two overs. They eventually ended at 98 for 8 in their 20 overs. For BECC Gurtek Singh claimed 3 wickets for 17 runs in four overs.
Brief Scores: Match 1: Patiala XI: 105 all out in 17.5 overs (Aman 23, Manpreet 17, Chobey 4 for 4 and Vishnoi 3 for 14)
Phoenix Club: 81 all out in 18.3 overs (Balaji 25, Vishnoi 15, Vishav 3 for 13, Joney 3 for 7)
Match 2: Black Elephant Cricket Club; 151 for 2 in 20 overs (Prabhjot Singh 62, Abhinav Mehta 48, Mukesh 23 no, Naresh 1 for 27, Ravinder Rajji 1 for 33)
Royal Crusher Club; 98 for 8 in 20 overs (Ashu 30, Ravinder Rajji 12, Gurtek Singh 3 for 17, Arun 2 for 13).
New Delhi, January 8
Pietersen, 31, said he was excited at the prospect of joining a team that includes the likes of skipper Virender Sehwag and David Warner.
"I am looking forward to a wonderful time with the Delhi Daredevils. It will be a great experience to be playing in the same squad as Sehwag," he said.
Pietersen was acquired by the Deccan Chargers in the 2011 IPL auction. However, he could not participate in the tournament due to a surgery. He had earlier been a part of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2009 and 2010 editions, and had led RCB in six games in 2009. — PTI
Johannesburg, January 8
The first of five one-day internationals will be played in Paarl on Wednesday. The squad is for the first two matches only.
Morkel, 30, has not played for South Africa since November 2010. The selection of fellow left-hander Elgar, 24, was seen as an attempt to introduce new blood into the side following South Africa's failure in the 2011 Cricket World Cup and a defeat in a home one-day series against Australia earlier in the current season.
Elgar was injured during a domestic four-day match and it is feared he has suffered ligament damage which may require surgery. — AFP