Is IPL killing cricket?

May 17, 2008

I read this illuminating article about ‘ripping’ the textbook by Cricinfo’s Sriram Veera. Yes, the textbook is Test cricket. I was rather shocked to read that some of these cricketers have had to unlearn the things they spent their entire life on. Any guesses on who the ‘playing within the V’ cricketer is?

Moving on, this begs many questions. First of all, as Ajay Jadeja had alluded to during the T20 World cup, is this even cricket? Cricket has been a complex game: about strategy, declarations, field positions, “temperment”, and much more, not merely about hitting the ball out of the park thereby making the bowler feel like a “extra” in a dance-number. Secondly, given the changes required of batsman, shouldn’t we have two seperate teams – one for Tests and another for T20, which don’t mix. Test cricket and T20 have only the letter T in common. One is for men, the other for adrenaline-pumping-boys. True, there is a fearlessness associated with T20, which can rarely be seen in a Test match, but the latter builds charecter and does more to the development of person than many other things in life. So much for the well know adage that cricket is a metaphor for life. If we do deciede that T20 is cricket, and if that be our metaphor of life, India is likely to be filled with a lot of arrogant youngsters, who will have nothing but thier arrogance to flaunt.

There is yet another alarming prospect – this is a bit of a stretch. Consider the case where the Utthappas, the Gambhirs and other fly-by-night hitters of the upcomming generation make it to Test cricket, with their new found batting techniques, thereby polluting it with their vulgar slogging. Assuming that international standards also drop a notch, thanks to the IPL, then, Test cricket won’t be Test cricket anymore.

Granted, with time, games like language, are bound undergo change, but not at the cost of the very foundation. For once, I’m with the ICC on their pompous-sounding, yet mostly toothless declaration in support of Test Cricket. There is just some noise, not even a semblense of a game-plan to see it through.

While this is the case, the BCCI selectors have proudly announced that they are watching the IPL with an eye on selection for ODIs. This declaration the biggest embarrasement for Indian cricket, perhaps on par the Harbhajan episode.

If Test cricket dies and takes with it, the Dravids, Tendulkars, Kallis-es and Chanderpauls, damn you, BCCI. The Aussies might turn out as the care takers of the purest form of the game. Then, as a fan of Test cricket, I will then have to throw way my pride and turn into an Aussie fan, through and through.


Bangalore Royal Challengers Stun Mumbai

April 22, 2008

Have you heard the Mumbai crowd cheering for Jayasuriya chanting “Su-ri-ya Su-ri-ya”? Have you seen an Indian cricketer (Kohli) pull a catch from thin air? Have you ever seen Zaheer Khan field like a 19 year old?  If you haven’t seen any of this before, and you missed the Bangalore vs. Mumbai match from last Sunday, you have certainly missed something in your armchair cricketing (aka avid viewing) career.

After a crushing defeat at home, in a contest where Bangalore was written off even before a single ball was bowled, the Royal Challengers, shall I say “pulled an India”? If you are wondering what I meant by “pulled an India”, maybe I should qualify that by adding Dravid-ian India. Just like Team India came back to life in their away tours after a devastating ODI World Cup, the Bangalore team came back in a way no one (avid supporter vmminervaincluded) could have imagined. At the Wankhede, where they only had a countable minority of supporters, they stunned the locals to silence.

The Mumbai Indians were no pansies. They had a super hyped batting line up with the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Robin Uthappaand pinch-hitting all rounder Shaun Pollock; not to forget a star studded bowling attack in Harbhajan, part-timer Jayasuriya, and former India-cap Nehra. Jayasuriya thrilled for one over and perished. Uthappa entertained with a 38 ball 48, but impressive bowling and fielding from the Banglore side restricted the hosts to a respectable albeit cautiously chase-able 168.

Many things went right for the Bangalore side, most importantly the gritty spirit and fielding. They looked seriously threatened when Jayasuriya mauled the bowling with the crowd madly behind the Lankan bombshell. But the Mumbaikars felt ominously quiet when Zaheer effected a spine-tingling run out to get rid of Sanath. Zaheer seemed almost possessed on the day; I blinked several times to check if the catch or the save was indeed effected by Zaheer. With 20 overs of unbelievable fielding and a tidy bowling spell, he inspired the others to fielding standards that was distinctly un-Indian. Apart from Zaheer, Praveen Kumar did quite well; so did Balachandra Akhil, who, although ended up wicketless with an econ of over ten, did bowl exceptionally well. Like they say, the figures on the scorecard don’t tell the whole story.

The Bangalore innings started rather sedately. Chanderpaul faced the first few deliveries bring Wall-Dravid on strike. Jaffer thankfully sat out this game. For one very inspired Pollock over, Dravid looked desperately Wall-ish and in a good amount of anguish. But it changed after he hit one of the most beautiful textbook on-drives and Chanderpaul lashed away in his own characteristic way. Then some drama intervened; if Mumbai’s Thornley spilt blood on the pitch, Bangalore’s Chanderpaul pulled one onto his knee (with bat speed of 95 kmph) and rolled with pain before asking for a runner. But he almost needn’t have; shortly after Kohli’s arrival, Chanderpaul hit one over the top, right into Kulkarni’s hands. For a short while Dravid (yes, this the Wall I am talking of) steadied the ship with classic shots for four, before being c&b-ed by captain Bhajji. Following that, Taylor and Kohli put on some runs, but in the end it was the South African duo of Kallis and Boucher who took Bangalore home. All this to a very quiet Mumbai crowd and with the Bangalore sit-out cheering a wide “like they had won the World Cup” (quoting commentators).

Bangalore made a charecteristically Dravid-ian statement with their victory over Mumbai on Sunday. There is certainly long way to go, but this has given us Bangalore supporters some hope. Go Bangalore! Show ’em you can!