Friday, April 29, 2011

Jacob Martin finally got his five minutes of fame

Jacob Martin: A career in jail now.
Let's face it, Jacob Martin was as good a cricketer as Sultan Zarawani.
At least in Zarawani's defence, he was rich and famous in UAE.
But both were equally talentless.
Jacob's other problem was that he must have pissed off a number of selectors. Martin and Devang Gandhi were sent as part of the Indian squad to play in Australia in 1999.
This was a time when India were worse than Zimbabwe when they played away from home.
Gandhi was a disaster. Jacob even worse.
So Jacob needed his five minutes of fame.
But he could have done something like hit six sixes in an over.
Instead, the idiot gets involved in a human trafficking case.
Now the moron is behind bars.
You know, the tragedy is now he'll never be remembered as one of the few cricketers who was timed out of an ODI now. It was in Australia in a game against Pakistan in 1999, in a series that most Indians like to forget.
Martin came into bat. He was asked to go back because he didn't spend too long on the field. The Pakistani players protested and he was asked to go and sit back. Whether the term is called timed out, I do not know. But I know that it's what Jacob Martin was famous for.
Now he'll just be remembered as the human trafficker, who wanted to give people cricketing careers in Burkina Faso.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Greed and the Indian cricketer

 So this piece in the Indian Express hit me hard - and it wasn't in the right way.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has rejected an informal request by the Indian team for greater rewards for winning the World Cup. 
BCCI president Shashank Manohar had announced that each member of the 15-man squad would receive Rs 1 crore, while the support staff would get Rs 50 lakh. But a couple of days after the victory, a few players asked for more. 
The players were demanding Rs 5 crore each, said a senior BCCI official. A top India player, on condition of anonymity, argued the team’s position: “If you see, only the top players benefit, and there is no doubt that we earn more than anybody, but what about players like Munaf Patel and others? These players make the Indian team and the BCCI earns so much because of them.” “We are not greedy for the money,” said the top cricketer. “But these (junior) players have made the BCCI rich and famous. There is no harm in asking for more especially since the Board will earn thousands of crores after India’s victory. A player’s life is very uncertain. Who knows what will happen next?”
The players also think that some members of the support staff might have got too much for doing very little. “Gary (Kirsten) and Paddy (Upton) getting Rs 50 lakh is fine. But even the logistics manager getting Rs 50 lakh? By that yardstick we should be getting more,” said the player.
BCCI secretary N Srinivasan was unavailable for a comment. But another top official said, “Do you think these players really need to be given so much money? One crore is not a small amount.”

For once, I agree with the BCCI. Here's my problem. Rs 1 crore isn't a small amount, but that's not all the money that they are making. Sahara and Nike, two of India's main sponsors will give each player more than what the BCCI has given. In 2003, each player received a similar amount and a house at Amby Valley just before the finals and look what happened.
For me, the average Indian cricketer is indisciplined. Yuvraj Singh's party pictures after the World Cup is a living example of that. It's great that he won the Man of the Series award during the tournament, but none of us can argue that he's a modern day sportsman with the physique to rival Arjuna Ranatunga.
For me, modern players like MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Kaif and Sourav Ganguly have made me feel proud to be Indian. When I look at the others, I feel embarassed. Sreesanth, Sidhu and Harbhajan Singh are prime examples of players who I see and want to cringe in embarassment.
In a way, when I look at it, I feel that people like Anna Hazare going on a hunger fast was the best thing that happened to Indian cricket. Otherwise, we'd still be having lead stories on who won what after the World Cup. And yes, they would have been Page 1 stories.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Notice the similarity

Notice the similarity?
I'm sure that the Bangladesh bowlers did.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Give the bowlers a county stint

Bowling in the subcontinent can be a pain, especially if you're trying to make your mark. You achieve success only after a lot of initial struggle and sometimes that success comes towards the end of your career.
Kapil Dev, Srinath and Zaheer Khan have been India's best bowlers on the subcontinent, with both the new and the old ball. Chaminda Vaas has been the same for Sri Lanka.
I do not include Pakistan in this because they keep producing genuinely quick bowlers - guys who can clock 95 mph on a regular basis. Sri Lanka has Lasith Malinga, which is why I don't include him alongside Chaminda Vaas either.
India didn't have the best bowling attack in the World Cup. All of us admitted that time and time again. Yet, Dhoni used his limited resources pretty well and they clicked when it mattered the most.
Currently, the IPL is going on. The money is good. And the game suddenly looks glamourous. However, while a T20 game does a lot for a bowler to improve his variation (we've seen slow/medium and fast bouncers this World Cup), there is something missing.
County cricket changed Zaheer Khan's
career for the better
There are a lot of kids in India who dream of bowling fast for their country. They make their debut in an overseas tour, are hailed as the next big thing and suddenly fizzle out. Over the years, we've seen names like Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, RP Singh, VRV Singh and more recently Ishant Sharma be victims to that. All of them have bowled at 140 plus for a while, but fizzled out. Today, people still laugh at Munaf and wonder what RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma are doing. Sadly, not too many people remember that VRV played a couple of matches for India.
Most of these guys lose confidence and wonder where their career is headed. Srinath and Zaheer were lucky that way. While they played cricket throughout the year, there was time to take a break. There was no T20 craze when Srinath played and Zaheer has played T20 only in the later part of the second half of his career.
What helped Srinath and Zaheer out was a stint with an English county or Australia Shield Cricket. The kind of exposure India's fast bowlers would get from a platform like that would be incredible. They would learn from the greats, they would interact more with international players (county seasons are long) and they would come back as much improved bowlers. Look at Zaheer. Zak I was this raw bowler who liked bowling yorkers. He played some county cricket, learnt a lot and came back to be one of - if not the best Indian fast bowler ever.
Guys like RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma need this kind of exposure. Otherwise we'll just have kids coming and going and disappearing - the rut of the emerging Indian player. 

The First Day of Spring

The IPL is like spring for the BCCI.
If it wasn't for the World Cup, the IPL would be the single biggest venture for the BCCI to get some good cash.
So let's look at the first day of spring.
We had a good cricket match. Actually it was an awesome cricket match, given that KKR was part of it. But there were things that we're very used to seeing in the IPL These are as follows:
a) Some new kid making a good score to ensure that his team gets to a respectable total.
b) A veteran from the opposition nearly ruining the efforts put in by local lad.
c) A team crumbling after the veteran gets out.
These are patterns. And the IPL has been full of these since the tournament began. I'm not too sure whether everyone notices it, because for them IPL is like a three-hour long movie. However, in this case, the cricket is the commercial, and the brands and Shah Rukh Khan are sold.
Speaking of Shah Rukh Khan, he looked awful at the opening ceremony. We hope for his sake that Ra.One does well otherwise we may just see his face fall off like horror movie, although if I am to be honest, I'm surprised that it hasn't already.
Meanwhile...and this is a meanwhile, Bangladesh play their first ODI against Australia. And guess what, apart from a handful of us in India, nobody really cares.
That's also the tragedy of cricket in the subcontinent and makes us wonder whether it is worth celebrating spring. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The IPL diaries or something like it

I'm not the fake IPL player.
I have my moments.
I would get adrenalized after India beats Pakistan in a World Cup game and be part of a troupe that is screaming and dancing on the road.
However, in my defense, I would be equally enthusiastic had New Zealand and Pakistan played in the final. That's not a lie. After watching Ross Taylor hammering Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq the last time the two of them met, I think that it would have been a great contest to watch.
But a week after, the IPL and I'm not so enthusiastic about.
After the high of winning the World Cup, I'm sure that the BCCI realised that they're just a bunch of money hungry sluts and decided to make some more money.
So we'll have a million Zuzus, 6000000 Parryware loo breaks and Manoranjan Ki Maa fucking with our heads.
As @leftarmspinster so beautifully put, "The IPL is so confusing. I don't know which colour to bleed."
At least, the parties will look interesting, as will Shah Rukh Khan putting his carcass on a dias and gyrating to some ridiculous song from Ra.One.
It could also look depressing, as will the rest of the tournament.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The A-Z of the World Cup

I had written this for Mumbai Mirror. I made a couple of changes here and there because the finals are over. So check it out.

A is for Akmal who had many a drop
B is for spin Bowling, as the seamers flopped
C is for Cricket, the game they came to play
D is for an anthem called De Ghuma Ke
E is for England, who had some close matches
F is for Flop show, that was England after the Ashes
G is for Gary, India's best ever coach
H is for Hat-Trick, taken by Malinga and Roach
I is for Ireland, who had something to say
J is for Jingoism, felt on the Final day
K is for the Kiwis, who played the semis once more
L is for Loo Break, a toilet ad that was a bore
M is for Minnows, who in future may not be seen
N is for Narottam Puri, who is still around it seems
O is for Orange, the colours of the Dutch
P is for Ponting, who finally got his touch
Q is for Queue, and ticket buyers were a rabble
R is for Rahman, the minister of babble
S is for Sidhu, whose talent is to scream
T is for Tendulkar, he won the cup for the team
U is for UDRS, a hit or flop?
V is for Victory, India's on top
W is for Wankhede, always a super hit
X is for Xavier Doherty, a name we had to fit
Y is for Yardy, who went into depression
Z is for Zak, the spearhead of the nation

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Subcontinent cricket in the eyes of an Englishman.

Richard Parris is a friend of mine from the United Kingdom. He's not the typical London boy, though. He's not snobbish, loves to explore and is a martial arts expert.
He's down in India for six months to oversee the way one of my company's clients operate.
By blood, he's half-English, half-Australian. He loves watching football (especially his team Arsenal), reading comic books on his laptop and discussing cameras.
In short, he's super cool.
Richard was very generous in offering his house to all of us to watch the semi-finals and finals of the World Cup. For Richard, it was unique because like all other Englishmen, cricket was a game ruled by the subcontinent after it was created by the Britons. He compared the European love for football on the same level as India's love for cricket.
I think it was a novel experience for him.
Like most Englishmen, he played perfect host. He got us dinner and cut us chilled pieces of watermelon while we watched the game. He sat and stared at the two teams played, while all of us cheered and jeered. He felt the emotions rise and fall. And despite that, he still looked pretty passive.
That is until the end.
During the India-Pakistan game, there were a fewer number of people in the house, which gave us more opportunity to chill and take the match as it came. We reached his place during the second innings when India was bowling to the Pakistani side. During the course of the match, I asked him if it was this crazy during a club or a international football game. He said that, it would be madness in stadiums and pubs, but I wouldn't see people stopping cars and dancing on the streets. It would be more about them getting drunk and celebrating.
After we lifted the cup, he made a very interesting observation. He began telling me about how the celebrations were not as intense as it was during the semi-final victory. We finally reasoned out that the India-Pakistan game had a lot more emotions than the India-Sri Lanka game, given that we've had some intense cricket battles with Pakistan.
I'm not sure what else went through Richard's mind. All I know is that despite putting on a neutral expression throughout the match, he was quite drained out by the end of the finals and wanted to sleep, so that India could enjoy what they had won.

The main reason to celebrate

I was five days old when India won the World Cup in 1983.
28 years later, MS Dhoni and his men lift it again.
One funny thing that I think when we win this cup is that sport's channels will now replace Kapil Dev's running catch to dismiss Viv Richards with Dhoni hitting Kulasekara out of the ground to win India the World Cup.
We've had a crazy 2011.
Scams have hurt us. Prices have risen. People have expressed displeasure. There have been multi-crore scandals and farmers have killed themselves because of their inability to pay off loans.
Then out of nowhere, 15 men dressed in blue come and make a difference.
Everything is forgotten. There are celebrations. India is one.
And yes, it's not about the cricket here. It's a route of escape for that joy we will savour in the weeks to come.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Was the cup a hit?

Aakar Patel wrote a very interesting piece on the Indian cricket fan. In it he describes how India loves India and how if any other country was playing, nobody cared.
He's been criticised.
But the truth is that he's absolutely correct.
How many of us saw Rizwan Cheema hit Murali for two sixes in the Sri Lanka Vs Canada game?
How many of us saw Ryan ten Deschorte make a century against England?
How many of us saw Ireland beat England? And by that, I mean the whole game?
If the answer goes above 10,000, then I'll change my name.
10,000 in 1.61 billion people is still nothing. However, it says a lot.
In comparison, how many of us saw each India match? I'm not going to even bother answering that question. The numbers were big and all of us know it.
Aakar's trending on Twitter at the moment and a lot of people are talking about the way fans watch football games in Europe. Two things here: there are crowds in football matches all the time. Be it a club game, be it a game between two nations - even in neutral venue - the grounds are always full. Where do we see packed stadiums in India if India is not playing. Would a ticket sell for Rs 1.25 lakh if Sri Lanka and Pakistan was playing the final? Would air fares increase to 22,000 between Mumbai and Chandigarh if India wasn't playing Pakistan in the semis? You know what the answer is.
This World Cup was a hit because three of the four subcontinent teams played a role in reaching the final four. Vodafone spent Rs 45 crore on its 3G campaign that launched during the World Cup. Ad rates, according to a few people, cost approximately Rs 20 lakh for a 10 second slot. However, these ads were only seen during the day-night games and when subcontinent games.
The matches played in the morning had empty stadiums and no ads between the overs. The game between England and South Africa had a decent crowd because it was played in Chennai on a Sunday. The problem was that India was playing Ireland on the same day. Suddenly we could see James Anderson and Stuart Broad changing ends, while we see an umpire requesting that he goes for a piss during the overs break during the India-Ireland game.
People talk of the 2007 World Cup as dark and gloomy. Sure Bob Woolmer's death had a significent role, but I wonder whether India and Pakistan's early exit also triggered a lot of things. It didn't help that the weather in the West Indies is unpredictable and that the matches were played when it was night in India.
Ever since World Cup matches could be screened on television, the only successful World Cups were 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2011. All these World Cups were successful because subcontinent teams were either in the finals or hosting the event.  I'm counting 2007 out of this because of the reasons I mentioned above.
So does the so-called cricket fan watch the World Cup for the love of the game or is it the only platform for him to vent out his frustrations at his team and the opposition in a large area. Emotions are high and he'll feel right at home. Pity about the game though. It's becaome something like Latin American football: a way to vent out your frustrations.