Posts Tagged gavaskar

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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Test cricket just not suited for India & sub continent conditions.

There is something prudish and snobish  in glorifying test cricket. Especially in the Indian context, since ages I have witnessed test cricket in the subcontinent heavily favored to the batsmen. A lot has been said about the climatic conditions and soil texture prevalent in India; not sure  if it is the only reason for us producing slow turning wickets.

 I have been following India cricket since the early 1980s. the one day world cup was what caught my imagination and propelled me from a ordinary follower to a passionate fan. One-day following soon shadowed into test cricket appraisals. After all they kept preaching that a true cricket fan always follows test cricket. One thing about test cricket is that it is the best test of endurance of a player. How can I forget the Dean Jones innings in the tied test in 87, followed by Gavaskar’s unsucessful marathon to save the test and series against Imran’s Pakistan in Bangalore! However such moments were far and wide between. At the same time, we could not follow the Indian team overseas except for the One day international matches . So a magnificent win by kapil’s devils over England in the mid 80s was followed only througha half an hour  highlights capsules. Even the great 1989 series between India and Pakistan; that debuted greats such as Tendulkar and Waqar Younnis was given the miss by the only state broadcaster present in India. Again what we saw live of that series was the one day format, between the two fierce rivals.

The stark difference between the Indian and an English or Australian fan lies in the fact that he/she has witnessed test cricket which is fast, result oriented and aggressive. This is in stark contrast to the games dished out in the Indian subcontinent. Even former Indian and Pakistani captains have admitted that the fear of loss saw them play out for draws. Slow batting featherbeds also helped their cause.

There is a ironical debate as to which is a greater rivalry the ashes or the Indo- Pak encounters. My take is that in terms of test cricket it is the ashes ; while the one day format honors goes to the Indo- Pak contest.

 Experts may disagree with my inference, but my whole analysis is based on a spectator’s inference. I would divide Indian cricket into two eras;” pre 1983 world cup” and the post 1983 world cup era. I know I am being grossly unjust to magnificent cricketers like Wadekar, Solkar, Vishwant and the magnificent four spinners ( Bedi, Prassana, Venkat & Chandreshekar); to name a few. But my problem lies in the fact that my generation (following cricket over 25 years) has just not witnessed enough good quality test cricket at home.

For us the great Indo- Pak rivalry for us evolved at Sharjah in the one day format. It had all the modern greats; Gavaskar, Imran, Kapil , Miandad to  Akram & Sachin play hard and fiercely  to define the other of all cricket battles. In the same corresponding period India and Pakistan did not play each other in test cricket for over a decade and that is where the lack of interest in test cricket amongst subcontinent fans originates. The tragedy of test cricket in the Indian subcontinent lies in the fact that Waqar Younnis and Wasim Akram never faced Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid in their prime.

 The situation looks even grimmer today. One major factor for rapidly diminishing popularity of India test cricket lies in the retirement of Anil Kumble. Kumble was the champion cricketer for India in every home series in the past two decades. The Indian batsmen would pile up the runs and Kumble would pick up a fifer in the second innings to give India victory in most home series.

Today as we celebrate centuries and milestones of our batsmen; our bowling without Kumble just cannot pick up 20 wickets( a mandatory requirement for a test win). As I write this piece Tendulkar is inching his way to another century, inconsequential and completely devoid of any chances of an Indian win. I was told cricket is ateam sport, defined as a  battle between bat and ball, however 1500 runs scored with neither side picking 20 wickets seems just not the prescribed great game of cricket.

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SRK packed off from the Cricket arena. IPL franchisees’ Deccan , & Royals- selling stake

It is lot of restructuring at BCCI. Ever since the ICC pushed for an early resolution with ICL and the Essel groups’ response to failed negotiations with strong legal actions have caused a lot of concern for the BCCI. The IPL cash-cow too has left a lot of loop holes in the second season. The announced deal and revised hike by IPl broadcaster Sony; is not all black and white. According to sources it seems that Sony will not part with cash and some parts of the revised hike, is in format of barter to the IPL & its franchisees- in terms of free air time for promotion. Tickets are being sold at a low rate of only about Rs 100. Even this low rate is not educing full houses and false propaganda of sell-out matches have become part of the IPL fictional folklore. This has left the franchisees with lot of heartburn; the central revenue (largely coming from the Bradcaster fee) may not see a hike in actual cash-flow as is being proclaimed by IPL officials. Gate receipts are a long foregone history making the red on franchisee balance-sheet’s far more prominent and dark.
SRK ill- advised to drop his city loyalty base and reposition his team into a pan global identity has met with dust. Latest reports that the Bollywood Badshah is on his way out of the IPL circus, further compounded by his teams’ disastrous cricket performance. Despite better cricket performances Rajashtan Royals & Kings 11 Punjab are financially bleeding and are looking for stake holders to keep the ship floating. The only way IPL franchisees’ can be bailed out is in form of additional central revenue from IPL. However that seems a distant reality with Sony officials admitting that offering additional broadcast fees was a mistake, especially after learning that the competitive suitors NDTV & ESPN were never serious about paying the revised rates demanded by the IPL body. Sony now has offered the IPL and its franchisee a strict part payment in barter (free air time for promotion) that results in lack on additional cash revenue from the central revenue system offered by IPL to its franchisees.

The BCCI changing its ICL stance largely lies on the fact that –an aggressive Essel group is going on the offensive. Sources at Essel, state that time for negotiations are over & they are looking at legal suits being filed both in India & internationally. Its strong legal ground means that BCCI has to try to break the ICL player pool by offering them the IPL and domestic cricket carrot. However, most ICL domestic talents are skeptical about the BCCI offer. Reason being, most are being paid about 30 lakhs plus by the ICL – returning to BCCI hardly guarantees them a place in the Ranji sides or IPL teams. A ranji player would pocket 20 lakhs in a financial year and no player wants a dip in his income. Secondly except for a few players like Rohan Gavaskar, none of the players are certain of a place in the Ranji or IPL Squads. The total number of ICL players from the domestic stable is about 80. SO no more than 10% are assured of an IPL or Ranji place! The only way they can be accommodated in the IPL is by addition in number of IPL teams; strongly objected by existing IPL franchisees as that reduces their share of the pie in regards of the central revenue. The ICL players are also aware of the treatment meted out to Md kaif, Vidhyut Shivramakrisnan, Sanjay Bangar , Akash Chopra et al by the IPL franchisees- making the transition from ICL to IPL a very risky financial proposition. The international guys like Shane Bond are drawing salaries to the tune of $ 8,00,000 ( 4 crores) from the ICL so they would not make the shift unless IPL offers the same amount. Post the Peterson & Flintoff debacle it seems IPL franchisees would not loosen their purse strings easily ;having burnt their fingers with expensive propositions. Therefore it may not seem as easy for the BCCI to break the ICL player pool ; justified that no single individual ICL player has been mentioned other than Sandeep Patil, who according to sources did not fair well in the ICL called – Sports performance evaluation. His side Mumbai Champs always figured last in the ICL tournaments and major restructuring was on the cards as far as that team was concerned.

These look interesting times for the BCCI president Shashank Manohar. His dislike for Lalit Modi is well documented by his absence at both the first and second seasons of IPL. His boss and mentor Sharad Pawar too has distanced himself from Lalit Modi in season-2. Srinivasan, Rajeev Shukla and Niranjan Shah ( BCCI powerbrokers) are fence sitters and waiting for the election results. Rumors are also afloat that if the congress returns to power Lalit Modi’s stint in Indian cricket would be history.
If the ICL issue was not enough then the BCCI also has to content with the APL ( American Premiere League). The BCCI wants to monopolize the game but an over priced IPL has broadcasters and prospective sponsors looking at private leagues like the ICL & upcoming APL as a more value for money proposition. These are interesting times in cricket Will the monopoly of BCCI continue or will it have to share space with ICL & APL? It’s an answer that only time will tell.

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