Saturday, April 23, 2011

Match winner

The customary glance from dinner table at IPL scores on SetMax told me Delhi had set an incredible 230 to Kings XI Punjab..Without looking at the scoreboard, it appears Sehwag has fired. Punjab were decently placed in the chase at 100 odd for 2 in 10 overs but even so the ask looks improbable to achieve.

But then the camera pans to a Delhi Daredevils bowler who was released from 3 years of service to KKR. I could almost hear the entire lot of IPL followers in Punjab whisper in nervous anticipation:

"Hey, this match is far from over!"
Ajit Agarkar, though, was quite oblivious of the hopes he continues to produce in rival camps.

Update: Ajit dearest comes on to bowl 17th over with Punjab needing 72 off last 4 overs. Gives away 15 runs in that over. Agarkaresque if viewed from a distance, it really is decent fare going by the match proceedings.

[developed from a note on my Facebook page]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Class and variety still breeds in only one format of cricket

Have a look at this link

Do you know what is Murali's jersey number this IPL? I did not notice until tonight that it is derived from his achievements in another format, a format seen to be the only one where bowlers' need to take wickets is FAR more important than just containment. Check pic 9/10 of this link. [I say 'seen to be' b'coz it is only a perception. Taking wickets is the most important job of bowler in all forms - the importance reduces but still it remains #1 priority].

Also check pic 8/10 of that link for Manoj Tiwary's cover drive pic. Whenever that guyholds the bat he looks as good as this snap to me. Pity that he lost his international opportunities to misfortune. People like Tiwary and Rayudu (I was struck by a top-notch, classy cover drive hit by the latter today - keep catching these glimpses as someone or the other watches IPL at home) abound in domestic cricket today and that is where Indian cricket (at least batting) looks healthy. These players have developed their pedigreed batting by growing up playing ANOTHER format, and IPL is ONLY reaping the benefits.

Sangakkara peppered the mid wicket boundary the other day...and before you shut your eyes to conjure up slog sweeps or across the line hits, let me mention that ALL his shots were vertical bat drives. Yes, they really were even if you keep staring at me disbelievingly for the next fortnight..

Even now class is bred in only one variety of the game. First class cricket. It may well change after some years of T20; maybe slogs to mid wicket will be the ONLY 'classy shots'!! I have no problems with those shots; as a fan of my favourite cricket team such shots can very well win us the match. It is the 'ONLY' that bites me as a fan of cricket (as against fan of a team).

I remain one of the biggest fans of Jayasuriya, the first mega product of One-day cricket. But what will you choose if you have the choice between (i) having THE ODD Jayasuriya / Dhoni (alternative batsmanship styles based on modern formats) and (ii) having ALL batsmen modelled on ONLY Jayasuriya (or Dhoni)? Or WORSE still, all of them modelled ONLY on some 3rd generation guy who becomes the first mega product of T20 (hits across the line to mid-wicket ONLY, for instance)?

Again it is the 'ONLY' that I am questioning.

[developed from a note on my Facebook page]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"You have been lucky if you have failed with time left to benefit from the lessons"

Actually that thought, posted as subject line, came to my mind as I was browsing through some old Facebook posts in my profile.

I came across one on 12th March, as South Africa were taking advantage of India's inactive fields / bowling plans during middle overs. Here's what I wrote as a comment at 8-51pm (at around 40th over of South Africa innings):

"Dhoni lets opponent get away in middle overs...I am seeing this coming loss as a blessing in disguise - may be now he will be forced to rethink his strategy in middle overs.. he will see that he is winning INSPITE OF it and not due to it...but then these opponent batsmen,they get out just as I see a silver lining - and perhaps give MSD a chance to carry his poor strategy to the KO's."

Well luckily for Indian team, South Africa did NOT panic for once and scraped through to win that retrospect we can thank this loss for the obvious rethink of Indian middle over strategies that subsequently worked so well against ALL the former World Cup Champions (West Indies next match, Australia in QF, Pakistan in semis & Sri Lanka in finals).

Let all Indian Cricket fans therefore gather at India Gate, candles in hand, and shout thankfully in unison to commemorate the last over of that match:


Sunday, April 17, 2011

What on earth is happening with Irfan Pathan

A relieved Irfan Pathan turned up for a post-match interview after Delhi Daredevils' close win over Pune Warriors in IPLT20. They say Irfan lost confidence in his bowling. But whenever Irfan speaks, I see a confident & communicative young man ready with intelligent & frank responses without having to be prodded. Today I saw that sparkling side of Irfan once again. I even see shades of the current Indian skipper when Irfan is in this mood. Try as I did, I could not match the bubbly guy I saw today with people's general perception of him (and with his own lack of performances in domestic cricket).

If Irfan Pathan shows decent returns in domestic cricket, then with his kind of ability I cannot believe he can EVER be a lesser preference to selectors than Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla and some of the others tried out these days. His middle overs bowling was key to Dhoni's T20 WC final win in 2007. Currently in ODI's the Indian team needs a medium-quick bowling all rounder MORE than spin-bowling ones. Yet here we see Irfan, showing much fluency with the bat at number 3 and speaking brightly in T20 interviews while betraying NO SIGNS of returning to India colours. It would be interesting to see his response had the interviewer thrown that question.

Has Irfan Pathan lost interest in international cricket? Is he happy as he is today? Is he no more keen to come back to Team India? I won't dwell again on the twisted incentives that IPL paychecks present for top T20 players. I have blogged generally on it earlier. He may even be going through genuine form issues. However, I find 'years of bowling form lapse' quite phoney for someone who, 5 years back, only had to turn up at the bowling crease for the ball to start swinging.

The other intriguing aspect about his current IPL stint: inspite of his moderate showing in previous IPL's he fetched a staggering price as an all-rounder, a price that is normally reserved for'guaranteed performers', or in other words the top players in the world who excel in other formats too. There must be something in him that the IPL franchisees are seeing and investing on, but the selectors & Irfan himself seem to be unaware of it!

Strange, the way some truly promising careers shape up in this game...especially now that IPL adds a twist that was not seen till 4 years back.

PS: I have seen and read about the 'Chappell effect' on Irfan's career. I am sure some of you would want to go back there. However I have my reservations in even starting to discuss the argument that a major talent continues to get defocussed 4 years after Chappell has left.

[developed from the note posted on my Facebook profile;
cross posted with minor edits on ]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is Ishant's 'nishant' round the corner?

I was passing via drawing-n-dining room** when I glanced at the TV screen. An IPL match was on, as you would expect this time of the year barring Richter 9. At that point of time they were showing a replay of Deccan Chargers' Ishant Sharma dismissing RCB's Dilshan caught behind with a good quick ball.At that point of time they were showing a replay of Deccan Chargers' Ishant Sharma dismissing RCB's Dilshan caught behind with a good quick ball.

I came back in few minutes and sat down to watch Ishant bowl the 6th over of RCB innings. He was fast and accurate..and he was hurrying a batsman I have not seen get hurried in quite sometime, the splendid AB de Villiers.

Ishant clocked 149kph & 150kph in 2 deliveries. Gony's decently-fast-medium deliveries were clocking 133 odd in overs on either side of Ishant's over. The speed guns did not look to be malfunctioning, certainly not by much.

Instantly I remembered the lankier Ishant, all of 19 years, bowling at 140+ for 12 overs to Ponting at Perth in Jan'08 to prise him out and decide the Test. Then I also remembered the underperforming Ishant that struggled to clock mid-130's or get any accuracy / movement since 2007-08 Australia tour (more specifically, since Ishant started his 1st IPL season in Apr'08 - I won't name the team to avoid controversy;-).

Is the tide turning and the speed returning for Ishant Sharma? I loved rediscovering that Ishant can still produce that pace-bounce-length combo that worked for him in his 1st 4-5 months irrespective of pitch & weather. Setting aside his recent performances, Ishant is our main hope to carry the future Test pace attack. He is the only one since Javagal Srinath who can be a genuine quickie in his best days which, I am sure, are yet to come.

I hope he took the World Cup exclusion as badly and as personally as those speed guns showed today.

**take the hint, mate - I was NOT in front of TV..if IPL was to be 'corruption', I would be 'Anna bhau' remember?

Earlier posts on Ishant Sharma & his bowling: here and here

Update: It appears Ishant continued producing high bowling speeds in the 8th over (his 4th). Here is an excerpt from cricinfo commentary:


Sharma to Kohli, 1 run, bouncer, hit in the air and falls safe in the mid-wicket region. Ashutosh comments on the speed Sharma is bowling, "Has any one bothered to notice the speed at which Ishant Sharma is bowling, his fastest is at 152.2Kmph and he's averaging at almost 150kmph."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Post World Cup analysis...of my OWN world cup previews

What goes up must come down. Likewise whatever gets previewed should also get reviewed - including the preview. Not that it is important to anyone (even myself)..just feel I need to get it out of the system before the World Cup win gets out of everyone's system.

I will list a set a set of ticks and crosses. 'Tick's are for the things I was right about, and 'Crosses' for the ones when my foot came perilously close to my mouth.

These were not exactly 'predictions' - I quit predicting since 2007 when I predicted India to be semi-finalists 'without a shade of doubt'. Let's say I 'opined' on EACH of these points BEFORE things happened...

So even in my failures I am better than those who rightly thought Nehra shouldn't have bowled last over against SA BUT only after seeing the result when all are generally right on what did not work - something that was forgotten while people thought themselves capable enough to get into reviewing every little decision of captain (exclusion: I know of someone who actually gets credit for predicting that one rightly before it happened):

Tick: Sehwag vs Pathan dilemma in knockout matches: Sehwag does not score batting 2nd. He never did in the past 2 years barring one knock a year, and in WC he failed 100% in 2nd innings. Contrarily, 2nd innings are where Yusuf Pathan comes good. During WC, Pathan did not get many chances in 2nd innings till he was dropped - and he did well in one of his 2 chasing innings. As predicted, Sehwag was a passenger in 2 of the 3 knockout matches where India batted second.*

Tick: Even with 4 bowlers the Mumbai pitch was never expected to be so helpful to pacers that Ashwin could yield position to Sreesanth: India’s 3rd seamer became the weakest link in final match. **

Tick: Dhoni's public criticism at his batsmen playing to the gallery ( in South Africa match, after 2nd successive collapse in last 10 overs of 1st innings) would be taken positively by his team: There were concerns that it was inappropropriate.***

Tick: Trust Dhoni to have the best intents and most optimal plan for this set of players, instead of judging by him ONLY by results: Results can go wrong inspite of all that...try to see his point and shout ONLY IF that is not agreeable / he does not admit it. He admitted both mistakes he made in knockout phases - one directly (misreading Mohali pitch) and the other tersely (playing 3rd seamer in Mumbai).+

Tick: [This is a shady forecast - non-cricketing] Winning the final might be Sachin's destiny which became apparent after Pak semi final: He won the cup and the players all but dedicated it to him.

Tick: (This was before WC started when Yuvi was struggling) India cannot win this world cup without Yuvraj firing as he does not have a replacement at this stage, so we might as well keep him in the team and hope for the best [I see an in-form Yuvi as 1.5 batsmen]. Yuvraj bettered the best by becoming 2 full players in the tournament - one batsman and one bowler

Cross: (This was not a public prediction) Sachin would contribute to the final win and silence those who criticise of his finals performances. That criticism remains unfair anyway - Sachin has contributed to may final wins including Aus tri seeries in Dhoni era - but what better to do it in a WC final? NOT TO BE!!

Tick: When India were 31/2 and Gambhir-Kohli were trying to form a partnership, the camera zoomed into the gallery for a moment. I had predicted that as THE decisive moment and that India would win after that point. So it happened. The man was superstar Rajnikanth.

Cross: (This was not a public prediction) I had assumed India's bowlers to bat better as the tournament progressed especially never happened - they kept looking like fish out of water.

Cross: Raina would struggle after the lows he suffered in the leadup to the world cup and it was a big risk to replace Pathan with him in knockouts: Raina and Sehwag were instrumental in ensuring that India did not lose the semi final in the 1st half itself. Raina did the same in the Quarter final chase against Australia. He is well on his way to be our Michael Bevan (with a better strike rate)..and here's hoping that Raina's Test career does better than Bevan's. He deserves some luck.

And now to the one 'Cross' that made me happiest after I was wrong:

Cross: Yuvi's fielding returned! When the World Cup began, I kept expecting Yuvi the batsman to come back sometime (during world cup or maybe later - not for a moment I thought him to be a finished batsman). I considered Yuvrja the bowler to be 'buffet' stuff but I wouldn't have exactly bet against him improving there. The one thing I was prepared to bet against: I was sure that Yuvi's take-off-the-cliff dives to pouch magical catches and stop boundaries were a thing of the past. Gone for ever. Imagine how ecstatic I was to see him bring back those flying days in the final stages of World Cup.++

[The (*) & (+) signs are for explanatory notes which no one is interested in...I have removed text out of those be produced only if further discussion happens on a point]

[Posted as a note on my Facebook page]

Monday, April 04, 2011

Getting the drive right in eight & nine year olds

Following on my previous posts (this and this) urging all of us to be more open and allow day-night first class cricket to happen:

I just came across a brilliant post from Michael Jeh on cricinfo's Different Strokes (reminds me of some delicious old days). That post was most impressive, not the least due to the fact that I have been spending some time of late with the kids playing cricket in my apartment complex and I have seen some of the things he mentioned in that blog happen right in front of my eyes.

Quoting a part of that blogpost that was most relevant:

Junior cricket, at my son's club anyway, is predominantly played in the V between midwicket and fine-leg. dominated by strong boys who can play the 'hoik' to every ball. Most bowlers at this age can barely get the ball to the other end without a few wides each over. A far cry indeed from the Azar Maidan in Mumbai where I recently watched a group of very young lads with impeccable batting techniques facing a bowler who bowled doosras on request! These Indian kids were probably not deemed "elite" and will probably never grace our tv screens but their rudimentary skills suggested that something (or somebody) has got to these youngsters at an early age and set them up with a framework that they can extend as their bodies grow stronger. Cameron Tradell was one of the few coaches who was able to get the message across to my son (and friend) that playing straight was a long-term goal that would outlast the temporary glory of scoring cheap runs exclusively through square leg. Try telling a seven year old that technique is more important than runs - this was the first time playing straight made sense because of the use of a unique bat that rewarded the boys for hitting the ball with a full face. It absolutely pinged off the sweet spot when they hit straight down the ground and all of a sudden, the hoik was yesterday's shot!

Ponting himself was a junior prodigy, brought up on a classical technique and clearly coached by someone who knew how to coach a kid properly. We are reminded today that soon he will no longer stride out to bat for Australia at number three, arguably our greatest ever in that crucial position. I don't think we'll ever see the likes of Ponting again in this country unless our junior cricket system can encourage kids who can bat for long periods and play straight. Not unless we can find ways to encourage coaches who can see the big picture and can find ways to communicate those simple techniques to young minds who cannot easily understand why a single to mid-on is less preferable to a boundary through square leg. That's the difference I see at the grassroots level between the Asian countries and Australia at a very young age.

I let Michael know that he need not judge 'Asian countries' by his good experience of enriched youth cricket at Azad Maidan, amongst the cricket-elitest places in cricket-elite Mumbai. That would be as accurate an assessment as estimating rhinoceros count in the world by taking rhinos per square mile in Kaziranga and multiplying that by surface area of the earth. That 2nd para in the above quote from Michael's blogpost could well be about any of Tendulkar / Dravid / Laxman / Gavaskar / Viswanath instead of Ponting, and the country India instead of Australia.

Check my comments below that blogpost (comments dated 4th April), sharing my thoughts on the subject and recent experiences of being a 'very senior' player amongst 8-9 year olds. If you enjoyed Michael's post, chances are you may like my comments too.

The only outdoor game where skill >> athleticism

Today a 'friend of friend' on Facebook stated sarcastically that he was 'glad that cricket was played mainly by 8 countries' (indicating India hardly had a chance to be world champions if cricket was played widely). He also went on to state that it is time for India to be doing better in sports that is popular in many more countries, like Football.

I am sharing with you my reply to that point, with some edits to improve readability of this post (an FB post is, well, an FB post):

"Again, assumptions galore here, without much emphasis put on the essentially different nature of the games. I would like to put forward an argument here.

India's sports culture has ensured that India's performance in various games depend on the ratio of athleticism-to-skill involved in that game. Let us take a game like Football. While it is also a lot about skill, the skill comes in only as the final 20-25% of a player's making in the overall picture; the first 75-80% of a great football player is great natural athleticism.

As the skill portion increases in a game, India tends to gets better at it. Hockey needs slightly higher proportion of skills as I see it.I Cannot cite many more examples right now. But whatever  variation it is, all outdoor games were created PRIMARILY for athleticism. Both Football & Hockey fall in that category. All other outdoor games like rugby are also in the same league - if anything it is even more about physical athleticism. All others except cricket.

Cricket stands alone as virtually the only game where athleticism requirement percentage is so low (maybe down to 20-25%) that LACK of it can be COMPENSATED by skill. I doubt if any other outdoor game could have 'achievers' like Ranatunga and Inzamam, to cite two. Those are extreme examples, but cited only to get the point across. They would not have a hope in hell to compensate the lack of athleticism by their skill in ANY other sport like football, even if they had the skill of Maradona within them.

Conversely, their being better athletes would NOT contribute to their being much better cricketers or even better catchers. Inzy was the best catcher in his side. Inzamam in fact got fitter once and promptly aggregated 9 in six WC matches in wonder that after getting dropped he came back heavier both in girth and scoring ability.

The whole point of so much is: It is NOT guaranteed that other team's sporting performances in athleticism dominated sports will be replicated in cricket, the only skill dominated outdoor sport where a player - albeit a very talented one - playing for 21+ years is having the best year of his life while approaching 38 and is looking good for more.

Just having many countries beginning to play cricket does NOT guarantee that India's position will then become as lowly as it is in other 'athletic' sports. The subcontinent clearly has a special talent in this particular game called cricket. A game in which hand eye coordination is as much required as extreme mental powers of concentration required for long durations to avoid EVEN ONE mistake (applicable to batsmen, mainly).

If it were not so, India would be no match in cricket for New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia. Countries that are quite good globally at some very athletic sports like rugby or football. Teams whose fielding and running between the wickets hails from another world compared to the Indians' (on their poor days, which are many).

Sunday, April 03, 2011

"Wunnit for Sachin": why Sachin got 18 instead of 100th hundred in Cup final

Heaven. A cold morning of early January 2011.

God sips coffee early in the morning and checks his mailbox. He was out of office for the Durban Test between India and South Africa.

The box is overflowing. He finds a lot of applications from India requesting, or almost ordering him to award the 2011 World Cup to Indian cricket team. Reason: This will be Sachin Tendulkar's last World Cup.

His eyebrows get furrowed. Do these guys have nothing to do? Shaking His head, He opens the next email in his Prayers folder: from a 22 year old called Virat Kohli.

He knew a teenager by this name. That Virat had sent an email called 'silent prayer' to Him 4 years back on the eve of a youth cricket world cup final. At the time God had liked the boy's passion and granted his wish.

Turns out that this email is from the same Kohli Kohli's request is same as the others. But God is immune to such veiled 'give it to him' prayers which are truly intended for self. "Look's like the guy has grown up and as a natural consequence got greedier", He murmurs with a frown.

Then He sees some more requests from other Indian cricket players. God is struck by the common theme: not just the comon folk of India but even Indian cricket players are placing the prayers of World Cup win to Him on behalf of Sachin rather than themselves. "Oh my Rajnikant," God says, "what's happening here?"

God is impressed and decides to grant the common wish. But he wants to check genuineness before granting.

He loads the 'Future Preview' tool on his Cloudtop [not having MSW operating System, please be mindful, which is a banned substance in Heaven].

When God intends to verify genuineness of any personal promise / claim qualifying a prayer, he justs uses FP to simulate and check the person's reaction when the prayer gets granted. Instead of granting the exact prayer they asked for, God often fine tunes it from their FuturePreview reactions. People often do not express themselves so well in prayers.

[FP does not lie and is hence incompatible to MSW OS - another reason for not using the latter.]

He checks Kohli's reaction first, after a simulated World Cup win:
Kohli says "Wunnit for Sachin."

So far so good. God is a little repentent to have earlier misjudged Kohli as greedy. He moves on to the next sender. Zaheer Khan.
"Wunnit for Sachin", Zaheer says in the FuturePreview, pointing to Sachin.

Next is Yuvraj Singh - another second timer. God had recently granted approval for his request to succeed at 2011 World Cup with both bat & ball.
"Wunnit for Sachin", says Yuvraj too. He also goes on to say that the mysterious special person he wanted to win it for was none other than Sachin.

Gautam Gambhir. 2nd timer again. This guy wanted to do well in the Cup final, if his team progresses and if he gets selected. God had approved this guy's earlier prayer too.
"Wunnit for Sachin," Gambhir utters on Future preview.

Last one. This is the only World Cup win prayer for self from an Indian cricket player. You guessed the sender right: Sachin Tendulkar. FP had already started processing 'Sachin after grant of prayer'..but then the battery got discharged. God knew its contents though as he had already approved the prayer (this was a resend from Sachin). Sachin requested for a World Cup win as well as a 100th hundred for himself at the Cup final.

"Okay," God summarised, "I will give them all what they said they were happy for. Sachin wants the world cup, so I will give it to the Indian team for his sake. However all the others waxed eloquent in FP about their happiness at Sachin getting a particular score. So that removes the 100th hundred Sachin was destined to get in this match as per his own prayers. Instead I will grant the general players' preference of one-eight for Sachin."

That's how Sachin got 18 (one-eight) in the World Cup final instead of his 100th hundred.

“Wonder why these players prefer a particularly low score for Sachin in the finals…I have never seen so many people do that to a person they genuinely like!”

He finishes the coffee and moves to visit the World Cup stadiums. Most of them need His help to get completed on schedule.


cricinfo players' quotes after 2011 World Cup final:

Spraying @ Wankhede [WC 2011 finals]

We were jointly watching the cup at my friend's place.
Sometime around the 30th over of Indian chase, the spinners were losing control on the batsmen. We were discussing if dew was a reason.
One of us pointed out that the newly started custom of spraying anti-dew sprays had worked like a dream in favour of India during the semi-final at Mohali. Any effect of dew would suggest non-application of spray.

"Was the anti-dew spray missed?"
We reckoned that was indeed the case. We then sought to delve deeper even as the Indian batting looked increasingly assured and Murali yielded 19 in his two-over 2nd spell.
"Is that (spray) a miss by Mumbai cricket authorities or was it deliberately omitted to maximise Indian advantage?"
We tried putting on our "conspiracy theorist caps".

At this point, one in the group went a couple of hours back in time and quipped:
"Now I get why the normally accurate Zaheer started spraying during his last twilight spell. The ever generous host** that Zaheer is, that's when he noticed that spraying had not been done. Good man."

**Zaheer Khan plays for Mumbai, venue of 2011 WC final

World Cup final watchers' sea-sawing opinions: Gambhir bimari

During the Sri Lankan innings, Gambhir chased a ball and made a half-decent attempt to save a boundary off the last ball of the over. He failed. Ad break. Up comes a medical insurance company ad making viewers aware of its coverage of 'gambhir bimari' [serious diseases].
The acceleration of Sri Lankans was getting on the nerves of some of us.Gambhir's concession of that boundary did not help one bit. A riled friend grunted after the ad:
"Gambhir bimari hai" [Player Gambhir is the disease]

By the end of the 10th over of Indian innings though, the same friend was predicting Gambhir to be the match winner(which was a creditable 'early call'). And by the 30th over Sangakarra and his Sri Lankan side had begun to think what my friend had said earlier:

'Gambhir bimari hai'

Zaheer_2011_final vs Zaheer_2003_final

Anyone out there still likening Zaheer Khan's Cup final performance of 2011 to his performance in 2003? DON'T EVEN!!!!! Zaheer only bowled badly in last 3 overs yesterday. Maybe a better performance in those overs would have slashed 15 runs from Team India total and from his own bowling figures.

But in retrospect it is critical that Zaheer saved his most special 1st spell for the final (6 runs in five overs)..If there was a wayward Zaheer show in the first few overs like 2003 (with one side already leaking via Sreesanth), then EVERY bowler would have had 15 more runs in their figures. Work out the Sri Lankan total with that calculation for an idea of the difference Zaheer made with his first spell.

'Change Managers' & 'Continuous improvement agents' Dhoni & Kirsten

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was part of the previous Indian world cup (2007) team that was eliminated early. He, in fact, was integrally involved in the failure, when he failed to support the then skipper Dravid in the still-in-balance elimination match with Sri Lanka. He played the ugliest first-ball shot of his career to Murali first up and departed almost looking happy to go.

Then came the elevation. Dhoni became the T20 & ODI skipper in 2007. The T20 WC win gave him some power with the authorities as well. And he set about arranging his pieces for the change he saw as compulsory.

Irrespective of what people think of him, everything he has done since was done with the good intent of increasing India's chances of success. Some of them were drastic yet right decisions. Dravid & Ganguly's one day omissions were such. These are two players he respected for their ability and Test performances, but also rightly judged the unsuitability of these two to modern limited overs cricket. Some in recent times have been controversial. The selections (or non-selections) of Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin in various series / tournaments are amongst those.

While each decision can be discussed and criticised, it surprises me that so often the INTENT of MSD's decisions gets questioned. And especially as it involves a man who is the first one to admit his positives and his mistakes including his own non-performance after every match in front of all the world (try that just ONCE, to understand what it takes to do it) and tries to build further on it. All of it an extension of the mission of continuously improving the team he is entrusted with.

For the Indian ODI side, we have seen the COMPLETION of transition from dependence on the 10 year+ greats in the match yesterday. Make no mistake. What the cricket world saw yesterday was awe-inspiring.They saw a bold, formidable team which has delivered when it mattered. What's awe-inspiring? That the win came through guys that will return at the next world cup at their peak powers (or still close to it). This team has its problems, but it is aware of those and is perhaps smart enough to assess them well and chart a near perfect 'horses for courses' solution for the chinks. Much of it MUST BE thanks to their skipper and coach...combined with some support from the selection panel who at times have trusted these two guys even when they were unconvinced themselves.

Gary is now leaving for home. Do you think this is going to be Dhoni's BIGGEST contribution to Indian cricket? Much less. He has a far tougher transition in hand in next 2 years - doing to the Test team what he did to the limited overs side. That side is far more dependent on 10+ experience players. Alarmingly it still remains so even after retirement o 2 greats like Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly. And the reason behind it is why that makes it more important - young talents are not adept at the longer version as the older generation and this gap is increasing ALARMINGLY. Dhoni's ability to keep the Test team at the top and hence creating a 'suction' for Test cricket amongst youngsters picking up a bat or ball is critical to the health of Indian cricket (and hence cricket in general) in next 2 decades.

Imran Khan made a great comment after yesterday's victory when Rajdeep Sardesai asked him if Imran was expecting India to win the World Cup. Imran said words to this effect:

"India have been doing well in all forms of cricket in the lead up to world cup. And this is what was Pakistan team was also doing in 1992. This is always the case.'

Imran was not far off the mark. India 1983 were the SOLE instance of a 'not-doing-too-well-for-previous-years' team winning the world cup and sending shock waves. All the others were always major contenders. Success in all forms of cricket is thus intertwined.

If India's Test side tails off, it can still enjoy ODI / T20 sucees for a couple of years. At most. But such anomaly will indicate inability of Indian first class cricket to produce Test quality players...and soon enough the cracks will show up in ALL forms. See Australia between 2007 & 2011? If the Aussie case looks like a moderate decline, we need to remember that such decline in quality is happening INSPITE of an Aussie cricket system in place to prevent it. We do not really have a strong system as yet - we depend heavily on the individual leaders for identifyig talents that come up, how these talents are nurtured and focussed to perform well as well as work for team's cause. This has a big bearing on the team performance, hence its ability to create a following and generate for talent.

That is why people like Ganguly & Dhoni are important to create this 'suction' at top by generating success. That is why the ONLY person I have seen close to God in cricket is Imran Khan of Pakistan, where even the gradually-shaping-up cricket system we have is non-exitent.

From that ugly dismissal in 2007, to the gutsy and brilliant innings culminating in an unforgettable winning sixer in 2011 - the circle probably turned the proverbial FULL circle for Mahendra Singh Dhoni when India chased a once-in-4-years Cup final with 2 of their 3 "10+ years big batting guns" gone within 1st 12% of the chase.

The ODI transition is complete for now, even though Sachin chooses to plays on for a couple of years.

Waiting for the next great transition show for Indian cricket - the Test team. And this time Mahendra Singh Dhoni will need to bridge a bigger gap, with no Gary Kirsten as his accomplice. This where the new coach is going to be critical in carrying on the legacy of Kirtsen-Dhoni combo, albeit with tweaks to suit the style of the new guy. And this is where all of us - cricket followers & media alike - are also going to be critical. How? Simply by appreciating that the Test transition is going to be tougher, with the self-styled-self-techniqued-self-taught-but-team-oriented Amazer from Ranchi himself getting on in years.

The legacy of Dhoni-Kirsten will matter. Just as it always did ever since a rotten, shame-ridden legacy was chucked away 11 years ago and a new legacy gradually emerged under Sourav Ganguly and John Wright. A legacy that has since underwent upheavals, modifications, even personal clashes and downward spirals but nevertheless always strove to achieve improvement [Some things do not really change, perhaps..]

[Edited from a note in my Facebook page]

Friday, April 01, 2011

Need your support in favour of marching towards floodlit first class cricket

My appeal to any cricket followers that read this post by intent or by accident:
Please spare a thought about supporting first class / Test cricket played with pink balls. It needs support. No use supporting the branches and leaves (read ODI's & T20) of a tree whose roots (first class cricket) are shrinking by the day.

Currently floodlit first class cricket has a downside: it leads to more consumption of resource (power) but I believe that can be managed in near future by advanced solar energy harnessing resources. A cricket stadium receives a lot of solar energy in daytime - which can be used at night!

Want to see the pics? Here they are:,33,PS.html?imageNo=4
While the cricket crazy world is keeping collective eye on the climax of the global event, a silent revolution has been started by people concerned with the health of the 'Mother' format of the game - first class cricket.
It is clear now that while the Son (Tests) augmented the mom's health since itis inception, Grandson (One dayers) had been a mixed bag- positive in some ways and negative in others. Mother was still doing fine but now the Great Grandson (T20) threatens to finish it off by pumping away all blood (read talent) from it by lucre of money.
This development is quite a shocker, as the lifeline for all 4 generations resides solely in the mother. Without survival of the mother, the next three generations might either perish or go into a coma (read 'associate member quality'). Problem is: the Great Grandson is kind of a 'bull in a china shop' guy, one who has immense power but does not know about using it for family's good.
For the Mother to stand a chance of survival, she may need to raid the Great Grandson's territory. The 'positive move' may or may not work but it is worth trying as the mother is dying anyway if she tries nothing.
The preparations for that assault into grandson's territory started at Abu Dhabi on 27th March. Support the cause.

More links:

MCC website report of Rahul Dravid endorsing to take 'pink ball first class cricket' experiment forward:,1969,NS.html
Pink ball day-night first class match between MCC & Notts at Abu Dhabi - scorecard:

Here's a link to my previous post listing the exact concerns on health of first class cricket that I discussed heart to heart with a cricket loving guy I know very well - MYSELF.
This is the cricinfo report where Dravid, after completing his participation in the experimental floodlit first class match at Abu Dhabi, has endorsed the new idea as good for cricket's future. The comments in that article list concerns of the readers - one of which was negative impact on energy consumption.

India Revisiting all WC champion teams in chronological order

Who won the WORLD CUP since its inception (barring 1983, which was won by India)?

1) West Indies (1975, 1979)..& defeated in India's last group league match

2) Australia (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007)..& defeated in quarter final

3) Pakistan (1992)..& defeated in semi final

4) Sri Lanka (1996)..waiting in final

India is a nation that respects history.

We undo things in the EXACT order those were done.
[Shared on my FB page today]

Raina's crystal ball

As expected before the finals, the Indian players are nervously energetic.

None of the Indian players has any idea of how the final will play out for him.

Sehwag returns back to his room from a special lecture by Ravi Shastri on "Hitting deliveries to the boundary like tracer bullets" and immediately feels this tension. Being a social animal, Sehwag has no intent of withstanding this uneasiness alone. He has set up an Facebook invite to a nail biting party for all his mates. Ex-captain Sourav Ganguly is the Guest invitee.

About 12 suo-moto responses came promptly from Sri Lankan players volunteering to join the party but Sehwag had to refuse the invites.
Papparazzi saw a controversy in that refusal but the story turned out to be less engaging than was initially thought.

The hotel staff have only agreed to clean up KILOS of bitten off nails resulting from the party. TONS of nails will be out of the agreement and the room owner will have to clean it himself. As we all know, Sehwag prefers to sweep Sri Lankan deliveries ONLY on the cricket field.
13 other Team India players have accepted Sehwag's invite for nail biting party ahead of finals. Tendulkar's acceptance reportedly came within 13 seconds of sending out invite...making Sehwag tweet on it.

All except one man.

Suresh Raina.
He is not chewing his nails for a change. He is unaffected by tension.
Because he knows EXACTLY what he will be doing in that match as the 7th batsman.
How does he know that?
He has a secret crystal ball that has given him his secret brief in all EXACTNESS.

This is his brief:

 - Irrespective of whether India bat 1st or second, the fifth wicket will fall EXACTLY at the score of 187.

- The fifth wicket falls in EXACTLY the 38th over too.

- After coming in, Raina will be required to take the Indian total to EXACTLY 260 by playing cautiously at the start and aggressively at the end.

- And in the process he will get to an unbeaten personal score of 34 (not EXACT for a change, but thereabouts) in those overs.

Raina reopens the cricinfo statsguru page. He wants to check the number of times he passed 34 in ODI's with a new filtering criteria he just thought of. He would next go to the ESPNcricinfo camp to ask for those videos.
[End of story]

Don't you believe me on Raina's brief? Check up for yourself on the QF with Australia and SF with pakistan - you already know that India scored 260 in both matches. Now see the over# and team score at which 5th wicket fell - and also Raina's score in each of the 2 games:



Are you an Indian? Then pray that Sri Lanka do not bat first and get > 260 ;-)

[Acknowledgement: This is an expansion of cricinfo's stats article today on no. 7 performances in India & SL teams]

I've beaten Lara's first Test triple [375]

This is the 376th post in this blog.
Hold your congratulations - I am concentrating on surpassing Lara's 400 right now..
Wish me luck!!