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Salvation through suffering

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(The T20 Diary chronicles / philosophizes about the World T20, and tries to grasp the various interesting angles the event's events can be seen in)

Salvation through Suffering
14th June

It may be wrong to say that there is something of a crisis in Dhoni's life right now, but only because we would be understating the fact. However, it would be quite right to also assume that what Dhoni has now is a great opportunity to take a huge step forward in establishing his reputation as one of the all time great leaders in the game.

It is difficult to understand the fuss being created over Dhoni's current troubles - surely, you didn't expect the glory run to continue without any hurdles or turbulence? It is practically impossible for the midas touch to continue on its path without facing bumps on the road. The current crisis, then, is something to be expected, and indeed, something to be grateful for - though I am not quite feeling the emotion when I write that last sentence for the course of the course of this tournament.

We have seen that on smooth, large highways, Dhoni and his crew can outrace the best in business. Under fair weather conditions, Dhoni has shown a fine mix of, well, everything that makes a good captain and great batsman including very good acting and brand endorsement selections (which, incidentally, are also reflecting his poor form - he was recently spotted peddling a 'Dhoni's Love Songs' collection for a telecommunications brand, amongst ceiling fans and other random stuff).

Navigating his way through the bumpy, dusty, jungle trails is the next step in becoming an international captain that history takes note of. For all his great successes in the past, how he handles a low will be his real test. If he doesn't come through, well, let's hope he is given another chance.



Three Helping Hands

10th June

It might make sense for the ICC to allow the associate countries (and Australia, hahaha, sorry) to have upto three foreign imports playing for them in major top-flight tournaments.

The problem is not so much that the associate nations make the initial stages boring - that's a part of the game, any world tournament will have strong teams and weak teams and the early stages will be about weeding them out. There problem - rather, the opportunity - lies in the fact that minnows have regularly been breaking into the second stages of World Cups (both, T20 and ODI) for the past several editions, thereby rendering a significant chunk of the crucial stages of the tournament lop-sided.

Allowing three foreign imports will not only help make the teams more competitive in the business end of the tournament, it will also help the minnows get international experience and expertise in their dressing rooms.

There are plenty of quality international players who don't get selected in their respective team's squads - Tait, Karthik (before Sehwag got injured) - who would be more than happy to participate in a World Championship. Who foots the bill? The ICC of course. Won't be too many pennies off the ICC's treasure chest to pay 9 players for 15 days. A fixed wage can be arrived at for overseas international players representing minnow sides, all the associate nations need to do is decide who they want and try and convince him to join in.

Worth a thought.


An Unpleasant Surprise?
8th June

We know most of the cricketing world has been gunning for them to lose, but it is now a little unnerving to see the Aussies leave the party so early.

From the point of view of getting a good tournament, there is a lot of pressure now on West Indies, Ireland and the Dutch, if they qualify, to perform. With the Aussies around, you were always assured of a certain high quality of cricket in the tournament, even if it got one-sided at times (or always, to be more accurate). The tournament, in a manner of speaking, has gambled by purchasing the bright, romantic promise of these unlikely winners, in place of the regular, tried and tested standard levels of the Aussies (though it may not necessarily have been so this time - the Aussies have lost five T20 matches back to back, and both, Lanka and the Windies, won fairly comprehensively).

After years, hell, decades of seeing them pummel everyone and bully their way to the top of queue of those lining up for the trophies, it is unusual to see the Aussies sit out with the likes of Scotland and Bangladesh for company, as everyone continues to still have something to win.

We now stand at a lot-to-win-lot-to-lose juncture as far as the quality of the tournament is concerned. Let's hope the Windies and the associate teams continue providing quality performances making for a fairytale tournament, and don't fizzle out leaving us with a soggy, one-sided Super Eight and predictable semi-finalists.


The Aussie Ouster
7th June 09

It is in the general interest of the tournament that the Australians go through to the next round. Upsets are nice and fun but for a wholesome meal, you need the champion, quality sides to stay in the party for a bit. But the Indians and South Africans would be wishing otherwise.

Gayle and his West Indian are, in fact, like a thunderstorm (all right, 'Gayle Storm'), but the cliche is more appropriate when you consider frequency rather than impact. You don't get thunderstorms everyday. They come once in a while, and if you are unlucky to get caught in one, tough luck.

So, by a somewhat lucky combination of events - the timing of the storm, being stuck in the Group of Death and in a stage in the tournament that elevates the impact of a bad day, Australia are as close to elimination as they will ever be. Won't be easy to get them so close to the brink at all.

That anything can happen in T20 is all fine but there is something to be said for consistency and sustained quality (other than 'save it for the Tests'). In that regard, South Africa and Australia are the two biggest rivals India face in their attempt to defend their crown, and if a freak accident can get one of them out early, that's a great bonus then.

I don't think South Africans think so much before wishing the Australians out.



The One Night Stand

5th June, 09


It has been a brilliantly bizzarre start, much like a drunken party when you know what is happening isn't right, but hell, it is fun and nothing can drag us away from it. For all of Netherland's romantic spirit and fight, the victory came more on account of England's listless and shabby fielding than anything else.

It is difficult to understand what happened there. The explanation that the Dutch pulled a Houdini, went abracadabra, and made the stumps disappear thus making it utterly impossible for the English to hit them, no matter how close they were, seems irrational, but not when compared to the actual events on field.

It is a heady night for the game, but there are several riders in it. If this is the spirit that is going to occupy the English minds when they take on the Aussies, it is going to be a terrible two months for the game, and Test cricket in general. Moreover, the Dutch have to make this victory count, continue doing well in the tournament, and use it to leverage the game in their country. There have been too many instances of minnows securing big wins only to go ahead and not make anything of it, and....oh, dump the lectures. Let's just enjoy this while it lasts.


(Click here to know more about Sreeram)



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