Archive for BCCI

Indian cricket’s ‘Special one ‘on cusp of a treble of world championships!

By Samir Pai

There is no doubt that MS Dhoni epitomizes the phrase ‘destiny’s child’ as far as India cricket is concerned. A rustic background from a region that is not a natural breeding ground for young cricketing talents; Dhoni emerged from the back lanes of Indian domestic cricket to evolve into one of the finest captain/ player, in the limited overs format of the game.

 Easily one of the best finishers of the game in the ODI format, Dhoni’s success at the game is not only confined to him being a brilliant player, but also the strategic head of the side, as its captain. His rise in stature as a leader since the fairytale World T20 campaign in South Africa 2007, has been phenomenally meteoric !

While his test record in the recent past has taken away a little sheen from his remarkable achievements as a captain; there is no denying the fact that in the limited over format & subcontinent conditions, Dhoni is the undisputed king.

If Dhoni & boys claim top honours at the forthcoming T20 world edition in Sri Lanka, he surely will become India’s best limited overs captains of all times.  After all it will be no mean feat to win three world championships!

However unlike the ODI World Cup which India won in emphatic style, the World T20 campaign is going to be a lot tougher for Dhoni & Co, primarily owing to the precarious nature of the T20 format. Such is the format that it makes it a far more equitable competition amongst competing teams! T20 as a format also negates to a large extent the advantage enjoyed by sub continent sides, in their own backyard, over their otherwise formidable rivals like Australia, England & South Africa ! Also the fact that many of the top international players of the world, play in the T20 leagues in the sub continent, including the IPL ; acclimatizes them to the playing conditions far better than in other formats of the game.  How Dhoni counters the competition will make an interesting watch!

MS Dhoni’s leadership style is almost akin to ‘brawler’ style boxer, who soaks in lot of punches & punishment from his opponent before finally counter attacking in the end with powerful punches to deliver the fatal knockout blow.  As seen in the recently concluded T20 verses New Zealand, Dhoni waited till the very last to deliver his final onslaught! There he was unsuccessful!  However record shows that this strategy has worked more often for him than not! The origins of such a strategy can also be inferred to his team composition being lop sided in favour of batsmen, weakening an already thin bowing line up.  Interesting to observe during  the T20 world, would be to see if Dhoni modifies his composition to strengthen his bowling line up with an additional bowler like Harbhajan ( also a decent lower middle order batsman in T20 format) or remains rigid with 7 batsmen/4 bowler composition!

Dhoni”s leadership in cricket is almost comparable to another titled ‘special one’ from a different sport, football- Jose Mourinho!  Both are canny, street-smart, outspoken and often successfully in blunting more attacking & free flowing opponents with effective defensive tactics and supreme man management skills.   Dhoni as a player is a different story , but Dhoni as a leader will surely seal his name in the annals  of Indian Cricket, as its greatest limited over captain, if he succeeds in winning is third world championship.

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Test Cricket should have seprate exclusive operations

As I write this piece, we have witnessed two recent test matches, that prove that when the contest between bat and ball is balanced; test cricket is the most pure form of cricketainment. So the big question, what has the apex body of world cricket ICC and its constituent national bodies, done to promote and propagate the oldest and purest form of cricket forward on the path of growth?. The answer sadly is nothing! All you find is wise administrators making the politically correct statement – test cricket is priority (sic). If test cricket was priority then why is the world championship of tests, postponed for another era!

My assumption is that the czars of cricket administration have never had the confidence that test cricket on its own steam can be a commercially successful product. Their inference is that test cricket is something that is important emotionally , but needs to be compensated by limited overs cricket to survive. The above scenario may not be true for countries like Australia and England, where test cricket still is big. However the financial fulcrum of world cricket , India and its constituent apex body BCCI, operate the test format on low priority. This is what ails test cricket’s growth and needs to be addressed with immediate effect.

I believe that the recent two tests , one featuring australia and south africa and other involving West Indies and India, have been eye openers. If wickets are sporting, the balance of the battle between bat and ball is maintained, we will get entertaining close encounters resulting in high spectator turnout and coinciding higher TV audiences.

If test cricket has to prosper then it should be a stand alone entity, commercially and more importantly in terms of operations. What this would do is remove the complacency from the present set up of cricket administrators , especially from India. There is no doubt in my mind that the present day revenues of Indian cricket establishment comes from IPL and ODIs; the BCCI mandarins treat tests as a honorary format that they need to compensate. There is no sense of initiative or focus as they generate revenue for the tests from the broadcaster, who too treat tests as a necessary evil they need to broadcast, while the bread and butter lies in the shorter formats. The same results in no initiative or mandate to produce sporting wickets, which is imperative to produce a good test cricket product. The present mentality involving test cricket in India, is to produce batting strips that would convert into spinning wonders, day 3 onward – resulting in a win for Indian expected to leave all satisfied. This is far from the truth and certainly not what the average fan wants- he wants a great competitive contest, with of course the emotive rider of India doing well! The proof of the same lies in the significantly higher interest generated in the 3rd test that India drew as compared to the first two tests of the series that India won!

Test cricket fans have to be more vocal in their demands for competitive test match cricket. For the format to take precedence over every other format, it is important for the connoisseur of test cricket to express the need to see competitive test matches. Their voice has to be heard by the top cricket administrators of the world, especially those in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. And this is only possible when test cricket lovers are not apologetic anymore of their preference and show their strength in terms of numbers . The basis of my write up lies in my belief that the base of test cricket supporters in especially the top 8 test cricket nations of the world, is large enough to play a significant voice in world cricket.

For test cricket to survive and exhibit itself at its best; is to be played on sporting wickets and run pro-actively as an independent operating body. It definitely does not deserve to operate as a subsidized product of the shorter format of the game,. Test cricket connoisseurs have to believe that the format has a big enough fan base to economically survive and prosper on its own. The same can be achieved only when. a separate body is made accountable for test cricket,its growth and success; much like how you have a separate IPL governing council.

What a separate body to govern the longer format of the game also will do is , it will prioritize domestic cricket structures in top nations like India. Look at the interest level amongst the general public for our Ranji trophy structure. Rather than a first class competition, it has languished as a upcoming cricketers development league. That is unfortunate if one considers its glorious past and stories of epic battles fought in its rich history. A separate body would imperatively allocate resources and focus in the promotion of the tournament, as it would the base of the longer format( international test cricket). Similar to what IPL governing council does for T20. More importantly it would be free from distraction of. Having to organize the shorter formats of cricket!

As always my views are based on personal assumptions and gut feelings. I would as always, love to get your feedback along with contrary views, to comprehend the topic better.

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Sachin Tendulkar AKA- God delivers his sermon for future of cricket!

The game of cricket has always been dynamic! The modern history of the game has seen advent of new formats and none has quite boosted this metamorphism as much as the advent of T20 cricket & its league format. As is the process with the rest of worldly things, the old guard is skeptical to change; while the other objective fraction deals with the challenges of change in an objective manner. One such objective voice that has seen cricket at closer quarters than most is that of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. In the euphoria of India’s magnificent win at the 2011 ICC world cup, a lot of media personalities interviewed the Indian stars. One such interview involved one of India’s finest cricket analysts Boria Majumdar interview Tendulkar. As part of the interview they discussed the future of ODI cricket! Tendulkar in his response was categorical in stating that the format needed a major overhauling. His suggestion was that ODI cricket has to be tweaked into a two innings 25 over format. He also gave valid reasons with which I as a cricket analyst agree completely. Refreshingly his views were not based on the commerce of cricket, but rather on strong cricketing reasons. It is unfortunate that in the euphoria of the world cup celebrations and the advent of IPL, the issue was not prodded further. But I guess now with bilateral cricket back in the forefront time is opportune to understand why the greatest Indian cricketer wanted these changes in the format.

 

The Dew Factor- Most of India’s home cricket and sub continent cricket at large is played in India’s winter season. This sees dew as a major factor governing all games.  It is no hidden fact that the toss in such a scenario plays a major role. The team winning the toss fields first and almost has 90% of the match in its grip. Bowlers bowling second are at a disadvantage, spinners are almost made redundant and chases of the highest of targets are made a mockery of! As a student of the game Tendulkar felt this was a serious threat to the sanctity of the game & therefore proposed the two innings format. What happens under his proposed situation is that both the teams get to bat half of their overs when the dew is absent, while they bat their respective remainders under similar conditions of dew. This makes the match more equitable and removes the dew factor as a deciding factor in results of the game.

 

Of course Tendulkar had promised to discuss the same with Majumdar at length in future! As a cricket fan I am sure me and many of you are waiting to prod the genius further on his proposal! However let me make a few points as to why Tendulkar’s proposal for future of ODI’s makes absolute sense.

 

  1. Majority of ODIs are played in the bilateral format – There is no doubt that the best testimonial to the ODI format came in way of the resounding success of the 2011 world cup. What with it being played in the nerve center of world cricket-India; topped with the hosts winning it! But the question is will the format still hold the interest for four long years, before the next world cup. The interim period is flooded with only bi-laterals save the Asia cup or certain triangular series. The on going India verses West Indies ODI series is testimonial to the fact of weaning interests not only amongst viewers, but also the top cricketers themselves. Also as is the case with the present Windies series, most bilateral matches feature the balance between the oppositions lop sided in favor of one team. The difference in standards between the top four nations and the rest is growing by the day; making matches one sided and predictable. Grafting of one’s and two’s in the middle overs, dibbly-dobby harmless wicket to wicket defensive bowling is certainly not what the viewers want to see; irrespective of its effectiveness in winning matches! This is what the cricket committee of ICC needs to look and introspect at! Especially with the ‘food for thought’ provided by the greatest ODI cricketer of all times.

 

 

  1. A More interesting and challenging Format Two 25 over innings with only 10 wickets ( both innings included) will test strategies, captains and skills of the players at the highest level. Imagine a match between India Vs Bangladesh at Chennai. In the present format if India scores 350+ batting first the chances of you switching channels at half time are much more than India batting the first 25 overs scoring 150/3  runs , followed by Bangladesh scoring  125/4 in its first innings. It is your guess now to decide if you would switch the channels by the start of the second India innings or not. If you are not salivating at the prospect already, imagine a similar situation when India is playing a stronger opponent like Australia or Pakistan in similar scenarios. I think Tendulkar has just scripted the biggest pot-boiler for the cricket fans of the world.

 

  1. T20 League cricket is here to stay- All said and done whether you hate the IPL or not! The fact is it is here to stay. ODI cricket has a legacy and has probably delivered two of the best five great moments of Indian sport over the last three decades. It would be a shame if ODI cricket would become extinct just because administrators and analysts of the game did not tweak it with changing times. Rather than waiting for IPL or league t20 cricket gobbling up the ODI format; administrators would be well advised to tweak the formats with changing times. The air time for these matches too remains the same if not more, making it equally interesting for broadcasters to sell their inventory. The ways forward for ODI cricket, especially in its bilateral form, is to co exist with T20 cricket. And for this it has to reinvent and repackage itself.

 

The biggest critics of this change would argue that India is the world champion in the existing format and that a change will dilute its world champion status. However I would tell them that the status is not permanent and 2015 will see India play the world cup in Australia, under conditions that suit opposing top sides more than them. Four years is also a long time to carry on the euphoria of a being a world champion. Numerous bi-lateral series in the interim will dilute that status.  Tendulkar may have already established his legacy on the field; whether his precursor in the field of cricket administration gets its due debate is for the ICC and cricket boards to decide.

 

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