Monday, February 22, 2010


The penultimate legal ball of the match. 7 to win. Number 11 on strike. He pulls towards deep square leg, and the ball looks on course to reach the ropes. A 36-year old body flies across. The ball is pulled back, but no one is really certain whether it was a four or not.

Third umpire under pressure. After endlessly watching replays that revealed nothing of help, the benefit of doubt was given to the fielder, Sachin Tendulkar. While Kallis and the South African camp seemed angry, the Indian camp also looked uncertain. The batsmen had run 3, and on strike now would be Wayne Parnell (48* of 46 balls then). He was the visitors' best hope for a win. 4 needed off the last ball.

Praveen Kumar runs in and bowls one wide of the off stump. Parnell has a swing. Does not connect. Dhoni celebrates. The South African dressing room signals a wide. When umpire Tarapore does the same, that dressing room celebrates almost as if they have won it. Replays suggested that even this one was a tight call.

When the replays were being shown of Sachin Tendulkar diving and saving a run, the South Africans must have been wondering if they could get a 4 and still have Parnell on strike. Eventually, that is exactly how it turned out. One tight call went in favour of India, the next one in favour of South Africa. Poetic justice, was it?

But irrespective of the result, in a match where both the teams underperformed to produce a thriller, one man's performance stood out. Ravindra Jadeja churned out a spell of 10-2-29-2. An economy rate of 2.9 by a slow left arm bowler on a batting beauty with the threat of dew around in a match where runs were scored at 5.95. Phenomenal! Not to forget, he had also made 22 runs of 20 balls earlier in the day to help India score 298.

Jadeja produced a performance to be proud of at a time when he must have been feeling low due to the IPL fiasco. Here is a promising youngster who has been banned from a big-buck tournament that would have given him some more experience of playing with and against top international players. Why? Because he was searching for a franchise that would pay him something worth his skills. If recent performances are anything to go by, he deserves more than US$ 0.95 million. Confused? That is the value of Ishant Sharma's contract. Jadeja certainly deserves better than Sharma.

Jayaditya Gupta, in an article on the Cricinfo Magazine, talking about the Jadeja - IPL fiaso, asks a question about the young and promising cricketers on the fringes: "Who's in charge of these cricketers outside the six-week tournament?"

IPL has promised counselling for youngsters who have suddenly tasted wealth. They have promised financial counselling even for parents. But what about caring for players when the IPL is not bothered?

Jadeja, in the recent past, has been reliable and impressive with his bowling. Though not very potent a batsman, he can be depended on to rotate the strike and allow the bigger bullies in the Indian batting line up express themselves. Is it right that a player as promising as this one has been hurled into such a controversy at the age of 21 years? Couldn't he have been let off with a warning and some counselling? After all, his record thus far in his fledgling career is completely clean.

Jadeja is entitled to an appeal against the IPL decision and Niranjan Shah is supposedly going to plead his case. The members of the IPL Governing Council is the guards of this tournament. But such controversies throw up one big unanswered question: "WHO WILL GUARD THE GUARDS?"

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