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.


32 thoughts on “Nowhere men

  1. Just getting around to catching up on my feedreader…. Wanted to say thanks for the kind words that open this blogpost. Thanks a ton for being there, look forward to catching up soon in NYC!!!


  2. In the RCB match..Kumble got few things wrong. Opening the bowling with JK who looked visibly tired after batting for 20 over’s. Should have used DS first up ..MT who never played DS before and got a first ball duck in the previous match ….Not that it would have made much of a difference but strategically bowling JK in the 2nd over of the innings was a mistake. Also why you have to open with a new man when MP was a huge success previously in IPL while opening the batting. MP looked out of sorts at no 3…Teams with settled batting order have done well in IPL in the past.

  3. MI batting order was shocking when the match started …no Dewan,no Nayar just SRT & JS are the recognized bats. But they surprised everyone..Who is this guy Tare? Another MSD ? even Tiwary & Rayadu looked solid some extent helped by wayward bowling . Never seen Warne bowling so badly..not even once he beat the batsmen. Anyway full credit to MI, Let us see how this batting order will work against stronger bowling attacks.

  4. Prem, DID anyone applaut Mumabi Indians for picking Rayadu? Where is Anand Vasu.
    Rayadu was one of my favourite young players few years back and since i’m following your writings from few years now i do know that Prem, Rayadu was one your favourite tooo.
    Actually these ICL players are going to make sure this that there will be lots Indian talent on show.

  5. i dont think even that partnership breaker thing is funny….they called breaker because they r part time bowlers..this is not to say other bowlers job is not break partnership.they r called strike bowlers sometimes. how can u call your best 1-2-3 bowlers as partenership breakers. only msg i’m trying to convey mr. vasu is commentators call them breakers and we understand why they did so, period, this does not mean others should not take wickets..

    sadly Mr. Vasu this might be one of your worst article ever..
    also ipl teams have some zones from where they try to find talents,. i am just amazed that u look at this as crime that this kid will share dug out with SRT, thats insult i think. there is reason why i’m not in dug out and that kid is, which is cricketing. because i’m also gujarati otherwise.

  6. Hi Prem,
    Usually, when you link to “compelling” pieces, they are very insightful and worthy of reading. Usually, Anand Vasu’s articles are very insightful and worthy of reading. Usually, when you link to something, your implicit endorsement (or disagreement) seems to come with compelling logic.
    This time, you have disappointed. So has Anand Vasu.
    The article is based on unestablished facts, insulting and logically flawed.
    Let me explain
    1. There may be a million reasons why that particular player was picked. There is no way anyone can know for a fact. He may be a promising talent, he may be the best guy to carry drinks, he may have the right hair style, his uncle may be working for reliance OR he has the correct last name. Any which way you look at it, there is no way to know for a fact. It is nothing but powering the rumor mill to make any judgement on these “facts.
    It is insulting, both to the player at hand as well as the fans who follow any specific team. What if the Mumbai Indians picked the individual on some merit based reason? Does the article not do injustice to his talent and potential? Also, it is insulting to the IPL fan base to say that their loyalties are primarily based on just the player’s last names.

    Even if it were the case that some people would start watching the Mumbai Indians because of this pick, how is it different from other star picks such as Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid and Shewag, who were all picked by the specific teams primarily for they local fan base, and not just their T20 talent?

    The logical flaw in the argument is very blatant. Mumbai Indians picked someone with arguably not enough talent, and pay him Rs.8Lakhs/year. And this affiliation with one IPL team somehow leads to that individual not to care for playing for the country any more. How about the argument that seeing other players get a lot more money, getting the opportunity to see and learn from greats such as Khan and Malinga, working with Pollock and having a chance to bowl regularly to Tendulkar will provide both the opportunity and motivation for the individual to step his game up and strive hard(er) to prove himself and make himself worthy of consideration for national team selection? Does Vasu believe that the player is more than satisfied to “take it easy” after starting to earn Rs.8 Lakh/year?
    I believe Vasu and you have done injustice to reporting/journalism by writing and propagating this rubbish. However, I will have to concede that the “partnership breaker” take on contemporary commentatorship is accurate and funny.

  7. Best thing about the IPL3 has been the emphasis on 7 Indian players then the 4 foreigners is looking more like a Indian League now..

    Today’s match with KKR to pick only from 6 and DC having only 4 outsiders …the side whose Indian component does well holds a chance of winning ..unless one foreigner singlehandedly takes the game away

  8. I really do not see why this is a problem. To have 15-20 players in our national team, we have to have a base of around 100-200 players who play the sport professionally.

    Now, these 100-200 players, even though they do not get into the team, have to get compensated at a rate more than or around the same as that of a job. Otherwise, they would just stop playing and take a normal job.

    Even though all IPL players do not get into the national team, the IPL, as a whole increases the number of professional cricketers which is always a good thing.

    By the way, we should have 100-200 professional players in every sport, and pay them at market rates for a sport to improve to world class levels.

  9. So in the first year of the IPL, there was this kid who was drafted by the Mumbai Indians from the just victorious Under 19 team. The kid did not have much going for him , his U19 WC yielding 72 runs in 6 matches. His base salary – approximately Rs 12 Lakhs.( )

    The very same argument Mr Vasu uses to disparage Harshal Patel were applicable to this kid too.. Surely he could not slot himself in a batting line up that began with Sachin and Sanath and ended with Nayar and Bravo and Pollock!

    Come the second season of the IPL, and this kid, who warmed the Mumbai Indians bench for all of the first season ( and was therefore, to paraphrase Mr Vasu, taking home a pretty packet without ever having earned it), was the toast of a nation.

    And today, Manish Pandey is being spoken of as first amongst equals to slot in the middle order once the Big Three retire.

    Mr Vasu is entitled his hatchet job, given that he could have targeted Mr Lalu Yadav’s son Tejeshwi who fits the description of “taking home a pretty packet without ever having earned it” even better, but instead chose to direct his ire at an U19 player who atleast has an India cap to show for his troubles ( and who was one of the 3 U19 players shortlisted for the draft this season).

    That you choose to echo this verbatim Mr Panicker, that is the tragedy!

    • I agree with you homer.

      Anand picking up this guy is totally wrong to prove his point or may be fill his column. What you are saying is correct but single out this guy and drag the surname and gujrati connections…yes he was a reserve seamer ..but are you sure the right people always get to play in the eleven …

      Your point would had more weight when harshal had got some decent games and he was not able to play to this potentials ..

      And then we are missing the whole point……… there are many more people who are earning more than what they deserve even after failing consistently..domestic and International games ..then there are sons of ex cricketers ..why not mention them ??

    • Yea, I couldn’t understand how the author of this article extrapolated a bet on a young talent to the parochial Gujarati link!?!?!?

      This how young talent is unearthed. If the talent translates into results, you’ve hit the jackpot. If not, then it was a small bet which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t necessarily ruin the fortunes of the team either. It’s a fairly simple risk-reward decision businesses take all the time. Not every bet on young talent will turn into an SRT, but belittling a player because of his origins without any evidence to back up the accusations is hitting below the belt.

      Thanks Homer for a good rebuttal and shame on you Vasu/Prem for playing the rumor mongerers.

  10. Prem,
    as you predicted – last minute maneuvering has won the day, and the NBA has decided to broadcast the IPL.
    Lalit Modi confirmed the same on his twitter feed.
    Wonder how much more he has pushed the boundaries this time… guess we’ll find out in a bit, and if we don’t, i’ll look forward to a detailed post from you dissecting the issue! 🙂

  11. I do not agree with Mr vasu here regarding this boy patel. I can say he picked his name to base his article.
    There was another boy(fast bowler) named Unadkat in under-19 wc why was he not picked then?
    i dont want to knoe rationale behind how IPL selects their players because this is not team india and anyway its their money.
    I also think that with increasing money indian specially cricket media also needs to understand this money thing and accept it, thats reality of sport, Here in north america players get paid 10-20 milllions per season and sometimes their stat for season are horrible but that’s reality.

  12. I agree with Kalpesh and some others above – we should not begrudge the cricketers for making money because, after all, it is the spectators that drive money into the sport and make stars out of our sportsmen. It is a trend in India that began long before Sachin, and will continue long after. The more important question, though, is whether the “babus” in the BCCI and the Lalit Modis of this world deserve to make so much money off of a game they don’t play!

  13. “There will be many more Harshal Patels who will take home a pretty packet without ever having earned it.”

    That is a very interesting comment. How can you decide if a person has earned his/her income? I would argue Harshal Patel has earned whatever the free market is willing to pay for his services.

    How many other Patels are part of Mumbai Indians team? He was good enough to be selected for the under-19 team, was he not? Or was that too because of his name?

    Sports is the only field where your income is directly related to your performance (on the field). Bottom line is, he will continue to “earn” his income if he performance. If he does not, no team will continue to pay him to sit around.

    • you think so? as far as i know, Sania has earned a much better place in tennis as compared to Leander..she was world #27 at one time i guess…what is the best ranking for leander? pls do not assume that i dont know about leander’s grand slams…but they are in doubles….which is a different game altogether…how many slams federer has in doubles?

      • For all practical purposes, she was a 1 year wonder. How many WTA singles titles does she have? (I’m not even talking of Grand Slams). Other than the Hyderabad title, what does she have to show? Even, Leander has an ATP singles title to his credit. And who can forget his Davis Cup heroics and the Olympic medal? I haven’t mentioned his doubles credentials yet. And you still consider Sania better than him

        • I am fully aware of the career achievements of both Leander and Sania. My point is just this: Paes’s achievements were all through doubles. He is nothing in the Men’s tennis when it comes to individuals. And TENNIS IS AN INDIVIDUAL SPORT. Thats not the case with Sania. She might not have achieved much, but during her career she has been a much more competent in woman’s tennis than Paes had been in men’s tennis. She is still ranked within 100 i suppose. I wonder whats the max Paes could reach. I hope I dont have to mention specifically, in Tennis, almost invariably, the ranking indicates ability across contemporaries.

          Thinking that Paes is a better Tennis player than Sania is just like blaming Sachin for his inability to win a world cup. In the first case, you are confusing team achievements for individual skills in an individual sport. In the second case, you are confusing team failures for lack of individual skills in a team sport. Way to go!!!

          • I don’t know how old you are and since when you are following tennis.

            To answer your specific question, Leander’s highest singles ranking was 73. This was sometime in 1998. It was also during this period that he started concentrating on doubles. Once, he started getting the kind of success that he got in doubles, he gave up on singles.

            What has Sania done after reaching that ranking of 27 other than getting out in the 2nd round of every tournament? And you call that a career?

            • ” Once, he started getting the kind of success that he got in doubles, he gave up on singles.”

              well, that point brings out the whole thing, doesnt it?

              • @Jazzy, In the land of blind, one eyed is the king… Are the top-50 women’s singles playerrs equallly competitive/talented? Outside the top-15, I think everyone(15-100) can be as good as the other

                I dont think the above was the case in late 90’s /early 2000’s when Leander was playing..

  14. Hi Prem,
    Off topic (related only to your travel update that is), but if you are in Delhi / NCR, would you have some time for a tweetup of the regular followers of your blog & tweets?

    Just announce the likely location, & time, and we can confirm a place & time depending on how many people offer to show up?

  15. Stuart Binny ..his game suited for 20-20 and performed well in the ICL. When ICL players were made available for IPL he was the most sought out name among the ICL players. But do not see his name in any of the franchise teams!Not sure what is the Jadeja perhaps.

    • Stuart Binny is with Mumbai Indians. Not sure if he is in the 16 announced, but definitely part of MI.

      • Binny is not there in the 16 announced. MI team selection & batting order always weird..right from IPL1. It’s more like when SRT was leading India ..all kind of players were given to him. If it’s not clicking this time in IPL ,SRT should give up captaincy and stop humiliating himself. It hurts when SRT’s team loses does not matter you’re from Mumbai or Bihar.

        • its true that SRT was *given* all kinds of players when he was leading India….but as far as MI is concerned, i guess he is *picking* them…..

        • He was never captaincy material. MI’s best phase was when Shaun Pollock was captain. If it were any other guy, he would have been sacked long back with the kind of results they have to show. Ask Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman or Yuvraj.

  16. Interesting thought and interesting comment from JazzyB.
    This could be an idea for a ‘3 Idiots’ sequel.

  17. I think this actually shows the growth of sports in the grand scheme of things. See, a Leander Paes or Sania Mirza is able to lead a rich life because of playing Tennis. Now, where do they stand in the world of Tennis? Not surely shoulder to shoulder to Federer. They can easily quit Tennis and live like kings and queens. That does not harm Tennis. Why? Because, Ultimately, Sporting excellence is not something that needs to be driven by livelihood concerns, but by quest for excellence. Cricket is still growing, and has just started the process of seperating grain from chaff. Earlier, every chaff had to pretend like a grain. That is not the case now. Those who just want to live comfortably can still play the game and live comfortably. Those who want to excel can still go ahead and excel, and they are going to lead the game. If Ashraful wants only $75000 an year, let him have it and be at his peace. Cricket will unearth another Ashraful who wants both millions and test centuries. Actually, Cricket needs only those Ashrafuls, isnt it? So, be cool. You will see Patels a lot more, but you will not miss out any Tendulkar or Dravid, people who really want to excel. Thats all what I care. Does all journalists want to excel? No. Does the profession of journalism still support their livelihood? Yes. That shows the maturity of the profession. Thats all.

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