Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Greg Chappell, lies and cover-ups

When will it ever end? These rabid comments by that abject failure of a coach, Greg Chappell, is what I am referring to. In his latest salvo, Chappell has said that he was the victim of a racist attack. The former failed coach has also said in an under-arm, oops! Sorry, below the belt attack that the BCCI had suppressed the whole story by the BCCI where the media was led to believe that it was a push in the back. Saint Greg has also said that the attack wasn’t on any Indian cricket player and he wasn’t a selector (who kept players out), so the attack can be deemed to be racist.

What a liar! Of the many things that we are proud of in India, one of them is that we have a free press. Sitting at our homes, we got the news that Greg Chappell was ATTACKED by a lunatic because the latter felt that Chappell kept out players from his state. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, was happy with what happened to Greg Chappell. And the Indian media is not stupid or foolish to swallow whatever the BCCI feeds it. The lunatic is cooling his heels in prison now.

Coming back to Chappell, does he forget the way his middle-finger salute at Calcutta was tried to be covered up by the media manager of the BCCI? Nobody in the media fell for the futile attempt for a cover-up when the manager said ‘Chappell had injured his finger during the team’s practice and was showing it to a team-mate’. The same BCCI that Chappell accuses tried to cover-up in vain for a stupid act by the coach of the national team. He should have been thrown out of the job then and there.

There were so many more instances of the BCCI trying to cover-up for Chappell. Two of them come to mind straight away: 1) When Chappell said that the parliamentarians were paid to hurl accusations at the coach because the team was losing; 2) When he said that Sourav Ganguly was the captain because it was important to his finances. As the recent past would show, when the Indian ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, called the parliamentarians headless chickens, he landed in a soup. Chappell went scot-free despite hurling these baseless accusations, he was saved by the same BCCI that he accuses today. In both the aforesaid cases the BCCI tried to cover up and the media reported the cover-ups with smirks and sarcasm.

If the victim Greg Chappell is so disheartened by this nation of racists, why is it that he has come back to this country? Why has he landed himself a job with Rajasthan Cricket Academy? The person who gave him this job is Lalit Modi, the Vice-President of BCCI. Why is he employed with somebody party to a cover-up? Whatever documentary Chappell comes out with, he needs to realize that he was an abject failure as a coach and he conducted himself miserably. And one is so prone to hearing lies from this person, that it is hard to believe that he is speaking the truth this time around.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The soap opera of appointments and rejections in Indian Cricket

When the news of Anil Kumble being appointed captain came in, it seemed like this old warrior has been given his due and has been given it very late in his career. There are two things that make one a little uneasy about this decision; firstly, that he has been given the job for three tests only against Pakistan and, secondly, Kumble was given this responsibility only after Sachin Tendulkar refused.

It is never easy to produce miracles in 3 matches. The last thing a national team needs is instability at the top. India does not have a coach and if one does not know who will captain the team against the best team in the world, it does not augur well for a national team. Yes, there have been reports, and Kumble has himself said in an interview that he thinks that he is not a stop-gap captain, but the plain fact is that Anil Kumble has been appointed for 3 test matches only. One does not know if Jumbo has been informally told that the appointment is till the Springboks visit India, but if he has been(that is what some media reports claim) why couldn’t the selectors and the board make it official that he is the skipper for three full series and not just three tests?

Very few things that the selectors and the board have done have been right. I just simply cannot understand these short term announcements. Appoint teams for 2 games, appoint captains for 3 tests or one series. It would be a jolly good idea to appoint selectors for 2 games and based on the performance of the selected players the selectors’ would be retained. I know that it is a preposterous idea, but that is the very same theory that the selectors seem to be following as far as team selection goes. And I do not understand why the selectors give in to media rhetoric.

Each and every time the team is about to be selected, and that is almost thrice a month these days, one wonders about what would the future of the senior batsmen be. But our batting does not seem to be the problem and certainly not the three seniors that have been targeted, but the bowlers. To elucidate, if one were to look at the Australia series and this series against Pakistan, whenever India has bowled 50 overs, they have conceded runs at the rate of 8.83 in the last 10 overs. That has usually been the difference in winning and losing. If the opposing team scores close to ninety runs in the last ten, it leaves the batsmen with a mountain to climb while chasing or it becomes extremely difficult to defend what the batsmen have put up.

Does this small fact not irk the selectors? Especially when we have a bowling coach? Somehow, the media is obsessed with big names. The selectors have needlessly fallen prey to the rhetoric. They have dropped Rahul Dravid needlessly just because he did not fare well against Australia (he has scored 823 runs at 37.4 in 31 ODIs in 2007). The other two batsmen that are being placed under needless scrutiny are Sachin Tendulkar (who has scored 1298 runs in 31 ODIs in 2007 at an average of 46.35) and Sourav Ganguly (who has scored 1235 runs in 31 ODIs at 45.74). The two Indian openers are numbers 2 and 3 in the highest scorers’ list in 2007. And in the top 10 run getters of 2007 there are 4 Indians and three of them in the top 4. The problem is clearly not our batting.

But then the selectors have only been giving in to rhetoric. They are trying to fix something that isn’t broken. And the thing that is mutilated is not been looked into at all. There are 3 things that need to be fixed in Indian cricket. 1) Give the captain a long rope; 2) Don’t touch the batting till the South Africa series gets over and fix the bowling quickly; 3) Get the board mandarins and the selectors to shut up and work for Indian cricket, and not try their best to give the media stories, get their faces on the tele and their columns in the papers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kimi Raikkonen was the only deserving winner. Not Lewis Hamilton, nor Fernando Alonso

Everbody has said, and quite rightly, that Kimi Raikkonen is the deserving world champion in 2007. I totally agree. Where I disagree entirely is when one says Lewis Hamilton would have been an equally deserving world champion. Kimi did not only have to fight Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, he also had to fight the FIA that looked like it was trying its best to ensure that Hamilton wins. Let me explain in greater detail.

Cast your minds back to the European GP. Hamilton beached his car in the rains. He was crane-lifted back on to the track so that he could resume racing and score some points. This was absolutely uncalled for. Did this not seem to be some sort of favouritism in favour of the new-comer?

Let’s move to Monza now, the Italian GP. He overtakes Felipe Massa on Lap 1, turn 1 by cutting the chicane. But the stewards and the FIA decide to look the other way. Had any other driver cut chicanes they would have been put under scrutiny, but with Hamilton it seemed like Caesar’s wife is beyond suspicion. He can do whatever he wants on a race-track.

More recently, at Interlagos, during the first free-practice session. Hamilton, Honda's Jenson Button, and Super Aguri's Takuma Sato were deemed to have used two sets of wet weather tyres during the first free practice session at Interlagos, in breach of the Sporting Regulations. Article 25.3 of the F1 Sporting Regulations states: "No driver may use more than one set of wet and one set of extreme weather tyres during P1 and P2." There was no grid penalty for the Golden Boy, he was fined $15,000. There was no way the FIA would ruin his chances of winning the championship. Moral of the story? If you want to break the rules, break them with Hamilton to ensure no penalties.

Now, for the Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton comes up with a beautiful and novel way of keeping his tyres warm. He might not have done it intentionally, but he did something that could have ruined some other drivers’ race. It was a mistake for which he should have been penalized. After all, other drivers have been penalized for making the same mistake. But no penalties for Hamilton.

How would this person have been a deserving world champion? Another big reason why neither Hamilton, nor Alonso should have been allowed to compete for the world drivers’ championship was that they both gained unfair advantage over the other drivers because of what McLaren was involved in. Because McLaren cheated for an advantage, they were docked off all the constructors’ points. Why not the drivers too? If I were to use this yardstick in cricket, this thing’s equivalent would have been had the South African players been allowed to play international cricket for their individual records when the country had been banned from cricket due to apartheid.

It is poetic justice that the deserving driver, Kimi Raikkonen won the championship. And it is poetic justice that Ferrari won the constructors’ championship. They would have won it even if McLaren would have been allowed to compete. Let me explain how. Ferrari got 204 points (Kimi 110 + Massa 94) and McLaren would have had 203 points. Hamilton 109 + Alonso 109 = 218; minus the 15 points that were stripped off McLaren for the Hungarian GP qualifying fiasco, that would bring McLaren’s score at 203 after the Brazilian GP, one point lesser than Ferrari.

The only deserving team and the only deserving driver won the titles. Neither McLaren, nor Lewis Hamilton, nor Fernando Alonso deserved anything this season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Racism in cricket, replacing the oldies, being aggressive: Indian cricket has questions but no answers

The one-day series between India and Australia is throwing up more questions than answers. The problem is that the questions that have been thrown up do not seem to have answers. Let me try and list the questions down.

1) Have the Indian media and fans realized that T20 is a different form of cricket than ODIs?

2) Have the young Indian cricketers understood that aggression does not mean snarling without substance and that the definition of an aggressive cricketer is not that of one with most theatric stunts?

3) Do some people know what racist taunts are?

Let me try to answer, rather introspect, these questions. A successful team in an abbreviated form of the game’s tournament is not the panacea for what ails Indian cricket. None of the T20 stars, and I mean NOBODY, has the wherewithal to challenge the place of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, for their places in the side. Apart from these two players, only Yuvraj Singh has scored 1,000 runs in 2007. So till some young players perform, let us stop speculating about the oldies’ future. If one were to look at recent performance, forget past records, these two cannot be touched. The ample proof came twice in this series. In the 4th ODI India won because these 2 put up 91, and in the 6th ODI, till these two were going it looked like India would chase down 318. On current form, there are only two match-winners for India in ODIs and both are in the autumn of their careers, if not winter.

The second question has bemused me more than other questions. Sachin Tendulkar is among the most aggressive players I have ever seen. And never have I seen him open his trap to talk needlessly to the other players. And that, despite having a record and performances to boast of. By acting like a bunch of theatrical drunks, and not backing it up with solid performances, is making the likes of S. Sreesanth look stupid. The person Sreesanth has picked on has responded in the most brilliant way. By performing. Andrew Symonds has been a joy to watch for a cricket lover. The prancing up and down idiotically only makes Sreesanth look like he is imitating a monkey.

Oops!! Oops!! Did I say ‘monkey’? Is that racism? Hell no! And that brings me down to the third point. If the crowds at Vadodra did indeed call Symonds a monkey, they were being blatantly stupid, but not racist. Either-ways, such people do not deserve to watch this noble game. But I must say, these people are neither cricket lovers, nor racists. I can say with a lot of conviction that monkey is not a racist remark in India. We, in India, worship the monkey-god Hanuman. The life-form that we worship cannot be a racist slur. This is a clear case of making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Looking at the form Symonds has had, be probably has had a divine hand that is making this wonderfully aggressive cricketer smash bowlers like seldom before. So, just lay it off. ICC, sections of the media, some of the cricketers.

India is in for a tough series against Pakistan in a month. And then, off to Australia. Thankfully, India can thank its lucky stars that it still has a few players who could make a match out of a few of the duels that would be played out. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and one Very Very Special player. The joke is that these people are the oldies who some sections of the media feel should give way to the likes of Suresh Raina, S. Badrinath, Venugoopal Rao, Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir. Well, I did say in the very beginning, that there are questions but there are no answers.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Replacing Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid

I hope all and sundry would have now realized that T20 was a different format altogether. That is a format that relies heavily on talent and that was the reason why India and Pakistan, the two most talented teams in world cricket made the finals. The moment the game lengthens, apart from talent, temperament comes to the fore. That is one area where we are lagging behind by a long shot.

After the first two ODIs, the question of playing Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid has come to the fore yet again. It’s a clear case of not being able to plan well for a series as big as this. A good example would be to look at the opponents India is playing. Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting aren’t exactly spring chickens. They seem to be perfectly fitting into a side. That is because there is a clear plan. And players like Michael Clarke seem ready to take over from them after they have left.

The reason they can is because they have the weight of runs behind them. Not just on the account of being young or having performed well in a T20 world cup. India had just the right people to succeed the big three. Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif were doing well. Today we have Sehwag out of the team and Kaif out of the selectors’ minds. Yuvraj had a good 2006, so looks like the only certainty.

One reads reports and sees some ex-cricketers on the tele making it seem as if it’s the fault of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid that they youngsters are not being allowed into the team. It is quite the opposite. Just because the likes of Suresh Raina and Venugopal Rao fell flat on their faces did the old brigade walk back in, and stayed put as they were performing. One needs to turn the clock back to 1996 when two youngsters announced their arrival. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. They did not have a pig-headed coach backing them to keep out some players and neither did they have a chairman of selectors subservient to the coach. They walked into the team on the account of their performances and consistency only. They did not knock on the doors; they smashed the doors and made India not miss the likes of Mohammed Azharuddin, Navjot Sidhu, Ajay Jadeja etc.

The current crop of Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir need to do the same. A 40 odd score in the odd match is not really enough. They need to do well consistently, as the older brigade had done when they were young. They did not have the country’s media pushing their case, quite the opposite, actually. They need to look at Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He smashed the door and made the India cap his own when there were Parthiv Patel and Ajay Ratra, as young as him if not younger, in the reckoning. The yardstick for team selection needs to be performance alone.

Turn the clock back to the just concluded series against England. India won all 3 ODIs where the old firm scored 100+ for the first wicket. The top 5 scorers for the series had Ian Bell leading, followed by Sachin, Yuvraj, Paul Collingwood and Sourav Ganguly. Tendulkar scored 4 fifties and Ganguly scored 3 of them. It is true that we need young players, but what is more important is that we need young players capable of replacing these performers.

Appointing a young captain is not the panacea that India needs to win the 2011 world cup. India needs to have a pool of 20 cricketers who can call the place rightfully theirs. And the best way to groom them is by making them push out the big three on weight of their performances alone, and not because they are all turning 35 next year. That would prove the temperament of the young brigade. Else, the die is cast.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Timeo danaos et donna ferentes, Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is India’s skipper for ODIs now. While most of India’s press has been talking about this being a message sent out by the BCCI, that India is looking towards the future and towards the youth, I am not so sure if that is the case. I agree that this is perhaps a move in the right direction, but it seems to be a tad premature and the tenure seems to leave some important questions unanswered. Let me try and explain my predicament.

Preparing for the 2011 world cup from now seems to be the right thing to do. For winning that world cup, planning needs to be done now. But it does not seem to be planned in the right way. To win the 2011 world cup India needs a team. A TEAM. A captain is part of the team. The board first needs to identify 15 players who will be capable of winning consistently. The decision of selecting a captain who is likely to be around till 2011 is more symbolic than strategically thought out.

That is why the ‘sources in the board’ (that damned phrase again) have been hinting from behind the curtains that the holy trinity of Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar need to think of their ODI future. Nobody from the board has come out in the open and said that they will replace them by April 2008, however good their form is, as they will not be around to form the nucleus of the side in 2011. ‘Senior board officials’ have only been giving veiled sound bytes to try to look as if they are trying to do something.

One might be temped to tell Dhoni, ‘Timeo danaos et donna ferentes’. While the appointment has been made keeping the youth in mind, the youth has been given just 12 ODIs to prove his mettle as captain against two very competitive sides, one of them being the world champions for 10 years. This is certainly not looking towards the future. One needed a 1 year appointment, at the least. Another reason why Dhoni has been given a raw deal is that the 3-year veteran would be leading a side with probably no coach against two very strong teams. If MSD proves himself in these two tough series, it will be against the odds.

The board first needs to put a succession plan in place. They need to say that they will ease out the holy trinity that forms the nucleus of this side, in the next 18 months. They need to put up 15 players who will ensure that these players are not missed, and by that I mean that the 15 should be able to consistently win matches for India. That is the only way one shall not miss these three great players with 37,000 ODI runs between them. Out of those 15 players India needs the best man to lead the side. If it emerges that Dhoni is the person most capable of doing it, so be it.

This was the best chance to put somebody like a Ganguly at the helm. He should have been given a clear mandate to build a team and groom 2 people as successors. Irrespective of the results, Ganguly should have been given tenure for 18 months. Even if India would have won every series, he would have had to step down as captain at the end of it as his job would be to make a team that can compete for another 4years after that. Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and even Dhoni were players that came into the reckoning and made their marks under Ganguly. He has a proven track record and he should have been asked to build a team, especially in the absence of a coach.

People might argue that this would be taking a step down. Well, I agree. But it is necessary. Just like the hill-climbing approach, there should be provision for downward movement to be able to reach the peak. Dravid said that the shelf-life of a captain is becoming smaller. And he was captain for 2 years. Dhoni will have to be in the hot seat for 4 years till the 2007 world cup. Would it serve India’s purpose if there were to be another skipper in 2010, a year before the big tournament?

India needs to clearly chalk out succession plans and build a new team, and give timelines by when it would be achieved. The appointment of somebody with 3 years’ experience is not reason enough to bring out the champagne and celebrate the board’s forward way of thinking. They first need to appoint a good coach and build a good team. If one has a good team, an average captain can look great, but a bad team can even make the best of captains look pedestrian. Dhoni’s appointment will fall flat on the face unless a good side is created.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Carry on, Murali. Let the whining Bedi keep howling

Is it not extremely unfair to call a bowler a cheat after he has taken over 700 test wickets? Bishen Bedi’s continuous, unprovoked outbursts against this genius called Muttiah Muralitharan is not only unfair, it is also uncalled-for. The perennial whiner, Bedi, has not been able to see anything great in his achievements. Murali has so unfairly been labeled a javelin thrower, a shot-putter by the jealous whiner. I fail to understand what does Bedi have against Murali? Is he jealous that he was never as feared in his heydays as Murali is feared now? Or is he jealous for the fact that Murali might end up with a thousand test scalps as compared to his 266?

As things stand, the ICC has cleared Murali. End of story. However inept and incompetent the ICC is, it is still the governing body of world cricket. They have given Murali the clean chit. The first problem was that Murali was examined by the ICC after he had taken over 200 wickets. And he had not taken these wickets in a clandestine manner; he had done so in front of cricket lovers all over the world and with TV cameras broadcasting every frame of his bowling action. If Murali was indeed a chucker, why was he first reported 3 years after he started playing? Wasn’t something wrong somewhere?

He underwent a trial by fire, in front of the world’s prying eyes, and came out clean. He was allowed to bowl by the powers-that-be and how well has he bowled since then. Some may indeed argue that the rules were bent to accommodate his bent arm. But the fact that these critics omit is that when a test was done on all the international bowlers, it transpired that there was some degree of flex in each and every bowler. Even a bowler with such a classic action, Glenn McGrath, was found to be flexing his elbow. That was visible only on ultra-motion cameras and not the naked eye. If we, just for the sake of argument, agree for a minute that Murali is a javelin thrower, I put a question to everybody: How many bowlers would be able to bowl like a genius even with a 25 degree flex?

It is proven that Murali has a physically deformed elbow, and cannot straighten it. It is not a crime to bowl with a bent arm, it is within the laws of the game. The problem arises if one straightens the bent arm at the moment of the release of the ball. Bishen Bedi is probably not conversant with the laws of the game. Fine, the laws are made and carried out by ICC, but that is still the governing body of world cricket.

Coming back to Bedi, none of his comments are ever constructive. He comes out with this needless drivel from time to time. Never ever has he said anything positive about anybody. Possibly to be noticed and offered the role of an expert in the many news channels in India. It is a shame that a person like Bedi, like Sarfaraz Nawaz in Pakistan, is taken seriously by sections of the media. After keeping quiet for all these years Murali has filed a case against him. About time, I must say.

Muralitharan is a genius. He is an exemplary example of what a cricketer should be like. Whatever controversies he has been surrounded with, are not his own creation. He has conducted himself beautifully over these years. There is no doubt in my mind that he deserves to retire as the highest wicket-taker in the world. Ahead of Shane Warne, the other spin genius. The reason he deserves this place is because Murali did not do any of the wrongs that Warne did off the field. And Murali, for sure, has conducted himself gracefully against a petty and frustrated former cricketer called Bishen Singh Bedi.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sachin Tendulkar: The heart wants you to go on, but...

It has become a little distressing. After almost every big series that India plays, and also during the series, one question invariably pops up: “Are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman already well past their sell-by date?”. The distressing part is that while this question has been asked very often, one does not have an answer to the same. The more the fans of Indian cricket think about this, they more they shuffle uncomfortably. Probably, our heart says one thing and our head says another. The one person that has really made us most uncomfortable is Sachin Tendulkar, more than Rahul, VVS and Sourav. The main reason for that is not because he has been the mainstay for Indian batting for nearly 2 decades, not because he has been at one time the best batsman in the world. Let me try and explain, dear reader, why.

As per the census conducted in 2001, the average age of Indians is 24.8 years. And how many years has Sachin been playing for? 18!! This is the reason why we get so uncomfortable, because we have a huge population that has grown up with a certain Tendulkar being an integral part for 80% of our lives. We may have never thought of the same but it is true. Sachin has been part of our childhood. Very few things have been common thru childhood, teens, adolescence and adulthood for most of us. And one of them is Sachin.

Sachin started playing when I was nine. My friends and I would watch, on TV, a fantastic batsman playing and then walk out to the grounds wanting to play like him. We have grown up from then on. We have moved on to different careers because we were never good enough to play cricket at higher levels, but each one of us still want to walk out to bat like him. That is why when we watch Sachin play now there isn’t one but 2 of us watching him simultaneously. One being the working adult that cerebrally analyses the pale shadow of a world beater and wishes that he either shapes up or ships out soon. The second being the child in us, gratified by the countless moments of joy this champion batsman has given, disagreeing with the head and wanting him to play like the young Tendulkar. We really need to ask ourselves this question: are we wishing for the young Sachin, or are we striving for some wonderful moments of our childhood?

Past series have shown that SRT is not likely to regain the form of 1995-2002. Those days of glory might never come. Do we really wish to see a champion become an also-ran? It is true that we haven’t seen anybody who can take his place. Frankly, nobody can. But he needs to be replaced, sooner rather than later. People had this apprehension when Kapil Dev was about to end his career, India’s first world-class fast bowler. True, we have not had another like him, but post his retirement we have had a line of good, competitive pacers. Srinath, Prasad, Zaheer, Sreesanth, Pathan, Munaf etc. Maybe the floodgates will open once the big three call it quits.

The problem is that around 5 top performers will leave the stage together and Indian cricket would then face a crisis that might last a few years. Replacing 5 champions is never easy. But, for the betterment of Indian cricket, it needs to be done. While all of us are grateful to these great servants of Indian cricket, we all switch on our TV sets to see India win. A Sachin duck and an India win is a lot more acceptable than a 100 for Sachin but an Indian loss. I think it’s time the fans of Indian cricket tell themselves that the end of the greats is here, and the greatest batsman India has produced is also in the winter of his cricketing career.

If Tendulkar walks out and scintillates again, a childhood would be vindicated. I hope that day comes soon, as the noises in our heads are getting louder. I think even Sachin Tendulkar would know that he has been a very important part of the ‘Wonder Years’ of most Indians. That is something nobody can take away from him. I hope he makes 2007 memorable as well. If not, we shall have no complaints. This warrior can walk away into the sunset, ending the most glorious career ever. A new generation shall then look for another hero from 2008. But what he should now know is that most Indians living now shall go to their graves with memories of SRT of 1989-2002, grateful for having grown up watching the best that ever was.

Friday, July 13, 2007

ICL Vs BCCI: Mountain out of a molehill

BCCI and ICL! This is turning out as a long-drawn soap opera. The underlying factor here is that every party involved is taking oneself and the other way too seriously. What is funny is the fact that the BCCI and ICL are trying to tell the world that each is doing things for the betterment of the game. Even Kapil Dev is trying to deceive the world at large by saying that nobody can stop him from doing a great service to the game. This statement is far from the truth.

It is extremely clear that Kapil Dev has joined ICL to make money. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Almost all of us are looking at making money and we move on to more lucrative and better prospects. Kapil Dev has every right to do so. I couldn’t fathom why he was talking rubbish earlier by saying that he had joined ICL for the betterment of the game, create a pool of players to represent India, so on and so forth. He has now come out and said that he has a right to look at greener pastures. That is the very fact. Most of the ex-cricketers look at commentary and at being experts in the TV studios, not to give back to the game what they got from it (and that is the usual self-righteous drivel they dish out), but to make money. Why would they want to feel shy admitting to that fact? Some would also love to be cricket coach of India, but would not coach state teams.

Coming back to ICL, I fail to see how and why BCCI should feel threatened by it. They are planning 20-20, for starters. It will comprise of a pool of retired cricketers and others who haven’t worn their national caps. Would you or I want to watch too many matches involving have been cricketers and might-be-one-day cricketers? Your guess is as good as mine. In case they are dishing out quality cricket, and quality players, the BCCI would do well to take them into the India 20-20 side or the ODI side.

There are a few things about this new league that I am not sure about.

1) What are the chances that a young cricketer would want to turn out for ICL and not for their state Ranji sides? Every promising cricketer dreams of wearing the India cap, and that is not something that ICL can do.
2) Would we get quality cricket at ICL? I mean, it would contain players past their prime who cannot make it to their national sides, or young players that do not have the capability yet of making it to their national sides. The thing with Kerry Packer was different. He managed to draw players who were playing in their national sides, if I remember correctly.
3) How can a 20-20 tourney make test cricketers? I am not even sure if it would create a talent pool of ODI cricketers. They are entirely different forms of cricket and Ranji trophy, organized by the BCCI, is the right breeding ground. To think that a 20-20 specialist is a prospect for test cricket is like saying that a pool player will play the billiards world championship. It is theoretically possible, but is practically highly unlikely.
4) Would any current India cricketer want to turn out for the ICL? I mean, Harbhajan, Pathan and Sehwag have been dropped but would they ever consider playing for ICL? They would rather concentrate on getting back to the regular Indian side.

This is why I feel that the ICL is taking itself too seriously and even the BCCI is taking the ICL too seriously. Well, one thing is definitely likely that the ICL would be better managed the BCCI. That is why we see Niranjan Shah shooting off letters on BCCI’s behalf, the BCCI asking their associations not to ally with the ICL. This stems out of its own lack of self-belief. I guess the BCCI knows that it is incompetent and has a long way to go in order to run the game properly, and the ICL might expose BCCI completely. But at the end of the day, the players want to represent India in recognized internationals. And the viewers want to see the India flag. The viewers want to see the current international stars meet in the stadium and fight it out.

That is why I feel that Kapil and team are taking themselves, ICL, too seriously and the BCCI is also doing the same. The ICL is creating entertainment. Let them not propound the fact that they are doing it for the good of the game. And the lesser we say about the BCCI, the better. It has succeeded in making a mountain out of a molehill. They have no right to try and remain the sole custodian of cricket in India. Let them see how the events pan out. We shall be watching for sure. We shall be waiting to see if at all a Sachin, Sourav, Dravid or Kumble will every play in the ICL. Let’s see Kapil and More and team earn some extra money. Oh! Sorry. Let’s see Kapil and More do supreme sacrifices for the betterment of cricket. This soap-opera has just started. Its not going to end soon.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sania Mirza: The most eulogized loser

I opened the newspaper this morning and turned straight to the sports page. I needed to know what’s happening at Wimbledon. I read two bits of news, both were predictable. Rafael Nadal won his match in a grueling 5-setter; and Sania Mirza lost – again. This time she bowed out of the mixed doubles in the second round, and she drowned with Mahesh Bhupathi. Yes, the same person who had won mixed doubles titles at various Grand Slams with other parthers.

I do not understand India’s obsession with Sania Mirza. Yes, when she broke thru for the first time, it was really commendable. The first woman from India to make it good at tennis tournaments. Yes, she broke into the players ranked in 30’s. But what happened after that? I am not an expert on tennis, but I can safely say that she has made little, if any, progress as far as her tennis goes. She has been slipping in rankings, she has not progressed beyond the fourth round in any Grand Slam, yet she gets adulation in India.

Why don’t we look at Wimbledon this year itself? She lost in the second round in singles, and mixed doubles. She lost in the women’s doubles also in the 3rd round. Sania’s performance at French Open and the Australian Open was also nothing to write home about. So why it is that she is the recipient of so much adulation?

I know people would jump for my throat for whatever I am going to say next, but I need to say it anyways. I might even be called sexist, which I am not, I am saying things as I am seeing them. Sania Mirza’s breakthrough to the world of tennis was commendable. After a few glimpses of promise many moons back, she has faded away. But she has been marketed well. The endorsements that she gets in India, the needless columns that she writes, is more because she is a product now and not a player. Why don’t the press flock to Paes and Bhupathi? They are the champions in the true sense. They have won innumerable slams and look good for winning a few more. But their achievements appear in the Indian media as footnotes after the main tennis news that Mirza has lost again.

Why is there this big thing about celebrating mediocrity? Sania Mirza is, at best, a mediocre tennis player. A player who has not progressed beyond the 4th round of a slam does not deserve any mention unless s/he really does something commendable. And a loss in the second round of a slam isn’t a commendable thing. I know, I know. People will pop-up the questions about cricketers asking, why do the cricketers who lose in the first round of the World Cup get so much adulation then.

Three reasons, really. 1) When the cricketers step out on to that field, they play for India. Sania Mirza walks out as Mirza. 2) This cricket team is capable of winning tournaments and beating the best in business. Mirza is not capable of the same, as far as current form goes. 3) The Tenduklars, Gangulys, Dravids and Kumbles are world class players on merit. Mirza is not. How many, if any, top 10 players has she beaten in her career? The fact that India’s first round exit in the cricket world cup was a shock is ample proof that we expect so much more from this team. Sania crashed out in the first round of the French Open, and I am sure that our reaction was –“ho, hum!! What more do you expect?”. The Indian team had the capability to bounce back and beat South Africa. But Sania, well, she talks and talks and loses by round 2 at Wimbledon.

I wish that the press does a better job of covering tennis. Please give us more news about the real champions, Paes and Bhupathi. Not only have they won many tournaments, and look like winning more, they have also played some wonderful tennis at the Davis Cup, particularly Leander Paes, and played for India with pride and distinction. Paes has won us an Olympic medal and the Lea-Hesh combo has just also won us the Asian Games Gold medal. They have beaten the best in business, be it the Woodies or anybody else. Now, they play with other partners but still are capable enough of winning, and have been winning slams.

I hope we hear a lot more about them and their progress. I really hope Sania matches up to whatever these two big-hearted players have achieved. Till she does, could we please have news about her losses in the foot-notes? Let her win something big or at least reach the last 8 of a slam to merit space on the main page or the headlines. And lastly, a big thumbs-up to her PR and marketing people. They have done a fantastic job of glorifying a loser.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

India Vs England: Let the real games begin

I don’t know what I should do - bask in the glory of India’s win over South Africa or lament on the futility of this series?

After the World Cup debacle, India did need a series win against a tough side in order to get that belief back. It is good that the series victory came about in alien conditions against, arguably, the No.2 side in ODI cricket, albeit without Shaun Pollock. Graeme Smith not playing either was a boon, really, as he doesn’t have a great record against India. But still, India’s win was commendable, though the timing of this series does beg the question: Was it necessary?

India now take on England in what will be a tough tour. England are a very good side, especially on home turf, and particularly in Tests. Instead of needlessly playing against Bangladesh, Ireland, South Africa and Pakistan, India should have played the English counties in a few three-day warm up games. As it is, they will play only two before the Test series starts.

They should have played at least three, so that all 15 squad members would have had the chance of playing at least two full games. The current scheduling, by including Ireland and Scotland, really put India in a situation where they were struggling to put 11 fit players on the field. If this does not serve as a wake-up call to the BCCI, I don’t know what will.

Then there is this needless ODI against Pakistan, celebrating 60 years of independence. Now, this is not a celebration. This is a needless match that was planned in advance so that the BCCI, under the presidency of Sharad Pawar, could show value to those who bought the neutral venue rights for a hefty fee. There is no sense of patriotism attached to this match, and it is poetic justice that the match looks like being rained off.

Coming back to the England tour, there is yet another mystifying thing in the schedule. India play only three Tests at the home of cricket, but also an excruciating seven ODIs. This is extremely unfair. Test cricket is real cricket, and that is what the focus should be on. I am not saying that we do not need ODIs. Play a best of five, by all means. But a three-Test series means that any side losing the first Test have their backs to the wall. To win the series, they would have to win both remaining matches. Playing four Tests would have been fine, and five would have been just right. This would have been possible had the needless ODIs not been scheduled for Ireland and Scotland.

Some might argue that this series has been a shot in the arm for India. I disagree. India played and beat West Indies and Sri Lanka before the World Cup. Did that help? Even more pertinent, we are playing England at home and not South Africa. England are going to be a different side altogether, and precious little is going to come out of the South Africa series as we are playing Test cricket first. The ODI series follows later. This ODI series win is going to have no bearing in the test series against the hosts. All the ODI series in Ireland has done is ensured we do not get to see more Tests.

Again, well played Team India. The real fans always are with you, win or lose. But the BCCI are still suffering from a mental illness. This illness makes sure that the people scheduling tours look at money only, and do not give two hoots about the players, the viewers and, sadly, no thought to the fact that it’s a sport. The Afro-Asia Cup, Bangladesh series, Ireland and Scotland tours were cash cows. They are over. At least we can look forward to some real cricket now.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sanjay Dutt: Only 'Bhai', not Munna

I sit and wonder what is it that the TV news channels take us for? Are they really here to do social good, as they constantly keep proclaiming? At times I think, yes. Then incidents happen that completely change my opinion on the noble channels. Two incidents are standing out, and both involve Sanjay Dutt. The honourable court has already pronounced that Sanjay Dutt is guilty of possessing illegal arms. In short, the bollywood actor is a criminal. But the media seems to be trying so damn hard to ensure that he gets away scot-free.

The two instances that I am talking off occurred once on CNN-IBN and the next is about to appear (or has appeared, not sure because I read the transcripts on the net) on NDTV 24X7. Before the judge pronounced Sanjay Dutt guilty or not guilty in the Mumbai bomb blasts case, Karan Thapar had interviewed him on his program Devil’s Advocate. There the actor tried to build up so much sympathy for himself, talking about his dead father, about the good work he does so on and so forth. One felt that he was trying to influence the judiciary using the media. Now, I just read the transcripts of his interview with Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV. Not surprising, the interview has come about just about when the honourable court is about to hand down the sentence to Sanjay Dutt.

The actor has said the same things. ‘God is great, I love my country, I respect the court, I work for a cancer foundation’ etc., etc. Jain asked Dutt if he was favourably treated. Come on!! He is being treated extremely favourably by the media, for sure. I might even go thus far and say that the media is trying to build a sympathy wave for Sanjay Dutt. It happened when the judge was about to pronounce him guilty. The media raked up stories of him being ‘Munnabhai’, a person with a heart of gold. Are they so na├»ve that they do not realize that the on-screen persona is rarely what the person is off-screen? Some of his colleagues of Bollywood even proclaimed, and the news channels shamelessly carried the stories, that Sanjay is ACTUALLY like Munnabhai. The role that he played in the two wonderfully entertaining movies has, in some way, seeped into the real Sanjay Dutt and that Munnabhai was not a fictitious character, it was the convict.

What a sham! If real life influences a screen image and vice-versa, why can’t we look at it this way? If Sanjay Dutt was Munna, then he also was the person he portrayed in Vaastav. In fact, he is closer to his character in Vaastav. In reel life and real life, Sanjay Dutt was an errant child/person, he was a druggie, and he possessed illegal arms. Why don’t his friends draw a parallel to that Sanjay and not confine themselves to Munnabhai? And why does the media not highlight this part of Sanjay Dutt’s life, when he is about to be sentenced? If they can bring out favourable stories about this villain, they can jolly well remind the people and the courts that possessing illegal arms to use upon his own countrymen is not the only blot on this super-star’s canvas.

The minimum sentence for Sanjay Dutt’s offence is 3-years’ imprisonment and a maximum of 10 years. The person who supplied Sanjay Dutt with the AK-56, Samir Hingora, has been awarded 9-years’ rigorous imprisonment. The person who removed the rifle from Dutt’s place, Dhakla, has been awarded 10-years’ rigorous imprisonment. It will be a shame if the person who actually possessed these arms is given any less a sentence. It will be disaster if he is let-off on probation. Let’s hope that justice prevails. Unlike Manu Sharma, if Dutt is convicted then it will not be because of the media. It will be despite the media. Why was it so tough for these holier than thou channels to tell the truth, that Sanjay Dutt isn’t Munna, he is simply ‘Bhai’. Jail is the right place for him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Graham Ford snubs the BCCI: Serves them right

Yet again, the incompetent BCCI has managed to put one foot in the mouth and shoot itself in the other foot. Graham Ford saying ‘No’ has now shown how inept and incompetent the people running the board are. Everything about the selection process of the coach has been a sham and has been done extremely professionally. In fact the BCCI, in general, and this regime, in particular, should be used for case studies in business schools across the world as an example of how not to run an organization.

Ford declining the post of India coach is something that cannot be held against him, and should not be, as some voices in the press and television in India seem to suggest. One of the so-called experts has even gone on to say that ‘if Ford cannot join due to family problems why did he come to India for the interview?’. What a stupid statement to make. Everybody has a right to assess future prospects and everybody also has a right to decline an offer. Haven’t we all done it? Why can’t Ford do the same? Some sections of the press also allege that Ford has used the package that BCCI offered him to renegotiate a higher pay package at Kent. Well, good thinking, Graham Ford. Almost all of us have done the same in our lives, or will do the same at some point in our lives.

The villain of this whole piece is the BCCI. Let’s look at the way these events have panned out since the start. Dav Whatmore had indicated a willingness to coach Team India. Even before Whatmore met the committee that was supposed to appoint a coach for Team India, Niranjan Shah, the Secretary of BCCI proclaimed that the Aussie was going to be the coach of India. The unprofessional and incompetent Shah did two grossly wrong things here. He undermined the authority of the selection process and the selection committee that was supposed to appoint the coach, and he also seemed to send a message out saying that he is the last word on these matters. When Whatmore was turned down by the committee, Shah would have realized that it was not his job to appoint the coach.

The next chapter was even more ridiculous. After rejecting Whatmore, none of the BCCI mandarins even had the decency to call him up and thank him for showing interest in the coaching job. Then the BCCI decided to project Ford as the front-runner, obviously thru media leaks. Haven’t we all read the quote “sources in the BCCI”? John Embury was called in so that it looked like the committee was appointing out of various options it had. What a sham, yet again. The last chapter is the most ridiculous of the lot.

The BCCI should have known that an appointment is announced after an offer is accepted. BCCI had made the offer to Ford, but the latter had sought time to get back to the board. But, the treasurer of BCCI, N. Srinivasan, went ahead and spoke freely to the media proclaiming that Ford is the next coach. And that Ford was to get back as to “when” he would join as the coach of India. The honourable treasurer should have kept his mouth shut. Had he wanted to open it, he should have said “Ford will get back to BCCI on “IF” he would consider joining as India’s coach. And sections of the media make it sound as if Graham Ford played truant.

We now have some fantastic situations in Indian cricket. The players’ contract isn’t finalized nearly a year after the previous contract ran out. The BCCI decided on some knee-jerk reactions on player endorsements that were based more on rhetoric and less on sound judgment. The Indian cricketers have not been paid by the board since October, 2006. We have no clue as to who the next coach of India is going to be. The team selectors are dictated by the board for choosing a side. And then, the BCCI wonders why is it that the team doesn’t do well. People of the world, are you laughing or are you laughing hard? Don’t tune off from this, its going to get even more ridiculous.

P.S. The biggest joke is that there was, supposedly, going to be a clause in Ford's contract that would have barred him from speaking to the media outside pre and post match conferences. Will anybody gag these big-mouths in BCCI first?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Amitabh Bachchan - The farmer is reaping what he sowed

Well, well, well. Amitabh Bachchan is a farmer these days. I'm sure that everybody has understood what kind of fraud he has indulged in. What has left me aghast and shocked is some of the reactions I have been hearing and reading for the actor, and the premises of those reactions are, to put it mildly, silly. Let me, first, give you a list of the reactions that I have been hearing in Bachchan's favour.

1) He is not the only person who has committed a fraud. Why pick on him alone?
2) The Congress and the BSP are maligning him because; a) He has fallen apart from the Gandhis, and; b) He is close to the Samajwadi Party.
3) Just because he is a big superstar, the media is picking on the 'Oh so victimised Amitabh Bachchan'.

Let me, try and squash these silly views. Firstly, about him being not the only person committing this fraud. I agree that many politicians commit frauds of probably larger magnitude. But that does not give Amitabh Bachchan a license to do whatever he has done in Uttar Pradesh. Big B should have realised that given his stature in this country he should have shown extra caution and gone that extra mile to be on the correct side of law. He is a tax evader anyways. Now he is a land stealer too. Just because some unscrupulous politicians are doing somethings wrong, Bachchan does those misappropriations as well. Is he so naive at 60+? Probably his closeness with Amar Singh is showing. I don't know which fraud is affecting the other.

Now for the second point. The Congress and the BSP could not have touched Bachchan had he been on the correct side of the law. Amitabh Bachchan had been using the Samajwadi Party for all his gains. Be it for making his movies tax-free in UP, or fudging documents making him a farmer. This actor also tried to mislead the people of UP by telling a pack of lies before the elections. Can we forget 'UP mein dum hai, kyunki jurm yahaan kum hai'. What a pack of lies. And he cannot plead ignorance. All he should have asked for were records of crimes in UP. I mean, he claimed after the Dairy Milk ad that he had asked the Cadburys people if he'd get 'Man ki shaanti' after doing an ad that sells chocolate (because of the insect scare). If he could be so judicious and such a good man for selling chocolates, how could he not take care when the future of the people of UP was at stake? His supposed home-state. But, all he was doing was quid pro quo for Mulayam and Amar Singh. Probably, as a return gift. Moreso, his wife, Jaya Bachchan would address rallies and give interviews to TV channels during the UP elections, saying 'the Congress uses and dumps people, but Mulayam and SP don't'. They were the ones who started throwing stones at others when they were themselves living in glass houses.

Thirdly, about the point that media is only picking Bachchan because of his stature. Well, he has made his money because of the media. He is the one who had used the media so utterly cleverly. Be it for his son's wedding, or promoting his films. I completely disagree with the theory that the media is being unfair to him. Why did nobody object when Amitabh Bachchan's name was given in polls choosing the "Role Icon of India" and other such gibberish? It was all so fine then? How, if the role icon finds himself with his trousers down, why blame the media? The coverage that the media gave to his son's wedding was uncalled for. It didn't deserve 1% of the coverage that it got. But the Bachchan scam should get much more publicity.

This is one chance of the media to redeem itself. Let the citizens of this nation see that the high and mighty cannot get away by committing crimes. If they could get justice for Jessica Lal, the media can jolly well bring Amitabh Bachchan to jail. And for that matter, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt. If Amitabh Bachchan goes scot-free this time, he might as well say that all his income from endorsements are because of selling produce from farming. If the land fraud flourishes, might as well allow tax fraud to flourish. We, the stupid middle class are there anyways to be ripped off by the Government.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Does the world need Superman?

The world of sport has had its share of greats and a large collection of all time greats. They have had the world at their feet at some point or the other. Then, in every sport, came a sportsman or a team that did not seem from this world. It looked like Kal-El’s planet sent more than just one Superman to the earthly world of sport. Their performances thrilled and delighted. But they just kept getting stronger and stronger. So much so, that they almost killed the sport they were excelling in. While the world watched them in awe, a certain thought crossed the minds of the followers of sport: Why do we need to watch? We know who is winning!

Does the world need superman? This thought crosses my mind far too often. Sometimes I think, yes, sometimes, a resounding no. The truth, however, lies somewhere in between. Let me take you thru my confusion for a bit. Roger Federer is a superman. The only Grand Slam that he hasn’t won is the French Open. After beating Nadal in Hamburg, Fed has announced his intentions and stamped his form loud and clear. We know there’s no beating him at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows and Melbourne. Only the red clay at Roland Garros acted as Kryptonite for Roger Federer. It seems that superman has started becoming immune to kryptonite too.

Yes, Federer deserves to win the French open and join Laver & Budge as a winner of all four slams. But after that we might see, for quite some time, only one smiling face at the end of each slam. The story was so similar with Lance Armstrong and the Tour De France. The story was so similar with a Michael Schumacher from 2000-2004. My goodness me! Schumi almost killed the sport in 2002 and 2004. Such was his dominance that Simon Barnes wrote a column titled: Michael Schumacher, The serial winner who murdered Formula One. He wrote there, "He is one of the great serial champions of all time and he killed his sport with his brilliance, murdered it with the thousand cuts of excellence". Simon Barnes went on to further add "the most exciting thing in Formula One is the question of when Schumacher is going to stop for petrol."

That was so damn true. Fans like me loved Schumacher winning, but even his die-hard lovers like me would agree that we enjoyed the 2006 season a lot more. And no, we never wanted Schumacher to retire. But now that he has, the sport has had a breath of fresh air. For the first time in many years, there are 4 drivers that look like taking the drivers’ championship. Who cared if there was scope for 4 drivers coming 2nd in the championship? Now that Superman is gone, earthlings can compete.

Cricket has gone thru this twice. With the Windies in the 70s and 80s and the Aussies in the 2000s. We all knew who’d win the cricket world cup this year even before it began. Such a fantastic team deserves to win whatever competition they participate in. But would others want to watch supermen take on earthlings again in flying contests? But then, does this mean we wish for the champions to stop playing for the sake of the sport? Well, yes and no.

Like I said earlier, the answer lies somewhere in between. We need others to play as well as Superman. Be it a Rafa/ Roddick to counter Federer, the superman of tennis; we finally found somebody to take on the superman of F1, Schumacher, 5 years after his ruthless dominance, Alonso; we also need some teams to stop the supermen of cricket, Australia. We are lucky chaps. We have seen the best of almost every sport in our lives. But, for the good of the sport the world needs to see superman stopped.

Till that day comes, let us celebrate something unique. Let us celebrate those who have taken their sports to a different league. Let us celebrate these supermen who have given us so many moments of joy, pride, and awe. Lastly, for Federer, all the best superman. Conquer kryptonite at Roland Garros. How I wish that you win, and how I wish that you are beaten. You deserve to win, but then, if you do, at Wimbledon, we’d be cheering your opponent every time you miss your first serve and every time you hit an unforced error. And if your opponent wins a game, forget a set, we shall give him a standing ovation. Those are the only small things they’ll win. You are going to take the Championships anyway.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Heads I win, tails you lose

Is it not a no-win situation for people like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly? When they score century against the minnows, Bangladesh, one can clearly see smirks on the faces of cynics, thru the articles they write and the sound bytes they give. Their rant is ‘what good is a century against Bangladesh?’. I can bet my life that the same people would have taken their knives out had these two batsmen fallen after scoring 40 runs. They’d have said that Sachin and Sourav cannot score big against the minnows as well. Clearly, a century also doesn’t help these two fine batsmen, possibly the greatest ever opening partners in the history of ODIs.

I fail to understand a simple thing. If Bangladesh is so worthless a team, why were these players considered unworthy of playing against them in the ODI series that just preceded the tests? The board and the selectors had clearly thought that they weren’t good enough to play the ODIs. They needed just one innings to assert themselves again. So what if it was against Bangladesh? Gambhir will cement his place to Ireland and England to play the Proteas and the English because of his century against the same Bangladesh. But when it comes to Sachin and Sourav, critics will say that they should still be kept out as they score against the minnows only.

This statement that, SG and SRT score against minnows only, is so flawed. If we look at their ODI records, Sachin has scored 82% of his runs against the major nations and Sourav has scored 75% of them against the major nations. By the major nations I mean, Australia, England, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies. How flawed and hollow all those minnow statements look. And each and every great batsman in the world has fantastic records against the minnows, be it Jayasuriya, Ponting or Inzy. The reason why they are great batsmen, is that they have heavily scored against the other major nations also. I simply fail to understand why critics in India look at the stats of Sourav and Sachin so dogmatically.

Isn’t it a heads I win, tails you lose situation for Ganguly and Tendulkar? Despite being performers, they are ridiculed. Man of the series awards against the Windies and Lankans also counts for nothing. A century against Bangladesh counts for nothing. But when Gambhir scores a century against the same team, he is hailed as the opener for the future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Well, a friend of mine just happened to tell me that some of my blog posts show up when they search my name on Google. A few of the results are on Technorati, an engine that monitors tags and keywords on blogs. I tried searching for them and, 'voila', it was there. The only thing that put me off was a phrase that said that 'nobody has claimed this blog'.

And presto, I created an account to claim what is rightfully mine. As part of the procedure, I have been asked to paste this link Technorati Profile on my main text box, and that's what I am doing. Now, the ball is in their court. Or should I say, the spiders are in their court. I hope once they let those crawl my blog and see this link, they won't say that its unclaimed.

So, all you bloggers out there!! Own up your blogs and make it legitimate :D

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Gilchrist played fair and, boy, did he play well?!?!

A lot of prose can be read, many emanating from the island nation, about Adam Gilchrist’s use of a squash ball. Some have also foolishly likened it to the Trevor Chappell underarm delivery. The last thing that Gilchrist’s act can be called is underhand tactics. I’d still like to believe that he was within the rules and deserves only the greatest accolades for playing one of the best ever one-day innings.

For starters, the underarm delivery that Trevor bowled was akin to an F1 equivalent of team orders whereby one driver is asked to forego his lead so that his team-mate can get higher points. While both these situations were within the rules of the sport, it was not within the spirit of the sport. Gilchrist using a squash ball was a different matter altogether.

Batsmen around the world use extra padding inside the gloves, some have also used extra protection around their wrists on bouncy tracks. Gilchrist did something that was just an extension of this, so that he could grip the bat better. He did not use a broader bat, though he made it seem so because of his phenomenal stroke-play. Bowlers cut out their boots so that their big toe’s nails are protected when they put that extra effort on the delivery stride. All these things are done so that the players are comfortable and able to give their best.

Let’s add another dimension to this. How many batsmen in the world could have played like Gilchrist had they also been allowed to put a squash ball in their glove? Would Sri Lankan authorities and fans been crying foul had Gilchrist been dismissed earlier, when he offered a caught and bowled chance, albeit a sharp one? Also, its not that Gilchrist became this demolisher of attacks only when he put that squash ball in the glove. His innings came as no surprise. Had Pigeon put a squash ball, he wouldn’t have been able to play like Gilly.

Everybody knows for sure that Sachin Tendulkar’s pads are made of a material that is a lot lighter than the conventional pad. That, for sure, is not unsporting. Jayasuriya wastes an enormous amount of time (by tapping the pitch umpteen times, looking right, touching his helmet, after each delivery so that he can concentrate), nobody ever said anything about it.

I hope that some sense prevails. Or else, the next time a cricketer even wears a lucky charm, and succeeds, even that will be called unsporting. The Lankans should not make their progress to the WC final hollow by crying foul about Gilchrist. That devalues the way the Lankans played. Yes, Gilchrist’s innings turned the tables, but even otherwise Australia was a far superior team. This team can beat Sri Lanka nine times out of ten. And if all Sri Lankan batsmen are asked to keep a squash ball in their glove and walk out to bat, they shall convincingly lose ten times out of ten. Well played Gilly and the Aussies. And well played Lankans. But what some of the Lankans are cribbing about outside the field is just not cricket.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The World Cup Final - May the best team win

The battle royale begins on the 28th. The battle for the crown of the champions of World Cricket. What has been a very damp world cup so far, a supposed carnival that was played out in front of empty stands and without a Caribbean fanfare of trumpeting and drumming fans, has gotten a final between the two most deserving finalists, the Australians and the Sri Lankans.

For the sake of World Cricket, one hopes that this would be a cracker of a match. If there is one team that deserves to be world champions, it’s the Aussies, but the game of cricket badly needs another world champion. And if any team can dethrone the wizards of Oz, it is the Sri Lankans. Australians in cricket have been what Lance Armstrong had been in Tour De France, what Pete Sampras had been at Wimbledon, what Roger Federer has been at Tennis at large and what that mighty Michael Schumacher had been for formula one. What makes this Aussie team special is that they have been able to work magic as a team, and not as an individual, except for Schumi who was in a team sport of sorts.

Its only poetic justice that a team would have to be world champions by beating the Australians at the finals. The greatness of this Aussie side lies in the fact that they have made a mockery of the phrases, ‘cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties’ and ‘the law of averages’. It will take more than uncertainties to dethrone the champions, it will take a miracle.

And the Sri Lankans have a few miracle workers. Murali, Jayasuriya, Malinga, Jayawardane, Sangakkara. If they were to work a miracle, they need to take a leaf out of the book of their amazing opponents, i.e. to raise the levels of their game when the big occasion arises. The Lankans did that against the Kiwis, and there is no reason to believe that they cannot do the same against the Aussies. But it will not be easy. It will not be easy to dethrone a team that has annihilated every opposition in this world cup and that too by not even breaking a sweat.

As a cricket fan, who do I want should win the world cup? I haven’t been able to find an answer, to be very honest. Should I support a team that is unbeaten for 28 matches, or should I support the most improved and skillful team of this tournament? I don’t really know. A Sri Lanka triumph should be good for world cricket, but do the Australians deserve to, forget losing, have even a thought of losing? I don’t have an answer to that either.

For sure, Glen McGrath deserves a victory in what would be his swansong in what has been a fantastic career. His last ODI match in Australia ended up as a defeat for his team, he surely doesn’t deserve that one more time in his final international match. But the Sri Lankan nation also deserves this win. This is a beautiful island nation which is now embroiled in a civil war. Innocent people are losing their lives, and the only thing that can bind them together again is a world cup victory.

Whatever happens on the 28th, we shall all be watching. Before we hold our breaths, let us spare a thought for the people in the Caribbean who couldn’t enjoy this cricketing carnival because of the insipid organizers, despite being the most colourful of cricket followers. And whoever lifts the world cup, be it Ponting or Jayawardane, would be deserving winners. So, let s say a small prayer so that we get a match worthy of a final, and let the battle royale begin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Alistair Pereira - Yet another trial by Media

A local court had sentenced Alistair Pereira to 6 months' imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5 Lakhs. What happened the same day, in the subsequent days was that the media rabidly started to tom-tom how a 'murderer' has gotten away with such a light punishment. The media also said that the 'murdered' people deserve justice, the ones that Alistair's car ran over. Yet again, in its efforts to sensationalise, the media completely missed the point. And so has the High Court that has taken Suo Motu cognizance of the matter, by giving in to the media's rhetoric.

Alistair Pereira is an irresponsible wretch who deserves to be punished for drunken driving. But to call him a murderer is not right. Agreed, that when one drinks and drives one's senses are not in place and that could lead to catastrophy on the roads, but then Alistair didn't drive out with the intention of murdering people. I hate to say this, but the people that were run over were also to blame for this.

A footpath is not meant for dwelling. If one dwells or sleeps there, it is illegal use of public property. They had no job sleeping there when the irresponsible Alistair lost control of his car. Let's imagine a different scenario. A person who has not consumed any alcohol is driving back from work. His tyres burst because they run over some nails on the road and his car swerves towards the footpath where a few people are illegally dwelling. His car runs over a few people. Do we fault this person and call him a murderer too? Who is to blame here? The driver or the illegal occupants?

Alistair's crime was that he was drinking and driving. His crime isn't murder. Its human nature to attack soft targets, and the media is doing just that. Howcome the media is not taking up cudgels against Salman Khan? Even he has committed the same offence, and some greater offences. And that too when he was nearly 40. Years have passed on and we hear nothing about that case except for the fact that Salman Khan is being tried out for killing other innocent animals and is still out despite a sentence being given to him. Why doesn't the media rake up these stories? Salman Khan is a murderer, who used his gun on endangered animals and also got drunk and drove over some people, killing one in the process. The media still glorifies this person.

Alistair needs to be punished. But not tried for murder. His crime was that he was drinking and driving. Nothing more than that. This was one case when the media could have really done something constructive by promoting road safety and by getting the Govt. to form stricter road safety norms. The fault of the system is far more than Alistair's but when we all have a scapegoat, its easy to make him a sacrificial lamb and wash our hands off things that would impact road safety in a positive way. Once the media is free from its important work like covering an Aishwarya wedding or Elizabeth Hurley wedding, it can try and take up some stories that will help the citizens of this nation. And Alistair being called a murderer is setting a bad precedent. We are only legalising illegal dwelling by demanding compensation for the victims. Its sad, but true, that the unfortunate people who lost their lives were only bringing it upon themselves.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breaking News: Hooligans destroy the Star News office

Never has the phrase ‘breaking news’ been more apt. When the members of an obscure outfit decided to pronounce themselves to the world by demolishing an office and breaking everything that came their way, ‘breaking news’ was just the right way to put it across. It was grave injustice to Star News, and to the media at large, but one wonders if the media have not brought all this upon themselves.

The news for which this deplorable protest took place was not worthy of reportage anyways. A couple decided to get married. So what? How does it alter my life or yours, or the lives of the reporters who decided that this news needs to be beamed out? Far too many Hindus and Muslims get married to each other. Why is this worthy of news? Reports seemed to suggest that the girl was a minor also. They eloped because their communities were against the marriage. So what? Why did Star News have to beam it all into our homes? Despite that, we all agree the Hindu Rashtriya Sena did an act of cowardice.

Lets look at what the media has been reporting these days. Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty. That has made news for 2 days running now. A forgotten bollywood actor and a retired Hollywood actor decide to do an act on the stage and the news channels ran the story as something that is against the ‘ethics’ of India. And to protect these ‘ethics’ they beam those pictures over and over again. What double standards this reeks of. Abhishek Bachchan getting married to Aishwarya Rai is not news. But all we seem to be reading in the press, and seeing on the news channels, is news about their wedding cards, Amitabh going to Tirupati, the might be guest list, I’m sorry but this is not journalism. The news channels keep beaming this and say that people want to see this. But this is far from the truth. We have no option but see this drivel as there is nothing else they are reporting. The only choice we have is either switch the sets off or see only this.

The reason I mentioned the aforesaid is that today, with so many news channels, they need to show something sensational. Then what happens is that anything trivial is sensationalized to drive ratings up. What was the need of showing the Surat couple news at all? Such incidents happen everyday. Why does the media need to twist the story with a Hindu-Muslim angle? The media has learnt the hard way that by reporting such non-events, while our lives are not affected, the media is being wrongly and brutally attacked by cowardly lynch mobs.

There is another angle to this as well. Why, in India, do protests mean smashing of cars, breaking window panes and also endangering innocent lives? Well, what do we see on TV? Some retired cricketer who proclaims to be an expert spews venom on the cricket team. This instigates good-for-nothing hooligans who stone cricketers’ houses, demolish the boundary walls of a cricketer’s house – all in the name of a protest. And all this is carried by the media throughout the day as ‘sentiment of fans’, and some in the media also try to condone the act after indirectly bringing it upon the innocent families of cricketers.

Who has let loose the mob like this on the streets? The media! Who glorifies these despicable protests? The media! Who has made ransacking and demolishing a synonym for protests? The media! Who never reports protests that are made in a way protests should be made in a civilized country? The media! Just because civilized protests do not look as dramatic, they are never reported. What the media has therefore done is glorify the work of these cowards who come in mobs and try and harm the harmless. This has backfired in the worst way possible. The media was attacked. Now, we hear voices from the media that says that this is a very pathetic display that tries to curtail a free press. The media and the press are right. But why don’t they introspect a bit? Do they deserve to be free? Free to report a bollywood wedding for 1 whole month? Free to talk of Shilpa Shetty, who was forgotten by her own fraternity, just because she won a contest in England?

While the media should unite against this deplorable act by a bunch of goons, this is also the right time for them to put their heads together and ask each other, are they a responsible press/ media? Do they really do any kind of justice to journalism? While the media has the power, duty and right to stand up against maniacs like the Hindu Rashtriya Sena, they have a greater duty to the citizens of this country, duty to journalism. Please look at yourselves in the mirror and ask yourselves, how much of their reporting is sensationalising of trivial issues and how much worthy news is reported?

This is not the time for self-pity. ‘Oh we the poor media, we carry stories and get beaten up’. Unite and bring the goons of Hindu Rashtriya Sena to the courts, put them behind the bars and then show the world pictures of them languishing badly in jail. That would send a flutter down the spines of these cowards. Images of hooligans demolishing cricketers’ houses only encourages them and this is what the media has been doing so far. The media has created this Frankenstein and it is up to the media to kill it. For the good of journalism and for the good of the people of this country. The choice is really the media’s. Do they want to consciously put an end to this and report worthy stories or do they want to keep reporting Rakhi Sawant and Abhishek Bachchan and Liz Hurley and Shilpa Shetty, and unknowingly blow up some trivial news to invite these lunatics again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lunatics are running the asylum...

Let’s peep into the BCCI, for a bit. Just a little bit. In my previous article, I had written that the major decisions taken during the meeting on the 6th and 7th April were nothing more than appeasement of those who believed that the only way to move forward was by capping endorsements made by players. This is the best sports body in the country; they have managed to market the game beautifully. But that’s just about it. I think they have completely forgotten that the performance on field needs to match up to its growing coffers, and its paramount to keep the cricketers foremost in mind, and not serve the interest of the mandarins in the board. Here is a bit of news that readers from India may have come across. An Indian daily, DNA, reported and I quote:

BCCI President Sharad Pawar has cancelled a yacht party that he had planned to give the Indian team on April 3 in anticipation of their entry into the Super 8 stage. Pawar was to leave for the Caribbean on March 27 and watch three of India’s Super 8 matches on March 29, April 2 and April 7. India’s 69-run defeat to Sri Lanka has also led to the cancellation of the 30-member BCCI team’s trip to the West Indies. “What’s the point? Our boys will not be there,” BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah told DNA.”

Now, the team that is supposed to play and perform has 15 members and the board wanted to go with a team that is double of the national team. Isn’t that some kind of a joke? There is something that is an even bigger joke. A tournament of this magnitude is of paramount importance, and the BCCI wanted the players to attend a yacht party. Which other team participating in the world cup is even thinking of having a party while the tournament is on? Teams need to focus during any tournament. The parent body thinks otherwise, it seems.

The same BCCI thinks that players’ commitment to sponsors means that they are shooting for commercials, and not focusing on cricket and hence, they should be restricted. Aren’t the people in the BCCI being hypocritical here? Wouldn’t attending a yacht party be loss of focus on cricket, and that too during a series?

Now we come to some other people in the board. There is a certain Shashank Manohar, who is a vice-president in the BCCI. He has championed the cause of restricting players’ endorsements. Manohar is from the Vidarbha Cricket Association that prepared a green-top at Nagpur, for India’s test against Australia, so that India’s defeat embarrassed Dalmiya, the then president of BCCI and a man Manohar was strongly against. He didn’t care two hoots if India lost by not playing to their home advantage, and the same person talks big on the players.

Much before the meeting happened on the 6th and 7th, there were reports that Chappell would be offered a position of a consultant. This bit of news came from “sources in the BCCI’. Before hearing out everybody, the BCCI had made up its mind. The person, who was part of all the cricket controversies ever since he took up, could not build a cohesive side, and was a failure as a coach was being reported. How come the BCCI did not conduct meetings with the players? And why were the ‘sources in the BCCI’ leaking information before a meeting that was supposed to serve the best interests of Indian cricket?

Enough is enough. We need a professional board. It needs to be corporatized. We need a CEO, who will be responsible for everything. There needs to be a corporate communications team for the board and the media should talk to them and only them. We need accountable and paid selectors who are full-time. It seems that the board is giving directives now to Vengsarkar and Co. for the team that is supposed to be selected on the 15th. This needs to stop. We need empowered selectors, who would not face interference from the board. And finally, please appoint a full-time media manager for the team. Will the BCCI clean up its mess first before?