GAME PLAN: Mixed bag of losses wins and spin

Jaideep Ghosh

File photo of P.V. Sindhu

File photo of P.V. Sindhu

Before everything, kudos to P.V. Sindhu. Three Macau Open titles is no mean feat, since our athletes aren’t exactly known for their consistency.

More importantly, she seems to have found the mental will, as well as the physical resources, to outlast opponents in long matches. Opponents earlier she used to go down to easily.

On the other side of the spectrum is the men’s hockey team. There’s a story which still draws crowds, most of whom go back disappointed.

There was a lot of exultation in the hockey circles of India when the side qualified for the Rio Olympics, through earlier chapters of the Hockey World League (HWL).

But it seems that, irrespective of how much money is invested on events in the nation, the first and only target seems to be qualifying for the next best thing.

How things pan out after that is not important.

The HWL format also is something that leaves one wondering as to what it is that success is measured with.

Essentially, there are eight teams in the event at Raipur, and irrespective of how badly they end up doing in the league stage, they will still get into the knockout rounds.

Take Canada for example. A grand total of zero points in three league matches, with 16 goals scored against them and just three in favour. But that doesn’t deny them a quarter-final slot.

Defending champions Delhi Waveriders were held to a 2-2 draw by Uttar Pradesh Wizards in a high-voltage Hero Hockey India League match at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Friday. (Source: PTI) 

Defending champions Delhi Waveriders were held to a 2-2 draw by Uttar Pradesh Wizards in a high-voltage Hero Hockey India League match at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Friday. (Source: PTI)

India aren’t much better either. A 0-3 loss to Argentina was followed by a 1-1 draw with Germany, which was celebrated as a great achievement.

But things were back to normal. Down they went to Holland 1-3 and were stuck at the end of the table, a goal difference of minus-5.

But they are still playing the quarter-finals, where they meet Britain on Thursday. Don’t think one needs to be Nostradamus to forecast the results.

Winning formula: That brings us back to one of the few games where we win – cricket.

Not without its own little formula of controversy, with Nagpur being in the centre of the action.
We were all told that there was nothing wrong with the Jamtha pitch. It was just that the South Africans didn’t know how to play spin.

That’s partly true actually. They really did make a hash of it.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that by the end of the second day, the fourth innings was on. It wasn’t near being the kind of track where you want to serious sides taking up battle.

So the International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee, Jeff Crowe of New Zealand, fired a broadside at the quality of the pitch, something which the Indian think tank had defended vehemently. Horses for courses, they said.

Nagpur was in the limelight, for whatever reasons, but no one is really calculating the immense damage being done to the fabric of cricket in India by these tracks. All over the country, Ranji Trophy matches have seen sides falling like ninepins and matches finishing in two-and-a-half days. Or lesser.

The Punjab-Tamil Nadu ‘contest’ at Dindigul saw 40 wickets fall in 145.3 overs, while Kerala and Himachal Pradesh were participants in the demise of 34 batsmen in 115.2 overs at Malappuram.

ravindrajadejal1-(1)Fifty-five of these wickets fell to spinners!

No one is benefitting from this. Not the bowlers, who are beginning to believe they are world-beaters, an estimate which will explode in their faces as soon as they come over to a placid pitch.

The batsmen are more intent on surviving than actually getting anywhere.

So what exactly does this do for cricket in India? Sure, it’s a money-spinning exercise nowadays and domestic cricket is kept alive to keep a supply chain alive for more lucrative events. But to have this kind of tracks and such results is a disgrace.

We are defending turning tracks, fine. But are these pitches, the ones being used in domestic cricket, what “home advantage” is all about?

Is it a wonder that India is, once again, going into Test matches with one medium-pacer? If anyone thinks that will help them win anything anywhere else, they must really be optimistic. Or living in a fool’s paradise.

Test cricket also returned to Ferozshah Kotla on Thursday morning. Another page of tragic-comedy in Indian cricket, Kotla always throws up some drama or the other.

At least it keeps us hacks involved. That is a bright side that we aren’t complaining about. But for those following cricket, it is a one-way ticket to disinterest. That will really be unfortunate.