Cricket clips

# Vivek Shenoy, on Twitter, throws up this link to a new BCCI ‘initiative’.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has today announced the availability of the Invitation to Tender document for two new franchises. The documents will be available at the BCCI – IPL office at Cricket Centre, Mumbai starting February 22, 2010, 10 a.m. onwards. The Invitation to Tender document will be provided on payment of a Rs. 5 lakh demand draft drawn in favour of ‘The Board of Control for Cricket in India.’ This will mark the start of the global tendering process for the two new official franchises in the IPL. All bidding parties will need to fulfill the eligibility criteria and other requirements specified in the Invitation to Tender.

When it comes to making money, the BCCI and its child, the IPL, shows touches of pure genius — no revenue stream left untapped, no avenue for dropping a few more bucks onto the bottom line left unexplored. If they worked on promoting the game, and finding and honing talent, with half this zeal…

# Commentary continues on the question of India being number one. The South African view, articulated here, seems in sum to be: You got here by beating Bangladesh, big deal, you weren’t able to beat us. Faintly ironic, because that is pretty much what Steve Waugh once sneered, when South Africa briefly held the number one position after beating Bangladesh — and before Australia showed who was boss by thrashing the Proteas. A more nuanced view comes courtesy blogger Samir Chopra, here.

Despite the lopsided nature of the games (at least far as the margins went), these were both very good Tests, just because there was so much outstanding cricket on display: high-quality swing bowling, determined, gritty, stylish, pugnacious batting, and some very good spin bowling at times.

But the margins of defeat in each Test showed that the two teams, despite being the top two in the world, did display some inconsistency and vulnerability. India’s lack of resistance to Dale Steyn in Nagpur was perhaps more understandable in that any batting line-up, especially one weakened by injuries and dubious selection strategies, will always be susceptible to the kind of high-quality display Steyn put on. More worrying for India in that Test was the failure of the bowling attack to drive home the early first-day advantage or to even exert any sustained pressure thereafter.

South Africa’s performance in Kolkata indicated a greater breakdown of sorts: they collapsed from 218-1 to 296 all out; they left their bowling plans in the hotel; they dropped catches and then when the time came to save the game, they played into India’s hands by never remotely looking like they would get past 347 (the second innings ran for 131 overs and resulted in 290 runs).

There were other data points in the tests that are interesting: South Africa’s batting is shaky (Graeme Smith kept playing Zaheer Khan with gaping gaps in his defense and the JP Duminy – Ashwell Prince pair always looked out of sorts); India’s youngsters were disappointing at best (S Badrinath played one good innings and then looked out of his depth thereafter; M Vijay wasted his chances; and there were some dropped catches by the new brigade as well). While Gautam Gambhir failed to come to the party, the rest of the Indian batting line-up prospered: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni all did their reputations no harm, with the former two shining in particular. And Hashim Amla’s serene journey to almost 500 runs in three innings will long be remembered by those who watched him play; the impassive nature of his reaction to a painful blow on the elbow on the fifth day was inspirational (if only I could summon up such a response to the adversities of life!)

If the mooted Test series against Australia does come through [and I really, really hope the BCCI was listening to Dravid, who suggested that you need three Tests to make a series out of it], India will have two opportunities [three if you could Sri Lanka] to firm up the case that it deserves the ranking: Australia, Sri Lanka, as prelude to heading over to South Africa for what should be the series that settles the argument]. One thing for sure, though, there is no “hollowness in the aftermath” as the Proteas viewpoint suggests.

# In IPL news, Lalit Modi tells Anand Vasu that the plan is to freeze at 10 franchises, at least for the next eight years. Thank god for that — the tournament already takes up the best part of two months; once the two new franchises come into play the calendar will get further bloated, and ennui will set in.

Terrorism continues to dominate the discussions, with an anonymous IPL owner insisting that the tournament will stay in India this year, threats or no; elsewhere, the New Zealand players’ association has recommended that its members pull out of the tournament this year while its Australian counterpart is scheduled to put forward a list of ‘demands’ if players from that country are to participate. The respective players’ bodies have already spoken of their frustration over the lack of response from the IPL; that frustration is set to increase because NZ, Australia and South Africa have decided to let the international players’ body, FICA, coordinate their concerns — and Modi has consistently refused to recognize FICA or have any kind of dialog with it, an attitude FICA chief Tim May finds “arrogant”.

Modi, very articulate on his Twitter stream about ticket sales and related issues, has been fairly quiet on the topic of security, however. Earlier today, he broke the silence in that regard with this post:

Security is our top most priorty. Just finished meeting with Cricket South africa ceo. He is most satisfied with the arrangement.

Clearly, LKM wants to continue his policy of dealing directly with the boards themselves and giving the players’ association the go-by; you would suspect that this is due to his desire not to encourage the players’ union in any way, to do anything that ‘legitimizes’ it — because if he does, it then opens up the possibility that FICA could get involved in player related issues such as the recent ‘ban’ on Ravindra Jadeja.

There is one compelling reason, though, why Modi — and the Home Ministry, which bears the ultimate responsibility for security — need to address this question to the satisfaction of all parties. Assume that some countries pull their players from IPL-3 on the basis of security concerns — what happens is that you then set a precedent that could adversely impact the smooth hosting of World Cup 2011. Pakistan has been barred from hosting games on the basis of ongoing security issues; if India’s environment is deemed less than optimum now, it could really set the cat among the pigeons — and that is a situation the BCCI will want to do everything in its power to avoid.

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The voices the BCCI doesn’t hear

A compelling dialog between Harsha Bhogle and Rahul Dravid is easily the highlight of the day. Here’s the summary, and here’s the full audio/transcript version. And this is the money quote:

“We must have our own domestic calendar, or six or seven months that are ideal for us to play cricket. And play our quota of six Tests and a certain set number of ODIs during that period, and then work around that,” he said. “If we do that, at least during those six or seven months, everyone knows there’s going to be cricket in these venues. That’s very important.

“Everyone around the world needs to recognize that Test cricket needs to thrive in India. Everyone knows now that it is important Test cricket succeeds in India for it to succeed worldwide as well,” he said. “People have to come to this realization in some other countries and recognize that India now needs to have a set international calendar for the benefit of the world game really.”

Read the whole, and what strikes you is how much thought Dravid has put into this, and how evolved his thinking is. This particular dialog does not merely make the case for a careful recalibration of India’s cricketing calendar — at a larger level, it makes the far more eloquent case that what Indian cricket needs, at a time of great flux, is for the BCCI to incorporate intelligent, articulate players/former players into its management structure, and to give them the responsibility for a total revamp of our cricket.

Let the politicians hog the glory and line their pockets, if they must — but let’s get players [not the time servers, the usual suspects who suck up to the organization in return for the opportunity to make some bucks being permanently ensconced in the commentary box and ‘running’ various ‘committees’] involved in the hands on running of the game.