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Old November 5, 2011, 11:05 PM
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Naimul_Hd Naimul_Hd is offline
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Match-fixing: where it all began
Andy Zaltzman
“As Butt, Asif and Amir disappeared into the unwelcoming bosom of the British prison system, the surgeon at St Cricket’s Hospital woke the corruption iceberg from its anaesthetised slumber. The tipectomy had been successful. The iceberg was released back safely into the wild, and HMS Cricket sailed on serenely for evermore.”
-- From A History Of Cricket, by Gervold H Scralthouse, published 2084
A drawing of the 1844 USA v Canada match reveals, rather suspiciously, that the only spectator present was a horse © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Perhaps these words will one day be written. Perhaps not. I hope this will prove to be a long-overdue watershed for cricket. Until now the sport has not entirely grasped the match-fixing bull by the horns. It has, to be fair, sent the bull a few sternly worded letters asking it to please remove its horns, or at least file them down a bit so they are not quite so pointy. But the bull appears to have not opened its post. Or has been unable to read.

It is all rather depressing for anyone who loves one or more of cricket, Pakistan, Pakistan cricket, or humanity in general. Open any newspaper, history book or heavily guarded government building and you will be confronted by story after story of greed, corruption, arrogance, dishonesty and the failure of human beings to resist the lure of easy money, all of which played starring roles in the Lord’s 2010 debacle.

Look at the state of the global economy, and the unbridled avarice, short-termist recklessness and morally squalid practices that have left it lying face-down on the canvas, gasping for air and asking for its mummy; look at MPs convicted for fiddling expenses; at all manner of personal, corporate, commercial and national malpractices; at Allen Stanford and his Perspex box of pretend lucre. Sport is supposed to provide an escape from all that. But easy money is a persuasive salesman, and we now can add to that regrettable roll call of its customers the cream of third-millennium Pakistan fast-bowling.

I hope Amir has a future in cricket. I like the idea of redemption. I do not know how I would have reacted in the same situations, under those pressures, and in that dressing room. I like to think I would have had the strength to refuse. And I would probably have been more worried that my slow-medium long-hops and technical weakness with the ball against all forms and qualities of bowling might be shown up at international level. But if I had a captain, an agent, and a large wodge of banknotes all trying to persuade me to do something I thought I could probably do without compromising my ability to take 6 for 30 in 13 overs of mesmeric swing bowling, maybe I would have done it.

I hope not. I hope I would rather have taken 6 for 28, without the two no-balls. But I don’t know. Situations like that did not crop up very often in my days in the West Kent Village League, and on the UK stand-up comedy circuit, gig-fixing is mercifully far from rife. At the moment.

Anyway cricket now has to take a long, hard bath with itself and ruminate on how and why this whole miserable morality tale came to pass, and why it took a newspaper to plumb the depths of cricket’s morality (a newspaper that has now ceased to exist after not merely plumbing the depths of its own industry’s morality, but installing a fully fitted marble bathroom, complete with power shower, in those depths).
The ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (the ACSU, which I hope will soon be renamed the Anti-Corruption and Pro-Security Unit, to clear up any lingering confusion arising over its attitude to Security) would appear not to have been 100% successful to date. It may well now want to look back through cricket history to determine whether the rancid tentacles of naughtiness had wrapped themselves around other games in the past.

The best place to start might be with this game: USA v Canada in 1844, the first-ever international cricket match. It was a suspiciously low-scoring game, in which no batsman scored more than 14, and the USA, cruising to victory at 25 for 0 in pursuit of 82 to win in the fourth innings, lost all 10 wickets for 33.

Admittedly, losing all 10 wickets for 33 was not especially unusual in the mid-19th century, when men were men, moustaches were moustaches, and cricket pitches were discourteously bobbly. But the scorecard and accompanying notes reveal further details that the ACSU simply must investigate.

Four batsmen in the game are recorded as being dismissed “lbw b ?”, with ? picking up another scalp via a stumping by Canadian gloveman Phillpotts. ESPNcricinfo’s match notes highlight that: (a) Canada’s captain was not named, (b) the bowling figures do not add up in any of the four innings, (c) the runs do not tally in the USA’s first innings, (d) the Americans’ key No. 3 batsman Wheatcroft simply did not turn up at the ground on day three and therefore missed his second innings, and (e) it is not clear which of the Wilson and Thompson brothers played for Canada. Every single one of these potentially match-turning factors suggests that some shady betting syndicate was almost certainly involved. And as long as betting in India remains illegal, 1840s cricket matches will be vulnerable.

The 1846 rematch raises further questions. Aside from the in-form ? picking up another key wicket, Canada scoring 46% of their first innings runs through wides flung by the under-suspicion US bowlers (admittedly this amounted only to 13 of an underwhelming total of 28 all out), and further alarm-bell-clanging mathematical inconsistencies in the scorebook, the game was suddenly abandoned with Canada struggling at 13 for 3 in the second innings.

Apparently John Helliwell, Canada’s opening batsman, confidence rising as he advanced his score to 4 not out (needing only one more to become his team’s highest scorer in the match), skied the ball towards the bowler, the American allrounder Samuel Dudson, who was himself pumping with adrenaline after a dazzling innings of 10. Helliwell, in an outburst of unbridled North Americanism, rushed towards Dudson to try to stop him taking the catch, shoulder-charged him and clobbered him to the ground.

Dudson somehow clung on to the catch, and on recovering from being crash-tackled, chased after Helliwell and hurled the ball at him, no doubt following up with some ripe 19th-century verbals impugning the batsman’s parentage and familial virtue. The bowler was calmed down by his team-mates, who we must assume were by now stifling their giggles, and apologised. Canada, however, refused to continue playing, forfeited the match, and did not play the USA again for seven years. It was like The Oval 2006 all over again, but almost entirely different, and 162 years earlier. In fact, the only link between the two incidents was that Darrell Hair was the umpire in both.
Were the bookies involved in this bizarre moment as well? Was Helliwell acting under pressure from a pushy agent promising him a flashy pocket watch, a mahogany smoking pipe, or shiny new horse? Or, even in this cynical age, can we take his excuse – that he thought shoulder-charging fielders was still legal, as it had been in the early days of cricket ‒ at face value? Perhaps the ICC should consider bringing this spectator-friendly tactic back during the middle overs of ODIs, to spice up the excitement levels for today’s easily distracted fans. This level of violence works in rugby, American football and professional wrestling. It would work in snooker, if given the chance. And it could save ODI cricket. It is about time that skied catches became heartstopping tests of physical bravery.

Of course, some self-proclaimed “historians” might argue that these controversial matters arose only because the game happened 167 years ago, deep in the midst of barely recorded cricketing history, and was not televised, due either to a contractual dispute between the USACB and Cricket Canada over the rights, or to television not having been invented yet. But cricket has been too complacent for too long. The players’ descendants must be questioned and vigorously held to account. If international cricket began in a morass of corruption and wrongdoing, how can we trust anything we see in the game today?

And there is one man who might finally be prevailed upon to give the full story – the crash-tackle opener Helliwell himself. Because, according to no less a source than his player page on this esteemed website itself, Helliwell is alive and well and looking forward to his 189th birthday. We must not let him take his secrets to the grave.
I digress. The point is, match-fixing of any kind is naughty. Very naughty. I think we’re all agreed on that. It is slightly ironic, given the startling extent and depth of the allegations and rumours in the Qayyum Report and elsewhere concerning previous match-fixing schemozzles that the first criminal convictions were for something as relatively trivial as a few no-balls. If half of what was alleged in Qayyum’s report is true (and its findings and punishments were nebulously non-committal), there must have been several well-known cricketers yesterday, watching the three convicts gingerly tucking into their unappetising portions of fresh justice pie in London, thinking: “Phew.”

The punishments seem to me to be tough but fair – Wandsworth Prison might have been built in 1851, but as a property it is not renowned by estate agents for its charming period detail, whilst Feltham Young Offenders’ Institute was described to me by a lawyer friend who has visited several times as “a crushing vortex”. And unconfirmed reports suggest that all televisions in both institutions play nothing but unedited ball-by-ball coverage of Gary Kirsten’s 210 at Old Trafford in 1998 on an unending loop.


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Old November 5, 2011, 11:20 PM
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Naimul_Hd Naimul_Hd is offline
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Does our society breed corrupt sportsmen?
If Butt and Co are to blame, so is the environment that produced them

In fairness, though, sportsmen attain fame far earlier than people do in almost any other profession. Raw youth is thrust onto a public stage and expected to be mature and discerning. Often, therefore, they get shaped by the air they breathe in their vicinity. It is an underestimated factor. One of the reasons you study at great institutions or aspire to work in great corporations is that you hope to acquire the values they stand for.

And so Pakistan cricket must ask itself what kind of air the youngsters in the team were breathing. Amir could not have been born corrupt, nor for that matter Butt. There must have been something in the environment that told them it was okay to do what they did. People often talk about the invincibility that power lulls you into believing in; on the subcontinent, young cricketers start believing that the adulation bestowed upon them will allow them to get away with anything. This is therefore as much the fault of Butt, Amir and Asif as it is of those who created the environment in which it was deemed acceptable to do the things these players did.
A valid question raised by Harsha.
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Old November 20, 2011, 04:22 PM
Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Forget the fans, Sachin

Tendulkar seems burdened by the expectations surrounding his latest milestone
Ian Chappell
November 20, 2011

It used to be a pleasure to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat; the shots that flowed as he took the attack to the bowlers, constantly challenging them to maintain line and length under fire. At the moment it's painful to see him prod and poke as he seeks to eke out his 100th century.
Whereas he took the attack to a top-class legspinner, Shane Warne, and won the battle of Chennai in 1998, he fiddled with a trundler like Marlon Samuels and the steady Devendra Bishoo at Eden Gardens, while Rahul Dravid comparatively burned along at the other end.
In his prime those two West Indies spinners wouldn't have been able to contain Tendulkar. He wouldn't have allowed either a minute's peace with his quick footwork, and more importantly, his attitude that said no bowler would shackle him.
It wasn't just Warne; he challenged all the best bowlers. He especially enjoyed antagonising the metronomic magician Glenn McGrath. On occasions he deliberately provoked him into bowling aggressively, a frame of mind from which McGrath derived the least success. So why is Tendulkar suddenly allowing a trundler to tie him down?
It was quite revealing to read the other day that Tendulkar felt he couldn't forego a practice session to rest because the adoring Indian public would blame any failure on indifference. He has always appealed as an attention-to-detail person when it came to batting, but I could never understand his desire to hit so many meaningless balls in the nets. Most of the class players I've seen practised diligently but never excessively.
This was always a major point of difference between the two top batsmen of their time - Brian Lara and Tendulkar. Lara cared about his batting and thought very deeply about the process of making big scores quickly but he wasn't obsessed with practising his skills. He was able to enjoy his life away from the field, whereas Tendulkar, again, probably not wanting to give a demanding public a reason to criticise him for letting them down, has lived the life of a monk.

Read on...

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Old November 23, 2011, 11:28 PM
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Default Is there room for intellectuals in cricket?

WG Grace thought reading books was bad for your batting. "You'll never catch me that way," he scoffed. The story serves as a metaphor for sport's suspicion of intellectual life. Thinkers, readers, curious minds: do we really want them clogging up the supposedly optimistic, forward-looking atmosphere of a cricket team?

Cricket is still grappling with the terrible news that Peter Roebuck - one of sport's genuine intellectuals - jumped to his death from his hotel balcony as he was being questioned by South African police about a sexual assault charge. The circumstances of Roebuck's death were clearly atypical. Nonetheless, his life - especially those parts of his life that belonged to cricket - fit the pattern of an intellectual who never quite settled into an easy relationship with the sport he loved.

Other sports are arguably even more anti-intellectual than cricket. Football never entirely understood Pat Nevin. Graeme Le Saux was subjected to homophobic chants and abuse. He wasn't gay, of course - his "sin" was to read serious newspapers such as the Guardian.

In Ball Four, the New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton's wrote the first great exposé of major league sport. He described how the management encouraged, almost forced, their players to drink beer after matches. That Bouton preferred milk was thought to be proof that he wasn't a real bloke. He was made to feel guilty for being intellectually curious. Bouton wrote admiringly about one soulmate who liked to lie down in open fields and read poetry. But his intellectual team-mate subsequently denied it.

Let's not pretend that there aren't tensions between thinking and competing. I turned professional at probably my most openly intellectual phase, when I had just graduated from Cambridge University. Perhaps too many things had all happened too soon for me - I was only 20 when I graduated. And we were young and callow and could be a pretentious bunch, with the intellectual bar set ludicrously high. We thought nothing of being habitually dismissive - forgive us, but being dismissive was the style.
From that rarefied academic environment, dominated by abstract thinking and academic competitiveness, I stepped straight into a first-class cricket dressing room. It was a massive change and gave me a huge jolt. And I'm sure I didn't always handle it well. On one away trip, my room-mate picked up the book on my bedside table. It was Experience and Its Modes, a densely argued book by the philosopher Michael Oakeshott. I'll never forget the expression on his face.

Mike Atherton and I once discussed whether intellectuals had any place in modern sport. The best defence is that good sports teams embrace diversity. They are open to all different types, including players who do not naturally fit the stereotype of a team player. The best teams are liberal in the deepest sense. They do not stifle independent thinkers or left-field ideas. They do not enforce conventional, middle-brow behaviour.

For that reason, the worst combination for a sporting intellectual is a losing team and a weak, insecure captain. A losing team searches for scapegoats. During times of insecurity and pressure, as history shows, human groups often turn on unconventional individuals. Insecure leaders want to be surrounded by players of limited intelligence. It is easier that way.

Surprisingly, however, the team's "intellectual" usually has little to fear from the anti-intellectual jocks. No, the real threat comes from the jealousy of the nearly man, the player who fancies himself as a thinker and resents the competition. Team splits often begin with the manipulations of jealous, thwarted players who think they are cleverer than they are.

The best teams are liberal in the deepest sense. They do not stifle independent thinkers or left-field ideas

Winning, of course, always helps. A winning team is more inclined to look for the good in unusual players. Looking back on my career, the happiest times were when I played under secure captains and coaches. My father, a lifelong teacher, often told me that weak headmasters appoint unthreatening deputies, but strong headmasters back themselves to handle more restless and independent people.

I suspect that was one of Adam Hollioake's great strengths as a captain: he encouraged people to be themselves. He could do that because he was happy in his own skin. "I enjoy my life, I want my team-mates to enjoy theirs" - that was always the impression I got from Adam.

Roebuck, I sense, craved that kind of acceptance - in cricket and in life. He once emailed me a long, uncorrected series of acute perceptions and observations. It was classic Roebuck - staccato, direct and unsparing, especially of himself. He wrote: "I realised that I had not actually enjoyed cricket at all. Englishmen love to suffer! I played one creative innings at Somerset and that's the only press cutting I kept. I never really dared again."

He was determined to avoid those errors in his career as a writer. "Always tell the truth in your own way. As a journalist I never go into the office, as I say nothing happens in offices! One has to work hard not to get sucked into 'the operation'. But dare one tread that path? Do you? Professionalism is not an enemy but it has become a mantra. I concentrate entirely in staying fresh - or else work becomes tired, cynical, useless. Cleverness is an easy substitute for thought. Begin afresh afresh as Larkin wrote."

That "Do you?" was one of the most direct challenges I have had put to me.
He had so much more thinking to do, so many more insights to develop. Instead, his innings did not run its full and proper course. "A player goes through three stages - natural, complicated, simple - not many reach that last stage but the journey cannot be avoided. Failure is the problem," he wrote to me.

Roebuck's three-stage journey applies to life as well as to batting. It is deeply sad that Roebuck's life ended while it was still very much at the complicated stage. One day, I hope, the intellectual will find it easier to find a natural role in professional sport.

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith is a writer with the Times. His Twitter feed is here


nice read !

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Old November 27, 2011, 07:25 PM
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টিউমার নিয়ে খেলেছেন যুবরাজ!

ভারতের বিশ্বকাপ জয়ের অন্যতম নায়ক তিনি। ম্যাচসেরা হয়েছিলেন চার ম্যাচে, হয়েছিলেন টুর্নামেন্ট-সেরাও—চাইলে সবচেয়ে বড় নায়কই বলা যায়। বিশ্বাস করতে পারেন, যুবরাজ সিং পুরো টুর্নামেন্ট খেলেছেন ফুসফুসে টিউমার নিয়ে? ছোটখাটো টিউমার নয়, রীতিমতো গলফ বল সাইজের এক টিউমার!
ওয়েস্ট ইন্ডিজের বিপক্ষে টেস্ট সিরিজে খেললেও পুরোপুরি সুস্থ হওয়ার জন্য ওয়ানডে সিরিজ থেকে যুবরাজ নিজেই সরে দাঁড়িয়েছেন। হঠাৎ তাঁর এই অসুস্থতা নিয়ে প্রশ্ন ছিল। এত দিন পর তাই সব খুলে বলেছেন যুবরাজের মা শবনম সিং, ‘পুরো টুর্নামেন্টেই ওর প্রচণ্ড কাশি ছিল, বমি করেছে। প্রথমে আমরা ভেবেছিলাম, এটা অতিরিক্ত চাপের কারণে হচ্ছে...খুব একটা পাত্তা দিইনি। বিশ্বকাপের সব উত্তেজনা ও উৎসবের পরও যখন সমস্যাটা থাকলই, তখন আমরা চিকিৎসকের কাছে গেলাম। হতবিহ্বল হয়ে আমরা আবিষ্কার করলাম, ওর বাঁ ফুসফুসের ওপরে গলফ বল সাইজের একটা মাংসপিণ্ড। আমরা পুরোপুরি ভেঙে পড়েছিলাম, মেনে নিতে পারছিলাম না। কাশির সমস্যা যুবরাজের অনেক দিন ধরেই ছিল, কিন্তু আমাদের বলা হয়েছিল, সেটা স্রেফ অ্যালার্জি, ধুলোবালি ও দূষণের জন্য।’
যুবরাজও প্রথমে বিশ্বাস করতে চাননি। কয়েকবার টেস্ট করার পর মৃত্যুচিন্তা নাকি পেয়ে বসেছিল যুবরাজকে। যদিও বাইরে বাইরে সব সময় হাসিখুশি থেকেছেন। সবাইকে উল্টো সাহস দিয়েছেন। আরও কয়েকটি পরীক্ষার পর নিশ্চিত হওয়া যায়, টিউমারটি প্রাণঘাতী ও আশঙ্কাজনক নয়। উপযুক্ত চিকিৎসাতেই ভালো হয়ে যাবে। ভক্তদের নিশ্চিন্ত করেছেন শবনম সিং, ‘যুবরাজ এখন অনেক ভালো আছে, পুরোপুরি সুস্থ হওয়ার পথে।’
অসুস্থতার কথা শুনে অনেকই নানা মাধ্যমে শুভকামনা জানিয়েছেন যুবরাজকে। আপ্লুত যুবরাজ সবার প্রতি কৃতজ্ঞতা জানিয়েছেন টুইটারে, ‘আমি এখন খুব ভালো আছি, শুধু ম্যাচ ফিটনেসের প্রয়োজন। শিগগিরই অনুশীলনে ফিরব।’ এএফপি, ওয়েবসাইট।

Wish him a quick recovery & all the best.
সবাই সুখে সুখী হলে বলো তবে হবে কে ভবঘুরে
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Old February 10, 2012, 06:29 PM
Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Cricket's not all greek to the Greeks

In Corfu and Athens the sport is catching on, and the locals are getting their countrymen from all over the world to visit and play as well
Firdose Moonda
February 10, 2012

The ground at Marina Gouvia in Corfu © Hellenic Cricket Federation

In Cape Town cricket is played against the backdrop of Table mountain, in Dharamsala the Himalayas watch over the sport, and in Corfu it's the Venetian New Fortress that guards the pitch.
Yes, Corfu. That Greek island soaked in sunshine, decorated with olive groves and vineyards and accessorised with French and Italian architecture is now home to a real-life version of My Big Fat Greek Cricket Match.
Matches, in the plural, in fact. In April the Hellenic Cricket Federation (HCF) invites schools from across the globe to compete in a multinational tournament to open their season. The HCF covers the teams' accommodation and breakfast and dinner, effectively leaving the parents with not much more than flight costs to bear. In September they close the summer with the Greek Cup, a competition in which people from the Greek diaspora play. Sandwiched between these two highlights is a thriving domestic season that includes 20 clubs, 13 of them in Corfu.
Surprisingly to some, cricket owns a part of the island's history too. It has been played there since 1823, when a British Garrison and Royal Navy Team contested the first match on Corfu. Since then, English teams have often combined beach holidays with pre-season tours. Having observed the visitors over the years, the locals began to take an interest as well.

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Old April 7, 2012, 04:47 AM
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As this is a topical thread, rather than opening a new thread, bump.

Pakistan's forgotten player sheds light on 1992 cricket victory
Tom Hussain

Zahid Fazal, a member of Pakistan's 1992 World Cup winning cricket team, speaks to young players in Punjab province

Ask any 30-plus Pakistani male what the happiest moment of his life has been and, excluding "the birth of my child", you're likely to receive a personal re-enactment of the day Imran Khan and company conquered the England cricket team and the world in Melbourne on March 25, 1992.

They'll also talk about that year being the best Ramadan ever, with the beginning of the day's fast coinciding with the start of play at the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Then they'll tell you how the relatively short daylight hours and mild weather of the season made fasting that much easier, and the sense of divine preordainment that surrounded the whole tournament.

But what has never been explained is how Pakistan's performance went from awful to incredible in a matter of days in that five-week, nine-team tournament.

The side were nearly eliminated in the competition's group stages before the weather intervened, forcing a match against England to be abandoned which helped Pakistan avoid certain defeat and, with it, elimination from the tournament. They would later sneak through to the knockout stages.

But was their miraculous turnaround really inspired by an infamous speech given by captain Khan, in which he referenced a "cornered tiger", as is widely assumed in sporting folklore?

Khan is now a prominent politician whose promises of an anti-corruption "tsunami" resound with those Pakistanis who watched him lead the side to victory in 1992, and who have raised their progeny on tales of his incredible feats.

The 10 other members of the team have also gone on to enjoy the material benefits of bringing home the trophy, although they have rarely offered any insight into how the side managed to achieve greatness. Perhaps the team's 12th man, Zahid Fazal, a largely forgotten man, whose role was limited to a few sessions of substitute fielding, could reveal more?

In the two decades since the tournament, Fazal had completely disappeared from public view and was rumoured to be somewhere in Sialkot, a town that is renowned for producing sporting goods, dentistry equipment and loud politicians.

We eventually tracked our man down, who is now, it transpires, the local ticketing agent for Pakistan International Airlines.

He hadn't known we were coming, but it soon became apparent that a nondescript office in Sialkot had considerable sporting pedigree. Fazal's boss, Khalid Hameed, is an Olympic hockey gold medallist from the 1984 Los Angeles games.

So, what about that "cornered tiger" speech?

There never was one, Fazal says, at least not one given directly to the players in the dressing room. Those were just remarks made by Khan to television commentators before a vital match with New Zealand. Nor was it the first time Khan had worn the tiger T-shirt that gave rise to the legend in the first place: "It was an old shirt that he had stuffed away in the bottom of his kitbag. He would wear it for all our crunch matches, especially one-day finals in Sharjah."

Khan had remained unswervingly upbeat about Pakistan's chances of success, even after the team's near-exit, and would say, at every team meeting: "We will win before we leave."

After the embarrassing performance against England, Khan repeated his mantra, but privately, some of the team thought their captain had lost his mind.

"After we were bowled out for 74, we packed our bags [because we thought we were finished]. But Imran insisted we would still win the World Cup."

Laughing, Fazal said his teammate Wasim Akram had joked that Khan, who would turn 40 later that same year, had "gone senile".

What they hadn't appreciated was that their captain was motivated by a simmering anger that first surfaced when the Pakistan Cricket Board unveiled the team's uniform for the tournament's opening ceremony.

He had asked officials, who wanted the players to wear lounge suits, "why are you dressing them like white people?".

Khan put his foot down and the team attended the ceremony wearing traditional cream-coloured shalwar-kameez made from boski, a cotton-silk fabric worn by Pakistanis on special occasions.

For Pakistan's final group game, the team had to beat co-hosts New Zealand to progress to the semi-finals.

Khan decided to pick a fight (if not a war) with his opponents, who had won all their matches to date and had emerged as improbable favourites to take the title. Only Khan begged to differ.

"They're just a B-team," Khan asserted in the run-up to the match, causing a media storm in New Zealand. Pakistan won the game and looked forward to a return match in the semi-final, which was also played against New Zealand.

B-team, Khan taunted once more, and Pakistan won again.

But they did so only after twice facing the most hostile crowds the players had ever seen. If a Pakistani batsman hit a six, there would be absolute silence. When New Zealand took a single, the roar of the crowd was deafening.

"They threw everything they could at us throughout the games. Afterwards the pitch was strewn with fruit, eggs and goodness knows what else," Fazal recalls.

In fact, Khan's tiger wasn't referred to in the dressing room until the final when, pointing to his T-shirt, he said: "Today we have to fight like this tiger."

And then he told the players why: "We must win for those green [Pakistani] passport holders, who are lined up by whites, and have dogs set on them. Do it for them."

Not that everything quite went to plan for Fazal, who Khan didn't select to play in the final.

Ironically, Fazal was on the field for the entire English innings, up to the moment of victory, because Javed Miandad aggravated a back injury while batting.

Fazal ran out sporting brand new cricket boots, supplied by Puma, the sports manufacturer, who Miandad had talked into paying four Pakistani players $1,500 each to use their kit in the final.

Unfortunately, the boots came with spikes that were too short to grip the lush outfield at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"If you watch the video of the match, you'll notice that Mushy [Mushtaq Ahmed], Rambo [Rameez Raja] and me fell over a lot. It was because of those shoes. Javed would have fallen too, if he had fielded."

Later, after the victory, Khan said: "I told you we would win."

"The team were in awe of Khan," said Fazal, "We just looked at each other and said Imran 'must be a sorcerer or something'."

Fazal believes that Khan's move into politics would have happened, irrespective of whether Pakistan had won the World Cup.

And, despite his pre-tournament remarks, Fazal insisted that Khan is not a racist. He merely hates the fact that corruption in Pakistan has kept his countrymen poor and illiterate, and prevented the nation's emergence as social equals in the world at large. "He's a natural leader who's convinced that he'll be the best at whatever he turns his hand to."

While captain of Pakistan, Khan would often talk about the need to end the dichotomy in the country's education system, where the children of the rich and middle classes attend British curriculum schools, and the poor were condemned to attend state schools with a laughable local syllabus.

"He'd frequently tell us that if he ever came to power, he would end the class bias in education, invest in social services and bring an end to corruption." Khan's beliefs have remained constant over the years.

As for the politicians who have recently flocked to Khan's Tehrik-i-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, Fazal said they are in for a rude awakening.

"They think they can mould Khan into being a politician like themselves. They are sadly mistaken. He'll do precisely what he thinks is right, and won't care whether they like it or not."

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Old April 7, 2012, 04:54 AM
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Brazilians play cricket too
In the football-mad country, cricket has gained a small foothold. And the best thing is, it's not being played only by expats
Toby Chasseaud
April 7 2012

A club game between Swadisht and Gralha Azul in Curitiba, Brazil © Juliana Silva

Garrincha, Pelé, Sócrates, Ronaldo, Rudy Hartmann. Haven't heard of the last one? He's the fastest bowler in Brazil. Although better known for its football, Brazil is quietly experiencing a revolution in a sport the country is not normally associated with. In the past decade, its men's and women's sides have achieved ICC affiliation and competed against rivals across the Americas.

The game still has great barriers to overcome, including a struggle for funding and for attention in a country where it is soccer that is hardwired into the national consciousness. Although cricket was first introduced to Brazil in the mid-1800s, long before football, it never caught on in the same way. But while most Brazilians have not grown up with cricket, they have played a game descended from it. Taco, played by children in the streets, is two-a-side, with a bowler and wicketkeeper against two batters, who run between the wickets (there are no boundaries).

The batters use a stick to defend a small wicket. Bowling is underarm, but as in cricket, batters can be bowled, run out and stumped - as Prince Harry recently found out the hard way. The prince was visiting a favela in Rio, called Complexo do Alemão, where members of Cricket Brasil and the fledgling Carioca CC were teaching children the basics of cricket. When the kids played their more familiar taco with Harry, he survived seven balls before being stumped by the keeper. Although standing in his crease, Harry had not grounded his bat, thus falling victim to another difference between the two games.

"It was hilarious to watch," says Matt Featherstone, captain of the Brazil men's side. "Before he knew it, this kid was grabbing the bat from his hands, telling him he was out. There was no deference to the third in line to the British throne."

Featherstone's role in Brazilian cricket epitomises the transition being made as expat players bring on a new generation of homegrown talent. Born in Bromley, he played for the Kent Second XI and England Amateurs before moving to Minas Gerais with his Brazilian wife. His side have just returned triumphant from the Amistad Cup, a three-match Twenty20 series against Peru. After losing their first game, Brazil recovered to win the final two. In his three innings, the captain scored 0, 68 not out, and 68 respectively.

But despite being national captain, Featherstone is essentially an amateur. He works for his wife's family's chain of gift shops, and living in the small town of Poços de Caldas means that even to play his club cricket he has to drive three hours to São Paulo. "I'm lucky my wife lets me spend as much time as I do on the game," he says.

When Featherstone moved to Brazil in 2000, he was unaware cricket even existed in the country. But there it was, and he was soon in the national side. Although the team was not recognised by the ICC, it played unofficial international matches in the South American Championship, and Featherstone was able to use his batting ability and his contacts to take Brazilian cricket forward.

Brazil became an ICC affiliate member in 2002, and in 2006 they qualified to join the ICC Americas Championship, with Featherstone as captain. In recent years they have alternated between Division 3, which includes Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Falklands, and Division 2, with Argentina, Panama, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. They are currently back in Division 3, "which is probably our level to be honest - Div 2 is a big jump up", Featherstone says. But perhaps ten years down the line, "it is not inconceivable that we could find ourselves playing in a Twenty20 World Cup. We're on the up but it's a slow process".

Cricket Brasil is battling to overcome obvious challenges. Money is tight. The ICC pays for entry into tournaments and provides $25,000 a year in direct funding, which goes towards Brazil's only full-time officer, Vincent Bastick, the CEO, and helps pay expenses for three others, including Featherstone in his role as national development officer. "In reality I only get petrol money," he says. "There is not enough cash to do what we do, and it is difficult to gain sponsorship in a country where 99% of the population haven't heard of the game." He is thankful for the sponsors they do have, though, including HSBC and Indian sugar company Renuka.

Prince Harry plays taco with Brazilian kids © Getty Images

Featherstone says a major stumbling block to the game's development is that the ICC has not applied for cricket to become an Olympic sport, largely because of opposition from Test-playing nations. "These countries have such a packed international schedule already that they are reluctant to give up a few weeks every four years for the Olympics. But 90% of cricketing nations would benefit from being in the Olympics. If we were in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we'd be able to secure funding from the government and it would be a showcase for cricket in Brazil. But as things stand, the earliest cricket could be entered as an Olympic sport is 2024. We've missed the boat and it's a big shame. The ICC could do more for Affiliate nations."

At 41, Featherstone is probably one of the oldest captains in international cricket. So how long will he carry on? "Hopefully not much longer. If I could stop playing for Brazil now, I would. But the team still relies on me for runs. I'd rather play a match with a weaker team than with a stronger one totally dominated by expats."

In a recent ICC tournament in Suriname, nine players out of the 14-man squad were born in Brazil. And in an international competition in Nassau, the Bahamas, in 2010, Brazilian players were voted best bowler (Rudy Hartmann), best fielder (the wicketkeeper Guilherme Leferve) and best batsman (Gregor Caisley). Of them, only the last, an Australian, is an expat. "And we didn't even win a game," chuckles Featherstone.

With the game now entering schools, Cricket Brasil is hoping for a homegrown generation of players to represent their country. Junior development programmes have been established in São Paulo, Brasília and Curitiba. And Brazil has joined forces with Peru, Chile and Argentina to establish Cricket South America and host tournaments at the Under-13, 15 and 19 age groups, thus creating opportunities for youngsters to play internationally. "What is great is when you can take successful Brazilian cricketers into schools and show the kids what they can do," says Featherstone. "It's fine for me to go there, speaking Portuguese in an English accent, but to them I'm still a gringo."

While Brazilian men's cricket has claimed its place on the world stage in recent years, the women's side has emerged at breakneck speed. Unlike the men's game, their squad is already made up 100% of players who were born in the country, although again with a helping hand from expats.

Bastick is manager of the Brazil women's national side, based in Brasília. An Australian by birth, he married a Brazilian (a recurring theme here) and moved to her home country in 2004. Having played cricket in Sydney in the 1970s - "I was probably a B-grader" - he, along with Cricket Brasil president Ian Webster, became instrumental in establishing women's cricket in Brazil through his contacts at the University of Brasília. A major breakthrough came when cricket became an accredited PE course and students took to it with enthusiasm.

Bastick says what happened in Brasília was unique. "The nucleus of the women's team was formed in 2007. The women came from sports they were already very successful at. There were several handball players, including two goalies, so we had a readymade wicketkeeper. There were twins who were expert kayakers, and there was a ballerina. There were also futevôlei [foot volley] players - like volleyball but you use any part of your body, except your hands - although unfortunately we lost them when they went on to pursue successful futevôlei careers."

There are two women's teams in Brasília, the Candangos and Brasília CC, and they play each other and against men's teams. The best players can then go on to represent Brazil. In 2007, Brazil played in the first women's international clash in South America, taking on Argentina in a three-match series, which they lost 2-1. It was a promising start and they have never looked back. In last year's South American Championship, played in Brasília, they came second, behind Argentina, but ahead of Chile and Peru.

When I speak to Bastick, his side is preparing to take part in the women's ICC Americas Championship in the Cayman Islands. There, from April 22 to April 29, they will play the likes of the USA, Canada, Bermuda and the hosts. The team trains four times a week in the run-up to the competition, which is difficult considering all have jobs, studies and/or children. Another obstacle is the weather. "It's the rainy season, so we have lots of interruptions," says Bastick.

As well as the Clube Nipo baseball ground in Brasília, the women sometimes play on the main esplanada, flanked by government ministries. For a wicket, they lay out a long carpet over an asphalt pathway. "It makes a pretty good playing surface," says Bastick.

He says the challenge in the next few years is to get U-13 and U-15 girls playing in competitions. As administrator of Cricket Brasil, he draws a modest salary from the ICC but also runs an English language school. Like Featherstone, Bastick says he would be happy to take a step back from the game and hand over responsibility to homegrown coaches.

I ask if it is a problem that Brazilians have no exposure to cricket through television, but he says it isn't. "What you lack in television coverage here, you make up for in technological advances. Want to learn to play the cover drive? Just type it into YouTube.

"We mainly play 20-over matches, but sometimes 40 overs to give the batters a chance to score a hundred, which isn't easy in the shorter game. However, it's difficult to sell the longer format to a nation brought up on 90-minute football matches."

While more homegrown cricketers are getting involved, it is difficult to ignore the influence of expats, particularly at club level. I visit Curitiba, where I meet Norman Baldwin, 52, vice-president of the Brazilian Cricket Association and the backbone of cricket in Paraná state. Baldwin learned his cricket in Vancouver but has lived in Brazil for 17 years. The HSBC ground just outside Curitiba, which has hosted both men's and women's international games, favours batting. It has a reliable artificial wicket, good sightscreens and short boundaries square of the wicket.

The Brazil squad that beat Peru 2-1 in the Amistad Cup

There are now two teams in Curitiba, who play each other on a regular basis. Swadisht (meaning "tasty" in Hindi) is an Indian XI, and Gralha Azul is a Rest of the World XI. On the day I visit, the team is composed of five Brazilians, three Englishmen, a Pakistani, a South African and a Canadian (Baldwin).

I ask each of the Brazilians whether they prefer cricket or football. All say football. One of them, Marco Johnson, who has represented Brazil at rugby, shows particular promise with the bat. Another, Raphael Chiapelli, is playing his first match but already seems to have a basic grasp of the game's complexities. In this particular match, Swadisht hit 182 in their 20 overs, while Gralha Azul finish short on 163.

Four states in Brazil play cricket: Paraná, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and the federal district of Brasília. At the moment São Paulo and Brasília have the strongest set-ups. Although a Rio Cricket Club was founded in 1872, the game died out there for 15 years until being revived in September 2011, with the formation of Carioca CC. Baldwin attributes the decline in Rio cricket to economic circumstances. But with Brazil's economy now firmly on the rise, workers from cricketing nations are returning in increasing numbers and Carioca CC are trying to establish a home after the original Rio Cricket Club rented its pitches out to football.

So while soccer continues to dominate sporting life in Brazil, the seeds have been planted for another beautiful game to take hold in the country. Let us hope, for the sake of world cricket, they are given every chance to grow.

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Old May 5, 2012, 02:06 AM
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Maysun Maysun is offline
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The reason Haddin pulled out of the WI tour and the IPL was because his 17mo daughter was diagnosed with cancer, on the other hand his wife gave birth to another child. Feel so bad for him, the emotions he is going through!

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Old June 7, 2012, 01:35 AM
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A real test? Not in your backyard
Playing Test cricket overseas is the greatest examination of skill a cricketer must pass. Despite the increasing uniformity of the touring experience, playing abroad hasn't really got easier
Ed Cowan
June 7, 2012

For centuries, young men have travelled overseas as a means of expanding their horizons and experiencing foreign pleasures. From the Grand Tour of the 17th and 18th centuries, through to the modern-day gap year, it is an educational rite of passage that holds importance across cultures the world over. A modern-day cricketing equivalent exists too. Over the years thousands of eager players have left the comforts of home shores for an off season abroad. Every Test player is a first-time tourist at some stage in his career; there are many lessons to learn, much experience to be gained.

Cricket is a rare sport - no two wickets around the world are the same. Each ground, from village green to Test arena, has its own character and charms. There is no other sport that can lay claim to being played under such extreme variations of conditions. It is this variance that ensures experiencing the game in all its depth is a vital aspect of development for any cricketer.

I look upon my overseas club cricket experiences with great fondness. The soft "popping" wickets of Scotland taught me the valuable lesson of playing the ball late and straight. Sometimes the coin would stick vertically in the track upon tossing, and the average club trundler would become a fearsome prospect. The low, skiddy bounce of the mats of Holland provided the challenge of finding a way to score with no pace or bounce to work with. Both alien environments required a Darwinian approach to batting - adapt or perish. There was also the expectation that as the overseas pro you would win games for your team. Above all else, you could play how you wanted to play - becoming your own coach, and more importantly, your own man in the process.

For professional cricketers lucky enough (given the now-strict visa requirements) to now embark on such journeys these days, the gains of playing cricket through the calendar year can give them a significant edge over competitors back home. There is no time to down tools and lose the appetite for runs or wickets.

The path of county cricket has been a track well trodden in recent decades by overseas players attempting to make a name for themselves - Mike Hussey and Mark Waugh are two cases in point. In accumulating hours at the crease, they effectively had the batting volume of three Australian summers each year. For those who are long on Malcolm Gladwell's theory that 10,000 hours of practice are required to become an "expert", these two accelerated their learning through experience at three times the rate of their competitors.

What, then, of Test match cricket played away from familiar surrounds? I know from my own recent, albeit limited experience, I left Australia feeling like a fish who knew every corner of his bowl, only to soon be thrown into a vast ocean. Survival, which had previously been guaranteed, was now threatened by the widened environment.

It needs to be noted the term "home" series is a liberal interpretation. Most players might only play one Test a year in the comforts of their home ground - a ground they have intimate knowledge of. That is not to say they don't possess a deep understanding of other surfaces in their country, but it is nothing like the sense of ownership they feel towards "their" patch of turf.

Touring in a Test environment is the greatest test of skill a player has to face. The game itself does not change, but the parameters that it is played within are in some instances turned on their head; balls turning at right angles are as foreign for a Yorkshireman as having to fend off a throat-high bouncer is for someone who grew up on the red clay of Chennai. If a spin bowler who turns the ball away from the bat produces a full, flat, leg-stump delivery in the Antipodes, it is usually punished with ease through midwicket for four. In Dominica, on Australia's recent tour, the same delivery was at times unplayable and treated with the respect given to an unexploded mine.

In some foreign conditions, players who have perfected a style of play at home over many successful years can be quickly forced to wonder where their next run is coming from. They face two choices: to push on unchanged and hope that strength of mind and luck carry them through; or to show the courage to deconstruct and rebuild their technique in a matter of days.

The best example of the latter was Matthew Hayden's sweeping masterclass in India in 2001. At the age of 30, he discovered a shot that went on to define him as a player. In doing so, he risked his career; the reward, in retrospect, was a place among the greats of the game.

Touring in Test cricket, it seems, is harder than it looks. Of the top 20 run-scorers of the last 30 years, only four have had a better average away than they have had at home: Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh, Allan Border and Graeme Smith. Border and Smith experienced incredible success abroad - on average scoring ten more runs each time they took guard with a fresh stamp in their passports. They also both share the "fighter" tag: known to thrive as captains when their team's livelihood in a game was dependent on their own personal success - a situation that occurs more regularly when you are touring.

If searching for proof that no one technique can simply be rolled out across the globe, look no further than Hayden, who discovered a successful recipe for dominance in India, yet still also averaged an astonishing 15 runs more in Australia than he did overseas.

When does a fad become a trend? Of the current top 20 batsman (as determined by the ICC rankings), only four have superior records on the road. Of the other 14 (with two Pakistanis omitted, since they haven't played at home for three years), the average disparity between their home and away records is 14 runs. For a player who averages 50, this represents almost a 30% decline. There may well, of course, be a number of factors at work - the drain of living out of a hotel, away from family and other support networks; illness; or even a general anxiety of the unfamiliar. Like any experience, until they are your own, you have no idea what is entailed in the journey.

The paradox is this: it is the current international player who should be best placed to deal with the challenges of touring. He is much more worldly than his forebears, and the world, we are told, is becoming more and more homogenous. With the proliferation of youth World Cups, A tours and academies, the foreign should be familiar by the time players have graduated to Test cricket. However, it takes longer than you might think to acclimatise. Every ground has its own feel, and often it is not until you have tasted some success on it that you feel entirely comfortable. In this age of three-format cricket, and the resultant tightening of scheduling - in terms of time between and within tours - the luxury of playing multiple warm-up matches is now non-existent.

I know from my recent West Indian tour. It was not until the last Test that I felt I had come to terms with conditions. Within days I was back in Australia. It is easy to forget that it was not that long ago that ODIs were played between Test matches - elongating preparation time and allowing players to immerse themselves in a destination. Now, touring can be a slap-and-dash affair.

The other paradox is that much of the touring experience is now uniform: five-star hotels, business-class air travel and around-the-clock security. It is only the playing conditions that differ. Steve Waugh made it a point to get to grips with local culture wherever he went. It was his way of breaking down the barrier and manufacturing some normality in unfamiliar territory. His record on foreign shores (5217 runs at 55.5) seems to show the benefits of that effort. Modern-day preoccupations and paranoia would make it difficult for a modern-day Steve Waugh. Perhaps that is why cricketers are struggling to emulate his on-field on-the-road successes.
A real test? Not in your backyard
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Old June 10, 2012, 10:11 PM
Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Now for a funny one!

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Old June 10, 2012, 10:18 PM
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BengaliPagol BengaliPagol is offline
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^LOL hilsa. Its a dish. A fish dish.
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Old June 10, 2012, 10:20 PM
Zunaid Zunaid is offline
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Originally Posted by Zeeshan
Now for a funny one!

That was brilliantly funny. Amongst the many gems the following shone a bit brighter:

"Oh, that's just great," Parthiv Patel was overheard saying while standing behind someone. Can't be sure if it was even Parthiv, to be honest.
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