Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Cricket Experts Start Commenting Again....

Ah, the joys of being an expert! As far as India is concerned, anybody who has played a little bit of international cricket qualifies as one.

The powers-that-be in the Indian media don’t care if the experts understand the sport at all. There is a big difference between playing the game and actually understanding it -- and the same jokers who proclaimed that this was a wonderful Indian team are now castigating the World Cup failures.

It’s so easy when one has the benefit of ‘hindsight.' Bishen Bedi and Kapil Dev were proved wrong. The former said that minnows don’t deserve to be in the World Cup and the latter proclaimed that India were a fantastic team. Nobody has forgotten how Kapil dragged himself in the team from 1991-94 to get 31 wickets. And that bloke talks about the Indian team’s commitment, weeks after he said that this was a very good side.

He ceased being Kapil and became a mere statistic when he plodded around needlessly to achieve that personal milestone; and his comments don’t matter much these days because everybody knows about his commitment for the country between 1991 and 1994.

And now we come to Sunil Gavaskar. He is the only person who had said from the very beginning that Greg Chappell’s appointment would be disastrous for the team. Well, he didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, but he’s been proven right. Come to think of it, Chappell was not a success when he was coach of a local Australian side.

Coming back to the experts here -- Kris Srikkanth, Madan Lal, Atul Wassan, please, enough! Srikkanth had a wonderful average of 29 in both forms of the game, and he has the cheek to talk big. Madan Lal got around 70 Test wickets with a mind-boggling average of 40 runs per wicket. Atul Wassan has a staggering 21 international wickets. And they talk about the changes that should happen in Indian cricket. All of them talk with the benefit of hindsight and none of them have the guts to serve as selectors or talent scouts or coaches.

It's time to bring in some real experts who know this wonderful game. Peter Roebuck, Harsha Bhogle, Vijay Lokapally, these are the people that matter. They are the real experts, they have covered this beautiful game for decades. When people ask, ‘How many international matches have they played?’, they need to know that one doesn’t need to be a good cook to understand good cooking. Indian cricket needs to change, but not on the lines of what these dime-a-dozen experts talk about.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Missing the woods for the trees... Gavaskar Vs Ponting

We are all missing the whole point. Tempers have flared, egos have been hurt and a lot of unnecessary talk has happened between a yesterday great and a modern day great, Gavaskar and Ponting. While the latest salvo from Gavaskar, on the death of David Hookes’ death was uncalled for, what amazes me more is how conveniently we have ignored, or chosen to ignore, the remarks that Ricky Ponting made.

The issue at hand was not ‘who is the champion team’. The issue was more to do with ‘how do cricketers conduct themselves on the field’. A very recent article on made me wonder a little. There were two parts to it. Firstly, the writer talked about the Aussies having a more colourful language in their culture ; and, secondly, about the Aussies losing to England in 2005 because of their seemingly good behavior. Before I discuss these points in detail, let me add that this is nothing personal against the writer, whose articles are always informative and extremely well written.

A colourful culture does not mean that they get a license to abuse on the ground. Look at the way the Aussie players and crowds have behaved in the past. Here are a few examples:

1) Darren Lehman, on being dismissed, refers to the Sri Lankans as ‘Black C****s’.

2) Dean Jones called Hashim Amla a terrorist on air.

3) Aussie crowds haul racist abuse at the South African players.

The list, if one may go on, is extremely large, and colourful. I am no expert in the Australian culture, but I don’t think that any culture encourages people to pass racist abuse, and that too at sportsmen. And, I don’t think that Australia lost to England in 2005 because they were good blokes. The fact is that England had an in-form pace attack, and batsmen in form. Australia had McGrath unavailable for 2 crucial matches, Gillespie was woefully out of form, as was Michael Clarke and a few more Aussies. For once, can’t we all admit that England played better cricket? Did Australia lose to the Kiwis 3-0 recently because they were good blokes there too?

Now for what Gavaskar said and what Ponting retaliated about. Just like Gavaskar had no business bringing David Hookes into the whole issue, Ponting had no business talking of India’s record. In sport winning counts but what also counts is the manner in which teams conduct themselves. What Gavaskar talked about was simply the latter. Why have writers and commentators all over missed out on the fact that Ponting talked rubbish by dragging records into the fray and personally attacking Gavaskar, when that was not the point at all? Agreed, Gavaskar is not the epitome of good manners himself, but the point he was making isn’t incorrect.

People who read this column, please ask yourselves this question. When we read reports of the Aussie crowds showering racist abuse at players, what do we think? Do we think that ‘no, these are just a few lunatics (which is what the fact is)’ or do we incorrectly generalize by thinking ‘well, look at how their team behaves. Its no surprise that the crowds behave like that, that’s how all Aussies are’.

While cricketers have a duty to win for their nation each time they step on the field, they have a duty to behave themselves because they are ambassadors of their countries. Sadly, Gavaskar at times used to forget the same in his playing career (as was demonstrated at Melbourne, 1981), but Ponting probably doesn’t even know that they are supposed to be ambassadors of Australia and that they need to behave. Or else, he’d have thought again and asked his team to behave or, at least, behaved himself.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Minnows in the cricket world cup

A lot has been said about the so-called minnows participating in the world cup. Eight of them. Here’s my take on them participating in the World Cup and why I feel they should. A lot of people, including the former India captain Bishen Singh Bedi (the guy who declared the side’s innings because he was scared that he might get injured), have said that it lowers the standards down. Well, if they weren’t to play the big boys of international cricket, how would they ever learn? I don’t think any cricket board would organize official or unofficial tours with the full-strength national teams against teams like Bermuda or Canada.

It’s up to the ICC to ensure that they play some international cricket, and why not the world cup? It would help the bigger teams to acclimatize, and give the minnows some exposure to the rigours of international cricket. The recent defeat of the Kiwis in the hands of the Bangladeshis proves that there are some very capable teams who can beat the big boys on their day.

Bedi also says that ‘India is not allowed to play in the football world cup, so why allow these minnows to play in the cricket world cup’? Well, the informed cricketer probably missed out on one small fact that football is being played in nearly 150 countries. They cannot have a world cup that has all of them playing, and hence, have a qualifying system whereby 32 teams qualify and participate. But there are probably just about 25 countries playing cricket, and if cricket is to become a mass sport, the smaller teams should play the big guys.

I am not for one moment suggesting that all that the ICC is doing is right. Getting the smaller teams to play only the world cup and then not helping them to play any further is criminal. The world cup is just the beginning. After the WC, the ICC should ensure that the small teams get at least 2 home and away tours with a major test playing nation. Also, there should be regular tours of the A-teams of the test playing nations to these smaller countries. There needs to be a serious step taken to ensure that these smaller countries get the right infrastructure that enables them to raise their standards.

A beginning needs to be made somewhere. If that means the World Cup, so be it. I so wonder where do these cricket pundits go when it comes to developing sport in these smaller countries? Why don’t they go ahead and help in developing the sport in these nations? They talk big of giving back to the game what the game has given them, but all they mean by it is that they’ll mane asinine comments on the game and want to get paid big bucks for the same. Sandeep Patil showed the way, when he took up the job of coaching Kenya. As far as I remember, those minnows made it to the Semi-finals of the previous world cup. But does Mr. Bedi remember?

It’s so easy to sit on the other side of the fence and criticize the happenings, but how many of the former cricketers would want to get their hands dirty and develop a team? They’d want to get tons of money to criticize the ICC and everything else, but when it comes to real work they back out. And most of the comments that these former cricketers make only proves that there is a big difference between playing international cricket and in actually understanding it. God save the fan, who is fed all this daily.