March 12, 2010

Three captains and one bat

Pakistan's latest saga, and things to look forward to in the IPL

Pakistan hand out bans like toffee; and those handing them out pretend they are pristine. Australia's vice-captain leaves his team behind to offer solace to his girl, who is suffering the after-effects of a dubious relationship. Another South African storms his way into world cricket - for England. The world's most hyped tournament slithers, rather than storms, in. That's a lot of unusual things for a sport played by so few.

Pakistan continue to make every other nation look like the epitome of good management. Big zamindar arrives, cleans up the shed; next zamindar puts the old chickens back in. The cricket lover, like RK Laxman's common man, looks on, perplexed and neglected. To be honest, the Pakistan cricketers don't have much sympathy around the cricket world, but what of the fans? What about the little eight-year-old who wants to wear a replica Pakistan cap and cheer for Afridi and Yousuf and Younis? What happens to him? His heroes, and those who manage his heroes, frequently seem to have less passion for the team and the country than he does. His lot is to be let down. I wonder if people blinded by egos even realise that.

On that count, India have been blessed. The results will be good one day and bad the next, and fans will be delighted and frustrated in equal measure. But when the disease of match-fixing threatened to infect India, the eight-year-old (and the 30-year-old who behaved like the eight-year-old) had proud people to look up to. Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble, Laxman, Ganguly, Srinath - these were men of character. Fine cricketers they might have been but fine people they were too. Their solidity, as much as their results, took cricket through its testing years.

I wish Pakistan cricket well because I have been a child and have had my heroes, and when some of them let me down later in life, I felt the pain. But the pity is that six months from now a new zamindar will have arrived, armed with a firman from a patron. The same people will be back. If they can give the little child something to smile about, if they can be heroes, it might still be worth it. Essentially Pakistan need an Imran: proud, competitive and above board. He was great when he played but they need him more 25 years later.

Essentially Pakistan need an Imran: proud, competitive and above board. He was great when he played but they need him more 25 years later

Michael Clarke's predicament reminds me of something Allan Border told me 18 years ago when I was ghosting his column to help make ends meet on a tour. He worried for young players, he said, because not all of them had stability in their private lives. It's as true a statement as any you will hear. The likes of Tendulkar and Dravid and Kumble came from stable families, they married solid girls and have lovely families of their own. It's an aspect of success that is rarely studied.

Meanwhile the IPL, as a cricket tournament, has crept in. Lalit Modi told me this week that once the cricket starts it will need no promotion, and I hope he is right. One reason it's been low-key could be India's first game at the World Cup of hockey, which showed that India could still rally around another sport. All of us, except those that run hockey in India, know it. But when the hockey sadly tapered off, the news boycott came in the way. I don't know the details of the dispute but I do know that if I took great pains to produce a product, if I licensed it to somebody and a third party used it for profit, I would be very upset.

But there is enough in the IPL to get people going once it begins. It is no secret that I enjoy Twenty20 cricket as much as I do Test and one-day cricket, but in particular I will be looking out for three captains, and one bat! Neither Warne nor Gilchrist nor Kumble has played much cricket in recent times and this might well be the last time we will see them on a cricket field. Proud men and excellent leaders and each an adornment to the game. They will be up against young men who won't give them an inch. And while I will be expected to be neutral, I will silently wish they hold their own.

And then the big man with the Mongoose. Matthew Hayden's bat has always been a brute, a club. And now he arrives with this big handle and small blade, which looks a bit like the oar he might keep handy when he goes fishing. Well into retirement, he could still be the key for the Chennai Super Kings.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. He is on the IPL commentary team

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prasad on March 19, 2010, 17:04 GMT

    I have been a bit disheartened by some of the disparaging comments made by the users here regarding Harsha Bhogle. I am not sure how many of them actually know that Harsha is one of the pioneers in his league. He has been in the Commentary business as long as I remember and I have seen him grow in stature over the years. He is one who has the command on the language, has great understanding of the game, one of the most respected indian commentators in the world and also has the business credentials (remember he is IIM, Ahmedabad product). He not only played cricket but has seen cricket from close quarters almost for over 25 years. So he is highly equipped to discuss cricket and write about it. Apart from his expertise, he also provides great opinion. So before we pillage players/commentators of his stature, we need to respect their credentials. Every Tom, Dick and Harry who hasn't lifted a cricket bat/ball in life doesn't get the freedom to ridicule them guys however they want. Respect

  • Pavan on March 18, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    Not Sure why people are chastising Harsha for nothing. its a simple article which tells facts for what they are - as i read it, he did not make any personal comments nor did he offer any family counselling advices. all he did was underline the importance of a stable personal life in this age of competitive cricket for successful professional career. as for pakistan - well if you want to read between the lines nobody can help you but on the face of it he does acknowledge the trouble india and pak went into w.r.t match fixing, luckily india had individuals and management which were determined to pu that behind, while pak was not so fortunate - which again is a fact. did heroes of india not let their cricket fans down - Harsha is a hyderabadi and being a hyderabadi myself - i know and can relate to Harsha - believe me our Hero did let us down (if you know whom i am referring to) and when hyderabadi cricket fans were gasping for air, laxman came around as a breath of fresh air...

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2010, 9:16 GMT

    Mr harsha u are trying to compare india with pakistan at a time when pakistan is struggling. where was this article when pakistan won the t20 championship and qualified for icc champions trophy semi finals? and whats your credibilty of writing such an article? can u tell me how much first class matches have u even played? please do not be personal about a cricketers life..

  • S on March 18, 2010, 5:09 GMT

    Yet another hyperbole ridden, cliche infested article from yet another cricket writer. What's with cricket writers and commentators these days? nothing is normal, no shot is just a good shot its the best that ever was, no act of a player is just a simple act of a sports jock its a combination Hercules, Machivelli, Napolean etc etc.

    Lets get some perspective here, what we see is only 25% of what there is, we seek from our commentators and writers insights into the sport, the thought process, the deviations from more established practices etc.

    If we wanted to read about sordid love affairs, about family values and solidity, about politics and corruption there are other forums, magazines and channels we can go to.

    Mr Bhogle should well remember that he came into this business due to his love for the sport and that's what he should continue to offer not necessarily choose to be a historian, storyteller, financial advisor, relationship counselor all rolled into one...

  • Mohammad on March 17, 2010, 22:08 GMT

    Unless I have read it properly, I think the article supports what all Pakistani want to say. Mr Ejaz Butt probably wants to see some ''Boom Boom Butt'' playcards in the next 20/20 worldcup. He probably will see ''Boom Boom but...''

    To make Sulman Butt captain is a joke. If he scores a 50 Pakistan will lose and if he doesn't ....

  • Shreyas on March 17, 2010, 7:30 GMT

    It is no doubt that India have been blessed with a good management which runs cricket professionally no matter what politics they play to get elected to the board. I am waiting keenly to see my idols like Kumble,Dravid,Sachin and Co. get into the administration. Good article Harsha. Its always easy to relate with your article/commentary because it is from a of a cricket fan 's heart.

  • Anup on March 16, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    @McGorioum I can understand your sentiments, and nobody denies work done by Imran. In fact Harsha here is suggesting same, they need Imran like man again. But when it comes to interference I would say you guys are on worst side. Most of your media is India centric and will not leave single opportunity to blame Indians. Just recently I did read an article on dawn daily calling Indian cricket as a whore of Indian corporates. Now this is even more harsh comment on worlds most successful cricket body by worlds worst hit cricketing nation's media. And whatever information Harsha has collected is based on your media only. Well building cancer hospital is great help to nation but match fixing and related scandals are worst for cricket.

  • Abrar on March 15, 2010, 20:47 GMT

    I totally agree with you Pak-United .. there are some problems with our cricket Board, but there is a hope and a dream, which has made Pakistani team alive .. Ups and Downs r part of ones life .. instead of critzing the teams going through their bad time, we should all hope that one day they will learn from their mistakes and will come back as a strong side ..

    im surprised to see some ppl here comming up with stupid comments on Cancer Hospital, dude its a responsibality of every citizen to work foer the betterment of the nation, NOT JUST THE GOVERNMENT .. even though none of our player is playing in IPL ... he have proved that we r among the best sides in the world ..

    India is at 1st position in Test and ODI's i blv .. but i would like to know the names of the teams they Played Against in the last year and have Won those .. ???

    to all my pakistani brothers .. Dont Give Up .. its just a metter of time .. things will be alrite soon Inshallah .. !!

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2010, 19:45 GMT

    I don't see anything wrong with the article but for the family matters and a couple of hurt pak ego. Talking about personal life was off the journal for a person of Harsha's calibre. True, that Indian Board is towards generating money, I would say they are marketing it well. The only thing that was in bad taste was the way they went on stop ICL. In IT industry MICROSOFT did, BCCI follows suit. Agreed that Imran Khan is great cricketer and honourable philanderer. SRT has been helping a number of spastic children. So is Kumble. Cricketers like Rahul, Sourav, Yuvaraj, Zak, Robin Uthappa and a number of other indian cricketers have donated towards noble causes year after year. Why forget Mcgrath, Mahela Jayawardena, Steve waugh, Shaun pollock and Andrew Strauss. There are other cricketers too.We only notice how fat their bank balances grow, not their off field philanthropic activities. Imran did it in a big way, that does not make other cricketers any lesser.

  • Arun on March 15, 2010, 16:28 GMT

    The Shaukat Khanum hospital: That was just for AbbasKhan's boast that your players don't build cancer hospitals.Yeah, because the need is not as acute,but I understand that SRT et al do contribute to charities. I'm no fan of the BCCI:they are as much of a Zamindar network as the PCB.We have the Pawar network and the Dalmiya network,and Pawar has the power for some time,giving stability.Nobody would say BCCI is a professional body like CA or ECB but they run a decent domestic setup.They have used their clout to get away with a lot of things(in Aus,SA).The ICL saga was clearly anti-trust and since it's a business, should be covered under monopolistic laws(I think there's a lawsuit pending).Bangladesh has won the odd ODI,but where are they in tests?I didn't say passion is not important, but you need more:structure,discipline and management.Everyone playing intl. and domestic cricket has passion but not everyone is a Dravid or Akram or SRT or McGrath.

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