Cricinfo column: The columnist's cut

by sidin in

Good morning. It is Monday again. How horrible. Let us hope we can all cope.

I write to you this morning regarding the latest Cricinfo column where I spoke about how the grossly inflated scores in contemporary cricket were sure to scare away youngsters. There was also some blending of cushions involved.

Many thanks to those who tweeted/wrote/outraged back to say that they liked the piece.

Therefore what you hear next will surely shock you.

The version you read on the Cricinfo website was a second iteration. One vastly different from the first one I sent to the folks at Cricinfo. My first column, which started identically to that column, was called "How to tell if a cricket match is fixed?"

Unfortunately I was told that the venerable cricket website has a strict no-match-fixing-not-even-if-it-is-a-joke policy in place. And since my column seemed to condone, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek, match fixing, they asked me to give it a full rewrite.

Now it give me great pleasure to say that in a world exclusive, this blog will publish the original version of that cricketing column. As you will see it starts identically, but goes to entirely different places.

I'd sat up till four in the morning writing it. And it seemed a pity to let it go waste. So, as they say in Germany, et voila!


How to tell if a match is fixed?

When even Ireland is scoring 300 runs, fans need to know when they’re seeing the real thing. This is how you can tell.

Many years ago, way back when I was a gawky but not unhandsome boy of 7 or 8, my younger brother and I used to spend our school summer vacations at my ancestral home in a tiny village in the southern Indian state of Kerala. (Kerala is also, incidentally, the home of S. Sreesanth, the cricketer popularly known as the Louis Vuitton of Indian pace bowling. This is because even though he is very expensive, he is very attractive and there is always very high demand for him. Especially in China.)

During these vacations I was normally watched over by my paternal uncle. My uncle, a kind and caring man, is of the persuasion that children should be involved in rigorous physical activity and should spend as little time as possible indoors. Doubly so in the case of me and my brother because our favourite indoor activities included gently electrocuting pets, liquidizing small items of furniture in the blender, and going to the toilet in the VCR.

Therefore he devised a unique variant of cricket that would keep us occupied for the entire day. My uncle would bowl comfortable medium pace at one of us while the other one fielded. The batsman could only be dismissed by being caught by the fielder. There were no stumps, no LBW, no run outs, no stumpings or any other means of getting out. And of course there was no limit on the number of overs bowled.

Which means you either scored a four or a six. And nothing else.

Often one batsman could bat for an entire day without being dismissed. But even then the best my brother or I could ever manage to hit in one day was something in the range of 250 runs.  In the 1980s and 1990s this was a stupendous total in cricket. (Which is also why I retired from all forms of cricket in 1994, while I was still on top.)

So you can imagine my consternation at the current state of ODI cricket. Match after match we are seeing teams score well in excess of 300 runs. Just yesterday Ireland easily overcame England’s score of 327 runs to record a massive upset. Largely due to a stunning century by Kevin O’Brien. (Incidentally, also from Kerala.)

What the heck is going in the game? More than a few fans have their eyebrows raised: Are these scores for real? Is there some monkey business going on? Are bookies involved? What are their contact details?

However this speculation can be most damaging for the game. Therefore in order to help the avid cricket fan distinguish fixed games from un-fixed fixtures we have a drawn up a ready reckoner. This is a list of incidents you should watch out for during a match. If any of these things happen, then there is a severe likelihood of hanky-panky. If not, the match is most likely authentic.

The match you are watching could be fixed if:

1. Dhoni wins the toss and elects to field first. When the commentator asks him who will open the bowling, Dhoni absentmindedly says: “Zaheer will open the bowling with two slow leg-cutters and then one over-stepping no-ball.”

2. After bowling three tight deliveries Sreesanth is halfway down the run-up for his fourth delivery when Billy Bowden signals a wide.

3. Kamran Akmal takes a sensational catch when he dives to his right, only for the ball to hit the tips of his gloves and loop high into the air. The ball then catapults earthwards, passes straight through the grill of his helmet and lodges itself in his mouth. During the ensuing celebrations several Pakistani players can be seen punching him in the stomach.

4. At the 2015 World Cup opening ceremony in Melbourne, ICC president Sharad Pawar ends his inaugural speech by officially declaring “West Indies as the new World Champions!”

5. At the 2015 World Cup the West Indies become World Champions.

6. Shane Watson is trapped in front of stumps by a Lasith Malinga scorcher. But the umpire refuses to give Watson out. The decision is referred to the third umpire. Who looks at the screen for five minutes and then thoughtfully says into the walkie-talkie: “Pass”.

7. New Zealand look well set to win a game when suddenly Brendon Mcculum is caught in the slips. Jesse Ryder is due next but discovers that someone had left a tube of super glue on his seat when he sat down. Ryder has to rip himself off his chair only to notice that shoelaces on both his shoes are knotted together. Just as he finally sorts things out and walks out to bat, Scott Styris trips him and Ryder falls down the stairs in a bloody heap. Determined to bat, Ryder staggers onto the pitch when the returning drinks trolley drives over him. Ryder then has to return to the pavilion because he is Timed Out.

8. The spinning ball hits the deck with venom and rears up to hit the batsman plumb in front of the stumps. Yuvraj Singh throws both hands in the air and appeals with a scream. Yuvraj Singh is the batsman.

Sincere fans will do well to look out for similar indications in matches. If nothing like this is forthcoming then you can rest assured that what you’re watching is the real thing.



P.S. Coming to think of it, I could pimp my columns and articles more here. It would give the illusion of frenetic activity on the blog. Maybe I will...