Monthly Archives: May 2010

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.

Tamim Iqbal Progress Watch

No international Test side has a chance on tour without a solid opener. And Bangladesh have found one in Tamim Iqbal, whose average trajectory has started to shoot up this year. Seven of his ten highest scores have been made this year, and we’re only at the end of May. In 2008, when he made his debut, he averaged 24; in 2009, 35; in 2010, a whopping 60.

And he’s not even 22 years old yet. Damn him!

Bangladesh’s Chances In England

Regular readers know I have an improper team-crush on Bangladesh. It’s not just that they’re perpetual underdogs; I actually think they’ve got some good players. And despite having a horrid first day at Lord’s against England, they came back nicely today, reaching 170-odd with only two wickets down.

If you chart Bangladesh’s rise as a team, you’ll notice some key landmarks met along the trajectory towards the target: a Test match victory. Some key players have started reaching milestones (Test hundreds, five-fors); they have met with some success in the ODI arena (though spotty, I admit); they’ve scored some impressive draws as well. But I don’t think their first win against a major cricketing nation will come outside their countries. It defies the pattern set by other teams and traditional logic (home advantage matters more in cricket than other sports). Most South Asian teams — notoriously, India, for example — have always been bad travelers.

So is there anything to hope for this series? Maybe a draw or too (some help, please, English weather). But also, more landmarks met. The key to winning — and this will sound stupidly predictable — is to have good players. And good players become good once they get into a groove and make runs or take wickets.

The Day The Game Died

Well, at least according to Patrick Kidd over at Line And Length:

A horrid innovation was unveiled at Lord’s yesterday. An hour into the day, the dulcet voice of Johnny Dennis, the longserving PA announcer, told us: “And now a Buxton’s drink break…”

It was a sad, sad moment in the history of this noble ground. It is a short journey from sponsoring drinks breaks to having Citi Moments of Success and DLF Maximums.

Test Match Sofa

The good folks over at Test Match Sofa wanted me to feature them in my blogroll, a request I was only too happy to oblige. I’m not a frequent listener, but I like the little that I’ve heard — and I’m sure you will too. In case you can’t find it, address is here: http://www.testmatchsofa.com/

Cricket In The USA

Cricinfo has a fairly instructive piece on the challenges facing cricket in America (which will host a New Zealand v. Sri Lanka T20 shortly). Generally, I’m a skeptic; I don’t see people other than expats or immigrants (from the West Indies and South Asia, in particular) carrying this game forward. But I don’t know much about sports development.

I did want to point out another thing: when Americans talk about cricket, they usually view it as a upper-class game. On NPR’s Fresh Air show last year, the host told the author of Netherland — a cricket novel — that she was surprised his book centered around Indian/West Indian immigrants, given that the game is so British. (And ‘British’ was code for upper-class, along with Wimbledon and tea.) A couple of years ago, Esquire magazine did a spread on “cricket fashion,” and it was what you would expect: prep boys dressed in Test cricket sweaters and whites.

In 2005, two authors of a New York Times editorial relied on the classist argument to explain cricket’s mysterious death in America after the 19th century:

This elite appropriation played into the hands of baseball entrepreneurs who actively worked to diminish cricket’s popularity. A.G. Spalding, described in the Baseball Hall of Fame as the “organizational genius of baseball’s pioneer days,” was typical. “I have declared cricket is a genteel game,” he mocked in “America’s National Game,” his 1911 best seller. “It is. Our British cricketer, having finished his day’s labor at noon, may don his negligee shirt, his white trousers, his gorgeous hosiery and his canvas shoes, and sally forth to the field of sport, with his sweetheart on one arm and his cricket bat under the other, knowing that he may engage in his national pastime without soiling his linen or neglecting his lady.”

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.

India’s Twenty20 Defeat

What delicious irony: India must now pick between the Indian Premier League — the very thing that supposedly highlighted all of India’s post-1991 achievements — and doing even remotely well in the Twenty20 World Cup. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Pakistanis, who haven’t played in the last two IPL seasons, have done extraordinarily well in the tournaments.

I don’t think it’s a question of handling the schedule; as Dhoni regularly notes, Indians play a lot of cricket. Sometimes, players complain about about the workload; other times, they complain when they’re not playing enough. Bunch of divas, these modern athletes. But there is a problem of the mind, if coach Gary Kirsten is to be believed. You know how in sports press conferences, the losing players will always say the other side “wanted” it more? I always thought that sounded stupid, but I think, at least in this instance, it makes sense.

The Indian players enjoy a whole bunch of easy in the IPL; they get used to lounging around on Indian pitches against sub-par Indian bowlers, knowing fully well that the end result won’t matter (they’re getting paid nonetheless). Think back to the Indian team that won in 2007 — most of the players are still around in 2010, but something happened in those three years that has changed them. They were losers then, completely rated off by selectors and the Indian public (who didn’t care one bit about T20); then, they were winners. All too briefly, I’m afraid.

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.

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