Venkat Ananth

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Blog Posts by Venkat Ananth

  • Does merit still matter?

    It's indeed a sad day for Indian cricket when the worth of toil isn't recognized anymore. Or, in other words, is replaced by a noticeable departure from the reward and reinforcement system. Toil, in the classical Indian cricketing lexicon is what a first-class cricketer is expected to do (mainly in front of empty stands) - over after over, session after session, day after day, season after season. It is only after these exhaustive years that a traditional Indian cricketer can lay claim to that India Blue cap. That cap is the reason why he undertakes this sweaty, grimy and often exasperating journey of toil in the first place. Ask Ajinkya Rahane that and he'll tell you how exactly he's broken into the Test elite for now. Which is precisely why Rahul Sharma's selection to the Test squad is deflating for the classic through-the-system cricketer - there is no toil, there are no performances, there is nothing that suggests he merits a place, except maybe a talent deficit - a bigger

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  • Cricket Academies: The Way Forward

     

    This is the second part of Yahoo Cricket's coverage of BCCI's specialised academies. [Read Part 1.]

     

    Part I of this piece was about the specialised academies that the BCCI has put in place to enable talent development, according to their skills - pace bowling, spin bowling, wicketkeeping and batting. The piece was concluded with the view that these academies are not quite the way forward, primarily because they limit the scope of talent development based on perceived excellence in specific skills, rather than a wider range of qualities that eventually separate the chaff from the grain.

     

    “Skills” refers to the inherent ability of any cricketer to play the straightest of drives, elbow facing the bowler. Or even that rare display of intent by a spinner to deceive a batsman with flight, loop and dip. These are things you’re taught at a young age. Surely, that’s not enough, or is it?

     

    What about the qualities required to make the cut? For a batsman — the ability to plan

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  • Don’t Know, Won’t Say, Ask The President

     

    Yahoo! Cricket's Venkat Ananth spent weeks trying to make sense of BCCI's mysterious expenditure on three specialised academies. It proved difficult.

     

    The attempt to unearth any positive work by these academies was thwarted by administrators who refused to speak on record. This forced us to approach players and other sources who didn't wish to be named. They told us that while these academies did exist, their roles left much to be desired.

     

    This first-person account also explores the possible reasons behind BCCI choosing to shroud the academies in secrecy.

     

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    The Curious Case of The Annual Report

     

    Recently, the BCCI uploaded their meticulously-prepared annual report to their website, perhaps for the first time in their history. The stated objective was to bring about a level of hitherto unseen transparency and accountability with an inherently corporatised outlook which the Board's President N. Srinivasan

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  • Why Rahane Is Here To Stay

     

     

    Moving away from the
    sick-bay that the Indian team has been this summer, there is a story waiting to
    be told or written about. And that story begins with a quote by Mike
    Singletary, a legendary American Football player and coach, who once said, "Do
    you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play" -
    words that a young, ambitious lad from suburban Mumbai would quite agree with,
    for it has been his career's mantra.

     

    With a track record
    in domestic cricket (not IPL) worth dying for in four seasons (across
    competitions and mid-level tours), all that Ajinkya Rahane was waiting for,
    with a certain sense of imperturbability, was an opportunity to play for India
    and show what he was capable of. And boy, the three games he's played for India
    in the limited overs leg of this tour he's looked every bit of a top-grade
    cricketer, with a tick mark each for talent, technique and temperament, the
    cliched "three Ts" of international cricket. Rest assured, he's here to

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  • Lessons from England

     

    It was somewhere during the summer of 2000 where English cricket, underwent a paradigm shift in its thinking, its mindset and its approach to the game. It was a quiet revolution of sorts, spearheaded by the then Chairman of the ECB, Lord Maclaurin which today is being hailed as one of the more appropriate moments of English cricket. Part of this revolution included a thorough overhaul of the English cricketing system, both domestic and international, and coincided with the appointment of Duncan Fletcher, with due irony, as England's head coach, and Nasser Hussain, as captain. It was an equally tense period, where the clash between the powerful and selfish county-system and the newly-proposed country system was evident, but common sense prevailed, and eventually resulted in a solid roadmap that secured the future of English cricket.

     

     

    And there are definitely lessons for the BCCI to learn and absorb from how England's (and this by no means is a knee-jerk reaction to their series

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  • A Time To Introspect

     

    If the second morning
    of the Birmingham Test is any indication to go by, let's mince no words when we
    say that Indian cricket today enters its most arduous phase in recent times.
    And this statement I make, by the way is neither alarmist nor is fickleness personified,
    for a chance for potential greatness in English shores has turned into a
    surrender of sorts.

     

    Birmingham, or for
    that matter Trent Bridge, or even Lord's if you like wasn't about a cricket
    team being blown apart, almost bullied by their opponents, but a severe
    indictment of a cricketing system which over the years has not just stagnated
    (mainly due to the apparent neglect and indifference of the Board) but also
    heavily compromised in favour of unabashed greed, greed and more greed.

     

    Maybe
    Indian cricket needed this, for systemic issues, which I repeat were existent
    aplenty as the Test team were deservedly worthy of the World no.1 ranking by
    the ICC's rather complex computer algorithm and when the one-day team won

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  • Swing When You’re Winning

     

    Hopefully, this isn't a one-off.

     

    For the most part of Friday, India's
    bowling unit, much hacked at times (occasionally by this writer too) for its
    hapless demeanour, tardy execution and even ragged discipline, showed how good
    they were. Bloody good. The Indian bowling unit's display at Trent Bridge was
    not just a stupendously refreshing sight, but one that is reassuring or
    comforting, given that these events took place without Zaheer Khan, widely
    considered the leader/mentor of this fledgling bowling attack.

     

    Indeed, one could argue the conditions were
    massively skewed in favour of the bowlers, and this performance was largely par
    for the course, but what makes this special is that the Indian attack seemed to
    have measured their mistakes from London, and quickly corrected them, the
    lengths, the lines, the tactics, everything.

     

    For five hours at least, it was a pleasure
    to watch the Indian bowlers swing the Dukes ball as prodigiously as they did,
    with an immense sense of

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  • Destination Trent Bridge

    A friend, agitated by India's apparent first Innings caving in at Lords quite asked me in exactly that tone (panicky, distressed), "Why does the Indian cricket team always somehow manage to struggle in the first Test of an important overseas tour?" and as cliched as an answer could have possibly sounded, I came up with a "We are always slow starters. Remember 2002, 2007?" recounting whatever little I could to justify India's poor record in the first Test of an away series. Though I must concede, it didn't suffice. Barring the "slow starters" defence, I find it inexplicable to understand why this cricket team has always tended to hit the dumps early, and quite inexplicably, ushered the inherent spirit within itself and turned it around as the tour progressed. Lord's, by all means and with due respect to doomsayers wasn't exactly the disaster they're making us believe it was. It was at best a culmination of under-preparedness (individually and as unit) and at worst, faulty execution of

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  • The Astonishing Story of Afghani Cricket

     

    We as cricket fans, observers and analysts alike live in interesting times. We're going through a phase, where the dominant narrative is about unending money, glamour and quick fame, where debates are framed around an innate conflict between club and country and even, in some instances, international cricket not living up to world-class standards. All of a sudden, playing for the country has become a dilemma. In short, and I might be wrong here, we're desperately searching for a prism of perspective. That is exactly where Afghanistan slots itself in seamlessly.

     

    Out of the Ashes, a documentary film and book written by British filmmaker Timothy Albone about the Afghan cricket team, gets more powerful with every written word and ensuing chapter, which encapsulate not just the extraordinary story of the team, but also the power of sport, specifically cricket, in a war-torn country and divided society battling for a national identity.

     

    Before moving to the substantive of the Afghan

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  • A prescription for Indian cricket

    Another IPL ends, and Virender Sehwag is injured, hence unavailable for national duty. Again.

     

    Yuvraj Singh has a "lung infection" - opportunely contracted on the day the national team has to be picked.

     

    Gautam Gambhir, we are told - the day his franchise was knocked out of the tournament - is injured.

     

    Net net, the newly crowned world champions of one day cricket are reduced to playing their first one day bilateral series after that seminal triumph with six key members of the winning squad missing.

     

    So what do we do? We distract ourselves - or allow the talking heads on TV to distract us - with yet another circular debate on club versus country; we "debate" patriotism; we rail against players who are "simply in this to make money".

     

    What do we not do? We do not ask ourselves where the system is broken, and what we can do to put it right.

     

    Take Gambhir as the test case to examine how the system currently works - or more accurately, how it does not work. We know now that the

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