Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Murali strikes back

"If Murali doesn't chuck, then show me how to bowl"
"Murali will complete 1000 Test wickets, but they would count as mere run-outs in my eyes"
"He is a Sri Lankan bandit closing in on a dream artist called Shane Warne"
- Bishan Singh Bedi on Muttiah Muralitharan.

"I saw some (of his) bowling of his playing days. He would have been hammered every ball had he played in the modern era." - Muttiah Muralitharan's comeback

Off-the-field battles are interesting sometimes. The football world cup had Maradona and Pele trading insults and nobody actually winning the argument because Brazil and Argentina didn't reach the semis.
The Bedi-Murali fight is going to fizzle out in a couple of days, unless Bedi says something so stupid (which he is perfectly capable of), that it may last a week longer than it should
What I find funny is that everyone is calling Murali immature for saying what he did about Bedi.
Going by that, everyone secretly thinks that Bedi is senile, which I'm sure he is.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Consistency in the time of chaos

It's been a while since I've written anything.
During this period, Murali took his 800th, Pakistan managed to finally beat Australia, Sachin and Uncle J-Rod have plans to release books filled with blood and semen and Mohammad Azharuddin is reportedly banging some badminton player who is half his age.
Suddenly cricket seems more interesting than the football world cup
Now, I wrote my last piece a few days before the first test match and since then, so much has happened, which makes the cricketing world chaotic once again.
In two weeks of cricket, despite having so much chaos, there is one thing that has been consistent.
That is India's fast bowling problem.
We have two guys: one a relatively new guy and the other, who is bowling shit. The rest of the crop are injured or learning how to bowl.
How on earth can a country, whose general population multiply like rabbits, not produce a single fast bowler, who can consistently bowl fast without getting injured?
The fastest bowler we've had till date is Srinath and he has bowled at 90 mph on a consistent basis.
The guys today find it difficult to touch 85 mph.
Okay, speed isn't everything, but these guys are bowling like a bunch of retards. It's like Intakab Alam's comments should be used on the Indian bowlers, now that Pakistan has beaten Australia
And we're the number 1 side in the world?
I agree with Sangakkara and Harsha Bhogle. What do we have to show to be the best side in the world. For a better part of the 90s, we depended on one guy. In the early part of the 21st century we depended on 2 guys batting well abroad and one guy bowling well at home.
If we win this match, it'll be a miracle. The best we can do is draw it, unless Sehwag does something maniacal like he did in the Mumbai test match and win it for us.
That will bring some chaos to a pretty consistent performance by India.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Muralitharan End of an era

My parents tell me an interesting tale. When I was a kid, my father worked for the State Trading Corporation (STC). During his stint with STC, he (which means him and the family) were transferred to the UK. We stayed there between 1986 and 1989. We came back when I was six years old.
We stayed in an area called Corinium Close in London. From what I remember, there were seven large houses and each of them was occupied by someone from the subcontinent. We had these immediate neighbours, who were from Sri Lanka. But at that time, I didn’t even know what Sri Lanka was. Only recently, when I was having a chat with my father, did he tell me that they were from Eelam.
Recently I read an essay by historian and cricket lover Ramachandra Guha about the Eelam struggle going to western Europe and how several refugees over there had played an important role in trying to attain ‘freedom’ from Sri Lanka. Guha then spoke about V Prabhakaran the founder of the LTTE and the reasons why several Sri Lankan Tamils joined his cause, which at the end of the day, after nearly 25-30 years of rebelling, has proved to be futile. Prabhakaran died last year and Sri Lanka can only worry about local leaders and the opposition for the time being.
In the late 90s and for the much of the earlier part of the 21st century another Sri Lankan Tamil gained a lot of fame. Unlike Prabhakaran, who resorted to killing and blasting people, this man destroyed batsmen with his guile. He never spoke much, but let his talent and hard work do most of the talking. It is this dedication to the game of cricket that has made Muttaiah Muralitharan the greatest off-spinner in the modern era. People will question his action and whether it was legitimate or not, but there’s no question that Sri Lanka will never find a better ambassador than Murali.
Murali is a once in a lifetime cricketer. Never again, I believe, will you find a guy who uses his wrist to bowl off-spin. As Harsha Bhogle put it in his tribute to Murali, “If it was the action alone, a clone would have produced at least 300 by now, there would have been kids in the streets bowling like him. Surely they must have tried; that they couldn't is a tribute to his uniqueness.”
I do a parallel comparison between Prabhakaran and Muralitharan and when you read this piece you’ll understand why. Both Sri Lankan Tamils, but one’s choice made his country proud and the other’s made him a wanted man.  Murali never spoke of the Tamil Tigers and what his opinion was about the liberation. He just went on doing what he was supposed to do and that was take wickets for his country. He never said anything when people questioned his action. He just went through a biomechanic test to prove that it wasn’t illegal.
He’ll be playing his last test match against India soon and the tributes have come from all over. And at the end of the day, whether you like him or hate him, you can’t question his commitment to the game. He probably has a better average than Shane Warne because of the number of test matches he’s played against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but they’re wickets nonetheless. He’s taken criticism well (except when Bishan Singh Bedi called him a dacoit, which was completely uncalled for). Most of all, he’s taken Sri Lankan cricket to an all-new high. Without him, the side will miss a match winner.
For someone, who has loved watching the game, irrespective of the opposition, Murali is one guy I will miss. The action, the wide eyes and the smile of a silent assassin will slowly go away from the cricketing world. And nobody like him will appear for the next 100 years


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What does the ICC give us for its 10 years of match fixing anniversary? Sharad Pawar

It’s been a crazy month in the cricketing world. It’s been 10 years since Hansie Cronje confessed to the world about his role in throwing matches away. Heroes became villains and the cricketing world was in turmoil. Ten years on, with T20 cricket gaining popularity and the IPL’s success, there have been allegations of match fixing once again.I’ll be na├»ve if I’ll say ball-by-ball betting never went, but it’s done in a smarter way today. Paul Condon, the outgoing head of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit himself told Andrew Miller in a CricInfo interview that match fixing would never be eradicated. “Fixing needs really two things: a cricket match and the ability to bet on it. It is the most bet-upon sport in the world - no other sport gets close, not even horse-racing. The sums of money are phenomenal. You can have up to a billion dollars being bet on a single match, and in that respect, it's no surprise that a tiny number of players get lured into malpractice. The challenges that world sport now face around gambling, in a way, are similar to those involving performance-enhancing drugs in the 1970s and 1980s. In a way, it was never entirely overcome but it was certainly controlled.”
And in the middle of this madness, Sharad Pawar takes over as ICC chief.
Considering that India is such a cricket crazy nation, I’m surprised that very few newspapers highlighted the fact that Sharad Pawar is going to be the next ICC president. I read it on CricInfo myself and most of the newspapers the next day were going gung-ho about Wimbledon and the Fifa World Cup.
Now I have serious problems about Sharad Pawar taking over the ICC. I’m sure that the guy is an astute politician and a brilliant administrator, but his alleged links with Dawood Ibrahim isn’t what the game needs, considering that there are new allegations of match fixing with respect to the Pakistan side. Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has in fact gone on record to say that there could have been instances where players were paid to lose the series against Australia. We’ll never know the truth, of course unless someone’s phone is tapped like they did for Hansie Cronje.
There are allegations against Pawar and some may say that he is innocent until proven guilty, but I don’t see that working here. In 1995, a report filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs alleges that there was a definite nexus between underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's associates and Pawar. According to the report, Mool Chand Shah alias Choksi—a hawala racketeer also involved in the Jain case and "close to Dawood Ibrahim and gang"—had, on various occasions between December 1979 and October 1992,transferred or paid Rs 72 crore to Pawar.
Cricket is still the most popular game in India, but fans are more cynical. They love Tendulkar, but question whether the opposition was paid to bowl badly when he made all those centuries. They see India lose a final and question the integrity of the players.
A friend of mine, who was an ex-student of the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai did a report on the match-fixing situation in cricket today. She spoke to several people, including bookies and C Sridhar, the DCP, Crime Branch Chennai police, who all agreed that betting was still huge in India. Sridhar actually went on record to tell her that, the minimum betting amount starts from Rs. 500 and runs into crores. Most of those, who invest large amounts, are the businessmen. “As opposed to belief, it’s not the anti-social elements that place money,” he states.
But here, we don’t know the businessman’s history. We don’t know the kind of links he has. We don’t know why he’s betting so much. There are a million questions that we have, but there are no answers. Even the Bombay police, which has been busy targeting betters, can’t find anyone guilty today.
But we’re back at Pawar. There are a number of things that we have to take into consideration here, even if we don’t look at his alleged underworld links. Will his being president help Lalit Modi in any way? Will there be a new twist in the Lalit Modi-BCCI drama? These are questions that will be answered in the next few weeks.
But my biggest concern is whether his alleged connections will the underworld see their role in the game once again? I’m sure that they never left, but they’ve not been in the spotlight since Sharjah was scrapped as a playing venue.
Are there any good things that will come out of his becoming ICC president? In my opinion there is one and it’s a big one. He has asked the Prime Minister to reshuffle the cabinet so that he can balance his work. Hopefully, we’ll get a new agriculture minister, who can do some work.


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Monday, July 5, 2010

A new batting god

Sachin is the greatest batsman I have ever seen.
Even when I see him bat today, it's like poetry in motion. He looks solid. His footwork is impeccable. His timing majestic.
He is the role model for any cricketer in the world aspiring to be a batsman.
Umar Akmal looks like he's hero-worships Sachin.
I don't think that they have interacted with each other, but I'm sure if Sachin watches this kid, he'll be interested.
Going by current form today, Umar is the best batsman in the world.
I was going to give it to Hashim Amla, but he played like dog shit in the test series in the Caribbean. I could have even gone with Tamim Iqbal, but he's more like Sehwag, which is an entertainer.
So I'm going to say it's Umar.
He batted beautifully in his first series in New Zealand.
He bettered that in Australia by giving it right back to the opposition.
He did okay in the T20 World Cup.
And today, he proved that he can play anywhere by making that 60-odd score in England.
What I love about his batting is that he doesn't slog. It's brilliant, good, clean hitting.
And the kid's 20, so he's got a lot of years ahead of him, unless the PCB (and this is a huge possibility) fucks him over and leaves him holding a sticky wicket, if you know what I mean.
But hopefully, that won't happen and we get to see more of him.
He's probably the Sachin of the 21st century. He makes the runs while the rest of his team bats like shit, but it's too unfair to make that comparison. Yet I do, because in that way, he can fuck up against India.


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