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Should Dhoni reinvent himself under Kohli?

by Naked Cricket

After India's semi-final defeat in the World Cup, MS Dhoni spoke of taking a call on his availability for the 2019 World Cup - but only after the World Twenty20 in 2016.
For most players, form and fitness decide, with MS however, Dhoni decides. In the past, Dhoni has missed the odd series, usually when he decided to rest himself.
Not since Sachin Tendulkar has a player selected or rested himself for an entire series - both have had enough clout to even rest themselves for a Test series.
Compare this with someone like Rahul Dravid, who the selectors forced out of retirement to play an ODI series in England - just because he was the only Indian batsman scoring runs on that tour.
Every time Dhoni walks out to bat, be it a Test match, a one-dayer, a T20 International or an IPL game, commentary will sweet talk you through the virtues of Dhoni-the-ultimate-finisher, Dhoni-the-big-six-hitter, Dhoni-the...
Well of course, this is true in ODIs and even more so in the IPL, especially with LS in tow. And just as Dhoni never quite made the switch through formats, neither did some of the mesmerised mouthpieces. 
"When he hits it, it stays hit." 
Dhoni's T20 Average (includes IPL and Champions League games for CSK) is nearly 38, his strike rate about 137. 
"MS is not the next Gilchrist. He's the first MS Dhoni" - Adam Gilchrist
Dhoni's T20 International Average is nearly 34 (includes 20 not outs from 45 innings) but his strike rate is 116. 
"If 15 runs are needed off the last 6 balls, pressure is on the bowler and not on MS Dhoni" - Ian Bishop 
Perhaps Bishop is referring to the last over in the CSK vs KXIP 2010 IPL Semis. Dhoni scored 4, 2, 6, 6 and sealed the game. The bowler was Irfan Pathan. Dhoni made 54(29) at a strike rate of 186. Irfan Pathan doesn't bowl to Dhoni in T20 internationals. 
Dhoni has played 194 T20 games but only 50 T20 Internationals from 2007-2014. He is yet to score a half century, his highest is 48*(43).
India lost this game by 31 runs to Australia.In 24 matches that India has won, his batting average climbs to nearly 42, strike rate to 136. In 21 that India's lost, his strike rate drops to 98.
How many remember that Dhoni was clean bowled by Umar Gul in the 2007 World T20 Finals for 6 off 9 balls in the 15th over?
And how many will ever forget Dhoni lifting the T20 Cup beating Pakistan?
Averages and strike rates have never defined Dhoni. Dhoni is much greater than the sum of his numerical parts. Much like Afridi is for Pakistan, MSD is top draw in a limited overs game.
While India might find it comparatively easy to come to terms with his Test retirement, losing him in the other formats will be way too much for India's cricket industry to stomach.  
Virat Kohli has played 28 T20 Internationals - he averages 46, strikes at 132, and has 9 50s.
Unlike Dhoni his T20I numbers are much better than his IPL numbers. I often joke, "Kohli ne RCB ka nahin, India ka theka liya hai" . (Kohli gives a damn for India, not for RCB) 
After the World Cup, I see one man captain India across all three formats - will Dhoni play under Kohli? Or as the numbers' suggest, Dhoni earns his place in the T20I team, first as skipper, talisman, superstar, last-over-believer, and then as a batsman. Take away the captaincy and you take away the aura - almost like taking off his gloves, leaving him naked at deep point. 
What else? A few overs of seam up from him? "I am learning the ropes of captaincy from MS Dhoni." - DJ Bravo, CSK
Dhoni made a duck in his first ODI. That was followed by 12 and 7* against Bangladesh in 2004; how many remember that? And how many remember that 148 against Pakistan that followed? Dhoni in, early at three, after three failures at seven. Ganguly was captain then. And Dhoni's hair was long, wild, Conan like.
Is it time for Dhoni to embrace cricket purely as a sportsman again? He'll find life is much simpler without positions like captain and vice president.
Who knows there could be a sequel to the Helicopter - The Mars Orbiter.

First published here

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Brendon McCullum: Before & After the World Cup Final

by Naked Cricket





h/t @aanchal for photoshop First published here

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How should we react to defeat

by Naked Cricket

"They tried their best. They lost to a better team. They were in Australia for four months. They were in Australia for three months. This is a team in transition. After the retirement of the big three...They lost the toss. They missed an all-rounder. Rohit cannot bat in big games. Kohli cannot bat in big games. What can Dhoni do all by himself? Why is Jadeja in the team? Why is Anushka Sharma in the team?
We don't eat meat. We don't have the killer instinct. They should ban cricket. After beating Pakistan they didn't care. They nearly lost to West Indies. They nearly lost to Zimbabwe. Even England beat them. Why was Sehwag not there?
IPL is killing cricket. BCCI is killing cricket. We overachieved by reaching the semis. Why did Stuart Binny not play a single match? Sachin should not have retired. Virat should get married and settle down.
Don't wait up, I'm going out with my friends to attack that cricketer's house."
I don't know what is worse, overreacting to a defeat or not reacting at all. I probably felt a lot worse after South Africa's loss. And I was rooting for New Zealand. Here, I was all for India or at least so I thought. It was a dreary one-sided game, one that was lost quite early in the piece and from then on we were treated to India consolidating its defeat.
When India won the 2011 World Cup, the high point for me was Dhoni's customary, "Well of course" which we'd all caught on to by then; and I fear so had MS' spin doctors. He was well of course-ing a lot less, but such was the enormity of the moment, he just bleated it out with a wide Trademark MS grin. I suspect most people chose the Dhoni winning six over the well of course. While Delhi took to the roads, I stopped in my car just shy of a blazing Aurobindo Marg that resembled the liberation of Benghazi; yeah, there was a streaking pickup truck with a flag that sealed it for me.
We sat mesmerised in the car, watching the liberators shoot across. That was good enough for me.
After India lost the 2015 World Cup semi final, the highpoint for me, if you can call it that, was Dhoni's post match chat again. Here was a guy who had already moved on, accepted defeat, analysed the loss on air, and spoke about it like he often does after most games.
He mentioned only Shikhar Dhawan's wicket. In hindsight, Dhawan's wicket was the game - India lost him in the 13th over when they were going at a rate that threatened both Australia's score and bowling. Both Dhawan and Rohit were riding a lucky break each, possibly even riding India's luck. Dhawan's wicket sucked the life and any sense of wellbeing out of India's chase - even before Kohli's wicket the innings was put on life-support. Here was a team that had won seven on the trot but yet to beat Australia all tour. They were under a spell, Oz was the wizard.
When you know, does it make the pain less? Suspect more than anyone, Dhoni knows what this bunch can do and cannot do. He also is more than aware of his own limitations. One that commentary continues to shy away from. On air, we were continuously reminded that the chase was on as long as Dhoni was there. Later on air, Dhoni confessed India lacks batting lower down the order.
On April 2, 2011, India was chasing Sri Lanka's 274. Dhoni walked in to bat before Yuvraj and Raina - at 114/3, at the fall of Kohli's wicket. It was the 22nd over. And a World Cup final to boot. On March 26, 2015, India was chasing Australia's 328. Dhoni walked in to bat after Raina's wicket - at 108/4. It was the 23rd over. No batsmen to follow.
Since the 2011 Finals, Dhoni has batted at number five only seven times - the last time, only recently against Pakistan in this World Cup. Throughout his career, he's batted at five or above in 88 of his 228 innings - he's scored six of his nine ODI centuries here. He even averages ten more than his career average.
India went into this World Cup with five batsmen and the X man, Dhoni - who against top attacks, in overseas' conditions is much more of a known quantity. Almost everything that Dhoni has done in his career, especially as captain, stands as vindication. Dhoni knew this. And played to this knowledge. That's what street smart is, that's what Dhoni is.
Am I blaming Dhoni for the defeat? No. In all likelihood, India would've still lost had he walked in at the fall of Virat's wicket. But that would have been some dare. Dhawan showed some of that dare, and the Aussies went all helter-skelter. That's the fear of the unknown.
But I guess, Dhoni already knew otherwise, he usually does.

First published here

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Before AB de Villiers cried, the skies wept.

by Naked Cricket


  •  
  •  
  • O dear Leonard Cohen
  • Will you lend your voice and words
  • To the loss we're feeling
  • Because all we can do now
  • Is cry
  •  
  • Cry, cry, cry
  • All we can do is cry
  • Cry like we was babies
  • Cry like we was lost
  • Cry like we don't know when we're going home, AB
  • Cry like we don't know when we're going home, baby
  • Cry like we just don't know
  • Oh, what a game this is
  • The very game that makes me live
  • Is the very game that makes me die
  • The very game that makes me high
  • The very game that makes me die
  • Oh, what a game this is
  • The crying game
  •  
  • I cried like a Pup
  • I cried like a captain
  • I cried with AB de Villiers
  • I cried with Michael Clarke
  • I cried with my heart ripped bare
  • I cried for a player I scarcely knew
  • His childhood photographs on my bedside table
  • And I saw him growing up
  • And I saw him going up
  • I saw him fall
  • I saw us all fall
  • I saw that kid from the country
  • His farmer ways
  • I saw him with Warner
  • I saw him on the scoreboard
  • Forever not out
  • Forever, 63* not out
  •  
  • I saw Morne long legs run down at the Kotla
  • I saw Morne scissor balls back down at third man
  • How he made the ball rise on such a passive pitch
  • How he made the ball rise on just any pitch
  • "How the moon hits your eye
  • And the zing bails fly
  • That's a Morne"
  •  
  • I saw Morne as a boy going to school
  • The gentle gawky kid that wouldn't hurt a fly
  • The gentle gawky kid that wouldn't tell a lie
  • Such a good kid, such a straight good kid
  • And that kid sits on the banks of Eden Park
  • In a pool of tears, in a pool of blood, sweat and years
  • Morne Morkel, just sits there and weeps
  • All six foot four inches of him just sits there and weeps
  • That's a Morne
  • "When the moon hits your eye
  • Like a big pizza pie, that's amore"
  • Oh, what a game this is...
  •  
  • The very game that makes me live
  • Is the very game that makes me die
  • The very game that makes me high
  • The very game that makes me die
  • Oh, what a game this is
  • The crying game
  •  
  • AB was everywhere, every fucking where
  • From mid off to mid wicket
  • From a midsummer night's dream to a midlife crisis
  • AB batted in the 40th, AB bowled in the 40th
  • AB aged nine years, he was on to his 40th
  •  
  • AB says
  • I don't know what to do, I am completely at a loss
  • AB says
  • I don't know, I don't even know when we are going home
  • AB says
  • I tried my best to catch it, I didn't
  • AB says
  • As a captain, I'll be there for the guys
  • AB says
  • But life moves on and the sun will come up tomorrow
  • AB says
  • AB sobs
  •  
  • I write to my South African friends
  • I ask them the same question
  • How are you?
  • Antoinette Muller says
  • "Oh I'm fine. They did their best."
  • Sean Wilson says
  • "I'm okay. It's just sport."
  • Sean Simpson says
  • "I am shattered. Drinking nice wine though."
  • Ben Karpinski says
  • "Not well mate. Really not well
  • But hoping your boys can beat Australia on Thursday. That will help things"
  •  
  • The very game that makes me live
  • Is the very game that makes me die
  • The very game that makes me high
  • The very game that makes me die
  • Oh, what a game this is
  • The crying game
  •  
  • Before AB cried, the skies wept.

Credits, notes, asides:
"That's Amore" - by Dean Martin (lyrics by Brooks, Jack / Warren, Harry).
"That's a Morne" - by Sean Wilson (@SimplySean on twitter).

It's only after writing this that I discovered that Morne Morkel and I share a birthday. We did not go to the same school, however.
For a lark, picture Leonard Cohen singing "Now so long, Morne, it's time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again".

First published in daily O

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The voices inside Afridi's head.

by Naked Cricket

One day when I was rambling about this and that, K asked me, “Gaurav, do you always have so many thoughts running through your head?” I replied in the affirmative, and continued to ramble on, how I loved to be ON all the time. She nodded, in hindsight now, in a somewhat sympathetic poor you, you gotta put up with your constant tick-ticking. I have always wondered about Shahid Afridi’s attention span, how small it is, or if it exists at all.

"I hit that big six you know auntie always tells me Kamran dropped it very nice kebabs the way I am senior Karachi and Lahore are forget England I like to watch Bollywood movies especially long drives in my new car to retire" – Afridi mindscape, impression  

From the early years, when he used to open the batting and go downright Mad Max, he seems to have mellowed into an eccentric old uncle whose pyjamas fall as he repeats three anecdotes (one for each format) simultaneously. At his peak as a player, all that energy went into cricket – breaking records, filling India’s new ball bowlers with fear, and always holding a threat that he was far more than he actually was. And that was the cricketing dare of Shahid Afridi.

In the last few years though, Afridi became a parody account of his former self. His retirements started to sound like a senile man’s joke – Boom Boom became the joke joke, there was always an encore to it. And he retired with such earnestness, only to return with equal earnestness, retiring and un-retiring from one format or the other, it became tough to keep tabs on which parody account was still active. What this did do though was spawn an assembly line of cheap Afridi memes and jokes; it was like they were Made in China. Hell, all you got to do is watch Afridi bat, talk, whatever, it’s funny enough, you cannot top that. Not on twitter, not on facebook, not in this lifetime. It’s like hoping jokes on Jim Carry will be funnier than Jim Carry. Cannot be, so don’t even try. In a way, I’m glad, and hope Afridi has retired for good, won’t see any of the tripe anymore. Or maybe I’m just jaded, and can’t make any Afridi jokes anymore. How I longed for an original Afridi joke – one that was nothing to do with his age. And that’s when Afridi allegedly said, Thanks My Nigga to Mark Nicholas.

Once upon a time, I too would make Afridi jokes about his age. This one’s from November, 2011, after one of his many comebacks. 


But all the age jokes pale in comparison to an observation made fielding at square leg – claiming he saw Sachin’s legs trembling while facing Shoaib Akhtar (who claimed Sachin was scared of him). This cartoon is from October, 2011, with Shoaib Akhtar, Afridi and Sachin taking a leak together.


Making fun of Afridi’s grasp on the language was always fun, here’s one on how he claimed the captaincy.


Only recently Afridi wore earplugs to block the crowd noise and up his concentration, even joking that he wished to keep them on when anyone spoke to him, especially the captain. Glad he didn’t resort to the plugs earlier in his career; more than his runs and wickets, Afridi was about a superhero-comic bond with his manic fans. Though I doubt the BOOM BOOM shrieking fans were the trigger; Afridi was both the trigger and the gun. One that he pointed way too often to his mouth. But when heroes go down, they go down fast.

Thank you for the madness, Shahid Afridi. Next, standup commentary please. Hopefully during this IPL. Just imagine Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar rapping together.

First published in daily O

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What if Bangladesh win the World Cup

by Naked Cricket

I just love it, everyone and their octopus has decided on the four semi finalists. Even arithmetic tends to agree - India beating Bangladesh 70-80 per cent chance.  Where's the one guy who got the 1983 Prudential World Cup result right, I want to hear from him - fully expect him to crown Bangladesh the champions. And that's why I just had to ask Twitter - what if Bangladesh wins the World Cup?








My World Cup highpoint so far: Bangladesh beating England and gatecrashing the quarters. That's when I started to think, what if they beat India, what if they win the semis, what if they hold it together in the finals? I don't think it's such a long shot, especially against overachieving India. I wonder, apart from Shakib who we know from the IPL, do we know any other Bangladeshis by name - behind Jadeja's beard hermitage there doesn't seem too much of an inclination to learn. Sir has been called on to bat thrice in six games so far, good for India, not so good for him. He looked scratchy in more ways than one, refer beard again. Then his not so slow left arm spin which tends to sweat and go down faster, shorter, with a hit-me cherry on top. Oh, what will we do with Sir? But the Bangladeshis, all their left-handed batsmen in their flying machines will be waiting for him - Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Soumya Sarkar, The Shakib Al Hasan, four of the top six are left-handed, when will Dhoni bowl Sir - to back-to-back centurion Mahmudullah? With Bhuvi's injury and Stuart Binny proving himself indispensable as 12th Man, in all likelihood Sir will play. And Rohit will open.

Jadeja and Rohit, India's bookends, at one and seven, meekly holding the tales India's batting will tell this World Cup. Between Dhawan's twin hundreds and Virat's century against Pakistan, Rahane has been forgotten, again. That knock against South Africa was a sign, one that went unnoticed. And even though that 60-ball 79 came at four, Rahane's real value is opening for India. One that we're unlikely to see in this World Cup, against Bangladesh at least.

At best, we might see Rahane come in at three if an opener falls early. Not quite Rayudu, but almost as dispensable, that's how India has been with one of their best overseas' batsmen off late. For Bangladesh, the key would be to challenge both Dhawan and Kohli early - throw in a dare with a few short balls, both love to pull like they were Ponting. But the MCG isn't quite the Kotla, is it? Negate Dhawan and Kohli, and Bangladesh makes India recalibrate their scoring-rates - from free-flow to stop-start-build-reassess-keep-wickets-in-hand for the death overs. Which is exactly where India's problems were batting first against Pakistan and South Africa.

And if Bangladesh beat India, then they won't be lowly Bangladesh anymore, they'll be the semi-finalists - no matter who they play, they'll have the occasion and that friendly-nothing-to-lose-underdog tag. The world's greatest cricketing clichés will wrap the tigers up and what's worse, they'll all be true.

What if Pakistan knocks Australia out in their quarter-finals? Far more likely than Bangladesh knocking Australia in the semi-finals, right? And what if Gayle has another mad day against New Zealand in the quarters and Andre Russell goes nuts against South Africa in the semis? Far more likely than Bangladesh knocking South Africa in the semi-finals, right?

So, Bangladesh have to beat India (in the quarter-finals) then beat Pakistan (in the semi-finals) then beat West Indies (in the finals) to win the World Cup. Doesn't seem like such a long shot now, does it? Just need Pakistan and West Indies to do some of their dirty work. Teamwork at its very best.

First published in daily O

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