Archive for the ‘Cricket’ Category

Drop a format, or restrict T20

Posted: October 21, 2012 in Cricket
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Administrators need to stop blaming India and collectively take tough decisions

The concentration of T20 cricket in recent weeks has accentuated a few major flaws in the game. The first and most important is to do with scheduling. The ICC has a Future Tours Programme, but it would be more appropriate to call the overall schedule the Futile Touring Circus. It has long been an unwieldy schedule, but as every day passes and a new T20 tournament is proposed, it has become not only an embarrassing joke but also a serious risk to the players’ fitness.

With two tournaments – the World Twenty20 and the Champions League – preceding the prime season of three major countries, India, Australia and South Africa, it’s not surprising there has been a knee-jerk reaction in trying to protect players from injury. There’s a decent amount of scientific data now available to show that fast bowlers in particular are susceptible to injury when they quickly transition from a low workload to delivering a lot of overs in a day. Therefore it’s asking for trouble to programme Test matches immediately after international T20 competitions.

However, that’s exactly what Australia and South Africa are facing, and both teams have plenty of fast bowlers. Surely the point has been reached where the administrators not only have to revise the schedule but also to consider separating the different forms of the game into their own “seasons”.

Australia’s decision to recall Shane Watson from the Champions League mid-tournament has been criticised but it’s Cricket Australia’s statement, not their action, that is questionable. CA said it made the decision “in the best interests of Australian cricket and in the best interests of Shane Watson”.

How can it be in the best interests of the player? Watson, like all cricketers who reach a high level of performance, is a fierce competitor. No one of that ilk enjoys missing the knockout portion of a tournament after competing in the round-robin stage. It would have been better to prevent Watson from playing at all rather than pull him out at the point where the Sydney Sixers have established themselves as one of the favourites to win the lucrative tournament.

The rapid expansion of T20 cricket has further exposed the game’s huge dependence on India’s financial clout and the relatively small pool of marquee players. The business model is highly dependent on drawcards to make it financially viable, and the number of tournaments drawing from that small pool of players keeps growing.

These two points were highlighted by the Australian official who bemoaned the unavailability of India’s star players for the Big Bash League. He indicated they were needed to attract the big-money sponsors from India and the higher television fees that can be extracted from that part of the world if their players are involved. It’s time cricket administrators from other countries broadened their horizons, especially with recent signs that India is finally starting to suffer a little cricket fatigue. It’s also a bit rich to quibble about the lack of star Indian players in the competition when Australia’s best aren’t available to play the bulk of the BBL schedule.

Many outsiders are quick to criticise India for misusing its power at the administration table. However, the other major cricket bodies are even quicker to accept its money. They rarely challenge India when it wields its power in an effort to broaden the perspective, and instead pander to India’s wishes.

By definition this makes the other administrations equally guilty of any misuse of power. The administrators need to formulate a co-operative approach to devise a workable schedule, one that is acceptable to the players and that satisfies the financial needs of the game. Any discussion on a grand plan for cricket’s future should include the option of playing only two forms of the game, or of retaining three versions but scheduling T20 cricket as a club-only franchise model. If they decide on only two forms, then the 50-over game is the one most likely to become extinct. This may open the way for a hybrid 30-over game to represent the shorter version.

Cricket is fortunate to have choice of different formats but only if wise decisions are made about their future.

Ian Chappell (courtesy: cricinfo.com)

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Calypso Kings are back??

Posted: October 8, 2012 in Cricket
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The fact that the West Indies won the ICC World Twenty20 is great for the game. The West Indian team of the 80s through to the mid-90s was a powerful force and dominated world cricket through a blend of hostile pace bowling and aggressive batting.

During that period, the West Indies produced high-quality individual players. It was an exciting era and Caribbean players made lots of fans around the world.

No team can be the best all the time. Cricket in the West Indies faced numerous problems over the last decade and the on-field performances of the team suffered accordingly. The magnitude of the West Indies’ demise was both surprising and unexpected. World cricket was poorer due to this unfortunate situation.

Is this victory will help the west indies to regain the past glory? I am afraid this is unlikely. We will see an improvement at all levels, but it will be difficult for the current West Indian combination to dominate in the longer versions of the game.

This group of players is well suited to the T20 format. They have power hitters, good spinners and reasonable quick bowlers. Coach Ottis Gibson is an experienced campaigner. He realized that his squad had the potential to do very well at this tournament. He created a powerful team combination through good discipline, and was backed up by the West Indies Board in this respect.

Gibson stuck to his guns in order to create this scenario in the face of adversity. Key players like Chris Gayle were left out of the team until they bought into the ethos that Gibson wanted. With the backing of the Board he was able to mould the squad at his disposal into a hard-working and harmonious unit.

Tactically the West Indies got it right as well. Gibson used his impact players to good effect. He had them in positions where they had the best chance of winning matches for the team.

During the tournament the West Indies had their fair share of setbacks. Even in the final they looked down and out. Their resolve and belief in each other was what got them through.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of a good period for the West Indies. They don’t have the abundant wealth of talent that they had in their dominant era, but they have come a long way and the confidence that winning this title will create for them will stand them in good stead.

Asim Gul Bhootani

IPL inc.

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Cricket

Everyone loves IPL. It’s fun, its enjoyment, its instant cricket. Indian & people all around the world love this format of cricket simply because it provides a complete package of entertainment. It’s an ultimate merger of cricketing Gods & the Bollywood superstars. Teams score huge amount of runs with Bollywood stars & multinational company bosses keep supporting them. Players like Gayle, Sehwag & Dhoni hit dozen of sixes and keep reminding bowlers that it’s a batsman game. Players, IPL Bosses, Indian Cricket Board & TV Channels are minting money and people love this ultimate combination of Glamour and Cricket. IPL 2012 auctions are also making headlines. Cricketers & Bosses keep getting richer.

In this whole scenario, we are forgetting one thing; the performance of Indian Cricket Team.

India has lost all the eight test matches in England & Australia. They also lost the ODI series in England. They were unable to win any international match on their tour to England. This is rather surprising for a team which won the world cup a few months ago.

Indian batting line is the strongest batting line in terms of record and experience. Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Gambhir & Yuvraj are all world class batsmen having scored tons of runs. Still, they only scored 300 once in eight innings in England and only twice in their tour to Australia. These batting Giants were unable to cop against the fully fit & hardworking bowlers of England & Australia. This is acceptable in one or two odd innings but it’s unbelievable to see in eight test matches.

One can argue that Indians usually struggle in alien conditions. But that’s a thing of the past. India played brilliantly in their 2003 & 2007 tour of Australia. Aussies had to play really competitive cricket in the above mentioned series in order to cope with India. Indians even scored over 700 runs in Sydney.

So what went wrong with the invincible unit? I think it’s the IPL which is hurting Indian cricket.

IPL only thinks about revenue. It runs for about two months. Players have to compete in 12 to 15 intense matches. They can’t take any match lightly since the stakes are very high. Their bosses depend on their performance. Their next contract depends on their performance. Fans want them to score boundaries and take wickets on every ball. Cheerleaders keep cheering their performance regardless of their love of the game. So it’s money, money & only money which rules IPL.

Okay. It’s not too bad. People enjoy games. Players & Officials make money. What’s wrong with this club based T20 cricket.

The problem is that Players are already engaged in too much international cricket. Unlike soccer, which depends mainly on clubs and league fixtures with having very few international commitments, Cricket’s main lifeline is International cricket. Nearly every team is playing 10 Test matches a year with nearly 20-25 ODI’s and T20’s. In addition, they are also expected to give their hundred percent in tournaments like T20 World Cup, ODI World Cup, Asia Cup & occasional triangular Tournaments here and there.

Therefore, when players are engaged in hardcore tournaments such as IPL they are bound to lose their motivation to perform 100% for their country. They simply burnout & when strong teams like Australia and England put them under pressure, they simply can’t handle the pressure. That’s what happening to India. They have no answer to the focused and formidable sides.

Winning & losing is all part of the game. But the real problem is the ease with which teams are beating India. They lost four out of eight test matches by an innings margin while lost other three matches by nearly 300 runs. These are huge defeats, especially for a recent no.1 ranked side in the world.

Although they won 2-0 against West Indies at home but their performance was far from convincing.

They were bowled out for less than 300 in the first innings of the first test & luckily survived the last test. The inexperience of West Indies largely contributed to the Indian success. Remember, this is against the side which is only ranked higher then Bangladesh in Test match cricket.

Indian bowling has also suffered as England scored 500 in 3 matches while Australia scored 600 on two occasions. They were also unable to defend target in ODI matches & the worrying aspect is that it’s happening to them in nearly every match.

Therefore, it’s high time that Indian cricket officials should take these defeats on serious note and should redesign the IPL format in a way that Players get appropriate rest between the matches. ICC should also intervene in this issue and ensure that players get an appropriate off season and don’t only run after the money.

IPL should only be allowed to facilitate cricket not to ruin it. God save the Game!

Asim Gul Bhootani

Game is better without DRS

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Cricket

Even the ICC will admit the current situation in international cricket is far from ideal. Some series are played with the Decision Review System (DRS) in place, with all the available technology, some with the DRS but with limited use of technology, while in others there are no reviews at all. However, this imposed give and take in international cricket allows us to watch and evaluate the effects of these different scenarios to the game.

The West Indies tour of India, broadcast under the direction of the BCCI, has no DRS, and minimal use of technology in its television coverage, while Australia’s tour of South Africa is being played with the DRS, using all the technology available.

As for my stand on the DRS, to start with, I was opposed to too musch use of technology. But when technology became an essential part of decision-making, I started to see some benefits and joined the masses who had begun to support the DRS. But now, watching the India-West Indies series, which takes you back to a time when there was limited use of technology, I am beginning to see some benefits in old-fashioned approach of cricket.

Those who tend to be dramatic and believe that one wicket can indeed change the result of the game are looking at it the wrong way. A team never loses a match because of one decision in the game; it’s always more than one event – in fact, a series of events – that result in a team’s defeat. But often, taking our anger out on the umpires after a game is finished seems to become our cricketing culture.

Not supporting DRS has also made the umpire the boss again, as it should be. I also strongly believe that umpiring has improved over the years, and we have to be grateful to TV technology for it. So maybe it’s time to give the umpires the final authority again.

Obviously, there are noticeable advantages of using technology. Having an option of DRS helps keep peace among players in a high-intensity contest, because they feel the best possible attempt has been made to get the right decision. Secondly, the viewers, who drive the cricket market, love a DRS situation. They show great excitement to see the end result. What the DRS also does well is help the batsman to get maximum use of the benefit of doubt principle.

But I don’t like how the DRS gets far too much importance during a match. When a not-out decision gets reviewed and overturned, and the batman starts walking back to the dressing room, the discussion revolves around the DRS rather than how good the ball was or what mistake the batsman made. Cricket should always be about the players, not umpires and video evidence.

We are running out of time on this matter. Very soon the ICC will have to provide uniform playing conditions in international cricket: Either it will be DRS for all or for none. Believe me, it will not be an easy decision for the ICC.

Asim Gul Bhootani

Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar said that he was “honoured” to be designated to India’s parliament but cleared that cricket would remain his main concern as long as he keeps playing.

Last week, Tendulkar was offered one of the 12 seats in the upper house of parliament that are kept for those who have proved  themselves eminent in various fields such as the arts, sciences or social services.

“When you get chosen because of your services in your field, it’s an honour. I was excited to be nominated,” Tendulkar, 39, told a televised press function in Pune, India.

“I don’t think I will stop (playing) cricket and go straight into politics. I will keep playing cricket. Cricket is my life and will always be,” he added.

Tendulkar has not officially accepted his nomination, but such honours are seldomly handed out without the prior conformity of the nominee.

It is uncertain exactly when Tendulkar might take up his seat.

The “Little Master’s” nomination had raised many eyebrows across India, with some questioning how the publicly apolitical cricketer could balance his sporting commitments with his duties as an MP.

Tendulkar has played more Tests (188) and one-day internationals (463) than any other player since his debut in 1989.

He is the highest run-getter in both forms of the game and last month became the first batsman to achieved the feat of 100 international centuries – 51 in Tests and 49 in one-dayers.

Asim Gul Bhootani

IPL and KP

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Cricket

RCB benefited a lot from Kevin Pieterson. That takes a lot out because, on the face of it, KP’s been breathtaking. He’s enjoying his batting, toying with the likeImages of Steyn, Malinga and numerous Indian spinners. It’s not surprising Morne’s at the top of the bowling – he’s not bowling to KP. KP’s too good. It shows as a simple fact.

That’s not to say the IPL is bad cricket. The T20 World Cup might shade it, but it’s the next best thing. Forget internationals, the IPL is harder fought, better supported, and we get to see Bollywood girls (not dancing girls) … Priety Zinta, etc.

Out goes KP, in comes Warner, so ends my interest in DD, and I find myself looking to CSK. If I can hold down my lunch at the viewpoint of supporting Dhoni, I’ll like the return of A Morkel, who cracked 28 off 7 to beat RCB on the line.

RCB aren’t easy to beat. Gayle’s five 6’s in a row showed that. If you need compelling evidence, there’s AB, which shows that he can bat. Some might call him ‘mecurial.’ Me, I save that for KP who, yesterday, continued being mecurial against Mumbai, setting up Pietersen vs Peterson.

Robin Peterson’s been excellent for Mumbai, in batting and bowling. KP brought the game home, because, let’s not forget, he is KP. Peterson, though, was the only bowler who came close to getting him out. The single frame TMO line decision was kind to KP, denying Peterson a stumping and 4 wickets.

Mumbai are held back by a sluggish Tendulkar, a prick of a captain, and the surprising decision not to play Richard Levi.

And enough from FIB in general. Anything more would be unjustified. Test cricket hardliners might criticize IPL cricket, but it shows the talent, hey … and I’m not talking about Bollywood girls.

Asim Gul Bhootani