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Suresh Menon
Tuesday , August 20, 2013

An evening with an Indian spin quartet


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There can be few more rewarding ways to spend an evening than in the company of some of the greatest spinners in the history of the game. And to do it two evenings in a row is a special blessing. Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna are generous souls, giving of their knowledge and sharing their experiences with a magnanimity that has always been striking. And when they were joined by Anil Kumble for a more formal public session as the celebrations climaxed with an evening of awards, panel discussions and music on a Saturday evening at the KSCA, it was the experience of some 1300 Test wickets and hundreds of first-class matches that were on display. With the DRS now favouring spinners on leg before decisions, offspinners in particular have reaped greater rewards for their efforts. Had the DRS existed in his time, would Prasanna have finished....


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DRS isn't perfect, but its a useful tool


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When the laws of cricket were first codified in 1744, there was no 'leg before' dismissal. In the revised laws thirty years later, the striker was deemed out if 'by design' he prevented the ball from hitting his wicket. There was then the problem of judging intent, and it wasn't until 1795 that a leg before dismissal was first recorded. By then the 'design' element had been replaced by the condition: 'the ball must be delivered in a straight line to the wicket'. In 1839, the umpire's judgment about whether the ball 'would have hit the wicket' became a crucial element in the decision. It was almost another century before a ball pitched outside the off stump could claim an lbw provided it satisfied the other conditions. The point about the quick history lesson is the time it took the authorities to arrive at the current version of Law....


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cricket: a metaphor for what ails and heals India


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In an essay he wrote some years ago, Pico Iyer said, "In the mid-19th century, the British famously sent the Bible and Shakespeare and cricket round the world; now a more international kind of Empire is sending Madonna and the Simpsons and Brad Pitt." Whatever the state of the Bible and Shakespeare in India, it is the audience that adores the Simpsons and Brad Pitt that flocks the cricket stadiums today. Seen in the context of India's growth, there is an inevitability about the IPL. It is this inevitability that James Astill, the political editor of The Economist and former bureau chief in New Delhi, captures while tracing the emergence of modern India through its greatest national obsession in The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India. Once satellite television opened up the skies and the possibilities, cricket merely tapped into its huge, ready-made....


Tuesday , July 23, 2013

Indian cricket is indebted to Hemu Adhikari and Gulabrai Ramchand


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Of the five Indian captains born in July, generous tributes have been paid to three of the more recent ones. Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni have all been both successful as well as significant captains, and have been feted this month. Two others did not have long innings at the top but are historically important too. Hemu Adhikari, the older of them, played India's inaugural Test against Australia, West Indies and Pakistan. He made 63 and 40 in the last of his 21 Tests besides claiming three wickets. That was in the notorious 1958-59 series against West Indies when four men led India in five Tests. The match, his first and last as captain, was drawn. But his significant contribution to Indian cricket came over a decade later when he became the national coach and plotted India's first series win in England (he was the manager....


Monday , July 15, 2013

DRS lessons from the Ashes opener


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The two most important lessons from the Ashes opener in Trent Bridge are: a) there is nothing wrong with the DRS technology and b) we can't leave it to the players and their sense of fair play to correct an umpiring error. The confusion over the dismissal of Jonathan Trott when England batted was brought on by the technician being caught unprepared. Later, Stuart Broad stood his ground knowing he was out because the Australians had used up their appeals. In the Trott case, the operator goofed up. The inventor of Hotspot was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph: "It was operator error. My operator did not trigger the system in order to cater for the Trott delivery. Instead the operator sat on the Root delivery in order to offer a replay from the previous ball and did not realise until it was too late that he....


Monday , July 01, 2013

Something artificial about the World Test Championship


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It is just over a hundred years since a world Test championship was played. Only a third of the Test countries today were playing then. Television rights were not an issue. There was no question of two divisions for superior and lesser teams. Yet the Triangular Tournament of 1912, involving England, Australia and South Africa - the teams played a nine-Test round robin - was a disaster. It was a wet summer, to begin with. Australia didn't field their best team and South Africa were not good enough. Wisden predicted (or warned), that it was an experiment that would not be repeated soon. It was Wisden, eight decades later, which gave breath to the idea once again. By the mid-90s, there were nine Test-playing countries, and when Matthew Engel, Editor of the Almanack, called for a Test championship, the so-called 'Wisden Plan' was well received. The ICC,....


Monday , June 24, 2013

India's 2015 World Cup team is here


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Sometimes, in team sport, the past can sit heavily on the present. The team that won India's second World Cup contained the first player to make a double century in 50-over cricket. That apart, Sachin Tendulkar is probably the finest all-round batsman the game has seen. Opening with him was Virender Sehwag, who went on to break Tendulkar's record. The Man of the Tournament was Yuvraj Singh, the top scorer in the final was Gautam Gambhir. Also in that team were two bowlers with over 250 wickets: Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.   Yet, two years later, none of them was in the team for the ICC Champions Trophy. And incredibly, none of them was missed. Continuity was provided by the captain, MS Dhoni and two stalwarts in their mid-20s, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. For the first time in a major one-day tournament abroad, India began as favourites, played....


Monday , June 17, 2013

India winning the Champions Trophy won't necessarily be a good thing


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It may be unsporting, even politically incorrect, to say this - but a larger cause might be served if India do not win the ICC Champions Trophy. This is not fair on the captain and players who have performed superbly so far. India are the best team in the tournament. Yet, an on-field victory might be reflected in one off-field if it saves the necks of those who have dragged the fair name of the game through mud in recent weeks. The spot-fixers, the bettors, and indeed the BCCI itself. All will be forgiven, and perhaps forgotten. Can we afford that?   That a massive clean up operation is called for in the administration of the game in the country and the way the IPL, for one, is run is hardly news any more. In fact, the focus has already shifted away from the shenanigans of the BCCI, team owners....


Tuesday , June 11, 2013

Spot-fixing cleanup: This isn't the time for compromises


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Of the three agencies looking at corruption in Indian cricket - the police, the media and the BCCI - two have already arrived at judgements and handed out sentences. While the media's rush to pronounce verdict is understandable if not forgivable (it is what they do, and those viewership numbers are so important, after all), what is less easy to forgive is the haste of the police force, especially in Delhi.   Suddenly, we are being told that the police have no case against Raj Kundra, minority owner of Rajasthan Royals. But didn't the Delhi police tell us he had admitted to betting on IPL matches? The lure of the television cameras, and a guaranteed fifteen minutes of fame are difficult to resist. Yet, one would imagine that law-enforcement agencies would be aware of the pitfalls of rushing to the media with half-formed theories and a lack of evidence.   ....


Monday , June 03, 2013

How long can the BCCI remain unprofessional?


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There are no second acts in American lives, wrote the novelist F Scott Fitzgerald. Indian lives are clearly full of second, even third and fourth acts. There has been the resurrection of Jagmohan Dalmiya, expelled from the BCCI a few years ago for misappropriation of funds and then reinstated when Dalmiya took the governing body to court. Doubtless we will see the return of Srinivasan with full presidential powers in the same organization soon enough. For Srinivasan is stepping 'aside' rather than stepping 'down'. With that bit of prepositional jugglery, a decision which  should have been taken by the individual when the possibility of his son-in-law betting on matches first arose was made after much drama and an emergency working committee meeting. It meant that the focus was on personalities rather than on issues. It meant that precious time and resources were wasted while the problem of corruption in....


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More about Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon is Editor, Wisden India Almanack, and author, most recently, of Bishan: Portrait of a Cricketer.
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