Ads by google

Follow by Email


Tackle the Web with up to 5 new .COMs, $5.99 for the 1st year!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Special One's Special Strategy for El Clásico - The Wall Street Journal Sports

What's the best way to prepare for a four-game series in three different competitions against your bitter rival when these games will likely determine the outcome of your season? Why, if you're a coach, deflect all attention off your players.
Associated Press
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho refused to answer questions at a press conference before his team played Barcelona, its rival.
On Friday, some 150 journalists crowded into the press-conference room at Real Madrid's Valdebebas training complex ahead of the club's clash with Barcelona. Earlier that day, the reporters were told that Jose Mourinho, Real's firebrand coach, had decided not to attend but that his assistant, Aitor Karanka, would field questions instead.
It's not mandatory for coaches to address the media at pre- and post-match press conferences, as in American sports, but it's certainly customary, especially ahead of arguably the world's biggest club game. While Mourinho has sent Karanka to represent him in the past, nobody expected the self-described "Special One" not to attend—not before a match like this. Several senior members of the Madrid press corps warned the club that if Mourinho did not show up, they would simply walk out.
Mourinho did accompany Karanka into the room and took his seat at the microphone. But then, a Real spokesman explained that he would not be fielding any questions. Karanka would do all the talking. More than 100 journalists rose as one and left the room in protest.
Real Madrid's official explanation was that Mourinho felt his words routinely get "distorted" by a headline-hungry press, so it was best for him to remain silent and not ratchet up the pressure. Few observers saw it that way, and some even praised his Machiavellian genius: By turning himself into a human lightning rod for the media, his players could prepare in peace. Others were more critical.
Real and Barcelona drew 1-1, a result that left Madrid eight points back with six games to go. It probably means the Catalans will win the league. But afterward, Mourinho was the main talking point—again.
Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso takes out Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the first of four games between the two rivals, a 1-1 draw.
When a journalist from the Madrid sports newspaper AS, one of the many who walked out Friday, asked the opening question in the post-match press conference, Mourinho coolly said: "I don't have to answer your question. Since you wouldn't speak to my assistant on Friday, then I think it's right that I should only speak to your boss."
The message was simple. This was tit-for-tat. If his assistant wasn't good enough for the press pack, then the press pack wasn't good enough for him. He'd only field questions from fellow bosses, i.e. editors-in-chief. And if that wasn't clear enough, he made it so in fielding the next question from Punto Pelota, an outlet that had not deserted Friday's press conference.
"I will answer you, because Punto Pelota showed respect [for Karanka], and you, sir, are a fine professional who also deserves respect," Mourinho said.
To an outsider, this behavior may appear childish. To long-time Mourinho watchers, it was unprecedented, but not exactly a surprise. The Portuguese boss seeks out an edge wherever he can find it. And when he said he would be ignoring those media representatives who had "disrespected" Karanka, it was indicative that nobody left the room. If the objective of Friday's walkout was to put the manager in his place, it had evidently failed.
Another example: Earlier in the week, Mourinho said that Real Madrid would practice playing with 10 men. Even in his previous spells with Inter and Chelsea, he often had players red-carded against Barcelona. "I have to train with 10 men [to prepare], because I go there with Chelsea, I finish with 10 men, I go there with Inter, I finish with 10, so I have to prepare because it can happen again," he announced. (It's not actually true that Mourinho-coached teams always get a man red-carded against Barcelona, though after this weekend, it has happened on 5-of-12 occasions, which is unusually high.)

It was a quip but also a calculated move, and the message was clear: The referees will punish us, so we'd better be prepared. It even planted the seed of paranoia in the referees' mind, and these kinds of shenanigans have their own logic. If you get into the match official's mind, he'll want to prove he's unbiased. In doing so, he may end up giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Saturday's referee, Cesar Muniz Fernandez, was clearly unmoved. He sent off Real defender Raul Albiol early in the second half for a foul that also resulted in a Barcelona penalty, duly converted by Lionel Messi. The good news for Real fans is that the side actually seemed to play better a man short—maybe Mourinho had practiced with 10 men, after all—and clawed its way back to 1-1, thanks to another penalty, when Marcelo was fouled by Dani Alves and Cristiano Ronaldo slotted it home from the spot.
Mourinho's pre-match public-relations strategy might have backfired. But Real's comeback, while futile in terms of turning around the league, showed there's plenty of fight in this team. And with the Spanish Cup final Wednesday and a two-legged Champions League semifinal coming up in the next two weeks, there's plenty of opportunity for Mourinho to get some vengeance and prove he's still Special.
Year of the Mid-Major Extends to Europe
Because the Europa League is the Champions League's ugly stepsister, you may have missed the fact that the Portuguese league is supplying three of this year's semifinalists: Braga, Porto and Benfica. (The fourth is Spain's Villarreal.) For a league that's a net exporter of talent, in terms of both managers (Mourinho, of course, started here) and players (in the past 12 months, it has lost stars such as Raul Meireles, Angel Di Maria, David Luiz, Ramires and Eduardo), it remains a remarkable achievement. This is tantamount to the Big Sky Conference sending three teams to the Final Four. Well, maybe the NIT's Final Four, but still.
What's more, Porto, Braga and Benfica knocked out some rather pedigreed teams along the way, including Dynamo Kyiv, Liverpool, Seville, Spartak Moscow, Paris St. Germain and PSV Eindhoven. This year's success will likely lead to another exodus of talent away from Portugal in the summer, but that's OK: The league has shown a remarkable talent for renewing itself, year after year.
Gabriele Marcotti is the world soccer columnist for The Times of London and a regular broadcaster for the BBC.

Breaking Down the Masters Photo Finish- Wall Street Journal Sports

The whole “a tradition like no other” and Jim Nantz’s whispery reverence and all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the Masters can feel a bit much. But when the field made its way into the home stretch at Augusta National on Sunday, all that mythos began to feel almost appropriate. The final day of The Masters delivered just about everything a golf tournament is supposed to have, and did so in grand style. From a thrilling – if ultimately just short-of-the-mark – comeback from Tiger Woods to the supernova flameout of early leader Rory McIlroy to the shootout between the smorgasbord of players with share of the lead at some point on Sunday, the 75th Masters was one that instantly placed itself among the finest and wildest in the tournament’s history.

In an upset, Jim Nantz thought better of proclaiming, “It’s Charl in charge!”
With many of the world’s best players playing at their best – and a few more obscure players enjoying the best rounds of their lives – and multiple five-way ties for the lead on the back nine, it was certainly one of the more suspenseful Masters in recent memory. If all, or any, of that pressure registered with eventual champion Charl Schwartzel, though, it wasn’t immediately apparent.
You know, Charl Schwartzel? Actually, chances are good that you don’t, unless you’ve paid a lot of attention to European PGA Tour events. The South African golfer has long been a trendy sleeper among the golf intelligentsia, but the average golf fan knew little of the 26-year-old golfer vaporizing the field and course at Augusta National. After he became the first golfer ever to birdie the last four holes to sew up a Masters win, though, Schwartzel was officially a sleeper no longer.
As impressive as Schwartzel was, though, this Masters will likely be best remembered for the reawakening of Tiger Woods and the nightmare finish of Rory McIlroy. Woods, who hung around the fringes of contention until Sunday, was doing his familiar shrunken giant routine for the first three days of the tournament before abruptly rediscovering his Tiger-ness. The result was as exhilarating to watch as any Tiger attack of old, even if his putter did let him down around Amen Corner. “That watershed was arguably as important as winning, even if Woods, a ruthless competitor and incorrigible perfectionist, would not quite have seen it that way,” the London Daily Telegraph’s Oliver Brown writes. “The unmistakeable message, ringing out in the glorious chaos of Augusta last night, was that Woods is back.”
And Rory McIlroy will be back, too, in time. On Sunday, though, McIlroy went from owning a four-stroke lead on the field to crashing into a tie for 15th, thanks to a historically disastrous Sunday. Eventually, CBS simply cut away from McIlroy. The kid from Northern Ireland will reappear soon enough, and how haunted he is by his Masters collapse will determine just what kind of golfer we wind up seeing. “Professional golfers are a prideful bunch – it is a necessary part of their make-up – and they fear embarrassment almost more than they fear losing,” the Guardian’s Lawrence Donegan writes. “McIlroy has proved he has the game to win a major championship. What he needs to prove now is that he has the mental capability.”

* * *

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Masters if there weren’t some reminder that Augusta National’s dedication to tradition includes some that are a bit less admirable than giving the winner a green blazer. The Bergen Record’s Tara Sullivan was barred from the locker room after the tournament, which is a violation of both standard media practice and, it turns out, Masters policy. The story quickly exploded on Twitter, although Sullivan did much to tamp down the controversy by explaining what happened on the Record’s website and running the apology she received from Masters media official Steve Ethun.
In the end, Sullivan’s mistreatment at the Masters looks like nothing more than a big misunderstanding. Or, as Yahoo’s Jay Busbee has it, a big, symbolically rich and kind of predictable misunderstanding. “Naturally, this is a story because of Augusta National’s less-than-sterling history with including anyone who’s not white and male within its ranks,” Busbee writes. “Credit to Augusta National for stepping up and immediately addressing this head-on. … Thing is, there will be plenty who don’t believe it’s sincere. For that, and for the continuing perception that it’s a relic of a mindset long past, Augusta National has no one to blame but itself.”

* * *

More even than private jets, backup mansions and round-the-clock estate-planning teams, the coolest new accessory for American billionaires is controlling an English Premier League soccer team. On Sunday, Stan Kroenke, the investor who also owns the St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rapids, joined the club by agreeing to purchase a giant chunk of Arsenal FC. (He already was a minority owner.) The purchase, if it goes through, will make Arsenal the second big-ticket EPL team to pass into American hands in recent months, after a group headed by John Henry and Tom Werner bought Liverpool FC.
Arsenal is one of the richest and most storied franchises in the EPL, and one of the world’s iconic soccer clubs. Factor in the troubles that fellow-American Malcolm Glazer has had as owner of Manchester United, though, and it was inevitable that Kroenke’s purchase would attract a ton of scrutiny. In the Independent, Jack Pitt-Brooke examines Kroenke’s ownership style, and the London Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson journeyed to Denver to survey Kroenke’s sports empire.

* * *

Say what you wish about the Miami Heat’s new big three, but regardless of when (or if) Miami bows out of the upcoming NBA postseason, LeBron, Dwyane and That Other, Taller One deserve credit for creating a few terrific new rivalries in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. On Sunday, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat – the reigning big three and those who would inherit the throne – met in what may well prove to be a postseason preview. As with all of their previous meetings this season, the vibe in the arena fell somewhere between tense and someone-is-going-to-get-hit. Unlike those other meetings, though, Miami’s players were the aggressors this time, and wound up handing the Celtics their worst loss of the season.
It wasn’t just that Miami’s 100-77 win was their first win against Boston this year. It was how resounding and impressive that win was. “It’s as if, with one game, all that momentum and confidence the Celtics built up in beating the Heat three times this season has evaporated,” the Miami Herald’s Israel Gutierrez writes. “It’s as if the Heat, having beaten the Celtics just once in four tries, has the upper hand, and not just by a little bit. You don’t want to say that one game means that much more than any of the previous ones, but how can’t you say that?”
It was that impressive, and Miami’s win may signal a shift in the Eastern Conference’s balance of power. And, if you read the usually spectacularly even-keeled Boston sports press, the last days of the Celtics’ most recent mini-dynasty. The playoffs can’t start soon enough.

* * *

The retirement of Manny Ramirez Friday afternoon came suddenly, unexpectedly and – most saliently for our purposes here – after that day’s Daily Fix pubbed. The very great Carl Bialik jumped in that afternoon with an examination of Manny’s manifestly complicated case as a Hall of Famer that afternoon, because he’s good like that.
For a reminder of just what we’ll be missing and why, check out Ben McGrath’s terrific 2007 piece from the New Yorker on the mystery and magic of Manny. For better or worse, it’s hard to imagine anyone else quite like him.

Everything's Coming Up Roses in Chicago

Derrick Rose snuck up on no one. He was a Chicago high school superstar, an elementary school superstar before that. He played in a national-title game in his only college season and became a number one NBA draft pick, selected by his hometown club, the Bulls. He was voted Rookie of the Year, then an All-Star. He wears the number 1. This is not the résumé of a surprise.

And yet there's a fresh commotion in Chicago, in the third season of Rose's career. The Bulls finished the regular season with the NBA's best record, and though they have never won a playoff series with Rose, a memorable postseason run is predicted—perhaps the first title since Michael Jordan left with six. There are multiple reasons for this confidence—an improved defense implemented by head coach Tom Thibodeau; an edge-of-reckless aggressiveness personified by wild-haired center Joakim Noah; and a deep bench of reserves. But the case for Chicago quickly circles back to No. 1.
At 22, Rose may be the NBA's most riveting player. That's not a radical opinion, but it still sounds strange in a league with in-their-prime fliers like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard, and ever-vigorous veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant. Rose was the only NBA player to finish the season in the top 10 in points and assists, and though there are compelling statistical arguments for candidates like Howard, he's expected to be named the league's MVP. The MVP voting is often as much about narrative as it is raw data, and as the star of a marquee franchise having a rejuvenated season, Rose is an attractive choice.
But still...household name? Not exactly. There are long basketball shadows in Chicago.
Had you not been aware of Rose, had you missed the entire NBA regular season, the two prior NBA seasons, and Rose's controversial one-and-done year at Memphis (a season the school was later forced to vacate because of a scandal involving Rose's SAT), you could have understood his greatness just by watching him Saturday against Indiana in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs' first round. (Game 2 is Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT.)
[SportsFeature_0] European Pressphoto Agency
Chicago's Derrick Rose scored 39 points on Saturday as the Bulls rallied to defeat the Indiana Pacers, 104-99, in the first round of the playoffs.
Watching the early rounds of the NBA playoffs—which last year ended on June 17—can feel like showing up at the airport nine hours early. Indiana, which completed its regular season 37-45, isn't expected to give much of a fight to top-seeded Chicago, but on Saturday, they were frisky, jumping out to a 27-23 first quarter lead.
But there was a dazzling Rose moment in the opening quarter. Rose was on defense, guarding the Indiana point guard Darren Collison. Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough set a pick, slowing Rose, and Collison blew past on the left, a clear lane to the basket. As Collison began his layup, Rose was steps behind, but before the ball dropped to the cylinder, Rose leapt and closed the gap, swatting the shot against the backboard, into the hands of Bulls teammate Keith Bogans.
Rose tumbled out bounds, pushing off the red basket support to launch himself back into the play. Before mid-court, Bogans gave the ball back, and Rose drove to the center of the court. Confronting Hansbrough at the top of the key, Rose twirled around him with a 360 spin. In most cases, that move should have been enough to score, but beneath the rim lurked the 7-foot-2 Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Rose twisted his body once more, gently twirling the ball off the backboard over Hibbert's reach, whereupon it dropped, paused hard on the rim, and tumbled in.
Indiana was unfazed. The Pacers held off the Bulls deep into the fourth quarter, even after a third-quarter elbow from Chicago's Kurt Thomas laid Hansbrough to the floor. He returned, and with 3:38 left, Indiana led 98-88.
In the stands, Pacers executive Larry Bird smiled. Was an upset coming?
A quarter century ago, Bird watched a 23-year-old Chicago Bull score 63 in a playoff game against the Boston Celtics and declare he'd seen "God disguised as Michael Jordan." The deity comparisons have yet to happen to Rose—the Jordan ones are also premature—but the next three minutes would fuel his growing legend. With Indiana leading by six, Rose fired a cross court pass to Noah, who soared for a dunk. With 1:50 to play, Rose curled around Hibbert for a lay-up and foul. With 1:27 left he spun past Indiana's Paul George for a teardrop floater.
Tie game, 99-99.
The definition of NBA greatness is to do it when everyone expects you to do it, when every defensive weapon is emptied at you. But the definition of NBA brilliance is to do something different when everyone expects you to do it again. With less than a minute to play, Rose started a drive, dragging the Indiana defense with him, only to kick out a long pass out to Kyle Korver, who buried a three and gave Chicago its first lead.
The Bulls went on to win, 104-99. In a weekend in which Memphis shocked San Antonio and Chris Paul led New Orleans to a magnificent stunner over the Lakers, Rose delivered 39 points, and everything when it mattered. It was a bright rescue by an emerging NBA superstar. It just wasn't a surprise.

Zulqarnain Haider may has to face media trial in Pakistan- Routers

Karachi-Routers, Pakistan ex-wicket Keeper Zulqarnain Phatoo or Zulaqarnain Bhagora may has to face media trial because he had runaway during South Africa tour from Dubai.Which Pakistan pays huge in shape of defeat of series against Proteas.Pakistan nation is very unhappy with Zulqarnain.They said that Zulqarnain should get chance in Indian Army who are also Phatoo.

Its also reported that Zulqarnanin Hyder is in fear about Pakistani nation so he may come Lahore by wearing Hijab so no one can see except media that Zulqarnain Phatoo has arrived.

P.C.B also has to trial him.An official from P.C.B stated that we will give packets of Diapers to Mrs.Zulqarnain for her husband.We will give him job as a driver for Foreign team bus.Because he has experience of Running away from the place of danger.

Zulqarnain is arriving Lahore in few days.

ZTB may restore Zulqarnain's (Bhagora) job on his return: Rehman Malik -Paki Sports

Lahore-Routers, Ex-Pakistani wicket Keeper Zulqarnain Phatoo or Zulqarnain Bhagora is coming Islamic Republic of Pakistan in few days.Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik presented another gift to former wicketkeeper of National Cricket Team Zulqarnain Haider in the form of restoration of his job in Zarai Taraqiati Bank.
As per details, Interior Minister Rehman Malik contacted President of Zarai Taraqiati Bank ZaKa Ashraf to restore former wicketkeeper of National Cricket Team Zulqarnain Haider's job.
Expectations of Zulqarnain Haider's return have been increased after Rehman Malik's another gift of his job.
An official of Pakistan Cricket Board said that doors of International Cricket would remain shut until Zulqarnain Haider produces himself before PCB's Integrity Committee.

Pak-India blind cricket series by end of 2011- Ten Sports

Pak-India blind cricket series by end of 2011: Cricket News

Karachi-Routers, Pakistan Blind Cricket Council (PBCC) Secretary, Bilal Satti, has expressed positive views on the resumption of Pak-India bilateral series. He said that the PBCC will benefit by the revival of arch-rival series.
He told the media that they were likely to hold a bilateral Pak-India series by the end of 2011 in UAE. The series would include three One Day Internationals (ODIs) and three T20s matches. He added that the series would be discussed in the meeting of the World Blind Cricket Council on the 12th of May.
He added that teams, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, South Africa, West Indies and England, will prove useful for PBCC as they will also be attending the meeting.
The PBCC Secretary stated, “We want India and all other countries teams to tour Pakistan and revive the International cricket over here.”
He appreciated the blind team of Pakistan and said that this is the only country in which cricket is played with full spirit and enthusiasm by the blind people. They actively participate in this game, he added.
He also appreciated the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for their support and admiration. He said, “We get a grant of one crore thirty lakhs from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which has made it very easy for us to participate in many international events.”
He said that they received a lot of international exposure because of the grant and it has helped them improve everyday. Pakistan have won the last two Blind World Cups in history out of the three that have been held so far.
He hopes that teams will tour Pakistan, as no foreign teams are coming in the country after the Lahore attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009. He added that South African cricket team want to visit Pakistan this year if they get the green signal from their government.
PBCC is playing a very crucial role in educating and rehabilitating the blind people of Pakistan. However, the financial conditions are not that sound as the organisation is lacking funds, but PCB has been supporting the PBCC from the very beginning.
Blind cricket is played in the same manner as normal cricket, except that it has a ball with a bell inside and bowlers bowl underarm deliveries, which are hit by the batsmen with the aid of the ringing bells.

Tillakaratne Dilshan has been appointed captain of Sri Lanka for next month's tour of England - ESPN SRILANKA

Tillakaratne Dilshan 

The all-rounder, 34, will lead the side in all three formats of the game.
He succeeds Kumar Sangakkara, who quit as national skipper in the aftermath of the team's World Cup final defeat to India in April.
The selectors have postponed naming a replacement for Mahela Jayawardene as vice-captain because a number of prospective candidates are injured.
All-rounder Angelo Mathews, 23, has been tipped to take over the role, but he is nursing a side strain suffered during the World Cup semi-final win over New Zealand.
Dilshan has led his country once before, during last June's tour of Zimbabwe, when his team won the final of a one-day tri-series which also featured India.


  • Full name: Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage Dilshan
  • Born: 14 October 1976, Kalutara
  • Tests: 66 games, 3,990 runs (average 42.44), 19 wickets (av 33.31)
  • One-day internationals: 203 games, 5,456 runs (av 36.61), 62 wickets (av 40.24)
  • Twenty20 internationals: 32 games, 758 runs (av 29.15), 4 wickets (av 37.75)

However, he has never previously captained the side in a Test match.
The opening batsman was the leading scorer during the World Cup - which Sri Lanka co-hosted along with India and Bangladesh - with 500 runs at an average of 62.50.
He also took eight wickets at 15.75 with his right-arm off-spin as his side made it to the final before losing by six wickets to India.
His predecessor Sangakkararesigned the captaincy three days after the defeat in Mumbai, citing the need for a younger leader be put in place to guide the side through to the 2015 World Cup.
Sangakkara replaced Jayawardene as captain in March 2009, with the latter reverting to vice-captain.
However, Jayawardene too quit his role in the aftermath of the recent World Cup, after becoming the first player to score a century in the final and end up on the losing side.
The country's four selectors, headed by former national skipper Aravinda de Silva, also resigned after the tournament.
Dilshan is also famous for popularising the "Dilscoop" - a scoop over the wicketkeeper's head - at the ICC World Twenty20 in England in 2009, when Sri Lanka were losing finalists and Dilshan was named as player of the tournament.

Middlesex defeat Essex in a one-sided affair- Geo Super

Middlesex defeat Essex in a one-sided affair

Middlesex cruised to an eight wicket win in a match of the County Championship Division Two against Essex, at the Lord’s Cricket Ground in England. The hosts were given a target of 54 runs, which they achieved easily for the loss of just two wickets. Middlesex scored 277 and 54 for two (end of match) whereas Essex managed 115 and 215 in the match.
James Foster elected to field first after winning the toss for Essex, but his decision proved to be a wrong one. The wicket had some assistance for the bowlers, but the hosts batted well for their 277 runs in their first innings.
Middlesex’s openers, Scott Newman and Chris Rogers, got off to a very good start, scoring 65 runs for the first wicket. They got out after getting starts of 38 and 25 runs respectively. Wickets started to tumble after the openers got out and the home team was struggling at 115 for five at one stage.
However, wicket-keeper batsman, John Simpson, and middle-order batsman, Gareth Berg, batted sensibly for a 66 run partnership. They scored 32 and 34 runs respectively, but failed to carry onto the start they got to their innings.
Lower-order batsmen, Ollie Rayner and Steven Finn, did a good job for their team, scoring 32 runs each. There was no half-century scored in the Middlesex innings, but they still managed to score close to 300 in the first innings.
Reece Topley was phenomenal with the ball in his hand, as he took five wickets for the visitors.
Essex batsmen were unable to post a threat to their opponents, as only five players reached double figures. Tom Westley was the top scorer with 36 runs whereas star opener, Alastair Cook, was the second highest scorer with 19 runs.
Middlesex’s attack bowler, Tim Murtagh, gave away a few runs, but he took four wickets in the innings. The visitors had to come out to bat once again, as the home team captain, Neil Dexter, imposed the follow on.
The second innings for the visitors was better compared to their first outing, but they were not able to post a serious threat to Middlesex. Westley was yet again the leading run scorer for his team, collecting 59 runs. Apart from him, Jaik Mickleburgh looked good for his 41 runs.
The South African born, Gareth Berg, was the pick of the bowlers for his team in the second innings, claiming four wickets. Middlesex required only 54 runs for victory after some good performances by their bowlers.
Although the hosts lost two quick wickets in their run chase, opener Newman guided his team to victory with an unbeaten 38 runs off 31 balls. Dawid Malan was the other not out batsmen, scoring 12 runs.

Durham overcome Yorkshire by a comprehensive margin - Sky News

Durham overcome Yorkshire by a comprehensive margin

Durham claimed an easy win over Yorkshire in a match of the County Championship Division One by 146 runs, at the Headingley, Leeds in England. Durham scored 327 and 311 for six (declared), whereas the hosts managed 149 and 343 in both their innings.
Seasoned South African campaigner and Durham’s captain, Dale Benkenstein, won the toss and chose to bat in good batting conditions. The wicket was dry and didn’t have much movement off the seam and in the air for the bowlers.
The start for the visitors was brilliant, as their openers Michael Di Venuto and Will Smith put together 106 runs for the first wicket. Di Venuto played aggressive cricket, scoring 74 runs from just 84 balls. He struck 13 fours in his innings before being dismissed eventually.
The fall of the first wicket saw a collapse for the visiting team, as wickets started to tumble. Durham lost six wickets in a span of just 28 runs and things started to look grim for them.
However, wicket-keeper batsman, Michael Richardson, and lower-order batsman, Scott Borthwick, batted sensibly, guiding their team to 196 with a 62 run stand for the seventh wicket. Borthwick got out after scoring 13 runs from 41 deliveries whereas the wicket-keeper batsman was sent back to the pavilion after adding 67 runs to the total.
Things didn’t end there for the visitors, as Liam Plunkett and Callum Thorp amassed a century stand for the ninth wicket. Thorp missed-out on a half-century getting out on 41 whereas Plunkett remained unbeaten on 66, until he ran out of partners from the other end.
Left-arm seamer, Ryan Sidebottom, shined for the home team, taking four wickets in the innings.
In reply to Durham’s first innings total, Yorkshire batsmen were below par. Opening batsman Joe Root top scored the innings with 45 runs, but no other batsman was able to score much runs apart from him. The second highest score of the innings came from middle-order batsman, Gerard Brophy, who remained unbeaten on 19.
Graham Onions was instrumental with the ball, claiming a five-wicket first-innings haul. He got good support from his new balling partner Thorp, who scalped three victims.
Durham had a comfortable first innings lead of 178 runs and they added 311 more runs to it, giving a massive target of 490 runs to the home team. Benkenstein was the star in the second innings for his team, scoring an unbeaten 150 runs off 213 balls. He smashed 17 fours and one towering six in his valiant knock. Wicketkeeper batsman Richardson also played a superb innings of 73 not out, until the innings was declared.
Moin Ashraf and Steven Patterson took two wickets apiece for Yorkshire in the second innings of the visitors.
Yorkshire played well in the second innings, but their dismal show in the first innings proved to be decisive in the match. Rich Pyrah top scored the innings with 87 runs whereas wicketkeeper batsman Jonathan Bairstow also batted well for his 81 runs. Their effort went in vain though, as the home team was all-out for 343.
Liam Plunkett bowled with accuracy for Durham in the final innings of the match, picking up three wickets.

He upheld all the virtues of cricket

Gerry Alexander, who kept wicket for West Indies during the tied Test, has been remembered by his opponents in that match as a pioneer of the wicketkeeper-batsman trend, and as a man who helped ensure the game was played in the right spirit. Alexander, who died on the weekend at the age of 82, made 484 runs during that famous 1960-'61 tour, which at the time was a world-record run-tally for a wicketkeeper in a Test series.
"He was what you'd call a competitor, which lifted his performance enormously," the Australia allrounder, Alan Davidson, told ESPN cricinfo. "We used to say if we knocked over Conrad Hunte and Kanhai and Sobers and Worrell and everybody, all of a sudden in comes this bloke Alexander. He could've batted No. 3 for them, because he was that sort of player.
"He was a good wicketkeeper as well. Let's face it, he had to take Wes Hall and then keep to Ramadhin and Valentine and Gibbs and everybody. Gerry was a great mate. We had tremendous respect for them. He was one of the real friends I made out of that tour."
During the tied Test at the Gabba, Alexander made 60 in the first innings and 5 in the second, and Davidson recalled the friendly on-field banter in what was to become the most famous Test of all, and the first match in a series that revitalised Test cricket.
"I can still remember bowling to him in a couple of the Test matches," Davidson said. "I remember in the tied Test, he played it just to the off side of the wicket and took off for a single, and of course I picked it up and from five or ten yards I'd knock the stumps down 100 out of 100 times. But just as my arm was coming through to throw it, guess who ran into my arm but Gerry Alexander, and it went for four overthrows.
"I appealed to the umpire and said, 'he knocked my arm, ump!' But of course Gerry said 'you were in my running line too, don't forget!' That's the wonderful thing about playing in those Tests, there was always the friendship that more or less bore out. It didn't stop your competitiveness, but there was a relationship that is lacking today."
Neil Harvey, who also played for Australia during that 1960-'61 series, described Alexander as a "fine cricketer" and a "very likable fellow". Harvey recalled how difficult Australia found it to dislodge Alexander during that tour, when only Australia's Norm O'Neill and West Indies' Rohan Kanhai made more runs than Alexander, who made 108 in Sydney, scored a half-century in each of the other four Tests and averaged 60.50.
"That was one of the best series that's ever been played. It resurrected the game of cricket in this country, and he was a big part of it," Harvey said. "He was a thorn in our side with the bat, actually, more than with the gloves. He was probably one of the pioneers of this batting wicketkeeper business. He was a fine cricketer and a good bloke to go with it. He was one of many West Indian blokes who we got on well with during the series." 
Alexander featured in the final stages of the tied Test, when he caught Richie Benaud in the last over off Wes Hall, and four balls later he whipped the bails off after collecting a long-range throw from Conrad Hunte on the boundary to run out Wally Grout. Late last year, Alexander spoke to ESPNcricinfo about the 50th anniversary of the tied Test, and he recalled with a chuckle the chaos on the field as the West Indians made their late charge in that final eight-ball over.
However, there were tough times for Alexander as well, and as the captain on the 1958-'59 tour of India, he played a key role in having the fast bowler Roy Gilchrist sent home for refusing to stop bowling beamers.
"He was the one who had to deal with it when Gilchrist went crazy," Davidson said. "He pulled a knife on Gerry in Karachi, when he was captain. Gerry never had malice in his mind at any stage, with anyone. You knew you were playing against him and he was a great cricketer in his own right, but he upheld all the virtues of cricket."
And, as the last white captain of West Indies, Alexander also had to deal with a campaign to oust him in favour of Frank Worrell. However, even after Worrell took over as leader, Alexander remained a supportive member of the side and gave his all for the team.
"He was a very good keeper," batsman Joe Solomon, who played under Alexander's captaincy in nine Tests, said. "He always encouraged the players on the field. He was a good captain and then Frank Worrell took over, but even after that he was always a good leader and would give good advice to the players.
"He was a great friend of mine. He was a very likable person, the kind of man who you'd like to meet and be in his company."

Former Pakistan players are in favour of resumption of bilateral cricket ties with India- Geo Super

Former cricket greats welcome series with India
Islamabad-Routers Former Pakistan players are in favour of resumption of bilateral cricket ties with India but have doubts over playing a short series due to arch-rivals' packed international calendar.
Former captains Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Rashid Latif believe that a series is possible on a neutral venue later this year if both Indian and Pakistan governments work out the modalities. "If both the governments want, then a short series is possible this year at any venue. If the Indian government asks the BCCI to organise a series, then the Indian board will definitely try to find a time slot," Zaheer said.
"The revival of Indo-Pak cricket ties is going to be a very positive development and it was great to see our premier and government officials visiting Mohali for the World Cup semi-final. It is very important for the development of cricket in this region and also for the betterment of international cricket that Pakistan and India should play regular Test and ODI series," he said.
The World Cup semi-final, won by India by 29 runs on their way to clinching the World Cup title, was watched by Prime Ministers of both countries -- Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani. Zaheer also noted that even from a business and financial point of view, a Indo-Pak series meant lot of money for the boards, players and commercial entities. "A Pakistan and India series in the near future could generate immense resources," he added.
But former great Javed Miandad said he didn't see prospects of a series this year because of the tight international calendar of the Indian team. "I don't think we must rush things from our side because the Indian team is busy this year. But the PCB must plan ahead for a series next year," he said. Miandad said he supported the resumption of Indo-Pak cricket ties but felt it was of utmost importance that both teams also play Tests in their revival series.
Former wicketkeeper-batsman Rashid Latif said there were some stark realities Pakistan has to face like no foreign teams wishing to tour the country because of the volatile security situation. "I don't support this concept of having matches at neutral venues because it robs the series of its charm and importance. Playing in Pakistan or India is entirely different and the atmosphere and expectations are different. I think if need arises Pakistan can go and play in India to start off this revival process," he said.
Latif had no doubt that a series with India was very important for Pakistan from every point of view. "I can understand the eagerness of the Pakistan board to organise a series even a short one because it will improve their financial health a lot. But even from a cricket point of view, a series with India is important as we are trying out new players and playing the arch-rivals always is a big test for any player," he added.
Pakistan, under the ICC's future tours program, were due to tour India in March-April 2012 for a full series but the PCB had said that it will try to convince the Indian board to squeeze out a time slot for a short one-day series this year itself.

PCB inquiry committee awaits wicket-keeper Zulqarnian Haider (phatoo) -Routers

PCB’s probe committee awaits Zulqarnain
Karachi-Routers The Pakistan Cricket Board’s inquiry committee awaits wicket-keeper Zulqarnian Haider when he returns to Pakistan. The run-away wicket-keeper, after withdrawing his asylum application from the British immigration office recently, is expected to return to Pakistan on April 24 and would be facing inquiry for leaving the team without taking the team officials into confidence.
He fled to the UK amidst Pakistan and South Africa series played in the UAE in November last year. An internal PCB committee found him ‘sick’ and when he returns, he would have to face a disciplinary committee and the PCB’s inquiry committee. The former wicket-keeper has not yet responded to the show-cause notice served by the disciplinary committee and he would not be allowed to play unless he gets clearance from all inquiry committees.

PCB planning a farewell extravaganza for Shoaib Akhtar - ESPN PAKISTAN

Farewell extravaganza being planned for Shoaib
 Senior officials in the Pakistan Cricket Board are planning a farewell extravaganza for speedster Shoaib Akhtar, it has been revealed. 
Sources say that several regional cricket associations are planning to organise exhibition matches in a bid to give Akhtar, who retired from international cricket during the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup, a fitting farewell. 
The 'Rawalpindi Express' appeared a spent force in the Pakistan squad during the ICC CWC. With his performances below par, Akhtar duly failed to earn a spot in Pakistan's team for the final which lost to close rivals India. Reports say Akhtar is still prepared to change his mind and play a swansong match for Pakistan. However, that seems unlikely given that Pakistan's team management remains unhappy with the pacer's attitude during the ICC CWC. Nevertheless, there are those who value Akhtar's contributions over the years - particularly at domestic level, with the Rawalpindi region, where Akhtar started his career, especially keen to hold an exhibition match in his honour.
"He has done a great service to Pakistan and deserves a better farewell. We will not let 'Rawalpindi Express' retire just like that," president of Rawalpindi region, Syed Naeem Akhtar, said on Saturday. "We would invite national cricketers in the match to bid farewell to the great fast bowler," he said while hinting it could be organised on sidelines of the National Twenty20 tournament, opening in Islamabad on June 24. 
He continued: "The match is not possible in the near future due to the absence of the national team. It is being planned on the sidelines of the T20 tournament when most of the national stars, who want to feature in the match, would be present."
Meanwhile, the Islamabad region - with which Akhtar is currently associated - has demanded an international farewell match. "He is a great cricketer and deserves to play his farewell match for Pakistan," said Islamabad region president said. "We have plans to hold exhibition match for Shoaib (Akhtar) but we want to see him playing his last match for Pakistan. If teams are not visiting Pakistan, then a match can be arranged in Dubai. He could also be given the chance to play in the team's forthcoming series."

Squads Named For ICC World Cricket League Division Seven- Geo Super

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has announced the 14-man squads for the six teams - Nigeria, Japan, Norway, Germany, Kuwait and Botswana - participating in Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 7 (WCL Div. 7) next month in Botswana.

The top two sides of WCL Div. 7, which will be played from 1 to 8 May, will be promoted to Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 6.

The tournament will be played on three grounds in Gaborone – Botswana Cricket Association Oval 1, Botswana Cricket Association Oval 2 and Lobatse Cricket Ground.

The full squads are as follows:

Botswana: Akrum Chand (captain), Karabo Modise, Omar Ali, Tshepo Mhozya, Mosa Gaolekwe, Segolame Ramatu, Karabo Motlhanka, Waseem Tajbhay, Aslam Chand, Denzil Sequeira, James Moses, Faisal Rana Rasheed, Abdul Patel, Noor Ahmad

Germany: Asif Khan (captain), Rana Javed Iqbal, Rajeev Vohra, Ehsaan Latif, Farooq Ahmed, Srinivas Satyanarayana, Milan Fernando, Kashif Halder, Rishi Pillal, Shakeel Hassan, Tarun Rawat, Andre Leslie, Ashwin Prakash, Khalid Butt

Japan: Masaomi Kobayashi (captain), Munir Ahmed, Gavin Beath, Tatsuro Chino, Patrick Giles-Jones, Takuro Hagihara, Ko Irie, Prashant Kale, Raheel Kano, Naoki Miyaji, Naotsune Miyaji, Satoshi Nakano, Kazuyuki Ogawa, Tomoki Ota

Kuwait: Hisham Mirza (captain), Saud Qamar, Azmatullah Nazeer, Abdullah Akhudzada, Mohammad Murad, Muhammad Akhudzada, Haroon Shahid, Mohammed Naseer, Saad Khalid, Irfan Bhatti, Sabtain Raza, Jagath Rosantha, Midhun Varma Pakalapati, Abid Mushtaq

Norway: Damien Shortis (captain), Iram Dawood, Suhail Iftikhar, Sheraz Khalid, Babar Shahzad, Usman M.Saeed, Ehtsam Ul Haq, Shahid Ahmad, Muhammad Shabbaz Butt, Shahid Mahmood, Muhammad Waseem Gill, Adeel Ibrar, Gulfam Butt, Umran Shahza

Nigeria: Endurance Ofem (captain),  Adenkule Adegbola, Ademola Onikoyi, Saheed Akolade, Olalekan Awolowo, Olajide Bejide, Joshua Ogunlola, Akabogu Okwudili, Segun Olayinka, Temitope Olayinka, Oluseye Olympio, Femi Oduyebo, Ramit Gill, Sean Philips

 The full schedule for WCL Div. 2 is as follows:


29 April – Team arrivals
30 April – Practice
1 May – Nigeria v Norway (BCA Oval 1); Botswana v Kuwait (BCA Oval 2); Germany v Japan (Lobatse)
2 May – Botswana v Japan (BCA Oval 1); Kuwait v Norway (BCA Oval 2); Nigeria v Germany (Lobatse)
3 May – Rest/Reserve Day
4 May– Botswana v Germany (BCA Oval 1); Norway v Japan (BCA Oval 2); Kuwait v Nigeria (Lobatse)
5 May– Germany v Kuwait (BCA Oval 1); Japan v Nigeria (BCA Oval 2); Botswana v Norway (Lobatse)
6 May – Rest/Reserve Day
7 May – Botswana v Nigeria (BCA Oval 1); Norway v Germany (BCA Oval 2); Japan v Kuwait (Lobatse)
8 May – Final (BCA Oval 1); third/fourth play-off (BCA Oval 2); fifth/sixth play-off (Lobatse)

I am bowling 10 times better than a decade ago: Swann

London-Routers, Graeme Swann believes he ten times better than what he was ten years ago as a bowler.

He has climbed to number two in the Reliance ICC Test rankings by giving the ball a fierce tweak from a vigorous body action.

"I really like watching the ball fizzing down,"he said. "That's why I always like watching Shane Warne bowl, (Muttiah) Muralidaran bowl, these guys who really try and spin it, these are the guys I really try to emulate."

Unlike Warne, a classical wrist-spinner, and Muralidaran, who gained purchase as well as sharp turn, Swann is an orthodox finger spinner.

"I'm certainly 10 times the bowler I was 10 years ago. The longer you play the game your body just gets used to it. Your rhythm comes naturally compared to when you were a kid when you have as many bad days as you do good,"he said.

"I'm certainly bowling better than I was 10 years ago but hopefully there is more to come."
Jim Laker famously spun the ball so hard that that his close fielders could hear it hum in the air when he took 19 for 90 in the 1956 Manchester Test against Australia.

The Australians promised revenge when Laker finally won selection for a tour down under in 1958-59. But, although the home side won the series 4-0, Laker still topped the bowling averages in both Tests and first-class matches.

English spinners, though, have rarely prospered either before or since on the unforgiving Australian pitches and Swann's role in a four-man attack attracted much interest before the last Ashes series.
Swann was ready for the challenge in the midst of unsubtle hints in the Australian media that he might be targeted.

"It's not an easy place to bowl because the wickets don't turn,"he said. "Sydney was famous for turning but it doesn't anymore. You need footholes to make the ball go. In Melbourne it was almost going the other way.

"Michael Hussey got after me in the first game in Brisbane but that was because I was bowling badly. A lot of people said he got to you and rattled you but he didn't at all, I just bowled like a drain, I just didn't bowl well.

"People can think what they like, I know what was going on."England recovered after a shaky start to draw in Brisbane and Swann then took five wickets in Australia's second innings in Adelaide to set up an innings victory.

"The AdelaideOval turned for a couple of reasons, because it was the dustiest wicket out there and Dougie Bollinger played and his foothole was just in the right place for me,"he said.
"I was desperate for him to play in the rest of the series because it might have made Melbourne and Sydney turn a bit more."

Swann said if the Australians had a policy to hit him out of the attack they would have tried it in Adelaide.

"But I was bowling very well there and managed to keep them in the crease,"he said. "If you don't bowl well you go for runs, it's as simple as that as a finger spinner."

A spell in Melbourne on a pitch giving absolutely no assistance was, Swann believes, his best in Test cricket, even though it yielded only one wicket, albeit an important victim in the shape of Michael Clarke.
"That's the best I bowled for England, I hardly bowled a bad ball. It wasn't turning at all but I still managed to get a lot of drift and maintain pressure for the seamers at the other end. I regard that as my finest performance with the ball,"he said.

"My role turned into very much a holding role, allowing the seamers to build up pressure at the other end.
"All I did was try and bowl dot balls. I thought aside from the Perth game (second Test) I was able to do that so I was very happy."

Swann is now taking a break after a taxing winter during which the Ashes tour was followed by a one-day series against Australia and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, which for England ended with defeat against Sri Lanka in the quarter-final.

Sri Lanka and world ODI champions India are the visitors this summer and Swann is looking forward to the challenge of bowling to Sachin Tendulkar in what looks certain to be the Indian master's last tour of England.

"You make challenges within your own head. I always look at the team sheet beforehand and target the batsmen I want to get out and it's always the best player, it gives me personal satisfaction getting the best players out,"he said.

"Sachin Tendulkar is the best player the game has had in my lifetime so it's always a pleasure to play against him. But hopefully I won't get to bowl to him too much this year because that would mean (opening bowler) Jimmy Anderson is doing his job at the top of the order."

Ireland May Play 15 ODIs Against Full-members in Next Five Years

With their 2015 World Cup hopes shattered, fast improving Ireland can now look forward to play 15 one-day internationals against the full-member nations in the next five years.

Ireland and other associate members were denied a chance to play in the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to conduct the tournament with 10 full-member nations.

But Cricket Ireland chairman David Williams recently met Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) president Shashank Manohar and said he has received good support from the full members on playing them on a regular basis.

"One of our ambitions is to increase our ODI exposure against full members to between 10 to 15 per annum, and we received some support from full members to accommodate us," Williams said.

Ireland earned the reputation of giant-killers in the 2011 World Cup where they shocked England in the league stages and got praise from the top teams for their impressive performance in the tournament.

William travelled to India with the agenda of securing a qualifying tournament for the next World Cup, ensuring a promotion and relegation system in ODI leagues, and for collecting support for more ODIs for Ireland.

"I didn't get the first, but the second was delivered and I am hopeful that the last will happen," he said.

"Mr Manohar was charming, as expected, but he said he felt the full members did not have time to adjust to a qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup and it would disrupt the Future Tours Programme. But I don't think they are arguments which could not be overcome."

"There will be qualifying for the 2019 tournament but that is six years away, but the promotion and relegation between ODI leagues is a very significant step for us as well," he said.

Ireland's next international assignment is at home where they play two ODIs against World Cup semifinalist Pakistan.

The basic problems with our (Pakistan) cricket - Afridi

Pakistan cricket has problems, an understatement that we’re all aware of.
But many of us don’t actually realise the extent, or the variety, of the problems or why we face them. For some countries, it’s a weak board that either has no vision or is corrupt. The Zimbabwe board, for example, has been accused of all sorts of wrong-doing and of being extremely corrupt, lacking the administrative or the creative ability to lead the country out of its current plight.
Problems aren’t just with the minnows though. The Pakistan Cricket Board has constantly been accused of procrastination, of a lack of vision and being weak when faced with player-power. And there’s the omnipresent talk of financial mismanagement. There is also an absence of a developed infrastructure and a shortage of grounds to play on. It’s so cold in Canada for the majority of the year that outdoor cricket is virtually impossible most of the time. And there is a limit to the financial funding one can get to build indoor stadiums, especially for a sport that is not exactly mainstream.
But a country like Pakistan has this problem too. Even though we all admit that cricket is like religion in this country and it’s a passion like nothing else, we lack the infrastructure and the grass-root development to ensure that anyone who has a love for the game will get easy access to facilities as well.
Then there is the shortage of talent faced by some nations. Like New Zealand where the bulk of the youth heads off to the rugby fields. Or the Netherlands where the first love is football and hockey. Or even England where they have a lot of other mainstream sports like football and rugby. But hey, everyone is cricket-crazy here, so we don’t have that problem right?
No, Pakistan also ends up being faced with a shortage of talent too. The talent is there but our biased board or the partisan selection committee often fails to see it and keeps on selecting the same old faces who have been weighed, who have been measured and who have been, repeatedly, found wanting.
And there is the issue of a good domestic league that is holding some nations back from becoming cricketing giants. This is especially true for minnows and countries that are still trying to build a cricketing base. But here again, the problem exists. For years, Imran Khan has been saying that we need to give up on departmental cricket and start regional cricket. This leads to the fact that most of the departments all but backed out from the domestic circuit. However, what failed to happen was the development of a good regional format that could replace departmental cricket and thus ensure the steady development of talent.
It is sad, that over the past 50 years that Pakistan has been playing cricket, we have failed to do away with any of the teething problems, thus holding us back from taking the much-loved sport to the next level.

We have saved 100 crore in IPL 4: Chirayu Amin -ARY NEWS

Chirayu Amin
He took over as the chairman of IPL after Lalit Modi's controversial exit.

One year into his job and Chirayu Amin says he is happy about his performance. Excerpts from an interview:

You took over as chairman of IPL when it was surrounded by controversies last year. How has been your one-year stint?

It has been a good stint as we have been running the league professionally. The governing council is being run like a professional company with complete transparency. Now, every decision is taken jointly after discussion which was not the case earlier. Each and every tender is opened in presence of lawyers and bidders.

What were the important steps taken in last one year and how did IPL benefit from it?

Apart from bringing in transparency, we made it a point to stop unnecessary expenditure and spent money more judiciously. These measures alone have helped us save Rs 100 crore in IPL-4.

The late-night parties during IPL have been discontinued. Did the franchises object to it?

Not at all. In fact, the franchise owners are happy that we stopped the parties. They feel that the players will now be able to maintain their focus more on cricket. IPL is more about cricket.

After all the controversies that hit IPL last year, how has been the response from the fans?

The opening ceremony of IPL-4 received maximum TRPs and the games have received more viewership than last year. Also, Volkswagen joined in as additional sponsor for IPL-4 and we hope our revenues to be higher this year which means more money for state associations.

Two teams were added in IPL-4. Any plan to add more teams in future?

There is no chance of having additional teams in IPL now. The schedule window does not allow us to have more teams and matches.

You had a long stint with Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) as president and also vice-president of BCCI. Did it help you in running IPL better?

Well, I have been at handling cricketing affairs since long so it did help. But, my experience of running Alembic Ltd helped me more in running IPL as we have to apply same principles of management used in corporate sector.

Mumbai biggies get Wankhede boxes at a price

Some of the biggest names in the corporate world, politically-connected builders and diamond merchants were allotted 37 hospitality boxes in the newly renovated Wankhede stadium by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) before the World Cup in February.

The fully furnished boxes were given out for ten years and are believed to have fetched the association Rs 3.75-5 crore each. Club insiders said the Sharad Pawar-led MCA invited bids for only 19 boxes and alleged that the remaining ones may have been given away arbitrarily to the well-connected.

The MCA's bid document, a copy of which was made available to TOI, stipulates that a bidder cannot submit bids for more than two hospitality boxes. TOI contacted several MCA officials, but none wanted to come on record and say if there was a tender process in place at all before giving away these boxes.

According to a list obtained by TOI, Union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel was allotted a 15-seater box in the MCA pavilion. "I don't have a box," Patel sent a text message to TOI. When told that his name was on the list, the minister for heavy industries replied, "Sorry, wrong. I had recommended for friends, not for myself." Asked which friends he had recommended, Patel said he had suggested industrialist Sajjan Jindal's name. Asked how he could recommend anyone when the MCA had invited bids, Patel said there was no bidding for the boxes. "The box is not mine. I have not paid for it," he insisted.

The list shows that Reliance Industries bagged three boxes, Aditya Birla Group got three, while Raymond, Shapoorji Pallonji, Jindal, Sajjan India, Essar, Bajaj, HDFC, TCS, Citibank, HSBC, Kotak Mahindra, Mafatlal, SBI, Gannon Dunkunley, JP Morgan, Nimbus, United Breweries, Naman Developers and Intelnet Global got one each.

Rich hospitality:

* Each corporate box, sold at 3.75-5 crore, has a seating capacity of 15-20. Has chairs and sofas, live TV, a pantry, toilet, modern communication facilities and independent entrance and sitting privacy.

* There are 34 boxes in the south stand and 25 boxes in the north stand.

* The list of allottees includes prominent business groups, politicians, diamond merchants and builders.

* Some have got three boxes. The MCA's tender document said no one could bid for more than two boxes.

Some senior players to skip ODI series in West Indies: Sources

Mumbai-Routers,Some of India's senior cricketers, including captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are likely to skip the upcoming One-Day series against the West Indies starting early June.

Already exhausted by a crammed international schedule, the senior players want to take some rest.

A top BCCI source said that it is possible that at least five-six senior players may be rested since India have a hectic international schedule ahead.

While some senior players may skip only the ODI series, others who have injury problems in recent times may opt out of the entire tour of the West Indies where they play one Twenty20 International, five ODIs and three Tests during the tour starting June 4.

Opening batsman Virender Sehwag is likely to miss the entire tour of the West Indies to regain full fitness, while other senior players like Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh may be rested in a phased manner.

It is learnt that some senior players have already written to the BCCI expressing their desire to skip the tour of the West Indies so that they are fit enough for the crucial tours of England and Australia later in the year.

India have a hectic international schedule this year. Immediately after the ongoing Indian Premier League, India will tour the West Indies for five ODIs and three Tests, followed by a long tour of England in July-August.

England will then come to India for a One-Day series in November and West Indies will follow for a three-Test and five ODI series. The Indians then travel to Australia for a high-profile series in December-January.

If the senior cricketers are rested, some of the players who have done well in the ongoing IPL like Paul Valthaty of Kings XI Punjab and Ambati Ryudu of Mumbai Indians may get an opportunity.

There is also speculation that Yuvraj Singh, who has been in terrific form and named the player of the tournament in the World Cup, could be named captain in the absence of Dhoni and other senior players.

When contacted, BCCI Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty said that he was not aware about senior players wanting to skip the ODI series against the West Indies.

"I am not aware. So, I can't comment," Shetty said. However, BCCI sources said that is almost certain that a few senior players would pull out of the series and they would write to the BCCI in due course of time.