Archive for the ‘Indian cricket’ Category

So the worst kept secret is finally out.
You wonder why a guy who gets a few crores a year playing for just two months – and that too pretty badly – needs to muck around with bookies. Ok, allegedly.
In these days of state-of-the-art technology when people can tap into conversations in your loo, for the three idiots to have phone conversations with bookies and then fix matches, is the dumbest thing to do. 
What I am amused about, however, is the news channels’ hysterical coverage like they didn’t know anything about it till the shit hit the fan. Betting and fixing on cricket matches worldwide is a well oiled and very professional industry. So what was so surprising about the IPL being made a target of fixers?
And for once BCCI is right. You can’t stop a player with a crooked bent of mind. Having said that it says a lot for the Indian sportsperson who puts money before team and pride. That an India player can so easily be lured by filthy lucre really makes one wonder why they don’t take to pimping instead of destroying the game loved by billions worldwide.
One always thought playing cricket at the highest level – if one can call IPL that – must be the motivation for so many youngsters. I guess the priorities have changed for some.
Thank God there still are players like Tendulkar, Dravid, Gilchrist and some others around, who still believe in the age old values and respect the game. In direct contrast are these upstarts, most of who are below-average club level cricketers. They have discovered the road to easy money with no checks or balances. Good luck to them.
You can’t blame them too much when you hear that even owners and their relatives indulge in some skullduggery. It’s not just a case of a few rotten apples anymore. It seems more like the cream atop the bowl of milk has gone rancid.
Frankly, I am hoping so much crap is raked up and so many big guns nailed that they are forced to disband the whole circus. I’ll throw a party, where all those who swear by the IPL won’t be invited! I might have to host it on my landing as there are two people in our home who swear by the damn circus.
I have no problem with the circus if it remains just that. But when Indian teams are selected on the basis of form in the IPL, that’s where I draw the line. How do selectors choose such players when the ICC does not recognise the IPL as an official tournament and performances here are not added to a player’s record?
Then there is the question of people wearing too many hats which leads to a conflict of interest. The days ahead will decide whether this whole sordid story is going to help clean up the Augean stables that Indian cricket has begun to resemble, or the people at the helm of affairs will continue to live in denial.
As for the Pune Warriors, I don’t know who considers themselves luckier to get out of the mess – the team or the sponsors!


I know the BCCI is a ‘charitable’ organisation, but do the players who work for it also have to act like they are part of the package?

So, I have a problem with people who believe that Sachin Tendulkar should be allowed to play as long as he wants at the cost of the team and younger players.

I mean, that would be perfectly all right if the great man had announced on the day he made his debut that he would be playing for the country for free. That every rupee he earned from the BCCI, endorsements and sponsors would be donated to charity. THEN, neither I, nor anyone other Indian anywhere in the world would have the right to say a word against him. Then a place in the Indian team was his till he decided he had had enough.

But, that’s not what he said or he did, and no one, not even me ever expect him to say such silly things. He has give plenty to the game and so has every right to get back enough and more from it, and from all those who run it and fund it. So, when some followers of the game believe he has given enough and say that it’s time he went on to other things, there are howls of protest. Why?

He spent 22 years playing cricket, and he got paid handsomely for it. He’s a sportsperson who made money for every ball he played, every four, six or century he hit, and quite some in multiples of zeroes. So what’s the big deal if there is a demand that he quits, because he hasn’t got the same reflexes that he had as a 22-year-old? And that there may be a few youngsters who might lose their chance to play for India because a struggling, stubborn 39-year-old believes he’s still 22?

There have been other players as great, if not greater, and many mere mortals who were there in between who played for the country. They too gave their 100 per cent for less returns. But they were dismissed rudely and crudely. They were doing what they did best.

I shudder when his so called loyalists believe they should make a permanent place for him at no. 4 till he dies! It’s not just funny, it’s demented when people lose all sense of rationality and talk such utter rubbish. For heaven’s sake, the guy is paid a salary by the BCCI, he isn’t doing anyone a favour. He is also doing what he does best. And like some others before him, he isn’t doing what he is being paid to.

And since the Indian cricket team is not a retirement home, I don’t understand why he, or anyone else, should be retained. Doesn’t he realise that all he has done by clinging to the straws is that he has made a laughing stock of himself? Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get that line thrown at me by some ‘knowledgeable cricket fan’ that I haven’t achieved even an iota of what he has in his 24-odd years of cricket, so I don’t have the right to comment on Tendulkar.

My answer to that is that this is a free country and I have every right to comment on anything everything under the sun from the price of rubbers to Sachin Tendulkar’s cricketing form. In my 50 years, and in what I do, I might think I’ve achieved a great deal, but anyone has the right to rubbish that. He is, and I am being honest, one of the reasons, why I have stopped following the game as closely as I used to these past few years.

I have watched him prosper from age 13 and just as he had brought tears of joy to my face when I watched him bat against the world’s best in his younger days, seeing him bat now brings only sadness. I don’t want to watch him bat anymore, because watching the bewilderment on his face as he gets bowled middle stump is a sight that numbs me. I prefer to watch a film, than watch him bat. At least there I can also laugh with the hero, not just at him.

So to all those silly people who have anointed themselves Tendulkar cheerleaders, don’t you wish that all your energy could have helped him play like before…but it can’t, because even science hasn’t found a cure for ageing. So wake up and grow up.

Leave us with the memories of Sharjah, Old Trafford, Perth, Sydney or wherever, great man, and not the sight of you on your haunches, not just beaten, but looking completely beaten.

My son and a few others think my comments against Sachin Tendulkar are ill-timed and smack of ignorance. Every time I say Sachin should now thinking of retiring, at least from Tests there is a storm of protest from home and from some of my students. He seems to have become the latest ‘holy cow’ and no one can speak a word against him. It’s like he should be allowed to play on undisturbed as long as he wants, even if the other ten are sacked and even if the team slips from one defeat to another! It’s almost as if cricket is not a team game but something invented for one man! I do wish our cricket fans would grow up.

Heck, I admire Tendulkar just as much as the next cricket fanatic and unlike a lot of youngsters who have only seen him play in the last decade or so, I’ve been following his game since he was 14, when he made his debut in school cricket and I avidly followed the natural progression of his game when he stood up to Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir in his first series against Pakistan in 1989.

As I watched the cherubic faced kid taking guard my heart was in my mouth and my fingers were crossed. He had to succeed, I kept saying to myself, because, even then I believed, as a 16-year-old he was God’s gift to Indian cricket. Never has a player been born with such class, charisma, talent, at least not in my lifetime. Yes, there was Sunil Gavaskar, who I sometimes considered a notch above Tendulkar, if only for his phenomenal concentration. Maybe I am biased because Sunny Gavaskar’s exploits were a part of my life, as I grew up, and Sachin came along when I was already four years into my profession.

And, like every any other Indian, I too celebrated every time Sachin scored a century. That’s all I ever wanted him to do, because for me, that’s what he was best at. I watched him roll off ton after ton from his ‘Big Bertha’(Clive Lloyd had given his bat that name and people believed Sachin’s bat was as heavy, if not heavier than Lloyd’s).

In 1994, I got up at 4 am to watch him open the innings for the first time in a one-day match at Auckland, and play an innings what I and a million others, who were lucky enough to watch, believe was one of the finest one-day innings ever played. Tendulkar scored 82 off 49 balls with 15 fours and 2 sixes. Commentators said it was a chilly, blustery morning, with the wind swirling around and the ball swinging dangerously, but this kid played an innings that quite simply took everyone’s breath away.

Those who partnered him that day at Auckland – Jadeja, Kambli, Azharuddin and Manjrekar – were mere spectators as the fireworks from his bat sent a message to bowlers around the world. Here was a batsman, after Bradman, Sobers and Richards they had to fear and respect. I remember reading about some of the Australian players who were watching the match from home who said they had NEVER seen an innings like that played in a one-day match. It was acknowledgment from the best of one already a genius at 21.

I also remember his innings of 119* in England in 1990, a few years earlier as he took India to an honourable draw at Leeds. “Schoolboy defies England” screamed the British newspapers. It was pure magic, and the snooty British press that normally drips acid against anything that isn’t as English as them, waxed eloquent about the 17-year-old schoolboy. He was everybody’s darling.

I also watched him on television scoring back-to-back hundreds against Australia in Sharjah in 1998, that experts believed were two of the greatest one-day knocks played. There too a sandstorm threatened to blow the match away and the Australian bowlers were looking to do the same to the Indian batsmen – until they ran into Tendulkar. Suddenly the Aussies had lost their swagger. For India it was a do-or-die effort and a millions hearts must have stopped beating that day when Sachin took guard. He bludgeoned his way to 143 and 124 in successive matches and won the Cup for India. The Australians were left shell-shocked. They acknowledged that they had been beaten by a champion batsman and not by a team. And there were so many such innings like that, each a masterpiece in its own way, which only Tendulkar could play.

Cut to the present. I see him struggling to get his hundredth hundred, struggling against newcomers, struggling to make scores that he would have virtually made in his sleep. Those bowlers who would have been in awe of him, had they bowled against him a decade ago, were actually talking about getting him out now and quite openly saying they could.

So now when I say he should leave now, and I hear, “Why should he quit, when he’s scoring?” I want to tell these people that this is not the Tendulkar I want to remember. I don’t know what you think but watching the great man in the last year has, except for the occasional flourish, been a painful experience. I watch him struggling to get his feet moving or out of the way against bowlers who actually believe they can get him out. They seem to have figured out his weaknesses and are quick to exploit them. It’s ok to score double centuries at home on wickets which are made to order, but it’s another story on wickets abroad.

I want to remember Sachin as the greatest batsman alive. Sure, he can still get his 70s and 80s. If he can still do that it is proof of his greatness, that he is still a cut above the rest. But is that how we want to remember him? Just another batsman who is happy pulling his weight and adding to his tally of runs?

Maybe you do, but I don’t.

So who let the dogs out? Did you notice how the Income tax department jumped to do their master’s bidding the day Tharoor was accused of doing a few underhand things to get his pals the IPl franchise? Will the government call off the I-T guys, now that Tharoor has quit and Modi is also being sidelined? I don’t think so.

Looks like the BCCI and IPL will have to pay a heavy price for unwittingly getting involved in a sordid game of knots and crosses between a few powerful politicians, who have their own agenda. And the media is busy publishing stories planted by ‘interested’ parties, while going around in circles, like a dog chasing its own tail.

Let’s face it, Tharoor presented his head to his critics on a platter. The Congress claims they heard him out and would obviously like us to believe that they didn’t believe him. Is that really the truth? Has the Congress edged him out just to keep some regional politicians quiet, while they plan their next move?

This whole Tharoor issue, seems to me, a case of inflated egos and attempts at one-upmanship between two or three powerful politicians, all hell-bent on hurting each other’s interests, because one decides the other is now expendable. So word gets around that such a plan is being hatched and some politicians decided to scuttle it.

Mark my words, but six months from now, will emerge the news that Tharoor was as a clean as a whistle, because by then the political drama would have reached its logical conclusion. So they’ll say he recommended his girl friend for a place on the Kochi franchise. So big deal? Why did Lalit Modi accept? After all, he struts around with the pompous sounding title of ‘Commissioner.’ Why didn’t he just tell Tharoor to pipe down, or tell his erstwhile boss Sharad Pawar to lean on him?

Doesn’t it seem strange that Sharad Pawar is backing Modi, when in reality he should have been supporting an MP, who is a member of his alliance partner? What’s the guarantee that some smart politician didn’t offer pay the moon to move the IPL out of Kochi to a city of his choice, Ahmedabad, Kanpur… wherever, because of his business interests there.

I think for Modi and the BCCI, their woes are just beginning. Something tell me they will be taught a lesson. They’re going to be brought to their knees, made examples of, because someone in power wants to teach someone else a lesson. Either that or the powers-that-be will call a truce, kiss and make up, and completely ignore the collateral damage, their little ego battle has caused – the reputation of Indian cricket. That’s politics, and you still think it’s cricket?

I wonder, if in a fit of rage, Lalit Modi called Shashi Tharoor “Faale Manhoof!”

The war of the tweeters has entered the political arena. And now that the politicians have stepped in to the IPL circus we can expect some fun and games and the inevitable scapegoat. I am afraid the articulate and genteel Tharoor is being fattened for the sacrifice – if not now then sometime in the future.

Remember the IPL commercial aired before the IPL, with a politician wondering whether he would get a ticket, and his dumb followers swearing revenge if he didn’t? Does it remind you of the BJP’s ‘spin meisters’ and the others in the opposition screaming for Tharoor’s blood? I am pretty sure a majority of them don’t even know what the controversy is about. Just like the time they made a big noise about Jaswant Singh’s book without even having read it.

Going by Tharoor’s ‘clarification’ in the press, what he says seems pretty logical. So what if he tried to use his influence to get Kochi an IPL ticket? Pray tell me what are Krish Srikkanth, N Srinivasan and other well-known faces doing in the IPL franchisees. Look at the manner in which the Indian T 20 team was selected for the World Cup. Didn’t the IPL owners have a say in selections? The selectors can go blue in the face protesting that selections were clean, but some of the choices did raise eyebrows. So, till it is proved in a court of law that Tharoor is a liar and a cheat, I am going to give him the benefit of doubt.

Somehow I’ve liked neither Mr Modi nor his lisping tongue from the time he appeared on the scene from his home state of Rajasthan. He bears a striking resemblance to Jagmohan Dalmiya (erstwhile head honcho of Indian cricket and in his time cricket’s most powerful administrator), if only for the manner in which he has made money for the Indian cricket board. The similarity ends there.

In spite of all of Jaggu’s dada’s sometimes dubious style of functioning, I admired him because he gave the impression that he put Indian cricket and its players above all else, when it came to taking on the establishment (Read ICC and its supporters among the White cricketing nations). No one dared to tangle with Dalmiya and even a person as mild mannered as John Wright said he was relieved that Dalmiya was at the helm when Mike Denness allegedly called Tendulkar a cheat in South Africa. Wright didn’t believe anyone else could have taken on the ICC and shown them their place. It was an incident that virtually threatened to split the cricket world. But Dalmiya refused to back down until Tendulkar was reinstated and cleared off the charges.

But Modi, somehow, looks the type who’ll sell Indian cricket to the highest bidder, which is what he has been doing successfully these past three seasons. He reminds me of Kaa the boa constrictor in Jungle Book. I can visualise him lisping his way through “Trust in me”. Would you trust Mr Modi?

I first heard a ball-by-ball cricket commentary on my radio when the Australian team was playing in India in 1969. Their names fascinated me – Stackpole, Redpath, Chappell, Gleeson, Lawry, Mallett, Mckenzie. I guess that was the day I was hooked to cricket and more so to Australian cricket.

When everyone was blasting the Australian team of the 1970s and 80s, for their on-field and off-field antics under Ian Chappell and later under Greg Chappell, I marvelled at their determination to win at any cost. To me they were then and are still the most exciting cricket team in the world. Everybody else is yards behind.

I remember Ian Chappell and his bowlers being criticized for snarling at the English cricketers during the Ashes series in 1974-75 and the following year in England. Just before the 1974-75 Ashes series in Australia, Jeff Thomson was quoted as saying that he liked to see blood on the pitch and batsman writhing on the floor in pain. It was an outrageous comment by any standards, but it had the desired effect. The Englishmen were terrified of facing Thommo and by the time Test series started they were literally backing away from the pitch every time Thomson and Lillee ran in to bowl. They had to win, social niceties be damned.

The following year, members of the Australian team were seen on the balcony of the dressing room in a mock fight, stripping a player to the waist in full public view of the spectators. Ian Chappell was asked about his team’s behavior and his cryptic comment was “What happens off the field should stay off the field!” The Pommies were left fuming at the arrogance of the Australians, but the latter couldn’t have cared less.

I know I’m painting myself in a corner, but I’ve always admired the Australian cricket team for the manner in which they’ve played their cricket. So they are brash, foul-mouthed, cussed, but who cares? At the end of the day they show results and that’s what matters.

I was going through the Australian cricket team’s records on the other day and was marvelling at their consistency over the last 140-odd years. 713 Test matches played and 332 wins, that’s a 46.56 per cent win record, and a loss percentage of 26.08, which is fantastic. In one-day internationals Australia has played 726 matches, won 448 and lost 247 with a win percentage of 64.29.

Now look at India’s Test record: 430 Tests; 99 won with a win percentage of 23.02 and a loss percentage of 31.62.In one-day internationals, in which Indians are supposedly second to the Australians, the record is: Played: 727; Won: 351; Lost: 340, with a 50.79 win percentage. They’ve lost as many matches as they have won.

So when I hear this crap by some of my friends in the media about how India is just a step away from becoming No 1 in world cricket, it makes me laugh. They should ask themselves whether the Indian cricket team really deserves the title. Can India ever be as consistent as the Australians have been over a period of say ten years? From Don Bradman to Ricky Ponting, it has been the focus of every Australian captain to ensure that his team is the best in the world – come what may. It’s a lesson the Indian cricket team and its bosses could do well to learn if they want to EVER be called a great team.

Which Indian captain, with the exception of Sourav Ganguly for a brief while, has made an effort in that direction? It’s not a matter of winning all major tournaments in a year. It’s a matter of winning all major tournaments year after year, for the next ten years! If they can do that, Team India can be called ‘great’. With such a talented bunch of individuals in their midst it’s surprising that the Indians fail to click as a team, except on those rare occasions. And we make it worse by calling anyone or anything ‘great’. Then we expect them to live up to that epithet and crucify them when they fail.

Honestly, there is just one player in this team on whom the title of ‘great’ sits with ease and we all know who that is – the rest of them are all bad copies of the originals we have seen down the ages. As a matter of fact, I’ll stick my neck out to say that there are just a handful of players in the last 40 years who can be called ‘great’ – Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, and Sourav Ganguly. That’s it. The others have a long way to go, before they can be placed alongside these five – if ever.

So when I heard our pea-brained experts saying on the idiot box before the series started that the injury-hit Australians would be easy meat against the in-form Indians, I was amazed. The Australians are NEVER easy meat and more so an Australian team that’s being written off. So it didn’t surprise me in the least when they rubbed the Indians’ noses to the ground. And mind you, on paper this Australian team is second-string. If this is what a second-string team can do, it speaks volumes for the class of the Indians.

The Australian media has rightly called the Indians ‘upstarts’. Frankly, with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar and to some extent Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the rest of them aren’t worth the big bucks they are paid. They are not great, they just grate.

Attending former cricket selection committee chief, Chandu Borde’s felicitation on Tuesday, at the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir and the dinner after that at Hotel Blue Diamond brought back some lovely memories – my first taste of this beautiful game called cricket, seeing some of the cricketing greats at the strangest of places, and then as a sports journalist covering cricket for over 16 years, going for international matches and tournaments like the World Cup.

Chandu Borde, for all those too young to remember, was India’s ‘Mr. Dependable’ – he could bat, bowl and field – and there weren’t too many of them around. My friend babu kalyanpur, (that’s how he likes to write his name), now with Gulf Daily News, and easily one of the most knowledgeable cricket writers around, once told me that Borde is one of the unsung heroes of Indian cricket, who never got his due.

He should have been captain, but the powers-that-be believed that captaincy was the preserve of those who were good with their interpersonal skills not just their cricket. The feeling then was that only Oxford or Cambridge educated nobility could make good captains – or if you were from Shivaji Park or Dadar Gymkhana. Thank God that colonial mentality has changed, or Kapil Dev would never have become captain and we might never have won the Prudential Cup in 1983!

As Ajit Wadekar spoke about Borde at the function, all those memories of my cricket madness came flooding back. I remember huddling over a Murphy Radio in 1969 listening to Raju Bharatan and Pearson Surita referring to Redpath, Chappell, Walters, Stackpole (it sounded like Tadpole), Gleason, Mckenzie. What were they — some form of exotic food or people? I learned that these were cricket players from Australia. I remember meeting former Australian opener Keith Stackpole in Pune during the 1996 World Cup and telling him that it was his name that got me hooked to cricket. He laughed uproariously.

When ‘Shandra’ (what one of India’s greatest spinners, B.S. Chandrashekhar, was referred to as over the Beeb by famed commentator John Arlott) spun his web around England at The Oval in England, a lot of us were at home, ears straining to catch the commentary over Short Wave, waiting for that magical moment. We roared in delight when Eknath Solkar (will there be another fielder like him?) plucked the ball just before it dropped to the ground, a few feet from England wicket-keeper Alan Knott’s bat. I think we knew then that India was within smelling distance of history. I think a lot of us cried that day – it was that kind of a feeling. Totally indescribable.

Then Ajit Wadekar and his boys reached Bombay and I read about the welcome at the airport and revelled in the feeling – like I was there, like I was a part of it. So when in December 1971 in Delhi when my mother asked me if I wanted to watch a cricket match on TV at her friend’s place, I jumped at it! I had never seen a TV in my life before leave alone a cricket match. I watched the India-England Test match being played at the Feroz Shah Kotla, on a black and white TV set. It was an amazing experience. We lost the Test and I was shattered. How could these champions lose to a second string England team?

Cricket soon became an obsession. I was compiling notebooks and albums of cricket pictures and statistics. I would follow cricket matches over the radio ball by ball, copiously writing down scores and records, calculating averages. I remember my mother telling someone that I could calculate Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average to the last decimal, but ask me to do multiplication and I was lost!

I remember going on a school picnic to Lonavala, and as we were buying chikki at a store a man came up and told us, “If you want to see cricketers come with me.” In excitement we followed him to a luxury bus parked at the side of the road. There was the hero of the Oval Test, Eknath Solkar along with a lot of other Indian players. Imagine seeing these guys up, close, in the flesh!

Cut to the mid-1970s and we were standing at Jangli Maharaj Road opposite Khyber Restaurant, in Pune. We were waiting for all the snazzy sports cars participating in the London-Sydney Rally that were supposed to pass from there. As we waited I looked around and saw this tall man next to me talking to someone on his left. I could barely suppress my excitement. My friends noticed him too and we began whispering loudly – too loudly – because he looked at us and smiled. We couldn’t believe our luck. That was all we needed. Note books and pens came out in a flash and all of us watched in wonder as he signed his name in our books. Our day was made.

Our presence had been acknowledged by none other than Chandu Borde!