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Monday, November 20, 2006

Today in Cricket History

Poonam and I were sipping our Assam chais* at the Cha-Bar inside the Oxford Book Store inside the Statesman House today evening when A Book of Cricket grabbed my attention. Now if you are a regular to this store or have been there even a few times, you must have already got thinking by now. Light, unlike sound travels in a straight line, and without bending this basic principle of science, it would be utterly impossible to have a dekko* of the sports section from any of the tables in the cha-bar. Well, i did have a dekko and i have not managed to create any flutters in the world of sciene either. It just happened that Bakhtiar Dadabhoy's efforts had been carelessly abandoned by my predecessor on the cha-table and it was lying under the table somewhere in between mine and Poonam's feet. Now i would have never known a thing but she gets tickled and ruffled if the faintest of foreign particles manage to contact her body or any part covering her body, which in this case was her left shoe. Well, her tickling cost me six hundred rupees but it looks like money well spent.
A Book of Cricket Days is no novel concept. You must have sometime or the other read a column in some newspaper titled "Today in History". It's a surprise the author picked up on this much beaten idea. Who the hell wants to know what happened in the world of cricket on 20th November 1936 or 1956 or any other year for that matter. But that's not how Dadabhoy saw it, as i realised only a little later. You may not be curious to know what happened on 20th November 1987, but that's just because you don't know what happened on that fateful Friday, that too in the life of a god fearing Muslim cricket player. The ex-Pakistan captain Rameez Raja became the first victim of cricket's Law 37-1. To add to Raja's displeasure, when he became the first batsman to be given out for obstructing the field in one-day internationals, he was on exactly one short of hundred, on 99. But that's not what the higest point of the book is, for a mere rattling off of such facts and figure would have converted it into a most insipid affair. Raj Singh Dungarpur very correctly point it out in his foreword: "This book with its emphasis on bare facts and records could easily have become a dry catalogue of dreary statistics but the author has avoided this pitfall with diligent and resourceful research and a discerning eye for the colourful detail of anecdote". Dadabhoy had a tough task on hand, yet he has managed to make every single day exciting for the lovers of that beautiful game called cricket. Pick it up for those moments when you come home early to catch an exciting contest of bat and ball only to find the rain-gods playing foul with your plans. So what if that day's cricket is a non-affair. Long, long back, exactly ten or twenty or thirty years back, it was an exciting day of cricket, says Dadabhoy. Let's re-live the joy.
* chai - hindi for tea
dekko - to catch a glimpse

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cricket's Cup of Woes

The Ashes is round the corner, the world's biggest cricket show is just a few months away, my team is beginning their campaign in South Africa later today, yet I am not getting terribly excited about cricket. So much so that after the frenetic activity i displayed during the Champions Trophy, I haven't posted a single entry in the last 10 days. There's something definitely wrong with the world of cricket....

The two touring teams have begun their campaigns in identical fashion - while the Prime Minister's XI have inflicted a heavy defeat on the Englishmen, the Indians fared only marginally better in their tour opener against a Rest of South Africa team. Of the twenty-two batsmen on display from the two touring teams, as many as 13 failed to reach double digit scores including a duck each from Raina, Mongia and Anderson. These curtain-raisers don't bode too well for the cricket ahead and what makes matters worse is the injury lists - Marcus Trescothick, an important component of the vicotorious Ashes team ( 2005) with 431 runs in that cricket-at-its-very-best series is out of contention due to some stress related problems, Yuvraj Singh who tore his ligament playing kho-kho with his shoes on has added to India's already long list of batting woes, Sehwag is in discomfort, Flintoff is not in the pink of health and i am sure i am missing out on a couple of others.
Another Ashes drubbing looks not too far away for the Pommies and the Indians, who have always found South Africa in South Africa the toughest challenge ever look ready to be slaughtered again. In the tour opener, they found Steyn too tough to handle, wait till they face the likes of Ntini and Pollock on the bouncy Durban. Latest weather reports from Johannesburg (that's where the first ODI is happening later today) say that the sky is turning grey already, unless the clouds are a good nimbus, it might be a gray day ahead for India.
Neither Australia nor South Africa are the teams that they were 5 years back - one is good without being very good, the other very good but not unbeatable any more (i guess you know which adjective fits whom). That makes it only sadder for cricket - an erosion of their strength has been nullified by the alarming plummeting of quality elsewhere. India and England were the rising forces of cricket a couple of seasons back, one had bearded the lion in its den and the other had snatched the Ashes back after a long hiatus. It's mine and cricket's misfortune that their ascendancy has been reversed all too rapidly - we are back to a boring unipolar world !
Any wonder that I am disillusioned and disenchanted with cricket. Want more reasons? Throw a glance at the schedule for the coming World Cup - there are more mismatches than matches. Bermuda is a kind of shorts, a triangle, a nation, an unsolved mystery - that's all i knew about it till the ICC in all its wisdom told me that it's a cricket playing nation and they will be competing at the highest level very soon. Not to miss the others who will be joining the party - Scotland, Netherlands, Canada....is that some convoluted strategy to improve the status of the Bangladeshi and Kenyan cricket teams? I can't think of a better reason for converting cricket's showpiece tournament into a complete circus.
Cricket needs a miracle, and soon. Will you gentlemen join me in the prayer?
post script

while researching for the post, came across a site called www.injuryupdate.com !! further research might reveal that its board of directors include Shane Bond, Ashish Nehra, Marcus Trescothick, Sachin Tendulkar....

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dada defies ULFA dadagiri*, scores ton

As Saurav Ganguly & Avishek Jhunjunwala walked back to the pavillion at Guwahati's Nehru Stadium at the end of the 2nd day's play of the Deodhar Trophy encounter between East & North zones, the only thing on their minds must have been the huge score piled up by North in the first innings. In a little over an hour the situation changed dramatically, and by the time the players reached their hotel, cricket had taken a clear back seat.

Within minutes of each other, at about 1840 hrs local time, the Assam capital had been rocked by 3 bomb blasts leaving 15 dead, and at least 30 injured. Not surprisingly, a number of players fearing for their safety, called for the match to be abandoned. It was only after an assurance of safety from the Govt of Assam and reassurance from senior pros including Ganguly that the players relented.

Cricket resumed the next morning, and the few brave hearts who had made it to the ground were well rewarded - they got what they had asked for, and a little more. It was vintage Ganguly at his classical best. By modern cricket standards, it was a patient innings with the 100 coming off only the 191st ball, but it was an innings under pressure - both from a personal as well as a team point of view. Chasing a mammoth 504, East had lost two quick wickets the day before and Ganguly, who is out of the national team badly needed a big score for himself. And that's what he did - three 6's and a dozen 4's - and still undefeated at 118. The big question now is - can he continue with this form and make it back, to where he belongs ?

United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is an insurgent group active in Assam for over 20 years now. They seek independence from India and are not averse to using violent means towards attaining their objective. Though they have not yet claimed responsibility for these blasts, intelligence sources say that ULFA is the most likely group behind the blasts.

* dadagiri - an indian slang for bullyism

the banished king and a destroyed pauper

Australia - The Commonwealth Bank and Cricket Australia, today announced the Bank will become the major sponsor of the world’s leading one-day cricket team and best one-day competition for the next three years.
The one-day competition will be known as the ‘Commonwealth Bank Series’ and the Australian team known as the ‘Commonwealth Bank one-day international team’.
2nd November - Media Release ( Commonwealth Bank)
  • Pakistan - With the Captain suspended, fast bowlers banned, the Vice captain refusing to be a dummy captain, fringe bowlers ineligible because of suspect actions, some players injured and others due to be dropped shortly, its probably only a matter of time before the Pakistan XI resembles a Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited International XI at some point.
So when do we get to see the mouthwatering spine-tingling match-up between Commonwealth Bank One day International All stars XI and Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited One Day International All Stars XI ?

The Aussies sell a piece of their soul

With the Captain suspended, fast bowlers banned, the Vice captain refusing to be a dummy captain, fringe bowlers ineligible because of suspect actions, some players injured and others due to be dropped shortly, its probably only a matter of time before the Pakistan XI resembles a Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited International XI at some point.
So when do we get to see the mouthwatering spine-tingling match-up between Commonwealth Bank One day International All stars XI and Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited One Day International All Stars XI ?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

a tampered cricket ball & the principles of justice

"The first principle of a good government is certainly a distribution of its powers into executive, judiciary, and legislative, and a subdivision of the latter into two or three branches." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1787.

There is a good reason why the founding fathers of almost all modern nation states enshrined into the constitutions of their respective constitutions the idea of an independent Judiciary, that was distinct and separate from the executive and the legislature. One of the most important reasons behind this was to protect the minorites from getting trampled under a majority juggernaut. Unlike the legislature, the judiciary would not decide matters by a vote but on evidence, motives and witness disposals. In Darrell Hair's case, this basic maxim of modern democracies has been brutally violated. Hair has been condemned and ejected from the system for no good reason. There is no evidence against Hair - whatever there is, is only circumstantial. For the courts that would not have been good enough but it was enough for the International Cricket Committee because a majority of its members voted against Hair. Poor Hair has been sentenced by the legislature !!

Besides subversion of justice, this is also a classic case of reverse-racism. A highly-placed ICC source told AFP that India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, together with South Africa, Zimbabwe and West Indies voted for Hair's dismissal at the executive board meeting of the ICC in Mumbai on Friday. ( source: www.cricinfo.com ) Can it get more apparent - that this is a clear case of black vs white.

I am no fan of Hair's but this is not the way I wished to see him go. The reason could have been better and it should have happened long ago.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

doping scandal: akhtar & asif won't play the world cup

Just saw this new flash, Pakistan Cricket Board hands out punishments to the doping accused. Akhtar 2 yrs & Asif 1 yr.

So all of us who were thinking that PCB had acted smartly and would ensure that Akhtar would be around for the world cup have been belied. Bad news for Pak cricket fans and everyone else too...

A dash of sex in the gentlemen's game

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