Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ajinkya Rahane: The Quick Turnaround or Setup for Failure

June 20, 2015 
Ajinkya Rahane is dropped from the playing XI for the second ODI against Bangladesh. Captain Dhoni explains the decision "We have seen that he plays a lot better on pitches that have some pace. But on a slow pitch, whenever he has batted at No. 4 or 5, he does have a problem in freely rotating the strike at the start of his innings. I think Ajinkya will have to wait."

June 29, 2015
Ajinkya Rahane is appointed captain of the Indian team to tour Zimbabwe.

That must have been one of the quickest turnaround in player fortunes ever witnessed in the history of the game. From being dropped to being appointed captain albeit of a team which has rested most of the senior players, within a week must be some sort of a record. Also does his elevation imply that he is on pole as Virat Kohli's deputy in Tests?

But from the squad selected for the series, one gets a feeling that Rahane has almost been up for failure. A victory against Zimbabwe will mean nothing, even if achieved with a second string team. However, failure to win might end up some careers. 

The absence of a genuine wicket-keeper is an obvious hole in the squad. Seems like we might be going back to post-Mongia period when the keeping duties became a musical chairs with many new keepers (Prasad, Karim, Dasgupta, Dahiya, Dighe, Ratra, Patel) being tried and ultimately the job getting handed to a specialist batsman like Dravid.

There are two intriguing selections - Harbhajan Singh and Manoj Tiwary. Picking up Harbhajan seems a sign that his rehabilitation into the national squad is complete, although no numbers justify his cause, and also shows the paucity of spin options in the country. Manoj Tiwary makes his umpteenth comeback into the national squad. In fact the man has made more comebacks than play actual games for the country. Seems to be one destined to be forever on the fringes and yet is always there on the fore-front when the seniors take a break.

In all, lots of weird selections. The chosen ones have to perform well. But good performance will only ensure that they stay on the fringes because the places will be taken up by returning senior players. And if they perform badly, they will be out of reckoning for quite some time (Case in point, the team picked for the 2010 tour to Zimbabwe). And Rahane as captain, certainly has his task cut out, with his own place (in limited overs) at stake as well. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Women's Cricket in India

Today morning, I was flipping through the sports channels. Landed on Star Sports 2 which was broadcasting a live ODI between India and New Zealand Women's teams. Batting first, India were in a spot of bother and ended up with a total of 142 on the back of Jhulan Goswami's fighting half-century and little bit of support from the tail-enders.

The coverage was normal, though with fewer cameras. The commentary was also quite good, but there was hardly anyone watching the game in the stands. On a Sunday, an international cricket match being played in India, involving the Indian national team, and near-empty stands! Also don't remember seeing even a single promo for this series on TV or even in print. Then I looked up the series schedule. All five ODIs and the three T20s are scheduled in Bangalore. 

Makes me wonder if there in any interest amongst BCCI top honchos in the promotion of the women's game in the country. The game is being telecast live but there was no marketing in the lead-up to the game. India is a country with a tremendous capacity of watching cricket, Almost all internationals and T20 leagues from around the world and even regional T20 leagues are lapped up by us. But they have to be aware that the product exists before they can consume? 

Also, why hold the entire series in one city which anyways hosts the mens team and IPL games on a regular basis. Why not take it to the smaller towns which do not get to see much international sporting activity. I remember a women's ODI between India and West Indies being held in Dhanbad a few years back which was played before quite a decent sized crowd. So why did this practice stop? Don't think it could really be due to any cost cutting. I don't think playing in front of near empty stands would be much of a motivation to any of the players

The BCCI marketing team needs to wake up and market the women's game better. A few suggestions to them
  1. Live telecast is great but a few more TV promos would also be quite helpful for the cause.
  2. Have the games spread out in Tier 2 cricket venues which do not get much international sports action.
  3. Billboards, flyers in the town hosting the game would certainly help in the marketing.
  4. More coverage in the newspapers in the lead-up to the games along with some detailed post-match coverage would help the cause.
  5. Why not have  Women's T20 league on the lines of the IPL to showcase the game's talents. If a Kabaddi league can become successful, there is no reason for a Women's T20 premier league to not be a success, provided it is promoted well.
Enough of ranting, now back to the watching the game, as the Kiwis begin their chase of the smallish Indian target of  143. Meanwhile hoping that the BCCI top mandarins wake up and cash in on this potential revenue stream.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ashes Promo - "We Didn't Start the Fire"

The Ashes maybe nearly a month away. And both England and Australia have to complete other tours before they take on each other in the latest edition of one of the oldest rivalries in international sport. While we wait, Sky Sports has come up with this promo. 

They have reworded Billy Joel’s lyrics of “We didn’t start the fire” and giving voice are the likely series commentators Holding, Atherton, Hussain, Warne, Lloyd. The whole montage is brimming with Ashes history. 

Here are the lyrics 

Donald Bradman, Peter May, At The Oval, Final Day,
Little Urn, Bob's perm, W G Grace
Walter Hammond, Mitchell Johnson, At The Gabba, Big Decision
Chris Broad, Ponsford, Riiiiiiiiiichie Benaud
Larwood's Bodyline, Athers slips on 99
Laker, Jones' dive, Gower flying in the sky
Baggy Greens, swing/seam, Warnie's ball in '93
Ricky Ponting, Pratty gets him, Freddie makes the bails fly!
We didn't start the fire... 
10, 11 whitewash, Nasser and that toss
Tubby Taylor, Sher-minator, Brigadier-block
Swansongs, follow-ons, Headingley '81
Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Harmy's shocking first ball
Brett Lee, on his knees, Aussies got a winning team
Davy Warner, third man, Andy Flower's England
John Snow, final Test, Manchester, yes, Chef!
Thommo, Lillee, fierce pace, Bumble smacked in that place...
We didn't start the fire... 

The big names of Ashes - Grace, Bradman, Posford, Hammond, Warne, the Waugh Twins, Larwood, Laker, Johnson, Botham, Willis, Benaud are all there, alongwith the footage from the Bodyline series, Warne's ball of the century to Gatting, Headingley 81 & Edgbaston 2005, as well as even the funny nicknames Sherminator (Ian Bell) & Brigadier Block (Collingwood). It even has the Sprinkler dance to round off this celebration of the Ashes rivalry.

This is another great promo in the year of great sporting promotional campaigns.