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If I were N Srinivasan

“Hmm….go on…”

These days, the most hated person in the cricket world is not a non-performing cricketer or a bumbling umpire; that privilege goes to a soft spoken, bespectacled business man from Chennai. Narayanaswami Srinivasan, or N Srinivasan (or, Srini mama as “affectionately” known throughout the social networks) is the current BCCI chief, which in turn makes him the overlord of all international cricket bodies (allegedly). It takes a special kind of talent (sorry, Rohit) to be universally disdained by anyone related to cricket. Indian fans hate him for reasons pertaining to IPL, DRS and an autocratic approach to governing the Board. Non-Indian fans hate him for reasons pertaining to IPL, DRS and an autocratic approach which influences the governing of other national cricket boards. It is nice to know that in a cricket world divided by misplaced nationalistic fervor, we can all agree that the BCCI chief is a tool. And that Jade Dernbach’s tattoos make Mitchell Johnson’s look like a work of Picasso. Don’t even get me started on that.

“Cool story, bro….now get to your point!”

Anyway, I was thinking about it and it led me to wonder what I would do if I was the BCCI chief. If Twitter and Facebook is to be believed (and when are they ever wrong?), Srinivasan has unlimited powers through which he can fix IPL games in a way that the Chennai Super Kings make it to the final every year, bully other boards into selecting/dropping certain players, ensure that Dhoni remains the unquestioned ‘Super King’ of Indian cricket and fit in enough time to destroy the game of cricket as we know and love. If all that is there to it, I think Srini mama is selling himself short. Here is what I would do if I was the former Honorary Sheriff of Madras (see, you learnt something new today!):

  • First step – through brow beating, arm twisting and using Navjot Sidhu to make prank calls every day to each board chief, grab control of the ICC presidency (officially). Welcome to the era of Srini.

“Change you BETTER believe in”

  • Make MS Dhoni the Vice President. Well of course.

“Together we shall rule the world!”

  • Make some changes to the ICC constitution (if they have one!) and give myself unlimited powers to affect the internal functioning of all member boards. All with their “permission” of course.
  • Let’s turn to the Black Caps. Who is this Hesson fellow? Remove him and appoint Stephen Fleming as coach. Also, ask “Where the heck is Daniel Vettori?” More importantly, arrange for two series every year between India and New Zealand. There is bound to be some morale boosting wins. For one of them.
  • Australia. This John Inverarity makes Srikkanth look like a genius. Sack him and appoint Warne as chief selector. Give Elizabeth Hurley a role – perhaps fashion consultant? Most importantly, make sure to “rest” Michael Clarke from series against India.

“For Mitchell Johnson, I’m thinking….plastic surgery would be a good choice”

  • Next, Sri Lanka. They have already done their part by selecting a politician as their chief selector. What could go wrong? Go one step further, and ask the Lankan president to be the honorary coach of the team. Also, offer the post of fielding coach to the Sports minister. That is one way of bringing the Lankan fielding to Indian standards.
  • Moving on to South Africa. I love Dale Steyn. He is the future of fast bowling. Heck, he is the future of bowling. A legend of his quality needs to be preserved well. It is important to balance his workload and he should get rest from time to time. Ensure that his rest coincides with India’s tour to South Africa. Also, appoint Faf du Plessis as captain in all formats.

“psst…want to join the Super Kings?”

  • England has troubled us for too long. Time to bring them down a notch. Make Kevin Pietersen the captain again. Remove Andy Flower and bring back Peter Moores as coach and appoint Nick Knight as assistant coach. Make sure that Bopara and Dernbach get to play in every game. Also, give Alastair Cook mandatory rest during series against India and grant Indian citizenship to Monty Panesar.
  • Allow Pakistani players to feature in the IPL. Sign up Junaid Khan, Hafeez and Ajmal for the Super Kings. Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal will go to the team that annoys me the most. Shah Rukh, I’m looking at you.

“Ok…these impromptu dance performances SRK keeps asking us to do, is too much now!”

  • There are no entertainers like the West Indies cricket team. Allow them to feature as the 10th team in the IPL.
  • MS Dhoni will not only be captain, but will also be the chief selector of the Indian team. Say hello to RP Singh again! Make India Cements the official team sponsor. Grant Suresh Raina the “honorary” number 6 spot in Tests and assign R Ashwin as the “honorary” first choice spinner in all formats; no to forget, the official spokesperson of the team after every defeat. Also, replace Fletcher with John Wright.

An overjoyed Fletcher, on hearing the news

  • For my dear CSK, appoint Mike Hussey as the coach and ensure that they get to play all their games on slow tracks, be it home or away. Make a special allowance for the team, so that they get to play 6 foreign players in the XI. Rule of thumb: Chennai Super Kings shall always win the IPL.
  • Remove the DRS and institute “SRS” – any time a player wants a decision reviewed, the umpire shall call a special number through which the calls are routed to my private phone and I get to take the final decision depending on my careful analysis as to how the dismissal would affect Indian cricket. Even if the game does not feature India.

“but, Sir…we can only give one batsman out at a time!”

  • Appoint personnel to follow Twitter and Facebook for any unfavorable mentions of me; any culprits found besmirching my name will be spammed to eternal banishment from the World Wide Web.
  • After I’m done enjoying the fruits of my “labor” for a few years, I will go on Oprah’s talk show to confess that I had taken all the previously mentioned actions under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs (I foresee a drop in sales of my “What Would Srini Do” wrist bracelets). I will leave the public eye gracefully; but in one final act of defiance, I will ensure that Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar become the new ICC and BCCI chiefs respectively!

“You get a Shastri…you get a Sunny G….everybody gets a one-eyed BCCI puppet free!”

PS: Mr Srinivasan, if you’re reading this by any chance……I kid, I kid! I’m a big fan, sir. Please don’t banish me from the World Wide Web!  

“I’m watching you…”

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Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

Following  international cricket through Twitter and Facebook is sometimes more entertaining than the action on the field. The battle on social media can match or even better the intensity displayed on-field by the 22 players. While the contest may be between two teams, the online interaction features participation from fans of non-playing teams as well. This makes for an all-inclusive forum where you get perspectives and opinions of all kinds and where debates can stretch for hours and days after the match has concluded. In this context, the reactions following England’s huge loss to South Africa at the Oval, made for interesting observation.

The South African fans were understandably overjoyed, but they were not alone. Indian and Australian supporters, who have bore the brunt of England’s dominance in recent times, were blessed with a host of topics to mock the English team – the ease with which the number 1 team lost to South Africa, the impotency of their bowlers, the ineptness of their batsmen on a flat track and a favorite target – the English media. Understandably, the English fans were more subdued, with reactions ranging from muted acknowledgments of South Africa’s dominance to frustrations over performances of certain players, and even anger over the celebratory reactions by the ‘neutral’ fans.

Here’s why the English fans shouldn’t be too surprised over it all: It happens all the time. Not just with England, it happens with all top ranked teams. When you’re at the top, everyone will be gunning for you. That’s the most important factor. It happened with Australia in the 90s and early 2000s. It happened with India between the period of 2008 and 2011. If you’re top of the table, you are fair game.

There are additional factors too. The Australian teams were not liked because their in-your-face attitude combined with crushing performances, made it easy to hate them. As for the Indians, the perception was that they were a bunch of superstars who had risen to the top with the help of their arrogant board and their indifference to DRS was harming the game. With England, most of the disdain is reserved for the media, who can sometimes be very condescending of the opposition while England is on top.

There are 3 simple facts, which stand true for any sport:

1) Except for fans of the dominating team, everybody roots for the underdog. South Africa were not technically underdogs in this contest, but after day 1, when a familiar feeling of English dominance started to seep in, it looked like South Africa were under the cosh. That’s what made their win that much sweeter for non-English cricket fans.

2) Nobody likes an arrogant winner. For a neutral, most of the English players are hard to like. While the likes of Broad, Swann and Bresnan are good players, they can come off as snobby thanks to some of their antics on the field. Not to forget the English media, whose gloating after day 1 is pretty much the best example I can think of their condescending and holier-than-thou attitude. So, it is not exactly surprising that the English are not getting much love, now that they are down.

3) It’s always lonely at the top. When a team tops the rankings, they cannot expect too much support outside their fan base. The Australian and Indian supporters know that feeling. Now, it is the turn of the Englishmen. Who knows….after this series, it could be the turn of the South Africans!

As for Strauss and his men, it is a long road ahead. When they were made to chase leather on Days 3 and 4, the complaints were ‘It is a flat track and it had nothing for the bowlers’. Thus, when they capitulated in less than 100 overs on the 5th day, they left themselves open to ridicule, considering the upcoming tour to India where they will face similar tracks against an opponent who will be hell bent on revenge. So, Andrew Strauss will have to keep the big picture in mind, even as he leads his men in a battle against a red hot opponent to preserve their hold on the top ranking. Two former England captains quit in tears after disastrous series against South Africa. Will Andrew Strauss be the third?