Beer, Chips and Cricket

This is a site about drinking beer, eating chips and thinking cricket. I am not a former player, a television commentaror or a journalist; my qualification to being worthy of hearing is that I drink a lot of beer, eat a lot of chips and think a lot about cricket. The thoughts need not be politically correct and often include colourful language but there will be no deliberate bias towards any player, community or state. I don't care about popular opinion or perceptions and I speak it as I see it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Hail the new coach - Greg Chappell

It all ended pretty tamely, actually. From the beginning, Chappell was touted as the favorite but the media went and made a big noise about the others. Of course, they were fed newsbytes by many experts / sources / ex-players who probably did not know anything more than what the Chuckster knew about any inside news.

1. Desmond Haynes is a good prospect coz he is a West Indian and the next world cup is in the West Indies. What stupid logic!

2. Amarnath should be the coach coz only Indians can understand the Indian conditions / players well. I don't know what John Wright would say to that but there r fools who still make this comment after 4 and a half years of Wright's tenure. Of course, it is also true that the only way Amarnath was gonna get the job was either as assistant coach or if the argument of "swadeshi vs videshi" obtained a patriotic result from the committee. Thankfully that wasn't so. See, I would love to see an Indian as coach too ... it's not as if the Chuckster has anything against Indians ... The Chuckster just has something against the Indian mentality where sports are concerned.

I agree that Indians top in every field they enter and they have brilliant minds. However, this is not applicable to "all" Indians ... "all Indians" are not brilliant just as "all Aussies" are not tough bastards. When one looks at Indian cricketers, one could count on one's fingertips the number of cricketers (past and present) who could even remotely be called smart. Here I am not talking about speaking english fluently or wearing Armani suits but in the way they think about cricket ... since their field is cricket, "smart" here refers to their being smart in their cricket thinking. Gavaskar and Shastri are two examples that come to mind as two smart cricket brains ... I am sure there r others but the point it ... among the total, such smart ones are very few. Even out of these few smart minds, those capable of taking unbiased decisions are even few ... hmmm, actually I can't think of any right now but give me an year or two and I might come up with some unbiased Indian expert / player.

Don't get me wrong here ... the cricketers' job is to play cricket and Sandeep Patil and Mohinder Amarnath did a great job of it. That is very different from what is their role as coach ... it's like a top notch Software Engineer being made the CEO of a company ... hell, he writes great code ... he would probably make a great CEO. Naah ... that don't happen 99 times out of 100. We have experimented with Indian coaches for many years and there r so many ex-cricketers around that I am sure we could keep experimenting with Indian coaches for the next 100 years ... in the middle, around the 50th year, we might even get an Indian coach who is better than the Moody and Chappells ... the Chuckster says - "Pick the best today ... You buy a Mercedez Benz ... You don't go on buying Indian cars in the hope that one of them eventually would end up being better than a Benz".

Kapil Dev wanted his "boys to go out and have fun". One other ex-cricketer was reported to have indignantly said something to the tune of "the boys don't need a coach ... what is the coach gonna do ... teach Kumble to bowl or Tendulkar to bat? ... the coach has to be a motivator and a friend to the players". The Chuckster's reaction to that is - "abe chootiye ... mooh band kar na". Can we have a law banning stupids from bring shown on TV or being quoted in the print / electronic media please?

It basically shows off the ignorance of people about what a coach's real role is ... I am sure Greg Chappel or Moody or Amarnath himself for that matter had no plans to give Kumble any bowling tips or Tendulkar any batting tips. Amarnath was quoted as having said "Knowledge of working on laptops is not a necessity for a coach" ... welcome to the stone age, guys. Let's give up all this internet - shinternet and go back to communicating through smoke signals ... whenever the Chuckster wants to make an update to his blog, I will send it out as smoke signals (once I learn about them) ... u guys figure out a way of seeing and reading the signals.

Anyway, the Chuckster wanted Chappell and the Chuckster got Chappell. That makes me happy. Now we can see what a man with a brain and ideas can do to this team of windbags. John Wright was a good coach, in my opinion, coz he took the first few steps of bettering the team ... imbibing the concepts of working together and working to a plan. What he couldn't give the team was the mindset to go for higher things, to boldly go where no Indian team has gone before. We are so un-used to great results (note, I am not talking about great individual performances) that we think we did great under John Wright ... that is the advantage that John Wright had. When you are comparing something to the very depths, anything above level ground is good. Hell, compared to Madan Lal, Kapil Dev types, the Chuckster could come up with good looking results as coach.

It is not about motivating the team ... if being among the 11 in a nation of a billion is not motivation enough, it will never come coz ur friendly neighbourhood coach (in the form of brother / father figure) sat down with you and motivated you. It is also not about giving Kumble bowling tips or Tendulkar batting tips. Yes, they can always learn new tricks (I know it sounds scandalous, but even Tendulkar) but the coach need not be the guy to teach them.

It is about managing a team of 14 players, extracting the maximum from everyone and some more, kicking ass when required, and making battle plans for beating up each and every player of each and every opposition team. It is about wondering if Tendulkar would make a better contribution to the team as an opener in Test matches. Even if one wonders and then discards the idea, the point is in wondering. It is about making sure (with a stick in hand, if necessary) that Ganguly goes to an expert, Chappell or otherwise, learns the tricks of tackling the short ball. It is about making sure Ganguly gets enough time in the nets to practice his batting and even more time to practice his fielding (again, a favorite quote of the Chuckster - Fielding is NOT equal to catching) and telling him that a captain who has a knack for picking talent and scoring low scores has a better place outside the 11 then inside it. It is about keeping 3 different plans in mind for who goes in at number 3 based on the situation of the match.

The last point rankled so much in the recent Pakistan ODI series. Dhoni blasted the team to a win at number 3 in one ODI and that is it ... Dhoni comes at 3 come what may for the rest of the matches. I don't have anything against it coz he didn't do badly but come on, the thinking has to change match to match and situation to situation. As a gamble, it was good ... as a strategy, it showed an inability to come up with variations to the original plan.

Chappell is good coz of two things -
1. He is an Aussie so he never would understand he could lose.
2. He thinks a lot so he won't think sending in Dravid at 3 is the best idea irrespective of whether the score is 1/1 or 188/1.

The Chuckster has frequently mentioned in his posts that the Indian team has never aimed for greatness. They are content being good. The reason why the Aussies are 10 streets ahead of the Indians is coz they are never content with the level they achieve. They are ready to push the limits of all borders of possibility and that makes them great. Even when they lose, it is coz they chose to go for a win than a truce ... and they lose in the process. That is what "being an Aussie" means for the Chuckster.

The Indians under Wright / Ganguly have time and again backed out of a slugfest, opting instead to play safe and draw a match (even in that they have not been successful many times). You know what the Chuckster wants to see? A target of 400 in the last innings with one day remaining being chased ... no, wait a minute - let me re-phrase that. The Chuckster wants to see - a target of 400 in the last innings with one day remaining ... and the Indians having no doubts in their mind that they are gonna chase it or die trying. That is what the Chuckster wants to see.

Chappell is on record saying SRT might make a good test opener for India. That is debatable ... but what the Chuckster wants to see is a damn good shot at the idea. What the Chuckster wants to see is someone telling Tendulkar (or Dravid or Ganguly or Sehwag for that matter) - "You don't like the idea ... let me tell you why it is a good idea" ... and then spend a lot of time explaining why it is a good idea and how it could work.

If Tendulkar (or Ganguly or Laxman or Sehwag) is still not convinced, then tell them - "Ok, you don't have to agree with me ... but you still gotta do what I tell you to do ... coz I am the tactician here ... you don't make the battle plans ... I do ... You play cricket ... I tell you how to play your cricket" ... and once the experiment happens, do either of the two - a) Say "Hmmm, I thought it would work ... but u tried ur best and I am convinced now it won't... lets go back to the drawing board" or b) Say "Hmmm, it didn't work ... you know why ... coz you never tried to succeed ... next match you are gonna open again if I see the same kind of application / attitude, I will make sure u never play in any eleven for which I am coach".

Let's freak out, guys! We have such players that we could touch the heavens in terms of what we could achieve. Now we have a coach who, if he holds true to form (the reason why he was selected), can show the way to various possibilities. Surely, there must be some strategy hidden somewhere whereby India can beat Australia 8 times out of 10? If with Sehwag, SRT, Dravid and Laxman in the team, we can't do it, I shudder to think when we will.

I am sure Chappell would have his own views on how to go about the job but these are a few things I can suggest to him off the top of my head -

1. Tendulkar can be told how to bat (I am not talking about gap between bat and pad here).

2. Dravid can be told to keep wickets in ODIs even if he is the best batsman we have today (the best in tests and very good in ODIs) and and doesn't like it. It doesn't have to be only when Ganguly is captain. It depends, not on who is captain, but on whether a "better" option is available or not.

3. Ganguly can be told his field settings are too defensive (better option, of course, is to tell him which field settings would be better).

4. Teach the team at all times - go for a win at all times, even if it results in a loss.

5. Irrespective of what the players themselves think of any decision / strategy, once it has been taken, either the players follow it or they get out. They don't even have to understand the strategy. Let this be very clear to everyone in the team.

Everyone says the cricketers know what to do ... they have played 100 tests and 200 internationals etc. Fact - most of them have no clue. They can run in and bowl ... they can flay a bat and make contact with the ball more times than not. That is the extent of their expertise. The players in the team are not the decision makers. Most of them couldn't make a decision of which pants match which shirt. The coach / captain are the decision / strategy makers. That is why the topic of who the coach is gets so much of importance from the Chuckster compared to other experts who smugly suggest "it is just a coach ... not a messiah ... after all it is the boys who have to go out there and play" ... Chuckster repeating request made earlier - "Can we keep a life ban on the stupids please?".

Finally to close, to those who think having a foreign coach is a blow to our national pride or whatever ... I am glad we are getting an Australian ... not coz he is great ... but coz I know all the Indian contenders were lousy ... while the Indian cricket team could end up as losers under Chappell, it would definitely end up as losers under Ashok Malhotra / Madan Lal / Amarnath etc. Here I have hope.


The Chuckster

Thursday, May 19, 2005

May 19, Thursday

As the interviews go on behind closed door, and no leaks yet, let us talk on other things than who becomes the coach. I am sure we will come to know sooner or later.

There was a meeting of an ICC sub-committee recently that came up with some very radical proposals to make ODI cricket more interesting. Briefly stated, I remember two main points -

1. A team of 12 to be applicable instead of the present 11. Only 11 take the field at any given point of time but "one and only one" player can be substituted "one and only one" times with the 12th man. In which case, the 12th man becomes part of the 11 for the remainder of the match and the one substituted takes no more part in proceedings for that match.

2. Instead of the present day 15 over fielding restrictions, to go ahead with a 20 over restriction period with the first 10 overs mandatorily having the restrictions. The remaining 10 overs can be utilized at the fielding captain's discretion in two slots of 5 overs (which could also be together ... thus making the possibility of first 20 overs of the innings having fielding restrictions a possibility).

Both ideas have been debated for long (remember Gavaskar talking about these as a commentator for at least two years now) and now they will finally be experimented with. No doubt there will be tremendous confusion in the beginning as teams grapple with the complexities of the how / when / what of the new stipulations. No longer will a captain's job be to move a fielder from slip to short cover and be done with it. Frankly, in my opinion, if these stipulations do become part and parcel of the game, the role of the off-field captain (as I like to call the coach) becomes tremendous. The on field captain has many things to worry about, as it is, including his own batting / bowling / fielding and this strategy planning only add to the pressure. The concept of substitutions and fielding restrictions gives the captain a chance to deal a killer blow to the opposition but for that the timing has to exact. No way is an on-field captain gonna be able to handle it on his own. Even with a coach sitting in the pavillion, it is difficult.

Software will probably play a larger part in cricket now ... usually one feeds information into a computer and analyses it for future strategies. Now during the course of play, the coach would probably be busy with a laptop coz working out so many things mentally would be very hard. It's something like the rain rule ... without a computer calculating stuff ball per ball, no one would really get it (unless he were a genius, which the Chuckster is not). Soon, the entire game of ODI cricket would be like that. See, mentally one can make many strategies but there is a limit to that aspect ... for a laptop totting coach, it basically makes it a hell lot easier with lesser chances for error ... no "oops ... I made a mistake ... I calculated 1 plus 1 as 11".

Anyway, the Chuckster likes both ideas simply coz from a game (I know many would dispute that even today) of bat and ball, it would become a game of bat, ball and the sharper mind among the two teams playing. Sure, today everybody is a "thinking" cricketer ... but now the thinking part won't be just theory.

I was reading an article just now where Amarnath is quoted as having said - "my brother in law helped me make the presentation as I am not too comfortable with computers" ... Ok, so one can probably have a computer analyst as part of the support cast for the cricket team (I think there is one even now) ... but that statement kinda made me depressed to think of him as our next coach.

Good news from Sania Mirza ... though she was knocked out in the qualifying round of the Strasbourg tournament, in the doubles event, she and her partner knocked out the top seeds in the main draw. Good going, girl.

To move from sports altogether, the new Harry Potter book is gonna come out on July 16 and the Chuckster is pretty excited about it. I know people consider that to be a kiddy book but hey, I still got my set of Enid Blytons from school days ... and I don't mind admitting I pick one up whenever I want to relax. The Chuckster loves the Harry Potter series (but lesser than the "Lord of the Rings") and is gonna read the new book at the first chance he gets. This being the sixth book in the series, the Chuckster was probably the first guy in Hyderabad to get his hands on the fifth book two years back ... on the day of release, book stores were under strict orders not to sell books before 10 AM. The Chuckster not knowing that reached his bookstore at 8 AM to be told by the shop guy that he would have to wait two hours to take the book. Some sweet talking and I had the book in my hands at 8:15 AM. Maybe I was the first and maybe I wasn't the first guy in Hyderabad to get the book ... the point is - The Chuckster is gonna read the new Potter the first chance he gets.

Only problem is that the book is so bloody expensive ... the new one is priced at 900 rupees and the Chuckster's wife had a fit when she heard that six months down the line, it would be available at around a hundred rupees in the pavement book markets in Hyderabad and yet, I was gonna to get my hands on it on the first day and pay 900 bucks for it. We reached a compromise whereby I try to book it online and get a discount on it (Sify is giving 25%) ... only problem is that I won't get it on the day it releases ... probably a couple of days after that coz shipping would take time. is delivering books in the US and UK on the same day it releases ... free delivery at that ... and in India, it takes "minimum of two working days from the release date of the book, Sir" to get the book to the Chuckster. Hell, that sucks.

Hoi all ... if anyone knows a way by which I can get the book at the same 25% discount on the same day as release (July 16), do let me know. I would appreciate it.

Anyway, Cheers ... here is to the new coach, whoever he is.

The Chuckster

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Wednesday May 18

Lets start off with the coach saga since that is the hottest thing around. By this time more clarity has emerged with Patil having pulled out of the race. He has stated previous commitment as coach of Oman etc as the reason for pulling out but that is hogwash. For the amount of money Oman pays him and the value addition it would do for his resume, he seriously couldn't have expected people to buy the story. Ok, so to be polite no one actually would say so but everyone knows the reason for the pull out. On the other hand, the pull out was a smart move coz it always sounds better to say "I am not available" than be told "You are not required".

On the Dean Jones front, I forgot to mention this in my last post. Probably u guys might have seen this on the same sites I did but I don't remember many papers covering this bit of news. So here it is ... Deano's mom passed away on the same day as the shortlist for the coach's job was announced. So he lost his mom and a chance at the coach's position on the same day ... obviously the personal loss is greater but just thought would mention in case someone hadn't read about it. Jones is also a contender for the SL post but from what reports I have read, even there he is not in the shortlist ... from what I read, even SL is gonna pick from Moody and Chappel ... so basically what India leaves, SL takes.

On that score, my admiration for the BCCI's audacity grows. When the SL board was talking about announcing their coach within a few days and upstaging the Indians, the BCCI secretary (I think) had given a statement that the applicants for the job in SL would give their decision only once they learnt their fate from the Indian board. And bingo ... the SL board is forced to eat its words and announce that their selection would be finalized only after the Indian board finalizes its own coach. Basically, the leftovers go to SL. On one hand, the Indian board's statement was so cheeky and unprofessional ... typical BCCI ... but what is a cause for chargin is that the BCCI's stand is actually borne out by events. For all the time they dragged their feet before setting up the committee etc, they deserved one of their prime candidates to go to SL and thus give up his shot at the Indian coach slot. But probably, that wouldn't have taught anything to the BCCI either ... so we r probably better off this way.

The interviews are tomorrow and I really don't know what Amarnath hopes to achieve by turning up. Firstly, the BCCI hates him coz he has made fun of them in public in the past. Secondly, the BCCI is already supposed to be pissed off with him coz he talked in some interview about BCCI's inherent fascination with the "gori chamdi" (white skin) and wondered if applying "Fair and Lovely cream" would do him any good. Frankly, I don't know the validity of this report - either Amarnath's statement or the BCCI's pique - but from what we know of Jimmy, he could very well have said it. And if he did, I can very well imagine the BCCI wouldn't like it one bit. BCCI's ego ended Amarnath's career ... it could very well end his coaching ambitions (where India is concerned).

If Amarnath is in with a chance, it could only be in conjunction with either Moody or Chappell. With Chappell, it has to be a role of Assistant Coach, coz with a master batsman like him around, a batting coach would really look silly. This way, the BCCI basically grooms him to learn from Chappell. Question is whether Amarnath would consider this beneath him ... to work under a "gori chamdi"?

The second option for Amarnath is if Moody becomes coach coz then Amarnath could find a place as a batting coach ... specially since he is one of the best players of fast bowling India ever had. Frankly, the Chuckster doesn't like the idea of a batting coach but from reports, the BCCI is considering such an option (Even if it decides not to take that path finally). With guys like SRT, Dravid, Sehwag and Laxman around who in the Chuckster's opinion are (or were, in SRT's case) among the best in the world, a batting coach would be redundant. Even for cases like the present day SRT, it is not a batting coach he needs but a shrink ... anyway that is beating a dead horse. It is guys like Ganguly / Yuveraj / new boys who could utilize a batting coach but frankly, when you have SRT, Dravid, Sehwag and Laxman around, why should anyone need a batting coach? Batting strategy (play slow / play fast / run singles / drop ball at the feet and run / batting slot) is different from batting (technique / rising ball / flashing outside off stump etc) and while India definitely need a batting strategist, they DO NOT need a batting technician.

On the other hand, the Chuckster definitely likes the idea of having a bowling coach / fielding coach etc coz frankly, we don't have anyone in the present team (like we have batsman) who is great in those fields. We have many potentially good bowlers and one or two good fielders (note - taking catches is not equivalent to good fielding) ... we could definitely make use of a bowling / fielding coach.

Anyway, I don't know when the BCCI announces the selection though the interviews are slated for tomorrow (Thursday). I for one would be praying for Chappell to be the chosen one simply coz (as stated many times before) I am tired of the Indians playing the same kind of game day in day out. They can be great but they never try to reach that peak ... they r content with mediocrity and an occassional flash of brilliance. Yes, that mediocrity level has changed under Wright's tenure as in they r less mediocre but if with a team consisting of Dravid, SRT, Laxman, Sehwag and Kumble we cannot touch greatness then we probably will have to wait a long time to do something worthwhile.

As I said in my last post, it is Chappell's radical thinking that excites me ... I am sure Chappell and Moody would be equally determined and hard working and I am sure Moody would not be behind Chappell where toughness and attitude is concerned. However, where Chappell is a recognized genius (based on this thoughts, at least), Moody comes without a reputation.

On the lighter side, I read reports that Balwinder Sandhu and Ashok Malhotra r pissed off that they are not being considered for the post of Indian coach. The BCCI would have no objections to interviewing them, I am sure, since they r keen to show the public that they are more than willing to consider Indian choices (though the public knows that no way in hell is an Indian getting selected).

On other news, Sania Mirza crashed out in the second qualifying round of the Strassbourg tournament. She will make her next appearance at the French Open and simply put, this is the year for Sania to really freak out. Since the rankings are largely based on last year's performance, even not-great performances from Sania would only push her up ... if she manages a third round at Roland Gaross (yeah, might be wishful thinking but hey, doesn't cost anything) it would really shoot up her ranking. If she does lose in the first round, she won't really lose out too much. Win-win situation for her.

The shortlisting for the World Vs. World Champions matches to be played in Australia in Oct / Nov was announced ... amusing to note that Ganguly wasn't in either the test or ODI team (no surprises here) while SRT was present in both (if he makes the final 11 in the test team, it would only be courtesy a certain Mr. Gavaskar ... in the ODIs, he probably would make it easily). Laxman, Sehwag and Dravid would surely make the 11 in my test squad every time. Also amusing to note was Shoaib Akhtar's inclusion in both the squads. Frankly, if he doesn't keep breaking down and if one considers his "bad teamsmanship" - since this is not the Indian team we r talking about - to be none of our business then Akhtar is a very good choice ... if one looks at the bowling options available in the squads, suddenly the Indian bowling attack doesn't look too bad at all. Akhtar could really be a spearhead in this attack if used well and of course, if he doesn't break down.

Ok, I gotta run home. See ya, chaps.

The Chuckster

Monday, May 09, 2005

Coach shoach

Hmmm ... Chappell, Moody, Amarnath and Patil. Hmmmm.

Dean Jones was ignored as predicted by the site ... damn, they do have good sources. I was a bit sad coz I feel that he should have been interviewed. Whether selected or not depends on what kind of vision he outlines for the Indian team in the interview but shunting him at the shortlisting stage itself is a bit sad. It's not coz he is a foreigner (it's no secret that the Chuckster wants a foreigner for the coach's job) but coz he is level 4 certified by the Australian coaching institute or whatever it is called. From what I know, the standards r pretty good out there and if this guy is a Level 4 certified guy then he can at least be listened to. But the BCCI always was gonna play safe with the match-fixing mud stuck to Jones and hence he missed out.

Last time around, Chappell was said to have missed out coz he was more interested in what he would be paid than in what he could do for the team. Hopefully, this time around he would have learnt his lesson. See, one thing is simple ... the BCCI has a lot of money and it can pay a lot ... so if he does manage to impress the panel that he has a great vision for the team and explain how he plans to implement it ... once he makes them believe that he is the best man for the job ... he can always demand a lot of money.

Personally, I see no reason why he should not be paid a lot of money. I paid a lot of money for the 29 inch flat screen television I bought just before India went to Australia in 2003-04. I am sure plenty of people paid a lot of money for the fridges / air-conditioners / soft drinks they bought coz their favorite cricket stars endorse the products ... I am sure the players get paid a lot of money for playing ... no one grudges Tendulkar and Ganguly their pound of flesh ... why should the coach be any different? If players were not paid a lot of money, one could talk about the coach also being treated on equal terms ... but if the players earn so much, why not the coach ... the man who drives the team through all strategies? The BCCI makes tons and tons of money ... they spend a lot on meetings / elections / freebies ... no reason why they should not spend on a coach who can really make this team a world beater.

See, if u find a coach who can do it for less ... great. There is no law that says u have to pick the one who demands the most ... but there should be a law that says pick the best candidate irrespective of what he charges ... coz we, the people, deserve it ... and if they pay Chappell 4 times what they paid Wright, they still will have enough money to hire two more Chappells. With so much of money to play around with, Kanjoosi should not be the factor.

The two Indians in the list seem to be mere eye-candy. I cannot seriously see the panel selecting Patil or Amarnath whatever their credentials might be ... sure Kenya reached the semi finals of the world cup but by that score, we might as well pick the guy who coached Kapil's devils when we won the world cup in 1983 (btw, was there a position called "coach" at that time? "Manager" was present but "coach"?). Patil might be good or Patil might not be good but an Indian coach for this set of prima donnas will not work ... I am a great admirer of Indians in many sphere of life but when it comes to Sports and management (which is what a coach's role is supposed to be), I do not have any faith in an Indian being at the helm. Sooner or later, Patil's son or nephew would be vying for a place in the Mumbai cricket team or his brother would be contesting elections for the Karnataka state board secretary's position ... and there would end soundness in judgement.

Bring forth a guy who has no strings attached in the country's domestic circuits ... whether playing or administering ... and u can hope for professionalism ... bring forth any Indian of whatever repute, sooner or later he will have his own agendas interfering with work. No offence to Indians (I am one myself, u know) ... but I don't have faith.

Amarnath won't stick simply coz the board won't pick a troublemaker ... and the Amarnaths have traditionally been known as trouble-makers. Whether it be Jimmy or Lala, they have believed in calling a spade a spade and the BCCI won't forget the "bunch of jokers" comment in a hurry. By that score, though Chappell is also known to be very forthwright and no-nonsense, I think the BCCI might take shit from a foreigner ... but it won't take it from an Indian.

The choice really is between Moody and Chappell ... and I for one would like to take the plunge with Chappell ... he is supposed to be a master-thinker of the game ... he is supposed to be one of the greatest minds in terms of cricket thinking / strategizing and while Moody may be good / bad / ugly, I want to have a sample of what might be "the" greatest ... in Chappell. I read once in some article where Chappell advocated the use of Tendulkar as opener in tests ... and believe me, it gave me goose bumps ... coz we talk about these things but we also know they could never happen. When the push comes to shove, we always play safe ... imagine Tendulkar opening and getting a series of single digit scores ... no coach would want to take a chance with his career by doing that ... but from what I hear of Chappell, he might just have the balls to try it. That is what I want to see ... someone who tries things that give dramatic results ... not go by the standard rules that say ... India Test Team - Sehwag, XYZ, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman .... why do u need a phucking coach to do that? I mean as Plan A, its ok but not day in day out with the team giving the same miserable performances. I don't think this team has ever flirted with greatness ... they have at times played very good cricket (as in Australia the last time we went there) but they have never tried to be the best, except while talking. A Greg Chappell might be very expensive ... but even if the strategy fails, if he experiments with a Tendulkar opening in tests and a Ganguly opening again in ODIs with Sehwag smashing them apart in the slog overs, I would call the investment worthwhile. Sometimes we need to examine the borders of what is possible ... what use having greats in the team when u never try for greatness?

Sorry, friend Moody ... in this post, u r being ignored royally but basically the thought of u being coach makes me feel good ... the thought of Chappell being coach excites me a lot. I like to get excited when it comes to cricket ... nothing personal.

On the panel formed for selecting the coach, the thought of Gavaskar and Shastri together doesn't give me a very good feeling ... frankly, in my mind I can imagine the question "And how do u plan to use Tendulkar ... what kind of strategy do u have for him" being of tremendous importance when the interview panel is listening to any coach prospect's vision for the team. If Greg Chappel does open his mouth and say "I think he would make a tremendous opener for India in tests" I can see Gavaskar pressing the panic button. But again, I am glad to see Gavaskar be actively involved in something related to Indian cricket ... usually he is a guy who talks a lot but never actually gets involved in anything. He is easily one of the smartest ex-cricketers we have, even if a bit too defensive for the Chuckster's liking ... but the Chuckster likes smart people ... and I hope this is the beginning of Gavaskar's involvement in Indian cricket affairs. I also guess that there would always be a lot of politics / favoritism where Gavaskar is concerned ... but as long as he does some good to Indian cricket, hey ... even without him, there is a lot of favoritism / politics.

I have to run - To be continued.

The Chuckster

Thursday, May 05, 2005

no cricket boring life

What does one blog about at a time like this? The Indian team lost the final two ODIs in the Pakistan series, the last one miserably ... Wright left for home and currently the team doesn't have a coach ... currently, the team doesn't have cricket either and in some people's minds, including mine, this would be a very good time to think ahead ... but the BCCI is obviously not one of those people.

Their thinking seems to be - there is no cricket anyway so why break one's head over who to make coach ... ho jaega ... all the candidates will wait with their tongues hanging out till we decide to move our lazy bums and take a decision ... all the other countries will wait and watch who India picks before picking their choice among the left overs ... life is beautiful ... kyun tension lena?

It doesn't bother me too much simply coz it is nothing more or less than what is expected from the BCCI. We can talk all we want about professionalism and expert journalists can talk non-stop about it (Harsha Bhogle wrote his umpteenth article about unprofessionalism of the board ... someday he is just gonna throw down his pen and say "screw it, lets watch baseball") but the BCCI is not bothered. It will never be bothered simply coz they make money and obviously money = power ... who can really challenge them? Articles from Harsha Bhogle and the Chuckster can be used to wipe one's ass when toilet paper runs out ... usse jyada farak nahi padne wala BCCI ko.

Anyway news is that the SL board is also making moves on Moody (not to say the BCCI has made moves ... coz simply put, no one knows ... the BCCI ain't telling) and Whatmore who was also said to be interested in being India coach has accepted an extention of his contract with the Bangladesh board. I am not saying that Moody and Whatmore are what we need in Indian cricket ... I am just asking if we should be picking our coach among the leftovers or whether we should be aiming to give SL and Bangladesh our leftovers?

News also is that Dean Jones, while having confirmed to the media as having applied for the India coach's job, is not considered a front runner for the job coz of the match fixing scandal aftermath. Read the following article - - to understand why ... and in the past I have always found telegraphindia to have more accuracy in their reports than other news sites ...obviously they have good contacts ... I am not saying this IS true ... just that coming from telegraphindia, it COULD be true.

It is funny that the BCCI which understands politics so well doesn't understand the significance of letting the past be past. Ok, so maybe Jones didn't come out of the scandal smelling of roses but here we r talking of whether he can coach the Indian team to greatness ... we are not talking about Jones' morality. If he can coach the Indian team to be 80% of what Australia is, I couldn't care less what reasons he gave for not going on the wrong path with Mukesh Gupta. In the BCCI elections, foes of yesterday post together for pictures on election day after mutual back patting ... simply coz winning the election is the main aim and not personal enimity ... similary the aim here is not to get the man with the most impeccable reputation but the man with the best ideas of making this Indian team a winner. Let that guy be a crook ... if he can coach India to the 2007 world cup and a win in the test series the next time we go to Australia, I couldn't care less.

Anyway, talking on the BCCI, there was this program on NDTV called cricket controversies where the topic under debate was the BCCI's (lack of) openness towards the media. Why do they always have to keep secrets? They don't have to give low level details but why can't they say - "we are talking to Moody, Chappel and Jones to see who fits our requirements best. Of course, if some new candidate turns up, we would be willing to examine his case too"? Why can't they say why Ganguly didn't play the last two ODIs ... why leave it upto the imagination of people?

Sidhu was present as he always is on NDTV shows and some female journalist from Hindustan Times ... and Maharashtra Cricket Board state secretary (I think, though the post could be different) Ratnakar Shetty and former opener Krish Srikkanth joined via satellite.

Sidhu was in prime form, screaming the place down ... actually his questions were pretty sensible but u tend to forget that aspect when he keeps talking for 15 minutes after asking his question. Questions by Sidhu - Answer given by the BCCI (yes it actually gave an answer at the time of announcing the team sans Ganguly, that in itself is astonishing) was that the match was too close for them to take the chance that Ganguly might be prevented from playing ... so get the extra player in as a safety measure and don't gamble with Ganguly not being allowed to play ... But everyone knows that once Ganguly appeals his ban, he is eligible to play till the appeal is heard and decided upon ... so why was he left out of the team for the next ODI. Even agreeing to the board's explanation about hte match being too close and not wanting to take a chance, what about the last ODI ... surely that was not too close ... surely there is a plane / train / bus that can make sure Ganguly reaches the venue on time ... by that time it was clear the ICC wasn't stopping him from playing if selected? So why the silence ... why not say "we decided to drop Ganguly" coz simply without any other reason, this has to be it ... else if indeed there was a reason, just tell people what it is. What is the secrecy all about?

There were many comments for and against in the program but a couple of things were interesting - Ratnakar Shetty supported the claim that the BCCI should be more open in its communication so that people get to know from the horse's mouth about issues and don't have to speculate. Krish Srikkanth on the other hand vehemently opposed the idea of the BCCI giving explanations ... he was of the opinion that the BCCI was doing a great job and shouldn't be bothered with trivial issues like communicating everything to the people. Srikkant opined that the BCCI doesn't have an obligation to let people know everything (on which Sidhu screamed ... what "everything" .. we r talking about "something") and issues like why Ganguly wasn't played in the final two ODIs and who all had applied for the coach's job is something that is the BCCI's decision to make public or not ... and if they decide not to share that information, it is their birthright. In his opinion, the BCCI was doing a tremendous job.

Sidhu asked (what the Chuckster was screaming from his sofa while watching this) - "Kya Chika bhai ... koi state association ka seat milne wala hai kya ... koi BCCI post milne wala hai" [translation - What, Srikkant bhai ... r u about to get some plum post from the BCCI that u r talking like this]??? and Srikkanth appeared real pissed and immediately made a below the belt reply - "Sherry bhai, lets take ur own case ... u came back from England in the middle of the tour after abandoning the team ... did anyone ask u the reason why ... did the BCCI interfere in ur decision ... did you have to reply to the BCCI? Then why should the BCCI reply to u"?

A comment from the Chuckster here - I was always of the opinion that the best way to watch Srikkant is when he has a bat in hand ... when he opens his mouth, he invariably talks like a fool ... this comment about Sidhu's return from England just enforces that opinion ... a senior player ditches the national team and comes back after an obvious fight with the management, which is a major issue, and Srikkanth think the BCCI is so great coz they never asked why ... actually, the funny part is that Srikkanth assumed the BCCI never asked ... and lauds the BCCI for it.

Sidhu's reply was a kick in Srikkanth's pants - "Let me clarify what happened when I returned from England ... the BCCI sent me a show cause notice as to why they should not ban me for a period of 4 (or was it 5) years for abandoning the team in England ... I had to go to Mumbai and be interviewed by a panel constituted by the BCCI ...the panel among others included Ajit Wadekar and Raj Singh Dungarpur ... I explained to them the mental trauma I was undergoing coz of the mistreatment I got and my inability to contribute under so much of pressure ... U think I didn't have to give any explanations? I explained for over 5 hours as to why I took the step I did ... and I was pleading my case for the BCCI not ending my career with a 4 year ban".

Basically, that took the wind out of Chika's sails and he was a forlorn figure after that ... he sang a song coz Sidhu requested it ... but that was the end of Srikkanth as far as the program was concerned.

An addition by the Chuckster here is that this isn't the first time I am seeing Srikkanth kiss the BCCI's ass in the recent past ... during the Pak series, in one program on DD, Amarnath and Srikkanth were the experts in the studio and the talk diverted to the selection panel consisting of five people from the zones against three people who are not zonal representatives but who look at India instead of South Zone or North Zone. Personally, I couldn't care less about the number of people being 3 or 5 or 4 ... but someone unrelated to the BCCI actually supporting the zonal formula that has plagued Indian cricket for so long is something amazing ... I couldn't imagine that ... but that is exactly what Srikkanth did.

For some reason, he put forward the opinion that only a South Zone selector knew about South Zone players and someone from North Zone couldn't do the same job of selection of players from South Zone ... I didn't get it coz the argument was not about getting to watch the players ... obviously 5 men can watch more matches and more players than 3 men can ... but Srikkanth's point was that a North Zone man couldn't select good South Zone players coz he has never seen them but only read about them ... I think he never actually imagined a case where a guy belonging to the North Zone hops on an aeroplane and comes down South to watch a South zone game ... since he gets paid and it is his job, the guy from the North Zone keeps hopping on aeroplanes according to a well drawn out schedule so he gets to watch players in the South, East, West and North. Srikkanth's words gave me the impression that South Zone selectors watch each and every game played in the South - it would be interesting to know the percentage - and it is impossible for a North Zone guy to watch the same amount of matches .... can someone tell me why its so phucking dificult?

The BCCI is rich ... they spend money by the bucketfuls on arranging meetings and functions and crap that has nothing to do with cricket ... why should making out a schedule for 3 (or 4 or 5) non-zone related selectors to watch cricket all over the country be so difficult? It might be hectic but that is ok ... let it be hectic .. if someone doesn't like the job, hey leave ... get someone else to fill the slot?

Enough said about Srikkanth ... he is an ass and shows it every time he opens his mouth ... it was funny coz during this program the man sitting next to him was Amarnath who by calling the selectors a bunch of jokers probably thought he was being diplomatic ... and while Srikkanth was talking about the selectors doing a fantastic job, Jimmy was smiling away to glory.

Hmmmm ... talked a lot but about very few issues. Chalo chalta hai, hope u people don't feel too sleepy.

News is that Sania Mirza gets an "invitation" to play the french open? Does that mean a wild card? With a ranking in the 70s, wouldn't she have qualified anyway for the main draw? Anyway, she is in the main draw at the French open and lets hope she plays a couple of good matches. She has been inactive for a couple of months now and its very funny that her ranking has gone up in the inactive period ... for those not following tennis too closely, its coz ur ranking depends on current year's performance compared to last year's performance in the same period (it is called "defending last year's points") ... last year Sania's performance was negligible and this year it has been pretty good ... so she is obviously getting a good ranking ... while other women who did well last year aren't doing so well this year so they r moving down ... hence Sania is moving up.

Ok I better stop this post right now coz I gotta move home.


The Chuckster