The Gully Cricket League

I presume that rarely in my many years on this planet have I been as disinterested in the cricket that is on offer than I have been over the last few weeks. The Champions League has been on and I could not care less. There is Duminy from South Africa (and a Mumbai Indian) representing a South African T20 team facing off against fellow South African Jack Kallis wearing a Bangalore  jersey. Then there is Gibbs from Deccan Chargers who does not turn up for the team we associate him with but for a different franchise. If Delhi Daredevils had advanced and New South Wales had not, then would David Warner switch loyalties midway through the tournament and turn out for his IPL team?

Why single out the Champions League you say—national lines are blurred inside IPL also. But there at least the allocation of different international stars to different teams is kind of fixed—-Bravo plays for the Mumbai Indians, Hodge and David Hussey are not supposed to be on the winning side. Over here, even that association is torn apart creating weird situations like what would happen  if  Beckham, in his Real Madrid days turned up for Man United in a tournament just because Real Madrid had not qualified for it. This of course does not happen since players like Beckham play for one club at a time unlike in cricket, players are journeymen playing in different leagues at different times of the year with someone like Brendon McCullum being associated with three franchises concurrently(Otago, New South Wales and Knight Riders).

The only good thing about the Champions League is that it reminds me of gully cricket growing up in Calcutta when  the big bullies would be captains, do a toss (usually done by guessing correctly if  the opposing captain has the pebble in his right or left hand or has it/dropped it) and then alternately pick players based on strengths (I was always the last person selected)so that every afternoon the composition of teams would be different. Of course the Champions League lacks the joy of breaking glass or getting shouted at by second-floor “masi” for putting the ball in her balcony (not our fault that it is straight in the mid-wicket region where all cross-batted hoicks go). Which is why I have avoided it totally this year.

Now coming to what I do care for.

With respect to the forthcoming ODI series against Australia, the board of selectors once again showed their sagacity by laying the blame for India’s latest debacle on where it was due—on the shoulders of Venkatesh Prasad, cricket’s very own Latin Lover whose legacy to a game of pace and speed has been slow delicate caresses and sensual massages as symbolized by his slow and slower deliveries. When he was hired as India’s bowling coach, my first impression was that he would be the glorified ball-fetch guy, since he never revealed great sagacity while bowling. Evidently he proved everyone wrong being felicitated for India’s awesome pace prowess last two seasons. Recently however with the wheels of the great Indian pace machine coming off, the Board has decided that Venkatesh Prasad is the real villain. And so the axe has fallen, slowly of course, on the shoulders of the great Venkatesh. And if Batman gets chopped, can Robin be far behind? So out goes Robin Singh. And if RS gets booted, can the other RS be far behind? So there goes R(P) Singh and Yousuf Pathan as part of the ritual bloodletting that must follow a bad campaign, the Board of selectors has once again cycled back in Munaf “Bobby” Patel (context here) —though something tells me that it is just a series or so before RP Singh comes back in as part of the selectorial  musical chairs.

Of course the most controversial omission was that of Rahul Dravid. Several questions have been asked with respect to why he lost his spot—-did the selectors just choose him for one series as a fire-fighting measure? Was he omitted because the Indian pitches are flat and will he be recalled once again when we tour? Does Dravid deserve this kind of “Now you are needed, now you are not” treatment? Or was this because Dravid, in the match against Pakistan, ran horribly between wickets and that Gambhir, never the most even-tempered of persons, threw away his wicket frustrated at Dravid’s inability to rotate the strike at a time Gambhir was in sparkling form?

Or were the reasons elsewhere?


Following India’s first-round exit from the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa, a senior player in the team made it a point to call Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, Chief Administrative Officer, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and told him that some of the youngsters don’t have any feeling of sadness losing.

Of course they don’t feel sad. Why would they? When I used to play “gully” cricket even I never felt sad when my team lost. Why? Because there was no “my team” since if I was in “Sunil-da”‘s team today I would be in Paplu-da’s team tomorrow and in Tunku-da’s team day-after-tomorrow on Wednesday (Paplu-da has maths tuitions on Wednesday afternoon and does not play). The only thing that made me sad was if I did not get my batting, especially after having made to fetch the ball from the fourth floor three times while fielding.

I would think that with cricket being reduced to gully cricket in terms of team loyalty, thanks to the money-sharks at the ICC and BCCI and the proliferation of tournaments like the Champions League , its useless blaming the players for not feeling too distraught at a defeat.

After all is not the “Indian team”  yet another “club side” (after all didnt the BCCI argue that the “Indian team” represents a private entity and not the nation), just one of many, for which they play throughout the year?

54 thoughts on “The Gully Cricket League

  1. kolkata girl stuck in usa October 19, 2009 — 8:30 pm

    very nice arnabda…. i liked your anaolgy to the calcutta gully cricket.. its true that nowadays the feeling of sadness at a loss has decresed unfortunately due to the convoluted logic used during team selection and players being dropped….
    p.s. loved “Paplu-da has maths tuitions on Wednesday afternoon and does not play)”
    you just capture the exact essence of calcutta 😀

  2. kolkata girl stuck in usa October 19, 2009 — 8:30 pm


  3. And not to forget the money involved in these leagues is spoiling the young generation cricketers as well..even if they don’t perform they are assured of the money!!

    shame on the BCCI!

  4. By the time I was halfway decided on my loyalty (am slow at tossing coins) as to which team I should support, the tournament is close to ending.

  5. Well you are missing one point here. May be the “senior-player-who-called” was Dravid after all. And as the side is full of young (bulletless??) guns, they made sure he is out of the team.

    About Prasad and both singhs, well someone has to go after each disastrous tour. These guys are removed with a promise of a grand return. Moreover just wonder is there some Bobby’s “Darling” in selector’s camp? In that case, it explains Munaf’s selection.

  6. @Amit: Maybe I didnt miss it. Maybe I hinted at it 🙂

  7. @GB May be I missed it. Oh hell yeah I missed it..

  8. As the packed stadium at Bangalore for all the matches featuring the home team showed (even for the last match when home team was already out and there was a bomb scare earlier in the day, there was capacity crowd), people have no problem in getting used to these shifting loyalties. And that’s how it should be. With just 8 national teams of any decent quality of which two at any time will be less than decent quality (currently NZ and WI) and one or two politically unstable (currently Pakistan), international cricket cannot go on with just the nation v nation contests. We need these club-based tournaments to grow in order to provide opportunities to more players and to be able to stage quality tournaments.

    Sure, some of the issues of which team the player plays for if two of his teams are qualified etc need to be resolved, but then these are just the early days. (And to answer your question, no, Warner couldn’t have played for Delhi if they had qualified for semis. Player has to decide the team before the tournament starts and has to stick to it for the duration of the tournament).

  9. For a change I think the quality of contest in CLT is really good. It kind of shows where IPL teams stand and end of the day team loyalty matters. Domestic teams are better than franchise teams since they are more like a team. Reminded me the super test 4yrs back when Aussie team beat the extra super team. Money and superstars dont make super teams…

  10. @Mohan,

    As long as their own team is playing. For the others its just plain humdrum. Being part of multiple franchises just does not build brand loyalty. And Mohan, that was a rhetorical question—–you didnt need to clarify it.

  11. “As long as their own team is playing. For others its just plain humdrum”. But then GB that is true for international cricket too – as far as the majority is concerned.

  12. @gb,

    But that is true with international cricket too. Most people don’t care about a tournament once their team exits. That’s no reason to dismiss the tournament.

    I agree that being part of multiple franchises hurts loyalty, but that’s a minor issue in the bigger scheme of things. While watching IPL, it doesn’t matter to me which domestic team Kallis plays for in South Africa. Similarly, for a fan in South Africa watching their domestic league, it doesn’t matter which IPL team he plays for. So it becomes an issue only in a tournament like Champions League and that too for a handful of players. I don’t think it is a big deal.

  13. the senior player who called was actually sachin tendulkar, not rahul dravid. of course that doesn’t mean that dravid would have been happy with the younger players ‘who gives a damn’ attitude.
    whichever way u look at it, there is definitely something rotten in the picking & dropping of dravid and it’s a damn shame that a legend is being treated like that.

  14. @Haha,

    For the majority. But for a significant section, a tournament without their team also has an attraction if the “association” is clear eg Ashes. For me, as I mentioned, the fluid nature of team affiliations in the CL doesnt bring any kind of connect with the teams—something that is not the case in IPL.

  15. I’m sure you would’ve been interested if KKR was playing the league. That’s how it is. You watch or get interested only if your team is playing.

    But I guess, I’ve lost out in all this cricketing league stuff. Gujarat doesn’t have a team 😦 At least you’ve got hope 🙂

    When the two new IPL franchises were to be announced, I was sure Ahmedabad would get a team but turned out one of them was Nagpur. What is the point of having Nagpur when you already have Mumbai!

  16. And in the larger scheme of things, Dravid isn’t needed, at least not in ODIs or T20s.

    You urself said it

    “Or was this because Dravid, in the match against Pakistan, ran horribly between wickets and that Gambhir, never the most even-tempered of persons, threw away his wicket frustrated at Dravid’s inability to rotate the strike at a time Gambhir was in sparkling form?”

    On top of that, he didn’t do much and gave his wicket away when India needed 70 of 60 which in normal terms is an easily achievable target.

  17. GB, with the Ashes or other national rivalries, there is a history -which helps create that following. Club cricket is in its infancy at this point – therefore the general lack of interest if your team is not playing (I am enjoying it – especially the T&T show – but that is a different matter). But, over time, this will change as fan bases evolve and the rules (players turning out for multiple clubs being one such rule) are formalized. It is the only way to go for cricket – when you have only a handful of countries playing the game at any decent level.

  18. As for Dravid, I fail to understand why him being dropped is such a big issue. Sehwag and Yuvraj are back. Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sehwag and Yuvraj are certainties plus they will bat in the top four. Then you have Dhoni at No5. So you need two batsmen at No6 & 7 – how does Dravid fit in?

  19. “What is the point of having Nagpur when you already have Mumbai!”

    Because MNS wouldn’t otherwise allow them to play in any city of Maharashtra! Wait till you have teams of Dhuliya and Jalgaon before an Amdavad team or Vadodara team (not that they don’t deserve their teams. But not before Amdavad). 😉

    What’s with JP Duminy? He plays horribly for those 950000USD, goes back and plays great cricket for his Naagraj team!

    What’s up with Dravid? Does he know which sports he is playing when he enters the field?

  20. Well all I have to say is this club-based tournament model is killing the way I used to enjoy my cricket. Players were closely associated with the team and so were the spectators with both players and team. I cheered for a team as well as its players.

    This whole ‘one player in many club’ mode is hazing out my interest to follow anyone or any team. This will one day sure result in me cheering, if at all, just for a club and no player as such.

  21. @Tejas: Yeah, Dravid certainly knows – he’s playing Cricket but the sad part is, he just knows one kind 😛

  22. Aaah … the pleasures of following football … UEFA Champions League is such an awesome tournament … even the group stages with teams you have never heard of like Rubin Kazan have interesting matches.

  23. Me First!

  24. Why Sunil da is in double quotes but not Paplu da and Tunku da?? Did I miss something or was that a Freudian “something” at work?

  25. Personally, I see nothing wrong in the club format. More such tournaments, and we’ll soon see most franchises investing in good players and thus offering us well-matched contests. Sure, some clubs will have more money and thus more stars, but it will still be more well-matched than international cricket where a bulk of the matches are one-sided bores.

    Perhaps it just takes a little getting-used-to. Already, in this tournament, the T&T team has picked up a lot of support in India.

  26. I think we should give some time for this tournament to settle into a rhythm. This is just its first year. You just have to wait till there are home and away matches scheduled throughout the calender year. That will add extra zing and help strengthen loyalties. The worldwide television viewership will also soar as soon as there are home and away matches.

    The tournament need not be a “cricket ka mahotsav’ but rather a continuous schedule of high quality cricket matches. Currently it caters to Indian market only. The best thing to have come out of this tournament so far is the success that the Caribbean team is tasting.

    The concern about the country loyalties will take care of itself it the FTP is rationalized and there is no overdose of cricket.

  27. You are spot on. Club loyalties wouldn’t prosper without player loyalties. For the same reason I don’t think the CLT20 would ever reach the heights of UEFA champions league for there is hardly any room for home and away matches in the cricket calender. Besides football is driven mainly by club matches, and the occasional world cup/euro/copa/whatever.Look at what we have, a world cup every year?!!!

  28. I am dying for a well fought test series now …..when’s India’s next ….Ricky’s catching up with Teddy …..

  29. i like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person … but apparently am too stupid to understand this champions league

    i pity the organizers, the players n the viewers

  30. Gully Cricket, well, what do I remember of Cal: tennis balls matches, frenetic excitement to win them, sometimes plastic balls matches, and as I was growing up the favorite “adda”, what do I take of cricket now- nothing. Feel bored watching this IPL or whatever…need a good test match.

  31. hi,

    “…like what would happen if Beckham, in his Real Madrid days turned up for Man United in a tournament just because Real Madrid had not qualified for it. This of course does not happen since players like Beckham play for one club at a time…”

    Even in Football, players have been known to play for multiple clubs in an year for whatever reasons…it can be on loan, a transfer, or any such thing. But even Beckham cannot play for more than one team in the CL…for the simple reason that FIFA does not allow that. A case in point is Arshavin, who could not play in the CL for Arsenal last year, cause he had already played for another club in the CL. Which means his role in Arsenal was restricted to playing the EPL.


  32. Bhere iz yor book Pliss

  33. Hi GB
    would u pl. write a smashing post about the 80s – 90s doordarshan serials and its stars
    Channa Ruparel
    Kittu Gidwani
    raghuvir Yadav
    Shekhar Suman
    Kiran Juneja
    Rakesh Bedi
    kavita Chaudhary

  34. @Lalit: In February

    Soorma: Will do someday. However I didnt watch too many DD80 serials because they conflicted with “study” time.

  35. Am I the only one who thinks the blame lies greatly with Dhoni for state of the team?

  36. @T.O. Yes You’re the only one 😛

  37. Hey why is your post on Parnab Mukherjee missing?

  38. “have I been as disinterested in the cricket that is on”

    disinterested == unbiased, impartial.

    I think you want ‘uninterested’

  39. I have actually enjoyed watching this more than the IPL, despite the fact that at the IPL I had one team that I was supporting more than others (Mumbai). When it started, I was sure that I will not follow it, but the convenient timing, the relative absence of hype and inane IPLisms (thank god for small mercies; no DLF maximums in sight) and the reduced coverage of the ‘Adventures of Modi’ (though it has been again increasing in the final stages) has helped. This tournament has had some good matches, some exciting new players and teams, and most importantly, hasn’t dragged on for ever. It did take a bit of time to get used to, but overall, it has been fun. And, I found two teams to support – Cape Cobras and T&T, who sadly had to face off in the semi-final and not the final.

  40. Am I the only one to think this way.. Indian cricket is going the English football way..

  41. Strange that I am getting to read so many articles on cricket since this morning. I came here for respite but today wherever I go, cricket fdollows. Is it a sign of things to come?

  42. @Dip

    Hope English football doesn’t go indian cricket way. Thats the only solace I find in sports channels these days.

  43. Dear great bong,

    You life in gully cricket is just like my life in gully cricket.In Delhi I was made the “beech ka bicchu”.The primary job of the beech ka bicchu was to run and fetch the balls which were left off by the keeper. He had to field for both teams and he could not bowl.But of course he got to bat in both the teams.

    This was done because the beech ka bicchu had superior batting and bowling skills when compared to the rest of the team members (Good for nothing, no batting, no fielding, no bowling, AKA all rounder)

    But then there was this one time I won a very important match for my loosing team, I accidentally nicked the ball to the third man for 4 runs.
    We won , My team actually won!!!!!
    Boy i was so happy that i could not sleep that night.

  44. I recently went to see David Beckham play in Los Angeles against Barcelona (in a friendly game). He had recently returned to LA Galaxy after being on ‘loan’ to AC Milan I believe, for about a year. He was booed by the local crowd as he walked out onto the field.
    I thought I’d mention this since you stated in this post that the soccer players play for one team at a time. Now, to be fair to the comparison that you have made with this 20-20 league, while it’s true that Beckham did not exactly turn out for AC Milan just because LA Galaxy ‘did not qualify’ for EPL I’d probably still be hesitant to fully agree that the soccers players play for “one team at a time”.

  45. himesh reshammiya October 27, 2009 — 8:44 pm

    u stopped blogging? Or is it a strategy to space out your posts like my movies to get maximum atttention from fans?

  46. Ages since we heard about the erstwhile ‘rising star in the Indian movie firmament’ – Nabh Kumar Raju.Any updates 😀 ?

    @himesh – Tut tut..When was the last time you got de-wormed ?

  47. Agree on the absence of loyalty in franchise-formats. I was having a conversation with a colleague about the rabid behavior of football fans (not the much revered “foot” version but the bastardized run-with-it travesty in America) and he corrected me by pointing out that I must have seen College Football fans. He further clarified his point by comparing College Football – where university loyalties run high and the blood flows unstaunched – to the NFL where star players could just as well land up in a different jersey for the next season. There was no point in being loyal to a team or a player because they just didn’t “feel it”.

  48. I think arnab is busy with preperation of his book release , because I dont think any other engagement is worthy enough to keep him away from keyboard.

  49. You are making a big mistake here GB. I will disagree with you on this one. You must remember that cricket now is going thru what baseball went thru years earlier. All these innovations etc that cricket have a baseball influence on them. In America, the baseball franchises are worshipped. Not the players. It is true that player team loyalty is a great thing. But given the IPL, players have found out that they should be loyal to only thing in life- money. Same thing in baseball- the old Red Sox fan who thinks that baseball is still a pastoral sport would shrug off the drug controversy and think that the player who left Red Sox this year is a traitor while the one who did not leave is a “loyal” guy. The latter simply did not have a better offer from any other franchise, or was bound by a contract.

    Now given the situation India is, we still and will continue to support national team cricket games, as we dont have anything else to support. We cant play any other sport, nor do we have the inclination to be good in any other sport. Nor is there any support at any level. So this is the opium of the masses. Now with 2020, we get into zonal and local teams. Still, given the intra-cultural differences, you will identify yourself more with the Kolkata team than the Punjab one. A decade or two later, with more people moving around, these lines will be blurred, the nation will be even more richer, people will have money and people will develop these loyalties like that. Trust me. That is what these administrators hope for. People need entertainment. So if 2 guys go to a sports bar in Delhi in 2015, they will say, “Oh I am a Delhi fan”, irrespective of Virender Sehwag plays for Chennai or not. Same thing ….like Yankees or a Mets or a Red Sox thing. “I support the “team” “, will be the motto. In a facebook era, eventually, whether you like it or not, you will find yourself gravitating to one of these clusters.

    If you, one who appreciates good cricket, does not….no worries….the masses will do it…and like it…and eat it. Is it good? Again…as I said…in the absence of NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, that is all you got. So you will have something on TV so that when you go to that sportsbar in 2015, you will say…hey Chennai…thats my team. So why do the players play such nonsense games?….money. Sometimes, such tournaments…as the recent one …can be quite entertaining one too. The only way to stop a hundred premier leagues all around the year is therefore to have a competition sport, which will have its share of eyeballs (like say MLB2 in winter cant happen as its NFL time). We dont have any other sport. So its cricket all the way baby….anyyy kind.

  50. So true!!!
    and technically the “Indian team” does represent a private entity and not the nation.

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