Posts Tagged IPL

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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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 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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The new genetically modified opening batsman!

Cricket metamorphosis is in its top gear at the moment. A lot of discussions are taking place as to what shape modern day cricket will take. Can the 50 over format survive? Will t20 work as an overkill for cricket? What will be the fate of test cricket? Et al! One major question that has been pondering my mind, since over a year, is the vanishing role of a specialist opener. When I first started following cricket religiously; some of the big stalwarts where opening batsmen. Indian fans worshipped openers, because our first cricketing superstar was an opener in the form of the little master- Sunil Gavaskar. The names Gavaskar, Boycott, Greenidge, Haynes, Rameez Raja & Graham Gooch were revered specialists; epitome of technique and concentration. However the last decade has thrown in openers who were not originally bestowed that position. Look at the names. Players like Jaysuriya, Shewag, Gilchrist and Tendulkar (50 over format)  to present day tormentors like Dilshan and Shane Watson prove that openers are not born they are made.

 

I guess the easiest inference for this new breed of lower middle order batsmen transforming into successful openers will be blamed on shorter formats of the game! However I think there is a bigger reason for this phenomenon- covered pitches and an attacking approach to all formats of the game including Test cricket. When the likes of Gavaskar and Boycott started off in their careers pitches were green and uncovered. Gavaskar is famously quoted with approaching the opener’s role with the idea that “give the bowler the first 30 minutes and the rest of the day is yours”. I guess today covered and protected tracks have become batting havens. Additionally with bouncer restrictions; the game has heavily tilted in favor of the batsmen in the modern context.

 

An opener today does not need to play the role of wearing off a fast bowler and seeing off the shine on the leather cherry. He no longer needs to protect his teams’ best batsman- ideally batting at the no-4 position. This throws the inference that in modern day cricket and especially the T20 format you need your best three batsmen playing at the top three batting positions.  The new genetically modified batsman first took the role of a pinch hitter. First seen in the case of New Zealand’s mark Greatbatch in the 1992 world cup, and further perfected by Jaisuriya and Romesh Kaluwurthana in the famed Sri Lankan 1996 world cup campaign. The biggest genetically modified opener is modern day great Sachin Tendulkar. A classical No-4 middle order batsman; Sachin opened in the shorter format of the game to take advantage of playing a full 50 overs. This phenomenon is most relevant today in the T20 format where you would want your best batsmen to play as many overs as possible. I believe that T20 will result in batting positions depending on form and talent rather than an orthodox approach of specialist openers, middle order and lower middle order batsmen.

 

It has already been well documented that every new format of the game has a positive effect on test cricket. If one analyses the best test team of the last decade you will realize that the Australians have scored their runs at nearly 4 runs per over in the longest format of the game. 20 years back such a phenomenon would have read as the opposition bowlers displaying poor form and eventually losing their positions in the test side. Today a bowler returning with an economy rate of 3, (even in the longer format) would read as a good day in the field for that bowler.

A classical opening batsman in the mold of a Gavaskar or Boycott is an extinct species in today’s’ game. That is quite a misfortune because blocking and seeing off a hostile spell of fast bowling is one of the toughest arts of batsmenship. It almost feels nostalgic to remember a Gavaskar or Boycott seeing off the new ball from the great West Indian pace quartet. I wonder if we will ever see a new young batsman in the mould of a Gavaskar or Boycott. If the answer is “NO”, then the coming generations of crickeut fans will surely miss one of the best contests between bat and ball in the game of cricket.

 

I am not sure of many other cricketing nations, but in the Indian context two such cricketers who faced the axe despite being classical openers are Wasim Jaffer and Akash Chopra. I remember watching a test match between India and West Indies in the Caribbean in 2007. The slippery and sharp Fidel Edwards was peppering the Indian openers ( Jaffer and Shewag) with some serious leg line short bowling. The marveling observation was the ease with which Jaffer was fending off the deliveries as compared to his more illustrious opening partner. But unfortunately such situations are far and between in modern day test cricket. Therefore an opener in the Shewag mould is any day more effective as compared to an aka Jaffer mould batter, even in the longest format of the game.

 

All I can say is a big goodbye to the classical test opener. It is sad that today’s game does not need your high-level skills of batsmanship. Batsmen like you encountered the fiercest contest between the bat and ball. Unfortunately modern cricket with covered and batting friendly pitches, military medium pacers on the opposing ends & rules tilted heavily in favor of batsmen- need just a stroke maker and not a classical opening batsman an epitome of defense, technique and concentration.

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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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Saurav Ganguly a potential Warne or Bevan

The primary thing to identify with the ongoing IPL is that the golden rule of sports, applies to even this so called young-man’s game. Age certificate is no criteria for success in this format of the game. The biggest stars last year were Warne, Mcgrath & Jaisuriya & this year too seems to continue in the same vein with Tendulkar , Dravid & Gilchrist right backing contention in the T20 format of the game. The matter first came into prominence when people and a gullible fourth estate tried to run down the pioneers of the league cricket-ICL, due to the age of its international player-pool base. Then came the IPL and the biggest stars last year were Warne, Mcgrath & Jaisuriya. The experts did a turn around and followed the cliché mantra – “form is temporary, class is permanent”. So my strong request to especially the media; next time around judge the tournaments of both IPL & ICL objectively on basis of the cricket on display and not pre-conceived notions. After-all despite the facts that ICL is at the moment unofficial; its young players are domestic Indian talents who deserve more than just an ostracized rebel tag.

I am principally not against league cricket as it helps identify new talent and also provides economic prosperity for professional cricketers. It has helped prolong the otherwise short careers of some fine international cricketers, alongside helping some make comebacks like that of Shane Watson. However I have a minor disagreement with the way IPL is positioned as an entertainment tamasha. Such positioning does disservice to the game and its cricketers;e forced to take the backseat to overenthusiastic corporate czars & Bollywood personalities. I think it will also affect the IPL in the long run because it’s biggest critics are questioning the quality of cricket on its platform. Soon players will approach the tournament with a casual approach and the core consumer of the game –‘ hardcore cricket fans’, will turn away from it. I guess Lalit Modi’s advisers will do a great service to advice the self proclaimed Moses to reposition his product as a serious cricket tournament, with entertainment a critical but peripheral product extension.

Coming back to the game – kudos to Shane Warne, every time he takes the field he brings cricket back in the limelight and puts the entertainment quotient in its right place. What makes Warne special is that he has laid emphasis on what is a critical factor for a successful T20 league side-“ develop your domestic talent”. Success in both IPL & ICL depends on the contribution of the young domestic talents. After all every side is composite of 7 domestics and 4 internationals in both leagues and therefore the differentiating factor between a good & bad side is the quality of its domestic pool. This is what makes two coaches especially special, Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals –IPL) & Michael Bevan (Chennai Superstars-ICL). Both are champion cricketers with supreme confidence in their abilities, both have been integral part of the most successful cricket team in the last 25 years & most importantly have delivered results. This is the whole purpose of ICL & IPL identify new talent not only from the player pool but also support staff and coaches who can take forward the international format of the game.
Two other coaches who come to mind are the combative Moin Khan who leads a mercurial Pakistan side – Lahore Badshahs on the ICL platform and Steve Rixon former New Zealand coach, who has championed the cause of Hyderabad Heroes (ICL) and the ICL –India team. The final word is written by deliverables and this is where fancy coaches like John Buchanan, Greg Chappel & Jeff Lawson have bit dust. A special mention for Moin needs to be added for the simple reason that he has created the old Pakistani magic with the Lahore Badshahs- they are unpredictable, combative, maverick , cheat with the ball to produce reverse swing, produce aggressive Pakistani cricket; true flavor of the troubled nation’s rich cricketing history. The Greatest achievement of Moin has been his ability to combine mercurial raw talent with discipline; making the Pakistani outfit at ICL a potent deadly unit.

As a cricket fan one can only hope that sanity prevails and the game (Cricket) & the above magnificent gentlemen take the center stage at especially IPL. One quality that Warne, Bevan & Moin had in common in their playing days was their gritty approach to the game and that opportune’s, food for thought for the most troubled IPL side –KKR. We all know that Saurav Ganguly may be a bit over the hill- but his grittiness provides for a great opportunity to make him a player cum coach of the Kolkata side! Ganguly has always shown interest in coaching- his greatest quality as an Indian captain, was his recognition, nurturing & backing of young talent like Harbhajan,Zaheer & Yuvraj.
I repeat the crux of success for a T20 League side is dependent on how well the coach harnesses the domestic talent available to him- Bevan has done that with R Sathish, G Vignesh & P Syed Mohammad. Warne has done it with Asnodkar, Kamran Khan & Ravindra jadeja & my bet is Saurav Ganguly has the credentials to do better with young domestic boys than good old “Buck”- whose expertise lies with managing big players rather than young upcoming domestic boys.

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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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