Friday, November 30, 2007

Jaffa calls the shots at Eden

from 22/175, Bazaar Road, Mumbai to taking centrestage at arguably the greatest cricket ground in the world, it has been a long and bumpy ride for the elegant wasim jaffer. we hope, after this trip to the eden gardens, he'll stay on track and finally give india the great opening batsman she has so long craved for. the determination and perseverance that wasim jaffer has shown in weathering the ups and downs of his career so far make us think we might have found one of the two men we'll so desperately need to compete against australia in australia. now if only we can somehow locate the old virendar sehwag, life would be truly beautiful. that said, wasim jaffer in full flow does make for some very comely viewing.

on a day when half the pakistani team was indisposed with some ailment or the other and the rest that were on the field going through their shambolic motions rather than trying to play a competitive game of test cricket, the indian batsmen must have felt like kids given a free reign in a candy-laden store. that a radar-less sohail tanvir was forced to bowl a spell of leg spin and the peerless shoaib akhtar managed only 9 overs...yes, 9 overs of impotent fast-medium on this the first day of a most important test match for pakistan is a sad reflection of the mismatch this series is fast turning out into and, if we may be forward enough to add, the sad state of this lawson-coached, leaderless pakistani team. rahul and sachin must be kicking themselves for not going on and doing a jaffer, while dinesh kartik will hope his generosity for taking on the much avoided make-shift opener's job is rewarded with an equal, if not greater, dose of selectorial largesse while picking the team for the tour of australia.

while a contest more one-sided than admiral horatio nelson is not quite our cup of see, tpr is certainly over-the-top of cloud 9 to note that wasim jaffer is finally turning into the batsman he has long threatened to be - in, of course, the characteristically non-threatening manner he goes about conducting all his business. after the pretty little 50 he stroked his way to in the last test at kotla, this was, indeed, the main course we were hungrily waiting to dig into.'s not over. it is our heartfelt hope that he will not do a sourav on us tomorrow morning by getting himself out without making a big, big one. it's high time the blue-in-the-face billion got itself another triple centurion in tests. no? yes. (sigh, where oh where is that sehwag?)

tpr hopes that these pakistanis quickly find their mojo and come to the party - fact is, this indian team desperately needs a fosters-like wake-up call prior to the series of much sterner tests that await them down under. unfortunately, as is often the case with pakistan, in the absence of a strong leader they look quite incapable of playing a sound, consistent game. then again, as the mother of all cliches with respect to pakistani cricket go, they're most dangerous when down...but not quite out. and on that optimistic note, tpr - in a flash of utterly un-tpr-like initiative - is off to find the lost sehwag. lagey raho, jaffer!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Guess Who - An Auld Game

the first time we watched this player do his thing, we wondered how someone who looked so vulnerable against the far-far-from-fearsome likes of venkatesh prasad managed to get away with so much. over time we realised it had much to with the fact that this man had a bit of atherton in him. and a bit of marvan too. and sunny gavaskar. and border - in fact, a lot of border...and a kiwi, too. oddly enough, for someone who was so much like so many other very fine players, he had few of the talents that his copiously endowed half-brother possessed. thankfully, with the kind of skills he had, or not, he was smart enough never to try and emulate his lavishly gifted half-sibling. quite obviously, he was never the kind of player crowds would travel great distances to watch. and yet, he was always the player in his side that opposition teams would try their hardest to see the back of. for a while, it looked like there were one or two surefire ways to send him on his way back to the pavillion. until, as was characteristic of his nature, he went back to the drawing board and devised a way to plug these seemingly glaring technical loopholes. perhaps it was the hairstyle or the fact that he didn't smile all that much, but he always seemed a little older than he was. calm and level-headed, he brought a healthy degree of common sense to the art of batting, which possibly explains why off the field and in the dressing room the dafter side of his personality surfaced. he enjoyed particular success on the sub-continent - where other players have floundered against the turning ball. might that be the reason he chose to come back? answer in comments.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

BCCI commissions 'Guru Gary'

it never fails to amuse us how many times we're presented with the opportunity to say 'we told you so'. and so, repeatedly amused, we'll say this, again, we told you so.

it has come to our considered notice that certain people of considerable power in the bcci are asking certain other people who are not 'in' the bcci to come up with a suitable response to that hurtful piece of emotional drivel guru 'the not-so-great' greg okayed in the equally not-so-great documentary titled 'guru greg'.

these certain people in the bcci, who are believed to be the very secretive and invisible readers of tpr, swiftly cottoned in on how popular the term 'guru gary' is likely to become and so to make the most of the advertising revenues that will accrue from this imminent spike in the google-wordiness of 'guru gary', they have decided to produce a reality show in which the transparent process of choosing guru gary will be aired like dirty laundry in 13 equal episodes.

the participants of the already documented show were of course not aware that they were being recorded. which makes us more certain than the likelihood of another selectorial snafu that the bcci has a surefire hit on her hands. (no, no. it is only fair that tpr gets no partake of it.)

out in the blue corner - in what we suspect is a shrewd move to welcome the man whose job he nearly killed to have - guru greg is believed to have initiated hectic parleys with the assistance of the dashing, ambitious and scheming lalit modi to corner all the media noise and once-again reiterate that what he would like most is to be left alone.

First look: Guru Gary

first of all, let's drop the 'kirsten' from gary. for gary is way different from his far more talented brother kirsten. and that's what makes tpr certain as another sachin 90 that he's the right man for the job. what do you mean, what job? there is only one job worth thinking about. it's the job of the coach of the indian team. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome guru gary. the new, improved avataar of john wright? the doosra though doesn't think so. if tpr were into betting, it'd put all its ill-gotten gains as a moonlighting cricket writer on the distinct possibility that tpr will be proven wrong in investing his hopes on the unknown as a parsvnath share, guru gary. who? perfect. but, the doosra still seems to think chappell was the right man for the job. and the indian team wrong in rejecting him. maybe the doosra is right. tpr is known to has been proven spectacularly wrong in its predictions. case in point: misbah-ul-haq for the next inzy? hah! salman butt, shooting up like a reliance share? the stock market. we'll have to wait and see. misbah is flaky. salman is inconsistent. yes. and yes. but...they've got personality. what personality? we'll have to wait and see. its that personality they've got that makes us bet on them. and reluctantly laud the indian selectors for getting it right. that's three times in a row they've done the right thing. let's make them stock-pickers. note to self: put together that stock market meets cricket game. spend less time writing this unknown blag. right. but why does tpr like so much guru gary? the perfect time, we think, to move to the next paragraph.

tpr can't help but fall back on the obvious and draw our non-existent audience's attention to the last good coach the india stars had. he was a left handed opening bat. he was dour as scrub. doughtier than the oldest piece of nan. dogged as a porn star and boringer than growing grass, he was reliable as a chappati. his was a talent as run-of-the-mill as daily bread - which, he made the most of. no, the answer we're coming to is not guru gary. but it could be. we've never met coach wright but from what we've seen of him as a player and a coach, he was the perfect personality for that india side. ditto with respect to coach gary who we gut-feelingly believe in our...umm, gut, is the right personality to coach this india.

big names need coaches with complimentary and complementary personalities. often these coaches have to deal with being things that don't do much more than ply players to various places. greg chappell, mbe would never have been able to coach shane warne. the indian team is full of shane warnes. and that's why the india stars will not be coached by a richards or a sunil gavaskar or a kapil dev - who in any case is banned because he's now part of the icl, bless his simple soul - or even the most beloved greg chappell. they need someone like gary or gary or gary. its pretty obvious, we think guru gary is perfect. most of all, simply put, in a nutshell, last but not the least and - insert parting cliche here - because he doesn't think he's a guru. the doosra, though...never mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sourav survives Kotla test

so we started writing this match report a few hours ago until we asked ourselves what's the big idea writing something that dilip, over at the doosra, will do a predictably evocative job of. and so he has.

dilip has said almost everything that needs to be said about india's gabbaesque record at the kotla. almost. thankfully, he has left us with one or two things more that are worth writing home about, one of which - the sourav show - we will proceed to dwell upon in some detail.

after a typically loose dismissal through the gate in the first innings, a typically chancy contribution with the ball and the bat in the second effort ensured that the 'long in the tooth but far from short on determination' bengal tiger lived to fight another day...and two more test matches. good on him.

luckily for captain kumble and sourav, the latter managed to somehow successfully negotiate shoaib's thunderbolts during a most crucial time of the match last evening. where a more adventurous captain might have considered sending in dhoni at the fall of dravid's wicket, kumble, as is his wont, did what was expected of him.

against a more inventive and better endowed team than malik's pakistan, kumble will have to demonstrate more initiative in order to deal better with challenges involving the likes of brett lee, mitchell johnson and company. it'll be interesting to see how much extra over the ordinary our new captain is likely to be. or not. we think not.

the next test is going to be held at the eden gardens. we wonder what sourav, laxman and dravid, all of whom have fond memories of this one of the world's more dramatic cricketing venues, will serve up for us.

the last time the indian's played pakistan here, it took shoaib akhtar two balls to change the complexion of the game. two magic balls. balls even more magical than the one he bowled to breach the wall's defenses in the kotla test. a feast awaits us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Guess Who - An Auld Game

this player reminds me of the marvelous marvan atapattu. like marvan, once this player gets his eye in, he's hard to dislodge. like marvan, it's very rare that this player will not make a start count. and, finally, a bit more like marvan, if you scan this player's stats, you'll find that he either makes very little or quite a lot. so much so, even their career batting averages are more or less the same. and yet, he has a long, long way to go before he can be considered as sound and as determined as marvan. he has time. because, unlike marvan - who has called it a day - this young man promises his fans many more days of elegant cricket. apart from marvan, who else might this player remind us of. well, he's a bit like vinod kambli. that said, when it comes to his methods against fast bowling, he's a cut above vinod kambli. he's also a bit like sachin tendulkar. then again, when it comes to his methods against fast bowling, he's a few notches below the little master. speaking of which, if he tightens up his defense and works on his concentration (sooner rather than later), this man has it in him to be the next rahul dravid. interestingly enough, he shares at least two things in common with mr. navjot singh siddhuism - neither of which has anything to do with the genial sikh's penchant for mouthing off. it's pettily unfair to say this, but it might be useful to point out that he nearly lost us the first test match of this series against pakistan at the ferozshah kotla. fortunately when he got his chance to make amends, he didn't disappoint. were it not for him, india would find it impossible to win - if not any, certainly many test matches - abroad. shoaib akhtar, malcolm marshall, dennis lilee, kapil dev, curtly ambrose, brett lee and mashrafe mortaza are not just the names of some very fine and fearsome cricketers, they also happen to be our final set of clues. any clue who this smoggy word-picture of ours is, quite clearly, alluding to? answer in comments.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

First look: Misbah-ul-Haq

for starters, the one batsman misbah most reminds me of is the titan with whom he shares a part of his name and whose not-so-inconsiderable boots he was brought back into the pakistani side to fill - inzaman-ul-haq. (even more so, after he found yet another inventive method to get himself out in this his first test against arch-rivals, india.)

thanks to misbah contriving to come up with ever original ways to terminate the nerveless sojourns his knocks have a happy habit of turning into, my top 3 inzy 'dismissal bloopers' are quickly being replaced by 'mindless misbahs'. but devising farcical ways of ending until then chanceless plays isn't the only reason this late bloomer from mianwali, punjab, reminds me of the mountain from multan.

unlike other mortal players who need a few 10 deliveries or two to find their feet, misbah, right from the ball go, looks - quite in the manner of the the gentle giant - utterly unflappable. also, much like inzy, misbah's backfoot play is far more assured than the tentative pokes he is reduced to dabbling in when drawn forward. (note to clueless opposition bowlers.)

if inzy fell on his wicket to get himself dismissed off a panesar delivery, misbah 'jumped' to his doom. if inzy blocked a throw from the fielder because he, blithely, thought the ball was no longer in play (when it very much was), misbah lovingly guided a ball that was decidedly rather wide and outside the off-stump all the way back to his leg stump. and if inzy was the man pakistan depended on to counter quality fast bowling in the past, misbah is the man they will turn to in the future.

with the mercurial nature of the two immensely talented Ys in the team hanging like a sword over the young skipper shoaib malik's head, tpr firmly believes that misbah is the rock pakistan's opponents will have to work hardest to find a way around and a thorn the size of kashmir that india will repeatedly have to contend with. assuming of course, misbah doesn't make it his business to do the job himself with more 'inzys', make that 'misbahs'.

First look: Captain Kumble

today was a day when the pakistani batsman chose to do newly made captain kumble a big favour by deciding to entertain everyone around by getting out for what seemed like the fun of it. maybe they were just too bored of playing on this still, cold, smoggy delhi winter day and thought it fit to instead play games with silliness.

india's newly appointed skipper, anil 'very old' kumble will be praying for more such days in his time at the helm of affairs. with a team that very much resembles dad's army, he'll need them all when he comes up against the intimidating force of australia.

perfect as it might have looked, tpr is sadder than a soft-boiled cynic to report that anil kumble's innings as captain promises to be just like his one and only test century. gritty, jumpy, exciting, boring, pedestrian, inspired, earnest, a lot less than brilliant. and contradictary.

tpr is graciously inclined to agree with the pundits' view that a player's captaincy generally tends to mirror the manner in which he plys his primary skill - batting or bowling. (which might explain why jonty 'fielder' rhodes never became captain.) though, in mike brearely's case, his primary skill must have been captaincy. for a long time, sourav's primary skill, too, seemed to be captaining 'his' team.

speaking on about captain kumble, tpr would now like to play turncoat and dispense to all of india's oppenents a piece of information fresher than yesterday's news. kumble's captaincy will be like his skills - 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. opponents will lose the plot if they attempt to over-rate and over-analyse him. furthermore, in the true traditions of unasked for advice, we will profess to kumble and his think tank this one piece of gyan. be advised that the aussies will come at you a lot harder. much, much harder than this pakistani team that is turning out to be even softer than their captain's smile. nothing this lot of most-oftenly uninspired pakistanis can throw at you will prepare you for what the mighty australians have in their mentally-disintegrating store for you.

as my link buddy, dililp 'the doosra' premchandran wrote, the only way to, compete with the aussies is to first play out of your own skin and play as a team. to which we'd like to add, definitely more so, when you are led by a captain who's not the best man for the job. only the perfect man under the circumstances.

in passing, tpr has this to say about the last few captaincies. if sourav's was all to human to sometimes superhuman and dravid's captaincy was a case of a superhuman proving to be all too human. kumble's turn at the job, tpr predicts, will be an under-appreciated one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Guess Who - An Auld Game

george orwell. apple. big brother. artist. braggart. baby. he's a ball of emotions. he can't play short-pitched bowling. but boy, can he play on the off-side. don't want to take tpr's word for it. just ask dravid. god. (that's another clue.) so how far we from deciphering tpr'a latest doosra? is the doosra a clue? no. oh, all right, let's keep going. he played pool with greg chappell. he played with, against and all around flintoff. off the record, dravid might have played against him. he first made a comeback with rahul dravid. he then made his debut with rahul dravid. he is the opposite of dravid. as far as tpr is concerned, he is the first man to give rebirth to another person. trust us. we know what we are saying. we were there. and we saw him give rebirth to a kicking, screaming, spinning harbhajan singh. tpr knows the australians like his presence about as much as being in the vicinity of a cocky kiwi. no, even less. that's right, that how much! let's make this even clearer. as clear as an aussie sledge. the australians don't effing like him. all the more reason, tpr effing loves him. and...oh, the ball has gone high up in the air. there's a fielder who's getting under it...oh, never mind, it's him. it's gonna be dropped. actually, tpr hates him only a little less than tpr loves him - which is a lot of love and hate put together. enjoy him while he's still around. which won't be for very long. sniff. answer in comments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reverse Swing

when the match-fixing scandal broke in the late 90s, we at tpr felt more shattered by it than an indian muslim's confidence in the state of gujarat. so much so, that tpr vowed not to cover, watch, live and love any more cricket. ever.

for the next few years, tpr went into exile and moved to the cold, remote confines of montreal, canada where cricket is a sport regularly confused with croquet. there, alone, hurt and in need of healing, we stole disingenuously disinterested peeks at the state of the game for signs of a new beginning.

time and again, tpr would try not-so-hard not to follow matches. only to find it as impossible to resist the temptations of the game as a reluctant celibate might the offer of a night of free sex with mandira 'noodle straps' bedi.

furthermore, tpr would constantly remind itself with the metronomic regularity of Glenn McGrath and a ball-counting umpire put together that cricket, once sullied by match-fixing, was now being run solely according to the whims and fancies of global corporations. (truth be told, the jury is still out on that one.)

but what made tpr well and truly swing back into the fold of the devoted, obsessive and unequivocal cricket fan, was the young indian brigade's unburdened performance at the t20 world cup. after that, tpr was back to being as totally fida on cricket as a stalker might be over his victim.

sometimes, it only takes a breath of fresh air to blow away the cobwebs of the past and generate much reverse swing.

The Guess Who - An Auld Game

the senior players can't get along with him. his methods have been described by a few as harebrained and unfathomable. it seems like his ego gets in the way. he has seen the departure of one very accomplished captain. he might oversee the departure of another accomplished-player captain. he is a former player who played with an almost overbearing sense of self-belief, which he tends to bring to his current job, unfortunately. people from within and without his cricketing circles have been calling for his head. remarkably enough, he has held his job for a lot longer than his record seems to justify it. he is not greg chappell. TRP, though, thinks he makes a very worthy case for being called the poor man's greg chappell. like many of his countrymen, he has a chip the size of australia on his shoulder with respect to the relative location and significance of the land he comes from. (no, he is not from pakistan, sri lanka or bangladesh.) what's common between him and greg chappell is john wright. another thing that might be common between him and greg chappell is that this man is very likely to show the finger to people he doesn't care much for. he was welcomed with much fanfare and great expectations. he has overstayed his welcome. Who is he? answer in comments.

Marvelous Marvan

one of the hardest things to do is say goodbye when you're still at the top of your game. it's even harder when you feel you have something left to prove and know you can. tpr of course had no such problems when saying goodbye to copywriting. marvan atapattu has done just that. tpr would like to take a little time out to salute him for it.

in a cricket world where old warhorses find it increasingly hard to listen to their creaking bodies, marvan has chosen an almost perfect time to put in his papers. at 37, the 'all or nothing' batsman has lambasted his detractors, proved them wrong with his performance and, better still, not given them another chance to get even by disciplining him. now that's what we call superb timing. (something marvan didn't have in spades as a player.)

marvan, the player was an athertonesque-performer who personified determination, determination and...more determination. initially, and still, remembered for his incredible, zero-filled debut series, marvan went on to make more, and bigger, double hundreds than rahul dravid and sachin tendulkar. which just goes to prove that it's best not to lay too much emphasis on first impressions.

what are the odds of an indian player with a similarly horrifying run of ducks, going on to have a career as long and illustrious as marvan's? most likely, zero.

in passing, tpr would like to draw the readers' attention to a certain sourav ganguly, a player infinitely more talented than marvan and blessed with a superb sense of timing, which seems to have sadly deserted him.

happily for sourav, in recent times, he seems to have buttressed his always silken skills with a healthy dose of marvanesque grit. we sincerely hope the great man will give us an opportunity to do a 'marvan' for him. after all, the last thing we'd want to say is something heart-breaking like 'enough sourav'. enough TPR.

Salman Butt - Power Pak'd Performer

now that the odi series between pakistan and india is over, it's time for us to quickly say what we don't get an opportunity to say as often as we'd like to. we told you so.

we told you salman butt was going to perform well in the just finished odi series against india. the minute we saw him compile that little gem of a fifty in the first odi, despatching pathan, sreesanth and gang with minimum fuss through cover and other areas in the V, we knew this was going to be a special series for the handsome young man with shots that look almost as good as him.

shoaib malik would be well advised to cultivate this man and lean on him. for salman butt has a smart head on those broad shoulders of his. and it shows. most of all, it showed in his decision to give up the vice-captaincy to concentrate on his batting. it takes a courageous, ruthless, mature and ambitious young man to deny himself the quite significant honour of being second-in-command at such a young age - he's only 23.

consider very carefully the adjectives we are pinning on him. for these are the very same qualities that will stand him in good stead when he is one day offered the poisoned chalice of leading pakistan, as he most certainly will be.

the thing is, we somehow don't believe the gentle, simple and immensely talented shoaib malik is cut out for the job he has currently been entrusted with. if you were to ask us who we think will be leading pakistan in a year or two from now, we'd be inclined to plump for the shrewd butt.

and when (not if) that happens, we'll, once again, eagerly say what we don't get an opportunity to say as often as we'd like to. we told you so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Welcome back, Greg

so greg chappell is in the news again. and again. (the last being a long interview with prem of rediff on the methods he guru and ian fraser are putting into practice at the rajasthan cricket academy.)

of late, we admit, we've been seriously wondering why the great man has come back to the country that treated him quite shabbily the first time he was here? and, more importantly, why do the powers-that-be that run cricket at various levels in india want him back? very simple answer: because greg chappell, mbe, is good. very, very good.

there, now that we've said it, let's look at some of the things he's not so good at. he's not very good at suffering fools gladly. he's not very good at dealing with people who question his authority. he's not very good at managing fragile, and king-sized, egos. but, he is a bloody good mind; probably the best in the world of cricket today.

greg's approach to cricketing problems focusses on the mind-games that constitute a large part of the doing process. time and again, we're told how almost everything in life, give or take a few thoughtless ventures, is about overcoming the challenges, the demons and the fears in the mind. this is where greg chappell excels. and that's why TPR is humblingly pleased to hear that greg is playing a big role in the grooming of talent at the junior levels.

we think greg is in the right place. young minds are easier to train. young minds carry less baggage. young minds don't walk around like they know it all. young minds are malleable. and young minds are open to new ideas. and greg's strength is great ideas. his weakness, though, is that he treats everyone under his charge like a student. sometimes, oftentimes, most times that approach doesn't work with people who already have a few big achievements under their belt.

we're quite certain rajasthan cricket, in particular, and indian cricket, in general, will benefit immensely from this visionary move by the much-maligned, and equally admired, lalit modi to bring on board chappell's expertise for the betterment of cricket in india and sincerely hope guru greg, mbe, will have a good second innings in this emotionally racial country.

all said and done, chappell brings to the table many qualities that the parochial, small-minded, clannish, backward-looking ex-player coaches we've seen plenty of, never did, or ever will.

make no mistake, tpr is certain as ever that indian cricket needs more foreign coaches. we just have to make sure we put them, and their different personalities, in the right jobs. (something we learnt the hard way, after being fired from a host of jobs we were temperamentally and egotistically wrong for.)

Young Pakistan defeats Young India

TPR liked what it saw from team pakistan today. they had fire. they had presence. they were aggressive. they fielded a lot better. they batted with purpose. they competed. and, most of all, they won.

thank allah that pakistan triumphed today. this win from them, and wake up call for india, will make for a better test series. this win will, we hope, remind shoaib how much more he can bring to this pakistan side.

we think it helped shoaib and pakistan that shoaib and younus khan were not in the side. quite obviously, it allowed him to assert himself. the replacement wicket-keeper, too, sarfraz was a brilliant addition. ignoring the error he made when he missed a relatively simple opportunity to stump the dangerous yuvi, he was an electric presence behind the stumps. goodbye kamran. hello sarfraz. at least, for now. (after all, you can never tell with the rising stars in pakistan cricket. they have an infuriating habit of falling by the wayside.)

even though, india lost this match, dhoni and team did a lot of things right today. they got a good look at praveen kumar in pressure situations. we think he's passed his debut test with above average marks and could make for a sturdy complement to pathan. something, we're sure, the think tank will agree with us on.

no question about it. rohit sharma needs to be spanked on his baby-cheeked bottom for giving it away and depriving us all of the pleasures of watching him glide his way to a maiden, match-winning hundred. 'something you must never hold against us if he doesn't make it' tells us this boy is cut out for big things.

in other observations, tpr is pleased to...umm, report that the joyous celebrations by team india at the end of a match they lost convincingly was a...well, joy to behold. it said good things about the state of this indian team.

finally, and below all, we're most pleased for the charmingly guile-less shoaib malik, young captain of pakistan. we think this team, like india's, performs better in its younger avataar.

Sehwag saves Sourav. And others.

by failing in this last odi against pakistan, sehwag has given sourav a last chance to extend his odi career. as far as we was concerned, a fifty from sehwag would have closed the door on dada. but it was not to be.

as it stands, in the eyes of the selectors, sourav will probably live to fight another day. or let's put it this way, the pressure is a wee bit lesser on sourav now to perform in the test matches. and he didn't have to do much for it.

a not quite cooked sehwag cooked his own goose by not taking the godsend opportunities he was given by the selectors to rediscover his form in the longer version of the odi game. as a result, sourav, in all probability will make the 11 for the first test match, at the expense of sehwag. and laxman.

after the just concluding odi series against pakistan, dravid will be heaving a sigh of relief. sourav's brow will be one furrowed less. and laxman's place in the test side will look a little more certain. all because sehwag hasn't yet found his mojo.

rahul, laxman, sourav, yuvraj and sehwag: 5 warriors. all competing fiercely for 3 places in the test side. TPR will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings. and our crystal balls. and then there's rohit sharma. who deserves an exclusive look at from TPR. the prospect of which, we are truly looking forward.

we really, really, really like what we see of the young lad. in an altogether nice way, of course. we think there's a bit of damien martyn, rahul dravid and ricky martin about him. and we mean that too in an altogether nice way, of course. if you know what we mean. and if you don't, please do watch this space. for TPR will be back. shortly.

PS: mind you, TPR thinks dada should do the honourable thing and retire from odmatches. and we sincerely hope he'll prove us wrong.

Has Sourav played his last ODI?

while dada is still a good enough bat to open the innings with sachin in odis, is 'good' good enough to have him in the squad? so, as much as i hate to and hard as i find it to, it's time to impartially consider the case of dada.

a quick resource check reveals that we have gambhir and sehwag who - on current form - are more effective momentum players at the top of the order than dada.

furthermore, both gambhir and even the not-so-nimble sehwag are better fielders than the creaky prince of calcutta.

next, is dada good enough to be in this team as an opening batsman who can bowl a few good overs? not anymore. unfortunately. lately, dada doesn't look like he has the strength to bowl more than 3 to 4 overs of his dibbly-dobblies on the trot.

during his heyday, dada was an audacious, destructive batsman at the top of the order and a clever swing bowler who could be depended upon to snaffle a wicket or two with his surprisingly effective medium pace. nowadays, he is but a shadow of that brassy self, and hardly much of a dada.

if dada is 'dropped' for today's match against pakistan and either sehwag or gambhir - whoever is likely to be asked to open with sachin - fire, what are the old warhorse's chances of making it to the odi team again? not very good, i'm afraid.

dada had a quiet to middling odi series against the aussies in india. and has followed that up with a rather poor series against this underdone pakistani attack that is sorely missing the firepower of old. and asif.

today's match against pakistan might well be dada's last chance to re-assert himself as a one-day player. the question is, will dada be given this opportunity to show us how good he used to be?

if this indian team really wants to win every match it plays, dada is the one who will most likely sit out of the final odi in jaipur. assuming that is what happens, on what grounds can he be picked for the next set of odis, which will be in australia?

dada was always a better one-day player than a test batsman. often, he was lucky to make it to the test eleven at the expense of laxman. now, there is laxman and a rejuvenated yuvraj to contend with for a place in the middle order in tests.

in my book, both laxman and yuvraj make a stronger case for inclusion in the test team going down under. and that leaves dada with only one more match to persuade the selectors that he's still good enough to play odis.

dravid was not given the lifeline he so badly needed to find his form in what has turned out to be an easy series against pakistan for the indian batsmen. will dada? we'll have to wait and see.

i would argue that if dada does not play in today's match against pakistan in jaipur, he hasn't done enough to book himself a ticket to australia. and that, if nothing else, should be a very good reason to tune into today's odi, because it might well be his last - assuming they play him.

and if they don't, there's always the attraction of seating yourself in front of the telly to watch sachin blast his way to yet another 90-something score.

First look: Praveen Kumar

In this edition of TPR, A quick look at Praveen Kumar.

he seems like a skiddy bowler with a slightly round-arm action. could be a dangerous proposition because he can swing the ball both ways. has something about him that reminds me of agarkar. thankfully, he doesn't look as fragile as agarkar. in fact, praveen kumar looks like a strong, broad-shouldered lad who has spent long hours bowling long spells under the hot sun. not fair, lovely and delicate like you-know-who.

might praveen kumar be an all-rounder for india who can take some of the load and the pressure of irfan pathan? we'll have to wait and see. suffice it to say, if praveen kumar, the bowler, can bowl a 2/45 in 9 overs and make a good 30 to 50 runs every three or four innings he plays, he'll prove to be an invaluable addition to this side.

it' very, very early days, but so far what we have seen of praveen kumar, we like. he seems to have a good temperament, a big heart and some useful skills. most of all, we like the fact that he was able to keep salman butt quiet; something not pathan, not zak, not rp or for that matter sreesanth has been able to do in the series so far.

full marks for dhoni and the indian think tank for throwing the ball to him and making him open the bowling. and full marks to praveen kumar for not doing a steve harmison and turning out to be a nervous wreck.

Mahela tosses away the series

graham gooch made azhar pay for inserting england in on a wicket which held no devils - the indians compounded the blunder by letting him off when he was on less than 30. as some of you might recall, Gooch went on to make 333 in the first innings of that test match and followed that up with a hundred in the second innings. it goes without saying england won.

does it also go without saying that sri lanka will lose the first test at brisbane on account of jayawardene's 'gallipolian' blunder? (sangakkara, jayawardene's closest rival for the captaincy, couldn't have chosen a better test to injure himself out of.)

lovers might recall that nasser hussain, too, had kicked off his ill-fated ashes campaign down under with something similarly god-forsaken. and it is in the light of this and historical data that us well-wishers of this indian team urge kumble not to entertain any thoughts of putting australia in in the first test match of the upcoming series down under. in fact, in most test matches against australia, it's best to bat first; because the way to beat australia is to think like them. and 9 times out of 10, australia will bat first when they win the toss.

nasser didn't. he paid for it with the full series. jayawerdene hasn't. will murali pay for it with fewer wickets? on evidence of his tight spells in the first innings, the australian batsman are far from comfortable against him and things might have been very different for him, had the lankans shown the confidence to bat first. we hope, for the sake of drama, that murali will get his chance to bowl at them with a big total in the bank and take a clutch of wickets during the rest of the series.

in other news, i think it's a good move on the 'wise men's' part to appoint kumble as captain for the tests against pakistan and australia. i believe this will bring out the best from this always-improving cricketer.

logically speaking, it makes perfect sense that dhoni - probably our most valuable odi cricketer - is at the helm of the side in the shorter versions of the game and kumble - whose contributions are most critical in tests - the captain for senior-most avataar of the great game. it also helps that kumble has retired from odis to concentrate on test matches. seeing the way the aussies are steamrolling the lankans, two heads at the top are most certainly going to be a lot more calmer and less-pressured than one.

in the meantime, let's hope we can iron out the numerous chinks in our armour over the course of the engagements against our very friendly and very convivial neighbours. oddly enough, I don't feel so bad that we lost to pakistan. is it just me or is pakistan no longer our enemy number 1 on the cricket field? and if so, who is?

ask me, and i'll tell you i'm happy we don't hate the pakistanis as much as we used to. what used to be played out on the cricket field in the days gone by wasn't cricket. it was cricket adulterated. it was, to echo the title of the very absorbing book by mike marqusee, 'war minus the shooting'.

a less vitriolic india v/s pakistan bodes well for the future of the sub-continent. in fact, we fervently hope india v/s australia doesn't become what india v/s pakistan used to be.

Happy Divali from Pakistan

Shahid Afridi provided the pyrotechnics as Pakistan crashed India's Divali celebrations.

Blame the batsman for muffing up a great platform provided by Sachin and Gambhir to put up a score of about 350. And no matter what the atrocious commentators said, as long as Pakistan had wickets in hand and 'Boom Boom Afridi' was still to come, any asking rate was going to be gettable.

Despite some shrewd bowling changes from Dhoni and the suicidal dismissals of Malik, Misbah and Younus Khan, which nearly won India the match, it was too little too late.

One might be tempted to blame the bowlers for not being able to defend what seems like an insurmountable total. But on a true, hard wicket like this one, anything less than 325 was going to be very hard to hold on to.

Should Dhoni have fielded on winning the toss. No. He did the right thing by batting and backing his strength. It made sense to bat after going into the match with an extra resource because you must always play to your strength.

India lost the match when Sehwag and Yuvi went in quick succession; the departure of Dhoni for very little was the final nail in the coffin. And that's the bottomline.