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Brad Haddin takes on England in The Ashes with a fresh perspective on cricket after his two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer last year. Chris Barrett of The Age reveals how Haddin's attitude has changed towards the game, and how this experience has put him in good stead when it comes to understanding his priorities between cricket and his life.
'I'd be lying if I said it didn't,'' he says. ''I think I'm a lot more comfortable now with where cricket is at. Sometimes you can get caught in the bubble and think international cricket is the be-all and end-all. But with what happened at home, it put things in perspective. And I'm very comfortable now with where my game is at and where my cricket is at.
In the editorial column for Indian Express, with developments from the IPL spot-fixing crisis reaching new vistas, specifically the Chennai Super Kings link, it becomes vitally imperative that measures are taken to remove those people who have the ability to influence or impede the clean-up that is needed for the game to be riddled of corruption and insouciance. Two individuals in particular, both N Srinivasan and Rajiv Shulka, can no longer afford to both answer the tough questions, and sit on the jury thereafter.
As a franchise owner, and as someone closely related to an individual now under the scanner for deals and dalliances with dubious bookmakers, Srinivasan needs to step down from the helm of the BCCI. Shukla, under whose watch the league faces its biggest crisis of credibility, has also lost the moral right to stride to the podium to hand out the silverware to winners on match days. By all accounts, the parliamentarian and minister has squarely put himself in the way of charges of taking his eyes off the ball and conflict of interest allegations.
Spot-fixing is simply an extension of gambling, and according to Dilip D'Souza in Live Mint, gambling is something which appeals to human nature as it manifests from our greed. When bookies offer you fanciful odds that seem too good to be true, then they usually are. By having a player who is willing to dance to your tune for a kickback, you control the odds and ultimately, the outcome. Spot fixing will always have a market as people who are otherwise informed, will always hedge bets when they see the potential for a great payoff.
The reason bookies might offer such odds--1:1 for the coin, 5:1 for the dice--is that they know their probabilities as well as you do, and naturally they don't want to lose money. In fact, they will likely tweak the odds they offer just enough so they actually make money. That is, after all, why they do what they do. So if you find a bookie offering quite different odds than you expect, it's likely he knows something you don't.
Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph India (warning: a satirical piece) believes that the media should not necessarily connect the actions of Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan, with being an unfortunate product of an otherwise corrupt tournament, riddled with contemptuous activities and allegations of vast amounts of money changed between parties. The piping from the media should not distract from the bad decisions made by individuals who knew what the consequences were.
As Sunil Gavaskar sagely said on television after the Sreesanth story broke, there should be no rush to judgment. These are wise words: if the past and precedent (and the ability of the Indian police to secure a conviction) are a guide, it isn't just possible, it is likely that Sunnybhai might find himself some years from now sharing a commentary box with a shiny, new, exonerated Sreesanth. The IPL is a golden Ganga in spate; it gilds everything that it touches.
David Warner's twitter row with Australian cricket journalist Malcolm Conn gained headlines last week as it provided a view into how prodding from the media, especially from certain sections, coupled with a less-than-stellar four months away from home, could push the left-handed batsman to openly lambast Conn through such boorish means. The spew, antagonised by Twitter's accessibility, caused Warner to transgress from what should have been a private matter, into one escalated on a global platform. Greg Baum reflects in his column for The Age.
In that moment, either he would have forgotten, or cavalierly ignored, the fact that he was in effect on broadcast. Marvelling once at an especially profane radio commentator who somehow never slipped up on air, he explained that the microphone acted on him as the presence of his mother would. Social media, unfortunately, seems to be the province of orphans.
The recent spot-fixing controversy has put many issues within the Indian Premier League into sharp relief, the most important one being how the BCCI and world cricket perceives the tournament and the format. As Mini Kapoor writes in the Indian Express, the fixing scandal can have implications beyond just the Indian league and administrators across the world must own the format if it is to be taken seriously.
As the allegations against Sreesanth have shown, a taint on one format will not necessarily leave the rest of cricket unaffected. A beginning needs to be made of finding ways to collectively own the T20 format, and to do so in a manner that recognises that the IPL is not any old domestic league. In its composition and in the priority that the best cricketers anywhere in the world give it (even if it is for purely monetary reasons), it is not.
Those of us given to holding our noses and dismissing it as a seasonal affliction need to reconsider our disdain. T20 is as much cricket today as Test matches are, and the IPL is its primary competition.
In his column for Asian Age, Ashok Malik argues that the onus of keeping spot-fixing at bay lies with the players, even as the BCCI must deal with the lack of corporate governance in the IPL. He also states that the format of the game makes T20 cricket most vulnerable to such forms of fixing.
"Cricket journalists still remain remarkably innocent of the details of spot-fixing, spread betting and how online betting sites -- perfectly legitimate ones -- allow for very dynamic odds, entry and exit of the punter in real time and at strategic moments, and the analogue of what the stock market would call futures trading.
All of these parameters become that much more pertinent in a Twenty20 game rather than a Test match. If a team is chasing 270 in four sessions to win a Test match, two successive maiden overs or two successive expensive overs will make little difference. If a team is chasing 170 in a T20 game, two successive maiden overs or two successive expensive overs can mean a dramatic difference to the odds on offer before and after those two overs. This may happen without necessarily affecting the final result. It could make some people very rich in two overs."
In the Indian Express, the editorial column argues about how the lack of adequate response from the BCCI is as much a failing to Indian cricket as the exploits of the infamous Rajasthan trio. The board has simply not been proactive in riddling out corruption in cricket, and has chosen to largely be reactive when it comes to identifying the nefarious parties involved and how to deal with them. There is no reason why the BCCI, the most powerful board in cricket, can not do more to stamp out such activity, and lead the way to a recovery from these dark times.
The IPL's problem -- and the BCCI's too, by implication, as the two entities are so deeply entwined -- is that its administrators lack credibility when they aver they are seized of the matter. Their reassurances that action will be taken on the spot-fixing charges strike a feeble chord, not because they are not expected to take stern action against the offending threesome
In the Firstpost, G Pramod Kumar raises questions on the role of the police in the current investigations against the three cricketers. He says that the leaks appearing in the media which have been attributed to the police seem to focus on sleaze rather than real investigation and it is hardly of any legal consequence.
With the plethora of images of fans burning effigies and protesting against the actions of the tainted Rajasthan trio, one can wonder if this really spells the end for the IPL, who seemingly has lost more credibility with each passing season. S. Ram Mahesh, in his column for the The Hindu believes that with the limited overs played, the risks batsmen are willing to take, and the need to take wickets at a greater rate than before; it is almost impossible to decipher which are legitimate or illegitimate actions on the field as the game opens itself up to error in its shortest format.
The most unsettling aspect of all that has happened these last few days is the reminder that cricket's very structure, which affords its fans such joy, is so vulnerable to manipulation. Cricket is a series of discrete events, each initiated by the bowler. This gives cricket its unique rhythm; its space for the pause allows reflection. But, cruelly, it also allows these events to be remote-controlled.
In Wisden India, Saurabh Somani writes that in a shortened format where one wide down the legside, one top-edged six etc are the differentiators between victory and defeat, the fixing of one period of play - however brief - must surely count as match-fixing, rather than spot-fixing. Regarding the investigation, it should not just examine the wrongdoings of the three players, but check how far the rot spreads.
For all I know, that may well be the case, and there could have been several good reasons to keep the scope of the enquiry away from public consumption. When the controversy broke, there seemed to be genuine hurt in Srinivasan's voice while answering questions from across television channels. And he's right too, when he says that the BCCI does not have the power to police all bookies across the country, but can only focus on educating its players. But given that the board is composed of several powerful politicians across most state associations, it is surely not beyond its power to institute a more comprehensive enquiry.
B Baskar ponders in his column for The Hindu Business Line whether this recent scandal will really prevent fans from coming on board for the next edition? There seems to be a complete separation in how the scandal has broken out, and what has transpired in the tournament thus far. The fact that the BCCI has continued operating on the same schedule as before only goes to show how such a scandal has added fuel to the fire when it comes to categorising IPL as 'crictainment.'
The day after the scandal broke, Hyderabad Sunrisers took on Rajasthan Royals in Hyderabad. The ESPN Cricinfo correspondent was in the stadium to report on the fans' reaction to the scandal. Unsurprisingly, the fans couldn't give a damn about the scandal and turned out in huge numbers to support their team. They were there to have a blast. The spot fixing scandal could well be happening in Mars. There seemed to be a complete dissonance between the self-righteous fulminations of our TV anchors and the frenzy of the fans at the stadium.
Santosh Desai, in his column for Times of India ponders over the actions of the Rajasthan trio, and whether their actions are solely to blame, or have they too been tainted by the nefarious forces that make up the IPL. In a league where celebrity owners trump stars, and money makes Kapil Dev dance to the tune of the tournament's organisers, it is hardly surprising that the advent of easy thrills, sex and money can lure people with otherwise good intentions, into a quandry. Desai argues that cheating is no longer such a black and white issue when you have such elements at play.
When scandals erupt, the guardians of the game seem more interested in protecting the viability of the tournament than in preserving the spirit of the sport. Those on the gravy train are quick to get into the time honoured 'few bad apples/rotten eggs' mode of defensiveness; in truth nobody really wants to know what goes on. The day after the scandal broke, the television coverage from the studio studiously ignored it and focused instead on 'guests' Sonakshi Sinha and Akshay Kumar while the dancing troupe jumped japangly in the background.
With social media increasingly becoming an important part of our world, it is only inevitable that cricketers, and their dirty laundry, are aired more frequently in the public domain. The recent Twitter spat between sports journalist Malcolm Conn and Australian batsman David Warner is just another example of this unfortunate phenomenon. Richard Hinds in his column for Sydney Morning Herald, uncovers why cricketers feel the need to resort to social media to publicise their grievances.
As strange as it might seem, most sportswriters would prefer to be confronted by a red-faced player or coach screaming invective than the modern equivalent: A tremulous message from a disempowered club "communications officer" who assumes we are as terrified of a disgruntled superstar as they are. Who surmise, often incorrectly, that we would be mortified to learn that "Nathan wasn't too happy with what you wrote at the weekend".
The ongoing IPL season has highlighted the need for teams to have a quality spinner in their ranks. A majority of teams have gone as far as to play two front line spinners on sub-continental pitches that offer turn and bounce. Slow bowling, which for quite some time was incorrectly viewed as superfluous in T20 cricket, has made a comeback in a big way over the past few years. Writing for Live Mint, Niranjan Rajadhyaksha breakdowns the elements of spin bowling, and how important the art of flight and deception can be in a pressure-packed contest.
What seems to have been lost in terms of flight has perhaps been made up by the sheer variety of display: the traditional spin, the googly, the flipper, the doosra and the carrom ball, for example. Watching Narine mix them up is a delight. During this IPL season, I have even seen spinners bowl a couple of deliveries "seam-up" in the style of a medium-pace bowler
BJ Watling's match behind the stumps at Lord's came to an early end with a knee injury, but he had enjoyed an excellent outing with the gloves on a ground that has caught out many a keeper. Over the last 12 months he has become a central part of New Zealand's Test line up with bat and gloves, but he won't be shouting about it from the rooftops as Andrew Alderson explains in the New Zealand Herald
Watling doesn't publicly trumpet his achievements. Even on the field he could best be observed as buoyant or chirpy rather than extrovert. He appears reticent as far as keepers go, preferring to hear the thud of ball swallowed by gloves than his own voice. Besides, his statistics are doing the talking.
On the ground where he made his debut 10 years ago, James Anderson reached 300 wickets when he removed Peter Fulton on the second day against New Zealand. In his column for the Mail on Sunday he reflects in his achievement and is still struggling to take it all in.
Being at Lord's, where I made a less-than-perfect start to my Test career, surrounded by very good mates and hearing that lovely applause from the crowd made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I will never forget any of it. And there were other reasons why it was such an intense moment. There have been times in my career when I thought nothing like this would ever happen or could, when I'd been injured or dropped and wondered whether I would ever play for England again.
In the Guardian, Vic Marks says that, unlike the other four England bowlers to reach 300 wickets, Anderson has time on his side for many more
Admittedly, Botham was only 29 but he had already given his body a bit of a hammering - this, of course, is a reference to a back rebelling against such a heavy on-field workload. He reached 300 in seven years; he played Test cricket for eight more but in his last 30 Tests he took only 78 wickets at 37 apiece. In essence he became a batting all-rounder.
Willis at 34 had ruthlessly bullied his body to keep bowling fast. With his action, of which not even Heath Robinson would have been proud, he would not have got past first base with today's array of multi-qualified ECB coaches and physios looking on. Willis would play nine more Tests after his grabbing his 300th, taking 25 more wickets. As for Trueman, 33 when his colleagues decorously shook his hand at †he Oval, there were just two more matches against New Zealand in 1965 and that was it at Test level.
Gaurav Kalra, in his blog on IBN Live, believes the IPL should have taken a temporary break from hosting matches, especially as the affair can not only have begun and ended with the three Rajasthan Royals involved. A clean-up operation is required first in order to remove nefarious elements from the tournament. How can one get involved in the true spirit of the game if any no-ball, badly bowled delivery, or soft dismissal is viewed with dubious legality?
Watching an IPL game now can be torturous and tragically comic at the same time. Is a batsman adjusting a leg-guard sending a signal to bookie? Was a bowling change that didn't come off done so on the direction of a puppeteer on the outside? If viewed through the prism of suspicion, cricket will lose its reason to exist. That danger won't go away by shoving more of the game down our throats, garnished with song, dance and glamour. Our cricket needs a cuddle and an embrace. It needs to catch a breath.
The Hindu laments about India's current spot-fixing crisis and how, no matter what the BCCI has stated, the game has lost its credibility in India. This is a systemic problem that has been prevalent for some time, but has duly been ignored by the BCCI as they continue to wring as much money as possible from the game through outlets such as the IPL.
Cricket, or for that matter any other popular sport, has never been a stranger to such scandals. From the time the Chicago White Sox "threw" the American baseball championship in 1919, sport has been fair game for fixers. And in India, where betting on sport other than horse racing is illegal, almost everybody following cricket has been aware that outrageously large sums of money were changing hands each time a big game was played. This was particularly so in Twenty20 cricket, which lends itself easily to spot fixing.
DNA published a provocative cartoon lampooning the current spot-fixing cloud that has been hanging over the IPL since yesterday morning. The illustration depicts a painter who has changed the original batsman hitting a six image on the IPL logo, to one of a player desperately clutching at a bag of money. The inevitable fall as he reaches for the money bag is indicative of what happened to Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, in his blog, Sidvee Blogs, highlights how the BCCI has been somewhat hypocritical, both in their stance and the actions they have taken to deal with individuals that have sullied the IPL in the past. He questions why the BCCI never formally handed stiffer punishments to the 'IPL five' of last year who were guilty of match fixing. Siddhartha also chronicles Sreesanth's rise into the Indian cricket team, and how he managed to come up from a cricketing backwater state like Kerala to become a leading fast bowler. His fall will dishearten those who took heart from how he rose from so little, to such prominence.
The league's integrity has taken a massive hit in the last four years - conflict of interest and arm-twisting over team ownership in 2010, fixing in 2012, fixing in 2013 - yet you wear multiple hats and refuse to send a clear message that you want to run a clean league? Doesn't it strike you that owning an IPL team and running the BCCI and sitting on the IPL governing council and heading the Tamil Nadu cricket association is clearly not the best way to "root out" corruption?
In her blog, former Australian women allrounder Lisa Sthalekar documented the plight of fellow state cricketer Kath Koschel, who faced the battle of her life when she began experiencing back and leg pain after pushing herself too hard in the gym in an attempt to get into the New South Wales state side. This story can be seen as both a warning and inspiration to those who do the hard yards to realise their dreams.
There are some athletes that choose to do the hard work, and there are others that face it front on and push the limits. Kath was certainly one that pushed her body to the limit. I would see her every morning and evening, before and after work, smashing herself at the Cricket NSW gym, and over the course of a few months she was one of the fittest players in the squad. It was around September of 2010 that she started to experience back pain. Being a private person and a hard trainer she just kept her head down and focused on training. I still remember the day that I was hanging around in the physio room in November 2010 when the physio at the time, Kate Blackwell (Alex's twin sister) asked Kath what her symptoms were. "I can't feel my leg," she said casually.
In the Guardian, Stuart Broad speaks to Donald McRae about his recovery from injury, the upcoming England summer and the Ashes as well as the Champions Trophy, and support from David Saker.
Broad's fitness and form will be central to England's hopes against New Zealand and Australia - as well as in the Champions Trophy. England have never won a major 50-over tournament but Broad is bullish. "It's a fantastic opportunity for us because I can't remember the last time we lost a one-day series in England. Just like India were favourites for the last World Cup in their conditions, we stand a good chance of winning it."
The Ashes, however, loom over this cricketing year. "You walk into a coffee shop and it's the first thing someone says to you. And if we get weather like this [Broad gestures at a stunning day], it'll be fantastic. There are little things the team mentions - like the fact England haven't won four back-to-back Ashes in 120 years. There's a big chance for us to make a huge amount of history."
The advent of T20 cricket has brought about the need for big hitters and hits into the crowd. With bats improving, the boundaries being reined in, and more cricketers hitting the weights, it comes as no wonder that sixes are an ever-increasing part of the cricket word, almost as ubiquitous as taking catches or hitting fours. In The National's, Osman Samiuddin recalls his most vivid examples of sixes, and what T20 cricket has done to dilute its significance in the modern era.
The first mis-hit six I actually saw on television was another top-edged hook, by another Pakistani batsman in Australia. This was authored by that little dynamo of a batsman, Qasim Umar, no height but all cut and hook, and affectionately nicknamed "Disco". He was beaten for pace by the West Indian Tony Gray in Perth, so much so that though the ball described a high arc, it went only a little to the left of the wicketkeeper in angle. Umar kissed the edge of his bat, smiling acknowledgment to being beaten, but being alive
Cheteshwar Pujara gets candid with Indian Express' Shekhar Gupta about his Test match career thus far, his exploits in the Ranji Trophy and IPL, his family life, the upcoming South Africa series, and how much of his personality carries over to his batting.
Shane Watson telling me in the last Delhi Test that I was playing a sh** on-side flick, though he knew it was the best shot of my game. So it's the kind of sledging you expect from the opposition team and I really don't worry much about it. And somehow when they sledge me I get inspired.