Category Archives: Cheaters

How I Feel About Mohammed Aamer Now

A bit nerdish of me: Obi-wan Kanobi said it best when he confronted Anakin Skywalker in Episode 3. “You were The Chosen One! It was said you would destroy the Sith, not join them!” See below:

Pakistan’s Match-Fixing Scandal

I second JRod’s utter contempt and shock at the revelations that have emerged about Pakistan’s cricket team. Yes, full judgment needs to be reserved until the facts are all confirmed, but the initial — gasp, videotaped — evidence is unbelievably damning, and even the circumstantial stuff (photos of Pakistani cricketers with the alleged bookie) is worrying.

This type of scandal forces you to think about the difference between public and private images. Before this scandal, no one believed the Pakistani team was a paragon of team management, and most assumed the constant rivalries between Malik/Afridi/Yousuf/Younis (and so on) had more to do with incompatible personalities or goals. But few — at least, not me — thought there were potentially thousands of dollars also at stake, with team members worried that whoever ascended to the greasy pole would cut off the spigot of spot-fixing.

The shock is even more personal than that, alas. Think about Salman Butt, who appeared to  all as an eloquent, calm presence in a jittery team. Those press conferences; the victory in the 3rd Test; the pledge to do all he could to give a gift to victims of the Pakistani floods. As the alleged ringleader, Butt also deserves much of the blame for pushing Mohammed Aamer toward the Dark Side, possibly the worst cut of all, given the bowler’s age and unmistakable talent.

So where does this all leave us? Some may be content to think this merely another example of Pakistani mayhem, but not I’m not one of them. We’ve just heard allegations that Lalit Modi and the BCCI secretary colluded during the IPL auctions, pushing players here and there to suit their own needs. Like it or not, cricket has been pushed from the gentleman’s pastime to global currency sport, and it’s high time we moved to protect it. If it’s not match-fixing, it’ll soon be drugs or steroids — stay on guard.

Ross Emerson Is Such A Mean Old Man

Kudos to those who catch the Beatles reference in the headline.

There are a couple of things wrong with what Ross Emerson did, when he blathered to media outlets this week that Murali “didn’t deserve” the all-time wicket taker record. First, apart from the technicalities of Murali’s action, insulting the guy after he announces his retirement from Test cricket hardly seems fair, or all that polite. It’s not as if there was a huge stain on Emerson’s career that needed to be washed (and if there were, spouting off about Murali now wouldn’t change a thing).

Secondly, and more importantly, Emerson — like a lot of Australians — does not understand what the rules are or why they were changed. Here’s what he says:

“I haven’t changed my view in 15 years – he doesn’t deserve the record,” Emerson told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. “You couldn’t compare his record to Shane Warne’s – no one ever doubted the legality of Warne’s action. Murali was a great competitor and a great bowler but a lot of the time he just didn’t bowl within the limits of the law.”

Right, except people did doubt the legality of Warne’s action. Experts — scientists, for God’s sake! — found that nearly all bowlers (except, I think, for R. Sarwan) broke the same rule that Murali was accused of breaking. That’s just hard, empirical fact, seconded by an authority no less prestigious than Michael Holding.

Then there’s this second doozy:

“Once they changed the rules and made it legal for bowlers to bend their arm to 15 per cent they gave an advantage to a couple of bowlers who could get something extra from that rule. I would rather see the rule as it was where you couldn’t bend your arm at all. That would mean everyone was the same.”

OK; this is just absolute, utter nonsense: first, if you allow every bowler to bend arms to 15 degrees (as opposed to “per cent”), you are applying the same rule to everyone. That may sound tautological, but Emerson doesn’t seem to understand that — it’s not as if some bowlers get to bend to 15, and others don’t.

Secondly, the reason the rule was enforced was that nothing under 15 degrees could be detected by the naked eye. It’s all well and good to say 0 degrees, but if a trees falls in a forest and no one’s around to see it — well, it’s pointless to argue about it.

And thirdly, and most importantly, and once again, Ross: everyone bends arms when bowling. Yes, we’d all like a rule that says “no one can bend arms.” But that would reduce every fucking bowler — except, of course, R. Sarwan — to cheating.

So, great, enjoy your 15 minutes in the fame. But keep in mind that no one cares about you, or your career, except for your connection to Muralitharan. Ah, irony.

P.S. Read a report on Murali’s action here.

Gideon Haigh Is Kicking Ass And Taking Names

I’m trying not to link to stories on Cricinfo, since everybody reads the site already (and no doubt compulsively refreshes the page through the day). But Gideon Haigh’s pox-on-all-houses hit job the other day deserves a hyperlink and much more (awards! Pledges to reform! Parades! Insurgent candidacies! Sappy montages, etc.). A small excerpt:

In India, this situation has further entrenched itself in the 21st century because so many chief ministers or their proxies now run state associations, coveting membership of the BCCI, not out of an abiding commitment to cricket’s betterment but as a political credential: step forward some plump prize butterball turkeys in Sharad Pawar, Arun Jaitley, Farooq Abdullah, Narendra Modi and Laloo Prasad Yadav, to name but a few. Not that there isn’t something to be said for having a can-do politician in one’s corner, but it’s also an admission of a lack of faith in the fairness and efficiency of bureaucratic processes. And is this what India would wish to be known for?

The Lawyer Who Would Open The BCCI

From The Open magazine, a profile of Rahul Mehra, a do-gooder lawyer who won a lawsuit that made the BCCI — a supposedly private entity — liable to right to information requests. Good stuff, especially details on his follow-up act:

Mehra has since taken the whole cartel of other sports administrators to court. This PIL, filed last December, names among its respondents the Sports Authority of India, the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, the Indian Olympic Association, the Amateur Athletics Federation of India, the Badminton Association of India, the All India Chess Federation, the All India Football Federation, Hockey India, the National Rifle Association of India, the All India Tennis Association, the Indian Weightlifting Federation and the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation.

The Baffling IPL-Shashi Tharoor Scandal

I’ve been baying for an IPL scandal since its inception, but I don’t know how to feel about this one, which has just ensnared first-time Member of Parliament (and one of my favorite authors) Shashi Tharoor. Here’s why I’m conflicted:

First, I don’t understand why it was so controversial to release details on the owners of the Kochi franchise. Granted, it was a bit flippant on Lalit Modi’s part to do so by Twitter, and it’s still unclear whether or not he had a hidden agenda of his own (the Kochi CEO has said Modi offered him a bribe to drop the purchase; Tharoor says Modi didn’t want Kochi to be the base). But it seems utterly ridiculous not to insist that people should know who owns what in an IPL franchise. Right?

Second: So, Modi raises a stink, and the ownership details are revealed. It turns out that one Sunanda Pushkar received a stake in the franchise for free, but it’s not clear why — she says it’s because the franchise wanted her marketing skills; the opposition in Parliament says it’s because she’s “friendly” (an Indian colloquialism for “in a romantic relationship”) with Tharoor. I know this appears like a conflict of interest, but it isn’t actually one. Tharoor has a friend — or lover, whatever — who won a stake in an IPL team. The allegation is that Tharoor somehow influenced things behind the scene to steer business to his friend, but there’s no evidence of that.

So why is this guy — probably the smartest guy in the Indian Cabinet behind Manmohan Singh — resigning? (It’s possible the Congress Party wanted to ditch Tharoor after his many little media-scandals, and simply used this brouhaha as a pretext.)

Finally: there’s my predicament. I don’t like Lalit Modi, but it seems like he did the right thing (though he could have also pushed the other franchises to reveal their stakes to the public). I like Shashi Tharoor, but am saddened he embroiled himself with the likes of Modi (then again, an M.P. should do what he did and try to steer business to his district). I don’t know whom he’s sleeping with, but I’m not sure enough of a case has been made he indulged in a conflict of interest.

The only way to salvage this thing is to push for bigger reforms and more transparency in the IPL and the BCCI. Jayaditya Gupta made this point better than I can on Cricinfo; let’s get the petitions going.

In Defense Of Doctoring Home Pitches

Graeme Smith never forgets. Asked whether he expected Calcutta’s pitch to behave as Kanpur’s did, he replied:

“So are you telling me there’s a guy with a rake at the Eden Gardens? India have more control over the conditions. We need to focus on the specifics…prepare and execute our gameplans.”

Right on cue, the Kolkata curator said a mysterious voice on the telephone — call it Deep Throat — asked for a “turner,” even though the BCCI promptly disavowed any claims.

But why? As Smith said, India have more control over the conditions, and that’s how it should be. Even in other sports, the home versus away tag always poses a disadvantage to visiting teams (partisan crowds, for instance). But in cricket, the role of fate and chance plays a much bigger role. We have different types of pitches (which makes winning the toss unbelievably important), the weather (clouds can produce swing, e.g.), rules that forbid substitutions (as India rued in Nagpur), the concept of the draw (a result was just not meant to be…).

For years, India prospered at home because its cricketers played on its kind of pitches — low, dusty tracks that hurt spinners. That meant — and still means, some argue — that when Indians tour abroad, the barrage of fast bouncy tracks cut them in half. Again, there’s nothing unfair in all of this; actually, it’s one of the chief qualities of cricket (local conditions vary vastly, allowing for different cultures to produce their own versions of the game).

So, take a rake to the pitch. And say you took a rake to the pitch. It’s not our job, as the hosts, to cater to the visitors. If the South Africans believe in their squad — and in Paul Harris — a spinning track may suit them after all.

Rahul Dravid Only Sweetened The Ball

But Shahid Afridi ate it. Here’s the video of the incident I mentioned in my previous post, when Rahul Dravid was accused of sweetening a cricket ball to tamper with it (oh, the gourmet possibilities go on and on!):

Change The Rules On Ball-Tampering

Shahid Afridi’s ball-chewing isn’t the first time a cricketer’s mouth has been accused of breaking the rules. A few years ago, Rahul Dravid took some flack for shining the ball with saliva illegally enriched by a sweet he was chewing at the time. (How that affected his saliva’s potency still remains a scientific mystery.)

Over at Short of a Length, achettup tries to make a facetious argument in favor of ball tampering. Putting aside the jokes, there is a more difficult question here: why do we allow players to shine one side of the ball, but not pick at its stitching?

The typical answer has been that in cricket, we account for an extraordinary amount of latitude in certain areas — no set size for cricket fields, for instance, or standard pitch conditions– but we don’t mess with the equipment. But is that right? Didn’t Adam Gilchrist put something or the other in his glove during the 2007 World Cup final? Haven’t bats changed and evolved in the last twenty years (and why isn’t there a set bat ‘weight’)?

There’s another, simpler answer to the puzzle: the ball in a cricket match does a lot more than the bat. The ball drives the plot; the bat, like a fictional character, merely responds. The ball sets things in motion, even if it’s a batsman’s game after that. If bowlers were to decimate the ball — basically reduce it to pieces so it won’t bounce — then the game would end prematurely.

That’s better reasoning, but I’m still not satisfied. After all, balls are still battered against advertising boards, and they’re still replaced — sometimes by a mandatory policy — after a certain point. Perhaps we should allow for a more flexible standard: let the bowling side do what they want with the ball, until the umpires — who expect it every over — decide it needs to be changed. If we’re going to stack the odds against bowlers with friendly pitches and fields, we might as well throw them a bone once in a while.

How Disgusting Is A Cricket Ball Exactly?

AKA, what does a cricket ball taste like?

Shahid Afridi’s culinary curiosity has gotten me thinking: have you ever thought about how disgusting a cricket ball can end up after 50 overs of a cricket match? For one thing, at least half a dozen players have lathered on layers of spit on the thing, while the rest put on a dash of sweat before bowling it on a brown pitch.

Why on earth would you want to put this thing anywhere near your mouth? Especially when your side — at best — could end up with a series scoreline of 4-1? Was it worth it, Shahid?