The Cesc Fabregas saga is beginning to get on one’s nerves now. Every day there is an interview with some Barca player who desperately wants Cesc to join his team. Their sentiment is understandable as most of the Barca players come from Spain and also the fact that Fabregas joined Arsenal from the Barca academy around 7 years back. It’s also said that Fabregas is keen to move back to Spain for personal reasons. All legitimate reasons for a transfer, one feels.
Being an Arsenal supporter, it will be extremely sad to see Cesc move out. But if a player isn’t keen any more to play for a club, agreeing to a transfer may be the best way out. There are a few other small details to consider though. Arsenal has been looking at a far higher number than the GBP 29MM offered by Barcelona and in any case they have not been too keen to let their captain go away. Barcelona on its part has vowed that it won’t go much higher. Frankly one believes Cesc is worth much more than the current Barca offer.
Not that Barca has ability to bid higher. Barcelona has already signed David Villa and Adriano in 2010 and has budgetary constraints to have another high profile signing. The fact that Barcelona had to seek Bank loans to fund their short term obligations like player wages doesn’t help either.
What is beginning to rankle is that once Barca has realized that it can’t afford Cesc this season, all sort of emotional blackmail tactics have been used. Forcibly putting a Barcelona shirt on Fabregas during their World Cup celebrations (and why was the Liverpool keeper Reina involved is a interesting poser), Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Puyol and David Villa making tearful appeals to Cesc to join them were some notable ones.
This entire episode is beginning to sound like a tear jerker Saas Bahu soap where all characters keep on crying and plotting all the time but the story doesn’t move forward even by an inch.
The laest news reports claim that Cesc has agreed personal terms with Barcelona. Talk about people running ahead of themselves. It seems like a couple going out on their first date shopping for kids clothes.
One has an excellent suggestion for all those great Cesc pals in the Barcelona team. They should come forward and agree to take a pay cut over their remaining contract tenure and bridge that funding gap that Barca is currently struggling with. This will be a real story of friendship and camaraderie that will be retold across generations. If their wage cuts are not enough they can offer a part of their riches towards the same cause. One suspects that we may not see such an event unfold and is steeling one self to face more of the same in the near future. If only Real Madrid were involved. The world would not have to witness any such soap operas. Real would have just asked the local council to pick the tab
It is often said that a man’s real character is displayed under adverse conditions. But in of Kumar Sangakkara it’s the other way round. His true spirit is revealed when he is winning or on top. His recent comments about the ICC rankings being unfair, coming after the Galle Test victory are just one instance of the real Sanga behind the polished, suave façade. Granted that he was asked an extremely leading question that asked whether the players take seriously a system that has India at No. 1 despite not having won a series in Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka since 1993, and whether that system needs a change. But one can always decline to offer comments on possibly controversial queries. The man who has studied Law chose not to.
It’s no one’s case that at present there is no single team that dominates Test cricket today. The battle for domination is more or less between India, Australia and South Africa with England also claiming their stake in recent times. So this piece is not a criticism of Kumar Sangakkara about questioning India’s status as #1. It is a doubt about his insistence that Sri Lanka’s current rating is unjustified because they get little chance to play India(did he really say India???) /Australia and South Africa less often. It is also about the timing of his comments. A winner can always be cocky and run down others. He can also get away with murder. And that is what Sangakkara has done to perfection in this instance
The moot question is that whether he is really being serious when he says that if given more than 2 tests in an India, Australia or South Africa series, Sri Lanka can and will do better. It seems he has a balanced attack that can do well on most pitches. He conveniently forgets about his batting depth on the bouncy tracks in Australia and South Africa. The Batting Armada at Sanga's perusal consists of a couple of flat track/home pitch/ weak opponent bullies, himself as the one World class player and Angelo Mathews coming in at #6. Mathews at #6 says it all there is to say about this Lankan team.
But that mean spiritedness in good times has been the hall mark of most Sri Lankan captains anyways. Take Arjuna Ranatunga, that Bishen Bedi of Sri Lankan cricket and his extremely positive captaincy, comments and his on and off field behaviour. Whenever the other team was on the mat he would get a sadistic pleasure in throwing more dirt in the opponents face (remember the 900+ and his resistance to declare). Take Thilan Samarveera who wouldn't declare in a 3 day practice game at the start of this series. Only a child would believe that Sanga had no part to play in this odd behaviour. Or even take Sanga's cribs at the beginning of their previous India tour about hotels and food problems in India. The same guy played the IPL 3 (which was a disaster for him as a player and captain) but never blamed hotels or food for it.
Sri Lanka which as has been pointed out in the cricinfo article has never managed to win a SINGLE test in India, Australia and South Africa, won 2 out of 10 played in England, was ranked #2 in the ICC Test ranklings just a few months back. Surely Sangakkara would want to know how this miracle had happened. To understand this freak act of God, Sanga surely would have called up Lorgat and checked the rationale. It’s a pity that he didn’t offer Lorgat’s phone number to the media persons present.
One can remember the India-Sri Lanka Galle match for many reasons. The top of the mind recall is, of course, Murali’s 800th wicket. The long wait for that one last one, the worried and at the same time expectant faces of close family, the frustration at appeals turned down, the doubts creeping in (at least in the minds of the spectators) and finally the relief at achieving the milestone.
One can remember the Test for the repeated inability of the Indian bowlers to wrap up the tail after the Sri Lankan middle order was prised away cheaply. Malinga scoring 61 should be a new low for even the Indian bowlers.
One can remember the Galle test for the rash of rash shots played by the Indian batters in the first innings on a pitch on which Herath scored 80*.
One can remember the Galle Test for Malinga's thunderbolts at the Indian batters' feet and also his splendid efforts to deny Murali of that last batter.
One can remember the Galle Test for VVS Laxman’s frail looking dab at a Malinga bouncer which felt like an undignified first attempt at sexual intercourse by a gawky teenager
One can remember the Galle Test for the fighting spirit shown by the Indian tail (Bhajji is an all rounder so he can’t be classified as ‘tail’) and their splendid effort to keep the candle burning in a tornado.
One canl remember the Galle Test for VVS Laxman’s splendid effort to give the maximum possible chance to Murali to get his 800th victim on a platter by constantly taking a single of the 1st ball and exposing the tail to Murali’s wiles. The raising of his bat on reaching the half century was greeted by a deafening silence in the dressing room.
But one will remember this Galle Test for the VVS run out. After not making any attempt to shield Ishant Sharma from Murali for an hour or so, VVS actually tried to steal a single off the second ball of a Murali over to get back on strike. Maybe words were said in the dressing room during the lunch interval. Maybe he was ashamed after reading the cricinfo commentary – ‘Oh my! Mithun has exposed Laxman to Murali. But here he was trying to get Ishant off strike from Murali. And he got out. Oh the irony of it all!
With the latest developments (?) on the Commonwealth games’ progress viz., the Delhi rains and the resultant unintended swimming pools being shown live on national TV, one was reminded of the other controversies in connection with the CW games. Of course some of them had to be related with cricket and the BCCI and we weren’t disappointed in our very modest expectations.
The BCCI not sending a representative Indian cricket team for the next CW games has been derided as an irresponsible act from a body which is supposed to promote the spread of the great game. Disrespect to the nation also was talked about. Some counter-arguments about how the WADA issue was at the heart of the decision making process were also floated without much success. One will leave it at that.
Another volley against the BCCI was fired by Shri. Suresh Kalmadi when he asked the BCCI to postpone the proposed Australian tour of India, which happens at the same time as the CWG in New Delhi this October. The BCCI promptly refused and there the matters lie as of now.
With the football World Cup also ending last weekend, the usual sense of dejection over India’s pathetic standards was also experienced. The sad state of affairs of Indian football has been consistently exposed, be it Mahindra shutting down their team, or requesting for funds from the BCCI or the badly maintained football grounds.
A look at history, though, actually reveals that the BCCI should indeed be thankful to the games (not of the sporting nature) played in the Commonwealth and the ICC just during the time of India’s independence. It was the acceptance of the idea of the Commonwealth that helped cricket sustain and develop in India and some excerpts from Mihir Bose’s ‘A Maidan View’, establish some interesting links between Indian cricket, Indian football and the Commonwealth. It’s a long one but worth a read. Here goes:
Logically, after independence, football should have become India’s number one sport. It is cheaper, and it certainly permeated greater layers of Indian society--even down to the semi-rural areas—than cricket, and there were the obvious links between nationalism and football. It is possible that had India won independence from Britain in different circumstances, cricket might not have occupied the position it does in India today. Had the British been thrown out in the violent, revolutionary way proposed by Subhash Bose, rather than agreed to withdraw peacefully, football rather than cricket could have become the major game. Or had the Bengalis, who initiated the freedom struggle, retained their control, then football—which is very strong in Bengal—might have become the national game….
.....Although there was fierce opposition in India and from within his own cabinet, led by (Sardar) Patel, Nehru agreed to keep India in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth had to be reinvented, convert itself from its historic role as a white man’s club into one where other races could also aspire to equality. The position of the British King was also altered. India would become a truly independent country with its own president but it would also remain part of a wider club whose permanent president was the monarch of the United Kingdom. The club as such had no power and the British monarch had no power in India. But India accepted ‘the King as a symbol of free association of its independent member nations and as such the head of the Commonwealth.’ The decision met with much hostility in India but such was Nehru’s power that the nation accepted. It took nearly 2 years for all this to be sorted out and a final agreement was only reached at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London in April 1949.
For Indian cricket this decision was to have a far-reaching significance.
Before India became free, Indian cricket officials were fearful that they would lose their membership of the Imperial Cricket Conference and with it cricket would die in India. Boria Majumdar has analysed the finances of the board in the years leading up to 1947 and these show that the Indian board was struggling for money. In the 1930s it had so little money that the Ranji trophy was nearly abandoned. Succour came from the Pentangular donating money and by 1946 the board had a balance of Rs. 1,00,000, as the Times of India reported on 30th July 1946. But by this time there was fierce debate as to whether the Pentangular, which made by far the most money, should continue. In a country about to be divided by religion, should there be matches which pitted sides based on religion against each other? De Mello, who had become board president in 1946, came out strongly in support of the Pentangular and Majumdar says:
Independence was imminent. It was only a matter of time before India would cease to be a member of the Imperial Cricket Conference. The termination of the membership, De Mello anticipated, would lead to a financial crisis. This prompted him to express support for the Pentangular, anticipating that the then popularity of the tournament would help alleviate the impending financial crisis.
After independence, Indian cricket officials anxiously watched the developments at Lord’s.
On July 1948, when the debate about the Commonwealth was at its height, with the very secret letters flying between Delhi and London, the Imperial Cricket Conference met at Lord’s. At that conference, the first since India had become a self-governing dominion in 1947, the matter of India’s changed status came up. It was decided that India could remain a member of the ICC but only on a provisional basis. The matter would be looked at again after two years. It is clear that the ICC, unsure whether India would remain part of the British Commonwealth, was waiting for the politicians to decide.
India’s cricket status was not finalised until the ICC held a two day meeting in June 1950. Six months earlier, on 26th January 1950, India had finally become a republic but had also remained part of the British Commonwealth. The ICC, reassured by this, moved the new India from provisional status to full membership. In its decision the ICC stressed that it felt the separation of Pakistan had not materially affected the standard of play in India. But the critical fact was that the cricket body had to be a member of the Britsh Commonwealth. Rule 5 of the ICC was very specific on that point. Had Nehru not agreed to keep India in the Commonwealth, Indian cricket would have failed the basic test of ICC membership. In that case it was almost certain that at its meeting in 1950, the Indian cricket board’s provisional status would not have been made final. India would have been cast out in the cricketing cold…
… So here we have one of those great ‘ifs’ of Indian sporting history. The ‘if’ is particularly fascinating because the very year Indian cricket might have been thrown out of the ICC was also the very year that Indian football could have made its debut on the world stage. In 1950 India qualified to play for the football World Cup, the only time it has done so. But there were many problems, including foreign exchange, transport—the tournament was held in Brazil—and also the Indian insistence that they play barefeet. FIFA refused to sanction this and India, in a decision that was to haunt its football, withdrew.
So imagine that on 26 January 1950, India, on becoming a republic, leaves the Commonwealth, emulating Britain’s oldest colony, Ireland, which had done the same many years earlier. Six months later the ICC meet and downgrade India from provisional member to non-member. Even as they come to this decision, Indian footballers, playing with boots, are taking part in football’s first World Cup since the Second World War (the ICC meeting took place in the middle of the World Cup in Brazil). And, building on the impression they had created in the 1948 Olympic Games in football, the Indians make a mark on the biggest world stage for team sports. Indian cricket, on the other hand, cut off from the world, withers. ‘Ifs’ are fascinating because they allow speculation that won’t be tested by reality. But we need to appreciate how fragile Indian cricket was in much of the 1950w and how much stronger Indian football was.
In 1950 Indian cricket had achieved nothing on the world stage. It had yet to win a Test—it only did so two years later. Through the 1950s, India didn’t do much in cricket and for much of that decade, Indian cricket struggled to attract worthwhile opposition and for some reasons they had to make do with playing unofficial Tests against so-called Commonwealth sides composed of players of many lands, organised by the former Lancashire wicketkeeper George Duckworth. The decade ended with a mins-numbing 3-0 defeat at home to the West Indies, when India had four captains in five Tests, and then a 5-0 drubbing in England in 1959.
In football, on the other hand, India won the Asian Games gold in 1951, again in 1962, and came fourth in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Had football grabbed its chance, and Nehru followed populist sentiment and left the Commonwealth, who is to say that today football, not cricket, would be the main sport of India?
P.S. This is how shameless the IOC can get
It is reliably learnt that MS Dhoni is looking to own a franchise of the famous Sakshi Art Gallery in Mumbai. The name was attractive enough for his new business ventures. He is also roping in a few other cricketers as franchisees across the world. The simple logic being that even they want to replicate that high of becoming a franchisee owner.
The cricketers, though, are thinking of tweaking the name to suit their style.
Dhoni is calling it Sakshi HeArt Gallery with the opening show displaying MSD's well loved collection of snaps with Deepika, Bipasha, Asin and many others.
Bhajji is thinking of naming it Sakshi DArt Gallery and showing his well publicised collection of Darts.
Sehwag is opening Sakshi AArti Gallery opening with an exhibition of his family snaps with wife and kids and a rolling screen (like the one displaying stock quotes on Wall Street) displaying his motivational tweets.
Yuvi has opened Sakshi PArty Gallery with a collection of elephants, titled 'This Elephant is back from injury and is ready to rock'. One of the snaps from the show can be seen here on Twitter.
Ravindra Jadeja's Sakshi PArt Time Gallery may not be open on all days but MS Dhoni and Cheeka love it and are one of the well known patrons of this gallery.
SRT is opening Sakshi SmArt Gallery in town next to the original Sakshi Gallery and hoping that this business venture doesn't open with a no show like the erstwhile Tendulkar's.
Even Shoaib Akhtar is in discussion with the Sakshi promoters to open his own Sakshi WArts Gallery. The opening show is currently being kept under wraps.
One has a few recommendations for TV channels who will shout from the roof tops about this development. Here goes
"Sakshi stArts Gallery!!!"
"Jab Dhoni apna contract sign karne aaye to wo bole - Mein Sakshi ko Bhagwan manke kasam khata hoon ki ......"
Before one gets torn ApArt for all these corny lines, one bids adieu just like Brazil, Argentina have done at the WC.