TORONTO - Imagine a world Test team without an Australian, or just one Indian. Since the inception of the selection of the team seven years ago, the 2011 edition of the team is devoid of an Aussie for the first time. The side is packed with five Englishmen and four South Africans. The International Cricket Council selection committee headed by ex-West Indies great Clive Lloyd rounded off the team with master batsman Sachin Tendulkar and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka. The classy and articulate Sangakkara, who stepped down as his country’s Test and ODI skipper a couple of months ago, was named captain, an honour well deserved. India’s fast bowler Zaheer Khan is pencilled in as 12th man.
With its elevation to the top of the Test world following its mauling of India in the four-match series last week and its Ashes win earlier this year, it was no surprise English players figured so prominently. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, who enjoyed tremendous form with the bat against India and the Aussies, were picked along with bowlers Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and James Anderson.
The four South Africans are Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn. This is the fourth consecutive year paceman Steyn has been selected.
“While selecting the squad, the selectors didn’t rely on statistics only but took into account all other factors like the opposition, pitch conditions, match situation etc. But when you have only 12 places to fill from a big group of world-class players there will always be a few who will miss out,” Lloyd said.
The surprise omission had to be India’s elegant Rahul Dravid, who bore a charmed life with the bat in the West Indies and England. His century in that fourth Test last week was his 35th, fourth on the all-time Test list behind Tendulkar. Also deserving of a spot had to be Australia’s former captain Ricky Ponting ... The ICC will announce its cricketer of the year Sept. 12 and the four in contention are England batsmen Cook and Trott, South Africa’s opening batsman Amla and last year’s winner, Tendulkar ... The four short-listed for the ICC Associate Player of the year are Ryan ten Doeschate of the Netherlands, the Irish pair of Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien and Afghanistan’s Hamid Hassan, who was featured in the Sunday Sun earlier this month.
Fall from grave
India’s fall from the top of the Test rankings can be attributed to the country’s overdose of Twenty20 cricket and that it was up against a well-oiled England machine that was superior in every aspect of the game.
Arjuna Ranatunga, who led Sri Lanka to a stunning World Cup victory in 1996, blames India’s spineless display to the Indian Premier League (IPL).
“After winning the World Cup, all of India’s leading cricketers went straight to play in IPL and then some of them opted to miss out the West Indies tour.
“Some of them even delayed surgery after the World Cup not wanting to miss the cash-rich IPL, and after arriving in England half-fit broke down halfway through the England tour,” Ranatunga told Sri Lankan daily The Island.
The iconic Ranatunga was talking about seamer Zaheer Khan and opening bat Virender Sehwag, two who were expected to carry India’s main load. Zaheer left after bowling 13.3 overs of the first Test and Sehwag arrived for the third Test and collected a “king pair’’ ... Things seem to go from bad to worse for India as Sehwag and fast bowler Ishant Sharma have returned home due to injuries ... England has decided to give one of its top batsmen — Kevin Pietersen — a rest. He has been left out of the one-day squad for the five-match series. His place has been taken by Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes.
It’s unbelievable that the fifth day of that last Test at the Oval last Monday was sold out even though every fan knew England was poised for another stroll-in-the-park victory. They packed the venerable stadium in the hope of watching Tendulkar reach his 100th century. It appeared he would finally reach that mark as he sat on 91. But then a hush fell over the ground when Tim Bresnan trapped him leg before ... Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga became the first bowler to take three one-day international hat tricks as Sri Lanka defeated Australia by four wickets in the fifth match in the series, won by Australia 3-2. Malinga passed left-arm pacemen Wasim Akram of Pakistan and fellow Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas, who each had two hat tricks in their careers.
Australia’s Ricky Ponting is hoping to grab some spare time during the current tour of Sri Lanka and study a report by Don Argus that “there was a lack of strong culture” in the team during the last two years of his reign as captain. “So I am keen to learn a bit more about what the perception is about the team or the culture within the team and find out what a lot of the facts are from the findings, talking specifically about the culture.”
Cricket Australia wasted little time in implementing the Argus commission report that was set up following Australia’s Ashes loss. The chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, was fired and national team coach Tim Nielsen was asked to reapply for his position.
In an effort to meet its obligations to Sky television, England plays two Twenty20 against West Indies at the Oval Sept. 23 and 25. Hopefully, England will manage to draw huge crowds as the tourists will not have any big names in their lineup. The established players will be in India competing in the Champions League Twenty20 Sept. 19-Oct. 9. The four new players in the squad include Miles Bascombe, Johnson Charles, Nkruma Bonner and Derwin Christian. One player not considered for selection was Chris Gayle, who is still at loggerheads with the board.