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Sponsors hit back at FIFA and BCCI: Image is everything

Português: Joseph Blatter, da Fifa, fala à sold it..

Joseph Blatter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sponsors have hit back and with a vengeance.

First, it was their demand for probity in FIFA affairs with Coca Cola, McDonalds, Visa and Budweiser seeking Joseph Blatter’s ouster.

Blatter responded with his characteristic bluster failing to acknowledge the winds of change.

His own Ethics Committee reacted less than a week later suspending him and his lieutenant Michel Platini for 90 days.

In India, Pepsi India served notice to the BCCI over its inept handling of the spot-fixing and betting scandals threatening to pull out of the title sponsorship.

The newly elected BCCI working committee has its hands full when it meets on October 18 to discuss the issue.

Blatter’s troubles originate with the Ethics Committee’s investigation into allegations of under-the-table payments to its former marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL) in 2013.

Português: Zurique (Suíça) - O presidente da F...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blatter’s mentor and godfather João Havelange resigned as honorary President. Blatter was given a clean chit.

Matters came to a head this year when the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) arrested seven FIFA officials and indicted 14 on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Since FIFA employees are not government officials, the US government cannot charge them for bribery. Federal laws prevent them from doing so.

Blatter resigned four days after his re-election for an unprecedented fifth time.

Blatter was first elected president in 1998.

The arrests triggered separate inquiries in Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Switzerland.

Part of the Swiss investigation involved a ‘disloyal payment’ of two million Swiss francs to Michel Platini by Blatter for work performed between 1999 and 2002.

The Swiss head was also alleged to have signed off television rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups to a former FIFA official Jack Warner at below market rates.

Criminal proceedings began last week against the FIFA president.

The Ethics Committee moved swiftly suspending him and Platini  for 90 days. They further banned Ex-FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon for six years.

While Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, McDonald’s and Visa were united in their opposition to Blatter’s continuance, Adidas refused to join  them.

The German sporting giant that has manufactured the World Cup match ball since 1970 and has been licensed to do till 2030 has the most to lose.

Soccer is the only sport in which it has a lead over its competitors. It is a Catch-22 situation.

It could either back the other advertisers and lose its most important market or suffer an erosion of its market share given the bad publicity surrounding FIFA and its running.

Blatter is believed to be an Adidas stooge.

Aidan Radnedge writes:

“Adidas supremo Horst Dassler plucked Blatter from the marketing department of luxury Swiss watchmaker Longines, trained him up for several months in Landersheim offices then installed him on the first – if lofty – rung of the Fifa ladder.

‘He taught me the finer points of sports politics – an excellent education for me,’ Blatter later said of Dassler, who also provided useful instruction in how to best enjoy a good cigar.”

It was Dassler and Havelange who  plotted the ouster of Sir Stanley Rous as Fifa president in 1974.

It was they who recognised the power vested in the federations of Asia and Africa. The poorer bodies felt alienated and under-represented. Havelange exploited their fears thus paving the way to become the most powerful man in soccer. He was ably assisted by his then right-hand man—Joseph Blatter.

ISL was founded in 1982 by Adidas heir Horst Dassler. For nearly two decades, it enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the commercial interests of both the world football federation and the Olympic movement.

ISL went bankrupt in 2001.

It is believed that without the pressure from Coca Cola and the others, the Ethics Committee would have proceeded more judiciously giving the accused a first hearing before issuing penalties.

FIFA expert professor Alan Tomlinson from the University of Brighton said:

“The sponsors have certainly ratcheted things up, and this is one of the main reasons why the ethics committee has, for once, acted quite swiftly. The normal procedure is for the accused to be initially heard and then, perhaps, issued with a provisional suspension, pending a full inquiry.

The sponsors have told FIFA that they have had enough and this has had a huge impact on recent events. This whole thing has come down to money because that is the one thing that people within FIFA understand.”

Português: Zurique (Suíça) - O presidente da F...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A quarter of FIFA’s revenues over a 4-year-World-Cup cycle comes via sponsorship deals.

In India, PepsiCo, the soft drinks giant, are considering exiting the title spot citing concerns about the image of the IPL given the spot-fixing and betting imbroglios and suspension of franchises Chennai SuperKings and Rajasthan Royals.

PepsiCo India signed a deal for Rs.396 crores in 2012 for a five-year period.

If Pepsi pull out, then not just BCCI but also the franchises that have sold it ‘pouring rights’ will be adversely affected.

The ‘pouring rights’ are worth Rs.2 crores per season.

A co-owner of a franchise said:

“If the news about them pulling out of the IPL sponsorship is true, it’s a big loss. In these times when the brand value of the IPL is down so much, it will be difficult to sell the ‘pouring rights’ for more than Rs 50 lakh.

The tobacco and liquor companies were the ones to spend big money in sponsorship deals in cricket, then the cola giants became the big sponsors. In between, there were a few to associate with cricket like DLF and Hero Honda, but they pulled out too. If the cola companies pull out, it’s not good for the sport.”

The teams’ revenues too will be hit. The central revenue pool which is shared at 60:40 between the teams and the BCCI is the other main source of income besides team sponsorships. Any reduction in title sponsorship will lessen this intake.

The BCCI sought to play down the crisis.

An anonymous source within the BCCI and IPL said:

“Firstly, it has nothing to do with the 2013 IPL spot fixing scandal. At the moment, they’re concerned about the future of the IPL – whether it’ll be a 6, 8, 10 or 12-team tournament. Secondly, they’re not satisfied with the publicity that they’re getting out of the event vis-a-vis the other sponsors. They’ve to pay us Rs 90-100 crores every year, which isn’t a small amount.

It’s a sham. They have sponsored two IPL editions since the scandal broke out. I think they’re facing financial difficulties of their own. When we met them in Delhi some time back, they never gave an indication about this. In fact, we had a healthy discussion with their chairman and CEO for India region, D Shivakumar, about our future plans.”

The stern action and harsh words employed by commercial interests in the sporting properties of FIFA and the BCCI are reminiscent of tactics employed by activist investors in corporate governance.

Activist shareholders secure equity stakes in corporations to put public pressure on their management.

Their goals may be financial or non-financial.

Despite having a relatively small stake–sometimes just 1% is enough—, these activist investors seek the support of financial institutions who hold larger stakes to further their goals.  Some of them even manage to secure seats on the board.

While sponsors cannot be said to own equity stakes in sporting federations, given the huge contribution they make to their revenues, their influence cannot be discounted.

The IPL, in the wake of Lalit Modi’s ouster, installed a Governing Council to overlook its operations. Would it be a far-fetched idea to have a sponsor representative on the council that could safeguard their interests?

Corporate governance for sports federations that include the interests of sponsors would be more than practical.

For once, interests of fans and sponsors are aligned. Will it always be so?

Is Dhoni finished as skipper and player?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As long as the Indian team keeps winning, Dhoni, the skipper, is inseparable from Dhoni, the player.

But once the side starts losing its moorings, Dhoni, the player, comes under the microscope.

The Indians lost the T20 series 2-0 to South Africa. A fair result would have been 1-1.

And the questions about Dhoni’s place in the squad start cropping up all over again.

This is not a new phenomenon.

The very same doubts were raised earlier this year when the Indians were outclassed in the tri-series Down Under.

A semi-final finish at the ODI World Cup and all doubts were swept under the carpet.

The victories have dried up; Mahi has lost his magic touch.

Dhoni’s batting record in ODI’s over the past year has been 485 runs at an average of 44.09 and a highest score of 85 not out.

This is against his career average of 52.24.

His T20 record is insignificant since he has batted in just two T20s this year.

While critics may be baying for his blood, his performances with the bat cannot be held against him—yet.

It is his position as skipper that is under threat especially given the new-found aggression Team India have discovered under Virat Kohli.

It is always going to be difficult for team-members to adjust from one leader’s all-out attacking instincts to another’s more laidback, restrained approach.

It is results that matter though and that’s where Dhoni will have to take charge in the upcoming ODI series against South Africa.

His leadership is being disputed.

His treatment of Ajinkya Rahane baffles cricket connoisseurs.

How can Team India’s best batsman over the past two years be left out from the ODI and T20 sides?

Does Dhoni really prefer Ambati Rayudu, a player more in the Dhoni mould?

Rayudu is no slouch with the bat in T20s as his exploits with Rajasthan Royals in the IPL prove.

Does he really need to warm the bench?

Dhoni does not feel the need to change his mind.

Talking about Rahane’s chances of selection for the first ODI at Green Park in Kanpur, he said:

“I think four is the number for Rahane. Even four is quite low for him I would say. Opening fits him really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket he bats lower but in international matches he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are who bat in the middle order in first class cricket.
So it is tough for him as of now. If am looking for someone to bat five or six I don’t think he is the person. His strength is top of the order. If given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three, if not then we would find it tough to place him in the playing eleven.”

Speaking about his own performance in the T20 series, the Indian skipper characteristically remarked:

“I personally feel that I used too much brain in this format.It’s very important I keep myself free and go and play my strokes. Depending on that I play a bit slow initially. In this format, I believe I should play the big shots from the word go irrespective of whatever the scenario is because that’s what this format is all about. A lot of time when I go into bat, be it the 16th or 17th over or in the fourth or fifth overs when wickets have fallen down, I have the tendency of like let’s go to 130, that will be good score.”

Former India bowler Ajit Agarkar has sounded the warning bells about Dhoni’s place in the side.

He said:

“The selectors need to have a closer look at what Dhoni is doing, not just as captain, but as a player as well.He has been a great player for India, but you don’t want him to become a liability for the team. And he needs to perform a lot better than he has (been). Just because he has done it over the years, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him to fail.”

Agarkar feels that Dhoni’s moving up the order is simply to give himself chances to keep his place in the side and not in the best interests of the squad.

He said:

“I’m not convinced he should bat at four. Just after a World Cup, you’re now trying to develop your team for the next World Cup. Four years is a long time, but for Dhoni, towards the end of his career, to put himself up, I’m not sure about it. You can understand if there are batsmen who can’t bat 3 and 4. But there is Ajinkya Rahane, who has been one of your best players in Test cricket and I don’t think he can bat lower than four in ODIs yet, unless he changes his game over his career.

Dhoni seems to have lost that ability of going out there and smashing it from ball one. He obviously takes his time. But he batted up the order in Bangladesh, and India still lost the series. All his career when people wanted him to bat up because he is so good and has that destructive ability, he has always maintained that he wants and needs to bat at No.6, where he can handle the pressure.

It’s a hard job batting at 5, 6 and 7. I’ve seen Yuvraj and MS himself do it for so long, but that doesn’t mean that it changes at this stage in his career. You’ve got to have guys who are good at certain numbers. And at the moment MS by promoting himself, is getting a Rahane or anyone else who bats there, into trouble. I would still have Raina and Dhoni at 5 and 6, so contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t think Dhoni should be batting at four at this stage in his career.”

Agarkar believes that Dhoni may not be the future when it comes to ODIs and T20s, specifically when it comes to leading the side.

He added:

“Looking at the results, India have generally been good in ODIs, but you’ve lost the World Cup semi-final, then you’ve lost in Bangladesh where Dhoni was captain twice, and you’ve now lost a T20 series. Yes, the T20s can go either way very quickly so you don’t want to judge someone, but for Dhoni this is a big series.

The selectors maybe need to look at where the Indian team is heading because Virat Kohli has done well as captain in Test cricket so maybe the selectors need to make that call after this series.”

Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, batted for his former skipper and teammate.

Speaking to Gulf News, he said:

“Cricketers like Dhoni have played for a long time, over ten years, and he understands himself, understands his body and mind-set better than anyone else.

The best thing one can do is move aside and let him take decisions [about his career] rather than taking decisions for him. You have got to give that respect to the player who has done so much for the nation and I would leave it to him and let him be the best judge. He has served Indian cricket in the best manner and let him be the decision taker.”

Dhoni, skipper and player, has been written off before; he has always proved his detractors wrong. He believes in going by gut instinct whether it is handing the last over in the T20 World Cup final to a rookie like Joginder Sharma or quitting as Test skipper midway through a series Down Under. The timing of these moves has been impeccable. The unorthodox acts may no longer work as expected but he is still capable of surprising scribes and fans alike.

This series could either be his swan song or the beginning of another golden chapter until the next T20 World Cup.

Whatever his fate, Indian cricket will always cherish ‘Captain Cool’ and his formidable achievements in the shorter versions of the game.

It’s extraordinary when one looks back that this is Dhoni’s 11th year as an international cricketer. It seems much longer. That’s the kind of impact he’s had both as captain and player. It’s also a tribute to his supreme levels of fitness that he has rarely missed series due to injury. He will be missed.

Go well, MS.

Crowd misbehaviour detracts from fine series win for SA

When will Indian fans realize that unruly behaviour is never going to prevent their beloved team losing?

It only serves to reinforce the feeling that cricket followers in India are neither sporting nor knowledgeable about the intricacies of the game.

They lack the maturity to accept defeat—unlike the very cricketers they idolise.

The pelting of the South Africans with water bottles at the Barabarti stadium in Cuttack to signal the crowd’s displeasure with their team’s abject batting display was yet another black mark in the annals of Indian fandom.

Rajarshi Majumdar, writing for International Business Times, termed their behaviour ‘barbaric’.

The journo said:

“The name Barabati can somewhat be related to the word ‘barbaric’ and why won’t someone draw such relations!”

He added:

“Will these same bunch of chaotic people throw their valuables at the players when they win a game?”

The South Africans are ranked No.1 in Tests and despite termed ‘chokers’ in ICC ODI and T20 tournaments, are no pushovers in bilateral series.

Team India have ceded the T20 series without much ado.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni bowlingat Adelaide Oval

Mahendra Singh Dhoni bowlingat Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The initiative has been surrendered.

MS Dhoni was sanguine about the entire episode.

He said:

“We should not be taking such things seriously. I still remember we play in Vizag once and we won the game very easily and that time also a lot of bottles were thrown. It starts with the first bottle and then it’s more of a fun for the spectators.

When it comes to the safety of the players, I don’t think there was any serious threat. A few of the powerful people in the crowd were throwing the bottles into the ground and the umpires felt it was safe to stay in the centre or go off the ground.

We didn’t play well and at times you get a reaction like these. It’s only the first few bottles that are hurled with serious intent, after that they just do it for fun.”

His counterpart, Faf Du Plessis, was not.

He said:

“It’s not nice to see it. I have played 5-6 years of cricket in India, and I have never seen that. So, you don’t want that to be a part of the game. You come here to compete, and the best team walks away winning.

To have that happening, I don’t think it’s a good thing. It should not happen. Even the way the game was played towards the end, it lost its intensity because obviously India thought that we have already won as we needed only 20 runs. Disappointing in that sense, and hopefully it is the first and the last time we see it on this tour.”

He was not sure whether the boorish behaviour was a sub-continental malaise.

He added:

“It is a difficult question to answer. All around the world you get people who get really passionate about their team. Sometimes you cross that boundary you shouldn’t. This is the first time I have experienced in India, so I can’t say it happens a lot. But as you said, it happens a lot in the sub-continental conditions. That’s definitely to do with the passion that fans have. But, it is surely not something we as players want to be a part of the game. Obviously, player security is very important wherever we go across the world. Let’s just hope that it’s a bad day at the office.”

Speaking to NDTV, Sunny Gavaskar blasted the miscreants:

“Cuttack should not be given an international for the next couple of years. As a deterrent, the BCCI must also stop the subsidy to the Odisha Cricket Association.Do the crowd throw valuables when the team does well? When the team does badly, the fans have no business to throw rubbish.”

Aggressive behaviour and attitudes on the field are punished by match referees when reported by on-field umpires. Players are checked by limits imposed by the ICC Code of Conduct.

Is it time sports administrators and patrons of the game demanded the same of fans? Can they be allowed to rum amok whenever they please?  Does safety in numbers and anonymity imply that they are allowed to carry their rage over to cricket grounds? Or is it time the Indian penal system implemented measures like in the UK and Germany where known hooligans are closely watched and even prevented from travelling abroad  because of the mischief they can wreak there?  Isn’t it time?

Anger need not be ‘bottled‘.

Aggression in the time of Virat Kohli: Justified or not?

Aggressive teams win, right?

That’s the conventional wisdom.

What if I told you it isn’t so?

It’s not aggressive teams that triumph but offensive ones i.e. teams that play offense as against defence.

Note the difference.

Why is this relevant?

It’s of significance because Team India—in cricket—have turned over a new leaf under Virat Kohli’s leadership and Ravi Shastri’s stewardship.

They are playing aggressive cricket—always looking to win and willing to give as good as they get on the field.

This is the New India—the India borne of the BCCI’s clout and Indian cricketer’s early exposure via the IPL to the rigors and pressures of international cricket.

They are fearless, they will not give a damn or that’s what they would have you and I believe.

They have something their predecessors lacked—attitude.

It’s not that Indian cricket hasn’t seen aggressive skippers before.

Sourav Ganguly was a brat as skipper—irrepressibly keeping Steve Waugh waiting for the toss and tearing off his shirt at Lord’s when they clinched the NatWest trophy.

He was also extremely successful—but his success came from his recognition that to win overseas, he had to build a conveyor belt of world-class pacers to be able to take on the English, South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders at their own game in their favoured conditions.

Ganguly’s churlishness was reactive; he had a point to make. Indians did not like to play tough or rough but would do so when push came to shove. They were not to be cowed or rolled over that easily.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni for all his tactical acumen in ODI cricket wasn’t as successful as Ganguly when it came to playing abroad.

He was more a defensive skipper; he would rather ensure that the game was not lost before seeking the win.

Virat Kohli’s assertion that he would play five bowlers  and let the specialist batters do their job is a breath of fresh air.

If he can find the right personnel to do the job, it is a strategy that can pay huge dividends.

What would Kohli not give to to have had Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar—in their prime—in this side? No disrespect to the current bunch of cricketers but they have miles to go before Indian fans sleep.

What is aggression?

An essay titled “Aggression in sport” on site defines it as “any form of behaviour directed toward the goal of harming of injuring another live being who is motivated to avoid such treatment”.

While viewed as a negative psychological characteristic, aggression can improve performance.

Assertive behaviour happens when a player will play within the rules of the game with high intensity but has no intention of harming his opponent(s).

The essay states:

“In sport, aggression has been defined into two categories: hostile aggression and instrumental aggression (Silva, 1983).  Hostile aggression is when the main aim is to cause harm or injury to your opponent. Instrumental aggression is when the main aim is achieve a goal by using aggression. For example a rugby player using aggression to tackle his opponent to win the ball. The player is not using his aggression to hurt the opponent but rather to win the ball back. Coulomb and Pfister (1998) conducted a study looking at aggression in high-level sport. They found that experienced athletes used more instrumental aggression in which they used to their advantage and that hostile aggression was less frequently used. Experienced athletes used self-control to help them with their aggression.”

What could be the source of this aggression?

Frustration due to goal blockage is considered one reason.

Situational and personal factors are other reasons i.e. a player’s personality and socially learnt cues that trigger an outburst of emotion are determining factors.

Stress can have a negative impact on performance and can even increase the possibility of injuring oneself.

The pressure to perform constantly, poor form and high expectations can all affect players adversely.

It is also not easy for focused athletes to balance their lives especially their non-sporting commitments.

Mitch Abrams, in his book “Anger Management in Sport”, writes:

Anger is a normal emotion. Anger is neither good nor bad, and no judgment need be attached to it. Some people believe that a problem arises if a person becomes angry. This idea is not true. To pass judgment on anger and condemn those who admit to becoming angry is the equivalent of robbing people of their humanness. Disallowing oneself from any part of the human experience weakens the experience in its totality. Sadness gives a reference point that makes happiness more appreciated. Tension can be better understood when compared with relaxation. It is about time we stopped making value judgments about anger. No one has ever gotten in trouble for becoming angry. You could be furious right now, but no one would know it unless you demonstrated some behaviour associated with the anger. The belief that anger is bad is so strongly engrained that people will sometimes deny its existence even when it is spilling out all over the place. We have all heard someone with a red face expel incendiary words accompanied by saliva and then follow up by saying, ‘I am not angry!’.The bad rap that anger has received has made it even more resistant to examination.

Truth be told, anger can be harnessed and used as fuel to assist in performance. Can it interfere with performance? You bet! Does it have to? Absolutely not. I have helped athletes compete harder with greater intensity for longer periods, motivated by their anger. The issue is not a matter of eliminating anger; it is a matter of keeping it at a level where it assists, not detracts from, performance.

Studies have shown that as anger increases, cognitive processing speed goes down, fine motor coordination and sensitivity to pain decrease, and muscle strength often increases. So for some athletes doing some tasks, anger can be helpful. For example, the defensive lineman who must make his way past a blocker to make a tackle might benefit from having some level of anger. For other tasks, anger would be a hindrance. The quarterback who needs to read the defense before deciding which receiver to throw to would likely perform better if he was not angry. In fact, some research supports this thesis. Players at football positions that require a lot of decision making tend to demonstrate lower levels of anger than players at positions that do not.

Therefore, when we talk about anger management for peak performance in sport, we are not always talking about making athletes polite and calm. Rather, we are referring to their ability to self-regulate their emotions to what their tasks require.”

Abrams has this to say about reactive aggression:

“Reactive aggression is behavior that has as its primary and sometimes solitary goal to do harm to someone. Usually, this action is in response to a perceived injustice, insult, or wrongdoing. This form of aggression is related to anger and is the behavior that gets athletes in trouble, both on and off the field. An example of reactive aggression may be the pitcher who is furious that the last time a certain batter came to the plate, he hit a 450-foot (140-meter) homer that cleared the bleachers. Still fuming, the pitcher aims his 95 mile-per-hour (150-kilometer-per-hour) fastball between the hitter’s shoulder blades.”

Abrams also elaborates on the difference between incidental and reactive or hostile violence in sport.

He says:

“Incidental violence is an extension of acceptable behavior. Checking in hockey provides a useful example. The line that differentiates checking from cross-checking or boarding, both of which are penalties, is often blurry. Overzealous players can certainly have their behavior spill over to being illegal. This behavior is different from reactive violence, in which the behavior is retaliatory. This kind of behavior can also be broken down into two categories. The first is the spontaneous response. There are some players who pride themselves on their ability to get inside their opponents’ heads and will deliberately provoke them to take them off their game. New York Rangers forward Sean Avery, often described as an agitator, is particularly proficient at this. So, the player provokes the other repeatedly, perhaps by checking them with their stick. Finally, the provoking player checks the first player one too many times, and the player turns and swings the stick at the opponent’s head. The response, although extreme, was not planned. This is spontaneous reactive aggression and is directly related to anger. Anger management programs specifically target reducing this type of behavior. More immediately though, the league or organization must penalize, fine, or suspend players engaging in such behavior as it can very easily cause serious injury.”

Ishant Sharma’s outbursts on the field in Sri Lanka that led to a one-match ban is an example of  reactive aggression. Sharma was reacting to what he believed was provocative behaviour on his opponent Dhammika Prasad’s part. He also appears to take his cue from his skipper’s aggressive nature on the field.

Virat Kohli was not seen to be rebuking his star ‘pupil’.

Instead the Delhi player glossed over his Ranji mate’s behaviour.

He said:

“I was very happy with the incident (argument with Prasad) when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl yesterday and they made him angry It could not have happened at a better time for us. And the way he (Ishant) bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident. He bowled his heart out like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Test matches. An angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways. It had to be controlled but in the end it benefitted us.”

Kohli, too, doesn’t seem to believe that he has matured as a skipper despite the historic series win in Sri Lanka.

He added:

“I don’t want to say that I have grown as a captain as the moment I make a mistake, I will be treated as a child again.”

Former players are a divided camp when it comes to their reactions to Virat’s all-out-aggression.

Fast bowlers Sreesanth and Venkatesh Prasad were quite enthusiastic about Kohli’s handling of Ishant.

Sreesanth said:

“Look at any pacer playing any form of cricket and you will see that he wants to be aggressive. Being aggressive is in the DNA of a fast bowler. Without aggression, a pacer cannot be at his best. What is aggression? It’s a quality that brings the best out of a pacer. I must say I was delighted to see Virat Kohli support Ishant Sharma. Virat is naturally aggressive. I like his style. Indian cricket and world cricket need captains like him.”

Prasad said:

“It’s always nice to know that your captain backs you in all situations. A captain’s backing always builds confidence.”

Former cricketer Akash Chopra had other thoughts.

He said:

“Aggression for me is not just verbal aggression. For me the kind of determination and grit shown by Cheteshwar Pujara during his unbeaten century in the third Test was also aggression. Virat might have backed Ishant in front of the media, but I am sure he will not be pleased to lose his premier bowler for the Mohali Test. The Mohali pitch has been known to assist pace bowlers in the past.

Ishant bowled superbly right from his very first ball of the first Test in Galle. There was no doubt that the defeat in the Galle Test was demoralizing for the team. We are not privy to conversations in the dressing room, but the entire team, and Ishant in particular, seemed pumped up for the challenge for the second Test at the P Sara Oval.

His behaviour against Dhammika Prasad, however, was pretty surprising to me. The Sri Lankan paceman might have been bowling deliberate no-balls and bouncers, but that’s nothing new in international cricket. The Ishant that I know doesn’t behave like that with anyone. I watched him bowl bouncers at Lord’s as well but at that time, he didn’t lose his.”

Ganguly is, however, quite pleased with Kohli.

He said:

“I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. He is a captain who always wants to win matches on the field and I love that passion in him. It is also a proud moment or all to see him lead a side with such passion. I want Kohli to do better than me as a skipper. But his main challenge will be when India tour abroad. Australia, England and South Africa will test his captaincy. All the best to him for the South Africa series.”

Steve Waugh believes that every cricketer should be passionate when he turns out in his country’s colours. He feels that Kohli is in the Ganguly ‘mould’.

He said:

“I don’t know what a gentleman’s game means. But as long as it is played in the right spirit. You’d be disappointed if the Indian side had no passion because they are representing 1.2 billion people. The Australian side represents 24 million people.

There is a lot at stake when you are playing for your country. You want passion. Sometimes that can bubble over but you want to see the emotion and see them really wanting to do well. You don’t want to cross the line where it becomes unsportsmanlike but that can happen occasionally in any sport. We want to see players with emotion and passion.

He (Kohli) plays aggressively and I guess his captaincy is a bit in the Sourav Ganguly mould, where he can be in your face and he can be a bit prickly at times. But I don’t mind that, I am happy to see that.

As a captain, he is never going to back down or be trampled upon by the opposition and that’s a good thing for India.

He will do well. He had a good win in Sri Lanka and few sides in the past decade have won away from home, so that’s a good feather in his cap. I haven’t seen him captain much but I assume by the way he plays the game that he is out there to win.”

Ishant Sharma’s childhood coach Shravan Kumar is displeased with his ward’s new-found aggro.

He said:

“He bowled very well but got too aggressive. That is something he could have avoided. Aggression is fine as long as you are not making a physical contact or abusing. There should not be any body contact. If you do that then you are penalised. That is what happened with Ishant.

It (Ishant becoming overtly aggressive) is because of Kohli’s aggressiveness. He believes in playing fearless cricket and doesn’t hold back. The atmosphere of the dressing room is to play fearless and that rubbed off on Ishant too. But fearless does not necessarily mean that you become ill-mannered. What happened was in bad taste.

Ishant is back home but I have not spoken to him yet. I will give him my piece of mind when I meet him. Aggression is acceptable if you are getting the batsman out, else there is no point of being belligerent.

Sledging is to distract the player but there should not be any physical contact. It (sledging) has been there for many years but there is a way to do it. Now that he has got a one match ban, it is not good for him as well as the team.”

Sanjay Manjrekar is another who has his doubts over Team India’s newly adopted philosophy.

In an article for Cricinfo entitled ‘”What’s eating Ishant Sharma?”, the former India player wrote:

“India may say, ‘We won the series, and this is what you need to be a winning team – a bit of aggression.’ A simple retort would be: ‘Why didn’t aggression win you games in Australia?’

What I can’t fathom about these send-offs is: when a wicket falls, it means the batsman has failed and the bowler has succeeded, but it’s the bowler who is angry for some reason. Why should anger follow success?

When the anger of the victor is aimed at the vanquished, it’s a brawl waiting to happen.”

Lendl Simmons and Therese Ho are in breach of confidence (Updated)

English: Cricketer Lendl Simmons playing a sho...

Cricketer Lendl Simmons playing a shot for the West Indies during the tour match against Leicestershire at Grace Road. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lendl Simmons is in the news and it’s not for his cricketing skills.

It’s for his lack of non-cricketing acumen—rather the appearance of it.

The West Indian cricketer has been dragged to court by a love interest with whom he had an extra-marital affair.

Account executive, Therese Ho, is seeking damages from the sportsman for breaching the common law principle of confidence by leaking intimate photos of her.

Simmons, in his defence, claimed that the plaintiff was the one who first breached his confidence by sending a picture to his fiancée—now his wife.

Simmons then sent the aforesaid photograph to Ho’s spouse.

He said:

“It was not an act of revenge or malice. I was  upset.”

Ho feels otherwise.

She says she believed that it was her moral obligation to tell Simmon’s fiancée of their relationship.

The judgement will occur on October 26. It is considered to be momentous given the increasing use of smart phones and social media in the dissemination of information.

Justice Frank Seepersad is presiding over the case.

The verdict depends on who can prove who did what first.

Ho claims further that Simmons shared her explicit pictures with teammates Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo while in India.

Wikipedia states:

“Breach of confidence in English law is an equitable doctrine which allows a person to claim a remedy where their confidence has been breached. A duty of confidence arises when confidential information comes to the knowledge of a person in circumstances where it would be unfair if it were disclosed to others. Breach of confidence gives rise to a civil claim. The Human Rights Act has developed the law on breach of confidence so that it now applies to private bodies as well as public ones.

English courts will recognise a breach of confidence if the following three things are present:

  • The information has ‘the necessary degree of confidence about it’
  • The information was provided in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence
  • There was an unauthorised use or disclosure of that information and, at least, the risk of damage”

Historically, privacy has never been a concern under English common law except for the breach of confidence doctrine.

That has changed since the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into English law.

The earliest definition of privacy is by Judge Cooley who said it was simply “the right to be left alone“.

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights deals with privacy. It reads:

“Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Whether Lendl Simmons is acquitted or not is for the esteemed judge to decide. Methinks, the real aggrieved parties are Simmons’ and Ho’s spouses. Don’t you agree?


Judge Frank Seepersad pronounced Lendl Simmons guilty on October 26, 2015. The cricketer “has been ordered to pay TT$150 000 (BDS$47 393) in compensation for leaking sexually explicit photographs of Therese Ho, an account executive with whom he had an affair. ”

Justice Seepersad, in his ruling, said:

“. . . His statement as contained in the messages that ‘she was just a f–k’ is unacceptable. The treatment of women as mere objects of pleasure is offensive, derogatory, antiquated, has no place in a civilized society and is indicative of the general lack of respect.

On the evidence, the Court is convinced that the defendant wanted to inflict mental and emotional harm to the claimant . . . There can be no circumstance that is more private and confidential than where parties are engaged in consensual sexual activity in private . . . All photographs and recordings which capture sexual practices conducted in private should only be disseminated where the express consent of all the parties involved has been obtained.

The distribution of sexually explicit images including the uploading of such material unto the internet, without the consent of the depicted subject cannot be condoned in civilized society.”

He added:

“The impact of social media and its consequent effect on individual and collective privacy have to be acknowledged and addressed.

Deeming legislative provisions that create a rebuttable presumption of ownership and responsibility for material posted on one’s social media page, Facebook account or from an individual’s email address should therefore be considered. The time for legislative intervention is long overdue.”

The full text of the verdict is available here.


Sourav Ganguly succeeds Jagmohan Dalmiya: The King is dead, long live the King!

The King is dead, long live the King!

It is, perhaps, fitting that Sourav Ganguly, Jagmohan Dalmiya’s erstwhile blue-eyed boy, succeeds him as president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).

The deal was sealed when the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, threw her weight behind Ganguly’s candidature on Wednesday.

Ganguly was only recently elected to the CAB serving as a joint-secretary.

With Didi playing kingmaker, Dada has been fast-forwarded to the corridors of power within the BCCI.

Ganguly had always enjoyed a special relationship with ‘Jaggu’—as Dalmiya was fondly known.

English: Sourav Ganguly at the opening of the ...

Sourav Ganguly at the opening of the mascot of Knight Riders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The southpaw ‘Maharajah’ was recalled to the Indian side in 1996 allegedly at Dalmiya’s behest.

It is also believed that Ganguly managed to hold on to his post as skipper through all the early turmoil because he enjoyed his benefactor’s support much as N Srinivasan is believed to be MS Dhoni’s champion.

It was also during Ganguly’s tenure as skipper that the BCCI under Dalmiya introduced centralised annual contracts for Indian cricketers.

Ganguly’s exit as skipper coincided with Dalmiya’s departure from the echelons of power.

The elegant former all-rounder is 43—still a relatively young man for the job.

It was six years ago that the former India skipper made known his ambitions of becoming the BCCI chief by 2014.

Speaking to Times of India then, the left-hander said:

“I am convinced that I can play a positive role. Having played the game at the highest level and being part of the system, I know what it takes to make a difference. At some point, I will find a way to get into the CAB where people have known me since I was a kid. I have respect for them and I am sure they will appreciate my concern for Bengal cricket and the difference I can make. I am in no hurry.”

It’s been six years but Ganguly has already taken a giant leap towards fulfilling his new dream.

It’s not that Ganguly is a total novice at this game of musical chairs.

His father, Chandidas, was a member of the CAB serving as assistant secretary, treasurer, secretary, vice-president and member of trustee board.

In turn, Ganguly has a chance to play kingmaker at the BCCI elections when they meet to elect the new president. It will be interesting to see how he plays his cards.

Ganguly is loyal to a fault. Dalmiya’s scion Avishek replaces his deceased father in the CAB as the joint secretary.

English: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Baner...

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee attends a news conference in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata September 7, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mamata Banerjee denied that it is at her interference that Bengal’s favourite son ascended to the throne.

She said:

“We are going through a big crisis after his (Dalmiya) unfortunate death. Someone has to head CAB. Dalmiya loved cricket so much. So it’s important that the people closed to him (should run the show)… cricket family is most important. My only request to all of you that be together, remain united and take the Jaguda’s legacy forward. It’s not fair for me to interfere. I just want them to do well, I’m there with them like a deputy or colleague. It’s what they have decided together.I should not be announcing this but since all of them are requesting I feel that as someone (Sourav Ganguly) who had led India so many years should now take charge of the role and they should form the set up with Abhishek, Subir, Biswarup and all other senior members.”

She added:

“Please don’t involve the state government here. I am nobody. It’s what they decided. Please don’t bring any controversy here. It’s their decision as they all are cricket lovers. After Jaguda’s death, CAB is without a head now and they have decided that Sourav will become the president and in his place Avishek will become the joint secretary till the next elections in July.”

Ganguly said:

“Anything in life is a new challenge. I am particularly happy that Avishek is coming into administration as it is a very emotional time for him. Myself, Biswarup, Subir would all work together and there won’t be any problems. We have 117 (actually 121) members and we will decide the way forward. Like she said, it is not her decision. She had spoken to the members. For me this is not everything. I will do whatever I can, whatever they want me to do. Will take over immediately as we have a game on October 8. These are big shoes to fill.”

Former India cricketer and Ganguly’s teammate VVS Laxman welcomed his elevation to the post.

He said:

“It’s Sourav who brought me here and I’m seeing him as an administrator for last one year. He’s trying his best to take Bengal cricket forward. It’s a great selection and a positive sign for the Indian cricket.”

Laxman is the batting consultant with the state’s Ranji side.

Ajay Jadeja was more circumspect in his reaction.

He said:

“Ganguly has been a good leader but administration is a different ball game. At the same time, being a former cricketer, it is beneficial for him. Have faith in him. Wait and watch. It is his new innings and I wish him the best.”

Ganguly, however, will not have everything going his way.

He has already ruffled feathers within the CAB by seeking the chief minster’s blessings sidestepping the democratic process. The Prince of Calcutta was probably well aware that he might not be able to command the majority required.

Derek Abraham, writing for the DNA, commented:

“Two years ago, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had accused the Union sports ministry of trying to ‘assume control’ of sports federations by bringing in the National Sports Code. Soon Ajay Maken, the sports minister, was shunted out by all those politicians controlling various federations, including the BCCI.

However, when Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee threw her weight behind former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Wednesday, virtually anointing him president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, none of the so-called custodians of the BCCI’s autonomy came forward to slam the move.”

He adds:

“The CAB is an institution dating back to 1928. Ganguly has, quite shockingly, made a mockery of the institutional process that ought to have been followed. By using his good offices with the most powerful person in the state, India’s second-most successful skipper has subjected himself to scrutiny both within and outside the cricket fraternity.

A joint secretary serving his first term, Ganguly has bypassed many veteran administrators who have been serving the association for decades. Worse, he got Avishek Dalmiya, the deceased president’s son, to become the joint secretary. For the record, Avishek never been a part of a sub-committee of the CAB. If Ganguly is a novice in cricket administration, then Avishek is a fledgling.

To quote a CAB insider, the ‘new president’ has done exactly what his predecessor never wanted — play into the hands of the government of the day. ‘He has disappointed us all by sidestepping the democratic process of the CAB. But there is nothing we can do because he has Madam’s support.’”

Boria Majumdar, blogging for the Economic Times, raises similar points in his post.

He is , however, optimistic that Ganguly may just be the ‘breath of fresh air’ the Board needs.

He writes:

“The BCCI needs men of credibility and integrity after what it has gone through the last few years. Ganguly should come as a breath of fresh air for the board’s mandarins. He is a face they can thrust forward as a diplomatic shield in many uncomfortable situations. His presence in the board’s special general meetings (SGMs) and annual general meetings (AGMs) should result in him making tangible contributions to improving Indian cricket both at home and abroad.

Can we add another feather to the many that he already wears? With Sourav Ganguly you just can’t tell.”

While the political patronage sought by Ganguly is to be deplored, why do members of the BCCI (and other sports bodies) not take issue when politicians such as Sharad Pawar and Arun Jaitley make the BCCI an extension of their political masters’ rivalry? We also have to ask ourselves that if it had not been Ganguly but some businessperson who sought the Trinamool Congress’ leader’s support, would there have been such a hue-and-cry? If the answer’s no, then why the hypocrisy?

It’s time that the national sports federations revisited the provisions of the Draft National Sports Development bill which they rejected and added clauses that would bolster their independence. Till then, the kind of politicking and ad-hoc decision-making process typical of Indian sports bodies will continue to be a feature of the national landscape.

Stuart Binny: Somebody’s son, somebody’s spouse

It must not be easy being Stuart Binny.

His father, Roger Michael Humphrey, was a member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad. He claimed 18 wickets at the Prudential Cup in England, arguably Team India’s greatest overseas triumph, and 17 at the epochal World Series Championship in 1985. He played 27 Tests accumulating five 50s and bagging 47 wickets.

He was the first Anglo-Indian to play for the country. He is now a national selector.

Stuart’s wife, Mayanti Langer, is a TV sports journalist with Star. The daughter of an army-man, Lt. General Sanjiv Langer, she is a BA (Hons) graduate from Hindu College, University of Delhi.

So who is Stuart Binny?

Roger Binny’s son?

Mayanti Langer’s spouse?

Take your pick.

If you know your cricketing onions, you would have guessed that Stuart is purportedly the answer to every Indian fan’s dreams of a seaming all-rounder in the mould of Kapil Dev or Manoj Prabhakar.

Team India has always been on the lookout for a pacer who can bat as well as he can bowl.

Irfan Pathan was supposed to be the next big thing. But he turned out to be an enigma breaking down more often than playing.

Pathan overshadowed Zaheer Khan in the squad when he turned out in Indian colours. His Test statistics read one ton, nine fifties with a round 100 wickets with seven instances of five wickets or more in an innings and 10 wickets in a match on two occasions. All this in 29 games.

He is described as one of the lost boys of Indian cricket by Shashi Tharoor in an article for Cricinfo.

Tharoor writes:

“Of contemporary cricketers, at least two seem in danger of adding their names to this tragically distinguished list. No one who saw Irfan Pathan swinging India to victory in the one-day series in Pakistan in 2003-04, or taking a hat-trick against the same team two years later, or scoring a century against them the year after that, or winning the Man of the Match in a Test in Australia and in the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa, would imagine that he could be washed up at 25. And yet he is deemed to have lost his mojo to the point where he is not even in the frame for selection for the 2011 World Cup.”

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar with his gentle medium-pace swing and combative batting promised to be the all-rounder Indian cricket deserves. But he, too, has been plagued by injuries and finds himself waging a comeback battle against the odds.

Binny, however, leads a charmed life.

Selected to be a member of the 2015 ODI World Cup, whence his father famously recused himself when his name came up for discussion, Binny was one of the rebels who joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2007. He returned to the BCCI fold after two seasons and is now with the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.  He surprisingly has the best figures for an Indian in ODI cricket—6-4 against Bangladesh.

Binny did not feature in a single game in the World Cup and was distinctly lucky to be recalled for India’s recent tour of Sri Lanka. India sealed the Test series 2-1 winning the last two matches. Binny did not play the first game but was swapped in for Harbhajan Singh in the latter two.

Roger and Stuart are only the fourth father-son pair to represent their country in World Cup cricket. The other three are Lance and Chris Cairns (New Zealand), Don and Derek Pringle and Chris and Stuart Broad (England).

Binny has a chance to make sure of his spot as a bowling all-rounder in the upcoming series against South Africa. He is a part of both the ODI and T20 squads.

The 31-year-old believes that he can only improve with more international outings.

He said:

“As Virat (Kohli) said, if I get more opportunities, I would get better – that’s very much true. It is not only more opportunities one gets, but also off-field preparations, that helps. International cricket is a lot of mental pressure. It is about dealing with situations which you have faced in Ranji Trophy, but it is on a much larger and bigger scale, so you have to go out and do the same in international cricket as well. I haven’t made too many changes when it comes to skill work, but I have made lot of changes when it comes to my game in my head.”

Binny’s romance with Mayanti Langer has been compared to the Iker Casillas-Sara Carbonero pairing. The Spanish TV journalist followed her beau during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Langer ,too, was around during this year’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. Langer, however, was much too busy with her role to have time for her husband.

She said:

“Anchoring is now my career and I am ready to give my hundred percent for the job. Stuart is a pro while I am a professional presenter, too. Our jobs do not overlap. He is doing his job for the team while I am doing mine. There is no time even to think of doing something else, the job is so intriguing.I have a specific job to present shows. I am a member of the broadcasting company and thinking about the job assigned to me only. He is doing the same for his team, I know. It’s a huge event back in India, the ICC World Cup. I have to be ready always.”

Langer added that live anchoring is a tough job and one has to think on one’s feet.

“You are doing the job as an anchor and commenting on a particular match, but you need to know what is going around the tournament, too. You may try to be as well prepared as well before the match, but unless you know what’s happening round the corner, you cannot excel. Neither you can win hearts of the viewers then.”

Mayanti began her career as a football correspondent. She was a soccer player while in school.

She believes that she’s an original. Ask her about ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and she’s quick to retort that she began much before that.

Is Mayanti Stuart’s lucky charm? They married in 2012 and Stuart’s career post the honeymoon has been on the upswing.

But it’s for Stuart to change the perception that he’s not just Roger’s son and Mayanti’s husband.

Will there come a time when they will be Stuart’s pater and better half respectively instead?

The forthcoming series against South Africa at home just might settle the issue.

An apertura and clausura for the IPL?

In a recent article on the ISL, I briefly expounded on the J-League and how it has two sections in a season. There are two champions in a year and the league champion is decided by a series of playoffs between the winners of each section and the top two point accumulators in each phase.

This also happens to be a feature of Latin American soccer leagues with the traditional season from August to May divided into two parts termed the ‘Apertura’ [aperˈtuɾa] and ‘Clausura’ [klawˈsuɾa] tournaments. These words are Spanish for ‘opening’ and ‘closing’.

Light-green shows countries that have Apertura...

Light-green shows countries that have Apertura and Clausura tournaments during calendar year. Orange shows countries where seasons are similar with European system Autumn/Spring. Number 1 shows countries where the Apertura and Clausura are parts of a larger tournament, and the winners are not national champions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Haiti, where they speak French, it’s ‘Ouverture’ and ‘Fermeture’. In Belize, where English is the pre-dominant tongue, it’s simply the ‘Opening’ and ‘Closing’ seasons.

The National American Soccer League also adopts a similar regime dividing the second-level league into ‘Spring’ and ‘Fall’ championships.

The terminology varies across different countries.

In Argentina, it’s ‘Inicial’ and ‘Final ‘(Spanish for “initial” and “final“). In Colombia, ‘Apertura’ and ‘Finalización’ and  in  Costa Rica, ‘Invierno’ and ‘Verano’ (Spanish for ‘winter’ and ‘summer’).

In some countries, these tournaments are national championships by themselves. In others, there is a final stage much like the J-League where the top teams play each other to be crowned the season’s winners. In yet others, the two league winners play each other in a curtain-raiser at the beginning of the next season.

Most tourneys with fewer teams utilize a double round-robin format while in leagues with many more sides participating, only a single round-robin format suffices.

Relegations, if any, are usually on an aggregate basis.

Application to IPL

A photo of a match between Chennai SuperKings ...

A photo of a match between Chennai SuperKings and Kolkata Knightriders during the DLF IPL T20 tournament (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year, the Champions League Twenty20 was scrapped by the Australian, English and Indian boards jointly.

The reasons given were poor viewership and lack of sponsorship.

Franchises from India, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and England take part. England have not participated since 2013 citing clashes with their domestic season.

Amongst all the T20 leagues taking place today, the Indian Premier League is the richest, most glamorous and most successful by far.

However, the competition is plagued by player withdrawals and injuries as well as viewer fatigue given the sheer number of matches over a period of two months.

This year, the IPL followed the ODI World Cup. It was difficult to attract television sponsors given their budgets had already been exhausted on 2015’s premier cricket tournament.

This is a perennial problem with the IPL when international tournaments are scheduled either before or after it. The BCCI, with its clout, may have cleared the ICC calendar for its showcase tourney  but it has no control on the purse-strings of corporate sponsors and where they choose to spend their advertising money.

The splitting of the IPL into two phases can be the solution to these worries.

A shorter tourney would be more attractive to sponsors, cut both player and viewer fatigue and keep interest right from the beginning without having the audience tune in towards the end of the league to clue in as to which teams would finally qualify for the knock-out rounds.

The current format is a double round-robin league featuring home and away games.

Each side plays a total of 14 games. In a single round-robin league, this would be reduced to seven each.

Seven is not an even number. Half the teams would be slightly advantaged, playing one game more at home. This, of course, is offset by them playing one less home-game in the latter phase.

The division into two pieces would allow for a much tighter ship. Interest in the next phase would be retained by the addition of a playoff round deciding the eventual victor.

This would also allow players to make themselves available for at least one phase of the tournament and not have them either arrive or leave abruptly midway through the tournament. The first phase could be scheduled for April and the second in October using the spot vacated by the Champions League.

An addition of four more games as a season closer can always be accommodated. This, of course, may entail expenditure on two more trophies but that is a small price to pay for a much more streamlined event.

The clamour for reform in the IPL ought not to be confined to spot-fixing allegations, conflicts of interest, transparency and probity in ownership.

The tournament itself needs to be examined and vetted to see that it can withstand the wares from mushrooming leagues in other sports that slowly but surely will erode their viewership.

Standing still on a moving treadmill is never a good idea.

Ben Stokes no fury at his obstructive dismissal

Was it obstruction or was it self-defence?

Was it deliberate or was it instinctive?

Preservation of one’s self is an instinctive response in any living creäture.

Was Ben Stokes any different?

There is no one way to decide it—it all depends on which side you’re rooting for.

The third umpire’s decision is final. And Joe Wilson adjudged the left-hander out.

And that’s how it should have stayed.

Sure, Stokes was the first English batsman to be dismissed in such a fashion in an ODI.

Sure, he was only the seventh batter in cricketing history to be kayoed so cruelly.

Sure, to be run-out is the unhappiest and unlikeliest  way any cricketer expects or wishes to be dismissed and to be considered wilful in obstructing the natural course of a game is worse.

The opposing skippers have their viewpoints.

Steve Smith called for a referral after appealing and has no qualms about his decision. He will not be losing any sleep over it.

Smith said:

“If you’re out of your crease and put your hand up to stop the ball, it’s out.

It might have looked a bit worse because it went back to the bowler, but it’s exactly the same as me turning for a second run, putting my arm out and stopping the ball.

The ball wasn’t going to hit him, he was out of his crease, he put his arm out and got in the way of the ball. The ball was going very close to hitting the stumps.

If you read the rule book, we’re well within our rights to appeal and the umpires have given it out.

Not at all. I’ve got no dramas with that (his decision to appeal).

I thought it was the right decision at the time and I still think it’s the right decision.”

The English were united in deriding Smith’s characterisation of his act.

English skipper, Eoin Morgan, said:

“A guy throws the ball in your direction and all you can do is flinch.

You don’t have time to think. It was a natural reaction to avoid the ball. Mitchell Starc was about five yards away from Ben Stokes.

The decision was made. It would have been a lot different if we were fielding.”

English: Eoin Morgan in the field during the 2...

English: Eoin Morgan in the field during the 2nd ODI against Bangladesh at the County Ground Bristol. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Would it, Morgan, would it, really? Easier said than done, Eoin, easier said than done.)

Michael Vaughan said :

“Anyone who has played the game knows that when the ball is thrown at you from close range like that you put your hand up to protect yourself. When you see it in real time he fears the ball is going to hit him. It was obvious. It was a poor decision.”

Alec Stewart added:

“He was taking evasive action; he’s looking the other way. Show me someone who can catch the ball looking the other way?

You would have thought between the three umpires that common sense would have prevailed.”

Shane Warne was not quite rooting for Smith and his side.

Law 37 (Obstructing the field) states quite categorically:

“1. Out Obstructing the field

Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if he wilfully attempts to obstruct or distract the fielding side by word or action.  In particular, but not solely, it shall be regarded as obstruction and either batsman will be out Obstructing the field if while the ball is in play and after the striker has completed the act of playing the ball, as defined in Law 33.1, he wilfully strikes the ball with

(i) a hand not holding the bat, unless this is in order to avoid injury.  See also Law 33.2 (Not out Handled the ball).

(ii) any other part of his person or with his bat.  See also Law 34 (Hit the ball twice).

2. Accidental obstruction

It is for either umpire to decide whether any obstruction or distraction is wilful or not.  He shall consult the other umpire if he has any doubt.”

Stokes himself is not chuffed about the manner of his exit.

Team-mate, Steve Finn, was quite vocal with his antipathy.

He said:

“I think everyone in the dressing room, when we saw it in real time, we all thought he was taking evasive action. When you watch it in slo-mo, the fielding team were entitled to appeal if you’re going by the letter of the game. The fact that it was in slow-motion didn’t help Ben’s cause.

How often does the bowler feign to throw the ball but doesn’t actually do it? But this time he did let the ball go and, by the time you realise the bowler has actually let the ball go, then first and foremost you’re worried for your safety rather than worrying about where your stumps are.

Everyone in the dressing room was disappointed but I don’t think the game was won or lost at that moment. In the dressing room, we weren’t overly happy.”

If there was any doubt in Smith’s mind about the mode of dismissal, he should have retracted his appeal and let the game continue. This would have been within the ambit of the Spirit of the Game. He need not have looked further than former India Test skipper MS Dhoni and his recent magnanimity in rescinding his appeal against Ian Bell’s dismissal for walking out for tea before the bails were whipped off by the on-field umpires. But I guess, no one, least of all Steven Smith, wishes to be termed a sucker in this ultra-competitive day and age.

Waugh, Ponting and Holding toss away the coin

If Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Holding have their way, there will be no more commemorative coins to toss while celebrating special Test occasions.

Ricky Ponting at a training session at the Ade...

Ricky Ponting at a training session at the Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Aussie skipper Ponting suggested—during the recent Ashes series—that the toss be done away with and have the visiting side choose which side should bat first. This would even out any advantage from pitches prepared to suit the home side.

Stephen Rodger Waugh, former professional cric...

Stephen Rodger Waugh, former professional cricketer and captain of the Australian national team, photographed at the Sydney Cricket Ground at the start of the Test match against South Africa in January 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speaking to Melbourne Radio Station, Waugh said:

“I don’t mind that, I think that’s not such a bad thing. At the end of the day I think there’s probably too much emphasis placed on the toss and the conditions away from home. I don’t mind the authorities looking at some other options.”

Michael Holding, in his column for Wisden India, wrote:

“…the concerned authorities must look at what Ricky Ponting suggested – no more tosses. The minor setback there in my opinion, is that tosses are big for television. It makes for good tension, everyone is focussed on that coin when it’s in the air and the winning captain’s decision and so on. But that isn’t relevant now, times have changed and interest is waning in Test match cricket. What you need to do now is to make sure you have even contests between bat and ball. For that, there should be no toss and the visiting captain should be allowed to decide what he wants to do after inspecting the pitch. It’ll ensure better pitches throughout the world, because no one will look to build a pitch whose features are obvious, and which will give an immediate advantage to the visiting captain. They will try and prepare good quality surfaces that give no obvious advantage to anyone, which is what you want in Test matches. Some may say that policy will produce flat lifeless pitches with boring games. I disagree. You will still see a bit of ‘hometown’ pitches which suit the qualities of the home team more than the opposition, but the slant won’t be as dramatic as we tend to see in some countries now.”

In his previous post, the West Indian fast bowler elaborated on what makes a side great.

“Great teams can win home and away, and good teams will win at home. It’s as simple as that. I don’t personally see much wrong with that, to be honest. It comes down to how people classify them. Teams should only be qualified as ‘great’ only if they can perform all over the world, and can excel everywhere. If they don’t, they’re not a great team, and that’s fine.

I don’t think the boards should actively try and do something about making it even, you don’t need to say: ‘okay, we have to find a way of making sure teams can do well overseas’. On the contrary, talk to the individuals, the players who are actually playing and performing, and see what necessary adjustments should be done for them to be successful when they leave their homes. There is nothing wrong with people failing away from home as far as world cricket is concerned. I don’t think they should try and make an adjustment. If you can, you can. If you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough.

Having said that, when you go to some countries, the pitches are prepared in such a way that they are highly in favour of the home team. And I’m talking about even going to some parts of the subcontinent, in India, for instance, where you find – not necessarily now, but quite a few years ago – pitches that turn from day one. It didn’t matter who was touring India, because they knew they had great spinners, and they would be brought into the game from day one.

In England, they changed the nature of the pitches altogether, because they recognised that without seaming pitches, they had no chance of beating Australia. As I said before, I don’t see it as a major factor when you say teams are better at home than overseas, but if you want to have consistent pitches in countries, then you have got to adapt the principle that Ricky Ponting suggested – get rid of the toss.

All you need is for the visiting team to look at the pitch and decide what they will do. Then you will always get consistent pitches, because if it’s too heavily favoured in one way or the other, then the visiting team can take advantage with their decision. That way you’ll get consistent pitches, but that doesn’t mean all of sudden touring sides will start winning away from home. They’ll get a better chance of winning, but at the same time, they’ll have to play well to win away from home, because you can’t change overhead conditions. The ball will still swing in England, and you’ll still need good technique to play there. But the pitches won’t be that heavily favoured to the home bowlers.”

Will the ICC look into the matter?

We don’t wish to see series everywhere decided by the toss and pitches suited to the home side.

We’d like to watch real contests and adaptable players, not bully boys who score by the tons and take wickets by the dozen in their backyards and come up a cropper elsewhere.

We need classy players and their class should be evident on all surfaces and in all conditions.

Take away the toss if that’s what’s needed.

Prepare sporting wickets if that’s what’s needed.

Make curators more independent if that’s what’s needed.

Do whatever that’s needed.

Just don’t let Test cricket die.


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