Monthly Archives: May 2011

Indian Cricket Does Not Pay

At least one group of cricketers isn’t benefiting from the Indian largesse:

A potential boycott of September’s rich Champions League by Auckland is being mooted by the Players’ Association as they await unpaid prizemoney from eight months ago.

NZCPA boss Heath Mills is irked that up to $250,000 of prizemoney is still owed Central Districts from last year’s event in South Africa due to Indian red tape, and will urge Auckland’s players to think twice about attending this year’s qualifying tournament.

“We’ll be negotiating the player terms for that event through FICA and there’s no way we’ll be recommending players go until there’s some sort of up-front payment of participation fees. Even though they were paid, they were four or five months late,” Mills said yesterday.

“They will need to be paid up front and have some sort of stronger guarantee around the level of prizemoney, given it’s part of the total package. That’s a significant issue.”

Two questions: 1) Does everyone take advantage of the Kiwis? 2) How does anyone get anything done in India? Recall that the makers of HotSpot refused to participate in the World Cup, because they were worried the technology would be classified in such a way to make it impossible to clear Indian customs. Unbelievable.

Cricket Celebrity Inflation

Over at Opinions On Cricket, Golandaaz offers his take on the IPL and Indian cricket:

The number of elite Indian cricketers has gone from four in my early days of watching cricket to at least 20 now. Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Vengsarkar and Vishwanath were the only superstars. Compare that to today’s situation where India can easily field at least two superb ODI teams. The number of opportunities for cricketers to show their wares has increased a thousand fold. Any domestic cricketer today who is a reasonable performer can expect recognition and visibility. Had poor KP Bhaskar played in this era, would he have been ignored?

 

It’s true that, by and large, the IPL has been good to domestic cricketers. But Golandaaz is diagnosing a wider trend in modern society: celebrity inflation. To put it another way: they don’t make stars like they used to. While it’s generally good for cricket players to have more avenues to success (IPL, T20, ODI, Tests, T20 Bash, Sri Lankan cricket league, etc.), I’m a firm believer that there are varying degrees of celebrity and stardom, and we’ve been defining them down lately. (A decade’s worth of reality television and hyper-Internet blogging shows the results in America, where celebrities like ‘Snooki’ and ‘Paris Hilton’ co-mingle with the rest of the lot.)

So, to my older readers, ask yourselves: would you rather take the Rainas, Kohlis, Yuvraj-es of this world? Or do you yearn for the Grace Kellys and Amitabh Bachchans (er, Sachin and Viv Richards) of yore? Is it truly a good thing for the line to blur between merely well-known and idolatry? Or does it produce a certain kind of anxiety — what Paul Simon meant when he sang of a lonely nation turning its eyes to Joe DiMaggio?

In Praise Of Jonathan Trott

Jonathan Trott has just won ECB’s Cricketer of the Year Award, a fair tribute to a man with an average of over 65 in the past 12 months. Not so long ago, it was said it was said of the English line-up that once Kevin Pietersen was dismissed, it was ready for the taking. Now, Trott and Bell (and Strauss and Cook at the top) make sure that’s not the case.

The problem with Trott is that he’s an anti-Pietersen. He scores runs (more than K.P. now), but in his own way — one at a time, with stodgy resolve. It’s difficult to watch. In fact, the only thing that makes it palatable is listening to Test Match Sofa make fun of how awfully difficult it is to watch Trott. But I try not to take the Trott hatred too far, lest that give Test cricket critics another piece of evidence in their fight against the format. Indeed, Trott’s style of play is in line with my paean to anti-modernity: slow, determined, humble, solid. So if I have to watch him and grit my teeth, so be it.

A Stinging Critique Of BCCI’s Injury Management

From Partha Bhaduri of Times of India:

BCCI’s injury and medical management leaves a lot to be desired. It seems to be obscured in a haze of chronic player fatigue, insanely jam-packed schedules and the usual practice of shifting of blame on under-pressure players whenever these prickly issues are raised.

Meanwhile, there are noises that the BCCI will release a new “injury management policy” in 2012. Details are still sketchy, but:

According to sources, the BCCI is keen to reduce the role of franchise-employed physiotherapists when it comes to the treating contracted players. Besides, the IPL team owners will not be able to decide when and where the elite Indian cricketers get treated on getting injured.

I’ve said plenty about how I feel about injuries in cricket, and our ethical duties to modern athletes. It pains me to discover that Gambhir may have been taking cortisone shots to his shoulder, a controversial decision in light of current banned drug lists. This kind of stuff is truly frightening.

The club-country conflict is throwing many people for a loop. The issues are: 1) How do we schedule the international calendar to fit in all three formats and leagues? 2) How do we allocate talent (i.e., players) so they can satisfy supply and demand?

In response, we seem to have the following solutions: 1) The current setup works. Have the IPL and Champions League in a narrow 3-week calendar that clashes with some low-key international series and England’s county cricket. 2) Schedule an “IPL” window so that players like Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara don’t have to choose between Test careers and money. 3) Various reforms and changes to the FTP program, to include a Test championship, or to sideline Test teams apart from the Big 4 (England, South Africa, India, Australia).

Optimists also hope that, as time goes on, we’ll get used to these sorts of leagues and the market will sort itself out. So, for instance, we will have players who specialize in particular formats or leagues, instead of the current situation in which cricketers are generally expected to try their hand across the board. (England has already taken a step in this direction by choosing three captains for each format.) Russ, of Knotted Paths, also points out that as international teams lose their luster, franchise contracts will improve and offer new incentives. We shall see.

Meet N. Srinivasan, Master Of Indian Cricket

Forgive me, Indian readers, but I only recently discovered N. Srinivasan and his octopus-like reach in Indian cricket. For those not in the know, Srinivasan has an unbelievable amount of power: the former Sheriff of Madras, he is currently the BCCI’s Treasurer  (and Duncan Fletcher’s minder); co-owner of the Chennai Super Kings (he presented Dhoni the IPL trophy this weekend); president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association; member of the IPL governing council (and Lalit Modi scourge), and, just because he wants it, the president of the All India Chess Federation. (And he does a terrible job at it, apparently).

Prem Panicker has done a good job outlining why so much concentrated power is a bad thing (and why ‘conflict of interest’ laws need to be strengthened). Excerpt from a characteristically thorough and pungent post:

First, [franchise officials] point out, [Srinivasan] almost single-handedly rammed in the player retention clause when, besides CSK and Mumbai, all other franchises were against it. ‘If the IPL is democratically run, how come decisions are taken just because it suits one or two franchises?,’ one person closely connected with an under-rated franchise asked on phone. Further, Srinivasan set the norms for the auction, decided which player would go in which category, and when each name would come up for auction — which is just dandy since, as a team-owner, he could in advance plan the CSK strategy, then tailor the auction process to suit his team.

Sharda Ugra also spelled out the problems with the current set-up and how it affected Gautam Gambhir’s treatment:

Through the saga of Gambhir – and, before him, the similar case of Virender Sehwag – the simplest question is this: which of the three parties in this case could have made the most-objective decision? The player, for whom the financial benefit – his contract with Kolkata Knight Riders was worth $2.4 million a season – of playing 64 hours of cricket over six weeks is far too lucrative to ignore? The franchise, whose most expensive auction pick was turning out to be its most valuable one? Or the BCCI, the IPL’s owners, whose essential job is to ensure the health and welfare of that entity called “Indian cricket?”

I don’t know much about sports administration, and I frequently lament coverage of Indian cricket in India, which naturally tends to focus much more on the sport than who runs it. I remain disturbed that Sharad Pawar, another wearer of many hats, thinks he can run both Indian agriculture and Indian cricket at the same time (to say nothing about Maharasthra, one of India’s biggest and most complicated states). I now realize that Fletcher’s praise of the BCCI as more “modern” may have been mere flattery.

The general hope is that a scandal — financial or otherwise — will lead to a more streamlined and objective administration. I’m increasingly skeptical. We see now, as Panicker notes, that the usual mode is that a scandal merely displaces one set of elite interests for another (from Dalmiya to Pawar; from Modi to Srinivasan). My requests to bloggers: do you know any reporter who covers the BCCI/state associations? And do you know what an IPL cricket players association would look like?

Stuart Broad Needs To Calm Down Again

I’m watching highlights of Day 2 of England v. Sri Lanka (c/o Cricket-Online), which features some choice Stuart Broad LBW appeals. Broad has long toed the line of decency in his budding career; his signature style of “How’s That?” involves piercing an index finger in the sky and running toward the slips without a care for the umpire behind him. (Never, ever, turn your back on Aleem Dar, young man.)

And, what’s worse, he gets away with it. (Well, usually; he did pay 50 percent of his match fee for throwing a ball at another player and then offering a nothing-apology.) I suppose you can’t expect too much of a 24-year-old, but I wonder how this aggression will take form when Broad captains his T20 side. Shudder.

Cricket Blog Deaths

I second Kridaya’s post on recent cricket blog deaths. We’ve lost The Corridor and Short of a Length in short time. So, if anyone out there has a cricket blog and would like to be included on my list, please let me know. Send me a note at duckingbeamers@gmail.com, or comment on this page. We need you now more than ever.

 

Eoin Morgan And The Case Against Modernity

My previous post elicited some criticism in its comments section. Golaandaz took my praise for Test-only players as an irrational bias against certain formats of the game; calling them “childish,” he said, hardly does them justice. But while my positions on the formats are clear — I like all cricket, but Test, ODI, and T20 in that order — that wasn’t what I wanted my post to be about. Hear me out:

Regular readers know that I have a particular view about what makes cricket special. My case is largely borrowed from Ashis Nandy and his book Tao of Cricket, a phenomenal read every cricket blogger should thumb through (twice). In it, Nandy says that cricket is special because it recognizes the limits of human agency. The outsize roles for the pitch, the weather, time and other contingent factors (like the existence of the “draw,” a concept beyond many American fans) sets the game apart from the others. Take this together, and you have a very good case for cricket as a game set apart from modernity. Indeed, a big reason I like Test cricket is the fact that it can be boring sometimes; these quiet stretches of nothing-ness are a tribute to an ancient rhythm we don’t see much of these days.

So, where does Eoin Morgan fit in? Again, I don’t begrudge the guy choosing money over virtue. That’s a tough call for many to make, especially youngsters like him. No, my post was merely a call for a different type of player — the anti-modern player, who solely plays Test cricket and refuses to allow the game to swallow him whole. Exciting as young players like Kohli and Raina are, I have come to increasingly respect the players in their early-mid-late 30′s, who have to face their “mortality” (i.e., their fading skills) even as other concerns (family, most prominently) begin to alter their lives. In these players, you see the larger lesson of cricket — man comes and goes. Imagine cricket in this scenario not as a scenario or a game, but as a space set aside against the backdrop of increasing commercialism, modernity, and ‘progress.’

This line of argument suffers from a number of weaknesses. Russ will accuse me of glorifying the ‘amateur era,’ which he thinks was largely a sham. (He’ll have to explain that more himself.) Others will say that I, like Nandy, merely trade in baseless nostalgia for an era and sentiment that never existed. But, for me, the IPL represents some of the worst parts of the Indian growth ‘miracle’ — a crass consumerism that emphasizes work/skill over virtue/honor. This is what happens when the market takes over — and while I know the trend is generally beneficial, I’d still prefer an athlete who resists. Is this so naive?

New Player Wanted: The Anti-Eoin Morgan

I can’t fault Eoin Morgan for choosing the IPL over domestic cricket — money’s a potent drug, especially for a 24-year-old. But it would be much easier to accept if Morgan, in response to questions on his recent career move, simply pulled out a wad of English sterling and said, “Ga, ga, goo, goo.” (Again, that’s not to criticize the man. I would understand it.)

So I’d appreciate it if he didn’t insult my intelligence when he says the following:

“The learning curve I went through in IPL last year, the pressure I was put under, the fact of having to produce your skills time after time in massive situations, it helps my game a lot and I get a lot of confidence from it,” said Morgan.

Or this:

“The amount I learned last year just by playing five games and staying out there for the next three weeks, practising every day and rubbing shoulders with legends of the game, did massive amounts for me.”

This is what’s known in political circles as “spin.” Other people call it “disingenuous.” Playing in the IPL is not ideal practice for Test cricket. It just isn’t. And playing in the IPL doesn’t boost a player’s confidence; it just confirms it. (Shy people don’t become rock stars.)

But Morgan’s IPL decision raises a larger question: aren’t anti-Morgan players more interesting? I mean the players who only play Tests (voluntarily, or otherwise). Yes, I love Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, but the mystique of Test-only players (Dravid, Laxman, Nash) is just as (more?) compelling. No IPL parties; no slogging; a willingness to face collapses and crises — there’s something great about men who have put aside childish things. More, please.

The IPL Playoffs Analyzed (Properly)

Kridaya does me a favor and looks at the IPL playoff pattern I discerned last week. Read the post in full. The upshot: I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The IPL franchises remain remarkably bunched together and close. (This is what I get for avoiding numbers in college.)

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