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A to Z of Cricket in 2008 - Part-IV - Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Dec 28, 2008
Continuing from the previous three pieces on the A to Z of cricket in 2008, this is penultimate piece in this feature.

Q goes to the Queensland duo - and friends - of Hayden and Symonds who could just not stop scoring points in verbal and off-field jousts through the year, and yet their on-field pyrotechnics barely matches the ones off it. Symonds started well, but after the 'Sydneygate', his demeanour began to taper off. Frustrated hearings, missed buses and fishing expeditions later, he was dumped from the Aussie side for the tour of India. Both, Symonds and the Aussie team - who fell 0-2 - came home wiser after it! The experts reckoned that the Harbhajan let-off by Cricket Australia - of the backroom manoeuvring by the BCCI fame - meant that Symmo fell badly let-down and hit the bottle. However, it would be difficult to pardon the drunken brawl with one of his own team-mates, Michael Clarke.

Hayden, on the other hand had a wretched 2008, both with his mouth and bat, as invitation to boxing rings, battling with obnoxious weeds, batting in third-world countries, regular injuries and a mean of less than 35 in test cricket put his spot in the team in jeopardy. If he does not face the axe from the rather patient selectors, he would be one who would be hoping for a happier new year

R needs to be taken by Ranatunga, of the Sri Lankan cricket fame. Not too many have dared to take on the BCCI in the recent times; and it has been even rarer occurrence that someone has come out trumps. Arjuna Ranatunga, who was the CEO of the interim Sri Lankan Cricket (SLC), did everything in his fundamental rights to ruffle up the BCCI feathers, before been unceremoniously dumped by his own Sports Ministry!

The official reasons may point to something saner, but insiders had a different picture to paint about the ouster. With Ranatunga's strong anti-BCCI-policies stance that included allowing the ICL-linked cricketers to participate in the domestic tournaments, and jumping at the offer of touring Pakistan after India had withdrawn from the country due to the recent terror strikes, it had definitely not been a sweet pill to swallow for the Indian board. BCCI had earlier also made their stance clear that they could help the cash-strapped Sri Lankan board out of trouble, only if Ranatunga were to be shown the door.

It was quite clear from the Ranatunga endeavours that not too much had changed from the time he had finished playing cricket where he had had the guts to take on the strongest, but without doubt the biggest bully on-field, Australia, and delivered them a dose of their own bitter medicine. As it turned out, BCCI proved to be a different kettle of fish.

S is for Stanford T20, Shane Warne, and a rather expensive Slap! There was a Midas who turned everything into gold with his touch and then there was an Allen Stanford who was criticised for almost every move of his during the latter part of his association with this game. And not without reason. Stanford got it horribly wrong in the first edition of the Stanford Twenty20 for 20 - a cash change of around $20 million - and this included the war with Digicel over sponsorship rights, difficult-to-spot floodlights, open air lap-dances with cricketers' wives, and a rather one-sided match-up between England and the West Indies! That was apart from the losses that he incurred because the concept hadn't sold too much, and hence the revenues were far lower than expected. The last one had heard was that he had disbanded his Stanford Legends - one of whom in Michael Holding, had already resigned some months back - and there had been plans to review the deal in January.

Shane Warne, on the other hand, has been so used to dishing out his spin-magic throughout his international cricket, that not many would have believed that he was the best skipper Australia did not have. The IPL gave the experts an insight into what may have been, when Warne coaxed and cajoled his players, formed a never-heard and imagined-before bond with Graeme Smith, and even went up to the extent of bringing out the bowler from Munaf Patel during the six-week long extravaganza. That his team won was a huge boost, but even without the trophy, there was no doubting who the most innovative leader was. Only if he had kept his stuff in his pants during his career for Australia.

The slap that cost Harbhajan Singh crores of rupees was the one that also brought the tears out of a certain Sreesanth. The theatrics were so hard to believe that some almost thought that it was too dramatic to be true and had been 'fixed'! In the hindsight, it was one of the first major controversies to hit the IPL, and culminated with the ban of Harbhajan for numerous matches, and a quiet warning for Sreesanth.

T can be for none other than the shortest - and the youngest - form of the game, Twenty20 cricket. It had been around for four years, but this was quite clearly the year when this format made more headlines than any other. The reasons for that could be manifold, none stronger than the commencement of the Indian Premier League that captured the imagination of all the stake-holders world over. In fact, it could be very safe to assume that T20 cricket may have made the passage of the game into the Olympics a lot easier. T20 also became the route through which the lesser known countries, like China became introduced to this sport.

Yet, there were the usual doubters, and one must add, their worries were not unfounded by any stretch of imagination. Never since this format began were there so many questions on the effect it would have on the more traditional forms of the game been asked. One has already witnessed the lack of crowds even in a cricket crazy nation like India for the white-flannelled version of the game, and the way things stand at the moment, the ICC needs to do something drastic to turn that around.

However, the one common point of view that almost everybody shared was that T20 cricket was here to stay, it was a sort of a necessary evil!

U is for the ugly. For all the good that occurred in the game this year, there was more than a tinge of ugliness in the sport; a rather alarming, growing sense of the same. The Aussies had their fair share with Hayden wanting to meet some of the younger Indians in the boxing ring, while, as if the Indians were not enough, Symmo decided to go 'brawling' with his team-mates. The Indians, on their part, were not to be left behind as Harbhajan and Sreesanth were involved in an ugly on-field spat, and Gautam Gambhir was soon banned for shoving an elbow up the bowler's midriff.

Sir Allen Stanford 'lapped' up the other controversy when he was filmed with the Englsh cricketers' wives, while Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar's repeated misdemeanours with drugs, dope and defiance to the laws meant that they faced most of their time away from the cricket fields. Kiwi all-rounder Jesse Ryder was involved in a fracas with, er, himself after going on a drinking binge and breaking a window pane! Marlon Samuels would have been a good middle-option option for the West Indies but the allegations of match-fixing caught up with him and he was subsequently banned by the board for a couple of years.
 
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