#1. Rohit Sharma had an opportunity to make his case for consideration for the national team, and he blew it. At the time of writing this, Manish Pandey is however grabbing his chance with both hands and then some — 43 off 39 with five fours and two sixes, as I write this.
#2. Suresh Menon makes the point well: Shahid Afridi has managed to get away with a slap on the wrists for an offense that should have attracted far heavier punishment. Menon also takes a swipe at the ICC for one of the more memorable wtf quotes of recent times:
The ICC has banned Afridi for just two matches. Its official communiqué states: “The Pakistan captain was observed in the act of changing the condition of the ball during Australia’s innings without the permission of the on-field umpires.” So that was the problem then. Bad table manners. He should have asked the umpires first. “Mr Umpire, could you please pass the ball please; I always carry a salt shaker in my pocket. You never know when the opposition is 35 runs from victory with five overs remaining, and your fast bowlers might need some help.”
Modi calls this theory a “pre-conceived conspiracy” except that its preconception came from the IPL bosses a few days before the auction. Switch off the camera and put down the pen and most franchise executives will say that.
That a few days before the auction the franchises were told to “take it easy on Pakistani players”. Two days before the auction, Mumbai’s Mid-Day newspaper reported a story: “IPL teams told not to bid for Pakistani players in auction”. It quoted IPL Chief Operating Officer Sundar Raman’s one-word reply to the report: “Rubbish”. After the story appeared, Lalit Modi messaged the reporter calling the report, “totally biased” and adding, “anyway fiction is good once in a while.”
And from Rohit:
It has become evident that the franchisees actually wanted several players from Pakistan; it’s also become clear that the Indian government didn’t play a role in the exclusion—on the contrary, the government had given 17 Pakistani players visas in December. All along, the Board for Control of Cricket in India and the IPL have insisted that the franchisees were and are free to buy players of their choice. So who prevented the franchisees from choosing players from across the border? It wasn’t the IPL governing council, as Rajeev Shukla, BCCI vice-president, says: “There were no instructions to the teams from the IPL governing council not to pick Pakistani players.”
But sources say instructions were indeed given. And the man giving the instructions, according to sources at IPL franchisees, was IPL commissioner Lalit Modi himself. “It was he who personally advised franchisees to not buy Pakistani players at the auction,” a source with an IPL team told Outlook.
Publicly, Modi and the BCCI have maintained that the teams were completely free to pick up any player. Modi told a TV channel: “There was no pre-decision. They (franchisees) were all worried about availability and that’s why the Australians weren’t picked along with many other players.”
That’s a bit disingenuous, for while the Australians are indeed playing an international series during the IPL, the Pakistanis are not. Salman Ahmed of Portfolio World Sports Management, who manages several Pakistani players, says he appreciates that the sponsors could have been wary about the presence of the Pakistanis due to the 26/11 Mumbai attack, but adds: “The right thing to do is to sit down with the players, explain to them the situation and hand them their money for terminating their contracts. A little tact and honesty would have helped…Modi has played a dirty game by putting them up for auction and then ensuring nobody bought them.”
Until three days before the auction, Tanvir, Misbah, Umar Gul and Kamran Akmal were not up for auction—they believed that they were still contracted with the teams they played for in IPL-1. They had been sent letters by their teams in December, stating they’d play for their respective IPL teams. This was confirmed by a senior official with the Kolkata Knight Riders franchise. There was no talk of them being on the auction list at that stage.
This auction is already the gift that goes on giving; with a sizable chunk of BCCI honchos waiting for an opportunity to cut Modi down to size, the coming days should bring a host of interesting revelations.
#3. Two interesting reads, for when you have time: Rahul Bhattacharya, who ranks high on my list of favorite cricket writers, on what goes into making a cricketer great; Harsha Bhogle, who I had been hoping to rope into Yahoo only to find he had already signed an exclusive deal with Cricinfo, interviews VVS Laxman at length.