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Willow, words and no-holds barred warfare

After the despair over fielding, India found its winning edge in a week where many battles were fought on the field, off it, and in the courtroom, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2007 19:32 IST
Atul Sondhi

Zaheer Khan kicking the ball in both anger and anguish, and needlessly conceding a run, summed up the cricket week for India where insinuations over "money versus country", and frustrations over below-par fielding ruled the roost. Though the convincing win at Headingly must have soothed the frayed tempers somewhat on the pitch, there was no sign of any truce in the off-field drama.

Bindra accused Kapil Dev of putting money over country and camouflaging his real interests, while Kapil countered by asking if Bindra ever played some cricket after all.

Casting aside the animosity which otherwise characterises his relations with BCCI, Speed batted for the beleaguered Indian Board while Damien Martyn became the first high profile Australian catch for ICL. Even amiable Dravid went after the man who had supported him throughout his tenuous first year as captain by saying that Chappell had failed to adapt as much as Wright! Knowing ‘’post-resignation’’ Greg, he might not choose to reply at all.

Pathetic fielding

The Indian fielding continues to be below par. It was not so visible in Tests but in the ODI format, the lapses looked glaring. As many as three catches were floored early in the do-or-die battle at Headingley and it was only the combined brilliance of Dhoni and Ganguly, which threw England off-track. Though even Dhoni was guilty of dropping one catch, which made Zaheer angry as hell.

The increasing regularity with which Indian players are being caught out in the outfield is becoming embarrassing. So much so that even someone like Monty Panesar, whose brave attempts at fielding often draws applause, has chosen to comment on it!

Another habit which has refused to go is India’s ability to let the things go adrift. The visitors would have been up 3-2 had they been proactive instead of letting Broad and Bopara construct the partnership of a lifetime at Old Trafford. On the positive side, they are still in the series with every chance to still make it four-three.

Aussie saga

The Australians continued to make waves in the Indian media, but for wrong reasons. World Cup winning Captain Kapil Dev was rated a poor 40th in Warne’s Top-50 list (below the likes of Harmison and Reid!) while Mark Waugh was mentioned ahead of Kumble and Dravid. However, one of world's greatest ever players did make amends by putting Sachin on top of the list of his contemporary players! Even ahead of Lara simply for the nightmares he gave him in the nineties.

However, Tendulkar was making news of his own with some solid ODI displays in England which were the cornerstones of both of India’s wins at Bristol and Headingly. He looked at remarkable ease, the kind of which he had shown in some of his best ODI innings. The master blaster must also have been pleased for Sourav Ganguly, his most faithful and prolific ODI partner, who became only the fourth player in ODI history to reach 11,000 runs this week, and tenth player to play 300 ODIs.

To ensure that the players of such class perform even better, the Indian Board told media that it had advertised for Coach’s position. The obsession refuses to go so what if the Indian team won the honours in tests in Bangladesh and England under makeshift coaches!

Speed braker?

Malcolm Speed came to promote Twenty20 World Cup, but left with countless quotes on the irrelevance of ICL. Predictably, he called it a get-together of faded stars and fringe players. However, the joining of Damien Martyn, who may have retired but remains a star, gave a new boost to ICL. So did the proposed investment of 100 million dollars by an American company.

The very fact that despite PCB ‘persuasions, names like Razzaq, Yousuf and Farhat are unwilling to leave ICL radar, shows that the new movement is picking up. With a Delhi court restraining PSUs from sacking employees who had joined ICL, the rebel players will only get bolder, and the League stronger.

On ICL, Australian great Lillee was bang on point when he said that this is certainly not as great a venture as Kerry Packer’s. After all, Packer took the cream away from most of the World Teams. Still, the nascent body is giving BCCI points to ponder.

Players like Aakash Chopra, Raina and Tiwary, who could have been cooling their heels for long time, can be thankful that their good work from now on will surely get more and more opportunities from a more humane BCCI. An organisation, which only this week got richer by 173 crores thanks to the sponsorship deal with WSG for three years (Over three crore per match) must become more accountable to its stakeholders including public and cricketers.

Meanwhile, one word about the significance of the name of the complex where ICL is holding its training camp. It is Mayajaal. The BCCI might translate it Maya’s (Money’s) Jaal (Web)! That is how they have projected the venture so far.