Bored Members - Guests | Media | White Bored | Interview | Bored Anthem - Songs | Boredwaani | Cartoons | Facebook | Twitter | Login

Waking up with Virat.

by Naked Cricket

Virat Kohli wakes up on match day. He says to himself, "Today, I will score my 28th". "Today, I will score my 29th". "Today, I will score my 30th ."
Virat Kohli doesn't wake up like you and I or most cricketers these days. He doesn't get up on the left side of the bed or the right side of the bed; he gets up on the two ends of the pitch. Within seconds of waking up, he has changed from his pyjamas to his batting gear, he is marking his guard.
Virat Kohli, as you've often heard, is in the zone.
What does that mean? Is it just a lazy term used when a sportsperson is on top of his game? Or is it the term that needs little else to be said - you've watched enough sport to know it is what it is and nothing more or less needs to be said: Virat Kohli is in the zone.
Of course, the zone comes with so much more. With many players, it could be that one fine day, the ball is being sucked by the magnetic field of the bat's sweet spot to go where it is ordered to. With Virat Kohli, it started when he said, "Today, I will score my ______ century".
It's hard to say which one it was. His first ODI century came in his 13th innings, it was against Sri Lanka. That was 2009 - before that, Virat knew three half centuries. Two 54s and a 79 not out. It's hard to say how Virat Kohli woke up then, but maybe it was more on the lines of, "Today, I will score a 54".
After his first ODI century though, in his 173 innings that followed, Virat made a score of 54 only once again. Virat was already working at unlearning the 50s, the 54s to be precise, and make 100s out of them.
The zone-chip wasn't quite in sync; in 2010, it was three ODI tons to seven half centuries. In 2011, it was four tons to eight half centuries. In 2012, it was five tons to three half centuries, Virat Kohli was starting to wake up differently.
Before 2012, Virat had scored only one of his eight ODI centuries against Sri Lanka. In 2012, he scored four against them, and his first against Pakistan.
No denying that Virat wakes up differently when he's playing Sri Lanka - out of the 194 ODIs, 46 are against them, it's like a favourite vacation spot with an inviting buffet service.
Eight of his 30 ODI centuries are against them, 11 of his 44 half centuries. But his batting average only goes up to 59.08 from his career average of 55.75. His strike rate actually dips to 90.74 from 91.72, not that that's much of a dip.
And while it looks all too easy for Virat against Sri Lanka, that's exactly where the perils of being in the perpetual zone crop up - how does he muster the fight in him against a team, when he can quite easily go about it in default mode?
Two back-to-back centuries, 131 and 110*, after the series won 3-0, after two single digit scores. It's similar to his post-match conferences, the questions are often the same, the answers too, often, can be similar - but there is no short cut in his replies, no need to be cute, over-smart, funny. Virat takes the long route, explaining as he would, to a person who either knows nothing or is genuinely interested in what he has to say.
Perhaps, Virat is genuinely interested in saying his part, with utmost earnestness. These usually brief Q&As are seldom brief with Virat.
Here too, Virat is in the zone. It's control over flash. It could be just another ODI in a dead rubber, but for Virat, it is his team that has just whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in the series.
His team that has Rohit Sharma opening the batting. More than any other player in the team, Virat has backed Rohit - possibly because he admires his batsmanship, as he has said on many occasions. Possibly because he knows what Rohit is capable of when he's in the zone.
While Rohit made his ODI debut over a year before Virat, he has played 31 ODIs less than him. And while it is often unkind to compare numbers, it took Rohit more than 100 ODIs to get into his groove.
In his first 103 matches, Rohit's batting average was 32.5, he had scored two centuries. In the next 60 matches, he added 11 centuries, including two doubles, increasing his batting average to 43.46, his strike rate from 75 to 85.
In this period from October 2013-September 2017, Rohit's batting average has been a tad over 60, and he's been striking at nearly 95.
In this series alone, Rohit scored two centuries and a 54 in five games. Who's to say how much of Virat's zone is rubbing off on to his mates?
In the days to follow, Virat Kohli will wake up, and say to himself, "Today, I will bat the best as I can, not play in the air early on in the innings, and try and bat out the 50 overs."
Somehow that translates into, "Today, I will score my 31st century." But it's never that easy. Not even for Virat Kohli.

First posted here

Read more...

Why India playing Sri Lanka on a loop is someone's idea of a sick joke

by Naked Cricket

An India versus Sri Lanka series is not scheduled. It doesn’t belong to a predetermined itinerary. It’s conjured out of thick air reeking with miscellaneous pollutants by a sundry bunch of Indian cricket babus. And when it takes place, as it does now, it packs an otherwise lean period and gives a channel some more ad spots to sell.
To sell these fatigued spots, especially that of the Test series, is possibly the greatest challenge that any India-Sri Lanka series knows.
As for the cricket, few watch it. The few that do would still know very few names in the Sri Lankan playing eleven. Perhaps, a good game within the game would be to catch random cricket fans on the street and ask them to name five players in the Sri Lankan playing eleven. Ok, four. Three?
There can be few better ways to promote India-Sri Lankan cricket than taking the mickey out of it - start by rebranding it - "the series nobody wants to watch". Just that will create more interest than the long-drawn out name which has sponsors stuck both ways. What is it called? Naturally I don’t remember. But surely someone on Twitter does. Apparently not.
Does Google? “India-based ITW Consulting, sports management company in association with Sri Lanka Cricket and Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited, has announced Seagrams Royal Stag Cricket Gear and Servo Lubricants as the Title and Powered by on-ground partners of the India Tour of Sri Lanka Cricket Test Series 2017.”
But what is it called? (h/t @Dilliwasi) All in all, it reads as Seagram’s Royal Stag Mega Cricket Cup Powered by Servo.
Why isn’t it named after cricketers like the India-Australia series is called the Border Gavaskar trophy? Possibly because no cricketer in his right mind wants his name to be dragged into a charade of a series. Otherwise, this would’ve been a great opportunity to make it the Murali-Kumble series.
Also, it’s thanks to so much "spin" that these series continue to happen. Perhaps the most enduring memory from India-Sri Lanka matches is of Vinod Kambli in tears during that 1996 World Cup semi-finals, how about Kambli-Kaluwitharana series? So while the name can be prefixed and suffixed with all the sponsors, in between can be a swift KK?
But if they want to beef up the names, who better than India’s greatest tormentor - Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas. It would be befitting to call it the Seagram’s Royal Stag Mega Cricket WPUJ Chaminda Vaas Cup Powered by Servo.
As if this series wasn’t rough enough, there’s more – the return favour Test series in India this winter. Batting first and beating a battered Sri Lankan side wasn’t enough in less than three days, so let’s have them over, bat first and beat a battered homesick Sri Lankan side in less than two days.
As for away tours in testing conditions, they can wait, be abridged, and in no way challenge the juggernaut. The world’s No. 1 Test team must stay so, and for that to happen, the batsmen must score centuries, the bowlers must scalp five-fors, and for that to happen, they will do what they must do at all costs – play Sri Lanka, play Sri Lanka, play Sri Lanka, and play Bangladesh for relief. Yes, Australia and England and South Africa too, but only if we can host them.
But an India-Sri Lanka series isn’t all bad. It can be a holiday for some. Like discarded Test opener, Shikhar Dhawan, who was on holiday in Hong Kong, and continued to vacation in Galle and Kandy. 190 and 119, man of the series, that too without his moustache, what does that tell you? That next time India plays Sri Lanka, they might challenge themselves and all play clean shaven.
Then there was Hardik Pandya. So supremely Mad Max and a bolt out of the blue, you’d be forgiven if you missed his straight sixes. But if you preserved and watched this series, tied to a whipping post, salvation was at hand. Pandya video-gamed his way through a hapless bunch of zombies. So special was his innings, it belonged to another series. That he played it in Sri Lanka, against Sri Lanka, should not be held against him. He batted. He bowled. He even breezed his way to a distant ball to make it look easy like Sunday mornings.
India’s days of rest appeared to be many. They weren’t. They were a team on the ascent, just as Sri Lanka was on the decline.
It will be our misfortune to see these teams play each other again. But then the sponsors can’t put a gun to your head, so in all probability, you’ll give that return Test series a miss. 
Who knows, maybe you’ll only tune in when Hardik Pandya comes in to bat? Or join Shikhar Dhawan for another holiday in the middle?
Until then, it’ll be just another Test series nobody will watch.
And then they wonder why everyone keeps saying, “Test cricket is dying”. Guess you can take some of the people for a ride, some of the time, but you can’t take all the people for a ride, all of the time.
More so, when the ride makes them sick. I’m assuming people don’t want to hop on to a ride that makes them throw up.
Another branding idea, how about just calling it pu..

First published here

Read more...

How music moved me from India to America

by Naked Cricket

And it had everything to not feeling groovy
On May 28, while strolling through the internet, I learnt that Gregg Allman had died the previous day. It was something I would’ve liked to unlearn. Allman, along with the others who left over the last year, all appeared quite indestructible. It was sad as it was puzzling. Allman, possibly even more than some of the others. Allman, possibly most of all. Maybe it was a cumulative musical death interest that had just shot through my mental roof.
I was sitting by myself when my wife walked in and I broke the news to her, like some close friend had died. It was then that she said, “It’s decided, we’re going to watch Paul Simon next month." We had a 10-year US visa, and Paul Simon was playing all of June, through the US. That much was sorted.
Sometime back, music lover and writer, Sanjoy Narayan, wrote about The Allman Brothers Band making an entrance at their gig – a gig packed with geriatrics, who transformed into wolf-whistling groupies and herbmen at that precise entry point. The Allman Brothers had possessed me ever since their "Eat a Peach" had fallen into my lap as a kid. One of my first overseas CDs ever purchased was The Allman Brothers Fillmore East. Reading Narayan, I had already sat myself at the gig, it had to be done, it was pretty much done.
While Simon & Garfunkel belonged to everybody, it was Paul Simon’s solo stuff that I built a camaraderie with. When I met Shridhar Chitale at Siri Fort, he told me how he’d just ticked Billy Joel off his bucket list. Mine seemed to be more a mug list, and Paul Simon was way up there. He said, “you should go”.
Rhyming Simon had started to possess me some more; the possibility of a gig in London, around October, why not? Friends and family, of which we all have plenty of in London, were darted with loose plans that never came to fruition. While I walked and jogged through winter listening to Paul Simon’s latest, "Stranger to Stranger". A confession, I was no stranger to the same when it came to the gym either. Needless to say, it was a very light weight gym routine, sometimes abruptly stopping midway through a set, just to nod and listen to the lyrics again:
"Stranger to stranger
If we met for the first time
This time
Could you imagine us
Falling in love again
Words and melody
So the old story goes
Fall from summer trees
When the wind blows
I can’t wait to see you walk across my doorway
I cannot be held accountable for the things I do or say
I’m just jittery
I’m just jittery
It’s just a way of dealing with my joy
It’s just a way of dealing with my joy
It’s just a way of dealing with my joy
It’s just a way of dealing
Words and melodies
Easy harmony
Old-time remedies."
And then we found ourselves on the day after Gregg Allman’s death day. Suddenly, Paul Simon seemed real but there was little joy to it. I was just jittery.
On a walking tour in Greenwich Village, the guide had in a matter of fact way mentioned, “Oh, and Paul Simon lives around here, and can be seen walking around and catching a coffee…”. From a relative backbencher, I nearly sprang for her throat, “Oh yeah, where? He lives here? He comes around here? Is there a chance, we could see him?” I was already doing my bit of visualisation of how I’d go up to Paul Simon and chat him up, but it passed.
Next, buying the concert tickets – Paul Simon was performing in Summerfest, Milwaukee on Friday, June 30. With less than a month to go, and much deliberation, looking for better tickets, better deals, we belled the seats on May 31. A week later, my brother, Gautam, said he’d drive us down from Chicago. Tickets were still available. And I was beginning to wonder what sort of ears these Americans have.
We drove out early from Chicago, it was no less than going for a pilgrimage. Just that I hadn’t ever been for one, but yeah, still. And like every pilgrimage, there was a high level of difficulty – heavy snarls, Chicago wasn’t letting us go. Highways were closed, detours were made, raincoat was purchased, Walmart was approached. And just like that, the highways opened up, the skies though, continued to threaten. After we knew it, we were in Milwaukee, and were googling our way to Summerfest on the lake, but before that, our parking spot, which I was told, is a big deal.
We were in early. In my excitement, I left my jacket behind. In my excitement, I went back for it. We nourished ourselves with food, so as to only drink, groove and listen when Simon says whatever it is that Simon says.
Everything appeared to be delayed, and when we got to the Amphitheatre Section 6 Row L Seats 51 and 52, I needed to just stand there and soak in the reality of what was about to happen. Which is when my wife instructed me to go check on my elder brother who was sitting by himself in the same row on seat 4. Obviously she hadn’t quite fathomed that this was all about Paul Simon and me. I instructed her to check on big brother. Later, at peace with my beer, I did go say "hi" to the occupant of seat 4.
There was an excellent opening act, Brandi Carlile, a folk rock singer-songwriter accompanied by two twins on guitar. What endeared her most to me, and the crowd in general was her repeated, “Can ya believe it, Paul Simon is gonna be playing next???”
And then Paul Simon was playing next.
And all those years of listening to "The Boy in the Bubble (Graceland)" and knowing that, that is the opening act of opening acts – and I whispered to her, what if he plays "The Boy in the Bubble" first up, he gotta; and he did.
It was mellower than the full throttle Central Park version that seems like it’s being sung perched on a drone, hovering above us all, but hey, Paul Simon had opened.
After which, I told her, what if he plays, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", next. And he did just that. I was thrilled, making secret requests or knowing what to expect, wanting it, prompting it, grasping it.
"The problem is all inside your head, she said to meThe answer is easy if you take it logicallyI'd like to help you in your struggle to be freeThere must be fifty ways to leave your lover
She said it's really not my habit to intrudeFor the more I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstruedSo I repeat myself, at the risk of being cruelThere must be fifty ways to leave your lover, fifty ways to leave your lover
Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, StanDon't need to be coy, Roy, just listen to meHop on the bus, Gus, don't need to discuss muchJust drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free
Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, StanDon't need to be coy, Roy, just listen to meHop on the bus, Gus, don't need to discuss muchJust drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free..."
What is it about Paul Simon’s choruses, even before a song takes off, you get jumpy, all set to blurt out the chorus, certain parts of that chorus – “You don’t need to be coy, Roy” which for some strange reason, I always blurted out as, "you don’t need to corduroy".
The day before this, there were plenty of choruses to sing along at the much larger Wrigley Field, for Tom Petty’s mega gig. That was enjoyable, this for me, was intimately enjoyable.
When the opening chords of "Stranger to Stranger" played, I sprang out of my chair. Grooving to your music, whatever it is, is easy, just as it is pumping iron or running to it. And just like Paul Simon, “I cannot be held accountable for the things I do or say, I’m just jittery, it’s just a way of dealing with my joy, it’s just a way of dealing”.
Paul Simon went on to sing for everyone too. There were encores, so many of them. He went off early, so he could keep coming back later and later. He changed guitars early song. After wrapping up "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" to rapture, he asked, “You want me to play that again?” And he did, for about half-a-minute or so. He asked, “Do you have any requests?”
Paused and then snorted, “We don’t do requests. But we’ll do Graceland." He was doing goosebumps too. 
Towards the last few songs, he’d hold up his guitar over his head, there was a bit of Springsteen in him there. There was so much that was cool America about him. And thoughtful and kind, almost warm in a New York sort of way.
After knowing him for so long, it felt nice to make his acquaintance. To hear him talk about the times we live in, and the anger in all of us.
He spoke as he sang, with cool wisdom, that doesn’t come with age or time, it’s just there. Appears Paul Simon has had it for most of his 76 years.
And then he finished with "The Sounds of Silence".




First published here

Read more...

No ODIs, No IPL, still Pujara has clawed his way to 50 Tests

by Naked Cricket

In today's context, he's the exception that defies commercial cricket rules

Cheteshwar Arvind Pujara’s Test career already appears to be as long as his name. More so because of the stops that have been handed out to him than the many starts that he’s built for the Indian team.
For once, the media appears to be buzzing with Pujara, because of something other than his long marches with the bat. On August 3, 2017, when Pujara takes the field against Sri Lanka, it will be for his 50th Test match.
The long imposing Test shadows of Tendulkar and Dravid are long gone. There isn’t quite a Test master in the Indian team as Pujara but yet, will he or rather can he ever get the respect and recognition that he deserves? For that to happen, perhaps, Test cricket will first have to garner some of that respect and recognition. Unlikely as it sounds, it can happen and has happened. It’s rather simple – the Indian batsmen need to collectively dig a hole, and Pujara has to dig them out of that hole.
When the team’s in a hole, and you’re bricklaying to dig them out the hole, you’re not quite flash. You’re anything but rash. You work on your mind as a monk – you abstain. You hold back from that sexy cover drive, you hold back from that sexy cut behind point. You are left with no points to make except abstinence. Not very sexy, is it?
Pujara’s batting is anything but sexy for most people. Except probably me, I find him, to put it quite bluntly, more watchable in a Test match than any Indian batsman – even Virat Kohli on song. Virat Kohli in the eye of a storm, battling it out though, is a very close second.
Che Pujara is and has been my favourite batsman for a long, long time. Possibly from the day I decided to call him that. It appeared to me, after Sehwag, here was another great cricket investment – one that I was connecting to, almost subconsciously. And much like Sehwag, I could tell with Pujara, when he would score, when he wouldn’t, when he would fall early, often, eerily, in the precise over.
It had to be one of those weird cosmic things. Then one day, Siddharth Monga of ESPN Cricinfo, contacted me, to write his magnum opus on Che Pujara. We spoke of many things Pujara – from how Che Pujara came to be, to my insecurities of Pujara’s place in the team, how it would always be under threat, as he will never be a star batsman. Of how being solely a single-format player, his place in the team would always be under threat from one of those two format (ODI and T20) star sports’ players.
I was travelling, and off cricket, when I read Monga’s piece. It was both emotional, and liberating – and strangely, from that day, I stopped worrying about Pujara. About the runs he made, the runs he didn’t, whether he would be picked or not. It was as if Monga’s piece which went deep into the early struggles of Che Pujara, the cricketer, documenting the family’s tectonic shifts in residence chasing cricket across India, had placed such a warm, tight embrace around Pujara – and with it, taken the world at large with it, to know and embrace Pujara, that I could just relax a bit, and enjoy his cricket, in a detached way. Where it wasn’t about Pujara so much, but his cricket.
I returned to watching Pujara again, with his 153 in the first Test. The focus was on Shikhar Dhawan’s 190. It was off just 168 deliveries. Pujara’s 153 took 265 deliveries. Much as I thought I was detached, I was waiting for someone to take off on the strike rates again – even though Pujara was striking at 58, Dhawan was flying at 113. Kohli didn’t score many, so I reckoned that would shut the strike rate baiters a bit. And then Rahane scored his 50 at a strike rate of less than 50. That was that, Pujara’s workmanlike 150 was safe from the hungry mob.
But what about me? Why was I being drawn into my age-old Pujara paranoia? Just when I thought, I was done with it. When Pujara was dismissed though, I shrugged a little, got up, investing myself in something other than cricket.
When Pujara returns to play his 50th Test, walking in to bat, I’ll be standing, serving him a light applause, and feeling pretty damn good about one of my best cricket investments ever.
He wasn’t Sachin. He wasn’t Rahul. He wasn’t Laxman.
He wasn’t yesterday.
He was here and now, in my present.
He was what I decided to call him. He was what I made him out to be.
He was on the field.
He was in my mind.
He was Che Pujara.

First published here

Read more...

Death by a thousand leaks—the BCCI style

by Suave

Not only does our neighbor practice “death by a thousand cuts” so does the BCCI. Hardly, have the selective leaks on Kumble stopped, leaks on how the BCCI has warned Kohli have begun to appear.

A top BCCI official said that Kohli will have to ensure that the team delivers under him, else, he too would have to face the music. "It has been given to understand that Kohli eventually had the veto power on the coach issue which pushed Kumble out of the team. Now that he has his way, he has to deliver as captain. Otherwise, he had it," the official told TOI.

 In all this leaks and more leaks, it is astounding that our national press have done nothing more than faithfully reproduce them. There is no investigation or even an exclusive.

One can only conclude that having got what it wanted— Kumble’s resignation, the monolith is already working to undermine Kohli so that he does not go high and mighty on them.

All said and done Kohli better watch his back or he too will soon fall prey to their (BCCI’s) machinations.

Read more...

How Kohli and Kumble should be blamed for India's defeat

by Naked Cricket

Not to forget, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman
India could have won the Champions Trophy, and everything being written about them would've been quite different. It was one game, it doesn't change much about this team, what it achieved in this tournament or before it.
But the defeat gives an opportunity to look at what's wrong, far more clinically than otherwise. There are lacks, in this post I've already spoken about selection issues, the perils of picking only four front-line bowlers, and Virat Kohli's RCB mindset.
What may go unnoticed is, the disintegration of the BCCI as a non-negotiable power centre. Previously, even at the height of Tendulkar or Dhoni's powers, no star player could (not in the press at least) take on open negotiations with the BCCI.
Virat Kohli, along with the coach, Anil Kumble, have taken it upon themselves to start a conversation with the BCCI on pay concerns of players. It was noted that the two barged into the BCCI office, with Kohli snapping at the office bearers, "Show me the money!" And with Anil Kumble adding for good measure, "shouldn't that be your agent's line? Oh right, you are an agent of change, Virat".
It is reported that Kumble proceeded in a headmasterly fashion to dictate to Kohli (in front of the BCCI office bearers) the Dos and Don'ts of negotiations. This didn't go down too well with Kohli, who next quoted Pink Floyd, "Hey teacher, leave them kids alone, All in all, it's just another brick in the wall". Kumble was distraught at Kohli's attempt to use a song to make his point. The two saw eye-to-eye when discussing Cheteshwar Pujara's case, how for a Grade A player without an IPL contract he was making less money than say, "someone like X, Y or Z does in a few weeks of f**cking around on the field".
Even though Kumble and Kohli returned buoyed by their belligerence, the cracks were too obvious to ignore. Messages to BCCI babus were being leaked and misinterpreted to the press. By taking on the BCCI together, the Kumble-Kohli duo had taken on the wrath of the Indian Board, weakened like Sauron but still The Dark Lord of Mumbai. The Board's wrath fell upon the two.
Going into the Champions Trophy, news of a rift as wide as the Grand Canyon between the two was everywhere – even in Women's magazines that had nothing to do with cricket under normal circumstances. This was far from normal though. Neither captain nor coach refuted the claims, and that only fed the flames.
There were rumours of the entire team sledging Kumble with Pink Floyd's, "Hey Teacher, leave them kids alone". The press was buzzing with talk of a new coach. A disobedience movement to spite Kumble was underway, players were eating paranthas and butter chicken for breakfast. Instead of training, they were gaming, right under Kumble's nose.
But how then did India make it to the finals? Great teams don't become ordinary overnight; they do after a sustained bout of madness, however. After weeks of excess, on the morning of 18th June, four out of five players woke up with hyperacidity, a few others had diarrhea. Others were just feeling lazily elegant, and one guy was clearly overstepping the line during the pre-match strategy meeting. He kept saying, "I'm a beach Bum' hurrah, don't expect much from me today".
Kumble would have intervened but he had been locked in the loo. The mutiny on the bounty was set for a re-screening. And Kohli's revolt was complete, every player was at his revolting best, they had disposed of the headmaster. It was then that Kumble messaged Kohli and three others (SRT, VVS, SCG) - "Help, locked in the loo and I don't have my SLR".
VVS appeared with Kumble's SLR, gave it to his old mate but then locked him in again. As the match started, Tendulkar was spotted in a dazzling printed shirt with a few buttons open. What nobody knows is that Tendulkar was stuck in traffic and only made it once the match had started. Kohli was distraught, he wanted to start the 'big finals' against the 'old foe' with blessings from his cricket 'God' and mentor. Without these blessings, he was going mental -he refused to use his main strike bowler, Kedar Jadhav, till it was already too late.
Worse, during the innings break, none of the players went to the loo as they didn't want to let Kumble out. By some, this is being seen as a reason the Indians were so full of sh*t when they came out to bat. Except for Hardik Pandya, who crossed over to the Pakistani dressing room and was a much-relieved man, until Jadeja appeared out of nowhere, knocking at his door - "Come out already, you're next".
Instead of meeting Tendulkar, the Indian team met Ganguly who gave each player a pep talk but undid all the good work by mispronouncing everybody's name - he really got stuck into Dhawan's ear with leftie-to-leftie advise, "Shekhar, you're a good bat, Shekhar, you will have to be the one to launch the counter attack on Mohammad Amul…" By the time he was done with Umesh Yadav, who he kept calling Shivlal, the Indians were on the brink.
It didn't help, that after Ganguly, the players met a mirthful VVS Laxman. He emptied the world's clichés on the team - with a "you have to perform to the best of your abilities and not squander any opportunities that come your way and first get your eye in and then capitalize on the bad ball" being his standard routine to the batsmen and "maintain a good line and length, look to bowl in good areas, force the batsmen to make a mistake, and keep it tight, I'm confident you will do well and end up on the winning side" his set for the bowlers. By the time he was done, the Indians had keeled over.
It was only when Hardik Pandya went out to bat that Kumble was a free man again. He and Kohli looked at each other in the eye. Kohli looked at Kumble's strong jawline and commented, "Eh…you've got a strong chin, Anil bhai". To which Kumble said, "Eh…I can't see yours…it's hidden by your beard". The awkwardness between the two was stifling.
Kedar Jadhav had just been dismissed, India was 72/6. Jadeja was about to walk out to bat. Kumble spoke, "Just stay with Pandya, don't do anything silly". Just to contradict Kumble, Kohli said, "No, no, please do something silly"
Kumble looked at Kohli with a wry smile, "think I was better off in the loo".
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here

Read more...

Why losing to Pakistan could be a blessing in disguise

by Naked Cricket

Bigger battles lie ahead, and this could point to a roadmap for the 2019 World Cup 

India didn’t just lose to Pakistan, they lost to themselves as well. Making it to the finals, with a less than adequate team, and sticking to that winning combination, was pushing it, one game too many.

In spite of a batting top order that home delivered India’s wins, the team refused to see the rest of the batting for what it was – and worse, continued to believe that four frontline bowlers will be enough. As it turned out, against Pakistan, it was hard to tell who the frontline bowlers were – except for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, everyone went for more than 7 runs per over. Which isn’t the end of the world, or the game, one-day totals in excess of 400 have been chased down on similar flat tracks – but very early in the piece, it was obvious, India was bereft of a Plan B or C.

After Jasprit Bumrah overstepped, handing Fakhar Zaman a life, he just wasn’t able to pull himself together; either that, or both Zaman and Azhar Ali had already spotted something which India hadn’t – that Bumrah, one of India’s four frontline bowlers, could be taken apart. Bumrah’s bowling was part of a greater Indian plan – it was quite simple, to not give Zaman room outside off. Often that meant, Bumrah bowling wides down leg, or not settling on steady lines or lengths. The left-right batting pair further unsettled Bumrah’s already shaky lines – often he was bowling to Zaman what he should have bowled to Ali and vice versa. After three overs for 24 runs, Bumrah had to be taken off.

Kohli’s hand was forced, he had to bowl Ashwin as early as the eighth over. Which was a bold move but it also showed us what we already knew – that Hardik Pandya was a batting all-rounder and in the bowling hierarchy, he was pretty much the fifth bowler. Like Bumrah before him, Ashwin went for 24 off his first three overs. His first spell of four overs went for 28. His lines weren’t too different from those of Bumrah’s restrictive lines – down middle and leg, he too bowled his quota of wides.

India wasn’t trying for wickets, not surprisingly, they didn’t get any.

In a way, it seemed India had taken a T20-IPL approach to a one-day game. Even before they stepped on to the field, they had factored chasing a big total.  And to chase that big total, they put their belief in their batsmen, as they had in the previous games. In a way, India’s approach to the Champions Trophy was not too different to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s approach to the 10th season of the IPL.

When you think of RCB, you think of its batsmen, whether they have any bowlers is beside the point – they appear to be there to make the numbers. But the deal with RCB is, that they always seem to be a bowler or two short. And to compensate that, they play another batsman or a batsman who can bowl a bit. Virat Kohli is both India and RCB captain; he’s a man with an uncompromising cricketing focus. Part of this focus is to play seven batsmen and four bowlers to give India that balance and dare it craves for with the bat.

That dare with the bat, however, will be often achieved, with a terrifying scare with the ball. As against Pakistan in the finals. Good as India have been in the tournament, they have still not allowed themselves to be even close to their potential – the batsmen are there on paper, all-rounders by name and little else.  Just as Yuvraj Singh is a pale shadow of the fielder he once was, and rarely if ever bowls in internationals, both Ashwin and Jadeja might cut it as Test batsmen but in ODIs, they do not pass muster. More worrying is the refusal to accept that neither player is as effective with the ball in ODIs or T20s as they are in Tests. While Jadeja appears more like a fielding all-rounder, Ashwin’s fielding is stuck in a 1990’s timewarp.

Against Pakistan, Ashwin went for 70 off his ten, Jadeja 67 off the eight he somehow bowled.  When one of the five have an off day, the go-to guy is Kedar Jadhav. Still an enigma, Jadhav is still the last resort bowler. In the finals, he was first brought on to bowl in the 39th over; his third and last over, was as late as the 45th over. He had already made up for Jadeja’s two overs, he was now making up for Bumrah’s tenth over. Jadhav is the sixth bowler.

Before that however, Hardik Pandya, the fifth bowler, bowled his quota for just 53. Had he gone the distance, India would have lost by way more than 180 runs. Had he gone the distance with the bat, a lot less. Either way, Pandya appears to be the brightest star from either game against Pakistan, 1/53 and 76 (42), and 2/43 and 20 not out. With nine 6s between those two innings. With such brilliance, there will be unpredictability – which could come with either bat or ball. Expecting consistency from him is not the solution. Letting him be your match-winner, and preparing for the perils of such a high stakes’ player could be the only way. Pandya is a free-spirit, and plays like one.

But to get the most out of Pandya, India will need to cushion its bowling a bit more, and prepare for days when he is more suited to be the sixth bowler. And for that, India must know which of the batsmen it can let go off or for that matter, scout for bowlers who can do more with the bat.

It will take some tough decisions, and delaying them won’t make them any easier. India need to look no further than Pakistan – they were the only team in Champions Trophy 2017 that introduced debutants – and not just one, but three of them.

Pakistan started by losing to India by 120 runs, they evolved to beat a stagnating Indian team by 180 runs.

Possibly a bit of déjà vu for Virat Kohli – after all those RCB defeats, he’s become an absolute dude at ‘taking it on the chin and moving on’. Could be better though, to drop some of that obstinacy, whoever is responsible for the team composition, and taking it to the mind and moving on in the true sense of the word.

Now is not the time to be romantic about anyone, this if anything was a wakeup call for the 2019 World Cup. It will be foolish to ignore it. Not everyone is fit for 2017, so to expect them to get any better is living in denial.

Over ten years back, on March 17, 2007, a high profile Indian team went down to Bangladesh in a World Cup game that sparked an early exit. If the warning signs are unread, it could be just as embarrassing for some of the greats of the game.

For starters, Rishabh Pant should play every match in the West Indies.

First published here










Read more...