As South Africa embark on yet another historic series with India, an interesting side story perks up its ears. India have always been reluctant users of technology, probably because they have had an uncomfortable history as Sachin Tendulkar’s run out points out.
South Africa was where the first instance of the third umpire was trialed. And the unfortunate first batsman to be ever run out in the game of international cricket through the decision of the third umpire was none other than the batting maestro, Sachin Tendulkar.
That little fact today might seem of little relevance, given how prevalent the third umpire has become in the sport. For those still imagining the game before the introduction of the third umpire or the television umpire as he was, also, known, two umpires shared dubious history. Cyril Mitchley got it right referring the decision of Sachin Tendulkar’s run out to the third umpire. Steve Bucknor did not want to use technology, backed himself and got it wrong against Jonty Rhodes. The television umpire was born in the series between India and South Africa.
India have been allergic to use of the Decision Review System (DRS), formerly known as the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS). Although other cricket playing nations around the world have embraced the technology, it has not been without controversy. The recent instance when Tim Paine’s captaincy was brought into question after he failed to use the technology well in the dying moments of the one Test England managed to win in the Ashes shows just how much peril such quick decision making - to use or not use the reviews at the team’s disposal and the timing – puts captains in these days.
It seemed that India were put off when Anil Kumble used the technology and not well at all against Sri Lanka. It put India and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) at odds with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the rest of the cricket member boards. While there are some nuances of the technology that India have stubbornly held grievances over in terms of determination of a dismissal of a batsman, the Decision Review System and the third umpire are now part and parcel of the sport, almost to the point of being taken for granted.
But it was not just the players alone that felt threatened about the worthiness of the technology at hand. There was, also, concern that the fabric of the game as it were would change drastically with the umpire on the field no longer the sole determining authority on the field. There was worry that in the event that the umpire’s ruling was overruled by the technology, the players would lose the traditional respect reserved for the umpires as adjudicators on the field.
No technology has been without flaws. Technology has not managed to solve all problems, whether it is taking a low catch on an uneven field which makes decision making drastically polar from different camera angles or when determining to the minutest frame whether the batsman has crossed the crease or whether he is on the line that belongs to the umpire. Touch and go decisions continue to enthrall and aggravate the game’s aficionados.
Eventually the umpires have either invited scorn for being too conservative to the point of being wrong or have had to swallow the bitter pill and refer everything under the sun for the sake of safety. Even more recently, the umpires have generally learnt to accept that they might have been wrong or that they could be challenged irrespective of the accuracy of their decision on the field as is now the privilege and prerogative of the cricketers because of the Decision Review System (DRS).
If anything, such as been the integration of technology with the sport that the role of the umpires on the field has once again been brought into question. With the umpires in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 final not having referred to the third umpire in the matter of over throws and therefore, having controversially accorded a crucial additional run to England that in the end, putting New Zealand behind despite double ties with England, it has brought the role, relevance and also, more importantly, the degree of importance, of the third umpire once again back front and center.
It seems hard now to imagine that the sport once relied solely on the eyes and discretion of the umpire on the field and that Sachin Tendulkar being run out by a television umpire once grabbed the headlines. Fortunately Tendulkar has seen better days and despite the reservations of both, the umpires and the cricketers, the sport has seen better decisions being made in the interest of the game.
As the preparations for the Indian Premier League (IPL) gathers momentum and the world gears up for the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), the question is whether the focus should be on how to balance the wheel versus where the next year's World Cup should be held.
There is little doubt that there are as many World Cups in cricket as there are Twenty20 leagues currently underway in the game. Even as the discussion rakes up once more about who - the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or Cricket Australia (CA) - will host next year's ICC Twenty20 World Cup, there is a need for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to address the current situation where too few teams have their plans etched out following the pandemic break.
England is said to be still in a dismal situation despite the fact that the West Indies have successfully completed their your and Pakistan are playing the first Test. Their limited-overs series with Australia is in the dock as the Australian cricketers are contemplating how to play in England and then fly to the UAE for the IPL.
The hurdles for the IPL abound in the fact that players and teams are expected to arrive a month in advance to the scheduled September schedule to meet the Coronavirus pandemic measures but also, for franchisees to have the opportunity to work with their teams and devise a conditioning camp to get them out of the rust/rest period and towards winning ways.
South Africa are battling internal wranglings as they are fighting broader issues of corruption and uncertainty of scheduling. It is throwing their fragile, recently laid down game plan in turmoil, and given the player turnover, they will be concerned, despite the innovative 3T cricket distraction, for their jitters to calm down with an international series.
The pandemic break and the rescheduling after has meant that more than one team besides South Africa are looking at an immediate bleak future.
Australia are going all out to keep their date with the schedule of India's tour. But not many teams have India and thereby, a lucrative proposition in the offing. Calls for England to reciprocate the tour for the West Indies grows as players have been asked to undergo a pay cut despite the tour of England.
At a time when it is important that the ICC take cognizance of this FTP that is in immediate need of handling, it seems inane that after wasting more than three months in the offing while Cricket Australia refused to host the world cup this year, that they would waste more time finalizing whether CA and the BCCI would swap hosting rights for a year that is still far away when there are too many immediate concerns that need the attention of the governing body in consultation with its permanent board members on the collective issue regarding the state of the game.
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With the Indian Premier League (IPL) about to start soon, all the fans of Mahendra Singh Dhoni would finally be able to watch him play. These fans have been expecting the ‘Thala’ to play international cricket and make a comeback in Team India.
However, cricketer-turned commentator, Aakash Chopra believes that Dhoni would not be bothered about team India selection as he has risen above that. Aakash feels that 39-year-old MSD’s only focus would be to get Chennai into the finals.
"For Dhoni, it really doesn’t matter whether he is selected or not. I believe as a cricketer and as a batsman, he would just look to score runs and guide his team to victory. The maturity he has achieved won’t let me worry him about the selection and his only focus would be to win the games for Chennai Super Kings (CSK),” Aakash said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
Saying that CSK is more or less built around MSD, therefore the success of Ranchi boy would also be reflected in his team’s success, Chopra tried to broaden the spectrum of Dhoni’s impact.
"CSK’s success depends upon MSD a lot. If he is in god form, chances are that CSK would do well because then he would be involved a lot in the game,” Chopra added.
Dhoni will score runs even after not playing competitive cricket for a long time - Chopra
Further the Delhi born commentator also said that Dhoni, even after not being part of any competitive match from July last year, would score good runs.
"Just take a thorough look at his career and you would realize that he gives very little to no damn about anything going on in the surroundings that might affect him. So I believe that even when he has not played cricket for quite some time, he is going to score runs and succeed this season,” 42-year-old Chopra concluded.
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While Indo-Pak relations have been sour politically over the years, it is in sports and among sportsmen, especially cricketers that we have some amount of camaraderie. However, it seems that Pak cricketers accusing BCCI of postponing the T20 World Cup didn’t go down well with former India cricketer Madan Lal.
Reacting to the comments of former Pak cricketers, Madan Lal, member of BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) said that the cricketers from our neighboring country are jealous of us.
“Most of the Pak cricketers hardly think before opening their mouth. Claiming that India used muscle and money to postpone the World Cup is utter nonsense. Basically they are jealous of our success,” Madan Lal was quoted as saying on Sports Tak.
“The reason why the World Cup was postponed was the coronavirus. It was the joint decision of Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council because a league and a world cup are totally different things. You would always want a crowd and sponsors to make the World Cup successful. So in that aspect postponing it was a rather smart decision,” Lal added.
IPL was always going to happen - Madan Lal
The 69-year-old former World Cup winner also defended BCCI saying that the plan for IPL was already made and it has been very well executed by the board.
“There was no question of IPL not happening, it was always going to take place. The window of September-October was pre-decided. So basically the board had already planned the IPL accordingly,” Lal said.
The Indian veteran spinner Amit Mishra is one of the best performers in the IPL. Playing for Delhi Capitals, the 37-year-old leg-spinner has never failed to meet the expectations of his fans and teammates. He is even holding the record of most hat-tricks in the history of the tournament. But as far as international cricket is concerned, he hasn’t donned the Indian jersey for the last three years. Mishra made his last appearance for the Men in Blue in the 2017 T20I series against England.
However, the veteran spinner didn’t lose all his hopes to play for his country yet again. During his recent interview, when Mishra was asked if he is still hoping to make a comeback in the national squad, he replied that he is always ready to play for the Indian team.
“Of course, I do! That is why I am still playing. I am not someone who will keep playing just for IPL. I should always be ready and prepared when a call from the Indian team comes. That is the belief I always have,” Mishra told cricket.com.
Self-motivation is very important – Amit Mishra
Furthermore, Mishra also spoke about his future plans. He admitted that the thought of retirement has crossed his mind but the leggie feels that he still has some cricket left in him.
“Age should not be a criterion to judge your performance. One should always see whether a player is fit or not.”
“I have always tried to stay away from negative thoughts. Self-motivation is very important. We all are surrounded by pessimism when we don't see much success. If we try to work harder, negativity generally goes away,” Mishra added
There is obviously a lot of anticipation over the conduct of the long-awaited IPL. The popular cash-rich tournament is normally held in the March-May window but because of reasons that have been well documented there was a great deal of suspense over whether it would be held at all. Now of course the suspense is over, the IPL will be held in the UAE from September 19 to November 10 and the long wait has already whetted the appetite of cricket fans. And summing up the euphoria is King’s XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia who is confident that the 13th edition of the event is set to be ``the best ever.’’ But he is also concerned about the safety of the players and all others involved. ``Even if there is one Covid-19 case the IPL could be doomed’’ he said after the owners’ meeting on Wednesday.
Wadia has a point. For one thing, the coronavirus threat is still looming large the world over, and as there are over 6000 active cases in the UAE the conduct of the IPL has not received unanimous approval. Secondly, the IPL is a mega event attracting worldwide attention and if it is to be affected in any way by Covid-19 it will not just be a question of eyebrows being raised and questions asked. The BCCI has sent an exhaustive 16-page SOP to teams for the smooth conduct of the tournament. It requires players, support staff team officials and owners to be part of the bio-secure environment. Wadia himself has not decided on traveling to the UAE for the tournament but emphasized that safety cannot be compromised. ``We have to adjust and acclimatize to the biosecure environment. Extraneous circumstances require ordinary people to do extraordinary things’’ he added.
Indeed, with eight teams and 60 games spread over 53 days, the organizers cannot afford any slip-up especially with local officials talking in terms of allowing a limited number of spectators at the three venues. One remembers all too well the incident involving Jofra Archer last month in England. He took a detour to go home – a basic human urge - but in these fraught times his move almost put entire England – West Indies series in jeopardy as he had breached medical and security protocols. The officials have to ensure that while cricket prospers on the field the larger picture of everyone’s welfare is not ignored. The virus remains a threat and the hunger for profit should not override health concerns for everyone associated with the conduct of the IPL.
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