Sunday, October 30, 2011

When it was never a 'payback' series

I never agreed upon the wisdom of having a cricket series titled 'payback'. Marketing evangelists would agree that whatever branding you may choose to do at the end of the day if products are not of equal value then it loses its shine.  This is why I disagree the labelling of the recently concluded series as 'payback' because the circumstances in which the games were played were entirely different.

India went under the hammer recently when they lost everything they could. MS Dhoni even lost all the tosses. They played in cold weather conditions that they are not bred in, icy cold weather where the players had hands under the trousers more than they had with the cricket balls.

The age old dictum of naive playing seam bowling came to haunt them as they struggled against the English quicks and made Anderson a superhero. But in comes England to India with the hope of a series victory. And they get hot and humid summers. The ball turns viciously and the same players who were recently awarding comments to the likes of Tendulkar and Laxman were mystified by spinners. To make it worse in the last one-day at Kolkata Dhoni brought Manoj Tiwari as spinner and he got a wicket too. It just makes the sides so different.

Here is Alstair Cook who has a batting, bowling and fielding coach travelling with him but he could not make them do anything. Swan who was titled as the next spinning legend was played with so much ease that it made Samit Patel cry. But lets face it- English were overconfident.

It was a disappointing series for the English should have played the spinners well but they did not. India failed to adapt to the seaming conditions recently so I sense unless English comes and play 4 tests in India and India beats them convincingly we should refrain from using that word.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


It’s half past nine and am busy sipping a nice cup of ice lemon tea at my favorite den Boca Grande. The place is unusually quiet today. And while I do not mind the occasional tid bits of human voice crooning from some place, I am enjoying this romantic quietness. Sometimes, I could get into the deepest of thoughts and come out with imaginative ideas. These ideas could never solve my problems and yet I enjoy thinking about it. Something was going on my mind for the past few weeks. Today, it sharpened into a belief and a die-hard romantic of Indian Cricket all I could think is 'administrators need to give few answers'. 

I take great pride whenever someone tells me you are from a cricket-crazy nation, that you have  a billion-dollar product IPL and have a galaxy of stars who captures the billions of imagination onto the field. I reflect for a while and understandably it is true. No one other thing has united the country like Cricket does not even Bollywood movies. In fact Bollywood has over the years tried to associate itself to the game for a multitude of reasons including promotional activities. For how could you make the sense that you have stars from Shahrukh Khan to Shilpa Shetty owning Cricket teams? Nothing bad at all!

I started watching Cricket in the 90s and just like any other kid who has an elder brother and a mat at the backyard played the game. Earliest years were of three brothers trying to outwit each other with tennis balls. In fact such was my passion for the game, years later I used to see other kids playing at the backyard and doing running commentary.

As things evolved over the years and technologies crowded the living rooms, everything associated to sports was marketing. Cricket is a product and we had each one of our cricketers making billions of money just being associated with it. I saw it and I realized that if you are a professional there is no harm.But then you became the No.1 Test Playing Nation and suddenly you are at some peak where others are trying to reach. This is where Indian administrators got it all wrong. 

We played tough and very good Cricket with teams that had good players. And it could have not come without the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dhoni, Ganguly, Zaheer and the rest.
The administrators seem to notice that the public were paying more attending to the One Day Internationals and Twenty Overs Games. Those were the avenues where money was flowing. The Indian Cricket Board became a rich board overnight. And as money started to flow the games took a different direction. Every series that India plays we identified more 50 overs than test matches. Somewhere down the link something was amiss. But I did not complain. When we win matches, we do not. Quantity rather quality was BCCI's topmost concern.

When you become world no.1 you will be replacing another team to the throne. India replaced Australians who have in every sense dominated for a decade. They won three world cups in a row, won 18 test matches in a trot and made every other test match playing country look meek to them. In fact, critics had even went to opined that if Aussies were not dethroned it would be very bad for the game of Cricket. But, so many lessons to be learnt from this amazing side? their discipline, hard work, professionalism and above all the passion to win. They never wanted to lose. In fact, when they came down from No.1 position, it was due to partly their players retirement than anything more. Watching Indian team performing/Stonewashed in England I am concerned and wanted to ask the administrators, "are you saying that we can play an one-off practice match and be ready?" its just a joke.

And the apathy is while India were losing games after games, all the board was thinking was how could we have the great Indian team One-Day team announced. I mean the priority seems to be win One Days and even if we lose test matches it is fine. 

Somewhere down the line, it hits me badly to see an Indian cricket side performing poorly in all the matches and yet there is not even a sigh of repent. Words need to be spoken and spoken in a tough fashion. As the game's patriot I demand that only the Cricketers but also the administrators should be taken to tasks. If I were to watch India playing I wish to see them trying hard in the field. And in doing so if they lose that is fine with me.

It's half-past ten now and I better leave for my apartment. The place has just started to fill up, and while I walk past the door, a young lady requests for the Cricket score. I could not stop laughing. By the way, do we have a second-string side or we will wait another 5 years here?