Monthly Archives: January 2011

Striking Against Annoying Cricket Advertisements

Good news for people who hated those unbelievably intrusive advertisements on Ten Cricket:

“A show-cause notice has been sent to Ten Cricket channel regarding the violation of Rule 7 (10) of the Advertising Code as prescribed in the Cable Television Networks Rules 1994 which provides ‘all advertisement should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme viz, use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme,'” Raghu Menon, the secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry which formulates rules for broadcasting and advertising in the country, told ESPNcricinfo. “The ministry has received complaints about the advertisements interfering with the live telecast by using the sides, central and lower parts of the screen to carry the advertisements, thus reducing the visual frame of the main live telecast.


The Eden Gardens Fiasco

When India’s plans for the Commonwealth Games ran into trouble, I didn’t mind as much as most people. For one thing, the Games were an extraordinarily complex endeavor, and its relative worth (among sports competitions, that is) didn’t seem all that high. But I reserve a special level of rage for the news that the Eden Gardens stadium is still not match-ready, despite months of renovations and warnings (and with less than a month to go before the first match there).

Cricket isn’t like track or soccer or tennis; in India, it’s the only game in town. People are making billions of dollars and there are hundreds of millions of fans in an ever-burgeoning market. And yet, we are saddled with administrators like J. Dalmiya, who says he’s shocked and surprised by the ICC’s move. Instead, he offered to have the stadium ready by Feb. 7. I’m sorry, but in what world is it OK to suggest a deadline less than two weeks before an event that is been on the schedule for at least four years?

I do not — do not — want to read anyone opine on what this says about India’s reputation. At some level, the mindless jingoistic hysteria that has gripped the middle-classes lately serves a point: it can be used to routinely shame leaders to act for the sake of national honor (as opposed to self-interest, or other parochial claims). But I’m starting to worry that this sentiment also clouds any plan for tangible action. Rather than waste words on what this latest fiasco says about the Indian identity or self -image, I’d like to know what punishments will be meted out; whether or not Dalmiya deserves to have his place on the Cricket Association of Bengal; whether urgent reform is needed at the state and national cricket level to secure better facilities.

Help me out, here.

James Madison Has Something To Teach Pakistan’s Cricket Team

Cricinfo has this little tidbit about the Pakistani World Cup captaincy imbroglio:

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has said the delay in naming the captain of the World Cup squad has led to the creation of factions within the national side.

That’s funny. I’m of the faction that believes that if a Pakistani national cricket team exists, captain or not captain, it will have factions. Q.E.D., really. There’s a certain irony in Inzamam’s comments — when selectors have chosen a captain (Akram, Waqar, Yousuf, Younis, Malik), players have continued to fight.  This time, they decide not to pick a leader…and, voila! Factions.

This brings to mind Poli Sci 101 in college, specifically Federalist Paper No. 10 by James Madison. Main argument: factions always exist, because of the nature of man. You can’t root them out without rooting out liberty, so deal with their effects by “extending the sphere.” That is, if a faction takes hold in a hamlet, it doesn’t matter because it won’t spill into the county, or the state, or the republic at large.

Of course, Madison also says small democracies are particularly prone to the evils of factionalism. And there aren’t many towns smaller than the 11 members of a cricket squad…

Memories Of The 1996 World Cup

I recently pooh-poohed the World Cup, but it wasn’t always so. My first memories of cricket come from the tournament. I recall sitting in my parents’ room as the 1992 edition played on the television. I insisted to my parents that India was winning, but I don’t think they were even playing (and, of course, Pakistan won that round).

But in 1996, that’s when cricket started for me. I was 11, I was back in India, and it all just made sense. There was a young(er) Sachin Tendulkar, scoring runs in every match; there was that scintillating Bombay match between India and Australia (when all of the city seemed to stop); then there was that other match against Pakistan (cue all our Venkatesh Prasad impersonations).

And I remember the end, too. God, do I remember it. My father, ever the pessimist, made a bet with our upstairs neighbor that India would not win. He did so jokingly, but with India 100/8 against Sri Lanka, the neighbor sent his daughter with the money. That caused a bit of ruckus in my household, because my parents were embarrassed (don’t make bets with friends, people) and my father tried to find a way to resolve the faux-pas.

The neighbor’s daughter stepped into my room and there I was. Sitting on the ground with my dinner in front of me, watching Calcutta make a fool of itself (it was only later I learned it’s a regional pastime). I wanted to cry, just like Vinod Kambli running off the field (with Kumble?). It wasn’t just the cricket. My family had recently returned from the Middle East, and even as a pre-teen, I could tell India was backward in some way. Things seemed at a standstill. Back then, the talk was about “second-generation” reforms and coalitions, not 9 percent growth rates and India Shining. Everything seemed so fragile — the United Front governments, even Bombay itself, then firmly under the thumb of a mad man.

But I also remember some weeks later, when another kid and I ran downstairs in the compound with a new bat and tennis ball and started to play. Mind you, it all came naturally. I had a run-up, I knew how to bowl, and he knew how to bat. It was like a religious conversion. And ever since then, it’s been cricket. Always between tears and joy: that’s what it’s like to be an Indian, and an Indian cricket fan.

Dissecting The World Cup Squads, Part 2

From The Telegraph:

Versatility will therefore be the key ingredient. If you bowl first you will need loads of spinners to take advantage of the dry pitches that will prevail at the end of the season; if you bowl second you will need loads of seamers to take advantage of damp pitches, or at least medium-pacers who control a dewy ball, not fast and furious siege-engines like Shaun Tait who could spray it anywhere.

And it so happens that the three host nations have selected this appropriate mix of seamers and spinners, including batsmen who can bowl part-time spin – unlike Australia who have picked one spinner in their squad, Nathan Hauritz, who badly damaged his bowling shoulder in Friday’s win over England in Hobart.

Dissecting The World Cup Squads, Part 1

Just a month to go to the World Cup, and even though my official position is apathy, I’m still a blogger at heart. Let’s review some of the squads that have been announced. There are 14 teams playing, but let’s dispatch with the minnows for now and focus on some non-Asian teams: West Indies, England and South Africa.

1. The West Indies

I doubt this team will head anyone’s table, but any outfit that includes Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo is a force to be reckoned with. Add Pollard to this mix, and you have a strong batting line-up that could handle India’s batting-friendly pitches. I’m just concerned about the bowling, which is generally inexperienced. The spin department is weak (Benn has just played 18 matches, but Miller seems promising), and the pace side includes a debutant (Andre Russell). Questions: why no Jerome Taylor or D. Ramdin?

2. England

I like this team a lot, though that’s mostly because of Ashes fever. Still, you have a good batting mix that brings stalwarts like Trott and Strauss together with Morgan and Prior. The bowling is a bit of a worry: Anderson has an impressive average (30ish), but is expensive (5ish). You have a great bowler in Swann, but I don’t like either Tredwell or Yardy. And don’t get me started on Luke Wright (bowling average of 51, batting ave. of 21). If the batting doesn’t click, the pressure on the bowling may be too much to handle.

3. South Africa

Great openers in Smith and Amla, and solid batsmen in Kallis and de Villiers to shore things up. But I worry about Duminy, du Plessis and Ingram — the last two are still new to the international scene, and the World Cup is a tough first assignment. As for bowling: no one can argue with Steyn, Morkel and Botha (hey, he’s better than that guy they use in Tests). Imran Tahir intrigues me, but I don’t know what impact he’ll have as a newbie. I’m not sure this is the team to break the infamous jinx.

These roundups also raise a bigger question: what formula works in the subcontinent World Cup? Feel free to let me know.

Choose Your Cricket Tournament

The Times of India has a video/report on Sreesanth’s reaction to not being picked in India’s World Cup squad. Apparently, his heart is broken. Knowing the peaks and valleys of Sreesanth’s emotional moods, I don’t feel too badly for him, but it does raise a bigger question: should you really feel all that bummed about not playing in the World Cup?

If I were a player — and, despite my best intentions and fantasizing, I’m not — I would have seriously hurt myself if I had not been picked in, say, 1996. But since then, and especially of late, the World Cup has receded in the public imagination. Do we really care who wins this tournament, given the surfeit of excellent cricket elsewhere? Put it this way: if you’re an India fan, would you rather have a (home) WC win, or a triumph over South Africa and Australia in the Test format abroad? Or even the T20 World Cup?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m rooting for India and I’ll watch as many games as I can (more on that later). But it wouldn’t kill me if India lost, or even left the tournament early. For other teams that are starved of cricket — NZ, Pakistan, Sri Lanka — this series is a lot of fun. But for India, South Africa and Australia — much of the cricket drama has already been had.

A Useful Summary Of IPL Finances

From The Economist:

The first IPL broadcast rights were sold to World Sports Group, a Singapore-based firm, for over $1 billion—in retrospect, a bargain. Last year 143m viewers tuned in, an increase of 20m on the previous year. And IPL advertising revenues at MSM Satellite (Singapore), a division of Sony, which owns the India broadcast rights, went up by 60%. “The IPL is the single biggest event in India today, sporting or otherwise,” says Manjit Singh, MSM’s boss. “When it’s on, we dominate.”

The article, while mostly glowing, does include some caveats: the BCCI is “opaque,” adding two teams is a risk, as is extending the tournament. But IPL4 is looking just as big a bubble as it did under Modi.

Parthiv Patel To Replace Whom?

Cricinfo has a hilarious sub-headline up on its website right now: “INJURED TENDULKAR TO RETURN HOME/Parthiv Patel named replacement for rest of series.”

So this is what it’s come down to, after a decade of head-scratching and angst. The greatest batsman of his generation will be replaced by…Parthiv Patel. Just a preview of things to come once the Big Three start to retire, folks.

Happy For Aakash Chopra

Good news for karma and justice. Regular readers know that I maintain “cricket crushes” for particular players, and want them to succeed or get picked no matter how seemingly limited their abilities may be. E.g.s: Mohammad Kaif, Irfan Pathan, Vinod Kambli — all fine players who never really reached full potential.

Surprisingly, the IPL, despite all odds, is helping ease the karmic scales. Both Kaif and Pathan got picked (the latter for an exorbitant price), and Cricinfo reports Aakash Chopra is also in for Rajasthan as an uncapped player. Chopra is a smart, smart man, and his wits and style are routinely displayed in his blog, Beyond The Blues. Once his cricket career ends, he’ll have a certain future as a writer or a commentator. Of course, I hope he gets his chance to shine in IPL4 as well.