Tag Archives: bcci

BCCI flexes its muscles again!

18 Jul

BCCI has barred VVS Laxman and Piyush Chawla from playing for English counties Nottinghamshire and Hampshire respectively – all because some players from their side are joining the rebel ICL league.

I am not sure if BCCI and its money power is crossing limits. If the English Cricket Board does not have any problem here why should BCCI poke their nose into what the counties might decide? In fact, it’s not just the above two counties, but it seems around 15 counties have their players signed up with ICL!

While VVS Laxman – as an experienced campaigner – would not mind loosing a county stint, the youngster, Piyush Chawla, is loosing a golden chance to play under English conditions. Chawla so far has not got enough international exposure under testing conditions and will be really feeling bad about this whole politics.

Another Twenty20 league!

The English Cricket Board has just announced their Twenty20 championship league that will be starting in 2010. The majority of the league teams will be from English first division counties and only two teams will be participating from outside England. One of them is tipped to be the IPL champions from India.

If all test playing countries start their own annual Twenty20 championship events, I am sure ICC can soon wind up majority of the Test and ODI schedules! And I am really sad that IPL instigated this kind of a trend mainly driven by monetary aspects than feel for cricket.

I am not against the Twenty20 game, in fact I like the shorter version if these championships do not last for more than say 12 or 15 days! If a single event last for 40 or 45 days and 4 or 5 nations start having their own T20 leagues you can imagine what will happen to ‘real cricket’!

The brainless think-tank!

30 Dec

We are just a couple of weeks into India’s latest encounter down under. A cricket series in Australia is always something that the fans look forward to due to a couple of facts. First of all, we get to see it only once in four years – so it is something as important as the Olympic games! Secondly, it is a beauty to watch and feel professional test cricket at its highest levels with lively pitches, fans, cricket governing bodies and media playing their own roles to perfection – and sometimes beyond – to make it a mega event. Personally, watching test matches, in which Australia participates, gives me more satisfaction than watching matches involving any other competitive teams. India’s last outing in Australia during 2003-04 has been thrilling for the outcome that we all are proud of but the current series is already turning out to be disappointing due to improper planning.

This series was hyped to be the best chance to beat Australia in its own den as it is probably the last Australian tour for India’s ‘strong’ and prolific middle order men as well as their best bowler ever, Anil Kumble, who happens to be captaining the side as well. However, having talent on paper or executing the same in subcontinent pitches and other favourable conditions alone is not sufficient for tours abroad, especially in Australia.

The Indian cricket board missed a trick or two during the Pakistan tour to India itself. If India genuinely wanted to perform in Australia, they should have scheduled at least couple of test matches in good test cricket pitches like Mohali or Chennai. By not doing so, they managed to escape from Shoaib Akhtar & co and won against Pakistan but miserably failing in Australia. As they arrived late in Australia this time and the lone practice match was disturbed by rain, the preparation at home had to be better.

The next mistake was the team selection and continuing experiments with the batting order. If they had any plan to include (surprise!) Virender Sehwag in the squad he should have been given a chance in at least one test match against Pakistan. Sehwag though not in great form gives some headache to the opposition even though his stay at crease may be shorter. Against Australia, one needs to be mentally prepared and try to offend and attack rather than playing defensive game like Dravid did in the first innings of the first test in Melbourne. If not Sehwag, for sure Dinesh Karthik should have been opening with Wasim Jaffer. Karthik has been a revelation during the series in England and South Africa. It is really surprising that the team think tank decided not to play him due to his couple of failures in dead pitches in India. Ideally he could have played the role that Akash Chopra played in the last series in Australia. On the other hand, the Indian team management decided to sacrifice the stability and composition of the team by not picking the right openers only to include some flat pitch heroes or ODI/Twenty 20 specialists in the batting lineup. To begin a series with positive frame of mind, India had to really attack. The bowlers did it very well but batsmen spoilt all those great efforts. The problem is not really with the batsmen but the roles they are assigned to play. This failure will definitely affect the rest of the test series as well as the performance in the ODIs. For example, Yuvaraj Singh should have been maintained only for ODIs and his failures in tests will also reflect in his approach to the ODI series.

The untimely statements of the selection committee chairman had created a lot of chaos for the players in the past. It is not his job to comment in the press and put players under pressure. I guess, players like Virender Sehwag, Mohammed Kaif, Saurav Ganguly, Dinesh Karthik and now Rahul Dravid are the victims of this wrong statements of expectation. The under-pressure players then react by playing defensive games and targeting individual achievements rather than playing for the team’s cause.

As I mentioned just a while back, having a positive frame of mind is very important to play Australia. Having restricted Australia to less than 350 runs and more importantly getting them all out in less than a day (How often does it happen?), India’s reply was too negative in nature. Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer didn’t make any attempt to rule the Aussies. Another important thing was that probably the in form Ganguly probably should have batted at No. 4. Tendulkar’s attitude in the second innings is always questionable. While chasing huge scores and if couple of wickets are already down he has this ‘why should I waste my time and energy, anyway we are going to loose’ attitude. Another problem is the fielding ethics by the Indians. Even Australia has many players in their mid thirtys but their commitment is far better than that of the Indians. For example, Indians easily allow the opposition to convert their ones to twos and twos to threes. Australians always keep the batsmen under pressure by charging in or by a sudden pick, turn and throw. The bad running between the wicktes have been another example of defensive cricket by the Indians.

If India has to win at least one match in this series, they need to get their basics right from the selection itself. First they needs to pick their best openers and then three or four middle order batsmen followed by a wicket keeper. Depending on the nature of pitch three seamers plus one spinner or two seamers plus two spinners can be picked. It is even worth trying a combination of two openers, three middle order men, one wicket keeper batsman, three seamers (off which one is an all rounder) and two spinners. Ones they get the team composition right, they can plan and pace the game better. This will also reassure and remind each and every person in the team about their roles.

As a long-term step, the BCCI has to really change their mindset to save the Indian cricket from test matches point of view. At the moment, BCCI is more like running a money making business rather than governing a sports body. Due to this attitude, they are concentrating on categories that fetch in money and hence more focus on one day cricket, telecast rights etc. If they are truly worried about the future of Indian cricket, they need to do a few things like providing world class pitches in India, improving domestic itinerary and format, introducing new talent search program, coming up with fair selection policies, forming succession planning etc. It’s a fact that India’s top four batsmen and bowler will retire from international cricket in less than two years time and who are going to fill in there?

At the moment, as a short term goal, we can only hope for a better team composition and better mindsets from the players in the upcoming test matches in Australia. Wishing the Indian cricket all the very best for this new year and their very first match of the year being played in Sydney!

BCCI’s lean patch!

16 Jun

Indian cricket, undoubtedly, is going through one of its worst times since the match fixing scandal in 2000. This time, the problems are mainly around the governance of BCCI than the on field performance of the team. The performance of the team as such can be improved, by identifying the right talent and grooming them into responsible roles with the help of skilled support staff and processes. But the administration seems to be struggling in streamlining the processes, finding the support staff on time, sorting out contract issues with the players and even failing in securing mighty sponsorship deals as they used to do in the past.

Until the unexpected World cup blues, everything seemed to be going fine with the Indian cricket with the richest cricket board in the world had everything under its feet, probably including the power to influence ICC. During those good times, all partners such as sponsors, tournament organizers, potential support staff and other sports bodies were vying their best to be associated with Indian cricket. An offer to be part of Indian cricket was considered the most coveted thing in the sports world then. Endorsements used to chase even the mediocre cricketer who has probably figured in the national team as a baggage on oversees tours. Things seems to be totally different in the current scenario.

After India’s world cup debacle, several sponsors have stopped airing the commercials featuring our high profile cricketers. Some have even terminated the contracts and instead signed up sportsmen from other games. While these are the cases with individuals, BCCI has suffered their biggest setbacks of all times with no sponsors coming forward to cover the recent and immediate future cricket tours, announcement of a parallel organization by a media giant, players having stand-off with BCCI over contracts and norms, the high-profile coach job offered being rejected by a preferred candidate etc. At the moment India’s cricket administration does not look any better than that in West Indies or Pakistan. The arrogant face that BCCI and its officials used to put together in front of ICC and the cricket-playing nations has more or less transitioned into a submissive profile.

If one analyzes the problem carefully, it is very obvious that many of the issues are related to the high expectations that the Indian cricket fans have with its national team and the extreme of madness that is exhibited by them. The media and sponsors are simply exploiting it with the intention of making big bucks at the cost of the fans’ religious behaviour, anger, desperation, admiration or craze. This puts BCCI as well as the players under tremendous pressure and mostly optimal functioning is hence affected. This pressure and focus also made BCCI and players feel a bit too much about themselves and things were taken granted on many occasions.

The other set of problems are related to the obsolete way in which BCCI is functioning. There was always an unnecessary hype around it, which probably started and peaked during the ‘rule’ of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya kind of enjoyed the celebrity status during his stint with BCCI and ICC and even the minute details regarding his moves had wider coverage in the press. What did not change though was the age old processes in selection, the way in which the domestic cricket is functioning and the ways of spotting young talent.

With respect to the above issues, India could learn quite a few good lessons from its little neighboring nation, Sri Lanka. Ever since they emerged into the world cricket (hardly two decades back), they have managed to steadily improve in terms of professionalism and commitment both on and off the field. Every single time they have managed to meet the expectations of their fans by working hard and trying their best with respect to the game as well as administration. One key to success there also is keeping low-profile and doing their homework before taking decisions. They always had a bunch of committed players, good captains, good coaches and support staff for the past 15 years or so. It is high time Indian cricket took stock of the situation and assume a down to earth approach to the game rather than remaining on front page news all the time. Also fans should understand that it is just another game and cricketers are not necessarily gods or saviors of our country. Axing one such gods for not performing should be accepted as something that will do good for the game rather than taking it to the streets.

To be fair on BCCI, the selection committee has been operating reasonably well in the past few months. The problem being limited to the unavailability of skilled cricketers in the country or rather the lack of processes and opportunities to catch them young and groom. Australia, for instance has a whopping 25 contracted players this year as against India’s 16. What needs to change here is the domestic cricket system at state, region as well as national levels. Improving the infrastructure such as good sportive pitches and grounds, investing on homegrown support personnel, implementing a step-by-step governance improvement plan etc are the other steps they need to take without much delay. At the moment most of the sponsorship money seems to be ending up with the current set of elite players rather than investing for the future. This is something that BCCI needs to work on and improve without much delay. Otherwise they might as well end up like the Indian Hockey Federation!

BCCI selection folly

4 Mar

For the past one and half years or so the Sharad Pawar regime has been performing a notch above their predecessors. Even when part of the country and fans were crying ‘foul’ against Greg Chappell’s experiments and exclusion of Saurav Ganguly from the squad, I thought BCCI stood tall and did a professional job. Most of the governance aspects as well as future planning made sense – so did their good acts towards suffering sports bodies and retired sportsmen.

Though experiments were part of the long term plans – even beyond World Cup 2007 – the selection process and the selectors seems to have come under the media/fans pressure yet again. The sending back act of Irfan Pathan (Sehwag somehow missed the flight that day!) during the SA tour made sense – so did their bold decisions to exclude Mohammed Kaif and Suresh Raina from the scheme of things for the WC. What is not convincing though is the final team selection for the World Cup 2007. Since other major cricketing nations have more injury worries, India had their best chances to pick a championship winning team, instead the selectors opted to make couple of unconvincing decisions.

Irfan Pathan and Virender Sehwag were once dropped on the basis of their pathetic form and recent performances. From the domestic performances since then, I have not seen anything so great about the duo that they need to be picked for this World cup. It is true that an allrounder brings a lot of balance to any one-day side but that is when he’s in form and exudes confidence. I personally feel that Pathan should not have figured in the WC squad this year – for the sake of his own career as well as for the present and future of Indian cricket. The last test match that we lost in South Africa earlier this year has to be attributed to the team management decision to make Sehwag open the second innings! We had just discovered an in form and confident stand-in opening batsman in Dinesh Karthick and that advantage was goofed by Sehwag’s inclusion as the opener. India spoilt the chances of winning their first ever test series victory in South Africa with that foolish act. It seemed that Rahul Dravid was behind that decision. According to what our chairman of selectors have just spilled out, the captain is again behind the selection of Virender Sehwag as a dashing opener. This sends wrong signals to the set and condident youngsters like Robin Uthappa.

I thought this is the first time that India is sending 5 specialist seam bowlers to the World Cup. This is again a very stupid decision. One should remember that the current Indian squad has got only two specialist spinners and they are not touring South Africa or Australia but West Indies. The West Indian pitches right now are pancake-flat and cannot do any good to the pacemen. I would have expected Ramesh Powar included in this squad instead of Irfan Pathan. He’s a good offspinner as well as a confident lower order batsman. The argument could be that Sehwag or Yuvaraj may be able to bowl five or six overs along with Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar to complete the fifth bowlers role. But in the flat pitches in West Indies, I am sure that they will be hammered all around the park.

Since we have already picked Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly and possibly Sachin Tendulkar as openers, I would have expected the selectors to pick another strong middle order batsman than Sehwag. I still wonder why VVS Laxman cannot figure in this World Cup squad. The only argument against Laxman is his poor ground Fielding but anyhow the current squad is not a great fielding side. It is a shame for India that players like VVS Laxman will never get a chance to play a World Cup match unless some of our batsmen gets injured as the event progresses. If Laxman is not the right choice, I would still rate somebody like Dinesh Mongia higher than Sehwag in his current form. Mongia had an excellent 2006 season during his county stint and I thought he has been treated quite unfairly – not forgetting the fact that he got undeserved berth in the last World Cup.

A lot of people these days talk about Sachin Tendulkar’s assignment as the Vice Captain of the team – that he is being humiliated by this second role etc. I don’t read too much into it. In fact, it is a strong statement from the management that only those who perform and sure to be in the final eleven gets this post. That way Sehwag cannot be the vice captain so cannot be injury prone Yuvaraj Singh. It also emphasizes the fact that Sachin has more of a senior mentor’s role to play in his final World cup appearance. I think this is a very good move.

Lastly, the comments made by our chairman of selectors during his chat with the press was quite bad-timed. It was really stupid of a gentleman like him to talk about internal selection matters in the press – that too when team India was just about to start their World Cup campaign. Probably he was a bit too frustrated with the regional politics or was it an outburst because of his own lads (Powar and Jaffer) not finding a place there?