Rise of Kedar Jadhav 

What previous two victories couldn’t do was done by today’s loss.

Today, India made a big  statement for upcoming Champions Trophy.

Falling short of just 5 runs in a 321 run chase without significant contribution from Kohli or Dhoni and that too on a pitch that assisted seam bowling is not anything to be looked down upon.

The condition was similar to what we will see in England in Champions Trophy and rise of Kedar Jadhav is good news for Indian cricket. He would have removed whatever shred of doubt left in Dhoni’s mind that he has to play cautiously and has to take match till the last to win it for India. Now, he can rely on Kedar Jadhav to do that and  can play ferocious cricket that he is known for.

Rise of Kedar Jadhav makes India a strong contender for Champions Trophy 2017.


Saina Nehwal: What she is made of

Defying all odds, Saina Nehwal clinched Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold Title on 22nd Jan 2017. Six months back, Saina’s dream to win an Olympic Gold ended when she suffered from career threatening knee injury at Rio Olympics. She went through knee surgery and was even unable to walk. No one thought that she will be able to be back at her best after that surgery.

After career threatening injuries, it is natural for any player to go through a phase where the mind is clouded with the thought of career being as good as over. To come out of it, requires a lot of mental strength that only champions possess, which Saina definitely has. By winning Malaysia Masters , Saina Nehwal not only silenced her critics who thought that she has passed her prime but also defeated her own demons that would have clogged her brain for last 6 months.

Saina’s emphatic comeback may be a surprise for the world but not for the people who closely followed her career. Let’s go back to 2008 to know what Saina Nehwal is made of.

When Saina Nehwal went for her first Olympics at Beijing, no one backed her to be a medal contender but she went with a belief of winning a medal for India. She won her earlier round matches and in pre-quarters she caused biggest upset in badminton at Beijing Olympics when she beat Wang in three sets. Wang was a contender for the medal and had been finalist of 2007 World Championship. 

In  quarterfinals, Saina was leading 11-3 in the final set but her inexperience of playing at big stage cost her the match and chance to get an Olympic medal for India. Losing from a commanding position on a big stage gives sleepless night to even champion players and some even go in depression for months. It would not have been a surprise if Saina went through same at that point of time and lost her way in coming months. 

Yulianti, who defeated her in quarterfinals went on to win Bronze medal and that shows how close Saina had been to an Olympic Medal at Beijing. She was disappointed and was having doubts on whether she will ever come this close to an Olympic medal.

Like other players, she could have easily opted for sightseeing or could have stopped playing for few days to take her mind off the disappointment of the loss but that is not what she is made of. She talked about what went wrong with her coach Gopichand  and was off for practice the next morning at 5 AM.

This anecdote might be seen as of no importance by those who don’t follow sports closely  but those who follow it closely knows how much players are hurt after an Olympic defeat and how they find it hard to pick up sports for few days or even months.

They way Saina dealt with her Beijing Olympic loss speaks volumes of her mental strength and hunger for the success. She is not someone who will brood over past but is a firm believer to correct things for the future. She is determined to not let anything come between her and her success not even her own doubts.

She, after Beijing’s defeat, fend off every distraction and planned to win a medal in 2012 Olympics. She succeeded in her endeavour when she came back with a bronze medal from London. So, it was not a surprise when she again beat the cynicism surrounding her name and came out on top by winning Malaysia Masters.

Bravo Girl. Keep flying high.


Most memorable tournament for Dhoni as a captain

As the curtain draws on Dhoni’s captaincy, if and when Mahendra Singh Dhoni decides to writes his memoir, he is likely to choose Champions Trophy 2013 as his most memorable tournament as captain.

Just before Champions Trophy 2013, Spot fixing saga in IPL came to light and Indian team’s reputation took a big blow. Dhoni’s honesty was itself questioned. Team’s morale was down and no one believed that India could go on and win Champions Trophy 2013 in English Conditions which didn’t suit them.

In such turmoil, Dhoni took a young team devoid of stars like Yuvraj, Zaheer, Gambhir, Harbhajan etc to England and took one after another unconventional decisions. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan started to open the innings and became pillars of India’s success in CT2013 and afterwards. His gamble on Ravindra Jadeja finally paid off and he ended as most successful bowler of CT 2013 in conditions that was not much suited for spin bowling and also contributed valuable runs with bat.

2 years back at same place, Naseer Hussain commented about Indian fielders as donkeys on the pitch and in CT 2013, young and agile fielders of Indian team shut everyone’s mouth with exceptional fielding standards. It also displayed that Dhoni was right is giving importance to fitness and fielding in team’s selection.

India was cruising in all three departments in CT2013 but all that seemed not enough as India scored just 129 runs in the rain curtailed final. Before England team started their chase in final, Dhoni gave his famous huddle speech,

He said “God (referring to rain) is not coming to save us. If you want to win this trophy we will have to fight it out. We are the number one-ranked side so let us show it that they will have to fight for these 130-odd runs. So let us not look for any outside help.”

It looked all but certain till 17th over that England will win CT2013, when Dhoni, to the surprise of everyone, threw the ball to Ishant Sharma who changed the match with two wickets in consecutive balls.

When Tredwell missed the last ball and made it certain that India won the CT2013, Dhoni’s mask of calmness slipped and he jumped with unbridled joy. It showed how much he valued the victory of CT2013. He not only won CT2013 but also silenced his critics. He displayed how to keep pressure off the team in such turmoil, he displayed how a team full of young players who are hungry for success and have passion for the game are more likely to get success than team full of stars but devoid of passion for the game and hunger for the success.

In that tournament, Dhoni and his team ticked every box, that has to be his favourite tournament as Captain.

MS Dhoni’s lasting legacy as captain

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is arguably India’s best captain but there is no denying the fact that he is India’s most successful captain. For the record, no other captain in the world won all three ICC Trophy i.e T20 World Cup, ODI World Cup, and Champions Trophy except MS Dhoni. He has done many firsts for India as captain and we all have those records on tip of our tongues but what is the change that Dhoni brought in the Indian team that he captained for almost a decade? What is his legacy?

1.Cultivating Winning mentality in the shorter format of the game.

Real change in the attitude of the Indian team started under Sourav Ganguly. He made the Indian team a bunch of fighters. He taught India how to reach finals but sadly, on most of the occasions India faltered on big stages and lost big finals. Under Sourav Ganguly, India reached 14 ODI finals but could win only one final and three finals ended with no result. Under Dhoni, things changed drastically and India took a giant leap. India learned how to win big finals and the winning habit was cultivated in players. Earlier, India started as underdogs in finals, under Dhoni India became favourites in the finals and the rich haul of trophy under Dhoni is the testimony to the fact. Under Dhoni, India won eight finals and lost only five.

2.Backing Young players and leaving the core behind for the next captain.

Dhoni’s first ODI trophy as captain came in Australia in 2008 CB series. Beating Australia, a dominant team for two decades, in their own backyard, in first two of the three finals when Ricky Ponting infamously claimed that they would finish off India in first two finals, was one of the sweetest victories that India grabbed. But, the story before that series was not at all rosy. India dropped two big names i.e Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid from ODI squad and Dhoni famously said that sometimes it is very important to send the message across. Since then he always backed youngsters with an eye on the future.

Sourav Ganguly is always credited for building team India by backing players like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan etc but Dhoni is never given due credit in this regard. Not long ago, people mocked Dhoni for backing players like R Ashwin, R Jadeja, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma who have now become the core of Virat Kohli’s invincible test team. Dhoni reaped the benefit of the team created by Sourav Ganguly. Similarly, before leaving he has built the core of the team to make India champion team under Virat Kohli.

3.Making Fitness and fielding key criteria for team selection.

While watching cricket in the late 90s and the early 2000s, Indian cricket fans always rued about Indian fielding and fitness standards compared to what Aussies or Proteas had. Dhoni came and tinkered with Indian thought process of not giving importance to the fielding and especially of not giving importance to the fitness. He always stressed on the importance of the fitness. He created a furor in 2012 Australian series when he categorically mentioned that only two out of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, and Sachin Tendulkar could be included in playing XI because of their inconsistency in the fielding. Merit and demerits of that decision can be debated but that sent a clear message to players eyeing a place in the team that fitness and fielding have become key criteria in the team’s selection. Dhoni himself led by example. He, all through his career, remained one of the fittest and fastest player on the pitch. The generation of players that came later are super fit and are among best fielders of the world with the new in-charge Virat Kohli leading in both department,

4.Unhurried approach to the game and assuredness of Champions

It is true to some extent that a captain is as good as his team but a captain certainly changes the way his team plays. Ricky Ponting and his team played firebrand cricket. Sourav Ganguly had aggression and that reflected in the attitude of his team. Anil Kumble had determination in his game and that reflected in his team. Who can forget that famous 2008 Perth test,

In the era of the aggressive brand of cricket, Dhoni brought an unhurried approach to the game. Before, Dhoni’s ascendency as captain, Indian team were jittery in big chases and nervous on big occasions. There were many occasion when India collapsed after being in good position. The panic button was pressed more often than needed.  Dhoni dismantled the panic button of the team and gave a loud call for calmness. The situation gradually changed in years to come under his captaincy. From being a bad chaser, India became chase masters. In last two years of his captaincy, it was more because of Virat Kohli but Dhoni was not far behind when we check the record of last decade.  In his tenure as captain, In 43 innings while chasing, Dhoni scored 1558 runs, for winning cause, at a staggering average of 91.64. The attitude of Dhoni rubbed off on players as well and Indian team under him possessed assuredness of Champions unlike the nervousness of underdogs earlier seen.

5.Stomach to take big unconventional decision

Last over to Joginder Sharma in 2007 T20 World Cup final, promoting himself ahead of in-form Yuvraj Singh in 2011 World Cup Final or giving over to most expensive bowler Ishant Sharma in the Champions trophy final when England was cruising and needed only 28 runs in three overs or the infamous decision of denying strike to Ambati Rayudu. He took unconventional decisions, backed it, and most often ended on the right side of it, bringing many laurels to India. Call him lucky, call him “The great gambler” or call him a genius, give him whatever name you like but you cannot deny that Dhoni had stomach for taking big unconventional decisions when stakes were high.    

It is really the end of an era that gave many glorious days to the Indian cricket. When Dhoni was once asked question on managing old and young players. He answered, “From Kishore Kumar, we have gone to Sean Paul”. It goes for the captaincy too, we are moving from an ear of Kishore Kumar to Sean Paul.

Over to you Virat Kohli.

This article is also published here at sportskeeda.


Stats: James Anderson – A case of sour grapes

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and when the going gets tough, the losers get chirping. After England’s Test series loss against India, it was not surprising to see James Anderson taking a dig at Virat Kohli’s failure in India’s tour of England in 2014.  No one can deny that Virat Kohli failed in that tour and the fifth and sixth stump line of English bowlers bothered him but bringing that now when the Indian captain has decimated the English bowlers is a classic example of sour grapes.

Every cricket expert knows that Virat Kohli has changed his stance to negate the fifth and sixth stump line that consistently bothered him. One thing about Kohli that makes him great is that he admits his flaws and improves his technique to remove it from his game, unlike some bowlers who hide their inefficiencies by bringing up old stats of batsmen.

Let us now focus on the spearhead of the English bowling attack, James Anderson, who called out the ‘technical flaw’ of Virat Kohli and analyse what has he done to remove his own flaws.

Anderson is the highest wicket taker in Test cricket for England, but a quick look at his performance in this series, and he seemed nothing more than another ordinary bowler. He took just 4 wickets in 3 test matches whereas India’s Mohammed Shami picked up 10 wickets in the same conditions in the same number of matches.

It seems Anderson didn’t do much to iron out his own flaws of bowling in subcontinent pitches but as good hosts, we shall give him the benefit of doubt since he is 34 years of age and is marred by injuries, and hence must not have got time to iron out his flaws for this series.

He has had a long career spanning 13 years and has had a successful Test career, becoming one of the modern bowling greats. The Englishman has picked up 467 wickets in 122 matches at an average of 28.50, but a great bowler performs well irrespective of conditions. So let us see how Anderson fares in different conditions.

In Country Matches Wickets  Average
New Zealnd 5 18 36.27
Australia 13 43 38.44
South Africa  8 25 39.92
India 10 26 33.46
Sri Lanka 4 11 40.72

Anderson’s performance in seamer friendly pitches: Average

In New Zealand, where conditions are favourable for swing bowlers like Anderson, he has taken 18 wickets in 5 Test matches at an average of 36.27. Across the Tasman Sea in Australia, the Lancashire bowler has taken 43 wickets in 13 Test matches at an average of 38.44. In South Africa, again, conditions which suit bowlers like him, he has taken 25 wickets in 8 Test matches at an average of 39.92.

Going by these stats, it isn’t very impressive for England’s leading wicket taker in the backyard of fast bowlers, at best it can be considered as average performances.

In not so great conditions for fast bowlers, like in India, he has picked up 26 wickets in 10 Test matches at an average of 33.46, while in Sri Lanka, his record is 11 wickets in 4 matches at an average of 40.72. Again, nothing impressive here too.

Brilliant in home conditions

What is impressive is his performance at home, in England, where he has 296 wickets in 69 matches at a staggering average of 25.63.

He has 21 5-wicket hauls, out of which 17 have come in England and out of his three 10-wicket hauls, none have come outside England. The stats show that Anderson is an incredibly gifted bowler, capable of picking wickets at home, but away from the comforts of home conditions, the fast bowler’s record is average, at best.

The aim of dissecting the performance of James Anderson is not to put him down. He is one of the best bowlers of his generation and it takes great skill to swing the ball both ways or to make the ball reverse, which Anderson does consistently.

But the point here is to show that everyone needs to improve somewhere. Some players have to a great way to go, while others have smaller flaws. So, there is no point referring to a particular past statistic to bring Virat Kohli down.

It is worth noting that Virat Kohli has improved leaps and bounds since that 2014 tour and has become one of the best batsmen in the world. Barring performances in England in Test matches, the Indian captain has performed admirably everywhere and the best bowlers of his generation have found it difficult to outfox him.

Whether Kohli succeeds in England or not will be known only when India travels to England, but what we have learnt recently is that James Anderson has proved that he is a sore loser after his team were outplayed and out-thought comprehensively in this series.

Mr. Anderson, let the ball do the talking.

This post has also been published here at sportskeeda.

Sourav Ganguly and knack of spotting talent

Sourav Ganguly Official has a great knack of picking up future stars. I remember, four years back when everyone mocked Steve Smith, he put his bet on Smith saying Smith will be one of the best batsmen in coming years and boy, wasn’t he right.

Before this series , he said English management will do a grave mistake if they don’t play Jose Buttler and he was again proved right when Buttler took England to score of 400. No wonder he backed players likes Sehwag, Yuvi, Harbhajan, Zaheer etc who all did wonders for team India.

His next pick as he said is KL Rahul and once again you cant disagree with his choice. A man who scores century on difficult pitches of Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka must have something good in him.

That last test match of Sachin Tendulkar

What happens when the person you loved the most comes to say the final goodbye? You try to capture every moment of it in your brain so that you can relive it later. The same feeling crept in me when the last test match of Sachin Tendulkar started on 14h November 2013. Here was the batsman, i loved the most, playing his last test match in Mumbai and I was sitting in Delhi mugging for UPSC mains, my life never sounded that unfair to me.

Time stopped in India when Sachin came out to bat for one last time
Time stopped in India when Sachin came out to bat for one last time

With one eye on the book and another on the score, the day was crawling. West Indies got all out before tea. When Sachin came out of pavilion to bat, all head turned towards him and time had been stopped for one more time in India by Sachin. The electronic scoreboard said “Don’t even blink” and nothing could have been truer than that. No one blinked their eyes when he batted for India in the span of 24 years.

 At the end of Day1, Sachin remained not out on 38 and my resolve to stay in Delhi and study for UPSC broke and I flew to Mumbai to bid adieu to my hero.

Next day, I reached ground early with mixed feelings. I was happy to witness the last inning of Sachin and sad as well because it was the last time I would do so. Before Sachin entertained us with his bat on the second day of the test match, he entertained us with his footballing skills during team warm up. The crowd was on the edge in anticipation of a goal from him and gave thunderous applaud when he scored. It reminded me of the burden that Sachin carried throughout his career when anything less than 100 was seen as failure. He was representative of aspiring India. People were so attached to Sachin that his success was seen as their own success, his failure as their own failure. I wonder how a man who is burdened with such expectations could survive and perform for so long. He must be a genius, superhuman or may be God to do so.

He came out to bat the second day and enthralled the crowd at the stadium as well as the people glued to TV screen with his magnificent batting as he did throughout his career. Every shot played by Sachin was applauded, even his defensive stroke got more cheers than Cheteshwar Pujara’s boundaries. I have seen many matches and this was the loudest crowd I have ever seen. At the same time crowd was more nervous than Sachin. Whenever Sachin was beaten by good deliveries, it made their heart skip a beat. I wanted him to score a century by remaining on non-striker end ( only if it was possible) as when he came to bat my nervousness went through the roof of Wankhede Stadium.

Whole stadium was busy chanting “Sachiiiin, Sachin” and crescendo was building for a fitting 100 in the final test for Sachin. But against the run of the play, Deonarine had his moment of life when he got better of Sachin and stadium fell into dead silence before breaking into thunderous applause for the man they admired, loved, beheld for last 24 years. As Sachin was walking towards the pavilion, Virat Kohli walked out to bat for India. A picture-perfect scene of passing the baton.

As soon as India took the substantial lead, a section of the crowd chanted for the declaration so that India gets the chance to bat again and they get to see Sachin bat for one more time but such emotions seldom find a place in the world where winning and losing matters the most.

That "My life between 22 yards for 24 years"farewell speech of Sachin Tendulkar
That “My life between 22 yards for 24 years” farewell speech of Sachin Tendulkar

The match finished on 3rd day, Indian team gave Sachin moving lap of honour but what moved whole nation was that “My life between 22 yards for 24 years” farewell speech by Sachin. Everyone stood up at Wankhede while listening to his farewell speech and suddenly a tear trickled down my face and that was surprising as emotions never get better of me. I sheepishly looked around to check whether I was lucky enough to miss the people’s glare at my most embarrassing moment, but to my surprise, my sister beside me was shedding more tears. Everyone around me had moist eyes. I did not find a single person whose eyes were not moist and that is the emotional connect that Sachin has with Indian people. Even the legends on the field had their eyes wet when Sachin mentioned their name and thanked them. There was an outpour of emotion made of sorrow, nostalgia, goose bumps, memories.

As soon as speech and lap of honour were over, despondency dawned on the crowd.  It’s over: no more straight drives, no more back foot punches, no more paddle sweeps, no more Sachiiin Sachin chants, no more “Sachin hai na abhi, jeet jayenge (Sachin is still there, we will win)” statement of trust. The emotional connect that has been there for last 24 years had been snapped in a moment.

Many players would come and go. Some would even come close or even break records of Sachin but none would have emotional connect that Sachin has with generations of Indians and we would certainly not have a packed stadium in tears to say goodbye to their legend/God. Sachin Tendulkar is not just a cricketer; he is the man though whom billions lived their dream. During the match, a banner at Wankhede said “Now only humans will play cricket” Can you argue with that ??

Final goodbye of Sachin Tendulkar
Final goodbye of Sachin Tendulkar

Thank you Sachin for all the memories and for inspiring  generations.

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