kohli

No Pain, No Gain

courtesy: ESPNcricinfo

At the time of writing, India are getting quite a beating from Cook’s men at the Oval. The rapid disintegration of the players in the last three tests has been painful to watch; actually, scratch that…I have stayed off from watching most of the days’ play since the Ageas Bowl test. As Devanshu pointed out in a brilliant article recently, the emotional toll that my team’s performance exacts on me can be draining in defeat as exhilarating as it is in victory. After all, I still have not fully recovered from the 0-8 memories of 2011.

Talking about 2011, going from the highs of a home World Cup win to the nadir of whitewashes in England and Australia really tested my loyalty and support for the team. The only other performance that brought me similar grief was the 1999 whitewash down under. At least, then it was expected by all and sundry, as a weak team (barring SRT) wilted under the dominance of the mighty Aussies. The 2011 England tour, on the other hand, consisted of a phalanx of experienced veterans who were supposed to defend the number 1 ranking in style. Instead, the team went down with a flurry of injuries and contagious loss of form, as England steamrolled the tourists. As crushing as it was, I consoled myself saying that it was all bad luck. Then came the tour down under.

The Aussies seemed ripe for the taking; yet a fully fit Indian team continued it’s disastrous run overseas. That tour signaled the end of Rahul Dravid and further down the road, VVS Laxman. India were forced into the transitional period, kicking and screaming.

Fast forward to now. The Indian team picked for the England series did not boast of many high profile names like the previous tour; but given the travails of the English team and the promising performances in the previous two overseas tours, there was reason for cautious optimism. Indeed, the Lord’s test raised hopes that a corner had been turned with regards to tactics, skill and guts. Instead, the following three tests has been a sobering reminder, that there is a long way to go for this team to mature into a strong test side capable of challenging the best sides on a consistent basis.

That brings me to the point of the article; there is hope. Yes, the manner of the defeats in the last few games has been very dispiriting, to put it mildly; but as @srinivyasan pointed out, this team is on the upward curve of their careers. Players like Pujara, Kohli and Rahane will only get better. The likes of Bhuvneshwar, Ishant (yes!) and Aaron promise good signs for the future. Vijay has shown that he has the discipline to succeed overseas. While there is a question mark on the likes of Dhawan, Jadeja and Ashwin, they have age on their side. Short-term pain might have to be tolerated before the long-term gain comes to fruit.

The captain likes to talk about the importance of process over results. So far, neither the process nor the results has gone India’s way; but Dhoni himself has offered a template (courtesy, his bat) on how to keep fighting and trusting on one’s own strengths. If his players can imbibe those qualities, these present-day shambles might just kickstart a revival for this team.

 

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The emotional journey of the Indian fan during the WT20 – through GIFs

India came into the World T20, after a dispiriting few months where they just about lost every series, regardless of the format, since November last year. So, when it was time for the World T20 to begin and we realized that we were grouped with Pakistan, West Indies and Australia…..

 

The campaign started on a perfect note though, with a clinical win over Pakistan, but the heart refused to accept that the team would fare better in the remaining games…..

 

Then India beat defending champions West Indies in similarly convincing style. Suddenly, the expectations were kindled….

 

India rolled over Bangladesh and became the first team to enter the semifinals, which was a pleasant surprise

 

By the time Australia were brushed aside ruthlessly, confidence was sky-high

 

India faced South Africa in the semifinal, and were faced with their first challenging target of the tournament. Kohli was all like…

 

India entered the WT20 final for the second time since 2007 and anticipation was building, when it was realized that they were going to play Sri Lanka in the final.

 

Still, it was an opportunity for India to hold all three major ICC trophies at the same time…

 

India batted first. Kohli stuck some lusty blows and at the half way point, it looked like a good platform was set for the finish. Then Yuvraj happened.

 

The game was effectively over by the time Dhoni and Kohli returned to the dejected dugout. Sri Lanka duly completed the chase with Sangakkara leading the team to a memorable triumph in his last T20 international. For the India fan,

 

Then we remembered that the IPL is round the corner….

My thoughts on the IPL auctions

It’s been a while now, since the IPL auctions got over. I needed some time for the dust to settle, and understand who went where, and how the teams stack up now. Luckily, some sites have done a good job in breaking it down, and following is my personal take on the 2-day television spectacle which gripped cricket-watching people all over the world, whether they loved or hated the IPL.

First of all, when I started following the auction on day 1, I never expected it to be so gripping. It was 12:30 am here, when it started and I expected to go to bed after a couple of hours. Instead, watching the whole drama unfold live, including discussions about it in real time over Twitter and Paddlesweep, kept me awake till 7 am! Throughout those six and a half hours, my emotions varied from excitement to amusement to shock to disgust and finally a sense of resignation. One of the main reasons I stayed up for was to find out where the likes of Swann and Lara would end up, and you can imagine the anger/disappointment, when they were not snapped by any team. Eventually, there were tons of players who were not picked by any team — Ganguly, Gayle, Tamim Iqbal, Ntini, Jaysuriya among several others; and there have been several theories trying to explain them away. So, I am not going to bother trying to understand them. All I can say is, the team owners seemed to have learned their lessons from the first time around, and were building teams which stood a winning chance, instead of giving opportunities to old-timers for one last hurrah or picking players who would miss a sizable portion of the tournament. The Modi-less factor was evident, with teams looking serious and professional, and the auctioneer himself did a commendable job of hurrying the auction along and making sure everything went smoothly. All in all, it was an interesting auction on day 1 which lost a bit of steam on the 2nd day, but nevertheless it was an eyeball-grabbing extravaganza, which will please the BCCI and the Modi-less IPL. Here is the breakdown of the teams:

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS

Batsmen: Suresh Raina (retained), M Vijay (retained), Michael Hussey ($425,000), S Badrinath ($850,000), George Bailey ($50,000)
Bowlers: Doug Bollinger ($700,000), R Ashwin ($850,000), Ben Hilfenhaus ($100,000), Joginder Sharma ($150,000), Nuwan Kulasekara ($100,000), Sudeep Tyagi ($240,000), Suraj Randiv ($80,000), Faf du Plessis ($120,000)
Allrounders: Albie Morkel (retained), Dwayne Bravo ($200,000), Scott Styris ($200,000)
Wicketkeepers: MS Dhoni (retained), Wriddhiman Saha ($100,000)

My thoughts: CSK have been my favorite team, ever since I found out that Hussey, Murali and Ntini figure in the same team in IPL-1. Since then, the team has undergone minor personnel changes, with the loss of Murali and Ntini this year; but they still remain my favorite team. They were the only side, which stayed loyal to the team it has been building for the last few years. You could sense the genuine disappointment, when they couldn’t get back the likes of Murali and Balaji. Having said that, they look one of the better and balanced sides in the tournament, with the inclusions of Styris, Bravo and Randiv. The selections of Hilfenhaus, Joginder and Tyagi are a bit baffling to me, but more surprising is the lack of an alternative opening option for Vijay and Hussey. Hopefully, they will get a good opener from the uncapped player list (I’m hoping for Mukund). All in all, Fleming and Dhoni will be happy to have got the core of the band back together, and will be one of the favorites for IPL-4.

DECCAN CHARGERS

Batsmen: Kevin Pietersen ($650,000), Cameron White ($1.1m), JP Duminy ($300,000), Shikhar Dhawan ($300,000), Michael Lumb ($85,000)
Bowlers: Ishant Sharma ($450,000), Dale Steyn ($1.2m), Pragyan Ojha ($500,000), Amit Mishra ($300,000), Manpreet Gony ($290,000), Chris Lynn ($20,000), Rusty Theron ($85,000)
Allrounders: Dan Christian ($900,000)
Wicketkeepers: Kumar Sangakkara ($700,000)

My thoughts: One of several teams, which have undergone a total revamp. There is no Gilchrist or Symonds this time; neither are Rohit Sharma, Ryan Harris or Scott Styris. Instead, they have gone for ex-RCB big players Pietersen, White, Steyn and have made a couple of smart buys in Sangakarra (who might double as their next keeper-captain), Duminy and Lumb. The Indian contingent so far, doesn’t impress me too much with the likes of Ishant, Mishra and Gony; but Ojha and Dhawan have had success at previous IPLs which will stand them in good stead. They also have a lot of money left, which might yet get them some good domestic uncapped players.

DELHI DAREDEVILS

Batsmen: Virender Sehwag (retained), David Warner ($750,000), Aaron Finch ($300,000), Venugopal Rao ($700,000), Travis Birt ($20,000), Colin Ingram ($100,000)
Bowlers: Morne Morkel ($475,000), Ajit Agarkar ($210,000), Ashok Dinda ($375,000), Umesh Yadav ($750,000), Robert Frylinck ($20,000)
Allrounders: Irfan Pathan ($1.9m), James Hopes ($350,000), Roelof van der Merwe ($50,000), Andrew McDonald ($80,000)
Wicketkeepers: Naman Ojha ($270,000), Matthew Wade ($100,000)

My thoughts: I am not too sold on this team. True, they have the likes of Sehwag, Warner, Finch and Ingram who make up a devastating batting order, but their bowling lineup is too weak. They will miss the control of Vettori and the guile of Nannes. Morkel, Agarkar, Dinda will go for runs on most of the days, and Irfan Pathan is not the smartest of buys either, considering his fitness and form concerns. They better hope that they get some good uncapped players, otherwise they don’t stand much of a chance this time.

KINGS XI PUNJAB

Batsmen: Shaun Marsh ($400,000), David Hussey ($140,000)
Bowlers: Stuart Broad ($400,000), Praveen Kumar ($800,000), Ryan Harris ($325,000), Piyush Chawla ($900,000), Nathan Rimmington ($20,000)
Allrounders: Abhishek Nayar ($800,000), Dimitri Mascarenhas ($100,000)
Wicketkeepers: Adam Gilchrist ($900,000), Dinesh Karthik ($900,000)

My thoughts: Looks like Gilly has to go from captaining an average team, to captaining ANOTHER average team. Despite having lots of money left in their budget, KXP didn’t seem to know what they want, and consequently didn’t pursue any player with particular intent. Their weird spending is highlighted by the equal pay to both the wicketkeepers, and the exorbitant amount spent to purchase Chawla when they could have easily got Swann for less than half that price (I know, I’m ranting again!). They have a couple of good T20 players in Hussey and Broad, but not enough to win matches consistently. Preity has to pray extra hard that she can get some top notch domestic players to fill the gaps before the tournament starts.

KOCHI

Batsmen: Mahela Jayawardene ($1.5m), VVS Laxman ($400,000), Brad Hodge ($425,000), Owais Shah ($200,000), Michael Klinger ($75,000)
Bowlers: Sreesanth ($900,000), RP Singh ($500,000), Muttiah Muralitharan ($1.1m), Ramesh Powar ($180,000), Vinay Kumar ($475,000), Steve O’Keefe ($20,000)
Allrounders: Ravindra Jadeja ($950,000), Steven Smith ($200,000), Thisara Perera ($80,000), John Hastings ($20,000)
Wicketkeepers: Brendon McCullum ($475,000), Parthiv Patel ($290,000)

My thoughts: Someone at Kochi didn’t think this through. Seriously, how could you value a Laxman over Ganguly in this format? They have also supplanted some expensive bowlers in RP Singh and Sreesanth (though this choice is understandable) and chosen possibly the two most maligned spinning allrounders in Smith and Jadeja. They have packed their side with foreign bowlers and allrounders, which means that they will have to rely on their Indian batsmen to get good scores; their options—Laxman, Parthiv and Jadeja. I will give them points for picking Owais Shah, Hodge, Jayawardene, McCullum and (*sob*) Murali.

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS

Batsmen: Gautam Gambhir ($2.4m), Manoj Tiwary ($475,000), Eoin Morgan ($350,000)
Bowlers: L Balaji ($500,000), Brett Lee ($400,000), Jaidev Unadkat ($250,000), James Pattinson ($100,000)
Allrounders: Yusuf Pathan ($2.1m), Jacques Kallis ($1.1m), Shakib Al Hasan ($425,000), Ryan ten Doeschate ($150,000)
Wicketkeeper: Brad Haddin ($325,000)

My thoughts: King Khan can be pleased with the squad he has got so far. First off, they made a ballsy move by not retaining Ganguly, despite the enormous fan base he has in Bengal. Then, they made some good picks in Gambhir (possible skipper), Yusuf Pathan (born for IPL), Kallis, Shakib and Ryan Ten (three of the most valuable allrounders there is). Their bowling attack looks lite considering Balaji’s inconsistency, Unadkat’s inexperience and Lee’s fitness concerns but this should be made up for by their strong allrounders. Ofcourse, they did start the initial IPL with a similarly good team and high hopes; so they will want no repeat of their performances in the first three seasons. Under Gambhir and coach Whatmore, they have possibly the best combination to ensure that. Apart from CSK, they will be favorite team for including the likes of Morgan, Lee, Shakib and Ryan Ten.

MUMBAI INDIANS

Batsmen: Sachin Tendulkar (retained), Rohit Sharma ($2m), Aiden Blizzard ($20,000)
Bowlers: Harbhajan Singh (retained), Lasith Malinga (retained), Munaf Patel ($700,000), Clint McKay ($110,000)
Allrounders: Kieron Pollard (retained), Andrew Symonds ($850,000), James Franklin ($100,000), Moises Henriques ($50,000)
Wicketkeeper: Davy Jacobs ($190,000)

My thoughts: Imagine that you are the opposition captain when the Mumbai Indians are batting. First up, you have Sachin and Davy Jacobs opening. Then you take a look at their team compostion, and see that still to come, are Rohit Sharma, Pollard and Symonds. That is the plight which most captains will find themselves in during the course of IPL-4. They also have a good bowling attack suited for this format in Harbhajan, Malinga, McKay and Munaf. Once, they fill up their squad with uncapped players, they should be having one of the best teams in the tournament. As an aside, I do hope that Harbhajan takes out some time from playing, to teach Symonds Hindi and explain the real meaning of ‘Teri maa ki…’

PUNE WARRIORS

Batsmen: Robin Uthappa ($2.1m), Yuvraj Singh ($1.8m), Graeme Smith ($500,000), Callum Ferguson ($300,000)
Bowlers: Ashish Nehra ($850,000), Murali Kartik ($400,000), Wayne Parnell ($160,000), Jerome Taylor ($100,000)
Allrounders: Angelo Mathews ($950,000), Mitchell Marsh ($290,000), Jesse Ryder ($150,000), Nathan McCullum ($100,000), Alfonso Thomas ($100,000)
Wicketkeeper: Time Paine ($270,000)

My thoughts: A so-so team really. They have good T20 batsmen in Utthappa, Yuvraj and Graeme Smith but I don’t expect them to fire consistently. They have a canny spinner in Murali Kartik (who went shockingly unpicked intially) but injury-prone bowlers in Nehra, Parnell and Taylor. Their allrounders and wicketkeeper consist of foreign players, who are decent, but not awe-inspiring. So, they have a lot of work ahead if they want to compete with the big boys.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS

Batsmen: Ross Taylor ($1m), Rahul Dravid ($500,000)
Bowlers: Shane Warne (retained), Johan Botha ($950,000), Shaun Tait ($300,000), Pankaj Singh ($95,000)
Allrounders: Shane Watson (retained), Paul Collingwood ($250,000)

My thoughts: Possibly, the unluckiest team in the fray. Their purse was cut due to some wrangling with the BCCI, which meant that they had to be smart with their buys. Instead, they spent a whopping amount on Botha alone. Maybe, they are preparing for Warne’s departure by grooming another foreign spinner/captain. Apart from that, the two Indians in the squad – Dravid and Pankaj Singh – are not going to set the world alight. Their remaining picks consist of, an inconsistent but dangerous batsman, a specialist T20 speedster prone to breakdowns, an allrounder who has had reasonable success with the team and an allrounder who has been in poor nick. Apart from CSK, they might be the only team hoping praying for a repeat of the first season!

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE

Batsmen: Virat Kohli (retained), Saurabh Tiwary ($1.6m), Cheteshwar Pujara ($700,000), Tillakaratne Dilshan ($650,000), Mohammad Kaif ($130,000), Luke Pomersbach ($50,000), Rilee Rossouw ($20,000), Jonathan Vandiar ($20,000)
Bowlers: Zaheer Khan ($900,000), Dirk Nannes ($650,000), Abhimanyu Mithun ($260,000), Charl Langeveldt ($140,000), Nuwan Pradeep ($20,000)
Allrounders: Daniel Vettori ($550,000), Johan van der Wath ($50,000)
Wicketkeepers: AB de Villiers ($1.1m)

My thoughts: A team, whose batting will revolve around the promising trio of Kohli, Pujara and Tiwary. They also have a couple of good left arm pacers in Zaheer and Nannes, complimented by the spin of Vettori. Other notable foreign imports include de Villiers and Dilshan. Still, I feel that something is missing. I think that they had a better team last year and will have to rely a lot on their uncapped players, to progress far in the tournament. Also, it will be interesting to see their choice of captain – Dictator Dan, young Kohli or a left field pick in Zaheer Khan?

So, my picks for the semifinalists in this season’s IPL include Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers. The bottom four will possibly be Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Team Kochi, and the middling teams – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Pune Warriors. Feel free to share your thoughts!

NO ‘FRANCHISES’ FOR OLD MEN – THE LATEST IPL NEWS

Finally, there are some interesting developments in the IPL. The latest headlines are regarding the player retentions, and there are a few interesting decisions made by the franchises:

Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni, Albie Morkel and Suresh Raina were shoo-ins; but I am surprised with the choice of the other  player. Murali Vijay is a great striker of the ball, and was instrumental in CSK’s good performances in IPL 3 and the Champions League; but they would have been better served if they had retained Ashwin, as CSK is already light in the bowling department, and he was one bowler the team could always rely on, to take wickets or bring down the run rate.

Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar was a predictable retention; and it must have a close call between Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. What confuses me, is the retention of two foreign players. If I’m not mistaken, only one foreign player could be retained. Anyway, MI went with the right picks, choosing their most destructive foreign imports: Pollard and Malinga.

Rajasthan Royals: Putting aside their legal troubles, RR has retained their two foreign star players, the two Shanes: Watson and Warne. They owe a lot to Warne, and have rightly retained him; and Watson is a very handy player in T20s. What is surprising, is the non-retention of Yusuf Pathan. After all, Warne was so enamored with his batting, calling Pathan’s century in the IPL as the best innings he had ever witnessed (poor long term memory, for sure!). Anyway, given his destructive performace in the recent ODI against NZ, Rajasthan’s loss will be another team’s gain.

Delhi Daredevils: While Virender Sehwag was a certain pick, the exclusions of Gambhir, De Villiers, Warner, Dilshan and Vettori are interesting. They had perhaps the most destructive batting line-up in the IPL, and they could have at least afforded to pick one foreign player. It does look like they are aiming for a fresh start, centering around Sehwag.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: It is hard to believe that in a team which boasted the likes of Kumble, Dravid, Pietersen, Kallis, Steyn, White and Morgan, RCB has decided to retain just one player: the young Virat Kohli. Granted, he has been in tremendous nick, but if at all, you wanted to retain just one player, wouldn’t you have preferred a tried and tested player? Kumble and Kallis were two very instrumental figures in the recent emergence of RCB as a force to contend with in both the IPL and the Champions League, and their non retention could only mean that the RCB is looking for long-term options. It is an interesting decision, and only time will tell if they made the right choice.

Kolkata Knight Riders: One of three teams, which has decided not to retain any players; not a major surprise, considering their poor performances in all three IPLs so far. What is interesting though, is the non retention of Ganguly. A few days back, he had stated his desire to play for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy to prepare for the IPL; so for KKR to drop him, is a bold move. After all, he is their most identifiable player. I wonder how Kolkata itself, will rally around a team which would not include their Dada.

Kings XI Punjab: A team which is not even sure of its participation in the next tournament, they have decided to do away with the whole rabble. Players like Yuvraj, Sangakarra, Irfan Pathan were not really worth investing in.

Deccan Chargers: A team which plays well due to the sum of its parts, more than relying on individual performances; there is no Gilchrist or Symonds to prop them up this time. It will be interesting to see their strategy during the auctions. Will they go the MI way, and pick up big players, or will they go the RR way and pick one big player, and lesser cricketers revolving around that one person? Brian Lara, anyone?

Meanwhile, in a parallel non-Ashes world…

As England continue to ruthlessly break down Australian spirit, down under in Adelaide; there are quite a few interesting things happening elsewhere in the world of cricket:

  • Under a stand-in captain, and without most of their first choice players, India has been doing an ‘England’ to the Kiwis, by demolishing them in one-sided games; with two games to go, India has already claimed the series, thanks to the Delhi pair of Gambhir and Kohli. When the seniors return, this Indian side will be a handful, in the World Cup. For New Zealand, there is simply nothing to write about.
  • West Indies and Sri Lanka played one of the most rain-affected series, in a long time. Except for Gayle’s triple ton and Darren Bravo’s stroke-play, the series didn’t really excite. Darren Sammy made a decent start to his captaincy stint and if he continues to have the respect and loyalty of his team-mates, West Indies can start to hope again. 
  • Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are playing yet another series against each other; though i admit, the cricket is usually entertaining because it is like a battle of equals. Shakib Al-Hasan, who is turning out to be the Vettori of Bangladesh, is once again at the forefront with a couple of good performances so far. If you don’t mind the lack of star players, and fancy some well fought cricket, this series is worth watching.
  • The IPL saga rambles on. Kochi is back in, Rajasthan and Punjab are still in limbo, and the auction looks like it is going to be postponed again; despite a flurry of IPL-related activity, which happens every day, nothing really changes. It is a spectacle in itself.
  • South Africa have included Ryan McLaren to the squad for the first test against India. I don’t think it is going to make too much of a difference. Steyn and Morkel are the only bowlers, India will worry about.
  • And finally, in Pakistan, Shahid Afridi has wisely played down any hopes of winning the World Cup next year; while their batting in tests seems to have improved in their last two matches, their ODI batting has to improve, and I doubt if they have enough time for that.  

I’ll conclude this post, by posting a good quote by Ian Chappell, regarding the merits of the team huddle:

If speeches were that important, Winston Churchill would have made a great captain.