Category Archives: Fans

The i3j3 Cricket Podcast — Episode-3 

The i3j3 Cricket Podcast (Episode 3), where Mahesh Krishnan Paddy Padmanabhan, Vish Krishnan and Mohan Krishnamoorthy ramble on about the India V Bangladesh Test match, Ashwin’s 250 wickets, BCCI v Supreme Court and other cricket stuff.

The third episode of our once a fortnight cricket ramble is here. Have a listen…

I3j3 Cricket Podcast Episode 3

Logo Credit: Sooraj Ramachandran

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Dear Cricketers, Talk More. Please.

Wright Thompson (ESPN) was describing an incident from his trip to India a few years ago. He mentioned watching the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni being crowded by people…fans…in the airport, inside the airplane, at shops, wherever he goes. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an icon in the cricketing world, and a brand in India.

That is true for many Indian cricketers. They are revered across the length and breadth of the country. Every second brand has a cricketer as an ambassador, or in its advertisement. There are cricketers showing up on your newspaper, the television, the internet. Even in your dreams.

But, look at their social lives – they can hardly come out in the public without drawing excessive attention. Sure, they can have people to help them get groceries from the stores. But, do they get to go to the park and have a  peaceful couple of minutes without 200 people breathing down their neck for an autograph, for a pep talk, for a photograph?

Forget the people, can they just escape from the media breathing down their neck?

Fans

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain of the Indian team was sitting a press conference before leaving for the Champions Trophy in England. Indian cricket was reeling under the IPL spot fixing allegations. There were 100 unanswered questions floating around. Nobody had an answer. There they had the captain of Indian cricket team, captain of the Chennai Super Kings, employee/stakeholder of India Cements – M.S. Dhoni – sitting in front of the microphone facing the media. The media asked a question based on the spot fixing issue, and they were hushed up by the media manager. All journalists were asked not to ask questions related to the fixing issue.

101 unanswered questions.

India went on to win the Champions Trophy in ways on Dhoni can explain. Maybe. M. S. Dhoni was asked in the Caribbean tour by Mr. Subash Jayaraman about his methods that amazingly tilted the table in India’s favour in the finals. But Dhoni, in his own way, replied – “If I tell you how I think, there will be no secrets. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.”

India is a country with more than a billion people, and I assume atleast 6 out of 10 Indians like the game of cricket. We Indian fans idolize cricketers, we mimic their batting and bowling styles. We call each other Sachin or Dhoni to feel good. We always dream of meeting them, spending a few minutes with them, talk to them, know them better. That is exactly what boils over as the emotions of fans who jump over the railings and past bouncers to get close to their idols. 

We want to know more about them all. We are fans, we deserve to know what they like, what they don’t. We can’t figure it out for ourselves all the way. Our love for the game doesn’t end at stumps. It goes beyond it, which is what fandom is about.

I noticed that many cricketers joined Twitter, which is a really wonderful engaging social media. Twitter is where millions of fans can follow you and it gives them the freedom to connect to their idols, something that seems impossible outside the internet. Maybe not. Even here, the players don’t respond to any of the fan cries. Some of them are too self obsessed, showing off their universities, promotions, horses etc. Some of them log on to send occasional festival wishes. Or “Yes. We won.” kind of tweets. I know who won. I was checking the scores on cricinfo.

This is totally different from how basketball players in the NBA use the twitter media, or for that matter – any media – to interact with media houses and fans alike.

Just assume there was a parallel universe in which the cricketers were not chained slaves of their cricket board(s) and were allowed to give candid interviews to journalists, spoke openly on the burning issues of the day, cleared the air about speculations etc. Fans already have the answers to most of their questions. They are still fans. They are better, informed fans. Next time, maybe they won’t ask Ravindra Singh Jadeja eat at a Hyderabadi restaurant if he likes Awadhi cuisine more. Or, maybe they will not send Sachin a video of a monkey playing “Happy Birthday To You” on his birthday, if Sachin is allergic to monkey videos.

In this parallel world, the cricketers might be able to move around freely. More freely, in comparison. They don’t have to worry about the media – they have been answered. Yes, there will be fans coming to meet the players. They will meet them, maybe shake hands, take a photo, wish them luck and move on; knowing the fact that he will be there again 3 days later to buy the same vegetables and sit on the same chair in the park while whistling the same tune from that movie in 1990s.

Getting back to reality, all that is not possible. I wasn’t even allowed to speak to a Ranji cricketer after a domestic game. Fans were chased away from watching the players practice after game (this happens in international games too). I couldn’t even have a “hi – hello” conversation with Nayan Mongia who was playing with his kid in the nets. Does the fan really matter in this game? At all?

The sad fan

(images courtesy HindustanTimes.com and SouthAsiaBiz.com respectively)

(Article based on a conversation with Mr. Rajat)

Bagrat

Sledging – bind or be blind?

The two greatest rationale and philosophy of our times, capitalism and democracy, are based on the idea that individuals, through their actions based on self-interest, will drive forces towards the most beneficial state for inviduals and/or society as a whole. In extending this thinking to the cricketing field and the current controversy over sledging, is it not best that the cricketers themselves decide what is acceptable and not acceptable to them, through their actions on the field, instead of expecting an external body such as ICC to define it for them? This thinking takes the exterme opposite view of what Harsha Bhogle tries to recommend in his article in The Times of India.

My sincere opinion is that cricketers should be allowed to use sledging, without any constraints, irrespective of how offensive it is. Most people take offense because they might feel ill-equipped in the approved forms of retaliation. In the newly recommended open environment, one can use whatever means one has, to retaliate. In a bizzare way, nothing will eventually be offensive to anyone, since its free for all. I look at it as a positive development in line with the ongoing changes that cricket has embraced in Twenty20, IPL and Technology.

Also, with every control that has been vested in the hands of the ICC, there have been perceptions of inconsistency and impotence felt by stakeholders of the game across the globe. In the interests of the game and a practical step forward, I feel its best that the players are let loose on each other in the center, so that the public is relieved of the after shocks. This brings to an abrupt end, months of debate and platitudes over whether someone or some society is racist or not, whether a certain person was as severely punished as another etc. I am positive that with each sledging act in the field, players will yell the choicest of abuses at each other without any interruptions from any players or officials, and when the energies are exhausted in that act, each will take their stance to bat or bowl or field the next ball and the game will move on.

– Bharath

News in brief: 26 April 2007

It is a repeat of 1996 as Australia pulverise South Africa to meet Sri Lanka in the finals. The South Africans admitted that they were outclassed by the Aussies.

Osman Samiuddin examines the coaching question faced by most teams following their World Cup campaigns. Talking of coaches, Venkatesh Prasad, India’s bowling coach for the Bangladesh tour is excited about the prospect of his debut tour as a coach for the national side. Generally, we have observed that successful coaches including Whatmore, Buchannan and Moody had modest records as players. The corollary appears true too if you consider Chappell, Richards and Miandad. Based on this trend, we can expect a reasonable outcome from Prasad’s tenure for his record is neither ordinary nor extraordinary like his bowling skills.

According to PTI reports, Tom Moody is unlikely to be India’s coach

If reports are to be believed, Inzamam may be dropped from Test squad for Pakistan’s home series against South Africa. If it happens, nobody including Inzamam will be surprised or shocked.

‘Tendulkar playing for wrong reasons’ says Ian ‘calling-spade-a-spade’ Chappell without clearly specifying what those reasons are. By contrast, Viv Richards has come to Tendulkar’s supportearlier this week

– Vish

News in brief: 25 April 2007

Its Murali and Mahela show at Sabina Park as Sri Lanka outplays NZ to reach the finals

The second semi-final starts today at St Lucia. Australia’s strategy apparently is to allow Jacques Kallis to spend more time in the middle so that the scoring rate can be contained! Sounds like one of those juvenile mind game comments we are accustomed to from Australia.

Stephen Fleming resigns as NZ ODI captain but would like to continue as skipper for the Test side.

PCB has advertised for a new coach for Pakistan. This is not going to be easy

What India needs to learn from Australia?…according to Javed Miandad.

Viv Richards feels that the Indian fans are ungreatful to Sachin Tendulkar! Excerpts from his interview to CNN-IBN makes interesting reading

Trevor Chesterfield’s two cents on whats wrong with the Indian team .

-Vish

Quick Observations

I have not been posting on i3j3cricket becasue I have been travelling around India over the last 2 weeks or so. In these two weeks, India has bombed out of the World Cup in a terribly frustrating manner.

A few quick observations:

The Indian fan laughs and switches off
There is a certain numbness in India that I detect. There is anger too. But I think the predominant feeling is onu of disbelief and shock. And perhaps for the first time, there is humour. In spades. The Indian cricket fan (and perhaps India too) has learned to laugh about the teams’ plight. There is a sudden preponderance of jokes doing the rounds. And that is, in my view, healthy.

Much of India has switched off their TV sets. And this is bad news for advertisers. There are several articles on the future of marketing executives who punted on the World Cup. A friend of mine (name and company withheld for obvious reasons) pumped his executive team to allocate 5 crore ruppes in advertising. He works for a small-to-medium sized enterprise for whom Rs 5 crore would be hard to come by. He decided to place all of that budget in the Super8 matches. That budget is now almost worthless and his career path has a sudden and unexpected dead-end sign on it!

Many fans that I have interacted with have gone down the hack-them, sack-them, do-not-pay-them, drop-them route. Most fans that I have talked to have been surprisingly phlegmatic.

Most see this shocking loss and embarassing exit as a boon for Indian cricket. I think so too. It is time for a reality check. It is time for an overhaul — not of personnel, but of processes. More on that later…

The braying mediocrity

I have watched the Indian media pressure pendulum swing from one ridiculous (chest-pumping) extreme to the other (mud raking) extreme. This provides more fodder to my hypothesis that the fourth estate is indeed the “braying mediocrity of Indian cricket”. While it is not right to place the entire blame for India’s loss on the media, they will take a special place in the document that chronicles the reasons for India’s loss. There are a plethora of media channels and all of them jostle with each other for the next sensational story. And if one does not exist, it is created. There is no dearth of (non-)experts to wheel into a studio. The only qualifications for being a TV (non-)expert, it seems, is that one needs to:

  • have played cricket ordinarily,
  • speak in a terribly cluttered and unorganised manner.
  • have learnt to say a few inept jokes.
  • speak in terrible English.

And there are several (non-)experts who qualify on the above measures.

The Messiah and the student?

And it is in the exploitation of the media that my beef with Guru Greg Chappell comes in. In this heightened environment of media frenzy, where each channel is looking to invent (note: invent and create as opposed to investigate and unearth) sensationalism-driven angles, Greg Chappell has been thoroughly and singularly unwise.

He has used the media in much the same way as Prince Charles and the Royal Family did (and still do) in England. They use the media to weave their spins and they blame them when their privacy is disturbed in a sensational manner.

In much the same way Greg Chappell has leaked SMSs and emails to selected channels (when it suits him) and then blamed them for “creating additional pressure” (when it suits him). For this reason, he must go. I have been a staunch supporter of Greg Chappells’ ways. He seemed right. He had a vision. He seemed to have the courage to pursue that vision. He secured support from his masters to prosecute that vision in an unstinting and relentless manner. He did that. However, if a person does not behave with utmost integrity at all times, I personally have no time for him. The Rajan Bala episode has convinced me that he is a person with minimal (or even non-existent) back-bone. Indian cricket should rid itself of his cancer.

Indian cricket looked on Greg Chappell as a Messiah. He was welcomed openly. Yes there were doubters and mud-flingers. However, he was given a nice run and an almost unfettered reign. He had the selection committee on his side. He had the Board on his side. He was the Messiah with a vision.

However, as U. G. Krishnamurthy (the philosopher who passed away recently) said once, the only thing a messiah guarantees is a mess!

And that’s what we find in Indian cricket.

The messiah has to go.

  • Not because of the outcome. No. Unexpected outcomes come with the territory.
  • Not because of his flawed vision. No. The vision was (and continues to be, in my view, sound).
  • Not because of incompetence. No. He is a very competent coach with a strong work ethic and a passion.

The messiah has to go… It is because, in my view, his integrity is seriously in question.

And what about the student, Rahul Dravid?

It warmed my heart to find that, after India’s disappointing journey ended, Rahul Dravid came straight out and said, “I accept personal responsibility for this loss.” Indeed, apart from that, he has not said much else! He copped the blows on the chin. He did not deflect blame. He took it on himself. He has taken the loss like a true leader. He has admitted that the buck stopped with him. He has shown great moral fabric and integrity. Leadership is about owning personal responsibility with panache.

It is said that the true character of a leader is seen in the face of great adversity.

Yes, he is far from a perfect leader. But a leader without a vision and a leader without personal integrity is a waste of space. Dravid has it in spades and constantly demonstrates it too.

Rahul Dravid, take a bow.

Greg Chappell, meanwhile, has deflected blame. He has flung mud on the players and the selectors. He has looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He has come across like a man worried more by his record and his pay packet than his personal integrity.

The messiah is himself a mess. And he has to go, in my view.

To finish off, a few jokes that I have heard recently:

Greg Chappell achieves his Vision:
When Greg Chappell was appointed, he said he would ensure that India is in the last four of the World Cup. He has done so. India is either 13, 14, 15 or 16 in the World!

Yuvraj the finisher
Yuvraj Singh was touted by Guru Greg as the best finisher in ODIs in the World. True. He did finish the Indian team!

— Mohan

Gavaskar V Ponting (revisited)

A few things have to be said: (a) Australian cricketers do behave badly on the field, (b) Sunil Gavaskar was wrong in commenting on David Hookes, (c) Gavaskar was right to talk about the behaviour of Australian cricketers, (d) This has nothing to do with India’s performance (or the lack of it).

We have talked about this quite a bit on this blogsite.

Rohit Brijnath writes very eloquently about this saga in The Hindu.

There are some significant cultural differences at play here. An Aussie would think that it is ok to bark at you on the field and then have a drink afterwards. They can live with that form of schizophrenic compartmentalisation. Subcontinental teams cannot seem to live with it. Gavaskar cannot. And Australians cannot expect other teams to be naturally comfortable with that schizophrenic compartmentalisation. And therein lies part of the problem.

Alan Border says that the Aussies play “hard but fair”. The rest of the world perhaps doesn’t’ see it that way! Perhaps the Australians are just misunderstood cricketers? Who knows.

Either way Gavaskar’s point is valid…

The Australian’s are the most penalised team in World Cricket.

So, either the rest of the World has to start to understand them more or the Australians need to learn to tone down.

The Australians aren’t the only grumpy team going around. The South Africans come close, but having watched the Aussies in action over a long period of time, I can safely say that the Australians are the ugliest team going around.

They are currently in a huge war-of-words with The South Africans.

The captain started that war of words. The captain should set a tone. Not drag it down. If the captain can’t control a malaise — and indeed, there is one, in my view — then, he shouldn’t be on the park.

But let us pause to think about the Australians. I’ve written earlier about how the Australians do not like to receive as well as they dish it out. Let us think about some of the most hated players in Australia. If one were asked to name the three most hated international cricketers in Australia, you won’t be wrong if you came up with (a) Arjuna Ranatunga, (b) Sourav Ganguly, (c) Greame Smith. Some cricketers that come close to the above list include Manoj Prabhakar, Sunil Gavaskar (post-retirement), Andre Nel, et al. I’d like to predict that Sree Sreesanth will be on this list soon.

Why?

These players give back as good as they receive. They use that 4th dimension (some legal and some not so legal) to get further ahead. They are as Aussie (or perhaps even more Aussie) than the Aussies themselves! Yet, they are the most hated! Isn’t this a strange hypocricy? Perhaps the Aussie cricketers hate themselves (and what they do) so much that they instinctively hate anyone who does it as well — or better — than themselves? I am not a psychologist. So I am not about to indulge in needless amateur psychology here.

Ponting says that often champions are hated. Wrong. The West Indies were not hated. Roger Federer is not hated. Tiger Woods is not hated.

In an earlier article, I wrote:

To be “a sport” is to be fair, even-handed, respectful and level-headed in things that you do in the sporting field — and these days, out of it too. Impact comes not merely from the number of cups that one has in ones trophy cabinet. History differentiates great sporting teams from good ones on the basis of how the team played and not merely on how many cups the team won. Long lasting success comes only if the ‘means’ and the ‘ends’ are balanced. The end rarely justifies the means.

A true champion (and almost everyones’ sporting hero), will be a Roger Federer or a Tiger Woods or a Sachin Tendulkar. They enjoy their sport. They play fair. They play hard. They play strong. They dig deep when their backs are to the wall. They query bad calls. But they get on with it. They have fun. They leave an impression. They are modest. They are level-headed. They are geniuses. They are also as good on the field as they are out of it. They are icons. They are role-models.

We like them not just because they win. That is a fact. They just do! We like them because of the way they win.

I will applaud when Federer or Tiger Woods or Tendulkar win (for they are true champions). I will also empathise with them when they lose.

However, I will continue to rejoice (along with the whole world, perhaps?) when Australia loses. The difference is that they are champions of the game (temporary). They are not champions of the sport (permanent).

So it does depend on ones outlook. Do we want temporary success or permanent glory?

May be it is time for the Aussies to ponder why almost the whole cricketing world dislikes them. If they believe the world hates them because they keep winning, they need to look at Federer and Tiger Woods (habitual winners who are loved) of the world and learn a bit.

Ponting and Cricket Australia need a re-think.

Does Gavaskar have a right to comment about all of this? In my view he does. He did play the game in the “right spirit”. So, he is not being “self righteous”. Ian Chappell commenting about the “spirit of cricket” would be self-righteous pontification. Gavaskar has earned his stripes, in my view.

Gavaskar’s method of retort — the mentioning of Hookes — was silly. He did cross the line there. But kudos to him for bringing Australian bad behaviour up — again!

— Mohan