So starting today, am off on yet another odyssey — various travels that keep me away from the desk, and on the road, till late Tuesday evening. Blogging likely to be sporadic/non-existent till then.
Leaving this as an open thread for the duration, folks — will post links to stuff I find, as time permits. You do, too. 🙂
#1. For starters, here’s Aakash Chopra on the hows and whys of ball-tampering. Those who make a living out of cricket will tell you that the phenomenon is neither new, nor a virus confined to Pakistan cricket. As below:
I remember being introduced to ball-tampering during my debut first-class season, over a decade ago. Our bowlers were getting alarming movement in the air and off the surface. The ball was rather new (and a new SG ball doesn’t move that much), the track was a typical Kotla track (a batting beauty) and it was the third morning (so no day-one moisture).
I wasn’t playing the game but sitting on the sidelines admiring the quality of bowling on display. When I went in to field as a substitute I realised that our bowlers had tinkered with the ball. One side was still shiny, and even had the manufacturer’s stamp, while the other side was completely scuffed up. Of course they had worked on it beyond imagination, using bottle caps or something equally sharp. I was surprised on two counts: that the umpires didn’t notice the manipulation despite wickets falling at regular intervals (considering umpires get the ball at the fall of every wicket), and that the batting side remained unfazed and didn’t complain. In those days, though, umpires didn’t have so much power or at least they didn’t exercise it as much.
Since then I have realised that ball-tampering does not happen randomly. It is more often than not part of the game plan. Some do it discreetly, while the rest, like Afridi, are either brave or foolish enough to do it blatantly.
Some say it is a craft and I have seen a few craftsmen at work in my time. The use of nails, especially thumbnails, comes in handy. One cricketer used to do it so subtly that you wouldn’t know even if you were standing next to him while he did so. We even challenged him to do it while talking to the umpire once, and he pulled it off, like a pro.
Does this mean, as is being argued in this Time Out discussion between Harsha Bhogle and invited guests, that it is time to give level sanction to ball tampering, to ‘rewrite the ball-tampering law’? I don’t know, but I’d like to start a parallel debate: pickpockets are so darn good, they’ll rob your wallet, and even the watch off your hand, while carrying on a conversation with you — is it therefore time to ‘rewrite the law’ on theft?
What has puzzled me about this whole affair is the question of what the umpires are doing. When ball tampering surfaced on the radar, the rules made it mandatory that the bowler or member of the fielding side had to hand the ball over to the umpire at the end of each over. This was not for safe-keeping — the idea was that the umpire would inspect the ball before handing it back to the bowling side for the start of the next over.
I’d think if the umpires did their job — to wit, used their eyes — the most egregious methods of ball tampering would be immediately stymied. For instance, why did it take the third umpire’s intervention to alert the on-field umpires that Afridi had made a meal of the ball? Surely, when the on field umpire gets the ball at the end of an over and sees bite marks on it, that should be enough to tell him something is wrong? And that in turn should have signaled to him that it is time to change the ball?
Every time something goes wrong, the instinct seems to be to write a whole lot of new laws. How about getting officials to first understand and implement the laws that do exist? [For instance, there is a provision that if the ball has to be changed for reasons of tampering, the batting side gets five bonus runs — why, when Afridi did the thing with his teeth, was Pakistan not penalized by the addition of those five runs to the opposition’s total?]
#2. Continuing the look at Lalit Modi’s attempts to redefine the way news providers operate, Nikhil Pahwa on his blog has some useful information — and links to the guidelines issued by the IPL in each of the three years of its existence. Check them out, and you’ll see what I meant in my previous post, about Modi cleverly seeking to push the boundaries a little bit each year.
The ICC hosts cricket; national associations host cricket — and the coverage for all these matches are governed by various norms. For instance, there is a restriction on the number of correspondents that can be assigned from any one news organization — a sensible guideline, since space for the media is finite, and you don’t want a newspaper to send a dozen reporters under the guise of ‘coverage’. There are also restrictions against the use of ‘live’ feeds — which too make sense, since live broadcast is assigned to a particular broadcasting house on payment of a huge fee, and that investment needs to be protected against pirates disseminating that feed.
The norms governing coverage of these events are, long story short, well known and time-honored. What is special about the IPL, which after all is a league run under the BCCI umbrella, that it feels the need to come up with its own set of rules? [Modi, cleverly, tends to wait till the last possible minute before issuing his “guidelines” — a neat trick to force the media, as the clock ticks down to the event, to compromise rather than lose out on coverage altogether].
There has been some back channel talk among media houses, some attempt to organize the major players into a form of organized resistance. But thus far, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no indication that the media will take a collective stand. That’s a pity, because Modi’s “guidelines” need to be resisted by the media presenting a united face.
Consider, for instance, this bit from the guidelines:
A Bona Fide News Media Website means a Website:
- that is owned (directly and indirectly), run and managed by an organisation whose primary business solely concerns the provision of news to the public; and
- no material part of that organisation’s business involves the sale, distribution or supply of any goods or services other than the provision of news to the public (and associated advertising placed alongside that news);
I’m no lawyer, but that second clause seems to me unacceptable. Consider that today, any website worth the name — and the traffic — does not depend entirely on news to generate income. There is e-commerce, for starters, and diverse other revenue streams. Why is the IPL concerned with how a website makes its money, as long as an integral part of its business remains the dissemination of news? [Another problem with this clause is its ambiguous phrasing, which then leaves it open to the IPL to interpret it any way it wants. For instance, this clause could be applied to prevent Cricinfo from covering the IPL, no — after all, it does have a shop that sells books and cricket goods, and that contravenes the IPL proscription that “no material part of that organisation’s business involves the sale, distribution or supply of any goods or services other than the provision of news.”
The problem is — has always been — that the media is not united on this [or any] issue. This permits the Modis of this world to whittle away at our rights and prerogatives, taking a mile and then giving an inch as “compromise”.
Anyone talking PIL yet?
#3. Oh good. In breaking news, the ICC has dismissed the BCCI’s appeal to have the ban on the Firozeshah Kotla lifted. Good, because it is high time the BCCI and its affiliated state units start doing their job — which includes maintaining grounds and pitches at match-ready levels — rather than sleep on that job and then, when something happens, use its clout and/or find legal means around justified punishment. The Kotla is actually lucky to get away light –the suspension is only till the end of 2010, so it will not impact on the ground’s ability to host WC2011 games. Since no games are scheduled at the Kotla this year, the upholding of the ban has no direct impact on the ground, but hopefully, this serves as a wake up call for Arun Jaitley and the other DDCA honchos — there is more to running an association than merely turning up in the VIP enclosure on match days, and preening for the media cameras.
#4. Kind courtesy my friend Krishna Prasad, a brilliant read: Garry Kasparov, writing in the NYTimes Review of Books, on chess computers, grand masters, and man versus machine.
[More, later — as and when I find time and interesting content].