Friday, September 24, 2004
(Originally written on March 12, 2002)
During the last few years, I have not missed reading an article about cricket in magazines that have nothing to do with sport. I have all the issues (with covers related to cricket) of a particular news magazine that was on the forefront of the match fixing allegations, a couple of years ago. Basically I find it interesting to read these articles because these magazines do not have anything to do with cricket and so one can get some stuff from other angles. But most of the time I have found that such articles have a common thread. A partisan attitude is evident (barring some good pieces). But it is a truth universally acknowledged that a public in possession of a bad cricket team must be in want of a scapegoat (with due apologies to Jane Austen). However it is still surprising that they have chosen the best in the team for this purpose. And if you notice all these pieces of criticism have come, not from cricketers (or former cricketers), but from people who’s connection to cricket is not evident, at least to the casual reader.
So I have tried to put across a coherent reply to one of the common points raised by such articles… “Is Sachin, an all time great?” A general feeling around the media and some sections of the Indian public, is that Tendulkar, for the greater part of his career, has failed to deliver for his team when they need him the most. And a number of instances have been quoted where we were near and yet so far. These views go as far as indicating that the tag ‘chokers’ that the Indian team has earned in the last few years is because of one man alone. At least that’s what I could surmise…
The one major fact that these people have always overlooked is that there have been many a knock where he has done his bit (rather, almost the whole thing) and India has failed to win because the other ten failed to do their job. I am not a stud with statistics, but what better example to come up than the Chennai Test against Pakistan in 1998-99. This match is quoted by one and all as a prime example to illustrate the ‘fact’ that Sachin is not what he seems to be. In that particular match, Sachin was fighting severe back spasms and was the 7th batsman to get out for a score of 136. This, after the last recognized batsman Nayan Mongia had got out (just about 5 overs previously) with a shot that was deemed irresponsible by one and all. With just one batsman to follow and back spasms racking him, he just had to hit out and go for the finish rather than taking a single and exposing the other batsman to Akram & Co. He got out after hitting Saqlain for 10 runs of the first 3 balls. Even though only 17 runs were required ("only" is not the word to use when Saqlain and Akram are bowling, but nevertheless) India lost all 3 wickets in scoring only 6 runs in the process. Tendulkar was going for the victory and had scored most of the 37 runs in just 5 overs after Mongia's dismissal till he got out. And of the rest of the 10 members of the team only Dravid (10) and Mongia (52) got to double figures. What happened to the other 8 ?? Ganguly got a bad decision (bad is a word that does not convey the enormity of that umpiring slight) , but then.... Tendulkar's innings (even though the finishing was not there) was invaluable when u see the scorecard. We would just not be discussing this match if it were not for the scores of the other batsmen in the team. In fact, Akram recently said in a TV program that the Chennai test was one of the best Test matches he had ever played.
And surprisingly some (including this article by C.Rammanohar Reddy) have compared him with Andy Flower at his best. This reveals another basic flaw. While, on the outset, it is probably fair to dismiss the Zimbabweans as a one-batsman team, the team is full of dangerous floaters (as Douglas Marillier and Travis Friend have amply demonstrated last week!) all of whom are capable of 30's and 40s in any given day. And they do get these runs regularly. So the "exceptional average" of 84.5 % (which he had a couple of months ago) would lose some sheen if you look at the scores of the other batsman. I am sure you would find the above-mentioned 30s and 40s supporting the hundreds made by Flower to the maximum. So it’s unfair to use statistics as a tool to evaluate Tendulkar. Sidhu might be partly right with his "Statistics are like miniskirts, they reveal more than what they hide" statement. But sometimes the hidden stuff makes compulsive reading and convinces us that the open stuff is all hogwash. And maybe the question that has been posed is answered by the usual view that these people put across. "Given his prowess, Sachin does not seem to be able to set up a victory as often as he should". Where are the other batsmen to sometimes finish what he started? Please….. Cricket is just not a one-man game. If you don’t have another batsman to take guard opposite you, then you cannot even bat. This is not street cricket where sometimes all the players get to bat. I hope every Indian fan realizes this and does not get into any conclusion of this kind. Sachin is just the major piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is the Indian team. Only when all the pieces fall into place, will India win.
Accountability is another factor that the Indian public and more importantly, the team and the selector need to understand. They should understand that “no member is bigger than the team” and that includes Tendulkar too. I think he has realized that. His decision to relinquish the captaincy stems from the realization that he cannot cope up with the kind of hassles that a captain has to face and then perform of the field too. But again this has been held against him too. So what more are we going to hold him responsible for? The Babri masjid issue?
So let's not blame Tendulkar for not making “match-winning” scores. The difference between winning and losing lies in playing as a team and not as a collection of individuals. And if someone says that Tendulkar is responsible for not the team not winning, even though he has had good stints at the crease, then he cannot be more wrong. If one batsman's score alone would win a match, I am sure India would be the only unbeaten team around, cause from his first Test to the latest, he has done his bit and would continue to do so until he feels he cannot. Then he will gracefully get off the bandwagon and let India rue the day they doubted Sachin's
I will tell you what such stupid people need. A time machine. So that all these people can go to 1994 or anytime to watch Tendulkar play another of his gems in vain! I know it is their view point, but the moment such things get printed, online or otherwise, I have every right to say how stupid this sounds.
My first problem - A comparison with Richards and the mention that "Richards kept the image till the time he left the scene" which I think is erronous. IMHO, if I have to put it the same way that Sachin is being described here, Richards lost it in his last couple of years. His average for his last three years was a good 12 points below his overall average of just over 50. But then if that's what is being refered to as "keeping the image", then there is no reason for us to pull Tendulkar down, right? And if the numbers were to be studied more closely, Sachin's average over the last three years is a good 4 points over his overall average of 57.
Oh ya, the lack of strokes. It talks so much about how Tendulkar used to play like God, but forgets essentially that in a team game, individual performances dont matter after a point. What matters is whether the team wins. And its is unfortunate that a huge lot of us looks at this period of semi-dominance (India still has a long way to go before they can dominate) and equates Tendulkar's (apparent) below par performance during the period to the erronous view that he has lost it.
One word - Bull shit. I will not say any more, because then I am just gonna be as caustic as I can ever be. All I can say is that India plays a lot more cricket nowadays (both ODIs and Tests) as compared to the Windies of the Richards era. India play so much more cricket that a comparison between Tendulkar's stint with the team (in terms of number of matches) with that of the whole English team seems to be a farce. England (as a team) have played just over 400 ODIs (their 400th ODI was last week) while Tendulkar himself has played around 340, which should be an ample pointer to the amount of cricket that he has played.
And to expect that he do the equivalent of the destroying of McGrath from a 0 from 3 overs to a 28 from 6 overs analysis every single time he walks out to bat is nothing sort of stupidity and it just points to a lack of understanding of the game - a lack that seems glaring going by the amount of screen space that such people recieve.
A couple of years ago, during another of Sachin's (again apparent) lean periods, C. Rammanohar Reddy (usually a straight forward columnist for The Hindu's Sunday edition), wrote a similar sounding piece - or atleast a piece that made me feel the same way as this one. And this is what I emailed him (with a slightly changed tail piece that wished that someone inundate his email addy with a zillion email bombs). He just replied with a single sentence that conveyed his incredulousness over the last line of my email.
Really, if I ever want to watch nudges to third man or watch brilliant concentration outside off stump, I will switch on the TV when Dravid is playing. What a waste of time and talent if Tendulkar has to do that. What a terrible waste!
Wow... If there was ever anachronistic view of Indian cricket, this one is one! I am not going to say anything more! Sachin is still someone who needs to be placed in a different pedestal. Maybe he won't be alone in that pedestal - In fact I will be guilty if I said he is the only superhuman playing in cricket. There have been many more and there are many more and there will be many more, but he still commands a place, regardless of whether he plays that heavenly push down the ground or not. I will still watch him play, even if he grinds himself to the ground against the likes of Price and Giles. But he is not God. I will not say that now and never in the future. He is just Superman and I am not one myself!
Alas, everybody has off-days. Politicians do, more often than anyone else, but even Lata Mangeshkar can sing badly some day, A R Rahman can compose a poor tune. Hindustan Lever and Tiger Woods are in a slump longer than anyone could have imagined. And poor old Indian cricket never even got into the league of those four entities! - Harsha Bhogle (Indian Express)
And I hate Microsoft and Hotmail even more. First, they make sure Gmail invites go to your bulk mail folder directly and now even normal emails from Gmail ids go directly to the receiver's bulk mail folder. And if your account receives a lot of bulk mail, Gmail messages are more likely to be buried under rubbish. I sent my resume to someone's Hotmail addy - an acquaintance, a couple of weeks ago from my Gmail account and kept waiting for a response from him. And then yesterday when i called him, he tells me he has not received it at all and that he was waiting for me to call (cos he did not have my ph number or email addy)! How I hate Hotmail now!
Monday, September 20, 2004
But for people who actually read Cricinfo from the first word to the last, the time has come where you can get on a single web page to get pointed to every single interesting peice written on cricket over the preceding day or so. Check out Cricket 24x7, the site that Jagadish maintains along with Ganesh. Jagadish was with Cricinfo previously and though he now works for a company that aims to become No. 1 in the search engine business, it is obvious that he still gets his kicks out of cricket. Amit Varma thinks so too. I have been a frequent visitor to Cricket 24x7 and dunno how I missed plugging it on when I updated my blogroll sometime ago. Sorry Jagadish and Ganesh, better late than never!
The other new entrant to my blogroll is someone who might deserve a round of apologies from me. Or she might not. Anyways,
Welcome to my blogroll guys!
Friday, September 17, 2004
My point is, this money could have been better spent. Now anyways Loyola and Ethiraj have to submit plans on how they are going to spend the money. But these colleges seem to already have one of the best, if not the best ever infrastructre. So my idea is that, this money has been given to them solely on the trust that they will be able to come up with good plans for spending it. But why these colleges in the first place? Technically there should be a lot of other contenders for this money, because if I look at a mediocre institution (or even an institution like the Shanmugha of the late 1990s), I can give you 10 different schemes to improve the place. And that's from a green horn like me.
So a better way to go would have been look at some college where the infrastructue is mediocre. In my eyes this would be the colleges of the type that were in the erstwhile DOTE-III category of engineering colleges (just as an example). Ask them to submit plans/proposals just like the applications for a research grant. Choose the best proposal in that and give the money to them. Now what this would mean is that the average standard of education could improve just a wee bit.
Anand: I agree with every word that you have said, regarding your earning of the right for a subsidy. In fact on the hindsight I realise that such an award is suitable for a college like Loyola, which I think is run by a management that looks more at the positive social effects than the money. But what about Ethiraj? What about the students there? I frankly dont know, which is the sole reason that prompts me to criticize the award.
Capri - I am not criticizing Loyola or Ethiraj, but the UGC! I certainly cannot trust the goverment in India to do something impartially! And the UGC is government!
if the other mid range/lower range colleges needed it, they should have worked for it
I am sure they are working on it, but they shouldn't be working on it while competing with the likes of Ethiraj or Loyola. I mean, these are the big boys (or the big gals). And once someone wins an award, it is always the sign of a good sport to congratulate the winner. But to me, an award should generate more awardees in the future. So if you had given this award to say - the Gummidipoondi College of Arts and Science (an imaginary institution) which has been started in 2001 and is looking for funds to improve its facilities after a decent start by itself, then tomorrow, the dedicated visionary who runs the Gangaiamman Arts Science and Technological Research Academy (G.A.S.T.R.A) will be prompted to apply after following the successful Gummidipoondi model.
Ethiraj and Loyola winning this award is akin to Ferrari winning the Formula 1 races so easily these days. Competition should inspire more competitors. However if one team wins it all, it actually has the opposite effect and drives away the others. But that will not take any sheen off the winnner, just that in a couple of years the sport will be dead! But there is a tradeoff, if you seek to limit the run-away winner(s), ultimately everything will stagnate. As opposed to Formula 1, in the US, the NASCAR championship has been run on almost identical cars (to ensure a level field) and over the last couple of years it has become a farce, at least in my eyes.
And the general consensus is that while success or the drive to succeed in motorsport has led to so many advances in technology in auto manufacturers in Europe (Audi, Mercedes etc.) and Japan (Subaru and Mitsubishi for example), in the US, during the same period, there has been so such events in Ford and GM, because the technology insulated NASCAR is no inspiration! Infact the relative improvement in Chrysler has been due to knowledge infusion from Daimler Benz.
So the idea would be to give sops to the second and third rung competitors to raise them to a level where they can compete with the big guns on a level field and let them fight it out afterward.
At the same time, should you be giving away scholarship to a student who is mediocre or the one who stands first.
Guru: That theory makes the assumption that people who get into apparently mediocre colleges are mediocre themselves! A lot of ppl get into such colleges because of issues like the "free seat, payment seat, management seat" system. A lot of students still beat such a system and get into instis like the IIMs later on in their life! So by denying such institutions the money, you are making the life of such students a wee bit more difficult. But am sure they will still come out tops! As for the gals of Ethiraj, I don't know much, because I spent my "formative" years out of Chennai. So for me, it was some gals in RECT! And I think the RECT-ian gals knew that at least some of us guys from SCE rocked. We rocked their campus for a couple of days every year during Festember! Aaah... Festember... *Sigh*.......
But I did spend a couple of evenings every week for the most part of six months of 2000-2001 in the immediate environs of another such institution - Stella. And I will gladly endorse any such statement that alludes to similar facts about Stella Maris!
And Nilu: Moodum. Who was talking about a college like SASTRA?
Thursday, September 16, 2004
This `College with Potential for Excellence' status entitles the colleges to Rs.1 crore each from the University Grants Commission spread over the next three years to be used to “upgrade their facilities”, which brings us to my next grouse. Even if the 6 other TN colleges chosen, really deserve a 1 Crore grant, do Loyola and Ethiraj need this?
I think Ethiraj and Loyola are already well established institutions and their existing facilities are excellent enough to turn out well rounded students in every field of academics that they have their eye on. Both these colleges find a mention in any listing of the Top colleges in India, let alone in TN. In 2003, Loyola was ranked 1st in Arts (7th in 2002, 5th in 2001 and 2nd in 2000), 4th for Commerce (4th in 2002 and 11th in 2001), 4th for Science (1st in 2002, 2nd in 2001 and 4th in 2000) in the India Today – Gallup Survey to find the Top Colleges in India. And the same survey mentions Ethiraj as one of the top colleges in the country, though not in the top 10 (information gleaned from various free resources on the Internet).
While this might have started sound like a post lauding these two colleges for their award, my view is that this money could have been better spent by giving it to a mid range or lower range college that is trying to come up. I am sure every single one of us has heard sob stories from friends and relatives about colleges they know that have zilch in terms of facilities, but have an approval stamp from the authorities authorizing them to admit candidates every year. While some of these could be fly-by-night operators just in the business for the money, I am sure there are one or two colleges whose managements want to do something good, but lack the money to do so. Just a hypothetical thought, not necessarily true, but worth the thought, anyways! This idea, of these two colleges getting money like this, seems to just like the tax cuts that the rich appear to be getting here in the US from the Bush government!
Sunday, September 12, 2004
A week after it all happened, I found myself looking a photo album from my college days. It must be close to five years since it was taken, but that picture sure left a lump in my throat. So much has gone past in these five years and all our lives have changed mostly for the better. Some of us are set for a good life while some of us are slowly motoring along that path. Everyone but Johnny.
While I can't say anything for those people who were with "Space Jim" Johnny on that day or even Raapi, my view is that life is too unpredictable to live without taking on a few challenges. It will always be discussed whether PJ could have avoided what he did that fateful day last week. But then Murphy's law is ubiquitous and if you ask me, sitting down on a chair is as dangerous as driving at 90 mph on wet roads. So where do we draw the line? So do we live as we think we should? I guess so... I know this is muddled, but I can't put it in any other way. It's the classical catch-22 situation! Decide for yourself! Make the choice and remember that you may live or die with it!
And for want of better words to eulogize PJ, I am just echoing the Don's classic words....
thinking he is gone...
he will always be remembered, dear john....
Thursday, September 09, 2004
What I remember of the race is this. Me and the other participants start running, touch a wall, start running back and back again after touching a wall on the opposite side, repeating this 4 times (hence the name - 4 x 400?). I was winning, but I lost time turning around each time after I touched those walls. I managed to catch up with the leader every time, except that in the last leg I could not and finished second.
The weirdest part of this dream was that the winner of the race was a WOMAN! For all you first timers on this blog, I happen to be a 26 year old MAN. So now, I am gonna call up the psychoanalyst in town to discuss the freudian impulses that seem to be driving me toward such dreams! But don't worry. I have not lost my mind. I just sold it on Ebay to pay my rent for this month!
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Now if I were to consider Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif, Balaji, Pathan and Harbhajan (due to recent good figures) as automatic picks (which they are), it leaves me with four places yet to fill. I started with the rest of the batting order, but decided the conundrum might be easier to solve if I figure out my bowling attack. Pathan, Balaji and Harbhajan have been the better bowlers in the three matches of the Natwest Challenge. So ideally we would need two more bowlers. But going by the record so far, I think Ganguly might opt for just four bowlers and would want the fifth bowlers duties shared among his part timers and him. But there likes India's major challenge - the absece of one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Four bolwers and Sachin would have been my choice too (with others chipping in just to change ends or something), but thats outta the picture. So it has to be five specialist bowlers with the last two coming from the trio of Kumble, Nehra and Agarkar. I would give Kumble an automatic spot, because he adds variety and guile. So that makes eight.
Out of these three places, one has to go for an opening batsman. Normally Sehwag would have been an automatic pick for this position alongside Ganguly, but the abject lack of form makes me waver on his choice. Going by the same yardstick I am not considering Laxman an automatic pick. So the choice of opener would be between Sehwag and Laxman (since he is the only one among the other non-automatic picks to have opened the batting) with one of the two finding a place at the top of the order and the other fighting for a place in the middle order with Gavaskar and Dinesh Karthik. Lets put off this decision till we figure out the choices for the other spot. Now coming to the question of inclusion/non inclusion of Karthik. I am all for it, because this is a good time to experiment with minimal chances of negative results upsetting our chances in the tournament. So Karthik would ideally get the 8th automatic spot, with Dravid hanging up the gloves. So this is my team of eleven - Ganguly, X, Kaif, Dravid, Yuvraj, Karthik, Pathan, Balaji, Harbhajan, Kumble, Y, where X is a choice between Laxman and Sehwag while Y is a choice between Nehra and Agarkar.
This is not exactly my idea of a Dream Team. But it is unfortunate that Laxman and Sehwag are in the same level form wise that I have to choose between them. It is also imperative that India employ a full time wicketkeeper as an investment for the future. It is unfortunate that Parthiv Patel does not merit a place in this team even after a year or so as Dravid's understudy (in the ODI squad). Though I was gung-ho about his selection in 2002 and I thought he would make a good understudy to a older wicket keeper, soon I realised he was not going to get games and when he did, his mistakes while battting at the age of 18 were going to be held against him.
If Karthik gets a chance to play (regardless of my choice, I don't think he will) and does well, I hope he gets persisted with, because after a point, it is imperative that we come to terms with the fact that in a couple of years Dravid is going to be gone and we need a strong ODI keeper. Our choices are to either go with an experienced hand (the search for which will probably end with Ratra and if you ask certain people, Dasgupta) or shuffle between Karthik and Patel till one of them proves to be the man for the job. It is going to take a year or two, but I think this wait would be worth it. But it is also frightening that even before Karthik gets to play his second or third game, people have started talking about his replacement in the India A squad - Dhoni. It is always natural that someone or the other always scores runs or has a hand in dismissal. But only after we let them play for sometime can be decide whether those performances were merely flashes in the pan or not.
Coming back to Rediff's team. I picked Ganguly, Sehwag, Kaif, Yuvraj, Dravid, Pathan, Balaji, Karthik, Harbhajan, Kumble and Nehra. And I find that apart from people rooting to have just four bowlers and include both Laxman and Sehwag at the expense of Kumble, my team seems to be what everyone chose too. But I would consider going with four bowlers a logical mistake given that our batsmen seem to be in the worst of form. For once, it seems our bowling is our strong point. Let us use it to our benefit!
I am pleased to hear that he is making good progress in writing interesting columns. - John Wright's reaction when asked about Javagal Srinath's comments
(source - Cricinfo)
I read Srinath's salvo the day it appeared and did not react mainly because I wanted to see how the team reacted to Srinath's 'transformation'. And Wright's comment made me smile. Personally, I agree with Amit Varma and I feel that such a statement from Srinath was totally uncalled for, because it comes even before a year has passed since he retired. There cannot be a radical change within such a short span of time, given that the coaching staff is virtually unchanged as is the team composition (apart from the addition of Pathan and Balaji, which have been changes that have given us the few positive results among all the negativities in the past few months). And so I feel he is just criticising what he was part of not even a year ago. Is that ethical?
He does seem to stating the obvious as some of his views on planning indicate. And his criticisms about individual players seem to focus on the injury ridden Zaheer and Nehra, which however are genuine gripes that a lot of people, including me have been having for quite sometime now.
I think Indian cricket, after a long period dominated by fickle minds and mediocrity, is now driven by talent and team spirit. The only cog missing from this seemingly well oiled machine is a framework for seeking out potential injuries and concrete plans for recovery.
In April 2002, I was listening on radio to Holding and Co. blast Zaheer for just ambling in and bowling at half pace on the first day of the first Test of the Windies tour. Zaheer was returning from the off season break after spending this time as a period of recovery from another of his injuries. And in two years, this has not changed. No Sir, not a bit. But I don't think it is fair to blame the team management for this. I don't think there is a clear channel of communication between the national team and the first class (state) teams in India as opposed to the case in England and Australia where the first class teams can be instructed to rest or play a potential member of the national squad so that the team management can asses the situation.
The off season training programs should be much more localized than it is now, where, at the first hint of an injury the national team shunts a player to either Banglore (NCA) or Chennai (MRF). Not that this is a particular disadvantage, but comparable facilities in every state team's headquarters, not to mention good pitches and consistent selection could do a lot more good to Indian cricket. And its not exactly out of the reach (financially I mean) of the BCCI.
But then, I am not too different from Srinath, am I? I am still stating the obvious. Alas that is all that I can do! A group of friends have been talking about paying the 200 odd dollars to purchase the pay per view telecast of the Champions Trophy, but every single person in this group is still not sure whether it would be a good spend, given the status quo in the team. However I am still tempted to place my money on this team and my view is that we should still buy as planned, but spread the investment among more people than it is now.