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I really didn't think that India would win against Zimbabwe in the final "league" match of the Videocon cup yesterday. Zimbabwe scored 250 and India were struggling at one stage. Ganguly failed as usual. Sehwag usually fails in the more tense run-chase situations. It was a Sunday, an unlucky day of the week as far as Indian Cricket is concerned. Nothing seemed to indicate that it was India's day. Everything seemed to be going against India.
Except Yuvraj Singh. This fellow has really come on in International cricket. It's amazing but sad how a certain cricketer can be labelled as a "one-day" cricketer or at least tagged as a player who performs better in ODIs than in Tests. Whatever may be the truth of that statement, Yuvraj hasn't seem to have let this tag affect his performance in the shorter variety of the game. His failures have come under extreme criticism in the past by those very critics who have been far more forgiving of Ganguly, Tendulkar or Dravid when those players have gone through a string of failures. Equally his successes has been amazingly flashy and brilliant and attracted a plethora of superlatives. Maybe he's just that kind of a player who tends to attract criticism as easily as applause. His fielding skills are so electrifying that he puts so many of the current senior players to shame. There is no denying Yuvraj's influence on Indian Cricket. I think that he would be a natural choice as a captain a year or two down the line because of his outgoing personality and his dominant nature whether with the bat or on the outfield.
Now let's come back to Ganguly. I cannot help it, but I simply detest his oily smile when he comes up to receive the award for the winning captain at presentations in matches like this. His continuing failures with the bat appear to have made no difference at all. Not a hint of shame or regret that he hasn't really contributed in any way to the team's cause. And his fielding continues to be pathetic at the best of times. I continue to assert that Indian cricket seriously needs to find a new captain. Even his record as a captain is no excuse for such a long spell of non-performance as a player.
Moving on, who would have thought that England would lead 2-1 in the Ashes series going in to the final test match? In such a situation I would expect the England management to ask for a very flat pitch to be prepared at The Oval. If I were in charge of the English team management, I would definitely not take any chances in the final test and ask my groundsman to prepare an absolute belter. A pitch that lasts for five days and a pitch which doesn't allow wickets to be picked up in a bunch. A chance to create history shouldn't be allowed to slip away and make no mistake about it: Australia is the dangerous wounded tiger who can bounce back at any time. However, one must add that Australia's front line bowlers seem to be needing more help from the pitches than English bowlers at this point of time and as an Englishman, one should back the pace of Flintoff, Harmison and company to do the job regardless of the pitch.
Ricky Ponting will definitely feel the heat, make no mistake about it. In the space of a couple of weeks, he is almost in the same boat as Sourav Ganguly and it's ironic that an Australian team that boasts of such talent over the years should find their weakest link in the form of their captain. Although he's not plumbed the depths as a batsman, for sure his captaincy will come under the scanner at the end of the series and I'm sure a change of guard would be on the cards even if Australia do manage to reverse the trend and beat England in the final test to square the series and retain the Ashes. Is Australian cricket on the decline? I wouldn't go so far as to say that, but I think the Steve Waugh era was the highest point they reached in this generation and since then, it's only headed downwards. No matter what happens from here on in Australian cricket, it will take quite some doing to emulate his outstanding record and career as a captain.
Posted on Mon, Sep 5, 2005 at 10:46 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:23 IST)