Saturday, May 20, 2006

Harsha on right line

One can always rely on Harsha to bring the voice of sanity to any hype-ridden issue. On the much heated player's burnout debate, his take is simple - its not about the number of matches, play as much as possible, but about the scheduling or spacing between matches and series.
“The less space, left for the players between the two series to rejuvenate and unwind themselves is the main factor responsible for their burning out,” Bhogle said.

“Irrespective of the number of matches, the players need a proper break to prepare themselves for the task ahead,”

And, on the Ganguly debate, he had this to say
Bhogle evaded a question on Sourav Ganguly’s future in the Indian team saying, ‘a number of people have said a lot of things about him while some comments have also been twisted making things difficult for him (Sourav). Whatever feelings I have, it is there in my heart’.
Obviously, one can expect a lot of common sense from him as well :-)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Langer's knock

Justin Langer's helmet manufacturers are looking into means of developing their product further to provide extra protection. Langer, one may recall, was hit in SA, and missed 3 tests after that. The injury got a lot of attention as Langer was reportedly keen to bat, despite the pain and doctor's warnings, in case he was needed in that nail-biting run chase. His captain went on to say that he would have declared, had Langer insisted on batting.

However much I admire Langer's grittiness, having read how prone he's been to being knocked out through bouncers, I can't help but think that in his case the problem is in the head, not on it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Knowing Freddie

A light-hearted profile-ish interview of Freddie, the hottest property in world cricket today. Sample
There's a lot of practical joking that goes on in the England dressing room. It's an amazing place. You can sit for hours, and there is a mixture of people - like Matthew Hoggard, who gets bored very, very easy. I just mill around. If I'm batting at six, I'll have my shorts and T-shirt on until three wickets down, then it's a mad rush to get all my kit on. That's what a cricketer has bad dreams about - getting timed out.

The hits just keep on coming

In the beginning there was the Abu Dhabi tri-series between Ind-Aus-Pak. Then it got split into a tri-series in SL (Ind-SA-SL) and a series against WI in US, and we fretted at the excess of cricket (this was, if you remember, scheduled just before the CT). Now comes the news of an Afro-Asian drama being sandwiched between the above listed acts and the CT. The reason, this time, is political
t is believed that the Indian board were against the continuation of the event, but, as one administrator admitted, there was more involved than cricket. "You have to recognise that there are serious politics at play," he explained, "as well as some personal agenda-settling."

It seems that support for the World Cup bid was tied in with the decision, which was made during the recent ICC executive board meeting in Dubai, and also that the TV company who had signed a three-year deal to broadcast the tournament also had their say.
Or, shall we say, this time its overtly political.

Inzamam happy with the new rule

For the supposed criticality of this ruling for the players, its really surprising that they're the ones least being heard of on the subject. Everyone, from umpires to administrators to officials to ex-player turned critics have spoken about it, but the ones most affected by it are yet to be heard. Inzamam is the first one to have officially spoken on it and, understandably, appreciated the move.

There's still time before the rule is ratified by the ICC and is tried on the field in October - and I would expect it to get strong support by the player community, although there would be some obvious apprehensions about the implementation of the rule (e.g. I hope the ICC also keeps in mind how to account for the time spent in such referrals, for a fielding captain may not be happy to have it use his quota)

Update: Javed Miandad is the latest in the list, worrying about the long-term career of the umpires
"The technology is not always correct and there is no relevancy between a umpire taking a decision in a fraction of a second and these later shown in slow motion," he said.
Frankly, I am not sure if he (and some others speaking on the subject) has even bothered to understand the details of the proposed rule i.e. unproven or less accurate technology like hawkeye and snickometer would not be used). He does go on to say that the players should have been consulted (even now there is time, before the CT) to which I agree. The ICC implemented the supersubs in haste, and resulted in missing out an obvious flaw (that the implementation favours the captain winning the toss) that could easily have been caught and removed had they consulted the players.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lets ask him?

Jayawardene was in the middle of the biggest rescue act of his life, with SL following on from their fist innings and chasing the huge English score, when he was given caught behind on a catch for which he later said
"I don't have to see the replays - I knew - but as a cricketer you have to take those things with your head high.

"It's just disappointing because we were in a good position to bat through the day," he told BBC Radio Five Live.
And, what's more, keeper Jones spoke thus of the same catch
"You get a feeling the gloves are nearby the area so when you take a catch you have to politely ask," he told Five Live.
Right to appeal, shall we? What say now Harsha, Ian and all those *defenders*? With the match itself so delicately balanced, all SL need is to bat out another hour tomorrow morning and England would start losing hope, would one still say 'it all evens out in the end'?

Anyway, the match itself has gone from hopelessly one sided to excitingly poised going into final morning, where forecasts of rain would make England fret all the more. But, one has to say, they've managed to make another test match exciting...that is one thing we can almost always be sure of, from this English side....that there are no boring games...not even the wins.

Kumar Sangakkara, at the end of first innings, had earlier said something to the effect that SL would need a miracle to get out of this one. It seems test cricket has more than it's fair share of miracles, then.

Ian Chappell bats for Bucknor

A great cricketer he may be, but Ian Chappell, writing here while arguing the use of technology, gets simple logic mixed up
If you want a clue that the ICC’s current philosophy on technology is muddled then look no further than the response of former South African keeper Dave Richardson to Bucknor’s criticism. The ICC’s general manager — cricket, says about Bucknor’s umpiring year so far, “He’s averaging 96 % of his decisions being correct.”

I assume, to a large degree this is in the opinion of technological aids like Hawk-Eye and Snickometer.

However, in the words of Ten Sports (Dubai) head of production Steve Norris, “The Hawk-Eye is 90 % accurate, that is what they (the creators) claim.”

Excuse me; “I’m sorry I’ll read that again.” An umpire is getting 96% of his decisions right, while on the other hand Hawk-Eye is guaranteed 90% correct. So, why do we need technology to protect the umpires?
As I've said before, it doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure out that the "96%" statistics hailed as the good performance by Bucknor includes the straightfoward chances as well. I'm more than sure his average for contentious decisions would be lower than that.

As for 90% accuracy of Hawk-eye, two points. Firstly, no-one is using hawkeye to actuallly adjudicate on decisions - even the ICC's new ruling specifically rules out hawkeye and snickometer for which, btw, no-one told us the accuracy percentage. I have a suspiscion it may exceed the Bucknor barometer!

The second point is that the statement from Steve Norris is a blanket one. We don't know if Hawk-eye is less accurate in certain specific cases than others. But being a computer program, I would guess its flaw may be more evenly distributed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

More on Modi

Besides the goldmine of insights and information in that Modi profile done by Rahul (that Prem pointed to, yesterday), here's now the complete interview of the man. This too comes with its fair share of revelations of the eyes-wide-open variety. And, more importantly, it addresses almost all the contentious issues that we often discuss here, related to the BCCI.

For example, here's the vision Modi had of promoting domestic cricket, how it got thwarted, and what's in store now, when he's got the power to do it.

Personally, my interest in cricket started developing at that point in time because we saw the value in it. Thereafter we ran into roadblocks because we wanted to expand the game. One of my key projects in those days was to launch the inter-city cricket league. I spent a lot of money on it. I spent close to seven million dollars of my own cash. In those days, in developing the concept, we had the New Delhi Panthers vs the Mumbai Stallions and so on. We had signed up all the sponsors. We had approval from the board to own, stage, and run the tournament and we were going to pay a fee to the board. It was under the aegis of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket association under the chairmanship of Madhavrao Scindia. We had gone out and signed probably the top 120 players in the world, including in India, to play a domestic league, under lights, on a home-and-away basis. There was no concentration on domestic at that time. People told us we were foolish and wasting our money on domestic cricket as there was no interest. Yes, the point is correct but unless you build the property, the interest, and make people want to go to the stadium, how do you do that? That was a challenge. If you did it with regular players, it was a losing proposition. You have to fill up stadiums with 20,000 people, 30,000 people. They have to come and support their city. You have to pay the players well, and build things around it. Anyway, they killed that. We lost a lot of money. The reason they killed it was that one gentleman in the board at that point suwggested that we give the marketing rights of the tournament to an agent and then we buy it buy it back from the agent. I told them we were the broadcaster, and were ready to fund the money going forward, we’re paying the boards for it. Why do we have to take those rights of ours, give them to an agent, and buy them back? So [they said] “we will not allow any foreign players to play in your league”. I was like “that doesn’t make any sense because we have their approval.” “Okay, so we will not allow any Indian players to play in your league.” You are arm-twisted from time to time to do these things. So it died a natural death because we got fed up of it. We had already paid advances to the players. It was a sunk cost for us

Now to cricket. Do you see it eventually moving away from its nation-based structure to something like football, where the real interest lies in club rivalries?

Oh yes. It’s gonna happen. The intercity cricket league is going to happen. My next big project which I’m going to announce. I’m still not ready for it because the game has evolved since the last time I developed it. It will be a home-and away concept. We hope to launch that by the end of the year.

Another pet peeve, for us here in spare time, against the BCCI is the inadequate focus on infrastructure in the country, and here's Modi's take on it

Over the last few weeks you’ve been hearing more about development, about infrastructure, about the world cup. See, when we didn’t have the money, we didn’t have anything to talk about. So how were we going to change those things? A campaign went out in the Times of India, saying how bad the infrastructure was, and asking what the BCCI was doing with all this money. You’ve got to understand, the money is just signed on a piece of paper now. The money hasn’t even come into our bank. The rest of the money is going to come over the next few years. Infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight. It needs thought. We need to bring the architects in. We need to have municipal corporation permission. We are getting all that into place. Once the marketing deals are done, they are done. We needed to project those numbers. It also helps me get more numbers in.

Paid professionals and accountability can be the solution to almost all the publicly played problems of the BCCI (e.g. the media management issues that caused a furore recently) and here's what he says
Will the board move forward until it has paid professionals who are held accountable?

I agree with you 100%. Right now we are accountable. That is why, when I decided to take on the job, I had to give it time, otherwise I wouldn’t do it justice. I give 14 hours a day to cricket. I’ve decided that for a year, a year and a half, my life is cricket. In the meantime we’re hiring people to take the game forward. Once the basic infrastructure is in place, thereafter the game will ride on its own. It won’t happen overnight. Change is on the one hand good, on the other hand painful, and on the third, it takes a lot to implement it. We need to change our constitution, put all that in place, and we’re doing all that. Until then, we need to be involved. If we leave it half-way, it’ll all return to where it was.

But do you agree that to move forward you need those paid professionals?

We have professionals under interview right now. They will be the implementers. So we will be like the board of directors. We will give them guidelines and they will go out and implement them on a day-to-day basis. And that will have to filter down to the state level and then the district level going forward. And that will happen.

On the question of twenty20 and BCCI's aversion to it, we know the obvious reasons - India doesn't really need it, for the popularity of longer versions is still satisfactorily high, unlike the case in the countries trying to promote twenty20.

Why is the BCCI averse to Twenty20?

Why not 25-25? Why not 30-30. The issue right now is that the countries advocating it are only England and Australia. They have a drop in stadium levels so they are advocating it. We fill our stadiums. We have enough crowds coming in. We’re just getting into the game now. First they want to play a world cup of 20-20. They’re not even talking about going and promoting twenty-20 in countries first, play it for five-ten years, build the basis of 20-20.They’re saying lets go straight to the world cup!

But if the ICC says that, would you be interested in playing Twenty20?

They are saying that. We’re not interested in playing Twenty20. If the ICC mandates us to do it, and we’re the only people left, I think we’ll have no choice. But in my view, I think we must have a domestic calendar for it first. It’s a totally new game. It’s a batsman’s game…

And that’s why the Indian public will warm to it…

That may be so but we need to do it at the domestic level first! I’m not saying no. I’m saying we have to do it at the domestic level first.

Will playing Twenty20 hurt the board commercially?

I don’t think so. It could be a different team altogether. We have to understand it. It’s totally new. Where you might lose a little bit, you could also game a little bit somewhere else.
Although here, I do feel that Modi, and the BCCI, can do better. If they do know that, whether they want it or not, twenty20 is going to be a reality in international cricket soon, then why not act on it immediately. When Modi already realises that there has to be a domestic structure in place for it, why not give it a kickstart already. Why not announce a few domestic twenty20 competitions right away?

Anyway, both this pieces by Rahul were tremendously revealing, not only in terms of working of the mind of Modi, but also about the new BCCI - that its not just about making more money, which indeed they are, but also about realising the potential in all aspects of the sport.

What I do feel, though, is that while Modi is one strong pillar of the new BCCI organisation - giving strength to the business wing of the structure - it needs atleast one equally strong administrative pillar for looking after the cricketing aspects of the organisation. That is not to say that those aspects are ignored today - we do hear positive moves like extending the term of office of selectors - it's just that one doesn't see as strong a driving force behind those moves as we see on display when Modi drives the money. But then, maybe he's an exceptional talent, and its unfair to expect similar involvement from everyone.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Two wrongs better than a right?

Harsha's new article, besides coming hard on the much maligned BCCI gag rule, takes a look at the ICC law for appealing against umpires.
And I hope you felt as pained as I did at the recent ICC decision to land another punch on the already flattened noses of international umpires. Umpires make mistakes like all of us do in our profession and the game must try its best to reduce the number of those mistakes. But the game focuses on the umpires far too much and on the players far too little. I think the greatest stress on an umpire is the number of appeals that are made and the body language that accompanies them. If the players were a lot more honest with their appeals, the umpires would get more decisions correct.
It doesn't happen too often, but I find myself disagreeing with Harsha. Or maybe not? Well, he's right that the ICC needs to act on the nuisance of over-appealing and theatrics by bowlers, fielders (remember how it was the hot topic when Aussies were doing their war dance during the last season down under). But that does not mean the new rule to check the umpire's mistakes is wrong, does it? Yes, they are *sometimes* pressurized by those over-zealous appeals, but we have enough evidences of them getting it wrong in less challenging circumstances as well.

The ICC has, to a limited extent, tried to reign in the 'cheating' part of false appealing, as Harsha implies here..
So if a player is allowed to appeal against an umpire's verdict using technology I would like the same technology to be used to expose cricketers who make ridiculous appeals when they know a player is not out. Football now penalizes a player who tries to induce a mistake from the referee and I think the time has come to use that in cricket as well.
I remember atleast some players being penalized for claiming a false catch (umm...was it the WI keeper Jacobs??)...but anyway those rules need to be revised and re-inforced more definitively. One way out, as Harsha suggests here, is to link it to this "right to appeal against umpire" law i.e. bowler makes a ridiculous appeal, he loses his right to refer the umpire's decision for that innings.

England vs SLanka

Never judge a pitch (or even a test match) by first innings of team batting first, so they say. I do believe in it, but still, when it's a hit-and-miss batting team like England, who are notorious for routinely ending their innings short of expected target, batting at 400/4 with KP in the mood and Freddie in the queue, then I have to think its a flat-bed out there. And that SL are in deep trouble, despite the pitch. The poor batting display in warm-up games, plus the prospect of facing two of the top pace bowlers in the world, and add to it the pressure of chasing a huge first innings score (which England are surely going to it, even they can't mess this one, no?) makes me feel they're deep in the hole.

Not watching the action, just relying on live scores and reports....anyone of you out there catching the game? Any thoughts?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The English channel

The ECB has beaten the BCCI to the t.v. channel race - atleast on the broadband arena. The new ECBtv web channel provides live coverage (in restricted areas, to avoid obvious conflict of rights, but we know IP address checks can be worked around with), archive footage etc. And they've made decent package plans too...the entire English season for 50 pounds is great, compared to what other 'official' broadband channels charge. Go check out.

New appeal rule was designed to counter Bucknor

Oh alright...I wrote that headline in our 'mainstream media' style. What Dave Richardson said, in this report clarifying on Bucknor's claim of tv bias against umpires, is that Bucknor is a good example why technology has been a good tool in cricket
But Richardson told BBC World Service Sport: "I often point to him as a very good example of why we need to give technology a go.

"He's done particularly well this year. After not a great year last year, he's averaging around 96% of his decisions being correct, and yet he's made one or two decisions which have come in for terrible criticism from the media and from fans writing in to us.
Which essentially means that they have been made *aware* of some glaring errors which Bucknor made in recent times. Bravo!...the system works...write in to ICC, all you fans, even if there's a remote chance of them giving it a look.

As to that high percentage figures that Richardson keeps throwing up, showing how *good* the umpires already are...well, as with all statistics, they don't reveal the full picture. For example, out of the 96% right decisions made by Bucknor, how many were really tough ones? I bet the straightforward ones would be close to 90%. I'm guessing that includes the clean-bowled, the absolute plumb, the outfield catches, the clear caught behinds or close catches, and the runouts which were either clear or assisted by third ump. Anyone knows more on this?

It would be interesting to know what's Bucknor's (and some others') percentage for those close ones. But even this would not tell the full story. That missing 4% could contain a decision which changed the entire course of the match (the one against Lara on their last tour down under comes to mind). So getting 96% right is not really laudable, unless we dig deeper into the match details.

Promoting the game

Two articles highlight the biggest problem with the ICC's new FTP. This one mentions the glut of Ind-Aus matches, which is understandable given the financial gains that both countries would expect from these. But the problem is that India does not tour Bangladesh even in this FTP. Which means, as the report mentions, that test cricket's youngest members would be atleast 11 years old before they get to host the financially most lucrative side in the world. This is, simply put, ridiculous.

In the other article, we get to know the further imbalance that the new FTP has towards Bangladesh. They don't have a single test for the next 12 months! Any person who even remotely believed that Bangaldesh showed signs of improvement (yes, despite the Gillespie mauling) should be disappointed with the schedule. Since a gap of 12 months would wipe away a lot of those advancements they have made, and they wouldn't be able to build on it to reach the next level. Whatmore and Bashar are obviously not very happy.

I think the ICC needs to seriously deliberate on Bangladesh. You can't keep complaining about their inabilities at test level, as Ponting and many others have done in the past, and then pull them down when they were finally showing signs of maturity. Talks of 'development of cricket' and 'promoting the game' etc cannot be taken seriously, if they are actually working towards harming the game in places where its desperate to thrive. They should rather hand over the funds allocated for 'development of cricket in new avenues' to greedy boards like BCCI and others who force the ICC to make such lopsided schedules.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sehwag speaks again

Virender Sehwag, in *another* interview, this time with Reuters, talks about trying to bring more maturity to his approach at the crease, especially in ODIs.
"I'm a senior member and vice captain so I have to just change our batting style," he told Reuters in an interview.

"Sometimes the team demands I should bat until 25 or 30 overs, sometimes they want me to bat the way I (usually) do," he said. "Definitely, I will adapt to the situation quickly now.

"Now I'm learning how to bat for the first 20 overs without taking any risk."
Which, to me, seems something similar to his approach in that 70+ innings at Abu Dhabi. And good too, since his ODI batting definitely needed a revamp, and this change would surely help get the team even better, although I still expect him to be the more adventurous of the openers, especially when SRT take back his spot. For test matches, its just a matter of confidence, and one good innings, he says.

And finally, on being asked about his views on the whole Ganguly episode, he reportedly grabbed the microphone and repeatedly hit the interviewer on the head till he retracted the question!...Oh, ok..he didn't, but he may just have, if confronted with that question.

The umpiring debate

Guardian has an interesting debate on the issue of Umpire's authority. Dickie Bird speaks against the new ruling, while Bob Woolmer backs it. Bird's criticism is along the age old 'the machines will take over' line, trying to kick up the nostalgia of the times when 'mistakes were integral part of the game'
In the past, if an umpire made a mistake people talked about it. That was part of the game. The central role of the umpire has been essential to the game's fabric throughout its history and not allowing them to make decisions is a loss to cricket.
Dunno about you guys, but in the 20+ years that I've followed cricket, the only 'talking' we did about the mistakes, especially the ones against our players, are hardly suitable to be published in this forum! Sure it was part of the game, like almost every non-perfected aspect of our life in their respective pre-technology era, but thats hardly convincing enough to stop trying to make things better. And as to the other traditional argument, always raked up in such debates -
I know people argue it is important to eliminate human error when so much is at stake in today's Tests and one-day internationals, with players' careers at stake and so much money in the game. But I'm still a great believer that bad and good decisions even themselves out over the course of a Test.
- I just have two words 'prove it'! And I also find his closing argument hard to believe
People pay a lot of money to go to watch Test matches and the human element in big decisions is part of the entertainment. If you ask the crowds, they will say it should be left to the umpires to make the decisions because it's part of the game and they don't want it any other way.
I don't think people want the human element (i.e. umpiring mistakes at crucial moments to) to remain in the game. From what I've gathered from people's opinions, in forums like these, they all want as much accuracy as possible. Sure, the element of time is crucial, but really, what do you think the crowd would love - a game where they knew the best team won, and they had to sit for that half hour or so extra, or a game where they were left eternally wondering 'what if the umpire had got that one right' ?

Meanwhile, we can always trust Woolmer to instill some new life into any debate. For example, this point he makes is quite a new angle, for me, to look at the rules. And quite a valid one too
The planned new rules will put pressure on the batsman to be truthful because, if he is actually out, then the team loses one of its three "wild card appeals". I know what my reaction would be if a player used up a challenge needlessly. As far as the fielding side is concerned, questioning a not-out decision, it will put an added burden on the captain, who alone may challenge.
The bottomline, as he tries to iron out the unnecessary wrinkles from this whole debate, is that this is an attempt to make the game as fair as possible for all involved parties, including the umpires (who are being increasingly pressurized by tv images and hard-fighting players).

Chappell's Test

Rohit Brijnath, in this Hindu interview with Chappell (yes, as I said earlier, if its a break, its *Chappell-interviews* season) has the usual servings of *processes* and *discipline* for us (hey, not saying they're wrong, as strategies...just that we've heard it before). But amidst that, and Brijnath is a tougher cookie than most other interviewers, he does hang on to the tough question of our dismal test match performance, and finally (and surprisingly) gets a tangible enough response out of Chappell
Yet I remind Chappell that, without suffocating him with an exact timeframe, eventually this team will be expected to win, that is its purpose. His answer is blunt. "If we're not winning Test matches and we're not a good Test match team by the end of 2006, we've got the wrong people.''

Forget 2006. Make it 2007. If India isn't winning Tests abroad by then, he's right, it will mean we've got the wrong people. Players. Selectors. Administrators. Captain. And don't forget coach
And, needless to say, I like that assertion, both from Chappell and Rohit. The timetable looks right for the 'processes' to yield results in the test arena as well. Ofcourse, the slight glitch is that by year end, we only play the away tours in WI and SA - both different in toughness scale, yet not ideal place to look for satisfying results from a struggling team. But hey, if the coach says so - and he has always stuck to 'I would finally be judged by results' line - I have no complains.

For me, personally, a series win in WI (with any scoreline) and a test match win in SA would be satisfying enough, for the moment. What say?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Killing that goose. And asking not to squeal.

More on a thread I touched a while earlier...the 15 tests and 30 ODIs quota that ICC has fixed for each country and to which BCCI says
"Fifteen Tests and 30 one dayers makes just 105 days. And for any professional, is there any profession that you play 105 days in a year?" said I S Bindra, former BCCI President.
Let's first get the maths right. Each ODI has atleast one day of travel and another day of preparation involved while a test has 3 days in total lead time (sometimes more and sometimes less, so such an seems reasonable). That means an additional 105 days in lead-up and preparation etc when the *human* body of the players is not actually getting a real rest. That is a total of 210 days of active travel, preparation, actual playing time and the likes!!!! That is also, incidentally, atleast 210 days out of 365 when the player is away from home, family and generally relaxing atmosphere. Add to it the camps, lead-time to a series, comeptitions like Challenger and other domestic matches and you reach the 300 limit easily in the year. Now, Mr Bindra, does it make sense?

Heck, even the not so physically tiring desk job mandates that many leaves per year (just count the paid vacations, Sundays and other national/local holidays you get, in your job, per year). But hush...who's to tell *them* how to do their job....that's interference in *board's policies*

BCCI, professionalism and improvement - come again?

The Indian board has once again lost the plot completely, I must say. According to the latest report, they have 'warned' Sehwag from speaking out on Ganguly issue and, much more importantly, on the issue of player burnout.
"Sehwag has been warned verbally from speaking to the media on burnout and the Ganguly issue. Players cannot speak on Board policies and selection matters," Shah declared.
"If any player feels there is burnout, he can take rest. The Board cannot change its policy or itinerary for any player," Shah told PTI.

"Players cannot speak on Ganguly issue also. It is a matter which concerns the selection committee. As a player you cannot give your opinion on any other player."
Right, lets take it one at a time. On the burnout issue, off the top of my head I can recall Dhoni, Harbhajan, Dravid, Sachin and Pathan speaking about it in recent times. Have they been warned too?

Oh and btw, if you were still living in the dreamland where BCCI had promised cut-off at 12 tests and 30 ODIs per year (and which Rahul had re-iterated, were enough for the team) here's some news
"Fifteen Tests and 30 one dayers makes just 105 days. And for any professional, is there any profession that you play 105 days in a year?" said I S Bindra, former BCCI President.
And as for Rahul voicing his opinion on burnout (and a request for the ICC limit of matches to be honoured by BCCI) here's BCCI's reponse
"He (Dravid) is saying this because there is extra load on him now due to captaincy. We do everything in consultation with the players," said Sharad Pawar, President, BCCI.
So...there you have it now? Don't crib later that you were not warned!

I think Rahul's call for IPCA to be recognized by BCCI is all the more valid now, because I simply don't see our honourable honorary presidents and secretaries honouring their own words without a stronger coercive force.

By the way, here's Chappell speaking on the burnout debate, from the interview I linked earlier
What about the burnout factor?
There is no doubt, if you try to play 365 days a year, you will run into problems. There is a balance between having a life as well as playing cricket. It is important players have opportunities to reflect.

Most players at the end of their careers find it difficult to have the enthusiasm they had at the start of their careers.

That’s a factor selectors should take into consideration and from time to time players may need to have a break. Equally, the administration should understand there is a limit to how many games in a year an individual or group of individuals can cope with and keep up with the standards.

We are in the danger of denigrating the game if we make players so tired they are not able to perform at the peak of their powers. It’s important to have a rotation policy. You have to keep developing young players.
Wonder if he would be told to go take a break....and don't comment on *board's policies*

And lastly, on the Ganguly issue, here's what Sehwag actually said (interview linked by Prem yesterday)
Do you think when Ganguly was captain there was more aggression?

We are aggressive today also. We have won 16 matches in a row, chasing which has never happened in the past. We see to it that when we chase, we don’t panic, which we earlier used to do. That is a new thing in the team.

And Sourav, do you miss him?

Yes, we miss him. We always miss senior players like Sourav, Sachin, and Kumble.

What is the most important thing you have learned from Sourav?

Sourav, I think, is the best captain, and I have always learnt from Sourav. I learnt from him the tactics on how to handle pressure, how to control those difficult situations. He has got 10,000 runs in one-day cricket.
If this is indeed what he said, and being penalised for, then where the heck is the alleged questioning of any selection matters here? I mean come on...the guy is speaking about his learning experiences, and if it is under Saurav that he arrived at the big stage and matured, learnt his first big lessons, then what is he going to do...use *beeps* instead of Saurav's name?

If Saurav's selection is a contentious issue with the board, does that mean that any mention of that name is a taboo for the entire team?

Chappell in free time

Greg Chappell is having a nice relaxing time-off - which can only mean some more interviews. On the hot topic of the season, the *burnout* debate, he says players do need sufficient breaks to reflect
There is no doubt, if you try to play 365 days a year, you will run into problems. There is a balance between having a life as well as playing cricket. It is important players have opportunities to reflect.
Which I feel is one of the most important cricketing reason for having proper breaks built into the schedule. Players do need time to reflect on an important series they have played, their own performance, shortcomings, preparations for future.

And this is best exemplified in the Sehwag situation where he is now facing the first serious test, since his great run in international cricket, through technical and mental hurdles. A long enough break to reflect and work on the weaknesses is a perfect solution to his problems. Thankfully, despite the busy schedule, he's got just that before the beginning of the crucial away-tours leg of the season.

Also nice to see Chappell himself pointing out the pitfalls of over-emphasizing on the World Cup buildup, something which he himself confesses being guilty of in recent times. That he goes on, in the same interview, to bring the spotlight back again on the Cup is another matter.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Balaji finally back

One of the most promising bowlers to be capped in recent times, Balaji, head from. He's my favourite, especially for tests, over a lot of other promising newcomers we've seen in recent times. According to this report, he'll be proving his match fitness soon....let's see if that is enough to earn him a test recall, especially with the competition much more tougher now. Let's hope he does get in, and atleast gets to play the warm-up match, along with Santh, Munaf etc to get a better picture of where he stands.

From the horse's mouth

The man....Steve Bucknor heard from. Voices his concerns on quite a few issues, including the new right-to-appeal, for which his major complain is that the ICC did not consult the umpires. Fair enough, they should have been consulted on how to best formulate the rule. But I'm not sure if the players were consulted either..and they are surely the more important of the the two parties directly affected by the ruling.

His second point of contention...that t.v. companies (producing the coverage) are biased in their choice of images (replays etc) to be displayed to viewers, and even third umpires, trying to make the 'home' players look good. Well...that is indeed a big that is not outside the realm of possibility. Remember how Atherton recently accused BCCI of trying to curb the Ganguly issue from being discussed on air....or remember how we never ever saw the new 2000 frame super-slow-mo of Shoaib bowling in the Pak series....ofcourse none of these are confirmed....but we know there is enough scope for manoeuvring. Especially when production companies like Nimbus have so much to gain from toeing the BCCI lines, why would they care about transparency or neutrality or other such sentiments, unless forced to?

But, in the end, despite all those issues...I've seen enough blunders from Bucknor, and not only blunders but his visible show of contempt for players and their rightful requests, to not have even a shred of sympathy with him. Sure the technology is making umpires look bad, but when a commentator sitting that far away from action is able to cofidently make a call pointing out umpire's mistake (in real time, before the replays have been aired), then we know who's to blame...right?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

ICC does something good!

The decision from the much-awaited ICC playing committee's deliberations over playing conditions are out....and they've recommended in favour of the right-to-appeal umpire's decision. From what I understand, the batsman in question (against whom the field umpire's decision has been made) or the fielding captain has the right to 3 appeals. In case the appeal is successful, they would still maintain the right to 3 appeals....although the cricinfo report is vague on this, but this BBC report does clarify that its three *unsuccessful* appeals.

That is indeed the right move, as some of you suggested earlier in the comments, that an appeal upheld by third umpire basically means acceptance of a *mistake* of the on-field officials, and therefore the appealing party should be rewarded - in this case the reward being no deduction from the number of appeals. What do you think?

There were other suggestions also made by the committee related to the bats (Ponting's bat is illegal - if one looks at the summary), disbanding the use of artificial lights in tests, continuation of powerplays till atleast the world cup, and playing conditions for twenty20.

I'm really excited about the right to appeal ruling....and I guess that would be the feeling of fans all around the world - we don't want our precious time, often sneaked from other chores of the day, to be marred by vagaries of the *human element* of the game. The umpires would obviously disagree, as Venkat is doing here, but the heck with it. I can't wait for this rule to be extended to test matches!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

No more dissent

Finally, some *cricketing* news at last...and good one too. If all goes well, the upcoming CT can see a new rule - batsmen getting the chance to appeal against the umpires' decisions against them (any form of dismissal, including LBWs). Since I personally care only about the playing aspect of the game, and not much of a 'human element of umpire' argument backer, I am delighted to hear this. Hope they extend it to tests too, and soon. The report also mentions that fielding side would have similar rights to appeal as well.

Finally, a useful rule coming from the ICC gang after a long long time. long, bullying Bucknor ;-)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More cricket

The details of the replacement(s) for the cancelled tri-series (against Pak, Aus) that I briefly mentioned yesterday are getting clearer now. Apparently its going to be replaced by 2 tri-series, instead of 1. One in Srilanka (Ind, SA, SL) in September, and the other one in US, still being finalised (Ind, WI, Aus). Now, as I said yesterday, a full series against Aussies is a mouth-watering prospect for the fan in me, but still, this looks like too much cricket just before CT.

Anyway, lets hope all this falls in that 30-ODIs-per-year bracket. Someone keeping count??

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The *deal* is out in the open

And after we read, in the report Ruchir linked to earlier, Bindra himself casting doubt on the Abu Dhabi triseries, comes the 'refusal' from PCB. Anyway, leaving aside who got the 'credit' for pulling out first, it seems that the new options are North America, Malaysia, Singapore or even India.

And btw, Bindra himself said that they have a commitment to help WIndies board, after getting their support in the bid. One wonders where's the sly, back-room dealing...if he's openly confirming it?

Ofcourse that part puts me in a doubt, are they still planning to play Australia or would helping WIndies board mean playing the WI team (which would be...umm... a bit strange, although not anything new, given that we would just have come back from a full tour of the WI). I just hope they somehow include Aussies, who are also looking for some sort of warmup for the CT preparations, in their plans. Would love to see the new improved Indian team play 2-3 matches against the Aussies...sort acid test of *real* improvement.

More of world cup deal

Continuing that world cup 'allegation' story from the morning, this NZ channel reports that the Asian group bought the 2011 rights through flexing its financial muscle. Lot of 'talk' but little concrete backup of that, except the part where it suggests that the Asians showed a 'development plan' for the troubled WIndies.

Unless, ofcourse, showing plain better business deal to members (that they would make more money from a subcontinent WC, as Asians would make more) is 'illegal'!

And anyway, Bindra discloses in this interview, given after the victory, that apparently the members have agreed upon some sort of 'rotation' system (and hopefully doing away with these contentious biddings for future)...something which I mentioned in my earlier post.

World Cup rants

There's been some criticism of the Asian victory in the World Cup bidding, mostly from the ones having lost out. Malcom Gray here talks of the *dangers* behind the Asians dominating the game.
After Australasia lobbied to host the 1992 event, it was decided the staging rights would be rotated between the five cricketing regions. "This unfortunately has broken that and for the sake of the game I think it would be better if it did go around in order," Gray admitted. Sharad Pawar, the BCCI chief, has said that he believes every third tournament should be held on the subcontinent.
What I don't understand is the actual basis for criticising the BCCI assertion that every 3rd world cup should come to subcontinent. The *five region* formula, whenever it was agreed upon, was based on the realities and compulsions of those times. The 'one in three' is based on todays' reality. And that is, that ODI cricket in general, and World Cup in particular, are a grand money-making opportunity. And no matter what they say, even the Aussie and English board have this outlook towards the limited version of the game. So, if we all agree on this part, then isn't it fair that all member countries get equal chance at making their share of money?

If we stick to the old 'five region' formula, that means the 4 countries in the subcontinent get a chance once in 20 years(or alternatively each country in 80 years!!), and the money they make has to be shared between the four countries. While Aussies, English, WI and SA board get a chance every 20 years, and they make the full money out of it. And we don't even need to bring out the fact about subcontinent being the major revenue generator in cricket to see the inequality of the above deal.

Sure Aussies and NZ, although making combined bids, are also entitled to equal rights, and should be worthy of twice the chances as, lets say, England. So, if the whole bidding process is really getting political, and with all those allegations of lobbying and 'using the power of programming' etc, the best way out is to make the whole thing cyclical, IMO. Let the hosting rights be rotated between each of the ten test playing nations in sequence, and leave it upon them to decide who they want it to combine with.

Early updates

A few days after Ponting declared that their Ashes preparation were on track, England were facing the usual injury issues. Simon Jones botched up his return. Once again. And James Anderson barely passed the first comeback milestone (playing in India) before breaking down again. Giles, Harmison and Vaughan are already on the list. So if Indians got a B squad, the Lankans have good chances of facing the 'next level' of English bench.

And meanwhile, back to that Warne speculation....for now, he repeats, 'he won't'. Despite his seemingly clear denial, I would still not close this issue. For, you see, there is this statement embedded in the same denial
"If Ricky said to me at some stage 'look we really need you', then I would think about it, but I don't think it would ever come to that. The team has done really well without me and I will be barracking for them in the World Cup, but not playing for them."
And we know that the Aussie selectors are worried about their ODI bowling attack, despite the fairly good season (not by their own high standards though) that the Aussie ODI team has had. This season has seen their bowling attack struggle to contain opposition live never before, and especially so in good batting conditions (which are a norm these days, in most parts of the world). I still feel they would need Warne and, more importantly, they would *know* they need him, if they want to defend that Cup.