Rajan's Wrong-Un: Ganguly's spite no match for great Bedi

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The Independent Online

What is it about splenetic former Indian captains? True, Sourav Ganguly has never been one for diplomatic niceties. The Prince of Bengal did his bit for relations between India and Australia over the weekend by saying the Baggy Greens are overrated, and worse even than crisis-stricken Pakistan. "The days of Australian dominance seem to be over," Ganguly wrote in his newspaper column. Yet this vitriol was merely upholding a venerable tradition of spiteful, outspoken former captains of India.

After their country's poor performance in the 2007 World Cup, seven former captains – Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Mansur Ali Khan "Tiger" Pataudi, Ravi Shastri, Kris Srikkanth, S Venkataraghavan and Chandu Borde – issued a joint denunciation of the side. "Tiger" Pataudi even went as far as saying players should be disciplined properly from a young age, "so no 'aaltu-faltu' cricketers come through to the highest level. "Aaltu-faltu" is a very derogatory Hindi term meaning "useless".

But even they were as nothing compared to Bishen Bedi, the former captain and left-arm spinner. He once accused Muttiah Muralitharan of being the "best shot-putter in the history of cricket", "a chucker", and "a monster... going berserk with his action", whose every wicket should be marked "run-out". In 1990, when coach of the national side, Bedi was so disgusted by his team's abysmal cricket he threatened to throw them into the sea.

Compared to the great Bedi, Ganguly sounds like a pussy cat.

Strauss can live up to his name

"Andrew Strauss" is an anagram of "Eastwards Runs". Let's hope there are plenty.

Why Pietersen might be England's best hope – with the ball in hand

Much of the talk about England's build-up has focused on Kevin Pietersen's promotion to the top of the batting order. But might he be a match-winner with ball in hand too?

Conditions in the subcontinent should suit his brand of bowling. More slow bowler than spin bowler, the crumbling pitches should offer plenty of natural variation for his looped off-breaks. And for fast bowlers toiling away in the heat a few tight overs from Pietersen ought to offer some welcome respite.

Perhaps the fact that many pundits have completely ignored Pietersen's potential utility as a bowler says something about England's lax attitude to converting part-time trundlers into all-rounders. In recent times, several English batsmen – among them Mike Atherton and Michael Vaughan – who might have developed useful side-lines in spin have shown unfailing commitment to wasting their bowling talent.

If Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle can get through 10 overs – sometimes allowing their teams to play an extra batsman – why can't Pietersen?

A Kiwi, some beer and a Durban club

Talking about all-round talent, it was on this day eight years ago that Chris Cairns, the Kiwi all-rounder, contributed to South Africa's night-time economy. With scant regard for local custom, a drunk Cairns took off his shirt to belch out the Haka war dance in a Durban nightclub. Shortly after, he was thrown out, hit on the back of the head, and collapsed on the pavement. Ironic, really: he was only there because New Zealand had cancelled a World Cup fixture against Kenya in Nairobi for that day – on security grounds.

Lookalike corner

Plenty of excitement about Virat Kohli, who on Saturday became the first Indian to score a century on debut, with his 100 not out against Bangladesh. But I fear many people are missing the most interesting point about him, which is that he also starred in Mamma Mia!, The Duchess, and The History Boys. Either that or he's a dead-ringer for English actor Dominic Cooper. Were they by chance separated at birth?