Foreign stars fail to
A revolution off the
Hockey will be back
Owners of teams spent big bucks to buy big names from abroad, but many of the foreign players failed on all fronts and their teams couldn’t make the grade. Ivninderpal Singh checks out some of these players’ performances
GUESS who holds the record for the fastest ODI century (37 balls) and has the highest career strike rate in the history of one-day cricket? It’s "Boom Boom Afridi" with a superb strike rate of 109.38. The presence of such a player in the team might scare off any bowling attack. But in IPL it was the other way round. It was the bowlers who showed Afridi his place and never allowed him to dominate the proceedings.
Afridi, who played in the league for Deccan Chargers, managed just 81 runs in 10 matches. Whenever his team needed him to fire, he always came a cropper. In the entire league, he could face only 46 balls and failed to score even a fifty (his highest score in IPL is 33). Afridi played his first match in IPL against Delhi Daredevils. Chargers were struggling at 45-4 when he entered the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad amid huge applause. Fans were expecting a run-rain from him at the home ground. But he failed to weave any magic with the bat and succumbed to his suicidal tendency.
Otherwise known for his inconsistency, Afridi remained ‘consistent’ with his scores at 2, 10, 13, 1, 20*, 1, 33, 0, 1 in all innings he played. "Aided" by his "brilliant" performance, Chargers managed just two victories in 14 matches and went winless at home.
EVERY cricket buff in the sub-continent remembers the final of the T20 World Cup. In the final, Misbah-ul-Haq looked set for his golden moment as his lusty shots, laced with lazy elegance, threatened to take the match away from India. It came down to the last over and Misbah spooned the ball only to be caught at fine leg. The dream went sour, but Pakistan unearthed a new star. In the Test series in India, Misbah was again in sublime touch and defied Indian bowling onslaughts.
So when IPL was launched, it was an obvious thing for teams to go after him. Finally, the Bangalore franchise, owned by Vijay Mallya, signed him. He missed the initial IPL matches due to Bangladesh’s tour of Pakistan. But even after he arrived, he was made to sit out a few games. His team got kicked left, right and centre, and that’s when he was drafted in.
Big things were expected of him and for once the Bangalore fans, keeping nationalities apart, were rooting for their imported T20 specialist. But things went from bad to worse for the team and for Misbah. To say that it was a case of wrong man for the wrong team might not be an exaggeration. After all he, a T20 specialist, had joined a team deemed fit for Tests. But yet, his figures speak volumes to which IPL dented the "image" of our "heroes" and he is not the only one going down.
Remember South Africa vs Australia one-dayer on March 12, 2006, in Johannesburg when Aussies scored record 434. No body would have ever thought that this record will fall in a day. Herschelle Gibbs (175 off 111 balls) made it possible.
But that is history. In IPL it was a different Gibbs whose performance was below par and couldn’t justify his stature as a world-class player. Nobody would have ever thought that the team, which has players like Gibbs, will perform miserably and will be at the bottom of the heap.
Gibbs became the first player to hit six sixes in one over in ODI history, doing so against the Netherlands in the 2007 World Cup. So his 165 runs in the entire league were too costly for the owners of the team. Throughout the league, the South African kept obliging the bowlers.
He went without even a fifty and never looked comfortable. Even in his last match of the league against Chennai Super Kings, Gibbs managed just eight runs.
His fielding too was far from being impressive. One of the best fielders at backward point, Gibbs was never a threat to the opposition who converted there singles into twos. Though he has earned a reputation in the cricketing world, but in IPL an out-of-form Gibbs struggled and failed to create his niche in Indian hearts.
THE tag of the best all-rounder in world cricket doesn’t come easy, and Jacques Kallis sure knows it. After enjoying the status, unopposed, for the past some time, he made a mistake; joined IPL. The South African selectors had left him out of the T20 World Cup team and going by his "exploits" in IPL, they were justified.
Any cricket buff would like to believe that an all-rounder is the most potent weapon for a team in the shortest version of the game. So when the Bangalore Royal Challengers got Kallis, the joy of their fans knew no bounds.
He was expected to anchor the innings, hit huge sixes to up the ante and pick crucial wickets. To say that he failed is not just an understatement; it is also a case of playing soft on harsh facts. Kallis was stuck in a team that looked a little out of place, but he should have left his mark instead of a blob. He along with Dravid were the biggest batsmen in the Bangalore-based team. They were to shoulder the crisis, if and when it came. Sadly for them, the world collapsed and they didn’t know how to play Hercules.
He did try to settle into the fast mode of T20, but it was probably to fast for his ageing legs. He surely has cricket left in him, but he should try and use it where he is more comfortable. And a certain format of the game with white kits and a red ball might not be a bad place to start.
THIS Australian-born New Zealand cricketer is well known for his heroics with the bat and ball. His image as an allrounder fetched him a good deal in IPL. But his 112 runs in eight innings compounded the problems for the Chargers. And still worse; his scoring rate in the league is well below hundred in this quick-fire format.
His debut match in IPL was against Kolkata Riders at the Eden Gardens and Chargers were tottering at 47-4 when he walked in. But he was back in the dugout after scoring just six runs off seven balls. When it came to bowling, he went wicket-less in the stipulated four overs. In the last league match against Dhoni’s boys, he tried his ‘best’ that Hyderabad remains a good host by losing all home games.
Styris never became a pivotal point in any match of the tournament except against Chennai when he remained unbeaten on 36 and played an important role in outplaying the Super Kings at their home ground. In almost all matches, Styris preferred prudence to valour, squeezing out a single or two. He managed just two sixes and nine fours in the 123 balls he played in IPL.
Although Styris was not a costly purchase as compared to other foreign players in his team, his presence failed to power the Chargers leaving them at the bottom of the eight-team league.
A revolution off the
AN event which is adorned by the varied talents of Shane Warne, Vijay Mallya, Preity Zinta and Tony Cozier would have been unfathomable a few years back. The first edition of the IPL is set to enter its final stage with all guns blazing. There are quite a few parameters by which its popularity can be judged. Media coverage is one. TV audience are another factor. Financial sheen is still another. But perhaps the most significant indicator is the on-field attendance of spectators. By all these counts IPL has been an amazing un-qualified success and if it maintains its freshness-quotient, it is bound to be a sure-shot winner year after year.
The T20 version of cricket is one which provides edge-of-the-seat action and with a-thrill-a-minute has more to offer than most other entertainment options available world-wide. The crowds have continued to swell and the teams have basked in the spot -light which has been akin to international cricket. Tussles over possession-rights of the TV remote control have intensified in living rooms all over India, as soap-operas struggle to keep pace. Most IPL matches begin at 8 pm, offer scintillating entertainment, and are made for prime time TV.
But does IPL’s success mean curtains for Test Cricket? One should think not. Test cricket has its die-hard followers who remained loyal to it despite the ODI surge in past decades. The cricketers themselves swear by the fact that Tests are the real thing. Crowd attendance at Test venues have actually increased in recent years as attacking batsmanship has ensured that draws are a rarity. The 50 over format is the one which may actually suffer at the hands of its baby cousin, the T-20.
Is IPL really cricket, then? Indeed it is. Batsmen like Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma, and to a lesser extent, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid have shown that sheer timing and technique can help them score with authentic cricketing shots. The only element of doubt in IPL, cricket-wise, has been that the boundaries at most of the grounds have been shortened by a few yards, resulting in many more sixes, than would otherwise have been possible.
Even more than the cricket, however, it is the impact on our society which has been the hallmark of IPL’s success. Films which have been released during this period and high profile TV shows have taken a beating as even non-cricket-fanatics including house-wives have licked their lips at the dishy menu of 6’s and 4’s. Tendulkar was quoted from a dugout on TV, saying that IPL was a family game in the sense that women and the children understood it better and enjoyed it more. Families have flocked the venues or settled themselves before the telly to relish the wholesome entertainment on offer (except of course when cricketers swear or get into brawls, but then that happens in all formats of the game).
Still greater is the long-term effect which IPL is likely to have upon entertainment, as it exists, in India. There is no denying the fact that IPL has redefined the term ‘entertaining cricket’ and now the organisers are talking about ‘cricketing entertainment’ to describe the matches, embellished as they are with stars of all kinds! Other sports in India would do well to emulate the IPL experiment to raise their level of popularity. Football and hockey are well positioned for this, even if to a lesser degree.
The face of entertainment in this country has changed forever, and it remains to be seen whether other entertainment-providing alternatives can keep pace. The onlookers can hardly wait at the prospect of some more drama, action and suspense as the IPL juggernaut rolls on.
Hockey will be back
LOOKING forward to the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games as a major breakthrough for Indian hockey, director sports, Punjab, Pargat Singh, said the Indian hockey with its unbound talent would soon usher in a new era of success and bring back the golden days of the national game.
"Hockey team will definitely emerge as a winner in the next couple of years," he said adding that, all we need is proper mechanism to bring quality product at the forefront so that India is among the four best hockey teams at the international-level.
Back from Azlan Shah Cup, Ipoh (Malaysia), to his hometown Jalandhar, the former Indian captain while talking to The Tribune said though our boys ended second in the tournament, they still had the required talent to beat the best in the world.
Expressing serious concern over the present status of hockey, Pargat said we need an efficient hockey calendar through which we could chalk down short and long-term gains. "There is a need for systematic approach to achieve this target. We need to plan things and execute them accordingly for desired results. We need to gear up for the 2010 Commonwealth Games but our focus should be on the 2012 and 2016 Olympics", he said.
The former Olympian emphasised that ‘age groups’ in hockey were another major problem, and were actually hampering the right talent to come forward.
"The ulterior motive behind different age groups is to bring competitive spirit of the players and give them enough exposure at right time," he averred.
Talking about a good market for the game, Pargat said, "People talk about sponsors but before that the game requires good spectators. It should get a market to flourish. After all a sponsor looks for good business and until hockey gets a fan following like cricket, we cannot expect to see a changed status of the national game. Though we have been trying our best to come ahead with novel ideas, things are not the same at the grass root-level."
"Over the past few years we have increased our promotional activities to give a boost to the game. Just last year we distributed 4,000 hockey sticks to budding players and hope to continue with the same. Ultimately the game as well as the players should benefit", he added.
BEFORE Rafael Nadal had taken charge of the clay-court legion, a lanky Brazilan, of German ascent, was hailed as the "King of Clay". Gustavo Kuerten, lovingly called Guga, like a host of other South American tennis players had a special bond with clay-courts. The slower surface, especially at Paris, got Kuerten going like nothing else could. He won three Grand Slam titles, all of them at the French Open, in 1997, 2000 and 2001.
But the sudden fame that came along disturbed Kuerten. He found it extremely hard to survive the paparazzi onslaught. Therefore in 1998, when everyone was backing him to successfully defend his title, he lost to a certain Russian player by the name of Marat Safin. Infact 1998 was the worst year in his career (without being injured). He was finding it extremely hard to come to terms with the new obsession of Brazilans, who could never see past a goal post; tennis. But the pressure was justified as he was the first Brazilan since Maria Ester Bueno to have won a Grand Slam, after a gap of more than 30 years. Kuerten won his next Grand Slam at the 2000 French Open. That very year he became the first South American to finish the year as a world no. 1, in the history of the ATP rankings (since 1973).
But a chronic hip injury meant that he was forced to take breaks time and again. Ultimately in the beginning of 2008 he announced his decision to retire after the French Open. But his dream was cut short as he was sent crashing out in the first round itself.
Despite the loss, the capacity crowd at the Roland Garros gave Kuerten a standing ovation, a clear sign of the special place he held in their hearts. But the three-time champion probably knew, that despite him wanting a winning farewell, in a sportsman career there are times when he has to let go of his past, so that the fans can hold on to it.