Monday, September 29, 2008

Gideon jumps the shark

Gideon Haigh has been slipping for a while. I've always respected him as a writer and consider him a historian par excellence when it comes to cricket. But his crankiness is getting the better of him, and nothing shows it better than the following paragraph where he manages to swallow the party line hook and sinker, get in the obligatory slam against India and the ICC, and also be snide all at once:
Although it is a commonplace that Australia is the world's most aggressive team, it is actually more accurate to describe them as the world's most consistently and uniformly aggressive team. That is, where a number of teams exhibit aggression in spasms and phases, and certain individuals from other countries are inclined to throw regular weight around, Australians are better at maintaining a lounging, low-level hostility at all times. Indeed, one of the bones Ponting has picked with India is that their players appear to vary in their willingness to contest. He complained, for instance, when the hosts, chockfull of cheek in the first two games of last year's one-day series, suddenly took umbrage in the third: "If the Indians can play the sort of cricket they did play for the first couple of games and then completely turn around and go the other way in the other games, it showed us how fake, if you like, the first part of the series was as far as they're concerned." One of the reasons Bhajjigate festered on in January, I suspect, was a residual annoyance about what Australians see as an Indian tendency to periodically redefine the acceptable level of on-field belligerence. Thus Ponting's hankering to obtain an ICC determination of what was beyond the pale - not a wise move, really, considering the ICC needs a committee to determine the day of the week.
This is frankly, unbelievable, jumping-the-sharkiness. Everything is here. The precious use of italics. The need to drive home the thesis ("That is.."). The faithful parroting of Ponting's wisdom. The psychoanalytic take on why yet another Indian has managed to get under the skin of the Australian cricketer. And on and on.

I blame the BCCI for this. They've reduced a great writer to a babbling hack.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lets try again

Q commented on my post linking to my post over at Different Strokes below. I'm responding to him here. These are my final thoughts on the subject. The floor is open for further discussion amongst youse all :)

Q: Firstly, I imagine CA would make those decisions for the same reasons that someone might approve a visit by a low level official in the State Department to Pakistan, and not a visit by the President. The latter is a high-profile target. The former is not. The risk assessment for the two will be different.

Secondly, I've stopped believing in the mantra, "if India can visit Pakistan, anyone can". The BCCI has its reasons for supporting the PCB. You know what they are. Why does everyone see BCCI machinations everywhere, but not in this regard?

The 1998 marker is a red herring. Australia was scheduled to tour Pakistan in 2001-2002. We all know what happened in 2001.

As for why every other country has toured Pakistan and not Australia, my guess is that it is because the Players Association in Australia is stronger, more vocal, and perhaps because CA does way more advance planning (including listening to security experts).

The problem I see in this entire discussion is that one thesis, that the Australians are hypocrites is advanced, with no thought given to the possibility that they might have *any* good reasons for not wanting to tour. That is why I gave the example of the backpackers. They also make similar decisions. Why do people not accuse them of hypocrisy?

Yes, a bomb is a bomb is a bomb. But the context of the violence is important and threat perception is important. You tell me that everyone knows that the two countries are different and viewed differently. Then why shouldn't people make different decisions on whether they choose to visit the two countries or not?

Personally, I'm a little offended by a lot of the so-called "Pakistan supporters" amongst the Australians and Kiwis and English, who basically land up saying the following: "Look, its just another country with brown people where bombs go off. One just happens to have some fat cats giving out checks". Now, that is racist. But people don't see that. In the rush to support Pakistan, you and I (and our peeps) get lumped into some sort of monolithic entity.

Pakistanis understandably feel disappointed by the lack of international cricket in their country. But a complete refusal to even try and understand that folks might be apprehensive given the unrelentingly negative coverage of Pakistan (and the actual acts of violence that occur there) seems baffling to me.

I would not be offended if Australia said they were worried about playing in Delhi. I'm traveling to India this year with an American friend of mine. I told him about the blasts (he didn't know they had happened). If he had chosen to cancel his plans, I would not have been offended. I know more than him; I have family to visit; I'm used to this from my University days. All I know is, I would not have called him a coward (or a hypocrite because he had visited Turkey where random acts of violence have also occurred). I would have tried to persuade him. But I wouldn't have condemned him.

Lastly, plenty of folks on that comment thread went beyond disagreeing with my conclusions. I was accused of being anti-Islamic and racist. I sure as hell hope you didn't find that reaction understandable.

Woe is me

Dear reader, do you hear those violins playing? Yes, that mournful sound is being being emitted because Delhi have been flogged by that dastardly lot, the Rest of India, in the Irani Trophy. And to make things worse, neither Badrinath nor Kaif nor Chopra did anything to stand out. Duffers. Ah, well, at least the Ranji Trophy will stay on the shelf a little longer. And a few Delhi boys will be in the India XI when time comes to take on the Aussies (some quick arithmetic shows they'll make up more than a quarter of the team). Slim pickings, I know, but this is all the consolation we have. Is there any way I can blame the BCCI for this?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Irani blues

Gee, Munaf, word is you were acting all tough today? When playing against Delhi in the Irani Trophy? How about showing some of that fire when you don India colours? You know, like not taking 2 overs to warm up? Or not backing away when the ball is on the stumps? Or putting in a real serious chase when you are fielding?

More seriously, Delhi seem to have gone under badly in the Irani, and it will take a serious fightback to get them back on track. From a less provincial perspective, Badrinath's partnership with Dravid seems to be blossoming, and it will be interesting see how this pair does tomorrow. Advantage: Rest of India. And given the vagaries of the pitch and the presence of Bhajji and Kumble, things do look tough for the lads. But who could ask for anything more than a tough game featuring the best in the land - especially as preparation for a tough test series.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thoughts on the endgame

Mukul Kesavan in fine form over at The Telegraph. This is what you get when you cross an accomplished novelist with a cricket fan with a serious academic. (Thanks to Homer for the tip).

Wisdom from the Capital

A very good interview with Akash Chopra, who should never have been dropped from the Indian test team during the 2004 tour of Pakistan. We still haven't settled on an opening partnership since his dropping, and lost a very good close-in fielder to boot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No, you don't get it

Well, I don't think I've ever had a post misunderstood so spectacularly. Check out my latest post over at Different Strokes. Read the comments.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thats the way

Pure genius from the Punjab Cricket Association:
For the second Test between India and Australia in Mohali, the PCA will not only provide free entry for all five days to students in the region, but also food on the house. PCA president IS Bindra, who is also principal advisor to the ICC, said he expects around 5000 students to turn up daily. Prices for regular tickets have been slashed as well.
The business about the good sounds very generous, and the free entry is a perfect way to get the young folks into the stands. I hope other state associations are taking note (perhaps the BCCI could recompense them for lost revenue in exchange for the chance to have packed stands; always good for television and for educating more folks about test cricket).

And apparently Mohali sells beer. Some day, I'll make it out there. I've got all these Punjabi lines saved up, just waiting to be yelled from the stands.

The Kangaroo has landed

The Australians are here. At least there won't be any talk of the Final Frontier. But there will be plenty of talk of: being bigger than the Ashes (already under way); the needle between the two teams; the need for the series to be played in the right spirit (Why isn't it ever about being played with, or under the influence of, the "right spirits?". Beer during the game might make everyone real mellow); the inexperience of this Aussie side (never mind that they are all pretty experienced Shield campaigners, and thus might have acquired a few scars that playing against some test teams wouldn't have ensured); the experience of the Indian side and the decline of the Fab Four; the battle of Aussie spin vs Indian; the leadership of the Aussie pace attack by Brett Lee; and so on. There will also be some very interesting photo-ops: I'm not sure which charitable organizations will find favor with the Aussies this time but rest assured, those trips will be made.

Meanwhile, there is also the business of making predictions. I'm afraid I'm too indecisive to make a call on the result of the test series. (I do however, plan on having a prediction for every test match by the close of the 2nd day's play; lets see if I can stick to that routine). One prediction I will gladly make is for the first test's XI: Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, SRT, Laxman, Kaif, Dhoni, Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Sharma. There, that was easy, wasn't it? Oh, and Delhi will win the Irani Trophy. (If anyone knows a way to watch it in the US, please let me know)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

When it all began

Mr. Bunting's hoard

Man, I'd love to visit Mr. Bunting's collection of cricket books. And this should explain why so many of us are obsessed with the game:
Cricket books, he says, account for one-half of all books written on all sports

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We need to communicate better

So the Bangladesh Cricket Board did try and get in touch with the ICL-contracted players (sorry, we don't use the word 'rebel' on this blog) to have a conversation about matters cricketing and financial, but apparently they didn't try very hard:
The board claimed to have tried to contact them, but it emerged that they had only sent them text messages. "SMS is not a proper way to communicate with somebody," [said] Shahriar Nafees
Maybe the board needs to check out this video. (OK, I know its not a break-up, but a) you catch my drift and b)I just felt like sharing it. PS: the real fun in that video takes a while to start up around 2:30 or so, be patient).

Joi ICL-Bangla

The Bangladeshi exodus to the ICL may be more significant than it seems: it creates the possibility for more national sides in their tournament, and thus the potential for a small World League to form, and secondly, it threatens to affect the power relations in the ICC. Not all of Bangladesh's best players have signed but the fact that some have, and set an example with their paychecks will certainly prompt more to do so.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mind that door?

And in other news, the first of the Fab Four makes an exit. Or does he? Its tempting to think this is the end of Ganguly's test career but given the vagaries of Indian test selection it's not clear one can say anything so definitive (a couple of middle-order collapses more and the calls to bring him back will grow). Still, its an interesting move and if the "signal" aspect of that story linked above is true, doubly so. Watch this season closely.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Kaif in the house

I'm' glad to see Kaif back amongst the runs against Australia A. With the Indian middle-order heading for shakeups in the near future, its good to see this fighter (and excellent fielder) putting his hands up. I was disappointed to see Kaif crash during the GC days; hopefully, this is the start of his return.