MARCH 30, 2014

Corruption in the IPL

Chance for a thorough clean-up

ESPNcricinfo staff

Dileep Premachandran, writing in the Deccan Herald, hopes Indian cricket seizes the opportunity to clean up the game, instead of making a half-hearted attempt to sort out the IPL spot-fixing controversy.

There was an opportunity at the turn of the millennium, when the match-fixing scandal claimed some big names. But instead of taking the case to its logical conclusion and pressing for criminal charges against those who had cheated the game, the BCCI settled for a halfway-house solution. Many of those implicated in that scandal are now fully rehabilitated. You can see them on your television screens often enough. That should not happen again.

MARCH 29, 2014

Indian cricket

A case of judicial overreach?

An editorial in the Indian Express argues that the BCCI's internal dysfunction should be solved by the cricket establishment, and not by the courts.

... is deciding on corporate conflicts of interest and malpractice in any way a ground for a judicial takeover of the running of an autonomous organisation? What next? Will the court set the terms for how teams are chosen? On the colour of their ODI uniforms? May we go to court when a fielding decision goes wrong? It certainly looks headed that way.

Both DNA and Times of India have cartoons on the difficulties facing Sunil Gavaskar in his new role as BCCI president in charge of the IPL.

MARCH 26, 2014

India cricket

Listen to the court

An editorial in the Indian Express states that the reason N Srinivasan has managed to stay afloat in every conflict of interest crisis is because the other BCCI members have been spineless, with nobody standing up to him.

Srinivasan might have ensured a larger share of the telecast money pie to the units, world-class stadiums across the country and more power to India in world cricket. But he needs to follow the basic rules of good governance and come clean on the messy affair that connects his home to the workplace. The BCCI president needs to remember what the court has said: "step down", not "step aside", as he did during the last internal probe. And while this probe is underway, the BCCI needs a credible figure at the helm. Here's hoping that the court's observation will see the BCCI members grow a spine. And, hopefully, help rescue Indian cricket.

MARCH 24, 2014

Women's cricket

Shikha Pandey's flight of ambition

In her blog, Sky and Seam, India Women's cricketer Snehal Pradhan traces the journey of the current T20 team's young fast bowler Shikha Pandey, who balances a demanding career as an officer in the Indian Air Force with a passion for cricket.

There are bookworms, and there are cricket worms, the latter being the more stubborn of the species. Shikha never gave up on her dream of playing for India, and her kit bag was a queer and conspicuous companion whenever she traveled. Queer, for you rarely see them around Air Force bases, and conspicuous because, well anyone who has seen a cricket kit bag knows what I'm talking about. With the cooperation of the Services Sports Control Board, and guidance from senior officers and other Services sportspeople, she managed enough leaves to play the domestic season. In her first season back after joining the Air Force, her time away from the game was painfully visible. Her second, however, showcased a player posing difficult questions to the selectors.

MARCH 23, 2014

Indian cricket

The challenges in Jammu & Kashmir cricket

Cricket in Jammu and Kashmir is rife with roadblocks and a lot of them tend to be off the field. Jonathan Selvaraj in the Indian Express explores how the players have had to deal with the haphazard facilities, troubles with terrorism and accusations of bias. But this Ranji season, J&K brushed aside the past and progressed into the Ranji quarterfinals, under the leadership of Parvez Rasool, the first player from the state to be selected for India.

Forty-seven-year-old Abdul Qayoom Bagaw, however, has seen much worse. Now coach of the team, Bagaw is also J&K's leading wicket-taker. The broad-shouldered right-arm quick saw his career suffer because his prime years as a cricketer coincided with the most turbulent time in the Valley. After four regular seasons of first-class cricket, Qayoom had taken 86 wickets, and was poised to leap into the big league. But at the start of the 1992-93 season, a letter arrived home. "It was a death threat signed by militants, warning me not to play for India," says Qayoom, who was 25 then. He didn't turn up for his side that year.

MARCH 22, 2014

Bangladesh cricket

Bangladesh and needless bravado

Bangladesh's preference for glory has irked Quazi Zulquarnain Islam, who in Dhaka Tribune, voices his displeasure at Shakib Al Hasan refusing an obvious single to trounce Nepal with a resounding six in their World T20 encounter.

For metaphor's sake, Shakib refusing the single to win the match when the opportunity presented itself is the footballing equivalent of a team intentionally spurning a goal-scoring opportunity because the opponent is already well-beaten. It showcases neither flair, nor cheek, but a lack of professional ethics when playing the game. As professionals you are required to take every single opportunity that comes your way and do so to the best of your ability; imagine if Cristiano Ronaldo passed up the chance to score tap-ins against Granada because he wanted to score belters instead. An act as brazen as this shows a distinct lack of respect towards your opponents.

MARCH 21, 2014

England cricket

KP for England captain?

The ECB have closed the book on Kevin Pietersen and have been urging the English fans to bid farewell to the talismanic batsman. Ted Corbett, writing in the Hindu, prefers to walk to a different tune and offers examples of previous comebacks from improbable circumstances

I would be happy to see Pietersen walking out to bat for England again -- say in the first Test against India -- and it would also give me pleasure to hear that he had been made captain once again. When Geoff Boycott stepped down from his England spot there were many who thought that at 36 he would not play for England again. Eventually Alec Bedser, chairman of selectors, saw that if England was to be great again Boycott had to return and made it his business to negotiate a way back.

MARCH 19, 2014

Offbeat

Out and About in the Imagined Community

In A Domestic Ghost, a blog on society, politics and cricket, Christian Drury writes about the "imagined communities" of cricket" and how transformations in the sport have had their impact on such communities formed through spectatorship and fandom. With the target audience now primarily those watching on TV, cricket matches are, Drury points out reflections of what French philosopher Guy Debord called "the society of the spectacle."

MARCH 19, 2014

England cricket

What to make of Jonathan Trott?

Jonathan Trott's explanation for his Ashes exit in his interviews this week has upset and angered many but neither his words nor his manner are convincing, writes Sarah Crompton in the Telegraph.

His emotions ride very close to the surface - and his phrasing would surely set any psychologist's alarm bells ringing. He keeps talking about guilt, about a lack of worthiness, about his failure to contribute. He sets such feelings in the past as the reason he had to quit the tour when he felt he had nothing left to give; but their constant reiteration places them firmly in the present. The image he presents is of a man in the grip of an obsession with success, who cannot cope with failure. It is this which drove him to such relentless batting practice that he could not take a break; it is this which filled his mind with cricket and nothing else; it is this which in the end found him sitting alone at breakfast, cap over his face, because he could not face his team-mates and keep his emotions in check.

MARCH 13, 2014

India cricket

Chauvinism and patriotism not the same

The recent suspension of 67 Kashmiri students by a university in Uttar Pradesh for cheering for Pakistan in the recent Asia Cup match has twisted the real meaning of the word sedition. If their act of supporting India's archrivals in a cricket match is in any way a threat to national security and perceived as 'anti-national', it only reflects idiot officialdom in the country and its people as paranoid and melodramatic, writes Shiv Visvanathan in the Hindu.

Sedition is an act against the security of the country. How does clapping for Pakistan threaten security or even the interests of the Indian nation state? When did patriotism insist on uniforms or uniformity? Are those students a potential fifth column or terrorists because of their cheering for Pakistan? One has to say something about the spirit of cricket and the spirit of democracy. The nation-state stands between them and in a deep way is sandwiched by these fertile imaginations

MARCH 12, 2014

Indian cricket

Down from his celestial heights

Reviewing ESPNcricinfo's book, Sachin Tendulkar: The Man Cricket Loved Back, for Business Standard, Joel Rai appreciates the way the player's mortal and human sides are brought forward with the help of former team-mates, commentators, corporate executives and sports writers.

He played pranks on teammates, confessed to being overconfident (or could this be a gentler term for arrogance?), had pangs of anxiety, even lost sleep when not scoring well, and wasn't averse to using the F-word to tell off opponents on the pitch. Finally, we see Tendulkar who doesn't look unflappable like a kung-fu fighting panda who has found inner peace.

For cricketcountry.com, Abhishek Mukherjee relishes the variety of writers who have contributed to the book, and write about their experiences with Tendulkar the cricketer, the opponent, the team-mate, the prankster, and much more.

Rahul Dravid, the man who has seen him bat the most at international level, pulls off an excellent recollection; Sanjay Manjrekar recollects Tendulkar's attitude towards duels; Sourav Ganguly makes you smile with a fresh collection of anecdotes (who would have thunk that a livid Tendulkar had almost sent back Ganguly mid-tour once?), narrating them in a style that characterises the top-notch commentator that he is; VVS Laxman is honest in his gratitude; Yuvraj Singh sounds like the quintessential favourite student in a Professor's farewell; and John Wright remembers a protégé-turned-friend.

MARCH 09, 2014

Indian cricket

New tricks for Yuvraj and Harbhajan

One has cut out the hop from his run-up while the other's trigger movement now is not as pronounced as it was earlier. Siddhartha Sharma of the Indian Express writes about how Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh are using their time on the Indian domestic circuit to try and resurrect their international careers.

The new Yuvraj stands almost still, till the bowler has released the ball. He moves only when the ball is in the air. The trigger movement is just enough to break his inertia. He is now less committed and the footwork is less fixed and more flexible.

MARCH 08, 2014

West Indies cricket

'Cricket was not my first love'

Curtly Ambrose was the scourge of several batsmen but he might have never played cricket had his mother not insisted as much as she did. His first loves were basketball and football. He spoke to Mid-Day after being knighted on Malcolm Marshall's influence, bowling to Sachin Tendulkar and the future of West Indies cricket.

With all the cricketers I see now, they are not so talented, not as great as the players before them. I don't see us getting back to those glory days. I am not saying we will not be number one again, but we will not see the kind of players we had before ... I wish to see West Indies cricket get better. I believe that when West Indies cricket is strong, it is good for world cricket. I just hope and pray that we get the right nucleus of players to take our cricket back to the top. It requires hardwork. We will have to make some changes to this team and start to blood some younger players so that in a few years' time we are able to compete with the best teams.

MARCH 08, 2014

Australian cricket

Australia winning matches but losing fans?

Congratulations to the Australian cricket team, says David Sygall in the Sydney Morning Herald. The results will be long remembered. So too the way in which they were achieved.

Australians love to feel pride in their national cricket team. But not everyone is looking for a South African workmate to roast on Thursday. Certainly there are those who feel immense thrill and admiration after the team's win in Cape Town on Wednesday, which sealed a gripping 2-1 series win. Captain Michael Clarke's heroic century in the face of Morne Morkel's pace and bounce was perhaps the best of his career, David Warner's explosive tons in each innings confirm him as the world's form batsman and Mitchell Johnson's seven-wicket match haul was the cherry on top of an extraordinary summer.

But - and this happens far too often - judging by commentary on websites and blogs across the country, a chunk of people too large to ignore feels disappointed by the team's behaviour. Many feel unrepresented by Clarke's men, just as they did at times when Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh led the side. And, they're sad about it because, if there is one sporting team above others that Australians want to have speaking on their behalf - representing their better qualities - it's the national cricket team.

MARCH 07, 2014

Test cricket

Cake-break for Test lulls

What does a ritual involving a cake being buried in the sea got to do with Test cricket? Greg Baum, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, explains.

The eight Tests of summer displayed Test cricket in all its moods and humours and Sybil-esque personalities, except nailbiting. Australia's seven wins all were by wide margins, and so was its single defeat. Only in Cape Town did the game's third dimension, time, become a factor, excruciatingly, deliciously.

MARCH 05, 2014

Graeme Smith retires

'I've also spent the last 24 hours crying'

Justin Nurse swims in the pool below the gym South Africa players train at when in Cape Town. He has been a big fan, and when he came across Smith after his retirement announcement, he couldn't hold back his tears. He pays an emotional tribute to the man at 2oceansvibe.com

I can't help myself though. I choose the moment when he finishes a phone call to go on over there and thank the man. I'm searching for an in - not "I'm the T-shirt guy." I mutter something about how I play soccer with Bouch at Bob's place (interpret: I'm not a crazy fan - yes I am), and how I just want to thank him for all that he's done for South African cricket. And then I just break down. I start bawling my eyes out, right there in front of him and his wife. I can't help myself, and it is pathetic to see. Blind one, as we used to say back in the 90s. I'm trying to tell him how I was with him when he came out to bat with a broken hand, how I also followed those angling sliders from Zaheer Khan that got him time and again...

MARCH 04, 2014

England news

Westfield speaks out

Mervyn Westfield went from county cricketer to criminal after being caught up in spot-fixing while playing for Essex. He has spent time behind bars, but is now rebuilding his life by warning others of the dangers of being sucked into a murky world. He will also resume playing cricket this season, at club level in Essex, and is not feeling sorry for himself. In his first significant interview, he speaks to the BBC's Joe Wilson.

He never spent the money and didn't even carry out the spot-fix correctly, but the stark fact is he took £6,000 to deliberately bowl badly. It was a decision which eventually left him in one of Europe's most secure prisons. At Belmarsh, he learned how to live alongside murderers and exist on 10 minutes of outdoor activity a day. "Whatever punishment they gave to me, I had to take it," he said. "I did wrong and got punished for it. I've just got to accept it.''

MARCH 03, 2014

England cricket

Kevin Pietersen, the Fortunato

Writing for NewStatesman, Ed Smith profiles Kevin Pietersen, narrates his personal experiences with him, and wonders if people will miss him now that he is banished from the team.

I have never seen any batsman impose his willpower as Pietersen could. Where Sachin Tendulkar was a genius of skill, Pietersen is a genius of self-belief. His confidence and desire filled the whole arena, relegating the other players to the status of pawns. He could be gauche and socially awkward, but that doesn't explain why people took against him. There was something more innately domineering about Pietersen, a quality that transcended language or manners, as though he could succeed only by putting other people down.

MARCH 03, 2014

Afghanistan cricket

A feminine touch to Afghan history

Saurabh Somani, writing for Wisden India, sheds light on some young women from Afghanistan who made a long trip to cheer for their team during their historic win against Bangladesh.

A group of 24 young women from the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, an eight-hour bus journey from Fatullah, have occupied seats in stands packed to the brim with Bangladesh supporters. The fatigue of the journey is forgotten and the strain on vocal chords kept away. They've come here because it's a Saturday and there are no classes. No encouragement can be loud enough for their history-making team during the one shot they have of cheering them on.

MARCH 03, 2014

Indian cricket

Tendulkar from the other side

Hassan Cheema, writing for the Nightwatchman, illustrates how Pakistan viewed and defined themselves through the successes and failures of Sachin Tendulkar.

It seems odd to argue that a foreign sportsman could have such a far-reaching influence on a country's youth, but the view that Pakistanis had of India - and by extension of Tendulkar - is unique. Their attitude towards the Indian team was how Pakistanis proved they were Pakistani, as the post-Zia nation over the last three decades went from isolation, and in search of recognition, to a place the world knows about - not necessarily for the right reasons. It's no coincidence that at the time the rest of the cricketing firmament prostrated before Tendulkar, a major Pakistani news channel ran a segment about how Javed Miandad, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf were each his equal.

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