The ECB Situation

When it comes to administrative ineptitude, Cricket boards across the world will give the George W. Bush administration a run for their money. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) absolutely takes the cake with their inefficiency, lack of backbone to follow through with their own decisions and the punishments they hand down to the players. The England and Wales Cricket Board (EWCB technically, but ECB for our discussion here, as no one except for the Welsh care for the Wales part of the Board.. Also, I heard the Cardiff pitch sucks), is slightly better than the PCB but not by very much.

While everyone has been focused on the spotfixing scandal involving the Pakistani players, the goof ups by the ECB are flying under the radar. The English pride themselves in the rule of law, the power of democracy, and general hoity-toity-ness. take out or rearrange sentence?]. By their own rules, one of the fundamental tenets when it comes to someone being accused of any wrongdoing is that the person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

All you have is a shady agent/bookie caught on an undercover sting carried out by a tawdry tabloid, claiming that he has connections with the Pakistan players and can spotfix. There is no proof (not yet, anyway) that would be admissible in a court of law, that could bring about a criminal case against the players and perhaps, get a conviction. For starters, the tape could have been made after Aamer and Asif bowled the no balls. As was noted in this Guardian news article, it is going to be extremely hard to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even if a court case is brought on at a later time and the evidence incriminates the players and leads to a conviction, all these things have not happened yet. There is no legal case filed against the players and yet, everybody is treating them like criminals. There have been allegations of impropriety and accusations are flying in from all directions, thick and fast. I say, Hold on a minute. The burden of proof is with the accusers and not the players. The players don’t have to come out and prove their innocence.

Image Source: Getty Images, BBC

Giles Clarke, the ECB Chief  who happily ran around holding hands with thatscamming twerp Allen Stanford like they are BFFs, all for a chance at loading up their coffers with ill-gotten money, treated Mohammed Aamer at the post-series ceremony at the Long Room in the Lord’s with so much disdain like he had leprosy* or something. Why the fuck did you hold the presentation ceremony indoors in the first place? What were you afraid of? Boos? Get a grip. If the people who have paid through their noses feel cheated by the allegations and want to let the players know exactly how they feel, then let them. Freaking pussy, this Giles. I guess all the Clarkes are pussies at some level (I don’t know most of them but let’s assume I am right on this one since includes Michael Clarke).

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Cancer of Doubt – The Spot Fixing Controversy

The latest alleged sudden fall from grace, if proven true, will send Pakistani Cricket back to the stone ages. Two of the best fast bowlers going around in the world, including a sparkling teenager with a million watt smile, with abilities compared to the finest exponent of left arm fast bowling ever, are in the middle of this quagmire. This is not a couple of cagey veterans caught in a get-rich-quick scheme. Due to internecine politicking that has come to define Pakistani cricket, the current team was forced to blood youngsters and consequentially, a team full of promise but struggling in the short term and certainly would have been a force to be reckoned with in the future, was in the making.

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Century, Interrupted

I wanted to avoid writing this. People have talked ad nauseam. TV anchors yelled questions at six different panelists, simultaneously, which included the eminent scout of Javelin throwers, Bishen Bedi, who narrated stories not relevant to the topic of conversation. Typical. Fans have vented on Twitter and Facebook. Some of them were gob smacked at the vanishing spirit of Cricket while others shrugged off – Happens all the time, dude. Batsmen don’t walk any more even if they know, as sure as the sun rising in the East, they have nicked one behind. Batsmen employ delaying tactics to avoid facing that extra over before stumps. Bowlers and fielders appeal even when they know they don’t have a case, to coax an error out of the umpire. Bowlers bowling wides to avoid the opposing batsmen hitting the winning runs. It’s all part of the game. So, when a bowler deliberately (seemingly anyway, at first look) overstepped by a generous foot to prevent a batsman from getting to his 100, it’s no big deal. Meh.

But the Sri Lankan Cricket Board didn’t think so. Earlier today, they handed down, at the end of their own internal investigation – this must be the quickest ever investigation in the history of internal investigations – a one-match ban to Suraj Randiv, and loss of match fees and loss of match fees to the apparent instigator Tillakaratne Dilshan, as well. You already know the circumstances surrounding the controversy, so I won’t rehash it.

At the end of the match, when Sehwag realized he didn’t actually get to his century, he in his unique way, brushed it off, saying that teams do these sort of things to prevent the batsman from getting to a personal landmark. By then he had not seen the replays and wasn’t really aware of the egregiousness of that no ball. A spinner who doesn’t really bowl no balls oversteps so much that his back foot is at the popping crease. So this was a premeditated effort to deny Sehwag his century. When asked later, Sehwag agreed that it looked very intentional and premeditated, and reportedly not as generous or forgiving as he was at the end of the match. (Would you be? I am not so sure.)

However, reports came out later that the bowler, Suraj Randiv, had apologized to Sehwag and even Sri Lankan Cricket did too. Sehwag accepted it and it was time for all of us to move on, with the knowledge that even Sri Lanka, two time recipient of the ICC Spirit of Cricket Team award (’07 and ’08), is not above cheap tricks. As Sambit Bal, The editor of Cricinfo put forth: “The bowler apologised, the batsman accepted; where do the rest of us come in?

That’s when the Indian media machine stepped in. In the only way it knows to analyze (I am using the term analyze very loosely) any situation, it blew it out of proportion. Every damn network started piling on. They brought in people to transcribe the conversation picked up by stump microphone (as one anchor put it – real people who know real Sinhalese. Who said investigative journalism is dead?). They were positive it was Sangakkara who made Randiv do the dastardly act. The real people who know real Sinhalese told the anchor, “Sangakkara told the bowler not to give the batsman a run”. Of course. Which captain ever tells his bowler not to give away the winning run? Game, Set and Match. Some started comparing the situation to all the other times any Indian cricket player was ever wronged. Sydney 2008 was duly hashed and rehashed. The racist card couldn’t be played as those real Sri Lankans are of the same race as these real Indians. As much as I am not a fan of Sangakkara and his over appealing, sweet talking tactics, he was quickly sullied without proper proof. But after the SL Cricket Board’s punishments have come out, it has become clear that Dishan played the instigator and advised Randiv to bowl a monster no ball. The raving TV anchor is not going to apologize to Sangakkara but that is only to be expected. The story quickly moved on to demonising Dilshan.

I had a few conversations during the day on social networking sites and just good ol’ fashioned chats with some friends. The topic revolved around, not the usual “OMG, how could Randiv do that?” but more on the lines of, “Did SLC have to do this? Was the punishment too much?” [especially considering Mr. Broad Jr is getting away with only a portion of match fees docked for throwing a ball at a batsman and for general wussy-ness].

With just the video evidence, it is hard to prove that Randiv’s action was pre-meditated. People bowl big no balls and wides. Ask Steve Harmison. He has bowled a ball so wide, it bypassed the keeper, the pitch and went straight in to the hands of second slip. And so, yeah, it happens. I asked one of my friends from my undergraduate days – he is a trained umpire in the Asian Cricket Council – and he responded thus: “The umpire should have called the ball dead and cautioned the bowler for misconduct if to him it was delibrate, as he is empowered to under the “preamble” spirit of cricket points number 3 and 4. Clearly the offence”intention” to deny sehwag occured before the noball was bowled.” However, one cannot get inside the head of Randiv to know for sure, what he was thinking. The ICC couldn’t have interfered in this as technically, Randiv has not broken any of the game’s written laws.

I commend the fact that SLC Board decided to step in and nip the issue in the bud and do their own investigation, through which they have determined that Dilshan prodded Randiv to bowl the no ball. Good on them. In my opinion, Dilshan should at least have received the same punishment as Randiv, if not more. Dilshan is an experienced international player and should have known better than to resort to such idiocy. If he felt so compelled to deny Sehwag, he should have taken the ball and bowled that over instead of Randhiv.

But did SLC had to do this in the first place? No, of course not. There may be any number of reasons why they did it. It’s possible that the Board was ticked off with the team losing the 2009 Spirit of Cricket award to the Kiwis, or,  may be they are just really good Buddhists, or they are dependent on BCCI for solvency and so wanted to avoid any drawn out, media driven controversy.

I wonder if SLC Board would have been this stringent and swift with “justice” if it weren’t Randhiv – a relative newcomer on the cricketing scene – but one of their main bowlers and the following match was a semi-final or a final. But that’s neither here nor there. So what have we learned from this?

The spirit of cricket is a big bogus thing. In the current days of big time commercialization of cricket, the old practices of what used to be a “gentleman’s game” is slowly but surely drifting out the window. Secondly, Indian media is a non-stop non-sense circus where street corner preachers are masquerading as TV anchors blowing every possible issue out of proportion and propagating the view that one of ours was wronged and so we will drag you through hell. Thirdly, SLC Board cares about its team’s “spirit of cricket” image for one reason or another and they decided to display it by over-penalizing a new comer.

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Let the Ashes begin

Ricky Ponting has fired the first salvo of the Ashes 2010 by saying a 5-0 whitewash is definitely possible. I think he meant Australia beating England 5-0. Sure. Whatever you say Ricky. England are in the process of winning 8 test matches in a row (if they beat Pakistan in the remaining 2 test matches, which is highly likely).

However, in my view, the contest is a lot closer than most people think. Continue reading the article at World Cricket Watch

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Just Short

Test Match Sofa started an initiative where they published a short write-up of their favorite cricketers and opened it up to the fans and listeners as well. So, like any normal listener would do, I wrote with in the next 5 minutes a brief profile of my favorite cricketer, Rahul Dravid, and here it is:

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There was always something endearing about Rahul Dravid, a batsman that had the look on his face as if he was trying to solve a differential equation while going back and across.  I had heard about his domestic exploits but the 95 runs on debut at Lord’s when he started his recurring role as the bridesmaid, made me a believer. He perfected the role in one of the greatest test matches in India’s history at Kolkata (2001). He has kept wickets, led the country, written foreword to Steve Waugh’s book, scored gazillion runs, and all that quietly. Take note Chris Gayle.

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I was told that the write-up can have a maximum of 100 words. When I was done with it, I counted the words and it was 99. Just short. The story of the life of Rahul Sharad Dravid!

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A “bored” debut

A cartoon strip I made “A tale of two innings“, is now published at the bored cricket crazy indians (BCC!) site. I want to acknowledge here that Mrs. Cricket Couch had a role to play in it. The cartoon is a commentary on the fighting, incredulous 100+ runs partnership between Thilan Samaraweera and Ajantha Mendis in the recently concluded 3rd test match between India and Sri Lanka. This partnership certainly put Sri Lanka on the way to a series win (2-nil) till VVS Laxman had other plans.

What are you still doing? Go check it out: A tale of two innings

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Name that VVS Laxman shot

During the course of his match winning century (102 N.O) against Sri Lanka in the 3rd test of the Series, VVS Laxman moved from 87 to 91 with a delightful looking stroke off Suraj Randiv through the cover region. Its a given that VVS has supple wrists and his onside flicks are legendary. His flick against leg spinners, especially when they are bowling around the wicket, is a thing of beauty. During the course of his mammoth 281 at Kolkata in 2001, he put on a clinic on how to play Shane Warne, who bowls big ripping leg breaks, by repeatedly flicking him against the spin towards midwicket, working those supple wrists overtime.

A cover  drive is defined as “straight-batted shot, played by swinging the bat in a vertical arc through the line of the ball, hitting the ball in front of the batsman along the ground” through the cover position. However, the shot he hit, mentioned above, had all the wrist work that VVS exemplifies in an onside flick aimed towards midwicket region, except this was hit towards cover. He did move his feet, stretched and got to the pitch of the ball, brought down the bat in the vertical arc but the follow through was unlike what you generally see in a cover drive.

What should we call this shot? That is the question. Is it a cover flick? off side flick? Help me figure it out. Here is the video of that shot. Cheers!

(Video adapted from Cricket online TV)

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