IPL WTF-ness!

Praful Patel, who now finds himself part of the ever-growing IPL controversy, had this to say about an alleged email sent from his office:

"Shashi Tharoor called me because he was putting together a team," Patel explained. "He wanted me to speak to Lalit Modi and help him out. This has got nothing to do with IPL. This is a needless controversy."

Er, ok. So what team was Tharoor putting together that needed Lalit Modi’s help? Women’s volleyball?

Man, this is hilarious!

Why Pune deserves an IPL team

Warning: Long post. Potentially enjoyable.

Cricket Ball The BCCI probably doesn’t want Pune to have an IPL team. That’s why they postponed the bidding process due on Sunday (March 7). That’s what I would infer if the insightful thoughts part for the postponement of the bidding was up to me!

But it does help that for whatever reason, the BCCI has taken a reality check and is scaling back on its monetary demands. In other words, someone has told them to open their mouths a bit less!

Coming back to my original argument, it wouldn’t make sense for the BCCI to have two teams from cities just three hours apart. Having said that, Delhi and Punjab (KXIP, based in Mohali) are no different. So a franchise from Pune with the Mumbai Indians already present would perhaps dilute the Mumbai Indians’ fan base. Didn’t happen with Delhi/KXIP and don’t think would’ve happened with Pune/Mumbai.

What does amaze me is that there is enough money to invest in this ($100 million guarantee etc) as confirmed by Atul Chordia of the Panchsheel Group:

"The reason given was that they unilaterally cancelled the bids," Atul Chordia, chairman and chief executive of the Panchshil Group, said. "It is not the question of happiness about the previous terms. Whatever terms and conditions were there we abided by it, whatever the tender form asked for we gave it, we tendered. We gave the 100 million dollar bank guarantee."

Whether or not Modi & Co. feel there is need for a Pune team, here are some arguments for it:

  1. There is only one team from West India (North has 3 with Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan; South has three with Deccan, Bangalore and Chennai).
  2. Pune is not Mumbai. It is not Navi Mumbai or Thane either. It is a whole other city. That is big enough to have its own IPL team. Serious.
  3. There are cricket fans in Pune. Although the lack of a ground may prevent us from proving this, we are ready to assemble eight times in two months at one ground to cheer our team. Promise.

While the BCCI and Modi mull over these compelling arguments, one has started to wonder what the name of this team could be… some thoughts:

  1. Puneri Peshwas: The flip side of this is if the Peshwa style of thinking and working came about, this team would fare worse than the KKR!
  2. Pune Marathas: This would be an invitation to large scale caste discussions. I hope not, but unfortunately there are enough disruptive elements around who would try to cash in on the fact that it is not only the Marathas who live in Pune (and the regions it would represent).
  3. Pune Pilots/Penguins/Parrots/Pensioners: Unfortunately, it could be some such alliterative nonsense that the city is saddled with. My imagination in all its limited ability could only come up with this. It is also unfortunate that Pune Pensioners for some reason, sounds like a good name for this team. Bah.
  4. Pune Chhatrapatis: Hey, if there can be two teams that are Kings (Super Kings, KXIP) and two Royals (RCB and RR), there can be a vernacular King as well.

As mentioned, my limited imagination stops me there. As does my ever-increasing fear of having a team that has some ridiculous name and even more ridiculous punchline etc. But hey, KKR is living with it, so can we. Chin up.

The Glam factor: This is critical for any IPL team. KKR, KXIP, RR, RCB, MI definitely have it. DC, DD and CSK definitely don’t. If Pune does get their team with the announced consortium (Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Karisma Kapoor and corporates), we will certainly have it. Much more than the others! Also, we can count on local bigwigs to turn up in all their vociferous and 010 glory (the 9-yard saree) to the games. Be sure to spot Atul Kulkarni, Sonali Kulkarni, a bunch of Firodias, Poonawallas, Kalmadis and the usual smattering of the P3P (Page 3 People). Hm. Come to think of it, that does bring down the glam quotient a notch, but we’re sure the Khan and Kapoors will come with their coterie/entourage to keep up the glam.

The Icon Players: With Pune hardly having any big name cricketers of note, we would have to look beyond our shores mountains plains railway tracks to find someone to ‘iconize’. I say bring in the foreigners, but only from southern hemisphere countries. We don’t want the whole “Northern fellow” issue being raked by the SS and MNS. I also propose that Hrishikesh Kanitkar come out of retirement and be involved with the team in a non-playing captain capacity. He has the brains, he has the experience, just never got the exposure. I also propose that we make Greg Chappel our coach. He is the only one who could keep the Peshwas awake, I daresay.

Schedule: One strong argument in favour of Pune having its team is that it will ensure the best possible lifestyle for players, fans and viewers on TV. Historically, Pune as a city has slept (siesta is too mild a word) from 1pm to 4pm. Phone callers during this time are routinely abused with unkind references to their mothers, fathers, sisters or all of them together. So a match in Pune may not start before 5pm. That is when Chitale Bandhu, Hindustan Bakery and Kayani Bakery will be definitely open for the fans to buy their bakarwadi, mawa cake and or wafers and head over to the ground (wherever that be). This timing would also ensure that teams playing in Pune get that extra hour to reach here. They will need it since there aren’t that many flights coming to Pune. And if they try to be smart by taking the bus from Mumbai, they will only have to suffer at Lonavala and also Vashi toll naka.

Facilities: One unfortunate fact of life would be that the team would invariably practice either at the Poona Club ground or at the Deccan Gymkhana ground – the only two venues in the city with grass on them. In the first case, they would live at the Blue Diamond or at Le Meridien. The Sun ‘n Sand is just too passé now. In the second case, the choices are limited. The Oakwood, Deccan Rendezvous, The Ambassador, The Coronet, The Pride, The Gordon House Hotel and The Orbett are a walk or a jog away, but may not be available at all times. The team owners/management would do well to have rooms on standby at Shreyas, Raj Lodge, Rajhans and even Ashish Plaza just in case an important politician from Baramati were to drop in and book all rooms available just to keep miscreants guessing where he is staying. Of course, the new hotels at Hinjewadi are an option, but I believe the lack of entertainment options would keep teams away from there. I mean, you can go to Mezza9 only so many times! If nothing works, Pune offers some of the most competitive rates on cot-basis sharing accommodation. Available in abundance around Deccan and Camp.

To sum up, Pune does deserve an IPL team. We are woefully short of good-looking people to cheer for on posters around the city. It would help to look up and for once, not see politicians celebrating their birthdays. It would be worth having merchandise that says “Pune *****”. It would be good to be at a stadium where we can whip Mumbai’s Kolkata’s a** for the world to see which is the better city.

And most importantly, we need the attention. The city needs roads. History has taught the Punekar that roads in Pune are built only when a major event is coming to town. So please, give us a cricket team.

P.S.: Please disregard the above if it offends you. It is a feeble attempt at humor. Don’t come after me with bats, stumps, cricket balls or plastic bottles. If you do like it, send me money. I also want to be part of the ‘consortium’ bidding for the team. Then we can make sure the team is NOT called Pune Pensioners.

Excuse me… ?

Everyone’s seen Sachin’s knock of 200 not out. The man is in the form of his life. All those numbers everyone is writing about are simply marvellous and astounding. And all those numbers came because he played.

So when the team decided to rest him for the final ODI… one has to wonder why. For the IPL?

So this is the final squad:

Squad: M Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Sudeep Tyagi, S Sreesanth, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra

Let’s hope a clean sweep happens.

Going thin.

Yes, the blogging has been thin for a while now. However, that doesn’t mean I have been completely out of action. Work and familial pressures have kept one busy. Too busy.

But, with a renewed site design (only the first change of 2010!), I hope to be back to more regular blogging. Much has happened since my last post… India became the number 1 Test team, Serena Williams played the Australian Open and almost forgot her undies, Season 5 of Lost has come and gone and we are none-the-wiser for what in God’s name is going on on that island, Shahid Afridi has started his new diet of cricket balls and worst of all, Pune had a bomb blast.

Much is being written and discussed and analyzed about the blast. I have little or nothing to add to it. Except that it was a cowardly attack. Like all terror attacks.

While a month-and-a-half of 2010 has gone by, there are still 10.5 months remaining. With F1 coming up, the IPL almost here, the Football World Cup in June and the T20 World Cup in April, much time shall be spent in front of the TV. If I ever leave the office!

So expect all those updates, analysis and whatnot coming up here.

Till then, I’ll crawl back under the rock I came out from… where did I move it… ?

P.S.: Yes, I have also gone (marginally) thin 🙂

No World Cup matches for Pune

What a sorry, sorry state of affairs. The World Cup cricket returns to India after 1996 and there is no game for Pune.

Nagpur, on the other hand, gets four games. Including some big tickets ones including AUS v NZ and IND v SA  in addition to two smaller games. So where does that leave Pune?

The MCA has done nothing of note to build a stadium worthy of international games in the city. Even recent Ranji Trophy matches have taken place at the Poona Club ground or at the Deccan Gymkhana ground neither of which have seating.

It’s pitiable, but a reflection of what the city is doing to itself. While definitely lacking in basic infrastructure, it is certainly better in support infrastructure (hotels, restaurants etc) than Nagpur. But the basic missing link – a ground – has yet again cost the city.

As Mr Kalmadi, our esteemed MP continues to bungle the CWG2010, the city reels. Sure, building a ground is not his job, but he does have a finger in every pie in the city’s development. Or the lack of it.

Much has been said about this, and it is really pointless crying over this. We will perhaps need to plan to catch the games in Mumbai (the Final is there) or Nagpur. Or maybe Bangalore or Ahmedabad… all accessible. Of course, none closer than a ground in the city, but one can’t live on pipe dreams, now, can one?

Spending money to spend money

Now, I’ve not been part of many tender-based submissions. Actually, I’ve never been part of any. So it does baffle the mind when one sees this:

The BCCI has started selling the bid documents at Rs five lakh a copy which is "non-refundable and non-adjustable", as per the tender notice put out by Board secretary N. Srinivasan.

So what the BCCI is saying is that we want to see how serious our bidders are. If they have the ability to throw away Rs 5 lakh to get tender notices. And if they care about this.

I think that the money for unsuccessful bids should be returned. And the winning bidder’s money should be adjusted.

Else, this is absolutely jam for BCCI.

I always knew I should have got into a business where I had to float tenders.

Specialist Commentators, maybe?

T20 has us captivated, agitated, enthralled, angry but hooked. And much has been said about what players are right for the format and what aren’t. Rightly so, too. Horses for courses is very much prevalent in ODI and Test cricket and it’s only natural if this is extended to T20 — the future of cricket.

TV coverage of cricket is pretty standardized. Apart from the cheerleaders, there isn’t much innovation. If you think showing more stats or graphics is innovation, then no. We have had the same stumpcam, same overhead cameras and angles for years now. The picture quality has improved, but that’s about all. The IPL had one innovation with a moving camera over the pitch, but that wasn’t too popular with the players (and also raised some valid questions). So what we are basically left with for additional entertainment are the commentators. And they — at their best — are staid to put it mildly.

If players are chosen for a particular format of the game, why can’t the same apply to commentators? That would rule out such orators as Sunil Gavaskar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Anil Kumble, Nasser Hussain and more who haven’t even ever played T20 (except Kumble). So to be fair, their understanding of the format is as good or poor as the layman. Okay, so they’ve played international cricket, but then, horses for courses, no?

Imagine if some colorful commentators (like Danny Morrison who does talk a bit through his head, but it’s fun) were to take over commentary for T20… that would add to the frenetic pace of the game and make it enjoyable to watch on TV. What we have right now are former players going through a book (perhaps) that has cricketing cliches and reading them out as required.

Just a thought… can’t we have someone who can talk like he is alive (Hussain and Kumble together is a snoozefest at it most exciting moments!) and maybe have some fun too?

South Africa — Week 1

Been a week almost since I left India. I did leave with some apprehension having heard some horror stories about the crime and other stuff down here. But then, I arrived. And I have to admit, I am blown away.

One has to wonder if South Africa classifies as a developing country. If it does, India deserves the “third-world” tag it has. There is great excitement about the 2010 FIFA World Cup here next year. And preparations are on in full swing. By the way, I’m here for the IPL and that isn’t lost on the audiences here. A couple of days ago in Port Elizabeth, there were over a couple of thousand people to see the Kings XI team play a local team (and lose!).

Coming back to the country, the airports are well planned, well appointed and well marked. Same for roads around the cities (the two I have seen a bit of thus far). Port Elizabeth is a stunning coast city that is perhaps ideal for a vacation. It doesn’t show too much signs of life, but that’s just fine! In comparison, Cape Town is a bigger city and the traffic snaking on the freeways was ample proof that it is a city on the move.

Staying close to the Newlands ground here means we aren’t as close to the city as one would like to, but still, there’s a bit to look around at. For one, Table Mountain is across the road! I wish I’d spent more time shooting, but photos shall follow shortly. I’ve got a lot of videos, unfortunately, not many I can share yet.

There also seems to be a conscious effort in SA to increase trust levels among visitors. We have been given warnings and letters with do’s and don’ts about leaving stuff in the room and all, but that’s more precautionary than anything else. However, I shall be taking their advise seriously! Don’t want to find out the hard way, now!

Watching the general level of discipline and regard for rules is a big eye-opener. The IPL Carnival that happened in downtown Cape Town on Thursday was testament to the planning that this country has been able to bring about in barely 20 days of preparation.

Another thing that has intrigued me is how SA can host the IPL and their own general elections on April 22 when India can’t. There’s something of an indicator of the gap India now has to fill. It’s kinda sad especially since a journalist on the plane asked me… and I had no answer. They are happy to have a distraction from the politics, it seems. I wish India’s politicians weren’t as self-involved!

Michael Clarke will be the next Tendulkar

Michael Clarke is all set to become Australia’s next ODI captain. At present, he is the only batsman apart from Ricky Ponting and occasionally Mike Hussey who looks like they belong to the international stage. Over the next 2-3 years, he will be the only one left. Ponting and Hussey will eventually — sooner than later — retire.

Around Clarke is currently a mediocre collection of domestic players. Fitness apart, they don’t offer much on the field. They are seen to be woefully lacking in some basic skills and unfortunately for them, won’t have a wealth of experience or the ‘winning mindset’ around them like Clarke did when he started out.

As a result, this team can only go from its current worrying state to a confirmed state of worry. A la the West Indies. In such a scenario, Michael Clarke is the man on whose shoulders will rest the burden of the entire Australian team. With a weak back, he may or may not be able to handle that! Who knows. But his situation will be similar to that of Sachin Tendulkar’s until about 3 years ago when his wicket would trigger an astonishing collapse on the field and an exodus in the stands!

The exodus notwithstanding, the collapses are already evident. Only now, they are happening after Ponting’s wicket. But Clarke is set to replace Ponting. So in two ways, now, we can be certain that he is up against it for the next decade of cricket of his international career. If he lasts that long.

Sachin only had weak elbows. His back was is strong!

Symonds bites CA in the ass

Andrew SymondsJust what you’d expect him to do, eh? Bhajji must be smiling ear to ear. But Symonds’ latest misdemeanor means that he has to miss some inconsequential ODIs and now sit and wonder about his international career in general. Starting by not playing India next month.

Well, so much for repaying the body that stood by him in tough times. It baffles the mind to think why someone who can definitely go on for another five years would want to throw it away over some fish…

As the eloquent SRK once said, “What the fish!”

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