Live blog, etc…

UPDATE: WE’VE TAKEN THE LIVE BLOG DOWN. I’LL STILL BE DOING THE MATCH REPORT, AND THE BLOG WILL RESUME ONCE WE GET THIS THING DONE RIGHT.

 

We had some hiccups last week, but starting today, live blogging will happen for all major matches. Starting with India versus England, here.

Also, getting my feet wet again writing match reports. Been a while, and I don’t believe the amount of rust on the brain — it’s proving a lot harder than I imagined. Anyways — two done so far; will do today’s as well, and regularly once the quarters begin. Early attempts: Australia versus New Zealand; Pakistan versus Sri Lanka.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions appreciated.

Live blog

Right, so here we go: The World Cup begins today.

Among other things, I’ll live blog the key games in the first phase, and all games from the quarter finals on. The idea is to post at 5-over intervals, looking at what happened and also looking forward at how the game is shaping.

That will be on the Yahoo platform — a work in progress at the moment, but I’ll use that rather than this, despite this one’s greater functionality and visual cleanliness, because this is part of our team effort.

HERE’S THE LINK, CHANGED.

Regulars, feel free to use this blog as an open thread and post comments; I’ll keep swinging by every now and again to catch up with you.

Whose World Cup is it anyway?

[View the story “Whose World Cup is it anyway?” on Storify]

PPS: Right — so this Storify thing has lots of uses, but using it to create a blog post, and then embedding it inside a blog post, is a bit duh! Off to research better use cases. Oh, and — back with live blogging et al, once the World Cup kicks off on Saturday. Details here tomorrow.

Old wine, new bottle

Apologies for the absence, folks — had a ton of traveling to do, and stuff to complete, before the World Cup gets under way and consumes the bulk of my mind-space; a clearing of the decks, if you will. Besides the really urgent stuff, we’ve been working on setting up a cricket blog within Yahoo Cricket. It is still, visually and in terms of functionality, a work in progress, but starting later today all of us will begin posting on it with increasing frequency. As part of the experimenting/seeding stage, just put up a post there about Cricinfo’s list of top XI bowling performances of all time, and an omission that struck me as somewhat glaring. Here it is.

I’ll try and either cross post, or at least link to, any posts I do there — but in the bustle of the WC, it may not be always possible. Appreciate it if you could swing by once in a way. Oh, and? As my colleagues begin posting, I’ll over time work with them on content, style etc. Any qualitative feedback from you guys would be hugely welcome — in the interests of keeping things in one ‘file’, post them here, please.

Back here in a bit.

 

“A metropolis beyond imagination”

The cavalier attitude to doing due diligence ahead of the selection process (time was, it was mandatory for players to produce fitness certificates ahead of selections; players in time found tame doctors to produce the necessary certification; over time, the charade was given up altogether; in circa Srikkanth, the practice is to pick the team and, in the addendum, add pious hopes that various players sporting various niggles will recover in time to save the selectors’ blushes) seems set to cost the Indian team — per most recent reports, Praveen Kumar’s injury has not responded to treatment as rapidly as was hoped for, and the bowler will now rush to England for additional treatment. Whether he will or will not be able to play is still unknown.

That aside, will leave you with a lovely piece by Suresh Menon on the tragedy of Eden Gardens. An edited excerpt:

Few, however, have been able to capture the sheer passion of the Kolkata fan. The illogicality of his obsession, the thoroughness of his preparation, the amount of hardship he is willing to put himself through for the pleasure of seeing Tendulkar bat or Sourav Ganguly adjust his sweater.

And it is this constituency that Jagmohan Dalmiya and his band have let down. The fan asks for nothing more than a good match – and an India-England tie had the potential to be just that in the World Cup – but whether it was the arrogance of the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal or his stupidity that has denied them this, it is not good for either Kolkata or India, or indeed cricket….

The Board of Control for Cricket in India must take some of the responsibility too, for although the World Cup is an ICC event, the national board has obviously to ensure that venues are ready and the shopping list of do’s and don’ts adhered to. It might have suited the current dispensation in the Board to blacken Dalmiya’s face for political reasons, but as usual in the petty politics played out by petty men, the larger picture is missed. Hang national pride, who cares about how a nation about to sup at the high table appears to the rest of the world.

Suresh ends his piece with the thought that this fiasco could be the end of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Not a hope (even the writer doesn’t believe it). The functional illiterates that comprise the BCCI may not know Sun Tzu from Chop Suey, but “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is the number one tenet in the Board playbook.

For the first two years after the regime change, the Board spent considerable energy trying to “finish off” Dalmiya, with Modi leading the charge and at one point claiming that Dalmiya would be sent to jail.

What followed was hilarious, if you like your comedy like your coffee — black.

The BCCI trotted out charges of misappropriation of funds relating to PILCOM, the Pakistan-India-Sri Lanka joint committee that conducted the 1996 World Cup. In December 2006, he was expelled from the board and all its member associations.

Dalmiya went to court — and in June 2007, got a stay from the Calcutta High Court of his expulsion. And then the real fun began — Dalmiya moved a counter case charging Board officials including Sharad Pawar, Niranjan Shah, Shashank Manohar and Chirayu Amin with perjury.

Thing was, the board based its suspension on an amendment to the rules governing disciplinary action that had, as per usual, written after the fact (remember recent imbroglios about last minute amendments to auction rules, and the other one relating to conflict of interest where a convenient amendment was inserted after the fact? SOP for the BCCI, this habit of writing its rules on water).

Worse, the BCCI honchos had forgotten that for a rule or amendment to be legal, it had to be duly registered. Since they had casually pencilled in a convenient amendment to justify their proceeding against Dalmiya and pre-dated it, it was not possible for them to register the clause, as the discrepancy in dates would then show up. They hoped no one would notice. Dalmiya, who during his tenure had developed enviable expertise in exploiting the rule book to his own personal ends, did.

To really put the lid on it, the officials while appearing in Calcutta High Court in response to Dalmiya’s legal challenge, placed the hastily written amendment before the court and swore that it was in fact official; when queried about the fact that it had not been registered, the officials further claimed that the Board had sought and received permission from the appropriate body to register the amendment at a later date.

Both were lies (arrogance is bad enough — when you add ignorance and chronic idiocy to it, the mix becomes combustible, and that is the real problem with the lot currently running cricket affairs in the country). The amendment as presented in court was dated September 2000 (the intention being to make it appear as if it had been written when Dalmiya was still in charge), but the application for its registration was made only in late 2006, after action had been taken on its basis against Dalmiya.

Faced with the prospect of criminal charges pertaining to falsification of documents and perjury, the Board decided on discretion as the better part of revenge, and allowed action against Dalmiya to lapse. It then proactively worked to bring Dalmiya back into the fold, first facilitating his re-election to the CAB as president by failing to appeal the court verdict, then tossing him several sops. (Ironically, thanks to the BCCI’s tendency to over-reach itself, the upshot was that the real issue — misappropriation of funds — had to be given a quiet burial).

All of this was based on the belief that a Dalmiya within the BCCI family was less of a danger than a vengeful Dalmiya floating around on the outside — more so when the prospect loomed that he might join forces with Lalit Modi. (Imagine the havoc those two, who know where more bodies are buried than your average cemetery attendant, could have caused had they worked in tandem against the board.)

Given this, fat chance Dalmiya and his administration will pay for the gross negligence, that has deprived the Calcutta crowd of a chance to watch the national team play in the World Cup in the unrivaled atmosphere of the Gardens.

PS: This habit of sneaking in last minute clauses into the rule book is about to get the Board into trouble on a different front. News reports indicate that there is a clause stating that 20 per cent of match fees will be deducted from capped players in the event their team fails to make it to the Champions’ League. Not surprisingly, players are up in arms and have already registered their protest, on the grounds that they had no prior line of sight into this clause, which was sprung on them at the last minute. Said players might want to consider another aspect to this: 10 teams, only three CL slots. In other words, the clause is tailor-made to save seven franchises considerable sums of money. Wonder who pencilled this dilly into the contract at the last minute.

Cats, bells

The Supreme Court has ruled that the BCCI, its officials, state associations and members thereof can be booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Hold the hosannas, though. The fact that the SC had to make the ruling is in fact the real story — the BCCI holds itself above the laws of the land, sheltering under its “private body” tag while abrogating to itself the right to name and run the team that represents the country. Successive cases, and the resulting rulings, have been chipping away at that armor, but the impact of each such small step is diluted by the BCCI’s battery of lawyers and the many delaying tactics the body employs. Also, this is a battle being played out over many small fronts — thus, just a week ago the BCCI was still maintaining its autonomous status in connection with a taxation issue.

Right here, right now, the Court has permitted the prosecution of two officials of the Kerala State Cricket Association. The logical next step — the actual prosecution — remains a distant dream, however. The best you can say about this judgment is it at the least ends the debate about whether the BCCI is above the PCA, and by extension above the laws of the land.

The judgment that could really set the cat among the pigeons is the one relating to conflict of interest, where the SC is hearing a petition filed by AC Muthaiah against N Srinivasan. For those who came in late, the crux of the petition involves a post-facto change in the board’s constitution to permit Srinivasan to own a team while remaining an office bearer in the BCCI, and also a member of the IPL governing council.

Briefly, India Cements bought the Chennai Super Kings franchise in 2007. N Srinivasan was then the treasurer of the BCCI; he was also — still remains — vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements.

At the time of the purchase, the relevant clause (6.2.4, Regulations for Players, Officials, Umpires and Administrators) in the board’s constitution said:

“No administrator shall have, directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches and events conducted by the board.”

The IPL is, even by the board’s own admission, is a sub-set of the BCCI and not an independent entity; as Shashank Manohar repeatedly said when the Modi imbroglio was at its height, overall authority vests with the BCCI president. Therefore the constitutional provision above applies to the IPL as well, which in effect means that Srinivasan was not permitted to bid for, and own, a franchise.

When it became apparent that this violation could snare Srinivasan in legal complications, the BCCI executive then led by Sharad Pawar, in September 2008, slipped an amendment into place. As with most such acts of the present administration (the most recent being the late amendment of auction rules, that has triggered a protest by MI and RCB), only a few words were changed, but the difference was crucial. The amended clause read:

“No administrator shall have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in any of the events of the BCCI, excluding IPL, Champions League and Twenty20.”

This is the crux of the case before the SC. Back in September last year, when the apex court first heard the case, the Board centered its argument on whether Muthaiah had any business bringing the case to court in the first place. The former president had filed the case, the BCCI contended, only because he had lost the election for president of the TNCA to Srinivasan. The court sensibly contended that the motivation of the petitioner could not be the yardstick to measure the worth of the petition itself.

That’s the last we’ve heard of it. The court had at the time deferred its judgement. Four months down the line, the wait continues.