Thursday, 31 January 2008
Sunday, 27 January 2008
There have been 2 major bits of news relating to cricket over the past week - The sale of the IPL franchises and Adam Gilchrist's decision to retire from Test cricket. Both, in their own way, could signal the end of the cricketing order as we know it.
The IPL first - it's been hailed as the Next Big Thing in cricket, with a lot of positive spin about how having clubs will lead to professional management and more money and so on. I have a feeling it's going to be a mixed blessing, and it will take some time before the dust really settles on what the new structure of cricket will be. Having a club-based league in the Twenty20 format and regional teams in the other tournaments is sure to cause some consternation. How would, say, UP react to Mohammed Kaif captaining them in the Ranji trophy, then playing for Delhi in the IPL? If Sanjay Bangar were to get injured playing Twenty20 for Kolkata, would the Services lodge a complaint with the BCCI? Who gets to use (and promote) the Wankhede as their home ground - Anil Ambani's team or the Mumbai Cricket Association? Why should it be okay for Ishant Sharma to play for Bangalore in the IPL, but not for the South Zone in the Duleep Trophy?
The reason why the club format works in football is because it really is all that exists. Replace it with regional teams (indeed, the fan following has always been localized, at least until the advent of cable TV) and you would get similar results. The key there is good administration and a focus on the long-term success of the teams which helps build the brand.
An extremely important function that football clubs perform in this regard is talent development. For cricket, I think that's going to be crucial - if, and how, the money that will flow into the IPL will go into unearthing new talent and expanding the game's infrastructure. If the clubs choose to leave that aspect to the regional cricket associations without investing their own time and money into it, then there's less incentive for the associations to carry out such development. Here, I have a bit of a problem with the amount of money that is going to flow into getting in the big names like Warne. The very fact that players are willing to sign up even they're past their peak shows that they think this is a way to get some easy cash, and that Twenty20 does not require them to be at the top of their game. Instead, investing in putting together a bunch of fit, young athletes with a point to prove will make the games far more exciting, and help in unearthing new talent. For the business houses too, it would be a more profitable venture to get into endorsement deals with upcoming players rather than the big names - there's anyway going to be a lot of publicity which will translate into the making of new stars- witness Seagram's signing up Uthappa or Marico signing up Sree Santh after their Twenty20 exploits.
This brings me to the other big news - Gilchrist's departure. He has been a fantastic cricketer all these years and his retirement again brings into focus what I feel is the nearing end of a golden generation in international cricket. Over the past 10 to 15 years, we have been fortunate to see cricketers who have been able to straddle all forms of the game - Tests, one-day cricket, even Twenty20 - and succeed like none before, and perhaps, none that may follow, bringing with them a rise in interest in the game. The benchmarks set by them - Tendulkar, Ponting, McGrath, Warne, Murali, Pollock etc - are so high that any pretenders will have a long way to go before being considered to be in the same league. How their successors will meet these heightened expectations remains to be seen.
In turn, how the game's administrative bodies invest in their future, maintaining a steady supply of quality cricketers to meet the ever-increasing demand for more content from the viewing public, will decide the future of the game in the coming years.
I guess the tie-tying/tie-knotting/knot-tying skills I honed at the Bank shall hold me in good stead now.
I wonder what they'd do to a Nano if they ever get their hands on one...
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Friday, 25 January 2008
Or maybe I just like having a lot more blue.
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Link via Kottke.org
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
There's been a lot of talk of late about using more technology to assist umpires in making decisions about dismissals. Amit Varma, for example, talks about using Hawkeye to help umpires decide on LBWs:
The predictive technology behind Hawk-Eye is similar to that used in
missile-guidance systems and instrument guidance for brain surgeons – it’s
designed for extreme accuracy... Experts of the game implicitly acknowledge this
by turning to Hawk-Eye whenever lbw decisions need to be evaluated... What we
see on television is a just a graphical representation of Hawk-Eye, and
Hawk-Eye’s decision would actually be delivered within a second or two to the
umpire, via a handheld device: out or not out, pitching outside leg or on line,
and so on. At the click of a button, umpires would save themselves much
While this sounds good - it would take only about as much time as Steve Bucknor normally does anyway - it would open up a peculiar problem: would the umpire be allowed to over-rule Hawk-Eye? I don't think too many umpires would have the guts to go against the technology, because that would be an open invitation for criticism, so either by law or by convention, Hawk-Eye's decision would be final.
But that brings us to a bit of a paradox, which would be as follows:
The technology would be too expensive and would require too much technical support (maintenance, calibration, what-have-you) to be implemented at many levels below international cricket - I'd say even first-class cricket would not have it for at least the next 5 years - which means that the umpires' word would be final. Now, umpires for international cricket would have risen from grade cricket (hopefully) on the basis of their being able to make the right decision as often as possible. However, as they move up the hierarchy, those very skills that got them on that path would actually become less important (thanks to technology) - similar to what happens when people start moving up the ladder into middle management in your average corporate entity. Instead, again like middle-managers, their main role might just be to get out of the way as far as possible, and use their 'soft skills' to calm things down when they go awry.
It could get worse though - if skills aren't rewarded adequately closer to the top, those with the skills might not be interested in taking up the job, and you could end up with whoever is best at sucking up to the Powers That Be, never mind if they get bureaucratic and throw their weight around with the players. In other words, going by the evidence from the corporate world, the Pointy-Haired Umpire could be on his way.
Sunday, 13 January 2008
Thus far, we have the story of an Anglo-Indian athlete who wins an Olympic medal, then goes to Hollywood and plays Englishmen. But I'm not done yet. I'd like to see the documentary hosted by Tom Alter. That would add a touch of symmetry to it, considering Alter is an American who came to Bollywood and started his career mainly playing Englishmen, and also did a bit of sports commentary and writing. Release it in 2008, and you would have a movie about an Indian Olympian the year that China hosts the games.
I think the story works on a whole lot of levels.
Saturday, 12 January 2008
I haven't posted this year so I'll start off with this, the spiritual successor to Crazy Frog. Insanely silly. Got it via NatGeo's blog Pop Omnivore.
UPDATE: In case you were wondering, I drafted part of the previous post earlier, but I clicked 'Publish Post' on this one first, so technically, this is my first published post for the year. Just in case anyone out there starts quibbling...
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Firstly, it needs to work on its appealing technique. After all, human umpires will not be going away anytime soon, so we may as well make the most of them. Note how, when the Australians appeal vociferously, they claim they are just playing the game hard and eventually browbeat the umpires into giving them the marginal calls. When the Indians do it, they get cautioned or worse for excessive appealing. Avijit Ghosh wrote an article on it a couple of days back in the TOI, but unfortunately I can't find it online. I think we could ask Warnie or McGrath for a couple of coaching sessions -considering how much they're going to be paid for joining the IPL, it's the least they could do. Scotland once called in David Boon to help their team deal with sledging, so this may not be too far-fetched an idea.
The second thing the team needs to work on is the sledging strategy. Currently it's done pretty amateurishly. The Australians are again the side to benchmark against here. You have Ponting, Gilchrist or even Hayden playing the perfect choirboys when they face the media and being generally on their best behaviour most of the time. The sledging is then left to guys like Symonds and Clarke. This makes it tougher for people to criticize the team overall. England followed a similar strategy with Vaughan facing the media and Prior and gang doing the trash-talking. India on the other hand had Ganguly doing both for a while, and even now the younger members of the team still don't know how to play the media. Surprising, considering how much more coverage they receive. All is not lost, however, since Yuvraj still might make it into the Test team as a middle-order sledging all-rounder, and perhaps Rohit Sharma can perhaps be groomed into a baby-faced potty-mouth a la Michael Clarke or Ian Bell. At the same time, Dhoni can flash that smile at the press conferences, and just to ensure that all bases are covered, Robin Uthappa can reaffirm his faith in (a suitably Judeo-Christian) God.
Finally, in the short term, to deal with the whole racism issue, I would suggest a couple of photo-ops with aboriginal kids. Harbhajan could even adopt a home - it worked for Steve Waugh, so it might help him too. And seriously, they could do with the boost in media attention. Considering that the team is in Canberra at the moment, they could start by dropping in here .