Saturday, April 29, 2006

Flannelled belle

May be it's just one of those nights where I'm a little in touch with my feminine side (not quite the David Beckham way, it must be said though), I write this as I listen to the softer sound of Simon and Garfunkel :) Jenny Thompson's interview with Clare Connor, the Ashes winning captain of the English women's side, may have had something to do with it. Connor's retirement is no waltz into the sunset, just a silent trip to (relatively at least) oblivion, which says a lot about the state of the women's game. Now, that is a sad state of affairs. Not because she or her teammates couldn't make pots of cash and bag fat contracts with Nike. It's sad because I would love to see women playing cricket at the highest level, with the same levels of intensity as in the men's game. I imagine it would be a much more relaxed affair, where opponents would be less interested in questioning the parentage of the batsman on strike, instead concentrating on skill and subtlety. That of course, is a simplistic and romantic view of things (how could I be anything else when thinking about women?). Bitter rivalries in women's tennis are an old story, and when Australia and New Zealand play each other in netball, the claws are literally out (it helps to have them perfectly manicured). But I would also like to see women's cricket prosper for another reason - at the outset at least, it would be undiluted competition, unfettered by obsessive hero worshipping, TV timings or other such distractions. Alas, that again is another romantic thought. As I mentioned earlier, there is something about this night. Of course, more than anything else, it would be so cool to have a wife/girlfriend/date who loves cricket/sport. On my list of desirable attributes for a partner, that may just top the guitar goddess. All of which makes women like Clare Connor, Jenny Thompson, Sue Mott, Misha Grewal (former Indian squash champion who incidentally is easy on the eye) pretty hot in my mind. - NK

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Men of letters... and cricket

It is extremely rare that an essay/article by Gideon Haigh disappoints me (in fact, I cannot recall one). Increasingly, I'm veering round to the view that he is by far the best cricket writer alive. Of course, as such opinions go, it is subject to personal likes and dislikes, so that is what it is - just an opinion. One has to make a clear distinction between journalists and writers and as much as I enjoy reading many of the former tribe, (good) writers are a breed apart. Haigh is one such. From whatever little I have read of the man, he comes across as someone who is as much a scholar as a wordsmith (and boy is he one!). Add to that a great passion for the game - the kind of passion that one finds only in people that have played the game. Again, irrational as it may be, I find a difference between those who are passionate about the game but have never played the game at a level that requires them to be immersed completely in the game and those like Haigh (he plays for a club in Victoria, I forget the name). I wonder if Neville Cardus, who I have never read, did play the game much. In any case, I guess it is pointless to analyse why I like a certain writer more than a certain other writer. So here goes the list of my favourite current cricket writers (in that order?): Gideon Haigh Mukul Kesavan Ramachandra Guha Among the journalistic types, I quite like Greg Baum of The Age, Peter Roebuck who seems to write pretty much everywhere, Harsha Bhogle (on occasion) and Dileep Premachandran and Chandrahas Choudhury of Cricinfo. Among regular newspaper columnists in India, I think Ayaz Memon is one of the best. Of course, there are a lot more, but to name them all would be tough. Among player columnists, Ian Chappell stands out for his sharp observations and no-holds-barred views. - NK

There is no hope

Came across this on Prem Panicker's blog - Salim Malik has been left out of a Pakistan veterans' side, while Mohammed Azharuddin will proudly step into the field as the skipper of the visiting Indian side! A side that also features, as Panicker notes, Manoj Prabhakar, no less. Oh well, I guess everything is hunky dory once again, all forgotten and forgiven in the Easter spirit. Pigs can fly. Meanwhile, Indian cricket continues to be ground to dust by all and sundry. Have they no shame at all?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Chappell gets the benefit of doubt

I recently read (in The Pioneer, via India Uncut), with mild amusement, opposing viewpoints as to whether Greg Chappell should continue to be the coach of the Indian team. Without going into the details of the two sides of the argument, let me just say that it is quite preposterous to reconsider Chappell's appointment at this stage. More than anything, the debate is a consequence of our national obsession with the game and the media's consequent eagerness to feed the perpetual motion machine. In which case, it should be taken with a lump of salt, or better still, not taken seriously at all. It did set me thinking, particularly in the backdrop of the shameful capitulation at Wankhede, as to how Chappell has done in his short stint so far. One thing is for sure, he seems to chase controversy as if it were Aishwarya Rai. He has shown remarkable apetite for polemics, even as his stated objective is the betterment of the team. Has the performance matched up? One would think not, in view of the surrenders, Wankhede following on the heels of Karachi. The upshot is of course the performance in the one-day version, where thumping wins against Sri Lanka and Pakistan came either side of an uneven performance against South Africa at home. The team is on the verge of wrapping up the series against England, and the money is on the Indian side to take the series handily (there, I jinxed them). It's not all hunky dory, though, and the wins tend to cover up a few frailties. The bowling is still just above average, not really anywhere near menacing even with Munaf Patel in the side. But the worrying factor is the batting. Some of the experimentation has paid off and the emergence of Mahendra Dhoni and Suresh Raina has certainly added a dimension. On occasion, though, the mixing and matching has been taken to somewhat ridiculous levels. One hopes Rahul Dravid opening the batting was not a long term consideration. The poor form and shot selection of Virender Sehwag has no doubt caused a few headaches. The judgement on improvement in fielding levels should be reserved for the moment, especially in view of the atrocious catching in the tests against England. It would be somewhat naive to credit Chappell for the one-day performances and lampoon the team for the test debacles, as some in the media have tended to do (a reversal of the 'Players win, coaches lose' logic). On the whole though, slowly but surely, the rebuilding process seems to be leading to a tangible outcome, from a one-day perspective. Nothing much has changed on the test match front, and in fact, the team seems weaker than ever in the last four or so years. More than two years after the triumphal Pakistan tour, sadly we are still contemplating if we are good enough to be second best. Personally, I preferred the John Wright school of coaching where man management seemed to be a big part of his approach. That doesn't mean hard taskmasters who are not afraid to take on egos cannot succeed. Alex Ferguson, for instance. At this stage, however, it's not quite clear what will become of the side under Chappell. - NK