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The Why and Que of Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke – II

If Sangakkara is the quintessential gentleman beyond the game, Michael Clarke is the bright young upstart turned elder statesman and guardian of its values.

The transformation occurred under intense public scrutiny where every move and misdemeanour was analysed and dissected.

Pup’s metamorphosis would not have been possible without the support of his partner and wife, Kyly Boldy.

Clarke’s previous choice, Lara Bingle, was an equally high profile personality.

Their three-year relationship which began in 2007 and ended in 2010 was always in the news and not for the right reasons.

It was, perhaps, no surprise that the relationship ended around the time Clarke began his ascension to the throne of Australian cricket.

The ostensible reason for the break-up was an exclusive tell-all interview that Bingle sold to a women’s magazine.

And that’s when the current Mrs. Clarke and then Kyly Boldy boldly stepped into the frame.

From ‘just friends’ to an ‘item’ within months, the former schoolmates fast forwarded to the present with Boldy proving to be an able and capable First Lady of the national obsession.

Just who is Kyly Boldy?

According to her:

“I’d hope that people would think I come across as classy and that’s just because I like to hold myself that way. I guess that’s what I like to embrace and I think that’s a really nice quality in a woman.

And I hope people see me as a fun-loving ‘girl next door’. I’m a lot more of a jokester than everyone thinks – a lot more. I’m always cracking some kind of a joke or having a laugh, and I think people will be a bit surprised to see that really down-to-earth Kyly my family get to see.”

The comparisons to Bingle were evident, at first. They are both models and media personalities in their own rights.

Boldy, however, decided to shun the limelight post her marriage to Clarke in 2012.

The wedding was low-profile.

Boldy certainly has no time or place for the WAG tag used to euphemistically describe sportsmen’s partners.

She says:

“I’m not sure who started it, but they should get a slap on the wrist. Every single wife or girlfriend I’ve met who has been a part of the cricket community has always stood on her own – they have their own jobs, they have their own careers, they all do very, very well for themselves. I wonder what the husbands could be called? I wonder if we could swap this around?”

And she certainly would not like to take any credit for her husband’s success.

“That is so funny. But, nah, I don’t take any credit for any of his success. I see Michael wake up every single day, trying to be the best cricketer he can be, to be a better captain than the day before. The dedication and the passion that he has for his job is something I’ve never seen before and something I really admire. He should get every little bit of credit.

Sure, his family life or his home life might be more suitable for him, and maybe he’s just more comfortable that he feels like he can just go to cricket and do his thing – but that’s not a question I can answer. I am just happy that he is doing so well, and I know he will continue to do well because he wants to.”

She sums up her life with Clarke in these words:

“You have to wake up every single day with your own goals and dreams in life, love, family and career. You can’t take that away from anybody and I think that’s what our family is about.”

Kyly took her job as captain Clarke’s better half seriously enough to learn the rules to the game.

“As everyone keeps reminding me, it (being cricket captain) is the second most important job in Australia so obviously being alongside Michael, that is a huge thing. I’ve matured with age, a girl that has turned into a lady, and I’m trying to do everything the best way I can by learning as I go. I’ve had to Wikipedia the rules because I wanted to go into it knowing something. It makes it so much more enjoyable when you know exactly what is going on. And then you really do start to love the game because you can appreciate what is happening.”

Perhaps, it has helped that Clarke himself was a more mature person when he started dating Kyly.

An older, wiser Clarke refused to talk about his personal life and focused media questions on his cricket.

Clarke also has nothing but praise for his wife’s workout ethic especially her diet.

“I can’t believe how disciplined she is with her diet. She’s got that self-discipline to not touch the junk food if she doesn’t want to, whereas if I see it in the cupboard it’s gone, I eat it! I can’t have two pieces of chocolate and put it away, I’ve got to eat the whole bar.”

(Funny how this jells with my personal view that if sportsmen need to watch their diets, they should date or wed models or actresses who do that all the time. Look at Shane Warne’s new, slim, look since teaming up with Elizabeth Hurley—now apart.)

A bad back and an indifferent Ashes series hastened Pup’s early retirement. It, however,  gives the couple ample privacy and time to welcome the first addition to their family with Kyly expecting soon.

While two greats exit the field, they begin anew a home life that demands much more from them than just runs, wickets, catches and wins. It is a second innings away from glory but will require guts nonetheless.

The Why and Que of Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke – I

There’s always something to be said about back stories—the people, the spouses, the families behind a sportsperson’s successes.

Two stalwarts of the game—Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke—retire from the game having announced their exit some time before.

Much has been written about them; tributes have been paid—ad nauseam.

But what about the women in their lives?

Yehali Sangakkara is the talk of the town ever since stunning pictures with her hubby hit the sports pages.

The dynamic and sultry beauty expressed her sentiments about her counterpart returning home.

Speaking to Sony Six, Yehali said:

“He is an extremely messy person, the messiest on earth. But he loves to cook and absolutely loves making pasta at home.We never discussed cricket at home and always made sure there was life away from the sport at home. Conversations revolved around kids and made sure there was life beyond the sport.Kumar is a very relaxed, open sort of person. He has never demanded much. (But) He will have to get used to our routine now. He will of course still play some cricket for a year or two.”

Yehali and Kumara have known each other since their school days. They dated for eight years before settling down.

The wicketkeeper-batsman says:

“In my case, it (marriage) keeps me grounded and gives me a base where I can think my life out, refocus and renew energies for the next day.”

The 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture is Yehali’s favoured Sanga moment when it comes to cricket.

Here’s a sample of her spouse’s famed words:

“Ladies and Gentleman, the history of my country extends over 2500 years.

A beautiful island situated in an advantageously strategic position in the Indian Ocean has long attracted the attentions of the world at times to both our disadvantage and at times to our advantage.

Sri Lanka is land rich in natural beauty and resources augmented by a wonderfully resilient and vibrant and hospitable people whose attitude to life has been shaped by volatile politics both internal and from without.

In our history you will find periods of glorious peace and prosperity and times of great strife, war and violence. Sri Lankans have been hardened by experience and have shown themselves to be a resilient and proud society celebrating at all times our zest for life and living.

Sri Lankans are a close knit community. The strength of the family unit reflects the spirit of our communities. We are an inquisitive and fun-loving people, smiling defiantly in the face of hardship and raucously celebrating times of prosperity.

Living not for tomorrow, but for today and savouring every breath of our daily existence. We are fiercely proud of our heritage and culture; the ordinary Sri Lankan standing tall and secure in that knowledge.

Over four hundred years of colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has failed to crush or temper our indomitable spirit. And yet in this context the influence upon our recent history and society by the introduced sport of cricket is surprising and noteworthy.

Sri Lankans for centuries have fiercely resisted the Westernisation of our society, at times summarily dismissing western tradition and influence as evil and detrimental.

Yet cricket, somehow, managed to slip through the crack in our anti-Western defences and has now become the most precious heirloom of our British Colonial inheritance.

Maybe it is a result of our simple sense of hospitality where a guest is treated to all that we have and at times even to what we don’t have.

If you a visit a rural Sri Lankan home and you are served a cup of tea you will find it to be intolerably sweet. I have at times experienced this and upon further inquiry have found that it is because the hosts believe that the guest is entitled to more of everything including the sugar. In homes where sugar is an ill-affordable luxury a guest will still have sugary tea while the hosts go without.”

Speaking to Wisden India, Sangakkara elaborated on his partnership with Yehali:

“I met her in Kandy, we were in two schools that had the same founder. Rev Ireland Jones founded Trinity and then Hillwood College in Kandy. I met her there when I was about 16-17 and have been with her for well over 20 years now. And it’s been the best partnership of my life, without a doubt. We have two beautiful children and she’s a very practical, very sensible lady who minces no words in telling me exactly what she thinks of my cricket or what I do or the decisions that I make. Not in any technical sense but in a sense of whether what the thought processes are that go into making these decisions. She has been one of the most important figures in keeping me grounded and ensuring that there is sanity at home. There is order when I am playing. When I am away from home, I have always travelled with them, with my wife and my children. I have been very, very blessed to have her in my life and hopefully, she will decide to stay with me for many years longer.”

Sangakkara’s wife was expecting when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Pakistan. Recalling that gruesome event, the former skipper said:

“Yes, actually my wife was a few months pregnant, quite pregnant by the time we were attacked. So actually I called her and I spoke to her and I said listen, we were driving to the ground and there has been a bit of a shooting but everyone’s fine. Don’t worry about anything. That’s all I told her, I didn’t tell her anything about who got hurt, who got hit and all of this. But unfortunately, there were news items being run saying I got hit in the head and people have died and all these things and she was panicking. I got a few calls and at the end of the day I said listen, I am talking to you, so that means I am fine! But at the same time, I can understand the stress that she was going through. It was easier for us because we knew exactly what was happening but they weren’t getting the news quickly enough or clearly enough. And it was hugely stressful not just on her but all the families and you could see when we landed that the relief they had to have us back and at home in Sri Lanka. It was quite a tough time.”

If  Kumara is the man-about-town, his other half is no less enterprising.

Yehali took over a television microphone when she ‘interviewed’ an Aussie spectator at his final Test in Colombo.

The Australian was all paeans.

He said:

“I love Kumar. He is one of the all-time greats of cricket. I am an Australian but am a huge supporter of Sri Lankan cricket.It’s a sad day to see Kumar retire but we will always remember his great innings.”

Yehali revealed:

“I think he went through the normal process – from school to NCC to ‘A’ team and then to the national team. The process worked and he became mature.We are blessed to have a very supportive family. Kumar’s parents and siblings are very supportive. We have good friends around us who keep us grounded. He always believes in doing the right thing. He says, ‘If you do the right thing, good will follow’. He has always taken responsibility on himself rather than pointing fingers at others.”

To be continued…

Post-mortem: Team India needs to sustain momentum

Team India lost the first Test to Sri Lanka at Galle from a seemingly invulnerable position.

A batting collapse followed an inept display of bowling intent which let the Islanders back into the match.

Once a foothold was established, the home side drove home their advantage in the face of tentativeness from the visitors.

Does this signal the end of the ‘five-bowlers’ theory?

Virat Kohli says no and he is right.

He said:

“If I have said I am going to play with five bowlers, I cannot go down after a performance like this and say I wish I had an extra player, you cannot play with 12 players. If I have chosen to play with five bowlers to take 20 wickets then it is our responsibility to bat in a better way which we did not do today. So I am not bringing up any excuses or wishing that we had an extra batsman. We should have done this better with six batsmen.”

The Indian skipper has a point. The team is going to lose some when they try to win games.

The mind-set and execution should be to play positive cricket and go out there expecting to have a result.

Playing for a draw never brings about a gain for the side unless your opposite number is suicidal.

English: virat kohli

virat kohli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kohli should continue with his game-plan and should expect more from both his batsmen and his bowlers.

The bowlers have to bowl on average 18 overs in a day given the current dispensation; that’s only eight more than what they would in a one-day game and that’s in just three-and-a-half hours.

They cannot complain.

The batters are to shoulder the extra responsibility and not count on the tail to wag. It is their job; they are specialists.

What Team India also needs to figure out is how to tackle counter-attacking batsmen. Man-of-the-match Dinesh Chandimal revealed that he and his partners batted as though it were an ODI. Well, if that’s the case, why doesn’t the Indian skipper set an ODI field? Drying up the runs would have certainly lessened the damage especially when your bowlers seem to have run out of ideas.

It’s about adapting to the situation.

And the Indian media and former cricketers-turned-commentators should refrain from playing the blame game whenever India loses.

Sometimes, you have to admit that the other side played well and deserved to win for their ‘never-say-die’ attitude.

Sanju Samson is allegedly the Abominable Salivator

Sanju Samson has allegedly behaved badly.

The India ‘A’ keeper has been accused of salivating spitefully at his Australian opponents’ feet.

The incident occurred in the tri-series final between the home side and the visitors.

India ‘A’ clinched the title, registering their first victory in the series against their counterparts from Down Under.

The Kerala player claimed a catch that the Australians felt was illegal.

This led to an exchange of words when the 20-year-old came out to bat.

Usman Khawaja, the Aussie skipper, said:

“Obviously the guys in our team were disappointed that he claimed he had taken the catch.

Today he spit in front of our player’s foot three times. If you do that the boys are going to get worked up and the umpires were not understanding it. We did try to calm the boys, but they just went on and on.

I am happy if the batsman happens to talk back but spitting is not on. He spit on one of our players when he came onto the field.

If one of our players said something to him, he can say something back but not spitting.”

Khawaja added:

“I do not want to make a big deal about things that happened on the field. I do not want to take away any credit from India. They really played well today and were the better team to have won.

Unfortunately, incidents like that happen. Some incident happened the other day with one of your bowler (Sandeep Sharma). He was coming back and it was fine. I was happy with that. I have seen it all, it is another game, it does not affect me too much.

It is always tough to defend a total of 220 runs. We had our chance when the fifth wicket fell but we have to take wickets to win the game. India just batted sensibly. The wicket was up and down and it was not turning massive. If we had few more runs we could strangle them on that kind of wicket.”

The match umpires and other officials should be filing their report with the BCCI.

An investigation into this kind of unwarranted behaviour and its antecedents should be launched to prevent any such recurrence.

Players behaving badly—spittle-less or not—can only lead to more bad blood in the future and should be nipped in the bud.

It is a gentleman’s game after all.

Lalit Modi wishes to take over the cricketing world

Lalit Modi is a megalomaniac.

The former czar of the IPL wishes to take over the world—the cricketing world.

And that too in style.

Modi and his cronies have envisaged a new world order that does not require the sanction of the ICC, one that affiliates itself with the Olympic movement. The blueprint will do away with ODI cricket altogether and consist of only Test and T20 tourneys.

Modi said:

“We’re talking about another cricketing system. There is a blueprint out there, it’s got my rubber stamp on it. I have been involved in it. I say it for the first time, I’ve been involved in putting that (blue)print together. We could take on the existing establishment, no problem. It requires a few billion dollars, I don’t think it would be a problem to get that … into action.

The plan that I have put together is a very detailed plan, it’s not a plan that’s come off the cuff, it’s been taking years and years and years in the making.”

International Cricket Council

International Cricket Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fugitive from justice has termed the big three of international cricket, India, Australia and England “snakes”.

Speaking to ABC Network in its documentary, ‘The Great Cricket Coup’, Modi said:

“They are the three snakes of cricket. You’ve got to take their neck off, you’ve got to chop their head off, otherwise cricket will not survive.”

(Modi apparently does not understand that snakes have no necks.)

Modi added:

“For me to get players would be…a switch of a button. There was a report that ran on the front of The Australian newspaper that said $100 million pay cheque for two of your players. I think that’s an easy cheque to write and if that cheque is easy to write then ‘would I get the players or not?’ is a question you should ask the players, not me.”

The heartening aspect of this extraordinary plan is that Modi does not intend to do away with Test cricket.

Also, he does see the need to gain approval from another body, if not the ICC, the IOC.

That is going to be an onerous task.

The ICC is unlikely to relinquish control over a sport that is a money-spinner for the powers-that-be without a fight.

It would be interesting to see how Modi’s plot pans out.

Kerry Packer and his ‘pyjama cricket’ improved cricket telecasting and was the harbinger of fatter pay packets for the players and commentators.

Not that the sport needs more; at least, the Indian players would differ strongly.

But an offshoot of any such attempt might mean that more cricket is played all over the world and the profits redistributed to many more nations much like Sepp Blatter’s FIFA, perhaps, without the endemic corruption and powerplay(s).

More power to Modi.

The Great Cricket Coup‘ is available for viewing here.



Wasim Akram’s road rage incident provokes thought

Road rage almost claimed a high profile victim this side of the Arabian Sea. Former Pak bowling superstar and commentator Wasim Akram escaped unscathed  when an unidentified person shot at his car tyres.

The incident occurred on Wednesday in Karachi.

The ex-cricketer was on his way to a training camp for young fast bowlers.

Akram said:

“A car hit mine, I stopped him and then this guy stepped out and fired at my car. When I asked the driver to come out he suddenly opened fire at me. He was definitely an official, I have noted the number of the car and given it to the police.

I am still in shock. There was no threat. I was going to to stadium for the camp. Your (media) job is to find out who that person was. If he can do it with me, then you can imagine what he would do with the common man.”

He added:

“It was just an accident when I was coming to the stadium. There is lot of rush at this time and I was in the middle lane and a car hit my car from behind. I signaled the driver to come to the side but he tried to make a fool and tried to race off which irritated me a lot

I got a bit frustrated and chased that car and blocked it and while I was standing and arguing with the driver a person stepped out from the back seat holding a gun and pointed it at me. But since the traffic had stopped and people recognized me as Wasim Akram the man than lowered his gun and fired at my car which was very scary.”

English: Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan cric...

Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan cricket team captain, after retirement from test cricket in 2002 and ODI 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senior police officer Munir Shaikh said:

“This was just an incident of road rage. We have identified the car from CCTV footage and will have the suspect in custody in a couple of hours.”

What is road rage?

According to Wikipedia,

“Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle. Such behavior might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner, or making threats. Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults, and collisions that result in injuries and even deaths. It can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving.”

Manifestations of road rage include:

  • Generally aggressive driving, including sudden acceleration, braking, and close tailgating
  • Cutting others off in a lane, or deliberately preventing someone from merging
  • Chasing other motorists
  • Flashing lights and/or sounding the horn excessively
  • Yelling or exhibiting disruptive behavior at roadside establishments
  • Driving at high speeds in the median of a highway to terrify drivers in both lanes
  • Rude gestures (such as “the finger”, or [especially in Greece] giving mountzes)
  • Shouting verbal abuses or threats
  • Intentionally causing a collision between vehicles
  • Hitting other vehicles
  • Assaulting other motorists, their passengers, cyclists, or pedestrians
  • Exiting the car to attempt to start confrontations, including striking other vehicles with an object
  • Threatening to use or using a firearm or other deadly weapon
  • Throwing projectiles from a moving vehicle with the intent of damaging other vehicles

The DMV website advises motorists how to deal with road rage thus:

“You must realize that you can’t control another driver’s behavior, but you can control your own. When another driver cuts you off, how you react will determine what happens next. If you are able to back off, take a deep breath, and remain calm, then you can defuse a potentially violent situation.

True, you might need to vent about the driver tailgating you all the way from town or the overly cautious motorist who consistently drove under the speed limit. Venting your frustration is normal and healthy, so long as you vent appropriately.

Talk to a friend or family member about the driving experience―telling the story can relieve your stress. Some driving clubs or online discussions offer members a chance to vent their frustration.”

Is there a medical basis for road rage?

The DMV page adds:

“In 5% to 7% of the nearly 10,000 drivers studied, road rage behavior was present. A general theory came out of the study, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) was identified as the cause of road rage.

Losing your temper used to be just bad form; now it has a diagnosis and can begin in the early teens. People diagnosed with IED have had multiple outbursts that are way out of proportion to the situation at hand. Generally, someone gets hurt or property is damaged.

Whether or not you believe in a medical basis for road rage, you still need to know how to deal with it. Uncertain situations can escalate unpredictably, and the best advice is to avoid confrontations altogether. If you tend to provoke other drivers or are on the aggressive side of road rage, put some effort into learning new driving habits.

And for those of us who run the middle of the road, maintain those defensive driving skills and keep a watchful eye on developing hazardous situations.”

English: Indian actor Salman Khan

Indian actor Salman Khan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Driving under the influence gets the headlines especially when accidents involving deaths hit the headlines like the Salman Khan case. However, aggressive and drowsy driving can be equally potent and harmful manifestations of carelessness behind the wheel. Perhaps, it’s time that besides breath analysers, yawn-o-meters and BP monitors are pressed into service by our hardworking defenders of the law. Perhaps, autonomous vehicles—as tested by Google—are not such a bad idea after all. Mass public transit systems always remain an option as long as they are not priced out of reach like the Mumbai Metro system threatens to be. As for raging maniacs, it’s simply ‘commuter rage’ now!

A driver is in charge not just of himself; he is also the steerer of 2000+ pounds of heavy metallic machinery that can cause immense damage when misdirected. It can act like a manned, guided missile.

It is in everyone’s interest if drivers recognise their aggressive tendencies and take steps to prevent untoward and possibly fatal incidents.

The message:
Don’t drive drunk.
Don’t drive angry.
Don’t drive sleepy.

As someone once said, “Safety doesn’t happen by accident.”

Is Sairaj Bahutule’s move to Bengal ‘unethical’?

“To put it bluntly, Bahutule has been unethical in his approach,” was the response from Dilip Vengsarkar to former Mumbai legspinner Sairaj Bahutule’s decision to throw up his position with the U-23 squad and take up the offer from Saurav Ganguly to coach the Bengal Ranji side.

Vengsarkar is currently an MCA vice-president.

The Colonel added:

“That he would do something like this behind our back is unimaginable. If he wanted to coach a Ranji team, why did he leave Vidarbha and then Kerala, or was he asked to leave? If he is getting a job to coach a Ranji side, then would he leave the same team halfway through if he is offered to coach say Bangladesh or Zimbabwe? The whole episode has shown him in extremely poor light.”

English: Sourav playing. Cropped picture of or...

Sourav playing. Cropped picture of original (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The former India chief selector may be right to show his displeasure at the sudden turn of events. And can rightly voice his disappointment.

However, to term Bahutule’s move ‘unethical‘ is to stretch a point.

Bahutule has every right to decide whether to stay or leave based on his assessment of the opportunities afforded him in his current position or elsewhere.

Similarly, an employer is well within his right to terminate an employee for a variety of reasons ranging from non-performance, indiscipline to closure of business. Wrongful dismissal can always be challenged but that’s another story for the courts.

Can an employee then not term his employer ‘unethical’?

For Vengsarkar to cavil at Bahutule’s abrupt departure is to ignore the dynamics of an employer-employee relationship.

The right to work is secured under Article 41 of the Indian constitution just after the Right to Privacy.

This should in no way hinder Bahutule’s right to work mobility as well.

The question Vengsarkar and his colleagues within the MCA should be asking themselves is how can they attract and retain the home-grown talent that is currently farming themselves out to various states not just as coaches but also as players.

Vengsarkar admits:

“The fact is that former Mumbai cricketers are offered huge amounts of money by other associations, not only because of their coaching skills but also because of the way they played the game. They try and inculcate the same values and pride they had when they played for Mumbai. The Mumbai cricketing system makes the players mentally tougher, smarter cricketers. Besides, Mumbai has a great history which no state team in the world can match for the next many decades. As a result, a Mumbai player or coach is always at an advantage while bargaining better deals for himself.”

I have always been a huge fan of Mumbai’s Ranji team. That the side now struggles to even make the knockout rounds tells a tale of declining fortunes in recent times.

Perhaps, it’s time the MCA took steps to shed some of its ‘khadoos’ image specifically when it comes to reclaiming their own.

Australia versus England: Who shall have the Ashes?

I really didn’t want to write this article; I haven’t been catching the Ashes—the war of the English roses  and the Australian wattles—a tradition itself within a traditional game.

It’s not that I don’t like cricket or that I’m overly patriotic and catch mostly India games (which I do) but I simply cannot bring up any passion for watching this series.

The Ashes—on television—are a visual treat; the commentating is excellent and there’s everything very attractive about the packaging of a historic rivalry that evokes memories of battles past.

I wish Indian television were able to come up with a better presentation of the  Indo-Pak rivalry but aside from the jingoism it revisits, there’s little to recommend for couch aesthetes.

The five-match series began with the Aussies favoured by one and all. After all, they were the ODI world champs and had thrashed their Trans-Atlantic foes comprehensively in the series Down Under. The pundits predicted that Alistair’s goose was Cooked.

England surprised one and all by winning the first Test. But the Aussies were out for blood in the second and prevailed in a somewhat one-sided encounter.

Steve Harmison in action at the Oval for Engla...

Steve Harmison in action at the Oval for England’s One Day International side against Bangladesh on 16 June 2005 Image created by the author with Nikon D70 + 70-300mm Nikkor G lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To everyone’s surprise, the third Test ran along similar lines. Except this time, it was the home side that dominated from Day One. The return of Steve Finn implied that England now had three wicket-taking pacers; the weakness of this side has been that the support pacers are  there simply to make up the numbers; they never were strike options.

Can Finn be the Steve Harmison of this side? Remember Stevie, from the 2005 Ashes in tandem with Freddie Flintoff pushing the Aussies on the backfoot in the absence of Glenn McGrath and the first signs of what was to come once  Warne and he exited the greats.

England , not too long ago, were number one; they ascended to that pole position when they beat India at home in 2011. It is a number they have since ceded to South Africa.

Can they lay the foundation for another push at that supreme figure?

The next two Tests are crucial. Has the momentum shifted in England’s favour?

Will the Aussies bite back with venom?

The urn beckons.


IPL spot-fixing scandal: Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan go scot-free, not quite…

With S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan absolved of any  criminal complicity in the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal and the BCCI drawing a line in the sand claiming that their ban on the aforesaid individuals will not be revoked, Indian cricket fans are in for more courtroom drama involving the BCCI and the freed trio.

Sreesanth at Adelaide Oval

Sreesanth at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Delhi court order leaves the field open for the three players to challenge the nation’s premier cricket body and overturn the ban. This may be a long drawn-out process. There is no guarantee that if and when the ban is nullified, the players will be at their best. They have lost their prime years while serving the ban.

Mohammad Azharuddin, Nayan Mongia and Ajay Jadeja cleared  their names by taking on the BCCI via the Indian judicial system. Yet, only Jadeja was able to make a comeback of sorts to competitive cricket.

What must perplex every cricket aficionado is how and why one tribunal found the IPL players guilty and the other did not. The evidence presented in both cases was the same. Strange are the ways of the Indian judicial system and the BCCI.

The BCCI responded to the Delhi High Court’s verdict thus:

“Any disciplinary proceeding or decision taken by the BCCI is independent of any criminal proceeding and has no bearing. The decisions of the BCCI, based on its independent disciplinary action, shall remain unaltered.The BCCI has nothing to do with acriminal case between the police and individuals. The disciplinary proceedings of the board and the criminal case of the police are independent of each other. In certain cases a charge is enough in a departmental inquiry while the same charge is needed to be proved in a court of law.”

PR Raman, a former legal officer with the cricketing body, said:

“The standard of proof in a court is different from standard of proof in a BCCI inquiry. Acquittal in a court cannot have any influence on the BCCI action which was taken independent of court rules.The degree of strictness is different from a court and a domestic/departmental inquiry. The laws in courts are not similar to those in the BCCI. The BCCI goes by its own code of conduct.Savani had found out that they were hobnobbing with bookies. That is enough to prove the players guilty. Talking to bookies is unacceptable under the BCCI code.”

Mohammad Amir pulling on his jumper in the out...

Mohammad Amir pulling on his jumper in the outfield. Taken during Pakistan’s third Test against England in August 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt were handed five, seven and ten years bans by an ICC tribunal. The criminal case that followed wherein the ICC verdict was not made available to the English press to prevent biasing any jury found the above guilty of conspiracy to cheat at gambling and accepting corrupt payments. Butt and Asif were sentenced to 30 and 12 months in prison respectively while Amir was sentenced to six months in Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

The teen-aged fast bowler was freed after serving only half his sentence.

The ICC tribunal and the Southwark Crown Court were one in accord.

The discordant note struck yesterday  will have warning bells going off within the BCCI once more.

English: Mohammad Azharuddin Sangeeta Bijlani

Mohammad Azharuddin Sangeeta Bijlani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BCCI fires off conflict of interest missive to members

When the BCCI stated that it would accept the Lodha Committee’s recommendations in toto, few believed it would make any substantial difference to its inner workings and the postponement of any decision about the suspended teams CSK and RR only fueled these suspicions.

The first inkling of sweeping changes in the offing occurred yesterday when the BCCI addressed the issue of conflict of interest in a letter to its members requested them to sign a declaration stating that they have no existing conflicts of interest in their capacities as officials with the BCCI or any state association.

The letter states:

“Conflict of interest is not about beliefs or biases. It is about a person’s roles and responsibilities, and the tendency or apprehension of bias that assumes to exist when duties, decisions or actions conflict. Deciding that someone has a conflict of interest is a description of a situation, not a judgement about the person or their actual beliefs.”

It also asks members to declare the absence of “any personal or family allegiance, bias, inclination, obligation or any interest of whatsoever nature, directly or indirectly which may in any way affect or provide any financial or any other benefit to me, my family or close relations or which may tend to interfere with or affect my objectivity, independence, impartiality and neutrality in any decision making process, acts and conduct relating to or arising out of discharge of my office of President/Hony. Secretary of …

It is a pity really that the antics of politicians and certain ‘luminaries’ within the BCCI and other national sports federations have tarred all who have been accused of conflicts of interest with the same brush.

The paucity of qualified people especially ex-sportspersons willing to be a part of sports administration is well known and there is always a possibility that there will be some entanglement of private and public roles and responsibilities.

That’s as it is. It should not be sufficient reason to jettison recent developments as non-viable or unworkable in an Indian context. This has been the bane of any attempt at reforms.

Let us revisit the definition of ‘conflict of interest‘ first.

Wikipedia states:

“A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests (financial, emotional, or otherwise), one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization.

The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A widely used definition is: “A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.” Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession or activity, such as the protection of clients, the health of patients, the integrity of research, and the duties of public office. Secondary interest includes not only financial gain but also such motives as the desire for professional advancement and the wish to do favours for family and friends, but conflict of interest rules usually focus on financial relationships because they are relatively more objective, fungible, and quantifiable. The secondary interests are not treated as wrong in themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests. The conflict in a conflict of interest exists whether or not a particular individual is actually influenced by the secondary interest. It exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by secondary interests.”

Conflict of interest is best understood in the judicial context. It’s probably no surprise that Shashank Manohar, a lawyer by profession, was and is one of former BCCI supremo N Srinivasan’s staunchest critics.

“Judicial disqualification, also referred to as recusal, refers to the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a court case/legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer. Applicable statutes or canons of ethics may provide standards for recusal in a given proceeding or matter. Providing that the judge or presiding officer must be free from disabling conflicts of interest makes the fairness of the proceedings less likely to be questioned.

In the legal profession, the duty of loyalty owed to a client prohibits an attorney (or a law firm) from representing any other party with interests adverse to those of a current client. The few exceptions to this rule require informed written consent from all affected clients, i.e., an “ethical wall”. In some circumstances, a conflict of interest can never be waived by a client. In perhaps the most common example encountered by the general public, the same firm should not represent both parties in a divorce or child custody matter. Found conflict can lead to denial or disgorgement of legal fees, or in some cases (such as the failure to make mandatory disclosure), criminal proceedings. In the United States, a law firm usually cannot represent a client if its interests conflict with those of another client, even if they have separate lawyers within the firm, unless (in some jurisdictions) the lawyer is segregated from the rest of the firm for the duration of the conflict. Law firms often employ software in conjunction with their case management and accounting systems in order to meet their duties to monitor their conflict of interest exposure and to assist in obtaining waivers.”

Wikipedia also lists the following methods for mitigation of conflicts of interest:


“Blind trust”



N Srinivasan, in an attempt to retain his position as BCCI president, has placed his CSK shareholdings in a ‘players’ trust‘.  This, however, did not cut any ice with the Supreme Court since the remaining 71% shares were still owned by India Cements in which he and his family members hold a controlling interest.

Disclosure and recusal sometimes go hand-in-hand where the (usually prior) disclosure of a conflict of interest may lead to the official abstaining himself from any deliberations where a personal stake could affect the outcome.

The stakes are high. The aforesaid letter is just the beginning.

The next step would be for the BCCI and state associations to set out code of ethics and conduct for players, office bearers and umpires.

Will N Srinivasan see the writing on the wall and step down from the ICC?


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