Monday 28 July 2008

Musings of mauled minds

Dented pride? Wounded ego? Tarnished reputation? Well, that's no-brainer. After Murali and Mendis molested them in broad day light, you needed Doosra, the closest you have to a clairvoyant, to find out exactly what passed through the mind of those Indian batsmen who went through the trauma.

Rahul Dravid: Well, it’s never wise to pick up a fight with someone who has been an army gunner till the other day.

Gautam Gambhir: I told Kirsten in the plane that I’m scared of flights.

Sourav Ganguly: Hmm…Dona has got better footwork.

Sachin Tendulkar: I mistook Mendis and thought an LTTE Tiger was lobbing a hand grenade at me.

VVS Laxman: It’s all destiny. Since ‘Ramayana’ days, every Laxman is entitled to setbacks in Lanka.

Virender Sehwag: Boycott was back in the commentary box and I needed to give him fodder for thought.

Dinesh Karthik: Why pretend? My job is to keep the seat warm till Dhoni returns and lays his bums. Why break sweat?

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Men in White: Necessary Evils or Jetsam?

Neville Cardus felt umpires are as good as bathroom geyser. “We cannot do without it, yet to notice it only when it is out of order.”

In the same piece, he went on to mourn “The umpires are the Dogberrys of the game. We see them as essentially comic characters. Whenever a batsman swipes to leg and hits the umpire in the small of the back, how the crowd roars! If the wind blows the hat off the umpire’s head, laughter holds side.”

Not surprisingly, Cardus’ romanticism finds no taker, least of all in the ICC. Now that the referral system is being trialled in Sri Lanka, I wonder why don’t we completely do away with the custom? Why on earth place two hapless souls under the scorching sun and steady drizzle, ask them to stay put and focus all day as if nothing exists beyond the ball’s trajectory – only to end up as butts of numerous jokes for a rare moment of transgression? Why can’t we just replace them with technology and completely wipe out the ‘human error’? Or is it that they provided the entertainment value, as outlines by Cardus?

A fence-sitter weighing the pros and cons, I listed what could be the arguments for and against the Men in White?


  1. We just love Billy Bowden, the ghost of a ballerina trapped in an umpire’s body.
  2. Umpires make excellent almirah. And you don’t need pest control or rustproofing either!
  3. Idiosyncracies are part-and-parcel of the game. Cricket would have been poorer without Steve Bucknor’s slow-death finger, David Shepherd’s hilarious attempt at a pirouette or Billy Bowden’s ballet.
  4. Rival team does not lend hankies when you have running nose.
  5. You need an interpreter of maladies called sledging to ensure there is no communication gap between players.


  1. High time cricket did its bit for the environment. Cricket’s contribution to noise pollution stem from the sheer existence of the umpires. Take them away and future Shane Warnes would have no eardrum within earshot to holler into, thus saving a tribe from going deaf as well.
  2. Bucknor is perennially one match behind in his decision making.
  3. When you replace umpires with robots, you don’t need to care about their salary, perks, legally binding contracts and their rights too. Just make sure those are not from any Isaac Asimov sci-fi.
  4. Allow Virender Sehwag play his straight drives without the fear of culpable homicide.
  5. Finally, stop making annual fun of Simon Taufel’s Androgenic Alopecia in the annual ICC awards night.
Image: INKCINCT Cartoons

Monday 21 July 2008

Of Nadal, asteroid and an Indian XI

The other day, Rafael Nadal, that veritable Spanish bull on two legs, had an asteroid named after him. Here goes an Indian XI and things that could have been named after them:

  1. Irfan Pathan = Meteor
  2. Ajit Agarkar = Comet
  3. Virender Sehwag = Aircraft Safety Hazard
  4. Sourav Ganguly = Kamikaze Planes/ Nail Clipper
  5. Rahul Dravid = Defence Headquarters
  6. Sachin Tendulkar = Peaks/National Museum/Departmental Store
  7. S Sreesanth= Tinder Box
  8. Ashish Nehra = Band Aid
  9. Anil Kumble = Diplomatic Mission
  10. Harbhajan Singh = Nuclear Reactor/Volcano
  11. Zaheer Khan = Nursing Home.

Thursday 17 July 2008

The curious case of Irfan Pathan

According to a recent survey, around 75,000 children have been identified as missing across India in the last one year. Alas, you never get data about cricketers who take the obscurity-prominence-oblivion route.

Let’s admit, Irfan Pathan has become an anachronism, though that was not supposed to be the case with an otherwise immensely likeable chap with a disarming smile. An obituary to his career seems premature but I’m afraid he would go down in cricket history as a mere case study -- how not to tamper with a talent.

Indeed, Irfan can’t be faulted if he looks back and feels he got stuck somewhere between his own potentials and Greg Chappell’s aspirations. In his weaker moments he would probably admit that the aspiring all-rounder in him subdued the bowler within. Suddenly, belting looked so glamorous and bowling such a chore. No wonder, pace dipped and swing deserted, rendering him lesser a bowler.

To make it worse, too many mentors compounded the crisis. Irfan simply lost his way in the haze of advices that came from left, right and centre. Suddenly, everyone had something or the other to offer to him. No wonder, Irfan’s slower became a tautology and at some point of time, Jhulan Goswami was bowling faster than him. The same bowler who could make the ball talk, now only releases it and implores the almighty for the rest.

He probably got up one morning to discover in his horror that he has been robbed of his endowment.

My sneaking suspicion is Irfan had an identity crisis all along. He began as Zaheer protégé, was the next Wasim Akram at his zenith and then rumormongers exclaimed India has just got the new Kapil Dev. The truth is, he probably never had an identity of his own and that made him easy prey to failure.

Again, this was not to be the case.

The other day, Rafael Nadal had an asteroid named after him. I won’t be surprised if someone proposes to name a meteor after Irfan.

Image: BBC

Monday 14 July 2008


So cricket got its own Ben Johnson. Of course this is not the first time. Remember how we had to digest a World Cup sans Shane Warne? And a Champions Trophy without Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif?

But then what’s World Cup or Champions Trophy vis-à-vis IPL? These are mere bagatelles, compared to the blockbuster that IPL is -- a veritable cricket Olympic with a slightly altered view on its frequency. Industrial baron Lalit Modi is cricket’s answer to Baron de Coubertin.

While IPL fountainheads are yet to lay all the cards on the table, the million dollar question is whose sample proved positive? Doosra looks at the options.

1. Shane Warne: Sick and tired of dal-bati-churma, Rajasthan’s Most Famous Son (he beat Greg Chappell in a photo finish) sent an SOS-SMS from his legendary cell phone (which has scalped as many victims, especially plump English nurses, as the spinner himself) to cricket’s second most famous mother (after Jane Boycott). Soon flew in a Qantas-load of baked beans and a familiar jar. Well, the Australian’s doting German mother thought his son was through with international cricket, so why care? After all, mom’s love knows no bound, WADA or not.

2. Shoaib Akhtar: Well, how else you expect a thirtysomething pacer to react after he is slapped a five-year ban? The ban simply left him fuming and smoking. The fault anyway lies with the appellate tribunal which still contrived a way to allow him grace the IPL when he was least expecting it.

3. PCB Appellate Tribunal Members: Even Shoaib Akhtar vouches they hardly looked in their senses when they waved the green signal for the Rawalpindi Express to chug into IPL.

4. Vijay Mallya: Even the cruellest of hearts would admit that the thrashing which the Bangalore Royal Challengers were receiving with an alarming regularity was reason enough to escape from harsh realities and hallucinate .

5. Lalit Modi: Mr Mint-in-Suit, are you sure it's not yours? After all, old habits, they say, die hard.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Worshipping false gods?

The manner of defeat can be more horrifying than defeat itself and I don’t think MS Dhoni or Gary Kirsten missed the obvious.

The Asia Cup slipped through fingers. Worse, Indian batters can’t play spin!

For the uninitiated, India has traditionally been the land of rope tricks, hemp, fakirs, tweakers and batters with supple wrists. Lo and behold! One more myth lays shattered.

It’s not about one Asia Cup or Ajantha Mendis’ bag of tricks. Let's admit Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa and Suresh Raina (did you say Dhoni himself?) are veritable duds against spin. And interestingly, they don’t exactly fancy the rib-ticklers either!

At least Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman played spin better!

Are we worshipping the false gods, who, at best, are mere murderers of medium pace on docile tracks? Is Team India’s ODI future in safe hands?

But this was not supposed to be the case in this spin-fertile land where more tweakers sprout than ferns. You grow up playing them in serpentine bylanes, main streets on a bandh day, school grounds, practice nets and on full 22 yards at every level upwards. Then how come the sheer prospect of facing a spinner leaves you with paraplegic footwork and leaden wrists?

Consensus is Yuvraj is outrageously gifted, while Rohit is perhaps the best thing to come out of Mumbai since Tendulkar. Raina on the other hand is tipped, by the venerable Wisden, to define cricket in the next decade.

I’m afraid, unless this yawning chink in their armour is fixed, they would remain perpetual pretenders to the pedestals.

Image: AFP

Monday 7 July 2008

Mendis and the faculty of serendipity

Murali, Malinga and now Mendis. The Land of Serendipity will soon be known as the place where maverick bowlers, possibly with surnames that begin with M, are as ubiquitous as landmines there.

And both are equally devastating, ask the Indians.

Like the Three Princes of Serendip, the Lankan selectors seem endowed with this faculty of serendipity to discover freak talents, by accidents and sagacity. How else you explain unearthing freak bowling talents with such amazing regularity?

Ajantha Mendis did not look like a hoax as he bamboozled the Indian batters, some of whom can blunt spin even blindfolded. The Lankan army gunner is no Paul Adams, all theatrics and little craft, and if Jayawardene is to go by, he has got six different deliveries up his sleeves, which makes him The Special.

Mendis poses equal dilemma to cricket writers and batters alike. Well, what next? a googly? an off-break? a top-spinner? Or that carom-ball delivery? It’s as if you are standing in front of a spin departmental store. You name it and you have it.

In Mendis, The Great Lankan Freak Factory has produced another gem of a maverick and fortunately no coach, at any stage, tinkered his action or tweaked his approach. Mendis also has the privilege to pick Murali’s brain as the mentor and protégé operate in tandem and the youngster has to make the most of this opportunity.

The Asia Cup final was just the beginning -- and what a beginning -- of a journey. The post-mortem of his action has already started on many a laptop and ploys are being discussed by hurt opponents. The real test lies ahead. Moratuwa's poster boy has to ensure he lives up to the sky-high expectation he has just raised and not wilt under it.

Friday 4 July 2008

Here is how England remains immune to change

# The Egyptians, at some point of time, used slabs of stones for pillows;

# Sometime in the ‘60s, schools in Tanganyika were closed because of a queer outbreak of contagious laughter that lasted for six months;

# Sometime in the ‘80s, workers in a Las Vegas hospital were suspended for betting on which patient would die first.

So, let’s be honest and admit that stranger things did happen in the past. Taking the mickey out of Geoff Miller and his selectorial colleagues is a trifle rude, so what if England is on the verge of another world record – of picking the same XI for the sixth Test on the trot.

While nitpicking critics call it creative bankruptcy on the selectors’ part, here are 5 reasons why England will field the same XI again, and again and again:

  1. Let me share a scoop. Demanding their share of the Stanford pie, the selectors are actually on an industrial strike, leaving ECB with no other option but to field the same XI, matches after matches, till the deadlock ends. Impressed by his troubleshooting in the Gujjar row, ECB is all set to approach Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to end the stalemate;
  2. Convinced (by Stanford, who else?) that Test cricket is the worst thing to happen to mankind, ECB decided to parade the same XI faces till the crowd is bored to death and stops coming to grounds;
  3. ECB realised creating a sense of belonging and job security are vital to ensure optimum productivity (in strict cricketing sense) from the players. Besides, it also pre-empts supra-cricketing efforts -- like Sidebottom bringing down Grant Elliot -- to cement place in the squad;
  4. Notional infallibility of the fact that players are bound to come good at some point of time, ensuring occasional moments of success;
  5. Finally it upholds selectorial integrity by nixing possibilities of favouritism and nepotism at one stroke.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Mayhem at Mannofield Park

The publishing industry is abuzz and grapevine has it that ICC fountainheads Ray Mali, David Morgan and Sharad Pawar are burning midnight oil, co-authoring “101 Sure Shot Ways to Kill One Day Cricket”.

How else you explain pitting an unsuspecting Liliput against the big Brobdingnag bully resulting in the ugliest mismatch in one day cricket’s history? And if this is how ICC envisages the associates improving, Mali & Co should at once be put through the SCAN.

Trust me, boxing – at least amateur boxing -- may look a gory sport but it’s more humane. You don’t see a flyweight pugilist hurled into the ring to be easy meat for his super heavyweight candidate. And then there also is this provision of RSC or Referee Stops Contest when it becomes mockery of a bout.

But then cricket is a different proposition, a different BALL game altogether. Licensed to overkill, bobblehead ICC nods in affirmative whenever an ODI tournament is proposed and the Mannofield Park massacre also reveals its criminal indifference to the associate members’ future.

Tip-toeing in its cricket infancy, all Ireland needed was to be guided to the pool. Instead, they were thrown into the deepest end, with a hungry shoal of sharks waiting for a feast. Poor Irish bowlers must have been shaking and shrinking in their boots when the McCullum-Marshall-Taylor trio was setting the ball on orbits, posing serious security hazard for the low-flying ScotAirways planes.

If ICC still claims to care for its associate members, it should engage shrinks to help the Irish players come out of the trauma.

What baffles me is ICC’s adamance not to learn the lesson from its Bangladesh experience and persisting with the same logic-defying rush to elevate the associates despite the obvious counter-productive outcome. I won’t be surprised if Kyle McCallan and his boys develop an inferiority complex, convinced of their inability to break into and hang around in the big league.

Meanwhile for ODIs, IPL has already done enough to put it on the deathbed. ICC surely can’t wait to administer the last rites.