Tag Archives: Australia

The tipping point…

After Team India won the World Cup, I was waiting for the “real” cricket season to commence before I re-commenced blogging! Senior players took a break from the game through lung infections and shoulder niggles. I could point to a digit that was unnaturally, yet temporarily, bent beyond the allowed 15 degrees! So, I took a break from blogging.

More seriously though…

Team India had ticked the “won the World Cup again” box. Everything else after that was mere preparation for the tipping point in what I have termed the Year of Consolidation for Team India.

And that year commences now.

The IPL came and went and ruined any celebration plans that either Team India or BCCI might have had subsequent to India’s World Cup victory! Some, like me, will say that this was a blessing in disguise! Thankfully, the chest-beats lasted just one week. Thanks to the onslaught of IPL-4, post-win celebrations were substantially and significantly minimal in India; this at a time when the English are still celebrating the Ashes victory some 6 months later!

After an ODI series against the Windies, Team India is now in the midst of a low-key Test series against West Indies. The last Test commences today.

But these ODIs and Test matches have been good preparation for the home run in the year of consolidation for Team India. We are at an interesting tipping point.

History will perhaps see 2001 as the year it all started for Team India. The team, through its inspirational leader, Saurav Ganguly, developed self-belief. The team knew that it had to win — and win overseas. It did. Slowly at first, like a child learning to walk. Winning overseas soon became a habit! Along the way, the team recorded a few good victories: Kolkata 2001 (v Australia), Leeds 2002 (v England), Adelaide 2003 (v Australia), Multan 2004 (v Pakistan), Sabina Park 2006 (v West Indies), Johannesburg 2006 (v South Africa), Perth 2008 (v Australia), Mohali 2008 (v Australia) and Mohali 2010 (v Australia), being some of the more memorable and important victories.

The doubters said Indians could not cope with the short ball. At the start of every series, we hear the same strategies being mapped: chin music. It is almost as if there are no other strategies to combat the strong Indian batting line-up! When India toured Australia in 2003 and we heard of “chin music” for the first time, a friend’s 10-year old said, “Let them talk about chin music, we can talk about Sa-chin music”. Today, every team is still focuses on chin music. Get over it, already!

Other doubters said that India could not win overseas. India has. Consistently.

Many other doubters said that India did not have the bench strength to overcome the departure of the backbone of the team: Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Ganguly. Today, the last two have departed. Through a mixture of chance, design and the incredible longevity of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman, India appears to be managing the transition.

These doubts are being answered. Slowly. Today, the team has bench strength that is the envy of the world. Unlike Australia, who lost her best players inside a year, India’s retirements have been managed well so far.

Australia assumed that her tough local competition would continue to routinely throw up talent that is good enough to take on the world. Australia did not blood her future torch-bearers and replacements in a phased manner. Australia waited for the legends to retire and was then found out. Through a combination of good fortune and design, India has taken an alternative route. Today, Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly have departed. But their loss is not yet being felt in a manner that is acutely hurtful. Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman and other contemporary senior members are still there to ensure that the baby is not thrown out with the bath water.

Now, we have reached an important point in the journey. Team India has had an exciting 10-year journey up until now. The team now stands on the cusp of a watershed moment. The team has self-belief now. It has the talent. It has the personnel. Through injury management and rest management, the team has ensured that even after the feverish and intense IPL, the team is fit and able to take on a strong England in England in Tests. Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Sreesanth were rested to ensure that the team has fresh legs available to take on a significant challenge.

And that really is the key to building bench-strength. Young players need to be provided opportunities to face the heat in tough/alien conditions.

That has happened. While Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Abhimanyu Mithun have not yet set the world alight with their performances, they will have benefited hugely from this outing in West Indies.

Rahul Dravid said recently that the conditions the team encountered in the West Indies have been the toughest he has experienced in a long time. Of the batsmen, only Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina (to a lesser extent) have emerged with their reputations enhanced.

But we cannot be arrogant like the Australians were when they were preparing for their future. In my view, much like the cricket that the team played at that time, Australia went about her preparation for her senior players’ eventual departure in an arrogant manner. Australia used and discarded players like Matthew Elliot, Brad Hodge, Jason Krejza, Stuart McGill, Chris Rogers, et al. These players were put through a revolving door and spun in and out of the team. It was all good while the team was successful. The theory was that the Sheffeld Shield was so strong that it would always throw up the right player when the right moment came along. This was a principle built on a foundation of arrogance. Even if we think that the Ranji Trophy is good at identifying and testing talent in tough conditions (and let us admit, it is not!) India cannot afford to take on the attitudes that Australia adopted.

We cannot adopt a use-once-and-discard policy. If players like Abhinav Mukund, M. Vijay, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, et al, are players that we identify for a strong future, we need to be patient with their failures in order that we reap the benefits of their potential future success.

Team India, as I said before, is at a tipping point. Winning, which has now become possible, must become a habit. The ingredients for this phase change are self-belief, talent-nurturing and ruthlessness on the field.

The availability of talent must be a given in this journey. This needs to be nurtured. And this necessarily means that we — the fans — must learn to be patient. As I keep saying, if you want to see a collection of sacks, visit a mill or a godown! If we cannot learn to be patient when the team is winning, we have Buckley’s chance in Hell of being patient when we start to lose! Talent-nurturing cannot turn to talent-nutering!

Finally, the team must learn to win clutch situations.

The journey in this, the year of consolidation, commences with India meeting England in England and Australia in Australia. Yes! India did beat England the last time she visited that country. But she did not play like a champion team would. India did not press for a win at The Oval. India did not have that ruthless edge that Steve Waugh’s Australia had. India did not overcome a clutch situation. Indeed, India avoided the clutch situation totally!

And India is yet to win a series in Australia.

So, a decade after Team India discovered self-belief, it is time for a phase-change; it is time to endure and cut through an important tipping point…

— Mohan

Advertisements

MS Dhoni: An Assured Level-5 Leader…

This post first appeared in Clearcricket. The idea of a piece on MS Dhoni was initiated by Subash Jayaraman, founder and contributor to Clearcricket (@thecricketcouch on Twitter).

*****

I remember the day very very clearly.

It was the 8th of November 2008. A Saturday. It was the third day of the final Test match of the series (at Nagpur) between India and Australia. I had watched the most gripping session of Test cricket in my Melbourne home. Having commenced the day on 189 for 2 off just 49 overs (at 3.85 runs per over), chasing India’s first innings total of 441 all out, Australia had ended the previous day on an aggressive high. The first few balls of that first session of play on day-3 set the scene for that session, and that day.

My jaw hit the floor. “Was this Team India I was seeing?”, I asked myself.

I did not move from my place on the couch in that session — it produced just 42 runs from 25 overs at a run-rate of 1.68 runs per over! Dull cricket? Yet, I remember that session so vividly.

So what made it a gripping session?

Through the morning session India captain MS Dhoni set a 8-1 field with 8 fielders on the off-side and a lone leg-side fielder at square-leg. The bowlers who had been slapped around the previous evening, curbed their attacking lines and bowled a disciplined line to Mike Hussey and Simon Katich the two Australian left-handers. At the time this was thought of as a “defensive” tactic. The Australians were shackled. Their attacking shots were curbed. And they did not quite know how to combat India’s strategy — it took them a while to figure out that there was, indeed, a strategy! An Indian team did not just “rock up”. They were playing “thinking cricket”. The Australians were like rabbits caught in the headlights. In the process, Australia had lost a wicket too; Simon Katich lost his composure and got out — he had been out-foxed.

Rather than remove his foot from the pedal, in the post-lunch session, Dhoni continued his strategy in a ruthless and clinical manner. For Clarke he set a 6-3 field but still bowled a “defensive line”. In that post-lunch session, Australia scored 49 runs in 29 overs and had lost 3 wickets.

Many commentators — including Ian Chappell and Alan Border — attribute the loss in this Nagpur Test match to Ricky Ponting’s strange captaincy in the India second innings, when he had Michael Hussey and Cameron White bowling in tandem in a bid to catch up on Australia’s bad over-rate! However, I strongly believe that it was those opening sessions of Day-3 that led to Australia losing that Test Match. India acquired an Australia-like attitude, caught the match by the scruff of its neck, and did not let go. It called for mean-mindedness; an Australia-like bloody-mindedness. It called for a surrender of ego and pride. It called for discipline.

MS Dhoni’s tactics were rubbished by Ian Chappel, who asked for a rule-change to curb defensive and “boring cricket”.

For me, that was “exciting and gripping cricket” and not “boring cricket”. I had watched every single ball. There was drama and emotion. There was a battle; a battle of nerves; a battle for survival; a battle for supremacy; a battle to ascertain who would blink first. They remain the most gripping sessions of Test cricket I have seen in the last two years! Both sessions were “attacking sessions” in my view.

Dhoni had a clear strategy. He had a firm plan in his mind. He appeared to have communicated his plan very clearly to his personnel and got them to buy into his vision. His players responded to his plan, even though it meant that they had to swallow their ego and pride. The plan could backfire badly if it failed. Dhoni had to ensure that it was executed to perfection. Whether Dhoni had a plan-B or not, we never know. But his plan-A worked to perfection. And once he saw that it was working, he did not relent. He had placed his foot on the jugular and kept it pressed there. He had done to the Australians what they did to so many teams in the previous 15 years!

This was Test match cricket at its very best.

A few years back, in 2001, in that series, Sourav Ganguly had asked left-arm spinner, Nilesh Kulkarni, to bowl a negative line outside leg-stump from one end (especially in the second innings) while he attacked the Australians with Harbhajan Singh at the opposite end, in a must-win match at Chennai.

This was similar. Only better!

*****

MS Dhoni seems to have an astute, canny, discerning and incisive sense of his place in Indian cricket history. He comes across as an extremely perspicacious individual. Perhaps it is because of his small-town upbringing. Perhaps it is because a sense of sagacious, earthy and incisive unpretentiousness is ingrained in him due to his roots and upbringing.

That Test match in Nagpur witnessed two other moments that are enduring, stirring and indelible in my memory.

Towards the end of the Nagpur Test match, MS Dhoni handed over the captaincy reins to a man who had started India’s march towards the top of the tree at the start of the decade. Sourav Ganguly marshaled the troops and rang in the bowling changes as India marched towards a Test and series victory in that 2008 series. It was a wonderful and honest gesture of extreme appreciation and perhaps even respect by Dhoni towards a man who had been nudged towards retirement. Ganguly was playing in his last Test Match. The match report reads, “A less secure man would have wanted to hog the limelight, but by ceding space to one of Indian cricket’s all-time greats for a couple of overs, Dhoni showed just how aware he was of the bigger picture.”

If that was emotionally stirring and if that was a signal of a man who was totally self-assured, what followed at the post-match ceremony tugged at the heart-strings even more. Dhoni called Anil Kumble to the victory dais to accept the Boarder-Gavaskar trophy. After all, it was during the series that Anil Kumble had retired.

Dhoni had scripted the strongest and most compelling farewell gestures to Ganguly and Kumble. This wasn’t, in my view, false humility. This wasn’t, in my view the act of a man devaluing his own accomplishments for the sake of receiving applause, accolade or adulation from others. His humility in these actions were real. He expected neither praise nor favors. These were, I believe, anchored in a strong and calm sense of assuredness.

And so, the baton had passed so wonderfully during that exciting Test match at Nagpur. India had commenced the decade with a strong statement against the Australians in 2001. In 2008, the baton passed to a man who would take the team from being just good to perhaps being great.

*****

I have long held the view that Sourav Ganguly was the first leader of men in Indian cricket. He had a vision for the Indian cricket team. He developed short-term and longer-term goals for the team. He wanted India to be competitive in world cricket; not just good at ‘home’. He believed passionately in this vision and committed to it with fervor. He had a road map to get him to the goals along the way. This included a professional coaching setup and an army of support staff. He was able to argue his case for adequate resources and quickly established himself as the leader of the team. He was able to rise above regional politics and demonstrated his will and commitment through his actions. He demonstrated that he was unbiased. He was quick in identifying talent and supported players through (sometimes multiple) failures. What he built was a systematic meritocracy where players would go to many lengths to give their all for him and for the team cause.

Of course, he did build his team at a time when Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman and Saourav Ganguly himself formed the backbone of an evolving good team. There were still questions on how they would be “replaced” to affect a transition from short-term good to long-term great!

Meanwhile, all of Ganguly’s good work was somewhat undone in his latter years through a dip in his own personal form, which coincided with the arrival of Greg Chappell — right man at the wrong time and at a very, very wrong place.

Indian cricket, which had started the decade with much promise and hope, was suddenly hopeless again. Through Anil Kumble, some balance was restored.

It was in this context that MS Dhoni took over the captaincy of the T20 and ODI teams and finally the Test team.

The road from good to great had not yet been traversed. The plan for this road was yet to be developed. What was urgently required was assured leadership, a vision and an organisational setup.

*****

As a player, Dhoni had transformed from being a flamboyant thumper to being an ungainly, yet effective artiste. His wicket-keeping was steady, if not brilliant. It was as a batsman, though, that he made his mark.

Initially, he was type-cast as an ODI player. After announcing himself with a 123-ball 148 against Pakistan, he made his big announcement with a massive 183 against Sri Lanka. Pundits wrote him off as a failure in Tests even before he had started. But then he made a terrific century in a high-scoring drawn-match in Faisalabad against Pakistan. He then made a fighting knock against England at Lords’ to save a Test match. Suddenly, he was a Test match player too.

From there on, a new and re-invented Dhoni played with maturity and calmness. It seemed as though he was comfortable in the team. He became a player who was able to play in many gears. He sometimes curbed his natural instincts to become a grafter, but young-India identified with the buccaneering marauder in him. They wanted him to play his trademark helicopter shot every match, every over, every ball.

That shot itself became symbolic of the rural rustic fighting for his space in a complex modern milieu, fully armed with a sackful of attitude, a satellite TV and many mobile phones! Dhoni represented the man he wanted to be. They wanted Dhoni to be the pillager that would plunder and raid runs from the opposition. They saw in Dhoni the big-city boldness and brashness that they aspired to.

But he was equally at home in the bright lights. He had the flamboyance, the long hair and the party life-style of a city lad. He even spoke English with the panache and confidence of a city lad! When his “Well of course” opener to any question became a trademark, he was assured enough to realize it and use it to mock himself! Today, he uses “Wellofcourse” in self-deprecation and smiles through it, knowing that many out there are having a guffaw. He blended into the city and the city men wanted to be like him.

Here was a common man from rural India who led a massive team with an earthy and grounded set of pragmatic sensibilities. Yet, he was a shining and suave diplomat under bright lights on the world stage. He had become a hero to both rural India and urban India.

Slowly, India accepted him as a very clever cricketer who could sum up the situation and play the way the game needed him to play. They enjoyed his barbs and exhortations from behind the stumps. They loved it when he asked Amit Mishra to bowl “udhar se” (round the wicket) in the Mohali Test against the Australians in 2008 to Michael Clarke. Clarke was out off that last ball of the day, leaving the Australians in disarray! They loved it when he said to Sreesanth to move in the field and when the speedster didn’t pay attention, he said, “Your girlfriend is not there… just move a bit” (or words to that effect) in a Test match. They loved it when he announced to the world and also exhorted his team to put in extra effort because Badrinath’s wife had just had a baby in Chennai!

So, slowly, one could see his steady and assured ascent to a leadership role. It is true that he seemed to posses that special Midas Touch that leaders crave for. Perhaps he had that auto loan calculator luck. Perhaps he made his luck. I never saw him as an accidental tourist. His was, in my view, a calculated assault at the top job in the Team India. In Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, he had his ‘seniors’ in the team. He first became ‘one of them’ and then surged ahead as a perceived leader. It helped that while Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh had occasional lapses in ‘form’ and/or focus, Dhoni kept improving as a player and a potential leader.

When the time came, it was almost natural that he would be anointed leader of the ODI team and the T20 team. The victories came… He led India to a famous victory in ICC’s inaugural T20 World Championships. It came at a desperate and desolate time in the post-Chappell and post-Dravid months and a few months after India had been knocked out of the 2007 ICC World Cup!

It was an important time and an important victory for Team India.

That T20 victory gave birth to the IPL — admittedly, some fans may not agree that this was a desirous outcome. However, in a year that was a disaster from most other perspectives, the rise of Dhoni as a leader in the T20 world cup was an unmistakable positive. He was the future. He was the alternative. Even though Yuvraj Singh had smashed six 6s off a hapless Stuart Broad over and despite all the machismo surrounding that, Dhoni emerged tall as the leader of a young-bold India.

From then, his ascent to the top of the summit was strong, assured, dignified and steady. He was marked as an under study to Anil Kumble, the statesman. When the time was right, the reins were handed over.

Today, Dhoni is the leader of three India teams: Test, ODI and T20.

Over the last many months, I have had many debates with friends — fans of Indian cricket — who maintained that MS Dhoni, the captain of Team India, has been extremely lucky as captain.

Initially, I would have been quite happy to agree with them. Not lately. Not now.

He is, to me a Level-5 Leader who works hard at identifying where he wants to be and works harder at getting there!

*****

Jim Collins, in his article, “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve”, [The Best Of HBR, HBR July-August, 2005, p.136-146] studies many successful companies. Collins concludes that perhaps the most important component of the transition from “good-to-great” is what he termed “Level 5 Leadership“. [I have extracted the concise summary below from here]

  • Level 1 is a Highly Capable Individual who “makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits.”
  • Level 2 is a Contributing Team Member who “contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting.”
  • Level 3 is the Competent Manager who “organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.”
  • Level 4 is an Effective Leader who “catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.”
  • Level 5 is the Self-assured Executive Leader who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and strong professional will.”

In his study, Jim Collins found that every one of his “good-to-great” companies had Level-5 leaders in the critical transition phase. Interestingly, none of the comparison companies did!

To me, though, a Level-5 leader is one that has many paradoxes embodied in the one person. They can be timid and ferocious, hesitant and fearlessly-adventurous, modest and pompous, diffident and audacious. More importantly, they might demonstrate an ability to focus on the small things while demonstrating a fierce, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to big goals, large vision and high standards.

Dhoni has demonstrated that he is highly capable. He has a strong work ethic and makes stunning and compelling contributions to the team. He contributes as an individual and sets an example for everyone else in the team to follow. They do. He ensures that he has the people and the resources and backs them. He backed Yuvraj Singh through all his troubles. He sometimes backs players a bit too much, but that is his method of catalyzing commitment. He is a big vision guy for whom the smaller details are important too.

The way MS Dhoni has gone about his task of leading this team is, in my view, a living example of an evolving Level-5 Leader. Even during the World Cup 2011 journey, he was at times shy-audacious, modest-brash, hesitant-bold. He was honest enough to admit his mistakes — and that effectively shut up the pack of loud jackals that were baying for his blood when they were not singing paeans of acclamation! By the end of the tournament, when the cup was won, there was no doubt that it was his team and he had done it his way.

He made decisions and made it clear that these were his decisions. After experimenting with several team-balance-options, he was certain that he wanted 3 pace bowlers for his team. He stuck to that format. He admitted that he experimented with various options along the way. He demonstrated honesty, when there was no need to do so. He demonstrated that he wasn’t quite sure of how to do it although it was quite clear what he wanted. In the end, he demonstrated immense personal courage and personal responsibility by coming up the batting order in the final match, at a time when the spinners were on. He didn’t place his gun on someone else’s shoulder and fire. He demonstrated extreme personal courage in the line of fire. It was a bold decision. It could have backfired like the 8-1 field. But he was determined to leave his stamp on the win. And if you doubted that, see the look in his eyes as he hits those winning runs, followed by that bat twirl.

He was very clear that he stood on broad and impressive shoulders when he thanked Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, for building the solid platform on which he stands today (although I would have liked it more if he had added Laxman’s name to make it a quintet rather than a quartet, but that is only a minor quibble).

Today Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly have already acknowledged Dhoni’s exemplary leadership. In Ian Chappell’s view Dhoni is amongst the great modern captains.

*****

The World-Cup victory did not actually mean much to me! At the risk of being stoned to death by unforgiving Team India fans, let me state again that it would not have mattered to me if India had lost in the quarters or the semis or indeed, the finals.

For me, it was a small — albeit important — step in a much more important journey. The road ahead for this team is hard and there are significant challenges as Dhoni takes this team from good to great. I am much more interested in seeing how this wonderful leader is going to take Indian cricket along that important journey. For, unlike Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, other outstanding leaders of excellent cricket teams in the recent past, Dhoni leads a team of committed players rather than a set of some alarmingly stunning players who could win a match on their own, if the situation demanded it!

In that sense, he is cut from the cloth that Imran Khan and Alan Border were made of. And that excites me tremendously. He seems to posses the dogged and unwavering occidental determination of Alan Border that allows Dhoni to focus so intensely on “methodology, standards and process” while retaining the oriental mystique of Imran Khan, which allows him to focus on the “absolute value of and need for individual expression”. This is a heady mix.

And that is why I have hope. I think back to that day when I watched two gripping sessions of Test cricket when an Indian captain was calm, mean-minded, inventive and fiercely determined. For that was the day my admiration for MS Dhoni commenced.

I think back to that 8-1 field that started the journey of fascination that I undertook with him. I also look at everything he has achieved in the 2 and a half years since that day. I then say to myself, “With Dhoni around as a Level-5 leader, there is much hope for this Team India fan.”

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

One match to go…

A week ago I wrote that there were more ‘positives’ emanating from India’s loss to South Africa in the Cricket World Cup 2011. One of these ‘positives’ related to India’s possible QF opponent. If India had finished top of Group-B, her opponent would have been Pakistan (according to my prediction then). I had attempted a prediction of the results of the remaining games and hence, a prediction of the QF line up too.

All of these were correct calls, I believe, apart from my prediction of last nights’ game between Pakistan and Australia. I should have listened to the heart and not my mind when I made that call. You never know with Pakistan. I should have stuck with the heart and predicted in favor of the mercurial unpredictability of Pakistan.

I did just that several weeks back when I had primed Pakistan and South Africa as the eventual finalists of WC2011. That early, risky and flame-worthy prediction is partially vindicated at the half-way stage of the World Cup because Pakistan and South Africa have topped their respective groups.

So why the change of heart/mind from Pakistan to Australia in last week’s result predictions?

The change of heart/mind was mainly because of Michael Hussey’s presence in the Australian team. Hussey lends stability to a middle order that is struggling with a weak Ricky Ponting an unsure Michael Clarke, a ‘lost’ Cameron White and an over-rated Steve Smith. Michael Hussey, who entered the squad as a result of Doug Bollinger’s departure, offered stability and sanity where there appeared to be neither.

That was the only reason I had changed my original prediction from Pakistan to Australia. However, even Hussey wasn’t able to prevent a Pakistan win in last night’s game.

I do believe that this Australian team needs a lot of re-work to be resurgent in world cricket. Change is necessary. And that change is right at the top. Ponting must morph himself or he must go.

Australia’s woes run deep at the moment. They could still win the World Cup from here. However, despite the proud and significant 34-match run of World Cup victories — interestingly, sandwiched by two losses to Pakistan in 1999 and 2011 — the chinks in Australia’s armory are worse than Ponting’s scowl might reveal. The scowl has now deepened into a semi-permanent fixture on his face.

Ponting is not just going through a rough patch. It is now a horrible patch. He is a proud man who protects his significant impact on the game with the fierceness of a terrier under attack. The now dreadful series of Ashes losses look terrible on his CV. He would like to redress that imbalance by visiting England again. And for that he must win the World Cup. He must know that only a World Cup win will protect his place in the Australian team. I doubt he will play under another captain — that is just not the Australian way.

Moreover, there was a time when Ponting appeared to be catching up on Sachin Tendulkar’s career aggregate, average and number of centuries — somewhat meaningless first-order measures of a batsman’s impact on the game. My sense is that Ponting worries a lot about things like that too. Over the last 18 months Sachin Tendulkar has hit a surreal patch of sublime resurgence. He has put daylight between himself and Ponting in these stats tables. I think that that daylight and the Ashes losses are weighing heavily on the mind of the Australian captain. He is just not playing like he can (or indeed, has).

A few months back, Ponting alluded to Sachin Tendulkar’s sublime form and indicated that he would draw inspiration from that resurgence. I personally think he has put too much pressure on himself. He is playing with less authority and composure these days than ever before. He reminds me of the unsure Ponting that suffered in India in 1998. And that lack of confidence reflects on his team.

Meanwhile, India has a somewhat important match coming up in a few hours’ time. I say “somewhat important” because the result doesn’t really matter as far as I am concerned. If India wins she will play Australia in the quarter finals (QF). If India loses, she will play Sri Lanka in the QF. Although I would have preferred India to meet New Zealand in the QF, she must either beat Sri Lanka or Australia in Ahmedabad to progress to the semi-final.

Either of these QF opponents will do. Both Sri Lanka and Australia are terrific teams — I say that, despite Australia’s batting woes. Sri Lanka suffers from the same woes, in my view. Apart from Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, there is nothing much in the Sri Lankan batting. So as a result of todays’ match against West Indies, India will face either a strong bowling attack (Australia) or a slightly stronger bowling attack (Sri Lanka). In either scenario, India’s batsmen will have to do the job of scoring a large number of runs and put the opposition under pressure.

In today’s game, India needs to sort out her team balance and commit to it regardless of the result.

There are some doubts over Sehwag’s fitness. I cannot see how Ashwin can be left out. India has a 15-member team in which two players rule themselves out due to “confidence” problems. One player — Sreesanth — does not appear to have the team captain’s confidence and another player — Piyush Chawla — who, by his own captain’s admission, does not have self-confidence. So that automatically makes this a 13-member team with two players fighting to be drinks’ carriers!

Therefore, given Munaf Patel’s reasonable performance, through a process of elimination, the only choices that need to be made are which ones of (a) Suresh Raina or Yusuf Pathan, (b) R. Ashwin or Ashish Nehra. It appears that the current choice is for Suresh Raina and R. Ashwin. Interestingly, both play for Chennai Super Kings! Call it luck or the whatdoycallit-red-dot-on-forehead syndrome.

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

Unacceptable ways of two captains…

In an article on the Umpire Decision Review System, the UDRS, I alluded to the umpires assistance system drawing two distinct and different responses from captains in two countries separated by the Indian Ocean. The Boxing Day Test matches at the MCG and Kingsmead, Durban, saw Ricky Ponting and Greame Smith pull their hair out at the UDRS — the former because it was there and, in his view, implemented wrongly and the latter, because it just wasn’t there! In South Africa and in Australia, we had two captains acting in somewhat strange ways.

Fast forward to the eve of the New Years’ Test matches in Australia and South Africa and we again have two mystifying cases of captains doing things in strange ways.

On the eve of the RSA-India Test match, the hot-headed, ill-tempered, motormouth, Sreesanth received a public rebuke and a dressing down from his captain, MS Dhoni.

On the eve of the Australia-England Test match, it was Ricky Ponting and not Michael Clarke who responded to the Australian Prime Minister Julia Guillard’s speech.

Both of these were examples of bad leadership, in my view.

Mind you, Sreesanth should have his head kicked in (repeatedly). He just does not seem to learn from his past transgressions. He started off as a bit of a maverick when he twirled his bat — lasso-style — at serial-foul-mouth Andre Nel, after he had hit the South African bowler for a six! That was somewhat cute! Most of us tolerated it and put that down to a fiery personality who gave it back as good as he got; a joker who did not take a backward step in coming forward. His track record of offensive behavior since that incident, makes for sorry reading. Make no mistake of that. He sledged an Australian player as a drinks-carrier after which Ian Chappell called for his banning from the game for a period of time! Sreesanth’s own response to all of the brouhaha surrounding him was that he wanted to “find that exact limit between really bad and really good. See how far I can go.”

Right!

One thought he had learned his lessons. But no, a few months later, he got slapped by Harbhajan Singh and immediately broke down and cried on the field.

Subsequent to that the BCCI warned him that he was on a suspended sentence for bad behavior for using foul language against Dhawal Kulkarni in an Irani Cup match. A contrite Sreesanth said we would all see a new-and-improved man on the ground henceforth. A few months later, he was fined for dissent during the IPL.

His is a case of a talented bowler doing more with his eyes and mouth than with his excellent wrists, when bowling. His is an example of an errant boy who just refuses to grow up. His over-the-top antics, which were once “cute” are now becoming an acute embarrassment to a fan of Team India.

At the top of his run up, prior to bowling every ball, Sreesanth pumps his hands two or three times in a motion that seems to suggest “Stay calm and focus”. Somewhere between that motion and when he actually delivers the ball, his brain appears to either get fried or tired. What usually happens then is a stare or a glare or some foul words delivered in the direction of the batsman. The day is not far away when an opposition batsman will hit him with a bat. The BCCI and the Team India captain needs to ensure that their motormouth is adequately insured from such an eventuality.

Story is that in Durban, Sreesanth invoked Greame Smith’s mother in a colorful sledge delivered at the South African captain. An irate Smith waved his bat at the foul-mouthed Indian bowler, lost his head and immediately lost his wicket too!

Dreadfully sad? No. Not really.

My own view is that those who throw stones in an open and filthy drain should not be allowed to dictate the chemistry of the liquid that splashes back at them. However, that said, there is apparently a “line” that cricketers do not cross. Don’t ask me why that line exists. I’d be all for an all-or-nothing approach where one can bring in anything and anyone into a sledge! I am yet to see the Mafia’s published rule book on honorable and dignified methods of killing, for example!

However, the fact is that Graeme Smith was extremely upset that the cricket field was a place where Sreesanth wanted to conduct a discussion on his mother! Smith complained to Dhoni.

Dhoni washed dirty linen in a press conference and reprimanded his player through the media!

I thought that that was a strange case study in bad leadership; strange because Dhoni always comes across as a man who is correct and yet clear in everything he utters. This was certainly very strange. Mind you, Sreesanth, as I said before, does repeatedly cry out to have his head kicked in. But to do that through the media either indicates a bad hair-day for Dhoni or that the India captain is at the end of his tether! Either way this is practice of bad leadership.

Across the Indian Ocean, we witnessed another stark example of bad leadership. Ricky Ponting had just vacated his post as captain of the Australian cricket team. Micheal Clarke was appointed caretaker captain for the last Test against the visiting (and already triumphant) England. Instead of leaving the controls in Clarke’s hands and disappearing from the scene, Ponting indicated that he would hover around the team in the dressing room! This was remote-control leadership. It just does not work. The bus was being driven by Michael Clarke, but Ponting’s hand was firmly on the wheel!

For example, at an official reception to the teams it was Ponting that responded to a welcome by Australian Prime Minister, Julia Guillard.

In my view, these are two examples of questionable leadership on the same day!

— Mohan

Team India are poor travelers?

In the last few days, two very interesting victories have made cricket interesting once again. India won at Kingsmead, Durban and England clinched The Ashes with a famous victory at the MCG.

For sometime now, I have been maintaining a list of some of the most thrilling Indian Test Cricket victories in recent times. I have added to this list, India’s victory on 29 December 2010 at Kingsmead, Durban, South Africa. The addition of “Durban 2010 v South Africa” to this impressive list is because it was once again a come-from-behind victory after a terrible loss in the 1st Test of the series (at Super Sport Park). The Durban victory is an important victory for Team India because it goes a long way towards debunking a myth — yet again! — that India plays badly overseas.

Is it important for India to debunk myths about her ability to play overseas?

No. Not really.

I think it is enough if India plays well every time she takes the field — regardless of where it is. And that is exactly what Team India has been doing in the last decade.

There are trash-talkers who wish to talk with their mouths and then play, sometimes simultaneously and almost always, to their own detriment — as Graeme Smith found out quite rudely in the Durban Test match! Greame Smith can believe the myths he creates to make himself happy about his lot in life. These myths have a strange way of enveloping the myth-creators. When that happens, the inevitable outcome is a simple pin-prick that results in a painful deflation of the balloon of arrogance. The myth-creators are often blind-sided by the myths that they create!

In the last decade, India has won 22 and lost 20 of her 61 overseas Tests for a win/loss ratio of 1.1 and a draw/loss ratio of 0.95. In the same period, when compared with the performance of South Africa, Australia, England and Sri Lanka, the corresponding figures for Australia (for Wins, Losses, Total Overseas Tests, W/L and D/L) are clearly the best at 34, 16, 59, 2.12, 0.56. The figures for South Africa are: 21, 18, 56, 1.16, 0.95. The figures for England are 19, 23, 62, 0.82, 0.86 and those for Sri Lanka are 11, 19, 39, 0.57, 0.47.

Clearly, Australia has the best win-loss ratio, thanks to Australia’s stunning performances when Steve Waugh (and then Ricky Ponting) captained an excellent team with Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Waugh, Martyn, Waugh, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath, Gillespie et al. India’s win-loss ratio in the same period compares favorably with that of South Africa and puts into shade, the win-loss performances of Sri Lanka and England.

The draw/loss ratio is not a metric that is often used in comparative analyses of this sort. It is, in my view, as important as the more obvious win-loss ratio that is used almost always. It is a pointer to a teams’ grit and resolve — especially when it plays in unfamiliar conditions. A draw might not be a pretty sight. But it is a pointer to a teams’ grit in tough situations. The above figures might show Australia in poor light as a team that has an inability to grit it out. But this might be more due to the rather refreshing “win at all costs” attitude Australia used to employ in the early part of this decade. But India has drawn almost as many Tests as she has lost in overseas Tests!

Team India has an impressive draw-loss ratio and an acceptable win-loss ratio that is constantly improving.

For example, if we take just the last 5 years, the win-loss and draw-loss ratios are 1.44 and 1.33 for India, 1.66 and 0.89 for Australia, 1.62 and 0.875 for South Africa, 0.6 and 0.86 for England, and, 0.7 and 0.6 for Sri Lanka.

Overall, apart from the impressive Australia team — and that too, in the first half of this decade gone by — India stacks up really well with other top teams in terms of her “overseas” performances. So, in my view, it is time we start debunking these myths about Team India being poor travelers.

To me, with the addition of the latest victory at Kingsmead, this big-list list of recent Indian Test victories reads: Kolkata 2001 (v Australia), Leeds 2002 (v England), Adelaide 2003 (v Australia), Multan 2004 (v Pakistan), Sabina Park 2006 (v West Indies), Johannesburg 2006 (v South Africa), Perth 2008 (v Australia), Mohali 2008 (v Australia), Chennai 2008 (v England), Colombo, P. Sara 2010 (v Sri Lanka), Kingsmead Durban 2010 (v South Africa).

It is fair to say that, with a few days to go to the end of the current decade, the period from 2001 to 2010 has represented an exciting decade for Indian cricket. We have seen some exciting talent explode onto the scene — MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, to name a few. We are seeing a few young turks itching to have a crack on the big stage — Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, M. Vijay, Pragyan Ojha and Ishant Sharma, to name a few. And this entire march has been presided over by the “Famous Five” or the “Fab Five”; five of the best gentlemen to grace Indian cricket together in the same team.

One of this quintet — The Famous Five — was responsible for this sensational victory in Durban. The smiling assassin, V. V. S. Laxman, carefully scripted this impressive victory. And with this victory, the world might start accepting that a green-top is as useful to India as it is to the host.

As Dileep Premachandran says, “If one picture could tell you the story of how Indian cricket’s fortunes have changed in three years, it would be that taken at Kingsmead at 9.58am on Wednesday. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who had tested his captain’s patience in the last game by taking an age to bowl his overs, pitched one just short of a length to Jacques Kallis. The ball spat up like an angry cobra and it said much about Kallis’s skill that he jackknifed and managed to get a glove to it before it rearranged his features. The ball lobbed up gently to Virender Sehwag at gully and four wickets down with another 180 to get, South Africa were out for the count. And, after years of their batsmen copping punishment from opposition quicks, an Indian pace bowler was dishing it out.”

That ball will become part of Indian cricket folklore. As Ayaz Memon said on his Twitter time-line (@cricketwallah), “Sreesanth’s snorter to dismiss Kallis will become as famous in cricket lore as Sandhu’s banana delivery that got Greenidge in 1983 World Cup.”

In conclusion, let us debunk two myths: One, that India are poor travelers. Two, that a lively pitch only assists the home team when Team India visits!

Ps:

While we are on the topic of green-tops, how is it ok for Graeme Smith or Dale Steyn to “request” for green-tops against India while a “request” for a spin-friendly wicket in India by an Indian captain or player is frowned upon when Australia or South Africa visit Indian shores?

I have never heard a visiting Indian captain whine about the state of pitches in Melbourne, Leeds or Durban? Isn’t it time that captains that visit the sub-continent lock their whine-vocal-chords at home before they board the plane?

PPs:

While I exist in this paranoid state, am I the only one to believe that if Ricky’s surname was not Ponting, but either Singh or Kumar or Khan, he would have been suspended for his totally over-the-top antics at the MCG? Had I been the umpire and had an on-field captain carried on like a pork chop the way Ricky Ponting did, I would have searched for a red card and thrown the man out of the park! The fact that Aleem Dar tolerated the Ponting “carry on” was a testament to the umpires’ patience. The fact that the match referee slapped a mere fine on Ponting means that, to me, the Match Referee’s office is, once again, shown up for the disgrace it is. The fact that Cricket Australia did not suspend Ricky Ponting immediately means that the “Spirt of Cricket” document that all Australian cricketers sign up when they get the Baggy Green needs to be torn up immediately and re-written in an environment of grace and humility.

— Mohan

Vale Australian Cricket?

Srikanth Mangalam wrote a brilliant piece on the disintegration of Australian Cricket yesterday. I loved his opening where he says, “If your resume states that you have spun a top atleast three times in your life, you would certainly qualify to play for Australia in the Ashes series.”

I abhor gloating, but I will take the bait — as Srikanth did — this one time. In the 1990s, I lost count of the number of times when I’ve not wanted to go in to work on a Monday (in Australia) for fear of being continually ridiculed by my Aussie colleagues for a(nother) pathetic show by Team India. When I said to one such colleague, “I don’t think it is acceptable to kick a guy when he is down”, his immediate reply was, “When else am I going to do it?”

Funny. But true!

The shoe is on the other foot. We can show a bit of grace, I suppose, but I am happy to stick it to the Aussies for a little while yet! Payback does feel good sometimes.

One aspect of the recent decline of Australian cricket that Srikanth Mangalam omitted is the fact that this entire period of slump has been presided by coach Tim Nielsen! And guess what? He has been awarded a 3-year extension until 2013! Why has he got this extension? Because he is the coach that took Australia from #1 in the ICC Test rankings to #5 — and the slide does not appear to have stopped! How is it possible that the coach gets a 3-year extension before even a single ball has been bowled in the all-important Ashes series? Well, I suppose Nielsen has consistency on his side — he has managed to string together a series of losses quite consistently!

The Australian selectors are panicking. Stuart McGill has come down on the selection panel like a ton of bricks. Soon, others will follow suit. If Australian cricket fans think that there is good news around the corner, please take a look at who is lurking around the dressing rooms: Greg Chappell! And we all know what he did with/to Team India!

I believe the Australian slide started on that fateful day in early-January 2008, when the world of cricket adopted a Gate of its own: MonkeyGate!

Almost since then, the Australian selectors have stolen the revolving door that the Team India selection panel used so effectively in the 1990s! Michael Beer will be the 10th Australian Test spinner used since the retirement of Shane Warne! Krejza looked good and Hauritz has the stats (except in India). But they have been revolved out! The Australian selectors are panicking — much like the Team India selectors did up until the 1990s — and the world of cricket is loving every second of this soap opera that is spiraling downwards and out of control.

The level of panic is so high that the selectors have turned to Michael Beer! I do know that beer is a fine Australian tradition. I am confident that the brown liquid does help the average Aussie drive away most pains, but most Aussies will know that the hangover from beer can linger for quite a while!

I am certain that the world of cricket needs a strong and vibrant Australia. I have no doubt about that. Test cricket is currently going through a slump and that is, in my view, due to the state of Australian cricket.

Rahul Bhattacharya, in an article in the Mint Lounge says it all. His piece starts off brilliantly. The hypothesis is quite clearly stated and Bhattacharya commences his arguments purposefully. He and then slides into a strange cackle, produces an incoherent set of arguments towards the middle and then slides into an immature oblivion — much like the slide in Australian cricket that he so bemoans. I believe Rahul Bhattacharya loses the plot when, in an article on the global slump in Test cricket, he devotes an entire chunk of his article to Ricky Ponting’s predilection for fellow Tasmanian cricketers!

Be that as it may, I believe Test cricket needs a strong Australia. It certainly was exciting when Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Glen McGrath played together.

Test cricket needs that kind of excitement! Today, instead of Marshall-Holding-Garner-Roberts or even McGrath-Lee-Gillespie, the best we have is Steyn-Morkel-Parnell! Instead of Prasanna-Bedi-Chandrashekar we have Harbhajan-Ojha or worse still Beer-North or Hauritz-Smith!

The Australian domestic system is too robust to see the situation slide to a point where Zimbabwe and Bangladesh start licking their lips in anticipation of a series against the Aussies! There is an abundance of talent in the Australian domestic scene. This needs to be, once again, harnessed, toughened and sharpened in a style similar to that which Alan Border adopted in the mid-80s. That fine tradition of tough Australian cricketers, so perfectly instilled by Border, was then carried on by Taylor and Waugh. Today, Ricky Ponting has lost it all. That is primarily because, in my view, Ponting is no Alan Border. Ponting is a good captain of a good team filled with good/strong individuals. The job now requires a tough, no-nonsense guy who is not given to existing in a prolonged and continual state of extreme denial. The job requires someone who has an internal mirror that offers nothing but uncompromisingly candid introspection. Ponting, unfortunately, does not possess mirrors. He is far too easily prone to denial-driven-operations — witness his reactions to criticism after his disastrous decision in the Nagpur Test against India in 2008!

Perhaps the answer is that Ponting has to go as captain. If he goes as captain, Australia may buck the trend and have him continue as a player. That is hard to say. However, what is needed is a no-nonsense captain who is uncompromisingly tough; a captain that can transform boys into men. Just as South Africa made an extremely bold decision in appointing Graeme Smith as captain a few years back, Australia needs to make a tough decision; a decision with tremendous foresight and far-reaching consequences.

And what has this got to do with India and Indian cricket? As I say, the world of cricket needs a tough Australia. To have India as #1 when Australia is weak means a hollow #1 for me.

That said, I am enjoying sticking the boot in right now and perhaps for the next few weeks.

— Mohan

India-Australia ODI Series: A Preview

At the height of the Chennai (South Indian Classical Music) Margazhi Festival, I attended an exhilarating Remember Shakti concert at The Music Academy. It featured a deluge of musical excellence, an amalgamation of the bewitching talents of U. Srinivas, Ustad Zakir Hussain, John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan and Sivamani. I think my hair stood on end for 2 hours after I left the auditorium. The next morning, I found it hard to motivate myself to go watch the performance of a young, talented, upcoming musician. It was my intention to capture Shakti’s exquisite rendition of girirajasudha as my final memory of that ‘music season’, and not have it usurped by a freshman.

Going into the India-Australia ODI series, perhaps I can sniff that same feeling. But hypocrite that I am, apart from a hopeless cricket anorak, I just know that as the clock strikes 00:00 on Sunday, I will be in front of my laptop tuned in to the live streaming video of the first match at Kochi.

Both teams have rested several first choice players, to recharge batteries and allow battle wounds to heal. Shikhar Dhawan of Delhi & the Mumbai Indians has been rewarded with a maiden call-up for a string of consistent performances in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. In all probability, he will open the batting alongside Murali Vijay. Yuvraj Singh is back in his favourite format, and will be expected to don his familiar No. 4 role. He will know that the knives are out for him & his fitness and will be keen to counter criticism. He remains a critical component of India’s World Cup plans. M.S. Dhoni & Suresh Raina selecting themselves leaves Virat Kohli, Saurabh Tiwary and Rohit Sharma to fight it out for 2 batting slots. Tiwary has been in the mix for the last couple of tournaments without quite getting an opportunity. Rohit may find that this is his last chance, with S. Badrinath, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane & Abhinav Mukund breathing down his neck. The pace attack is not completely innocent of experience. Praveen Kumar will join forces with the enigmatic Munaf Patel and the moody Ashish Nehra. India could still bleed at the death though, and this is where R. Ashwin comes in. He is the lone specialist spinner in the squad, and judging by his performances during the Powerplay in the Champions League, he could steal the show. On comatose Indian pitches, it is highly unlikely that Vinay Kumar will make an impression, and the slot could have been better justified by including either Jaydev Unadkat, Umesh Yadav or Abhimanyu Mithun. The biggest mind-boggler, and it has been so for quite a while now, is the unwarranted presence of Ravindra Jadeja. What the selectors see in him, only they know.

Australia will be without Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson. The balance that the all round talents of Watson brings to the table, along with his experience of Indian conditions, could be sorely missed. The batting still wears a healthy look. The explosive David Warner, the serene Shaun Marsh and the dangerous Cameron White – all household IPL names – will join forces with the old hands of skipper Michael Clarke & Mike Hussey. Neither Clarke nor Hussey have enjoyed the best of tours, and will look to make amends. Callum Ferguson, a relatively unknown commodity, is an exciting talent. Some of the Indians will have come across him in the Champions League. Doug Bollinger, the hustler, will spearhead an inexperienced attack. His ability to make things happen was sorely missed in the Test series. He will be assisted by the tall rookie Mitchell Starc. Clint McKay & Nathan Hauritz were part of Australia’s setup in the ODI series played in India last year. Both have more than satisfactory records in this format. Hauritz definitely wouldn’t miss Tendulkar, Sehwag & Laxman. Shane Warne’s Tweets might help him more than a coaching manual right now! It will be interesting to watch how the Aussies fit in an all-rounder in the XI. They aren’t short of options though, in the steady James Hopes, the highly reputed Steven Smith (I hope he plays!) and John Hastings, called in as a replacement for the injured James Pattinson. Tim Paine, one of Australia’s success stories from the Tests, has a great opportunity to narrow the gap between him and Brad Haddin.

The venues for the ODI series are Kochi, Visakhapatnam & Goa. One only hopes the attendance mirrors Bangalore and not Mohali. Visakhapatnam will hold special memories for Dhoni, having made his first big splash in international cricket there. In spite of a weakened side, India will start favourites. Dhoni has prior experience of working wonders with young inexperienced cricketers. The leveller will be the greater athleticism of the Aussies, although India, with sprightly personnel in their squad, will be better served than they were in the Test series. Rains across South India will have slowed down outfields, placing greater emphasis on fielding and running between the wickets.

With India riding a Test cricket high, and Australia gearing up for the Ashes, this series will be no more than a filler. Unlike the Test series, its brevity makes it more palatable. I predict India coming up trumps 2-1.

SQUADS

India:
MS Dhoni (Captain & wk), M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Saurabh Tiwary, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma

Australia:
Michael Clarke (Captain), Cameron White, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Callum Ferguson, Michael Hussey, James Hopes, Tim Paine (wk),Clint McKay, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Doug Bollinger

SCHEDULE

1st ODI: India v Australia at Kochi
Oct 17, 2010 (09:00 local, 03:30 GMT)
2nd ODI: India v Australia at Visakhapatnam
Oct 20, 2010 (14:30 local, 09:00 GMT)
3rd ODI: India v Australia at Margao
Oct 24, 2010 (09:00 local, 03:30 GMT)

— TS Kartik (Guest Contributor)