Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why Australian Cricket is so good

Why Australia is so good

If it has to be a one liner, the answer is simple. The system in which Cricket functions Down Under is top class, at every step and the approach is totally professional. The playing conditions like ground, facilities, equipment, club set-up, etc. all play a role. Recognition of talent and not representation of zone or state is the yardstick. Only the genuinely tough and the talented players make it to the top there – even from junior level - and survive. Weaker ones naturally fall by the wayside, because there is no ‘godfather’ route to take, like here! As such, we see the best player playing for the country. Healthy competition – not politics – pushes them up. Stuff is secondary here.

The best basic conditions are available and kids learn the game there in perfect conditions. In India, we get gravel to dive to learn fielding skills!

Down Under, a player is chosen on pure merit of his talent and put on contract by Cricket Australia [CA] and is paid irrespective of whether he plays the matches or not. CA also uses the rotation basis of [important] players. Once they are on the ‘rolls’ they will get their due chances. BCCI chooses its team on zonal quota basis and once a player is chosen in the team, his main intention is to show performance that will keep him in for the next match or two. That is how it is. So he worries about his place [barring exceptions]. Once a player is dropped from the team, it is hard work! Hard work for the zonal selector! Of course, the players work hard to improve the game and performances, but that becomes sadly secondary! A CA player, even if he performs badly temporarily and is dropped, his place in the team is not in jeopardy. So when he comes back, he does his best to prove his worth without the main eye on keeping the place in the team, but to perform as per the team’s and situation’s demands. That is the difference.

Aussie aggression! It is a tactic they use to demoralize opponents. It also comes to them ‘naturally’! They are as mentally strong as they are skillful. No wonder they have often overdid ‘sledging’! They play what we call the ‘power game’ wherever possible. They also use another tactic of passing open comments in the press before any touring team visits. But then, that is their way and also they have the resources to back!

Don Bradman in one of his interviews had revealed that in Australia the young cricketer is asked by his parents on his return home “Did your team win?” What do we ask the young boy here? “Beta, how much did you score…?” That is the difference in attitudes as they grow up. Ricky Ponting once told “we play for each other”. Here, they play for themselves. Of course, there are a few exceptions here too, but then, that is the overall scenario. We can actually see that here!!

Those things aside, the way CA prepares itself for matches is totally professional, leaves no stone unturned. They are thorough in their approach, execute plans to perfection on the field, have the win-at-all-costs attitude [so they give their 100% always in whatever they do], rarely at fault in their ‘out-cricket’, play as a team and play hard cricket!

BCCI players are worried about injuries too, in the absence of the contract system. They lose money if they are out of matches. So they don’t like to get injured. A ‘comeback’ means a Herculean task [esp. for the ‘margin players’]. So, many times, we see them not ‘pushing’ in terms of effort on the field. CA players are properly taken care of even if they are injured.

Things that bother in the BCCI are not in CA, so we see the best! Most importantly, they have talent abound and always a second string is ever ready, thanks to the system and policies. Domestic cricket there is of a high standard and so players coming from there have to be high standard! They know 5 years ahead who is going represent CA. He is already ready when he gets his chance at the highest level! Not like we do here – throw a raw player up on a ‘hot tawa’ as soon as he scores a double hundred in domestic cricket! The selector shouts ‘my boy has scored, so he has to be chosen’! Besides abilities, good sporting pitches is another vital ingredient for good cricket and talent to show itself, which lacks here in our Bhaarath. The Curator of the pitch is ‘remote controlled’!

Because of such hassle-free and most probably a transparent system there with CA, players are able to step in and contribute without any mind blockages or face any hurdles. Consistent performances and results are automatic when things are that way. Another important factor why Australia is the best and why they keep winning is that they have the best balanced side. They have regular openers to give good starts, solid middle-order batting, handy all-rounders, fit wicket-taking bowlers, and a wonderful captain leading the ship! If someone fails, the other takes over and never gives up. The important thing is, they are able to retain such a balanced side, even if established players retire. And they have been doing it consistently enough to demoralize the opposition irrespective of location. That has been their key.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ranji Trophy matches in Mysore

Of late, Mysore hosting a Ranji Trophy Cricket match is becoming 'usual' what with improved facilities and grounds. I was at the ground - not on the ground, playing - this time to witness a couple of hours of cricket.
"I prefer to play rather than watch", much like what "Nana" Joshi had told in Pune many years back, but that's another story.
It was after many years I was witnessing a Ranji tie, thanks to my friend, who had given me a 'pass'. Karnataka were on the field the first day, allowing Rajasthan to dominate. He was out before we arrived second day.

Gangotri Glades had been shaped up nicely. Quite a number of people turned up to witness, most probably to see Robin Uthappa in action, in particular. It was true. When I was arriving on the second afternoon, with my family, people were leaving the ground, as if Bradman was out, and I had come to know that Robin had been just out for 55. But I had to witness the dismissal of local lad KB Pawan and Sudhindra Shinde also. Karnataka were in trouble and they never came out of it despite Yere Goud's century the next day. Eventually, Rajasthan went back with more points.
I had my camera, a Panasonic Lumix FZ8 with me. Here are a few shots I took at the ground on the first two days. I could not be there on the the last two.

Sunil Joshi and B.Akhil in the two corners batting, Robin does a warm-down walk in the bottom left picture while two Karnataka players have 'a knock' after the first day's play.
Shinde and Pawan at the change of overs.

A section of the crowd.

83-year old veteran BK Ananda Rao, a leg-spinner in his hey days watches the game on the second day.

Local lad Pawan plays a defensive shot to the off.

I liked this defensive shot. Everything seems to be technically correct here. Ball hitting the middle of the bat, right beside his outstretched left pad, eyes over the ball, high left elbow, slackened bottom hand grip, back foot heel lifted, but toe inside crease! Bishnoi or Bisht of Rajasthan, I know not. Towards the end of the first day. Uthappa is at silly mid-off.

Pavilion view of the ground - two separate pictures.

Another photo-collage showing various batting action shots.

I think it is NC Aiyappa. But it may be Akhil or Vinay Kumar. I know not from these shots I took. [Except for Akhil, Robin, Pawan and Joshi, I cannot put names to any other faces in the Karnataka team]. But I loved the way these pictures turned out. You can spot the ball in the frame in each one except two or three.