Tag Archives: WCT20

On why I found Harsha Bhogle’s choice strange

Harsha Bhogle is a respected and much-admired journalist and commentator on Indian cricket. He gave up a promising career in advertising to write about cricket, talk about cricket on the radio and call cricket on TV. He hosts TV shows on cricket and is, along with Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, recognized as one of the significant voices of Indian cricket.

Harsha Bhogle started commenting on cricket when he was just 19 years old. From an early age, he shunned hyperbole and cliche for substance, a studied approach, sharp wit and an articulate demeanor. That approach defined him. After a stint at All India Radio in Hyderabad, he was invited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 1991-92 to call the Australia-India series on ABC Radio in Australia. I had just arrived in Australia and was immediately taken by this young, warm and welcoming voice of Indian cricket. Since then, he was a regular in all of India’s tours to the Antipodes. His repartee with Kerry O’Keefe is a significant part of the Australian summer whenever India visited. His banter with Geoff Lawson would always be precise and insightful — quite appropriate, given that Lawson is a qualified optometrist!

I appreciated the poise and equanimity with which he called the hot-potato series in 2008. Tempers were flaring and emotions were high. I am reasonably confident Harsha Bhogle would have been presented with many an opportunity to lose his cool in that hyper-charged environment. But he managed to keep his head above water at all times. He retained his composure and his objectivity as that series progressed. His stock grew.

He has called many Test matches and ODI games. In fact, he has called every single World Cup since 1992 – either for radio or for TV. Harsha Bhogle has also covered all IPL seasons since the 2009 edition of this Twenty20 party. (He was associated with the Mumbai Indians side in the inaugural episode of the IPL.)

He has also written a few books on cricket, including a biography of Mohammad Azharuddin

The point of this short sketch of an impressive career in cricket is to establish that Harsha Bhogle is a respected commentator who has been closely associated with the game for over two decades. In that time he would have seen a substantial amount of “good cricket”. One has come to expect a healthy dollop of balance and objectivity in his articulations. He is as lucid as he is sharp. He also comes across as an intelligent person who thinks carefully about what he writes and says.

I may not always agree with what he says. I do not need to. But I accept that he has a good cricket ‘sense’. After all, he has seen — and called — some exceedingly good cricket. I also accept that he is not given to bursts of emotion-laden hyperbole. It is highly likely that for him that cycle stand in Patiala does not matter; a tracer bullet is a distraction; that sorry comment about statistics and mini-skirts is an inappropriately quoted and abominable irritant.

All of the above is preamble and context to the sense of disbelief I had on reading last week that the one single DVD that Harsha Bhogle will carry with him to an island would be a DVD of India’s triumph in that 2007 World Championship T20 final.

If I had to be abandoned on a deserted island with a DVD of just one match, it would have to be that T20 World Cup final and…one other game that I must have watched around a hundred times, in various instalments over the years—the NatWest Series final in 2002.

Let us be clear about this. Harsha Bhogle says that he will take one DVD containing one match (the WCT20 win by India) and also says that he has watched a replay of the Natwest 2002 Final over a hundred times.

The article that we read was an ‘edited excerpt’ of a conversation. So one does not really know what the full conversation was. More importantly, one does not know what was left out. I am going to assume that the edited excerpt does not deviate significantly from the conversation itself. At the very least, I can make the assumption that the edited excerpt did not destroy either the context or the substance of the many choices Harsha Bhogle makes in this piece. It is a fair assumption to make because Harsha Bhogle has not issued a rejoinder in the week after the piece was published.

Harsha Bhogle makes a few clear choices. He says that he has seen a lot of good cricket. He says that Perth 2008, Leeds 2002, the NatWest ODI Final 2002, Kolkata 2001 and the 2007 World Championship T20 final were excellent, thrilling and substantial; each for a specific reason. He articulates his reasons extremely well and very lucidly.

Yet, he indicates that he would take that T20 Finals win as the only DVD. These boilerplate choices are fraught with danger. In an email exchange with the lovely K. Balakumar (@kbalakumar on Twitter) he said questions like “… Which one song will you take on your trip to moon … are questions asked for an emotional and rhetorical value. And the answer too is mostly emotional.”

I agree that the emotional quotient in the 2007 win was high. It was a win against Pakistan. And that too in a final of a major ICC tournament. Enough said.

But really? Despite the incredibly high emotional quotient, a T20 final is the one DVD that Harsha Bhogle would take with him? After all, here was a man who has seen so much good cricket. Here was a man who was not given to extreme bouts of reckless emotion even during MonkeyGate.

My sense of disbelief at Harsha Bhogle’s choice has nothing to do with forms of the game. It has nothing to do with notions that one form of the game is somehow superior to another form.

Yes, I do like Test cricket. No. I do not think it is ‘superior’ to other forms of cricket (mainly ODI and T20). But I like Test cricket. I like the intensity and the rhythm of Test cricket. I like the balance that Test cricket affords between bat and ball. Test cricket uses a canvass that is broad. On this canvass, it affords, commands and allows the narrative to unfold in a lazy and yet intensely dramatic manner. I like the time flexibility that Test cricket affords. Time seems to be somewhat irrelevant to the unfurling of the Test Cricket narrative. That is what I like about Test cricket.

So far, none of what I have said constitutes a “superiority” based argument of this form of cricket that I love and adore. It is true that my sense of involvement in the T20 and ODI script is far less than it is in Tests. But that is not because of a position that is based on skill-superiority, nor is it based on a position that emanates from an elitist snobbery.

Quite the contrary really.

I do like the intensity of the ODI/T20 drama. But my sense of involvement in these forms is far less than it is in Test cricket. That position emanates more from preference for the Test cricket narrative rather than superiority of the form. And this is precisely why Dominica depressed me. This is why it would not have mattered to me if India had lost either the T20 World Championship in 2007 or even the World Cup in 2011!

Mind you, I celebrated both victories vociferously and loudly because I am a fan of Team India and her players. But I celebrated Kolkata, Leeds, Multan, Mohali and Perth much more than I did the two World Cup victories. I was depressed for days on end after the disaster that Dominica represented to me.

On Harsha Bhogle’s choice, I had a suspended sense of disbelief.

I agree that these deserted-island-choices are often difficult and one must always take the result with a pinch of salt, or even sand (if you will forgive the needless pun).

And of course this is Harsha Bhogle’s choice and not mine! It is his article. Not mine. Nor should I expect that his choice mirrors mine. My problem, therefore, wasn’t his actual choice. It is more to do with how dramatically his choice seems to have diverged from what I would have expected his choice to be. In that sense, again the existence of that unmet expectation gap is my problem, rather than his. That said, I cannot imagine that a man who has watched that much drama would chose the WCT20 as the only DVD he would take.

In a sense, Harsha Bhogle was making a categorical judgement that the World Championship T20 win was better than Kolkata 2001 or Perth 2008 or even Mumbai 2011! Now this exposes a stunning limitation of the boiler-plate — and hence my dislike of these. But my approach to such a severely limiting exercise would be to not participate it such exercises! And if I do, I would justify/explain/rationalize my choice succinctly and adequately.

“Hang on. He did justify. He did rationalize his choice,” you will say.

Yes, he did justify his choice of the WCT20 Final DVD over Kolkata 2001 or Chennai 1999 or Natwest 2002 or Mumbai 2011.

And even if I accepted his DVD choice as one that was shoe-horned by the uselessness of the boilerplate, it is his justification of that choice that I really abhorred.

He says that he would take that DVD with him because “…India won against all odds. I wasn’t expecting anything. There was a sense of discovery about the whole format. No one knew where T20 was going to go. And as it turned out, one magical decision by M.S. Dhoni to throw the ball to Joginder Sharma and one moment of madness by Misbah-ul-Haq changed the future of T20 cricket. For if India hadn’t won that World Cup, T20 would never have become big in India. But it did become big…and the rest is history.”

Harsha Bhogle talks with passion about the many lovely games he has witnessed. In his closing he talks about the India v Pakistan Test match in Chennai in 1999 where the (knowledgeable) Chennai crowd gave Pakistan a rousing reception after Pakistan had beaten India in a close/tight game.

Yet, the only DVD he will take with him on a desert island is that of a T20 game because if India hadn’t won T20 would never have become big in India! Like that is a badge of honour that one should wear proudly on one’s lapel. It is this aspect of Harsha Bhogle’s choice that I find abhorrent.

Let us not forget that it is this very form of the game that causes most cricket fans most concern today! The DVD choice comes at a time when we are all concerned about the proliferation of T20s, the burden that it places on players, the country-versus-club debates that it generates, the immense conflicts of interest inherent in this form of the game in India (where commercial realities are brought into sharp focus maximally). Harsha Bhogle has, himself, agonized painfully over many of the issues listed above. On the club versus country debate, he first went one way and then, after the disaster that England 2011 represented, seemed to go the other way.

This agonizing flip-flop by one the voices of Indian cricket was brought into focus precisely because T20 had “become big in India”.

Yet, that is precisely the reason behind his choice of the DVD!

So Bhogle’s choice did not worry me. It is the justification/rationalization of his choice that stunned me. If I found his DVD choice somewhat shallow it was not because of the format, but because of its justification!

— Mohan (@mohank)

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

Team India for WC T20

As I write this, the very existence of the IPL is under a huge cloud! Shashi Tharoor, a sitting Junior Minister has resigned from his post over his “links” with the IPL Kochi franchise. The Minister’s link with the Kochi franchise was Twittered open by Lalit Modi. In doing so, Modi took on the Government of the day! He had, no doubt, won several battles in his day. But perhaps he had bitten an apple best left alone? Lalit Modi has now been summoned to New Delhi by Sharad Pawar — a Cabinet Minister and President Elect of the ICC. Speculation is rife that Modi may be pressed to submit his resignation as Commissioner of the IPL Governing Council. The sitting Government, embarassed by the hoopla surrounding its Minister, has openly ordered a series of probes on the IPL, saying “all aspects of the IPL’s operations are under scrutiny”. It is obvious to most people that life will be made hard for IPL and BCCI. Despite the immaturity of the Minister involved, few sitting Governments can take an open (and free) slap to its face easily. Perhaps Lalit Modi’s days with the IPL are numbered? Who knows?

All I know is that this was all caused as a result of a lady from the Middle East who may have been seen as a Karbonn Kamaal Catch by a junior Minister. However, the “sweat equity” that she received was siezed upon by a young Turk who exposed it thinking is was a Citi Moment of Success only to learn that when the shoe is on the other foot, the resulting DLF Max can be quite painful. Well perhaps everyone needs a Maxx Mobile Strategic Time Out?

Who says that IPL is not a soap opera?

But then, onto matters more serious!

On the day that IPL-III finished two weeks of existence, Team India’s selectors announced India’s side for the ICC World Championship T20 tournament to be held at West Indies later this year.

There were a few surprise announcements. I held off commenting on these surprises till IPL-3 had drawn to a close — or until the end was nigh. Now, with the league stage of IPL-3 concluded, I thought the time was appropriate to comment on Team India that will participate in ICC’s WCT20 in West Indies.

This article should be read with Srikanth Mangalam’s piece, which was written earlier today.

For me, the surprises were Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Kartik and Rohit Sharma.

I just do not believe there was a need to announce the team 2 weeks before the team needed to be announced. Moreover, the best way to guage a players’ form is through matches. So, given that IPL-3 was still ongoing and had a few more weeks to run, was there a compelling need to rush into team selection? Perhaps not. But then, that is exactly what the selectors did. In their haste, I feel they may have made a few mistakes.

Mind you, I do think that this team is good. With Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bowling as well as they are and with Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni batting as well as they are, anything is possible if the Gambhir-Sehwag opening combination clicks — which it invariably does when they put on India colours! Throw in Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan and Ashish Nehra and what you have is a really decent outfit.

The team in possible batting order is:

Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Suresh Raina
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Rohit Sharma
Yusuf Pathan / Ravindra Jadeja
Harbhajan Singh / Piyush Chawla
Zaheer Khan
Vinay Kumar / Praveen Kumar
Ashish Nehra

DRINKS: Dinesh Karthik

There are a few problems with this team, in my view:

  • Virender Sehwag has not been in the best of form for Delhi Daredevils. That said, he has to be a part of the team unless he has just one leg, one hand and one strand of hair left on his head! He is a must in any Team India.
  • Yuvraj Singh may well prove me wrong, but I just do not feel he should have been a part of this team. He has had a spate of injuries which he has perhaps not fully recovered from. Moreover, in my view, his performance in IPL-3 was totally sulk-induced as a result of his demotion as captian of KXIP. And for a serious and senior cricketer, this is perhaps not quite professional enough. His non-selection may have sent a much stronger message than his demotion as KXIP captain. I am not suggesting that Yuvraj Singh may have deliberately under-performed. No. I am suggesting, as I did at the very start of IPL-3, that I could see a BYSS (Big Yuvraj Sized Sulk) sulk around the corner. He did!
  • While I have no doubt that Rohit Sharma is an immensely talented cricketer, there have been a few other batsmen in IPL-3 that have perhaps put in much stronger performances in IPL-3. In particular, I think Robin Uthappa and M. Vijay will feel that they had done enough to be on that plane to West Indies.
  • Piyush Chawla is the biggest surprise, in my view. As Srikanth Mangalam said in his piece, spinners like Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra and even Shadab Jakati have bowled better that Piyush Chawla! I am not sure where Piyush Chawla picks up his lottery tickets, but if everyone in India picks up their lotto tickets from where Chawla does, the Indian lottery system would be broke before it opened for business! He is not a bad bowler. There are just better guys going around right now!
  • Vinay Kumar was another surprise pick for me. He has looked good, no doubt and has put in a strong IPL-3 performance after a solid domestic season. I have no real qualms with his pick. He is perhaps there as cover for when Praveen Kumar goes “pear shaped”.
  • And finally, I get to my favourite topic of Dinesh Kartik! Apart from ensuring that this article gets at least one response/comment from a certain person from Bangalore in support of Kartik’s inclusion, I really do not know what this man does to get included in every Team India! Is he there as cover for MS Dhoni? Is he there as a batsman cover for Rohit Sharma? If it is the former, then that is quite fine by me. If he is there as a batsman cover for Rohit Sharma, then, surely Robin Uthappa is a better bet? Especially since Uthappa can ‘keep wickets too in case Dhoni gets injured? I just give up where Kartik’s repeated inclusion is concerned. I want to believe that it has more to do than the fact that he is from Tamil Nadu. But then all roads point to that for me!

All in all, I think this is a good team. However, I would have been happier if Robin Uthappa, Murali Vijay and Pragyan Ojha (or Amit Mishra) were included instead of Dinesh Kartik, Yuvraj Singh and Piyush Chawla.

— Mohan