Monday, October 31, 2005

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't

This may be the first and last time anyone ever says this, but I do feel some sympathy for the Indian selection committee. For many years, they have been damned by all and sundry for playing regional politics and indulging in horse-trading. Imagine my surprise then, to read this morning that the East Zone selector, Pranab Roy, is now taking flak for not acting in a partisan manner and instead thinking about what was best for the Indian team.

You really can't win sometimes, can you? Even the 3-0 drubbing that India has handed out to the World #2 Sri Lankans won't quiet the dissenters. It really brings home a simple truth that applies not just to cricket, or indeed to India, but to any aspect of life around the world in which the people are represented in some fashion by a higher individual or group authority.

We want our representation to be fair, objective, and act in the collective self-interest. Just as long as this happens to serve our individual self-interest optimally. If it doesn't, then we want them to play all the dirty political games they need to to push our agenda through.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Better than Bradman?

"The Australians hold him as the closest thing to Bradman, if not better"
According to a report tucked away on the Rediff Cricket site, Nasser Hussain had that to say about Sachin Tendulkar the other day. Mind-boggling stuff. I have no way to establish the veracity of the quote, but the fact of the matter is that the odds that any Australian has ever even unwittingly implied are about as good as those that you'd find on one of Baldrick's cunning plans. And I'm quite certain that that's not what Hussain said in any case.

It's always amusing to watch the press at work. The Indian press can be particularly amusing - without their effords, I'd never have known that most International cricketers speak fluent Bombay English (which really is at times a language in itself).

I'm sure not many people noticed, but I doubt that Hussain wants to be known as the guy who said that Bradman wasn't up there on his own. These things really can come back to haunt you. I once told a member of the press that there were positives that we had to take out of a hammering we had been subjected to at the hands of far stronger opposition. The next day, I was quoted as having been happy to lose - not the attitude people really look for from their captain!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

4-4-2 my foot!

I spent all morning watching United play some tremendous free-flowing attacking football, and listening to the mindless drones in the commentary box tell me it was because Fergie had reverted to the classic 4-4-2 formation of old. I thought the morning press would provide a different point of view, but I have yet to see one writer or commentator suggest otherwise.

A load of rubbish - all of it. The only thing that changed was the personnel. United have been lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation all season. It is, in my armchair estimation, an excellent way to organise, provided you have the right people in the right places. When you're on the backfoot, it glides into a 4-5-1, and when you get possession and counter-attack, it can be a classic 4-4-2, or even a good old-fashioned 4-2-4.

Up until the Liverpool game a fortnight ago, the it was consistently two of Keane, Smith and Fletcher in front of the back four, with Ruud up front. Scholes in the middle of the trio, with Rooney and just a single one of Giggs, Park and Ronaldo flanking him. And therein lies the key.

The only game prior to today that we started with two of our wingers on the pitch was at Debreceni. And we won that 3-0. But we still didn't play the kind of football that we produced against Fulham.

The difference lies in the fact that for the first time, it was Wayne Rooney playing in the centre of that triumverate. Paul Scholes has been playing in that 'hole' thus far, and he hasn't been able to do it justice. For the whole system to work, it needs a 90-minute marauder in the middle, and that suits Rooney perfectly. Throw in a pacy and tricky winger on either side, and you've got a fluid, total-football style team, that is bound to entertain. Especially with Rio falling asleep at the back every so often. It could have worked with the Paul Scholes of a few years ago - but Wayne's the man for the job today. I'd even consider having Ronaldo there, with Giggs and Park flanking him, ahead of Scholes.

The challenge I think for Sir Alex is going to be figuring out the holding pair in the middle of the park. If this is the plan, then there's only room for two of Keano, Fletcher, Smith and Scholes in there. Tough call to make

Either which way though - I'm glad to see Sir Alex and Carlos sticking to their guns. While I'm sure they're not always right, it seems to me that they know what they're trying to achieve here. And if the pundits think swapping Rooney for Scholes equates to a change of formation, let them. I'll be backing the lads all the way, and I am nothing if not optimistic.