Shane Warne – A Maverick and a Magician

There are not many leg spinners in world cricket today. Neither were there 20 years ago, until Shane Warne (along with Anil Kumble) brought it into fashion again. Leg-spin is not only about skill, it is like an art, and like all work of artists, watching him bowl is always a treat to watch. When he begins to ‘walk‘ his short run up, it is marked by the ball being tossed from the right hand to the left by those artful wrists. With eyes and mind focussed on the plan, the ball is released from his hands towards a batsman who is confused about the flight, the dip, the speed, and the amount of turn the ball will take after pitching.

In the face agression, but very well controlled

In the face agression, but very well controlled

Two decades before he came onto the international scene, fast bowlers have ruled world cricket like never before. Despite the fact that executing and mastering leg-spin is extremely difficult, he came up trumps and made his own bewildering English and South African batsmen with a puzzle which they will never solve. His humiliation of Mike Gatting and many other batsmen by his enormous turn, masterful googlies and surprising flippers made for a wonderful sight for cricket lovers who were tired of seeing West Indian bowlers destroying batting lineups. South African Daryl Cullinan was believed to have sought the help of a therapist to overcome Warne’s psychological hold over his batting.

Gideon Haigh, the Australian journalist, said of Warne upon his retirement: “It was said of Augustus that he found Rome brick and left it marble: the same is true of Warne and spin bowling.” Though known mostly for his 708 wickets in Test cricket, he was highly effective in ODIs too, with his twin man of the match awards in the semi-final and final matches being instrumental in handing Australia the World Cup in 1999. He was something with the bat too, having the highest number of runs without a century with two 90+ scores under his belt. He was also a successful slip fielder, and stands seventh in the list of most catches.

Like all this was not enough, he signed up for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL in 2008 after retiring from one dayers in 2003 and test matches in 2007. As captain of perhaps the most weak side in the tournament, he turned a group of nobodies into a formidable team and led them to an unprecedented victory in the first version of IPL. Many remarked him as the wiliest captain Australia never had. His overs were always a fun to watch rather than just individual balls because of the way he planned and plotted the dismissal of his preys. It was the same spirit and guile he showed as a captain when he led Rajasthan Royals to IPL victory.

On and off the pitch, his life can be compared to a typical bollywood masala movie. His story is a tale of women, bookmakers, diet pills, then more women, but certainly headlines all along the way. Coming to cricket, he was one of the five players ranked by Wisden as the greatest cricketers of the 20th century. In 1993, he took 72 victims, and in 2005 took a massive 96 wickets coming after a one year ban. His control over the degree of spin, and his flippers, sliders and zooters made the life of many a batsman miserable. He was also invited to see Sir Donald Bradman along with Sachin Tendulkar.

A colorful life, but full of controversies

A colorful life, but full of controversies

If ever there was a Bradman of bowling, it has to be him. He has always been my favorite cricketer, right on the top with Sachin Tendulkar. His presence on the cricket field is itself magical and the whole stadium and the commentators are totally entertained by his tactics. With the bowl in his hand, anything can happen. He can turn a match around with a few overs, with the 1999 World Cup semi-final being the best example. He is as arrogant as any Australian, yet humble enough to acknowledge that he had nightmares of Sachin Tendulkar hitting him for sixes.

No one has had a more colorful career than him, full of achievements as a magician and mischiefs as a maverick. He retired from one dayers in 2003, tests in 2007 and now he has announced T20 retirement in 2011. Looks like all well-timed decisions. I have watched IPL for the last few years and supported Rajasthan Royals only because he was playing. IPL will miss him. I will miss him. Cricket has certainly been left poorer by his departure.

The Indian IPL XI for World Cup

The IPL is going to be followed by the T20 World Cup in West Indies. As per some “hard to understand” ICC rules, all countries had to announce their teams one month before the tournament starts. As a result, many players who are out of form in the ongoing IPL have been selected and many in-form players have been left out. Kris Srikanth, chairman of selectors, has also remarked recently that it is unfortunate that some of the players in good form in IPL have to miss out of the World Cup T20. I am trying to list below a team “Indian IPL XI“, which will include only those Indian players from the IPL who have not been considered for the World Cup. My contention is that if this team enters the World Cup, they would perform as well as the national Indian team.

The team follows –

1.   Murali Vijay* – Opener
2.   Naman Ojha – Opener / wk
3.   Robin Uthappa – Batsman / Captain
4.   Saurabh Tiwary – Batsman
5.   Virat Kohli – Batsman
6.   S. Badrinath – Batsman
7.   Irfan Pathan – All Rounder
8.   Pragyan Ojha – Spin Bowler
9.   RP Singh – Pace Bowler
10.  Sidharth Trivedi – Pace Bowler
11.  Ishant Sharma – Pace Bowler
12.  Amit Mishra – Spin Bowler
13.  Ashok Dinda – Pace Bowler
14.  T. Suman – Batsman

*Murali Vijay was later included in the side as Sehwag got injured.

P.S. – I have not included Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble and Tendulkar as they have retired / refused to play in the World Cup.

7 Innovations which make IPL fun to watch

Business, Bollywood and Cricket

Business, Bollywood and Cricket

The IPL has taken the country by storm for the third year in the running. But more so, it has taken cricket by storm. If you ask somebody what is IPL and he replies – “It is India’s domestic T20 cricket tournament”, you can’t be more wrong. IPL is the perfect mixture of glamour, fun and entertainment making it a complete package for cricket and bollywood crazy Indians. No doubt it is such a success in a country like ours, where cricket, apart from being a sport, also unites Indians like nothing else. T20s will continue after the IPL too (for the rest of the year), but an IPL match will only come back next year.

Here are the list of 7 top innovations which make an IPL match stand out from (normal) T20 matches –

1. Cheerleaders – Cheerleading is basically an US phenomena that include elements of tumbling, dance, cheers, jumps and stunting to direct spectators of events to cheer. The cheerleaders in IPL have also been imported from US, and dressed in “attractive” dressing, are as much an attraction in the stadium, as the match itself. As expected, some self-righteous Indians have made a controversy out of their clothing and moves, but that is for another post. (You can read about an earlier controversy surrounding the IPL here..)

2. Time Outs – Year 2009 saw the IPL moving to South Africa, and to compensate for lost revenues, Lalit Modi introduced the timeout of seven and a half minutes after 10 overs of each innings to show more ads in the limited time that T20 has for advertisers. Obviously, he called it the strategy break for teams to restrategise… In 2010, IPL modified the concept to introduce two timeouts in each innings of total five minutes duration. And the timing was left to batting and fielding sides to chose. So, more unpredictability and more eyeballs for advertisers. And the time-out itself was sponsored by a Mobile Handset company.

3. Sponsored Commentary – Commentary was once a boring job, just reporting on the events of the match. But IPL made it compulsory for commentators to brand a six as a “DLF Maximum“, a catch as a “Karbonn Kamaal Catch“, any interesting moment as a “Citi Moment of Success“, and so on. In the future there could also be an “XYZ Special Wicket” or a “ABC Amazing run-out”. It can stretch as far as the imagination goes. Looks like it is never enough when it comes to advertising.

4. Microphones – Interesting placement of cameras and microphones have added a new dimension to cricket. IPL has, for the first time, involved the umpires in the game. Umpires, at the start of the match, are wired up with the DJ at the stadium, and hence, instead of just calling a dull “play“, he starts the match with asking “Are you ready batsman? Are you ready bowler? Are you ready Bangalore?” which is heard and cheered by the whole stadium and TV viewers.

Apart from this, during the match, umpires and players are wired up with the commentators and there is an interactive chat with the commentators during the match, which can be about serious cricket matters or it can be funny. Like the commentators teasing the fielder about the 40 degree temperature on the stadium or about the last ball where they misfielded. Or the commentators asking the umpires how did he manage to take his head out of that straight shot hit by Gilly. ICC might mean serious cricket, but IPL means fun (and a lot of it) !!

5. Cameras – Interesting placement of cameras like the overhead rolling camera view in 2009 and the cameras on the “MRF” blimp in 2010 have given interesting angles for viewers to see their favorite players on TV and on multiple large screens on the stadium itself.

6. IPL Nights – As you have seen and read in newspapers, IPL matches are often followed by IPL Nights, which are big parties which happen after the match. These parties include everything from fashion shows to music to booze and continue till early in the morning. There are cricketers, team owners, businessmen, models and bollywood celebrities all enjoying and relaxing after the match. There are Rs 40,000/- tickets which allow you an exclusive entry to these parties, apart from watching the match from the best location in the stadium.

7. Youtube’s Fun Feed – This is one thing which I think most of you must have missed. IPL is streaming its matches live (well… almost live) on youtube, and apart from the usual television feed, there is another feed called the “Fun Feed“. This is basically live telecast of the match but from a totally entertainment point of view. IPL has a former Miss Universe hosting this feed, and it includes interviews of Team Owners, Celebrities, the cheerleaders, players, and of spectators about the match. Even the match is shown from different interesting camera angles. In short, the focus is more on the happenings in the stadium (entertainment) apart from the cricket itself.

If you have noticed some other interesting stuff going on in IPL matches which I have missed, make sure to drop in as comments below…