Tag Archives: Sports

American Premier League – What?! T20 Cricket in the USA?

So in the last few days I’m seeing rumblings (but not major news articles) about a new American Premier League. A T20 Cricket tournament to be held in New York in October, and again in Florida in April 2010.

They have a website, http://americanpremierleague.us – That link is to their about page, right now their main page has annoyingly stuck video and little more than a legal threat of prosecution if you copy anything on their page. Sure, that’s everyone’s right, but let’s try to be a little friendlier to the bloggers who might get you some publicity, OK?

Really? T20 in the United States? More power to them if they can do it. It’s a far more interesting game than baseball, but somehow I doubt the masses will see it that way.

I never thought I’d see…

While I was out at lunch today, I got a text message from a friend informing me of something truly amazing, the text read: “England vs Stanford Superstars is on ESPN2 (20v20 cricket).”

Could that be true? Could Stanford and his millions have enough pull that a cricket match would be shown on American television?!

I rushed home, arriving about 15-20 minutes into the 2 hour highlights program just in time to see England lose their second, third and fourth wickets, including the mighty Kevin Peterson, before I got the TV warmed up and myself comfortable on the sofa.

What followed was the second most embarrassing display of cricket I’ve ever seen, England were all out for 99.

What followed was both opening batsmen for Standford’s Superstars carrying their bats to an easy victory in about 10 overs. The Superstars won by 10 wickets.

If the England team were Japanese, they’d have to commit suicide.

All-in-all, not the best introduction to cricket for American audiences. I wonder if they’ll ever repeat the experiment.

McCullum (and Cricket and stuff)

Spoilers, I suppose.

Well, the Indian Premiere League (IPL) is off to a flyer. The first match, between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Royal Challengers Bangalore was a rout. Bangalore lost by 140 runs. Since 140 runs isn’t a bad Twenty20 score on an Indian wicket, that’s like loosing by an entire game.

Not to denigrate the contribution of the other Knight Riders, but this victory can almost be handed solely to Brendon McCullum, the Kiwi wicketkeeper who carried his bat for 158 runs and bringing the Knight Riders’ score to a staggering 222. This man is an amazing striker of the ball and I still remember his pounding of Bangladesh last year when he kept hitting balls out of the grounds and onto runway of the nearby airport.

He certainly put on a hell of a show for the estimated 50,000+ spectators in Bagalore.

So, I suppose I’ll make a few comments about the IPL and, by extension, the Indian Cricket League ( ICL).

The ICL and the IPL are competing cricket leagues in India. Both use the controversial (but only to stick-in-mud, luddites) Twenty20 format. (I’ll go on record as saying it is the superior format of the game for spectators. It’s not without some problems that time should smooth out, but then it is a very new format of the game.) The ICL was created when a television conglomerate repeatedly lost bids for cricket television rights, even though they were the highest bidder. What the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had in mind by rejecting the bids, I won’t speculate on. Nonetheless, the ICL was formed trying to use a more football-like club system. International players were brought in (and in a fit of childish anger) subsequently banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) from playing in traditional international cricket.

The buzz for the ICL made the BCCI realize they’d possibly missed a colossal money-making opportunity, so they moved to create the IPL, using much the same format of the ICL. The main difference being that, with the BCCI and ICC’s nods of approval, international players weren’t necessarily struck from their home countries’ teams. This lead the way for current players of McCullum’s ilk to be in the IPL. (Not that there aren’t some top international players in the ICL, like Shane Bond, but they had to burn their bridges to sign.)

I watched through a significant number of the ICL games, and found that with no geographic support for any of the Indian cities, and not knowing virtually any of the players, I had trouble picking a team to support. I finally choose Hyderabad, simply because they did so poorly at first and turned themselves around. No one was more surprised than I was when they went into the semi-finals, then finals and then actually beating the seemingly unstoppable Lahore team in two nail-biting matches.

So, now we come to the first match of the IPL series and, despite the similarities, the contrast – in entirely superficial ways – is marked.

I’ll say that, having, once again no loyalty to any city in India, prior to the start of the series, I had decided to support the Knight Riders simply because of their name, which is ludicrous, and because McCullum is one of my favorite players. (I support New Zealand in all international cricket events.)

That was before I saw their uniforms – black with glittery gold fabric, and metallic gold-painted helmets and pads?!?! I think McCullum was just trying to prove he wasn’t a sissy-pants wearing that uniform.

In fact, the uniforms almost sums up the differences in a nutshell. The ICL played on smaller grounds, probably with a capacity of about 20,000 people. In some cases, the stands were packed, with people climbing onto roofs and every available spot to see the games. The commentators we good with a nice banter between the pairings. The uniforms were colorful, as is the norm in Twenty20, but not outlandish and they even had cheerleaders and Bollywood stars performing during the break between innings.

Now, switch to the IPL. The first match was in a stadium with a capacity of 55,000, and was nearly full. There were lasers and smoke, and hot cheerleaders (the ICL cheerleaders were pretty, but not what I’d expect for professional sports), performers, flashy gold uniforms, banners and streamers… it really did look like they were going for some form of 70’s glam rock concert. For the first time ever, I kind of saw what the test cricket snobs are talking about when they say it cheapens the image of the sport. This certainly looks like it is turning the game into a circus.

But then… have they never seen any Bollywood movies? We were at an Indian Bistro for dinner last night and they had the Zee Cinema network running. (Zee entertainment, by the way, are the people who bring us ICL cricket in the US and are the only network I know of that broadcasts cricket in the US, thank you very much!) The film was in Hindi, but typical of the Indian Films I’ve seen. A guy is in love with a beautiful woman. She’s in a car accident. She’s dying. Another woman is dying – she needs an organ transplant. The first dying woman gives up her organs to save the other. They break into a massive musical song and dance number with what appears to be people in traditional Greek outfits. Although we didn’t see the end of the film, I’m sure the man falls in love with the woman who received his lover’s organ transplant – along with a few other obligatory sound and dance numbers.

Why would they not expect this in Indian Cricket designed for showmanship?

Still, even in the few months I’ve been watching Twenty20 games, I’ve seen marked improvement in the tactics and the skills, as the players adapt to the new format. Who knows, maybe they will finally crack the US market?

Advent: IPL

I don’t care what the stuck-up, toffy-nosed “Test Cricket”, cricket-must-be-boring-and-take-5-days snobs say, I, for one, have been enjoying the India Cricket League Twenty20 matches and am looking forward to the India Premiere League games, too.

How could you not, with adverts like this one?

Hurrah for Dick’s


IMG_1553.JPG

What can I say?

Three cheers for Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Recently, Dick’s, a mega-sports store, has opened a couple of outlets in Phoenix. (And when I say Phoenix, I actually mean in the desolate wastelands of Phoenix’s suburbs.) Not too long ago, we stopped in the one just past the Hawaiian BBQ place and just this side of the Arctic circle and I made a fairly exhaustive search to see if they carried any cricket gear.

No such luck.

While I’ve located an “English” grocery in town (that’s really Indian) that carries bats, balls and protective gear, I can neither afford to spend hundreds of dollars on the gear, nor do I have any practical opportunity to play. However, my kids – Michelle at least – are getting old enough to try playing sports (and James is willing to give it a try, even if he hasn’t quite got the coordination yet.) The problem is, I just can’t really see handing Michelle a fine, expensive chunk of English Willow and letting her brandish it. That just seems a recipe for a broken skull and a broken wallet.

No, what I needed was something like those cheap plastic kids’ baseball bats that they sell at every toy store in America. Well? Come to think of it, why not? Surely they must do the same thing in the UK. If not there, then surely in Australia, where no doubt they wean their children by giving them cricket bats soaked in a mixture of beer and vegemite.

While I couldn’t find exactly that sort of thing online, I did finally come across beach cricket sets, which not only feature plastic bats, but include plastic balls, stumps and bails.

Perfect.

Except for one thing: Shipping to the US is quite literally $60 – that’s more than the cost of the actual set.

That’s where Dick’s came along. They might not have cricket gear in their stores, but they’ve got a limited selection from the mail order service, which included a Gray-Nicolls beach cricket set. It cost twice as much as the set from the UK, but also has twice as much equipment – two bats, two sets of stumps and bails and four balls, and shipping is only $10.

IMG_1556.JPG

The set itself is considerably stronger plastic than I’d dare hope. Now I just have to figure out where to take the kids to practice… and find 18 more people to flesh out two teams…

One problem at a time. In the meantime, look at my son’s follow-through on his first attempt at bowling.