WISDEN INDIA ALMANACK 2013
EDITED BY SURESH MENON
John Wisden & Co.
4 JOHN WISDEN & CO. An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP Copyright © John Wisden & Company Limited 2013 WISDEN INDIA ALMANACK Editor Suresh Menon Assistant Sidhanta Patnaik Reader feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org www.wisdenindia.com; www.wisden.com Follow Wisden India on Twitter @wisdenindia and on Facebook at Wisden India Wisden, Wisden India and the device/logo of two cricketers in top hats are trademarks of John Wisden and Company Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc Published in India by Bloomsbury India under authority from FW Sports and Media India Pty Limited an affiliate of FidelisWorld FZ LLC All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organisation acting on or refraining from action as result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury India or the author/editor General legal notice: Wisden India is a collaboration between John Wisden and Company Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc and FW Sports and Media India Private Limited, an affiliate of FidelisWorld, FZ LLC Published by Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt Ltd VISHRUT Building, DDA Complex, Building No. 3, Pocket C-6 & 7 Vasant Kunj, New Delhi 110 070 Typeset in Times New Roman and Arial by ANVI Composers, New Delhi Printed by Replika Press Pvt Ltd 310-311 & 444-445 EPIP Kundli, Haryana – 131028, India
Hard cover ISBN 976-93-62563-11-2 Soft cover ISBN 976-93-82563-08-2 Leatherbound ISBN 978-93-82563-10-5
A Taste of Wisden India 2013 It was like watching a celebrity roast of Harpo Marx. Gideon Haigh, Comment, Page 95 *
He also introduced two English-speaking days in a week on our tours of England, Australia and New Zealand both to inculcate team spirit and to have a common language among the players. Bishan Bedi, Hall of Fame, Page 37 *
Why doesn’t Lord’s allow local residents to serve as ‘seat warmers’, allowing the right to any seats that have been sold but remain unoccupied for part or all of the day? Kamila Shamsie, The Backside of Lord’s, Page 47 *
His aim is not just to understand the bowler, but bowling itself. Mahela Jayawardene on Kumar Sangakkara, Page 78 *
The episode is part of national lore. It has been immortalised in Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Moor’s Last Sigh. Shashi Tharoor, The Changing Fan, Page 92 *
My views on chucking mirrored conventional views on pornography; hard to define, but I would know it when I saw it. Shehan Karunatilika, Comment, Page 111 *
I don’t know whether he has faked his death for financial reasons or to be with another woman. Player’s wife, page 751 *
You are from Madras, what else do you expect? C D Gopinath, India at 80, Page 337
Indian cricketers CK Nayudu (L) and Lala Amarnath coming out to bat during the First Test Match against England in Mumbai in 1933 - 34 (India at 80, page 334)
PREFACE The Wisden India Almanack is an idea whose time had come a while back; the concept has finally been given breath. In a reversal of the famous dictum on retiring from the game, a book of this nature must make its debut when people ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?” The former question has been heard in the subcontinent for some years now. There has been speculation and occasional rumours of a sighting, but the planets were not yet in the right configuration, arrayed in precise positions like the field placing for Zaheer Khan. Or, to put it differently, Richard Charkin of Bloomsbury, the publishers of Wisden in the UK, and Anand Krishnan, of FidelisWorld, had to be drawn into each other’s orbits before the inevitable came to pass. My thanks to them. Wisden’s reputation for independence is well earned, and in the manner that authority flows from integrity, it has emerged as the voice of the game. The past, present and future exist between these covers. This inaugural issue has some of the finest writers on the game – novelists, cricketers, cricket writers – sharing a combination of unique world view and quirky personal ones. To adapt a well-worn line, what do they know of Wisden who only cricket know? For helping put it all together, I thank friends and colleagues Dileep Premachandran, Anand Vasu, Kaushik, and the staff at Wisden India. Special thanks to Sidhanta Patnaik, whose capacity for hard work is matched only by his enthusiasm. Ashish Mohanty took on the extra burden on production for which I am grateful. Mohandas Menon’s statistical inputs were crucial. As the bridge between editorial and administration, between the Indian and the UK Wisdens and as a general all-round fun guy, Sanjay Khuller played a key role. My thanks to him, to Bloomsbury’s Charlotte Atyeo and to the editorial team at the UK Wisden, including Lawrence Booth, Hugh Chevalier, James Coyne, and publisher Christopher Lane who were all conscious that the “Indian” Wisden should indeed be Indian. It is the second year that will be the hardest, I have been reliably informed; and all of us involved with the production of this book, including Rajiv Beri and Amit Bhatia of Bloomsbury India, our publishers, are looking forward to it. My thanks go out to the families of those whose normal routines I interrupted with various requests, and to Shivmeet, who picked up smartly at third man edges that had gone past slip. Finally, as always, my deepest gratitude to my wife Dimpy and son Tushar, one a cricket-innocent, the other a cricket-lover, who together have ensured over the years that my own obsession is tempered with doses of normalcy. SURESH MENON Bangalore, November 2012
CONTENTS Part One: Comment Wisden India Honours Notes by the Editor
The 281 era by Rahul Bhattacharya 24 Why the richest is not the best by Ayaz Memon 28 The IPL generation by Anand Vasu 49 WISDEN INDIA HALL OF FAME Nawab of Pataudi by Bishan Bedi 53 Kapil Dev by Javagal Srinath 56 Sunil Gavaskar by Sanjay Manjrekar 59 The backside of Lord’s by Kamila Shamsie 63 The new millennium will be Asia’s by R Mohan 66 A hundred reasons to smile by Mike Selvey 72 Waiting for Sachin by Lawrence Booth 75 SIX CRICKETERS OF THE YEAR Kumar Sangakkara by Mahela Jayawardene 78 Rahul Dravid by Sourav Ganguly 80 Virat Kohli by Dileep Premachandran 82 Umesh Yadav by R Kaushik 84 Saeed Ajmal by Osman Samiuddin 86 Shakib Al Hasan by Q Z Islam 89 The changing fan by Shashi Tharoor 92 Talking the walk by Gideon Haigh 95 The Afghan adventure by Tim Albone 98 We overcame the fear of winning by Aakash Chopra 101 Why not three bouncers an over? by W V Raman 105 A trial of cricket’s conscience by Richard Sydenham 107 An all-time great, and no denying by Shehan Karunatilaka 111 FAREWELL TO THE MAESTROS Introducing imperfection by Suresh Menon Killing them softly by Mike Coward
Part Two – Review Cricket books by Harry Pearson and Binoo John 124 Obituaries 133
INDIAN CRICKET Rajasthan prove another point by R Kaushik 151 Nokia Champions League Twenty20 by Siddarth Ravindran 157 Irani Cup 164 NKP Salve Challenger Trophy 165 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 166 Ranji Trophy 176 Robin Bist lets his bat talk by Shamya Dasgupta 193 Duleep Trophy 196 Vijay Hazare Trophy 200 Deodhar Trophy 210 INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE Cricket begins to take centrestage by Anand Vasu The infamous five Copycat leagues abound by Sidhanta Patnaik C K Nayudu Trophy Under-19 Inter-Zonal Cooch Behar Trophy Vizzy Trophy
215 235 249 251 266 267 285
WOMEN’S CRICKET Challenger Trophy Bangladesh in India Inter-state one-day Inter-zone one-day Inter-state Twenty20 Inter-state Under-19
286 286 286 293 294 301
PAKISTAN CRICKET Sialkot Stallions dominate in Twenty20 by Nimra Ishtiaq 310 SRI LANKA CRICKET Chamara Silva is top scorer by Sidhanta Patnaik 314 BANGLADESH CRICKET Squabbles mar the season by Mohammad Isam 318 Dhaka Gladiators win through by Mohammad Isam 320 A home away from home by Paul Radley 326 Cricket in the UAE by K R Nayar 328 Winners around the globe 329
Part Three – India at 80 The two great traditions by Anil Kumble 334 It was Mankad’s Test by C D Gopinath 337 Key dates in Indian cricket by Mohandas Menon 340 India in Tests, 1932-2012 347 Perfect Ten by R Kaushik 413 Part Four – International series England v Sri Lanka West Indies v India England v India Zimbabwe v Bangladesh Sri Lanka v Australia Zimbabwe v Pakistan Bangladesh v West Indies South Africa v Australia Zimbabwe v New Zealand Pakistan v Sri Lanka in UAE India v West Indies Australia v New Zealand Bangladesh v Pakistan South Africa v Sri Lanka Australia v India Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series Pakistan v England in UAE New Zealand v Zimbabwe New Zealand v South Africa Sri Lanka v England West Indies v Australia England v West Indies ICC World Cricket League Championship Tri-Nation Tournament in Scotland and Ireland v England India v England Afghanistan v Pakistan in UAE Asia Cup England v West Indies ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers
418 429 446 467 472 482 487 493 500 504 515 532 535 541 551 564 586 600 603 611 618 626 632 634 635 644 645 657 659
South Africa v India India’s Other International Matches Women’s Cricket
666 667 674
Part Five – Records Test Matches 722 One Day Internationals 735 Twenty20 Internationals 739 First-Class Matches 741 Ranji Trophy 747 Chronicles 751
SYMBOLS AND ABBREVIATIONS * * *
In full scorecards, averages and records signifies not out. In short scorecards signifies the captain. In other places signifies notes.
In full scorecards signifies the designated wicketkeeper.
In full and short scorecards signifies Man/Woman of the Match. In full and short scorecards signifies Man/Woman of the Series.
Signifies where a result has been decided under the Duckworth/ Lewis method for curtailed matches. Signifies where a result has been decided under the V Jayadevan method for curtailed matches.
(Numbers In full scorecards of first-class and Test matches signifies the besides dismissal) batting order of a batsman in the second innings. Economy Rate The figure at the end of each bowler’s analysis in full scorecards is the economy rate. Other uses of symbols are explained in notes where they appear. FIRST-CLASS MATCHES Men’s matches of three or more days’ duration are first-class unless otherwise stated. All other matches are not first-class, including one-day and Twenty20 Internationals. SCORECARDS Where full scorecards are not provided in this book, they can be found at Cricket Archive (www.cricketarchive.com) or ESPNcricinfo (www.cricinfo.com). RECORDS More records can be found at www.wisdenrecords.com. The online records database is regularly updated and, in many instances, more detailed than in Wisden India 2012.
All pictures courtesy Getty Images and personal files
Wisden India Honours WISDEN INDIA HALL OF FAME We honour sportsmen in various ways: by naming streets, roundabouts and stadiums after them, by instituting trophies in their memory, by turning them into adjectives (‘Bradmanesque’), by arguing, generation after generation, over the relative merits of our heroes. The most enduring and dignified method in recent years has been to induct the best into the Hall of Fame. It is the concept – often a virtual ‘hall’ - that is the honour, not the bricks-and-mortar building. In its inaugural year, Wisden India is happy to announce the names of three players who will be inducted into the Wisden India Hall of Fame: Tiger Pataudi (page 37) Kapil Dev (page 40) Sunil Gavaskar (page 43) They were chosen by a panel of experts ranging from former players and administrators to writers on the game. The 12 who chose were: Dileep Premachandran, Anand Vasu, Sanjay Manjrekar, S Venkataraghavan, Arun Lal, Syed Kirmani, CD Gopinath, R Mohan, Sambit Bal, Jagmohan Dalmiya, PR Mansingh and Suresh Menon. This, along with the Six Cricketers of the Year (see below) will be a Wisden India annual feature.
SIX CRICKETERS OF THE YEAR Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year – a tradition dating back to 1899 in the original Almanack – is given a subcontinental flavour in Wisden India Almanack. The six cricketers are picked by the editor, the selection based on the players’ positive impact on the season under review. It is necessary to highlight the distinction since in recent years, some players who have made an impact have done so for the wrong reasons. Negative impact does not count. This year the list includes three Indians, and one player each from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh: Kumar Sangakkara (page 78) Rahul Dravid (page 80) Virat Kohli (page 82) Umesh Yadav (page 84) Saeed Ajmal (page 86) Shakib Al Hasan (page 89)
WISDEN INDIA BOOK OF THE YEAR Out of the Blue by Aakash Chopra (page 131) The Book of the Year is selected by the reviewer. All cricket books published between June 1 and May 31 of the year in review and submitted to Wisden India for possible review are eligible. Of this year’s winner, our reviewer wrote: “Out of the Blue is powerful reportage and the first real subaltern history of Indian cricket...”
Notes by the Editor History is such a comfort. In every generation, some cricket person (defined as anyone who has played the game, watched one, read about it or heard a friend mention it) comments that the game has changed for the worse. The actual details might vary – if it is Twenty20 today, yesterday it was the decision to cover the pitches, and the day before it was the introduction of the tea interval – but the game has never been what it used to be. Even when it was what it used to be. For those who believe there is too much cricket being played today, here is Walter Hammond, writing sixty years ago: “The first and worst trouble of modern cricket is that players play too much, our best men will be permanently stale, irritable and below form.” Either that makes the former great sound contemporary or modern critics sound ancient. E V Lucas, writing in 1907, said of the game that “a hard utilitarianism and commercialisation have far too long controlled it.” Not only was that a century before the IPL, but it was also written during the Golden Age. This Almanack makes its debut just as the golden age of Indian cricket is passing: Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath have retired as have Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman – and the man who gives the age its name, Sachin Tendulkar, turns 40 in 2013. The trouble with golden ages is that they are seldom recognised as such by those living through them. In sport, greatness is usually bestowed retrospectively. We understand a historical condition just as it passes, or as the philosopher Hegel put it more elegantly, “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” And yet there is something exciting about dusk, about the period of transition. How soon will the memories of what Rahul Bhattacharya in an essay here has called the ‘281 era’ be replaced by other names and other deeds? Already Virat Kohli has suggested the transition might be smoother than it was imagined. A successor of his as India’s Under-19 captain, Unmukt Chand provided more hints while leading India to the world title. As one generation mourns the passing of the greats who were a part of its growing years, another welcomes those who will grow with them. It was ever thus. However you look at it – except in terms of results abroad – these are good times for Indian cricket, and by extension, world cricket. There is more money, there are more tournaments, greater variety and fresher opportunities. But there are numerous temptations too, and tougher challenges for the authorities. In the essay quoted above, Hammond says, “young men think more than twice about committing themselves to ‘a dying industry (ie cricket).’” Today cricket as a career even outside the international circle is a viable option. In his study of the IPL generation here, Anand Vasu introduces us to Thiyagarajan, whose pragmatic approach might be the template for the future. “In another era,” writes Vasu, “he would have had no option but to give the game up and focus on the business of making a living. Cricketers such as Thiyagu are the latest shade of grey in a landscape once dominated by black and
white, and for that they can thank the IPL.” Yet the IPL question continues to intrigue. With its colour, noise and razzmatazz it is an American sport accidentally invented in India. Like pulp fiction, it demands a different standard of criticism. It may not be long before Twenty20 breaks away from the ICC to form an international body of its own; it merely uses the same equipment and venues as Test cricket but it is in effect a different sport altogether. If Test cricket is War and Peace, Twenty20 is the grocery list. Yet each is important to its constituency. Four years ago, the Board of Control for Cricket in India imposed upon the IPL unbelievable virtues. It will bring nations together, said the BCCI, and cut down sledging and bad behaviour since you cannot share dressing rooms in Chennai and then shout and scream at one another in Sydney or Cape Town. It will bring families together, averred an overpaid marketing genius (after the Nobel Prize for the EU we know anything is possible, perhaps even one for the IPL). None of these came to pass, but the message after five tournaments is that the IPL is - and I use the expression advisedly - too big to fail. The cricket-playing world will have to accept it like it accepts Indian politicians as head honchos of the ICC or the sight of Kevin Pietersen dancing in a television studio during a commentary stint. India have not threatened at the World Twenty20 since the IPL was established. The domestic tournament is too long, there are allegations of spotfixing and “umpire-fixing”, legal battles, and two teams have been dismantled. The criticism regarding the clash of interests with Board members either running teams or being paid to be brand ambassadors, remains valid. Yet, when the Empire strikes back, it strikes hard. The IPL has endorsed the notion that India is the centre of the (cricketing) universe. Chris Gayle is happier playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore than he was at one time for the West Indies, and Pietersen made no secret of the fact that playing for the Delhi Daredevils gave him a bigger kick. Such thinking may not have anything to do with money and future contracts. Cricket is perpetually caught in an uncertain present, between a perfect past and a worrisome future. It might be sobering for the nay-sayers to realise that a quarter century from now they will be looking back on this period with tearyeyed nostalgia. Perhaps things are not so bad, after all. Let us acknowledge this. 1864 and all that Three momentous events took place in 1864. Overarm bowling was legalised, W G Grace played his first important match and Wisden made its first appearance. In that issue, India were mentioned not for cricket but in the listings for January 28: The Sikhs defeated at Aliwal by Sir Harry Smith, 1846. It was the turning point of the Anglo-Sikh War. The first mention in a cricketing context came in the 1887 edition in the Almanack’s comment on the tour of England by an Indian team in 1886. “From a cricketing point of view,” pronounced the Almanack, “the tour of Parsees was a failure.”
Notes by the Editor
And now nearly a century and a half later, here we are. From a cricketing point of view, yet another tour of England by an Indian team, this one led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was a failure too. Wisden India Almanack makes its debut as a generational shift takes place in the subcontinent. But it is not the transition alone that is significant. As R. Mohan observes in an essay, the new millennium belongs to Asia. India made their international debut eight decades ago, Pakistan six, Sri Lanka three and Bangladesh one. Four Test-playing countries in the same region give it the kind of power that England and Australia had in the old days. Some of India’s intransigence in matters involving the Future Tours Programme or the DRS could be put down to the conviction that they are now in a position to give back as good they once got. Administrative muscle-flexing is as much a tradition in cricket as the toss before a match. When Britannia ruled the waves, England did the same thing. But the lesson inherent in that – the possibility that such things occur in cycles and today’s bully could easily become tomorrow’s bullied – has not been learnt. India played their first Test in 1932. A special section on 80 years of Indian cricket is Part 3 of this volume which is divided into five parts. The first comprises essays, personal, authoritative and quirky. The second takes in the review of the season (1 June 2011 to 31 May 2012), obituaries, books, and scorecards of domestic matches. Part 4 is devoted to international series. Part 5 is the (reduced) records section, once the strength of the Almanack but now overtaken on a daily basis by websites devoted to the game. wisden.com, wisdenindia.com and espncricinfo.com are only a click away. There is no formula for Wisden-reading, as generations of enthusiasts have discovered. Perhaps the manner of reading the Almanack can serve as a test of a man’s character. Do you read it from the first page to the last in order? Chances are you are an organised person, one who places his currency notes in his wallet in order of value. Are you a dipper who takes in page 121 and then 236 and back again to 81 and so on? Do you go to favourite sections first – books and obituaries, say, and then the essays? Or do you pick a page at random and go with the flow? It won’t take psychologists a moment to work out your character, whether you can be trusted with a borrowed book or if you are likely to cheat on your spouse. The Almanack is actually four books in one: a volume of essays, a book of records, an annual of matches played and a miscellany of unusual occurrences. It is for the cricket fanatic and for those interested in fine writing and human stories. Pick up the book to settle an argument and a minute’s work might stretch to hours. It is the digresser’s delight, taking you from what you needed to know through what you didn’t know you didn’t know. The first edition of Wisden (1864) is worth a small fortune today. Years from now, this first edition of Wisden India Almanack might put a few of your descendants through college.
The gods were angry At the end of the Edgbaston Test, which saw India give up their top ranking in Tests, Mike Atherton asked skipper Dhoni, “Did you cherish the No. 1 spot?” The truth is embarrassing: India did not. They arrived in England underprepared; the modern disdain for proper acclimatisation and a host of injuries meant that they were seldom in with a chance. It is useful to remember that even in the glory days of 2002 in England and 2004 in Australia – where India entertained and even dominated – they did not actually win the series. Now it was a different team. Older, flabbier, tired after too many days playing too many different forms of the game, but somehow convinced of their own invincibility. But they reckoned without the gods of cricket. By disrespecting the format, ignoring the value of preparation, relying on reputation and past record rather than current hunger and recent form, treating their bodies as if fitness were a matter of luck rather than design, by allowing the IPL to distract them from the more important tasks ahead, India insulted the gods of cricket, and the gods were angry. If fortune favours the brave, the reverse is also true. Misfortune chases the pusillanimous. Some of the reasons for the setback are discussed in the following pages. Among the significant ones is the BCCI’s contempt for its own national championship, the Ranji Trophy. Test cricketers come from that nursery, not the smaller one that sprouts T20 players. There is something wrong in a system where the country’s most successful batsman (Sachin Tendulkar, with nearly 15,000 Test runs) did not play the most successful bowler (Anil Kumble, 619 wickets) in a Ranji Trophy match, although they were nearly exact contemporaries. Over half a century ago, India’s first great opening batsman, Vijay Merchant wrote in Wisden, “(Ranji Trophy) performances are not given due recognition. Form in our premier tournament is hardly taken into consideration. We have to change the nature of our pitches and make them fast enough to give real encouragement to fast bowling. “The sport in India has become sufficiently important for people with high ambitions to intervene by getting the necessary votes to gain a majority on the Board. The annual general meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India has become of greater significance than the semifinals or final of the Ranji Trophy tournament.” It might have been written yesterday. Sadly, India pretended the defeats did not matter. There was no introspection, official or personal. “The batting did not click for us,” chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth pointed out. “We also did not do well in bowling and fielding.” As a summing up that can’t be bettered. So what were India good at? Arriving at the grounds on time? Waving to their fans?
Notes by the Editor
The Pakistan question It isn’t altruism so much as commerce which drives India-Pakistan relations in cricket. A series, even the short one being contemplated in the middle of an England tour, would be a money-spinner. Yet, commerce apart, there is a call to help Pakistan cricket. No internationals have been played in Pakistan since March 2009 after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team. Pakistan have since played their matches in the UAE and England, but have met India only in ICC tournaments like the World Cup and the World Twenty20. At times it has seemed as if a world cup is merely an excuse for an India-Pakistan match. The neighbours carry a lot of political baggage. That the perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts of 2008 walk around Pakistan unchecked stymies every attempt to normalise relations. It is a difficult hurdle to cross. The majority of Indians and Pakistanis might want peace and normalcy, but there are fringe elements who realise that that would marginalise them. Violence and India-Pakistan rhetoric validate their existence. The Indian government (which finally decides) has a tough job. The heart might say the time has come to resume relations on the cricket field, but the head has pertinent objections to that. In the ideal world, India should be taking the lead to see that international cricket returns to Pakistan. Sadly, that is not the kind of world we live in. Who owns cricket? During the standoff between Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit asked: “Who owns West Indies cricket?” The shorter version of that question lies at the intersection of sport and philosophy. So who owns cricket? The International Cricket Council, which runs the game doesn’t have any illusions about ownership; its main task is to maintain the delicate balance between the bullies and the bullied, a job it has been historically incapable of doing. Does the game belong to the corporates and television channels who pump into it millions of dollars and believe such an investment gives them the right to decide how, where, when, and in what light matches must be played? In the 90s, the start of the final of a multi-nation tournament was delayed so it wouldn’t clash with a popular television show in India. Television brings the game into our living rooms. All it asks for in return is total control. Not even in W G Grace’s time or later in Don Bradman’s have players harboured the notion that the game belonged to them. At different times, different sets of players have rebelled against their respective cricket boards over financial and other matters; players who cross over into administration quickly realise how much more power and influence they have in the boardrooms than they did on the field. One stroke of the cricket board’s pen, and the ICL, which preceded the IPL, is declared illegal and wiped away. Kapil Dev who promoted the earlier tournament might have finished as the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, but up against the suits and their accountants, he stood no chance.
In deciding that only they know what is good for the game, the administrators fall into the Fallacy of Indispensability. They seem to believe genuinely that the game belongs to them, and that they alone are the keepers of the flame. In recent years, news channels have first shown the world the underbelly of the sport: the spot-fixing by international players, and more recently the boast by a handful of umpires that suggests if the price is right, they could be in the market for some well-aimed bribes too. When things don’t go according to plan, or matches are not played in the right spirit or captains fail to make the expected bowling change, it is the media which make the biggest noise. But no one claims that they own cricket. There are many on the fringes who believe that nothing can move without them. Like the corporators in Bangalore who were willing to let the garbage pile up in the cricket stadium if they were not given free tickets complete with dinners for themselves and their families in a special enclosure for limited overs matches. They too might believe – wrongly – the game belongs to them. Whom does that leave? The average fan, the faithful spectator, the silent follower of the game who, in the subcontinent at least, has to put up with shoddy stadium planning, excessive security concerns, overzealous officials who exist only to take the joy out of watching a game live. Yet, in a curious way, if anybody owns the game it is this unknown soldier. He is the first link in the long chain that leads to money and fame for the players and other cricket people. If he decides to switch off his television set or refuses to turn up for a match or decides that the toothpaste being endorsed by a player is not worth the tube it comes out of, he can bring the whole sporting-commercial complex crashing down. Politicians who head Asian cricket bodies will move on to other lucrative posts which guarantee more exposure and respectability, foregoing the chance to rub shoulders with Sachin Tendulkar. Fixing a hole Spot fixing and umpire-baiting have been exposed not by the ICC or its affiliates but by television channels running sting operations. What is worrying is that legally, fixing in cricket is not a crime. Unlike in the UK, where three Pakistani cricketers faced jail sentences for spot fixing, there is no such deterrent in Asia. Perhaps it is not a coincidence then that spot-fixing charges have been levelled mostly in Asia. Five players – T P Sudhindra, Shalabh Srivatsa, Mohnish Mishra, Amit Yadav, Abhinav Bali – have been banned for periods ranging from a year to, in Sudhindra’s case, life. Shaiful Haque, a former Bangladesh player has been banned indefinitely, and as we go to press comes the news of a host of umpires adding their names to the shameful list. The BCCI acted swiftly and decisively, but what about the franchises who allegedly offered payments well beyond the official limit of 30 lakh per player in the IPL? What kind of investigation is this which cherry picks what is convenient to the authorities, but ignores the implications of those very ‘confessions’? If
Notes by the Editor
Monish Mishra was offered 145,000 rupees more than he was entitled to, why did the investigation not follow it up by questioning Pune Warriors, the team he plays for? Either Pune says it is not true, in which case you cannot punish Mishra, or the franchise needs to be disciplined too. A life ban for spot fixing is well deserved, for the punishment has necessarily got to be exemplary. Sudhindra joined the company of Mohammad Azharuddin a little more than a decade after the former India captain uttered the most depressing sentence in all of Indian sport: “Maine match banaaya”, I fixed matches, and was banned for life. It is a blow both to the system of deterrence that the Board has always claimed it has in place and a depressing reminder that human nature cannot be legislated against. Still, the time has come to put laws in place to punish spot-fixers. Right now the ‘crime’ comes under the broad heading of ‘cheating’, and a clever lawyer can play havoc with that. Cricket and morality Not often is a captain given an opportunity to rise above the here-and-now and underline the deeper meaning of the word “cricket.” Some years ago, Anil Kumble conducted himself with a combination of dignity and toughness during the “Monkeygate” controversy in Australia. In England, there was one moment to cherish. By recalling Ian Bell who had been stupidly run out at the stroke of tea in Trent Bridge, Dhoni made a decision to be proud of. Cricket is nothing without magnificent gestures. Those who thought Dhoni showed weakness rather than strength asked the question: Why should sport — widely believed to mirror society — answer to a greater morality than other fields of human endeavour? Sport and morality have a special relationship. The very artificiality of sport gives us the right to inject it with a greater moral purpose than say, business or politics. Even politicians who cut corners or take bribes are expected to be honest on the playing field. Bill Clinton might have cheated on his wife, but had he cheated on a golf course, there would have been no redemption. The membrane that separates sport from real life is semi-permeable, allowing situations from the former to get into the latter. When Richard Nixon asked the moon-walking astronauts, “Did you get the results of the All-Stars game?” it seemed both natural and vital. Sport can seep into life, but when the reverse happens, as when the sharp practices of the real world enter the sports field, that upsets the natural order of things. Sport cannot be a mere reflection of society, it has to be a superior realm where there is always sunshine, fairness and due reward. It is a fantasy world, and in a fantasy world everything is perfect or should aspire to be. DRS and more A physicist will tell you that any system that is predictive is inherently flawed
because you cannot tell with precision where a free particle will go when unobstructed. Hawkeye tells you where the ball is likely to finish up in relation to the stumps. So does the umpire on the field. The difference is that Hawkeye is more accurate when it comes to events preceding the rap on the pads – it is certain where the ball pitched, what its velocity was, and the angle at which it struck the pads. Hot Spot tells you if the ball took the edge. Over a period, greater the amount of information fed into these systems, the greater will be the accuracy. Which makes a nonsense of the way both the BCCI and the ICC approach the DRS. In India’s case, the wait for perfection, of 100% certainty is silly. The progress is incremental as systems evolve. We get closer and closer to perfection, but have to go through a necessary period of relative imperfection. The DRS showed up two Indian batsmen – both reputed walkers – in Sri Lanka a few years ago, and India’s allergy began then. The ICC, by having different strokes for different folks, is exhibiting none of the authority that a governing body of sport should command. Leaving it to the respective boards to decide whether DRS should be used or not is a compromise that does not reflect well on the game. You only have to imagine FIFA saying countries can decide bilaterally to do away with the off side because some of them cannot afford so many cameras to see how absurd this attitude is. What about Bangladesh? There is an argument for sending Bangladesh back into the non-Test fold, but it is not a very good one. True, they have won only three of their 73 Tests, and more damagingly, have lost 63. But Asian countries have been slow starters. After 73 Tests, India had won only six to 29 lost, Pakistan 11 to 21, Sri Lanka nine to 34. Outside, New Zealand had a 3-35 record and South Africa 12-42. Bangladesh might have been shoehorned into Test cricket in a hurry thanks to the dreams of expanding the Asia bloc – their most significant win till then, the defeat of Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup was a dodgy one, as subsequent events showed. India toured Bangladesh to initiate that country into Test cricket, but remain the only country Bangladesh have not toured. There is no money for India in a Bangladesh visit, and that is the bottom line for television and administrators. But India need to look at the big picture here. The cricket board has long gone past the need for Asian blocs and consolidated votes. They need to play the role of the benevolent big brother in the region, inviting Bangladesh for both international series as well as local first-class and other tournaments. It might sound patronising to say that India have a duty to cricket in their region, but that is true, and needs to be emphasised. The easier option would be to knock Bangladesh off their perch among the Chosen Ten, the Test-playing countries. But the more challenging option will pay greater dividends in the long run, for cricket, and perhaps even for diplomacy.
Notes by the Editor
How about ICB or CI or IC? There is something anachronistic about the governing body of the game calling itself the Board of Control for Cricket in India. That ‘control’ is out of place there, even if it is in practical terms a true reflection of the state of affairs. The Board controls cricket and cricketers; none of all that democratic nonsense is welcome. A players’ association is still the secret dream of players (it won’t do to go public with such dreams, for they will quickly turn in nightmares). It goes against the Board’s essentially feudal spirit. Even when it does something good – like handing out substantial one-time bonuses to its players – the board manages to look overly feudal, deciding that some like Kapil Dev, are not entitled to it. A national outcry and an apology by Kapil (for his involvement with the ICL) later, everybody got his due. But the master-servant relationship is outdated, and removing that ‘control’ from its name would be both symbolic and practical. Perhaps a generational change in officialdom is needed before such matters as accountability, transparency, and the thought that a board exists to serve the game and the players will begin to be accepted. Till then, that word – straight out of a le Carre novel – will continue to be the theme. Countries which once used it have dropped it. What price Indian Cricket Board, Cricket India or Indian Cricket? The first edition In a movie on the last days of Hitler, Alec Guinness playing the dictator orders his men to leave hundreds of his photographs lying around for future generations. “I don’t want to make the mistake Jesus Christ made – I want everyone to know what I looked like,” he says. I write the following in a similar spirit and in the interest of some research scholar a century from now: Wisden India Almanack was put together in a haunted building. Eyewitness accounts claim to have seen a ghost late night in the editor’s chair, watching cricket on television. For a while it was assumed that it was the editor himself indulging in some serious ghost writing till someone realised that the apparition was present even on the nights the editor was not in town. Even ghosts, it was acknowledged, cannot be in two places simultaneously. So who was the ghost? I believe it was John Wisden himself, making sure all was well and that the number of leg byes in the scorecards tallied with the actual figures. Wisden wasn’t the first editor of the almanack – W. H. Knight is credited with that honour. But what he said in his first edition holds good still: “In offering our first edition of the almanack to the patrons of the Noble Game, we have taken great pains to collect a certain amount of information, which we trust will prove interesting to all those that take pleasure in this glorious pastime.” Perhaps with one change. Replace ‘glorious pastime’ with ‘roaring business’. Comforting or not, history does advance through commerce.
The Champions: Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and VVS Laxman celebrate India’s series win in England in 2007.
The 281 era RAHUL BHATTACHARYA Insofar as we ever had a golden era in cricket, it just got over. Say it started November 2000, with a Yuvraj Singh blitz and a Zaheer Khan yorker in Nairobi, and ran up until M S Dhoni’s Fred Astairish bat twirl at the Wankhede in April 2011. We weren’t kings – when ever have we been? – but we had class, we were contenders, we were somebody. The kings were Australia. We beat them at home three times, and twice came close in their house. We won our first Test series in England in 21 years, in West Indies in 35 years, in New Zealand in 33 years and won, at last, Test matches in South Africa. We won in Pakistan for the first time, both formats. We won a World Twenty20, and a World Cup, and got to the final of another. At home we lost only seven Tests out of 52; and in all conditions, against all opponents, won 48 to 27 lost. The first-person plural is not used to convey partisanship but affection for a set of players who became a part of our lives, in whom a nation recognized their own increasing aspirations and, sometimes, their best selves. Like a good national integration project, they converged from everywhere (though not from every strata): from the south Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman; from the north Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh,
The 281 Era
Gautam Gambhir; from the west Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan; and they were led with most success, improbably, from the east (Sourav Ganguly) and the heartland (Dhoni) – with a little collaboration from overseas (John Wright and Gary Kirsten). They were old and young, cussed and carefree, short and tall, bald and hirsute, consumers of orange juice or buffalo milk or vodka, and could greet or abuse you in about eight languages. If you lined them up – two seamers, two spinners, a keeper and seven batsmen – they made a XII more strong and exciting than probably any other in Indian history across formats. Cumulatively they played about 1,200 Tests and 3,000 one-dayers, so the mirage of intimacy felt reasonable for most cricket watchers. One by one, they began dropping out. Srinath went first, back in 2003, after spearheading the attack in his own grumbling, honest-toil manner. In 2008, the man with whom he shared a wedding mandap, Kumble, retired on an impulse after injuring a finger on his favourite ground, Feroz Shah Kotla. In the following match, at Nagpur, the Ganguly soap opera finished with a nearhundred, a golden duck and a series win over Australia. As last season ended in unsurpassed misery, Dravid left after his Dickensian tale of two countries: three heroic centuries in England, but bowled six times for an average of 24 in Australia. Of those left standing, Tendulkar looked preoccupied, Sehwag flaccid, Laxman middle-aged, Dhoni jaded. Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer. Harbhajan was not even in the squad. It was unmistakable: with 0-8, the era was shattered to smithereens. Other parts of this book will doubtless do the autopsy. This is a praise burial. The era has no obvious name. Though it spanned the 2000s, naming rights for the decade could hardly go to India. Call it, if you will, the 281 era. VVS Laxman’s innings came at the top of the Ganguly-Wright partnership, and the Kolkata victory it engineered was so grand and textured that every subsequent success felt like a homage. The innings itself w asn’t just the virtuoso performance in modern Indian cricket, it was also the most moving representation of its potential: fight, beauty, patience. To submerge oneself into that day (or days), that Test, that fortnight, was to make a discovery that felt somehow profound and fresh: we can play! A decade on, to watch India fall apart in England and Australia was to confront the sinking suspicion that, no, maybe we cannot play anymore. Dhoni and his band-aided bunch attempted Test cricket from memory, as though searching for a language they no longer spoke. Two Indias took the pitch: the one they thought they could still be, and the one they had become. It was age, yes; it was also era. The Indian way of looking at cricket had changed. The attention of administrators, players, commentators and spectators had shifted elsewhere. The hard graft and hard knocks of Test cricket were like nightmarish 5 a.m. cold showers haunting the silk-robed on Jacuzzi evenings. The generation of 281 had worked hard on being hard. Young domestic cricketers were pointed to the morning upon morning that Tendulkar and Kumble, 20,000 runs and 800 wickets under their belt, put in at the Middle
Income Group in Mumbai and the National Cricket Academy facilities in Bangalore. As a team they played through a period of tumultuous change. They learnt to contend with bleep tests, news channels, “mental disintegration” and Greg Chappell. For reporters, observing that bunch offered oddly illuminating moments. At Lord’s in 2002, Ganguly was interviewed by a venerable magazine editor. More unimpressed with the British press than they were with him, he Captain Glorious: Sourav Ganguly answered every question with a single word or sentence. The magazine carried the conversation verbatim. And it was, actually, one of the more revealing interviews by an Indian captain. Ganguly had the humour, abrasiveness and angularities which could shelter the more sober ambitions of others. Earlier in that summer of 2002, in the West Indies, a Bajan journalist asked him if the great Sachin Tendulkar was scared of fast bowling (Tendulkar had failed in four successive innings). Ganguly’s reply in its entirety, accompanied by the Ganguly smile that either charmed or annoyed its recipient, was: “You’ve got guts, man, you’ve got guts.” You couldn’t imagine another Indian putting it that way. But, surprisingly, Dravid, the yin to Ganguly’s yang, once almost did. This was two years further on, during the memorable 2004 tour of Pakistan. The team had grown in confidence and achievement, and in Lahore Dravid with Mohammad Kaif made a superb floodlit chase to level the one-day series. Asked straightforwardly by a Pakistani journalist if the match was rigged, his response was equally straightforward: “Somebody please get this guy out of the room.” This was another reason why we cherished that generation. It rescued us from the basest insult to sport, match-fixing. The voluminous CBI report had been made public shortly after the 2000 ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi, where the “new India” had their first outing. To wade through its muck was to throw yourself doubly behind the promise of a fresh beginning. Laxman’s 281 itself began its journey on the same day as another Laxman, Bangaru of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was exposed in a famous sting, accepting a bribe for considering national defence contracts. As this goes to press, five domestic cricketers have been banned for spotfixing negotiations or “bragging” about shady IPL deals; indeed, every facet of Indian life is under a cloud of corruption. One feels a gratitude to the men who kept cricket honest. Kumble refuses to share the studio with a popular TV pundit tainted in the original match-fixing scam and you want to cheer.
The 281 Era
Eras end, and better ones do not always begin. David Rudder wrote his brilliant song “Rally Round the West Indies” at a time, 1988, when the first signs of vulnerability in that extraordinary dynasty were beginning to show. Though every bit the rallying call its name suggests, beneath even the most soaring notes, the most rousing lines – When the Toussaints go, don’t you know, the Dessalines come? – there runs a firefighter’s anticipation of impending loss. In the tributes that poured in after Dravid’s retirement, the lament was not merely for a departing great. “When this honourable man called it a day,” wrote Mukul Kesavan, “middle-aged fans across the subcontinent shivered: they felt a goose walk over Test cricket’s grave.” Dravid’s former team-mate at Kent, Ed Smith, concurred. “It is not an exaggeration to say that a whole strand of the game – a rich vein that runs through the game’s poetic heart – departs the scene with India’s greatest ever No. 3.” These anxieties resurfaced when Laxman retired: we mourn the immemorial rhythm of all those played and unplayed innings which, though sometimes quick and often urgent, never felt hurried or strained. When Tendulkar goes, everybody will know they have gotten just a little older. “The elegiac note . . . belongs to cricket,” Mike Marqusee demonstrates sharply in Anyone But England. “From nearly the beginning, people have said the game is not what it used to be.” India’s golden era was turmeric compared to the West Indian or the Australian, and, who knows, to the one around the corner. Yet for the generations who found in it pleasure and nourishment, the question is not if or when, but simply: now what? Rahul Bhattacharya won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize for The Sly Company of People Who Care. His Pundits from Pakistan is a classic on the game.
Why the richest is not the best AYAZ MEMON “If there was an incentive – even an official ICC ranking like today – we would have strived harder to stay at the top,” muses former India captain Ajit Wadekar, only half in jest. Wadekar ushered in a new era in Indian cricket when his team beat West Indies and England in successive series away in 1970-71, rounding off a wonderful two-year spell with another victory over England at home. Prior to that, India had won only once overseas – against New Zealand in 1968 – and were considered among the poorest of touring sides. West Indies, of course, were an ageing team on the decline then. Yet with Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Vanburn Holder in the ranks, not the easiest to beat at home. Wadekar’s team achieved this exceeding all expectations. Against greater odds, the team beat Ray Illingworth’s England at the Oval a few months later to clinch the series. England had only just returned after regaining the Ashes and were justifiably the “world champions”. By simple deduction, since India beat them, they were the new champions, which was corroborated by a facile 2-1 win over Tony Lewis’s team in India a year later. “When we beat England at the Oval,’’ recalls Wadekar, “someone in the dressing room shouted that we were the new champions and should open another bottle of champagne to celebrate. But in those days, these things did not invite media brouhaha or even acknowledgement from the establishment.’’ India were whipped 0-3 the next time they toured England in 1974, with almost the same set of players as in 1971 except that all of them were more experienced and should have performed better.
Chin music: Suresh Raina at Lord’s
Why the Richest is not the Best
VVS Laxman falls to Australia’s Nathan Lyon in the Fourth Test at the Adelaide Oval.
Cricket remains distinct from other sports because of the several imponderables – weather, pitches, home and away factors – involved. This is what makes the sport not only delightful and “gloriously uncertain”, but makes it almost impossible to evaluate teams: unless, of course, you are talking of the West Indies of the 1980s and Australia of the 1990s, who swept aside everything in their way in a long spell of dominance. Yet, India’s struggle to be top of the pops for several decades, despite having the requisite wherewithal, has been disquieting for the fan and cricket academic alike. Short on neither talent nor resources (at least in the past three decades), Indian teams regularly fell short of being the best – except when playing at home. Then, when they had scaled the summit in 2010 after superb performances over three years, it became all too short-lived as the team suddenly turned profligate. Even allowing for the quirky formula to determine rankings in the contemporary game, India’s decline from being the number one Test side to No. 4 in a little over a year since the middle of 2011 has not just been rapid, but also startling. How could a team which looked so good for more than three years slump so badly as to be whitewashed in two successive series overseas? What explains this turnaround? Several theories abound. The players were flogged into utter fatigue by the profit-obsessed BCCI say the concerned, the dressing room has too many elephants say the oracles, the team’s long in the tooth because youngsters have been ignored for too long say the progressives, the effect of too much T20 cricket has been deleterious argue the technically minded, the IPL’s easy money has made the players jelly-bellied, unambitious and short on commitment aver the cynics. While all these propositions are imbued with fact, they don’t necessarily add up to an all-pervasive truth. Could it not be that England and Australia were just too good for India? An analysis which looks only at finding fault with a losing
side ignores the merits of the one winning. In the hyperventilating, ratings-crazed world of television in India, villains are found easily and punishment pronounced without regard to facts and factors which may have influenced results. Because the game is so big in the country, ordinary players become heroes overnight, and the same players become zeroes before the break of dawn. The Indian team, which was the toast of the country after Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit that magnificent six to win the World Cup, fell from grace within a couple of months when the much-touted series in England became terribly one-sided. This was compounded by the debacle in Australia six months later, victories over the West Indies – both away and at home – hardly alleviating the acute disappointment in fans and critics alike. In a sense this disappointment was understandable, in another it only led to further confusion as half-truths were assumed to be gospel. What was lost in the melee was an understanding of how the sport is panning out currently; or that the basic premise – that India was an all-weather, all-conditions champion team – was clearly flawed. The pattern in cricket soon became topsy-turvy. England, for instance, were whitewashed 0-3 by Pakistan in Dubai. This came less than a year after they had wrested the No.1 ranking from India, having also won the Ashes memorably a few months earlier. England hung on to the top ranking till South Africa relieved them of that honour. In fact, very few points separate the top four. Elsewhere Australia, who beat India so easily, struggled to beat the West Indies in the West Indies. The chutzpah and energy which marked their performances against Dhoni’s team seemed to have suddenly dissipated. It is important to remember too that Australia had also been beaten at home by unfancied New Zealand and prior to that were bowled out for an ignominious 47 by South Africa, who nevertheless could not win the series. Unlike the reductionists, I think this flip-flop situation is good for the game. The constant churn is adding to the unpredictability and excitement of Test cricket. Between 1992 and 2005, Australia had assumed a stranglehold which was getting to be awe-inspiring, but also boring. The playing field currently is level, so to speak, giving each new contest a new edge and dimension which should whet the appetite of the genuine cricket lover. What’s influenced this topsy-turvy scenario? Clearly there is a new ethos emerging in the game, both in terms of technique and mindset. The T20 format has obviously played a big part. Batsmen are willing to take bigger risks, even invent newer strokes (the dilscoop and the switch-hit introduced by Kevin Pietersen being strident examples), which have increased the entertainment value for spectators manifold but more importantly also enhanced the pace of the game and led to more results. The flip side to this is a more concerted effort by teams to exploit “home advantage”. Winning matters a great deal in terms of prestige and money, and every advantage is sought to be squeezed from every situation. This may not seem the ideal way to play the sport – and increasingly, there are one- sided results – but it has not necessarily been bad for the game. To come back to India who have willy-nilly played the biggest role in transforming the scenario because they now host the Indian Premier League,
Why the Richest is not the Best
A miss: Rahul Dravid of India (R) drops a catch at Edgbaston
command 70 per cent of the “eyeballs” and generate 75% of the revenue for the game. Indian cricket woke up to actualise its cricketing potential. Critics of Indian cricket – and these abound – sometimes forget that the team has performed splendidly in recent years. Seen over a decade-long horizon, India would be the best-performing side in the world in all conditions apart from winning the 2007 Twenty20 Championship and the 2011 World Cup and becoming the top-ranked Test team for 18 months between 2009 and 2011. Yet concerns and issues about the vision of the BCCI – and not forgetting the players – persist. In competition, an individual or team must participate to be the best. You can’t only be conditionally good, as seems to be the prevailing logic in the establishment and the talent. That is a sign of decadence, not of ambition. Ironically, India’s worst seems to have emerged just when it seemed that the team was best equipped to perform the best. The World Cup was the springboard to make a quantum leap, instead of which the team has flopped, looking bereft of energy, focus, commitment. Predictably, there was an outcry over the relatively poor performances in England of Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. By the time the Australia tour ended, Rahul Dravid – so magnificent in England – had been added to the din and clamour against so-called veterans. Vitriol was combined with cynicism as the team failed in Test after Test, but instead of seeking valid reasons, scapegoats were sought to be found. To the discerning, India’s failure had been total and collective – barring, of course, Dravid’s one-man show in England. The form of the players had been poor, the fitness even more questionable, the sense of purpose downright suspect. The utter absence of zest and energy as the team swung from defeat to defeat was staggering. Of course the failure of the great batting trio affected the team the most, but questions needed to be asked why they had suffered this steep decline in form and what remedial action had been planned in case this happened. As is clear, there was a clean absence of forethought or forward planning.
Advancing years are the dread of all sportspersons, and in cricket a lean trot, while still a mystery, is not entirely unexpected. Add to this the burden of expectations, and it was always a matter of time before something became unhinged. That it didn’t for more than a decade redounds to the virtuosity of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag – and Ganguly earlier – rather than their culpability in the current situation. In sport, and even more so in cricket, there is no defined age when retirement is mandatory. There is no clear sell-by date. Who was to say in August last year, after Dravid had scored three magnificent centuries that he would flop so badly in Australia a few months later? And yet, considering that all three in India’s famed batting trio were on the wrong side of 30, the odds on all three losing form or fitness or both had narrowed considerably. Moreover, there was also the danger that all of them could quit within months of each other. Dravid and Laxman have since retired, and while Tendulkar has brushed aside all talk of quitting with gnashing teeth, it stands to reason that his playing days are numbered. The BCCI has bungled in not anticipating this properly and preparing an exit plan – that protects their honour as well as that of the team – which would ensure a smooth transition. This is what Australia have done quite well, and so their recovery from last year’s slump has been quicker; this (among other things) is where the West Indies were negligent when at the top in the 1980s and are still paying a price. But dealing with senior and over-the-hill players is only one part where the Indian cricket establishment has been found wanting. The other, more important, is in creating an environment which promotes sustained excellence. Skill, form and fitness are the key determinants to sporting achievement but while there is no dearth of the first, the official approach to the other two aspects has been lackadaisical – ranging from kowtowing to player power to favouritism to neglect. This is most pronounced in the aspects of fitness and athleticism. Suffice to say that Indian players are still laggards when it comes to fielding, catching and running between the wickets. But this has serious ramifications in the modern game, as was evident in the series against England and Australia. There were umpteen occasions when India lost their way from a position of strength because of a dropped catch, runs conceded in the field, failure to optimise runmaking opportunities when batting, etc. I believe this is of far more significance than just the predictable brouhaha about making pitches more sporting in India to produce cricketers of better calibre. True, good sporting pitches would help but these may still not change the pusillanimous mindset that seeks self-protection or self aggrandisement over team achievement. But for that to happen, the mindset of the administration too has to be tweaked – from constantly looking to fill its coffers to constantly seeking results and excellence. The single most important lesson to be drawn from the last year is that being the richest cricket-playing country does not necessarily mean being the best.
Ayaz Memon is a columnist who has been reporting on the game for three decades.
HALL OF FAME Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi
HALL OF FAME Sunil Gavaskar
HALL OF FAME Kapil Dev
CRICKETER OF THE YEAR: Kumar Sangakkara
CRICKETER OF THE YEAR: Rahul Dravid
CRICKETER OF THE YEAR: Virat Kohli
CRICKETER OF THE YEAR: Umesh Yadav
CRICKETER OF THE YEAR: Saeed Ajmal
CRICKETER OF THE YEAR: Shakib Al Hassan
RANJI TROPHY CHAMPIONS: Rajasthan
INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS: Kolkata Knight Riders
Ian Bell returns to the crease after being recalled by India in the spirit of the game at Nottingham.
Wheeling Away: MS Dhoni has Praveen Kumar and Suresh Raina for company at Eden Gardens.
Arjun Tendulkar with his father Sachinâ€™s friend, Rahul Dravid.
Australian cricket fans show their support during day two of the Third Test against India at the WACA.
Getting fit: VVS Laxman stretches during a practice session at the Sydney Cricket Ground
As dusk approaches a young enthusiast gets into action at India Gate, New Delhi in winter.
At the launch of Indiaâ€™s new jersey in Hyderabad
West Indies cricketer Marlon Samuels (R) leaps over the billboard to greet Chris Gayle (L) after victory over India in the fifth One Day International at Sabina Park, Kingston.
Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan celebrates Kolkata Knight Riders victory in the IPL.
Cricket in the park: A quiet session in New Delhi
Local children play cricket on the streets outside the R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Falling Apart: The scoreboard showing Australia all out for 47 runs against South Africa at Cape Town.
The IPL generation ANAND VASU Even if you are one of those rare people who watched every ball of the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League, read all you could about it, backed your team to the hilt against the barrackers on Twitter and Facebook – in short if you’re the dream viewer of the IPL’s marketing men – chances are you don’t know S Thiyagarajan. A right-hander who opens the batting with the stated aim of hitting the ball far, and who also bowls handy medium-pace, Thiyagarajan has never played firstclass cricket, and given that he’s 28, is unlikely to do so in the future. Thiyagu, as the well-built but not especially tall cricketer, is known in Chennai circles, where he plays most of his cricket, was probably the unlikeliest recipient of an IPL contract ahead of the 2012 season. The Royal Challengers Bangalore, left with a couple of gaps to plug in their squad, and keen not to splash the cash, conducted trials for aspiring players. In the first of five matches, conducted under the watchful eyes of Ray Jennings, the coach, and Anil Kumble, RCB’s chief mentor, Thiyagu came to the crease with six needed off one ball, and was disappointed to strike only a boundary. But the RCB management clearly liked what they saw and slotted him at the top of the order for the remaining matches. The move worked, and Thiyagu ended with 161 runs from five games, being dismissed only once. A contract worth one million rupees, the maximum permissible amount for someone who hasn’t played first-class cricket, was offered and gleefully accepted. While that story is interesting enough in its own right, what makes Thiyagu unique, and his situation the perfect metaphor for the IPL generation, is the route he took to bag a contract. After six seasons in A peep into the future: the highly competitive first division Thiyagarajan in Chennai, where some of the
country’s best cricketers ply their trade, Thiyagi decided to drop down to the second division. “I am going to be honest here,” says Thiyagu. “I did not look at a Ranji cap nor did I train my thoughts on three-day matches (first division). All that I wanted was an IPL contract and I am happy to have got one. Receiving that news from RCB was the happiest moment of my life.” The move to a lower division was made specifically with the aim of shifting from three-day cricket to 50-over games. “After playing six seasons in the first division, I decided to shift to 50-overs cricket to improve my ball striking skills. There is a certain responsibility you carry when playing in three- or four-day matches. I thought it curbed my attacking style,” says Thiyagu. Geoffrey Boycott, the former England opener with 8,114 Test runs, would be forgiven for choking on his Earl Grey if he ever read that explanation. After all, from time immemorial, the skill most coveted by opening batsmen was that of leaving the ball. Here was an opener who was worried that playing three-day matches was getting him into the habit of leaving too much alone. When you consider that Thiyagu’s ultimate ambition was an IPL contract – it’s another matter that he did not make the playing XI even once – and that his move paid dividends after just one year in the second division, you can’t fault his method. “I had taken a big risk. I gave myself one last chance to get something meaningful. If I had failed to get a contract my only option would have been to start some sort of business,” explains Thiyagu. “I had to achieve something, at least for my family. I come from a middle-class background. My father is an engineer who works in a private firm while my mother is a homemaker.” Thiyagu’s honesty is disarming in an age when most cricketers are coached to say the right things. Every second day you hear about how nothing is more important to a cricketer than Test matches, the most pure form of the game. Then you have someone like Kevin Pietersen wanting to play a full season of the IPL rather than do battle with New Zealand in England in the early season. When the backlash duly arrived Pietersen backtracked, but it’s hard to believe he’s alone in wanting to make a pretty packet for two months’ work rather than spend the year slogging through uncertainty. Chris Gayle’s world travels as a freelancer – he has turned out for Barisal Burners, Jamaica, Kolkata Knight Riders, Matabeleland Tuskers, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Stanford Superstars, Sydney Thunder, Western Australia and Worcestershire, though not necessarily in that order – and subsequent travails are well documented. But, while Pietersen and Gayle are established international cricketers, it is the Thiyagus of the cricket world that have pundits most worried. While his situation is unique at the moment, the time when young players will choose to make their mark in T20 leagues rather than do the hard yards may not be far away. Rahul Dravid, who plays in the IPL but chose to stay away from international T20 cricket when the opportunity arose, conceded that the cricket landscape
The IPL Generation
was fast changing. “There are more options now,” says Dravid. “It’s very hard for me to be judgmental about kids of today. It’s unfair. I had gone through a commerce degree in college, and not very successfully. When I grew up, if I wanted to be a successful professional cricketer – and making a living out of the sport became a part of that – the only option for me was to be a successful Test cricketer. There was no other way in which you could make a professional living out of the sport. I would have still played it, but I would have looked to do something else professionally if I wasn’t good enough.” Dravid turned out to be not only good enough on the field but eminently marketable off it, but he urged against taking the easy way out. “People now have the option of not necessarily playing Test cricket but making a living out of the game,” says Dravid. “Who’s to blame kids for taking that option? Who’s to blame kids for using that opportunity if they feel they are not good enough for Test cricket? I won’t judge them on that, but I would like to challenge them. What I’ll tell kids is that the greatest satisfaction you are going to get is by
Chris Gayle: At home in the world
playing Test cricket. That will give you the greatest personal satisfaction, so don’t sell yourself short.” Is Thiyagu selling himself short or making the most of the cricket market as it exists today? In another era, he would have had no option but to give the game up and focus on the business of making a living. Today, he’s spent time in a dressing-room that includes a batsman with two Test triple-centuries and another who looks most likely to become the next star in India’s batting firmament. Cricketers such as Thiyagu are the latest shade of grey in a landscape once dominated by black and white, and for that they can thank the IPL.
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