Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Robert the Self-Important

A fairly pompous piece here by Bob Woolmer. He manages to place himself at the center of the Kerry Packer crisis, takes some credit for "precipitating change" in the apartheid regime, and disowns any role whatsoever in the match-fixing and ball-tampering messes (in the last one, to be fair, he didn't do anything - and therein lies the problem)

Sorry to burst your bubble, old chap, but political change in South Africa had something to do with years and years of slow, determined, political agitation. Really, how insufferable can cricketers get? You go off and play cricket, and you imagine that you are turning the wheels of power?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The golden handshake?

Could Ovalgate have gotten any worse? Now, Darrell Hair wants a golden handshake. I'm wondering if this will be enough to dispel the hero worship sent his way by some sections of the Aussie press (I haven't yet popped around to the Age, Australian and Sydney Morning Herald, or even the Telegraph). I doubt it, but who knows, this might be the last straw. Frankly, all his pronouncements after the incident, and most of his actions during, have reeked of a self-serving nature. And now this. How does cricket manage to tie itself into such wonderful pretzels. I suspect, as do lots of other people, that its excessively pompous self-image of itself has something to do with it. I cannot imagine any other sport setting up the kind of dichotomy cricket does between umpires and players.

Can we please have some cricket?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


This article by Mihir Bose is as damning an indictment as any of the poor leadership, confusion, and muddle-headed thinking that characterized the Pakistani team's behavior during Ovalgate. Really, once the smoke has cleared, will Pakistani fans please stand up and demand better?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Show us the money

Having said plenty about the Pakistani team, it should be noted that the least the ICC can do with regards to the charge of ball tampering is present the evidence of ball-tampering to all and sundry. Given that spectators, both at the Oval and elsewhere, were denied cricket, this is the least the ICC could do. Furthermore, given Hair's centrality in this crisis, the ICC needs to show why they are standing steadfastly by him. If the evidence is thin, not enough to make a strong case, then I'm afraid its Sayonara Darell.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Unimpressed all around

I'm afraid, that in this Oval fiasco, much as I'm struck by the inflexibility of Darrell Hair, and by the fact that evidence of ball-tampering is still being held in abeyance, I'm unimpressed by a) the Pakistan team's reaction b) the subsequent spectacular fuss kicked up by the PCB, ex-cricketers, the press, and their fans. No matter what the charge, Pakistan's chosen strategy of protest was pointless, petulant, and guaranteed to be divisive. That Bob Woolmer did nothing and that Inzimam, as captain, presided over it, says volumes about the team's sense of faux self-righteous anger. Why not talk to the match referee at tea-time? Why go through this ridiculous business of sitting in the dressing-room, waiting for the umpire to come and ask you if you want to play? Surely, if not Inzimam, who has shown a remarkable lack of the laws of the game in the past, then Woolmer should have known that this could have led to a forfeiture? If he did, then the sit-in was an act of irresponsible brinksmanship. Hair called the Pakistani team on it, and of course, since then, both sides have painted themselves into corners.

And the less said about the PCB's reaction the better. Their reaction to Inzimam attacking a spectator with a bat during the Sahara series in 1997 was a few pious incantations to the effect "he must have been provoked" and then a mere two-match ban. (Eric Cantona got banned for a year for jumping the fence and attacking a spectator BTW). Their reaction, which hasn't yet included one single word directed at the captain for a possibly over-the-top protest, doesn't strike me as that of a cricketing board with its priorities straight.

Quick predictions: Inzimam will get away with a light ban, as the damage-control operations will start. Pakistani threats to cancel the tour will have some effect and the ECB/PCB will work out something. Hair will not umpire Pakistani games. But will stay on as a test umpire. The ICC will continue to function as a singularly incompetent entity. The match referee will maintain his usual asymetrical role: heavy-handed when not needed, and ineffectual when really required.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Spitting the dummy

These are my immediate responses to yesterday's fiasco: Pakistan spat the dummy bigtime and they lost a test match for it. There have been plenty of umpiring injustices in the past, and teams have protested in many different ways. But this method, of sitting in the dressing room, like a bunch of prima donnas, takes the cake. Whatever critique is levelled at Hair, Pakistan have spectacularly undermined the game, (I'm sad to say they have a long record in this matter). Pakistan will go into its usual mode of self-righteous anger, but make no mistake, they thought they could throw a tantrum, hold their breath, and everyone would come running with lollies. They should have read the laws of cricket first.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Non-events and consolation wins

This triangular comp is turning out to be the cricketing non-event of the year. So far, the matchups have largely featured the South African team and the press (and some ex-test cricketers, notably the burly Duleep Mendis, who with much the same fervor with which he would smack square-drives off the back-foot, laid into the Proteas' decision to go home). The Indian team is probably sitting around, watching Star TV, calling home , and driving each other nuts. (I'm going a little crazy in New York too; my book's deadline is September 1st, and I'm finding it harder and harder to blog). Who wants to be cooped up with folks, whom you primarily deal with in a cricketing context, as teammates, for too long when you aren't playing too much cricket?

Meanwhile Pakistan have finally turned the tables on England, and while this might only bring them a consolation, it'll do much to restore some pride. Note, of course, that bringing the wonderfully talented Mohammed Asif in place of the incompetent Sami had something to do with it. Umar Gul and Mohammed Asif are not tearaway quicks but they can be a real handful in the right conditions, as England have found out. Not quite the tonic England wanted in their interminable build-up to the Ashes, but they'll take comfort from the fact that they've won two tests in real style and discovered some new bowling options for the Ashes (I note that Panesar was the economical bowler in the English bowling line-up).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wake me up when its over

A bomb explodes; people die; one cricket team decides it has enough; another one stays on (according to a Pakistani journalist, its because they're used to it at home); one game is washed out; then another. If you believed in signals from up on high, you'd have said that this tournament, this ill-fated triangular one-day international tournament, wasn't meant to be. Perhaps thats how one-day tournaments, all these junkets sprinkled all over the globe, should be treated in general. Not the bombs and dying people, no thanks, but some kind of interference that ensures they don't go through. I'm sounding a little harsh here, but I'm getting sick of these meaningless tournaments. Its one thing to have a bilateral series as part of a test tour; it spins the rivalry on display in tests in a different light, and perhaps lets some local lads get some international experience. But these tournaments, (in which suspiciously, the BCCI team, er, sorry, the Indian team always manages to be involved), are a different matter altogether. I'm not sorry to see this tourney bite the dust. India will stay on to play their games; I will dutifully check the scores; but thats about it.

Friday, August 11, 2006


So Duncan Fletcher does like Monty after all. But Monty will not find it easy in Australia. For one thing, Australian batsmen are better players of spin than the Pakistanis, and they will make sure they go after him. He will be mercilessly barracked on the boundary (most of it won't be too witty), and there will always be the temptation to drop a spinner and play a quick instead. But some of those things could work for him. Attacking batsmen give more chances, and if Monty can keep his head, stumpings and caught behinds could drop into his bag. More than anything else, he'll need a sympathetic captain who won't mind setting attacking fields for him.

In case anyone is wondering why I've been going on about Monty, well, its partially ethnic pride, in seeing a fellow Punjabi do well. Partly its a desire to see the new multicultural England do well. But I think more than anything else, he makes England into a more interesting team, and interesting teams are always good for world cricket. Freddie Flintoff did the same last year, and Monty is keeping it going this year (Kevin Pietersen? Pshaw!)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Getting it all wrong

Some extraordinary angst on display here by Omar Samiuddin, (who, by the way, like all good Pakistani journalists, can't resist making comparisons to India while talking about the Pakistani cricket team). One of Pakistan problems, of course, is how they persist with some bizarre no-hopers like Taufeeq Umar and Mohammed Sami. The latter must be quite possibly the worst fast bowler Pakistan have produced in a long time (are Pakistani fast bowling stocks really so thin?), and the former, other than playing the odd flashy square-drive, in a pale imitation of Saeed Anwar, doesn't look like he's going to get anywhere.

England are looking better for the Ashes, sure, but thats a long way away, and they still have plenty to time in which to get things wrong. Like the coach and captain not being able to bring themselves to encourage a young attacking spinner:

"There's still a nagging sense, however, that the management are dragging their heels, and this was borne out by Strauss's uncharacteristically grudging endorsement of another champion display from Panesar. "Monty's done everything that's been asked of him in this Test match," he flat-batted. "Every game he's played for England, he gets more settled in the side and hopefully he'll get better and better." Those aren't the words of a proud and forward-planning captain. Those are the words of a man toeing the party line."

Good on you England!

And theres Dean Jones, who's going to need to see a podiatrist to see if any serious damage was done to his feet due to them stuck for so long in his mouth. Gee, Deano. But, but, its not too surprising. Does anyone want to guess what sorts of lines will be directed towards Monty Panesar when he fields on the boundary line during the Ashes. Go ahead, take a guess. Write in, and tell me what you think the top 10 lines will be. If those folks were commentators, I bet they'd all get fired.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

As I was saying

A marvelous bowling performance by Monty Panesar as Pakistan's ever-impressive Yousuf and Younis combo ran riot at Headingley. Perhaps Panesar will never convince Fletcher of his value. That will be England's loss. Hopefully, wiser heads will prevail, and enable the nurturing that this young man needs, who not only has added an edge to the English attack that it needed to supplement its pace battery, but also given the team some more colour (no, I don't mean the skin type), and pizazz. Monty will be treated brutally at the boundaries in Australia, but he will learn a great deal about both cricket and developing a thick-skin, and will come back a much smarter cricketer. If Duncan Fletcher agrees to have him in the team, of course.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Surprise and then not

I'm not sure what Duncan Fletcher thinks is being achieved by his public musings over whether Monty Panesar belongs in the team (all the while, these are underwritten by his deference to a man, Ashley Giles, who hasn't played cricket in a long while). If England can't take care of this young man, the first obvious spinning talent they've had in a while, then, well, .

Meanwhile, John Wright continues to stir up 'trouble' or so the remarkably thin-skinned Indian cricketing world would think. Seriously, Wright is not saying anything that would strike anyone as surprising: Indian selectors indulge in zonal quota mongering! Wow, what a surprise. Tendulkar was upset at having been denied his double hundred. Gee, who wouldn't be, after the remarkably poor communication between Dravid and him, Tendulkar's own slowness, and the failure to have a clear run or overs target to aim for?