ICL vs IPL, domestic vs international

I may not have written lately on the topic – the untapped market for organized domestic cricket, and a dream – but I have been watching them both, ICL and IPL. Thanks to the monopolistic protection from BCCI and ICC, IPL is going great guns. Aussie cricket stars signed up, Russel Crowe interested in owning an IPL team, and more – hope you have been reading the papers. On the other hand, ICL is struggling to sign big names, and I am sure will struggle to get cricket venues though it has announced it will start the league end of November.

I am no die hard backer of ICL. I mean I don’t really care whether its IPL or ICL, as long as I get my 3-4 month season of quality cricket without patriotic pretensions  and at my  preferred times – late evening every other day and weekend afternoons. I also want to experience the stadium atmosphere once in a while with family, the noise and crowd thrills.

So, will IPL provide us all that? I am still not sure. Here are my apprehensions:

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Whats up Mr Chandra?

The iron is still hot.

Did you notice today that key corporates like LG, Samsung, Coke, Pepsi have not bought advertising for India Bangladesh ODIs? Last heard they were arguing for 20-25% cut in ad rates that reportedly go at 1.2 – 2 lakhs per 10 second spot. Guess Neo didn’t give in.

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Cricket World Cup and Indian economy

After some folks calculated the cost of 2007 cricket world cup to Britain’s economy (US $521 million), I thought why not put up a similar number for the Indian economy as well.

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Neo’s All Star Cricket

Neo2Flip flop. Kabhi haan kabhi naa. Don’t call me any of that simply because I am going to put in a good word for Neo here. If you read either of this (Best vs Best), this (BCCI vs MLB) or that (Hoysalas vs Bulls), my dreams of a glamorous, popular and entertaining domestic cricket league should be well known by now.

Neo1So this year, the zonal format domestic one day cricket competition called Deodhar trophy has a new name. They call it the “All Star” series. Face lift with perfectly fitting name – well, I say a good idea! Colored clothing, white balls, nice grounds, day-night matches, nice TV coverage, and experienced commentators like Arun Lal and Laxman Siva. Neo has put together a nice package for us cricket fans.

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Neo racist?

The heat is on Neo now, and for the right reasons. Those ads they ran to drum up excitement around India-Windies and India-Lanka cricket series were definitely not in right taste. Threatening to drown a few tourists in a lake? Showing a few Indians putting tourists in trouble in front of a canine, and showing off a range of Indians – a breastfeeding mom included – as people who wont offer water to spiced up mouths of West Indians. What the hell was all that? If Neo wanted publicity by way of controversy, they sure have had a good dose.

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The mess of Lee Hesh

When Leander says things like these (“Hesh should be honest with himself“), I get this feeling that Lee has more blame to take than Hesh for this embarrassing and disappointing mess they have been as a pair.

These guys were on the top of this world (1999, all four grand slam finals). Just when you thought they would take their performances a notch higher, and give us all Indians the first true professional world champion in any sport, they knocked each other over with their egos. Is it only me who feels that they could have made 5 times more money and titles had they continued their partnership?

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Mahesh Bhupati and Younis Khan

Mahesh Bhupati ran into good friend Younis Khan at Mumbai airport.

“Mahesh bhai, I heard you wont play any tennis for India now.”

“Yes da.”

“But why bhai, why?”

“Sorry da, can’t tell you now. Anyway. Tell me about you, I heard you won’t ever captain Pakistan.”

“Yes Mahesh bhai.”

“But why?”

“Sorry yaar, can’t tell you now.”

Silence for a while. And then they both go.

Autobiography“!?

“Oh yeah.”

Best of India vs Best of Pakistan

I have a dream. I get back from work at 6 pm (someday, that will be possible in Bangalore!), get fresh, turn on my TV and jump to a sports channel. A match between Bangalore Bombers and Mumbai Marathas is on! Munaf Patel and Andrew Flintoff open the bowling for Marathas, and Rahul Dravid and Andrew Symonds open for Bangalore. Watching from the stands are famous personalities with last names Mallya, Bachchan and Khan. The stands are overflowing with people, and ads like “Britannia Khao, Goa jao” are flying past my TV screen.

How do you like UEFA Champions league? Even if you are not a football (or soccer) fan, chances are you have heard of it. How about the FA cup? Hope you know about this premier ‘import’ from England, thanks to the marketing blitz on TV.

But when the best team of cricket-crazy India played a match with the best team from cricket-mad Pakistan to decide a champion of the subcontinent, there was no such marketing on TV. Forget coverage on TV, there wasn’t even an ‘official’ mention of the event (BCCI is still in the process of putting up its website). And these star studded (Mohd Asif, Suresh Raina, Mohd Kaif, Shoaib Malik, R P Singh, Piyush Chawla, Imran Nazir) teams played at a venue so obscure that they had to sit through a 10 hour bus ride to get there. And that bus ride made their key players fall sick on reaching the venue. Uttar Pradesh beat Sialkot with a handsome margin, but notice the absence of Mohd Kaif (out sick), and Sialkot’s 2nd innings scorecard (3 players sick midway during the match).

Now, I know you got questions about my dream. That match starts at 6 pm because of an “I respect viewer’s time” format – any variation of the Twenty20 thing. Andrew Symonds plays for Bangalore because 20 million fan-strong Bombers contract gives him more money than 5 million TV viewers of Queensland can ever pool and provide. And let us say that Andrew Flintoff is doing it because he truly loves Kingfisher bottled water :)

So, when will my dream come true? Soccer has Euro cup, a hugely popular World Cup, and still has a bunch of very successful national leagues. We have more cricket fanatics in our subcontinent than all of Europe’s soccer fans combined, yet, not one truly successful and commercial domestic setup? Money is here, so are hundreds of potential stars hiding in the streets, but India only has 10 to 20 cricket stars at any given moment, why?

I don’t really like these internationals played around the year. ICC Champions trophy drama every 12 months, then various bilateral and trilateral series, and once in a while, a World Cup. I don’t need this needless tension and international politics so frequently. I don’t want to get up at 4 am, and bunk college or work to catch good cricket on TV.

Just give me my Bangalore Bombers versus Mumbai Marathas and a 6 pm start, will you.

Aaha, easy to say!

Time for a sporting break. Some day earlier this month, I read two similar sounding bits of news printed next to each other on the sports page.

One went: “Kiran More criticises BCCI’s selection process”. He did this the day after he quit.

And another: “V Bhaskaran blames lack of communication (or was it coordination) amongst players”. This was in connection with the Hockey World cup debacle.

Well well well, talk is so cheap! If arm chair critics like us say those things, fine. But who the hell gives you the right to crib about stuff you have had a chance to mend?

Hai hai Mr More. Chairman of selectors for 3 years. And not a thing said or done to reform the same things you criticized. But the day you leave office, your big mouth opens loud and wide?

And Mr Bhaskaran, aren’t *you* the coach of our Hockey team? If it is not you, then who exactly is responsible for teaching communication and coordination to those players? Me?

If this is how respected officials from premier-most games of the country behave, wonder what is the state of affairs with other sports bodies. Actually, no need to wonder, we all know and see it loud and clear.

Lata, NRN Murthy and the ‘don’t know when to quit’ syndrome

Group I: Lata Mangeshkar, Dev Anand, Kapil Dev, Asha Bhonsle and Saurav Ganguly. Group II: Sunil Gavaskar and NR Narayana Murthy. Now guess what I am talking about.

People from the first group I mentioned – there’d be a lot more if I think hard – they just don’t (or didn’t) know when to quit. These were my exact thoughts when Asha Bhonsle’s 73rd birthday was celebrated on TV last week. These two sisters – especially the elder one – make prime examples of this ‘don’t know when to quit’ syndrome.

Did you listen to the Lata version of “Kuchh Na Kaho” from “1942: A love story” back in 1995? And then in some songs in Dushman, Lata Mangeshkar again sounded like a be-sura ghost of her past. A more recent example was “Veer Zaara” where I just couldn’t tolerate her voice in a few songs (‘Hum to bhayee jaise hain‘ and one more I don’t recall right now).

Why has she not quit yet? What is her motivation in continuing to make fun of her super duper glorious past? I just don’t know. I assume she has made enough money. And being an excellent artist herself, she knows how to tell a well-sung song from a bad one. Doesn’t she herself listen to the stuff she has been dishing out recently? To tell you and her the truth, she lost some respect the day she agreed to participate in that gimmickry called “Shraddhanjali“.

Asha Bhonsle is a bit more talented than her elder sister. And that shows in the fact that a few of her old-age songs have indeed been sung well (Rangeela, Taal years). But please, don’t croon the way you did for Khallaas. I had to reach out for earplugs. Seriously Ms Bhonsle, did you ever play the song back to yourself? If you did, I hope you dropped your jaw in shame at least once. I also noticed how ‘they’ had to use another “voice” to fill in parts of the “Radha Kaise Na Jale” song that Asha just couldn’t have sung.

But our media is still gung-ho about them, “aaj bhi awwal darje ki gaayika” and what more! Please. Past was past and present is present.

In few other fields of note, there are examples of people making a living out of their past reputations.

Remember how we literally had to force Kapil Dev out of the game? Now see Saurav Ganguly. 15000+ runs in international cricket, a man with truly memorable past. But he doesn’t even get the message.

And less said about Mr evergreen Dev Anand, the better. Oh god!

People like Sunil Gavaskar and NR Narayana Murthy are rare. For these Indians knew when to quit, they left in true style. Attention, and a salute.

PS1: What is your prediction for Sachin Tendulkar. Will he be a true Gavaskar disciple? Or will he linger on till his babies grow taller than him?

PS2: Amitabh Bachchan was left untouched here on purpose.