Friday, April 30, 2010

Some World Cup thoughts

Given my unlikely-to-change preference for international cricket over that featuring franchises, I'm anticipating the T20 World Cup quite eagerly (it also helps that the timezones work for me). There are, I think, several other reasons to do so. Firstly, I'm hoping the World Cup makes conversations about cricket to be just about the game (much as I like talking about cricket in context, sometimes I like just thinking about bat and ball). Secondly, I'm keen to see whether there are perceptible differences caused by IPL participation - will IPL players be fatigued, or burned out, or just more match-ready and savvy? (In this regard, I'm especially curious to see how India do, given the less-than-ideal team selection). Lastly, the pitches in the Caribbean are likely to be slow and low and possibly less conducive to big hitting. This could mean an increased role for spinners, or less appetizingly, for slow-medium trundlers. Let's hope it's the former.

The T20 World Cup is a good model for a major cricket tournament in today's cricket world: it is short, sweet and competitive after a slightly low-key start (and in the case of India, even that is not the case, given the off-the-field significance of their game against Afghanistan). Like many other folks, I would not mind a cricket world in which the T20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy alternated every year (i.e., a major limited-overs tournament involving all nations every year). It enables talk of bragging rights amongst the major nations on a regular basis in this arena and would greatly increase the significance of the other limited-over games played (hopefully as part of bilateral series) the rest of the year.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Where have I heard of Lalit Modi before?

I've just remembered a little story from (roughly) 1984-87. A cousin of mine went to Duke University for his MBA. I spoke to him regarding my plans to go to the US for graduate school. He gave me some advice: don't succumb to the temptations of the US. Otherwise, I might end up like the young Modi boy, who was his classmate, and had got into some serious trouble with the local police.

I should have succumbed; I would have cleaned up millions and hung out with cricketers. But to top it off, I would have had the chance to deliver a rambling, squirm-inducing, spiel at the end of a cricket tournament. On live television.

Yes, some things are worth breaking the law for.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

No Kieron?

Why isn't Kieron Pollard in?

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Cheesy Kipling kicksoff IPL final

The IPL final. Kipling by the "commentary" team.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Rich in what sense?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Viru and the World Cup

The news that Viru Sehwag has a busted shoulder has provoked some expected teeth gnashing - both over his absence and his replacement. Now, I love the thought of watching Sehwag bat, but I have to confess that when it came to the T20 WC I had not managed to generate the kinds of great expectations which would experience this news as harbinger of an apocalypse. Part of this display of sangfroid on my part finds its grounding in the knowledge that Sehwag does not do very well in one-day internationals or T20s (I'm hard pressed to think of a single significant innings), and yet another part in the related awareness that I don't associate him with a winning campaign in a tournament. (In this arena, at least, I would consider Dhoni's absence a far more significant blow).

I've slowly become convinced over the years that the problem with Sehwag in the limited versions of the game is that he prefers to be the one with the initiative, the one that imparts a jolt to the proceedings, and then, having pushed the opposition on to the pyschological defensive, is able to take over and dominate. It is a strategy that works in test cricket. It does not in limited-overs cricket, for there, bowlers and captains alike expect punishment and do not get fazed (or perhaps not as much as Viru would like them to). I have to admit though, that given the genius of this man, there is something slightly unsatisfactory about this explanation. Why is he unable to change, to adjust, to reconfigure, when he can do so in test cricket? Be that as it may, I cannot remember a single ODI or T20 innings by him, and indeed, cannot even a remember a moment from an ODI or a T20 which features Viru in his glory.

As for India's campaign in the T20 WC, more on that later. But I'm afraid the IPL does create the expectation that India should win. This isn't entirely a fair expectation given the brevity of the game but it is out there nonetheless. But the incumbents of the T20 team, in their appearances in the IPL, haven't exactly managed to bowl us over. (At least a few like Yusuf Pathan and Ishant Sharma have looked like duds). Heartbreak might still be around the corner.

If there is, we should be glad it will be over quickly. The T20 WC is compact and concise. It should serve as a model for the "other" World Cup.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

IPL loyalties settled

I finally have an assessment of the various IPL teams in terms of whether I'm able to find it within myself to "support" them. Here goes. The order reflects the current points table.
  • Mumbai Indians: Mumbai. 'Nuff said. Disqualified.

  • Royal Challengers Bangalore: Dravid, Kumble, Kallis, letting all and sundry know success in test cricket doesn't cripple a T20 player. Eminently supportable.

  • Delhi Daredevils: Delhi. 'Nuff said. Worthy of love, affection, respect, adoration.

  • Chennai Super Kings: Matty Hayden. Expelled, hopefully, never to be seen again.

  • Rajasthan Royals: Mixed feelings. Warne and Pathan, yes, but doesn't Modi have some connections with Rajasthan? Disqualified. And in retrospect, not that hard a call.

  • Deccan Chargers: Symonds. See entry for CSK above.

  • Kolkata Knight Riders: Dada. Surreal. Therefore, to be encouraged and cheered on.

  • Kings XI Punjab: Land of my forefathers. Shoulder-to-shoulder we stand. No fear.


Yuvi, Sanga, step forward

Today would a very good day for Yuvraj Singh to find form, and to get some monkeys off his back. Today would also be a good day for Sangakkara to do well. Who wouldn't like to see two contrasting lefties do well? (Folks that don't want the Delhi Daredevils to get to the semis, that's who).

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A new entry to the blogroll

I've added a new entry to my blogroll, and I must confess, I'm staggered I haven't done so before. Russell Degnan's blog Knotted Paths (Idle Summers is the section on cricket) is truly excellent, and offers some very good, serious analysis of the game. The ratings section alone makes this blog one worth reading.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cricket sightings in the work of Francis Bacon

Ducking Beamers recently noted a mention of cricket in Virginia Woolf's _To the Lighthouse_ (ostensibly in response to my reporting a cricket sighting in the works of Gabriel Orozco). In that spirit, I'd like to note another cricket sighting. A few days ago, while reading John Richardson's review of the Francis Bacon retrospectives mounted last year, I noticed the following line:
Paintings inspired by Edwards as well as a Formula 1 driver and a famous cricketer the artist fancied (fetishism survives in the batting pads) reveal that in old age Bacon managed to banish his demons and move on to beefcake.
This prompted the obvious question: which cricketer served as fantasy material for Bacon?

Off to Google I went. I googled a few different terms and finally hit the jackpot in a Times review of the Tate retrospective,
..his superficial interest in cricket resulted in a long and flippant finale devoted to images of Ian Botham in action.
The cricket works don't seem to have captured any critic's fancy: the Times' critic notes,
How astute, for instance, to include only one of the cricket pictures
Then, a conversation with the critic Edward Lucie Smith features the following comment,
It is true that I don't like a good deal of the very late work, particularly the series showing dwarfish figures dressed for the game of cricket. It was only after FB's death that I learned that these were supposedly inspired by Francis's fascination with the swaggering, ultimately butch cricket hero of that period, Ian Botham. Well I suppose I can't blame him for lusting after Botham, who when young was testosterone on two legs, and very much aware of the fact.
And lastly, the Guardian's Adrian Searle expresses relief at their omission,
The cast of sexy low-life gangster boyfriends, louche dissolutes, Colony Room renegades and hard-drinking, hard-smoking Soho gorgons who people Bacon's art also keep the paintings alive and vivid for us. These feature animals, captains of industry, dead politicians, Renaissance popes, Mick Jagger and Ian Botham, though the last two have wisely been left out of Tate Britain's retrospective.

OK, so I know that art critics think these works are crap. The problem is, I can't find any of the paintings. Google Images is of no help. Can anyone help?

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cricket dreams

Last night I dreamed about cricket. And interestingly enough, this was a classic anxiety dream. In this case, I became stuck in a loop, replaying variations on the same theme again and again: a batsman would play a stroke, the ball would come to my position in the field, and I would desperately try and make a clean stop and accurate throw. All the latent elements of fielding anxiety came to the fore: Would I misfield? Would I be able to prevent a second run or would the batsmen show me up? Would I throw accurately?

I can remember two plays from this dream. In one case, the ball got past me, I run for it, slip (another embarrassing feature of my fielding in recent years), pick up and then when I throw, the ball lands a few feet away from the wicketkeeper. On another occasion, interestingly, I throw back reasonably accurately but the keeper has moved and the remaining fielders aren't observing my efforts.

I think one explanation for the latent anxiety about fielding that could have prompted this dreaming episode is that fielding, more than any other aspect of my playing, is the domain where I've come to experience the most acute physical struggle in cricket. A stiff back means that bending and diving aren't easy; an often painful right shoulder means that throwing isn't the most comfortable of acts. And I think my history of failing to make runouts when there is a tight one to be made (by failing to get in a hard, tight, accurate throw) wears heavily on me. (I think I've only made one runout in my life - in a park game, when a batsman tapped the ball to me at cover and took off - I ran the non-striker out with a direct throw as he desperately tried to make his ground).

But I'm not complaining about the presence of this dreaming activity. Its vividness meant that if nothing else, for a few moments, I was back on a cricket field, dealing with ball and bat, with other cricketers. And who could really, really complain about that?


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Touring with one eye closed

Over at CI, Nasser Hussain is interviewed by John Stern. A decent interview, quite honest at all times. There aren't too many surprises but that's largely because we've heard Nasser say most of what is in this interview in various articles and pronouncements from the press box over the years. What I want to focus on is a comment of his about touring the subcontinent. I do so because I think it is revealing of the tunnel vision of sportsmen. Not English ones in particular, for I think this attitude crosses national lines.

When asked "How did the team's fortunes change?" Nasser replies,
We created a team. We went to the subcontinent in 2000-01, which really helped because there's not much to do socially there. We created a unity by ensuring that all our rooms were on the same corridor of the hotels. We'd leave doors open, there'd be PlayStation sessions and quiz nights, a lot of banter. People worked hard in the gym.
What is interesting here is the claim there is not much to do "socially" in the subcontinent. This gave me pause. What could Nasser have in mind? Does he mean there aren't any people to meet? That can't be it; the problem would rather more likely be that there are too many people around.

But more to the point, what is the problem in just walking around the streets of a part of the world you aren't too familiar with? (Indeed, when I travel, there are times I disdain a guidebook and just stroll). What, that is, is the problem with displaying simple curiosity about your location?

Perhaps Nasser has cultural entertainment in mind: music performances, theater, a visit to a art gallery. Yet, somehow, I doubt that Playstation-philic young men have these in mind. Perhaps it's a pub that's missing?

I'm not really trying to take the mickey here. I'm genuinely curious. When I say of a neighborhood in the American suburbs, that "there is nothing to do," I mean things like the above: it's deserted, there are no centers of cultural activity. But then, the American suburbs are reasonably familiar to me, and there isn't much one can discover by walking (unless rows of manicured lawns is your thing). The same isn't true of most locales that the English team would have found itself in. (I agree there might have been security issues in Pakistan and Sri Lanka during the tours that Nasser mentions that might have made moving out of the hotels difficult). Guides and guidance might have been needed but surely those could have been arranged?

As I said above, I don't intend this post to be just about the English and the subcontinent. I wonder how many of the cricketers that tour take the opportunity to soak up some of the locales they find themselves in.

To travel is to be fortunate; one wonders if the extent of this good fortune is known to the lads that go and do cricketing battle in distant lands.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Big-hitting like you've never seen

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Back in the game

Right. So spring break is over and I can now get back to blogging, teaching, grading, and all of the rest. (I look forward to some of those activities more than the others).

The best way to jump back into all of this is to note that the IPL is too long. My first reaction, on returning to New York City from my travels was, "This thing is still on?". Yes, it is. 8C2x2 = 56. Games, that is. One can only imagine (with some fear) the prospects of an expanded IPL with even more games. On the bright side, Mumbai and Delhi are league leaders, which is just the ticket to keep me excited and interested (sort of) in the final outcome.

Meanwhile, this blog showed up on a blogger's list of the top 40 cricket blogs on the net. Normally, I would diss lists like that but what I like about this one is that its creator David Siddall seems to have put some effort into it. (And I've always wanted to feature on a top 40 list). I even found a few new blogs to check out. You probably will as well.

Lastly, this dude, Eyepeeyell on twitter is pretty funny. Can you a) guess his nationality and b) his location?

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