(and how the terrorist threat won the first round)
By Trevor Chesterfield | April 25, 2010
As the Indian Premier League crisis lurches from one investigation to another, and Lalit Modi may or may not retain his Hamlet-like Indian Premier League throne, seeds of the current malaise and its revealing tax investigation are buried in three unrelated events that have since returned to hunt Modi and his IPL clique.
First is the way the IPL treated their South Africa sojourn last year where as spoiled guests, they behaved as they would schoolboys in their own homes, like bullies to get their own way and throwing tantrums; also attempting to evade certain South African tax laws.
Second is whatever way you want to look at it, the terrorists threat won the first round back in January when the players’ auction was held.
This led to an exchange of letters between portly Sharard Pawar the Indian agricultural minister whose smile would curdle goats milk and a top BCCI official over concerns regarding how IPL were flouting a variety of regulations. The letter, dated sometime between January 12 and January 19 expresses concern to Pawar, as the vice-president of the International Cricket Council and former BCCI head honcho. But the waddling Pawar chose to ignore the concerns in a three line reply.
Third is how the bidding for the two new planned franchises was handled, and which again drew comments of concern that Modi and his coterie were behaving with arrogance, or acting as if they were on an ego-bender and looking only at the $$ signs and how much they could get. Behaving as would owners of a McDonalds corner ‘to go’ franchise and ignoring regulations and bookkeeping practices.
At first, as India’s all too often sanctimonious media and their pundits rushed into print why players from neighbouring Pakistan failed to earn a single bid at the Indian Premier League auction, along with Sri Lanka and even England and Australians didn’t do much better (but this failed to get a mention at the time), instead of giving valid reasons behind the rejection there are mostly specious comments.
In the continued fallout associated with Pakistan’s battle with al-Qaeda and their horrific disruptive suicide bombing missions of soft targets in that country, their star players were always going to be losers in the IPL scramble to buy top performers. Surely it would have made more sense had Modi, or his IPL cronies, been streetwise enough to diplomatically suggest that now is not the right time for Pakistan’s big named players to be involved in such a high profile international auction; explaining growing security concerns would have been more logical than to open the issue to the cheap toxic political-style brinkmanship debate it has become.
After bombs exploded in Bangalore recently and the subsequent shifting of the semi-finals to Mumbai, and an act which officials blamed on the bookmakers mafia, along with pre-tournament concerns, brought home again the reality facing players and the various team managements.
In early March, as a precautionary move because of Telegu political activism in Hyderabad, the IPL has shifted the opening ceremony and game of the third IPL edition to Mumbai. The March 12 game, between Kolkata Knight Riders, back under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly, and the Deccan Chargers, Adam Gilchrist’s side with first up the battle of the fast men: 007 speedgun Bond with the lethal yorker for the Knights against the latest knuckle and rib-bruising Caribbean exocet missile specialist Kemar Roach.
Bond fetched an above the US$750 000 limit cap with Modi engineering the silent tie-breaker; Roach had a US$710 000 price tag. Or, as sources at the auction said, it became like ‘pushkar camel fair’ – people auctioning their camels; Royals shelled out US$100 000 for long retired Damian Martyn, Chennai Super Kings, with Andrew Flintoff not available went for a former ICL and South African limited overs specialist Justin Kemp.
What has been largely forgotten in this verbal scramble by many so-called big names in a self-righteous India media melee, and amid typical outraged Pakistan rhetoric, is that fundamentalist Islamic groups have declared a fight against such secular activities as cricket as part of their efforts to destabilise Pakistan. Until that battle is won by the secularists, the misguided politicians and their opportunist pretenders are going to pursue with idiot conceited malevolence, the issue of how the IPL franchise teams ignored someone such as Shahid Afridi and his teammates.
Sadly, the terrorist issue is a serious harbinger and will remain so, as will be the need for tighter security for the IPL franchises and their players until the terrorist threat is eliminated. Had any of the Pakistanis been involved, the possibility of a foreign insurgent group trying to destabilise the league is real enough. Along with other political bootlegging misfits and their goons, such as Shiv Sena and their vituperative agenda of hate, fundamentalist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba would be all too eager to create added fear by targeting Pakistan and other foreign players.
While this doesn’t quite explain how several top Sri Lankan, British and Australian players were also spurned, with Wayne Parnell and Bond, Kemp and even little known South African Yusuf Abdulla were considered far better purchases than Nuwan Kalusekara and Chanaka Welegedara, the Pakistan story is going to simmer among the unkempt five day growths adorning the faces of those involved and that have almost become part of a touring players culture these days.
From India, however, there are pertinent comments from sources linked to three of the franchises how most Sri Lanka players on auction largely disqualified themselves. It had been found, they said, that of the players monitored from the time of the Champions Trophy in South Africa and Champions League in India, as well as the Sri Lanka tour of India and Bangladesh, most failed carefully monitored fitness and fielding levels requirements.
While not quite a middle-finger salute to Sri Lanka’s squad training and coaching programmes, there is an added factor: sixty-six names were up for auction and only eleven places available and it says a lot about wanting quality not quantity, with the franchise bosses seeking five star excellence, not those who failed their monitoring checks. In their reckoning, all-rounder Thissara Perera is the best of a generally poor offering from the island. It is said franchise teams already had similar if better Sri Lankan players in their ranks.
Sources in India outlined how the Sri Lankan players, as were others from all Test nations, carefully monitored over a six month period when involved in international competition. What were studied were the fielding levels and this is where for Sri Lanka the failure rate was negative in three key areas: fitness, athleticism and co-ordination; fielding expertise under pressure; general visual fielding competency under lights. Marks in the three crucial categories found most players fell below a five point acceptance grading out of a possible ten. They argue whoever is advising players on their fitness levels is failing in their job.
There was only cursory interest in Welegedara, Kalusekara and Kaushalya Weeraratne; all failed the crucial fitness test levels with the lowest ratings given to Chamara Silva and Thilina Kandamby whose marks were too embarrassing to mention.
“What Sri Lanka and Bangladesh players need is a good dose of solid boot camp training,” is a brusque comment from a Chennai Super Kings contact. “Fitness breeds mental toughness and out of both teams only a couple met this requirement. For Sri Lanka it is Perera and at a pinch Kalusekara. Perera is regarded as a gamble, but there is a feeling he will learn quickly enough to make the grade.”
He pointed out that Perera wasn’t even their first choice foreign player: Freddie Flintoff and Eoin Morgan were ahead of him in the queue; the first not being available the second bought by someone else.
Why even little known South African ODI bowler from Natal, Yusuf Abdulla was preferred by Kings Punjab XI to any of the Sri Lankan bowlers because of his excellent co-ordination skills, fitness and athleticism around the field as well as visual ability under lights. He won the only foreign spot open to them and is not ranked in the top ten fast bowlers in South Africa, yet is seen to have a talent that is missing with Sri Lankan and Bangladesh players, yet as he points out, the only Bangladesh player auctioned, Shakib Al Hasan, was another who failed to engender any interest.
Serious negative comments in India last year emerged how the Wayamba management and coaching staff handled their games, and fitness levels seen within that squad, at the Champions League. They were technically always off the radar and it showed in one match when batting against Glenn McGrath, who had not bowled in months, running through the side with embarrassing ease.
It convinced the sharp-eyed Indian franchise bosses and their recruiting staff that Sri Lanka have nothing to offer any of the IPL teams at this level. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India, the West Indies and England have superior levels of coaching, physio and fitness trainers.
“I know these comments are not going to be appreciated,” said Jaideep Joshi of Rajasthan Royals, “but of what was seen among the foreign teams during the Champions League, they were all streets ahead of what the Sri Lanka contingent had to offer. They gave an inept display.”
Sandeep Ghosh, of Kings XI Punjab added with a chuckle, “They really had no clue at all, did they. Some of their thinking is seriously outdated and it showed with their batting order planning with Mahela Jayawardene batting so low to offer any worthwhile contribution. The way Glenn (McGrath) knocked them over was an embarrassment, and this is a guy who hadn’t touched a ball in months. It showed when he bowled to the better teams when he was knocked around.”
“Love it or hate it,” he said, “it needs remembering how T20 is a fast-moving game and failure to think on your feet well ahead of the action has been the downfall of any number of players.”
Kandamby and Silva were two of many in the sixty-six on offer who had no chance of earning the minimum $50 000 bid. Ghosh said their names were not even on the list of those being considered. Why they were put up and accepted for the auction is a surprise.
He pointed out how two years ago John Buchanan had described Ajantha Mendis as being “all feet and thumbs and having poor visual judgment under lights”. While Buchanan was fired by Kolkata Knight Riders as coach by for his mismanagement style after the team’s disaster in IPL 2 in South Africa last year, Mendis, despite his clumsy fielding has at least been retained, but says Ghosh needs to improve his fielding technique. His couple of games for the Ganguly outfit were a joke and this year’s coach, Dave Whatmore declined to comment when asked his views on Mendis.
©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
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