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Delhi Daredevils pull out of the IPL

by Naked Cricket

Decision prompted by team’s second rank
After playing six matches, Delhi Daredevils has won four and is ranked second in the IPL points’ table. For a team that has found comfort at the bottom for the last many years, this has not been entirely easy to handle. There is thinking in the camp that one bad game is just round the corner and the slide will start again. One loss will lead to another and then yet another, and before you know it, Delhi will be keeping Punjab company at the bottom.

Still it does seem drastic for a team to pull out of the tournament but that’s just what DD has done. After a surprise win against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Daredevils’ owners decided to pull the plug on their team’s participation in the tournament.

This did not go down to well with their mentor, Rahul Dravid who was at first very upset and unavailable for comment. Only yesterday during Carlos Brathwaite’s over, a perceptive DD coach, Paddy Upton had remarked, “awesome theatre unfolding”. What followed were no balls galore, a beamer, byes and a six, all off one ball. That ended a 22 run over for the hosts.

Few knew then that DD’s end in IPL 2016 was also round the corner. Players and team management have all been directed to take screenshots of the points’ table for posterity. At 8 points after six matches, DD is just behind table toppers, Gujarat Lions. 

A screenshot as taken by a Daredevil

The Rs 8.5 crore player, Pawan Negi is reported to have taken some of the blame on himself. After scoring just 32 runs in five matches, Negi believes he is responsible for the pessimism in the DD camp. A hangdog Negi mumbled, “Even though I have three not outs in five innings, I have not done enough with the bat.” Negi has only bowled five overs so far, last of which went for 19 runs. The bowler adds, “Zaks’ bhai trusted me with the ball in the third over, how did I repay his trust? I gave away 19 runs. I was throwing darts not bowling balls”

After a spectacular catch and direct hit run out, a buoyant Shreyas Iyer wants to share some of the blame with Pawan Negi, “What Negi has not achieved this season pales in comparison to what I have not achieved. Rahul bhai believes in me so much, even more than me believes in me. Yet each innings I have thrown it all away. As an opener to score a duck is bad but to score three ducks is unforgivable because a duck in no score in my book. Negi has scored 32 in five, what have I scored? Nothing. 22 runs! In five innings. No not outs also.”

While Negi and Iyer are in a tug of war for Delhi’s self enforced ouster, Quinton de Kock appeared quite unscathed. “I have a fifty and a hundred, and even though it was against Punjab and Bangalore’s bowling, no complaints, I like to see the ball and hit it even if it isn’t in my hitting arc that may explain the low scores but I’ve now played six matches on the go and that’s more than I’ve ever done for Delhi before”  

Not everyone is unhappy with DD’s decision. The folks at Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) are delirious, attributing Murali Vijay’s appointment as captain for the team’s change in fortunes. That too without playing a match under him. Even though Punjab has lost five of its six matches, they need to win just three more to draw level with the vanquished Daredevils. If they ensure a better run-rate then they may not rest at the bottom of the table.

Finally when Rahul Dravid was cornered for a comment, he did say in a somewhat weary, deadpan way, “Our next match was to be against table toppers, Gujarat, but to pull out like this is an extreme measure. I’m in talks with the owners to at least wait till 7th May...that’s when we play table toppers from the bottom, Kings XI Punjab”

(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

Also published here


Was Rohit Sharma born a cricketer?

by Naked Cricket

Or was April’s cricket greatness thrust upon him?

It seems everyday a cricketer is born in India. Yesterday, Ashish Nehra, today, Rohit Sharma. And who can forget, just the other week, Sachin Tendulkar. Yeah, that very one whose middle name is Ramesh. The great Indian cricket harvest all starts with Murali Vijay on April Fools’ Day. And if you were cued to cricket in the 60s and 70s, you’d know even before Vijay was born, April 1st was Ajit Wadekar’s birthday. Five days later, it’s the Colonel’s. Colonel who? That dude, Dilip Vengsarkar who kept wickets as the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton batted for the media. Mid month is when the dates for Dinesh Mongia and Manoj Prabhakar were fixed.  April 21st is good old Venki’s. Yeah, the umpire for you, kiddo, but an integral part of India’s great spinning quartet in the 60s and 70s.

Just a couple of days before Venki’s is Deepak Hooda. Whooda? That kid from Rajasthan Royals who’s now with Sunrisers Hyderabad. Definitely a future great, just you watch out.

 By the look of it, doctors certainly are. After foetal sex determination has been banned in the country, doctors have started to promise hopeful couples, hold your breath, cricketers. Even though doctors say they cannot ensure boy cricketers, they encourage couples to time their delivery in the month of April, ideally in Mumbai. (if not somewhere in Maharashtara)  

As the saying goes, “An April born in Mumbai is born to play cricket for India” Not just that, they claim, a player born in April will get far more chances to succeed than one born in May or any other month. A spokesperson for ABCD (April Born Cricket Doctors) explains: “Just look at Rohit Sharma, he played 100 ODIs not doing much, but because he was born on 30th April (a very favourable date for cricket), his talent and potential was for all to see again and again and again. Also people knew that he was April born, like the great Tendulkar, and was blessed with timing and a good catcher in the slips too and enjoyed Sachin’s blessings...”  

Rohit Sharma isn’t taking the April timing of his birth for granted. An unusually eloquent Rohit summed it up when he said: “I have had to work on it. Surely being born after Sachin in the same month and state as him has helped me a lot but like Sachin I have had to work on it every day, every month and not just April. Sometimes I have had to work even harder in April because that’s when the IPL starts and there is non-stop travel and now as you all know our home venue has been moved from Mumbai. But that is from May so no complaints. In April the stars were very favourable for me, personally”

Few know that Rohit Sharma wasn’t born in Mumbai but in Nagpur. Nagpur is a BCCI stronghold, with the Board President, Shashank Manohar, both a Nagpur born and resident of that city. In many ways, the power of Indian cricket is centred in Nagpur. Being born in Nagpur (and not Mumbai) has given both Shashank Manohar and Rohit Sharma a second chance to rule Indian cricket.

Future parents of April born children are hopeful. According to a ABCD spokesperson, “Earlier, parents wanted their child to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth, now they want silver bat in mouth”

There is another school of thought, doctors who believe that a child born in July has a very good chance to lead the Indian cricket team. A spokesperson for JBCD (July Born Cricket Doctors) minced no words, “April fool they are making you, it’s joyous July honestly speaking – look at it, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni, all July born that too within four days of each other, beat that April!”

 (However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)


The unpolished goodness of Gautam Gambhir

by Naked Cricket

If Gambhir wasn’t angry, he won’t be Gambhir. When he’s dismissed early, he sits and sulks with his pads on, snacking at his nails, lost in his private world of regret. So far, this has been an unfamiliar sight in IPL 9.

After six matches, Gambhir has scored 296 runs with three half centuries that include a ninety not out and a run out. In his column, he ripped into himself: “To begin with, my suicidal run out was uncalled for. Halfway into the second run, I knew I had given it away. I wanted to dig a hole and bury himself” By Gambhir standards, that’s almost restrained. In the dugout that day, he looked like he was on the line with the local firing squad.

It looks unlikely though that he’s in line for an India spot. The Delhi and KKR captain last played for India on 17th August 2014. It was a Test against England, his returns, a duck and three. Gambhir's last ODI for India, 27th January, 2013, he made four. And his last T20I was on 28th December, 2012, he made 21.

In the last couple of years, much has changed in India's cricketscape – Gambhir’s opening buddy, Sehwag has retired, Gambhir’s India skipper, Dhoni has partially retired, but Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay are yet to seal their spots in all three formats. One way or the other, there has always been an opening on top or in the middle order. One that even allowed Suresh Raina to record a pair in the last Test he played in 2015.

So regardless of what Gambhir achieves in the IPL or for Delhi, if he has to sneak back into the national squad, it will be because of the fault lines that continue to shake his replacements. In his 35th year, Gambhir isn’t over the Aravallis yet. But the selectors could well be over him.

At his best, Gambhir won India a World T20 and a World Cup. At his worst, he poked outside off, giving catching practice to the slips. That dab down to third man was his nemesis. It cost him his India cap. Leaving him even more determined, more so when the IPL came along.  

Much of Gambhir’s convictions remain the same: he believes in himself much as he does in his band of brothers at KKR, in spite of their flaws, possibly because of their flaws. For, with Gambhir, it appears, to know your flaws is the best way to know your powers – Yususf Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Piyush Chawla, Surya Kumar Yadav, Andre Russell and coach Kallis, are still the core of KKR.

In his column, Gambhir often gets personal, but in an affectionate, almost awkwardly honest way about his players, like they were his immediate family. He confronts stereotypes as a cricketer columnist, not afraid to voice his opinion, be it on Salman Khan as India’s Olympic goodwill ambassador or the name change of Gurgoan. He doesn’t shudder from referring to Yusuf as a good friend or Surya’s non-acceptance in Mumbai cricket because of his flash ways. Gambhir’s honesty and straight talk is pretty much a rarity in Indian cricket’s world of doublespeak or still worse, no speak.

In 2011, he was honest enough about his disappointment at not being retained by his original IPL franchise, the Delhi Daredevils. He was honest enough about finding a new home in Kolkata with the Knightriders. And now he’s being honest enough about gunning for a third IPL title in 2016.

What he doesn’t talk about is playing for India again. Is it because that’s a bridge too far? Or is it because you build bridges, you don’t talk bridges? Perhaps he knows the difference between talking as a contender and speaking as a former India cricketer past his prime.

Either way, this grumpy, stubbled guy has much to give Indian cricket. If not as a batsman or captain, then who knows, maybe as an administrator. Both Delhi and the BCCI could do with some honesty.

Cc: Lodha Panel, Justice Mudgal


Prince, Bowie and friends: The superband in the stars

by Naked Cricket

What a year, whatever gigs that will be happening are going to be up there. So here you go, Prince, Bowie & Friends putting on a show, starting with Prince's transit from "planet earth is blue and there's nothing much I can do" to The Great gig in the sky.

  • Sexy Mofo is gone Sexy Mofo is gone
  • Prince picked her raspberry beret
  • And perched upon a giant extinct bird
  • Conjured by his musical powers
  • Folded the guitar into his breast pocket
  • And said sh-sh-shhh in Bowie's voice
  • And someone said, dead ringer
  • You don't play games with death, sir
  • Give him the electric chair for all his future crimes
  • Sexy Mofo is gone Sexy Mofo is gone
  • Prince walked the aisle with his poodle
  • His walk became a strut and the poodle a giant extinct mutt
  • Conjured by his musical powers
  • Folded his girls into his breast pocket
  • And said Diamonds and pearls
  • And someone said, such deep pockets you have, sir
  • And Prince said, it's just you using my imagination te-hehe
  • Gotta go, still I keep Vicki waiting
  • Sexy Mofo is gone Sexy Mofo is gone
  • On an empty stomach he left
  • No wonder he was so size zero skinny
  • And he had his shave and the girls did his hair
  • And he handed them a smile with animated rosy pink hearts
  • And their hearts were fluttering like some extinct Greek goddess' hearts
  • God of love and goddess too
  • Slipped into something slinky
  • There's a little dude on his way
  • And he rips a guitar like lightning bolts
  • Can you hear him Major Tom, can you hear him, Major Tom
  • Sexy Mofo is gone Sexy Mofo is gone
  • And he's encrypted some musical code into my head
  • My face is starting to resemble a shade of rouge and red
  • I don't wanna rhyme but it's all unfurling in my head
  • Would you rather be here or up there dead
  • With Prince n Bowie playing the great gig in the sky with that crazy diamond
  • Sexy Mofo is gone Sexy Mofo is gone
  • Walking on clouds in shoes lined with  velvet
  • And the underground is in attendance too
  • Lou Reed talks in a song like only he can
  • Good night, ladies, good night
  • And Robin Williams runs like a mad hatter, and mimics an extinct accent, do you know Lewis Carroll created a character after me, authors these days never ask for Per-mission
  • And Bowie trotted the saxophone
  • And someone whispered sing Wild as the wind
  • And Nina Simone appeared outta nowhere
  • Pin on vinyl: Cream, get on top
  • And Jack Bruce riddled his bass
  • You should have seen the musical orgy
  • Everyone cool and dead is here
  • Jerry Garcia whispered Blues for Allah
  • Can you hear him, Major Tom, can you hear him, Major Tom
  • Graceland's residents old and new, floating on a tin can
  • Paisley Park is in your heart
  • Strawberry fields like you never seen
  • John Lennon loathes a late mention but laughs it off with a cockney Jealous Guy
  • Because we're all so insecure when we're alive
  • Sexy Mofo is gone Sexy Mofo is gone
  • Hello Prince, with a name like that, I really expected a turban, laughs an Indian musical God
  • And Harrison joins Ravi Shankar on sitars
  • As they're sipping their weak herbal teas
  • Janis, Jim and Jimi too, pop in at the mention of the H word
  • Hendrix and Prince start to jam
  • Prince says to Jimi: I was only 12 in '70
  • Jimi says to Prince: I was only 27 in '70
  • Janis and Jim echo his words
  • BB King says, Up here he's 30 years your senior, kids!
  • Check in time, Prince to be shown his room, that will be Cloud Nine
  • But that's mine says George H
  • Sexy Mofo has come Sexy Mofo has come
  • Bonham beats the drums, Lord bleats the keys
  • "Come as you are" the check-in song starts to play
  • Duane Allman swings by on his bike
  • That's really a giant extinct slide guitar
  • And it's all coming together, right now, over me
  • Can you hear me Major Tom, can you hear me, Major Tom?
  • Sexy Mofo has gone Sexy Mofo has gone
  • Oh right, I gotta finish my memoir, gonna call it The Beautiful Ones, says Prince
  • "U make me so confused
  • The beautiful ones
  • U always seem to lose"

Lyrics credits to Prince, Bowie and friends.

Days like this make me feel thankful to have heard Prince, Bowie and friends, and let them toss my world upside down in such a hunky-dory way. Just plan that next gig while we're all on planet earth together. They are showmen, we are watchmen, and nothing can come close to seeing them in the flesh. Which is also a Floyd song. Cue: Look out for Roger Waters' dates of The Wall tour, he may not be touring for long.

First published here


Inside Chris Gayle's book of baby names

by Naked Cricket

Blush is for girl, Brag is for boy.
If you thought you knew Chris Henry Gayle, then you got another thing coming. The whole, “Don't blush, baby!” episode is still pretty fresh in Gayle's mind, not yours?  

After hitting the Hobart Hurricanes for 41 off 15 balls in The Big Bash, Chris Gayle decided to hit on TV interviewer, Mel McLaughlin. Not one for subtleties, Gayle got stuck right away: "I wanted to come and have an interview with you as well. That's the reason why 
I'm here, just to see your eyes for the first time. It's nice so hopefully we can win this game and have a drink after. Don't blush, baby."

Right, so you get the drift. It takes some cheek after all that to name your daughter, Blush. Not if you're Chris Gayle. You are #WorldBoss So you tell yourself and so says all of us. Now what if Gayle has a son, what do you think he'll name him? What's on top of Chris Gayle's mind?  In addition to Chris Gayle, here are some possibilities:

1. Mallya: The Gayle-Mallya relationship, whatever it was, was oddly special. Mallya invested more of himself in Gayle than he did in all his companies combined. And Gayle by the look of it, partied way harder in the IPL with RCB than he did in the Caribbean. Not far flung then that Gayle names his son Mallya, Vijay or even Dr for that matter. Don't put it beyond Gayle to call him Dr Vijay Mallya or Dr Dolittle as a dig at Mallya.

By that same logic, he could also name his son, Siddhrath Dolittle though unlikely. Of course all this sounds a little tame. A more logical or in Gayle's case, illogical name could be...

2. Kingfisher: After Blush, I'm beginning to get a sense of Gayle's outlandish naming trajectory. If he's thinking cricket leagues and all like he was with Blush, then RCB's bound to be up there, and I bet that Kingfisher jingle runs in his head all the time, don't put it beyond him to call the boy, King Fisher. Going by that thinking or lack of, RCB too is a possibility – Roy Chall Banga , yeah, he could stop at that to give the name some reggae rhythms.

3. Champion: The World T20 was a big, big deal for the West Indies as was DJ Bravo's “Champion” song. Highly possible that when the baby boy comes along, he'll be young master Champion. Or the way they were pronouncing it, could be the way he calls and spells it – Chaaamp-yun.

4. In batting order – sticking with the World T20 triumph, Chris Gayle not one for half measures, could name the boy after the whole team (in batting order, starting with Daddy Gayle) Chris Johnson Marlon Lendl Dwayne Andre Darren Carlos Denesh Samuel Sulieman – of course, the other ten players' names could be one helluva long middle name, so Chris Jr's name could be – Chris JMLDADCDSS Gayle Jr. Guess Gayle Jr won't have any dearth of God Fathers. Just by virtue of his long name, the boy could be eligible for Sri Lankan cricket.

5. Kingston: Proud Jamaican that he is, not beyond Gayle to name his boy either Kingston or Jamaica. Or even Port of Spain where he made his Test debut. Also don’t rule out Gayle calling his son Toronto (where he made his ODI debut) or Auckland (where he played his first T20I).

6. T20: Chris Gayle is possibly the ultimate T20 gun for hire. At last count, he had played for more T20 franchises than there were. Some of the teams he’s played for: Barisal Burners, Dhaka Gladiators, Jamaica Tallawahs, Kolkata Knight Riders, Lahore Qalandars, Matabeleland Tuskers, Melbourne Renegades, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Somerset, Stanford Superstars, Sydney Thunder, Western Australia, Worcestershire. Depending on whimsy, the poor boy could be named anything from Qalandar to Thunder.  

7. Brag: Just as pink is for girls, blue is for boys, so too “Blush” is for girl, “Brag” is for boy. Keep-it-simple-stupid, this is Chris Gayle. Stereotype it. It’s kid-naming, not rocket science. It seems highly possible, that when Blush’s little bro comes along, he’ll be called Brag. Nothing will be cooler for #worldboss Chris Gayle, and he does like a joke, no matter on whom or what. As for Gayle’s reaction, it’ll be a succinct LOLZ.

Next thing you know, the IPL will welcome Gayle back with a lady interviewer. Expect anything. Even a rehearsed, “Don’t blush, baby!”


Dravid’s Delhi Daredevils – from double Ds to triple Ds

by Naked Cricket

Can one man defy a DNA of cricketing chaos?
There's a joke in the IPL, it's repeated every season: Delhi Daredevils. It's not a team. It's a random collective of cricketers who come together to lose their sense of purpose. That's what a badly run franchise does to its stakeholders, be it the fans, the players, the coaches, the owners.
The owners? Who are these guys? What do they own? A building enterprise? With DD, they've deconstructed whatever they had in the first season, year after year, with meticulous lack of method but with an abundance of thoughtlessness. Players, coaches, whole teams have been picked and dropped, even India's great World Cup winning coach, Gary Kirsten couldn't do much, what could an U-19 guy do?
What if that U-19 guy was Rahul Dravid?
From the IPL auction table onwards, there was something different to DD this time. They had a computer printout on the table. This printout called the shots right through the auction. Who to chase? Who to buy? What's the limit? When to stop? When to go all out?
Going into the auctions, DD had a fat purse. It's easy to blow money badly when you have so much of it. In the previous auction, DD had gone all out for Yuvraj Singh. This season, they stayed clear of the big names. Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton were yet to be signed on but their wish list appeared to be sitting on the table.
After Rajasthan Royals, Dravid and Upton were busy putting together yet another "moneyball" team. Who were these guys? Exactly. Why was Kurun Nair (base price Rs 10 lakh) going for Rs 4 crore? Another DD brainfade?
Nair is from Dravid's state, Karnataka, his batsmanship has been built on first class honours. He averages above 50. He shares his birthday with that other RR superstar, Ravindra Jadeja. Another December 6 born? Was Dravid looking at that too? What all does Dravid look at?
Against RCB, Nair added 134 runs with Quinton de Kock. He finished with a 54 not out. DD won their second match on the trot, chasing 191 down. DD doesn't chase down 191, what was happening?
Wasn't Pawan Negi Dhoni's boy at CSK? Why was DD gunning for him? That too against Dhoni's Pune? What had got into them? Rs 8.5 crore for an uncapped player? A lower order hitter and a part-time spinner at best? Rs 1.9 crore for U-19 wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant? Rs 7 crore for Chris Morris? Why wasn't DD going after famous international players? Why a faceless bunch?
And who's this guy called Carlos Brathwaite, why would you pay Rs 4.2 crore for a West Indian nobody has heard of? The IPL auctions were on February 6. By April 3, nobody had not heard of Carlos Brathwaite. And who he went to school with. On April 10, he hit his first ball in the IPL for a six. Into the Hooghly.
Quinton de Kock barely got a game last season. He's played all of DD's games this season. One fifty, one century, one not out, two wins. QdK is DD's biggest match winner with the bat. As an opener, and now a regular for SA in limited overs, he has ten ODI hundreds, half of them against India. Doubling up as a glovesman, he's a genuine all-rounder in the Gilchrist mode. He's also been the front for the franchise with the media, surely this is no coincidence?
In three matches, Amit Mishra is yet to bowl his full quota. Not even when he had 4/11 in three overs. Is there a science to that? Either way, it's still better than Mishra not being a regular in the team.
After the first match, Nathan Coulter-Nile hasn't played again. Last season's captain and top run scorer returned: Duminy is T20 T&T, just having him on the field ups the adrenaline. At some point he will bowl to left handers on the prowl. At some point, he could finish off a tight chase on a dodgy pitch.
Scores of 0, 3, 0, how long is the rope being handed to opener, Shreyas Iyer? He's a Mumbai kid, a FC average of 57, aT20 strike rate of 130, are they hoping his pedigree will finally pay off? What about Sanju Samson at three? When will he get unstuck? Will he rekindle some of that RR magic?
Zaheer Khan as captain, had he not retired? After dropping a dolly in the second over against Punjab, the only champions he resembled were in the Masters Champions League. After the drop, it took a cosy assist to Karun Nair at the boundary to get the ball to the keeper. A run out happened. DD won. Zaks dismissed Gayle off his third ball, he owned him for two balls before that. Never mind he went for over 50 off his four overs, Zaks already appears to be DD's most successful skipper in a long, long time.
It's too early in the season to know how far DD will go - usually not finishing at the bottom is an improvement for them. Having a settled playing XI is an improvement for them. Tinkering with the XI only if the conditions demand, is an improvement for them.
Already Dravid seems to have greyed a tad bit more, sitting in the DD dugout does that to you. Having Upton's thoughtfulness alongside will stem that greying somewhat. Having a plan, sticking to that plan no matter what, is not what DD does. That's what RD does. Who will win? DD or RD? Or both, together?
Can one man make the double Ds into the triple Ds - Dravid's Delhi Daredevils? Stay tuned.

First published here