Category Archives: Australia

The ICC launches into another controversy

As if it wasn’t enough for the ICC to get bogged down by a bankruptcy of ideas and control of the game, the organisation has now found a new way to embarrass itself. It has stumbled to a new low resting point through a shocking mis-management of the process for electing John Howard as President-Elect of the august body!

In his article on Cricinfo, Gideon Haigh states, “Say what you like about the members of the International Cricket Council, they are utterly consistent. No matter how far you lower your expectations, they always find a way to underperform.”

Hilarious opening to an interesting opinion piece. I do not agree with much of what Haigh says in this article, but it certainly paints a mobid picture of a moribund organisation! The problem with Haigh is that he has declared his cards as a person that views the BCCI, IPL, Modi and Indian cricket with suspicion if not disdain! In the past he has stopped short of stating that the only cricket that really matters is that which is regularly held between England and Australia for a little urn. So I certainly have that grain of salt handy when I read anything he writes!

But he does have a point. The ICC finds stunningly innovative ways of repeatedly embarrassing itself in public.

The ICC Presidency chair is a rotating beast. So it cannot and should not really get political. If it is a Boards’ turn to have a crack at the top job, it ought to have all linen washed internally (as New Zealand and Australia did in choosing John Howard) before offering up a candidate who ought to be elected unopposed. That is how a rotating chair ought to work. There is, however, a danger in such a method because, before you know it, when it is Zimbabwe’s turn we may be forced to stare at Robert Mugabe’s smirk on the ICC website for four long and painful years! Hence there has been a proxy election in place. It has never, however, been used up until now.

It has been used now! The result is that Australia feels insulted. New Zealand is probably saying “I told you he sucked as a candidate”. England is embarrassed through no fault of theirs — again! And the ICC is in some disarray as a result of (a) a terrible, terrible choice of candidate (in my view), (b) the organisations’ ineptness in making decisions other than those driven by consensus, and, most importantly (c) the organisation being unable to state to the losing candidate why (s)he lost!

Ever since the International Cricket Council was formed (after its predecessors, the Imperial Cricket Conference and the International Cricket Conference were canned) we have had this rotation system work near-perfectly: England had Lord Colin Cowderey as President of the ICC (from 1989-1993). West Indies had the great Sir Clyde Walcott from 1993-1997. India had that wily combatant, Jagmohan Dalmiya as ICC President from 1997–2000. Australia had Malcolm Gray from 2000–2003 followed by Pakistan’s Ehsaan Mani from 2003–2006. This was followed by Percy Sonn (2006-2007) and Ray Mali (2007–2008), a dual South African act on account of the fact that Sonn passed away while ‘in office’. This then saw an England-India double act in David Morgan (2008-2010) and Sharad Pawar (2010-2012).

The system has been working well in so far as providing a mechanism for tokens and lollipops to be routinely handed out to the member countries as appeasements.

That is up until now, when the word “trust” has started to take on much more of a meaning in our collective dictionary than ever before. Moreover, through a combination of their collective increase in their self-confidence as well as an improved ability on the field and (especially for India) their money power, the word “trust” has also been bandied about more often than necessary. Muscles have been flexed!

John Howards’ rejection has to be seen in this light and should not be seen as a collective insult to the Australian people.

Malcolm Speed has reacted angrily to the insult in his emotional outburst. He even suggests that Australia and New Zealand should give up their automatic right to a lollipop hand-out and, instead, hand it over to the next set of boards in the lollipop queue: Bangladesh and Pakistan!

Gideon Haigh has reacted emotionally and bemoaned the insult to the man who was so loved by the Australian people that they elected him not once, not twice, not three times, but no less than four times! Gosh! Of course, that must mean so much to a rag picker in Southern Mumbai. Right?

Wrong!

John Howard was a brave man when he was in power as Australian Prime Minister. He had views on most things and did not take a backward step in going forward on things he believed in. He routinely commented on things cricket. He loved his cricket. He even bowled once when in Pakistan when on a tour there — never mind the fact that few of the balls even reached the hapless batsmen! He also came out in the open and called Muthiah Muralitharan a “chucker”!

Do you think the people of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Board would trust a man at the top of the ICC tree after his utterances against their beloved son — utterances made by an incredibly honorable man while in a position of the power that was bestowed on him by the good people of Australia no less than four times?

The fact that the good people of Australia showered their love on John Howard — and I have no doubt he is an incredibly honorable man — four times should mean diddly squat to the people of Sri Lanka or officials on their cricket board! However, the fact that Howard ignored the opinions of bio-mechanics experts and chose to comment on Muralidharan’s chucking, would have made the Sri Lankan Board and her people sit up and view Howard with some suspicion. Let us not forget that one of the men close to the officials that run the cricket board in that country is Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain that labored through that awful awful time for Sri Lankan cricket; a time made worse by John Howards’ comments. Sri Lanka simply does not have trust in the ICC-man Australia has chosen. Simple. Ditto Zimbabwe, given Howard’s utterances against that country and its cricket.

Was Howard right with his views? That is not really the issue. The issue is one of trust deficit.

Ultimately, Howard just did not have friends in ICC member countries. This is not an insult to Australians or to Howard.

Gideon Haigh emits his true colors, though, when he yells, “Ultimately, however, responsibility lies with the chaotic, fratricidal, law-unto-itself Board of Control for Cricket in India, for had it chosen to back Howard, the decision would have gone through on the nod. The BCCI likes to think of itself as cricket’s leader – as, indeed, it is, by any economic measure. But where was it when actual leadership was required? Sunk in its own macchiavellian intrigues, busy trying to claw back a facilitation fee from World Sports Group, and poring over Lalit Modi’s hotel and limousine expenses. Suggestions in the Indian media are that the rejection stems from internal upheavals at the BCCI, where ICC president Sharad Pawar, who supported Howard’s nomination, is on the nose with his former colleagues for being too close to Modi. Who knows? And who, ultimately, cares?”

If Gideon Haigh did not care, why would he devote so much eyeball space to the BCCI and its “fratricidal” ways? I have a feeling that Gideon Haigh will soon drop the blame for world hunger and world peace at the door steps of the BCCI!

Yes, there was indeed a report in a few Indian media outlets that the BCCI’s decision not to support Howard stemmed from the current BCCI leaderships’ desire to stick it to Sharad Pawar! And Gideon Haigh, a reputed and thorough journalist, fell for that piece of unfounded and ill-informed junk? The initial story quoted no source nor attribution. Nor did it have a basis. It was a story that I read and discarded. Gideon Haigh must perhaps learn to develop a few filters, especially when reading Indian media — most of whom are story tellers who look at the phrase “breaking story” and pay more attention to the word “story” than the word “breaking”!

Leadership by the BCCI has minimal role to play here in this, in my view.

There was, in my view, a leadership vacuum in Australia and New Zealand when the choice of John Howard was made. I could have predicted this outcome the day John Howard was put up as a choice.

Indeed, let us have a look at what our own Soundar Iyer wrote on i3j3cricket after a conversation with Gideon Haigh. Soundar writes that in the view of Haigh, the decision to back John Howard “largely revolved around the relative merits of each candidate pertinent to their ability to handle the behemoth that was the BCCI. The view was that Howard, the wily politician that he was, was probably the best equipped. Time will tell.”

Time did tell.

An alternative view to that which Gideon Haigh formed above — when he laid the blame for the Howard-shafting on BCCI’s doorstep — could be that the BCCI perhaps showed immense leadership and foresight by saying:

  • We know Australia and New Zealand have selected a candidate that has been expressly chosen to shaft us,
  • We know that that choice is bad because South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka have enough gripes to reject the man without us getting involved in the scrum,
  • We will openly show our support for the choice,
  • We will then protect our relationship with Australia and New Zealand by watching as this terrible choice is torn down by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka!

Unfortunately, if the above hypothesis is correct, the BCCI did nothing more than protecting its self-interest! Protecting self-interest is not wrong in itself. After all, look at what England and Australia did in the formative years of cricket! Moreover, everyone looks after their self-interest.

What is wrong is putting self-interest so high that the game itself is compromised or ruined in the process.

The latter would happen if John Howard was the only human being left in Australia and New Zealand! The last time I looked though, despite negative growth rates, New Zealand and Australia do still have a few people left! I am sure one of them would be an acceptable candidate — and even a strong candidate — for the whole of the ICC. Indeed, before Australia pushed hard for John Howard, New Zealand wanted to pursue John Anderson — former chairman of the New Zealand board and a terrific cricket administrator. Surely, he would have been elected unanimously and we would not have had to assess whether the Australian people had been viscously insulted and victimized!

Therefore, in my view, the mistake lies not in the doorstep of the BCCI or Sri Lanka. The mistake was in the choice of John Howard who had perhaps made many an enemy in the cricketing world.

That said, the ICC, sunk to new lows because it showed again that it is political, moribund and powerless.

The saddest thing about this episode is that it is a clear signal that cricket is divided with England, Australia and New Zealand on one side and with India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh on the other and with South Africa and West Indies developing collective sore backsides from time to time! Despite strong and stellar attempts by Australia, and in particular, James Sutherland, in recent times, the trust deficit exists.

As Sambit Bal says,

But in recent years cricket seemed to have moved away from post-colonial angst into the lap of naked capitalism. Self-interest remained the guiding principle, but alliances based on commerce rather than race seemed far more palatable. The use of the term Asian Bloc – it had a pejorative ring to it – became rarer as India and Australia, the richest board and the strongest team, moved closer.

It’s premature to proclaim an official split or speculate what immediate impact it will have on global cricket, but on the Howard issue it was evident who stood where. Australia and New Zealand stood by their nominated candidate, and they had only England by their side.”

So why is Howard’s rejection at the ICC table wrong? And why do I think the ICC is moribund?

Any candidate is owed the duty of care and the dignity of feedback in any transparent election process. If they are not selected they need to understand why they were not chosen. The only feedback that John Howard will have received, as Sambit Bal has noted, is from the Sri Lankan Board that stated openly that they did not rate Howards’ sport administration skills!

On dear! Really! A man who led a country cannot run a cricket board? Clearly then, Sri Lanka rates Sharad Pawar’s sport administration skills highly. They probably took one good look at him asleep at the wheel while Lalit Modi diddled the IPL books and decided that Sharad Pawar ought to receive their backing! Right!

Clearly, the reason offered by Sri Lanka has much to do with wool and eyes. But at least Sri Lanka offered a reason; albeit one that cannot be countered or defended in such a process. The rest of the members in the cast played some back room games, cast their vote and moved on with the same disdain that England and Australia used to dish out when the only cricket that mattered was that which the two of them played!

Roles have reversed. The owners of the despicable attitudes have changed. Cricket stumbles through darkness yet again!

As Sambit Bal writes, these actions “threaten to drag cricket back to the age of acrimony and mistrust.”

— Mohan

Advertisements

A conversation with Peter Roebuck

Srinivasan of the ‘Indian Voice’ in Melbourne organises a dinner around the Boxing Day Test every year featuring Peter Roebuck.

The venue is always at Indian restaurants, with names featuring ‘Punjabi’ ‘Dhaba’ ‘Masala’ ‘Curry’ and ‘takeaway’ in the usual permutations. The chef cum proprietor is routinely guilty 0f the interior decor, with a propensity for sequinned works featuring bearded grandees a-loll against bolsters receiving intoxicants from surahi bearing maidens with impossibly imposing implants. What looks very like a lungi on the wall with Taj Mahals all over it may well be my philistine eye not recognising a wall hanging when I see one.

None of this should take away from the menu which rarely deviates from Naan, dal makhani, mixed veg curry, papad and rice. For those of a certain persuasion, there a couple of other curries featuring body parts of young quadrupeds and bipeds.

The Roebuck dinner is an event I rarely miss, affording as it does the opportunity to fill up to the back teeth at the buffet for 10 bucks,  listen to one of the most engaging writers and fluent talkers about the game.

Sadly this time around the numbers were’nt there at all. Maybe something to do with the fact that it was Pakistan and not India playing Oz? Sanjay Manjrekar is perhaps right after all. Maybe most Indians are just interested in Indian cricket.

Nevertheless it made for a relatively committed gathering that welcomed Peter at about half past seven. The usual format was for everyone to hoe into the buffet, at the conclusion of which Srini would introduce Peter, who would then hold forth for a bit, followed by questions from the floor. Srini would then wind up with a present of a kurta (Peter’s favourite garment whilst in India) and invitations to contribute to Peter’s favourite charity.

Peter is one, one suspects, who will talk cricket through the night if given the chance. Here then, are a few excerpts.

On his castigation of Chris Gayle before the Windies toured and subsequent approbation.

Most readers will recall that Peter had blasted Gayle for his stance apropos Test Cricket prior to landing on these shores.

Peter said he consistently states his mind with the facts at hand. If that meant that he changed his views and opinions from time to time, so be it. So long as the process was consistent, the end results could well change. Certainly, once Gayle demonstrated some responsible leadership in Oz, Peter did not see his commitment to Tests as an issue any more.

On Umar Akmal blasting Peter Siddle for 19 in one over.

High praise from Peter who was reminded of a young Sachin who hit perfectly good deliveries breathtakingly well. The crucial thing that separated the ‘Nadamaadum Deivam’ (my phrase, not Peter’s) from Umar was the latter’s ‘youthful impetuosity’ that caused him to throw away his wicket after he reached 51. What struck him about Sachin back then, reminisced Peter was that, even at 19, he had a ‘calm centre’ within him that ensured that he was hitting the ball amazingly well on its merits, not just with youthful abandon.

On the ever so slight improvement in the provincial nature of cricket writing in the Australian press.

This was a topic that delved into areas outside of cricket such as an evolving national image, an improved understanding of the wider world and apropos cricket, soul searching post Kumble 2007. That said, what I understood him to mean was that the hacks are, person for person, more deserving of credit than is given them. For the most part, they tend to be aligned to either the Fairfax or the News Ltd stables, each of which caters to a certain demographic. Articles are then written to suit.

This reminded me of Suketu Mehta’s take on Bollywood film directors. ‘None of them are remotely the idiots that their movies would lead you to believe’. Or words to that effect.

On India being on top of the Test Totem pole.

Contrary to the jingoism and triumphalism that might be expected, we the discerning audience took the view that India’s reign would be short lived. Largely because the fab four were on the way out, our bowling still does not inspire, the much beloved BCCI still operates as a fiefdom dispensing benevolence and largesse etc etc. Without disagreeing, he also pointed out that India could not have reached the top without Australia, SAF and to an extent England stumbling periodically. In defence of the BCCI he pointed out the fact that state level cricketers could now make a decent living from the game. ‘Fathers who, fifteen years ago were doing all they could to dissuade their boys are now pushing them with the same force into the game!’

One eyed Indians.

He didn’t hold back in chiding Indians for seeing conspiracies and bloc politics whenever anything went against India or Bucknor did us in again. A pretty thin skinned and one eyed mob we were, said he. Hard to disagree, especially if you share my opinion that we conveniently lose sight of when we benefit , as we did with SK Bansal in that 2001 epic in Kolkata.

As an aside, has anyone heard of Bansal after that game?

And so it went, till Srini had to reluctantly call stumps. As we trooped out into the warm night though, we were all in agreement that we had NOT got our hard earned’s worth.

For, there was no ‘gulab jamun’ to finish off.

Soundar

Australia to join Ranji Plate League

Australia will join Afghanistan and Uganda in the Ranji Plate League with immediate effect. In a dramatic turnaround of events after the pathetic loss (on all counts) to New Zealand, Australia in an effort to salvage any remaining pride will try and regain some form by playing against the minnows of the Indian league. Cricket Australia officials stated that they reached an understanding with the BCCI in this regard. CA expects Ponting to regain some behavioral form and the new players get accquainted to competition of an international sort. CA is also expecting that Brad Haddin start keeping behind the wickets as opposed to being in front of them. This agreement comes as a big relief to the Aussies as they try and maintain their official status as “champions once upon a time”. This also gives them an opportunity to witness in person the humanitarian efforts by multilateral agencies to increase public awareness of cricket in Afghanistan, Uganda, Vidharba, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Services. Our best wishes to the Australian team and their newfound desire to qualify for the Ranji Super League.

– Srikanth

Please note that the above article is pure work of fiction and does not in any way reflect any form of reality…..I think……

Pronunciation Watch

Winston Churchill, that master of oration and arrant pedant of the English language, deliberately persisted in pronouncing the word ‘Nazis’ as it was spelt and not ‘Naatzis’ as it should have. This was, he declared, a reflection of his utter disdain and disrespect for that particular outfit. 

Now, far be it from me to suggest that the assortment of broadcasters and superannuated Aussie ex-players turned media pundit-s harbour any such sentiments to the holy (cash) cow of world cricket. Nevertheless, they have referred to Ha! bjaan, C-wag, Gam-beer, Soorav Gan-goolie (wink-wink), Lax-man, Raul, Zaa-here, Che-naai, Moom-baai, Poon-jab (wink-wink again) far too long.

One would think they would take their journalistic responsibilities a little more seriously. After all, audiences follow their lead.

If resources to learn from were hard to come by, it would perhaps be grudgingly acceptable. But no, they work with Gavaskar, Shastri, Dileep Premachandran and many more unnamed Indians in the Press Box.

Mangling of foreign names, however, is a proud Aussie tradition, right up there with bank-bashing, barbecues, beer and blinkered reportage. It is not one that will be jettisoned lightly.

Nevertheless, credit where it is due. Brendon Julian on Fox Sports is punctilious with Laxman Sivaramakrishnan’s name. The best the others can manage is Siva.

Soundar

Wish list

I started making a wish list before the series started, but never got around to posting it. Here is is no particular order –

  • Bowling team maintaining the over rate. The overs  bowled per day was quite appalling when India toured Australia last summer. There really is no excuse for poor over rates and fines/bans still haven’t done enough to fix this problem. The Indians are notorious for wasting time in the middle and the Aussies aren’t far behind when it comes to over rates. Take Day 1 of the second test for instance – the Aussies ended the day 5 overs short. Sure, there was some time wastage when Gambhir was hit on his helmet and fireworks stopping play (it will take me some time to get over this farce), but that can’t account for more than 2 overs (and I am being very generous here) and if play wasn’t extended by another half hour, we could have been well over 10 overs short for the day!
  • Good pitches for the series. That means no flat tracks (with no result in sight even after 5 days) or dust bowls (that yield a result in two days). It remains to be seen how the pitch holds up in Game 2 – so far, it has been quite flat with not much help to the bowlers, but the condition of the pitches change quite dramatically in India in just a day or two.
  • Result not decided by the toss: The pitch plays a huge role in this and is almost an extension of the previous point. If the toss is such a huge factor in the result of the game, we may as well just call the toss and then go home.
  • Play cricket and not the sledging game. I pay to watch the two teams play cricket and get entertained. I really don’t want to see a sledge fest.  Fortunately, we haven’t seen much of this in this series yet and I hope it stays that way. Unfortunately, the players are still baiting the opposition outside the field. Take Zaheer Khan for instance or Ricky Ponting. What’s up with the holier than thou attitude? – “We go about our cricket in different ways”. Nuff said about that. I just want the players to let their batting or bowling to do the talking.
  • Better umpiring. I don’t want to be too critical of the umpires – it is a hard job and mistakes do occur. But they also tend to alter the direction of the game and that is just not right. I am frankly disappointed that the review system isn’t being used in this series. Oh, well! Hopefully, we don’t see too many bad decisions that alter the course of of this series.

-Mahesh-

Australia have themselves to blame

Australia could have well won this game. They didn’t and they only have themselves to blame. They didn’t play the aggressive, positive, fast paced cricket they were used to playing – instead they had a safety first, defensive approach and yet Ponting says

We were the only ones in the game trying to take the game forward. We played aggressive cricket. I am not surprised by the way they played, the Indian team do play a lot of drawn games.

Let me point out a couple of things –

  • In the first innings, Australia scored 430 runs in 150 overs at the run rate of 2.86 and the majority of its runs were scored by the top order of Katich, Ponting and Hussey. Compare that to India where the lower order scored a good percentage of the runs and yet ended up with a run rate of 3.02. Ahem, but could you point out who played more aggressively, please?
  • In the second innings, the Australians wanted to make sure that they were in a position where they couldn’t lose the game and decided to bat out the overs scoring at a run rate of under 2.5 for over 50 overs of the game. Over fifty overs! And very rarely in their innings did the strike rate ever get to 50 or over. 

A safety first approach is fine, but saying that they were the only ones trying to take the game forward is a bit rich. In fact, a safety first approach is exactly what the Indians did too. Without a win in sight and on a fifth day pitch with variable bounce set with an unlikely target of 299 of around 80 overs, they decided to shut shop and play for a draw. And the Australians would have probably done the same too. The Australians never for once in the entire game reached an over all run rate of 3.75 and yet, they think the Indians should have gone for it on a fifth day pitch? Get real.

Ponting’s statement probably is a response to Zaheer Khan’s claims that this was the most defensive he has ever seen the Aussies play. This statement has a bit of truth in it, though. The Australians used to be the trend setters in scoring runs fast and forcing results. Playing slow is what other teams (including India) do. But in this game, they’ve gone back to the slow grinding run accumulation and defensive mode of play that was more reminiscent of the test cricket played by the Aussies before they started to dominate World cricket.

And for the most part on day 4, Australia played as if they didn’t really have a plan on what total to set and when to declare. This allowed India to keep its hopes alive for a draw or even a minor chance of victory. The dominant Aussie teams of the past wouldn’t have done that – it is no accident that the Australian team(s) of the past hold the record for consecutive successive wins.

-Mahesh-

i3j3 on Twitter

We are going to trial Twitter and you can follow i3j3 on http://www.twitter.com/i3j3

If you’ve never used Twitter before, then here is the 2 min elevator pitch for it –

Twitter is a micro-blogging service where you specify your thoughts or what you are doing in about 140 characters or less either via the web (www.twitter.com), using a Twitter client (such as Twhirl) or via SMS using your mobile phone.

People can follow your “tweets” (the 140 character blurb) and you can follow theirs. If someone wants to send you a reply (or address you directly) – they start the message with a  @ followed by your user id (For example – "@i3j3 I disagree – I don’t think Ganguly should retire or be dropped! Ever!!" It can almost be used like a group IM.

You can also use hashtags to discuss a specific topic.

Twitter will allow us to give opinions and updates on matches without having to wait till an end of the day blog. We feel it will complement this blog quite well.

You can also follow a ball by ball commentary of the current Australia vs India series at http://www.twitter.com/baggygreen, but unlike @baggygreen which is powered by a bot, the updates on i3j3 will be done by real people and will be more conversational 🙂

So, what are you waiting for? Get on to Twitter and start following i3j3.

-Mahesh-