Tuesday, April 24, 2007

All time India-Pakistan One-day Eleven

As a child, I always hoped that one day, India and Pakistan would re-unite. This feeling was not borne out of any yearning for peace and brotherhood, but rather out of a deep rooted desire to see our national cricket team dominate the world game. I was convinced that together we packed enough punches to establish a new world order in International cricket.

My hopes received a big boost, when as a 12 year old; I saw the unified Korean team finally ending China’s hegemony in women’s Table Tennis at the World Championships in 1991. Surely, India and Pakistan could take a cue from the Koreas and keep their political differences aside for the sake of sports. And then, I saw the Asian team comprising mainly of Indians and Pakistanis, beat Europe and Australia to win the Inter-Continental Hockey title. It was a complete no- brainer now. The move for ‘Unified Teams’ would be hailed as a landmark effort to bring peace in the subcontinent and the ensuing success on the playing field would win over the populace on both sides of the LOC. The protagonists would win Nobel Peace awards and be voted in for life.

Alas, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. As I write this, we have fought another war and made shameful exits from the WC 2007. Both nations are looking for new coaches and systems to revitalize their cricket.

So as a tribute to what could have been, I undertake the exercise of putting together an all time India –Pakistan One Day Eleven.

My first two selections are two of the greatest all-rounders of all time; each man inspirational in leading their country to World Cup triumphs – Kapil Dev and Imran Khan. Their presence gives amazing balance to the side, allowing me to play five regular bowlers, without compromising the batting. They will bat at 6 and 7 and could be called upon to open the bowling as well.

Four people vie for the openers’ slots - Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rameez Raja and Saeed Anwar. Sachin and Saurav make the cut based on superior individual records and also for having been one of the most successful opening acts in the game.

The middle order (slots 3, 4 and 5) is a real teaser. I need to pick three out of Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad, Saleem Malik, Mohd Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Ajay Jadeja and Mohinder Amarnath. I finally go with Inzy at three, Azhar at four and Javed Miandad at five.

With a strong supporting cast around, Inzamam can play freely and when he does that, he can murder the best attack in the world. Not picking Azhar would have been akin to sacrilege; he is easily the best proponent of what sub-continental batsmen have come to be known for – deft wristwork. Javed Miandad is the greatest street fighter, I have ever known. Just ask all the Indian fans in the 80’s, who believed he was the incarnate of the devil himself. If I have to pick someone to bat for my life, I would pick Javed ten times out of ten.

My wicket keeper is Moin Khan and he manages to beat off the competition from Syed Kirmani, Saleem Yousuf, Waseem Bari, Farookh Engineer, Rashid Latif and Mahender Singh Dhoni. He has kept brilliantly to both spinners and fast bowlers, and he is the perfect clutch guy to come and finish off the job at number eight.

Wasim Akram is the best fast bowler to come out of the sub-continent in the last thirty years, period. He will open the bowling as the main strike bowler. And he’s capable of clobbering a few sixes as well. He bats at nine.

The number of spinners will depend on the nature of the pitch and ability of the opposition batsmen. This is probably the most difficult selection. Bishen Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar, Erapalli Prasanna, Abdul Qadir, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed and Anil Kumble merit strong consideration. I prefer attack minded spinners and after much deliberation, take Bedi as my first spinner, and in case I decide on playing a second one; go for his off spinning twin- Prasanna.

The number eleven spot goes to Waqar Younis. He towers over the likes of Javagal Srinath, Aquib Javed, Shoaib Akhtar, Sarfaraz Nawaz and Mohd Asif. He rarely needs the new ball and will operate in the middle and end overs. His presence will ensure that the opposition is kept in check in the slog overs. (And remember there is no chance he will be bowling to Ajay Jadeja)

The issue of captaincy remains. The matter is complicated as this is a team of captains; all of them save for Prasanna have served as national team captain. The two most obvious choices; Kapil and Imran are impossible to separate. So I go for the next one in line; in terms of success as a captain – Sourav Ganguly. He has a strong personality to handle the giants in the side, was never bogged down by the weight of captaincy and has a proven track record.

My twelfth man would be Abdur Razzaq. He can bat multiple positions and is a very good bowler as well. Mohinder Amarnath, Mudassar Nazar, Shahid Afridi, Manoj Prabhakar are the honorable mentions for this role.

The Final team – Ganguly (C), Tendulkar, Inzamam, Azhar , Miandad, Kapil , Imran, Moin, Akram, Bedi, Waqar/ Prasanna. 12th Man – Abdur Razzaq

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Coach hunting for Team India

One of the most hotly debated topics in Indian sport is whether, there is a need to have foreign coaches for our national teams. Among the major sports, Cricket and Football have joined the bandwagon fulltime, while hockey has flirted with the idea once. Other sports like shooting, table tennis and boxing are also employing foreign coaches.

The call for a foreign coach is mainly based on the ineptitude of our local talent; home grown coaches who rarely have the relevant coaching experience, and are not abreast of the latest coaching techniques and training methodologies. This school of thought curries favour with most modern sports administrators, whose penchant for the foreigner, however, is borne out of the desire to get a quick fix solution and sweep their own misgivings under the carpet. Their selection criterion is pretty simple; get a coach from the country currently dominating the sport.

Ironically, the selection panel generally consists of former greats, who, strongly feel that a foreign coach is like an imported car on bumpy Indian roads – completely out of place. Most of them will take the job of coaching the national team at the drop of a hat; in spite of never having coached a school team, and are gripped by jingoistic pride every time a foreign mercenary treads upon their coaching fiefdom. Their selection procedure gives undue importance to the playing career of the candidate, undermining the entire exercise.

So, as we prepare to make another selection, what is the solution to this coaching conundrum?

Well, for starters let’s try answer, what makes a 'good' national coach?

A 'good' national coach should have proven coaching credentials at the first class level, in a competitive sporting environment. To be able to adapt to the changing nature of the modern game, he should constantly be in tune with the latest coaching methodologies. A taste of the international game is another added advantage.

His coaching resume should provide enough evidence of having made his team larger than the sum of the parts, and of having strategized as per the strengths of the players and not the other way round. His teams should have exhibited signs of being prepared for multiple situations and displayed flawless execution. He should have developed a system, which consistently delivered, without suffering from the occasional absence of key players.

Now, that we have defined 'good', let’s look at past mistakes and global best practices to throw more light on this matter.

Just don’t get any foreign coach. Get a good one
- After a spate of dismal performances, the Indian Hockey Federation decided to appoint a foreign coach. The legendary German coach, Paul Lissek, was willing, but he was deemed too expensive by the IHF. So they got a cheaper German; little-known Gerhard Rach instead. The team’s cheap performances were a fait accompli all along.

Instead of buying imported cars for eternity, try setting up a world class local manufacturing facility
- All the major football leagues in the world; England, Spain and Italy, make it mandatory for a coach to first acquire a coaching diploma. These programs are in turn designed and run by reputed coaches, and the syllabus is regularly updated. In comparison most of our coaches learn on the job and the few ‘certified’ ones benefit from the generosity of NIS (National Institute of Sports) Patiala; whose philanthropy compares to the way driving licenses are handed out in our country.

Joint ventures work really well
– Taking an automobile analogy, an indigenous suspension can cushion the impact of Indian roads. Successful foreign coaches, have long employed local assistant coaches and scouts. This helps the foreign coach in appreciating the sports culture of the country; in understanding the domestic structure of the game; and facilitating clear communication with the players( especially, if there is a language barrier). An added advantage is that most of these assistants benefit from the tutelage and turn out pretty good themselves. (E.g. José Mourinho under Bobby Robson)

When selecting a coach, ask for his coaching resume, and not his playing one
- What is common to John Bracewell of New Zealand, Tom Moody of Sri Lanka, Dave Whatmore of Bangladesh, Mickey Arthur of South Africa and Roger Harper of Kenya? Answer – They are all coaches of successful WC 2007 teams, who had moderate cricketing careers. There are countless other examples which prove the same point - Good coaches don’t have to be great players as well. And, come to think of it, one of the Indian selectors had the temerity to ask Tom Moody, how he even considered applying for the Indian post, when his career stats were far inferior to those of fellow applicant, Greg Chappell. Wonder what the selector has to say now?

Finally the silver lining
- The great Indian coach is not a bridge too far. The emergence of Venkatesh Prasad, Praveen Amre and Robin Singh as competent coaches, who are making sincere efforts to fit the mould of a modern day coach, provides hope for the future. An assistant coaching stint under a good foreign coach and regular exposure to modern methodologies will go a long way in making great coaches out of them.

– A ‘good’ foreign coach with Indian assistants is the need of the hour. A good infrastructure, where coaches are trained and given on the job learning as well, will bring in a new tomorrow.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sri Lanka lose the battle but the war is still on

The fans and the experts have been nonplussed by Sri Lanka’s decision to ‘rest’ their top bowlers for their Super 8 clash against Australia. The so called 'dress rehearsal' for the final turned out to be a damp squib in the end. The ambiguous explanations offered by the Lankan team have done little to solve the mystery behind this strange move. With a little historical perspective though, their strategy becomes crystal clear.

In the 1954 Football World Cup, the mighty Hungarians were the overwhelming favorites, having been unbeaten in all competitions for over four years, and boasting a line-up including great players like Puskas, Kocsis and Hidekguti. The Hungarian juggernaut continued to roll in the World Cup, crushing teams by an average of five goals. There was no way they could be stopped.

The West German manager, Sepp Herberger had other ideas. He knew his side had a good chance to make the finals; where their only chance lay in ambushing the Hungarians. In their second round clash with Hungary, he put out his B side and promptly lost 8-3. Thus, he also managed to keep his players fresh for the other games, which were vital to their qualification for the next stage. Things went as per plan, and the Germans made the final, where they scripted a historic 3-2 victory.

The Sri Lankan coach, Tom Moody, being an Australian himself, is aware of the batting strength of the Aussies. They can be deceived once, but will be extremely well prepared the next time round. His first task is to make the semis and avoid the Australians in the round of four; rather than exposing his bowling aces in an effort to gain a Pyrrhic victory in the Super 8’s. The extra rest for Murli and co will stand them in good stead for the coming games as well. The Sri Lankan bowling with its unorthodox variety can conquer the Aussies on its day. Moody wants to make sure that day is the final.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Sepp Blatter to the rescue

Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president is on an India visit these days. His visit, the first by a president of the governing body of world football, is aimed at “reviving the sleeping giant” that is Indian Football. He feels that Football has ‘saturated ‘in Europe and South America, and growth can only come from new geographies like India.

Blatter’s strategy is to put in place a world class technical and administrative infrastructure. A professional environment will soon beckon world class coaches and footballers, improving the overall standard of the game. A FIFA technical committee will do a detailed study and come up with a detailed improvement plan. FIFA will provide extra funds in addition to the regular 1 million USD. Absolutely brilliant, isn’t it.

It is so thoughtful of Mr. Blatter to come down to India and give this brilliant panacea for India’s footballing woes. If only, the AIFF president, Mr. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi had figured this out, himself. But let’s not blame Das Munshi. He’s only been 19 years in the job, and has to perform his day job as a politician to support his family as well. I just hope he helps himself to some of the extra funds to ease his financial burden. And with Mr. Blatter around, he is surely going to fly (all over the world that is). He has already made up for letting India slip more than 50 places in the FIFA rankings, during his tenure, by becoming the first Indian to be a match referee at the World Cup. Mr. Blatter played a vital role in this; making Indians feel part of the World Cup, and the least our grateful nation can do, to return the favour, is to continue to blindly support him and his supporters in all future FIFA elections.

Though, a Swiss national by birth, Blatter has never been given his due in Europe. The European associations have been baying for his blood all along, and if not for the support of the developing nations, the world would have missed out on the contributions of this great man. Their good karma has paid off and Blatter has played a yeoman’s role in developing the game in these countries, as highlighted by the India example.

The media is another of Blatter’s fiercest critics. Come to think of it, a journalist once said, "Every day Sepp Blatter has 50 new ideas to improve the game and 51 of them are bad.” But in true visionary fashion, he has been unflustered by the criticism and executed two ‘killer’ ideas to change the face of the game.

The first was the World Club Championship. He made sure that football fans across the globe don’t waste their time wondering; which is the best club side in the world? And the players got to travel across the globe to play in this tournament. As usual the critics whined about ‘too much football’, but football celebrated its first World Club Champion. Just can’t seem to remember who it was though.

Blatter’s second moment of inspiration was, when he expanded the World Cup to include 32 nations, from the earlier 24. That, most of the extra spots went to the developing nations was a manifestation of his social credo; the desire to give the poor and downtrodden nations their due. I have a feeling, Arjun Singh secretly worships Blatter. The inclusion of more minnows also ensured that there were more goals scored.

God has finally taken pity on the state of sports in this country, by sending his messenger in the form of Sepp Blatter. This is a petition to make him the next president of India. Kindly pass this on to show your support for this mission.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Michael Carrick - The second coming of David Beckham

I am a Man Utd lifer, and Tuesday night's annihilation of AS Roma (7-1) was footballing nirvana for people of my ilk. I am given to Bacchanalian celebration (I generally jump around, cheering loudly and pumping my fists and it takes a good 5 mins for me to sit down), every time I see them score, and the frequency of their scoring ensured that , I was on my feet all night.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the Man of the Match, but the man whose performance gladdened my heart the most was Michael Carrick. He scored two exquisite goals and orchestrated the offense brilliantly all night; his phenomenal passing finding the United runners in wide open spaces with unerring regularity.

Carrick has had a difficult first season with United. He was United's big money summer signing and expected to shore up their midfield, which was stripped bare after the exits of Beckham, Butt and Keane, and the injury troubles of Paul Scholes. While his cultured passing has impressed the critics, the apparent lack of goal scoring and tackling ability hasn't gone down well with the supporters, who, have been brought up on heady dose of Scholes, Keane and Beckham. The resurgence of Scholes and Giggs this season had further undermined his contribution and he was deemed to be an expensive surplus.

Carrick will never be a Keane or a Scholes, but his passing is reminiscent of David Beckham at his best. United's treble winning squad was built around the striking trio of Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke, who benefited hugely from the pin -point crossing of Beckham. As for Roy Keane, possible replacements are Owen Hargreaves of Bayern Munich or Marcos Senna of Villareal.

David Beckham had a penchant for coming up with crucial goals (mostly struck from distance, just like Carrick’s) and saving his best for the big games. Carrick's effort; two goals, with the first calming United’s jangling nerves, and the mid field leadership in the absence of the suspended Scholes, have finally established his goal scoring credentials and proclivity for the big stage. Carrick is a Geordie from the North-east and has chosen the Reds over his hometown team, just like Beckham ignored the London clubs to play for United.

Man Utd have recaptured past glories with a return to their speedy offensive game. They have been justified in selling a proven goal scorer like Ruud Van Nistelrooy, whose lack of pace forced them to slow down their offense. Carrick’s passing will push the pace further. Whether, he can match Beckham’s treble effort of 1999 remains to be seen.

The England manager, Steve Mclaren was in the crowd at Old Trafford. He is the man, who booted Beckham out of the national team. The merits of this move are debatable as the England football team continues to falter. One possible remedy; Field the ‘New Beckham’ more often.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Media cold shoulders Jeev's feat at Augusta

On April 5, 2007, Jeev Milkha Singh became the first Indian to play at the US Masters in Augusta. This event is the golfing equivalent of Wimbledon. Two days later, he went one better. He is now the first Indian to make the halfway cut; being placed a creditable 15th after two rounds. He has held his own against the best players in the world, tying with world no 1 Tiger woods, and being comfortably ahead of no 2 Phil Mickelson. Well done, Jeev.

The day after, however, there is collective ignorance of this massive achievement. The BCCI meeting and UP polls are all over the media waves, and Jeev fails to get, even an honorable mention.

His glorious title winning run made many head-lines last year. The achievements of other golfers like, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, have also been well documented. So, how come, nobody took notice, while history was being made on the hallowed greens of Augusta National?

It’s called the affliction of cricket. The media, for all their rhetoric on, ‘thinking beyond cricket’, seems beset with a similar cricketing myopia.

I’ am not going to let that bother me, though. I will be cheering for Jeev all night, as our man goes in pursuit of further glory. All the best to you, Jeev.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Subhash Chandra does a Packer.....almost

With the BCCI dithering over the impending changes in the domestic cricket structure, Subhash Chandra of the Essel Group, has gone ahead and taken the bull by the horns. In a massive project, he plans to set up a parallel cricket league called the Indian Cricket League.

The salient points of the ICL

  • 6 teams or clubs to play in the opening year
  • Talks on with BCCI for gaining access to stadiums
  • Executive Board of the league under installation
  • Pool of referees and umpires to be created
  • Rules committee to form regulations for ICL
  • Ombudsman to look into grievances of players
  • League to begin with Twenty20 format and move to ODI format
  • League to be a joint venture between Essel Group and ILFS Group
  • Each team to have a mentor, media manager, psychologist, physio
  • Prize money for the winner- US$ 1 million
  • League teams to compete with teams internationally
  • Number of teams to be increased from 6 to 16 in three years

The similarities with Packer and the WSC are pretty obvious. Just like Packer, Chandra had failed to bag the cricket telecast rights, in spite, of tabling the highest bid. He has also learnt from the WSC experiment. Instead of taking on the cricket establishment, he plans a peaceful co-existence with the board. His insistence on using the main stadiums is also a smart move. The WSC was a non-starter, until; Packer moved the courts and gained access to the main stadiums.

However, to ensure that the gamble pays off, lessons must also be learnt from the National Football League, the Professional Hockey League and the Sanford 20-20 League in the Caribbean.

The National Football League is a colossal failure. Corporate sponsorship, foreign imports, lucrative prize money and live telecasts have failed to lift the standard of the game, or increase its popularity. Coincidentally, Zee TV is heavily involved in this project. Poor infrastructure, shoddy management, inability to attract quality foreigners, lack of talent scouting and youth programs and the complete ignorance of modern coaching and physical conditioning methods have significantly contributed to this malaise.

The Professional Hockey League fares only slightly better. The foreign imports are world class, the rules are innovative and celebrities are promoting the league. The league, however, is not going anywhere. The quality and fitness of the Indian players leaves a lot to be desired, the coaching is archaic, and there is hardly any improvement in the quality of the game.

The Sanford 20-20 was a cricketer’s nightmare and an entertainer’s delight. Based on the English 20-20 format, with more Caribbean razzmatazz, it brought back the crowds but the standard of the game in the Caribbean continues to flounder.

The lessons to be learnt for the Essel group and the BCCI

  • Coaching is the key - Modern cricket is all about well prepared teams, with clearly defined roles, striving to achieve perfection in executing the game plan. Instead of randomly picking from ex-cricketers; the need is to get qualified and competent coaches.
  • Fitness and conditioning –In India, a player focuses on fitness and conditioning, only at the international level; when it is already too late. The ICL needs to have fitness programs by having trainers as well.
  • Participation of Indian internationals and quality foreigners- Packer had it easy, as the international players were poorly remunerated. This is no longer the case. The BCCI and Essel will need to work together to get this aspect right.
  • Quality of the pitches- Again the BCCI’s role is vital. The WSC scored because the cricket was gripping, not just entertaining.

Kerry Packer changed the face of International cricket. Subhash Chandra can do the same for Indian cricket, provided, the lessons are well learnt.

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My Greatest Moments as an Indian Sports Fan

For the hardcore cricket fan, the pain of the Caribbean disaster refuses to subside. Every time he sees either Ireland or Bangladesh on TV, which is quite often, it comes throbbing back. But it’s not all sad on the Indian sports front. Vishy Anand is finally world no 1. Leander Paes has moved up to no 2 in the world doubles ranking. Indian sport is alive and kicking. That is, if you know, that, there exist other sports beyond cricket.

I have closely followed a large number of sports, and over my lifetime of being an Indian sports fan, there has been much to cheer and shout about. My first memory, of watching a sport, is of the 1987 cricket world cup. So, in a celebration of 20 years of being a sports fan, I have decided to make a list of my greatest moments as an Indian Sports fan, and as a mark of respect to other sports, and a mute protest against cricket, the list will not include any cricketing moment. Anyways, there are enough TV programs like “Cricket Legends”, “Sachin The Great”, “India Glorious “, to remind us of our Cricketing conquests.

So here goes

  • Pullela Gopichand’s triumph at the All-England Championships in 2001 - This is the gold standard for individual achievement. His feat is akin to an Indian beating Federer and Nadal and winning the singles crown at Wimbledon.
  • Leander’s bronze at Atlanta, Malleswari’s bronze at Sydney and Rajyavardhan Rathore’s silver at Athens – the rare sight of an Indian on an Olympic podium, draped in the tricolor, was a real goose bump moment. I actually stood up as the Indian flag went up.
  • Leander Paes and Ramesh Krishnan conquer the French at Frejus, in the 1994 Davis Cup quarter finals - Every time, I thought, we were finally done for, there was another stirring comeback. India came back from 2-1 down on the final day, in front of a hostile French crowd. Davis Cup tennis at its finest.
  • Geet Sethi’s five world professional billiards crowns (1992, 1993, 1998, 2001 and 2006) – This champion from the land of Mahatma Gandhi, gave the Brits another non-violent beating in a truly British game.
  • Vishwanathan Anand winning the world chess title in 2000 - Going by our continued success in chess, there's a strong case to make it our new national sport.
  • Ramesh Krishnan and Vijay Amritraj inspire India to a mammoth upset over the Aussies in Sydney, in the 1987 Davis Cup semi-final - Another David vs. Goliath moment from the Davis Cup.
  • Narain Karthikeyan becoming the first Indian in Formula One in 2005 - step aside Schumacher and Alonso. We finally had an Indian to cheer for
  • All the victories of Paes and Bhupathi - Their break-up is by far the saddest moment in Indian Sport.
  • Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna at the Hopman cup 2007 - India making it to the world stage was a miracle in itself. They continued their fairytale run beating the favorites’, Czech Republic and Croatia, and almost made it to the final.
  • Jeev Milkha Singh’s glorious run in 2007, winning the biggest events on European, Japanese and Asian tours - Great son of a great father.
  • Jaspal Rana's three gold medals at the 2006 Qatar Asiad - Trust me, I was under the impression that he had long retired. Humiliated by the authorities, shunned by the media and ravaged by fever; his three gold medals, even as the much fancied shooters fell by the wayside, is a picture perfect story of sporting redemption.

Let me just add, that this list is not in any particular order. This is just a collection of my most treasured memories, from the last two decades. We are not exactly setting the Ganges on fire in other sports, but we’re definitely better off than cricket.

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Monday, April 2, 2007

The sorry state of Indian domestic cricket

The post-mortem of India’s shameful exit from the 2007 world cup continues. One argument doing the rounds is a move to revamp the domestic structure, basing it more on the lines of the Australian model. It will involve greater participation of the international stars, thereby ensuring that, the domestic fare is closer to international standards. This system has multiple benefits.

  • As domestic cricket toughens up, the men will be separated from the boys at the national level. And rather than becoming one match wonders , future players will be better prepared for international cricket , both mentally and skill-wise
  • No national star will be able to take their place for granted, and will be under constant pressure to perform and justify his selection, on current form.
  • The coverage of domestic cricket will improve, and the Indian public will be seeing more of it. Thus, the performance of our regionally focused selectors will also come in for greater scrutiny, improving the quality of the selection process

A recent fixture of the Premier Cup (don’t be surprised, if you haven’t heard about it. You are part of a 90% majority of Indian cricket fans) highlights all that is wrong with domestic cricket.

The Premier Cup, by the way, is the one day equivalent of the Ranji Trophy and was televised live on Neo Sports. No sharing of feed with DD this time. They were given complete exclusivity, ostensibly because, there was no national importance attached to this game. The tournament was scheduled conveniently to clash with the World Cup, and our national heroes were spared the trouble of coming up with creative excuses to give it a slip. Bravo BCCI.

Now about the game - a mouth watering semi-final clash between Mumbai and UP. Two heavyweights of the domestic game, featuring numerous national discards ( Romesh Powar, Mohd Kaif, RP Singh , Wasim Jaffer, Piyush Chawla, Avishkar Salvi ), a future star in Rohit Sharma ,and long forgotten Amol Majumdar and Shalabh Srivastav. The last named was the highest wicket taker in the 2000 junior world cup, won by India. A notable absentee was Suresh Raina, a man whose absence in the Caribbean, was cited by Greg Chappell, as the main reason for India’s poor performance.

UP batted first and scored 224/6 in 50 overs. Mumbai lost Jaffer for a duck, but recovered though, a second wicket stand of 105, between opener Rahane and Powar, who smashed a run a-ball 61. Just when, Mumbai were running away with the match, Piyush Chawla bought UP back in the game, taking 4 for 31. The match was tantalizingly poised with Mumbai needing 10 of 18 balls, with Rohit Sharma (18* off 30 balls) and fast bowler Usman Malvi at the crease. The onus was on protecting wickets, and faced with a low asking rate, Rohit was expected to comfortably carry Mumbai home.

Off the second ball, he tried to clear the mid –on fielder for a boundary, failed, and was caught easily. Clearly, the pressure got to him. It’s not the end of the world for him, but it shows a serious lack of judgment and shortage of mental fortitude. Sadly, there were no selectors on view to notice this. They will see him score a century against Tripura (no offence meant) and put him in the national team. No wonder Mohinder Amarnath called them a bunch of jokers.

Salvi was next, and the two fast bowlers, kept Mumbai alive, scampering for 3 singles in the over .Kaif bought on RP Singh for the penultimate over. Surely, the UP captain had his best man for the job. Singh’s effort, however, was shoddy, as he bowled two no balls, leaving Kaif grimacing at mid wicket. He continued to be wayward, conceding 6 runs in the over and gifting Mumbai the match on a platter. There is no place for such undisciplined cricketers in modern cricket, but trust me; people will clamor for his inclusion in the side for Bangladesh. The same people, who haven’t seen him, bowl these no-balls.

This is the sorry state of our domestic cricket. Just having an Australian coach will not make us as good as the Aussies. We need to have an Australian system as well.

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