Month: August 2016

Miami T20 weekend: India v West Indies

This Saturday August 27th and Sunday August 28th, Miami in Florida will host two T20 Matches between India and the West Indies. The BCCI has declared it their goal to make this an annual event, which bodes well for expansion of the sport to new countries.

The first ever cricket international was actually played in North America! In 1844, th "British Empire’s Canadian Province" visited New York to face off against the USA side.Canada racked up 82 all out in 32 overs, dismissed the US for 64, built on their lead and proceeded to win the game by 23 runs. How times change; 82 by an entire side was enough to win in 1844; today Chris Gayle could smash 82 off 5 overs all by himself!

So why is it a big deal to be taking T20s to Florida? For starters, cricket could use the globalization. There are 10 Full Member Nations, another 8 Associate Members with T20I Status. None of them are from North America or South America, and only England, Scotland and Ireland hail from Europe. Several of the biggest, more developed sporting nations in the world have close to zero involvement in cricket today; so taking the game to America is a step in the right direction for the future of the game.

However, it might may be too little too late.

Here are 5 reasons the BCCI will have a tough time cracking the American market.

1. It’s an Over-Saturated Sports Market: In order of size, the United States already has 5 major sports leagues:

a. NFL (American Football)

b. MLB (Baseball)

c. NBA (Basketball)

d. NHL (Ice Hockey)

e. MLS (Soccer)

Soccer is the newest entrant, and is growing aggressively behind the might of the European Soccer Leagues. Is there really room in that packed lineup for a 6th major sport like cricket?

2. The weather can be prohibitive: All 5 of the big sports can be played indoors, with limited impact on the game itself. In fact, American Football and Soccer can both be played even in rain or snow. With the east coast in winter for 6 months of the year, can cricket adapt? Playing indoors would change the pitch, impacting swing, bounce, pace of the outfield, and more.

3. Size of the diaspora: Many would argue that the large South Asian population of the US and Canada is enough to give cricket a head-start in that part of the world. There are 3.4 Million South Asians in the US (as of the last census), which is up 81% from the previous one. While in absolute terms that is no small number, it’s still less than 0.2% of South Asia itself. The BCCI might be too used to having hordes of fans around at all times.

4. The USACA has been suspended: The USA Cricket Association was suspended by the ICC in June 2015 for “governance and financial problems”. This also means a freeze on their funding, which has prevented the US from sending their own cricket team to any tournaments. Is there an example of any sport that has mass following in a country which doesn’t even play it?

5. Time Zones: This weekend’s matches begin at 10am Eastern, or 7.30pm IST – the perfect prime time spot for the Indian TV viewing audience. Unfortunately, it’s not ideal for hordes of Americans to wake up hungover early on a Saturday morning and make the trek to a cricket stadium – or skip work if future games are on weekdays. It will always be a balance between TV and live audiences, and given the sheer numbers, I worry TV will always win.

The BCCI and ICC clearly have an uphill battle on their hands, but we are excited to see them trying to spread cricket to North America!

– Ashwin

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Sachin Tendulkar: How one man changed cricket

The other day my cricket team was discussing whether there was any one person who had definitively influenced the game of cricket. If you have ever met me or have read this blog, you already know my answer. It was Sachin Tendulkar. Why, they asked? “Sachin Tendulkar made cricket what it is today”, I answered.

The answer got me thinking. Sachin Tendulkar was a fantastic batsman but did he really change cricket? Or was I simply being a nostalgic fan boy? Were there others who influenced it more? W.G. Grace? Bradman? Jardine? Sobers? Lillee? Thomson? Imran Khan? Kerry Packer perhaps?

Now, there is plenty of literature on how Sachin’s meteroic rise coincided with India’s economic resurgence. Shashi Tharoor has written about the “Age of Tendulkar” in Wisden. Ed Smith (who, incidentally, got himself out to me last year for 75 to give me my first and only international calibre wicket) has written about “The Indian Master who symbolised the country’s rise”.

But did Tendulkar change cricket? I think he did. Not in terms of changing the game itself (Tendulkar was relatively orthodox). But the advent of Tendulkar changed how the game within the game was played.

Early 90s – India begins to believe

While India may have won the 1983 World Cup, cricket was still competing with field hockey for primacy in the 1980s. There was also a divide between Indian cricket fans. Much like the street-fighter Javed Miandad and the Oxford-educated Imran Khan divided Pakistanis, the loyalty of Indian fan was owed either to the stoic, dependable Gavasakar or the unpredictably brilliant Haryana hurricane, Kapil Dev.

All that changed with the arrival of the fresh-faced Sachin Tendulkar.

Indian fans were united in their admiration for Tendulkar. He was soft-spoken and middle-class. He could attack like Dev and could defend like Gavaskar. He had his nose smashed in by the Pakistani quicks on his first tour but stood up and carried on. He scored a hundred at the WACA, the quickest pitch in the world. His first test hundred was in England. He was the first overseas player to play for Yorkshire.

Sachin Tendulkar was suddenly India’s largest publicly held entity and every Indian was a shareholder.

Everyone wanted a piece of him and until Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman arrived, he was Indian cricket’s sole superstar.
Read More

Sportsmanship: The spirit of any sport

Watching PV Sindhu embrace Marin after losing out on an Olympic gold medal may have reminded you of Kipling’s words inscribed at the entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court. Here was a 21 year old who already had all the wisdom in the world – dignity in defeat and respect for her opponent.

So let’s forget all the problems with cricket for a second – sledging, match-fixing, spot-fixing, Mankading etc etc. Let us instead look at three of most famous pictures of sportsmanship in cricket and feel good about sport. Here are three instances of cricketers who met with the imposters, triumph and disaster, and treated them just the same. Read More

Rohit Sharma: Hitman or No-Hit?

Rohit Gurunath Sharma has played another test match for India. This time, he made the playing XI ahead of Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara.

While Rohit undoubtedly is a terrific ODI and T20 player, the length of rope he has been given in the test arena continues to boggle the mind. If Virat Kohli is to be believed, Rohit is someone who can change a test match in one session. That might be true if he can stick around for a session. His last contribution was 50 runs off 82 balls across two innings – an average of 25.00 at a strike rate of 60.9- and two dropped catches. Hardly a match-changing performance against a weak bowling attack, one would think. His test average is worse than both Murali Vijay (by 8 runs) and Cheteshwar Pujara (by 14 runs) and his strike rate is only marginally better.

Anyway, having struggled to work out cricketing reasons for his selection (and continuing selection in the ongoing test series if reports are to be believed), let’s forget the statistics. Here are five possible reasons for his selection: Read More

Three things to know about Roston Chase

It was a series that looked all but over soon after it had begun. India annihilated the West Indies in the first test in Antigua, and proceeded to amass a mammoth 304 run lead after the first innings of the second test.

Having scored a meagre 196 in the first innings, the West Indies were 256 runs behind with only six wickets standing at the end of Day 4 and many critics (including this blog) had written off the under-staffed Windies side.  One man made it his mission to fight back: Roston Chase. For a side potentially filled with marquee stars such as Gayle, Narine and Pollard (though none of them are playing in this series, but that’s a story for another day), Roston Chase making his debut in this test series had rather big shoes to fill.

And fill them he did – with 5 for 121 with the ball to close out the Indian batting lineup from a formidable 425-6, and more importantly,  a gritty 137* to save the match on Day 5. Nothing could find a way through Chase – neither India’s five bowlers nor Virat Kohli’s verbals. This was an innings for the ages filled with classical shots and excellent footwork. An innings that restored a measure of pride to Windies players and fans. An innings that made Sir Viv stand up and yell “ROSTANNNN!” when he got to his ton.

It’s also worth noting that though Ashwin did managed the five wicket-century feat in the first test of the series, it’s been almost 50 years since another West Indian made a century and took a 5-for in the same test. That was Sir Gary Sobers, a Bajan like Chase, and the greatest all-rounder the game has ever seen (with apologies to Jacques Kallis fans).

So who exactly is Roston Chase? Here are three things to know about the up-and-coming West Indian star: Read More

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