Monthly Archives: November 2010

David Gower Screams

Can’t wait for the Auto-tune version of this. David Gower’s toe got a bad pinch from an errant Nasser Hussain yesterday, leaving us with this memorable Ashes YouTube moment. Enjoy:


Warning: Graeme Swann May Be An Annoying Idiot

Until this series, I only knew Graeme Swann for his bowling. The guy was the best spinner in the world; he had run through the Aussies at home; old people started talking about some guy called Fred Titmus.

But now, I find Swann may also be a really, really annoying idiot, and that too a racially insensitive one. Read Andy Bull’s profile in The Guardian for details on the first charge; the guy’s dressing room antics (and his recent drunk driving) put me in mind of the stupid jocks who weren’t supposed to find refuge in a game like cricket. (Sigh.)

What’s worse, Swann indulges in a dash of racial humor. Take a look at his “Behind The Ashes” video series; I followed a flattering link that said it offered an “irreverent” (meaning: funny) look at life on tour. It does that, and most of it is actually quite funny, until you get to the part in Episode 3 where Swann basically makes fun of coach Mushtaq Ahmed’s accent and inability to speak English well to his face for a good minute. (See below at 2:30.)

Now, it’s possible “doing the Indian accent” bit is funny in England because of its much higher Asian population (so accepted is the accent, it is akin to making fun of any regional — read: Yorkshire — accent, for e.g.).  Generally, though, it’s not a kosher thing to do in America, where it’s seen as needlessly picking on a very, very small percentage of the population. Not that it’s not done; God knows I’ve had to answer thousands of questions on why I don’t sound like Apu from The Simpsons. (I also absolutely despise having to listen to someone do the accent with the expectation that I laugh at it, as if I’m part of the joke. Swann does this to Mushtaq in the video, and you can tell he thinks Swann is laughing at him, not with him.)

I might be making a mountain out of a mole here. But just take a look at the video. Mushtaq seems like such a nice guy; I almost feel sorry he has to spend his days surrounded, almost universally, by white people. Time to break out the diversity sessions, ECB.

Like I said, the rest of the video is fairly funny (esp. the sprinkler dance bit at the end). But wasn’t the Ahmed moment so, so awkward? Back me up, NRIs — how many times have you gone through this exchange?


Jimmy Anderson May Still Be A Little Wanker

I like Jimmy Anderson a lot. So do a lot of people; they said he has changed his ways, he won’t give up at the first sight of trouble, or when the swing stops working the oracle again.

Actually, the English team as a whole pulled an Anderson yesterday. After that first session, they needed to play like they were on a pitch in India — going back to attrition, slowly trying to strangle the opposition with tight lines and lop-sided fields (recall the 8-1 Dhoni field?) and taking all their chances (unlike, um, Jimmy Anderson and his drop). Instead, they sort of gave up; there were moments when I thought I could see Anderson mouth, “Screw this, I’m going home.”

But now, they have a chance to play like in India once more: nothing better than facing a huge deficit to bring out the Laxmans, Harbhajans and 5th day pitch-heroes in your team. Welcome to the subcontinent, lads!

The Thin Line Of Ashes Success At The Gabba

Sometime in the lunch session on Day 3, fellow twitterer SnickedCricket criticized Cricinfo for calling it another brilliant day for cricket. After all, he had just seen Hussey and Haddin dominate for a couple of hours, with no wicketing prospects in sight for England.

Except, he was quick to admit, he had missed the first hour or so of play. That made all the difference. The first hour wasn’t only scintillating, with excellent stuff from Jimmy Anderson (and, to a certain degree, Stuart Broad). It also exemplified the virtues of Test cricket. Two batsmen struggled, scoring next to nothing, and were beaten by ball after ball. If you were just looking at the scoreline, you would concluded this was a boring display. Not true — this was an extended period you’re unlikely to see in ODIs or T20s, and I argue it’s one of the best moments in a Test: that ill-defined feeling that something is about to happen, a crescendo of tension.

Usually, it ends with a wicket (as it did when Ishant Sharma tested Ponting for an hour or so in Perth). And it feels damn, damn good. But today, it went the other way — and that made all the difference. Just a few inches, a nick here or there, a little luck from the physics gods, and England could have been 200 runs ahead now, not behind.

Check out roundups on the day from Mike Selvey at The Guardian, The Old Batsman and Marcus Mitchell.

Mark Nicholas’ Wikipedia Page

I know many folks don’t like commentator Mark Nicholas’ faux dramatics, but I don’t mind it. He’s relatively well-spoken, and he has a sense of the larger themes in a game, something many commentators miss. Test matches are about stories, and Nicholas — imho — tells them better than most.

But I did have a chuckle when some prankster edited Nicholas’ Wikipedia page and absolutely skewered him. It’s removed now, but it had the words “pompous popinjay” in the lead. It also noted that, despite Nicholas’ middling first-class career at Hampshire, Nicholas still felt like he could say what he wanted about the game — not a completely ludicrous assumption; in fact, why do all commentators have to point to some actual professional experience in the game as a qualification? I reckon there are plenty of fans who could convey the fun of the game despite never having bowled a ball outside back alley tournaments.

Anyway, head over to Nicholas’ page. It still has some snarkiness. E.g.:

During the 3rd Test at Old Trafford, his particularly insightful “That is very good” after Simon Jones‘s dismissal of Michael Clarke after the ball, which looked to be a safe leave, cut back and knocked over the batsman’s off stump. He also gave a memorable description of Ricky Ponting being out on the final day at Old Trafford. When umpire Billy Bowden put up the finger, Nicholas shouted “He’s given it out! Out! Ricky Ponting is out!”

Money Gets In The Way Of India-South Africa Warmup

I’ve long puzzled about why the BCCI acted so cooly to Gary Kirsten’s request for an advance trip to South Africa ahead of the Test series there. After all, South Africa has been a tough place for the Indians, who have never won a Test series there. It’s full of bounce, spit, pace, all the supposed bugaboos Indian batsmen can’t handle.

And now, we have a slight hint, c/o Cricinfo:

The coach felt that in the absence of India not playing any warm-up matches before the first Test, it was imperative players be sent early to get used to the conditions. Kirsten had sent in his request earlier this year, stressing to the board that the players needed time to acclimatise and also adjust to the pitch conditions in South Africa. However, the board took months to consider the request, mostly because of any potential objections the broadcaster might raise about devaluing the New Zealand ODI series, before giving permission earlier this month.

Call me naive, but I just blamed the BCCI’s incompetence for the delay, not any crass commercial concern. Honestly, is the New Zealand ODI series so valuable anyway? It’s not a top series, and India has regularly rested senior players of late. So who cares? (I’m also a firm believer in the notion that many Indians will always watch their cricket team, no matter who they’re playing, where, or for what point. But I’m also a cricket fanatic.)

I understand some people think the no-warm-up game thing is not such a big deal. After all, India played both the T20 World Cup and the IPL Season 2 over there, so they should have a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Putting aside the merits of this argument — I don’t think a tournament played years ago, and that too of the T20 variety, counts as adequate preparation for Tests — at least it’s a cricket-based one, not a commercial excuse. Sigh.

Ashes Fever: Brisbane Belongs In the Perfect Time Zone

I’m so excited about this Ashes series. I can’t help it; I don’t care if I sound too earnest; this is going to be great. And not least because Brisbane, QSL, may in fact be the perfect time zone for cricket watchers on the American East Coast. It is 15 hours ahead, so 10 a.m. will roll around in Australia just as I’m heading off from work. That gives me about 5 hours to enjoy at home before I call it a night.

Dinner and cricket. Amazing. Oh, and I’m calling this for England, 2-1.

Kevin Pietersen Plays Blindfold Cricket

Good stuff. Too bad it’s for an advertisement (and that too, some hair cream product). But the bravado is hard not to like (“Crank it up, buddy”):

Usman Khawaja’s Diversity Task

Usman Khawaja may become the first Muslim cricketer to play for Australia. This is how he views the prospect, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“I was born in Pakistan. I came here when I was about three and a half to Sydney,” Khawaja told reporters in Hobart last week after being named in Australia’s initial 17-man Ashes squad…Asked about the historic achievement as a Muslim Australian Test player, Khawaja attempted to tickle the question down to fine leg.

“For me just being selected to play for Australia and getting a baggy green will be the best thing in the world…None of the boys bring it (religion) up and the only time it ever comes up is from the media.”

Here’s the thing: minorities often have to grapple with wanting to be known solely for their talent, or for their status as a record-setting minority. (So, for instance, Denzel Washington, upon winning an Oscar, said something to the effect of, “Don’t say Black Actor Wins; say Actor Wins.”) Political candidates do this a lot as well; some women, for instance, will say it makes no difference; they hope voters don’t consider it as a plus or minus, etc. etc.

That’s a fine position to take, but I think certain historic firsts need to be reported and treated as such. I’d rather Khawaja said something like this: Yes, it’s an exciting prospect; I realize it says nothing about my onfield merit, which I will have to prove on debut, but I’m happy nevertheless to be the first in line.

And why? Because Australia used to have awful, just awful, policies towards minorities. Things have no doubt changed — notwithstanding the somewhat inflated accounts of Indian students attacked — but rather than trying to erase color/difference (“none of the boys bring it up”), I’d celebrate it.

Do Cricketers Need To Be Smart To Succeed?

In 1996, David Foster Wallace wrote a great essay on tennis player Michael Joyce, and the sacrifices and virtues required to become a great athlete. The piece made a splash at the time because Wallace — and I’m over-simplifying here — basically said Joyce, like most athletes, was, um, stupid. Or as he put it:

We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way “up close and personal” profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life — outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence.
It’s not stupidity, necessarily; it’s just a willingness not to get interested in anything other than your chosen sport. I’ve always wondered if such an attitude would reward cricketers who face a much more complicated task than in tennis (they’re playing a team sport; it’s much longer; objectives shift and change with each day). Commentators often praise cricketers for their brains; it still ranks as one of the highest compliments along with an ability to hit boundaries on a regular basis.
But then, consider Mukul Kesavan’s essay on Virender Sehwag (famous for telling Collingwood that batting requires only two things: “See ball, hit ball”):
No, the genius of Sehwag lies in his near-yogic ability to live in the moment, to separate one ball from the other, to purge his mind at the moment of impact, of useless meta-information like his innings score or the match score or the state of his average, or his place in the history of cricket…The game he’s playing is everything and within that game, the ball he’s about to face. Our carefree buccaneer, if only we had the eyes to see, is modern cricket’s Zen Master.
What do you think? Are cricketers increasingly like modern athletes? Do they merely need to see ball, hit ball? Has the age of the intellectual cricketer, if it ever existed, passed?