Jul. 7th, 2007

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Today is 07-07-(20)07, whichever part of the world you come from! For Londoners, this date will forever be remembered for the bombings of 2005. 52 people died in those attacks. But today promises to be one of the busiest and happiest days on the British capital's calendar. The 94th Tour de France kicks off later this afternoon in Central London. It's the first time the mother of all professional cycling events comes to the EU's biggest city, and only the 4th time it is visiting the Isles. More than 500,000 visitors are expected to attend the event and there will be 4,500 policemen maintaining the peace. In many cities, this would be the only major event taking place during the course of a single day, but not London. As I type, the London edition of the Live Earth concert is underway at Wembley. Eight other cities around the world are being treated to a day of entertainment to raise awareness for global warming and man-induced climate change. Madonna, Duran Duran, Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, Foo Fighers, Justin Timberlake, Keane, James Blunt, the Beastie Boys and Snow Patrol are some of the prominent acts taking centre-stage here in London. How often does one get a chance to see all these awesome artists get together on the same stage and at the same event? Multiply that by 8 and you've got the most awesome display of musical entertainment ever witnessed in the history of humankind. And all for a good cause. Not bad humanity, not bad. (Side note: Only 60,000 fans will be be to watch the Live Earth concert in person)

But before we get carried away )
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A good day for all our batters, except Jaffer, who failed again. He isn't doing himself any favours and unless he makes up big time in the next 3 innings, he won't find himself in the starting XI come July 19. It's still early days yet, but it's worth throwing up a few names to see who will make the final XI. Here's a list of players who are already in my 1st Test XI:

Dravid, SRT, Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth & Kumble.

I'm not convinced that Dhoni is our best batsman-wicketkeeper option atm, especially given Karthik's recent performances. That being said, the management will definitely not drop Dhoni. I'm also not convinced Ganguly deserves an automatic place yet. The management have rested him because of his recent performances, but how do a few ODIs in Belfast translate into Test success? Ganguly should've been playing today and if I had my way, I'd let him know that he was in competition with Laxman & Yuvraj Singh for only one, or possibly two, middle-order positions. Then there's the opening combination. The fact is none of our "specialist" openers are expected to do well in English conditions. We might as well toss a coin and choose between Jaffer & Gambhir. The management will no doubt ask Karthik to join one of them as a stop-gap opener, again(!), and the youngster will grab the opportunity. He is well aware of the limited opportunities to play as a specialist wicketkeeper or middle-order batsman. I hope he does well and if ex-Indian coach, Greg Chappell, is anyone to go by, we can expect nothing short of Indian captaincy in the future*. Quite the praise for the Kuwait-raised Tamil lad.

And finally, the bowling department. I don't think we should go into any of the Tests, including the one at the Oval, with less than 3 medium-pacers. Zaheer Khan & Sreesanth would claim two of those positions automatically, the latter solely on his performances in South Africa a few months ago, and the former on his recent form. That leaves the 3rd spot up for grabs and it will obviously be contested between RP Singh & Bose. I've never seen Bose bowl so I can't really comment on him. As for spin, well, there's no doubt Kumble deserves to play ahead of Romesh Pawar. When it comes to Test cricket, Kumble has won more matches for India than any other player in our history. Gavaskar & Kapil included. The only way I can see Pawar playing is at the Oval. By that time we will know how well our openers are doing, and that will determine whether we take an extra batter, or five bowlers.

Anyways, we've just finished Day 1 of the 1st Tour Game, and even though there's hardly any time to prepare for series these days, I'm tempted to say there's still a long way to go before anything I've written will relate to the composition of the 1st Test XI.

Jai Hind!

(* citation needed)
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I've restarted and re-branded my India Shining blog. I don't know if this will be enough to convince you (esp those who've seen this msg before), to add it to your friends-list, but here's what I can promise: there will be much less (and if possible, no more) chest-beating babble, and useless drivel about why it is India's destiny to become an economic or global superpower. Let's put that down to a phase shall-we? I propose a new era in which I will contribute constructive posts, informing the reader about the good, some bad, and perhaps most significantly, use my wealth of experience and knowledge, to break down the barriers that hinder a better understanding of not just India, but perhaps even the problems that affect us at large. I've always believed that as one of the world's most diverse countries, there isn't a global problem that isn't already an issue in India, and vice-versa. I hope that makes sense. Even if it doesn't, I hope you'll give me another chance to showcase a land that means a lot to me, even if I've never lived there, or have nothing more to do with it than an ethno-biological link. Here's to a better future for the people of the world, among them a billion+ Indians. Jai Hind!

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