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Sidhu's coctktail

by Naked Cricket

Navjot Singh Sidhu belongs to only one party: The NSS (Navjot Singh Sidhu Party). Whether he was loyal to the BJP, or will be to AAP, is beside the point. Sidhu is loyal to Sidhu.  Each morning he worships at the altar of the self, The Sidhu.

Sidhu feeds on the media just as the media feeds off him, both are in an amorous yet desperately selfish relationship with each other, possibly the only way to be. A quick scan of sherryontop.com ‘s homepage will acquaint you with the many faces of Sidhu – Entertainer, Commentator, Cricketer, Politician, Motivator (in that order). Amul butter’s iconic cartoon ads featuring Sidhu are thrown in too.

In Sidhu’s mind there is no doubt how he’s perceived by people today – he’s an entertainer. His other faces or roles are either secondary or part of his past. So when you see Sidhu during the IPL pre-match shows or intervals, you see him as an entertainer who talks cricket. So even as he makes cricket calls or sums up the game, his differentiator from the other ex-cricketer hosts (Gavaskar, Waqar, Kartik) is always full-on entertainment.

Sidhu doesn’t stop. He invents madness on the spot. And he feeds on his own madness. He is the reality show, flinging couplets, shayari, stats, barbs, forecasts, all tossed into one big Sidhu bharta. Depending who you are, you will either love him or loathe him, but there’s little chance he doesn’t evoke a reaction from you.  
Sidhu was always meant to be a politician, one that would communicate through entertainment. The sets of Sony are way too small for him. When he sits, flinging his hands in the air, shooting a Sidhuism and holding the pose, he is doing what he loves doing – entertaining, in most cases, himself. And which is why, he goes on and on. Sidhu is in love with Sidhu and his brand of unrestrained hype.

One day, Sidhu let himself go that extra yard on the field when he flung himself at the ball. Being just a maverick opening batsman wasn’t enough. Sidhu was about reinvention. He wanted to be Jonty Singh. And he became Jonty Singh, in the twilight of his career, he warmed up to fielding like never before.

Sidhu will be the first to tell you, many times over, that the key to his success is being unique or least projecting his uniqueness. Whether it was going down the wicket to Shane Warne or walking out of an England tour after a spat with Azhar, Sidhu has always been hardwired to his own impetuosity.  It works for Sidhu because Sidhu knows what makes Sidhu tick.

That Sidhu hung on in the backbenches of the BJP for so long is against Sidhu’s nature. Walking out of the BJP is no different from walking down the wicket to Warne. Back then, Tendulkar followed, and ripped into Warne, who will follow him today? Who will make Sidhu’s latest move memorable?

It’ll start in Amritsar but Sidhu will entertain from Ludhiana to London, he could be the start of AAP’s NRI attack, wooing his Punjabi bros and bhabhis, right across to Kunaeda. Look out, NaMo, you have company, overseas. 

Sidhu was born to enthral crowds. Hooking up with AAP, could give him access to a stage that BJP denied him – his own stage, shared only with the many avatars of Sidhu.

Less than three months Sidhu tweeted when he became a Rajya Sabha MP


Previous tweet

From October last year, three tweets back

Whether it’s on social media or on TV, Sidhu has been calculated, both in his praise as in his punches. Don’t be fooled by the entertainer, there’s a very canny guy under that matching turban. How far he goes with AAP could well be down to how much leg room Kejriwal allows him. And don’t we all know how Sidhu loves to use his feet. “Down the wicket, that’s six, easy as you like”. Brace yourself for a Sidhu storm.

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How Pakistan paid a heavy price for its victory celebrations

by Naked Cricket

Pakistan might have won the first Test match against England at Lord’s, but it now turns out that they have much to rue. At best of times, the Pakistan cricket team is not known for its fitness. However, their 42 year skipper raised the bar for a team that gets by more because of its talent than its fitness. After Misbah-ul-Haq scored his maiden Test century on English soil, he took to a rather unconventional celebration, a salute, followed by ten push-ups.

But it didn’t end there. The Pakistani team took to ape their skipper after their victory at Lord’s. Veteran batsman, Younis Khan, rounded up a disorderly bunch, commanding them to do the push-up routine. Even though the players only managed to do five-six push ups, followed by the salute, it has taken a heavy toll on them.

Misbah has been critical of the routine. He has pointed out that they did it in the wrong order. “They should have saluted first and then done the push ups. Not even the Pakistan military can discipline this bunch. I still don’t know how we won the match. But it’s a good feeling”. Not known to be very expressive, Misbah smiled blankly into the mid distance.

When asked if the players were carrying any injuries after the celebration, he neither confirmed nor contradicted with a simple, “You can see for yourself”

What we did see for ourselves was a whole bunch of players in physiotherapy. While man-of-the-match, Yasir Shah, spoke with his interpreter and coach, Mushtaq Ahmed, the others were happy to speak in a sprinkling of Urdu and English. Shah refused to blame the push ups and said he was just very tired after bowling 60 overs and batting for over 100 minutes.

Comeback kid Mohammad Amir was surprisingly more honest when he said that he had made a return to bowling not to push ups. “But Younish Bhai said and I will do. And I knew here I was not crossing the line. Salute was cute touch. How do you like my brown hair? No, it’s not mehendi, it’s expensive dye...You’re liking? Mike Atherton said he’s liking, he’s very supportive of me even when he doesn’t speak urdu and I’m not speaking English”  

It is also learnt that Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have a new celebration for their troops if they win the second Test at Old Trafford. With an equal emphasis on discipline and creativity, the Pakistani team hopes to bring good their time spent at the Pakistani army preparatory camp. A victory lap has been planned, just that the players will march in single file and salute the crowd throughout. “We want to be consistent and keep army theme going...and no we are not looking to overthrow elected government in Pakistan” said Younis, tongue firmly in cheek, cracked up at his own joke. “Please don’t quote me, they will drop me from team again, they love dropping me from team just like I like making controversial, stupid statements”.

Unnamed sources claim that the Pakistani team is also keen to teach India a lesson. During the army preparatory camp, the players also underwent special training on how to infiltrate into India through Kashmir. A PCB spokesperson on conditions of anonymity issued the following statement, “We are desperate to play India just as they are desperate to not play Pakistan. We are left with no option but to infiltrate into India – once we are there, they will have no option but to play us. There’s too much money to be made. And everyone can blame everyone and no action will be taken. And as Mr Ravi Shastri says, cricket will be ultimate winner.”

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

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Now Tendulkar doesn't pick himself in his All-Time Best XI

by Naked Cricket

Die-hard fans zapped whether to outrage or forgive the master?

One way to get back into the news is to pick your All-Time XI and not pick Sachin Tendulkar in it. It's been happening way too long, and is now an accepted absurdity among former players.

From the day Tendulkar decided to play cricket, he has been in every playing XI he set his eyes upon. From the Tendulkar's XI that was picked by his father to the Aji XI picked by his elder brother; the Achrekar’s XI picked by his coach, Shivaji Park XI (where he played his early cricket), SD Burman XI (who he was named after), Sahitya Sahawas Cooperative Housing Society XI, Sharadashram Vidyamandir XI, John Bright Cricket Club XI, the list goes on and on, and it’s an undisputed fact that Tendulkar has been part of every Indian playing XI since he made his Test debut, except when he had made himself unavailable for selection. And even then he made it to the Wimbledon’s XI.

Only a few days back, Sri Lankan cricketer, Kumar Sangakkara came out with his Greatest Cricketing XI that has only one Indian in it, and no, it’s not Tendulkar – it’s Rahul Dravid. More than Tendulkar’s exclusion, it was the inclusion of Sri Lanka’s Aravinda de Silva ahead of him that has riled fans. Stats nerds were quick to point out that de Silva’s batting average is much lower than Tendulkar’s, less than 10 in both Test cricket and ODIs. Still others said that Tendulkar had to play with the hopes of a billion people on his shoulders whereas de Silva only had some 20 million hopes to live up to.
Rahul Dravid, who has been accustomed to playing second fiddle to Tendulkar, was at first stumped at Sangakkara’s selection and even prepared to vacate his spot for Tendulkar if it made fans happy. But Sangakkara said it was his list and not for Dravid to create a vacancy for Tendulkar.
If de Silva’s inclusion wasn’t bad enough, another contemporary edging Tendulkar out, and that too Brian Lara, has made matters only worse. The Lara-Tendulkar debate which seemed to have been doused since the retirement of the two players, has been rekindled.  
On the back of Sangakkara’s list, English batsman, Alex Hales has presented his XI, eerily similar, not just because of the player’s included, but because of Tendulkar’s exclusion. Yet again only one Indian makes the grade, this time it’s life-long Tendulkar devotee, Virender Sehwag. Sehwag, who has found his voice on Twitter these days, was his usual outspoken self when he tweeted, “Who the Hell is Hales?? Joke of a list, me before God?? And McGrath before Nehraji ?? By GAWD.”
Throughout Tendulkar has been his usual phlegmatic self, refusing to be drawn into needless controversies. Even a Best World XI by Vinod Kambli that includes Vinod Kambli but excludes Tendulkar has not affected the man who scored a hundred 100s.
In his own style, Tendulkar has made his Best of the Best XI that has also excluded Tendulkar. Whereas many feel that the person making a list cannot include himself, die-hard Sachin fans will have none of it. Some are angered at Sachin himself, asking him to redo the list and add his name to it with ‘Previous Errors and Omissions Excused’ also added at the bottom. An online petition for a new list has already crossed 7651 – the target is 15921 signatories (total Test runs scored by SRT), in case Tendulkar does not relent, there is a second target, 18426 signatories (Total ODI runs by SRT). And just in case, Tendulkar is still unresponsive, the aim is to target is 25396 signatories (Total FC runs by SRT).
For the record, Tendulkar excluded both Sangakkara and Hales from his Best of the Best XI.
Tendulkar’s list has 1) Sehwag  2) Gavaskar 3) Lara 4) Richards 5) Kallis 6) Ganguly 7) Gilchrist 8) Warne 9) Akram 10) Harbhajan 11) McGrath
According to Tendulkar, Ganguly leads the team, whereas Harbhajan was picked as chief instigator. Tendulkar also felt that Gavaskar would be the ideal man to lead the team off the field. A 12th man who would also double up as cricket director was also included: Ravi Shastri.
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here

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Sourav Ganguly to interview Ravi Shastri to make amends

by Naked Cricket

Even more than Anil Kumble’s appointment as coach, the buzz has been about Ravi Shastri missing out on the job and Sourav Ganguly missing out on the interview. While the interview was conducted via Skype as Shastri was on holiday in Thailand, why exactly did Ganguly give the interview a miss?
The reasons for the same have been attributed to everything from the two not being on talking terms to Dada’s upset stomach. Which of course has also been attributed to Dada hearing Shastri’s voice, “Hello boys, Ravi here, all the way from Bangkok, if the massages don’t get you, the breakfast buffets will!”. Still others believe that Ganguly prefers Face Time to Skype and it was a clash of technologies more than a clash of personalities.  
What was a brief interview with Shastri waxing eloquent on the massage parlours and pole dancers to the shopping at the Chatuchak weekend market – “you get everything under the sun here, won’t be too farfetched to expect your next Indian coach from here...in fact, boys, I’m at Chatuchak right now”.
At the completion of the interview, Ganguly was briefed by Tendulkar and Laxman, in addition to ex- BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale. Even though Ganguly is a big fan of Thailand as a holiday destination, it appears he was predisposed to Kumble’s selection as coach.
This has now caused a lot of rancour in the ranks. Shastri in his own words is determined to “go down all guns blazing” and expects a “one to one, man-to man, settle it in the middle like men” interview with Ganguly.
Shastri who is close to Test captain, Virat Kohli, is alleged to also enjoy the backing of BCCI President, Anurag Thakur. The Ganguly-Shastri faceoff will be held in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. BCCI is looking to sell the broadcasting rights, with Sony already shortlisted for the same. Sony has further shortlisted Navjot Sidhu, Gaurav Kapur and Rameez Raja. Salman Khan will make a guest appearance to promote his film, Sultan, and draw wrestling parallels with the interview. Sidhu is expected to laugh and clap hysterically every time Salman pauses.
The interview will have three sections, styled on the lines of an IPL match broadcast. In the end, Tendulkar, Laxman, Thakur and Jagdale will vote by way of secret ballot, with the IPL auctioneer, Richard Madley, naming the winner. Ravi Shastri, who is also contracted to the BCCI as a commentator, will conduct the twin roles of introductions and wrap-ups, albeit both in an empty stadium, something he has so far accomplished with élan.
One can expect the Shastri script to be on the lines of, “In the end, the interview is the winner. Tough questions were asked and tough answers were given. All three results are possible. Kumble as coach, Shastri as coach and both Kumble and Shastri as coach. You will ask, how is that even possible? Because in India, anything is possible – a coach and a coach’s mentor can coexist beautifully”
To add to the masala and further up the TRPS of the interview, BCCI designated commentator, Sanjay Manjrekar tweeted:




Anil Kumble is yet to comment on the Ganguly-Shastri interview. Before this, he had thanked all and sundry for their wishes, including Azhar.


It is believed if Shastri does pass muster, he could be contracted as the man to call the shouts. Whereas Kumble will continue to call the shots from behind the scenes. In the unlikely situation that Ganguly refuses to interview Shastri, one can expect Shastri to interview Ganguly. Because to quote Shastri, “something’s gotta give”.  
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here

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You will now see Lionel Messi in the IPL

by Naked Cricket

Isn't that where all great international players go after retirement?
 
Lionel Messi has shocked the world but not Mathew Hayden and Michael Hussey who saw it coming for a long time. Calling time on his international career, after missing a penalty in the Copa America Finals against Chile, Messi (short for mesmerize), is arguably the greatest player to have not won any of the world's great trophies.  

From a very young age, Messi was very fond of clubbing. This transplanted into many of his successes against club sides across the world. Best known for being a goal vending machine for FC Barcelona, Messi is not retiring from club or franchise football.

Meanwhile, the BCCI always quick to lure great internationals into retirement, have refused to take responsibility for Messi's retirement. “He has retired and we respect that, if he wants to be part of the IPL in whatever capacity he deems fit, he is most welcome” Already unfounded rumours are doing the round that Messi will be part of the mini IPL to be hosted overseas.

New India coach, Anil Kumble could fast-track Messi's initiation into the new game. The upcoming series to the West Indies could serve as a perfect meeting point for Virat Kohli and Lionel Messi. It is learnt if Messi plays in the IPL, it will be for none other than Kohli's team, RCB. “RCB is yet to win the IPL, and even though many trophies have eluded Messi, we know how good he is at the franchise game, where you don't feel the pressure of playing for your country”, India and RCB skipper, Virat Kohli was heard saying. Fellow team mate and buddy, AB de Villiers’ echoed Virat’s words, “Messi is almost South African, and I welcome him in RCB...though he will be very much at home playing with the Proteas...we can all collectively choke...”

Still others feel that Messi was born to coach Mumbai Indians. Tendulkar was unusually outspoken when he said, “We have all the world's coaches but we do not yet have a football coach. Those who have followed Indian cricket will have seen how much Dhoni and Kohli and other Indian players love to play football before a cricket match. And if your football preparation isn't good, how can your cricket performance be any better?” Nita Ambani, a new appointee to the IOC has welcomed Messi in the Mumbai Indians’ family. Fielding coach, Jonty Rhodes, who named his child, India, has now branded the team, “Messi Indians”.

After finishing just above Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, Dhoni said he was a Manchester United supporter and would be happier if Lionel Messi joined another team. “Yes, he is a great player but like Rahane I don't know if his game is suited for Indian conditions. Even though he will start in the mini IPL, which is being held overseas, the main IPL will be held in India. We have arrived after a good combination after a string of defeats and injuries and you would have seen even our defeats were by narrow margins so we'd like to concentrate on the cricket than get too carried away by the football”

When asked what he thought of retiring from internationals, and if Messi's decision will affect him, he said had he been asked this question a few months back, he would have been reactionary, but he has now been advised to be minimal in his answers. Dhoni replied with a simple “No, we are very different individuals”

Not much is being made of Messi’s association with Tata Motors but it is learnt after driving the Nano, he regretted his decision to ever play the beautiful game which eventually led to his big-buck signing with the Indian major. It is still too early to say whether Tata is responsible for Messi’s final tata from international football.

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

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The lion inside the man.

by Naked Cricket

Admire is not a word used loosely. In life, there will be many you love, like, very few you admire. You may not love or like these people, chances are, you may not even know them, at least not personally, but there will be something in them that will uplift you. Make you soar. Make you want to be like them. Make you want to do it like they do it. Hope to be as good as them.

To dig in. When it gets so tough, you don't want to even be there. You want to run away, anywhere, but be there. The man will dig in. Dig in so deep, you didn't know such deep reserves existed.

The man will go on and on and on. As if he is not a man. As if he is something else. What that something else is, is hard to tell. But he is not a man. The essence of the man will be a Japanese scroll with a red sun on CV Kamesh's headband in the gym. It says, lost in focus. CV Kamesh wears it every day at the gym.

Anil Kumble wore it every day on the cricket field. Not the band. The belief. Not just the belief, the action. Anil Kumble is more than the broken jaw. Anil Kumble is more than an anecdote.

Anil Kumble is the man. Not only when he took ten wickets. But when he took no wickets. He was the piercing squint of a lion's empty stomach on spotting its prey. He was the claws drawn out. He was the Natgeo clip when the deer outruns the lion. He was the Natgeo clip when the lion runs after another deer. And another deer. And another. Till he feeds that empty stomach. If not on the first day, then on the second or the third day. Kumble was the lion that knew a Test match can feed you on any one of the five days.

He preyed on batsmen with that knowledge. It wasn't until the 25th over that the first Pakistani wicket fell. By the 61st over, Anil Kumble had all ten.  14 in the match. He fell twice to Saqlain Mushtaq. Saqlain fell twice to him. This lion's elephant memory will remember that.

The man was more than the 619 Test wickets. Much more than the 337 ODI wickets. The man was the drama. Before every wicket. The appeal to the heavens. The umpire above. Arms raised. Back arched forward. Knees bent. “GIVE IT OUT.” The man preyed on the white cloaked figure as the lion preyed on the deer.

Anil Kumble knew that after feasting from Saturday to Thursday, lions are made to fast on Friday in the zoo. Anil Kumble knew an empty stomach is not such a bad thing. Anil Kumble knew how to straddle the wild and the zoo of world cricket. Anil Kumble survived both.

Welcome back to the jungle, Jumbo. You are remembered by your lion’s heart. This time could be no different. You’ve been blessed with a lion: Virat Kohli. A lion on top of his game. His kills could decide how far you go. Or can you readdress the imbalance amongst the cubs - from the den to the jungle? Indian cricket is ready for the straighter one, again.  Roar.

For Jumbo.  

He was not what you call a master
He was not what you call a blaster
He was just a servant
Servant of the game

He was bespectacled, thick rimmed
Young and nerdy engineer type
Averse to any kind of hype
But eager like any beaver you ever saw

Nobody could read him
Nor batsman nor layman
He was the object of our ridicule
He was no less than a molecule
He was the reason we ragged in colleges
Any kid that that refused to fit in
He was the reason for our losses
He was the reason for our defeats
He was the reason we couldn’t fare better
As a nation, as a people, as a team

He was last choice captain
He was last man standing
He was broken in bandage
He was awoken in carnage

He was the very object of our scorn
Aren’t we happy now he’s gone?
He was the very object of our con
Aren't we happy now he's gone?
He was not Sachin, he was just Anil

He was not what you call a master
He was not what you call a blaster
He was just a servant
Servant of the game

He served in Antigua
He served in Sydney
He served in Delhi
He served in Perth
He served in Bangalore
He just didn’t serve in lore

He was just a servant
Servant of the game

The glasses have long gone
And so the man

(written after Anil Kumble’s retirement)

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Anil Kumble turned up for the job interview in bandages

by Naked Cricket

India has a desi coach after a string of firangs somehow got by without knowing the language. Yet, knowing the language was one of the prerequisites this time.
What language, you may ask - there are so many, which is possibly why someone like Anil Kumble who speaks not only English and Hindi, but also Kannada and engineering, scored the highest marks in the coach’s final exam.
Anil Kumble, it is learnt, has developed a wicked sense of humour, and had his mates in splits, when he turned up for the job interview in bandages. Reminiscent of the time when he returned to bowl, jaw broken and bandaged, and grab Brian Lara’s wicket; Sachin, Sourav and VVS, all stood up and hi-fived him, as they did on the field, that day in Antigua.
When asked what he was thankful for, Kumble thanked the broken jaw: "It was a flat deck, worse than our Indian roads that we call wickets. I’m glad I broke my jaw and only bowled 14 of the 248 overs that India bowled.”
To which Laxman cracked up, and said in his usual jovial self, "Aneel, even I bowled 17 overs haha, you’re very lucky Aneel, I agree, you’re a very lucky guy."
At this point, Tendulkar jumped out of his seat to admonish Laxman, "Aila! 17 overs, what is that, I bowled 34 overs that day! We should make Anil coach just so that we can force him to bowl more overs in the nets."
Sourav Ganguly, all serious so far, wasn’t about to be left out when he said in his usual deadpan manner, "One of the advantages of being captain is that I bowled only 12 overs in that innings." He looked around for approval which he got in spades from the little private club.
Laxman blamed Ganguly, alleging that because of that Test match, where Ashish Nehra bowled 49 overs in an innings, he was never fully fit again. "You killed Nehra the bowler for life, Sourav, hehehe... and Zak too, and Srinath too. How can you make your quicks all bowl close to 50 overs? You were a heartless captain."
Ganguly corrected him, "Medium pacers, VVS, not quicks, medium pacers."
The banter went on, when Tendulkar decided to do a Q&A on the Test match, "How many bowlers bowled for India? And no, you cannot Google it, Anil."
Kumble looked on sternly, asking matter-of-factly, "Will this question decide whether I make it as coach?"
Tendulkar nodded.
There was a deafening silence in the room. After a few minutes of levity it was all down to one question.
Kumble started to toss the player’s names in his head – and then it came to him, he had just visited Ajay Ratra’s (the wicketkeeper in that match) cricket profile.
A thorough researcher, Kumble had looked at every aspect of Ratra’s career – he also noticed he had bowled six balls in a Test match. That one over had to be in the Antigua Test.
Where else? If Laxman could bowl 17 overs in a Test, even the twelfth man had a chance to bowl.
Anil Kumble’s already firm jaw appeared more determined as he looked Sachin, Sourav and Laxman collectively in the eye. It was as if he was interviewing them for a post. He nodded ever so slightly and started a roll call of the team, listing every player, and then laying a greater emphasis on Ajay Ratra’s name.
To which, Sachin and Sourav were poker-faced but Laxman let out the hint of a smile.
In Kumble’s mind, it was either ten or eleven players who had bowled. Spotting Laxman’s smile, Kumble went for the jugular: "All 11 bowled in that Test match, including the one over from Ajay Ratra. Sourav, I do think for his economy rate, he was a trifle underbowled. Let me tell you, as India coach, I won’t let the wicketkeeping duties come in the way of bowling. I expect MS to turn his arm over."
There was a gentle applause. Laxman called a peon in and requested Kumble to dictate his appointment letter.
But Ganguly was all serious, "Sorry Anil, but we have to ask you one more question, how do you plan to improve India’s performance overseas?"
They all laughed heartily. It was a question asked many times before. The masters in the room knew only too well there were no real answers yet. Still, a man's got to ask.
Anil Kumble started his PowerPoint presentation. Laxman insisted there wasn’t any need. Long after Kumble’s appointment letter had been printed and signed, he continued to present, talking about the future.
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here

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How to embrace India’s series in Zimbabwe

by Naked Cricket

As tall claims go, this is right up there. The buzz for the Killer Cup is possibly on par with First Class matches in India. Both are telecast, but apart from a handful of selectors and players’ families and friends, is anyone watching?

The last India-Zimbabwe series, I followed mostly on car radio. It’s far less embarrassing. You don’t have to look at players constantly reminded you don’t know who they are. The grounds here are bigger and look even emptier, nothing drains the enthusiasm from a match more than an empty ground. By the end of it all, you’re almost good friends with the five-ten people the camera keeps on trolling. Mostly, they’re yawning. If they’re not sleeping. In the first match, two gents were seated at a table. It was a very odd sight. Radio spares you such sights. The quick shifts from English to Hindi commentary are an art form in itself. Radio will help you learn a few Zimbabwe names, who knows, maybe all of them. By the end of a quick listen, Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura will be rolling off your tongue like Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

And deep down you want to be connected to the cricket, don’t you? OK, maybe not with this series, but what’s the harm in trying?

KL Rahul could be a future great. Already he’s into a rare mode of either not scoring at all or scoring centuries. Even he didn’t know he was the first Indian to score a one-day century on debut. Already, Virat Kohli has immense belief in his RCB mate. He backed him in the Test series Down Under where he scored a century, he backed him in the IPL too. Who knows where all this backing will take him? Could he become a first choice opener for India instead of Shikhar Dhawan? If so, the foundations are being laid right now in Zimbabwe. Do you want to miss the start of something big? Can’t you just hear them crowds chanting KL! KL! No? How about, Rahul! Rahul!

OK, so there’s something about KL Rahul’s demeanour that’s too smug, and you just can’t warm up to him, but no harm in trying is there?

If a bunch of anonymous players doesn’t do it for you, surely Dhoni will? Why? Er, because he’s Dhoni? In the twilight of his career, leading a team of rookies, what can be more attractive? OK, Kohli leading the A-Listers to wherever but surely you get the point? Dhoni doesn’t play Tests anymore, gotta cherish whatever little you get to see of him, even if it’s against Zimbabwe. And India is playing so many Tests this season, it’s as if, the entire revenue stream has been turned upside down because of a cricket conscience – to hell with the money, we want to save cricket first. But yeah, there won’t be any Dhoni in those five day games, so enjoy it while it lasts.

What, you’ve already moved on, oh well, had to still try, and Dhoni is still a very compelling reason.  Even if you just see him perform in huddles and behind the stumps and shrug at the occasional misfield. Something deep down tells me that this will be a riveting chapter in Dhoni’s cricket-cycle. And it’s got nothing to do with Cycle Agarbatti.

The one-day format can be repetitive. Almost all the fifty overs seem like the middle overs, more so in Zimbabwe. Not being engaged is far from heresy.  Give it a few more days, that good old IPL format will be back, India plays three T20s. The timing is almost the same as those IPL afternoon games that nobody watched – 4:30 pm IST. By the time you’re back home, lounging in your La-Z-Boy, remote in one hand, beer in the other, it’ll be down to those make-or-break last five overs.

An anonymous Zimbabwean will be bowling to an anonymous Indian. By the end of those five overs, you’ll have a new hero. And that’s what cricket is all about. Knew it all along, there was redemption for the series. If only they had started with the T20s, there would’ve been far more context to the ODIs.

Over to Alexander Graeme Cremer. “Cremer Who?” Never mind, he’s just the Zimbabwean skipper.

First published here

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What’s Virat Kohli’s summer holiday like

by Naked Cricket

Virat's cricket kit has been put away. Even he doesn't know where it is. It's been hidden by Ravi Shastri and his loyalists, solely dedicated to the greater cause of Virat Kohli's switch-off regime. In the last few months, Virat has trained so hard, it's scary. He's beaten the body, he's beaten the mind, just so he could stay unbeaten. Which he has, but cricket is a team game and he can't make the ten others endure what he has, he can't make the ten others unbeatable.

So, in spite of his nature defying best, the team fell short. First in the WorldT20 and then in the IPL. Shastri has continued to sermonise, "you must not be too hard on yourself, I would say, it's time to be soft on yourself". In addition to the mandatory escape from cricket, Shastri has signed Virat up at the city's most indulgent spa. "It's time to put those overworked feet up, it's time to let go off the hunger to win...Just be...in the spa, I want you to feel utterly, totally brain dead...no thinking...just indulgence."

Curtains thick enough to block Bombay’s sun out were drawn. Phones and internet shut off. No newspapers. Just long, undisturbed sleep. Only a button for meals. Even the music had been tailored for Virat’s waking hours from Buddhist chants to mantras of a rare Hindu sect fast gaining popularity in the west. The temperature had been set between 24-26 degrees centigrade.

When Virat did wake from his deep slumber, Mick Jagger’s Goddess in the doorway played and there she was – ‘A’ in the doorway. Virat mimicked a catch and asked an imaginary crowd to stay silent. He continued, “my best catch ever”. ‘A’ laughed and made a sign to refer it, “I don’t think it was clean though”. “Oh please don’t refer it, it’ll be that same IPL third umpire, he’ll delay us forever and ever and I can’t wait”.  ‘A’ reminded him of the no-cricket clause. Virat blew her a flying kiss from an imaginary cricket bat, chiding her, “First Ravi, now you, just taking away my balls”

Virat and A were driven to their soon-to-be favourite restaurant. Even they didn’t know it existed. But by the end of their meal, this would become their go-to place. Shastri had it all sorted. He’d booked the place out, ensured the side entrance, a sweeping view of the Arabian Sea. “Coaching India can wait, a chill pill for the Indian captain cannot” he would joke with his mates. In Shastri’s mind, Virat was the only Indian captain. In Shastri’s mind, he was already India’s coach.

It had been days and Virat had not hit a cricket ball or a ball of any kind. Shastri knew this wasn’t easy, “Something’s gotta give which is why I’ve organised a football match with Virat’s charity...where to put it mildly, something’s gonna give”. The much publicised football match between cricketers and Bollywood stars was Shastri’s brainchild. Virat’s hunger knew no bounds, he not only scored the most goals, he also saved the most goals, and was also the player with the highest possession percentage. In spite of all this, like in the WorldT20 and IPL, his team lost. In spite of the defeat, Virat was happy it was for a good cause, his speech was long, eloquent and even plugged Shastri’s charity “Something’s gotta give”.

After the match, he asked Shastri, “Now can I have my cricket kit back, I’m really missing it”. Shastri calmed him with his usual, “all in the fullness of time, Virat, all in the fullness of time, Virat”.  Virat’s rejuvenation therapy was well underway, and Shastri did not want to hamper it with a premature return to cricket - “I have two tickets for a secret destination in the southern hemisphere*...the weather is very nice there...” Virat could not hide his excitement, “Thanks Ravi, thanks so much...you’ve booked me as a last minute replacement for the Zimbabwe T20 series...I love you, man”. Shastri looked bemused, “Zimbabwe, who said anything about Zimbabwe, I want you to go Maldives...I’ve already spoken to Mandira...Mandira Bedi...and she says, you and A will have a fantastic time...plus, she’s taken all the limelight, so you can enjoy a quiet vacation”

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

First published here

*Maldives lies between latitudes 1°S and 8°N

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