Nowhere men

I’ve been traveling — a little bit of work, a great deal of pleasure in being able to be ringside when two very good friends and wonderful human beings got hitched.

Time to surf, to stay au courant with what has been happening in the cricket space, has been at a premium, hence, and likely will remain that way for the rest of the week. Pity — I wish there was more time to follow the extraordinary developments in Pakistan cricket where, after alternately ignoring or aiding and abetting player politics, the PCB suddenly decided to initiate contemporary cricket’s equivalent of the Night of the Long Knives.

But that can wait till I am back where I have the bandwidth to read up more about it. For now, I’ll leave you with a compelling piece by Anand Vasu in the Hindustan Times. The money quote, from an article on how the IPL, ostensibly created for the purpose of unearthing and fostering fresh talent, is having the reverse effect:

You should not have heard of Harshal Patel, but probably have. He was India’s reserve seamer in the recent
under-19 World Cup, a steady bowler with no stand-out features that prompted charitable observers to describe him as a “partnership breaker.” What’s that anyway? It’s not as though there are any bowlers whose job it is to build partnerships.

Patel, who wasn’t even among the three best medium pacers in India’s under-19 team, was snapped up by the Mumbai Indians, and will be paid Rs 8 lakh to share the dug-out with Sachin Tendulkar. Unless, of course, he can somehow replace Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga or Dilhara Fernando, the other Mumbai Indians quick men. The team’s cricketing brains include former South Africa quick Shaun Pollock, and T.A. Sekar, who ran India’s premier fast bowling academy for decades. Neither would have seen Patel, and if they had, they certainly wouldn’t have hired him. So why, then, did the Mumbai Indians pick young Patel?

The cynics — and it’s always hard to argue with that lot – point to the surname, and suggest Patel was a snug fit with the very Gujarati owners of the team. Perhaps Nita Ambani wanted to help one of her own? It sounds offensive, almost, but that’s how perverse cricket can be, where someone gets picked simply because his name sounds right.

Of all the fundamental changes that the Indian Premier League has brought to cricket, this is the most serious — selection to your national team doesn’t mean half as much any more. Your life can be made even if you never play for your country.

It’s good, because today’s Subhash Dixit perhaps won’t resort to extreme measures. It’s bad, because a future Murali Kartik might settle for less and be lost to the Indian team. And it’s plain ugly, because there will be many more Harshal Patels who will take home a pretty packet without ever having earned it.

Besides his strong central argument, Anand has ensured one thing: I’ll never again be able to listen to commentators rabbiting on about “partnership breakers” without breaking into a grin.

It is not just Indian players, mind — here’s a related riff from Dileep Premachandran.