Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Zaheer Khan, Isha Sharvani may wed in 2011

Talks about a raging romance between cricketer Zaheer Khan and actress Isha Sharvani have been around for a long time. the handsome couple is forever breaking up and making up.

Well, this time they have made up, and have decided to take their relationship a step further, or so we hear.

Yes, if sources are to be believed, Isha and Zaheer plan to get engaged by the end of this year, and married soon after. "They will get engaged by the end of 2011. At least that's what the plan is," we are told. However, a friend of the actress insists that marriage is going to wait and isn't round the corner for Isha.

The buzz about a shaadi between Zaheer and Isha is pretty strong though, this time round.

Indian pace attack strike back against West Indies

BRIDGETOWN: India's pacemen brought them back into the second Test against West Indies, after they suffered a batting collapse on the first day on Tuesday.

Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, and Test newcomer Abhimanyu Mithun all collected a wicket apiece to leave West Indies in tatters on 30 for three, in reply to India's first innings total of 201 at the close.

Sharma made the breakthrough, when he had Adrian Barath caught at gully for three in the fourth over, and next over, Praveen Kumar had Lendl Simmons caught behind for two, leaving West Indies five for two.

Darren Bravo joined Ramnaresh Sarwan, and stemmed the fall of wickets before the left-hander was caught behind for nine from the penultimate ball of the day from Mithun.

Earlier, India were given further cause to usher in the use of the umpire decision review system.

Left-hander Suresh Raina was dubiously dismissed for 53, triggering a batting collapse that saw the Indians lose their last five wickets for 34 runs in the space of 55 balls.

Raina was caught at forward short leg off West Indies leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo for 53, following a 117-run, fifth-wicket stand with VVS Laxman, whose 85 was the top score, and helped to rescue the visitors from a perilous 38 for four before lunch.

The left-hander was clearly upset by the decision from Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf, which television replays suggested was highly dubious, dropping his bat, staring in anger at the official, and swinging his bat in disgust.

Fidel Edwards then ran through the lower half of India's batting, removing their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for two, Harbhajan Singh for five, and Mithun for a duck, finishing with three for 56 from 19 overs.

Ravi Rampaul was the pick of the West Indies bowlers, with three for 38 from 16 overs, and Bishoo snared three for 46 from 14 overs.

Laxman reached his 50 from 75 balls, glancing Edwards to the fine leg boundary for his eight four, and Raina reached the landmark from 90 deliveries, paddling Bishoo to long-leg for a single.

The two batsmen ensured India did not lose a wicket between lunch and tea, after the top order were given a real going over by Rampaul, who exploited helpful conditions in taking three of the wickets to fall.

India suffered an early setback, when left-handed opener Abhinav Mukund was caught at gully for one off Rampaul in the second over of the day.

The Indians ran into further trouble, when Rahul Dravid, a century-maker in the first Test, was caught behind for five, playing defensively forward to a delivery from West Indies captain Darren Sammy.

Murali Vijay was fortunate on four, when he sliced a drive at a delivery from Sammy, and Bishoo failed to hold onto a low, diving chance at backward point.

India reached 13 for two from 14 overs after the first hour, failing to strike a boundary, but Laxman brought India their first four, when he pulled Sammy through wide mid-on.

But the Indians were jolted, when Rampaul had opener Murali Vijay caught behind down the leg side for a painstaking 11, and two deliveries later, Virat Kohli caught at second slip for a duck, fending a sharply rising delivery.

India are looking to wrap up their second straight Test series victory over West Indies in the Caribbean.

They will also be looking to create a piece of history by becoming the first Indian side to win a Test and One-day International series in the Caribbean - but they will also have to overcome their poor history here.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team still have cause for optimism though - following a 10-wicket defeat for Sourav Ganguly's side nine years ago, West Indies have lost six of the next eight Tests they have played at this venue.


Raina fined 25 per cent of match fee for showing dissent

BRIDGETOWN: Indian batsman Suresh Raina was fined 25 per cent of his match fee for a Level I breach in ICC's Code of Conduct on the first day of the second cricket Test against West Indies on Tuesday.

According to a release issued by the ICC, the batsman was found to have breached Article 2.1.3 of the code which relates to "showing dissent at an umpire's decision by action or verbal abuse".

After first day's play concluded, the left-handed batsman pleaded guilty and accepted the proposed sanction offered to him by match referee Chris Broad. The charge was brought by on-field umpires Asad Rauf and Billy Bowden as well as third umpire Gregory Brathwaite and fourth official Norman Malcolm.

The incident happened in the 56th over when Raina batting on 53 was given caught by forward short-leg fielder Adrian Barath off Devendra Bishoo's bowling. It was a late decision given by umpire Rauf and Raina was visibly unhappy with the decision .

The release states, "The batsman shook his head to indicate that he did not hit the ball which seemed to be an attempt to influence the umpire's decision. On being given out, he looked to the sky in disgust and then after picking his bat up from the ground swung it at the dirt as well as shaking his head again."

According to match referee Broad, it was "a clear breach of code."

"What Suresh did was a clear breach of the code, something the player himself has accepted. There is a fine line between showing disappointment at a dismissal and demonstrating dissent but on this occasion Suresh was well over that line and his behaviour was unacceptable," Broad was quoted as saying by the release.


ICC defers decision on scrapping rotational presidents

HONG KONG: The ICC on Wednesday deferred a decision on the planned scrapping of the rotational system of presidency but asked next-in-line Pakistan and Bangladesh not to nominate a candidate till a review of its governance structure before the next Executive Board meeting in October.

"The ICC Executive Board, following the strategic plan that was adopted in April and a firm recommendation from the Governance Review Committee on Wednesday, unanimously agreed to undertake urgently an independent review of the ICC governance structures and processes.

"The Board therefore decided to defer the proposed constitutional amendment to the nominations process for election of the ICC president and accordingly withdrew its proposal to the Annual Conference in this regard," the governing body said in a statement after the penultimate day of its annual conference.

The ICC Governance Review Committee had recommended that a wide-ranging, independent review should cover all governance-related matters including the possibility of appointing independent directors.

"The review will be required to be completed before the next ICC Executive Board meeting scheduled for October.

"In the meantime, both the Bangladesh Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board have given undertakings not to nominate a candidate for ICC vice-president before the external review is completed and the matter is again considered by the ICC Executive Board."

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said the review is needed to improve administration in the body.

"I wholeheartedly welcome an independent review of the entire ICC governance and regard this as a major step to meet stakeholder expectations and the high standards of a world-class organisation," he said.

Among other decisions taken on WEdnesday, the Pakistan Task Team presented a report comprising 63 recommendations covering areas of governance, cricket administration, playing structure, financial viability and communications.

The PTT comprises Giles Clarke (chairman), Mike Brearley, Peter Chingoka, Haroon Lorgat (ICC chief executive), Ranjan Madugalle, Ramiz Raja, and David Richardson (ICC general manager- Cricket).

"The report was adopted unanimously by the ICC Board and I am pleased that the PCB will consider this report at its next Board meeting," Lorgat said.

The ICC Executive Board also received a request from the PCB to consider hosting an ICC event in Pakistan in 2018.

But no discussion was held and "no assurances were given as the ICC has no confirmed event currently scheduled for 2018."

"We fully understand the PCB request and we will consider if it is possible to host an event in Pakistan subject to the standard safety and security clearances," said Lorgat.

The Board also discussed at length the World Cup held in the sub-continent. Though it hailed the event as a success, the ICC expressed its unhappiness at the fact that stadiums such as the Eden Gardens in Kolkata struggled to meet completion deadlines.

"Although the event was universally acclaimed as a success and one of the best cricket events in history, the report highlighted certain shortcomings around ticketing and stadia construction.

"Based on a recommendation from the Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee, the ICC Executive Board confirmed a revised policy that stadia hosting ICC global events must be match-ready at least six months before the event," it said.

"The directors also noted the appointment of forensic auditors to review ticketing during the ICC Cricket World Cup, including allegations of black marketeering," it added.

The Board noted that the Test match between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground, London starting on July 21 will be the 2,000th in history.

"We are planning to mark the occasion by celebrating this fantastic milestone. Test cricket is the pinnacle format of our game and I am confident that this series will confirm this enduring format in front of full houses," Lorgat said.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BCCI accepts diluted umpire review system

NEW DELHI: The Indian cricket board's long-standing showdown with the International Cricket Council over the Umpire Decision Review System seems to have been resolved, for the time being, with both sides treading a middle path over the contentious use of technological aids in the game. The ICC's chief executives' committee meeting in Hong Kong, which concluded on Monday, also recommended some path-breaking tweaks in the game.

The changes, if approved by the ICC executive board, will be unrolled from October 1. These include significant modifications to make ODIs more engrossing - like the use of a new ball from each end and making it mandatory for teams to take their elective powerplays between the 16th and 40th over.

Runners, long an integral part of cricket, will be outlawed from all forms of the game. An injured batsman can no longer ask a teammate to run for him. Recommendations have also been made for stricter penalties for captains guilty of slow over rates.

But the agreement on DRS hogged all the attention. The ICC has made its use mandatory, but removed the ball-tracking technology - which BCCI opposes - as an essential component of the system.

The compromise on the vexed UDRS issue is clearly a case of give and take between India, cricket's financial muscle, and the game's world body to resolve a damaging row which was threatening to split member nations.

Under the agreement, teams will be allowed to make one incorrect challenge to an on-field umpire's decision instead of the two challenges currently in use.

For the first time since 2008, Indian players will be using the DRS in the series against England in July. The BCCI, which has for long maintained that tracking tools like Hawkeye were unreliable, has accepted the use of infra-red cameras and audio-tracking devices.

"Once ICC understood our concerns, the BCCI had no issues in accepting the use of DRS," board vice-president Rajiv Shukla said. "Board president Shashank Manohar and secretary N Srinivasan made their reservations clear about some of the aspects of the DRS."

These reservations included Hawkeye and similar ball-tracking tools which will now only be used as a "bilateral agreement" between two willing nations.

Amid these attempts to resolve the issue, the modified DRS raises its own questions. While DRS has been made mandatory, the ICC has said that it is to be used subject to availability and cost considerations. Clear decisions on the huge cost-sharing process between host boards and broadcasters too are yet to emerge. The power of referral in leg-before decisions involving the line of the ball too has been taken away from the player and the final decision restored to the on-field umpire. The widespread availability of Hot Spot, a costly infra-red device to determine ball-deflection, too seems to be an issue.

England's ODI skipper Alastair Cook welcomed India's move to embrace the DRS, saying, "I believe DRS helps get more right decisions. I think technology to get those decisions right is the best way forward."

While it is likely to be an uphill task for the ICC to resolve outstanding issues amicably, what is clear is that the DRS is here to stay, and can only grow wing in future. With BCCI muscle in place, the approval of the executive board now seems a formality.

Meanwhile, minnows were given another lifeline after they protested against the ICC's decision to make the World Cup an exclusive, 10-team club, and a qualification process has been recommended for them without elaborating on the number of teams.

Salient features of ICC's cricket 2.0

ICC recommends a slew of changes in cricket. These proposals will be sent to the ICC executive board for ratification...

Yes to UDRS, no to Hawkeye

A restricted version of DRS, minus ball-tracking technologies like Hawkeye which predict the path of a delivery, will now be used in all Tests and ODIs DRS permitted to use infra-red cameras (Hot Spot) and audio-tracking devices. Number of unsuccessful reviews reduced from two to one. New system to be used in India-England series. Hawkeye can be used in bilateral series if both sides agree.

Victory for BCCI?

Indian board's grouse against DRS was Hawkeye, which it said was unreliable. ICC has taken care of this concern. ICC said 'expert' research will be carried out on accuracy of ball-tracking technology.

Will new rules plug controversy?

Unlikely. Questions remain on implementation. ICC has made DRS 'mandatory' subject to 'availability' and 'affordability'. Grey areas abound. LBW decisions will, in practice, go out of DRS ambit. Without technologies like Hawkeye showing where the ball had pitched, the third umpire won't have the tools to adjudicate. Availability of Hot Spot is an issue. Costs vary from $5,000 a day to $60,000 per match. A pact on cost-sharing between board and broadcasters seems unlikely.

Goodbye to runners

No runners to be allowed for injured batsmen in any form of the game.

ODIs tweaked

Elective Powerplays (batting or bowling) can only be used in 16th to 40th over. Two new balls to be used per innings. ICC members encouraged to try innovations in domestic matches like increasing maximum overs for bowler; increasing number of short balls per over and changing number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle in different periods of play.

Minnows get lifeline

ICC recommends a qualification process for the 2015 World Cup but is silent on the number of teams in the event


2nd Test: Munaf may lead three-pacer attack

BRIDGETOWN (Barbados): After a long time - considering fitness, strengths, weaknesses and the overall mindset where Tests are concerned - India will head into a game with a three-pronged pace attack. Munaf Patel, who missed the first Test because of a minor elbow injury, is back to fitness and along with Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, the bowler will lead India's attack.

Munaf's return to the squad will be at the cost of leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who picked three wickets in the first Test but was eventually found to be lacking the aggression and attacking instincts needed on a good spin-assisting wicket at Sabina Park.

In the last three years, India's pace attack has largely revolved around Zaheer Khan, either assisted by Ishant or Sreesanth, but both of them together on rare occasions. It is perhaps for the first time in the last three years that India will head into a Test with three pace bowlers which does not involve Zaheer and with one of the bowlers (Praveen) just one match old. Keeping in mind the busy season ahead and the confidence that Dhoni is ready to show in these pacers has to be a good sign for India's young bowling attack.

Munaf bowled for about an hour in the nets, stretched, engaged himself in a rigorous fielding session and interacted with Simons, Ishant and Praveen for long during a hectic training schedule on Sunday and Monday. As it turns out, the bowler wasn't so injured ahead of the Sabina Park Test so as to miss the game but Dhoni thought better in resting him than to play and risk aggravating his injury.

Now fresh and looking to find his feet back, Munaf says he's "feeling good after the rest". Such is the bowler's history with frequent injuries that despite making his Test debut in 2006, Munaf has played just 12 Tests, the last being 2009 in Wellington, New Zealand. Even if Munaf plays the Barbados Test, it seems unlikely that Dhoni will put the bowler on duty to bowl long spells. The right-arm pacer at the most may bowl six to seven overs at a stretch and then get removed from the attack to refresh himself. The last thing India want is an unfit Munaf heading to England.

"We have a lot of important series coming up this year," says Dhoni, talking of the tours against England and Australia later this year.


Gavaskar slams ICC ban on runners

NEW DELHI: Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar has slammed the ICC's decision to abolish runners for injured batsmen in one-day cricket, saying even bowlers should not be allowed to have water as rules should be the same for everyone.

The ICC's Executive Committee has decided to do away with runners for injured batsmen in ODIs and Gavaskar said if that is the case, it should be stringent for the fielding side as well.

"I would also like to suggest that there should be no water for bowlers at the boundary end. They bowl one over and come to the boundary where energy drinks are waiting for them," a miffed Gavaskar said.

Gavaskar said if the ICC feels having runners for injured batsmen is not fair then it should also consider doing away with the drinks breaks and the concept of substitute fielders.

"There should be no drinks breaks that are usually scheduled after one hour or so. If you are going to make a situation like this then there should not be any substitute fielders either," he said.

"There should not be a substitute fielder when a regular player goes off the field. If a fielder gets injured or has cramps, he should either go off the field or stay there. That ways it balances out everything and the batting side is not the only one affected," he said.


Indian players happy with modified DRS

BRIDGETOWN: The Indian team has given a thumbs up to the Decision Review System (DRS) in its revised form which makes the ball-tracker technology optional in bilateral series.

"It's so good that the tracker system has been done away with. It was the tracker system which was the bone of contention for us," said a senior member of the side after the team practice on Monday.

In the ICC Executive Committee meeting in Hong Kong, the usage of UDRS was made mandatory for both Tests and one-dayers across all countries.

However, the decision was made with a rider: the ball tracker system -- a technology which measures the progress of a delivery after it leaves the hand of a bowler -- is not mandatory.

It implies that if a country disagrees, the UDRS will be used without the tracker technology in a bilateral series.

Thus the UDRS system without the tracker technology will be used in India-England series beginning next month. The present series between India and the West Indies is being played without the UDRS system.

The cricketer explained why the Indian team and BCCI were resistant to the tracker system of the UDRS.

"The tracker system has an inherent flaw. First, the cameras are not exactly in a straight line behind the umpire. Two, the height of delivery after pitching can never be accurately measured by technology.

"Strong wind, change of pace, the uneven bounce can all cause major difference to the height of a delivery when it reaches stumps.

"And, by the way, what's the guarantee that a producer monitoring the tracking system hasn't fiddled with the system on his own?" questioned the cricketer.

The cricketer cited Sachin Tendulkar's "dismissal" at Mohali in the World Cup semifinals against Pakistan earlier this month as an example of how the system can go wrong.

Tendulkar was first ruled out leg-before-wicket to Saeed Ajmal but when the batsman asked for a review, the UDRS showed the delivery to be missing the leg-stump by the thinnest of margins.

"Many who saw the replays were not convinced that Sachin wasn't out. Even though it benefitted us, it was clear the technology was flawed. Producers who manage the tracker system can make an error judgment.

"The technology might be good but we have to remember that it's a man who operates it. And so it's back to human element. In such a scenario, it was better that on-field umpires made decisions and not a technology which wasn't fool-proof."

The current modification in the rules state that hot-spot and stump microphone will now be used to make clear judgment on nicks. A nick, or the lack of it, can now be ascertained by eye as well as ear.

For example in the first Test in Jamaica, even cricket expert Ian Bishop acknowledged that Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli were wrongly given out and a snickometer or hot-spot could have ruled out the decisions.

The UDRS in its modified form will help eliminate wrong bat-pad decisions. It will not be a help in the lbw decisions because the tracker system has now been done away with.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Sachin Tendulkar sells his Ferrari to Surat businessman

SURAT/MUMBAI: A Surat builder now owns the Ferrari presented to Sachin Tendulkar by Michael Schumacher on behalf of Fiat in 2002 when he equalled Sir Don Bradman's record of 29 Test centuries.

"It was my dream to own a Ferrari. I approached Sachin through a common friend and asked him if he wanted to sell the car. He agreed," said Jayesh Desai, the builder. According to sources in Surat's high society, Sachin's Ferrari had been up for sale for four months.

"It was the best experience of my life," said the realtor who drove the red two-seater from Sachin's flat in Bandra to his bungalow at Satkeval Society at Athwalines last weekend. Desai, 42, proudly recalled how he was stopped by curious onlookers when he drove the Ferrari to his office at Varacha. He has parked it in a specially built garage in his bungalow.

It is not clear why Sachin, who is passionate about cars, sold the Ferrari which is also a trophy. The news has come as a surprise to many, including his close friends. The cricketing legend, on his part, chose to make no comment on his decision.

"He doesn't wish to say anything on the topic," said a close friend of Tendulkar, who is holidaying in Europe with his family. This friend, though, did recall his own rides in the Ferrari. "I have been driven around in that car on many occasions and, yes, it was a special car," he said.

Last year, when TOI had asked former India captain Ravi Shastri about the Audi 100 he won for being honoured as the Champion of Champions in Australia in 1985, he had replied, "It is a priceless possession, no doubt about it. People ask me whether I have sold that car and I tell them there would be no buyer because it is priceless! I still have the car but I don't drive it."

Desai, the Ferrari's new owner, claims all the paperwork is done and the car is in his name now.


India beat West Indies by 63 runs to win first Test, lead series 1-0

KINGSTON: The fear of a painful defeat had been looming over Sabina Park right from the time West Indies failed to put enough runs on the board in their first innings.

However, until they lost their last wicket on Thursday afternoon, chasing the target of 326 set by India in the final innings, nobody really wanted to state the obvious. India won their second straight Test at this venue, on both occasions facilitated by the dependable Rahul Dravid.

The handful of spectators at the Sabina Park stood still after their worst fears came true. With 195 runs required, seven wickets in hand and two days remaining, West Indies skipper Darren Sammy had talked about the team's expectations from veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul and young Darren Bravo, who resumed batting on the crucial morning.

However, the moment Bravo and Chanderpaul were dismissed after adding just 17 more runs, the rest of the batting order fell like a pack of cards. The hosts were eventually bowled out for 262 to lose the first Test by 63 runs.

Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma with three wickets each did most of the damage while spinners Amit Mishra and Harbhajan had their share of fun with the tail which wagged for a while but could only delay the inevitable.

For West Indies, batting remained their biggest disappointment throughout. Adrian Barath's first innings score of 64 was their highest individual score while Bravo and Chanderpaul's 68-run stand for the fourth wicket in the second innings remained their highest partnership in the game.

India's victory was based on three pillars. First was the 146-run partnership between Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh on Day One that helped the team score an eventual 246. Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar's spells on Day Two - with three wickets each - helped restrict West Indies to 173. And Dravid's hundred on Day Three helped the visitors set a formidable target. On the fourth day, West Indies simply crumbled.

The hosts will have a lot of soulsearching to do from here on. While the defeat was unavoidable, Darren Sammy's men have to get their batting in order as soon as possible if West Indies have to correct themselves in the remaining two Tests. The Kensington Oval in Barbados and Windsor Park in Dominica will favour India a lot more than Sabina Park, where they already gained the required advantage.

Sammy's batting lineup needs some kind of motivation too. Despite the skipper's talk of arranging various motivational activities - like attending lectures, staying together, going on adventure camps - the fact remains that the team tends to lose intensity on the field.

The pressure of chasing the target on Sabina's fourth-day wicket was asking for too much even from a batsman of Chanderpaul's calibre, and the batsman managed just 30 before falling to Praveen Kumar. Along with Bravo, who also became Praveen's victim, they both saw off 38.2 overs before the partnership crumbled. West Indies' hopes of survival perished with it too.

Praveen made the first Test his own with an excellent display of swing bowling that earned him a match haul of six wickets. He had his ups and downs in the game, for instance the warnings from Daryl Harper about running on to the danger area while bowling, which he says in hindsight were lessons to learn from. Ishant used his height to good effect and generated valuable bounce from the wicket.

While Ishant remained India's most economical bowler in the first innings, Praveen took over that role in the second and both ensured that India's target of 20 wickets was achievable. Dravid's bat had already done the rest.

In the absence of regular openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, India's opening combination looked unsettled.

Sachin Tendulkar's absence in the middle order made the batting looked further weakened. VVS Laxman failed to get going in both the innings.

Zaheer Khan's absence meant the hosts were less fearful of the kind of opening spell the left-arm seamer is capable of delivering. Dravid was India's only hope in the middle of this all and his contribution was more than enough to serve the team's purpose.


Dhoni offers West Indies hope after India victory

KINGSTON: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni elected to offer words of comfort to the West Indies after seeing his side record a 63-run victory in the first Test on Thursday.

"I will not make the mistake by saying that this opposition is not good enough," he said.

"Every batsman can score runs. Their first seven batters have the talent that equally matches that of the current Indian team."

Dhoni, the World Cup and Indian Premier League-winning captain, was particularly impressed by the contribution of West Indies leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.

Indian pair Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra proved to be the tourists' match-winners, but Bishoo also shone, picking up seven wickets.

"Bishoo kept bowling in the right areas," said Dhoni. "There was a fair degree of turn in the first innings, but as the game progressed, that turn was not there.

"The Indian spinners found it a bit difficult because of the strong breeze across the field. But as the game went on, they adapted well and began bowling better."

Man of the match Rahul Dravid and Test newcomer Praveen Kumar caught the eye for the visitors, but Dhoni singled out other members of his side for praise.

"Our lower-half batsmen for the past year and a half have been contributing well," he said.

"We were 85 for six in the first innings before Harbhajan, along with Suresh Raina, bailed us out. In the second innings, Mishra made a telling contribution."

Harbhajan and Raina added 146 for the seventh wicket in the first innings to help India reach 246.

Mishra and Dravid then put on 56 for the ninth wicket to take India to 252 in their second innings, leaving West Indies to chase 326 for victory.

"But for that stand (Raina and Harbhajan), we could have been all out for 150," Dhoni said.

"We were able to get more runs and thus gather a handy lead. Then in the second innings, we could stretch the lead to 300-plus.

"Three-hundred was always going to be a difficult score to chase in the fourth innings. They were off to a flyer, but wickets always slow down the momentum, and we were able to apply pressure on their middle order."

Dhoni was also fulsome in his praise of Dravid's batting in the second innings, as well as the bowling of Kumar throughout the match.

"Dravid has been an exceptional batsman for India," he said.

"That he played over 250 deliveries showed he was very patient. He made the bowlers pitch in his areas, and was brilliant.

"Praveen is a very skilful bowler and can swing it either way. He doesn't have the pace, but he can swing the ball, and confuse the batsmen if they needed to play or leave a delivery.

"He showed great character after having been stopped from bowling in the first innings. When you are switching from the 10-over format to 20 to 25 overs in an innings, you have to be careful.

"Importantly, he backed his strength and picked up wickets in the second innings as well."


Indian cricketers criticise Harper for bad decisions

KINGSTON ( Jamaica): Umpire Daryl Harper came in for some scathing criticism from the Indian cricket team, which blasted the Australian for his poor decisions during the first cricket Test against the West Indies.

Such was the exasperation that a senior member of the side said that whole team wishes that Harper does not officiate in the third Test.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni did little to hide his disgust at the standard of umpiring in the Test, which they won by 63 runs to take a 1-0 lead.

"If correct decisions were made, the game would have ended much earlier and we would have been in the hotel by now," Dhoni said at the post match press conference.

The Australian would stand for one last time when India take on West Indies in the third Test at Dominica from July 6.

"We don't want him -- you can quote it as the reaction of the entire Indian team," said a very senior member of the side.

Though Dhoni did not name anyone of the two umpires officiating in the match --- Ian Gould (England) and Harper -- several Indian players openly termed the latter as the centre of their ire.

"It's Daryl Harper six not out," said another senior cricketer as soon as he saw a bunch of Indian pressmen approaching him.

Indians were upset that Harper made at least three critical errors against India and three in favour of West Indies during the match.

"Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni himself for done in; (Darren) Bravo twice and once (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul benefitted," chimed in another Indian cricketer, bristling with aggression.

Raina was given out caught in the leg-trap off Devendra Bishoo and television replays suggested no edge from either bat or gloves of the batsman.

Harbhajan Singh was ruled out leg before wicket when the ball clearly was seen going way above the height of the stumps.

Dhoni was cleanly caught at point region off Bishoo but the bowler had cut the return crease in his bowling run-up and the delivery should have been called a no-ball.

All three decisions in question were given by Harper in India's second innings.

Then, when West Indies batted for the last time, there were confident appeals against Bravo and Chanderpaul which were not upheld.

The controversial Australian umpire is regarded worldwide as the worst umpire in the ICC list of elite umpires.

After being on the panel for nine years, between 2002 and 2011, the ICC too has come round to the general perception and declared that Harper will stand down after the termination of his contract in July 2011.

Harper also needled the Indians by banning Praveen Kumar from bowling for treading on to the 'danger area' of the pitch in his follow-through in the first innings.

Indians are not contesting the decision in private but feel Harper could have cautioned the debutant in a friendly way before taking the strong step.

Indian cricketers have little doubt umpire Harper has been clearly biased against them over the years.

"Remember, it was Harper who gave Sachin Tendulkar out lbw in a Test when the batsmen had ducked and was hit on his shoulder," remarked a cricketer.

During a Test of the 1999-2000 tour to Australia, a short delivery from Glenn McGrath had Tendulkar looking to duck under it but it hit him on the shoulders.

Umpire Harper promptly gave Tendulkar out though he was to say later 'the one (decision) that I would like the world to forget is the Sachin one.'

The shocking decision was the reason the International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced neutral umpires for both ends in Test matches.

Justified as the Indians are, it only underlines the reason why they should give their sanction to Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS).

The Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) has been steadfastly refusing the usage of UDRS technology even though worldwide it's acceptance is a norm.

The UDRS technology, because of BCCI's insistence, is not being used either in the present series or the one in England which follows next month.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

15 years later, Dada still Lord of Lord's

KOLKATA: Fifteen years is a long time in the life of a sportsperson, but for Sourav Ganguly, memories of Lord's are still fresh in his mind. It was on June 22, 1996, that Sourav became the first Indian cricketer to hit a century on Test debut at the 'Mecca' of cricket. He remains the only one to do so.

"It's been a long time, but those are very happy memories," says Sourav, reminicising about the English summer that heralded the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket.

Chasing England's first-innings tally of 344, Sourav, who came in to bat at 25 for one, stood firm at one end even as India lost the wickets of Nayan Mongia (24), Sachin Tendulkar (31), Mohammad Azharuddin (16) and Ajay Jadeja (10) before he found an able ally in another debutant, Rahul Dravid.

The duo shared a 94-run partnership for the sixth wicket to help India gain a first innings lead of 85. Sourav, who was unbeaten on 26 on Day 2 (June 21), went on to make a flawless 131, but Dravid was unlucky to miss his century by just five runs.

"It was easily the best moment of my career. A century on debut at Lord's ... it doesn't get bigger than this," Sourav told TOI. "Looking back, I feel it was destiny at work," he adds.

To say that he was under pressure would be an understatement. Included as the fifth pacer, who could also bat, Sourav was under no illusion that it was going to be a make-or-break series for him. Not picked for the first two ODIs, Sourav made a splendid 46 on a seaming Old Trafford wicket in the final match. Yet, he was ignored for the first Test at Edgbaston that India went on to lose by eight wickets.

A twist of fate paved the way for Sourav's Test debut. His room partner on the tour, Navjot Singh Sidhu, had staged a walk-out from the team after a row with skipper Azharuddin. "I knew after the Derbyshire game that I would get my chance and was determined to grab it," says Sourav. Sourav admits to being a tad nervous when handed over the India cap on June 20, but with Azhar choosing to field first after winning the toss, there was time for the two Indian debutants to settle down.

"Look, it was a dream come true for me to pull on the India cap. My first day in Test cricket was a fruitful one as I picked up two wickets ( Nasser Hussain and Graeme Hick). It gave me added confidence," says Sourav, who later batted as if he was born to play Test cricket.


West Indies 131/3 at stumps on Day 3, need 195 more runs to win

KINGSTON: West Indies reached 131 for three against India at stumps on third day of the first Test chasing a stiff victory target of 326 set by the visitors courtesy Rahul Dravid's memorable 32nd Test century.

An intriguing battle is on cards as the match is expected to be decided on fourth day itself with West Indies requiring 195 runs and visitors needing another seven wickets.

Darren Bravo (30 batting) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (24 batting) added 51 runs for the undefeated fourth wicket stand after the Caribbeans were reduced to 80 for three.

The West Indian openers Adrian Barath (38, 36 balls, 4x4, 2x6) and Lendl Simmons (27, 41 balls, 3x4, 1x6) started in a whirlwind fashion adding 62 runs in 10.5 overs.

Barath in particular was in T20 mode as he hit Ishant for couple of sixes and four in over before Praveen Kumar made him flash at an away going delivery to be caught by Suresh Raina at slips.

Ramnaresh Sarwan (0) was snapped up brilliantly by Virat Kohli off Ishant Sharma. Simmons was beaten by an Ishant delivery that held its line to hit the off-stump.

The day however belonged to Dravid. His effort of 112 (274 balls, 10x4, 1x6) had its worth weight in gold as the battle-hardened veteran brought up one of his most satisfying three-figure mark on track where batting was difficult.

He was the last man to be dismissed after nearly six and half hour vigil as he tried hit Devendra Bishoo (4/65) out of the park. The wicket was a two-paced one where the other top-order batsmen struggled for survival. The 38-year-old former India captain was a picture of confidence as he brought up his hundred in 252 balls when he jabbed a Fidel Edwards delivery to scamper home for a single.

Amit Mishra (28, 60 balls, 4x4) whose sensible batting at the other end helped Dravid reach his individual milestone also deserves credit. The duo added 56 runs for the ninth wicket after Harbhajan Singh (5) and Praveen Kumar (0) departed early after lunch with India reeling at 183 for eight.

When Mishra departed at 239, India have stretched their lead past 300 which looked to be a formidable one considering the nature of the track.

The day however belonged to Dravid who showed that when the circumstances are adverse, there is no substitute to watertight technique and enormous powers of concentration. The effort was even more laudable as he showed lot of gumption while batting with the tail.

This is Dravid's fourth century against the West Indies, and he has now surpassed 1500 runs against the Caribbeans.

If the first session belonged to West Indies who pegged India back with triple strikes of Virat Kohli (15), Suresh Raina (27) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (16), the post lunch session till tea was all about Dravid's patience and Mishra trying to counter attack.

Starting the day at 91 for three, India reached 166 for six at lunch with Dhoni being dismissed at stroke of lunch. The Indian captain should consider himself unlucky as Bishoo had overstepped during the delivery.

During the post-lunch session, Harbhajan Singh (5) curbed his natural instincts to play shots and dropped anchor at one end. However a debatable decision from umpire Daryl Harper saw him back in the hut. The delivery from Sammy hit him on the left thigh and was clearly heading over the stumps.

Sammy then picked up Praveen Kumar (0) as he played a nothing sort of short going for an ugly hoick when the situation demanded some discretion.

But then Mishra joined Dravid which could well prove to be the decisive partnership of the match.

A cautious Dravid tried to shield him initially by refusing singles early in overs but it didn't take him long to develop trust on Mishra who even looked good against the second new-ball.

Dravid was on 80 when Mishra joined him but the pair frustrated the hosts immensely and stretched the lead beyond 300 runs.

Once Dravid reached his hundred, Mishra hit a spanking cover drive as if to celebrate the feat of his senior. It also followed with a solid square cut as the West Indians got increasingly frustrated.

Dravid first played a risky shot after completing his ton. It was a straight six off Bishoo. However Mishra who had gained in a lot of confidence as he tried to slash Sammy only to be holed out in the third man region.

Ishant Sharma started off with a cover driven boundary. He could have been Sammy's fifth victim but a stiff return catch was just out of reach for the West Indian captain.

It was Bishoo who finally got his seventh victim of the match when Dravid tried an uncharacteristic ugly hoick that was easily caught by Ramnaresh Sarwan. It was an effort that saw him get standing ovation from his teammates.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'Natural game' was key to crucial Bhajji knock

KINGSTON ( Jamaica): Two weeks ahead of his 31st birthday, 13 years after he first made his Test debut, Harbhajan Singh looks like he's finally discovered the art of batting he may have never thought he was blessed with.

While two Test successive centuries in a series is already a feat enough for a bowler-turning-into-a-batsman to make himself count, the 74-ball 70 that came off Harbhajan's bat at the Sabina Park in Kingston on Monday afternoon should rank as far more superior to what he accomplished in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad last year, as it came in tougher conditions.

India were tottering at 85/6 when he walked out to replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The skipper and two of the team's most experienced batsmen, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, had all been dismissed cheaply and in a manner almost similar.

The conditions weren't as threatening as the pressure that engulfed the middle-order. To walk into a situation like that and score a run-a-ball half century spoke volumes of the way Bhajji batted.

Indian batsmen insisted that they had not misread the pitch when they won the toss and elected to bat first. They were simply going by the logic that when in doubt, bat first.

However, the hosts kept claiming at the end of the day that had the coin favoured them, they'd still have liked to bowl on the Sabina track on Day 1.

There was bounce in the track, which was expected, but there was very sharp turn too, which caught India on the wrong foot. No batsman would've called it a pleasant situation to take guard in the middle. Perhaps, that was the reason Harbhajan succeeded.

He wasn't a batsman walking out there to save his team the blushes or to enhance his own reputation. He was a bowler, a tailender walking out to try and see in what way he could contribute with Suresh Raina - the last recognisable face in the middle-order - at the other end. The pressure should've been psychologically lesser than what he is used to while bowling. Harbhajan tried to stick to his 'natural game'.

Harbhajan has been fortunate enough to be around Sachin Tendulkar for a decade, watching him from close quarters. He has often been told by Tendulkar that he has the ability to bat. "Just play your natural game", Tendulkar has told Harbhajan many times.

And that's what he did to stem the rot and keep India alive.

Raina, at the other end, kept himself busy driving away a few of his own demons. The talk of him not being able to handle the short stuff well, that he has been trying too hard to push the ball away, not being able to create a balance between when to resist and when to attack - all these factors had been troubling him coming into the Test, as he admitted later.

His 82 was the backbone of India's first innings score of 246 and he should've earned his century if not for that sudden lapse in concentration as batsmen perished at the other end. However, had Harbhajan not taken the pressure off him, as he took the shine off the leather, it wouldn't have been very easy for Raina to accomplish what he did.

To the off-spinner's credit, he banished every bad ball with such disdain that it only increased the West Indies quota of wayward bowling spells. It was important to disturb Devendra Bishoo's line early on because the thin-framed leg-spinner was looking so dangerous - with wickets of Dravid, Laxman and Dhoni to count for. "You didn't know what to expect. The wicket was turning and there was bounce. It was important to watch the bowler's arm and look for the shine of the ball before attempting to play," Raina explained later.

As for Harbhajan, he kept his cool. You only had to watch the way he drove anything loose outside the off stump and pulled away anything short that came his way. When there was a mix-up in running between the wickets, he walked up to Raina and comforted him.

He retained his arrogance when Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul attempted some mild sledging and kept taking off his helmet time and again to dry off the sweat around his turban.

Harbhajan the-batsman scored his first big knock in a Test match which wasn't a hundred but probably far more crucial. Tendulkar should be proud.


Ind vs WI: India 91/3 at stumps on Day 2, lead by 164 runs

KINGSTON: India moved into the ascendancy after the second day of the opening Test against West Indies on Tuesday, routing the hosts for 173 and then reaching 91/3 for an overall lead of 164 runs.

Led by Rahul Dravid's resolute 45 not out in 2 hours, 40 minutes at Sabina Park that contained five boundaries, India are well placed to strike the first blow in the three-Test series.

Earlier, new ball partners Ishant Sharma (3-29) and Praveen Kumar (3-38) ripped through the hosts after they resumed on 34-1.

Spinners Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh had identical figures of 2-51 to run through the lower order.

West Indies opener Adrian Barath hit a sparkling 64 but no other batsman passed 30 as the hosts wasted a good opportunity in replying to India's modest 246.

The 6-foot-7 Sharma, who had claimed Lendl Simmons late on the first day, added a second wicket with his first ball of the day, trapping Ramnaresh Sarwan lbw for 3 after playing no stroke to an inswinger.

Barath and fellow Trinidadian Darren Bravo fought back gamely in a third-wicket stand of 56 before the 24-year-old Kumar, on debut, shifted the momentum.

Barath reached his 50 off 116 balls with his eighth four, a lofted on-drive off the leg-spin of Mishra. The pint-sized opener lashed the next ball into the stands in the same area.

But Kumar soon ended the blossoming partnership.

Running in with the George Headley Stand at his back, Kumar claimed Barath when he nibbled at an outswinger and was nicely caught by a diving Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps. Barath hit eight fours and a six off 122 balls in 169 minutes.

In his next over, Kumar removed the left-handed Bravo in similar fashion, Dhoni again claiming a nick to a tentative defensive stroke. Bravo struck two fours in 18 off 56 balls.

Kumar further reduced the West Indies to 102/5 when Brendan Nash (1) tried to whip through the leg side but sliced an edge to Suresh Raina at third slip.

The experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul and wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh revived the hosts after the lunch break, as Kumar suffered the ignominy of being removed from the attack for running on the pitch in his follow-through for the third time.

The pair carried their sixth-wicket stand to 45 before Harbhajan made the crucial breakthrough when Baugh was caught off pad and bat by silly point. The right-hander hit two fours and a six in 27 off 35 balls.

Captain Darren Sammy fell one run later when he tried to whip Sharma through the leg side and was bowled off his pads.

Harbhajan also claimed Chanderpaul, who spent 105 minutes compiling 23 off 75 balls. The left-hander was caught off a deflection to short leg from bat and pad to make it 152/8.

Ravi Rampaul (14 not out) tried to rally the tail but Mishra wrapped up the innings on the stroke of tea with the wickets of Fidel Edwards (7) and Devendra Bishoo (4) within three balls.

Edwards tried to cut a googly and edged to Dhoni, while Bishoo picked out midwicket with a pull shot.

West Indies hit back in the final session as Rampaul trapped Murali Vijay for a duck with a ball that kept a bit low.

Rampaul should have added the scalp of Dravid but the 151-Test veteran survived a chance on 6 when he was dropped at second slip by Sammy.

Dravid added 56 for the second wicket with opener Abhinav Mukund (25), who was also making his debut.

West Indies rebounded with two quick wickets as Bishoo claimed Mukund and Sammy held a fine return catch to remove VVS Laxman without scoring to make it 57/3.

But Dravid continued to show broad-batted certainty, steering the team to the close with Virat Kohli (14 not out), who survived a late bouncer barrage from Fidel Edwards.


Monday, June 20, 2011

India square off against underperforming West Indies in first Test

KINGSTON ( Jamaica): In the last four years of their journey to conquer the Test world, India have won a Test in 2006 at Sabina Park, Kingston; in 2007 at Trent Bridge, England, in 2008 at Perth, Australia, in 2009 at Hamilton, New Zealand; in 2010 at Durban, South Africa.

And yet, when they arrive for a major cricket assignment overseas, the talk of Indian batsmen being suspect against quality bounce and effective fast bowling keeps coming to the fore.

Express pacer Fidel Edwards, who last played a Test in 2009 before being sidelined with a back injury, says India will have to face some 'chin music' at Sabina Park, where the action begins on Monday. He is very sure that the visitors are susceptible to quality pace and bounce.

This whole notion of India not being able to handle pace comes as a surprise. Especially when we're talking about a team that has played Lee, Johnson, Clark and Tait in Perth; Steyn, Morkel, Tsotsobe and Kallis in Durban; Martin, Southee, O'Brien and Franklin in Hamilton. And all of this in the last three years. Therefore, Edwards can rest his case. Regardless of the doubts that the opposition may like to bear in mind, the fact remains that India have been there and done it well.

When you look at the Sabina Park wicket for the first Test from a distance, it appears less threatening than how Edwards feels it will behave. The pitch lacks any shine and grass and seems to have been smoked out. Both teams believe that there'll be good bounce and carry. However, that in turn should worry the West Indies if Harbhajan Singh finds his rhythm.

After the renovation of most stadiums in the Caribbean, none of the tracks at most historic stadiums here retain the old flavour any more. The need to protect and facilitate exciting Twenty20 matches, the pressure to have bigger scores in the 50-over format - to attract television viewers - have simply 'accommodated' factors that were alien to conditions here years ago. It is not India's fault, as a touring team, if host countries have failed to consolidate their cricketing strengths over a period of time.

Frankly, the talk of India not able to handle pace is now almost a 'joke'. At least as long as they're busy proving everybody wrong.

The focus in this Test, instead, is likely to be on how well can the West Indies live up to their own batting expectations. Only if they show the determination to hold on to their wickets and put runs on the board more frequently than they have in the recent years, will the hosts be able to make a match of this series.

India go into the Test without Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag - two batting stalwarts who've been unmatchable. The prolific Gautam Gambhir is also missing and so is the bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan. In the absence of these names, the tourists will depend on relatively newer faces to show them the way.

Captain MS Dhoni expects these circumstances to provide a competitive atmosphere in the Indian team ahead of important assignments later this year. "It will be a good competition for the batsman. This is an ideal opportunity for everybody and that's how I want them to look at it," he says.

Dhoni, of course, is wary of the West Indies pace attack. "They have good bowlers and the turn here (at Sabina) is likely to be lesser than the venues for the one-dayers," he says. He sums up that India have to be wary, but not in the manner in which oppositions like to think. They have to be wary of the standards the team has set in the last few years.

India's fitness worries were yet to be sorted out until Sunday night and therefore, chances are that the final eleven will be decided as late as possible. Dhoni will not rush any of his players into the game if even there's a slightest doubt over fitness. Given the flurry of assignments coming up in the near future, the skipper believes fitness will remain the most important ingredient for success.

Swot Analysis

World No. 1 India take on 7th-ranked West Indies in the Test series from Monday. TOI presents a swot analysis of both teams


Strengths: The Indian batting line-up has pioneered the team's surge to the top spot. With experienced campaigners such as Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman back in the fold, the West Indian bowling will surely be tested. Also, with regular skipper MS Dhoni coming back fresh from a break, the youngsters in the team will feel at home.

Weaknesses: Without Zaheer Khan, and Sreesanth, the pace attack looks way short on penetration. And there are doubts over Munaf's fitness too. The onus will be on spinners Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra to get the wickets.

Opportunities: With the likes of Dravid, Sachin, Laxman and Zaheer nearing the end of their careers, the series will provide a serious platform for the youngsters to prove their mettle at this level. India will be hoping that they will grab the chance.

Threats: The young batsmen will have to contend with some disconcerting pace and bounce. If the untested opening duo fails, their job will be much more harder. Raina and Badri's form too does not inspire confidence.


Strengths: The bowling attack has sheer pace at its disposal in Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards who will love to revel on bouncy tracks.

Weaknesses: An unstable and inexperienced team. And the batting looks fragile barring Sarwan and Chanderpaul.

Opportunities: The team has a chance to resurrect its dwindling fortunes and its sorry Test record over the last several years. It has a chance of doing so against an understrength Indian line-up.

Threats: The team has a history of disintegrating in a jiffy. Unless the new ball yields wickets, containing a solid batting line-up will be tough.


Murali Vijay fit for Test opener against West Indies

KINGSTON ( Jamaica): The injury-hit Indian cricket team heaved a sigh of relief after opener Murali Vijay was declared fit for the opening Test against the West Indies, starting on Monday.

Vijay, who was hit on his right forefinger in his first practice session on Friday, has suffered no real damage.

Vijay was back in the nets and batted with intensity at Sabina Park on Sunday.

The Indians, unhappy with the practice facilities, chose to send their batters to a faraway location while the bowlers bowled alongside the main pitch at Sabina Park.

Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh bowled for a long period in trying to work out the right length for the Test match. They also had a fair idea of the bounce the pitch would offer over the next five days.

The batters though returned to the venue once it was known that the repairs had been done and the practice pitches were fit to be used.

Even though Vijay is fit, there is still uncertainty over the fitness of pacer Munaf Patel.

Munaf, who is battling an elbow injury, was again out of action on Sunday.

It is ironical that on a pitch which offers a great deal of bounce, India would be forced to go with just two medium-fast bowlers in the match.

Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar will be sharing the new ball but there is no other fast bowler on whom skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni can fall back upon.

Replacement medium-pacer Abhimanyu Mithun is expected to arrive on Monday, well after the first day's play is over.

Mithun thus has ruled himself out and with the team unlikely to take chances on Munaf, it appears certain that India would go into the Test with two pace and an equal number of spinners.

It seals the place for leg-spinner Amit Mishra who, despite his one-day heroics, must have been praying for his inclusion in the side after being out for 10 months.

Harbhajan Singh will be keen to do well as well since he needs only seven wickets to reach the magical 400-wicket mark in his 94th Test.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Munaf doubtful as Team India sweats out ahead of first Test

KINGSTON ( Jamaica): Clouds of uncertainty continue to hover over medium-pacer Munaf Patel's availability for the first Test against West Indies at Sabina Park starting next Monday.

The gangling medium-fast bowler from Gujarat was reduced to a spectator as his team-mates, including Test arrivals from home notably Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, put themselves to a vigorous work-out on Friday.

Coach Duncan Fletcher has refused to shed light on the reason for Patel's inactivity in the last two team sessions, as well as on missing out on the final one-day international on Thursday.

The only word the Zimbabwe-born coach has said is that "Patel should be fit for selection for the Test."

Patel was hugely impressive in India's World Cup campaign as well as in the one-day series here where he picked up eight wickets from three matches at 17.75 average.

However, he has not played a Test for India for over two years now and if the trend continues it would most likely pave the way for Praveen Kumar's inclusion in the Test team.

In the practice session, coach Fletcher appeared keen to pick up the brains of Dravid and Dhoni.

Fletcher had said earlier that he was looking forward to learning from men with such wealth of experience.

Dhoni was among the early bats to pad up but then sat in the shade for long while others took their turn under a scorching sun.

The arriving Test specialists were impressively intense even though it has been less than 24 hours since they landed in the Caribbeans.

Openers Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, particularly the former, spent a long time in the nets against both spinners and pacers alike.

The hosts, on their part, afforded good net bowlers to the visitors as all Indian batsmen had an extensive work-out.

VVS Laxman was the centre of attraction with his graceful strokes, while Vijay made some rasping drives.

Later Dhoni, alongwith the spin cordon of Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli latched on to some sharp catching practice organised by fielding coach Trevor Penny.

Bowling coach Eric Simmons appears to have taken over the job of former coach Gary Kirsten who threw down countless ball at the batsmen. Simmons gave a good work-out to Raina, Mukund and Laxman with his throw-downs.

The first Test starts on Monday.


BCCI considers DRS unreliable in its present form

NEW DELHI: Unfazed by the criticism it has drawn for opposing the Decision Review System, the Indian cricket board on Saturday stuck to its stand that it does not consider DRS reliable in its present form.

The BCCI, which has opposed DRS since its very inception, has been facing flak from several countries for refusing to use the technology in Test matches. Recently English players such as James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Chris Tremlett criticised BCCI for rejecting it for next month's Test series.

In fact, Swann went on to suggest that India was intimidated by the prospect of losing out on close calls due to DRS but the Indian board seemed least concerned.

"The DRS, and the BCCI's stance on the same, has been the subject of several media reports over the past few days," the BCCI said in a statement.

"The BCCI would like to reiterate that it does not accept the reliability of the ball-tracking technology, which is an integral part of the DRS. The BCCI's position has been consistent," it added.

Earlier, senior Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar had stated that he was not against the system as such but would want it to be more consistent by incorporating Hot Spot and Snickometer for close LBW and caught-behind decisions.

"I am not against DRS, but I feel it will be more effective with the support of the Snickometer and Hot Spot technology. This will give more consistent results," Tendulkar had said.

However, neither Hot Spot nor the Snickometer, is part of the ICC's list of minimum technology requirements for the DRS.

BCCI president Shashank Manohar added, "I have even told the ICC that we have no problem with Hot Spot. Our objection is to ball tracking. It becomes just a case of someone else's imagination versus the umpire's imagination."

Australia and England are among the cricket boards which are backing the DRS.