ESPNCricinfo: Celebrating Rangana Herath

I like Rangana Herath’s type of cricketers. Underrated, under-feted, apparently everyday everyman cricketers, who, while you were not noticing, are quietly pulling out trees for their team and for their country.

They are anything but everyman. They are what make this sport. Read this, from ESPNCricinfo. And here’s an excerpt.

Yet, though he is the nation’s best current cricketer, he remains unmistakeably an everyman, stardom having forgotten him, or he it. There is no IPL contract padding his wallet, no major sponsors have plastered his rotund figure on the island’s billboards and, until March, he was not even in Sri Lanka Cricket’s top contracts bracket. Herath still has a day job at a Colombo bank – though it is now not much more than a series of long duty leaves. He asks for another six weeks off from the human resources department in the same bashful tone that he addresses groundstaff at the Premadasa Stadium, from whom he needs the key to a locked door.

Here’s to more of Rangana Herath and Matthew Hoggard, and less of the flashy mediocrity.


A Plebian Argument

This is a rebuttal to a passionate, if somewhat over-the-top criticism of the idea of playing test cricket in a specific few venues in India, and selecting the others for One-Dayers and T20; in the fine blog Bored Cricket Crazy Indians. The disclaimer: I have visited the blog a few times, and have quite liked it, especially the ‘Player Profile’, which is hilarious. This post is aimed at the arguments, not the person behind them.

Dear Sir,

Rebuttal 1: Transformers, Sofia Copolla and Percentage Capacity Utilization:
‘Lost in Translation’ is an excellent movie. ‘Transformers’ is not so much so. Now, let’s hear it from the bean counters.
Here’s the truth. Test cricket is not instant gratification. It is not paisa-vasool in the normal sense of the term. No sporting event that lasts for more than 3 days can be for the entire duration (if you exclude the World Cup Football of course). There are ebbs and flows, moments of great excitement and moments of intense boredom. Indeed, there could be days of intense boredom.
Thus, stadiums will hardly ever be filled to the rafters for entire test matches (while they will be for One-dayers and T20s, you know that if you stick on through the day, you will go home entertained. Or at least have a result, reason enough to celebrate an India win or feel sad for a loss). Test cricket, is a different animal; a form of entertainment that is not based so much on the end result as capturing the moments within the game. Subtle. ‘Lost in Translation’-esque.
Stadiums are hardly ever filled to the rafters in India, nor anywhere else in the world for test matches. But that’s fine, isn’t it? It’s not about the percentage capacity utilization of a stadium that should decide whether the stadium should stage a test match. It’s something a little more subtle than that.
I have nothing against Motera. But Srinath’s 6/21 does not quite have the making of a stadium as much as a standing ovation to Pakistan, the dreaded enemy, after they have vanquished India even after Sachin’s masterpiece. Gavaskar’s 10,000th run does not make a stadium as much as an all-stadium farewell to Asif Iqbal, a minor cricketing figure in the larger scheme of things, but who was taken to heart by a people from another nation. Performances give a stadium its reputation, the fans give a stadium its heritage. Chelsea, for all its wins, will not be Liverpool yet.
Again, it’s a subtle thing. And percentage capacity utilization has nothing to do with it.
(Disclaimer 2: I do not know much about crowd participation in Motera, it might well have been impressive, it certainly has not been highlighted enough to have built a reputation for the stadium. I’ve never seen a game there, you can replace Motera with Mohali or Barabati)

Rebuttal 2: Bharat Bhagya Vidhaata?
There are around 10 major stadiums in India.
Four of them – namely Eden, Chinnaswamy, Chepauk Chidambaram and Wankhede, are in big cities with ideal locations.
The others, as the article suggests, are not. Far away from the heart of the city, with rudimentary transport facilities, they would certainly constitute a bit of a stretch for the casual cricket fan, when he/she knows that there is a good possibility that this would be a rain-curtailed 40-over day with the score progressing by 78 runs for the loss of a wicket. It would not quite be that dreary, why, it wouldn’t be dreary at all for the instant gratification seekers going for a One-dayer, mind you. 40 overs? Great, the One-dayer will be a 20-over thing then! Will they play Yusuf Pathan for Rohit Sharma? Who will open? Will India win? Match on!
But fair enough. Some cities are in a position of advantage in terms of stadium location, over others. What to do with that? Well, dear sir, you can do nothing. We can do nothing.
Know what? It’s not the BCCI who decides where in a city the cricket stadium is built. It is the city’s municipal authority, the political who’s who that take the decision. The BCCI, ahem, does not rule the country yet… but you never know that might change.
And now that a stadium is already made, it is the decision of that municipal authority if they can live with this white elephant and invest tons and tons of money to build another stadium in the heart of the city, such that it can be utilized for five days, every two years, for a test match. The one-dayers and T20s will not be affected, they are fairly paisa-vasool, and the crowds will still flock, be the stadium 20km outside city limits.
Can we do anything about it? Nope.

Rebuttal 3: A working class hero is something to be…
Do you remember, sir, whose comment led to this sudden outpouring of ‘save test cricket via the Eden, Chinnaswamy, Chidambaram and Wankhede’ wailing from the media? Dhoni’s, and he is the antithesis of elitism. He is more small-town than I am (I hail from a smaller town than he does, however). And ask me if I would take your idea against that of this admirable, straight-speaking, working class hero, who is the captain of our Cricket team. Oh sir, you never had a chance, did you?

Un-rebuttal 4: One day is better than five.
Cannot agree more with your stand against 5-day passes. I could only go for the third day of the match. I do not think that there would ever be a moment in my cricket-watching life that will come near the experience. And this is verbatim from a facebook comment.

Perfection, is a rare thing, guys. That day, Sachin was flawless.


Mark Boucher

Well done, Mark Boucher. Who’da thunk?

Test 1: Day 3: Second session: 12:25 PM:
Morkel bowls, Sehwag edges, Boucher holds. Morkel screams, Graeme Smith screams. The umpire is about to ponder…. and Boucher shakes his head, and then his hands. It is a bump catch, one that was difficult to establish even after replays.

But Boucher owned up. Doughy, cussed, gritty Boucher owned up. Boucher, one of my all-time favourites, owned up. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

This series

… will actually be quite an advertisement to Test-match cricket.

I have already seen three awesome sessions, one in the second morning, with Zaheer having an engrossing battle with the settled Kallis and Amla; one in the second afternoon, with Amit Mishra bowling exceptionally well (but without reward) to Amla and whoever was batting with him; and one in the third morning with Dale Steyn bowling exceptionally well to the Indians.
Dale Steyn is without doubts the most exciting bowled in world cricket. Fast, intelligent, aggressive, disciplined; he has all the tricks bar steepling bounce, and knows how to use them.

Hope this continues.

p.s: I am blessed to be in a job where I work the first session from home, and can mute the sound and keep watching the match while responding to emails.

Monty, Stuart Broad and English cricket

Monty Panesar will become one of the top 3 spinners in the world someday, capable of winning matches against teams other than New Zealand and South Africa (and, ok, Pakistan, who are the archetype of blow hot, blow cold).

Stuart Broad can do the sustained Steve-Harmison-at-his-best performances consistantly, and there are good chances that he will end up with more test hundreds than Wasim Akram.

Kevin Pietersen is an idiot, a braggart, and an insensitive jerk, but he is a once-in-a-lifetime player, or atleast has the genuine potential of ending up as one.

Alistair Cook is the kind of player countries build their batting line-ups around. (Note, I am talking about test cricket here)

And yet, I am pretty sure English cricket, like English football, will never be the sustained world no 1 for any decent length of time, next decade. It’s about the lack of a positive attitude, it’s about the media, and it’s about the lack of wonderment about the game. A great English performance is more often than not, a struggle. An English team has to be 110% of the team it is playing against on that day, to have a chance of winning. While most top teams, if they are at about 95% of the other team on a day, fancy their chances. A winning attitude, a belief. That is missing.

Cometh the moment, cometh the man!

I think he is a selfish, insensitive lout, but oh yeah, is he a good batsman!

South Africa is always tricky for this ex-South African, and there would have been Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Makhaya firing in all cylinders, but he stood out, in his cocky, brash, devil-may-care way.

To survive, the game needs characters, and this man is a rare showman who can really play, and play well enough to go on and become a legend.

As if following his inspiration, Ian Bell made an even bigger hundred, and missed out on the double by a run..

But this is to Kevin Pietersen! Stud par excellence….