Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Gary Kirsten the next Team India coach?

Going by reports, Gary Kirsten – the South African southpaw who looked older than his age because of his bald look – could well be the next Team India coach.

Apparently, Kirsten, who runs a coaching academy, flew down to India where he was interviewed by Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri – two important members of the BCCI coach Selection Committee.

Kirsten also met Sharad Pawar and Anil Kumble.

And yes, BCCI is also in touch with John Buchanan too.

A final decision will be taken on a December 1 meeting in Kolkata, according to BCCI Vice President Rajeev Shukla.

Since Greg Chappell left, India are without a full-time coach. Chandu Borde (UK), Ravi Shastri (Bangladesh) and Lalchand Rajput (Twenty20 World Cup, Australia and Pakistan series) has been roped in as stop-gap managers at different times.

Among those who have applied for the job are Former stumper and Maharashtra coach Chandrakant Pandit, ex-head of the Queensland Academy of Excellence Richard Done, Leicestershire coach Tim Boon, former Australia and South Africa player Kepler Wessels, Queensland coach Terry Oliver, Canterbury coach Dave Nosworthy and ex-New Zealand captain Martin Crowe.

BCCI had a meeting in New Delhi on Monday and I was there for the briefing. BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah had the following to say no this issue.

Q. How many people have applied for the coach’s job?

Shah: we’ve received some 20-22 applications.

Q. Would you look beyond the list and invite anyone, in case you are not satisfied with the names you have at your disposal?

Shah: No way. We would not invite anyone. The Board is not going to give undue importance to any individual. (Remember, how BCCI ended up with eggs all over its face when they invited Graham Ford and the Kent guy backed out in the eleventh hour?). We would zero in on the applications we have.

Q. The Coach Selection Committee could not meet twice in the past. When are you people going to meet?

Shah: See, it’s not necessary to meet, we can share views via teleconference too. Anyway, be assured, you would get to see a new coach before the Australia tour.)

(P.S. Plz bear with my being irregular at times. I have been covering part of the India-Pakistan series – the ODIs in Kanpur and Jaipur and the Delhi Test. With no more assignments for me, hope to be more consistent in the coming days.)

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Chappell at it again!

Greg Chappell surely has a nuisance value. To be honest, it’s quite tempting to blame him for everything that has been going wrong around -- be it the emergency in Pakistan, bloodbath in Nandigram, crisis in Karnataka, Nuke deal stalemate…

Chappell’s two-year stint with Team India was more about mudslinging and muckraking than managing the side and as the incorrigible rabble-rouser proved again, old habits die hard.

So first came allegations that he was subjected to racial attack with an ugly manifestation in Bhubaneshwar airport where a Biranchi Maharana, member of a fringe political outfit in Orissa, slapped Chappell just over his right ear earlier this year.

Chappell went even further and in an ABC documentary, to be screened next week, he lashed out at the BCCI for allegedly trying to sweep the issue under the carpet.

While we were wondering how similar Chappell sounds to Andrew Symmonds, Chappell did a volte-face, playing down the issue. He did not went that far to disown the statement – it’s caught on camera after all – but played down, saying he spoke all these stuff in an “emotional moment”.

It was a very emotional time when I made these remarks. It's a long way back and I'd like to talk about other things now. I'm looking forward to being involved with the Rajasthan Cricket Academy for the next three years, Chappell said.

Having burnt fingers with his first international assignment and spoiled many a career, Chappell is smart enough to realize that other boards would steer clear of him and he just can’t afford to antagonize India if he has to make both ends meet.

In the April 11, 2007 post, I had talked about neologism and ‘Shit Midas’. Indeed, whatever Chappell laid his fingers on, it turned shit. We can only pray for the boys in the academy.

Image: AFP

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Shah Rukh to buy IPL team, no hope for Tendulkar

Well, Russell “Gladiator” Crowe is not the lone actor, who is bidding to buy a team for next year’s Indian Premier League (IPL). According to reports, Shah Rukh “Chak De” Khan is among 90 people who have made a beeline to buy a franchise in the BCCI-conceived, ICC-backed Twenty20 extravaganza.

And media reports also claimed that Kishore Biyani’s Future Group was in talks with Sachin Tendulkar to convince for a joint bid to buy the Mumbai team. BCCI, however, has scuttled the move, making it clear that it won’t allow any of the current players to have stake in any of the teams.

Meanwhile, England-based industrialist Lord Swaraj Paul is reportedly interested to buy a team, as are liquour baron Vijay Mallya and Anil Ambani. English Premier League, some guys from the American National Basketball Association, couple of foreign banks and handful of investment bankers also harbour the same hope.

Naturally, BCCI Vice President Lalit Modi, mastermind behind the IPL, is sporting an ear-to-ear smile these days. Modi maybe a sworn enemy of Jagmohan Dalmiya but much like the wily Marwari from Kolkata, this firebrand BCCI official surely knows how to mint money.


Thursday, 8 November 2007

Kapil, Vengsarkar, Bedi in Lord’s Hall of Fame

As the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), guardian of the game’s law, decides to doff its hat at Indian cricket, which is celebrating its 75th year, the trio of Bishan Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev and Dilip Vengsarkar is set to adorn the gallery at cricket’s spiritual home at the Lord’s.

Vengsarkar, busy these days hunting for India’s next Test captain, managed to take time off to pose for his portrait, while Kapil – at the receiving end of BCCI’s wrath for siding with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) – too allowed himself to be captured on canvas, as did Bedi, one of the most acerbic tongues around.

Lord’s has proved a happy hunting ground for all of them. Vengsarkar has lorded over at Lord’s, hitting three successive centuries on the ‘Mecca of Cricket’ – first non-English player to do so. Bedi too had a six-wicket haul there while Kapil led his Devils to India’s lone World Cup – well, I mean 50-50 cricket – triumph there in 1983.

Image: Times Now

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Well done Little Master!

Sachin Tendulkar turning down Test captaincy has come as a shock for some, most to be precise. In my case, it was his early willingness to burn his finger again that seemed baffling. But finally, good sense prevailed and Tendulkar has opted out, clearing the decks for MS Dhoni’s anointment as the Test captain as well.

Sachin probably realizes that at 34, he is not getting younger anymore. His almost puerile joy remains intact but it can’t mask the creaky bones, stiff muscles, slowing reflex and failing anticipation. The wears and tears of nearly two decades of rigorous cricket is enough to numb the senses and maim the body and it’s just because of sheer discipline and athleticism that Sachin has managed to minimize the damage – a tennis elbow, a shoulder operation and couple of nips and tucks here and there were inevitable after all.

So at this age and stage, cricket is more played in the mind than the 22-yard. And when the body is no more what it was in the early 1990s, it’s the mind –with the cushion of having a vast reservoir of experience to dig in – that guides him.

Test captaincy would have meant risking the aura, at least part of it, he acquired by dint of his batting. The mind would be pre-occupied with the team’s welfare with a level of accountability that is absent when you are in the squad merely as a player.

Once you are the captain, you volunteer yourself to intense, even inane, media scrutiny and public dissection – be it the toss, bowling changes, field setting, batting order, declaration or imposing or not imposing follow-ons.

Sachin, clearly in the final lap of an illustrious career, can’t afford to court the risk. Come on, he has far outgrown the role of captaincy and why should he put his reputation at stake?

Of course he was game for yet another go at the top job after burning his fingers in the past. But thankfully for him, desire was not allowed to get the better of common sense and Sachin realized what is good for him.

Besides, being the kingmaker has its own charm. Sachin suggested a younger captain – read MS Dhoni – but knows it well that be it Dhoni or anyone else, there would be cases when even the skipper would listen to him.

Being the King would have surely fetched him the crown but along with it comes the thorns. In contrast, Kingmakers enjoy the authority but have none of the accountabilities that come with the job. Your head is not perennially on the chopping block; no need to drag yourself to hostile press conference where questions are virile vitriol; and you are spared of the disappointment of feeling let down by one of your teammates.

The lure of being the Test captain did sway Sachin but he eventually managed to survive the test and turning down the Test captaincy was clearly yet another masterstroke from the Little Master.


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Inzamam and an anecdote

(Well, this is an anecdote you won’t find elsewhere. It’s sort of an exclusive because the mainstream media, including the place I work, had too much on the plate that day and hence ignored it.

When Inzamam-ul-Haq -- looking surprisingly lean and trim in jeans and T-shirt -- came to Delhi to announce his new innings as host of “Junoon 2007” a show on a channel on the Indo-Pak series, Nikhil Chopra – that former offie – shared an incident about the Pakistani “Gentle Giant”).

“We were in Sharjah (1998) and a pair of Pakistani shoes which Inzibhai was wearing caught my eyes and I said “Inzibhai, bahot badiya hai’ (Inzibhai, nice shoes). He surprised me when he asked my shoe size and said, “Tumse (1999) world Cup me milunga aur tab tumhare liye bhi le aunga’ (Will see you in the 1999 World Cup and will bring a pair for you. I was touched by his gesture.

“And to my utter surprise, when we met in the 1999 World Cup, he did present me a pair of shoes he had brought with him all the way from Pakistan. Now that tells you what kind of a person he is,” Chopra said.

Inzamam, meanwhile, looked little embarrassed all along on the dais. Cricket definitely needs players of his ilk.

Image: Reuters

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Russell “Gladiator” Crowe to own a team in Indian Premier League!

Oscar award winner Russell Crowe, whose cousins Jeff and Martin have captained Kiwi cricket team, is all set to buy franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which would make them owner of a team in the BCCI-conceived, ICC-backed Twenty20 extravaganza.

According to Sun-Herald, Crowe and fellow South Sydney Rugby League Club owner Peter Holmes a Court are ready to apply for franchise, which they feel would go a long way to popularize the Rabbitohs club.

"If the football club decides this is something they want to get involved with, then the Souths name could be spread," Holmes a Court said.

While Jeff and Martin Crowe went on to make a mark in sports, Russell – despite his busy shooting schedule – maintained his link with sports. The “Gladiator” star has engaged former South Sydney forward Mark Carroll as his body guard, got Tom Cruise and Burt Reynolds to support his club, roots for Leeds United and supports Michigan Wolverines football team.