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The lows and the woes of Stanford T20 - Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Nov 01, 2008
If the discussion revolves around cricket and the country of India is not the cynosure of the world eyes, then it must be definitely worth giving the eye-balls to. Allen Stanford is one such breaking news that is fast catching fire in the world of cricket, and one may be forgiven for saying that the manner in which the entire drama is unfolding, it is a cause for a lot of heart-burn around.

About three decades ago, the Kerry Packer jamboree was called the 'Circus' - amongst other names like pyjama cricket - and the reasons for that were not restricted to the encroachment of the limited overs game into the purists' form of the same, that was purportedly killing the longer version. Little did the critics - for that matter even the World Series Cricket fans - know, that those couple of years would be one of the biggest turning points in the history of this sport. Now, Packer was no philanthropist, and he did what he did for reasons similar to why one Mr. Subhash Chandra took on the world's most powerful cricketing bodies and brought the parallel, Indian Cricket League to life. A share of this huge and tempting pie called cricket, and its television rights.

Allen Stanford may not be a Packer, yet doling out a sum of more $100 million to cricket boards like it is nothing more than loose change can be attributed to any reason but charity. Charity, revival of West Indian cricket, building up of the game at the grassroots, spectator entertainment are only some of the explanations that have been offered by Stanford. However, one does get a sense that his epoch making, almost earth, and ear shattering, pocket filling - and overflowing - yet, what some perceive to be soul selling exercise could very mark a change in the attitudes of many a cricket player and administrator around. Hopefully for the better.

From the very inception, the Stanford 20-20 for 20, the winner-takes-it-all - the $20 million pay cheque - has been attempting to do the different. Now, this newest and the shortest format of the game, has already seen many an innovation already, and almost anyone even remotely associated with this game in its present avatar has had the coffers ringing for them. Stanford has attempted to package this newly made product, differently, to get the attention going for this brand of cricket. If the packaging has been different, the promotion has gone many a step ahead of the conventional. The best - or probably, the worst - example of this was the parading of a cash-filled casket for all to see, with the West Indian Legends next to it. While some squirmed at this blatant display of wealth, the others questioned its very existence. This was certainly not the cricket that most of us had grown up to like, was it? Not even the IPL got anywhere close to this 'tamasha'.

One of the former cricketers associated with this 'upheaval' was Michael Holding, but he quit rather abruptly. Morally upright, Holding's explanation was simple; Stanford isn't the man he is portraying himself to be, he is no messiah out to help West Indian cricket. Today, the former quickie would be having a quiet, little snigger to himself as the observers across the world have grown critical at best, and virtually torn the man-in-the-spotlight apart.

The quality of cricket has been anything but $20 million-like. In fact, if one were to be too gracious, it could be called as akin to a couple of teams from the Kanga League fighting it out to avoid relegation. The conditions have obviously had their say, after all, with dropped catches a dime a dozen caused due to below-par quality of floodlights, one cannot expect too much. Some of the parts of the ground are said to be darker than the others, making fielding a nightmare in a format of the game where it is one of the most important aspects. The pitches have been ragged, causing the objective of run-scoring seem like cracking a Rubik's Cube, while the black-painted bats resemble the bitumen that acts like a magnet to the ball, disrupting the timing in the process, and hence the low-scoring encounters. If the matches leading up to the D-day clash were rather conspicuous by the lack of big hits - and hence the big runs - the battle for the $20 million was over before it even began.

And then came the biggest stunner of them all. As Stuart Broad ran in to bowl in one of those side matches, the giant screen showed the moment of the match - and the year - as Stanford was shown with his arms around two ladies, and a third was on his lap. Happens all the time, one would argue, but the only difference was that the ladies in question were the wives and girl-friends of the English cricketers.

What surprises me the most is Nasser Hussain's reaction to the 'Lapgate' Almost fawning, akin to bending backward to please and undesirably tasteless, Hussain found no problems in the 'quick cuddle for the cameras' and coerced the English team to move on in one of his columns! Even more puke-inducing is the fact that he mentioned that the act of 'lapping up' was pardonable because of the kind of money that the man in question, Stanford, has pumped into the system. Stanford may have apologised to both the cricketers in question - and anything short of an apology could have snowballed into something nasty - but the whole sequence of events has been as grotesque as it could get around a cricket field.

From the English cricketers' perspective, the voices of dissent have become louder by the hour, as they look to get out of the country as quickly as possible. One or two have been openly critical about the whole affair, but with half a million in each of their back pockets if they had managed to put one across the West Indian Superstars, it would have been interesting to see whether any of them pull out of the next such series that sees the light of the day. Not so long ago, a couple of them had raised questions and threatened abandonment of the Zimbabwean tour as well! The ECB, on the other hand has been criticised by all and sundry for their effort-at-any-cost to prevent the English players from joining the IPL, thus making it dance to the Stanford reggae.

The richest match in the town, may not be the most exciting, and may have been involved in more issues than one, but then again, one would need to reassess the affair after a year or so. Hopefully, Sir Allen Stanford would have rectified the aberrations by then. For now though, it seems that someone by the name of Giles Clarke has a lot of explanation to do.
 
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