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.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

a short one - S Ramesh for Kerala?

Sadagoppan Ramesh in a match between Kerala and Jharkhand?

Anyone have any idea on whether this is the Sadagoppan Ramesh of "What Debang Gandhi ... on these pitches even Mahatma Gandhi will score a century" fame?


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Just before the squad to Pakistan

Still not talking of the Ganguly issue coz I simply don't have time to think so much. So I will take the easier path of ignoring that for the moment and concentrating on the team selection for the Pakistan series.

A couple of things are certain; the Pakistanis have a good pace attack and the conditions would be tailored to suit them. So we have to have a decent pace attack on hand and while spinners would be definitely useful to sub-continental pitches, picking three as we would in India would be foolhardy.

One thing confuses me a lot nowadays, this funda of picking 15 or 16 members. I thought it was usually 14 for a home series and 15 for an away series; that is what I have always believed. However, in news reports, I am hearing talk of a possible 16 member team ... what r we gonna do there ... have a group discussion of the non-playing members?

Anyways, reports coming from various sources talks about a 7-7-1 format with three openers. I feel that is a sensible move coz of two reasons - I have no problems at all with Senwag but Gambhir is giving plenty of reasons for worry and while sacking him may not be a brilliant idea, u want to have a backup for him in case things don't look like improving. With Jaffer's current form, I see no reason to look any further at the Dheeraj Jadhavs and others. The second reason is that if there is any crisis in the middle order, the spare opener can always be used in the middle order ... middle order bats mostly make lousy openers but decent openers can make decent middle order bats, that is what me thinks. Anyways, in the current domestic season, Jaffer has made a number of runs coming in at number 3, so I guess the first three slots in the squad ought to be Sehwag, Gambhir and Jaffer.

That leaves four slots for the middle order and when u have Dravid, Laxman, SRT, Yuveraj and Kaif to choose from, one wonders where the power-that-be are going to find a slot for Ganguly. Reports coming out in the media are conflicting in the sense that some media outlets r predicting a sure slot for Ganguly while others r predicting a definite no-show for him. Interesting here is a news item I saw on India TV two days back when the Ganguly-Pawar meeting was conducted in Delhi. Chetan Sharma who is the official "expert" on India TV claimed to have been invited in along with Ganguly ... the only media guy who was at the actual meeting. He said that he can definitely say that when the Pakistan bound team is announced, Sourav Ganguly will be in it. So make what u can of it!

Personally speaking, I have been waiting for a long time to take a look at Venugopal Rao (Andhra player who played in the recent ODIs against SL before getting dropped). Though he was dropped from the ODI team, his performance in those matches as well as the Challenger Trophy before that (India, India A, India B) makes me want to see more of him. Somehow, I can't agree with the idea that since he has been dropped from the ODI team, it might be some time before we see him back in action in International cricket, whether it be a return in ODIs or a debut in tests. I found his play to have loads of class in it and he made me remember Rahul Dravid making his debut in the ODIs and while u could see his class reflected in his play, it didn't quite result in his making a lot of runs ... Dravid got dropped soon after too, I remember. I see a potential Rahul Dravid in Rao though obviously with so much of experience behind him, Dravid is a couple of miles ahead of Rao today. To sum it up, sooner or later, I want to see Rao in the test team and if the team does pick a fifth middle-order bat in the squad, rather than Kaif (or Ganguly), I would love it to be Venugopal Rao. Yuveraj is un-touchable right now though the Chuckster is still not convinced of his abilities at the test level ... but as long as he is making runs, who is the Chuckster or anyone else to question a lack of technique?

With regard to the wicket keeper, it is a no-brainer right now ... Dhoni rules.

Thus keeping the Ganguly scenario out of the equation, the 7 bats for the tour should be - Sehwag, Gambhir, Jaffer, Dravid, SRT, Laxman and Yuveraj. If they go in for 5 middle order bats (and hence a total of 8 batsmen), then I personally would like Y Venugopal Rao in that extra slot.

Now the Ganguly angle introduces itself. The compromise formula for Ganguly definitely cannot include him as a middle order bat coz that would mean dropping either of Yuveraj or Laxman from the batting eleven ... unthinkable today. So if indeed there is a compromise worked out, it has to include Ganguly as a contender for the opening slot. That means with Sehwag as a certainity, either of Gambhir and Jaffer are in danger of getting replaced by Ganguly. My personal take on this - it shouldn't happen at all but if it happens coz of some compromise formula, we could see Sehwag and Ganguly walk out to open with either of Gambhir / Jaffer as a reserve opener ... coz if Ganguly is in the team, he has to play. Reports from the media (and again to remind here that u always have to take them with a pinch of salt) have quoted Rahul Dravid's stand as being - I don't want him in the squad but if he is there, I want him to be in the playing eleven. I will not have him sitting on the bench.

So keeping the Ganguly scenario as part of the equation, the 7 bats for the tour should be - Sehwag, Ganguly, (one of Jaffer / Gambhir), Dravid, SRT, Laxman and Yuveraj. Again, if they go in for 8 batsmen, I would like Venugopal Rao to be getting that slot.

Getting to the bowlers, one line of thinking suggests that 7 is too much while another says that since our batting is the strong point, better to keep a bigger pool of bowlers to pick from than having a bigger pool of batsmen.

As I said earlier, three spinners would be one too much for the tour simply coz the only way we would require a third spinner is if either of Kumble or Bhajji get injured. Definitely one is not going to pick a third spinner ahead of Kumble and Bhajji on form even if they don't take a lot of wickets. The only way a third spinner can come in is if they consider the tour a learning experience for him ... Piyush Chawla, for instance, and don't really pick him for playing purposes. However I doubt that kind of thinking from Indian cricket ... and talking about Murali Karthik, I think India and Pak are so close to each other that if Kumble / Bhajji do become out-of-action, it wouldn't be a big issue to fly him out if required. I see no point in his going to Pak knowing he would be a passenger.

The pace attack is a different cup of tea simply coz there r no certainities in the attack save Pathan. Pathan was always a good bowler and with his latest batting exploits, whether the team calls him an all rounder or not, I definitely do. He bats so naturally that it is hard of me to think of his runs as a bonus as I would with Bhajji or Kumble. In fact, if Pathan doesn't contribute with the bat, I think everyone including the team management would be pretty much disappointed.

Anyways, that leaves a place for three more fast men and I feel this is the series where Zaheer starts his second chapter in Indian cricket. He has been a terrific bowler for Indian cricket ... in fits and starts ... and my personal feeling is that he got too comfortable being called the spearhead of the attack. And oh, or course, he became fat - An interesting exercise might be to compare the read-ends of the Zaheer of three years back and last year ... I am not for examining rear-ends of male fast bowlers but it gives a good answer for where Zaheer's pace went and why his commitment and fitness is in question. When Zaheer made his debut, he was doing 145+ on the speed radar and he should be doing better with the support staff / fitness infrastructure available to the team today. Yet today he struggles to do 135-137 Kmph.

I feel that a Zaheer with the hard lesson of getting his behind kicked out of the team might be a big contributor to the pace bowling department, specially with a taskmaster / instructor like Greg Chappell around. Chappell might not be very impressed with zaheer's commitment but unlike Ganguly who is too old to rectify his shortcomings now, Zaheer is young and can make amends. He should get a chance to do so not coz of fairness or some other silly reason like that but simply coz India would benefit a lot with a hungry Zaheer in its attack.

I still don't see any great thing about Agarkar but he will most probably on the bus to Pakistan simply coz every team management (from Tendulkar as captain to Ganguly to Dravid) see sometehing special in him to keep the faith. And media reports r touting Punjab's VRV Singh as being one of those being considered for the last bowling slot. Relating to Nehra and Balaji, I haven't heard of them in a long time and unless they prove themselves in the domestics (a la Zaheer), I don't see any hope for them.

So the bowler's list would most likely be - Kumble, Bhajji, Pathan, Zaheer, Agarkar, VRV and one passenger (Piyush Chawla / Murali Karthik).

At the end of it all, my squad becomes -

Squad of 15 with 7-7-1 formula - Sehwag, (Gambhir / Ganguly), (Jaffer / Ganguly), Dravid, SRT, Laxman, Yuveraj, Dhoni, Pathan, Zaheer, Agarkar, VRV, Kumble, Bhajji and passenger (Chawla / Karthik).

Squad of 15 with 8-6-1 formula - Sehwag, (Gambhir / Ganguly), (Jaffer / Ganguly), Dravid, SRT, Laxman, Yuveraj, Venugopal Rao, Dhoni, Pathan, Zaheer, Agarkar, VRV, Kumble, Bhajji - No passenger in the bowling deptt.

If they take 16 it could only be if they take three openers plus Ganguly ... and then I wouldn't like to be in the team management's shoes for selecting the eleven.

Anyways, late hour and home beckons ... the team would be out tomorrow and we will know what is what. That is what I love about Indian cricket; it is not just the on-field cricket that is so interesting.


The Chuckster

Sunday, December 18, 2005

the finger salute - late but not too late

Even this post is not about Sourav Ganguly … coz I need a lot of time to talk about that one. But this is one I have been itching to write for a long time and work has not really allowed me the freedom.

This is about the infamous finger salute given by Greg C to the Kolkatta fans. Firstly for all those who might not have seen the clippings on TV but merely read about it, here is my take on the matter. I think Greg C definitely showed them the finger, in my mind there is no doubt about that one. Secondly, I fully support him in that one though I agree it is terribly bad manners. I think those who got it deserved it.

Kolkatta has disappointed me in many ways. I know Kolkattans r passionate about their own sportspersons and that is the way it should be. I would have no problems with their protests as long as it was limited to Ganguly’s non-inclusion in the team. Views can differ on this and while the Chuckster feels it is a case of good riddance, others can differ and I am ok with that.

Note here – Remember I am talking about Ganguly’s dropping from the ODI team and the ruckus that happened before the ODI at Kolkatta. Not talking about the dropping of Ganguly from the test team before the Amhedabad test … that is a case for another post.

Anyway, getting back to the finger salute issue, I was very disappointed when the Kolkattans vent their anger by cheering the South Africans, booing the Indians and generally behaving like jerks. I don’t think anything can justify that … even if Kiran More and Chappell r jerks (and I am not saying they r … just that Kolkatta feels they r), if Kolkatta feels Sourav Ganguly’s omission is reason enough for them to give support to the enemy and boo their own country, then I am sorry Greg C gave them the middle finger with just one hand … he had two and the other hand got wasted, that is what I think. The entire team should have extended an arm out of the windows of the bus and added their middle fingers to the situation.

I remember seeing on many TV channels that the situation was being made one of the insult of Kolkatta and Kolkattans and how a foreigner had insulted the country etc. Seriously, if u ask my opinion, it was just some bloke showing his finger to a bunch of jerks, nothing more and nothing less than that. There was this joker (maybe one of the crowd who got the finger … or some other insulted Kolkattan) on TV who was shouting about “unhone Kolkatta ka hi nahi, saare desh ka apmaan kiya hai” (he hasn’t just insulted Kolkatta … he has insulted all of India) … and I was like – Yeah buddy, u and ur mates have just spent a long time shouting “Sachin hai hai, Dravid hai hai” and waving South African flags and now u r talking about insult to the country. Definitely our country needs many more patriots like u and ur friends out there. Heck, people talk of Kolkatta being such a great center for cricket and generally a sports loving city and all that … but every now and then they show off their lack of class. It has happened before, it has happened now and it will happen in the future. Simply coz for Kolkattans, a Kolkattan moment is worth more than anything for the country’s sakes … if Ganguly scores a ton and India loses, I don’t think anyone will really mind. Even Mumbai-ites who adore SRT to the point of idiocity aren’t so state-minded, IMHO. [Chuckster’s note – Nopes, I am not from Mumbai]

I was watching some programme on TV where Javagal Srinath and Maninder Singh were giving their expert comments and the same issue was being discussed. Maninder Singh was very forthright with his views – “if some idiots r standing somewhere and insulting me, I will insult them back … there is no doubt about that … I am here to play cricket, not take people’s abuse for no reason”, he said. Javagal Srinath’s response was – “But u can’t do that, Manni bhai” and Maninder is like “Why not … why should I take someone’s insult just because he has bought a ticket for the game … does that give him the right to call me and my family names” and Srinath’s answer was revealing – “U can’t, Manni bhai”, he said … “It is a crowd out there … u cannot anger them …. U never know what will happen … when something will go out of control and u could be in a very dangerous position … u cannot take panga with the crowd … it is a matter of safety”.

Two ex-cricketers … one says he would have reacted to any insults being given to him and the other says he would not have simply coz he is afraid of what might happen if the crowd gets incensed by the reaction of the player. Srinath didn’t say that it would be the wrong thing to do … etc etc … just that he would be scared of the consequences.

Simply put, the players r not show-dogs or animals at the circus, for people to pelt them with fruits and stones when they want … sure, the same crowds cheer them most of the times but when they do that, they automatically do not get the right to insult the players when they see fit. They buy a ticket to the game … they don’t buy a ticket costly enough to talk nonsense either about any player or any coach. No one should stand for it, and while the Srinaths of the world may try to see the easier way out (and most would favour that approach, I know), some people won’t. Greg C didn’t … so he showed them the finger as an answer to their taunts. That is something all of us have done in our lives …whether it be in college or in arguments with peers or whatever … so a Chappell doing it to the fans at Kolkatta has to be seen in the correct context … it is not about a foreigner insulting the country … it is about one chap showing the finger to other chaps who piss him off. Period.

Anyway, for the same people who r seeing this as a very serious crime (and I will never say the gesture was not rude … just that it was appropriate at that time and place), throw ur memories back to Kolkatta in 2001 when the Aussies under Steve Waugh came to claim the final frontier - yep, the same series where Laxman scored 281 and Bhajji single-handedly destroyed the opposition – and India came back to win the match. At the victory lap made by the Indians (I am remembering it as happening in Kolkatta … could be after the final test in Madras too), a Bengali by the name of Sourav Ganguly was reported to have shown the finger to a section of the crowd consisting mainly of Australian supporters. I think he had company in the form of one Harbhajan Singh and maybe a couple others – I don’t remember the complete story – but I do remember Ganguly’s name coming up in this issue. I don’t remember any Kolkattan standing up at that time and talking about this issue … or does a Kolkattan showing the finger to anyone not amount to an insult? I wonder what Rupa Ganguly was doing then …. I would have loved to see her screaming her head off about how the behavior was so irresponsible.

Anyways, to end this post … when someone protests about the non-inclusion of a player in the team, I will be all for hearing arguments for and against the case in question even if I have a different opinion. When it is a case of “How can they drop a Bengali or a Tamil or a Kannadiga or a Mumbai-ite”, they lose the respect of the Chuckster.

The Chuckster supports the Indian cricket team …. Not a Bengali or a Mumbai-ite.

Anyways, cheers

The Chuckster

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Jaffer took Ganguly's spot? I think not

Before I get to the issue of Ganguly’s ouster and whether I support it or not (u guys already know the answer to that one, don’t u), let me address one side issue to the whole situation … the issue of Wasim Jaffer.

One of the comments I have been hearing on all the TV channels all through the past days is about why an opener has pushed out a middle order bat, namely Ganguly, out of the team. There r theories galore including the Mumbai connection … Pawar being the Maharashtra strongman and all that.

For some reason, people have associated Jaffer’s inclusion with Gaguly’s exclusion and I want to correct that view. Two separate events happened here … Ganguly got dropped; Jaffer got selected. The two r not related.

See, the issue here is not of Jaffer but of where Ganguly fits into the team. He is a middle order bat and u were to play him, u would play him at number 5 or 6. Right now, there r three claimants for the one spot available in the middle order … in the previous test, two spots were available simply coz Sehwag didn’t play and Dravid opened, thus creating a spot in the middle. So right now, there is only one spot open and there r three guys in Ganguly, Yuveraj and Kaif competing for that one spot.

I don’t think too much of Yuveraj as a test batsman but when it comes to choosing between him and Ganguly, on today’s form, surely I would choose him. Even if I were not to choose him, I am not sure if Ganguly would be the best choice coz Kaif hasn’t really done too bad in the chances he had had. Lets put it this way – whether Yuvi, Kaif or Ganguly gets selected, none of them really r undisputable picks. And only one of them can be picked … lets also be clear on that.

Now we have two openers … Sehwag and Gambhir … and now by adding Jaffer to the list, we not only get a guard against any opener either getting sick (as in Sehwag’s case) or any opener showing a crisis of confidence (seems to be happening with Gambhir) but we also get a situation of – two spots, three guys … may the best two win .. which is always a very healthy situation. And no, for those wondering about the injustice of my statements … three competing for one spot is not the same as three competing for two spots.

So lets get it clear … Jaffer has been selected to have cover for the opening batsmen and not as a replacement for Ganguly. I think it was Ajit Wadekar who made a comment on one of the TV channels about “it being the first time in the history of Indian cricket that a middle order bat has been replaced with an opening batsman” or words to that effect. Mr. Wadekar … just because a camera is thrust in ur face a a mic thrown in front of ur mouth doesn’t indicate u have to talk immediately irrespective of whether it means anything or not. I mean … u can support Ganguly’s exclusion or u might protest it … but do not confuse issues here by talking about how an opener in Jaffer is picked in the place of Ganguly, the middle order bat.

Many people (including Prem Panicker, whose blog I always read) also say that rather than pick Jaffer, the better thing would have been to tell Ganguly to open. It would have been more “fair”, people say. Well, people … I have said this before and I will say it now. Selecting the Indian cricket team is not about being fair but about being practical. If Sourav Ganguly stands a chance of succeeding as opener, sure, it could be tried. Here we r talking of whether he even deserves to hold his place in the middle order coz we no longer believe he can bat … sending him in as opener, a slot which requires so much more of those abilities that he lacks. Sure, we could do it coz Ganguly is an ex-captain and he has served Indian cricket for a long time and this is no way to treat him … blah blah blah yaada yaada yaada. I can imagine his fans saying later – “Oh well, they gave him a chance and he didn’t take it … I guess that is the end of Dada” … Nopes, they r gonna scream – “Get the parliament to enquire on why Sourav Ganguly was made to open the innings … that bas… Greg C wants to chuck Ganguly out and so made him open knowing he would fail …. Yaada yaada yaada”. So if anyone thinks the controversy would have been less had Ganguly been retained in the team, u can forget it. We have to select teams not wondering about whether a certain selection would create controversy or not … if it does, so be it. If Rupa Ganguly doesn’t like it, she can switch off her TV and go stop a train or something.

For those wondering about why Jaffer was selected, all they need to do is go to crickinfo and put a search on his record for the season … it is phenomenal and that is not an exaggeration. I myself haven’t tried crickinfo (I always get confused there … but people tell me it is easy) for this info but I do remember noticing Jaffer’s scores this season whenever I went through the domestic competition results … basically it was very hard to miss his scores coz they were so consistent and big.

My personal take on Jaffer … I said it when he last played for India in the West Indies and I say it now … the man is a terrific batsman and has a great range of attacking shots. When u see him bat, he plays all those great shots and u think – ah, here is the next great thing … and BANG, he would be gone to some stupid shot. He was too aggressive, some people said … he was too careless, some other people said. Maybe it was a mixture of it all … but he certainly showed glimpses of being a very good bat in international cricket. An average of 20 odd goes against my support but then I am just telling it as I saw it. Whether he scores the runs or not is not in my hands.

Anyways, I wanted to get this post in before the match starts tomorrow … so that whether Jaffer plays or not and whether he does well or not, no one accuses the Chuckster’s opinion to be biased by that..


The Chuckster

Before third test (Ahmedabad)

There are so many things to talk about that if I try to put it into one single post then I will go mad writing it and u will go mad reading it. So let me break it down into multiple posts … hopefully all to be posted within this weekend (16-18 december).

Though there r more controversial things to talk about, let me start off with a comment I hear almost everywhere nowadays, specially in the aftermath of the selection issues going on. What buggers me in all the discussions is the comment that what is the need of the hour is for the honrary selectors concept to end and the selectors getting paid for their efforts. That will bring in accountability and transparency and all that is required in this world for everlasting peace. Ahhhh! “Professionalism” is the word I was searching for there … if the selectors r paid, the system will have professionalism. Hey, I even saw one program where someone mentioned a salary figure for this job … Navjot Sidhu on NDTV’s program suggested “give a selector Rs. 10 lakhs per annum and all the men of integrity who today don’t want to be doormats (read selectors) will be ready to do the job since it will be all transparent and professional”.

Firstly, Navjot Singh Sidhu seems to be somewhat over-estimating the worth of a selector, me thinks! 10 phucking lakhs per annum … r u kidding me? How many readers of this blog earn ten lakhs per annum …. Not the Chuckster, for sure! Hmmm, ok forget that part about the 10 lakhs … let that be an item on Sidhu’s wishlist and nothing more … it isn’t worth discussing more. What is worth discussing more is what this will achieve.

Firstly, who decides the selectors for this paid job? The Board president who will himself be picked coz he managed to bribe more voters than his opponents? Secondly, lets assume some selectors r picked and paid … ok … paid 10 lakhs per annum. Let me ask u a question … if I gave u 10 lakhs per annum for selecting a cricket team about 10 times an year (just quoting a random figure here of 10 times an year … it might be more or less … doesn’t make a difference to the argument) … r u gonna take a chance of losing all that lovely money by picking someone or dropping someone against my wishes (or the wishes of my group … e.g. – Dalmiya group or Pawar group)? Are u telling me that the professional you (now that you are paid) will tell me – “Mr. Chuck Inn … I am a professional … please don’t tell me whether to select Sourav Ganguly or not … I will make my own decision based on my own observations and feelings on the matter … I don’t care about the consequences”. Are you going to tell me this? Are u completely stupid?

No, u aren’t going to tell me this coz the next minute, I will throw ur sorry ass out of the selector’s post which pays u so well. I am gonna bring in my chamcha ABCD who will be happy to take the same salary and kiss my butt at the same time.

What makes me think I can do this? After all, there is something called accountability! The answer is – nopes, there is nothing called accountability in the BCCI system simply coz they r answerable to no-one. They themselves stated in court that they r a private body who do not come under anyone’s jurisdiction … basically no one call tell them what to do and what not to do. So I can make my best friend as the selector and pay him 10 lakhs and there is nothing anyone can do about it. I can get any player of my choice into the team or out of the team and there is nothing anyone can do about it … whether the selectors r paid or not. This is because when the next election comes along, whether the selectors did a great job or a lousy job of selecting players is not going to be an issue … no one is going to give a phuck whether the job was done with integrity and sincerity and all that crap. In fact one of the sops I will give to potential voters would be – If u r nice to me, I will get a selector’s job for ur son-in-law … it pays 10 lakhs per annum.

The Hyderabad cricket association’s president (or some such top post) is Shivlal Yadav. I heard (don’t know of my own accord) that his brother is the coach of the Hyderabad team and his son is the captain … u might have read about his son recently … he tried to beat up on a chap named Ambati Rayadu in a recent match against Andhra Pradesh … Rayadu used to play for Hyderabad and now has shifted allegiance to Andhra Pradesh. Violence on the field of play … at least the intention to perform some kind of violence … and his punishment …. Errr, what … punishment? Why?

The idea behind the previous example was simple – as long as power is in the hands of people who themselves r not accountable to anyone, why should selectors (one anyone else working under them) be accountable to anyone? The only thing paying them 10 lakhs per annum will do is – make them all line up to kiss as much butt as possible. Hey, I am sure many ex-cricketers have families to take care of, daughters to get married and loans to repay.

Navjot Sidhu mentioned that men of integrity will be ready to do the job if it is well paid. Well, who decides about their integrity … Sidhu? He mentioned names like Shastri, Gavaskar and Kapil Dev … so if any of them turns out to be not-so-integral after all – Gavaskar does have a son who was vying for a place not so long back … and even otherwise, he is probably the last (maybe not even that) name in my mind for a position where bias and personal vendettas / agendas r discouraged … and Kapil in my opinion was never the brightest bulb in the room, was he – then what? I mean … I know finding more problems with any suggestion given is not the way to go towards finding a solution but the suggestion itself is so dumb … we r gonna be giving the job to men of integrity … HA HA HA HA! Wonder why no one thought of that one before? It is so phucking simple it needed a Sidhhu to figure that one out.

The second point on which people (ex-players mostly) keep yapping and which pisses me off every time I hear it is the idea that only ex-players make good selectors. Of course, they also said only Indian ex-players can make a good Indian coach and earlier, John Wright and now Greg Chappell r busy applying dung on that theory while stalwarts like Kapil Dev, Madan Lal and Angshuman Gaekwad have also done their bit during their stints as coach to give me confidence that the farther we keep ex-Indian players from this very important job, the better it will be for Indian cricket.

As for this thing about Bhupinder Singh not having played test cricket (though he has played a couple of ODI … alternate reports say he has played tests but not ODIs … etc etc … and I am too lazy to go and check out the stats in crickinfo) and Sanjay Jagdale being another unworthy etc … ok, so what? They haven’t played international cricket but we don’t want international cricketers right now, do we? Do we need bowlers and batsmen? We need men who can do a job with sincerity and commitment … and while Bhupinder Singh and Sanjay Jagdale might not fit the bill either, it is pretty presumptuous to imagine that a non-cricketer cannot do the job but an ex-cricketer can. See frankly, ex-players need something to do after they retire or get chucked out of the teams … so as a placeholder for giving them a livelihood, I will accept the argument that ex-cricketers should be given the jobs … but as for “ex-international” cricketers r concerned, forget it … why should some guy get a cushy job for the reason that he played for the BCCI team (remember, it is not the Indian team … the BCCI itself says so) and another guy not get it coz he played for Haryana or Punjab or Karnataka?

See, international cricketers, domestic cricketers and non-cricketers love money equally … and the job of a selector brings its own benefits. Don’t let this “honrary” tag fool u even a little bit … while they may not get a formal salary for the job they do, I am pretty much sure they make enough to make the job worth their trouble. I am sure they make more than “chai-pani” … that is why these jobs r handed out by the board as sops to people for their support. So when u hear any ex-cricketer talk about how only ex-international cricketers (who have a minimum of 20 tests etc) should be made selectors, u can bet he is looking at making some decent money by trying to introduce a quota system to enhance his own chances. It is not like the ex-international player will either have a greater capability or a greater capacity for making intelligent decisions … most of our cricketers (ex and present) r illiterate, ignorant bumpkins who r (or were) good at batting, bowling etc. They will make as good or as bad selectors as the rest of the gang … nothing more and nothing less.

Ok, that is it for this post.


The Chuckster

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mostly (but not all) about Sourav Ganguly and Chennai test

All said and done, it would be a pity if the Chennai test got washed off. It really sucks; Chennai is nice and sunny after so many days of rain and it looks like there will be some good cricket and bang-there is a cyclone warning.

There has been so much of drama over the past few days in terms of Ganguly getting kicked out of the ODI team, making good scores in domestic cricket and making a back-door entry into the test squad, personally I would like this process to take its natural course. Let Ganguly play and lets find out if the man still has it in him or not! Again, left to me, I wouldn’t have picked him in the 15 but since he is there, there is really no point in keeping him out of the 11. With others like Yuveraj and Kaif, one knows they will someday graduate to the top level and play test cricket … forget for how long and how outstanding their records would be. With Ganguly, we r talking of a man in the sunset of his career … hell, this could be the last test match he ever plays. Or, if indeed he roars back with some great performances, then I wouldn’t be so churlish to refuse the obvious benefit to the team. Whichever way the ball rolls, lets get it over with … lets do this and move ahead in life; with or without Ganguly.

The tag of all-rounder notwithstanding, I don’t expect anything great from him with the ball … he is a dibbly dobbly bowler who requires tremendous amount of assistance from conditions to make him even slightly dangerous; if the cyclonic storm creates conditions favourable to Ganguly, then his bowling makes sense otherwise we r better off throwing the ball as quickly as possible to Kumble and Bhajji. On that cyclonic storm, I was reading today that the storm has been steady for a long time and they were doubting if it would hit Chennai after all … but someone told me later that the weather in Chennai is already getting changed and it looks like rain … so I don’t know really.

It is with the bat, at No. 5 or 6 that Ganguly can do something to send out a message that he isn’t done yet. Personally, I would send Laxman before him, simply coz Laxman can’t play with the tail, something we have seen many times before … and because Laxman is about 10,000 times a better bat than Ganguly. But if Ganguly comes in at 6, then it also isn’t quite a fair way of judging a man standing with a sword on his neck … making him bat with the tail. It is a difficult question, this one, and I don’t envy Chappell and Dravid. As of now, I really cannot see the correct answer.

In one way, we might even see a Ganguly who looks like a batsman once more. As a captain, it was not necessary for him to score; hence it was not necessary to practice or to work hard. With the change in regime, the message has been passed in pretty blunt terms – runs r the only thing that r going to count … oh, of course, also something called commitment and attitude. Ganguly always had the attitude but I think it just needs to be fine tuned a bit to match what is required by the team management today; the commitment part is something that will really bother him. Not commitment to Indian cricket coz despite everything, I have always seen him as a well wisher of Indian cricket; but commitment to working hard on his fitness and his fielding and other menial tasks not associated with people with special status he had conferred on himself for the past couple of years. Now that he is a common man, can he really handle the hard work that goes along with it?

I read this article a month or so back about a princess from the Japanese royal family who was getting married … there is some law in Japan that for women after marriage, the royal status is withdrawn and they have to leave the palace and live like a commoner. So the Japanese govt passed a motion to give the princess (and her hubby, a banker or something) a million dollars as a final settlement towards her becoming a commoner. Also, seems they gave her training on how to shop in malls and vegetable markets etc coz she had never done it before. Something of the same sort for Ganguly!

In some corner of my heart, I can’t help wishing Ganguly succeeds. I have been a great admirer of him for a long time though I have despised him in the last year and a half. He is someone who raised Indian cricket from the depths and taught them to stand and fight. He was someone who led from the front and that is the problem – “was” is the keyword here. All cricketers have to developer their skills over time and there came a time when Ganguly’s skills became old and in need for fine-tuning. At this time instead of concentrate on bettering himself according to the needs of the game, he chose to believe that the rules of the game no longer applied to him. He became bigger than Indian cricket and like many dictators, saw his path as the correct path to progress.

Ganguly is human and he has erred but like under him so many got “one more chance”, it is perhaps fitting that he gets one more chance too. That he will have to take it with both hands is an unsaid agreement between him and the powers-that-be. He might have given Yuveraj a dozen chances and Bhajji a half-a-dozen but I don’t think he is under any illusion that he will get even a fraction of those number of chances.

It seems a bit unprofessional to keep Yuveraj out simply coz he has been in good form, albeit in ODIs. I have seen one thing in the Yuveraj of this series that I have not seen in him before – trying to keep the bat straight! Ok, so that doesn’t mean he will be a good test player but it shows that he is working to better himself … and when one makes the effort, it will surely lead to something positive.

Hey, who knows … if Chappell has the “experimentation / flexibility” bhoot on their heads still, we might very well see Ganguly come top of the order. Isn’t that what Greg C suggested to him in Zimbabwe as a last resort of how he saw Ganguly being part of the XI.

Anyway, Ganguly deserves better than what he is getting right now but the irony is that he has reaped what he has sowed so he really is not in a position to blame anyone for his ills. He is a strong man but if he can scale this mountain, it would probably be the greatest comeback of all times, the many by Mohinder Amarnath notwithstanding.

As I mentioned before, a small part of me wants him to succeed simply coz a man who taught the Indian team to play with guts and glory shouldn’t bow out in such a pathetic manner … but another part of me worries about his succeeding with the bat and not succeeding with the attitude-change part. It is like the story of Harry Potter where the followers of he-who-must-not-be-named lie low and wait for their master to come back to power. I don’t want a repeat of the last days of the John Wright era where there were Ganguly’s boys and the rest of the team. Of course, my fear of this happening has dissipated somewhat after Jaggu dada’s ouster from the BCCI top post but Ganguly has tasted power for 5 years … how long will he be satisfied being the foot soldier again … that is my worry.

Anyway, enough on Ganguly … on the Pawar faction’s victory in the elections, I am hearing noises about Sunil Gavaskar being offered a big post in the new structure … there r talks of two General Managers instead of one CEO and Sunny being one of the General Managers. U gotta hand it to the guy … Dalmiya is in power and Sunny gets some plum positions … Dalmiya loses and Pawar comes to power and hey, Sunny gets some plum positions again.

I consider him the shrewdest apple in the entire basket of Indian cricket (counting ex-players only) but I also consider him to be among the most selfish and biased people associated with cricket. He talks so much but how much has he really contributed to Indian cricket after his playing days got over? Not much at all, though he is never short of words when some criticism has to be handed out, whether it be with respect to players or the way administration matters are handled. I, for one, hope that Mr. Sunil Gavaskar continues to be the voice of ESPN / STAR and stays away from Indian cricket.

Before I forget, something about Bhajji. I for one have been wondering for the past two years or so as to why Bhajji was always an integral part of the team. Apart from being Ganguly’s boy, there seemed to be little other reason. In the past couple of series, against SL and SA, he has really bought back his credibility.

Whether it be a lack of confidence or a technical fault creeping in, he had stopped flighting the ball and was pushing it on off and middle in the ODIs … which resulted in easy pickings for the batsmen on the on side. Right now, there is no trace of that bowler and the Bhajji of the SL and SA series has been flighting the ball like never before and rarely pitching anywhere except off and outside off. The line change obviously makes a difference coz he is an off-spin bowler and pitching it on off and middle really gives him no weapons to fight with. The flight has really come as a bolt from the blue coz really it has been two years or more that I have seen any Indian spinner flight it so much, that too in the ODIs.

Basically Bhajji is the second guy to have come back from the dead since Chappell took over, the first being SRT. And when one considers that Bhajji was the only guy to openly come out in support of Ganguly and against Chappell, those advocating Chappell’s lack of man-management skills surely have some answers to come up with. Such a huge difference cannot come about without there being a very good understanding between team management and the bowler … there has been some fence-mending since the outburst against Chappell and whatever agreements may have been worked out between the two, it has resulted in a new bowler … really, while he may not have won a man of the match or man of the series award, he has been one of the main reasons why India has won 8 of 11 matches in the recent two series … his bowling has been amazing!

Hey, let me not forget to mention his new-found fielding skills. Bhajji was never a poor fielder but in the past couple of series, he has been moving from “average” to “good” to “could-be-brilliant”. In some previous post during the SL series, I talked about some great fielding of his inside the circle at square leg … and in the last match against SA, first he runs hard to his left on the deep mid-wicket boundary and goes sliding on his stomach to pull the ball back from the ropes, restricting the batsmen to two instead of four … and then in the same over, when the frustrated batsman (he was already adding four to the score as he started running) tried a big hit, this time he ran slight forward – again on the deep mid-wicket boundary - to his right and dived to come up with a great catch … I think the batsman in both cases was Boucher. This wasn’t just good fielding … this was fielding bordering on brilliant … and I can say from watching a lot of TV that this is a hidden talent that is suddenly come out now … what caused it to come out now is something I don’t know … but if a fight with the coach is gonna give such good results, hey let them fight every six months or so.

Finally on Dinesh Karthick being replaced by Dhoni, too bad for Karthick but the fans have to remember one thing. It is not about what is fair and what is not … many people r saying it is not fair on Karthick coz he hasn’t done anything wrong … it is not about being fair but about getting the best XI out there … Dhoni looks to be a better potential than Karthick and there is no other way than to try him out … maybe Karthick thinks that sucks but if Dhoni can demolish attacks the way he did in the ODI series, the edge he provides cannot be ignored. When Rahul Dravid was made to keep wickets in the ODIs even after becoming arguably the best batsman in the side (after being at a stage where he had to keep to be part of the team), people said it wasn’t fair … and I still said at that time that it wasn’t about fairness but about what worked best. If Karthick feels he was hard done by, he should just try to be better than Dhoni however high Dhoni might be flying now. He surely cannot command a place in the XI coz it wouldn’t be fair to leave out someone who hasn’t done anything wrong. That just doesn’t make sense. Today Dhoni makes sense … if he fails, Karthick or Patel or whoever comes into the picture again … if Dhoni succeeds, … well, then who cares if it was fair or not?

Chalo guys, cheers

The Chuckster