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Dhoni the ventriloquist

by Naked Cricket

Dhoni spends hours locked up in his Trophy House talking to his stumps. Not just that, he even plays ventriloquist and speaks for the stumps. Once overheard, “Oh Mahi, I still remember when you picked me up, me, the middle stump, off and leg were so upset, but ME in the middle, that was a lotta fun.” 

Read the rest of the ventriloquist here


The nudge

by Naked Cricket

"Well before Rohit Sharma started to flirt with the longer format, Suresh Raina and Yuvaj Singh were given the nudge. Followed by yet another nudge. And another. And another. It just didn’t work out."

Read the rest of the nudge here 


How much will Virat Kohli squeeze himself for Rohit Sharma?

by Naked Cricket

Every morning, I try and squeeze the hell out of a lemon. Yet I don't squeeze the hell out of it. There’s a trick to it. Before squeezing, roll the lemon under your palm, flatten it a little. Then slice and squeeze the pieces together. Reversing which one goes on top ekes out the last few drops.
Virat Kohli, as India team captain, could be me, and his players, lemons.
He probably wants to squeeze them for all the juice they have, but there will be times, they don’t give any. What should he do then? Try another lemon? Or roll his palm over?
Over the last two years, Cheteshwar Pujara has squeezed himself for all the juice he had. And some more. Yet often enough, he’s replaced by another lemon, Rohit Sharma. A very talented lemon, we’re told. A lemon that has the potential, we’re told, to deliver a lot of juice. Yet, come five days, and Rohit seems all juiced out. Even before he’s squeezed.
But what does Kohli do? He believes in Rohit-lemon, and wants to squeeze him. Again and again and again. He knows, like once Ravi Shastri knew, and Sunil Gavaskar knows, and Leonard Cohen sang, Everybody Knows.
Only everybody on the other side, the uninformed people who’re just watching the game, know this Rohit-lemon is turning out to be a bit of a joke. In a dull Test series, he was the only comic relief. A funny lemon really. A lemon with a pout.
Everybody waited for Rohit-lemon to fall before the break. But he did not. Could Rohit-lemon prove all of us wrong?
The new ball had been seen through, here was a tailor-made chance, coming in at five, to score those runs, and shut us all up.
But, but, but, you know what happened? What often happens. One delivery moved away, edged Rohit’s edge, and squeezed his wicket out. That was that.
What about Cheteshwar Pujara? He was sitting watching, a lucky break to not be playing, on a wicket that, excuse the expression, had a bit of juice.
Whether Rohit-lemon gives some juice in the second dig is beside the point. Should he be even there? Shouldn’t someone else be squeezed out, someone who has a lot more to offer, someone who has offered a lot more.
Not too long ago, both Kohli and Pujara had six Test hundreds. Pujara’s strike rate in Tests was even higher than his captain’s. All this has been, and if it hasn’t, should be documented.
Then something happened. That rough away series in England, where James Anderson snared Kohli in his sleep.
India won Lord’s. It was Rahane’s Lord’s. So it’s been often said. Before it was Rahane’s Lord’s though, it was 11 for 1 with Shikhar Dhawan out early again. It was Pujara and another unsung Test hermit, Murali Vijay, who stonewalled the conditions. Pujara for nearly three hours for an invisible 28, Vijay for over 90 minutes for his 24.
These are not scores that make the honours board. These are not scores that inhabit the commentary box. These are not scores that merit an IPL spot. These are scores that put the scorer in a spot.
The leaves don’t add up to runs. The leaves don’t take the shine off the new ball. The leaves, in Kohli’s book, are lost scoring opportunities.
After yesterday’s toss, Kohli talked about how Rohit can change the match in a session. The same Rohit, whose strike rate is 51.73 in Tests. Less than Kohli’s 53.69. But more than Pujara’s 48.20. And much more than Vijay’s 46.88.
Vijay and Pujara left too many balls. Scored too few, too slowly, for an India in a hurry. For an India that wants to win, win mercilessly big, and mercilessly beautiful on shiny, flat pitches without a blade of grass or a hint of crack.
It has been done in the IPL, it has been done in the World T20, it has been done and it will be done again – in Tests, against the West Indies, who are not worthy of our contempt or of our leaves.
We will bash them into submission. And if an Indian can’t, a Mumbai Indian will.
With such belief the Indian cricket empire will be built – in a day, in three hours, and if need be across five days.
Nothing can stop Virat Kohli. Not even Virat Kohli himself. Not cricketing logic. Not records. Not Pujara, not Vijay, not a shiny, moving ball. Not the success of number four. For Rohit, he will become number three, for Rohit, he will sign on a blank cheque; because, he admires Rohit.
And will prove to you, once and for all, Rohit is no lemon. Even if that means he is one.

First published here


When the urge to cut for an ad is even greater than the need to pee.

by Naked Cricket

Never mind if you're not following India play in the West Indies. Most people aren't. Including the broadcasters, Ten Sports or whatever it is they call themselves nowadays – preferably names.
The few that were watching, way past midnight, were justly whipped for their trespasses. We were on the verge of a moment – after taking strike on the first ball of the Indian innings, opener KL Rahul was about to close in on a Test century. But how would Ten Sports know?
It was way past their bedtime. They had left the controls in the hands of the nightwatchman and the chai wallah with strict instructions – when in doubt, cut to the ads. And drink tea so you can cut to the ads.
KL Rahul was on 96, facing offbreak bowler, Roston Chase. Rahul was here on the back of a monster IPL season and a mini monster series in Zimbabwe. He had shown enough intent to open instead of Chris Gayle for RCB, and earn all the hugs and more from Virat Kohli.
So, what do you think KL Rahul will do? Just what Virender Sehwag would have done, right? Right. Down the wicket, BANG! What happened? Ad happened.
Did KL Rahul reach his hundred? Of course he did. That was going for six and beyond. As was the telecast.
Who in their right mind wants to see a ball that is definitely going for six go for six? And those celebrations, haven't we seen enough centurions raise their bats, look at the heavens, kiss their trinkets and hug their mates on reaching a century? And it wasn't as if this was a Virat Kohli celebration, now that is something else.
But this advertisement Ten Sports showed, we were just warming up to it for the 7011th time. At least now we know what to wear on a hot date and how to get Punjabi on our mobile phone and Ballet Ballet everyone into submission.
So that was that. If you were awake watching, for whatever idiotic reason, you needed to leave. And if the Supreme Court decides to stay awake and watch, they will know – the Lodha Commission Report is being spat on every night, during the live telecast of an international match that features India.
The BCCI and Ten Sports could argue that it was the last ball of Chases' over. And sometimes, the urge to cut for an ad is even greater than the need to pee. And after the flurry of ads, (yes, there were many, remember, it was between overs), it wasn’t as if they didn’t show the replays.
Just to rub it in, Ten Sports replayed KL Rahul go down the wicket to Roston Chase, smash him for six, raise his bat, hug his mate. There was nothing new.  No push-ups, no army salute, nothing missed, really.
40 overs later, KL Rahul got out. Even fewer people, if any, were awake in India, to see him raise his bat and return to the pavilion. Chances are, the few that were up, would’ve been treated to a four-course breakfast of advertisements.
Of course, it’s wrong to blame the ads entirely. The West Indies have done their bit to make this series what it is: An endorsement for "early to bed, early to..." If that sounds abrupt it’s only because we had to cut for an ad break.   
Ten commandments of broadcasting:
  1. The ad is always right
  2. The ad comes first
  3. Once you add your ads, you’ll be left with nothing to subtract
  4. Most cricket viewers smell bad and need scent
  5. Most cricket viewers need a regional mobile, preferably Punjabi
  6. Two ads in the wrong place make one right
  7. Ad, ad, ad till you succeed
  8. Most cricket viewers are 24x7 shopping channel junkies
  9. An ad in hand is better than two in the bush
  10. Don’t count your ads before they hatch.
First published here


Ashwin & Kohli

by Naked Cricket

"Part of Ashwin’s awkward charm is that he’s far more real than today’s stubbled Indian cricketers. He’s clean-shaven. He’s not as athletic as they are. A second run with Ashwin invariably ends in hilarity. And Ashwin chasing a runaway ball is like watching your uncle warming up at jogger’s park."

For the full article, here you go 


Who does Virat Kohli think he is?

by Naked Cricket

Virat Kohli bullied the ball past Samuels for his first boundary. It was the 30th over. For 30 overs before that, except for a handful of snorters that flew past Dhawan’s nostrils, nobody bullied anybody.  Gabriel’s snorters were followed by a wave of sleepy medium pace, spin and more spin. It was the first day of a Test. It was still very much a waiting game.

Till the 30th over. Virat was done with waiting. Waiting for two hours before lunch. Waiting for four balls after lunch. He walked out to the middle, and just like that the game changed.

Virat doesn’t chew gum. Virat doesn’t have Sir Vivivian Richards’ swagger. Yet there he was at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium, right under Sir Vivian Richards’ nose, doing a Sir Vivian Richards. Sort of. In intent, even if not so much in delivery. Virat Kohli, much like Viv Richards, is not just his own man - he is the man. 

And yet again, here he was, playing with the boys. Almost from memory, almost with the same Virat mechanics of bossing the ball through the covers, past midwicket, a single here, a two there, boundary upon boundary, scoring in waves of runs, drowning the Windies.  

Virat was walking on air. Sir Vivian Richards was on air. Everyone else was grounded. 

39 overs later at around 1:30 am IST, Virat sent India to sleep with his 100th run. Just like that. You had seen his celebration. Was there any point in staying awake? It was a near empty stadium. There was no Sachin to bow to. There were no flying kisses. It was his 12th Test century. Just another day in the year that has bowed down to Virat Kohli.

Come Day two, Virat’s first Test double hundred will be calling out to him. Tons of runs will be begging to be scored by him. This series has the makings of monster Virat. His greed for big runs in T20s and ODIs could finally come full circle in Test cricket. A highest score of 169 against today’s bowling attacks on today’s pitches, heresy.

Bigger scores, better results will mean more control over team tactics and selections. An already outspoken Virat could become an all-powerful captain – one who doesn’t just ask for players to be picked but demands his men make it to the playing eleven. Already the inclusion of Amit Mishra over Ravindra Jadeja is a step in that direction.

Next, expect the pressure for picking KL Rahul over Cheteshwar Pujara to mount. Also not too far flung to expect Rohit Sharma to push for a spot (in the middle order) instead of one of the openers. In Virat’s India, every player in the eleven is on notice.  Yet every player also has the backing of the captain.

This series could be far more defining for Kohli as a captain than a batsman. The batsman is now, as he has been in the last few months, in cruise control. Whereas Kohli the captain is still stitching together a new alliance with a new coach.

The first day of the series went rather well: win toss, bat, score a century, remain unbeaten. Possibly tougher days ahead. How Kohli and Kumble pull it together will define this team. And extend their joint venture beyond the one year it has been given.
It’s up to Virat who he wants to be. The world is waiting. And it appears Virat is in a hurry.

First published here


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 ‘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.


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.)


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


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 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