Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sports Body or Banana Republic?

I think most people remember Saddam Hussain regularly winning "elections" in Iraq with 99% of the votes.

A person who has done the most public of whitewashings of evidence in recent times is elected unopposed to the post of president of one of the most powerful sports bodies in the world. An office that the Supreme Court of the nation has barred him from holding currently.

A sports body that is apparently threatening to call off one of the most eagerly awaited sporting contests of recent times because they don't like the person appointed to head the equivalent sports body in the other nation.

A sports body that gives strict instructions to commentators what they can and cannot say on air. I could never get tired of hearing "Erapalli Prasanna" or "Horizontal Bat Shots" in that delightful Australian accent all day, but due to the spine of one person and the spineless nature of said sports body, fans in a country are going to miss out on one of the most honest and direct commentators in the business.

A sports body, the association with which diminishes the aura of former cricketing greats.

A sports body so mired in shenanigans that they make a person who even united fierce political rivals in their condemnation of him, seem like the sympathetic figure.

A sports body where horse trading is rampant that even factions have their internal fights.

A sports body where the election is so important that critical people don't even bother to turn up for the AGM.

It is time somebody called the whole thing nonsense that deserves to be torn up.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The fierce urgency of now

A few days back, the always excellent Jarrod Kimber had written an insightful article about Australia's search for the next cricketing messiah. One of the themes of his article was that the elevated level of scrutiny in today's world has resulted in young (and not so young) cricketers not being given the kind of patient run that players in the past enjoyed. The media is constantly hounding and twitter is constantly buzzing, affecting both the players as well as selectors.

I remarked to Jarrod that his point about scrutiny applied to journalists as well - Cardus never wrote under the cloud of real time fact checking and "experts" all round the world streaming in with their criticisms on twitter. Jarrod agreed and he said he has seen a visible change in the press once they came on twitter.

And then Scyld Berry happened.

What was otherwise a very good article on Broad running through Australia, was scarred by the unfortunate line "Australia’s experiment with their Asian immigrant population will be shelved.”
Berry was mercilessly attacked on twitter and on the comments sections of his article. The statement was stupid at best and racist at worst (whether it was intentional or not, the statement to me did come across as racist). The line was hurriedly removed by the Telegraph, with no explanation. Who were they kidding? This action by the Telegraph provoked another round of (twitter) outrage.

Now under a sudden attack, Berry chose to write a long, convoluted explanation of that line without ever apologizing for it. And because he did it in a hurry, the explanation did much more damage to his reputation as a journalist than the original article.

First was his mysterious classification of Asian players in the English team. He chose to exclude Nasser Hussain, who was born in Chennai, but instead focused on Monty Panesar, Samit Patel and Ravi Bopara - all of whom were born in England. The only explanation he could come up with is that Nasser has an English mother (so I guess he "looks" white unlike the other three).

Moving on, he had this line about Khwaja being the first non-white player to turn up for Australia since Sam Morris in the 19th century, "broadly speaking". Ashton Agar was playing all but two tests back and Andrew Symonds, Jason Gillespie and Dav Whatmore fit any definition of non-white players, broad or narrow.

And then there was this bizarre theory about Khwaja controlling his emotions (presumably because he has had to face scrutiny all his life because he is non-white in Australia) and this control of emotions is the cause of his downfall as a batsman. I guess given Dhoni's extreme control of his emotions it is time for India to stop the experiments with their Jharkhandi population.

As with most things, the coverup is doing more damage than the crime itself. All because he did not put in the time or effort to write a well thought out and researched explanation. Everything has to be done right now.

And oh, some of my best friends are journalists.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Crisis in Cricket: A Matter of Faith

When Dhoni hit Eranga for two sixes in the last over to seal victory in the finals of the Tri-Nation series, Sri Lankan fans did not say "let's get a bowling machine, replay those two balls and have it bowl perfect yorkers to negate any helicopter shots."

When Wahab Riaz's throw was not collected cleanly by Umar Akmal on the last ball of the WI-Pak game that could have prevented a tie, Pakistani fans did not say "let's replace Umar with Kamran and replay that last ball". OK, wrong example, but you get the idea :-).

When Siddle comprehensively beat Pietersen on the drive, and in Hill's judgment there was a nick, we shouldn't be clamoring for technology (hot spot, snicko etc.) to replace what Hill thought at that moment. Pietersen was beaten - it is inconclusive whether there was a faint nick or not. A millimeter here or there for Pietersen is as much a matter of luck as Hill believing one way or the other. It is part of the game.

The needless interruptions and constant questioning of umpire's calls is creating unnecessary pressure on both the umpires as well as the players calling the reviews. It is also magnifying the honest mistakes and creating additional pressure on an already high pressure job. And most importantly, as Gilchrist has pointed out, completely destroying the flow of the game.

If Eranga keeps bowling at the wrong spots, Sri Lankan selectors will drop him and replace him with a more reliable bowler. Similarly Pakistani selectors will drop Akmal and get a better keeper in there. If Aleem Dar keeps giving the Broads of the world not out, the ICC will score the decisions with all available technology and drop him from the elite panel.

Until then, all we need is faith that Eranga/Akmal/Hill/Dar are human and trying their best, and will occasionally get things wrong.

DRS should be used for post match accountability of umpire performance, not take the focus away from the 13 people on the field actually playing the game. The 1981 and 2005 Ashes were magnificent series and all people talk about after all these years are the heroics of Botham, Willis, Brearley, Pietersen, Flintoff, Vaughn, Warne...For all we know, Clarke and his team can come back and end up tying the score 2-2 but all the twitterati will talk about is the DRS. 

That's a shame. End DRS during the games, it's not cricket. 

Have a little faith.

Friday, July 26, 2013

An enchanting pair

Do you know the story, of this enchanting pair?
Regal and resolute, solid with flair.
A defeat once stared, but the duo said nay -
Valiantly they stood, battling an entire day.
Inspired by the two, the team came out as one
Dragons were slayed, and a victory was spun.

a miracle!, they said
never before, or in times ahead
deeds like these, ever get done.

Let's move forward, to two years and more,
Adelaide's the venue, and an amazing encore.
Xcuse me? Those two again?
Mocking history, in a manner so vain?
A team steps forward, one more battle is won
New chapters are needed, the war has just begun.

A sequel to "Reverse Swing"

also published on Cricinfo
Vishal Misra,  2003

Update. Dravid and Laxman read the poem and autographed it!

Reverse Swing

Would you believe this incredible pair,
a captain's dream, batsmen's nightmare,
swing and pace, that amazing mix,
in and out, and the one that kicks,
meet the kings - they have it all.

alas and despair, the thomases doubt,
noises are heard, allegations sprout,
do they tamper? is that their call?

What's the secret, of the swing reverse?
abounding arguments, mostly perverse.
quietly they continue, casting spells
actions speak, and the talent tells,
reality strikes - the theories fall.

Also published on Cricinfo
Vishal Misra,  1994

An old tribute to Seth

Sometimes I wonder if it were my fate,
to make my millions like the inimitable Seth.

He started off, with the Golden delight -

addressing next, the Sleepy tonight.

Onwards he went, with Beastly tales

making waves (and booming sales)

The best one yet, is his latest joy -

for I've just read, A Suitable Boy

The pursuit was long, taking ages

through sleepless nights, and 1400 pages

This time in prose, he unfolds his story

(but poetry fleets, his perennial glory)

He rekindled a fire, dying of late

so now it's me - a poet reincarnate!

Vishal Misra,  1993


One could never wish, a sorrier fate,
for a foe or friend, enemy or mate, 
spoken of, with extreme distaste, 
he's the man, you love to hate.
Shastri - the man and the image.

Erased are memories, of glory days,
of sixes hit, of winning ways,
time it was, he was the best around,
justly so, was the champion crowned.
Shastri - the world was his stage.

Slowly but, things turned around,
losses stared - a scapegoat was found,
selfish and arrogant, he was claimed,
for all evils, only one was named.
Shastri - the hunted and the caged.

Picking up the pieces, he resumed the fight,
the stars were away, but he showed their might,
leading from the front, the hungry pack,
to its rightful home, he got Ranji  back.
Shastri - the coming of age.

Also published on Cricinfo, 1994

Kambli The Mystery Bat

With apologies to Kambli, T.S. Eliot, Macavity and other feline

Kambli is the mystery bat,
    he's the new southpaw
for he is the master batsman,
    who can defy the law.

he's the bafflement of England,
    the Sri Lankan's despair.
but when they need the runs abroad,
    Kambli's not there!

Kambli, Kambli, there's no one like Kambli
    he's broken every batting law,
    his backlift defies gravity.
His craving for tons,
    would make Gavaskar stare
but when pace rips us apart,
    Kambli's not there!

You may seek him for style,
    you may search him for flair,
But I tell you once and once again,
    Kambli's not there!  

Kambli is not a ginger bat,
    not too tall or thin,
you'd know him, if you saw him,
    goldchains, he's draped in.

his eyes are deeply browed in thought,
    (probably they are loaned)
his bat is covered with dust from neglect,
    his hair is uncombed.
he sways his head from side to side,
    movements like a snake,
and when the trundlers think he's fast asleep,
    Kambli is wide awake!
Kambli, Kambli there is no one quite like Kambli,
    he is a fiend, a monster of mediocrity,
you may meet him in record books,
    you may see him in the square, 
but when a crisis is discovered
    Kambli's not there!

When the runs are needed quick,
    or the bowlers get on top, 
when India needs to save a test,
    or when a win hangs by the hair,  
that's the wonder of the whole thing -
    Kambli's not there!
Kambli Kambli there is no like Kambli,
    he's a genius, a monster of tenacity.
You may meet him in the record books,
    you may see him in the square
but when a crisis is discovered,
    Kambli's never there!
Also published on Cricinfo

Vishal Misra, 1995

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An article on Cricinfo

This is not really a blog post, but rather a link to my article that appeared on Cricinfo on June 11th 2013, kicking off the Cricinfo@20 celebrations. The article was on how ball by ball coverage of games on Cricinfo started under rather interesting circumstances.