Jan 30th 2007
Luring cricket World Cup fans to the West Indies may prove to be tall task with complicated visa schedules, no direct flights and expensive lodging — and the poor team performance isn’t helping any!
With each passing day, the Indian cricket team seems to be sinking deeper into the sticky wicket. The indecision over the selection of players for the World Cup and their extended bad form is leading to confusion among Indian fans.
Going by the present state of affairs, it seems that most of Indian fans would be watching World Cup matches on their televisions sets, unlike in the past when Indian supporters could be found thronging the World Cup venues.
In 2003, over 20,000 Indians travelled to South Africa for the ICC Cricket World Cup. This time, the number of Indians travelling to the West Indies is not even expected to cross 5,000 (unless many decide to do so at the last moment and their travel agents can find a way to teleport them on to the stands instantly!)
“Besides issues like the Indian team’s performance, people are finding the trip very expensive. Adding to the disadvantage is the fact that it’s difficult to get there as well. The travel part is a bit too tedious,” says Shankar Viswanathan, director Sports Services, based in Bangalore.
For your information, one would have to shell out at least Rs 2.5 lakh for a week and the cost could go up to Rs 5-6 lakh, depending upon the luxury one seeks. At Rs 2.5 lakh for a week per person, a family of four would be spending Rs 10 lakh.
According to Viswanathan, traditionally, the Indian market is known to be a last minute market. Though many Indians might just decide to “pay a visit” at the last moment, a big hindrance would be getting seats on flights to the West Indies and also securing a visa to either the UK or the US (for a stopover) and a Carricom visa. For first time travellers, it might take up to a month to get these visas!
Besides visas, getting tickets to the Caribbean might be the other problem for last minute travellers. “Seats out of India to Europe or the US will be difficult to get, and so will be connecting flights from these places, where the whole world will converge to get to the islands,” explains Garg.
Match tickets, however, are available in plenty, says Viswanathan. And a lot of corporates are eyeing this as an opportunity to send their staff on an incentive trip to the Caribbean — albeit on a very selective basis. According to estimates, the trip would cost a company at least Rs 3-4 lakh a person (who would be out for at least eight to nine days).
“We have got a lot of enquires from corporates. While some are looking at sending 200 people, others are saying 50, but none have finalised their plans,” says Sankalp Garg, head (India marketing and business strategies), FCM Travel Solutions, one of the official travel agents for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007.
Then there are others who plan to use this opportunity to take a long vacation in the US and then carry on to the West Indies. These people, of course, have booked well in advance.
But not all hope is lost. A hardcore cricket fan reportedly sent out 155 e-mails to various hotels in Barbados to get accommodation, bought March tickets online at the ICC website, and since he is so bent on getting to the Caribbean, he booked a crazy flight route to get the cheapest deal — Mumbai-Bangalore-London-Miami-St Lucia-Barbados. So, there…
Looking forward to India-WI final at 2007 World Cup: Lara
Jan 26th 2007
Brian Lara yesterday said an India-West Indies final showdown at the 2007 cricket World Cup would be a delight for the fans of the two countries.
"One cannot expect a better final than one with India and West Indies. It becomes all the more special since over 50 per cent of the people in the Carribean are Indians," he said.
"India and West Indies have been playing so much of cricket for the past 8-10 months and it is very likely that both teams will reach the finals of the World Cup to be held in my country," Lara said during an interactive session on leadership, organised by ING Vysya bank.
"To play with India is tremendous," he added.
Lara, who was out of action in the Cuttack one-dayer in due to an injury, said he hoped to play in the third match at Chennai, because his knee was healing well.
"I am still sore in the left knee but I hope to get better within the next 24 hours. I will hopefully play in the next game on January 27," the West-Indian captain said.
India has taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four match series.
Expressing happiness over the present excellent form of Shivnarain Chanderpaul, Lara said he hoped the same continued for the next few months till the World Cup.
Showering encomiums on Sachin Tendulkar, Lara said he shared a very cordial relationship with him and it was wonderful to have a friend like him.
"Sachin and I are very happy in each other's company and we share a lot of our views on cricket whenever we get together. It is very good to talk an extremely talented cricketer who has billions of people behind his back, pressurising him to perform well," Lara said.
For him, Sachin is "an icon and an inspiration" and he hoped to extend their friendship "'past the boundary" too.
On the other hand, Lara referred to Steve Waugh as a "cricketer with class". Waugh began his career with mediocrity and then went on to excel, which is very unusual in cricket, he said.
"It is easy to be a prodigy but for someone to change gears in his mid-career, it requires class," Lara said.
2007 World Cup contenders bank on 30-plus warhorses
Jan 21st 200 7
Modern sport, it is an established fact, is a fiefdom of the young. Agility, athletic ability, physical fitness and physical conditioning, essential in resisting injuries are attributes which sportsmen and women below thirty possess. Hence the “30” threshold is often designated as the marker—once an athlete is over thirty his sporting days are numbered.
Interestingly, however, World Cup 2007 is an atypical international sporting event. All the leading stars of the tournament are not only over thirty, but also almost of them are nearing retirement. While the 2006 soccer World Cup was also one that showcased old boys like Zidane and Figo, they were more than challenged by the young and up coming. In cricket, however, the old boys remain the biggest brands of the game, expected to dominate at the big stage.
A team wise analysis demonstrates the point—while Australia will rely on the bowling skills of Glenn McGrath for one final time in his career, others like Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, mainstays of the Australian batting, are also over thirty. Across the border, the New Zealanders are banking on experience as well.
Stephen Fleming, one of the best leaders in the contemporary game, is playing his last World Cup, as is Nathan Astle, one of the unsung heroes of the modern game. Among the other major contenders, while South Africa is banking on the ageless Shaun Pollock and the veteran Jacques Kallis, Sri Lanka still hopes that Jayasuriya will be able to recreate the magic of the 1996 World Cup.
Pakistan too is the team of the old warhorses with Inzamam-ul Haq and Mohammed Yousuf, the two main batting stars. And for the hosts it is imperative that Chanderpaul and Lara (both over 33, in fact Lara is nearing 38) fire to make an impact on the tournament. Finally, coming to India, it is perhaps apt to suggest that the Indians are, unlike what the Chappell mantra was/is, a team of the past.
Having seen the list of thirty probable players, which will be pruned to fourteen in February, it is evident that India plans to retain almost the same batting line-up that did the job in World Cup 2003. Given the nature of tracks in the West Indies, slow with low bounce, the first three batting slots will inevitably go to the three proven match-winners Sachin, Sourav and Sehwag.
On tracks where the ball will not jump awkwardly, they are, Indian fans continue to think, true masters of the willow. At numbers four and five there’s little debate over Dravid and Yuvraj. At six, a slot Mohammed Kaif had made his own for a while, we can even see the veteran VVS Laxman. In fact, Laxman can, as some past greats have suggested, bat at number three while the skipper goes down the order. The average age of the Indian batting order thus is 32, touching 33. While some say that this is an ominous sign for the future of Indian cricket, no juniors are coming up the ranks to challenge established stars, the argument in favour is that the World Cup is too big a stage for experimentation. Big match experience and temperament are key ingredients for success in the West Indies and all of these Indian batters have had experience of playing in West Indian conditions.
In bowling, Kumble, despite his fielding blues, remains India ’s best bet. With Kumble and Harbhajan bowling in tandem in West Indian conditions, India will have a more than potent bowling line up. Chris Gayle’s success as a bowler, and more so at the death, is an indication that World Cup 2007 might be one for the slow bowlers.
What this rather bizarre list draws attention to is that skill based physical agility, and not simple physical agility, is the utmost requirement for the modern international cricketer. Modern cricket is perhaps the only sporting realm that allows men over thirty to continue to dominate.
For a team like India a Mohammed Kaif who saves 15-20 runs in the field will always have to play second fiddle to a Sehwag who is capable of scoring 50 while not saving any extra. The difference of 35 is what makes cricket the sport it is, different and distinctive. Cricket, which will still make a star out of Dhoni, paunch or not, is well and truly an atypical international sport.
This unique flavour of cricket allows Laxman to declare proudly that it doesn’t really matter whether he is the fastest Indian cricketer on view. Implicit in this declaration is cricket’s cardinal truth—the fastest don’t always perform; the skilful does, the young don’t always win the show, experience and grit more often does. Now we know why the return of Kumble, Ganguly and Laxman had a tone of the inevitable attached to it.