Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Its time commone sense prevailed.

With too many strategies, too many new faces in the equation, a couple of series in the subcontinent, just before the world cup and an out of form coach not being supported and respected, we need to get back to common sense approach towards this game, which has long been missing from Indian cricket.

After a record run of successful chases, things suddenly started heading south. A spat between Saurav Ganguly and coach Greg Chappell was blown out of proportions. Despite some of the most experienced campaigners being involved in the issue, it went from upsetting to ugly. Discretion with bringing media to join the discussion table always pays well, a lesson learner. Whatever Chappell’s plans were for the world cup, he wouldn’t have pictured, Ganguly in his world cup squad. Well the coach took a lot of heat for the issue from the people and the management.

So much of disregard can have an upsetting effect on this cricketing legend. It must have reflected upon the environment within the team as well. Incidents of arrogance, shirking and sulking are surfacing far too frequently for comfort. Latest being Sehwag not turning up for nets, telling the waiting coach that ‘he didn’t feel like’, when asked why. While all this must have been affecting the team’s performance Ganguly was brought back and he fired to boot. Then came Dinesh Karthik and he fired too. Its clear, given whats happening within the team, players spending time outside the team are a bit at an advantage. Excluding Kumble from ODIs back fired too and now he is back and back with a punch. If Chappell were still playing he sure would be out of form as time seems not as favorable for him.

But we must put it all behind and respect the coach for the good that he has done for the team. And there are quite a few positives to speak of actually. India’s fielding credentials were despicable before his arrival. Recognizing Dhoni and turning him into what he is today. The coach has also shown that a win has always been highest in his agenda and he has shown it a lot of times. Latest example was seen in SA when he put all his personal issues behind and taught Ganguly to roll his wrists over the ball, while playing the expensive off side shots, that he plays through the gulley. Before Ganguly would often find it hard to keep the bowl down playing that shot due to which he lost his wicket a lot in that area. Chappell carries tons of experience with him and the team can learn a lot from him. We learned that he was giving Sehwag a different kind of practice in SA with bowling machine set at the high to emulate SA bowlers’ bowling. Given Viru’s special hand eye coordination, whether it was on Viru’s behest that he was doing that or whatever was the plan, the plan didn’t work as well as they were hoping and both coach and Viru were thwarted while the fact remains that they were trying.

Coach is kind of helpless, the team, till now has failed to regard and support him and his strategies, the coach him self is not the usual genial gentlemen type that Indian cricketers and management are use to, somehow the harmony has been missing. Too much has been found out within the team to be done, we hardly get time to pay attention to the other team, their weaknesses, their strengths; we just keep struggling within ourselves.

But we have run out of time. Its time we set the record straight and get back to common sense cricket. If we get our combination right, we really can take on any team, we have match winners and so many of them in our team. So even if we can do that much, we would be able to put up a great display. And if by some miracle we grow confident enough about our own stand so much so that we are able to also find time to analyze our opponents, without feeling overworked, we really stand a chance of making it to the top.

My idea of common sense cricket is, take each game on its merit. Plan for that game and that game only. Planning too far ahead is not gonna pay off. Don’t clutter your minds with too many things, do the needful as and when needed, just plan and play for the win. And yes, all of the players must back each other and the coach at this stage.

Seems like I know it all :)

With world cup round the corner, we should’ve been trying to recollect and relive our Caribbean experiences, but we are digging far deeper in the subcontinent instead. Almost every thing has changed, since our last visit to the Caribbean. Tendulkar who was missing from the ODI scene there is gaining his form back while Sehwag who fired in two of the ODIs there, is loosing it. Add to that new faces in the equation, bowling line up going through an entire overhauling. The role of the bowling spearhead is struggling to find a worthy candidate. I think Kumble and Harbhajan must gain some experience bowling in tandem as all of it is likely to get back to them. Yuvraj who played well there is short of batting practice but it just might work for him like it did for Karthik and Ganguly. Difference being that he has not being playing domestic cricket either. Only positive to come out of this series with Sri Lanka is some hands on for our group match with Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Aliens and BCCI : Communalism, regionalism, racism- Part of the Infrastructure.

Disrespect and racism is the product of BCCI’s ways of working. The board must do away with its delirium as quickly as possible or cricket may soon be following hockey’s footsteps to absolute disorientation.

We spend fortunes searching for extraterrestrial intelligence believing it exists out there somewhere. We Earthlings, however, are still struggling for our own identities. We are scarred of each other, unsure and uncertain to an extent that we go on and even term each other as ‘Aliens’.

We see aliens around us all the time. Latest example is that of a man from Orissa who sees an alien in Greg Chappell. These thoughts are instilled deep in an average Indian and an average cricketer alike by our cricketing infrastructure. We see selectors locking horns with each other all the time over demands of better representation of their states in the national team. This man who slapped Chappell was not happy with non inclusion of Orissa cricketers in the team, apart from other things. He thinks he has been able to get his message across and now the ‘plight’ of his state’s cricketers will be noticed. Communalism regionalism and racism are descendants of the same forefather that is ‘Bias’. We need to do away with this system as soon as possible.

BCCI may want to guard against complacency here. Hockey- a religion once- is struggling for survival today. Fan following CAN disappear thus can’t be taken for granted.

Lets do away with state representation as an issue. A centralized point system is the way to go. Let the veterans fight for their states as they understand the local and traditional ways better, but let them do that from their states only. Have a central body with its chapters in each state from where these people would operate. Let the cricketers be rated and watched with their data maintained centrally. Central body will also help maintain standards pertaining playing conditions, pitch, facilities etc uniformly. It will help every aspiring player play and practice in conditions that are same as anywhere else in the country. Reach schools and colleges with your programs. Make the cricket more accessible for people at that level. Let’s not leave the aspirants at the mercy of somebody who ‘has a say’.

Mould the system so as to enable the aspirant to represent himself.

Cricket veterans may not like this idea but I would rather opt for ‘no Gavaskar’ over ‘a biased Gavaskar who openly backs Mumbaikars’, I didn’t like it when Sidhu would go gaga over Ratinder Sodhi, and many such incidents. These are passionate cricketers of past and if their hearts go out to the youngsters who grew up in front of their eyes, these are human beings we talking about. But if all that is coming in the way of the game’s progress it should be done away with.

Coming back to the unfortunate incident- an indolent BCCI wont do here. Chappell is Team India’s coach and he is their responsibility. Chappell is the responsibility of the whole country in fact. Unruly crowd having its way, bottles thrown at foreign cricketers, mismanagement, suffering viewers, lack of amenities at cricket grounds, we’ve seen it all, and this is not something you would expect from the board which is richest in the world. BCCI keeps passing the buck to local authorities but why. They have been sitting on the money they have for quite some time. Its time they started using it FOR THE GAME. If they don’t know how to do it, hire somebody who does, this country is not short of brains.

To conclude I would say, such an incident wouldn’t have happen with John Wright. He was calm and a genial character. Look at him and you would say Cricket is really a gentlemen’s game. You face aggression when you opt for it. To hold your nerve is the key here. Ganguly faced what Chappell is facing today. Dravid and Wright however had better approach in this regard. Ganguly and Chappell 'working togehter' were a recipe for disaster and we all saw that.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Namesake n Similar Credentials

Michael Hussey once said that it helped him what Bavan was doing. As when he started finishing up matches for Australia, there was no confusion as to how to put that in perspective. They simply said he is doing the 'Bevan act'.

'ODI Match Finishing Specialist', there hardly is any such skill put at the fore so prominently as Bevan did. Hussey now is taking it to the next level. Look at his credentials n you'll say Australia really is unbeatable at the moment.

A way out !!

Having lost in bulk it seems we wanted to win one- badly. And we did. Good to see Ganguly back. He actually is one of the best ODI cricketers India has ever produced- statistically speaking. Incidentally most animated and ill treated as well. But he is back and so is his BAT. I hope we do not mess it up again.

But there seems to be a taboo on getting back to the best and most successful opening pair ever. Why cant we get back to Ganguly and Tendulkar. Its one thing to choose for the future but have a look at Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey before getting too obsessive about that approach.

What a match though.

A placid pitch- easy as it gets- where every body makes runs. We won it. But what are we doing? We are to name the finals for our world cup squad in a few days time. How will such matches aid us in that process? If Gambhir played well here, will he be deemed- in form? How will such matches help us test the caliber of the players and gauge their form?
If Virender Sehwag had played, he would've had a good time, it was that kind of pitch, but would that mean he's out of his shell?

But I guess we could ill afford to loose any more. At least not at home soil. Loosing here could spell doomsday for all our hopes. So won one. And this match looked pretty much like that. Scripted for an easy win. Scripted as a way out, as we wanted to win one - badly.

To conclude I say
Having done all that we did win it 'badly' enough with WI only 14 runs behind.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A welcome initiative

BCCI's Technical Committee, headed by Mr Sunil Gavaskar, scheduled to discuss Twenty20 rules on 20 January, will also be reviewing the current Ranji point system and various other conventions in the domestic way of things.
A move in the right direction.
I'm trying not to keep my hopes up but Mr Gavaskar can take this opportunity to set a few RIGHT trends.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mismanagement People

All these player who got dropped and sent back home are making a mockery of our domestic cricket infrastructure. The batsmen are tearing apart the bowling attacks and there is century galore all around. Pathan looks like the best batsmen on display in either side that play, where he was sent back to identify, rectify and revive his bowling. Sehwag made an easy century, makes me wonder what he is learning out of all this, and wonder how will these easy runs help him identify the flaws in his technique. What answers our domestic cricket infrastructure provides to the questions that a young and already tiring Munaf, an underused Agarkar, a disoriented Pathan a clueless Harbhajan pose. Our domestic cricket is being referred to as 'wilderness' by many.

They say keep 'em out of spot light for a while, it will help 'em reconnect with reality that they are players and playing well is the only way its going to be. Is that all? So much from the richest board in the world? Are these players supposed to figure the rest of the things out for themselves? Is it like they are rich enough to take care of themselves?

To its credit this trick did work in Ganguly's case. With hardly any worth mentioning performance in the domestic cricket before coming back in the national squad, his coming back and playing good cricket can safely be attributed to staying away from limelight.

Well if this trick is really being trusted how about dropping the whole management on account of its non performance. There are slow moving and dim witted people in there who should be done away with as they are capable of bringing the country's cricket to a standstill. They are too slow to keep up with the pace of world cricket. They don't have any excuse as they have all the fund they could ask for. Its a country where cricket is a religion and we are certainly not short of people who want to give it all to the game, with surely a few more such people than say South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand.... . The people who rule the game, however, are incapable of providing support or solutions, what they do do is provide bottlenecks.

Hey here is an idea ! I think its not hard to find cricket crazy management graduates in this country, a small group of such meritorious enthusiasts can replace a major strength of current board and I'm searingly sure that the step wont be a regrettable one.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Winning is a habit

India v South Africa
Third test, final day - 6 January 2007,
Newlands, Cape Town,
We lost by 5 wickets

We got to see a lot of things in the SA v India series decider. There was a plan behind all that – you would think !

Tendulkar was bowling well and was most likely amongst all the bowlers to get a wicket, but that’s is not his job. He was getting enough purchase from the surface to trouble the batsmen and ruffle up their psyche but he was wasting crucial time which could be used for testing the 'bowlers' instead.

The ‘bowlers’ who were straying in their line and length had to keep bowling because that is their role in the team. Add to this an unfit bowler and the team gets to learn how to deal with a situation like that in an series decider.

Irfan Pathan was a better batsman than most of the batsmen in the team; he was sent back and for once an absolutely unknown Ishant Sharma was almost on his way to SA while Harbhajan looked on.

Dravid and Chappell spent hours out in the center and studied the pitch (while Ganguly was in nets, he probably didn’t know the plan). They really knew something which I couldn’t comprehend as Harbhajan was strategically kept out. The opposition, however, felt the urgency and called upon a spinner even though we are considered as amongst the best players of spin.

Sehwag played well batting down the order, but he is an opener. If he wants to bat he has to do that up the order otherwise he is useless- according to the plan.

They all must practice and do the tasks that have been planed for them. If they fail, experimenting and testing out as many players as possible has been higher on our priority list off late. We will find new recruits. If we loose a match or two (or more) doing that, we can most certainly afford that.
People shouldn't make a big deal of it. We may not be able to name five trustworthy bowlers and openers etc. having done all that, but ask our management and they will say its all worth it. Our team may not be performing up to it, but they seem to have a plan. They are planning for the world cup - I guess.

We shouldn't disturb them.

Having said that, I couldn't help but cherished the moments of jubilation our players had having won the first test match in this series. I like it when our player are happy and feeling what a win feels like.

Vengsarkar, outside the party hall, sharing his thoughts on that win quite rightly said "Winning is a habit!"

I cant help but pray the same doesn't apply to loosing.