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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Can we afford to keep Viru out ? - Yeh T20 hai boss !


The minnows have been packed off – now its time for more serious Cricket – the Super 8 stage is set to begin tomorrow.   At this stage, there are two Groups A & B each having 4 teams and this would be round-robin stage.

In Group A – it is England, the defending Champion, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka from which 2 teams will emerge for Semis.  In Group B,  it is  Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and India.   On 28th we play Australia; 30th we play Pakistan;  2nd Oct, we play South Africa – all these  matches  at 19.3o hrs at Premadasa Stadium, Colombo.

Sure, you did watch the new advertisement from Pepsi for T20 World Cup 2012 – in this new commercial, there are Ranbir Kapoor, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina  together on - screen.  Pepsi is the global sponsor of the event.   The Advt shows how people are crazy about T20.  Ranbir Kapoor tells Dhoni -  "Yeh T20 hai boss... na tameez se khela jaata hai... na tameez se dekha jaata hai!. – does it literally mean that Cricket is no longer a game.     The other Advt also featuring Ranbir Kapoor replacing an fully bandaged person from hospital bed, placing Pepsi on his bandaged hands is seemingly in bad taste  !!!  -  Cricket sure has travelled a long way. 

There was a time when cricket had a timeless Test – the match lasted for 10 days and only ended because the English team had to leave the ground to catch the boat back home.  Even in India, I have watched 6 day matches – then Tests with a rest day in between.  In Australia, New Zealand there were overs with 8 balls.  When we toured Kiwis in 1976, under Bishan Bedi, it was 8 ball affair.   The ‘Timeless Tests’  had to be  scrapped because they were dull, boring and threatened to destroy the sport.  It was by a sheer accident in 1971 that One day International was born. The Prudential World Cup 1975 was a super hit and was sought to be replicated once in 4 years thus happening in 1975; 1979; 1983; 1987; 1992; 1996; 1999; 2003; 2007 & 2011. 

The very existence of Test and more of ODI seem to be threatened by ECB’s innovation which was played on 17th Feb 2005 for the first time on International level – the match when Australia defeated New Zealand – the T20. -  that can be stretched to unimaginative ludicrous levels was demonstrated on Group C clash between Sri Lanka and South Africa 

A highly anticipated match between two of the tournament heavyweights, reduced to a farce by the broadcasters. Scheduled to begin at 3.30pm (local time), in the southern town of Hambantota, rain caused a delay.  By the time the ground was fit for play, it was still only about 5pm but, rather than a full match, the teams were told they were having a seven-over-a-side slog.  This was not because of the threat of more rain or because it was now late at night. No, the teams were sent into this ridiculous spectacle because there was another game in Colombo scheduled to start at 7.30pm.

Clear that TV and advertisers call the tune more than the game’s administrators.  With a total of 34 advertisers, including the likes of Reliance and Hero MotoCorp on board, ESPN Star has earned the most of  advertising revenue, which as per industry estimates is nearly Rs 250 crore. This is the 4th WC and perhaps a gold mine in terms of revenue generated from advertisements and sponsor deals.  “The ad rates are upwards of Rs 3.5 lakh per 10 seconds spot,” a source said.  The matches are so timed to suit the Indian audience at their peak leisure time.   All the 27 matches are broadcast  on Star Cricket and Star Cricket HD. Espn Star has also planned a simulcast of all India matches, semi finals and the final with Hindi commentary on its ESPN channel.  The company’s presentation team includes ex-cricket stars Sourav Ganguly, Sanjay Manjrekar, Nasser Hussain, Wasim Akram, Ramiz Raja, Tony Greig, Ian Chappell, Mark Waugh, along with other known faces such as Harsha Bhogle and Alan Wilkins. ESPN Star had also sold the syndication rights of the tournament to 218 territories across the world.

At the playing arena, after the huge success against England, there is more trouble for Indian selectors and Captain Dhoni.  Chawla’s figures of two for 13 in four overs are surely worth a captain’s hug.  But sure he won’t play the next.  Dinda and Balaji had poor match and can be easily dropped.  Zaheer and Ashwin are likely to return…………. But there is more brewing – is there any sinister plan to keep the dashing Virender Sehwag out ?  While Rohit Sharma continues to be hailed as the brightest prospect and showered with opportunities, the Nawab of Najafgarh was asked to rest against England, when he needed match practice most.  Now there is news that Viru was not part of the nets and perhaps might have to sit out in the match against Aussie as well. 

The option B is to keep opening with ‘so called all rounder’ Irfan Pathan.  Greg Chappell had the game plan of promoting Irfan to No.1 slot, thereby upsetting Sachin, Virender, Ganguly and more. The ghost of Greg continues to haunt, perhaps this time to keep Sehwag out and scare Gambhir too…… a master stroke of Dhoni ?   Against England, Irfan did a poor job and most unlikely to succeed against Australia, South Africa or Pakistan.  The speculation about Viru’s injury and his keeping away from nets have fuelled theories on whether Viru is sulking  and whether he is denied a rightful place.   Virender Sehwag is the most destructive batsman on his day - holds multiple records including the highest score made by an Indian in Test cricket (319), the fastest triple century in the history of international cricket (reached 300 off only 278 balls); the fastest 250 by any batsman (in 207 balls against Sri Lanka on 3 December 2009 at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai); one of four batsmen in the world to have ever surpassed 300 twice in Test cricket. In March 2009, Sehwag smashed the fastest century ever scored by an Indian in ODI cricket, from 60 balls. On 8 December 2011, he hit his maiden double century in ODI cricket, against West Indies, becoming the second batsman after Sachin Tendulkar to reach the landmark. His score remains the highest individual score in ODI cricket – 219 off 149 balls.

The only defence that is sought to be given for Irfan as opener, is that it gives the team a better balance, and the option to play five bowlers without sacrificing one of the in-form middle order batsmen. That won’t pass any scrutiny – Irfan might never succeed as an opener and if you require 5 bowlers, there is no need for 7 batsman – Sehwag is certainly a better bet and excess baggage of a middle order batsman can sure be dropped.   If Irfan were to play, he should be playing as a pure bowler – he is no longer pacy and no longer potent force that once he used to be.  If he were to play in the present XI that has to be at the cost of Ashok Dinda or Balaji and certainly not as a replacement for the dasher Virender Sehwag !

Away, the Indian team was dope tested -  R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag were taken in for dope testing, perhaps a routine affair.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
26th Sept. 2012. 

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