India set to back its ageing star warriors

Sachin Tendulker.On paper India boasts one of the most formidable batting line-ups ever seen in Test cricket, but reality suggests age is starting to overpower the benefits of their experience.
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Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar are approaching 39, VVS Laxman is 37 and India’s recent whitewash against England and 2-0 deficit against Australia indicates something is significantly wrong.

Writing off champion players is always fraught with danger, and India’s big three, as well as Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni, have shown patches of their prowess over recent months.

But India became the No. 1 team in Test cricket because its stars had a knack of firing together and combining for huge partnerships to bat teams out of matches.

That isn’t happening at the moment, and the question is whether its ageing heroes are in a position to see them back to the top of the world rankings.

Rohit Sharma is expected to come into the middle order for Virat Kohli in Perth, but captain Dhoni didn’t believe fazing out his war horses for young blood is the way to go. “With age comes plenty of experience and I think they are the best we have got as of now,” he said.

“They may be feeling the pressure that they really want to perform well over here, but what’s important is to enjoy the game, stick to the present and hopefully they’ll get better and we’ll score more runs in the coming Test matches.”

Laxman is under the most pressure. He might have made a hard-fought 66 on a flat deck in the second innings in Sydney, but he still struggled early and looks a shadow of his former self.

Dravid looks shaky, but has hundreds behind him from the England tour in August.

Tendulkar looks classy and in control, but he’s clearly having trouble converting 50s into centuries – something which had always been his bread and butter.

Sehwag, 33, and Gautam Gambhir, 30, are very dangerous on their day, but away from the subcontinent they don’t inspire the same confidence that they can get India off to a good enough start before the veterans have to come in and face the music.

Australian captain Michael Clarke believed India’s batsmen are nervous, but denied they’ve lost their aura.

“Not at all, I think India’s batting line-up is as strong as I’ve ever played against,” he said.

“They have some of the greats of the game and have a lot of Test runs and Test hundreds between them.

“I would never write off great players, so my focus is to make sure we are at our best come Perth because we know how good they are.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Naden may be looking for guns

Malcolm NadenPOLICE are worried the state’s most wanted man Malcolm Naden may try to re-arm himself as he tries to stay on the run through dense bushland in the Barrington Tops.
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Assistant Commissioner Carlene York yesterday urged all gun owners in Northern NSW to remain vigilant and ensure their firearms were locked away until the 38-year-old fugitive was captured.

Police believe Naden has been armed with hunting rifles and other firearms, stolen during break-ins at Kempsey, Gloucester and the Barrington Tops, since he arrived in the area.

But officers have now recovered three firearms in a fortnight, leading to concerns Naden may be running low on firepower and may want to replenish his stocks.

Police found two firearms at a remote campsite on December 7 after Naden shot a 33-year-old senior constable in the right shoulder during an attempted raid.

They recovered a third firearm on Wednesday after two general duties police officers from Walcha police station stumbled upon Naden burgling a remote property between Niangala and Nundle.

‘‘Naden has sought to gain access to firearms during break-ins on previous occasions,’’ Assistant Commissioner York said.

‘‘We continue to urge local residents to ensure their safety and security is a priority, as we believe this wanted man is dangerous.’’

Assistant Commissioner York revealed yesterday that the two officers got close enough to speak with Naden before he once again gave police the slip.

‘‘They did disturb a male person, which has now turned out to be Malcolm Naden,’’ she said. ‘‘They were approaching the house when he has confronted them and he’s been spoken to by police.’’

As revealed in the Herald yesterday, the officers drew their guns but Naden ran back into the house.

Ms York said the officers would have been permitted to shoot Naden, based on their assessment of events.

She said the officers called for back-up but Naden escaped.

‘‘There’s many exits from the premises, so as the police called for back-up on the radio … It’s surrounded by heavy bushland, quite difficult to contain, and he fled out into the bush,’’ Ms York said yesterday.

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Lake police state’s most understaffed

CONDITIONS: Greg Piper outside Toronto police station.LAKE Macquarie residents have the most understaffed police force in the state and its police stations are in such poor condition that immediate upgrades are needed, the MP Greg Piper says.
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‘‘I believe Lake Macquarie has the lowest police-to-population ratio in the state,’’ Mr Piper said.

The Liberal government said last week that Lake Macquarie would receive 18 more police.

‘‘The new officers are welcome, but they probably only address operational shortfalls from long-term leave and attrition,’’ Mr Piper said.

‘‘Lake Macquarie will still be grossly understaffed.’’

Lake Macquarie police commander Superintendent Craig Rae said the new 18 officers ‘‘put me in a fairly comfortable position, but we definitely needed them’’.

Superintendent Rae said he was aware the police ratio per head of population was ‘‘reasonably low’’ in Lake Macquarie.

‘‘Like all commanders, if someone was to offer me additional staff I would take them with open arms,’’ he said.

‘‘The police here do a fantastic job in protecting the community.’’

Superintendent Rae said crime statistics in Lake Macquarie were high because of its big population but per head of population, the area was in the middle range of the state for crime.

Police Minister Michael Gallacher’s spokesman said police resources in regional areas were being considered in a review conducted by former assistant commissioner Peter Parsons.

Mr Gallacher said the government had given Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione until May to respond to the review’s recommendations.

Mr Piper said police stations in Toronto and Boolaroo were in atrocious condition.

Toronto police station was a small 50-year-old office building and a demountable, he said.

‘‘The police prosecutors operate out of a converted garage,’’ Mr Piper said. ‘‘A separate house is used as a locker room by the 50 staff.

‘‘There is one shower for all staff and only one toilet for the 20 female staff.’’

There were no public toilets or access for disabled people.

‘‘Conditions are cramped and uncomfortable, with not enough room for desks and filing cabinets,’’ Mr Piper said.

Superintendent Rae said police would welcome modern stations and work was being done to provide that.

The previous Labor government had planned to build a police headquarters at Glendale, but the Liberal government was instead planning to spend $20million to upgrade police stations at Toronto, Morisset and Belmont.

The future of Boolaroo, Cardiff, Charlestown and Swansea police stations was uncertain.

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The quick brigade

Ryan Harris.Australian captain Michael Clarke has emphasised the strength of its bowling attack isn’t the form of the three out in the middle, but a band of Test-ready fast bowlers being assembled for the future.
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Having its two young spearheads James Pattinson and Pat Cummins as well as vice-captain Shane Watson sitting in the casualty ward isn’t ideal, but the high injury rate has made Australia acutely aware of the need for quality depth.

The third Test against India in Perth, where the experienced but fragile Ryan Harris and the talented but raw Mitchell Starc have been called into the squad is an ideal beginning for how Australia can manage their quicks leading into the 2013 Ashes.

Australia has tried almost everything to get Harris fit, but he’s only made it through one of the four Test series he’s been selected for since his debut in March 2010.

Sadly it seems he’s too injury prone to play fill in for Pattinson or Cummins when they need a rest.

This would mean Australia would be replacing quality with quality and in the process prolonging the careers of Harris and the developing young bowlers at the same time. Up until the outstanding debuts of Pattinson and Cummins, 32-year-old Harris, a proven wicket-taker was considered the best fast bowler in the country.

Australia still values him as a crucial asset and selectors must now find the right balance.

“The value is we’ve got a proven Test quick bowler waiting in the wings, ready to go,” said Australian coach Mickey Arthur of Harris’s availability for Perth.

“We’ve put a lot of work into Ryan over the last two weeks. He was close to getting a game (in Sydney).

“We felt he hadn’t had enough work. We’ve put that work into him and we’re satisfied, if selected, he’s ready to go come Perth.”

With the amount of cricket being played, bowlers breaking down so regularly and the brightest prospects Pattinson and Cummins both under 21 years of age, balancing work loads has become a necessity.

In Pattinson, Cummins, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Harris, Starc and Watson, Australia has the basis of a bowling squad rich on talent and experience, that could be rotated with confidence.

Chairman of selectors John Inverarity revealed Pattinson was going to be rested for the WACA regardless of his foot problem, and it’s likely 18-year-old Cummins will receive the same cushioning through his early years.

Clarke believed the attack have the potential to become the best Australia has seen since the days of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie.

“I would love to see our bowling group, and that’s not just the three guys playing, the squad of bowlers we have around Australian cricket . . . set our standard as high as we can and continue to improve,” he said.

There’s some chance Australia could go with four quicks at the WACA and leave out Nathan Lyon, but Starc is almost certain to be 12th man.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Jets slayed by Phoenix

DOWN AND OUT: Michael Bridges hits the turf in Wellington last night. – Picture by Getty ImagesNEWCASTLE’S dreadful away form continued with a 5-2 loss to Wellington Phoenix last night.
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The result left Newcastle in eighth place on 13 points, and they could be as many as five points adrift of sixth place depending on last night’s other games.

The Jets have not won on the road since January 8 when they beat North Queensland, and this season they have garnered just a single point from a possible 18 away from Ausgrid Stadium.

But nowhere is their record worse than in New Zealand, where they have now lost eight straight games by a combined tally of 23 goals to three.

Coach Gary van Egmond sent the Jets to Wellington to ‘‘make a statement’’, but they turned in their worst effort of the season and trailed 3-0 at half-time after some shambolic defending. As speculated in the lead-up to the match, van Egmond changed from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to 4-4-2, playing Ryan Griffiths alongside Francis Jeffers up front.

Ben Kantarovski anchored a diamond midfield, with Ali Abbas at the point, Ruben Zadkovich on the right and 19-year-old Jacob Pepper a surprise starter on the left.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley returned from injury to partner Tiago Calvano in the centre of defence at the expense of Taylor Regan, and there was no place in the starting side for in-form Kiwi striker Jeremy Brockie. Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert also made a raft of changes to his side to cover the loss of striker Paul Ifill (groin strain) and Nick Ward (concussion).

The Jets were without suspended captain Jobe Wheelhouse, and van Egmond had opted to rest midfield general Kasey Wehrmann.

The absence of both screening midfielders left a back four that has looked shaky all season badly exposed.

The home side took a well deserved lead in the 16th minute when left fullback Manny Muscat’s first-time pass found Brazilian Daniel, whose instinctive lob over Topor-Stanley found Dani Sanchez unmarked at the top of the box. The Spaniard took one touch before slotting the ball past keeper Ben Kennedy.

The warning lights were flashing for the visitors.

Striker Chris Greenacre found himself with space in the Jets box but could not capitalise, and Sanchez went close with an audacious chip from halfway that cleared Kennedy but also the bar.

Sanchez doubled the lead in the 34th minute when he beat the offside trap with ridiculous ease and slipped the ball through the legs of the advancing Kennedy.

The Jets were a rabble now.

Tim Brown beat the offside trap but delayed too long and allowed Tiago and Kennedy to recover.

Then Topor-Stanley, trying to play out from the back, passed straight to Leo Bertos, who dribbled through the heart of the Jets defence and crossed for Greenacre to celebrate his 34th birthday with a grass-cutting diving header.

Van Egmond replaced Jeffers with another English veteran, Michael Bridges, at half-time, and also brought on Brockie for Abbas.

The Jets started the second stanza with a bit more intensity and pulled one back five minutes after the restart when Byun Sung-hwan curled in a right-foot free kick from just outside the box through a gap in the defensive wall created by Tiago.

Replays suggested the hand-ball call against Andrew Durante that led to the free kick was harsh.

But the Phoenix continued to create chances against a Jets defence that repeatedly turned over possession.

Brown and Ben Sigmund both squandered free headers, and Topor-Stanley continued to play Santa Claus, twice passing the ball to Phoenix attackers.

Former Jet Mirjan Pavlovic came on for Sanchez in the 70th minute and was on the score sheet four minutes later. Four defenders converged on Daniel, leaving Pavlovic unmarked on the right of the box. Daniel slipped him the ball and he slotted home.

Van Egmond ended Topor-Stanley’s unhappy night soon after, bringing on Taylor Regan. But Pavlovic had a second in the 77th minute when he headed in a Daniel corner.

Griffiths headed home a corner in the 89th minute to complete the scoring.

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