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By Sunil Gavaskar
Cricket lovers will have plenty of cricket to watch over the next month or so as India take on Australia in a four Test match series and England play New Zealand in Tests too. The South Africans are currently playing Pakistan so that is a plus too. The months from October to March are full of cricket since the summers of countries other than England are on and so for cricket lovers it is boom time. In fact a die hard cricket lover especially in the subcontinent can watch Test cricket for 24 hours at a stretch if he so wants with the cricket starting in New Zealand in the early morning hours and ending in the Caribbean Isles in the late night.
The South Africans are showing just why they are the number one team in the world and if their bowling attack stays injury free, then they can dominate the cricketing world for some more time to come. They also have a terrific batting line-up which can cope on any wicket and so they have a nice balance to their team. Their fielding as always is top class and with AB de Villiers setting up a record for most catches in a Test match that aspect of their game is also well covered. The one question is with de Villiers having problems with his back they may have to look at another keeper sooner than later. That the keeping is not having a detrimental effect on his batting was seen when he struck a fluent century and all those in South Africa who were worried about his batting would have heaved a huge sigh of relief.
At the time of writing, Pakistan seem to have recovered well in the second Test with impressive centuries from Younis Khan and Shafiq and that should give them more confidence for the rest of the tour. Their attack has surprisingly not quite succeded for it was felt that their new ball bowlers would relish bowling on the harder bouncier pitches in South Africa.
In New Zealand, England are finding that it is not easy going. As with most teams New Zealand are a different proposition when playing at home. The biggest advantage for a home team apart from knowledge of conditions and pitches is to be able to pick from a bigger pool of players which a touring team cannot do. New Zealand has been going through a tough period ever since a new coach has taken over and if they don’t do well at home in this series then surely questions will be asked of not just the coach but even those entrusted with the responsibility of running the game in New Zealand. Fact is that ever since John Buchanan has taken over as Director of New Zealand Cricket, the results have been utterly disappointing. Of course the smooth answer would be that it is still a process and so patience is needed before the results start showing. We still haven’t seen the experiment of multiple skippers in a game which was advocated in an earlier edition of the Indian Premier League. Maybe it was simply a ploy to get rid of Sourav Ganguly as the captain of the team. Ganguly is not one to suffer fools gladly and he must have seen through all the bluster and management jargon that was being spouted and would have given back as is his wont.
The ICC has just sanctioned a healthy sum of a few million dollars to New Zealand Cricket and it will be interesting to see how it is used. That is of course presuming that the ICC would want to know how their largesse has been dealt with. Maybe it might be used for the salaries of its top mangement. Maybe for some promotion of its grass roots cricket. One thing is for sure that if such an amount had been given to the BCCI when Mr. Pawar or Mr. Dalmiya had been ICC President, then all hell would have broken loose and the media from the old powers would have gone berserk asking questions. But when the ICC under the Presidentship of a New Zealander gives a sum to New Zealand it has gone pretty much under the radar.
Why a Test playing nation which gets a more than tidy sum for appearances in world tournaments held by the ICC needs money is the moot qusetion for it does suggest that there may not be everything right with the administration but then it is not a subcontinent nation, so no inconvenient questions will be asked. It is almost as if all the chicanery takes place only in the subcontinent and nowhere else. Integrity and honesty is not the monopoly of any nation . If it was so, then there would be no correction institutions or in simple words no jails in those countries, isn’t it? Stereotyping a nation or communities is the easiest thing to do and we saw some of it when England toured India recently. Fortunately for India, England won the Test series, so there were lesser articles on the stereotypes but if India had won the series then all those excuses would have come gushing forth.