Saturday, January 28, 2012

Time to be tough

Like our victory in 1983, our victory in 2011 was a matter of pride for the nation - well at least on that day. Of course, there were major differences with the main one being India's chances to win the World Cup. In 1983, there was a 1 in 1000 chance of us taking it. Twenty eight years later, the team went in as one of the favourites. India was ranked No 1 in tests, had won a T20 tournament, had drawn an away series in South Africa and had generally played decent cricket.
And then we went and lost 4-0 to both, England and Australia.
But then, that has always been the way India has played its cricket. Whenever you look at the way that we've played, there has been a period of high and then a massive dip. Indian cricket is like a sound wave, if it were to put it metaphorically.
If the BCCI and the players continue to hibernate and
be indisciplined, don't be surprised if you see Bangladesh
holding a trophy like that in an away series in the future
But then, if you look at it, the scenario in Indian cricket has always been the same. Just because we've drawn many away series in the last decade, it does not make us good. We could have won some of them, like the 2003 series in Australia or the 2010-11 series against South Africa. Since 2000, we have won a series in England, two in West Indies and one in New Zealand. I will not count Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Pakistan here because Zimbabwe's political turmoil began when we toured them and Pakistan and Bangladesh are within the subcontinent. We still haven't managed to beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka for a long time and I don't see that happening for a while either.
People have spoken about the transition happening in Indian cricket. However, this transition has been happening since Ganguly became captain in 2000. It's now 2012 and unless the BCCI takes some rather drastic measures - and I speak about players, wickets, domestic competitions, sending our players abroad to play in Sheffield Shield, Pura Cup or English County, as well as the use of technology, India will soon find itself back where it was in 1990.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A roller coaster fortnight.

Cricket is unpredictable. We've seen that time and time again. The sport that we've dubbed the gentleman's game is in reality, a game made of paranoid schizophrenics, who can alter a game just like that *snaps a finger*. The last fortnight has seen that there is as much of madness off the field than there is on it.
Whether I should start writing about the madness off the field or the madness on it is debatable, but my love for the game prompts me to write about the on field antics.
First: test cricket could never have been more awesome. The first test between Australia and South Africa defined madness. Mayhem, chaos, clutter, crash, boom, bang, wallop and then suddenly like nothing, South Africa won by 8 wickets in the fourth innings, chasing 230-odd. It was like the reverse pitch effect. 1st day played like a 5th day and third day, the wicket had eased out. Imagine what would have happened had the match lasted five days. Either team would have chased 500-odd runs.
What still baffles me is that this is a two-match series. Quite tragic, in my opinion. However, given the way Australia is playing, I think that they're glad that it's a two-match series. Although I like the look of Patrick Cummins. He's young, he's raw and he's fast. India, beware. He's going to come at you and how.


Speaking of Indian cricket, following the claims made by Lord Paul Codon about every team being involved in match fixing, Vinod Kambli decided to open his mouth and claim that there was something 'suspicious' about Mohammad Azharuddin opting to field in the semi-finals against Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup. 
Azhar, naturally, denied the rumours and all of us on Twitter, along with some of his teammates backed him and his decision to field. 
However, with Sharad Powar coming into the picture and criticising Kambli, I have some reservations about the match. Having said that, Vinod Kambli is an idiot. He wanted his five minutes of fame. Like a friend told me, he would probably have been broke and wanted some money for that sex change he so desperately needs. He got some money during Sach Ka Saamna, but maybe sex changes are way too expensive nowadays. 
Having said that, it will be interesting to see what the High Court decides regarding Azhar's alleged involvement. The majority believes that he's guilty, but we can only wait for the result to come out. 


And now for the general belief that cricket is a boring sport. One of the guys that lived up to the sentiment, Basil D'Oliveira died at 80. I've never seen him play, but my sister has. She described his batting as 'more boring than paint drying up.' However, that kind of pissing off batting ensured that England didn't lose too many test matches. D'Oliveira was gutsy and had balls of steel, just like Peter Roebuck.

Roebuck's death saddened me. The allegations of sexual harassment pissed me off even more. Let's face it, a 26-year-old guy claiming that a 50-plus man forcefully buggered him makes no sense at all. It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger claiming that he got buggered by Hornswoggle

So my theory is that like Vinod Kambli, this guy wants his five minutes of fame as well. Maybe he can fund Kambli's sex change and both of them can live happily ever after. 


And it's also Ranji Trophy time. I'm glad that Irfan is getting wickets and Harbhajan is not. Sadly, however, Harbhajan will go to Australia because they need someone with 'experience.' It doesn't matter if he bowls shit, but the experience matters. Personally, my 16-man squad for the side will include: Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Ranane, Dhoni (wk), Patel (wk), Ashwin, Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Yadav, Zaheer, Ishant and Irfan. 
Who will you pick? 

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Epic Fail

Yesterday was a day of madness.
The South African and Australian batsmen batted as if they were walking on a minefield. 
I don't know what Shane Watson and Vernon Philander consumed before bowling, but I would seriously consider that they are tested after the match.
But headlines like 'Maniac Day' and 'Gods Must be Crazy' defined what the day at Cape Town was about.
There was nothing wrong with the wicket. It was a second day wicket, though someone may raise issues after the match ends.
Thankfully, the day of collapse was on November 10, so there are no 11.11.11 jokes floating around.
South Africa look as if they're going to win this one. Smith and Amla were playing beautifully at the end of the day, but you can never tell with Australia.
It's a pity that it's a two-match series.
And that is, as tweeters would say, an #EpicFail.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maybe The PCB needs to rethink its outlook

I wrote a piece that was published in Check it out and comment:

The verdict on the spot fixing scandal has been good for the game. For the first time, banning a player has become secondary and imprisoning those guilty will wake those who think that they could get away from fixing matches.
Having said that, you have to feel for a player representing Pakistan. Pakistani society is divided into the very rich and the very poor. Imran Khan was the last Pakistani cricketer to have had a foreign degree. The average Pakistani player is a very talented kid, who can destroy a bowling attack or can dismantle the opposition with genuinely quick bowling. There is no formal education given to these kids. It’s only about cricket, as it is their only bread and butter.
Harsha Bhogle tweeted yesterday about the importance of education for a cricketer. He elaborated on how most of these cricketers don’t know how to deal with fame and glory once they play for Pakistan. When you read his biography on Mohammad Azharuddin, you know what he means. Azharuddin was banned by the ICC from playing any international cricket because of his alleged involvement with bookmakers and fixing matches. Azhar grew up in Hyderabad in a lower middle-class family and became one of the best players in the world. However, in his biography, Bhogle cites how Azhar loved living a lavish life. Azhar’s defence was that he never had these luxuries as a child, so he was making full use of the money he was making.
A similar tale can be said about the Pakistani cricketers. They’re young. And when you’re young, you’re rash. You think you know everything and think that you can get away with murder because you have the reach and the money. Unfortunately, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir never knew that this decision would go against them. Now with investigations continuing, we don’t know whose name will crop up.
Here’s where the PCB needs to start focusing on its players and not treating them poorly. They should give them more sponsorship deals and endorsements, so that they earn extra money apart from the money they make from playing international cricket. These sponsorships should be such that even if a player is offered to throw away a match, he should turn around and say he makes enough money from cricket and endorsements. This is where the BCCI has managed to ensure that its players do not throw away a match. It’s simple economics: if an Indian player is found guilty, the losses he makes from losing everything – endorsements, match fees and IPL deals – is far greater than what they will make from fixing a match.
Maybe the ICC needs to talk to the PCB. Maybe the PCB needs to act. Maybe this will change the way cricket is played.
Unfortunately till then, it will only be a maybe.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This Ranji Trophy, focus on the player and not the team

I wrote this piece on the Ranji trophy for 
Here it is on the blog

The Indian Domestic Season is here again. It’s ironic that it has to be called a season, given that the players are playing cricket all through the year. If it’s not an international match, then it’s an IPL game or an India Red Vs India Blue Game. The bottom line is that our cricketers – international or domestic – are always playing cricket. So using the word ‘season’ does not seem appropriate.
This year, the Ranji Trophy will be a test for several cricketers. Until last year, however, and unfortunately, it was not. The reason was simple. Selection procedure was based on a cricketer’s IPL performance. It was no longer based on a domestic tournament performance. RP Singh is living example of this. A talented bowler, RP created headlines for his performance in the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa. He also impressed in England in the 2008 series under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy. He had a five-wicket haul in a game against Pakistan in a test match in India. And then, he disappeared and played only IPL matches. He was selected for the tour of England, following Zaheer Khan’s injury, thanks to his IPL performance. Selectors failed to ignore that he had a poor 2010 Ranji season, but persisted with him. He looked out of sorts and unfit during the third test match. And although he managed to take a few wickets in the ODIs, he went for a lot of runs.
Thankfully, the Indian media has realized this and thanks to international experts, which include former cricketers, are realizing that players who wish to play cricket at the highest level should be selected on basis of their endurance in local domestic tournaments that are played over a period of 3-5 days. This is why someone like Harbhajan Singh will have a lot to prove to justify his selection, even though he is the current leading wicket taker in the world, who is still playing.
The Ranji Trophy begins this November. The competition will be intense. Players will want to prove their mettle and earn a place in the test side. Furthermore, the selectors will be keenly observing players who will replace Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman after they retire. They have Kohli currently. Players like Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, will have to slog it out to earn their place. Having said that, it’s not going to be easy for Kohli either. He  didn’t impress in the test series against West Indies, so he will have a lot to prove as well.
This Ranji tournament will not be about the teams. It will be about the players grafting their way to play for India. And the player has to realize that before it is too late.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

R.I.P Tiger

Today when I read a news piece on Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi's lung infection, I thought that I would write a piece after he passed away.
I returned home to see a newsflash of his death.
I've never seen him play. I've only heard tales. Cricket fans know that he batted with one eye, as the other was lost in a car accident. I know that he was then the world's youngest captain (at 21), after Nari Contractor's skull was fractured. I also know that he was the first Indian captain to win a series abroad in New Zealand. I know that he married Sharmila Tagore. I know that he is the father of Saif and Soha Ali Khan. Unfortunately, most people will know him only as Saif and Soha's father.
When I think of how little I know of him as a player, I feel weird. I pride myself for the cricket knowledge that I possess, but when it comes to the Tiger, I know nothing. But then, when I think about it, Pataudi hated the spotlight. He was never caught in a controversy, unless of course you want to talk about his marrying outside the religion. But Sharmila Tagore and he have looked very much in love now like they did then.
While watching his obituary, I saw Kris Srikkanth say that Pataudi was his boyhood hero. Harsha Bhogle choked on television and the cricket world is mourning.
Unfortunately, YouTube has no videos of his batting, so unless I have archived footage of the Indian side in 1969, I'll never know.
Until then, I'll just have to live with the knowledge that I have.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

BCCI blues...

The last time India did so badly in an away series was in 1999 when they went to Australia. They did slightly better over there, as they won one international game against Pakistan. In this series, the only victory was during the practice matches.
What went wrong for India? After all, they are the World Champions. They had not lost a single series ever since MS Dhoni became captain. They had a great ODI record before this series, but somewhere down the line, they lost the plot.
People have blamed the IPL and the fact that too much cricket is being played. Since the beginning of 2011, India has played South Africa, the World Cup, the IPL, the West Indies and England. After this, there is the Champions' League, a home series against the West Indies, a home series against England and then a series against Australia in Australia.
Overworked: Don't be surprised if
Dhoni decides to retire in 2 years
We can all blame the IPL. I've blamed it for the longest time. I hated the concept from the first year itself and the second year sealed the deal for me when Lalit Modi thought that the IPL needed more security than the Union Elections. But I won't blame it entirely.
We have a board that wants money.  The BCCI is the richest board in the world. It believes that because it has the money, it is bigger than the game. It refuses to associate itself with the government of India. It refuses to be questioned under the RTI. Other sports in India are accountable. Why not cricket?
The answer is a simple one, actually. It's always been the sad tale of Indian cricket. You have ministers lobbying for top cricket posts. Ironically, cricketers who are ministers, don't have much to say, but be experts on news panels. Navjot Singh Sidhu is a so-called expert. Nobody knows what Kirti Azad is up to and Mohammad Azharuddin was part of the Badminton Association of India. On the other hand, we have had the late Madhavrao Scindia, Arun Jaitley, Sharad Pawar and now Vilasrao Deshmukh as part of the BCCI think-tank - with Pawar taking a jump up to be the head the ICC.
Where does the player stand a chance? He unfortunately is a puppet in a larger scheme of things. We can make fun of our cricketers and write articles ridiculing their performance. They are to blame as well. Most of them are out of shape, others take their place in the side for granted and sadly, the selection has become a political one. To put it in perspective, people have told me that Suresh Raina, an extremely talented cricketer and a great ODI prospect is in the side because "he is dating Praful Patel's daughter." Similarly, "Yuvraj and Harbhajan are in the side because they are favourites of the captain and someone high up."
Furthermore, India doesn't have a player's association. This isn't good for a player, as his chances of burning out are a lot higher, given the amount of cricket he plays every year. IPL performances are viewed as better performances as compared to Ranji performance, as RP Singh's selection showed us.
Indian cricket has always been in this zone. The fact that we became the number one test side in the world shadowed this truth, but now after the loss against England, there will be a lot of questions asked. Hopefully for the Indian fan, there will be a comeback.
Unfortunately, I feel that the fan will be disappointed.