Posted by: nestaquin | April 21, 2008

Dark and Dangerous in Kolkata

A few days ago I wrote of the problems Indian curators have in preparing sporting pitches for both players and spectators. Unfortunately this manageable perplexity was on display again at Eden Gardens when Kolkata hosted the Deccan Chargers in Game Four of the Indian Premier League.

The pitch was an absolute disgrace and any hope of a meaningful battle between bat and ball was destroyed before the toss. It was dustier than the Birdsville Track with the ball going through the top of the surface from ball one. No two deliveries behaved in the same manner and this meant Ishant Sharma, Murali Kartik and Mohhamad Hafeez were virtually unplayable in the first innings and all but the two Australians surrendered without much of a fight.

Deccan captain VVS Laxman set the example early when hit on the glove playing forward to Sharma. He spinelessly took the easy road deliberately throwing his wicket away soon after rather than doing the hard yards by getting in behind the ball and risking a few bruises.

Gilchrist and Symonds played as you would expect, intelligently and bravely, and with the ball shooting and turning square they did well to get 23 and 32 respectively. Symonds did his best to hold the innings together farming the strike where possible yet still the team in beige could only bat 18 and half overs in compiling 110.

It doesn’t matter what the length of match or the state of the pitch, runs on the board are always valuable and the Deccan Chargers seam attack of Vaas, RP Singh, Styris and Banga bowled a great line cutting their fingers over the ball effectively bowling quick finger spin and in the process reducing Kolkata to just 38/3 after 10 difficult overs.

Ganguly, to his credit and in direct contrast with the opposition skipper, received his fair share of bruises playing a cool and courageous captain’s knock till the diminutive 21 year old left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha cleaned bowled him with a sharp spitting delivery when the score was 68 at the end of the 13th over.

Hafeez joined David Hussey at the crease and in a run a ball partnership they added 20 before the Pakistani also fell to Ojha attempting a telegraphed premeditated reverse sweep.

At this stage with less than four overs remaining the match was delicately poised. Tempers were fraying, the enormous crowd was in full voice, the tension was palpable and then the unthinkable happened. A light tower blew a fuse and the players strolled off to the bewilderment of all concerned.

About 20 minutes after the interruption match referee Farouk Engineer was seconds away from declaring a tie under the Duckworth/Lewis calculations when miraculously the lights ignited and sensibly the players and umpires decided to finish the match.

It was hardly worth the effort. David Hussey, as he has done on several occasions for Western Australia and Victoria, finished the match with a flurry of boundaries and deftly judged singles to end a thrilling, hazardous and ultimately anti-climactic match.

Although the pitch was bordering on dangerous and strokeplay was always a risk to wicket and limb, this match, up until the lights failed, was the most intense, bitterly fought T20 match I have ever seen and if this is the sort of contest that the IPL will produce then it thoroughly deserves its own window in the international cricketing calendar.

If you can’t see these matches, find a way. You won’t regret it.



  1. Nesta – I am going to deviate from the cricket aspect in this contribution from me.

    Both in Kolkata and Mumbai, I felt the spectators rooting for the home team which is surprising given the short time they have been exposed to it..Given time and with more than a nudge from IPL, I think the crowd in rest of the cities will start identifying with the city team they live in.What the breath taking opening show and backroom boys indicate that there will be many irrespective of where they live in or whether they know the sport or not will be drawn in to IPL.

    For example, CNN spent 15full minutes for the IPL yesterday.Imagine American and World audience being exposed in prime time about a sport they know very little.This has come because of the involvement of the Redskins cheer leaders and the US entertainment industry in the opening ceremony.World has shrunk, people who were least interested in other cultures no longer have the luxury to ignore them. India has been forced to accept bikini clad cheer leaders and the pom poms. Huge money is shovelled in all directions.I am sure China will also open up in a simlar way for competitive sport – may be a city based football league with the involvement of foreign players to rival EPL.

    Sports administrators have been reative so far with very little control in chanelling economic (greed) force but if they continue to dither they will surely kill the golden goose!!

  2. Money + thousands at the grounds + millions on TV + an exciting game = Huge success!

    At least so far.. generally… I think!!

  3. Fly, you deviate any time you like especially with such considered comment.

    I read yesterday that their were protests in Mumbai by a concerned women’s coalition about the scantily clad cheerleaders. Curiously the blokes don’t seem to mind!

    I’ve noticed that all the girls with bare midriffs shaking their booty and pom-poms are western girls imported for the event. The few Indian lasses participating in the dancing troupes are dressed more demurely.

    Obviously cultural but it raises the question, are fit European girls considered more attractive than the home-grown variety?

  4. Toots, if the cricket is consistently as hard fought and tense as both games yesterday then it will undoubtedly be a success.

    Cricketers won’t only want to play for the cash but also for the sporting challenge. Already it can be seen that the Aussies are treating these games far more seriously than an English domestic match.

    Perhaps it is the crowds and atmosphere, perhaps the quality of opposition but the players are becoming passionate and I suspect it will not be long before the IPL will be considered the ultimate T20 domestic challenge on the planet just as the Sheffield Shield is in the First-Class arena.

    I am beginning to understand the danger that the English game is in. The best players will gravitate to India and the Counties because of the dearth in talent will struggle to survive financially.

    World Series Cricket killed the massive interest in Sheffield Shield and it took only one summer. It hit hard and a decade to adjust. Now, the states are fully funded by the national body with capital earned by the national team filtered down to what is now essentially a nursery. They are entirely dependent.

    In the 21st Century effects are felt globally and if England cannot entice the world’s best or even near best players to entertain will the locals support their teams sufficiently so they can stand alone? Will the ECB prop up 18 counties, league, youth and schoolboy cricket? Can the ECB do what Canute could not?

  5. I was not surpised with the truly electrifying atmosphere in Mumbai and Kolkata. Residents as well as the diaspora of these two have a very strong sense of affinity with their home town – which Chandigarh (a planned capital) and the cosmopolitan Bangalore lack. No wonder they did not have the completely partisan, soccer-style crowd.

    As far as the much maligned Eden pitch is concerned, the curators unwittingly paved the path for a intense encounter. Having watched all the ICL matches, I feel that pitches which have something for the bowlers make for much better contests.

    I suspect Hyderabad

  6. I agree Saurabh and a warm welcome to 99.94.

    A colleague and I were discussing today, only half in jest, that perhaps they should deliberately dish out sub-standard T20 wickets for the cricket is tough and unpredictable.

    I should add however that Sourav Ganguly looked mightily displeased when being hit on the body repeatedly and I am sure that the groundsman will be the recipient of a steely scary stare when next their paths cross. That’s if he still has the job.

    In the other match the Mumbai crowd were magnificent and the coordinated chanting and singing made it a memorable experience. It was so loud that the captains couldn’t hear the call at the toss and I cannot wait to see Sachin batting with Jayasuria in front of his adoring home fans.

    Thanks for commenting Saurabh, your time and thoughts are most appreciated.

  7. The history of the WSC is being played out to some extent. I have just read the chapters in Clive Lloyd’s autobiog on WSC cricket and it is abundantly clear that the players responded to factors like the money; the respect shown to them by Kerry Packer (in contrast to their own boards; and, most tellingly, the hardness of the competition. All those elements are present again thirty years on.

    T20 in England was also labelled as gimmicky hit and giggle, but quickly became deadly serious as teams looked for wins.

    Surely only wrestling and exhibition sports like figure skating have survived as anything other than true competition? IPL is a true competition already.

  8. Not so surprisingly, the so called “Indian stars” – Ganguly,VVS,Dravid all look totally out of place in this contest.Especially the fielding aspect which requires dare devilry ,also speed and toughness. Shots flying at blinding speed makes it obvious that this sport is meant for fit and quick thinking.I am not surprised most of the Aussie stars have started making an impact.Tell me what will be the state of world cricket without the Australian greats!!

  9. Not having seen Indian domestic cricket before I’ve been surprised at the general lack of mastery over the fundamentals like catching, ground fielding, throwing, backing up and running between the wickets.

    If you cannot do these well in Australia you have very little chance of progressing through the system to the first class level. There’s far more to cricket than batting and bowling.

    I think that it will be positive for the locals to witness the standard required. It is not that difficult it just takes good coaching, investment in schoolboy and youth cricket and hour upon hour of hard work at practice.

  10. I was saying it all along – its bound to succeed.

    Great write as always Nesta.

    Not all Indians are rooting for their home teams though as you’ll at Well Pitched.

    Either way, whether they support their own team or not they will plead allegiance to one or the other for some reason or the other.

    Its the future of cricket these 20-20 leagues.

  11. It is the future and yet I don’t see it destroying Test cricket as some do. Perhaps it’s my natural optimism but I think it will encourage more people to attend Tests and help more people understand the nuances of the longer game that appeal so much to cricketers.

    Anyway, the players are always going to want to play Test matches and as long as the scheduling is managed and doesn’t clash all will be well.

    The fielding in today’s Punjab v Rajasthan match has been of a poor standard but at this stage (over 9) it is looking like a tight finish. More on that match in a few hours!

  12. I’ve only seen a couple of hours’ play, so I’m not sure how bad in general the fielding is (I saw two dropped catches – one sitter by Lehmann and one mildly difficult by Kaif). My own impression is that there are more drops in T20 matches. I’m not sure if it’s because there are more high balls hit, because of the noise and pressure, or because the players are running around so much that they lose a bit of concentration.

    Anyway, the ground fielding was also pretty shoddy from what I saw, so I think you do have a point about the fielding. But I’d also point out that the requirement on young players means that there are young kids being thrown out there with very little first-class experience, and sometimes none at all. And it’s not surprising that Indians are not well-drilled on fielding etc. through the junior years.

  13. I agree it won’t destroy test cricket. I think it will only push for more test series between the test nations as 20-20 leagues replace ODI cricket.

    Which is great IMO.

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