Daily Archives: 23 October 2008

Strategies in Delhi for India and Australia

We’ve written and read a fair bit since the Mohali mauling about India’s near-perfect game, about the contrasting tales of the two captains at Mohali, about the Poms already rejoicing, about biased Match Referees, about reverse swing, about strange parallels between Perth and Delhi, and much more.

On Cricinfo, Dileep Premachandran analyses the Anil Kumble situation rather crisply, while Ian Chappell has opined that M. S. Dhoni has to stay on as captain of India from here on in!

My own view on this is that Anil Kumble has to decide what is best for him and for Team India. He has earned his stripes to make that call, in my view. If he is 100% fit to play and if he wants to play, he must play at Delhi, where 74 year-old Radhey Shyam Sharma, the Feroz Shah Kotla curator who is a match away from retiring, has said that he has prepared a “present” for Anil Kumble! The Kotla pitch has always taken spin — slow on the first few days and quite a handful on days 4 and 5 (if the Test lasts that long)! Anil Kumble has presided over Kotla as its master and it is more of a “home” ground to him than Bengaluru is.

If Anil Kumble does decide to play Amit Mishra, who took 7 wickets at Mohali on debut, must make way. While it is quite seductive for India to go into the Delhi Test with 3 spinners, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma — at the cost of V. V. S. Laxman — I do not believe this will (or indeed should) happen. I am not sure what an additional bowler will add. Moreover, in what could potentially be a low-scoring grind-game, the additional bat in Laxman will be useful for India to have.

This will be rough on Amit Mishra. But his time will come the moment Anil Kumble decides to hang up his boots — my sense and hope is that Kumble will decide to retire after the Tests in November/December against England. For now, Amit Mishra has carved his name into Team India team sheet in a compelling manner.

Australia does face a few headaches. However, apart from an adjustment to their mindset (too defensive in the first two Test matches) and their reverse swing art, I am not sure that the team needs to (or indeed, will) change anything else. Australia does not have a quality spinner in its ranks. I’d like to believe that Stuart Clark will come in for Peter Siddle if the former is fit and recovered from his elbow strain. This will be a blow to Peter Siddle, who bowled quite well at Mohali.

The one change that I would like to see is in the Australian batting order in the case of an early wicket fall. At the moment, Ricky Ponting is not at the height of his game in India. An early wicket causes him to freeze just a bit. At Bengaluru, his defensive approach set the tone for Australia batting throughout the game. At Mohali, he strutted and stewed for a while without casting any impression.

I’d instead think that Michael Hussey at #3 would be a much better option for Australia on this tour. He is positive. He bats confidently. He rotates the strike without looking to dominate the bowling. And he is not scared of either Ishant Sharma or Harbhajan Singh!

Delhi should present a wonderful opportunity for Australia to show that it is still a champion team that can bounce back from adversity. Much like India did at Perth — one of India’s most famous wins ever, in my view — Delhi is a wonderful opportunity for the Australians to dig deep and come hard at India in India’s own den.

I have a feeling that the game could be an absolute scorcher and can’t wait for it to begin!

— Mohan

Viru tackles reverse swing.

I read this piece in today’s Herald Sun by Jon Pierik, as representative a writer of that paper as can get, about Australia’s reactive plans on scuffing up the ball early in the piece.

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24538494-11088,00.html

To which I must draw his attention to Australia’s own Shane Warne’s entry on Virender Sehwag who makes #35 in his list of 100 top bats.

Sehwag was batting with Jeremy Snape for Leicestershire and Abdul Razzaq, who was playing for Middlesex, started to reverse swing the ball, creating all sorts of problems.

“I have a plan,” said Sehwag and promptly hit the ball out of the ground so that it had to be replaced.

That’s what he does when the ball reverse swings.

Just so you are aware Jon.

Soundar

ICC Match Referee system needs a serious investigation…

[I started typing this in the comments section of the thread on the Indian Victory at Mohali in response to a comment made by regular visitor, Sampath Kumar. When it grew too large, I thought I’d post it here as an blog post!]

***

In that comments thread, I said: “Have you not seen Merv Hughes or McDermott or Mike Whitney or Brad Williams give Indian players send offs? They haven’t been fined. The cliche often used by the Match Referee in those instances has been, ‘You don’t want to curb aggression in the game.’ One example is enough to prove this point, ‘McGrath-Sarawan’.”

My question then is this: “Why is it only necessary to curb Asian aggression?”

My conclusion is that Match Referees are not used to aggressive Asians in the past. This phenomenon, which found voice mainly through the likes of Arjuna Ranatunga and Sourav Ganguly, is now expressing itself routinely.

Which is probably why a journalist like Malcolm Conn rarely writes an article these days wherein he does not use the words “serial offender” or “provocative” or “aggressive” when referring to Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan or other new-age India players. Meanwhile, he does not deem Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden (he of “obnoxious weed” fame), et al, worthy of such lofty adjectives!

I personally do not see the antics of a Sourav Ganguly or Harbhajan Singh or a Zaheer Khan as anything different to the antics of Ricky Ponting or Matthew Hayden or Michael Clarke or any number of Australian cricketers.

In the comments section of the previous thread, I added, in reference to the Zaheer Khan fine, “Now the shoe is on the other foot. And everyone has woken up around the developed world!”

Yes. It is true that Team India, like India herself, has found a voice. Gone are the days of servility and Gandhian turn-the-other-cheek. The new India talks back, stares back and meets fire with fire. Suddenly, the sledging genie appears to be out of the bottle. India is aping the Australians and then some. Suddenly Malcolm Conn finds it revolting, unacceptable and uncomfortable.

Read this article by Malcolm Conn, our good friend from The Australian, for example. It makes no reference to the antics of Ricky Ponting nor does it paint Brad Haddin as the provoker in Bengaluru. One would think that the Indians are cheats and the Australians are good, honest, Christian saints with halos around their heads.

But that is the media. And irresponsible media persons, like our recent friends, will write anything to sell papers! Objectivity is not really the issue here.

And Malcolm Conn, like a few other Australian cricketers and journalists are rushing to claim the moral higher ground!

India’s gentle players are on their way out. Sourav Ganguly will soon considered “gentle” in comparison to the new-India that is coming through the ranks. Players like Uthappa and Sree Santh will take no prisoners! And they will be emboldened by the in-your-face approach of players like Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh! All of them want to win, and win well. They learned from the Australians and are repeating what they have been inflicted with in their formative years. Even M. S. Dhoni, one of the most decent cricketers I have seen for a long time, is being seen as a “cheat” by the Malcolm Conn’s of the world! And unless the ICC cleans up its act, I predict that there will be more Sydney-like trouble before things really settle down.

I have, for long claimed that the ICC has a major responsibility here; one that it is abusing; one that it is certainly abrogating.

Sunil Gavaskar claims that the ICC Match Referees are biased. In the comments section of the previous thread, I agreed with Gavaskar’s claims. In the same match we had Zaheer Khan and Ricky Ponting carrying on like pork chops. One was fined. The other wasn’t even mentioned in the Match Referees post-match missives! And I haven’t even mentioned the phrase “over rates” here! Why was that not even in consideration? I am not merely talking about over-rates in this match just concluded at Mohali. I am talking about Australian over-rates through the whole of last summer and these two recent matches.

You just cannot have a situation where Zaheer Khan is the only one that has his ears pinned!

In response to the comments that I made on the ICC Match Referees being biased, Sampath Kumar argued: “Finally, you have argued by comparing legal system in recent times — If an Aussie was not charged last time, then an Indian shouldn’t be charged as a balancing act. It is like saying: If my sister was raped by John, I should be allowed to rape John’s sister–no questions asked.”

Firstly, the above comment begs the question: What “legal system”?

The ICC seems to currently operate in a legal-free zone, in my view.

Try comparing the proper tribunal hearings — conducted by trained QC’s — that the AFL conducts to the manner in which the ICC operates its “picnic for the boys” routine.

Secondly, Sampath Kumar’s rape-analogy is too simplistic, apart from being a totally incorrect representation of my position.

While a sporting tribunal does not necessarily need to follow any specific legal formalities or processes, the ICC needs to get serious on this if it is to be taken seriously in the world.

Sports is competitive by nature and all sports people will look to get ahead! Some of them will adopt fair means and some will adopt other means outside the box of what is considered the “norm”. The “norm” is established by rules and regulations. The “norm” is also established by precedent! And here, therefore, precedent is important. You can’t have the carry ons of Brad Williams or Glen McGrath or Andre Nel, when taking a wicket being described as “good, strong, honest, aggressive cricket” and, simultaneously, describe Zaheer Khan’s carry ons as “unbecoming of the game”. The only difference is that one cricketer comes from a naturally aggressive cricket culture; the other comes from a hitherto non-aggressive culture! Precedent is important in any legal setting.

Moreover, it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure that there is fairness, equity and natural justice in all of its dealings.

Organisations like the ICC, therefore, have a legal responsibility in relation to fair-play, reputable-play, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, etc. The ICC also has moral obligations in relation to establishing (a) appropriate behaviour applicable across the board, (b) consistency in interpretation and application of the law and also (c) providing safe sporting environments.

An irrefutable necessary condition for any ICC Tribunal is that the very basic principles of natural justice must be followed to ensure that a totally fair and equitable process outcome is achieved, that is free of conflicts or bias (perceived or otherwise). The principles of natural justice include the following: (a) clear notification of the charge, (b) opportunity to respond, (c) perceived and actual unbiased decision making, that includes reliance on fact and the sourcing of irrefutable evidence when handing down decisions, (d) a clear, untainted and unquestioned opportunity to appeal a judgement that is handed down.

It is in the application of point (c), particularly, that I have most problems with the ICC. Even last year, we heard platitudes like “You don’t want to curb aggression in the game” or “It was all good humoured and good natured banter”, in cases involving Australian and English players. I refer to incidents like Mcgrath-Sarawan, or Ponting’s carry-ons after getting run out in 2005 by Gary Pratt, the substitute. I also point to the “jelly beans” episode in 2007.

I can go on and on. But incidents like these are sand-papered over with cliches and empty platitudes. This has to stop.

Perceived bias has to be eliminated. Otherwise, perceptions will become realities and who knows what will happen at that point in time.

— Mohan