.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sight Screen

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Move over, Sunny, Ravi...

On my way out the door for the day, a little human interest story about a wannabe commentator. Aren't you amazed, at times, by the enormous passion there is among us for this game? And has it ever made you wonder just what might be possible, if this passion were to be harnessed by a far-sighted administration?
Good day/night, all; see you back in here tomorrow.

Diversity in unity

The next time anyone talks of team unity, I'm apt to throw up. No, honestly. If the team is a microcosm of the country, why expect from 11 players drawn from our midst something we are not capable of ourselves?
That rant, necessitated by this story:
A crestfallen official summed it up best. ‘‘Bengal cricket will go back to what it was 20 years back. The man who did everything for Indian cricket is now gone. We don’t know if he will be back again. The same goes for Sourav. That terrible feeling is back, the one that we had 20 years back when Bengal cricket was at its worst,’’ he said.

Here's an amusing sidelight:
Yesterday’s comment by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee didn’t go down well with the state’s cricket body. Hours after Dalmiya was dethroned and the hub of Indian cricket shifted base from Kolkata to Mumbai, the CM went on record saying: ‘‘Good riddance’’.
Bengal cricket officials, already distraught with the results, are fuming at his reaction. ‘‘Who is he, after all, to air his views in such a negative vein about Dalmiya losing the Board elections?’’ said a top CAB official.

Welcome to the club, Mr Bhattacharjee -- and learn its most important lesson: You are great, as long as what you say is what we think, and want to say ourselves. Depart from the party line, and you better be able to duck, quick, before the brickbats come flying at your head.
I mean, just the other day, the Bengal CM was a hero for his fighting talk on the lines of 'let's see how Sourav is kept out of the side'; and today? Um.

New home for new broom

More on the changes in the BCCI, this time from the Indian Express
No sooner did the BCCI realise that there was more than just a possibility of him winning, it took a week for the board office in Mumbai, lying in a shambles, to be renovated. The offices are set to move from the existing cramped location at the Brabourne to a spacious and swank set-up at the Wankhede Stadium.
A 10,000 sq ft facility had been agreed upon by the MCA in a new building that is to come up at the Wankhede premises. ‘‘A media committee, team sponsorship, TV rights, legal issues, stadium infrastructure, players’ contracts, salaried employees and a CEO,’’ are among the other top priorities he listed soon after winning the election.

Shameless self-promotion

About 12 hours ago, Worma in an email wondered whether the polite soundbytes re Jaggu Dalmiya's place in the new dispensation was just that -- polite soundbytes. My take at the time was
Don't forget that for 21 years, JD has been running the company. You cannot take it over one day, and expect to know where the minefields are; my guess, based mainly on knowing how Bindra and Modi in particular operate, would be that they will keep Dalmiya involved till they fully have the reins in their hands, then they will slowly marginalize him.

Now, in the Telegraph, I find this story, of Sharad Pawar seeking out Dalmiya for a meeting, before leaving Kolkatta.
“There are various issues, both at home and abroad, which involve litigation. If not properly handled, this could prove to be a liability to the Board,” Pawar said.
“Nobody except Dalmiya knows each and every issue. So… It is my duty to request his co-operation and use his experience in the interest of the Board as well as Indian cricket,” he added.

The other way around

From Sportstar, this story (wonder whether this received any media play at all -- if so, I must have missed it) about a captains' conclave to discuss improvements to the domestic format.
One opinion that had majority backing was that the Duleep Trophy should be played before the Ranji Trophy starts, rather than the other way round as is the practice now. The logic behind this particular suggestion was to give the top 75 players from five zones an opportunity to perform in order to be in contention for a place in the Indian side. A very good argument, and it was accepted by the BCCI, but people who chose not to attend the conclave despite being invited to do so made a hue and cry about the `outrageousness' of the Duleep Trophy being played before the Ranji Trophy.

And furthering the argument, this:
By playing Duleep Trophy before Ranji Trophy, the BCCI is `diluting' the importance of the Ranji Trophy, felt these critics.
I have not been able to understand this `diluting' business. How does performance in the Duleep Trophy played after Ranji Trophy in February help a player get into the Indian team? Apart from England, all the other countries have an off-season. The player's form during the season is a total waste if it can't get him closer to the national dressing room. Almost 405 players from 27 associations (15 players x 27 associations) participate in the Ranji Trophy and the zonal selectors are expected to pick top 75 players out of these for the five zonal teams.
This system's big advantage to selectors and the coach of the national team is that these 75 players get a chance to perform so that some of them could be considered for international series played between November and March. The most hypocritical comment came from the West Zone captain Sairaj Bahutule who said that if the Duleep Trophy is played before the Ranji Trophy, players won't feel motivated to play Ranji matches.

New brooms

Equally with the performance of the Indian team, the performance of the BCCI is going to be keenly watched these next few months; here, from the Telegraph, early clues to what could be in the offing.
Instead of a much talked about Chief Executive Officer, the Board may actually appoint two very senior professionals — general manager (cricket operations) and general manager (finance and marketing).
“Mr Pawar would like the two biggest roles to be separated, something he has managed to do in Mumbai, and handled professionally. However, any move towards professionalism must first be approved by the working committee,” a senior member of his group told The Telegraph

And, significantly, this:
The first working committee meeting under the new dispensation is going to be held in Mumbai on Sunday. Apparently, Pawar wants it to meet “once” every month and not at irregular intervals.

Now that last is a real change -- under the earlier dispensation, decisions were taken; in some cases, they were even implemented; and then, once in a while, the working committee was whistled up to rubber stamp it.

The agenda

Been getting, in email, queries that pretty much take one single tack: Do I think the Pawar group, having got power, will be able to do anything constructive?
The short answer is, damned if I know. The thing is, the group has 10 months before elections are due again in September of 2006, and that is a very short time to actually make a difference.
The plus though is, they have a clear field; almost anything they do will make a difference. You cannot, based on what people who are in opposition say, make a judgement call on what they will do when they get power -- but for now, we only have their record in opposition to go on.
Based on that, and with the above caveats, the sense I got was that IS Bindra and his group would devote their time to administrative issues; Lalit Modi and his group will likely focus on television rights (which is an area he has done much homework on, and has strong views about) and possibly make the first moves towards a revamp of the domestic cricketing structure.
In this context, an interesting story I found in Mid-Day (Oh, by the way, sometime back when I referenced Mid-Day I found this note, that suggested that Mid-Day was not to be taken seriously, that it was a tabloid owned by the Mumbai lobby, whatever that is. A little note -- I worked for that paper for three years and believe me, we were a tabloid only in size; the content we put in there was what you would find in a mainstream paper and, with due concession to modesty, way better than some. And oh by the way, it is owned by Khalid Ansari, and operational control is in the hands of his son Tariq - neither of whom, to the best of my knowledge, are in bed with the Mumbai lobby, whatever that is).
Anyways, here is the story.

Raise a toast

The one feel-good story I have seen in a long time is this, on Cricinfo, about Sourav's return to the ranks.
What happened inside the nets though was merely incidental. Every eye was trained on Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid, and how they would react to the prodigal son's return. Dravid was first to have a chat, and then Ganguly spent five minutes behind the nets having a tête-à-tête with Chappell. There was no sign of rancour, just two professionals getting on with the job at hand.
After his own spell in the nets, Ganguly spent some time watching Sachin Tendulkar practise his drives against a boy throwing from 15 yards. With a smile on his face, he walked up for a word and for a brief moment, as Tendulkar waved animatedly with his gloved hand, you were transported to the days when the two were the most feared batting combination in the history of one-day cricket.

Oh good -- we have a sufficiency of Don Quixotes to tilt endlessly at imaginary windmills; good to see the pros getting down to the job at hand. Another item of significance:
The coterie that once surrounded him, and contributed in no small measure to the media disenchantment that cost him the top job, stayed at a respectful distance, and Ganguly then set about showing the team management just what he could do if selected in the XI on Friday morning.

That coterie -- and not all of them were comprised of media folk -- had, true to the nature of such coteries, surrounded Sourav, and become the default filter through which the player viewed the cricketing world. In the process, members of that group had told tales, including manufactured ones -- mostly on the Chinese Whispers ilk of 'this is what so-and-so said about you'; each fresh story suggesting to Sourav that he was increasingly being isolated within the team and the members of the coterie were the only ones looking out for his interests.
If distancing them is a deliberate act, IMHO it is worth more than say 200 runs scored against the Australian attack; it frees up Sourav to focus on the job he needs to do, and which he can, all other things being equal, do well: to wit, make runs, and make them in style (and forget that damn nonsense about 'batting all-rounder' -- the one major contribution to our current lexicon of the Sharmas Yashpal and Gopal, and of Pankaj Roy).

Men in fright masks

Integrity scares me; the sort of post-facto integrity that awakens once all chances of personal profit are lost. Vide this bit from Yashpal Sharma, on how scary selection meetings have been, in the Greg Chappell era.
He also indicated that Chappell's power in the board was reaching alarming proportions. "I've attended meetings," he said. "It's like being in a dictatorship. Anyone who tells Greg Chappell that other opinions can be allowed, is being removed."

Yes, Yashpal, you have attended meetings -- for over six months now. Why, pray, didn't your democratic fervor, your antipathy to dictators, not wake till you lost your berth on the selection committee? Why, if you needs must fly the flag of integrity, did you not hoist it during all these months when you, like the rest, filed your share of one day before one day after bills?
No, seriously -- aren't you sick and tired of seeing such self-serving pronouncements? A politician merrily sucks up to the head of the party; one day, he fails to get something he wants -- and lo, integrity awakens with a thunderclap. The Pawars of this world, for instance, have found nothing but good in Sonia Gandhi -- until the forced parting of ways, at which point on, lo, there comes the stream of pronouncements about what a danger she is to India and to our democratic ideals. A Chhagan Bhujbal, a Narayan Rane, a Sanjay Nirupam -- all of these and more were happy playing Bal Thackeray's hatchet; then, as for one reason or other each found his importance in the hierarchy diluted, lo, 'democratic ideals' woke from the Rip Van Winkle slumber, and burst forth in a cascade of public utterances.
Wait and watch -- it is early days yet, but over the weeks, you can confidently expect to see those who have thus far hung onto Jagmohan Dalmiya's coat-tails start to feel their consciences; and then will come the pronouncements, from erstwhile cronies, of just how bad a bloke JD always was. Sheesh!
A note to those in the public eye: If you really want to be taken seriously, question injustice when you perceive it to happen; not when you are done lining your pockets, and there is nothing more to be had.

And on the selection panel

And in continuation of the previous post....Jai also had also asked about Prem's opinion on the new selection panel...and here is Prem's reponse on that one, which again I found worth posting here in full


The selection panel: There are actually two issues here. Firstly, the fact that most of the new entrants have not had much international experience is being framed in context of Sourav Ganguly – which underlines my central premise, that these days, pretty much everything has to be viewed through the prism of one player.

Sanjay Jagdale, for instance, first became a selector in either 2002-03 or 2003-04 (I am typing these responses on the fly without doing any search, so can’t pin the date down off hand. I do remember that in 2003, when Dalmiya won re-election, Jagdale (as also More, Roy etc) were among the selectors he immediately reconfirmed. And consensus at the time was that SJ was one of the better selectors we have had. Strangely, no one ever fussed about his cricketing credentials then – but now, his re-entry is greeted with a hue and cry? Is that because of his credentials, or because of some mystical connection with the SG affair?

Interestingly, throughout last year, no one has ever had any comment to make on VB Chandrasekhar, no questions were asked about his international credentials – which are actually less than Bhupinder Singh; VBC has played ODIs, BS has played both Tests and ODIs. Not much of either, sure, but like I said, more than VBC.

All of this leads to my primary point – we really have to stop obsessing about SG and tying everything that happens to him; it does SG, more than anyone else, a disservice.

One final thought: Every media report that emerged following the selection of the Test team made one point – that Pankaj Roy and the two Sharmas worked, from the start, with the one point agenda of bringing SG into the Test team. Let us leave out the question of whether SG needed to be included or not for the time being (not ducking the question, merely focusing on the one under discussion).

So, put bluntly, here you have three selectors who, from the outset, worked with a one point agenda. SG has to be picked. Drop VVS if you have to. Do whatever, but pick SG.

Is that a fair description of what happened? If yes, what is your honest assessment of any selector or selectors who come into a meeting with such closed minds (again, forget SG – we are now discussing the process of selection). In the end, what exactly did this troika accomplish? Put bluntly, the complete humiliation of Sourav. No one – NO ONE – would really have been in a position to argue, had the selectors come out and said, okay, we picked SG as a batsman because he hasn’t done anything, in his last Test series, to warrant his omission; he has a tremendous record as a cricketer and leader and in all fairness and in the interests of natural justice, this team and this country owes him a chance to show that earlier form slump was merely a blip, and that he still has what it takes.

That statement was what the committee OWED Sourav. Instead, what did they dish out? We considered Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly, and decided to drop Zaheer and pick Sourav since the latter is an all rounder!!!???

Excuse me? Does such crap really do honor to a player of Sourav’s stature – or does it signal that SG got in through the back door? I doubt SG would personally have ever asked the selectors to get him in by WHATEVER means; had he been consulted before coming up with this ludicrous pick, he would IMHO have gone thanks, but no thanks – he is a proud guy, conscious of all he has achieved, and this crap did him no favors whatever.

That in sum is what the three guys who have been dropped have in reality achieved. In doing that, they have shown that they are amenable to outside voices. We spend all our time carping of selectors who buckle under regional, or other forms, of pressure – and now make martyrs out of a bunch that clearly did just that? Why precisely are we mourning their exit again?

There is of course a larger question – do I agree with the composition of this selection committee? Of course I don’t, dammit – starting 1996 when I first started writing on cricket, I have consistently argued that the entire structure of the committee is flawed; that (1) you cannot pick zonal selectors and still expect them to represent national interests and (2) that a committee whose components are depenedent on annual election results can never be counted on to do the right thing, as opposed to doing what ensures their own survival.

I have, too, suggested what to my mind is the ideal solution. We have a large roster of players who have played both forms of the game; within that, we have any number of players of proven integrity. My selection panel will be two-layered. The top layer, which actually picks the teams, will be comprised of three former India internationals who have (unlike VBC and even Gopal Sharma, for that matter, more than token expertise. These men would be picked with care, and given at the least a three year tenure (with the codicil that bad performance would entail dismissal); they would be paid to do the job they have been given, not have to fudge accounts to make money.

Below that is the second, equally important tier – of five former India internationals who will serve not as selectors, but as talent scouts. At least two of them will mandatorily be present at every domestic game; at least one national selector ditto. At the end of each game, the scouts and the national selector will need to draw up a comprehensive report on all the players, pros and cons; this needs to include recommendations for future action (for instance, if you spot an Ambati Rayudu who has in the past done well but seems to be fading, the obvious recommendation would be that the BCCI cricket committee talk to the lad, find out what his problems are, see if they can be resolved, and ensure that he gets what he needs, by way of coaching/a trip to some foreign academy/the sorting out of problems within his zone/whatever, so that his potential, underlined earlier, is not squandered.

These reports would go into a central database available to all selectors and to the captain, coach and other members of the team management, so that when they come for the selection meetings, all are well informed about the options available out there.

There is more, but that is an outline. And IMHO, that takes much of the current heartburn out of the process of team selection. In the interim, to moan that a Jagdale has no international experience (a point no one saw fit to raise for the three years that he has in fact served as selector, unquestioned) is IMHO merely picking firing over a handy shoulder.

GC's gesture and SG's status

One of our participants on the DG, Jai, asked Prem about his opinion on the whole controversy around GC gesturing to the crowd. Below is Prem's response (all this via email) which I thought was worth posting here in the full.

Also relevant is is the portion here written in context of Saurav's selection into the team (my emphasis added on that) which is, sort of, in continuation of the theme carried in Dileep's cricinfo article I just posted about:


Firstly, I *had* in fact spoken of the Chappell finger, and related issues, earlier. Here is the link.


To paraphrase: Yes, I find the action of flipping the finger reprehensible, and worthy of condemnation; this is unequivocal, there are no ifs and buts and maybes attached. And I do not believe that ‘provocation’ justifies reaction, if the reaction is not within the bounds of decency (A personal example: You won’t argue, I hope, that much of the bad behavior we saw in the comments field before it got shut down was deliberately intended to provoke, just as my being blocked from the comments field was. And yes, it was upsetting, it was hurtful – and on more than one occasion, I have been tempted to answer in the same language that was used to me. I doubt, though, that had I lost it and used vulgar abuse in my turn, such a course of action could have been ‘justified’.)

So, item one – what Chappell did, and I don’t for a moment buy that stuff about an injured finger, was beyond the pale.

That said, a few other things equally need saying (and please – let’s stop debating things in isolation, when we all know that everything that happens is linked – a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon rain forest, et cetera).

So – while condemning the action, and also stating that provocation does not justify reaction (I remember once, I got into a street fight because I was going for a walk with my sister and someone said something I couldn’t take; my dad’s only response when he came to know about it was, ask yourself this – a pig lives in the gutter, that is his natural habitat; what exactly are you doing, when you descend into that gutter to speak to the pig on its terms?), other acts equally need condemnation.

The booing of an Indian captain, whether in Bangalore or in Kolkatta, merits condemnation. And here, as with Chappell, no ‘provocation’ – loss of form, wounded regional feelings, whatever – justifies it. We can disagree over who represents us, but once someone walks out onto the field wearing the captain’s armband, and the national flag on his cap, he happens to be our visible representative; to boo him and abuse him before foreigners reflects no glory on us; it merely creates a handy wedge for the alien to exploit – as, in fact, Graeme Smith sought to.

Some of the more abusive acts – like holding the funeral rites of someone who is alive (and that this has been done to Sonia Gandhi and others is, again, no ‘justification’; precedent does NOT make something right) is among the more reprehensible acts I have seen in recent times. Those rites have a religious significance, and a deep emotional connotation for those of us who have done that, in sorrow, for loved ones we have lost; to use it as a means of flipping a metaphorical finger at someone you disagree with shows a want of grace, of feeling. I notice many people – including a few politicians and officials – suggesting that flipping the finger is counter to our culture. Is then the holding of a shradh for a very much alive More or an equally alive Chappell an act that has been enshrined in our cultural idiom?

All of this actually underlines the situation we have arrived at – we are now two groups, confronting each other across a barbed wire fence of anger, distrust, hate. Neither group is prepared to see things from the other side’s viewpoint. Neither side is prepared to accept that there might in fact be a middle ground. Instead, what we do – ALL we do – is closely scrutinize every single action, every statement, every thing done and not done (the team failed? Bring back Ganguly – without even asking whether the one player would have in fact made a difference say on that Gardens track. The team succeeded? Enough, force Ganguly into retirement – without considering whether that one player and his skills, when at their peak, may not in fact add vital value to an already good side) and sift it for ammunition to use against the other side.

How does any of this help? Admit this – for all the screaming, for all the boycott calls and shradh ceremonies and sacking of selectors and flipped fingers, Sourav Ganguly is the master of his own destiny. If he makes runs (and yes, he will play against Sri Lanka, recent ‘informed sources suggesting he won’t notwithstanding’), if he plays in the fashion of his pomp, there is no power on earth that can force his ouster. And if he fails – I don’t mean in one game; IMHO a take on SG the Test player can NOT be taken before the end of the Pakistan tour – all the screaming, shouting, and saying GC flipped a finger therefore Ganguly should play, is NOT going to earn him a merited place in the side.

If we had to protest, we should have protested the day the ‘inquiry committee’ came up with its short-sighted band aid of a conclusion. On that day, on Rediff, I wrote a piece asking then president Mahindra what his statement meant? Was GC lying? If yes, I said, sack him now. Was he not? Then clarify what your conclusion is on the charges, let’s have some closure.

Was that not a logical thing to say? Were we not entitled to being told the truth? Did we not deserve closure on what is clearly a hugely emotional issue?

If the answer to that is yes, then why is it that no one – no ONE – demanded honesty from those who had set themselves up as arbiters on the issue? Where were the protestors then? How many shradhs did we perform for that ‘committee’, how many fingers did we flip in its direction? Surely an honest enquiry then would have ensured that the unedifying spectacles we have been treated to since would have been forestalled?

By allowing ourselves to be seduced, thus, into a pointless discussion that has gone on ad infinitum, ad nauseum, we do no one any favors: not us, not our team, and most certainly not Sourav Ganguly, who does not deserve to be, when the history of this period is written, painted as the man, the force, that divided the team and the country.

Return of the Prince(-worma)

Very interesting take by Dileep Premchandran on cricinfo around Saurav's return to the team today at Chennai. The stress was on the fact that, despite tumultous battles being fought over his status in all corners of the world, his return was anything but.
Dravid was first to have a chat, and then Ganguly spent five minutes behind the nets having a tête-à -tête with Chappell. There was no sign of rancour, just two professionals getting on with the job at hand.

And there are hints of how the world seems to have changed around him which, to me, is the most significant development in the prevailing context.
The coterie that once surrounded him, and contributed in no small measure to the media disenchantment that cost him the top job, stayed at a respectful distance, and Ganguly then set about showing the team management just what he could do if selected in the XI on Friday morning.

And knowing Saurav's determination, Dileep who himself has been a vocal detractor in not so recent past has this word of caution for all
And given how often he has proved his detractors wrong in the course of a career yielding over 15,000 international runs, you'd have to be inordinately brave - or foolish - to write him off. As Simon and Garfunkel put it so poignantly in The Boxer, "He carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him ... but the fighter still remains".

Prem - status update

Prem would not be on the blog till 4 p.m. his time...busy with meetings.

India-Pakistan T1-Day6(-worma)

Yes, Bhajji and Kumble can be bowling in tandem to Inzy and Sami on a day 6 pitch. ICC is considering the option of increasing the length of test matches in Pakistan to 6 days, going by the amount of time lost in the tests of the ongoing English series. And this because both the morning and evening conditions have made it almost impossible to recover any lost time.

Playing in floodlights is still a valid option, but Jonathan Agnew highlights the problems with that provision.
Since there is always a team on the defensive in a Test match, this meant that as soon as the artificial light took over from the natural light, it was in one team's interests to go off the field.

Ofcourse the new 6 day rule is still being considered for matches in Pakistan, no hints yet of how soon they can come into force.

Update: Saurabh Wahi, one of our regulars, says that ICC is once again shying away from addressing the actual problem(slow over rates) and in the process creating meaningless changes into the game.

As a proof, here is a *small* list of test matches played in Pakistan(and some of them not very long ago) where more than 450 overs were bowled in the match (and presumably these were also played in the same winter time frame)

Vs season Ground Balls
450 overs or more

NZ 1955/56 Lahore 3189
Eng 1961/62 Lahore 2711
Eng 1961/62 Dhaka 3142
Eng 1961/62 Karachi 2975
Aus 1964/65 Karachi 2855
NZ 1964/65 Lahore 2718
Eng 1972/73 Lahore 2753
Eng 1972/73 Hyderabad (Sind) 2864
425 to 450 overs

Ind 1954/55 Lahore 2595
Aus 1998/99 Peshawar 2605
Aus 1998/99 Karachi 2662
SL 1999/00 Rawalpindi 2599
Eng 2000/01 Karachi 2582
SA 2003/04 Faisalabad 2646

He also umm..asks...'does the ICC not have computers'?

PawarPlay 2(-worma)

Sunny Gavaskar is being replaced by Mr Dungarpur as the NCA chairman. And before even going into the merits/demerits of such a move, can we atleast know what great role does the NCA chairman play in the development of Indian cricket?

Is he responsible for spotting talents in the academy...nurturing them...promoting their case...honing their skills...what? Does he have a well defined link to the selectors (regional or national)..does he give inputs to the national coach on specific strengths of the new talents?

No seriously...I'm not sure what's his brief...anyone?

And another one(-worma)

Sambit Bal at cricinfo tries to analyze the possibility of a change in the Indian cricket scene as linked to that at the top. First the word of caution why its not advisable to be over enthusiastic about terms like professionalism, transparency at the arrival of essentially a career politician. At least, not yet.
Of the men who have replaced them, Sanjay Jagdale is an old hand, and despite his lack of Test experience, served his previous terms with distinction. He should have got the job on merit, but would he have got it hadn't he, in his capacity as a voting member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, switched loyalties and voted for Pawar? There isn't much to judge Bhupinder Singh (Sr) and Ranjib Biswal by. Like Jagdale, they too might prove that you don't need to have worn the Test cap to judge Test credentials. That will be Indian cricket's good fortune. But the process of selecting the selectors remains politicized and it is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future
Although he is ready to give the benefit of doubt to Pawar who was probably driven, at this stage, by compulsions of pre-poll promises.

But, on balance, I feel the reason for optimism, as detailed here, is much more crucial
Pawar has managed the system to garner the votes, but now he will have to challenge it if he wishes to take Indian cricket forward. In a sense, he is ideally suited for the task. Of all the BCCI presidents in the recent past, he is least dependent on cricket for the sustenance of his public life. What he achieves with Indian cricket can enhance his public profile, but the matter of his reelection wouldn't matter to him as much as it did to Mahendra, a politician of much lesser consequence, or to Dalmiya, a successful businessman who has never hidden the fact that he enjoys the spotlight cricket conferred on him. That he has a much bigger life outside cricket is his biggest strength.

So what's he in it for(-worma)

More on Pawar...who's still making all the news today with his BCCI elections victory yesterday. This report in Telegraph tries to look into the reason why a man who was, until recently, gunning for the top job in the country has decided to enter sports administration in a big way.
The political situation in his home state, where not a day passes without some partymen crossing over to the Congress, has contributed to his “disinclination” towards politics. Battling illness and a diminishing political base, Pawar is unwilling to toil without getting the country’s top job.

This is one of the explanations being cited for his tilt towards cricket. When his associate N.K.P. Salve was heading the BCCI some years ago, Pawar would often rib the chartered accountant, asking him why he was '“wasting time' on a leisure pursuit identified with the maharajahs of Patiala, Vizianagaram and Gwalior.
And there's a surprise cricketing connection in the family as well
With cricket, of course, Pawar has family ties: his father-in-law Sadashiv Ganpatrao Shinde was a leg-spinner who made his debut at Lord’s.

SL test series(-worma)

With the Chennai test likely to be severely affected by rain (as many of you have been pointing out in your comments), this may be good news for India.

Kanpur is the kind of flat track which would have played to the advantage of SL lineup that, I feel, would play more for a draw in the match and series which, by all indications so far, is India's for the taking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pawar plays

Back after that good bye post, because I forgot to round up the Cricinfo content on Pawar. Here you go: Anand Vasu does a summation of Jagmohan Dalmiya's legacy:
And it is not without good reason. Every time he has had the chance, Dalmiya has struck down his opponents with force. Where the tap-tap of a jeweller's hammer may have done the job, he brought down the construction wrecking-ball, and now he is going to find it hard to catch anyone in the opposition who will take a soft line when it comes to him. But these opponents would do well to remember that Dalmiya is not the caricature the media has made him out to be. In many ways he is India's most successful administrator, and even those that hate him must not be blind to this.
That he was unidimensional in his success - he equated it to the bottom line to the exclusion of everything else - will always be held against him. After joining the board in 1979, and slowly working his way up the ladder, Dalmiya, along with IS Bindra, fought off Doordarshan and the Telegraph Act and claimed a rights fee of US$ 40000 for the 1993 home series against England. Up until that series Doordarshan had to be paid a telecast fee. He headed the organising committee of the 1996 World Cup and sold the rights for US$ 10 million. Now, the rights for the 2003 and 2007 World Cups have been sold for a massive US$ 200 million. When he took over the ICC, the world's body had UKP16000 in its coffers. When he left the ICC had US$ 15 million, and a fresh contract worth US$ 500 million in its hands. If you're going to argue with those numbers, pause a minute and look at the state of other sports in India where penury at best and bankruptcy at worst are the norm.

Vasu, again -- this time with a report on Pawar's first media interaction after being elected:
"To develop infrastructure has become very expensive," he said. "Instead of keeping a lot of money in the bank, we have to take some decision to develop infrastructure on a regular basis. That should be done in a fair manner. Also, the existing infrastructure at Test and One-Day grounds need to be improved and raised to international standards. The board also has to consider ways in which we can support our state units."
Pawar said that it was a priority of the board to set up a media committee. "It is high time to bring professionalism in the functioning of the Board. We deal with public at large, media and sponsors. It is our responsibility to keep very good relation with this cross section... We have to take a professional approach in day to day running of the Board."

SK Sham, meanwhile, does his impression of Sharad Pawar:
It was in 2001 that a splinter group in the Mumbai Cricket Association, in order to invited Sharad Pawar to take on Ajit Wadekar, the former India Tesy captain who was responsible for achieving two of the most significant Test series triumphs for India, over the West Indies and England in 1971, in the presidential election. In the showdown between the politician and the Test player, sympathies were with the player but the votes went to the politician.
But the politician, who was busy nurturing his newly-formed party, astonished everyone by taking up all outstanding problems, which were and solved them to the satisfaction all the warring parties. He also drew up new, ambitious plans for the expansion of Mumbai cricket far beyond the boundaries of the Wankhede Stadium. The acquisition of land in the high-value Bandra-Kurla complex followed the launch of a sophisticated indoor cricket complex and club-house, with another huge stadium in the offing to cater to the needs of the growing number of cricket-lovers in the suburbs. The ambitious project, costing Rs750 million (USD16.35 approx), is expected to be completed by the middle of 2007.

BTW, it is not entirely true that Pawar never visits his constituency to campaign for himself -- he does, famously, on the last day of campaigning. He lands in Baramati the previous evening, and at crack of dawn next day, gets in his vehicle and does a breathless whistle-stop tour of an extremely vast, and very rural, constituency.
In the 1998 elections, I went to Baramati to meet the man. When I landed up at his home, he was just about to leave on his campaign tour; when I told him I wanted to cover the one-day campaign (the only instance I know of in Indian politics where a politician feels the need for just one day on the stump to ensure his own win, no matter who the opponent is or what the prevailing mood is), he suggested I hop into his Pajero -- that was at 6.30 in the morning; it was 5.30 in the evening when he was done. I was exhausted; he was just settling down to an evening of work -- after meeting with a few hundred people already lining up with all sorts of petitions in hand.
This is the story I came back with; the interview I did with him during that drive; and this story on Baramati itself, that gives you some idea why the man doesn't have to ask for votes.
And now, really and truly gone.

The exercise of Pawar

What the hell, I thought I would add my quota to the puns on the Pawar-power lines. :-) But seriously, what kind of administrator is Pawar likely to be? Sandeep Dwivedi does a take, in the Indian Express, on the question.
The most revealing clue to the change at the top came hours later, at the press conference. You’re a busy man, Mr Pawar, will you even take our calls, one reporter asked. ‘‘You don’t need to call me’’, the new BCCI president said. ‘‘I have an excellent team, call any of them, they are competent to deal with any situation.’’
The change in Indian cricket was not one of personality or geography—the centre of gravity shifts to Mumbai—but one of attitude. Where Jagmohan Dalmiya controlled everything, fielding all calls and pulling every string himself, his successor Sharad Pawar prefers a looser, more democratic system.

And on the same lines, this:
Pawar’s biggest drawback—he’s not known for his cricketing abilities—may actually be his strength. Officials in the Mumbai Cricket Association, which Pawar controls, offered insight into his style of working. ‘‘We only give him a call when we are stuck in something and need his high-level intervention’’, said one top official. ‘‘He believes that former cricketers should be given a bigger role in the affairs. Look at the MCA body, there are so many cricketers there.’’ There is much work to be done in the days ahead and Pawar and his team, speaking on the record and off it, unveiled an ambitious plan today. Indian cricket will be the better if even half of that is achieved.

PS: And with that, I'm out of here for the day, folks. Back with you tomorrow.

On transparency

In the year 2004-'05, Cricket Australia earned a total revenue of 20.2 million dollars Australian, of which 50.3 per cent came from media rights, 26.7 per cent from sponsorships, 8.1 per cent from gate takes, 5.1 per cent from investment income, 4.6 per cent from overseas tour guarantees, 2.5 per cent from licensing, and the remaining 2.6 from sundry other sources.
I could do you a similar break up of expenses -- $48.5 million Australian for the period (which incidentally does not mean CA is running at a loss; it calculates profit and loss over five-year cycles to offset for wonky scheduling and other factors); I could further parse the incomes and expenses down into various smaller heads and tell you how much was spent under various heads (21.6 per cent of the 48.5 million on centrally contracted players, 13.6 per cent on state players, 28.0 distributed to various state organizations, 9.4 per cent for commercial operations, 8.8 per cent for finance and administration, 8.5 per cent for game development, 5.9 per cent for cricket operations, 2.5 per cent tour operations, 1.7 per cent public affairs.
How do I know? Sometime in 1997, during the period when I was reporting on cricket for Rediff, I wanted to know how CA manages its income and expenses. At that time, Aus-based businessman Darshak Mehta, who is close to the Aus hierarchy and invariably serves as the Aussie team's liaison man when it tours India, put me in touch with the Australian cricket board; in response to my query they sent me their annual report; since then, they have been automatically sending it over every year (as they do with a lot of other Indian journalists), and even though it is now over three years since I have had anything to do with regular cricket reporting, CA still sends me the report each year.
During this same period of time, I have twice seen the BCCI's annual report. On each occasion, it was smuggled to me by BCCI officials (on one occasion, the person who passed it on met us at a Colaba cafe, and passed the package under the table; you would have thought we were dealing drugs). Direct queries to the BCCI office have however invariably been met with denial.
Pawar's first sound byte on securing election was that he intended to introduce transparency; the BCCI's accounts would be a good place to start. The BCCI is first and foremost about money -- be open about what you earn and how, and what you spend and for why (in one famous instance, the then management of the Rajasthan Cricket Association billed the BCCI Rs 3.something lakh for alcohol expenses for a Diwali party -- and the BCCI paid; the whys and hows and who-tos are another story) and almost invariably, the administration as a whole will take on a whole new tone.

To errrr is human?

Ponting and Chanderpaul both believe technology has no place in umpiring.
"I have never been a big fan of technology and I will always say that for the simple fact the actual technology that has been used over the past few years hasn't been accurate enough to give conclusive evidence on dismissals. It is just part of the game I suppose," Ponting said.
"The human element in the game is vital to cricket. As players we are out there taking some good options and some not so good. I am sure the umpires will continue to do that as the players always have."
Chanderpaul, concurred saying: "You want to leave it as it is . . . umpires making decisions. If you bring in the technology umpires won't have a job again."

Must say I find the arguments a touch bizarre. WG Grace once famously refused to leave the field on being given out, telling the umpire: 'They are here to see me bat, not to see you umpire!'
On similar lines, cricket IMHO does not exist to provide jobs for umpires; it exists to ensure a contest between two opposing sides of skilled players -- a contest that should be dictated by opposing skill sets and strengths and weaknesses alone, and not the human vagaries of someone who is not in the playing 22.
As to the 'human element' Ponting is talking about -- if you mean the element that cut off Brian Lara's legs in Brisbane, or the element that made a mockery of decision-making vis a vis Inzamam recently, or any of dozens of ridiculous decisions handed out this year -- do we really need it? Which would we rather have -- another opportunity to celebrate the 'human element' of umpiring, or a Brian Lara in full flight against his most determined opposition?

Ah, bah!

Check this out:
Top Bollywood actors Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla will add glamour to the second one-day international cricket match between Indian and England eves on K D Singh Babu stadium here on Thursday.
The duo, alongwith actor and Lok Sabha member Govinda, would inaugurate the match Organising Secretary Mohammad Nawab, told reporters here on Tuesday.

Come on!! What's to 'inaugurate' about the second game in a series? And if the Bollywood stars are there to draw the public, that is pointless too -- anyone who comes to a cricket ground to see Govinda will leave when Govinda does.

Sunny on Rahul

In his latest column, Sunny Gavaskar is effusive about India's captain.
Dravid was ‘captain cool’ with determination lit large on his face. The presentation of the awards at the end of the match showed Rahul Dravid at his best as he thanked all the Indian supporters throughout the two series. He has been on the ball out in the middle with his bowling changes and field deployment, which helps in winning over the opposition but it’s the off the field that he is truly the big winner getting the crowds to come and support his team in huge numbers.

Kirsten's kudos

Gary Kirsten, in his sign-off piece after the fifth ODI between RSA and India:
The hosts, on their part, showed resilience in keeping up with the punishing schedule of recent weeks and recovering the lost ground. Both have made progress and are formidable one-day units. They are the teams in form.

On Yuvraj Singh:
It would be unfair not to mention Yuvraj Singh for he has been very impressive. He has got great pair of hands and I really liked the way he played under pressure in the series.
In the past he might have taken on too much but the new Yuvraj seems nicely tempered between aggression and caution. His footwork and shot selection has improved enormously.
He has a star presence in one-day cricket where he makes critical contribution in the field and with bat, not to forget his spin bowling which could be extremely handy for the Indians in 2007 world cup.

And on the two teams:
The turnaround in their one-day form has been stunning and credit must go where it is due. It would appear that under the new team management and fresh young talents, a cohesive, powerful unit is in the making.
South Africa too are under a hungry, young leader and has players who can perform multi-functions. It's fielding is probably the best in the world and if they could perk up their batting a notch or two higher, it would only help them grow further. As it is, they are making the world take notice of their progress.

Pawar's resume

G Vishwanath of the Hindu sums up Pawar's administrative resume here; an additional point would be his skilful handling of a stand-off between the MCA and the CCI, that he took the lead in resolving.

What's in a label?

VV Kumar doesn't often talk -- mainly because no one really thinks to ask him for a soundbyte. When he does, he tends to come up with something interesting.
"Perhaps to countermand the `negatives' of modern cricket — it is purely a batsman's game — a handful of spinning `greats' have coined words like doosra, floater, zooter, clipper, etc. Let me assure you that there is nothing new. These have already been experimented with in the past by renowned bowlers,'' says Kumar.

Won't spoil it for you -- go check out the story.

Chawla calling(-worma)

The U19 World Cup is scheduled for February next year in Sri Lanka. Going by recent form (and personal preferences :-) Piyush Chawla and Gaurav Dhiman are to be tracked closely.

This could turn out to be the final step before the big league call-up for Piyush?

To-do and don't

Ehtesham Hasan in the Mumbai Mirror has a to-do list for Sharad Pawar.
I'd want to add a few caveats. Firstly, merely giving voting rights to the captain and coach (I notice Raj Singh made that his first sound byte after the results are announced) isn't going to do the trick. Not suggesting it is not necessary -- it is. But equally, that is no magic bullet to ensure fairness, either (heck, right now, a sizeable section of cricket fans are up in arms suggesting -- with rhyme or without reason -- that neither the captain nor the coach is being fair to one particular player ; give them voting rights, and next thing you know every interest group upset over the omission of any player they fancy will be pointing fingers and adding to the pressure on two people who don't need the extra stress).
A revised to-do would be: Lay down firm guidelines on the qualifications for being a national selector (Should he have played Tests and ODIs or no? Should he have served as selector at the state level first, by way of experiencing what it takes?). Revamp the process of picking the panel, so that zonal considerations don't get into play (By, perhaps, nominating a three member panel, with a five-member talent spotting panel working with them and reporting to them?). And finally, delink the selection committee from the annual elections -- if a selection committee can only work November to October, and if its various constituents don't know whether they will retain their spots under the next dispensation, how do you expect the committee to have a long term vision?
Again, IMHO, simply appointing a CEO (again, between the aborted election and this one, I remember a certain Raj Singh waxing eloquent about how Sunny Gavaskar would make a wonderful CEO) isn't going to do much, other than provide a figurehead to trot out at ICC meetings and stuff; the one enduring legacy the Pawar group can leave behind is if it reforms the administration from the bottom up.
Firstly, as Niranjan Shah suggested, there is a case to be made for trimming the flab from the administration; too many committees, too many posts are created simply so slots on these bodies can be doled out as favors in return for votes. Then, professionalize the administration -- important administrative posts -- CEO, secretary, treasurer, etc -- need to be manned by contracted, paid professionals, not by those who have to depend on zonal lobbying to get elected.
There's much more that can be done: Get a BCCI website going; use it to publicise what the organization is doing and not doing, who its members are, what its finances are, and such -- the 'transparency' Pawar talked of begins there.
And oh, if you still have time before next September, when elections are due again, for god's sake reform the domestic cricket structure -- reduce the teams, compress the time frame for the tournament, mandate that at least one selector has to attend each game...
The list, think of it, is endless -- there has been an administrative paralysis stretching two decades or more; it is impossible for any one person or group to make up lost ground in the space of 11 months. But if Pawar, with his mandate, can make a start, get a process going towards change, we might end up in the same sort of situation as when PV Narasimha Rao dragged the country into the globalization mindset, and ensured that successor governments had no real choice but to follow the defined path -- in other words, they have the opportunity to trigger change that is irreversible.

'Thank goodness!'?

Had anyone other than West Bengal CM Buddhadev Bhattacharya reacted in those words to the news that Jagmohan Dalmiya (aka Mahindra, as one reporter put it somewhere) been defeated, there would have been some suggestion of regional bias. Given who made the remark, I begin to wonder: just what did the CM know that made him react in that telling, pointed fashion?
From the Outlook piece linked to here, two pertinent paras:
But obviously, it would be unfair to pass any judgement on Saurav Ganguly's cricketing career as of now, and reduce it merely to a faction fight in the BCCI. It would only be for the better for cricket if the board and the selection committee live up to their avowed intention of being transparent. So far Niranjan Shah, the newly-elected BCCI Secretary, has made all the right noises: "It is not because we have come to the power Ganguly has to go. It is up to the new Selection Committee to select the national side keeping in mind the best interest of Indian cricket."
On his part, Dalmiya, considered to be Ganguly's mentor, was forthright: "It is too uncharitable to say that Ganguly came to the team because of anybody's recommendations. He came on his own ability and performance. He did not need a godfather. Saurav still has three to four years of cricket left in him." Asked if he would stand by Saurav again if he faced injustice, Dalmiya said, "Not only Ganguly, I have always stood by players in my humble way."

Here we go again

If the next Rupa Ganguly film fails at the box office, will the headline go 'Sourav backer's film gets audience thumbs down'?
If Buddhadeb Dasgupta suffers an election reverse, will 'Voters nix Sourav backer' be an appropriate headline? (PS: As Soumya and others have pointed out, I mean Bhattacharya, not Dasgupta -- I really have to stop posting in the midst of doing other stuff; either post, or just figure I can't, and not do it)
Just wondering, based on this headline in the Hindustan Times.
Isn't it time we stopped framing every darn thing that happens in Indian cricket on pro- or anti- Ganguly lines? The Hindustan Times in its rush to judgment (none of the three newcomers have played Test cricket, it points out inter alia) forgets a couple of facts, chief among them being that Sanjay Jagdale, for instance, has been national selector for quite a while.
In fact, when Dalmiya won re-election September 27, 2003 as board president, Jagdale, Roy and More were already members of the selection committee and were retained for a second term. So why are alarm bells ringing now at his being re-inducted into the committee? (And in passing, Bhupinder Singh has actually played Test cricket for India -- VB Chandrasekhar, who was appointed by the Mahindra-headed BCCI, has not!)
This is not to deny the real debate -- who should sit on the selection committee, what should his credentials and qualifications be? That debate remains valid -- perhaps more so now, after all the heartburn of recent times, than ever before. But IMHO, these kaleidoscopic framings of the news of the day against the canvas of the Sourav Ganguly story does a tremendous disservice to the player himself.
Incidentally Multy, a regular on this blog, sent me this link from the Week; which details the selection meeting that picked Ganguly for the Test team.
Consider two paragraphs:
The pro-Ganguly gang first tried to knock off V.V.S. Laxman’s name as the seventh batsman and suggested Ganguly’s instead. The others put their foot down.
The Ganguly camp then used the bowling slot as a bargain. Dravid, according to sources, was keen on having a pace bowler. Having backed Roy on the Ganguly issue, the central zone selector was not keen on sacrificing players from his zone—Muhammed Kaif and R.P. Singh. In the bargain, Zaheer Khan, the left-arm pacer from Baroda who recently took 23 wickets from three first-class matches, became the fall guy.

And this:
Chappell apparently begged the selectors not to humiliate Ganguly by categorising him a 'batting all-rounder' but they were not willing to listen.

What I wonder is, have the three selectors who picked Ganguly as an 'all rounder' done him any favors? Or to frame that question differently -- if in the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka, Ganguly hypothetically fails to get any wickets, is that a good reason to drop him from the squad on the grounds that he is not delivering as an all-rounder?
(The answer, obviously, is no -- Ganguly is a batsman and should be judged as such; any bowling he does is purely a bonus to the captain and the side -- but once you dub him an all-rounder, don't you, for no reason other than that you had left your brains at home the day you made such a statement, enforce judgement of the player on those grounds, on that label?)
PS: This piece on Rediff basically paraphrases points made on this blog over the last few days; pointing it out before you guys wade through it and then go, hey, you said all this before! :-)

Smaller than life

I've always had this belief that the fans see more of the game than the 'experts' do; perhaps if only because the fans put aside work, and life itself, and watch matches because they want to, as opposed to the cricket reporters who watch because it is a job, because they must.
Reinforcing my opinion yet again is this blog entry, by Dileepan Narayanan, on Sachin Tendulkar. I'll avoid the temptation to synopsise, or even to quote a random sampler -- the piece deserves a hearing in its entirety.

More from the elections(-worma)

And then there are these 'right' noises from 'the camp'(as read here and here)
Farooq Abdullah, one of Pawar's closest supporters and former chief minister of Kashmir, promised a new transparency in the way Indian cricket is run.
And he also said they would be keen to work with Dalmiya an an attempt to end factionalism, adding: "We dont want Dalmiya to feel defeated, he has been a great administrator and we want his expertise and hope he will cooperate with us."
"A man like Dalmiya, with such a vast experience of running cricket affairs, will always have utility for the BCCI," Shah said after Sharad Pawar upstaged incumbent Ranbir Singh Mahendra to become the new president.
One would be almost forgiven for thinking there was a smooth transition of power! And this part also worth highlighting in Niranjan Shah's interview
On Sourav Ganguly's fate, he said, "It will be decided by the selection committee and it is not that he will be opted out just because Pawar holds the reins."

End of an era...

...or the beginning of another? (The two don't necessarily go together, do they?) Sharad Pawar finally made it -- a year after clever sleight of hand deprived him of a win that, till the last minute, had seemed on the cards. More accurately, Jagmohan Dalmiya lost his hold on power at least three years after legitimate, credible challenges were mounted on his throne.
I notice that between them, Ruchir and Worma have rounded up all the articles there are out there. Gives me a breather to get work done -- will come back in here in the afternoon, with updates and thoughts.

The English Spin(-worma)

Paul Collingwood used his lifeline today to ensure atleast a slightly bigger window of opportunity for him in test matches. Although I would have waited a bit more before hitting away at the critics
"People are going to have a bit of a dig - I've played five Tests and not made a hundred or anything. I can understand there's a few critics.
On a day when the English top three threw away their wickets (and with it the carefully gained initiative with 101/0 at one stage) to the innocuous spin of Shoaib Malik on a day 1 pitch, he still maintains that the English team plays spin well enough
"OK we lost a few wickets but generally we've played spin very well over the last few years and I'm sure we'll continue to do that.
And all I can say is...good for us(team India) if they live in that denial!

Sharad Power(-worma)

Yeah the title, around Mr Pawar's win, is a bit on the expected lines....and so are the first few moves from his camp.
The newly-elected Indian board today made three changes in the senior selection committee headed by Kiran More.

Bhupinder Singh Sr, the former Indian medium-pacer, was appointed as the North zone representative in place of Yashpal Sharma while Ranjib Biswal was named from East Zone in place of Pranab Roy. Sanjay Jagdale made a return to the committee replacing Gopal Sharma as Central Zone member.
Any guess on the..ahem...claim to fame of these three gentlemen being replaced?

And btw...guess who else is back
Meanwhile Raj Singh Dungarpur, the former president of the Indian board who is part of the Pawar camp that won the elections, stressed the need for giving voting rights to the captain and coach in selection committee meetings. "Captain and coach must be given voting rights," he said. "It is the coach who has a big role in making policy decisions and it is the captain who implements them on the ground. So they must have a decisive say in selection meetings."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Noted in passing...

...this very small story, of dozens of Mumbai-ites going around the city dressed in blue, the day of the game.
While it was expected that hundreds of spectators at Wankhede Stadium would be attired in blue, scores of others could be seen around the city, especially on the local trains that are the most popular form of public transport, though they were not heading towards the stadium.
"Just like that. India's playing at Wankhede," was the simple yet profound answer one of them gave when asked why he was dressed in blue though he wasn't watching the match.

Crystal ball gazing

Anand Vasu, on Cricinfo, provides an overview of tomorrow's day match between the Dalmiya XI and the Pawar XI. The math he does at the end of this piece, on which group is likely to vote where, is interesting -- though the size of the speculated margin makes me wonder a tad if it could be entirely accurate. For your reference, meanwhile, here is the entire voters' list.

The advantage down under(-worma)

Its an era of neutral umpires, so where is the scope for complaint? Ultimately, it evens out, doesn't it? Right....so I suppose West Indies team should celebrate their victory for the *next* Aussie series? And Lara should celebrate the flurry of fourtune-strokes he would generously receive in his next tour? Only there would be no next tour for him, and even if there was, he has copped enough bad ones in Australia for repentance to be out of scope for a single series.
And the knowledge that all four of yesterday's mistakes went against a team which has been soundly outplayed and therefore needing any morsel of luck it can seize only breeds disillusionment among fans desperate to witness a genuine contest.

Some blame it to the Aussie's aggressive style of appealing (equated to a 'wardance' in a famous article I cannot find the link to :-)
An over after the loss of West Indies' batting mainstay Brian Lara and with its innings teetering at 4-96 (an overall lead of just 73), Sarwan was struck flush on the foot by a fast inswinging yorker delivered by Brett Lee.

The fact that the ball was sliding down the leg side and all three of Sarwan's stumps were visible did not dissuade Lee from charging down the pitch with his arms raised in triumph without even bothering to address his appeal to the umpire.
Did someone mention 'overappealing'...or 'match referee'?...nope?

The new philosophy?

Was just reading Rohit Brijnath's piece on Dravid. Since Rohit obviously spoke to him (and judging by the piece, RD was his usual self, willing to talk of game theory and/or philosophy, but not willing to name names), and hence this piece likely resonates with what the writer was told, off or on record, this bit kind of stood up and asked that notice be taken:
His philosophy is matter of fact. Wasters, complainers, the lethargic, those who say why did 'X' get the new ball and not me, builders of cliques, players who don't smile at another man's success, these fellows need not apply, will not pass muster. Thanks, but no.
"It's very important to have the right people on board," he says. "We get caught up in visions and goals but it's first about getting the right people on the bus and wrong people off. If you have the right people, right attitude, right behaviour, you find a way."

Divine love

Not quite cricket, this:
Shunning her marriage with a retired government servant, the woman now considers the former Pakistani bowling spearhead as her husband. "I am yet to meet him (Akram). Whether he accepts me or not, I will spend rest of my life as his wife," Krishna said on Saturday.
Krishna claims that a ‘godly figure’ clad in white clothes had shown her Akram’s face in her dreams telling her that it was that of her husband’s. She claims to have started believing in the ‘godly figure’ following her family’s tremendous improvement in the financial condition after ‘he gave a fruit to eat’.

Win toss, win game?

In R Mohan's latest, an interesting little statistic that seems pertinent to the ongoing debate about whether the supersub rule is weighted in favor of the team winning the toss:
Dravid’s luck with the toss in Mumbai injected some faith back since the latest trend in ODIs show there is a distinct bias in favour of teams winning the toss after the new rules of super subs came into force.
The New Zealander Bracewell pointed this out recently to send reporters scurrying for the record book. The statistics are fascinating. Of 38 games played since the birth of the super sub in July, teams winning the toss have won the match as many as 25 times. In the comparable 38 ODIs immediately before the super sub era, teams winning the toss won only 18 matches.

What is a breach?

A rather curious story I stumbled on in the Hindu, just now (bit old, but then I haven't done much browsing this weekend): Bajji, we are told, was fined 25 per cent of his match fee for pointing Ashwell Prince the short route to the pavilion.
What intrigued me, though, was this bit about Andre Nel:
Significantly, the ICC match referee made it clear that no player from the South African team was reported for any indiscipline or abuse. The question arose since pace bowler Andre Nel was seen telling something to some of the Indian batsmen. "I cannot comment on what transpired on the field," said Crowe.
Then, did Andre Nel get away with his gestures? "No," asserts Sivaram. The issue was referred to the field umpires who, in turn, cautioned the South African pace bowler. Nel apologised for staring into Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and muttering words, which were not audible to the third umpire who does not have access to television's audio facility.

Um. Let's see -- if one player points towards the pavilion, that is a breach. If another marches up and, standing so close to the batsman he is in danger of putting the latter's nose out of joint, yells loud and long, that is not a breach because the third umpire did not hear what was said.
Does this then mean that the Indians need to cut out the mime show? And, next time, run up to the batsman and go, 'Right, mate, walk straight ahead 85 yards, climb the flight of stairs you come to, then make a left and there you go, that is the South African dressing room!', or words to that effect? Which of course wouldn't be a breach, because no one can hear what you said? Like I said, just wondering is all.

Another India win

Elsewhere, U-19 coach Venkatesh Prasad on his wards winning the Afro-Asian tournament at the expense of Sri Lanka:
The captain (Ravikant Shukla) said that it was a good preparation for the World Cup to be held in Sri Lanka next February, after the win over Australia in the one-day home series. Every aspect was analysed by the team and the coach showed a lot of involvement.
When asked what was his planning when Sri Lankan openers were scoring at a brisk pace, Shukla said he asked his bowlers to stick to the basics. This fetched rich dividends.

Dravid, Kallis on the game

On Cricinfo, close of series comments from Rahul Dravid:
"We've played some really good cricket in the last few weeks," said Dravid, "and it's a satisfying feeling that we could win this game and square the series. All our bowlers bowled beautifully today and the manner in which the spinners responded was particularly impressive. Though these performances have given us a lot of confidence and hope, we're not getting carried away and are making sure we have the long-term plans in mind."

And on crowds, this:
While adding a good word about the Mumbai crowd, Dravid said that the team had endured a tough week in the lead-up to the game. "The ways the boys responded here, in all aspects, is a tribute to them. The crowds have been nice to us in all venues, with the exception of one city, and it's understandably that crowds will not support us when we play badly. The Indian public deserves a good cricket team and expects us to always perform. I'm glad we fought back well today."

Jacques Kallis, meanwhile, standing in for the Proteas skipper, on what made the difference:
I think 240 would have been. It certainly got easier to bat on as the evening wore on. In the afternoon, it wasn't easy to score. We lost a couple of wickets early and had to get the innings back together. But I think it boiled down to the half-chances that we had when we fielded. They certainly weren't easy, but the three or four we put down made a huge difference. We certainly practice enough, so we'd have backed ourselves to take them.

And his take on the Indian side:
They're very strong. Some of the young players have put their hands up and come through for them recently. No matter where you play them, they'll be hard to beat. They're an exciting side.

Subcontinental battle - last chance for Eng(-worma)

Osman Samiuddin again takes an interesting look at the crossroads at which the Pakistan team stands prior to the Multan match.
England last lost a Test series in December 2003, in Sri Lanka. Pakistan won their last Test series one month later, in New Zealand. Something, you feel, has got to give
And Pakistan go into the match with Kamal replacing Younis at 3, and Raza getting Afridi's place at 6...with Inzy ruling out a promotion for himself, something which has been criticized at various points of time.Osman doesn't lay the blame on him though, given the situation the less than impressive showing of the team in recent times. But in the long run, to me, it seems like an inevitable move.
The approach is revealing of his captaincy; he is more willing to crisis-manage from lower down than perhaps imposing himself from one down. That delicate balance, between first ensuring safety before even thinking of attacking surfaced most apparently in Faisalabad and has marked his time as leader. It's difficult to assess given the personnel Pakistan has, but also difficult to argue against given how his batting has flourished.

England meanwhile go into the game with the pressure of their first potential series loss after 6 wins in a row. And with the additional burden of playing without Strauss (who is not in best of form, but still has been one of the stronger pillars in their successful run) and with a struggling Giles (who again is off-colour this time around, but cannot be underestimated for his significance in the winning formula of Eng).

Meanwhile a friendlier pitch and conditions seems to be in store for the English pacemen, although playing Anderson/Plunkett instead of Udal was a decision likely to be taken in any case. Although the helpful conditions are likely to pose an additional question for England, should Vaughan win the toss(for a change!)
But it will be interesting to see what Michael Vaughan does if he wins his first toss of the series.

A strengthened pace attack on a damp pitch points to fielding first, but any serious worries about the deterioration of the pitch should always make you bat when it is at its best.

And unlike Inzy, Vaughan is ready to lead from the front...typifying the front-on approach that has been the hallmark of this English team in recent times..although not always for its best.

Tresco is impressed with Akhtar's showing in this series.
There was a lot of talk about Shoaib's fitness but he's impressed me during the series. He's kept running in and has put in good spells at crucial times. He's mixed it up well, bowling yorkers and bouncers, as well as that outrageous slower ball that makes tail-enders freeze because they think it's a beamer. He's very effective in these conditions and stands out in their attack.
And understandably so since Akhtar, along with Inzy, has made the difference between a potentially good Pakistan side(like WIndies is showing in Australia) and a match-winning one. Interesting snippet about fighting boredom Killing the hours when you are not playing or practicing can be a problem.
My computer's been taking the brunt, especially the web cam, which allows me to speak to my wife and baby.

I've never been much of a book man, but I've got a Playstation and loads of DVDs. Between us, we've got about 300 different films and documentaries, so there's no need to watch any repeats.
Hopefully in India they would have more to do...and see..what with BCCI ensuring they travel to all corners of the country ;-)

The Cricinfo verdict

Siddharth Vaidhyanathan in his end of game verdict focusses on a curiosity.
Earlier in the series, Smith had joked that India were hiding Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but one has to question South Africa's tactic of holding back Kemp. Both at Bangalore and here, with the top order floundering, one would have thought floating Kemp, or even Pollock, higher up the order might have been a bold tactic to break the shackles, in keeping with the brave brand of cricket being advertised. Instead Prince and Kallis added 41 laborious run in 12.3 overs when the field was up, as South Africa gradually withdrew into a shell, just when some "extravagant cricket" might have tilted the scales.
SV also pays tribute to the one factor that, IMHO, really made a difference to the Indian efforts today:
His bowlers appeared to be squandering a great chance to nail South Africa early, with Ajit Agarkar spraying it around in his opening spell, but Dravid shuffled his resources around, enforced one-over spells, and didn't hesitate to regularly shift ends.
More significantly, bad bowling was masked by superb ground fielding, the fielders were kept up even when Powerplays weren't in operation, and batsmen were left to rue every loose ball wasted. Yuvraj Singh, at point, dived around as if propelled by a spring in his shoes; Mohammad Kaif, at cover, was at his sprightly best; Harbhajan Singh, mostly spectacularly, covered a wide arc at the square boundary; and RP Singh, at third man, regularly let fly accurate throws over the bails.

That really has been the most significant factor in the ODIs of this home season, against both SL and SA -- barring the odd blip, the Indian fielding has touched, and sustained, levels never imagined previously. We have always had the odd good performers -- a Kaif at cover, say, or a Yuvraj at point; never, at least in the past decade, though have we fielded a team without really exploitable weak links.

The early signs(-worma)

As Prem said...'distraction' is what the SL test series looks like, if early signs are anything to go by. Not only were they completely demoralized and outclassed in the ODI series, it looks like they are still struggling to pick themselves up against the BP XI match.

Ofcourse this is cricket, with all its uncertainties, and the SL squad was not complete (with Murali and Atapattu rested) but still, SL would have been looking for an early confident start after the ODI drubbing. And the biggest plus, from an Indian point of view, was that they struggled against the spin of Parida and Mishra (the so-called second line of spin behind Bhajji and Kumble). The only escape route visible to me, at this point, for them is a flat, dead batting beauty of a pitch (which they're likely to get in Kanpur not in Chennai) early up.

And with the Indian team finishing the SA team on a high note, with most of the players back amongst runs (incidently, Sehwag is our second highest scorer of the series, despite all that talk of struggle) the job of SLankans gets all the more difficult. Here's a nice profile/interview of Dravid the captain by Rohit Brijnath on BBC. The end note is on perfect pitch
We don't know Dravid the captain yet and neither does he, it will be months before we can decide if his philosophies have been embraced, determine his progress. But one thing we do know. Good teams are painstaking constructions, they require patience, commitment, dedication, self-belief, time to flower and this captain, at least he's familiar with the journey, he's lived it, as a batsman at least he knows it can work.

Crowding out the opposition

Make what you will of this story, a preview of the Mumbai ODI between RSA and India, wherein Proteas skipper Graeme Smith points out factor he thinks could enhance his chances (Emphasis, where added, mine:
Once again with reference to an observation that I have made in the past, from the very beginning of the series, we have looked to put India under pressure. And as we go into the decider, I believe they are well and truly under stress. This showed very clearly at the Eden Gardens, where the home supporters were obviously unhappy.
In fact, if they cheer us on at Mumbai like they did in Kolkata, the Indians will have more than a match on their hands.

Nice. Now, visiting teams can count on home support on Indian soil?

Honors even

Give it up for SA -- they gave this defense all they had; in the end, India survived a searching pace examination, and got home to a 2-2 result against the world's number two side. (That the series levelling win has come without needing tailormade conditions is a bonus, if only considering much of the critical comment that has been heard on the sidelines).
An overall resume this season of 8 wins to 3 losses is something Rahul Dravid can take with him into the planned review meeting the BCCI has said it will hold at the end of the Sri Lanka and RSA tours.
The final phase of the game saw only the one relatively minor hiccup of Dhoni failing his own personal examination against the short pitched deliveries; by then, however, the task had almost become a no-brainer, more so because Dravid seemed to have set out his stall with the express intention of batting his team home.
A tangential benefit for the Indians has been the four matches of hard 'practise' against a high-quality seam attack; an experience that comes in very handy for what awaits them (once they get past the distraction, really, of three Tests against Lanka) in Pakistan, and then against England at home.
Time to head to work; will, much later in my day, see you guys back on blog.

The Dhoni line

Andre Nel in particular has figured out how to bowl to Dhoni -- swing wide of the stumps, angle it in on off, and pitch it three quarters or just back of, banging the ball in to lift it into the batsman primarily as a means of keeping him from coming on the front foot and hitting through the line, which is his preferred mode of self-expression.
On a tighter chase, this could well be crucial -- but with a set Dravid covering for Dhoni and the ask at this point reduced to 23 off 44 thanks to two successive fours (the second a chancy glide between keeper and slips) by Dravid, this is no longer a factor. It will, though, pay for the management to keep this ploy in mind -- more and more bowlers are apt to use it against the Indian keeper-batsman, and he needs to figure out a riposte, right quick.

India 31-40

At the end of four outings, Yuvraj Singh aggregates 209, and averages 69.60 -- dead even with Graeme Smith, who also made 209 runs this series at 69.66.
Each time, the southpaw has played the sort of innings the conditions dictated; here, coming behind Tendulkar's wicket and with his captain at the other end anchoring the side, Yuvraj played with clear intent to avoid flirtation without missing out on any opportunity to play his shots; his innings of 49/64 with 40 dot balls, 13 singles, 4 twos and 7 boundaries took India into the comfort zone. When he was out, mistiming an attempted steer to third man into the hands of the keeper, India needed just 60 more, off 84.
At the other end Dravid, vilified for his 6/22 in the previous game, played this almost perfectly. Initially, he started off with a flourish, but quickly throttled back, eschewing risk in the interests of seeing the side home. A feature of his innings today has been the straightness of his bat -- where, earlier, he had been looking to angle his shots more into the square leg-mid on region, today he played remarkably straight, producing superbly controlled drives on either side of the wicket. More than the runs scored, though, what was remarkable today was the single-minded focus on ensuring the win.
Dhoni, predictably, came in after Yuvraj to break the game open and, though chancy, remains in situ, with India heading into the slog phase needing just 40 off the last 60; you would have to say India at this point merely needs to bat through to the winning post.
Thus far, it has been clinical -- early seam inroads, good restrictive bowling in the middle and death, brilliant fielding, and a planned, calculated chase. Whatever demons remained from Kolkatta have been, seemingly, exorcised even before they started playing this game.
Smith, meanwhile, appears to have given up the struggle -- it is really remarkable to see, at this point, the Proteas captain using his main strike bowlers to Dhoni with nary a slip in sight, this despite the opening slash that just eluded Boucher, and a french cut subsequently.

India 21-30

Throughout this phase, Graeme Smith has been exhorting, almost pleading with his bowlers for one wicket to prise open the game with; SA's best chance was with India on 109/3 (Rahul Dravid then 32), when Dravid blasted a flighted one from Botha back down the track, failed to find the elevation to clear the bowler, and saw the ball pop in, and out, of Botha's hands; the flub caused almost entirely by the velocity of the ball, that gave the bowler no time to curl his fingers around the catch.
Outside of that, India has been playing this almost clinically. South Africa's game plan here has been to keep the field well in, to dry up the singles almost entirely; what has kept India ahead in the game is the shot-making, that has produced 19 fours and one single (82 runs out of the total in boundaries) thus far.
The lack of singles in between (between them, Dravid and Yuvraj have just 22 thus far) could have hurt had South Africa managed another 30-odd runs in its innings; given the ask, 131/3 at the end of 30 (SA 109/3; India 41 in the session without losing a wicket) has the situation well covered. With the ask under the 100-mark in the last 20 overs and the ball getting softer, this is now officially India's game to lose.
PS: The wicket is hard yet; the ball is coming on. India thus far has eschewed tinkering with the batting order, and opted for a conventional chase, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Dhoni walk out at the fall of the next wicket, to try and crack open the game, since India has the option of Kaif still in the hut to return to the conventional route if that fails.