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    June 27, 2008

    Time for a reality check and some common sense

    For nearly a week now, India's 1983 World Cup winning team has been feted every day. Obviously they do deserve it all, for what they actually did still gives me goose-pimples.

    But frequently, the gloating does get to me. It really is time for a reality check. The fact is that, like it or not, Malcolm Speed has been right (barring 1 or 2 exceptions) about India not translating its administrative and money power off the field into victories on it for nearly two decades now.

    Significant test series wins, especially overseas (pedantic question: If the team goes to Pakistan from a flight originating from New Delhi, does it count as an overseas trip?!) have been rare. Since 2003, it is around one a year: Pakistan in 2004, West Indies in 2006 and England in 2007.

    It is only in the last year or so that the Indian team has done reasonably consistently in limited overs cricket (fifty overs and Twenty20), with the Commonwealth Bank Series win in Australia and the Twenty20 World Cup. Before these wins, you've to go as far back as the 2002 NatWest Series for a win in a multi-nation tournament.

    Hence, it is very important that the BCCI administrators, the selectors, the coaching staff and the leadership team amongst the players (Kumble, Dhoni, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Zaheer, to name a few) get together and come up with a strategy on what and how Indian cricket will achieve on the field over the next decade.

    I've never really had too much respect for the ECB or the England cricket team. But having said that, the ECB came up with such a plan in 2005. Their aim was to become the best test team by 2009. Whether they reach that goal is not quite the point, at least they have a plan to get there and there's some motivation to execute on the plan. I haven't seen any such attempt from the BCCI.

    So that's the reality check part of this post.

    The common sense bit has two parts.

    Part one is in the context of the controversy a couple of days ago in the England v New Zealand one-dayer where Sidebottom (bowler) collided with Elliott (batsman) when the batsman was going for a quick single. Watch the video and see some photos.

    Elliott and Sidebottom were floored, Bell threw the ball to Pietersen who was at the non-striker's end stumps and ran out Elliott. There is absolutely no doubt that as per the law, Elliott was run out since Sidebottom's actions and his injury did not come under the purview of Law 23 (Dead ball).

    Elliott received some treatment since he seemed injured. The umpires conferred among themselves, and then checked with Collingwood if he wanted to withdraw his appeal. Collingwood was perfectly justified in not recalling Elliott. There was far too much at stake: New Zealand needed 26 (39) with 3 wickets in hand and the series was level 1-1 with one more game to go.

    Lots of commentators are passing judgement on how Collingwood was not right and he had violated the spirit of the game. Some say that the umpires should have stepped in and called a dead ball. But this was, in no way, a case of a wilful and deliberate collision by Sidebottom. In fact, no bowler (especially a fast bowler) would ever want to have such a forceful collision deliberately, because the resultant injury could force him out of the game forever!

    There are two options:
    1. Do nothing. The law stays as it is.
    2. Change the law such that if any sort of collision occurs, regardless of the severity or whether it was deliberate, the ball should be called a dead ball.
    I would vote for #1 so that references to the 'spirit of cricket' can be countered with the fact that the umpires only did what the law said.

    We keep seeing these instances of people going by the law and getting castigated for it. Here're three samples.In all these cases, the players and the umpires followed the law. More importantly, they followed the law as it existed then. Subsequently, laws were changed to ban under-arm bowling and to transfer the power of deciding on a game forfeit to the match referee.

    The second part on common sense is about the real farce that is developing with respect to Zimbabwe's presence in international cricket. South Africa and England have snapped cricketing relations with Zimbabwe. Barely three months ago, the ICC's board let the ZCU off scot-free despite there being enough cause for concern over handling of finances and the state of cricket in the country. It is high time the ICC did something about Zimbabwe. More importantly, the BCCI needs to realize that it can't continue to be solely focussed on its self-interest to the extent that international cricket gets devalued. Zimbabwe is obviously important in the context of votes, but if the BCCI's administrators act sanely and keep the interests of the game in mind, they may not even need votes at ICC meetings!

    Zimbabwe doesn't feature in the ICC test rankings since they haven't played a test for nearly three years now. The last time Zimbabwe won a ODI against major countries other than Bangladesh was in November 2007 (against West Indies). Before that, we go back to November 2003 (West Indies again!). They've been that pathetic.

    Let's just give you some idea of how long ago they last played a test. That last test featured Sourav Ganguly as India's captain and Greg Chappell as India's coach. This was the test after the one where Ganguly revealed that Chappell had asked him to quit as captain. In 3 years, so much has changed: Ganguly was out of the side for over a year while Chappell resigned after the pathetic show at the 2007 World Cup.

    Yet, Zimbabwe continues to receive assistance and funds from the ICC. This just doesn't make sense. Even if the BCCI does plan to object to Zimbabwe's status being demoted, they should come up with an alternate plan that improves the standard of cricket as well as making the ZCU more accountable for its actions.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:03 am |
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