Friday, April 27, 2012

BCCI Gets A Tour Team Right

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Having grown up watching the BCCI and national selectors regularly botch team selection, schedule, pitches, and domestic competitions, I am pleasantly surprised with this news. The composition of the India A touring squad to the West Indies in June is a very smart selection of real India prospects.
The team composition is as follows;
Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), Wriddhiman Saha (vice-captain), Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Jalaj Saxena, RP Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Robin Bist, Akshay Darekar, Shami Ahmed.
The batting is balanced with three real India prospects in Mukund, Rahane and Dhawan for the opening slots. Mukund and Rahane are the real contenders here and they get a chance to gain some real experience in the West Indies and cement their claims over others. Murali Vijay too should have been part of the squad and perhaps could have gone in place of Dhawan. Mukund has played in the Caribbean before, so his experience might be handy.
Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Tiwary get the middle order all to themselves and this really is a great strategy barring unforeseen injury. They get an extended run to get stuck in and hone their skills as opposed to being in a derby for selection.
Saha has done enough to be the number two keeper behind Dhoni for tests and his selection was rightly a no-brainer.
It’s the bowling selections that are somewhat intriguing. RP and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar play together for UP. RP is starting to knock on the India doors again. With Zaheer aging and Irfan being the lone left arm prospect, it’s a good idea to try to let RP work his way back. The door has probably shut on Nehra already.
Akshay Darekar too is a good selection. India has struggled to find slow left arm spinners. The last decent one we had was Shastri and Raju fizzled after some initial promise. Darekar is young and has a first class average below 25.
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar did well in the Ranji Trophy with a couple of five-fers. I’ve never seen him bowl, but it appears that he is in the Praveen Kumar mold. He is playing for Pune in the IPL and I’ll make it a point to watch him.
The off-spinner/batsman Jalaj Saxena is probably the only marginal selection. Perhaps, Harbhajan should have been sent to the Caribbean as captain of the A team. That way, he could have mentored the team based on his international experience, as well as work on his bowling to haul himself back into contention.
Watch for some of these players to be in the India squad come winter, when the next test matches are scheduled.
I will not be surprised if there are no comments, because I might be the only crazy out there that follows domestic cricket and A tours.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

4 Signs you are suffering from cricket related depression

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It is not easy being middle aged and a cricket fan in today's day and age. More and more cricket fans in their 40s are being diagnosed by their physicians in the cricket playing world to be suffering from a variant of clinical depression.

Typically these are men who have not modernized their cricketing likes to keep pace with....well modernity

While researchers are still trying to understand the unique aspects of this cricket related depression, there is consensus among medical experts that new drugs and treatments will be needed to manage, contain and eliminate this disease.

We at Opinions bring you a handy self diagnosis and self help aid. Use it to determine if you are among the millions the world over who have been diagnosed with cricket related depression and use our advice on how to learn to combat the illness.

Here are the most common symptoms that may indicate onset of cricket related depression

You lose no opportunity to talk up Test cricket

You recently watched South Africa host Australia, Sri Lanka host England and lamented the 2-Test series policy of the ICC, after both series ended 1-1. Last week you watched Australia beat the West Indies in a Test match and wanted to talk endlessly about the Michael Clarke's declaration. You think every close Test match, even if it ends in a draw, is an "advertisement for Test cricket". You complain endlessly about the incompetence of the ICC and their step motherly treatment to Test cricket. You feel personally offended when Harsha Bhogle calls you a "romantic" and that you "don't count". You think the IPL owes its success to the stars created by Test cricket.

If you watch more Test cricket than contemporary cricket, it is very likely that your cricket related depression is at an advanced stage.

Before you reduce yourself to a nobody in the cricket fan-world start watching the IPL as effective therapy. Initial side effects will include nausea, vomiting, sudden and acute urges to smash the screen, inability to distinguish between matches and teams, wanting to keep track of the match # and wondering how long before the 76th match will be played, and in some cases jealousy, especially if you are an Englishman. However, if you stick with it long enough you will be amazed at your own mental ability to regress. In 2-3 weeks you will even be able to identify if the IPL game on TV is a live match or a recording and in 4 weeks you can tell that the match is a replay from last year's IPL and not from IPL 2012 even when one of the teams in the match is not the Kerela Tuskers from Kochi. In 6 weeks you will learn not to complain about Sachin's strike rate.

You don't think the IPL is cool

Indifference to IPL is also a leading indicator that you may eventually suffer from cricket related depression. This condition is a little harder to self diagnose. So we have devised a simple test

If a news story broke out tomorrow that the IPL matches are fixed, cricketers sleep with cheerleaders, marquee Test players hide injuries, Ravi Shastri and Harsha Bhogle sleep with the IPL franchise owners and the IPL governing council members, what would your reaction be
  1. You would be aghast and quickly demand that these allegations be backed by concrete proof
  2. You are disappointed and hurt and largely believe that there can't be smoke without any fire
  3. You are not surprised at all and do not care if these allegations are true or false

If you answered 1, then you are perfect mental health to enjoy contemporary cricket. A response of 2 indicates an early onset of negaitive thinking which if not banished right away may create conditions in your mental make up condusive to depressive thoughts on cricket. A response of 3 indicates high probability of eventual onset of depression. Consider reading fairy tales before going to bed for 6 weeks to cure this condition and retake this quiz. Repeat endlessly till you answer 1.

Sachin indifference

You have been a long time Sachin fan; without anyone telling to you to be one. Suddenly you find yourself questioning his decisions, non-decisions, his responses to the media. You no longer enjoy his batting. You start thinking that the team would be better off without him in it. You derived a perverse pleasure to see the great man struggle to get to his 100th. 

Disillusionment with Sachin is the #1 sign that you are depressed. If left untreated, it may lead you to verbalize some of your feelings and as many patients have learned the hard way, that's not socially accepted at all. You can drink yourslef silly and call your girl friend, wife, etc a whore..that's acceptable but you get drunk and ask why Sachin has never bothered to go to the WI and seek a Test series win and you will be labelled in grateful.

While there are no drugs or therapy to cure this symptom for effective management follow this simple rules of thumb.
  1. Say whatever you wish about Sachin as long as it sounds right with a billion people in applause in the background.
  2. Always talk in a tone of obeisance when talking about Sachin Tendulkar
  3. And remember there is no right way to ask questions of Sachin's actions and words.

Harsha Bhogle's columns infuriate you

Like many middle aged men, you thought of Harsha Bhogle as a breath of fresh air, when he came onto the scene decades ago. You grew up reading his accounts of India's tour of the West Indies in 1988. Growing up in Bombay, you chose to buy "The Afternoon" and forgo the "Mid-Day Mate" because "The Afternoon" carried Harsha. You thought Harsha made both Sanjay Manjrekar and Mohammed Azharuddin seem better than they actually were. However more recently you read Harsha's column and feel like going postal on him. You think of him as an IPL cheerleader, you think his views on Test cricket are compromised, you think of his columns as sermons on culture and business 101 targeted for 10 year olds. You think he throws in business sounding terms to impress strippers who pretend to read the HBR to impress their clients.

If you experience any one of these views on Harsha, then chances are you have been depressed for a long period and the illness may have become chronic. Thankfully for you the remedy is simple. Just leave your brains behind if absolutely you must read his columns. Remember his columns are kind of like watching mainstream movies.

Cricket related depression is a serious illness and the only cure is to change with time. Go Indians (Mumbai) !!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Opinions On...Michael Clarke

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Exactly a year ago India's pusillanimous cricket team, refused to chase a measly 90 odd in 16 overs on the last day of a Test match in Dominica.

Today Michael Clarke showed them the way with a declaration full of intent.

That Australia won only makes the decision to declare in arrears, famous. But even if they had lost it should have been celebrated for the tactical advantage, even if short term, it gave the Australians.

From 329/9 recovering to 406/9 and 43 runs behind on first innings most sides and their captains would be relieved to have a chance to escape with a draw. Most sides would have done just that and harped about it.

Michael Clarke thought of winning the game from there. He read the game differently than most. 

I have to admit, Michael Clarke has been an unexpected but very welcome revelation. For a long time I believed that Australia saw something non existent in him to name him their future captain so early.

I was wrong...

No captain today has half his courage even while possessing twice his arsenal. Not Andrew Strauss, not Greame Smith and certainly not Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

All you need to know about IPL 2012

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Why does cricket want its Bolts to be Misyokis?

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Patrick Makau Misyoki is the world record holder in marathon. 2 hours 3 minutes to run 26.2 miles. Usain Bolt is the world record holder for the 100m sprint @ 9.56 seconds. No one counts Usain Bolt's inability to run or want to run a marathon as a negative. Similarly Patrick Makau Misyoki will probably never aspire to be a sprinter.

And there is nothing wrong in this picture.

I do not follow marathoning or track and field on a daily basis. My interest levels peak with the Olympics and when there is a marathon in Chicago. I do not understand how the 2 sports have evolved. Which came first, I do not know. A marathon has a lot of ancient history surrounding it, some of it may be myths. I am not sure what the 100m history is. In short I don't know much about the sport, its history, evolution, etc.

But I am also not so naive to assume that since both involve running they are essentially the same sport.

Even for a casual observer like me, it is evident that sprinting is vastly different than marathoning. Each format subjects athletes to different tests. If a sprint is about strength and agility a marathon is about endurance and stamina. This is of course not to suggest that you don't need strength and agility for a marathon but it would seem that endurance is the real test.

It is more or less accepted that marathoning and sprinting, are different sports, or vastly different disciplines in the same sport. One format is not considered to be a stepping stone to the other. In cricket however there is a confusion in my mind as to what to make of the 2 formats.

I was initially open to arguments that T20 is the same product in a different package, but I am hesitant to hang on to that concept. I am increasingly beginning to think of them as 2 different sports alltogether.

Why do we punctuate the exploits of Keorien Pollard with a 'but is he Test material?' instead of wholeheartedly celebrating his talents like the world celebrates Usain Bolt's. Why are we so easily and unconditionally seduced by the Rahul Dravids, the Chandrapauls and the VVS Laxmans that being woeful in the T20 game does not even cause a dent to their reputations? Why does cricket want its Bolts to be Misyokis as well?

I may be wrong but it seems to me that the marathon and the 100m dash have evolved independently. The 100m is not a shortened marathon. The situation in cricket is indeed different where the T20 is the shortened ODI and the ODI is a shortened Test.

In this evolution, sadly administrators are cannibalizing a traditional format with a new one. The conventional reasoning has been that there is no big money to be made in Test Cricket; at least not in the quantities and margins that T20 affords. While that may be, its not a reasoning I am willing to accept at face value because no efforts seem to have been made to market Test Cricket. Instead the administrators have used up the infrastructure, star power and an existing customer base to entirely leave Test cricket to its own designs while investing every ounce of administrative and marketing resources in building the T20 game.

If a game like golf can draw worldwide audiences, who are willing to wait 4 days for a winner to be crowned, be profitable, and have its billionaire stars; why not Test cricket.

And while administrators are furiously securing the future of T20 cricket at the expense of Test cricket, players, experts and even casual fans are unwilling to wholeheartedly embrace T20 experts like Pollard, asking instead that he eventually prove his worth in the Test arena.

And disagree with both.

I don't know if we would necessarily get there but I would like to see the game evolve to two specialized sports. Tests and ODIs built around the traditional bi-lateral series model and franchise based T20 model both running in parallel with overlapping schedules and with athletes; not entertainers; choosing one format to make a career in.

Why can't there be an IPL season in progress as Team India visits the West Indies and England for summer tours?

Presumably sprinters make more money and achieve more fame than marathoners but they both have thrived for over a century.

Instead what we are seeing administrators strive towards is favor one model at the expense of a traditional one. Though no administrator will admit it, the IPL for all its apparent benefits is negatively impacting India's Test standing and financially weaker countries like the West Indies.

In trying to manage all formats as one sport the administrators are failing to allow at least one format to realize its full potential.