And the rest is silence

Going unnoticed in all the World Cup-related hype is the fact that another powerful franchise, the Royal Challengers, has added its weight to Mumbai Indians on the question of the last minute changes in IPL auction rules.

“I look forward to clarification from the IPL or response to Mumbai Indians letter. I have further gone on records to say that I wish there would be an inclusive process, where the franchise, the principal stakeholders, would also be given a greater consultative role in the entire IPL administration process.”

That is Vijay Mallya, expressing the hope that the IPL will in fact respond in some detail to the MI missive. To know how futile that hope is, read the letter in full — paying particular attention to the items a-j sought for per #6 in this note:

Hilarious, that wish-list. How in heck can there be agenda details, minutes etc for decisions that were made arbitrarily, with no reference to the governing council besides its usual post facto rubber-stamping duties?

While on that, said GC never seems to learn. When the Modi imbroglio hit the headlines and questions were asked about why the GC had not been more active in forestalling corruption, the response trotted out by worthies like Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri was that their brief was related to cricket and related matters alone; finances were not their concern. So here you go — an issue directly relating to the cricket, and the GC as always remains invisible. (Ironically Pataudi, who for a brief while won kudos for “introspecting” and suggesting that GC should have been more aware of what was going on, was in September 2010 retained on the Council alongside Ravi Shastri, who in contrast to his garrulous commentary avtaar has absolutely nothing to say about anything to do with his IPL governing council duties. Since his retention, there has been a scad of other controversies culminating in the murky doings around the January auction — and lo, Pataudi remains mute.)

Then again, the reasons for the GC’s inertia inadvertently came to light last year thanks to the mini-furor over Sunil Gavaskar being dropped from the Council, and the former India star in turn claiming that he had not been paid for his three years of turning a blind eye as a member of the GC. Remember how that argument went? Gavaskar said he was not paid; on behalf the board, N Srinivasan said of course he was paid. It turned out that both were right — the BCCI had paid Gavaskar what it was supposed to on paper, which is a sum of Rs 1 crore per IPL season; what Gavaskar was claiming was the larger sum “promised” by Sharad Pawar, in his capacity as then BCCI chief, for his “services”.

As is our way, the public debate at the time was all sound and fury, with both parties posturing for the media — but substance there was none. For instance — did anyone ask Pawar why he would pay Gavaskar a sum over and above that promised? What was that additional payment for, and what ‘service’ was Gavaskar supposed to render in return for that additional amount? Did anyone pose those same questions to Gavaskar, asking him to explain the sub rosa deal, and why he had agreed to accepting an undisclosed sum over and above the princely amount he was getting for doing the three monkeys act all in one go?

In a post earlier, I had argued that corruption to be eradicated or at least curtailed had to be tackled at source. On a related theme, read Gideon Haigh. And at the end, know this: this furor, too, shall pass. With no answers to the questions raised. The BCCI will sync up with the franchises behind the scenes, paper over the whole affair, and it will be back to business as usual — because that is the nature of this particular beast.

On a happier note, some good reading in the Outlook special issue on Sachin Tendulkar, now out on the stands. The roster of writers is excellent — the cream of the crop, really, from India and abroad. Buy it, savor it, keep it. In passing, my friend Krishna Prasad had called, asking if I was interested in contributing a piece to that special. Would have loved to — only, the call came at a particularly inopportune moment, with little or no mindspace to deliver what the subject required. In retrospect, of all the articles and blog posts on Sachin written over the years, I think the one I would have submitted for the special is this one — one of the last pieces I wrote for Rediff, as it turned out. My attitude today to Tendulkar the cricketer is what I tried to capture in this segment:

What does it say of Tendulkar that having raised the bar to impossible heights in 1998, he is able to effortlessly vault over it 11 years later?

We have for the space of two decades repeatedly witnessed the alchemy of genius effortlessly convert the impossible into the seemingly inevitable.

Do we, then, treasure each such glimpse of divinity in and of itself, painstakingly weaving them into the Tendulkar mythos and marvelling at our fortune that we were eye-witness to events that will provide grist for a generation of sports balladeers to come? And in the process of thus celebrating the genius, do we refrain from questioning the mortal who, in the lengthening interregnums between individual outbreaks of brilliance, needs the deeds of the past to justify his presence in the present?

Perhaps there is no pat answer to the conundrum. Writing in Mint, Dileep Premachandran quotes Mathew Hayden as saying: “When Tendulkar goes out to bat, it is beyond chaos — it is a frantic appeal by a nation to one man.”

Maybe we should just stop parsing the numbers; maybe we should be grateful that every once in a while, Tendulkar hears that appeal, and responds as only he can.

In passing, another good read — Wasim Akram on the art of pace bowling.

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30 thoughts on “And the rest is silence

  1. Pingback: “A metropolis beyond imagination” « Smoke Signals

  2. I remember another piece which I thought was very brave of you. I first stumbled upon it when I was reading Gulu Ezikel’s biography of Sachin. I can clearly remember one particular line you wrote with regards to the murky underworld of Indian selection. You had said “to hell with no names” and went onto name two selectors who had scuttled Sachin’s choices. I was very young back then, but to date I can remember it very clearly. Is it possible for you to supply all of us with a link to that article?

  3. Jazzy B – Mate, you may find it tough to believe but I am a big time Sachin fan; in fact when he retires I am not sure if I will be able to watch Cricket with the same fervor. But please let us not make Sachin into something that he is NOT. It may be our desperate pathological need, but let us not try to create super heroes from bona fide heroes.
    Swamy – There is a difference, bud, there is a difference. One is having the best batsman in the world come up with guns blazing, against all odds, look the best bowler in the world in the eye and say ‘Fuck You, this is what we can do’. The other is the same batsman coming and deciding to take singles expose the tail (someone says that might have worked — PLEASE you would put your money on a #11 rather than SRT?), and basically say “eh, there is nothing that can be done”.
    We are #1 team in the world, yes? And to remember the way the TRUE #1 team plays is to go back to Australia at its peak. They would strike fear in the hearts of their oppositions, and the opposing team that you could never be sure till the last bowl was bowled. That is all. IS that too much to expect from the #1 team and its #1 batsman?

    Woh….is it you or me who is trying to create superhero here? You want SRT to blast Steyn with “WTF” attittude. And blaming ME saying that I am creating a superhero. Very funny.

    The point I made is just this: I dont know what is truly inside the mind of SRT, and for that matter nobody else. But what I know is that he said the team wanted to give a message to SA during the second innings. I dont have any reason to say that this was a lie. Now, if thats what the team wanted to do, definitely it is in the best interest of the team to take chances with the tail, knowing that failure was a certainty.

    Where do you see I am trying to make a superhero out of SRT? I dont know what your impression of SRT is, but as far as I know, he is nomore a dominating batsman. If he has given up that idea, why can’t you?

    • Jazzy,

      Last post on this topic from me…hopefully :)…we have beaten this horse to death!

      Saying WTF to Steyn is not being a super hero; it is just having balls. And that is something even Bhajji or an Ishant Sharma can do. So, no, my saying that he should have taken Steyn on, does not amount to me making him a super hero.

      And my super hero comment wasn’t just directed to you – it was directed to all those folks who feel that Sachin the super hero, the savior, the God, can do no wrong, who go to great lengths to defend him even when it is painfully obvious to rest of us that THAT DAY he preferred to up his average and not prevent an innings defeat period.

      Yes, he is no longer the dominating batsman he was, but he is still not at a place where he has to roll over and die, right? He can still *try* and take it to the opposition, yes? And to me, THAT would have been the message that we sent to SA – otherwise what was the message, really?, that we will unleash our tail-enders at you; beware?!

      Peace dude, sorry if you thought I singled you out.

  4. Right on mate, JII, fully agree with you.

    See this is the problem with us – the moment you even question Sachin, people go up in pitch-forks. Why do we insist on putting him on a pedestal that he may not be suited for – he is mortal after all, yes? He will have his pluses (of which there are PLENTY), but he will also have his weak points. And like JII said, in the last decade or so, he has increasingly become a self serving batsman.

    Jazzy B – Mate, you may find it tough to believe but I am a big time Sachin fan; in fact when he retires I am not sure if I will be able to watch Cricket with the same fervor. But please let us not make Sachin into something that he is NOT. It may be our desperate pathological need, but let us not try to create super heroes from bona fide heroes.

    Swamy – There is a difference, bud, there is a difference. One is having the best batsman in the world come up with guns blazing, against all odds, look the best bowler in the world in the eye and say ‘Fuck You, this is what we can do’. The other is the same batsman coming and deciding to take singles expose the tail (someone says that might have worked — PLEASE you would put your money on a #11 rather than SRT?), and basically say “eh, there is nothing that can be done”.

    We are #1 team in the world, yes? And to remember the way the TRUE #1 team plays is to go back to Australia at its peak. They would strike fear in the hearts of their oppositions, and the opposing team that you could never be sure till the last bowl was bowled. That is all. IS that too much to expect from the #1 team and its #1 batsman? ;)

    • @Abhi DC please read Prem’s post on SRT facing Dale Steyn in third test. The context of the game, no of balls faced, shielding the batsman at other end :-
      https://prempanicker.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/the-two-faces-of-mastery/
      Just one stat from that post SRT faced 48 of 66 balls bowled by Steyn in that spell from hell.
      Not liking SRT’s approach, game is one thing, but demeaning any player doesn’t come in good taste. End of the day its only a game, so a player can take a call on which battles are worth fighting for and which he can let go.

      • Dhananjay,
        Very nicely put brother, I agree with you a 100% that no one has right to demean Sachin, and I apologize if in my endeavor to prove my points, you felt I crossed a line.

        But by the same token, making a demi-God out of a sportsman (and this is all he is – a sportsman) is also not called for.

        Let’s stick to the facts and call it a day; and the fact is that THAT DAY he preferred to remain not out and maintain his average. But like you said, on a DIFFERENT DAY, he did protect his team mates from Steyn’s fiery spell.

        And that is that really.

  5. Where did I say that SRT should have tried to bat out the 90 overs? Now, THAT would have been idiotic. What I said instead was that I would have liked SRT to show some balls, take the attack to the opposition, and prevent the INNINGS DEFEAT (quote – “but any player with an ounce of pride for playing for India (which incidentally the God claims is his biggest motivating factor) would have tried to at least prevent the innings defeat”

    Dude, when Laxman saved Mohali test for India, do you remember who scored the bulk of the runs in the 9th wicket partnership? Why didnt you find any fault when he exposed the tail? I know there are guys who are desperate to find faults with SRT. But it is so funny to relate to his being notout with being “selfish”. Dude, after the match he said it was important to send a message to the SA team. And the message was not that India can avoid Innings defeat. The message he was trying to build up was that they can fight. What if some tailender indeed batted with some confidence against Steyn and Morkel? That would have dented the SA morale more than any avoidance of innings defeat by some heroics of a top order batsman. I know this is bash-SRT forum, but bash him for things that are relevant.

    • I have told this at the time of Laxman’s innings also in this forum. What he did didn’t make much cricketing sense. Taking a single of the first ball and asking the tail to face the remaining over. We were lucky that Ishant has a very good defensive technique and that Australia lost the plot. And it came off. Have you seen how an Inzy or Hussey bat with the tail? That’s how you do it. And the guy SRT had for company was Unadkat, not even Ishant.

      • JII, dont you remember SRT shielding Bhajji during Steyn’s spell in the 3rd test? Please man, the guy has played 20 years of test cricket. Let him make the judgement of what is best under a circumstance. The judgement may be incorrect according to you, but why do people have to say it came from “selfishness”? Thats the part I find extremely rude to a good cricketer and a decent fellow.

        • Where did I say SRT became selfish during the 1st test against SA? If you read my 1st post, this is something I have started feeling during the last 10 years or so. Yes, I have watched with disbelief those back to back innings in Sharjah. I knew he as long as he was there, he would win it for us.

          However, for a variety of reasons, could be injuries, could be the emergence of Dravid, Laxman et al which reduced him to just 1 among the middle order from the backbone of Indian batting, he started placing self-preservation above the team cause.

          Personal milestones started becoming more important than team cause. (My theory is that the influence of a certan SMG is the root cause of all this). I have seen him happily take a single of the last ball of an ODI innings without going for a big shot because he was on 99. The day he cribbed in public about wanting to complete his double hundred when left stranded on 194, he lost my respect. For me, God doesn’t crib in public for personal milestones.

          • Let me put my last words on this topic: I know both of us were following Sachin for 2 decades, so obviously would have watched the same matches and same innings. The facts remain the same, but the perception varies. In my perception, I have NOT seen a situation where his “personal ambition” caused a damage to the team inside the field. When I say damage, I mean something that put the team position in a risk. For example, If you are chasing 250, you are 90, and the team is 180 after 30 overs: you are not causing any damage by taking 20 balls to reach 100. On the otherhand, if 40 overs are over, then you are damaging the team cause by scoring slowly. Have you seen Sachin doing somthing like that? I haven’t. (Outside the field, there could be many non-cricket related things, which we dont have to even discuss. As you said, his public comments on that 194 was a blemish. But again, as far as I know, he was asked if he was disappointed to miss the double and he said yes. So, the answer was prompted out of him. May be, he learnt a lesson and never deals with questions from reporters straight-forward nowadays:-)) I have seen EVERY batsman doing something different to score a hundred, either score fast or slow (Sehwag trying to reach a 100 by hitting a six is more damaging to the team cause than Sachin slowing down if you look from that angle, because he is taking undue risk to reach a personal milestone). If you are placing Sachin in the position of God, then it looks bad. But if you consider him just as another cricketer, there is nothing unnatural about it.

            Or to look at it from a different angle: You find an attittude fault with Sachin and then apply the same yardstick to any other batsman. You will invariably realize that the others too have the same fault. A universal fault is not really a fault, it is a human condition. (Please note, I am talking about “attittude fault”, not “skill fault”. Sachin lacks numerous skills that others possess, for eg: he can’t bat like Sehwag, he cant absorb pressure like Laxman, he cant be a captain like Ganguly. But these are problems with skills, not attittude. You can’t disrepect a guy because he lacks certain skills. In that yardstick, which human being will you respect?)

            I have seen five reasons why people doesn’t like Sachin. 1) Some feel he has eclipsed the other stellar performers of his era, like Dravid or Kumble and this indignations turns into a bitterness. 2) People who doesn’t follow cricket and who listens to people saying “Sachin plays for himself”, or “He can’t handle pressure” and gulps it down without giving a thought. 3) Those who are angry that people call him a “god” and finds every minute detail to establish that he is not a god.
            4) Those who seriously thinks that he can be like a God in the cricket field and finds it irritating that he performs like human beings most of the time. 5) Non-Indians who doesn’t want Sachin to hold all that records (these are typically the guys who wants Ponting or Kallis to hold the same).

            All these guys just pick and fit their own statistics and matches that suit the inherent dislike to prove their own points. A common trait to them all: they dont like to discuss Sachin’s career as an aggregate.

            Now, think for yourself and figure out which group you belong, because you can’t disrespect him based on performances from 1989-2002 and 2007 onwards. He was a very average cricketer during 2003-2006 and all the people except the above five groups now know it was mainly because of injuries.

      • Have you seen a Steve Waugh bat with the tail? And what makes you think that Inzy’s and Hussey’s methods are superior to Laxman’s and Waugh’s methods? When you have 15 or 20 runs to get, it makes sense to protect the tail. Otherwise, it really doesnt matter which method you adopt. You try to blast your way out, you are taking a risk. You try give strike to the tail, still you are taking a risk. In a totally lost situation like the 1st test, it makes cricketing sense to let the tail bat- thats how you give real batting practice to the tail, prepare them for the tests ahead. You tell me, if Sreesanth could bat out 30 or 40 balls in that test, dont you think it would have made some difference to his confidence as a tailender? That confidence would have become handy later in his career, if not immediately. A Sreesanth facing 40 balls would have been more irritating to SA than SRT getting a couple of boundaries and facing another 50 or 60 deliveries. From a cricketing stand-point, can you find out one advantage of SRT trying to shield the tail at that moment?

  6. Dear Prem,
    To quote your own piece:
    “As is our way, the public debate at the time was all sound and fury, with both parties posturing for the media — but substance there was none.”
    Do we seriously expect any action from the BCCI, or even (if it comes to that) the courts?
    The loot will continue, regardless.
    Hanging on in defeated desperation is the Indian way: the time is gone, the song is over, thought i’d something more to say…

  7. Prem,
    Read your “God of Large things” again, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Again.

    But what does it say for your God who is so obsessed with his average that he exposed the very end of the tail to Steyn and co? (1st test), just so that he could remain not out?

    It was a hopeless situation, agreed, and upping ones average is no crime, agreed, especially when one is in the twilight of one’s career – but any player with an ounce of pride for playing for India (which incidentally the God claims is his biggest motivating factor) would have tried to at least prevent the innings defeat; heck, get the SA team to pad up again even if it to score one run.

    That is the approach I would have liked the God (or any other batsman worth his salt) to take.

    Guess God does work in mysterious ways!

    Ps: I cannot imagine a Kohli or a Gambhir or a Raina – heck, even a Yuvraj – to have taken the route that Sachin did; it was selfish and it was shameful.

    • Disclaimer – I didnt actually watch it.
      It can be seen two ways – one where he acted selfish and the other where he acted with ‘trust in the tail’. This having trust in the tail has been used with Sachin many times (one instance comes to mind – when he didnt shield Bhajji in Australia). It is how it turns out – if the tail had responded well we might have used the trust in tail option but since it didnt we tend to use the selfish option.

      • C’mon, man, really?

        Even if it had worked out (as it has in the past, on a couple occasions), no one is really buying into this whole ‘trust in the tail’ thing, are we?
        Exposing the FAG END of the tail (mind you, not bhajji) to two of the world’s premier fast bowlers under helpful bowling conditions (which our top order repeatedly failed to cope with) — and you choose to put ‘faith in the tail’?

        Ahem.

        • Abhi DC,

          I understand there is no point in reasoning with some, but here goes –

          The incident you spoke of happened at the start of day 5. Do you seriously think the tail can be protected for the entire 90 overs bowled in a day? Do you think it would have been productive to even attempt that? Keep in mind that the fielders are the South African team, not India or Pakistan, so it is not easy to get singles at the end of every over.

          You could say he could have made a big show of protecting the tail, and then everybody could have wrung their hands when eventually the tailender fell. But tell me the probability of that show actually having some effect.

          On the other hand, if the tailender plays a few balls confidently, that might do his confidence good. If he plays more than a few balls, it might dent the SA confidence.

          Seriously, criticize when criticism is called for. Negative mindsets from RD and SRT have converted a bunch of draws to losses. But this line you bring up is beyond idiotic.

          Nirmal

          • Whoa, Nirmal, dude, not only are you short on manners (more on which later), but your reading comprehension skills are seriously questionable.

            Where did I say that SRT should have tried to bat out the 90 overs? Now, THAT would have been idiotic. What I said instead was that I would have liked SRT to show some balls, take the attack to the opposition, and prevent the INNINGS DEFEAT (quote – “but any player with an ounce of pride for playing for India (which incidentally the God claims is his biggest motivating factor) would have tried to at least prevent the innings defeat”

            Don’t tell me that he was in no position to even ATTEMPT that? Try and score a few boundaries, mate, rotate the strike – whatever. Just don’t roll over.
            No one is asking anyone to make a big show, dude; just come to the crease with some fighting spirit. Go down fighting – even if that only means that you forced SA to pad up and come out for a couple runs!

            And now to the manners part – do you feel big and strong hiding behind a computer and calling people names? Is that how you get your jollies, mate? If so, I got you, man :)

          • Do you really think scoring 30 runs with the last 2 wkts is impossible (to avodi innings defeat)? You saw what Pathan did in the last ODI? He almost won a match from a hopeless position batting with the last 2. That is what I call balls.

      • Would you trust a tail called Unadkat? I would expect God to have better judgement than that if it indeed was a case of trusting the tail. The fact of the matter is that he is a great batsman but not a very good team player (especially in the second decade of his career).

  8. i agree with Amrut.
    we make a lot lot of noise, but take no action. and like the chinese army coming in waves, we get rid of one and there is -the next one is already there!
    we seem to be in a hopeless situation!

  9. Prem,

    Your initial analysis was that BCCI played a blind eye to the progress on renovation of Eden Gardens because BCCI secy. would have liked the match to be held in Chennai.

    Any idea why would BCCI recommend Bangalore for the venue of Ind-Eng match, and not Chennai?

    BCCI for sure is guilty of not keeping a check or getting involved in the progress. But now that Bangalore is proposed, can we safely say that the other motive was maybe not there? Or did something else happened in between?

  10. Lets face facts. Regardless of how much we scream on this forum or on any other forum, no one (not the BCCI, not the Franchises and not any one of those riding on the IPL gravy train) is ever going to give a damn… They will continue with their merry ways… Egypt may convulse because of a mass uprising… but not the BCCI.. don’t kid me.. It will soon be a year since the IPL mess hit the fan (starting with THE tweet from LKM).. Nothing has happened since then, nothing has changed… except that LKM has been replaced by NS…

  11. Wow – isnt Indian cricket administration crying for a Tunisia/Egypt type of mass uprising? Is there a feeling in BCCI that they will/can get away with anything?

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