Porcupyn's Blog

October 10, 2012

How you start does not matter …

Filed under: Cricket — Porcupyn @ 7:41 pm

… but how you finish definitely does. The game of limited overs cricket has gone through one complete rotation, one could say, since when West Indies lost to India in the 1983 World Cup. Yesterday, West Indies won the T20 World Cup. A format that is about as new as the one day format was back then, one key difference being that unlike the one-dayers back then when West Indies would be the overwhelming favourites, in T20 any team can win on a given day (or night).

And so it happened that the final game began yesterday, where though Sri Lanka started off as the favourites, there was always the possibility of West Indies winning. Or so it seemed until the game actually started.

Just like the West Indies of 1983 was by the time the Indian innings was completed (a score of 183 in 60 overs was hardly threatening), Sri Lanka was yesterday the overwhelming favourite to win by the time West Indies finished their innings at 137 off 20 overs. And even that total was achieved only off the back of a stupendous fightback by Marlon Samuels, after the team had reached a paltry 32 for 2 off 10 overs.

And why did Sri Lanka lose? Commentators, the Lanka captain Jayawardene and most others attribute it to pressure. Yes, there was pressure; however, the one aspect that no one appears to have honed in on was the lack of application at the top, and a cavalier, lackadaisical attitude while chasing what was, at best, a mildly competitive total on that pitch.

When you note that West Indies had scored ten runs less against the same team just about a week ago, and lost by nine wickets with about five overs to spare, you realize where that sense of overconfidence came from! Sri Lanka undoubtedly thought that this game would be a similar stroll in the park, given that the target was only about ten runs more.

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October 17, 2011

My Commentary – on pronunciations in the commentary box!

Filed under: Cricket,Humour,Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 9:23 am

It is funny listening to the commentary team for the second ODI – one Englishman (Collingwood, I presume) and one Indian (Gavaskar). First Collingwood complains that names in the subcontinent are difficult to pronounce and gives Jayasuriya as an example (pronounces it जेसूरिया or something, and then complains how easily the subcontinenters roll it off their tongues).

Then, Collingwood asks Gavaskar teach him to pronounce his own name, and the latter obliges with “सुनील गावस्कर”; fifteen minutes after the lesson, Collingwood is back to his true form, pronouncing the first syllable in Gavaskar’s first name as “Sun” and the latter syllable as “Nill”, ends up with सन्निल गवस्खार. Kind of makes sense, when you realize how folks in India spell the words (as they are pronounced) – for example, “lekar” is pronounced by Indians just like a Westerner would pronounce “Laker” (which is what I was wondering driving to work this morning, and listening to this song).

And though Gavaskar, for his part, tries hard (example ठेन for “ten”), he cannot maintain it through thick (थिक्ख) and thin (थिन)!

July 13, 2010

Yahoo and … cricket?

Filed under: Cricket — Porcupyn @ 8:04 am

Two decades or so years ago, when I first came to the USA, not too many people here would have said that cricket was anything but an insect. I bet the situation has not changed much since then. What has changed, though, is that there is something called the internet, the great leveller, something that has flattened the world even.

So, here we are, in the 21st century, and now Cricket owns the pride of place on Yahoo’s website. Not only is there a site devoted to it, but it is also uber prominent in that it has found itself a niche outside of Sports.

I had observed it before, but today is the first time that I actually clicked on the link. It ain’t bad! Check it out.

April 7, 2010

IPL – Boon or bane?

Filed under: Cricket — Porcupyn @ 11:18 pm

Unlike this severely prejudiced article, I would vote boon, and here is why:

The IPL, however, has compressed each game into three-and-a-half hours, and it has stuffed 60 of these capsules into 45 days. The tournament, played between eight Indian city clubs, features cheerleaders and perpetually hysterical commentators and torrential hitting.

The above reeks of an unhealthy dose of bias. Granted, even I was biased against T20 in general and the IPL in particular during IPL’s First Edition (2008), but I have now come around to it as necessary (and it is definitely not all evil either) – so I ain’t no saint either, but …

First, let me pick on the point of hysterical commentators. Just over two decades ago, I landed in the USA. Yes, I knew that basketball was a game; I knew how it was played; I knew I was no good at it; I also knew that the Indian team was no good (at the highest level). But what I did not know was that one could slice and dice the game to smithereens [Ask Indians (who has not left India) who are older than, say, 50 and I bet you that concepts such as assists, blocked shots and steals have no meaning to the majority of them]. Immediately, a simple game of shooting a ball into the net, for me morphed into a very lovable sport and I was transformed into a captive spectator until Michael Jordan retired … the second time (granted, he was partly instrumental in galvanizing my love for the game in the first place).

That said, the smorgasbord of statistics – and the very enthusiastic commentators such as Dick Vitale (“Yeah Baby”), Perv (pardon me, I really meant Merv) Albert (“Yes … and it counts”) egged my interest in the game when it flagged during Scottie Pippen’s migraines or Michael Jordan’s retirement (Episode 1). Against that backdrop, I see no reason to dislike the fact that cricket is being commercialized to a level never seen before.

Yes, I didn’t like the concept of cheerleaders for cricket (in IPL 2008) … but reading the blog of the fellow Floridian RCB cheerleader (sorry, I forget her name and face!) from South Africa gave me a wholly new perspective, from someone who previously had no clue of the game!

What is wrong with torrential hitting? All that has happened with T20 is that your proverbial cheese has been moved. Where once an economy rate of under 2 runs per over (Bapu Nadkarni, Bishen Singh Bedi, Derek Underwood at their wiliest primes in Test matches) was considered the pinnacle of economy and buying wickets was key to prising out your opposing batsmen, now a bowler’s skills are based on whether or not he went for under or over 6 runs per over OR took a key wicket or two while going for more than 10 runs an over. The point being that while the bowling skills are now being quantified differently – that is not to say that a good bowler in Test cricket cannot be a good bowler in T20 – I give you Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dan Vettori and our own Anil Kumble as examples.

While the batsmen might not be playing the same classical strokes of yore, what is the issue if they hit out with gay abandon instead? Now that the playing field has been moulded to their benefit, it is still incumbent upon them to outbat the opposition while preserving their wickets for the duration of the innings. I leave you with just one example to prove that T20 does NOT have to be all reckless aerial strokemaking: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

This isn’t your grandmother’s cricket; in truth, this isn’t even your elder sister’s cricket.

This analogy appears to be written solely as a politically correct statement. I doubt very much that grandmothers – on an average – were as interested in cricket (of their generation) as grandfathers were. Ditto for elder sisters. In my opinion, a closer to the ideal – though maybe not politically correct – analogy would be:

Test cricket : Grandpa’s cricket
One Day Internationals: Father’s cricket
T20s: Today’s cricket

Last month, one gentleman with an ebbing hairline and bottomless gumption scored a hundred runs off 37 balls; the effect is somewhat like a crate of firecrackers going off right under your nose. Even a relatively run-of-the-mill game is almost cartoonishly crammed with action, sure to contain many instances of the atavistic thrill of watching a man hit a ball really, really hard.

A parallel article that is critical of Baseball would probably sully the physical appearance of, say, Sammy Sosa or Mark McGuire. While I might probably still consider that article to be above the belt given that the physiques of these gentlemen were likely the result of steroid overdoses, on the other hand I would definitely consider the quoted portion as stooping low for a below the belt hit on a player’s physique in an attempt to drive home a personal bias or two. What’s wrong if a dude’s hairline is where it is? What is wrong with getting a thrill of watching a man hit a ball really, really hard? What would you rather watch? Paint drying on a cricket bat while a Test match is going on? Personally, I would suggest concentrating on a batsman’s mongoose than his porcupiney hair (or lack thereof).

But while the IPL is faster and more incendiary than the sport has ever been, it’s also more commercial than the sport has ever been. During live telecasts, there is quite literally not a single second where there isn’t an advertisement of some sort on the screen. Like a master dowser, the IPL’s impresario, Lalit Modi, has found deep wells of revenue where none previously existed.

Now… what is wrong with commercialization? Would you rather watch the camera panning at the pretty ladies in the audience (like Channel 9 used to during the 1985 Benson and Hedges World Series) or the advertisement that takes up the same amount of time? OK, I confess, I would probably go with the former too (though my name does not rhyme with “ananda”), but on the other hand, seriously speaking, what cricketing moment would I be missing if we were to cut away for the ad? Tennis, Golf, Cricket, Baseball and American Football are definitely games of the start and stop variety where it definitely is feasible to cut away and still not miss any of the action unlike, say, Hockey (any variety), Football (Soccer for the Americanized folks) – I admit that I would not be a popular head honcho if I were to cut away from a shot of Tiger Woods and his caddy sizing up a putt to a quick commercial break even if we were to return before Woods dropped his ball into the hole (this is a clean blog – any pun is strictly unintentional).

Now we come to the genius that is Modi. I say the man is brilliant, though maybe autocratic and an egomaniac. The first I remember learning about Modi was when I was sick and tired of the nexus between Dalmiya and Ganguly. Modi, if I recall correctly, represented the opposition – my single important recollection is of Modi coming up with some kind of a powerpoint presentation (or some such) about building a stadium in Jaipur and his desire to get cricket out of the major cities and into tier2 and tier 3 cities/towns of India (not that I am implying that Jaipur is a small town). I think he is well on his way to achieving that.

The Indian cricket board – the owner of the IPL, and now the richest, most powerful board in the world – has been able to bend the international cricket calendar around its own priorities, like a black hole warping the fabric of space-time.

If MCC had paid this dude to write this, he would not have written something different from the above! This shows the typical mentality of a loser (the English cricket board). That the balance of power has shifted from the erstwhile empire where the sun never set to a country of a billion, would obviously not go down well with those who are suddenly not as important as they were a few decades ago. The fact that the Indian board now has the power to wield its influence and go to bat for the team obviously has not sat well.

Three Four incidents spring to mind: South Africa when Sehwag was banned for a game for excessive appealing; the Australian tour a couple of seasons ago where it took some major arm twisting (I would say this was justifiable based on the fact that the umpiring was biased against India in the previous game) and now contrast that to the poor Bangladeshis who had not saviour to turn to when they were repeatedly let down by biased umpiring in the recent Test against England, and don’t forget the treatment meted out to Sunil Gavaskar by Dennis Lillee when he (Gavaskar) expressed his justifiable dissatisfaction at an incorrect lbw decision (Melbourne 1980-81).

The bottom line is a) why is it wrong to have influence and b) to use it for backing the truth? In fact, I would absolutely love it if Stuart Broad were to be banned for excessive appealing by a “neutral” Indian match referee when England plays Australia or South Africa next.

A couple of weeks ago, an Indian corporation paid $370 million to buy a newly created franchise – and it has to spend still more to fill its team with cricketers; in 2003, by comparison, the Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, a leading, century-old soccer club in the English Premier League, for $233 million. The IPL is brash and young. It is in constant motion. It demands to be watched.

I just have one two questions: Why the slave mentality? Why should a club in the English Premier League be the benchmark for what an IPL team should be worth? India by itself probably has eyeballs that are an order of magnitude greater than in all of Great Britain. Capitalism is all about supply and demand. The worth of a good is its demand and supply today. Yes, there is always a chance that the $370 million today might drop to $100 million in a couple of years. But that is why investors don’t win all the time, and not everyone is an investor (they probably don’t have money left anymore!), right? You cannot exclusively blame capitalism for the fact that Florida condos sell today for a third of what they sold for five years ago. Basic human emotions are to blame as well.

Not because the IPL is a symbol of capitalism – far be it for me, a willing beneficiary of India’s adventures in money-making, to complain about that – but because it’s a symbol of capitalism gone horrifically wrong. The IPL purports to be a free market but is in fact controlled by one man: Lalit Modi, whose power and stature have grown so Rabelaisian in merely three years that Bollywood has already asked to mine his life for subject material. (One player, Ravindra Jadeja, dared to try negotiating a new contract for himself this year. He was promptly banned for the remainder of the season.)

I still don’t see anything majorly wrong with the above scenario, except, well, I do feel sorry for Jadeja. But did he not try to circumvent the rules? Would not a similar – if not exact – fate befall a professional sportsman in the USA? Sure it would. Ask Brett Favre of a couple of seasons ago. Granted, it was not the commish who gave him grief … but my point is that you gotta follow the rules; else you get censured.

So what if Modi has grown powerful? Being powerful is not the issue here – being powerful and making dumb decisions like pulling up a captain (Gambhir) for a very honest assessment of his opponents is definitely one, but the author of the above piece fails to make that point. But don’t grudge the man his power, he deserves it – though I do agree that it would be nice if he were to share it among the team owners. That said, what I really did not appreciate was the IPL’s opposition of the ICL. This was/is a big ocean, big enough for big fish, medium fish, small fish etc. I bet IPL and ICL could have co-existed and even fed off of each other. IPL would be the premier league with established stars and the cream of the younger crop, where ICL would be the equivalent of the minor leagues in Baseball (disclaimer: I am not that knowledgeable as to how Major League Baseball and the minor leagues are related).

The IPL pursues revenues at the expense of other valuable resources: Test cricket, but also domestic cricket, the inevitable breeding grounds for young talent. In its grubbing for money, in fact, the IPL is dismissive of anything old-fashioned, anything aesthetic; even the four seconds between one ball and the next, held sacrosanct through more than a century of cricket, have been sold for inconsequential advertisements. Meanwhile, owners buy teams for staggering quantities of money and with the fuzziest possibilities of recovering their investment; they desire only to dice up the risk and sell it in parts to sponsors and other companies, a practice that should surely sound familiar to us today.

Nothing is horribly wrong with all this, except having an advertisement after every ball, but it has not come to that yet, or has it? In other words, I am OK with having ads within an over, as long as they are not shown literally after every ball – it would be nice to watch replays of and listen to commentators discuss a great shot or a poor one.

Maybe it will not thrive, but Test cricket will still continue to survive and co-exist, if not for another Century, then for the foreseeable future at least. Has the interest in India diminished all that much since 1983, when India won the ODI World Cup, for instance? None of the professional cricketers in India today will begrudge the so-called “money grubbing” – in fact, I say that we need to inculcate a greater love for sports among schoolkids in India along the lines of Michelle Obama’s initiative for kids in the USA to be physically fit and active. The money in cricket is a step in the right direction, though I do believe it would be nice if this money were to trickle down at a faster pace (my point in reference to the ICL was along these lines) and also trickle over to other sports such as Hockey and Football, to name a couple!

November 8, 2009

India vs. Australia

Filed under: Cricket — Porcupyn @ 7:03 am

A few months ago, I thought that Michael Hussey was the next edition of The Great One and Dhoni was another Brearley (except for the fact that, in addition to captaincy, he could also bat, keep wickets … and this I learned recently, take wickets!). Unfortunately, those hopes have now been officially dashed. Hussey has reverted back to normalcy and it appears that though Dhoni can still bat, keep wickets (and maybe take wickets too, if he gives himself a chance), he cannot captain or motivate the team. Sample this …

Before the latest match or two, Ponting had cried himself hoarse about the depleted resources at his disposal. [Sidenote: It is a testament to India’s progress in The Civilized World that Delhi Belly, which used to be The Reason of Choice, was the only one among all tried-and-tested ones, that was not mentioned in reference to the players missing in action.] So, naturally, guess what our desi players do? Take away Ponting’s excuses.

While Australia’s best players were only physically missing from action, India’s “best” showed up but decided not to play. Sample these scores at the top of the order: Sehwag 6; Tendulkar 10; Gambhir 0; Yuvraj 6; Raina 0. Also, to fight fire with fire, we picked equally unknown batsmen to deliver the goods: Ravindra Jadeja 57 and Praveen Kumar 54 not out. Conspicuously absent among the run-scorers: Harbhajan 5-2 Singh 0! Oh, maybe Bhajji meant the full-strength Aussie team, not this rag-tag and bobtail outfit.

As if granting the Aussies a batting handicap was not enough, Dhoni also made sure that we were generous in the bowling department as well (though the low target might be claimed as the excuse): other than Gambhir and Dhoni, everyone else got a chance to twirl his arm over.

Conclusion: Australia might have beaten India, but it was only because they – Australia, not India, which even dropped folks who are too old such as Dravid (Tendulkar? Oh, he is all set to play in the 2011 World Cup. Can anyone say otherwise after that gem of a 175?) – did not have a full-strength team.

June 1, 2009

Takeaway for the day (Cricket) …

Filed under: Cricket — Porcupyn @ 12:23 pm

I hadn’t realized that only three batsmen can participate in the Super Over. Which means that if two batsmen are out, the Super Over is over!

Basic stuff that you miss if you are not really in tune with the game…

April 26, 2009

Suggestion for IPL …

Filed under: Cricket — Porcupyn @ 8:03 am

In its second season now, the Indian Premier League (IPL) introduced a money-making plan by tacking on a 7.5 minute intra-innings break for both the innings of a match, ostensibly for extra analysis. Great players like Tendulkar have suggested that it breaks the players’ concentration.

In the beginning, I tended to agree with him, but I have since changed my mind. I now believe that great players must adapt to the game.

That said, I have not really seen any takeaways for the viewing public (and those following online) that result from the 7.5 minute break. So, drumrolls please, here is my innovative (hopefully) suggestion:

– extend the break from 7.5 minutes to 10 minutes

– give both teams the opportunity to make one change apiece in their teams (that would be two changes for the duration of the game)

– change must be made immediately after the break starts, so everyone has 10 real-time minutes to discuss the changes and the impact on the game

– change must not imbalance the team’s foreign/Indian player ratios (in the sense that seven players – or more – must be Indian players, before/after the change)

– if a bowler is removed from the lineup, the replacement can bowl only the remainder of his quota

– if a batsman is replaced after he starts batting, the replacement cannot bat (if the replaced batsman was batting at the 10 over mark, he will be asterisked “retired out”)

Note to Mr. Vijay Mallya: If his test team (in the guise of a Twenty20 outfit) reaches a score of 150, they should automatically be declared winners of the game. I leave you with an apposite quote from Bonnie “guess who I am” Blair that I got in an Internet forward this very morning: “Winning doesn’t always mean finishing first; winning means you are doing better than you’ve done before.”

PS: The way teams are playing, one would think that the Fake IPL Player belongs to Deccan. That is the one team that has been surpassing all expectations this season, as though every player is afraid that he’s the next one to be axed (like Aakash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar were for Kolkota).

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