Sunday, July 26, 2015

What goes along comes along? Isn’t it IPL / Kochi Tuskers?

Once upon a time, not so long ago in 2011, there were a group of investors who wanted to get involved in a lucrative, high visibility, highly marketable sporting event and went on to bid a mind blowing Rs. 15.33 billion for owning a team. They selected Kochi as their base city and hence the team’s name became “Kochi Tuskers Kerala”, the tusker part derived from Elephants in Kerala. 

Kochi Tuskers Kerala logo comeback in IPL

But this agreement was by no means, a “happily ever after” scenario. Immediately after the deal was won, Kochi Tuskers Management developed internal ownership issues. This was, after all, a franchisee owned by many owners in unequal measure. Only after BCCI gave them a 30 day termination notice, Kochi Tuskers management prepared a revised structure of agreement. This was then agreed by BCCI and Kochi Tuskers were allowed to play in the IPL of 2011. 

Phase 1: Upper Hand – IPL / BCCI.

One year later, Kochi Tuskers were eliminated. BCCI were of the opinion that Kochi Tuskers for breaching its terms of agreement.  The issue was something related to the bank guarantee. The case went to court and the franchisee’s plea not allowing BCCI to encash the bank guarantee was rejected. BCCI gleefully did the needful. Part of the bank guarantee went to fund the salaries of the players who now don’t have a team.

Phase 2: Upper Hand – IPL / BCCI.

And now brace yourself for another twist!

Kochi Tuskers then challenged the withdrawing of bank guarantee in court. The final verdict happened this month (July 2015). Kochi Tuskers won the verdict and the court ordered BCCI to pay up the bank guarantee with interest! The amount comes to around Rs. 550/- Crore (other sources have calculated the amount to be closer to Rs. 900/- Crore). If the BCCI doesn’t pay up, the amount will increase by 18% annually. This has come as a big shock for BCCI who are already feeling the pressure of playing the next edition of IPL with 6 legit teams after Chennai and Rajasthan were suspended by Justice Lodha committee.

Phase 3: Upper Hand – Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

There’s one way BCCI can reduce the pressure significantly. BCCI needs 2 teams to replace / substitute for Chennai and Rajasthan so as to play IPL-9. Broadcasters and advertisers won’t allow IPL-9 to start or will negotiate for a reduced telecast / spot rates which BCCI won’t allow. Now, the twist is Kochi Tuskers have expressed interest to come back to IPL and are ready for BCCI to adjust the penalty amount from the annual franchisee fee. BCCI are left with no other option but to concede to Kochi’s request. I don’t think BCCI will take this up legally since with every passing day, the penalty amount is reaching unpayable proportions. The only option left is an out-of-court settlement which is where Kochi can make a grand comeback!

Life has come a full circle for Kochi Franchisee. But, in all fairness, Kochi deserves a Cricket team. They have a football team with Sachin Tendulkar as the owner. The same level should be present in Cricket too. Yes, there are logistical issues, but those aren’t something that can’t be sorted out.

But hey, the story’s not over yet. 

Phase 4: Upper Hand – To be decided.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Zimbabwe – India series: Who made it count?

Zimbabwe vs India ODI T20 series 2015 series review

Things (almost) worked out the way Team India anticipated. A 3-0 whitewash in the ODIs and 1-1 stalemate in the T20 format. When BCCI decided to send a second string team to Zimbabwe, two things were certain – one, to fulfill an obligation to a fellow Cricket playing team of a tour and thereby, some revenue and two, to rest key players so that they are fit for bigger challenges. This allowed the players outside the playing 11 to show their mettle and stake a claim in the playing 11. After all, if some players in the playing 11 are banned (after their names are released in the IPL spot fixing and betting sham), there are places up for grabs, right? (sic)

Anyway, many players tried to make the most of the opportunity at hand and some succeeded – 

Batsmen – 
  1. Ambati Rayadu (Runs: 165 | Average: 165) – With scores of 41 and 126 not out in the 2 matches he played, Rayadu was easily the star batsman of the series from Team India’s perspective. He topped the batting chart. He proved once again that he deserves the spot in the playing 11. Rayadu can be utilized at number 4/5 depending on the situation and be act as a perfect support for MS Dhoni towards the end of the innings. 
  2. Kedar Jadhav (Runs: 126 | Average: 63) – Kedar Jadhav scored a match winning 105 not out which propelled him to be among the top 3 batsmen of the series (Rayadu and Chibhabha being the top 2). His century came in under difficult circumstances, which is why I feel he made the cut. The only negative factor is his age (30 years). Now, I am not saying people who crossed a certain age should not be considered. After all, we are living in an era where Pravin Tambe (age: 43) is making younger spinners work hard for their pay-check!
  3. Manish Pandey (Runs: 71 | Average: 71) – Manish Pandey made his debut in the 3rd ODI. He came in when the chips were down for Team India (82/4). His composure in the middle stood out in perhaps the toughest of circumstances possible. In other words, he made it count. At only 25 years, he still has a long way to go and despite playing only one game, I feel BCCI should give his candidature serious consideration and should at least include him consistently in the India ‘A’ setup coached by Rahul Dravid.
  4. Notable omissions – Ajinkya Rahane (112 at an average of 37.33), Murli Vijay (86 at an average of 28.66), Robin Uthappa (44 at an average of 14.66) and Manoj Tiwari (34 at an average of 11.33) are the players who missed out on making their mark. With Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma as regular openers, there is no space for Murli Vijay / Robin Uthappa. With MS Dhoni having his aspersions on Rahane, he hardly did anything that can make Dhoni think otherwise! 

All-Rounders – 
  1. Stuart Binny (Batting 120 @ 60 / innings | 6 wickets @ 25.16 apiece) – Stuart Binny had a lot of negativity surrounding his inclusion in the World Cup squad. He was considered an alternative to Ravindra Jadeja who had cemented his place in the playing 11. With Jadeja “dropped” from the tour of Zimbabwe, Binny had a genuine chance to occupy the vacant all-rounders’ spot. And boy, did he grab it with both hands? Roger that!

Bowlers – 
  1. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Wickets: 5 | Average: 16.0) – Team India’s pace department needs a spearhead. A bowler who can bowl quick (as per Indian standards), swing both ways and most importantly, pick wickets. If statistics are to be believed, B Kumar seems to be that guy. But that is where it’s stuck. He always “seems” to be that guy; he has never actually grabbed that position. With age (25) on his side, he still has time though. His performance in Zimbabwe will go a long way in instilling confidence among the selectors.
  2. Axar Patel (Wickets: 5 | Average: 24) – R Ashwin finally has some competition! A young left arm spinner from Gujarat is spinning his way into the Indian team. His performances are demanding attention. He definitely needs to remain in the squad and can be included in the playing 11 based on the pitch conditions. If only one spinner is needed, Axar needs to match Ashwin for performances to be considered as Team India’s #1 spinner.
  3. Harbhajan Singh (Wickets: 4 | Average: 27.5) – From a future #1 spinner to an ex #1 spinner. “Turbanator” has taken his second comeback a lot seriously and is apparently enjoying his stint. No aggression over dropped catches, no frustration over not able to take wickets every ball. It appears that he is just enjoying his second innings in international cricket. And this attitude is actually helping him perform. Although I am not very sure if this performance (and also in Bangladesh) will help him win a permanent slot in the playing 11, but he is doing himself huge favour by performing at the highest level. Along with Axar, he can provide support in the spin department.

Despite India winning the ODI event 3-0 and not losing the T20 event, the highlight of the series will be Zimbabwe winning the final T20 match to make it even and thereby forcing Indian fans to view our team through the prism of doubt. But all that’s done and dusted. Most of us immediately move on to the next battle. Some of the players mentioned above are already part of the Indian squad and should continue to play a part based on their recent performances. Others can continue performing hoping for the selectors’ attention. 

Next up is the series against Sri Lanka. Wonder how often do we have to play each other till we realize that there are other teams as well? It shouldn’t always be about friendly relations, right?

Monday, July 13, 2015

OnePlus is taking the market for a “Disruption” ride…

I am sure by now you may have come across a brand by the name “OnePlus”. If you haven’t, then read the next para, else skip the next para and read on. End-if. Phew, you can take your life out of programming, but you cannot take programming out of your life!

{OnePlus is a smartphone brand from China. Their first product (and as on date, their only product) is curiously named OnePlus One. They came up with an audacious claim that their smartphone is a flagship killer and guess what, they delivered! With features that match the flagships when it was launched and price that’s a fraction of what these flagships demand, they literally took the telecommunication world by surprise. They even introduced the invite system to buy the smartphone which led to an increasing desire in the consumer space. This strategy balanced the demand-supply equation. They are now coming up with a new product, OnePlus 2, with even better features with price less than $450/-. The wow factor is the launch – it can be viewed on a VR cardboard – what a way to use Virtual Reality!}

If you are reading this line, then I am sure you know something about the brand. But there are reasons, I believe, why OnePlus is actually disrupting the smartphone industry. I have touched upon them in my post I wrote on IdeasMakeMarket. Please do read and let me know your thoughts.

How OnePlus is disrupting the Mobile Handset industry screen grab ideasmakemarket

I am using their product – OnePlus One – and it’s a stunningly powerful gadget without burning a hole in my pocket. I simply cannot wait for OnePlus 2. The expectations are sky-high, hope the brand lives up to it. 

July 27th, that’s the date.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Lawn Tennis or Formula-1 - which one to support?

Back in the day, I used to be an avid follower of many sports – Cricket, Football, Lawn Tennis, Formula-1, WWE (then WWF – yes, I used to consider this as a sport too). Managing studies and following my passion for sports was a tough ask, but I guess I managed it well. Adding more sports was also a possibility. So now you know how much I prioritized one over the other. Cricket happens throughout the year. Almost same is the case with Football, with European leagues running for 9 out of 12 months and a World / Continental event happening roughly once every 2 years. There are 4 Grand Slam events in a year for Lawn Tennis each running for 2 weeks and then certain ATP masters tournaments featuring the best players at the end of the season. Formula-1 has around 18-20 races running for 18-20 weekends out of a possible 52 weeks in a year. 

And then we have to study round the year for our academic growth and career development. Phew!

Those were the days. Now things have changed. A lot. Now my selection of games have reduced to a select few. For instance, Cricket matches that actually makes sense and has a history / rivalry attached to it. India-Pakistan, if and when it happens; Ashes, not watching it live, but keeping a track of the updates; The semi-finals and finals of Grand Slams in Lawn Tennis; Formula-1, only if the conditions are fluctuating like bright sunny skies followed by moderate rains (rare instance) and WWE when the superstars of the “attitude era” returns for a night. Bane of corporate life, maybe.

Lawn Tennis and Formula-1 are on the cusp of being eliminated from my list and my paucity of time has nothing to do with it. Here’s why I feel like ceasing to be a fan of these games – 

Lawn Tennis: I used to be a “die-hard” fan of Andre Agassi. And by “die-hard”, I truly mean “die-hard”. And by the way, I still am. Although Lawn Tennis has become more and more competitive every year, I still feel the Sampras-Agassi era was the best. Add players like Goran Ivanisevic, Greg Rusedski, Michael Chang, Petr Korda and others to this equation and you have an exciting mix of top talents fighting it out for the crown(s). For me, Agassi truly was one of the world’s best and his matches with Sampras were truly a delight to watch. His comeback from 150+ ranking at one point to reach the pinnacle is the stuff of legends. Today, there are world class talents in today’s Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Murray, Wawrinka. However, I am finding it difficult to “replace” Agassi or to even find a new “Agassi” in the current crop. The problem lies with me more than the current state of the sport. Although I keep up with the updates, I wait till the semis of a big event to even switch on my television. My bad.

Lawn Tennis or Formula 1 - which one to support

Formula-1: If it was Andre Agassi in Tennis, it’s Kimi Raikkonen in Formula-1. I started watching Formula-1 only because I realized there was someone who was competing tooth-n-nail with Michael Schumacher in racing. Although Schumacher was winning, Raikkonen’s never-say-die attitude towards the race grabbed my attention. But this is not about Raikkonen. Formula-1 is a technology dependent sport. A lot of upgrades that happen are technologically inclined. The game also went through various changes, one of which was the no-refuelling rule. In my opinion, this rule (along with many others in the recent past) has spoiled the competitive atmosphere. For the past few seasons, the only competition we experience is between the two drivers of the best team. Rest all is academic! I don’t think this is good for the game. There’s lots of money involved and maybe, just maybe, the top echelons who run this game aren’t ready to take preventive action to correct the wrongs. Many of the fans, including me, need a compelling reason to watch the next race. If we know it’s again going to be a 1-2 to the Mercedes F1 team with a Ferrari or a Williams coming third, then there’s no element of excitement left in the sport.

I still don't think I will stop watching these sports altogether. My current adjustment of watching only key matches / races will continue to work. Till the time I sort out my problems with Lawn Tennis and Formula-1 sorts out its own problems, I am left with nothing but prioritizing Cricket and Football in my spare time. No regrets though.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Dropped in a match, becomes captain one match later...

Welcome to the Great Indian Cricket circus. 

Dreams do become reality.

Never give up – No matter what!

{Add your own one-liners about comebacks here. It will all mean the same}

Ajinkya Rahane has had one explosive week of witnessing the "yin and yang" of an Indian Cricketers life. He was dropped by the current Indian captain MS Dhoni for the 2nd and 3rd ODI under the pretext that Rahane does not rotate the strike on sub-continent pitches. While I find the argument highly debatable, I trust the decision made by a captain who has helped India achieve success in all formats in his captaincy tenure. And now, for the Zimbabwe series, Indian selectors have decided to rest all ODI regulars and have decided to reward Ajinkya Rahane with a captaincy role. His team will comprise of a “second string” ODI team that involves popular T20, domestic ODI players and one experienced bowler (in Bhajji) who are trying their best to push for a place in the Indian team. Quite a turnaround, I must admit! 

Ajinkya Rahane being picked for the Zimbabwe series makes a lot of sense. For one, Rahane is a top batsman who is destined to have a great career in Cricket. He is dedicated to the core and hates losing / non-performance. Also, if Dhoni’s analysis is to be believed, Rahane will thrive in the conditions on offer in Zimbabwe. The series, notwithstanding the defeat Team India has had at the hands of Bangladesh, will help him regain his touch and composure again for the long season that will follow. It will also help cement his position as a top player in the Indian team setup, if that has not happened already!

But is he captaincy material? That’s a big doubt going into the series. As per stats, Rahane has hardly had any opportunity to captain a team, either domestic or international. This could well be a case of a top player being rewarded with a captaincy role, something that we Indians are well accustomed to. Although statistics provide information on what has happened in the past, it gives no indication on the future. So, another way to look at this stat is that Rahane never got an opportunity to show his leadership skill and this series could be that opportunity. I, personally, would like to believe the second argument. But this doubt will remain till the end of the Zimbabwe series and maybe, even afterwards. I don’t foresee Rahane taking over the reins after Dhoni decides to hang up his boots even if he scores a hundred in each of the 3 ODIs. For Rahane, this series is only to access if he is capable of handling pressure of captaincy at international level.

Either ways, I must admit this is a great opportunity for Ajinkya Rahane to make it count and thereby throw his hat in the proverbial “future captain of India post Dhoni battle”. Virat Kohli is leading that race with no one in 2nd position and seems destined to take Dhoni’s captaincy place in the near future. But there’s no harm in having more options, right? For Team India, it’s always better if Virat Kohli is considered as the best option among other suitable candidates rather than Kohli being the only viable option in the team to replace Dhoni. Any form of constructive competition within the team, either for a spot in the playing 11 or a leadership role, will only help the team in the long run. 

So, Ajinkya. The ball is in your court now. Or, in cricketing terms, it's a half-volley for the taking!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

India Bangladesh series outcome is a surprise, not a shock

All hail Bangladesh – the new Asian tigers on the block. They whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in the recently concluded ODI series and are now just one win away from doing the same to Team India. This was labelled as a revenge series based on what happened in the quarter-finals of World Cup 2015. And revenge is what they got. If I had given you scorecards of the first two ODIs after masking the team and player names and asked you to guess the teams, 9/10 people would have opted for India on the winning side. And why wouldn’t they? Team India is a top team in Cricketing circles. This is how big the result has been for Bangladeshis. Now they know, after defeating Pakistan and India convincingly, they are truly on the World map! Asia cup tournament, which happens once every two years, will no longer be a 3-horse race.

Team India, on their part, have only themselves to blame. Notwithstanding the level of performance brought to the table by Bangladeshis, Team India couldn’t cope with the pressure and succumbed, despite having a cool captain in MS Dhoni, top ODI batsmen and decent bowling attack. This is perhaps an apt scenario to apply the “falling like a pack of cards” adage.

Bangladesh vs India ODI series 2015 - The reaction says it all

What’s going wrong for Team India? – It’s a collective failure. Captain failed tactically, players failed to deliver. The batsmen are finding it difficult to play on familiar Asian pitches. And mind you, this is not a second-string team. This is the present and future of Indian Cricket. And both the losses have been nothing short of convincing. Maybe, this Indian team took their opponents a little less seriously. Who knows? One look at the scorecard and you know that their batting has been much better than ours and their bowlers picked up wicket every time the situation demanded. 

So, what’s next? – At this stage, lets not jump to conclusions and say we need dramatic changes in the team setup, like a change in captain, sacking some players simply because the series is lost. I also don’t see any problems with Ravi Shastri continuing his role or even being made the team coach. Tactically, I felt MS Dhoni missed a trick by dropping Ajinkya Rahane for 2nd ODI. Rahane is the closest among the current lot to replace Rahul “The Wall” Dravid. Rahane has been the main stay of an IPL team mentored by Dravid. Rahane (like Dravid) provides that stability when the chips are down. Rahane must be included in the batting order at number 3/4, even if he’s had an off day. Players like Rohit Sharma, Dhawan, Kohli, Raina will help accelerate the run rate while Rahane will play the anchoring role. Meanwhile, our bowling unit is a developing one. We don’t have someone who’s experienced enough in the bowling line-up whom the captain can fall back on for quick wickets. The current lot are great in patches, but they seldom hunt in pairs (remember Srinath-Prasad / Kumble-Bhajji?). Till the time we find and develop bowlers of such class, we will have to make-do with the current group. Fielding is definitely not a problem, in my opinion. We are at par with the best in the business in the fielding department.

Lets not take anything away from the successful Bangladeshis. They deserve every bit of success after coming out of the shadows of their Asian neighbors. Bangladesh has now become what Sri Lanka became after World Cup 1996. And believe me, it’s great news for World Cricket.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Red Chillies and Trinidad & Tobago – What’s the deal?

T20 is the in-thing. The top players are much sought after across the Cricket playing nations. Some of these top players have happily ended their commitments towards their respective national team in order to focus on T20. The fans love the hustle and bustle of “rapid-fire” version of Cricket. There’s non-stop entertainment, loud music, dancing, cheer-leaders and – most of all – umpteen sixes! So, if you are a Cricketer, this is one area you need to excel to rake in the moolah and big bucks. For many, this format has also opened up opportunities in the ODI and test version which, without T20, would have been a distant possibility. For the owners, this is one business idea which they can utilize to diversify and market their brand to a larger audience. For the ground-owners, this is another revenue stream and a significant one too. For the politicians, this is... Oops, let’s not traverse this road (sic).

So, it comes as no surprise that Kolkata Knight Riders’ owner Red Chillies Entertainment decided to buy a West Indian local T20 team, Trinidad & Tobago. It’s a business deal that has money and future profits written all over it. West Indies Cricket Board also stands to gain as popular public figures invest in their T20 teams. Shahrukh Khan is not the first celebrity to invest in a T20 team in West Indies. Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg bought Barbados team and Gerard Butler bought Jamaican team. 

Red Chillies Entertainment buys Trinidad & Tobago T20 West Indies team

What’s in it for all stakeholders?
  • Red Chillies Entertainment – One word, diversification. Red Chillies are into movie production, allied industries in relation to movies, Cricket team in IPL and now another cricket team in West Indies. They are simply hedging their bets and investing in long term profits from T20 format. Shahrukh Khan owning and producing his own movies is always a win-win situation for the group. This deal also gives Shahrukh Khan an entry into West Indies possibly to increase the fan base for his movies. A fan of one venture of a corporate biggie will have a natural inclination to support the owners’ other ventures. It’s a bold decision, but will reap rewards in the medium to long term.
  • West Indies Cricket – Any investment of this kind in a country is always beneficial for that country. West Indies Cricket in general only stands to gain from such an investment. This means there’s a corporate house ready to invest in the ‘unofficial’ hub of T20 Cricketers. West Indies Cricketers are one of the reason why IPL has succeeded the way it has. Can you imagine Mumbai without Pollard and Simmons, Kolkata without Narine and Bangalore without Gayle. This business deal will possibly unearth more such gems from the T20 production headquarters, which is the Caribbean. And they are likely to get more spotlight now with CPL (Caribbean Premier league) now on global map. 
  • Kolkata Knight Riders – This is a long shot, but I think Kolkata will be the eventual gainers from such a deal. Here’s how. The core team that handles Cricketing activities for Kolkata team are more likely to be a part of the Trinidad and Tobago team too. Don’t you think they will have direct access to raw talents from Trinidadian origins? Any sports team needs to have the right balance of top players and future prospects (at relatively lower price, I might add). Any player who has a breakout season can then directly be poached by Kolkata and the transaction will be relatively smooth since both the buyer and the seller are the same. Add to that the fact that IPL and CPL don’t happen at the same time, and the T20 contracts are usually renewed on a yearly basis. Such a situation will allow for frequent shuffling of players from one team to other team under the same ownership umbrella. Kolkata and T&T can not only “share best practices” but also “best players”.
  • IPL – IPL is not a direct stakeholder, definitely not at this point in time. But I feel IPL will stand to benefit from this deal in the long term. Any idea evolves over time. IPL as a concept is fantastic primarily because it has copied been inspired from the most successful English Premier League / European Football leagues. So, it’s only natural for IPL to adopt more features from the Football leagues, one of which is the loan system. Don’t be surprised if players from one team are loaned to another team in a different country. This is especially possible when the owners of both the teams are same. Also, raw and young T20 specialists from West Indies may now move to the “more lucrative” IPL. 

I see this as the next step in the evolution of T20 league. Expect more corporates to join the bandwagon and own a T20 team in different countries. Australia, New Zealand, England and Sri Lanka could be the next destinations. The existing IPL team owners or their competitors or the bidders who lost out on IPL teams are more likely to invest.

But then, all the above points are likely to change if (and it’s a big IF) the rumors of a rival Cricket league becomes a reality. Remember Zee group? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How's this for a T20 squad?

Probable and best West Indies T20 team

One look at the image above and you might have guessed what's common between them. Yes, all these players are from West Indies. Most of them have played pivotal roles in the recently concluded IPL season. I have taken the liberty to include some players who, I think, has what it takes to make the cut in T20 format. This is also to ensure the team is complete and provide much needed stability in case of a collapse, which - lets admit - the team is more than capable of! 

Some of the key players from West Indies who graced this IPL were – 
  • Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard (Mumbai Indians – eventual champions) 
  • Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo (Chennai Super Kings – runner ups) 
  • Chris Gayle (Royal Challengers Bangalore) 
  • Andre Russell and Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders)

In my opinion, Lendl Simmons was a crucial cog in the wheel for Mumbai and his stability at the top coupled with his athleticism on the field ensured Mumbai emerge champions. He was 3rd in the list of highest run getters this season. Kieron Pollard is almost a “Mumbaicha-mulga” now and for rightful reasons too! Dwayne Bravo ended up as the highest wicket-taker this season. Andre Russell won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award of the season. Chris Gayle, not surprisingly, finished with the highest number of sixes in the tournament. Even the IPL 2015 final was dominated by West Indies’ players. Have a look – 

Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings IPL 2015 summary screengrab

West Indies Cricket team is in a crisis and has been in one for the past few years now. But they have something the world is looking at – exciting T20 cricketers. This is the “hen that lays golden eggs” opportunity for West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). But only if they have the vision to see beyond their problems! I feel, West Indies are years away from establishing themselves in the Test and ODI arena. But T20 is theirs for the taking. They were the T20 champions in 2012 for a reason, after all.

As a cricket fan, I would love to see this team in action especially in 2016 T20 World Cup, assuming all the problems are sorted out. Come on WICB, make it happen. You owe this to all Cricket fans. At least, for the sake of your glorious history!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bad exam result is akin to losing a wicket - the match is still up for grabs!

It’s the most dreaded season of them all. Not summer, not rainy, not even winter. We, in India, can actually call it the “result season”. Tenth and Twelfth results to be precise. And if you are born to Indian parents with traditional (educational) values, then the pressure on you is nothing short of humungous! The pressure can be compared to a World Cup final match featuring India. The whole world will watch your performance (in exam: all relatives, neighbors, family friends, teachers and even your society will be keeping an eye on you). Good performance and a favorable result – you will be elevated by one and all. One bad step and an unfavorable result – you will be severely scrutinized, perhaps for the rest of your lives.

Is it really that bad? No. It’s not as bad as society and media makes it to be.

Can we form an analogy between Life and Cricket?

In Cricket, a batting team has resources up its sleeve to achieve a specific target. In doing so, they may lose out on some resources. Losing a wicket is losing a resource. Assume an ODI match is about to start. The opening batsmen are ready. A wicket goes down early. What does the one-down batsman do? He approaches the crease, looks for any uneven spot on the pitch, tries to even the surface, does his before-facing-the-first–ball routine, focuses on the immediate task at hand (and not the eventual target) and ensures he handles the initial friction well. I think this is what one needs to do in life too, especially after an exam result. Once we get hit by a hurdle, we need to slow down and contemplate the next course of action with caution. After the result, the world would want to know how much you have scored and congratulate or empathize with you based on the outcome. If you are the one anticipating empathy, watch out for friction and a bumpy road ahead. Overcoming this phase with caution is the key. Wait for the next phase to begin. 

In Cricket, the new batsman will try to form a partnership with the other batsman and start “rebuilding” the innings. He never laments for the wickets lost. What’s past is past. He may or may not be compatible with the other batsmen, but in the interest of his team, he “adjusts”. Shouldn’t we also follow the same principle? Once you start going to college, focus should be on present and the future and not the past. The result has come and gone. College life beckons. Also, you may not get the college / stream you want. But just like a partnership in Cricket, you need to “adjust” and form a partnership.

When I was in tenth, I attended a send-off function hosted by school authorities. I happened to top the prelims (exam conducted just prior to the one that matters). So I was given an opportunity to share a message (motivational one) with the 9th standard batch-mates who were also present at the function. Since it was impromptu, I decided to say what I felt like without worrying much about the repercussions. This is what I told them – “Don’t compete with your friends / batch / university. Compete only with yourself. If you feel you can achieve 90%, go for it. If you feel 60% is the limit for you, strive to achieve that. Compete with the target you set for yourself and try to outdo it.” Post the function, my principal called me and asked me regarding the message I gave. I said, I conveyed what I felt was correct. The principal was of the opinion that I should have motivated them to achieve 90% and beyond. The message should have been the means to overcome all odds to be the best in our city. Although I had a sudden disconnect with what was being discussed, I realized that the society in which we live, judges us by the marks and not by the effort we put in. 

It’s now 16 years past that incident but sadly nothing much has changed. The only thing I feel has changed is that in those days, even 75% was considered great. Now 90% is only considered “decent”. I am not really sure why. Are the kids now well versed with what they study or is the evaluation now more lenient, who’s to say? 

It’s just a wicket that has gone down. The match (your life) is still up for grabs. Introspect the situation, learn from mistakes / shortcomings and do better next time. The only difference between Life and Cricket is that in Cricket, your success depends on your opposition losing. But life is much better; you can still win while celebrating your opponent’s success. 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Harbhajan Singh in the Test squad - step in the right direction?

Age is just another number. But statistics have a different say to this. Statistics reveal that the more you age, less is your capability to be on top of your game vis-à-vis similar players across the sporting spectrum. What statistics don’t know are the players who are known by the following names – Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Xavi, Pirlo (all Football players), Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso (both F1 drivers), Pravin Tambe, Brad Hodge (both Cricketers). These players have defied age and all of them still show the same zeal and determination to succeed. Can we now add Harbhajan Singh to this list too? Time will tell.

I must admit, Harbhajan Singh’s name in the test squad to tour Bangladesh came as a surprise – a pleasant one, rather than a shock. I feel Harbhajan Singh can still give a significant contribution to the Indian national team. But that’s just a fan talking who has seen some phenomenal bowling and batting performances from the “turbanator”. Yes, no one can rest on their past laurels and Harbhajan himself knows it better than anyone else considering that he has last played a test match against Australia in March 2013. And that was the last time he was involved in any international game. He was 32 then. Now he’s a couple of months shy of 35.

So, do you think selectors have made a mistake / is this a moment of genius / case of no other options?
Harbhajan Singh Indian Team Test Squad for Bangladesh image

Arguments supporting Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion – 
  • Experience – An advantage of being a senior player in the team is the experience you bring to the table. Harbhajan has played test matches in different countries with different playing conditions. He knows how to handle pressure in tough situations. His presence in the dressing room / ground (provided he is selected in the playing XI) will be a big plus for team India. 
  • Form and dedication – Domestic test form aside, he has been one of the best performers in the IPL who never got an opportunity to play for the national side in the past 2 years. He is contributing positively to his IPL team and has been a critical cog in the wheel in the domestic T20 tournament. This leads me to believe he has not lost his desire to perform whenever given a chance. 
  • Opposition – Bangladesh team is an in-form team at the moment. They performed well in the recently concluded World Cup 2015. They eventually lost out to India in the quarter-finals and regrettably made a big issue out of it. Then they went on to defeat Pakistan in the ODI and T20 matches. One fact that tilted the favor towards an off-spinner as against opting for a leggie is that they will have as much as 6 left handers in their batting order. This skewed information makes it imperative to have off-spinners in your team to gain a tactical advantage. Enter the most successful non-retired off spinner in India.
  • If not Harbhajan, who else? – This is the Elephant in the room – a much bigger concern which the selectors need to address. R Ashwin is our #1 off-spinner. I don’t think we have anyone ‘ready’ who can complement / replace him in case of an injury. We have many off-spinners in the domestic arena but apparently no one is ready make the jump, or so the selectors think. The best off-spinner last season in Ranji Trophy was Swarupam Purkayastha, who played only 7 matches for Assam claiming 36 wickets at an average of 17.52. One to watch out for, I must add. But don’t you think he needs to get more experience under his belt in the domestic circuit to make the cut?

Arguments against Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion – 
  • Age – Age brings in experience to the team, but it also brings in “relatively” more inertia. Theory has it that with age, people become less agile and will probably be able to commit less compared to his younger self. These are theories with proven examples across the sporting spectrum. There are some who defied this logic, but there are only a handful of them. Harbhajan Singh is yet to prove he belongs to that league, although he has an opportunity now.
  • Test matches are different compared to T20 matches – Harbhajan has performed admirably better in the shortest format of the game (IPL) He has picked up wickets at regular intervals and played a significant part for his team – Mumbai Indians. But the only thing common between test match and a T20 match is that both need a bat and ball to play. Everything else is different. The temperament needed, line and length of bowlers, approach of batsmen, field placements, duration etc. 
  • Bangladesh series provides an ideal opportunity to try a youngster – This is one of the major reasons why Harbhajan should not have been selected. A series against Bangladesh (with all due respects) should be an ideal opportunity to include a promising youngster to be part of the team. He may not play in a match, but he will stand to gain vital experience just by being with the national squad. Is that an opportunity loss?

I believe if you want to know how important a player is to your team, ask the opposition. Bangladesh will now be a little concerned with Harbhajan Singh in the Indian squad. His repertoire will come in handy for Indian team and will always be a constant threat to the Bangaldeshi batsmen. If Harbhajan returns to his wily ‘young’ self, expect more wickets to flow for the ‘turbanotor’. Harbhajan, on his part, will be aware that this is his opportunity to prolong his test career. If he fails, this could well be his swansong series.

Now that I think of it, will this be his swansong series when he finally gets an opportunity to bid test cricket good-bye! There’s no apparent reason for me to believe why it cannot happen.

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