Indian media turns on its cricket stars

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

The same Indian media that elevated its cricket team to deity status and basked in its success in recent years has turned on the superstars with a vengeance.

Apparently the team’s billion fans are also preparing to give the players a hot and unruly welcome when they return home from the shambolic tour of Australia.

After being thumped in the first two Tests, India is headed for another defeat of enormous proportions in Perth where only divine intervention can help the visitors from crashing to its seventh straight overseas defeat.

The Times of India screamed “DISGRACE” on its front page Saturday. “This, we were assured, was India’s best chance to make history by winning its maiden series in Australia,” the newspaper commented. “Just nine days of action later the script has gone horribly wrong. Mauled at Melbourne, slammed at Sydney, and now pummelled at Perth on Friday the 13th, another whitewash looms for (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni’s men.”

The other widely read Indian daily, The Hindustan­ Times, trumpeted “India Drown Under’’ on its front page. “If you thought those Friday the 13th movies were scary, then the scenes on this Friday the 13th at the WACA Ground would probably leave you mortified.”

Former World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev blamed the Indian cricket board for the team’s pathetic display.

“It is doing extremely well when it comes to making money and controlling world cricket,’’ he said. “But what is the use if your team fails to win matches abroad? Team is looking divided and Dhoni’s days as skipper will be numbered if he does not perform or continues to show disinterest in the game.”

Australia could wrap up the four-match series in Perth Sunday inside three days after India’s top-order was once again decimated by the home team’s searing pace attack. After India was back in the cabana for 161, the Australians hammered 369 thanks to a blistering knock of 180 by Dave Warner. His 159-ball innings was laced with 20 fours and five sixes and his 69-ball century was the fourth-fastest in Test history. It was Umesh Yadav’s outstanding haul of five wickets that stopped Australia from posting an even bigger score. India then stumbled in the second knock as well and was on 88 for four at the close with Gautham Gambir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, and VVS Laxman gone.

PROTEAS TRIUMPH

South Africa took a 2-0 ODI series lead after a five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka Saturday. Sri Lanka made 236 for six with Dinesh Chandimal hitting 92 not out, but South Africa reached its target with eight balls to spare. Hashim Amla made 55 and man-of-the-match JP Duminy had an undefeated 66 for South Africa.

It was a better-performance from the Sri Lanka after being dismissed for a humiliating 43 in the first match at Paarl. It was the joint fourth lowest ODI total of all time, and the third largest margin of defeat. South Africa made 301 for eight.

CLARKE CASHES IN

One good innings has resurrected Australia captain Michael Clarke’s fortunes in more ways than one. One of the least liked players in Australia, Clarke went from zero to hero with that superb knock of 329 not out against India in the second Test. A few hours after that one-sided triumph in Sydney, Clarke had his wallet padded as well. Bat manufacturer Spartan Sports inked Clarke to a three-year deal that will pay him $1 million. Clarke was one of few players who had no logos on his bat after he ended an 18-year relationship with Slazenger because they could not meet with his demands ... The one-sided series between Australia and India is surprisingly attracting more viewers Down Under than the traditional Ashes rivalry against England. The television ratings are up by 30%. Broadcaster Channel 9 said there were 1.492 million viewers during the two Tests so far, while last summer 1.144 million tuned in the Ashes series. Steve Crawley, a Channel 9 honcho, said India is now Australia’s greatest rival.

QUICK WICKETS

Chris Gayle has been in huge demand by Twenty20 teams ever since he was dropped by the West Indies after a row following last year’s World Cup. In the last 10 months the opening batsman has put up huge numbers and raked in the cash by turning out for Bangalore Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League, Matabeleland Tuskers in Zimbabwe and Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League. He then moves on to South Africa for a stint with Dolphins before joining Somerset in England. The 32-year-old Gayle replaces countryman Kieron Pollard, who will be representing the West Indies ... Surprise, surprise. English cricketer Mervyn Westfield has admitted to corruption involving an English domestic match in September. He accepted a bribe of $9,000 to conceded 12 runs in his first over in the Pro40 match between Durham and Essex. He will be sentenced Feb. 10 and faces up to seven years in jail ... Spinner Monty Panesar (five for 57) and fast bowlers Chris Tremlett (two for 32) and Graham Onions (three for 38) staked their claims for a place on the England Test team after the team rolled to a 100-run win over a Pakistan Cricket Board team in a warmup encounter in Dubai.

ONE OF A KIND

Cricket fan Rohan Pate of India has embarked on a bid to collect autographs of every World Cup winning player. The latest expedition for the 23-year-old from Pune took him Down Under where he chased the autographs of the 40 players who played on the winning Aussie teams of 1987, 2003 and 2007. Pate’s friendship with Tendulkar and former Australian ace Andrew Symonds has helped Pate close in on his goal. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Pate’s hunt started as early as 5 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. during a two-week stretch that took him to every mainland capital. He boarded 20 flights and his trip has cost him $20,000 so far. He still needs the signatures of 2003 players Ian Harvey and Jason Gillespie who live in Britain, Tim May, who has settled in the U.S., and about half of Pakistan’s 1992 conquering heroes.


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