Thursday, December 25, 2014

Whose game is it anyway?

Well, Cricket is such a glorious game indeed but whose game is it at the end? 

Who is the ultimate owner? The organizers? The players? The fans? 

Whose game is it anyway?

Let's take a closer look at the 'stakeholders' in this game.

1. Batsmen
A lot of people say that it is a batsman's game. After all, in the subcontinent where it is the most popular game, people pay (sometimes through their noses) to see batsmen hit the ball out of the boundary. Almost 75% of children want to become batsmen in the sub-continent (my unsubstantiated gut-feel). A batsman, more often than not, is the most glorified player in cricket. (case in point Mr. Sachin Tendulkar) Everybody in India remembers the 6 sixes hit by Yuvraj in an over more than Chetan Sharma's hat trick (first by an Indian) in ODIs. In fact, a new format of T20 was invented purely for viewers and fans to see the fireworks from batsman's bat. 
It surely seems like it is a batsman's game, isn't it? 
Surely batsmen practice and practice and practice to get it right. Also, batsmen always get a split second to react or respond to a ball thrown at 140-150 kmph at them by the bowlers. So, without a doubt, what they achieve in their capacity to act in that split second deserves phenomenal applause and respect. Especially for those goddamn perfectly awesome drives, cuts and pulls that are just a pleasure to watch.

But let's remember, batsmen have NO room for error. One mistake and *poof*, you are gone, out. No second chances, none at all in that innings. You can bat and bat for hours with concentration but one small lapse and it is the end of the road. 
So while batsmen hog a lot of glory and work hard for it, this is an unfair game for them compared to what it is for the bowlers, would you think?  Is it really a batsmen's game then? 

2. Bowlers
Bowling is hard work isn't it? You run in, you try and hide the way you are holding the ball while throwing it, you have to ensure you don't overstep and hey, every ball must be perfect (as if you are Glenn McGrath!). If you bowl at pace or spin, you got to try and get the best way to bowl at your opponent batsman. And then, you are only as good as the batsman opposite you allows you to be! 
You fire in a delivery to the best of your ability and the batsman whose eye is set in simply drives you out of the boundary. All the hard work, the sweat, the dust, the heat and you are shown the boundary. Time and again. Also, if you have to take a wicket and unless you get the batsman bowled, you need help from others to get him out otherwise - fielders and umpires. Not a pure win over your opponent always, unlike the batsman who purely wins against you, right?
It surely doesn't seem like it is a bowler's game, right? 

But hey, you as a bowler have two fundamental benefits in this game. 
1. You can make mistakes and come again to correct the mistakes. Even if a batsman hits you for 5 sixes in a row, you can still get your revenge in the 6th ball by getting the batsman out. You get multiple chances, the batsman doesn't.
2. You don't need to react unlike the batsman. You don't need to react in a split second. You can take your time, seize your moment and run in to give your best, you take action, not reaction. This is a huge huge benefit. 
So, is it really a bowler's game then?

3. Fielders (including wicket keeper)
Fielders - people who stand in the field, waiting for the ball to come to their side, either on the ground or from the sky. 
For them, this is a waiting game. Yawn?
Very easy to get casual and lose seriousness, especially if you are not standing closer to the action and / or the pitch. But one good save or a catch can save or win the match and you are the hero! Kapil Dev caught Viv Richards running backwards that changed the complete match in 1983 and helped win the first ever world cup for India! 
So being a fielder has it's own moments and can make you a hero or a villain (Remember 'Mate, you just dropped the World Cup!'?)

And then Jonty Rhodes and Siddhu turned the whole sentiment around for fielding with their acrobatic fielding and jumps pleasing to the eye that make your go 'Wow!'
So, it isn't really a fielder's game no? Or is it?

4. The organizers/ The Bosses: 
Cricket, at domestic and international levels, is a game completely owned by private clubs. They are supposed to help grow the game, take care of the players, organize matches and series, sell rights and make loads of money. The game is vital to them, but it is as much as pulses are to a grocer or cloth is to the tailor. The game, to the organizers, is only a means to an end. It is not the end. But without this means, the end will not be there, unless the organizers decide another business. Yes, the game is the business for organizers. 
So clearly, the game isn't their game, is it?
While socialist in you may scoff at this, but business isn't all bad. Business means growth, more money to all (almost all) involved, revenue and profits that can be re-invested in game. To nurture new players, better facilities for players, better pay and better motivation.

5. Fans/Viewers:
That's us! Is it our game at all? We just sit outside clap, appreciate, curse, despair, applaud and sometimes cry. We are nowhere in the main action but we think we are. We think we are an integral part of the game. We think we know better than the players actually playing the game. "Idiot, why is he bowling so short?" or "He should have stayed in the crease and waited for the ball". 

Experts, huh? Or Armchair critics who no one gives a damn about?
So, it seems if I say it isn't a viewer or fan's game, you will say "No Shit, Sherlock!", right?
But then what is a game that is played in front of nobody? It is like a beautiful song sung when no one's around to hear it and appreciate it. Most of the sports require viewers and popular sports get natural attraction from the viewers. Players also play to the gallery a lot (most?) of the times.
So is it game a played for viewers? 

Coming back to the main question again, really, whose game is it anyway? 

As I provided details about the game in my earlier post, I think the game really belongs to those who are a part of it at a given point in time. 

A batsman facing a ball or waiting with wide eyes as he watches the ball or hitting it, a bowler running in and trying a magic with his wrists or forearm, a fielder running after a ball, a keeper collecting it, an umpire paying attention, viewers forgetting they are in the stand, yes, the game is everyone's game as long as they are being some part of it while it is played. Simple as that. We cannot generalize it over long time, as the game isn't played over long time. It belongs to those who are playing some part in it 'while' it is played.

The game belongs to one and all at a point in time for those who feel one with it at that time

Well, there; I hope that that answers that. 

(All photos courtesy: Google Images)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

BCCI's Business

BCCI struggles to fit the 'fit' 11 to board the flight to WI. Short-sightedness or too much greed or complete carelessness about the players?
I think all of these and the root cause is the way BCCI runs its business.
It's a shame that for a fantastic business that BCCI has in this country, it is so grossly mis-managed (understatement of the century may be) and survives solely due to the monopoly it enjoys in this country of over a billion customers!
Adage goes "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Nothing proves this more than the BCCI mess.
BCCI has upon itself to plan the domestic tournaments, international tournaments, and IPL extravaganza. These are business commitments that it makes to its customers. When you are running a business where demand far outstrips the supply, the key is to manage inventory of resources.
It is a business of providing service and hence all the more important to keep its customers happy. However, its services are based on human resources and hence also important to keep those resources happy and fit to serve its business interests. Considering that each business commitment is equally important for all the stakeholders.
It is running the business similar to a lot of Indian IT service companies - who in order to get more business, overcommit and then exploit the resources to meet those business commitments. Exploited resources often underperform eventually not satisfying the customer's business plans. Failure written all over the way BCCI conducts its business.
That 'Survival' and 'Profit' are the only two drivers for any business is well known but solely focusing on profit in short term often can lead to survival issues in the long run.
Administration is one thing and management another.
When will BCCI learn this or rather when will BCCI 'want' to learn this?
One hopes soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cricket: The Game

A wonderful cricketing season is now over where we saw Australia start the slide after a peak of decade in test cricket and emergence of England and India as the top test teams, where we saw NZ reach nadir until they finally maanged to beat Pakistan in the ODI - Pakistan, who have looked very Pakistani, if I can say so, in the last year that they played - miraculously brilliant and plain horrid in equal parts.

What a busy the season it was, but I want to comment now how delightful the game is, and how it continues to give us the joy and keep the child in us alive.

Hearing different commentrators, journos and critics talk of technicalities of the game, in terms of pitch, angle of bat, footwork, run-up etc always enlightens a layman like me. But the one word that I am confused hearing and reading often about the game is that it is a team-game.

Is it really a team game?
To me, it always is a battle between two individuals.
Two individuals out there in the sun, fighting it out against each other and more importantly against the demons in their own mind.

The first one is the one who takes the ball in his hands, checks it out for its shape and shine, shines the side as required as he walks to his run up already thinking in his mind the various ways / ploys that he should use to bowl the ball at the other individual, reaches the end of his run up, decides in his mind on the line, length and speed he will use for this ball and starts his run up to get into the rythm required before he lands his foot exactly where required simultaneously turning his arm over, keeping his eyes on the spot where he wants the ball to land and releasing the ball using arm, elbow, wrist and fingers depending upon the type of the bowler he is, but always using his mind irrespective of the bowler he is and then bowls the ball with all his skill, may it be pace or spin or swing or action or sometimes sounds...the ball races to the other end...

The other end, where the other guy is patiently waiting, waiting with a bat firmly in his hand, waiting as he sees the bowler start his run up to the point that he bowls the ball. This batsman, all along has also calculated different ways, speeds and heights the ball will come to him and he has played different strokes to each of them in his mind. He is the one who requires more skill because he has to react. The bowler controls his action and it is upto him to complete it the way he can. But the batsman is not so lucky and he has to react to bowler's action. In a fraction. Fraction of second when the ball hits the ground before jumping on to him and in that fraction he needs to implement one of the plans that he had played in his mind while being patient. While his mind was playing the game, his hands were busy gripping the bat exactly as necessary, his eyes were focussing on the ball in bowler's hand and his feet were readying for the stance. And when the ball hits the ball, he has to think of where on the bat is the ball touching and what angle/force of the shot he should play.

And as he reacts, there is this sudden realization to both batsman and bowler that there are 11 others waiting in the same ground, wearing the same whites, playing in the same match. This contest then is extrapolated to the fielders and the rest of the team.

But essentially, it is a contest between the batsman and the bowler. Two individuals. Every individual playing his game against the other one. It is a one-to-one match, just like in boxing or chess.

And we are mere mortals who soak in the joy given by these immensely talented and gifted individuals, each playing against his own demons and for his own reasons.

Take a bow, gentlemen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A post on Sachin Tendulkar

After a majestic and a maiden ODI double ton of Sachin, my friend Abhijit asked me to write a post on Sachin and told me that it should be my best post!

I gave it a thought and shrugged thinking all that needs to be said about the great man has already been said, all the possible adjectives have been consumed and he has been called "The God"a zillion times already. What else can I write about HIM?

Then I thought about the innings that he played on 24th Feb 2010. It was as fluent as any of his great innings with the shots flying everywhere. There was nothing different about this inning.

But then here was a man as old as me but playing on the field for over last 20 years, having endured physical and mental duress, slumps in form, surgeries on body parts, faced criticism and yet never quit. There were many others who were supposed to be as special as him if not better who quit the game long time back in their careers but this man has kept his flame for the game going. With such a determination and focus to play cricket, and the hunger for runs like a black hole in the universe, he has ensured that his body is keeping up with his mental strength.
This man has been out in the most ridiculous ways to most average bowlers in his lowest form and has answered his critics who have asked whether his time is up time and again with his bat. This man is a legend. They dont make them like him anymore. He has inspired many and united the Indians and even adversaries together. He has achieved what national leaders could not. He has scaled peaks after peaks. He has provided joy to millions the world over. And yet he remains humblest .

To me, his desire and love for cricket, his never-say-die spirit and his humility make this short man stand tallest in the world of cricket!

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar - Take a bow and Thank You!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Test Cricket

Ah! Does it get any better than this?

A nail-biting draw achieved by England in SA when the cricket lovers world over held their breath...Onions surviving the last over especially the caught behind appeal on the penultimate delivery...

Australia snatching a brilliant victory from the jaws of defeat against the irrepressible Pakistan... Hussey and Hauritz scripting an unlikely victory...Hauritz doing a Kumble, but for a winning cause by bowling with a bandaged finger...

Simply Superb!It just doesnt get better than this...

Give me this any day over the T20 or ODI World Cup!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

India No 1 Test Side?

Updates at the bottom of the post

Yes, ICC will say tomorrow.

For me, I am not really convinced they are.

I think all the top 6 teams in international cricket are more or less of the same calibre and Aussies and SA are a notch higher simply because they have been more consistent than the other teams including India.

Here is the supporting to my argument:

1) If we were really no 1, the other batsmen after Sehwag would have tried to continue the momentum that Veeru had given and decimated the Lankans. Instead, we had the typical conservative India trying to bat with a run-rate of 2-3 with the exception being only MSD who played big hits probably because he was batting with the last man and had no other options but to hit big in order to complete his century (I am not saying he was being selfish, but it did serve both purposes)

2) Second is a more stronger argument, and that is the way Indians bowled on the day 4 of the test (today) and managed only 6 wickets with the strong Sangakkara providing a stubborn and spirited resistance(Superb!). Only 6 wickets? The number one team in the world would have definitely finished the Lankan innings today. Attack would and should have been the only thing in MSD's mind while pressing for the win. Instead we saw a mixed field settings and a patchy performance in bowling. I am not impressed.

This cannot be number 1 team in the world.


Update: India swiftly finished it on Day 5 in true style of a Number 1 side. That's more like it. Zak was super as he is when on a song. One hopes that they continue on the same lines and show some consistency for me to start believing that they are indeed number 1.