One of the many excellent things about the excellent Indian Premier League is the opportunity that it has given to West Indian cricketers to do great things on a cricket field, as impressive as the great things done by their great fast bowlers in the 1970s and 1980s. There are now about half a dozen West Indians making their mark on the IPL. It is no exaggeration to say that what the Indians are doing is saving the West Indies for cricket.
Not that long ago, there was talk of West Indians, dispirited by the failure of their players to do the sort of grafting you have to do to do well in five day international cricket matches in places like England, giving up on cricket altogether, and switching to basketball, or some such American alternative.
Not now. The innings of Chris Gayle in this game, which I am now watching (thank goodness for the recent multiplication of digital TV channels in the UK) on my telly, open mouthed, is already the talk of the West Indies. Got to be. I don’t know what time of day it is over there, but trust me, they are awake and cheering themselves hoarse. As of now, Gayle is 154 not out, off 54 balls. Even if you know nothing of cricket, know this: that’s dynamite stuff. Gayle is only a handful of runs away from breaking the record for the biggest twenty-twenty innings ever, set in the very first IPL game by a guy from New Zealand.
Yes. West Indian IPL Commentator: “This is now the highest score ever in all twenty-twenty cricket.” Gale 161 not out. And counting.
West Indian IPL Commentator: This is now the biggest twenty-twenty total ever. 251-3 and counting. The South African AB de Villiers has just got out for 31, made in 8 balls. South African cricket has been somewhat in the doldrums ever since the Hanse Cronje match-fixing scandal, and the IPL has been a shot in the arm for South African cricket also. They are now the top team in the world, at test cricket. Twenty-twenty mania hasn’t done them any harm either.
Globalisation, commerce, free people spending their own money on what they love, previously poor countries getting rich, individual people in previously poor countries getting rich, by cheering up the entire world – well, my version of the entire world anyway. I love it. Love it. Opposition players all clustering around Gayle to shake his hand. 175 not out. Kiwi Commentator: “You’ve broken record after record tonight. It was one of the best innings anyone here has ever seen.” Amen.
I just wish that more of my fellow countrymen could see all this. The English continue to talk head-in-sand nonsense about the IPL. In this silly piece, David Hopps talks about the IPL being “an essentially trivial Indian T20 tournament”. As so often, the word “essentially”, as the late Kingsley Amis observed many years ago, here means “not”.
There is actually an Englishman playing in this match, Luke Wright of Sussex. And good on him, because he has had a pretty good IPL so far, once he got to play. Good on him today, because he bowled in this game, and his bowling figures were: 4-0-26-1. In a game like this one, those are impressively normal numbers, even if the reason Wright did that well was that he was bowling some of his overs just after Gayle got to a hundred, and Gayle was having a bit of a chill, man.
LATER: The Guardian sums it up.
No, this is not a posting about the European Central Bank. ECB, in Brian Micklethwait World, stands for E(ngland and Wales) C(ricket) B(oard). And IPL stands for Indian Premier League, the twenty overs each way cricket tournament, the 2013 version of which has just got under way in India and which will end near the end of May. I’m watching it now on my television, and very entertaining it is.
What this posting is about, besides cricket, is the rise of India and the necessity for people in England who have dealings with India to acknowledge that India has risen.
From Cricinfo earlier this week:
David Collier, the ECB chief executive, has urged the BCCI …
BCCI is B(oard of) C(ontrol for) C(ricket in) India, i.e. India’s cricket bosses.
… to reschedule future IPL seasons to dovetail more successfully with the England first-class season in response to pressure from England players who are clamouring to participate in the event.
I told you so. That earlier posting, about how England star batsman Kevin Pietersen wants to play both for England and in the IPL, still holds up very well.
It isn’t just English players who are losing out here. Insofar as England’s own county cricket season involves, like the IPL, cricketers from around the world, the England season not clashing with the IPL would also make it easier for top overseas players to play in England over the summer. Playing in England is nothing like the financial windfall that an IPL contract is, but it can be a nice little earner, to say nothing of a nice little learner about the different playing conditions of England. Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain, is now playing in the IPL, captaining one of the teams. Later this year, Ponting will be playing some English county cricket, for Surrey.
England’s cricket bosses still have a way to go. They appear to have at last realised that they do indeed have a problem, and that this problem is not adequately described by being labelled “Kevin Pietersen”. This is progress. But, this Collier man is still going on about what he and his mates would like.
“We have had very fruitful talks with India,” Collier said. “In an ideal world, we would like the IPL to be concluded by April 30, which is the cooler season for India. We have put that to them, they are doing their best, but they realise there are some limitations.
“It would make things a lot easier for us. …”
Yes, it would. But the IPL is now an established success. It has done wonders for Indian cricket, and for the comfort and excellence of India’s cricket grounds. It gives young Indian cricketers a marvellous stage to impress. It has transformed Indian fielding, once notoriously sluggish. Because twenty-twenty cricket only obliges bowlers to bowl four overs, it has also encouraged Indian fast bowling, which also was once upon a time a joke. (Fast bowlers from everywhere, come to that.) Whereas the typical Indian international cricketer used to a little man in the Sachin Tendulkar mould, of the sort who would have been a bank clerk had he not had the trick of playing cricket, the new Indian cricketer is more likely to be a towering alpha male with the physique of a super-hero, who either bowls like the wind or who hits the ball deep into the crowd with ease.
When Indians think about the IPL now, that is the stuff they are thinking about, not the fact that all the IPL clashes with the frigid beginnings of the English season.
Why on earth would India now rearrange the entire IPL timetable, just to suit the English? Would it not make more sense for the English to rearrange their season by starting that later? Like, after the increasingly cold and prolonged English winter has ended? (I would love to know what Britain’s Meteorological Office has been telling England’s cricket bosses about how the weather in April was going to get more cricket-friendly.) Why cannot the English season start in mid-May rather than mid-April, like it used to? (I can recall when a batsman getting a thousand runs in May in England was a huge deal, because he only had the fag end of May to do this in.) If England’s cricket season must start in the rain, wind and snow of April, then can it really not do without a few increasingly rebellious star players? It can, and it will, because it will have to.
All the English cricket bosses have to do is acknowledge reality. All the Indian cricket bosses have to do is … nothing. If the Indians do decide to shorten the IPL season, this will be entirely for their own reasons, mostly to do with television. Happening to oblige the damn English would probably, for many of them, be a bug rather than a feature.
The basic problem is that the English have for too long treated the IPL as just another foreign tournament, instead of what it clearly has been from the moment it started, namely the premier franchise cricket tournament in the world, based in the premier cricket-supporting nation in the world. Only now, prodded by England players who are becoming ever more desperate not to miss the IPL bus, are the England cricket hierarchy beginning to grasp this obvious fact. Even Wisden, in among having another moan about Kevin Pietersen, realises that the ECB has badly mishandled this issue.
Now, about that European Central Bank, and its need to adjust to reality …
Last night, before going to sleep, I switched on the radio commentary for the India England cricket match now in progress in Kolkata, so that, in the event that I did the opposite of dozing off (dozing on?) I would keep up with England’s currrently very satisfactory progress in that game. With luck, tonight and tomorrow night, England will bowl out India cheaply in their second innings and England will go 2-1 up in the four game series. Find out if that happens by looking, e.g., here.
So far so sporty. But this morning, waking up at tea time, so to speak, I found myself listening, not to England’s batsmen batting and India’s bowlers bowling, but to this broadcast (that link switches it on straight away which you might not like – maybe going here would be more convenient – details down a bit on the left) done by the BBC’s long-time cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew. This broadcast was about a charitable enterprise in Kolkata which rescues street children, gives them somewhere unscary and unprecarious and unchanging to live, and which then educates them.
This broadcast lasts a mere fifteen minutes, otherwise it would have gone on longer than the tea interval. The enterprise it reports on is called Future Hope.
Learning about Future Hope is the sort of process that causes people with opinions about how the world should be organised to say: “and this just goes to show how right I have always been about …”. To me, what comes through is how morally uncorrupted these children were when first rescued, it having been precisely their moral excellence that got the attention of the man, a chap called Tim Grandage, who started Future Hope, in order to rescue some of these children from their terrible physical deprivations and torments. The children who have grown up in the care of Future Hope sound, in this broadcast anyway, like the very definition of the “deserving poor”.
This being a Test Match Special broadcast, you would expect cricket to figure in the story, and it does, although for a long time rugger seems to have been a bigger deal than cricket for Future Hope. Is Grandage a rugger enthusiast, I wonder? Indeed he is. Ever since it started, Future Hope has used sport to physically improve, to socialise and to excite its charges, and generally to give them positive and amusing things to think, and thereby helping to take their minds off past miseries. But India being India, Future Hope also wants to develop its cricket. The England Cricket Team have got involved, and they recently spent a day at Future Hope, as the broadcast describes. England’s formidable new captain, Alastair Cook, opened their new cricket coaching operation for them. Good for him.
This is the first time I have ever heard about Future Hope, and I have no idea if it really is as good a thing as Jonathan Agnew and the Future Hope people he talked to made it sound. These days, you can’t help but be slightly concerned about such a phenomenon. But it did sound like a very good thing indeed. And I want to believe that if there were any doubts about its excellence, the England cricket team would not have gone anywhere near it.
I am now recovering from an illness. While ill, the only thing I could manage to pay much attention to, other than the various pains in my head, was the Kevin Pietersen Affair, the contemplation of which, to an England cricket fan like me, is a not dissimilar experience to that of being ill.
Today at Lord’s, the sacred home of cricket, England are embarking on the third and final game in their five day test cricket series against South Africa, but without Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen scored a brilliant century in the previous game. But no, he is not injured. He has been dropped.
Pietersen sent out disloyal tweets about the England captain and coach, for which transgression he did apologise, but too late. You can read the details, in the unlikely event that you want to, in media reports like this one, where phrases like “underlying issues on trust and respect” appear.
Where my interest in all this (I could write about it for ever) and the interest of Samizdata readers (who would presumably prefer me to keep a lid on it) may overlap, or so I hope, is in the big picture background to all this. Which is, in a word: India.
From time to time, usually, as now, from a writer trying to use such circumstances as a metaphor, you read about planetary objects being subjected by much heavier objects in their vicinity to gravitational forces so severe that different parts of the smaller planetary object start to be pulled in different directions, perhaps so severely that the smaller object threatens to fly into pieces. This is what is now happening to cricket in England, under the influence of that much larger cricketing object, cricket in India. Cricket is now like a solar system, and the quite big planet that is England cricket is being yanked about by the gravitational forces being exerted upon it by the Sun. And that Sun is: India.
The background to the argument between Kevin Pietersen and the E(ngland and Wales) C(ricket) B(oard), the people who run the Engand cricket team, is that Kevin Pietersen desires to be both an England international cricketer, and also to maximise his income (and also enjoyment and ego-massage) from cricket by all other available means, while nevertheless contriving somehow not to drop dead from physical and mental exhaustion. In particular, Pietersen yearns to be both an England cricketer and a fully paid up (very well paid up indeed) player in the Indian Premier League, the Indian twenty overs tournament that takes place in April and May of each year.
The ECB treats the IPL as just another foreign cricket league, concerning which they need to care very little. It’s a nuisance to their arrangements, but no more. They do not – or such seems their attitude – need to contrive any “window” to allow England cricketers to neglect their early season England cricket in order to cash in from a meaningless foreign slogfest, and then allow them time off from England games, or preparations for England games, so that they can avoid becoming completely exhausted. They pay England players well, and that should be quite enough, is their attitude.
But for any cricketer good enough or lucky enough to get a contract to be part of it, the IPL can be the difference between an anxious transition, when the time comes, from professional sport to the rigours of real life, and being financially secure for life, especially if he does well in it and gets asked back several times. During the limited time when Pietersen was able to play in this year’s IPL (he had to leave before the tournament ended), he did very well, scoring another brilliant century, for the
Deccan Chargers Delhi Daredevils.
The over-arching fact about cricket now is that the IPL is not just another tournament in a faraway country. It is the first great assertion in the cricket world – the cricket world – of the massive economic power of Indian cricket fandom. As I never tire of saying in my various cricket blog postings, there are more cricket fans in India than there are people in Europe. I remember when the millions of India were famous only for starving. Now, these same millions are striding towards twenty first century affluence. And they are taking cricket with them.
If India really, really wants to watch you play twenty twenty cricket for a month and a half, at a time when cricket in England is only getting started in weather that is often vile (despite anything the Met Office may have told cricket people about such months getting warmer), then if you are a cricketer, you really, really want to say yes. → Continue reading: Kevin Pietersen and the rise of India
In India we used to have a more socialistic economy. Everything was rationed. Sugar was rationed, kerosene was rationed, rice was rationed.
[What I can remember of] a remark made by one of the commentators on the Indian Premier League cricket match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals. It was prompted by Chennai’s apparent “rationing” of all-rounder Albie Morkel, who despite being restricted to a mere 6 balls, still managed to score 18 runs, thus saving the game, Chennai’s interest in the tournament and, by extension, civilisation itself.
Matheran, India. March 2012
Except there were two horses. Oh no. It couldn’t be, surely?
→ Continue reading: The two horses of the apocalypse
In the post below, Jonathan quotes Theodore Dalrymple saying the following rather mind-boggling statement.
“[Journalists are taxed at lower rates than normal people] … this is a considerable privilege, definitely worth preserving. It creates an identity of interest between the elite and the journalists, who are inhibited from revealing too much about anyone with powerful protectors.”
He thinks this is a good thing? Seriously? Journalists have an incentive to cover up the wrongdoings of the powerful, and this is good?
Leaving aside the obvious corollary of this, that France effectively licenses journalists, I personally do not think that politicians and bureaucrats should have any right to privacy whatsoever. They choose to go into politics, and they are trusted with our money and are given considerable power over us. In return, everything they do up to and including going to the toilet should be subject to scrutiny. They should have some protection against being libelled (but even then a relatively weak right – the burden of proof should be on the politician and it should be necessary to prove both untruth and malice). In truth I am not that keen on extending much of a right to privacy to anyone else either. As long as you are telling the truth, you should generally be able to say it out loud, in any forum. This is one case where the Americans have it right with the First Amendment.
As for the vulgarisation of culture, London is the most culturally vibrant city in Europe. Culturally speaking, Paris today is about as interesting as English food circa 1955. At least, Paris inside the peripherique is. There are some interesting things going on in rap music, language and art in some of Paris’ suburbs, but I doubt that Dalrymple is much of a fan. The price of cultural interestingness may be some vulgarity, but who gets to decide what is vulgar and what is art? Old men decrying the tastes of yoof today, I guess. The Nazis were very keen on doing this, too. As are the Chinese communists.
China is a deeply authoritarian place. As a consequence of that, the country is culturally pretty dead. The Chinese watch imported movies, and encourage their children to learn to play western classical music. What is produced domestically and gets wide distribution is frighteningly bland, which is what happens under authoritarian regimes. Interesting things can be going on underneath, which can sometimes lead to cultural explosions when the authoritarian regimes are gone (see Spanish and South Korean post-dictatorship cinema, for instance), but China is a way from that.
Who do you compare China with, though? There is one obvious rival.
In late April, a couple of days after some unspeakable barbarians had exploded a bomb in a restaurant in Marrakesh, I was sitting in a cafe in Fez, in a more northern part of Morocco. As in many cafes worldwide, there was a television in the room. This was showing a soap opera of some kind on a pan-Arabic TV channel. (There are many, many, many pan-Arabic TV channels. They are run out of Qatar and Dubai. Moroccan roofs have more satellite dishes on them than I have seen anywhere else on earth). This particular pan-Arab channel was showing a soap opera or a popular movie of some kind.
In any event, the program in question contained some Islamic symbols. There were mosques in the background of a few scenes. The TV was showing subtitles in Arabic. I am not sure if that was because the program was originally in some other language or if these were just closed captions in the same language as the original material, turned on because there was a lot of background noise. (It may have been that the program was in fact Pakistani, and the original language was Urdu, but I am not sure). In any event, though, the program contained musical dance numbers of a form that were familiar to me. And there were slightly more bare female midriffs than one expects on TV in an Arab country. I expect there were more than one sees on domestic Moroccan TV, too, which partially explains the satellite dishes. Morocco is authoritarian enough to censor its own TV, but not authoritarian enough to attempt to ban the dishes.
The program was not made in India, but the grammar of the program was entirely that of Bollywood. In North-West Africa, in the Arab world, one of the leading cultural influences is clearly India. This is hardly surprising. Go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Qatar and who does the actual work? People from South Asia; Indians and Pakistanis and Sri Lankans. Even when they are making programs for Arab markets, they use their own cultural reference points. Even when making programs for their own market, Pakistanis use Indian cultural reference points. However it happens, and however second or third hand it comes, the cultural influence of Bombay on the Middle East and North Africa is clearly immense
And is Bollywood vulgar? Oh Lord yes. More conservative Indians elsewhere in the country denounce its amoral wickedness as much as anyone in America has ever denounced Hollywood. The entertainment industries of India are run by gangsters at least as depraved as any who have ever run Hollywood or Las Vegas. It isn’t any great coincidence that the most savage terrorist attack carried out by Islamic extremists in recent years was on the city of Bombay. This is the heart of wickedness and vulgarity, and they know where the enemy is. Indian culture is vibrant and vulgar. On the surface and in the mass market at least, Chinese culture is dead. And Indian culture is the country’s greatest weapon against its enemies.
Further to what I, and Johnathan Pearce, and Natalie Solent, have all being saying here about cricket corruption, and about how this is a story about more than mere cricket corruption, I just noticed this report from a few days ago, at cricinfo.com. Cricinfo is one of my regular haunts, so sorry for not linking to this earlier:
Betting in cricket and other sports should be legalised in India, a Delhi court has said, pointing out that the police have failed to curb illegal betting in the country. Legalising betting, the court said, would help the government keep track of the transfer of funds and even use the revenue generated for public welfare.
“It does not need divine eyes to see that ‘satta’ in cricket and other games is reaching an alarming situation. The extent of money that it generated is diverted to clandestine and sinister objectives like drug trafficking and terrorist activities,” said additional sessions judge Dharmesh Sharma, of a Delhi trial court. “It is high time that our legislature seriously considers legalising the entire system of betting online or otherwise so that enough revenues can be generated to fund various infrastructural requirements for the common man and thus check the lucrative business in organised crime.”
Now I will willingly grant you that this is anything but a pure libertarian argument, of the kind that would prevail in Brian-Micklethwait-world. Judge Sharma is emphasising the revenue gathering opportunity inherent in legalisation just as strongly as the anti-crime point. But for what it is worth, I also much prefer a legalised and quite heavily taxed and state-regulated betting regime to total illegality, if those are the only choices I am offered. And they are, given the current state of the world and of its predominant opinions.
In the previous posting by Brian on the alleged match-fixing scam involving Pakistan’s cricket team, one commenter called Jim made the excellent point that gambling is illegal in Pakistan. It is, as the practice is banned under Shariah law – but there is a vast and thriving underground gambling industry there and indeed across the Indian sub-continent.
Now, as we libertarians like to point out, if you ban consenting activities between adults – such as betting on sports – then when such activities are driven underground, criminals get involved, with all the sort of consequences we are now writing about. That is not to say, of course, that if gambling were legalised in Pakistan, that the match-fixer gangsters would hang up their hats and do something else. But it would, in my view, help a great deal to drive some of these scum away.
Americans bored by all this talk of cricket might recall that baseball has had its problems in the past, as have other sports too. This Wikipedia entry is worth reading (and maybe improving).
And there are certain parallels in this issue with insider dealing in financial markets. On one level, I think that it should not be made illegal since it is difficult to work out the difference, sometimes, between a trader who is just quick off the mark to exploit new information and someone who happens to be privy to inside information. Arguablym, distortions caused by insider dealing eventually get arbitraged out by other investors. However, in the case of private stock markets, they are, as private institutions, perfectly entitled to set the rules so that trading is seen to be “fair” and open, if only to encourage investors to buy and sell stocks who might otherwise have been cynical about insiders getting all the best deals. It is like a private sports association setting down rules against things such as use of enhancement drugs, and so on. So long as no-one is forced to compete against their will, no-one can carp about the rules, and the adoption of such rules draws in more people and interest.
Back to the insider dealing point: As more people play in a market if the rules are seen to be fair, then this encourages greater liquidity and reduces the cost of capital. With the match-fixing issue, the costs of not punishing wrongdoers is something similar: it will drive away people from the sport due to greater cynicism, and hence reduce revenues, investment in new grounds and facilities, and so on. Cynicism, whether in sports, business or elsewhere, is a sort of deadweight cost on an activity by driving away fans, investors, etc.
Recently I’ve been suffering from shingles, hence my silence here in recent weeks. Shingles has been no fun, but it would have been even less fun had it not been for Indian Premier League cricket on the television to take my mind off my discomforts. For the last forty and more days, there’s been at least one twenty-overs-each-way slogfest every day, and often, as yesterday, two. The last Brian Micklethwait posting here, written originally for here but then featured here (which cheered me up a bit just when I most needed that – thank you JP), was about the IPL, and about one of the things I most like about the IPL, namely the fact that it involves lots of Indians getting rich and being happy.
I know what people mean when they claim that IPL-type cricket – slam bang, slog slog, all over in three and a half hours – is very unsubtle compared to proper day-after-day first class and test match cricket. I know what they mean when they say it’s not real cricket. But for me it’s real enough, and I like it, just as I like pop music and classical music. I also like very much that ITV4′s IPL coverage is free. I have never subscribed to Sky Sports, because that would mean wasting forty quid a month on a very few sporting events that I care about (mostly test match cricket in my case), and then, even worse, being tempted to waste the rest of my life watching a lot of other sporting nonsense, just so as not to waste all that money. If only I could spend a tenner a month and get all the best cricket, but nothing else.
But there is still a price to be paid for IPL watching, in the form of adverts between overs, advertising logos all over the players’ shirts, and constant commercial self-interruptions by the numerous, obviously very well paid and hence thoroughly compliant commentators. Nothing exciting ever happens in IPL without it being described as a “City moment of success”, whoever or whatever “City” (“Citi”?) might be. All catches are described as being “carbon” Kemaal (sp?). Actually it’s Karbonn – a mobile phone enterprise, I think. And there is a big blimp that hovers above the grounds with “MRF” on it, which is something to do with a fast bowling scheme paid for by a rubber company, that the commentators talk about incessantly for no reason except that they have been commanded to. But I don’t care. For me this is all part of the Indians making money angle. And if all the Karbonn City Moment of Success DLF Maximum (a six) Maxx Mobile Time Out (a bigger than usual advertising break) crap gets too annoying, then I wait an hour or two and instead watch my recording of it all, fast forwarding through all the commerce. Which is also a way to waste less of my life. This didn’t matter when I was ill. Wasting my life watching cricket games all day long was all I was capable of, other than sleeping and being depressed. But now, as I improve, that’s an important consideration. → Continue reading: IPL and the changing culture of cricket
“I think one of the things I especially like about the IPL is that lefties, I sense, don’t like it at all. They preferred India when it was a basket case, taking its economic policy advice from them and from the USSR. Now that it has liberalised, i.e. turned its back on lefty/USSR economic policy crap, India is doing outrageously well, at any rate by comparison with the bad old days. And IPL showcases that outrageous economic wellness for all the world to see. Ludicrously rich Indian film stars owing entire teams that cost a billion quid. Cheerleaders. Spoilt rich brats making painted faces at the cameras. And above all, Indians hitting sixes and bowling really fast and looking like ancient mythic warriors, rather than all thinking and looking like Mahatma bloody Gandhi and being glad if they scrape a draw. Hurrah!”
- Our own Brian Micklethwait, writing over at his own blog about innovations in the glorious sport of cricket, and what it says about India.
I had a good chuckle after reading this over on Goat in the Machine:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is concerned that her Pakistani hosts have failed to grasp the nettle of good governance, and reminds them of the high purpose and duty for which democratic societies entrust their representatives with the sovereign power:
“We (the US) tax everything that moves and doesn’t move, and that’s not what we see in Pakistan.”
That sure explains Pakistan’s little handful of problems at present. I’m ashamed I never thought of it. I had some childish intuition that they might have something to do with a civil society sufficiently dysfunctional that making a living by taking other people’s stuff off them, was far too easy in comparison to getting paid for producing stuff they wanted.
How could we have been so blind? The Taliban and Al Qaeda are pissed off at the world because they are under-taxed! Oh the humanity.
The creepy thing is I am sure that really is, in essence, what Clinton thinks.