India vs Australia Day 4

(Before play, as posted to FirstPost’s live blog)

One hundred and eighty.

If you like turning over envelopes and calculating possibilities on the reverse, that is the number you want to put down first. 180 overs remain in this Test and every calculation, by either side, will be predicated on that number.

If you are an Australian point of view, you need to figure out how many overs you reckon you need to bowl India out in the second innings. This is neither Pune nor Bangalore and even in the last innings, you want to budget at least 90, 100 overs for the job.

Sounds like that is rating India too high, or selling the Aussie bowling too short? Their main strike bowler is Pat Cummins who, in just his second first-class game after injuries kept him out for five years, has had to combine the durability of the workhorse and the penetration of a shock bowler. He produced consistent, searing pace and headhunting bouncers; two of those got him wickets that would have been beyond the capabilities of most other quicks — but it’s been hard toil for a player not yet fully grooved into the demands of Test cricket in these conditions.

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Review: Azhar, the movie

“Who are you?” Steve Wozniak (played by Seth Rogan) asks Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in the midst of an incandescent argument in the Danny Boyle-helmed biopic on the Apple founder. “What do you do?”

The questions are equally central to any exploration, fictional or otherwise, of the life and times of Mohammad Azharuddin.

Who was he? More crucially, *what* was he?

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ROFL Lodha

Acerbic. Sweeping. Comprehensive. All apt words to describe the Report on Cricket Reforms released January 4, 2016, by the Supreme Court-mandated Justice Lodha Committee. But “funny”? Yeah, that too — if you like your humor to wear a very thin veil. Some samplers:

From the outset, the Committee has reached out to the administration of the BCCI to offer its comments and interventions on the issues that were being considered. Meetings were arranged with all the office-bearers, and from the first week of April, the Questionnaire was sent to all of them. The then President Mr.Jagmohan Dalmiya and Secretary Mr.Anurag Thakur even sent identical responses to it.

That is to say, the late Mr Dalmiya (before he became late, of course) and Mr Thakur had their responses written by the same hand, didn’t bother to make even cosmetic alterations to the words, and submitted them independently, not allowing for the possibility that the committee would pick up on similarity of response. Then there is this:

We are glad to note that having obtained a broad picture from the Questionnaire about how the Committee intended to proceed, BCCI started taking some action, or at least made some announcements touching upon the contents of the questions. These include statements concerning committees to represent States where associations were in dispute or not formed [Qn.1.6], agent accreditation [Qns.6.10 & 6.13] and conflict of interest [Qns.7.1 – 7.3]. Unfortunately, a closer examination shows that these measures came without any structural modifications, and were done more in an effort to assuage the public.

Translated into undiplomatic English: We sent out a questionnaire, the BCCI honchos figured out from the questions what our areas of concern were, and promptly made some cosmetic announcements to convey the impression that our concerns were already being addressed, even before we had begun our sittings. Unfortunately, all of it was an eyewash.

Immediately following, is this bit about Shashank Manohar, and this is where the humor really bites:

On the 30th of September 2015, the Committee interacted in New Delhi with Mr.Shashank Manohar, who had been the President of the BCCI when amendments were carried out to permit a conflict of interest, which action was eventually quashed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. On the day of the meeting, Mr.Manohar was widely tipped to be the consensus candidate to again be the President of the BCCI in elections to be held on the weekend. During the extensive discussions, the Committee put to Mr.Manohar the various concerns highlighted in the Questionnaire, particularly regarding the wide-ranging powers of the President, the lack of financial oversight over State bodies, the lack of transparency as far as BCCI regulations and processes were concerned, the lack of a Conflict of Interest policy and the need for an Ombudsman. Mr.Manohar fairly conceded that these needed to be addressed. We are again happy to note that that on being elected as President of BCCI within 4 days thereafter, Mr.Manohar, even without waiting for the Committee’s report, adopted and projected the Committee’s views as his roadmap for improving the functioning of the BCCI. He also implemented some of them, i.e. uploading of the Constitution and Bye-Laws on the BCCI website, creating a policy for Conflicts of Interest and appointment of an Ombudsman. While we believe that these proposals are in the right direction, we find that they are not comprehensive and substantive.

Check out the underlined bits.

Shorn of politeness, this bit translates thus: We met Manohar and told him of our chief areas of concern. Within a week of that meeting, Manohar — on whose watch the most egregious case of conflict of interest was rubber-stamped — trotted out a set of “reforms” as coming from himself, but which in reality were attempts to undercut the work of the committee. “He also implemented some of them,” the report says, leaving unsaid the corollary, that much more remained in the realm of ‘statements’.

“We are happy to note…”, the judges say, their expression of delight yielding to disappointment a couple of sentences later as the judges note that Manohar’s reforms were neither comprehensive nor substantive.

And so it goes.

The judges must have been seriously pissed, to call out — repeatedly — the BCCI’s attempts at preempting their report.

FWIW, I had scribbled random thoughts down while reading the report in full. Here is the “annotated” version.

PS: Did you read the full report? What thoughts struck you? What do you like? What do you dislike? Why? Comments in the box, please? Let’s start a dialogue — will be back tomorrow morning to look for your thoughts.

Twit wit…

An occasional series starts here, now:

Dear ICC: Your move. Love, Supreme Court of India

Not to be a nag, ICC — I know there are more pressing matters for you to attend to just now — but still. I’m mildly curious about a couple of things. Like, so:

#Is it true that per your rules, the president of a national cricket body is the one who gets inducted into the ICC’s board of directors? If yes, could you let us know who the BCCI president is? None of us here in India seem to know — but you should, since you do have an individual occupying that seat on your board, no?

#On September 29, 2013, a BCCI meeting decided “by oral consensus” that N Srinivasan would be the BCCI representative on the ICC executive board. The board’s natural life-span ended in September 2014. So who is India’s representative on your executive board just now? How? Why?

#Clause 2.1 of your Code of Ethics (by the way, just this morning I read of your determination to be very strict on enforcing the code — I presume you meant it to include officials as well? — says “Directors shall not engage in any conduct that in any way denigrates the ICC or harms its public image.” Arising from which: The Supreme Court of India ruled today that N Srinivasan (I believe he is your chairman?) can not contest the much-delayed BCCI elections. Some niggling thing about “conflict of interest” appears to have pissed off our Supremes. So the question is: Do you think a director deemed by the court to be unfit to hold office of BCCI president, and further, one barred from contesting the upcoming election, should be on your executive board, let alone be your chairman? If yes, why? If not, what do you propose to do about it?

#Clause 4.11 (F) of your constitution says that the Executive Board can remove any director if, among other things, he indulges in any act that brings the Council into disrepute. Would you say that Srinivasan, by (a) Being at the receiving end of court strictures about egregious conflicts of interest; (b) Being told by the Supreme Court that his presence at the head of the BCCI is “nauseating”; (c) Being told that he cannot office as president due to conflict of interest, and is barred from contesting any future elections until and unless he clears himself of that conflict, has possibly brought disrepute to your council? If so, do you intend to review his position in your executive board, and at its helm? If not, could you let us know what will bring your esteemed council into disrepute?

#justasking #don’tmindme

Cogito, ergo sum confusion

Cogito, ergo sum, says Iain O’Brien in the latest issue of The Cricket Monthly. He thinks, therefore he is.

What he is thinking about is David Warner — who, Iain says, is not just a serial offender, but an escalating offender.

That’s a neat way of putting it. Shorn of polysyllables, what it means is: Warner’s behaviour is getting worse. He says:

I have seen the regularity of Warner drawing fire, the growing frequency and the level of these indiscretions, increasing since late last year. Is it wrong to try to find a reason for this? Is it wrong to possibly suggest that the tragic death of his good mate Phillip Hughes – Warner was on the field when Hughes was fatally hit – is having an unwanted affect on the decisions he makes, and contributing to his involvement in conflicts?

From that jumping off point, the writer transitions to the death of Philip Hughes on the field of play, and the possibility that Warner — who was at the other end when his mate died — suffers from PTSD.

Perhaps it is fair to say that Warner has had similar demons to deal with since the death of his very good friend. Perhaps it isn’t. It may be that it is still worth discussing. Maybe we can just rule out any form of PTSD and simply justify Warner’s actions saying, “He has always been like that”, and say they might also be a result of the laxity in efforts to curb certain forms of on-field behaviour. I get the feeling there’s a little more to his recent behaviour than can be explained by the flighty application of fines and limited consequences for his actions.

I read a lot of crime fiction, particularly the courtroom types. And when someone says “PTSD” I am all over him like a rash — I know PTSD like only readers of Shane Stevens and Scott Turow and Richard North Patterson and such can. Seems to me — my view is probably colored, even jaundiced, by too much of this stuff — that there is no case that comes to the courtrooms of America where the anatomy of some horrendous crime cannot be explained merely by whether it is right or wrong to rape and kill; it needs a battery of experts to speak with polysyllabic profundity to child abuse or adult trauma and its effects on the individual’s id.

It is all supposed to lead to a verdict of Not Guilty By Reason of <insert your favourite trauma here>.

Hold that thought, while you follow some of these narratives:

Australian coach Darren Lehmann says he knows there are lines drawn, but Australia is always going to push as close to the edge of acceptable behaviour as it thinks it can get away with:

“If the ICC decide it’s not in the spirit of the game or we cross the line, they’ll come down on us. We all know that. So we’ve got to make sure: we’re always going to teeter pretty close to it, that’s the way we play, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t cross it. David’s an aggressive character and we support that. It’s just making sure he does the right things on the ground, and he knows that more than most. We’ll work with him with that.”

Australia’s almost-was-captain Brad Haddin believes this is the “brand of cricket” Australia should be playing (Inset, James Anderson believes sledging “done right” can be “entertaining”. He doesn’t say for who.)

Haddin said Australia would not be changing the way they play and he said they always respected their opponents and the game.

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting — famous, among other things, for a spirited discussion with umpire Aleem Dar during the 2010 Ashes series — believes the problem is not with what happens on the field, but with how it all looks when magnified by the TV cameras.

Darren Lehmann has said publicly that David is an aggressive character, and the Australian public love the way he bats, which goes hand in hand with the sort of confrontational approach he sometimes takes in the field. What David needs be aware of is how animated that can look through the lens of a television camera.

When I was captain I often had to control how things looked when I was talking to opponents or umpires. The incidents that got me into trouble often had little to do with what I was saying but how it could appear when I started moving my hands around, pointing fingers or taking on an assertive posture. That would leave me open to different interpretations from people about what might have been going on, and invariably cause the match referee to have a word. I also had a few hearings in my time.

That has been true of this episode for David, where his 50% match fee fine has come about largely because of how it played on television and came across to fans around the world. Whether misplaced or not, Australian anger that a run was taken after the possible deflection of a return to Brad Haddin was genuine. I could count a few instances where I’ve seen opposition teams take another run when the ball deflected in this way. As minor as it sounds, that convention is about as well understood as that of not running out a non-striker backing up without a warning. So I can understand some anger in the belief it had not been followed.

That is a very good argument to do away with not mayhem, but with the cameras that might be in a position to record that mayhem and amplify it via YouTube and other social megaphones. “The problem is not that the cops strangled the black guy, the issue is really how it all looks when that irresponsible idiot with the cellphone camera…”

In those same courtroom novels I referred to, I’ve come across another phrase: enabling behaviour. Like, when someone does something that is clearly wrong, and the officials excuse it on specious grounds (“It is only a first offence… Level 2.1 (a) (ii)…)? Like, when people of stature and authority don’t call out an act for what it is — unacceptable — but obfuscate, justify, condone?

I’ve no quarrel with Iain’s cogitations. Merely, that I did some of my own — and I wonder if it is fair to say this: Excuses — even legitimate ones — may help us understand the nature of the offender. But they should have no bearing on the offence. Or the consequences.

BTW? Try searching for “David Warner sledging”. You might find a couple of instances if you look hard enough. And if you care to notice the dates, you might find that the odd example pre-dates any PTSD.

PS: Warner and Australia are merely the peg of this argument, not the sole targets. Bad behaviour is just that — no matter who the culprit is, or which team he belongs to. Oh, and to Anderson’s point about all this being “entertaining” — if the quality of your cricket was good enough, why would you need an item number?

Additional reading:

Martin Crowe wrote recently about the need for cricket to take bad behaviour seriously, and mooted the concept of red and yellow cards.

The sad part? Back in 2002, the same concept was briefly discussed by cricket’s lawmakers. And dropped. And I remember writing about the need for it, in 2003. Can’t seem to find the link, but I did find this discussion I was part of, where the theme was developed on. Here, read.

Dravid on spot-fixing and fear of consequences

Like I said, I can’t speak for other people but at a personal level if I were to doubt everything that happens in this game, it would take away the joy and the love of the game, from what it’s meant to be. It has been my life from the time I can remember, my first memories are of a ball and a cricket bat. So personally no, my first instinct is to trust and believe what is happening on a television screen. I hear, people do come to me, and you hear chat about this might have happened or look at that. But like I said, I’ve seen a lot of strange things on a cricket field and from people and players I would never doubt, I would bet my life on that fact.

Sambit Bal interviews Rahul Dravid on match/spot-fixing, and matters related. Nice, nuanced, and from the heart — typical Rahul. The money segment:

I think a two-pronged approach [is needed]. My personal belief is that education and counselling at a junior level is really important. As we’ve seen recently with these incidents, they aren’t only about international cricketers but we’ve seen with the sting operations last year, with what’s happened this year, is that a lot of these elements are targeting younger players, domestic players, first-class players. So obviously counselling and guidance has to go to the first-class level and junior level. So I think we’ve got to start early, we’ve got to start young but like I said earlier, in answer to your question, that part of it is already being done. I know that India has its own ACSU and even for Ranji Trophy teams this education is given. So I don’t think only education can work, [we have to] police it and have the right laws and ensure that people, when they indulge in these kind of activities, are actually punished.

People must see that there are consequences to your actions. That will create fear for people. For example, look back on the doping in cycling. Everyone knows it’s wrong and it’s frightening having read a little about it and the number of cyclists who were doing it. Surely everyone knows it’s wrong. [But] it was an exception not to do it. So the only people cyclists were scared of was not the testers, not the [cycling] authority, they were scared of the police. You read all the articles, the only guys they were scared of was the police and going to jail. So the only way that people are going to get that fear is if they know the consequences to these actions and the law that will come into play. It has got to be a criminal offence.