Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Time to start paying attention to that ODI series

I have not paid much attention to the England-Australia ODI series - thus far. The World Cup has seen to that. Yes, cricket, my lovely, even you (in your here's-another-pointless-ODI-series form) can't compete with the world's premier sporting event. But ironically, now that the score is 3-0 England, I've suddenly become fascinated by it in that "I'm going to a NASCAR rally so I can see a crash" sense. For one thing, there is the chance that I will get to witness an extremely entertaining feeding frenzy in the Australian and English presses if this margin of victory were to be enlarged. But even more entertainingly, Ricky Ponting might wax poetic, both at postmatch interviews and in his own writings (if things are going really well, perhaps we can count on an on-field implosion in full sight of the cameras). The Punter is always good in these situations (defeat, that is); the perfect turn-of-phrase and the pitch-perfect facial expression.

Even if bat on ball hasn't quite done it for me in the last few weeks, the associated entertainments of the game always hold some promise. Especially when England seem to be lording it over Australia.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

La Copa Mundial and cricket

My last post on this blog was almost four weeks ago. The reason for that was simple: I'd been traveling in South America (more precisely, Ecuador and Peru). These are not places that make one think a great deal about cricket. Instead, I was swamped by futbol todos tiempos. Indeed, had Ecuador and Peru qualified the swamping would have been even more comprehensive. In these past few weeks then, thanks to a combination of traveling, timezones, lack of net access, my location and the Copa Mundial, I had very little exposure to cricket. Still, thinking about the World Cup does prompt thoughts about the modern game, its embrace of nationalism, and the contrasting fortunes of the World Cups in the games of cricket and football. Given the trajectories of cricket in recent times these comparisons are increasingly interesting.

The Copa Mundial has become bloated, sure, but it manages to dispense with the bloating very quickly, eliminating fifty percent of the field after the first round, and quickly moving on to a knockout. I still remember 16-team Cups, followed by the 24-team version, and while this 32-team version is more extensive, it still feels like things are moving along (and there aren't too many hopeless minnows around - even accounting for North Korea). Football's World Cup remains the supreme sporting event on the planet. Despite tweakings, the cricket World cup continues to slip in the assessments of fans. It needs a rescheduling, a rearrangement, a dicing-n-slicing if it is to retain its relevance and importance.

Each football World Cup sees the inevitable complaints made in the analysis of failures of ostensible favorites: the best performances are saved for the clubs, players have injuries left over from the club season etc. We've seen glimmerings of this analysis in the wake of India's crashing out of the T20 WC; I expect variants of it for different teams will appear (as it already has) down the line.

And of course, nationalism. Every four years, I pay attention to football. That is because I remain hopelessly stuck in country v. country contests. And that is why I'm still not an IPL follower (despite brave attempts to drum up interests). For the next couple of weeks, its all flag-waving, all the time. (And it will be same in cricket as the English season kicks off).

Time to be a jingoist. Sort of.

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