Archive for May, 2008

A tale of two Mumbai legends Lara & Tendulkar

It is inevitable that comparisons are drawn between the two city based leagues plying their trade out of India. Sometimes some similarities between the two leagues seem spooky but are real.

One story that has caught my attention is probably two of the greatest batsmen in Sachin Tendulkar & Brian Charles Lara playing for the IPL and ICL teams respectively, representing the magnificent city of Mumbai.

When Lara aligned himself with the pioneering ICL by taking charge of the Mumbai Champs side he has the pressure of maintaining Mumbai’s supremacy in the new format of the game, after all he had taken over the helm of affairs of the side representing the nerve centre of Indian cricket.

Lara could not maintain Mumbai’s supremacy to the T20 level. The dismal performance of the Champs was a major setback for the fans of ICL for whom the biggest draw in the first year was undoubtedly Lara. The second tournament of the ICL too received a setback with an untimely injury to the master south-paw and was probably the only disappointment for the ICL organizers and its ever growing fan base at the Edelweiss 20s Challenge (ICL’s 2nd T20 tournament). To its credit the ICL has found new heroes and new champions (both in terms of players & teams) to catch the imagination of the domestic Indian cricket fan.

The IPL which was a bigger platform saw Mumbai represented by the Mumbai Indians & the other great batsman and a natural son of Mumbai at the helm of affairs. Almost in his spooky resemblance to his ICL & West Indian counterpart, Tendulkar was injured for the first half of the inaugural IPL season. Even once he set his foot in the arena of city based T20 format, Tendulkar had produced an under-par display of his humongous talent; like Lara, Tendulkar found it difficult to crack the T20 code.

In the larger picture though there can be no better metaphor for Mumbai Cricket than Tendulkar and Lara at helm of affairs of their respective teams; all three stand for great achievements, supreme dominance and pedigreed reputations. It is also important to note that Mumbai cricket, Tendulkar and Lara would be keen crack the T20 code which has emerged as the latest vibrant phenomenon in the world of cricket.

Mumbai cricket and its patrons are proud of their rich history and its contribution of to the game. A Mumbai cricket fans’ vociferous and sometimes almost fanatical support remains unparallel in the history of the game and it would be interesting to see how the two legends devise methodologies to crack the T20 code on both personal and team fronts in the future editions of the ICL & IPL.

Also noteworthy may be the fact that with T20 expected to be the next big thing in the world of cricket; will Mumbai be able to register its dominance in the latest format of the game or will the mantle of nerve centre of Indian cricket pass onto a Chennai (strong teams in both ICL & IPL in the form of Chennai Superstars & Chennai Super kings), Hyderabad (Hyderabad Heroes) or Chandigarh (Chandigarh Lions & Kings X1 Punjab)

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Ranadeb Bose story proves Indian cricket needs more than one IPL

The IPL has had great success in commercial terms and we have to give it to the organizers that today city leagues have made cricket a viable career option. It is no more a Russian roulette for a young promising teenager to pursue the game as a career option. A player no longer needs to make it to the elite national team to make a living out of the sport and that is what is going to get more youngsters to pursue a career in the magnificent game of cricket.

Unfortunately with all the good achieved by IPL, it needs to introspect the negatives so that it can come out bigger, better and more beneficial for cricketers in the years to come. A lot has been written about the slapgate and franchisee-player rift and I guess with time it will get sorted out. My focus with this write up dwells on the fact ;if the IPL has been able to encompass the humongous talent pool possessed by India?  The fact that a promising player (Ranadeep Bose) who has been on the periphery of the national team has been left in the cold by his franchisee because of what can be termed as embarrassment of riches in terms of fast bowling talent in its possession. This makes a strong point that the present structure and size of the IPL cannot encompass the entire Indian pool of players.

The city based leagues was originally formulated to provide domestic talents the exposure of playing at the highest level as well as tapping the commercial viability of combining domestic talent with international players to produce some high octane cricket matches for the cricket crazy consumers of the sub continent.

It is therefore imperative for the authorities concerned to see to it that all the domestic players get to take part in the IPL. This may be more important than getting stars to take part in the IPL. After all the foremost objective of the IPL are not commercial gains but strengthening of Indian cricket.

It can be best summed up by what ace commentator Harsha Bhogle was quoted saying in a TV program “Indian cricket is a commercial success but not a cricketing success yet “.

Purists may question what good would T20 cricket do in the development process of a budding cricketer. I guess for every cricketer worth his salt Test cricket is the ultimate test. One can understand when players (both present & former) vouch for the greatness of test cricket, maybe even perennial fans like yours truly prefer the test format of the game but I Guess it is a bit of self indulgence from both players and perennial cricket fans like us to except the mass supporters (especially TV consumers) of the sport to follow test cricket. SO to draw a conclusion just of basis of the players perception can be suicidal in world of modern competitive & commercial sporting environment.

Another problem with test cricket is that it is more of an elitist format of the game which can only accommodate the cream of the talent pool in a country. However the players who play the game are rightly justified in formulating Test cricket being the real form of the game as it is the ultimate test of skills of a cricketer with the bat & ball however it is not the best format to catch the fancy of the consumer of the sport and this is where the glaring contrast lies in terms of perception of the sport from the point of view of a consumer vis a vis the players of the sport.

SO what doest T20 do for the average cricketer?

I guess it is the best format for a player to make the sport a viable career option; it is also the best format for him to get recognition from the consumer; & importantly the most viable platform to gain exposure of playing with the best in the business. These in my personal opinion is the importance of T20 cricket and the best way forward for unearthing new talent and explore new pastures for the game of cricket.

So the big question is can the IPL encompass the humongous talent pool in the country? The answer is no. it needs more than 8 teams and a 44 day calendar to do that.

So what is the solution? Either grows from a 44 day annual calendar to a 4 month calendar or a radical step to recognize other leagues like the ICL plying out of India.

The second option looks viable as it will not disrupt the international calendar at the same time encompass the entire humongous pool of players.

Which sane cricket body would not like to tap the resources of the ICL ; which possess coaches like Cullinan, Bevan, Rixon & Emburey; support staff of international quality of the likes of Jock Campbell & company. I think a ceremonial official approval of the ICL would help the BCCI tap on the resources created by the ICL as well probably pass on the commercial benefit of league cricket to one & all associated with domestic Indian cricket.

My personal perception of the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi (may be I am wrong) is that he is commercially driven in his objectives for Indian cricket. Nothing wrong with that , but in the larger picture of Indian cricket it will have to be Sharad Pawar who will have to show true leadership qualities and think out of the petty BCCI think-tank policies and focus on nurturing talent & betterment of the cricketers (both in terms of exposure & commercial gains).

Will Pawar exhibit his skills will be a wait and watch in the next few days.

After all as the head of the premier cricket body in the world it is his moral responsibility to see to it that a prodigal talent like a Rayudu, Nechim or Murtaza get full opportunity to excel in the field of cricket rather than being ostracized due to draconian restrictive & monopolistic policies and at the same time see to it that a Neeraj Patel (played only 2 IPL matches) & Ranadeep Bose (no opportunity at the IPL) get full exposure of the city based T20 format.

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The Enigma of Shahrukh Khan in the world of cricket

When the biggest brand of Indian cinema (Bollywood) announced his alliance with the world of cricket by picking up the franchisee of the Kolkata IPL team, it was supposed to be the next best thing to happen to cricket since it won the T20 world cup.

The star to his credit brought in some fresh but amateur enthusiasm into Indian cricket viewing as a franchisee- entrepreneur.

Making a strange bed fellow with the incorrigible honchos of the BCCI, his contribution to the Hype, hoopla and tamasha of the IPL has been unparallel and is probably the single most influential factor in making the IPL the biggest reality show in the country.

The media portrayed him as the best thing to happen to Indian cricket almost portraying him as the sports messiah, an image he earned with his brilliant performance as the hockey coach in chak-de.

I guess Shahrukh Khan; otherwise an astute media personality took his reel-image far too seriously and fell into the trap of taking his reel-role into the real world of professional cricket. He almost over shadowed some of the biggest cricketing names on their turf and that is what has led to his downfall in the world of cricket. This was a fundamental error because if you are associated with Indian cricket then never side line its heroes.

Bollywood may be big and happening and you may be the king but it can never replace Indian cricket as the biggest national pastime, this is best exemplified by what happened to pachvi pass when it was pitted against Indian cricket.

I guess Shahrukh needs to learn fast that cricket is serious business for its consumers (the general public following the sport). They will dance, sing and make merry with you but will not allow any franchisee to touch the sanctity of the sport so dear to them.

The BCCI is the biggest culprit it should have briefed its franchisee’ about the dynamics of cricket and the process of handling cricketers. Small things like dressing room access, opinions and suggestions in regards of cricket related decisions should have been clarified at the beginning of the tournament.

The present Fiasco where the king of Bollywood has been conspicuous by his absence when the chips are down for his team & also bringing his ego ( after all he must be used to his demi god status in his own industry) as a major distraction to his already dented side, don’t read good signs for him as a sports entrepreneur.

I guess it’s a lesson for Khan to understand the working of the BCCI jokers.

His own statement of being an anti-establishment guy means a lot of friction for the future as the BCCI deals with its own players and consumers as an autocrat would with his countrymen during the medieval times.

Any one who has followed Indian cricket for long will know the flip –flop attitude of the BCCI.  their crack down on the players after the2007 world cup fiasco and then taking a u-turn in announcing the commercial IPL shows their lack of consistency and unsporting attitude of leaving a player/ franchisee high & dry when he needs their support the most.

My advice to Khan, take a leaf out of some of the American league owners or the EPL league owners especially in dealing with   players or officials and also the general public.

IN the final analysis the next time you step in a cricket stadium behave like an entrepreneur rather than a rock star or an entertainer and things will fall in place. Secondly in true heroism & your self proclaimed anti-establishment attitude lock the horns with the bulls of the BCCI, hopefully that will help you contribute to Indian cricket.

I think what Shahrukh needs to do is garner support from players like Saurav, Sachin, Dhoni ,Yuvaraj and company to restore the supremacy of cricketers who are the major attraction for the consumers of the sport and show the officials their right place , that would be the chak-de effect cricket needs from Mr. Anti – establishment .

After all isn’t it a shame that the most powerful cricket nation does not have a player union to counteract an autocratic board infamous for pulling off its support when needed the most??????????

 

 

 

 

 

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Will IPL help India emerge as a sporting nation or an entertainment hub?

When the BCCI announced the much hyped IPL, most pundits applauded the effort as a revolutionary concept which would change the way we consume sports in this country. The media too went overboard requesting the proclaimed Moses of cricket (Commissioner or father of the IPL!) to take his cricketing foresight to other sporting disciplines; probably also consider a cabinet position as sports minister.

The IPL had an opportunity to change the country into a sport loving country and they had the right ammunition & resources in terms of mega bucks, high profile franchisees & star players from across the globe.

Most importantly they were gifted with the humongous brand equity of a national passion called cricket.

However in my humble capacity as a reader of the sport; the brains behind the IPL made the catastrophic blunder of positioning the league as the next big reality show, mother of all entertainment and in turn downgrading the core value of cricket and its perception amongst its patrons.

I call this a catastrophic blunder because cricket was at cross roads and had the opportunity of converting the mass base of cricket consumers into true sports lovers who value the true essence of sportsmanship & core values of cricket.

Unfortunately the IPL authorities and its broadcasting partner (notorious for dumbing cricket earlier) have taken the easier route, the mass base of cricket fans have been fed on the “tamasha” aspect of cricket instead of converting them into core sports lovers & more importantly alienating the heavy consumer ( serious cricket fan) of the sport.

My worst fears for the future IPL ventures are:

  1.  We will have more frictions between high profile egocentric franchisees, with little prior experience of running a sporting product & the core cricketing fraternity.
  2. Player discontentment fueled by the unwanted intrusion in form of the new ruthless corporate policies.
  3. Putting cricket and its core value on the backburner by creating hype around the strictly ancillary aspects like the entertainment hoopla.

 What a waste of opportunity to take India forward as a true sporting nation !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Would Moses practice restrictive & monopolistic trade policies if involved with cricket?

It was interesting to note the comment made by one of India’s finest cricketing brain in his stint as a commentator at the IPL matches. The man in question was Ravi Shastri who rechristened the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi as Moses Modi.

Sure Modi has carried out the business practice of milking the cash cow (Indian cricket) with text book precision. Nothing wrong with it, as in the competitive sporting environment that cricket survives; it was the right move so that the men who play the game could capitalize the support for the game to the fullest.

Personally I support the fact that cricketers should derive the financial benefit from such endeavors, especially the young domestic cricketers, who with their participation in the revolutionary league have achieved financial stability; an important component in the life of a professional cricketer.

But my biggest concern arises from the fact; is IPL big enough to encompass the entire humongous pool of aspiring cricketers from across India?

The million dollar question is will the proclaimed Moses of cricket look beyond commercial considerations and personal ego to help all the domestic players reap the benefit of his revolutionary concept?

City based league is a god given gift for an aspiring young cricketer & its benefit should pass on to one and all. For me the most heartening stories arising out of the IPL is the emergence of an Ashok Dhinda or a M.S. Ghoni. One of the leading dailies profiling the rise of Ghoni caught an interesting observation from Ghoni; he said that if it was not for Love Abhilish joining the ICL, he would have never made the cut into the Punjab Ranji team in turn not being considered for the IPL. So if Abhilish had not joined the ICL, IPL would have never seen the emergence of Ghoni.

This proves the point that either the IPL has to grow in size to accommodate all the players, or the BCCI has to recognize the ICL or more importantly its players. The first is difficult to achieve with the busy international commitment of the BCCI and its national team; it seems next to impossible to accommodate a window above 44 days.

Therefore in the best interest of all the domestic players the best thing the BCCI can do is recognize the ICL and derive benefits of its additional resources in making Indian cricket bigger and better.

After all for a Rayudu absorbed by ICL, a Venu Gopal has emerged for Hyderabad, for an Abu Nechim absorbed by the ICL, has seen the emergence of a Dhinda for Kolkata & the absorbing of an R Sathish by the ICL has seen the emergence of a Vidhyut Shivramakrishnan for Chennai.

SO will Mr. Moses live up to his name and walk the untested path of free economy in the world of cricket.

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IPL franchisees’ need to check their ego to maintain sanctity of cricket

The BCCI conceptualized the IPL, brought in big bucks, mega deals and high profile ego centric franchisees who were given a free hand to run cricket with proper checks and balances. The cracks are now developing and unless the BCCI nips the problem in the bud, the future of the IPL seems in danger.

I guess too much importance was given to entertainment & celebrity franchisees and this put cricket & its magnificent players on the back burner. This in my personal opinion was a catastrophic mistake as it belittled the cricketers & the core fan base. The BCCI claimed that it was the domestic Indian talent that would be the biggest benefactor of the IPL, but their actions and communication highlighted big-bucks, star player assortments and over enthusiastic franchisees, who were made to feel as the new messiahs of Indian cricket.

How else could you explain the fact that at the half way stage Shahrukh Khan under the after effects of his Chak-de image emerged as the poster boy of the IPL? The significance of the blunder was evident in the fact that the IPL was inclusive of cricket icons like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dhoni & Dravid.

In their over zealous enthusiasm; the franchisees under their ill advice of their entertainment brief started destroying the sanctity of the game by trespassing dressing rooms  etiquettes, player dugouts and probably team compositions ( how else can one explain packing off domestic players as a cost cutting measure).

I guess the biggest culprit in this whole avoidable episode has been the BCCI as patrons of the game and principle employers of the Indian cricketers they should have imparted their experience of running a sporting product to their enthusiastic franchisee rather than giving them a free hand with running of operations, especially handling players and cricket related issues.

It’s time the BCCI steps in and briefs the franchisees on the do’s & Don’ts:

  1. Stay away from cricketing issues: The winning and loosing of a side is beyond the preview of the franchisee’. The franchisee should only concentrate on promoting the regional identification of the team, stadium audience & endorsement and merchandise deals. I guess they should feel privileged in handling a product which enjoys unparallel brand equity; irrespective of the results of their performance, a Tendulkar , Ganguly , Dravid or Yuvaraj will guarantee you publicity and eyeballs. Winning or loosing is a part of the game and it’s only the egos of pompous franchisees’ like Dr Mallya that has instigated him to make unwarranted statements against some of the biggest names in the sport.
  2. Maintain sanctity: Shahrukh Khan as the self proclaimed ambassador of entertainment with the Kolkata knight riders has been seen crossing the line very often, smoking in the stadium, trespassing team meetings, crossing the boundary line; this Mr. Khan is just not cricket.    It was just a matter of time before those associated with cricket would take notice of this blatant trespass and have rightly cautioned him.

I guess the best answer Shahrukh got was in Mumbai when his act of upstaging the biggest icon of world cricket “Sachin Tendulkar” was met with a vociferous booing from the traditionally rich, cricket fanatic Mumbai public. I guess this is the best reminder to the Chak de star that his reel image of the hockey icon should be restricted to the 70-mm screen and he should take the back seat and let the likes of Ganguly and Dhinda remain in the forefront of the Knight-Ridder campaign.

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Obituary of National Icons! Will Shashank Manohar Save National Cricket

Change is the order for any sporting discipline in the competitive dynamic world of modern sports and one sport which is seeing dramatic changes is cricket. When league cricket was pioneered by ICL; they had a blessing in disguise in the fact that they could not touch national players. The ICL therefore cleverly tried a combination of international Icons in the dawn of their career with domestic Indian talents and produced competitive teams which took to T20 cricket like fish to water. This clearly demarcated city league & international cricket and both could co exist.

The BCCI has countered the ICL move by upping the scale and encompassing national icons around the world in the IPL. The IPL has turned out to be a commercial success but it will leave two major side effects for especially India cricket:

1. National Icons replaced by city icons: who would have thought that a Rahul Dravid would be booed at wankade? A Shewag batting carnage at Hyderabad would be greeted by a hush silence.

I think we have seen the last of national Icons in Dravid, Ganguly & Sachin Tendulkar. The Future stars like Dhoni , Shewag , Yuvaraj & Rohit Sharma will be metamorphosed into regional icons ; as far as their commercial valuations do not take a beating the players will not complain ,but in the long vision I guess cricket will cease to be a national sport , it will remain a city based league sport on the lines of the north American sports leagues.

I am sure a majority would think that this write up has been under the influence of some intoxicants and that the game that evoked national passion like none other can never change. But the reality will soon strike and like everything else in life commercial considerations will overpower nostalgic emotions. The best metaphor for national cricket is single screen cinema hall which has given way to multiplexes. The multiplex of cricket is the IPL and all that will remain of white flannels & men in blue is nostalgic moments.

2. Death of Trans national rivalry: The ICC has never looked weaker, Pakistan cricket is in trouble, so is the Sri Lankan set up. The only countries which have a foundation are Cricket Australia & England if another league cricket tycoon, Stanford bails them out. It is only a matter of time before you identify a Shoaib Akhtar is known as a Kolkata knightrider or a Murlidharan as a Chennai boy. Bret lee will be known as the blonde assassin in Zinta’s basket & Warne will be in the news for stalking a Rajput princess with his SMS’s. Again this fact may be hard to fathom for all the cricket fans who have grown up on international rivalries, but mark my words Yr 2008 will be the last resistance to city/franchisee based cricket taking over all other forms of the game.

So is there a solution to save cricket from this onslaught. Personally the dominance & monopoly of the IPL has to be countered. The only way of doing it is by brining it at par with the ICL & Stanford’s league. Somehow players should be allowed to play in al the three leagues maybe Stanford or ICL should buy out the underpaid Aussies at the IPL similarly the IPL & Stanford could buy out some promising domestic talents from the ICL , what this would do is break the monopoly and commercial loyalty amongst the players with the IPL. I guess The IPL should be relegated as a mere subsidiary of the BCCI and IPL authorities should not allowed to be a part of the BCCI decision making committee. It would be interesting to see when Shashank Manohar ( president elect of the BCCI ) takes over at the helm of affairs of the BCCI. Manohar has spared himself from the IPL hoopla and a lot would depend upon him to cut down the IPL to the size it rightly deserves, so that the true flavor of cricket survives.

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