Internet, Shahid Afridi & integrity

Sports, Zeitgeist

I had earlier (here) pointed out some of the search engine phrases that have led people to this blog. One search string that continues to send a few people here every day is “Shahid Afridi video”. So I decided to check out the videos available on Shahid Afridi.

Afridi no doubt is an explosive batsman. Even though I find him extremely unelegant, he surely is a very powerful hitter of the cricket ball. No surprises then that a lot of videos are about his exploits with the bat — world’s fastest century, world’s second fastest century (against India), 27 runs in a single over against New Zealand, 4 consecutive sixes off Harbhajan Singh etc. In a way it is only natural that these should be popular videos on the Internet. The kinds that Pakistanis and others — interested in cricket but neutral towards him — would send as email forwards to their friends. Just like we receive videos of spectacular goals scored in football every now and then.

This phenomenon of sports video forwards follows two conditions: 1.) the act has to be spectacular enough, and 2.) the length of the video has to be short enough so as to enable forwarding it across varied bandwiths.

Shahid Afridi videos often meet both these criteria. On the other hand, Lara’s innings of 375 or 400, no doubt spectacular, do not meet the second criterion. Similarly, the recent match between Australia and South Africa where both teams scored in excess of 400, while meeting the first criterion, does not meet the second. On the other hand Kumble’s 10-wicket haul, or Irfan Pathan’s hat-trick, or some of the dream leg-spin deliveries from Shane Warne meet both criteria.

But the video I want to share with you is of the ugly side of Afridi. And believe me, he has more than his quota of controversies — not the kind where the player ends up getting a lot of sympathy as well (a la Shoaib Akhtar — a confirmed chucker, who some see as a victim of race politics in international cricket) — but the kind that should cloud every sensible cricket follower’s impression of Afridi.

Click on the video below, wait for it to stream, proceed to the remainder of this post, come back to see the downloaded clip.

The first controversy surrounding Afridi had to do with his age. At the time of his debut (where he scored the world’s fastest century) he was reported to be seventeen. A lot of commentators doubted that. The most famous comment (which sadly I haven’t been able to reference) coming from Geoffery Boycott, who said something to the effect ‘…if he is 17, I am 21…’.

We know that a lot of players indulge in what has fashionably been defended as ‘gamesmanship’. Bodyline, negative line, ball tampering, and sledging are all manifestations of it. However, one of the worst examples of this was Shahid Afridi in the match between India and Pakistan in the 2003 cricket world cup in South Africa. In the course of his bowling spell (which as I had previously mentioned, includes a fair amount of chucking) he had an appeal turned down by the umpire. Afridi then hurled out the choicest of abuse towards the umpire. In this age of pitch microphones and close-up shots, everybody in the sub-continent would have heard and understood what he had just said. And it was disgusting especially now that cricket is a family sport.

Luckily, my friend Kapil Rampal didn’t just nod his head in disapproval, and continue watching the game. He immediately wrote to the ICC officials. Read here, what happened.

Afridi is no Miandad. Not that I anymore have any respect for Miandad as well — after I had seen pictures of him socialising with criminals like Iqbal Mirchi a little after the Mumbai blasts; and recently his son marrying Dawood Ibrahim’s daughter. And those who try and defend this behaviour using words like ‘combative’, ‘aggressive’, ‘street-fighter’, should really draw the line somewhere.

But the most ‘illustrious’ moment of Afridi’s ‘combative’ brand of cricket was when he was caught deliberately tampering the pitch with his boots while everyone was distracted by a blast in the stands in 2005, during a match between England and Pakistan. See the clip above to understand the ‘combative’ nature of this cricketer.

Like abhorring the use of products and services that involve some form of unacceptable input — child labour, cruelty to animals, harmful chemicals etc. — I have also given up on appreciating hard-hitting batting from this cricketer because of his integrity, or rather the lack of it.

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10 Years

Media & Entertainment, Politics, Sports, Zeitgeist

I had received this emailer last year:

In 1995 Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi was a reclusive figure

For Saurav Ganguly, playing test cricket seemed a pipe dream

Very few people in India had ever used email or logged onto the internet

We were not a nuclear-armed nation

India had 25 states. Kolkata was Calcutta. Mumbai was Bombay. Chennai was Madras.

Aishwarya Rai had acted in only film, in Telugu

There was only one life insurance company

There were no cellphones. No one had heard of call centres or Kargil

And till October 11, 1995, there was no Outlook


It has been along journey, these ten years. And an exciting journey, in a world transforming itself more rapidly than perhaps any other decade in human history.

To celebrate this journey, Outlook presents a series of 10th Anniversary Special Issues, looking back over the last ten years and looking forward to the next ten. Because we know, and you know, that the next ten years will be even more exciting.

And come to think of it, even in the last one year, a lot has changed indeed.

  • For Saurav Ganguly playing international cricket is yet again a pipe dream
  • We are on the verge of climbing down on our nuclear status
  • Aishwarya Rai hasn’t given a hit since Devadas (if you were to ignore Kajra re)

English football team & Dr. Karan Singh

Politics, Sports

The first football World Cup I remember having followed was the 1982 Espana, which was won by Italy. This I followed through the colourful pages of Sportstar — arguably India’s finest sports magazine.

Fuelled by that and also the availability of matches on Doordarshan, I closely followed the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, which was won by Argentina who were led inspirationally by Diego Maradona.

I also followed the 1990 Italia World Cup which was won by Germany defeating Argentina in a reversal of the previous tournament’s final. I was rooting for Argentina and saw all their matches where their second-choice goalkeeper Goycochea (who had to play because first-choice goalkeeper Pumpido — who had blundered in an earlier match — broke his leg on the field) defended quite a few shots during penalty shoot-outs. For the final, while the teams were lining up, I dozed off in front of the television set, only to wake up just as they were showing visuals of distraught Argentinians and jubilant Germans at the end of the match!

The 1994 World Cup in USA was won by Brazil defeating Italy in the finals, with Roberto Baggio infamously missing his penalty shot! A moment I remember from one of the USA matches was their goatee-sporting player Alexi Lallas almost scoring a goal with a bicycle kick worthy of Pele!

The 1998 World Cup in France was my first experience of community football watching — in the hostel of IIM Indore — with Saurabh Prasad letting out the choicest of abuses every time Roberto Carlos delayed passing the ball onto the forwards! France led by Zinedine Zidane shocked the defending champions Brazil in the finals. Star player Ronaldo did not play in the finals reportedly suffering fits before the match. This undoubtedly gave birth toseveral conspiracy theories!

It was during the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan that I attained ‘nirvana’ of football watching by refusing to have any favourites, either expressed or supressed. Regardless of who won, it was football that I was watching and enjoying — all the more in the finals, where Brazil defeated Germany.

It is 2006-Germany, and the quarter-final between Brazil and France is going on even as I write this post. It doesn’t matter to me who wins eventually. (Update: France just won)

It was 1977 when the then President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed died while in office. He was succeeded by Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy who was elected unopposed.

Chucking: Acute angle, obtuse logic

Sports

As young kids when we played cricket, the competition was always intense. No quarters given, no favours demanded. I remember very clearly two players from our team who were prevented from bowling as their actions aroused suspicion of the other teams we played matches with.

There were no cameras, no biomechanics, no electrodes, no trigonometric measurements — just the knowledge (not backed by overt admission though) that the bowlers' actions were not entirely defensible.

It becomes very clear to anybody who has watched the game for sometime, as to what is a good shot, and what is a bad shot. The same is true for the other player activities — fielding and bowling. You just KNOW, when it is good and when foul.

I have no doubt in my mind that the bowling actions of the following are (or have at a point of time been) foul:

Brett Lee
Germaine Lawson
Harbhajan Singh
Lasith Malinga
Mutthiah Muralitharan
Nathan Bracken
Rajesh Chauhan
Shabbir Ahmed
Shahid Afridi
Shoaib Akhtar
Shoaib Malik

They have either been 'throwing' — which involves the bowling arm being recoiled/flexed and then straightened out to generate a certain pace that would not normally come if the bowling arm were to be swivelled around the shoulder while at full stretch — or 'slinging' the arm in a slanted angle — where the bowling hand doesn't go high above the bowler's head at full-stretch. In the case of Malinga for example, the bowling arm is mostly at par with the level of the shoulder.

It doesn't take anything more than basic cricketing sense to endorse the above list of the defaulters.

What further obfuscates the issue is that the chucking debate centres around 'straightening' of the bowling arm. While in reality the problem is in 'bending' the bowling arm, which the bowler would then automatically straighten. You don't need to straighten your arm if you don't bend the damn arm in the first place!

And as if the misplaced debate were not enough, we have to contend with the absolute stupidity of ICC putting limits and measurements like eight degrees, thirteen degrees, fifteen degrees etc. and that too in exotic biomechanics laboratories! It is a hallmark of incredulous dodo-headedness that they don't think that the bowlers in question could bowl legitimately in the lab and sneak in the dirty ball during crucial moments in the match. (The biggest exponents of this are Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi).

Could the ICC stop this nonsense? Let the square-leg umpire call. For he, just like the rest of us, would KNOW when a bowler is chucking.

Like pregnancy — where you either are pregnant or you are not — chucking too is binary. You either chuck, or you don't. And there can be no measurements to it.