What he said:
“He (Virat Kohli) can even bat at midnight without light and still bat well. …
Rohit kills you with tickle and Kohli can punch you to death. Either way you are going to die.”
The original Little Master switched on his eulogistic side when Team India clinched the T20 series against Australia at Melbourne on Friday evening.
“He is setting the bar higher for the future players. He is in fantastic form… form which the players dream about. he can even bat at midnight without light and still bat well. The Australians cant get him out. They will have to wait for him to commit a mistake.
I would not bowl to both of them. Rohit kills you with tickle and Kohli can punch you to death. Either way you are going to die.
I want to see India win the series 3-0. Kohli should continue to bat at number three. Never ever flirt with form, it’s so fickle, don’t flirt with it. Yuvraj can bat during the Asia Cup, World Twenty20. Let India make a clean sweep.
He (Dhoni) has got now Yuvraj, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya in the side. He has plenty of bowling and batting options. It has eased off the pressure on him. Bhajji (Harbhajan Sigh) is sitting on the bench which means it is a very good selection. The balance is terrific. Pandya can bat at number seven and can bowl. Even if a bowler is hammered around, Dhoni can go to the other bowler.
The Aussies were under pressure and it was a good omen for the Indians for the World Twenty20.”
What he really meant:
“Kohli’s batting like a dream. If you’re a day-dreaming bowler, dreaming of bagging either or both , Rohit will tickle you out of any such fancy ideas while Kohli will match you, blow for blow. Either way, it’s death by panache.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Tickle me pink, I wonder if these two guys would love day-night Test cricket!”
Two Rohit Sharma centuries, two 300 plus scores, yet the Indians couldn’t keep the rampaging Aussies at bay.
One could go with the excuses trotted out by Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni that his bowlers lacked bite and are incapable of bundling out the opposition. But one could say the same about the Aussies as well.
The Indian batting failed to accelerate in the final 10 overs of their innings.
As for the bowling, it’s time Dhoni reassessed his options and picked bowlers who can bag wickets given their current form and the conditions.
The Indians are simply tasting their own medicine when they regularly chase down imposing totals in docile home conditions to their opponents’ chagrin.
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.
Does position matter?
Coaches don’t seem to think so but players certainly do.
I know for certain—when playing my brand of gully cricket—I’d never open. Simply because I never felt comfortable facing the bowling right off, maybe because I wanted to have a dekko at the opposition first, or maybe simply there’d always be someone clamouring, “Hurry up and score some runs and get out; I want to bat too.”
That’s beside the point.
There’s a comfort factor associated with a player’s favoured position. That’s his lucky number.
Or that’s what he’s been accustomed to playing at or where for a long, long time. To move him around is a travesty of natural justice—to him.
Team Director, Ravi Shastri, the man who began at No.11 and batted his way up to No.1, does not believe that Indian batsmen can own a spot in the line-up. He feels that there’s a crying need for horses for courses. A player’s position will depend on the quality of the opposition.
“In this team, no one owns a batting position. It all depends on the situation. We will play horses for courses and see what the situation and the opposition demands. Accordingly, we will see what the best batting position in the side is for each batsman against that particular outfit and seeing the state of the series.”
Flexibility is the demanded norm. Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara responded splendidly scoring centuries at No.3 and No.1 respectively.
The ploy worked.
The original strategy, though, of having Rohit Sharma come in at No.3 has fallen flat.
Sharma oozes talent but he needs the extra protection and a long rope for him to succeed. There’s little doubt about his calibre. He needs some time to come into his own. His lazy elegance is his undoing, much like David Gower, but both batters would defiantly deny any such claims vigorously.
(The most technically adept player—after your openers, of course—should be No.3. In this side, it appears to fall upon either Pujara, Kohli or Rahane to fill this spot. Sharma is probably best at No. 4 or 5. In my opinion, you cannot have Rohit batting at that spot when the wicket’s a belter and then push him back when seamers make the ball talk and he fails. It’s just not fair to the others in the side.)
Former India hockey coach Arjun Halappa is on the players’ side when it comes to switching them around.
Paul Van Ass’ implementation of ‘Total Hockey’ is criticised as being too ‘harsh’.
“It’s very tough. When I started playing under (Jose) Brasa, I was a right winger and I was played as a central midfielder. I got really irritated at first, but gradually when I started to understand what the team wanted, I adjusted. But everyone can’t adjust.
I think it was too harsh on the part of Paul Van Ass to make those position changes straightaway in a big tournament (Hockey World League Semifinals). It could’ve been done gradually. Europeans have their own thinking, and they think they are always doing the right thing. But when they come to India, they have to understand the culture, language and players. You can’t just walk in and get things done the way you like.”
It differs from player to player. Every player needs to feel secure that he will not lose out when he’s moved to unfamiliar territory and where he may not immediately perform as expected. They deserve to be given some time to prepare and adjust. The challenge is mental. Visualization exercises with the team psychologist are not a bad idea.
Results will come when players are happy. Unhappy players are a dampener on performance and results. Process must take precedence.
Ajinkya Rahane is a quiet man.
He lets his bat do the talking and how his willow has conversed with the game and the fans over the past two years.
Ajinkya Rahane is a team-man.
He is in the Rahul Dravid mould.
Dropped in Bangladesh for not being suited to the ODI format and having a slower strike rate than his contemporaries, the Mumbaikar is now the stand-in skipper for the upcoming Zimbabwe tour in the absence of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
Rahane—refreshingly—has no pretensions about his new role.
“The decision of naming me captain did come as a surprise because I wasn’t thinking about captaincy ever. I didn’t know how to react when I heard the news.
Once the news slowly began to sink in, I became really confident of handling this new responsibility.”
“Firstly, playing under MS Dhoni I would observe how he would be calm on the field. He has a very peculiar and calm way of handling situations. I would like to take that quality from him.
What I would like to take from Virat Kohli would be controlled aggression. You can see that quality in his batting and his captaincy.
And finally, Rahul bhai is someone who likes to keep things really simple on the field, which I got to know while playing under him with the Rajasthan Royals.
Having said that, I have my own set of ideas and I know what I have to do on the field.”
This is the first series for Team India since the re-framing of the ODI rules.
The changes are as follows:
The obvious effect is to reduce team totals. 400+ scores may once again become a thing of the past.
A return to a more traditional format implies that batsmen should eschew risk-taking and play to their strengths. Technique would be of paramount importance again. Spinners, of course, benefit with the extra fielder in the deep in the slog overs. Captains can be either offensive or defensive in the first 10 overs.
Murali Vijay, too, gets a chance to buttress his ODI credentials.
And the likes of Robin Uthappa and Kedar Jadhav can stake their claims to the wicketkeeper’s slot should Dhoni decide to quit sooner than later.
I suspect that it is this game of musical chairs that is of more salient interest to the selectors and the Indian think tank.
Other stories to follow are whether Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu or Manoj Tiwary can make a lasting impression. Opportunities to be in the full XI are few and far between.
Despite the absence of the main stalwarts, the squad is not a young lot with Harbhajan Singh leading the spinning trio.
Cheteshwar Pujara is missing from the above. He leads the India A side at home against Australia A.
Now Rahane, Vijay and Pujara may consider themselves hard-done by that they are not first choices whenever the ODI squad is chosen. They are labelled ‘Test specialists‘.
But , to be frank, is that really an injustice to the troika? Is it not an indicator of the selectors’ faith in them that despite the relatively fewer opportunities given them, they are penciled in ahead of the glory boys when it comes to the guts-and-gore version of the sport?
Being a Test player is the pinnacle of achievement. For Rahane, Vijay and Pujara to be considered head-and-shoulders above their counterparts should be a matter of pride and not despondency.
Class always tells.
IPL 2015 is finished, over, done with. The champions have been crowned. The champions are Mumbai Indians.
Three teams have now won the IPL twice. Chennai Superkings (of course), Kolkata Knightriders and Mumbai Indians. The other winners are Rajasthan Royals and Deccan Chargers (now defunct).
Is Rohit Sharma, on the basis of IPL results, a better skipper than Virat Kohli? Has captaincy led to a new-found maturity in the cavalier—yet immensely talented—Mumbai batter? Is Sharma a better candidate to lead the Indian Test side?
Recall that Saurav Ganguly was appointed skipper only after Sachin Tendulkar refused the crown of thorns for the second (and final) time. The rest, as they say, is history.
Meanwhile, the French Open beckons with a tantalising glimpse of possibly history in the making.
Can Novak Djokovic become only the fourth man in the Open era to claim a career Grand Slam?
For once, Nadal does not ride into Paris as the overwhelming favourite on his favoured surface—clay.
The Mallorcan has feet of (well, you said it, not me) clay.
In the women’s draw, the top two contenders are Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Both have claimed career Grand Slams and Sharapova—interestingly—has two French Open titles; it is her least liked surface.
(My cable operator is not televising the French Open; it is not among the default options offered. So I guess I’ll be following it mainly via the net or the print media.)
What went wrong with a team that came into the semi-finals undefeated, winning seven straight games in a row?
What can explain the abject display of this Indian side once they came up against their bete-noire of the last five months? Was it another case of déjà vu?
First, the Australians scored 30-50 runs more than our batters could easily achieve. A score of around 280 was chaseable against their strong bowling attack. Once the Aussies went past the psychological barrier of 300, it was an uphill struggle. Dhoni missed a trick by not letting Umesh Yadav bowl the last over. He was the only one who looked like getting wickets in his final spell and a couple of wickets more could have restricted the Aussies to a less substantial total.
The loss of Shikhar Dhawan began the slide. The left-handed opener was looking good for yet another ton but threw it away in a moment of casual lassitude. Rohit Sharma has scored runs but all of his big scores have come against the lesser sides. The Mumbaikar once again failed to step up to the plate when it mattered. How different is this Sharma from the one who made his debut in 2007-08? Have the years left their scars?
Virat Kohli disappointed. And much as Dhoni tomtoms Ravindra Jadeja’s abilities with the bat, the ‘all-rounder’ has no business being in the side if he cannot average at least a decent 30—both at home and away. Sure, he has three triple centuries in domestic cricket but if that’s the reason he’s in the side, then he should be batting further up the order, not with the tail.
The Indians were probably looking at chasing 328 in chunks. A score of 100 in 20 overs, 200 in 35 and 260 in 40 (power play) would have left them chasing less than 70 in the final 10 overs. It was not to be.
Dhoni’s unwillingness to experiment against the minnows meant that the Indians went up against the Aussies with a closed mindset. What works all the time will fail some day. What then?
Indian fans have a lot to cheer about. At the outset, no one expected this side to travel this far. Winning the trophy would have had their cup of joy overflowing but it would not be a true reflection of the capabilities and form of this side.
Overall, a fair result.
It was the same old story all over again. Ishant Sharma, the hero of the Lords test, looked on dejectedly, while his teammates squandered all his hard work and repaid him with a Sisyphean task for the final Test—if it comes to that.
Sharma injured his ankle and will be sitting out the fourth Test as well.
His replacement, Pankaj Singh, proved to be an inadequate replacement. His time is past though he is a game trier. A few chances of this bowling went a begging but if Dhoni was brave and honest with himself, he would have admitted that Varun Aaron or Ishwar Pandey were better bets. You do not replace your main strike bowler with a medium-pace trundler.
Rohit Sharma’s entry into the squad in place of Stuart Binny upset the balance of the squad. Just four main bowlers and two-three part-time spinners is hardly the recipe for a side looking to seal the series.
The Indian skipper does not have a lot of trust in his top order and preferred to either go in with an extra batsman or a couple of all-rounders. This decision seemed sound in the first two tests in retrospect; it was the lower order that saved the team blushes in the first three innings.
It is time MS Dhoni had a hard look at his resources and what he’s trying to do with them.
Gambhir has the gumption and the patience to play long innings. Bring to mind his effort at Napier, New Zealand in 2009.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stay. Class will tell.
Rohit Sharma goes out. The talented Mumbaikar has even his most ardent fans tearing their hair out in frustration; I am but one amongst them. Duncan Fletcher should have a quiet word with the young man and tell him that if this continues he will be touring a lot more—with the India ‘A’ side.
Dhoni continues and should back himself to the hilt about being aggressive with the bat.
At the start of the series, Dhoni said:
“I’ve realised that I have to be far more aggressive in my batting because I play much better that way than when I try to play like a proper batsman. It’s important to back your instincts and not think too much about the situation. I shouldn’t look to bat out time because there are other batsmen who can do that. If the ball is in my slot – whether it’s the first or the last – I should go for it.”
They were not the most heralded of the Indian bats when the series began. But they have quietly become the mainstays of the line-up.
Ravindra Jadeja, bat and moustache twirled, sits out. Ravichandra Ashwin comes in.
(How the selectors could overlook Amit Mishra and Praghyan Ojha for such an important series is anybody’s guess. Among the back-ups, are two wicket-keepers who may probably never get a game. It is effectively a 15-member squad.)
Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey lend much-needed support to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.
My side for Old Trafford:
Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, B Kumar, M Shami, V Aaron and I Pandey.
“Might be a seam bowler coming in.”
Sunil Gavaskar is conversant with the quirky ways of Indian selectors. The former Indian opener was speculating on who would replace Rohit Sharma in the Indian line-up following his finger injury in the first ODI against England at Durham.
What he really meant:
“RP Singh’s no use. Get another seamer in and quick.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“’Oranges for oranges, apples for apples’: That’s our selectors’ motto.”
A point of similarity between Gabriela Pasqualotto and Mahendra Singh Dhoni:
Until today, the two were content playing the game “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t”.
Pasquallotto, of course, was referring to whether she’d make her story public to the tabloids.
She will—if she’s paid and if she’s allowed to write it herself. Fair enough.