Monday, April 29, 2013

Tendulkar and the IPL quandry

Every generation claims that they were lucky to have been born in an era where they got to watch some special sportsperson play. When it comes to Sachin Tendulkar, there will be more than one generation which will put claim to that statement. To be in the limelight, to capture the imagination, be idolized by millions for such a long career is indeed spectacular. Records have been written, then re-written, invented, made fun of when it comes to Sachin Tendulkar.

And yet the debates on if and when Sachin Tendulkar should retire keep happening after every game that he plays. The godly status is mocked, ridiculed in between spurts of delight as he caresses yet another boundary through the packed off-side with a high elbow. Many detractors sighed relief as Tendulkar announced his retirement from ODIs which was followed immediately by people mumbling what-if following ODI defeat against England with a batting collapse at top of the order in Dharmshala on a day Sachin was playing the Ranji finals at Wankhede. The chatter for him stepping down after every series, nay every match, continues incessantly. Experts alike keep tossing the ball between the selectors and Sachin to make the call.

This edition of IPL, many people looked forward to seeing Tendulkar and Ponting play together for the Mumbai Indians and secretly hoped for some past glory. Many waited to unleash the jokes on twitter. "Pondulkar" was coined by the media while others suggested Tenting, Sacting and so-on. The combination failed miserably and the much-hyped Mumbai Indians team had a bad start to the IPL capped by a shellacking by the Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals. Ponting was dropped (sat-out) and Mumbai Indians started winning although Tendulkar still struggled and continued to get bowled. And so the chants for him to be dropped also grew vociferous. Yes, the Mumbai Indians have a strong line-up which can do better without Tendulkar in their line-up. Yes, Tendulkar should probably step away letting the  youngsters more suited for the shortest format of game take it over. Yes, the Mumbai Indians have a coaching set-up of Kumble/Wright who can probably talk him down. But will they? And more importantly should they?

Last year, I watched the India-England test match and the Mumbai-Saurashtra Ranji finals at Wankhede. While one absorbs the game and the atmosphere surrounding the game one thing becomes very clear - There is a whole different ball game surrounding Tendulkar at any Indian venue and specially at Wankhede. When India (or Mumbai) is batting while the crowd enjoys the runs being scored, there is a restlessness as they await the fall of the 2nd wicket specially if it is in first session and majority of the crowd has come in to watch the Little Master bat. The unfortunate batsmen who gets out as the 2nd wicket has to suffer the cheer of the crowd in front of a home crowd as he tries to gather in his thoughts on his dismissal. Some people applaud the outgoing batsman but every eye is strained on that 1st level balcony of the MCA pavillion to watch Tendulkar step out. And the stadium erupts sending goosebumps all over you. The chants of "Sachin, Sachin" echo all across the stands as he makes his way to the middle and continue amid sighs, cheers, phews, aahs all the while Tendulkar is batting. Even when Indian (or Mumbai) is fielding, every-time the ball goes to wherever Tendulkar is fielding is followed by a huge cheer. If Tendulkar moves to field close to the boundary, the lower stands rush down to the chain-link fence just to be near their idol. You notice subtleties in Tendulkar's mannerisms in which he prefers back-pedalling to the boundary after he has walked in with delivery or to back-up a throw for the moment he turns to boundary, every spectator calls out to him as if he is looking at them in particular. During the first IPL season when Tendulkar was injured and did not play, I had been to the Deccan chargers game at DY Patil stadium at Nerul. While not playing, Tendulkar was there and he briefly stepped in during the training session fielding a few ground balls and bowling a couple of deliveries of spin before a TV interview. That was enough to entertain the crowd who had just come to glance at him even though they knew he wasn't going to play.

Such is the aura of the man at Wankhede and surely at many stadiums across India. If the man brings in a packed capacity crowd every-time he plays and also brings in a crowd even if he might play, why would he want to leave the game. Why would Mumbai Indians franchise want to drop him? He will still bring in the crowds and the revenue. He will still bring in the endorsements and the ad campaigns and the media frenzy. Surrounding him with decent players which Mumbai can definitely afford may even win them the coveted title some day. But surely they would love to continue to feed on his fandom as long as they could. Isn't there a saying about the "Goose that lay the golden egg"?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The fine print

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is old news. No one cares about the primaries in US of A and Kenya is way too remote to relate to. All the Indian media and people seem to care about the last two days and possibly for few more days is what happened over 5 days at the start of a new year. To be clearer for others, I am referring to THE 2nd test match between India and Australia at Sydney. A game that is being remembered only for all the controversies surrounding it and none at all for some fine cricket that was being played by two teams out there.

The 1st day's play saw a see-saw battle between the Aussie batsmen and the Indian bowlers, all that was discussed was Steve Bucknor not giving Andrew Symonds out. Yeah true it was blatant but the way Indian bowlers responded after the last test match which saw lots of runs plundered against them and then barring that decision the fightback Symonds, Hogg and Lee put up there must surely be worth discussing at some point. Here is one perfect specimen of a one-day player. Bulky, powerful, fast, athletic allrounder in Symonds. And he shows how to bat responsibly with a lower middle order and tail to define a game.

After frustrating the Indian bowlers some more on the 2nd day, finally the Indian batsmen got a chance to redeem themselves for the failure of 2 innings in the boxing day match. Dravid opening the innings once again, scratched, itched and scrapped around but hung on. Spent a miserable time trying to find out the class in him. May not have found it but found that dogginess about himself which endears him to his peers when they talk about great test batsmen. At the other end was someone who had found a new lease of life for himself on this very ground many years ago when he cracked a carefree masterpiece in the last match of a lost series. Laxman simply stroked a classy century.

When things seem to be moving the other way with quick wickets, two wily veterans built up another partnership. Here the Indians were showing the same fight that the world's best side had shown a day before and eating away at the lead. If the aussie tail could do it, the Indians decide to better them and kicked the same bowlers who had frustrated them by actually surpassing the Aussie total. In all this there was this small side story of a man hungry for another century which had evaded him for almost a year in all forms of the game after he had had so many others before then. Still instead of discussing this, the media were still talking about the huge lead India would have had had Bucknor did what he was supposed to do.

Around 1000 runs had been scored by the two teams and one would have been looking at some lame cricket on the last day but no.. hold on! it was just the start of the 4th day's play. All results were still possible and who would not have liked it with a test match so well poised (The Indian media perhaps!!). While Indian bowlers had some quick strikes in the middle, once again the Aussie batsmen fought around and built up a decent lead and declared with a whiff of a chance of win just before lunch on the last day. While one of the possible results had been eliminated, two others were on. India for all the batting prowess it possessed and the big score it had posted, batting for 72 overs should have been easy.

That is when things went terribly wrong (from Indian perspective I guess). The umpires made 2 BAD BAD mistakes. One (Dravid) could still be forgiven as Bucknor honing his senses for any deviation to be given out after the big goof up he had caused on the first day. The other (Ganguly's) is inexcusable. An umpire not abiding by the laws of cricket, ones which he is supposed to upheld. If the main umpire is in doubt, he has to first enquire with the square leg umpire and then if still both are in doubt go to the 3rd umpire. It is that simple. To have forgotten your ABCs is not pardonable. But were these the only reason India lost? Yes they played a big hand, I agree. Two players who were willing to duke it out there were left undone. But what about the others. All this hoopla has players like Yuvraj conveniently escape the heat. We could have done better for 5 days in the match without him at all. After all, very surprising that such an even match until then was being played by a team of 9 (Jaffer is on a sigh seeing trip while Yuvraj is chasing a Padukone in skirts) against a team of 11+2 it may have seemed.

But still it was a true test match. Kumble fighting it out till the end almost saved the match from all the blunders of the umpires. Dhoni who could have just as easily folded like Yuvraj, trying to better the tour for himself and Bajji already playing under a cloud of racist allegations willing to let go of his shots of first innings to do something. The Aussies fought the way they do. Sledged (so what?) and finally bullied their way to victory. But then who has stopped others from doing it too? If you wish to play in the same field as Aussies you have to strengthen yourselves. Crying foul and walking out of matches/series is not the solution. All other Indian cricket fans apart, I for one only think of one way to look for justice. Go back out there in Perth and fight harder. I hope I have some others looking for the same.

p.s. The ICC-BCCI showdown as people have termed it is a topic for another time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ever wonder...

...where expressions or sayings come from? A while ago while watching a cricket match and listening to commentary heard the expression "safe as houses" and me and Cartman discussed what it meant and how it could have originated. I don't think we got anywhere with that.

But anyway today I was talking to Aparna about how when I was working, I wanted not to work and now that my postdoc term is over I am bored to death doing nothing. Well she said "The Grass is always greener on the other side." And that got me thinking of who came up with the expression and why? What if whoever started that expression had a neighbour who did not water his/her lawn and hence the neighbour's lawn was dry and brown? Would the expression be 180 deg opposite and be grass is greener on our side and be used for things like "I told u so". With the urban landscape changing and grass being rarer to see, wonder if the expression is changed to "The potholes are always wider on our side of the road" or "pavement looks more inviting on the other side of the road".

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fatass is a CPT

A nice collegian article on people with those damn digital cameras always around them.

Facebook members will agree that Fatass falls under a lot of these categories. Thank god, he does not have any bare bodied shots.

Friday, April 06, 2007

When push comes to shove

I have always worked like this all my life. Whenever the pressure is all the way up, I start working. Always at the 11th hour (or 23rd hour whichever you prefer), I am there working like crazy. And at the same time saying to myself, next time I am going to do it properly as it was supposed to be done. Whether it is as important as writing my PhD thesis (which thanks to my advisor's efforts and commitment, I pretty much churned out in one weekend during which I slept a total of 6 hrs) or annual tasks of filing for tax returns, I seem to be waiting for the last moment before I get going on it. Talking to a few of my friends, they too seem to be in the same boat. Or maybe I hang around with people who do the same.

I write this post as I follow the fiasco known as the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India... who were the ad wizards who came up with that one?). After last world cup's showing where we reached the finals, the following Australia series, test series win in Pakistan, recruitment of an Australian Greg Chappel to coach the team, winning a series in WI, new exciting players like Pathan and Dhoni, everyone was looking forward to this world cup. And dismayed they were by the efforts of the Indian team. Who is to blame? The coach, the captain, the fans for creating the pressure, the selection committee, the Board for being cash hungry, the media for the hype, the sponsors who put the players in ads? There is a saying that being there in the middle of the game is sort of like a sanctuary for the players. Where once someone steps on to the field, all that is going on around is lost and he is into the game. If that is the case, then all surrounding the game can be discarded and if it did affect the players then they were not into the game.

Anyhoo, the connection I tried to bring out here was that after the exit of India, we once again have committees set up. Someone will be made a scapegoat (looks like Greg Chappel) and we will go on. There is already talk of creating a pool of 25-30 players (wasn't that the thing mentioned a year before the world cup?). So what has changed? I can understand individuals working when push comes to shove. But a whole organization? Why do we have to wait until another debacle before we act?

Solution is simple. When one wants to improve, you look up and find yourself a way. If someone out there is better than you, then you might want to follow the path they have taken. Not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Australia is a world apart in terms of playing cricket right now. Look at how it is doing it. Accepted that their way is not going to work in its entirety. We are a different country and culture but we can surely figure out a way to adapt ourselves to that system. What point is a pool of 25-30 players of they cannot get to perform at a higher level consistently. If winning the world cup is the war you want to win then learn to lose a few battles. Dravid and Sachin and Dhoni need not play or be selected for all the series. Send out these players to play in some series without getting a dead rubber game or knowing this is their only chance to come big and next game the regular players come back from their customary rest. Give them a whole series in India and abroad without the pressure of looking over the shoulder. If the Board has this much money, send these players to play in the Australian or English or South African domestic cricket schedule where they will play against quality players. People like Gambhir and Raina who struggle against good oppositions come back to Indian domestic cricket to score centuries at will. That shows how our system is. It will take a long while and effort to improve our system. We have not been able to make better pitches leave alone improving the whole domestic system. Use our system to identify and select players. Use other's refined system to hone that selection. Once identified, send these youngsters out and let them play. That is the only way we can improve. 24 years is a whole generation. How many more before we do win another one?

Monday, March 26, 2007

A-Rod you are forgiven

Spring is in the air and falling in line with American traditions, two Indians went out to throw ball. A bynote to this would be the purchase of baseball gloves at Walmart when Cartman and I went to buy a compass for installing the dish (damn Corporations and Business Intelligence softwares that tell them to place baseball gloves right next to the camping section). So having come into the possession of these gloves, we threw the ball around for a good part of an hour. Tried to do everything including ground balls, immediate transfer and throws to the first base, double plays. A lot of erratic plays happened including erratic throws into nearby bushes, missed groundballs and muffed catches. It is not as easy as it seems. Having gotten used to catching a ball with bare hands in the palm near your eyes, it requires a completely different technique. A lot of fun though.

Also this past Friday, after India's exit from the World Cup after their dismal performance against SriLanka, in order to take our minds off it, we went for the Penn State baseball season opener at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. It was my first time there and was fun to watch the game up close and personal. The last occasions I have watched baseball games has been in Yankee Stadium from the bleachers and the last 4 seats in the stadium (I kid you not.. Subash had no-one next to him and behind him... go figure) from where Randy Johnson looked like a peanut and David Ortiz a garbanzo bean. So after this experience I sure appreciate the players for hitting a 95 mile an hr fastball for a homerun or even coming in contact with it. And not to mention the superb plays in the field.

So while I will now watch the rest of the World Cup without any tension of India's performance and for pure cricket, I sure look forward to the baseball season as well. A night game at Yankee Stadium is planned for this season sometime. Maybe a bit closer to the field of play.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The ides of March...

... or to be more precise 23rd March. It is the day that haunts Indian cricket during its recent world cup campaigns. It was pointed out to me by a friend that it was March 23rd 2003 when Australia dashed the Indian hopes of winning a world cup when it had come so close and put its stamp as a class apart side (God, I friggin hate Aussies). And 4 years later to the date, it is 23rd March 2007 when Sri Lanka dashed a billion hopes. Once again we are left with a bad taste in the mouth. A lot of hype, too much anticipation and a complete letdown. With India and Pakistan running the cricket show and raking in the viewers, I wonder if it is powerful enough to bully the ICC from not scheduling any games for itself on this day of the year.

On another note, in the post game interview, Dravid talked about the format being that having one bad day caused us the tournament when India lost to Bangladesh and the same held true for Pakistan. I believe that this world cup format has been the most fair of them all. Two strong test teams grouped together with minnows to get themselves warmed to the tournament and by the time the tournament reaches the semifinals, the teams would have played all the strong teams and qualified themselves as the best four teams. From then on, it is about rising to the occasion against a formidable opponent. While India's group was termed as group of death because of having another test playing team as one of the minnows, it was the attitude of the players in the group matches that lost it for us. There was no confidence. The rout of West Indies in the warm up matches should have given the team an arrogance to tackle Bangladesh. Instead they prodded around and if you cannot get 200 on two occasions against a decent bowling performance while posting the highest world cup total against another, it just shows that all this team is fit for is a bilateral series of 7 games hoping for 4 good days and expecting 3 lousy days to take a series.

This is World cup cricket. It comes once in 4 years. You cannot expect an off day during this fortnight. Not the whole team. This is a whole team playing and everyone decides to perform only on one day out of three. What about the rest of the days? Or is it the attitude, "I did it yesterday, someone else can do it today?" Well they can all sit at home and let the other teams do it the rest of the days of the tournament.