Friday, July 18, 2008

The outcast league

A Cricinfo piece titled ‘BCCI bars its players from counties with ICL staff’ reveals that the BCCI has decided that Indian cricketers cannot sign up for English counties that have ICL players in their midst. The honourable secretary of the BCCI Mr. Niranjan Shah said, ‘We don’t want our players in teams that have other players playing in unauthorised tournaments.’ Considering 15 out of the 18 English counties have ICL players in their midst, this sage decision of the BCCI all but rules out Indians from playing in the English county.

So the ICL has officially been declared an outcast, so if they go one way, the rest of Indian cricket cannot take that route. So you play for the ICL, then travel to England and play for Notts, then VVS Laxman can’t sign up for Notts. You go to Aberdeen for a vacation, and Rahul Dravid can’t vacation in Scotland for the rest of his life. You book in to a British Airways flight to go to England to watch the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and you’ve denied Sachin Tendulkar the opportunity to meet Lewis Hamilton.

However, there is some silver lining faintly visible in the grim horizon. The BCCI does not have a problem if ‘non-ICL’ players from English county teams take part in the IPL. Someone please explain that to me.

I wonder whether it is possible to ban the BCCI and the IPL.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Favourite World un-XI

Time Cricket correspondents Mike Atherton, Chris Martin Jenkins, Alan Lee and John Woodcock discuss their favourite world XI (clearly for the real version of the game, considering the presence of a certain Sunil Gavaskar in the team) from the players they have seen in action (link courtesy: Rambling About). Random people expectedly followed suit with their own sides in the comments. Dileep Premachandran added another team to the kitty in The Doosra.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing is there, so let me flip the criterion around. Who are the eleven players I have watched / followed who I wouldn’t want to see on the cricket field? Accomplished performers all with impressive records, but so unwatchable they make the weather channel seem like AXN on steroids and Cher come across as the epitome of sartorial elegance.
My first choice as opener would be the current Indian coach, Gary Kirsten. Hugely effective yes, but would you pay a penny to watch him in action? Ferreting away his runs, nudging the odd boundary, he even makes that king of strokes, the left-hander’s cover drive, look like a bumpy car ride on a pothole-ridden road.

Vying to join Kirsten at the top are a couple of Englishmen Рthat old stonewaller Chris Tavar̩ and the relative dasher, Graeme Fowler. With a relatively higher strike rate (38.87 versus 30.60), Fowler gave us more of an opportunity to turn our head the other way, so he gets the nod.

Though he bats quite often at no. 4, my choice for the no. 3 slot is arguably one of the finest all-rounders in the world (statistically at any rate), with almost 10,000 runs and more than 200 wickets. But when it comes to effectiveness as an anti-insomnia pill, Jacques Kallis is my no. 1 choice.

At no. 4 is another world beater, Javed Miandad. No, I am not a crazed Indian seething with anger at that six, but every one of Miandad’s 8832 test runs was like a penny stolen from that poor beggar at the street corner. And his immunity against lbws at home doesn’t make him too popular with me either.

Speaking of lbws and pads, the name of Jimmy Adams surely has to feature in such an august list. Watching him in that ‘Padams’ series against India in the mid-1990s was just one degree better than solitary confinement. And that’s a generous comparison. Shivnarine Chanderpaul came close here, but Adams sneaked in because of his equally inelegant bowling and (occasional) wicket-keeping. We’ll excuse his great fielding at forward short-leg.

He is the architect of Sri Lanka’s rise in the cricketing world, he probably saved the career of Muthiah Muralitharan, he’s anna to every one in Sri Lankan cricket, but remember Arjuna Ranatunga with his pads on? An ugly nudge to third man and a leisurely walk to the other end, a brutal cut that the point fielder lets go more out of disgust at the patent inelegance of the stroke than anything else. If stomach inside counted, Ranatunga would have perhaps been run out less than the eight times he has been in his test career. Anna is also my captain.

The wicket-keeper’s slot was a tough battle, what with the impressive credentials of Bruce French, Ridley Jacobs, Salim Yousuf and Adam Parore, among others. But Nayan Mongia gets my nod just because he was a better wicket-keeper, and his batting was as ugly and unwatchable as the others on the list. Ridley ran Mongia really close. May be my anxiety to get an Indian into the team surfaced here.

Leading the new ball attack will be Javagal Srinath. Probably one of the most under-rated performers in Indian cricket, Srinath’s hangdog expression and apologetic demeanour made him the perfect anti-fast bowler. And he’s the only batsman I’ve seen who plays a front-foot heave of the back foot. Remember that last delivery of the World Cup game against Australia in 1992?

Joining Srinath at the top of the attack could be any of a clutch of medium pace and swing bowlers from England – I don’t want to choose one and upset a whole lot of others, so let me just pump for that unlucky Aussie, Michael Kasprowicz. Being a contemporary of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee meant that Kaspa was restricted to just 38 tests over a ten-year career. But for the sheer ordinariness of his action and his role as a workhorse, he deserves to be unwatched.

The first spinner in my team has to be Muthiah Muralitharan. Congenital defect or not, I am just not convinced by his action and so I can’t relish the prospect of watching him on the field.

I prefer to go in with two spinners because there aren’t too many fast bowlers who are particularly unwatchable (and there is Kallis in the team as well, isn’t there). And the spinning partner for Murali has to be Ashley Giles. Ever seen him bowl? His inelegant batting is a useful bonus as well.

The coach of my team is Aunshuman Gaekwad, who gave me the pleasure of switching my television off when he made a brief comeback (albeit in one-day cricket) against the West Indies in 1987 – he even scored at a much faster rate than Krishnamachari Srikkanth in his last game.

How will my team fare against the world-beating sides of Athers & Co.? Well, we can only speculate, because who’ll want to watch them play?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The next crisis in cricket

The cricket web sites are yet to latch on to it, but one of the news channels in India had this staggering revelation: Shahid Afridi has claimed that he has not performed well with the bat recently because someone has been using black magic and casting bad luck spells at him.

It is a real tragedy that the game should be denied its due by such travesties. The success of the game attracts too many envious elements – bodyline, Packer, ball tampering, match-fixing, Lalit Modi and now, black magic. We need to cleanse the game of these. Then, Shahid Afridi will be the Don Bradman he is in terms of potential. And Pakistan will be Australia. Oh well, does that suggest a conspiracy theory? No, I’m not saying anything.