Some more quetions for Shri Shri

Blocking questions? image (c) ibnlive

Shri Shri, you have very well answered my previous questions. Thank you so much. But the latest closely fought cum abjectly surrendered cum ‘could have easily won’ test match debacle has prompted me to ask you few more questions. Are you going to answer them? No? No problem… the answers are obvious anyway. (PS: Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you about your relations with Meiyyappan or Srini or about your real estate investments or the sports management firm you own or even about your wife’s latest darkest shade of lipstick… oops!)

Q1: What did you tell the team before the start of the second innings that you didn’t when the test match started?

This is quite simple. You might have hurled the choicest of abuses at the team with help from Arsene Wenger (BPL leaders Arsenal lost 1-5 to historic rivals Liverpool last Saturday) or from Sir Alex Ferguson (ManU had lost 1-6 to their horrible neighbors Man City few years ago… at home). A just thing to do, Shri Shri. But the question is, why didn’t you do it earlier? We lost 0-3 to SAFs in the ODIs, then drew a test match we should have won, then lost a test match we should have drawn, then lost the ODI series to NZ 0-4. I must appreciate your patience. For you now have the dubious distinction of being the captain of a team white washed when they were no. 1 in both tests and ODIs.

Or may be you didn’t say anything at all. And the bowlers received an sms that they will get a night out with the Hollywood actress of their choice if they bundle out NZ for a less than 100. But poor lads were denied that luxury by Wagner and Boult, who both will be summoned by ICC for breach of bulls*** conduct, come July. You know why.

Q2: What makes you think Zaheer Khan is a better batsman than you?

He is not, right? Then why on earth were you rotating strikes? When Zaheer came in, we needed another 80 runs. It was a cake walk for you. You could have conserved him and then tried to score in bulk. NZ was not threatening with the ball. But instead, you were seen taking singles on the first ball and Zaheer was trying his favorite cow corner slaps.

Wait a minute, did you think Zaheer could score a half century the way he did against Zimbabwe an era ago and blasted Henry Olonga for 4 consecutive sixes? Boy!

Q3: Is it that Kohli and Jadeja never listen to you or you do not bother how they get out?

Option 1: Kohli listens but Jadeja doesn’t. It was a bad day for Kohli and as usual day for Jadeja. Hmmm, then we must sack him?

Option 2: Both don’t listen. Then what the hell are you doing? Why don’t you try your famous helicopter shot on them?

Option 3: Both listen and both forget what I tell them. – (Smiley) (Smiley) (Smiley) (Smiley)

Option 4: I care a damn! Well then, nothing needs to be said

PS: Post is just for gags!

Q & A with Shri Shri Mahendrasinghji Dhoniji

Image

(c) Santabanta.com

So, after a tete a tete with Mr. Kejriwal, here is my another tete a tete with Mahi. As always, I’m a common man and he is not. So he is not going to answer my questions. Then who is going to answer my questions? Will you tell this to me or should I tell you? I will… so read on!

Q1: Shri Shri, what is the reason for India’s abject failure on overseas tours, particularly under you?

Possibly the answer is, he doesn’t know. Mahi himself has played very well in the last couple of series. But for some reason we have always faltered. We abysmally lost in England. Didn’t learn anything, lost in Australia again. Then played mostly at home, saw Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman retire, played no overseas tour until the recent ‘shorter than T20 match’ test series in SA and lost it as well. So I have no reason to believe that Dhoni knows how to win overseas. Yes his predecessors also didnt win a series. But some have done well than him. And if he is rated the best ever Indian captain, which he is, he should have known the answer. So does the problie in team selection? Lets find out

Q2: Why have you persisted with the likes of Rohit, Ishant and Suresh Raina for that long?

Very difficult one for Mahi. Rohit is a great talent, time and again Raina has finished games for CSK and Ishant looks like a menacing fast bowler. But they all have been consistently inconsistent. Rohit has mostly failed when it mattered and Ishant has mostly not taken wickets when he should have (save today’s performance). But a question Mahi might ask us. If not them then who? At least as of now I cant see any one else we can play in place of Rohit. Ranji has produced some new contenders. But the irony is, top run getters in Ranji change every year. So the lack of consistency starts from there. Besides if we go by Ranji record alone, Rohit was a phenomenal player. As for Ishant, I think the think tank at office has messed up royally. He was indeed a menacing bowler. But time wore him down. He is slowly going the same tunnel where the likes of Munaf and Irfan Pathan have traveled. Classic case of talent mismanagement. May be Mahi thinks he can stem the rot. Otherwise the replacements and peers of Ishant (Shami, Bhuvi, Yadav, Aaron, Pandey) will follow the same route. 

Q3: You have mastered the art of pacing the innings. Why do you think every one can do it?

As much as Dhoni criticizes the team in public, the culture the team is getting into is the same that he himself follows. Dhoni is lazy when he comes to bat, takes time to settle and then hammers every bowler. He is able to do it. But what about others? Shikhar Dhawan never knows what is right. Should he let the ball go or put the bat in the way. We have lost 2 ODI series back to back without registering even 1 win due to poor death bowling and lack of mindset by the opening bowlers. If not captain, who else will guide them?

Q4: What makes you think we are the best fielding side?

Obviously we are not, and you know it. But when the players of national level stop following basics, it hurts. Mahi himself was an average keeper when he came on the international scene. But he was a better batsman than his rival (DK) and he proved his worth eventually. When he started playing, we had the best slip fielders in Dravid and Laxman who were followed by Ganguly, Tendulkar and Sehwag. Even Kumble has fielded in slips. Number of catches these guys have collectively dropped in the whole career is probably lesser than number of catches current team dropped in SA and NZ. It has cost us matches. And I’m sure Dhoni is worried about them as a captain. Slip fielding is more like wicket keeping without gloves. It needs a patient mindset and the eye on the ball… always. I remember Mongia used to help the slip fielders. Isn’t Dhoni telling them how to hold on to catches the way he does? 

Q5: Do you think you can turn this team around?

Obviously he thinks he can. I have a doubt, though. He has the best talent at his disposal. They all, as individual players, are menacing. As an opposition, I’d have been fearing for my life to bowl at Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli and Pujara. But it is not happening. I see the reason in the way Dhoni manages the team. He is consistent in his own performance because he is methodical. But at times, especially in sports, one needs to be passionate. I always remember Tendulkar’s assault on Warne as the classic example of passion followed by Laxman’s 281 & Dravid’ 180 at Kolkata & Galguly’s 144 on a bouncy Gabba. We have to win not because we are superior on paper. But because we believe we can ans must win. Australia’s recent turn around is a classic example. They had an inconsistent lineup with misfiring seniors (Warner, Watson, Johnson), inexperienced fringe players (Bailey, Smith, Rodgers) and not-so-potent individuals (Siddle, Harris, Lyon). They were led by a mild mannered leader who wasn’t able to unite the team only 2 series ago. But they fought. And boy, how! Can we do it? We did it once under Dhoni (T20 world cup 2007). Can we do it again?

Yes!

Curious case of Mahendra Singh Dhoni

I was waiting for the fourth test match to begin to write this post. I have been waiting to write this post for a long time anyway. It needed the right motivation and setting to really express my concern, consulting advice, caution or a plain rant about the state in which Indian Cricket is right now.

MSD

(c) India Today

To be honest, I’m not a trade analyst or a cricket pundit. I’m little bit of a business analyst but I don’t consider Cricket as business, though it has become one now. I’m a pure cricket loving, patriotic Indian cricket fan. And I look at the game from the eyes of a desperate fan who wants to see his team win, or at least show some fighting spirit. This ‘spirit’ in the Indian cricket has been missing for the good part of 20 months after we won the world cup. To a large extent, this has to be attributed to one man called as Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

I’m an admirer of MSD’s cricketing style. He is a great player and massive hitter of the ball. I’m thankful to whoever the selector was who insisted on MSDs name and coerced Ganguly/John Wright to choose Dhoni ahead of any other wicket keeper in India (notably Dada’s favorite Parthiv Patel and Kumble/Dravid recommended Dinesh Kartik). He had taken the ODI arena by storm with some cracking centuries and then lifting the inaugural T20 world cup. Brilliant he was then, but mediocre he has become now.

There have been volumes of arguments on the ‘Talent v/s Attitude’ debate. Dhoni, to me, is a bit of both. But just like his nemesis Sehwag, he doesn’t have enough steam to either summon the talent when needed or show the attitude and grit when the chips are down. The grit shown by a captain to root his feet down and make sure everyone follows his visionary accord has been missing in Dhonis leadership. He is too cool, giving a feeling of carelessness towards the obvious problems in the team. His choice of players, tactics on the field and placements have been ranging from curious to baffling, which is why people have been questioning his decision making. Team selection for the 2011 world cup is an example.

Demeanor of a leader has to be staunch and authoritarian. Sadly, Dhoni exudes a passive vibe that mostly leaves the batsmen or bowlers to take their own decisions and push the game in all directions. This is what happened with a talented bowler like Ashwin in the just concluded Mumbai and Kolkata test. Dhoni should have walked up to him and told, “Listen friend, experimenting is good. But make sure you don’t give them a practice of playing all kinds of deliveries. Hold a line and attack. We need wickets.” I’m sure Dhoni didn’t say that and we know what happened. Lets take an example of a captain of a small batch of soldiers and a team of surgeons lead by an able senior hand. The captain soldier is more likely to give loud, aggressive motivational speeches to his soldiers. He is likely to shout “Company… March!” every now and then. This loudness is required to instill the confidence and passion in the soldiers. A surgeon on the other hand is unlikely to shout to slogan. For his kind of work, composure and patience is the key. Indian team under Dhoni is a legion of soldiers led by a surgeon.

Sachin Tendulkar is another example of a brilliant player with an abysmal leadership track record. Everyone knows Sachin is a classic example of perfect combination of talent and attitude. Sadly he was never able to infuse the same attitude, if not talent, in any of the youngsters he played with. His stint as a captain was limited. So it is difficult to say if he really groomed any youngsters. But Dhoni has been at the helm for a long period of 5 years. Baring Virat Kohli, Dhoni hasn’t been able to fixate anyone else in the team. Even Virat is fast becoming an ODI specialist. This is one reason I admired Ganguly. He went to an extent of dipping form in his own game to groom youngsters and build a team that laid foundation to the young Indian squad. Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zaheer who went on to become important players in the team when he was at the helm. It lead to the transition of the team from the Azaruddin era to the Dravid-Laxman era dominated equally by batsmen and bowlers. Dhoni on the other hand had a legion of talented youngsters such as Kohli, Raina, Munaf Patel, Pujara, Ashwin, Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Rahane… but none has been able to really sparkle on the international test arena, let alone cement the place in the team.

Change is needed now. Even Ganguly, honestly or disgustingly, was asked stepped down (read sacked) when things were not going good. Dhoni got a readymade team of senior players who were all in form. Now that three of them have retired (Dravid, Kumble, Laxman) and two have been asked to leave (Zaheer, Harbhajan), it is important that we get a man who can rebuild the new team. But who? Virat Kohli? He is sporadic and new on the test scene. May be Gambhir or even Ravi Ashwin.  Lets see if the sun sets on MSD. I have been long waiting for a new sunrise.

Why it makes sense to have different captains for ODIs and Tests

The recent results in overseas (and also domestic) test matches have again led me to think that we need different captains for the longer and shorter versions of the game of Cricket. There is no questioning the commitment of MSD– Maverick Singh Dhoni. But the facts, recent records and his own admittance shows that he is not fit to lead the team in the longer versions of the game. And to prevent fists of fury from some of my readers, I have reasons to prove.

One, remember when he won the inaugural T20 world cup for India? He was given a team sans the big names and players with international experience except Sehwag and Harbhajan. Every one else including Dhoni himself was either new or still very fresh at international scene. They were all domestic players, the Ranji class. Besides it was the first T20 world cup. No team knew the best strategy. So every one played to their potential without being too much into the ‘strategy’ thing. There were no egos to be buttered, no conflicts to be resolved. Just 3 hours of pure, cheeky cricket. Dhoni thrived (and eventually mastered the art).

Two, remember his innings of 183 not out very early in his career? Dhoni, to me, looks like a warrior with a cool head. He believes in individual brilliance than team games. T20 is about individual brilliance. Misbah ul Haq had almost single handedly won the world cup for Pakistan. But he goofed up at crucial junctures in both semis and finals. And we won the world cup. Even in the ODI world cup, he stepped up, said I want to hit the winning runs… and did. But was there a strategy for including or not including Piyush Chawla or Sree Santh? I wonder.

Three, ODIs and T20s are about quick decision making while tests are about patience and perseverance. Dhoni, to me, is a “I knock you out with one punch” guy. But that strategy can win fights not battles. To win battles, you need to plan your future, even if it is at the cost of few losses. Dhoni always accepted whatever team was given to him and played with it. He won the fights, but lost the battles… most of them. He hardly introduced young players, and didn’t stand by some of them who he managed to introduce (read Rohit, Pujara, Rahane, Mukund, Varun Aaron etc.) To build a world beating team, he needs to choose his players.

Remember the battle of Troy? I can compare Dhoni to Hector, prince of Troy. He managed to fend off the might of Sparta with astute, but short term strategies. Every one knew Troy couldn’t be a world beater… and they eventually lost to Sparta. But Hector is still known as one of the best warriors. Dhoni too is one of the greatest players India has had. But all his successors (Rahul, Anil Kumble or Ganguly) were all better test captains than him, sans Sachin Tendulkar. Without hurting any one’s sentiments, Sachin is (and will remain) the greatest batsman in the world. But he was equally bad captain.

India plays the next test series only in September 2012. I hope we find a worthy head to lead us in Tests while Mahi continues to pour success in the ODIs and T20s. Amen!

The Dream Team!

I’m writing this post while the Indian Cricket team is polishing their hands for a feast of a dinner in Durban. Well, if you ask me, it is difficult to pick the chocker between India and South Africa. Both have an impression of wilting under crunch situations. I hope it is not us this time. Anyway, this post is not about the series. It is about the ‘dream team’ for 2011. ICC has picked one. So there is no reason why I shouldn’t pick one myself. So here it is, 15 players listed, the playing eleven and the 4 extras along with a line on why they are here. I have chosen them considering all formats of the game. One team for all. I’m sure you will agree. Continue reading

India Wins!

… and how? Phew!!! What a match it was. When I logged on to cricinfo, we had already lost 8 wickets. In fact I logged on in the very over when Dhoni ran himself out and Harbhajan played a rash shot. All hope lost as soon as I decided to look for some.

… and then I saw VVS Laxman still playing on the other end. It looked as if VVS had dug a hole on the pitch and screwed himself in there. Man! Was he troubled at all? He almost single handedly carved a win for us. Almost…

… and of course, giving him company on the other end was Ishant Sharma. For the records sake, Ishant is a fast bowler. Given his latest performances, I generally make faces when I see him in the playing eleven. But he proved me wrong this time. He not only bowled well for the short spell in the second innings of Australia, he also displayed some character with the bat. Good job Ishant!

… And India wins! Congratulations to all those who support our team.

Aussie ki Taisi

Here is an update on recent India Australia cricketing rivalry. Let me start from where I remember.

sachin-caught-by-kasprowiczSeason 1997-98 (home); we won the Border Gavaskar trophy at home for the first time, defeating Australians 2-1. We won the first two tests (The second one at Kolkata by an innings and 99 runs) but lost the third at Bangalore thanks to an inspirational bowling spell by Michael Kasprowicz.

Season 1999-2000(away); we lost miserably, 3-0 to be specific. The only highlight of the series was VVS’s maiden century (167, his first) at Sydney where he batted as a make shift opener. The trophy was lost again.

vvs-and-rahulSeason 2001(home); We lost the first test and almost lost the second when Australia scored 445 and dismissed us for 171. A follow on was imposed and we were reduced to 115 for 3 when Sachin Tendulkar departed. But some minor regrouping from Ganguly took us beyond 200, still in deficit when Ganguly departed. It took the monumental efforst from the stalwarts of Indian cricket, VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) and a hat trick by Harbhajan to win the test despite following on. Indian won the third test at Chennai to claim the trophy back.

Season 2003-2004(away); A century from Ganguly at Brisbane, a double from Rahul Dravid at Adelaide, A 193 from Sehwag at Melborne and a double again from Sachin at Sydney ensured we tied the series 1-1 and retained the trophy. It marked the end of Steve Waugh’s playing career, who left with an unfulfilled dream of capturing a series victory in India.

Season 2004-2005(home); Aussies arrived without Waugh and Without Ponting (the captain who took over the reigns from Steve). The surprisingly enterprising make shift captain Adam Gilchrist lead them to victories at Bangalore and Nagpur. Ganguly received lot of flak for chickening out of the Nagpur test and eventually we lost the series 2-1, also the trophy at an unlikely captain in Adam.

Season 2007(away); India had a new captain in Anil Kumble. We lost the series but amidst huge contraversies surrounding the Sydney test for poor umpiring by Steve Bucknor. It was by far one of the toughest fought test match series on Australian Soil. For the first time ever some one had challenged the Australian domination in world cricket.

Season 2008(home); Indians were fresh from memories of the Australian Tour. We had one the one day series under Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It all started out evenly at Bangalore with centuries from Hussey and Ponting and a fifer from Zaheer. The match ended up as a draw. In mohali, Anil Kumble sat out thanks to an injury and the reigns of the captaincy fell of MSD’s shoulders. And boy, what a performance he delivered. A century from Ganguly, an 88 from Sachin and a 92 from Dhoni meant we posted a decent score on a good wicket. Then came Amit Mishra, the lucky leggie from Delhi who spun the air out of the Australians. A century by Gambhir in second innings and a lethal combination of pace and spin meant we comfortably won the test by 320 runs (Biggest defeat for Australia in many years). Anil Kumble was back for the third test in Kotla, only to announce his retirement on the fourth day. Gambhir and VVS amassed double hundreds. Australian batsmen too improved their batting records. It was a placid wicket on which, forcing a result wasn’t worthwhile. The stage was now set for Dhoni to deliver the killing blow in the fourth and final test in Nagpur. It was a wicket that had some thing for every one. Sachin scored a century, so did Katich. The test was evenly poised until the last day. FInally with some luck and perseverance from spinners, India posted a 172 runs victory, handing the australians their worst series loss in last 20 years. Indians were jubilant.india_wins_against_australia1

The series was historic in many ways. Sachin overtook Brian Lara to become the leading run scorer in test cricket. Anil Kumble retired in the middle of the test at Kotla, a ground that has scripted his name in the history books for claiming all 10 wickets against Pakistan. And Sourav Ganguly, the prince of Kolkata, the most elegant southpaw, the most successful captain for India retired too. With Dada and Anil gone, the pressure on other seniors (VVS, Rahul and Sachin) is mounting too. May be it is time we welcome the new generation of cricketers. A Rohit Sharma, an Ishant, a Robin, a Mishra and their leader the invincible MSD.

Frankly speaking, I’m not too ecstatic thinking about the retirements of these guys. I grew up looking at Sachin making a debut at 16. I was 8 than and dreamt even I will be famous cricketer at 16. Sadly I was busy sweating it out for board exams at 16. I remember I had a paper cutting of Dada reading ‘CEO no. 1’ feature in a supplement of Economic times adoring my wall. They were my demi gods. With Sourav gone and Rahul already on decline, I think I will stop watching cricket matches when they drop Sachin from the squad. After so many long years, suddenly a sinking feeling is coming to my mind. Suddenly my childhood has ended.