Thursday, June 28, 2012

MCC Lecture - 2012 & Tony Greig's India Obsession

The annual Colin Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture was held on June 26. After a highly impressive oration by Kumara Sangakkara last year, I had begun to look forward to the annual Spirit of Cricket Lecture. On learning that Tony Greig had been asked to deliver the lecture, was certain that somehow BCCI and IPL would be mentioned in his speech as being responsible for all the evil in the world. And he certainly did not disappoint. Where did I get this surety? From following his twitter account. Mr. Greig never misses any chance to take potshots at the Indian board in the limited to 140 characters medium and to provoke caustic remarks from Indian followers. And he certainly wasn't going to miss this hour long opportunity.

To his credit, he has acknowledged the financial power of BCCI and the good use which has been put through it (e.g. the one-time benefit package to past cricketers, bonanza for boards hosting India, Indian TV viewership rights etc.). However at the same time he is saying that BCCI is taking the spirit out of cricket. Well, to be honest, BCCI is not the only wrong-doer in this regard. And for the "Spirit of Cricket" business, in my humble opinion, it is a concept without any actual basis, based purely on an individual's judgement and applied arbitrarily as and when required. So lets not tread into such waters.

Tony Grieg makes a point about BCCI having sold off part of cricket to private investors. Point taken but   hasn't all sporting activity been funded through private investors for their entertainment. I mean if there hadn't been private investors, how would anyone make a living playing any sport. Ignoring this global point, lets say BCCI commited this crime. But does selling off franchisees in IPL compare to selling off your entire T20 tournament to a private investor (West Indies & Alan Stanford). Given that the West Indies board is poor, they didn't have any option, what about the English board who got swayed by the sight of Stanford landing in Lords with suitcases full of dollars? Greed is present everywhere, why just blame BCCI?

Then he has an issue of BCCI promoting T20s over Tests. I can only say one thing. Come to your sense Mr. Greig. Check India's schedule and compare it with any other Test playing country. You will find that India plays the least number of T20 matches. And they have the most heavy international schedule. Post 2011 World Cup, India has played 14 Tests and 6 T20s. For the 2012-13 home season 10 Tests are scheduled. Does it show lower priority for Tests? Even the domestic calendar is being revamped with emphasis on getting more first class matches for the state teams. Yes there is a 2 month long IPL, but beyond that there is hardly any T20 participation from Indian players.

IPL is referred to as the main killer of the "spirit of cricket". Players are not choosing to play for IPL franchisees over their countries. Fair enough, everyone would want to have more and easy money, thats just human nature. Mr. Greig himself did the same when he went to Packer's side, which he was very honest about in acknowledging.. And when he chose to be part of the now-defunct Indian Cricket League, was it for any "Spirit of Cricket" business or just money?

Tony Grieg takes on his favorite point of beating BCCI by raising the DRS issue. I do not support BCCI's stand of opposing the DRS implementation. With different models of DRS operating in different series, it gets weird for the watching fan. Uniformity should be there across. However, I would leave the DRS to umpires and not to the players. Let 3rd umpires have a more pro-active role and review howlers rather than the challenge coming from the players. Guess would be better for the so called "spirit of cricket". Wonder why none of the esteemed commentators including Tony Greig raises this point.

Tony Greig does put some interesting ideas like expanding IPL into an Asian Premier League with teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka (Hangover of ICL which had Lahore & Dhaka teams???). SImilarly including the Kiwis in the Big Bash, having an African League & a European one with West Indies included. But will this not be contrary to his own statements on Tests getting less and less priority.

In short, to sum up my understanding of Tony Greig's speech. "BCCI, we want the money you bring to the game. But we do not want you to control the game". Mr. Grieg Sir, Is that even possible?

Lets see what all, if anything comes out of this speech.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

India Domestic Overhaul - 2012

Some interesting development are underway for anyone who follows Indian domestic cricket. The Technical Committee of BCCI (consisiting of former captains like Ganguly & Kumble) have made some major recommendations for overhauling the domestic cricket structure in the country. Quite a few very interesting proposals are here. Here is my take on the recommendations. (These are yet to be ratified and BCCI can just opt for Status Quo)

Ranji Trophy - The current 27 teams are proposed to be divided into 3 groups/tiers with minimum 8 matches guaranteed for all teams. This is to be followed by an 8 team knock-out stage. There are also promotion & relegation involved. 
  • I like the idea of having more 1st class games given that the teams in the existing Plate league got only 5 games per season. More 1st class games should certainly help the players. Also a longer season would help in players recovering from injuries/loss of form etc. 
  • However a league cum knock-out system with promotion & relegation is a bit confusing to me. Does it mean a team from Group C can hope to win the Ranji Trophy and yet be eligible to play in Group B and not the top tier Group A? 
  • There are also concerns that some of the performers in the lower leagues may not get noticed. But this may be a bit unfounded given that quite a few players in the current national team represent the Plate teams (Dhoni, Yadav, Aaron) while none from the two time defending champions Rajasthan are even close to the national cap.
  • Having 5 day matches from the Knock-Out stage onwards is also a good idea, giving more chances of outright results rather than just 1st innings leads issues.
  • Also, the Under-22 teams will be referred to as A teams with scope of having upto 3 players under-25. Does this mean that these matches also will be given 1st class status? 

Duleep Trophy - Tournament has been shifted to the start of the season. This implies that the zonal teams will be selected on the basis of the previous season's performances? Makes little sense to me. 1st of all given that the zonal system has been removed, why have the Duleep Trophy at all? And if has is to take place, why not hold it after the Ranji league stage at least or after the finals. These would be reward for good performances in the current year. Alternatively, Duleep Trophy might be used as warm-ups for the home Test season. Only if all national players are available. Hardly see this happening as our seniors prefer resting during Tests also.

Irani Trophy - Should have continued as the season opener. Instead has been shifted to the season ender. Given that the domestic season ends with IPL, the concept seems misaligned. As the season opener can act as the one warm-up game for the Indian home Test season.

Vijay Hazare Trophy - Is the tournament to be played in zonal format or in the 3 tier league format? Zonal format would reduce the number of games and the duration of the tournament as well. The winning team getting to play in the Challenger Trophy seems to be an interesting incentive for the winner.

Challenger Trophy - Never understood the concept of this tournament. 3 teams picked without any basis and playing 2/3 games over a 4 day period. Seems more like a warm-up camp than anything else. This time they want one of the 3 teams to be the Vijay Hazare trophy winner while the other teams would be picked from the rest. Seems like an extended 50 over Irani Trophy now.

Deodhar Trophy - Again like Duleep Trophy is an outdated concept. Don't know why it is still being held? If I remember correctly, BCCI once tried to remove the tournament, but had to roll back its decision after threats from certain quarters, as it hurt certain regional "pride".

Mustaq Ali Trophy - The national T20 tournament. And hardly in the limelight. The performers in the inaugural edition of the Mustaq Ali tournament in 2007 were picked for the T20 World Cup which India won. Since then the teams have been picked on the basis of the IPL performances and India has been getting knocked out early. Shows the value of this tournament (Just Kidding!). Also can be used as a good feeder for the IPL teams domestic players. Suggest the tournament be held before the IPL auctions for domestic players in the coming years. Performers will be instantly rewarded.

Other Changes - Uncovered pitches, 12 overs per bowler in the 50 over matches, 2 bouncers per over etc. These are the kind of things one regularly hears. Lets see if the experiments have any positive result on the Limited Overs game as such.

Nice to see the BCCI getting into an overhaul mode of the domestic game, with emphasis on getting more 1st class matches. With the 2 "A" tours (West Indies, New Zealand), an extended rest for the national team and hosting 10 Tests, the board certainly seems to be planning in the right direction. Hopefully we don't go into participating in meaningless ODI series and one-off T20s.

P.S. These are still at proposal stage and yet to be ratified.

Monday, June 4, 2012

IPLV - Jharkhand Review

After having decided to champion the cause of Jharkhand cricket and the cricketers, I thought why not a post on the performance of the players. There weren't many of them, so not too difficult to track. Here we go.
  1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings) - Team Captain - 19 matches, 357 runs (SR 128), 12 Catches, 2 Stumpings. Not a great IPL by his standards. Played a few crucial knocks and his famed luck returned and CSK went to the play-offs. Some of his famous helicopter shots were back in action.
  2. Saurabh Tiwary (Royal Challengers Bangalore) -  15 matches, 191 runs (SR 112), 3 catches. One of the more expensive buys in last year's auction. Shift from Mumbai Indians has not done him much good. Why he came to bat before de Villiers is a mystery. Hit one match winning six of the last ball though. On current indifferent form doesn't look like adding to his 3 India caps soon. (Aside - RCB not playing Pujara more frequently was another mystery)
  3. Varun Aaron (Delhi Daredevils) - 8 matches, 1 run, 8 wickets (ER - 8.74), 1 catch. Missed the initial games due to injury which had caused him to miss the Australia tour as well. Along with Morne Morkel & Umesh Yadav formed part of the fastest pace attack in IPL. May have gone for a few runs but likely to keep rattling the batsmen with sheer pace. (Aside - Should have been touring West Indies with the A Team)
  4. Shahbaz Nadeem (Delhi Daredevils) - 12 matches, 8 wickets (ER - 7.06), 3 catches. One of the finds of the tournament. Bowled economically, opened the bowling, held up one end while the Daredevils' extreme pace attack took care of the other. Got the Player of the match on 2 occasions. Why he wasn't played at the later stages of the game specially in the 2nd eliminator is still a mystery to me.
  5. Ishank Jaggi (Deccan Chargers) - 3 matches, 15 runs (SR 71), 1 catch. A very ordinary start saw Jaggi being dropped from an under-performing Deccan team (not that it improved the team much). And he didn't get a chance after that.
  6. Rahul Shukla (Mumbai Indians) - 1 match, no wickets (ER 10.33). Just one game in which he got hit for a few runs. Chances very hard to come by in a team like Mumbai Indians.
  7. Sunny Gupta (Delhi Daredevils) - 1 match, no runs, no wickets (ER15.67). Technically not a Jharkhand player. He was earlier part of the Jharkhand team, now playing for Tamil Nadu. Shock selection ahead of Nadeem in the 2nd eliminator. Daredevils in an attempt to catch CSK by surprise ended up shocking themselves with this selection.

So 7 (including Sunny) players from Jharkhand in IPLV of which 4 were regulars. Nadeem was the standout performer amongst them. Hopefully next edition will seem more players emerging from Jharkhand.