An Open Letter to Dilip Vengsarkar

October 15, 2008

Mr. Vengsarkar,

Why are you vomiting? Perhaps this is why you decided to step-down as chief selector at the end of your term – because you couldn’t contain that verbal diarhorea that you had to contain on the insistence of the BCCI.

I have many questions for you. Let me start with by asking you – do you have any sense? I was going to ask if you had any grace, but then I realized you might be a little less on the sense quotient and often grace comes only after sense.

Didn’t you have enough with your barbs at Dravid last year. First it was criticism for not enforcing the follow-on in that Oval Test. As defensive as that might have been, given that we’d gone one up, was that victory – one that eventually came after a 35-year drought – worth gambling in hope of another? You effectively “suffocated” captain Dravid enough for him to step down. Though we know it is you, we may never know for sure.

Then you unceremoniously dropped the same man with over 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, who had produced a blistering 92 at a strike rate of over 80, not more than 5 matches ago. I won’t even question the selection as much the as unnecessary trash talk: “Dravid is a one-dimensional player[… he] does not add value to the ODI team”. When being asked to make a courtesy call to inform Dravid on being dropped, you apparently asked so arrogantly asked “Why should we call him? Did he bother to inform the selection committee before he resigned as captain?

Fortunately for you, Dravid’s fans are not like Ganguly’s. They will not gather in the streets or burn effigies; some may blog, but largely they may not even boo.

Maybe that is why you did not stop there. You’ve irked the Ganguly fans an embarrassed an Indian hero and great exponent of the game by dropping him from the Irani Trophy squad. I had written earlier asking why Ganguly became the “sacrificial goat”, if you care enough, you can read that here.

The most disgusting thing you’ve done so far is to lash out against Ganguly and vowed to “give back more than what he asked for” without even bothering to verify if he had in fact complained of your selection, on being let down, and made statements on cricketers’s change in hairstyles. Ganguly has denied having given that controversial interview. Now what do you think you look like? No, I won’t say it, as I have some grace left. What I can say, is that, going by the standards of the cricket fans in Kolkata and their adulation for their Dada, you may not be able to walk in the streets of Kolkata.

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve also shot one at Test Captain Kumble. If an “..unfit Kumble [was indeed] letting the team down..” or you thought he “..should have come clean about his fitness..“, you could have told him, not the media, not in a middle of a toughly fought series likened to the Ashes.

Perhaps the BCCI should not have “gone soft” with your newspaper column writing in which you so unceremoniously trashed our heroes. It is rather bizarre why BCCI was as toothless as it was in the 80s with this prank of yours for long enough for you to have done significant damage.

I’m done with this rant of mine for now but I must add that I mean no evil to you and hold nothing against you other than your trash-talking crassness throught the wrong medium at the wrong time. While I don’t expect you to stop vomiting just yet, I only ask you think if any of this is justifiable, at least in retrospect, even by your own double standards.

PS: Actually that should have read as another open letter, for at least one has already been written by CommonFan here. I’ve been planning for this letter for some time, but CommonFan has inspired me to write my own rather caustic one.


Of Trescothick, Mint and Ball tampering

August 27, 2008

Ashes 2005 fame Marcus Trescothick reveals shortly before the release of his autobiography some seriously sensational stuff that is bound to boost the sales of his book. Check out the story here.

Of the little I’ve watched of Trescothick, I’ve been largely curious if not a fan. That he disappeared during that 2006 tour of India had me skeptic but after a repeated such incidents and rumors of a stress related condition, I got more sympathetic. So I would have gone on to buy his book, even if I didn’t know about the role Murray’s mint played in the famed Ashes victory. But now there’s more of an incentive. I’m not sure if we’ll get the book here in India on Sept 1st. Either way, I’ll be checking it out at my local Landmark.

Meanwhile on this whole ball tampering issue, while I feel there is an element of it not being fair, I’m more inclined to brush it off. But several questions remain. One of the most bothersome things is the continued preferential treatment some teams get. The ball tampering incident in the Ganguly-lead India with Dravid and with the lozenges laden spit comes to mind. Why should Trescothick go scot free when Dravid didn’t? Should we retroactively change the result, in line with the dangerous precedent of the infamous 2006 Oval Test where Pak were accused of ball tampering? Or should be we retroactively punish Trescothick or set right Dravid’s record? All of these are ridiculous propositions, but the ICC is to blame for this and some cricketing boards are crazy enough to actually ask these questions.

Another question is, just how much change can mint or lozenges induce to a cricket ball? My cricketing experiences are mostly limited to exploits in stick cricket, so I’ll let the learned folk answer this. Even if the effect is more than slightly significant, how we stop tampering through spit? Should chewing gums now be banned hours before play? Ponting is almost always chewing gum on the field. Shall we now suggest that Australia wins matches due to the spit from chewing a certain brand of chewing gum? Should cricketers take medical test to prove that they haven’t chewed gum, eaten mint, or taken dhal-chawal? Should we investigate the effects of Panner-Tikka masala lunch on a cricket ball? Should we have lie detector tests for cricketers? That’s what all this boils down. Any amendments or additions to the law on ball tampering would make it impossible to enforce and move the focus away from the game. We saw this happening in the umpire referral/review system in the recent Test series involving India in Sri Lanka.

I ask only for fair and equal treatment for all cricket playing nations. Other than that I say, case closed and move on.


Vaughan and Collingwood step down as England captains

August 3, 2008

In what came as a rather unexpected double blow for England, Michael Vaughan stepped down an England’s Test captain and Paul Collingwood as ODI captain. When such thing happens I often wonder about links between a captain’s form and their team’s success. While I think most teams tend to take upon themselves their captain’s attitude, having an out-or-form captain can be a energy-draining factor. The converse is also true. In fact, more often than not, I think the team’s failure tends to affect the captain’s form, especially, if he is a batsmen. For other captains, while captaincy may initially be inspiring to their personal form, it tends to bog them down sooner rather than later. Classical examples from India: Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. England have their own in Strauss.

Vaughan and Collingwood both have been woefully out of form for a while. On Collingwood’s captaincy, I didn’t think too much of it. His primary successes have been against India (during India’s tour last summer) at home and against Sri Lanka away. In both cases, he enjoyed success of a playing against teams that were either largely out-of-form or failing to find a wining combination. On Vaughan, the story is a different. His captaincy skill outclass Collingwood by miles. I wouldn’t blame captain Vaughan too much for the team’s failure against South Africa – it was more a case of collective failure: batsmen not up to the challenge and bowlers unable to take 20 wickets. Given Vaughan’s current form, if he didn’t skip the Oval Test himself, he might have been dropped. While it is sad, I think we might have seen the last of Vaughan for some time to time.

Where from here for England? I can think of two players with some experience who are automatic selections to any England lineup: Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, who are also at the moment at the best contributors to the team. Strauss’ name has also been doing the rounds, but I doubt if he could make an assertive captain, also, to me, he isn’t an ODI auto selection. Pietersen would be assertive and possibly innovative, but captaincy could curtain his own batting freedom, which isn’t good for England. So, I would go with Bell. I’m curious to find out who will be named this time around.


Hindustan Times interviews Dravid

June 22, 2008

Given his style of handling the media makes you think he would have succeeded in Hollywood, where elusiveness is a key ingredient to success. Yes, this is our very own Rahul Dravid.

Somehow I’ve always had a sense of awe about this man. Perhaps it’s his enigmatic nature, maybe it’s his penchant for orthodoxy, I can’t tell. What is so endearing about Dravid, at least for me, is that he is testament to the fact that introverted-ness and success are not mutually exclusive. Understandably, that is only when accompanied with grinding hard work, determination and talent.

There are things he does that seem to momentarily defy logic – his relinquishment of captaincy being a prime example – but make a lot of sense with time. Consider that after the disastrous World Cup 2007 campaign, he had not stepped down from captaincy. India go on a win an inconsequential, mostly relief-inducing series in Bangladesh and follow that up with a history-making Test series victory in England. Then the ODI-series loss in England and then Dhoni & Co. go and win the T20 World Cup. With the loss at the hands of the Aussies in the ODI series at home, shortly after the T20 World Cup, he would have gotten sacked as captain. In retrospect, a wise decision!

In this interview, he is characteristically Dravid, or Dravid as we know him. He speaks of the rather tumultuous year he has had: relinquishment of captaincy; having made his peace with losing a place in ODI side; reaching 10,000 runs in Test cricket,which he downplays while shedding light on his unbroken attendance record in Tests; and his criticism laden stint in the IPL. There is nothing new on the stepping-down-from-captaincy front. “I just felt the time had come to move on, and I just knew it”, synonymous with his earlier “ captaincy has a sell-by-date” reasoning. On the IPL, says Dravid, “..playing T20 cricket was new to me and I wanted to see how I’d go in that form of the game.” When asked about his run in the IPL and mud and slush that Mallya turned out to be, he stays with the safe “..there were other things that could have gone a bit better as well both on and off the field”. He doesn’t say much despite the bitterness that he would have felt. The slightest indication comes only when he talks of his young son and says that he “nothing to live up to” when spending time with him. There are hints of retirement too, but not anything we wouldn’t expect. “I won’t be playing after five years”, is something that is almost obvious. The only unexpected part of the interview is his denial of adhering to “copybook style” cricket, for which he is a poster-boy.

Mostly a very predictable interview, yet worth a read. Check it out here.


England win series 2-0 against New Zealand

June 8, 2008

Now this is cricket. I could watch only the last couple of days (including a shortened one) of the third Test at Trent bridge, but it was worth it.

There was a sense of peace to watching this match. Almost nothing happens in a split second. There is enough time to notice the players, the umpires, the field positions, etc. After the IPL razzmatazz, it was almost soothing to see cricket as we traditionally know. Add to it the lush green outfields of England set against the blue sky peppered with grey-ish white clouds, and you have paradise.

Romanticism apart, it was good cricket on display from England. Anderson bagged 7 in the first innings and Sidebottom 6 in the second. The New Zealand openers were pathetic. Only Oram, in the second showed some spirit.