April 2010 - Posts
By The Fake IPL Player
(Harper Collins Publishers India, 400 pages, Rs. 199 (not sold in USA))
Book Review By Gulu Ezekiel
When the Indian Premier League was forced to move to South Africa for
its second season in 2009, it was the anonymous blog run by ‘Fake IPL
Player’ (FIP) that grabbed nearly as many eyeballs as the cricket
FIP’s identity remains unknown a year later and the blog has
been discontinued. But the attention it garnered was enough to bag the
blogger a contract to write a novel based on what in the book he
appropriately dubs the IBL (Indian Bollywood League).
Being a staunch critic from the start of this business venture
masquerading as cricket, I have to admit to being delighted with the
gossip that FIP provided in his blog last year.
Claiming to be an insider with the Kolkata Knight Riders, the
franchise owned by Shah Rukh Khan that finished dead last, there was
plenty of masala dished out on the team, its owner, players and the
controversial Australian coach (since sacked) plus other major players
in South Africa.
But converting a blog into a novel has proved a bridge too far
for the author for whom I am assuming (since I am unaware of his
identity) this is his maiden venture into fiction.
The novel is broken into various narratives: that of FIP
himself; the captain of the national team and of the ‘Bangalore
Bangers’ (here named ‘Rocky’ from a small town but you can guess his
identity) and private detective Parminder Mahipal Singh (‘PMS’) who is
appointed by the IBL commissioner (‘Lalu Parekh’) to unmask FIP.
In between we are exposed to the ego trips and machinations
behind the scenes that go into the working styles of the Kolkata team,
Parekh and Bangalore Bangers’ owner ‘Raj Singhania’ (guess who?).
Here fact and fiction are hard to separate and it these passages
that make for gripping reading and disturbing too for any genuine
cricket lover assuming there is even a grain of truth to them.
But the constant switching back and forth in the narratives
makes for disjointed reading and this is where a guiding hand was
In the novel the IBL in its second season is being staged in
England and whereas the blog hid the identities (in a thinly veiled
manner) of the main characters by using sometimes obscene nicknames,
here FIP gives them ‘real’ names.
So the pride of Bengal and former national captain (named
‘Lordie’ in the blog) is now Gautam Sarkar, whereas the coach (‘Bhooka
Naan’ in the blog) is Jeff Buccaneer and the owner of KKR or ‘Calcutta
Cavalry’ in the novel is given the name of Siegwald Raees Kahn (SRK,
get it?)—half German, half Afghan we are told!
The story revolves round the ruthlessly egoistic and
power-hungry Parekh and his plot to stage a coup against the
International Cricket Council and take over the world of cricket.
That in itself is not beyond the realms of possibility in the
real world too and FIP’s ‘revelation’ about Parekh planning to make his
move in 2011 has an ominous ring to it for reasons explained in the
novel which are factual too.
But this plot line tends to be gripping till about halfway
through the novel. It cannot be sustained and the predictable manner
the book takes after that has all the trappings of a Bollywood movie,
particularly the maudlin climax.
Still, to give the author his due, he has the ability both in
his blog last year and in this novel to see below the artificiality of
the league and the ringmaster who is running the circus. And when it
comes to Indian cricket, FIP certainly has his heart in the right place.
What is uncanny is that since the book was published, the whole
IPL scandal has opened a can of worms. And FIP talked of much of this
dirt both in his blog last year and in this novel.
No wonder he is now gloating ‘I told you so’ in the media!
By Suresh Menon
“I want to clarify,”
said Shane Warne recently, that “this nightmare thing was a joke.
Sachin is the best batsman of my time, but I am not scared of him or
anybody for that matter.” This, more than a decade after the bowler had
been quoted as saying that he experienced sweaty nights following
Sachin’s assault on him match after match on an Australian tour of
Joke or not, at least Warne did say it. That is not the case with many of cricket’s best known quotes.
Some were made up by imaginative writers with a deadline to meet.
Neville Cardus is the patron saint here, with his insistence that “this
is what they ought to have said.” Of Emmott Robinson he wrote: “I
imagine that the Lord one day gathered together a heap of Yorkshire
clay and breathed into it and said, ‘Emott Robinson, go and bowl at the
pavilion end for Yorkshire.’” Year later, Robinson remarked, “I reckon
Mr Cardus invented me.” But then that is Cardus’s version too…
Many reporters see it as part of their job to put words into their
interviewee’s mouth. And if it is a good line, everyone is happy. The
player’s image as a wise-cracking, one-liner spewing old pro is
enhanced; or if he is one of those shy and retiring types who have shot
their bolt after a preliminary “Huh”, then the reporter can bask in the
glow that comes from getting his subject to say something articulate.
And readers are happy they have a good read.
Occasionally, at press conferences, someone will lead a captain on to a
quote. For example, “Would you agree that batting is a trial by a
11-man jury?” The captain has only to nod his head, and he is credited
in the following day’s paper as having originated the quote. You see a
lot of this during tennis press conferences with Spanish or
Russian-speaking players being hailed for using the kind of puns and
cross cultural references that might have emerged from a stand-up
comics writing team.
Wouldn’t we like to believe that Arthur Wood the Yorkshire wicket
keeper actually told the left arm spinner Hedley Verity (after South
African batsman Cameron had hit him for 30 in one over), “Go on Hedley,
you’ve got him in two minds. He doesn’t know whether to hit you for
four or six.? Or that George Hirst said “We’ll get them in singles” to
Wilfred Rhodes (before a last-wicket stand of 15 as England beat
Australia at the Oval in 1902) although David Hopps in his A Century of
Great Cricket Quotes thinks the story is apocryphal?
When David Gower says “Its hard work making batting look effortless,”
it feels authentic, because that sounds like him. Where sporting quotes
are concerned, therefore, the traditional test must be stood on its
head. You can usually tell what kind of a person someone is if you know
what he says. When a sportsman speaks, however, you can only decide if
what he says rings true if you know the kind of person he is.
Often no one wants to let facts interfere with a good story. A fine
example is Ian Botham’s much-trumpeted reason for not playing in
apartheid South Africa: “I could never look Viv Richards in the eye
again.” Botham got enormous mileage out of that one, and his image as
the boys own hero was enhanced. As Botham points out in his
autobiography, they were stirring words, but he never uttered them.
“That comment,” he writes, “made in good faith and sent to all the
newspapers was attributed to me in a statement prepared on my behalf
by (the journalist) Reg Hayter which I never saw.” Botham is honest
enough to tell us how close he came to actually joining the rebels.
The Guardian writer Frank Keating has been seen as the originator of
the sports quote cottage industry. In the foreword to Hopps’s book,
Keating explains how, in the sixties, he began to collect quotes ‘for
fun’. His collection, was published in 1978. There are, however, few
Indians quoted in the ‘Indian’ section of A Century of Great Cricket
Quotes. I would have loved to see some favourites from my collection:
B S Chandrasekhar’s plaintive cry to the umpire after yet another bad
umpiring day in New Zealand: “I know he is bowled, but is he out?” Or
Eknath Solkar’s challenge to Geoff Boycott: “I will out you bloody.”
By Partab Ramchand
I have always believed that in India at least cricket is the Teflon
game. The term comes from the brand name of a "non-stick" chemical used
on cookware and was first applied to President Ronald Reagan. Just as
Reagan was the Teflon president – he was unaffected personally by any
criticism or controversy that might have erupted during his presidency
to remain hugely popular at the end of his eight-year stint – cricket
is a game that will hardly suffer any lack of popularity by any
criticism, controversy or even scandal.
Ten years ago when the spectre of match fixing surfaced and probes into
the controversy proved that players had underperformed I was convinced
that cricket would have to endure some dent in its mass popularity.
After all shouldn’t followers of the game be upset and angry when they
know that they are being taken for a ride and that results of games
have been decided beforehand? Yes, there was a hue and cry for some
time but all died down and the craze for cricket has continued
unabated. India has been a one sport nation for decades and the
following for other sports has been miniscule when compared to the
passion for cricket.
If anything the just concluded third edition of the Indian Premier
League confirmed the raging popularity of cricket in this country. Over
the last couple of weeks the IPL garnered much adverse publicity for
off the field happenings and the charges ranged from money laundering
to match fixing to corruption among various franchisees. The Union
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs was forced to resign and there
was intense pressure on the all powerful IPL commissioner to follow
suit till he was finally suspended just after Sunday’s final. The IPL
went from the sports pages to the lead story on page one. Newspapers,
television channels and the internet were choked with scandalous
stories, allegations, charges and counter charges. The high and mighty
were named among those involved.
All this however was off the field. On the field things continued as
smoothly as ever as if nothing was happening. The matches were
conducted as scheduled and most important as if to underscore that
cricket is indeed a religion in this country the following for the
games was as frenzied as ever. The IPL was followed with the same high
level of interest that had marked it in the first two editions. The TRP
ratings on television continued to be high and spectators thronged the
various stadiums in their thousands. The talking point wherever one
went was the IPL. Which teams would make it to the semifinals? Did this
team or the other have a chance? Why did Kolkata Knight Riders and
King’s XI Punjab fare so badly? Who will be the highest run getter
Sachin Tendulkar or Jacques Kallis?
With more and more skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard day by day
and cricket, the BCCI and the IPL being high profile entities the media
will keep coming out with stories substantiated or not and there will
be an air of uncertainty for some time. Some dirty linen will be washed
in public – at the time of writing Lalit Modi is threatening to come
out with names of people who interfered with the functioning of the IPL
should he be forced to quit. The dishonourable deals and sleazy off
field happenings will be the subject of discussion for a while. But
take it from me that cricket per se will not in any way be affected. It
will continue to enjoy the exalted status it has enjoyed for decades.
``Cricket is religion, Sachin is god’’ has been the most common poster
that is held in the stands for years now. It does not exaggerate in
either way for both the game and Tendulkar can do no wrong. Let there
be controversies and scandals, resignations and allegations, charges
and counter charges. Cricket’s popularity will remain undiminished. The
following for the game will continue to be passionate, the crowds will
still flock to the stadium, TRP ratings will continue to be high and
cricket will continue to be the main subject of discussion at homes,
offices, clubs and on the streets. No amount of muck thrown will stick
to it at least for an extended period. After all it is the Teflon sport
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
It had it all...almost - money, glitz, glamor, popularity, and more
importanly, great prospect of having all the above for many more years
to come. All it lacked was a little intrigue...till now. The fairy tale
beginning, and the fairy tale run that the league enjoyed so far proved
to be just that, a fairy tale. It just was too good to be true that
bags of money, oodles have fun and loads of power could coexist
harmniously and grow exponentially every year, without some element of
discontentment and some measure of avarice, seeping in somewhere
spoiling all the fun for the merry-makers.
Every Martin Scorsese mob
movie had pretty much the same trappings. Replace the names Modi,
Pawar, Manohar, Srinivasan, and the rest of the gang with Italian
monikers like Sergio, Paulie 'Left eye', Vecckio 'two fingers', and
what all that has been transpiring since the 'Twittergate' can easily
double for a mob movie set in New York of yesteryears - a young man who
comes up with an idea that could make some name and fame for himself lets
the mob in the take, grows the business to such an extent that it
becomes too large and too hot to handle by himself without drawing
attention from the Feds, and essentially falls prey to his vices
committing too many obvious mistakes, and eventually drawing the rest
of the mob and the business down with him. Scorsese helmed such affairs
one too many times. And yet, despite the benefit of history and
Hollywood in the hindsight, the IPL show couldn't deviate an inch from
that pre-ordained path, taking its destiny head on, spilling its ugly
guts all over.
Philosophically speaking, the heady mix of money, power
and politics is bound to produce the same exact result anytime,
anywhere, any game. It happened with soccer, American Football,
Basketball, Baseball, Organized gambling and every other arena, where
the clink of the coins drowned out the din of the sports. Now, it is
cricket's turn, and that's the end of it.
Ten or twenty years down the line, after IPL has been totally
sanitized, made transparent and managed down to the minutest level
possible, making it just as tightly controlled and outright boring as
any other sport mentioned above, people would look back at the first
few years since the induction of IPL, and would shake their heads in
disbelief wondering how hitherto unheard sums of money has been allowed
into the game without the slightest amount of oversight, knowing fully
well things are never as they seem to be in India, particularly in the
The quantum leap that the game has taken, not in
terms of the actual sport itself but in everything surrounding it,
should have raised red herrings right away, when words like 'billions'
(of dollars) started to float around in the corridors of powers where
only till recently 'crores' (of rupees) made a good living without
attracting any unwanted attention. And millions of dollars of pay
packages for a mere 6 week of work for the stellar stars, and hundreds of
thousands (again, dollars) for the lesser knowns for an ever lighter
work load, didn't make a whole lot of financial sense, unless, the
money at play is never intended to generate a great/good return on
investment - the boiler-plate situation for money-laundering.
with the news of 'tax havens', 'money routing', 'front men', slowly
trickling into the daily newspapers, the one word that wants to make
its presence so badly in this scenario is 'DUH!'. What else did one
expect? Where and how did this *** wealth suddenly come into the
game and was paraded around with impugnity and without any fear of
reprisals (from tax men), unless there is a confluence (collusion would
work too) of conflicting interests at the highest levels. As said
above, this is nothing new, and all this has a 'been there, done that'
feel to it.
As Tendulkar rightly indicated a few days ago, the game
would weather this storm too (after having seen one too many scandals of
betting and fixing in his long career) even if all that remains after
this serious blood letting exercise is a controlled, regulated, no fun
version of its former self. Read (watch) your Hollywood gentlemen!
(Goodfellas, Casino, Bugsy, Eight Men Out) the sport may be different,
but the game is still the same.
By Sunil Gavaskar
As the DLF Indian Premier
League comes to the final weekend some stats are quite startling. At
the time of writing the top five six hitters in the competition are all
Indians and the top three wicket takers are all spinners. Some fancied
teams have taken a tumble and though the quickies have not found the
Indian pitches to their liking they haven’t made life easy for the
opposition especially some of the Indian batting stars.
Let us take the last first. India’s domestic first class
structure has always been dependent on pitches made to suit the home
team’s strength. That invariably means either a flat pitch where the
ball does not bounce too much and hardly ever turns and all the batsman
has to do is to put his front foot down the pitch and play through the
line and the ball will meet the middle of the bat and speed away to the
boundary on the fast dry outfield. The other end of the spectrum is
that the pitch is deliberately kept dry and not watered enough so that
it begins to crumble after a few deliveries are bowled on it and so the
spinners come into play. They do not have to try and lure the batsman
to their doom by flighting the ball trying to make it loop and then
having the batsman dismissed as the ball spins away from him. The pitch
does it all for them so that there is no need to toss the ball in the
air to get the loop and deception. All that he has to do is to make
sure the ball lands in the correct area and yes he won’t flight the
ball since there is the chance that with the heavy bats of today any
batsman can mistime the ball into the stands for a six. Why spoil his
bowling economy rate by giving the batsman that extra second to come
down the pitch by flighting the ball? Then when a hue and cry is raised
about pitches being too one-sided in favour of the batsman or the
spinner; some guy gets the bright idea that we need ‘sporting’ pitches.
The general belief in India is that a sporting pitch is one
where there is plenty of grass left on the surface and the ball flies
any which way. Most games on such pitches end in a couple of days with
batsmen having earlier plundered plenty of runs on flat wickets nurse
some bruises apart from the big one to their egos. The home teams
justify such pitches be it the grassy ones or crumbly ones as being the
home advantage quite clearly forgetting that it has to be an even
contest between bat and ball. Since the grassy pitches are once in a
blue moon not too much noise is made about them. The fact remains
though that there aren’t too many in the country who know how to
prepare a pitch that has something in it for all the departments of the
The last few months have shown that the pitches at Hyderabad,
Nagpur and Bengaluru are the better ones in the country and where the
seam bowler can also ply his trade. The quicker bowler also has got
reward for putting in a bit more effort by getting the ball to bounce.
If anything the recent IPL tournament which has been played on pitches
like these has shown that the young Indian stars need to buckle up on
their technique if they want to succeed at the Test level for they
have been found wanting when confronted with the short delivery. The
number of batsman out either hooking or just fending off the short ball
is alarming to say the least and does not augur well for the future.
All these players have been brought up on dead pitches where the ball
hardly climbs above the waist and have thus become such pronounced
front foot players that they have lost the technique of backfoot play
unless it is the square cut. Dale Steyn, Shuan Tait and even Zaheer
Khan have exposed the horrible lack of technique and skill in handling
the fast short pitched delivery. Most times the batsman has been so far
committed on the front foot that he has little chance of transferring
his weight leave aside moving onto the backfoot to deal with that ball.
The discomfiture is obvious and though he may go on to get runs because
of the restrictions on the number of short pitched deliveries in an
over as also the heat and humidity that discourages a bowler from
trying too many short balls, the observant ones note the inability to
play the short ball for future engagements in an international fixture.
The IPL has also shown that unlike expected the spinners have
picked up more wickets and have also been more economical with the runs
given. The slower the ball comes onto the bat the harder it is for the
batsman to get the pace to hit it. He therefore has to use more power
to hit the six and in doing so he can mistime the shot because the bat
speed may not be what that particular ball needs. With the pitches also
being drier with the weather there is more grip for the spinner and he
is thus able to get more spin and that too defeats the batsman’s
attempt to hit the long ball.
By the time this is in print the semi finalists may well be
decided and those who are not in the fray will have time to reflect on
what went wrong. The only consolation is that this is a format where
the form book counts for little and those who string it together in
three hours will win the day.
By Suresh Menon
It is not
as if the latest controversy in the IPL has come as a surprise. Right
from the first tournament, there has been a cry for transparency; the
conflict of interests inherent in having a senior board official own a
franchise was made clear. The impropriety of the chairman of the
national selection committee being a brand ambassador of a franchise
was pointed out.
Yet, perhaps blinded by the huge amounts of money involved, the
cattle fair on live television and the worshipful air with which Lalit
Modi was interviewed by those paid to be worshipful pushed all that
into the background. The lack of transparency remained, the
improprieties continued, and the habit of making up the rules on the
fly was seen as the way modern business functioned.
The response to those who questioned all this was similar to the
response to the coach by a player who refused to follow the MCC
Coaching manual – “Forget my feet, watch where the ball has gone.” The
IPL was saying in effect, forget the propriety, smell the money.
The arrogance of power and early success meant that there was
a refusal to read the signs. Even as early as in the first season, the
cricket board had begun to make clear its unhappiness over the IPL’s
public image of the tail wagging the dog. The BCCI President’s recent
letter to the IPL Commissioner is indicative. Written presumably on
official paper (and not on twitter, the Commissioner’s preferred mode
of communication to the world), it says in part, “Till date, you have
made public statements about a lot of issues which were not even
discussed in the meetings of the governing council when it is the
governing council which has the authority to take decisions with regard
to each and every issue related to IPL.”
Perhaps internal wrangling might achieve what media promptings have not, and introduce propriety in the functioning of the IPL.
The IPL in the phrase made popular in the US after the crash of the
huge banks is not “too big to fail”; it certainly is not too big to get
its house in order. Despite the media’s effort to paint the problems in
the colours of a Shashi Tharoor versus Lalit Modi battle of personal
egos, there are deeper questions that need to be addressed if the IPL
is not to collapse under the weight of its own imperfections. Systemic
imperfections, that is; imperfections that suggest that things were not
thought through or that the main stakeholders had themselves bought
into the hype. Things will not right themselves; an effort has to be
The IPL, for those who came in late, was never about the
cricket. It was about entertainment, it was about business, it was
about power and ego and television rights.
But it is also about the lesser players, about thousands of
people making more money in six weeks than they might make in the rest
of the year. If the IPL collapses because of its inability to
distinguish between what is right and what is convenient, it will be
these people who suffer, not the Tendulkars and the Pietersens.
Despite its own shaky moral ground, the IPL has never hesitated
to speak high morals. The manner in which a misguided Ravindra Jadeja
was banned for trying to better his lot was made much of and the player
was banned. Obviously the same rules do not apply to the IPL which
breaks its own rules (about confidentiality, for instance) with
The IPL cannot be run like some Indian companies with well
disguised private holdings (what used to be called ‘benami’
ownerships), negotiable rules and regulation and a lack of respect for
Opposition parties who have been gunning for Tharoor have now
entered the IPL debate. Last year the Modi versus Home Minister
Chidambaram stand off ended with the IPL being transplanted to South
Africa. Modi might like to live on the brink, but every fight, every
deviation from the normal chips something away from the integrity of
There is so much hype surrounding the IPL that it is difficult
to get at the truth. Everyone involved with it – from the players to
the administrators to the media – will only sing its praises because
that is what is convenient. It may be too early for objective
assessment, but it is never too early for objective system-cleansing.
What does not destroy you makes you stronger.
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By Partab Ramchand
As IPL III completes one month things are finally falling into place as far as the competing teams are concerned. As only to be expected in the Twenty20 format the lead has changed hands several times and the only thing that can be said with certainty is that King’s XI Punjab are out of contention for a semifinal slot, following a thoroughly disappointing campaign. Despite some big names, the Mohali outfit started shabbily and never recovered, so much so, that it was obvious, even halfway through the tournament, that it was going to make an early exit.
If anything, this edition of the IPL has underlined the fact that to predict the result of Twenty20 matches is an exercise fraught with danger. Leaping and sliding is very much part of the format and whatever the experts might say during lengthy analyses, its flip-flop nature means that the contestants become almost automatically evenly matched. If King’s XI bowed out early due to a limp campaign it was because they did not perform up to potential.
In fact, I now recall that it was Kolkata Knight Riders who caused all the early excitement by starting off with two successive victories but they have since faltered and are in the bottom half of the points table. Mumbai Indians, after enjoying a run of five wins in a row, went to the top of the table but when within striking distance of reaching the semifinals, suffered a couple of losses. The win over Rajasthan Royals on Sunday has made them the first team to be assured of a semifinal berth even though they still have three matches in hand.
For a brief while Royal Challengers Bangalore were occupying the top spot but after four wins on the trot they have suffered losses and have slipped to second place. Delhi Daredevils, who were the pre-tournament favourites, have had had an inconsistent run but are still in contention for a place in the semifinals. Holders, Deccan Chargers, is another team that has not been playing up to their reputation with the result that they are lying one place away from the bottom. But so tight is the points position that their chances of making the last four cannot be ruled out.
Rajasthan Royals, despite an up and down campaign, have stayed in contention thanks mainly to exemplary leadership qualities displayed by Shane Warne who has got the best out of a team that is short on experience but high on enthusiasm. Chennai Super Kings is another high profile squad that is having a rather rough time. Currently they occupy the fifth slot and will be hoping for a strong surge in their last three matches. With each team playing 14 games there are enough opportunities for a comeback and the current points position that has three teams with 12 and three others with 10 makes the situation highly intriguing as the league stage enters its final week. Six teams battling it out for three semifinal berths is the kind of scenario that has pulses racing. Anything can happen in Twenty20 cricket as we have seen. It must not be forgotten that the last two teams in the points table in the inaugural edition of the IPL contested the final of the tournament the following year and Deccan Chargers who were at the bottom of the pile in 2008 won the title in 2009.
The tournament so far has been comparable to the first two editions as far as cricketainment – the phrase coined by the whopping success of the IPL – is concerned. The glitz and the glamour associated with the IPL since its inception is very much intact and it is very much the hot subject for discussion around the nation and the cricketing world. The TRP ratings continue to be highly encouraging and crowds have flocked to the grounds to cheer their favourite teams and cricketing heroes. Newspapers and magazines, television and the internet are full of news and views about the IPL. The money associated with Lalit Modi’s brainchild has made headlines in business publications and news magazines.
But then the IPL is not only about the razzle dazzle off the field. It is about cricket and with a trophy, prestige and big money to be won all the teams are giving it their best shot. The leading players in the world are representing various sides and one can be sure their approach will be professional. And five years after the first Twenty20 International was played between Australia and New Zealand and into the IPL’s third year it is clear that cricket’s newest and shortest and most popular avatar is evolving into a format in which matters of tactics and strategy are playing an important part. The participants have to be imaginative and enterprising and the decisions have to be made quickly. This is true of batsmen, bowlers and captains. So we have a number of innovative strokes played by a batsman even as the bowler thinks of ways to thwart him. Captains too have displayed a bit of flair while placing the field, changing the batting order, opening the bowling with spinners or making rapid fire bowling changes. One day cricket evolved over the years into a thinking man’s sport and it is good to see that Twenty20 is developing from just fours and sixes and quick fall of wickets into a contest marked by a battle of wits.
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By Suresh Menon
Murali Vijay making the highest score by an Indian in the IPL is not as much of a surprise as it is being made out to be. It is easier for a Test batsman to adapt to the lower forms of the game than it is for the reverse to happen.
But as the limited overs get more limited and traditional batsmanship is assumed to be at a disadvantage, Murali Vijay restores our faith in the technique and the temperament required to be a Test batsman. As Rahul Dravid showed in the previous IPL, it is easier for a well-rounded Test batsman to make the adjustments necessary for the Twenty20 format than it is for a hit-or-miss Twenty20 batsman to walk into a Test side. The number of stars of the current IPL who are resigned to playing only that format of the game seems to be increasing.
Australia’s David Warner and India’s Yusuf Pathan, already heroes of the current tournament are specialists in the shorter format. Murali Vijay has demonstrated that the Test batsman is a generalist, capable of using his orthodoxy as a platform for an occasional unorthodox shot, but equally capable of scoring consistently using traditional methods. Top flight Test batsmen can change their game when necessary, hold on for three or four hours to force a draw or make a half century in an hour to take the team to victory. The Twenty20 batsman is not expected to be this flexible, and so will remain a uni-dimensional player, a hero when the hitting comes off, a villain when it doesn’t.
As Sachin Tendulkar showed while making one-day cricket’s first double century, you don’t need to invent new strokes all the time, just get the existing ones to travel between players or above their heads. Murali Vijay may not have Tendulkar’s range of shots, but he has immense self-belief and the big match temperament that ensures a professional approach every time he goes out to bat. I have always liked the classic definition of the professional as one who does a good job even when he doesn’t feel like it. It is a lesson Dravid has taught us – that he might not enjoy Twenty20 but he will still be a leading batsman in that format too. This is a form of competitiveness that takes a sportsman to the top.
There was a similar surprise/lack of surprise when Ravi Shastri, a batsman who worshipped at the altar of orthodoxy became only the second man in history to hit six sixes in an over in a first class match. Till Shastri did that, most assumed that the feat could be achieved only by the big hitters.
The contours of a new Indian middle order are beginning to get distinct, and Murali Vijay’s entry into it seems pre-ordained, and not just in the lowest form of the game. Perhaps it was no bad thing that he made his IPL century after the Indian team for the Twenty20 World Cup was chosen. Batsmen like Murali Vijay ought to be preserved for the tougher, more challenging and ultimately deeply satisfying form of the game which is Test cricket.
That might sound patronizing, but there is more money, glamour, attraction to the Twenty20 game right now. Players are human after all and cannot be blamed if they choose the path of least resistance and most comfort. Murali Vijay has a bigger role to play in Indian cricket than the one promised by an IPL century. The young man seems to have the intelligence to recognize this. Hopefully, so do the selectors.
By Jamie Harrison
I have, for some time, called for the creation of a national youth cricket organization, to be directed by a national youth cricket coordinator. I truly believe that without a clear hierarchal structure, implementing a unified vision for American youth cricket, even the most fervent of efforts will have limited impact, if not fizzle out altogether.
There are many possibilities for the form a national organization might take, and still time to come together behind a collective, yet singular, vision of how best to advance youth cricket. Please consider what is to follow as merely my offering to the conversation.
To assist in visualizing how I see this program functioning, I'll start with what I believe will be a common scenario:
A member of a cricket club in the suburbs of Houston speaks to a member of the Houston Independent School District's school board, who is receptive to the idea of teaching cricket in Houston elementary and middle schools. The immediate need is for cricket sets for these 218 schools, because the school district says that they haven't budgeted for this expense. The wholesale cost of each set is $60, which creates a need of over $13,000 in cricket sets. The cricket club member approaches the East Texas Youth Cricket Association regarding this opportunity. The ETYCA emails its members and supporters, and is soon able to commit to the purchase of 100 sets; the West Texas Youth Cricket Association agrees to donate another 25. The ETYCA then contacts the United States Youth Cricket Association regarding the balance. The USYCA immediately works its network of member associations in the US, plus other supporters and patrons nationally and internationally, and within days has secured the funding to purchase the remaining sets. Thus, within weeks, cricket supporters across the nation (and perhaps even the world) have worked together to get cricket started in 218 schools that will now teach cricket to 140,000 children in Houston.
In this scenario, cricketers and cricket supporters across the United States are pooling their time, talent and resources in a unified effort to advance the game among young people in our country. This, of course, is the best possible, and most efficient use of our admittedly limited resources to achieve our ends. And it is also the only way in which we will succeed, because if we allow ourselves to continue as a fragmented collection of disjointed programs, we will never have the strength to overcome the not insubstantial obstacles before us. Together, however, as a single community of thousands or perhaps even hundreds of thousands, we cannot fail.
I think it is also instructive to note that my scenario speaks to the introduction of cricket in elementary and middle schools. I believe that this is the appropriate place to target our efforts (while not necessarily excluding high schoolers), because younger children are more open to new experiences, they have not yet settled on what will be "their sport" (which often, in the parents' drive to make their child great, excludes all others from consideration), and they are still years away from requiring the national infrastructure that we do not yet have for advanced skills training. As an example, lets say we recruit a 13 year-old to become a cricketer, and he falls in love with the sport. Within a year or two, he will realize that there is little hope for him to develop as a player, because local academies and camps, not to mention the opportunity to play consistently, are almost non-existent in the US. On the other hand, an 8 year-old will not be expecting these things, and if we are given five years to work our national program, by the time this child is a teenager, there will be many more opportunities for him to enhance his skills and move on to the next level.
The bottom line is that, as in any well-considered project, we must build from the ground up, allowing the infrastructure to flourish naturally around us as we go. A mistake often made is to attempt to build cricket from the top down, with no existing system to support the effort. We must not repeat past mistakes.
Something else I'd like to note is the need for the United States Youth Cricket Association, and the state associations, to operate independently of any individual or existing organization for the time being. My goal is to avoid the snares of petty politics, jealousies and infighting that would endanger our success. Far too often we have seen great ideas and good intentions derailed by these things. We are far too small a community, and there is far too much work to be done, to risk allowing our numbers to be divided by politics. We must do all we can to build bridges between individuals and organizations, and avoid this fatal trap. Whoever would enter our company must be willing to check his pride and his ambitions at the door.
No matter what the final form, we must soon establish this national hierarchy to guide and nurture youth cricket in the United States. Too many years have already elapsed without a coherent national policy, and too many young people have already been lost to cricket because we could not provide the infrastructure to support them.
A national discussion is finally underway, and this is a great step forward. However, we must also be careful that we not allow the ongoing conversation to become a reason for inaction. Let us reach a consensus, and then move with alacrity to establish the year 2010 as the year that American cricket was reborn.
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By Suresh Menon
The Pavlovian responses at an IPL match mean that the next great innovation is just round the corner. A cricket match where no cricket is played. If the goal of Marxism is the withering away of the state, in IPL it is the withering away of the game itself.
Flashing lights, loud music, inane chatter by a DJ all contribute so much to the IPL experience that the cricket seems unnecessary. Here’s the report of a typical game:
6.00 pm: The in-coming crowd picks up the placards, the flags and the jerseys while ensuring that their noise-makers are in working condition. Nothing they can bring in short of an atomic bomb is, however, likely to make a bigger noise than the official noise issuing from the official DJ and the official muzak issuing from the official speakers.
7 pm: About 30 percent of the crowd is already showing signs of tiredness after the constant screaming, waving and craning of necks to distinguish between Preity Zinta and Mukesh Ambani.
7.30 pm: The captains come out to toss accompanied by a huge roar from the crowd and an even greater roar from the DJ. But wait a minute. That doesn’t look like either Sangakkara or Tendulkar. They are securitymen who can’t find a place to stand in front of your face and are making their way to the wicket where they hope to get a better view of the game.
7.55 pm: It is too early to say who will who will rock you, but this Queen favourite seems to be the theme song of the IPL. Has Lalit Modi paid for the rights? After all, he expects everybody else to pay for the rights for even thinking ‘IPL’ (oops, there goes my paycheck).
8pm to 8.30: The DJ whips the crowd into ecstasy like some mystic promising nirvana. “Are you enjoying yourself?” he asks, to which the proper response apparently is “Yes”. Then, abruptly changing the topic he leads the chanting with a ‘Jumbo, Jumbo’ before realizing that Anil Kumble is not playing this match, and so switches to ‘Sachin, Sachin’, which the crowd had been chanting since the previous week anyway. And so it goes on. Nobody notices that there is no cricket taking place in the middle.
8.32 pm: Time for the DLFCitiModiICCipadUNHCR strategy break. Time for We will we will rock you (sung to the tune of We will we will rock you).
8.48 pm: The first attempt at a Mexican wave. “Start from my right,” advises the DJ to an audience which has no clue where he is speaking from, and so Mexican waves collide in the middle. But the excitement is high.
9.20 pm: The giant screen shows Shah Rukh Khan waving to his fans, the biggest of whom, Lalit Modi is sitting right beside him waiting for his turn.
9.30 pm: Celebrity-spotting on the giant screen. Isn’t that Shilpa Shetty’s driver? Nita Ambani’s hair dresser?
10pm: Excitement reaches a fever pitch as episodes from Lalit Modi’s life are shown on the giant screen. Modi as a baby. Modi suing his mother for trying to say goo-goo-gaga like him. Modi with his first car. Modi with Amir Khan’s telephone number written across his chest like the actor himself from a recent movie.
10.28: Another BCCINatoDLFMaximum strategy break. The crowd goes wild.
11pm: The PA system goes ‘Tratttaaattaaaa’ for the 64th time and everybody screams. The cheerleaders miss a step, nearly shocking the DJ into silence.
11.20 pm: The backdrop is quickly put up, one of the commentators who has some superlatives kept in reserve for just such an occasion gushes about the greatest, most incredible, sexiest match that has just concluded, introduces some of the greatest, most incredible, sexiest guests ever assembled in front of a billboard and announces that the crowd has been unbelievable and a great inspiration. At this, the unbelieveable and inspiring crowd breaks into a cheer.
11.40pm: Preity Zinta, unsure whether her team has won or lost, and uncertain whether she ought to hug Yuvraj Singh or Sangakkara realizes that there are no players on the field and she is a hug behind the game. She hugs a sleeping securityman just before the cameras are switched off for the night.
11.41 pm: Everybody goes home happy. They have seen the cheerleaders, the Zinta hug, the Modi wave, yelled and danced on cue, waved flags, probably appeared on live TV, and can’t wait to return for the next ‘match.’
Who needs the cricket anyway?
By Partab Ramchand
Even in the midst of all the hype associated with the IPL Australia’s
resurgence in Test cricket has not exactly been overlooked. The clean
sweep in the two-Test series in New Zealand was the perfect way to end
a near-perfect summer in which Australia won seven out of eight Tests.
They started off with a 2-0 victory over West Indies and then followed
a 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan. A series in New Zealand is almost always a
tough proposition but a supremely confident Aussie side against
expectations won both the Tests to round off a glorious summer.
While all this has not seen Australia move even from third place to
second in the ICC rankings they have closed the gap with South Africa
to just one point (119 to 120). And the manner in which they are
performing it surely is only a matter of time before they overtake
South Africa and pose a serious challenge to India which is perched on
top five points ahead. Indeed one would not be surprised if they regain
the No 1 spot they held for so long following the two-match series
against Pakistan in England and the Ashes battle `Down Under’ towards
the end of the year.
The Aussies have always taken pride in their bench strength and it is
this factor that is chiefly responsible for their resurgence. It could
not have been easy to recover from the almost simultaneous retirements
of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Stuart MacGill, Damien
Martyn, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden. They did go through a lean
period losing the Ashes to England in 2009 and going down to India and
South Africa. Yet like the kangaroo hopping back the Aussies won the
return series in South Africa last year and thereafter they have
displayed superb all round form. Make no mistake - they are on their
way back to the top.
While the bench strength has been evident right down the line it has
been at its most effective in the pace bowling department. Stuart
Clarke who seemed to be the front runner in the post- McGrath era is
nowhere in the picture. Mitchell Johnson is the undisputed spearhead
and is already Australia’s finest all rounder since Alan Davidson
retired nearly half a century ago. Not too long ago Johnson had Peter
Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus for support. Now they are no longer regulars
in the side thanks to the emergence of Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris.
Bollinger in fact came into the side when there were a couple of
injuries on the tour of India last year and hasn’t looked back since.
And if Siddle and Hilfenhaus recover from their injuries there is going
to be an embarrassment of riches for the selectors. The admirable work
done by the pace trio is arguably the main reason behind the Aussie
Not that the batting has lagged far behind. The squad features no
passengers and such is the depth that if everyone is fit the challenge
will be deciding who to leave out. Ricky Ponting is confident that his
team can regain the Ashes. According to him the Aussies have done just
about everything they would have liked to achieve during the summer.
Whenever there has been a crisis the players have stepped in and got
the job done. The most famous example would be Mike Hussey’s hundred
against Pakistan at Sydney which was instrumental in Australia winning
the match from a hopeless position.
Hussey in fact came good during the summer after a slump in his
fortunes that led to critics calling for his axing. And in Simon Katich
the Australians had a solid opening batsman who grew in stature every
time he went to the crease. The rest of the batting in the hands of
Ponting, Michael Clarke, Marcus North, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin had
the quality and the experience to score runs aplenty – and at a good
pace – against the best of bowlers. So well did they perform that the
highly promising Phil Hughes could only get in a look-in when one of
the players was injured. And Nathan Hauritz who made giant strides
during the season was capable enough of handling the spin department
virtually on his own.
There were question marks over their showing in Test cricket before the
summer started what with the loss of the Ashes in England. But the
Aussies quickly regrouped under Ponting’s inspiring leadership. At 35
and very much the elder statesman of Australian cricket he is really
proud of what his players have been able to achieve. If anything at the
end of a glorious summer they have emerged stronger as a group and one
can safely predict that the upward graph will continue. Brushing aside
theories that the ODI side that has won three World Cups in a row is
cracking the Aussies continue to be No 1 comfortably ahead of second
placed India. One would not be surprised if the Test squad regains the
top spot before long.
By Sunil Gavaskar
The Indian Premier League has seen a plethora of columns written by
former players as well as by those currently playing in the Indian
Premier League. It is interesting to read the views of the current
players especially if it is something written by them and not a ghost
writer who is given some points or who suggests points and to which the
player gives his views. The recent column by Jacques Kallis was an
interesting read because for the first time a senior player like him
has said that the T20 format is the least tiring of the three formats
in the game today.
This was interesting simply because with two teams being added to
the Indian Premier League next year there was talk that there would be
burnout of the players with too much cricket. Remember there was
similar talk of a burnout a few years back and that body called the
FICA had come out strongly against more matches and more tours. The
moment the Indian Premier League was announced and the player auction
took place with some overseas players going for more than double what
they got for playing for their respective countries all talk of burnout
was forgotten and players were desperate to get into the IPL. Those who
were not suited or were not good enough for the IPL of course tried to
earn brownie points by suggesting that they had turned their backs on
the IPL offers and instead chosen to keep themselves fresh for
the matches for their countries. It didn't really help as neither did
their own performances improve nor did their teams win.
Kallis' column said that while it was quite natural that recovery time
from injury or even tiredness gets longer as one gets older, because
the T20 format game was less than one innings of a one day match and
was over and done within three hours the burnout factor because of
playing was not really there.
However what he rightly suggested is that it is the travelling which
involves catching early morning flights, checking in and then waiting
for the flights to take off and changing hotels every other day which
is infinitely more tiring than the actual playing. That is so true
because a player trains himself physically and mentally to play any
format of the game and over a period of time gets used to the rigours
of it but he cannot despite several tours and seasons in the game come
to terms with the amount of travelling which involves checking in and
out of hotels and airports. It is here that the travel coordinator can
help by making sure that the flights are at a comfortable hour so that
a player having played a tough game the previous evening gets enough
rest to recover and be ready for the next game.
Many years ago when the Indian team first played in a tri-series in
Australia the team invariably travelled by an early morning flight to
the next destination after having played a day night game the earlier
day. The adrenaline is still pumping for a few hours after every game
and in a day night match which gets over around 10.30 the player is
still excited and charged up for a few hours after that and so finds it
hard to get sleep and if after that he has to get up and catch an early
morning flight then he loses the next day too. That is why immediately
after that tour the message went out to the BCCI to ensure that flights
after a day night game were only around noon or maybe after lunch so
that players could get a good nights rest and be ready for the next
game properly rested.
It is this that those in charge of the next year's scheduling of
matches have to get right so that teams get to stay in their home
centre for a few days and then move to play away games and again here
where there is minimal of travel. To give an example if a West based
team travels to the South then its second game also should be in the
South so that travel time is less. It won't always be possible to get
it right since India is a big country and so there may well be
situations where the travel maybe a bit more but as long as the time is
not early in the morning the players won't mind too much.
The other interesting column was where Dale Steyn pleaded for more
bowlers to be administrators so that their tribe could be protected
from what he sees as a game dominated and ruled by batsmen. It is an
extremely valid call and if there is a good mix of bowlers and batsmen
in committees that take such decisions the better balanced the game
would be. Again going back some years when lower order batsmen were
being sent up the order as pinch hitters and plonking their front foot
forward and hammering bowlers of great pace to all corners of the
field simply because they knew that with the bouncers being disallowed
in limited overs cricket there was no comeback for the quick bowler
after being clobbered for a four or six.
The earlier years of limited overs cricket where there were no
circles and field restrictions and no restriction whatsoever on the
bouncer the batsman especially the lower order one dare not get onto
the front foot at all. That restriction on the bouncers was removed by
the ICC committee under the Chairmanship of a batsman (mind you, all
chairmen so far have been batsmen) and bowlers were allowed to bowl a
bouncer in the over and that saw the end of the pinch hitters though of
course a naturally aggressive stroke player got promoted up the order
but knew how to handle a short ball.
Now of course the ICC Cricket Committee has got bowlers, coaches, match
referees, umpires and administrators in the committee so nobody can
claim that it is loaded in favour of a batsman. Still Steyn has a point
though he may look at bowler turned umpires and find that even they
don't give the close leg before decisions that they would have wanted
out when they were bowling themselves.
So there is no guarantee that more bowlers in decision making would help ease the bowlers lot but its a good thought alright.
By Gulu Ezekiel
The biggest dilemma facing the national selectors when they sat down to
pick the Indian team for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies next
month must have been the fitness of the players.
With the IPL not even at the halfway stage and the world event
beginning just five days after the end of the cricket carnival, theirs
was an unenviable task.
Captain MS Dhoni and openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir
as well as pace bowler Ashish Nehra all have been forced to skip
matches for their franchises with injuries of varying seriousness.
Other national sides, notably South Africa are also having
jitters over the availability of some of their top players, victims of
Dhoni is back behind the stumps for CSK, but it has always been my
contention that the team owners pressurize their star players to return
even when they are not fully fit.
This view was endorsed by cricket commentator Charu Sharma on a
recent TV discussion. As an insider he should know. Remember, he was
CEO for the Bangalore franchise before being sacked by the star-owner
weeks into the inaugural event when the side had made a disastrous
It was also in 2008 when Sachin Tendulkar missed the first half
of the first IPL due to a groin injury. He came back to captain Mumbai
Indians but was a pale shadow of himself and shortly after the
tournament ended had to skip two ODI tournaments as he was unfit.
There were murmurs back then that he was forced to rush his
return due to pressure from the IPL bigwigs who could not reconcile
with having the world’s most famous cricketer miss the first season on
The IPL’s cheerleaders (by which I mean the clothed variety) had
condemned national coach Gary Kirsten last year when he cited the IPL
for causing fatigue and injuries to his players so close to the World
T-20 in England in which India fared disastrously.
Kirsten had pleaded for more time between the IPL and major
world tournaments to give players enough breathing space to recover
from niggles and strains that are part and parcel of top-level sport.
But obviously no-one in the BCCI was listening. Instead, a gag-order
was placed on the coach who was ordered not to make any more negative
comments about the IPL in public.
Talking about jitters, the entry of Sahara into the IPL mix has the rival owners nervously looking over their shoulders.
Sahara boss Subrata Roy has let it be down that several star India
players have expressed their interest in joining his Pune franchise
Mr. Roy says it is “emotion” that is behind this interest. But
behind the scenes all that emotion is being translated into massive
salaries to lure away some of the biggest names in the league.
The next player auction in September should really set the cat among the pigeons.
--This column was originally published on butjazz.com
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