Sunday, February 20, 2011

One-Day Cricket : Final Death knell or The Last Lifeline…???

While the world, especially the sub-continent, waits with bated breath the commencing of the quadrennial showpiece event, the 50 over Cricket World Cup, skeptics the world over would be keenly following it too for their own varied reasons. Fans and their frenzy aside this World Cup will be primarily studied by analysts the world over as the deciding factor on the survival of the 50 over format of the game, which already is wheezing under the overwhelming popularity of its shorter cousin the T20 format. Ironically it was the last edition in the West Indies which started this raging debate on the fate of the fifty over version. Played out for close to two months, the event failed to grab eyeballs, aided mainly by several inconsequential games and the early ouster of India and Pakistan. While Australia reigned supreme, many wondered will it be better to scrap off the longer version altogether and make room for the shorter T20 one which is ever increasing in the popularity charts. Cricketing greats like Imran Khan, Shane Warne and the likes have suggested the same. Hence all eyes will be on the upcoming World Cup in the subcontinent, which boasts of arguably the largest audience for cricket, to see if the event manages to woo the crowds back to the stadiums, and provide a much needed lifeline to this almost four decade old form of the game.

While many point to the sudden advent of the T20 game and the overkill of the 50 over one, closer scrutiny will make one realize the other related factors which have collectively lead to its dwindling popularity. Firstly, be it the 2007 World Cup or recent tournaments, the number of inconsequential matches have gone up alarmingly. The 2007 World Cup’s format was such , that a lot of matches were being played out between the top ranked teams against the bottom ranked ones, even the 2011 edition‘s first stage has many matches like these which will hardly arouse any interest in fans. It’s no wonder then that the T20 World Cup later in 2007 was a massive success and fans greedily lapped up all the fast and furious action. Secondly, the overkill part does play, but not n entirety, else the IPL would have been long snuffed out. Hence more attention needs to be given to the way tournaments are structured. Bilateral tournaments should be restricted to three matches unlike the marathon seven match series between Australia and England, which not only results in player fatigue but loses the interest of the fans and the players alike. Thirdly, quadrangular tournaments, involving the top four teams should be played out in regularity, which should in certainty invoke larger interests than the tepid tri-series being played on these days. What defies logic in these triangular events is the now similar pattern involving two top teams and another ‘minnow’ as was seen in the India-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh and the India-Sri Lanka- Zimbabwe series last year. If the ICC is serious about saving the 50 over game, series such as these have to be done away with. Surprisingly, even the CB (Commonwealth Bank) tri-series in Australia, which was one of the few genuine competitive tournaments, has been done away with. One thing that the ICC needs to understand is that the ‘threat’ from T20 is real; there is no running away from it. People like the small, crisp yet entertaining format. But its larger cousin has room to given it is structured wisely. Simply putting in more number of matches won’t solve the problem, the number of games certainly has to come down and an itinerary has to be scheduled in a way that all the top eight teams come off playing each in other four years time. That way quality is assured and so is the interest.

Cricket pundits though are devising their own ways to counter this problem. The ECB has already suggested clipping the format to 40 overs as is being already played out in their domestic circuit. The Australian Cricket Board has recently launched a unique version of the 50 over game in their domestic arena; splitting the innings into two halves i.e. each team plays 25 overs once and comes back to bowl and so on. Purists don’t see much in this version saying it’s more like fitting two T2o games in one and would just cater to those particular audiences. It remains to be seen whether this version takes off and whether players approve of it, though the bright side is that players like Sachin Tendulkar have given their thumbs up to it. The ICC too it seems is finally keen to uplift the sagging fortunes of the One-day format, with its decision last week that said that the 2015 World Cup will have just 10 teams (instead of the 14 as is the case in the present edition), i.e. all test playing nations and no minnows, thus better chances of evenly played contests and thus greater interests. More innovative strategies like these have to be implemented to insure greater attention; the powerplay options are already generating keen interests, but one has to look to give more leverage to the bowlers and not make it entirely batsmen heavy as is the present scenario. Giving more power to the bowlers, like going easy on the leg side wide rule, or two bouncers per over or even the restrictions on the number of overs a bowler bowls, will go a long way in instilling some confidence in them, ensure greater equality in the game and in the process greater chances of some exciting matches. Bowlers shouldn’t be there just to finish their quota of overs, but they have to be made believed that their participation is as crucial as the batsmen. Pitches too shouldn’t be completely flat, as they make for one-sided contests.Memorable games which still linger in our memories are the ones in which bowlers played a huge part as the 1983 final or the 1999 semi-final showcased.

Cricket has come to a situation where it’s two formats; Tests and T20 have garnered their respective audiences. Purists will keep sticking to the age old Tests with all its charm, while the T20 with its adrenaline rush would get in new audiences to the game. But we have reasons to believe that there is room for the third form too, to coexist with the other two, as it still has many takers like Indian captain M.S.Dhoni who believes it has the ingredients of both Tests and T20s and is therefore exciting enough. One day cricket has to insure that it doesn’t get sandwiched between the two and somehow carve a new lease of life for itself. It would be interesting to see whether it grabs this lifeline and lives to tell the tale.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The curious case of the fickle Indian fan...

As the cricket World Cup gets ever so closer, the excitement levels everywhere around the country is reaching its zenith. The wave of positive energy everywhere with the Indian team’s chances is overwhelming to say the least. Scenes of fans offering ‘yagna’ and worshipping the posters of their stars are doing the rounds in the media. While this mass frenzy is nothing new for the keen cricket observer in India, what is intriguing as always is the fluctuating behavioral patterns of the ever so fickle Indian fan. Not many will forget the immediate aftermath after India’s humiliating loss to Australia in the opening stage of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. Irate fans had taken to the streets, burning the, now almost customary, effigies of players. While all this was still acceptable, same fans took it to a personal level, targeting homes of the cricketers by throwing stones at it. Not long after when we failed dismally at the 2007 edition in West Indies the picture was pretty much the same as the media in hands with the fan took no stones upturned in lambasting our ‘failed’ heroes. However, as fate would have it the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa later that year turned things around dramatically, what with India emerging as champions, and the fans taking to the streets once again, only this time in awe of their heroes and to celebrate with the dance of victory. This see-saw in the emotions of the great Indian fan has continued ever since India has made rapid strides in the game, courtesy mainly to Kapil Dev’s devils in 1983.And with the advent of the rapidly emerging media, the fans now have a new medium to vent out their resentment in blogs and social networking sites as well, and one is left to wonder whether we will ever see some sort of maturity in the temperamental Indian fan.
The problem in India is that everybody is an expert, or at least considers himself one. From the street-smart Romeo, to the local Autowallah or some other grandfatherly figures, everyone has a viewpoint on what ought and ought not to be done. The dissecting ability of some of the subtle nuances of the game by some of these people is truly incredible. From shot selection to team composition, everything is discussed and analyzed in great details. And more often than not, if the fan’s ‘ideologies’ aren’t met by the team, they have to incur their wrath. Here in Kolkata, you are never short of these ‘experts’ as the city is brimming with them in every nook and corner. Famous for being clubbed with the ‘sporting city’ tag, Kolkata has had its history of irate fans known for their over zealousness while halting the proceedings in the famous Eden Gardens many a times if things didn’t seem to be going their way. There was an incident in the 1999 Asian Test Championship match here against Pakistan, where Sachin Tendulkar was given out run out, even as Shoaib Akhtar allegedly blocked his way. What followed what was total mayhem as the crowd erupted in unison against the Pakistan team, for their ‘unholy’ act, the result of which was the match being played to empty stands the following day. The (in) famous 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka, where the match was awarded to the visitors due to crowd trouble can be another case in point. However, the same unruly crowd is known for its effervescent support to the home team while in dire straits and for its staunch, almost biased support for its local hero Sourav Ganguly. These incidents in itself present the contrasting picture of the Indian fan, who can take you from zero to hero in no moment.

However, to understand this psyche would require further delving on the issue. In the days of the yore, when cricket was young in India, people would long for any sort of news of their cricketing heroes. Listening to the BBC coverage on the radio would be the order, but thing started changing from the 1983 World Cup onwards. Once the finals was telecast live, the fans took to it like fish to water, and what added to the extra spice obviously was the home team emerging as champions. As time passed the coverage grew, so did the expectations and with its reach spreading to every part of the country fans were treated to all the various aspects of the game. However, it also made them ever so vulnerable, seeing their players going down against arch-rivals like Pakistan wasn’t something they would digest easily. And so would begin their tirade every time the home team would lose vital encounters. Players have shocking tales to tell on how they have been abused, not just by their countrymen but by expats as well, when they have failed to perform. There have been incidents when players would fear returning home after a poor series, fearing the ire of the fans. The media too has had a major part to play in influencing the public’s opinion. These days, no sooner would India lose one match, and headlines would come screaming at you with familiar words like ‘Shame’, ‘Disgraceful’ and the lot. Blogs and social networking sites too are notable platforms for venting out your anger and criticism and not to mention pointers to the captain on what the strategy should have been. Self styled analysts of the game too are increasing by the day, and all of them generally have similar points of view, on how the players should concentrate on the game and not on luscious advertisement deals. It doesn’t help, that while in the one frame a Yuvraj gets bowled, while in the other he is shown drinking coke. Questions are then raised about the integrity and patriotism of the players. Not many would agree, but while the whole country is hailing him as ‘god’ these days, it wasn’t too long ago when Sachin Tendulkar too was under the line of fire and people were demanding his removal, saying his days are over.

What we fail to understand is that players too are normal human beings. And what they play is a sport where winning and losing is part and parcel of the game. Surely one understands the disappointment if the team they support and love so much doesn’t live up to their expectations, but to take it to a personal level is a bit uncalled for. The players are at perfect liberty to do the advertisements of their choice, and secondly it hardly takes half a day to shoot a commercial so the question of lack of practicing doesn’t arrive. It isn’t their fault that the broadcasters choose to run those commercials at inappropriate times. These are international players and know the importance of donning the national cap; it takes years of struggle to get there, while the overwhelming support is good the opposite isn’t required either, at least not in the levels we are known to take it to. Criticism is fine, we have the right to do that in fact, but burning effigies and making personal comments would surely not help matters; all it does is to make the players vulnerable. One should look inside to understand, that when we sometimes fail or perform below expectations in life, we won’t like harsh lectures from our parents, but instead some compassion and understanding. In the same way, the Indian fan needs to mature and not be influenced by outside elements, and show some love and understanding at the time when our players perhaps need them the most. It would go a long way in restoring the confidence in the players relating to them, and who knows make them play with extra responsibility and perform beyond our expectations. Going overboard with anything is never good and that is the reason perhaps that we need to draw a line somewhere between love and hypocrisy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The rise of the Maverick

There is a distinct buzz doing the rounds in the streets and corners of Vadodra these days. A buzz of excitement, that something big is about to happen, something which will propel this tiny city right into the limelight of the globe. And the sole credit for that goes to a local man who seems to be quite unabashed with this entire aura surrounding him. Yusuf Pathan has arrived. It took him some time to get there, but now that he has officially announced his advent in the international circles, the world is sitting up and noticing, and perhaps fearing, this lanky maverick from a remote corner of India. His ferocious century in the last match of the recently concluded ODI series against South Africa is the primary reason for this sudden elevation in Yusuf’s popularity. With India reeling at a dismal 119/8, Yusuf decided to shift gears and the attack that ensued left huge scars on the formidable South African attack, despite India losing the match. Like a famous line from a Shahrukh Khan Film says, that sometimes despite losing you end up as a winner; it couldn’t hold any truer in the case of Pathan; as now despite India’s loss in that game, Pathan has become a force to reckon with, and with the World Cup looming large it’s no wonder that you can sense the fear in the rival camps.

It has not been smooth sailing for Yusuf over the years; who had to cope with living under the shadow of his blue-eyed sibling Irfan for a long time. While the younger Pathan kept grabbing the eyeballs with his boyish charm and skillful bowling, Yusuf would grind it out at the Baroda Sports Club under the watchful eyes of Bashir Sheikh. To his credit Irfan (who ironically isn’t in contention anymore) always maintained that once his elder brother would get his chance, he would steal the thunder from everyone, and that is what precisely has happened. But it took more than sheer luck to attain this level. After continual noteworthy performances at the U-19 and the Ranji sides of Baroda, Yusuf made a mark for himself. His belligerent hitting power made him an instant hit in the shorter stint of the game and thus after a prolonged wait he finally got the chance to don the India colours on the morning of the 24th of September, the finals of the T20 World Cup 2007 against Pakistan. Though he didn’t make a huge score (15), his one straight six off Mohammad Asif in the very first over was etched in the memories of all Indians. But more than that if ever there would be a ‘turning point’ in Yusuf’s career, the standout one has to be the IPL 2008, where under the realms of the pragmatic Shane Warne, he turned out be a game-changer .He went on to form the crux of the Rajasthan Royal’s team, winning matches with his stupendous hitting ability lower down the order, eventually ending up with an impressive tally of 435 runs with four fifties at an astounding strike-rate of 179 .Thereafter it was an uneven ride for him, as even after getting in the ODI squad he couldn’t cement his place with any substantial scores and was subsequently dropped. Critics had already written him off as being just a ‘slogger’ on low-bouncy pitches. Yusuf answered them in the best way possible, letting his bat do the talking.

Last year’s double century in the Duleep Trophy final against South Zone was a stepping-stone in his popularity charts. Set an improbable target of 536 runs on the final innings, Yusuf blasted 210 runs, his maiden double class hundred, which enabled his side an unthinkable victory and thus propelled him into the big league. But this was just a sign of things to come.
Back in the ODI squad, he was desperate to prove his mettle. And he got this chance akin perhaps to the dramatic way a film script unfolds. His match-winning whirlwind innings of 123(not out) off 96 balls in the last ODI against New Zealand stamped his authority as a proven match-winner, a game changer who can turn a match on its head with his remarkable hitting abilities. India were in dire straits at a moment chasing a huge target of 315, but Yusuf soon unleashed himself on the bowlers, who at the end of it were stunned and left scratching their heads on what had hit them. The South African series was perhaps the last hurdle for him to cross to prove his worth to one and all. His match-winning 59 (including three sixes in one over off Johan Botha) in the third ODI there on a difficult pitch proved yet again that this Pathan is not someone to be dealt lightly with. And in the last ODI as mentioned earlier here, Yusuf had clearly announced his arrival. From a situation of no hope to bringing his team close to victory, by smashing the sixth fastest hundred by an Indian, against bowlers who had tormented every Indian batsman on the tour, he has made everyone sit up and take notice. That this was not just a ‘slogger’ at play here; this was someone whom you can call the modern day James Bond, maybe not with the looks, but certainly with the “license to kill”.

For Pathan, this has been a long journey, growing up with a poor family in a mosque where his father used to work as the muezzin and where neighbours would often chide him for breaking their glass panes courtesy his thunderous hits. It won’t be a wonder now if those very neigbhbors keep the shattered pieces of their glass as memorabilia. His father, far away from his days as a sweeper, now lives comfortably in a plush bungalow, his chest puffing up every time with his son’s exploits. Truly, Pathan has come a long way. That the Kolkata Knight Riders bought him up for the IPL season four for a whopping 2.1 billion dollars only adds to this budding cricketer's rising charts. Younger brother Irfan too, with whom he shares a great camaraderie, can’t stop gushing in his brother's praise, saying this was along time coming.

And now the World Cup is round the corner. The hope of every Indian is reaching a crescendo with this team. And Yusuf Pathan's pyrotechnics would surely have to play a major part if India harbours any hope of lifting the trophy. It is to be seen how captain Dhoni uses him. As many believe that he can be equally effective a little higher in the order, and what with his more than capable off-spin abilities he can be the perfect all-rounder India has been looking for ages. If he manages to live up to the hype surrounding him currently, it can be a defining moment in this maverick’s career.

But Yusuf it seems is oblivious to all this as he calmly goes about his work without bothering too much on what others say. One thing that can’t be denied though is that he now brings with himself a hope for the Indian fan that it isn’t over till this man is at the crease. It makes them feel good that now they too have someone who can instill fear in the opposition ranks, something which we have known to been on the receiving end for quite some time now.
Whether this hype transgresses into something substantial, only time will tell, but for now, if you are not an Indian fan, one thing is quite clear, you have simply got to fear Yusuf Pathan.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It’s an “Ad - Mad” World!!!

“The custodians of the game in India must protect it against the over-commercialization taking place on television. It is annoying, ridiculous and an insult to the game to see an advertisement being squeezed in just because the bowler has not reached the top of his run-up. The telecast in India is unwatchable. Youngsters are missing out on vital commentary, since most comments are cut off the minute an over is called, or when a wicket falls. These are not good signs for Indian cricket, and somebody needs to protect the game from becoming devalued in this manner. Everybody must remember that the advertisers are there to promote the game; the game cannot be reduced to a vehicle that promotes the advertisers.”
-- Steve Waugh (Former Australian Cricket captain)

For all this while, I was na├»ve enough to believe that I was the only one getting irked by the constant bombardment of advertisements imploding in your face during the match plays, ever increasing in numbers as the number of the matches grew and so did the new breed of cricket channels. This above mentioned comment from Steve Waugh did not bring me solitude, but made me realize the proportions these distasteful acts have generated, maligning the image of our country in the process. But the recently concluded India-South Africa series was monumental in more ways than one. The level to which the broadcasters (Ten Cricket), took the advertisements to, was downright ridiculous, appalling and disgraceful. As a cricket enthusiast I was deprived of the simple viewing pleasure of enjoying the game unobtrusively, i.e. without any hindrances , but instead was subject to a harrowing experience , with all kinds of ‘innovative’ ads ‘exploding’ (yes, you heard that right)in the middle of the ground, behind slip fielders and the L-shaped advertisements which would even drown out the commentary. While the series is over, the ignominy of it all raged inside, prodding me to do something about it. And thankfully, in today’s internet age, there is no dearth in the voices of opinion. From blogs, to social networking sites the web was abuzz with complaints pouring in from every corner of the country, severely criticizing the broadcaster for playing with the consumer’s emotions. One particular comment posted on the “Consumer complaints” website is worth mentioning; “The advertising was intrusive, excessive, disruptive, and noisy and completely negated the viewing 'pleasure', if it could be called that at all.” Indeed it is the pleasure that is being sacrificed for the greed of some. The writer went on to add details of the broadcaster’s address and thereby imploring everyone to raise the issue at every possible forum. Commendable efforts like these have resulted in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issuing a show cause notice to Ten Cricket (the official broadcaster), “seeking an explanation as regards the beaming of intrusive advertisements during the live telecast of the recent India-South Africa series”. One can only hope now that the notice serves a timely reminder to other broadcasters, to tread more caution while balancing their ‘greed’ with the ‘need’ of the consumer.

In the days when I first started watching cricket, Doordarshan used to rule the roost, and people who are from the same era , would very well be aware of the standards(or the lack of it) we are used to. From dull and droning commentary, to jaded camera works or the colour quality, everything would be of low standards. But above all the most irksome thing would be the constant advertisements. No sooner would a wicket fall, and we would have to deal with the Colgates and the Lifebuoys. When I look at it now, it looks puny in comparison to what we have to deal with at present. With the coming of the 21st century, and a splurge in the sales of Television sets, everyone wanted to cash in on the viewership. Cricket, the most watched sport in the country, was an easy target for advertisers to cash in as it generated the maximum TRPs. Thus we saw a string of channels popping up 'dedicated' to cricket coverage. Even entertainment channels like Sony, and Zee bagged rights for the coverage of major cricketing tournaments, but in all this the quality suffered.

Leaving out Espn-Star, which has been dishing out high quality of cricket coverage for more than a decade now,establishing itself as the numero uno of its genre in the process,(and thankfully the World Cup is being covered by them) the other channels in the fray namely, Zee Sports, Neo Cricket and Ten have done nothing to please the viewers and their sagging reputation. What they lack in content, they try and make it up by squeezing in ads at every possible opportunity. So we are casually deprived of the subtle pleasures of the game like the emotions on the face of the players after some achievement or after any victory.In fact I can safely vouch,that the ardent cricket viewer looks forward to such moments,as while watching the game one does get emotionally involved in it,relishing the success with the players themselves; squashing an ad in between isn't just highly irritating its quite shamelessly toying with the emotions of the viewer.Seeing the happy,cheering faces of the players at the time of an achievement makes one as happy as the players themselves. These are important aspects of the game, and a viewer certainly enjoys them, but enjoyment it seems is a luxury in today’s “ad-mad” world, as it has become quite evident now that emotions aren't something that corporate honchos seem to identify with, all they see is the green buck at the end of the day.
So, while the ads keep increasing manifold as does the viewership with the advent of tournaments like the IPL and Champions trophy. Thus we now have the scenario where ads keep popping out from everywhere on your TV screen during a cricket match. A survey puts it at almost 11 ads per over, i.e. almost two ads per delivery!!! If that is not bizarre here is the comment of Atul Pande, the CEO of Sports Business, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, “"The Indian consumer, or subscriber, pays a very little amount of money to watch very high-quality sport.Possibly the lowest in the world. We are more than happy to give an ad-free feed at a higher price. If there is a customer who wants to look at uninhibited watching of a cricket event, and he is willing to pay a price for it we are more than happy to provide a service. .” That’s downright preposterous if not outrageous, so basically consumers will now have to pay extra to watch something that is our legal right. And how in the world is “ad-free” viewing a premium service?? Isn’t that their obligation?? Clearly these are excuses which no one will be willing to buy.

So, is there any way out?? Yes. Firstly, stricter laws regarding intrusive advertising needs to be implemented, and bodies which are found guilty should be punished, which would act as a lesson for others to follow. The Government has the right to ban any firm not adhering to the rules as mentioned specifically in Section 20 (1) of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. Secondly, greater care should be taken while distributing sponsorship deals, as in, not to give it away blindly to entertainment channels who are in there purely for the greed of it. Though it is understandable that broadcasters too have to make money, but it should by no means be at the cost of taking away the pleasure of watching the game. Lastly and more simply a standard ruling for every broadcaster to follow; of complying with the ICC standards, i.e. 12 minutes of advertising for every hour of match coverage. That should be the norm for everyone, to follow, conforming to which the viewers, the real followers of the game, will heave a sigh of relief and Cricket would have won. And that is ultimately what counts.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The fall of the ‘Garden Of Eden’


Excerpts from the poem-The Garden of Eden by Debra L. Looney

Ms. Debra would have had no inkling while penning this poem; about the stark similarities in her lines and the current state of affairs of the once magnificent ground by the name of Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The ground, famous for many a memorable incidents and matches; has been dealt a body blow last week when the ICC decided to shift the upcoming World Cup match between India and England, scheduled to be held at Kolkata on Feb. 27th, from the venue due to lack of preparedness in the renovation work which in their words is ‘alarmingly’ behind schedule.The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) President Jagmohan Dalmiya tried with all his might to pull his political muscle behind the issue, to curb this major embarrassment caused to his team, and more importantly to the city and perhaps the whole nation at large. At the time of writing, the chances of the ICC’s sympathy on this issue is not only minimal, it’s already been rejected, with Haroon Lorgat’s email to BCCI clearly stating that there is absolutely no way for the decision to be reconditioned. Mr. Dalmiya , now should use his ‘might’ in ensuring that the remaining three matches stays with the Eden, because if word is to be believed there is a reasonable chance of those too being taken off. Thus, in its third edition in Asia, the World Cup won’t see a match featuring India at the Eden Gardens for the first time. It’s hardly any wonder then that the whole nation is up in arms against the CAB for bringing the entire nation to shame in front of the cricketing world, and depriving the lovers of the game and the players themselves of a chance to savour the magic of arguably the best arenas in the sports world today.

So who is to take the blame? The BCCI, for failing to foresee the inevitable , given the track record of the CAB in the past few years(and for refusing to learn from last year’s Common Wealth Games debacle) or the CAB themselves for floundering yet again in managing issues in a professional manner. Clearly both the cricketing bodies have to shoulder the blame, with the CAB taking the larger ‘share’ for obvious reasons. What is appalling, given the current situation of the stadia, is the fact that the schedule for the match in question was declared years ago; and yet the CAB couldn’t bring it upon them to make appropriate arrangements to make the ground match ready on time. The ICC team, which inspected the ground found it to be inappropriate for an international match in quite a few departments, from the unfinished bucket chairs, to the roofing, paintings, water facilities or even the media and corporate boxes. So, clearly they didn’t see any reason to extend their decision; for what couldn’t be done in years will most certainly not be done in a week. But obviously our administrators fail to recognize that this is an international body they are dealing with and not their own political counterparts whom they can manipulate with their low-brow promises.What further fueled their decision was what many believe the arrogance with which the CAB dealt with the ICC's officials, rubbishing their claims of increasing the height of the side screen or of moving the radio commentator's box.Perhaps, even more intriguing if not surprising is the fact that the man at the helm of the affair, Jagmohan Dalmiya, once the czar of Indian cricket administration, let all this happen under his nose despite the fact that he is not new to these challenges, as he had quite efficiently led his team in organizing the 1987 and 1996 World Cups, successfully held in the sub-continent. So, it is indeed is quite unusual to see how the man, who once was the ICC chief, failed to get the stadium ready on time.

For people who have been following cricket closely in the past few years though, this news wasn’t entirely shocking. For all its grandeur, and momentous occasions, the Eden Gardens has been slipping quite drastically in terms of competence, i.e. failing to match the standards of an international like venue. As if the repugnant political power play emanating from the greed ,to take the prime position in the management wasn’t enough, the continuous technical failures, (the infamous ‘floodlight incidents’ in IPL 2008 and at an India –Sri Lanka match in 2009 where one of the towers stopped functioning) took further sheen off the stadium. However, those were technical glitches and can be repaired, but the cause for this embarrassment cannot be mended, as it stems from a deep rot of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency inherent perhaps in the way this city functions today.
The biggest loser in this fiasco is certainly the fan himself. The dedicated fan, who waits hours under the sun to catch their favourite players in action, and who has a bag of tales to tell associated with their memories at the Eden. Famous the world over for the staunch support it generates from its crazy and perhaps irrational fans, the Eden is also known for uplifting the sagging morale of its team when in dire situations, and has now made its place firmly in cricketing folklore primarily because of all the famous incidents it has played out over the years. Be it the sporting miracles like Laxman’s 281,(or Harbhajan's hat-trick in the same match) or booing the hell out of Wasim Akram for ‘cheating’ to get Tendulkar out. The latter incident resulted in the game being played in front of an empty stadium. So, clearly the players too, as they have already started stating, would rue the chance of playing in front of a 60,000 strong crowd or of simply missing the magnificence of the arena. In all logical sense too, the fans’ protests seems well reasoned. Can a World Cup be held in England and Lord’s doesn’t feature in it?? Won’t the Australians cry foul if the MCG is denied to host a World event?? The answer is quite simple.

While we comprehend this loss, cries of ‘injustice’ is already ringing out from some corners of the city, given the fact that extension was given to the Wankhade for renewal work till 7th Feb and not to the Eden Gardens. Some wise men, would probably find a conspiracy theory behind this. Its ‘politics’, they will say. In other words the whole world is conspiring against us to take away our “glory”. If at all we can learn from this situation, it is to take up responsibility, for the colossal failure. Instead of finding reasons to blame and shrug off our faults, we should look inside. Excuses won’t help us this time; fact is Kolkata’s image has yet again taken a beating in front of the whole world. There is no running away from it, finding a political scenario in it will definitely not help our cause. Whether we get the match or not, is not the question anymore, the damage has already been inflicted on our pride (including all the over-inflated ones too). There used to be a time when players, who in spite of their love for the venue, would fear the backlash if they lost a game, the India -Sri Lanka '96 semi-final being a case in point, where the crowd broke seats and burnt 'mashaal' to convey their rage. Will the city people come out again in protests with their 'mashaal' in hand ?? Wont it serve better purpose to do it now when the city's image is being tainted, rather in sporting losses which can be overcome shortly?? I don't seek to instigate a revolution, all I wanted was some pride restored, but I can't find any silver lining in the dark clouds hovering above us. As a Kolkatan, it is time perhaps to hang our heads in shame. I can’t give any wise words on how to redeem this situation, only the poetic lines from Ms. Debra Looney’s masterpiece comes back to mind. WE ALL SHOULD HAVE TAKEN BETTER CARE OF THE GARDENS “SOUL” UPKEEP...Indeed it is the “SOUL” we have lost!!