Abey Kuruvilla

Kuruvilla and press conferences, old truly is gold

Abey Kuruvilla
Abey Kuruvilla announces his retirement at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in 2000

Abey Kuruvilla has a great sense of humour. So much so that he does not mind the fact that he is remembered more for his height than his considerable achievements with the ball.

Young readers today may not quite understand what the fuss is all about. After all, India’s fast bowling stocks have never been better. 

Today, India’s quick bowlers are as fast anyone else, as skilled as the best in the business, as fit as the strongest and generally just lethal. What’s more, there are so many of them in harness that it doesn’t seem to matter if one or two are injured at any given point of time. But it was not always so.

Victor Trumper's grave

Waverly XI: Trumper’s team from beyond the grave

A haunting image has done the rounds today, in these most difficult of times of the COVID-19 crisis. It is of the cruise ship Ruby Princess, off the coast of New South Wales. The ship, which is now thought to be one of the major sources of Corona Virus cases in Australia, is pictured out at sea in the background, while in the foreground is a cemetery, and seeing that, memories of Waverly Cemetery came rushing back.

Asanka Gurusinha

Gurusinha in Melbourne: Christmas lunch with a forgotten hero

Five years ago, when India were in Australia, I was intrigued by the manner in which so many cricketers from around the world had made that country their second home. One such was Asanka Gurusinha, one of the stars of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup win.

Even though he was overshadowed by many of his team-mates, Gurusinha’s contribution through that tournament cannot be underestimated. When I sought an appointment to meet him in Melbourne, the only time that worked for both of us was lunch on Christmas day.

Soweto Cricket Oval

Soweto Oval: More than a cricket club

Back in 2013, when India toured South Africa, I had the chance to go back to a club that had so much significance for so many South Africans. This is what I wrote:

In the Gezina neighbourhood of Pretoria, on Sunday, a Catholic priest and his assistant were attacked. When the two were on the ground, as blows rained down on them, the attackers taunted the fallen: Where is your Mandela now? The story prompted the Star newspaper to put that question on their pithy flyers. Everywhere in Soweto, the most famous black township in South Africa, and probably the world, the same question was on the lips as Madiba received his sendoff in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Sadiki Bolt

Beast Blake in Bombay and Prince Bolt of Kingston

When Usain Bolt isn't in Kingston it's a pleasure to meet Sadiki Bolt. Oh, and Johan Blake was in Bombay.


Oh Kartik my Kartik

With deepest apologies to Walt Whitman, who wrote O Captain my Captain I begin this story of a friendship that has spanned two decades.

When he first called me, Murali Kartik referred to me as sir, likely from having been in Delhi as long as he had, and I was working for the Cricinfo website. I had written a very complimentary piece on this left-arm spinner and yet he called with a complaint.

Apparently, in the statistics I had quoted I had missed a wicket he had taken. I double checked with Mohandas Menon, the pre-eminent statistician in India cricket at the time and he confirmed that I was not wrong. Politely but firmly I told Kartik it was best he concentrated on taking wickets and left the counting of the same to the rest of us.


Cricket’s Prince Charles, our Brian

In the early 2000s I got my first mobile phone. Thanks to a well-placed uncle I was given a choice of number. The first two digits were fixed but I could take anything I wanted for the last three. I chose 375. Then the highest Test score, registered by a wiry West Indian left-hand bat.

I have a dictaphone you have a rum!

At the time no batsman was top of the mind and more inspirational than Brian Charles Lara. The young whippersnapper killed fast bowling with rasping cuts and audacious pulls, but he was equally good against spin.


Duck, Rahul and Mayank

When KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal were just teenagers hitting the ball for fun, long before they became world beaters.


Wordsworth’s Typhoon

Richie Benaud, who has been to more Test cricket as a player and commentator than any man yet born, called him the fastest bowler he had ever seen. The rest of the world simply referred to him as The Typhoon.

Frank Holmes Tyson, who played only 17 Tests for England, between the years of 1954 and 1959, was a true Ashes hero. Born in Farnworth, Lancashire, on June 6, 1930 to an employee of the Yorkshire Dyeing Company who would not live long enough to see his son sport the Three Lions England crest, Tyson was unorthodox and frighteningly fast.


Numbers on jerseys? Bring it on!

Muttiah Muralitharan: 800; Marlon Samuels 730; Hardik Pandya 228; Herschelle Gibbs 00; Mashrafe Mortaza 0; Virender Sehwag BLANK.
What’s in a jersey number in cricket?
Originally devised as a means for spectators to identify cricketers on the field, the jersey number has since taken on so much more. 
Murali’s 800 was his tally of Test wickets, Samuels’s 730 the number of days he served banned from the game and Hardik’s 228 his highest score in any form of the game. Gibbs wore 00 to signify a fresh start, Mortaza went from 20 to 2 and then 2 to 0 to show the circle was complete and Sehwag, well his numerologist suggested a change from one number to another and when it didn’t work he went nude, discarding the number altogether.
In this day and age, though, it is surprising that this giant piece of real estate on a cricketer’s back hasn’t been used in a more innovative manner. Given that is is one of the parts of a player’s kit that is not for sale, yet, it provides a unique opportunity.
Consider this scenario. If each player had a different number each game, that would make it next to impossible for him to be identified in that manner, right? In a match that was broadcast, this would not be an issue as the commentators get a list of player jersey numbers at the start of each game. So they would still be able call the game without much disruption.
But what about the fan in the stands? Virat Kohli was 27 in one game and 43 today? Each of these fans has a smart phone. If they logged into the relevant application (apparently that’s what an app is), at the moment the Indian Premier League, and they clicked on the Royal Challengers Bangalore versus whichever team they were playing on the day and punched in 43, they would know which that player was.
In the meantime, having not only drawn someone into the app, with a view to the person following the game in that manner, the host has a chance to advertise the league, promote the team, and any associated sponsors while they are at it.
While this sounds like crass commercialisation, because it is just that in the context of a tournament such as the IPL, think of how it might be used in different contexts.
If you go to a domestic first class match, where the big screen is largely not in operation, there isn’t a radio broadcast to tune into and every player is wearing white and white, it can become impossible to distinguish one player from another on the field. You might be a regular at the M A Chidambaram Stadium and recognise every Tamil Nadu player by his gait, the shape of his backside when he is standing at slip facing away from you or his choice of wristbands, but you will struggle to place anyone in the opposition team. What if each had a number on the back of his jersey that gave everything away, for that game only?
You go to the BCCI app, then to the Ranji Trophy, then that match and voila! The number tells you all. At a time when audiences for domestic first class cricket are at an all-time low even as viewership for leagues and international cricket is booming, why not boost the one place where the lower levels of the game are being followed? Domestic cricket around the world has a serious audience on the Internet and while that once meant a computer in the home or workplace, it has now become the handheld device, whether phone, tablet or even the phablet.
If these are the people propping up the following of domestic cricket, either as dedicated consumers or casual observers, why not serve them better, while at the same time driving traffic to the game? Every cricket board today has a free app and each of them are looking at ways to increase following for non-international cricket. This serves both purposes without costing a dime to anyone. 
Naturally there will be a need to update jersey numbers on match morning, but when you have live scores on the app, this is a trivial thing to do. If you don’t have live scores, then you probably aren’t interested in the traffic in the first place.
While this brings further traffic into domestic cricket, the possibilities in a tournament such as the IPL are even more mind boggling. Just as Google sells key words that are searched, and IPL team could sell No. 10 to the highest bidder, leaving their key player wearing it, and each time the search happened on the app, an advertisement could be delivered. At a time when media rights and franchise fees are at an all-time high, who would not welcome a new revenue stream?
Today, each player chooses his jersey number. Some are traditional and pick the one their favourite player wore, some are superstitious and choose a birthday or an anniversary. Some have to just settle for what’s left.
Why not democratise this in a manner that is win-win for everyone?


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