Thursday, January 20, 2011

Facetiously uptight

Right. Now that Yusuf Pathan came out of nowhere and played a match-winning hand in South Africa, I think we've pretty much established that this series? Is totally awesome. I'm not a fan of YP, have never been (but given the choice is between Jadeja and YP, I'd go with the latter any day), but stuff like this is what ultimately makes the game so interesting.

I trawled through cyberspace for some good match reports (because for some reason I am just not able to stay up beyond 11 PM these past few weeks) when I stumbled across this.

While reading it, I was mostly annoyed and maybe a little amused (go figure) but guess who wrote it? Ayaz Memon. The dude who gave us the running commentary during the IPL auction and whose writing I used to like once upon a time. I have since lost a lot of respect for his 'expert opinion' after he became one of the yammering heads on TV, appearing in nearly every other match preview/review show, hobnobbing with the likes of Arun Lal and Navjot Singh Sidhu (and Sameer Kocchar!). IMO, nobody can come out of that without being tainted.

That said, the article was still annoying, and I want to pick apart a few points. He talks about the selection of the Indian squad for the World Cup, and how he thinks it's flawed. It's titled "Don't discount luck. And, oh, positive energy." Straight away, a laboured attempt at dismissive snark. Not working, Mr. Memon. You're trying too hard already.

This is how it starts off:

The vicissitudes of life could not have been made evident to Rohit Sharma and S. Sreesanth more dramatically than through the events of the past few days. In the Indian Premier League (IPL) auctions, Sharma fetched $2.1 million (Rs9.5 crore) from Mumbai Indians and Sreesanth raked in just under a million dollars as the talismanic player for the Kochi franchise.

A little over a week later, however, both these talented young players found themselves in the rubbish heap after the Indian team for the World Cup had been chosen. Do the IPL franchise owners know something about them that the Indian selectors don’t?

Let's see, now. Piyush Chawla, the other "surprising selection", raked in almost a million dollars in the IPL auction himself. No, I have no idea why all the franchises went after him, either. Pretty much like Sreesanth, eh?

Also, both Robin Uthappa and Jaidev Unadkat "raked in" a whole lot more money than, say, VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma. Are you implying that means they are better? By using the IPL logic in a selection process for an event that is drastically different from the IPL, you have just shot yourself in the proverbial foot, Mr. Memon. Fail.

He then makes a couple of valid points about the team being short of a batsman. He suggests that the selectors ought to have gone with Dinesh Kaarthick or Parthiv Patel, who can serve the dual function of being an effective batsman, and reserve 'keeper. True enough. As I understand it, though, Chawla and Ashwin were included not just to add depth and variety to the attack, but also because of their all-round skills. I haven't seen much of this batting skills of theirs (although Ashwin did play a couple of crucial knocks for CSK in IPL 2010), but hey, what do I know. The selectors should have a much better idea. Still, I accept that as a good argument.

Then, the whole tone of the article changes:

Many serious cricket followers were not amused with chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s pleas to the public that they should send out positive vibes to the Indian team chosen for the World Cup.


Given the passion that cricket arouses in India, Srikkanth’s “everything’s fine, now let’s all create an aura of positive energy to win” seems like puerile mumbo-jumbo.

Because sports? Is SRS BSNZ, yo.

I mean, what the hell was that supposed to be? "serious cricket followers"... "not amused"... "puerile mumbo-jumbo". I thought sports is supposed to be about fun and positivity. Sure, it's become more of a business venture these days, and a very big option as an actual profession, but dude. Don't take a crap over a couple of fairly innocuous - if cliched - statements because the bowler you thought would be selected didn't make it!

Also, that was probably Srikkanth's way of saying, "look, we've selected who we thought were the 15 best men to represent the country in this shindig; you might as well go along with it." That's pretty much every selector's line, practically their prerogative, as much it is ours to criticise their selections. Why single out the man and his turn of phrase?

I say "single out" because Mr. Memon just does not stop going on and on about it:

Before I come to that, however, a bit about the man is in order. Srikkanth is among the more endearing cricketers I have known. He is unpretentious and chirpy, often brazen enough to call a spade a shovel and sometimes flippant enough to call a shovel a tablespoon.
(okay, I have to admit I love that last line)

When he became chief selector in late 2008, the appointment did not meet with universal validation in Indian cricket. I know of several of his peers who sniggered that he lacked the gravitas for the job.


I suspect this image was a hangover from his playing days. An engineer by qualification, Srikkanth was anything but precision-driven in his approach in the middle.


Such thoughtlessness was seen to extend to most areas of his cricket. His carefree batting—imagine a watered down version of Virender Sehwag—was considered irresponsible even if it was exciting and his tenure as Test player earned him perhaps more censure than approval from critics and experts.

Mavericks were not readily endured in Indian cricket those days, but to be honest, Srikkanth lacked even half the consistency of Sehwag to convince his detractors otherwise. In limited overs cricket, he was a major player with his derring-do and arguably the most influential batsman after Kapil Dev in India’s 1983 World Cup triumph.


If the rapid rise of the Indian team in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings since he became chief selector is any indication, then perhaps the “positive energy” syndrome he talks about may have worked.

And all of that is important, why? And look at those descriptions - "watered-down version of Sehwag", "irresponsible even if it was exciting," "lacked even half the consistency of Sehwag" - wow, I can see you have a high opinion of the man. Also, isn't there supposed to be a selection committee? I don't know why people fail to mention the fact that there are supposed to be five other men who make the decisions too. Srikkanth makes himself an open target, I admit - he is just so in-your-face, cheerily loud and says really crazy things some times, and I loved it when he started whistling when Sehwag was blasting away merrily in some Test match or the other - but at the end of the day he's making decisions based on the input he receives from the other committee members, and more importantly, the captain and the coach.

Then, again, the article changes tone:

I am being facetious, of course, but interestingly, historically, India’s fortunes in World Cup cricket have defied conventional logic. In 1983, for instance, to predict that Kapil Dev’s team would win the title was challenging sanity. But the impossible happened; India beat the mighty West Indies and the cricket world was turned upside down.


India had terrific teams in both the 1987 and 1996 World Cups. Mind you, both these tournaments were played in the subcontinent where conditions would suit the home team, but both times India lost in the semi-finals.

Again, in the T20 format, for the inaugural World Championship in South Africa, India were the last country to agree to play. [...] Against all expectations, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team triumphed and turned the cricket world downside up once again.

There is no gainsaying the fact that meticulous planning and perceptive team selection are of enormous value in sports. But in a major tournament, unlikely heroes are frequently thrown up and the luck factor cannot be discounted entirely.

Okaaay, so ultimately, what was your point? "This squad is imbalanced and wrong - and by the way, let me tell you all about how carefree and irresponsible a guy the chairman of the selection committee used to be, implying that his opinion can't be taken seriously - but what the hell. Selection doesn't matter to the Indian team in World Cups anyway." Really?

I mean, if this article was supposed to be snarky - like the title suggested - it would've worked. But it wasn't. It jumped from seriousness to sarcasm to outright dismissal like it was on LSD. Inconsistent writing, or Mr. Memon couldn't make up his mind? I don't know.

He finishes with mentioning his team for the World Cup - which excluded Nehra and Chawla and had Sreesanth and Rohit Sharma instead - and finally this:

But in hindsight, I am prepared to accept that the committee has done a decent job. Some luck Dhoni and Co. will need. Ah yes, positive energy from supporters too, as Srikkanth says.

Now where have I kept the beads for the winning mantra?

Ahahaha. :|

I expect so much better from you, Mr. Memon. If you'd just laid out your arguments for why you think Sree/Rohit/Kaarthick should've been included and why Nehra/Chawla should've been left out, I would've enjoyed it a lot more. Instead, what I got was a whole lot of Srikkanth's backstory and failed sarcasm.

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