Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I feel so blessed at times. Imagine - the Pussycat Dolls, with Lady Gaga thrown in as a bonus! Truly bountiful times these.

The Truth about IPL

The only time I have turned to that 'hopeless little screen' - as Leonard Cohen called it - in recent times was to tune into the IPL. It was of course no coincidence I was in India at the time. It is impossible to get away from cricket in India - or so it seems at any rate when you are 'on vacation'. The 'IPL experience' was better than what I expected of T20 in purely cricketing terms. There were quite a few close games, although I'm not sure it was because teams played high quality cricket consistently or because a truly dominant team is yet to emerge. Delhi and Chennai, frontrunners both, looked good, yet they were not truly dominant. Although when Hayden made his form really count, Chennai seemed to have got into cruise control with Shadab Jakati providing some surprise knock out blows. Only to have their seam bowling fall apart a bit under pressure. Anil Kumble was cannier than ever, and watching him bowl was a delight. Not only was he not caned too often, but what truly pleased the senses was the amount of air he gave the ball and the subtle variety he threw up. Kumble continues to thrill with his ability to reinvent himself. This is in contrast to Sourav Ganguly, though in theory it should have been a smoother transition for Ganguly to the new form. Apart from a few bright spots, 'domestic' Indian batsmen generally had a poorer tournament, or at least that was my impression. Among those on the fringe, only Rohit Sharma enhanced his reputation, considering Raina is already a regular in the national side, as is Yusuf Pathan. Manish Pandey chose the best time to put his hand up; Irfan Pathan did enough to stick around, while doing nothing to dispel the impression that he may be past his peak unless he is once again hungry and willing bowl at a lively pace in the longer form. One hopes not - when he bowled with pace and confidence, Pathan was an attacking swing bowler who threatened the best. So was Lakshmipathy Balaji, although he has played much less top level cricket, who with his remodeled action seems to have lost a bit of sharpness. I wish that this were not true either, having met the easy going yet genial Chennai cricketer, at a time when he was seeking medical advice for injuries that proved to be more than just niggles. If the cricket proved reasonably interesting, the IPL TV culture was nauseating, especially with the seven minute 'strategy break'. The Max studio team with the less than distinguished Arun Lal got on the nerves far too much. The commentary was no better. And there was much adolescent fun with all the cheerleading. For the relatively grown up, Mandira Bedi dressed and looked better, even sounded downright pleasant after a bout of L Siva or, heavens forbid, Srikkanth with the occasional Hindi throw in. If I could order a mafia hit, I might have done it on a whim when I heard Arun Lal dismissing Shane Warne's claims to Australian captaincy :) Warne's supposed transgressions may not please some, but for some it has become quite the excuse to portray the leg spinner as some sort of degenerate. It is a cricket team, for fuck's sake. We elect people far worse to run our (or is that over?) lives.
As for the strategy break, the players clearly weren't keen on it, yet the league persisted with it. I can't recollect what the franchise owners thought of this, which brings me to the power centre of the IPL. Clearly, the Modi-led administration is firmly in control of the proceedings. The franchises are eating out of Modi's hands, for the moment anyway.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Haigh on the money, again

Gideon Haigh got it absolutely spot on with his comments on Chris Gayle's controversial (yawn!) comments about Test cricket. He is right when he laments the absence of characters, which is hardly unique to cricket these days; he is also right when he rips the hypocrisy of cricket administrators in the matter. To be fair, the BCCI has not been bashful about where their priorities have lain in the last couple of decades. To that extent they have been more honest than other boards, notably the ECB, who have shown themselves almost as adept as Tony Blair and co at spin, except that they end up looking exactly like Blair in the aftermath. Administrators are expected to be smart about how they milk the T20 opportunity - and use it to finance Test cricket, even though I am not convinced that all Test cricket is financially unviable. But this will only happen if boards see any value to Test cricket. There is still enough public support for it, at least when it is competitive. As for characters, increasingly athletes are being forced to be robots who are 'good at what they do'. My jaw drops when people can only remember John McEnroe as an enfant terrible - well, whoever remembers Lendl now, as good a player as he was? That is not taking account the sheer genius of McEnroe, as much as 'genius' can be applied to sport. The only characters left now are the Haydens, strutting around like a bully or ones generally taking it all a bit too seriously, a la Rahul Dravid (though he is probably just a nice guy). I'll take Ian Botham any day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From the wilderness

Haven't been into sport much lately, so I've hatched up a clever little plan, if only to practice writing complete coherent sentences outside of work e-mails - the shackles have been broken. Any unsuspecting readers will henceforth have to contend with general verbal diarrhoea. I'm barely keeping up with Wimbledon these days, let alone the mundane. So everything under the sun is now fair game. Not sure if I can put in enough effort to revive a dead blog, but it would be interesting to see if anyone actually comes around here anymore!