Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top ICC official moots two-tier Test structure

Mohammad Ashraful lets out a war cry after dismissing Kumar Sangakkara, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 3rd day, January 5, 2008
Any move towards a tier structure would, however, cause concern among the weaker nations, whose revenues stand to be affected most by it © AFP
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Player/Officials: Dave Richardson

Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager for cricket, has suggested a two-tier structure for Test cricket, based on teams' strength, to make the format more competitive. Such a move, Richardson said, would create a context for Test cricket, one of the challenges for the ICC going forward.

"It's an important point that Test cricket should be played against teams that are at least competitive with each other," Richardson told Cricinfo. "Ideally, you want to have the top teams playing against each other, and then teams of lesser standing playing against each other, maybe in a second division or a lesser competition such as the Intercontinental Cup. I think that's the challenge for the ICC, that it can create some sort of context for Test cricket both at the higher level and at levels below that."

Richardson was reacting to a suggestion by Adam Gilchrist, the former Australia vice-captain, who suggested while delivering the annual Colin Cowdrey lecture at Lord's less Tests of better quality could be the way forward for the longer version.

The ICC has been working over the last year towards lending context and meaning to Test cricket to make it more competitive and attractive for spectators. Last year, officials had discussed the possibility of holding a Test championship where the TV revenue flows into a common pool. But the idea was shot down primarily by India and England, who would end up contributing as bulk of that money. The other significant idea to be discussed is for countries to designate Tests between top cricketing nations as full-fledged five-Test "icon series". India and England have already signed one such agreement.

Any move towards a tier structure would, however, cause concern among the weaker nations, whose revenues stand to be affected most by it.

On Wednesday, the ICC board agreed to a series of measures suggested by its cricket committee to boost Test cricket, including rolling out the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) from October and actively exploring the possibility of holding day/night matches from next year.

England set off for secret bonding session

Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss discuss tactics during practice, Bristol, May 23, 2009
Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss: ready to bring the team together © Getty Images
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Player/Officials: Monty Panesar | Andrew Strauss
Teams: Australia | England

The 16 players named in England's preliminary Ashes squad have been told to report for duty in Birmingham tomorrow armed with their passports, as the management prepares to step up the intensity ahead of the first Test in Cardiff on July 8 by organising a team bonding session in a secret overseas location.

An ECB spokesman confirmed that the trip was set to take place, but added that the exact details would remain undisclosed to enable the players to unwind without any cameras or TV crews tracking their movements. "This was something that the players themselves very much wanted to do as a unit," the spokesman told Cricinfo.

Whatever the length or the destination of the trip, the players are due to be back in England next Wednesday, when the first XI takes on Warwickshire in a three-day fixture at Edgbaston, while the England Lions face the Australians in a four-day match at Worcester. And for Andrew Strauss, the get-together will mark his return to the England captaincy after he handed the reins over to Paul Collingwood for the recent World Twenty20.

After a month away from the limelight, Strauss didn't shake off his cobwebs in the most conventional of manners, as he was chased around a boxing ring by the Olympic champion, James Degale, during a Vodafone sponsors' event in Loughton, Essex. By the end of the session, however, he had worked up enough of a sweat to prepare himself for the full heat of England's summer.

"I've got seven weeks' work ahead of me, and it's going to be hard work," said Strauss. "More than anything I tried to charge the batteries during my time away, so that by the time we meet back together there's a lot of energy there, and we're ready to hit the ground running. The greatest challenge in an Ashes series is to go out and play your cricket despite the added interest. My job as captain is to keep the guys focused."

One of the players who stands to gain the most from the team get-together is Monty Panesar, who has managed just six wickets at 90 in the County Championship this season since being usurped by Graeme Swann as England's No. 1 spinner. Cardiff, the venue for the first Test, is expected to favour the inclusion of a second spinner, but with Adil Rashid on the rise after impressing during the World Twenty20, Panesar's performance against Warwickshire could make or break his summer.

Strauss, however, gave his full backing to a man who has taken 125 wickets in 38 Tests, at an average of 33.72. "You look at Monty's record for England, and it's exceptional," he said. "It's up there with some of the best spinners that have played the game. He's gone through a bit of a tough patch, but we've all been through that - I've been through it myself, and so have others in the squad - and you come back much better for the experience.

"When you're going through a rough patch you question what you're doing, but I've got a lot of hope he'll come through this and be an exceptional bowler going forward. Hopefully the other members of the squad will give him the confidence to go out there against Warwickshire, take a bagful of wickets, and become an important member of the side again. People who've been writing him off are unwise. He's got a hell of a lot to give England in the future."

Critics have seized on Panesar's lack of variation, particularly when compared to the more adaptable Swann, and Shane Warne memorably remarked that Panesar had played the same Test 38 times. But Strauss backed his man to showcase the skills that earned his first cap back in March 2006, and return to the forefront of England's Ashes plans.

"I've spoken to Monty a lot about it, he's been in contact with Mushtaq Ahmed as well, and other members of the England management. He has been working on variations but the reality is that Monty has taken 99 percent of his wickets by bowling a very good left-arm spinner that turns and has good pace on it. That's his default and he shouldn't stray too far from it. It's like me triyng to bat like [Brian] Lara, it doesn't work. He shouldn't stray too far from that, and just do what he does well. If he does that, he's going to be a handful."

Another man who will doubtless use England's mini-break to good effect is Andrew Flintoff, whose year has once again been blighted by injury. He missed the middle part of England's Test series in the Caribbean after picking up a hip complaint, and though he starred in the subsequent one-day series win with a hat-trick in the series decider in Gros Islet, he went on to sustain a knee injury during the IPL in South Africa, and has not played for England since.

Flintoff remains crucial to England's Ashes plans, however, especially in light of his performances in 2005, and Strauss was ready to welcome him back on board. "Andrew seems very fit and is bowling at a good pace," he said. "It's obviously early in his comeback but we've got to assume he'll be fit for the five Test matches. It's a massive plus for us if he is. He adds balance to our side and we know the Aussies don't like facing him.

"We're all hopeful that after a long period of bad luck he has the rub of the green for a while and produces a really good Ashes series. It will be fantastic to have him back."

West Indies look to extend good run

Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh at the National Cricket Academy camp, Bangalore, June 28, 2008
A successful IPL proved crucial in Ashish Nehra's selection for the ODI squad to West Indies © AFP
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Player/Officials: Darren Bravo | Ashish Nehra
Series/Tournaments: India tour of West Indies
Teams: India | West Indies

West Indies and India prepare for the first of four one-day internationals, in Jamaica, after extremely contrasting World Twenty20 campaigns in England. India entered the tournament as one of the favourites but underachieved tremendously, losing all their matches in the Super Eights stage. As a result of their second-round elimination, India reached the Caribbean even before their hosts, who exceeded expectations by qualifying for the semi-finals, where they lost to Sri Lanka.

For India, a team shaken by defeat, injury and fatigue, this series is the last before a long break until the Champions Trophy in September. They will do well to focus on the task at hand, rather than think about the lengthy rest their tired bodies deserve. India are weakened for they are without Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Zaheer Khan, four key players either injured or resting because of their hectic schedule in recent months. Their unavailability, though, opens up rare opportunities for players on the fringes of the national squad such as Dinesh Karthik, S Badrinath and M Vijay because the Indian one-day side has been a settled unit for a while now. It also gives others, such as Ashish Nehra, a new lease of life for few would have expected him to return after four years on the sidelines.

West Indies' performance in the World Twenty20 was a dramatic improvement from their efforts during a torrid summer in which they lost both the Wisden Trophy and ODI series to England. Their run to the final four, though, was largely Gayle-powered and they will want more players to contribute during the ODIs against India before the home series against Bangladesh in July. They too have tinkered with their squad for the first two games, surprisingly leaving out Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy, recalling Runako Morton and Narsingh Deonarine, and included the uncapped Darren Bravo.

ODI form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

India - LWWNW

India's last ODI series was the five-match contest in New Zealand which they won 3-1 with one washout.

West Indies - LLNLL

West Indies' last five one-dayers were all against England and they didn't win any, losing two at home and two away with one being abandoned.

Watch out for ...

Ashish Nehra: The left-arm medium-pacer last played an international for India in September 2005 after which a spate of injuries kept him out of contention. However, a strong performance in the IPL, where Nehra was the third-highest wicket-taker with 19 at 18.21 each, coupled with the axing of Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan, paved the way for his return.

Darren Bravo: If he's anywhere near as skilled as his sibling Dwayne, India have a problem on their hands. Darren Bravo's an unknown quantity to people outside the Caribbean, having played only 15 first-class games and eight List A matches for Trinidad & Tobago. It will be interesting to see what responsibility he's given, if he plays, in the first two games against India.

Team news

India have a few decisions to make regarding the composition of their final XI. Should Rohit Sharma continue opening in Sehwag's absence? Or should he move down the order to give Vijay or Karthik a chance at the top? What of S Badrinath? Another worry for the team management is the delayed arrival of Karthik, Vijay and Badrinath due to issues with obtaining a transit visa to England. They were scheduled to arrive in Jamaica on Thursday evening.

India (likely): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Dinesh Karthik, 3 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 S Badrinath, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 RP Singh, 11 Ashish Nehra.

Simmons' omission from the West Indies squad was surprising considering he scored 150 runs during the World Twenty20, including a 50-ball 77 against South Africa, and took a four-wicket haul in the group match against Sri Lanka. They also omitted Darren Sammy who has been an underrated allrounder in the West Indian outfit.

West Indies (likely): 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Runako Morton, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Darren Bravo, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Jerome Taylor, 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Suleiman Benn, 11 Lionel Baker

Stats and trivia

  • West Indies have won four out of their last five ODIs in Jamaica - against India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland. India have played only two ODIs at Sabina Park of which they lost one and won the other.

  • Only once has a team made more than 300 at Sabina Park: Pakistan made 349 against Zimbabwe during the 2007 World Cup. The highest target successfully chased there is 254 when South Africa made 255 for 2 against West Indies in 2005.


"The West Indies is playing good cricket at the moment. They had a very good World Twenty20 tournament, but in 50 overs, you have time to settle down."
MS Dhoni is aware he is against an in-form team

"Both teams are looking to win and they (Indians) are trying to prove something against us. At the same time we want to get more wins under our belt and continue our development."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ICC gives umpire reviews the go-ahead

Umpire Tony Hill signals for a review of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's lbw decision, West Indies v England, 1st Test, Kingston, February 6, 2009
The umpire review system will become a permanent part of Test cricket from this October © Getty Images

The umpire review system will be rolled out in Test cricket from October this year and umpires will have greater scope to decide on bad-light interruptions after the ICC adopted several recommendations from its cricket committee. The potential for a day-night Test in 2010 was also discussed at the ICC's meetings in Lord's this week, as was harsher penalties for slow over rates.

It was expected that the umpire review system would be introduced permanently following trials over the past year. This week's gatherings, including the ICC Chief Executives' Committee meeting on Monday and Tuesday, and the first day of the ICC board meeting on Wednesday, confirmed the development.

It was also agreed that day-night cricket would be explored further, with the potential for a day-night Test in 2010, if such issues as developing an appropriate ball and trialing it at first-class level could be resolved. Finding a suitable coloured ball remains one of the major stumbling blocks and Australia are keen to test several prototypes during a mock match, possibly during the 2009-10 summer.

The meetings also determined that play should only be suspended for bad light when umpires decided conditions were unreasonable or dangerous, rather than "unsuitable", as is currently the case. The umpires are expected to make that call on their own instead of offering the light to the batsmen.

Fines for slow over-rates will be doubled and a captain of a team guilty of three over-rate fines in the same format in a rolling 12-month period will be automatically suspended for one match. Match officials will also be encouraged to be more diligent in enforcing the playing conditions to minimise delays due to such interruptions as unscheduled drinks breaks.

The development of a new Future Tours Programme was also discussed. The ICC board meeting continues on Thursday, when the members will discuss, among other things, the 2011 World Cup.

Watson knee injury prompts Ashes fears

Shane Watson sends down a delivery during a training session, Beckenham, June 18, 2009
Shane Watson pulled up sore after Sunday's training and didn't take part in Monday's session © Associated Press
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Australia's medical staff are nervously awaiting the results of scans on Shane Watson's injured knee, which will sideline him from the opening tour match against Sussex. Though cautiously optimistic - the allrounder will be available for Australia's second practice match against the England Lions, beginning at Worcester on July 1 - the tourists are concerned enough to have begun devising contingency plans in the event Watson's knee is worse than initially thought.

Watson has endured a wretched run of injuries over the years, and this latest setback will do little for the confidence of the team or player ahead of the Ashes. He was a notable absentee from Australia's last two training sessions at Hove, and was ruled out of the game against Sussex, which begins on Wednesday.

Watson has at the very least missed a prime opportunity to impress the selectors in his bid to dislodge Marcus North from the No. 6 Test position, and at worst is facing another early Ashes exit. His last Ashes campaign ended before a ball was bowled - hamstring problems forced him from the squad on the eve of the Brisbane Test - paving the way for Andrew Symonds to make his Test return.

Watson was struck down with back stress fractures during the most recent Australian summer, and only made his return to competitive bowling during Australia's truncated World Twenty20 campaign. Though hopeful he will return to action in the next week, Australian captain Ricky Ponting nonetheless said the team was considering calling in a shadow player, given Watson's history of serious injuries.

"We might have to do that," Ponting said. "That has been some of the discussion this afternoon, particularly if we happen to have a batter hurt themselves in this game, we could be a little bit short. We certainly have to consider that. Shane was probably picked as the spare batter on the tour anyway, and someone who could give us some valuable overs if required, so it could get to the stage if someone happened to get hurt in this game that Shane could probably come in and play as a batsman if required anyway.

"He's had a scan today, and we'll probably get those (results) tomorrow morning. It's not a major thing at the moment , and we're hoping it's not anything major that shows up on the scan, but he's a bit sore so we're giving him a couple of days off.

"Hopefully within a couple of days he's right to start working back up on his bowling and hopefully he plays the Worcester game at 100% fitness. For him it's obviously a setback. He's disappointed he wasn't available for selection in this game. I don't know if it harms his chances any more for the first Test match, but it's an opportunity that has slipped out of his grasp I guess."

Watson will be joined by Graham Manou, Andrew McDonald and Mitchell Johnson on the sidelines for the 12-a-side tour match against Sussex, although none of the latter three are understood to be burdened with injury. Johnson's omission is a clear indication that selectors now view him as Australia's premier paceman, leaving Brett Lee, Peter Siddle, Stuart Clark and Ben Hilfenhaus to fight for the remaining fast-bowling slots for the Ashes series.

"We have got the right to play twelve players in this game, but that does not mean we will be using it as practice," Ponting said. "We will be using this game to get used to the conditions. We believe this wicket will be the most like Cardiff anywhere in the country, so it will be a good opportunity for us as batsmen to get used to the pace and bounce, maybe a bit of spin."

Watson was in buoyant mood at Australia's open media day in Hove on Monday, despite missing the day's training session. Though admitting he had pulled up "a little stiff" the previous day, he gave a strong indication that he expected to be back bowling shortly.

"I'm not exactly sure what the selectors are thinking," Watson said. "But my bowling has been progressing really well. The Twenty20 was the first time I had bowled in a game competitively since Christmas time. The things I've done technically are definitely going to help me improve a lot."

Gayle cautious against weakened India

Chris Gayle top edges Yusuf Pathan, India v West Indies, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Lord's, June 12, 2009
Both Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan are aware the Indians will be quite a handful © Getty Images
Related Links
Player/Officials: Chris Gayle | Ramnaresh Sarwan
Teams: India | West Indies

West Indies captain Chris Gayle has said he is not underestimating the Indians despite the visitors fielding an understrength team for the four-match ODI series in Jamaica and St Lucia.

Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan have opted for rest while Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina failed to make the short tour due to injury concerns. Looking ahead, Gayle said India's poor showing in the ICC World Twenty20 - they failed to win any of their Super Eight games - would have no bearing on the forthcoming ODIs. West Indies reached the semi-finals before crashing out to the Sri Lankans but Gayle insisted it was too early to jump the gun and pick a favourite.

"It is never a walkover against India," Gayle told PTI. "There are a lot of guys still there to give us a lot of trouble, so we just have to stick to the game plan and make it a successful one."

Gayle's team-mate Ramnaresh Sarwan also agreed. "The Indians are a very good one-day team and while they may be without a couple of their players, they will prove to be a handful for us," Sarwan said. "But we are in good form and have confidence in our abilities and hopefully, beginning Friday, we can get a good start to the series."

The Indians haven't had the best of fortunes in the Caribbean over the last few years. In 2006, they were comprehensively beaten 4-1 before crashing out of the World Cup in the first round the following year.

West Indies also announced changes to their one-day side for the first two games, the most notable casualty being their in-form bowler Fidel Edwards who's nursing a back injury.

"There are a few changes in the squad, there is Darren Bravo and [Narsingh] Deonarine coming in and it is a good opportunity for them to play an important part against India," Gayle said.

Despite bowing out of the semi-finals, Gayle was happy with his team's comeback after a lacklustre start to the tour, which included a Test and ODI series defeat to England.

"It was a pretty decent performance. We tried our best but in the end it was not to be," Gayle said. "But I am not disheartened. In fact, I am proud of the guys, as at the championship, not many were expecting us to reach that far.

"The aim was to bring home the trophy and make everyone happy, especially the fans. Having said that, however, it was a wonderful experience, one that I think will serve the team well going into the future and one that should serve us well when we host the next World Twenty20 Championship here in the Caribbean."

Meanwhile, three Indian players - M Vijay, S Badrinath and Abhishek Nayar - are yet to depart for the West Indies as they are awaiting their UK transit visas. "They will get their visas today and are set to leave tonight (Monday)," a BCCI source told PTI. "They are scheduled to reach Jamaica by tomorrow evening local time."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Impressive England continue to widen the gap

The ominous question still lingers: is the win a sign that England are going to dominate cricket for the next decade, and what could that mean for the future of other nations?

Nicky Shaw finished with figures of 2 for 17, England v New Zealand, ICC Women's World Twenty20 final, Lord's, June 21, 2009
More success for England, but the gap between them and other nations continues to widen © Getty Images

New Zealand coach Gary Stead put it best. His side's defeat to England in Sunday's ICC World Twenty20 final was, he said, like the amateurs playing the professionals. He only meant it figuratively, insofar as his team were outclassed on the day against a surprisingly clinical England. At last, the home side's bowlers and fielders truly rose to the occasion in a way which they hadn't throughout the rest of the tournament.

Stead was almost correct in the literal sense too, and therein lies a potential problem. The ECB has invested in English women's cricket for more than a decade now, but the tree naturally takes a long time to first take root and then bear fruit. Only in the last 18 months have England looked like world-beaters. Now they have the World Twenty20, the World Cup and the Ashes in their pockets, and better investment than ever before.

The ominous question goes thus: is this a sign that England women are going to dominate cricket for the next decade or more, and if so, what does that mean for the future of other nations?

England's women are, through Chance to Shine coaching contracts, the nearest thing the women's game gets to professionals; the gulf between them and the rest of the teams is in serious danger of widening. They have beaten world No. 2 New Zealand seven times in their last meetings, while India, the third-best in the world, have been their whipping girls for several years.

Only Australia - whose players have a contract-lite version of England's, but still have to work - have presented anything of a challenge. Players can attend the Academy in Brisbane and have funding through grants, but one wonders what's going to happen in the next few years when Karen Rolton, Shelley Nitschke and Lisa Sthalekar cart all their weighty experience off with them into the sunset.

New Zealand lost captain Haidee Tiffen earlier this year - she wrote on Cricinfo that this was partly down to a lack of funding - while players such as Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine are in eternal danger of defecting to their other international sports of basketball (Bates) and hockey (Devine). The players are desperately keen to get more financial assistance and, given their record, certainly deserve it. Investment can only make the powerhouses stronger.

England, partly due to the funding, have a well-gelled team who can concentrate as much as they like on cricket. They have a young team but one which is already very experienced and Charlotte Edwards - who is the same age as Tiffen - intends to be around for many years yet. And even though they have hardly played perfect cricket in either tournaments this year, it's still been more than enough to reign supreme.

So the future is certainly an issue. But at the same time, the present is very much worth celebrating. England's women already beat their men to an ICC trophy when they took the World Cup in March, the first tournament under ICC regulations. They promptly did the double on Sunday and are flying the flag in style.

The investment from the ECB continues to pay dividends and Edwards was keen to note that the World Twenty20 success shows the 50-over tournament "was no fluke". The victory is also a win for women's sport in England. While the impact on the press may not be long-lasting in terms of a general lift in column inches, the fact that writers and editors witnessed the play at Trent Bridge, The Oval and Lord's for the first time might lead them to look more kindly on the women's game in the future.

The double-header staging of the tournament has been an unmitigated success. While there were no upsets in any of the games, the cricket was exciting and there were some superb performances, such as the West Indies batsman Deandra Dottin's fastest international Twenty20 fifty against Australia in Taunton, and New Zealand captain Aimee Watkins' 89 not out in Nottingham against India. The most memorable game will long stand out as Australia versus England at The Oval where Claire Taylor, the player of the tournament, stroked her side home in thrilling circumstances.

The ICC took a gamble on embracing the women's game, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say a calculated risk, the women having already been on the same stage as the men in domestic and international games. And the decision paid off handsomely.

Women's cricket has arrived on the world stage, and nobody tried to boo them off. Rather, they applauded a surprisingly entertaining new act which represented good value for money, and has the chance to shine again in the future.

With the format to be repeated next year in the Caribbean, the ICC can both breathe a sigh of relief at the successful staging this time around, but also give itself a pat on the back.

The top crop

Cricinfo presents the team of the ICC World Twenty20 2009 comprising the best performers from the tournament

Tillakaratne Dilshan plays the scoop, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Lord's, June 12, 2009
The Dilshan: An audacious scoop, seemingly fraught with danger, played against the fast bowlers to send the ball over the wicketkeeper's head © AFP

1 Tillakaratne Dilshan: 317 runs, average 52.83

Dilshan took over the mantle of Sri Lanka's most dangerous opener from Sanath Jayasuriya, thrilling spectators and confounding bowlers with his innovative batting. He is one of cricket's first 360-degree batsmen, using the paddle and the reverse-hit to play the ball through the toughest of angles. And then there was the scoop - an audacious shot, seemingly fraught with danger, played against the fast bowlers to send the ball over the wicketkeeper's head. He combined flair with consistency and was the tournament's top-scorer by 79 runs. His best performance was in the semi-final against West Indies, against whom his unbeaten 96 single-handedly gave Sri Lanka a defendable target.

2 Chris Gayle: 193 runs, average 48.25

Gayle played a significant role in knocking Australia out of the competition. His brutal 88 off 50 balls at The Oval, which included monstrous sixes off Brett Lee on to Harleyford Road and on top of the Bedser stand, remains one of the spectacles of the tournament. He remained dormant during the next few matches, reserving his strong performance for the semi-final, but ended up carrying his bat against Sri Lanka after receiving feeble support from his team-mates.

3 Shahid Afridi: 176 runs, average 35.20, 11 wickets, economy-rate 5.32

Afridi's progress during the World Twenty20 mirrored Pakistan's: both started disastrously but peaked at the right time. Afridi scored 5, 13 and 0 in his first three innings, though his hustling legspin remained a reliable asset throughout. Pakistan's chances of making the semi-finals, though, appeared bleak until Afridi took a spectacular catch to dismiss Scott Styris in the Super Eight game against New Zealand. He was promoted to No. 3 in the batting order and saved his best performances - two half-centuries - for the semi-final and final. He was invaluable to Pakistan for his sensible batting, incisive yet economical bowling, and for his energy in the field.

4 Kumar Sangakkara: 177 runs, average 35.40

Sri Lanka had the best batsman and the most dangerous bowling attack of the tournament but their unbeaten run until the final was presided over by the calmest of leaders. It was hard to believe that the World Twenty20 was Sangakkara's first assignment as captain. He made astute decisions, promoting Dilshan up the order, and invested in his younger players - Angelo Mathews and Isuru Udana - by giving them responsibility. He even led by performance, scoring a half-century which prevented Sri Lanka from being crushed in the final. The team Sangakkara inherited had been through torment in the last few months but they showed little of those troubles on the field.

Dwayne Bravo took four wickets to stifle India, India v West Indies, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Lord's, June 12, 2009
Bravo played the role of back-up seamer successfully for West Indies, keeping the batsmen guessing with his mix

5 Kevin Pietersen: 154 runs, average 38.50

Pietersen did not have a spectacular World Twenty20 but he made significant contributions whenever England played a match they had to win to stay in the competition. He scored 58 off 38 balls against Pakistan to ensure England qualified from Group B after losing to Netherlands, he top-scored with 46 off 27 balls in a crucial Super Eights game against India to keep semi-final hopes alive, and biffed 31 off 19 balls in England's must-win match against West Indies.

6 AB de Villiers: 186 runs, average 37.20

de Villiers took the opportunity against Scotland to blast 79 off 34 balls but also displayed the skill to thrive on the toughest pitch of the tournament. The surface at Trent Bridge for the game against India was slow and gave the spinners a lot of turn and bounce. De Villiers, however, thrived against India's spinners, top-scoring with 63 off 50 balls, to lead South Africa to a match-winning total.

7 Dwayne Bravo 154 runs, average 38.50, 10 wickets, economy-rate 8.76

Bravo played the role of back-up seamer successfully for West Indies, keeping the batsmen guessing with his mix of yorkers, slower balls and slow bouncers. He also stepped up when Gayle failed or was injured, making useful contributions in the middle-order. Bravo saved his best for India, taking 4 for 34 and scoring 66 off 36 balls to lead a superb chase.

8 Wayne Parnell: 9 wickets, economy-rate 5.71

A little over a year ago, Parnell captained his side to the final of the under-19 World Cup and was tipped as one of the next big things in South African cricket. He did not disappoint and was their best bowler in the World Twenty20. Parnell bowled with pace and accuracy during the Powerplay and the final overs - the most difficult periods for a bowler in a Twenty20 game - and still finished with an economy-rate of less than six an over. He was outstanding in the high-pressure environment of the semi-final: having conceded 14 runs in his first over, he bounced back strongly to give only 12 off his next three.

9 Umar Gul: 13 wickets, economy-rate 6.44

The highest wicket-taker of the tournament, Gul switched from operating at the start of the innings to bowling his overs at a stretch towards the end. It was a master-stroke for Gul was able to swing the old ball, something no one apart from Lasith Malinga could do, and was able to bowl yorkers at will, which made him extremely hard to score heavily off. His spell of 5 for 6 in three overs against New Zealand was the best in Twenty20 internationals but it was his second over against South Africa in the semi-final, comprising six yorkers, which underlined his value in the shortest format.

Umar Gul celebrates bowling Luke Wright, England v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20, The Oval, June 7, 2009
Umar Gul's spell of 5 for 6 in three overs against New Zealand was the best in Twenty20 internationals

10 Lasith Malinga: 12 wickets, economy-rate 7.14

Malinga is another yorker specialist but he added several strings to his bow during this tournament by perfecting a slow bouncer and a slow full toss. Delivered with his side-on action, the slow full toss was often not picked by the batsmen and the ball swerved away in the air to beat the bat. Brad Haddin was the first victim to have his stumps splayed in Malinga's first match and the ball brought him success throughout the tournament.

11 Ajantha Mendis: 12 wickets, economy-rate 5.50

Mendis was one of three reasons Sri Lanka were able to defend modest totals throughout the tournament but he was probably the best one. He took wickets against all opponents, except for Pakistan, and was exceptional in his first-ever outing against Australia, eliminating them from the competition with 3 for 20. He struck timely blows as well and made a habit of striking twice in an over - against West Indies, Ireland and New Zealand - to wreck run-chases just when Sri Lanka appeared vulnerable.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Younis retires from Twenty20 with a plea

Pakistan are crowned World Twenty20 champions, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 final, Lord's, June 21, 2009
The last act: Younis Khan lifts the World Twenty20 trophy and a short while later announced his retirement from the format

Younis Khan used cricket's grandest stage to announce his retirement from Twenty20 internationals, and make an impassioned plea for teams to once again tour his country. The Pakistan captain, speaking after Sunday's emphatic eight-wicket World Twenty20 victory over Sri Lanka, hoped the result would go far to saving cricket in his homeland, which is struggling to attract the interest of younger generations with no international matches being played within its borders.

Younis' final act in Twenty20 international cricket was to lift the trophy that so narrowly evaded Pakistan two years prior. No immediate announcement was made as to the identity of his successor as 20-over captain, but it is likely Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal will be the leading candidates.

"This is my last Twenty20 game," he said at the conclusion of his press conference. "I'm old now for this kind of cricket."

Younis will continue to play Test and ODI cricket, and hopes he will again have the opportunity to lead his national team on home soil. The deteriorating security situation in Pakistan - highlighted by the March terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus outside the Gadaffi Stadium - has prompted national boards and the ICC to push for Pakistan's home matches to be played in neutral venues. Accordingly, Younis' men now lead a virtually nomadic existence.

Younis has previously warned that the absence of international cricket could kill the game in Pakistan and push impressionable youngsters into the clutches of terrorists. Speaking at Lord's on Sunday, he implored teams to return to Pakistan, and expressed hope that his side's World Twenty20 victory would help reinvigorate interest in cricket among his nation's youth.

"I am requesting to all of the countries: 'You must come to Pakistan'," Younis said. "Everybody knows law and order is not good but it is not our fault. Especially for youngsters, we need home series because everywhere there is no cricket in Pakistan. How can we motivate the youngsters, especially at school level and college level? I think this will be helping us build a new structure in Pakistan for our future.

"How can we promote cricket to our youngsters if there is no international game in Pakistan? How can I motivate my son and my neighbours' small children? That's why we need cricket in Pakistan. Law and order is not good, but this is not our fault. We are suffering at the moment from these kinds of things. I think sports should be away from politics."

Younis dedicated Pakistan's World Twenty20 triumph to his former coach Bob Woolmer, who died during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

"This final must go to Bob Woolmer," he said. "He was doing good things with us in 2005 and especially my cricket. I would be very proud if he was alive and sitting with me because he's a very nice guy and was a father figure for us. Why I am captain is because in 2005 - at that time I was not a regular player for Pakistan - he was the guy who all the time was chatting with the chairman and the selectors that Younis will be the next captain. So because of him I have became a captain. I dedicate this final to Bob Woolmer."

Afridi fifty seals title for Pakistan

Pakistan 139 for 2 (Afridi 54*, Akmal 37) beat Sri Lanka 138 for 6 (Sangakkara 64*, Mathews 35*, Razzaq 3-20) by eight wickets

Afridi has played greate innings in the icc t20 worldcup its greate to feel all pakisthan people Afridi had given a greate innigs to pakisthani people

It wasn't the edge-of-the-seat final that would have signed off the ICC World Twenty20 in style, but that won't matter to Pakistan who gave their nation a something to savour amid troubled times. From the moment Tillakaratne Dilshan, the tournament's top-scorer, fell in the opening over Pakistan had a grip on the match. Shahid Afridi, who emerged as their trump card, guided his team home in the 19th over with an unbeaten 54, and it was left to Younis Khan to raise the trophy in what he later announced would be his final Twenty20 international, in front of a sea of delirious Pakistan supporters.

Pakistan won't be playing at home for the foreseeable future, but the following they have had at this event has reinforced the notion that England can be a surrogate home. The masses were cheering from early on as Abdul Razzaq - a great individual comeback-story among the team's resurgence - claimed three key wickets in his opening burst to leave Sri Lanka on 32 for 4. They never looked back despite the best efforts of Kumar Sangakkara.

Occasionally the tension rose as the required rate climbed, but each time Afridi was on hand with one of his most mature innings. He hit consecutive balls from Muttiah Muralitharan for six and four in the 14th over, a calculated assault against a key bowler. The destination of the trophy was sealed when he swung a huge six over midwicket off Isuru Udana in the 18th over - the moment when Sangakkara gambled on one of his weaker bowling links - and followed that with another boundary off a high full toss.

Shoaib Malik played his part with 24 off 22 balls in a match-winning stand of 76 after Kamran Akmal had given early impetus to the top-order. The batsmen knew they didn't have to take many risks and played Ajantha Mendis better than any other team as he went for his most expensive spell of the tournament.

Pakistan's rise from rank outsiders to champions is an extraordinary display for a team that had to beat Netherlands by a significant margin to even stay in the event during the group stages. However, they have peaked at the right time and couldn't have produced a more complete performance for a final. They fell five runs short two years ago at Johannesburg, but this time there was no mistake.

Top Curve
Prime Numbers

  • 22

    Number of dot balls Pakistan bowled in the first six overs.
  • 53 for 1

    Sri Lanka's average score in the Powerplay overs, before this match. Here, they were reduced to 34 for 4 after six.
  • 129

    The number of runs Shahid Afridi has scored in his last three innings, since moving up to No.3, at a strike rate of 148.27. This run also includes his first two half-centuries in Twenty20 internationals, in successive games.
  • 13

    The number of wickets for Umar Gul in the tournament, exactly as many as in the 2007 edition. In 2007 he averaged 11.92 at an economy rate of 5.60. Here his average was 12.15 at an economy rate of 6.44.
  • 64

    Kumar Sangakkara's score, his second half-century and his highest score in Twenty20 internationals.
  • 3 for 20

    Abdul Razzaq's bowling figures, his best in Twenty20 internationals, and his second three-wicket haul in six matches.
Bottom Curve

Sri Lanka, who have been the model of consistency, were caught off guard by aggressive tactics. In a stirring atmosphere, Pakistan were on top of their game from the start as 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer belied his inexperience with a tone-setting opening over. In a clear plan he bowled short at Dilshan who was distinctly discomforted by the approach. Against the fifth ball Dilshan tried to take the initiative with a scoop over short fine-leg, but only managed to pick out the man on the edge of the circle. He had middled virtually all his attempts at the shot during the tournament and what a time for it to go wrong.

With the tournament's leading run-scorer heading off Pakistan were buoyed and Sri Lanka shaken. Jehan Mubarak was promoted to No. 3, but he couldn't survive the second over when he came down the pitch and got a leading edge into the covers to give Razzaq his first.

Sri Lanka briefly rallied as Sanath Jaysuriya suggested he could marshal a turnaround. Favouring the leg side he swung Razzaq for six with a forceful short-arm pull and collected four more next ball, but it was a short-lived response when an inside edge crashed into the stumps. Razzaq was flat on his face at the moment of dismissal after slipping in his follow-through but it was Sri Lanka who were feeling unsteady.

Younis Khan went on the attack and his decision to post a wide slip paid rich dividends when Mahela Jayawardene steered the ball straight to Misbah-ul-Haq at ankle height. Razzaq was playing his cricket with a new lease of life after being giving another crack at international level. He wasn't part of the original squad, but Yasir Arafat's injury that prompted the switch now looked like a stroke of fortune.

Four wickets inside the Powerplay meant Sri Lanka had little choice but to play it safe as Younis turned to his spinners. Sangakkara was calmness personified amid Sri Lanka's problems aware that the hopes of a decent total rested on his shoulders. He paced his innings expertly, reaching fifty off 44 balls despite the problems that surrounded him, but only found support when joined by Angelo Mathews.

The final five overs brought 59 runs and if any attack could make a game out of 138 it was Sri Lanka's. However, early wickets were key and they didn't materialise as Akmal and Shahzaid Hasan played sensibly. The wizardry of Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan and the accuracy of Lasith Malinga have provided wonderful entertainment over the last weeks, but on this occasion couldn't conjure the magic spell that was needed.

As Afridi and Malik embraced mid-pitch after the winning moment the emotion showed what this victory means for Pakistan. They needed this success most and perhaps that drive was the deciding factor. The country faces a difficult few years of rebuilding, but this victory will have brought great joy and, hopefully, belief of a brighter future.

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