How do you solve the problem like.. Cricket!

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How do you solve the problem like Maria? It is a lovely song from the movie “The Sound of Music.” The nurses from the seminary where Maria lived, were very much confused by young Maria, her behaviour and her persona! But still, they simply adored her! They didn’t know how to handle her. I have the same issue with good old Cricket! In my childhood, I lived very close to Mumbai’s maidans both Cross and Azad Maidan. The Brabourne stadium where the test matches were played in those days, was about two km from my home. Whenever and where ever we went to the grounds, there were teams playing cricket! Even though in those days when the kids were born, during growing up, they were inoculated! But all the kids caught the cricket bug for which no cure has been found. As I grew, I have seen that this bug has spread from Bombay and Chennai to Bangalore, Delhi then Kanpur-Ranchi, VadodaraMysore! It is just spreading without any control! 

In my childhood, there were test matches, Ranaji Trophy matches, and in Bombay Kanga league club cricket matches in Monsoon, on Sundays. One could see Umrigar, Ajit Wadekar, Ramkant Desai et al. playing on these grounds on Sundays. All cricketers were amateurs and used to have a tough time getting off to play matches when selected in Mumbai or India teams. Even in those days, Indian cricketers used to do their stint in county cricket. I remember having heard the tales from Maharashtra batsman Datta Kher about his playing in England. He would stay with his relatives in our condo when he went and arrived back from England. We used to view his cricket kit with open mouth and with awe!  

I remember having bowled to Hoshi Amroliwala in the nets on Cross Maidan. As I grew older, then we started to see new stars, of those days,  like Sunil Gavaskar, Ashok Mankad, Eknath Solkar. In those days there was an opening partner for Gavaskar called Ramesh Nagdev. He used to be a big hitter in the mould of Sachin Tendulkar. India lost his services as he migrated to the US at the age of around 20. Mahesh Khandwala was a fast bowler of those times; somehow, he fizzled out after initial burst.  

Cricket is like a close family member or a friend to many in India. It lives a stead life with sudden brilliance and surprises. When one thinks that there can be no more surprises in Cricket, it pops up something new. You Cricket also have a shady side of yours which disturbed many! You are called “Gentleman’s game” but sometimes you behave in an ungentlemanly manner!

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Cricket has rules and regulations; while understanding these rules, most are perplexed because of the absurdities. When the third umpire system was started on TV, the first victim was Sachin Tendulkar. (I am using the word victim) Sachin completed a run against Pakistan, and while collecting the ball, Shoib Akhtar inadvertently pushed Sachin out of the crease and removed the bails. Sachin was declared out!  

Cricket is the only game in the world in which matches used to be played without time limit. In one such test match in South Africa, England was playing with SA. The game was played over 12 days for nine days and had to be abandoned as a draw as English team had to catch a ship back home!  

For the Indian cricket team, the ‘60s and early ‘70s used to be fire fighting matches with occasional brilliance from an individual. When Gulam Guard got Sobers out caught on 29, it was time to celebrate. Chandu Borde’s 96 and 104 in Delhi against the West Indies were the peak of batsmanship. But then came a guy called Sunil Gavaskar, who changed the thinking in the Indian team and changed the way the world would look at India. Of course, there were occasional and sometimes not so occasional lows when India once got out for 42 in England in 1974. Gavaskar once played brilliant innings of 36 not out in a 60 overs one day match!  

Hey, my friend Cricket! You suddenly provide some pleasant surprises and sometimes you suddenly test the umpires. Don’t forget that these guys are human. You suddenly want them to interpret rule 19 (b) subclause iii! That too in the rush of things when a team is on the verge of winning the world cup! Umpires get confused! Have you forgotten that there are crores of Rupees or Pounds hanging the final outcome?  I am talking of prize money as well as betting money.

The biggest surprise you gave us was when India won the world cup back in 1983! Nobody in their dreams ever thought that India would win it! How many hearts were broken? How many British Pounds were lost? How do you manage to do this, my dear? Till then India winning any match itself was a celebration. India was trying their best to get eliminated and was five wickets down for 15 against Zimbabwe! Kapil played an epic inning of 175 and India won that match. In those days, this match was played in England at such a remote place that there was no TV broadcast. Hence there is no recording of this epic innings!  

You have funny rules is well known, but during 2019 the tie did create significant controversy. But in 2007 T-20 world cup final, India vs Pakistan, we had a similar issue. The match was tied. Do you remember how you settled it in those days? You asked six players from each team to bowl one ball each. Those who hit the stumps more won the match. We did not crib as we won the Cup. But is it any way to decide on a cricket match? How does this accuracy determine the final winner? But rules are rules, and the rules are known to the teams beforehand.  

2019 World Cup crossed all the limits of reason during the final. Who would have thought that the final match would tie and then the Super over would also be a tie? No point in discussing the rules but they are there! But the coincidence of double tie was most unexpected! 

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The most important thing was the way New Zealand captain Williamson showed his maturity and Grace! He never made any statement about luck. He knew at the back of his mind that they were joint winners, but on paper, they were runnerups! How do 30-year-olds become so mature? There must be something special in his genes! Luckily, the Indian team was not in place of New Zealand. In that case, there would have been riots in India, maybe a few suicides and some deaths due to a heart attack!  

The cricketing folklore is full of anecdotes, full of characters, full of excitement and full of boredom! There are only two types of people in this world. They either hate or love it. But you never ignore this strange creature called Cricket! 

I love one anecdote which I want to share with you. Gavaskar was the first Indian Cricketer to look foreigners in their eye. After the 1983 world cup victory, we won two more cups in 1984 and 1985. The cup in 1985 was won in Australia! Gavaskar was the captain of the team and was being interviewed. A foreign reporter asked him, “Mr Gavaskar, you have won three tournaments in the last three years. What do you want to say about this?” Gavaskar, in his typical way, asked him, “ Have you seen the movie Jaws 1, Jaws 2 and so on! Our victories were Fluke1, Fluke 2, Fluke 3! Thank you. Any more questions?” 

 

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World Cup 2019 Jamboree! The Human Side!

I was not going to include the cricketing aspect in this blog, but India’s unexpected loss in the semi-final needs to be mentioned.

Jaya and I should have been in England by now like we travelled to Melbourne in 2015 for the world cup Cricket final. But that was not to be for reasons beyond control! But I am not writing about the game. I am writing about various things that happen on the side which I came to know more because of the social media! Yes, social media is great if you use it with discretion! The commercial side, of course, has been taken over by Indian Companies! Bira, MRF, Booking.com to name a few!

One thing is for sure; the game has been taken over by Asians! India, Pakistan, Bangala Desh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Though only India is in semi-finals. We Indians love festivals and watching a cricket match in the stadiums has been converted into a celebration.

There has been a tradition of drinking Beer while watching the matches in other countries. So, who is the official sponsor of the Beer sold this year? Bira is an Indian company; only their Beer can be sold inside the stadiums! There is an aside to this. The deal between the company and ICC was such that the price of Beer to Customers would have been steep. ICC/ECB jointly subsidised the sale by British Pounds five hundred thousand. Just imagine how much Beer must be sold during the matches.  Then, of course, you have Kabab Stalls, Biryani and Samosa stalls in large numbers to cater to the Asian spectators. (They are all referred to as Desis!) The tickets for the matches where desi teams are taking part are bought mainly by desis; we see some locals also watching the games. Believe me, these matches are held right in the interior of England, but the number of desis present in the stadiums was unbelievable.

There has been a tradition, in England, of a group called Barmy Army. It is a group of Britishers who travel all over the world to cheer the British teams in Football and Cricket matches. On the same lines, a group is created by Indians called, what else, Bharat Army. For Bharat wasis, one more festival gets added to their repertoire! So how do they celebrate? They came together and met the ICC. They discussed with ICC a deal. Two packages of four matches each. All ticket sales were online. So the deal was they would get to buy 11000 tickets. They would be given a slightly higher priority than the general public in the buying pyramid. The ICC made a deal that international travel, local travel from city to city and hotel stay will be handled by Bharat army. The ticket buyers have to become a member of the Bharat Army group. They are required to use at least one of the three facilities offered. Bharat Army has hired five buses on a captive basis to travel inter-city. No doubt that cricket has been taken over by Asian spectators.  One person from Ahemdabad asked his 25 family members to join the army. They all applied for tickets and were allotted one ticket. Only our friend wanted to see the matches! Indian Juggad?

In the review before the semi-final, English cricketer Graeme Swan was asked about the atmosphere near the Old Trafford Stadium. He said, “I have already seen two New Zealand supporters and about 25000 Indian supporters. I also understand that there are about five thousand Indian supporters who did not get the tickets for the match. They are going to spin around the stadium in their cars, honking loudly, to support their team.”

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Charulata Patel story is the fairy tale story of this world cup. Eighty-seven years young Charulata was born and brought up in Kenya and moved to England. There is a saying that Indians will move out of India, but you cannot move India out of the Indians. Charulata had ancestors from India and must have visited India a few times, but she never lived there. But the way she and her family were supporting India in India’s match against Sri Lanka. It was a sight to behold! She came to the ground on a wheelchair, and her enthusiasm must have been infectious. She was blowing a home-made trumpet and clapping every good event. At the end of the match, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had the magnanimity to go and meet her and talk to her. Virat showed a nice gesture and gave her two tickets each for the semi-final and the finals. That India lost in the semi-final is an unfortunate part.

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In the image above, Jadeja is gesturing to Manjrekar after completing whirlwind 50!

Social media creates some unusual situations. Sanjay Manjrekar commented that he is not comfortable with having bits and pieces player like Jadeja in the team, on Twitter. Jadeja did not like it at all and replied to him, “I have played double the number of matches that you have played, and I am still playing in the team. Respect people.” The next day Manjrekar predicted that Jadeja would be in the playing eleven. Ex English captain Michael Vaughn pulled his leg saying how come bits and pieces man is in your team. In the match, Jadeja bowled, fielded and batted very well! Vaughn pulled his leg again asking Manjrekar, “Hey the bits and pieces player can bat, bowl and field well! What say you!” Manjrekar blocked Vaughn on the Twitter! Manjrekar next day praised Jadeja but with an emoji! The emoji indicated that it was not wholehearted praise!

How did people and newspapers react to India’s unexpected defeat? In most cases, the reaction was sensible and supporting the Indian team. Most people accepted the fact that after playing very well all through the tournament, yesterday was not Indian teams day. There have to be exceptions to this. ABP asked Harsha Bhogale whether he can take part in a program “Who was responsible for the defeat?” He advised them ” Please don’t do such a program.” But the worst of the lot was Marathi newspaper, Sakal.

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It was in poor taste. They printed photos of Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Pandya, Pant and Dhoni.

Their captions were stupid, to say the least. Since we all know how our team has performed in world cup 2019, you may draw your own conclusions.

Rohit: Hitman-Flopman

Rahul: Finally no show

Virat: Virat  (Major) Failure

Pandya: False Diamond

Pant: Irresponsible

Dhoni: Failed in doing the Impossible

Kartik: Wasted Chances

For any cricket tournament, India is a significant market as Indians are absolutely fanatic about Cricket. Star Sports has the feed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bangla, Marathi for the Indian market, besides English. The unfortunate side effect of major Indian support is that in the second semi-final between England and Australia, there are many empty seats at Birmingham. This is because initially it was expected that India will play the semi-final in Birmingham and many places were booked by Indians. They, for obvious reasons, have not turned up today!

As I write this, England was cruising to a comfortable victory against Australia! (They have won) So finally, the champion will be a team who has never won the world cup before! Your prediction for the final? Mine is England!