Category Archives: Twenty20

That Indian T20 World Cup Brawl

Incredibly bizarre news from Cricinfo, re: Indian players scolded for fighting in a St. Lucia nightclub:

The incident took place on the evening of May 11, after India lost to Sri Lanka to ensure their elimination from the tournament. The players, who had been placed under restricted movement till then, were allowed to go out. A few – including some named in the report – went to a local nightclub where some Indian fans were also present. It is believed the fans, upset by the team’s performance, taunted the players, following which the situation escalated.

Incidentally, Biswal denied reports of the brawl when he returned to India. “There is no truth at all about the brawl. It is all media creation that is doing the rounds,” he said last week.

First of all, Indian fans hanging out in St. Lucia nightclubs, if you meet a collection of superstar athletes, it’s best to ask for an autograph, or offer to buy them a drink, rather than taunt them. This love-hate thing needs to cool down.

Second of all, Indian players, I realize you’re all 20-somethings eager to have some fun after being cooped up in a hotel. But the next time this stuff happens, turn up the Rihanna and start dancing. Or something. We’re not Australians. (Another tip: ask yourself, “What would Rahul Dravid do?” and act accordingly.)

Third: Kudos to Cricinfo staff for pointing out Biswal’s change-of-mind regarding the facts. As a journalist, I can tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than calling out sources when they tell you absolute bullshit.

The England-Australia Twenty20 Final

This final is going to feature a rare event in international cricket: a championship match without a South Asian country. In the last two T20 World Cups, we had Pakistan and India as the victors (the first, in 2007, saw the two play against each other). In the ODI area, it’s a long-established tradition: 2007 (Sri Lanka); 2003 (India); 1999 (Pakistan); 1996 (Sri Lanka); 1992 (Pakistan). Granted, the opponents in all but one of these games were Australian, but you get the drift. The Champions Trophy has also been harder to crack; a South Asian team has not been a contender since 2002 (when India and Sri Lanka were declared joint winners).

So what does this all mean? For one thing, most fans in the cricket world will not care about this match. Second, South Asian teams have been very, very good. (The small sample of cricketing nations hurts this conclusion.) Third, this final is somewhat fitting, given that the English Cricket Board first pioneered the T20 format.

In many ways, it’s a return home, given all the recent revelations and scandals that have brought the IPL low. For the past decade or so — maybe since the 1996 World Cup — cricket administrators have watched as the BCCI amassed its power and unbeatable market, leaving the other once-powerful boards (England and Australia) fuming. Sure, this is only one match, and it won’t change the underlying economics, but it’s a spotlight for two teams to say, Look at us, look at us! We matter too!

For the record: I’m rooting for ol’ colonial masters, England. Only because I want Saeed Ajmal to feel better about conceding 18 runs in that last over.

Lay Off Dhoni And The IPL Parties

During the press conference after India’s defeat to Sri Lanka, Dhoni said the following:

“The IPL is not just about cricket,” Dhoni said, towards the end of his press conference in St Lucia. “There are lots of things going around it,” he added, as a sudden hush descended on the hall.

“The players have to respect the body, give it time to recover. There have been day-night matches, then parties, and early morning flights too. All this, including the travel, takes a toll. But if you are smart, I don’t think 45 days of cricket will drain you,” he said.

This is from the Times of India, under the incredibly ludicrous, misleading headline: “IPL parties pooped us: Dhoni’s bouncer leaves board fuming.” The article quotes a number of Indian cricket’s has-beens and nobodies (Madan Lal; Mohammad Azharuddin; some guy called Syed Kirmani. This is Lal:

Who was forcing them (players) to attend these IPL parties? They could have said ‘no’. I don’t think they should say all this. These are silly excuses. The fact is they had gone there to win the World Cup and they just weren’t good enough.”

Here’s what’s wrong with this picture: first, it’s completely wrong to suggest that Dhoni said IPL parties led to India’s defeat. (In fact, on numerous other occasions, he’s explicitly stated the opposite.) Second, even if you look at his quote, he said the IPL as a whole (the day-night matches, the long trips around the country, the parties, included) takes a toll. There. A commonsense answer. Leave it alone.

The Minnow Count In The Twenty20 Cup

Sure, none of the minnow teams — Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ireland, Afghanistan — look like progressing, a la 2007, but they all did rather well, no?

Zimbabwe had two victories in the warm-up matches (which, even though they don’t count officially, still hold some importance). Bangladesh nearly had Australia on its knees at one point (96/6, I think), and it only lost to Pakistan by 21 runs. Meanwhile, Ireland could have avenged Michael Collins against England had it not been for some rain, and Afghanistan — look,  90/5 — even against those wacky South Africans — that’s something big in your second match in a global tournament.

The minnows have done exactly what they’re supposed to — they gave some amount of entertainment and suspense (even hope), and then politely caved. But next year, they’ll be back for more.

The Awkward India-Afghanistan Twenty20 Encounter

Tough choice between the two teams, no? On the one hand, after all that IPL nonsense, it feels good to get behind the international barricades and root for your team in a typical jingoist fashion. But on the other, this Afghan team has done immensely well in a very short time. Yes, they’re an Associate team, but only a few years back, they were Division Five of the World Cricket League (whatever that is). In short notice, they’ve come to rival Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, UAE — all teams that have been on the block for ages now.

So, a compromise: I want India to win the match (if only because the World Cup will be dreadful without them). But I don’t want Afghanistan to be clobbered the way Ireland was tonight. Can a bookie arrange this for me?

Ian Bishop Loves Wavell Hinds

Really, he won’t stop talking about it! Ireland are currently creaming the West Indies, holding them back to 100-odd for 6 with only a handful of overs to go. Now, I’m sure Kieron Pollard (at bat) will redeem the Mumbai Indians final and all will be well in the Caribbean, but Ian Bishop’s doing that annoying commentator thing where they get fixated on an idea and refuse to let it go!

In this case, Bishop’s angry that Wavell Hinds was not selected, given that Chris Gayle was injured before the game. Fair enough point — no, more than that; it’s a damned good point. But one that he’s made in over 15, 16, and 17 (including a shot of Wavell Hinds sitting, leading to Bishop asking, “Why is he sitting there and not playing?” We know, Ian, we know).

Am I being too hard on Ian Bishop? Well, let me explain why! In the mid-1990s, I was a chota boy learning my maths in Fifth Standard at Campion School, Mumbai. The West Indians were in town on tour, and for some reason, they stopped by our humble institution. A few local boys tried to bowl at Brian Lara — who hit all the balls out of the nets — while the rest of the W. Indians had us line up for autographs.

Now, I had to leave this whole exercise early (being a busy lad, and all that). So I tried to go right up to the line for Ian Bishop and ask for an autograph, but he just looked at me and said, “There’s a line.” Yes, he was being fair, and yes, I should have told my piano teacher I couldn’t come that day (yes! PIANO! I had to choose between Ian Bishop and a stupid piano lesson!).

So if you’re out there, Ian Bishop: you hurt me deeply. And I hate Wavell Hinds for it.

That David Hussey IPL Catch…

Since I didn’t compulsively follow the IPL this year, I missed out on a few things. Aakash Chopra — a really, really good writer (a rarity among athletes) — has a review of the best moments in IPL 3 and he mentions this David Hussey catch, which is quite stunning:

All Hail, Chennai Super Kings

Unlike Samir Chopra, who recently posted his IPL loyalties, I didn’t have a dog in this season’s fight. I don’t know why; each time I think I could back a team as a reasonable fan, I found reasons to dislike it.

But each season, I’ve been relatively happy with the winners: the Rajasthan Royals were just too darn cute not to root for (what, with their knack of winning each game in the last over); the Deccan Chargers never hurt nobody (except V.V.S. Laxman) — and this year, the Chennai Super Kings proved themselves competent enough for the title (granted, the Mumbai Indians should have won given their performance in the round robins, but so what — it helps when you have a certain Sachin Tendulkar pushing the scales). In a perfect world, the Royal Challengers Bangalore would have taken the, uh, bottle, if only because Anil Kumble deserves all the limelight in the world.

As for player reviews: you have to be very, very happy with Suresh Raina, whom I think has clearly settled any dispute about whether or not he’s the leader of the next generation. Rohit Sharma didn’t do awfully (he finished in the top 10 batsmen with 400-odd runs), but Raina did spectacularly (461 at 46, a full 13 ahead of Sharma). No player review post of mine would be complete without a whoop-dee for Irfan Pathan, my one true love. One day, the cosmos will realign and do justice by this man; until then, I have to be satisfied with top 5 bowling statistics and not too bad with the ball either. If this guy played with a better team, he would be heading to the Caribbean (okay, okay, I exaggerate).

Speaking of which! Let’s move on to the real thing, the Twenty20 World Cup; the thing that got all of us interested in the format to begin with. I’m rooting for Bangladesh and Afghanistan. No, really!

My IPL Mood Cycles, Postmodern Style

With three IPL seasons almost complete, I realize my responses to the Twenty20 extravaganza follows some discrete phases:

1. The IPL launches; extreme apathy bordering on anger. Don’t like the IPL; why does it have to intrude on the calendar; who cares about the latest team shenanigans; the shameless marketing ploys start to grate; can barely remember what happened last year. And why oh why do I have to read another article about how the IPL has changed everything in cricket? If that were the case, why are thing so much the same? (The French version of that sounds better.)

2. Matches 12-30: How can I resist all this bluster and spectacle? Some players that I like are doing well; great feats are performed and records start to fall (did you see that catch; how could that guy hit X off Y balls?); some teams start to do very, very badly (last year, KKR; this year KXIP) but everyone likes an underdog; who are the latest new media sensations (last year, Fake IPL Player; this year, EyePeeYell on Twitter); I wonder what my one true love Irfan Pathan is up to; what about the rest of the bachha lok (Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, M. Vijay, M. Pandey, Virat Kohli)? Throw in a few anti-Lalit Modi posts to assuage your conscience.

3. Matches 30-40s: Boredom begins to set in again. How many matches do these guys play (14 each, what’s the point, wouldn’t 10 each make much more sense, especially since the World Twenty20 Cup is around the corner)? How many sixes can anyone watch; why won’t the Bollywood Groupies (Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, that Rajasthan Royals woman) just clear out already; surely they have some actual films to promote?

4. Matches 50s to Finish: Ah! Excitement! Close finishes all around; poor Rajasthan Royals, surely they must prove one day Season 1 was not a fluke; all the teams closely bunched together — does that mean despite mismatched franchise values, they all play the same? — I wonder whether semifinalists deserve their berths; who shall win let’s get this over already I want to stop seeing international players lovefest already; you guys are supposed to hate each other!

Not exactly Finnegans Wake, but you get the drift.

The IPL-Shashi Tharoor Tragedy (2)

Every once in a while, a blogger gets a whiff of scandal and just lays into it. E.g. supremo (my Latin fails me): Prem Panicker, and his exhaustive, excellently-linked post on the Shashi Tharoor debacle. He repeats the points I made here, but does so much better and clearly reads more than I do. As they say in India, this stuff is “too good”:

Buzz says Pranab Mukherjee had a falling out with the MoS [that is, Shashi Tharoor], and the latter, feeling pilloried, bit back hard. Miffed that a junior talked back to him [a bigger crime than corruption, in Pranab-da’s scheme of things — he is used to hectoring his colleagues unchallenged], the FM is understood to have put his foot down and demanded Tharoor’s head on a platter. The MoS is expendable; at a time of rising prices and with various finance related bills due in Parliament, the FM was not.

[In a case of supreme irony, CNN-IBN is as I write this quoting the Finance Ministry as saying Tharoor did not benefit from the Kochi deal. True — he could not have, since there is as yet nothing to benefit from. The damn franchise has to get up and running for there to be any monetary benefits. At a larger level, it is faintly ridiculous for Mukherjee to take the lead in getting Tharoor out, and then have his ministry give him a clean chit].

Panicker also sounds the right notes on media criticism, noting that so far, articles have focused on Tharoor but not the bigger questions surrounding the IPL and the BCCI administration (e.g., why does Maharasthra waive the entertainment tax for the IPL? Why does it receive subsidies when it purportedly makes so much money?). Here in the United States, the newspapers pay enormous amounts of attention to new stadium deals; they almost always involve shady developers, questionable contracts and tax breaks and few tangible benefits for host communities (the same can be said for the Olympics). But in India, Panicker writes, people just aren’t paying attention.

And finally, he links to this Economic Times article that had all of India talking this week:

NEW DELHI: ‘Mr Lalit Modi has had a trail of failed ventures and defaults till four years back but has a lifestyle now that includes a private jet, a luxury yacht and a fleet of Mercedes S class and BMW cars all acquired in the last three years.’

Thus opens a highly confidential and explosive report by the income-tax department that has been in the possession of the government for six months now but formed the basis of any action only on Thursday evening after a raging controversy over secret ownerships and sweetheart deals in the Indian Premier League, or IPL, stalled both houses of Parliament.