Soil discrimination and bails that refuse to fall

In its opening fortnight, the World Cup has been interesting rather than spectacular

World Cups aren’t crazy, but they often bring out the crazy in players and fans.

Or why would Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the most experienced cricketers in the world wear that logo on his gloves? Either he didn’t know the ICC rules — which is not very smart — or no one in the Indian camp bothered to explain it to him.

That is dereliction of duty, the Indian dread of telling a senior player what to do. Or maybe Dhoni deliberately set out to have some fun, knowing how little it takes to get a nation arguing about nationalism and patriotism.

Like some other holy cows, Indian cricket too seems to have become a marker of nationalism. I mentioned recently that it would be good for the game if either New Zealand or the West Indies won the World Cup, and was quickly moved to the top of the list of Those Who Ought to Be Asked To Recant.

To be fair, after the Australia match, India did have the look of winners; there was little gap between planning and execution. But I suspect you could still be blackballed if you a) didn’t give a hoot about the World Cup or b) gave a hoot but didn’t think it mattered whether India won or not.

But seriously, the more thoughtful the Indian players get on the field, the greater the craziness around them. The genius who thought up the idea of sending a bit of the soil from Kohli’s school “to bless him” must feel he can claim credit should India win. ‘Mud in your eye’ is a generic toast (like “Cheers!”), but I am not sure it was meant to be taken literally.

How will that make the soil from K L Rahul’s school feel? Or Jasprit Bumrah’s? Soil discrimination cannot be healthy for the Indian team. Perhaps in future Indian players will be asked to carry their own soil, so to speak, when they embark on a tour.

And why stop at that? Perhaps someone can send the team a tooth that was saved in Rohit Sharma’s childhood or a piece of the glass that Shikhar Dhawan broke when he was playing in his back garden. Nothing must be left to chance. All blessings welcome and to be delivered by overnight courier.

In its opening fortnight, the World Cup has been interesting rather than spectacular. Two events have stood out. One, Kohli’s gesture in asking the Indian supporters at the Oval to cheer for, rather than jeer at Australia’s Steve Smith. That was extraordinary.

Kohli revealed later that he had apologised to Smith on the crowd’s behalf, but just how remarkable it was can be gauged from the fact that a couple of years ago Kohli had accused Smith of underhand tactics in a Test match during the Australian’s infamous “brain fade’. At the press conference then he had stopped just short of calling Smith a cheat. The Indian captain’s empathy for a fellow professional who had been banned for a brain fade in South Africa, was revealing.

The second event is actually a series of mini-events: the ‘zing’ bail that refused to fall. It happened five times, and it could happen another five times if nothing is done. Whatever the reason – and there are only conjectures so far – it is once again the bowlers who have suffered.

To beat a batsman and hit the stumps is the essence of their craft. And then to watch and wait and pray while the bail remains in place must count as more than merely frustrating. It is criminal denial of the fruits of labour.

Technology is meant to enhance the sporting experience. It tells us when a batsman has edged the ball or the bowler has overstepped or if the fielder has taken a clean catch. A ball hitting the stumps — as happened most recently when David Warner’s defensive prod against Bumrah rolled back — and not dislodging the bails is a failure of technology. The ICC has indicated it will not do anything since that would be altering the conditions in the middle of a tournament.

There are two schools of thought here. One is the ICC’s position. The other is the damage caused by something that is not working well. Common sense dictates that it is better to break the rule in order to fix the problem. But that’s something no one has accused the ICC of having loads of.

Another possibility is to do away with the bails altogether and rely only on the flashing lights. Perhaps a sound can be added for the excessively cautious. Bails are done away with in windy conditions, and surely they can be in this situation as well.

Bumrah apart, Mitchell Stark and Trent Boult too have suffered at the hands of the unmoving bail. And these are fast bowlers, some of the quickest around.

Perhaps World Cups bring out the crazy in the organisers too.

Source: Read Full Article