24 May 2009

Small gloat

Yes, I called one half of the IPL final right, and I was one step away from calling both. So here's showing the finger to the rest of Bored .

Elsewhere: 

Do join us for a Bored Quickie during the IPL finals.
Read about Matty Hayden's conversations with Jesus.


18 May 2009

The Tantrum - an Update

So some civil court in Lahore has passed an order in the case filed by the PCB. For more read here. Can someone please explain to me what this means - what does not being able to move the World Cup Secretariat mean??

How long does the court of arbitration for sport usually take to resolve a dipute? The good news as a lawyer is that we get to learn something about other law firms - Vellani and Vellani - I wonder what they charge!

Its Fixed!

Let me again express the thought that I expressed sometime ago on this blog - taking a side is obviously a dangerous thing for it exposes you to immense criticism and personal attack when someone who disagrees with you gets an opportunity. We are ofcourse talking about Rohit Sharma (the 'cricketer' on the one hand and the legal luminary on the other).

Disclaimer first - I did not want to write this post, I was asked to (and I am rushed).

On Saturday evening, I once again found my faith, for a mircale transpired. The 'talented Mr. Sharma' was able to despatch the brawn of bangladesh for 26 runs in the last over of yet another pulsating encounter (are these games fixed or what?). Mortaza who had bowled only yorkers in the previous overs was able to bowl only knee high full tosses or short balls (again, are these games fixed or what - there must have been pretty long odds on DC getting those runs). I was forced to face uncomfortable facts - of his talent, his fitness, his calmness under pressure and his right to play at this level.

Then he dug the dagger in deeper - against Punjab, he almost did it again!! Fortunately, in that one ball on which we went for the most ungainly slog that a top order batsmen can play, he gave me some reasons for why the first instance was nothing but a miracle. Here they are:

1. They needed 4 of 4 - the slog was totally unnecessary - not so calm after all.
2. I have never seen an international cricketer struggle for breath like he was yesterday. Was 2 back to back games (still less than a ODI) too much for the MAN??
3. The odds on him getting 4 of 4 must have been pretty good and therefore against him getting those runs pretty bad. Interesting that.

On the other hand credit where its due. He did hit full tosses out of the park - couldnt have been that simple!

17 May 2009

Seen elsewhere

Fidel Edwards art is up over at Cricket=Action=Art.

This I would buy right now if I weren't still in the Dark Ages of internet finance.

And did you know the Real IPL player is in da house?


15 May 2009

Fan versus Fan

When I invited an English blogger who markets a sports betting group to write for the blog, I was swayed by the fact that there would be regular content (that none of our authors wrote about) on this blog, that would make up for my tardiness and limited focus. At that time, I did not realise that it would alienate our regular readers. It did.

Most businesses (I use the term to include persons who do not make profits) have to make a choice when faced with quick growth - grow bigger or consolidate, invest incoming revenues in new products and services or increase salaries etc, are some of these dilemmas. Cricket and all its spinoffs are faced with a similar choice right now. The revenues coming in are massive and an unprecedented number of fans are now aware of the game.

Should cricket focus on taking the game to the masses of people that are yet to hear about this game? The discussions about a certain American market and the huge promises that it beholds are evidence of this. At the same time, getting distracted by a potential market can easily alienate your existing clients (fans). Is it possible to get the perfect balance between both? I am certain. But by the cricket suits? Hmm..

I can only speak for myself. I am a cricket fan from as long back as I can remember, and it will need a lot for me to become indifferent to the game. I have been treated like shit for years by the BCCI and the broadcasters that it has sold rights to, but that has not turned me away. Despite large advertisement that covers the Cricinfo homepage, I am patient enough to click 'close' and read the content. The bowlers run up for the first ball of an over may be eaten up by advertisement, but I will watch the rest of the over eagerly. These are minor irritants for me, but it can turn some away from the game. And these some, are cricket's greatest marketing engines.

I am almost evangelistic in my desire to convert some of my European friends into cricket fans. I am sure that a lot of the regular readers of this blog behave the same way. If cricket were to alienate such people, it is a massive loss for the game.

I for one, would love to be treated better. That would make me even more effective in my evangelism. If the game would only provide me with a loudspeaker. If the ICC would seriously consider my views on rules, terms of a broadcast contract etc.

And this is not a strange request. When Google gives me a page of search results, their rankings are a reflection of the internet behaviour of regular users. A certain bar in Delhi had me as a lifetime fan when the owner sat next to me while I was sneaking snatches of a cricket game away from my desk, and asked me for my opinions on the food menu. Customer feedback has been a part of intelligent marketing for years. More and more businesses are getting the hang of giving their ardent customers a mouthpiece, so that they can spread the word. (Are you a cricketwithballs or Bored fan on Facebook?)

Cricket needs to learn from this. What I have written may seem abstract and floosy in its lack of concrete suggestions. So more of that later.

England's Twenty20 options

Not for the first time, England head into a major tournament with little idea of what their best starting line-up is. The ICC World Twenty20 starts on 5th June, but with a new-look squad, the composition of England’s team for the curtain-raiser against Netherlands at Lord’s is anyone’s guess.

The selectors at least have plenty of limited overs cricket to consider over the coming weeks, as there is pure diet of 50 over Friends Provident Trophy and Twenty20 cup matches to digest.

Many of England’s squad owe their inclusion to good form in those competitions last year, so some decent displays this month could be persuasive. Only five players can be said to be 100% sure of a starting place, fitness permitting.

Skipper Paul Collingwood will bat in the middle order and provide a handy medium pace bowling option. Bet on Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff to feature in the top six, despite disappointing IPL campaigns. England’s star players have under-performed in the format and the hosts need them to discover some boundary-hitting form if they are to feature in the latter stages.

James Foster and Graeme Swann are respectively the only wicket keeper and spinner in the squad. Slow bowling is a crucial part of Twenty20 cricket and the in-form Swann must feature in every match.

Big hitting has been one of England’s problems in the format. Graham Napier has been called up to address this, but with Dimitri Mascarenhas and Luke Wright also included, the world record holder for sixes in an innings might be left on the sidelines.

Robert Key returns to open the batting, probably with the in-form Ravi Bopara. James Anderson and Stuart Broad should edge out Ryan Sidebottom to share new ball duties, which leaves county colleagues Eoin Morgan and Owais Shah. It seems only one can play, with Shah’s international experience counting in his favour.

One thing is for sure though, ICC World Twenty20 betting is likely to be very interesting indeed!

Possible England team: Bopara, Key, Pietersen, Shah, Flintoff, Collingwood(c), Foster(w), Mascarenhas, Broad, Swann, Anderson

14 May 2009

The Tantrum

Let me get this right for it is hard to believe – the Pakistan Cricket Board, supported by an ex-president of the ICC (who must at some point be the centre of a post on this blog!), and based on the advice of one of the world’s better law firms (posting about whom we will leave to John), has found the temerity to challenge the might of the ICC? That too in circumstances where India - the Golden Peacock of international cricket - as well as ALL other cricket boards, are siding with the ICC??

From whatever little is available (and though "we don’t know all the facts" – quote from aforesaid ICC president in context of ICC-PCB dispute), I understand that Pakistan is weeping bloody tears because the ICC has, UNANIMOUSLY, decided to cancel Pakistan’s name from the list of hosts, without giving Pakistan the opportunity ‘to be heard’? Big Papa has cut them out and since big brother is on Big Papa’s side, Pakistan has no option but legal recourse??

It’s a laugh –several laughs actually. Firstly, the Pakistan Cricket Board was present and ABSTAINED from voting on the resolution which cancelled their name!! Did they not understand what the resolution meant – or did everybody connive to such an extent as to make it impossible for the PCB to understand the consequences of not raising their voice. Doesn’t abstaining on a vote mean that you don’t care?? So you were in fact heard – atleast to the extent you wanted to be heard.

You were also heard when terrorists (if you have a secular mindset) / freedom fighters (for the religious fanatics that read this blog) decided to attack a defence less touring international cricket team in broad daylight in the centre of town. The world heard the gunshots that were fired, the grenades that were lobbed, the stories that each victim told, what their families felt and how helpless you were. Since the world at large heard all of that, do you in all your wisdom (?????), seriously believe, that any international side (and I mean ANY) will play in Pakistan?? It is for certain that New Zealand and Australia will not – neither will South Africa.

I for one refuse to believe that any human being, or a set of them, that has lived for 50 years on the average can be that stupid. So is it about the money? Will you withdraw your legal proceedings if the ICC agrees to pay you what you would have received had the tournament been played in Pakistan – are the coffers that empty?? If that’s what you want, then that’s what you should be asking for, instead of throwing a tantrum becoming only of a 4 year old that has not been given the ice cream it wants!

One last question – if the ICC wins before the CAS or in whatever proceeding you filed in Pakistan, how do you propose to pay DLA Piper?? Are they not out of your league – 1000 dollars an hour for partner level involvement is, after all, not to be sniffed at right?

13 May 2009

The Gayle Blows

Has Gayle said too much? Should people care if test crciket dies? Is T-20 the way forward for all of cricket?

Personally, I think Gayle, the 'cool maaaan' that he is, has been honest enough to state, what I am certain a lot of cricketers are thinking. Why should any one play 5 days of 90 over cricket? How does it make sense for a cricketer when the rewards are not too dissimilar from playing T-20 cricket? Is it more satisfying to get a test match hundred then it is to get a T-20 fifty? Or to get 3 wickets in five overs as opposed to 3 in 100? Will the longer breaks that result from less days of cricket, the more delirious support of fans for T-20, the larger amounts of money being poured into it run against the interests of any cricketer?

It is a profession - the idea is to do really well and make as much money as one can without letting it take over one's life. What is the argument for test cricket? The technique - mind numbing boredom of watching a batsment block delivery after delivery? Waiting desperately for highlights at end of play so no one need watch a Dravid bat?

Someone give me a good reason for test cricket - a reason to disagree with Gayle.

08 May 2009

Onions writes his own headlines

Graham Onions is now more than just a good county cricketer with an unusual surname. The headline writer’s dream gave the scribes plenty of ammunition in taking five wickets on debut and more importantly staked a strong claim for a fast bowling place for the rest of the summer.

Early season wickets have been a false dawn for some England bowlers of recent years. Richard Johnson and Ed Giddins decimated Zimbabwe in helpful conditions but struggled against better opposition and England supporters should not necessarily expect Onions to be prolific against Australia later in the summer.

However, Onions has the right attributes to succeed at Test level in the long-term. He is sharp enough at around 85mph, accurate and capable of hitting the seam. He also has the right mental make-up to flourish, having recovered from a golden duck with the bat and seeing his first ball disappear for four.

Onions utilised the Lord’s slope well, recognising his wicket-to-wicket action did not require extravagant swing movement to make an impact, much as Glenn McGrath has done at headquarters down the years.

The Aussie legend is a good man to be compared to, but Onions knows he will encounter pitches that are less helpful than the ones at Lord’s and Chester-le-Street which do some of the work for the bowler.

Graham Onions offers something different to swing expert James Anderson and hit-the-deck Stuart Broad and with Andrew Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom in the wings, as well as the not-yet-required Tim Bresnan, England’s fast bowling stocks suddenly look plentiful. Steve Harmison and Amjad Khan are now a long way from a recall.


Taking 20 wickets has been England’s main problem in recent years and although they know tougher tests await than West Indies, they at least can be comfortable that they have a bowling attack that can capitalise on helpful conditions. Onions is now very much part of that attack.

01 May 2009

Ravi to revel in right position

The number three spot was the most talked about position when England’s first Test squad of the summer was announced. Michael Vaughan, Owais Shah and Ian Bell were thought to be contesting the role, but Ravi Bopara was instead given the nod.

This should come as no surprise. Bopara scored a century in his last Test innings, albeit from number six on a flat Barbados pitch, and is one of England’s current One Day openers. He scored his mountain of 2008 runs for Essex from first wicket down.

Shah badly missed his opportunity to make the role his in the Caribbean and has been sat on the sidelines in the Indian Premier League (whilst Bopara has played one of the best innings of the tournament so far). He is suddenly at the back of the cue.

Bell, the long-time incumbent, cannot be recalled so soon after being dropped – a few runs at county level do not make up for his 16-Test run at number three without a century – and Vaughan has not played the big innings that would have got the selectors’ attention.

They surely still plan to use the former skipper this summer, but will hope he has regained his touch and timing when the opportunity arises. He will slot in against the Aussies if Bopara or any of the top order consistently struggle for runs, as long as he looks ready.

New coach and former county colleague Andy Flower is obviously a big fan of Bopara, who looks to have all the right attributes to succeed in the pivotal position: excellent technique, phlegmatic demeanour and mental toughness.

Some might say having a brand new number three for an Ashes series is risky, and whilst the Aussie pacemen will certainly target Bopara, his self-assurance and swagger mean he is likely cope with the pressure.

It seems a safe cricket bet that England need to be aggressive to beat Australia and Bopara showed in his Barbados dual with Fidel Edwards that he likes confrontation. Shah and Bell are more passive.

Whether the Essex man is the long-term number three solution is another question, but a good start on a flat Lord’s pitch will help justify the faith that has been put in him.