Saturday, September 30, 2006



In the end, everyone went home smiling. The wisecracks at the ICC were happy in the belief that they were able to diffuse the situation. The PCB felt ‘vindicated’ and decided not to appeal against the 4 match suspension slapped on Inzamam. The umpires, particularly, Darrell Hair, was not made a scapegoat. So it all makes a ‘win-win’ game.

But there is something larger than a few individuals that has taken a beating and one that will suffer even greatly in the future. It is the game of cricket. From now on, the umpires may not be really vigilant towards the condition of the ball. I am not in any way dropping hints that the Pakistan bowlers resorted to ball tampering in the Oval test. The whole thing has relegated the role of the umpire.

Umpiring and umpiring mistakes have been part of the glorious uncertainties that cricket is. If I remember correctly, Steve Bucknor refused to take the help of the 3rd umpire on India’s first tour to South Africa. The home team cashed in on this reprieve and went on to save the match. In the recent DLF Cup, every team got the benefit of the umpires’ largesse and every team felt robbed by the umpires at crucial moments. Does this make umpires biased and prejudiced? With neutral umpires, things have more or less evened out for all the teams.

It is not sporting to take recourse to questions of race and nationality whenever any decision goes against the team.

After all, George Orwell said many years ago that sport is war minus the shooting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


As expected, Sharad Pawar and company have managed to consolidate their position in the BCCI. It was also according to the script that people who were part of the Dalmiya camp were sidelined while anyone who showed even an iota of support for Pawar, was rewarded with a plum position. With a full time politician at the helm, things are now not different from the way ministerial berths are awarded.

Dilip Vengsarkar is now the new Chairman of the selectors. There is no doubting the cricketing credentials of the Colonel. But there has always been a concern over his bias towards Mumbai players and the prejudice against non-Mumbai players. Few of us can recall the anger that Vengsarkar displayed in his column over the selection of Saurav Ganguly for the tour to England in 1996. It is another story that he later apologised after the magnificient show by Ganguly.

In all this farce that is BCCI, everyone seemed unperturbed by the dismal showing of India in the DLF Cup in Malayasia.

Monday, September 04, 2006



It is hard to comprehend the issue of the ball tampering in the aftermath of the Oval test match. I am in no position to make any value judgements. But the fallout has the potential to hurt the game.

Pakistan have always been suspect of doctoring the ball much to the chagrin of the others. It is quite a different thing when English bowlers like Simon Jones managed to make the ball swing in the other way. The appointment of Waqar Younis as the bowling coach and the subsequent allegations leveled by Hair appear to be justified. Let us not forget that Bob Woolmer is someone who doesn’t always play the game fairly. In the 1999 World Cup match between South Africa and India, he had conversations with the South African captain Hansie Cronje through a wireless communication device. Further, ICC match referee Barry Jarman has now accused the South African bowlers of having tampered with the ball in a match against India.

The one fallout will surely be the undermining of the role of the umpire. Captains have a way of making their displeasure over the performance of the umpires. But Inzamam and the Pakistan team think-tank decided to take the drastic measure of not coming on to the field after the tea interval. Then Hair appeared to be on solid ground but the revelation of the Aussie umpire seeking a golden handshake tilted the scales in favour of Pakistan.

In the recently concluded FIFA world cup, many referees made horrendous decisions and the governing body took immediate steps. Referees were asked to leave the world cup after being found guilty of bad decisions. Why not the ICC devise such a strategy?

At the best of times, the ICC does not have the acumen to take tough and definitive stands on prickly issues. This was demonstrated during the match fixing crisis and the chucking issue. The dilly-dallying and the procrastination led to the farcical 15-degree leeway given to the bowlers with suspect actions. The inaction then also led to racial and other such allegations. Now things have gone one step ahead with the inclusion of religious beliefs.



In 1992 Andre Agassi won the Wimbledon and in the way to the title, he got the better of Boris Becker. Those were the times when Becker was my sporting hero, exceeded only by the likes of Kapil Dev and Steve Waugh. The defeat of the German was painful since he was the natural grass court player while the American was the pretender.

However, with the passage of time, even as his contemporaries bid adieu, Agassi was still busy on the courts. He surprised everyone with the finals at the US last year. The initial disapproval turned into admiration.

The match against Baghdatis demonstrated the longevity and the staying power of Agassi. That win seemed to drain away all the mental and physical strength so much that in the match against Benjamin Becker, Agassi looked pedestrian at times.

The game of tennis has lost a character that is very hard to find in the era of the Federers and company.