Rajan's Wrong-Un: Ponting's pontification looks silly after brilliance of Canada's Bagai

World Cup Diary
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The Independent Online

Australia captain Ricky Ponting, an old friend of this column, has weighed into the debate on whether the Associates – as the lesser teams are known – should be playing in this World Cup.

He believes only teams that "really dominate the level below international cricket for a long period of time" should be allowed to compete against the top dogs. But a strong counter-argument is that, even when outclassed, the exposure of minnows to better teams can raise standards, and showcase rare talent.

So it was yesterday. New Zealand smashed 358 for 6, with 101 for Brendan McCullum and 74 off 44 balls for in-form Ross Taylor. Canada never threatened their total, but made a very respectable 261 for 9. Along the way, Jimmy Hansra made a composed 70, and captain Ashish Bagai scored a sparkling 84. That came after a brilliant take behind the stumps to dismiss Kiwi Martin Guptill. Fans everywhere will note how quickly his stock has risen in this tournament, much as Ponting's has fallen.

Hussey hustle can shore up Australians

Ponting himself registered a scratchy 36 as Australia scored 324 on their way to a 60-run victory over Kenya. Again there were positives for the minnows, with 24-year-old Tanmay Mishra producing a handsome 72 off 89 balls, and Collins Obuya left hanging on 98 not out at the death. Michael Clarke top-scored for the Australians with 93, but by far the most significant Australian contribution came from Mike Hussey. Returning from injury, Mr Cricket stood in for his brother David, and scored 54 off 43 balls, including a boundary first ball. With classy placement and running, Hussey looked in remarkably good nick. He will add much needed authority to their shaky middle order.

'Karachiologists' point finger of suspicion

If Kremlinology is shorthand in politics for the study of bureaucratic conspiracy, perhaps we should venture a new term for the study of conspiracy in cricket teams: Karachiology. This column has previously noted that the madness of Pakistani dressing rooms long pre-dates last year's match-fixing scandal. But new evidence comes thick and fast. Over the weekend, the Pakistan manager, Intikhab Alam, was forced to deny that Umar Akmal's injured right-index finger has been feigned in order to protect his brother Kamran's place in the team to play Zimbabwe today. Speculation only increased when an X-ray revealed "no damage". As usual, Pakistan's "authorities" seem too lack any authority whatsoever, and we Karachiologists must play the guessing game.

A decade on, Laxman's genius still shines

It's a decade today since one of the greatest of all Test-match innings. India were following on against Australia at the start of the fourth Test in Calcutta. At 254 for 4, they were still 20 in arrears. But V V S Laxman started the day on 109 and ended it on 275, while Rahul Dravid moved from seven to 155. It was, in fact, one of the great Test match partnerships, because India went on to win, with Harbhajan Singh taking 13 wickets and the first Test hat-trick by an Indian. Laxman's extraordinary knock was punctuated with wristy flicks through midwicket that might have been sent from the heavens. Michael Slater and Steve Waugh were among those on the field who said it was the best innings they'd ever seen.

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