Monthly Archives: March 2008

Rahul Dravid On The Couch

It’s 3 in the morning in New York, but over in Chennai, the afternoon sun is on full display. Wasim Jaffer just got out, after another typically unglamorous yet effective innings. It’s increasingly evident that Jaffer will never be a great player, as in, match-changing, but he is all the same essential for his stability and calmness.

But when he gets out, greatness takes strike: Continue reading

Dhoni The Simple

I’ve always felt that cricket attracts a brand of sportsmen different from the usual lot. Here is a sport that can hold within its ranks players like Kumar Sangakarra and Rahul Dravid, two deeply intellectual and thoughtful men (with the former even studying for the bar exam). Unlike in, say, tennis, whose superstars are essentially superior robotic drones, cricket — thanks to its sheer length and complexity — requires thinking athletes, full of character and, often, controlled restraint.

Along comes Mahendra Singh Dhoni to shatter that paradigm. In a wide-ranging interview with Cricinfo, Dhoni reveals his thoughts on his recent success as India’s ODI captain. Continue reading

No Early Release For Katich

I agree with Uncle J Rod — Simon Katich, no matter what he just did in the Pura Cup, has not paid the price for his abject failure in 2005. Hell, forget that: he still has to answer just for this:

No Longer an Indian Game

Observers have long noted that cricket in India is akin to a religion, and one of the fundamentalist kinds at that. All the money in the game comes from India’s monstrous fan base, which regularly tunes into the latest ODIs and, albeit to a lesser extent, the Test matches.

Ashis Nandy, an Indian sociologist, has also argued that cricket is primarily an Indian game, accidentally invented by the English. His point, which depends on a rather essentialist definition of “Indian-ness,” is that cricket is a game about fate, not human agency. Players battle not only against each other, but against elements beyond their control or abilities — weather, cloud conditions, pitch reports, unexpected injuries — and this all, at least in Nandy’s account, better accords with the Indian spirit.

All that said, however, the new nationalist, hyped and confident modern India has very little respect for the nuances of the game, or its unpredictable facets. Cricket isn’t India’s passion; it’s just the best show around: Continue reading

Crying for England

I found myself writing yet another pseudo-intellectual piece on masculinity in cricket, when I thought I should take a step back. Maybe it’s the approaching dawn, or the awfully saccharine John Mayer song playing in the background on repeat, but this blog has missed some personal, out-and-out emotion of late, and that won’t do. I’m Indian, after all, and this is a cricket blog: a little irrationality should be expected.

Well, I’ve been reading up on England’s performance against New Zealand, and it’s so tragic. Continue reading

Incredible Asia!

Part of the fun of being an amateur post-colonial theorist comes from finding hidden hegemonic codes in otherwise innocuous literature. It’s a wonderful game of treasure-hunting, and with cricket, there’s always a few goodies on hand.

Writing in the New Zealand Times, Paran Balakrishnan charts the rise of the new “global order” in cricket, whose center has shifted irrevocably to India, the game’s financial powerhouse. It’s a solid article, except for one paragraph, which reveals the usual insecurities of the post-colonial mind, i.e., England and Australia are so beautiful; India and Pakistan are such horrid places to play the game.

Have a listen:

Now many of the world’s top cricketers will be picking up their kit and converging on the subcontinent for 45 days a year. They’ll brave the Indian summer and the other attendant dangers of living in this part of the world, like the much-feared Delhi Belly. They’ll learn to drink only bottled water and avoid raw food if they want to stay healthy – yep, that means no salads.

Now, I’m not saying that India is the greatest place to visit; it has plenty of challenges for the newcomer. And I understand that not having alcohol freely available in Karachi or Islamabad can be a huge drag, especially if you belong to the extreme drinking culture that pervades most of the white teams.

But still, it’s fairly absurd to feel pity for touring parties: Continue reading

Macho, Macho Men: Australians Reveal Their Masculine Side

The sun never set on the British Empire, but the same cannot be said of the cricketing world, its chief colonial legacy (apart from, you know, the rule of law and all that). Already a fairly small coterie of 10 or 11 countries (depending on Zimbabwe’s mood), it doesn’t help that several members suffer from regular terror attacks and general instability, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even mother country, England.

It’s a sad state of affairs — so much for cricket’s civilizing mission — because international cricketers must regularly choose on the one hand between their safety and political ideas (especially with regards to Robert Mugabe) and playing the sport that they’re paid for on the other.

But while I don’t want to burden cricket with any more political baggage than it already has, Andrew Symonds has forced my hand. Although many on the Australian team have expressed reluctance to tour Pakistan in its current state, Symonds has been the most outspoken, joking last year about the number of bombs that form a part of daily life in that country. Even if the tour itinerary is shortened; even if security is beefed up; Symonds says he doesn’t want to go. Full Stop.

Obviously, I don’t wish harm on anybody, least of all cricketers, but Symonds — and the Australian team in general — cannot walk out of this corner without at least admitting to hypocrisy and, at the most, cowardice (Yeah! I’m calling ‘em yella’, you hear!). Continue reading

Sunil Gavaskar’s Mouth Games

Part of the reason I don’t like Star Cricket’s coverage is Gavaskar’s uneven analysis. The other commentators work just fine: Bhogle always gets me with his teen-like exuberance and love for the game, and Ravi Shastri has an impeccable sense for the drama. No matter how bad things get for India, Shastri’s always there to offer a road map to better things.

But Gavaskar’s credibility comes mostly from his impeccable record as a batsman. Being the greatest (at one point) brings several perks to the afterlife, and this man practically runs every committee on the ICC and the BCCI. And this is where the trouble resides: Gideon Haigh has already noted that Gavaskar’s role as a columnist and opinionator-extremis clashes with his function as an ambassador (and worker) for cricket.

So when Gavaskar essentially accuses Brett Lee of, well, intentionally bowling a beamer (see below), he’s providing excellent TV drama (as all commentators should do), but he’s failing as an ICC official. Michael Slater ably defends Lee, and I think Gavaskar kind of backtracks midway through the conversation, realizing his error. Watch out, Sunny! You’re on TV!

Pro-Nun-Cee-Ations

I absolutely adore Channel 9′s cricket coverage, from Michael Slater’s joking sense of drama and Bill Lawry’s constant “BANG!” ejaculations. But it’s even more of a delight to hear these Australians pronounce “Kumar” and “Chawla,” both of which they mangle into Koo-maa and Cho-la. G’day to you all!

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