Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Close finishes, awful fielding and some Gayle force winds. And the IPL is still dull

It would say little for my sporting analysis if I essentially wrote off two colossal sporting events in a month and had to backtrack on both of them. After reading the last rites for Formula One - and in particular, the BBC's coverage (or lack thereof) of it - in March, I called the Indian Premier League just a little dull. I'm still working out whether I need to back-track or not.

Of course, my most ardent followers (thanks Mum, dinner was delicious on Monday) will know that I may have been a little hasty in writing off Formula One and those titans of epic broadcasting: Jake Humphrey (not totally sarcastic), Eddie Jordan (not totally sarcastic) and Gary Anderson. After a Chinese Grand Prix, which, aside from some weird man who kept shouting throughout the race, was brilliant, I admitted my mistake.

A few weeks ago, I decided to test the waters of the most volatile ocean of them all - how much can you annoy a cricket-mad Indian. I don't know why I tried it, because Indian fans have suffered enough and their support for their teams is very impressive. But after criticising Sachin Tendulkar about a month previously, I had gotten away with it to the extent that I wanted to try my luck against India's next best sporting institution. No, not Wasim Jaffer or Amit Mishra, but the IPL. Neither of those posts got much criticism, mainly due to the fact only 8 people from India have read this piece of crap so far. But my opinion could be changing. But it isn't.

Boring picture. Boring caption.
Yesterday, I made the brave decision to "treat" myself to two Indian Premier League games. Erm, by the way, I'm referring to twenty20 cricket here, so if you thought I'd gone utterly insane and, in my desperation for approval and a niche market, had taken to analysing obscure football leagues like India's premier football competition (or the I-league, thanks Wikipedia), think again. That was a long sentence. Anyway, before the Royal Challengers of Bangalore took on the Pune Warriors, the Deccan Chargers visited the Rajasthan Royals. Try saying that sentence five times in a row!

Since winning the IPL in 2009 and reaching the semi-final the year after, the Deccan Chargers have been pretty hopeless. This year looks to be no exception as, prior to yesterday's game; the Chargers had two losses from two games. Well what did they expect?! They have no decent Indian players and have acquired some pretty poor overseas players too, with the exception of Kumar Sangakarra and Dale Steyn. Other than that, it's essentially JP Duminy and some unknown Indian blokes. Despite this, they managed to score 197 runs from their twenty overs, helped mainly by Duminy, Sangakarra and some awful fielding.

Who wants it?!

Seriously, the fielding was so laughably poor. With the exception of Virat Kohli and in particular Suresh Raina, Indian players and teams are often criticised for being poor in the field and I'm afraid that trend continued, with dropped catches and misfields occurring regularly.

The Rajasthan Royals set about their chase well, with Rahul Dravid (yes, Rahul Dravid) scoring quickly, aided by Ajinkya Rahane, the man who had scored more runs than anyone so far in this year's tournament.

However, after losing wickets at regular intervals, the chase looked impossible as the match approached the end. With Dale Steyn yet to bowl two overs and the required run-rate around fourteen an over, it seemed the Royals impressive start to the campaign was about to falter. And somehow, Deccan contrived to cock it up, showing almost South African levels of choking. Steyn got smashed around the park as Brad Hodge - the all-time leading run-scorer in twenty20 cricket - took control to see his team home.

The fielding by Deccan was even worse than it was by Rajasthan. It was like eleven Douglas Elder's in the field, which I and my grotesquely shaped fingers can tell you is not a very good proposition. The game summed up what many see is wrong with the IPL and indeed modern cricket. Too many games, too much money, jaded players and poor quality. Tight finishes and lots of TV money yes, but an overall decline in the standards the viewer should expect.

Deccan celebrating. God knows why.
Next up was the Royal Challengers of Bangalore (hereafter, RCB, because I can't be bothered to write that all again) against the Pune Warriors. If I cared enough to follow a team, RCB would be my favourite team. But I don't really care, I just like sixes and wickets because I want bish-bash cricket because I'm a bloody moron. RCB had lost three of their opening four games of the tournament, including a brilliant game against Chennai Super Kings. Do IPL teams not think of aspiring journalists when coming up with team names?! I actually intended to write about that game but I couldn't be bothered and the thought of writing the Royal Challengers of Bangalore versus the Chennai Super Kings was very scary.

By contrast, Pune had shocked a number of teams so far, winning three of their opening four games. With Robin Uthappa, Jesse Ryder and Sourav Ganguly - one of the few genuinely scary Indians when angry - at the top of the order, you can see why they have been successful. And they wasted no time in setting a decent score here, with Uthappa and Ryder scoring at over ten-an-over before they were dismissed. For all his critics and his general uselessness at cricket, Steve Smith is one of the highest run-scorers in this year's IPL. I know. However, despite Smith coming in at number four, Pune could not take advantage of their strong start and, despite boasting big-hitters Angelo Matthews and Marlon Samuels, they only made 182 from their twenty overs.

Want to know how Pune have so many good batsmen? No? Well, I'll tell you anyway. Because they forgot about bowlers, that's why. After making a reasonable start with the new ball, Pune were well on top of the game, but still had work to do. RCB's batting line up includes Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers, so you can see why I like them. However, despite the odd Chris-Gayle-destroying-some-poor-bowler* moment, RCB could not get a rhythm going and when Kohli fell, RCB needed 111 runs from 49 balls. Which is a lot.

*no hashtag, realise how hashtag rhymes with douchebag?

Don't know why I picked this picture.
Not for Chris f*cking Gayle it isn't! "Where's the next bowler, I'm going to destroy him and make him cry tears of blood" he (certainly never) said. It was almost like he started trying and when Rahul Sharma came on to bowl, Gayle's eyes would have lit up if he could be arsed to show any emotion. Six, six, six, six, six went Sharma's over, and the tide had turned. Despite getting bowled (how rude) a few overs later, Gayle had given RCB hope, hope (and more dreadful fielding) which De Villiers capitalised upon to see the home side through.

So, Bangalore snuck (that's not a word) home and may be ready to...sigh...challenge again. But one thing that struck me - except for my fist as I wondered why I wasn't doing proper work - about yesterday's games was the ever-decreasing turn out for these games.

It is no surprise that crowds are getting smaller and, at the risk of sounding like Jonathan Agnew (much as I love him), there is too much cricket being played. Look at this year's County Championship, seriously, f*cking look at it. It is only the somethingth of April, and we are already into the third round of fixtures and we won't finish until late September. Bigger is not better, the more cricket that gets played, the less the fans will afford, the lower the quality will be, despite the odd "Citi moment of success".

Apart from providing lowlifes like me with the opportunity to ramble about silly team-names or get a little too excited about Chris Gayle's biceps, modern cricket, and by association, the IPL, is taking our game on a slow - albeit fun - downward spiral. At first glance it is fun when Chris Gayle is in full-flow or Dale Steyn is knocking over some slogging batsmen, but, scratch beneath the surface and the standard is declining. This is to the detriment of the players, while the super-rich line their pockets.

Low crowds, this ground was actually full five
minutes before, but then Tendulkar got out
and everyone disappeared.
In a moment of painful symbolism, during Gayle's onslaught on Sharma, we got a glimpse of what the IPL is all about. This huge batsman, who has turned his back on Test Cricket and, to a lesser extent his country, was in the middle of a passage of play that will be remembered for years to come. Yet, it was not the sixes he was hitting that may come to represent this tournament. After Gayle hit Sharma high over long-off, one of the fans, a young girl, was struck in the face by the ball. That's right, it is the fans being bitten on the nose. As Gayle gets richer, it is the fans who are getting hurt.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to Berty McJock by the way for becoming my first follower on here! Love the name Berty, you'll go far kid.