All through the unedifying spectacle of 23 batsmen making a hasty (and, in some cases, shell-shocked) beeline for the pavilion at Newlands on manic Thursday, there was one man who was kept busy, and surely earned his dinner that night.
With nine referrals made to him, as the third umpire, Billy had to be constantly on his toes, and the DRS led to decisions that the on-field umpires might have not given.
Billy Bowden is known for his peculiar, and occasionally comical, actions while on-field, and one wonders what gestures he made while sitting before the TV screen for the decision reviews. One thing’s for sure – he would have been a tired man had he been on the field of play, such was the exodus.
I returned from work that day and switched on the TV expecting to see the continuation of the South African first innings, and was puzzled when I saw an Australian batsman at the crease. A couple of minutes later, the screen flashed this scoreboard.
“This is not real, you’ve got to be kidding,” I yelped.
Smug after bowling out the Proteas for a mere 96 and taking a seemingly large lead, the Aussies got a hiding that will remain in collective memories for long.
One wonders at the ineptitude that led to them being 21 for 9, and later, 47 all out. The pitch was certainly not diabolical.
It might have been fun watching the Smith and Amla pummeling the bowling on Day Three, but, the Aussies had thrown in the towel by then.
The new selection committee led by John Inverarity, and including Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel, is probably sharpening the knives as they set to work next week, and some tough questions will surely be asked of the ageing veterans.
And, New Zealand, must be relishing the prospect of having a go at this Aussie team when they face up in Brisbane on 1st December.
Sports is no longer about “what matters not if you win or lose but how you played the game”. It is about win only, and win at all cost.
Not surprisingly, there is no quarter given, and opponents (and their supporters and promoters, too), often up the ante through mind games, aggressive build-ups, etc. This is, sometimes, given martial overtones, as well.
Aggression is not something new. Douglas Jardine’s England team played what became known as the “Bodyline series” in 1932-33 when the prime target was Australia’s Don Bradman. Many referred to the series as “war”.
Steve Waugh’s touring team to India attempted to conquer the “Final Frontier”.
Football fields have, on occasion, become battlegrounds where (often drunk) spectators have pitched battles with fans of their opponents, leading to injury, and, as has happened before, death, as well.
The New Zealand rugby team performs the Haka (Maori war dance) before every game – symbolic of war.
And sledging on the field has only gotten worse.
A badly battered Indian cricket team, hammered in all formats of the game on their recent tour in the summer, now prepares to take on England in a few days’ time, and everyone is asking the same question – how will the team fare?
Some players have spoken about “revenge”. The sponsors of the ODI zeries have called it the “Payback Series”.
And the media has not been shy of calling it a war, either.
The BBC website carried an article (click here) that spoke, amongst other things, of a full-page advertisement that seems to have appeared in an Indian newspaper that carried the headline, “Time for Vengeance – The war between India and England resumes from 14 October.” It showed some of the Indian players, all dressed in combat fatigues, holding bats and stumps as if they were weapons.
Sport is meant to be all about entertainment. To be sure, passions do get aroused as supporters egg their teams on. Yes, there is big money involved because of the television coverage and sponsorship.
Yet, at the end of it all, it is all about a game.
The use of the word “war” in sport might be an example of creative license – a copywriter letting his pen run riot.
It is in poor taste, though.
Watching sports can be fun, be it cricket, football, tennis or athletics. And, apart from the action on the playing field, there are other aspects that add charm and entertainment value – the crowds, the fans, the side-shows, and the atmosphere.
Speaking of fans, there are some who add their unique style and personality, in their own colourful way, that contributes to enhancing the enjoyment.
There are two faces that regular cricket watchers would surely recognize – Chaudhry Abdul Jalil (affectionately known as Chacha Cricket) and Percy Abeysekera.
Chacha Cricket, with his distinctive white beard and green shalwar kameez, can be seen waving the flag at cricket stadia all around the world. He has been following the Pakistan team from the days when matches were held at Sharjah, and is now a regular presence wherever the team plays. Having given up his job, he has now been hired, I understand, by the Pakistan Cricket Board that sponsors his travels all over the world following the national team.
Percy Abeysekera, who is a one-man cheering squad for the Sri Lankan cricketers, has been following the team for sixty years. He has always been known for his distinctive way of holding the national flag above a batsman as he walks to or back from the wicket.
There is another familiar body/face I have noticed on television over the past couple of years – one who has his entire torso, face and head painted in the colours of the Indian flag, and also has the name “Sachin Tendulkar” painted on his chest.
His name is Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, he hails from Muzaffarpur in Bihar State, and is an ardent fan of Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian team.
Chaudhary does not have a job, I understand, but regularly receives match tickets from his idol Tendulkar, which ensures that he is able to watch matches everywhere in India. He has been a regular feature in the IPL, as well.
I was amused to learn that this die-hard fan has been travelling to Bombay each year since 2004 to present 1,000 litchis to Tendulkar. “Sachin has promised me that he would provide me with the tickets of all international matches played in the country, and he is living up to his words. He is like a god to me,” says Chaudhary.
He has now begun presenting the fruit to some other cricketers like Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh.
Considering the state of Indian cricket at the moment, the team needs more fans like Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary.
Have you ever tried to explain the game of cricket to someone? Or baseball? Are there any similarities?
I came across these very illuminative descriptions.
Cricket : As explained to a foreigner…
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
Baseball : As explained to a foreigner…
This is a game played by two teams, one out, the other in. The one that’s in sends players out one at a time to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn’t count. If they get in before they get out, it does count.
When the ones out get three outs from the ones in before they get in without being out, the team that’s out comes in and the team in goes out to get those going in out before they get in without being out.
When both teams have been in and out nine times, the game is over. The team with the most in without being out before coming in wins unless the ones in are equal. In which case, the last ones in go out to get the ones in out before they get in without being out.
The game will end when each team has the same number of ins out but one team has more in without being out before coming in.
Seems simple enough, isn’t it?
To the uninitiated, cricket is a terribly boring game. Partly because of Test matches that sometimes last for five full days and produce no results. And, in today’s fast-paced world, people do not have the luxury of spending that much time on a game.
The one-day format and the T20 version have brought back interest, and some zing has come back into cricket as a spectator sport.
I had never watched a baseball game (they do not call it a match), and decided to give it a try during a recent visit to North America. The New York Yankees were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, and I wandered into the stadium (they call it a park) to watch.
There were over 20,000 spectators, and I was eager to experience the thrill and excitement of a closely fought game. Sadly, as I was to discover later, this did not happen.
Having been brought up on a diet of cricket, I tried to find a link between the two sports, but, after about an hour of concentrated attention to what was going on, I gave up – it didn’t seem to make any sense. Nothing exciting or noteworthy seemed to be happening. Players came in and went away, the bat made contact with the ball once in a while, and the giant electronic scoreboard displayed images of players and their statistics. The PA announcer, meanwhile, spoke in animated tones, and I wondered if he was commenting about some other match being played elsewhere.
For the spectators, the prime reason for being around appeared to be the consumption of copious quantities of booze and greasy hotdogs. For sure, there was the occasional clapping when someone down there eventually managed to connect bat to ball, but that was about all the involvement with the game, from what I could gather.
I grabbed the attention of a West Indian member of the stadium staff who had strolled over to my area of the stand, and putting on my best “teach me” expression, asked him to explain the game to me. Conscious of the fact that both of us were from the cricketing side of the world, he tried to enlighten me by drawing parallels with cricket. While I managed to get some insights, the rest remained a mystery that, perhaps, shall remain unsolved.
There was a lot of clapping and cheering about three hours into the game. I am not sure if that was for the benefit of the team that won, or to express relief that it was all over and one could go home.
I was disappointed about the game itself – boring beyond words, to put it mildly. Even a five-day Test match with no result has more pulsating moments.
It’s perhaps more interesting to watch paint dry than to watch a baseball game.
It came as no surprise when I read that the phone company, T-Mobile, had decided to offer rented 4G tablet options games to fans of the Los Angeles Angels during home games. Gives the fans something to do between gulps of the booze and eats, and seems to acknowledge that baseball is, indeed, boring.
I will stick to watching cricket.
It is astonishing to see the wacky things that people, sometimes, do.
Have just read about a guy from Saharanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, who sold his shop, and used the money to go to Ranchi in order to try and meet India’s cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and get photographed with him.
Because his fiancé, a Dhoni fan herself, insisted on the young man doing so to prove his love, and place the picture in a locket for their impending wedding.
INR 15,000 is all the guy got for his audio/video CD shop, and this money ran out soon enough, forcing him to live on a street pavement in Ranchi.
News of this seems to have reached Dhoni, who stopped by on his way to the airport recently, shook the fan’s hand, and got photographed.
The fiancé is happy, it appears, the young man is waiting for money to buy a ticket to travel back home, and a priest might, I suppose, get summoned shortly to get the couple to perform the “saat-pheras”.
Reminds me of the hordes of film fans, who after completing a trip to Tirupati, descend on Madras to get a glimpse of the film actors who have played roles in mythological films.
Strange world indeed !!!!
Australia have not lost an Ashes Test at Lord’s since 1934, but their chestnuts are really in the fire at the moment.
With the prospect of a follow-on looming large at the end of the second day’s play, the Aussies will need to pull off a Houdini act to survive.
All thoughts of a victory have evaporated on what the Aussies consider to be one of their favourite hunting grounds, and it will need loads of determination and character to hang on.
Only thrice in the past 115 years has a team won a match after following-on
England vs Australia, Sydney, 14 Dec 1894
England vs Australia, Leeds, 16 Jul 1981
India vs Australia, Kolkata, 11 Mar 2001
History is not about to repeat this time, for sure. It will take a lot to even fight back to draw this Test since England has time aplenty to prise out 12 wickets.
The first Test at Cardiff was a totally Aussie show, with the tourists dominating virtually every session, and when England managed to eke out a draw, thanks to a gutsy rear-guard from their last pair, it was, perhaps, much more than a mere match-saver.
Drawing a match is fine, and most teams will accept it in normal course. But, when it is a case of a nail-biting so-near-yet-so-far, it can crush a team and have a devastating effect on the spirit. England might have appeared a trifle sheepish after a miserable show in the first Test, but the impact on the Australians was surely greater. No amount of self-soothing words from the captain and team management can act as a soothing balm.
If there was just that slight opening in the door, the English have spotted and leveraged it to their advantage at Lord’s. Good for them, you might say.
Which is a rather ironic, because there is a lot that is not ok with this England team. If they have put up decent scores in the two Tests of the current series, it has been mainly because of the efforts of a few individuals, rather than a result of a collective will. These have a habit of unraveling quite rapidly when the chips are down, and England can expect a ferocious backlash in the third Test in Birmingham irrespective of whether they win at Lord’s or not.
A lot of questions have been asked about whether this touring Australian team is as balanced as it should be, and the absence of a top quality front line spinner is a factor that cannot be ignored. Much was expected of Mitchell Johnson who was to lead the pace battery, but, apart from a few decent spells, there has not been much to show from the Queenslander.
This Ashes tour has been an interesting one. Much was written about how the Aussies dominated the English bowling in Cardiff, but when the tables were turned at Lord’s and the vaunted batting line-up began to come apart, there was a sense that this was a match that demonstrated that Test cricket was an equal contest between bat and ball, rather than one where batsmen dominate. Operating beautifully in tandem, the English bowled with venom, ambushed the Aussies brilliantly, probed vulnerabilities and exploited chinks in the visitor’s armour.
However, one has to view matters with some caution.
The Aussies do not wear an awesome cricketing reputation on their sleeve merely for showing up at a Test match. And England will ignore this at their peril.
Rather than shaking their heads and wondering about how their reputations have been suddenly inflated, the English will do well to hunker down and plan and execute well.
There is a lot left in this series, and it would be a brave man who will stick his neck out and predict the outcome.
The fickle-mindedness of the Indian cricket fan never ceases to amaze me, and the reaction to India’s exit from the T20 World Cup was not at all surprising.
Burning the captain’s effigy, shouting slogans to denounce the team, and brickbats from armchair pundits, is standard operating procedure whenever the Indian cricket team falls short of expectations.
With some imagination and, perhaps, a slightly different strategy, India could have avoided getting knocked out. Two losses in as many matches are a bit hard to swallow. Could the team have done better? Perhaps yes. But, that is history.
It’s a game. You win some, you lose some.
In the run-up to the World Cup, Mahendra Singh Dhoni received loads of praise for being “Captain Cool”, an inspiring, shrewd, intelligent and innovative (though instinctive) leader. Plaudits were heaped on his ability to do the unexpected when the chips were down and haul India back into the reckoning.
They are burning his effigy today.
This is absurd and totally unwarranted.
Ok, so Dhoni had one bad game. Hind sight might suggest that he, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan, should have gone in earlier. Sure, Ravidra Jadeja laboured when faced with a barrage of short-pitched stuff. What if the youngster had fired and scored more and faster than he did? Today’s critics would have bellowed their praise about Dhoni’s inspired move.
I recall the finals of the inaugural T20 World Cup two years ago when Dhoni asked Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over. If that move had not paid off, and if Misbah ul Haq had taken Pakistan to victory, irate Indian fans would demanded the captain’s head. The move worked, however, India won an amazing see-saw match, and Dhoni was hailed as the next best thing to sliced bread.
It’s wrong to solely blame the captain, since cricket is a team sport. The West Indies and England accurately read the Indians’ weakness against the fast, rising, shoulder-high ball, and exploited this. If India’s formidable batting arsenal could not handle this, can you trash just one man?
It’s illogical, churlish and naïve to react the way many have done.
This Indian team has performed very well in recent months, has challenged many myths, re-written the rules, and has been fiercely competitive and committed.
They lost one tournament. So what?
It was with considerable interest that I read a recent article by Gideon Haigh on Cricinfo’s website. He has written about how cricket commentary has deteriorated into a spectacle that promotes the commercial end rather than the game. You can see this at
I was particularly amused about his reference that “the IPL is bearing out JK Galbraith’s observation that television allows for persuasion with no minimum standard of literacy or intelligence.”
This reminded me of what I had written in one of my pervious posts on the IPL.
Gideon Haigh, is a respected English-born Australian journalist and writer, who has also been involved with Wisden’s Almanack. His views are usually incisive and forthright, and I tend to agree with much of what he has said.
With the IPL having run about two weeks now, it has got rather irritating when the action on the playing field has been described with a commercial slant injected in between. Sure, the sponsors are ponying up big money and deserve a mention. And, indeed, the IPL is not the traditional cricket format in terms of all that goes with it – the hype, the so-called city franchises, the mix of players of varying nationalities, the American-style cheer-leaders, etc., and is, therefore, free to innovate in any which way it chooses to.
Yet, a wicket is a wicket, a sixer is a sixer, and having the former described as a “(Sponsor name) moment of success” is a bit thick. Come on, the batsman made a mistake and holed out, the fielder did a fine job in taking the catch, and all credit to the latter. Where does the sponsor come in, and how is it the sponsor’s moment of success?
Describing a game with a rich dose of superlatives is all fine, and when you up the ante with raised vocals in order to inject greater excitement, it is also acceptable up to a point. But, when the hype and hyperbole exceeds the credulous, then it begins to get a bit much, and you are tempted to hit the mute button on the audio and stick to the visuals.
You cannot satisfy everyone all the time, and the IPL as well as its television broadcasts will attract some degree of criticism. Which is only to be expected. Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket made people sit up and take notice because of its very unique and interesting packaging and presentation.
Yet, in the ultimate analysis, if the game is described in a banal and superficially hyped-up attempt to engage the lowest common denominator, it will surely lead to a dumbing down of cricket.
That would be unfortunate.
The 2009 version of the IPL has begun, and it does appear that the organizers have done a marvelous job in getting things under way in such a short span of time.
The opening ceremony was good, though not extraordinary, and the general festive mood was definitely in evidence. It sure promises to be an interesting month and a bit of television viewing.
The crowd was keen and energetic, ace percussionist Sivamani kept up his traditional drum beats, and the commentators pumped up their vocals. But, after all the hype, the two matches on the opening day were disappointing, with all four teams playing well below what they are capable of.
Missing were the pyrotechnics witnessed on the opening day last year when Brendon McCullum blasted a century. Instead, we witnessed some good old-fashioned grafting from some of the seasoned Test stars.
The shaggy, black canine, that held centre stage for about ten minutes during the first match, hung around longer than some of the big names, and if the performance of the batsmen didn’t exactly light up the show, the antics of the dog certainly did.
It was a sight watching the spirited efforts of the ground-staff as they attempted to get the mutt off the field.
Makes you wonder how the dog got onto the playing arena in the first place. A cynical journalist even speculated if the ten minute hold-up in proceedings was a deliberate ploy to generate some additional advertising revenue for television broadcasters.
The Guardian newspaper’s Rob Smyth came up with this gem, “How can you take this tournament seriously now? All the money in the world, and they can’t get a dog off the pitch. Imagine if it started relieving itself on a good length.”
There is, potentially, the likelihood of much grumbling in thousands of households across the world, as husbands park themselves immovably before the TV screen each day for the next five weeks, and sparks are sure to fly as all social obligations are deferred / ignored.
Will I be watching? Yes.
Will it be fun? One sure hopes so.