What’s wrong with cricket?

I’m an avid cricket fan. But of late, the volume of matches has meant that it’s impossible to keep up with the game. Notably, the increase in T20 games and club games (thanks to IPL and CLT20). Tournaments with multiple teams are of course more exciting to watch because there is always a prize at the end of it. Whereas in bilateral series, the question that crops us is, “What’s the point?”

Football is a global game that thrives on the Club level. Because players move around and create interest in either their destination or origin countries. Cricket has managed this to some extent with County cricket previously, but the number of players from overseas countries (read India!) were always too few to elicit sustained interest. Yorkshire became a known name to young cricket lovers only when Tendulkar played for them for a year. Ask most fans (not the hardcore ones, of course) which county Murali Karthik plays for and chances are (despite his recent unsportsmanlike behaviour making the news), not many would know.

Continue reading “What’s wrong with cricket?”

Pune Warriors takes shape

IPL-Player-Auction-2011-LiveThe second weekend of the New Year will be remembered by Pune’s cricket fans. This is the day when the city got its first set of players for the IPL team. The mix is an interesting one:

  • Yuvraj Singh ($1.8m)
  • Graeme Smith ($500,000)
  • Robin Uthappa ($2.1m)
  • Tim Paine ($270,000)
  • Angelo Mathews ($950,000)
  • Ashish Nehra ($850,000)
  • Nathan McCullum ($100,000)
  • Callum Fergusson ($300,000)

See complete list of auction here.

The collection is a good one and offers the team great variety. Of course, there’s more players needed before the whole team takes shape, but this core looks good. With only 4 foreign players allowed to play each match, it’s almost certain that Graeme Smith, Nathan McCullum, Angelo Mathews, Fergusson or Paine will take the field. The possibility of Paine playing is higher given he keeps wickets while Mathews, McCullum and Fergusson would be rotated.

The team spent a total of $6.87m with another $2.13m available for Sunday’s auction. The team’s balance is tilted to the batting right now and the focus will be on bowlers on Sunday. But the start is a good one. It’s possible that the team management would be looking at Yuvraj for the captaincy, but with Smith in the team, it’s a better idea to have him captain the side. He’s experienced and used to the role.

Sahara Pune Warriors

saharapunewarriors It’s a good name. I quite like it. But for the “Sahara” at the start, it’s a name that will catch on. It is also a good thing that they did not listen to our suggestions!

The logo of the team too is pretty nice and does reflect all it needs to. What remains to be seen yet are the colors of the team. There’s enough red and blue in the IPL already. Only Chennai (yellow) and KKR (black and now purple) are different. So how about orange?

Speaking of the SPW (now that’ll take time getting used to), the new stadium in Pune seems rather impressive. Take a look at the proposed stadium… and the walkthrough.

Finally, Pune seems to be looking and behaving international. Or are we being too optimistic too soon?

Stadium link and video courtesy Amit Paranjape’s Blog.

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.

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!

Procrastinations, predicaments and premier pain!

Right. So today’s the day. When everything will change. The whole world will come to a standstill. And there shall be ‘Karmayudh’. The world has been waiting. The cricketers can’t wait anymore. To start making their millions that is. And the fans are also waiting with bated breath. Still trying to get over the amount of money that’s been thrown around (or is it thrown away?). Continue reading “Procrastinations, predicaments and premier pain!”