Congratulations Indian media, you’ve bettered the Aussies!

October 3, 2008

The Aussies have been very quiet this time. There were no proclamations of whitewash, announcements of thier “targets” and the like. Whether it’s the IPL cash or a new strategy, we might never know. But the Indian media have taken their place with what I like to call “senior ragging”.

The Indian media has the rumour mills working overtime with the “Ganguly retirement deal” and the VRS pact with seniors to plan retirements by December. What’s more appalling is the tone.

“Plan your retirement and you will be accommodated [irrespective of form and performance].”

“We want to give you are farewell, so take it now.”

That was on today’s Times of India. Is there a worse way to disgrace a sportsman? or a self-respecting human being? This is disgusting, Indian media! Shame on you!

If you need more, check this out on cricketnext. If you look through the entire set of picture, you will note that the seniors are “attempting” to take catches and Dhoni plays with the football. Why the uncertainty surrounding the senior’s capability and the certainty around Dhoni’s? Why this exaggerated age bias? Granted some of the Fab Four/Five might be past their prime, but we all see that, and they perhaps know that too. Why the disgraceful tone? Rambling a bit off-topic, what disappoints me the most, is that, we as Indians, historically have been known for “respecting elders” have now seemed to have forgotten our values. Why is young India so rude? This isn’t specific to cricket alone. There’s an obvious age bias in everything. Though, as a youngster, I reap the benefits of it, I think there is something wrong with this.

Meanwhile, a starkly different toned article has surfaced on Cricinfo – this one by Rohit Brijnath. Thank you Mr. Brijnath! In a very romantic article, Brijnath captures the essence of why the Fab four/five are entitled to their “hurt” on being “rubbished off” and told to shut off. They’ve been fighters all along. We’ve always wanted them to be that way. Why are we now expecting them to go tamely? While I’ve had different thoughts on this as late as last fortnight with my bid for a farewell to them, I’ve changed my mind on this matter. Perhaps the most fitting way for them to go in on their own – be that by being dropped or an unprovoked retirement announcement – not by a forced retirement scheme, certainly not with this tone. I also enjoyed Rohit’s nicknames for the Fab five: The Great One, the Precise One, the Defiant One, the Intense One and the Elegant One. Definitely Indian cricket will be different without them and it will take some stomach for some of us fans to read an India scorecard without Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble. But while they’re around, why not treat them with some respect, for all the joy they’ve give us?

With all this, we’re bound for one hell of a series!


Irani Trophy Day 1: Rest of India vs. Delhi

September 24, 2008

Never trust the media! For the umpteenth time I have rediscovered this truth. Ok, it was not the best of innings from the Rest of India batsman, but when a team scores over 220-230, it is NOT a collapse. Why was Jaffer’s innings “fine” and Dravid’s innings circumspect ? They scored 50 and 46 each in 91 and 95 balls respectively. Jaffer’s list of boundaries reads 5 while Dravid’s count is 4. So much for that.
What I gathered from the first hour and a half of the game, which I caught before heading to work, was this: it was a warm up match and this could very well have been the score that India would have got in the first Test against in Aussies had they played without a warm up, with many batsmen taking a break of over a month. The truth is Jaffer was his “domestic-player” self and looked a bit better than “finding-my-form” Dravid, in comparison. Dravid was initially very shaky, so much to have this fan very worried and sad, but he picked it up later and played some very positive shots. Yes, there are still concerns; yes, he did struggle against Ishant Sharma, as I had I predicted yesterday; yes, the back foot isn’t moving to guard the off stump – a sure sign of out-of-form-ness, but there were some cracking shots which suggest a better comeback is near. Apart from the openers Jaffer and Dravid, no one else made an impression. Laxman was elegant in pieces but threw it away too quickly. The hypes of the day – Kaif and Badri remained hypes. They did not impress with strokeplay or with thier reading of the bowling and ended up with strike rates in the 30s, lesser that both Jaffer and Dravid. Harbhajan played an impressive innings, seriously! 🙂 Ishant bowled as per hype and is at the moment worthy of all the hype. It would be interesting to see Chopra and Gambhir feast off an Ishant-less Rest of India.

As for Delhi, I thought Sehwag’s captaincy was initially defensive. I won’t comment on my gatherings from the highlights as it will tantamount to picking a team looking at scorecards alone 😀 .  Delhi have a fire-power laden batting line up, but if the top 3 fail, it looks a bit brittle. The pitch might slow down after lunch tomorrow to make Day 2 the best day for batting. I’m starting to like Aakash Chopra very much and should find a place in the Indian XI, if Tendulkar doesn’t make it. Speaking of India, we still need Ganguly, the Kaif and Badri’s won’t do at the moment. After all, when you’ve got better, it would be foolish to not use it.

Tomorrow we shall find out if Harbhajan and Kumble feast off the pitch or fizzle away.


Dhoni gets Khel Ratna – How we treat our cricket heroes

August 4, 2008

I must thank SP and abisht, who commented on SP’s recent post, for egging me on to write this one (on a Monday evening) particularly on the way we treat our heroes.

MS Dhoni led the a young inexperienced T20 team to the T20 World Cup last September. The young turks won it and returned to a deservingly warm welcome. Cash prizes were showered, apartments promised and state governments competed with each other to confer their own honors and cash prized on their wards. Even that could be justified, but let me ask this question, while readying myself for the rotten eggs, tomatoes and what-not from the Dhoni fans. Does he deserve this? Tendulkar is the only other cricketer to receive the award.

Let us put the T20 World Cup victory in perspective, both the good and bad. While the lines between good and bad might be blurry as it involves the senior-junior debate, either way, something is either good or bad. The good, this allowed some young Indians who were inexperienced players yet promising to show case their talent. It allowed for us to see their performance as a whole, despite the limitations of the format, unencumbered by the so-called seniors and their think-tank. This gave us, the BCCI and the selectors the confidence to trust youth. It gave us fans hope that there might be a better-than-expected-life after the Holy Trinity of Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid. The bad, allow me to call it that, is that we are obsessed with the format and some of the players who brougt this home, primarily Dhoni, Yuvraj and Uthappa. Obsession with the format, gave rise to the massive mela that was the IPL. While I believe that the IPL can do more damage than good, especially for India with the glaring levels of mania about this format, time will give us the verdict.

Moving on, after the T20 victory, what happened (in the ODI scheme of things)? Indian lost a series to Australia, won against a weak Pakistan side, won a series in Australia (largely due to Tendulkar and the young bowlers), lost the Kitply cup and the Asia Cup. To me, this reads just as good or or bad as the early stages of Ganguly or Dravid’s captaincy. Mark my words, early stages. But is this enough to get the Khel Ratna? Shouldn’t the others have received it as well? Why are we obsessed with the T20 World Cup? I realize it’s not Dhoni’s fault that the others weren’t honored with it or that he is now. I’m just questioning the logic. To me it seems like a mass-media reaction. Don’t get me wrong, the T20 World Cup victory was special. To have witnessed it is a memory I will always cherish. It lifted our spirits as a cricketing nation. But does the T20 Victory alone justify Dhoni’s selection here? Given that cricket is a team sport, and that it wasn’t a couple of innings from Dhoni that brought us the cup (unlike the case of Tendulkar, who has single-handedly won us several matches in his early days), I find this a bit undeserving.

But then this is how we treat our cricket heroes. In this context “we” is the BCCI and the Indian media. One day, we go gaga over them, shower praise, prizes, money, titles and the next they are in the doldrums for the same people who buoyed a cricketer to the pinnacle, will push him from that spot only for him to careen downwards at breakneck speed. We are wrong with both the buoy to and the shove from the peak. The current seniors who come to mind are Ganguly and Dravid. Many times I think we don’t deserve good cricketers. Why are we like this? One bad series, heck, two bad innings, and we seek to sack the folks who have served Indian cricket with distinction. I have already written about the slack that we have been cutting for Yuvraj Singh. This isn’t about the fact that for some seniors the time to say goodbye may have come, this is about the fact that we don’t have the grace to allow them a decent passage into retirement. We want instant amends: the batsman scored a duck and a 5; sack him, he is 35/36 anyway and has had his time. It shouldn’t matter whether he is old or young, we need uniform yardsticks applied to all cricketers. Even if that yardstick is two innings, one dropped catch, two instances of lax fielding fielding, or one match without wickets, let it be uniform. As abisht points out (in the link above), we need to go the Aussie way with this. The way they handled Steve Waugh, at least outwardly, was graceful, respectful and fitting for his deeds as one of Australia’s best captains. We may not like some things that Australia’s cricket team or board does, but this we need to learn from them.

Perhaps it’s Dhoni’s day today. But one fears for tomorrow. If the BCCI and the media don’t alter their ways, Dhoni will be the next victim of mass scorn. And given some of the youngster’s skill level at the moment, that embarrassing tomorrow may not be too far.

Rant done. Ducks a bucket of rotten tomatoes from Dhoni’s female fans!


Dhoni – villain or scapegoat?

January 23, 2008

When we are supposed to be talking about the Adelaide Test, look what’s grabbed the headlines – rifts in the team. Yet again, there is this seniors vs. juniors all over again. If new reports are to be believed, it was not Vengsarkar but Dhoni who insisted on the Ganguly ouster. Apparently, the selectors considered including Dravid too.

Dhoni doesn’t seem to be dealing with this very well. When asked about it, “…still have one more Test match to go, so I think we should wait with the questions regarding the One-Day players. We have waited for two days, let’s wait for another six days..” was what he had to say. Not pleasing the Indian media is a dangerous thing for an Indian captain – a thing Dravid learnt the hard way. On the youngsters dealing with the situation, he said “..it’s not about the people’s expectations, it’s about the players’ expectations.” Perhaps, Dhoni who claims to have learnt a lot from Kumble, also seems to have had lessons of arrogance from Ponting. You don’t want to alienate yourself from the fans, Dhoni; that could get ugly. Remember that match when the crowds at home cheered for the opposition team?

Allow me to emotionally rant here. This begs the question – is Dhoni, with head-rush from the T-20 World Cup victory, a villain or a scapegoat? If this young side with batting line up as brittle as fresh ice succeeds, Dhoni will be spared. If not, he will be made the scapegoat. Consider this, Dhoni is sure to have already lost some public favor. In an emotional country like India, his alleged back-stabbing will earn him the wrath of the Dravid-Ganguly supporters and some neutrals alike. Should his side lose out – which is almost a certainty given that it is the Aussies that they will be facing, and that too in Australia – his captaincy will come into question. His batting has already been questioned time and again; it is only now, after the T-20 success and some against Pak in the recently concluded series in India, that there seems to be some silence on that aspect. With the series lost, fans crying and burning effigies, and the media joining the party, BCCI will be back to the situation of being under pressure of media and public opinion. Then, as my friend Ottayan jokingly suggests, Dhoni may be soon playing his farewell match!