Padma Shri Harbhajan Singh!

January 26, 2009

So the monkey calling, abuse hurling, slap hitting Bhajji has just been awarded the Padma Shri !

Apparently, dignity is not a criteria for the award – 300 wickets is all that mattered .

Sreesanth, line up please .

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Some people are incorrigible. No amount of punishment is enough. Or maybe they dont see it as anything offensive anyways. Atleast thats what Symonds thinks of what he had to say about McCullum. He called him a lump of s*** and then in defense this is what he had to say (Quoting off cricinfo),

“I wish to sincerely apologise to Brendon McCullum for my comments during the radio interview with Roy and HG on Friday afternoon,” a statement from Symonds read. “My intentions for this interview were light-hearted and my comments no way reflect the respect that I have for McCullum both on and off the field.”

Give me a break !

Maybe Bhajji should have said the same thing after calling him a monkey! Like the aussies say, its all friendly banter on the field but we have the highest regard for others. What do they think of the other cricketers ? A bunch of fools ?

Unfortunately Symonds, you are the lump of s*** (dont worry i am saying it all in friendly humour – we can have a drink together later) . Your behavior meant Australia couldnt get you to India on a crucial trip, for whatever you are worth. Your indiscretion and attitude cost Australia big and I was hoping that after staying out of the team, you would have tried concentrating on the game rather than get into a brawl at a hotel (ofcourse you were provoked – wonder i should believe that or not) and then make an offensive remark on McCullum. Atleast, he hasnt let his team down yet!

Maybe, Australia really cant do without Symonds given they are on a losing spree. Otherwise, people like him should  just never be allowed to go on with rubbish after rubbish (Rooobish in Boycott’s words) . Bhajji probably will never slap anyone ever again after getting a ban from IPL and maybe Symonds needs more than just a short term suspension.

This post is probably a bit late but I decided to run it anyways at a friend’s insistence. ICC has had enough flak come its way to the extent that they had to change their statement which did little to redeem them making me wonder about the brains of the men who supposedly run the sport .

The rankings came out initially with ICC claiming they were based on ‘longevity’ and ‘consistency’ of a player which made the list completely shocking and top cricketers were all over them making them change the statement the next day to ‘ it is only a measure of a player’s peak and nothing more’. Which unfortunately is not much better – how can you compare Sachin’s peak to Lara’s peak to Kevin Pieterson’s peak!

Lets run through the rankings anyways . Batting first.

Ponting makes it to no.3 which is debatable and I could try and agree there as he has arugably been the most consistent batsman in the last 10 years clocking centuries after centuries. But then, Sangakarra makes it to 6 with Aravinda at 88 ? Any buyers for that? Hussey – who has lost his Bradmanesque skills is above Gavaskar, Headley – the black bradman, just because he averaged 80 for 2 years ? And then to top it all – KP makes it above Sachin which makes the whole list laughable . Youhana, Kallis make it above Greenidge, Worrel, Stan McCabe – the man who Bradman wished he could bat like. Even when you go comparing peaks – KP will never make it above Sachin, Hayden will never make it above Gavaskar and McCabe might even walk taller than Bradman!

Time to look at the bowlers. It still seems more sane, although I really wonder how Hoggard could have ever made it to the top 500, leave alone the top 100 – and that too above Mcdermott, Charlie Griffith and Frank Tyson! Its a saving grace that Monty doesnt figure there otherwise I would have just rolled off my chair right now. Dale Steyn – yes, the finest fast bowler right now – still has a long way to go before he merits mention before Roberts, Garner, Lillee. Stuart Clark bowling at 120kph, for some reason makes it above Holding – the man they called whispering death, Miller – the finest Aussie all-rounder who bowled lightening fast. And yes, Flintoff seems to be better than Jeff Thomson!

Everytime, I see that list, I wonder who made it – As Boycott would have said it – “my mum could have done a better job than the supreme body of world cricket” !!

God save Cricket !

Hayden finally buckled in and bid farewell to cricket before he was shown the door. It was slightly sad to see him struggle in India and the desperation was evident when he tried blasting ZaK out of the attack but the wretched form stretched too far against lowly Kiwis and the challenging Proteas leading him to call it a day. Yes, he was a great batsman. Yes, he made bowlers tremble with his rock like figure and brutal assaults. Yes, I had him in every super selector team I selected because he and Ponting were two batsmen I always backed to get a hundred everytime. Yes, Aussies call him their greatest opener ever but Ponting stretching it to the greatest opener ever in the history of the game??? Give it a break. Why do Aussies-and earlier Pakistanis-love proclaiming their players as the greatest players in the world all the time? I doubt he is even the greatest opener of this era, leave alone, of all eras.

I think two openers of this era who have been far more instrumental in their team’s fortunes are Sehwag and Graeme Smith.

Sehwag averages 51, the same as Hayden but his statistics are even better given the fact that he averages 51 against Australia and SA, the two top bowling line ups in the world. Let’s face it; Aussies had the most fearsome bowling line up in the last 10 years with Mcgrath, Gillespie, Lee and Warne in their ranks which made them virtually invincible. Scoring so many runs at a strike rate of close to 80 in test matches definitely must mean something. And qualitatively speaking, Sehwag has probably played greater innings than Hayden. Hayden destroyed India in 2001 with 549 runs in 3 matches and his twin hundreds at the Gabba in the Ashes in 2003 were special but how many times did he turn matches? Surely lesser than Sehwag! Sehwag’s 201 last year against Murali and Mendis won him the batting performance of the year and his blistering 80 set up a historic win against England and then there was the magical 300 in Multan, the fastest 300 against SA and a great 150 in a back-to-the-wall innings in Adelaide last year. I could go on and on but this should suffice.

About Smith-who also averages 50 plus-it is enough to talk about his fantastic leadership, his 100 against the Poms at Edgbaston, his hundred at Perth in December to put him beyond Hayden.

The funny bit is that even if for a moment you acknowledge that Hayden is probably the greatest opener of our era, one only needs to go back to Gavaskar to realize how Hayden might never measure up to the little master. Gavaskar was a legend who scored most of his runs against the mighty West Indies and the like of Lillie, Thomson and Hadlee and still scored more hundreds than Hayden and averaged as much.

There you go punter, it is ok to acknowledge the achievements of a great opener – Yes, Hayden was one – but lets stop at that. I haven’t even mentioned Sir Jack Hobbs and Sir Leonard Hutton. Ever heard of them?

The world order is changing or maybe it has already changed. Australia has never looked so vulnerable since a long long time. I cant even remember. The last time i saw them being annihilated like this was probably in 1998 when Sachin took them apart as a dust storm tore through Sharjah. But for ten years they ruled the world! They were untouchable and the world was perfect.

A team which was first moulded by  Allan Border, led amicably by Mark Taylor passed on to the gritty Steve Waugh and then to ‘Punter’ – a man so unlike his predecessors. Yet, with giants of the cricketing world on his side, Ponting won everything that came in the way and was hailed a great captain. Warne, Mcgrath, Gilchrist led by probably one of the finest batsmen of the modern era in Ponting himself destroyed and demoralised everyone else. There was a time when only Australia A could probably match Australia.

Oh, how the times have changed; Ponting has been seen scratching his head and Australia have become desperate to figure out how to win. So, was he a good captain or just a great batsman who won on the sheer weight of champions on his side backed by his mighty batting?

Its easy to be a captain when you are winning but a captain is one who transforms hopeless situations into winning ones. Great captains are those who pull out wins with their sheer imagination, grit and leadership. Graeme Smith just proved that in the recently concluded series. When he walked out in Sydney with two broken arms, even Ponting saluted him. When you got a captain like that, then everyone just has to stand up and get themselves counted. Captains are those who take teams like Rajasthan Royals to the pinnacle of success. Captains are those who infuse energy like Dhoni does to the younger breed. They read the game ahead of the turn and make more right moves than wrong.

Mark Taylor was a great captain. He was counted more as a captain than a batsman. Steve Waugh was a leader of men. He taught his team how to stand up and fight. He was a warrior. Stephen Fleming led a feeble New Zealand team to fight out of their skins. Ranatunga transformed minnows into world beaters. Sourav Ganguly taught India the meaning of killer instint.

When you think of men like these, I cant help feeling that Ponting will just be one of the greatest batsmen of the modern era but nothing more. He will go down in history as a captain with one of those enviable records but when you think of names like Clive Lloyd, Steve Waugh, Imran Khan, I just cant allow myself to think of him in the same breath.