Venkat Ananth

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Blog Posts by Venkat Ananth

  • 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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  • Sri Lanka’s Summer of Change

    It's been that kind of a summer at 35, Maitland Place, Colombo 7 - chaotic at best, confusing at worst. A summer, an eventful one at that, where the powers that be at the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) HQ have opted to breach the status-quo somewhat, and played along with this much used buzzword of our times, change. Within 48 hours of Sri Lanka's World Cup final defeat in Mumbai, there was a torrent of resignation letters piling up, right from captain Kumar Sangakkara to vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene and as a humourist suggested, even the designated bus driver of that team. "Stepping down" almost became a fashionable epidemic in the Sri Lankan cricket circles. And perfectly perched amidst this ensuing crisis was another situation, this time involving the Hon. Sports Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, with a botched-up effort at strong political posturing vis-a-vis the BCCI over contracted players for the IPL. Lasith Malinga, whose chronic knee injury has been a factor in his limited

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  • The Rahul Sharma Syndrome

    It's not even amusing anymore and to quickly clear the air straight away, this column is not so much about that young, tall and lanky leg-spinner from Jalandhar i.e. Rahul Sharma as it is about a mindset that has become commonplace in Indian cricket these days. The very mindset that gets us believing that any cricketer with a half-decent performance in the IPL is good enough to play international cricket.

     

    Week one this season was about Paul Valthaty, whose hundred made us believe he was, to quote some, "the future of Indian cricket". This for a lad whose credentials in what we consider our primary domestic competition, Ranji Trophy, was next to nil. The following weeks, the attention has seamlessly transitioned towards Rahul Sharma, or as excited apologists tag him, "the next Anil Kumble" -- a guy who takes a wicket every 85 balls in First Class cricket - a number so modest, he'd struggle to take the Australian spinner's spot, and this isn't an exaggeration.

     

    Tomorrow, there will be

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  • The English Teacher

    In the rather chilly English summer of 2009, I forced myself to borrow a book from my University library, a book that I thought would be good to carry around and read in the parks, a book that in many ways was a scathing account of a little known Zimbabwean coach who was largely responsible for the resurgence of English cricket. Little did I know that Duncan Fletcher, the author of Behind the Shades would be the man to fill Gary Kirsten's massive boots as India's next cricket coach.

     

    Today, the BCCI, in it's own wisdom has opted to entrust the fortunes of the national team to Duncan Fletcher for a period of two years, a decision, I am honestly yet to come to terms with. My initial thoughts say this isn't particularly a bad appointment, for Fletcher's credentials as an international coach are nothing short of first-class. But from whatever little I know about him, largely thanks to that book, this may not be the best decision either.

     

    Like many of you, I am equally ambiguous.

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  • Taking the giant leap forward

    It's only three weeks ago that Indian cricket witnessed something special, a triumph that eventually embodied the marvelous culmination of "blood, sweat and tears" as an advertisement copy puts it, that moment of glory, that has somehow been hijacked by a tournament (the Indian Premier League), lamentably if I could add, which is largely a caricature of all things cricket. Equally, if ever the chieftains of Indian cricket had an appropriate time to script a blueprint or a roadmap, whichever way you like, for how they'd like to see the team progress in the next two-four years, I think it is now. We also need to understand that if ever there was a time to recognize and possibly implement, that inevitable word i.e. "transition" that might in course of days to come become the buzzword in Indian cricket.

     

    Some of us might be inclined to assume that transition equals rebuilding, and perhaps rightly so, but as I understand it, and pardon me for some jargons here, transition has more to do

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  • RIP Chesters, we will miss you

    On March 22nd, the eve of the first semi-final between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, I made that phone call to Colombo, to discuss events that have unfolded in the past two days - chaos, change and a supposed overhaul that Sri Lanka cricket has chosen to undertake. The man on the other side was a cricket writer ever so dedicated that even at 75, he sacrificed time with his wife on the outskirts of Colombo, Moratuwa to be precise, to fulfill his eternal passion. I promised him to return a call once the World Cup was done and dusted with, the frenzy had settled, a leisurely phone call to catch up on lost days with him. That, would sadly, be my last call to Trevor "Chesters" Chesterfield, for I learnt this afternoon that he was no more, and his loss, yet to sink in personally. A loss, that should resonate with a majority of our clique, for we've lost a man who lived for the game we all love the most, passionate as ever and importantly, a romantic.

     

    My first encounter with Chesters was in

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  • I was there

    I wasn't born in 1983. As an Indian, I never knew what winning a World Cup was like, pretty much like most of you, I guess. Now that I know what it feels like, given that I was at the Wankhede on April 2, let me also say, it's not yet sunk in. Yes, I went there to cheer for Sri Lanka (not because of a particular hate for the Indian cricket team, but a love affair that began somewhere with the romance of 1996) but came back home as a proud Indian, emotional as ever, witness to one of Indian cricket's tryst with history. Yes, I might have been vocally critical of this Indian team in my previous columns, but this was a win that transcended the best of cricketing skills on a stage which was elephantine, and had a symbolism of its own — the final word in the emergence of a new cricketing order in world cricket.

     
    To witness that was nothing short of special, and even as I write this, I am struggling for words to describe that feeling. And, as a responsible and a hungry columnist, I have no

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  • Beating Australia, India style

    Over the past few days, there was an appreciable amount of
    anxiety as to who India would encounter in the quarterfinals of the World Cup,
    with all possible scenarios coming through, three opponents in question -
    Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Now, it's formal - Australia at Ahmedabad
    on Thursday. Wellofcourse, it was important for the Indian lads to sign-off the
    preliminary group stages by seeing off the West Indies at Chennai, but somehow
    the rather disturbing takeaway from the game was it typified India's campaign
    in the tournament so far - unconvincing but mighty effective. Improvement from
    the previous excursions were scarce, with familiar deficiencies popping out
    time and again, which still is a sign of concern, given the nature of the
    format they await next - a knockout. Is Australia a good deal, some of you
    might ask? I say, a great bargain and a fantastic opportunity to assert their
    title credentials by knocking the defending champions out. And, going with the
    popular

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  • There’s no hiding anymore

    Let's put it bluntly - India's World Cup campaign is in a bit of a disarray and like I wrote in my previous column, the wafer-thin potential of this bowling attack, it's design is just not looking good enough to take the team through the big moments. Three games since the tie against England, India look like a side who have refused to learn from their apparent mistakes and over the five matches they've played, which by the way includes a couple of associate nations, they've looked as unconvincing as any pre-tournament favourites have ever looked. Their bowling looked like an obvious weakness, but injudicious batting or as the captain put, "playing for the crowd" (whatever it means) meant, potential didn't translate into performance and so on and so forth. For an Indian fan, the comforting news is that the knockouts are just a game away, and importantly the discomforting bit, there is no visible sign of improvement - tactically or otherwise and perhaps critically, India still don't know

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