India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan’s cricketers rise to the world stage

(Afghanistan's cricketers after they qualified for the World Cup. Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

(Afghanistan's cricketers after they qualified for the World Cup. Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro)

Afghanistan’s cricketers are playing heavyweights India in their opening match in the 20-over World Cup on Saturday, capping an extraordinary journey from refugee camps to the game's top table.

It couldn't be a more unlikely pair walking out to the green in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia than captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India and Nowroze Mangal of Afghanistan to toss the coin at the start of the match.

Dhoni is just coming off the Indian Premier League, having made millions of dollars playing cricket's richest tournament and the endorsements that come with it, even though some of the sheen is off because of allegations of corruption clouding the tournament.

Mangal, by contrast, learnt to play cricket in a refugee camp in Pakistan with a ball made out of cloth and shoes for stumps. When his team won an Asian Twenty20 competition in 2008 -- the tournament that marked the start of their journey to the top -- Mangal was given a parcel of land worth $60,000. His team each get a day rate of about $75 when they are on tour, according to the Times.

Will democratisation help clean up gentleman’s game?

It started with a Twitter post and promptly snowballed into accusations of funding irregularities, corruption and misuse of power. Almost hard to believe it’s cricket that is being discussed here.

Cricket has always attracted controversy because of the large amount of money and sponsorships it involves unlike any other game.

A policeman stands guard at one of the entrances to a cricket stadium during a match in IPL tournament in Kolkata April 19, 2010. Indian authorities have begun an investigation into the financing of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the finance minister said on Monday, following allegations of corruption in the world's richest cricket tournament. REUTERS/Parth Sanyal As the game changed its format over the years, the scale and proportion of the scandals grew accordingly.

Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar?

CRICKET-SAFRICA/The Maharashtra government is going to recommend Sachin Tendulkar for the country’s highest recognition — Bharat Ratna.

Not only politicians of various hues but former cricketers have also rooted for Tendulkar.

Calls for the award have become louder after Tendulkar achieved the rare feat of a double century in the one-day format.

Applaud and preserve Sachin-like champions — can we?

Tendulkar’s batting magnificence has been chronicled so much over the years that anything written about him generates as much passion as he does on any cricket field.

Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his double century during the second one-day international cricket match against South Africa in Gwalior February 24, 2010.  REUTERS/Punit ParanjpeHis 200-run spectacle against South Africa was another opportunity for his fans to erupt, cheer, sing and write praises.

But with such performances come expectations. So much that almost every time this champion comes in to bat, high expectations generate a sort of fear — in the stadium, homes, TV stations, internet and wherever he is revered.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Shunning Pakistani players is not cricket

(The Pakistani cricket team)

(The Pakistani cricket team)

Pakistani cricketers, the press and ordinary people are livid about their players' exclusion from India's Premier League , the game's most lucrative tournament played out before a vast television audience. Eight Indian teams that take part in the tournament bid for players  from around the world, doling out large sums of money.  But nobody bid for the 11 Pakistani players on the list, includng some who were part of the Pakistani squad that won last year's  World Cup Twenty20 tournament, the three-hour version of the game that the IPL is also played in.

It's not that they were not good enough. They are some of the best the game has to offer. It's that the people who own the teams fear the Pakistani players may face dificulties getting visas or that tensions between the two countries, already rising, could make things dificult  for them  So why put money on them ?

But then, as former Pakistani skipper Ramiz Raja writes in The Indian Express why were the Pakistani players invited to play  in India in the first place,and indeed put on the list of players to be auctioned. They had even been given cricket visas, he says , adding these men are much like their counterparts in India, heroes of the nation. And so it's not just the players who have been snubbed,  a whole nation feels insulted.

from Left field:

Will India as No.1 team prove the tonic for test cricket?

India's crushing 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka to become the number one ranked test team for the first time has triggered huge celebrations across the cricket-crazy nation.

The hosts, ranked number three, leapfrogged leaders South Africa and the second-ranked Sri Lanka to become the first team other than Australia or the Proteas to head the list.

In an ideal world, the development in the game's global commercial hub should work wonders for the classical format, overshadowed by both the limited-over formats, especially after the rise of Twenty20. India owes its current commercial clout to the shock World Cup win in 1983 which particularly turned the 50-over game into a cash cow.

Are Muslims of troubled Kashmir treated unfairly by Indians?

Parvez Rasool, a Kashmiri cricketer, was briefly detained in Bangalore on suspicion of carrying explosives, an incident which triggered anger in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley.

This is not an isolated case.

Earlier actor and model Tariq Dar, a Kashmiri Muslim, was mistakenly imprisoned in New Delhi for weeks for having terror links. But Dar was later found innocent.

Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani, a Kashmiri, was even awarded the death sentence in connection with the 2001 Parliament attack case, but was later released.

Playing spoilsport with Formula One?

Despite the Force India team taking second place at the podium at the Belgian Grand Prix there is no rethinking in the sports ministry on its view that Formula One is not enough of a sport.

Sports minister M.S. Gill congratulated Vijay Mallya on his team’s win but labelled Formula One as ‘expensive entertainment’.

The sports ministry has refused approval to the promoters of Formula 1 in India, JPSK Sports, to pay 1.7 billion rupees to the Formula One Administration for the proposed Indian Grand Prix of 2011.

A punch in the face of Indian women

Lost in the clamour over our cricketers defying WADA over the “whereabouts” rule in drug testing, was a tiny news item in the Hindustan Times daily last week about women boxers washing dishes and serving tea to visitors at the National Institute of Sports.

Sports Minister MS Gill, when questioned about it in India’s upper house, said the practice was “a normal courtesy extended to distinguished guests”.

There was no clarity on what made a guest distinguished or whether this was a courtesy that only women were called on to extend.

Pakistan’s moment of triumph, and a question for the world

Pakistan’s success in the Twenty20 cricket World Cup must rank as one of sports’ more timely victories. For a state that is supposed to be at war with itself, failing and in danger of fragmentation there cannot be a sweeter way to hit back.

Younus Khan who led his unfancied team comes from the North West Frontier Province, as does Shahid Afridi whose explosive batting took Pakistan to an eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka, another nation wracked by decades of civil war, but coming out of it.

The NWFP is the frontline of the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda that has so blighted the nation, left it divided, bleeding and saddled with a huge refugee problem. Indeed Khan said the World Cup was a gift to the people of Pakistan.

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