Good jeer

March 12, 2008

This piece appeared in Rediff. 

A strange thing happened yesterday. The stands were fuller than before. The crowd was noisier. Why, after two days of cricket bereft of any emotional attachment – or ‘emotional connect’, as the organizers would probably call it – was there life in the stands? It’s because the people behind it, having done their research after the December series, went back to basics and came up with the answer to their problems: the Lahore Badshahs. If Pakistan couldn’t be got, the Badshahs would be Pakistan. It was a gimmick if there ever was one. But how the crowd responded.

These are confusing times for the cricket fan. He doesn’t really know who to root for. All sorts of teams vie for brand loyalty. And so, the organizers figured, if you don’t know who to cheer, we’ll give you somebody to boo. An administrative officer sidled up after a Lahore bowler was hit for four, and said, “This is what they hoped for. Parochialism. They wanted to get a Pakistan team for this reaction only.” Below, the crowd clapped and hooted.

Perhaps they will point to greater television ratings or a larger crowd than there has been so far. But the Lahore team’s induction is like a band aid for a headache. The crowd was almost united in its feelings for the Badshahs (do note that the crowd feels this strongly for no other team in this league). This has not gone unnoticed. Now the league’s organizers casually discuss the possibility of acquiring players and dividing them along national lines – Colombo, Melbourne, etc. That if the lines that separate us and them are clear once again, the league will grow. This thinking is a step back from what the league set out to do, and it tones down their objective. If we’ve got this right, they want to set up entire national teams, and pay them too? And they still insist that the ICC and BCCI have no reason to be bothered?

If all this seems arbitrary, it probably is. Insiders admit they don’t always understand how the organization functions. “Right or wrong,” one administrator said in response to a question about the league’s announcement when nothing had been finalized, “that’s the way the board functions.” Another official, insisting on anonymity, said, “How this goes depends on whether [they] stop talking and actually follow through with [their] plans. There’s no point in just talking big.”

Has any issue been of greater importance than that of identity? The ICL began as something innovative, and now, finding that they declared their plans in haste, are beginning to think that maybe international cricket is a good idea. The most outlandish idea heard today was that one major ICL aim is to put up a team that will play against Australia, South Africa, and anyone else. They are also open to teams being acquired by private buyers; this comes only weeks after Kapil Dev expressed his dismay at players being auctioned. This means that it’s okay for a cluster of players to be bought, but doing it individually somehow demeans them. At the same time, they plan an academy in Panchkula by May.

It seems, for one thing, that the ICL seeks redemption through validation by the ICC. On the other, they seek it but want to continue building a base of cricketers to rival the BCCI crop. “There are enough people who are not selected by the BCCI,” the official who mentioned parochialism said. “They can join us.” But here’s the thing: who, in his right mind, likes leftovers? And here’s another: what are you really trying to do?

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12 Responses to “Good jeer”

  1. Narasimhan R Says:

    Mar/12/2008

    “But here’s the thing: who, in his right mind, likes leftovers?”

    Why do you compare the ICL players with leftovers? There are people to buy Rolls Royce and people to buy Nano. Some ICL players would be better than BCCI players. Would you say Kapil is a leftover of Sharad Pawar!

  2. Rahul Says:

    I said that in reference to what the thinking is: we’ll take whatever the BCCI doesn’t. Who, in this ICL league, do you see fitting into the Indian team? Do you mean Bond? When you talk about players being better than those in the Indian team, I assume cricketers of other nationalities are not included in your list. The Kapil-Sharad Pawar thing doesn’t make sense.

  3. Ottayan Says:

    Leftovers or not they are being given the stepmotherly treatment.:)

  4. Narasimhan R Says:

    Hi Rahul, Nice to see that someone read my comments and I received a reply too! Thanks. I did not mean to fight with you. That is why I ended my comment with an exclamation mark. Still, I feel most of the players, Indian and foreign, are in good form. If BCCI does not and would not select them is not their (the players’) mistake. Your choice of the word ‘leftover’ may be correct, but it sounds a bit rude! As I enjoyed the first ICL tournament, I took up to defend the players, especially as Cheenai Superstars of my native place had won that tournament!

  5. Balaji Says:

    I think its a good idea to have teams like Karachi, Colombo and Dhaka in addition to Lahore. But they should not make them all-Pakistan as its the case with Lahore. They should include some players from outside the some-continent in every team.

    As for left-overs, you are writing in Rediff/Cricinfo and not say Hindustan Times. Are you a leftover now? I guess not. Even to play in the ICL one has to be inside the top 500 in a billion-plus country. The mere fact that I now know of guys like Sachin Dhulpure indicates that ICL is already a success.

  6. umapathy Says:

    Very well written.You are turning out to be my most respected indian cricket writer around.Have to say, I have been looking for one to respect for some time now.

  7. Rahul Says:

    Hi Narsimhan,

    No fight intended here either. I agree that ‘leftovers’ comes off somewhat rude, but that is exactly how it came across from a few guys I spoke to here. Sachin Dholpure’s batting the other night was great, and there are a few other guys who’ve been really good to watch.

    I really like the idea of having an alternative league. But what I take issue with is when an organiser says: “Let the BCCI do their thing. We’ve created a league for the old and the young.” Young I can understand, but old? You can’t claim to be a competitive league if you’re going to not have talent that’s effective. Still, I see your point about Chennai winning… 😀

    Umapathy: Thank you! But are you missing the bigger fish in this bathtub? There’s Rahul Bhattacharya, Chandrahas Choudhury, Prem, Sambit.

  8. Mohan Says:

    oh please, Prem? Sambit? come on. don’t shortsell yourself..

    Harsha Bhogle remains the best of the lot imo. Though I wish he could be more opinionated.

  9. GreY Says:

    I live in Kuwait and i had Dish TV fixed so that i can watch some quality cricket, and i swear i am having a good time. By all means the leftover remark is rude, but hey don’t blame them for keeping the flame alive and willing to play ( of course money).The riverlery between Subash Chandra and BCCI has only benifited cricketers . I wonder if not for ICL how many IPL players like Praveen Kumar, Akash Chopra, Mohd Kaif ,SUnil Joshi were soon to be left overs and forgotten forever like one Abey Kuruvilla or Prashant Vaidya . I apriciate ICL for giving a chance to Reteender sing Sodhi… Great Job ICL.
    One more thing at one stage or the other no matter which ever the field we all will be left over , so will you.

  10. umapathy Says:

    I agree with Mohan.

    Harsha,yes.But,I tend to remember Harsha more as a commentator nowadays though he is a damn good writer.

    I prefer your writing much more than the others listed above.I dont know.You seem to make much more sense(in my view atleast).

  11. sandeep Says:

    i will try to keep coming back to this blog as often as possible since here is one blog that actually is covering ICL without any prejudice or without being scared of one man whom the entire indian sports media has bowed down before shri lalit modi .. i fear that french open wimbledon UEFA league final stage, euro 08 and even bejing olpmpics will blacked out least it effects modi’s baby

  12. Vish Says:

    Rahul,

    I feel the whole ICL is being managed poorly.

    My company wanted to create a league like ICL with non-BCCI players early in 2007. I approached Zee network and ESPN and they were not eager.
    http://www.businesswireindia.com/PressRelease.asp?b2mid=11976

    Suddently, zee came up with ICL. They called me. I went to there office in mumbai and gave a lot of good suggestions and said I would help. But, they were not interested in my help at all.

    some of my suggestions were: 1. to create city based teams with non-BCCI players and creating team owners in cities.
    2. to create a league for indian subcontinent players only and have atleast one league team from Pakistan,Srilanka,Bangladesh and Sharjah.
    3. to have a reverse order player draft for new players coming into the league.
    4. the suggestion to recruite from colleges in India

    They donot appear to have understood my suggestions well.


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