The last week of November has been one of a kind, for it’s not every other week you see a ‘Test specialist’ score back-to-back 62-ball hundreds, but thankfully for us, there’s just been enough (ab)normality to compile the Good, Bad and the Ugly. Quite a few surprises in store, we’ll give you that.
Live crowds back in international cricket matches
They say you don’t realize the value of something until it’s gone and the void that the absence of crowds brought about was visible right from the first behind-closed-doors match between the Aussies and the Kiwis way back in March. Sure the broadcasters did their best to pipe in fake cheers and loud music, but you would much rather have a real red rose blooming in your garden than a plastic one, wouldn’t you? Live crowds in international cricket, on Friday, returned for the first time in 8 long months and it just felt like the adrenaline shot the sport needed. Schadenfreude-loving fans intimidating players into dropping sitters, sixes and fours being cheered, milestones being applauded and acknowledged, crowd-catches being held, batsmen and bowlers being cheered and jeered - oh it was everything. The cacophony of the crowd noises, coupled with smiling faces in the stands, induced a high that reminded what sport is all about and why it can never, ever survive without the presence of fans.
Gone but never forgotten
Tragedy struck on November 25 as it was learnt that the great Diego Maradona was no more, and the entirety of the universe took its own time to fathom and digest the news which, quite frankly, was heart-shattering. But the beauty of sport lies in how the entire world joins hands and comes together as one family during times of despair and discomfort. Maradona was someone who affected and transformed the lives of millions and so, rightly, the entire sporting fraternity celebrated El Barrilete Cosmico’s life and legacy through moving tributes. While footballing sides across Europe remembered the icon by either applauding or observing silence for an entire minute, the most heart-warming gesture was made by the New Zealand rugby side, whose captain Sam Cane laid an All Blacks jersey - bearing the No 10 - on the field ahead of the game. Maradona was not the only late icon who was honoured, though, as Australia and India paid their respects to the late duo of Phil Hughes and Dean Jones in the first ODI of the series.
Andre Russell turns up to play in LPL - after making himself unavailable for national duty
Andre Russell is currently tearing the Lanka Premier League apart - he scored a 14-ball 50 on Saturday - but the premises surrounding his participation have been bizarre and controversial. That he is doing wonders to a nascent tournament’s popularity by partaking in it is laudable, but Russell’s commitment towards his country is something that needs to be questioned. The big Jamaican made himself unavailable for the tour of New Zealand - and the selectors obliged, understandably, taking into consideration his physical and mental wellbeing - but then betrayed the trust of the management by showing up to the LPL behind their back, without their knowledge. Certainly, he cannot dish out the ‘not fit’ excuse, for it makes no sense for a half-fit player to choose a month-long tournament over three T20I assignments. One wonders even a half-fit, non-bowling Russell would have done a world of good to the Windies’ chances in the ongoing T20Is versus the Kiwis.
India and Australia play an ODI longer than a Test match
The first ODI between India and Australia kicked off at 9:10 AM IST and went on. And on. And on. And on. And on. Before finally coming to a conclusion at just over 5.30 PM IST. Largely thanks to the abomination of a first innings which lasted over FOUR HOURS, the two sides played out an ODI game which lasted EIGHT AND A HALF HOURS. The Indians, rightly, copped a 20% fine for the same but that had little effect as they once again in the 2nd ODI completed their bowling innings 20 minutes post the allocated time. Matches running overtime is one thing, but games getting extended by an hour is criminal; it is cruel on the fans. Particularly for a side like India that employs 20 overs of spin, over-rate breaches are unacceptable. Perhaps it’s time the ICC inflicts harsher punishments - possibly run penalties to make teams feel the wrath instantaneously.
Pakistan players breach Covid protocols in New Zealand; risk eviction
Six Pakistan players tested positive for Covid-19 upon landing in New Zealand - a 7th positive case emerged on Saturday - but while that can be deemed unfortunate, the behavior and the discipline of the tourists - inside their hotel rooms - turned out to be an absolute embarrassment. Multiple players broke protocol by sharing food, mingling in hotel rooms and failing to observe self-isolation and the extent of the breach led the New Zealand government to issue a final deportation warning to the Pakistan camp. Aside from putting the tour in jeopardy, a section of players let the whole nation of Pakistan down, threatening to tarnish a reputation that they carefully worked over a decade to rebuild. Even in these tough times, indiscipline is something that simply cannot be tolerated, and it is indeed surprising that a team like Pakistan, that has already spent months inside bio-bubbles, have resorted to callous behaviour.
BCCI hide the truth - not just from the general public, but also the national captain
The BCCI, for a good part of the month of November, tested the patience of the general public using their mental gymnastic tricks to conceal information on the mystery surrounding Rohit Sharma, but they were caught off guard - and low-key exposed - by a pre-match rant by Virat Kohli, who indirectly questioned the board’s lack of transparency. Kohli expressed bafflement over the board’s lack of clarity and communication surrounding the Rohit/Ishant fiasco, claiming that both players would have been better off had they travelled directly to Australia with the rest of the camp. Now we’ve already gone through this in detail, but the state of affairs within the BCCI, at the moment, is truly sad and scary. That the captain and the most powerful cricketer in the world, Virat Kohli, is being kept in the dark about the fitness of the side’s vice-captain is an utter disgrace. It’s time for the BCCI to look in the mirror and do some self-introspection.