suresh raina

Views of a Chennai Super Fan – In the end, Mr Cricket is the real winner

Match: Chennai Super Kings vs Rajasthan Royals in Chennai

Result: Chennai Super Kings won by 5 wickets

Narrative:

The Royals chose to bat first, and were single-handedly powered to a mammoth score by Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson, who scored a belligerent ton (also the first of IPL-6). He was particularly harsh on CSK’s new favorite, Jadeja, who cracked in his third over conceding 18 runs including two sixes and two big wides. Stuart Binny was the only other batsman who made a substantial contribution and Ashwin was the only bowler who ended with decent bowling figures. It left the Super Kings needing 186 to win the game.

The Super Kings were in control of the chase, right from the start. Despite Vijay’s failure (again), Hussey and Raina never let the required rate shoot up. Raina scored a much-needed half century with contained some trademark shots of his, while Hussey continued his rich vein of form to score a match-winning 88 from 51 balls which completely neutralized Watson’s century. Despite a late stutter, Bravo’s six in the final over bowled by Watson ensured that CSK would move right to the top of the points table.

Analysis:

It was refreshing to finally see the Super Kings break the back of a chase in the power play overs. Last time I mentioned how their strategy of keeping their push for victory too late would not work every time, and that they need to retune their strategy; it seems like they paid attention. It also helped that chasing a mammoth target meant that they would have to come out all guns blazing from the word ‘go’. For a team which boasts of an enviable depth in batting, they really should bat more confidently and more often. Hopefully, they will make this a trend.

First, the disappointments. There were two, namely Murali Vijay and Ravindra Jadeja. Both were stars of the last Test series against Australia and both were in contrasting form in this IPL, up to the start of this game. Except for a run-a-ball fifty against KXIP, Vijay has had a shoddy time with the bat, and moreover he doesn’t project an air of self-confidence either. Honestly, I don’t see how he can survive the axe for the next game. Baba Aparjith can be given a chance, considering his allround skills.

As for Jadeja, this game was bound to happen sooner than later. He was tonked mercilessly by Watson and he seemed to crack from the pressure bowling two huge wides in his third over. With the bat, he lasted for a mere two deliveries before getting his stumps knocked out of the ground. If he was floating in the air after all the “Sir” jokes and mass adulation, he would have come back to earth with a thud after this game.

We also got our first look at Jason Holder, the tall West Indian bowler. Nothing special about his performance though; unless he picks wickets by the bunch in the next couple of games, I don’t see him getting picked over Nannes, Laughlin or Hilfenhaus in the future.

It was great to see Raina back in fine form; he is one of the finest T20 players around, and the Super Kings would have heaved a sigh of relief when they saw his meaty blows to the fence. Undoubtedly, the real hero for CSK this year has been Michael Hussey. Free of national commitments, Mr Cricket has narrowed his focus to performing for CSK with all the zeal and determination of a player trying to make his mark among the big boys. With his third fifty this year, he has zoomed to the top of the run charts and established himself as CSK’s most prized wicket; and that’s saying something considering the rich array of batsmen that the men in yellow possess.

Preview of next game:

Hyderabad Sunrisers in Chennai. Without Perera and Sangakarra, the team will be considerably weakened; but the likes of Mishra , Steyn, White and Vihari, with the possible inclusion of World Cup winning skipper Darren Sammy, will ensure a tough contest for the Super Kings. The Sunrisers are third in the points table and they will itching to show just why.

 

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If I were N Srinivasan

“Hmm….go on…”

These days, the most hated person in the cricket world is not a non-performing cricketer or a bumbling umpire; that privilege goes to a soft spoken, bespectacled business man from Chennai. Narayanaswami Srinivasan, or N Srinivasan (or, Srini mama as “affectionately” known throughout the social networks) is the current BCCI chief, which in turn makes him the overlord of all international cricket bodies (allegedly). It takes a special kind of talent (sorry, Rohit) to be universally disdained by anyone related to cricket. Indian fans hate him for reasons pertaining to IPL, DRS and an autocratic approach to governing the Board. Non-Indian fans hate him for reasons pertaining to IPL, DRS and an autocratic approach which influences the governing of other national cricket boards. It is nice to know that in a cricket world divided by misplaced nationalistic fervor, we can all agree that the BCCI chief is a tool. And that Jade Dernbach’s tattoos make Mitchell Johnson’s look like a work of Picasso. Don’t even get me started on that.

“Cool story, bro….now get to your point!”

Anyway, I was thinking about it and it led me to wonder what I would do if I was the BCCI chief. If Twitter and Facebook is to be believed (and when are they ever wrong?), Srinivasan has unlimited powers through which he can fix IPL games in a way that the Chennai Super Kings make it to the final every year, bully other boards into selecting/dropping certain players, ensure that Dhoni remains the unquestioned ‘Super King’ of Indian cricket and fit in enough time to destroy the game of cricket as we know and love. If all that is there to it, I think Srini mama is selling himself short. Here is what I would do if I was the former Honorary Sheriff of Madras (see, you learnt something new today!):

  • First step – through brow beating, arm twisting and using Navjot Sidhu to make prank calls every day to each board chief, grab control of the ICC presidency (officially). Welcome to the era of Srini.

“Change you BETTER believe in”

  • Make MS Dhoni the Vice President. Well of course.

“Together we shall rule the world!”

  • Make some changes to the ICC constitution (if they have one!) and give myself unlimited powers to affect the internal functioning of all member boards. All with their “permission” of course.
  • Let’s turn to the Black Caps. Who is this Hesson fellow? Remove him and appoint Stephen Fleming as coach. Also, ask “Where the heck is Daniel Vettori?” More importantly, arrange for two series every year between India and New Zealand. There is bound to be some morale boosting wins. For one of them.
  • Australia. This John Inverarity makes Srikkanth look like a genius. Sack him and appoint Warne as chief selector. Give Elizabeth Hurley a role – perhaps fashion consultant? Most importantly, make sure to “rest” Michael Clarke from series against India.

“For Mitchell Johnson, I’m thinking….plastic surgery would be a good choice”

  • Next, Sri Lanka. They have already done their part by selecting a politician as their chief selector. What could go wrong? Go one step further, and ask the Lankan president to be the honorary coach of the team. Also, offer the post of fielding coach to the Sports minister. That is one way of bringing the Lankan fielding to Indian standards.
  • Moving on to South Africa. I love Dale Steyn. He is the future of fast bowling. Heck, he is the future of bowling. A legend of his quality needs to be preserved well. It is important to balance his workload and he should get rest from time to time. Ensure that his rest coincides with India’s tour to South Africa. Also, appoint Faf du Plessis as captain in all formats.

“psst…want to join the Super Kings?”

  • England has troubled us for too long. Time to bring them down a notch. Make Kevin Pietersen the captain again. Remove Andy Flower and bring back Peter Moores as coach and appoint Nick Knight as assistant coach. Make sure that Bopara and Dernbach get to play in every game. Also, give Alastair Cook mandatory rest during series against India and grant Indian citizenship to Monty Panesar.
  • Allow Pakistani players to feature in the IPL. Sign up Junaid Khan, Hafeez and Ajmal for the Super Kings. Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal will go to the team that annoys me the most. Shah Rukh, I’m looking at you.

“Ok…these impromptu dance performances SRK keeps asking us to do, is too much now!”

  • There are no entertainers like the West Indies cricket team. Allow them to feature as the 10th team in the IPL.
  • MS Dhoni will not only be captain, but will also be the chief selector of the Indian team. Say hello to RP Singh again! Make India Cements the official team sponsor. Grant Suresh Raina the “honorary” number 6 spot in Tests and assign R Ashwin as the “honorary” first choice spinner in all formats; no to forget, the official spokesperson of the team after every defeat. Also, replace Fletcher with John Wright.

An overjoyed Fletcher, on hearing the news

  • For my dear CSK, appoint Mike Hussey as the coach and ensure that they get to play all their games on slow tracks, be it home or away. Make a special allowance for the team, so that they get to play 6 foreign players in the XI. Rule of thumb: Chennai Super Kings shall always win the IPL.
  • Remove the DRS and institute “SRS” – any time a player wants a decision reviewed, the umpire shall call a special number through which the calls are routed to my private phone and I get to take the final decision depending on my careful analysis as to how the dismissal would affect Indian cricket. Even if the game does not feature India.

“but, Sir…we can only give one batsman out at a time!”

  • Appoint personnel to follow Twitter and Facebook for any unfavorable mentions of me; any culprits found besmirching my name will be spammed to eternal banishment from the World Wide Web.
  • After I’m done enjoying the fruits of my “labor” for a few years, I will go on Oprah’s talk show to confess that I had taken all the previously mentioned actions under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs (I foresee a drop in sales of my “What Would Srini Do” wrist bracelets). I will leave the public eye gracefully; but in one final act of defiance, I will ensure that Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar become the new ICC and BCCI chiefs respectively!

“You get a Shastri…you get a Sunny G….everybody gets a one-eyed BCCI puppet free!”

PS: Mr Srinivasan, if you’re reading this by any chance……I kid, I kid! I’m a big fan, sir. Please don’t banish me from the World Wide Web!  

“I’m watching you…”

11 Thoughts on Cricket from January

The first month of 2013 is almost over, and already it has shown signs of what to expect in the coming months. Here are 11 stray thoughts on the month that is (not quite) gone by:

1. NEW ZEALAND IS THE NEW WEST INDIES 

"If that is true, we will win the next T20 World Cup...huzzah!"

“If that is true, we will win the next T20 World Cup…huzzah!”

Get bowled out for scores of 45 and 121 en route to a crushing Test series loss to the Saffers before turning the tables on the hosts during the ODI series, which included a 1 wicket heist in the opener (from 105/7 while chasing 209) and a match winning ton from future great Kane Williamson in the second game. Only a last ball six from McLaren in the third game prevented a series whitewash. The average Kiwi supporter must have gone through the full range of emotions possible, in the past month.

2. MIKE HESSON IS THE NEW JOHN BUCHANAN

"That is a low blow, Mr Bullet"

“That is a low blow, Mr Bullet”

Problems with team’s star player and favorite punching bag for all? Check. It makes perfect sense that the former Australia coach is responsible for Hesson’s appointment as New Zealand coach.

3. ENTER THE FAF

"Move over Jacques, there is a new rock in town"

“Move over Jacques, there is a new rock in town”

In the span of three months, Faf du Plessis has gone from being a replacement in the Test squad and a fringe player in LOIs, to a certainty in all formats of the game. It culminated in him becoming captain of the ODI side in their series against New Zealand after de Villiers copped a ban for slow over rate in the first game. Despite the loss, he is already being talked of as future captain in all three formats. This proves that good things happen to those who play for Chennai Super Kings.

4. DE KOCK WILL GIVE ‘RISE’ TO NEVER ENDING PUNS

"The name is de Kock. The 'de' is silent"

“The name is de Kock. The ‘de’ is silent”

South Africa’s newest member and interestingly named Quinton de Kock is a talented and hard-hitting batsman, who is capable of keeping the momentum flowing at the top of the order. As a keeper, his soft hands and ability to let the balls come to him instead of grabbing at it make him a valuable addition to the team. Any puns detected in the previous sentences were intended.

5. MAHELA IS THE PAST, ANGELO IS THE PRESENT AND PERERA IS THE FUTURE

"Bad boys..bad boys..what you gonna do? what you gonna do? when they come for you......"

“Bad boys..bad boys..what you gonna do? what you gonna do? when they come for you……”

Dilshan, Sangakarra and Jayawardene are on their way out; but Lankan fans need not despair as the next generation take over. In Angelo Mathews and Thissera Perera, they have their next stars who seem destined for great things. Nerveless batting, attacking bowling and electric fielding – they are the new age cricketers, as it was always meant to be.

6. TO ROTATE OR NOT TO ROTATE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

"Psst...Mickey...don't look now...but the KFC sponsor guy is coming over and he doesn't look happy"

“Psst…Mickey…don’t look now…but the KFC sponsor guy is coming over and he doesn’t look happy”

If it’s Australia and January, it is ‘talk about rotation policy’ time. Last year, India took the heat for theirs, and now it is the turn of Clarke’s men…or Bailey’s. Their one day series against Sri Lanka ignited a fresh debate over the polarizing topic, throwing up references to A-teams and B-teams and free publicity for McDonalds after a bizarre put-down of George Bailey by the Channel 9 chief. Lost in all this hullabaloo was Phil Hughes’ impressive start to his ODI career, Kulasekara’s deadly bowling and a farcical abandonment of the 4th ODI. At the end of it all, the debate over rotation continues to rage.

7. THE WORST BEST DEATH BOWLER IN ONE DAY INTERNATIONALS

"The Girl with the Ridiculous Tattoos"

“The Girl with the Ridiculous Tattoos”

He is supposedly the death overs specialist for the number one ODI team in the world (before the conclusion of the series against India). Like Shakira’s hips, statistics don’t lie though: In 22 ODIs, Jade Dernbach has 30 wickets at an economy rate of 6.28, which is the highest for any international bowler who has bowled over a thousand deliveries; and this is the same man, Nasser Hussain said that India would desire to have in their side. No thanks, Nass. We already have Sreesanth.

8. JOE ROOT IS THE REAL DEAL

"Size doesn't matter"

“Size doesn’t matter”

After playing a supporting role in England’s historic Test series win in India last year, Root took the center stage for the English in the ODI leg of the tour. He emerged as the find of the series for them as his reliable batting and disciplined bowling was all they could take away at the end of it all. Unlike a few others in the side, he seems grounded and is set for greater things ahead.

9. ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

"Next stop...Test cricket!"

“Next stop…Test cricket!”

Positives: India won an ODI series against previously top-ranked side after a disappointing loss to Pakistan earlier, and in the process found quality seamers in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed, while reiterating Suresh Raina’s value to the team.

Not-so positives: Gambhir continues to throw away starts, Kohli’s purple patch is over, Rahane and Yuvraj appear clueless against pace and spin respectively, Rohit booked his place for the next year after a solitary fifty while Pujara warms the bench till Tiwary returns.

10. WHAT IS ASHWIN?

"Pictured: Highly intelligent player who talks a good talk. Not pictured: An Indian spinner the opposition dread to face"

“Pictured: Highly intelligent player who talks a good talk.
Not pictured: An Indian spinner the opposition dread to face”

When Ashwin came on to the scene, most Indian fans breathed a sigh of relief that an alternative to Harbhajan Singh was found. After disciplined performances in LOIs, he made a stunning entry into Test cricket by decimating the West Indians and Kiwis at home. That was as good as it got. Against England on the subcontinent, he has failed in Tests, T20s and now ODIs to pose a threat to an opposition ripe for the picking, as he has been comfortably out-bowled by ordinary bowlers like Tredwell and Root. It’s a matter of time before the Indian selectors and management decide if they want to persist with Ashwin in their plans – as a batsman who can bowl part time spin. In that case, the Turbanator can confidently say, “I’ll be back”.

11. MOVE OVER SHIV, TAG IS IT

"The cricketing world waits with bated breath to see if the gene for the crab stance has carried over"

“The cricketing world waits with bated breath to see if the gene for the crab stance has carried over”

From the maker of countless bore-athon knocks apart from the odd whirlwind ton in Tests, comes “Chanderpaul 2: Tagenerine”. Junior is said to be a carbon copy of his illustrious father, and as he makes his first class debut for Guyana at the tender age of 16, the WICB will hope that he turns into a future star capable of saving many Test matches for the team.

 

 

Indian Cricket on the Road to Somewhere

0-8. Never forget.

Over the course of two tours, to England and Australia, Indian fans were treated to soul crushing and legend shattering performances from the team, as the number 1 ranking was surrendered, and then the retirements of long-time servants of Indian cricket were hastened. Indian cricket was well and truly forced into the transitional phase, which it kept talking about for years, but never really took any steps towards it.

That is why, the series against New Zealand raised a lot of interest and expectations towards how India is going to plan ahead. With tough home series against England and Australia, and an overseas assignment against the current number 1 team to follow, the situation called for some bold and visionary thinking from the selectors to pick a squad keeping the future in mind.

Well, if you know anything about Indian cricket and its selectors, you know what was always the most likely thing to happen. Kris Srikkanth and gang opted for the safe route and picked pretty much the same squad which had been failing overseas, but could be trusted to deliver in home conditions. Retirements forced the hand of the selectors, allowing come-back opportunities for Che Pujara and Suresh Raina, but there seemed to be no tangible measures taken in response to the drubbing in two consecutive overseas tours.

On the basis of the two Tests against the Kiwis, most of the issues remain un-resolved. I’m going to take a look at some of them and give my ideas about how to tackle it.

The opening conundrum

When Gambhir and Sehwag notched a 50 run partnership in the second innings of the Bangalore test, it was their first in 12 innings. It is hard to believe that this is the same pair, who just a couple of years back, formed one of the best opening pairs in international cricket. They were instrumental in India’s rise to the top of the rankings, and it is not a surprise that India’s fall coincides with a decline in their performances. Of late, Gambhir seems to be more assured in the shorter formats than in Tests, and his dismissals mirror that fact. He keeps edging deliveries to the slip cordon while trying to run the ball down to third man, and for an opener that kind of misjudgment is career suicide. All the qualities which made him one of the best openers in Indian cricket history, seem to be in short supply and it doesn’t help that his partner is going through a similar crisis himself.

Sehwag has never been a conventional opener and his success to date has defied belief. He averages over 50, has two triple tons apart from several other big centuries, and gives rapid fire starts just about every time he gets into a groove – all this despite a very unorthodox batting style bordering on the very definition of risk. Most of the time, he gets out to a poor shot and immediately is excused, saying “that’s the way he plays”. Unfortunately, nowadays we are treated to short cameo knocks from Sehwag before he gifts his wicket away, and coupled with Gambhir’s inconsistency, his inability to play the big innings he is famous for, is starting to cause headaches for India at the top.

So what is the solution? Can we afford to drop either or both Gambhir and Sehwag? Should India stick with them, trusting and hoping, that the proven performers will shine against England and Australia?

Personally, if there was any time to drop either opener and blood new batsmen, it was the series against a low profile team like New Zealand. With England dropping in soon, it is unreasonable to expect a replacement to perform immediately against quality opposition, when under a lot of pressure. The next best step is to give the pair another go, against England and hope they regain their appetite for huge knocks. If it doesn’t work, it is time for the team to take a leap of faith and try new players, regardless of reputation. Pujara and Kohli are good examples of youngsters who have grabbed their opportunities to replace batsmen who were considered irreplaceable till recently, and there is no reason why the likes of Rahane or Mukund can’t do the same.

The middle-order blues

While two batsmen established themselves firmly in the plans for the upcoming contests, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina had a forgettable series against the Kiwis, despite looking good in patches. Tendulkar is the last of the old guard and while he may resist any overtures, his time is drawing to a close. It is a just a matter of, how he is going to leave the game – in a blaze of glorious run-scoring or a series of painful torturous innings. On the other hand, Raina is still trying unsuccessfully to convince everyone that he can handle Test cricket. These are two batsmen at different stages of their careers, but at a time when the team is going through a metamorphosis, the management has to decide whether they figure in their long term plans.

In the case for Tendulkar, his experience is invaluable considering the newly re-modeled middle order is still finding its feet. While the manner of his dismissals in the series indicate a slowing of reflexes, I have seen many a Tendulkar slump before an inevitable deluge of run scoring silences the critics. He is a proud cricketer who will be hurting from the whitewashes in England and Australia, and I wouldn’t put it past him to raise his game one last time against high quality opposition.

As for Raina, he’s got to go. The likes of Rahane, Badrinath and Tiwary will wonder what else they can do to get a place ahead of him, considering his inferior record in first class cricket. Despite a scratchy fifty in the first innings of the Bangalore Test, his dismissal in the second innings confirmed the fact that he does not have the temperament to be consistent in this format. If he continues to be in the XI, England and Australia are bound to feast on him. This should perhaps be the easiest decision to take for Dhoni, when the next series starts.

The captaincy question

While many agree that MS Dhoni is one of the finest skippers in international cricket when it comes to the short forms, the opinion is more divided when it comes to Tests. The arguments are mainly ‘he is too defensive’ and ‘he doesn’t deserve a place in the XI’. They have some merit, but are they really viable at this stage?

Yes, Dhoni was captain during the two disastrous tours, but would any other captain have made a difference? If your batsmen experience a collective loss in form and your bowlers cannot maintain a consistent line and length, it wouldn’t matter if you were Mike Brearley. Apart from that, there are no quality alternatives at this stage. Gambhir and Sehwag are not in the best of form, and Kohli is too raw. Instead, it would be wise to groom Kohli for the captaincy, so that there is a smooth transition at the appropriate time, at least when it comes to leadership. At the moment, Dhoni is still our best bet as he commands respect and more importantly, with his performances in this series, no one can ask questions of his place in the team…for now.

Whither the fast bowlers?

India has never been known for producing quality speed merchants, or for that matter any pace bowler who can compete with the best in the world. Despite that, India had two decent options this series in Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav. Thanks to the spinners, they didn’t really have to do much apart from taking the shine off the ball and occasionally coming on, to provide the spinners some respite after long spells. That is why it was disappointing to see their underwhelming performances, even in limited roles.

Zaheer Khan is in a steady decline at the moment. He is no more the bowler he was at his pomp, and at the moment, its his guile and experience which still warrants him a place in the side. It is up to the team management to use him wisely in the coming months, as contests against quality teams are lined up. Stop using him in ODIs and T20s; preserve him for the Tests. Use him to mentor the youngsters; and given the way, Yadav bowled in the series, he has his work cut out.

Umesh Yadav was one of the rare positives from the ill-fated tour down under, and much is expected from him. Unfortunately, his pace seems to have dropped off a little and he still has trouble with control. Given that Ishant Sharma faces the same issues and the remaining reserve of fast bowlers are even more inexperienced, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution on hand.

This is where the role of bowling coach Joe Dawes is amplified. By this time next year, India may have to depend on a completely fresh pack of fast bowlers  and it is imperative that between now and then, the management identify who they think are going to stick around for a long time and prepare them for the long haul. If India are serious about retaining their number 1 ranking, they can ill afford to neglect their fast bowling resources.

To summarize,

  • Give Sehwag and Gambhir one more chance during the England series. If they continue to fail, bite the bullet and blood replacements for them.
  • Tendulkar’s presence is vital for the team till the South African tour to provide experience and guide the freshly re-modeled middle order. Raina has run out of chances, and it is time to try someone else.
  • MS Dhoni remains our best option when it comes to captaincy. Make Kohli the permanent vice-captain and groom him for leadership in the future.
  • Manage Zaheer wisely and build a good reserve of fast bowlers.

Indian cricket is notorious for its disregard to planning ahead and taking corrective measures. Here is hoping that there is someone in the Indian cricket hierarchy, who can look past the eye-pleasing win over New Zealand  and identify the short-comings. Then, hopefully we won’t need to experience anything as painful and harrowing as an 0-8 score line.

Never forget.

Belated wishes to….me!

It was yesterday I realized that it has just been over a year since I started this blog. Lately, the frequency of new posts have reduced, but I have always enjoyed writing about cricket whenever I get the time; and so, I intend to keep putting up new posts. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year of blogging, and I hope that most of you have too. Here are six of my favorite posts over the last year:

Who will write about the writers? – regarding my favorite cricket writers

My 2011 wishlist for international cricket – one of which came partially true!

Tendulkar vs Steyn – Immovable object meets irresistible force – one of the finest batsman vs bowler contests I had seen in a while

A date with destiny at Mumbai – India are World Champions – need I say more?

From Waterboy to Superman – One of my most satisfying posts, regarding Yuvraj Singh’s amazing performance in the World Cup

Future Indian Captain – Raina or Kohli – to date, remains as the most read post on the blog

Cheers!

 

Lessons from the India – West Indies ODI series

The ODI series between India and West Indies concluded recently with a predictable result in favor of the Indian team. It was an auspicious start for Team India’s new coach Duncan Fletcher, and was Suresh Raina’s first series win as skipper. For West Indies, the major positives were the progression of Andre Russell and Anthony Martin to match winners, while Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels shone at various times. Still, old problems remain; the batsmen don’t inspire confidence against spinners and the team as a whole freeze at the sight of victory. Meanwhile, India without their senior players, still managed to win the key moments and closed out the series despite the less number of players who enhanced their case in this series. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Amit Mishra were three players who did everything that was expected of them, while the likes of Subramaniam Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan will rue the missed opportunities. Here’s a look at what I learnt from watching the series:

  • Subcontinental fans might be the most passionate in the game, but no one can celebrate like the Caribbean fans.
  • Chris Gayle might not have played in the series, but he remained the hottest topic of discussion during the series; He did attend some of the games though, where his afro during the final game was a show stealer.

'The 70s are back, maan!'

  • West Indian umpires have proved that they can be even worse than their Indian counterparts.
  • Throughout the series, the only Indian commentator I heard was Sunil Gavaskar. Small mercies.
  • Lendl Simmons can bat. Its just that he has not learned to bat as long as possible. One of two batsmen in the West Indian team who can boast of good consistency.
  • Ramnaresh Sarwan might not be the same batsman he once was, but there is no doubting that he still retains the same fighting spirit.
  • Marlon Samuels is not a batsman most Indian fans would forget in a hurry, after all the thumpings he administered to the Indian team in the early 2000s; He is still slowly getting into his groove, which is not a good sign for opposition bowlers.
  • It has been drummed over our heads that Darren Bravo bats like Brian Lara; in the final game of the series, he added some substance to the style to give the Caribbean something to cheer about.

The Fresh Prince of Trinidad

  • Kieron Pollard still needs to convince many that he can perform against top teams, despite handy contributions towards the end of the series.
  • Like his Indian counterpart, Carlton Baugh is short and handy with the bat; unlike his Indian counterpart, he is reliable behind the stumps, showcasing his skills in the 4th game.
  • Darren Sammy might never be accepted as a deserving member of the team, let alone its captain. Still, he showed a lot of heart with decent performances at the start of the series, even as his team-mates floundered around him.
  • Andre Russell is starting to become the new poster boy of West Indies cricket. With the ball, he is quick and has a precious knack of taking wickets at crucial junctures; with the bat, he is feisty and as he showed in the 4th game, he can give the ball quite a thump. Now all West Indies needs to do is protect him from a few IPL franchise owners.

'Somebody gonna get hurt real bad'

  • I expected a lot from Devendra Bishoo, but it was another leg spinner who rose to prominence in this series; Anthony Martin might be a professional fire fighter, but when it comes to cricket, he is all for creating panic amongst the opposition. If handled properly, West Indies might just end up with two quality leg spinners in their ranks.

'When you mess with fire, you get burnt'

  • Shikhar Dhawan and Manoj Tiwary might be two of the more promising batsmen in Indian cricket, but in this series, they looked out of their depth. Looks like more India A tours might do the trick.
  • Parthiv Patel played all games in the series, depriving W Saha any chance of making an impression in the absence of MS Dhoni. He did his job as a batsman, though his keeping behind the stumps still left a lot to be desired.
  • Virat Kohli has established himself as the best batsman of the younger lot. A place in the Test team beckons, and he might just leapfrog Suresh Raina in the captaincy stakes next time.

The Kohli-nator

  • Rohit Sharma could well turn out to be a typical West Indian cricketer; for all his talent and high praise received from peers and experts, he has rarely done any justice to his skill. This series, he took a step towards correcting that, with a couple of match winning knocks and bagging the Man of the Series award. Only time will tell if this was a break-out series for him, or just another flash in the pan.

The Tease

  • Subramaniam Badrinath is running out of time. The senior-most player among the second rung, he does not have age in his favor and has had to sit back and watch young guns like Sharma and Kohli steal the show. While he guided India to victory in the only T20I, he didn’t make enough use of his chances in the ODI series, thereby signalling a possibly premature end to his ODI career. He still has the Test series to prove himself; whether he gets a chance is another matter.
  • Yusuf Pathan is not quite in the same boat as Badrinath, but he cannot live off two blistering centuries forever. With the ball, he was steady but non-threatening. With the bat, he didn’t quite set any pulses racing. Luckily for him, his competition did not do that either.
  • Suresh Raina had a poor series. On one hand, he captained the team to his maiden series win; on the other, he combusted as a batsman, perishing to the same infuriating slog shot, over and over again. Along with Kohli and Sharma, he is a player for the future; but if he keeps performing like this, the critics will be baying for his blood soon.

Deja vu strikes again...

  • This was a series for the Indian spinners, in particular Amit Mishra. He came into the series with a lot to prove, after his omission from the World Cup squad. At the end of it, he made the selectors look foolish with his returns. R Ashwin impressed in the brief opportunities he got, though he would love to take more wickets and forget his last two overs in the final game.
  • Among the seamers, Praveen Kumar impressed, ultimately earning a call up to the Test squad. Munaf was called a ‘spinner’ by a West Indian pace legend, but he still remains as one of the few quality pace bowlers in the side. Ishant Sharma and Vinay Kumar showed glimpses of their abilities, but still have a way to go before they can be considered as regulars in this format of the game.
  • All in all, the 3-2 margin is a fair call; India’s second string team was marginally better than a West Indies team sans Chris Gayle. If anything, this should increase expectations for a tighter contest in the Test series.

Champions!

Chennai Super Kings – Where Champions Are Made

There’s a well known saying that goes, ‘Champions are made, not born’. Chennai Super Kings are a prime example of that adage. Here is a team that comprises of an eclectic mix of players from different cultures, languages and experiences, who when playing under the same banner, manage to win trophies regularly. So, what makes them different from the other 9 teams who can boast of similar compositions?

To read the rest of my article, head over here…..

Future Indian Captain – Raina or Kohli?

Gautam Gambhir follows close friend and Delhi team-mate Virender Sehwag, with injury concerns of his own, which may just make him sit out of the West Indies tour and deprive him of the opportunity to further state his captaincy credentials in Indian colors. This would most likely pave way for Suresh Raina to get a second shot at captaincy after a poor first stint in Zimbabwe a couple of years ago, highlighted by two defeats to Zimbabwe and failure to qualify for the tri-series final. My question is: should it be that straight forward?

It is no secret that Virat Kohli has been earmarked for captaincy for quite a while now. He has prior experience, having led the India U-19 team to World Cup glory, and has stepped in admirably for Vettori as RCB skipper in this year’s IPL. He has grown into a mature and well rounded cricketer in the last couple of years, with high praises from the people who matter. You will be hard pressed to find anybody who disagrees that he should be groomed as the future Indian captain.

Yet, by a quirk of fate, Suresh Raina is one step ahead of him. Having made his debut for India much before Kohli, he also has the advantage of having played Test matches. So, the selectors have used logic in placing Raina in proper hierarchy, ahead of Kohli in the captaincy stakes.

Personally, I wish the selectors were bold enough to make Kohli the skipper if Gambhir is ruled out of the series. Yes, that would be unfair to Raina, as he has not done anything to make his case weak; on the other hand, he has an impressive resume, himself. Paralysed by doubt and insecurity during the Chappell era, he made his way back into the Indian team through sheer determination and is one of the few batsmen to have scored centuries in all three formats of the game, and was crucial in India’s victories in the quarters and semis of the recent World Cup. When a wicket falls, he is the first fielder to rush either the bowler or fielder (whoever is closer!) with a fierce hug. He is never short of ideas in the field, involving himself in decisions of bowling changes or field placements. I suppose if Kohli was not around, he would be the unanimous choice for the much sought after position in Indian cricket.

My only grouse is that Raina is not established in either Tests or ODIs right now. After a thrilling start to his Test career, he has tapered off, losing his position to Pujara in the process. In the ODIs, he was not even in the first choice playing XI during the league stages of the World Cup, playing his first game of the tournament in the quarterfinal against Australia. (It reminds me of the way Dhoni got his shot at captaincy. With Sehwag and Yuvraj having fitness/form issues, Dhoni grabbed the opportunity to establish himself as the long term option; and India have not looked back since then.) Raina should be spending the major part of the coming season, in developing himself as a quality Test player and making himself as a permanent fixture in the ODI team as well. While Kohli may not have made his Test debut yet, no one doubts that it is just a matter of time now. This is the perfect time to assess Kohli the captain, in a ODI series against the West Indies.

In the short run, it might not matter as Dhoni isn’t going anywhere and Gambhir will take over when he is unavailable; but it will be nice to have a clearer idea of who the FIC (Future Indian Captain) might be. Suresh Raina or Virat Kohli…..what’s your choice?