Howard’s End

Okay, all that talk about book titles earlier is directly responsible for the title of this piece.

More like Howard’s beginning: the news is that India is backing the former Aussie PM for the post of ICC chair, to succeed Sharad Pawar.

So now we can begin speculating on just what the quid pro quo is, here. More bilateral series between India and Australia? Australia’s support to push through a proposal for a defined IPL window? What?

Visit Gujarat before it disappears

Seriously. Check out the first name on the list.

Photo Center: Asia’s 25 Places to See Before They Disappear.

Enter title here

If I wrote a book titled Lover in the Lords, will you guys buy 100s of copies and make me so rich I don’t have to write any more? Or how about The Seventh Game?

Still no? Okay I give up — here, use this and come up with a title for a book you will buy — the objective is to make me rich, like my friends Amit Varma, Sidin Vadakut et al, and I really don’t want to sweat the details.

On a related note, play free association: I’ll give you a book title, you tell me what you think it is about. Ready? Go:

Be Bold With Bananas [I found that one here]

Or how about this:

Games You Can Play with Your Pussy [here. Now go wash your mind out with soap. And then check out the whole list. Much fun.]

Okay, enough random nonsense — a more productive use of your time is this piece by one of my favorite bloggers on books and writing: Sanjay Sipahimalani, on Y! Opinions, on books and their titles. Enjoy.

Update: Found this thanks to Ashish, in comments: a blog on how books got their titles. Fascinating stuff.

The TGIF cricket clips

#1. Today marks the start of a ‘series’ I have no intention of watching. A bunch of cricketers who have lately been exposed against speed, swing and bounce get to fill their boots with free runs against arguably the slowest attack in world cricket — I’ll take a pass, thanks.

You can make a case for why Zimbabwe cricket needs a leg up [while on that, a segue — as Dhananjay pointed out to me on my Twitter stream, stories such as this one about Harbhajan Singh helping Zimbabwe cricketers out with basic equipment merit fair amounts of play in the media — but won’t get it, because there is no ‘controversy’ here, of the kind that kept the ‘brawl in a night club’ story on the front pages and on TV for days on end].

But that said, I’m not convinced that the board should have shoe-horned this series into its calendar — or even that such tours are in fact the best way to help Zimbabwe. From the Indian point of view, the players have just gone through the IPL and the World Cup, back to back. Almost all the players have during this phase exposed deficiencies in technique and skill sets, and underlined fitness concerns. The down time was an ideal opportunity for the board to work with the coach on ways to bring the players back up to speed, and for the coach to work on individual players to iron out their particular problems.

Harsha makes the point well in his latest column on Cricinfo.

That is why this series against Zimbabwe, though it seems to give young players an opportunity, isn’t the best idea. Yusuf Pathan, for example, would have done well to work on batting against the short-pitched ball, which is so clearly going to block his international career. Suresh Raina, who has much more going for him, could have worked on a similar theme to try and earn the Test place that seems so distant at the moment. And Rohit Sharma could have worked on trimming a few inches off his middle – but more on that later.

While discussing Rohit, Harsha makes the tangential point about the need for mentoring. Earlier this week Suresh Menon, another cricket writer I follow regularly, made that point the centerpiece of his latest column.

This is not to suggest that all players are saints, merely to point out the range of problems that confronts them.  India have been fortunate in recent years to have had quality players and men of the stature of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Anil Kumble as the backbone of the team. We have been spoiled by their immaculate behaviour on and off the field, and have forgotten how pressure can get to a player. There has been no need for a psychologist or mentor outside of the playing group.

Now thanks to the IPL and the opportunities it provides, players are coming into the Indian team incompletely educated, and with their ideas skewed by the money they make. While a professional coach with the requisite certificate can handle the cricketing problems on the field, it takes a special kind of professional to instruct players on how to handle themselves off the field. Perhaps the time has come to put players through a finishing school before they are qualified to play for India.

Here, to round things off, is an earlier post on mentors. What strikes me, not for the first time, as most remarkable is how much sense there is in the domain of the commentariat — and how little there is within the BCCI.

#2. The battle over John Howard’s [the ultimate cricket tragic, a Cricinfo profile earlier this year had dubbed him as] appointment as the next chief of the ICC becomes more amusing by the minute — and there is nothing quite as risible as India’s explanation for its opposition: apparently the board, with Sharad Pawar wearing his hat as the ICC head beginning July playing point man, says it does not want yet another politician heading cricket. Distinctly duh! Sri Lanka’s opposition is easier to explain — Howard, going beyond his then brief as Australia’s prime minister, was caustic on the subject of Muthaiah Muralitharan way back when; for the Lankan board, this is long-delayed payback. Peter Roebuck is scathing on the subject:

Make no mistake, the case against Howard is as dishonest as it is inconsistent. A board that welcomed Percy Sonn, who declared the 2003 Zimbabwe election free and fair though he knew it was a lie, thereby condemning Zimbabweans to years of torment; a board that accepted Ray Mali, whose co-operation with the apartheid government was exposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; a board that listens to Peter Chingoka and Ozias Bute, apologists for evil in Zimbabwe, is poorly placed to turn its back on Jack the Ripper, let alone a former PM and cricket fanatic.

The cricket boards of India, South Africa and Zimbabwe are leading the campaign to prevent the antipodean nominee taking up his position. Their reasons are different and mostly false. India says that it does not want another politician to become involved in the game, let alone one as contentious as Howard. India’s real reason is that they fear Howard’s strength and skills and resent his high-handed conduct in the ongoing debate about uranium exports. After decades watching the West run the game, they intend to retain complete control. No less pertinently, they have always been backed by the Zimbabweans and now return the favour.

Against that, Rick Eyre has been consistently blogging on Howard — and from that perspective, posts on why Australia needs to pull the plug on the candidacy, and that right quick.

John Winston Howard is clearly not going to be the unifying face of world cricket for the years 2012-2014 or any other years, and the numbers are shaping up against him. Time for Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket to go down to the corner bakery, buy the biggest humble pie in the shop, and come up with another candidate. Sir John Anderson, even.

Keep your eye on this story — if nothing else, the manufactured outrage from various quarters, and Australia’s possible reaction, promises considerable amusement for the rest of us. And ultimately, none of it matters — the ICC has in recent times become almost irrelevant to the conduct of the game, so why would we need to get worked up on the identity of its next chief?

#3. For more than one reason, this column by Mike Atherton should resonate with us. Check it out.

#4. Today is a Friday. Enough hard work — come chat cricket, live. 3.30-4.30 — here.