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Weekly News Update: 10th July to 16th July, 2007

Last week has been, by almost all counts, a typical week in the world of International Cricket. Someone spoke out against the ICC's latest ruling, Murali ran through yet another batting line up, Pakistan changed a coach. Yup, a very typical week.
Lawson appointed Pakistan's coach 
Geoff Lawson, the former Aussie bowler, has told local Australian media that he has been confirmed as Pakistan's next coach by the PCB.Lawson is currently closely involved with the New South Wales state cricket team.

Dave Whatmore seemed to be the chief contender, but his case seemed to have taken a dent when certain Pakistani players, led by Shahid Afridi, were reported to have started a campaign against his appointment. It didn't help when former Lankan Captain Arjuna Ranatunga took his usual post lunch stroll in other people's business and casually warned a top PCB official against appointing Whatmore as the coach. Having been rejected by both, the BCCI and the PCB, within a few weeks of each other, if you are considering switching souls with Dave Whatmore, this is clearly not a good time to do it.

While player discontent seemed to be the main reason behind Whatmore losing out on the job, the key reason why Lawson has been appointed is because of the players backing him. “Lawson is an easy person to get along with”, is the board’s line. The important question is how easy to get along with is the Pakistani team?

No free lunches, but a Free hit…umm, maybe yeah, ok.

 These days, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a good stretch without bumping into or poking an anti-bowler rule in the world of cricket.

Not surprisingly, cricketers have started speaking out for or against the latest move in the ICC’s secret plot to completely discourage and drive bowlers out of the game - from October onwards, ‘no balls’ in ODI cricket will be further penalized with the next ball being deemed as a ‘free hit’, which means the batsman gets to throw the kitchen sink at the ball without worrying about getting out in any other way except being caught out of their crease.

 Again, quite unsurprisingly, Shahid Afridi has given his approval to the rule. Why wouldn’t he? It is a move almost completely tailor made for his ‘see ball smash ball, don’t see ball, still smash ball’ ways.  Shoaib Akhtar, in the meantime, has made his displeasure clear.He has claimed that the ODI game is way too tough on the bowlers as it is, and this rule further removes the margin of error for the bowler.  "If a bowler has come back from injury he would definitely lose his rhythm and bowl no-balls," he has said. A reliable comment, given his vast personal experience in this regard.

Akhtar’s ban after his doping saga was overturned recently allowing him to play again, but with all these fiercely anti-bowler rules running riot, you can’t help but feel that he was better off with the ban, staying away from all the inevitable thrashing.

T20 World Cup tickets ‘selling well’

 Sold out signs are beginning to be displayed outside each of the three stadiums - the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, Kingsmead Cricket Ground in Durban and Cape Town’s Newlands Stadium - hosting the inaugural ICC World Twenty20.

 While limited tickets are still available for several of the games, including the India-Pakistan encounter, some of the key games including the opening match between South Africa & the West Indies on September 11th, the final on the 24th of the same month, the first semi-final to be played on September 22nd, and other Super Eight games potentially involving South Africa have been sold out.

 Given that Twenty20 is a format which is basically compromising on ‘real cricket’ to draw the crowds in, this should be viewed with relief rather than with jubilation. But after the bumming out of World Cup 2007, anything is worth celebrating. Let’s hope the action matches up to the hype.

Murali takes 700, but in the wrong continent

 The problem with some players is that they are so good they take the fun out of being good. It has been more than a decade since Murali started reaping wickets everywhere. So, when he did get to the 700 wicket mark earlier this week with a 12 wicket haul against Bangladesh (26 wickets in three tests), it became more of a “Good work, but he was going to get there anyway, wasn’t he?” moment rather than a “What extraordinary stuff!” moment. But that shouldn’t take away from the genius of cricket’s best off spinner ever, even if Bishen Singh Bedi does classify him as a javelin thrower.

What would have been close to being perfect, for the sheer drama and poetic justice, would have been Murali reaching the 700 mark in
Australia - possibly, only Pietersen hates South Africa more than Murali hates Australia - when Lanka play them in two tests later this year.  What will be perfect, though, for the sheer drama and poetic justice, would be if Murali breaks Warne’s 708 wicket record in Australia. He is 9 wickets away from doing that, and has two tests to do it in. We will be waiting for that.

The Scorecard

 Quite disappointingly for world cricket, after a good showing in the World Cup and ‘half’ a test win against India (chasing 250, 2 wickets down for 104,match drawn), Bangladesh showed as much fight as a, well, a Bangladesh team from the 1990’s as they were utterly outclassed by Lanka.

 Bangladesh lost the third test by an innings and 193 runs to wind up a fightless 3-0 whitewash. That the teams were off by an order of magnitude is proven by the fact that in the whole Test, Lanka lost 4 wickets for 500 runs whereas Bangladesh lost 20 for 307 runs (131 all out in the first innings, 176 all out in the second). Sangakkara made merry scoring his second double hundred of the series, while Murali, as mentioned above, strolled on to the 700 wickets mark.

 India had a rather dodgy game against the England Lions, managing only 383 and 91 for 1 against the English side’s 413 and 227 for 2 dec.The good and the bad news is that most of the runs came of Sachin’s bat – a classic, vintage 171 in the first innings. Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad had different games – the former with 1 for 40 off 13 overs and the latter with 5 for 76 off `9.4 – but both made their way into the English side for the first Test.

 Steve Harmison is out with a hernia, which means the first and the second slips won’t have to don ‘keeping gloves.



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