Category Archives: India

Virat Kohli : The Showman of Indian Cricket

There is world of footballers which is filled with style, on the field and off the field show offs, dating supermodels, driving super cars  and then there is life of Indian cricketers where one is expected to be modest, humble and politically correct all the time. Football has seen many players who not only play well but also are style icons and have flamboyance in them which made them a brand that everyone looks up to. Beckham, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic are few players who fall in this category. They not only entertain people all over the world with their game but are also style icons and are loved by women/girls. Their fame makes even best in hollywood envy of them.

Indian cricket has seldom seen such players. Sachin, Dravid were great players but not style icons and definitely not the ones who would like to show off. Yuvraj Singh to some extent fit in both category. Dhoni on the other hand was successful both as player and as brand ambassador of many companies but we don’t associate flair and “i am the best attitude” with Dhoni.

Cricket has changed big time post the introduction of T20 cricket and so have the players. Indian cricket has found one such player who is not only best in his game but also has unmatchable flair and attitude and called as spoiled brat: the name of the player is Virat Kohli.

When Virat came in team India in 2008, a little bit of Delhi’s flair and attitude was visible but he was nowhere close to what he is now; perfect in batting, perfect in style, perfect in attitude. Hundreds of article have been written on his exceptional ability to chase targets and his century making spree, so i would like to dive into other aspects of Kohli.

Virat Kohli is more proud than what suits to a star like him, he loves the all the attention, he loves the camera, he has tattoos all over his body, has a different hairstyle for different seasons, has a perfect beard, he also has a fit body and six pack abs. Not long ago, he was dating a superstar girl from bollywood and unlike others he didn’t hide his love for her. He publicly acknowledged his love for her through his famous flying kiss after scoring half century against Sri Lanka. All this was never expected from an Indian cricketer. He is expected to be humble and down to earth guy who lets his game do all the talking and here is Kohli doing exactly opposite of what is prescribed.

There is one famous line that can be associated with Kohli : “Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him” . His performances, his antics makes sure that people will notice him.

When you see attitude of Kohli, it’s very unlike Indian attitude of “being humble” and “let the bat do the talking” attitude. He is in face of opposition all the time and reminds them that he is gonna beat the hell out of them. Ganguly was a player that came close to having such attitude but he was not as frequent as Kohli is in pricking opponents and sometimes even team-mates and fans.

Kohli has more of the Aussie DNA than Indian DNA and much like Ricky Ponting, Hayden and other great Aussies, he backs his attitude with great performances. When he says to a bowler that he is going to hit him all over the park, he means business and he does it more often than not. Grin, behind the helmet, that comes after he hits bowlers all over the park, defalte and hurts the bowlers. It makes them look like lesser mortals compared to immortal brilliance of Kohli.

In recently concluded India-Australia series, it was funny to watch Faulkner sledge Kohli, it seemed that Faulkner deliberately forgot that Kohli has more Aussie attitude than what current Aussie XI possess together and Faulkner, more obviously, paid price for it. May be someone like Ponting can give Kohli some fight in sledging battle but not this new generation of Aussies.

A decade or two earlier his behaviour would have been branded as obnoxious but for this generation he is audacious and represents the young India that is no longer under hangover of colonial supremacy. He represents the young India that doesn’t like tag of underdogs or aspiring champions,  they are impatient for success and sees champions tag as their well deserved right,

No one can forget Ganguly’s shirt waving at Lords balcony or V. Prasad’s send off to Aamir Sohail. These moments excites us and gives us happiness, Kohli gives us these moments in every series. He goes out, pricks the ego of opposition with his words, with his antics and then follows up with great performances and wins the match for India. The more is the pressure, the better is the performance of  Kohli. He never gives up and takes responsibility of taking team across the finishing line.

His frustration at his own failures, at his teammates’ failure doesn’t have a negative connotation. His emotions gets better of him because he is passionate for game, passionate for win and wants his teammates to do well.  As a captain, he expects same passion and zeal from his players. His attitude, visibly, rubs off on the players as well, which is evident from a much changed and aggressive attitude of team India under his captaincy.

His attitude had many critics in early stages of his career but slowly and gradually he won over them with his performances and with his respect for game. He is the showman of Indian cricket. He has become what Sachin Tendulkar was for previous generation: an inspiration. He is Sachin Tendulkar of this generation with flair of Cristiano Ronaldo and attitude of Muhammad Ali.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”

~ Muhammad Ali 

this article was first published in Sportskeeda.

 

India in search of fast-bowling all-rounder

When we roam around in India and watch youngsters play cricket, one thing remains common across India is that in team of 11 players, there are 5 such players who bat, bowl and also field well. They perform day in and day out as allrounder for their team.  As they get little older,  few from those 5 players get selected for their school/college/U16/U19 team. They come under a trainer/coach and first thing a coach does to them is to feed their young mind with  singular vision i.e either pick up bat or pick up a ball to be successful in long term and if they are talented enough  they go on to become future batsmen or bowler of their  State team  and get selected in National team. These coaches  can’t be blamed alone because in India every budding cricketer aspires to become either Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid or Kohli, there is no fast bowling allrounder in vicinity to look up to or to be their role model.

All these training years under professional coaches, prematurely kill their allrounder skill, and incidentally those who survive and make it to regular playing XI of team India are spinning all-rounders. Last fast bowling allrounder that India had was Kapil Dev who retired 22 years back. It’s not that India didn’t have fast bowling all-rounder in these 22 years but they were bits & pieces allrounder and utility player at best, they never reached class of Kapil Dev.

Modern day cricket is very demanding, it demands skill sets to survive and allrounders, especially in ODIs, have become essential for any team that aspires to be top ODI team of the world and wants to win ICC tournaments,sadly, India lacks one such all-rounder. India had allrounders who were either more a bowler or a batsmen than allrounders who are equally good at both.

India have flirted with many fast bowling allrounder option, one such option was Robin Singh. He gave his heart & soul on field and even won few matches for India. His commitment for team was admirable. He dived all around in field when he fielded, he bowled his heart out, he ran between wickets like he was running for his life but he never looked like a player who could be a top all-rounder and his stats of 69 wickets and 2336 runs in 136 ODI matches proves the same.

At one point of time in mid 90s, there was a fad to use lower order batsmen as pinch-hitter.  In India, Srinath was given role of pinch- hitter in few matches. He scored a fifty too but it was an experiment that was destined to fail and no wonder it doomed.

Ganguly proved a better seam-bowling all-rounder than others who played for India in all these 22 years. He had few five-wicket haul under his belt, he took 100 wickets in ODIs. His ball swung in the air and off the pitch as well, but his top class batting and captaincy over-burdened him and after a while he stopped bowling. Had he continued his bowling and concentrated on his fitness, he could have been answer to India’s woes of fast-bowling allrounder.

India have always had spin-bowling allrounder but never had one  allrounder who is able to score century on a day and take a five-wicket haul on another. One  allrounder who fits in the above criteria is Yuvraj Singh, although he justified the tag for a short duration. He won India ICC World Cup 2011 with his all around performance. He excelled, both with bat as well as ball, in the tournament and was allrounder in true sense for team India in 2011 world cup. He ended tournament with 362 runs and 15 wickets to his name and was adjudged man of the series.

Another man who filled allrounder void for few years was Sachin Tendulkar. His excellence with bat is well known but he was also called “man with golden arm” due to his knack of picking wickets at right moment. He won matches for India with ball; with his seam up bowling, with his leg spins as well as with off spins.  He had 154 ODI wickets to his credit but he also stopped bowling in second half of his cricketing career.

Recently India experimented with Stuart Binny who made his name in IPL but couldn’t carry his IPL form in national team. He could neither convince with bat nor with ball in few chances that he got.

Other recent additions to India’s allrounder list are Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Hardik Pandya and Gurkeerat Singh Mann. Barring Hardik Pandya, all other are spin bowling allrounder. Ravindra Jadeja has almost cemented his place in team as spin bowling allrounder and his place is sometimes challenged by similar styled Axar patel but both look their own pale shadow in overseas condition. They struggle with bat and their bowling also doesn’t raise any confidence about them serving as allrounder in overseas condition.

Hardik Pandya is latest addition in India’s search for allrounders. This selection reflects desperation  on part of BCCI. He hardly has any domestic cricket experience. His few sparkling inning for Mumbai Indians have made him eligible to be in Indian team as allrounder. It tells you dearth of fast bowling allrounder India has that it requires only few performances with bat and ball to make any player eligible for a place as allrounder in team India.

This move of selecting Hardik Pandya is more of a gamble than a sound decision backed by stats. Hardik  may still surprise his detractors with his bat for team India but expecting him to perform with ball as well, will be asking far too much from him. This kind of selection is quick-fix of a long term problem.

One notable man who could have answered India’s search for allrounder was Irfan Pathan. He made sensational debut for India with ball. His swing bowling made batsmen dance to his tunes, he was a sensation until Greg Chappell tried to convert him to an allrounder. He started well with bat but pressure of becoming allrounder took a toll on his bowling which was his USP. No wonder he could not cement his place as allrounder in team India and in search of allrounder, India lost a fast bowler who could have taken forward legacy of Zaheer Khan, Srinath and Kapil dev. However, now, Irfan Pathan  is making his name in domestic circuit, recently in Syed Mustaq Ali trophy he did well with both bat and ball and shown fighting spirit to make a comeback in team India.

But none of these Indian allrounders, in these 22 years, could match excellence of Kallis  or good performances of Shane Watson. India didn’t have their own Dwayne Bravo, Abdul Razzaq, Shaun Pollock or Chris Cairns in all these years . India will never need of a fast bowling allrounder in sub-continent, spin bowling allrounders like Jadeja, Patel fits in perfectly in sub-continent but if India has to win big tournaments in overseas condition, they need to restore balance of the team with fast bowling allrounders.

World class batsmen come one after another in India because of concerted effort at grass-root level and thanks to infrastructure improvement  by BCCI through state cricket boards. BCCI also needs to wake up to requirement of fast bowling allrounders and  make sure that fast bowling allrounders at junior level are picked at right time and provided support, training and skills to resolve India’s woe of fast bowling allrounder else India’s search would continue till eternity and will forever haunt India in overseas conditions.

This article has also been published here at sportskeeda.

 

 

 

Bring Back Yuvi

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That moment would remain forever etched in our memory 

Go back to the T20 World Cup in 2007, a new look Team India under a new captain in MS Dhoni was there to compete. No one gave them a chance, not even Indian commentator like Ravi Shastri. Still, India ended the tournament as the champions of the inaugural World T20 Championship and a man named Yuvraj Singh played some scintillating knocks to ensure that India wins the trophy.

Who can forget those 6 sixes in an over against Stuart Broad and 70 runs in 30 balls in the semifinal against the Aussies?

Move ahead a few years to 2011. Yuvraj was woefully out of form before ODI World Cup, but Dhoni believed in Yuvraj ‘The Match Winner’. Yuvraj proved the experts, most of them were advocating for him to be dropped, wrong: with 362 runs and 15 wickets, he was named as the player of the tournament of 2011 ODI World Cup.

So, the match winning capability of Yuvraj is never in doubt; neither is his ability to perform in big matches (remember the 2002 NatWest final). He can change any match on its head with his bowling, batting or fielding. But post T20 World Cup in 2014, Yuvraj never represented India. Questions were raised on his fitness level, his diminishing ability to run fast between the wickets, lapse of concentration while batting, and also his below-standard fielding.

Things seem to be changing now for Yuvraj. His last few innings in the domestic cricket gives one the feeling of young Yuvraj who is much fitter and hungry for success. He is among the top scorers with three consecutive centuries on different kind of tracks. He looks sharp in field too.

With Ravindra Jadeja being injured and with the kind of form Yuvraj is in, he deserves a place in the World Cup team. He would provide an option of a bowling all-rounder in absence of Jadeja. He is more than a handy bowler; his wicket-taking knack would help India in the middle overs. Big Australian grounds would also help his slow bowling, as chances of batsmen being caught at boundary would be high. He, along with Raina, can fill in quota of 5th bowler, which would give India an option to play with an extra batsman on flat tracks. Dhawan is also woefully out of form, which may force Dhoni to open with Rahane. In such a case, Yuvraj can even fit in the number 4/5/6 slot that is still not cemented by any other player. Stroke-maker like Yuvraj would be an asset especially while chasing a target. With three match-winners like Raina, Yuvraj and Dhoni in the middle order, Indian team would be much stronger. His previous experience of playing in Australia and his big match experiences would also help India. He would also add value to already sharp fielding of India. His catching & fielding ability is at par with any young fielder of team India. He is just 33 years of age and few years of cricket is left in him. He is not too old to be kept out of the team India on pretext of giving chance to youngsters.

With kind of performances Yuvraj has given for the team in the past and with kind of form he is in, a fit-again Yuvraj deserves this chance. Selectors should keep all this in mind before they select team for World Cup on 6th January. Dhoni kept his faith in Yuvraj before World Cup in 2011; he should do same this time too. But how much say Dhoni has over the selectors now is another question.

Whatever be the case, Yuvraj, given his form and his match-winning ability, deserves to be picked.

In Reply To Tom Alter

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With Test No 1 Trophy

Dear Tom Alter

I know that you are sulking with reasons best known to you. But let me clear some cobwebs of your brain.

You said that two players left series overseas and were branded as traitors but you didn’t tell that circumstances were different then. Dhoni didn’t leave the series, he retired when series was done and dusted with Australia taking invincible lead. Earlier instances of players leaving were may be of proving a point to others/selectors/captains whereas Dhoni did it to prolong his ODI career that he loves the most.

Your second point is “Mahendra Singh Dhoni chooses to exit before he is removed – and with arrogance, such blind faith in his image.” What you call as arrogance is matter of respectfully retiring which is not done by any Indian greats in last 25 years. But I guess you have blind faith in earlier pattern of dragging career till the time fans start to abuse and players are forced to retire. It is always said that a player should retire when people ask – why and not when. You seem to be a fan of when.

Your third point is about being bosses’ favourite and money. For your information he is people’s favourite first and has made his name long before his alleged proximity with Srinivasan. Let me ask you when Sachin retired last year did he break any contract? When Kumble retired middle of the series did he break any contract? I didn’t see any scathing comments from you then. Can I ask, why you were silent then? A player has his prerogative to decide when to retire. Of all things he has done, least he would bother to go and ask some Tom Alter to decide about his retirement timing. So please don’t suggest him when to retire and what to do.

And then you insinuate that one of the reasons Dhoni was at helm for long was because he is loved by corporate. FYI Kohli is equally loved by corporate. So would you say that he has been named Captain because of it? Answer for me is a big NO. They both got captaincy because of their leadership quality and great performances. You are free to believe otherwise.

Let me ask you when was the last time you watched cricket. You say that Dhoni had not played any competitive cricket for two months before the second Test, and we take him back as both captain and player. So by your logic Captain should be changed after every off-season of two months. I would really like to know from you that when did that happen in cricketing history. Answer would be never or may be once or twice in history. So why should that apply to Dhoni? Answer would be best known to you.

Equally laughable is your comment that now country has became all about image building and history doesn’t matter. Let me tell you some history that you chose to forgot. Dhoni won two World Cups, One Champions Trophy and made India No 1 side in Tests. Yes I know you would like to remind people of overseas loss. But let me enlighten you why India didn’t win matches overseas and why it may lose last one at Sydney too. Its because with such pathetic bowling line up even combined captaincy brain of Imran, Steve Waugh, and Ganguly would find it hard to win matches. If Dhoni was not good captain, he would not have won in India too.

It’s not Dhoni who broke the sacred bond but it’s you and other media persons who are trying to break bond between Indian cricket and its lovers by painting a very grim scenario just before the World Cup. Such a damming article without even thinking of how it affects players’ morale tell us how much you love Indian Cricket. In my opinion it is not Dhoni but you who should be banned from further writing on cricket.

Get well soon Tom, I still watch first interview of Sachin that you took and still love every moment of it.

With Love

From an Indian Cricket & Dhoni Fan

This article has also been published at sportskeeda here

Why can’t India win overseas Test Matches

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Whenever someone is quizzed about dismal performance of India in overseas test matches, obvious reply would be “ IPL is killing Test Matches “. IPL is blamed for all ills, technical flaws of Batsmen, Hard hands, stroke making blah blah.. If IPL was killing Indian cricket, why didn’t it kill South African & Australian Test cricket whose players are important part of IPL. De Villers, Faf, Warner, Steve Smith, Johnson, Morkel, and Steyn are star performers at IPL but they are Test match winners for their national team too. There has to be something wrong more than IPL, which is killing our Test Cricket.

India plays ODIs round the year and mostly on flat tracks. If opposition scores 350 they would score 351, if opposition scores 400, they would score 401. They are King of flat tracks. But when balls starts to Swing then even Double Hundred makers of Indian team find it hard to even open their score. So it was not surprising that our team packed its bag in two, two and a half days in England in test matches. In era of Fav 5- Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and Sehwag, Indian batting was invincible in swinging, seaming, spinning, fast, slow every kind of pitch. Indian batting superiority faded away with fading away of these Giants of Indian cricket. What’s appalling is Indian Batsmen now a days doesn’t even know how to negotiate spinners. Spinners like Moeen Ali, Lyon whom Siddhu can go out in his wedding suit and still hit them for six sixes have become tormentors for present generation of Indian batsmen. We now don’t see a dancing down Ganguly or paddling Sachin nor we see wristy flicks of Laxman or classic leaning cover drive of Dravid. Now we only see apprehensive shuffle across the crease by Indian batsmen against spinners. There is definitely something wrong with mindset of these batsmen as ability of Indian players to hit spinners out of the park at will cant go away in a jiffy.

But a question may arise that Sachin started playing in 1989, Dravid, Ganguly & Laxman in 1996 still India didn’t win overseas matches at that time. So what was it that made India win overseas Test matches? Fav Five taught India how to draw a test match. It was belief in the team & bowlers who could take 20 wickets that made India win overseas Test Matches. If you listen to any interview of Ganguly, he would tell you in each of his interview that team put winning overseas test as their number one priority. They made plan and worked accordingly. They took pride in every overseas win. So how come such a successful captain like Dhoni doesn’t have same plan or same intensity? In my opinion no captain plays to lose and definitely not when he goes by name Dhoni, one of the most successful captain of India. What Dhoni doesn’t have is pack of bowlers who can take 20 wickets. Look at the bowling line up of Team India; you would know there is a big problem when a Karn Sharma or a Jadeja is your lead spinner in Test Matches. They are not even a pale shadow of Kumble or Harbhajan. A high-class spinner in India is many times more endangered than Indian Lions are. Ishant Sharma, who wakes up once in blue moon and performs for India, leads Indian bowling attack; he averages 37 and has a strike rate of over 65. This is nowhere near to record of any lead bowler of any other team. Our bowlers are seldom in wicket taking rhythm. They are always in run giving mode, most often at rate of four and above. No team in world could win test matches with such bowling attack. Whenever India took 20 wickets, it either won test match or came close to winning it. Our Batsmen can step up their game and make India draw test matches but to win we need Steyns and Johnsons of world or another kumble or Harbhajan. Till that time we have to be content with flukes like Lords Test or may be this Boxing Day would be different as it was in 2010 when Zaheer, Sreesanth, Harbhajan stepped up their game and won Test Match for India against South Africa. This boxing day I, with millions of other Indians, would wake up again in early morning with hope that Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Ashwin would step up their game and win this boxing round for India. But again if it happens it would be a fluke.

England Tour : Ignominious 2011 and a hopeful 2014

Day2

 

 

“ India players are donkeys on the field “ said Nasir Hussain, “Laxman used Vaseline to save himself from DRS” said Vaughan and then there was a 4-0 whitewash of Team India by English team. Nothing seems to be more acerbic than this tour of England in 2011. This test series not only ended India’s status as number one Test team but also the euphoria of World Cup 2011 win. It brought back memories of pre Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly era when India were a pathetic overseas traveler.

Scathing comments of British commentators are etched in memory of every Indian cricket fan and they are crying out for revenge since 2011. Even home series against England inflicted pain on Indian fans as Team India again lost to England by 1-2. Dhoni eased the pain of fans by winning ICC Champions Trophy in England by beating England in finals with icing on the cake being Nasir Hussian forced to chew his comment of Indians as donkeys in the field.

A Test series win in England is still elusive for Dhoni and he would also like to improve his record as captain and player in overseas test matches. This England series is golden opportunity for Dhoni & Co. to set their record straight. Except Dhoni, Gambhir and Ishant Sharma every other team member will be playing for the first time in England in whites.

They might be lacking experience but they have youthful exuberance, passion to prove themselves and no past baggage of losses will keep them in high spirits. When they last played in England in ICC Champions Trophy, Shikhar Dhawan was exceptional with bat and bowlers also proved themselves so they must be gunning for England this time around.

In overseas series against South Africa and NewZealand, Batsmen did well and put up a strong performance but India lacked in bowling department. India didn’t have enough firepower in bowling to take 20 wickets that took away India’s chances of winning test matches on at least 2 occasions.

This time also Indian bowling attack might not be world class but bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohd Shami are natural swing bowlers and are skilled enough to exploit conditions in England. Addition of Pankaj Singh and Binny raised few eyebrows but good swing bowling by Binny in Bagladesh does offer some hope.

India’s success would depend on their openers and spinners. Indian openers need to see out new ball and play at least 25-30 overs to give its middle order chance to score runs and exploit weakness of England’s bowling in middle overs. Last time when India visited England, Indian openers failed miserably and India could not play even 100 over in an inning.

Pep talks from Rahul Dravid is welcome decision by BCCI. It would not only calm down nervousness in Indian batting camp but also give them much-needed confidence to be successful in England.

Another reason for overseas failures of India, especially in last England tour was poor performance by spinners. Indian spinners need to take wicket in middle over and put England batsmen on back foot. They need to be an attacking option for Dhoni, and not to be used just to stop flow of runs. English batsmen have been vulnerable against spinners and Indian spinners need to pitch in right areas and bowl at right speed to exploit this weakness of English batsmen.

Recent controversy after Ashes has put England on tight spot. Most of their players are new to test cricket and recent test series loss against Sri Lanka shows their vulnerability against quality side. This is high time forDhoni & Co. to up the ante and be aggressive to beat England in their den.

Indian fans are expecting revenge in form of series win. Dhoni may not be great admirer of term revenge in sports but he needs to deliver this win for sake of our fans who are in desperate need of a overseas series win to recharge themselves. So Dhoni, please give it back to English what they gave us in 2011, we should not be under debt for long.