Cricket clips

#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.”

3. Sharda Ugra and Rohit Mahajan are scathing on the subject of the fiasco involving the Pakistan players in the IPL-3 auction. From Sharda:

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.

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Save the tiger

So I had read that the tiger is seriously endangered, and that there is a major effort on to save it — what I didn’t realize till these last 24 hours is that it refers to the Shiv Sena and its chief.

The Sena was, till a week ago, down and almost out. Raj Thackeray and the MNS had hijacked the ‘marathi manoos‘ plank; another election had come and gone, and the Sena’s support base had continued to erode. It had attempted to garner some headlines by attacking Sachin Tendulkar, and the ploy had boomeranged badly. Oblivion beckoned.

And now, almost overnight, the Sena is the cynosure — with the Congress, the BJP and the RSS all pitching in to help the transformation.

In recent days, the Sena chief told Mukesh Ambani to shut the eff up when the Reliance Industries boss made a public comment that Mumbai is for all Indians — the identical comment Tendulkar had made some time back.

Then came the Shah Rukh episode. The actor said he was saddened by the fact that Pakistan players wouldn’t be featured in this year’s edition of the IPL. The Sena and its chief, in trademark crass, over the top style, suggested he take the next flight out to Pakistan and make 26/11 perpetrator Kasab the captain of his team, among other edifying remarks. It also called for a ban on Shah Rukh films [nice — you can’t pay for publicity of that kind when you have a My Name is Khan in the chute, waiting for the starter’s bell].

Where, when and how did the North Indians come into all this?

Damned if I know — but the RSS suddenly jumped into the fray, vowing to protect North Indians [the talking heads keep banging on about Biharis and other North Indians — that the next state election is in Bihar is of course purely coincidental]; the BJP vowed to do likewise before it didn’t [there seems to be some cross talk between Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde on this], and now Rahul Gandhi has stuck his oar in as well.

The Sena must be laughing fit to bust — it has just been handed, gift-wrapped, the ownership of the anti-north platform Raj T had made his own through much of last year.

Does something smell very strongly of fish?

One hand clapping

Just when you think you’ve seen/heard it all, you see/hear some more, courtesy the always reliable BCCI.

Here’s the news du jour:

The Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) has decided not to allow spectators inside the Rajiv International Cricket Stadium for the Duleep Trophy final between South Zone and West Zone. It is understood that the HCA was fearing crowd trouble due to the political situation in Andhra Pradesh.

There was a security lapse on January 21 during a Twenty20 match at the venue, when a crowd walked up to the pitch, uprooted the stumps and staged a sit-in halfway to the pavilion before they were cleared by policemen. The match had to be cancelled eventually.

“The gates have been closed due to security reasons, we wanted the match to go on uninterrupted,” Shivlal Yadav, the HCA vice president, told Cricinfo. “There aren’t many spectators who come to domestic matches anyway, if you observe last year’s Ranji final, barely 500 spectators turned up. We did not want to take chances pertaining to the conduct of the match. The BCCI does not give us any instructions with regards to such matters. It is up to the hosting board.”

The news is appalling at so many levels you lose count. Firstly, you have a former player/selector and current official casually dismissing the final of a premier domestic competition as not being worth the spectators’ time. Does it occur to him — and to the larger group of honchos who run cricket in this country — that the fault lies not with the players, but with the administrators like himself? That spectators do not come because you do not (a) provide good conditions for competitive cricket; (b) provide the sort of facilities that will help spectators enjoy the game, not the kind that makes watching a day’s cricket a physical torture; (c) proselytize these contests in order to build interest levels?

Yadav and his ilk forget that less than a month ago, spectators thronged through the gates, while more of their number lined up outside, for the Ranji final between Karnataka and Mumbai.

At another level, where was the imperative in hosting the Duleep final in Hyderabad? If you knew ahead of time that there were security implications, surely it would have been a simple matter to shift the venue — especially given there is no dearth of cricket venues in this country?

It is startling just how callous the attitude of the BCCI and its affiliates is towards the spectator. The other day, the Eden Gardens announced that for the second time running, it would not be selling tickets for an international event.