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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Irony of MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture 2012



This year's MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture delivered by Tony Greig on Tuesday at Lord's was certainly one of a kind speech.  The former English skipper went hard against the Indian cricket board calling it selfish and that it's interest lies in T20s alone and making money and not in promoting test cricket.  If the MCC Spirit of Cricket wasn't ironical enough with Stuart Broad in the panel to answer questions, Tony Greig's speech where he scathingly attacked the BCCI over clash of interest and being greedy made certain that it was.


The former English skipper, who resigned from English captaincy to join the Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket and act on their behalf promoting and recruiting players from International cricket spoke about how the BCCI was not looking out for the best interest of the game.  The man who later rallied against the BCCI and the ICC by joining the now defunct Indian Cricket League launched a barbed attack on the BCCI and the IPL.  After listening to the speech I was disgusted and couldn't help but see all the irony in Tony Greig talking of such things, considering that he never did any that he spoke of and often rallied himself with the opposing camp when it came to the 'best interest' of cricket.  Maybe the speech would have been more appropriate had a clown wearing a suit delivered it.  Greig's murky past with the 'spirit of cricket' just makes his entire spirit of cricket lecture a joke.  

Below are some excerpts from his speech and my comments on them.  You can find the entire transcript here.  Before I continue, I must establish that I have nothing against Tony Greig and actually admire him.  Some of the things he raised in his speech such as sledging are proper and I agree with the man, but then there are some things which I don't.
"Unfortunately, India is pre-occupied with money and T20 cricket and sees its IPL and Champions League as more important than a proper international calendar. To compound the problems, India has not only sold part of the game to private interests but some of her administrators are seen to have a conflict of interest, which makes it more difficult for it to act in the spirit of the game."  
There certainly is some truth in what Mr. Greig says but for most part the Indian cricket board has done quite well in managing the game compared to other boards.  The BCCI has been the biggest revenue maker among the boards and it has taken some very encouraging steps in the last couple of  years in improving the conditions of cricket not only in India alone but also in the international scene.  Of course the BCCI has pushed for a calender slot for the IPL and CLT20 in order to improve the tournament's ratings, which maybe selfish but the ICC has shot down providing a window for the IPL calling it a domestic tournament (which it is exactly) and BCCI has agreed to that decision.  The CLT20 on the other hand is more of an international domestic tournament with teams from all over the world so it is necessary for a window and there is nothing wrong there.  As for the clash of interest, one might point that N. Srinivasan is both the BCCI President and an IPL team owner.  Of course that is a clash of interest, and is a point of worry.  While I said the BCCI has done some good things in the recent past, I never said it was a saint and there are still things to be looked at - one such thing would be this certain clash of interest.
"We can huff and puff as much as we like and have all sorts of external reports, but this situation can only be resolved by India accepting that the spirit of cricket is more important than generating billions of dollars; it's more important than turning out multi-millionaire players; and it's more important than getting square with Australia and England for their bully-boy tactics towards India over the years. It's ironic that the world, including India, rightly worships at the Nelson Mandela altar because of his conciliatory attitude but then India eschews his approach by indulging in a little pay back."  
The BCCI has used its power both politically and financially in trying to get its way with the ICC and some of the other boards, and at times may have put the interests of international cricket in the back seat, but one must remember that the BCCI's responsibility is not international cricket but cricket in India.  In lobbying for an extra T20, ODI match or trying to obtain an international window for the IPL, the BCCI has pursued the interests of Indian cricket which is exactly what it exists for.  Sure, some of the tactics and actions are questionable, but is it revenge for how once the Indian board was treated by their English and Australian counterparts?  Its ludicrous and frankly childish to even assume that.
"It can't be good for the game when the media devotes so many words and so much ink to bad decisions, which ultimately undermines the integrity of some results. The DRS is not perfect, but it does err in favour of the umpires' decisions and according to the ICC, fewer mistakes are made with its use. And furthermore, there is less conflict on the ground. India has two reasons for opposing it: One, because its superstars had such an embarrassing experience with it in the early days. Two, the BCCI argues that the DRS is too inexact. Ironically, the spirit of cricket is batting on both sides in this one. The cavalier approach says DRS is not in the spirit of cricket, but on the other hand, the Indian superstars should act in the spirit of cricket and accept the majority viewpoint."
The DRS debate is a long debate and an entirely different story.  BCCI have shot it down at the recent ICC board meet yet again.  The BCCI has been against the review system ever since that fateful Sri Lankan tour, Greig mentioned.  While the world remains divided on the issue, I personally believe that the DRS is something good for the game and something that is for the future.  However at the same time, one cannot blame the BCCI for not agreeing to the popular consensus.  The BCCI believes the DRS not to be in the best interest of Indian cricket and that is what matters in the end right?  So the board standing by its players is a positive sign, is it not?
"Mahatma Gandhi said: "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. As cricket certainly resides in the hearts and souls of Indian people I am optimistic India will lead cricket by acting in the best interests of all countries rather than just for India."
While it remains the BCCI's responsibility to pursue Indian cricket's interests, they cannot turn away from their other responsibility of acting in the best interest of the game.  Especially as the undisputed leader in cricket now with more than 60% of the revenue generated by this one board alone, it has more than just a strong sense of moral obligation to act in the spirit of the game.  However while going after these two interests there is bound to be a clash of interest somewhere and one will eventually take precedence over the other.  If the BCCI puts international cricket over Indian cricket, then they are in a way not fulfilling their duties towards Indian cricket while at the same time if they put Indian cricket over International cricket, they are being inconsiderate to the plight of the game.  It is a difficult position to be in but a balance must be struck and a system where a compromise of the two interest is developed.  Only then will the BCCI be a true leader of the game unlike its two predecessors, the English and Australian cricket boards.  Whatever stance BCCI takes, there will always be criticism and there is no one way that will please all parties, but a way that puts the best interests of cricket must be found.

So in conclusion, all I'd like to say that while Mr. Tony Greig has every right to express his views however ironical they might be, he just might be better off with a microphone in his hand, watching a cricket match.   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Episode 19 - Cricket, cricket and more cricket talk



Recorded on 22 and 23 June 2012; Duration 22 minutes.


Description: In the latest episode of Verbal Slogs, there's plenty of cricket talk.  Michael and I converse about the all the cricket action happening in the world (namely England - West Indies series, the Sri Lanka - Pakistan series and the upcoming England - Australia and West Indies - New Zealand series).  Special guest and Wisden Cricket sub-editor, Shashank Kishore (@captainshanky) looks at the recent India A tour of West Indies and also the various changes in the Indian first class scene.  Michael in his stats class presents something very unique from the IPL as he tries to find out how much a wicket is worth and its effect on the batting and bowling teams and the match itself.  


Panelists - Shashank Kishore, Michael Wagener, and Christopher David

Due to some technical problems on our side, this episode will not be available in the iTunes.  However you can download it here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cricket's good gentleman and benefactor jailed for 110 years!



Texas financial overlord and one of cricket's biggest benefactor and gentleman, Sir Allen Stanford has been jailed for 110 years for defrauding investors and involved in a Ponzi scheme.  This comes as a great shock to the English Cricket Board and the West Indies Cricket Board who were in alliance with the American and were promised great financial gains.
Stanford arrives at court in his new armored prison van.
Being one of cricket's greatest sponsor, Stanford strove to improve the condition of West Indies cricket and West Indian legends such as Viv Richards and Michael Holding lined up behind him, and backed his Stanford Super Series.  The Stanford Super Series was one of a kind cricket tournament with a huge prize money of $20 million.  This meant that the players who played for the winning team in the finals became millionaires overnight!  In the first and only edition of this prestigious tournament that was to become a rival for the Indian Premier League, the Stanford Superstars won convincingly by 10 wickets over the English national team.  The ECB disgusted with their team's performance and humiliated in public by the American severed all ties with Stanford.

No more travelling by private helicopters for poor old Stanford!
Stanford not only is known for his great love for the game and helping improve it but also for being a perfect gentleman.  He is close friends not only with the English cricketers but also with their partners or Wags as they are affectionately called.  He is a very good friend of Alice Hunt - Alastair Cook's better half.  He was such a gentleman during the Stanford Super Series that when Emily Prior, wife of wicket-keeper, Matt Prior could not find an empty seat in the pavilion, he was more than willing to share his lap.  The poor middle aged man got a lot of stick for that gracious action of his from the English media.
Being a gentleman, he naturally offered his lap.
He is also known to be a good host and during the Stanford Super Series, would often enter the player's dressing room without being asked by them to check on them and see that the players were comfortable.  He was such a lovely hospitable person.  However being a good guy just isn't enough nowadays and he got punched by a fellow inmate during his time in prison.  The inmate was later found out to be an agent of the evil ECB that was angry that the Stanford Super Series didn't work out.

Cricket's financial messiah - Stanford and the ECB during the good times with the $20 M!
Cricket's American sugar daddy now faces 110 years of imprisonment for a crime which he says he did not do.  The prosecution wanted 230 years, but the judge decided not to overly punish such a good man and settled for a lesser 110 years.
Down and out for 110 years!
In what must be a sad day for cricket, as one its greatest benefactor is jailed.  It is a tragic loss for the game.  ECB and WICB officials are said to be deep shock over this verdict.  Lets just hope this doesn't send cricket into darkness and that there will be more gentlemen like Stanford who will be willing to contribute so much for the development of cricket.
  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Caribbean Calypso Returns



Christopher Henry Gayle, former West Indies captain has finally sorted out all disputes between him and the West Indies Cricket Board and is all set to play for the West Indies team again.  Gayle who had a fallout with the board after the 2011 World Cup was left in the wildness and the big left handed opener now is available for the upcoming ODI series and a T20 match against England later this month.


Gayle's rift with the WICB had fueled the club versus country debate, as he opted to play in overseas T20 leagues.  However now, things look to be positive and Gayle's return is a definite plus for West Indies cricket.  Chris Gayle sported the maroon WI jersey against Middlesex in the practice match where he scored 34 of 30 deliveries.

"Everything has been rectified.  The main objective is to contribute to West Indies cricket and uplift it. I'm available for all formats of the game. Hopefully I can get some runs in whites and in coloured clothes."  -Chris Gayle

Meanwhile on the otherside, the English team look weaker with Kevin Pietersen's recent retirement from the ODI format and the availability of Gayle just adds to their woes.  West Indies after the English tour face the New Zealand team at home, and according to reports some of the Kiwi players have already started questioning the timing of Gayle's return and saying that the WICB and Chris Gayle have an agenda against them.

Whatever the case, being a neutral spectator there is nothing better than sitting in front of the telly on a hot summers day and waiting for the Gayle storm to arrive.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Making a statement



Life is all about making statements, so why should cricket be any different?

Yesterday we witnessed one such moment when a player made a statement to remember answering his critics and lashing back at them ferociously in public.  The statement that Denesh Ramdin made certainly has the world's attention.


Ramdin, the promising West Indian wicket keeper who completed his second test century yesterday against England celebrated in a very unique manner.  After scoring his century, he dropped his bat and pulled out a paper from his pocket and held it aloft for the cameras.  The paper in the caribbean style had the words, "Yea Viv talk nah".  The message was a response to Sir Viv Richard's scathing criticism of Ramdin and his place in the team.  The cheeky act from Ramdin certainly did catch the limelight and though he may have answered some critics, he still has a long way to go.  However what a bold statement it was!  It was almost as good as the statement made by the Godfather he sent a severed race horse's head to Jack Woltz's bed.


A severed head in the pillow makes more sense than 1000 words.  Same applies in cricket, and Ramdin will know that all he needs to do is to let his willow speak.