IN FOCUS – Sri Lanka in Bangladesh Test series 2013-14 : Preview

  This series comes at a time when Bangladesh’s future as a Test team is under question, after the distasteful draft proposal was revealed last week. Under the terms of the proposal, the Tigers could be relegated to the Intercontinental Cup from 2015 instead of being a Test nation, a move that reeks of selfishness from the richer boards. Indeed, the best way for Bangladesh to send across a message would be to give their best on the field, and for its fans to throng the grounds for the two Tests – something which has not been seen in the last few years.

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The Matches and the Grounds

  The short series will begin with the opening match at Dhaka’s Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur from January 27-31. The second and final Test will be played between February 4-8 at the Zahur Ahmed Choudhary Stadium in Chittagong. Sri Lanka have played once at Mirpur and twice at Chittagong, winning all three times. Bangladesh’s record at both grounds is poor – eight losses and two draws at Mirpur; eight losses and three draws at Chittagong.

The Teams and the Captains

  Bangladesh (1st Test) – Mushfiqur Rahim (captain), Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Al-Amin Hossain, Marshall Ayub, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Robiul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan, Sohag Gazi, Tamim Iqbal, Shamsur Rahman, Imrul Kayes.

  Uncapped 25 year-old opener Shamsur Rahman has been rewarded for his form in the first-class circuit, where his most recent innings fetched him 267 runs. He is likely to partner Tamim Iqbal at the top. Imrul Kayes has been recalled to the squad as the third-choice opener. Two-Test old Marshall Ayub may bat at No.3. The middle order has shown immense maturity of late, with the likes of Mominul Haque, Shakib al Hasan, captain Mushfiqur Rahim and Nasir Hossain forming a strong quartet. Mominul has had a great start to his career, and is the best young batting talent in the country. The spin attack is in the safe hands of Sohag Gazi and Abdur Razzak, along with Shakib. Rubel Hossain and Robiul Islam will lead the pace attack.

Rahim has a lot more on his plate than the performance of his team in this series. Under his leadership, Bangladesh have finally seemed to display some sort of competitiveness in the Test arena. Cruelly, at such a time, a proposal to rob them of their Test status is being mooted through a ridiculous two-tier system. However, a strong showing against the Lankans will go a long way in drilling some sense into the selfish proposal-setters. The diminutive wicketkeeper-batsman has grown into a mature cricketer, and recently became the first to raise his voice against the draft proposal.

Mominul Haque    The highly talented Mominul Haque will be one of the players to watch out for, having been the top run-scorer in his team’s latest Test series (source – theguardian.com)

  Sri Lanka –  Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Shaminda Eranga, Vishwa Fernando.

  Sri Lanka have made two changes from the squad that drew the series against Pakistan in the UAE recently. Off-spinner Ajantha Mendis, who has had success mostly in the limited-overs formats, makes a return to the Test team, replacing Sachithra Senanayake. 22 year-old Kithuruwan Vithanage, whose only two Tests are the ones against Bangladesh in their home series last March, comes in for an injured Lahiru Thirimanne. Sri Lanka’s young batsmen and their fast bowlers showed that they belonged to the top level through a string of impressive performances in the UAE. Besides captain Angelo Mathews, both Dinesh Chandimal and Kaushal Silva proved that the stocks are not barren whenever veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene play their last. The fast bowling was even more heartening, with Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal standing up to the task, and they will provide welcome support to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.

  Mathews came under a bit of criticism following his negative time-wasting tactics during Sri Lanka’s loss against Pakistan in the final Test at Sharjah, and his over-cautiousness may have cost his side a rare overseas series win. Nonetheless, the drawn series was still a positive result for his side, who will look to build on that in Bangladesh. Mathews was in great touch with the bat against Pakistan, topping the runs chart with 412 and he will look to continue to lead his team from the front.

Head To Head and Recent Record

  The two teams have contested 14 Tests in all so far, with Sri Lanka winning 13 of them – 7 by an innings – and the remaining one being a draw. That draw came at Galle last March, where Bangladesh racked up their highest ever total of 638. That game was the first of the latest series played between these teams, with Sri Lanka clinching the second and final Test to win 1-0. The two teams have met four times in Bangladesh – in two-Test series in 2005-06 and 2008-09, both of which were won 2-0 by Sri Lanka. None of Bangladesh’s seven innings defeats against Sri Lanka have come at home.

Form Book and Ranking

  Bangladesh are currently ranked – as has almost always been the case – at the tenth place in the Test rankings, 16 points behind 9th-placed Zimbabwe. Lack of fixtures is also hurting the team’s progress, which is now unfairly considered to be obstructed for good through the above-mentioned draft proposal. Of late, they have shown visible improvement in their Test performances, their latest series being a creditable 0-0 draw at home in a two-Test series against New Zealand in October. Prior to that, they drew 1-1 in Zimbabwe, where they achieved only their fourth Test match win ever. Bangladesh have never won a home Test against a ‘top eight’ nation. Their last series win was in the Caribbean back in 2009, when they beat a severely depleted home side.

  Sri Lanka played some much-needed Test cricket when they took on Pakistan in the UAE recently, and went on to perform much better than expected. The 1-1 draw in that series was their first overseas series against a higher-ranked team in which they avoided defeat since the 0-0 draw in Pakistan in 2008-09. Their last series win was against Bangladesh at home last March. Their last overseas series win was in Bangladesh in 2008-09. Their last overseas series win over a ‘top eight’ nation was way back in 1999-00, when they triumphed in Pakistan. Sri Lanka’s encouraging display in the UAE will give them the confidence to better their abysmal on-the-road record. They are placed 6th in the Test rankings, three points ahead of 7th-placed West Indies.

Players To Watch Out For

srilanka_big     Shaminda Eranga will be raring to go at Bangladesh following a successful series against Pakistan (source – saudigazette.com.sa)

  22 year-old Mominul Haque has played just five Tests and his average is an imposing 83.42. Having made an impressive debut in Sri Lanka last year, he recently flayed the visiting New Zealanders with two centuries in as many Tests (topping the series charts with 376 runs) to make the world notice of an exciting new talent. The left-handed batsman’s  181 against the Black Caps at Chittagong was one of the finest innings played by a Bangladeshi. He is the perfect number four for the Tigers and has the right mix of aggression and caution needed to unsettle the bowlers. He will be setting his sights on more big scores against the Sri Lankans.

  Shaminda Eranga was the most effective of Sri Lanka’s pace bowlers against Pakistan, taking 12 wickets at 28.75. The right-arm bowler, who took a wicket off his very first delivery in Test cricket in 2011, has it in him to be his country’s fast-bowling spearhead over the next few years. Having played all but two of his ten Tests in the sub-continent, Eranga has the exposure of bowling on tracks unresponsive for the fast bowlers. Bangladesh’s top-order, who often attack needlessly, will have to play very well against him if he maintains the same consistent line and length that he did against Pakistan.

Prediction

  With the hosts aiming to justify their presence on the Test table like never before, this series can be expected to be more closely fought than any of the previous series between the two sides. I go for a 1-0 win for Sri Lanka, but it will not come easy.

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VIEWPOINT – An outrageous plan that could choke the life out of cricket

  Although it has been two days since someone (many thanks to that whistle-blower, and also thanks to Sharda Ugra and Jarrod Kimber for highlighting this on Cricinfo) leaked a shocking draft proposal to revamp the structure of the ICC, it is still difficult to believe that it actually happened and that it was not just a bad dream.

  Whatever little trust that followers of the game had in the ICC has vanished. Everyone knew earlier that the ICC was the most lily-livered and apathetic sports body in the world, but this time it has all but given up on cricket administration altogether. Instead, it has come up with an idea which is nothing short of a cruel joke, played by the very people who are expected to be the care-takers of the game.

  The proposal’s primary, long-term motive is hastening the death of cricket. The short-term objectives are to make the rich (namely the BCCI, the ECB and Cricket Australia) richer, the poor (all the rest) poorer, fill the pockets of corrupt and money-minded administrators who have sold every inch of their souls to the lure of cash and make a mockery of the countless number of true lovers of the game, who have been left bewildered with this particular bombshell. This has to be the last straw in a chain of acts over the last few years by which the ICC has intended to destroy this game irreparably.

Giles+Clarke+N+Srinivasan+ICC+Board+Meeting+USwPhcIc2fXl  Two of the three partners-in-crime, ECB’s Giles Clarke and BCCI’s Narayanswami Srinivasan. The third (not in pic) is CA’s Wally Edwards (source – zimbio.com/getty images)

  The names of the people on the committee that the draft proposal came from are Giles Clarke (chairman, ECB), Alan Isaac (ICC president), Dave Richardson (chief executive), N Srinivasan (BCCI), Neil Speight (Associate and Affiliate member, Bermuda Cricket Board), Wally Edwards (CA), Dave Cameron (WICB), Campbell Jamieson (GM, commercial) and Faisal Hasnain (CFO). Clarke, Srinivasan and Edwards seem to be the only real gainers here and they are most likely to be the initiators. 

  We have seen plenty of pathetic ideas from the ICC in the recent past, but none of them shocked the conscience as this. A proposal to virtually hand over all the executive power in the cricket world to three cricketing boards and allowing them to get away with almost everything at the expense of the game and its future. The proposed new executive committee would have four members – one each from BCCI, ECB and CA and a fourth from the rest, selected by the aforementioned three.  Seriously, what were they thinking? Has the lust of earning quick dollars blinded them so much that they cannot even think rationally? Does human greed have any limits?

  At a time when other sports are trying to spread to all corners of the globe, cricket is bidding to become a cosy coterie of three countries who are content in playing each other because they feel other nations are just not ‘economically viable’. In short, money, and not performance, dictates the strength of a cricket team. How much lower can these people stoop?

  As you might have guessed, they have already stooped lower than one can imagine. A few days before the proposal was leaked, the ICC came up with the idea of two-tiered Test cricket. As followers of the game debated which team will play in which tier, the one question on everyone’s minds was, what if India, or for that matter, England or Australia, get relegated? Will the broadcasters kiss goodbye and the idea scrapped? The ICC, at the behest of the sleazy three, has decided to tackle this dilemma in its own novel way. The proposal clearly states that India, England and Australia are to be ‘exempt from relegation’ if the tier system is adopted. What on earth does that mean? Whatever happened to South Africa, upon whom none of the so-called ‘big three’ are a patch when it comes to on-field feats?

Bangladesh+v+England+2nd+Test+Day+One+ti-MCiVYxFPl  Action from the Dhaka Test between Bangladesh and England in 2009-10. If the proposal is accepted, the two sides might never play each other in a Test again (source – zimbio.com)

  ‘Exempt from relegation’ is simply a ridiculous euphemism for nothing less than match-fixing. Imagine the audacity of these rogues! Their high-handedness has come to such a point that they are getting away with blatant corruption, and gut-wrenchingly, they have the ICC’s support. It is so disturbing that one wonders what is the point of anything at all. Ironically, the ICC had said that the potential tier system will be based on ‘meritocracy’. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  Solely on the basis of their coffers, three teams are allowed to rig a competition structure to suit themselves, while the rest – including world champions South Africa – are left to fight among themselves. Is there any purpose left now for people to follow the game? This kind of decision-making also proves why the Anti-Corruption unit of the ICC has never managed to book anyone so far in spite of tall claims. Why would they, considering the ones are the very top seem to be fixers of the highest order.

  And then there is the new revenue sharing model. The proposal suggests that a new executive committee (ExCo) be formed with permanent memberships for BCCI, CA and ECB to override all other committees. According to current practice, the ICC gives 75% share of its ‘surplus’ (revenues minus costs) from events to ten Full Member nations and distributed the remaining 25% to Associates and Affiliates. Distributing the gross revenues on a graded percentage to ten member boards – with three, the BCCI,ECB and CA, earning more than the rest – means reducing the percentage of surplus from ICC events. This will affect the 25% share to be distributed among Associates and Affiliates (A&A), of which, the proposal recommends giving the top six half the share of the 25%. In short, the have-nots are to be marginalised further, and dreams of non-Test members might just go up in smoke.

  It is a known fact that whoever takes on the BCCI has to pay dearly. There is absolutely no doubt that South Africa are the best team in the world by a mile today. Yet, because they ignored India’s diktat to refrain from appointing Haroon Lorgat as Cricket South Africa’s CEO and unlike others, showed some much-needed spine, they stand to be ostracised.

  The proposal has suggested setting up a ‘Test Cricket Fund’ (whatever that means) meant for the utilisation of six of the remaining seven members (only South Africa are not there) , who are to report such utilisation to the ICC Financial and Commercial Affairs Commitee, which would of course be controlled by the ‘big three’. Whom are you kidding, for heaven’s sake? Now one has to report the usage of funds to people who are as useless as a bucket without a base? And South Africa’s shoddy treatment is proof enough that no matter how you perform on the field, it is politics and cash that rules.

  Another massive blow to the game’s future is that the Future Tours Programme is proposed to be scrapped. Instead, the Test nations are to decide among themselves to play bilateral series without interference of the ICC (which happens to be non-existent anyways). This will lead to a situation of endless games between the shameless triumvirate, even more than what currently is. In its current form, the FTP was as it is a joke, with Test series being cancelled, postponed or shoehorned at the drop of a hat. But at least it was there on paper, and there was a flicker of hope. Alas, now we might reach a stage where it will be almost impossible to revive the game in majority of the top nations as well. Capitalist colonialism is order of the day. Feudalism is back in vogue.

864308-david-warner  If the proposal is agreed to, it is possible that all cricket will be left with few years down the line will be numerous T20 leagues (source – theaustralian.com.au)

  It is not that this was completely unexpected. The advent of the IPL in 2008 had signalled the game’s downward spiral towards doom. The BCCI, not satisfied with the mountains of money it made through sponsorship and coverage deals, embarked on a single-minded mission to make as much more as possible, to the detriment of the game. While cricket ceased being a gentleman’s game long ago, India’s influence has actually led it to cease being called a sport itself. Instead, it has turned into a business, a business of the dirtiest kind where shameless politicians and greedy officials plot and plan their next source of profit and their next task of robbing cricket of its charm, whatever little is left.

  India of course, now has two powerful allies in Australia and England, two nations who used to control the game for many years before India ruined their party. So the best way had to be ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’. They are now together in the club of the arrogant and the self-centered. To hell with development of the game. We are here to make money. Few jingoists (mostly from India) who might have liked this proposal may say that until the early 1930’s, three nations – England, Australia and South Africa had a firm grip on the game’s administration. But those were different times. Other countries were still learning, cricket was being developed across the world gradually.

  Today, it  just cannot be acceptable for a sport which is already regressing to be made even more exclusive, and that too to suit the interests of a few immoral pig-heads. Spare a thought for the spirited young Irish cricketer who dreams of playing England in a Lord’s Test. Spare a thought for the vibrant Papua New Guineans who dream of being a top one-day team in the near future. Spare a thought for those countless South Africans, New Zealanders and Pakistanis who might just have to give up their ambition of playing Test cricket for their country. And for the resilient Afghans, who might never be admitted to the top level despite having immense talent.

  The draft proposal is to be submitted to the ICC Executive Board during its quarterly meeting in Dubai on January 28 and 29. If the remaining seven members are proud of their own teams and have self-respect, they should not, in any circumstance agree to this nonsense. Ideally, it is better that the BCCI, CA and the ECB cut themselves off from the rest; instead, South Africa (the best team in the world), New Zealand (a nation that still respects Test cricket) and Ireland (the nation most enthusiastic to play Tests today) could become the founder members of a fresh new democratic body. Ideally, N.Srinivasan and his corrupt cronies should be bundled off into a place so far that they wouldn’t dare to touch cricket again.

  But unfortunately, the cricket world is far from ideal at the moment. It is likely that eventually, money would have the last say, the remaining full members would be bought over by more false promises and the game’s downward spiral towards a sudden demise would hasten. Up next – Australia, India and England to be permanent World Cup semifinalists with the rest to undergo qualifying for the fourth spot. If the bullies are allowed to get away, this might just happen sooner than later.

  What the mindless administrators are not realising is that the money they have is solely due to the passion of the fans of the game across the world. And without any shame, they are trying to play mucky tricks with us, making a mockery of our interest in the game and taking us for granted time and again. This time the line has been crossed. As it has happened, the same people who were talking about tackling fears of cricket’s death and protection and primacy of Test cricket are hell-bent on killing our great game once and for all. The ICC have underlined their reputation of being the world’s biggest hypocrites.

  We as fans, can only write, protest, sign petitions and the like. We do not have the resources to challenge the selfish decisions of a few men at the top. But it is because of us that the game is even alive today. Any cricket lover worth his salt knows that if the proposal of the money-fuelled takeover is passed, cricket will be destroyed forever.

  And if that happens, it will probably be time for me to learn about the history and rules of another sport; a sport whose guardians have its larger interests in mind. Following cricket, which has been a most cherished part of my life so far, might have to be done away with – painful as it may sound.

  All I can say is, hopefully, better sense will prevail this time. Cricket and its supporters deserve much better. 

A must-read, by Jarrod Kimber – http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/710789.html

REVIEW – 2013 year-end recap (Limited-overs cricket)

  The year 2013 saw 136 One-day Internationals and 53 Twenty20 Internationals being played. Although limited-overs cricket had its moments, one could not help but feel that there were way too many of them throughout the year, often resulting in an overkill. Of course, there were good crowds most of the times, but there was scarcely any relevance attached to such contests. Here is a look at the highlights from limited-overs cricket in 2013:-

One Day Internationals

– ODI world champions India were the best one-day team in the year, winning 22 and losing 10 out of 34 games. The only team to manage a 100% win record was Afghanistan, but they played only four games. India and Pakistan played the most number of games, i.e 34 each.

– India won the seventh and last edition of the ICC Champions Trophy, which was played in England in June. India defeated the hosts by 5 runs in a rain-shortened 20-over final at Edgbaston. In the semi-finals, India and England beat Sri Lanka and South Africa respectively.

India-England_AI_2598189b  India celebrate after winning the Champions Trophy, beating England by 5 runs. This was the last edition of the tournament, which began in 1998 (source – telegraph.co.uk)

– Ireland won the ICC World Cricket League 2011-13 and became the first of four Associates to qualify for the 2015 World Cup. Afghanistan, who finished second in the WCL, also booked their World Cup ticket for the first time. The remaining two qualifiers will be the finalists of the World Cup qualifiers, which will be played in New Zealand in early 2014.

– The leading ODI run scorer in the year was Pakistan captain Misbah ul-Haq, who tallied 1373 runs in 34 matches. The leading wicket taker was Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, with 62 wickets in 33 matches.

– The year recorded four tied matches – Ireland v Pakistan at Dublin, South Africa v West Indies at Cardiff, Netherlands v Ireland at Amstelveen and West Indies v Pakistan at Gros Islet.

– India’s Rohit Sharma became the third man after compatriots Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag to score an ODI double-hundred. Sharma scored 209 – the second-highest score after Sehwag’s 219 – off 158 balls against Australia at Bangalore in November. Sharma struck 16 sixes in that innings – a new world record – breaking Australian Shane Watson’s tally of 15 achieved in 2011 against Bangladesh.

– In the above-mentioned ODI at Bangalore, India made 383/6, which became the highest team total against Australia batting first. Also, both India and Australia hit 19 sixes each, creating a new record. The earlier best was 18, which was achieved four times. (The record of 19 has since been broken by New Zealand, who struck 22 sixes against West Indies at Queenstown on 1/1/2014).

– Pakistan won their first ever bilateral series in South Africa, when they beat the hosts 2-1 in a three-match series in November. In the process, Pakistan also became the first Asian team to win a series in any format in South Africa.

– South Africa’s Hashim Amla became the fastest to reach 4000 ODI runs, achieving the feat in 81 innings, bettering West Indian Vivian Richards’ 88. Also, India’s Virat Kohli became the joint-fastest to 5000 runs, reaching there in 114 innings (same as Richards).

– South Africa’s Quinton de Kock became the fifth batsman to score hundreds in three consecutive ODI innings. He achieved the feat in the home series against India – scoring 135 at Johannesburg, 106 at Durban and 101 at Centurion.

– Virat Kohli scored the fastest ODI century by an Indian, off 52 balls, against Australia at Jaipur. In the same series, James Faulkner scored the fastest ODI century by an Australian, off 57 balls at Bangalore.

cricket-martin-guptill-smashes-england  Martin Guptill made the highest individual ODI score by a New Zealander, scoring 189* against England at Southampton (source – tntmagazine.com)

– Martin Guptill achieved the highest ODI score by a New Zealander when he scored 189* against England at Southampton in June. The earlier record was held by  Lou Vincent, who had made 172 against Zimbabwe in 2005.

– There were two hat-tricks recorded in the year – Australia’s Clint McKay against England at Cardiff in September, and Bangladesh’s Rubel Hossain against New Zealand at Dhaka in October. In the latter game, Hossain’s 6/26 became the joint-best bowling figures by a Bangladeshi along with Mashrafe Mortaza, who had the same figures against Kenya in 2006.

Twenty20 Internationals

– The leading T20I run scorer of the year was Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad, who made 347 runs in 12 matches. The leading wicket-taker was Kenya’s Shem Ngoche, who picked up 14 wickets in 11 matches.

– Australia’s Aaron Finch created a new record for the highest individual T20I score when he scored 156 off 63 balls against England at Southampton in August. He broke New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum’s record of 123, made against Bangladesh in 2012.

– In the above-mentioned game, Finch also broke the record of the most sixes in an innings by hitting 14 of them. The earlier record was Richard Levi’s 13 for South Africa against New Zealand in 2011-12. Meanwhile, Australia’s total of 248/6 in the game was their highest and the second-highest overall. Australia’s total of 18 sixes was also a new record, going past South Africa’s 17 hit against England in 2009-10.

zmk859799-130831-s-aaron-finch   Aaron Finch slammed 156 off 63 balls against England at Southampton, a new record for the highest T20I score. He hit 14 sixes, another record (source – theaustralian.com.au)

– Kenya were bowled out for the lowest ever T20I total when they were dismissed for 56 in 18.4 overs against Afghanistan at Sharjah in September. Kenya also held the earlier record – 67 against Ireland in 2009.

– Ireland won the ICC world Twenty20 Qualifiers in October, beating Afghanistan by 68 runs in the final at Abu Dhabi. Along with Ireland and Afghanistan, the other teams which qualified for the first round of the 2014 World Twenty20 were Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Ireland’s total of 225/7 in the final was their highest ever and the fourth-highest overall.

– Pakistan’s Umar Gul took a record sixth four-wicket haul in T20I’s when he took 5/6 against South Africa at Centurion in March. He earlier shared the record with Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis with five each. Also, Gul became the second bowler after Mendis to take at least five wickets twice in T20I’s. 

– In the above-mentioned game at Centurion, South Africa lasted just 12.2 overs in making a total of 100. This became the shortest completed total in T20I’s; the earlier record being 14.3 overs which Australia lasted in making 79 against England in 2005. Also, this was South Africa’s lowest ever T20I total.