Category Archives: World Cup

Explaining the India-Australia Rivalry

I was thinking yesterday about why it is that the Indian team cannot play the Australians without some emotional and difficult controversy erupting. Jarrod Kimber steps in, as part of Cricinfo‘s generally wonderful preview of the semifinal today, and recounts the long, tortured history. It got my blood boiling.

I had forgotten what it was like in the 1990s. Australia were coming into their own, ready to usurp the mantle from the West Indians. The 1996 World Cup was a rare mistake; otherwise, the dominance (and arrogance) of this team was breathtaking. I remember Warne refusing to eat the food in India; I remember the obvious discomfort of having to tour the country at all. Kimber fills in some other incendiary details:

Before 2001, this was kind of how Indian cricket was seen in Australia. As this effeminate version of cricket that really wasn’t for Australians…This was a country that only shortly before [2001] we were happy enough to laugh, or at least cringe in silence, as former Australian Greg Ritchie did a long-running racist portrayal of Indians on TV. Australia went from a country that called Indians “curry munchers” to a country that was now desperate to beat them.

YouTube has a few clips of Ritchie’s performances. They are unbelievably awful — Ritchie wears brown-face and a turban, and he speaks with an accent that puts The Simpsons’ Apu to shame. It’s a strange thing when you realize that you feel more resentful and angry toward white Australian cricketers than you do the white South Africans.

Things are better now, yes — India has done enough in the last 15 years to prove that its quality, and, in that same period, the Australians have suffered enough blows to seem more relatable. I have enough emotional distance to it to say I don’t regard either team with much enthusiasm; the Indians spew verbal attitude too much for my own taste. Kimber is right when he says both teams are bullies; they are genuinely hard to like, even if they deserve respect and awe.

Still, if the World Cup is more about history and emotion and spectacle, then on this late New England night, I can call on those ancient slights and insults and indulge in some good ol’ sports nationalism. A good performance tonight, please, just to exorcise Ritchie’s ghost once and for all.


The Virtue Of A Long World Cup

Does anyone else feel an emptiness in their lives? Or are most cricket fans not as obsessed as I am, and have, you know, other things to occupy themselves?

The end of the World Cup, a month-plus juggernaut, has left me with a completely new schedule — no early mornings; no stealth browsers at work; free time at the end of the night, now not beholden to the demands of sleep. The emotion I have now is the same I feel after finishing a long book, like Vikram Seth’s The Suitable Boy — you devote such a long time to completing it that when it’s over, you start to miss the characters and the happy routine the book’s length created. (Again, I assume most people are not like me and can read quickly.)

There are competing interests in determining the length of the tournament: 1) The Associates want to be included, and the number of teams raises the duration; 2) The broadcasters don’t necessarily want the Associates, but if they have to include them, they insist on a one-match-per-day schedule; 3) The cricket calendar is already squeezed at it is, what with the IPL starting  a mere week after the World Cup; 4) There are a whole range of promises and counter-promises made behind the scenes among board members.

But from a fan’s perspective, a long World Cup does have some virtues. This isn’t just a cricket fan saying, “Well, it means more cricket for me.” A team’s journey through the group and knock-out stages is one of the more fascinating elements of any tournament, and the time allows for narratives, pressure and suspense to build. It’s not all a waste, you know.

How Ireland Was Excluded From 2015 World Cup

Via Masuud Qazi, Setanta Sports has this incredible report on how Ireland got kicked out:

Setanta Sports can reveal that that the 13-strong meeting split into three factions, with a group of major cricketing nations that included India, Australia and England proposing a ten-team World Cup which would mirror the successful 1992 World Cup, where the winner and three runners-up of a round-robin format would progress to the semi-finals.

This formula would guarantee that the financial powerhouse of the game, India, would be guaranteed nine games, with the consequent huge TV revenues that would inevitably flow back to the ICC.

[…] Another bloc of Full Members were keen on a 12-team tournament. These included Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, who were keen on guaranteeing their own participation even if their results over the next four years dropped. However, they were persuaded by the game’s powerhouses that a ten-team Full Member only World Cup would be in their best interests, leaving representatives of the Associate Nations completely isolated in the meeting.

Questions: 1) What did Zimbabwe and Bangladesh get in return for their silence? 2) Is there no financial incentive to grooming cricket talent outside of the current markets? That is, our are the big boards — Eng, Aus and Ind — simply assuming that there’s no point reaching out into, uh, Zimbabwe or Ireland or Afghanistan because it’s too long-term of a prospect to matter now?

Read the whole story. There are more juicy details in the narrative. (Caveat: sources are not revealed; I’ve never heard of Setanta Sports and don’t know how credible it is.)

When Cricketers Meet Politicians

(WARNING: This post includes political opinions that may or may not lie outside the realm of cricket commentary. If you can’t handle that, stop reading now.)

I don’t necessary mind politicians showing up at cricket stadiums. There are important caveats: who paid for their tickets? How are these tickets allocated to other VIPs? And how can we ensure politicians are at least 50 feet away from the post-match presentation ceremony? But I do get annoyed when I see cricketers forced to shake hands with them after games or tournaments.

My reasons: a) It’s a shameless attempt on the politician’s part to insert himself into a news cycle. (It’s hard to say this about Indian President Patil, since her office is largely symbolic and, quite frankly, is rarely in the news cycle.) b) It’s usually a one-way street in terms of expression. That is, Murali meets President Rajapakse. The President gets a picture with a national hero, and the warm embrace shores up his reputation as a consensus politician (Murali is an Indian Tamil; Rajapakse employed unusually brutal and awful methods to eradicate the unusually brutal and awful Tamil Tigers). No athlete can say, Actually, I’d rather not shake your hand, Rajapakse (or Narendra Modi, who employed unusually brutal and awful methods to orchestrate an anti-Muslim pogrom in his home state). They just have to stand, shake, and smile.

Now, some people think that’s perfectly OK, because it separates politics from sports. (Does anyone really care what, say, Harbhajan Singh thinks about the Congress Party, or the BJP?) OK, but then, what’s the point of these photo opportunities with leaders? To the extent these leaders represent national symbols — and I think a legitimate case can be made, again, for Patil — I understand the impulse as part of a wider effort to thank athletes. But it still leaves me a bit unsettled. Am I over-reacting?

Bizarre Cricket Writing, Exhibit A

This is in line with a previous post about unduly rewarding/lionizing the World Cup-winning team. From Mid-Day:

Tendulkar was touched when the group of NSG commandos tasked with protecting him requested to be photographed with him and his family. Tendulkar immediately went into the dressing room and returned with son Arjun. Father and son posed with the commandos for the picture. “They are the real heroes. They defend our nation,” the premier batsman said. The members of the Indian team might disagree, though [italics added]. For them, he was God, the reason they played and won the coveted title. “I am not at all a special person. It was a nice gesture by the teammates. If you are talking about special, our nation is special. The people of our nation are special. We won the World Cup for them,” Tendulkar said.

Huh. Find me one Indian player who would actually disagree with Tendulkar and say, on the record, “I think Tendulkar is the real hero, not a NSG commander.” What’s refreshing — in a horrible sort of way — is how openly adoring Indian cricket writers and fans can be. In America, the celebrity dynamic is alive and well, but no celebrity — or journalist, even — would be caught dead saying they were worth more than a soldier. That’s usually left unstated or implied (i.e., we spend more time following Charlie Sheen than the latest events in Afghanistan), and you can question the sincerity of any celebrity’s humility. But still, to openly say it’s a valid question — who’s of more social utility, Sachin or a soldier? — shows you the crazy extent of adoration occasionally reached in South Asia.

How Not To Thank India’s World Cup Team

Disturbing news from Karnataka and Delhi. First, to the south:

The Karnataka government would allot free housing sites in Bangalore to each of the 15 members of the Indian cricket squad that won the World Cup, chief minister BS Yeddyurappa announced on Sunday.

And from the north:

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Sunday announced an award of Rs two crore for Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni and Rs one crore each for four Delhi players after their victory over Sri Lanka in the World Cup final on Saturday.

I hate to state the obvious (really, I do, Shastribot), but surely this money could go to more deserving people? Like the millions of poor in each state? As any good elitist Bandra boy should know, Sachin Tendulkar isn’t suffering for adequate housing. The team isn’t likely to starve for more endorsement options either:

Dhoni charges Rs. 6-7 crore per endorsement per year and already endorses around 19 brands, including Sony, Pepsi, Reebok and Big Bazaar, leaving only a handful of categories such as financial services and four-wheelers he is yet to enter. That may happen now.

The Blogs React To India’s World Cup Victory

John Stern, Wisden Cricketer:

The greatest legacy of the tournament, though, has been the re-invigoration of the 50-over game. But central to that is the balance between bat and ball. It hasn’t been a run-fest and thank goodness for that. There are plenty of lessons for the ICC to learn from the World Cup. Let’s hope they do so.

Rahul, Snicked Cricket:

I never understood the idea of going out on the streets, crowding them, wasting fuel, shouting and coming back home. But yesterday this game made me do that too. And it made me one of those maniacs who shouted for being happy – it made me a woo guy! The celebrations on the streets were insanely insane. No wonder such celebrations beat the shit out of every other celebration you can think about in the entire world.

Opinions on Cricket:

This is a new India. An India that believes that it can. It stays calm. It knows nothing but pressure. It has learned to accept it and get on with it. It explodes when it can and buckles down when it needs to. This India now manufactures Ice-Men by the dozen. Dhoni is India and India is now Dhoni.

Tootingtrumpet, 99.94:

Star Man for 2015 – Virat Kohli. Every shot in the book, cool in a chase and, as revealed in interviews, a self-possessed man with the intelligence required to keep his feet on the ground, I expect him to emerge as the leader of the post-Dhoni generation.

Jrod, Cricket with Balls:

Frankly I am happy, as I have always assumed the Indian race was far superior to all other races.


A Look At India’s Front Page After World Cup Victory

Quite stunning — “Champions,” “Dhonit,” “Sare Jahan Se Achcha.” Take a look here, c/o the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Read the New York Times article here:

Cricket, of course, is only a sport, and an obscure one for much of the world, yet it is now providing a respite from what has become known as India’s “season of scams.” In this nation of 1.2 billion people, the national cricket team is treated like a group of rock stars and regarded by some as a metaphor for the country as a whole: young, increasingly confident and slowly moving forward, if sometimes tripping itself in the process.

From Huw Richards, cricket columnist for the International Herald Tribune:

India is not as complete a team as Australia was when it won the previous three World Cups, but that is no criticism — few teams ever have been.

But India’s frailties meant that its progress was genuinely exciting, unlike when Australia won, which felt like a procession.

When India Lost At Wankhede

Via Cric-Sis, Great post from Mars at Corridor of Certainty:

The last match I saw here [Wankhede] did not give me very pleasant memories – the loss left me less affected but a certain section of the crowd shocked me. I’ve never witnessed such crass and rowdy behaviour in any of the previous matches. Abuses were rampant and directed towards each and every English cricketer by a bunch of teenagers – all sitting in the grandstands thanks to their family connections and misbehaving as if it was a thing to be proud about. Sachin was booed after failing in the 4th innings and it’s a memory I try to erase but cannot.

This is the game Mars is talking about. This is an article on the booing of Sachin. How fickle we are.

The Fishbowl Of Indian Cricket

Mike Selvey of The Guardian quotes from a long-ago interview with Greg Chappell:

“For a while I wondered why some of them didn’t respond to all these waving people and smiling faces and I realised they can’t afford to. Just to give a little bit of emotion to each person would drain them. So they really do just have to live in their own little world as they are carried from hotel to ground, from ground to airport, from airport to plane, to the next airport and the next horde of waiting people all wanting a glimpse of their heroes.

“Players oblige as much as is humanly possible. Sachin Tendulkar, for example, is still the one who is most in demand and the way in which he just copes serenely with it is a lesson to us all. You know he gives what he can but he has learned that there is a limit. So he gives that much and then has to shut himself down.”

It occurs to me that the cricket field may be, strangely enough, the location where Indian players enjoy the most space from their fans.