Daily Archives: 19 February 2007

Are we playing too much cricket?

The world cup is just a few weeks away and apart from one more game between Australia and NZ, there will be nothing between now and the World cup. This break will give teams a chance to rest, rejuvenate and recuperate from the injury woes that they have been facing. Most of the teams have been playing non-stop cricket the last few weeks, and sooner or later, ICC and the cricket boards will have to recognize that this overload is the reason for this spate of injuries and do something about it.

Let us look at the games each team has played since the beginning of this year:

Team ODIs Tests
Australia 12 1
England 10 1
India 8 1
New Zealand     13       
Pakistan 5 3
South Africa 5 4
Sri Lanka 7
West Indies 4

That is an awful number of games, considering the fact that it has just been 50 days since the beginning of this year and the premier event in world cricket is due to start shortly.

If we look at Australia’s schedule, they’ve just finished the Ashes, followed it up with a tri-series involving England and NZ and ended it with a three match ODI series against NZ. Their injury list includes Lee (left ankle), Symonds (biceps), Clarke (hip) and  Ponting (back). They are probably both mentally and physically tired after all this cricket and their results show it – 5 losses in 6 games! Not the ideal scenario before the start of the world cup.

England have had a tough tour in Australia and their team is filled with people recovering from injuries. Their injury woes started with Vaughn not making it for the Ashes and it has followed with Trescothick (stress), James Anderson, Jon Lewis and Peiterson.

In India, Sachin is nursing a stiff back and Pathan is not fully fit. Munaf and Yuvraj are just back from Injury. For New Zealand, Kyle Mills has completely missed the cup owing to Knee Surgery; Jacob Oram is going to miss a few games and no one knows when the fragile Bond is going to break down. Pakistan has had its whole fast bowling contingent under an injury cloud – Shoaib Akthar(knee), Mohammad Asif (elbow), Umar Gul (ankle), Shabbir Ahmed (groin), Mohammed Sami (back). If some of them have been taking performance enhancing drugs, it surely hasn’t helped with the injuries 🙂

Apparently(!), every team’s schedule has been planned well in advance to give the players the best chance of match practice and be their best before the World Cup. But it seems, this has had the exact opposite effect on players. We are looking at the possibility of teams such as Australia struggling to play their best eleven. There really is no thrill in beating a team like Australia if its top players are not playing due to injury.

So, what is the solution to this? Quite simple – play less number of matches.

Or use a radical approach – reduce the number of overs in all ODIs. Even a reduction of 10 overs per team will probably give players a big relief. If we continue to play more matches, we should reduce this even further. We could even substitute ODIs with more Twenty20 matches. It is also time to reduce the number of matches played in a test series (like the Ashes) to just 3.  

Until ICC takes the cue and takes some serious action, we are going to see more and more injuries – and careers of good cricketers cut short.


Poor Team Selection – Commentary Team

I have been extremely fortunate in being able to watch all international cricket games on TV thanks to Shan Chandrasekar, the owner and promoter of Asian Television Network. Thanks to his business genius, Canadians have been able to enjoy and relish cricket on television for next to nothing. While the abundunce of cricket on TV has certainly lit up our living rooms, we have as a result, been subject to a diverse set of commentators across the globe — some good and some not quite so.

The choice for the commentary team (I believe most series have multiples sets of teams representing the respective nations/channels) has been entirely dependent on the feed source for ATN. As a result, for example, during the recently concluded series in South Africa, we were subjected to bordeline racist commentary from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Folks like Barry Richards seemed to have free reign in what they could say, and therefore commented on everything from Ganguly’s mother to the selection of the Mumbai team for the Ranji Trophy. Richards’s comments irked Sunil Gavaskar too. It seemed that everytime South Africa won a game, the arrogance-levels and ignorance-levels of the commentary-team went up a notch. It was indeed a sense of relief listening to a slightly less jingoistic tune on the Indian set — provided by Ravi Shastri, et al — when I caught the last few games of that series (the games that mattered most) in India.

I have also had the opportunity in the recent past to watch less important games (from a viewership standpoint) like the Challenger Trophy. I have observed the steady rise of mediocre commentators in India as well. The likes of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Arun Lal, Atul Wassan, Saba Karim, Rohan Gavaskar, Nayan Mongia, et al, have certainly taken a fondness to the mike. Star value apart, the quality of their analysis and reporting is somewhat pathetic. What is most irritable about their reporting is their penchant for irresponsible comment, particularly on matters of importance such as selection and player performance. The less said about their non-perceptive, shallow reporting of actuals on the field, the better!

Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, during a recent awards ceremony gathering, responded sharply albeit professionally to some of this frivoulousness from the commentators’ box. For someone like Sachin Tendulkar to publicly snap petulantly indicates the level of disgust.

You can see the YouTube video of the Arun Lal interview with Sachin Tendulkar on the victory podium. Sachin Tendulkar’s irritation is easy to see. Moreover, at the end, watch the whole Indian team appluad Tendulkar’s retort. Also notice how Tendulkar stresses that it was because of the help from the team, fans and family that he made his comeback. In other words, “No thanks to you jokers.”

It is not necessary that only exceptional cricketers make good commentators. Mark Nicholas, for example, has done a very good job. He has a deep knowledge of the game. He reads the game well. He is unbiased. He is also non-parochial. He calls well and he is also somewhat sharp and witty. These are the traits that are required.

While, the selection of the Indian team has been outstanding in the recent past and importantly so, I am not sure that the same applies to the selection of the commentary teams around the world.

It may have something to do with the contractual obligations of production companies. However we are unable to hear/watch the likes of Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, or Harsha Bhogle more often. They are amongst the best from India.

I do wish there was a way that viewers could comment/vote on the quality of the commentary team — we pay for hearing them after all.

My wish list for the commentary team at the World Cup would be:

  • India – Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle
  • Australia – Ian Chappell, Ian Healy and Mark Taylor
  • Pakistan – Rameez Raja, Wasim Akram (maybe)
  • England – Mark Nicholas, Naseer Hussain, Mike Atherthon, Peter Roebuck
  • New Zealand – Ian Smith, Martin Crowe
  • South Africa – Allan Donald, Daryl Cullinan
  • West Indies – Tony Cozier, Ian Bishop, Michael Holding
  • Sri Lanka – None (Roshan Mahanama was good before he took up the ICC job)


Interview by Dilip Vengsarkar

The “experiment” word was considered again in this interview with Indian chairman of selectors, Dilip Vengsarkar. As I mentioned in the piece on selection in this blog yesterday, we again see, in this interview, several examples of straight-talk and direct-talk from the “Colonel”.

— Mohan

Letter in The Age…

Read this letter to the editor in The Age, Sunday 18 February 2007 (go to page 4 of this link to read this letter online). The letter is reproduced below.

The letter is on Australia’s loss by 10 wickets to the Kiwis. Since that loss that Sampath Kumar refers to in his letter below, the Aussies have lost yet another one to the Kiwis. Wonder what Kumar will write now?

— Mohan

10 wickets, mate. I’m bloody gutted!

I AM gutted. Bleeding. How could the Aussies go down by 10 wickets to the Kiwis on Friday. Don’t tell me, it is good for cricket. What is cricket without us winning. Even me dog is refusing to eat its tucker.

Mate, it’s the end of the world. If not, bloody close to it. I can’t go to the supermarket without the bloody Kiwis looking and laughing at me. And half of them are over here. Who let them in? I would rather have more Lebanese than Kiwis. At least, they can’t beat us in cricket.

And the missus — who hates cricket and more so, me watching it on the telly and supporting the Aussies — laughed so much on Friday she went into premature labour. She is taking revenge on me; now she wants to call the baby son, Lou Vincent Kumar. She gave me a second option: Paul Collingwood Kumar.

I want the Parliament reconvened. I want a royal commission. Sack the bloody coach. Buchanan is useless. Put Warnie at the helm. If he refuses, pay him double. Or bring back conscription and make him do it.

If Johnny Howard doesn’t do anything about it now, we won’t win the World Cup. And when it happens, just remember, I told you so.

Sampath Kumar, Mornington