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How much is too much?

Cricket in Abu Dhabi comes when there is a debate about an overdose of the game.

Cricket commentary
MIND GAME

FOURTH UMPIRE

April 20, 2006: The scenario canít be more perplexing. Two teams with 15 members each travel all the way to the Gulf. Support staff in tow and 100-odd journalists following like hungry greyhounds. Even the President of one of the participating nations canít resist the temptation of joining the circus, not to mention lesser leaders from the rival country and Bollywood starlets. All this for two insignificant matches. 

The cricket that was played at Abu Dhabi was hardly of the type that sets stadiums on fire. Okay, India had a plus in Venugopal Raoís innings that saved the blushes but little else was gained. Isnít just ridiculous that a series between two major cricketing powers involve just two matches? Doesnít it reek of a hurry to organise, an unnecessary eagerness to accommodate a venue? 

What goes against such a tournament even more is that the host country is nowhere in the cricket map. It is interesting to think how far the Sheikhs understood the game, which is becoming complicated even for old-time loyalists with concepts like power play. Of course, they have enough other distractions to keep them going including that ultimate eye candy, Mallika Sherawat. Wonder why nobody thought of her as a cricket anchor yet.

It is a bit like organizing a Spanish bull fight or a WWF contest in Mumbai. What the viewers get out of watching such a contest is a voyeuristic pleasure. Of course, while the expats will go on a nostalgic trip, the Sheikhs will ogle at this new kind of leisure activity. And, the perfect setting for a new Dawood Ibrahim to emerge. God forbid.

The tamasha aspect is just a bit too obvious, ODI status notwithstanding. And it comes at a time when there is a debate on whether there is too much cricket being played by various countries. It is a debate that has been on for a few years. Sunil Gavaskar has added a new perspective saying that Ďhard grindí is part of the challenge of playing for the country. 

With so much money at stake, cricketers will hardly complain when they have to play day in and day out. And they know that if they play long enough, they will sooner or later achieve enough milestones in their career. 

But problem comes when they go through a bad patch. They will have little time to correct technical mistakes or regain confidence by playing less talented opposition at home. A string of low scores will expose a batsman just the way it has been for Mohammed Kaif and it canít be different for bowlers when they go wicketless match after match.

One solution is to try out new cricketers for less important matches but this can sometimes wreak havoc with team combinations. The other issue is, when you try a new player and he does well, how can you not give him a chance again? For instance, how can you keep out Venugopal Rao for the next match and play Kaif?

It was part of the Dalmiya vision that cricket should go to different parts of the world and this was the reason for the India-Pak circus pitching tents in Sharjah, Canada and Singapore in the past. While some believe that too much of a good thing will kill the golden goose called cricket, Dalmiya believed that you could clone a series of golden geese. His successors may be trying to do their best to put him behind the bars, but they also share his revenue model.

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