No overdose of cricket, when money to be made (Comment)

June 4th, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh By K. Datta
If there is a theory doing the rounds that the Indian team for the Twenty20 World Cup may be weary because of an overdose of cricket in the run-up to the tournament, there is another school of thought which believes, not without good reason, that the weeks of hectic action that they were involved in IPL-2 in South Africa have helped them keep their competitive edge razor sharp. The theories will be put to test shortly.

There is no denying that too much of cricket can leave players jaded. But it is only 20-over matches that the players have been playing, games which last no more than three and a half hours at most, unlike day-long 50-over ODIs or five-day Tests. Moreover, the IPL, with all the money to be made from it, is all too welcome to them. They would push their tired bodies to play even two T20 matches in a day if that were possible. Don’t Bollywood film actors work in double shifts? There is no such thing as fatigue where money is to be made.

Many of the Indian players now in England under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s leadership must have gone there happy that they now have fatter bank balances. Had they not been busy with the IPL they would most likely have been sweating it out in a boring training camp earning some loose change. Cricket these days, it must be remembered, is commerce. As the Indian public noted with regret, Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh who were honoured with Padma Shri awards, couldn’t even find the time to attend the investiture ceremony.

Public memory is notoriously short. But all right thinking persons will take a long time to forgive the two, whatever their star value, for not even showing the basic good manners of at least informing the investiture organisers in advance of their inability to accept the invitation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan function.

At least in the case of one of them many were outraged that the man had been selected for the Padma Shri honour at all. The public had not forgotten Harbhajan’s suspension from the IPL after he had slapped a fellow cricketer. Sports minister M.S. Gill at least went on record expressing his displeasure and warning future awardees against such unbecoming behaviour. But one has not heard of the stand, if any, taken by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Does one take it that the board condones such behaviour? Suffice it to say it is not cricket.

But back to the merits, or otherwise, of long weeks of IPL cricket. Money provides the motivation. There was a time, before a window was found for the IPL show, when cricketers complained against tiresome tour schedules. There’s no such talk now. Instead, there is talk of two IPL leagues a year.

As for the T20 World Cup, Dhoni is sounding confident about defending it. But he should remember that it was by the skin of their teeth that India had won the first T20 World Cup in South Africa. Had Sreesanth not held his nerve and latched on to the last-ball catch scooped by Misbah-ul Haq, it would have been Pakistan who would have won the final. It was that close.

Like Dhoni, the Australians, the Pakistanis, the Sri Lankans, the South Africans and the English are also fancying their own chances. If they are not so vocal about it, it’s because they know 20/20 is the most unpredictable version of cricket invented so far. It’s all so fast and so chancy that anyone can win on a particular day. A few adventurous strokes or a freak four-over spell can make all the difference.

The funny thing is that India, traditionalists that they believe they are, strongly opposed the idea not only of ODIs in the 1970s but also, more recently, the idea of a T20 World Cup. But after Kapil Dev’s 1983 World Cup victory everything changed. Nothing like 50-over ODIs. And when Dhoni returned to Mumbai from South Africa with the T20 World Cup a new wave swept through the country. T20 became the new craze. Leave alone the good old Test matches, even 50-over games appeared old-fashioned.

Nothing like it if Dhoni leads India to a second successive T20 world cup victory. Should that not happen then we have the IPL to fall back upon. And in the next few weeks, if India win the World Cup it will be said that the the IPL experience did them good. If not, don’t blame IPL chief Lalit Modi. Things like fatigue and freshness of mind and body are no longer an issue.

(The writer is a veteran sports journalist. He can be contacted at dattak.2007@rediffmail.com

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