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yOS 17 update applied to the Yuvraj operating system

by Naked Cricket

It's about the stillness - if his bat doesn't get you, his gaze will
Yuvraj Singh has just collected his Man of the Match trophy; he’s asked to stand between three beaming middle aged men who form the presentation party. Yuvraj complies. He stands there, with them, still. Almost like stone. Almost stoned.
Before that, Ravi Shastri interviews him, congratulates him, applauds him, applauds his partnership with Dhoni – there too, Yuvraj is still. Focused on his answers, which have clarity, simplicity, he says nothing more or less than needs to be said. Shastri quips about marriage working for him – Yuvraj matter-of-factly mentions lady luck, going on to thank his mother and Guruji. Yuvraj’s smile, that smirk of old, the wisecracks, they’re missing.
At 35, making a questionable comeback, yet again, Yuvraj has little left to prove to anyone – what is left to prove, is perhaps, only to himself. Possibly the most watchable batsman of his generation, the beard suits this new sadhu like avatar of Yuvraj.
Yuvraj last scored an international century in that World Cup he won for SRT in 2011. Since then his journey has been well documented, and will continue to be documented, repeatedly – The Yuvraj chronicles are about the six sixes, the World Cup, the aftermath, and the incredible comeback to cricket after cancer. 
But there was only so far that reputation of the 2011 World Cup and the 2007 World T20 was going to take him. Here in 2017, more than his fans, Yuvraj appears to inhabit the present.
He looks leaner, way meaner than he has in an age. The eyes seem hungrier, almost on a hunt, ready to prey on the bowling. As in the recent past, Yuvraj scored First Class runs and was picked for the national side. Unlike before, Yuvraj and his bat surged away to a big hundred – his highest ODI score, 150.
Throughout his innings, it was as if Yuvraj had not moved. It was as if he was a robotic replica of the Yuvraj masterclass, perfected in the laboratory to regain that lost zeal, to recreate that magic of old, from a fading memory.
The movement was that slight, it hardly registered. The shots, as you come to expect of trademark Yuvi shots, are in these swooping, majestic arcs – as if a supremely quick dancer has just struck a pose, and you’re left baffled with the final pose that you can barely recall what happened before - and whatever must happen, happens.
In this case, it’s that high bat-lift swooping down so fast, you almost expect cartoon speed-lines next to his bat. But did the bat move? Or did Yuvraj move?
Yuvraj Singh’s movement only registers when it’s awkward. When he’s amateurishly fishing outside off, tying himself in silly knots against the shorter stuff or prodding against an off-spinner. That’s when his flow is dammed.
But that was not the Yuvraj of Cuttack. It took him nine deliveries to get going with his first four, also the only time he looked rushed by the short delivery. Within five balls, he had three boundaries.
Yuvraj Singh, the video game, was at the crease. It was as if you and me had the joysticks. And even though Yuvraj hit 21 fours and three sixes, he ran 48 of his runs and 46 of Dhoni’s, at no point did it appear as if he ran at all.
Coming in at the fall of Virat Kohli’s wicket at the end of the third over, Yuvraj Singh batted till the end of the 43rd over. He batted for over three hours. When he was dismissed, he seemed to have barely broken into a sweat.
Why would he, he had barely moved through the innings.
He just stood there and stayed in the present. That Virat Kohli had just been dismissed off his fifth ball didn’t faze him. That India was 22/2 didn’t deter him. That India was soon 25/3 didn’t daunt him.
He was with Dhoni, and Dhoni was him. Deep down he knew that for any opposition that was a frightful prospect. And for them to stay in that fright, all they had to do was stay put.
Which they did, like the immovable objects that they are.
First published here

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Kohli's future as captain

by Naked Cricket

"Kohli’s true test as captain will come if and when his magnificent form dips to that of his peers. How he copes then could be the making of an even better player than we’re seeing now."


First posted here 

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Running Kedar Jadhav into shape

by Naked Cricket

It wasn't until the evening of 15 January, 2017 that Kedar Jadhav had been made to run so much in such a little time. As it is, compared to other batsmen, most of whom tend to be taller than him, he has to run way more to finish a single.
And there he was, running with the marathon man of Indian cricket. It was as if the 100 metre heats were Kohli's first choice sport. And left to him, Kohli would've been happy enough running with his predecessor, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Between them they could run all they like, and for Jadhav too.
Virat Kohli (R) and Kedar Jadhav run between the wickets during first ODI against England in Pune. Reuters
Virat Kohli (R) and Kedar Jadhav run between the wickets during first ODI against England in Pune. Reuters
But it didn't quite pan out like that. Dhoni holed out on just six off six balls with one boundary. His partnership with Kohli was worth seven. Hardly any running there. Before the partnership with Dhoni, Kohli had two more insignificant ones – with KL Rahul and Yuvraj Singh. The first lasted all of 18 balls, the next, a little over four overs. So you can imagine, poor Kohli was barely warmed up on a cool Pune evening.
In Jadhav, he saw the perfect bait - "I'm gonna run this little ball into shape, he'll only thank me for this later" (which of course he did in the post-match chat). Previously, Jadhav and Kohli had hardly, if at all, run together – maybe round the park at the same steady pace as part of the team, but Kohli's memory had no reminders of the speed of Jadhav's running between the wickets.
So here was Kohli, with Jadhav, India at 63/4, plenty to score, and even more to run. Jadhav was still fresh at the crease, his legs ready to scamper those tight singles, his throat set to yell out those quick calls.
Fifty runs later, it still seemed good, though Jadhav's big shots hadn't quite dimmed Kohli's appetite for those quick singles. A nudge here, a nudge there, there even seemed to be some harmony between the running.
But not for long. Kohli, who tends to ask as much of his players as he does of himself, was now running on some cricket-equivalent of that recreational drug, speed. Hundred runs had been added, and in the blink of an eye, 200, but Kohli's hunger for the extra run only grew. He wanted that quick single even more than the boundary or six. That's when he really started to push his partner – all arms, gesturing to Jadhav to run, run, run. To Jadhav's credit, he was sedate as ever. Invariably, a boundary from Jadhav followed.
Not that it stopped Kohli, though. It only whetted his appetite for the illusive single, that second run - and he wanted his partner, not quite Usain Bolt, to help him get it.
There were false starts, a show of hands, an admission that the single wasn't there, but that did not stop the quest.
Two hundred runs later, with five sixes and 17 fours, it was those singles and twos that added 99 runs (53 for Kohli and 46 for Jadhav) that got India to 263 - needing just 88 runs of 13.4 overs for an unlikely victory.
It sounds inane to say that without those 99 running runs, India wouldn't have even got a sniff, but that's how it is in big chases that begin badly.
To rebuild, there's only that much big hitting luck that a batsman can ride. To stitch a win this contrary to the odds, loads of common sense need to be prescribed. And therein lies the Kohli prescription, not just for himself, but for his mates - 'Run Jadhav Run'. (or 'Bhaag Kedar Bhaag').
There's no other way one man can keep winning you so many games chasing. It's the down and dirty work of running singles. The fours and sixes help but they're just the icing.
As for Kedar Jadhav, this century just made his workload a lot heavier. He can now expect early wake-up calls for the treadmill. And for company at the gym, who else but his captain. 
On your marks, Jadhav.
First published here

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Has Virat's victory-virus infected the team?

by Naked Cricket

Kedar Jadhav will turn 32 this March. His turn to play international cricket came a little over two years back. Since then, he’s played less than 20 games for India. Jadhav wasn’t always a regular in the Indian team, except when they flew to Zimbabwe. Where he scored his first one-day century. Few will remember that one though.
Few will forget this one against England. Openers gone, Yuvraj and Dhoni gone, that much mentioned score, 63/4, and the inevitability of the situation and the target facing him. What did he have going for him - he had scored eight centuries in List A cricket, 13 in first-class, he was a journeyman cricketer of sorts, his mom and dad and wife and child were in the stands – but beyond that, his captain, he of 26 ODI hundreds, was at the other end.
If you wanted to chase down any target, there was no better man to chase it with – he could be his own engine and yours too, he could be the wind, the words, and just the belief you needed to see – for Kedar Jadhav’s dare to dream big was as much as a look into his own desires as a look into Kohli’s eyes.
They had the know-how of scoring 26 centuries – of which six were made chasing targets in excess of 300. Kohli’s eyes gave Jadhav a peep into 14 centuries scored by him in successful run chases.
And as Jadhav continued to draw on his own abilities, he saw, right in front of him, something magical happen – something that went beyond the 27th ODI ton and the 15th ton scored in a successful run chase. He saw his chats with Kohli in the dressing room play themselves out in the middle. He saw how you chase a fairly unlikely target from a situation gone horribly wrong.
Just when it appears you have your backs to the wall, you push the walls back – the walls can be your own inhibitions or the bowlers coming at you ball after ball. You free yourself of defeat because right then it appears the game is already lost.
His captain counter attacked, played more in the air and over the top than he had in recent memory. The calculations had gone for a toss because there was nothing left to calculate. At 63/4 in 12 overs, there were no repairs to be made – it was burn down the house in the hope that the flames would take England down as well.
When your captain frees you to attack, like hell, you attack. There was nothing in the pitch, not much in the bowling, it was a tiny ground, it was home. It was his home ground. It was all blue in the stands.
From the word go, Jadhav was in overdrive, scoring way more rapidly than Kohli. While Kohli’s presence at just over run a ball gave India comfort and control, Jadhav’s boundaries shocked – they appeared to come out of nowhere.
Unlike Dhoni and Yuvraj before him, there was no illustrious international CV that preceded him. He was just doing his thing, whether it was timing through the covers for six, or swiveling away to the square leg boundary for four. It looked like Jadhav was having an IPL net session against an IPL team in his IPL backyard.
It seemed that simple, he seemed that assured. And while Kohli reached his 50, and sixed his way to a hundred, you had Jadhav’s innings hurtling down unannounced on some Rapid Transport System.
It seemed quite unbelievable, except when Kohli taunted his little partner to run faster or run a second even when there wasn’t one. In spite of those taunts, Jadhav was unfazed, like some veteran of 74 first-class games in his own little kingdom. Invariably, these taunts would be followed by a nonchalant boundary.
Just as when the cramps appeared as he closed in on his century, the boundary appeared again, 96 became a 100. England still didn’t know what had hit them. It still didn’t look like an amiable little guy like Jadhav could hit them that hard.
By then, Virat Kohli had reached superman mode and hit a six that had WTF written all over it.
200 runs and 25 overs later, when Virat Kohli fell, and the cramps weren’t getting any better for Jadhav – he had seen enough into those eyes to know and believe that the game was already in the bag. With that belief, cramped Jadhav, in spite of collapsing at the crease, hit two more sixes and a four after his hundred.
And in the process, Jadhav scripted some ODI history:
Jadhav's strike rate of 157.89 for his 120 (76) is the eleventh highest strike rate for a second innings hundred in ODI history  via @fwildecricket / twitter
After winning the Man of the Match award, Kedar Jadhav thanked Virat Kohli. It was a moment of rare honesty and emotion, both Jadhav and Kohli seemed quite overcome. Few things can give more satisfaction than sharing knowledge.
Virat had just taken Jadhav through the 36 chambers of Kohli’s Shaolin, on the sidelines and in the middle. Perhaps, a bow followed by a hammed “Master!” in a dubbed Chinese accent would’ve been appropriate.

First published here

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Can India afford to play the waiting game with Rahane as they once did with Rohit?

by Naked Cricket

his is quite disorienting, MS Dhoni is captain on 10 January, Ajinkya Rahane is captain on 12 January, and come 15 January, Virat Kohli will be captain. And continue to be captain for the rest of the series unless there are some more farewells and India A matches thrown in for good measure.
But that’s beside the point: The point is, Ajinkya Rahane of India’s ODIs in Zimbabwe fame, will be in-charge, showcasing his credentials after injury put an end to a bad run against England in the Test series.
While Mohammad Azharuddin has declared he wants to start fresh, Rahane will empathise. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, he has a shot at opening the innings again. And for once, not in Zimbabwe, not in the IPL but in an ODI.
India's Ajinkya Rahane. Reuters
India's Ajinkya Rahane. Reuters
In over five years since his ODI debut, Rahane of Test cricket fame, hasn’t quite cut it in the shorter format. Or for that matter, the shortest format where he isn’t a part of the squad.
The numbers are stacked against him, an ODI average of 32.88, a strike rate of a shade less than 80, it doesn’t look like he’s playing in 2017. Maybe 30 some years back it would have been more than acceptable but now you can end up in a state of constant examination.
A state that creates cracks and questions within an already unsettled game – one that works at forcing the pace, somewhat awkwardly, playing shots that don’t quite come naturally.
Of this playing across the line, trying to bully a ball on off or outside off to the leg side appears to be a common shortcoming – and a common mode of dismissal. A game based heavily on timing, is looking to break free from its confines, often unknowing of its strengths, looking to tap new strengths, through brute force that doesn’t quite exist.
Which is where Rahane appears to be going against the grain. The best slipper in the team, Rahane is an asset to the team with his fielding alone. But fielding alone doesn’t book you a spot in the playing XI, it however does make you a great 12th man.
As Kohli’s deputy in the Test team and possibly his right hand man in the ODIs, it’s up to Kohli, as much as it is to Rahane now – what next? Since his debut in September, 2011, Rahane has played only 72 ODIs. He’s been more out of than in the team.
In these 72 ODIs, Rahane has opened the batting 42 times. His two centuries, scored within months of each other in 2014, were both made as an opener. However, Rahane’s numbers aren’t too different from his overall stats when he opens the batting – the average is just .007 higher (not quite Bond) to 32.95, his strike rate in fact slides to 77 from 78.98.
Today, it all seems hunky dory with Rohit’s one-day career, 10 centuries, batting average of 41, striking at 84.43. But what was it like when he had played, like Rahane, 72 ODIs?
Uncannily, Rohit’s numbers aren’t too different from Rahane, maybe it’s a Mumbai thing, who knows – Rohit’s batting average from his first 72 ODIs was 34.80 (Rahane’s 32.88). Strike rates quite similar too, Rohit’s was 79.14 (Rahane’s 78.98).
After 72 ODIs, Rohit also had two centuries. While Rohit had 11 fifties, Rahane has 16.
After his second ODI century on 30 May, 2010, it took Rohit over three years and four months to score his third ODI century – 60 more ODIs (58 more innings). After that 141* on 16 October, 2013, seven more centuries followed, two doubles included.
Today, the ODI wait seems more of an investment in Rohit’s career. Will India have the same patience with Rahane? Is he a part of the 2019 World Cup plans?
It seems more likely that today both India and Kohli are looking at Rohit and KL Rahul as their first choice openers. Both players are also the first choice when injuries strike. And that is where Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan could come into the picture.
The next few weeks may determine how far Rahane’s one-day appetite takes him. The next trip to Zimbabwe or a first choice opener in England for the Champions Trophy.
It’s time for Rahane to trust his hands again. Therein lies the timing. The time is now. Catch. Like you often do, that runaway ball in the slips.
First published here

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When Star Sports reduced Dhoni to a hashtag

by Naked Cricket

First, it was in the build-up – the match was being hyped-up as the last match that MS Dhoni was captain – come again, captain of what, Team India? This was not the Indian team, this was India A. And this was not an international match, this was an inconsequential practice match. The type of matches where batsmen retire out (euphemism for declare their innings, so someone else can have a go).
Which is what happened when Ambati Rayudu declared his innings at 100 in the 41st over so those that had come to see Dhoni could see Dhoni.
All this is great, and there is a strong sense that we might be seeing the last of Dhoni, not just skippering the team in blue, but for the last time in blue on Indian soil – at least for a long, long time. Who knows if there will be a next time after this series.
You can sense some of Star Sports’ keenness in milking MSD’s captaincy for all its worth. But to do so all in one game, with their panel of commentators rambling from start-to-finish about all their incoherent, same-old, yes, those very, heard it a thousand time before memories, was an assault on the ears.
It was as if the broadcasters’ brief to the commentators was: “Remember how you used to shamelessly plug sponsors in the IPL, replace the sponsors with MSD – yeah, just like you would go right over the top with the Yes Bank Maximums, you go at it about Dhoni…build MS Dhoni up like you would build the Martui Vitara Brezza last season… make it sound like the greatest thing ever, think you can do that? Good. And don’t shy away from repetition, that you never have LS, why would you now?”
By doing all this, the commentators and the broadcasters have done MSD a huge disservice. The crowds had packed in, they’d made it to a practice match that few, if any, turn up for. The action, Dhoni’s presence, when he walked out to bat, all spoke for itself.
All eyes were on Dhoni. It brought back memories, more of his mannerisms, more of how, each one of us remember him, each in our own unique way. Not tutored by Star Sports’ propaganda mouthpieces to tell us about 2007, 2011, Champions Trophy, Joginder Sharma, Kenya, again and again, and again.
We were there too. By rambling on and on about MSD, from the start of the match, they compelled us to switch off – to disconnect with not just the match but with MSD, and what could have been something special in its own way, even if was just a practice match.
But they did not relent. They rambled. If there were pauses, it was only when Saqlain Mushtaq or Ashish Nehra were interviewed. While Saqlain spoke of his respect for MSD, rating him amongst his top three captains, after Imran Khan and Wasim Akram, he also talked about how it seemed like it was an India-Pakistan match because of the atmosphere.
After Saqlain’s breather, the mute option had to be applied again.
Then Ashish Nehra, when compelled to mention his favourite MSD moment (or something like that) was nonchalantly dismissive as only he can be – in the few bytes he gave Star Sports, he pretty much rubbished everything that everyone had been going on and on about Dhoni.
For Nehra, it wasn’t the 2007 or 2011 or Champions Trophy memories. For, as Nehra admitted, he knew Dhoni differently – they had both played for India, and it was obvious there was something more private, something more personal, that Nehra held close about Dhoni. He, however, did not reveal what it was.
At that time, a much younger Nehra abusing Dhoni behind the stumps, flashed in front of my eyes. Nehra didn’t mention what it was, his memory wasn’t part of Star Sports #CaptainsLegacy or #CaptainCool package.
It was his. Just like yours and mine - both have our favourite Dhoni memories, or for that matter, many memories. Not everything is a hashtag.
Star Sports, more than others, have had their wits about them. They can take a leaf out of Dhoni’s cap, hold back a bit. It’s way classier. And leaves an impression.

Nehra having a go at Dhoni, now that’s a memory and a half.


First published here

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The reason why such drastic changes have swept Indian cricket.

by Naked Cricket

The answer lies in not what you hear but what you’re about to hear.
It’s quite simple really, but not something that strikes you at first. Far from it, it’s the last thing that will occur to you. The human mind is trained to look for conspiracy theories rather than accept reality as it is.
Give it a thought, why do you think there’s been so much upheaval in Indian cricket from 2 January? Whether it was heads rolling or heads stepping down, whether it was shoulders that once volunteered, stepping up to take over as the new head?
Let’s connect the dots: First, the BCCI president and secretary are fired. As are 90 percent of the BCCI old guard. Then before you can catch your breath, the Indian limited overs’ captain resigns. Subsequently, the hero of the 2011 World Cup returns. Something that might also have gone under the radar, is Ashish Nehra’s inclusion in the squad.
There has been the odd joke linking the Supreme Court’s maximum term of nine-years in office rule (for office bearers of the BCCI and state associations), to certain players having served Indian cricket for more than nine years.
But they don’t need the Supreme Court to tell them that this is an auspicious time to bid adieu; the next time India play an ODI or T20 on Indian soil, just to hazard a guess, is much after the IPL, and a long, long time away.
To stick it out till the Champions Trophy in England in June, will be to squander their best bet to say goodbye to their millions of fans at home. It will be heady stuff, both for the players and the fans, not to forget the broadcasters too.
The broadcasters see exactly how Indian cricket will pan out way before most of us do. The Sachin Tendulkar farewell series, in fact, was in the works way before retirement even entered Sachin’s thoughts. Two things were a constant, it will have to be played in Mumbai and it will have to be played against the West Indies. After all, Tendulkar deserved a grand farewell, and only the West Indies of new could provide that, the ICC’s FTP (Future Tours Program) be dammed. The Windies will be in India before India can be in India. Last minute, not an exaggeration.
Which brings us to MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra signing of, one last time for India, in India. Against their old rivals, England.
Now put your mind back to that great Tendulkar farewell in Wankhede – in addition to Tendulkar and the bottle whacking boys in the stands, who else made it great that day?
No, not Vinod Kambli by staying away. Who else? C’mon, you can do it.
It was a voice. For long, considered the sane voice of Indian cricket. Not a cricketer, but a cricket watcher. Not a fan but in many ways still a fan.
Harsha Bhogle’s voice has to be there, one with the fans on 1 February 2017. At the last T20I at M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
And for Bhogle to be there, to make the moment what it will be, a great many other people will have to be absent. So, there you have it, this is why Indian cricket has been going through this vigorous tumble dry washing cycle of late.
After all, for how long can you wash your dirty linen in public? Just as well it’s in Bangalore and not Nagpur.
However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.
First published here

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