Posts Tagged indian cricket

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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Chronicles of India’s T20 cricket

Two years two world cups, two IPL editions and one champions league later- modern day cricket power BCCI, stands at the cusp of changing the very fabric of the game we all came to love. Today some fractions of the same BCCI that economically benefited from the riches of IPL, find that it is killing its golden goose –International Indian cricket. The latest revelations from none less than the CEO of BCCI Ratnakar Shetty questioning  the young Indian players commitment to the national cause, flop show of the champions league( t20 format)  and champions trophy( one day format) and emergence of freelance players has dawned the realization that cricket has  changed for ever. Personally I find it a far more complex issue than just calling it crass commercialization or lack of player commitment from the present crop of players. How the game will evolve will need time. Can the diminishing interest in the ongoing Airtel Champions league be revived in the next round of matches? Will brand “cricket India “survive post r the high profile Australia series? Only time will tell!

 

In my pursuit of the above answers I tried to understand the history of the t20 format of the game in India.  Going through the archives of sports reports; I was marveled at the U-turns taken by the BCCI. A modern day Greek tragedy sees the most powerful cricket board that resisted the t20 format of the game initially do a flip around  to own the biggest T20 cricket property in the IPL. I thought it is right for you the cricket fan to know how the t20 format took birth in India and how the IPL today is proving to be a Frankenstein monster for the BCCI and Indian cricket.

 

My first glimpses of t20 cricket were when English county teams started playing it. I saw a prophetic Ravi Shastri claim in England; on an India overseas series that the format did not make sense to him and could never succeed. Back home the czars of Indian cricket too tried to avoid the format with the primal fear of it eating into the money spinner of those times “One-Day cricket”. As ICC and rest of the world embraced the shortest format of the game BCCI resisted it.

 

Again during India’s tour of England in 2007; BCCI had to reluctantly select an Indian team for the inaugural t20 world cup. Somewhere down, the Indian establishment did not want to add to the success of the T20 format with its humongous financial clout and support base. It strategically asked five of its top players Tendulkar, Dravid , Ganguly, Zaheer and Kumble to withdraw themselves from the world championship. An Underdog side led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni was sent to South Africa. The rest of that campaign is history.

 

At around the same time India was witnessing its first comprehensive private participation in cricket in form of Essel group’s ICL. ICL looked to work around creating a brand out of the much languished and abandoned domestic Indian cricket and its players. Their sport product was packaged with some International players not part of their respective national squads. It was a masterstroke- without affecting the fabric of the international game. The private entrepreneurial effort suddenly was foreseen as a solid sports product with the best of India’s domestic talent pool and high quality broadcast. The BCCI knew that a private entrepreneur had realized the opportunity to create a viable economic sport product at the domestic level never before tried by any cricket board of the world. Instead of collaborating and encouraging private involvement in its operations; the BCCI took an antagonistic approach to the ICL.

 

The situation provided an opportunity for the megalomaniac marketing wizz kid of the BCCI ( Lalit Modi) who also harbored dreams of starting  a private cricket league like the ICL in the 1990s. Modi had flirted with sports broadcast with limited success till then. He brought ESPN to India but soon cut off the tie up. He had invested some money in trying to poach international players to create a private league with the 50 over format but was met with stiff resistance from BCCI. On pretext of countering the ICL, Modi sold the IPL concept to the BCCI – who without thinking of the long term repercussions joined his bandwagon.

 

Most experts had predicted that the IPL was a global giant that would swallow the international fabric of the game. However in their approach to destroy the ICL –cricket establishments around the world (some readily, others reluctantly) agreed to support the IPL and block out the ICL. In reality the IPL was a bigger threat than the ICL for the world cricket establishment. The ICL was based on working with domestic Indian players and mixing them with former or over the hill but recognized international players to create competent t20 cricket teams with city based following. On the other hand IPL was based on creating a league on basis of their star value of present day international players. Imperial franchisees were brought in with the bait of owning the game of cricket. This worked completely opposite to the initial ideology of the BCCI which wanted to restrict the T20 format to protect the other two longer versions of the game, especially its golden goose One day – 50 over format.

The irony of this eventful T20 chronicle today sees the BCCI facing a Frankenstein monster in the IPL . The IPL was created to blunt out a domestic ICL, but more than the ICL it has managed to hit on BCCI’s biggest brand – “ the national cricket team” fondly known as the men in blues.

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Cricketers -From Gentlemen to Beautiful-Men

The game of cricket sits at the cusp of changing from a lazy colonial type, day long sport…. to a modern day high octane commercially driven sport.  Like transition phases in other sectors of life and society; cricket too will see a difficult turnaround period (presently faced). Despite the present day turmoil, I am confident that commercially interest, humongous support & consumer base will see the game through; well into the next decade. The final analysis of the story however is that cricket will follow the football way. The gentleman’s game will take a step forward (hope it turns that way instead of regressive commercialization) to coming close to the beautiful game. I know I may disappoint cricket connoisseurs and a large fan base with the future trajectory the game of cricket we all love so much. But that is another topic altogether. Through this article my aim is to draw a parallel between these two wonderful games and see how the new cricketing world would look; when club and franchisee take precedence over boards and bilateral cricket series. I personally believe that the international test cricket itinerary should confine to an Ashes series and a Asian test championship between Indian, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. If Bangladesh progress in the skills department they would be the fourth inclusion in the Asian test championship. South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies will have to find a market of their own. I feel sorry for South Africa as it is a strong test nation but the only solution for the protease, kiwis and Caribbean cricket centers would be to fall back upon their colonial motherland England and look for a series called a Greater Ashes; where they can fight for the Holy Grail along with England and Australia. I believe that the players of the near future will be freelance cricketers. Their agents will manage their careers. Official cricket boards like old world institutions will perish and will pass on the power to franchisees and the corporate world. Majority cricket will involve club cricket ( read IPL, ICL, T20 offshoots in other cricket nations) and will be played in the T20 format. The cricket world in the next three years will look similar to the present day soccer world.

Below are my “cricket- soccer” parallels. I look forward to your feedback and would love to know what you the true aficionado and expert of the game feel about the same

 

  1. India – the financial power center of world cricket -will look similar to present day England in the soccer world.
  2. Australia- The most talented cricket land. Similar to what Brazil is to the soccer World.
  3. Pakistan- Mercurial and unpredictable and will produce logic defying world class talents. Similar to Argentina in Soccer.
  4. South Africa. Clinical, methodological and an assembly line of top notch players. Similar to Germany in Soccer.
  5. Sri- Lanka. Enterprising, rich history and effervescent talent. Close geographical location to India makes them parallel to Spain in soccer. Sri Lanka has the opportunity to tap the resources of ICL& Ten Sports (Zee group) to form a parallel cricket’s Premiere le ga. Why Sri- Lanka? Also because of the new found peace and geo political situation in the beautiful island country.
  6. New Zealand. Parallel in soccer is a top notch eastern European country (Czech- republic, Serbia, Croatia- lacking flair but producing an assembly line of disciplined sportsmen of international level.
  7. England – the mother nation of cricket. Soccer parallel reads Italy. The English county will be the Seria-A of Cricket. Never quite achieving the dynamism of IPL (EPL-English premiere league) or ICL (Premiere le liga – Spanish soccer)
  8. West Indies. Their parallel will be South American or African football nations like Mexico, Nigeria, Cameroon or Colombia. Natural flair and aggressive players.

 

So how does the future of the cricketing world look to you? Look forward to your comments. The only sad part it is the obituary of the most powerful brand of world cricket “team India “& “Men in blue”. Don’t know however if I would miss the dinosaurs BCCI!!!!!!

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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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