Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The new minnows

Ask an Indian cricket fan of their favourite test series in the last two decades and they will all say the 2001 series between India and Australia. That series was a great one, no doubt, but I don't agree with them. For me, the 1999 series between West Indies and Australia was the best series that I have ever seen. The series ended in a draw - an apt way for it to end, but to me that was test cricket at its very best.

I speak of that series with fondness because I feel sad for West Indies. Today, despite loving the game, I can't watch a series that involves the West Indies anymore. There was a time where i'd sit up and watch a test match till 3 am and go to sleep because it was fun.

If the West Indies are scrapped of test status, maybe
it'll be good for them to rethink their game
Despite their decline over the last two decades, I would still enjoy watching Ambrose, Walsh, Rose, Dillon run in and bowl. At the same time, while I'm not a fan, it would be fun watching Lara, Jacobs, Samuels, Sarwan, Gayle, Hinds and even for that matter despite the ugliness of his game, Chanderpaul. Now there is no Gayle. Lara and Jacobs have retired. Nobody knows whether Samuels has been given a clean chit over his match fixing allegations. Sarwan is woefully out of form and Chanderpaul, if you thought it possible, has made his game look uglier.

When I hear Tony Cozier, Michael Holding and Ian Bishop talk into their microphones, I feel sad. Tony Cozier has been around forever. He has seen the side touch the peak of sporting greatness as well as plummet to the very bottom of the rankings. Holding was part of arguably one of the greatest cricketing teams to have ever played the game. He now watches and we can only wonder what he's thinking when West Indies lose the way they do. Bishop, unfortunately, didn't get to play too much cricket. A great career was hampered by a career-ending back injury. He tries to be neutral, but you can sense the disappointment in his voice when he's talking about the West Indies.

Other greats like Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd and more recently, Andy Roberts have tried to do their bit, but have failed. These are the same guys who were instrumental in winning the West Indies two World Cups and spoke of unity and Caribbean pride. Sadly for the team today, there is no pride. The players play like they're doing the world a favour. There is wayward bowling. There are batting collapses. Now with Chris Gayle unable to sort out his issues with the WICB, is there a chance that the West Indies could become vulnerable in front of teams like The Netherlands and Ireland?

There are burst of brilliance. This was seen in the World Cup against Bangladesh. It was seen in the Champions Trophy final when they beat England. Unfortunately, even minnows have moments of brilliance. Ireland had it against England, as did the Netherlands during the recent World Cup.

I would be crucified for making this statement, but maybe that's why the ICC probably reconsidered minnows playing for the 2015 World Cup. That way, the West Indies could have played some games for pride. Maybe if the ICC would consider doing to West Indies what they did to Zimbabwe, things may be different for the game. And maybe we'll have more test matches like the West Indies-Australia 1999 series.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hashan Tillakaratne and the ghost of cricket past

Hashan Tillakaratne alleging match fixing in Sri Lankan cricket is a bit of a surprise. Not because he's made the allegation, but the timing.
Throwing a game away in cricket for money never went away. We all know this. It is an open secret, which even the ardent die-hard optimistic cricket lover cannot deny. Today, for me, watching a test match is poetry in motion. But at the back of my head, I always think something is amiss.
When Hansie Cronje confessed to killing the game and selling his country, I like millions of cricket fans was devastated. It comes to a point that sometimes when Sachin Tendulkar makes a century, I'm delighted. Other times, I think, "Was this century gifted to him in exchange for a house overlooking the Cape of Good Hope?"
Tillakaratne's allegations earlier involved cricketer-turned-politician Sanath Jayasuriya and cricketer-turned-administrator Arvinda de Silva. He then backtracked saying that he said no such thing.
Just before the West Indies tour, Suresh Raina was caught on camera with a bookie in Shirdi. His excuse was that the bookie could have just been in the frame at that time. While Raina can be justified with that excuse, he can't explain why the bookie was holding his arm.
We have an ICC chairman, who has alleged ties with Dawood Ibrahim. We have a former player, who has been accused of popularising match fixing in South Asia, coaching an IPL team, as well as being on a channel's commentary team. We have a politician-cum-commentator with a murder charge against him. Unfortunately, the poor bastard cannot be blamed. Most politicians in South Asia have a criminal charge against them.
Tillakaratne's charges just make the game a lot uglier. Sadly for cricket, it is not like that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Times are changing

Here's an interesting piece of history.
When we won the World Cup in 1983, we had a home series against West Indies. A West Indies team that was pissed off and wanted to show the world that India's victory was just a fluke.
And they did just that.
If I were to be polite, one word I'll use is buggered.
Now in 2011, we're going to the West Indies after winning the World Cup. (I will not count the IPL as a tournament).
We're going as favourites, despite having a second string side.
I can hear the purist yearn for the good old days where Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding would take pleasure hitting the heads of batsmen.
But now, West Indies has Ravi Rampaul and a team of slow bowlers.
It's times like these when we can truly say times are changing