Thakur termed the erstwhile swashbuckling batsman and coach “unethical” for revealing the deliberations around Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement and MS Dhoni’s continuance as India skipper.
“Let me make it very clear. Sandeep being a former chairman should not have made these comments. When he was the chairman, he replied differently to the same questions. But after that (his tenure), it was different. It was totally unethical of him to do that.
One should refrain from making such unethical and unwanted comments in this area (selection matters). It is because he has been trusted to become the chairman, because he has played enough cricket. There were four more selectors with him, they did not say anything. He (Patil) should have avoided that.
…Right people in the BCCI will speak to him soon.
…Any organisation, if they hire him (Patil), will think 10 times that after leaving the organisation, he will speak about the organisation.”
Patil appeared to have been disillusioned with his tenure as the chief selector.
He first stated he had lost friends as a selector.
After picking the Indian side for the New Zealand home series, he confessed:
“The only sad thing about being a selector is that you end up losing some of your friends.”
Later speaking to Marathi news channel ‘ABP Majha’, he revealed:
“On December 12, 2012, we met Sachin and asked him about his future plans. He said he did not have retirement on his mind. But the selection committee had reached a consensus on Sachin… and had informed the board too about it. Perhaps Sachin understood what was coming because at the time of the next meeting, Sachin called and said he was retiring (from ODIs). If he had not announced his decision to quit then, we would have definitely dropped him.”
The bearded ex-cricketer contradicted himself on the same channel’s website, saying:
“As long as I remember, it was December 12, 2012, Nagpur. Sachin got out and the selectors decided to meet him and ask him about his wish. I was the one who staged the meet, being the chairman of selectors, and it was purely to understand what was running in his mind. It was a good thing to do. It did not happen in one day, one month or one year, it took two long years. Sachin retired in 2013. The meeting in Nagpur was just to ask his plans. Sachin wanted to concentrate more on Test cricket. So, it was decided that he would retire from One-day cricket. He called me and Sanjay Jagdale (then BCCI secretary). Then it was collectively decided that he would retire from ODIs.”
It was Patil’s disclosures about current ODI and T20 skipper MS Dhoni that set the cat among the pigeons.
“Things didn’t move in our favour, and in that backdrop one of your senior players decided to hang his gloves. That was shocking, but in the end, it was his decision (to retire from Test cricket).
…We, of course, had a brief discussion about it (sacking Dhoni) on few occasions. We wanted to experiment by shifting the baton but we thought the time was not right as the World Cup was fast approaching. New captain should be given some time to set things right. Keeping in mind the World Cup, we chose to go with Dhoni. I believe Virat got the captaincy at the right time and he can lead the team in shorter formats as well. The decision rests with the new selection committee.”
Patil also asserted that Dhoni had no hand in the dropping of either Gautam Gambhir or Yuvraj Singh.
“I feel disappointed when I read reports about Dhoni’s relation with Gambhir and Yuvraj. Dhoni never opposed their selection.
It was completely the selectors’ decision to drop them and Dhoni did not have any say in dropping Gambhir and Yuvraj. Both the captains never opposed any player.”
While Thakur may be miffed at Patil’s forthrightness to the media soon after quitting the selection panel, he can hardly comment about taking any action against him or on his employment chances in the future in the absence of a non-disclosure agreement with a stated cooling off period of a year.
Anything more than a year might be excessive. And why should selectors be hog-tied when cricketers, past and present, publish freewheeling accounts of their run-ins with their teammates, coaches, selectors and sections of the media in their multiple best-selling autobiographies.
Are they to be held less accountable?
The BCCI has (rightly) opposed the opening up of selection of the Indian team to public scrutiny (via the RTI act) stating that appointed selectors are more than qualified to do the job and that choosing of the Indian cricket team cannot be done by a majority vote of the public. Would you let public opinion decide what the justices of state and national courts have been appointed for?
There has to be a balance struck. Where do you draw the line?
Should selectors and administrators be continually vilified in the court of public opinion long after their tenures have ended? Are they not to be allowed to state their version of events past? If not to defend themselves, then to promote transparency and debate.
National governments have a cut-off period after which classified documents are to be made public for historians and buffs to discover the inner workings of past decisions.
Aren’t public bodies like the BCCI not to provide the same courtesy to the sports loving public of this nation?
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.
Directed By: Tony D’Souza
Produced By: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, and Sony Pictures Networks
Written by: Rajat Aroraa
Emraan Hashmi as Mohammad Azharuddin.
Lara Dutta as Meera
Prachi Desai as Naureen, the first wife of Azharuddin.
Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta Bijlani, the second wife of Azharuddin.
Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Azhar’s Nanu.
Rajesh Sharma as M. K. Sharma
Azhar, the movie, does not claim to be a biopic.
It is a fictionalised picturisation of Mohammad Azharuddin’s life-story. Azhar was the skipper of the Indian cricket team—making his way from a middle-class home to the pinnacle of Indian sport, from simplicity and humility to the easy arrogance of Armani suits, from a reclusive , reticent person to seeking and gaining the favour of one of Bollywood’s top actresses.
The movie is an attempt to whitewash and dramatize the Hyderabadi’s part in the match-fixing scandal that rocked the cricketing world in the 2000s.
Emraan Hashmi essays the title role with aplomb and mimics the former Indian skipper’s mannerisms to a T but is unable to dominate the frame in the way you’d expect a larger-than-life Azharuddin to do.
Azhar’s teammates are reduced to caricatures jealous of his success, philanderers and simply unwilling to be embroiled in the messy match-fixing soup the protagonist finds himself in.
The famous showdown between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Azhar during in the 1996 England tour wherein the Sikh famously walked out of the side and returned home is not even alluded to in the film.
Jaywant Lele, in his autobiography, reveals the reason was that Sidhu was constantly abused by his captain.
The movie focuses on the court case filed by Azhar against the life ban imposed by the ICC and the BCCI which incidentally he won in 2012. The ban was revoked by the BCCI in 2005.
The movie fails to capture other aspects of Azhar’s life such as the tragic death of his son Ayazuddin in 2011. The separation from Sangeeta Bijlani is skipped over and there is no mention either of this third marriage to long-time friend, Shannon Marie or his rumoured affair with Jwala Gutta—which incidentally both deny vehemently.
There is also little focus on his aggressive fielding at point and the training that made him one of the most brilliant fielders of his generation.
The women protagonists have surprisingly substantial parts in the film.
Prachi Desai as Naureen is demure, sensitive and suffering. She is dignity itself while certainly not a women’s lib proponent.
Hashmi portrays Azhar as both bewildered by the turn of events and his personal turmoil yet fascinated by his new love interest, Sangeeta Bijlani.
Bijli catches Azhar on the rebound from her failed relationship with Salman Khan, leader of the brat pack of Bollywood. Azhar’s dedication of his match-winning knock to his new love interest at a man-of-the-match ceremony—signalling the end of his first marriage—is crass and cowardly.
Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta is disappointing, unable to capture her glamour or her chutzpah at snaring a married cricketer under the noses of his unsuspecting spouse and the media. She comes across as a weak-willed woman who succumbs easily to the advances of a married man. The melodramatic scenes evoke very little emotion. Fakhri is no thespian. Period.
Bollywood and cricket can never be divorced. Dalliances happen all the time but seldom end well.
Lara Dutta as Meera, the defending counsel, has the most substantial role after Hashmi in the film. She’s bold and gutsy, speaks her mind and makes no bones about turning from friend to foe, fan to hater.
Ajay Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Jadeja and Azharuddin were all banned by the BCCI—Prabhakar and Jadeja for five years.
Jadeja’s ban was lifted in 2003 and he made a return to domestic cricket but he was never the same batsman. He never played for India again. Nayan Mongia—accused by Azharuddin—-was forced to retire despite not being found guilty by the CBI.
Hansie Cronje was the most tragic victim of this match-fixing scandal dying in a plane crash.
MK Sharma (MK Gupta) is the bookie turned approver who introduces Azhar to the sordid world of match-fixing.
Azhar—in the movie—purportedly accepts a bribe but only to shield his teammates from temptation. The reasoning is so spurious that one would best walk out from the movie hall at this point.
Navneet Mundhra writing for SportsKeeda does a competent job of listing the facts and distortions in the movie.
(Mundhra’s piece refreshed my memory about the facts of the case. The match-fixing controversy was the first to hit Indian cricket and it was the reason why I stopped following Indian cricket for a while. The Indian cricket fan has never been the same—the joys of victories tinged with suspicions about losses. Tehelka made its reputation for hard-hitting journalism based on its revelations with Manoj Prabhakar’s assistance.
My memories of Azza are of a wristy batsman who burst on the scene as a bundle of talent scoring three consecutive Test centuries on debut in a home series against England after staking his claim with a series of excellent scores in domestic matches. Azhar had arrived.
He was not—by any reckoning—a brilliant skipper, more a lucky one. He began the trend of having pitches suit the home side in Indian cricket.
He had a weakness against short-pitched pace bowling which he responded to in a counter-attacking style—all aggression , preferring to die by the sword rather than live on his knees.)
The scoreboard listing the mangled names of Sri Lankan and Indian players gives the game away.
The movie would have appealed to viewers more had it attempted to be a more accurate portrayal of Azhar’s feats and foibles. Look no further than The Program for a template.
The movie is bland and boring.
If you’re a die-hard Azhar fan, you’re better off staying home and catching his batting and fielding videos instead on Youtube or DVD.
What he said:
“When the moment is important, Ravi Shastri is the last one to back away. So if you’re asking if my hat is in the ring, it is in there. Maybe three hats!”
Ravi Shastri’s tenure as Team India director has ended. He and his team— Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar—have done a creditable job following Duncan Fletcher’s departure.
When asked if he’d be up for the job of the new team coach, the former left-arm spinner and right-hand bat responded:
“I have had a discussion much earlier with the Board on as to where things should go, and how. At the end of the day, they are my employers. They are the ones who are going to make the decision. So whatever I have grasped in these 18 months, I have let them know.
See, it is a very challenging job. It has been a very enjoyable job. It is a very important moment in Indian cricket.When the moment is important, Ravi Shastri is the last one to back away. So if you’re asking if my hat is in the ring, it is in there. Maybe three hats!”
Talking about Team India’s performance, Shastri is against change for its own sake.
“Look at our performances in the last 18 months. We are ranked 2, 2 and 1 in the three formats. And that can’t happen if you have people within the system who are not interested in the game. If, by any chance, it was the other way around, you would have heard from me straight.”
“I want to cut across barriers and come straight to the point, which is communication and trust. For me, that was the first nail I had to put in. I always believed they were a terrific side. They were low on confidence and they were probably not approaching the game in the right way, the way it should be played when you consider the talent they have.
Those were the two areas you had to focus on, and you kept things simple. You said, let’s hit those areas first, let’s get the trust, let’s get the communication going. Let’s get the work ethic better, where there’s no shortcut. It might take time, it might take three to four months before we are back to winning ways. And then you know things will fall in place. But what I saw was a transformation that was quite immediate. I didn’t expect that. But then again, it’s why I jumped in, because I knew there was huge talent there.”
What he really meant:
“I’m all for continuing as team coach. My record speaks for myself. And I’m always up for the challenge. It’s certainly something I enjoy doing more than commentating!”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Speaking of myself in the third person, now, that’s something I never did on the microphone. And I’m all for three hats: Commentator, Manager and Team Coach. To hell with conflict of interest , I’m Superman!”
Harsha Bhogle is being missed.
That’s what tweeting followers and the man himself would have us believe.
It’s true, I guess.
While Bhogle is always entertaining, always suave, always smooth and always different from former players turned microphone wielders, the IPL is not where he has the best impact.
It’s bizarre but while he’s missed, he’s not. There are just too many things to distract television viewers.
The BCCI, in all its wisdom, dropped Bhogle and the other wise man of Indian cricket, Sunny Gavaskar from its list of approved commentators.
While there’s been an uproar about Bhogle’s sacking , there’s been nothing said about Gavaskar’s exit. Probably because the great man was earning more—much more—than any of the other commentators and it could be explained away as a cost-cutting measure.
Bhogle’s absence, however, has the conspiracy theorists out in full force.
Bhogle got on the wrong side of Amitabh Bachchan whose tweet questioning the nationalistic credentials of Indian commentators was enthusiastically endorsed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
And Bhogle’s comments during India games have ired the Indian dressing room.
It’s strange, really.
These speculations would have been more believable had N Srinivasan still been heading the BCCI. Dhoni was purportedly his blue-eyed boy.
But those days are past or aren’t they?
And why is it that the BCCI still decides who should commentate on India games?
Can their ‘employees’ really provide unbiased views about their paymasters? That’s hardly credible much as Ravi Shastri and his ilk might protest otherwise.
It would be best if broadcasters were to select and pay cricket experts themselves.
Why have cricket boards have any say in the matter?
Viewers, too, shouldn’t have to second-guess the experts.
Team India appears to have turned the corner with Manish Pandey’s scintillating ton ending the losing spree of games in the ODI series. The spin bowlers and newcomers Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bhumra joined the party in the first T20. The scoreline now reads 4-2 if the matches were an eight game series.
It has been my pet theory that if Indian batsmen do well in South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand, they can be counted on as long-term prospects and should be persisted with more than any other batters who may pile up runs by the dozen on the subcontinent but who come up a cropper against the antipodeans and the English.
Towards this end, I decided to gather some stats about how Indian batters have fared against the above four teams in their home conditions.
The following is a list of Indian batters who average above 30 against South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia overseas.
The list is illustrious reading like a who’s who of Indian cricket in Tests with Mahendra Singh Dhoni bringing up the rear with an average of 30.58 with a highest score of 92 in 32 Tests and 55 innings.
Virender Sehwag, surprisingly, ranks just above him with an average of 33.11 from 29 matches and 54 innings. His highest score is 195 with four centuries to his name.
Let’s look at the list of players who have averaged over 30 in ODIs.
Virat Kohli tops this list with an average of 41.35 from 34 innings with four tons and a highest score of 123. Rohit Sharma follows with 40.71 from 32 innings and three hundreds.
Surprising entries in this list include Sunny Gavaskar, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina.
For an orthodox player, Gavaskar proved to be versatile and averages 38.94 from 21 innings with a highest score of 92 not out. Gavaskar scored just one hundred in the ODI format in 1987 in his penultimate game against New Zealand.
Jadeja makes this list—placed somewhere in the middle—with 35.84 from 21 innings with a highest score of 87. Dhoni’s faith in him might not be misplaced after all.
Dhoni’s other blue-eyed boy Raina averages 31.03 from 30 innings with a highest score of 100. He brings up the rear followed by Virender Sehwag with 30.2 from 35 innings. Evidently Sehwag was not the impact player against these four sides in their backyard. These are stats though and stats never tell the whole story.
The above two tables are for players who have played a minimum of 20 Tests or 20 ODIs.
There are no equivalent statistics for T20s. There are no players who average above 30 and have played 20 T20 games.
The following table lists batters who have averaged over 30 since Jan 1, 2005 against the four sides.
Amit Mishra is the anomaly averaging 84 from one innings.
Except for Dinesh Karthik who did well overseas especially in England and Gambhir who’s still struggling for form, the rest are rightly pencilled in by the selectors when it comes to choosing a Test side.
In ODIs, Pandey’s recent exploits see him top the list. Rayudu, Uthappa and Parthiv Patel offer the selectors an abundance of riches when it comes to choosing a replacement for MS Dhoni. Yusuf Pathan makes the list as well with a stupendous average of 46.75 from six innings.
The list of T20 players throw no surprises either.
These statistics , of course, don’t provide any sign of deserving talent among batters who have not appeared for India against these four sides in India colours.
India ‘A’ sides have toured overseas and Indian batters have prospered in hostile conditions. Those stats could have provided a larger picture of prospective talent.
But for me, it’s a no-brainer that if Indian batters have scored runs heavily overseas in these four nations, they are likely to do even better elsewhere and especially in home conditions.
Let no one tell you otherwise, least of all, MS Dhoni.
(All statistics courtesy Cricinfo’s StatsGuru).
Rohit Sharma is scoring hundreds by the dozen in ODI and T20 cricket. That appears to be his metier.
But his form languishes in Test cricket. He is yet to grab his opportunities by the horn.
Will he be yet another Yuvraj Singh lost to Test cricket because the likes of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Sehwag and Laxman meant that he was the perpetual bridesmaid? Or can he become India’s Marvan Atapattu?
Your prognosis is as good as mine.
Kapil Dev has either put his foot in his mouth or has been remarkably perspicacious.
Last week, Wisden’s greatest Indian cricketer of the last century made some outsized comments about India’s all-time greatest cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
Speaking to Khaleej Times in Dubai, he said:
“He (Sachin) got stuck with Bombay cricket. He didn’t apply himself to ruthless international cricket. I think he should have spent more time with Vivian Richards than some of the Bombay guys who played just neat and straight cricket. He did not know how to make double hundreds, triple hundreds and 400 though he had the ability, and was stuck in the Mumbai school of cricket.”
Coming in the wake of Virender Sehwag’s retirement, India’s only triple centurion, the remarks raked up debates both about Sachin’s comparative contribution to Indian cricket and the continuing North-South divide in the country.
While Tendulkar, ever the gentleman, refused to respond to his former skipper’s barbs, Mumbai cricketers were up in arms.
Ajit Wadekar responded to the apparent dislike for Mumbai cricketers in the all-rounder’s observations thus:
“Yes, in a way, I can sense that dislike. I have been experiencing it since my University cricket days. A lot of Northern players disliked us. They enjoyed staying in Mumbai, but not playing against Mumbai.
In the final analysis, Sachin scored the maximum runs and is a true legend, and where Mumbai cricket is concerned, – we always – everyone including Sachin and Sunil Gavaskar – played for the team and not for ourselves. That’s why we won the Ranji Trophy 40 times. We knew how to win.”
Former Mumbai captain Raju Kulkarni said:
“I find Kapil’s comments absurd. It’s also very unfair to Sachin and Mumbai cricket. He’s talking about centuries of a man who has scored 100 international tons. We were brought up with our seniors telling us that when you get a hundred, go on and get a double and a triple, but don’t give your wicket away.I was at a function recently where Sunil Gavaskar was talking to a group of ex-cricketers. When he saw Chandrakant Pandit (Mumbai coach) leaving the room, Sunil left the conversation and went up to Chandu. I overhead him telling Chandu that Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer should look to get 200 after his 100 and if he can’t get 300, he should not get out. That’s the kind of cricket upbringing we had.”
Dilip Vengsarkar, vice-president of Mumbai Cricket Association, quipped:
“That’s his (Kapil’s) opinion. What can one say?”
Tendulkar has 51 Test hundreds to his credit. His highest score, however, was an unbeaten 248.
The ‘Mumbai cricketer‘, as an archetype, is renowned for his khadoos (cussedly never say die) attitude.
Hemant Kenkre writes:
“The answer lies not just in the many maidans of Mumbai – the breeding grounds for its cricketers – but in the psyche of the city; one that lures millions of people from all over India, whose life is ruled by the time-tables of the railway ‘locals’, traffic snarls, unending queues, crowded tenements, and many more hardships that the city dishes out to the worker ants that flock there in search of gold. After commuting for two hours in a crowded Mumbai train, no cricketer is ever going to give it away on a platter to the next one waiting in the tent. The city breeds the khadoos attitude in its cricketers. Mumbai, like cricket, does not give you a second chance.”
Kenkre also formulates a theory for the decline in Mumbai’s fortunes in the Ranji Trophy and why fewer and fewer local cricketers are donning national colours.
“From the glorious fifties and the sixties, Mumbai’s domination has waned. The team may have won the Ranji Trophy often enough in recent times – and 39 times to date – but the current side, though competent, doesn’t resemble the ones of the past that dominated the tournament. The analysts attribute that to the rapid strides made by other states, but if you ask any former Mumbai cricketer, he will ascribe the decline to the lack of loyalty to clubs, and commercial distractions like the IPL. In the past it was very rare for a player to switch clubs, no matter what incentives were offered. The pride of wearing the club and state/city cap meant a lot more to the ‘amateur’ generation – and so it was when they wore the India blazer as well. It would seem the days when a Mumbai cricketer was fiercely loyal first to his club then to his state/city and the nation are behind us.”
Shamya Dasgupta voices similar thoughts:
“Khadoos cricket, yes, that’s what distinguished Mumbai. A team of players who refused to cede ground; a team that knew not only how to win, but more – how not to lose. That great Mumbai element – it seems to have vanished.”
Lalchand Rajput, in an interview in 2012, said:
“Earlier players never used to go to other associations, so they used to be here and try to retain their place in spite of not getting into the team. So they used to be more determined to get in to the team. But now they have options to play for other associations. That’s why that khadoos nature is a thing of the past. “
Ajit Wadekar, speaking to the Tribune in June this year, said:
“Mumbai cricketers’ ‘khadoos’ approach is missing. I am afraid to say that, but the rich legacy of Mumbai cricket hasn’t been carried forward by the younger lot of cricketers, for whom, the loyalty has shifted from representing the country to first securing an IPL contract with a franchise.
There’s no loyalty factor involved. The players are missing out on that wonderful feeling of playing as a unit, be it representing the Mumbai domestic side or featuring in the Indian team. These days, players don’t necessarily work on their basics. They experiment with their shots quite often. Also, the coaches at the academies tell the trainees that they are the next Sachin Tendulkar. This illegal mushrooming of academies is harmful. It’s a big money-making racket. These coaches promise the trainees of landing them an IPL contract and thus encourage them to play more like a T20 specialist.”
“What is required in Mumbai is advanced coaching. IPL has started the mushroom growth of coaches. I don’t know whether they give the right kind of inputs to the young cricketers. Mumbai cricket has fallen a great deal over the last 2-4 years. Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy for 16 straight years. I hope those days would come back. We have to revive it.”
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma are the latest stalwarts from Mumbai representing the country at the highest level.
Sharma has yet to make his mark in Test cricket whereas he has slammed two double hundreds in ODIs and another in T20s. He is only the second Indian cricketer after Suresh Raina to have international hundreds in all forms of the game. While that seems impressive, the records are deceptive. Raina has failed miserably in Tests and is considered an ODI and T20 specialist. It is feared that Sharma might go the way of the hugely talented Yuvraj Singh who mustered just 20+ Test appearances in an otherwise stellar career.
That begs the question: Is Tendulkar Mumbai cricket’s last khadoos?
Kapil’s comments about Tendulkar cannot be easily brushed aside as northern chauvinism.
It would be interesting to see in how many of the centurion innings by Tendulkar, Sehwag, Richards and Lara, did any of their teammates cross 75? If few, that would imply that these greats were performing at a much higher level than their contemporaries during those epochal stays.
Rather than trying to deduce the answer myself, I’ve simply decided to Ask Steven.
If you know the answer, you can comment below.
Thanks to Arnold D’souza, who answered my query on Facebook, I have the answers:
BC Lara (WI) – (17/34) — 50%
SM Gavaskar (India) – (15/34) — 44.12%
SR Tendulkar (India) – (14/51) — 27.45%
V Sehwag (India) – (8/23) — 34.78%
IVA Richards (WI) – (12/24) — 50%
DG Bradman (Aus) – (6/29) — 20.69%
By the above yardstick, the two West Indians are head-and-shoulders above the rest. Lara’s performance does not surprise so much; he was part of a much weakened West Indian side in decline. It’s Richards’ figures that are outstanding. He towers above batsmen of the caliber of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Alvin Kalicharran, Clive Lloyd and Richie Richardson.
Sehwag edges ahead of Tendulkar on the basis of this criteria. Of course, this does not factor in the Little Master’s longevity.
But it’s Gavaskar, the most technically accomplished batsman of his era, who is India’s batter to turn to when you wish someone would bat for your life.
The list would be more complete if I added Rahul Dravid, Allan Border and Steve Waugh to the mix.
Tweeted reactions to Kapil’s comments:
Kapil Dev has since clarified his statements about Sachin terming him an “underachiever”.
“Gavaskar used to say that I should have scored 5000 runs more than what I did. In hindsight, I agree I should have taken my batting seriously. But importantly, I didn’t take Gavaskar’s remark in the wrong sense. He challenged me and I accepted it.
Needless is the word. Sachin, I’ve always said, was a fabulous cricketer and more talented than Viv (Richards). He had the calibre to be as ruthless, or more, but did not deliver as much as I had expected. He got 100 international 100s but his potential was greater.
How else could I have described him? He was an underachiever and that I maintain was a compliment. He could have done better. Am I wrong?”
“Sachin was clearly ahead of his time but he did not grow as I wanted him to grow. I loved the Sachin of Sharjah 1998 when he clubbed the Australians. His dominance was complete and stroke-play so imperious. He made good bowlers look ordinary, could hit boundaries at will but that Sachin was lost somewhere as his career progressed.
He was worth much more and that is what I meant.”
Does he not call me Paaji? Can an elder brother not say what he feels about his younger brother? I did precisely that.”
On Mumbai cricket:
“I respect Mumbai cricket and cricketers. They laid the base for the growth of Indian cricket but the game has changed and it is time we all realised and accepted it.
We also need to rise above petty regionalism. Mumbai is mine too. We would like to see Mumbai cricket and cricketers to move on. It is not about Mumbai, Haryana or Delhi.. It is about Indian cricket… Also, (Ajit) Wadekar Sir should please understand that I am a true Indian and Mumbai is part of us. I am a Bombaywalah too.”
Blame the pitch, blame the curator, blame your bowlers, blame your batsmen, blame your running between wickets, blame your fielders but never ever, ever blame the opposition for out-batting, out-bowling and out-playing your side through the most part of the series.
Ravi Shastri allegedly had harsh words for Sudhir Naik, the Wankhede curator.
He expressed his displeasure after the South Africans posted a mammoth total on a benign wicket all but wrapping up the series before the Indians came out to bat.
His behaviour is to be deplored.
Curators are responsible for preparing pitches keeping in mind soil and weather conditions.
Indian skippers and support staff seem to believe that they ought to always be given the extra edge, not by taking scheduling and conditions into account, but based on how they have fared in the series up to that point.
Naik claims that he was told to prepare a turning wicket just two days before the game—an impossibility.
It is time that Indian team management admitted that they are no longer bully boys on sub-continental wickets given that their South African, Australian, English and Kiwi counterparts are now accustomed both to the heat and the batting conditions courtesy the IPL.
They would be better off choosing the best bowlers for all conditions rather than ‘horses for courses’.
The BCCI should also spell out specific guidelines in their newly drafted conflict of interest rules that would prevent such a situation recurring in the future.
Curators’ decisions must be independent of the Indian team’s vagaries and fortunes.
Therein lies the best interests of Indian cricket.
The question then is: Are these the best players in the country at the moment? If not, where are the ones who deserve to be in the side? Why have they been overlooked?
Two giants of Indian cricket quit the game within a week of each other.
One accumulated over 300 Test wickets, only the second Indian fast bowler to do so.
The other is the only Indian to have scored a triple ton in Tests, not once but twice and it could easily have been one more.
One was a canny operator outfoxing the best of the opposition with his wily wares.
The other kept it simple. The ball was meant to be hit when it was in the hitting zone.
Both are 37 years young and can still pad up for a fresh innings in the journey of life.
One has retired from international cricket but will continue to appear in the IPL.
The other has retired from international cricket and the IPL but may make an appearance at Sachin Tendulkar’s T20 All Star League in the US. He celebrated his departure by slamming a century against Karnataka for Haryana in a Ranji trophy game.
One was instrumental in India reaching the final at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and clinching the title in 2011 at home.
The other was a member of both the 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ICC ODI World Cup winning squads.
They are both modest and soft-spoken to the point of being self-effacing.
One is still single and obviously a catch for any young woman.
The other is married to Aarti Ahlawat and has two sons Aryavir and Vedant.
One promised—in his retirement statement—to return with the headline ‘Zak is back’.
The other quoted Mark Twain claiming that stories of his retirement were greatly exaggerated.
Indian cricket will surely miss them.
Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag, farewell, adios, sayonara.
As long as the Indian team keeps winning, Dhoni, the skipper, is inseparable from Dhoni, the player.
But once the side starts losing its moorings, Dhoni, the player, comes under the microscope.
The Indians lost the T20 series 2-0 to South Africa. A fair result would have been 1-1.
And the questions about Dhoni’s place in the squad start cropping up all over again.
This is not a new phenomenon.
The very same doubts were raised earlier this year when the Indians were outclassed in the tri-series Down Under.
A semi-final finish at the ODI World Cup and all doubts were swept under the carpet.
The victories have dried up; Mahi has lost his magic touch.
Dhoni’s batting record in ODI’s over the past year has been 485 runs at an average of 44.09 and a highest score of 85 not out.
This is against his career average of 52.24.
His T20 record is insignificant since he has batted in just two T20s this year.
While critics may be baying for his blood, his performances with the bat cannot be held against him—yet.
It is his position as skipper that is under threat especially given the new-found aggression Team India have discovered under Virat Kohli.
It is always going to be difficult for team-members to adjust from one leader’s all-out attacking instincts to another’s more laidback, restrained approach.
It is results that matter though and that’s where Dhoni will have to take charge in the upcoming ODI series against South Africa.
His leadership is being disputed.
His treatment of Ajinkya Rahane baffles cricket connoisseurs.
How can Team India’s best batsman over the past two years be left out from the ODI and T20 sides?
Does Dhoni really prefer Ambati Rayudu, a player more in the Dhoni mould?
Rayudu is no slouch with the bat in T20s as his exploits with Rajasthan Royals in the IPL prove.
Does he really need to warm the bench?
Dhoni does not feel the need to change his mind.
Talking about Rahane’s chances of selection for the first ODI at Green Park in Kanpur, he said:
“I think four is the number for Rahane. Even four is quite low for him I would say. Opening fits him really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket he bats lower but in international matches he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are who bat in the middle order in first class cricket.
So it is tough for him as of now. If am looking for someone to bat five or six I don’t think he is the person. His strength is top of the order. If given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three, if not then we would find it tough to place him in the playing eleven.”
Speaking about his own performance in the T20 series, the Indian skipper characteristically remarked:
“I personally feel that I used too much brain in this format.It’s very important I keep myself free and go and play my strokes. Depending on that I play a bit slow initially. In this format, I believe I should play the big shots from the word go irrespective of whatever the scenario is because that’s what this format is all about. A lot of time when I go into bat, be it the 16th or 17th over or in the fourth or fifth overs when wickets have fallen down, I have the tendency of like let’s go to 130, that will be good score.”
Former India bowler Ajit Agarkar has sounded the warning bells about Dhoni’s place in the side.
“The selectors need to have a closer look at what Dhoni is doing, not just as captain, but as a player as well.He has been a great player for India, but you don’t want him to become a liability for the team. And he needs to perform a lot better than he has (been). Just because he has done it over the years, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him to fail.”
Agarkar feels that Dhoni’s moving up the order is simply to give himself chances to keep his place in the side and not in the best interests of the squad.
“I’m not convinced he should bat at four. Just after a World Cup, you’re now trying to develop your team for the next World Cup. Four years is a long time, but for Dhoni, towards the end of his career, to put himself up, I’m not sure about it. You can understand if there are batsmen who can’t bat 3 and 4. But there is Ajinkya Rahane, who has been one of your best players in Test cricket and I don’t think he can bat lower than four in ODIs yet, unless he changes his game over his career.
Dhoni seems to have lost that ability of going out there and smashing it from ball one. He obviously takes his time. But he batted up the order in Bangladesh, and India still lost the series. All his career when people wanted him to bat up because he is so good and has that destructive ability, he has always maintained that he wants and needs to bat at No.6, where he can handle the pressure.
It’s a hard job batting at 5, 6 and 7. I’ve seen Yuvraj and MS himself do it for so long, but that doesn’t mean that it changes at this stage in his career. You’ve got to have guys who are good at certain numbers. And at the moment MS by promoting himself, is getting a Rahane or anyone else who bats there, into trouble. I would still have Raina and Dhoni at 5 and 6, so contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t think Dhoni should be batting at four at this stage in his career.”
Agarkar believes that Dhoni may not be the future when it comes to ODIs and T20s, specifically when it comes to leading the side.
“Looking at the results, India have generally been good in ODIs, but you’ve lost the World Cup semi-final, then you’ve lost in Bangladesh where Dhoni was captain twice, and you’ve now lost a T20 series. Yes, the T20s can go either way very quickly so you don’t want to judge someone, but for Dhoni this is a big series.
The selectors maybe need to look at where the Indian team is heading because Virat Kohli has done well as captain in Test cricket so maybe the selectors need to make that call after this series.”
Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, batted for his former skipper and teammate.
Speaking to Gulf News, he said:
“Cricketers like Dhoni have played for a long time, over ten years, and he understands himself, understands his body and mind-set better than anyone else.
The best thing one can do is move aside and let him take decisions [about his career] rather than taking decisions for him. You have got to give that respect to the player who has done so much for the nation and I would leave it to him and let him be the best judge. He has served Indian cricket in the best manner and let him be the decision taker.”
Dhoni, skipper and player, has been written off before; he has always proved his detractors wrong. He believes in going by gut instinct whether it is handing the last over in the T20 World Cup final to a rookie like Joginder Sharma or quitting as Test skipper midway through a series Down Under. The timing of these moves has been impeccable. The unorthodox acts may no longer work as expected but he is still capable of surprising scribes and fans alike.
This series could either be his swan song or the beginning of another golden chapter until the next T20 World Cup.
Whatever his fate, Indian cricket will always cherish ‘Captain Cool’ and his formidable achievements in the shorter versions of the game.
It’s extraordinary when one looks back that this is Dhoni’s 11th year as an international cricketer. It seems much longer. That’s the kind of impact he’s had both as captain and player. It’s also a tribute to his supreme levels of fitness that he has rarely missed series due to injury. He will be missed.
Go well, MS.