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Kevin Pietersen backs for D/N format to save Test cricket

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Kevin Pietersen

Bengaluru | India is still not comfortable with the idea of playing day-night Tests, but former England captain Kevin Pietersen today made a strong statement when he said that pink ball matches is the only way forward to save the game’s traditional format.

The first-ever foreign cricketer to address the prestigious MAK Pataudi Lecture, Pietersen couldn’t have possibly chosen a more appropriate platform to make a case for day-night cricket, especially at a time when T20 is threatening to usurp all other formats.

“If we wish cricketers to commit to five-day cricket we have to pay them. So how do we pay them? Simply by throwing the same commercial nouse and innovation at the Test game. Five days of action. They provide so many opportunities.

“Day night games have demonstrated the enormous leaps that are possible. The IPL doesn’t play its biggest fixtures when many of its staunchest, wealthiest fans are at work. Neither should Test cricket,” Pietersen said in his address.

Pietersen stated that marketing Test cricket is the need of the hour for the custodians of the game.

“It will only be by pushing the marketing dial to a maximum that we will see if the Test game has true potential. Let’s make every game count. Push the profile of the world Test championship. Develop marketing opportunities. Offer cheaper seats in the ground to provide a better spectacle for TV viewers,” he said.

“We need to get them back through the turnstiles. It’s better for the players the sponsors and television. Let’s get the fans back! Let’s throw equal marketing clout behind the Test game before we succumb to the lazy assumption that 20-20 rules.”

Pietersen said entertainment value of Test cricket needs to be increased.

“I say, let’s create a fair comparison. Let’s not compromise entertainment. Let’s put the Test fans first. Let’s make Test cricket a spectacle. Garnish it with colour and fireworks. Fill the grounds. Play in the evenings. Give the umpires microphones to broadcast to the spectators. Allow sledging — as long as it remains the right side of the line. Communicate better with the fans,” he said.

Pietersen himself has plied his trade across the globe in various T20 leagues but the Englishman remains a staunch supporter of the five-day format.

“In my humble opinion, a hard-fought five-day Test match remains the greatest all-around challenge in modern day sport. A challenge as mentally demanding as it is physical. A challenge demanding the very highest levels of concentration of technique, of determination, of stamina, all, for the batsman at least, with no second chances,” he said.

“Because, having played every form of cricket in every corner of the cricketing globe, I remain 100% convinced that the five-day Test remains the supreme form of the game,” Pietersen stressed.

Further emphasising on his point, Pietersen said T20 may be ruling the roost but it is Test cricket which eventually showcases the character of a player.

“This may surprise some of you. After all, I am not known as a traditionalist. But in 2005 I maintained that you shouldn’t judge a man by his haircut. And now, thirteen years later, I suggest you should not believe everything you read on Twitter!

“Nor, I should add, am I anything but unstinting in my praise of 20-20 cricket — particularly the wonderful IPL. 20-20 provides the thrill, the noise, the speed and no little genius. It has taken fielding to a new level and has redefined batting,” he said.

“But it offers the cricketing buzz without the full sting. Wickets are less precious. Risks are taken without the same downside. There is less character and technique required. Few players have ever been met with the wrath of an entire population simply for getting out to an injudicious shot early in a 20-20 innings!”

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CT will be reality check for us ahead of hockey world cup, says captain PR Sreejesh

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PR Sreejesh

Bengaluru | Indian men’s hockey team captain PR Sreejesh says the upcoming FIH Champions Trophy, which will feature all the top teams of the world, could provide a reality check ahead of the season-ending World Cup.

Having finished second best in the last edition, Indian men’s hockey team would want to go one step ahead this time, but Sreejesh is looking at the event in a different way.

The 18-member Indian team will leave for Breda, Netherlands later tonight to take part in the last edition of the Champions Trophy, to be held from June 23 to July 1.

With hosts The Netherlands, Argentina, Pakistan, Belgium and defending champions Australia in the fray, the tournament will be a litmus test for India ahead of the World Cup, to be held in Bhubaneswar later this year.

“Though right now our immediate goal is to do well in this tournament, there is no doubt the Champions Trophy will be a reality check for us to see where we stand among other top teams especially ahead of the World Cup,” said Sreejesh ahead of the team’s departure.

“It is the final edition of Champions Trophy and I am sure every team would want to make it memorable. It will be a challenging tournament with back-to-back matches and winning those three points from each game will be the only thing on our minds.”

India, who had won a historic silver medal in the previous edition in London, will begin their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 23 but Sreejesh said it is just another game for them despite the hype around the high-profile encounter.

“For us, the match against Pakistan is just another game where we will be looking to win three points. In this tournament every single match is crucial if we want to see ourselves in the title round because the first two teams on top of the points table will play the final,” said the custodian Sreejesh.

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India failed to emerge as football power by not quitting Commonwealth: Book

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1950 Indian Football team

New Delhi | Parochialism has been affecting Indian football over the years but things might have been different had India left the Commonwealth in 1950 to join the soccer world full time, a new book claims.

India won the Asian Games football gold in 1951, again in 1962 and came fourth in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

“Had soccer grabbed its chance, and Jawaharlal Nehru followed popular sentiment and left the Commonwealth, who is to say that today football, not cricket, would be the main sport of India,” UK-based sports commentator Mihir Bose says.

“Had India left the Commonwealth in 1950, making Indian cricket a world outcast, and the Indian football gone to Brazil to play in the World Cup the same year, that by itself would have made India a football nation like Saudi Arabia which does not see playing in the World Cup an impossible dream,” he argues in his book “Game Changer”.

“Had India gone to the World Cup in 1950, it would have been playing the best of world football. In the 1950s, that was not possible for India in cricket. Matching wits against the best would have been a tremendous boost for the sport,” Bose also told PTI.

“Football then was more popular than cricket, had reached more parts of the country, had links with Indian nationalism in the way cricket did not and playing in the World Cup would have boosted the game,” he adds.

He also says that football in India did not really follow the game as it was played in the rest of the world and has been “wretchedly” led.

“Cricket administrators are bad but football have been worse,” he alleges.

“Game Changer”, published by Palimpsest, is a critical take on the English Premier League and has a special chapter on Indian football titled “First Words”. The foreword is written by veteran football commentator Novy Kapadia.

“The England team may not have been a success but the Premier League is the most successful leagues in the world. It shows how English domestic football has reinvented itself in the last quarter of a century from being a league that was going nowhere and outclassed by La Liga and Serie A,” Bose says about the EPL.

He says Indian clubs need to learn from the sides in the English Premier League on how to market themselves.

“English clubs are very good at reaching out to their fan base and making their club’s name well known and reaching out beyond the football public.”

But to really develop the sport, Indian clubs need to set up academies which can nurture young players, he suggests.

“Also they need to make sure their coaches go out into remote rural areas to seek out young players who could be turned into stars. They also need to develop links with clubs in England and other European countries so their young players can come to Europe to learn about the game. Their coaches should also do the same,” Bose says.

According to him, Indian sports followers do not seem to be interested in the grass roots of the game and their focus seems to be on celebrity sports, and cricket in India has all the celebrities.

“It is not easy for football to compete with cricket. This will have to be a long process,” he says.

“FIFA thinks Indian football is a great underdeveloped story of world football. Indian football has a long, rocky road ahead but it is not an impossible one. They can learn from how the English Premier League reinvented the game,” he hopes

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Roger Federer wins 98th ATP title in Stuttgart ahead of return to No 1

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Roger Federer

Stuttgart (Germany) | Roger Federer claimed his 98th ATP title on Sunday and re-established his unrivalled superiority on the grass with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Milos Raonic in the Stuttgart Cup final.

Top-seeded Swiss beat his Canadian opponent for the 11th time in 14 meetings while winning a first Stuttgart title.

Federer, who will be chasing a ninth Wimbledon triumph next month, finally came good on the German grass on his third attempt after losing a semi-final in 2016 to Dominic Thiem and falling in the first round here a year ago to good friend Tommy Haas.

The 36-year-old will regain the world number one ranking on Monday and is playing next week as top seed in Halle.

“It’s a great comeback for me,” Federer said after completing his 78-minute win.

“I’m so happy to win this tournament in my third attempt. We’ll see if being number one again will probably give me a boost.” Federer made a return to the top ATP ranking for a sixth time through his semi-final victory on Saturday over Australian Nick Kyrgios.

He takes the honour back form Rafael Nadal for the second time this season and continues the duel on court between the two modern icons.

Federer kept tight control on the match as he claimed his third title of the season after the Australian Open and Rotterdam and now owns 28 grass trophies including eight from Wimbledon.

“I think I played very well not having played for a while,” Federer said as he competed this week for the first time since mid-March after skipping the clay season.

“Maybe I was a bit better on the big points.” The Swiss broke twice in the first set to earn it after 32 minutes when his opponent returned long over the baseline.

The second set stayed on serve into the tiebreaker.

A double-fault from the Canadian followed by a return winner from the Swiss set up three match points, with Federer needing only his first as Raonic netted a return.

Federer improved to 21-2 on the season after playing in the 24th grass final of his career.

The 35th-ranked Raonic, a victim of various injuries over recent seasons, was playing a final for the first time in his last 16 tournaments dating to Istanbul last year.

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