Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Spot on, ol' chap

Finally, a sensible, well thought out and brilliant put across point of view on the emergence of twenty20 cricket, the importance of test cricket and the future of the game of cricket itself.

Adam Gilchrist, I salute you sir! For the vision, openmindedness and clarity amidst all the emotion and ostrich head in the sand perspectives that currently prevail.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Decoding Fake IPL Player

Must admit, I'm enjoying Fake IPL Player's blog (see previous post). Part of the fun is figuring out who's who in the "All characters appearing in this work (blog) are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and unintentional." Yeah, right!

For those who want a quick and easy ready reckoner to understand the cast of characters, I present the dramatis personae (in order of appearance):

Lord Almighty/Lordie – Saurav Ganguly
Coachie/Bhooka Naan – John Buchanan
New Skipper – Brendon McCullum
Vinnie/Winnie/Badshah Dildo – Shahrukh Khan
Phoren Babus – KKR Coaching Squad: Andrew Leipus (physio), Adrian Le Roux (trainer), Matthew Mott (coach)
Kishen Kanhaiyya Commentator – Ravi Shastri
Sheik of Tweak – Shane Warne
Bevdaa Team – Bangalore Royal Challengers
Big Sister’s Team – Rajasthan Royals
Calypso King – Chris Gayle
Mr. Batlivala – Vijay Mallya
RDB – Ranadeb Bose
Lordie’s troika (the other two) – Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid
Prince Charles of Patiala – Yuvraj Singh
Little Monster – Sachin Tendulkar
Mammary Land – where Sheik of Tweak is generally found
Pedophile Priest – Adam Gilchrist
Little John – Ishant Sharma
Very Very Special Friend Ram – VVS Laxman
Kaan Moolo/Young former India player who will remain a former India player – Ajit Agarkar
Appam Chutiya – Sreesanth
Bubblie’s Team – Kings XI Punjab
Lordie’s Boy/3rd suspect/Shakespeare – Akash Chopra
Main spinner/Style Bhai Spinner – Murali Kartik
Back up keeper /Reserve keeper – Wriddhiman P Saha
Young Aussie – Moises Henriques
Bangla Tiger/Buddy from Bangladesh – Mashrafe Mortaza
Junta Tormentor – Ajantha Mendis
Baja of Baroda – Anshuman Gaekwad
John Wrong – John Wright
Havai Chappal – Greg Chappell
Sandy Baddy Babe – Mandira Bedi
Commentator who crossed the border – Alistair Campbell
Meera Bhai – Harbhajan Singh
Babli – Preity Zinta
BubLee – Brett Lee
Bunty – Ness Wadia
Joker (TV anchor) – Meiyang Chang (Indian idol 3)
Sheegra-patan – Yusuf Pathan
Akram Azam – Kamran Khan
Ganji Hanger – Sanjay Bangar
Chintu Singh – Anureet Singh
Candy Nickle – Andy Bichel
Big Mac – Matthew Hayden
Big Sister – Shilpa Shetty
Biggest Bevdaa – Jesse Ryder
Peter Ka Beta/Re-Peter – Kevin Petersen
RVR Sing – Vikram (VRV) Singh
Mangal Pandey – Laxmi Ratan Shukla
Gilli Danda – Ashok Dinda
Boy George – Joy Bhattacharya
Little Sister – Shamita Shetty

Let me know if you think I've got any wrong. And I'll continue to update this list as Mr Fake IPL adds to his.

Paisa mat phekho, tamasha dekho

I'm not watching the IPL matches live on television. I just can't justify the Setanta subscription fees. Especially when the timing of the matches and my working hours mean at most I can watch about 40% of the tournament. Cricinfo allows me to stay in touch with the latest scores from the comfort of my desk. For free!

Of course, following cricket on the internet just does not provide the level of entertainment that watching live cricket does. Which is why the soap opera going on behind the scenes of the Kolkata Knight Riders team goes some way in filling that gap.

If you have absolutely no clue what I'm talking about, start here first:

And then just to gain a wider perspective on what might be going on, here's Lawrence Booth on Cricinfo:

By all accounts, the Indian media and their audiences are lapping it up. This week, on a long distance call to Dad, he asked for the link to Fake IPL player's blog. Shobhaa De had alerted him to something spicy through her media column.

Even the British media have got wind of this internet phenomenon:

Fake IPL Player and his blog have become so big so fast, they have become big news items themselves. A quick (0.13 seconds) google search reveals 158,000 links for him. And part of the blogosphere (including right here) is abuzz with commentary, views and who-be-it. Providing us television deprived cricket lovers with a different way to engage with the IPL.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Lalit Modi is the Kerry Packer of our times

Lalit Modi is an innovator. I say this not because he is an original thinker. I'm not sure he is. I say this because he has an incredible talent for making it happen. Against the odds.

Think about IPL 1. Launched at short notice, as a knee-jerk reaction to the modest success of the ICL. No shortage of sceptics. Within weeks the tournament was launched amidst pyrotechnics before and during the first match. Within days, it was clear the tournament was a hit. And the end of the season confirmed just what a blockbuster it was.

Roll on IPL 2. When the credit crunch threatened funding, two debutant English stars were sold for record seven figure amounts. When the timing of the Indian general elections put a strain on security arrangements, lesser mortals might have buckled. Not Lalit. He stuck two fingers to the Indian authorities and used his powers of making it happen to show the South African authorities the riches in store in return for playing host.

Like most innovators, Lalit has his detractors. They abhor his brashness. They hate his lack of respect for the normal rules. And they cringe at the way he tinkers with the game. It's just not cricket, is it? Bollocks! Innovation costs money. Money makes money. And if a 450 second break in between a Twenty20 inning helps keep the game going, so be it.

Kerry Packer was a hated figure among the cricket establishment in the late 1970s. He bought out the national Australian team (and some West Indians and English), which led to the drought in talent that Australia faced through much of the 1980s. Which in turn led to the foundations laid for the Australian dominance we witnessed through the 1990s and that has continued till last year.

Kerry achieved his objective in the end. To secure TV rights for Australian cricket. I'm not sure what Lalit's end goal is. But I'm certain he will make it happen.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

IPL 2009 - The Indian PERHAPS League

Perhaps it will be held. Perhaps it will be on schedule. Perhaps all the games will be played. Perhaps they'll all be at the same Indian Standard Time as last year. Perhaps not.

Perhaps the English will play. Perhaps they won't.

Perhaps it will be played in India. Perhaps it will be South Africa. Perhaps it will be England. Perhaps it will be (name desired venue here).

Perhaps you can play cricket in the South African autumn/winter. Perhaps the English summer will arrive early enough to accomodate the IPL.

Perhaps IPL 2009 will be broadcast by MSM/Sony Max. Perhaps it will be WSG Mauritius. Perhaps the High Court will decide. Perhaps it won't.

Perhaps Ricky Ponting will play after all, now that the venue is not a terrorist's playground. Perhaps Shaun Pollock will take a more active role with the Mumbai Indians. Perhaps we'll truly understand how a "mentor-cum-advisor" affects team performance. Perhaps some players will even play a full season.

Perhaps I'll subscribe to Pay TV Setanta to watch the games. Though I probably won't. It's a bugger to unsubscribe once the tournament finishes.

Perhaps the IPL will succeed in obsoleting the ICL. Perhaps ICL will make the most of the opportunity offered by this fiasco. Perhaps test cricket will find a way to fight back the IPL/T20 onslaught.

Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.
My prediction: in the end, "Paisamev Jayate" (Money Alone Triumphs)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Test Cricket: Quo Vadis

Where would we be these days without Cricinfo? We probably wouldn't have learned about this story, for example.

To my mind, the real issue is not what is being openly stated, but what's not being said. As I remember from the first draft of the proposed championship I saw (way before it was presented to the ICC), there was always space for "iconic" tours such as the Ashes, India/Pak, etc. In fact, James Sutherland even alludes to this in the article.

My take is that India are unwilling to sign up to the time commitment that such a championship requires at a period when they are looking to free up time in all nations' calendars to play the more lucrative 20/20. From the BCCI point of view, the FTP schedule ending in 2011, the flux situation with Pakistan, and the reduction in tests played by nations like NZ all contribute to strengthening the business case for more local and global 20/20 tournaments. And as the key instigator, guess who'll pocket the lion's share of the lucrative TV rights.

The ICC is in grave danger of becoming more and more irrelevant. The two Malcoms (Gray and especially Speed) really built on Dalmiya's initial work of creating more ICC owned events. Over the 1990s and 2000s, the ICC has gone from owning one event every 4 years (the ODI world cup) to having several events in its portfolio for which it can sell the marketing, TV and other rights.

The BCCI have obviously cottoned on to the fact that they don't need the ICC and have probably conveyed this to CA and CSA. The other's (NZ, Pak, SL, WI) will just follow the money. England are the only ones digging their heals in (and signing stupid deals with the likes of Stanford) in an attempt to counter balance the shift of power from Lords to wherever Lalit Modi has his office.

Think about it: if Modi builds on the success of the IPL, develops the Champions League and then mushrooms forther, from a purely monetary point of view, who besides the ICC really needs the ICC World Cup (50 overs), the ICC Champions trophy, the ICC 20/20? Please don't even get me started on the various ICC associate trophies. And ICC women's world cup? What the fuck is that all about?

Unfortunately, I believe, while Rohan Sajdeh's proposed test championship is a strong idea, it probably got elevated to the key stakeholders a bit too late. If this was presented in the previous cycle when the current FTP was being signed, and before the Wisden recommended Test Championship table was implemented, perhaps we'd be in the middle of a truly world Test Championship. In the current scenario however, I think it might need a bit of back to the drawing board, taking into account the current market realities.

Does this mean the future of test cricket is uncertain? Too right it is. I predicted last summer that we are seeing the last generation of test players. Rather cruelly by the year 2020, 20/20 will have seen off the last test match. Most of my fellow cricket lovers disagree with me on this one, but let's wait and watch. In the meantime, I must get back to cricinfo. There are a couple of test matches I'm following on the text commentary.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Your honour, the case for the defense

"A team second to none, on and off the field. The Australian team plays the game hard but fair", writes Paul Marsh, CEO of the Australian Cricketers' Association, in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Marsh uses the following facts to back his claim. And I have offered my cross-examination on each.

Fact 1: The Australian team was one of four nominees for the ICC's own Spirit of Cricket Awards at the September 2007 awards ceremony. With Ireland being one of the other nominees, the Australian team was considered to play the game in a better spirit than at least seven other full ICC members.
Runiboy's opinion: A fair comment

Fact 2: The Australian team is the only team in international cricket that has taken it upon itself to introduce and live by its own Spirit of Cricket pledge.
Runiboy's opinion: Aah, but note that it's their own definition of "Spirit of Cricket". Which includes not walking, appealing for non-snicks, mentally degrading the opposition (Steve Waugh's nomenclature), intimidating the umpires and throwing bats around.

Fact 3: Brad Hogg's report in the Sydney Test is the first time an Australian player has been charged under the ICC Code of Conduct in 13 months.
Runiboy's opinion: Wow! Meanwhile Sri Lanka without their own pledge of spirit have not had any players charged for more than 18 months.

Fact 4: Ricky Ponting has actively sought to introduce a practice among all international teams where the word of the fielder is accepted in instances of close catches. This has been largely rejected by other international teams, though it must be noted that the Indian team has accepted it for this series.
Runiboy's opinion: Ponting has taken it upon himself to create a holier-than-thou image for his team where convenient. If the word of the fielder is good enough for close catches, then how come the same fielder's word is not good enough for blatants snicks?

Marsh goes on to talk about the philanthropic efforts of Ponting and his mates. Please Paul, keep the arguments to the pitch. There's been enough of off-the-pitch antics that have clouded the issues. Sachin Tendulkar and others in the Indian team (as I imagine other cricketers around the world) each give back in their own way. What they don't do is tom-tom it to justify their performance on the cricket pitch.

Cricket Australia's Chief Executive, James Sutherland stood up for his team saying, "Test cricket is what is being played here. It's not tiddlywinks. The Australian cricket team plays the game tough, tough and uncompromising. It's the way Australian cricket teams have played the game since 1877 under all sorts of different captains. That is the way Australians have expected their teams to play." So, tell us James, where does your Spirit of Cricket fit within this?

And finally, Ricky himself had this to say: "What I want is for the Australian cricket team to be the most loved and the most respected sporting side in this country. That's always been one of my aims and it will continue to be." Well, Ricky, based on the media frenzy, fan hysteria and frowns from past Australian cricket and sporting heroes, in the aftermath of the Sydney test, your current actions are not working. Looking forward to seeing something different soon.