Monthly Archives: September 2007

Rohit Brijnath on Dhoni

Nice article in The Hindu about Dhoni. One of the paragraph reflects my own thoughts on the subject –

Dhoni has earned his million love letters, and a period where India should suspend judgement and let him grow. He had better be as tough as he looks for the BCCI’s job is simply to make his harder. Giving one crore to Yuvraj Singh for hitting six shots, however beautiful, is not just vulgar in a poor country, it is a celebration of individualism when Indian captains are valiantly trying to sell the idea of ‘team’. But then officials, who pushed themselves into the team photograph in South Africa, thrive on playing to the gallery.

-Mahesh-

No deadline for Coach!

After Greg Chappell’s resignation in March, the BCCI initially said that it would have a Team India Coach ready and appointed by the time the team left for England in late-June. That deadline passed. Then it said it would have a coach ready by the time the Twenty20 Championship came around. That deadline slipped. Then it indicated that the coach would be ready for the home series against Australia and Pakistan. That deadline came and went. Then as recently as last week, the BCCI said that the coach would be ready before the away series to Australia in December.

Now, in a thoroughly distasteful development, the BCCI postponed todays’ coach-selection meeting at Bangalore and, furthermore, issued a statement that it was not going to fix any deadline on the appointment of a coach!

Initially, the reason provided for the delay was the non-availability of Messers Gavaskar and Shastri, who were both busy on commentary duty! And yet, it is Ravi Shastri who has been approached to Chair the National Cricket Academy, post Kapil Dev’s sacking! One does wonder if Gavaskar and Shastri were the only two cricketers to ever play for India! No one can and will deny that these two fine gentlemen did play for India — and with distinction too — but surely there are a few hundred other honest ex-cricketers in search of a plum job!

Why was the recent coach-selection meeting postponed? Well, because, “Our president (Sharad Pawar) was not available for the meeting. We have not met yet and gone through any applications for the job that have been received by us,” BCCI Treasurer, N. Srinivasan said.

So rather than embarass themselves once again — surely, they must be used to it by now after a string of repeat performances on-demand and at will — the BCCI refused to put any further deadline on the coach-appointment. Aaah! Smart thinking 99. However, N. Srinivasan did commit to the appointment being, “done in reasonably quick time“.

But the real pearl from the media release was this one, “There has been little time. Players have just come back from England and then from the World Twenty20 Cup. We have back-to-back matches against Australia,” he added.

Hang on a minute! Are the players playing these matches or are Srinivasan, Pandove, Pawar, Shastri, Gavaskar, Venkatraghavan and Shetty playing for India? Haven’t these dills understood that their role is to select the coach and not to either play the game or indeed, watch it! There is a job to be done guys. The players will play. You guys need to administer the game!

— Mohan

Indian Team for the first India V Australia ODI

The selectors announced a few days back that Rohit Sharma would replace the injured Piyush Chawla in the team for the first ODI. Ho hum! Team India may surprise us by winning the T20 World Championship trophy. But the selectors will continue along their merry ways. Some things just do not change, I guess! A bowler for a batsman? Only in India…

Here was a captain who, by throwing the ball to Joginder Sharma in the last over of two consecutive crunch-matches, had made an important statement about a young medium-pace-bowling allrounder itching to make it to the world stage. And here, through a freak training injury to a bowler, was an opportunity to strengthen both the bowlers’ confidence as well as the captains’ hand! And the selectors went for a batsman instead!

But that’s the hand Dhoni has been dealt with. It will now be interesting to see if Dhoni plays all three former-captains in his team. I do not believe he should. I feel Ganguly should be sat down in this match.

My ideal team for todays’ match would be:

Sachin Tendulkar
Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
S Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan
Rudra Pratap Singh

I’d go for Harbhajan Singh over Romesh Powar for this game merely because Harbhajan’s confidence and rhythm will probably be higher after the T20 matches he has played.

— Mohan

Australian Humility: The Symonds way…

This was prompted by Mahesh’s excellent earlier post on the comments of Andrew Symonds over the post-Twenty20 victory-celebrations in India. It is quite clear that the celebrations have gotten under the skins of the Australian team and it is clear that the Aussies are totally cheesed-off at the loss. It perhaps did not help that they landed in India when the celebrations were on. So it must have been “in their faces” a bit — like rubbing salt on the wounds of a wounded tiger, if I am allowed to mix my metaphors!

It is fine for them to be fired up about it. This somewhat uncharacteristically lethargic Australian team probably needed something to fire it up. And this may have been just the tonic that they were looking for. And India must be wary of the wounded tiger.

But humility? I can understand strong, powerful, aggressive, class, excellent, robust, indefatigable, relentless, remorseless, unfaltering, overwhelming, overpowering, etc as adjectives to describe this superb outfit. They are good, no doubt. But I have always held the view that they are probably one of the most hated team in world cricket. They are a terrific outfit. But humble?

For the record here below is a clip of the unceremonoius Sharad Pawar shove-off-stage from the Champions Trophy winners’ dias which starts off with Ponting demanding that he be given the trophy. If I am not mistaken, Symonds is the last guy (of four perhaps?) to hustle Pawar off the stage. Yeah very humbly done Symo…

— Mohan

T20 match reviews from Sportstar

Here are the reviews for the matches in the Super8’s and knockout games –

And here is Rohit Brijnath’s feature article on T20 – It is excitable, unruly, unsubtle and fun.

-Mahesh-

Symonds says…

Symonds has criticized the way the Indians have celebrated. He has obviously been pissed off at the reception that the Indian team got at Mumbai and also the way the team celebrated soon after beating Pakistan in the final.

This is what he had to say –

Something has been sparked inside of me, watching them carry on over the last few days. We have had a very successful side and I think watching how we celebrate and how they celebrate, I think we have been pretty humble in the way we have gone about it.

And personally, I think they have got far too carried away with their celebrations. It has definitely sparked passion inside of us. It has certainly spiced it up as well

Yup. I’ve watched how you guys celebrate, Symonds – like shoving the President of an International Cricket Board out of the stage after winning. If you call that humble celebrations, I would like to know how you would celebrate when you are not.

For a country like India were cricket is the second religion and where the sport hasn’t seen much success, winning the World cup without big name players is a big deal and giving the team a 20km ticker tape welcome is a way of celebrating their success. Don’t tell me there are no ticker tape parades in Australia – I even remember being  in the crowd in this one .

Symonds has also said this –

Something gets triggered inside of you, something is burning inside of you – it is your will for success or your animal instinct that wants to bring another team down. We have been at the top for so long, it is like someone has taken the favourite thing you own from you and you want it back

Now, I can understand that. Australia have been the top side in World cricket and it ought to hurt when you get beaten and I am sure it will stir you up. I am also sure Australia will bounce back, for it has the players and the experience to do so – but I don’t quite understand why you need to bag the way other teams (or nations) celebrate…

-Mahesh-

Player contracts…

The BCCI appears to have sorted out the new contracts for 2007-08 for Team India players. They have also increased both the contract-amount payable for each Grade as well as the number of Grades.

In the previous round, the contracts raised a few eyebrows, especially with respect to Zaheer Khan who languished in Grade-C! Zaheer Khan now moves to Grade A! The graded players for the previous round were:

  • Grade-A (Rs 50 lakh/yr plus match fee): Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni.
  • Grade-B (Rs 35 lakh/yr plus match fee): V. V. S. Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar.
  • Grade-C (Rs 20 lakh/yr plus match fee): Gautam Gambhir, Wasim Jaffer, Sree Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, Suresh Raina, Munaf Patel.

The new contracts issued yesterday has the following make up:

  • Grade-A (Rs 60 lakh/yr plus match fee): Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Zaheer Khan. [7 players]
  • Grade-B (Rs 40 lakh/yr plus match fee): V. V. S. Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Wasim Jaffer, S Sreesanth, Dinesh Karthik, R. P. Singh. [8 players]
  • Grade-C (Rs 25 lakh/yr plus match fee): Suresh Raina, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla. [7 players]
  • Grade-D: (Rs 15 lakh/yr plus match fee) Rohit Sharma, Joginder Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Ishant Sharma, Ranadeb Bose, Mohammad Kaif, Cheteshwar Pujara, Parthiv Patel, S Badrinath, Aakash Chopra and Yusuf Pathan. [11 players]

That represents a 33-player list split up into 4 different grades — the previous list had only 17 players! So this is already a step in the right direction by the BCCI contracts committee.

Zaheer Khan moved two grades up to Grade-A which offers a retainer of Rs 60 lakhs pa.

Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar drop to Grade-C from Grade-B while Gautam Gambhir, Wasim Jaffer, Sreesanth, Dinesh Karthik and R. P. Singh step up a grade. Grade-B @ Rs 40 lakhs pa, sees a pay hike of 5 lakhs pa.

Ramesh Powar, Robin Uthappa and Piyush Chawla are new entrants into Grade-C which, at Rs 25 lakhs pa, also sees a pay-hike of 5 lakhs!

Grade-D @ Rs 15 lakhs pa is a new grade and accommodates 11 new players in the ‘system’.

My view is that this is a fairer representation of the talent in India and is also, perhaps, a more fair gradation. Rathnakar Shetty, N. Srinivasan and their crew appear to have got it right. One can question the details, but the priniciples appear to be right.

In addition, any player who is not on the above contract/retainership list but was selected to play for India in Tests or ODIs, would be automatically placed in the Grade D for the rest of the year. Again, this appears to be fair. In addition, a Grade-D player who plays either 5 Tests or 15 ODIs in a year for India would automatically move to Grade-C.

Looks reasonably good to me.

— Mohan

Australia Tour itinerary

Here is the tour itinerary for the India Australia ODI series –

Sat 29 Sep Floodlit Match  M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
Tue 2 Oct Nehru Stadium, Kochi
Fri 5 Oct Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
Mon 8 Oct Sector 16 Stadium, Chandigarh
Thu 11 Oct I.P.C.L. Sports Complex Ground, Vadodara
Sun 14 Oct Vidarbha C.A. Ground, Nagpur
Wed 17 Oct Floodlit Match Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

 

There will also be a T20 match on Sat 20 Sep at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai. Wonder if the ODI series will be a let down after such a great T20 tournament 🙂

You can also download the Outlook calendar from here, courtesy of CricInfo

-Mahesh-

The challenges ahead for M. S. Dhoni

Over the weekend, I was in conversation with a few friends of mine about M. S. Dhoni’s captaincy. We agreed that in the T20 World Championship he was doing exceedingly well. He appeared to have confidence in his players and also had their confidence. There was a sense of an environment of trust and enjoyment in the team. He also appeared to get them to give off their best for themselves as well as their team members.

Ian Chappell observed that this was a team that was playing fear-free cricket in the spirit of their captain.

At this point in time, perhaps justifiably, most fans, observers and commentators are completely enamoured by Dhoni’s freshness, approach, acumen and style. If sceptics needed more convincing, apparently he and Sreesanth had an early night after the T20 finals with Dhoni saying that there was still much to do in the Australia ODI series and there was no need to get carried away. He is reported to have said to his teammates, “Sab kuch normal rakhne ka (keep everything normal). Just live in the present, keep your feet on the ground, enjoy your success but don’t get carried away by success.

These are good days for Dhoni and his team. These are honeymoon days for Dhoni. They are happy days too, for his team has won when no one expected it to do so.

However, there are some stark realities of captaining India and if he is not aware of it already, I am sure it will hit Dhoni most when he contends with three evils in Indian cricket which are, in no particular order, (a) ‘the system’, (b) the dressing-room-egos, and (c) unsurpassed expectations.

The System:
This is euphemism for the BCCI and its machinations. Harsha Bhogle, writing in the Indian Express, says in the context of Rahul Dravid’s resignation: “Ideally, a captain should be free to think about the game and his players. If matters outside the playing field begin to occupy his mind more than those on it then there is a problem in the system that is causing it to happen. If a captain has to keep thinking about contracts, coaches, schedules and such other matters that really should be someone else’s responsibility, it is taking away time from his primary activity. Nasser Hussain quit as captain in 2003 because he was being forced to think more about Robert Mugabe than about the opposition. If Dravid has left the job for similar reasons, then all we will have is a new face with the same worries.

And that is essentially what Dhoni will face too.

Subsequent to my conversation over the weekend with my friends, I was reminded of this lovely article I read by Rohit Brijnath — in my view, one of the best writers on Indian cricket — just before Rahul Dravid and his team departed for England in June 2007. He wrote of the BCCI: “On 23 March, India’s World Cup challenge ended. In July, India opens its tour of England. Ample time existed to find a new coach. The BCCI’s inability to do so is further confirmation that no one in the Indian board knows, or seems to care, how to build a world-class team. As a group they remain unfamiliar with excellence.

Dhoni will be faced with a similar inept system that has no commitment to excellence. As I have said before, I doubt that this mob would be able to plan a booze party in a brewery even if their lives depended on it. They would, however, organise it in a hurried manner as though their backsides were on fire if and only if they smelt money.

Sourav Ganguly was able to manipulate this system to his — and his teams’ advantage. But then he was a master politician and moreover, he had Dalmiya on his side. It will be interesting to see how Dhoni copes with this single major challenge that he faces to his tenure as captain.

Dressing room egos:

If one were to accept the scuttlebutt , there may have been a blip in the dressing-room temperature in the game against South Africa with Yuvraj Singh being one of the culprits. Harsha Bhogle gave the impression on air that the “tendonitis of the elbow” explanation was a bit of a furphy. He follows that up with the following lines in this article: “India should have been rocked by the withdrawal of a champion batsman, but the captain let him sit out and didn’t bother persuading him to play. That is the way to go and in doing so he made a statement on what he thought the rest were capable of. Only Yuvraj will know how bad the pain was but it must have been excruciating enough to warrant missing a game a day after playing the innings of his life.

If there were any tensions subsequent to that game, Dhoni appeared to have smoothed them over, given Yuvraj Singh the ego-stroke that he was possibly looking for — if indeed, the scuttlebutt was to be believed — and then gotten on with the job.

But this is just the start. As Rohit Brijnath comments eloquently, “Indian cricket is alive, constantly, with a dozen mutinies and a captain must deftly quell them. Some insurrections are quelled by a quiet word at dinner or a friendly pat to an uneasy bowler. Dravid’s toughness has reportedly made him intimidating to men who are not on his wave length. Of course he must not pander to indolent fellows, yet must convince men to a common cause. A fellow at ease with words must communicate more ably.

What Brijnath writes about Dravid applies equally to Dhoni with a few exceptions. The problems are the same — there are always a “dozen mutinies” to quell — but the approaches will be crafted by the leader. Where Dravid was seen as “intimidating”, Dhoni may be more “approachable”. And Dravid’s “toughness” may make way for Dhoni’s “tough love” approach.

Dressing-room-mutiny-quelling is a necessary skill that any Indian captain must possess. Sourav Ganguly had this in spades, in my view and that made him more able to curtail the inevitable “slow leak of spirit from the team”. Ironically, in Ganguly’s reign — and so also in Dravid’s reign — this “slow leak” occurred most when the team was winning! Somehow, when effigies were being burnt and when houses were being stoned whenever the team lost, team spirit was at its highest! These events seemed to spur the team to band together and play for each other! Dhoni will face the same challenges, particularly as the team has started on a winning note. The more the wins, the greater the dressing-room-egos! He needs to manage that and the mutinies that could result and this is certainly not a job for the faint-hearted!

The most telling paragraph in Brijnath’s wonderful piece is this one: “No doubt there are players in the team who complain about the imperfections of Indian cricket (selection, too much cricket, etc), yet never strive for their own personal perfection. There are fading elders around, too, of varying utility. Yet for better or worse these are Dravid’s men, this is his team. A great leader finds a way to unite the most rag-tag bunch, rousing them to play harder for him and each other.

And as Dhoni sits down on the flight back to Mumbai and as he charts out his own roadmap, it would do him good to have the above paragraph — with Dhoni instead of Dravid — in front of him. His task will be one of managing egos, stopping the slow-spirit-leak and uniting a rag-tag-bunch that is not high on self-discipline and extremely short on consistency!

Unsurpassed expectations:
This was one area where neither Ganguly nor Dravid managed well. These expectations come from the media and the fans.

Dravid always talked about the lack of proportion. In an interview with Mike Atherton midway through the England series, when asked about whether captaincy was a “burden”, Dravid perhaps gave an insight into the resignation that was to follow when he said, “Burden is too strong a word and people say that because of how I look. I’m not naturally a cheery-looking soul on the field. I do enjoy it but there are aspects I find tough. What I find hardest is the absolute lack of proportion. It makes it very hard to build a team when two or three bad games provoke such an extreme reaction. The media in India have been changing rapidly. I actually enjoy reading the papers over here because I’ll get criticised for how I actually captain the team, the bowling changes I make and the field placings I set, rather than, for example, how many times I clap my hands and something equally irrelevant.

And seriously, the braying mediocrity of Indian cricket — its media — must cop a lot of the blame for setting and moderating the expectations of fans. Media people will tell you that they are merely reflecting the pulse of the nation. And that may well be right. However, the quality of commentary is more often than not, based only on opinion and completely devoid and bereft of analysis and “proportion”. There are TV programs that regularly tease out and hang-to-dry “culprits” of losses that the team endures! There is too much banality, too much opinion-driven hysteria, too much drama and too much sensationalism — just in the name of filling up column-space or air-time. There is very little deep-analysis. And the real danger is that those that do indulge in analytical pieces are dumbed down as boring and irrelevant.

Dravid had to battle the system that did not provide him with support. He had to fight the egos in the dressing room. But the public couldn’t care less! Joe Public wants to see achievements. And achievement, for almost every Indian fan, is thrashing the living daylights out of the opposition. Nothing else will do, thank you very much!

These are the realities and challenges that Dhoni will face once the honeymoon period is over. Will he overcome these to make an imprint on Indian cricket?

I sure do hope so.

— Mohan

Knock Knock…

Heard this joke. Could not resist:

Knock Knock

Who’s there?

Misbah

Misbah who?

Mis bah 5 runs!!

🙂

— Mohan