Category: Columns Page 1 of 2

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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All that you missed from the Asia Cup

There's no better banter than India v Pakistan in the UAE

There’s no better banter than India v Pakistan in the UAE

The past week has been a bit of a blur with so much action in the Asia Cup that it has been difficult to keep up with posting here. But, fear not, here are a few things you might have missed out on:

What’s it like to watch an India-Pakistan match in the stands with an Indian-Pakistani couple?

Seated in front of your correspondent were three Pakistanis and one Indian, all clearly friends two possibly a couple. The banter began right then. “I told you before we came here. Bat first, make 270 and the game is ours.”

Read the full article on the Economic Times

Switched-on India Show Intent to Outplay Pakistan

Pakistan chose to bat. They slip-slid their way to 162. India knocked off the runs in 29 overs with eight wickets to spare. Perfect game for India? Well, yes and no.

Read the full article on CricketNext.com

Is the Asia Cup more about getting India and Pakistan to play each other?

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Catch up on the India-Pakistan previews

India v Pakistan, were you there?

Too much happened too fast for us to update this page. That’s what India v Pakistan does. But words were written in the meantime, and you might want to check them out:

India vs Pakistan: Hong Kong Alert India to Potential Banana Peels on Road to World Cup

Did India take their opening match of the Asia Cup, against Hong Kong, lightly? No. Did they use the opportunity of playing against an unestablished team as a chance to try a few things? Yes. Were they right in doing so? Absolutely.
With the World Cup approximately nine months away, and India playing 20-odd 50-over matches in the meantime, any chance to nail down their best players in the top order and lower middle-order cannot be wasted.

Read a full preview on CricketNext.com

India plays Pakistan in Asia Cup match in Dubai today. Need more be said?

There’s a huge difference between the way cricketers approach a game and the way fans and supporters approach it. If ever proof was needed, one should look no further than an India-Pakistan match.

It does not matter if the match is a dead rubber at the end of a bilateral series, a World Cup match, or what’s unfolding now, the Asia Cup. Why, there’s a distinct possibility that India could play Pakistan thrice in this short tournament, if the results work out right. How’s that for managing a mini-series even when the governments can’t agree to play each other bilaterally?

For the players, there is only way to approach such a game — like it is a cricket contest, and no different from one against any other top team. If they get caught up in the hype and hoopla — such as the war of words between the fans or the provocative ranting of certain television anchors — they simply would not be able to play.

Read the full article at ThePrint.in READ MORE

Money for nothing? No right, wrong in Star-BCCI impasse

When neither party in an argument is right or wrong, where do you go from there?

There is a special kind of impasse in which nobody is right, nobody is wrong and yet no reasonable agreement is possible. This is exactly the situation the Board of Control for Cricket in India finds itself in with their most important commercial partners of the moment, Star Sports.

Star is pumping in close to Rs. 24,000 crore to Indian cricket for the broadcast rights of matches played in India and the Indian Premier League, over the next five years. When you put down such a large sum of money, there exists a reasonable expectation of being treated fairly, if not well. So, when Virat Kohli was rested for the Asia Cup, in which India could potentially play Pakistan three times, it should have come as no surprise to executives in the BCCI that their counterparts at Star would be less than pleased. So, when an employee of Star wrote to the Asian Cricket Council, who are organisers of the tournament, pointing out that the BCCI had a responsibility to the tournament and its broadcasters, it’s fair to say he was not trying to act high-handed, throw his weight around because of the cash his company is forking out, but that he was merely doing his job.

Read the full column at the Economic Times READ MORE

New-look Pakistan Provide India a Glimpse of What to Expect in Blockbuster Clash

Mercurial Pakistan? Not as much as you think.

Two Indians have already felt the full force of what this Pakistan team is capable of in the Asia Cup. Well, in a roundabout way. Anshuman Rath, Hong Kong born and bred in England, in the fabled Harrow school where he took up a place as a boarder at 14 to pursue cricket was dismissed by Faheem Ashraf and Kinchit Shah, born in Mumbai but having played for Hong Kong through age-group cricket, made 26 before Hasan Ali got him.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong will play India but before that the two teams will rub shoulders at the International Cricket Council Academy ground when they practice together. Rohit Sharma is the friendly sort and if Hong Kong’s players want to have a word he will gladly engage and perhaps even ask a question or two about India’s Wednesday opponents.

The Pakistan-Hong Kong match was understandably one-sided – Hong Kong have just 800 active cricketers, about how many you see on a single Mumbai maidan on any given morning – and Pakistan were just too strong for them. Hong Kong don’t even have permanent One-Day International status, although the two matches they play in this tournament will be officially recognised.

Read the full piece on CricketNext.com READ MORE

Malinga slings back into menacing form

Lasith Malinga returned to ODI cricket with a fiery spell in Dubai

Rilava bene, girava gahe.
For all non-Sinhala speakers, this pithy sentence was the one that banished Lasith Malinga to the wilderness. When Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister, Dayasiri Jayasekara, questioned the fitness levels of certain members of the team in June 2017, it was widely assumed he was taking a dig at Malinga.

The response? Rilava bene, girava gahe. Roughly translated from Sinhala, this equates to: “What does a monkey know about a parrot’s nest? This is like a monkey getting into a parrot’s nest and talking about it.”

Naturally the Sports Minister, who signs off on every Sri Lankan national team selection did not take too kindly to be likened to a monkey. But Malinga was making a point, not slinging mud. He was saying, in his rustic way, that those who have not been in his place should not judge too quickly.

On Saturday, Malinga roared back into the 50-over cricket world at the Asia Cup in Dubai. Fifth ball of the first over, Liton Das went for a duck, kissing a full ball that left him late. Next ball, Shakib-al-Hasan finds his stumps shattered by a yorker long before he can bring bat down. Bangladesh are 1-2 after Malinga’s first over in his return to ODIs.

They stabilise through a 132-run third-wicket stand, Mushfiqur Rahim (144) and Mohammad Mithun (63) doing all they can to stabilise things at the Dubai International Stadium. It was Malinga who broke the stand, a ball coming on too quickly to Mithun who tried to play to on, and then the bowler made it two in two overs when Mosaddek Hossain parried a short one to the keeper.

Malinga ended the game with figures of 10-2-23-4, even as Bangladesh won by 137 runs.

Read the full article at CricketNext.com

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And we’re back!

The Asia Cup 2018 has begun in Dubai and it’s time to get into the groove once more. Check out some of the early missives from the cricket ground in the middle of the desert.

India are always favourites, but Pakistan are at home in Dubai and the rest aren’t here to make up the numbers

As simple as the flicking of a switch or the changing of channels with the press of a button on your remote, Indian fans will be transported from the relatively cool heat-wave climes of England, where India lost 1-4, to Dubai, where it will be 40 degrees centigrade in the shade, the cricket balls white and kit blue.

Read the full article at CricketNext.com
India bring their own net bowlers, but they will only play in Dubai

If you are an Indian living in Abu Dhabi, read this and weep. No matter what happens, the Indian cricket team will not play any of its league games at the magnificent Shaikh Zayed Stadium. The 90-minute commute from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is a bit too much for India’s finest and therefore they will play all their matches in Dubai, where they are staying.

Read the full article on CricketNext.com

When India play Pakistan it’s called war minus the shooting, but, is it, really?

It does not have the pedigree of the Ashes or the charm of the trans-Tasman rivalry but India v Pakistan is the kind of cricket fixture that the people of two countries that share a contentious, violent and historically bloody border can never ignore. On September 19, this rivalry will be rejoined and the military jargon will be back: war minus the shooting, aman ki asha, cricket diplomacy … The match is a winner for the organisers of any tournament featuring the two teams.
Read the full article on the Economic Times website

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Kumble-Kohli rift or smoke without fire?

Anil Kumble

The rift that nobody can confirm has made speculation rife

When did you stop beating your wife?

More children died in Iraq because of US bombings than Hiroshima, was it worth it?

Should a slap delivered to a naughty child as part of responsible parenting be considered violent behaviour?

These are only obvious examples of the concept of a loaded question, one which cannot be answered in any satisfactory manner without the respondent either implicating himself or sounding positively evasive.

It’s also the perfect storm, the ideal story for a slow news day. The absence of both protagonists denying the story can be construed as tacit acceptance. If the two had differing views, then that just reaffirmed the hypothesis. If neither said anything, one way or another, that only kept the embers kindled.

In short, there is no more safely convenient story to write, than the rift between two individuals, as neither an MRI nor a blood test, an ultrasound scan or stool sample, a psych evaluation or an X-Ray does a job.

Indian cricket, in its own uniquely twisted way, is putting itself through a similar, predictable and utterly avoidable exercise in masochism. And, unfortunately, there have been attempts to drag Virat Kohli, the captain, and Anil Kumble, the coach, into a political quicksand that the two have spent their lives avoiding.

Is there friction between captain and coach? Of course there is, otherwise what sort of relationship would that be. Endlessly agreeing with the guy sitting across the table may make for smooth sailing, but it does not help build anything useful or lasting. Kumble has achieved enough as a cricketer to be immune to scrutiny of his credentials, and a fellow cricketer such as Kohli is unlikely to go down that path anyway.

Kohli is the most powerful person in Indian cricket today. In the absence of a cricket board worth its name and with successive successes under the belt, India’s triumphant captain, the most marketable one at the end of a list of multi-millionaires, is the one who calls the shots, without having to. If Kohli wanted Kumble out, only to be replaced by X, Y or Z, that would have happened already.

On the record, Kohli says that he has enjoyed working with Kumble and that he respects him a great deal and values his inputs. On the record, Kumble says that he admires the way Kohli approaches the game, praises him for the effort he puts into moving India forward and thinks the best way to progress is to allow the captain to grow even more.

Off the record, it is not clear what Kohli feels about Kumble, but suggestions that he would not want to work with him any longer are Chinese whispers of the worst kind. Even if these two independent, intelligent, strong characters reached the conclusion that they could not work together, the suggestion that they would effect the split through sources close to sources and media reports, is laughable.

For a moment, it’s worth applying logic to a situation that has been created out of extreme speculation, but, unfortunately these are the times we live in. If Kohli was as against Kumble as reports calling their relationship a rift suggest, why would he have Kumble representing the team in a meeting with the Committee of Administrators that was deliberating the issue of increased pay for the players, and coaching staff? If indeed Kumble was overbearing and authoritarian, it is inconceivable that Kohli would have a problem with this, for the captain is far less tolerant of that kind of indiscipline than the coach.

And then there’s the other bit of inconvenient logic. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced that its Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, will have the final say on who the next India coach will be, at the end of the Champions Trophy, when Kumble’s contract runs out. A year ago, this same committee — all of whom have played Test cricket for India under Kumble’s captaincy — came to the conclusion that Kumble was the best man to steer the team.

At the time, Kumble had no formal coaching experience, despite having mentored an Indian Premier League team, and no certificates to show that he had obtained the paper qualifications that some authorities prize over all else. An unknown quantity, in terms of coaching record, Kumble was this committee’s choice over Ravi Shastri, who had done all that was asked of him with a team in transition in his role as Director of Cricket.

A year later, with Kumble being part of an Indian team that has not lost a Test series — something he would have loved when he had the ball in hand — how can the same committee choose to remove him? The fact that Kumble was announced as a “direct entry” into the process of appointing the next coach once his contract came to its natural conclusion suggests that this emaciated and decapitated Indian board wants to appear to be following the most transparent practices possible.

But, to announce this process — as transparent as that story of the emperor having no clothes — while India begin their defence of the Champions Trophy, was an insult to a great cricketer and a successful coach. Was there anyone in the BCCI who believed that they would be right in sacking Kumble, if the team went on to win the Champions Trophy?

If Kohli has a problem with Kumble, he either needs to sort it out in a back room, either with the man in question, or through BCCI back channels. The overwhelming evidence is that the two may never be best buddies, will not always see eye to eye, but are best suited to work together to take Indian cricket forward.

Any source that says otherwise, is either on the sauce, on the way out, or both.

(This article first appeared in the Scroll website on May 31, 2017) READ MORE

An Indian Premier League XI to take on the Men in Blue

Gautam Gambhir

Gautam Gambhir is easily the best captain of the latest season of the IPL © Sportskeeda

After dust settled, at least temporarily, in the fracas between the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the three-man selection committee was finally allowed to do its job and pick a team to play in the Champions Trophy. As choices go, this was not a terribly challenging task.

The Indian One-Day International team wears a fairly settled look and with the key characters in the show fit, there was little doubt about what India’s best eleven would be. In the backdrop of the Indian Premier League, however, a certain buzz was created around the selection, with several young Indian cricketers having made a splash in the tournament.

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Hurting Indian cricket may be fun but it is good for no-one

Economic Times

Shashank Manohar may think he has saved cricket. But what has he actually done?
© Economic Times

If turning wine into water was a skill in demand, Shashank Manohar would be the most sought after man on the planet. The man who claimed he was returning for a second innings at the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to save the game, left with his association in tatters. This was not so much abandoning a sinking ship as taking a speedboat from one to a luxury cruise liner that was on a speck on the horizon. And now, the man liberally misidentified as a messiah has applied his reverse-Midas touch at the International Cricket Council.

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