IPL, Pakistan and all that

The Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, M. S. Gill, with the Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Shahid Malik. Gill has said, “I have seen the graceful response of some Pakistani cricketers to the IPL auction fiasco. I welcome the remarks and hope there will soon be an opportunity for these boys to play exciting cricket in India.”-RAJEEV BHATT

It will do a lot of good for the current Pakistan team if the former players can guide them on raising their standards rather than slinging mud at the IPL based on some distorted perceptions.

There will always be some reason for someone to lament about, as was proved by the Pakistani cricketers after the IPL auction. A sudden surge of unity was displayed by the Pakistani cricketers, current as well as former, in protesting against the presumed “boycott” of their players in the auction. The collective animosity directed at the IPL might have received accolades from the public in their country but over the years, events in Pakistan cricket have proved that unity is as fragile as a thin sheet of glass. Of course, there is no harm in someone airing his views, as long as there is some merit in them. But to lend a political touch to a sporting decision only serves as an indication of a tunnelled vision. Here again the decisions made during the auction were not due to any kind of influence from either the BCCI or the Indian Government.

The franchisees took decisions based on the needs of the team and obviously anyone spending millions of dollars would do things his own way and there is nothing that can be done about it. After all, the Pakistani cricketers must realise that respect is something that is earned and not demanded.

The reactions have not ceased to come from across the border long after the IPL auction and in the process of jumping on the bandwagon it appears that everyone has ignored the recent happenings down under. It will do a lot of good for the current Pakistan team if the former players can guide them on raising their standards rather than slinging mud at the IPL based on some distorted perceptions. The T-20 champions are not having the best of times in international cricket and to make matters worse, the ban on Shahid Afridi has left the administrators with the task of finding another captain.

While the series down under ended in none too pleasant fashion for Afridi, Team India has a real challenge on their hands when they lock horns with South Africa. The recent Bangladesh tour has been a mixed bag in the sense that Team India had more than an “ordinary” time on the field, and injuries to key players has brought about a disruption in the combination for the Tests against South Africa. The South Africans have a good record in India and Graeme Smith will like to take things a step further by winning the series. However, he has his own set of issues to handle as there have been several changes in the set up of CSA.

The South African skipper is projected as one who wants to have absolute control of his team including the support staff and Mickey Arthur joins the list of coaches who have come and gone. South Africa looks a balanced side and most of their stalwarts have the experience of playing in India. Their involvement in the IPL will have only enhanced their knowledge about the conditions and the Indian players.

Both the sides have formidable batsmen in their ranks and the South Africans have a slight edge in the fast bowling department. The recent series against England saw the South Africans play on responsive pitches, but the flat tracks in India can pose a challenge to Steyn and company. One cannot really envisage the curators producing grassy tracks given the fact that things went horribly wrong in Kotla a few weeks ago. Hence the critical factor will be the ability of the fast bowlers to produce reverse swing and if Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma get their act together and get the ball to reverse, it will be interesting to see how the South Africans handle them. They will bank on the experience of Smith, Kallis and De Villiers and hope that the likes of Amla and Duminy chip in with substantial contributions.

The Indians will be without Dravid and Yuvraj going into the first Test and if one goes by reputation there is an element of fragility about the Indian batting line-up. However, the prospective debutant Badrinath is highly experienced and he will be looked upon to bring it into play. He had to wait for a long time to get an opportunity and hopefully he will make the best use of it at Nagpur. The other concern is that Vijay will be sneaked into the middle order and though the young man is talented and has passed muster, it is not easy for a youngster to play the floater’s role successfully all the time. The first Test will be critical for both Vijay and Badrinath because they have an enormous task of not only filling in for reputed players but also for making their presence felt strongly. Though the top two sides play only two Tests, it will be an absorbing series. But it would be ideal if three Tests are played in the future.