Friday, October 30, 2009

Does India need a wet conspiracy against Ponting?

By John Cheeran
DDCA is a four-letter word, so is BCCI.
If the Australian captain Ricky Ponting was left fuming at Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday, on the eve of Australia's third one-day match against India, he had enough reasons.
The groundsman had watered the practice pitches in the morning, though the Aussies were scheduled to have nets at 9.00 am.
How would have Sourav Ganguly reacted to such a situation in Sydney?
Well, these days India does not need watered conspiracies to humble Australia. But to consider that the host, Delhi and District Cricket Association, did not know about Australian team's practice schedule advertises only its lack of competency.
Yes, this is what happens when your president goes on a fire-fighting mission to Bangalore. Arun Jaitley, the DDCA President, was busy redrawing equations within his party's Karnataka unit.
Whatever, India should not have given Aussies any ground for complaining, if the visitors are going to lose the third ODI.

When Gavaskar knows it better…

By John Cheeran
Sunil Gavaskar, always, has an interesting take on cricket. He tells viewers of CNN-IBN that Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's innings of 124 in Nagpur was reminiscent of Kapil Dev's 175 against Zimbabwe in 1983 World Cup in Tunbridge Wells.
To start with Kapil's knock came in a 60-over-a-side confrontation. There were plenty of overs when Kapil came in at No.6 but India had lost four wickets for a mere 9 runs as total. India had to win that match to retain its chances of advancing from the group stage.
When Dhoni began his innings in Nagpur India was comfortably placed at 97 for three in 16th over with the run rate exceeding 6 runs per over. Hardly a crisis situation. And how can you compare a World Cup encounter with a inconsequential seven-match series, even though its is against the once formidable Australians?
Yes, Gavaskar should know better since he was on the ground that day, opening the Indian innings, and during his two-ball innings he could not disturb the scoreboard.
Yes, there is no doubt that both players, as captains, had a responsibility to pull their side out of trouble.
Dhoni did a brilliant job, but for the moment let's leave it there.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

When Dhoni gets his batting in order

By John Cheeran
Yes, a brilliant innings (124 off 107 balls; 54 runs in his last 27 balls) by Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Nagpur. So what's the debate all about Dhoni's batting order?
I believe more than the batting order, it was a question of Indian skipper getting his batting in order. This, he did splendidly in Nagpur against Ricky Ponting's Aussies to level the seven-match series 1-1.
Dhoni came at No.5 in Nagpur. Suggestions were swirling around that being one of the aggressive batsmen in the side, Dhoni should promote himself in the batting order to serve Team India’s needs better.
Dhoni has proved that such suggestions are, at best, unwarranted, when you have the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh in the batting lineup.
Yes, getting a century while coming in as late as No.5 in a fifty over game is not easy. But, then, the situation in Nagpur was tailor made for Dhoni on Wednesday. Dhoni had come in the 16th over of Indian innings. India had lost three wickets but there was no crisis. Runs were streaming in. Sehwag (40 off 31 balls, Tendulkar (4 off 8 balls) Gambhir and Yuvraj (23 off 24 balls) did not eat up overs but had scored quickly. That let skipper Dhoni the space to build his innings stealing singles and twos, and later explode in full glory in the final phase of the innings.
Now, should it mean that, Dhoni should be given a theoretical chance to bat the full 50 overs?
An honour that was given to Sachin Tendulkar in New Zealand? I don't think so.
At the same time you cannot expect MSD to come up with centuries and half centuries when he walks in at No.5 slot.
It would be prudent to remember that all great efforts are helped by conducive atmosphere. And very few cricketers could turn a match situation in their favour. Most of the times, you are at the mercy of the match. Yes, of course, great players are those who can redefine a game situation.
Hope Dhoni will not disappoint us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can technology lead to pure cricket?

By John Cheeran
Can technology lead to pure cricket? Free from flaws, free from erroneous decision-making?
We have appreciated technology over the years and that is true even in sport. With the ICC planning to widen the scope of technology, may be to assist umpires, may be to undermine the authority of umpires, it is interesting to tune into different views.
When Sachin Tendulkar, the most successful batsman of the recent times, says that he wants more technology but no referrals, it is a contradictory statement. Technology is the only reason why there are referrals. Without technology would there have been a rethink on the pending decision?
Even a schoolchild knows that LBWs invove the most subjective decision-making in cricket umpiring.
Tendulkar now wants only clean bowleds and LBWs out of the ambit of technology. Many, including Ian Chappell and Michael Holding, feel that HawkEye predictions are far removed from reality. So again, a cricketer has no choice but to respect the integrity and intelligence of the umpire.
Gone are the days of walking.
Now commentators talk, critics carp and still few are happy with the decision-making out on the field.
As a cricketer your aim is to win. You need to score runs and take wickets. Contemporary cricketer may be pardoned if he argues that he has no business to walk and a right to appeal on every ball.
But at the end of the day, technology can be no substitute for honesty and integrity on the part of cricketers. We need to have upright and intelligent umpires who can earn the respect of the players.
You cannot control weather. You cannot have a level playing field even in Twenty20, leave alone in Test matches sprawling over five days.
Poor decision making is part of sport, as much it is part of life. Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal did not make Argentina's World Cup triumph in 1986 illegitimate.
Yes, I know that bowlers have had a tough time to prise out batsman and the recent innovations in technology such as HawkEye, HotSpot and referrals would have tilted the scales in favour of them.
Does batsman deserve the benefit of doubt any longer?
May be, may be not.
But all a bowler has to do to dismiss the batsman is to bowl again. Over after over.
If we reduce cricket to disease diagnose, for the sake of certainty, the game will be poorer, for, what will be left of the glorious uncertainties?

Rogue theories must go, says TJS George

Editor's note: Almost a year ago, I had persuaded TJS George, eminent editor and author, and my journalism guru, to write a piece for the launch of DNA's Bangalore edition. The points made by TJS are still relevant.

By TJS George
The birth of a baby – any baby – is a joyous occasion. It is a journalistic duty, therefore, to say a hearty “Welcome” to DNA as it takes birth in Bangalore. Duty done, we can now turn to life as it is lived in these days of terror, economic as well as ideological.
Let no one deny that DNA has shown exemplary courage in its Bangalore opening. This is a town where there are already seven general interest dailies and six business dailies. That is thirteen newspapers every day in English alone, to say nothing of those in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Urdu. This unnatural congestion is either a tribute to the reading habits of Bangaloreans or a pointer to the publishing industry’s madness. Perhaps DNA’s courage is sustained by the strong possibility of one or more of the aforementioned thirteen disappearing in the not too distant future.
Is DNA also being honourable besides being courageous? It’s no secret that it has been having a full-fledged staff for several months and that it has enlisted a not insignificant number of paid subscribers. It would have been commercially justifiable if the project were postponed for a year, the staff demobbed and the subscriptions refunded. But to fulfil its commitment to staff and subscribers is the more honourable course. It is good to believe that, considering the somersaults that have transformed the newspaper industry in its essential basics in the last couple of decades, elements of honourableness survive in some corners.
For now at any rate, we can also draw some solace from the way India is defying world trends on the publishing front. Just days before DNA’s opening in Bangalore, two of the world’s greatest newspaper legends tottered in their foundations. The Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy. This company is the owner of iconic titles in the US such as the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant besides the Chicago Tribune. The great New York Times itself announced a cut in its quarterly dividend, suffered a 60 percent fall in its share price, watched its advertising revenue nosedive by almost 14 percent and, in a final cruel blow, pledged its landmark headquarters building in New York to raise badly needed cash. Predictably, Rupert Murdoch appeared on the scene hungry to buy the ailing giant as he had bought other evocative temples of publishing like the Wall Street Journal and, much earlier, the London Times.
India has bucked the Western trend so far. But this does not put Indian newspapers for ever above the logic of economics. The global slowdown has already started hurting. The most profitable papers are engaged in a headcount audit, preparatory, no doubt, to staff cuts. The India Today Group has closed its Bengali edition “due to market conditions”. Many inflated salaries have been brought down to earth.
Sooner rather than later, a historical correction must take place in our newspaper business.
The numbers must find a natural, sustainable level. More importantly, there must be a return to the reality that running a newspaper is different from making cement or selling toilet soap. In recent decades we have seen the enthronement of the rogue theory that a newspaper company’s only responsibility is to make money for its shareholders. Milton Friedman who aired that theory for capitalism’s glory has been repudiated in his own country, in the wake of America’s economic doldrums, by erstwhile champions of capitalism. Bill Gates said pointedly that corporations cannot be blind to their social responsibility. In publishing, more than in other industries, decency must be a dominant virtue. For the news industry to play its part in human progress, the citizen must prevail over the marketeer who feeds off him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cricket is boring....REALLY?

By John Cheeran
Suddenly, people are waking up to the fact that cricket can become boring. OPEN has done a cover story which I haven't read. On Saturday, Rahul Bhattacharya makes a similar point in Mint Lounge.
Why now?
Cricket became boring a long time ago. The flood of ODIs and the likes of Zimbabwes and UAEs, washed away much of the meaning associated with the game.
May be the Champions League Twenty20 succeeded in driving home that point. Thanks, a great deal.
By the way, who won Champions League?
John Cheeran at Blogged