Friday, April 23, 2010

Early Reports: 27 IPL Players Involved In Match Fixing

News is coming through in drips, but the early reports say that 27 cricketers and 1 administrator have been caught match fixing by the Government of India's income tax department investigators. NDTV is reporting that the allegations of match fixing relate to IPL2, which was held in South Africa. Apparently, the cricketers allegedly involved in match fixing are of both Indian and non-Indian origins. Thankfully, one consolation for Indian fans in this sorry state of affairs is that the "Big Three of Indian cricket - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid - are clean and above this muck."

The reporter staking out at tax department headquarters has reported that at least one big name Australian cricketer has been implicated in the match fixing allegations by this latest report. This cricketer has apparently fled India early than he was originally scheduled to leave after the conclusion of his IPL3 commitments. This bloke clearly had friends in high places who tipped him off!

While the details are still sketchy and the NDTV journalist on location at tax department headquarters is reporting rumour, past experience tells me that fire is ultimately witnessed when smoke is smelled pertaining to such matters. One small tweet from Lalit Modi has blown a giant lid on the slime that lays beneath the glitz, glamour and brash displays of wealth and power in and around the IPL circus.

If these allegations are eventually proven, the administration of cricket worldwide, but particularly in India, will require a fundamental paradigm shift. It has only been 10 years since the last match fixing scandal claimed international captains and their players. The wounds from that trauma had begun to heal, but the scabs have not yet fallen off. In this context, cricket will need to undertake some serious confidence building measures to regain the trust of diehard fans and cynical critics alike. To do so again, within 10 years of the previous episode, will be infinitely harder.

I beg the question, do cricket administrators have the ability and inclination to rise above their petty politics, egotistical ways and general greed to do all that is necessary to comprehensively rid the game of this despicable evil? On the basis of the evidence they have furnished over the previous few years, you would be forgiven for thinking not.

Allegations will continue to fly for quite some time. As a committed cricket fan and consumer of all things cricketing, I can only hope that this latest disaster will prove to be the line in the sand between a past in shimmering armour, and a future of bright, clean and golden sunrises.

Stay tuned to TMR's Twitter feed and homepage for more updates on this latest instalment of sleaze and greed in the greatest game on this planet.

Continued >> >>

Monday, April 19, 2010

Finger Out, Socks Up

That bombs went off is a deplorable and unpardonable lapse on the part of the security men. That more bombs remained passive can only be attributed to the grace of God. These events are yet another example of how public security and the sanctity of life are nothing more than platitudes for the privileged few, entrusted with maintaining law and order in India. Given all the brouhaha about security prior to the commencement of IPL3 and the international implications of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, such comments from the likes of Lalit Modi will rightfully make visitors think long and hard about travelling to India.

The ever-growing non-issue spat between Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi has provided cover for people with important titles to make daft, irresponsible and reprehensible comments on the bungled Bangalore security operation. Such disgusting attitudes showcase the "what's in a couple of deaths here and there" attitude that clearly permeates throughout India's top political and law enforcement ranks. The disturbing aspect of all this is that people like this will also be responsible for Commonwealth Games' security. God save the Queen's Games!

While Modi's decision to shift the semi-finals out of Bangalore deserves commendation, this episode must not be explained away through denial, ignorance and the unprofessionalism of a distracted media. I hope and pray that police chiefs, particularly in Delhi, are cognisant of the ineffectiveness and inefficiency that ails their forces. Only after accepting that one bomb is one too many will security chiefs be able to implement appropriate measures to overcome these failings.

There exists a real fear that some within the establishment will view this IPL example as an instance of great Indian administration, courage and powers of persuasion. I can only imagine that Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar's assurances that all was well convinced the other players, particularly those of the international star variety, that the stadium was safe. Had the match involved teams with international captains (Rajasthan Royals' Shane Warne and Deccan Chargers' Adam Gilchrist, for instance), I doubt whether we would have seen a match - unless of course, Modi took it upon himself to bully and threaten the players to play.

I can assure anyone who subscribes to the above theory that delusions of such administrative 'greatness' will yield nothing but ridicule during the Commonwealth Games. The slightest hint of a bomb within kooee of a sports arena or the athletes' village could be the rightful catalyst for an immediate and massive exodus of foreigners from Delhi. While such actions may result in more Indian Games' medals, they will also ensure that the world's tacit acceptance of India as safe and reliable destination for business, leisure and sporting exchanges will lie in tatters.

In this eventuality, what difference will there remain between us and Pakistan?

There is still time to remedy the twin ills of complacency and ineptitude when it comes to delivering a safe and successful Commonwealth Games. Do the administrators and political leaders have what it takes to make the right calls, not just those that easy and personally beneficial? I have my doubts, but I'll happier than most to be proven very, very wrong.

The time has come, India, to pull up and out the proverbial socks and fingers.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Conflict, With Interest

Given India's obsession with the world of celebrities, particularly celebrity feuds, it comes as no surprise that the country is currently gripped by the public spat between Shashi Tharoor and the 'commissioner', Lalit Modi. The entertainment angle of this media war is engaging, to say the least. The serious angle, perpetuated by many, is utterly baffling. The contention that Tharoor has somehow done wrong by the people of India, owing to a perceived conflict of interest is the most preposterous theory I've heard in a long time!

Details of this latest instalment from the controversy factories that are Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi are most accurately perused here, here, here and here. So, is there actually a conflict of interest on the part of Modi and Tharoor?

In an extensive Twitter debate with Arnab Ray (aka Greatbong; follow him here and The Match Referee here), I argued the point that there is no conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise, on Tharoor's part and I stand by this contention.

My premise is simple: a conflict of interest would have existed if Tharoor had used and / or abused public funds or other public resources to secure the Kochi IPL franchise for Rendezvous Sports World or the 5% stake in the franchise for his lady-to-be. To date, no information has been published that remotely indicates that Tharoor placed or was perceived to place the interests of his privileged friends ahead of that of the people of India. Despite his lofty position in society Tharoor is still entitled, just like the rest of us, to the basic human right of applying his skills and influence to the benefit of anyone of his choosing, as long as the public interest is not compromised.

The IPL is a private entity and the grant of new franchises is a private matter for the IPL over which the Government of India has no official control. A conflict of interest would have existed if the government was responsible for granting franchises and if Tharoor had used the power, influence or other resources of his ministerial office to force a decision in favour of his next of kin, friends, girlfriend or himself. This is clearly not the case. So where, then, is the said conflict?

Those peddling the view that Sunanda Pushkar's acceptance of a stake in the Kochi IPL franchise and / or Tharoor's actions somehow resulted in a perception of conflicted interests or that there may be conflicts of interest in the future are simply clutching at straws, or have an axe to grind. To what extent should those associated with ministers and their ilk be prohibited from furthering their personal financial or professional ambitions, especially if their actions present no harm to the interests of the government or the people?

Another contention offered by Arnab, and I suspect one that is pushed by others who subscribe to the school of thought to which he belongs, is that I and others who argue along similar lines have a natural bias towards Tharoor because of his "refinement". This assertion could not be further from the truth and merely serves to highlight the inadequacies of the argument that proposes the conflict of interest.

Many conflicts of interest of members of the broader 'IPL family' may be exposed if Tharoor receives the backing that he ought to receive from his political masters. Modi's conspicuous absence from his favourite online forum gives us an accurate picture of the state-of-mind of a man for whom the penny may just have dropped.

We can all look forward to more stories of underhand dealings, death threats and general crack snorting daftness, which will undoubtedly surface in the coming days for this drama proves, once again, that reality is often a lot stranger than fiction. Bollywood scriptwriters, eat your heart out!

In the meantime, can someone please present me a cogent and logical argument outlining exactly how Tharoor is actually or potentially suffering from a bout of conflicted interests? Anyone?

Continued >> >>

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Who Cares About Pakistan Cricket?

There are two things in cricket that are dead set certainties, Sreesanth will always be Sreesanth and Pakistan cricket and cricketers will always find a way to earn ridicule and disdain. The PCB must've felt overshadowed by the negative press coverage being devoted to Shoaib Malik, because they've unchained a series of events that will ultimately result in more ignominy.

First, it astounds me how an administrative body can fine a player for poor performance. Last I checked, fines were reserved for disciplinary transgressions and poor performance was punished by dropping the player from the team. Pretty simple logic really, but clearly very complex for the likes of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, for it's taken him a whole month to decide he wishes to appeal the imposition of an unjust and nonsensical penalty.

Never to be left behind in making the news for anything but legitimate cricketing reasons. The illustrious Akmal brothers have decided they were wrongly fined for trying to save the older brother's place in the team by playing media wars with team management.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that certain legal technicalities will ensure that the fines and bans will be reduced, rightfully so in Naved-ul-Hasan's case, to nothing more than mere slaps on the wrist. But it may take someone with greater smarts to explain the PCB's lust for unfortunate, unnecessary and embarrassing media coverage.

Why do I care? Because, such daftness goes beyond cricket. Because, it is yet another frustrating subcontinental example of how the privileged few waste their many opportunities to return some semblance of order, normalcy and pride to their community. The bigger travesty is that this practice is so engrained in every aspect of public life that the general public becomes increasingly desensitised with each indiscretion.

That's it. Rant over.

Continued >> >>

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dear Diary

In light of Cricinfo's Page 2 take on the life and times of one Rahul Dravid in the IPL era, here's a few days in the life of another top bloke:

2 April 2010
2 overs! 2 measly mofo overs! I was easily the best bowler on show and bloody Sanga only gives me 2 overs. I don't think Sanga understands how important these spells are to resurrecting my international career. I mean what captain relies on Irfan to be his death bowler. The only death that's happening right now is to our team - because of Irfan's bowling. The idiot can't work out if he's a bowler or a batsman and the bloody captain trials him in all positions to find out, while I rot at fine leg. Bloody fool.

All those trips to the temple are clearly not working for me. I'll have to do some thinking about what to do to get noticed by Dhoni sir and Kirsten sir. I suppose I'll have to do it all now, coz Sanga clearly won't help. Mofo!

3 April 2010
Had a good night's sleep. Must've taken a few deep breaths in my sleep coz I'm all calm now. Yuvi sir had a friend with him at breakfast. I couldn't stop looking across at her. I'm so happy coz I think she saw me looking at her too. Our eyes met, there was definitely a connection. I would have given her my number but I saw Sanga leave the restaurant and I had to run after him to ask why he only gave me 2 overs last night. I might get her number from Yuvi sir later. He's normally a really nice guy (until he gets angry) and he's always willing to share.

PS. I couldn't catch Sanga coz I ran into Ramesh Powar in the lobby. By the time I got around Powar, Sanga had vanished. Fat slob, really should lose some weight.

4 April 2010
Sanga just told me I'm rested for this game. What rested ya? I haven't played in months and the bloody Lankan wants to rest me? I'm beginning to think this is a conspiracy to ruin my career. Moody and Sanga are doing to me what Chappell did to Irfan. Bloody Lankan thinks he's as smart as a white man. I'll show the bastard. Rest, my ass!

5 April 2010
Sat right in front of the restaurant door at breakfast today so that I could see Moody or Sanga walk in. I wanted to give them a piece of my mind. Missed out again. Bloody fat prick Powar sat right in front of me blocking my view. And people wonder why we have food shortages in India!

6 April 2010
Saw Yuvi sir in the lift today. I was going to ask him what I should do to get back in the team for tomorrow. But before I could ask, he asked me why I was clapping like a lunatic when we were batting during the last game? Then he said Sanga thinks I'm immature and too emotional. Before I could tell Yuvi sir I was trying to be a team man and support Mahela and others in the middle by clapping, the lift stopped and he left. Why do people ask questions if they don't want answers?

Then, I must be cursed, coz guess who walked into the lift, closed the door and made me miss my floor! Bloody fat slob!

7 April 2010
I was shocked when Sanga came to me and said I'm playing. I really was fired up. I'd been practising my sledging in the nets. Bopara even nicked a couple of my balls. I must've really intimidated him. Can't wait to play Royals today. Shilpa madam will be in the stands too. She always giggles when she sees me. She must think I'm cute. I hope she doesn't distract me while I'm fielding. Plus, she's married, it won't look good on Appa and Amma if media starts making up stories about me and her.

What a disaster for our team, but I think I had a good game. Who is this Lumb? He got lucky today. I used some lines on him that I'd practised in the nets. I think he understood me too. Such a dumbass though. His only comeback was, "what, what?" Yuvi sir kept telling me to calm down. I don't think he understands my passion. The umpires were definitely intimidated by my sarcastic clapping though - they only no-balled me once after that.

I think I'll sleep well today. Sanga must've learned his lesson not to drop me, if for nothing else then my passion on the field.

Continued >> >>

The Useless And The Injured

The Match Referee on cricket: The Useless & The InjuredA tad harsh maybe, given that they're both far better cricketers than I ever was, but the fact remains that Andrew McDonald and Callum Ferguson can consider themselves extremely lucky to receive Cricket Australia contracts ahead of the likes of Michael Klinger, David Warner and David Hussey.

Andrew McDonald's case is a very interesting one. Akin to India's very own Ajit Agarkar, McDonald continues to feature in the plans of state, IPL and, clearly, national selectors despite his obvious lack of skill or any evidence of sustained and outstanding cricketing achievement. His military medium pace (which makes Sourav Ganguly's gentlemanly offerings look good) allied to a consistently inconsistent batting record is incongruent with the talent and demonstrated high performance levels of former and current Australian cricketers who have dominated all-comers for the best part of two decades. So why is he given a contract?

Even the widely panned IPL3 commentators had enough nous to opine that Warner's resvoirs of talent could be transferred to the longer forms of the game. Would a central contract and facilitated relocation across state borders not have provided the carrot for Warner to leap to the next level and become a major force in all formats? Surely even members of the much vaunted NSP know enough about cricket to deduce that Warner statisfying his full potential could do more for Australian cricket than anything Andrew McDonald could achieve in two cricketing lifetimes!

Callum Ferguson would never have received a better present from the Easter bunny, given that has has undergone a knee reconstruction and will take at least a half (if not entire) season to work himself back into anything approaching a remote semblance of form. There is no denying that Ferguson has talent aplenty, which could see him occupy a spot in the Aussie batting order for quite a few years to come. But, the jury is hung as to whether the NSP's haste to hand Ferguson a contract was a direct consequence of a PCB approach to have him invade the batting slot vacated by their erstwhile captain.

An inside source informs me that Ferguson would never have accepted the PCB offer, owing to a preference for the cathedrals of Adelaide to the religious zealouts human bombs of Islamabad, but his people have clearly managed to spook CA and its NSP. All the while, Australia's third best limited overs player, David Hussey, languishes amoung Stalin's-own on the benevolence of a 40-something megastar who makes a living fooling his fans into thinking he's still in college. Tragedy much?!

Last but never the least on our list is one Michael Klinger. Having upped and gone from magnificent Melbourne to arid Adelaide, Klinger knew he would have to work major miracles to undo the insults he heaped upon his mighty Victorian roots. Yet, despite conjuring said miracles (886 Sheffield Shield runs at 63.2, last season and 502 one-day runs at 55.7) Klinger's adopted state failed to make it to a single final in season 2009/10, which probably sealed his fate as far as a national contract was concerned.

Yet, hope still abounds for Klinger. After all, he is a young 29 and the young 31 year old Michael Hussey proved that age is no bar when it comes to making the grade in Australia's team and in international cricket.

Maybe it's my small mind; maybe it's one of rare phenomena in life that simply cannot be explained, but a logical reason for gifting a lucrative national contract to McDonald ahead of the aforementioned young(-ish) guns escapes me.

I get the feeling that the supposedly omnipotent cloak of professional structures doesn't have the requisite power to overcome human daftness.

PS. Neither this website nor this author bears any enmity towards Andrew McDonald. By all accounts he is a top bloke. We simply don't believe he can play cricket very well.

Continued >> >>

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Kicking? What Kicking?

It warms the heart to hear the lads supporting their own in times of need, for draconian BCCI edicts usually ensure that we hear precious little more than the inane voices of daftness. So to read of Gautam Gambhir asking the paying public to get off Yuvraj Singh's fast expanding waistline back brought a smile to my face. It is, from any angle, a noble gesture. Very noble, indeed.

Noble, but utterly misplaced comments that will be used by some media types to propagate theories of unrest, in the Punjab Kings XI setup, owing to Yuvraj's demotion from the captaincy for IPL3. It's common knowledge that sportsmen will get away with almost anything as long as they are performing, including a bulging waistline. Just ask John Daly, Lance Franklin, Paul Gascoigne or even Ramesh Powar.

Yuvraj's battle with the bulge is not new. Comments about his spare tyre have grown from the odd raised eyebrow to a full blown chorus. His public profile ensures that such will grow proportionately to his poor on-field performance. After all, given the example set by elite sportsmen the world over, is it too much to expect the physical condition of our elite cricketers to be the very antithesis of that of Arjuna Ranatunga?

Rotund cricketers are not new to Indian cricket. In fact, ever-increasing girth was thought by many stars of yesteryear to be an effective signal to the world that they had now reached "senior player" status within the team. This was merely an extension of an informal protocol that guaranteed seniors with respect and permanency until they, and only they, decided that their creaking bones could take it no more. While Yuvraj may crave such treatment, in today's professional and franchised age he is unlikely to find many sympathisers.

Even Virender Sehwag used his time out of Team India to lose a few inches. He returned a rejuvenated and more formidable cricketer. While KXIP are unlikely to take the drastic step of dropping their icon player, the time has come for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Indian selectors to take this step. An effective personal trainer coupled with a strict diet and training regime may not change Yuvraj's ego, but it will ensure that he is of more use to Team India upon his return.

It is clear that the cocoon in which Yuvraj envelopes himself is hindering his professional decision making. Ego, anger and a famous name may get you invites to the hottest do's on the Mumbai party circuit. However, such personality traits are unlikely to endear Yuvraj to the millions of fans who have supported him thus and rightly expect him to be a better cricketer than he is currently allowing himself to be.

Continued >> >>
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