Monthly Archives: January 2008

Asad Rauf’s Liberal Activism

No, no, I’m not another angry Indian fan, incensed about umpiring standards. Overall, these two umpires have done a much better job than the previous two (and I never really had that big a problem with them either).

Still, during the last Test and at least with the decision against Ganguly in this one at Adelaide, Asad Rauf has not taken height into account at all in his leg before wicket decisions. One commentator had an interesting way of articulating the problem in this regard: he said that with every decision, Rauf has been consistent in his “interpretation,” which made me think of all sorts of legal models that are in vogue in current American jurisprudence (for no real reason; my mind is that random). Continue reading

Chappell’s An Angry Man

Has Ian Chappell ever been happy about what’s going on in the cricket field? If he’s not angry about India leaving out Virender Sehwag, he’s ranting about Ponting or some Australian not moving quickly enough through the overs, or someone joking on the pitch and therefore easing the intensity of the match.

I would accept all his critiques as so much more armchair general sort of stuff, but Chappell always offers his tirades as common sense. He just doesn’t understand what these players are doing out there; don’t they know how to play cricket properly for God’s sake? It used to be charming at first, but sometimes I just want to grab the man by that mustache and tell him that there are a few greats who have come since he left the field, and some of them might even be better than he was in his time.

Caste-ing Aspersions

Andrew Stevenson, an Australian sports writer, recently wrote a column on the caste breakdown of the Indian squad, and concluded that upper-caste Brahmins still rule the roost in Indian cricket. The column provoked all sorts of angry reactions in the Indian press, with one Indian journalist asking what the players’ castes had to do with what happened on the field.

A fair point, except Stevenson mentions numerous (and plausible) ways that caste can affect Indian cricket: poorer fielding; more focus on batting than anything else; different social groups within the squad, etc. Historically, we know that this makes sense: many of the Indian elite who embraced cricket under the British refused to do their own fielding, which they saw as a lowly and “untouchable” task. And since upper-castes in India tend to be wealthier, it makes sense that they would have more time on their hands to sit and watch five days of a Test match unfold (as opposed to those who, you know, work during the day).

But the bigger question remains unanswered: does caste discrimination explain the disproportionate number of Brahmins in the Indian squad? Continue reading

This Could Be Heaven!

Not to gloat or anything, but today could be serious fun. Having won 16 games on the trot, it’s high time Australia revisited the plains of mortality, and learned a thing or two about losing. Of course, knowing them — and the speed with which Ponting raced to 24 by stumps on Day 3 — I’m certain that the Australians are going to make a run for it.

The question is, can they do it in a non-Australian way? As more than a few commentators have noted over the past three days, Australia’s biggest weakness in this Test has been what has long been considered its greatest advantage: it’s innate aggression, which never admits defeat (or even a draw). Had they stuck around and grafted, a la VVS Laxman or Rahul Dravid, they would not have been bowled out for the paltry 200+ score they managed in their first innings, and really, it’s just inconceivable to me that they could score 400+ runs at their normal pace. Sprinters don’t do well in marathons. Continue reading

How Durst You? The National Honor Argument

If you didn’t know it before, you know it now: Indians take their cricket really, really seriously. It’s always interesting to me how so many Indian fans like to think that it’s just about the cricket, when, in reality, the actual game matters very little to them. It’s about Indian glory, Indian dominance, Indians shining — all the usual upper-middle class mumbo-jumbo about a rising India we’ve been hearing in India for the last 15 years.

And so, without missing a beat, the Harbhajan Singh scandal has been portrayed as nothing less than a full-scale assault on the Indian identity. More than a few ex-cricketers and Indian statesmen have argued that just the accusation that an Indian could be racist — true or otherwise — is too much; after all, they say, Indians waged a campaign against racism (that is, British imperialism and, later, South African apartheid).

It’s strange, because these people are relying on the same sloppy thinking that, well, racists employ. Continue reading

Crying for Bucknor/The Umpire as Tragic Figure

The Sydney crisis is crawling towards a face-saving resolution, and the first steps were taken today: against the standard rules and procedures, the ICC has replaced Steve Bucknor for the remainder of the series with Billy Bowden (one of the umpires, incidentally, who received a suspension after the World Cup final disaster).

Here’s why I think this is a bad move. Continue reading

A Question Of Credibility

Looking at yet another special talk show — replete with the required dramatic music and graphics — and I think I’ve hit on why Indian fans are reacting so strongly. For years, Australians have garnered a reputation for sledging and saying all sorts of nasty things — “mental disintegration” and all that — and this is what they reap in response.

Why will no Indian accept the word of Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds about Singh’s abuse? Continue reading

Gilchrist Has His Cake

After three posts criticizing the Indian reaction to the Syndey scandal, I thought I’d give it a break and go back to my usual target. For all that’s been said and debated here in India, it’s absolutely charming to hear the amazed cries of disbelief emanating from the Australian camp. When told that Anil Kumble had felt that only one had played in the spirit of the game, Michael Clarke actually asked — not ironically — if Kumble was referring to the Australian side. No, Pup — he wasn’t. And Adam Gilchrist, he had absolutely no idea what Kumble meant — “amazed,” he said, because he had heard on that Clarke’s catch was, in fact, legitimate.

So what we have here is a perfect recipe for a full-blown crisis: on one side, Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian squad — and, apparently, the entire Indian nation — views the Harbhajan Singh verdict and umpiring decisions as an attack on nothing less than the Indian nation. On the other, the Australians think — well, until now, they probably weren’t thinking about it at all.

But Gilchrist in particular is not being completely honest (and neither is Clarke, of course): Continue reading

A Call For Cooler Heads

The Sydney Test has provoked three separate controversies (none of which deal with the fact that India could not last even three sessions on the final day): first, there were the umpiring decisions. Observers on both sides insist that both Bucknor and Benson were awful and generally one-sided, and something needs to be done at the highest levels.

I agree — big shame, the horror, and all that — and even though we have long accepted the “human element” in the game, the Test’s closeness has thrown everyone for a loop. That’s fine, but if you’re an Indian fan, you should also keep in mind that, occasionally, umpires have gone India’s way. Continue reading

New Rule

How’s this for a compromise: if you do not adhere to “walking,” (as Gilchrist does and, I think, Dhoni) then you absolutely cannot complain when the umpire wrongly gives you out. I think that squares things up, no?

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