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.
When a sportsman suffers a grievous, deadly injury on the field like Philip Hughes who was felled by a Sean Abbott bouncer or Raman Lamba who was struck on the skull by a powerful shot, we are always shocked and debate whether the sport can be made more safe for the players. All kinds of methods and inventions are discussed and remedies are provided. Hughes’ untimely death, unseemly as it was, has forced helmet manufacturers to provide newer versions of their products that now cover the back of the neck hopefully preventing a recurrence of such an event.
But when more and more players are felled by disease on the field (and myocardial infarction is simply a symptom of coronary heart and artery diseases), it is time to look at the reason behind its occurrence and question the immediate reaction that exercise itself is unsafe for individuals.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
An outsized reaction to medical tragedies on the field is unwarranted and unbecoming of informed, educated persons.
Rahul Sawant, a 34-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman with Dahisar Cricket Club suffered a heart attack on Sunday while playing in the Dr HD Kanga League.
He was rushed to Bombay hospital by his teammates which saved his life.
Speaking to DNA, his skipper Pravin Gogri said:
“He was also feeling suffocated and could not bare the pain. We gave him water, but it didn’t help. We could not find the doctors provided by the Mumbai Cricket Association. Then we rushed him to Bombay Hospital.The Kanga League (rule) book says there are doctors at various grounds, but we could not find one at Azad Maidan. God knows what would have happened had we reached (the hospital) late.”
Gogri’s teammate added:
“He doesn’t smoke or drink. He is a nice man and a good cricketer. Life is full of stress these days. Today’s youngsters lead an unhealthy life. They sleep late and have loads of stress. We have now started going back to playing Kanga League on wet wickets. This could cause injuries. The MCA should be prepared if something like this happens.
Sawant has spent Rs 40,000 already. Let’s hope he is out of danger. He is the only son of his parents. You never know what can happen. I am sure MCA can afford ambulances for emergency situations.”
The matter will be taken up by the MCA in the next managing committee meeting with a promise to provide the desired medical facilities for all players.
MCA Joint Secretary, Unmesh Khanvilkar, said:
“This is a rare case. Normally, injuries like cuts, bruises or sprains happen while playing cricket. Hence we have appointed physios and provided first aids at various points of the grounds. But this is something which is serious and we will have to look into it.
We have to come out with a solution to make facilities that could deal with something like this. Other than the physios who are already there, we will try to arrange doctors who can deal with these issues. Also, we will try to arrange ambulances at each centre including gymkhanas so they can be used during emergencies.”
Sawant, meanwhile, will undergo angioplasty to remove a couple of blockages in his heart.
The move by the MCA is welcome. Sportsmen definitely need doctors around to tend to them should they suddenly succumb to ailments on the field. Immediate medical attention, especially in the case of heart attacks and treatment such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can make the difference between life and death.
But that is not the end of it.
Players , too , need to monitor themselves and their bodies and not overexert themselves after a tiring week at work or play.
More on that later….
There’s always something to be said about back stories—the people, the spouses, the families behind a sportsperson’s successes.
Two stalwarts of the game—Kumara Sangakkara and Michael Clarke—retire from the game having announced their exit some time before.
Much has been written about them; tributes have been paid—ad nauseam.
But what about the women in their lives?
Yehali Sangakkara is the talk of the town ever since stunning pictures with her hubby hit the sports pages.
The dynamic and sultry beauty expressed her sentiments about her counterpart returning home.
Speaking to Sony Six, Yehali said:
“He is an extremely messy person, the messiest on earth. But he loves to cook and absolutely loves making pasta at home.We never discussed cricket at home and always made sure there was life away from the sport at home. Conversations revolved around kids and made sure there was life beyond the sport.Kumar is a very relaxed, open sort of person. He has never demanded much. (But) He will have to get used to our routine now. He will of course still play some cricket for a year or two.”
Yehali and Kumara have known each other since their school days. They dated for eight years before settling down.
The wicketkeeper-batsman says:
“In my case, it (marriage) keeps me grounded and gives me a base where I can think my life out, refocus and renew energies for the next day.”
The 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture is Yehali’s favoured Sanga moment when it comes to cricket.
Here’s a sample of her spouse’s famed words:
“Ladies and Gentleman, the history of my country extends over 2500 years.
A beautiful island situated in an advantageously strategic position in the Indian Ocean has long attracted the attentions of the world at times to both our disadvantage and at times to our advantage.
Sri Lanka is land rich in natural beauty and resources augmented by a wonderfully resilient and vibrant and hospitable people whose attitude to life has been shaped by volatile politics both internal and from without.
In our history you will find periods of glorious peace and prosperity and times of great strife, war and violence. Sri Lankans have been hardened by experience and have shown themselves to be a resilient and proud society celebrating at all times our zest for life and living.
Sri Lankans are a close knit community. The strength of the family unit reflects the spirit of our communities. We are an inquisitive and fun-loving people, smiling defiantly in the face of hardship and raucously celebrating times of prosperity.
Living not for tomorrow, but for today and savouring every breath of our daily existence. We are fiercely proud of our heritage and culture; the ordinary Sri Lankan standing tall and secure in that knowledge.
Over four hundred years of colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has failed to crush or temper our indomitable spirit. And yet in this context the influence upon our recent history and society by the introduced sport of cricket is surprising and noteworthy.
Sri Lankans for centuries have fiercely resisted the Westernisation of our society, at times summarily dismissing western tradition and influence as evil and detrimental.
Yet cricket, somehow, managed to slip through the crack in our anti-Western defences and has now become the most precious heirloom of our British Colonial inheritance.
Maybe it is a result of our simple sense of hospitality where a guest is treated to all that we have and at times even to what we don’t have.
If you a visit a rural Sri Lankan home and you are served a cup of tea you will find it to be intolerably sweet. I have at times experienced this and upon further inquiry have found that it is because the hosts believe that the guest is entitled to more of everything including the sugar. In homes where sugar is an ill-affordable luxury a guest will still have sugary tea while the hosts go without.”
Speaking to Wisden India, Sangakkara elaborated on his partnership with Yehali:
“I met her in Kandy, we were in two schools that had the same founder. Rev Ireland Jones founded Trinity and then Hillwood College in Kandy. I met her there when I was about 16-17 and have been with her for well over 20 years now. And it’s been the best partnership of my life, without a doubt. We have two beautiful children and she’s a very practical, very sensible lady who minces no words in telling me exactly what she thinks of my cricket or what I do or the decisions that I make. Not in any technical sense but in a sense of whether what the thought processes are that go into making these decisions. She has been one of the most important figures in keeping me grounded and ensuring that there is sanity at home. There is order when I am playing. When I am away from home, I have always travelled with them, with my wife and my children. I have been very, very blessed to have her in my life and hopefully, she will decide to stay with me for many years longer.”
Sangakkara’s wife was expecting when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Pakistan. Recalling that gruesome event, the former skipper said:
“Yes, actually my wife was a few months pregnant, quite pregnant by the time we were attacked. So actually I called her and I spoke to her and I said listen, we were driving to the ground and there has been a bit of a shooting but everyone’s fine. Don’t worry about anything. That’s all I told her, I didn’t tell her anything about who got hurt, who got hit and all of this. But unfortunately, there were news items being run saying I got hit in the head and people have died and all these things and she was panicking. I got a few calls and at the end of the day I said listen, I am talking to you, so that means I am fine! But at the same time, I can understand the stress that she was going through. It was easier for us because we knew exactly what was happening but they weren’t getting the news quickly enough or clearly enough. And it was hugely stressful not just on her but all the families and you could see when we landed that the relief they had to have us back and at home in Sri Lanka. It was quite a tough time.”
If Kumara is the man-about-town, his other half is no less enterprising.
Yehali took over a television microphone when she ‘interviewed’ an Aussie spectator at his final Test in Colombo.
The Australian was all paeans.
“I love Kumar. He is one of the all-time greats of cricket. I am an Australian but am a huge supporter of Sri Lankan cricket.It’s a sad day to see Kumar retire but we will always remember his great innings.”
“I think he went through the normal process – from school to NCC to ‘A’ team and then to the national team. The process worked and he became mature.We are blessed to have a very supportive family. Kumar’s parents and siblings are very supportive. We have good friends around us who keep us grounded. He always believes in doing the right thing. He says, ‘If you do the right thing, good will follow’. He has always taken responsibility on himself rather than pointing fingers at others.”
To be continued…
Team India lost the first Test to Sri Lanka at Galle from a seemingly invulnerable position.
A batting collapse followed an inept display of bowling intent which let the Islanders back into the match.
Once a foothold was established, the home side drove home their advantage in the face of tentativeness from the visitors.
Does this signal the end of the ‘five-bowlers’ theory?
Virat Kohli says no and he is right.
“If I have said I am going to play with five bowlers, I cannot go down after a performance like this and say I wish I had an extra player, you cannot play with 12 players. If I have chosen to play with five bowlers to take 20 wickets then it is our responsibility to bat in a better way which we did not do today. So I am not bringing up any excuses or wishing that we had an extra batsman. We should have done this better with six batsmen.”
The Indian skipper has a point. The team is going to lose some when they try to win games.
The mind-set and execution should be to play positive cricket and go out there expecting to have a result.
Playing for a draw never brings about a gain for the side unless your opposite number is suicidal.
Kohli should continue with his game-plan and should expect more from both his batsmen and his bowlers.
The bowlers have to bowl on average 18 overs in a day given the current dispensation; that’s only eight more than what they would in a one-day game and that’s in just three-and-a-half hours.
They cannot complain.
The batters are to shoulder the extra responsibility and not count on the tail to wag. It is their job; they are specialists.
What Team India also needs to figure out is how to tackle counter-attacking batsmen. Man-of-the-match Dinesh Chandimal revealed that he and his partners batted as though it were an ODI. Well, if that’s the case, why doesn’t the Indian skipper set an ODI field? Drying up the runs would have certainly lessened the damage especially when your bowlers seem to have run out of ideas.
It’s about adapting to the situation.
And the Indian media and former cricketers-turned-commentators should refrain from playing the blame game whenever India loses.
Sometimes, you have to admit that the other side played well and deserved to win for their ‘never-say-die’ attitude.
Sanju Samson has allegedly behaved badly.
The India ‘A’ keeper has been accused of salivating spitefully at his Australian opponents’ feet.
The incident occurred in the tri-series final between the home side and the visitors.
India ‘A’ clinched the title, registering their first victory in the series against their counterparts from Down Under.
The Kerala player claimed a catch that the Australians felt was illegal.
This led to an exchange of words when the 20-year-old came out to bat.
Usman Khawaja, the Aussie skipper, said:
“Obviously the guys in our team were disappointed that he claimed he had taken the catch.
Today he spit in front of our player’s foot three times. If you do that the boys are going to get worked up and the umpires were not understanding it. We did try to calm the boys, but they just went on and on.
I am happy if the batsman happens to talk back but spitting is not on. He spit on one of our players when he came onto the field.
If one of our players said something to him, he can say something back but not spitting.”
“I do not want to make a big deal about things that happened on the field. I do not want to take away any credit from India. They really played well today and were the better team to have won.
Unfortunately, incidents like that happen. Some incident happened the other day with one of your bowler (Sandeep Sharma). He was coming back and it was fine. I was happy with that. I have seen it all, it is another game, it does not affect me too much.
It is always tough to defend a total of 220 runs. We had our chance when the fifth wicket fell but we have to take wickets to win the game. India just batted sensibly. The wicket was up and down and it was not turning massive. If we had few more runs we could strangle them on that kind of wicket.”
The match umpires and other officials should be filing their report with the BCCI.
An investigation into this kind of unwarranted behaviour and its antecedents should be launched to prevent any such recurrence.
Players behaving badly—spittle-less or not—can only lead to more bad blood in the future and should be nipped in the bud.
It is a gentleman’s game after all.
Lalit Modi is a megalomaniac.
The former czar of the IPL wishes to take over the world—the cricketing world.
And that too in style.
Modi and his cronies have envisaged a new world order that does not require the sanction of the ICC, one that affiliates itself with the Olympic movement. The blueprint will do away with ODI cricket altogether and consist of only Test and T20 tourneys.
“We’re talking about another cricketing system. There is a blueprint out there, it’s got my rubber stamp on it. I have been involved in it. I say it for the first time, I’ve been involved in putting that (blue)print together. We could take on the existing establishment, no problem. It requires a few billion dollars, I don’t think it would be a problem to get that … into action.
The plan that I have put together is a very detailed plan, it’s not a plan that’s come off the cuff, it’s been taking years and years and years in the making.”
The fugitive from justice has termed the big three of international cricket, India, Australia and England “snakes”.
Speaking to ABC Network in its documentary, ‘The Great Cricket Coup’, Modi said:
“They are the three snakes of cricket. You’ve got to take their neck off, you’ve got to chop their head off, otherwise cricket will not survive.”
(Modi apparently does not understand that snakes have no necks.)
“For me to get players would be…a switch of a button. There was a report that ran on the front of The Australian newspaper that said $100 million pay cheque for two of your players. I think that’s an easy cheque to write and if that cheque is easy to write then ‘would I get the players or not?’ is a question you should ask the players, not me.”
The heartening aspect of this extraordinary plan is that Modi does not intend to do away with Test cricket.
Also, he does see the need to gain approval from another body, if not the ICC, the IOC.
That is going to be an onerous task.
The ICC is unlikely to relinquish control over a sport that is a money-spinner for the powers-that-be without a fight.
It would be interesting to see how Modi’s plot pans out.
Kerry Packer and his ‘pyjama cricket’ improved cricket telecasting and was the harbinger of fatter pay packets for the players and commentators.
Not that the sport needs more; at least, the Indian players would differ strongly.
But an offshoot of any such attempt might mean that more cricket is played all over the world and the profits redistributed to many more nations much like Sepp Blatter’s FIFA, perhaps, without the endemic corruption and powerplay(s).
More power to Modi.
‘The Great Cricket Coup‘ is available for viewing here.
“Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust
How do you think I’m going to get along,
Without you, when you’re gone
You took me for everything that I had,
And kicked me out on my own
Are you happy, are you satisfied
How long can you stand the heat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat”
I really didn’t want to write this article; I haven’t been catching the Ashes—the war of the English roses and the Australian wattles—a tradition itself within a traditional game.
It’s not that I don’t like cricket or that I’m overly patriotic and catch mostly India games (which I do) but I simply cannot bring up any passion for watching this series.
The Ashes—on television—are a visual treat; the commentating is excellent and there’s everything very attractive about the packaging of a historic rivalry that evokes memories of battles past.
I wish Indian television were able to come up with a better presentation of the Indo-Pak rivalry but aside from the jingoism it revisits, there’s little to recommend for couch aesthetes.
The five-match series began with the Aussies favoured by one and all. After all, they were the ODI world champs and had thrashed their Trans-Atlantic foes comprehensively in the series Down Under. The pundits predicted that Alistair’s goose was Cooked.
England surprised one and all by winning the first Test. But the Aussies were out for blood in the second and prevailed in a somewhat one-sided encounter.
To everyone’s surprise, the third Test ran along similar lines. Except this time, it was the home side that dominated from Day One. The return of Steve Finn implied that England now had three wicket-taking pacers; the weakness of this side has been that the support pacers are there simply to make up the numbers; they never were strike options.
Can Finn be the Steve Harmison of this side? Remember Stevie, from the 2005 Ashes in tandem with Freddie Flintoff pushing the Aussies on the backfoot in the absence of Glenn McGrath and the first signs of what was to come once Warne and he exited the greats.
England , not too long ago, were number one; they ascended to that pole position when they beat India at home in 2011. It is a number they have since ceded to South Africa.
Can they lay the foundation for another push at that supreme figure?
The next two Tests are crucial. Has the momentum shifted in England’s favour?
Will the Aussies bite back with venom?
The urn beckons.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an ass.
An ass who has won Team India two World Cups and a Champions Trophy but an ass nevertheless.
Nothing else can explain why the famed leader of men in colored clothing would castigate his fast bowlers for straying while bowling quick in ODIs.
The wise men of Indian cricket were quick to follow his lead and have relegated Umesh Yadav to the India A squad.
Sir Andy Roberts rushed to Yadav’s defense.
Trust a fast bowler to understand another.
“Look at Australia, Mitchell Johnson was nowhere in the last five years, but he went back, worked hard, strengthened his body and used his pace. Johnson wasn’t about line and length, he was all about pace and that’s what got Australia back to the forefront. Pace!
Yadav is India’s genuine fast bowler and I don’t like this idea of you telling your fast bowlers you must bowl line and length, you don’t sacrifice pace for length and control, all one needs to do is work hard in the nets to better his control.
Well that’s selectors for you (on Yadav’s demotion)
He (Yadav) has the pace and not too many fast bowlers have pace. You don’t just make fast bowlers. You have to be born with it.”
Yadav, however, has no intention of slowing down.
“As a genuine fast bowler, the margin of error is very less for us. It’s not easy for a fast bowler to bowl consistently in one area. It’s easier for a medium pacer to maintain line length at 130-135 km/hr. Many times boundaries go because of the pace at which I bowl. At times, I try different things and when that doesn’t work, it costs me a few runs. Everyone is different. I can’t bowl like Mustafizur Rahman and he can’t bowl like me. My release point is different from that of a medium pacer’s, If I change that, I will mess up with my bowling. I am in this team because of my pace. I have taken wickets at the international level with pace.”
On the Bangladesh defeat:
“It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the defeat. We were playing continuously for the last 8-10 months so may be fatigue was an issue. Obviously we could have done a lot better. Having said that, Bangladesh played some good aggressive cricket. The pressure was definitely on us. They had nothing to lose. Mustafizur bowled well in the first two matches. We had never seen him before – how he uses the slow ball, how he uses those cutters. After the first two matches we got to know about his strengths and played him well in the last match. Unfortunately, the series was over by then.”
On the India A selection:
“Yes, I would have a bit of rest as I am playing continuous cricket for last eight months. However, the selectors feel I need to bowl before the Sri Lanka series. They must have thought something about me and Varun (Aaron). May be they thought we must have match practice before the Sri Lanka series. So I am prepared for that. I will try to utilize this short break to refresh myself and then be ready for the India ‘A’ assignment.”
On India’s World Cup campaign:
“When I started my cricket, I had a dream to be part of a World Cup team. I wasn’t a regular in the team before the West Indies and Sri Lanka series. However, I had that confidence and attitude that I could be part of the team. When I got the chance for West Indies series, I grabbed it with both hands and showed what I can do for the team. Only thing in my mind was to contribute in winning causes. I am glad I did that whenever the captain threw the ball to me.
We were bit tired during the triangular series after the long Test series. So we didn’t perform as well as we would’ve liked. But yes, it gave us a good opportunity to assess ourselves and what we needed to do in the World Cup. For instance, mid-wicket and deep square-legboundaries were quite long in Australia and it wasn’t easy to clear them if you hurry the batsmen and use short deliveries properly. We did exactly that. Before the tournament, nobody expected the Indian bowlers to perform that well but we knew what we were capable of. To bounce out the opposition was brilliant.”
It would have been so much nicer and smarter if MSD would have a chat with his fast bowlers on these lines instead:
“Guys, I know you cannot be accurate always and may go for runs. But what I want from my pacers are wickets and wickets quickly and at crucial junctures. If you can give me the breakthroughs and an average of 2-3 wickets per game, I will be mighty satisfied. After all, bowlers (and catches) win matches.”
That, my friends, is the way to go.
MakeTimeForSports makes an attempt to get India Test skipper Virat Kohli to clarify his stand on MS Dhoni’s leadership.
1) How are you today? Are you able to express yourself freely?
Yes, without a doubt. I wouldn’t be talking to you otherwise.
2) Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin have come out in support of your predecessor and current ODI skipper MS Dhoni. What are your views on their remarks?
It’s not disrespectful to be willing to die for your skipper but the skipper is just a representative of the team and you should be willing to die for all your teammates. That’s the essence of team spirit. The spirit of Dhoni will linger on in the dressing room long after he’s gone and, in Ashwin’s case, on the field as well. Besides, this is probably the best and last chance for Raina and Ashwin to be dubbed Sir Suresh and Sir Ravichandran by his Royal Highness Maharaja Mahendra Singh Dhoni the First—or so a tweeting bird informs me!
3) Dhoni’s coach Chanchal Bhattacharjee and yours’ Raj Kumar Sharma have commented on India’s abysmal showing in the ODI series with Sharma terming the 2nd loss the ‘Black Sunday of Indian cricket’. Your thoughts?
Look on the other side. It was a Bright Sunday for Bangladesh. You win some, you lose some and make some remarks about the team not being able to express itself freely. Sunny side up, my man, sunny side up.
4) What do you think should the Indian team do to be able to express themselves more freely and with more clarity?
For a start, they should grow beards like mine and curse and glare when they are adjudged out. They should also consider dating film-stars and models. I’m sure Anushka can introduce them to some of her single colleagues.
5) Would you have considered stepping down if it had been you in the driver’s seat and not Dhoni yet the same outcome?
Huh! The possibility never crossed my mind.
Disclaimer: The character(s) are real but the interview is fictional.