Category Archives: Indian Cricket League

We’re back! / Twenty20 and its dependence on football

So, after the bane of University work hindering my chances of writing, I’m pleased to say that for the foreseeable future at least, The Sight is in End will finally resume its normal service.

The reason why I haven’t written much is that I didn’t want to hastily churn something out that I wasn’t particularly happy with, simply to keep having content on the blog. Now, that may seem counter-productive since yes, a blog should be updated regularly in order to keep its audience et ceteras, but I’m not a fan of that school of thought.

Let it come to pass that if it means taking weeks out and then writing one or two decent things, then that’ll do me (and hopefully, you). Anyway, I’ve gone on too much.

Before this year, I bet hardly anyone had heard the name Allan Stanford. A multi-billionaire Texan who has been based in Antigua for over two decades, in 2005 he announced he would set up an inter-Caribbean Twenty20 tournament in the hope that he could use the format to revitalise West Indian cricket, and therefore becoming one of cricket’s most important in the process.

Three years later, and Stanford has done just that. Australia had Kerry Packer; India have the deflated ICL creator, Kapil Dev; now England and the WI have their own equivalent.

Stanford promises $10 million Twenty20 matches between a West Indies All-Star XI and England, as well as tournaments at Lord’s that would allow two additional Test playing nations to compete alongside the WI and England, have wooed the ECB into taking him incredibly seriously. All this talk has allowed him to become the man at the heart of the English equivalent to the IPL.

Stanford has promised substantial financial backing for an English-equivalent, providing it arrives within the next two years. After that, he says, the opportunity will have disappeared.

For an English IPL to happen, it’s likely that for Twenty20, counties will have to amalgamate, with Lancashire, Yorkshire and Durham theoretically put together to form a Northern side. I would have loved to have seen Geoff Boycott’s reaction to that.

However, the often ECB attitude of cynicism and ignorance seems to have been put aside; and as seen with the BSkyB Test-match deal, money is the subject that always pricks their ears (don’t let me stop you using the Joe Orton anagram in “ears”, by the way).

All this promise of millions on single matches is nothing when you think that when the English IPL eventually comes to fruition, he could be tapping into a worldwide market worth around $500 million. Twenty20, Stanford says, has the potential to become the biggest game in world sport, surpassing football in the process.

They sound like the remarks of a deluded idiot willing to gamble millions; but with the support of the Asian sub-continent, he could have a point.

Yet Stanford’s talk of overtaking football is forgetting one thing: that Twenty20 is clinging to football. As well as the game itself being easily digestible and over in a couple of hours, it’s everything else that surrounds it that makes you realise that Twenty20 depends on today’s version of football in order to advance. The examples aren’t implicit either — they’re down right blatant.

The TV presentation, the red tunnels, the floodlights, the glamour, the kits made by Reebok and Adidas and Nike, the LED advertising boards, cricketers marketed as stars and given a ‘bought’ through an auction, and the use of the footballing lexicon (Indian Premier League) and talk of a Twenty20 Champions League (that will probably have its own classically-inspired theme-tune (with a hint of tabla) featuring”The Champions!” sung in English, English (with a hint of Caribbean), Afrikaans, Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Sinhala and Tamil).

This is all rhetoric, and the effect of it can be seen by how the IPL is a serious plaything for the wealthy akin to the Premier League. Not only have the fans succumbed to the rhetoric, but the wealthy Bollywood stars and millionaires have as well — and how. Football, or specifically the Premier League, has made sport the ultimate plaything that can yield profit and bring more publicity for them.

It seems that where football is going, Twenty20 is following. Whether it could be the other way round in years to come? Doubt it.

David.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Cricket, ECB, England, English Premier League, India, Indian Cricket League, Indian Premier League, IPL, Kerry Packer, Opinion, Sport

Gilchrist, a sentimental Ponting, and a sobering realisation

If you didn’t already know, Adam Gilchrist has retired from international cricket. As an England fan, I should feel glad that someone who fired the second fastest century in Adelaide in the 2006 Ashes that led to the embarrassment of a 5-0 whitewash, and delivered an Ashes debut to savour with the bat at Edgbaston in 2002, has now decided to spend more time with his family.

However, I’m quite the opposite. Cricket has lost a player that brought equal amounts of dread and exhilaration for the opposing fan, as well as something that’s arguably even rarer — a modest Australian cricketer.

What first struck me when Gilchrist announced his retirement was the lack of discussion over his wicket-keeping, both pre and on the announcement of his retirement. Apparently the dropped catch off VVS Laxman convinced Gilchrist that it was now time to leave the game, believing that he now lacked the speed and concentration he once had.

But this lack of discussion is perhaps because as a keeper, he was consistent to the point where discussion only ever occurred when he broke a keeping record. Many will argue that he missed too many stumpings and catches, but this lack of discussion is arguably as loud as any round of applause. Only when keepers drop catches or consistently under perform are they often talked about; as Matt Prior, Geraint Jones and MS Dhoni can testify. He wasn’t as prolific or as acrobatic as Rodney Marsh, but he was just as good.

Yet while Marsh was instrumental in changing the ideas of keeping, from giving himself more space to throw himself about to changing the positions of his slips, Gilchrist was the Rodney Marsh of batting. The first and still only batsman to hit 100 sixes in Test cricket, he could turn a match in the space of an over; his 24 off a single Matthew Hoggard over in the ’06 Ashes coming to mind.

In his post-match presentation speech at the end of what turned out to be a tame fourth Test draw in Adelaide, Ricky Ponting, considered to be incessantly driven by the need to win and nothing else, was probably as emotional and as sentimental as you’ll ever see him when he commented on Gilchrist’s retirement and the gradual succession of new guys over the old — I even managed a little “awww.” It was incredibly sobering to hear.

But he’s right; before he knows it, he’ll probably be joining Warne and McGrath in the Indian Cricket League. After the departures of Langer, Warne and McGrath, Gilchrist’s retirement has finally brought the realisation that Australian cricket really is entering an uncertain, yet fresh and deeply intriguing phase.

David.

 

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Filed under Adam Gilchrist, Australia, Comment, Cricket, ICC, Indian Cricket League, Ricky Ponting, Sport

The buck now stops with Ponting and Bucknor

Being an England fan, I think it was difficult to at first acknowledge the role of Ricky Ponting in the Harbhajan affair. After all, England, in a time that seems so long ago, overcame sledging etc in the 2005 Ashes Series by playing them at their own game. Of course, it didn’t work just over a year ago in the Australian backyard.

Becoming so accustomed to that type of behaviour, it now seems natural — ‘The Spirit of the Game’ transformed; the “anger” Nasser Hussain called for the England team. The persistent appealing towards two underwhelming umpires (in the case of Bucknor, one consistently underwhelming umpire) at first masked by the racism row, is now beginning to be realised. Gamesmanship is now the issue, with Harbhajan taking a back-seat. Even notable Australian-based cricket journalists such as  Peter Roebuck are calling for his sacking.

Steve Bucknor, who was to umpire the third Test in Perth, is now no-longer doing so, and has been replaced by Billy Bowden. Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the ICC, bowed to the pressure of India.

And, by being nocturnal and watching ND-TV on Sky (channel 513 in the UK) at 4.30am this morning, where a studio audience was drafted in and a panel who repeatedly talked about the honour of a nation being besmirched, it’s easy to understand why.

His consistent poor decision-making has stirred a nation to the point where memories of the colonial past are now coming back; views that the game of cricket cannot afford to be subjected to – again. Comments on that eponymous feature of all news channels — the ticker, were all calling for the sub-continent to form a ‘super association’ that is totally independent of the ICC. It’s all rash talk, but rash talk that will frighten the ICC.

Cricket is entering yet another shaky period. This row, as well as the ensuing impasse over England touring Zimbabwe, are making that ominous Hadlee vision a reality.

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Filed under Andrew Symonds, Australia, Australia v India Cricket Row, Comment, Cricket, ICC, India, Indian Cricket League, Peter Roebuck, Racism, Ricky Ponting, Sport, Steve Bucknor

Harbhajan race row: Could it split cricket apart?

The furore over India’s Harbhajan Singh supposedly calling Andrew Symonds a “monkey” during the second test in Sydney is escalating in confusion and intensity.

On the one side is the ICC, the body that protects the wider game from its tax-haven in Dubai; the other is India, the obsessive cricketing nation that frequently airs intention, albeit not from the BCCI, of breaking away from the establishment with its Indian Cricket League and of continued desire for more control in the game.

It may seem like exaggeration, but if this not resolved soon, it could have the potential to not just damage reputations, but to be ‘the straw that broke the camels back’, and with it splitting the cricketing world apart.

The issue now seems to transcend the role of Australia in the row, and is now concentrating more on umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson, and match referee Mike Procter.

For now, India have lodged an appeal and Harbhajan is free to play until it is is heard, but politics is once again threatening the game.

India are once again playing the ‘unjustly treated card’ by saying that the umpiring and refereeing was totally unacceptable, as well as stating that Australia played the game in a manner that was contrary to the ‘spirit of the game’.

Meanwhile, Australia are baffled by the whole thing, with Symonds saying that he is “surprised” about the supposed incident because there had been “no bad blood” during the series so far.

As for the tour continuing is uncertain; however, India’s assistance manager MV Sridhar believes that the tour will continue, but said that “we will await instructions from the BCCI.”

James Sutherland, chief executive of Cricket Australia, also believes that the tour will go ahead after discussing the matter with BCCI President Sharad Pawar:

“Sharad Pawar, who is the president of cricket in India, has overnight made such commitments, so that’s good enough for me. We’re looking forward to Perth now.”

This situation does bear some resemblance to the South Africa v India series in 2001, where five Indian players (including Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar) were suspended for ball tampering.

In this incident, which lead to the infamous Unofficial Test at Centurion, the match referee Mike Denness was lambasted by the BCCI and incurred, according to then Wisden editor Graeme Wright, “the wrath of a nation.”

Except now that is, the nation that believed was being racially discriminated, is now the believed discriminator.

In the 1982 edition of Wisden, former New Zealand captain Walter Hadlee wrote:

“The International Cricket Conference [as it was then known] represents the cricketers of the world. Its future can only be threatened if members allow themselves to be involved in politics rather than cricket.”

This is what is in danger of happening. Effergies of Bucknor, that most unlikely of hate figures, Benson and now Ricky Ponting, are being burnt on the streets of India. A political row is brewing, and the BCCI are trying to remain composed by awaiting the official ICC ruling on Harbhajan. But for now at least, the Indians are adamant and once again feel discriminated.

Time will tell whether this could be that proverbial piece of straw.

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Filed under Andrew Symonds, Australia, Australia v India Cricket Row, Comment, Cricket, ICC, India, Indian Cricket League