Tag Archives: Indian Players

Dear Cricketers, Talk More. Please.

Wright Thompson (ESPN) was describing an incident from his trip to India a few years ago. He mentioned watching the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni being crowded by people…fans…in the airport, inside the airplane, at shops, wherever he goes. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an icon in the cricketing world, and a brand in India.

That is true for many Indian cricketers. They are revered across the length and breadth of the country. Every second brand has a cricketer as an ambassador, or in its advertisement. There are cricketers showing up on your newspaper, the television, the internet. Even in your dreams.

But, look at their social lives – they can hardly come out in the public without drawing excessive attention. Sure, they can have people to help them get groceries from the stores. But, do they get to go to the park and have a  peaceful couple of minutes without 200 people breathing down their neck for an autograph, for a pep talk, for a photograph?

Forget the people, can they just escape from the media breathing down their neck?

Fans

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain of the Indian team was sitting a press conference before leaving for the Champions Trophy in England. Indian cricket was reeling under the IPL spot fixing allegations. There were 100 unanswered questions floating around. Nobody had an answer. There they had the captain of Indian cricket team, captain of the Chennai Super Kings, employee/stakeholder of India Cements – M.S. Dhoni – sitting in front of the microphone facing the media. The media asked a question based on the spot fixing issue, and they were hushed up by the media manager. All journalists were asked not to ask questions related to the fixing issue.

101 unanswered questions.

India went on to win the Champions Trophy in ways on Dhoni can explain. Maybe. M. S. Dhoni was asked in the Caribbean tour by Mr. Subash Jayaraman about his methods that amazingly tilted the table in India’s favour in the finals. But Dhoni, in his own way, replied – “If I tell you how I think, there will be no secrets. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.”

India is a country with more than a billion people, and I assume atleast 6 out of 10 Indians like the game of cricket. We Indian fans idolize cricketers, we mimic their batting and bowling styles. We call each other Sachin or Dhoni to feel good. We always dream of meeting them, spending a few minutes with them, talk to them, know them better. That is exactly what boils over as the emotions of fans who jump over the railings and past bouncers to get close to their idols. 

We want to know more about them all. We are fans, we deserve to know what they like, what they don’t. We can’t figure it out for ourselves all the way. Our love for the game doesn’t end at stumps. It goes beyond it, which is what fandom is about.

I noticed that many cricketers joined Twitter, which is a really wonderful engaging social media. Twitter is where millions of fans can follow you and it gives them the freedom to connect to their idols, something that seems impossible outside the internet. Maybe not. Even here, the players don’t respond to any of the fan cries. Some of them are too self obsessed, showing off their universities, promotions, horses etc. Some of them log on to send occasional festival wishes. Or “Yes. We won.” kind of tweets. I know who won. I was checking the scores on cricinfo.

This is totally different from how basketball players in the NBA use the twitter media, or for that matter – any media – to interact with media houses and fans alike.

Just assume there was a parallel universe in which the cricketers were not chained slaves of their cricket board(s) and were allowed to give candid interviews to journalists, spoke openly on the burning issues of the day, cleared the air about speculations etc. Fans already have the answers to most of their questions. They are still fans. They are better, informed fans. Next time, maybe they won’t ask Ravindra Singh Jadeja eat at a Hyderabadi restaurant if he likes Awadhi cuisine more. Or, maybe they will not send Sachin a video of a monkey playing “Happy Birthday To You” on his birthday, if Sachin is allergic to monkey videos.

In this parallel world, the cricketers might be able to move around freely. More freely, in comparison. They don’t have to worry about the media – they have been answered. Yes, there will be fans coming to meet the players. They will meet them, maybe shake hands, take a photo, wish them luck and move on; knowing the fact that he will be there again 3 days later to buy the same vegetables and sit on the same chair in the park while whistling the same tune from that movie in 1990s.

Getting back to reality, all that is not possible. I wasn’t even allowed to speak to a Ranji cricketer after a domestic game. Fans were chased away from watching the players practice after game (this happens in international games too). I couldn’t even have a “hi – hello” conversation with Nayan Mongia who was playing with his kid in the nets. Does the fan really matter in this game? At all?

The sad fan

(images courtesy HindustanTimes.com and SouthAsiaBiz.com respectively)

(Article based on a conversation with Mr. Rajat)

Bagrat

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Dhoni not to play today?

Cricinfo in this article does not include Dhoni in India’s probable XI for the final ODI today against Soth Africa. Here are some reactions, speculative of course, about the probable team.

  • Dhoni is still unwell.
  • Indian team management thinks Gambhir would be better as SA might play the much faster Dale Steyn. Since Karthik has done well the last game, and we do need 5 bowlers, the guy to drop is Dhoni.
  • Do we need 5 bowlers? Can’t they just drop Ishanth Sharma and include Gambhir?
  • What about Uthappa?
  • Are Sreesanth & Agarkar still unwell or are they not being considered?
  • Does Cricinfo know what it is talking about? Or are they also speculating just like us?

– Sanjay

Classic catches

Classic Catches

India to play 5 bowlers?

Cricinfo – India in familiar selection quandary

The above article by Sidharth Monga previewing the 1st test, states that India likely to play 5 bowlers. So who will be the 5 bowlers? Zaheer & Kumble are certainties. VRV Singh has played 4 tests and taken 5 wickets at 74 apiece with an economy rate of 3.91. Munaf Patel on the other hand has played 7 tests and taken 25 wickets at 29 apiece with an economy rate of 2.90. So Munaf will have to play on the strength of his record and past performances. Now comes the tricky part. Can we play 3 spinners? Given the nature of the wickets and the weather conditions, a third fast bowler is preferable to 3rd spinner. Afterall we do have Sachin to bowl a few overs.

What about the batting? Dravid, Jaffer, Sachin are certainties. I personally think Yuvraj does not have a place. If Karthik has been picked as an opener then Laxman or Dhoni may get the axe. If Dhoni has to play then Dravid will open and they will drop Karthik. My personal prediction of the likely lineup in batting order

Jaffer
Karthik
Dravid
Sachin
Sourav
Laxman
Powar
Kumble
Zaheer
VRV Singh
Munaf

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Future Team Prospects II

This is the second in a series of blogs talking about players who could represent India in the near future. The first article spoke about two batsmen – Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary.

Piyush Chawla

Piyush Chawla is not a completely new name to Indian cricket fans as they have already seen him in action against England when he debuted at the age of 17. A leg spinner in the classical mould, he came in to prominence in the England U-19 tour and then took the wicket of one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar clean bowled with a googly in a Challenger trophy match.

Although India won the game, his test debut against England was less than spectacular – he sent down around 15 overs and took just one wicket – that of Freddie Flintoff.

 He has had a dip in form with the ball this season with only 16 wickets in 6 matches in the Ranji Trophy and just one 5-for (compared to 35 wickets in 7 matches in the last season with 4 five-fors). His batting has improved though, and he has had a couple of good knocks this season – a 75 against Saurashtra and a 61 against New Delhi.

Time is however on his side and he will improve with more matches and some exposure to touring sides and selections in India A teams. BCCI would also do well to send him to Terry Jenner to hone his skills. With India’s spin cupboard looking quite barren, Piyush Chawla offers us some hope. It is upto BCCI to nurture this youngster to make sure that he is not lost like the other 17 year old legspinner who promised so much, yet only flattered to deceive – L. Sivaramakrishnan.

-Mahesh-

Where to from here…?

Now that India’s WC campaign has ended as an unmitigated disaster,  I thought I’d analyze the future prospects of the team.

Greg Chappell

Every time the team performs badly, everyone blame the coach. Sure, the coach has to take some responsibility, but more often than not he is made the scape goat. And this will suit the Indian public quite nicely. He is a foreign coach and not very popular with ex-players, and even if the ex-players do not have much say in the running of the BCCI, they voice their opinions (quite vociferously, I may add) in the media and influence public opinion and BCCI may act on this. His contract was till the end of the World cup, which means it has officially finished. It would be sad to see him go, but I think that may actually end up happening when the BCCI meets in April. And if Greg does go, then we may end up seeing an Indian coach being appointed this time.

For the record, here is India’s performance since Greg took over the coaching job in May 2005.

Zimbabwe tour: India won 2-0
SL series in India: India won 2-0
Pak tour: India lost 0-1
England series in India: Drawn 1-1
WI tour: India won 1-0
SA tour: India  lost 1-2

And, India’s record in ODI during this period – 62 matches, 32 wins and 27 losses

Rahul Dravid

As a batsman, he is still the best in our side and his place is secure. The only question that will be asked will be around his captaincy. However, at the current moment, there is no other suitable candidate for that position. I am sure, Saurav Ganguly will be considered again and so will Sachin Tendulkar, but I doubt if they will replace him. Sehwag will not be considered until we know for sure that he has come out of his form slump. Laxman is a candidate for the test captaincy but not for the ODIs. Barring Yuvraj, none of the others are experienced enough, and even Yuvraj needs more time. In my opinion, Dravid is still establishing himself on the team as a captain and needs a bit more time and I hope BCCI persist with him, and I think they will.

(Dravid has captained India in 20 tests, won 6, lost 6 and drawn 8. His ODI record: 65 matches, 33 won and lost 28)

Saurav Ganguly

Ganguly has been really good on his comeback. Here are his ODI stats since he returned to the side –

10 matches, 509 runs @ 63.62 and 6 fifties.

He hasn’t been timing the ball well or playing as aggressively as he used to, but there is no denying the fact that he has played better than most other people in the team. If Dravid is asked to step down as captain, then Ganguly would be a serious candidate for that post again.

Sachin Tendulkar

There are going to be many knee jerk reactions following the WC performance, and one of them is to demand for Tendulkar’s retirement. Two bad matches against SL and Bangladesh should not be the only measuring stick. If you look at Sachin’s performance in the last 20 ODIs and tests, it is not bad actually –

Test record: 20 matches, 1188 runs @ 42.42 (Career avg: 54.70)
ODI record: 20 matches, 558 runs @ 32.82 (Career avg: 44.05)

Tendulkar is obviously not the Tendulkar of old. In the last two years or so, he has had a form slump and also been out of the team due to injuries. But I think there is no one good enough to replace him yet. I think the selectors know this as well.

Virender Sehwag

Sehwag may have just managed to save his spot in the team with a hundred against Bermuda and some decent batting against SL.  Here is his stats for the last 20 games.

Test record: 20 matches, 1411 runs @ 42.75 (Career avg: 49.46)
ODI record: 20 matches, 495 runs @ 27.50 (Career avg: 31.62)

He got into the team only at the insistence of the David, and until he earns the confidence of the selectors, he will not be considered for captain or vice captain. Which brings me to Yuvraj…

Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj is part of the young brigade and I think it would be worthwhile making him vice-captain. There are media reports that he may replace Dravid as captain and I think it is just sheer speculation. According to an article in the Deccan Herald, Greg Chappell doesn’t even think he is captaincy material and I do not know the inner workings and politics of the team. But the big three along with Kumble are going to retire in the next few years and it is time the reins of the team were handed over slowly to the next generation. Yuvraj Singh has been performing well over the last couple of years and is an automatic selection for the ODI team. He is young, but has played enough matches to be given this additional responsibility. But before this can happen he has to cement a place in the test team. Here is his recent record –

Test record: 19 matches, 830 runs @ 33.20
ODI record: 20 matches, 597 runs @ 38.80 (Career avg: 35.53)

His place in the team is secure for now.

Anil Kumble

I have a feeling, Kumble will announce his retirement from ODIs. I hope he goes on his own rather than being pushed. Retirement in ODI will prolong his Test career by at least 2 years and that will be good for India.

Robin Uthappa

There is no doubt that Uthappa is an excellent prospect for India. But BCCI need to be seen as making changes to the team and Uthappa will be dropped. I am sure it will only be a short term move and he will soon be back in the team.

Pathan, Karthik, Sreesanth

They didn’t get a single game, but may be dropped too. As I said earlier, BCCI should be “seen” doing things.

MS Dhoni

I am not sure what the selectors and BCCI are going to do about Dhoni. He is a match winner that we cannot afford to drop, but public opinion against him has been strong and this may act against his favour.  If he is dropped, then Karthik may get his place. For a Keeper/batsman, he hasn’t been bad though –

Test record: 15 matches, 706 runs @ 30.69
ODI record: 20 matches, 518 runs @ 37.00 (Career avg: 44.15)

Agarkar, Zaheer and Munaf

I am not entirely sure whether Zaheer and Munaf will be dropped, but it may be a bit of touch and go for Agarkar.

Harbajan Singh

I think Ramesh Powar may stake a claim to the ODI side in place of Bhajji. He hasn’t done anything in the cup that will safe guard his position. He position in the Test team remains unchallenged, though.

Ok. This is what I think would happen. But what should really happen? IMVHO – Nothing.

I think it has taken us two years to build this team up and we shouldn’t throw it all away. We should also not confuse between what constitutes a good one day team and what constitutes a good test team. 

The board and the selectors shouldn’t go for major changes. Not yet, anyway. We have a Bangladesh tour coming up in May – give the same team another go. Sure, Laxman and Jaffar should come into the test squad. Uthappa and one wicketkeeper will have to give way. Agarkar or Pathan may also make way for another seamer. The rest of the team should actually continue as it is.  After the Bangla tour we have a much more important tour of England. The swing bowlers will play a very important role and you need batsmen with good experience. Drastic changes will not be good for the long term prospects of the team.

As I said in an earlier article, there is nothing wrong with the physical make up of the team – the main problems we have are in the mind. Get a Sports counselor to work with the team. Full time. And the coach – Give Greg Chappell some more time…at least extend it to the end of the Australia tour and put him on notice.

I am sure I will be flamed for voicing an opinion like this. “What? No change after such a disastrous World cup? Is he mad??”  

But think about it. This was the best team we had 4 weeks ago and most people agreed. There is nothing to indicate that the bench strength has suddenly gotten better and can challenge the current team. One good Ranji outing does not mean you can get into the side, just as two bad performances does not mean you should be dropped form the national squad. Give them another chance in the Bangladesh tour and if they do fail – then get your knives out…

-Mahesh-

News in brief: Tuesday 20 March 2007

-Mahesh-