kevin pietersen

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…”

India Shining, England Whining

"...and a happy Diwali to you too!"

At the onset of this series, most of the Indian fans labelled this as a “payback/revenge” series (conveniently forgetting that winning a series against a 5th ranked side does not compensate for losing the Test crown in a humiliating manner), whereas most English fans dismissed this as a pointless ODI series (how would one determine that, I would love to know). The truth lies somewhere in between; that India would win the series was almost a foregone conclusion, but more than anything else, they needed to experience the winning feeling again. Not to forget, they had a bunch of youngsters to groom for the future. For England, this was a chance for the new ODI skipper and young players to test themselves in unforgiving conditions. In the end, the final scoreline was a just reflection of the gulf between the two sides when it comes to ODIs on the subcontinent, despite the absence of a few star players from the Indian side. Here are a few other thoughts from the series:

  • The continued absence of Tendulkar and Sehwag meant that there was yet another opportunity for Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane to press their cases for permanent inclusion. While Patel flattered to deceive, Rahane’s solidity was reassuring to watch, though the tendency to throw away starts was a bit infuriating. Either way, a Test call-up is not too far away for the Mumbai youngster.
  • Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli were the bulwarks of the middle order. In particular, Kohli continues to rise and rise. He had a good Champions League prior to this series, and his purple patch refused to stop. Despite a poor Test tour of West Indies, his maturity and form warrants him another shot in the longer format.
  • What is left unsaid about MS Dhoni? Calm, cool, unflappable, the man with a plan….and by the end of the series, he was invincible too, as England just couldn’t out him at all. Experts are falling over themselves to anoint him as the best finisher in ODI history, and few would disagree.
  • Ever since his debut, I was never too enamored with Ravi Jadeja; but with impressive back-to-back series, he has won me over. While his batting is not as destructive as a certain Yusuf Pathan, he is more consistent, and he is a much smarter bowler. Also, along with Kohli, Raina and Rahane, he has lifted the Indian fielding by several notches. Deserves a prolonged run in the team.
  • With Harbhajan Singh getting dropped from the side after a long time, there was no small amount of pressure on the shoulders of Ravi Ashwin to perform. To his credit, he didn’t disappoint, with his maturity standing out. While calls for a place in the Test team is a bit premature, he should have cemented his place in the ODI team with this performance.
  • Praveen Kumar was steady, Vinay Kumar was consistent, Umesh Yadav was lacklustre – but the one pace bowler to stand out from the Indian camp was the young Varun Aaron. He had pace, but more importantly he hit the right lengths too. He has four wickets as of now, all of them coming through knocking the stumps down. Now, if only he does not get ‘Munna-fied’, India might actually possess a ‘fast’ bowler.
  • To see India put up such a commanding performance in the absence of stars like Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Sehwag and Zaheer was a reassuring sight for Indian fans. With the likes of Rahane, Kohli, Raina, Jadeja, Ashwin and Aaron still in their 20s, the future looks bright for the Indian ODI team.
  • It was a baptism by fire for Alastair Cook, for whom it was the first ODI series outside England as official skipper. He book-ended the series with a couple of 60s and failed in between. As a captain, he was outsmarted by Dhoni, while his failure to exert any authority over his team-mates during a fractious series was disappointing. Looking on the bright side, it can only get better from here.
  • Craig Kieswetter might as well be called Kies-dropper. In a series where the opposition keeper shone with the bat and barely made any mistake with the glove, Kieswetter had a shocking series, even by his own standards. As an opener, he could never convert his starts, and with the gloves (barring a couple of sensational catches), he was unusually sloppy, none more damning than the fluffed run-out of Jadeja in the fourth game. With the likes of Bairstow, Buttler and Davies jostling for places, it is hard to see if Kieswetter will get to keep his place for the next OI assignment.

Behind every successful batsman, there is Kieswetter

  • Jonathan Trott might be wondering what he has to do to get some love from the fans. Despite being the most successful ODI batsman of the year, there are calls for Bell to replace him in the playing XI (this despite Trott possessing a far superior average and strike rate compared to Bell). In a side consisting of batsmen who looked completely out of their comfort zone, Trott was perhaps the only player who seemed to have a measure of how to play the spinners. Whether the English accept it or not, Trott is the only batsman who warrants his place in the side, based on current form.
  • While I have never been convinced that Bopara is one of the top 6 batsman England have, his performance in the series was utterly non-descript and has done enough to justify his future exclusion from the team. The real disappointment was Kevin Pietersen. Despite one good innings, it is alarming how his batting has fallen away in ODIs. For a player who was once the most exciting batsman in the game, it has been a steep decline, and one hopes that he still has it in him to resurrect his brilliance.
  • A lot was expected from Samit Patel and Jonny Bairstow in this series. While Patel had one good match with the bat and a mixed series with the ball, Bairstow found out for himself how much different the subcontinent is, compared to England. Ashwin and Jadeja toyed with him and by the end of the series, Bairstow’s inexperience was clearly exposed. This will be a valuable tour for him though, and he can only get better for the experience.
  • Graeme Swann came into this series with the reputation of being the world’s best spinner. In the end, he was outbowled by his own team-mate and will be remembered for his unflattering figures, churlish outbursts against team-mates, dropped catches and a poorly timed autobiography.
  • In the absence of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, Tim Bresnan was the leader of the pace attack; but the real hero was Steven Finn. Easily, the biggest positive to come out of this series for England; While his boorish behaviour and misplaced aggro can be put down to his age, his bowling was the only thing which kept most of the games competitive. Like most of the youngsters in the team, this experience will be invaluable down the road.
  • Jade Dernbach has been hyped for a long time now, but over the course of three games, his ‘variations’ were dismissed to all parts of the ground and sometimes over it. In the end, all he showed was poor discipline on and off the field.
  • Overall, the English team was completely different to the one which defeated India in the rain-affected home series a month ago. They were clueless against spin and the batting always seemed one wicket away from a collapse. A lack of support for Finn meant that the bowling was never going to contain a rejuvenated Indian line-up. The biggest shock of all, was their huge drop in fielding standards, as the Indian side outperformed them in the department by a mile (Donkey jibes, anyone?). When they were not busy getting into verbal battles with the Indians, they occupied themselves berating their own team-mates. Normally, this would point to a side in decline; but in Andy Flower they have one of the top coaches in the world, who is capable of turning the fortunes around. While it has been yet another whitewash in the subcontinent for them, the players will be wiser for the experience and hopefully, it will lead to wiser team selections in the future.
All in all, it was a great Diwali gift from the Indian side to their fans. While it will not erase the memories of the Test series humiliation, it has gone a long way in applying balm over the wounds.

Why power corrupts

What is it about power and authority that corrupts just about every person in a leadership position? In the last week, former California governor Arnold ‘Sch-whatever’ and IMF chief Strauss-Kahn have been caught out for their sexual misadventures. In Africa and the Middle East, power drunk tyrants oppress their own people, defying international outrage and sanctions. In just about every continent, politicians spend more time untangling themselves from legal troubles pertaining to bribery and other corruption charges, than working on whatever they got elected for.

This extends to sports and sporting bodies as well. Just take cricket, for instance. In Pakistan, a bumbling cricket administrator keeps changing captains and flouting conspiracy theories at the drop of a hat. Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa have innumerable issues with their administrators. The less said about Zimbabwe, the better. For all his business acumen and commercial talent, Lalit Modi’s ego had become so big, that he had to kicked off from the venture that he himself had made successful. In the past few weeks, a previously little-known-of administrator of a state cricket association in India filled with too much self importance, felt that he could go toe to toe with a legend of the game, coming out of the whole fracas, the smaller man. Captains and coaches are not impervious to this, either. Kevin Pietersen, Greg Chappell, Hansie Cronje are some of the people who failed to handle their positions appropriately, and whose misuse of authority led to their shameful exits.

This brings us back to the question I raised at the start of the post. Dr Ronald Riggio, a psychologist tries to explain this by stating that there are two types of power – socialized and personalized power. Power used to benefit others falls in the previous category, and the power for personal gain falls under the latter category. Politicians and rulers are expected to use socialized power, but most of them invariably fall prey to personalized power. A position of authority automatically confers the individual a sense of self importance and idea that he can get away with anything, just because he can. Try as he might, a person who becomes a leader of men, with good intentions will almost always come to a point where he has to choose between using his power for the good of others, or just for himself. Sadly, most will choose the latter.

So, there is no point in railing against our leaders or other men in powerful positions. I know many men who like to mock Tiger Woods or Bill Clinton for their sexual indiscretions, but who when put in a similar position of wealth and power, would do the same thing. What I’m trying to say is, that it is human nature. We are imperfect beings and while we expect our leaders to be better versions of ourselves, we’ll just have to accept that it will never be the case. We might get lucky with a few individuals who can overcome the intoxicating aroma of power abuse, but more often than not, we’ll have to put up with idiots like Gaddafi, Kim Kong Il and Ijaz Butt.

So, the next time you want to rail against a dictator, an inefficient sporting body or Andrew Hilditch, just remember that even if they exit, their places could be taken up by other morons who are much worse. The only thing to be done in such situations is, to be better people ourselves and try to influence outcomes which are under our control. And for those not under our control, perhaps say a silent prayer for those in charge and hope they see the follies of their ways and set things right.

On that cheerful note, have a great week-end!

PS: Just a couple of days after the post, I came across this article on Time…have a look.

Two ridiculous reasons why England will win this World Cup

In the 2009 Ashes, Kevin Pietersen played the first two matches before getting ruled out of the remainder of the series due to an Achilles tendon injury. Three games later:

The following year, Stuart Broad returned home after playing the first two matches in the Ashes, due to a torn abdominal muscle. Guess what?

I rest my idiotic case.