Tag Archives: BCCI

Why, oh why?

Why, oh why?

To me, it was akin to Bill Clinton retiring from politics to become an immigration agent!

*****

I remember that day in March 2002 very clearly. Wayne Carey’s face was on the front page of every newspaper and his news dominated TV news programs. My sporting hero had had an extramarital affair with his team mate’s wife. Anthony Stevens was the vice-captain of the team that Carey was captain of. Both of them played for North Melbourne with distinction. Carey and Stevens were attending a party at team mate Glenn Archer’s house, where Carey’s affair with Stevens’s wife was ‘outed’. Carey had been caught with his pants down… Literally! Wayne Carey immediately resigned from The North Melbourne (Kangaroos) team. He had led the team brilliantly. Some had hailed him as one of the best players to have played the game, ever. The rest of his life after that episode represented a sequence of disasters. The fall from grace was swift and was littered with ignominy and ridicule.

Some 10 years earlier I had just moved to Australia. I started watching Australian Rules Football (footy) and fell in love with the game! It was easy to understand. What I saw was an uncomplicated fast-paced game that celebrated quick-thinking, skillful, athletic endeavor. I was asked to “choose a team to barrack for”. I chose The Demons (Melbourne) because a colleague of mine barracked for them and conned me into ‘going for’ her team too! This choice was made barely a week after I had, metaphorically speaking, stepped off the boat.

A few days later, I saw Wayne Carey play. I immediately regretted my premature choice of The Demons as ‘my team’. By then, it was too late to change allegiance. My colleague was a quick operator! I already had The Demons scarf and car sticker in my possession. It was too late to change. But if I could, I would have. For Wayne Carey! He was a magician.

So, for all the time I watched and followed AFL in Australia, although I supported The Demons, I silently supported The North Melbourne Kangaroos too; the team that Wayne Carey played for and captained. I watched and admired the way Carey played the game. I was watching an incredibly skilled athlete display commitment, grace, dignity, arrogance, physical energy, and immense ability all at once. His physical prowess was exceptional. Here was Adonis. He had the perfect body structure for an intensely physical game. He would shrug off opposition tacklers as though they were mosquitoes who stood in his relentless and focused path towards goal. He was built like sportsmen should be built! He had an incredible ability to ‘see the game’. For him, it seemed as though the game played out a few minutes before the play actually happened.

When I saw Wayne Carey play, I understood what another Wayne — Wayne Gretzky, the Canadian ice-hockey player — meant when he said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

Wayne Carey seemed to be perpetually in charge of writing the script for the action that would unfurl at some point in time in the immediate future! It was as though Carey had recruited even time to work for him.

He was nicknamed “The King”. Sports does tend to hand out monikers like that somewhat easily even to some who are less deserving. However, in this case, Carey had earned it. His greatness is underlined by the fact that in 2008, some 6 years after that night in March 2002, Carey was named as Australian football’s greatest ever player. The AFL had commissioned the curating of this 50-member all-time-best player-list as part of the AFL’s celebration of 150 years of Australian rules football. Carey is on this list as the best player ever.

I was incredibly upset that my sporting hero had fallen from grace. I was quite angry at the acceptable-behavior-image that Carey would set to many of his young, impressionable fans! For, after all, here was an idol who was revered by all AFL fans, regardless of which team they ‘barracked’ for.

However, in 2008, I was able to accept his position at the top of the AFL all-time-legends list mainly because, back in 2002, when everything exploded in his face, Carey had expressed his remorse. He admitted his mistakes. He worked hard at re-building his image. He admitted that he had let down a lot of people; most of all his family and team-mates. He worked hard with the many people he had let down. He made attempts to rebuild ground that he lost. But most importantly, he demonstrated contrition and took personal responsibility — the first steps towards retribution and acceptance. Although he had fallen in his own esteem in 2002, he attempted to piece his life back together. Here was a human being who had made a mistake. He accepted the error in his ways. He set about redefining and rebuilding himself.

He subsequently lost himself again. And again. And then again! But that is neither here nor there. In 2002, he set out on a long and painful road to recovery.

On reflection, the fault lies entirely with us! For, we are the ones that tend to loft our sporting idols into orbit. We canonize them. And when they come crashing down to earth, it is because they have created a gap in the expectations that we have set for them.

*****

This sobering unfulfilled expectation-gap played out again last week!

Enter. Anil Kumble and his ghastly conflict of interest.

Yes! I accept that Anil Kumble did not have an extra-marital affair. His was a mere business proposition that needed severe inquisition and introspection. Tenvic, the company that he was director of, has “player management” as one of its key objects. This was a clear conflict with (a) his day-time job as President of KSCA (to whom the Karnataka selectors are accountable), (b) Chief-mentor of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, (c) Chairman of the National Cricket Academy.

My first reaction on hearing that news was extreme disbelief. “A player of Anil Kumble’s stature managing players? No way,” I said to myself. To me, it was akin to Bill Clinton retiring from politics to become an immigration agent! Why would he do that?

Apart from the ridiculousness of the proposition itself, I was baffled by the knowledge that Anil Kumble did not see the conflict in his player-management role and the various other honorary roles he held.

Conflicts of interest are as prevalent in today’s complex life as auto-rickshaws that do not want to go where passengers want them to. It was the seemingly brusque manner of his dismissal of the conflict of interest charge that grated:

“I do not see any conflict of interest here. I am very clear in my mind about this. The important thing is to focus on what you are trying to achieve, and I am trying to do that. I focus on what has to be done, not on what people might be thinking. The positions with the KSCA and NCA are honorary jobs, and I have to look after myself. At this stage of my career, I have to do that. Otherwise, you would have to become like Gandhi and give up everything.”

Essentially, Kumble appears to be saying here that he is perfectly capable of managing his conflicts of interest and is doing so in a perfectly legitimate and above-board manner. He is asking us to trust him. But, as Sambit Bal says, “He can argue that he is capable of separating each of his roles and not letting one influence the other. But perceptions matter, and public life has its own unwritten code of conduct.”

So, the existence of his conflict of interest is not a problem. What is far more important is the open admission, clear declaration, and effective management of these. I had expected more from Anil Kumble. Much more.

And frankly, apart from the the allusion to Gandhi making no sense whatever, the fact that Anil Kumble says that he needs to be “looking after myself” is almost like the owner of a 200-room palace saying he needs a few more rooms in his palace in order to be totally comfortable! Cricketers do need to look after themselves. I agree. But my expectation is that, a player like Anil Kumble has built a significant nest egg by now! Surely Anil Kumble does not need to commence building a nest egg at this stage of his life. A “looking after myself” statement or a “need to build a nest egg” statement is what I would have expected from a former player like Sanjay Bangar or Sujith Somasunder. Not Anil Kumble. That said, I do not know about the personal wealth situation of either Kumble or Bangar or Somasunder. The point here is that Kumble has played many games for India and for RCB to have made “enough” money from the game. A player who has played far fewer games — and thereby, had fewer nest-egg building opportunities — needs to “look after themselves” and their pecuniary interests in their retirement.

In any case, how much is “enough” anyway? But that is a question that is deep and philosophical.

There is a stronger and deeper question that needs to be asked, however: Does Anil Kumble need to earn money from managing players? Does he need to be talking to companies about featuring Vinay Kumar in an advertisement to sell a new brand of soap?

There is a certain dignity about what Anil Kumble had achieved in his career. His career was about grace and valour. Why would he even want to dilute that by placing a few cricketers in soap advertisements? Surely, that cannot be an appropriate way for Anil Kumble to leverage his brand identity.

In a cricket world that is littered with brutal conflicts of interest, I expected that Kumble would set the standards for the other big-name players who are set to retire from the game. I did not expect him to jump into the gutter in a “me too” shriek. I expected him to be a statesman. Instead, he has declared that he wanted to be a shark too.

Let us not forget the way Kumble played the game. Like Wayne Carey and Wayne Gretzky, he played like a champion. He may not have been endowed with the physical prowess and naturally athletic body structure of Wayne Carey. But he retired as one of the best players to have graced a cricket field.

Kumble was more a Wayne Gretzky than Wayne Carey. Gretzky was a shortish, slim shouldered, physically weak and slow player in a game that needed its players to be tall, broad-shouldered, strong and fast! Yet, Gretzky overcame his apparent weaknesses to become the best ice-hockey player to have ever graced the game. Gretzky used his amazing intellect and his sharp reading of the game to get ahead and to overcome his apparent short-comings. He was an intelligent boy in a brutal man’s game. He used his intellect to dodge checks on his progress. He was always a few steps ahead of his opposition. And he used his somewhat slight stature to wriggle into that area behind the net as the place he excelled at. So much so that that area became known as “Gretzky’s office”.

Likewise, Anil Kumble was a tall spinner who would not spin the ball nor was he a pace bowler who could bowl at pace. There was a certain lack of grace to his running. His arms and legs pumped vigorously when he ran or fielded. He seemed to be all legs and arms when he moved on the field, and when he bowled. He wore spectacles in the first few games that I saw him bowl. If he dived on the field to stop or catch a ball, or to complete a run, he would do so in an ungainly manner. But to him, “being effective” was more important than “looking good”. To him, the outcome of his efforts was more vital than the grace with which he achieved these.

He had a few attributes that served him well as he grew into becoming one of the best cricketers India has ever produced. He worked on his game incredibly hard. He was driven by a determination to succeed. He was a fierce competitor. And he wore the India cap with pride, honesty, integrity, passion and dignity. He also had an extraordinary confidence in himself and his abilities.

He would often out think and out fox the batsman. His grit, pride and determination often won him more admirers than his skill. In that sense, he was more the industrious Steve Waugh who had to work hard at his game than the languid Mark Waugh for whom everything came naturally.

Like Steve Waugh, Kumble had fierce determination and pride. He was a gentleman too and had a strong view on how the game ought to be played.

His comment at the end of the 2008 Sydney Test typified the way he played the game. Kumble said, “Only one team was playing in the spirit of the game.” The comment would rock the cricketing world in more ways than one. Kumble had a view on that Test match. The world heard his view. Given the sort of player he was, everyone sat up and listened.

After all, here was a player that had bowled with a broken jaw at Antigua — much against the advise of doctors — because his team needed him. “At least I can now go home with the thought that I tried my best,” he said, prompting Viv Richards to declare, “It was one of the bravest things I’ve seen on the field of play!”

Kumble had played hard. He had played straight. He had led his team and his country with great dignity. He fought for players’ rights in a country that had no player’s association. His was a voice that the players trusted. His was a voice that the BCCI listened to; that voice represented honesty and was driven by values.

I expected him to be a statesman in an administration that was filled with opportunists. I expected him to contribute to cricket in exactly the same way as he had played — with determination, doggedness and dignity. However, he seems to have joined the rat race that was looking to make a quick buck from cricket. He did not want to be a “Gandhi”.

Anil Kumble will argue (and he has) that we need to trust him. Maybe we do. But, if we let this go through to the ‘keeper, what is to say that someone else less trustworthy will not use the “you looked the other way when Anil Kumble was at it” as a precedent to carry out all sorts of nefarious conflicts of interest!

He has let me down! But it is my fault, for I had canonized him, like I had, Wayne Carey! But unlike Wayne Carey who admitted the error of his ways and appeared to mend his ways, Anil Kumble brusquely dismissed the conflicts as irrelevant.

Woodrow Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter-folk-musician whose best work is “This Land Is Your Land”. Contemporary songwriter-musicians like Dylan and Springsteen talk of the massive influence Guthrie had on their own music. The last stanza in Guthrie’s 1960 song, “Why, oh Why?” is:

Why couldn’t the wind blow backwards?
Why, oh why, oh why?
‘Cause it might backfire and hurt somebody and if it
hurt somebody it’d keep on hurting them
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

In a field infested with sharks preying on money-filled coffers, Anil Kumble had appeared to be a shining beacon of hope, interested only in gritting his teeth and straightening his jaw for the betterment of the game in India. I am still hoping he will step down from his role with Tenvic.

However, in the last week, I can’t stop saying “Why, Oh Why Kumble Why?

— Mohan (@mohank)

Hit me, I deserve it

Long post alert!

That is what I have been saying for the last few weeks repeatedly: Hit me, I deserve it… H-MIDI.

Team India went to face England in a hugely important Test series. To me, this was an important series not because the #1 Test Rank was at stake. Like trousers, shoes and underwear, rankings come and go. Rankings are not a reflection of the state of health of a nations’ cricket. To me, the ICC rankings are as important to the game of cricket as the ICC itself is. In other words, the rankings are irrelevant to me. It didn’t matter to me when India was #8 in the table. (Was it ever #8 in the rankings? Do I care?) It mattered even less to me when India was #1 in the rankings. And that India was! I know that. As far as I am concerned, when the ICC starts governing the game properly, perhaps I might start to care about the rankings it puts out.

It does irritate me, however, when Michael Vaughan and Johnathan Agnew and the rest of their tribe preen about the England team. Their preening is irrelevant. The manner of their preening grates. Subsequent to his unfortunate “Vaseline” comment, instead of retracting it, Vaughan asked me to develop a sense of humor. Sure, I can develop a sense of humor or even buy one in the local market. That would be way too simple! There are a few larger issues at play here in my view.

Do not get me wrong! The English have won the bragging rights. Of that I have no doubt and I will not deny England her brag-rights. England has played outstanding cricket that has been as resolute and dogged as it has been brutal and attractive. England has bullied India in this series and I am willing to call this spade a shovel if necessary. England has been the better team in this series… by a long distance.

So the English have the right to preen and brag. But no team and no press has the right to trash talk and belittle. In the last few weeks, writers like Stephen Brenkley and Steve James have made Malcolm Conn look like Mother Theresa! The English cricket press has made me yearn for the decency and integrity of the Australian cricket press; and I thought that those were two adjectives I would never ever use to describe the Australian cricket press!

There have been many statements about India not being deserving of the top of the tree ICC ranking. In this article, the author tries to disentangle the chest-thumping hyperbole from the ground realities.

However there is a palpable, distinct and glaring disquiet about the manner in which the English press has set about their trash-talk of the Indian team and her fans. This has left me wondering whether there is an unresolved undercurrent of larger issues that roughly answers to: “This will teach you little, impish scoundrels to mess with the game that rightly belongs to us and no one else!”

My hypothesis is that one cannot go into such paroxysmal manifestations of extreme hysteria if there is no undercurrent of unresolved issues.

But did I expect anything else from the England press? After all, the sub-continent took ‘their’ game and became better at it than England has been for a long time now. My view is that England had been itching to get back at teams from the sub-continent. Particularly India. If Pakistan had taught the sub-continent flair, and if Sri Lanka had taught the sub-continent aggression, India had, after all, combined flair and aggression in a package that included cash! The power-base had irrevocably shifted. England itched at the opportunity to punch back on the field and off it.

I had hoped that England would not resort to the off-field histrionics that it has resorted to.

But I was wrong. Hit me, I deserve it (H-MIDI).

*******

To me, this series was important, not because of the ICC rankings, but because it would probably (almost definitely) be the last time we see Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman playing together for Team India in England. These three are the Tireless Trinity, which is a subset of the Famous Five, which itself was a super-set of the Fab Four. For Dravid and Tendulkar, England has a special significance in their careers. It was here that a young Rahul Dravid made his debut for India. It was here that a curly-haired Sachin Tendulkar really hit his straps. After playing 9 Test matches for India and after showing tremendous promise, it was at Manchester, in 1990 that Tendulkar scored his debut Test century; a brilliant century in the second innings. I watched that innings and have followed his career closely ever since that day. He deserved a rousing farewell to England. He was denied that.

This series was important to these three players. I had hoped — nay, expected — that the younger India would carry these players on their shoulders; just as Virat Kohli said they wanted to, “for Sachin”, on winning the World Cup! The younger players had a responsibility to afford the “Tireless Trinity” that farewell. This tour would tell me that, in the absence of a few key players, India would still be able to be tough and uncompromising in its pursuit of excellence.

I expected the younger players to stand up and deliver. I was disappointed in the end. But was it right for me to have these expectations in the first place?

No.

So, hit me, I deserve it (H-MIDI).

*******

What matters most to me is how a team plays the game! The West Indies played the game incredibly well as champions. From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, West Indies was the most attractive team going around. They played with an incredible flair, fun and poise. They were entertainers first and champion players next. I admired her players and knew their dates of birth by heart! I admired them more than I did, India!

Later on, the Australians started taking over. The transition was slow and painful. In the 1990s the Australian side was the one to beat. In my view, however, except under Mark Taylor, Australia played the game badly. I hated her teams because of the boorish behavior that accompanied her wins and, more importantly, her losses.

India’s reign at the top has been too short for this team to develop a championship habit and character. However, the team under Anil Kumble and MS Dhoni had tried to play well; tried to play attractive cricket; correct cricket. MS Dhoni even publicly reprimanded and rebuked his star bowler, Sreesanth, for his antics whenever he crossed the line.

India played like a champion side till Dominica happened. Since then, it has played like a tired team that did not want to be on the park!

The first signs of something amiss came at Dominica. For me, this was an eerie mile marker on an important journey. Dominica was, to me, less about the handshake. To me, it reflected the mood, the state of mind and state of readiness of players in the dressing room. It told me that the players wanted to go to the comfort of the Hotel room. It told me that the players were a fatigued lot. Dhoni had already mentioned his Hotel room in the previous Test match in his post-match interview. It seemed to me that that was his refuge; his escape from it all. The draw offer talked to a captain’s (and his team’s) intent in a fight.

To me intent is a powerful phrase. It talks to more than just aims, purpose and objectives. It talks more to the state of one’s mind at the time when one carries out an action or makes a decision. It talks to a goal that is so firmly affixed that one can only approach it with an uncompromising, unwavering and an unrelenting desire.

To me, Dominica had compromised the captain and his team.

I should have reset my expectations for Team India from the England series right then and there. I did not. I hoped that the players that had sat out the West Indies series would bring a freshness to what I saw as a mentally fatigued dressing room.

I was wrong. So, hit me, for I deserve it (H-MIDI).

*******

Upon arrival in England, I admit to being totally alarmed when Rahul Dravid said in his first interview in England on 12 July 2011: “We will be competitive if we can keep our pacers fit.”

I was aghast when I read this. Competitive? Is that what he said? Is that what he actually meant? Competitive? As in “we will put up a good fight”?

But that is not champion speak? Surely! “It cannot be,” I said to myself.

I ignored that warning sign too. I said to myself that India will be more than competitive. India will more than just “make up the numbers and rock up on the park”. I convinced myself that Team India was going to win, regardless! After all, it always has overcome the odds in recent series! So also this time.

Did it? No. So, hit me, for I deserve it (H-MIDI).

*******

India went into the England series with a few players resting from the extreme physical turbulence that the IPL represents. The IPL is an unforgiving tournament. It is not just about 16 games in 45 days. It is just that IPL games come at players with remarkable regularity like a steam train that just will not stop.

And to lay the blame for India’s poor showing at the doorstep of the IPL is just being too lazy!

However, I am also saying that the IPL is an unrelenting, uncompromising and brutal menace. The franchise owners are investors first and their first and foremost responsibility is to their shareholders. They must want the best that their investment can get them. To the investors and franchise-owners, return on investment cannot be unimportant! And if that means Sachin Tendulkar has to do away with an hour’s sleep (or more importantly, an hour’s worth of throw downs) in order to attend to ‘sponsor commitments’, then, that is the way it is. Sponsor commitments will win over cricketing logic!

The IPL is not about 4 overs per bowler or 20 overs on the field or a few overs of biff-bang for batsmen. It is not even about the routine of getting up each day, dusting off the ordeals of the previous days’ game, the after-party, the obligatory late-night booze-up (or other late-night non-mentionables). It is not even about the physical tiredness of finishing off a game, packing up at the ground, traveling to the hotel, washing up, attending the compulsory after-party, sleeping for a few hours, packing up, checking out, travelling to the airport, the 1-hour airport wait, the 2-hour flight, disembarking, collecting your baggage, travelling to the hotel, signing autographs, checking in, settling in, sleeping, waking up the next day, playing another game…

It is not about that at all. It is just that in those 7 weeks, a player does not have the time to focus on the basics of his game. If Irfan Pathan has a problem with the positioning of his right arm while bowling, the 7-week IPL is not one in which he will get this rectified or even looked into! The team is looking to put its players on the park; not to work on rectifying errors that may have crept into his game. The IPL just does not afford a player the opportunity to think, plan and act in a strategic manner, particularly with respect to his fundamentals.

There is no wonder, therefore, that the IPL converts minor niggles into major injuries.

But I am to blame for this too. I go to IPL games. These games represent 3 hours of “paisa vasool” (return on my investment!). The games represent leave-your-mind-at-home fun. I see the advertisements that are on TV when IPL games are on! I buy the products that are advertised during the IPL. I am responsible for providing the BCCI with the cash it earns from the IPL!

So, hit me, for I deserve it (H-MIDI).

*******

Every team aims to be better than it was. India too. Of that, I have no doubt. There is no reason to doubt the commitment of the Team India players. They play with pride and determination. This team has been around for far too long to fall together in a heap at the first sign of trouble. But what we fans must realize is that every other team is looking to improve too. Every other team wants to close the gap on the best team.

And in this regard, I must doff my hat to the way England has played. Every aspect of their game has been exceptionally professional and clinical. Everyone has contributed to the series win. Even Graeme Swann contributed with bat and marginally, with ball. In direct contrast, nothing has gone right for the Indians. Injuries. Bad form. Spirit of Cricket. Last season’s ball. The toss. The toss decisions. Nothing. Just nothing has gone right for India. India has been out-planned and out-played in every single aspect in this series: selections, planning, tactics, batting, bowling, fielding, injury-management…

Take injury-management: England presented themselves as an excellently prepared unit. On the contrary, India presented themselves as a ragged unit that was mentally and physically under-prepared. England had a few injuries too. The replacements were not only adequate. In the case of Tim Bresnan replacing Chris Tremlett, the replacement was actually better! Not only that. The fact that Chris Tremlett was not going to be able to play was transmitted way in advance of the Test match in which Bresnan played. The under-study was ready; he was prepared.

The Indian injuries left the team bereft of options, ideas or purpose. India’s approach to injury-management was immature at best and cavalier at worst. This is a point that has been brought out sharply by other authors. I do not know if this cavalier attitude percolated through the team. And it is incorrect of me to vault into the realm of speculation. However, given the inexplicable manner of the violent capitulation, we are necessarily into the realms of speculation when all other logic fails!

India has always tended to rush its players back from an injury-inflicted lay-off straight into important games. In this series against England Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan were moved into important matches without adequate testing of match fitness. But the injury that hurt India the most was that sustained by Zaheer Khan.

Zaheer Khan is the most important bowler in the team for more than his bowling. He is the commander of the bowling attack. He plans out the bowling. He maps out strategies. He is the go-to player when things do not go right. And when he limped off with a strained hamstring on the first day of the series at Lord’s, it was as though the team had no Plan-B. The air was sucked out of the team as well as the blimp that hung over it. The team was reduced to a rudderless ship when it came to the bowling. And it looked like that malaise had affected the batting too. There were no plans. There was no team. We only saw capitulation after capitulation.

So, while it is easy to admit that England played a superior style of cricket, it is impossible to unpack the capitulation.

The way the team played from the moment it faced its first injury is best captured by this brilliant article by Sriram Dayanad who endured much of this pain first-hand.

But every time there was a setback to this team, I continued to believe. I continued to be positive. I requested and pleaded with everyone to be positive. After all, this team has risen from the dust in the past; none more gruesome than Sydney in 2008! After all this team had risen from 0-1 and 0-2 deficits to claim victory. I had to keep believing. I had to keep the faith.

Instead of admitting the inevitable after seeing the well-oiled England machinery and instead of admiring the thoroughness of England’s approach, I kept hoping for the miracle bounce-back. Did that miracle happen?

No. So hit me, I deserve it (H-MIDI).

*******

This tour represents an important marker in Team India’s journey. MS Dhoni has been tested thoroughly. So far, in my books, he has failed the test. But my view is that he is too good a player and too good a leader to let this be anything other than a big learning experience for him. Dominica was completely in his control. I still believe he stuffed it up. Since then, everything has gone pear-shaped for him. Sometimes you just make your own luck. He chose not to. From then on, hurt and pain have been inflicted on him (and his team) by a team that was just better prepared.

His cause has not been helped by the fact that an anti-BCCI feeling has continued to torment this tour. And in the midst of an awesome revival by England at Nottingham, he was tested by the “Spirit of Cricket” and by Nasser Hussain’s Underpants! In all of this, the DRS-cloud has just not gone away. The BCCI does not deem it necessary to have a media manager to explain its position adequately. The BCCI position can be explained with remarkable aplomb! All it takes is the appointment of a suave, well-informed, articulate media manager. Just look at the VVS Laxman “Vaseline” decision and the Rahul Dravid “Shoe Lace” decisions in this series itself! One can point to the BCCI stance just on the basis of these two decisions! And if that fails, all that the media manager needs to do is brush up on the incredible amount of work that someone like Kartikeya Date has put in to accumulate a defense of BCCI’s position on DRS!

But then the BCCI does not seem to have any credible media policy that adequately manages its position on any aspect of its approach to the game and its responsibility to the game. Instead the BCCI has determined that it is sufficient if it pays two gentlemen — no doubt extremely honorable gentlemen — an awful lot of money, thereby, abrogating itself of its responsibilities at opinion management and opinion leadership!

The team was burdened with bearing the cross of the collective envy of others who saw the team as an extension of a rich and boorish Board. The team was burdened with having to explain the stance of its Board on most things to do with the game on which the Board has a legitimate view! All this when one of the honorable men honored his commitment to his employer by way of a most undesirable spat on live TV that was straight out of a B-Grade Bollywood movie!

But despite these limitations (or perceived limitations), I will continue to believe in this team.

Heck! I believe now that this team will win the 4th Test at The Oval!

And if it does not, well… Hit me, for I will deserve it (H-MIDI).

But remember, the more you hit me, the more I will believe in this team. For I always have!

— Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

Google confirms that DRS will be 100% by 2050…

[Disclaimer: All characters/institutions named in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

The decision review system (DRS) has dominated cricket conversations in the last few weeks.

People in India feel victimized by the people of the world. BCCI represents India more than the government does. BCCI is India. And BCCI has been painted as bullies by the rest of the cricketing world. We Indians do not like the world saying to us: “There is a bully in every gully“.

We just want a say in how DRS will be implemented. We are completely and utterly outraged by the anger showered in our direction by the rest of the cricketing world. Outraged! To have a say in matters that affect us is our birth right.

We just want a say in the DRS. Forget corruption. Forget treasures in temples. Forget the rains in Mumbai. Forget the traffic snarls. Forget the flyover and metro-construction rigs that make our every day lives a mess. Forget scams. Forget fast-unto-death protests. Forget this weeks’ new high-profile entrants into Tihar Jail. All of that is irrelevant.

The people of India want a say in the DRS. They just want to be heard!

They want to be consulted in matters that could significantly alter their lives. Is it a system? Is it a protocol? What is a protocol? Why can’t umpires be allowed to just do their jobs? Why do we need incompetent umpires? There are lives at stake, you know? Not just careers, but lives. We must and will be consulted. How dare the ICC proceed without a due consultation process? We won’t be steam-rolled!

The debate has been intense…

We, in the i3j3 editorial office, think that the DRS is not ready to be implemented. And rightly so. Our hypothesis is that we are at least 40 years from DRS being adopted fully by the ICC.

And that is because we declared as a nation that will either have the full DRS with all its many bells and whistles or nothing at all. You see. It is all very simple. In India, if we decide that we do not like the bathwater, then we do not believe that the baby ought to exist in it either! We applauded the BCCI because we thought they were onto something by insisting that the bathwater should be thrown out with all its contents!

Neat!

“Nice trick that”, said the famous Ravi Shaft-Tree, who otherwise observed spamming the Twitter accounts of unsuspecting Twitter users.

By adopting a Boolean approach and insisting on the 100% rule, the BCCI cleverly warded off all pro-DRSers.

We at i3j3 wanted to do an investigative report on the efficacy of DRS. We first wanted to understand the views of BCCI. We wanted it from the horses’ mouth. Directly from the media officer of the BCCI.

However, the BCCI does not have a media office or a functional website. Whattodo? How do we get to the BCCI? Who do we ask?

Sensing my sorrow, my neighbour’s driver said to me as I entered the elevator, “Not to worry, sirrjee, I have a contact at the BCCI,” he said.

We just needed a story. We had the angle. We had the hypothesis. We just wanted the ‘contact’. We jumped at this vital lead from my neighbour’s driver.

We got the number and rang this ‘contact’.

“You see mister! Who do you think you are, hah? What do you think of yourself, you impertinent fellow. You can’t just thrust things on to us. Tell me, I say? What is the modality? The modalities have to be worked out fully before you can thrust things upon us!”, this ‘contact’ thundered.

I wanted to say to the ‘contact’ that I was a mere struggling journalist and that I was not thrusting anything on anyone, although I did acknowledge to myself in my weak moments — of which, there have been a few lately — that, I do have my sights set on Pooja Taneja from the office.

I was also wondering what a “modality” was! ‘Perhaps it is a new statistical measure?’, I thought to myself! What is a modality?

But the ‘contact’ carried on: “We will not be ridden roughshod over,” the ‘contact’ spluttered!

I reached for my dictionary. ‘What is a roughshod, and how does one ride it?’, I thought to myself! This ‘contact’ was good: modality, roughshod… All in the space of a minute! Impressive!

But this ‘contact’ did not afford me any thinking time and pressed on, “Technology has to be proven before it is adopted by the BCCI. We are all about quality. We believe in quality in everything we do,” said this ‘contact’ as I choked on my sprig of celery.

The ‘contact’ was the cousin-twice-removed of a spokesman of a media group whose door-man was, once upon a time, the security guard of a neighbour of Kneel-And-Run Shaw.

No one knows what Kneel-And-Run Shaw does, but we knew that he flies in and out of BCCI meetings every week.

I was told that, after the departure of the guy that everyone popularly referred to as Lakme (some fellow who answered to the initials LKM) KAR Shaw was the new ‘it’ in BCCI. So, I was glad that I had gotten to within spitting distance of the KAR Shaw.

That’s how the business of ‘contacts’ works in these parts! You get what you get. But the trick is to always make the ‘contact’ look bigger; larger than life!

I decided to ask the cousin-twice-removed of a spokesman of a media group whose door-man was, once upon a time, the security guard of a neighbour of Kneel-And-Run Shaw, a few searching questions:

We asked her, “Who is KAR Shaw?”

“Good kwoschen. Even he doesn’t know sometimes!”, was the immediate answer. Very deep and philosophical, it was.

However, I was distracted. I had never heard, “kwoschen” used before; I had only heard the mild variant, “koschen”, thus far. This ‘contact’ was really good, but was also distracting me from the main game!

“But, what does he do?” I persisted, refusing to be thrown off my path. Indeed, I had asked my question even before the ‘contact’ could complete her previous answer. We are from the “We watch and learn from Arnab” school of journalism, you see!

“He flies in and out of meetings,” was the immediate answer. Nice.

“One final question, sir! What’s his view on DRS?”, we pressed.

[In an obviously angry tone] “First, I am ‘madam’ to you and everyone else! Second, when I asked your kwoschen to Shaw, he retorted ‘What is DRS?’, and asked, ‘Will it give us 100%?’ and then added, ‘Whatever it is, we do not want anything that is less than 100%. Wokay?’. So there you have it. That is the official view. And by the way, remember the most important words: modalities, roughshod and 100%. Now, go away!”

All of this was a week before the ICC meeting in Hong Kong.

Were we, therefore, surprised to see that the DRS did not get up in its full form at the ICC meeting? No.

The BCCI always has two important unwritten rules for every operation: (a) ‘We need 100%’. (b) ‘We must ensure there is enough fat in the system’

Just take one look BCCI office bearers to know that (b) is automatically satisfied. Cheenu, Shukla, Manohar… Lots of fat in that system. You know what I mean.

BCCI also likes every thing to be 100% — their 100% and only theirs!

Just ask Lakme. The IPL yielded 100% profits. Lakme was immediately embraced by the BCCI. And you know what happens when big guys in tight-fit suits embrace someone so lean and fit? The thin guys get squeezed out of the embrace.

That’s what happens.

So tight was their collective embrace of the IPL, that poor Lakme was squeezed out. Lakme, once a poster-boy, is now just a poster! He is now no longer part of the BCCI.

So, given the above, our reckoning is that the DRS will be acceptable to the BCCI by 2050. Maybe. Just. Maybe!

We decided to develop our newly-acquired investigative, Arnab-style approach by ringing technology experts in the country.

My milkman had a contact in Google. So we rang the Google office and asked them for their views on DRS.

“Will the DRS technology be 100% accurate by 2050?”, we asked, pleased as punch with the sharp, leading question — sorry, kwoschen — we had framed!

“Well of course”, said the Google spokesperson! He giggled. And paused…

We were forced to say, “Hah! Nice one. Obviously, a Dhoni fanboy. Nice. Very nice!”, accompanied by an eye-roll that would have pleased Amir Khan! Luckily this was only a ‘con call’ and not a ‘VC’. (Yes! We are tech buzz-word compliant too!)

The Google guy continued… And once these techies start, you can’t stop them. So, as we furiously took notes on this speaker phone enabled con-call, Google-techie rattled on:

“Well of course, DRS will be 100% accurate by 2050. By then, we will all have, completed the production and roll out of “G! Nano Dots”. R&D on the “G! Nano Dots” project has commenced already and everything is on target for a 2050 roll-out. This will solve all DRS problems and will be 100% accurate. “G! Nano Dots” will be everything you will ever need. It will also double as your mobile phone. “G! Nano Dots” will be popularly referred to as G-Stop. It will do your weekly shopping too. It will organise your flights. It will even buy a plane or acquire a new partner for you, if you need these. Moreover, it will ascertain if you need a new plane, a new job or a new partner. It will also be used to make calls at the speed of thought. All you need to do is think, and these thoughts will be transmitted to the intended recipient of the thought. G-Stop would run an advanced version of Android. Android, G-Stop… You get the cute innuendo, don’t you? Hahaha! Well of course! And it will be sold by Google, which will, by then, own more than 67% of the thoughts in the world! For Google, it would have been a natural progression from G+ to G- to G* through to G-Stop!”

Phew! All in an American accent!

We asked the G-techie, “So how will G-Stop (or G.) assist cricket?”

“You see. The developers of G. are all based in Tumkur — rising costs in Bangalore caused all Google work to be outsourced to Tumkur. Actually, the G. specifications have been written mainly with an eye on the cricket-mad market. All other technology benefits like shopping, phone calls at the speed of thought, thought-capture technology, avatar encapsulation technology, teleporting and other technologies were needed for the cricket application. The fact that they have other business applications is completely incidental.”

We persisted with the G-techie, “You still have not told us. How will G-Stop (or G.) assist cricket?”

We were thoroughly confused by then!

“Verr verr Simple. All cricket fans will need to do is just sit in front of their TV screens. The G. will communicate to the umpire whether they think the ball was out. The umpires’ G-Stop will take all thought inputs into consideration. It will also automatically eliminate all conflicted thoughts. For example, if Aniruddha Srikkanth is playing, Daddy Srikkanth’s G-Stop will be auto-disabled. The ump’s G-Stop will arrive at a final decision. All modalities have been worked out. We even have the tagline for G-Spot: ‘No one can ride roughshod over us’!”

“It is a winner! It is going to be a killer app!” I yelled.

G-Techie said, “We know that! But how are YOU so sure?” he asked.

I nodded knowingly. With Shaw, G-Stop and a 100% technology that includes modalities AND roughshod, it can only be a winner! We are certainly in safe hands. 2050, here we come…

— MoGun

[Disclaimer: All characters/institutions named in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

IPL-4 will start tentatively…

The 4th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL4) is now a few hours away from a mild kick-off. I say mild because India is yet to recover from the World-Cup-2011 victory celebrations. Even as those celebrations were on, much of the attention in India has been directed at a hunger fast against corruption.

So it is against this backdrop that IPL4 kicks off this evening.

After 6 weeks of non-stop World Cup action, the 50-over variety of cricket gives way to the 20-over circus. With India’s win in the World Cup 2011, and with the resulting outpouring of national frenzy in India, the organizers of IPL will perhaps be a bit tentative in the first few days of IPL4.

The next 6 weeks will tell us whether IPL has a future in this country. The BCCI will need to combat the post-World-Cup fan hangover, a swelling anti-corruption movement and much more.

The last year has been annus horribilis for the IPL in which we saw a litany of disasters for a league that had become the fastest growing sports brand in the world! Suddenly, lawyers made a lot of money mounting cases or fending them off. If the manner of Lalit Modi’s ouster was bizarre, it was balanced wonderfully by the many conflicts of interest of the key players in the drama that unfolded. It appeared that much of the Board was asleep at the wheel — a practice that many in the BCCI are quite adept at — in the years that preceded the unfolding drama. There were more raids on offices than mosquito-repellent cans on a supermarket shelf.

Suddenly, two teams were axed; Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab were barred. More lawyers were dragged in. More fighting through the media.

Kochi, the new team in the IPL, and incidentally, the team that started IPL’s slide towards apparent obscurity, was suddenly back in the news. Its formation had already led to the resignation of a cabinet minister after “much sweat and not that much equity” — I read that lovely phrase on Twitter, but cannot remember who to credit it to! Ironically, it was a simple Tweet that signified the beginning of the slide for the IPL! Team Kochi could not pull together a governance team or its investment assurances. And then suddenly they did, a few days before the auction took place.

The auction itself was a bit of a farce! The order in which player-groups would be opened up for auction was changed at the very last minute — apparently to suit one team. Indian domestic players were unfairly disadvantaged in the process.

Brand IPL had suffered through the year and took a severe beating. Up until then, the IPL property had grown into a marketer’s delight. There were more eye-ball opportunities than you could poke a stick at. IPL had become a heady and intoxicating mix of Bollywood, late night parties, head-banging music, peanut throwing ladies trying to attract the attention of able-bodied men and of course, some on-field cricket action too.

Fan Loyalty programs were being carefully developed. It was possible for a Team India fan to support Rahul Dravid against Sachin Tendulkar! Previous editions of IPL had busted the myth that city-based rivalry could not flourish when faced with the pressure of fierce national loyalties.

But all that was undone by a terrible year for the IPL. The organizers and team owners must climb that mountain again. And they will need to do it without the biggest lisp in the business.

Set against that backdrop, I believe IPL4 will start tentatively. It cannot afford a loud start especially after the hangover from 2 April still lingers and especially as Anna Hazare appears to be mounting an austere campaign against the parliamentary establishment in the land. But over the initial few weeks of IPL4, we will know if these tentative steps reach the cacophonous chest-thump levels of IPL-3.

CSK versus KKR:

Tonight, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will take on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) after an opening ceremony.

The KKR Team that is likely to play today is (in batting order):

Gautam Gambhir*
Shreevats Goswami (wk)
Jacques Kallis
Manoj Tiwary / Manvinder Bisla
Ryan ten Doeschate
Eoin Morgan
Yusuf Pathan
Rajat Bhatia / Laxmi Shukla
Iqbal Abdulla / Sarabjit Ladda
Pradeep Sangwan
Jaidev Unadkat / Lakshmipathy Balaji / James Pattinson

Not available because of national duties: Brad Haddin, Brett Lee, Shakib Al Hasan
Others: Shami Ahmed

This is not really a bad team in my view. In Sangwan and Unadkat, the team has a decent new-ball attack. I am looking forward to seeing Shreevats Goswami have a good season. In previous editions, he struggled to get a game at Royal Challengers Bangalore. He should shine at KKR, at least for the initial few weeks when Brad Haddin dons the green-and-gold for Australia. I’d also like to see how Iqbal Abdulla shapes up. In terms of batting, this is going to be a make-or-break season for Manoj Tiwary — a batsman who has always over-promised and under-delivered. The overseas players in the team select themselves for the initial few games — Kallis, Doeschate, Eoin Morgan and James Pattinson will probably play all initial games; and that is not a bad lot of players!

The good thing about this team (as listed above) is that all of Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Ryan ten Doeschate, Eoin Morgan, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Iqbal Abdulla, Pradeep Sangwan and Jaidev Unadkat can bowl!

The CSK team remains largely unchanged. Its owner, who is also a BCCI chief poo-bah, went to great lengths to ensure that the winning team composition from IPL3 was largely undisturbed. The fact that it remains undisturbed is disturbing because of the manner in which the potential disturbance was unerringly protected. But that is the subject of another debate for another day.

The CSK squad is likely to be:

M Vijay
S Anirudha / A Mukund
SK Raina
S Badrinath
F du Plessis
MS Dhoni*
JA Morkel / SB Styris
R Ashwin
SB Jakati
KMDN Kulasekara / TG Southee / S Randiv
VY Mahesh / Joginder Sharma / S Tyagi

Others: GJ Bailey, WP Saha (wk), K Vasudevadas, G Vignesh
Not available: DE Bollinger, MEK Hussey, DJ Bravo, BW Hilfenhaus,

In my view, a lot will depend on how S. Anirudha and Yo Mahesh (or Sudeep Tyagi) go. The third pace bowler weakness in earlier editions had been sandpapered somewhat by the collective brilliance of the rest of the team. However, with Bollinger and Hussey absent for the first few weeks and Bravo still under an injury cloud, a lot will depend on the local players to come to the party.

Well, the scene is set for yet another edition of the IPL. Let the games commence…

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

The UDRS: An UnDesirable Review System

The last week of 2010 saw two interesting Test matches being played. Both of these ended in amazing results — for England and for India. England retained the Ashes with a stunning victory at the MCG and India, with a win in Durban, seemed to take a significant step towards establishing — yet again! — that they travel well these days.

But the two matches made news for another reason: The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS).

Ricky Ponting made a mess of himself on field by arguing with umpire Aleem Dar after a UDRS decision had gone against his team! As I stated in my earlier post, in my view, if Ricky’s surname was not Ponting, but either Singh or Kumar or Khan, he would have been suspended for his totally over-the-top antics at the MCG. The over-tolerant Aleem Dar ought to have showed Ricky Ponting a red card for carrying on like a pork chop! After the over-the-top carry-on, the match referee slapped a mere fine on Ponting! Once again, we saw extreme incompetence — if not impotence — of the match referees in dealing with situations involving players from the “traditional powers” of cricket (read: Anglo-Saxon nations).

Ricky Ponting had a problem or two against the UDRS and chose a rather public and unacceptable way to demonstrate his disagreements with it.

Across the Indian Ocean and away from the MCG, Graeme Smith made a point about the UDRS to the International Cricket Council (ICC) in his post-loss press-conference. After being at the receiving end of bad decisons at crucial points in South Africa’s attempt to overhaul a victory target of 303, and without the benefit of the UDRS to fall back on, Smith complained about ICC’s inconsistency in its approach to the application of the UDRS.

Graeme Smith does have a point. The UDRS needs to be uniformly implemented. As per the current implementation of the UDRS, the host country must decide on the use of the UDRS in consultation with the visiting country. Although, South Africa was in favor of implementing the UDRS, and although South Africa could have insisted on the use of the UDRS, the UDRS was not implemented in the RSA-India series. One assumes that the BCCI, the Indian Board, which does not like the UDRS, used its financial power to muscle the UDRS out of the RSA-India Test series. Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni are not fans of the UDRS as it is implemented.

India’s only experiment with the UDRS was a bitter experience against Sri Lanka in 2008 — the team got most referral decisions wrong. The players developed a sense of extreme mistrust with the system and treated it like a hot potato. Since then, India has not used the UDRS in series in which it plays host (its prerogative) and has used its power to ensure that the UDRS has not been used in series against Sri Lanka and, now, South Africa.

In my view, a limited version of the UDRS should be uniformly employed in all series. Further, his decision should not be left to the host country or the visitors. Just as 2 on-field umpires, a match referee, a 3rd umpire and a reserve umpire are mandatory in all Test matches, the ICC should make a limited version of the UDRS compulsory for all Test matches.

So what should this new-UDRS include?

From an umpires’ point of view, the ICC should enable them to focus only the big issues. Umpires should not need to focus on things like counting balls, run outs and no-balls. Umpires already refer run-outs. The 3rd umpire should rule on no-balls and should whisper in the umpires ear to call the end of an over. These decisions should be taken away from the on-field umpires. These somewhat straight-forward decisions can and must be technology-driven and technology-assisted.

This then brings into focus “nicks” and whether a ball pitched in line in LBW decisions.

I believe “hot spot” should be used in all matches. In my view, the two dimensional technology that is used to project height, swing, spin and movement is just not believable nor trustworthy! The ICC should choose a version of UDRS (of the many that exist) and employ it for all matches.

All “nicks” (whether for detecting inside-edges in LBW decisions or for caught behind appeals) should be referred to the 3rd umpire if the on-field umpire wants seek the assistance of technology in deciding. It should be the on-field umpires’ prerogative to seek the referral. Just as it works for run outs currently, the on-field umpire will seek out technology when needed. The “hot spot” technology does work effectively and is utterly believable, in my view. The “Snickometer” technology which is also error-free takes too long to spit out results — and the game cannot be stalled for such long periods of time.

Further, the UDRS should also employ one of the many systems that can be used to detect whether a ball pitched “in line” for LBW decisions. Technology in this area is believable and accurate.

With all of the above modifications, the umpires can then save their focus on trajectory, discipline on the ground, ball changes and other such decisions; decisions that requires their judgement to be applied. The problem is then with interpretation and errors in these areas alone. One doesn’t need judgement and interpretation of whether the ball pitched in line or whether it is a no ball. A machine can predict that accurately regardless of the type of technology that’s used.

So what would a new-UDRS mean?

  • The 3rd umpire counts balls and informs the on-field umpire when it is the end of the over
  • Run outs are referred to the 3rd umpire when needed (as now).
  • Clear cases of no-balls are automatically called on the field. In borderline cases, the 3rd umpire whispers in the ear of the on-field umpire. An alternative would be to use a “cyclops” type machine to yell “NO” on the ground.
  • The 3rd umpire is called upon to use “hot spot” to detect “edges” in caught-behind, LBW and bat-pad catch appeals. The on-field umpire must request the 3rd umpire to adjudicate in these cases.
  • The 3rd umpires’ assistance should also be used in deciding whether the ball pitched impacted in line (off-stump) or pitched in line (leg-stump) in LBW appeals. Again, the on-field umpire must request the 3rd umpire to adjudicate in these cases.

And that is about all that the new-UDRS should include. The on-field umpires can then save their focus on things that need their judgement (trajectory, bounce, etc).

With these modifications I believe we will have a UDRS that is more acceptable; and one that is more widely used.

It is time for the ICC to step in and take real control of the game. At the moment, it continues to dither on most important issues affecting the game.

— Mohan

Conflicts of Interest…

I congratulated the BCCI in a blog post I wrote a few days back.

It was perhaps a bit too premature. The BCCI, meanwhile, has begun an exercise that it has developed a reputation for being extremely good at: Dithering.

We do not yet know if the cricketers know whether they are going to South Africa early. The cricketers involved have not been intimated. The BCCI, meanwhile, has said that Team India Test players who also play in the ODI team will have to honour their ODI commitments in the New Zealand series. I guess the BCCI is engaging in that famous dance made more famous in these parts — “1 step forward 3 steps back”!

The BCCI has made a habit of dithering. It dithers on UDRS. It dithers on the relative importance it places on Tests and ODIs. It dithers on pre-tour practice games. It dithers on allocation of matches to grounds. It dithers on its stand on anti-doping. It dithers on almost everything that does not involve money. In fact, the BCCI appears to dither on almost all aspect of the game except conflicts of interest of its officials!

That is one aspect of governance that the BCCI appears to have mastered and is quite unambiguous about! If, as owner of the Chennai Super Kings IPL franchise, N Srinivasan, the BCCI President-in-waiting, does not have a conflict of interest, then I am a banana! If Ravi Shastri — no doubt an excellent former Team India Test/ODI player — does not have a conflict of interest in his role as broadcaster and IPL Governing Council Member (and formerly NCA Director) then I am a ripe old banana!

But today’s newspapers provide another pearl as an example in the long list of BCCI officials that have (had) conflicts of interest. Mind you. Conflicts of interest are not bad, as a rule. They exist just as night follows day! These conflicts have to be (a) declared, (b) effectively managed, (c) seen to be managed. It appears that Sunil Gavaskar might have a conflict of interest with respect to the Kochi IPL franchise.

Witness this: Gavaskar was on the IPL Governing Council that approved/accepted Kochi’s bid as an IPL franchise. Today, we hear the announcement that Gavaskar has provided in-principle acceptance to Kochi to be their “cricketing director”.

What is stunning and brazen is that the same article in the Times of India quotes the Kochi IPL CEO, Gaikwad, as saying “Sunil Gavaskar had unconditionally supported Rendezvous Sports, which won the franchise rights for the team for $333.33 million (Rs.1,533 crore).”

Notwithstanding the fact that Gavaskar is no longer a member of the IPL Governing Council, what we do not know is whether Sunil Gavaskar said to the Kochi IPL franchise, “I will support you unconditionally on the condition that you appoint me cricket director once the bid is successful.”

It is very likely that Gavaskar is an honourable man. It is very likely that Gavaskar has declared and managed the conflict of interest that follows his decision to join the Kochi IPL. However, we do know that the BCCI is replete with individuals who are terribly conflicted in their interests. So the emergence of a new instance of an individual with what seems to be the taint of a potential conflict of interest comes neither as a surprise nor as a shock!

Today, Gavaskar has said, “They have asked me, individually and collectively, to come in for the cricketing part of the team. I will take a call once the internal issues are resolved.”

The BCCI, on its part, claims that it is not aware of Gavaskar’s links with the Kochi IPL franchise. Sunil Gavaskar, one remembers, had turned down a seat on the IPL Governing Council over a pay-dispute with the BCCI. It is likely that I am launching into the zone normally reserved for conspiracy theories. However, this GC-seat-turn-down by Gavaskar and the subsequent and perhaps convenient appointment to Kochi’s cricket directorship — just 2 weeks later — does beg a few questions around Gavaskar’s conflict of interest.

With Rajasthan Royals filing an appeal against their ban in the High Court, the IPL mess has just gotten bigger. My sense is that the mess will certainly get bigger before it gets even bigger. After all, with the BCCI, one cannot rule out anything!

— Mohan

BCCI: Some signs of progress and intent

Yes. I am doing the unthinkable! I am actually praising the BCCI in todays’ piece! I promise to wash my mouth and hands with soap after this exercise to rid myself of the unthinkable “crime”. But yes. I am just about the praise the BCCI! This is, however, only my first sin for the day!

My second sin for the day is far worse! I am just about to heap praise on the BCCI for precisely something that the venerable Harsha Bhogle has castigated them for. So, in part, I am just about to openly disagree with the institution that is Harsha Bhogle. And that, as we all know, is a serious misdemeanour in Indian sport. “How dare you?”, I hear you thunder.

But hear me out patiently. I do need to declare, however, that I am not “under the influence”.

I woke up late this morning and switched the TV on to catch the start of the India-Australia ODI game. Yes, I got up very late! The delayed start to the game meant that I watched a lady in tight-fitting clothes interview former Australian cricketer, Brad Hogg, who seemed more intent on exploring glaring gaps in her clothing — of which there were quite a few — than glaring gaps in the on-field arrangements that may have led to the delayed start to the game. The gap-lady asked Brad Hogg if Australia would be able to salvage a win from the “thus far win-less” Australian tour of India! As she asked the question, the dress got even tighter as her chest filled with nationalistic pride! Brad Hogg, having now identified more gaps than he was able to previously cope with — much of which he was now suddenly able to spot, thanks to the pride-swell and the resulting swell thereof — had to compose himself and then cope with his hurt pride. He asked the gap-lady to stop getting stuck into him for Australia’s win-less tour thus far! I was amazed that a player who was a part of Australian crickets’ “win generation” would so openly seek mercy (even if it was only mock-tragic plea), and that too from our gap-lady.

What an amazing turnaround in such a short period of time, I thought to myself as the gap-lady demonstrated that she had had enough of cricket and cut to her shopping expeditions in Goa!

Yes. What a remarkable turnaround in mind-set in such a short period of time? Even a year ago, the Australian press would have routinely got stuck into the Indian team for winning nothing on tours of Australia — as was the practice as well as the custom of India teams in the past. The Aussie method has always been unrelenting and unforgiving. The approach always is to never lift the foot off the pedal; when your opponent is down, keep them there. Suddenly, the shoe seems to have shifted to the other foot. And it appears that the Australian media has openly accepted that the shoe is on the other foot. While I do admit that there has been a ‘changing of the guard’ in International cricket, I did not expect that the change would be as swift and as palpable.

Not to lose an opportunity — having been on the receiving end on numerous occasions himself — Ravi Shastri said that this match represented the last opportunity for the Australians to salvage a “so far win-less tour of India”.

I am sure we will hear the phrase “win-less tour” played out several times today! Sigh!

But that is not the intent of this post. I do want to praise the BCCI.

Last week, the BCCI decided to send some of its senior players early to South Africa, ahead of the forthcoming Test Series there between South Africa and India.

I applaud this move.

This decision may have come at Gary Kirsten’s insistence. This may have been the decision to right an earlier scheduling wrong of completing the NZ ODI series just five days prior to the commencement of the 1st Test against South Africa at the Centurion in South Africa on 16 December — and this is Harsha Bhogle’s point. Harsha Bhogle does not like this righting of the earlier wrong. I disagree with him. Shock horror!

Regardless of the reasons for the BCCI decision, taken in isolation, the decision to send players early (and while the NZ ODIs are on) needs to be applauded.

If we cast our minds to India’s tour of New Zealand last year (2009), the BCCI organised for senior players to play in New Zealand counties prior to to India’s visit to that country. Coach Gary Kirten indicated that warm-up games were not necesssary for an experienced cricketer.

Yet, two things stood out for me with respect to that tour. Firstly, the ODI games were held prior to the Test matches. Second, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, L Balaji, Amit Mishra, M Vijay and Dhawal Kulkarni (players who only played the Test games) turned out for New Zealand domestic teams for a few games.

A cramped schedule is a feature of todays’ cricket world. Players and officials accept it. Fans and reporters need to accept it too. Tackling the reality of a cramped schedule requires creative, out-of-the box solutions. While I would generally like a less cramped schedule, I have accepted that as a modern-day reality. There is no space in the schedule any more for the luxury of a long list of practice games. Even those that are actually arranged sometimes turn out to be mere “eye washes”. In such an environment, we have to look for creative solutions. I am personally in favour of having ODIs precede Test matches. I believe India’s approach to the NZ series was indeed creative. Rahul Dravid even made many runs for Canterbury when he turned up for that team.

Similarly, prior to the South Africa series, BCCI has decided to send several Team India players early to South Africa to play a few practice games there.
It is expected that immediately after the 3rd Test match against New Zealand concludes on 24 November, a few senior players will depart for South Africa and play a few games there.

I would like to believe that, regardless of the selection constraints imposed by the World Cup, the India ODI team could do without the services of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh for the five ODIs against New Zealand.

Further, I would like to see the following 15-member Team India leave for South Africa immediately after the last Test match against New Zealand concludes: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Cheteshwar Pujara, M. Vijay and Jaidev Unnadkat. This is really the likely Test team! So, in other words, I’d like this collection of 15 players should be able to play at least 2 practice matches in South Africa against top RSA provincial teams.

I would then like to see Yuvraj Singh captain a young side aginst New Zealand in the the 5 ODIs that will be played between 26 November and 11 December.

We could then have the following 15-member team for the ODIs against New Zealand: Abhinav Mukund, Shikar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Saurabh Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, R. Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Vinay Kumar, Abhishek Nayyar, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Umesh Yadav.

It is quite likely that Ravindra Jadeja will, instead, be included in the above team. It is also likely that Irfan Pathan will continue to be out in the cold. It is also likely that the usual suspects will scream, “Why is S. Badrinath not a part of the above team!”

However, my point is less about the teams and more about the fact that we should use the opportunity to tease out the last remaining spots in India’s World Cup squad while, at the same time, send a Test team in advance to South Africa.

Todays’ cricket schedule requires out-of-the-box thinking. I applaud the BCCI for having accepted the problems posed by a mad schedule as a pragmatic reality. I am hopeful of a win-win solution.

Time to wash my mouth and hands with soap now…

— Mohan

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

A VIP Defense, For Brutus is an honourable man…

So along very expected lines and according to a script that seldom varies, the BCCI is washing its dirty linen, in public! Again!

One should not expect anything more from an organisation that does not demonstrate an ability to spell professionalism, let alone live and breathe it! This time, Lalit Modi has taken on BCCI’s top-brass in a very public manner.

I must admit that my admiration for this man Lalit Modi just continues to grow. The man seems to possess more aces up his sleeve than a crook card pack can hold! My admiration for him is not because I like his method or his madness or his reported greed. Those are qualities that make me cringe. But I admire him because he has already demonstrated that he is a visionary who is prepared to take risks and pursue a seemingly treacherous path that is littered with land-mines. I admire him because he pursues these dreams with dedication, energy, passion, fire and focus. I admire the fact that he is bold. He is brave. And he is up for a fight. He does not insipre me to be like him but I do admire what he has achieved.

Essentially I admire him because he is a feisty guy, which is good (given the environment he operates in), but there’s a lot about him that I don’t want to like.

Donald Trump once said, “In business, when things aren’t working it’s time to mix it up.” I believe Lalit Modi has done just that. He has mixed it up. And how!

His latest salvo was fired today when he served a reverse show-cause notice on Shashank Manohar, President of BCCI and N. Srinivasan, Secretary of BCCI. He has asked that the two key adversaries in the BCCI show cause notice against him recuse themselves from the BCCI disciplinary committee and chronicles quite clearly and quite cleverly why that should happen. Incidentally, the BCCI President chairs the disciplinary committee and the BCCI Secretary, Srinivasan, convenes it!

Brilliant!

The full text of his 14-page letter to the BCCI is presented here.

First, he trains his sights on N. Srinivasan, the Secretary of the BCCI, becuase in my view Srinivasan forms “easy pickings”! The man’s case has enough holes to warrant being a highway for trucks to drive through!

The fact that N. Srinivasan, one of the BCCI Secretaries is conflicted is known and documented — by me and several others more qualified to comment on this than I! If I were the owner of a franchise like Royal Challengers Bangalore, say, I would have reason to be very worried that a competitor of mine was on the Governing Council of the league that I am pouring a fair bit of investment into. I would perhaps be worried that my competitor would have means and the wherewithal to alter the course of the construction of the competition in a beneficial manner, to suit his or her team over mine! These are legitimate conflicts of interest and one needs transparency and clear governance principles to guard against such abuse potential.

Modi has claimed — with evidence — that bidding rules in the initial player auction were altered under pressure from Srinivasan to benefit the BCCI Secretary’s team. This is a serious allegation of trying to deliver his team, The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) an undue advantage by virtue of his position on the Governing Council of the IPL!

And this is exactly the theme of Lalit Modi’s second rocket, in which he alleges — with some proof no less — that N. Srinivasan tried to alter the allocation of umpires for CSK games. He has claimed in his “counter show cause notice” against the BCCI Secretary that this is tantamount to match- or result-fixing.

Very clever!

He further states that Srinivasan used his influence on the Governing Council to push for a retention of a certain number of players in the re-auction of players for IPL-4. In other words, the “conflict of interest” case that I have talked about early on (and in the previous paragraphs) is exactly what Modi has penned down quite cleverly in his attack on Srinivasan.

I am surprised that no one else recognizes this conflict at the BCCI! However, it appears from Lalit Modi’s counter charge that there is more to it than just the surface level conflict of interest.

Moreover, Lalit Modi has stated that there is a documented evidence of persecution by Srinivasan of him and his designs for IPL and the BCCI.

Essentially, what Modi has done is he has mounted a clever attack prior to self-defense. He has cast enough of an aspersion and a character assassination of one of the key people gunning for him on the disciplinary committee that will hear his case! His attempt is to sideline his principal detractor in the BCCI, N. Srinivasan.

Second, Lalit Modi trains his sights on the BCCI President, Shashank Manohar. While Lalit Modi’s attack against Srinivasan was direct, bullish, head-on and while it showed his street-fighter qualities, his attack on Shashank Manohar is subtle and sarcasm-loaded. Moreover, his case against Manohar is not really water tight. So he borrows from schools of illusion and sarcasm to build a case here!

He has borrowed heavily from the Mark Anthony school of attack here.

Right at the outset, for example, he states in his letter: “I am sure that the Hon. President, being an eminent lawyer of great reputation, would appreciate that, although it is me who is on trial, however, in a manner of speaking it is the Board itself, which is on trial.” This is along the tried and tested “For Brutus is an Honorable Man” school of argument. Next, he throws the gauntlet by stating that unless Shashank Manohar and N. Srinivasan excuse themselves from the disciplinary hearing and unless there is a clear demonstration of the principles of natural justice and fair play, the Board will be the loser. He identifies his cause with that of the Board and indicates that the Board itself is on trial!

Lalit Modi trains his sights on the BCCI President, Shashank Manohar through two main activities: (a) cancellation of the team-tender process on March 5 2010, and (b) the role of Manohar’s own hand-picked legal counsel for the BCCI, Akhila Kaushik. By mixing up these two — somewhat un-related events — he has created enough of an illusion to suggest Manohar’s complicity!

He cites a particularly damning episode of the recently concluded IPL auction and proceeds to allege that Shashank Manohar’s actions are somewhat broader than the straight-and-narrow in the aborted initial IPL tendering process for teams 9 and 10.

He proceeds to indicate that he would, therefore, like to interrogate the current BCCI President in responding to his own show-cause notice! The case for Shashank Manohar’s removal from the BCCI Disciplinary Committee is that, since Modi would like to interrogate Shashank Manohar as a witness, the person cannot perform an unbiased role as judge, complainant and witness in the same case!

Again, very clever. But the manner in which Lalit Modi — with much help from clever legal brains, no doubt — achieves his objectives is neat.

It was clear when the first tender process was aborted that something wasn’t quite right. I wrote at the time and suggested that there must be more to it than meets the eye! There clearly was.

Modi claims that when Shashi Tharoor’s office wanted to submit a late bid for Kochi in the original bid that closed on 5th March 2010, he himself did not want to accept it, even though Manohar, the BCCI President wanted Lalit Modi to “anti time” (sic!) the bid.

In a style that is reminiscent of the “For Brutus is an honorable man” school of Mark Anthony style rhetorical and sarcasm-loaded defense, Modi then states “You seemed to be under extreme pressure to ensure that the late bid be included in the bidding process. Since you failed to ensure that the bid could not be included you then decided to ensure that the bid process itself is cancelled.…I appreciate that due to involvement of a Cabinet Minister you had to do things which knowing you I believe you would not do in the normal course.”

In other words, “Shashank Manohar is an honourable man and would not have otherwise acted in the way he did, but for the extreme duress he was under.”

This was straight from Mark Anthony school: “I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke. But here I am to speak what I do know.”

He then proceeds to state that the contractual documents for the Sony MSM deal as well as the team auctions were vetted — nay, even prepared — by Shashank Manohar’s own hand-picked lawyer Akhila Kaushik. Therefore, the picture that Lalit Modi paints is that he was innocently following the instructions of the BCCI President! This again follows the classic Mark Anthony style of rhetorically sarcastic defense!

There is an illusory syllogism at play here. What he is essentially trying to say is (a) The bid documents may have been wrong, (b) They were prepared by a person hand-picked by you because they used to work for your fathers’ legal firm, (c) I was therefore, merely following orders!

Somewhat brilliant in my view.

Having achieved the aims of sidelining his two main adversaries on the disciplinary panel, Lalit Modi proceeds to make a case for judicial disqualification — or recusal — of the two main men in the game.

In this reckless chess game, he has used a ruthless and all-out public attack — of reputation as well as professional integrity — for the first time.

And this forms the bases of what I will call the “VIP Defense”, where VIP stands for that popular brand of underwear and the analogy with washing dirty linen in public is complete.

Who knows what the denouement will be in this potentially nasty saga? But things promise to get interesting before they get even better!

Meanwhile, let us hold our noses as the VIP Defense unfolds!

— Mohan

Now Modi is Twattered too…

The nursery rhyme has been re-written:

Pitter-patter, raindrops, Falling from the sky;
Here is my umbrella, To keep me safe and dry!
When the rain is over, And the sun begins to glow,
Little flowers start to bud, And grow and grow and grow!

After the recent IPL-3 saga — termed IPL-Gate or Modi-Gate here in India — I have started singing:

Twitter Twatter, big men, Falling as they cry;
There may have been a Godfather, To keep them safe and sly!
When the pain is over, And the greed begins to slow,
Little accounts start to bud, As these Twattered men grow and grow and grow!

Twatter should be made an official word in the English dictionary.

Twatter is a disease which afflicts and consumes high-adrenalin, 40-something, adult males who are high on testosterone (some with pronounced lisps) and are going through some strange and incurable form of midlife crisis, who wish to simultaneously fit in to the glitterati jet-set and govern burgeoning complex behemoths through a modern technology called Twitter, but use it so inappropriately and naively that they shoot themselves in the foot while aiming for the stars!

It is a complex disease for which there exists no cure. Moreover, there are few test cases available and hence, few pointers to the origin of this new-age disease.

The synonyms for Twatter are Lal-oor or ShaMod.

IPL-3 ended last night. But the “end of the beginning” was just starting to unravel!

Shashi Tharoor was already Twattered by the time the IPL-3 finals was upon us. A sitting Government that had been slapped around by a young Turk with a pronounced lisp had been so badly humiliated and angered that it galvanized a series of multi-Agency, multi-pronged attacks on the IPL and its parent body, the BCCI. The speed, swiftness, meticulousness, intensity and alacrity of the Governments’ response to the outing and public slapping of its junior minister was awe-inspiring. It was as if India’s pride had been hurt by the young Turk charged with running one of the richest cricket leagues in the world! One wondered what the consequences might have been had such a multi-Agency speedy, swift, meticulous, anger- and humiliation-fueled response had been delivered when 26/11 was on us. But then perhaps the Government wasn’t as embarrassed by 26/11 as it was by the open slap to its face from a Twitter-crazy cricket Czar.

The Government was hell-bent on Twattering The Lisp out of our TV screens.

In a tit for tat operation — now known in rarefied circles as a “twit for twat” operation — both twits were twattered out of our existence, at least temporarily!

As inevitable as night follows day, the twats will twit back into our lives in some altered state. However, for now, the twats will twit no more!

It was all high-octane drama that had modern-India writ all over it.

There was innuendo, suspense, speculation, plots, sub-plots, counter-plots, actors, agents, under-world Dons, money laundering, illegal betting, mysterious ladies that no one had ever heard of, fast-paced action, sleaze, slush, plush, flush and much much more. Whats’ more? All of it was carried out at frenetic pace in full public view, in the media and in Twitter-land in an environment that displayed a total lack of reason, constructive argument and logical debate.

The words, “trial by media” has been used often in the last few days. I personally think this phrase has been abused and badly misused. First, because that would legitimize the existence of “media” in India. The “media” that does exist in India is, in my view, hardly (if ever) read, seen or heard. Second, if this is the way “trials” are conducted, then, God help this land!

Lalit Modi was served with a “show cause notice” by BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla shortly after the IPL-3 Finals on 25 April. Modi was sacked as Chief Commissioner of the IPL and stripped of his role in the BCCI as vice-president. The BCCI Board Secretary, N. Srinivasan sent Modi an email to confirm the “notice”. Ironically, this was just after N. Srinivasan’s team, the Chennai Super Kings, had won the IPL-3 Finals — a game that Srinivasan did not attend.

It was a neat and swift way to stop Modi from attending a meeting of the IPL Governing Council on 26 April, which he initially challenged, saying it was “unofficial and so will not attend”. He then pleaded for “five more days”. He then called the meeting himself and sent an agenda for the meeting too!

Clearly the trusted advisors around Lalit Modi had let him down.

While Shashi Tharoor was Twattered out with some dignity and grace — leaving the door ajar for a later entry — Modi was Twattered out in a somewhat humiliating manner.

The clock had turned full circle. Many years back, Modi had hounded out Jagmohan Dalmiya from the BCCI. More recently, through the formation of the IPL, he had hounded out Subhash Chandra, the creator of rebel ICL. Modi, who helped the BCCI first fight off Jagmohan Dalmiya and next, ward off the threat that Subhash Chandra’s ICL posed — through the creation of the IPL — was now, himself, Twattered out by the very “friends” he had helped.

The BCCI is a cruel place for any person. Modi’s problem was that he started believing in the myths that had been built around him without paying too much attention to the knives that were being sharpened about him.

When Lalit Modi gave his post-finals speech last night, there was an inevitability about him. One detected a sense of despair. The defiance was replaced by justification. The arrogance was replaced by anger. Although rich in self righteousness, I was happy to grant him his last hurrah! The full text of Modi’s speech is here.

Prem Panicker argues:

And the man who built a compelling league from the ground up took the stage as “commissioner under suspension” to deliver an overwrought, self-serving speech, crassly turning the focus on himself [and cloaking himself with assorted mantles ranging from Martin Luther King to Krishna] when the spotlight should have firmly been on the cricket itself.

Modi’s speech was inappropriate, but that he made it was not particularly surprising — it is the BCCI way to put itself ahead of the cricket. Remember the felicitation ceremony at the Wankhede when India returned with the World T20 Cup? The likes of RR Patil and Sharad Pawar turned the occasion into a political rally; on the dais, the front row was occupied by Pawar, Patil, Rajiv Shukla, Niranjan Shah, Modi himself, IS Bindra, PM Runga, Dilip Vengsarkar and others, while the cricketers who had against the odds won the trophy were relegated to the third row.

I was, however, quite happy to grant Modi his place in the sun for one last time. He was a BCCI mercenary who came in, did a job, made a lot of cash and then promptly fell on his own sword. He does claim that he worked tirelessly and for no remuneration. Yes! And if that is right, I am Elvis Presley’s little toe!

Today, there is sleaze money everywhere in cricket. As Prem Panicker writes, every move in Indian cricket is viewed with suspicion and cynicism.

Even Sachin Tendulkar name gets dragged in the muck that represents India’s cricket.

An IPL game was there to be won by Mumbai Indians. Tendulkar retires with cramps for the Mumbai Indians to crumble to a narrow defeat. I got calls saying that that match “must have been fixed”. In yesterdays’ game, Sachin Tendulkar sent Kieron Pollard into bat when all hope was lost. Once again, the reason offered was that the great man “must have been on the take”.

Every move in Indian cricket is viewed with suspicion and cynicism.

The governance structure around the game stinks and a quick clean up is required. The clean up will not be affected (it is just too hard in my view), but it has to be attempted.

As a fan, I just do not trust the people entrusted with the clean up act. Because it involves the BCCI and will be reported on by the “media”. So no. I believe the game and its governance will continue to be what it is.

India deserves this mess. India will continue to retain this mess.

Meanwhile, Team India will prosper because of the quality of her players. Team India has always succeeded despite the BCCI and the “media”. The game and its fans are a complete coincidence to this body and its office bearers.

In the fullness of time some other twit will be Twattered.

Until then, let us all lie back, think of the Queen and pretend we are enjoying it.

After all,
When the pain is over, And the greed begins to slow,
Little accounts start to bud, As these Twattered men grow and grow and grow

— Mohan