Tag Archives: Srikkanth

Of flying peanuts and conflicts of interest…

India is in pain again! Team India lost its way in the ICC WCT20 tournament. India exited the tournament with two wins in the preliminary stage and no wins in the Super-8 stage. If TV news-pundits are to be believed, the whole of India is burning with rage, anger and frustration.

I was not in India when India was crowned the #1 Test team in the world and so did not watch the chest-thumps and euphoria that that event generated. I was here on 1 April, when there was official confirmation from the ICC that India is indeed the #1 Test team in the world. That event went almost unnoticed because the IPL was on at that time. All eye balls were on IPL TRPs at that time! Back when India was re-confirmed as the top Test side in the world, coach Gary Kirsten, captain MS Dhoni and Team India were the toast of the town. Now they are both toast!

Back then, India had finally become world beaters! The media channels could not get enough of India’s stars. Today, “there is anger in India” (according to the media here) after the “humiliation” of the early exit from the ICC WCT20.

The pendulum has swung again. And how quickly!

Back then in April, the IPL frenzy seemed to distract everyone in India — especially the media. Suddenly it pitted Indians against Indians! A fan from Chennai was hailing the efforts of a burly-Australian or a wily-SriLankan or a cheeky-SouthAfrican and propping them as saviors against a strong Mumbai team or a stronger Bangalore team. Cricketers spent more time in the sky than on the ground. And when their feet were on the ground, they were either playing on the cricket field or on the dance floor at an IPL after-match party! Some cricketers even had to endure peanuts being flung at them — a new way of attracting attention from Bollywood hotties at these post-match IPL parties, it seemed!

Since then, all night clubs in Mumbai have had to endure peanut-fling pick-up-routines as a precursor to an actual fling! “Fling a peanut and score a one-night fling” is a new product that has been patented (or peanuted!). There is a scarcity of peanuts in Mumbai. Everyone is hell bent on flinging peanuts at each other as a way of attracting attention!

Jokes apart, these post-match IPL-parties seemed to be completely testosterone-charged and ended up draining the creative (and other) juices of the men who played the game!

Something was awry. But no one seemed to want to do anything about it especially as the coffers were getting filled up faster than the cash could be deposited in various bank accounts. If people did not want to be a part of the action they wanted the action! Almost everyone was conflicted and no one wanted to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, our senses were constantly being brutalized and attacked on TV and Twitter by a visionary Lisp. We also had to endure a colorful Sikh on TV who hated being interrupted and liked answering all questions even if they were not addressed at him! “You know, my friend” he would bellow in a manner that resembled long-distance phone conversations in the 1960s and 1970s when one needed to shout to be heard; one wondered why this man ever needed a microphone! He had certainly read the book on cheesy phrases and mindless one-liners! We had to tolerate scantily-clad noodle-straps and Bollywood stars who constantly attacked our senses on TV either with their juvenile cricket gyaan or a blatant plug for their forthcoming movie.

The cricket was good. Club-Vs-Club cricket was also intense. It was, according to Anil Kumble, so intense that it probably drained players when they reached the West Indies! Despite all the negative attention it has received lately, and despite noodle-straps, colorful Sikhs with no need for a microphone, cheesy one-liners, peanut-parties, lisps and hoopla, IPL-3 was good, in my view.

And then it all went pear shaped.

Lalit Modi was “twattered”. Sashi Tharoor was “done in”. The IPL Governing Council members distanced themselves and ran away as fast and as furiously as they could from the very coffers that they had managed — they only managed the coffers and not the game, in my view! Show cause notices were issued without the issuers having even a basic understanding of the word “show” or without anyone understanding either the “cause” or the “effect”!

Then, the final nail in the coffin was Team India’s disastrous performance in the WCT20 tournament.

Just as Team India was booking its airline tickets for their return home, BCCI announced the team that would represent India at the tri-nations T20 and ODI tournament in Zimbabwe involving Zimbabwe, India and Sri Lanka. The matches commence May 28 and conclude on June 13.

Kris Srikkanth, the BCCI Chairman of selectors has “rested” as many as 9 (yes, nine) Team India ODI players for this tournament. Yes that is correct! MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Praveen Kumar are being “rested”. It is likely that Virender Sehwag and Praveen Kumar are carrying injuries. But even so, that is a fair number of players that have been rested in one fell swoop!

I have to pose this question to Kris Srikkanth: As Chennai Super Kings Brand Ambassador, did he ever request MS Dhoni to “rest” and “sit out” 4-5 IPL games with a view to Dhoni playing in the tri-series donning India colors? Or did he have an undeclared, unmanaged and out-of-control conflict of interest there?

Can Kris Srikkanth effectively marry his role as Brand Ambassador of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and National Selector? I do not believe so. Kris Srikkanth is horribly conflicted in my view. The only aspect of this sordid scenario that makes Srikkanth look good is that his boss, Mr N. Srinivasan, the owner of CSK, is even more horribly conflicted than Srikkanth is! As Kris Srikkanth tries to extract every ounce of effort from his CSK team members, exhort them to give off their very best and get them to stretch every sinew in their already weakened bodies to secure a win for CSK, he would have to know that their efforts for CSK would severely compromise their efforts for Team India.

Witness the team that Srikkanth has selected to tour Zimbabwe! It does not have MS Dhoni in it! Why? Could MS Dhoni not have been rested for 4-5 games that CSK played?

How can N. Srinivasan, the owner of CSK not expect the very best from MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and M Vijay on the field and in CSK after-match parties? He is after all the owner of CSK and, as the person that has made a major investment, he would (and he should) expect rich returns for the shareholding in that investment! He should expect his personal wealth to increase as a direct consequence of the risk that he has ventured into. And the only way that can happen is by forcing players — either through contracts or by setting unwritten expectations — that they have to give off their best on the field and in smoke-filled dance floors! It is not wrong to castigate N. Srinivasan or belittle him for attempting to augment his personal wealth. After all, Vijay Mallaya, Priety Zinta and Nita Ambani are doing just that! So why would I be a moral cop and pull Srinivasan up for attempting to augment the size of his wallet?

However, as a Team India fan, I do have a problem with him doing that while donning BCCI colors. That just does not stack up for me. Something has to give. It is not enough to merely declare conflicts. These conflicts have to be actively managed.

Srikkanth’s action of includng MS Dhoni in every CSK game that Dhoni was available for and then “resting” him for the Zimbabwe tour does not seem to me to reflect the actions of a man who is managing a known and declared conflict of interest.

There may be many reasons for Team India’s poor showing at the ICC WCT20 tournament. Judging from the mass-resting of nine Team India players, physical/mental “fatigue” and too many late-night parties in dark rooms — not to mention, trying to dodge peanut flings! — may be one of the reasons! Others may well be the sudden and inexplicable loss of form of players like Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, the prolonged loss of form of Yuvraj Singh (which even a “goatee” could not reign in), wrong team selection, poor fielding, the team’s inability to cope with chin music in the short form of the game, the absence of Virender Sehwag, etc.

I am not perturbed by the fact that India lost. I have always said that we must learn to celebrate wins and tolerate losses with equanimity and dignity. However, the manner of India’s loss hurts more than the fact that India lost! Witness Gautam Gambhir’s running in the last Super8 game against Sri Lanka! It was the running of a man who was completely fatigued; a man whose focus was not quite on his game.

But my point is that if players are “fatigued” by too much cricket and testosterone-driven peanut activities, why were they not rested during the IPL? I do think post-match IPL-parties have outlived their utility. I am reasonably confident that these parties will be committed to the archives of the BCCI and IPL offices.

However, more importantly, I would like the BCCI to enforce a rule whereby each IPL team can use a “contracted” Team India player in no more than 10 (say) of the 16 games that each team plays (or 11 of the 18 games in IPL-4). In other words, each IPL team must be forced to bring into play a rotation policy that keeps players “fresh” and available for Team India assignments.

Mind you, the team chosen by Kris Srikkanth and his band of merry friends is not really bad although I find it somewhat mysterious that Robin Uthappa and Abhimanyu Mithun cannot find a place in the team. Is Uthappa injured? And if Mithun can be good enough to play for the last ODI series that India played in, what has happened between then and now for him to sit this series out?

That said, the team for the tri-series has a bunch of players that will soon be knocking the doors of Team India. Some of them are already playing in India colors in some form of the game or other.

The team is:

M Vijay
Dinesh Karthik / Naman Ojha (wk)
Suresh Raina (capt)
Virat Kohli (vice-capt)
Rohit Sharma
Yusuf Pathan
Ravindra Jadeja
R Ashwin / Amit Mishra / Pragyan Ojha
Umesh Yadav
Vinay Kumar
Ashok Dinda / Pankaj Singh

Meanwhile, the Indian media that chest-thumped India to #1 Test side in the world and #2 ODI side in the world in angry. Yes, the Indian media is very angry and demands answers!

Rahul Kanwal is Editor of Headlines Today a news channel. I watched a segment yesterday in which the young and erudite Kanwal assembled past captains like Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin, Bishen Singh Bedi, Imran Khan (for a perspective from a foreign hand, no doubt) and Sourav Ganguly to ask them for their views on the Team India WCT20 “debacle”. The Indian fan is angry and demands answers, roared the young Kanwal. He goaded the panel to castigate. He brayed for blood. He wanted names of people whose heads deserved to rest on a block of wood as the guillotine came crashing down. He was passionate and emotional as he roared his way through the program. Did I mention that he was angry too?

Mohammed Azharuddin thundered that no player can be above the game. He said, “For a player, cricket should come first and everything else is secondary!” Really now?

— Mohan

The Kolkata Test

Postscript as Introduction:

Perhaps Kris Srikkanth knew something that we all did not know! Perhaps Goddess Durga appeared in his dreams one night and informed him that a Saha would be a champion player this week. He woke up and sent Wriddhiman Saha to Nagpur and when he realized that that was a dud, sent him packing to his home town in Kolkata. But then, in so doing, he cost India a Test match and possibly the #1 Test Rank. Should he resign? I think so. Meanwhile, Goddess Durga was right. A Saha did become a champion player this week. Unfortunately for Kris Srikkanth, that Saha was Louis Saha, who scored two goals for Everton against Chelsea! — [Thanks to Sam Kumar for that nugget]

Team India suffered the ignominy of an innings defeat in Nagpur and move now to Kolkata to salvage more than pride. India needs to play a sensational brand of cricket to stop the South Africans from claiming the series and with it, the #1 spot in the ICC Test Rankings. While Indian cricketers may not yearn for it perhaps as much as others, there is also the small matter of a prize purse, come the 1st of April when the ICC will dole out some loose change to the team that is #1 at that time.

More than anything else, the manner of the loss in Nagpur will sting Team India and the manner in which the team has made recent strides.

I have always believed that Team India did not really deserve to be #1, given that it has not beaten Australia and South Africa in their home dens. That said, the team has been making steady progress in its journey towards becoming a team that is radically different from Indian teams from the 90s that had plenty of class but little substance; teams that had fragility that would make a toy made from match sticks feel good about its lot in life. The present Team India has demonstrated that it is made of sterner stuff.

Yes, one can point to the absence of Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh and Sreesanth from the team — all of whom would perhaps be automatic picks in the Test team perhaps. However, a great team (and even a good team) has to rise above these losses and has to depend on the reserves to dig it out of situations like the one faced in the lead up Nagpur.

The selectors have to take the blame for the sordid mess that left the team with little option other than play Wriddhiman Saha as a batsman! Like other wicketkeepers from that part of India (Deep Dasgupta and Saba Karim) Saha has to now make a separate trek back to Kolkata, wondering what wrongs he had committed. Saha was picked as a ‘keeper and played as a batsman and now makes way for a ‘keeper? Or has he made way for a batsman? Or indeed, has he made way for a zonal selection? I have lost confidence in this selection committee and hence these questions.

If Wriddhiman Saha was the second best ‘keeper in the land, should he not have stayed on for Kolkata as a reserve ‘keeper? Or was he picked for Nagpur as the next best batsman in the land? Even if the selectors were on drugs, I am confident (despite my lack of faith in their ability to even distinguish their backsides from their elbows) that they did not pick Saha as the next best batsman in India. So let us assume that they picked Saha as the next best ‘keeper in the land. So, what has happened in 7 days for the selectors to think that Karthik was suddenly a better reserve ‘keeper? This is the same question that Sanjay Subrahmanyan asked earlier too.

These are questions need to be asked.

At the end of the Bangladesh series, it is likely that Dinesh Karthik was a zonal selection sacrificial lamb who had to make way for Badrinath’s entry into the team. Who knows what transpired in the sleazy dungeon that represents the Indian team selection committee rooms. However, what is palpably obvious is that the team selection was wrong. The selectors went with too many bowlers and too few batsmen at a time when 2 key batsmen were definitely injured and one other batsman was living on one working playing hand, with the other one injured badly. The logic of that selection imbalance defies belief and for that reason, I do believe that, although Kris Srikkanth has taken personal responsibility for the mess, he must hand in his resignation papers. Srikkanth has demonstrated that his committee is unable to rise above zonal politics. Any person with integrity and substance would have handed their papers in by now already. It is not enough to just take personal responsibility. He is either a weak chair who is unable to get his committee to rise above zonal politics or he is in charge of a committee that cannot arrive at good decisions. How else can one explain a situation where the team had more bowlers than batsmen when there were 3 injured batsmen in the first team list?

In his interview, Srikkanth says, “In hindsight, we didn’t have Rahul (Dravid), who is a fantastic player of fast bowling. Laxman was injured… we were hopeful of his recovery but unfortunately that didn’t happen and then Rohit got injured. So, I would say it was fate,” he added.

And therein lies the problem. This committee relies on hindsight when what is needed is foresight!

Moreover, any decision that is based on a hope and a prayer is made by people who ought not to make these decisions! Decisions have to be made not on a hope, but on medical assessments on a players’ availability. The selectors should have taken tough decisions instead of reaching for their prayer beads! Rohit Sharma himself was a last minute addition and with his addition, there was no batsman to cover in case of a freak injury or a stiff neck or a headache or a sprained calf muscle to any of the other batsmen.

The selectors have to be requested to go home with their prayer beads! I am not braying baying for blood. I am seeking accountability as a Team India fan.

And so, where to from here for Team India?

Despite the alleged lamentable statements by the Kolkata curator, I do believe that Indis’ best chance is spin on a “turner” or a “dust bowl”.

I am not sure why a “turner” is held in such contempt or disrespect (mainly by people that can’t play spin). If a batsman is good enough, they ought to say “give me a pitch… any pitch”.

Terms like “turner” and “dust bowl” have become pejoratives in current cricket lingo because they have been turned into pejoratives by people who make and set these views; by people who cannot play spin!

Just as Durban, Melbourne, Lords’ and Sabina Park offer bounce and carry, Indian pitches ought to offer spin. I say “ought to” because that’s what the natural conditions provide. “Dust bowls” has become a derogatory term these days. I love dust bowls. They offer a difference in a world that craves for a sameness — a sameness that is imperialistic in its notion and connotation.

Give me a dust bowl any day. I like to see batsmen charge a spinner. I grew up on that diet and love it just as I love to see batsmen hopping around in Durban or Sabina Park.

For years, Indian curators have been doctoring pitches in response to idiotic clarion calls from administrators in South Africa, England and Australia that have wanted the “sameness” of bounce and carry and grass with the one-eyed notion that that’s what a cricket pitch ought to look like. These clarion calls have been based on the very imperialistic notion that suggests that despite local conditions, the only brand of toothpaste that is valid is Colgate! I detest this craving for “sameness” just as I detest the response from Indian curators who bend over backwards to prepare the kind of pitch that we saw in Nagpur against the Australians in 2004.

As I have said before, I will accept a seaming, bouncy pitch in Nagpur when I see a dust bowl in Durban. Surely, if it is possible to create a dust bowl in Kolkata it should be possible to create one in Durban?

No?

Why? Because the soil conditions and environment there make it impossible to create a dust bowl in Durban?

Then why is there the expectation that Kolkata should unnaturally offer seam, bounce and carry?

I do hope the Indian curators stop doctoring pitches and prepare spinning tracks, for that is what the natural soil condition provides. I am tired of seeing a oneness and sameness in everything in the world that suggests that the only pitch that is worth offering is one that offers seam, bounce and carry.

Despite the above arguments, I do think South Africa will win. This is a full-strength team that has depth and dimension. The batsmen are in form. The bowling is terrific and the teams’ mental toughness is remarkable. I loved the way the South Africans played the Nagpur Test. It has a India-at-Leeds feel to it. Apart from the first half hour or so, they were in utter control of the match and seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Even when Paul Harris was bowling just that brand of cricket that I detest, the South Africans gave the impression that they were in control.

India can bounce back, but in order for that to happen, the team needs to play out-of-their-skins cricket.

I can’t see Mishra and Ishant Sharma playing in the Kolkata Test. Ojha and Sreesanth will perhaps play and Laxman will play instead of Saha in the XI, with Laxman coming in at #3.

Bring it on.

— Mohan

Selectors stick with Ganguly…

Like a Bollywood formlua-movie that can never disappoint, the new selection committee deferred hard/bad decisions for a while yet and delivered a “formula-selection” instead. Perhaps this selection committee did not like arguments either, for, according to Niranjan Shah, former-Secretary of BCCI, talking to “players about their retirement plans which may lead to arguments!”

The selection is along predictable lines with the likely XI (in batting order) as follows:

Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk)
Anil Kumble (capt)
Harbhajan Singh
Zaheer Khan
Ishant Sharma
Bench-warmers: Munaf Patel, RP Singh, S Badrinath, Amit Mishra

Perhaps a really strong performance from Badrinath in the Irani Trophy might have edged out Ganguly. However, in the absence of that, the selectors may have gone down the “formula” route!

What is worrying to read is that the selectors went down the reinstate-Ganguly route because they feared that Ganguly might retire if not picked! According to reports, Ganguly had reportedly considered quitting cricket after being overlooked for the Irani Cup match between RoI and Delhi. So?

While it is nice to see S. Badrinath enter the fray, he may hang around like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif did and whither away. So the only change from the team that fared badly in Sri Lanka is that Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha make way for Badrinath and Amit Mishra, while Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel make way for M. S. Dhoni.

There is nothing imaginative about this selection. It is disappointing that a bold and dashing cricketer like Kris Srikkanth did not use this opportunity to strike a bold and courageous path forward. Selectors get paid to set future directions, develop a strategy and then implement them. This selector has aparently thought that his task is to assemble together a bunch of people to play the next game. And if that is the metric, my nine year-old nephew would have done a similar job — and could also do with the 25 lakhs in his back pocket!

Meanwhile, Australia’s already depleted spin-stocks took a turn for the worse when Bryce McGain was ruled out of the first (and maybe even the second) Test with a back strain. This will mean a Test debut for Jason Krejza. I can’t see Jason Krejza doing much damage and Australia may make a Gavin Robertson out of another spinner after all!

— Mohan