Little moments

Shahid Afridi is upset that his team’s fifteen minutes of fame has been downsized to fifteen seconds.

“I fail to understand why the next World Cup will be played in nine months time,” Afridi told reporters on arrival in Karachi. “If it was being organised after two years, people would have remembered Pakistan’s victory and it would have been more enjoyable.”

PostScript: A touch under the weather, hence heading home. See you guys tomorrow

Interests, conflicts

Shekhar Gupta does the unthinkable: somehow find a way to put ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘BCCI’ in the same sentence.

The issue, for example, is not that so many players suffered injuries, or got “fatigued” playing the IPL. Professionals will take what playing opportunity comes their way and have to watch their fitness. The issue is, if they were carrying injuries, why did the selection committee not take a call on it? Today, the BCCI will be blamed for this generally. But soon enough, particularly if poor performance continues, questions will start getting raised about a very nice guy like Krishnamachari Srikkanth who, as chairman of selectors, has one of the most powerful jobs in the country. Are you conscious yet of the fact that he is also a brand ambassador for the Chennai Super Kings team which, in turn, is owned by

N Srinivasan, who also happens to be the secretary of the BCCI? All this may be entirely meritocratic, but hasn’t the cricket establishment heard anything about conflict of interest? If the BCCI, a non-profit “society”, is supposed to supervise and regulate Indian cricket and also the IPL — which is its prime, and most profitable, product — should its office-bearers own teams in it? And can their brand ambassadors (on their payroll) be national selectors?

What beats me is, why did Gupta stop there?

One of the listed owners of Kings XI Punjab is Dabur scion Mohit Burman, whose brother Gaurav is the husband of Lalit Modi’s step-daughter.

Suresh Chellaram, who co-owns Rajasthan Royals, is Lalit Modi’s brother-in-law.

The Kolkata Knight Riders franchise is fronted by Shah Rukh Khan, but the canny Bollywood bad-shah has very little of his own money invested in it; the funding comes largely from Jay Mehta, one of Lalit Modi’s best buddies.

Kings XI Punjab is managed by one Amar Bindra, who happens to be the son of Inderjit Singh Bindra, who is a member of the BCCI’s governing body, principal advisor to the ICC president, and a member of the IPL governing council.

What Gupta doesn’t either doesn’t get, or at least doesn’t spell out here, is that the BCCI is a family concern — always was, is, and always will be. And there is little that can be done about it. Also from Gupta’s piece:

The BCCI has now come to acquire powers over media coverage on its own doings and performance that nobody in India has ever been able to arrogate to themselves, not under Mayawati, or Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency. During the Emergency, the government censored our newspapers, it got some inconvenient editors fired, but it did not appoint its own employees as our editors.

Look at what the BCCI has achieved. It has hired Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, two of India’s most-loved former cricketers and commentators, on its own “commentary” team and irrespective of which channel wins the bid for covering cricket in India, it has to use these — in this case the BCCI’s — commentators. Incidentally, both are also members of the IPL governing council.

Web shavings

An occasionally updated post of gleanings from my favorite browser:

  • Remember the Intel ad that goes ‘Our superstars are not like your superstars’? Turns out ‘our’ superstars aren’t even our superstars — the Ajay Bhatt in the ad is actually a role-playing actor. [Via Asfaq Tapia]. And here, below, is the ad:
  • How cool is it for firefighters to get an emergency call to fight a blaze in their own station?
  • Mind over matter — or how the cricketer of the future could end up hitting a yorker on middle stump for a straight six? [Link courtesy Satish Sangameshwaran]
  • In a case of taking criticism too far, a sheriff’s deputy has been arrested for throwing up at a concert by country star Kenny Chesney.

Return of the unpredictables

Prahlad Rao [on Twitter here] pointed me at this post by Great Bong, on Pakistan’s World Cup win. An edited sampling of the opening:

Whether it be in claiming in their history books that they whipped the asses of India in all the wars that they fought against us ( including 1971 and Kargil) or whether it be in not giving up a match even when logic dictates otherwise, there is one thing that has characterized Pakistan—-their stubborn refusal to accept defeat.

….

With this victory, I hope, that the old Pakistan is back once again—-temperamental, nasty, supremely talented, the guys I grew up hating, loving and feeling jealous of.

Because with the colorless Kiwis and South Africans around and Australia looking a pale shadow of its old self, the cricket world needs some drama, some brilliance. The kind that only the men in green can provide.

Unlike most of the “politically correct” people in the press, I am not going to say that Pakistan deserved the trophy due to  a cosmic scheme of fairness, a kind of compensation by fate for how their country has been at the receiving end of terrorism for the past few years and how its cricketing infrastructure has been ruined as a result. Frankly, terror is like perfume. One cannot spread it around without getting a few drops on oneself. So Pakistan’s present travails in the political sense are totally due to its policies and I have no desire to link their murderous politics with the fortunes of the cricket team. In any case, Pakistan is being well-rewarded for their bogus war on/of terror by a tripling of US aid and so no tears for them there.

Tangentially, on the topic of US aid for Pakistan — the $7.5 billion package is currently poised to hit the floor of the House and Senate for voting — this also happened yesterday:

An airstrike believed to have been carried out by a United States drone killed at least 60 people at a funeral for a Taliban fighter in South Waziristan on Tuesday, residents of the area and local news reports said.

Details of the attack, which occurred in Makeen, remained unclear, but the reported death toll was exceptionally high. If the reports are indeed accurate and if the attack was carried out by a drone, the strike could be the deadliest since the United States began using the aircraft to fire remotely guided missiles at members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The United States carried out 22 previous drone strikes this year, as the Obama administration has intensified a policy inherited from the Bush administration.

Related, here’s C Uday Bhaskar on Pakistan’s ‘Yes We Can’ moment [Link courtesy Varun Bubber on Twitter].

It is instructive that among the many bans imposed by the Taliban in their inflexible and cheerless interpretation of the ‘true’ Islamic way of life, sports were taboo – and cricket in particular.

Hence the much reviled attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore and one may conjecture that the Taliban lost a large swathe of support when they carried out this dastardly attack.

During a visit to Lahore a day after the attack, I was struck by the manner in which the local people gave vent to their deep anguish at what was seen as a double transgression of the most heinous nature.

First it was a visitor who had been targeted – the ‘mehman’ – who even by the Taliban code was to be protected; and second – ‘khuda kay liye’ – for Allah’s sake – they were cricketers – the most venerated public figures in all of South Asia.

Thus the Lord’s victory is a cock-a-snook at this Taliban diktat and even Peshawar — site of the Pearl Continental Hotel attack — was celebrating Shahid Afridi’s exploits with bat and ball.

And since we are on the subject of the Taliban, cricket and such, a recent read from the New York Times that is worth your time.

There’s a kind of hush…

…and a good thing it is, too.

There’s a mandatory statement from Chris Gayle that he is not taking India lightly. Yes, well — you may not, but we are.

I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, I find it impossible to work up any kind of enthusiasm for a four-game ODI series shoe-horned into the calendar to fulfill some contractual obligation or the other; a series that comes at the fag end of a season of too much cricket across too many different time zones.

Win, lose or draw — what difference does this series make, either to jaded players or cricket-saturated viewers?

Outside of that, Dawn editorializes about Pakistan’s win in the T20 World Cup final, and inter alia says:

Even in India, which with its deep pockets now virtually controls the ICC. It will take some doing to crush Pakistan’s spirit. We will not simply go away and sulk. We can triumph in the face of adversity.

Well, good for you. But where did you get the idea that India wants to crush Pakistan’s spirit? And which India are you talking about?

There is a BCCI, that wanted to send the Indian team to Pakistan earlier this year, but was prevented by government fiat. And a good thing too, from a Pakistan point of view: if it had been India that had toured, and its players that had been attacked outside the gates of the Gaddafi Stadium, it would have been impossible to rein in nationwide calls for war.

Left to its own devices, the ‘cash rich BCCI’, which is never averse to making a few million more, would love to host Pakistan the day after its team is done with the West Indies — what is stopping it is not a desire to crush Pakistan’s spirit, but a government increasingly impatient with Islamabad’s bait-and-switch tactics on terrorism [Never mind 26/11 -- when the Lankan cricketers were attacked, there were enough voices in the Pakistan establishment suggesting that somehow, India was responsible].

So, hey, all power to Pakistan cricket. Whenever it takes the field, it brings much joy even to Indians — a fact Dawn and its ilk might not want to acknowledge because it goes against the accepted narrative in those parts.

Anyway — outside of these little echoes [and the obligatory guff about the Ashes, which I'll ignore], the cricket world seems fairly quiet — which is a good thing. Besides being a more than usually busy day at work, the lull gives me some mental space to write tomorrow’s episode in the Bhimsen series.

See you on here later in my day, maybe.