Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Twenty 20…. Foreseeing the larger interests of the game

Twenty 20…. Foreseeing the larger interests of the game
With the amount of T20 games being played these days thanks to the countless number of domestic leagues which have formed across the globe, one tends to wonder if the ICC T20 World Cup really required. And if it is, what purpose does it serve. One of the things I feel the ICC is trying to achieve with a T20 world cup is to globalize the game. Cricket on a whole is played seriously by very few nations and to spread the game, T20 seems to be the most viable option. Also being such a short tournament, number of mismatches between the top teams and the minnows won’t be much of an issue as it is in the case of the 50 overs World Cup.

But one wonders, what happens to the associate teams after the world cup is over. Fair enough, the ICC have tried giving these teams an insight how things work at the international level, but the point is does anyone track their progress once the tournament gets over. Let’s take the case of Kenya. After the unexpected but remarkable performance of them during the World Cup in 2003 where they eventually reached the semi-finals, there were calls for Kenya to get a test status. In the end they weren’t even close to playing a Test match and are now completely out of the international scene. Similarly Ireland performed above expectations and reached the Super 8 stage in the 2007 World Cup. They have improved from then on, but their opportunities at the international level have been very limited. I am very curious to know what is the status of associates like Namibia and Bermuda who have played at the highest level but are no longer to be seen.  More or less everyone has been touched how players from the war-torn nation of Afghanistan have put up a spirited performance. But once again the question arises, what lies for them after the World Cup? Will the ICC ensure that these teams don’t just make headlines only during the main events or will they fade into the oblivion?

Boyd Rankin and Eoin Morgan are two cricketers who have switched their international allegiance from Ireland to England to pursue their dreams of playing test cricket. One could easily blame them for changing loyalties, but is it their fault? They feel they have got the game to compete with top international cricketers, but unfortunately are restricted since their country isn’t competent enough.

This is where I feel the ICC and the other cricket boards should take up the responsibility to foresee the larger interests of the game. To begin with top associate teams must be given opportunities to take part in domestic first class tournaments of established cricketing nations. Let them have a taste of how cricket is played in different parts of the world. Apart from giving them the right exposure it will also help them improve their cricketing standards. This can be applied to even teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe who have been in the international circuit for a reasonably long duration. Another suggestion, though highly improbable that it will be practical is that each domestic T20 team must have a player from an associate team. It will give them the experience of playing in front of packed stadiums, quality oppositions and also develop their game by spending time with the international stars.

With most T20 teams owned by a franchisee system and monetary gains being the prime objective, it will be pretty hard to convince them. However they must realize what the game is giving to them and it is their moral responsibility to ensure that the game attracts a global audience. Sometimes life’s not all about a profit or loss statement, one must do things for the greater good!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Suresh Raina and the Test Conundrum

Ever since the retirement of Sourav Ganguly from test matches in late 2008, India have been looking for a reliable replacement for him. Four years have passed but India still haven’t got a player who has sealed the spot. Now with the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the numbers of vacant spots have increased. There are a lot of contenders for the 3 spots mainly Virat Kohli, Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Badrinath, Tiwary and Suresh Raina. Raina’s case is the most interesting. He has been around in the one day squad for around 5 years now and has become a very valuable player in the ODI team. It was natural that the selectors gave him an opportunity in Test matches after Yuvraj Singh couldn’t come up with consistent performances. Raina made a spectacular start to his Test career with a 100 on debut and a counter attacking 41 in a difficult chase in his 2nd test. It looked as though India finally found someone who could fill in the number 6 spot in the Test side. That’s when all the problems began for him. Bowlers around the world realized his weakness for short pitched bowling and heavily exposed him. He hasn’t found a way yet to counter such type of bowling which has resulted in his extremely poor performances in Tests.

A bouncer when in whites, Suresh Raina lands in all sorts of trouble
One of the things I have noticed with Raina is that he struggles a lot against short pitch bowling more in Tests than the limited overs. Agreed that in tests, since there is no limit on number of overs per bowler, he will be tested for a longer time and with attacking fields set, a slight miscalculation can result him in becoming out. It has got him in a state where he has been expecting a short ball every time a fast bowler comes on to bowl. As a result, it generally isn’t the short ball which gets him out, but the balls pitched on a good length area which gets him in trouble as he is waiting on the backfoot. A classic example was during the 1st test in Centurion during India’s tour to South Africa in late 2010, Kallis kept catching Raina neither forward or backwards, and eventually Raina just ended up guiding the ball to the slip cordon! But what I have observed is that in the limited overs, if there is a short ball he either ducks it or just smashes it out of the park, whereas in Tests he really gets confused. When he decides to pull, he is not really sure whether to keep it down or just smash it out of the ground, which more or less results in him ending up in awkward positions. With the amount of limited overs cricket India have been playing recently (including IPL), one gets the feeling that Raina hasn’t really had much time to work out his flaws in the longer format of the game. With a packed schedule he hasn’t been able to go back to the domestic scene and play few first class games to iron out the chinks in his batting technique.

When in the blues, a short ball is heading only in one direction
A quick glance at the Future Tours Program (FTP) as listed by the ICC (FTP Calender), we can see that India aren’t slotted to play any games during the months April to September 2013. Obviously the Indian Premier League (IPL) will take place in April and May, but I feel a county season for Raina will do a world of good for him. It will not only help him improve his batting skills, but also give him an exposure to a better set of fast bowlers in conditions which aren’t really conducive to batting.

Temperament at the highest level has never been an issue with Raina, he has helped India win in a number of games from tight situations. It’s just more of an adaptation to the longer format which he needs to get used to, which can be done by only playing more and more first class games.

Let us hope that he sorts out his issues soon and start entertaining us in the longest format of the game too!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) Yes or No !

The big thing circling around in the cricket world these days is whether the DRS i.e. the Decision Review System (or Dravid Removal System as some of the Indian fans call it) should be made compulsory for all cricket matches or not. First things first, whatever the ICC decides, it must be uniform and must be applied to all the matches. It’s just ridiculous that you have one series played with DRS and another without DRS. Mind you even the series which play with the DRS rules implemented are applied in different forms. Some have Hawkeye as one of the judging criteria some have only Hotspot! It’s really bizarre and silly that you have a game which is being played with different rules in different continents.

Many feel that BCCI is being the main detractor of the DRS because of the teams failing to use the DRS effectively (as well as the controversies which occurred in England mainly with Dravid’s dismissals). Since nowadays most administrators are more concerned more about the commercial aspects rather than the game itself, the first thing they must look into is how will the smaller boards like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka be able to bear the costs for the equipment’s required for the DRS. The more powerful boards such as BCCI, ECB or CA have enough funds to cover the costs or have a large enough market to find a sponsor. The first thing the ICC has to do is if the DRS has to be implemented either they find a common sponsor for all the matches being played (the payment varying depending on the intensity of the series) or the ICC themselves sponsor the same.

Now coming to the point of the DRS. The first thing the ICC should clarify to everyone is the system they are trying to implement is not going to be 100% but a system which can remove the howlers away. The BCCI has to stop being adamant in saying that the two umpires on the field alone can do the job. Yes they can improve their standards, but with growing technology it would obviously be better if they are assisted. I would really like asking N Srinivasan what if India were to face the Sydney fiasco once again. Will they threaten to boycott the series once more?

Sanjay Manjrekar has been saying avoid the DRS and no need to talk about it, the series will be played without any controversy. Luckily for him after India’s tour of England, India never faced any major umpiring mistakes. What about the low profile series like Pakistan vs Sri Lanka? Pakistan were on the wrong side around 10 times!! Many of them were howlers which could have been easily overturned.

Hotspot was considered to 100% foolproof before the India England series happened. It is dependent on the weather conditions and hence until that condition is eradicated it cannot be used as a judging criterion for all the decisions. Hawkeye too has its flaws which is easily demonstrated by Phil Hughes dismissal in Sri Lanka which was later explained to be due to the difference in frame rates between the cameras used in Sri Lanka and those in England. Forget about uniformity in using DRS all around the world, there has to be uniformity in the equipment’s being used as well to allow DRS to be a successful venture.

As Harsha Bhogle recently pointed out in his article if you give the number of decisions to be made by the players, then as a batsman you are giving priority only to the top 1-7 usually to help themselves escape a wrong decision. What if your tail ender is winning you a match with the bat and then gets a wrong decision? He may not get the chance to review it!

My suggestion is to give the decision of the review in the hands of the umpire. He can use it when he feels there is a doubt and use the help of the television replays to make the correct decision. No need of the hotspot, just use the replays to check if a there was a genuine edge or not. Use hawkeye just to see where the ball has pitched and see that the impact of the ball on pad is within the line of the stumps. The third umpire shouldn’t take more than a minute to make his decision and if the replays are inconclusive till then, he should make his own decision. If a third umpire can’t make a decision in one minute after many replays it definitely can’t be any worse than what an onfield umpire will do. Yes this is not the most perfect system, it may cast more doubts on the umpires mind, yes the players may feel cheated that one decision is reviewed but a similar case isn’t but they should man up and not complain as after all cricket is a gentleman’s game ! , but what it can do is remove the howlers. It can help cricket avoid another Sydney fiasco.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Tale of Rohit Sharma

Sachin Tendulkar feels Rohit Sharma has it in him to be India’s best batsman. Ian Chappell says Rohit should be preferred over Virat Kohli in tests; Gambhir too feels Rohit has all the talent in the world to be the world’s best batsman. Moreover Kohli himself believes Rohit belongs to another league and it would not be right to compare him with other upcoming youngsters ( When everyone is praising Rohit about his talent how come he is not performing yet? 

Rohit’s first international innings was against South Africa on a seaming Durban during the T20 World Cup in 2007. In that very innings one could notice the special talent in him which everyone keeps talking about. The class, the grace, the art of playing the ball late – all of it was on display- he showed he has immense potential. In the hit and miss world of T20, he showed that one can play a well-paced knock by playing conventional shots. Here was a man who was so easy on the eye, no brashness about him. Sachin Tendulkar, Damien Martyn, Mark Waugh, VVS Laxman they all had one thing in common. When they batted they were a sight to watch. Rohit showed that he too had the potential to be in that league.

It was in the 2008 tour to Australia when it looked like that he’s living upto his potential with a wonderful knock in the finals to guide India to victory in the best of 3 finals. He wasn’t really consistent in that series, but he had shown signs of improvement as the games went along and he performed as per expectations from a young kid.  But from then on it has been a downhill journey for him. It’s almost 5 years since he started his career and he still hasn’t earned a permanent fixture in the side. Compare him to Virat Kohli who started his career a year after Rohit. Kohli has not only become one of the leading batsmen in ODI cricket but has earned his way to become the vice-captain of India. Four years ago few would have imagined this would have happened.

What could be the reason for Rohits continuous failure? Many cricketers believe that Rohit is better than Kohli when it comes to talent but it’s the latter who is performing. With Rohit one gets the impression he is just not hardworking and serious about his game. When you look at someone like Virat Kohli or Gautum Gambhir you can see it in their eyes that they want to do well. When cricketers talk about Kohli they talk about his work ethic, the effort he puts into his game during the practice sessions. Yuvraj Singh had stated that he wished he had worked as hard as Kohli during his younger days. We all know with the talent Yuvraj possesses he has really underachieved in international cricket. One can only hope that the same doesn’t happen with Rohit. This is something Rohit has to really look into, for all the talent in the world he has, he just will have to put in the required hard yards to become a successful player at the top most level.

One thing I have noticed is that Rohit’s List A record isn’t really worth taking note of whereas his first class performances is top notch. Probably he’s someone who is suited to the longer format of the game and is just finding his way through the limited version. Hes a wonderful T20 player but I think what happens to him is that hes not able to judge rightly at what pace he must play in an ODI game. Probably that’s something the selectors must look into before all together leaving him.

Anil Kumble wasn’t the most talented spinner going around in world cricket. People criticized him for not turning the ball. Some said he wasn’t a spinner, just a medium pacer who was very accurate. But he showed the world that if you have the passion and determination to succeed you will always do well. How well he fared is there for everyone to see.

Rohit’s continuous failure reminds me of one popular saying, no matter how much innate talent you have, the right attitude can make a difference in your career. Let’s hope for India’s sake and moreover for all cricket lovers around the world, Rohit starts performing and lead the light among the next generation of cricketers.

Online MarketingAdd blog to our directory.