Sunday, February 24, 2008 

Cricket. I don’t like it…….I love it!

With this tag line started a new revolution in the world of cricket. The first real overhauling cricket has had in the times that I have been watching the game. In England in 2002, the cricket board came up with the idea of starting a 20 over tournament with fancy backgrounds, innovative rules and of course eye catching cricket. A nation that had manifested a cult called cricket was feeling the lack of interest the people were showing to their national game and the administrators threw caution to wind and out came a product called Twenty20.

Perhaps after thorough market research and statistical analysis, the designers and experts realised that cricket was dragging for too long to keep the crowd engaged. To add to that the purists of the game were becoming far and few and the new generation wanted quickfire fun. T20 was the perfect amalgamation of cricketing brilliance, business opportunity and crowd entertainment. The tournament involved most of the county teams who played 3.5 hour games, sometimes three matches in one day. The viewers were most happy to watch it as a movie with action all through the length of the game. The interest was revived somewhat and the way cricketers approached their game became more proactive and flamboyant.

Meanwhile, a little south east of England, a country which was doing massive business through the game already was setting itself up to see a major rebellion. That the BCCI has been opaque and unaccountable in its functioning is written in LKG books these days. It was therefore not a surprise that ZEE television came up with its own idea of setting up a league, the ICL, with the same format, to draw in crowds. Apart from its promise of providing justice for all its pros, it promised great fun and action packed cricket. To add to this they thought of bringing in international stars, however, largely retired cricketers or ones who never made it to the top or didn’t think they ever could.

But how could BCCI sit on it haunches and let someone else make money. So out came the IPL, promising many more stars of the game ensuring great VC interest and absolutely astronomical salaries for cricketers involved. Within no time the event was materialised, the idea for which was apparently put forward 2 years ago. The BCCI with its monetary power was able to collect some of the biggest current names in the game and the inauguration of the event crystallized with the recent players’ auction. Huge salaries running into crores have been put into contracts for Indian and overseas players in a promise to provide excellent viewership on cricket grounds across India. There has been considerable disappointment and criticism of the franchise owners for throwing in so much money to a sport which already enjoys a billion dollar revenue. Some even went on and said that this money could have been used to support poor people and the education of rural India. However, I think this talk is plain rubbish. A very communist approach in an otherwise capitalist economy. Not to mention that the money pooled in will draw even more money which most of the franchise owners such as Reliance and India Cements will put in their CSR activities anyhow, which people tend to forget. Plus cricketers will make some money which is not bad at all. It’s like entering a booming domain where salaries are sky high. Nobody questions I-Banks for giving huge salaries to its employees, where run of the mill IITians and IIMians draw so much money with so little knowledge.

I have no doubt in my mind that the IPL will outdo the rebel league. But what next? The idea of T20 precipitated as a natural course of development of the game. The sports governing body realized that they need to fill in more excitement in the game to sustain it. Things took their natural course and slowly even the purists accepted the format as a form of the game. Then the setting up of the ICL was also a natural course. However this time not for the development of cricket per say, but to destroy the anarchy of the BCCI which was increasingly becoming indifferent to cricket and engrossed with making money for a few individuals. The ICL was part of an opportunity to make more money and perhaps establish a new order in Indian cricket.

The establishment of IPL though was for all the wrong reasons. It was not a fall out of positive vision or the process of development. It was only to curb the rebel league from finding a footing in India and hampering the monetary benefits reaped by the BCCI. This is what is its strongest point to stay at the top. They already have money and they will run ICL out of business. But once that job is done the BCCI on its part will have no mission to continue with the IPL, the objective will have been completed and BCCI will go back to its money minting best. There is also major doubt on how people will come to appreciate matches between Banglore and Mumbai and Kolkata, when there are already very few who go to the stadiums to watch Ranji matches. Possibly the television coverage will provide eye balls to the event, but even that will not sustain if passion and competitiveness does not exist between teams. For how long can people come to watch Symonds vs. Bhajji. The best part though is that cricketers will benefit on the short term. Which means that the ICL (not IPL) will have achieved at least one of its goals. So while the senior management in ZEE television may be sacked around, people like Kapil Dev and Sandip Patil will feel pleased.

The worst part is that, like every other business if employees start changing jobs for competitive salaries a time might come when cricketers may start skipping international matches for such tournaments and the game will be deprived of any passion. The road ahead for cricket is anyways narrowing down. Professionalism does mean better quality of cricket but it also means that the game can be thrown out due to business failure. Slowly and steadily the game will meet the same fate as that of hockey.

Finally, I feel very pleased to know that Ishant Sharma, all of 19, will earn 3.8 crores in 3 years, something that I will definitely earn in this life. I am sure even my parents must be starting to think, ki yaar isse acha to isse cricketer hi bana dete, IIT me ghanta bhej diya, ….and I think that will be the biggest positive coming out of this entire episode.

Thursday, February 07, 2008 


“Raj Singh”…Kya tumhe maut se darr nahi lagta?

Debates, discussions, likes, dislikes, arguments and disagreements are as much a part of life as they are of cricket. You will rarely find two people having the same ideas about ‘cricket’ and agreeing to something amicably. Then again just as in real life there are some axioms in cricket that bestow equilibrium. One of these is of course the unchallenged superemacy of Sir Donald Bradman. There are people however who feel Sachin Tendulkar lies in the same unconquerable category, but I for one don’t take it as an axiom.

But that discussion apart, there is an axiom in reel life too, the big Bachhan is the Don of Cinema. Unparalled and unbeatable in his exploits. He is the super hero who has changed lives, for the better more often than not, purely through his acting and charisma. But of course going on describing the laurels he has achieved for himself and the country will probably take a few weeks. And that is precisely why I believe it is an axiom. No discussions and debates exist here. Yet some idiots try there hands and mouths at tarnishing his image. Doing such a crime in this day an age is one thing, but doing it for politically motivated ventures is quite amazing. My (un)sincere sympathies to this demented mind. Forgive him ‘god’ for he doesn’t know what he does.

The issue of outsiders and natives has plagues India for years now, and more so in southern and western parts of India. In the western part, Maharashtra more so than Gujarat. I can not understand the weird sense of inferiority complex these people have when it comes to accepting north Indians. If some one would suggest that such disharmony and divisive vibe exists in north India, I can only laugh my stomach off on that. And its pretty big as most of you know. I myself an inherently maharshtrian, have never realised that an issue such as acceptance exists. Delhi has been a true cosmopolitan, not just because it’s difficult for a Punjab or Haryana or UP to stake claim on its heritage, but because people here are so naturally adjusting. If I speak about south Indians, it may not sound fair, but I can say that with some authority about maharashtrians that they are not flexible by birth. And there inability to be social and friendly is reinforced during the course of their childhood and up bringing.

But as I said, the problem lies in an inherent sense of inferiority against north Indians, more so punjabi’s and bhaiyyas. My knowledge of this complex tells me that there are three factors which engrain such a feeling. One, that maharashtrians are physically weaker than their Punjab and UP compatriots so they can never beat them with hands, hence use the mouth to demean them as much as possible. Secondly unlike marathi’s and south Indians, north Indians are great businessmen and entrepreneurs who make a buck and make it quick. Maharashtrians can’t fathom such electric growth and out of the box business skills. They can only catch the local on time with the tiffin in one hand and the nut-bolt in the other and end the day feeling like they achieved something. Thirdly, north Indians have a sense of style and flamboyance which makes them popular and adored when maharashtrians will sit in there home writing slogans on how to keep visitors outside the door step. If you don’t believe me check out for some links on the web on what people in Pune write outside there houses. One of the slogans goes like this ‘ek da bell vazavnyavar uttar dile nahi tar dusryanda bel vazavu naye; dusryanda bell vazavlya var tumcha apmaan kela zail’. Which translated to English means ‘if we don’t answer the door when you ring the bell the first time, don’t ring it again. If you ring it a second time we will humiliate you’. I am talking of people who can afford houses in Pune, so you can imagine these are rich well educated families. I have long detached myself from being called a maharashtrian. I love the fact that I know marathi, for one it is good to know a language and two that my parents never thrust it on me and my sister to learn it. They spoke it and we picked it up, that’s about it. Today I belong to North India, and have always belonged since I was 2. I was born in UP, I lived in Delhi, I read in UP and now I work in Haryana. Not to mention my Punjabi connection ;).

The bottom line is that your belief and ideas are restricted to yourself, but when you are in a society you have to accept others and keep changing accordingly. One might say that why does AB then advertise for UP. I make the following points.

  1. He has spent his early years in UP and those years leave a permanent mark on you.
  2. He still feels like a part of UP and he has all the right to think so, if you notice all his dialogues that have brought so much money in Mumbai and Maharashtra, start with ‘arre bhaiyya…’
  3. It’s not like he doesn’t care for Mumbai. He has done tonnes of charities and fund raising campaigns in Maharashtra that can’t be overlooked.
  4. The act of him becoming brand ambassador for UP is not meant to look down upon the ghati maharashtrians, but these ghatis want to, for some reason, look down upon there countrymen from the north.

The worst part is that at the end of the day a poor bihari cab driver gets beaten up. Sad yaar! If someone has the guts then bring AB on the street and beat him up. Why the poor man yaar, he is just earning a living. Don’t we empathize with our people who go abroad for studies and jobs and get clobbered because of not being natives? Then we are ready to condemn the Americans and the British for being high handed and perhaps racist (it’s a popular word these days eh?). Why can’t we relate ourselves to that predicament and be civil about the rights of an Indian to earn money to live a life anywhere in India.

Every place has its short comings and I know Delhi does too. But as proud as I feel about calling myself a Delhite, I feel as ashamed at times at calling myself Marathi. Seriously, the word marathi seems synonymous to a perpetual loser to me. A lot of maharshtrians though have done India proud, Sachin Tendulkar being one of them. But these Thackrey boys are not getting their injections at the right times. I feel as aggrieved as these guys would be if I were to call Shivaji names. But I won’t, thanks to my interface with north India.

As an interesting discussion in my office ensued about who was the greatest cricketer India had produced, some of the guys were hell bent on giving the accolade to Sachin. But as much as I respect his contribution to Indian cricket I think the Jat from Haryana takes the cake, quite literally by heads and shoulders.

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