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Sachin made 'international' debut for Pak!

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 08 November 2014 | 21.24

Everyone knows that Sachin Tendulkar made his debut for India against Pakistan in 1989, but did you know that he actually got his first taste of international cricket two years earlier, not playing for India but for a Pakistan team - against India! During Pakistan's tour of India in 1987, Sachin was sent in as a substitute fielder for Imran Khan's team during a festival match with India at Mumbai's Brabourne stadium.

Javed Miandad and Abdul Qadir left the field at lunch time and Sachin was asked to field. Imran deployed him at long-on and soon Kapil Dev hit a skier in his direction. Despite running 15 metres, Sachin could not reach the ball.

Recounting the incident in his recently released book, 'Playing it My Way', Sachin remembers complaining to a friend later that he could have taken the catch had he been positioned at mid-on instead of long-on.

"I don't know whether Imran Khan remembers this or has any idea that I once fielded for his Pakistan team," writes Sachin in his book.

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ICC launches contest on WC moment

MUMBAI: With the World Cup is less than 100 days away, the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Thursday launched an interesting campaign to whet the appetite of the cricket lovers.

It has culled out a list of the 100 greatest moments from the previous 10 World Cups, which will be tweeted out from @ICC on a daily basis over the next 100 days. Each of the 100 moments will only be open for voting for a 24 hour period.

The fans will have to look out for the hashtag, and tweet with hashtag to vote for their favourite moment. After 100 days, the ICC will announce the top 10 voted moments, and a final vote will then take place over 24 hours on March 2 to crown the greatest World Cup moment till now.

The first greatest World Cup moment, released on Thursday, was 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhtar breaking the 100 mph mark (100.23mph) while bowling to England's Nick Knight during the 2003 World Cup - officially the fastest ball ever.

The second, put out on Friday, was Bermuda's Dwayne Leverock taking a stunning one-handed catch to send back India's Robin Uthappa during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

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21.24 | 0 komentar | Read More

Spruced up MCG gears up for 2015 WC

MELBOURNE: The third largest sporting extravaganza on the planet after the Fifa World Cup and Summer Olympics - ICC Cricket World Cup - is less than 100 days away and the organisers are leaving no stone unturned to make it memorable like previous editions. They have roped in legendary World Cup-winning captains Allan Border (1987), Steve Waugh (1999) and Ricky Ponting (2003 & 2007) besides current Australian skipper Michael Clarke to promote the February 14 to March 29 event Down Under.

The 14 venues across Australia and New Zealand have been spruced up and tickets have been modestly priced to encourage people to throng the stadiums. Australia's sporting capital Melbourne, which is scheduled to stage the opening match between England and Australia as well as the final, has not only re-laid the outfield at the MCG, but has also lined up a wide range of activities to attract tourists and fans from around the world.

"Hundred days is the launchpad of any event. It's the launch of television advertising. We will be launching the trophy tour in Australia and New Zealand with Australian batting greats Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting travelling to different venues. In Australia we will take it on a double decker bus to host cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney as well as regional centres like Geraldton, Broken Hill, Port Augusta and Launceston," said John Harnden, the 2015 Cricket World Cup CEO.

"There are 14 teams playing in the World Cup and as part of the organising committee we cannot just focus on Australia. So, we have been trying to help 12 of the other teams mobilise people in their respective countries to come to World Cup. But more importantly here in Australia and New Zealand we have been trying to engage the large Indian community. We staged Diwali celebrations and gave thousands of Indians an opportunity to get themselves photographed with the trophy. We have also had talks with Australia-India business council," Harnden explained.

The reasonable pricing of tickets saw the India-Pakistan match on February 15 at Adelaide sold out within 20 minutes and even the South Africa-India match at the MCG has got better response than the tournament opener.

"We have kept ticket prices as low as AUD20 (INR 1100 approx) for adults and AUD5 (INR 270) for kids for pool matches. And two-thirds of the tickets across the tournament is AUD50 (INR 2650) or less. We want an electric atmosphere just like the India-Pakistan match," Harnden said. With the season-opening Grand Slam - Australian Open (Jan 19 to Feb 1) - and Formula One Grand Prix (March 12 to 15) happening around the 50-over Championship at Melbourne, the Victorian city will have more things to offer sports aficionados than any part of the world.

"You might also be a tennis fan or any other sport fan and so tournaments in the buildup or during the World Cup will only help. They can go for the Australian Open tennis and say now what's next - World Cup - and then the Melbourne GP.

"Tourism Victoria will be conducting food and wine festival (February 27 to March 15) around the event and it will only add to the experience. MCC have relaid the outfield at the MCG. It's now like a billiards table (laughs)," Harnden said.

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I wanted to play till 2014: Tendulkar

...But the West Indies series made Sachin Tendulkar rethink his retirement plans, as Nalin Mehta found out in this exclusive interview.

When did you first entertain thoughts of retirement?

I was looking forward to the tours to South Africa in Dec 2013 and New Zealand in early 2014. But when the BCCI announced a two-Test series with the West Indies in Nov 2013, I had to rethink my plans. It was then - and I don't know exactly how and when - that the thought of retirement came to me. I started to wonder whether those two Tests against the West Indies should be my last. I remember discussing it with (wife) Anjali and (brother) Ajit. We were sitting on the first floor lounge of my house when I told them that I was thinking about retiring after the West Indies series. The second Test would be my 200th and I would not have another opportunity to retire on home soil till the end of 2014, and I wasn't sure if I could battle with injuries for that long. There was no point in dragging things out if my heart wasn't in it.

You talk in the book about the immense pressures of being Tendulkar. How did you deal with it?

I have always liked the fact that people expected something from me, because it meant I was capable of delivering something. When I played cricket it was also about living up to my own expectations and play the way I wanted to play the game - with the right values, in the right spirit and without taking things for granted. I never changed my priorities. Everything happened around cricket and cricket was always the centre. The rest of the things continued happening around my game and my family kept it that way .

My manager, Mark Mascarenhas from WorldTel, understood me well. Being a huge fan of cricket, he did not want me to make compromises. If we were shooting an ad, he never said, "C'mon, let's skip a practice session because they are giving us money ." The understanding was clear that during my cricket period nothing comes between me and my game. My family was extremely particular about this. This was a protective shell around me and it allowed me to forget about the outside world. Outside pressures were kept outside my territory and my territory was cricket.


Sachin Tendulkar, Ramakant Achrekar with Sara Tendulkar. (TOI Photo)

How did you keep this bubble going?

In the 1996 World Cup, I was the only batsman in the team who didn't have a sticker on his bat. Most others had 'Four Square' or 'Wills' but I didn't want to endorse a tobacco brand. Then in the middle of a game, the manager of an MNC came to me and suggested that if I put his company's sticker they would pay any amount I wanted. I turned it down because I didn't want any distractions in the middle of the tournament. I did not want any alien element on my bat which could catch my eye on the pitch. I had done well without a sticker till then and didn't want to risk my rhythm. We decided to wait till the tournament ended to fix the sticker.

You had your shell to protect you. But what happens when the fame and pressures start affecting your wife and children?

Arjun is 15 years old now and has faced this for a long time. So has Sara. In 2007, we had told Arjun, who was seven years old then, that if someone makes bad comments at school about our first-round exit from the World Cup, he should ignore it. But when a friend told him that India lost because his dad got out for zero, our advice went to his head. He punched his friend and told him never to say anything about his dad! At that time, reporters also asked him questions. It's unfair on Arjun and he should be treated like any other 15-year-old now that he is playing his own cricket. People should judge him as an individual and not compare.

You write about how you changed your game for that wonderful Perth century in 1992...

Before that Perth hundred we had already spent two months in Australia, played four Tests and a triangular series. I count that innings as among my best because I made certain adjustments. I was making my debut at No. 4 and by that stage had mastered the backfoot punch. People talk about Perth being helpful for fast bowlers but I feel that once you get your eye in, Perth can also make a fast bowler's life difficult. If a batsman knows how to use the length, then the bowler has a very small area as far as the good length spot is concerned. Because of bounce, if he falters on the shorter side you can cut or pull and if he is marginally fuller, then naturally you have to read the length and hit him on the rise. Perth is the kind of wicket where if you are in a positive frame of mind, it's a beautiful track to bat on. If you are not very positive then it's tough.

The most challenging bowler you ever faced?

There have been so many top players I have played since 1989. I can say there were at least 30 great bowlers that I have played against and it's difficult to pinpoint one guy as the best.

How can you differentiate between a Glenn McGrath or a Curtley Ambrose or a Shaun Pollock? They were all accurate and consistently bowled in that corridor, with a nagging length, where you couldn't attack them on the front foot. Neither could you pull or cut on the back foot. They had mastered that length. For that matter, how do you differentiate between Malcolm Marshall and Richard Hadlee or Imran Khan? All these are great bowlers so I just consider myself fortunate that I was able to play against the top all-rounders and bowlers of the '70s and '80s: Malcolm Marshall, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan. In the next generation you had Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Allan Donald, Courtney Walsh and others.

But who made you the most uncomfortable?

The one bowler I didn't feel comfortable batting against was Hansie Cronje.

Why him?

I don't know. There was something. Early on, when someone like Allan Donald is bowling with strike bowlers such as Brett Shultz, Craig Matthews and Brian McMillan, you had to stay focused and respect how they were bowling. Then when you get someone who is just going to bowl 2-3 overs to give the strike bowlers a rest, then you want to put pressure on him. Later, I tried to play him differently. I tried to block, to leave, to slog and to play my normal game but somehow kept getting out to him.

The one thing that didn't work very well was your captaincy. You say you didn't get a free hand...

Captaincy left me bruised. I always wanted the best team but many times the selectors wanted to promote zonal quotas. In South Africa in 1996, I wanted Abey Kuruvilla to play with Venkatesh Prasad and Srinath but I didn't get him. He did very well later in West Indies and not taking him to SA was a mistake.

Who is the best captain you have played against?

Nasser Hussain was the best. He was very proactive, even though he used Ashley Giles against me negatively. He had the ability to think out batsmen and would do very good field placements. I also have a lot of regard for Graeme Smith.

And among the Australians?

Michael Clarke was the best. In 1992, I was about to pick up a ball to toss back to the bowler when Allan Border told me, "Don't you dare touch the ball." It was an early lesson in how competitive Australians are. But I was too young to judge him as a captain. Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting had great teams. Clarke had to rebuild his team from scratch.


Fab Four of Indian cricket - Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar. (TOI Photo)

Some Australians accused you of unfairly backing Harbhajan in the 'Monkeygate' incident...

That incident happened because Symonds was continuously provoking Bhajji. Something had to give and when I walked to Bhajji to calm him down I heard him say "teri maa ki" to Symonds. To me it was part of the game. But Australian players started threatening him and he got out. I thought that was that, but later was very surprised when they said Bhajji had called Symonds a 'monkey'. The match referee could have handled it better. We were shocked at the ban they put on Bhajji. Anil and I decided to boycott the tour if the ban was upheld. It was time to take a stand, and we did.

You write that you always batted best when you were thinking about the opposite end, rather than your end...

Cricket is played best when you are thinking about what the guy against you is thinking, not about yourself or your technique. In 1999 in the first Test against Australia, when I went in to bat in the evening of the second day, McGrath bowled almost five maiden overs to me, bowling fairly outside the off-stump. I kept leaving the ball because I knew I had to stay on for the next day and they were just playing with my patience. So I said okay, let's play with your patience and see who wins. Next morning, McGrath bowled the same line and length but I hit a couple of boundaries in his first over and started playing my normal game. Shane Warne told me later, "You ruined our strategy because our strategy was to not make you play 70% of deliveries, frustrate you and take wickets from the other end." When you play against such great bowlers you have to play mind games and this was my way of retaliating to their strategy.

When you first played for Yorkshire and were short of money, you adopted interesting ways to buy food...

I didn't have enough money when playing county cricket. Quite a few friends were with me. We used to go to Pizza Hut, where if you ordered buffet you could have as much you wanted but you could fill the salad bowl only once. We figured out a technique where we would create a huge wall of lettuce in the small bowl, and then you could fill much more inside! We mastered that technique.

There is a story you recount about playing a shot you saw in your dream. Tell us about it.

It happened when I scored my 51st Test hundred in Cape Town. I was batting outside the crease to negate the bounce. I had seen in my dreams five days before that game that I was hooking Morny Morkel for a six to reach my hundred. And I just got this strong feeling that this is that ball where he would bowl a short of length bouncer. It was the only one in the innings where I went back inside my crease got all set for the ball. He actually balled exactly the same ball I had seen in my dream and I hit him for a six exactly the same way to reach my hundred. I went for a hook shot and normally I don't do that. Something inside just told me inside that this is the moment, just do it. I went up to Veeru and told me this is the second time I have played this shot, the first was in my dream. Then I moved back to my normal stance.

You also describe a hilarious incident with Anjali in a movie hall.

I could never go out publicly without being mobbed so we had to make adjustments. When we were dating, we went to see Roja in Mumbai in 1993. I put on a wig, a false moustache and glasses. But in the interval the glasses broke and in my panic the moustache came out to. There was a huge ruckus in the hall and we had to run away half through the film.

What do you plan to do in your second innings?

The first innings was all about excitement, being competitive and chasing my dreams on the field. The second innings is about giving back to people as much as I can, and in return to expect satisfaction. I have been with an NGO called Apnalaya for 20 years but it was difficult to be there when I was playing. Now I have promised them more direct involvement. I am also donating part of the proceeds from this book to ending malnutrition in children and providing clean water for the underprivileged.

The expectations from me continue. And I realise that in this innings I do not have a bat in my hand. On my 40th birthday , I developed an initiative with a team to light up villages.We are pursuing this idea very passionately through the Spreading Happiness Indiya Foundation. I know it sounds silly and I can't do it on my own. The whole nation has to participate. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is also something I'm passionate about.

What about your work as an MP?

Three months ago, the PM asked each MP to create a model village and I have adopted a village in Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. I am also working with UNICEF to increase awareness about hygiene, with emphasis on hand-washing and sanitation.

Do you see a role for yourself in politics?

No, I don't see myself in politics. I share my ideas with the concerned people and that is my contribution.

Will you push your ideas in Delhi as an MP?

I have shared my ideas with the PM and the details with his team. They were fantastic and the follow-up has been really good. They were very receptive, especially the PM. While the adoption of the village has been implemented with the support of the local administration, I also did my bit to help the locals when Jammu and Kashmir was ravaged by floods.

Do you see a role for yourself in cricket as a coach or administrator?

At this stage I am focusing on other things. I continue to help few players. When the team is travelling we speak on the phone and whatever I observe I tell them, but not in any official capacity. If I can have access to players or they can have access to me, then that is what matters.

You are heavily involved in the Indian Soccer League. What are your plans for promoting other sports?

Sports for all is something I have discussed with the PM. From the grassroots level, kids should be encouraged to play sports. Sport should become a subject in schools, where if you represent your school you get marks, more marks if you represent your state and even more if you play for your country. I am not saying that all children should become sportsmen but they should all engage in outdoor and physical activity. We have 62 million diabetes patients in India and if we don't change our lifestyle or eating habits, or the way we spend our day, then this figure will soon be 75 million. The idea is for children to be fitter.

Why can't India produce more champions in other sports?

In other countries, talent is identified as early as 5-6 years of age. We identify talent at 11-12 years. Some other guy in China has already had experience by then of 7-8 years. That much gap at a competitive level is too much. It is not a fair competition and whatever we achieve is because of sheer talent. We need better facilities.

Sachin though have lived your life in the media spotlight you have still managed to fill your book with surprises and it is a fast-paced easy read with unexpected twists. Now that your story is out in the public domain how does it feel to get it all off your chest?

We started this book three years ago and it has taken a lot of effort, spending a lot of hours recalling my wonderful and disappointing moments. It is a mixed package deal. It's relieving that everything is out in the book the way I wanted. There are a number of facts which people were not aware of as I did not entertain those things while I was playing. I wanted all my energy to be focussed only on scoring more and more runs and winning matches for India. Once I retired I wanted to pen it down. It wouldn't have been possible without my friend and co-writer Boria Majumdar who by sheer persistence kept me sitting for endless sessions and his enthusiasm and pointed questioning made this project animated and enjoyable.

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Spruced up MCG gears up for 2015 WC

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 07 November 2014 | 21.24

MELBOURNE: The third largest sporting extravaganza on the planet after the Fifa World Cup and Summer Olympics - ICC Cricket World Cup - is less than 100 days away and the organisers are leaving no stone unturned to make it memorable like previous editions. They have roped in legendary World Cup-winning captains Allan Border (1987), Steve Waugh (1999) and Ricky Ponting (2003 & 2007) besides current Australian skipper Michael Clarke to promote the February 14 to March 29 event Down Under.

The 14 venues across Australia and New Zealand have been spruced up and tickets have been modestly priced to encourage people to throng the stadiums. Australia's sporting capital Melbourne, which is scheduled to stage the opening match between England and Australia as well as the final, has not only re-laid the outfield at the MCG, but has also lined up a wide range of activities to attract tourists and fans from around the world.

"Hundred days is the launchpad of any event. It's the launch of television advertising. We will be launching the trophy tour in Australia and New Zealand with Australian batting greats Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting travelling to different venues. In Australia we will take it on a double decker bus to host cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney as well as regional centres like Geraldton, Broken Hill, Port Augusta and Launceston," said John Harnden, the 2015 Cricket World Cup CEO.

"There are 14 teams playing in the World Cup and as part of the organising committee we cannot just focus on Australia. So, we have been trying to help 12 of the other teams mobilise people in their respective countries to come to World Cup. But more importantly here in Australia and New Zealand we have been trying to engage the large Indian community. We staged Diwali celebrations and gave thousands of Indians an opportunity to get themselves photographed with the trophy. We have also had talks with Australia-India business council," Harnden explained.

The reasonable pricing of tickets saw the India-Pakistan match on February 15 at Adelaide sold out within 20 minutes and even the South Africa-India match at the MCG has got better response than the tournament opener.

"We have kept ticket prices as low as AUD20 (INR 1100 approx) for adults and AUD5 (INR 270) for kids for pool matches. And two-thirds of the tickets across the tournament is AUD50 (INR 2650) or less. We want an electric atmosphere just like the India-Pakistan match," Harnden said. With the season-opening Grand Slam - Australian Open (Jan 19 to Feb 1) - and Formula One Grand Prix (March 12 to 15) happening around the 50-over Championship at Melbourne, the Victorian city will have more things to offer sports aficionados than any part of the world.

"You might also be a tennis fan or any other sport fan and so tournaments in the buildup or during the World Cup will only help. They can go for the Australian Open tennis and say now what's next - World Cup - and then the Melbourne GP.

"Tourism Victoria will be conducting food and wine festival (February 27 to March 15) around the event and it will only add to the experience. MCC have relaid the outfield at the MCG. It's now like a billiards table (laughs)," Harnden said.

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Feels good to be on top: Mohammed Shami

NEW DELHI: He has played international cricket for just one and a half years and Mohammed Shami is already among the top-20 bowlers in the world. The India pacer, who was named in the ICC's ODI team of the year on Wednesday, said he was pleased that his performance was recognized.

"Every player dreams of this moment. I am proud of this achievement. I performed well this year and that has been rewarded. I am young and relatively new to the team, so such moments boost your confidence," the 24-year-old player told TOI on Thursday on the sidelines of a Daredevils School Cup match.

With 38 wickets from 16 games, Shami is the highest wicket-taker in ODIs this year and has been in top form. "It feels good to be at the top. It's a huge thing. I was able to accomplish all my goals this year and I will try my best to keep performing for India," said the UP bowler who plays for Bengal in the domestic circuit.

Shami, who is focusing on improving his death-bowling skills, says one of the major reasons behind his success has been his approach. "I do not go by the name or stature of the batsman. I don't think about who is facing me. I focus on taking advantage of his weakness. I have played against many top batsmen. My approach varies from situation to situation. You feel the pressure sometimes and are not able to execute your plan. Then, you just want to finish your over. It's better to focus on what I can control. I enjoy playing all the formats. Tests give you more options to experiment. But in the end, it's all about mindset," he explained.

Shami, who took 10 wickets in the three ODIs against the West Indies before their tour was cancelled, was forced to miss the first three ODIs of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka owing to injury. "I felt a slight discomfort in my right foot's toe after the first ODI against West Indies at Kochi. However, now I am fully fit," he said. India tour Australia next month where they play four Tests and an ODI tri-series involving England. Just 15 days after that, India face Pakistan in their opening match of the World Cup.

"The tour of Australia is very important for us. If we manage to win that series then our confidence level will be pretty high going into the World Cup," said Shami, who is currently ranked 16th in ODIs.

And Shami does not think the tight schedule would affect the team's performance. "We have been playing continuously for the past one year or so. The more you play, the more experience you get. Playing in Australia right before the World Cup will work in our favour," he said. Asked if defending champions India can repeat their performance of 2011, he said, "Our team is relatively young and we believe we can chase or defend any target. All teams are good. We do not focus on any specific opponent or compete with other teams. We focus on improving our game and playing better cricket."

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A prodigy who has blossomed late

HYDERABAD: Many years after being talked about as the next big thing in Indian cricket, Ambati Rayudu is showing the world the stuff he is made of.

His first ODI century for India, an unbeaten 121 in Ahmedabad on Thursday, couldn't have come at a better time for the 29-year-old, who had, at a young age, caught the eye of the pundits here for his remarkable ability to pick the length of the ball very early and essay shots with time to spare.

"He came to me when he was just seven, learnt the basics and quickly graduated to the regular nets. Seeing his talent, we put him in the senior nets and he proved us right by scoring a century in the HCA A1 Division two-day league match when he was just 13," his first coach Vijay Paul told TOI on Thursday.

The local media was soon abuzz with his exploits after he scored 160 odd runs out of the 180 plus his team scored in an inter-school meet. His rise continued to be steady and two centuries on his Ranji Trophy debut for Hyderabad against Andhra only heightened expectations.

He was part of the U-15 Asia Cup team, led the India U-19 team in the World Cup in Dhaka, where the likes of Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan played under him and his century for India Colts in Taunton, England earned praise from Sachin Tendulkar. Thereabouts, the wheels came off. A spat with HCA meant he had to shift base to Andhra for a season following which he came back to Hyderabad, but the move to the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL) went against him.

So while his peers and juniors went up the rungs to play for India, Rayudu toiled in the domestic league after his return to the Hyderabad team following BCCI's amnesty to ICL players returning to the fold.

It was not long before the Indian Premier League (IPL) came calling and Rayudu didn't think twice before accepting Tendulkar's call to join the Mumbai Indians, for whom he has been a consistent performer. "Just to share the same dressing room as my idol Sachin is an unbelievable feeling," he had remarked then. He also shifted base to Baroda, where after a string of big scores, he came back into national reckoning once again.

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ICC launches contest on WC moment

MUMBAI: With the World Cup is less than 100 days away, the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Thursday launched an interesting campaign to whet the appetite of the cricket lovers.

It has culled out a list of the 100 greatest moments from the previous 10 World Cups, which will be tweeted out from @ICC on a daily basis over the next 100 days. Each of the 100 moments will only be open for voting for a 24 hour period.

The fans will have to look out for the hashtag, and tweet with hashtag to vote for their favourite moment. After 100 days, the ICC will announce the top 10 voted moments, and a final vote will then take place over 24 hours on March 2 to crown the greatest World Cup moment till now.

The first greatest World Cup moment, released on Thursday, was 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhtar breaking the 100 mph mark (100.23mph) while bowling to England's Nick Knight during the 2003 World Cup - officially the fastest ball ever.

The second, put out on Friday, was Bermuda's Dwayne Leverock taking a stunning one-handed catch to send back India's Robin Uthappa during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

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I didn't watch 2011 World Cup final: Sachin

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 06 November 2014 | 21.25

They came dressed in formals, not in the familiar all-whites or the Men in Blue attire, etched indelibly in a generation's memory as they scored a mind-boggling 88,218 runs in Tests and ODIs. But when they spoke, the Fab Four of Indian cricket - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman - rolled back the years. There was the easy camaraderie that only comes after sharing rooms, your worst fears and the finest moments of your lives over thousands of days playing, travelling and bonding together.

The anecdotes flew thick and fast at a function in Mumbai to mark the release of Sachin's autobiography on Wednesday. Sachin revealed that he did not watch any part of the 2011 World Cup final after his dismissal and didn't allow his opening partner, Virender Sehwag, to watch either.

"In an earlier game in Ahmedabad, I had been getting a massage with my head down and Viru was sitting next to me and we did well. So in the final, I stayed on the massage table and kept Viru with me. He said, 'Let me see the game a little bit'. I said, 'No, you see as much as you want on TV later'. And we won," said Tendulkar.

Ganguly narrated how he once asked Sachin to face the first ball of the innings as he was going through a rough patch and thought it might change his luck. Sachin declined, saying he never took first strike. So Ganguly walked straight to the non-striker's position, leaving Sachin with no choice but to take guard. Even as the audience roared with laughter at Sourav Ganguly's anecdotes about Tendulkar, Sachin hit back by mentioning how he was once struggling with an injury, which later turned out to be a broken rib.

"I wasn't even being able to put bat to ball and Sourav strolled down the pitch and told me, 'Tu champion hain re' (Come on, you're a champion)." Inevitably, Rahul Dravid was asked about the infamous declaration when Sachin was unbeaten on 194.

He responded, "If I charged a penny for every time I was asked about the Multan declaration, I would be a multi-millionaire by now." But he was quick to add, "My greatest memory of that Test is asking Sachin to bowl the last over of the day after the declaration. He got Moin Khan out and he was visibly overjoyed because he was again doing what he did so many times - helping India win. We walked off as a team." Fondly referred to as 'Jam' by Tendulkar during the evening, Dravid revealed that the two would converse in Marathi during their long partnerships in the middle.

He also said, "When I first started playing for India, I was startled because he would always ask 'kya ho raha hain'. He was Sachin Tendulkar, had already played for seven years and was captain. What could I tell him about the pitch or conditions? I thought he was taking the mickey out of me. Later I realised that is how he is: always interested in knowing what is happening on the pitch and what the bowlers are doing."

Of course, the subject of Greg Chappell came up too.

"The dressing room environment was negative at that time," said Tendulkar.

He also mentioned that he was extremely depressed after India's disastrous performance in the 2007 World Cup but cheered up after he got a call from his childhood hero, Viv Richards. "We spoke for a good 45 minutes and he told me there was still a lot of cricket left in me. At that juncture, that helped."

Laxman spoke with awe about Sachin's 241 not out at Sydney. "At the end of the Melbourne Test, we were seeing the TV graphics on how Sachin was getting out. He said he was playing brilliantly but kept getting out freakishly. So he said he won't play the cover drive. I have never seen any batsman play with more control. I have never seen a more controlled innings."

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India look to keep rolling against Sri Lanka

AHMEDABAD: The makeshift ODI series against Sri Lanka is proving to be a blessing in disguise. With the World Cup just three months away, both India and Sri Lanka have got a wonderful opportunity to iron out a few issues. Everything fell in place for India in Cuttack and Thursday will offer another opportunity for Virat Kohli and his boys to assert their domination when both teams face each other here in the second day-night ODI.

First, India would like to be doubly sure about their batting. Over the years, India's batting has been their major strength, home or away. As skipper Virat Kohli said, "The batting has come together very nicely over the past one or one-and-a-half years. The whole idea of this series is to try different people in different positions and see how they react to those situations. We need to figure out the best combination.

"The guys responded beautifully in the first game and hopefully any change that we make, or different combina tions that we try, will give us the same results. We can be more confident and have more options going closer to the World Cup." The second issue is the Indian pace attack. Having a potent seam attack will definitely be an added advantage Down Under. Back from injury, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav were very impressive in the Cuttack ODI.

Sharma picked 434 runs from eight overs - including a maiden - while Yadav picked 224 from 6.2 overs.

However, Varun Aaron's injury in the first ODI, in which he bowled just 4.1 overs, is affecting the combination. Kohli said, "Obviously Varun's pace is always an advantage. If a guy is bowling at 150 kmph, it's a great thing. But Umesh (Yadav) is doing the same thing and Ishant (Sharma) can push himself up to 140 kmph and when his body is strong enough, he can bowl consistently at 140 for 7-8 overs.

"If you look at the complete picture you will see that Varun is quick, Umesh is quick, Ishant bowls at 140-plus, Mohammad Shami bowls quick and Bhuvneshwar Kumar swings it both ways. So things are looking good going into the World Cup."

Meanwhile, four of the five spinning options will also battle for the all-rounder's slot.Interestingly , all-rounders have played important roles in both of India's World Cup victories, be it Kapil Dev in 1983 or Yuvraj Singh in 2011. Now any one among Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Karan Sharma, according to Kohli, can qualify for that all-important slot.Amit Mishra remains the fifth spinning option, and he too is no mug with the bat.

"Ashwin is a very intelligent cricketer and has been more than good with the bat in certain situations. There is Jadeja, everyone knows how capable he is. He's been a perfect all-rounder for us. Now we also have Axar, whose temperament has been amazing. I have seen him in the two games now and in IPL, he's a very strong character. We have Stuart Binny as well as a fast bowing all-rounder.

"Any of these four people or even Karan Sharma can be very handy with the bat. I see every one of them having the character and temperament to deliver," said Kohli.

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