Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The numbers behind Strauss' retirement

Best Blog Tips

Sachin Tendulkar has said that 'its just a number' but speculation is rife that the BCCI may have played a pivotal role in the retirement of Andrew Strauss.

They now have their sights on Grame Smith - The English captain killer himself

Here's Why

Team# Of Captains Since 1989
New Zealand9

Friday, August 24, 2012

India's refurbished batting order

Best Blog Tips

It is obvious that the real test for India’s refurbished (but not completely rennovated) batting order lies in how we perform in Australia, England and South Africa. Unlike their predecessors, the current set of youngsters will perpetually be in the shadows of one of the greatest set of batsmen ever to play together.  

It would seem that allowing the new batsmen time to play a few Tests at home before they are thrown on fast tracks, is a good approach. Many will point out that Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly were all christened in far more hostile conditions away from home. Even VVS Laxman was discovered only in Sydney. However that was not by choice. At the time many of these players made their debuts, India was running a deficit on batting talent. Given a choice it is logical to groom youngsters at home and reserve judgment on their class for away tours.

There is guarded optimism around the performances of both Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Will they be as good as their predecessors? Perhaps no... No one can say with any amount of certainty whether there will ever be a batting line up as good as the one that we enjoyed over the last decade.

Even the men who made up that batting order may no longer be as good as that batting order.

When we are confronted with the retirements of Ganguly, Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar in the near future, we tend to look at their contributions holistically (fondly remembering the highlights) and wonder if we have anyone who ‘deserves’ to replace them.

However if you look at their collective performances over the last 14 Tests, the question that needs asking is that do these batsmen have the numbers to justify delaying the inevitable. India is certainly better off ‘moving on’ than investing in batsmen nearing 40, whose likelihood of putting up performances that can win Test matches for India is uncertain.

Virendra Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman have collectively scored 3931 runs @ 35 runs per innings with only 6 100s since the World Cup and IPL 2011. Of them only Rahul Dravid and to some extent Sachin Tendulkar have looked authoritative. Although @ 36 runs per innings and no 100s for Sachin, it would be a bit sarcastic to say that he is ‘on top of his game’.

India’s selectors had largely left it to the batsman to decide India’s future and as expected even when the numbers; both individual and collective from a win-loss perspective; clearly scream the need to do things differently, the batsmen chose to either continue or when nudged to retire made an emotional scene about it. Rahul Dravid, left with dignity. VVS Laxman seemed hurt and made sure we all knew that but his numbers and age were clearly making a case for his axing. When Sachin Tendulkar says that ‘one should not retire when one is on top of his game’ and implies that he is; we chose not to laugh only out of respect.

With Virendra Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir they have age on their side and giving them more time to emulate themselves makes sense.

In the shorter term the benchmark for Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli is not really very high. Averaging 35 odd and producing 6 100s the next time India embarks on away tours is not that daunting. It is my belief that the retirements of the VVS, Dravid and Sachin will have no short term impact to India’s Test Match performance only because they aren’t exactly leaving an all conquering team. The recent record is so poor that even the most incompetent set of youngsters will find it tough not to better. I think some new thinking will make India a better team than the one we saw in England and Australia last year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Look India Pass First Test

Best Blog Tips

Cheteshwar Pujara re-announced himself to the cricket world with a mature century. The rawness of his stroke-making was still evident. He played classical cricket shots, which were more likely to hit fielders than gaps. But New Zealand is not a team that has bowlers to test such batsmen. Pujara, though, in time is likely to make those adjustments to shot making that Dravid did so effectively. Pujara provided all the sense of calm and control that Dravid used to provide Indian fans. The real test will be against England’s bowlers that have a lot more variety and aggression. But this is a good stepping stone for Pujara.
Virat Kohli was a little too enterprising for the match situation, pitch conditions and all. Given that India’s bowlers are unlikely to take 20 wickets, unless New Zealand are under the pressure of close to 500 runs, Virat could have focused on piling on the runs, rather than providing the lift. So, while Virat seemed to be in total control, he didn’t respect New Zealand’s bowlers enough and paid the price.
The bad story was the “seniors” – Gambhir, Sehwag and Tendulkar. Each in his own way demonstrated scant respect for test match batting fundamentals. Perhaps too much security is not good for them. Gambhir and Sehwag started and continued in ODI fashion. Gambhir tried a cute ODI shot and was gone. Sehwag played great shots, but he played one too many. Despite being let off twice, he didn’t curtail his extravagance. There were enough mediocre balls on offer and he didn’t need to mess with manufacturing yet another ODI boundary through the slips. But Sehwag, like Gambhir, was guilty of disrespecting test match bowling. India would have been sitting at close 400 had either one of them toned it down a measure. Given that they were batting at the head of an inexperienced middle order, they should have assumed more responsibility and played smarter cricket.
Tendulkar seemed to be ok. The bowling wasn’t testing him. He didn’t miss too many balls. However, the one that he missed got him. I think Manjrekar and Ganguly got it right in the post match analysis. Tendulkar was somehow trying to convince himself and the viewers that the ball was too low. But he can’t convince the cameras. My addition to that is that now it appears that Tendulkar is playing to prove his critics wrong - critics who question his decision to continue to play international cricket. The ball he got out to could have got anyone out or not. It wasn’t  unplayable. Tendulkar misjudged it. Stuff happens. Personally, I didn’t think it was a huge sin for a batsman to be out in that fashion occasionally. He didn’t throw his wicket away. But his reaction smacked of some guilt at getting out cheaply. He’s now trying to live up to his own high expectations. He needs to give himself a break. If he wants to play and the selectors let him, then he should without any sense of guilt, assuming that’s what’s going through his mind. (I love my own psycho-babble sometimes.) Critics like me are going to continue to want him to leave, not because he’s not a good batsman, but because it’s time.
So, life after Dravid and Laxman isn’t as terrible. The new batsmen will still need to prove themselves in testing conditions and play some heroic knocks in future. But Kohli and Pujara showed that they belong. It was five years after Dravid and Laxman’s debut that Kolkata happened. Until then, there were glimpses of what was to come but test matches had not been won against quality opposition against the odds. I don’t believe we’ll have to wait for five years before Kohli, Pujara and maybe even Rohit Sharma turn it on for India.
Raina still has work to do if he is serious about his test career. He fiddled with a worthless ball outside the leg-stump. Good test batsmen don’t mess with such stuff on day one of a test match. He’ll likely get one more test match after this one to show up in the right manner.
Another piece of good news to me was that there were a reasonable number of spectators watching the game. For a game bereft of Dravid and Laxman, there was good interest in the new folks. In addition, this was a game against “no-name” New Zealand. With a little more thought into ticket pricing and scheduling and we might see more people at test matches.
Overall, India are doing quite well in this match. They are likely to get to a 400 plus total. Dhoni has an opportunity to add runs to his tally. Pujara has the appetite to carry on. Jeetan Patel bowled quite well and it should bode well for Ashwin and Ojha. The pitch will likely do something starting day 3. Provided Zaheer and Yadav make some early inroads, this thing could be over in four days. It’s hard to see India lose from here, but interesting things have happened in test matches.

P.S. Rediff bought Tendulkar's acting --- Here's a quote from their match-analysis "
Displaying a wide array of strokes during his near chanceless innings, Pujara revelled in the role of a sheet anchor. The youngster had the esteemed company of the world's leading scorer Tendulkar but the partnership did not last long as the legendary batsman was bowled through the gate.
It was a delivery that kept a bit low and skidded through, breaching the master's defence.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

South Africa Ascend to the Top

Best Blog Tips

South Africa is the new number one test team. In hindsight, England gave in rather tamely, though they had a good chance at Lords. Their panicked response to the chase was in stark contrast to their attritional bowling plans which seek out unforced errors from opposing batsmen. These things are probably more likely to happen when a team is distracted.

The unfortunate axing of Kevin Pietersen, followed by premature ejaculations of proclaiming Jonny Bairstow as having “test match temperament” is strange, but highly English. Justifying “proper” behavior is probably higher priority than celebrating flair and irreverence. Pietersen may as well feel like one of Putin’s punk protestors. Jonny Bairstow is anything but test class. Lashing at bowlers and getting lucky isn’t test match batting. Jonny will "be good” in due course. He has the attitude and the heart, but temperament? – nein!

South Africa may keep the number one ranking for a while yet, but only if they beat Australia in Australia in what is looking like another mouth watering contest. In Philander, they have a player who brings luck as well as skill to the middle. This was my first series watching Philander bowl. I felt he was under-bowled at times. But that’s probably how Smith and Kirsten have figured out he’s best utilized to breach the opposing line up. Morne Morkel coming of age has been great news for South Africa and Dale Steyn’s continuing excellence is a sight to behold. On the Morkel subject, he seems to have found his mojo in the IPL this year.

Teams are probably looking to keep out these two bowlers and see a chance to relax just that wee bit against Philander. His pace is inviting after the hammering from Steyn and Morkel’s testing bounce. But Philander is also a skilled bowler who seems to just know where and what to bowl. He just seems to have that x-factor or instinct. All in all, it’s great fun watching him bowl because something happens every ball. Plus, he’s a good-lucking, athletic, expressive cricketer, unlike the robotic Steyn. He has all the ingredients to become a popular cricketer world-wide.

South Africa has another unwritten good story. This series and perhaps ranking was delivered due to huge contributions by colored players. Amla, Petersen and Philander played exceptionally well. In fact Amla's performance in this series signals his transition from good to possibly a future great. Duminy stood tall in ruins at times. While Smith, Kallis and Steyn played consistently as always, Amla and Philander turned the screws on and delivered “those” performances that change the test match tides. Tahir too bowled reasonably well to continue to merit his place in the side. The sole disappointment has to be Rudolph who despite a lot of experience in English conditions was unable to flourish. ABDV too probably needs to rethink his approach to test match batting.

From the ruins of the apartheid era, this is a great place to be for a country with so much tragic history. Reconciliation has brought about its rightful fruit. The road has been a little rocky with some missteps and misguided selection policies at times, but there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Monday, August 20, 2012

India v New Zealand - A Chest Thumping Opportunity

Best Blog Tips

There is fury being unleashed on the poor selectors; specifically in the handling of VVS Laxman.

There is no defending India’s selection process but in that process the selectors are mere order takers, so to blame them for not trying anything bold is like blaming the waiter for an ill-prepared meal.

After accounting for star-whims, backed by multi-million dollar endorsements, BCCI gag orders that prevents them from presenting their vision for selection and thoughts for specific picks, these poor chaps are routinely second guessed. Indeed some of their picks, on the surface, are bewildering

Take Rohit Sharma.

He was on the Test team to Australia where he got no game and he is dropped because he had poor returns from ODIs but is part of the T20 team for the World Cup. This is one selection/de-selection that is wrong 3 times over.

But what has left me perplexed is why Saurav Ganguly and many fans are upset with the selectors for “the way VVS Laxman was treated”.

In 8 away Test Matches he averaged 20 odd. He is 37. If he was unwilling to go and the selectors indeed played a role in prodding him into retirement because they would rather invest in a younger batsman, what is so upsetting about it?

How many Test Matches do past glories buy? I think 8 are too many.

I can understand VVS Laxman and Ganguly being emotional and even hurt about it, but theirs is not exactly an objective view.


The New Zealanders are in town for 2 Tests and 2 T20s with no warm up games; unless some believe that the 2 Tests are the warm ups for the T20s. India is by all accounts a tough place to win for visiting teams. New Zealand has won all of 1 Test in India in the last 40 years. That Test is also the only Test match I watched between the 2 sides at the Wankhede Stadium in 1988. I was there to watch Richard Hadlee and he delivered with 10 wickets. But it was John Bracewell who clean bowled Dilip Vengsarkar for a 6 ball duck that settled the Test Match with India chasing 275+.

New Zealand was just beaten by a resurgent West Indies side. It's hard to tell if West Indies got better or if New Zealand just weren't trying hard. Sunil Narine and Doenarine spun a web around them and Best and Roach didn't let up. New Zealand's bowling too is weakened minus Vettori. Given the evidence picking Chawla is a gift for New Zealand but we should expect our batting bullies to pile up the runs and win using the time tested 90s formula. Pile up 400-500 first innings runs and unleash the spinners on the hapless foreigners.

It seems neither New Zealand is keen to give itself the best chance of competing nor is India interested ensuring a more meaningful tour. Why else would you not give this series enough time to allow New Zealand a full tour with warm up games and 3 Tests?

The BCCI has been applauded for their ‘A’ tours programs but what’s the point in sending youngsters to play other youngsters when they could have played a full fledged visiting national side at home in warm up games. It serves multiple purposes and makes for a more meaningful series. But of course the astute business men have worked out that there is no business case for warm up games.

This is a series, no one really cares about and I am sick of being thrown business talk in rationalizing the irrational behavior of all cricket boards.

Give us a proper Test series, or none at all. A series like this is what classifies as paying ‘lip service’ to Test Cricket. May be the way to preserve the format is to play less of it but play it in all earnestness.

The tests are being played at Hyderabad and Bangalore. Hyderabad isn't a top test venue and it's hard to see people show up. But rank turners should be expected at both venues though it's still the end of monsoon and there may be some rain yet. This may help the Kiwis but still it's a long shot that they would get 20 Indian wickets on turners.

As much as I want New Zealand to spring a surprise, I am not sure how it is going to happen. Like the last time around, New Zealand may win a session or two, may be a day or two over the 2 tests, but it won’t be enough for the efforts to count for wins.

The Series though is a huge one for the humiliated batting line up. When India were busy being ‘unlucky’ in England and Australia, many technically exposed stars were verbalizing the “wait till we meet you on our territory” instinct and I am sure they were aching for this series to start, so they can thump their chests again.

This series will only confirm the stereotype for India. Bullies at home and cry babies outside. For a brief period, I was genuinely smitten by India’s batting greats but ultimately the results over the last 50 years of Indian cricket don’t add up to anything really great about this set of batting stars beyond just better personal numbers.

That too… largely due to more cricket against more weak teams

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Opinions On...VVS Laxman

Best Blog Tips

Ultimately the change that should have been engineered out of plan following the surrender of the #1 Test ranking has been brought about any way by the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

India attaining the #1 ranking changed a few things. Expectations among one. A #1 team is expected to draw, win and even lose Test Matches differently than a middle of the rung team. When the very batsmen that made us the best were found so breathless away from home, used bad 'luck' and injury to a key bowler as legitimate analytic tools, they had; in my books; run out of time, ideas and respect as far as their careers were concerned.

With the announcement of VVS Laxman to retire, the last of the men who lent mystique and an old fashioned charm to this Indian team, despite the gross commercialization associated with is cricket, is gone.

His 8000 odd career runs in 134 Tests, seems positively paltry in comparison to the mountain of runs scored by Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and yet without his contributions both Sachin's and Rahul's careers would have been less illustrious than they eventually were.

His contributions were never about how much more they could have been, rather how pedestrian India's record would have been without them. That two most prolific batsmen of all time would have yet ended up being part of an average team, had it not been for VVS Laxman. In that lies Laxman's true value. It is easy to miss the forest for the trees and only see the numerous times he produced duds; but his career was about producing those rare gems that lay beyond the combined capacities of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.

"Apan tere ko doich mara....lekin solid mara ke nahi..." One of my favorite dialogues from one of the best comedies I have watched; Amar Akbar Anthony....If VVS had a bit of Anthony in him, this was a line for him and his career.

The premiere rivalry cricket enjoyed between India and Australia; without VVS Laxman; would have been non existent. An entire rivalry for over a decade had its foundations in that innings, that partnership. It changed the equation for India and the world. A lead of 200+ is no longer an automatic follow-on. Every time a team ends up with a lead of 200, a captain will account for the possibility of that innings at the Eden Gardens before he asks the opposition to follow-on. 

In theory it is quite possible to find his replacement to score the amount of runs he made at the average he made them at. 17 Test 100s is not a great many 100s. Suresh Raina can easily notch up the kind of numbers VVS Laxman did but can anyone produce a marathon innings following on, can anyone will the tail-enders to hang on for an improbable chase? 

Its unlikely.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The KP Mishap

Best Blog Tips

The ECB took the bold, but dimwitted step of dropping Kevin Pietersen from the test team. Well-intentioned rules and regulations controlling player behavior are just that. “Well-intentioned”. They neither guarantee success nor do they ensure cohesive team behavior. However, many people get caught up in the rules and regulations and assume them to be the foundation for team success.
Here’s something that you always knew but no one told you. There is no formula for team success. Some of the most successful teams would have been called undisciplined by today’s pundits. And some of the most regimented teams have fallen by the wayside frequently. Note South Africa’s continued quest to be number one and win a world cup. [On that subject, why is ESPN reporting Kirsten’s statement about SA’s desire to be number one as some big secret being let out? As opposed to what? South Africa is playing to be the number 3 team in the world? Or just playing to play?]
We suffer the bureaucracy regularly in businesses that bemoan the loss of innovation. Teams that are constrained by too many rules, regulations and codified ethics can’t function creatively enough. While this piece is not an advocacy for debilitating self-centeredness or anarchy, for sure individual expression and freedom must be cherished and preserved. Theere is a line that should not be crossed. But this should be left to the team to decide, not officialdom and definitely not codified by edicts to cease and desist tweets, blogs, etc.
All the establishment cronies – Nasser Hussain, Atherton, Vaughan, etc. have come out advocating KP being dropped. They are also unwittingly advocating England losing the next test match. Does anyone believe that Bairstow and whats-his-face will be able to withstand Dale Steyn, Philander and Morkel? Are spectators paying to see a military parade or a cricket game with flair, flourish and pomp? Spectators want a battle out there, not a meek surrender? Spectators want players to play out of their skins to win a game of cricket. They don’t care if players are running with the right form and doing good media interviews? What will the ECB and even Andrew Strauss end up doing after England lose? Blame KP for the loss for “misbehaving” and losing his place in the team?
Misguided officials and team captains cover up their own inadequacy of being unable to manage and motivate extremely talented individuals by scurrying to justify their failure with rules. Flintoff, Pietersen, Warne, Symonds and probably every Pakistan player falls into this category of players. Perhaps, a bunch of 70s era Australians and the entire West Indies team under Clive Lloyd did too.
My guess is that many fans too will come out in support of ECB’s move. “No individual is bigger than the game”, they will proclaim, completely missing the point. Individuals make up the team. A captain and official’s success is being able to get the best out of the most temperamental genius in the team. There’s a reason Botham prospered under Brearley. Warne prospered under Taylor and Waugh. And there’s a reason Symonds was lost by Ponting and now KP is being lost by Strauss.
I’m not at all advocating that every prima donna be pampered. However, the fault lies with ECB and Strauss for letting things come to this state. KP’s personality is well-known. Not being able to plan and manage a player of his caliber is definitely Strauss, Flower and ECB’s fault. A little bit of humility from them early on, would have helped tremendously.
Thanks to their incompetence, the next test match has been reduced to a farce. What a shame!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Top 6 reasons why Usain Bolt is encouraging talk of his association with T20 Cricket

Best Blog Tips

  1. Looking at the roster of cricketers playing the game…Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne, Sachin, Jayasurya….he thinks it’s group activity for residents of old peoples retirement homes and is considering this as a post retirement past time.
  2. He may not be as knowledgeable about the game as he thinks and has completely discounted the fact that ‘running between the wickets’ involves running fast, stopping and returning; something he has never done.
  3. The remote possibility of getting to build a partnership batting with Inzamam-Ul-Haq with Sanjay Manjrekar as the commentator tickles his funny bone
  4. Like Sachin he believes that T20 cricket is like getting a seat in the Rajya Sabha and can continue to focus on running
  5. He simply wants to rub it into Sachin’s fans that he is a greater athlete and celebrity than the God of Cricket. After all no athletics league ever flirted with Sachin
  6. He is a fan of Bollywood Item Songs

Friday, August 10, 2012

Selections for NZ Test Series & T20

Best Blog Tips

Rohit Sharma’s non-selection for the New Zealand test series may be positively interpreted as a “rest” to sort out issues with his form, regardless of format. His selection to the T20 squad could also be likewise interpreted as a statement of confidence in his potential and viability as a long term India prospect.
Some might argue that blooding Rohit Sharma against New Zealand would have been a good strategy, given that they are the weakest test team today. Minus Vettori, they become cannon fodder for India’s flat track bullies.
I am somewhat ambivalent, but I’m willing to cast my lot with the selectors in this case. We might see a false dawn if Rohit were to score a lot of runs against New Zealand. I’m willing to bet with the selectors that he needs to be blooded against England much like Virat Kohli was thrown to the Australian wolves or even Tendulkar who was sent into the fire-pit of Pakistan against Wasim, Waqar and Imran.
Suresh Raina has come back into the test squad probably due to backing from Dhoni and his own desire to persevere. Pujara is certain to make the squad and unless Dhoni opts for seven batsman, Raina will likely not play. Pujara’s selection is welcome relief for die-hards like me. We hope that he carries the torch forward. India’s ODI riches mean that he would likely not play the other formats, but hopefully, the public, selectors and Pujara himself retain interest in the art-form that his test cricket batsmanship.
The selectors have picked three seamers and three spinners and I don’t have an issue with the Chawla selection, unlike many other pundits. He is probably included simply to provide a leg-spinning option. In a two test series, Chawla is unlikely to play, unless someone is injured or a rank turner is prepared and India play only one seamer. Umesh Yadav too may not play if Ishant Sharma is fully fit.
Regardless of who plays, India should expect to steamroll New Zealand in both the tests unless they play on eighties style featherbeds. Hopefully, there are rank turners as promised by Gambhir during the Aussie debacle. Otherwise, we might be embarrassed by a mediocre New Zealand side. While on Gambhir, it’s good that he is back as Vice Captain. Hopefully, he has figured out how to be supportive of his team management and not be a loose canon.
Yuvraj’s selection to the T20 squad is a good emotional gamble. However, Balaji’s selection is hard to understand. I’m a fan of Balaji and would have reveled in his selection four years ago, but now it’s a little stale. Praveen Kumar’s absence from both squads is weird, unless I missed something about his fitness. He is the canniest bowlers that India possesses and not including him in the T20 squad is a serious mistake.
Harbhajan’s comeback to the T20 squad is also a good move on part of the selectors. He too is a street smart operator and with Ashwin could form a tough bowling combination in Sri Lanka. In T20 games, it’s not so bad to include two off-spinners if they are in really good form.
Overall, though with Irfan Pathan regaining his luster, India have a more balanced T20 look to them. Should Yuvraj be ready to go, Dhoni would have several bowling options and a good T20 batting side to boot. Winning the World Cup with this squad is possible. Nitpicking aside, these selections are pretty good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

England sweats as Pietersen apes Sachin

Best Blog Tips

After seeing Kevin Pietersen bat in his debut series against Shane Warne, I quickly placed him alongside VVS Laxman in his ability to play spin in general and Shane Warne in particular. Both used their feet to him generously, were not afraid to leave their stumps as they advanced down the leg side and both attacked Shane Warne on instinct.

Eventually Kevin Pietersen turned out much different than VVS Laxman; may be because there was nothing inherently common between them in the first place beyond the attacking styles on the surface. Yet his overall mindset and desires are more suited to the Indian setting than an English one.

For starters, he behaves like a star. And he should because he is an innovative batsman and I feel like turning on the television when he is batting

He wants to play more IPL, be with his family, knows people like to watch him bat in Tests, wants to pick and choose his tours and is willing to play only one form of the shortened game. No, I am not picking on Sachin Tendulkar again. This is what Kevin Pietersen wants too.

Kevin Pietersen wants to become like Sachin Tendulkar and the ECB and the England dressing room is fretting because they are worried it will set a bad precedent.

Since when is wanting to be like Sachin Tendulkar bad for a country?

England can transfer Kevin Pietersen to India in return for a few million dollars and you would be hard pressed to find a better mutually beneficial deal in the history of sports.

Whenever a player stands up against the evil administrators, I tend to root for the player. These days, especially in India, even the mightiest of stars; whose very exploits bring in the billions for the cricket boards; are subservient to the boards. May be there isn’t any issue worth their while to take a stand.

Although, I find it hard to digest that India’s stars have nothing to say against the proliferation of 2-Test series, 0 Test away “tours”, the DRS non sense, the Kapil Dev humiliation. In the current business environment though; there is more money to be made by towing the BCCI line for India’s cricketers.

Senior cricketers were better in my time when they made a real difference in how things worked. Gavaskar was always in trouble with the BCCI but fought for better pay. Vengsarkar was not much of a speaker but fought for his right to express his opinions in writing.

When boards all over have embraced outright commercialization of the game at the expense of the game, it is only natural that the players too start thinking like experts with niche skills and demand more freedom in how they want to make their money. When these boards in response try to clamp down this freedom, it only seems hypocritical.

It will only be with players like Pietersen, Gayle and Amla who are willing to challenge the norms, and create disruptions that will demand that the system changes. Hashim Amla in refusing to wear the team sponsor’s logo because it represents something against his religious beliefs is a courageous stand.

Ultimately whether Pietersen; or anyone else; is justified is not the judgment I am making, its that he is willing to stand up and be the Test case for hundreds of other crickets who I am sure must be waiting to see how this ends.

Although I would caution anyone who thinks Pietersen has thought this through. As a leader, Pietersen’s credentials are cloudy at best. His stint as England captain revealed an immature mind in demanding a new coach as soon as he took over. Also no other England captain would have declared at Mohali giving India a victory almost on a platter with the November terrorist attacks serving as the emotional catalyst.

It will be sad if Pietersen’s career ends.

Although, I don’t really think Kevin Pietersen and the ECB will part ways. It’s probably going to end like how Kapil Dev was embraced back by the BCCI; after having read a prepared statement professing his allegiance to the board.

That will be really sad.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Going gaga over Virat Kohli - Why?

Best Blog Tips

Yuvraj Singh was perhaps the first star cricketer, born out of exploits solely in the shorter formats. Michael Bevan was also an ODI-only finisher of great repute but he was a specialist never a true star.

The reaction to Yuvraj even at the height of his exploits seemed reasonably tempered. After all, India’s greats were very much in prime form when Yuvraj was clobbering Stuart Broad for half a dozen sixes in an over. The benchmark for expectations was higher a decade ago. Perhaps it’s a commentary on how badly India is in need of new blood when Virat Kohli’s sustained success; albeit only in the shorter formats, gets so much praise and endorsement from all; convinced that he is a future great.

491 Test runs from 15 innings @ 32 runs an innings with a solitary, garishly celebrated 100 in Australia is no reason for the kind of gushing that is currently on, in the media.

One may be tempted to suggest that the game and its spectators have changed. Perhaps success in formats that were previously thought of as side acts on tours have become the main event, legitimizing performances as authentic. Then again Pollard from the West Indies renders this suggestion lame. People in general, do reserve judgment on his quality till he develops into a Test player.

May be the unabashed praise Virat Kohli generates has to do largely with the plight of India’s ageing seniors. Squabbling over the captaincy, rotation policies, and an abject surrender of the most coveted title in cricket; the World #1 ranking in Tests

Whatever the reason for celebrating Virat Kohli’s successes, they seem premature. His performance has been stellar in the ODI game, but I can’t help but question the quality of the contests, the nature of the tracks they have come on, the intensity of the opposition and occasion and the prestige of the tournaments. Sri Lanka in this series is so tired that they may lose a game even if India actually does not show up for a match.

And there is no harm if meaningless ODIs are helping Virat’s cause. My worry is that these side shows will condemn Rohit Sharma’s career the Vinod Kambli way.