Sunday, January 24, 2010

YEH HOCKEY MAANGE MORE!

Damn with the game of hockey!

First the men demand money and after a strike and press conferences, and offers of help from really unexpected quarters, the light is found at the end of the tunnel and money is raised and the players are happy to take part in the conditioning camp. A K Mattoo, the standing-in chief of Hockey India puts in his papers feeling pissed off in the whole episode.

Just as everyone feels nostalgic over the record books gloating over the achievements of the Indian hockey in the past decades, the women decide to stick black tape on their arms in a sign of protest.

As usual, the women players talk of dues promised but not paid and in the light of the settlement deal reached with the men, this is perceived as a gross injustice, which is justified.

Not surprisingly, the new standing-in chief of Hockey India, Vidya Stokes, claims no knowledge of the protest of the players with a straight face. Then taking a u-turn, the players are offered Rs.50K each, which is turned down.Again, in a bizarre repeat of the earlier week, offers come in from the unexpected sources and the players are promised their dues.

This time, the former boss of Hockey India, K P S Gill did not offer his help in resolving the crisis in minutes, like the case was with the striking men. The Central Minister, M S Gill, a self appointed cleanser of Indian Hockey too seemed busy with more important things. 

But like a bolt from the blue, the women players are not satisfied.They insist on changes to be brought about in the whole system.So the impasse has not ended.The ‘top’ sports administrator in the country, Suresh Kalmadi has his hands full.

Again, as expected, the elections to elect the office bearers of Hockey India is ‘postponed’ for some unavoidable reasons(a common phrase used in India).

The game of hockey is surely helping the news channels to gain more points and making bloggers like me appear to be important.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

IS A WIN POSSIBLE?

India have managed to take 7 wickets of Bangladesh and the home team need another 200 runs to secure the first ever win against India in test matches.That is highly improbable and it is no exaggeration to say that it would be impossible. But what is interesting is that whether the Indian bowlers would be able to get the remaining 3 wickets.

In the first innings, the lower order batsmen of Bangladesh put up a brave fight and almost equaled the Indian effort when more than half of the team was back in the pavilion with few runs.

There is no better opportunity for the beleaguered Indian bowlers to get a win even when it is against Bangladesh.

Hope the standing in captain Sehwag does not regret calling Bangladesh an ordinary team before the start of the test.

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NO SURPRISE

The cat is out of the proverbial bag with the IPL supremo Lalit Modi saying in an interview to NDTV that there was a risk associated with Pakistan players. This comes as a surprise since Mr.Modi denied after the conclusion of the auction for the players that the BCCI had nothing to do with the decision of the team owners not to pick any of the 11 players from Pakistan who were available for purchase.

The full text of the interview is here:http://cricket.ndtv.com/storypage/ndtv/id/spoen20100126812/story20012010_185300.html

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SOUND BUSINESS + POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

The auctions for players for IPL3 took place today and the television 'news' channels having nothing more worthwhile to do, hammered on our heads, eyes and ears about the same.

By the time the auction ended, none of the 11 players from Pakistan was picked by any of the franchise.This incident dominated the evening and prime time news shows.

Some players from Pakistan called it a 'conspiracy' while others felt sorry for the Indians being unable to witness those talented players in action.Conspiracy because the Pakistan players would have been available for the entire IPL3.Pakistan is the defending T20 World Champions which would have made the players from that country a definite value addition to any team.

There are two reasons which I feel made the team owners develop cold feet when bidding for the Pakistan players.

In the first place, there is no certainty that players from across the border would have been available to play given that the government has never made it clear about the granting of visas.So like any shrewd businessman, the teams put the money where it was really worth and were not prepared to take any risk in the face of uncertainty.This is sound business.

Secondly, the team owners wanted to make a politically correct statement, even as the interest of the country comes next to self interest for them. In this atmosphere where jingoism rules the air, it might come in handy to keep clear from any future controversy.Looks like the team owners want a certificate of appreciation from the likes of Bal Thackeray.

This is a perfect case study where sound business and political correctness have successfully cleared the SWOT test.

So much for 'chaddi' (T20) cricket!.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ADVANTAGE MUMBAI

In the on going finals of the Ranji Trophy, Mumbai have the advantage going into the third day at Mysore.

Once Mumbai were dismissed for 230 runs in their first innings, I hoped for a lead of Karnataka.But that was not the case and Karnataka conceded a 100 plus first innings lead.Even as Mumbai have lost 5 wickets in the second innings, the batsmen of the home team seem to be ill equipped to chase in the last innings of the match.

When many first class matches in India are decided on the basis of first innings lead, this match is poised to provide a clear winner.

25 wickets fell on the first two days. Are the bowlers improved or are the batsmen short of the ability to play faster bowlers? Or is the pitch responsible for this sort of a match?

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THE STAND-OFF CONTINUES

The stand-off between the hockey players and Hockey India continues over the demands from the players relating to incentives and graded pay system.

 

Predictably, the people in charge of running the sport in the country have put forward some ‘ad-hoc’ proposals that the players have rejected. Hockey India is offering only Rs.25,000 per player while the players have asked for Rs.4.5 lakh each.Hockey India does not have the funds.The players at least want a written assurance from Hockey India which is also rejected.

 

The players have boycotted the conditioning camp for the forthcoming World Cup. Hockey India has given a 48 hour deadline for the players to take part in the camp.The players have also been warned that a team of ‘reserve’ players would be fielded in the World Cup.

 

Hockey India has criticised the money mindedness of the players and also has questioned the timing of the ‘revolt’. Hockey India has tried to use the card of playing for the nation.But as things are at the moment, the players are firm in their decision and are sticking to their demands.

 

I watched a press conference of the players where they pointed out that during the Azlan Shah tournament each player was provided $14 per day. On their tour to Argentina, the remuneration was $20 per day.These payments are pittances even when considers the pride of playing for the country.The men of Hockey India are least bothered about the image of the sport that has taken a lot of beating in the past few decades. People like Mattoo do not realise the pain and the sacrifices that the players make.

 

K P S Gill, the former top boss of Indian hockey claims that he could solve the problem in 10 minutes. This is utterly ludicrous since it is people like him who have taken the sport to such depths in the first place. In a way, Gill can do it. All he has to do is to hold the players at gun point and make them fall in line. Mr.Gill, these are players and not some criminals.

 

The Union Minister for Sports, M.S.Gill a self proclaimed saviour of Indian hockey wishes that the problem is solved immediately for the larger interest of the country.

 

The Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Punjab have offered help.Tomorrow, we may more such offers from Congress ruled states. This kind of attitude is something that is sickening to say the least.

Shah Rukh Khan has tweeted about this situation and a former actress /singer who now lives across the border in Pakistan has offered to hold concerts to raise funds.So much for the players and the sport!

 

The players have put forward the proposal that they can shell out money from their pockets to meet the expenses.

 

Ad hocism has plagued this country in all fields and sports is no exception.

 

It is only the players who have to think about national pride while people like Kalmadi, Gill etc. do not hesitate to hog all the limelight when the players bring laurels to the country.

 

What a coincidence that as I am typing this post, B B King is saying “The Thrill is Gone”.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

HOCKEY BLUES

It was reported in the media that the hockey players refused to take part in the training/conditioning camp prior to the World Cup.The players wanted a solution to the problem of pay. They demanded better pay-a fixed remuneration similar to the contracted cricket players.

 

The stalemate continued for a couple of days and then the representatives of the players met with the officials and a solution was reached upon. The players have agreed to take part in the camp and promised better performance in the future events.

 

So far so good but no one is sure about the solution. I believe that the solution is an ad hoc one typifying the way Governance in general and sports administration in particular is run in India.

 

Were the players threatened with disciplinary action for their ‘rebellion’?Or, did the officials finally managed to see the larger interest of hockey?

 

There are questions with no answers in sight.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

TEST CRICKET IS NOT GOING TO DIE

In recent months, cricket pundits and news channels alike are busy arguing over the demise of test cricket.The voices have gone stronger with the ‘success’ and the popularity of ‘chaddi cricket’(T20).I do not regard myself as a cricket pundit nor I am affiliated to any news channel.First and foremost, I am a fan of real cricket-tests, one-dayers, chaddi cricket and even that which is played by people like me on the

streets and on grounds which would put even the Kotla ground to shade.

The West Indies were beaten by the Aussies but few can forget the kind of effort put in by the men in the maroon caps. The innings from Chris Gayle at Perth who once (in)famously declared his greater liking for the shorter forms of the game, is something that will always linger in my mind.Adrian Barath played an innings on his debut that far greater cricketers would only dream of. The bowlers from the Caribbean at times bowled with genuine pace and hostility that was once thought to be a thing of the days gone by.The home team had to dig deep to secure the series.

The Aussies won the series on home soil against Pakistan. The test at the SCG could have gone the visitor’s way.The bowling of Mohammad Asif in the first innings showed everyone that tests can be beautiful.

The visiting English just managed to secure a draw in the first test and won the second test.The third test ended with the fans of the visiting team in an extremely upbeat mood. The English team did not win the test but just managed to draw. When everyone predicted a draw towards the middle of the last day, the home team bowlers took a few wickets that made things very interesting.With only one match to be played, the visitors cannot lose the series.They might go home the winners!

The ups and downs associated with these matches can never be replicated in the shorter forms of the game. In matches on the subcontinent under the lights, the toss becomes crucial. The side batting first puts up a big total and in most cases emerges victorious.It is on the rare occasions that the side batting second makes a chase successful. With wickets becoming flatter everywhere, there is a particular trend that even the novel concept like powerplays cannot reverse. The side batting first has a distinct advantage.

Things are more predictable when it comes to the shortest form of the game-T20.The toss is the key and no matter what commentators say and cheerleaders do, the results mostly go with the right call when the coin is spun.

I might have rubbed the likes of Lalit Modi the wrong way, but I stand firm in my bias towards test cricket.