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The difference between good journalism and …

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…pure shit is a thin one. Consider two articles that came out recently regarding the action of Sri Lankan bowler Suraj Randiv in their last ODI match against India.

Bit of the background: India needed one to win with plenty of overs to go, Sehwag was on 99, threshold of a well-deserved century. Randiv bowls a no-ball that galli-cricket players would be ashamed of, India has won and Sehwag doesn’t get the century even though he hit the ball for a six!

Sehwag being Sehwag, dispenses with any diplomatic niceties in the post-match questioning and asserts that Randiv did this on purpose. As you can imagine, this  incident unleashes a stupid shit-storm in the Indian media which completely over-reacts (wait! where have I heard that one before?). Even more surprisingly, though Randiv admitted his lack of sportsmanship and apologized personally to Sehwag, he was banned for a match by the Sri Lankan board!

Well, that was pretty much the gist of Sambit Bal’s (someone I often do not agree with) article in Cricinfo concerning the incident, with the perfect summation of the situation:

The bowler apologised, the batsman accepted; where do the rest of us come in?

Good stuff.

OTOH, Anand Vasu, former Cricinfo editor, tries to make the same point in Hindustan Times but with far less conviction. Firstly, he tries to make some  bizarre  analogy with breaking law in real life (speeding, drunk driving etc) and breaking law in cricket! This doesn’t really hold, since Randiv did not break any laws  (a better comparison may have been holding the lift door open for someone and not being an ass and pressing ‘Close Door’, yes you know who you are).

He also appeals with an anecdote from Chandu Borde showing gamesmanship has always existed:

Chandu Borde, who played at a time when cricket happened at a much gentler pace, recounted his experience. “When Gary Sobers was batting against us on 199, we ran him out by bringing in the field. We could have allowed him to make a double ton but we did not,” said Borde. “The lines between fair and unfair play have blurred.”

Really? Since when is running out, or dismissing a batsman unfair play? Don’t all teams like to put pressure on batsmen when they’re at 99/199/299 etc ? This wasn’t a question of trying to dismiss Sehwag, there wasn’t even a whiff for SL to win the match. The action, without doubt, was classless (but again, not worthy of so much controversy). A similar Indian action would have been to deny Murali his 800th wicket in the test match earlier this year (or if Pakistan had denied Kumble the 10-fer during that famous match).

But the ultimate zinger is this:

Closer home and specific to the latest controversy, Ajay Jadeja has a practical view. “Sehwag would have done the same thing if he was bowling,” says Jadeja. “This is very common in cricket.”

Oh yes, Jadeja – the guy who took money to lose for his team. Good to know he’s a mind-reader too. In the same vein, let me declare that even Ricky-the-ball-touched-the-ground-but-I-will-still-claim-a-catch-Ponting wouldn’t have resorted to this type of gamesmanship in a similar situation. Makes as much of logical sense.

Even more amusing is how Vasu tries to claim a badge of honor for upsetting Indian cricket fans. Newsflash: just tweet ‘Bradman was much better than Tendulkar could or will ever be’. Watch the fun. Doesn’t take much to upset Indian cricket fans (I know, I’ve been guilty too).

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Cricket, India, Rants

Ghost goals and whingerings

with 4 comments

So everyone and their grandmother are complaining about the lack of use of technology in soccer after England had a perfectly good goal disallowed during the first half of their round of 16 match-up with Germany.

It is hard to argue against some kind of electronic and/or human intervention in cases of howlers such as this, or the missed off-side call during the Argentina-Mexico game later in the day.

But, even though England went on to be subsequently thrashed 1-4, apologists – chief among them coach Fabio Capello and other English players – decided to blame the entire loss that disallowed goal. Their reasoning: England would have played differently with a 2-2 score and Germany would not have had chances for the counter-attacks.

This is of course, perfect bullocks.

Here are two reasons:

(1) Look at the South Korea-Uruguay game from yesterday. Korea, down by a similar margin at the interval, came out brilliantly in the second half; controlling the ball well, not getting nervous or hurried, and constantly keeping the mighty Uruguayan defense under pressure. Their efforts paid off in a goal scored partly by a rare lapse from a defense that hadn’t conceded yet in the World Cup. Now if a country like South Korea, much less experienced at the World Cup knock-out stages,  can keep their composure and achieve an equalizer playing proper football, there is little excuse for the highly paid English footballers, majority of them playing in one of the best professional leagues in the world, and aided by a million-dollar income coach, not to do the same.

(2) The third goal conceded by England was a counter-attack off a set-piece near the German penalty box. It was not as if English defenders (or even midfielders) did not know the situation and the existence of  the possibility of a quick German counter.  The truth they should face is that English defense was a joke. The first goal by Klose proved that amply. A goal-kick results in a score only in back-yard soccer.  And that third goal was the pure speed of the young German midfield, combined with the selflessness of their players.

Capello’s whining is also a tacit admission that a tied score would’ve made England play defensively and attempt to luck it out in the lottery of penalty kicks (for which Capello famously already had a line-up drawn up for).

Anyway, I am waaaaay pleased that Germany won. I love following the German team in football for reasons I won’t go into now. (a love for German lagers and ales doesn’t hurt).

But before I end, can anyone please answer this question that’s been vexing me for the whole World Cup: what the fuck is David Beckham doing on the English sidelines dolled up in a three-piece suit and looking suitably worried all the time? The Guardian tells me Beckham is some sort of a go-to guy between the players and the manager. If that is true, then I rest my case about why England lost.  @a_muse suggested Beckham is their official mascot. In which case, I ask, ‘ Dude, where’s your monocle?’.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Soccer, Sports

Tagged with , , , , ,

Dravid, India’s greatest cricketer of all times ?

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Hmm…..this should provide fodder for much analysis, controversy, over-excited chest-thumping and  perhaps even a motion or two tabled in the parliament. I am expecting blogs and newsgroups to explode with raw emotional anger from hordes of fanatical keyboard warriors who are either die-hard Tendulkar or Dravid fans (could be a few Gavaskar or Ganguly fans there as well).

A cricketing website had performed some sort of an in-depth analysis of the performance of Indian cricket players in the last 77 years and come up with a ranking, which runs thus:

  1. Rahul Dravid
  2. Sunil Gavaskar
  3. Virender Sehwag
  4. Sachin Tendulkar
  5. Kapil Dev
  6. Bishen Bedi-BS Chandrasekhar-EAS Prasanna (as one bowling unit)
  7. GR Vishwanath
  8. Anil Kumble
  9. Vinoo Mankad
  10. VVS Laxman
  11. Sourav Ganguly
  12. Md. Azharuddin
  13. Dilip Vengsarkar
  14. Mohinder Amarnath
  15. Vijay Hazare
  16. Subhash Gupte
  17. Polly Umrigar
  18. Javagal Srinath

A very basic description of their rationale (detailed reading  requires registration):

So, here then are the parameters of our ranking.

  1. Overall consistency.
  2. Performances abroad, in matches away, outside the player’s comfort zone; in different pitch/ weather conditions.
  3. Performances in matches won – usually a good indicator to a player’s true value in a team.
  4. Match-winning ability – the solo contribution a player makes in winning efforts and how often he makes them.
  5. Match situations taken into account to determine how a player performs under pressure.

Let the fun begin.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Aussie cricketer defies the laws of physics

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During a crucial period of an embarrassing [1] loss to the Kiwis last Sunday at the WACA, the Australian side effected the following controversial dismissal:

If you watch the replay, you will find that the New Zeland batsman Broome was given out bowled, but it looks like it was Haddin’s gloves and not the ball that clips the bails.

There is little controversy that the ‘bowled’ verdict was quite wrong. Not only did the umpires miss out on the fact that it was Haddin’s gloves that displaced the bails, they failed to enforce a law that states if a wicket-keeper has his gloves in front of the wicket, a no-balled should be called.

What is debatable is how much Haddin knew about what was going on i.e. did he know that it was not out and deliberately suppress the knowledge while keeping up the celebrations? This would be a clear-cut case of cheating and Haddin should face a censure. Alternately, he was  not sure if it was the gloves or the balls that hit the wicket. In this case, popular opinion is that he should have said something to the umpires about the doubt,  although I personally he was not obligated to do the umpire’s job.

The incident has kicked up a storm of accusations between the trans-Tasman rivals.  New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori definitely believes that Haddin knew something and was suppressed it:

“I think you saw from Haddin’s reaction that he knew something was wrong so he probably should have made more noise about it,” Vettori said

As expected this barb mightily upset Aussie captain Prickly Ponting, who rushed to defend his player, and without even the benefit of a second look at the incident, took up the role of a judge and jury to declare Haddin innocent of any wrong-doing (not too surprising coming from a captain who regularly takes up the mantle of umpiring while on the field).

“[Haddin] obviously didn’t know, because if he knew then he wouldn’t have claimed it. Whatever we’re saying about Brad Haddin here, you can’t say that knowingly happened, that is for sure.”

(also brings to mind the denialisms of a certain recent ex-President of a large country)

I would have been inclined to give Haddin some benefit of doubt and not call him an outright cheater (perhaps just a bad sport), but that was before he came up with this clanger today. Miffed at Vettori’s accusation, Haddin claimed to have done nothing wrong, but let slip this gem:

After looking at the replay my hands were in front of the stumps, but the ball I am 100 per cent sure hit the bails first then came up into my gloves,” he said. (link)

So according to him, the ball hit the bails and then lodged in his gloves which were in front of the bails ! That would require the ball to hit the wicket and then travel back towards the bowler before landing in his gloves. There must have been one hell of a spin on that ball.

Reminds me of this Seinfeld episode:

[1] It was an embarrasing game all around: Australia put up a pathetic batting display and the Kiwis were hell-bent on wanting to lose the match in a miserable manner.

(Btw, it is possible for the balls to hit the bails and come upto into the gloves even if they are in front of the wickets – if his gloves are pointed with open face down. However, from the replay it is obvious that Haddin’s gloves are cupped upwards. Ergo, Haddin is lying)

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 3, 2009 at 12:19 am

What a match…..

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…and what a win !

Cricinfo)

A fairy-tale script (source: Cricinfo)

Considering it was a match that was almost canceled and was taking place in the shadows and the unhealed wounds of the terror attacks, no one could have scripted a better display of test cricket. That India won against incredible odds is a great cicing onthe cake, but the match itself was Test cricket at its best:  the patient innings building of Strauss, a dream debut opening over from Swann, the surprisingly welcome never-say-die attitude of the Indians, and of course – the brutal strokeplay of Sehwag at the end of Day 4. No other words to describe it other than a savage butchery of the English bowling attack that set up the final day. Sachin finally redeemed himself playing a knock to lead India to victory, and Yuvraj displayed fine compoosure in what could be his breakthrough test innings. Well done India.

And with Test matches like these, who needs 20-20 ?

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

December 15, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Cricket, India, Sports

Tagged with , , ,

A winning note and a farewell.

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Finally a series win in Test cricket against the Aussies. Well done to the entire team. My wish for the last match of the Fab4 together ending on a winning note was fulfilled.

Dhoni is turning out to be the proverbial man with a Midas touch. Three wins in three tests, a major ODI tournament in Australia and the 20/20 World Cup. I had mentioned in an earlier post that he remains unruffled under pressure. The last day of this test match, he showed himself as a good leader as well by offering Ganguly to lead the team for a few overs once Australia were nine down and then insisting that former-captain Kumble lift the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with him. Humility and respect are two qualities of a good leader.

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So whats left?

Saying so long to Dada.

Thank you for all the great memories, and there have been great many. But the most cherished one would  still have to be that summer evening in our central Kolkata flat, the chest swelling with parochial pride as Ganguly – derided as the zonal selection and who got a chance to play only due to Manjrekar’s injury – stroked one silken drive after another on the off-side. India had lost the first test, and were under a bit of pressure in the second match at Lords, having lost one opener cheaply. In came Ganguly, who had already taken a few wickets while bowling, but certainly sent out by Azhar as a lamb for the slaughter in the fading lights. Not only did he survive that evening, but went from strength to strength the next day.The rest as they say, is history.

There were two regrets that day: one, I could not watch Ganguly get to his century live. Whichever channel was covering the test had to switch to Euro’96 action during the time he got his century. And two, that day I was hoping India would create a record with a second debutant scoring a century, but Rahul Dravid fell at 95.

For far more eloquent tributes to Dada, read GreatBong’s excellent piece here and JAP’s moving tribute.

(another tribute here).

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

November 11, 2008 at 1:21 am

Adieu, Fab Four

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Well its only Sourav Ganguly who is retiring (and given his performance, there is enough pressure on Dravid as well), however, yesterday was the last innings where the Fab4 of the Indian middle order – Sachin, Sourav, Dravid and Laxman – got to play together.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t pretty: Sachin and Laxman scrapped around, Laxman got a brilliant ball from debutant Krezja, Ganguly played a slightly lazy shot for a first ball duck, and Sachin had a mind-fart three balls before tea looking for non-existent runs. And Dravid continued his woeful slump in form.

In total the Fab4 contributed 19 runs, and if it wasn’t for Dhoni and Harbhajan’s rear-guard, aided by Captain Prickly’s decision to push forward the over-rate to avoid a suspension, their last test together might have ended on a losing note.

As it stands now, Australia needs a record run chase to win. The pitch has not worn out as much as it should, and I would have given the game in favor of the Aussies if they had someone like Gilchrist in the middle.  But The Australian batsmen will still go for it – I don’t think they would like to surrender the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that easily.

The interesting part will be the morning – Hayden is the other Aussie who can turn the game on its head, and getting him early will be the key.

Hoping for the best. It would be wonderful to wrap up a series 2-0 against Australia.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

November 9, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Australia, Cricket, India

WTF Dravid

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18.4 Krejza to Dravid, OUT, Dravid continues to run dry. Gone for a duck. Jason Krejza gets his first wicket. It was quite a regulation off break. It turned in slightly from outside off stump and some extra bounce and Dravid jabbed it to short leg. His poor run continues. Congrats Jason. Enter SRT.
R Dravid c Katich b Krejza 0 (2b 0x4 0x6) SR: 0.00

Just remind me once again, what is Rahul Dravid still doing in this team. The guy Krejza was being belted around by debutant M Vijay and Sehwag was sweeping him around like a student cleaning his room before his mom got there. And Dravid gift his wicket !!!!!!! To a guy who conceded 0/199 in a match against the Indian second XI. Loses the huge momemtum India had in the first session.

This was as easy as it could have been for Dravid, hundred up for India within lunch, easy batting pitch, enough time on hand to build a solid innings and provide support to Sehwag.

Update: Dravid’s woes continues, in the field this time:

50.2 Sharma to Katich, 1 run, Dropped by Rahul Dravid at first slip. Katich went chasing a wide delivery outside off stump and got a thick edge to the left of Dravid at a comfortable height and he clangs it. It would have been Katich’s third worst shot of his career. What a start. Dravid went with both hands and should have caught it easily.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

November 6, 2008 at 1:57 am

Posted in Cricket, India, Rants

In which I am Conn-ed

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Gautam Gambhir apparently purposefully elbowed  Shane Watson yesterday in the third test between India and Australia. The Aussies are furious. How dare Indians turn cricket into a physical sport ! It should have been an innovation coming from them.

I reckon they have a fair enough complain, banging into opponent players has no place in cricket. However, reading most of the reports from the Australian media, you would have no idea about all the sledging being indulged by the Aussies all through the day. Or the fact that just before Gambhir’s elbowling, Watson had in a very unsporting manner stuck his hand out to block Gambhir’s running.

Local lad Gambhir and Watson continued their series-long feud and exchanged verbal barbs from the moment Gambhir charged the blonde fast bowler. This tension escalated when Gambhir appeared to purposely nudge Watson in the ribs when he completed a second run in the 51st over.

Nope, the Aussies were as pure as freshly fallen snow. Just watch this video and observe the Aussie bowlers indulging in ‘jaw exercises’ through the day.(you can see the elbowing incident here too) Now suppose the exact incident happened but with Matt Hayden elbowing Ishant Sharma. Here is how Australia’s leading cricket journalist Malcolm Conn would have seen it:

Having copped a verbal barrage all day from the frustrated Indian bowlers and close-in fielders, matters reached a boiling point when Sharma – in a blatant contravention of the spirit of the game – blocked Hayden on his way to the first of an easy two runs. In response, Hayden nudged Sharma with his elbow on his way back, a gentle reminder to the young speedster that it was the burly Queenslander who held the upper hand at that stage of the game.

(inspired by this post and my comment there).

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

October 29, 2008 at 8:22 pm

‘Voluntary retirement’

with 7 comments

In the current Indian test team playing against Australia, we have two players who made their debut at the same time (and quite spectacular ones at that); both subsequently went on to be integral parts of the Indian middle-order and played important roles in the resurgence of Indian cricket in the post-Azhar match-fixing era, and both went on to captain the Indian team.

However, over the last few years, the batting form of both players are supposed to have declined, along with that of two other important middle-order players (dubbed together fancifully as the ‘Fab Four’.) Such is the decline that there has been vociferous calls for these ageing players to step down voluntarily and make way for young blood.

Fair enough, after all the young blood has worked wonders for India at the T20 and ODI levels. Thus, one of these two batsmen has decided to call it a day, and will be retiring at the end of the current test series.

But lets have a quick statistical look at the decline: here is player 1’s record in the last two years (Matches-Runs-Highest-Score-Average-Strike Rate-100s-50s): 23 -1842-239-47.23-59.07-4-9.

Here is player #2 during the same period: 23-1292-129-33.12-40.40-2-7.

So, about six hundred more runs, average of 47 versus 33 (even at a higher strike rate of 59 versus 40), two more centuries and half centuries for one player.

Now guess which player is retiring [1]?

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[1]: Even though the said player is retiring voluntarily, make no mistakes that the circumstances forcing his decision were anything but voluntary.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

October 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Abhinav is da dude…

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..as he wins the first ever individual gold medal – also the first gold since 1980 – for India in Olympics (in 10m Air-rifle shooting) !!!!

Who knew watching an air-rifle competition was gong to be this exciting? I was going to change channels when I noticed Abhinav Bindra’s name on the finalist list . He started the final round in the fourth position, but gradually crawled his way to the top by the end of the 7th round. His shooting was extremely consistent even as the leader Hakkinen of Finland faltered. However the lead was only  a slender 0.2 points at that stage. Bindra then faltered in the next two shots allowing Hakkinen to draw level at the ninth (penultimate) round – leaving me thinking this would be another story of the famous Indian choke. However, Bindra kept his nerves to shoot an amazing 10.8 (almost bulls eye) in the last round and convincingly winning the medal.

It was quite amazing to see how cool and calmly this guy carried himself after the win – unless the idea that he’s already become a national hero is yet to sink into him. At the medal podium, even as the second placed Chinese was crying and the bronze medalist Finn was waving his hand, Bindra was a picture of restraint and composure.

So once again, a big congratulation to Abhinav Bindra – you have done us proud.

Yes, there will eventually be talks of how shameful that our huge country is unable to produce more than a single gold medallist in more than 100 years of the game (about 50 if you consider post-independence), but for the moment, lets bask in the glory of having our national anthem finally being played at the medal ceremony.

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PS: On an interview in NDTV, the sports minister Gill sez: I congratulate everyone including myself !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 11, 2008 at 1:13 am

Brief Olympics Thoughts

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Watching some of the Olympics action in India.

The good old Doordarshan is covering it (on DD Sports) and their production quality sucks as much as it did 20 years ago: anchors announcing a particular sport while the camera cuts away to a very different event; commentary suddenly coming to a halt during the sailing event; voices in the background of the anchors discussing in Hindi that a badminton game in up in ten minutes while Archery was being shown etc. And the studio commentary is extremely dull to say the least. I used to get pissed off at the NBC Olympics coverage for the US-centric view and over dramatization of the athlete’s life and such. But still, their production is quite slick [1].

What is it with Olympics that makes diving into water, or splashing, or grown men hanging from rings, swinging, binding themselves into a twist such a compelling watch ? I wonder how many of us would watch swimming/gymnastics events if it weren’t during the Olympics ?

As usual, the news is not so good for the Indian Olympic contingent. The Olymoics got off to a bad start  for India at the opening ceremony itself when Sania Mirza and someone else marched in their tracksuits. Its a protocol faux pax to be sure, but not sure if it required wall to wall coverage on all the news channels, with one news channel even bringing in fashion experts like Tarun Tahiliani to comment on the issue !!

Got an opportunity to watch badminton, after a long time since the game isn’t too popular in USA or Australia. Sridhar of India had an easy win.

Speaking of which,  when did the rules change for net sports  like volleyball and badminton ? I notice that now you can win a point even if it not your service and the points for a game are 25 and 21 respectively (as opposed to 15 before, which makes sense with the win point every play rule). I suppose it is a fairer rule now.

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[1]: Same can be said of the ten thousand reality shows that crowd the hundred channels over here. Reality shows can be barely tolerated as it is, but the shoddy production quality in India makes it even worse.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 10, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Posted in India, Sports