Tag Archives: indians

The best eight

“I love this format of the eight best teams.”

If you heard it once during the Champions Trophy coverage, you were probably only listening to a few minutes of the coverage. The official memo must have been pretty clear: “This is not a nothing tournament that we once cancelled due a lack of general interest. This is the best eight teams in a ring, duking it out. Sell them on that.”

That is what the Champions Trophy has become. It was never meant to be that.

The first two tournaments were to grow the game. A tournament in Kenya and Bangladesh to grow the game there. The child of Jagmohan Dalmiya. The money would also be handy to the ICC, who then probably had less staff than the current England team has backroom staff. It was noble and practical when the ICC Knockout Tournament was born.

No one cared about it. Why would you? It wasn’t an Olympics, it was the Goodwill Games.

You may have noticed that Bangladesh are no longer invited to the tournament they first hosted. Of course, they also weren’t invited to the one they hosted. It was an eight-team knockout event, and New Zealand had to play Zimbabwe in a qualifying game to make the tournament. Bangladesh had no games at all. Way to win over the locals. The Bangladesh players were presumably at the grounds, training hard in a passive-aggressive way as ICC officials walked past. South Africa won the tournament.

Kenya, the next hosts, got a qualifying game. They played India. They lost. Bangladesh had a qualifying game against England. They lost. Oddly, Zimbabwe had automatically qualified. West Indies never even made the tournament, as they were knocked out by Sri Lanka in qualifying. The crowds were close to non-existent at some games. Inspired by the great Glen Sulzberger being in their squad, the Kiwis won their first and only ICC event.

In 2002 the tournament was changed to the Champions Trophy and played in Sri Lanka. Five months before the World Cup. Whoops. To celebrate, all ten Test nations played, as did Kenya and Netherlands. Two teams won. There was a washout during the final and on the back-up day. So India and Sri Lanka were crowned co-winners. Which really needs no further comment.

In 2004, it was played in England, and America and Kenya were invited. Kenya were fresh off their 2003 World Cup semi-final, America were hopeless and lost a game to Australia with only 31.5 overs in the entire match. This tournament did produce the most memorable final ever, as Ian Bradshaw and Courtney Browne crept West Indies home with two wickets to spare.

In 2006, the tournament was moved to India. Only the Test-playing nations showed up. Australia won it, and Damien Martyn helped Sharad Pawar off the stage with a push. That was far more memorable than the final, a Duckworth-Lewis smashing of West Indies.

The 2008 edition was placed in Pakistan, so that never happened.

In 2009, South Africa hosted the top eight teams. Pakistan lost the semi-final; the country’s politicians claimed fixing. Australia won the final; they wore white jackets, no one knows why.

With the World Twenty20 doing well, and being played about every 18 minutes, the Champions Trophy was surplus, and now in the way of a more successful and loved tournament. With the Test Championship on its way, the Champions Trophy was easiest to kill.

Few cried. There were no protests at Lord’s or Wankhede. No major petitions. No press outcry. It was just a weird tournament that had never really captured any imagination and was disappearing back into the obscurity that most of the matches were played in.

Had the World Test Championship not been so unattractive to TV companies, the Champions Trophy would have never come back.

But the evolution of the Champions Trophy is exactly what the ICC wants. And by the ICC, I don’t mean the administrators who race around the corridors of Dubai Sport City. I mean the ICC that is the run by the ten cricket boards. The real ICC. The ICC that has gone out of its way time and time again to keep cricket a private club that they hold the keys to.

Before this tournament Ireland tied a game with Pakistan and lost the next match by two wickets. Ireland had no means of qualifying for this tournament, neither did Bangladesh nor Zimbabwe. Like Test cricket, it’s by invitation only. No Banglas, no Zims, no Irish.

At the very least, imagine if the tournament was co-hosted by the Irish. That could be the future model. England and Ireland. India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. These are countries that love cricket. In Ireland they are making it as professional as you can outside the big eight. Nepal’s cricket crowds are some of the best in the world. And according to Gideon Haigh’s piece for the Nightwatchman, Papua New Guinea are mad for cricket.

That’s a utopia where cricket outside the Test-playing nations is actually valued and pushed. Remember how the ICC is structured – ten votes for ten nations, three representatives for every other country that plays cricket.

Some fans and press have revelled in the top-eight notion. They have said that this is how the World Cup should be. It’s quick. Every game matters. And there are no minnow games to ignore.

You can see their point. Of course, if you watch what is actually happening in world cricket, even the big eight don’t matter. It’s easy and lazy to point at India and suggest every single problem in the world of cricket leads back to them. But they have two able and willing accomplices who are happily making the big eight into a powerful three.

Australia, England and India are forming a cabal.

Australia and India played Test series in 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13. Outside of ICC tournaments they have also played more than 20 ODIs and T20s. Australia have not played Bangladesh in a Test match in that time. They have played six ODIs.

England have played Tests against Bangladesh, home and away in 2010. Since then they have played eight Tests against India; next summer they have five more.

Bangladesh have never played a Test match in India. The two played in one series since 2007.

From July 2013 to January 2015, Australia, India and England will have been involved in 19 Test matches together.

Any other country from the “best eight teams” or the ten Test-playing nations is expendable and getting frozen out. This cabal of powerful boards has known that it makes the most money playing each other for a while now. Now the three are cashing in often. They are devolving the game right in front of our eyes.

Last summer South Africa played England for the No. 1 crown in Test cricket. It was a three-Test series. Why? Because England were hosting Australia for ODIs that practically no one will ever remember.

While it is nice to have a well-run, short, sharp tournament without any of those pesky Test cricket strugglers or Associates clogging up the format, if they can get rid of them, who else can they get rid of? Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies don’t seem to make any money. Pakistan are in limbo. And South Africa are stuck in neutral.

What makes any of these countries safe in the future? Other than to host them, India, England and Australia have no real need for global tournaments. They have no real need to play anyone other than each other. They have no real need for a Future Tours Programme. They have no real need for the ICC.

India don’t even need England and Australia. They could easily go the route of American sports and play world championships amongst themselves while using overseas players when required. Australia and England could continue to make solid and dependable money without India.

That probably won’t happen. Although, as the ICC’s film on the history of the Champions Trophy said, this is probably the last tournament. No one knows what will happen next in cricket. Often no one knows what is happening in cricket right now.

A few days after India play England in the final at Edgbaston, the chairmen of the Test-playing nations will meet in London in what is the most important meeting in cricket. During breaks in the meeting, no ex-players will sit at a fake desk analysing what has been said. The press will not be allowed to sit in and judge the meeting. And there will be no facile interviews of board members as they come out of the room. That meeting is more important than the entirety of the Champions Trophy put together. The eight best teams plus the two others will decide cricket’s future. A private club. That we didn’t vote for. Deciding cricket’s future.

Maybe they can replace the Champions Trophy with a Test match championship that only Australia, India and England are invited to.

“Good morning cricket fans, the excitement is really amazing in Chennai, this is a cracking tournament, it’s played by the best three teams…”

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India and Pakistan

During the last World Twenty20 I had a chat with a senior cricket writer who wanted to quit cricket. He had spent a long time writing about cricket, and just thought there were more important things he could have written about. For a minute, I argued the opposition. But the truth is, I could see his point.

I mean, what is writing about cricket really? It involves travelling to summer-drenched places (and England) and sitting in a usually comfortable glassed box where you are fed free food while writing about someone who is trying not to be hit by a bouncer so you don’t tap on your crumb-riddled keyboard that they have a weakness, before ignoring the next ball to look at a stream of tweets saying essentially the same thing.

That is probably cricket writing at its very worst.

At its best, well it’s still a lot of those things, but you get to see something that actually moves you. Something original. Something funny. Something horrific. Something that you love.

Yet, mid-tournament blues can still come in. The thought that this isn’t really that important. I could be writing about an animal that is being wiped out. An atrocity that people are ignoring. Or outing a businessman for pouring poison into a school playground. Instead I’m trying to work out how to write about Trott’s strike rate of 87 in a losing total for the 1743rd time.

A few days after my chat with the writer about cricket’s lack of importance, I was at the game that is often the most hyped, most underplayed and most important to cricket. India v Pakistan.

Australia and England might have been at it for longer, but really for most Aussies and Poms, the Ashes is just a thing that happens. I doubt many fans lose sleep over the result. Cricket is not the favourite sport in England; if it is in Australia, it’s by default. Australia and England are trade partners; they share Naomi Watts, Germaine Greer and the Bee Gees. You can travel between the two pretty easily. Australia has not attacked England, nor has England retaliated in quite some time. Individual groups based on political and religious beliefs do not plan to do the other country harm.

It’s great that the Ashes exists, and cricket is lucky to have it. But it’s of less and less cultural importance these days. Australia no longer see England as the mother country. Young Australians don’t flock over here to work. More and more Aussies have completely different mother countries. Mostly countries that have no interest in cricket at all. Cricket gets less important by the decade in English society. It’s seen by many as a posh sport; state schools don’t really play it. If your posh or Asian parents don’t introduce it, you’d have to find it by accident to get involved.

For many reasons, most blatantly obvious, the India-Pakistan series is far more important. It has more people involved. Many of those people do lose sleep over the result. Many take the matches incredibly seriously. It’s important. It’s not front-page news, it is the news.

An Indian fan recently told me that Imran Khan was overrated and Pakistan were a fourth-tier nation. It wasn’t sane. It was fanatical. It was India v Pakistan.

And I get it. I’m told by Asian fans I often don’t get the culture. That as a white man, I could never understand it. Of course these same fans tell me exactly what is wrong with England or Australia quite often. If I don’t understand it after six years of writing and fighting about cricket, I never will.

Let me explain the culture as I see it. Pakistan fans can handle losing a tournament, but not losing to India. Indian fans can handle losing a tournament, but not losing to Pakistan. That is not unique. There is barely a sport in the world without this rivalry. Collingwood wants to beat Carlton, the Lakers want to beat the Celtics, the Celtics want to beat the Rangers, Jennifer Jones wants to beat Kelly Scott, and Royal College wants to beat St Thomas’ College.

The next part is a mixture of personal history and nonsense. The final bit includes wars and weapons. It stems from ugliness. But you put it all together and you have the world’s most important sporting rivalry. And the only two teams that could completely reincarnate a dead rubber.

Yet, before the World Twenty20 match, I felt no extra excitement. I was merely on my way to another cricket match. I was jaded, tired, and bored of T20 matches I could barely remember the next day. Even with the crowd cramming in, and the game starting, I was still not excited.

Then I looked around. And suddenly I saw something amazing. Indians and Pakistanis cheering next to each other. Now I’ve been to a college basketball match that had a brawl. I’ve seen pictures of football fans ripping each other apart. And I once went to a suburban Aussie Rules game that ended when every supporter in the ground went onto the field.

And here I was with the world’s biggest sporting rivalry, between two countries that are in constant arguments. That have nuclear weapons as deterrents. That war, fight, scrap, blame, curse and mock each other all the time. And their fans were cheering like mad men or sulking like babies, a few feet from each other.

So I left the press box and went to watch the match.

Indian fans abuse Rohit. And Pakistan fans abuse Akmal and Malik. Suresh Raina shushed the crowd in a cheeky way, and even the Pakistanis loved him for it. I saw a Pakistani man dance with an Indian. And two Indian guys accidentally head-butt each other while dancing.

Fans from both countries abused me for being English; I never stopped to correct them.

Pakistani supporters stare mournfully at the screen for the longest time when their team does something really stupid. Indian fans will all turn in and discuss any bad moments like their conversation can help solve them. The Indian crowd will chant Sachin’s name even though he is not there. A Pakistani man without a Pakistan shirt on seems almost impossible.

No matter the shot, if it makes runs, it is awesome. People with face-paint are more likely to dance. People with wigs are more likely to scream. The mobile phone is an active member of the experience.

Pakistani fans will leave once the result is obvious, but for hours after the game they will roam the streets outside the stadium. Indian fans will cheer the TV interviews like it’s another boundary.

It was just another cricket match, and it wasn’t just another cricket match.

I loved it. Every second of it, even the bit where I was called English. Watching the fans, it felt like something. Like this game was actually needed. That it wasn’t just something that was happening, that it was happening for a reason. That it should be covered. That I should be there.

I wish they could play five-Test series in both countries all the time. I wish I could be at every India-Pakistan match. I wish every cricket match felt like this one. I wish the fans would have opportunities to troll each other every couple of months. I wish the conflict would end, but that the cricket passion never does.

Today I’ll head to Edgbaston jaded. But no matter how much this game doesn’t matter, this tournament doesn’t matter, and this format of cricket doesn’t matter, I know I’ll feel something. I’ll be glad I was there. I’ll cherish every moment of this contest. Probably even the rain breaks. I’ll leave my glass cocoon of comfort and stand among the fans. I’ll be glad I did.

This match, like all India-Pakistan matches, is important, because of the history, and because of the now. That they happen at all is a miracle. And I’m glad I get the chance to be at them. Especially as I’m a jaded white guy who doesn’t understand.

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England’s wonder

Four men are hired to save a rich rancher’s wife in Mexico. The rancher picks four people with particular skills to form the ultimate team. The film is called the professionals. Andy Flower is probably a fan of this film, and not just because of Woody Strobe and Lee Marvin, but because it fits his ethos.

England got to the top of the world by being more professional than every other team in the world. Their selections were impeccable. Everyone did their job. They made each other better. Choked with the ball, dulled with the bat, take all chances. Preparation was key. They believed they could win. And they won a bunch of series on the way to number one.

Then things fell apart in the UAE. Saeed Ajmal does that to people, but England seemed to play like every Pakistani was Ajmal like, and they lost. In Sri Lanka they had Ajmal flash backs, before ending up 1-1. At home against the West Indies they did what they needed to do and nothing more.

Then South Africa turned up. And they did what England had been doing for a while, made no mistakes.

England made many. Their batsmen who had built foundations on common sense and minimizing risk suddenly played at balls they should have left. Their bowlers lost pace. The fielding fell down. Inside the changing room was a disaster. And their captain was on the way out.

The professional well put together team was missing key components and fighting amongst itself.

Yet they went back to basics. Sri Lanka could have played three Test series and fitted in a series of ODIs against India in the time England used just for warm up matches. Short of moving to Chennai, they couldn’t have spent any longer over there. It was the old England. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

At the height of England’s run, bowlers didn’t play with injuries that often. They believed in their back ups, and wouldn’t risk losing a bowler mid match.

In this Test they went with Broad, now perhaps he was fully fit. Perhaps he wasn’t. But once Broad played, Bresnan had to be more likely (even without his reverse swing in the last warm up), and that meant they were taking in a potentially injured bowler and leaving out a spinner on a wicket that from all accounts looked like it would have taken spin the day before the Test.

Then they fielded. And it was bad. Matt Prior’s keeping looked like the Matt Prior of the bad old days. Jonathan Trott seemed surprised at slip. And Jimmy Anderson seemed to be looking at Pujara’s lofted mistake like he had 2D eyes. They were the chances they missed. But there was also a look of flatness about them. Some balls were shepherded to the boundary. Dives were done to prove they had dived. And the energy was low.

That also lead to the run rate getting out of control. Now, everyone gets Sehwaged once in a while. But it also took them hours to slow down Pujara who as classy as he is, is a man who often slows himself down. The control and patience of the English attack was nowhere. Too many boundaries came at the end of otherwise good overs. India were 61 runs into their innings before Swann came on to slow it down.

Cook captained in the same way that most of his team fielded.

England may still salvage this Test, although it’s pretty doubtful. They might even win the series. But they won’t do either without what got them there in the first place. And perhaps they can’t. Things change. Right at the moment England look more like a middling side with issues than a team about to storm back to number one.

Watching Sehwag and Pujara flay their attack while their fielders looked like little more than CGI extras I remembered a line from Burt Lancaster in the professionals, “Makes you wonder how we ever beat the Indians.”

We can remember how and why they beat India, but 4-0 is a fading memory.

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india get faffed

Before tonight I often thought Faf DuPlessis’ best performance was in ABD’s music video.

Tonight I saw a whole new side to the man.

Faf’s entire career before this had clearly been to lull India into a false sense of security and then pounce when they feared it the least. He was a Pakistani sleeper agent. Which shows how sneaky these Pakistanis are, they left him in a rival team, and then lost to India on purpose just to set all this up.

It’s also entirely possible, although not as likely, that Faf was always this good and on every other occasion I’ve seen him at the highest level he’s just fucked up.

What a time to come good, not good enough to win a match, but good enough to annoy a billion people at once.

I’d love to annoy a billion people at once.

That’s something.

You don’t get a trophy or a cheque, but man, you have pissed off some bastards.

And that aint nothing.

India were really good, really bad, occasionally fucken unreal, occasionally shit on a pointy stick. They gave us everything and nothing at the same time. But by winning they made Lalit Modi happier.

But on a night like this there is really nothing more you can do than sit back and enjoy the sweet sound of cricket.

Result: India not superpower. Yuvi defeats Ravi. And South Africa still lose.

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India vs Pakistan: the blog

So this is what it’s like walking around the ground at an India v Pakistan game in Sri Lanka.

Many men will dance with each other, some will dance because of the cricket, others will not notice the cricket.

People will stop you and ask you to take their picture, you get good at making a clicking sound with your tongue.

Pakistani fans will abuse Kakmal and Malik.

India fans will abuse Rohit.

Suresh Raina will shush the crowd, and that will make them love him.

Various men of various nationalities will say, “Hey England, fuck you”.

The cheerleaders will look completely jaded unless they think a camera is on them.

Police officers will smile at you.

Police officers will scowl at you.

Police officers will tell you not to go somewhere and you’ll nod and act dumb and go there anyway.

More dancing.

Flags will be waved in a way that only dislocate your shoulder.

Both sets of supporters will look happy at the same time in a way that will confuse you.

Pakistani supporters will stare mournfully at the screen for longer when their team does something really stupid.

A wicket is the greatest moment ever. A six is greater than the greatest.

The crowd will chant Sachin’s name even though he is not there.

A slog will get as much cheer as the prettiest drive Kohli can muster.

Men will stroke each other’s mullets in a tender yet probably completely hetero kind of way.

70% of the crowd will have their countries shirt on.

Someone will take a photo of his mate posing with another friend, then they will all confer on whether the photo is any good, and if not they will reshoot it again and again until everyone is happy with the photo.

You’ll be asked if you are on facebook.

People with face paint are more likely to dance.

People with wigs are more likely to scream.

Pakistani fans will leave earlier enough that they don’t have to deal with too many Indian fans on the way out.

Indian fans will stay, dance and cheer the tv interview.

Pakistan fans will wander the streets in packs of two and three, all wearing similar vintage replica shirts, hours after the game has been lost.

Result: Pakistan have a great bowling attack against anyone who isn’t India, Virat Kohli is batman to Watson’s superman.

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Australia is Watson

Forget the many shit slow filthy disgusting deliveries.

Forget Pat Cummins impressive display.

Even forget Dave Warner’s new Steyn moustache

The only thing you need to know about Australia at the moment is that Shane Watson is a freaking robot of death.

There was a time when he was a loud marshmallow of inconvenience.

In T20 cricket you need to bow down to Watson and apologise for all the mean things you ever said to him.

I’ve said more than most.  I think I once compared to him to Paris Hilton, or Lindsay Lohan, or someone like that.

In T20 cricket you can only compare him to Voltan, defender of the universe.

Sure, you and I could have hit some of those shit long hops for six, or at least two.

But would we have got them in the first place?

At the moment Watson is getting shit balls delivered to him simply because his machismo is fucking up the bowlers before they even come in.

Wickets, runs, cheques, he’s getting them all.

Are Australia shit, who the fuck knows, we just know that Watson us UnShit.  Very very UnShit.

Watson cannot continue to to be this good, even robots of death eventually stumble, but while he is let us put behind us all the petty shit we say about him and just enjoy the carnage.

Destruction like this is a joy forever.

Result: Chawla and Sharma are back, and Australia still struggle to score singles off the spinners.

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Learn to swim, England

Harbhajan Singh has been on the outer for a while. So long in fact that he found himself back in Division Two County cricket playing for Essex. His career was not over, but with Ashwin taking the main job, and players like Ojha as back ups, it looked like the end for India’s fighter. There are, not unsurprisingly, a lot of English players in that competition. Bhajji played five first class games and five List A matches, he had varying success. It’s doubtful that in all ten of those games he’d ever seen as many bad shots played against spin. It’s fucken doubtful that if Bhajji was playing on this pitch in England, even against division two batsmen, that they’d rush to leave the ground like they did tonight. Or if they did, they’d probably make it prettier.

The pitch was ok for spinners. OK. Not anything more. I’ve seen many pitches in the UK that spin far more than this. For England, it was nothing like what they got sliced and diced on in the UAE. And Far from the one that fell over on at Galle.

Graeme Swann bowled well on this surface, but India simply sat on him and handled him well.

England could barely handle the bat when the spinners came on.

They devolved from sensible cricketers to the crazy families you see on the apocalypse preparation shows. Shooting at imaginary invaders and stocking up for the inevitable mushroom cloud (Ajmal) or global financial global crisis (Ashwin). It wasn’t even one of the obvious players that ended their world. Piyush Chawla is the player Indian fans abuse when they’re tired of abusing Rohit Sharma.

To most of us, these looked like standard non lethal spinners, to England they were the black plague, and the English players ran madly towards the hills with canned food and shot guns.

It was as bad a batting performance as England could muster against on a fairly benign surface against a new bowling attack without their oldest and most reliable bowler and their best T20 weapon.

This is the same Indian bowling attack that has the Indian media permanent state of panic. Some wanting four bowlers, some five, some eleven. Tonight they dismissed England with three as easily as you like, a few nights back they couldn’t get close to Afghanistan.

You need a research grant and a team of technicians to look into who played the worst shot.

Alex Hales didn’t even wait for the spinners. Morgan’s cut shot was to a different ball on a different pitch. Kiesvetter’s flick waft should be burned before any child gets a chance to see it. Bairstow’s slog against the wrong’un defied science. Buttler backed away so far he was at the SSC when he missed his ball. Swann went for a wander. And Tim Bresnan brought back memories of England’s horror winter with a sweep shot.

All this while KP was stuck in a studio with a grin stapled to his face while Dermot Reeve threw a ball at him.

It’s impossible to believe England played this bad, and yet we’ve seen it all before. In their minds, England seemed to be playing on a ghost pitch from their past and not the quicker than everyone though pitches that are actually being prepared at Premadasa.

There are no dead rubbers for a while now and far bigger killers than Bhajji and Piyish Chawla lurk around the corner. Unless England learn to swim against the spin, their fans are the ones who should be heading to the store to buy all the canned food they can carry.

The end times may soon be upon England, and they’ll come slow, but well flighted.

Result: India didn’t make as many as I thought they should have, rested key players, gave some lesser lights a go, and still absolutely beat the fuck out of England with the bat, and it wasn’t like England’s five man attack was having a good day either. Indians might even give Chawla and Shamra a day or two of less abuse.

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how shapoor are India?

Hands are made for self love and putting together things you’ve bought at Ikea.

In cricket, they are also used to catch the cricket ball when the striking batsman has lofted it.  In the case of Afghanistan, hands are made for deflecting the ball oddly and then placing on your head to show your anguish.

On the flight on the way over I watched the Road to the World T20 thingy that the ICC made about the minnows trip to the big show.

This video showed about 1539 occasions of Afghani players clean bowling random batsmen with pace or swing.  It didn’t show many catches.  I thought this was because they didn’t need to catch the ball, but now I see it might just have been because they lacked the hand eye coordination and soft cupping technique to pouch them.

Had they taken any of the 73 or so they seemed to drop, India might have had some trouble in this match. Not trouble, trouble, but trouble nonetheless.

As it turned out it was a decent work out for India as the Afghanis were like that bloke at a party you can’t stand, they wouldn’t go away.

So far in their development that Afghanis haven’t mastered batting, but hitting, oh hitting they do.  They all seem obsessed with Dhoni, and that’s no bad thing.  It’s 11 excitable tailenders, like if we cloned Staurt MacGill and Murali and let them bat together over and over again.

India should have shut them down a bit more efficiently, and those nervous about the bowlers will be nervous about the bowlers.

Except for Yuvraj who tricked the Afghanis with his club cricket bowling.  That’s their fatal flaw, not enough club cricket.

India work their way well into tournaments, so maybe that was this.  Or perhaps they were all trying to work out at once how the IPL would be blamed for all of this.

Of all three major sides so far, India were the least impressive, or Afghanistan the most impressive of the minnows.  It means India is the only team that had a good run out and went through all their options.  That’s a good thing, unless their options turn out to be rubbish.

It’s also quite clear to me now that there is no way England can beat Afghanistan.  They’ll walk right into that Afghani helicopter.

Result: Shapoor is an impressive slab of man with Shoaib’s Hair and cold dead eyes.  And thanks to Yuvraj we now know that shitty left arm spin is not affected by chemo.

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VVS: a cricketer

It’s sort of hard to talk about VVS Laxman without talking about how pretty his batting was.

The man could cover drive from the rough outside legstump better than most people eat soup, and do it prettier than Bryce Dallas Howard.

But, he was more than just a pretty blade.

VVS could have quit cricket before he even started it, he could have become a doctor, or lawyer, or classy hotelier.

It would have been easier than playing for India for 16 years. Or even making it to the top in the first place.

Some players play to win, that sort of Ricky Ponting sickness.

Some players play for the adulation, Sourav Ganguly’s main reason for being.

Some players play because they can’t do anything else that good, Shane Warne wouldn’t be a doctor.

And then some players play just because they love cricket.

VVS had that. Really, he could have left the game a while back. Once he disassembled Australia like they were a Mr Potato head, he was a legend. The rest didn’t even need to happen. No one was going to forget that innings.

Instead he stuck around through form lapses, Greg Chappell and India’s decline.

At any time he could have jumped off the bus and run for the hills.

His average was not untouchable, and in years to come, people will look at it and wonder why we all drool when we talk about him. It wasn’t how many runs he scored, it was when he scored them and how he scored them. He’s not a man who deserves to be put into a spreadsheet.

Considering he was never going to be captain, couldn’t enhance his reputation, India were getting worse and worse, has a back essentially made of ice cream cake and he’s not been a run machine for some time now, he’s had plenty of opportunities to leave cricket over the last few years.

And he hasn’t. From what I can tell, not because of ego, wins or because he had nothing else to do, but just because he likes to play cricket.

Cricket is what makes him happy.

It’s not often you get a professional sportsman who plays just because he loves the game, without trying to prove anything to anyone, but just because of the thrill he gets out of playing a good shot.

Players who make it look as easy as VVS do are often said to not care as much as others.

But VVS spent hours just trying to unpretzel his back before each Test day. He screamed at Ojha to run to win that Test in Mohali. He put his body and mind through everything in Kolkata. And I still remember the look of horror on his face the day he went out to Brad Hogg. Cricket just got inside of him, and even now he plans to continue playing in the Ranji trophy without a spine that wants him to. Cricket and him were made to be together.

When someone like him moves on, even if it was time for him to go, cricket loses something. It loses a star, a poet and a cricketer.

VVS was as pure as any cricketer before him. A cricketer’s cricketer. Perhaps he would have been a great doctor, or lawyer, or anything else he wanted to be, but I’m glad he chose cricket, and consider myself lucky to have seen him play. I’d like to thank Baba Krishna for giving VVS cricket, and giving us VVS.

Cricket will move on without him, but it will miss him. Very very will never quite do him justice, it was always to clumsy a term for someone that special.

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what cricket boards spend their money on

Because of Doag I’ve been allowed into the buildings where the cricket thinking goes on.  This is what I remembered of each.

The ECB offices are like that of a high class paper manufacturer.  They have their awards scattered in a very tine reception area that was built to impress no one.  The reception is actually tiny, and if you are waiting at the desk with more than one person or a bag, it’s actually hard for people to get around you.  Other than the fact the office is in Lord’s, it doesn’t really feel all that crickety.

It could be the headquarters of a company with an owner who likes cricket rather than a cricket headquarters.

Although no could be disappointed seeing their Jack Russell painting.

Cricket Australia’s headquarters are instantly a bit more swish.  They’ve tried to put a touch of wow factor in there.  It’s got a boutique ad agency feel to it.  The reception has enough room for an entire crowd of a shield match to hang out in.  It feels like it’s been designed by the same person who designs the MCG members bar areas.  Smart, casual and just a bit sporty.

The headquarters aren’t in the MCG, but just down the road far enough to lose any magic the ground holds.

It’s all a bit too planned out for me.  A bit too much we like cricket, but we want to look good doing it.  Like someone who gets a tailor made Richie Benaud jacket to wear to games.

The BCCI have a decent sized stumpy the elephant in their reception at Wankhede stadium.  As shit as stumpy was, it’s nice to see him on a reception desk.  The BCCI office is quite nice, it’s like a industrilists office with photons on every wall.

Just that these photos are brilliant.  The Nawab with a sun hat on. Shastri with the world’s angriest eyebrows.  Sachin with a photoshopped afro.

It’s all there.  They even have a completely unnecessary 3d photo of the team winning the world cup, which is impossible to look at without getting a headache.

The conference room we went into was just covered at one end with photos of their captains.  It was much like that room where proud parents put up every school photo of their kids.  They’d run out of walls and just started putting players up in random spots, but no one was left out.

They even had time to put up a painting of Don Bradman and photos of Jardine and Grace.

I never saw the IPL level, where I am sure that they had stripper poles and dance tracks using commentators in a sexually suggestive way.  But I still really liked it.  It was impressive to look at, fairly new, not overly designed, but grand enough you still felt like you were in a place where people did real work.

Any place with that many cricket photos, including one that was quite clearly a tourist snap, is going to win the award for being my favourite cricket board building.

Australia was pretty but sort of lacking heart, England was gritty but utterly forgettable, but India had that cricket feeling combined with an office that looked like important people could meet you in it.

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