Ravi Shastri replaces Anil Kumble

A day after Ravi Shastri was appointed the coach of the Indian Cricket Team (men), there have been reports emerging that the choice was not a universal one. One of the members — probably the most outspoken of the CAC — Sourav Ganguly, we have come to understand, was not completely on board with the decision to appoint Ravi Shastri over the other candidates that included Virender Sehwag. Speaking on the occasion of the announcement of the decision, in a remarkably candid (and possibly off-the-record conversation), Sourav said, ‘it is not that Ravi Shastri is any less qualified than Viru [sic] or any other applicant for the job. He is as poorly qualified as the rest of them.’

Speaking to journalists, Sourav remarked, ‘we believe that the appointment of Ravi Shastri is a positive signal in the ongoing forward march of the Indian men’s cricket team. For one, his rapport with the Indian captain is known to be excellent, in that, he largely stays away and hence there are not too many chances for exchanges of expletives which is always great. In addition, his rich experience will come in invaluable especially in close finishes when he could play the dual role of rabble-rouser-in-chief with cliches that would instantly uplift the sagging and tense spirits. Third, and this is an internal matter but is important all the same, a part of his not-inconsiderable salary can be apportioned to the “cricketing” budget rather than it all coming from the “marketing. In the tough market conditions and with an increased focus on inter-departmental harmony and cost structures, this is a very important aspect to the smooth functioning of Indian cricket and the BCCI.’

When quizzed about the cloud surrounding Kumble’s departure, Sourav remarked, ‘look, this is not for me to speculate. It was a decision that was made regarding a former India test captain by a current Indian test captain in conjunction with a panel of former Indian test captains — that did not include this former Indian test captain. To clarify, the “this” here is not me but this past Indian coach. Who also happens to be the former Indian test captain. It might seem confusing but it is plain for all to see.’ Answering the question on whether there was room for a return to the position for Kumble, Ganguly said, ‘this is really not a question that I can answer; it is a question only time can. We have seen, in the past, that past Indian captains have become Indian coaches, who have then gone on to become past Indian coaches, only to re-emerge as present Indian coaches. In the same vein, the door can always be ajar for a past Indian captain to become the future Indian coach.’

Shastri, for his part, refused to be drawn into the debate about the former Indian test coach. ‘This was a decision that was taken for cricketing reasons. I can only say so much. Whether the decision is right or not, only time will tell. That might be a cliche but cliches are true. My last tenure flew past like a tracer bullet and I fully expect that at the end of this one, all three results are possible.’ Typically applying a finishing flourish, he signed off saying, ‘we need to keep in mind that whatever is being done is for the team, and always, in the end, cricket is the real winner.’

India Inc. bats for team India

With the Indian team drawing flak from former players, commentators, pundits and armchair twitter pundits alike, support has come in from unexpected quarters. Captains of industry have lauded the Indian team’s performance and have cited it as a major reason for the increase in productivity of employees.

‘We have noticed a remarkable increase in the productivity levels of the employees over the past fortnight. Every time India plats a series down under, we find a lot of cases of employees turning up for work only post lunch time’, said a manager of a leading IT company.

‘In the past, we have had cases of Melbourne morning sickness, boxing day bugs and Sydney sinusitis. All of these health conditions, of course, miraculously vanished after lunch time but since we trust our employees to the hilt, we did not think it was linked to the cricket. In fact, we have even had reported cases of bachelors’ spouses falling violently ill. One employee suffered the tragic loss of several relatives on five consecutive days and one person’s grandfather even died four days in a row. It was most torturous. Bless his soul’

He continued, ‘this time, however, the appalling performance of the Indian team has led to employees coming to the office on time and in many cases, well in time. We have found people coming in at 5 A.M to avoid switching on the television only to see the score and get depressed. Further, we have found that the number of people logging on to websites to check the score during office hours has reduced drastically. Even water cooler conversations about cricket are barely heard. I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to the Indian cricket team.’

Support has also come in from a lot of Indian fans who have traveled to Australia to watch the cricket. ‘Thanks to the woeful performance of the team, I have been able to explore much more of Melbourne and Sydney. I thought I would be hard pressed for time between the first two tests but the team duly obliged by finishing up the first test in three days and a half,’ said one fan. ‘ My wife, who was constantly complaining about me putting cricket ahead of her, was most thankful to the team for we got so much more time to go sight-seeing and shopping ’, quipped another.

A young fan said, ‘I thought that test cricket was going to bore me out of my wits but thankfully, I now have so much more time to watch the Australian IPL. I won’t lie, I love watching Sachin and Dravid bat and even my coach sir asks me to observe their batting closely. (Sir, if you are reading this, I did study their batting very closely but I think Zaheer is better; he at least hits sixes) But by getting to watch Gayle and McCullum and Afridi and Hayden, I got a lot more entertainment than I bargained for. Thank you, India! Jai Ho!’

Buoyed by this unexpected level of support, team India is now hoping to continue its excellent showing by wrapping up tests quickly. Just Well-In-Time match completion methods are now being offered as electives in the National Cricket Academy. The team is also reportedly working on publications like middle disorder and No joy in the morning and a blockbuster movie How to lose a test in three days.

Guru Greg ‘demystifies’ Tendulkar

With India out to conquer the ‘final frontier’, and the Australians in admittedly patchy form, Cricket Australia have taken the issues very seriously. To ensure that the Border-Gavaskar trophy does indeed stay down under, they have enlisted the services of Greg Chappel to ‘demystify’ Tendulkar who has remained an enigma to Aussies of this generation and the previous. Here is Guru Greg’s address to the team:

‘Right. Welcome, boys. I have been called upon to ‘demystify’ Tendulkar and I intend to do just that. First, you must have all read my book Fierce Focus available for only AUD 7.99 from all leading book stores. You haven’t? Shame on you. You really ought to have. Tell you what, I am going to extend this into a two-day session and your assignment for tonight is to go buy the book and read the Tendulkar-related sections in it. There will be a quiz tomorrow and that will contribute toward your selection for the first XI. Don’t think of cheating for I will get to know when I get my royalty check.’

‘Now that that is cleared up… Pup! Stop kidding around. You’re captain, for crying out loud! Punter, come off it; you’re not the captain any more. Deal with it. Don’t make that PontingFace again. There are enough memes on the internet as it is. Warner, put down those dumbbells. We’re finding it hard to make shirts for you as it is. Yes, Mike. The four hundred and sixty fifth run you scored was indeed a drive through the covers. Now stop it. Fierce Focus, people. Fierce focus.’

‘Now, Sachin. Hmm. Yes. Sachin. Good lad, that. Plays well and all that. A good player indeed but certainly not as good as me of course. But then again, who is? Ha! Anyway, yes. Sachin. McGrath, Warnie, Brett Lee and all those other bowlers tried and failed. You know why? Because they did not bowl to a plan. Fierce focus, people. Fierce focus.’

‘OK. Let’s do an analysis. First off, he is terrific off the front foot. So don’t bowl it pitched up on or just outside the off-stump. Next, he is brilliant off his hips. So don’t bowl it on his pads. Short of a length is most definitely a no-go for he will just punch it through the covers. Hmm. So that does pose a problem, what? Never fear. I do have a solution after all.’

‘As we Aussies say, “when it doubt, pitch it short.” OK, I just made that up but nevertheless, it’s true.  So that’s an area you ought to be looking at. Now again, there is a problem here. He is all of 5 foot 4. So pitch it too short and he is happily going to let it go and don’t pitch it short enough and he’s gonna wallop you through mid-wicket. So you ought to pitch it just about short. Remember, not too short. Not too not-short. Simple, no?’

‘Oh yes. Spinners. Do we even have those? Oh yes. I’m sorry Nathan, I forgot you were here. And while we’re on the subject, if you really want people to call you a lion, you really ought not to confuse people with that spelling of your surname. I’m sorry, pup. You can whine all you want but I’m still not calling you a spinner. But I will call you skipper, so cheer up.’

‘Ah yes. Spin. That lad is quite good playing spin, I must admit. However, there is a way to entrap him. There always is. The offie ought to pitch the ball just outside off and spin it inwards while the ball maintains its trajectory and goes on straight. He will perhaps think that the ball will spin(and you probably thought so as well) but it will hold its line and go straight on. You’ll be as confused as he is. I’ll have a chat with the curator. The leggie? Well, try not to sleep at night. Warnie had nightmares. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.’

‘Ah yes. I think that’s the end of my chat. I’m pretty sure I’ve demystified Tendulkar for you. There’s nothing to it, really. Just bowl in the right areas, get the ball to nip, cut, swing, spin and seam. All at the same time, of course. And, let me see. What did I leave out? Hmmm. Ah yes! Of course. Of course. Get the ball to do all those things and in the meanwhile, get the lads to do one more thing. Pray. But not to the cricket Gods of course. For if cricket is religion, then surely you’re praying to the wrong God for the wrong reason.’

The hundredth

2nd April 2011, the day that is forever etched in the memory of Indian cricket fans. India won the world cup that day. Now forgotten. 12th March 2011. The day that is most crucial to Indian cricket today. It was the day Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar scored his 99th international century. We are still awaiting 100 number hundred.

He has played 4 ODIs and 6 tests since then. That’s a total of 15 innings and he still hasn’t scored a century. What is going on? Well, if you ask Edward De Bono, he will say that the universe is conspiring against Sachin and preventing him from getting that all elusive hundredth ton. If you ask George W Bush, he is likely to say that it’s all because of those WMDs and if you ask Dhoni, he will say, ‘well of course’.

We, in India, treat cricket as religion and by extrapolation, Sachin as God. There has been no shortage of reasons as to why Sachin has not reached his hundredth. A famous astrologer came on national television and said that according to numerology, Sachin’s name was all wrong. According to the lining up of Mars and Jupiter on Sachin’s horoscope, his name only added up to 99 and not a hundred. He suggested that Sachin change his name to Saachchin to reach that hundred. The slightly wittier public suggested a better alternative – Sachin Tondulkar. Sachin (99) + ‘Ton’dulkar = 100. Voila!

Of course, not everyone is thrilled by this. Of course, any time that Guru Greg feels that he is out of the limelight, he releases a book and disses Sachin or Saurav or both. But never Dravid. Or Pit=yush Chawla. He has come out and said that Sachin lacks the mental toughness to get that elusive hundredth. ‘Sachin is mentally very fragile. He might get 99 hundreds but only when he gets that hundredth will he actually get to a hundred’, he said. Captain obvious, we said.

There has been no shortage of support from all quarters. Sreesanth said, ‘I have graciously agreed to donate my only century in test cricket to Sachin paaji.’ When we looked up the stats, Sreesanth was referring to the inning where he had more than a hundred runs to his name. In his bowling figures. Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh would, of course, gladly do it ‘for Sachin’ but one is approaching his century in kilograms and the other looks like the only century he will be making any time in the near future is in the nets in his backyard. The Indian team seems a long way away.

Not to be left out, the BCCI have also pledged their support and have tried to help the cause. ‘We see that this is a serious problem of national importance and that this mist be dealt with as soon as possible. As a result, we have decided to award one of Dravid’s centuries to Sachin. After all, Dravid is the most loyal servant of the BCCI. We call him up when ever we want to, drop him from the next tour, call him after five years and then promptly drop him again and he never once complains. We’re sure that he will graciously agree to donate his century.’ Dravid was unavailable for comment. He was practicing in the nets.

Even past legends like Shane Warne, Henry Olonga and Andrew Caddick have offered to come out of retirement to offer Sachin incentive to get his all elusive century. Shoaib Akhtar tried to lure him by making his autobiography controversial but Sachin did not fall for it.

Meanwhile, the twitterverse has taken this as some kind of a joke and has even come up with the hashtag #thingsThatWillHappenBeforeSachinGetsHisCentury and were audacious enough to add such comments as ‘Sachin will get his century. LOL’, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful will come to an end’ and the worst of the bunch, ‘Afridi will turn 19.’

There is only one solution to this madness. EA Sports cricket ’97. Hit the pause button (space bar). Put ‘131’. Richie Benaud will say, ‘congratulations. You have cracked the cheat code. Good luck!’ And then play the game. A century. Guaranteed. Put ‘321’ for good measure too. It turns gravity off.

The Butt-trial

The spot fixing case has been on full throttle and it reaching its final crescendo. Here is an excerpt from the examination of one of the prime accused, Salman Butt, the erstwhile captain of Pakistan and the man at the eye of the proverbial storm.

‘For the record, state your name.’

‘Salman Butt…’

‘But what?’

‘What?’

‘Salman but what? Have you changed your name? Salman Butterworth perhaps?’

‘Objection my Lord!’

‘Sustained.’

‘So, Mr. Butt, let me get straight to the point. Were you involved in the fixing?’

‘It depends. I was involved in fixing the broken birdcage at the hotel I was staying in and back home

in Pakistan, I have a reputation of being a handyman. In fact, my Asterix-oriented friends even call

me Getafix.’

‘I meant match-fixing, Mr. Butt.’

‘Well, if you know the system in India and Pakistan, marriages are arranged and I have indeed

suggested alliances for my friends. So, in that sense, I have indeed fixed matches. Are you looking for

a Pakistani bride?’

‘I meant, spot-fixing, Mr. Butt.’

‘Well, that goes without saying. Marriage halls must be hired and I have been known to occasionally help out my friends in that regard as well – to fix the spot of the wedding.’

‘Mr Butt! I was talking of spot fixing during the infamous test match against England.’

‘Oh! That! Well, I do not think I know anything about it.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘No. I am Salman.’

‘Mr Butt! Some degree of seriousness is of the essence. Now, please let us know of your relationship with Mr Mazhar Majeed.’

‘Well, let’s see. My cousin from my father’s side is married to his aunt, which, I calculate, makes him my second cousin. Or wait. Is it the third?…’

‘Mr Butt!! Could we be a little serious here? Now, please let us know of how you came to be found with £30,002 in your hotel room -room 714 at the Marriott in Regents Park.’

‘Oh! That? Well, I was sitting in my room one evening and the police came in and found the money. D-uh! That’s how I was found.’

‘I can see that this is going nowhere.’

‘Indeed. This witness box is most uncomfortable. Could we continue this outdoors?’

‘No.’

‘Fair enough. It was worth a shot though. Oh well!’

‘Moving on… could you name the others accused?’

‘Well, Mohommed Amer – I can’t really be sure of how he spells his name these days – and Mohommad Asif.’

‘Go on…’

‘Well, that’s the whole lot.’

‘No no. You were just saying something. Mohommad as if what?’

‘Eh?’

‘Nothing. Moving on. Shahid Afridi. Just to set the context right. How old is he?’

‘Eighteen.’

‘Mr Butt! May I remind you that you are under oath. So tell us. When was he born?’

‘Alright. I’ll tell you. He was born on 1st March.’

‘And the year?’

‘Nineteen eighty… and then it keeps changing.’

‘Your co-conspirators and you have been accused of deliberately underperforming to remove him from captaincy and make you the captain. What do you have to say?’

‘Shahid’s a good kid but he got captaincy way too early in his career. He was hardly 18! But he was a good kid.’

‘Mr Butt, you have not answered the question.’

‘Well, I have nothing to say. As with all the other accusations, I deny this one as well. Now, I need to ask you a question.’

‘Yes?’

‘When is lunch? I’m starving.’

 

The case continues…