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Sourav Ganguly to interview Ravi Shastri to make amends

by Naked Cricket

Even more than Anil Kumble’s appointment as coach, the buzz has been about Ravi Shastri missing out on the job and Sourav Ganguly missing out on the interview. While the interview was conducted via Skype as Shastri was on holiday in Thailand, why exactly did Ganguly give the interview a miss?
The reasons for the same have been attributed to everything from the two not being on talking terms to Dada’s upset stomach. Which of course has also been attributed to Dada hearing Shastri’s voice, “Hello boys, Ravi here, all the way from Bangkok, if the massages don’t get you, the breakfast buffets will!”. Still others believe that Ganguly prefers Face Time to Skype and it was a clash of technologies more than a clash of personalities.  
What was a brief interview with Shastri waxing eloquent on the massage parlours and pole dancers to the shopping at the Chatuchak weekend market – “you get everything under the sun here, won’t be too farfetched to expect your next Indian coach from here...in fact, boys, I’m at Chatuchak right now”.
At the completion of the interview, Ganguly was briefed by Tendulkar and Laxman, in addition to ex- BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale. Even though Ganguly is a big fan of Thailand as a holiday destination, it appears he was predisposed to Kumble’s selection as coach.
This has now caused a lot of rancour in the ranks. Shastri in his own words is determined to “go down all guns blazing” and expects a “one to one, man-to man, settle it in the middle like men” interview with Ganguly.
Shastri who is close to Test captain, Virat Kohli, is alleged to also enjoy the backing of BCCI President, Anurag Thakur. The Ganguly-Shastri faceoff will be held in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. BCCI is looking to sell the broadcasting rights, with Sony already shortlisted for the same. Sony has further shortlisted Navjot Sidhu, Gaurav Kapur and Rameez Raja. Salman Khan will make a guest appearance to promote his film, Sultan, and draw wrestling parallels with the interview. Sidhu is expected to laugh and clap hysterically every time Salman pauses.
The interview will have three sections, styled on the lines of an IPL match broadcast. In the end, Tendulkar, Laxman, Thakur and Jagdale will vote by way of secret ballot, with the IPL auctioneer, Richard Madley, naming the winner. Ravi Shastri, who is also contracted to the BCCI as a commentator, will conduct the twin roles of introductions and wrap-ups, albeit both in an empty stadium, something he has so far accomplished with élan.
One can expect the Shastri script to be on the lines of, “In the end, the interview is the winner. Tough questions were asked and tough answers were given. All three results are possible. Kumble as coach, Shastri as coach and both Kumble and Shastri as coach. You will ask, how is that even possible? Because in India, anything is possible – a coach and a coach’s mentor can coexist beautifully”
To add to the masala and further up the TRPS of the interview, BCCI designated commentator, Sanjay Manjrekar tweeted:




Anil Kumble is yet to comment on the Ganguly-Shastri interview. Before this, he had thanked all and sundry for their wishes, including Azhar.


It is believed if Shastri does pass muster, he could be contracted as the man to call the shouts. Whereas Kumble will continue to call the shots from behind the scenes. In the unlikely situation that Ganguly refuses to interview Shastri, one can expect Shastri to interview Ganguly. Because to quote Shastri, “something’s gotta give”.  
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here

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You will now see Lionel Messi in the IPL

by Naked Cricket

Isn't that where all great international players go after retirement?
 
Lionel Messi has shocked the world but not Mathew Hayden and Michael Hussey who saw it coming for a long time. Calling time on his international career, after missing a penalty in the Copa America Finals against Chile, Messi (short for mesmerize), is arguably the greatest player to have not won any of the world's great trophies.  

From a very young age, Messi was very fond of clubbing. This transplanted into many of his successes against club sides across the world. Best known for being a goal vending machine for FC Barcelona, Messi is not retiring from club or franchise football.

Meanwhile, the BCCI always quick to lure great internationals into retirement, have refused to take responsibility for Messi's retirement. “He has retired and we respect that, if he wants to be part of the IPL in whatever capacity he deems fit, he is most welcome” Already unfounded rumours are doing the round that Messi will be part of the mini IPL to be hosted overseas.

New India coach, Anil Kumble could fast-track Messi's initiation into the new game. The upcoming series to the West Indies could serve as a perfect meeting point for Virat Kohli and Lionel Messi. It is learnt if Messi plays in the IPL, it will be for none other than Kohli's team, RCB. “RCB is yet to win the IPL, and even though many trophies have eluded Messi, we know how good he is at the franchise game, where you don't feel the pressure of playing for your country”, India and RCB skipper, Virat Kohli was heard saying. Fellow team mate and buddy, AB de Villiers’ echoed Virat’s words, “Messi is almost South African, and I welcome him in RCB...though he will be very much at home playing with the Proteas...we can all collectively choke...”

Still others feel that Messi was born to coach Mumbai Indians. Tendulkar was unusually outspoken when he said, “We have all the world's coaches but we do not yet have a football coach. Those who have followed Indian cricket will have seen how much Dhoni and Kohli and other Indian players love to play football before a cricket match. And if your football preparation isn't good, how can your cricket performance be any better?” Nita Ambani, a new appointee to the IOC has welcomed Messi in the Mumbai Indians’ family. Fielding coach, Jonty Rhodes, who named his child, India, has now branded the team, “Messi Indians”.

After finishing just above Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, Dhoni said he was a Manchester United supporter and would be happier if Lionel Messi joined another team. “Yes, he is a great player but like Rahane I don't know if his game is suited for Indian conditions. Even though he will start in the mini IPL, which is being held overseas, the main IPL will be held in India. We have arrived after a good combination after a string of defeats and injuries and you would have seen even our defeats were by narrow margins so we'd like to concentrate on the cricket than get too carried away by the football”

When asked what he thought of retiring from internationals, and if Messi's decision will affect him, he said had he been asked this question a few months back, he would have been reactionary, but he has now been advised to be minimal in his answers. Dhoni replied with a simple “No, we are very different individuals”

Not much is being made of Messi’s association with Tata Motors but it is learnt after driving the Nano, he regretted his decision to ever play the beautiful game which eventually led to his big-buck signing with the Indian major. It is still too early to say whether Tata is responsible for Messi’s final tata from international football.

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

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The lion inside the man.

by Naked Cricket

Admire is not a word used loosely. In life, there will be many you love, like, very few you admire. You may not love or like these people, chances are, you may not even know them, at least not personally, but there will be something in them that will uplift you. Make you soar. Make you want to be like them. Make you want to do it like they do it. Hope to be as good as them.

To dig in. When it gets so tough, you don't want to even be there. You want to run away, anywhere, but be there. The man will dig in. Dig in so deep, you didn't know such deep reserves existed.

The man will go on and on and on. As if he is not a man. As if he is something else. What that something else is, is hard to tell. But he is not a man. The essence of the man will be a Japanese scroll with a red sun on CV Kamesh's headband in the gym. It says, lost in focus. CV Kamesh wears it every day at the gym.

Anil Kumble wore it every day on the cricket field. Not the band. The belief. Not just the belief, the action. Anil Kumble is more than the broken jaw. Anil Kumble is more than an anecdote.

Anil Kumble is the man. Not only when he took ten wickets. But when he took no wickets. He was the piercing squint of a lion's empty stomach on spotting its prey. He was the claws drawn out. He was the Natgeo clip when the deer outruns the lion. He was the Natgeo clip when the lion runs after another deer. And another deer. And another. Till he feeds that empty stomach. If not on the first day, then on the second or the third day. Kumble was the lion that knew a Test match can feed you on any one of the five days.

He preyed on batsmen with that knowledge. It wasn't until the 25th over that the first Pakistani wicket fell. By the 61st over, Anil Kumble had all ten.  14 in the match. He fell twice to Saqlain Mushtaq. Saqlain fell twice to him. This lion's elephant memory will remember that.

The man was more than the 619 Test wickets. Much more than the 337 ODI wickets. The man was the drama. Before every wicket. The appeal to the heavens. The umpire above. Arms raised. Back arched forward. Knees bent. “GIVE IT OUT.” The man preyed on the white cloaked figure as the lion preyed on the deer.

Anil Kumble knew that after feasting from Saturday to Thursday, lions are made to fast on Friday in the zoo. Anil Kumble knew an empty stomach is not such a bad thing. Anil Kumble knew how to straddle the wild and the zoo of world cricket. Anil Kumble survived both.

Welcome back to the jungle, Jumbo. You are remembered by your lion’s heart. This time could be no different. You’ve been blessed with a lion: Virat Kohli. A lion on top of his game. His kills could decide how far you go. Or can you readdress the imbalance amongst the cubs - from the den to the jungle? Indian cricket is ready for the straighter one, again.  Roar.

For Jumbo.  

He was not what you call a master
He was not what you call a blaster
He was just a servant
Servant of the game

He was bespectacled, thick rimmed
Young and nerdy engineer type
Averse to any kind of hype
But eager like any beaver you ever saw

Nobody could read him
Nor batsman nor layman
He was the object of our ridicule
He was no less than a molecule
He was the reason we ragged in colleges
Any kid that that refused to fit in
He was the reason for our losses
He was the reason for our defeats
He was the reason we couldn’t fare better
As a nation, as a people, as a team

He was last choice captain
He was last man standing
He was broken in bandage
He was awoken in carnage

He was the very object of our scorn
Aren’t we happy now he’s gone?
He was the very object of our con
Aren't we happy now he's gone?
He was not Sachin, he was just Anil

He was not what you call a master
He was not what you call a blaster
He was just a servant
Servant of the game

He served in Antigua
He served in Sydney
He served in Delhi
He served in Perth
He served in Bangalore
He just didn’t serve in lore

He was just a servant
Servant of the game

The glasses have long gone
And so the man

(written after Anil Kumble’s retirement)

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Anil Kumble turned up for the job interview in bandages

by Naked Cricket

India has a desi coach after a string of firangs somehow got by without knowing the language. Yet, knowing the language was one of the prerequisites this time.
What language, you may ask - there are so many, which is possibly why someone like Anil Kumble who speaks not only English and Hindi, but also Kannada and engineering, scored the highest marks in the coach’s final exam.
Anil Kumble, it is learnt, has developed a wicked sense of humour, and had his mates in splits, when he turned up for the job interview in bandages. Reminiscent of the time when he returned to bowl, jaw broken and bandaged, and grab Brian Lara’s wicket; Sachin, Sourav and VVS, all stood up and hi-fived him, as they did on the field, that day in Antigua.
When asked what he was thankful for, Kumble thanked the broken jaw: "It was a flat deck, worse than our Indian roads that we call wickets. I’m glad I broke my jaw and only bowled 14 of the 248 overs that India bowled.”
To which Laxman cracked up, and said in his usual jovial self, "Aneel, even I bowled 17 overs haha, you’re very lucky Aneel, I agree, you’re a very lucky guy."
At this point, Tendulkar jumped out of his seat to admonish Laxman, "Aila! 17 overs, what is that, I bowled 34 overs that day! We should make Anil coach just so that we can force him to bowl more overs in the nets."
Sourav Ganguly, all serious so far, wasn’t about to be left out when he said in his usual deadpan manner, "One of the advantages of being captain is that I bowled only 12 overs in that innings." He looked around for approval which he got in spades from the little private club.
Laxman blamed Ganguly, alleging that because of that Test match, where Ashish Nehra bowled 49 overs in an innings, he was never fully fit again. "You killed Nehra the bowler for life, Sourav, hehehe... and Zak too, and Srinath too. How can you make your quicks all bowl close to 50 overs? You were a heartless captain."
Ganguly corrected him, "Medium pacers, VVS, not quicks, medium pacers."
The banter went on, when Tendulkar decided to do a Q&A on the Test match, "How many bowlers bowled for India? And no, you cannot Google it, Anil."
Kumble looked on sternly, asking matter-of-factly, "Will this question decide whether I make it as coach?"
Tendulkar nodded.
There was a deafening silence in the room. After a few minutes of levity it was all down to one question.
Kumble started to toss the player’s names in his head – and then it came to him, he had just visited Ajay Ratra’s (the wicketkeeper in that match) cricket profile.
A thorough researcher, Kumble had looked at every aspect of Ratra’s career – he also noticed he had bowled six balls in a Test match. That one over had to be in the Antigua Test.
Where else? If Laxman could bowl 17 overs in a Test, even the twelfth man had a chance to bowl.
Anil Kumble’s already firm jaw appeared more determined as he looked Sachin, Sourav and Laxman collectively in the eye. It was as if he was interviewing them for a post. He nodded ever so slightly and started a roll call of the team, listing every player, and then laying a greater emphasis on Ajay Ratra’s name.
To which, Sachin and Sourav were poker-faced but Laxman let out the hint of a smile.
In Kumble’s mind, it was either ten or eleven players who had bowled. Spotting Laxman’s smile, Kumble went for the jugular: "All 11 bowled in that Test match, including the one over from Ajay Ratra. Sourav, I do think for his economy rate, he was a trifle underbowled. Let me tell you, as India coach, I won’t let the wicketkeeping duties come in the way of bowling. I expect MS to turn his arm over."
There was a gentle applause. Laxman called a peon in and requested Kumble to dictate his appointment letter.
But Ganguly was all serious, "Sorry Anil, but we have to ask you one more question, how do you plan to improve India’s performance overseas?"
They all laughed heartily. It was a question asked many times before. The masters in the room knew only too well there were no real answers yet. Still, a man's got to ask.
Anil Kumble started his PowerPoint presentation. Laxman insisted there wasn’t any need. Long after Kumble’s appointment letter had been printed and signed, he continued to present, talking about the future.
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here

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How to embrace India’s series in Zimbabwe

by Naked Cricket

As tall claims go, this is right up there. The buzz for the Killer Cup is possibly on par with First Class matches in India. Both are telecast, but apart from a handful of selectors and players’ families and friends, is anyone watching?

The last India-Zimbabwe series, I followed mostly on car radio. It’s far less embarrassing. You don’t have to look at players constantly reminded you don’t know who they are. The grounds here are bigger and look even emptier, nothing drains the enthusiasm from a match more than an empty ground. By the end of it all, you’re almost good friends with the five-ten people the camera keeps on trolling. Mostly, they’re yawning. If they’re not sleeping. In the first match, two gents were seated at a table. It was a very odd sight. Radio spares you such sights. The quick shifts from English to Hindi commentary are an art form in itself. Radio will help you learn a few Zimbabwe names, who knows, maybe all of them. By the end of a quick listen, Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura will be rolling off your tongue like Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

And deep down you want to be connected to the cricket, don’t you? OK, maybe not with this series, but what’s the harm in trying?

KL Rahul could be a future great. Already he’s into a rare mode of either not scoring at all or scoring centuries. Even he didn’t know he was the first Indian to score a one-day century on debut. Already, Virat Kohli has immense belief in his RCB mate. He backed him in the Test series Down Under where he scored a century, he backed him in the IPL too. Who knows where all this backing will take him? Could he become a first choice opener for India instead of Shikhar Dhawan? If so, the foundations are being laid right now in Zimbabwe. Do you want to miss the start of something big? Can’t you just hear them crowds chanting KL! KL! No? How about, Rahul! Rahul!

OK, so there’s something about KL Rahul’s demeanour that’s too smug, and you just can’t warm up to him, but no harm in trying is there?

If a bunch of anonymous players doesn’t do it for you, surely Dhoni will? Why? Er, because he’s Dhoni? In the twilight of his career, leading a team of rookies, what can be more attractive? OK, Kohli leading the A-Listers to wherever but surely you get the point? Dhoni doesn’t play Tests anymore, gotta cherish whatever little you get to see of him, even if it’s against Zimbabwe. And India is playing so many Tests this season, it’s as if, the entire revenue stream has been turned upside down because of a cricket conscience – to hell with the money, we want to save cricket first. But yeah, there won’t be any Dhoni in those five day games, so enjoy it while it lasts.

What, you’ve already moved on, oh well, had to still try, and Dhoni is still a very compelling reason.  Even if you just see him perform in huddles and behind the stumps and shrug at the occasional misfield. Something deep down tells me that this will be a riveting chapter in Dhoni’s cricket-cycle. And it’s got nothing to do with Cycle Agarbatti.

The one-day format can be repetitive. Almost all the fifty overs seem like the middle overs, more so in Zimbabwe. Not being engaged is far from heresy.  Give it a few more days, that good old IPL format will be back, India plays three T20s. The timing is almost the same as those IPL afternoon games that nobody watched – 4:30 pm IST. By the time you’re back home, lounging in your La-Z-Boy, remote in one hand, beer in the other, it’ll be down to those make-or-break last five overs.

An anonymous Zimbabwean will be bowling to an anonymous Indian. By the end of those five overs, you’ll have a new hero. And that’s what cricket is all about. Knew it all along, there was redemption for the series. If only they had started with the T20s, there would’ve been far more context to the ODIs.

Over to Alexander Graeme Cremer. “Cremer Who?” Never mind, he’s just the Zimbabwean skipper.

First published here

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What’s Virat Kohli’s summer holiday like

by Naked Cricket

Virat's cricket kit has been put away. Even he doesn't know where it is. It's been hidden by Ravi Shastri and his loyalists, solely dedicated to the greater cause of Virat Kohli's switch-off regime. In the last few months, Virat has trained so hard, it's scary. He's beaten the body, he's beaten the mind, just so he could stay unbeaten. Which he has, but cricket is a team game and he can't make the ten others endure what he has, he can't make the ten others unbeatable.

So, in spite of his nature defying best, the team fell short. First in the WorldT20 and then in the IPL. Shastri has continued to sermonise, "you must not be too hard on yourself, I would say, it's time to be soft on yourself". In addition to the mandatory escape from cricket, Shastri has signed Virat up at the city's most indulgent spa. "It's time to put those overworked feet up, it's time to let go off the hunger to win...Just be...in the spa, I want you to feel utterly, totally brain dead...no thinking...just indulgence."

Curtains thick enough to block Bombay’s sun out were drawn. Phones and internet shut off. No newspapers. Just long, undisturbed sleep. Only a button for meals. Even the music had been tailored for Virat’s waking hours from Buddhist chants to mantras of a rare Hindu sect fast gaining popularity in the west. The temperature had been set between 24-26 degrees centigrade.

When Virat did wake from his deep slumber, Mick Jagger’s Goddess in the doorway played and there she was – ‘A’ in the doorway. Virat mimicked a catch and asked an imaginary crowd to stay silent. He continued, “my best catch ever”. ‘A’ laughed and made a sign to refer it, “I don’t think it was clean though”. “Oh please don’t refer it, it’ll be that same IPL third umpire, he’ll delay us forever and ever and I can’t wait”.  ‘A’ reminded him of the no-cricket clause. Virat blew her a flying kiss from an imaginary cricket bat, chiding her, “First Ravi, now you, just taking away my balls”

Virat and A were driven to their soon-to-be favourite restaurant. Even they didn’t know it existed. But by the end of their meal, this would become their go-to place. Shastri had it all sorted. He’d booked the place out, ensured the side entrance, a sweeping view of the Arabian Sea. “Coaching India can wait, a chill pill for the Indian captain cannot” he would joke with his mates. In Shastri’s mind, Virat was the only Indian captain. In Shastri’s mind, he was already India’s coach.

It had been days and Virat had not hit a cricket ball or a ball of any kind. Shastri knew this wasn’t easy, “Something’s gotta give which is why I’ve organised a football match with Virat’s charity...where to put it mildly, something’s gonna give”. The much publicised football match between cricketers and Bollywood stars was Shastri’s brainchild. Virat’s hunger knew no bounds, he not only scored the most goals, he also saved the most goals, and was also the player with the highest possession percentage. In spite of all this, like in the WorldT20 and IPL, his team lost. In spite of the defeat, Virat was happy it was for a good cause, his speech was long, eloquent and even plugged Shastri’s charity “Something’s gotta give”.

After the match, he asked Shastri, “Now can I have my cricket kit back, I’m really missing it”. Shastri calmed him with his usual, “all in the fullness of time, Virat, all in the fullness of time, Virat”.  Virat’s rejuvenation therapy was well underway, and Shastri did not want to hamper it with a premature return to cricket - “I have two tickets for a secret destination in the southern hemisphere*...the weather is very nice there...” Virat could not hide his excitement, “Thanks Ravi, thanks so much...you’ve booked me as a last minute replacement for the Zimbabwe T20 series...I love you, man”. Shastri looked bemused, “Zimbabwe, who said anything about Zimbabwe, I want you to go Maldives...I’ve already spoken to Mandira...Mandira Bedi...and she says, you and A will have a fantastic time...plus, she’s taken all the limelight, so you can enjoy a quiet vacation”

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

First published here

*Maldives lies between latitudes 1°S and 8°N

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What is India doing in Zimbabwe?

by Naked Cricket

Searching for the next Robin Singh? Or the next Dhoni?
Robin Singh played one Test. It was against Zimbabwe. Surprisingly it didn’t end in a tie. He was consistent, as he always was against Zimbabwe, scoring 15 and 12. He was leg before wicket in both innings. He bowled 10 overs. Apt as Robin Singh was basically a one-day cricketer. Even in a Test, he bowled his complete one-day quota.
Robin Singh will always be remembered for his first ODI against Zimbabwe. It ended in a tie. On the second last ball of the last over, Robin Singh was run out. His 48 off 31 deliveries gave India a sniff, just as his run out gave Zimbabwe a sniff. Barely two weeks later, Robin-the-batman beat Zimbabwe the team. He was there at the end. Tendulkar scored yet another century but it was Robin’s 38 that pulled off the win.
A career average of 25 shot up to 40 against Zimbabwe. Even his strike rate sneaked up to 81 from 74. In his last ODI against the old foe, Robin’s world came full circle – he was run out, unfortunately it wasn’t a tie.
Since then, India-Zimbabwe games have just not been the same. Enter Ambati Rayudu who played his first and last ODI both against Zimbabwe. This is no small coincidence. While Robin Singh was 34 when he played Zimbabwe, Rayudu was nearly 28. His first ODI (also against Zimbabwe) was no less spectacular – he made an unbeaten half century, taking India across the line. Rayudu’s batting average nearly doubles against Zimbabwe, from 45 to 89, his highest score, 124 not out is also against them. This will be Rayudu’s third series in Zimbabwe. He may not be a regular in the one-day side yet, but he’ll always have Zimbabwe.
Karun Nair makes the squad, somewhat impossibly, on the back of a steady IPL with Delhi Daredevils. While DD was doubly determined to lose four-five wickets in the power play, Nair stood firm, playing almost classical risk-free cricket.
Twice now a century has changed Manish Pandey’s world. First when he became the only Indian to score one in the IPL, and more recently, his ton in Australia. Like Rayudu, Pandey too made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. Like Rayudu, he too scored a half century. Kedar Jadhav too has happy memories of Zimbabwe, he scored his first ODI hundred against them, an unbeaten 105. That too batting at No. 6.
Nair, Rayudu, Pandey and Jadhav will be India’s mainstay, their collective form could decide the outcome of the series on seamer friendly wickets.
Both KL Rahul and Mandeep Singh are yet to make their ODI debuts. In Gayle’s absence, Rahul had Kohli’s stamp of approval and opened with him in the IPL. His lacks behind the stumps were adequately made up in front of them. Once a mainstay for Kings XI Punjab, Mandeep played just one match this IPL for RCB – he did not get to bat. KL Rahul will be expected to open the batting, Mandeep Singh, if he plays, could accompany him on top.
None of these will be the next Robin Singh though, because for that, you need an all-rounder of sorts, someone with a Mumbai Indians’ connection – how about Rishi Dhawan? Dhawan has played all his three ODIs against Australia, didn’t do much with the ball, didn’t do much with the bat. Will be more of a batting all-rounder than a proper all-rounder, so don’t expect to see the next Kapil Dev. If anything, the next Robin Singh - to confirm, keep a look out for a tied match.
Nine years back, Dhoni set sail for Africa with a team sans Tendulkar and Dravid. It was a young, inexperienced bunch. Not rated. From the bunch that went on to win that first World T20, except for Dhoni and Rohit, no player is an India regular these days. From the bunch that sets sail for Africa now, except for Dhoni and Bumrah, no player is an India regular these days. Nine years back, that bunch of boys helped Dhoni invent himself. Today, can this bunch of boys help Dhoni reinvent himself?  “Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you!”

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Dhoni’s camp backs him to captain India in all three formats

by Naked Cricket

If Ravi Shastri thought he’d suggest Virat Kohli’s name as captain for all three formats and that would be it, he’s got another thing coming: the weakened but no doubt still robust Dhoni camp has struck back and how. It is learnt that they want Dhoni to captain India in all three formats. When it was pointed out that Dhoni has retired from Test cricket and at best can only be captain in two formats, Dhoni’s supporters cited the example of Pakistani greats, Imran Khan and Shahid Afridi. Their logic, if ordinary mortals from across the border can come out of retirement, why can’t Dhoni – “there is nothing Dhoni can’t do – from hitting last balls for six, to first balls for four, and running hard in the middle overs.”

These reactions have gone largely unnoticed as the nation’s only preoccupation over the last week has been obsessing over a stand-up comedians snap chat video. The comedian is now threatening to make another snapchat video on MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli with Ravi Shastri making a guest appearance.  But that’s not cricket.

Or for that matter the latest battle lines that have been drawn between the Dhoni and Kohli camps. Suresh Raina, longtime friend and CSK mate of Dhoni, made no bones of his support for the beleaguered skipper, “MS is someone who has always backed me to give my best, it is only natural that I now back him to give his best – in all three formats. MS has been Test captain of India and knows how the job can be done. Virat is still new to the job and needs to be groomed under MS. And if MS retired in Australia, he can also come out of retirement in West Indies” When asked what he meant by the last comment, Raina smiled and patted a team mate on the bottom, winking, “Y’kno what I mean, once you have captained CSK for so many seasons, you can captain any team, anywhere for many seasons more”.

Former New Zealand captain and Rising Pune Supergiants’ coach, Stephen Fleming, was more dispassionate when he said, “It’s an internal matter and I’d prefer to not comment on it. But I have full confidence in MS’ abilities as a captain, be it for half a day or for five days”

Not to be outdone, support for Kohli too was thick and fast. Ravi Shastri was back on the counter, “I don’t like to repeat myself but I think I’ll have to repeat myself here”. Shastri then went on to quote himself word for word, as the press marvelled on. When asked how he could recall exactly what he said on the Virat Kohli captaincy issue, he smiled that knowing smile of his, “When I hit it, it stays hit! And something’s gotta give and the boot is on the other foot now.”

Ambati Rayudu, who has previously enjoyed watching Dhoni from the other end said, “I am a batsman and for me a captain who gives me batting is the correct choice. I enjoy running between the wickets but I cannot contribute to the team’s cause as a non-striker”

Ajinkya Rahane, whose batting style has been criticized by Dhoni, was his usual non-confrontational self – “happy to play under any captain and give my 100%”.

Dhoni’s former CSK teammate, Ravindra Jadeja excitedly said that after his CSK haircut he was now ready to have MSD’s name as a cut-out on his head. Whereas Ravichandran Ashwin almost echoed Rayudu’s words when he talked at length about not being able to contribute to the team’s cause when he wasn’t bowling. “Everyone has been joking about my bowling in the IPL, or should I call it non-bowling – personally it was a disappointing season but I can’t do much with the ball if I’m not bowling. I’d be happy to back any captain who is happy to back me. Also I’m not a great fielder so the more I bowl the less I field, it’s Quite Easily Deduced”

Stand-up comedian, Tanmay Bhat had the last word when he mimicked a Bihari and Delhiite abusing each other with a man from Mumbai intervening with one cliché after another.  Funerals, favourite moves, enthusiasts, cement and Srini mama were thrown at each other. 

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

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When scorpions fight to the finish

by Naked Cricket

There is much in common between Virat Kohli and David Warner:  Bully openers, closure masters, boss captains. While one had anger management issues, the other continues to fuel his cricket with fury.  Both share the same star sign, Scorpio. Both are in their late 20s, Kohli’s 27, Warner’s 29. Both have the identical top score in T20 internationals, a 90 not out.

Both are full-on Aussie in their approach to sport. Both have curbed their natural T20 instincts, preferring to battle boredom for the team. Both want to win this IPL so bad you can almost taste it on TV. Both have just about done enough to win it on their own. Going into the finals, Kohli has 919 runs, Warner, 779 runs. That’s the top two run scorers this IPL.

Both their cricket journeys have been shaped by Delhi in no small way. While Kohli is from Delhi, Warner’s opening for Delhi Daredevils (under Virender Sehwag) by his own admission, defined his game -

“When I went to Dehli, Sehwag watched me a couple of times and said to me, ‘You’ll be a better Test cricketer than what you will be a Twenty20 player’.”

And can both field. They hurl themselves at the cricket ball as if a magnetic field were pulling them to it. Both did not open in the World T20, but after this IPL, who will stop them?

Tonight, only one will win the IPL.

After winning five back-to-back knock-out matches and making it to the finals, the trophy seems like just another routine chase under lights for Virat Kohli.

Kohli has in his XI, four outright match winners with the bat, Gayle, de Villiers, Watson and himself. Warner has just one: himself. He’s pushed this Sunrisers’ campaign with his bat and his bowlers. 

Even the absence of Ashish Nehra and Mustafizur Rahman hasn’t stopped him.

The IPL finals are at Chinnaswamy. For RCB, it’s not a home game, it’s a backyard game, with friends and extended family - 40,000 chants of R-C-Bee, R-C-Bee will be baying for Warner’s blood.

On 12th April, when the two played in Bangalore, RCB sucked the Chinnaswamy for all the runs it was worth – 228, beating SRH (Nehra and Mustafizur included) by 45 runs. Warner made a 25 ball 58. For RCB, Kohli 75, de Villiers 82 sealed the deal. When the Sunrisers returned home, they knocked off 194 beating RCB by 15 runs. That man Warner again, a 50 ball 92.  One-all, one to play. 

For RCB, off spinner, Parvez Rasool played both games. He played the last of his four games this season more than three weeks back. Will RCB play him again to counter the two left handers on top? Or will they expect Gayle to bowl with his big bat? Will Kohli risk his left arm spinner, Abdulla against Warner? Or will he go as Raina did with Jadeja against Warner, and not bowl him at all? What about the leg spinner, Yuzvendra Chahal?

What about out of favour Sarfaraz Khan? Has he shed enough weight to be picked? Not only is he an October 27 born like Warner, he tonked a 10 ball 35 when he played the Sunrisers, most of those runs were behind the wicket, scooping, paddling, doing all kinds of horrible things to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Such was his impact that day, poor Bhuvi all but gave up on bowling yorkers till just the other day. RCB might find more of baby Sachin in Sarfaraz than they will in Sachin Baby. It’ll be a gamble worth taking, negating Bhuvi could be the game. Bad memories do strange things to sportspersons.

The other big call for RCB is gambling with Lokesh Rahul behind the stumps. It could not just cost them runs, it could cost them the trophy. The only way wicketkeeper, Travis Head makes it to the playing XI if Chris Gayle does not.

Chances are RCB will go with their same winning eleven. And a prayer. It’ll be down to Warner to dismiss Warner. And hoping the other left handers, Dhawan and Yuvraj don’t mess up Abdulla and Chahal too badly.  
 
Either way, a loss in the IPL final will not make either a lesser player. A win for Virat Kohli though, will feed the IPL dream like few things can. (Like Dhoni’s used to in his heyday, you remember?) It’ll add yet another chapter to that story he continues to write on the field. Through the covers. And sometimes, even in the dugout when he fails to score.

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