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Dhoni's Advise.

by Naked Cricket

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How many Tests could Michael Bevan have played for India

by Naked Cricket

Much before MS Dhoni, there was Michael Bevan, possibly the shrewdest finisher in the one-day game. In spite of a one-day average in excess of 50, he played only 18 Tests. Raina too has played only 18 Tests. Both Bevan and Raina had their demons, mostly with the short ball.  
 
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Ravi Shastri says a lot, often in or to the media. Take away the booming voice and you still have some booming comments in print. 



   “I am pleased to see Cheteshwar Pujara in the ODI squad. Regardless of whatever people say about his fielding etc., I think he has a role to play as a batsman. He will only strengthen the top-order. He could do the job for the team where one has to bat for long periods. By no stretch of imagination is he someone who can just grind the attack. He can be a totally different player in the one-day game. I believe that he is going to be one of our mainstays in the forthcoming World Cup.” – Ravi Shastri, February 25, 2014.

Later, in June, Pujara played 3 one-dayers against Bangladesh with scores of 0, 11 and 27. In all, he’s played 5 with a shy average of 10.2. Before Shastri’s comment, Pujara had played 2 games against Zimbabwe with scores of 0 and 13.

He did not make India’s World Cup list of 30 probables. He has played twice under Kohli and thrice under Raina but never under Dhoni’s captaincy in an ODI.

So what made Shastri think Pujara was a certainty for the World Cup? Pujara’s List A Average is 54 with 10 centuries, a highest of 158*. I doubt though he was going entirely if at all by those numbers. 

Before 2014, Pujara’s Test strike rate in the 50s was higher than Kohli, Vijay and Rohit, this in spite of the perception of a slow scorer, because unlike the others, he wasn’t an IPL or ODI regular. More often than not his first scoring shot was a flick off middle to the square leg boundary.

Shastri’s comment was soon after a poor New Zealand series, where Pujara failed to score a half century in four innings.

But it was barely 2 months after a 2nd innings’ 153 against Steyn, Morkel and Philander at the Wanderers.

This was Pujara’s 6th ton, Kohli had 5 at that point. His Test average was in the 50s, Kohli’s wasn’t even 40.

Pujara was arguably India’s best Test batsman then – and there was a temptation to master all formats, he opened for KXIP though barely striking at a run a ball. The desire to turn up for India in one-dayers, particularly the World Cup was deep.


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More recently Shastri, in the capacity of Team Director said it was his endeavour to see Suresh Raina in the Test team.

“The more I see him play, he is brilliant to watch. It will be my endeavour really to do something that will get him back into the Indian Test match team. He is a class act. When is going he is a treat to watch. Even at times when I see him bat at the nets, when the ball hits the bat, just that sound or sense of timing you know it is something different. Let’s hope, fingers crossed. – Ravi Shastri, October 6, 2014”

In over 9 years, Raina has played over 200 one dayers, but in close to five years, he’s wangled less than 20 Tests.

Not too long ago, Raina was dropped from the ODI team but returned as skipper in the absence of Dhoni and Kohli. Since then, a century in England, only his 4th, but 3 swinging 50s against a clueless West Indies. After seeking Ganguly’s advice, he also appeared to have made peace with his old foe, the short delivery.

And not just Shastri, Ganguly too was talking up Raina.

Raina found himself on the flight to Australia. It’s now part of urban legend that Raina’s last three scores are no scores – a pair in the Sydney Test, preceded by a duck in 2012.

Worse, in his last seven innings, Raina has failed to score in five.


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Regardless of what Shastri may have said about Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan, it’s obvious they’re at odds with one format. As too is Murali Vijay, who on the back of his recent Test form found himself in the List of 30 probables for the World Cup.

Omission from the World Cup squad must have hurt Vijay – leaving the ball, match after match, series after overseas’ series, Vijay fell for a three ball duck – the fewest deliveries he had faced in the last four Test series. It was an uncharacteristically loose shot from Vijay, going for a big, booming cover drive, that too so early in his innings. 



It’s premature to say whether Raina, Dhawan or Rohit’s Test failings will affect their one day game, but they will carry some baggage. How much they drop at check in, how much they keep as carry-on, will determine how far India goes in the World Cup.


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Never too late for Indian cricket to learn, not every player can crack every format.

Not every player is Ravi Shastri, or as he says -

“He’s aggressive and he’s very young, so the exuberance is still seen in him, which is very good for the team. And I see a bit of myself in him” – Ravi Shastri on Virat Kohli, November, 2014

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Should Dhoni retire from T20 Internationals

by Naked Cricket

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 one-dayers 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” – 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.

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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.

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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 only 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 one-dayer. That was followed by 12 and 7* all 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 his hair was long, wild Conan-like.

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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.

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Dhoni’s Army.

by Naked Cricket




Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s was more than a team, it was an empire. Retirement from Tests is his way of relinquishing far away outposts whose tending was becoming more of an irritant.

In his golden era, he had under his command, the Generals, each an ambassador to these outposts. With their fading, the rules of engagement changed.

How many Waterloos can an Emperor survive?

Far too many if the homeland is secure and the coffers are overflowing. The return of the colonisers, however, changed that in 2013. The homeland was breached. Two more Generals were on the wane.

The desire to make Generals out of trusted lieutenants was deep; Emperor himself was a foot-soldier, one who had risen through the ranks, from quick combats to command his men in the Five Day Wars.

One such lieutenant, Suresh Kumar Raina, lasted 17 Wars (2010-2012). A master in swift-combat and home battles, he failed to score four times in his last four wars. Only to return in 2015, and fail to score yet again.

Recruited for the Australian sidelines, his moment in the sun was a selfie with the partly-retiring Emperor.

Another lieutenant, Ravindrasinh Anirudhsinh Jadeja, lasted 12 Wars (2012-2014). A chieftain at home, and the go-to man for a skirmish, foreign lands exposed his travel weary spirit.

A burgeoning Rajputana moustache and beard couldn't hide the boy within, he claimed to have been bullied in the Isles – but there were no videos from the aisles. Both he and his Emperor were demeaned.

As too in the case of Rudra Pratap Singh, a holidaying lieutenant in far away sands, who was rushed to prove his allegiance – 14 Wars in more than 5 years with well over 3 years between the last 2. Yet he was there.  

Then there was the Talented Lieutenant in waiting, Rohit Gurunath Sharma, after many stop-and-start battles (126, 2007-2014), he fought his first war at home. But once away, he missed home way too much to put up a fight. Stop-and-start wars followed, 9 in over a year, often picked to be discarded. To be picked yet again.

More than a lieutenant but treated no less than a foot-soldier was he, Ravichandran Ashwin – from the Emperor's right hand man at home, he was left out in the cold. 23 Wars (2011-2014) the fastest to 100 skulls for his Lord; he only served in 8 wars overseas.

Was he more than a lieutenant, had he an independent mind? Was he more a general? Or with his skills, even an ambassador, dare I say, a King?

But none of these even came close to the man from the North, Yuvraj Singh. Well before the Emperor's time but a mere 40 wars (2003-2012), won the biggest battles but still not proven in war. There was a lesson in his failures, one that wasn't applied in recruiting fresh lieutenants.

Beyond them there was an insider who was an exception; Murali Vijay lost most of his scattered battles (only 14, 2010-2014) but went on to win some wars, especially the later ones which were far less scattered (30, 2008-2014).  Even though he was no longer a lieutenant, he owed much to the Emperor's persistence with him.

There were others, not yet lieutenants but trusted stable boys, Mohit Mahipal Sharma, Ishwar Chand Pandey – who walked with the Emperor in those midsummer night skirmishes at home. Will they ever fight a war now?

And so the Emperor becomes a mere wallflower for the time being. But not before he suggests that one of his erstwhile foreign generals, Michael Edward Killeen Hussey shepherd the army.

His erstwhile army is now under the command of a new general, Virat Kohli.

The army will fight under two commands.

Under the Emperor will be most of his trusted old lieutenants. As with their leader, they too will return to a combat they yearn for.  

King Kohli will command two quiet men, both without rank – one who shone in last year’s wars, Ajinkya Madhukar Rahane, the other, Cheteshwar Arvind Pujara, the years’ before. Neither are the Emperor’s men. Both prove themselves in a long apprenticeship before they could fight alongside him.

As for the Emperor, a few weeks away before he returns on 18th January to lead his lieutenants again.

He’s won enough battles and lost enough wars to sit back and ask himself at leisure – would he pick Subedar Kannaur Lokesh Rahul and Major Manoj Kumar Tiwary to fight his battles? No? Then why ask all those lieutenants to fight his wars?


Notes:

Skirmishes = IPL/T20
Battles = ODIs, T20I
Wars = Tests
Lieutenants = CSK / Limited Overs’ Players
Generals = SRT, RD, VVS, VS, GG, ZK
Emperor = MSD

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Watching your children fall.

by Naked Cricket

It's a strange kind of cosmic connection with these two, but then why won't it be, I named them. Maybe not quite my biological kids, more my adopted children, but my children nonetheless.

Jatman was the first, and I thrived in his madness, his lack of worldliness, his simplicity, his Jatmaness.

I remember the day, 11th March, 2009; Nikhil Kalaan (himself a Jat, though only half by his own admission) had sent in a piece.

"Haryanvi Jats continue their domination of Indian sport as Virender Sehwag's blistering century powers India to their maiden ODI series triumph in Kiwiland. This nerveless & free spirited wonder (sehwag) doesn't flinch for a moment (super-human quality) before launching the ball out of the park despite being at the doorstep of a historic century, double century, triple century (very un Tendulkarlike).

The best part being: he retains the same dumb expression at all times as if he's playing with a bunch of kids. Nevertheless, a once-in-a-century cricketer for India whose positive attitude makes him a true ambassador of a legendary martial race (the Jats) that has also produced the ONLY Olympic heroes in combat sports (boxing, wrestling) for India. With the exception of the great Maratha wrestler Khashaba Jadhav (bronze medalist, wrestling, Helsinki Olympics 1952)."

There wasn't a headline to the piece though. And just like that, Sehwag became Jatman.

And for his family on Bored, those that loved him, laughed with him, often at him, as he surely did, Sehwag was and will always be Jatman.

The second, 19 days apart, Che Pujara, at 3 pm, March 30th, 2009.

Before this, a few of us were possessed by Che's showing in the first class playground. He had started to own us. And just like that, one day, I started to believe, I owned him.

Cheteshwar Pujara became Che Pujara. I spoke with SP (Pankaj Sharma), and he brought him to life, giving him a face.

It's a terrible thing, constantly praying for the best and fearing the worst for someone.

At the Daredevils-Chargers game in 2011, I was sitting alongside Sean; Jatman was at the crease. I sensed his fall. I vocalised it, telling Sean how I felt terrible but I could actually tell when he will get out. He got out.

And then at the beginning of the series down under, I thought to myself, Che will be dropped by the 4th Test. Glad I didn't mention it, I just couldn't bring myself to, why tempt fate.

Before match day, there were reports about his dropping. Made me even less inclined to wake up at 5 and watch the game, decided I'll get up when I get up.

And when I did, and saw that Che had been dropped, I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't so I decided to write instead.

Even though in the last few years, his is the only wicket that has acutely pained me, his dropping didn't.

I have his number but I've never spoken to him, should I send him a message?

Jatman lived in the neighbourhood, but I've never met him.

Yesterday Jatman scored another ton, it just felt good to see him smile in whites again. Wonder when we'll see Che smile again in whites.

Over the last year or so, I've run through Che's numbers repeatedly. I've kept tabs on the gap between his Test centuries, how the gap was growing; how Che and Virat started the series on six tons; how they care so little for time in the middle; how except for Mike Atherton at the Lord's post-match, nobody saw the value of those 28 runs.

Someone give Che a hug from me. Hang in, long nose.

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After Dhoni's Retirement

by Naked Cricket


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Dhoni, one day at a time

by Naked Cricket

He wasn’t good or bad
He wasn't happy or sad
He wasn't Mumbai or Delhi
He wasn't Prince or God
He was Dhoni

He just stood back
Back behind the stumps
And waited
And waited
And waited
And waited
And waited
For the days to unravel
Unravel themselves
One day at a time.

He wasn’t black or white
He was grey
He was yellow
He was blue
He was Dhoni

And as he greyed
He grew
Grew like a legend
Upon us
One white hair at a time
One day at a time
And those one days added to five
One day at a time.

One day
A selector asked to drop him
One day
A selector was asked instead
One day
He was unspoken
One day
He spoke in platitudes
One day
He was in court
And those one days added to five
One day at a time.

One day
He was T20 Midas
One day
He was World Cup Slayer
One Day
He was No. 1 of the Five Days
One Day
He lost too many days away
One Day
He was unseen
And those one days added to five
One day at a time.

He was Dhoni

One day
He was Mahendra Singh Dhoni
One day
He was MSD
One day
He was MS
One day
He was Mahi
One day

He was Dhoni.

One day
He stopped ten shy of a Hundred
One day
He stopped shy of a farewell
One day
He stopped shy of a speech
One day
He stopped shy of a Thank You
One day
He stopped it with a phone call
Because those one days never add to five
Not even one day at a time.

He was Dhoni.
India’s One Day Captain who retired from Test Cricket.




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After Yusuf Pathan Slapped Abusive Fan

by Naked Cricket

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The Border Gavaskar Trophy - T1 D1

by Homer

First things first - David Warner is finally living upto his billing of being the natural heir to Sehwag's legacy.

On the day after Sehwag tonked a double hundred in ODI cricket, 3 years ago, David Warner's boundary laced, emotional 145 set the foundation for what should have been a formidable Australian first innings total - that the day ended up with honors shared has plenty to do with India's bowling. And luck.

Plenty has been written about the bowling lengths - sure they could have been fuller, and straighter, but equally, the rewards might not have materialized. Australia could just as easily have ended the day at 250/2, and if the toss up is between 250/2 and 354/6, I know what I would go with.

Also, cognizance has to be taken of the fact that 3 of the four bowlers India played were playing their first test in Australia, on what is a belter of a wicket. If similar lines and lengths are persisted with on Day 2 of the Third test, then Houston, we have a problem. But on Day 1 of the first test, I would not sweat the short stuff.

And now, luck. Between David Warner's mistimed swipe off Karn Sharma, and Michael Clarke's back giving way, India should have played the lottery, thats how much luck they had.

Both are significant - another session of Warner, in form and riding on his 100, and the game, as a contest, was over, right there and then. And another session of Clarke, continuing on with from his 60, and onto three figures, and the Australian dressing room would have gotten the emotional and adrenaline boost that the past few weeks must have sapped out of them.

And Clarke's injury has a greater bearing on the test, and the series.

For tomorrow, India's best chance would be to take the remaining four wickets quickly, but I dont see how Australia can be restricted to below 400 - Harris, Johnson and Siddle can all bat, and a few aada-patta shots should see them cross 400 easily. What is important from an Indian POV is that number should not grow greater than that.

And while the pitch remains a belter, my Indian game plan would be to play for time, not runs. Here's why -

  • None of the Australian bowlers have bowled a ball in anger for over a month now - 
    • Harris last played in mid November, coming off of his knee surgery
    • Johnson hasnt bowlewd since his toe injury
    • Siddle is under pressure to justify his spot after the debacle in the desert
  • Keep them on the field for sufficiently long periods of time, and fatigue and fitness will become issues. And with back to back to back tests, it becomes critical.
  • Prolonged periods on the field will also test Clarke's fitness.. And a team without its captain is more vulnerable.
  • Finally, Brad Haddin. He hasnt played since he jarred his shoulder in the desert. Add to that the very real possibility that he will have to perform the dual role of keeper and captain for some portion of this test, and maybe this series. Add also to the mix that his lead bowlers are both coming off long injury layoffs. The longer India bats, the greater the pressure. And with a bum shoulder, on a hot day, a dropped catch by the captain, and who knows ....
And then there are the square boundaries, shorter than the straight boundaries at the Adelaide Oval. And the risk/reward with the hook/pull isnt as skewed as say, Perth of Melbourne.


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Phil Hughes is yours and Phil Hughes is mine

by Naked Cricket

Your heart’s fallen out and your tears have all but made it to the ground
You can’t make no sense of any of this
This was not supposed to happen on a field of cricket
This was not supposed to happen to one of us
This was not supposed to
Happen
It’s just a game, fuck, it’s just a game
Why is the game fucking us so

My best mate’s a gonner
Fell face flat in front of my eyes
Where are the doctors
When will they bring him back to life?

Fuck, what have I done
It was only 135 kmph, son
Fuck, what have I done
You just bowled the ball, son
Fuck, what have I done
He just missed the ball, son
Fuck, what have I done?
It wasn’t a beamer, it didn’t slip from your hand, you bowled as you did, a hundred thousand times before
Fuck, what have I done?
Don’t crucify yourself, son
Help them help you pull the blame and the pain apart, they’re not one and the same, they’re not one and the shame

I know now he’s a country boy from a banana farm and if cricket didn’t happen he’d still be peeling away
I know his smile better than any cricket smile
It’s etched so deep and etched so young
It’s etched so deep makes you wanna weep
The way he talks with a nervous stutter
I wanna protect him when we go back Live
And the cricket plays out
The way it was s’posed to play out

And I hardly knew him
And I hardly saw him play
Yet in spite of those low scores and no scores against spin
How I loved the way he stretched all over the place
And sort of smothered the spin
And I’ve never said that before except in my mind

And there was this bugger called Dennis Freedman
Who went on and on for the last many months on twitter
How he should play for country
Just look at those scores
And he didn’t stop there
He went on and on
And I feel so sad for him.

But we all feel Dennis’ pain
And it’s not because we thought he should play for country
But because we saw cricket die before our eyes
Because we saw a bit of ourselves die

Put out your bats
Hang out your tears to dry
Hang your heart on the line
Phil Hughes is yours and Phil Hughes is mine.

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