TORONTO - Australia has over the years produced a string of exceptional fast bowlers and lingering doubts the well was running dry have been dispelled with the emergence of two extraordinary youngsters. The 18-year-old Pat Cummins had a dream debut against South Africa three weeks ago and now 21-year-old James Pattinson is making waves with his speed, aggression and movement against New Zealand in Cummins’ absence.
Cummins is out with a bone stress fracture in his foot and will also skip the dream series against visiting India later this month. But India will get a taste of the tear-away Pattinson and he is sure to test the nerve and will of the likes of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
Pattinson is already looking forward to that first encounter in Melbourne. “That’s the pinnacle, the Boxing Day Test,” Pattinson said. “When I was young I would go every year. So to be out there playing is going to be a dream come true — if I get the chance. And against India — there is no better challenge than their batsmen.”
Pattinson earned his first cap in Brisbane last week and he shattered the Kiwis with five wickets to give the Aussies a nine-wicket victory. He unleashed his pace on the Kiwis yet again Saturday with another five-wicket haul as the Kiwis were bundled out for 150. But the visitors hit back to dismiss the Aussies for a paltry 136, their third lowest against the Kiwis in 52 Tests. The home team was at one stage reduced to 75 for seven. Its lowest was 103 in Auckland in 1986 during Sir Richard Hadlee’s prime. The Kiwis, hoping to end their dreadful run against their much-superior neighbours, are on 139 for three at the close for a lead of 153.
No present-era batsman has been as destructive as Virender Sehwag. And in Indore last week he lived up to the high expectations of his fans who pack stadiums when he takes his guard in one-day internationals.
The flamboyant opening batsman flayed the West Indies attack for an unbelievable 219 to set a world record in the 50-over version of the game, surpassing his teammate Sachin Tendulkar’s 200 against South Africa at Gwalior in 2010. This unprecedented attack on the hapless visitors saw India make 418 for five as it powered its way to a 153-run win. The fact the 33-year-old got 142 of his runs from 25 boundaries and seven sixes were beyond belief.
Tendukar, who is being rested for this series, was the first to send in his congratulations.
“I am very happy for him and also the fact that someone who has broken my record is my teammate and an Indian.”
But the greatest tribute came from Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja who compared Sehwag to former West Indian great Sir Viv Richards.
“When Viv Richards retired, I thought it was the end of entertainment. But then came Sehwag, the King of entertainment! Long live the King!”
As one would expect the media is having a field day comparing Sehwag to Richards. Richards, of course, had bowlers shaking in their boots when he came in to bat as he ruined many of their averages. The Master Blaster’s powerful knocks came against some of the greatest quickies including Australia’s Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Ian Botham. He also treated the spinners with utter contempt and many former cricketers believe he was the greatest batsman in the history of 50-over cricket. Sehwag is now knocking on the door to join the West Indian at the top.
CHEQUE’S IN THE MAIL
Sri Lanka’s Test players were told hours before they boarded the flight to South Africa that their cheques are in the mail. Give these players credit for carrying on with their international commitments in England, the U.A.E. and at home without getting paid a cent. But it is evident they weren’t a happy bunch and hardly put up a fight against Pakistan recently. I mean would you be a happy camper if you hadn’t seen a dime from your employer in eight months? Sports minister Mahindanda Aluthgamage told parliament that 65% of the payments will be made this week after the country receives what it is owed by the International Cricket Council for co-hosting this year’s World Cup in April.
Why the ICC has taken eight months to hand over $1.8 million it owes is shocking to say the least. The players are owed $6 million and one wonders where that money is going to come from since Sri Lanka’s cricket board is broke. It bulldozed its way into debt to the tune of $69 million after building two new stadiums and renovating a third for the World Cup.
WELCOME BACK MONTY
Monty Panesar is back in the England squad for January’s three-Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. The turbaned spinner is almost certain to start in all of the matches alongside Graeme Swann on the turning wickets in the U.A.E. New face in the 16-man squad is wicket-keeper Steven Davis who will earn his first cap. England will be at full strength with the return of Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett, who missed the last part of the English season with injuries . . . Pakistan, meanwhile, is warming up for this much-anticipated clash with England by piling on the misery on Bangladesh. After sweeping the three ODIs, Pakistan posted 415 for four in reply to the home team’s first innings knock of 135 in the first Test at Chittagong. Opening bat Mohammad Hafeez Khan hammered 143 and Younis Khan is unbeaten on 96.
SYMONDS ON THE TUBE
Andrew Symonds, famous for his drinking binges as much as for his all-round abilities, becomes the first cricketer to be picked for the “Big Boss” reality show, India’s version of the “Big Brother.”
“I am also looking at this as an opportunity to showcase the Australian culture which involves fun-filled activities like barbecues, throwing people into the pool and being completely at peace,’’ said the 36-year-old batting ace, a popular figure in cricket-mad India. Symonds isn’t the only controversial guest on the show — the other is Canadian porn star Sunny Leone.