Friday, April 29, 2011

Surinder Khanna remembers India's 1984 Asia Cup win at Sharjah

Surinder Khanna, one of the chief architects of India’s Asia Cup win in 1984, walks down memory lane with Suhrid Barua.

The Sunil-Gavaskar-led Indian team made mincemeat of Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the round-robin format to come up trumps in the 1984 Rothmans Asia Cup at Sharjah.

One of the chief architects of that victory was wicketkeeper-opening batsman Surinder Khanna, who slammed back-to-back half-centuries to emerge as the Man of the Series.

“It all clicked at the right time for me. I was picked in the starting eleven despite having a stalwart like Syed Kirmani in our squad. There is a lot of pride in playing for the country and when I realised on the day of our first game against Sri Lanka that I would be opening the innings and also keeping wickets, I was really happy,” recalls Khanna. “

So, was all at ease between him and Kirmani given the fact that he was preferred over the experienced pro?

“Absolutely!” says Khanna. “Kiri is a thorough gentleman. In both the games where I got fifties, Kirmani and Sunny bhai (Sunil Gavaskar) patted me for my efforts after the game. We had wonderful team spirit, every player was happy about each other’s success.”

The tournament was robbed of some sheen with a couple of big names missing. “Kapil Dev missed the tournament and went to London to undergo a knee surgery. In fact, Kapil came to Sharjah to watch our first game and then went to England while Imran Khan gave the tourney a miss because of an injury.”

The Sharjah wicket has a reputation for being a nightmare for bowlers. But the Asia Cup was an exception. “It was a green top - something you hardly hope to find in Sharjah. Our seamers Chetan Sharma, Madan Lal, Manoj Prabhakar and Roger Binny relished the conditions and shot out Sri Lanka for just 96.”

It was a game in which Khanna smacked an unbeaten 69-ball 51 and together with Ghulam Parker facilitated a ten-wicket win in just 21.4 overs.

Khanna was again on song when India batted first after winning the toss against Pakistan. He made a 72-ball 56 as India finished at 188 for four in 46 overs. “Pakistan had had four seamers in Sarfraz Nawaz, Azeem Hafeez, Shahid Mahboob and Mudassar Nazar and just one spinner in Abdul Qadir. The seamers take more time to bowl their overs and it affected their over rate.”

How about India-Pakistan rivalry in those days?

“Both teams played hard on the field, but off the field we were all friends. Since most of the players in both teams were playing in England, the bonhomie was very much there. Of course, things were said in the heat of the moment, but then they are part and parcel of the game.”

Winning in Sharjah is something big for the Indian team and it showed when the team went on a shopping spree. “Dubai is a great place for shopping. Thanks to our victory, we got heavy discounts. The generosity extended to even free gifts!”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

“Hope Dhoni has seen in Paul Valthaty what the Mumbai selectors could not”

By Suhrid Barua

The likes of Manish Pandey, Manpreet Singh Goni and Swapnil Asnodkar had announced themselves through the IPL platform in its previous editions.

And the 2011 IPL saw a little known Mumbaikar – Paul Valthaty set the cash-rich tournament on fire on Wednesday with a blistering unbeaten 120 - off just 63 balls – to almost single-handedly help Kings XI Punjab engineer upset defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

Valthaty’s buccaneering knock panned out to be the first century of IPL4. His innings was punctuated with 19 fours – a new IPL record and two sixes.

The 27-year-old right-hander had little cricketing pedigree to boast of going into this match. He had played just one List A game for Mumbai in 2006 and 13 T20 matches. He turned out for Rajasthan Royals in the 2009 season but met with very little success. His previous IPL best score was just six.

The manner in which he took the strong Chennai bowling attack to the cleaners was a treat for sore eyes. The fierce square-cuts, the delicate late-cuts and robust pull shorts were executed when the ball was pitched short, and he would hit them straight when the ball was pitched up.

Makarand Waingankar, who seen the boy from the time he used to hone his skills at the ELF Vengsarkar Cricket Academy, opines: “He’s a kind of player who may not play with regularity, knocks like the one he played on Wednesday, but he will win you games. I thought he batted very smartly. He kept playing off the back foot for most part and murdered the Chennai bowling.”

Valthaty joined the Vengsarkar Cricket Academy at the age of 11 as a medium-pacer. “Once during an under-14 game he opened the innings and massacred the opposition attack. That’s when one first saw the brutal side of his batting,” Waingankar recalls.

The veteran cricket scribe smsed him on Wednesday morning to keep him pumped up: ‘You hang around for 10 balls and rest of the time the bowlers will be watching you.’

Waingankar is happy that he heeded the advice and didn’t play any rash shots early on. “He just played in the ‘V’.”

Valthaty was part of the India Under-19 team for the 2002 World Cup in New Zealand that had players like Irfan Pathan and Parthiv Patel. “He suffered an eye injury when he was hit by a ball in one of the matches. When you suffer an injury like that it obviously affects your confidence. And that’s exactly what happened with him,” Waingankar says.

At 27, Valthaty isn’t exactly young, yet he can be optimistic about breaking into national reckoning by the sheer weight of Wednesday’s innings. For good measure, his pyrotechnics was seen by none other than Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps. “I hope Dhoni is not as blind as the Mumbai selectors to what unfolded in the middle on Wednesday,” Waingankar says, a touch upset.

Former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who saw Valthaty go through the paces at his academy, was pleased to see his one-time ward come up with a special knock. “He was at our academy for eight years before he joined Air-India. He always had the potential, but I think the eye injury he sustained really set him back.”

Tiger Pataudi played international cricket with one good eye, so there is no reason why with two good eyes Valthaty cannot come good, as he showed against CSK.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“IPL is a great stage for youngsters like me,” says India’s fastest-ever bowler

By Suhrid Barua

He is yet to play for India. He is yet to even play his first IPL game, but Varun Aaron has grabbed the spotlight by bowling the fastest ball ever bowled by an Indian. Part of the Delhi Daredevils side in IPL4, Aaron hurled the red cherry at 153 kmph in Jharkhand’s final game against Gujarat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at the Holkar Stadium, Indore.

“I came to know that I had bowled the fastest ball after one of my team-mates told me in the dressing room. I was mighty surprised and felt happy about it. Actually, I was more delighted that Jharkhand won the title,” Aaron said in a chat with

An Indian fast bowler bowling at 150kmph plus is as rare as spotting Halley’s Comet. The last time one saw an Indian bowl clocked above 150kmph was Ishant Sharma, during the CB series in Australia in 2007-08 season. Is there any other Indian bowler who clocked that in the speedometer? Maybe, Mohammad Nissar in the 1930s, but there were no speed guns then.

The news of Aaron’s pace has been greeted among Indian cricket fans with a bit of cynicism. And this time, it’s not unjustified. Just about every Indian new ball bowler who arrived with much promise and pace, slowed down considerably over a short period… be it Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan or any other Indian quickie in recent times. This is in sharp contrast to other nations, where fast bowlers add to their speed with passage of time.

Will Aaron go the same way once he establishes himself in the big league? “It’s difficult to say what will happen in future. I love to bowl fast and for now, want to help my team Delhi Daredevils do well in IPL4, whenever I get a chance to play,” he says.

The 21-year-old tearaway was part of the Kolkata Knight Riders team for 2010 IPL but didn’t get to play in any of the games. But, he was richer with the experience of getting pointers from former Pakistan pacer Wasim Akram.

“Akram sir told all the bowlers the importance of yorkers and focussing on reverse swing in the T20 games,” he revealed.

Aaron made his Ranji Trophy debut for Jharkhand in 2008 and picked up 14 wickets with a five-wicket haul against Tripura last season.

Aaron is excited about playing in the IPL. “I think it’s a nice stage for youngsters to showcase their skills. But honestly, any youngster’s ultimate goal is to represent the country.”

The Jamshedpur-born boy - his parents moved to the Steel City from Bengaluru in the ’80s - adores West Indian Andy Roberts for his fearsome pace. “I like his intimidating style of bowling.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

To be auctioned for $900,000 was mindboggling, says Deccan Chargers’ Daniel Christian

By Suhrid Barua

Daniel Christian made all and sundry sit up and take notice of him when he was signed by Deccan Chargers for a whopping $900,000 for the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League.

The South Australian is a handy medium-pacer and can hit the cricket ball a fair distance and is seen as a genuine all-rounder for Deccan Chargers, who could provide the impetus with both bat and ball.

Fittingly, Christian was playing in a Twenty20 match at the Adelaide Oval when he got the good news about Deccan buying him for the hefty amount which was much, much, more than his base price of $50,000.

The 27-year-old Aussie spoke to about his IPL foray.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: What was your initial reaction when you got the news that Deccan Chargers had bought you for $900,000?

To be honest, I was just excited about getting an opportunity to play in the Indian Premier League and was not thinking about anything else. Of course, to get $900,000 in my first season in IPL is mind-blowing.

Q: Did you ever imagine that you would be bought for 18 times more than your base price of $50,000?

Obviously I was lucky that Deccan was quite keen. There’s always a chance the bidding will continue until they get the person they want and fortunately I was that person.

Q: How do you compare the money paid to domestic cricketers in India as compared to those in Australia?

Everyone who has played the league has said that the IPL is a fantastic experience and not just for the cricket but everything that goes with it - the big crowds, the bright lights, and the extravagance of it all. It really depends on the player and what they were sold for, but in the end we are just fortunate to get paid for doing what we love.

Q: Do you think your bility to bowl and your big-hitting prompted Chargers to go the extra mile to bid for you?

A: I think Darren (Lehmann) knows what I’m capable of and I’ve had a fairly good domestic season in Australia, so that might’ve also helped my cause.

Q: Darren Lehmann is the Deccan Chargers’ coach. As you have said that he knows your game well, do you think having somebody who is well acquainted with your game would be of big help to have as coach of the side?

A: Having playing against and with him, it’s easy to see why Darren has performed at the highest level. He’s got a fantastic cricketing knowledge and definitely knows how to get the best out of each individual. He’s very down to earth and very easy going and having already known him will definitely help as I will know what he expects from me.

Q: There was intense bidding between Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils and Kochi IPL as they have Australian coaches – Darren Lehmann, Greg Shippard and Geoff Lawson. You must have felt very special to know that. What’s your take?

A: All three of them have seen me play a fair bit over the Australian summer but I definitely didn’t expect it to be that intense.

Q: Tell us a bit about your experiences of playing for Australia in three Twenty20 games?

A: As a kid you dream of representing your country and stand next to players like Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. So, it was a fantastic experience, something I will always cherish. With the opportunities the Redbacks have with the Airtel Champions League and KFC Twenty20 Big Bash, if I keep performing the way I’ve been, it will look after itself.

Unforgettable catches of 2011 World Cup

By Suhrid Barua

Catches win matches and the 2011 World Cup was witness to some stunning catches. Here’s a look at some of the best catches of the big-ticket event.

Kieren Pollard - West Indies vs Ireland at Nagpur

The tall West Indian is known more for his big-hitting skills but he showed his fielder prowess against Ireland, plucking an absolute blinder at long-off off the bowling off Darren Sammy, to get rid of another big-hitter Kevin O’Brien at a crucial juncture of the game.

Pollard ran in from the deep and timed his dive to near-perfection and grabbed it – a catch that revives memories of Ajay Jadeja pulling off a similar stunner to dismiss Allan Border during the 1992 World Cup match in Brisbane.

Nathan McCullum - New Zealand vs Sri Lanka at Mumbai

Nathan McCullum pouched a ripper of a catch off his own bowling against Mahela Jayawardene but the catch was disallowed as the third umpire Amesh Saheba was convinced that the ball had hit the ground after it was referred.

It was a sight to see - McCullum flew to his right and got his palms under it even as the ball was dying on him after the batsman offered a defensive shot to a delivery that stopped a bit on him.

Munaf Patel - India vs England at Bangalore

Munaf Patel is never considered as one of the agile fielders in the Indian team but he surprised all and sundry at Bangalore’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium with a superb catch to dismiss Kevin Pietersen off his own bowling.

The lanky bowler put his hands to a full-blooded shot from Pietersen, more as a way to save his face than catch it even while slipping to the ground. The ball popped up of his palm and Munaf grabbed it with his left hand to effect a crucial breakthrough after KP blazed his way to a quickfire 31.

Brett Lee - Australia vs Pakistan at Colombo

Brett Lee produced something out of the ordinary when he plotted the exit of Pakistan opener Mohammad Hafeez. Lee came up with a zippy delivery and induced a leading edge of Hafeez after the batsman had closed the face of the bat early and attempted to work a straight ball through mid-wicket. Lee rushed out of his follow-through and plucked a wonderful catch.

Robin Peterson - South Africa vs England at Chennai

Robin Peterson took a magnificent catch to get rid of Ian Bell of his own bowling. The left-arm spinner, opening the bowling for South Africa, beat Bell all ends up with a flighted ball. Bell gave Peterson the charge but tried to check his shot when he realised he was not to the pitch of the ball – spooning a catch which the bowler gobbled diving to his left.

Mahela Jayawardene - Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe at Colombo

Mahela Jayawardene has one of safest pair of hands at slips and he only enhanced that potential, snapping up a brilliant catch to dismiss Greg Lamb of the bowling of Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Jayawardene exuded superb reflexes and put out his left hand to take a catch after the edge of Lamb’s bat flew between the wicketkeeper and slip.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Former cricketers salute Dhoni’s World Cup champion team

By Suhrid Barua

India’s moment of glory at the Wankhede has sent the cricket-crazy nation into frenzy. Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front to replicate what Kapil Dev’s men did at Lord’s, 28 years ago. And what made the World Cup triumph all the more sweet was that the epochal win happened on home turf.

Former Indian cricketers hailed Indian cricket’s greatest moment after the 1983 World Cup romp. Some of them spoke to

Madan Lal, member of the victorious 1983 World Cup winning team, felt that the team played exceedingly well and deserve to be the World Champions.

“It’s never easy to maintain your consistency and focus in a tournament which is spread over 45 days. Hats off to them. Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn’t get high scores in the run-up to the final, but he showed on Saturday what delivering the goods when the team needs most.”

The former all-rounder said that Dhoni did a fabulous job of covering up the weak point in India’s bowling – the absence of a fifth frontline bowler. “Yuvraj Singh bowled really well throughout the World Cup and enabled us to cover up the inadequacy of not having a regular fifth bowler. Remember one thing; he got crucial wickets and not just wickets of tailenders.”

Sunil Valson, another member of the triumphant 1983 World Cup team, said the win was a top-of-the-world feeling for every Indian and not just the players.

“We lost two early wickets, but the way Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli batted showed the kind of depth and talent the Indian team have before Dhoni provided the killer punch. Of course, winning it at home made it even sweeter.”

Valson, who is famously remembered for not playing a single game at the 1983 World Cup, said all the criticism of Dhoni when he was not getting runs, prior to the World Cup final, was unfair. “If you look at his performance for last two to three years, you would see that he done well for himself and for the team. Full marks to him for the manner in which he shepherded his team to World Cup glory.”

Maninder Singh, India left-arm spinner and member of the 1987 World Cup team, was on cloud nine when speaking to cricketcountry.

“I was not part of the 1983 World Cup winning team and neither I’m part of the 2011 World Cup winning team, but I feel these two wins are the biggest moments of my life. I feel proud to be Indian.”

Maninder said that Dhoni’s inspiring leadership was a big factor in the team’s success. “Dhoni marshalled his troops very well. His calm presence was a big asset to the side. He reserved the best for the final and came out with a fabulous knock. Don’t forget Sachin Tendulkar – his experience must have rubbed off on to the other players and it showed.”

The legendary Gundappa Viswanath said that the men in blue were the deserving winners. “From the beginning of the World Cup, I have been saying that this Indian team had all the potential to win the World Cup and they proved it on Saturday. It’s a fantastic achievement and one of the biggest days in Indian cricket after the 1983 World Cup glory.”

Vishy felt that Dhoni’s unbeaten knock of 91 was a fitting riposte to his critics. “He was criticised by many for his selection of players, but he silenced all with a superb innings while promoting himself up the order ahead of Yuvraj Singh.”

Jadeja’s knock at Bangalore was one of the finest in ODI history: Rashid Latif

Rashid Latif, the Pakistan wicket-keeper who figured in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final match against India at Bangalore, revives memories of that high-voltage encounter in a chat with Suhrid Barua of

There’s invariably a heightened adrenaline flow among players and fans alike whenever arch-rivals India-Pakistan face-off in a cricket field. So much is at stake – players are expected to reserve their best for such encounters. They are aware the failure may trigger a public backlash. The sight of flag-waving, whistle-blowing, drum-beating, slogan-shout fans with their faces painted in their national colours is something we have got used to over the years.

The 1996 World Cup India-Pakistan quarter-final match at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium was one such game which India won amid much drama.

Fifteen years down the line, Latif relives the high-voltage contest. The ‘keeper was witness to a blinder from Ajay Jadeja which proved decisive. The 42-year-old Latif, who appeared in 37 Tests and 166 One-Day Internationals, talks about that knock and much more in an exclusive interview with

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: Firstly, tell us what memories flash through your mind when you think of the 1996 India-Pakistan World Cup game at Bangalore?

A: Well, I can never forget that game. It was the last international match of the great Javed Miandad. The atmosphere at Bangalore (now Bengaluru) was electrifying with the crowd very vocal in rooting for their team. And how can I forget the explosive innings of Ajay Jadeja! I also
vividly remember the television commentary by Imran Khan.

Q: Yes, Ajay Jadeja played a stupendous knock at the death, scoring a 25-ball 45 at a juncture when the Indian innings was struggling to get a serious push-on. What are your thoughts on that innings?

A: It was a majestic knock from Jadeja. In my book, its one of the best One-Day Internationals knock of all times. Having said that, I must also tell you that very few people know that Jadeja was out to the very first ball he faced from Waqar Younis. However, the umpire negated the lbw appeal. Since I was the wicketkeeper, I was in a perfect position to judge and had no doubts that he was plumb. But these things are part and parcel of the game.

Q: Navjot Singh Sidhu laid the early foundation of the Indian innings with a superb 93, forging a solid opening stand with Sachin Tendulkar and provided the launch pad for somebody like Jadeja to go after the Pakistan bowling in the final overs. What memories you have of that innings by Sidhu?

A: Sidhu really batted out of his skin to hold the Indian innings together. In fact, I had never seen Sidhu bat so aggressively against Pakistan before that encounter.

Q: Regular Pakistan captain Wasim Akram pulled out of that game citing an injury, leading to public outcry in Pakistan. When did you realize that Akram was not going to play? Was it on the day of the game or the day before and how serious was the injury?

A: Look, Wasim Akram was not fit for sure. And I knew it at least two days before the quarter-final match. Akram’s injury was very serious and all the talk about him crying out at the eleventh hour is mere speculation.

Q: You took a brilliant tumbling catch off the bowling of Waqar to dismiss Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin just when he was settling down nicely. What went through your mind then?

A: I am often asked about this catch. I feel happy that people still remember my effort. We needed a wicket at that time and I am happy to have played a role in it.

Q: The Bangalore match is infamously remembered for the verbal duel between batsman Aamir Sohail and bowler Venkatesh Prasad. Sohail has thumped Prasad to the off-side for a boundary and raised his bat towards the bowler as if to say, ‘Go fetch it’. Prasad cleaned him up the next ball and gave him a fitting send-off. What’s your take?

A: It was a routine incident which was blown out of proportion. I had a word with Aamir and he said that it was a ploy to pressure the bowler, something which it did not work out for him that day.

Q: You are currently the head coach of the Afghanistan cricket team. How do you visualize the future of Afghanistan cricket?

A: I have seen that the youths here are highly enthusiastic, even more than India and Pakistan. But because of the dearth of playing fields, they end up playing on the streets. Afghanistan won the silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games. If the authorities concerned have a decent infrastructure in place, build three-four stadiums along with academies, I’ve every reason to be optimistic about Afghanistan acquiring Test status in two year’s time. Afghanistan has risen phenomenally in the past two years from 80th position to the top-15 bracket.

“World Cup win would be my biggest gift from my son Yuvi,” says his dad Yograj Singh

Yuvraj Singh’s father talks about his superb run in the World Cup, marriage and much more, in an interview to Suhrid Barua.

Yuvraj Singh has been a major factor in India’s campaign in the 2011 World Cup. He has been the pivot around which the Indian middle-order has revolved. In seven games, the southpaw has amassed 341 runs at a staggering average of 113.66 – embellished with one century, four half-centuries and four Man-of-the-Match Awards. It’s a fitting reply to the carping critics who ranted that the best of Yuvraj was over.

Yograj Singh, the former India pacer and Yuvraj Singh’s father, spoke to on his son – now the cynosure of the entire nation.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: Yuvraj has been in phenomenal form in the ongoing World Cup. It must be extremely satisfying to see your son come so good on the World Cup stage, especially after going through the horrors last year?

A: I’m happy that Yuvi is doing what he is good at – scoring runs and helping India win matches. He called me up on Friday morning to wish me on my birthday and asked me whether I enjoyed the birthday gift (his knock of 57 that steered India to a win over Australia on Thursday evening). I told him that winning the World Cup would be biggest birthday gift for me.

Q: The 2010 was a difficult year for Yuvraj. He was in and out of the national team in both One-Day Internationals as well as in Tests. How did you keep him motivated?

A: I kept telling him one thing: Have faith in God, be consistent in working hard and the Almighty would never let you down. Nobody bothered to know what Yuvi was going through when he was grappling with injuries and poor form while being on the sidelines. Every player goes through tough times, even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag have gone through the same. I’m sure the tough times would stand him in good stead for the future.

Q: Yuvraj last played a Test on the 2010 Sri Lankan tour where he played the first Test and got injured in the second Test, and missed the decider after his replacement Suresh Raina hit a hundred on debut. Subsequently, he was kept out of two home series against Australia, New Zealand and later for the South Africa Test series. Do you think this superlative performance at the World Cup would help him earn a Test recall?

A: Why not? I’m pretty optimistic that Yuvi would cement his spot in the Test side as well.

Q: There is always a belief that Yuvraj is blessed with loads of natural talent, but he hasn’t quite done justice to his immense potential. What’s your take?

A: Every player is different. Some players mature early, while some take time to mature. As for Yuvraj, I can tell you that the best of Yuvraj is yet to come. You also got to remember that Yuvraj is a true team player and not one to chase personal records. Had Yuvi had been like that, he would have scored more than 25,000 runs till date. You know what, he once told me: “Dad, I am prepared to die for the country diving on the field.” That’s the spirit and pride he has in playing for the country.

Q: Yuvraj is always a big hit among the fairer sex. and has been linked with Bollywood actresses like Deepika Padukone and Kim Sharma among others. How do you handle all his link-ups?

A: Yuvi tells me one thing: Dad, if you trust me, don’t read newspapers and don’t watch television news channels.

Q: Yuvraj is the most eligible bachelor. When would you like to see him settle down?

A: Marriage for Yuvraj can wait for another five years. He is at the peak of his career and I would want him to realize his potential and do well for the country. I would want my bahu to be someone like Sachin Tendulkar’s wife Anjali. I also have a dream – to train my grandson (Yuvraj future son) to be the most lethal fast bowler in the country.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sehwag’s coach talks about the importance and need of his pupil’s new approach to batting

By Suhrid Barua

There are few batsmen in international cricket who can clinically destroy any bowling on any type of wicket as effortlessly and as consistently as Virender Sehwag. Not since the days of Viv Richards has a batsman evoked so much fear in the opposition ranks.

But that Sehwag may well be a thing of the past. Maturity, they say, comes with age. Sehwag is 32 and has been in international cricket for 12 years. Indication of his changing mindset was his comments just before the start of the 2011 World Cup: “I have never played 50 overs in one-day cricket. The maximum I have played is 43 or 44 overs. But this time I will try to bat 50 overs and give a good start to the team. I have been unsuccessfully trying this for the last 10 years and the effort is still on and will be there."

Sehwag a stayer! Well, the surprise factor was not for long. He almost achieved his stated intent in the World Cup opener against Bangladesh, falling in the 48th over.“Runs are not an issue when Sehwag is at the crease. I have been telling him about the need to bat the full 50 overs because it’s not just a personal benefit for him but also a great boon for the team and country,” Amar Nath Sharma, Sehwag’s coach from his formative years, told in a chat with

Sharma, who first spotted Sehwag at the Government Boys School ground at Vikas Puri in West Delhi when he was just 14, feels that Sehwag would do well to restrain himself once he garners enough in an over. “Just a week before the World Cup, I spoke to him about the importance in exercising self-control. I told him, ‘If you have got 12 or 13 in an over, don’t venture into the risky shots.’ But he says he feels excited to have a go at the bowling even if he picked up 10-12 an over.’ He is very aggressive…it’s difficult to contain him. No bowler can contain him,” Sharma says matter-of-factly.

The coach is pleased with his pupil for staying at the wicket till almost the end of the innings against Bangladesh. “I told him to bat the same way. At least he is trying – that is important, though it’s a different matter that he missed out after getting promising starts against England and Netherlands.”

Sharma has no doubts that Sehwag is crucial to India’s plans to win the World Cup. “Look, if Sehwag bats for even for 30 overs, let alone batting the full 50 overs, India would win the match. Take it in writing from me.”

If there is anything that is causing concern to Sharma, it’s the Indian bowling. “Our bowling is weak. Our batsmen must look to post at least 350 because with our bowling attack you never know what to expect. You saw it against Bangladesh. If we had got bowled out for 300, who knows what might have been the fate of that game.”

Better to play Ashwin instead of Chawla, feels Prasanna

By Suhrid Barua

Ravichandran Ashwin has been a glorified tourist so far in the 2011, but with Piyush Chawla following up his disastrous final over against England with another poor showing against Ireland, the clamour to play Ashwin has been growing louder by the day.

Leggie Chawla has gone for 127 runs from his 18 overs in two games – his figures in the two games reading 10-0-71-2 vs England and 8-0-56-0 vs Ireland.

And the latest to raise his voice in favour of Ashwin is none other than Erapalli Prasanna, the legendary off-spinner who was part of the famous Indian spin quartet of the ‘70s.

Excerpts from an interview with Prasanna:

Q: Piyush Chawla has let us down in the two games he played so far. Do you think that India should bring in Ravichandran Ashwin in place of Chawla?

A: Yes, Chawla hasn’t bowled well in the two games. I think it’s in the best interests of the team to replace him with Ashwin. Playing against a weaker opposition against Netherlands would also allow Ashwin to get some confidence ahead of the bigger games.

Q; Do you think playing Ashwin would add an element of predictability about the spin attack?

A: When you have off-spinners playing, the ball at most times is going into the right hander and it’s becomes more of a stereotype spin attack. But then, we have no option but to try out Ashwin now that Chawla has failed to deliver.

How do you assess the performance of the Indian frontline spinners?

A: While there’s no denying that Chawla hasn’t bowled well, the fact remains that even Harbhajan Singh also hasn’t made much of an impression in the first three games.

Q: In comparison, the part-time spinners, especially Yuvraj Singh, has hit good form. What’s your take?

A: Look, when regular spinners are bowling, batsmen tend to play them with a lot of caution, but when part-time spinners are in operation, batsmen tend to relax. And this where the chances of part-timers taking wickets increase. Having said that, I must admit that Yuvraj bowled really well against Ireland, scored a fine half-century and is looking very confident on the field.

Q: Do you think that India need to change their seaming bowling attack, maybe bring back Shanthakumaran Sreesanth or Ashish Nehra, if he is fit?

A: I don’t know. The team management would be in a better position to answer it.

Q: How do you rate India’s chances of winning the World Cup?

A: The World Cup is still in its early stages and we have only played three games. It’s too early to talk about whether we are going to win it or not.

Madan Lal reveals little-known fact about 1983 World Cup final

“I was not supposed to bowl the over in which I dismissed Viv Richards,” reveals Madan Lal to Suhrid Barua of the epic dismissal in the 1983 World Cup final.

The 1983 World Cup triumph was a red-letter day for Indian cricket. Kapil Dev’s men rose from being absolute no-hopers to play some inspirational brand of cricket and beat mighty the West Indies in a sensational final.

One man who played a significant part in that magnificent win over was Madan Lal, best remembered in that final game for stopping the rampaging Viv Richards from running away with the final. Richards’s brilliance was truncated by a brilliant running catch by Kapil running a long, long way back at mid-wicket to come up with a blinder.

“Richards was in a destructive mood. He hit me for three boundaries in my first over from the Nursery End. But in the 14th over, Richards miscued in trying to pull me and Kapil did the rest,” Madan recalled.

“Richards’ wicket was crucial for us because he would have finished the game early if he was around for some more time… We celebrated his dismissal, but we also knew that we had a job to do as the West Indies had other batsmen who could have turned things around,” Madan added.

Interestingly, Madan was not supposed to bowl the over he got Richards out in the first place itself. “Kapil wanted to give me some rest. But I told him that I wanted to carry on.”

The wicket of Richards saw an extra spring in the strides of Madan who caused more damage. “I bowled around seven to eight overs on a trot. I got the wicket of Larry Gomes off an away-going delivery,” said, Madan, who started his wicket-taking spree, dislodging Desmond Haynes. He finished with analysis of 3 for 31 from his 12 overs.

Twenty-eight years down the line, India is looking to emulate the Indian team at the 1983 World Cup. Madan felt that collective responsibility is the key if India has to win the 2011 World Cup. “You can’t have all players firing together in a long event like the World Cup. There would be days when a player has to chip in when one of his team-mates fails to perform,” he opined.

He has no doubts that India would go in with seven batsmen and four regular bowlers but is tad concerned about the fifth bowler option. “We need to have a Plan B in place should the fifth bowler gets whacked around. If one of the four regular bowlers gets smashed and we don’t have a back-up plan, we will be opening up 20 overs for the opposition.”

Despite, the perceived loopholes, Madan feels that India has the wherewithal to win the World Cup. “Dhoni has the team to do it,” he asserted.

Madan has high hopes from pacer Shantakumaran Sreesanth for the big-ticket event. “I believe Praveen Kumar’s injury should not be a big miss because Sreesanth is an equally good bowler and should be more than an adequate replacement for him.”

Indian bowlers are unable to handle pressure: Balwinder Sandhu

There was always a lurking fear that the Indian bowling attack would stand exposed at the World Cup when pitted against a formidable batting line-up - precisely what happened in Sunday’s Group B match against England at Bangalore.

The lack of penetration in the Indian bowling attack was evident in ample measure. The Indian bowlers were taken to the cleaners by Strauss and Co. before Zaheer Khan produced something special to trigger India’s fight back where fortunes swung and eventually ended in a thrilling tie.

Balwinder Singh Sandhu, one of the heroes of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian side and famed coach, talks about the Indian team with Suhrid Barua.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: How do you assess India’s World Cup campaign, especially our bowling performance against England?

A: They bowled badly. If you are not able to defend a score of 338, then obviously your bowlers are not doing their job. Zaheer brought us back into the match with a superb spell at the death at a time when the match was firmly in England’s grasp.

Q: Where do you think India lost the chance to grab a win?

A: I thought Munaf Patel bowled a good 48th over but Piyush (Chawla) was taken for two sixes by Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan in the 49th over and that killed off all our chances of winning the match. Even though Piyush got rid of Bresnan, the damage was already done.

Q: Do you think it was a right strategy to go in with two seamers and two spinners?

A: I don’t think so. We would have been better off playing three seamers and two spinners and not leg-spinner like Piyush who relies on his googlies all the time.

Q: Why do you feel India should have opted for an extra seamer instead of Piyush?

A: My point is Piyush is a leg-spinner, but on how many occasions you saw him turning his leg-spinners. It’s better to have a third pacer, who could bowl open the bowling and is good in the death.

Q: The general thinking is that the Indian attack is heavily reliant on Zaheer Khan. What’s your take?

A: There is no doubt that the Indian attack banks a lot on Zaheer. He is not just the pace spearhead but the bowling spearhead. He looks to be the only bowler who looks like getting wickets every time he comes on to ball.

Q: Are you disappointed with the overall performance of the Indian spinners?

A: Spinners have been below par. Getting wickets in the middle overs is the key, but our spinners couldn’t do that on Sunday. Spinners take wickets or tie down the batsmen, create pressure on them and induce them to play a false stroke. Our spinners failed on both fronts.

Q: How do you see India’s chances of winning the World Cup?

A: We got a good chance, provided our fielding improves and our bowling shows penetration and discipline. At the moment, the bowlers are unable to handle pressure. Big matches are won by bowlers, when the batting fails.

Chetan Sharma recalls his historic World Cup hat-trick

By Suhrid Barua

It was not just a game India had to win but also win it comprehensively. The equations were simple and straight: India had to pull off a win at a better run rate if they were to nose ahead of Australia, top the group and avoid the prospect of meeting arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-finals in Pakistan.

On a day when the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) ground was bathed in glorious sunshine, New Zealand opted to take first strike, which obviously meant that India would have to chase down whatever target Kiwis set in less than the allotted 50 overs.

New Zealand was chipping away nicely, and reached a score of 182 for five and seemed well on course to post a score in excess of 250. From India’s perspective, the need of the hour was to pick up a few quick wickets and restrict the Kiwis to a modest score. Kapil Dev brought back Chetan Sharma in the 42nd over and the bowler dramatically changed the complexion of the match by registering the first-hat-trick of the World Cup, cleaning up Ken Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield.

Twenty-three years down the line, Chetan recalls the historic moment. “We needed a few quick wickets to tighten our grip on the match. I bowled three dot balls off the first three balls of the 42nd over. Off the fourth ball, I got one to nip back sharply taking Rutherford’s middle stump and then bowled a quicker one that disturbed Ian Smith’s off stump,” he reminisces.

The VCA ground was on its feet, sensing a potential a historic hat-trick. The bowler had a chat with his captain and mentor before bowling the hat-trick ball to tail-ender Chatfield. “Kapil told me to keep it straight. He told me ‘if you get the hat-trick it’s fine, but if you don’t there is nothing to worry as you have got two important wickets which we badly needed. So, I was not under any kind of pressure that I have to make the hat-trick happen,” recalls Chetan, who played in 23 Tests and 65 One-Day Internationals (ODIs).

There were words of wisdom from Sunil Gavaskar as well when Chetan was bowling that hat-trick ball. “Sunnybhai, who was fielding at mid-off, told me to pitch the ball straight and kept reminding me that it was a great opportunity to take a hat-trick.”

The moment-to-savour came when Chetan castled Chatfield. “I was over the moon,” he says.

His hat-trick show was critically responsible for India restricting New Zealand to a score of 221, as any score in excess of 250 would have tested the best out of the Indian batsmen.

Chetan realized the magnitude of his feat later in the evening. “We boarded an evening Indian Airlines flight to Mumbai from Nagpur. All the team members stood up and started clapping on the flight and that’s when I realized that I have achieved something big. Next morning, the newspapers had headlines screaming over my hat-trick,” he reveals.

Chetan later shared the Man of the Match award with Sunil Gavaskar after Little Master blazed his way to his maiden century after hundred-plus ODI appearances – his second last international. The effort helped India overhaul a score of 221 in just 32.1 overs when they were needed to knock off the required runs in 42.2 overs.

Sunil Gavaskar played an explosive innings which set up our easy win. Sharing the Man of the Match award with a legend like him whom you grow up watching was a massive thing for me,” he recounts.

It is pertinent to point out that Chetan’s participation in the World Cup was under a cloud of uncertainty. He did not figure in the first three games of the World Cup because of a thumb injury he sustained just days before the mega event. “I chipped a bone in my left thumb while fielding off my own bowling during a World Cup charity game against Pakistan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi,” he remembers.

Chetan, who owns a petrol pump on the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road, has named it “Hat-trick Filling Station.”

I started it in 2005 and named it after my hat-trick performance at Nagpur,” he says with a glint of pride.His stand-out bowling effort may have sealed India’s berth in the semis as group topper, but the memories of India semi-final defeat to England still rankles. “We made a mess of that chase. I thought we got more cautious and nervous,” was how he looks at that game.

On the upcoming World Cup, he rates India’s chances highly. “In my book, India has their best chance to win the World Cup. They would have the home crowd support and conditions going in their favour. Sri Lanka is also another team who are also stronger contenders,” he signed off.

Sreesanth’s mental preparation was missing, says his mentor

By Suhrid Barua

Team India’s World Cup campaign may have got off to a near-perfect start with their emphatic win over Bangladesh in Mirpur, but the match panned out to be a forgettable one for seamer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

Sreesanth was subjected to some pasting by the Bangladesh openers, especially left-handed Imrun Kayes, who clobbered him four boundaries en route to picking 24 from his third over after the Kerala fast bowler was asked to shoulder the responsibility of opening the bowling operations with Zaheer Khan.

Sreesanth conceded 53 runs from his five overs, and was expectedly not brought back into the attack by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Sreesanth’s performance spelt a sorry sight in an otherwise impressive Indian performance. “I didn’t see the match as I was away with some pressing commitments, but Sree bowled badly. Maybe he was trying hard to get wickets,” Sreesanth’s former coach and mentor P Sivakumar told CricketCountry.

Sivakumar felt that Sreesanth’s mental preparation may have not been up to the desired level. “Sree wasn’t supposed to be part of the starting eleven for the Bangladesh match, if media reports were anything to go by. Remember also that it was his first World Cup appearance and maybe he was not mentally prepared as he should have.

"He was also not in the original 15-member World Cup squad. Sree came into the side only after Praveen Kumar was ruled out of the mega event because of an elbow injury and his inclusion happened less than two weeks before the World Cup,” Sivakumar says in defense of his protégé.

But Sivakumar did text message to his pupil after the poor bowling show in Mirpur. “I didn’t want Sree’s confidence to be dented in anyway. I just send him a message saying ‘Don’t Worry, Sree. These things happen. Take care and sleep well’ after the end of the match.”

Sreesanth’s former coach feels the bowler can draw a lot of confidence from the manner in which he dismissed in-form Jacques Kallis with a brute of a delivery in Durban. “It was a peach of a ball. Kallis was in a rich vein of form and to get him out in that fashion was remarkable. He can draw inspiration from that dismissal for India’s upcoming games,” he observed.

Sivakumar, who honed Sreesanth’s bowling skills at the Ernakulam Cricket Club from the age of 13 to 20 before he got selected in the MRF Pace Foundation, says that his ward should stick to basics and results would take care of itself. “Sree should not try anything extra to make things happen. He should concentrate only on line and length,” he says.

Sivakumar, however, paints a realistic picture when he talks about Sreesanth’s role in the India’s upcoming games. “I feel that if India are going to play two seamers against England, I’m pretty sure Sree would have to sit out. Only if we play three seamers, Sree would play,” he signed off.

Interview: “Bangladesh won’t be pushovers”

Shaun Williams, the former Bangladesh coach, talks exclusively to Suhrid Barua about the Tigers’ chances against India and much more.

Bangladesh forced the cricketing world to sit up and take notice of them when they beat India by five wickets in the 2007 World Cup at Queen’s Park Oval, a loss that effectively ensured a first round exit for the Men in Blue.

Four years on, Bangladesh would be seeking a Port-of-Spain encore while India would be looking to exorcise the ghosts of that defeat when the two sides meet in the World Cup opener at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Saturday.

Williams, who was then assistant to head coach Dav Whatmore, has since seen the Bangla Tigers grow in stature.

Excerpts from an interview with the 41-year-old Australian:

Q: Can you take us through the memories of that famous Bangladesh victory over India at the 2007 World Cup at Port-of-Spain?

A: The win was a huge moment for Bangladesh cricket. It gave the boys tremendous self-belief that they have it in themselves to beat the big teams. Mashrafe Mortaza got the early breakthroughs before the left-arm spin duo of Mohammad Rafique and Abdur Razzak frustrated the Indian batsmen with their tidy line and length. Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim then batted like seasoned campaigners to give their side an unforgettable win. The boys went on to beat South Africa at Guyana as well and reached the Super Eights which I thought was quite an achievement.

Q: Coming to Saturday’s match at Mirpur, do you think Bangladesh have done enough over the past few years to shed the tag of minnows?

A: I definitely think so. Bangladesh cricket has evolved over the years. They have narrowed the gap in terms of staying competitive against the major teams. A lot of talented players have come through the ranks and I think Bangladesh would back themselves to do well not just against India but also against other major teams like England, Australia and South Africa.

Q: The new breed of Bangladesh cricketers like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Abdur Razzak bring a refreshing look to the side. What’s your take on this new generation of players?

A: They are a talented bunch. Tamim scored two Test centuries in England last year, including one at Lord’s. Shakib Al Hasan is considered one of the top all-rounders in world cricket (Shakib is ranked fifth in ICC ODI bowler rankings). He is a batsman who has all the shots in the book. Mushfiqur Rahim is solid behind the wickets and very doughty with the bat. Then, you have somebody like Abdur Razzak who has come up in leaps and bounds and taken over the mantle of the spin department ever since Mohammad Rafique called it a day.

Q: Mohammad Ashraful is considered the most talented cricketer to emerge from Bangladesh. He lost his captaincy and also his place in the side but is in the World Cup side. What do you think has gone wrong with his game?

A: Ashraful is a batsman who knows only one way to bat, and that is to attack. I agree he has been bit inconsistent, but I’m sure he is due for a big one very soon. Remember the 2007 World Cup game against South Africa? He smacked a delightful 87 at Guyana which shaped up our win. One can never write off a guy like Ashraful because you never know when he will surprise you.

Q: Pace spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza is out of the World Cup with a right knee injury. How much would Bangladesh miss him at the World Cup?

A: Mortaza is an important cog of the Bangladesh bowling attack. Bangladesh would certainly miss his experience and expertise with the ball, but it’s an opportunity for the other seamers like Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain to stand up and be counted.

Q: How would you assess the behavior of the wicket to be used for the Mirpur match?

A: It’s going to be on the slower side. Spinners should enjoy bowling at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium track. I would not be surprised if Bangladesh go into the game with four spinners. I guess India would go in three spinners. I think somebody like Piyush Chawla should do well on this wicket.

Q: Would you like to predict the outcome of the match?

A: I wouldn’t like to predict anything. This World Cup is a huge opportunity for Bangladesh cricket, the Stadium would be packed to capacity and the atmosphere would be amazing. I really hope Bangladesh win the toss, bat first and get a score in excess of 280. If that happens, it will be an awesome contest with India chasing a good total. But India has a strong batting line-up and equally potent battery of spinners and would definitely be the favourties. But Bangladesh won’t be pushovers.

Pravin Amre talks about the ‘Nostradamus’ who prophesised his debut century

Test hundreds are always something to cherish, but when it comes on your debut, it is even more satisfying. Pravin Amre experienced that rare high when he scored a fighting 103 in the Durban Test against South Africa in the 1992-93 series – an innings that was largely responsible for India forcing a draw in the match.

Eighteen years down the line, Amre recounts the highest point of his Test career. “I walked into bat with India in a spot of bother at 48 for four. The Durban wicket had a lot of bounce and South Africa had a potent bowling attack in Allan Donald, Brett Schultz, Meyrick Pringle and Brian McMillan who were peppering me with bouncers. I took a lot of blows. For a 21-year-old debutant, it was a challenge not just to stand up to them but also to do something for my team,” Amre recalls.

The Durban deck is different from most other wickets as it used to offer prodigious swing towards the latter part of the day. “Before the start of the Test match, the late Malcolm Marshall, who was playing for Natal at that time, told us to be careful about the Durban wicket because it starts to swing in the post-tea session because the ground is near to the sea. I experienced it when the South African bowlers especially Pringle was moving the ball both ways when the survival at the wicket was the only thing on my mind at the start of my innings,” he recalls.

The century effort had its share of struggles when runs were difficult to come by with the South African seamers sticking to a probing line. “I clearly remember Day Three of the match when I was struggling to get a single run for an hour as McMillan was reeling of maidens from one end.”

Even today, Amre is indebted to wicket-keeper Kiran More for helping him get that coveted hundred. More helped Amre string together 101 runs for the 8th wicket at a time when he look in danger of running out of partners. “I am really thankful to Kiran for the dogged resistance he offered from the other end. Without his support, I don’t think I could have reached my hundred.”

The Amre-More partnership also ensured India garnered a slender 23-run first innings lead. He also shared a 87-run fifth-wicket stand with skipper Mohammed Azharuddin after India lost Ravi Shastri, Ajay Jadeja, Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar cheaply.

At stumps on Day Two of the match, Amre was unbeaten on 39 in India’s total of 128 for six. Though things looked very dismal for India, one man was confident that Amre would get to a hundred and boldly predicted it. Amre recalls: “He (Abu) was a South African-based entrepreneur who used to bring food for our cricketers. Abu told me at stumps on Day Two that I would get my century on debut the next day. He said that he could see that happening from the dedication and determination I showed.”

Amre got to his hundred when he lofted Omar Henry over the bowler’s head that forced umpire Steve Bucknor to duck as he raced from 98 to 102. “Every time I see that shot, I fondly remember Abu because he was the one who rushed to the ground to hug me as I crossed the milestone,” recalls Amre. Sadly, Abu died in a road accident five years ago.

The Durban Test was historical in more ways than one. It was South Africa's first home Test since March 1970 and the home side included a non-white player for the first time in Omar Henry, who became their oldest Test debutant at 40 years and 295 days.

It was a match that featured a number of firsts. The match saw Tendulkar become the first player in the history of Tests to be given out (run out) after the ground umpire (Cyril Mitchley) referred the matter to the third umpire (Karl Liebenberg) on the second day of the Test.

It was also a match in which South African captain Kepler Wessels became the first man to score centuries for two countries – Australia and South Africa. To top it all, South African opener Jimmy Cook made his Test debut at the age of 39 and became the first Test debutant to be dismissed off the first ball.

South Africa fielded a very inexperienced team at least at the international stage, though most of them were vastly experienced at the club level or first-class level. As many as five players – opener Jimmy Cook, left-arm spinner Omar Henry, the all-rounder McMillan, the brilliant Jonty Rhodes and fast bowler Schultz were making their Test debuts. “Most of the South African players were richer on experience at club or first-class level, so we had to be wary of them. We knew that they were going to be tough,” he observed.

Indian batsmen have traditionally been uncomfortable on wickets that offer pace and bounce and not many have done well in bowler-friendly conditions overseas. Considering that, some would say Amre deserved a longer run in Tests than just the 11 matches he played. But Amre does not wallow in self-pity. “I’ve no regrets. I did what was in my control - to give my best whenever I got an opportunity to be part of the national team. I feel pretty satisfied to have finished my Test career with a Test average of 42,” he says matter-of-factly.

The 103 at Durban also made the critics questioning his ability to play fast bowling eat a humble pie. “The so-called cricket pundits said before I left for the South Africa tour that I would flounder against genuine fast bowling and that I was only good at playing spinners. This hundred at Kingsmead came under difficult conditions and was a fitting response to what I was capable of,” Amre signed off.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

When Richards caught Australia short of their crease

A 23-year-old youngster, who would go on to scare the living daylights of opposition bowlers for two decades, had a pretty quiet World Cup. But as they say you can’t keep greats out of action for too long, and the same was the case with Vivian Richards, who fell cheaply to Gary Gilmour for 5 when West Indies batted first, but later came up with a sensational fielding performance which enabled his side pull off a 17-run World Cup-winning victory over Australia at Lord’s.

Richards proved why his fielding prowess should command utmost respect and was involved in three run outs of Alan Turner, Chappell brothers – Greg and Ian which largely made up for his overall disappointing run with the bat in the World Cup.

Richards’ first fielding scalp of Alan Turner came at a critical juncture when Australia were going along steadily in pursuit of West Indies’ formidable total 291 for 8, built around skipper Clive Lloyd’s majestic 102 and a workmanlike half-century from Rohan Kanhai.

Richards came up with a direct hit from backward square-leg which caught Turner short of his crease. Turner’s wicket was the key because he was looking good for his well-paced 54-ball 40 and was seeking to provide the early impetus.

Everyone present at Lords’ knew that the Chappell brothers had to play a big hand if Australia were to come anywhere close to the West Indies total. And the duo held fort to keep Aussies in the running before Richards came up with a superb direct hit to get rid of Greg Chappell who had a stop-start mix up with his younger brother.

Richards made a stark reminder of the famous saying ‘Never run off a misfield’ when he showed the pavilion way to Australian captain Ian Chappell. Chappell had worked the ball to the on-side and set off for a run, but hesitated on realizing Richards being stationed there. But seeing Richards fumble, Chappell started running but probably had underestimated the fielder’s quick recovery skills. Richards briskly got to the ball, turned and rifled in a return three feet above the stumps which Lloyd, the bowler did the needful as Chappell was caught well short of his crease.

His run out was best summed up by ace commentator Richie Benaud on BBC. “The old rule of never run on a misfield still holds good.”

Australia stood a realistic chance of chasing down West Indies’ 291 for 8 when they reached a score of 161 for 3, but the fall of Chappell’s wicket effectively derailed their chase. The impact of Richards’ three brilliant run outs was soon felt as Australia lost the initiative from there on and folded up for 274 in 58.4 overs.

Richards once recalled how his three run outs, which significantly shaped up West Indies’ maiden World Cup triumph, meant a lot more than just a win to West Indies cricket. “We are from the Caribbean region and there are times that we hear that we all think differently. But when we were able to lift that World Cup, I could imagine that the Caribbean came together then.”

Srinath’s extra motivation proved fatal for Sri Lanka

The dash of confidence permeating in the Indian ranks was not to be understated - five wins on the trot – Sourav Ganguly’s men were hungry as ever to keep its clean slate going when they squared up with Sri Lanka in a Super Six game at the New Wanderers Stadium.

And Team India’s splendid run seemed on track as they motored on a rollicking century opening stand between Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag to raise an imposing score of 292 for 6 off 50 overs. Tendulkar was at his exquisite best but was unlucky to miss his 35th ODI century by just three runs and also in the process became the highest run scorer in a single World Cup.

The strong Indian batting show rubbed off on their bowlers who were infused with an extra spring in the strides defending a tall score. Nobody was more pepped up than Javagal Srinath, who derived some extra motivation to come out with something special. He had to bring out his best for dear friend Hemant who had passed away in his early thirties in Mysore a week back. And what an inspired spell it was from Srinath - one that brought the Sri Lankan top-order on its knees.

Of course, his first wicket of Marvan Atapattu had more to do with the batsman’s indiscretion than anything else – the right-hander playing a loose drive to Mohammed Kaif in the covers.

Jehan Mubarak’s opening World Cup game ended on a forgettable note as Srinath enticed him to feel for one moving away to leave Sri Lanka’s chase plans in absolute disarray.

Then, there was vastly experienced Aravinda de Silva who would have wanted to go out on a high in his last international game against India, but came unstuck against a Srinath inswinger – becoming the fourth guy among the top five to get a duck as Sri Lanka were quivering at 15 for 4 in the fourth over.

Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya’s participation in the match was under a cloud of uncertainty– he played despite being hamstrung with a badly bruised arm and chipped left finger. And the apparent discomfort in Jayasuriya’s batting showed as he struggled to get going before Srinath finally ended his woes, spooning one to Mohammad Kaif who went on to pluck a record four catches in that game.

The writing was clearly on the wall for Sri Lanka. Srinath’s early damage – his opening spell read 7-1-24-4 was enough to swing the game in India’s favour and also sealed its semifinal berth.

The Lankan batsmen cut a miserable figure – that only four batsmen reached double-figures summed up their inept display. Sri Lanka were all out for 103 in 23 overs, handing India a massive 183-run win.

No wonder, former Sri Lankan World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga expressed his deep disappointment at their abject surrender. “Sri Lanka just weren’t good enough. Also, it didn’t help that Sanath (Jayasuriya) put India in on an excellent batting surface.

Srinath was named Man of the Match award for his bowling effort, and wasted little time in dedicating the recognition to his friend Hemant. “This is for him,” he declared after receiving the award.”