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"Virat will take-off more than his shirt at Lord’s"

by Naked Cricket

How Ganguly wants Kohli to outperform him

Sourav Ganguly’s admiration for Virat Kohli is no secret; often he has seen a glimpse, and now a flash of himself in the Delhi boy’s ways. Becoming the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) President may have initially toned down Dada a tad, but he’s back to his booming best again.

Harking back to the famous NatWest victory celebrations on the Lord’s balcony in July, 2002, an emotional Ganguly said, “That was nothing, I don’t know what made me stop at the shirt. I was so excited that day, could have taken off so much more. But Rajeev Shukla was standing alongside and I was feeling kind of awkward – had it been just me and the boys on the balcony, I kid you not, it would have been the full monty."
It appeared Ganguly had had one apple juice too many, but he wasn’t prepared to stop there – “let me say this now, and you can quote me when the time comes, I have high hopes for Virat Kohli and want him to do better than me as a skipper. In fact, I will go so far as to say, I believe he will take-off more than his shirt at Lord’s. That will show James Anderson not to mess with him. For me, the time has come for our coaches to be more demonstrative especially after that damp squib Duncan Fletcher. I believe, Ravi Shastri will lead the way – I can see him taking something off in the Sky Sports’ commentary box after another famous Indian win. That will show jealous Englishmen like Nasser Hussain and Ian Botham to keep their mouths shut before calling our fielders donkeys or raising questions about the IPL”

Ganguly was in a pensive mood while reflecting on Dhoni’s celebrations – “I don’t know why he restricts himself to just uprooting a stump – and that also he couldn’t do recently because the stumps were way too expensive to be removed. It would be better if he was more expressive – no organiser can stop you from taking off your clothes and isn’t that how the best footballers in the world celebrate goals, by taking their shirts off? Still, I don’t see Dhoni taking off more than just his cap, and that too reluctantly. He is after all his own man”

It seemed as if the banter had ended there but Ganguly wasn’t quite finished.  He continued undeterred, “Even Rohit Sharma should express his talent better, he may know how to play, but his celebrations are sadly lacking. When he gets out he pouts, when he scores a hundred he pouts, who does he think he is, Angelina Jolie?” Ganguly was visibly upset by now but saw hope in Shikhar Dhawan – “Not only is he a very attractive left handed batsman as all left handers are but he has a signature celebration. He has a full smile but I don’t know why he is hiding all those tattoos under his shirt – also he’s from Delhi and Virat should have a frank chat with him about being more expressive with his celebrations. The Champions Trophy win in England would’ve been a perfect launch pad for him to show off his tattoos and yes it would’ve shown the west that  we are the masters of tattoos – do they know that we’ve had tattoos for thousands of years? In the villages, wasn’t that how names and initials were recorded, with tattoos? Shikhar has a job to do here.”

Ganguly felt that a player like Rahane will never remove his shirt – “It’s akin to Rahul Dravid removing his shirt, do you see that happening? I don’t. Nor for that matter Cheteshwar Pujara. They are shy middle class boys who are earnest students of the game like Dravid. But under Virat and with Shastri’s guidance, you never know what happens. Things could get hot under the collar and that’s when the collar has to come off”

Going through the Indian team, Ganguly noted that while he didn’t see Ashwin undressing during celebrations, he still felt Harbhajan Singh had it in him – “he has nothing to lose or nothing to prove to anyone anymore – if Bhajji gets a few wickets and leads India to a famous win, who knows, he may strip or even slap someone again, and if it’s done in jest, I’d welcome it. Oh, and have you noticed how Raina goes about spanking everyone’s...”

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


Dhoni's latest lessons

by Naked Cricket

click on cartoon


Welcome to Dada's world

by Naked Cricket

Expect more than a gentle knock on the door
Sourav Chandidas Ganguly stands in front of the mirror. He's working painstakingly on giving himself the perfect comb-over. In times like this, he thinks of his comb-over idol, Donald Trump. He doesn't admire Trump much, but as he often says, "You gotta give the man his determination, to always have the perfect comb-over." Dona breezes in, as only a dancer can, alerting her husband: "Sourav, do you know what the time is? You're getting late again! Do you want to be late for your first day as president?" Sourav smiles that knowing smile (one he often smiles when he cuts his co-commentators down to size). "Dona, not late my dear, fashionably late. I have a reputation. What good is it if I don't live up to this reputation?" Dona doesn't like Sourav's patronising tone. "Sourav, don't speak to me like you're talking to Manjrekar in the box about cricket strategies." Ganguly laughs: "Haha Dona, and since when have you started to take such a keen interest in my commentary? This is definitely a first. I must tell Sanjay about this, he'll be delighted too..." Dona interjects: "You will do no such thing, I heard it from Arpita, she follows all the India matches ball-by-ball... think she has a crush on you... and don't you dare mention this to her." Ganguly is now delighted enough to forget about his comb-over, he places the comb down on the dresser. He tries his hand at modesty, an alien art form for the great Ganguly. "Oh c'mon, when did lovely young dancers have crushes on retired middle-aged men who spend their mornings combing over... haha I don't believe this."
Finally, Ganguly sits in his favourite Mercedes convertible, on his way to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) headquarters at Eden Gardens. He has for company The Statesman and The Telegraph, and is pleased to find himself on the front pages of both. He thinks to himself: Finally the old boys are getting journalism right. His St Xavier's College WhatsApp group has been buzzing for days; mostly congratulations for his fresh appointment. It's a very private group, comprises only eight of them and has everything to do with Ganguly's birthday on July 8. His mates are pushing for a lunch at the Eden pavilion or dinner at Dum Pukht. Ganguly has asked to be excused, stating it is still too close to Jagmohan Dalmiya's death, and he would prefer to meet in the privacy of his home.
At Eden, the press is present in large numbers, as are Dada's darlings, some waiting with garlands, others with placards. Ganguly steps out of his Merc, pauses for a moment, issues a perfunctory statement in Bengali that sends the crowd into a tizzy. His journalist friend, Biswajeet, asks, "Fashionably late, Sourav da?" Ganguly smiles, and shakes his hand languidly. They walk into Eden together, along with some office bearers carrying files.
As Ganguly enters, he notices his first meeting has been organised on the ground itself: the gesture isn't lost on him, it has been organised on the offside. A banner proclaims: "Welcome Hon'ble President of CAB Sourav Chandidas Ganguly". God of the offside! There's another one that states: "From Prince of Kolkata to King of Kolkata, our Dada!" Ganguly thanks those present and also makes it clear there was no need for such fanfare. The meeting is swiftly shifted indoors and Ganguly is down to business already.
Once inside the solemnity of the boardroom, Ganguly pays his tributes to Dalmiya. He loses no time in identifying CAB's key goals - laying emphasis on CAB under-13 and CAB under-16 leagues moving on to CAB under-21. He talks of his tenure as Indian captain, how identifying and backing youngsters like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh and seeing them succeed was possibly more rewarding than scoring runs himself. He goes on to talk of Virender Sehwag, how CAB must encourage the difference in cricketers, how differences make them unique and often brilliant. Most of Ganguly's speech is about cricket and cricketers, definitely a first in a cricket association office from a president. There is no mention of business, money, files as yet. He rounds up by emphasising on the importance of Eden Gardens as a cricketing "Mecca", and how its significance had been lost during N Srinivasan's tenure as president of the BCCI. Even though this is a well-known fact, this wasn't something that was spoken so openly. Not before today at least.
Welcome to Dada's world. Expect more than a gentle knock on the door.
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here


PSL: Another pointless Indo-Pak skirmish

by Naked Cricket

Upset Pakistani cricket fans appear to be even more upset. They claim it was bad enough the Indians didn’t invite them to the Indian Premier League (IPL), but not inviting themselves to the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will be pushing things a bit too far. “I pray they will beg to play in the PSL, only to see Pakistan government refusing them entry!” said a fuming 19 year old, Moin Razzaq Akram Khan (named after his father’s favourite cricketers), quickly adding that his anger had nothing to do with raging hormones and he had had his full of Bollywood beauties on pirated videos. “They help me concentrate on my cricket practice and keep my mind clear from diversions like Deepika Padukone and Sunny Leone while putting the short ball away”.

As it often does, it all started with a tweet. And a rather restrained one at that from Ramiz Raja; not one to use such few words, he did remarkably well holding back on the adjectives.

The reactions were swift: Imran Ata opined “Let's not become low life's like them and let the game begin.” Rana Ahmed broadened his options: “yes..! We are not nerrow mind people's.” and @owesomecricketfan: “yes we should invite them ,bcoz we are not like them ,we are sports loving nation,we respect all ,unlike the indians” but it took @talha24 to nail the Pakistani sentiment - “Sir not need to be called the Indian players in PSL as they don't invite Pakistani players in IPL we should also not invite as also this from @fishwickrangers: “they should be taught a lesson for the pakistani players not being able to play in the IPL.” while Daniyaal Farooqi pushed the envelope when he said, “but we want a clean tournament not one filled with FIXING!! They should also behave well if they want to play” And finally this from Junaid Khan: “Sir we should include Indian players too.... we should show world Pakistanizz always step forward for friendship...”

India's counter was equally swift: @koushikdacool snapped - “Indian are not interested in your tournament . cry Man cry” and when @Neokhan1 said, “yes they should be included we should be different & better than IPL. we should be the stepping stone for change”  @neet1985 shot back with “Abe terrorism band karo pahle Stepping stone my foot Wo haffez saeed lakhvi dawood ko bahar nikalo pahle” @Neokhan1 held his horses - “first of all PSL will be hosted in UAE/Qatar so no terrorism there 2 IDK abt AJMAL bt hafez will be playing as batsman.” @neet1985 wasn't convinced though - “Are bहै mere hafeez saeed ki baat kar raha hu mohamnad hafeez ki ni”

When asked if India should be invited to the PSL, Shahid Afridi was as candid as ever, “No, India should invite the PSL to India. They already have experience of the IPL. Bollywood actors like SRK who say they love cricket and own teams like KKR should invest in new teams like Karachi Knight will be a brand extension and both will be sister teams or brothers or some kind of relations you know what I mean” When informed that we didn't know what he meant, Afridi said the Indian media was always twisting things and responsible for the sad state of affairs between the two nations. He also issued a statement saying he was seriously considering retirement from the interview. At the same time, he didn't want to rule out a comeback to the interview at a later date, saying somewhat obscurely, “It depends”. Depends on what? Apparently Afridi is open to shorter format interviews where he can stretch his arms in the middle of the room.

Shoaib Akhtar expressed his desire to own a PSL team. “With my fitness, age and credibility, it's the only way I see myself playing in the PSL. Also playing cricket again will keep me away from the TV shows where I end up abusing all my former colleagues...What can I do? If I was an Englishman, my name would be Frank Akhtar or something like that, you've read my book, I just can't control myself” On whether India should be invited for the PSL, he said it depends on the Indians if they wanted to be invited. “My contracts with Indian TV channels during the IPL ensure that I suck up to people like even Sidhu, so what do you expect me to say?”

It appears, Chris Gayle was the first overseas' player contacted by the PSL. No prizes for guessing what his reply was: “LOLZ do i luk like i need an invite just show me the honey or somethin that rhymes wid it PSL LOLZ Raja”

(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction. Except of course for Ramiz's Tweet and the reactions to it)


Blowing Virat Kohli's mind to bits.

by Naked Cricket

With a top secret disclosure
Virat Kohli stretches, yawns and swears, almost simultaneously as he wakes up. He picks his phone from the bedside table, there's a message from Ravi Shastri: "See how sweetly he's sleeping 1F60A". Virat swipes his phone and is directed to the Nanny Cam app that is hooked up to the camera in Rohit Sharma's room. He replies to Ravi: "Even when he sleeps, he makes it look so effortless". Shastri: "Yes, bang on the money... He's sleeping like a million dollars!" Just as Virat is getting reeled into another ORD (Obsessive Rohit Disorder), Anushka appears from the bathroom, toothbrush in mouth and gurgles out "STOHP ITH NOWH". Virat smirks, that winsome boyish smirk, "Areh, stop what, was doing nothing yaar, you make it sound like I'm watching porn in the morning". Anushka: "WORSE!"
Anushka returns to the loo, finishes brushing, only to see Virat is at it again. She shakes her head and troops out - "I'm gonna get some breakfast, if you want to join me, you'll have to stop playing Rohit's aaya" Virat: "Not aaya yaar, it's nanny, you don't even know these subtle differences, and you call yourself an actress, have you even seenSound of Music, next thing you'll say Julie Andrews was an aaya".
Anushka returns - "I heard that... And I love that... So cute... I wanna do a musical with you one day, Virat... I think we'll be just great... Maybe Sound of Music only... In Hinglish". Virat -"Totally, I can be Captain Georg von Trapp or Kaptaan Jee van Tripathi..." Anushka - "Ha and Rohit can be one of the kids!"
Anushka and Virat are now at the hotel cafe for the breakfast buffet. They're joined by Ravi Shastri at their table. Shastri makes small talk with Anushka, asking if she slept well; when she enquires the same, the India team director booms: "After four large ones, I go out like a light." Ishant arrives, literally whacking his plate down emphatically. Virat is pleased, and thinks to himself: once you're aggressive, you're always aggressive, whether it 's eating or bowling. He says to Ishant- "Love the aggro yaar, can't wait to see you tear into that idli, go tiger". Ishant rips into the idli and starts to headbang a little, they all crack up at the table. Which is when a pouting Rohit Sharma arrives at the table - "Guys, how did I sleep, was I sleep batting last night?" Shastri: On the contrary, you slept like a baby, all the shots were played in your mind. Once your mind is at ease, you'll convert all those naps into big ones, just you wait and see, you're gonna smell the coffee.
Rohit agrees, he has indeed smelt the coffee, excuses himself to get a cappuccino.
As it's post match day, the team is taking it easy. Virat and Anushka are out sightseeing, accompanied by Shastri at a fair distance, almost like their discreet bodyguard. However, once Anushka gets stuck into some serious shopping, Virat and Shastri are united again. Shastri finally confesses to Virat: "Y'kno all along we've believed in Rohit's talent, flair and ability but was it correct to get him a private trainer who also had that much talent, flair and ability?"
Virat - "Ravi, sorry, but I don't know what you're saying..."
Shastri: "Let me be very honest with you, Virat... Years ago, when Rohit burst on to the scene, Sunny and I embarked on a Top Secret Mission with Rohit. It was almost like we were the IMF... The Impossible Mission Force... You've seen Mission Impossible, right?"
Virat: "Wow, this is so cool...please go on, I am all ears."
Shastri: "This is top secret and should not leave this room (looks around at the mall and rephrases) er... Go beyond you, my job with the BCCI depends on it. We employed Secret agent VK."
Virat: "VK? VK is me? When was I employed?"
Shastri: "Yes, VK is you but VK is also another player with the same flair, talent and ability as Rohit, only he had hit upon bad times, very bad times. And Sunny and I believed that he could be the go-to guy to save Rohit's talent, especially since he too was from Aamchi Mumbai."
Virat: "Please Ravi, who is this Agent VK... Don't tell me it's Vi..."
Shastri: "Yes, Virat... It's Vinod Kambli. We believed we needed to go left to get Rohit right."
Virat Kohli has suddenly gone pale. Just then Anushka walks out with her shopping bags.
Anushka: "Virat! You look like you've just seen a ghost..."
And as she says that, Vinod Kambli walks up from nowhere, greeting the three of them loudly. Hugs follow, only Anushka extends her hand.
Kambli: "Hi Ravi, how's Rohit's reverse sweep coming along? And his switch hit, wadaya say about that, boss? Haha!"
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here


Inside Chris Gayle's strip club

by Naked Cricket

It's been reported that a cricketer has a strip club in his home. Who could this cricketer be?
You guessed right, it isn't Inzi. It isn't Rahane either. Chris Gayle said on Instagram: 

"From the pool to the strip club...if u don't have a strip club at home, U ain't a cricket 'Player' .. I always make sure my guest well entertained and feel like they are at home �� #LifeIsForLiving#DreamBig ✌��️"

It was only a matter of time, and invites to the cricket fraternity were dispatched. Players were curious, what exactly was home strip club etiquette? Virat Kohli, on receiving his invite, for once bordered on caution when he asked Gayle if he could bring his girlfriend along - "Can I bring A along bro?" Not one to dodge, Gayle snapped: "LOLZ And Bee, Sea and D yr own thing LOLZ... man, A can hang in the Ladyz Zone... I call it as I see it... Hunks on shore, lifeguard make ripples HUNKy DORy LOLZ". Virat gave it a thought and a smirk, his reply: "You're the man, bro". Gayle: "LOLZ I'm da Man, U a Man 2 LOLZ".

The invite to Rahane, brought in a late, well-considered reply: "Dear Chris, thank you for your kind invite. As you might be aware, I am recently married. My wife and I tend to bond over our off-the-field activities and though we will be on a Caribbean Cruise (after watching DDD), we will be unable to make it. Thanks so much, rgds, Jinx". Gayle: "LOLZ DDD LOLZ I saw that 2 Too much Hindi and Italian LOLZ."
Rohit Sharma replied to his invite after consulting Ravi Shastri. His reply: "Thanx Big man... Broman. Do I come in at 3 or 5 am?" Gayle: "Open house open strip club promote yourself up the order LOLZ". Ishant Sharma's reply: "Thanks Chris Bhai. Any head-banging activity, please advise". Gayle: "Yo Ishant Bhai, give head take head, heads you win LOLZ Not Sri Lanka this".
Other invites were sent too; the big day for the Indian team's arrival was here. At the entrance, Gayle had organised a strip search. There was a warning sign: Come armed with only your weapon. And another which suggested there was both rear and front entry. LOLZ was a common refrain on all communication. Gayle was out with the strip search party that only consisted of women. He advised his guests to, "Get frisky with a whiskey". Amit Mishra had a giggling fit when Virat ruffled his fast thinning hair and cracked a dirty Punjabi joke.
Once in the strip club, most of the Indians settled down with their Mojitos; Ishant with his Long Island Ice Tea, Ashwin his with Virgin Pina Colada, Shastri with a Double Caribbean Rum to which he added: "When in Roma have Rum-aah"; a few had paper napkins on their glasses. 
They were handed out a Multicuisine menu. Amit Mishra yelped, "Mughalai for me!" Virat read out the descriptor below Mughalai. It said "Tandoori hot legs and butter chicken boneless breasts - Punjabi pole dancer with Tadka". Everyone applauded Gayle for his details, who gave a sweeping bow: "As they say, Gayle is in the details". 
As the evening wore on, a somewhat sozzled Shastri took to the pole: "It doesn't always take a strip club to tell the men from the boys but thanks to Chris Gayle, a man amongst men, we now know who the real men are and who the pretenders are. Today you have here nine strapping Indian youths all of whom have nine strapping IPL contracts, each one better than the other, and a great future ahead of them. As I have always said, at night the big boys come out and play and there's nothing wrong for the cricketers to bond over some drinks and ladies of the night, as they say... and as I was saying Gayle, I would like you to join us in Mumbai at a dance bar so we can extend some of our cultural niceties to you... I can assure you, you will be well and truly bowled over". (by now the boys had started applauding Shastri) Some of them lifted him and started to carry him on their shoulders around the pole. The strippers sat back and watched the Shastri show. Gayle was the DJ, belting out Bollywood and reggae.
And just then MS Dhoni walked in with his able lieutenants, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja on either side. There was a stunned silence. Mocktails were served; Dhoni though took a tender coconut.
Virat: "Mahi bhai, do you always have to leave it for this late?"
Dhoni proceeded to play the last hit of the night, after which he uprooted the pole and left the party to a stunned silence.
Shastri: "A man's gotta go when a man's gotta go!"
Gayle: "And a man's gotta come when a man's gotta come LOLZ"
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here


Does cricket make you happy? Want to try it?

by Naked Cricket

I had a dream, in it, Keith, Sajith and I were exercising on cross trainers. Soon, Keith stops exercising and sits on a plastic chair facing us.  The next morning, I mailed the two recollecting my dream. This set off a series of mails, Sajith was going to be in Delhi on the August 15th weekend, could Keith make it? Could we play some cricket? It’s a ritual of sorts, when a cricket friend hops over, we invariably knock around a little. Over the years, these cricket friends have grown in number, if we tried, we could even wangle an 11 a side match.

I started my prep for the 15th August Dry Day match by stocking up on beer, plastic glasses, another bat, four stumps, Cosco tennis balls for cricket, a WhatsApp group. As is with these groups, you add a few, someone adds a few more, and suddenly you end up with quite a few IPL teams, only who will turn up? Much against WhatsApp protocol, I asked the pretenders to leave. We still had at least 15-20 in the group. Was the Temple Park going to be big enough? After some reckies, it appeared, we’d have to make do with the blessed park.

It rained heavily till noon, broke for a bit, and then cut loose after lunch again. It was to be a 4 pm start. The WhatsApp group had died down, didn’t expect many if any to turn up. 3ish it started buzzing – but with pullouts. Then Aju John landed at my door step, dripping wet, fresh from a walk in the rain. Next Nikhil Kalaan, his brother in law, and his friend, Saagar. Freddie. Sajith. Covers were off, beers were open, we had a game.

By quarter past four, we were at the uninhabited ground. Within minutes though, the footballers had arrived, but we had already partaken of first come first serve – the square was ours, both sides runs was a reality.

In our colonial pecking order, Sajith (erstwhile SSC and Singapore teams) was high up. We started off in the same team, as did Keith. Keith and I opened the batting. A faulty run, his call, my freeze, skid slipped him, and did his hamstring in. Or if that didn’t, the next stop-start-skid-slip surely did. Keith retired hurt, but much as Dhoni keeps through injury, he volunteered his services for the greater good of the game.

Aju John skidded a few times, though in hindsight, it appears he just wanted to get dirty.
The rain had long slunk away, it was down to a drizzle; fielding at short cover, it felt more like puffs of air water floats that kept the sweat at bay. It was near perfect cricket weather, and then from the temple gates walked in A.T. – of CSK loyalties and someone I had added because of a cricket chat over a few beers. I had no memory whether he played but like hell he did. As he came in late, he batted for one team, and bowled for the other. The other lucked out, deep, deep yorkers and faaast too. From Temple Park cricket we were now in the Banaras Ghats League, bring in the artis, this was up a notch and some.

We played for over three hours, two innings a side limited overs (Tendulkar would be so happy); Sajith chipped in with Benaud banter and C’mon Gaurus! of old; it was like being transplanted into a happy space that straddled both the old and new – I kept thinking to myself, man, this game is already being played in sepia, isn’t it fucking amazing to be totally aware of what makes a great memory and seeing it being added to in real-time.

As is with most Punjabi Japanese households, I asked the players to leave their shoes and manners outside the door. We got stuck into some beer. A brand so old, Kalyani Black Label, a few hadn’t even heard of it. Salvaging it is also possibly the only good Dr Mallya’s UB has done in recent times.

Not totally unexpected, Rohit Sharma featured heavily in the post match banter.

Last week I ordered two Table Tennis bats online, this week, I started playing offline. Guess I always knew, playing and not just writing about sport is my thing. At times, it just takes a dream with three men on cross trainers to nudge you.

Our next cricket match is on 2nd October.  When is yours?


Will Kohli beat Sachin's retirement speech?

by Naked Cricket

I find myself thinking of Sachin at the oddest of times. Today, for instance, I saw something on Brad Haddin's retirement, and I found myself asking if there was any other cricketer's last Test that I would've turned up for. Dravid, yes, but then Dravid is the kind of guy, given another chance, would retire in privacy again, and even if he were to know it would be his last, nobody else would.
But if Sachin decided to do it all over again, that is, play his last Test again, everyone would turn up again. The Indian cricket industry could run on Sachin's last Test forever. Sachin's last Test at 45. Sachin's last Test at 50. Sachin's very last Test at 51. "The Last of the Last of Sachin's Last Test": the 250th Test in 2025.
We are nearing two years since his retirement from Test cricket but it seems Sachin never went away from our active consciousness.
Kumar Sangakkara's retirement speech had the potential to take on Sachin's farewell but it was brief, almost restrained with a mere sprinkling of emotion. If anyone, Sanga the statesman could've rivalled the oratory of Sachin's 200th. It wasn't to be. Michael Clarke retired, almost unceremoniously amidst an Ashes bollocking, and if he made a speech, it was missed by most.
When it comes, Virat Kohli will give the greatest retirement speech of all time. Everything so far is ammo for that day. The different worlds of Kohli will merge and become one - west Delhi, south Bombay, MC-BC, NY-NY, London, Anushka Sharma, WROGN, Ravi Shastri, aggression, more aggression, Fingergate, Anderson, Outside off, In the middle, Malinga, Chasing under lights, Between the sheets, Sachin, shoulders, Mahi, Dhoni, Rohit, father, death, coach, play on, mother; the script for that day has just started to be written in earnest. It's a screenplay that will surpass cricket, his winnings, his losses, his accomplishments. It's a movie waiting to be made.
Kohli plays with this knowledge - the huge security of a free passage that will not be hindered by form or defeats. Team India is his for no less than five years, possibly six, maybe even seven. For now, till the next Indian superstar is unearthed, harnessed and cut loose, this is Kohli's world. And as and when the next star surfaces, he will start by being Kohli's apprentice; needing years to sharpen his skills under the captain's watchful gaze - for such is the way of Indian cricket, you're never ready till the boss is finished and ready to move on.
Kohli's world will be complete by 2016 after Dhoni's possible retirement from international cricket. By then, he and Shastri will have a complete say in most aspects of the team and its running.
But Kohli can enrich his cricketing journey way beyond that of both Sachin and Dhoni, and if he doesn't succumb to their failings, he could be, records aside, the most revered Indian cricketer ever.
So far there hasn't been any conflict of interest between Kohli and his Indian Premier League (IPL) team. If anything, it's always been Kohli and Team India, and then Kohli and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Quite the opposite of Dhoni and Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Forget who are the RCB players in Team India. At the best of times, it's hard to tell, apart from Kohli, who the Indian players in RCB are. Good for Kohli. Can't imagine Vijay Mallaya as the BCCI president either, or appointing Kohli as vice president of United Breweries.
Unlike Dhoni, Kohli, so far, is very much at home in all three formats, as much a Test cricketer as the go-to one day guy. Unlike Dhoni, Kohli has started to score heavily overseas too, outside the subcontinent as well. All 15 of Dhoni's international centuries (six in Tests, nine in ODIs) are in the subcontinent. On the contrary, 13 out of Kohli's 33 centuries have been outside the subcontinent (seven out of 11 in Tests, six out of 22 in ODIs).
Where Kohli could surpass Sachin, if he does, is as a leader of men. Numbers never work with time travel and great cricketers, and even though comparing Sachin with any other player may never be kosher, I suspect it already is a sinful pleasure amongst atheists.
But what could truly define Kohli beyond both Sachin and Dhoni is if he chooses to have a voice against corruption in cricket. His greatest work could well be after his cricketing days.
Or will it be during his last Test? Either way, that's one retirement speech I won't want to miss. Who knows, maybe Dhoni and Sachin will carry him on their shoulders.

First published here


Ishant Sharma: A Sri Lankan Nightmare

by Naked Cricket

click on cartoon

First published here


Kesavan, Che, Rohit and short shrifts

by Homer

In his essay on the ESPN Cricinfo website, Mukul Kesavan observes

"It is a truth increasingly acknowledged that a young man possessed of an ODI berth stands a better chance of holding down a Test match place than a young man without one. Pujara doesn't play limited-overs cricket in any format for India and hasn't been able to find an IPL franchise that wants him. Rohit, in contrast, is a lion in Lilliput: the shorter the format, the better he gets. This counts against Pujara because while Rohit and others like him are constantly in the public eye because of the modern cricketing calendar, he is out of sight and mainly out of mind except when Test cricket looms on the horizon."
Before the Bangladesh tour, his first full tour as captain, Virat Kohli vocalized the following thought

“I certainly believe in giving the team a chance to pick up 20 wickets. I am a big fan of playing five bowlers in a 6-5 combination. You only need two to three batsmen to click to get a score of 500,” 

5 bowlers give the team the variety, on any surface, to prise out 20 wickets.5 bowlers also give the captain of having a fall back option should anyone of his bowlers go off the boil during any session in the course of an fielding innings.

This though comes with the caveat that the team will go one batsman short. And in the absence of a genuine bowling allrounder of pedigree, and out of their comfort zone of playing 6 batsmen + MS Dhoni, India have played Harbhajan Singh and Stuart Binny, as cover.

This had had mixed results against Sri Lanka, and remains a work in progress.

The other part of the equation in having 5 bowlers is to give them enough time to get the 20 wickets. Enter left, Rohit Sharma.

We felt that if he gets going, even in a Test match, he can take away a session or two from the opposition. That could be the difference in us winning a Test match and getting close (but not close enough),” said Kohli.

 For a team fixated on the idea of winning, with the draw being an afterthought, time, especially time remaining in the game, becomes of foremost importance.

By scoring quickly, and scoring big, teams give themselves ample time to bowl the opposition out twice. (The flip side of this is of course that teams geared for speed are rarely if ever able to buckle down to play for the draw.)

India, for the better part of 20 years, hankered for the next Gavaskar. And to this end, any batsman, however remotely in the Gavaskar mold, was fast tracked. And when that failed, converted openers became vogue, to bolster the middle order.
Till Saurav Ganguly decided to move Virender Sehwag to open the innings,

Unlike that wait though, the replacement for Rahul Dravid emerged through the ranks during Dravid's playing days. Cheteshwar Pujara is everything Dravid was, and generates the same emotions in the Indian hoi polloi that many many "next Gavaskar"s did after his retirement.

But, given the team philosophy, does Cheteshwar Pujara necessarily fit the bill?

To go back to Mr Kesavan, I quote this passage from his excellent book "Men in White"

"The straight bat, the long innings of attrition or in defence, surviving the new ball, setting out your stall and playing forever, genuine slow bowlers wheeling their way through dozens of overs,none of these things will disappear from the game, but they are ceasing to define Test cricket, and as a result, the game is changing.It is rather like the decline of "serve and volley" tennis; it will not become extinct and there will always be the stray Stephen Edberg,  but where once first "serve and into the net" used to be the staple of the men's tour,now the game is defined by ground strokes. Modern racquets give baseliners such power that rushing the net has become a low percentage ploy.
It is not a coincidence that there are more results in Test matches of late. This is partly because batsmen carry their one-day idiom into the longer game, partly because their defensive techniques have deteriorated through neglect, partly as a result of much improved fielding ( and catches take, more run outs effected), partly because glory now decisively belongs to the swashbuckler and the solid anchor is likely to be seen as a stolid barnacle.Cricket, even Test cricket, is now played to force a result not to effect a successful holding action. The strategic draw is becoming obsolete".

Rohit Sharma may or may not be the answer to India's quest, but neither is Cheteshwar Pujara.