IPL is nothing but a circus

Ban IPL

Photo courtesy of BBC. Ban IPL

If you (BCCI) can build a business (IPL) on greed and not Cricket, then do not cry foul if cricketers and bookies also have the same mission.

I had always contended IPL is nothing more than a circus. The recent investigations by Indian Police that spot-fixing is ripe in Indian Premier League (IPL) have made it abundantly clear that none of the matches are a reliable and taint-free day in the field.

It is not just the fringe players out to make some quick bucks, but some of the leading Indian cricketers are found guilty of the offense. To make matters worse, now even the IPL owners are under Police investigation leading one to speculate, is everything reallyCricket?

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>IPL Champions without the Champions

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Watching IPL Champions league is like watching a Knight’s duel without umm, the actual Knights. Pakistan, the unquestionable champions of T20 Cricket, are missing in action which is not only odd but shameful as they are currently the hottest property in town.
Pakistan is the only country to have made it to the World T20 World Cup final twice and are current Title holders. Boom boom Afridi has mesmerized many a batsmen with his cunning googlies and beautiful strokeplays is not only the best all-rounder in this format of the game, but also the best player by a long shot. The death over bowling has been totally redefined by Umar Gul, Pakistan’s most dangerous slog over bowler. Not only does he make it impossible for batsmen to score off him, but takes crucial wickets to falter any run chases by the opposition batsmen. This year, when Pakistan won the World T20 World Cup, it was truly special since none of their players were invited to play in the IPL and were therefore considered a team which did not have the requisite experience to win any matches. Not only did they win the World Cup in style, but on the way, they defeated the top teams in the tournament.
The first season of IPL (when Pakistani players actually featured), exploits of stars like Umar Gul, Sohail Tanveer made the tournament not only exciting but made it possible for Shane Warne’s team to lift the title. Did I mention that the best bowling figures are also held by Sohail Tanveer of 6 wickets for 18 runs in unplayable 4 overs. A feat not yet repeated by anyone in IPL thus far.
In the rebel ICL T20 league, Pakistani team was the most exciting and watched team in the tournament. Always making it to the final and playing some entertaining and exciting cricket. Players like Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir and Rana Naveed ul Hassan had become a household name.
With no Pakistanis featuring in the Champions league, it is no surprise that it is hardly being followed in Pakistan by the cricket fanatic fans. The newspapers hardly report its progress, and fans never discuss it. It is as if, there is no tournament being played and no cricket happening.
It would truly have been a challenging tournament if Sialkot Stallions (Pakistan’s reigning champion team in domestic tournaments) were invited and allowed to match their skills against the best of the World. It would have been a far more exciting tournament if Pakistani players were allowed to represent various IPL teams that they signed up for many years back.
Making cricket hostage to politics is not only shameful but also deprives the fans of some exciting cricket. Sports is always above politics and sportsmen are there to build bridges not burn them. India’s hegemony over cricket and the world’s governing body turning a blind eye to this “apartheid” is not only pathetic but shameful as well. It seems Australian, British and South African boards are more interested in earning revenues from the Champions league than making it a level playing field for all teams and players.
Maybe one day when ICC (International Cricket Council) can stand up to BCCI (Board for Control of Cricket in India) and make sure that such distorted tactics are not carried into the playing field would we truly enjoy the cricket. Till then, let the boring cricket continue to play in the world.

Win us the T20 World Cup Cricket

Go Pakistan Go and win the World T20 Cup

Go Pakistan Go and win the World T20 Cup

Watching Pakistan beat South Africa in the semifinal of the World Cricket T20 Championship last night was like watching a soaring eagle make a swift swoop from its perch to capture an unsuspecting prey with its claws. Throughout the match, South Africa struggled to loosen the stranglehold which Pakistan had placed around their neck, but in vain. In the end, they were agony filled short by seven runs from the penultimate target of 150 which many pundits had predicted would be easy pickings for South Africa. While the streets of Karachi and Lahore erupted with euphoria over reaching another World Cup final by the Pakistan team, Johannesburg and Capetown had deserted and dejected fans pouring out of pubs  as their team once again failed to reach the final of a major cricket tournament.

This time round, it was not the weak or choking South Africa, rather an extremely determined and strong Pakistan side that made the difference. True, Pakistan started this tournament as one of the also rans and no one predicted they would go beyond the Super 8s let alone reach the final. Of course, on the way, they had lost to Sri Lanka and England making them as one of the weaker sides to compete. But Pakistan, as we all have learn to love and predict, is well, quite unpredictable. It has the talent to bounce back from any situation and the team has a never die attitude which makes the games extra special.

The transformation of Pakistan began somewhere in the middle of the the game against Sri Lanka. The initial 10 overs that they bowled to Sri Lanka were well, something nothing to be written about. Starting with conceding 18 runs in the first over, the combination of extras, rudementary fielding and half vollies let Sri Lanka race to over 80 runs within the first 8 overs.  But as soon as the spinners were brought in to bowl,  the match turned as Sri Lankan batsmen failed to cope with the spin and the run rate slowed down to a halt.  Pakistan did eventually lose the game by 19 runs  but the game could have easily swung in their favor had they controlled their line and length in the initial overs.

From then on, they did not let any team take any advantage of them, beating New Zealand, Ireland and now South Africa in quick succession and each time more convincingly than before. Their bowling, fielding and even batting began to click. Players like Afridi, Yunus, Kamran Akmal began to contribute with the bat while Ajmal, Afridi and Gul continued to mesmerize the batsmen with their bowling.

It is ironic that the best and most talked about teams have not made it the final. Heck, Australia was knocked out in the preliminary stages and well India, the tournament favorites, never seemed like winning a game in the Super 8s.

This year, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) prevented Pakistani cricketers from playing in the IPL (Indian Premier League) hoping to score a few political points against their arch rival neighbor. Hence, Pakistani cricketers were the only ones not to feature this May in the IPL, while the best of the world competed out and honed their skills for the upcoming T20 World Cup in June. The world expected Pakistani players will be too rusty and too out of shape to even make any impact during the world cup.

Rather the opposite happened. The very lack of competitive cricket has made Pakistani team even more hungry for victory. While Dhoni and his men seemed lethargic and tired,  Pakistani cricketers seem to have a new spring in their feet and a vigor to win from any situation. South Africa and New Zealand have found that out the hard way. True they were rusty in the beginning but once the shine returned, all that is glittering is gold. Pure gold.

Go Pakistan Go! Win us this World Cup. This nation deserves a few tears of joy as it has shed plenty of them for sorrow that has besieged it these past many years. We are praying for you.

Can Anyone Monopolize Cricket?

ICC might be the governing body, but do they really control everything that is cricket? Do Country Boards like PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), BCCI (Board for Control of Cricket in India), ACB (Australian Cricket Board) and others have monopoly over cricket in their respective countries? Or do they “perceive” they have such powers? It is quite disheartening to note that ICL has been construed as a rebel league and that most of the players who play in that league have been banned by their respective boards (barring probably England) from all forms of cricket, first class inclusive.

Now, say Roger Federer, the great tennis star, plays in a match that is not sanctioned by ITF, would he be banned from playing in Wimbledon tournaments? Does ITF have monopoly over it? Or if Tiger Woods decides to play for a little known golf tournament or league in China not sanctioned by the official body, would he be banned from all Golf tournaments? Does anyone monopolize Golf?

ICL or Indian Cricket League is a revolutionary concept to take hold in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. For the first time, in the history of the South Asian cricket, there is a league that offers competitive salaries for playing matches of first class cricket quality. It also is probably the first time when large crowds are actually going to the stadiums to watch competitive cricket other than international matches. Yes, local leagues and first class matches have never really garnered any spectators in South Asia. However, since it is not sanctioned by BCCI in India or ICC (International Cricket Council) internationally, most of the cricket boards decided to ban their players (first class inclusive) from participating. Despite such punitive measures, giants of Cricket including Inzimam ul Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Brian Lara opted to quit International cricket and play in the league. Now even some lesser known players from around the world have joined the league including Taufiq Umar, Imran Farhat from Pakistan and Andrew Hall (South Africa) and Franklin Rose (West Indies) and many others.

The Pakistan first class cricket structure is so badly designed that there are just a few quality matches in a year and the salaries for professional cricketers is nothing short of pittance. Hence, when ICL came along, many potentially good cricketers decided to sign up to make those extra dollars and thus forgoing a chance to represent Pakistan at national level. Take the example of fine cricketers like Taufiq Umar, Imran Farhat who have played test cricket for Pakistan in the past, but don’t seem to find a regular place within the Test team these days. The salary of a professional cricket who does not play for Pakistan is probably not much higher than a clerk’s monthly income. Therefore, these talented youth opted to make some extra money by joining the ICL in India this year and played the whole season. However, our board reacted sharply against it and have already moved to ban all players who play in ICL from not only from the national team, but also from the first class matches within the country.

It just does not add up. The Board does not pay well and makes them live on a frugal salary. Yet if they find a league to make some extra money on their own time, they are banned from representing the national team and playing competitive cricket in their country. The punishment is so severe that it is worse than the punishment one gets for taking illegal substance to enhance their performance. It is totally bizarre!

The concept of control and punishment is as old as the colonial mindset. In today’s world, it has no place. The boards should be enablers and supporters of promoting sports in this era and age. Cricket is a spectator sport with fans now in billions. We do not like to see the boards tell us what we can see and what we cannot. So step back and let us all enjoy the game and if someone wants us to see better cricket, be it ICL, embrace it, not ban it like some maniac dictator.