Cricket clips

# The admin interface on this blog shows you the latest comments right on top — and as it happens, the first comment I saw this morning was tagged to a Chris Broad post, from a certain John who apparently gets his jollies reading all the “crazies” who ramble on in the wake of controversies. I hate disappointing the public, so here’s more “ranting”:

The Australians always seem to get away. Whatever their transgressions on the field, invariably it is their opponents who end up paying a price. Somehow or the other, teams playing against the Aussies seem to invite the match referee’s wrath.

That is why I am not looking at the most recent incident in the Australia-West Indies series in isolation. In the Delhi Test against us, my last, the one that earned Gautam Gambhir a ban for having a go at Watson, the same umpire and the match referee were officiating.

At that time, the umpire Billy Bowden didn’t see it fit to report Simon Katich who had later obstructed Gautam and the match referee Chris Broad too didn’t bother to act on his own or follow it up with the onfield umpires even though it was very much evident on TV. And as on that occasion, the provocateurs got away in Perth too, with Haddin and Johnson receiving minor reprimands.

There doesn’t seem to be any punishment forthcoming for someone who provokes and that to me is against the principles of natural justice.

Dear John, the “crazy” who wrote that is former India captain Anil Kumble (who, most famously, also said this). Getting to be a fairly crowded asylum, innit? Here’s more “lunacy” — from Chris Gayle. And strangely, Ricky Ponting seems to think us crazies may actually be on to something.

#The weekend’s action at the Centurion and the WACA provided the perfect coda to a couple of months of fascinating cricket. Make that Test cricket. For all the tons of runs that were scored in the “thrash the bowlers” versions of the game, the final quarter of the year has been memorable for Test cricket action between Sri Lanka and India; between a New Zealand and a Pakistan intent on examining the limits of their own frailities; between an Australia that prematurely wrote the opposition off and a West Indies unit that re-discovered talent, spark, and the will to fight; and between a conservative South Africa hoping for a win and a tentative England hoping not to lose. Ian Chappell’s summation of the field comes apropos.

# Test cricket has been compelling, but the crowds haven’t felt compelled to come out in their numbers. That’s the sort of thing that triggers laments on the ‘Test cricket is dying’ lines — but perhaps there is another explanation? Here’s Gideon Haigh:

Frankly, for what English cricket fans pay to watch Test matches, the security indignities they undergo, the general dilapidation of grounds and the killjoy prohibitions of administrators, they should be allowed to parade in the nude if they so wish. But there’s the rub. Crowds, in general, are simply assumed, like sightscreens and drinks breaks, and reported with a similar degree of understanding by journalists high above them in air-conditioned comfort, who haven’t had to pay to get in.

Nobody speaks for them: they have no association, no lobbyists, no agents, no spin doctors, no ghost writers. Who has protested the scurvy treatment of fans in Kolkata and Johannesburg, deprived of international cricket by ludicrous administrative turf wars? Where were the thundering denunciations in England when the ECB cancelled a Twenty20 Cup quarter-final 10 minutes before the start because of a dispute about a player’s registration, thereby wasting the journeys of 4000 hapless fans? When wronged, fans have no recourse but the withdrawal of their interest – a self-penalisation.

The main reason for this indifference to the spectator’s lot, in administrative circles at least, is television. For 20 years and more, cricket has been obsessed with its telegenia – how to improve the experience for viewers, and so to maximise the value of the game as a media property. And as viewers have grown in financial importance, so live spectators have diminished.

Crowds flowing through the turnstiles — or not — have become irrelevant to the game’s financial health. But to therefore dismiss diminishing live audiences is, Haigh suggests, short-sighted.

In this unspoken shared belief among administrators that somehow it is immaterial if crowds no longer gather, and that only the vast, diffuse, invisible audience of viewers counts, lies the seeds of a grave crisis for cricket. In the most straightforward sense, crowds matter aesthetically, in a way ratings never can. They ratify by their presence an occasion’s importance; they dramatise by their passion a game’s excitement; they negate by their absence an event’s significance. Tendulkar’s 12,000th Test run should have been one of the great moments of Indian cricket; it will be remembered instead, as even ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat noted, with dismay and disillusionment.

Those who trouble to attend cricket are also its core constituency; to set aside a day for a Test or a one-day international involves a huge investment of time and money, which deserves proportional return. Yet the members of this core are being treated as political parties sometimes treat their most loyal voters, and listed corporations their most steadfast small shareholders: marginalising and alienating them as they take them for granted – and no party or company has done this long and prospered. On the contrary, commercial organisations dependent on public patronage lavish extraordinary efforts on keeping their most loyal customers, encouraging them to return by loyalty cards, bonus programmes and other incentive systems. Why does cricket, so purportedly savvy in the ways of commerce, care so little? Australian golf might have looked a little ludicrous at the Masters last month with its serpentine queues, star-struck melees and striving for church-like quiet – but at least it was trying.

#Headline writers have been having a field day with the outing of Tiger Woods’ latest mistress, bringing the tally thus far to 18 — the puerile golf course analogy apparently proves too hard to resist. Meanwhile, in Cuttack and in their homes across the country, Indian cricketers must be laughing their heads off — the newest among them has notched up far more ‘conquests’ than Woods with his stature, his charismatic looks  and all his billions can only dream of.

I’ve never been able to figure this out. We expect a Gandhi, a Mother Teresa, to provide us a moral compass to chart our lives by, but we do not simultaneously expect them to entertain us. Why then is that not the case in reverse? Why is it not enough for our athletes, our sports stars, to entertain us? Why must they also set “moral examples” for the young?

The two most common answers I get are, oh, but they are in the public eye and, two, our children idolize them. As far as the first goes, so too are politicians — but we accept their affairs, their involvements in crimes ranging from mega corruption to murder with equanimity and even pick potential jailbirds to lead our states, our country. Apparently it is okay for those who would chart our futures to be morally flawed, but not our sportsmen. And as far as our children’s idolatry goes, what then are parents for if they cannot steer their children towards heroes more worthy of moral emulation?

My friend — and favorite sports writer — Rohit Brijnath nails it in this lovely piece in the weekend edition of Mint. An extended clip:

But I rarely go to stadiums expecting lessons in morality. These aren’t arenas of real bravery for this isn’t real life. These weren’t my guides, not my North Stars. My heroes are different, they are ordinary people taking on life, they are my parents, teachers, friends who grapple patiently with troubled kids, they are families who take care of the ill with a selfless love, they are preachers of tolerance.

I have expectations of the athlete, especially the great ones, for with fame arrives responsibility. Certainly he must obey the rules, stay away from gunfights in nightclubs, respect the law, conduct himself appropriately when representing his country. It is not a difficult list. Roger Federer meets it nicely. But not everyone.

But then it gets tricky. What moral standard do we hold the athlete to, a higher one than we have for ourselves? Marriage is beautiful and we are unimpressed by the adulterer, but do we hound them from our groups of friends and from our offices? Is Tiger Woods different, worth such public scorn, because he portrayed himself as a virtuous family man? It would appear so. And as much as the tawdriness of it all, the sheer number of infidelities, what seems to upset people is also the deception. He fooled us, this billionaire hero. He made us buy his shirts while he was taking his off.

What we tend to forget is that the great athlete presents to us an image. On that basis we claim to know him, but we really don’t. Andre Agassi’s revealing autobiography, Open, suggested our view of him was almost entirely inaccurate. Woods is similarly a mystery. We know him as outrageous golfer, bland interviewee, smiling salesman. Beyond that he is hidden. It suited him. His golf was perfect, his trousers creased, his shoes shined, and so he let us assume the rest of his life was as polished. The point is this: He should have known better than to do what he did, but so should we have to have swallowed his myth.

# There’s a one-day game due to be played this afternoon, but all that, and more, tomorrow. Have people to meet, and a packer coming home for a preliminary ‘recce’. Later, peoples…

Fasten your seatbelts…

…and fly someplace far away where there is no TV, or at least no cricket broadcast, sums up my mood when I read this morning that we are due another concrete wicket at Nagpur. Yet optimism beats — albeit with a faint, fluttering beat that wouldn’t show up on the ECG gizmo, because if there is one thing our ‘experts’ consistently get wrong it is their reading of the wicket. Who knows — this one might be like Brabourne, with something in it for everyone. At least, you can surf that hope till 2.30 pm, when some sacrificial lamb walks to the top of his bowling mark, turns, and runs in to his scheduled execution.


Okay, in case it wasn’t already apparent, I’m feeling a bit bilious today. It’s Friday, there is a paper to produce [my penultimate edition of India Abroad, actually], but none of that is going to stop me from turning on the TV at the appointed hour and watch bowlers bleed all over the concrete [random thoughts during the game on Twitter, as always].

I’m not the only one feeling bilious, by the way. Here’s Mahela Jayawardene:

“I have always been critical of the fact that bowlers now have to bowl in the ‘strike zone’ basically,” Jayawardene said ahead of the second one-dayer in Nagpur. “You can’t bowl down the leg side. Anything outside the off stump is a wide.

“With the Power Plays and all the restrictions it’s important we give bowlers leverage as well. Another option would be to give them another bouncer. Give them two bouncers an over. Restrictions are probably easing up and have given them a bit more in third Power Play. But we need to balance it out a bit more.”

Elsewhere, I found this wtf passage in Peter Roebuck’s reflections on the ongoing West Indies-Australia Test. An extended clip, with the key bit highlighted:

Meanwhile, Benn, no lilting lily himself, had been chirping away in his incessant manner. A fine line exists between teasing and taunting. From a distance, it is impossible to say on which side his remarks fall. Truth to tell, he is a spinner in a fast bowler’s body, a conflict that has caused trouble before now. Tony Lock and Bill O’Reilly were not the most polite players ever to put on creams.

All things considered, Perth was an incident waiting to happen. No sooner had play resumed after lunch than the pot boiled over. At first Haddin was a bystander, a role that does not suit him. Benn and Mitchell Johnson rubbed shoulders as they crossed paths without dwelling upon rights of way. Haddin did not need to get involved but his mate’s cause is his own and, anyhow, he was already irritated.

Annoyed by Benn’s refusal to give ground, he pointed his bat at him and drew a sharp riposte from an equally agitated opponent. By the look of things, both were spoiling for a fight. A strong intervention from the umpire was required and a calming of tempers at both ends. To no avail, Chris Gayle tried to settle things down.

Now came the flashpoint that is destined to be replayed a million times, for all the world as if it was more important than the cricket. At the end of the over, Benn glared at Haddin and threw the ball to his keeper. Haddin strode towards the bowler whereupon the trouble began. By now both parties were speaking with forked tongues. Benn angrily pointed towards Haddin and his arm collided or otherwise came into contact with Johnson, hitherto a mostly innocent bystander. Affronted, the Queenslander pushed his opponent away, an intervention commonplace in footy but unacceptable on a cricket field.

In many decades of watching cricket, it’s hard to remember any other instances of physical contact between players. Bumps occasionally occur as batsmen take a single and the bowler seeks the ball. Dennis Lillee kicking Javed Miandad on the same ground was about as far as it has gone, conduct that draw an enraged response from the feisty Pakistani. Otherwise manhandling is almost unknown.

Peter is almost right. It was a thin line between permissible banter and downright obnoxious behavior — but that line has long since been obliterated, largely because sections of the cricket world led by Australia decked up bad behavior in psycho-babble — when someone suggests he and his mates spent the previous evening doing the nasty with my wife, it’s abuse — not “mental disintegration” — and the authorities consistently winked at it.

Why, for instance, did the field umpires at the height of yesterday’s brawl not order the involved players off the field, to cool their heels in the dressing room till better sense prevailed? Why have the players involved not been banned for a Test or three?

Many of us have been repeatedly warning that one day, someone will take that one step too far. It almost happened yesterday; it will get worse before it gets better.

The ‘psychological advantage’

As I walked in to office this morning, a young lady reporter on one of the TV news channels was doing a ‘spot report’ as part of the channel’s preview of the game, later today, between India and Australia at Mohali.

She seemed very taken with the notion of ‘psychological advantage’, to the point where in course of a typically breathless one minute monologue she repeated it thrice. The track has some grass on it apparently and Mohali ‘traditionally’ supports pace and bounce, but India has the ‘psychological advantage’. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are doubtful starters and India will miss them, not simply because of their experience and ability but because of the ‘psychological advantage’.

TV anchor: Gambhir and Sehwag are doubtful starters, and that could be a big blow for India as it seeks to build on the psychological advantage of having a 2-1 lead.

Reporter: Yes, Gambhir and Sehwag are doubtful, and that is a blow not just because of the experience they bring to the side but also because India wants to maintain its psychological advantage.

TV anchor: Yes, India has a 2-1 lead but the injuries to Sehwag and Gambhir are crucial as they could cost India the psychological advantage.

And so it went, back and forth…

And then, thanks to Cricinfo’s surfer, I found this piece where Greg Baum is extremely critical of the Aussie touring party for gaming the Indian media.

THAT was a bit of a wrong-‘un that the Australian cricket team sent down to the media in India this week. You can read about it in coach Tim Nielsen’s blog on the Cricket Australia website. ”The boys tried to have a bit of fun with the media day,” he writes. ”As I’m sure you can imagine with so many interviews you tend to get asked the same question over and over and we had a bit of a competition running to see who could work the most sporting cliches into one answer.”

There’s also the one about their ”concern for the image of the game” and a ”need to give something back”. Something, but nothing that was truly meant, not anything from the heart. The message from Australia’s cricketers to their supporters is simple: don’t take anything we say seriously, because we don’t.

…”Walking out from the press conference with Rick [Ponting], we left about 70 cameras and another 150 journalists, which I find amazing every time we are exposed to it,” writes Nielsen. ”Although when you consider how many people are over here in India that follow the sport. I suppose it’s fair enough.”

But not so fair enough, evidently, as to dignify questions with anything other than the pretence of considered and worthwhile answers. Not so fair enough not to put on a charade. Whatever Australia was up to that day, it just wasn’t cricket. Ho, ho, titter, titter, slap thighs.

Far from feeling shame about this tawdry exercise, Australia’s cricketers boasted about it, via their coach’s blog.

The offending paragraph has since been deleted from Tim Nielsen’s blog, Baum tells us.

Whether such behaviour is apt for a team that is increasingly so enamored of the riches of Indian cricket that when its stars are not making money in our proliferating leagues, it has plans to play India home or away every year for the conceivable future is a question for the Australian captain, its media, and its board to consider.

Hopefully, we won’t now witness a paroxysm of righteous indignation from our own media people – the fault, dear Brutus, lies with us.

Amit Varma is fond of telling this story dating back to when he was covering India’s tour of Pakistan. Virender Sehwag appeared before the media, and almost immediately confronted this question: ‘Aapke is century aur pichle century main kya farak tha?’ Sehwag being who he is, responded with the straightest of faces: ‘Bas kuch thees run ka farak tha’.

That’s the kind of inanity that characterizes our ‘press conferences’. The point should be clear: if the touring Aussies are treating our media with contempt, it is because we deserve it — if we insist on asking the most inane of questions, we shouldn’t be surprised if we get canned, cliché-ridden answers.The irony is, these responses are then carried verbatim, with breathless commentary on television and/or hyperbole in print.

The surprising aspect of this affair is not the Australians gamed us – it is that we didn’t know we were being gamed, and that is as eloquent a comment on the state of the cricket media as any.

The quick and the dead

The Indian bowling at the start was a bit lacklustre. Praveen Kumar has had a bad day in office. He is a swing bowler with not much of pace and he will find it difficult in these conditions where the ball doesn’t swing much and one will require a bit of pace to be successful on flat wickets. Praveen doesn’t have that and he will have to find out a way to be useful in these conditions.

That clip, from Sourav Ganguly’s column in the Times of India this morning, encapsulates a thought I had while watching Praveen bowl in the first one-dayer between India and Australia. Two contrasting moments in the play underlined the thought: the first came in the 49th over of the Australian innings, when Mike Hussey walked down the track and with consummate ease, lofted a PK slower ball onto the roof of the stadium; the second came in the 37th over of the Indian chase when Suresh Raina took strike after a Dhoni single and was totally fooled by a Mitch Johnson slower ball into popping up a return catch.

A ‘slower ball’ is a deceptive weapon in the hands of a bowler who has pace. Johnson had set Raina up for the deception in the previous over when he bowled a quick bouncer as the first ball the batsman received, and followed it up later in the over with another short, quick ball. Praveen, by contrast, bowls in the low 130s — the sort of speed where the “slower ball”, especially over used by a batsman who finds his stock ball not working, is a misnomer. [In the 41st over, Ishant Sharma started with a good slower ball to Mike Hussey — a delivery that found Hussey back in his crease, scrambling to push it away; the difference in the batsman’s approach to the two bowlers stemmed clearly from the appreciation that Ishant possesses pace].

It might seem churlish to pick on Praveen after his heroics with the bat — but the fact is India lost the game with the ball and in the field, and it is in these two departments that the team will continue to struggle in the remaining six games. On a recent occasion, while watching cricket at Rahul Bhatia’s home, Amit Varma tellingly commented that Praveen was opening the bowling because he was too slow to come on as first change.

He has a point — and that in turn leads to another. There were many oohs and aahs in the commentary box at the start of the Australian innings when Praveen seamed the ball around and either missed the edge, or found it dropping short of slips. Meanwhile, Ishant Sharma — the one bowler we have who has the pace to take advantage of good bowling conditions early on — languished in the outfield.

Ishant got the ball when the mandatory power play was over, and the field was being spread — an increasingly frequent practice for MS Dhoni and one that, IMHO, is a major contributor to the bowler’s effectiveness being reduced. The move is akin to reducing a race horse to a carthorse — coming in after the PPs, Ishant is in no position to attack; this forces him to cut down his pace and rely on line and length in a containing mode, and the more the team forces this role on him, the more his confidence to bowl quick will erode and he will, over time, be reduced to a medium pace stock bowler.

[While on Ishant, it was interesting to see Viru Sehwag take over mentoring duties when the young quick was in operation. Repeatedly, Viru was seen walking up to the bowler with a few words of advice; the most notable intervention saw Sharma switch to round the wicket against Hussey, tightening the angle and ensuring the batsman had no real room to work with.]

Fine tuning the bowling options is going to be critical in a series where India’s fielding will effectively function as a 12th batsman for Australia. By the most conservative of yardsticks, the team surrendered a good 30 runs in the field; acerbating this is the fact that Australia, throughout the Indian chase [including in the batting power play] kept five swift fielders inside the ring to block the singles and thus turn the screws on the batsmen.

One other point occurred to me while watching the game. As early as the second over of the Indian innings, Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box was moved to remark that Sachin Tendulkar had “set out his stall for a big innings”. Maybe — SRT’s game has changed over time, and in the latter half of his career the batsman once known for flat out attack has has developed a tendency to pre-plan his innings. Unlike Sehwag, whose game plan revolves around the merits of the particular ball he is facing, SRT is increasingly prone to determining ahead of time what his approach to the entire innings will be.

Fair enough. India could use a batsman who can bat long, rotate the strike and let others bat around him — but the place for such a batsman is not the top of the order. 22 dot balls in an innings of 29 deliveries that ends in the 9th over is bad news on a big chase, and with the Australian batting lineup in the form it is in, big totals could be the norm this series.

Thus, if the brief for SRT — or more likely, the brief he has prescribed for himself — is to bat long, he needs to come in at number three, ceding the opening slot to Gautam Gambhir, who works well with Sehwag, is tuned to turning the strike over rapidly, and is temperamentally tuned to using the power play overs to optimum. One of the odd faults of SRT, among many good qualities, is his insistence on picking his slot in the batting order; IMHO, that will need to change if the team is to fire as a batting unit.

Related, Sidharth Monga has a piece in Cricinfo on how both sides made a mess of their batting power plays. I actually thought India called for the PPs at the perfect point in the game — immediately after the mandatory ball change. After 34 overs, Australia had been 169/3; India was 167/3, and five good batting overs at that point would have made the job considerably easier as the game headed into the slog phase. It is a different matter that the batsmen then muffed it up — but on balance, I thought India called the PPs better than Australia did.

It looks set to be a fairly interesting series; not for the first time, I find myself wishing its length was five games, not seven.

On an unrelated note, back at my desk after four days away; swamped with stuff, back here much later in my day.

The final verdict?

In the midst of the mass heartburn last month about the future of ODIs, the more sober voices in the commentariat

The Mystery of the Missing Audience/Courtesy Cricinfo

The Mystery of the Missing Audience/Courtesy Cricinfo

suggested that perhaps it is necessary to wait until the end of the Champions’ Trophy to render a final verdict on the format.

What happened was, the jury left the box and didn’t bother to show up to render its verdict — check out the three men and a dog watching as Shane Watson launches his assault on the target.

None of the usual reasons apply. This was a world-level tournament, not the kind of senseless, overlong bilateral series that prompted the heartburn in the first place. The format was short and crisp — too short, some felt when India, with a record of one win, one loss and one no-result, was dumped at the preliminary hurdle.

There was considerable skill on display — sporadic display, admittedly — ditto grit. There was a fair share of tight encounters, chiefly the one between Pakistan and Australia with India’s fate at stake. And the final was no slog fest, but a real contest between bat and ball in conditions that helped the bowlers.

In sum, there was every single thing we keep asking for, and criticizing the ODI format for lacking — and yet, there were no spectators.

Time now to worry? To move beyond the knee-jerk reform proposals [reduce the format to 40 overs; split the game into four innings]? To admit, finally, that the problem is only partly with the structure of the one day game, and that any lasting solution will need to begin with the international schedule itself?

While on that, the reason advanced for the absence of spectators is that the final ‘happened’ to take place on a Monday. How did that ‘happen’? Because in drawing up the tournament schedule, the ICC felt the need to allow for the overlong seven-game bilateral series between England and Australia, and schedule time for the two teams to land in South Africa and get in a measure of acclimatization. Net net? Very few people watched that bilateral series — and even fewer watched Australia retain one of two global titles on offer in this form of the game.

I’ve been banging on [Don’t you get tired of saying this, a reader was moved to ask the last time I brought this up] about the ICC’s need to stop dicking around with knee-jerk ‘solutions’, to admit to itself that it has through inept scheduling run the game into the ground, and to start the process of reform with the calendar itself. [While on that, Peter Hanlon in The Age is already lamenting a lackluster Australian summer]. So I’ll stop this exercise in ‘I told you so’ right here — and wait to see what the reform merchants and their mouthpieces come up with in the coming days.

Nothing substantive, possibly — there is always the Champions League to distract ourselves with. And then the ‘Revenge Series’ or ‘Champion of Champions’ series or however the hypemeisters plan to bill a seven game odyssey between India and Australia.

Outside of two brilliant opening bursts, by Lee and Siddle for Australia and Bond and Mills for the Kiwis, I didn’t watch enough of the game to comment. So I’ll leave you with two good pieces by Sambit Bal: on how South Africa’s templated tactics are a large part of the reason for its sub-optimal performance, and how Australia’s sustained success is largely rooted in its ability to find within its ranks men who will rise to any occasion.


Lasith Malinga, I read in one of the morning papers, practices his devastating late swinging yorkers by placing a pair of boots where the batsman’s feet would be, and trying to knock its toes off. Nice. Reminds me the silly season is about to begin later today, with another clutch of one dayers we’ll watch reflexively and forget as soon as they are over, if not sooner.

In the week or so that I was away, everyone and his uncle appears to have been busy writing the obituary of the one day game. Here for instance is Mike Henderson about a one day series no one gives a hoot in hell about.

As Kingsley Amis said, more will mean worse. After this interminable bunfight against the Australians, England go immediately to the Champions Trophy in South Africa, then return to the republic for a tour that kicks off with 11 one-day matches, over 20 and 50 overs, before the first Test starts in Centurion on Dec 16. Were England to reach the Champions Trophy final, a long shot admittedly, they will have played 25 one-day matches between Tests.

The problem, suggests Stephen Brenkley, is that in the 50 over version there is a prolonged period when the game is in a state of stasis.

It is the manner in which the players approach the game. Between roughly the 20th over and the 40th in most innings of one-day internationals the game is put in a kind of suspended animation in which the bowlers bowl and the batsmen bat, but only way, as if by unspoken agreement.

Defensive fields are set, runs are nurdled and squeezed rather than struck, it is risk-free on both sides. Anything beyond is a bonus. Things start to happen again in the 40th over. It was like that at Lord’s again yesterday. Australia, having reach 75 for three off 20 overs, were 169 for six from 40 and then added 80 in the final 10. Perfectly innocent Sunday afternoon slumbers were disturbed all round the ground.

It is formulaic cricket, which the introduction of power plays has not fully addressed, and its torpid effect has been aggravated by the advent of Twenty20 which is not perpetually exciting but is short. And at least in 20-over cricket, somebody is always trying something.

Sachin Tendulkar suggested that a solution to this and other ills is to split the ODI game into two innings per side — a formula they are now calling the Sachin Plan, though various luminaries have been arguing this case for years now. [Most recently, Dean Jones suggested a marriage of the T-20 and Test forms].

A solution that does not address the problem is IMHO no solution at all — merely a case of activity without direction. If you accept the argument that the problem with ODIs is the lull in the middle, what then causes that lull? The fact that teams have to preserve wickets for a late order blitz, yes? If that is the case, how does splitting the boredom into two halves change anything? Teams still have 50 overs to play, and need to keep wickets intact for the end, and so will ease off after the field restrictions are removed. All this Plan, whose birth certificate now boasts Tendulkar’s name as ‘father’, will do is create an artificial jerk in the progress of an innings.

Err, how would it be, since Tests too have begun failing to draw crowds, if we split the Tests up too? The first five batsmen play, then the first innings is adjourned, the second team has its five batsmen play… no? Or how about the side batting first plays 50 overs, then the second team gets a shot at bat, then the first team comes back… again, no? Too ridiculous? How then is it sensible to implement such a system in the ODI format?

Dean Jones had an alternate suggestion — reducing the number of overs, hence shortening the mid innings stalemate, by 10. In other words, are you bored because there is a period of two hours in mid innings where nothing much happens? Pity — so tell me, would you be hugely enthused if the boredom quotient was reduced to an hour and a half?

No? Thought so.

Derek Pringle has five solutions, not one.

1 Allow bowlers a maximum of 12 overs each rather than the current limitation of 10. That way fewer bowlers are needed to provide the bulk of the overs, a move that would simultaneously allow more batsmen to be picked to face them.

2 Remove the playing condition that restricts bowlers to having a maximum of five fielders on the leg-side. Packing that side of the wicket can restrict the scoring, but it would open up the off-side field allowing bold batsmen to score boundaries that are such rarities in the middle overs these days.

3 Only allow both the fielding side and the batting side to take their Powerplays after the 20th over. That way, you will have 10 overs of the “boring” middle period where play should not be predictable.

4 The use of a new ball at either end as used in the 1992 World Cup. Might be tough on batsmen on early season pitches in England but it precludes the need to change the ball while making it easier for both spectators and TV to pick it up.

5 Ensure every team carries a home and away kit so there are no colour clashes of the kind that marred this year’s final of the Friends Provident Trophy where both Sussex, Hampshire and the umpires all wore the same shade of dark blue.

I’m kind of amused by item 3: All it means is that teams will look to preserve wickets, that is, to bat sedately, in the first 20 overs so they have their wickets for when the powerplays kick in after twenty overs — the choice being offered, then, is do I want to be bored pallid at the beginning of the innings or at the end?

What characterizes much of recent commentary on the subject is a pervading sense of panic: No one is coming to watch ODIs any more; something must be done [Why? Because what would happen to the ICC’s cash cow, the World Cup, otherwise?]; this is ‘something’; therefore let’s do this.

The most relevant comment/solution came from Sambit Bal, the other day.

Meaning. Context. Provide those, and interest will kick in. Speaking of — give me one good reason to care a damn for a triangular one day series beginning in Sri Lanka today? Even the journalists covering it are so bored, they are reduced to suggesting that this — a tournament being played out on low, slow pitches — is the perfect opportunity for these three teams to get their act together ahead of the Champions’ Trophy, which of course is going to be played in conditions that are the exact antithesis.

Update: In the first game of the tri-series, Sri Lanka has opted for first strike. And as the camera pans across the ground, what you see are large swathes of empty stands. Would the seats had been filled if this game was to be played over two innings per side of 25 overs each, do you think?