Transcript: Short Jabs Episode 2

Short Jabs Cricket Podcast: Episode 2 (Download here)

GuestsSana KazmiSidVee and Mahesh Sethuraman.

Sana talks about her trip to India during the recent Ind-Pak LOI series, SidVee weighs in on the recent calls for MS Dhoni to give up captaincy in Tests and/or CSK, and Mahesh discusses the BCCI’s change of venues for the India-Aus series and the resulting inconvenience, in the “What’s bothering em now” segment.

Opening Spell

sanaSubash Jayaraman (SJ): Welcome to the show, Sana.

Sana Kazmi (SK): Thanks Subash.

SJ: You went on your second trip to India, to watch Pakistan play. What was the process like, compared to the previous time you went there, for the semifinal of the World Cup?

SK: The process of getting there, for me eventually, was much easier, because I had a friend I had met on PakPassion – I guess there is something good about PakPassion after all – who arranged for everything because he knew someone that know someone who got it done last minute. But initially, I was trying to go on my own and I was looking for information from the PCB and the BCCI, they had designated a few official travel agents. That wasn’t fun. They didn’t have information on things like whether it would be by a bus or a train, or how much money it would cost etc. They didn’t have answers for some basic stuff till the week before. It would’ve been nice to go on a bus with a bunch of Pakistani fans. I actually knew someone that took the train and it took them 28 hours to get to Delhi from Lahore, and they had to go through the “police reporting” nightmare at their hotel as well. May be, it was good that I didn’t do that. They can definitely improve upon the process. But last time, there wasn’t anything – no official travel agents that you could call. At least this time, even though they weren’t up to date with the information, or were lazy or half the time didn’t answer your calls but, at least, were there. So, that’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

SJ: What about the match day experience itself – getting to the ground, meeting up with other Pakistani fans and watching the match itself?

SK: It was fun. Getting there itself wasn’t that hard. I was staying with a cousin in Delhi and he drove us – me and a bunch of friends – to the ground. We actually met up to make some posters before the match. We made some really fun posters but all of them were confiscated at the ground. The guard in our stand confiscated all our posters and flags. One of the flag, I was wearing as a scarf, wrapped around my nect, because it was so cold, and even that was taken away. He said, “Yeh nikaal”. It was annoying and we asked him why. He said, “We are not doing this because you are Pakistani. We are not letting anyone take the flags/posters inside.” But then, when we went inside, there were lot of people with flags, just not in our stands. So, I guess were unlucky as to the stand we were in.

Anyway, getting to the ground was pretty simple. There weren’t many Pakistani fans we met on the way to the ground, but there was one entire stand filled with Pakistani fans. I guess it would have been fun to sit there. I did that in Mohali (semi final) but here, there was only four of us (Pakistani fans) and rest of the stand was all Indians. This was also fun. It was different but still fun. For most of the match, we were on top and we were being very loud and obnoxious. Every time an Indian wicket would fall or Junaid Khan would make a batsman miss, we would shout something obnoxious and the entire stand would turn around and look at us. It was fun interacting with the rest of the stand with them.

There was an interesting thing to see how much Indians hated Dhoni. We couldn’t figure that out. All of us (the four Pakistanis) liked what Dhoni was doing and said, “he was trying his best, what do you guys mean?” and they said, “Oh, he just is playing for himself.” That was interesting to get that perspective.

SJ: May be that was because you were in Delhi? You may not get that in rest of India, but perhaps because it was Delhi? Anyway, you also had opportunities to run in to some of the players?

SK: We didn’t get our match tickets till the day before the match. We were picking them up from someone who was staying at the same hotel as both the teams. So we get to the hotel, and it wasn’t as crazy as it was when we went to the team hotel in Sri Lanka during the world cup. May be they kept this as a secret.

We say Yuvraj Singh. We also saw Misbah ul-Haq. There were all these poor fans taking pictures of him and he wouldn’t even smile…

SJ: well, Misbah never smiles…

SK: Yeah, he never smiles (laughs). Who else? Oh yeah, we met Umar Akmal which was really fun, ‘cause I love him. I gave him this wristband that said, “I am Pakistan” and asked him to wear it, and he said, “I’ll wear it right now” and he put it on. When we were at the match, my cousin texted me to tell that Umar was actually wearing the wristband, but we couldn’t tell since we were so far off. We also met Nasir Jamshed and told him he was going to be the Man of the Series and he said, “Yeah, Inshallah!”

SJ: As to the cricket itself, when you went to Mohali for the semifinal, there was too much at stake, but here, the series had been already decided. So there mustn’t have been much pressure on you as a fan, and on the Pakistani team?

SK: Yeah. It didn’t matter. Even if we lost, we had already won the series!

SJ: Exactly. But the point to be noted still is that both times you went to India to watch Pakistan, they lost the matches.

SK: Oh shut up!

SJ: I wonder whether you’ll get the visa next time…

SK: [Laughs] I think they will make it easy for me to get it next time. But, recently we have been losing to India quite a bit, and so I don’t think I am the factor here. Yeah, it would have been fun to see us win, but oh well, it’s just a match. But, we made a lot of Kohli-Tamanna jokes, so it was worth it.

SJ: What’s your take on all these new kids coming in to the Pakistani team – Jamshed, Junaid Khan and Irfan…

SK: Well, Irfan isn’t young…

SJ: I meant newcomers to the team

SK: Junaid, I think, most of us are really excited about. It’s been a while since our last breed of young fast bowlers. He has done well, against India and did well against one of their best batsmen [Kohli] and so there’s a feeling of pride that “oh yeah, we have got our fast bowling mojo back!”. And Nasir Jamshed too. He’s got a good attitude. Anyone that does well against India is an instant hit anyway.

So yeah, I’m excited about these guys and excited about the South Africa tour. Even though Nasir hasn’t played much outside the subcontinent, I’m really excited for these two players.

SJ: Even though there isn’t any two-man bowling tandem in the world to match the prowess of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander in South Africa, perhaps you can say that with Ajmal, Junaid Khan and others, the bowling strengths of each team negates the other somewhat but what do you think of Pakistan’s batting abilities?

SK: Not much.

SJ: Okay.

SK: I mean, that’s not a new thing. Ever since I’ve been watching cricket, we have never been sure of our batting. Sure, we have had one or two people that would save us. But yeah, we have Nasir Jamshed and there is some experience in Younis Khan. Misbah – I don’t have much hope from. Azhari Ali – I don’t like him either. I don’t understand why he was forced in to the ODI team. It’s kind of a shame that there isn’t Umar Akmal in the squad, but oh well…

SJ: What is your prediction for the series?

SK: I am not going to make a prediction.

SJ: That’s alright. Go ahead. Make a prediction, it’s okay…

SK: No, I don’t want to make a prediction.

SJ: Well, you need not make a prediction of the series [scoreline] but you’d think South Africa would win the series?

SK: Well, they might. Or, we might. I’m optimistic. I mean, you have to crazy optimistic to watch Pakistan play, right? So, I’m hopeful. We have a chance. We have some new players that they haven’t seen before. Anything can happen. I am hopeful.

SJ: Okay. Alright. We can end it right there. Thanks for coming on the show, Sana.

SK: No problem. Thanks.

Six minutes with SidVee

sidveeSubash Jayaraman (SJ): Welcome to the show, SidVee.

Siddartha Vaidyanathan (SV): Thanks Subash. It’s good to be back.

SJ: Recently, there have been calls on big platforms like Cricinfo by big names like Harsha Bhogle, Rahul Dravid and Sharda Ugra, for MS Dhoni to give up his captaincy. What is your take on it?

SV: Well, in terms of Test captaincy, I think it is a fairly reasonable call because no other India captain – at least to my knowledge – has gone through such a run of losses and continued to remain captain but at the same time, India are now caught between having a captain who deserves a spot in the side as opposed to someone who is captaining the side irrespective of his form or how he is doing. I think there needs to be a decision taken – may be there is one already taken and it’s just that we don’t know about it – whether Dhoni is a captain because he deserves a place in the Test team or, he is the captain of the team and hence he finds a place in the XI. I think his Test form shows that he doesn’t deserve a place in the Test team, and this is according to me. Of course, ODI captaincy is a whole different ball game because he is clearly one of the best ODI batsmen in the team. As a lot of people seem to think, there doesn’t seem to be a clear alternative and that leaves the selectors very little option. So, either they pick a rabbit out of the hat and decide, “Okay. We are going to place our faith on player X, who is younger and we expect to lead for the next 5-6 years” or they say, “we are going to stick with Dhoni till we find a suitable alternative.”

So I think it is a reasonable call to ask Dhoni to give up captaincy of the Test team, but it is not clear as to what the selectors/management are thinking.

SJ: So, according to you, Dhoni, based on the primary skills of batting and wicket keeping, doesn’t deserve a spot in the Test team. 1) Are there viable alternatives to the wicket keeper position and 2) Are there viable alternatives for the position of captain?

SV: I’d think you pick from the Ranji trophy performances, for the wicketkeeper-batsman position. I think Dinesh Karthik has definitely been in the mix, and Saha of course, who had a good run a while ago. Those are the two names that come up. Other than that, they need to male the call based on domestic performances.

I think the bigger problem is in terms of captaincy. Rahul Dravid and a few others clearly feel that Virat Kohli is not ready to lead the Test team yet. He has not played enough Tests. Probably that’s one of the reasons or it’s got something to do with his temperament, I don’t know. But clearly, there is a feeling that he is not ready yet. Cheteshwar Pujara doesn’t have a track record yet. Of course, he captained the A-side in West Indies. I don’t know whether people are thinking about him. Clearly there is a lack of options.

Ideally, the whole Sehwag-Gambhir generation should have been ready to take over but they are both out of form and they need to be focusing on their batting first, and not be saddled with captaincy now.

SJ: Why can’t India do something like what South Africa did, bringing in Graeme Smith as a young captain and let him grow in his role? Why can’t we do the same with someone like Kohli or a Pujara?

SV: Well, I think they should do that with Virat Kohli. That has always been my opinion that Kohli should have been appointed the captain of the Test team. However, there is a difference between what India are going through and what South Africa did. South Africa, remember when Smith took over, were very keen on getting a young guy in. They didn’t want anyone that has played with Hansie Cronje before. They wanted to get over the whole much that was going around with Cronje and match fixing and get the new guy in. So there was a reason for that.

Again, when India appointed Ganguly (in 2000), there was a crisis. They looked around and found Ganguly, and they appointed him. I think the problem now – the crisis India is facing – is that they are losing. The crisis is not much bigger than that. Had there been a huge crisis – of course, I don’t want any bigger crises – things might have been different. They may have decided, “Well, we have reached the point of no return and let’s go with Kohli.”

SJ: Coming back to the original question, Dravid and Bhogle suggested that perhaps, it is time for Dhoni to give up his CSK captaincy at least…

SV: Of course, if he does give up CSK captaincy, it will take a big workload off him and perhaps, he will be able to prioritize and focus on Tests etc, and I understand that sentiment. But at the same time, I can’t understand how this can even be a consideration!

It is clear that BCCI do not even want Dhoni out of his Test captaincy, as [Mohinder] Amarnath’s statements made very clear, and so to expect the same head of the BCCI to even be okay with him giving up CSK captaincy, I don’t think is even in the picture at all.

SJ: Then, where does that leave us? Does Dhoni continue to be the captain of India in all three formats, as well as his IPL franchise?

SV: See, the only way Virat Kohli is going to be ready is if he has one or two really big, extremely good series. I don’t think there is any other way to judge whether he is going to be ready, unless, he leads his IPL franchise to an IPL title… I mean, how do you judge when someone is ready to be captain, until he becomes the captain? If he becomes a really good Test batsman for India and then might think he is ready enough. Otherwise, it may just become a situation where you go series after series, and one fine day, we have reached the tipping point and we have to go with the new guy.

SJ: Okay. Thanks a lot for coming on the show SidVee.

SV: Thanks Subash. It was good to be here.

What’s bothering ’em now?

maheshSubash Jayaraman (SJ): Welcome to Short Jabs, Mahesh.

Mahesh Sethuraman (MS): Thanks, Subash. It’s good to be back here.

SJ: So, what seems to be bothering you now?

MS: Well, as usual, BCCI is up to some things again. If it’s not the tickets or the intrusive ads on TV, it is – this time it is slightly different – but eventually screwing my fan experience again. For the scheduled 4th India v Australia Test, to be held in Chennai, I had just booked my tickets to Chennai (from Mumbai), planning my leave and travel accordingly. Next day, I wake up and see that BCCI had changed the schedule. The Chennai Test has been swapped with the Delhi Test and therefore, the whole plan has gone awry – which is okay. Plans do change some times but what I found really annoying is the fact that the press release didn’t have a word of explanation or any sense of apology for it. It’s as if it is their birthright to change it to whenever they want and they don’t owe an explanation to anybody.

And even more bizarre is the lack of reaction from media. The media that jumps at anything and everything, cannot find a reason to jump on this? That’s absurd to say the least. At other times, people complain about fans not turning up, and these are huge hindrances for fans turning up at the stadiums, and hardly any voice has been raised over it. At least, ask the BCCI for a reason – however ridiculous the reason may be – just ask it.

SJ: So, it’s the BCCI’s changing of schedule and the lack of any response from the media that is getting your goat?

MS: BCCI has been getting my goat for a long time now. So, I guess I should be used to it by now. The lack of any reaction from the media is mind-blowing. You deny [the media] any accreditation or any other privileges; they make so much noise about it – which is fine and they are well within their right to do that – but at the same time, they argue that “fans are the ones that make this game” and shit like that, as long as it fits their narrative lines and they write about it. But, they don’t care a fuck about it. I can’t believe that no one has bothered to ask the BCCI “Why they had changed [the schedule]? Doesn’t it affect the fans who have planned to travel?”

In fact, Test matches are so beautiful, of course for a variety of reasons, but one of them is this – they make the whole travel worthwhile, like we did last year. A bunch of us traveled to Australia to watch two of the India Tests. Both Tests were horrible from an Indian fan perspective but the Test canvas is so large and the platform is so big, you will still get those moments you will cherish, which makes the planning of the travel worthwhile. If you’re going to screw us in the planning stage itself, this is such a huge hindrance and then, you, the media, claim that people don’t turn up for Test matches. Isn’t there a greater onus on you to help our cause as much as possible to come to the Tests or do the opposite and complain more people aren’t coming to Tests? Isn’t there a huge conflict of interest here?

Would we see this in the IPL? The same BCCI leaders and executives will come out and make reassuring statements about any reports on falling numbers. You just say “falling TRPs” and you get ten reassuring statements from Rajiv Shukla, N. Srinivasan and others. But here, nobody seems to care. In fact, it seems they are going out of their way to ensure it stays that way.

SJ: What are the things you would like to see change or improve?

MS:Just be up to date. Just follow everyoneelse is doing in the world. If you want to book movie tickets in India, no one goes to the theatre and stands in queues any more, which used to be the case 15 years back. It is so simple. Or follow what you do for IPL. I’m not even asking [BCCI] to learn from other institutions, just follow what you are doing yourself broadly under the umbrella of BCCI.

Issue the tickets online, one month in advance, and issue Day-Tickets on the day of the match. That’s all I’m asking. It is as simple as that. We don’t have to set up a committee to discuss what needs to be done. The solution is very simple if there is intent. How do I plan the intent in their minds? That is something I have no answer for.

SJ: Thanks Mahesh. Thanks for coming on Short Jabs.

MS: Thanks Subash.

That concludes this episode of Short Jabs. Thank you all for listening. But before we go, here is the blog recommendation of the week. Matt Becker, who is on twitter as @limitedovers, has written a post on the various national cricket boards and how effective their social media campaigns are. Read it. Else Rozay will send you friend request on FaceBook.