Archive for January, 2010

There was nothing more to it than met the eye! That’s one way of describing the just-concluded Test series between India and Bangladesh whose infancy in Test cricket refuses to get over.

It’s fair to assess that Bangladesh is lucky to be playing Tests on two grounds: (1) Kenya’s affair with “match fixing” after the high of making it to the semifinals of 2003 World Cup and (2) ICC’s Future Tours Program (FTP) that mandates Test teams to play each other periodically. More so, if it wasn’t for the latter, most teams would have had their reservations against visiting or inviting Bangladesh for rubbers that are dead before commencing.

Kenya was one of the front-runners to get Test status until Maurice Odumbe put country’s cricket in a soup and Bangladesh benefitted from Kenya’s loss.

It was all rosy for Bangladesh but their cricket and cricketers still seem to be living that rosy moment and have failed to improve at expected pace and level. The administrators and players may have broken some sweat but have not yet got rid of their square image to fit in the round hole. Individual performances like ones produced by Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Shahadat Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal against India recently fail to change team’s fortune because they never click together as a unit.

Neither do they pose a challenge for any other Test nation, nor do their opponents gain noteworthy, if any, ranking points by winning. So playing Bangladesh in Tests has become more or less a painful formality to honor the FTP.

India had nothing to gain but everything to lose while playing the minnows. Even the slightest of opportunity given by India was considered a weakness. If Bangladesh scored or had a partnership, Indian bowlers were criticized and if Bangladesh took wickets, Indian batters faced the music in media.

The story remains the same for Bangladesh like after every series. Nobody would complain if Bangladesh cricket grows and poses a challenge. Cricket is not played by great many countries and if one of the Test teams keeps producing such mediocre cricket, it won’t inspire the Europeans and the Americans to take up the game.

Advertisements

The IPL is back and its commissioner LK Modi is creating more stir than Suresh Kalmadi who mended the curve of Indian hockey for it to dribble again.

The moolah calls all the shots and the IPL auction testified that yesterday, as the commissioner read out auction rules and the accompanying dizzy figures – $750,000 being the ‘maximum’ a franchise could dish out. The cover-up for that ‘maximum’ though was the ‘secret bidding’ clause introduced as a last-minute amendment to end the tie-breaker over a bid. In case of a deadlock, the bidders had to secretly bid the sum over and above $750,000 that they could offer for the buyout. The highest secret bid would bag the player.

Quite expectedly, that is what hogged the limelight. Keiron Pollard – who stroked an 18-ball cameo of 54 runs in the inaugural Champions League – and Shane Bond, the ICL rebel, were the two who caused a tie. While MI made the highest ‘undisclosed bid’ for Pollard, Shahrukh Khan’s KKR took home Bond, possibly to replace Shoaib Akhtar.

Enough has been written and said about other famous buyouts. So instead of wasting words dwelling about those, it would be interesting to point out absolute steals, surprise not-solds and baffling purchases.

Steal

Eoin Morgan: Surprised to see not many bidding for this swashbuckling English southpaw with a batting average of 50.5 and strike rate of 168.3 in T20s. He was snapped up by RCB for $220,000. It could well turn out to be the deal of the season, barring the famous English security concerns.

Thissara Perera: One would have thought that the Sri Lankan all-rounder did enough in the recently concluded India tour to generate interest but it wasn’t exactly the case. CSK got him for his base price of $50,000 as nobody else vied for him.

Justin Kemp: Overlooked by Cricket South Africa after he signed for the rebel Indian Cricket League, Kemp is a real T20 dasher lower down the order. He filled CSK’s last berth for his base price of $100,000 after they recalled him into the auction for the second round.

Unsold

Shakib Al Hasan: He is ranked among the top in ICC’s list of leading all-rounders, the breed T20s desire. However, he couldn’t catch any eye and was left in the cold unsold.

Lendl Simmons: The petit West Indian is a live wire in the field and more than useful with both bat and ball but his three-way utility couldn’t find any takers.

Upul Tharanga: He too has been in prime form at top of the order, so much so that he replaced Jayasuriya as an opener for Sri Lanka, but not sold.

Risky Buy

Kemar Roach: He may bowl at 145 kmph incessantly but the fact that he is still an untested rookie and an expatriate, makes him too risky a purchase at too high a price of $720,000 shelled out by DC. The decision doesn’t make any sense with Fidel Edwards already in their ranks.

Damian Martyn and Adam Voges: RR seemed to be having telepathy with Shane Warne as they bought these two relatively unnecessary Australian players: the former a classy but not in vogue Aussie with an ICL tag and the latter with a not-so-impressive T20 record. Of course, they came for their base price of $100,000 and $50,000 respectively, saving RR a purse of unused $600,000.

All said, done, watched and heard, my personal feeling is that IPL-3 will go into the kitty of a team that has the best Indian resources in their rank.

The year 2010 – which is being looked upon as the biggest year for world sport- has begun on two different notes for Indian sport. While on one hand Indian cricket reached the pinnacle of Test cricket, the national game of the country – believe me, it’s hockey – has hit rock-bottom with no space left to go further down.

Hockey World Cup, IPL-3, T20 World Cup, FIFA World Cup and the Commonwealth Games (CWG) are all lined up in 2010.  Instead of an arm-in-arm situation for various disciplines in these sporting events, we have Indian cricket on cloud nine, hockey almost begging, football not in picture and the CWG running against time.

In reality, it all begins for India today, January 13, 2009. Whilst our national cricket team looks to send another glittering cup to its headquarters, our Sports Minister, MS Gill, will meet Hockey India and its players to work out an amicable solution to end the impasse between the players and administrators.

So before you decide which event you look forward to, know this:  Our hockey players rightfully demand around Rs. 1.4 crore as their ‘collective’ pending dues/fee, which is just about the average annual endorsement earning of a cricketer and the signing amount of many Bollywood stars. I am with hockey today. What about you?

Every time I see Indian hockey being smudged, I question my self-confessed bias towards cricket. If we blame the way hockey is being governed, then an onus of equal magnitude lies on the shoulders of administrators and fans that carry the bejeweled game in India – cricket.

I can’t think of anybody else but the cash-rich BCCI that can and should step up and help revive hockey in India. The much-needed involvement of the BCCI has assumed greater importance in wake of the recent boycott by hockey players due to nonpayment of salaries. The players refused to turn up for practice in Pune where they are training for the next month’s World Cup to be held in India.

The situation becomes acute when you come to know the skimpy amount Hockey India owes to the players. Each player gets a fee of Rs 25,000 ‘per international tournament’ along with a ‘daily allowance’ of Rs 900. Even these are due since November ’09 when the team competed in the Champions Challenge I in Argentina and bagged a bronze medal.

So what sweat-breaking performances can we expect in hockey when players are being paid nothing short of pathetic and that too is delayed. If you compare that to what a cricketer is paid per international match and per annum, then hockey players appear to be munching nothing but peanuts.

There are 41 cricketers who are paid annually under a contract with the BCCI. These contracts are graded from A to D, with those in ‘A’ getting Rs 60 lakh, ‘B’ Rs. 40 lakh, ‘C’ Rs. 25 lakh and ‘D’ Rs. 10 lakh per annum. Don’t fetch the calculator yet; there’s more to come. For every ODI and T20, each team member earns an additional Rs. 1,60,000 and the figure rockets to 2,50,000 per Test.  If you still not dizzy, then add to that crores of rupees cricket stars make from endorsements.

I am not complaining that why cricketers earn that much and hockey players only this much. But the point is that if BCCI and its cricketers are filthy rich, then is it not their moral responsibility to lift hockey out of the ditch it has fallen into. I appeal to all those at the helm of affairs in the BCCI and also the players to please step up and do what’s their duty towards the national sport.

For Hockey India, more than contemplating which states should get the affiliation and which not, first of all take care of the game and its players rather than nitpicking over the past events. It is ironic and annoying that the inventors of hockey are finding it hard to put together a body that can run the game after Mr. Gill’s antics almost buried it.

It’s hurting our national sport badly, to the extent that it has totally lost its shape. We need someone to come up and smash a thundering 16-yard hit.

At one place we keep bragging about pulling ODIs out of the ditch and at other place we continue the slow poison. That’s what BCCI has done by okaying back-to-back series with Sri Lanka with a lame excuse of second one being a tri-series involving wooden-spooners Bangladesh.

We hardly see five-match Test series these days if we keep aside the battle for the Ashes.  Similarly, seven-match ODI series are very few and far in between. The rationale behind that regimen is to firstly cut out on chances of dead rubbers and secondly to not let the interest and contest between two teams die. Then why this unnecessary exercise for Indians and Sri Lankans that would do nothing but keep viewers at bay and hurt the existence of ODIs.

Those not in the know can learn from the Indo-Pak cricket rivalry. These are undoubtedly two of the biggest foes in international cricket and their match-ups generate more interest than any other contest, though the Barmy Army and Kangaroos may litigate against it. It’s ironic that whenever the diplomatic relations between the two countries become friendly, the contest and interest on the cricket field dies and the reverse happens when guns are trained against each other.

It’s apparent that less or no tours/matches take place during times when tempers flare and the curiosity to see the two neighbors vent it out on a cricket pitch piles up. This was evident in the practice match India and Pakistan played before the T20 World Cup in England last year. A full house for a meaningless affair with spruced-up ground security was like serving food to a fasting community.

That’s what well-spaced-out series between two teams can do to cricket, or for that matter any sport. If you keep serving the same food day in and day out, one may become averse to eating it and that’s exactly what this tri series in Bangladesh is doing. A five-match ODI series immediately followed by a tri-series involving two same teams is just not done. It’s nothing but a slow poison for ailing ODI cricket. That makes no sense…only money!