Cricket clips

# The admin interface on this blog shows you the latest comments right on top — and as it happens, the first comment I saw this morning was tagged to a Chris Broad post, from a certain John who apparently gets his jollies reading all the “crazies” who ramble on in the wake of controversies. I hate disappointing the public, so here’s more “ranting”:

The Australians always seem to get away. Whatever their transgressions on the field, invariably it is their opponents who end up paying a price. Somehow or the other, teams playing against the Aussies seem to invite the match referee’s wrath.

That is why I am not looking at the most recent incident in the Australia-West Indies series in isolation. In the Delhi Test against us, my last, the one that earned Gautam Gambhir a ban for having a go at Watson, the same umpire and the match referee were officiating.

At that time, the umpire Billy Bowden didn’t see it fit to report Simon Katich who had later obstructed Gautam and the match referee Chris Broad too didn’t bother to act on his own or follow it up with the onfield umpires even though it was very much evident on TV. And as on that occasion, the provocateurs got away in Perth too, with Haddin and Johnson receiving minor reprimands.

There doesn’t seem to be any punishment forthcoming for someone who provokes and that to me is against the principles of natural justice.

Dear John, the “crazy” who wrote that is former India captain Anil Kumble (who, most famously, also said this). Getting to be a fairly crowded asylum, innit? Here’s more “lunacy” — from Chris Gayle. And strangely, Ricky Ponting seems to think us crazies may actually be on to something.

#The weekend’s action at the Centurion and the WACA provided the perfect coda to a couple of months of fascinating cricket. Make that Test cricket. For all the tons of runs that were scored in the “thrash the bowlers” versions of the game, the final quarter of the year has been memorable for Test cricket action between Sri Lanka and India; between a New Zealand and a Pakistan intent on examining the limits of their own frailities; between an Australia that prematurely wrote the opposition off and a West Indies unit that re-discovered talent, spark, and the will to fight; and between a conservative South Africa hoping for a win and a tentative England hoping not to lose. Ian Chappell’s summation of the field comes apropos.

# Test cricket has been compelling, but the crowds haven’t felt compelled to come out in their numbers. That’s the sort of thing that triggers laments on the ‘Test cricket is dying’ lines — but perhaps there is another explanation? Here’s Gideon Haigh:

Frankly, for what English cricket fans pay to watch Test matches, the security indignities they undergo, the general dilapidation of grounds and the killjoy prohibitions of administrators, they should be allowed to parade in the nude if they so wish. But there’s the rub. Crowds, in general, are simply assumed, like sightscreens and drinks breaks, and reported with a similar degree of understanding by journalists high above them in air-conditioned comfort, who haven’t had to pay to get in.

Nobody speaks for them: they have no association, no lobbyists, no agents, no spin doctors, no ghost writers. Who has protested the scurvy treatment of fans in Kolkata and Johannesburg, deprived of international cricket by ludicrous administrative turf wars? Where were the thundering denunciations in England when the ECB cancelled a Twenty20 Cup quarter-final 10 minutes before the start because of a dispute about a player’s registration, thereby wasting the journeys of 4000 hapless fans? When wronged, fans have no recourse but the withdrawal of their interest – a self-penalisation.

The main reason for this indifference to the spectator’s lot, in administrative circles at least, is television. For 20 years and more, cricket has been obsessed with its telegenia – how to improve the experience for viewers, and so to maximise the value of the game as a media property. And as viewers have grown in financial importance, so live spectators have diminished.

Crowds flowing through the turnstiles — or not — have become irrelevant to the game’s financial health. But to therefore dismiss diminishing live audiences is, Haigh suggests, short-sighted.

In this unspoken shared belief among administrators that somehow it is immaterial if crowds no longer gather, and that only the vast, diffuse, invisible audience of viewers counts, lies the seeds of a grave crisis for cricket. In the most straightforward sense, crowds matter aesthetically, in a way ratings never can. They ratify by their presence an occasion’s importance; they dramatise by their passion a game’s excitement; they negate by their absence an event’s significance. Tendulkar’s 12,000th Test run should have been one of the great moments of Indian cricket; it will be remembered instead, as even ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat noted, with dismay and disillusionment.

Those who trouble to attend cricket are also its core constituency; to set aside a day for a Test or a one-day international involves a huge investment of time and money, which deserves proportional return. Yet the members of this core are being treated as political parties sometimes treat their most loyal voters, and listed corporations their most steadfast small shareholders: marginalising and alienating them as they take them for granted – and no party or company has done this long and prospered. On the contrary, commercial organisations dependent on public patronage lavish extraordinary efforts on keeping their most loyal customers, encouraging them to return by loyalty cards, bonus programmes and other incentive systems. Why does cricket, so purportedly savvy in the ways of commerce, care so little? Australian golf might have looked a little ludicrous at the Masters last month with its serpentine queues, star-struck melees and striving for church-like quiet – but at least it was trying.

#Headline writers have been having a field day with the outing of Tiger Woods’ latest mistress, bringing the tally thus far to 18 — the puerile golf course analogy apparently proves too hard to resist. Meanwhile, in Cuttack and in their homes across the country, Indian cricketers must be laughing their heads off — the newest among them has notched up far more ‘conquests’ than Woods with his stature, his charismatic looks  and all his billions can only dream of.

I’ve never been able to figure this out. We expect a Gandhi, a Mother Teresa, to provide us a moral compass to chart our lives by, but we do not simultaneously expect them to entertain us. Why then is that not the case in reverse? Why is it not enough for our athletes, our sports stars, to entertain us? Why must they also set “moral examples” for the young?

The two most common answers I get are, oh, but they are in the public eye and, two, our children idolize them. As far as the first goes, so too are politicians — but we accept their affairs, their involvements in crimes ranging from mega corruption to murder with equanimity and even pick potential jailbirds to lead our states, our country. Apparently it is okay for those who would chart our futures to be morally flawed, but not our sportsmen. And as far as our children’s idolatry goes, what then are parents for if they cannot steer their children towards heroes more worthy of moral emulation?

My friend — and favorite sports writer — Rohit Brijnath nails it in this lovely piece in the weekend edition of Mint. An extended clip:

But I rarely go to stadiums expecting lessons in morality. These aren’t arenas of real bravery for this isn’t real life. These weren’t my guides, not my North Stars. My heroes are different, they are ordinary people taking on life, they are my parents, teachers, friends who grapple patiently with troubled kids, they are families who take care of the ill with a selfless love, they are preachers of tolerance.

I have expectations of the athlete, especially the great ones, for with fame arrives responsibility. Certainly he must obey the rules, stay away from gunfights in nightclubs, respect the law, conduct himself appropriately when representing his country. It is not a difficult list. Roger Federer meets it nicely. But not everyone.

But then it gets tricky. What moral standard do we hold the athlete to, a higher one than we have for ourselves? Marriage is beautiful and we are unimpressed by the adulterer, but do we hound them from our groups of friends and from our offices? Is Tiger Woods different, worth such public scorn, because he portrayed himself as a virtuous family man? It would appear so. And as much as the tawdriness of it all, the sheer number of infidelities, what seems to upset people is also the deception. He fooled us, this billionaire hero. He made us buy his shirts while he was taking his off.

What we tend to forget is that the great athlete presents to us an image. On that basis we claim to know him, but we really don’t. Andre Agassi’s revealing autobiography, Open, suggested our view of him was almost entirely inaccurate. Woods is similarly a mystery. We know him as outrageous golfer, bland interviewee, smiling salesman. Beyond that he is hidden. It suited him. His golf was perfect, his trousers creased, his shoes shined, and so he let us assume the rest of his life was as polished. The point is this: He should have known better than to do what he did, but so should we have to have swallowed his myth.

# There’s a one-day game due to be played this afternoon, but all that, and more, tomorrow. Have people to meet, and a packer coming home for a preliminary ‘recce’. Later, peoples…

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12 thoughts on “Cricket clips

  1. The Australians are villains, their opponents unjustly crucified, wax on, wax off, rinse, wash and repeat. Kumble, Gayle, like Wasim and Hooper before, it’s just par for the course, I wouldn’t throw them in the asylum for that, they’re no Arjuna.

    Roebuck is best left alone, safe on that street corner atop his cardboard box heralding the end of days for Australian cricket and Ricky Ponting, free entertainment whilst you wait for a green, but ultimately unfulfilling given we all know the sun will rise tomorrow and the only people listening are those who wish it wouldn’t.

    There is rediff and the like… but it’s just got that icky third world internet commercialisation to it that makes me feel like I’m being trolled. You know what I mean? It’s that reality TV vibe, entertainment arranged and assorted by smart people for dumb people. I don’t doubt it on face value, I’m sure the contributors are as genuine as the comments, I just get the feeling it’s all arranged by some overlord Blofeld like character who’s just kicking back watching the multi-screen assembly count the hits and pennies the master plan is accumulating.

    This blog explores far deeper the tin-foil fringe territory anyway, mapping, plotting, pioneering pathways between points of interest, no simple wax on and wax off here, far more entertaining. There’s no doubting the asylum is crowded though, a very large homogeneous population, but that’s the key, that’s what makes it fun, when they’re not pre-occupied with the Woods scorecard that is.

  2. Wow….Rohit Brijnath is back with mint? Thats a great news. With Straits Times, I dont know what happened, they stopped publishing any of his articles on the web after the one on Federer’s N0.15 Jacket in Wimbledon. Reading Rohit is as delightful as watching a Sachin’s straight drive…

  3. agreed, these sportsmen should not be the only role models for kids and the parents should step in.

    But your point about politicians not being angels is beside the point. Any matured adult especially a celebrity should have norms of decency in a behaviour. Sleeping around with 18+ women should not even be condoned for even a non-celebrity citizen.

  4. I got upset with the Tiger Woods saga because the hypocrisy that Woods claimed as a private & family man. I scorn him today like never before because he used the British open win to cry on the shoulders of his caddie and dedicated his win to his dad – now, we learn that he was with his mistress the night his dad passed away.

    Most of all, Tiger deserves this and more because of his positioning. He positioned himself as the next-gen athlete who also had a moral compass. Do you remember the pedestal where he had himself placed – Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus and Mother Teresa. Remember the SI mid-90s article to dust up the memory …

    That’s the reason why Tiger deserves this and more …

  5. Prem, I dont think Woods’ media coverage is about morality. The way I look at it: Media is always behind Sportsmen and other Entertainment stars (thats the major part of the reason why they are getting truckload of bucks), whether succeeds or fails.

    And about the schadenfreude nature of coverage: it is very much justified. It is not because anybody is expecting Woods to behave like Mother Teresa. But is is because there is an amplified happiness catching a guy who lived thinking “i-made-you-fool” about the entire world. Catching a criminal is no news- everybody knows he is a criminal. But catching a pretentious criminal is something else.

    Also, all “regular” guys(most people in the media included) knows that they “big” guys are cheats, whether sex or money or power or whatever. But the regular guys also know that the most of the big guys go unpunished. So, whenever a big guy is caught, it is time to celebrate. This is what the media is doing. It is a glee of catching an untouchable red-handed. You remember the coverage on the Monica Levinsky stuff? I thought that coverage was much more shcadenfredistic in nature. I bet you that the same glee will be there even if you catch an Indian politician red-handed (except that the chances are very low).

    So, I dont sympathize with Woods that he is being handled wrongly in the media. As far as I know- he is just being “handled” exaggeratedly. Wrong or Right- that was for Woods to choose. I am a regular guy- who will be punished for life for even the smallest of encroachments to the law, who knows that there are many many big guys who profess to me who does things a million times more criminal. So, I enjoy when one the big guys falls because of his own making- whoever it is, Woods or even Sachin.

  6. And good on Anil Kumble for coming out in the open. Can understand if active players cannot voice their open. But we see even the retired ‘greats’ keep mum and not upset the applecart.

    My respect for Kumble just went up a bit more.

  7. Isn’t all this schadenfreude happening mostly because Woods is an American sports star? After all, even politicians in this oddly puritanical society haven’t been able to get away (unlike your example, Prem) with personal transgressions no one even cares about in other countries. Or are people in India too upset about Woods sleeping around? Doesn’t sound like it, if what you’re saying about the Indian cricketers is true!

  8. Post-Script: Spending much of the afternoon out of office, meeting people and such. Will read and respond to comments tomorrow morning, when I am back at my desk. Enjoy the game, you guys.

  9. Prem, the trouble with Rohit’s argument is that sportsmen (and women) have long ago ceased to be mere entertainers. It is lucrative for them (and people around them) to extend their influence beyond sporting arenas. AFAICS, nobody is burdening them with the responsibility of setting moral examples; they themselves plot carefully to grab those laurels. When one lives in the glasshouse created by spreadsheet-crunching sports agents, one should be careful with stones.

    • Oh wait, are we getting into “they endorse products” territory? Here’s the deal: I work hard to build a brand. Some bloke who has a product to sell comes to me and says he will give me a shitload of money if I promote a particular brand of cola. I say yes, go before the camera and do whatever silly thing I am asked to do. You, who like my brand, might — or might not — buy that cola simply on my say so.

      End of story. At no point am I telling you that I am a morally superior human being; that I never tell a lie, never smoke pot, never cheat, never stray beyond the marital bed, never do anything in private that I would be embarrassed to own to in public. You make those assumptions all on your own.

      I can understand why, when something like this comes out, brands want to dissociate from a Woods [though I don’t believe people won’t sign up for Visa cards if Tiger continues to be associated with it, by the way]. What I am objecting to is the schadenfreude nature of the coverage.

      • @prempanicker
        exactly.Tiger Woods (or any other sportsman for that matter) is only human and they rarely boast about their self-righteousness.
        But is the media intruding in the sportsman’s privacy considering that Wood’s affairs have had no effect on his professional life until the whole story reached epic proportions-something that the media should single-handedly take the credit for (apart from the publicity hungry mistresses, of course.) Should the media have gone so deep into Wood’s closets just for the sake of a story? (the schadenfreude nature of the coverage,i understand, will certainly add weight to the arguements of the media).

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