Posts Tagged cricket

Upsets to look out for at the ICCWorld T20

By Samir Pai

For any connoisseur of T20 cricket, one special feature of the format is the upsets that a minnow can inflict on the heavy weights. Every edition has seen upsets at galore and this edition will surely not be an exception. As seen in the just concluded India vs. Afghanistan match, the spirited men from the land of the pathans, remained in hunt of an upset right up to the very end of the match.  

The very first edition saw the indomitable Australians eat the humble pie against Zimbabwe, along with the babes of Asia Bangladesh beat a far more formidable West Indies.  The Second edition of the T20 world saw Netherlands beat hosts England in the round stage, along with West Indies beat the mighty Australians, who were still to decode the shortest format of the game. That was not all; the naturally gifted individuals from the Caribbean islands delivered the killer blow to the defending champions India in the group of 8s! Results in the third edition in the West Indies, saw no drastic results, like in the previous two editions, however a much fancied & IPL hardened India, lost all their matches except against lowly Afghanistan.   

While the Fourth Edition sees big teams more in tune with the requirements of the T20 format, making upsets difficult to achieve! It is no hidden fact that the T20 format provides the much lesser opponents their best chance to make a statement against the power centres of world cricket. How else would you explain an all charged Australia, turning out at their aggressive best against lowly Ireland and India sweating it out till the very end against Afghanistan!

In the humble view of the writer here are two of the matches that could deliver upsets! Your feedback and counterviews will be most appreciated in form of responses!

  1. 1.       24th September – West Indies Vs Ireland

 

This match should feature a mercurial west indies taking on a disciplined Ireland. While the West Indies possesses some of the best T20 players in the world, as a side they could disintegrate against a side that has county hardened and a disciplined lot from Ireland.

  1. 2.        25th September – Pakistan Vs Bangladesh

Anybody who has witnessed Bangladesh in the last edition of the Asia Cup would know of their huge improvements, especially in the limited over format of the game. It does not need rocket science to know that they would present their most dangerous self in the shortest format of the game! A temperamental Pakistani batting is what they would look to target to make most of that encounter.

I am sure the odds are stacked against these two lesser opponents, however if you are the betting types, looking to beat the odds for a big bounty, these are the games to look at with high interest.  For the rest of the general sports loving   folks like this writer, these two games provide you with the utmost joy of David conquer Goliath!  Happy gaming & viewing and enjoy the most democratic format of cricket at its highest level.

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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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Time opportune for BCCI to Introduce Tendulkar’s 4th cricket format.

The buzz around the media rights for the BCCI rights is again making the rounds! New players have emerged with possibly Zee group coming back into the official fray and Sony all set to launch its new sports channel. One area of concern for the BCCI must be the fact that past broadcasters have been losing money on its steeply priced property and a correction in valuations is a distinct reality it might face.

At the same time, it is logical to expect that due to competition the property price may not see a correction! However as a prospective broadcaster; would one want to bleed and pay the steep price just to be in the reckoning or would one want to explore BCCI properties beyond just the international fixtures, especially the domestic Indian cricket tourneys to monetize the property further.

If I was the prospective broadcaster I would like to sit with the BCCI officials, analyze all their domestic properties beyond the international fixtures and repackage and introduce new tournaments to generate revenues beyond international cricket to make my bid an economically viable bid.

One such tournament that can be introduced is the “TENDULKAR CUP”. In an interesting interview with Boria Majumdar of times now, just after the 2011 World cup victory Sachin, had stated that due to the dew conditions prevailing in the sub continent, matches were decided on basis of the toss giving an unfair advantage to sides batting second. He stated that he would like to introduce the 25 over two innings format in the ODI format to make matches more exciting and equitable for both sides. A proposal was also sent to the ICC, which in all fairness snubbed the proposal!

Time is opportune, with new broadcast rights and languishing state of Indian domestic cricket, to introduce Tendulkar’s proposed format in India. If fans remember the T20 format originated in England to revamp and create interest in the county circuit.  BCCI, faces a similar objective for uplifting interest in  its domestic cricket structure. A tournament named after the great Sachin Tendulkar, involving a public -private partnership model ( aka IPL franchisees) needs to be started. This tournament would act as a bonus for the new prospective broadcaster as an added revenue stream to supplement his revenues from Indian international fixtures at home!

Details to follow in subsequent posts…………. As always welcome your suggestions, feedback et al to take this discussion forward!

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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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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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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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ICL important for Indian Cricket in the changing sporting scenario

The sporting environment in India is in for a robust change. The boom in the economy is seeing a change in the way sport is perceived and consumed by the general public. The mantra for sporting disciplines is globalization and it is a matter of time before other sporting disciplines making inroads to fight for its share of the pie (entertainment dollar). The world of soccer wants to tap the big Indian market and with clinics organized by the English premiere league teams & the visit of the global football chief to India; football authorities are making the right moves. Golf is also seeing a lot initiatives, Hockey with a change in guard may throw few surprises.

The above developments augurs well for Indian sport and also acts as a wake up call for Indian cricket to step on the pedal to maintain its no-1 position.

To maintain its commercial success it is important for cricket to maintain its sporting success and for this the most critical factor would be to produce an assembly line of domestic talents who receive the best of training & exposure; to complement the Indian national team.

The ICL was the first off the blocks in identifying this area of domestic Indian cricket. Investment in world class training, support staff & top of the drawer international coaches combined with top level cricket exposure has seen the ICL successful in unearthing cricket talent that otherwise would have been lost in the oblivion of an outdated domestic cricket structure (Ranji trophy).

The fact that today players like Ali Murtaza, R Sathish, Stuart Binny have become house hold names ; players like Rohan Gavaskar, Thiru Kumaran & Ambatti Rayudu have shown the world that they still possess the cricketing prowess to take on the best of the world, augurs well for the intentions & achievement of objectives of the ICL.

The IPL has taken a leaf out of ICL and launched its first tournament amongst a lot of hype & hoopla; to its credit & that of its promoters, IPL too has managed to unearth a few new stars in the likes of Ghoni, Ashok Dinda & Swapnil Asnodkar.

The fact that former international greats like Glenn Mcgrath & Shane Warne have out shone the regular icons reiterates the fact that former international greats have a significant role to play in harnessing new talents in this latest format of the game. This was again an area that should be credited to the ICL as they were the first of the blocks to identify the potential of using former international cricketers in building their city based teams. It also answers their critics who dubbed them as a league of wannbe domestic talents & retired cricketers!

The above makes it imperative for all associated with cricket to see the ICL in the same light as the IPL, after all how much one can differentiate in terms of performance between a Bret lee or a Shane Bond , Glen McGrath & Jason Gillespie or a Shane Watson & Ian Harvey.

It has now been identified by one & all that the T20 format of the game is one of the most transparent platforms for young domestic hopefuls to showcase their talents. The ICL has 124 domestic talents most of whom have played for India or first class cricket. On the other hand an IPL team roughly has 25 members out of which 8 are international cricketers making it 17 national Indian players per team. With 8 teams this figure reads approximately 136 Indian players at the IPL. Therefore the total number of Indian players plying their trade at the two leagues reads a humongous talent pool of 260 Indian players.

Now if according to the wisdom and wish of the BCCI only IPL was to exist then it means that nearly half of these 260 players would not have an opportunity to display their cricketing prowess on a city based T20 platform. This is the sole major reason why the ICL should be encouraged and seen as a synergistic initiative in the betterment of Indian cricket.

After all if the IPL has seen the comeback of the smiling assassin ( Balaji) on the IPL platform then the ICL has rediscovered the bald assassin ( Kumaran ), as one of the craftiest medium pacers in the limited over format of the game.

If IPL has thrown up a pint sized Asnodkar from the Rajasthan Royal stable drawing comaprision with sachin amongst his mates; the Mumbai Champs have discovered their very own Tendulkar in the pocket dynamo Raviraj Patil. If Ashok Dinda has impressed everyone with his pace at the IPL then one should not forget that the young Abu Nechim has been clocked bowling over 140kmps at the Edelweiss 20s Challenge.

In the final analysis it is in best interest of Indian cricket that both the leagues prosper.

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