Posts Tagged ‘MS Dhoni’


Shridhar Pandey

The Indian team has many reasons to be proud of the victory over England in the first Test at Ahmedabad. After all, this would be termed as their first legitimate victory post the consecutive 0-4 setbacks in England and Australia. This win clearly showed that the English were the second best team to India in almost every facet of the game over the last 5 five days.  Their skills and strategies to play in the sub-continent needs serious re-thinking. Without overruling the fact that England can bounce back from this situation, they will have to look ahead in a very optimistic manner – without being over ambitious of course.

India clearly had a hero in both batting and bowling departments – Pujara and Ojha respectively.  Ojha was clearly ahead of any other bowler in the match – yes, even better than Swann. Bowling tight lines has always been his strength. What he also did well in this match was tossing the ball up almost every time the skipper threw the ball into his hands, therefore bagging those many wickets in both innings. His successful stint with the ball also more than made up for Ashwin’s rare failure in Indian conditions.

Pujara is impressive on and off the field. Pic: The Hindu

I like Pujara more after every match. His knocks in both innings were flawless – if I might say so. He gave glimpses of both Dravid and Laxman at times. His forward defence is almost as solid as The Wall. The way he comes down the track to play the wristy drives toward on-side against spinners sure reminds me of VVS. Yet, it would be quite premature to compare him with those batting stalwarts.  But keen observes would have already started looking at a future prospect in the dressing room like they had done when two youngsters in Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly made their debut at Lord’s more than 16 years ago. The thing about Pujara that stood out (and he admitted that himself too) was the price he put on his wicket; he seldom played a shot in the air. That reminds me of another batsman who did well in the match but got out playing a needless shot in the air – Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag’s run-a-ball century in the first innings was a trademark Sehwag knock though he was a little slow early on. He must have breathed a sigh of relief after that. I would have loved to see him return to the dressing room unbeaten though in the second innings.  Yuvraj Singh played a wonderful innings before being dismissed cheaply off a full-toss from Samit Patel. That innings did show some resolve and was a clear indication of the man’s pedigree.

Another player that impressed was Umesh Yadav. The lad bowled his heart out on a pitch that hardly had anything in it for the seamers. He looks a promising young fast bowler (yes, you read that right – fast bowler!). He also extracts some reverse swing from the old ball that makes him a really deadly customer to deal with. Zaheer Khan, though not among a lot of wickets, looked like 100 per cent after a long time. The way he set up Nick Compton before dismissing him in the second innings speaks volumes about his ability with the ball.

MS Dhoni again failed to make any difference with the bat. It won’t be long before India would need his service in that area as well. Kohli was partly unlucky in the first innings, with the ball that got him out coming out of the rough area of pitch but looked good in second. Sachin Tendulkar got out quickly after he looked like being in a positive frame of mind – obvious from the two convincing boundaries in that small innings.

Despite the lost affair, England still have some hope to draw from the match. Spare a thought for the captain, Cook and their most successful spinner Swann. Alistair Cook’s century would certainly be rated among the top by a visiting batsman in this country. Swann strengthened his claim for the best off-spinner in the world at the moment. Matt Prior would have a lot of positives to take from the fact that he outshone his Indian counterpart in at least one area – that is no mean feat!

In all, India would be more than happy with their performance and would like to keep the momentum going with few improvements in a couple of areas. The English side, on the other hand, would like to learn a lot of lessons on how to play in the subcontinent from their Indian counterparts. For them there is certainly a ray of hope at the far end of the tunnel; but only the upcoming matches would decide whether that is of an incoming train or thanks to a stag with a torch in his hand!

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Shridhar Pandey

Only a couple of days away from the beginning of the Test series between India and England, I realize that I have never before looked forward to a Test series with such desperation as this one. There is more than one reason behind the excitement. Whatever the score-line might read at the end of four test matches, one can rest assured that both teams will have some interesting challenges coming their way. Though this series has been constantly billed as the “revenge” series, I believe that would not affect the teams much, for they have far bigger issues at hand to deal with.

As far as the English line-up is concerned, the return of Kevin Pietersen will surely boost the morale of the side but they cannot afford to get carried away. Of late their middle order mainstay Jonathan Trott has not been able to keep up to the high standards he has set for himself over the last couple of years. Injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn have given them more reasons to worry about. Nonetheless, flamboyant KP is always a force to reckon with. If he can successfully put his frailties against slow left arm bowling behind him, the English supporters will be in for a delight.

Yuvraj and Pietersen make comebacks in to their sides and their form will be watched closely by fans and selectors. Pic: NDTV

To add to that, they have not yet gotten to taste the kind of spin bowling they are about to face in the upcoming Test matches. I would not bother myself going into the details of the reason behind that (that sure is worth another story in itself). But that does bring me to an over-hyped issue about the fragility of English batsmen against spin bowling. This is not the first time they are touring the sub-continent. Neither is this the best spin attack that India has had in the recent times. So give them a break. They know what they are doing. In case they aren’t, they better do!

The Indian outfit, on the other hand, will take on a serious opposition without Dravid and Laxman for the first time in years (no offence meant to the Kiwis). This series shall prove to be the litmus Test for the likes of Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer. Gambhir will have to prove that he is not just good for small innings and that he can go on to score some big runs as well. Sehwag will have to make his followers believe that he has not lost his touch while Zaheer’s fitness will be tested once again.

Pujara and Kohli showed promise in the series against New Zealand. If they continue their form into this series, England sure would get a run for their money. Yuvraj has given the selectors reason enough to select him for the no. 6 spot. For some reason, he has not been able to do justice to his talent. By now he should have been a permanent member of the Indian test line-up. Ashwin will be the one to watch out for. He has done extremely well in home conditions. He might prove to be the eyesore to most English batsmen.

Inclusion of Harbhajan in the squad renders the equation pretty interesting and open to speculations. It would be interesting to see if Dhoni leaves out Harbhajan from the playing eleven to include Ojha. If he doesn’t, it would be a huge injustice to poor Ojha who did very well in the New Zealand series. Dhoni himself has a few questions to answer as far as his batting goes. A batsman of his mettle batting at no. 7 is always a huge advantage to any side provided he is in good touch – or at least in the kind of form he is in the limited overs cricket.

Moving on to the last and certainly the most talked about issue of late – would Sachin Tendulkar announce retirement after this series or maybe after the series against Australia? All these speculations have gained some credibility after Sachin himself hinted that he cannot keep playing forever (contrary to what I had been thinking for the last 16 years). He has always been known to hit back hard whenever he has been criticized. Now is one such time. How well does he come back will be a key factor in determining how long he keeps playing from now on. Though there is still some part of me that believes he would keep playing till eternity!


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Here’s a narrative that you might not have heard in 33 years: The West Indies have won the World Cup. They have re-arrived in the ICC Wall of Fame with the force of a gale. Not just Gayle (pardon the rhetoric pun again please).

Their dance is as distinguishing as their unique style – and coupled with a new found passion that seemed to have been nonexistent until not too long ago, ’79 doesn’t seem that distant a memory now. It is easy to forget that the West Indies constitutes a set of nations that are fragmented geographically, culturally and (maybe) politically.

The victory is made more poignant and credible given the hurdles that had to be crossed by Darren Sammy and his men. Revisiting the incidents would remove the sentiment behind this piece, for when the mood is calypso, it is worth celebrating, not contemplating. Their vision for the future must be their distant past. It really is as simple as that.

Every final played leaves an etched memory that never fades with time. From Clive Lloyd’s assault in ’75 all the way to MS Dhoni’s pyrotechnics of 2011, the victorious team has always had a fulcrum around which the scorecards revolved. And in some cases, a moment of magic (not reflected in scorecards) – such as Kapil Dev’s brilliant catch to dismiss Viv Richards in ’83 – announces itself as the difference between glory and gloom.

Marlon Samuels, whose chronological trysts in International Cricket best remain buried, given the moment, stole the thunder from the much anticipated fireworks of Chris Gayle. Gayle had set the tournament alight with his impersonations of the Gangnam dance, a popular South Korean style that came into prominence to rank Psy’s albums above the story of the North Korean soldier who’d crossed fortified borders to enter South Korea. He had, in addition, defied presumptions to bat through the innings during the semifinals against Australia.

Unfortunately, a ploy that had worked in the semi-finals failed yesterday. As admirable as the intent is to allow Gayle to bat through an innings, natural instincts – if left unattended to – could take fortunes for a reversing. But to witness Samuels respond the way he did, albeit circumstances where the run-rates dipped to embarrassingly low levels given the format, is a testament to his temperament and approach. His straight six off Malinga, a monstrous 108m hit, remains the highlight of a battering that cut the Sri Lankan pacer’s stats to pieces.

Not too long ago, the documentary Fire in Babylon seemed to catalyze the process of the rest of the world catching up with the Caribbean in the nostalgia department. Whether it made most of us yearn for the West Indies to hit the glory days again will remain unanswered, but the neutral’s elation – coupled with observations during my stay in Sri Lanka – convinces me that it did.

Sammy’s style and captaincy doesn’t depict the theme behind the documentary – his style isn’t the typical ‘in-your-face’ attitude, but rather the approach that bridged the chasm between altercations and egos. Until yesterday, he probably had a greater share of pessimists (including myself) questioning his very place in the XI. I still do. But he deserves credit for taking up the anchor role that others refused – to accomplish a task that appeared, back then, as monumental as reversing the fortunes of today’s Greek economy.  He has had the last laugh in this contest.

Mahela and Sanga: ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket?

But such contests, unlike many others, turn out to be a zero sum game. The West Indies’ triumph was the home team’s loss – in particular, towards two men who’ve steered them to four finals thus far. A fourth final in this century would have, in all obviousness, placed – if I could borrow the words of an economist here – an inelastic demand on their success. But at least, the economy fluctuates. Their luck didn’t. Jayawardena and Sangakkara, for all you know, may never taste the ultimate success that continues to elude them. A friend of mine recently labeled them the ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket. I don’t doubt that they are.

Their records will have a void that has left some of the best cricketers’ records flecked – from Bradman’s ‘an iota short of a 100’ test average to Shane Warne’s top score as a batsman. It may add fuel to their biographical defensives, but it isn’t something that would compensate for the lack of a trophy in their cabinet. Not when they were so close to repeating what the Indians did in front of their fans last year.

On the brighter side, their performances have disproved notions posed by a few theorists through the course of the tournament. To begin with, the theory that Mendis would fail against bigger nations is blown away when you look at his statistics from yesterday. Add to this the youth fervor that Akila Dhananjaya brings – there is every reason to believe that the near future isn’t as bleak as it appeared to be when a few big names bid farewell.

West Indies, on the other hand, have just carved a beginning. They’re still way off the mark formats that have a stricter measurement yardstick. And if this doesn’t act as a catalyst, I can’t imagine what else would. Just like how a stable currency doesn’t necessarily reflect the prosperity of a nation, this triumph should open doors for more transparent conversations to help elevate standards in ODI and Test Cricket.

They need to have their best players playing in these formats – Sarwan included. Now, who initiates these dialogues is always guesswork, given the egos that battle each other. Unfortunately, the more sensible advocates from West Indies cricket aren’t part of the WICB. The system needs to find a way to get these personalities in, while the momentum is still on. History has shown us that World Cup wins could do wonders to boosting sporting, and non-sporting, opulence to nations.

It will be an interesting few months leading up to the New Year. But until then, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try mastering the Gangnum. As the cliché goes, grab the trend while it still lasts. Recall something called a vuvuzela now?


Prasad Moyarath

If the crowd presence on the ground and the pre and post match analysis by the media are any indication of popularity, the first ODI between India and SriLanka has been indubitably cold shouldered by the cricket fans of both nations. Don’t forget, the revelation of Rahul Sharma’s drug usage during IPL had already triggered a controversy prior to the start of the series. A rustic start sans rain on a huge ground in SriLanka was not an unusual one for an Indian cricket connoisseur, but an Indian victory surprised many.

Another game that raised a debate about technology ©AFP

A huge ground with a shortened boundary and windy conditions excited many, but the dull rattling sound of the white cherry hitting the willow and the two paced wicket doused their excitement in no time. Sehwag struggling to get going and Dilshan dropping a straight forward chance offered by Sehwag, though unbelievable was accepted as symptoms of start of a fresh season.

Kohli and Sehwag made use of the fielding lapses of SriLankans and laid the foundation for a huge score. Kohli with his consistent performances in the recent past looks all set to be a new generation Ricky Ponting. Raina and Dhoni did well to maintain the momentum after the fall of Sehwag and Kohli. The SriLankan bowling attack looked toothless and Herath could not extract any turn. Kulasekara’s injury added to their woes.

The Sri Lankans had a start similar to the Indians. Irfan Pathan moved the ball in and out and looked like regaining his lost bowling form. Though his speed was in the late 120s, he seemed to bowl with his original bowling action unlike the high arm action with which he bowled, the last time he made a comeback. Umesh Yadav bowled a lot slower and raised a doubt whether he is becoming yet another Indian fast bowler who becomes a medium pacer after establishing in the squad. Ashwin extracted turn from the pitch which was missing when the SriLankans bowled. Yet another masterpiece from Sangakkara which proved that he is in top form. Perera proved his worth as an all-rounder. 16 wides from Indian bowlers led to their slow over rate, once again putting Dhoni in trouble.

While the cricketing nations debate over the introduction of new technologies into the game, this match exposed the limitation of the existing technology and the need to improve it. Sehwag was caught by Kulasekara with an acrobatic dive but the television cameras could not give a conclusive evidence of the catch and so allowed Sehwag to play a big innings. Another instance was the run out appeal against Sangakkara. Though his bat appeared to be on the line when the bails were dislodged, the cameras failed once again in giving a conclusive evidence which helped the batsman. It is time the ICC and the broadcasters sit together and find solutions for such problems. Using technology and giving the benefit of doubt to the batsman due to its limitations puts a question mark on the worth of it.

Had Dilshan caught Sehwag, had Kulasekara caught Sehwag cleanly, had Dhoni or Sehwag caught Sangakkara when he edged Umesh Yadav between the keeper and first slip in Umesh’s first over, this match provided a lot of possibilities to ponder. If what was seen in this match is any indication of what is going to happen in the coming matches, the batting of Kohli and Sangakkara and bowling of Irfan Pathan needs to be followed. Let us hope for an interesting ODI series in the coming days.


Bini Sathyan

The post match ceremony of the 3rd India-Australia test which was scheduled for the evening of the last day of the Test was advanced and took place in the afternoon of the third day’s play. This was due to the sudden and sad demise of Indian cricket due to old age and certain other factors which have come up in the post mortem report.

Even though this was an expected event, things took a sudden turn and impact of the fall from grace was colossal that everything around collapsed and was buried in the blink of an eye in a hot summer afternoon in Perth. The rot that set in at Edgbaston from which time Indian cricket has been living on the edge was finally set to rest in Perth. Skinned alive and left half dead, Indian cricket was bludgeoned and put to death at the WACA. Buried under 22 yards of soil 6 feet down under heaped with shame and disgrace. A black day for Indian cricket.

The chief architect of the collapse and who remained stone cold throughout the turn of events, Dhoni, looked like a man giving a funeral speech at the post match ceremony, even though he did not go on to give a speech per se. He wished that the team had more time to adapt to the harsh conditions of pace and bounce in the fast Australian pitches. Wonder what the team was doing when it reached Australia to get used to these conditions well in advance?

This team of veterans who had built their legendary reputation in Australia and against Australia was still trying to find their feet in the third test. Will they be able to adjust to the conditions if they play a dozen Tests more in the continent? Then BCCI should think of extending the series and in future should keep sufficient number of Tests in the series. This is necessary for getting beaten black and blue in the first few, learning in the next few and giving it back in the last few, that is if they survive to do it.

Clarke, the full grown pup that has matured into a leader and revived his team by leading the fight back from the front, in his speech made it clear what his team’s priorities are. To be the team to beat. To become number one in all three formats. With priorities clearly defined, the Australian cricket board and the team know their direction. And going by their history, they will pick up the right men to execute their plans. BCCI on the other hand is planning for the next IPL. So it is very obvious on the priorities of both the boards. When Clarke says they want to become no.1, he and Cricket Australia means business. BCCI also means business. Only that their businesses are different.

Australia have not just won the series but may have also put an end to a few careers. © Getty Images

It was a shameless and spineless display by the Indian batsmen again barring the determined Kohli this time. The Test was supposed to last 5 days but the Indian batting could not last 5 sessions. The responses and reflexes of the once great batting legends who are in their twilight years seem to have slowed down. The grit and determination to fight it out when they had their backs to the wall has disappeared. Their fighting capabilities would have put lions to shame. Now they are a shame to the nation. The legendary wars that they fought, the lonely battles they waged are all folklore. They scripted legends in time and now its time they write their own epitaphs.

The Indian batsmen made the same mistakes again and again. Their attitude seemed to be casual and careless and was evident in the captain’s batting. The Australians have done their homework well. They planned well and executed clinically. They have found that there is a hole in the wall and they have made it to look bigger. They have created records for Dravid to be the player who was bowled out the most number of times and Sachin the player who was out LBW the most number of times. Their nemesis Laxman has lost his magical touch. Sehwag failed to trouble them. Gauti and Dhoni always made sure that they self-destructed. The tailenders have brought back their old habits of batting is not my responsibility. The lack of application in a team is well evident from the way the tailenders bat. The spirit to fight and the determination to overcome is clearly absent in this team.

And the Australians made the most of the mistakes of the Indian batsmen. The pace brigade of Starc, Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Harris bowled consistently and was ruthless till they saw the back of the last batsman and made sure that the burial was complete. If this was war, then the Indian team has no comeback. Luckily this is a game.

The one man from Australia who simply blew away the game in a session is the pocket dynamite, David Warner who is known as the bull amongst his mates. And boy, what a charge he has made. This charging bull simply ran away with the honors before the amazing Umesh struck at will. The two balls that went through the gates of Ponting and Cowan, a right hander and a left hander, are more than enough to see the quality of his bowling. And Virat Kohli’s performance with the bat has shown the talented fighter in him. These two are definitely part of the future. Other than these positives that India can take away from the match, this Test is better forgotten.

It is time for the most experienced batting greats of India to exit before it is too late. They have to go. The earlier, the better for Indian cricket. Greats become true legends when they exit gracefully and gloriously. If they hang on till they fall from grace and are no longer needed, they become a laughing stock. The legends should be treated with respect. So it is high time the they think about a decent exit.

Maybe it is time for the selectors to think differently. Or the selectors themselves should go if they are not brave enough to think beyond the veterans. The greats might play well and hit a couple of centuries more in the flat Indian pitches or in favourable conditions. In that way they still have a future. But if we are going to persist with them, Indian cricket’s future is bleak. We need to think about the unfriendly pitches in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and the future tours to be played here. Pick up young players who can and send them to survive these harsh conditions. Baptize them with fire. Put them to the lions. Let the fittest survive and we will get a team to beat. The resurrection of Indian cricket lies in the tough decisions that will be taken after the Australian series or may be even before.