Posts Tagged ICL

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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Spare a thought for the lesser mortals of the game

So the league cricket system is precariously placed with the ICL players receiving the amnesty offer from the all mighty BCCI. IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has gone on record saying that it will be good for the game as he gets more players to choose from. Not a bad thing ! It will help a few top quality players in the ICL like R Sathish (easily the best young talent in the country), Ali Murtaza, Vignesh, Stuart Binny et al. The usual suspects like Ambati Rayudu, Deep Dasgupta, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala , Badani & Mongia too will get IPL offers along with the likes of Rohan Gavaskar . However my concern is about players like Abu Nechim, IS Reddy et al, along with around 70 odd domestic players who are neither a certainty with their state Ranji teams or on the IPL radar. Some would say it is a fair call ; the top performers will get their due while the rest will have to settle for a life back in obscurity of league cricket on barren grounds. This would be a sad situation if sport is only judged on basis of the survival of the fittest- the spirit of sport means that even underdogs should get the opportunity and that is what differentiates sport from business. ICL transformed player remunerations and made it possible for a decently talented young cricketer to play at the domestic level to earn a decent livelihood. IPL & ICL made it possible for a young man to take up the game even if he did not have it in him to make it to the competitive Indian national team. I believe if there is a player exodus from ICL to IPL , a lot of domestic talents in the IPL too will face the heat now. IF some of the top ICL performers are to replace them in the IPL teams , it is certain they will not get renewed contracts from their team owners. This is a point that Lalit Modi and BCCI have to introspect upon as custodians of the game. An ideal stance for them is to buy a majority stake from Essel Sports in the ICL or licensee out domestic players to formulate the ICL as a second division league to the IPL. It also takes forward the T20 format of the game and allows more broadcast revenue & earning potential for the BCCI. As the present ICL & IPL calendars are separate from each other it makes it ideal for both leagues to continue as second and first divisions respectively. What the above policy would do is to encompass a larger talent pool to earn the perks and lucrative packages offered by the T20 league format of the game.

By now you would have realized that I have a special affinity for the ICL and you may ask me the question why? For the simple reason that the gritty Baroda wicket keeper batsman Kiran More & the great Kapil Dev managed to produce a serious cricket tournament despite all the difficulties faced by them. The ICL could have easily gone the Hong King Sixes way as a recreational tournament, but these two gentlemen at the helm of ICL cricket managed to produce a serious and high quality cricket product. The contribution of Michael Bevan, Steve Rixon, Moin Khan & Daryl Cullinan should not go in vain and am sure that their cricket acumen would be tapped by other cricket bodies if ICL takes a sabbatical from the game. The ICL has done its job in identifying and developing young talent like VIgnesh, Binny, Murtaza & Khaleel. The two red hot players for me however would be R Sathish & Ambati Rayudu. These two have it in them to make it to the big league and I am sure they will prove to be ambassadors of ICL’s cause- if they get to perform in the IPL and larger platforms. Having followed cricket as a true patron for over two decades, I am sure these two young players will prove to the world that ICL too has quality acts in its talent pool and will probably bring justice and vilification to the concept of ICL not in the court of law or TV ratings but purely with their cricketing talent.
But along with these talented players a thought should be spared to the likes of Abbas Ali, Reetinder Sodhi , Rakesh Patel and Thiru Kumaran- may be age is not on their side to make it to the Indian team , but they still have a few years of cricket left in them. They may not be a Warne or a Mcgrath but they sure are quality cricketers who will enhance domestic Indian Cricket. Of course ICL would not be needed if IPL could add another 8 teams on their list –but that doesn’t seem to be a realistic possibility. So why not find the best solution in taking league cricket forward by recognizing the ICL as a second division to the Indian Premiere League. If Lait Modi & his BCCI colleagues are true connoisseurs of the game then they will do a big favor for averagely talented domestic talents to get their due from the riches of T20 league cricket; by allowing or recognizing ICL as a second division T20 league. At the risk of sounding repetitive I would again like to state that one IPL is too small to encompass the entire talent pool of domestic Indian talent and either the IPL has to accommodate more domestic talents or outsource some domestic portions to private sports management firms like the ICL.

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Welcome Lalit Modi to the bloggers world

Well Moses is what Ravi Shastri called you for inducting IPL on the cricket map. I am sure Shastri will soon realize that his own no- nonsense and gritty image as commentator earned after his famous whiplash at Mike Denis in South Africa after the infamous Indo- SA test is diminishing fas and replaced by a puppet of the commercialized cricekt world .THe infamous press conference post  Mike, the match referee banning  six Indian players including Sachin Tendulkar saw Shastri win over the audience for his sharp and incisive comments that followed for years in his stint at ESPN. Since his shift to the IPL Shastri, is left with nothing but a peripheral role of a known-commentator; milked by the IPL commissioner to propagate his white lies.

Lalit Modi in his latest avtar is now seen as blogger on his monetized website http://www.iplt20.com and in his inaugural post he takes a dig at the fourth estate covering his cricket circus as – “ill-informed media commentary that we have introduced strategy breaks simply to squeeze in more ads does us a disservice.”

I cannot fathom the fact that this man gets away with murder every time he and his IPL circus is doing disservice to the game and its true patrons -the cricket fans. Why does he just not admit that the strategy break is for additional revenue as he has arm-twisted his broadcaster to pay extra 400 crores.

The panic in his camp was realized as soon as the TRP’s were released. Sony and the advertisers are seething in anger according to well placed sources. I mean the biggest joke is when the IPL camp say that tickets have been sold out (empty stands show a completely different picture though!). The justification given by poor commentators says that tickets were sold but people have backed out due to bad weather. Which sane person would buy a premium ticket and not turn up for a match. I guess top angle shots on a doctored audience section – trying to justify a packed attendance is nothing but what in filmi lingo is known as cheat-shots. I am amazed how come nobody from the media covering the tournament, clicks a true picture to show the true picture to  the fans of the game . I am sure they are in agreement with me that this is the least the Indian fan deserves – a honest appriasal of the tourament.

You may ask me why so much anger against Lalit Modi . My answer is simple- I just cannot take the following facts

Some questions for Modi and please to answer them through his blog or more importantly I would urge you as custodians of the forth estate to poke him with the same :

1. You call your product recession proof and at the same time, pack back domestic Indian boys. MD Kaif & co are considered excess baggage while IS Bindra , Niranjan Shah , Rajeev Shukla sip on wine shamelessly at the matches.

2. Teams are not known by the players but either through their franchisees or filmstars owning exaggerated stakes in various teams. I would seriously want to know if Shilpa Shetty has paid the said $ 15.4 million for a 12% stake. ? Would you make available the relevant documents on a public forum? More imporatanly are you addressing the issue as  the BCCI president – on why Indian cricketers are bestowed with second class status on what you procalim to be a domestic  Indian tournament?

3. You are interviewed by Ravi Shastri in a doctored interview during the live telecast of the match and you say that ratings are sky high & the tournament is picking up? But opening figures for your matches show a completely different picture can you clarify?

I guess three questions are enough to fill your second blog and you would do a great service to the people of India who have given cricket the pedestal it enjoys today.

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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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BCCI needs to bring out the whip on erring franchisees

The Indian premiere league considered to be a revolutionary concept needs to draw the line before the term revolutionary reads imperialistic concept.

The BCCI should have been careful when they were outsourcing its league & more importantly players (assets) to organizations or individuals who have had little or no experience of managing sportsmen or sports products.

The inexperience is showing when some franchisees in their enthusiasm & deep pocket arrogance have crossed their brief while dealing with the players (especially domestic players) & are feeling the pressure of dealing with the unpredictability factor associated with a sporting product.

The IPL commissioner will have to maintain the dignity of his esteemed chair and will hopefully address the issue and take the erring franchisees to task. Already there are questions on his impartiality and autonomy as the commissioner of the league; arising from the fact that he is closely associated with at least 4 of the 8 franchisees. It is time Lalit Modi proves his credentials and restores the sanctity of the league. After all it is easy to punish a cricketer in Harbhajan or a umpire in Ameen Sahiba, but no action is taken against Farookh Engineer and franchisees who have got away with murder.

Issues the IPL commissioner should take to set the BCCI’ priority right:

The BCCI needs to get it across that as a non profit organization entertainment is not its priority and that cricket and development of its domestic talent is the priority with the IPL

  1. How could the Punjab franchisee ( Preity Zinta ) dare to ask the domestic players to leave the hotel to accommodate her page 3 friends. The Issue was widely reported in the media, but the IPL failed to take any action.
  1. The same Preity Zinta & her co owners decided to get into cost saving measures by axing some of the domestic players to trim the team size and save money. This is completely not acceptable & if the franchisee doesn’t see the long term vision of developing local talent then they have no business of running the franchisee.
  1. Now a similar strategy is being adopted by the Kolkata franchisee run by the chak de messiah, Shahrukh Khan. The latest report says that players including Indian pacer Randeb Bose . Who will claim responsibly for this insulting setback faced by these young domestic talents? (http://www.rediff.com/cricket/2008/may/13kolkata.htm)
  1. Vijay Mallaya is now questioning the cricketing wisdom of one of India’s modern cricket great in Rahul Dravid. Does Mr Mallya in his enthusiasm & influence of his friend circle overdosed with RC; have an idea of the contribution of one of India’s & more importantly Banaglore’s cricketing great ?

(http://www.prempanicker.com/index.php?/site/comments/senior_moments_in_the_ipl/)

Entertainment and hire & fire policy are not business practices associated with sports administration and that is a lesson that the inexperienced franchisees’ need to learn fast. Hopefully they understand Human resource management another management jargon and hopefully they put that into practice , because after all their millions come because of the great game of cricket & the men who play it at the highest level.

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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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