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Death by a thousand leaks—the BCCI style

by Ottayan

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

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

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

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

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


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

by Naked Cricket

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

First published here


Why losing to Pakistan could be a blessing in disguise

by Naked Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published here


How Virat Kohli can hype an already overhyped game

by Naked Cricket

Months, often years go by without India playing Pakistan. And then you have the Champions Trophy that pits the two against each other in the same group, intentionally, with the weather just about holding too. Though not quite Pakistan, who end up losing by 124 runs. Since then though, Pakistan did not lose a game, and somewhat miraculously made its way to the finals.

India, equally miraculously, lost to Sri Lanka but more than turned up in its other two matches. So here we are, with two days off, and one to be fully on.

Either way, there’s only one certainty in this Champions Trophy, that it will be a one-sided match. It has been a bore-fest to beat them all, and when there was parity, as in the Pakistan-Sri Lanka match, it was largely due to the ineptness of the two sides.

The tournament is trim, the weather further trimmed the matches, and in 18 days flat we’ll be done. Though not without a fresh sounding of the bugle for the India-Pakistan Finals. But it’s really quite unnecessary.

There is no India-Pakistan rivalry on the cricket field. Today, in all seriousness, there’s more India-Bangladesh rivalry. There’s context to matches with the Eastern neighbours, and photoshop and nasties. Enough off the field events (and some on the field too, no nobody has forgotten that Rohit Sharma no ball yet) to have spilled over on to the field. India tours Bangladesh, and vice versa, they only recently played their first Test in India. When did Pakistan play their last Test in India? When did India last play Pakistan outside an ICC tournament?

For the record, India’s captain, Virat Kohli, who made his Test debut in 2011, is yet to play a Test against Pakistan. He’s already played two against Bangladesh. Since his ODI debut in 2008, Kohli has played against Pakistan in 11 ODIs. Of these eight have been in World Cups, Asia Cups or Champion Trophy – only three have been in an India-Pakistan ODI series which was from December 30, 2012 – January 6, 2013 in India. Kohli is yet to play Pakistan in the U.A.E. Two centuries against them already, 183 and 107, with an 81* from earlier in this tournament.

If there’s ever been any build up against Pakistan, or perceived threat, Virat Kohli is yet to let off. There is more of the usual platitudes, both before and after Indo-Pak matches. If anything, the build-up is a little underwhelming. It’s not as if team India is playing to either the press or the galleries, who are both on an extended print run of hysterics.

So, what can Virat Kohli (and the press) do to hype up an already overhyped Indo-Pak match

1 In reply to obscure questions such as, “Is this just another match for you?”, he can make obscure statements such as, “This is not just another match for us, this is a Final and that too against Pakistan”. This will then be translated into “Kohli weary of Pakistan” and “Kohli not taking Pakistan lightly” and “Kohli feels India vs Pakistan is different” and “Kohli feels final with Pak is added pressure”. Yeah right, Kohli has to do very little, they’re going to have a party anyway, both before and after and in all probability during the match.

2 Kohli can refuse to take any questions on the match. This will send the press into a tailspin, and give them even more innuendo than any answer possibly can. In fact, he should approach the match as top secret, pretty much like any questions on his personal life, or to be more specific, any questions on Anushka Sharma. That will nail it. Before long, there will be innuendo that, “Is Virat involved with Pakistan?” or “Is Virat hiding something” or some kufia-undercover photographer will take a photograph of Virat allegedly gifting a box to Aamir, soon to follow: “Virat concerned with Aamir’s safety”.

3 Give Dinesh Karthik an extended net before Sunday’s match. This will directly lead to sources informing us that there is a rift between Dhoni and Kohli. This will be further substantiated by sources in the know that Dhoni was unhappy at captaining the side without actually being the captain, and how the Kedar Jadhav masterstroke against Bangladesh was Dhoni’s doing and even though Kohli admitted to it, it was a gross misuse of Dhoni’s powers. Also someone will blow up the five penalty runs (courtesy Dhoni) and how it had caused a rift between the two – “Gloves are off” both punning and explaining the ramifications of the incident will follow.

4. Photographic evidence of Kohli spending far too much time with batting coach, Sanjay Bangar – pointing to fresh cracks in the Kohli-Kumble relationship. Further substantiated by Kumble and Kohli seated at different tables during meals, and refusing to acknowledge each other in public.

5. Kohli can shave his beard. Or for that matter, all the players can shave their beards. This more than anything else, will lead to bizarre conspiracy theories, and give everyone way more food for thought than many thousands of words ever will.

Chances are, none of this will happen. The real action will be in the middle. There will be very few mind games from the players, either before or after the match. Unless of course, Ashwin decides to start talking about that fresh delivery he had prepared for the Champions Trophy.

Which brings us to 6

6 Why did Kohli glare at Ashwin after dropped catch? Will he be dropped for Final?

There’s always something to insinuate, and for that, you don’t have to hate the other team. Just a hint is enough. Enough hints will be dropped in the days to come, often they’ll have very little to do with cricket.

As I write, there’s an alert on my phone: to do with the big #INDVPAK final.

First published here