Sachin Tendulkar Should Retire Now!

I need to start by highlighting this age old tradition of Indian culture – viz. Respect for elders. I must admit that I have been a firm believer of this particular aspect of our culture thanks to our education system and the Indian National Pledge that I took every morning in the school (“…I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect…”)

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar (Image Courtesy: THE HINDU)

As I grew and grew enough to become a middle-ager, I realized that people become more and more selfish as they get older – the primary motives behind the same being the greed for money and power. If you look around or read all those corruption topics that came up in the last five or ten years, you will realize that in most corruption cases or charges, there was a senior politician involved (or he/she was the driving force behind the same)

Well, every theory has exceptions and hence before proceeding further let me salute those exceptional elderly and senior fellow citizens who selflessly dedicated themselves to the nation, society and their family and the overall growth and reforms.

Our ‘respect elders’ syndrome can be observed in many real life situations in India. In most traditional families, the oldest person (doesn’t need to be an earning member) still have the final say on the family budget, spending or even what social stand to take on particular issues. He or she is more like the final authority on all family matters and the current Television Serials in Hindi seem to endorse this idea even stronger.

Jokes apart, what this culture has offered our elders is to help them hang around as long as they want to in their respective roles and careers instead of helping with a bit of succession management at the right time. Whatever may be the walk of life, Our seniors just don’t retire!

I have several examples from various fields and domains.

Our first World Cup winning captain and national hero Kapil Dev had to be literally kicked out of the Indian team after a disastrous and stretched final couple of years in his career.

Hiding behind heavy makeup and wigs, our senior actors at 50 or 60 years of age would not mind running around trees with teenage heroines unless they are forcefully and gradually taken out by the industry and fans. This is true in any Indian language movie industry and at times they even depend on the fan clubs and paid fans to hang around by creating fake publicity for the movies released.

Our politicians like Muthuvel Karunanidhi or Deve Gowda never give up a chance to contest the elections or lead their respective parties even though they are on adult diapers, wheelchair and completely mentally/physically unfit to be a public representative or parliamentarian.

Some of our famous playback singers have sung for 1950s films as well as 1990s all for young heroes and heroines. At some point they were kind of forced out giving no opportunities. Why did they have to wait till then and lose respect?

Most of the Indian sportsmen that I know, retired only after they were told to quit or ignored for a couple of years for major tournaments or national selection. This is true not only for cricket but with athletics, hockey, football, tennis, badminton or you name it.

Even worse, we are now hearing an age row from the Army chief of India who potentially wants to hang around for another year. Where are we heading?

Not ready to age gracefully?

The real problem that we are facing hear is that most of us are NOT willing to accept the fact that the age has caught up and you need to take wise decisions about how to utilize your current age, knowledge and acquired skills efficiently?

At certain age people from any walk of life need to think of the following topics:

  • Succession management: How to prepare the next set of people in the line so that they can take up the mantle at the right time without disruption
  • Opportunity for all: Just like I did get a chance at my right age, isn’t it important that the NextGen get a chance as well at their right ages?
  • Utilizing skills, learning differently: How can I retire now and still add value to the domain I am/was operating in? This could include grooming youngsters, joining advisory or planning committees, assuming honorary positions etc
  • Beyond money, power, ranks and visibility: This probably is the only reason why people hang around despite being not in their best times

Sachin Tendulkar Retirement

Now, coming back to the topic of Sachin’s retirement.

In my opinion, Sachin Tendulkar has nothing more to prove (like the latest stupid number from Dhanush suggests) in his field. He has created many individual records, made hell lot of money and fans and more importantly played for the country for around a quarter of a century. He has to accept the fact that he’s 39 now and he got the rare chance to play for India at the age of 16. It’s time for him to do something else in life beyond piling up more personal records, degrade himself and go out. At the moment, it’s clear that he’s slowly degrading and even if he’s not, it’s high time he retired and passed the baton to youngsters. Moreover, with the likes of Ricky Ponting retiring from ODIs, there will not be anyone else who could potentially break his personal records unless the rules of the game and format change drastically. By the way, this is NOT just about Sachin Tendulkar but holds good for most other oldies too – be it Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman – and not so old underperformers like Sehwag.

I had actually mentioned about the need for succession plan in Indian cricket three years ago. If they had done it in steps, the current situation of youngsters not performing would not have happened.

And a final comment on retiring at the right time. Choosing to retire at the right time is all the more important if you are representing the country, a community, geographic region or a team. i.e. People like golfers or tennis players (sometimes actors and singers too) who represent themselves in individual performances may opt for late retirements. But that should not be the case with politicians, sportsmen, and bureaucrats who represent the country. And anybody’s legendary status does not automatically provide extra time for them to decide to go out on their terms! They have to think about the team and country ahead of their individual aspirations.

So Sachin, will you be a gentleman and retire on your own at the peak or would you want to stretch it beyond 40 years of age, belittle yourself and get sidelined forcibly? Decide yourself! Ideally, you should have quit after taking the victory lap in ICC Cricket World Cup finals last year!

ICC Cricket World Cup format needs to change

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 fever is on! This time around sub-continent got to host the mega sporting event which is the longest so far spanning over one and half months – probably IPL (Indian Premier League) is the only other cricketing – or any other sport – event which is of longer duration than this world cup. Unfortunately, due some poor quality of teams and unresponsive pitches, this event is turning out to be a major disappointment.

Cricket sells in the sub-continent, especially in India, no matter how frequently it’s being played. The spectators turns out in huge volumes to watch matches in the stadium and millions others get hooked on to their TV sets, even when a match between two unknown or unpopular teams is going on. This mentality of the Indian crowd is exactly what sells IPL.

When it comes to an international event that occurs only once in four years, people expect some minimum standard in the way in which the tournament is conducted. Unfortunately, the last couple of world cups have been disappointing due to multiple reasons, the main one being the inclusion of the so called ‘minnows’ or associate members. The duration of the event got drastically increased due to the inclusion of these teams that haven’t really brought any value to the game of cricket or for that matter even improving the game in those countries.

We need a shorter World cup event

Considering the number of nations that has been playing the game of cricket, I strongly believe that there needs to be only 8 teams that can participate in the World cup. This will make sure that the event is really eventful and exciting with 8 quality teams playing each other in say two pools – something like what was happening in the initial editions of the World cup.

Well, of course there are some associate member teams which has performed reasonably well in patches but their game quality hasn’t quite improved over the years. For example, for years there has been teams like Kenya, UAE, Canada etc playing the game but are they really improving over the years? Even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have started deteriorating their quality of cricket. In my opinion, only Sri Lanka has been the real improved team over the last twenty five years that grew from minnow status to a decent test team – especially after producing some great leadership and amazing players in the last twenty years.

I am not saying that the minnows should be totally stopped. But there has to be a case whereby the incompetent ones are eliminated pretty fast in the first 5-6 days of the tournament and may be one out of them picked to play the round robin format with the other teams. At the moment, there are 42 matches being played in two pools and half of that matches have very predictable result.

The other option is to have a World cup qualifier or pre-event for all teams and top 8 teams selected. Yet another approach could be choosing only the top ranked 8 teams or so by default.

I hope ICC looks into this matter without getting pressurized by the power-hungry, money-hungry BCCI and those who want to mint money out of such long tournaments – of course at the expense of general public’s sentiments and rich sponsors. At the end, if they don’t change the format, it’s not going to benefit the game anyway.

Indian Cricket needs to transform for good

The Indian cricket has always been revolving around the batsmen and their stardom! Barring one Kapil Dev or Anil Kumble, it was always about those flat pitch heroes and tigers at home who would demolish any bowling attack in the world for sixes and fours. The crowd would roar at 200 decibels when Tendulkars and Sehwags hit fours and sixes but mostly would give an indifferent applause when a fast bowler takes a wicket after 15 or 20 overs of toiling. It’s a fact and it’s unfortunately part of our culture.

Unfortunately, the ‘celebrated’ batting lineup would cease to exist in an year or so as our heroes prepare to retire soon. This would definitely leave a huge void for a team that’s so much dependent on batsmen. Unfortunately the upcoming heroes are not even 50% as competent as our current batting heroes, nor they have the temperament to play longer versions of the game. This makes me think that, it’s about time we recognized our bowling unit and upcoming fast bowlers and changed the composition of the team to favor bowlers and batsmen equally.

After the Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath eras, we were fortunate to identify 5-6 good quality fast bowlers in the past six to eight years. Unfortunately, since we had to help our batsmen (and even Anil Kumble) for home matches, we ended up making dead pitches forever until our pace bowlers consistently developed injuries. Their plight and cry were never heard nor they were recognized like the way batsmen were felicitated. And the result was, many careers were cut short and/or ended with mediocre career statistics whereas the flat pitch heroes kept on evolving.

Change the system

I could think of the following game changers if we have to sustain for long term as a good cricketing nation.

  1. Convert half our pitches to super fast bowling tracks
  2. Play more away matches with countries like South Africa, England and Australia than the usual Sri Lanka
  3. Change the composition of the test team to 5 batsmen, 1 WK batsman, 5 bowlers
  4. Reassure and develop fast bowlers and fast bowling allrounders

3rd one has to be a very strong decision and that is the only way we can avoid injuries and shame to our bowling unit. Based on the pitch requirements it can be either 4 fast bowlers and 1 spinner or 3 pacemen and 2 spinners. However, this can work very well ONLY if we have a fast bowling all rounder.

Why a fast bowling all rounder is important?

If you look around all top performing international cricket team, they always had a fast bowling all rounder such as Jacques Kallis, Shane Watson, Abdul Razaq, Dwyane Bravo, Angelo Mathews etc. All these teams had such all rounders in the past as well. India, barring Kapil Dev or Mohinder Amarnath, didn’t quite have any such top performing all rounders. All that we get to see is mediocre batsmen with no technics but could turn their arms a bit to do crappy spin bowling. The fact is that unless you find somebody in that critical #7 position, you are always going to pick 7 batsmen (including wicket keeper batsman) and four bowlers thereby having to fill the gap of the fifth bowler with part-timers.

How good fast bowlers evolve?

Good quality fast bowlers and fast bowling all-rounders can only be evolved if you have the pitch infrastructure to suit the same. This will also help good batsmen as they try to negotiate fiery bouncers and genuine fast bowling thereby making them successful abroad as well.

In short…

It’s all about the pitch infrastructure now! If the authorities have the guts to do something about it, we can be a great cricketing team who can perform consistently better than even Australia under any given conditions. We need a balanced team that give equal opportunities for batsmen, pacemen, spinners and the wicket keeper. If not, Rainas and Gambhirs will continue to thrive and become major heroes at home! There’s no dearth of money here with the authorities, it just needs one bold step!

Best fast bowlers I have ever watched

Okay! Time to pick the top ten fast bowlers ever based on their test cricket bowling quality. I must confess that, thought I started watching cricket on television probably somewhere during 1982, I have not really seen much of Dennis Lillee or Michael Holding. Both these legends were almost in the fag ends of their careers by then. However, to make my list complete, I ran through their videos and really loved the strong but smooth bowling actions.

Another disclaimer – my list doesn’t contain some of the medium pacers and all-rounder legends as we are talking about genuine quick bowlers alone.

Without much talking, here’s my list of all time great fast bowlers that I got to watch in the last 25 years. The list is in the order of my liking them and obviously may not be your order 🙂


1. Dennis Lillee

2. Curtley Ambrose

3. Michael Holding

4. Glen McGrawth

5. Wasim Akram

6. Malcom Marshall

7. Imran Khan

8. Richard Hadlee

9. Allan Donald

10. Waqar Younis

What do you think of this list? Please post your comments without getting carried away. Notable omissions here are Courtney Walsh, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham etc and also anybody who played and retired before 1980. As I mentioned, I have picked only genuine quick bowlers but when you talk about an all-rounder package many such greats may get counted. Imran Khan, I thought, can be in the list only for his bowling. He will be definitely one of the top 5 all rounders of all times along with Kapil Dev etc.

Did I miss anyone?

Pakistan (cricket) – Whither?

It is very sad state of affairs that we all get to see and hear from Pakistan. They have been going through tough times ever since the terrorism struck Sri Lankan cricketers touring Pakistan earlier last year. Before that as well, various touring sides had multiple issues going to Pakistan – be it Taliban attacks, internal political uncertainties, Benazir Bhuto’s assassination and aftermath. The fact remains that the terrorism and political instability has spoiled cricket in this beautiful cricketing nation.

If you carefully analyze the problem faced by Pakistan cricket and Pakistan in general, the entire thing boils down to only two issues – The lack of democracy and education. Even the religious extremism, terrorism, poverty, unemployment – you name it – are byproducts of lack of good governance and focus on education.

For years together Pakistan has been under military rule or been governed by incompetent leaders who never had any vision for the country. The situation is continuing even now. If the country itself is run under uncertainties on a daily basis, what kind of economic growth and development can one expect?

So the need of the hour is:

– A stable government (not run by military leaders and incompetent politicians)
– Educational system revamping
– Focus on law and order within the country then worry about neighbors and the world

Unlike many Indians, I do not believe that terrorism is only bound to happen in a particular nation or a religion. It is really bad to finger point an entire nation due to some bad set of uneducated people. If you think that way, India is one of the terrorist nations as well because the internal problems such as Thelegana issue or Naxalism is as bad as terrorism. However, due to strong leadership and visionaries, there has been a lot of improvements and strong growth in India in the areas of health, eradication of poverty to some extend, education, homegrown technologies and agriculture. Pakistan needs to learn from such efforts and forget focus on religious issues etc.

It is important for strong neighbors like India and China to have greater political stability in Pakistan. That is the only way in which the entire region of South Asia can be a strong economic powerhouse. The current situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan will only lead to the USA deploying more forces in this region thereby threatening the next superpowers India and China. As long as each country manage the situation very well, we do not need any global police here and South Asia as a whole can grow big.

Coming back to cricket and the recent match/spot fixing allegations, I personally believe that it is the result of lack of education and ethics that needs to be built into each citizen by their leaders. Shahariyar Khan, the former PCB chief, made a very strong point recently. The captain of the team has to be an educated individual and has to instill certain culture and ethics to the youngsters who join their team very early in their lives. The Indian team has been lucky enough to be led by individuals with higher ethics and good education most of the time. Cricketers such as Saurav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni have been excellent ambassadors of the game. On the other hand, the leadership in Pakistan cricket, PCB and the government itself has been shaky and everyone played only selfish roles all this while.

What Pakistan cricket probably needs as an immediate fix is a very strong individual – somebody like Imran Khan – at the PCB and they also need a strong captain. Part of the problem will be eliminated by this and the rest of course is with the government itself.

I sincerely hope that Pakistan cricket will come out all this mess soon. India and Sri Lanka could help Pakistan in that process by resuming their cricket tours to Pakistan.

Let the normality prevail at the earliest!

Real reasons behind India’s poor show in the T20 World Cup

India has crashed out of another T20 World Cup – two in succession, I must add. As usual, several points are being made as to why India failed. Several people blame IPL, some others blame the batsmen or bowlers while others pick on Dhoni’s captaincy. Let’s try to analyze the real reasons here.

1. Paper Tigers

Even when a lot of people have hailed India’s so-called strong batting lineup (not just the current team but before as well), I have always maintained that India is a highly overrated cricket team. The fans may hate to hear or accept it but even when India was reigning the No.1 spot in ICC test rankings, they got up there due to huge number of matches played in the sub-continent conditions. The best they ever manage to do is to win one test match each in a series in Australia, West Indies and South Africa respectively. Our paper tigers’ batting records (even Sachin Tendulkar‘s) never helped India to peak.

None of our batsmen – from any generation barring probably the mighty Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath to some extend – were ever effective against quality pace bowling attack. And that gets us to the next point.

2. Pitches in India

In order to prepare our batsmen for bouncy and fiery tracks abroad, we have to prepare a few such pitches in India itself. I am sick and tired of writing about this so many times. Unless we have bouncy pitches for domestic circuit and even IPL, none of our batsmen will learn to combat good quality bowling attacks.

3. It’s all about batsmen! They are gods!!

In India, Sachin Tendulkar is god but a talented fast bowler can never become a god. A near god from the past was Kapil Dev and extremely talented bowlers like Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan wasted their whole career breaking their backbones by bowling in dead tracks in India. Our fans and our system should learn to appreciate bowlers and their efforts. And the best way to help them is with some good bowling tracks where our paper tigers can be put to real test. I am sure Tendulkars and Sehwags will be getting hit on their heads by our talented fast bowling unit if they are provided with the right pitches.

4. The IPL impact

The BCCI and India had a great chance to revive the quality of cricket (in real sense and not the money part) in India but they opted for not putting the right and fair support for all departments. The IPL helped Indian cricketers to make money but not to prepare them for the world arena. Pitches was one part but the main problem was that it was still about glamour, batsmen, parties, cheer girls, DLF maximums etc – basically everything but cricket.

The IPL fatigue definitely added problems on top of injury omissions (like Sehwag). India went to their World cup right after the IPL and without a practice game. IPL parties and tight schedules added to the misery and fitness of our batsmen and bowlers. Definitely, every team (England, Pakistan) that did not take part in IPL played better than India in this T20 World Cup.

5. Wrong Selection & composition

India is the only country in this World cup, that doesn’t have single senior player. Who said, Twenty 20 is all about vigourous youngsters? Look at Jack Kallis’ or Mahela Jayawardene‘s performance. If Sehwag wasn’t available for the tournament, why not fall back to a senior who was performing well?

Also, when we selected our squad and when Praveen Kumar was injured, why wasn’t a new pacer sent to the squad? On top of that, why wasn’t even Vinay Kumar given a chance to play, especially on seamer friendly Barbados track?

As for out of form Yuvraj Singh, he shouldn’t have even figured in the Indian team after his poor show at IPL and visible no-care attitude. This attitude problem should have been fixed by dropping him out of the squad. Ravindra Jadeja is another hugely overrated player who shouldn’t find a place in this Indian team. Moreover, he did not have any kind of match practice for months owing to his expulsion from IPL. Playing an eighth batsman on the side itself was a wrong plot.

6. Captaincy

Dhoni was not captain cool but ‘captain fool‘ for this entire tournament. Having won the toss in all super eight games, he didn’t opt to bat in the first two. He was obviously scared of exposing his batsmen to the bouncy track in Barbados in the first two matches. And on a bouncy track, Rohit Sharma and he himself should come at no. 3 and 4 respectively to make a statement instead he chickened out to number 7 himself. As usual, when the going is good (like 90/1 etc) on flat tracks he promotes himself. This is not what is expected out of a captain and he is a very opportunist and selfish player that way. I have seen himself promoting on almost all flat tracks when India is doing well but never seen him coming up the order on bouncy tracks.

Also, he has specific likes such as Raina, Praveen Kumar, Pathan, Jadeja etc where as people like Vinay Kumar, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha (never even get selected), Dinesh Karthick etc are always neglected either in selection or final eleven. Do we see a pattern here? Even for the tour in Zimbabwe, I thought, the more experienced Dinesh Karthick should have been the captain instead of Suresh Raina.

7. Attitude Problems

There’s a lot of attitude problems with the young generation cricketers. Most of them are there for money alone and wouldn’t care about the national side and the countries’ priorities. The culture of events like IPL with overnight parties and too many endorsements don’t really help cricket but only help these stars to make money. I think BCCI should stop the contract system and take players who are on form at a particular time. People like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth should be taught proper lessons as and when behavioral problems and nasty incidents happen.

In short, we must keep people with great attitude, who can work hard and who takes real pride in playing for the nation.

8. Tight international schedules

India is the only country who plays too much of limited over and Twenty 20 cricket by jeopardizing their international schedule and form. If BCCI not going to do something about shortening the IPL event duration and play lesser number of ODIs per series, they will not be doing any good to this country. If playing so many games is a must, they should rotate the players including the captain.

Conclusion

If I have to pick top three reasons for India’s recent failure (and past fake glory) I would pick the following:

– Flat pitches in India
– Tight International schedules (IPL + Too much of limited over cricket)
– Wrong selection process and final 11 composition

What do you think?

Lalit Modi Falls

The Modi Express has derailed as expected, following its off the track behavior in the past two-three weeks. Though the high profile IPL Chairman and Commissioner, held his willpower together till the last minute, it was very clear that he himself expected things to end like this – at least since the past one week.

Money, Power and what else?

When Lalit Modi announced his ambitious IPL plans, it was clear that the business man in him spotted the right business opportunity around the religion called cricket. In India, regardless of whether you are poor or rich, educated or uneducated, Hindu or Muslim, cricket will sell anytime. And Modi’s intentions were good as long as he wasn’t greedy and power-hungry.

From the very beginning, I have maintained in this blog that the IPL has several unethical aspects around it that Lalit Modi and BCCI was trying to tap into. The public money was being looted to make money for the cricketers, franchises and some of the governing bodies (modies?) without giving back anything to the game of cricket or the millions of poor people in this country via some kind of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). It was all about money making and they sold every possible ad slot, every possible sponsorship opportunities, negotiated and renegotiated telecast rights and what have you? On top of that, Mr. Modi (and certain big shots in Indian Politics) seem to have got facilitation perks for each and everything they did – All at the expense of the public.

Is BCCI clean?

From what it looks to me, Modi must be having solid proofs against some of the big shots and he may be waiting for the opportunity to pull down even the central ministry and not just the BCCI. I am sure, BCCI and the IPL Governing council were aware of all that Modi has been doing and probably even they themselves are beneficiaries of the game. Though, I am not in favor of privatising cricket in India, I strongly believe that it’s time to clean up the system and BCCI is run by cricket professionals (with good organization skills) rather than age-old politicians.

The Twitter mess

It all started with a little tweet from Mr.Modi that initially caused the central government to loose one of its capable young ministers. Now, it came back on him like a boomerang to knock him down.

Let God save our Cricket!

Lalit Modi takes on Shashi Tharoor and Kochi IPL Franchise

The IPL Chairman Lalit Modi has sparked a new controversy yesterday when he tweeted the details of the share holding pattern of Kochi Rendezvous Sports and even making some personal remarks against some of the beneficiaries of franchise’s share sale.

In an attempt to take on Mr. Shashi Tharoor, who was behind the successful bid of the Kochi franchise, Mr. Modi has crossed his limits and even talked about one Ms. Sunanda Pushkar who has received 18% free shares of the franchise. Mr. Modi is questioning why he was told to keep mum about the deal. In the meantime, the Kochi Franchise has voiced their disappointment to BCCI which seems to have warned Modi on his public remarks.

The big political game!

IPL is a lot more than cricket and entertainment as a billion Indians believe. It’s about power and politics. A lot of franchise owners are from the entertainment industry and bollywood but most of them are financial powerhouses who have certain political inclination. Mr Modi himself is a strong BJP pro and it’s quite natural that he wanted to take the new franchise to Ahmedabad which wasn’t quite successful. Mr Modi, after loosing the Rajasthan Cricket Association elections last year, did his very best to damage the RCA because the political power situation in Rajasthan changed in favor of Congress since last two years. His attempt to take on Mr.Shashi Tharoor, an MP from the Congress party, is no brainer but dirty politics that is also fueled by his inability to help another Modi in Gujarat with a new IPL franchise.

Modi had earlier made rules such as business houses with 1 billion net worth will only be allowed bid for franchise. This was an attempt to chuck out smaller players. And this is the very reason why a consortium had to bid for Kochi Franchise and airing a piece of his mind against the same is no business ethics.

Is Lalit Modi clean?

Well, he has received a celebrity image in the last three years. He’s also the highest individual tax payer in the country for the year 2010 who might have been the beneficiary of certain franchise deals in the past and even contracts of various entities with IPL. In the case of the Kochi franchise, probably he was helpless and hence want to unsettle the deal. Or is it like he is jealous of the franchise’s and owners’ ability to play with big bucks?

Regardless of that, it’s a shame on him to talk about Ms. Sunanda Pushkar’s private life and friendship with Mr. Tharoor. Even if Mr Tharoor is one of the beneficiaries of the deal, is it Modi’s business at all? And by making public comments about the whole thing he has made a bigger fool of himself. Overall, what lies ahead of hims is not a bright future as he cannot hold on to the IPL Chairman post for too long.

Anyhow, my opinion still is that BCCI and IPL together will kill the game by making it a business rather than sports. And while IPL is becoming more and more successful, the game is not given focus but politics (national and international) is taking over!