Saturday, April 26, 2008

T20 or Test, Bhajji is a pest

Just crapping with the subject line there. But the incident that happpened today goes to show the essential danger of trying to be something else without getting to the depth of it. When Australians or South Africans sledge, they are mostly putting on a facade that they consider part of their professional duty. There's always this underlying knowledge that this is an act. When an Indian sledges, he is not acting but often reacting to someone else's act. That itself indicates emotion and not logic is ruling.

Sledged players often get eager to get back at the 'offender' by letting the emotions out instead of ensuring to pay him back in cricketing kind. They often forget that a teenaged Sachin has made a worldful of verbal enemies vanish into thin air just by adopting that silent punishment procedure. Any other reaction to a sledge, and the offender has succeeded.

We have often egged on the 'young brigade' for their 'tit for tat' approach to the big teams but today when Bhajji behaved abysmally with another temperamental Indian player Sreesanth after an IPL loss, it is a slapping proof that bad behaviour can easily be bad response to pressure and most Indian players are not really putting on a rehearsed act.

And I even traced a little bit of history of the latest showdown in a Test match earlier this year. It was no less shameful. Sreesanth may have dropped an easy catch off your bowling but you simply cannot do that to a teammate, Bhajji! How much you must be letting the proceedings affect your reason to behave in such fashion with a colleague in a Test match.

Friday, April 25, 2008

VVS' vision and Ishant's mission

VVS Laxman must be very very sad after losing today's IPL game, his 3rd in a row, to rival skipper Warne's last over Symondsisms (meaning sixes - in case you are suspecting any reference to is year's Sydney Test).

VVS is under pressure for bad personal batting form and dubious decision-making as the Deccan Chargers skipper but look at the vision of the man. In the midst of the hot and happening IPL he says his aim is to make India the number one Test team in the world! This guy has forever looked like an other worldly entity with a bat in hand but this statement, with the IPL right there on his platter, makes us think if the world is lucky to be having him.

Laxman's decision to forego the icon status (and so losing out millions for the sake of a better team) sounded queer to our monetised ears then and looks a tragedy now as his team has crashed to 3 straight defeats right at the start. However these observations can only belittle us, people that can view things that way. They do not even faintly touch a man of Laxman's mental makeup.

He knows his priorities in life and will not budge from them. After an unsuccessful stint as opener in the late 90's Laxman, at the turn of the decade, announced himself closed from being considered as a prospective India opener again. That could have meant early curtains to his career as the middle order was a traffic jam. Today he has not changed much. Even a Great Indian Distraction lke the IPL fails to shift his focus from the fact that a full strength Indian team (with the big five + Ishant / RP / Bhajji / M Kartik et al) facing Australia later this year will have their best ever chance to become the best Test team in the world.

Hope they make more men like him in the 21st century. India and her cricket will keep needing them.

Not that I am disappointed with Ishant's rather opposite natured comments on IPL but I still hope he can get over his 'mission' and then get back to what he was born to do - stay fast and fit for fiery spells home & away in Test matches that make other sides spend 50% of the match-eve meeting time on him.

If ever he is short on inspiration Ishant can just glance at a tall man in his slip cordon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The two sides of the IPLT20 coin

Side 1:

Amit Varma raises his voice, defending both the quality of cricket and the money in it.

Purists – and I used to think of myself as one – often speak of Twenty20 cricket
disparagingly, as if it has reduced the fine game of cricket to something absurdly simplistic, where sloggers rule, hand-eye co-ordination matters more than finely honed technique, and bowlers are irrelevant. If you’ve been watching, you’ll know that isn’t true. Twenty20 is not a dilution of the game but an intensification of it.

Some commentators take issue with so much money being spent on a sport in a poor country. "[M]ost of these millions will be leaving India," de Lisle wrote in his
piece, "filling the coffers of Australian stars who are already very highly paid. Money shouldn't travel in a direction like that." If that logic was correct, we might as well stop poor countries from importing anything. Every trade happens because it leaves both parties better off, and the IPL's foreign players are being paid so much because they bring that much value to the table. That value, the return on those investments, will happen within India.

Side 2:

Gideon Haigh sees some light in the new toy but is concerned about the numerous dark patches. Those patches involve both the money and the quality of cricket.

On the cricket:
Already, however, I'm struck by the fact that what I've enjoyed are those moments when Twenty20 has looked more like cricket rather than less. And this is a problem, because there simply aren't enough of them. Twenty20 is envisaged as a concentrated form of cricket, without the pauses and longueurs that test the patience and understanding of the uninitiated. But it's less concentrated than crudely edited, and what is missing are those aspects of the game that make it linger in the mind, that impress on the imagination, that take time to understand, that need effort to appreciate. It requires nothing of its audience but their attendance and their money. Apparently, the first episode of Shah Rukh Khan's Indianised version of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? airs later this week. Pardon me for thinking that Khan's two new presentations have a few things in common.

Twenty20 has rightly been called a batsman's game, but it is a very particular kind of batsman: the type whose game is built on eye and strength. If a new Dravid were to begin emerging now, I suspect he would face a career as a second-class cricket citizen.

The game's skills, meanwhile, have been massively rationalised. What we see in the main is not so much batting as hitting, not so much bowling as conveying. The batsman is assessed by the change his strokes are leaving out of six; the bowler is like the fall guy in a comic routine stoically awaiting the inevitable custard pie.

And on the money:

Profit maximisation is the name of the game - and that goes for administrators, franchisees, players, managers, broadcasters and sponsors alike. The possible negative consequences for other countries or other forms of the game are of no account compared to the commercial, and doubtless also political, ambitions of the likes of Lalit Modi and Sharad Pawar. It is not even about giving the people what they want; it is about giving the people what Modi and Pawar want them to want, and can then make a packet out of selling them.

Exactly why the people deserve this is not abundantly clear. Perhaps it is an instance of what I once saw defined as the Golden Rule of Arts and Sciences: "Whoever has the gold makes the rules." But the contrast I noted earlier between the proceeds of my own humble cricket event and the IPL's was not merely a matter of quantum. All of the Yarras' hard-won $583.50 will go straight back into the game's beneficiation. Of what proportion of the billions raised by the IPL, I wonder, will that be true?

Gideon's taken a goofy dig at the clamour from various quarters, including the English players' clan, that ICC create a window for the IPL in its annual calendar:

You don't have to be Einstein - hell, you don't have to be Napoleon Einstein - to realise that if the IPL contains even a glimmer of promise, it won't be stopping there: pretty soon cricket's schedule will have more windows than the Sears Tower.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Singh is Prince

Indian movie star Akshay Kumar is the brand ambassador of IPL's Delhi Daredevils. He performed a stunt at the start of DD's 1st IPL match on Saturday, perhaps to live up to the Team name and as a justification of his own reputation of a daredevil star who frequently performs his own stunts. A movie of his, 'Singh is Kingg', is lined up for release in the coming months.

Akshay's team won. The first 3 matches indicate that the inaugural edition of IPL T20 is off to a satisfactory start. However the same cannot be said about the captains of the 6 teams to have played so far. While Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni have returned single digit scores, the others too have not exactly set the stage on fire. Warne scored 14 in the first match (besides bagging no wickets), Ganguly 10 and Sehwag 12.

The only skipper from these 6 teams to go past the par score of 20 in his first match is Kings XI Punjab leader Yuvraj Singh (a quick 23). Not a bad start but still some way off the expectations from the King of 'Kings XI'. Yuvraj is easily amongst the best batsmen around in T20. He is a likely candidate for the player of the tournament. This Singh was a Prince in his first match and there can be no doubt that he can be the King.

Another Singh has recovered form at the right time for the IPL. After his stellar show against South Africans in the Test series Harbhajan Singh, who did rather well in the T20 world cup, can be a principal weapon for Sachin's Mumbai Indians. So we actualy have more than one Singh who can be King.

Akshay's Delhi Daredevils have no Singh though; no way that a Singh from his team can be a King!

Footnote about that part on Harbhajan's form: It is interesting that the Test batting form of a batsman can be no guarantee of his success in T20 and vice versa while the bowling form of a strike bowler spans across all forms of the game. The two Singhs are expected to provide adequate evidence over the tournament.