Posts Tagged ‘cricket’

Newspaper headlines, TV debates and the scores of opinions on social media would have us believe that a country of a billion people was betrayed in one shot, yesterday!

When the IPL Spot Fixing scam broke out, and 3 cricketers including one who had played for India earlier, were arrested, it has given the impression that God has fallen from His High pedestal. That it is a day of national grief, and cricket and India will never be the same again.

16-sreesanth

Calls of banning the cricketers for life, to having them arrested, to scrapping the current series of IPL, to holding BCCI and it’s officials accountable, to including the franchise owners to take blame, and many many more such demands have been doing the rounds.

Going against the tide, the way I see this episode is that, way too much is being made out of this incident. And I have many reasons to support this point of view of mine:

1. This is not an Olympic Sport. People are not playing for their country. This is a sporting event whose main aim is to ENTERTAIN. Especially when the 3-hour version of the sport has emerged, it has gone squarely into the sweet spot of entertainment, and actually competes with films and music shows and the like. To entertain people (in fact, film releases are delayed due to this competitive factor!).

So if this game is meant to entertain people and as long as it is doing so, why complain??

 

2. I have given this analogy before. I give it again.

When you go to see a film, and the story evolves, you sit there with bated breath, wondering “what will happen next”. The fact of course, is that the story has already been written, enacted and recorded. “Someone” already has decided what will happen next. Only YOU are discovering it for the first time. And you have enough intrigue and feel enough excitement, as it unfolds for you.

You don’t say that Aditya Chopra must be banned or Balaji Telefilms must be banned because they are showing us a story which they have pre-planned, and make us feel as if it is happening in real time!

If we are fine with films or television in terms of such entertainment, why not accept the same in T20 cricket too?

 

3. For many of us, there was an iconic moment in life, that evening of 1983, when Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup of cricket, at Lord’s.

We enjoyed the excitement, we enjoyed the victory.

What if a scam broke out today that revealed that bookies had paid Viv Richards to throw away his wicket and that led to India emerging victorious?!

For all of us who enjoyed the drama in real time, would it take away that pleasure which we felt in 1983??

 

4. So if we appreciate the brilliance of acting when Aamir Khan plays Rangeela or Amitabh plays Inspector Vijay, and we think of them as the character and find them believable, we can also admire a Sreesanth, who makes it appears that he’s actually bowling bad, and giving away runs.

I mean, if he also shows emotions of frustration when he gets hit, and appears believable, isn’t he doing as much of a good job as Aamir Khan or Amitabh, to entertain us?? What’s wrong with that??

 

5. Yes, it would become a sham if every catch was dropped and only lollipop balls were bowled, and the entire game became a festival match. THEN of course, the crowds will go away. But as long as some doses of drama are being injected, and appearance is maintained of a hard-fought game played with a key competitive spirit, what’s wrong with it??

 

6. For a moment, let’s take the conspiracy theory a step forward.

That more or less, the entire league has a concept of fixing. And the fixing is being done for purpose of maintaining a sense of excitement in the games and the league. Which then brings viewers coming back, and which also keeps the TRPs up, and the advertisers and the broadcasters happy.

Supposing this was done right through the league, and which is why, we had so many close finishes, and also that, till the very end, there is a certain openness about who will get into the last 4. And which in turns, ensures few dud games, and the TRPs are maintained.

This is easily conceivable.

So what, I say??

As long as we didn’t know about this, we were enjoying it completely. Everyone was happy – the cricketers, the spectators, the TV viewers, the advertisers, the broadcasters, the BCCI..

And now, say, we know that it was “fixed” to an extent.

So what has changed?

We are betrayed. We walk away from the game. Advertisers go away. The entire league comes under a challenge. And that helps whom??

From win-win to lose-lose??

 

Rest assured, I am not at all sarcastic here. I truly believe every word I have written here.

For all I know, and all I care, most professional sport may have small or high degree of fixing. But the role of those sports have always been to attract viewers and entertain them. And they are doing a good job of it.

Supposing there was no fixing, in the IPL. Everything was played fair and square. What if we got:

– Pune vs Punjab emerging as finalists, on merit. Where are the stars? How does this ensure viewership?

(just an example – nothing personal against Pune or Punjab!)

– teams scoring 120-130 in the first innings, and the team batting second folds up for 80 in 15 overs. How interesting would that be?

– within the first half of the league, the better teams have won enough to seal their place in the last four, and the others have got to a point where the knock out stage is beyond their reach? What excitement will be left in the balance games??

 

I believe that there have been elements of fixing in the game, for many years, and especially from the time that one of our erstwhile current experts, used to be a player! (the one who claims to have been “so shocked” by the happenings yesterday).

We did not know about most of those. It has all been a well-kept secret. Everybody is happy and spectators have been entertained.

Why break that comfort zone? Enjoy the sport, be entertained.

We’d rather watch this than watch some more saas-bahu stuff, and we’d rather ensure that IPL keeps the next Himmatwala type films from hitting the theatres!!

What do you say??

 

 

So the TOI reports in a Sunday Times page one headline story that Dhoni will be replaced as captain of the Indian test team, by Sehwag.

And while this is not official news, TOI has been able to get teams and decisions of this kind, right, more times than not. And if they have put it on page one headline, they probably have it confirmed. And when the news actually breaks, they will tom-tom it saying, “we told you first”.

That apart, this post is not about TOI, but about the India team, and the captaincy issue in particular.

So what prompts this thought of removing Dhoni? I guess, the recent performances against England and Australia.

But really, is the captain responsible for this?

The averages of India’s top batsmen, across the Australia and England series put together, read like this:

Gambhir 21, Sehwag 20, Laxman 21, Sachin 35, Dravid 47.

The bowling averages were only worse.

With such performances, what is the captain supposed to do? Can he create miracles in spite of the batters and bowlers not doing their thing?

It was not too long back that Dhoni’s captaincy was being analysed, not just amongst sports analysts and enthusiasts, but also in the business papers and in management schools. Unlike form, the innate understanding of the game, the shrewdness on the field, the leadership skills, are not something that just come and go. It is still the same Dhoni. I do not see an iota of arrogance also coming in to the person. He is the same one today, that allowed the team and Sachin to be serenaded after the World Cup win, rather than hog the limelight, as a captain. What has changed is the performance of his team!

Sure, when things are going wrong, and in desperation, the captain tries different things, some of those could also go wrong. But that is hardly the reason for the dismal end performances.

It will be a disastrous decision to make him the fall guy at this time, and also to bring on Sehwag instead. Dhoni remains the best captain for India today, and Sehwag, with his temperamental approach to the game, is just not captaincy material. So both the choices – the removal and the replacement – are wrong.

Captains are chosen with thought, and then ideally, they are given long runs. In Australia, we remember te Border era, Steve Waugh era, Mark Taylor era, Ponting era, and now the Clarke era has started. In perhaps the same period, India (at least earlier) had it’s musical chairs approach. Kapil Dev, Gavaskar, Shashtri, Azhar, Srikanth, Dravid, Ganguly, Sachin, Kumble..have all had their stints. And not necessarily continuous runs, but a musical chair approach, in fact!

I am sure that does not serve the team well. It was a refreshing change to have been seeing the stint of Dhoni for last few years. And he delivered as captain. These two series in England and Australia have been serious aberrations in terms of a collective loss of form, or inability, and hence the results as we see them.

If there IS a plan to resurrect, the need is to go to the fundamentals. Pick a batch of promising youngsters, perhaps a group of about 20, and work with them. Give them the confidence of being India’s future, give them opportunities. Continue to lose some more, while these youngsters learn their ropes. And THEN, you are ready. To take on the world again.

Who better to work with such a young pack of budding cricketers than Dhoni? He is the one who has given confidence to many youngsters, given them responsibility at crucial phases, and they have delivered for him. Give an honorable exit to the seniors, and be a little ruthless about it, sentiment apart.

And build from grounds-up.

That to me, is a way out. Not just to roll the captain’s head, and keep everything else much the same!

But I don’t know. With Srikanth at the helm of affairs in the selection committee, I don’t see much hope, in terms of a long term strategy. It will be a sad day for Indian cricket, to see Dhoni removed and Sehwag being brought in as captain of the test team. And have the merry-go-round play out again.

Yeah, sad…

Way back in 2007, when 20-20 started getting popular, I had shared my views on how I thought, cricket had finally found its perfect format.

Yes, there’s lot of things that I like about the format.

That its that perfect sweet spot of entertainment, in terms of size, viz. the perfect three hours.

That it managed to engage, besides the men, also women and children. No cricket widows now.

So what do I think is going wrong?

That its become too much of a circus. An extremely one-sided game. now.

Let’s cut to American Sports, from where the 3-hours sports format seems to be borrowed.

In an NBA basketball game, there IS competition. The two teams fight it out. All players have a shot. Some games are won on defense, some on offense. There is all round play. There is balance.

An NFL American Football game is not all about the quarterback. There is throwing, there is passing, there is kicking, there is strategy, there is good defense, there is good offense. Games have a balance again.

And the World Series baseball games have a role for the batter as much as it has a role for the pitcher. Again, a well balanced game.

Which is where 20-20 and IPL are getting it all wrong now.

Its become too much of a slam-bang-thank-you-maam kind of game, with the bat significantly dominating the ball. Its like the bowlers are there, just to throw a ball for the batter to smash to any corner of the ground. It is too lopsided.

To again give an analogy from the USA, the 20-20 IPL game resembles the slam dunk contest that happens in the All-Star Weekend of NBA. While exciting to view, the reality is that the Slam Dunk contest looks good one time in the season. Just imagine how NBA would be, if every game was only a slam dunk contest?!

Well, IPL is headed that way.

And THAT is not right. For the next 1-2 years, they may not even see a dip. In revenues. Or in spectators at stadia.

But there will be boredom setting in for sure. Especially considering the fact that there is too much cricket anyway.

IPL and 20-20 cricket need to take some corrective steps. Sooner rather than later.

Make it a more competitive game. Let the ball be counted for. Let the bowlers not become mere spectators on the ground.

Before people get completely pissed off, from the game, the authorities that be, must take some necessary corrective steps.

Do you agree? Or you think we are fine the way the format is? Do share your thoughts..

A comparison of two scenarios to drive home a point:

Imaginary Scenario1:

Where:
In the middle of a T20 match between Indian and Sri Lanka

The key players:
Dhoni, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Kirsten and the rest of the team

The scene:
Dilshan has gone hammer and tongs after the Indian bowling. Lot of runs have been scored against the pacers. Indian team at a loss as to what to do now.

The discussion:
“Man, this guy is trouble. How do we stop him?”
“Yeah, really miss Zak at such times.”
“Arre, shall we try spin?”
“Pata nahi whether it will work at all?”
“Yaar, try karke dekhte hai. At this time, we have little choice.”
“Ok, let’s give the ball to Bhajji, then.”

** Off-topic discussion in between **
“Yuvi, where’s your birthday bash yaar?”
“At the Sixer Lounge…; but what if we lose today?”
“Arre yaar, win-lose to hota rehta hai.. after all, it’s cricket. Can’t stop partying because of that!”
** Off-topic discussion over **

What follows:
Bhajji gets Dilshan soon.
Team celebrates.
But in walks Sangakara, the best batsman of spin bowling.
And what follows is a spectacle of unabashed hitting of the spin bowlers. All over the place, fours and sixes galore.

Frantic discussion again:
“Oh my God, where did we land?”
“Yeah, Dilshan gone, but now Sangakara is smashing away!”
“Fours and sixes everywhere. How to stop these?”
In a resigned tone, “Well, we’ll just have to wait for the 20 overs to be completed..sigh!”

And the run feast for Sri Lanka continues.

Not-so-imaginary Scenario 2:

Where:
In the highest political echelons of Delhi, between top cabinet ministers

The key players:
Pranab Mukherjee, Chidambaram, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and the rest

The scene:
K. Chandrasekhar Rao is on an indefinite fast for the demand of a separate state of Telangana. Situation volatile. Huge support. Few suicides already.

The discussion:
“Man, this guy is trouble. How do we stop him?”
“Yeah, really miss YSR at such times.”
“Shall we allow Telangana?”
“Pata nahi whether it will work at all?”
“Yaar, try karke dekhte hai. At this time, we have little choice.”
“Ok, PC, go ahead and announce it then.”

** Off-topic discussion in between **
“So, what plans for daughter’s wedding?”
“Booked the Taj..; but what if this AP matter intensifies?”
“Arre yaar, these things will happen in a country. After all, it’s politics. Can’t stop family affairs because of that!”
** Off-topic discussion over **

What follows:
PC announces that Telangana will happen.
KCR breaks his fast. Telangana supporters rejoice. Random suicides, protests stop.
But now anti-Telangana supporters erupt. What follows is a different mayhem. Resignations, more deaths, large scale protests. More lives lost!

Frantic discussion again:
“Oh my God, where did we land?”
“Yeah, KCR taken care, but now rest of Andhra is erupting!”
“MPs, MLAs, resigning, and lots of lives lost too. How to stop these?”
In a resigned tone, “Well, we’ll reverse the announcement, and wait for matter to fade from public memory…sigh!”
And meanwhile, causalities continue.

The cricket scene is probably imaginary. There is in all likelihood, more strategy that they use. And when they still fail, it is only a matter of a win or loss on cricket field.

The political scene is probably more real. Unfortunately. In a high command led dictatorial regime full of sycophants, political mileage is the only motivation. Even at the cost of random slicing of the country into states, notwithstanding public opinion. And when such knee jerk movements from the centre do not work, it is a serious matter of loss of lives. But then are Indian lives any more valuable to a politician than 4s and 6s on a cricket field??

Are we wrong to expect from our politicians, more responsibility of action, more foresight, some concern for the country and its citizens, and less for their personal political gains??