Tag Archives: Suresh Raina

Going Places. A book-review.

Going Places : India’s Small-Town Cricket Heroes, by K.R. Guruprasad.

From gully cricket to Team India

I was at Landmark, browsing books, hoping to buy some books that would help me spend some alone-time in this new place I’ve now moved into, far from home. Lying in a small heap in “Sports Section”, was this book, the photograph on its cover, gripping my attention. Set my hands on it, read the title, bought it.

We, in India, love to play cricket. Anywhere. I’ve played cricket inside my house, on the staircase of my apartment, in the garage, between cars, in my classroom, in school corridors, on the streets, in football grounds, basketball courts, ofcourse in cricket grounds, and have also approved of a couple of bathrooms being large enough to play the game; and also told my colleague in office that the aisle between our cubicles seem to beg us to play cricket. This book tells us how kids who once played like this in small towns, with tennis balls, made it big. It is a fairy tale story for some, bed of thorn for some others.

Author, K.R. Guruprasad, from Bellary, tells us how he enjoyed the game as a kid, when the local cricket club had the best ever players one can see, and how it seemed pointless at that point for anyone playing the game to represent the country, as there cannot be any more pride than playing for the local club you grew up watching. Things changed with television age. And the world cup victory. He tells us how people could’ve watched the ’83 WC if they went to big cities, like Madras. But the rest of India had to manage with radio, which would at that age allot a minimal time to cricket inbetween its regular programs.

How the author takes us from this introduction to setting before us eleven players from the rural pockets of India who have made a name for themselves at the international stage (or about to…) is magical. He travels from the urban metros to villages, from cricket academies in Bangalore, to sports hostels in Lucknow. He meets people who’ve helped cut to shape the diamonds we celebrate today as crowns of Indian cricket.

The XI listed in the book – Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Santhakumaran Sreesanth, Virender Sehwag, Ashok Dinda, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, R. Vinay Kumar, Iqbal Abdullah, Praveen Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh.

The books tells us all the hardship that cricket dreamers in the rural India have to face. The lack of facilities, lesser access to media to pronounce their performances to a larger audience, and lack of funds. What keeps them together, however, is their hard work. Sheer hard work. And some wonderful gem of people who actually took them to where they now are.

The books indirectly lists four factors have featured as major reasons to why we now see more cricketers from rural pockets play for Team India –

1. The New Ranji Trophy Format

Until the 2001/02 season, Ranji Trophy was zonal. But for the top bracket, rest of the teams would hardly get to play more than 3 or 4 games. It was harder to spot talent. Teams with better facilities would survive most rounds. Lesser teams would be eliminated without even facing big names, and hence always lying behind on quality. Delhi, Bengal, TN, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Karnataka would get to play more and perform more, as compared to Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Saurashtra or Kerala. Selectors saw the same faces more regularly, and cricketers from select regions were more likely to make it to the Indian team.

From 2002/03 season on, zonal system was abolished and Elite + Plate league was announced. Every team would play a league, and play as many games as any other team in their league, and play the big names. Competitiveness improved. The author gives UP as an example. UP favoured from the format change, then had a Ranji victory, then had Kaif, and that was a spring board for many more to follow – Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar. Well, we’ve now even had a Plate League team win the Ranji Trophy.

2. The IPL

The IPL was an instant hunt for talent across all teams in the country, and some new names propped up on the screen, rubbing shoulders with big names. The new kids from the domestic circuits in the rural India now shared the glamour worn by international stars. They played with them, against them, and in the process learnt new art, made friends to fall back on for advice etc. What IPL gave them more than anything, was money, money to survive the toughness of rural reality. In the book, you will find examples to how the breakthrough of IPL has helped many families break even with the world and start living in peace.

3. Family, mentors and friends

Cricket was not a serious option in rural India, not sure if it is today either. Most families aren’t enthusiastic about investing money in their child’s cricket. But, there are some who can see that their kid has it in him to make it to the big level. If you read between the lines, you would actually realise that the “heroes” mentioned in the tagline for the title of this book is actually meant for the mentors. Amazing examples of mentors fill the pages of the book, who, through their whole hearted love for the game and the wards, has put new names on the Indian cricket team. Even today, amidst all the shine and gloss that pampers the cricketers, first thing they do once back home is visit their mentors, spend quality time with friends and enjoy the comfort of home. For the rural people, these kids have always been their heroes, since the day the kid broke their window pane 15 years ago. In urban, there are so many things on your mind, you never know if your neighbour is a hero until he makes an appearance on TV.

4. HARD WORK

The author says how the kids in rural region seemed to be extra hard-working. Yes, one has to work hard to survive in the game, but the ones from rural region have to put in extra effort to match players from urban India. The lack of state-of-art facilities, coaches and technology kept their progress rate slower than compatriots. But some broke through. Again, credits to mentors, first for spotting them, and then persisting with them alll through the good, bad and ugly stages of their life before the glory days started. Some coaches still offer tutorials free of cost, some recruit their wards from places 1000 miles away from home, and feed them in their home like their own sons. Such is the hard work and dedication from the mentors, you can only wonder how much they would extract off their wards.

The author tells us how these stars from rural regions have had to battle myriad difficulties in their life to reach the top. It was no rose bed. One was 45 days from leaving to Africa to earn a living and survive his family. One had given up on cricket and thought of becoming a truck driver in Canada. How right people find themselves in the right time in these people’s lives is explained beautifully. Giving up was something was an attitude that had to be removed from their minds, and was done well too.

Some anecdotes made me smile, some made me weep. If one has to learn something from this book, it is that nothing is reserved to the big cities. If you want something, your determination will take you to the top.

Excellent work by K.R. Guruprasad for having put together all this in one book, having traveled from hot and dry places to wet and sludgy streets, just to meet the people who would best paint the portrait of these cricketers we have now come to adore.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves Indian cricket.

“Going Places : India’s Small-Town Cricket Heroes”, by K.R. Guruprasad.
Penguin Books.
Rs. 199/-

(photo credit : Penguin Books)

– Bagrat

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Team India for ODIs in Sri Lanka and Champions Trophy

As expected, MS Dhoni has returned from a self-inflicted “rest” and has been selected as captain of the Team India ODI side to take on Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the Test series.

Ishant Sharma has been “rested” for the Sri Lanka ODIs, but will return for the Champions Trophy. Munaf Patel, who has been picked for the Sri Lanka tour, will only play in Sri Lanka.

Parthiv Patel has been included as MS Dhoni’s understudy for the Sri Lanka tour. However, Parthiv Patel will return to India after the Sri Lanka ODIs and will not take part in the Champions Trophy.

Is this then and indicator to Parthiv Patel playing instead of Dinesh Karthik in the 3rd and final Test between Sri Lanka and India? Time will tell.

As expected, Sachin Tendulkar comes back into the side that played the Asia Cup. He will most likely open the innings with Virender Sehwag, with Gautam Gambhir at #3. The Gambhir-Sehwag combination will need to wait a while before exploding in ODIs!

Interestingly, no vice-captain has been announced!

Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Suresh Raina / Virat Kohli
Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh / Pragyan Ojha
Praveen Kumar / Munaf Patel
Zaheer Khan / RP Singh

with

Parthiv Patel (drinks!)

Yusuf Pathan gets the flick! It is unfortunate, but perhaps understandable! He did not really set the ground alight. But the man has enough potential to bounce back into reckoning.

Piyush Chawla has also been shown the door. Now, Chawla, who bowled quite brilliantly in the ODIs in England last year and in Australia earlier in 2008, was quite rudely exposed when bowling to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. He would probably benefit from refining his trade. With Harbhajan Singh returning to the fold like the prodigal son, and with Pragyan Ojha seizing his Asia Cup opportunities, it is appropriate, perhaps, that Chawla cools his heels a bit.

Another player that has been shown the door is Robin Uthappa. Once again, the case could be made that he perhaps did not deliver on the many opportunities he has been afforded. In his place, Virat Kohli comes in, on the back of his U-19 exploits and his strong showing in the recently concluded Emerging Players Tournament in Brisbane. S. Badrinath, who also had a strong Emerging Players tournament, would be perhaps justified in feeling a bit desolate at being overlooked — again!

Given the combination that the team has gone with, unless one of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh sit out (quite unlikely), India will go in with only 4 mainline bowlers — possibly Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh! Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh will need to bowl out the 5th bowlers quota. This lack of balance has always been India’s weak suit — especially considering that Irfan Pathan is one of these 4 frontline bowlers! If any of these 4 bowlers has an an off day — and Irfan Pathan can have them easily — the bowling can get taken to the cleaners!

The tough alternative would be to replace Suresh Raina with a bowler. It is unlikely that the team would do that, particularly after Raina’s good showing in the Asia Cup!

Interesting days ahead…

— Mohan

It is an India Vs Sri Lanka Final…

India beat Sri Lanka in another high-scoring encounter at Karachi to storm into the Asia Cup Finals. The hosts, Pakistan, will be left with much to ponder and dissect. Already there is talk of Pakistan sacking Geoff Lawson as coach!

This tournament has been a bowlers’ nightmare. Scores of 300 are being regularly hacked down with several overs to spare. So also in last nights’ game. Despite the early loss of the in-form and dangerous Kumar Sangakkara and despite Sanath Jayasuriya’s departure before much serious damage could be inflicted, Sri Lanka got to a score of 308-8 in their 50 overs. Like India had the day before, the Sri Lankan innings never quite took off. Everytime the batsmen threatened to go into orbit speed, India would take a wicket and peg those ambitions down. Not that the bowling or fielding was good, mind you! It is just that the Sri Lankan batsmen could not quite take off. Just when Jayasuriya seemed set, he departed. Similarly Mahela Jayawardena, Kapugedera, Chamara Silva and Tilakaratne Dilshan. They never quite got going. In the end, 308 was, one felt, about 20 runs short.

The Indian fielding effort was lazy. Pragyan Ojha let one go through his legs although he did dive smartly in the middle overs to convert a sure boundary into a two. Ishant Sharma messed up a few on the boundary ropes! R. P. Singh had a wild throw that resulted in over-throws. Sehwag was late in getting a dive in. Even Suresh Raina messed up a few dives and a few throws. Yuvraj Singh, however, remains a serious concern on the field. It is not as if he has become slower in the field. He has. It seems as though his dodgy knee prevents him from being totally alive in the field. This condition enabled him to make an absolute dogs’ breakfast of a Sanath Jayasuria chance at mid-on early in the piece! This must be a concern for the team management. A fit-and-fighting Yuvraj Singh is an asset to the team.

When batting, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir started as though they were either at a hit-and-giggle cricket-camp or, at best, the nets! They laughed and joked their way to 92 off 11 overs before Sehwag tried a cute paddle-scoop, only to flush the ball down Dilhara Fernando’s throat! They batted in a cavalier manner with gay abandon. Gautam Gambhir has grown in confidence as an impact player. And with Sehwag, he is a more complete player, one feels. They have a very good understanding between themselves and this shows in the way they play their cricket. Although Suresh Raina looked a bit shaky early on, he too settled down to play smart cricket. Against the run of play, it seemed, Gambhir got out to Muthiah Muralidharan’s second over.

Dhoni then made a bold move. He promoted himself at 2-down! I thought this was a smart move. Both he and Suresh Raina had played the dangerous Muralidharan in the nets in the IPL — all three played for Chennai SuperKings. Moreover, Yuvraj Singh is not that comfortable, one feels, taking guard against an in-form and ticking Muralidharan. So the decision to elevate himself in the batting order showed both courage as well as flexibility on the part of Dhoni.

Nearly 100 runs later, when the match was almost sealed and in the bag, both Raina and Dhoni got out. But Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Shrama carried India home with 3 overs to spare! The 30 runs that Sri Lanka could not score mattered in the end.

The final is between the two best teams in the tournament.

India took Pragyan Ojha instead of Piyush Chawla. This move paid off. Ojha bowled better than Chawla, in my view. India also played R. P. Singh instead of Yusuf Pathan. They would be tempted to stick with the same team for the final.

– Mohan

Indian future needs an anchor or two

As I watched the Indians bats, and bat beautifully I might add, something started bothering me. The foursome who scored so well in the innings include two genuine stroke makers in VVS and Ganguly, one God, and the other possibly one of the best anchors in test cricket in Dravid. The other two batsmen in the side include Wasim Jaffer, a stroke maker first and an anchor next (all left to chance) and Yuvraj, who believes that he is a genuine stroke maker. The three players who have been floated on this website and elsewhere as possible replacements include Manoj Tiwary, S. Badrinath and Suresh Raina all of whom are stroke makers. S. Badrinath, one may argue, has the potential to play the anchor role but I am not convinced as yet.

By memory I think of Amol Mazumdar, Venugopala Rao, Mithun Manhas, Sitanshu Kotak, Akash Chopra, C A Pujara, and SS Das as ones who are currently playing domestic cricket and have had success in the anchor roles. Unfortunately, some of the mentioned players are considered past their prime (age), do not have the necessary clout, or are best in domestic outings but do not have it in them to take it to the next level. Mohd. Kaif has an outside chance but may still not have the technique to fulfill the role which brings to mind the key factor that, I believed is required to be in consideration. Technique! How many players in the current domestic playing circuit can boast of a technique any close to what Dravid or Tendulkar had when they came into reckoning?

It would be interesting to hear others’ views on this but, for me, in addition to grooming the likes of Yuvraj, Raina, Tiwary alike, we have to more urgently start looking at identifying and nurturing players who can bring stability and solidity to the opening and middle order slots in the Indian batting line up.

 Cheers,

 Srikanth