Reem With A View

"Names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things, and not the essence to the names, since things come first and names afterwards." – Galileo

My Answer to “Why are Indians so crazy about cricket?” on Quora

It is a great question, primarily because it is seldom asked as everyone takes the popularity for granted, as if Indians were born cricket lovers! Once asked, we scratch our heads for answers.

Globally, the poor prefer to play soccer (football), whether Latin America or Africa. The only cost to soccer is an inflated ball, and nothing else. Cricket is slightly more “expensive” as it requires a bat PLUS ball. In India, it was a preserve of the rich and upper classes, those who could afford the gear, had access to the Gymkhanas and the leisure time. Check the profiles of Indian Test teams till the 80s. An elitist game, it has “Laws” not “Rules”! The Laws in relation to other global sports are one of the world’s most intriguing and confusing for the layman. Cricket should never have succeeded in India considering that the nation’s socio-economic odds and history are stacked steeply against it, while they are hugely in favour of Soccer (Football). YET, it is the no. 1 sport in India, with players now coming from the poorest of the poor, “gulley” cricketers, tribal areas, rural areas and so on.

The “craze” began from the post Kapil Dev era and the rise of colour TV after 1982. As luck would have it, India won the World Cup in 1983, led by a Captain who’s profile was the exact opposite of the traditional cricketer: rural, rustic, Hindi speaking, poor, no access to any club, but a player with a huge heart and a never say die spirit. In 2 years, India won the Kerry Packer/Channel Nine produced World Championships in 1985, which was televised “live”. The public watched in amazement at cricketers wearing colored clothing, playing at night under floodlights! It was the beginning of cricket as entertainment. And yes, the country losing at every sport, were World Champs in a globally recognized and televised sport, proving their 1983 win wasn’t a fluke.

But even this isn’t the reason for the sport being so popular. The answer to that is so basic and so obvious that you feel frustrated for not having thought of it in the first place. The answer to that is known subconsciously to every single child playing cricket in the by-lanes (“gully”) or  a slum or a public ground (known as “maidan”). A country where kids are denied an opportunity at almost every level, where kids beg for a “chance” at anything, cricket was the ONLY group sport where EVERY kid got a chance to bat and show the other kids what he is capable of.Whatever the team composition, whether 3 or 5 or 11 or even 20 players a team, every kid got his turn to bat until they got out. In soccer, not every kid got his chance to “score a goal”. Sometimes they don’t get a chance to even kick the ball.The weak players were put in defense or asked to “guard the goal area”.Tell that to your 10 year old kid! But in cricket, everyone got  a chance to hit that glorious “4” or massive “6”.  And everyone has hit that one glorious shot in a neighborhood game which is etched forever in his memory, and it probably plays on his mind every time he watches his favorite cricketer hit a boundary.

As India expands its economy, and more kids get opportunities denied to earlier generations, you find kids slowly venturing into other sports and winning: boxing, shooting, running, tennis, badminton. So the cricket “craze” will fade a bit in urban areas as India grows richer. But in poor, rural areas, it will remain the no.1 sport and that is where the majority of Indian “stars” today come from.

Originally written on Quora

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India is now the No. 1 ranked team in Test Cricket

UPDATE: Dec6 2009: INDIA is now the NO. 1 Ranked Test Team basis official ICC rankings! This phenomenal achiement came when India defeated Sri Lanka in the recently concluded Test in Mumbai.

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India’s 100 Test Match Wins – Growing Win%

Have a look at India’s decade wise Test match performances, and we can easily understand that India’s win rate is increasing every 10 year years. More importantly, the more tests we play, the more we win. This chart also probably highlights how Indian team selection over the last few years has improved. The more merit involved in team selection, the better the results.

India's 100 Test Match Cricket Wins

More than anything else, this coincides with the entry and rise of the Big 5 batting superstars:  Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and  Saurav Ganguly. India’s bowling strengths were Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. The youngsters, Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth will hopefully carry the pace bowling torch forward.

In terms of captaincy, India’s winning streak started with Azharuddin in a series of Home Wins… and Saurav Ganguly started India’s Overseas Wins.  Dravid/Kumble maintained the win rate for their brief stints. The new captain, M.S. Dhoni has taken over from the previous generation and consolidated the win percentage.

Decade No. of Tests No. of Victories Win % Cume Tests Cume Victories Cume Win %
1931-1940 7 0 0 7 0 0%
1941-1950 13 0 0 20 0 0%
1951-1960 50 6 12% 70 6 9%
1961-1970 46 9 20% 116 15 13%
1971-1980 67 18 27% 183 33 18%
1981-1990 86 11 13% 269 44 16%
1991-2000 69 19 28% 338 63 19%
2001-2010 96 37 39% 434 100 23%

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Who is the Fake IPL Player? Its Anupam Mukerji.

Update: 28 August 2010

The Identity of the Fake IPL Player has finally been revealed.

Anupam Mukerji revealed his identity on the Times Now news channel today.

As predicted, he turned out to be a nobody with plenty of free time.

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The mystery author of the Fake IPL Player blog is not a cricketer.

My guess is that he isn’t even present in South Africa. He is most likely an intelligent journalist but could easily be a recently “pink-slipped” IT chap with loads of free time sitting in the US. This isn’t a money-making blog as there are no Google Ads on the blog though it takes just 2 minutes to start Google Ads on Blogger.

If he isn’t in South Africa, then how does he get his “information”?  He either makes up the story using already published news articles or probably through a “source” who could be one of hundreds of small time journalists covering the IPL in South Africa. These journalists travel from city to city ,  cover many teams and have lots of access to information most of which is hardly “secret” info and available to thousands of cricket fans. The content in the blog posts (especially the dressing room stuff) is pure conjecture & guesswork built on easily available info anyways. Any cricket fan in India who saw the pre-IPL press conference with Buchanan and Ganguly, can see that former Indian captain is irritated by Buchanan. Anyone who saw KKR matches can find out that there is no unity in the team. Very similar to the Indian National team under Greg Chappell during the world cup in West Indies!!!

If the Fake IPL Player is indeed a journalist, then it is highly probable that the journalist is a Bengali (and belongs to a Calcutta based Bengali or English newspaper) and most likely he is pretty pissed at Ganguly being insulted & snubbed by Buchanan and SRK by removing him as captain. I would be furious too, as Ganguly is India’s most successful captain in history and has the respect of almost entire cricketing fraternity in India. And the lesser said about John Buchanan the better.  Just ask Shane Warne about Buchanan. McCullum hasn’t even captained a provincial New Zealand squad, leave alone international teams. Almost nobody in India likes John Buchanan I guess. If SRK has even half a cricketing brain he would immediately make Ganguly not only the sole Captain but also the Coach of Knight Riders (like Shane Warne for Rajasthan Royals).

Of course the content of the blog isn’t of the same quality as compared to the Fake Steve Jobs blog written by a Forbes journalist, but in its own way its pretty entertaining and completely harmless if the reader’s understand it is pure fiction.

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Cricket’s Top 10 Test Batsmen and Bowlers of all time

The recent ICC rankings of the “greatest” cricketers of all time was so atrocious that it defies logic. The less said and written about it the better. Better rankings have been provided by Wisden and most recently by even Shane Warne.

There is even an acclaimed book written about the  100 greatest cricketers of all time by Geoff Armstrong. According to the summary in Flipkart,  the book

“presents a list of the best players, ranked from one to 100. It is complemented with a broad range of colour and black-and-white photographs, as well as individual statistics for each selected player. “

To know more, check out the book: The 100 Greatest Cricketers Of All Time by Geoff Armstrong

Here is my list of the Top 10 Batsmen and Bowlers of all time. But please note that this is not a “ranking” as different statistical models have different rankings…with the exception of the legendary Sir Don Bradman who is unanimously rated as the best. So this list shows the greatest “10” in any order you like and is not a “rank”.

Batsmen:

1. Don Bradman

2. Sachin Tendulkar

3. Barry Richards

4. Viv Richards

5. Garry Sobers

6. Brian Lara

7. Jack Hobbs

8. Sunil Gavasakar

9. Greg Chappell

10. Graeme Pollock

Bowlers:

1. Dennis Lillee

2. Wasim Akram

3. Imran Khan

4. Shane Warne

5. Sydney Barnes

6. Fred Trueman

7. Richard Hadlee

8. Waqar Younis

9. Malcolm Marshall

10. Courtney Walsh/Curtly Ambrose

Top All rounders lists would always include any of the following:

1. Keith Miller

2. Ian Botham

3. Imran Khan

4. Kapil Dev

5. Garry Sobers

6. Wally Hammond

7. Richard Hadlee

8. Shaun Pollock

9. Andrew Flintoff

10. Jacques Kallis

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South Africa is the No. 1 Test Team in world cricket

India is a close no. 2 and these two  teams look set to dominate the next decade in cricket. Both have recently defeated Australia in a test series 2-0.

In winning the Test in MCG, Graeme Smith’s men become the first South African side ever to win a series in Australia, dating back to Percy Sherwell’s 1910/11 tourists. It’s been a long wait – and was thrillingly set up by their remarkable six-wicket win in the first Test in Perth last week.

I think Symonds and Hayden can go on a permanent fishing trip now. Ponting now learns that he isn’t a great captain but a mediocre one who had great players like Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist.  To be a great captain you need to mould your mediocre side into world beaters – something Border and Taylor did for Australia and Shane Warne did for the Rajasthan Royals. Steve Waugh too simply inherited a great team from Mark Taylor.

Ponting is over-rated. The best captain for Australia would have been Shane Warne and its a shame Cricket Australia refused to make him captain. Now they are paying the price.

Australia also benefited hugely from 50-50 umpiing decisions going 9 to 1 in their favour in recent years, and the moment those decisions started going 5-5 (which is the right thing), they started losing. They should have never won the SCG test against India and would have lost that series too had umpires been fair.

Shane Warne, Gilchrist and McGrath didn’t need umpiring help to win as Ponting does, and that is the difference between the great Australian side of the last decade and this bunch of pretenders.  One shudders to think that after Ponting, the captaincy will go to the immature Michael Clarke….and the slide will get worse. It is time to make Huseey vice-captain now and bring youngsters like David Hussey, Shaun Marsh into the side intead of the inept Symonds and out of touch Hayden. And the Bowling? sorry…no talent there anymore. Max they can do is bring Nathan Bracken back and hope Watson recovers from injury.

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