Sunday, September 30, 2007

Munaf the Easily Hurt

Munaf Patel is upset about folks questioning his intensity. Well. I'm tempted to say "heres a candy, you little baby", but I'll desist. An opportunity is at hand for Munaf; he should get in touch with the folks that he thinks are questioning his intensity and find out what they have in mind. Once he has heard from them, he should get to work on rectifying his shortcomings. That would be a pretty darn good demonstration of his 'intensity'. I can give you a few tips, Munaf, if you'd care to listen. Work on your fitness (spend more time in the gym and take some advice from some good physical trainers); next time you play a game of cricket, make sure your first over is not a warm-up (thats what time before the game is best spent doing; when the game starts, be switched on); improve your fielding; stop backing away when you bat. Most importantly, if by some chance you ever play for India again, remember you are representing your country and show some pride on the field.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Symmo the Humble

Andrew Symonds doesn't like how the Indian cricketers celebrated their Twenty20 World Cup win. I agree. They should have celebrated it the way Symonds did after that really lame World Cup, like this:

Er, Symmo, if you're really that humble, you'd keep it to yourself. Calling yourself humble takes you out of the ranks of the humble. Know what I mean? C'mon, just get back and bowl. Or bat. Or whatever it is that you do.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gideon's warning

Gideon Haigh is a writer I respect very much. I've only read one of his books (a wonderful biography of Jack Iverson), but have read dozens of his newspaper and periodical articles over the years. He has a keen sense of the history of the game, and thus, is fairly prescient as well. So, when he speaks about the disturbing implications of Twenty20, its worth cocking an ear. While Haigh uncritically accepts the mutterings of disgruntled Aussie players (and also strikes a false note with his suggestion that this is all about wanting to see someone else than Australia win), there is definitely something to his worries that the game is starting to play host to a force that it might not control. I do not think it has been fully understood by people just what doors have been opened by the creation of the new premier Twenty20 league which will let in corporate franchises who can bid for players. These entities will have money, oodles of it. They will be able to bid for television rights for their own games (like Notre Dame negotiates its own rights), and they can pay whatever salaries they think are commensurate with their players' abilities (sporting and money-earning). Test cricket could see its potential pool of players shrinking; Sky might not bother to pay ECB good money for test series any more; the possibilities are endless. While the ICC might make noises about protecting tests, in the end they will do what the greenback tells them. Yes, indeed, be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Grey Lady messes it up again

The New York Times is very proud of its ignorance of all things Indian. To make sure that we get the point, it routinely publishes bizarrely out-of-touch, patronizing, exoticized peices on India every once in a while. Thankfully, the notorious Barbara Crossette and John Burns are no longer around to regale us with their idiocy. Now, the 'South Asian' beat is manned by a certain Somini Sengupta, who brings us her take on the Twenty20 final, and what it says about the 'new India' (are you sick and tired of this sort of analysis, as I am?) As might be anticipated, there are plenty of gems. For instance, we are told how the Indian team's players
spoke Hinglish, a mongrel of Hindi and English that has become the lingua franca of the young small-town Indian.
Actually, they don't. They speak English like someone might speak a language that is not their first i.e., with some missteps having to do with verb forms, tenses and plural/singular confusion. But its not Hinglish. I spoke Hinglish when I went to Delhi University; it was a slang form; its like Spanglish in the US, where young Hispanics who can speak Spanish or English perfectly well, chose to speak in this hybrid form as a kind of marker. Lots of us 'urban, big-city' kids spoke Hinglish, and lots still do. In fact, television announcers and VJs on several Indian channels also speak Hinglish. Indeed, to read this article, one would imagine that all of India's cricketers before this lot were Oxford-educated, pipe-smoking, polo-playing, pucca types, that strutted around in jodhpurs and sola topees.

Then, we are treated to this astonishing mixture of pop-psychology and dubious history:
Athleticism has never been associated with Indian cricket, nor with Indians in general, and that has been a chip on the shoulder of Indian manhood.
I had no idea; that must be why my shoulder is sagging, from all those chips on my shoulder. And of course, there is the usual classic NYT cluelessness:
Much was made of the fact that the captain, Mr. Dhoni, grew up in an uncelebrated eastern city called Ranchi. The batsman S. Sreesanth, it was said, defied cricket manners by being unusually aggressive.
Note, not "the uncelebrated eastern city of Ranchi". And Sreesanth is now a batsman (must be that six off Nel that done it). And finally, we close with
Minutes later, apparently in a moment of abandon, Mr. Dhoni took off his jersey, gave it to a young fan and marched topless before the crowd.
Notice the quaintness of the phrasing; furthermore, Dhoni didn't "march" before the crowd; he strolled to the dugout and put on a replacement shirt. Whatever.

Monday, September 24, 2007

You, sir, are an idiot

And who might the idiot in question be? Why, none other than the Pakistani captain, Shoaib Malik, who, at the presentation ceremony for the Twenty20 World Cup, decided to thank the "people back home and the Muslims all around the world". I dislike public displays of religiosity, but I especially detest captains of national teams turning sporting contests into Battles of the Religions. I'm glad your boys lost, Shoaib. And I'm glad a young Indian Muslim (who played with his brother in the team) won the man-of-the-match award while making sure you lost. Eid Mubarak in advance.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Here, let me break it for you

And the prize for the Most Catastrophically Stupid Management of a Player Injury goes to : England and Freddie Flintoff. Flintoff has returned home, missing the one-dayers in Sri Lanka and who knows what else. The idiocy of playing Flintoff in the seventh one-day against India was apparent; but this lunacy was taken to new heights by the decision to play him in the Twenty20 World Cup. Does Freddie not want to play in Sri Lanka - is it too hot for him? Have the Tigers spooked him? Is Flintoff in severe financial trouble? Does he face foreclosure on his little cottage in Lancashire? Does he have three kids going to medical school? What is the story? Why does he have to play?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pedalo had nothing on this

Collingwood fined for lap-dancing outing; Pietersen fined for lap-dancing
By the Associated Press
Published: September 19, 2007
Filed at 9:28 AM EDT

Cape Town, Republic of South Africa (AP) - Twenty20 World Cup officials, ECB big-wigs, and local police are still struggling to come to terms with the latest development in LapGate, a scandal that threatens to derail England's anemic Twenty20 campaign (though a match later in the day against perennial underachievers India could still put it on track). While initial reports on LapGate had merely reported the English captain as being subject to light disciplinary action and a $1000 fine after being caught in a lap-dancing club, the latest news is far worse. For the lap-dancer in question has now been reported to be none other than Kevin Pietersen. Police are not sure what to make of this bizarre incident. "I can understand it in some sense; he is a bit of an exhibitionist, he likes showing off and strutting and preening, and his voice is a little on the thinner side", said Deputy Superintendent Karl Lagersveld of the Cape Town Police Department. "But this business of dressing up, and bumping and grinding it out for the English captain struck me as a bit too much". However, Pietersen's old cricketing mates were not surprised. "He always had a thing for English cricket - what better way to show it than to shake it for the English skipper?", said an old associate that declined to be named. It is unclear what disciplinary action the ECB has in mind for Pietersen. However, reliable sources suggest that at the very least, Pietersen could be forced to join the Twenty20 cheerleaders on the sideline (during the India-England match) in lieu of a 10-match ban.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cap'n MS

MS Dhoni is captain of the Indian one-day squad. Still no place for Virender Sehwag, but mercifully, no place for Agarkar or Patel either. And Harbhajan and Pathan are back. A home series is a reasonable place to start off as Indian one-day captain, though the opposition is not going to make life easy for him. (Neither will the Indian media or fans). Welcome to the crown of thorns, MS.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The long and short of it

I don't think anything I'll say about Twenty20 will be new to those that have strong opinions about it. For what its worth, I've never fully become comfortable with one-day cricket in any form, as I tend to think of a full cricket match as involving four innings so that a little ebb and flow can take place. Without it the battle doesn't quite develop. The old 60-over format (that used in the first three World Cups) was perhaps the closest we got to an extended battle because of the need to get through the middle stages without losing too many wickets, and the importance paid to attacking early on the part of the side bowling so that wickets could be taken. But that format had the same weakness that the 50 over format had: a few early wickets, and the match could be lost very easily, turning into tedium for spectators. Test cricket has had its fair share of tedium as well (anyone who grew up in India in the 70s and 80s can testify to that). But 50-over cricket affected test cricket in many positive ways, all well documented: money, better fielding, technology for line-decisions, more aggressive batting and so on. Test cricket has seen its share of drawn matches drop sharply and thanks to the use of cameras for line-decisions (and to their influencing umpires on LBWs) we have more result-oriented games than ever before. For this positive influence upon the game, I shall remain eternally grateful. I'm not a big one for living in the past, and I'll be the first one to admit that test cricket in many respects is better than the old days (there are some crucial respects in which it is worse off, but on that, more later).

But now that Twenty20 is here, I suspect 50-over cricket is on its way out. The World Cup in the 50 over form has come a huge cropper, and I don't think I've seen a more turgid, pointless, boring exercise than the last one. Everyone loves Twenty20, no World Cup for test cricket seems likely or plausible (even this multiple-year points system is a drag) and so it seem inevitable that the World Cup might be replaced by some form of Twenty20 championship. And now with the formation of the IPL, more changes are afoot. I worry about test cricket. If the most money is in the IPL, the best players will probably go there. And who knows what will happen to the talent pool in general. And to the cricketing skills required for the longer version of the game.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Take this job and shove it

So Rahul Dravid has resigned as Indian captain. For what its worth, I have mixed feelings about this decision. Dravid was not a spectacular captain but he was well-liked and respected in the team (says someone who has no idea what goes on in the dressing room!), and could be considered a reasonable talent at bridging the inevitable differences within any Indian team. He also presented a cultured, articulate face of Indian cricket to the rest of the world (which still has not recovered from the in-your-face attitude of Sourav Ganguly; when the history of this phase of world cricket will be written, psychological tracts detailing the hysterical response of the cricketing world to Ganguly should take pride of place). But clearly, Dravid the batsman was not doing so well. The hero of Adelaide, Headingley, Rawalpindi was struggling to put together long innings, and it was pretty clear he was not enjoying the attendant grief of having to answer to a billion dufuses like me. So, the search for a new Indian captain begins. It would give me great pleasure to see Ganguly back as captain against Pakistan and Australia (could there be a pair of teams that would be more riled up by Ganguly? I doubt it). But one must realistically acknowledge that there is very little chance of this happening (snowballs in hell come to mind). Having said that, its not clear who is ready to become Indian captain. I would suspect it would be Anil Kumble, who will almost certainly be in the team for both tours, is the most experienced, and possesses a good cricketing brain. There is little danger he will overbowl himself (indeed, he might give himself a little break!). I'm a little worried though, about the tongue-lashings he will hand out in public to the team-members for failing to cut off boundaries; I'm also worried about the effect this might have on his batting (er, thats a joke).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bring it on indeed

I'm glad there is so much Twenty20 Cricket being planned. A world cup, new leagues (international, domestic) and so on. My life is getting busier, and I'm finding it harder and harder to make time for cricket. This will make time away from cricket much easier to bear.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Forbes, Rorty, and cricket

Continuing my attempt to collect cricketing references in philosophical literature, here is a little gem sent in by Andrew Rutherford. Andrew wrote:
This is not exactly what you had in mind, since it is literally philosophical literature: a poem by the late Australian poet John Forbes...He was more interested in philosophy than cricket, though I remember watching Ravi Shastri's double hundred at the SCG with him, jeering at debutant Shane Warne.
Thanks Andrew. I had read some of Forbes' work (including "Love Poem" which remains one of my favorite poems of all time), and knew of him, but never got a chance to meet him before his untimely death. And of course, I know many friends of John's, including David Coady, who co-authored "Not Cricket" with me. So, without further ado, here is the poem that Andrew sent in:


His own worst enemy
bowled vicious bouncers down the pitch
but he ducked beneath
the whizzing leather,
not hating himself completely yet.
The grass was green
& the sky intermittently blue
between the two, indolent allegorical figures
lounged around the pavilion --
for them each day was like a gauge
you could tolerate no finer setting on
& when the sweat inside their gloves
made the batsmen slip
you heard clear, cogent voices
excited by a redefinition of grip,
floating in the air.

The Rorty above is Richard Rorty.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Going under

Well, India look well and truly sunk at Lords. It didn't start off well, and no real partnership has developed. England bowled well earlier on, did the business and India can only hope they can do something dramatic when they come out on the field (and England have certainly provided a model for them to emulate on that front). Dhoni will probably have a lash in a few overs, and that might push up the score into the 180s-190s. Its been a long tour, and if things don't look good in the first 10 overs, I'm going to start thinking about Pakistan and Australia. (Chawla gone: MS, have a go).

Dar gives Dravid the finger

Hmm..I"m starting to understand why Flintoff has the reputation for getting good batsmen out. Its because umpires co-operate. Poor Dravid, that was palpably not out. But the finger is up, and he's back in the pavilion. Ludicrous. But all said and done, this has been a difficult morning for batting with pace, bounce and movement. The only batsman looking like he is not completely at sea is, er, Tendulkar.

Addendum (after more replays): While snicko seems to suggest some sound/contact, it still seems to me that the bat brushing the pad was the culprit. However, its possible that the two contacts might have happened simultaneously, which would have made Dravid feel he hadn't touched the ball (the contact of bad with pad would have been felt more than the contact of bat on ball). My initial reaction (expressed above) was that the ball, which cut back in sharply, had simply gone through him ("cut him in half" as the boys in the booth love to say). And now, Tendulkar, has gone! And its Flintoff and Dar again! :)

A "bad, mad half-hour"

Thats a good way of putting it (Nasser did). I'm not sure what was going in Ganguly's head (actually, I do, he was trying to hit his way out of trouble). It was a very strange passage of play. Now, Gambhir is out there, the ball is still moving, and its overcast. Promises to be an interesting passage of play. Prima facie, India are slightly up against it - conditions for batting will get better later if the sun comes out.

And Tendulkar has just treated us to an excellent over of top-class cricketing battle v. Flintoff - an attacking fast bowler vs. an attacking batsman - couple of quiet balls, and then a couple of smashed hits through cover.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bat in hand, the bowler advances

Shoaib Akhtar works hard to make sure that the leading contender for, er, leading the Pakistani pace attack can't even run. This incident raises a few questions. To wit:

  1. Were both Asif and Akhtar off their medications, or was it only one of them?
  2. Could this be a hit ordered by a dealer?
  3. Have medical practitioners checked in to see if their case provides any interesting insights into withdrawal symptoms from nandrolone?
  4. And lastly, what is it with Pakistani cricketers and the urge to assault with a cricket bat?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Robin, you beauty!

Need I say more? So I did manage to get excited about a one-day international after all. Phew.

Wheels on the ground

This last desperate push by Dhoni and Uthappa, which has just ended always seemed a little bit too frenetic and desperate - the wheels had fallen off a while ago once Tendulkar and Dravid had fallen (and the early part of Dhoni's innings inspired very little confidence). Two overs left, and India's one-day series seems to be heading for a premature end (its Agarkar out there, quite possibly the worst one-day batsman I've seen).

The wounded and dismissed champ

There was a slight air of inevitability about Tendulkar's dismissal once he had started cramping. Indian fans will remember Chennai 1999 and Centurion's Park 2003 all too well. The cramps kick in hard (or groin injuries, as the case may be), runners are thought about, declined, some medical assistance is made available, the singles dry up, and then a hobbled Tendulkar gets out. A sad end to an excellent innings (and still no hundred on this tour).

Brilliant but dicey

Tendulkar is batting quite brilliantly but his shots (those paddles down to fine-leg) against Mascarenhas are making me increasingly nervous - there is a very good chance that he will top-edge on, or get bowled, or LBW. He's scoring tons of runs that way so perhaps my fears are unjustified but its still a scary shot to be playing.

Speaking of Mascarenhas, I missed his innings-ending pyrotechnics (I was out biking). I wonder if Yuvraj will ever live that down, and if he'll ever bowl the last over in a one-day international again (perhaps once he becomes India's ODI captain?)

The perils of technology

Paul Collingwood looked a bit irate on being given out after the giant screen showed that he was out of his ground (and after the third umpire had initially not been called). But Paul (and the English team, including Pietersen who was present at the ground and also seemed to disputing the umpire's decision) must realize the following: that if the decision pertaining to Pietersen's caught-behind in the tests could be reversed after an umpire noticed the big-screen replay, then surely, this decision could be reversed as well? (After all, its not like the Indians hadn't appealed). Sauce for geese and gander, and all that?

Monday, September 03, 2007

No worries

Try as I might (not that I try too hard) its not easy for me to get excited about one-day cricket. India won yesterday, kept the series alive, and yet, there was still something ho-hum about the whole thing. There are too many of the damn things; its hard to keep count; the scripts are all too familiar; and worse of all, for a stat-obsessed wingnut like me, the fact that one-day records "don't count" just makes it all the worse. One-day tournaments fare a little better (though this last World Cup tried to make sure that I lost any interest I had in those as well). A knock-out match of some kind fares the best as far as my interest goes. If this series goes to down to the wire, perhaps I'll get slightly worked up. So, whatever Dravid's worries about fans back home not remembering the test series win if the one-day series is lost, he needn't worry about me. Even a 2-5 can't wipe out that particular 1-0.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Early on a Sunday

Once again, a small break in blogging, forced on me by things like classes starting at university (work does interfere with all sorts of things, doesn't it?). But somehow, on a Sunday, I've managed to get up at 630 AM to watch cricket and was promptly greeted by the sight of Ganguly carting a six, followed by a delectable Tendulkar drive down the ground. But then Tendulkar fell, and that Delhi-boy-who-fails-to-impress-me, Gambhir, walked in. The most interesting thing about his innings has been the little encounter with Anderson, which saw two boundaries from Gambhir, some words from Anderson, and even a little shoulder-bump from Jimmy (I've no doubt that the match referee will let him off; he is such a nice young lad from Lancashire, after all).