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Why is Mohammed Shami laughing

by Naked Cricket


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Who has Deepak Chahar credited

by Naked Cricket

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World beating 6/7 on Nov 10th, 2019 vs Bangladesh. Haath Pele - go yellow / setting) in CSK

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IPL and Bollywood meet again

by Naked Cricket

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Big Bull's Saand castles in the air

by Naked Cricket

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Saand is Bull in Hindi.

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Don’t try to make a shirt out of Pant.

by Naked Cricket


You can tell when a cricketer is being hunted - be it by his own demons or those belonging to the system and its hunting dogs.

The system, what’s that? It’s most of us really. From the chorus of Dhoni! Dhoni! whenever Pant slips, to Head coach, Ravi Shastri going public with his criticism of Pant’s approach or lack thereof.

To Sanjay Manjrekar, who has made no bones of airing his displeasure on commentary while watching Pant bat – in the first T20, when Pant lifted a slow bouncer over the keeper’s head for four, Manjrekar fixated on the lack of grace in the shot. Forget batting, Manjrekar wants Pant to work on his ballet.

But these are opinions, of common people, of those in team management and of those in air.

And there’s only one way for Pant to shut them all up, and it’s down to one of his coach’s favourite clichés – he has to make his bat do the talking.

Till recently, in the build-up to this season’s IPL, Rishabh Pant was to the manor born. He was the face of choice, the daredevil who took on Kohli and Dhoni in somewhat audacious ads. It obviously did give him some entitlement – you have to be inhuman to not feel elevated taking on Kohli and Dhoni, albeit in ads.

But that was that. And starting with those cheeky ads, things started to go downhill. Pant had had a spectacular 2018 season – 2019 paled in comparison. More so, as the expectations were far more, and he was now a key player in the mix, perhaps his franchise’s most vital batsman.

While Pant was still striking at 162, he was down from 173 in 2018 -  488 runs in 16 matches, down from 684 in 14. Averaging 37.5, down from  52.6.

***

It didn’t take much to hurl a comparison with Dhoni at Pant. Pant wasn’t competing with himself, he was up against Dhoni lore.

In one over, man of the match, Mushfiqur Rahim was LBW twice – it’s just that India failed to review. But where does the mind travel to – Dhoni of course. Dhoni the champion, tactical reviewer – the man who Kohli turns to, the man who makes the final call with the slightest of pokerfaced nods.

Instead, here was India, with Pant. So what if captain, Rohit Sharma was at first slip, and Yuzvendra Chahal was bowling.

Rohit, 32, with 99 T20Is. Chahal, 29, with 32 T20Is. Pant? Pant, 22 last month, 21 T20Is.

Add to that, an uncertain Pant, when asked by his captain about an edge, answered in the affirmative – review lost.

But before all this was Pant the batsman – and before that were two batsmen, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul striking below 100.

But somehow both Manjrekar and Gavaskar decided to be highly vocal in blaming Pant for Dhawan’s run out.

That very Dhawan who had earlier in the innings blindly sauntered for a non-existent single, only to jog back like a senior citizen. That very Dhawan who had hijacked the innings till the 15th over, for a mind-numbing 41(42). That very Dhawan who continues to rake in T20s because of his ODI reputation. That very Dhawan who last scored a half century 12 T20I innings back.

But also that very Dhawan who notched five 50s in IPL ’19 – and can be a one-man army in winning tournaments.

Meanwhile, best not to forget, that this was still the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch. You can call the stadium what you want, but this pitch was Kotla all the way.

Misread the pace, think it’s an imposter and you’ll be fooling yourself.

In the end, Rishabh Pant batted with the knowledge that a headmaster’s ruler isn’t far from his fingertips. He also batted with the same knowledge as KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan did before him – this is the Kotla. Far too many teams, Delhi Daredevils especially, have been knocked over for sub 100 scores here. To aim for 120-130, and then go all out in the last few with wickets in hand is possibly the best way forward.

Shreyas Iyer did what he often does at the Kotla – go at the spinners. But even he fell to a spinner.

Finally, Pant finished with three 4s, the most by an Indian batsman, his strike rate was just a shade over 100.

Even VVS Laxman who rarely if ever criticizes any Indian batsman felt Pant needs to work on his singles early on.

It may not be wrong to say, here at least, he learns from the best in the business – Dhoni, who else.

Or is everyone too blind-sighted to see the dot-ball collective at the start of a Dhoni innings?

But no, when Dhoni does it, it’s with the knowledge that he will accelerate later on. When Pant does it, even if it’s the Kotla, it’s just a free for all for meme wallahs.

***

Players like KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya could well be easy targets for the media. But each one still has the wherewithal to be a once in a generation limited overs’ player.  More so, T20 masters.

India sadly lacks such players – over the years, they have embraced ODI batsmanship far more readily, possibly because the very format is an ode to the Dhoni and Kohli schools of cricket.

T20 however, much as it can be programmed, also demands something far more impulsive, almost manic. Surely not in all 6-7 batsmen, but having the oddball Mad Max is where you toast the very format.

And Ravi boss, you can’t throw caution to the winds without factoring in failure. Accepting the latter will help you tap into the best of your players. Unless you want all your batsmen to bat like each other.

***

India and Delhi Capitals will be best served not to try and make a shirt out of Pant. Isn’t it obvious, he was not meant to be top half material. As they say, the fun starts when Pant comes down.

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Who's NBFC? #cartoon

by Naked Cricket


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Runs and words, with love, from Rohit to Virat.

by Naked Cricket


For years, Virat Kohli has had no equal in the Indian Test team. It was beyond stats, runs, captaincy – it was about persona. And as it grew with Kohli’s beard, his mate’s beards grew too. Kohli’s eyebrows meanwhile kept a watchful eye, like an emperor on his subjects.

Teams were changed, players were swapped, anyone could play, almost anyone could perish. Rarely did the same team play two Tests in a row. Rarely did a different Kohli turn up. In that uncertainty, Kohli found his centre.

It paid dividends. It also slid into the growth model. And it could be direct too. Without knowing, here was Kohli pedaling all three mutual fund plans.

Sahi hai or not, who was to question? Kohli was the big bull, raging on, series win after series win.

Yet the fact that no player came close to Kohli in stature was to the team’s detriment.

Until Rohit Sharma, heaped all those centuries in the World Cup, demanding a wager be taken – to make Rohit open in Test cricket too.

Stranger things have happened. Three seasons on Netflix have documented that. This however, was up there with it.

***

Before Rohit Sharma walked out in whites on the Mahatma’s birthday, he was still fighting for his cricketing independence – he was a Twenty20, one-day man, but Test cricket had chained him.

From 6th November 2013 to October, 2, 2019, he had only played 27 Tests. To get a sense of how long back that debut was, take into account, it was also Tendulkar’s swansong.

Tendulkar stopped playing, and Rohit couldn’t start playing.

The cricket world was divided into Rohit for Tests and please don’t test Rohit anymore. It’s testing.

But with Shastri as head coach, Kohli as captain, a silly distraction of an Instagram unfollow, Rohit was to open the batting against the red ball. In India however.

With Murali Vijay, 35, a distant memory, Prithvi Shaw suspended midair in his teens, Hanuma Vihari ordered to make an exception in Melbourne; Rohit’s time had come.

He had scored faster than any of the top order in the first innings of that Melbourne victory. Not something Shastri the salesman will allow anyone to forget easily.

Rohit came in with the backing and belief few Indian cricketers have seen. The world was ready for Rohit’s miracles. Was Rohit ready for them?

Before the South Africa Test series, middle order/muddle order Rohit Sharma had a Test average of 39.62, 3 centuries, 10 fifties.

Three home Tests and 529 runs later, his Test average has shot up to 48.04. Oh. Yeah. That’s how much.

In three Tests, he’s doubled his century count, make that six. He had a double to boot. And his boot was firmly on the Proteas.

Man of the match, man of the moment, man of the series, man on the moon, Rohit Sharma Test cricketer had arrived.

***


The lightness followed. Rohit is funny guy to Virat’s angry young man. He didn’t miss an opportunity to add some levity in a press conference, confirming that the reporters will now have to write something nice about him.

It was just Rohit being Rohit – great timing, not a shot played in anger, but yet much like his fierce pulls, it went the distance. It impacted those around.

They tittered, how could they not. Rohit had disarmed them. Much as he had disarmed a truckload of critics through the series.

Arms may be taken up again, another series, away perhaps, in New Zealand, or wherever India goes next, but for now, Rohit had scored more runs in a single innings than South Africa could in both – Rohit Sharma 212 > SA 162, 133 @Ranchi

Perhaps, all Rohit Sharma needed to come off in Test cricket was his name and number at the back of his shirt.

Test cricket obliged, as did Rohit.

***

Standing at second slip, alongside Virat at first, Rohit negates the excitement around a possible review. Between Kohli and Jadeja, left to themselves they would happily use all India’s and South Africa’s reviews too. Rohit is the tangent at hand that balances power – the counter opinion, the equal voice. On the field, as it happens.

One that so far has been missing in the Indian Test team. And even though Pujara had the might of runs, the man of the series in Australia, much like Rahane, he is not an all format India player.

Rohit Sharma is now T20, ODI and Test opener. He has centuries in all three formats. He is an ODI double centurion and IPL winner many times over.

In the Indian team sponsors, Byju’s advertisement with some of the men in blue, guess who Virat Kohli is talking to in the last frame?

Rohit Sharma, who else?

***

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