IPL clips

#1. GS Vivek and Debesh Bannerjee, in the Indian Express, on the after-match commitments of the players:

A top player speaks about the effect on their body clock. “We return to the hotel from the match around midnight and get ready for the party. Most of these parties go on till the wee hours. When the players get up around afternoon, it’s time to catch a flight to the next destination,” he says. “There are days when the game is over in three hours while the party goes on for six hours. Off-the-field fatigue is more than the tiredness on field.”

Regulars speak of exhausted players dozing off on couches — a Chennai Super Kings young spinner being the most recent example. Others of inebriated cricketers being helped to their rooms at dawn. Delhi Daredevils coach Greg Shipperd is among the few to express his reservations openly. “At times it is hard on players. It is up to the individuals and team management to ensure that they strike the right balance,” he says.

While IPL organisers refuse to comment on the issue, the official line of the franchise is that it is not mandatory for players to attend. Delhi Daredevils’ Chief Operating Officer Amit Mathur says the players aren’t forced to come for parties. “Anyways the parties are usually held at team hotels. Since most of the time, the day after the game we travel, the practice sessions are optional,” he says.

However, there hasn’t been a single party where players haven’t showed up. The unwritten rule is that top stars need to make an appearance. There have been cases when players have expressed wish to spend time in their rooms but have been prevailed upon by owners to drop in for a while.

#2. Apropos the above, Ramachandra Guha examines why Kochi and Pune got lucky at the auction for the two latest franchises:

This maldistribution of IPL franchises undermines its claim to be ‘Indian’, and is in defiance of sporting history and achievement as well. The truth is that citizenship and cricket have been comprehensively trumped by the claims of commerce. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar are three of the poorest states in the Union. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are among the most prosperous. Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are somewhere in the middle, but they have this further advantage — all have witnessed a spurt in industrial and urban development in recent years, and all have properly functioning international airports for the cricketers — or gladiators — to come and go from.

There are other advantages that Kochi and Pune have over Lucknow or Indore. Both towns have an active night life, for example, with pubs and hotels where the staff speak English, and where the players, the support staff, and the hangers-on can spend time after the matches. Considerations such as these, and not love of cricket or competence at cricket, is what the new entrants share with existing franchisees such as Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.

The Indian Premier League may be more appropriately renamed the League of Privileged Indians. For this tournament both reflects and further intensifies a deep divide between the India of wealth and entitlement and the India — or Bharat — of poverty and disenfranchisement. Writing about the dangerous growth of inequality in India, the economist, Amartya Sen, warned some years ago that if present trends continued, half of India would look like the American state of California, the other half like sub-Saharan Africa. Since he made this comment, California has been beset with an acute — and apparently irreversible — fiscal crisis. Perhaps we might then substitute the state of Massachusetts for it. But the point remains; there are indeed two Indias, the one which is awarded IPL franchises, and the other which is not.

#3. “Match fixing” is a bogey that is repeatedly raised when results don’t go quite the way the form book seems to prescribe. For you, a cautionary tale: it is rarely, if ever, about fixing a match; the real money lies in spread betting, in laying wagers about moments in the game and about individual performances, and not on the match outcome itself. Check out what is happening in the England county circuit [related, here’s Scyld Berry on the implications for English cricket]:

English county cricket faces a test of its integrity with two Essex players under investigation for what is believed to be ‘spot fixing’, where bets are placed on elements of a match rather than the actual result. On Friday Essex police confirmed they were involved over ‘match irregularities’ and since then speculation has been rife over the depths to which potential corruption has spread.

Sources close to the investigation have told Cricinfo that anyone found guilty would face “very serious punishments” but the concern for the game is how to crack down on the illegal betting market in an era of satellite television and easy internet access.

More later — now back to what is already proving to be a bad Monday morning.

The man, and the magic

For a long time now, I’ve steered well clear of the temptation — and fresh temptations arise every single time he walks onto a cricket field — to write about Sachin Tendulkar.

It is – and there is no shame in admitting it – a cop out; it stems from the realization that the ability to string words together to convey a sense of wonder has its limitations.

You can do it once, twice, even a dozen times. But this one man forces you to find new words, new thoughts, to reinvent language – and he has been doing that for over two decades now. I don’t know how Harsha Bhogle, Rohit Brijnath, Sambit and some of the other top cricket writers cope with this challenge. Speaking for myself, I prefer to bail, to use “It’s all been said before” as an excuse to avoid confronting the limitations of the written word.

And then he goes out there and does something you cannot but take notice of – like in the game yesterday against the Rajasthan Royals.

It is not that he paced his innings to perfection [his 50 came off 45 balls, the next 14 balls produced 39 runs). Or that he has emerged as the highest scorer in this edition of the IPL. Or that he has accumulated all those runs without ever needing to play an unaesthetic stroke, to go airborne (with the two sixes he hit in the final over of his innings yesterday, he now has three for a tournament where the current tally is over 500) .

What rocked me back in my seat yesterday was the two braces he ran off Sidharth Trivedi’s final over. On both occasions, there was only a single to be had as his drives off the front foot raced to the fielder in the deep; on both he was so hungry for the strike, so keen to maximize every single ball that remained, that he turned and ran the second even as the throw was airborne; on both occasions the throw was straight and hard to the keeper — and yet, he easily beat the throw both times.

How does he do this? Where does this seemingly inexhaustible well of energy, this relentless drive, come from?

And – this for me is the really scary thought – just how much has he still got left in the tank?

His longevity has been admired almost as much as his playing record. On his blog feed, Anaggh [Twitter] recently had this post:

When Sachin Tendulkar traveled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket…

  • Michael Schumacher was yet to race an F1 car
  • Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France
  • Diego Maradona was still the Captain of a World Champion Argentina team
  • Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam

When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company…

·       Roger Federer was a name unheard of

  • Lionel Messi was in his nappies
  • Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters
  • The Berlin Wall was still intact
  • USSR was one big, big country
  • Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to open up the Nehruvian economy.

At a more personal level, Sachin made his international debut November 15, 1989. Two weeks later, I got my first regular job as a journalist.

I love what I do, just as much as I did December 1, 1989 when I first took my assigned place in a newsroom, thrilling to the knowledge that I was now a ‘byline’ and more importantly, that I would henceforth be paid to do what I loved doing anyway – to wit, play with words.

That love, that thrill remains undimmed. But as the years go by, it is increasingly difficult to keep the motivational levels up through the day, through the working weeks and months and years. With each successive year, it becomes harder to summon up the same energy; to, if you will, take those short singles at work and to convert those ones into twos.

So how in hell does this man do it? How, after all these years, does he not only maintain the phenomenally high standard he set at the start, but constantly raise the bar even further? And how in hell does he convey the impression that his enjoyment has only increased with time?