Friday, April 20, 2007

WORLD CUP DIARY: Lots of cricket news

There's a veritable photo-finish on at the moment to try and provide the world with the biggest bit of cricket news...and it's coming in from all over the world.

1. Duncan Fletcher's resignation: This came in yesterday, and I was surprised to note that the British journalists were all very happy with Fletch going away. I would have thought that for a country with such limited international cricket success as England, Fletch would have become a complete hero after the 2005 Ashes win. Obviously, it's the players who play and yada, yada, yada, but surely the coach's role can't be discounted. And obviously there is no other way to gauge a coach's abilities than to see the success-failure ratio of the team. Here you have a team with exactly two talented cricketers (Flintoff and Pietersen) and a number of over-rated mediocre cricketers and a number of pace bowlers who don't last for more than a few hours on the cricket ground before getting 'career-threatening injuries'. Surely Fletch did well?

2. The Indian teams for Bangladesh: This came in today and is obviously important news in India.

They've 'rested' Tendulkar and Ganguly from the ODI squad. Sensible. But can we take Gambhir and Uthappa to open in England later this year? Thankfully, Irfan, Harbhajan and Agarkar have been 'dropped' without any curtain over the decision. Agarkar is easily the worst cricketer in the history of the game to have played as much as he has. Harbhajan has been bowling terribly for many years now, and Irfan is, obviously, Irfan and shouldn't be playing any grade of cricket right now.

Across in the Tests, you have no Sehwag. So that means Karthik is now the first choice opening batsman along with Jaffer. It's not a bad team otherwise, and it's good to note that no major knee-jerk action was taken. And it's also nice to note that Laxman is still in there. He might not score more than 20 when he goes out, but it's always nice to see him playing. He certainly is nice enough to be picked.

3. Shoaib Malik to be Pakistan captain: Not a bad call. But is it because he has the potential to be a good captain or is it because there are no other options? We all know it is the latter, and that's never a good thing. And when he comes back from the dope-induced layoff (or injury, if you choose), Mohammad Asif is likely to be the vice captain. And Younis Khan has finally been removed from the vice captaincy after the world finally realised that he doesn't want to be captain. It's also good that he himself has finally realised it. Pakistan cricket continues to baffle.

4. Lara choosing to retire: Now this is the biggest bit of news to have come out from this World Cup. Bigger than Woolmer's murder. Bigger than India and Pakistan crashing out early. Bigger than the financial and general disaster that this World Cup has been. Because Lara, to me, was bigger than the sport. Much bigger. The same way Maradona was. Or Ali was. Or Tiger Woods is. It sounds stupid, but watching Lara bat during one of his characteristic free-stroking long innings was better than most other things the world has to offer. Put together, often.

We knew before the World Cup that he would retire at the end of the tournament. It's probably right that he goes away also, considering the amount of criticism he has received (unfairly, I think) during the World Cup and also considering the fact that his own form has been average at best for a long time now. But somehow, I feel that he had at least one more long Test knock in him somewhere. That won't happen now. He is quitting all cricket. And now cricket will have one champion less, and Shiv Chanderpaul will be West Indies' best batsman.