What The Duck!

A cricket humourist, stand-up comedian, an author of a famous book- ‘How Sachin Destroyed my life’, fan boy with all access pass to the world of Indian Cricket, a presenter who interviews cricketers and ex- cricketers at ease. While we have seen him mimicking few cricketers and interviewing a lot of them, here’s an opportunity we got to interview the fore frontier of ‘What The Duck’- Vikram Sathaye.

Vikram Sathaye
What The Duck Moment!

So Vikram, we all are huge fans of What the Duck and we wait for the episodes- (we even tweet in case the episode gets delayed), for the benefit of our readers to know more about you, let’s have a round of Brain Fade (not in real sense) Q & A for you.

1) Finishing MBA, taking up a job, and ending up being India’s first Stand-up comedian… How did that happen?

The answer to this question is very easy. I was bored of the corporate job. Wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. I had few skills to imitate cricketers. Unfortunately, back in 2002, I didn’t know what standup comedy was. I used to work in MTV as Marketing Manager. While the VJ’s used to do the hosting, I used to do like a 10-min skit with Cyrus Broacha and few others. People started liking it and I realized that if I could extend this a little bit, there’s a lot of scope. Unfortunately, YouTube was not there in 2002-2003. I didn’t have reference of standup comedians from anywhere in the world. But being from Maharashtra, I knew what Pu La Deshpande used to do. Broadly had an idea, that when you go up on the stage, you put up a story, even if the imitations are there, they are part of the story line. So, I started developing this. And then when I realized that it has started working, that was the same time got offer to go to 2003 World Cup in SA for 2 min skit in Extra innings. People noticed and approached me saying “Humara corporate event hai, why don’t you do a ten min of what you do”. When I realized that this was working, I started to put my act together. I read up and found that stand-up comedy is a proper profession abroad which is like people do one hour sets and realized that there’s something that I can pull off. When Corporate started calling after World Cup and the CEAT Awards which was one of my first show that got telecast on Sony Entertainment Television, I thought I was sitting on something that had huge potential. I quit my job at that point of time. I was finding a way, Comedy helped me get out of it.

2) When did you realize you can imitate cricketers? When was the first successful attempt in?
I have been imitating cricketers as a kid. As kids used to watch Gavaskar play. In first CEAT Awards, I imitated Gavaskar. Obviously, there’s certain amount of skill that you already possess, because imitating people, either you have it or you don’t. In college, I used to imitate Tony Greig. During MTV, I refined it and thought there’s a structure to it. I started doing this and people in MTV said this is good stuff, you can do it on stage. Slowly I started doing cricket events in front of cricketers and when they said they are enjoying it, I knew that without hurting them, I am doing something that everybody is liking. I used to imitate the likes of Gavaskar, Azhar, Vengsarkar and whole lot of cricketers. I was a natural imitator of cricketers, I have been doing this for a while but in 2002, it became refined and then I made it into a career.

3) Have you ever played alongside the God- Sachin Tendulkar? How was the experience?

I have not played alongside Sachin. But when I played for U-15 for my club in Pune (I was 13 years of age), Achrekar Sir used to send Sachin to play some of the matches with us guy also. I have played in a match he was there, but beyond that nothing. It was not like I have played prolifically with him, just one odd match here and there in U 15 days.

4) How was your experience in the 2003 World Cup sharing the mic with the great commentators?
2003 was a brain fade moment for me. From somebody imitating a Tony Greig, Ian Chappel, suddenly in months’ time, I was on a flight to South Africa with an accreditation from ICC along with commentators. I was wandering what happened in one month that changed my life. I was supposed to do a segment on air. The producer of channel went to Tony Greig and said “this guy has come from India and apparently, he can do a good Tony Greig. Why don’t you chat with him?” So, he said, “Mate come on, do what you have to”. I imitated Tony and he started laughing loudly. That was the moment that convinced me that “Agar Tony Greig haas raha hahi, that means something is right” and is not that my friends are pulling my legs and saying that I am doing good imitation and typically from miming I became popular amongst the commentators as well. That eased the pressure of me that I have to go and do something. Suddenly Tiger Pataudi was calling and said here’s a friend of mine- please imitate Geoffrey Boycott in front of him and I was imitating, Geoff. Kapil Paaji would come and say “Tu yaar iski naakal aacha kar leta hai , yeh kar”, so for me I didn’t know what was happening and everything was going so well.

5) Did you face any resistance from commentators?
The resistance was not in 2003. Later on, when I did one stint with ESPN, and they actually put me in the commentary box with Sunny, Ravi Shashtri, that time I realized that Cricketer fraternity not necessarily likes an outsider. I never wanted to be a broadcaster. I like to have fun around the game. I realized that its difficult thing to be in the box being an outsider. Harsha has managed to do it very well. From 2006 I decided, I will not be in and around the commentary box. I will do my own standup comedy and my own stuff, that would be better because cricketers (ex-cricketers, commentators) don’t really like people from the outside world.

6) Why is your first book is Titled – How Sachin destroyed my Life.
If you read the first chapter, you will realize why this title is. Because I have always said that during my generation when we grew up in the times of Sachin Tendulkar, if you scored a 50 or a 70 in U-15 game, Sachin scored a 300. Whenever you played, your mother would say- “Bagh Sachin kasa karto aaahe”
The whole premise of my generation was that – Everything you did, you were still not equal to the guy. He gave you a benchmark that you would never achieve.

7) We have observed that you generally address the players as ‘Tu’ (Sachin, Virendra Sehwag), how did you generate that comfort level?
Comfort level with this generation was always there with Tendulkar, Viru and even for that matter Rahul, Zak and Yuvi. What happened was a very funny incidence. Being a Maharashtrian, when you say ‘Tu’, ‘Tumhi’, its matter of endearment. Some kids address their Baba as ‘Tu’. In Marathi, ‘Tu’ is not derogatory. But when you go up north, and in Hindi, u can’t say ‘Tu’ or ‘Tumhare’ to anybody. You have to say ‘Aap’. That’s something I had forgotten in the first season and while I was speaking to Sachin I was saying “Tu”, he was saying “Tu asia kiya tha” that is a typical Bambaiya way of addressing which I have been exposed to all my life. When I did that, I got trolled from a lot of people saying that boss what do you think of yourself, how can you talk with the god of cricket like that? Bahut gali pada… Then I realized the gravity of situation that in north of India ‘Tu’ is considred as disrespect. It was a mistake on my part to not understand this. But later, 99% times I have corrected it. Once in a while it has got slipped and I came back to ‘Tu’. If you realized, in the 3rd season, I have ensured that if I am speaking to Kuldeep Yadav, who is probably half of my age, I will still say ‘Sirji’, ‘Aap’, as I don’t want to commit the mistake I made in the past. So, it’s not necessary comradery which was there with the players, but a mistake more than anything else.

Vikram Sathaye
Brain Fade Moment!

8) Why such name WTD?
It just started on an evening when I decided to do a show. I thought Centuries to sabhi celebrate karte hai, why not celebrate ducks. Every person is scared of a duck. The most significant moment of watching cricket on Channel 9 was this duck. If I am not mistaken it was called Daddles was the name of the duck. That duck was introduced by channel 9 and. And It kind of stayed on in my mind, WTD was just a way of representing the duck. If you see the first season, we had a WTD question in all episode and gave away Tshirt’s and celebrated the number of ducks they had scored and it was just a creative treatment and lighter way of celebrating something that cricketers hate having on their bio data the most.

9) Our favorite episode was ‘God- SRT’s episode and the best part was Debashis Mohanty’s bowling. A question in his action… Your favorite episode?
Obviously Sachin Sehwag, I have natural inclination to call them the favorite, but I personally I enjoyed one of the other episode of Murli and Sanga. I don’t know Sanga that well. I thought Sanga hai what will I talk, I know Murli is nonstop talker, but Sanga, I was not sure, but when I came out of episode, I realized so many Sanga stories & Murali happened. To me with Master & Viru obviously no, 1, because the stories that even Sachin had said on the episode about John right, and few other which I also didn’t know. And I knew of these stories only when I was interacting on the episode. Whereas Sanga & Murli, I didn’t not know a single story. From just my point of view, forget about the host, and just from a personal happiness point of view, Murli & Sanga stories were amazing. I am fan of Ashwin. Like the way he speaks. He was unbelievable with his stories in last season. Rest of episodes also in phases lots of interesting stuff came out. Last year, Parthiv Patel’s episodes I had liked a lot as Parthiv also came out with some amazing stories.

10) You have been mimicking so many cricketers, has any of the senior player ever taken it as an offence?
Surprisingly, nobody has taken offence up till now. I am trying to remember in the past … did anybody … actually people have taken it as an offence in the beginning when I used to imitate Sachin, they used to say it’s not in the right spirit because Sachin had that connect with the fans. And I said “Sachin ko koi problem nahi, to tum ko kya problem hai ..”But , people are sensitive. As far as I remember, I don’t think anyone has ever come to me and complained. I have been lucky that nobody has got offended from cricket field so far.

11) Is there any player you feel you can never mimic because you respect him immensely?
No not really.

13) Why don’t you mimic women’s team players?
Apart from the World Cup, I have not followed much of Women’s cricket. Typically, observation comes only when you see something for long time. Jhulan Goswamy’s action was different. I think I will be able to imitate. Earlier generation, it was easy to pick up as there were lots of characters were there. Either I have become old or I feel that the characteristics have gone down a little bit or maybe they are not there in playing 11, so I’m sure Mithali has some characteristics, Smriti has something, but I am not being able to pick that up till now. But as I said, Jhulan was something that has a unique action so I think I can manage her bowling action.

14) Season 3 was doing so well? Why did you end the season so early?
Dus ho gaya yaar. 10 episode karte karte meri jaan nikal gayi. 20 cricketers ko ikkathe lana back to back during IPL was a night mare. 2 cricketers coming together was the pain so 10 episodes for me was lot of hard work so I am happy it got over.

15) When is season 4 launching? Where can the audience see it?
Looking forward for conceptualizing something new for season 4, let’s see how it goes. This will be mostly during IPL as I will start prepping during that time as I won’t get time from cricketers. If I am shooting with the same lot or even others. I will not be getting any players unless I go out and shoot in in Australia or England. Shooting full budget crew and doing all episode outside becomes a little expensive so IPL time is the only time we can and that’s when the budgets are pretty robust. Am conceptualizing, but if something happens, great if I get a window somewhere, some new format emerges, I might think of doing something before also, but broadly, I think, the season would happen during IPL only. The audience can watch it on Viu and YouTube together hopefully.

16) Tell us more about ‘Bawraas’ and ‘Think Cricket’
The other passion that I always had was music as I come from a musical family. My mother teaches classical music and light music so I used to always be a ‘wanna be’ singer you can say. Luckily being in MTV and being in show business in terms of doing live gigs, I was exposed to lots of musician right from Sonu, Shaan, Shankar and Shreya – they are personal friends. One point of time I always thought that we got lucky in our profession. People doing unconventional carriers, why not support them when they do something interesting and that’s when I met Krishna Patil who was India’s youngest mountaineer who had climbed Everest and didn’t have money to go to the next mountain. So, me and Swanand Kirkire, Shantanu Moitra, once we were sitting were sitting and chatting and said we must do a concert for her to raise money. So, it happened on the whim and we got together and then Shaan said he will support, Shreya said she will support. We did a concert we raised money for her and that became pretty successful. Post that we raise little bit mony for Gopichand foundation much before the Olympics. We raise money for an athlete called Ankita Gosavi from Pune who had to go for the ASIAD so it became like let’s do a a concert for people who are doing good stuff. Unfortunately, last one year we didn’t have the bandwidth to do much but we are reviving it by identifying two or three interesting people for we will do some stuff this year.

Think cricket was something Harsha Bhogle and me have been talking about for some time with Anita, Harsha’s wife. Between me and Harsha, we must have done 1000’s of corporate. And over a period of time, both of us meet and chat about management and cricket so thought why not have a platform where we chat with the clients that we have always interacted with – CEOs, VP’s who come on an evening and chat cricket with them and when we chat cricket it’s a free-flowing conversation. We had Rahul Dravid speaking on the art of batting. Sundar raman spoke on BCCI experience, Ashwin spoke on Spin Bowling, so we keep calling interesting people to talk about cricket in free-flowing conversations with heads of companies. So, think cricket was something we thought we will do it very regularly.

All’s well that ends well. A big thank to Vikram Sathaye to take out his precious time and answering our questions. All the best for your future assignments

Hope you liked the special interview. Stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com for more on cricket.

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ShamsnWags
We - Saurabh Sharma aka Shams and Paresh Waghela aka Wags are super enthusiastic and die hard cricket fans. Sharing our take on cricket matches, players comes with a lot of passion. We eat, drink and sleep cricket.

Right from the Mecca of Cricket- Lord’s Prelude

In an era of muscling the balls into the stands, waiting for the first day of Lord’s Test still gives goosebumps to cricket lovers. Yes, T20 has made it possible for us to watch a cricket match in 4 hours. But nothing can replace the excitement of walking into MCG on a Boxing Day test, or walking into Eden Gardens and see Wasim Akram running into ball, mind you , that time Eden could hold up to 1,00,000 spectators. Hence, my idea of real contest is still a game played over 5 days where pendulum would be shifting from time to time and the team with never-say-die attitude will come up winners. While some say 5 Test series is too long, the old fashioned like me would say, that’s clear opportunity of 25 days of real hard cricket.

The Mecca of Cricket-Lords
The Mecca of Cricket-Lords

The occasion in Lord’s and I hate to say this that I traveled from India to London, just to catch the first day at Lord’s, see the captains walk to toss, see umpires throw the new ball to the bowler, the bell ringing, everything. But, God had other plans and an extremely painful personal loss has deprived me of this honor but only for this time. Nevertheless, I am in London and I hope to catch up one of the days in between.

In the meantime, as stated before the heat wave has been extremely killing. But suddenly, yesterday (7th August), the weather Gods changed their minds. It did not rain but cloud covers had covered London. It was pleasant for a change, not to mention, I love rain. But if you are cricket lover and specially an Indian fan, you would know English weather is flirting with Virat Kohli. Till now, grass has been left on the 22 yards, weather is swinging between hot and cold, Andy Flower goes on to record and say Kohli has to play more years to reach Sachin and become one of the all-time greats, Bumrah is not fit, India has lost the first test within the first 4 days, and adversary are still hitting Indian Team. I am sure in my mind that Kohli is already quite baffled about what to do with the batting order and now with the weather playing its part, he sure will be confused with his bowling combinations.

It is pretty easy for all us fans and the commentators say a few things while the game is on or after the match is done and dusted. But, Kohli is leading the team right there. He is feeling the heat and he is taking some bold decisions. I think he will still back KL Rahul since one test is not good enough to judge someone. Now, Dhawan should not be dropped since that might press the panic button in the dressing room and bring in more insecurity amongst the players, so would guess Dhawan sticks again. Rahane will stick on for past performances. There is really no need to change the batters at this point of time. We also need to bear in mind Pujara has done nothing extra-ordinary in these conditions. But if Kohli wants to get in the extra batsman, it has to be Pujara and where do you fit him.

If Pujara comes in, then automatically Umesh goes out. Now, permutations and combinations looks very interesting given this is a must win game of India. It will be a real test of character and mentality of these players. But above all, it will be an opportunity to see if these players are ready to amend their mistakes. Since, this looks like the last chance for many in the team. Kohli himself needs to think before finalizing the final 11. He has never played the same 11 in consecutive Tests and that could and might have created doubts in the mind of the players like Vijay and Rahane. If you look at Vijay’s batting, it has not been the same from the time he had been dropped from the time. He is poking and prodding outside the offstump and God knows why. Similarly,Rahane has not found his magic touch yet after being dropped in the SA series after being the vice-captain of the team. However, Pandya keeps getting the captain’s backing even after some really ordinary performance, but definitely some lighting of brilliance from time to time.

Kohli will be the big difference between the defeat and win once again and I hope to make my presence felt in one of the days in between.

Hope you liked Lord’s Prelude. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!

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ShamsnWags
We - Saurabh Sharma aka Shams and Paresh Waghela aka Wags are super enthusiastic and die hard cricket fans. Sharing our take on cricket matches, players comes with a lot of passion. We eat, drink and sleep cricket.

India v/s England Test Series : Round 1 of 5

So, India travels to England after a span of 4 years and this time they come with a lot of expectation and one of the main reasons of that expectation is Virat Kohli. Kohli happens to be the man who has scored heavily across the world and across formats. If you are a kid and wanting to play cricket, you want to like Virat Kohli. He is setting the trend with fitness and his batting.

Virat Kohli & Joe Root with Pataudi Trophy, 2018
Virat Kohli & Joe Root with Pataudi Trophy, 2018

The only place where he has to stamp his authority is England. A dominating century in England is still missing from his long list of achievements and CV. Having won the T20 series and lost the ODI series, it was time to get ready to face English fast bowlers. With the heat wave being nothing less than torturous in England, it was expected to help Indians since much swing was not expected but the Duke ball had a different story to tell.

England wins the toss and elects to bat. Kohli brings in a major change and drops Pujara for KL Rahul. I have always maintained KL Rahul has a problem against the moving ball but captain trusts his former IPL team mate. Again, with only Ashwin in the team, it looked a little heavy in the pace department. While we talk about the different players, it is an absolute must to mention that just like Kohli, Ashwin as well did not have a great performance in England last time. So, another one to set that record right.

As the Test match started, England looked pretty comfortable against Indian attack and looked to set a big score. There were no demons on the pitch and I still maintain that it was 400+ pitch. However, keeping Kohli out of the game is just impossible. You can call it half a chance, but it did come in the form of Bairstow mis-judging a run and taking a chance against Kohli. I simply call it stupidity. A direct hit at the bowlers end and the priced wicket of Joe Root, probably the best batsman of England. This turned the game and England collapsed for 287. Not to forget, Ashwin showed his guile and experience by bagging 4 wickets and some superb bowling from the senior pro Shami.

I was almost certain that India would bat only once and score something around 450 since this wicket has got nothing. Vijay and Dhawan was alright at the crease. But more importantly, Broad and Anderson did not look threatening at all and I was quite confident that this series is going our way from hereon. As the old saying goes ‘ Little knowledge can be dangerous’ and thats what exactly happened with me. A 20 year old left arm fast bowler was marking his run up and I was of the idea that he would not be much of a threat given the experience our batters have.

But, suddenly we had lost 3 wickets of our Top 3 within 8 runs. I looked at the replays 10 times and I could not understand whether we threw the wickets away or our batsmen are that stupid. As Geoff Boycott would say “ Even my mum would have left those balls”. Highly disgusted and disappointed with our batters, I continued my optimism since Kohli and Rahane was at the crease. Now, the whole match had narrowed down to Anderson vs Kohli.

Kohli eager to stay put and stamp his authority, as the couple of reckless shots would indicate and similarly, Anderson, being old wily bowler that he is, kept tempting and probing Kohli and at times challenging Kohli to satisfy his ego and play that expansive drive. But for the next 4 hours what I saw is a normal guy changing himself and maturing to a man.

The innings had 3 dropped catches and 2 catches fell short of the slips, thats 5 balls and in the rest 220 balls, this man re-wrote history, wiped the past away and created his own legacy which would be part of cricketing folklore for ages to come. The innings was not filled with beautiful shots but tremendous willpower, the innings did not have the power of Kohli but the mind of Kohli and finally it got the result for which millions had tuned into cricket for that day. Scored a superlative 149, took India to 274. Conceded the lead but not by much.

England comes into bat, again Ashwin weaving his magic around the English batsmen and snatching 3 wickets. Ishant joins the party takes 5 superb wickets. At one stage 87/7, looks like game over England. But again, walks in that under-rated player named Sam Curran and smashes 63. What was disgusting to see is Dhawan kept dropping catches and kept smiling. What on earth was he thinking???? Did he think Kohli would say “Sardar khus hua???” If that stupidity was not enough , he would thigh slap every time he took a catch. What does that even indicate??? Anyways, finally England was bundled out for 180. With the famed batting line up of India, it was almost given that we would win this game. Target 194, should be done by lunch Day 4.

In comes the opening pair of the world no. 1 team, Vijay and Dhawan, oh sorry, I should be saying in comes the fashion stars of the World No. 1 team. Since what followed for the next 3 hours is called Fashion Parade by the Indian batting stalwarts. You name them and they are ready to go to Lakme Fashion show or something in Paris as well. They can give the best model in the world a run for their money. What was unfolding in front of me, is called callousness, unprofessionalism and I felt like cheated and I would like to know if Kohli and the Indian bowlers felt any different.

If there is a term which is worse than throwing away wickets, I would like to know since, looked like Vijay, Dhawan, Rahane, KL Rahul did not care what was going in the middle. They did not even have the heart to fight it out. And at the other end, there was this man who has so much pride of playing for India that he kept trying and trying. He even tried to shield them but at the same time tried not to insult the so-called batsmen. The Indian captain was stranded, dejected and all this was apparent when he walked back to the pavilion after another superb 51. As a fan and cricket lover, I felt sorry for him.

I have not seen an Indian batsman in a long time to play like this, not seen someone to carry a team like this. I am sorry to say but the rest of the batters do not deserve our love or our criticism. They are not worth it.

Its time to bring the Shaw and Gill into the team because it cant get any worse than this. It pains us , as a fan , to see Kohli going through after that kind of efforts. Its a sad state of affairs.

Hope you liked the review of the first test match. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!

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ShamsnWags
We - Saurabh Sharma aka Shams and Paresh Waghela aka Wags are super enthusiastic and die hard cricket fans. Sharing our take on cricket matches, players comes with a lot of passion. We eat, drink and sleep cricket.

Virat : An emotion not just a cricketer| Arpit Awasthi|

One fine afternoon while Randomly surfing a TV channel in a summer afternoon at Melbourne, in 2008, I came across a live match and saw a chubby youngster full of energy, emotions and adrenaline rush batting like a man possessed.

They say love at first sight exists in romance but here I was falling in love with an U19 kid, who was 2 years younger to me. I predicted to my house mates that he will be the next great of Indian cricket, to which, my mates ridiculed me!
In matter of 10 days, he was the captain of the U19 World Cup winning team. Some people labelled the celebration over the top and arrogant maybe it was, I don’t know!

Arpit Awasthi with his Idol- Virat Kohli
Arpit Awasthi with his Idol- Virat Kohli

He made his debut few months later, thanks to his potential identified by then selector colonel Vengsarkar!

It was a Luke warm beginning. In fact, till a year up until Dec 2009 he just another fringe player and then he scored his maiden century against Lanka at Eden garden. The greatness nipped under the bus was about to emerge!
He made his way to be a permanent member of the team. By the time 2011 World Cup started, he made a century in his debut World Cup match, however, he is remembered more for his quote on SRT after the World Cup Final in that tourney.

He was picked for tests in WI and was found out against shirt bowling, dropped for tests against England, and was on verge of being dropped after 2 tests in Australia. Then Perth and Adelaide happened.

The knock against SL at Hobart in ODI elevated his career to the next level. The now ill famous tour of 2014 happened ,134 runs in 10 innings, but Incidentally this was when he became more than a cricketer for me! He didn’t give up went to Australia 6 months later and scored 4 centuries and rest they say is history!

While Virat Kohli, the cricketer is well known, the qualities that I love about him are :

1. Fitness freak: The journey from chubby cheeks to six pack abs.
2. Passion: I learnt from him that we must be extremely passionate about the profession we are in.
3. Style: The way he carries himself in public his commendable just so classy.
4. Hard work and Grit: he may not be naturally gifted like Rohit but with his sheer determination and dedication he became a world class athlete.

Hope you like Aprits emotions for Virat Kohli. Stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com for more on cricket.

Special thanks to Arpit Awasthi for contributing this article. Arpit is an avid cricket fan who carries passion on his sleeves,firebrand of Viratian. This article stands testimony to his undivided devotion. May his god smile on him.

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ShamsnWags
We - Saurabh Sharma aka Shams and Paresh Waghela aka Wags are super enthusiastic and die hard cricket fans. Sharing our take on cricket matches, players comes with a lot of passion. We eat, drink and sleep cricket.

UK Diaries- By Debdeep Bhattacharya

India plays their first Test match at Edgbaston from 1st August, which about 2 hours drive from my place but I do not have any intention to watch the match there. However, the weather is pretty English at this point of time. Unpredictable rains has already forced all clubs across London to cancel all their matches which also means my own induction to my local cricket club got halted for another week.

Edgebaston- All set to host  1st Test Match
Edgebaston- All set to host 1st Test Match
So, what is Edgbaston?? It is one of the most affluent suburbs of Birmingham, rather central Birmingham and it is also home to Warwick County Cricket Club which again happens to be the home club of Ian Bell and Jonathon Trott, 2 of the most dependable players of England.

First Test is expected have majority of Indian crowds due a number of reasons but the most important reason is, everyone wants to see Virat Kohli score that elusive hundred. Don’t be surprised if you hear “Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega” loud and clear on your television sets!!! They will chant “Kholiiiiii Kohli” and that too repeatedly.

The atmosphere is there, Indians need to turn up on 1st August and play to win, that’s what few of us Indians think. Any defensive approach will put back Indians but with Kohli at the helm of the things, we don’t expect anything else other than positive cricket. So, I am expecting out of the 25,000 seats available 15,000-17,000 would be filled with Indians by the third day itself. We are not only fanatic about cricket but we worship our cricketers and our recent Demi-God is Kohli.

Now, the twist is, as Indians, we don’t want this hot and humid and so-called Indian weather. We, and we believe, Indian team also wants the English conditions to turn up when the day comes. Not only do we need to just beat them, but also but beat them in their home conditions and home weather so that Cook and Root wouldn’t have much to complain and next time Ricky Ponting gives an interview about the best batsman of the world, he is forced to take Virat’s name. We want to win it in style this time and bring it back home!!!

Hope you liked first hand experience right from Edgebaston .Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!

ShamsnWags on BloggerShamsnWags on FacebookShamsnWags on Twitter
ShamsnWags
We - Saurabh Sharma aka Shams and Paresh Waghela aka Wags are super enthusiastic and die hard cricket fans. Sharing our take on cricket matches, players comes with a lot of passion. We eat, drink and sleep cricket.

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 10

As we inch closer towards the end of the series, we get to see names that are more popular to my generation. In Part 10 of the series- From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England, we are talking none other than the Haryana Hurricane, the most complete Cricketer India has produced – Kapil Dev Nikhanj. It was as though, nature had created this specimen with the sole objective of making a cricketer.

Kapil Dev
Kapil Dev in his stride

During his playing days, Kapil was only second to Sir Garry Sobers in terms of excelling in all the departments of the game. I am sure that many would vociferously counter my claim, but there are solid reasons behind it. Kapil did play in the same era as Imran Khan, Sir Ian Botham, and Sir Richard Hadlee.

Imran was by far the best batsman of the three. Bowling prowess was nearly equal with all the four, but Imran and Botham were clumsy fielders, were unfit to play a good number of test matches in succession. Hadlee’s batting performances were extremely sporadic in nature. Besides, Hadlee chose to miss series in the subcontinent a lot too, where his bowling would not have been as effective. But Kapil was always a free-flowing batsman, a wicket-taking bowler, and one of the best fielders the game has ever seen. And this was throughout his career.

The 1986 squad Kapil led to England was in an upbeat mindset. India had lost badly to England in the home series in 1984-85. They had bounced back and recovered well enough to win the Benson and Hedges World championship in 1985. In the 1984-85 series, India had discovered an artist who could match Gundappa Vishwanath stroke for stroke and had a voracious appetite for runs, in Md. Azharuddin.
Besides, the team had the colossal Sunil Gavaskar. Also had the ever-reliable Lord of Lord’s Dilip Vengsarkar, the man for the crises in Mohinder Amarnath, and the medium pace attack spearheaded by the captain himself, along with Roger Binny, Chetan Sharma, and Manoj Prabhakar. Ravi Shastri, Shivlal Yadav, and Maninder Singh could be entrusted the job of spin bowling.

India had broken the Lords Jinx strongly by winning the 1983 Prudential World cup, and the man in charge then was the man in charge now. And he didn’t have any notions of doing anything different this time around too.

In the first test at Lord’s Kapil won the toss and put England in. Gooch and Robinson made a solid start adding 66 runs for the first wicket, but the fall of Robinson’s wicket triggered a mini-collapse, and England were suddenly 98 for 4. At this juncture, Gooch found an able ally in Derek Pringle, and by the time Gooch fell making a fine 114, the two had taken the score to 245. Pringle too fell for 63 24 runs later, and the rest didn’t contribute much. England All-out for 294. Chetan Sharma (5 for 64 and Binny Sr. 3 for 55) were the destroyers in chief.

The Indian reply was wobbly to start with, Krish Shrikkanth fell when the score was 31, but the two senior pros, Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath held the fort and saw the day off taking the score to 83 without any further damages. Gavaskar fell early on the third day with his individual score on 34 and Jimmy Amarnath was joined by the Lord of the Lord’s, Dilip Vengsarkar.

At that point in time, Vengsarkar was the best batsman in the world, and at the top of the PWH rankings. And he did bat like the best. He had crucial partnerships of 71 apiece with Mohinder Amarnath and Azharuddin, and 49 with debutante Kiran More. He also had a last wicket partnership of 38 with Maninder Singh in which Maninder’s share was only 6 runs. Vengsarkar remained unbeaten on a superlative 126, and India had taken a smallish, but crucial lead of 47 runs.

England did an India of the past tours and was skittled for 180 in the second innings, Kapil taking four wickets and Maninder bagging a superb return of three wickets for only 9 runs. India had to get 134 to win, and there was ample time to get them. Yet they floundered, Gavaskar and Shrikkanth both falling when the score had just passed 30. Yet again Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath had to do the rescue act.

Vengsarkar made a crucial 33, and Amarnath 8 in one and a half hour, but more importantly not losing his wicket. But both departed in quick succession with the score on 76 and 78, and then it fell on young Shastri and Azhar to steady the ship with a patient partnership of 32 runs.

When Azhar departed with the score on 110, the captain walked in in a no-nonsense mood. He finished the match in a matter of ten balls, scoring 23 with 4 fours and a towering six over midwicket off Phil Edmunds to finish the match. At last, INDIA HAD WON A TEST MATCH AT LORDS.

More joy was to come.

With the star of the first test: Chetan Sharma unfit, India had to summon the services of the golden oldie Madan Lal, who was then playing in the Lancashire league. India won the toss, elected to bat first, and with all the batsmen getting starts and making small contributions in the fashion of the piggy bank of a middle-class family, amounted to 272. Vengsarkar top scored with 61.

England never settled in their first innings. They folded up for 102, Binny taking five wickets, and SOS help Madam Lal taking 3. Out of the English batsmen, only Bill Athey scratched around for two and a quarter hour to score 34.

India batted again, started in a complacent fashion, and promptly lost their first five wickets by the time they reached 70. Yet again, it fell on “Colonel” Vengsarkar to steer the company to a safe position. He batted with the tail, and took the Indian second innings score to 237, thereby securing a total lead of 407 runs. In the process, Vengsarkar had scored his second century on the tour, again unbeaten, 102. With a daunting target of 408 runs to win, England batting again tumbled like ninepins.

Maninder Singh took 4 for 26, and England innings folded up at 128, giving India their biggest win in England, a win by 279 runs! And of course, Their first series victory in England. Tide seemed to be turning now, and the Colonials had beaten the old masters in their own backyard.

The third test was a dead rubber, as the series had already been decided. England won the toss, batted first and made 390. Mike Gatting made a dandy 183, Gower and Pringle made useful 40s. India matched the England first innings score in their first innings and after the completion of the first two innings of the match, both the teams were literally even Stevens. All the Indian batsmen pulled their weights, with Amarnath top-scoring with 79 and Azhar making 64.

England made 235 in their second innings, setting India 236 to win in 78 overs remaining. For some godforsaken reason, they chose to bat slow and could score only 174 for the loss of 5 wickets. The match was drawn, but the series won. Deservingly, Dilip Vengsarkar was named the player of the Series. He certainly knew what to do with the champagne magnum he received as his prize! 😊

The effect Kapil had on this series was mind-boggling. No centuries, no five-fors, yet he would take the crucial one or two wickets, make vital 20s and 30s at crunch situations. With him showing complete confidence in close friend Vengsarkar, who could bat freely and score heavily (Avg. 90) in the series.

He also backed his bowlers well, and all of them responded with wickets and tight bowling spells. Kapil was a man who could infect the team with his vibrant vitality and immense energy to bring out the best in them. It was the hallmark of Kapil Dev. Having had to train himself on the docile Indian pitches, grounds devoid of grass, this big-hearted man didn’t give up. Instead, he always gave his best.

He played the game wholeheartedly, always stretching himself beyond limits, and inspiring his teammates to do the same. No wonder, he was as complete a captain as the cricketer he was. He may not have been a shrewd strategist, but the brave knight, for whom his army would move mountains to win. Kapil Dev is certainly an Icon of Indian cricket.

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 10. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

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Sanjeev Sathe
An explorer of life, a small time writer, nearly ex- cricketer, and a salesman by profession. Intellectually Backward. :) Cricket and Reading is in his lifeblood.

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 9

And we move towards the 9th part of the series From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England, the days get ‘Sunny’. Sunil Gavaskar is the greatest opening batsman of all times. In 1982, he was the best batsman in Test Cricket. In 1981, playing under him, India had beaten Keith Fletcher’s England 1-0 in the home test series. On this high note, Sunil Gavaskar took the Indian team to England in the English summer of 1982. However, Gavaskar must not have been very happy with the side given to him. His trusted opening ally, Chetan Chauhan was mysteriously dropped by the selection committee like a hot potato, in spite of having performed admirably in the Australia- New Zealand tour of 1981.

Sunil Gavaskar in action
Sunil Gavaskar in action

Gavaskar was given Ghulam Parkar who had a questionable technique against quick bowling, and a young Pranab Roy, whose dad Pankaj had opened for India with reasonable success in the past. Rest of the batting line up was alright, and with the days of glory of the famous quartet of spinners over, the responsibility was on Dilip Doshi, Shivlal Yadav and young Ravi Shastri. Madan Lal and Randhir Singh were selected to assist India’s prime all-rounder Kapil Dev with the new ball. Syed Kirmani was the wicket-keeper. The England team too was fairly depleted; as Boycott, Gooch and a few other players had earlier chosen to go on a tour to South Africa, and were banned from representing England at that time.

For the choice as the captain, there was no disputing of Gavaskar’s claims. He was by far the best equipped batsman to succeed in England, with his impregnable defensive technique, an ice cool temperament and immense powers of concentration. Besides, Sunny was never shy of giving it back to the Englishmen, as he showed before the first test at Lords. Earlier, when England had toured India in 1981-82, captain Keith Fletcher had objected to the standing of a few Indian umpires in test matches, and Gavaskar returned the favor by objecting to the appointment of David Constant to officiate in the Lord’s test. The TCCB gave in and Constant was replaced by Barry Meyer. Yet it was the first test of an England tour, and Indians kept the tradition alive by losing it.

England batted first and scored 433. The erratic Derek Randall scored 126 and Botham and Phil Edmunds scored 60s. Kapil Dev was the pick of Indian bowlers, taking 5 for 125. The fact that he bowled 43 overs out of the innings’ 148 would underline the pressure he would have to bear in the series, and the ineptitude of the other bowlers. Indian batting fell apart and they were skittled for 128, conceding a 305 run lead to England. Gavaskar (48) and Kapil (41) were only substantial contributions. India had no answer to the English seam attack. Botham took five for 46. England asked India to follow on.

When India was keeping the tradition of losing the first test in England alive, Dilip Vengsarkar was starting a new personal tradition of scoring centuries at Lord’s. He bettered his performance in 1979, and scored 157 runs in an innings which exuded courage and beauty. Yet, India was still 53 runs in arrears and half their side had fallen when Vengsarkar got out. In walked Nikhanj Kapil Dev. In those days, he knew only one way to bat. And he did just what he did the best. He scored a whirlwind 89 in only 55 balls, hitting 13 fours and 3 sixes, and took India 66 runs ahead of England. England got the required 67 runs to win losing three wickets, all of them to Kapil Dev. Though India had lost the test, Kapil Dev was named the player of the match for his all-round display. As is the English tradition, he got a magnum of champagne as a prize. Wonder what the teetotaler Kapil Dev would have done with that. 😊

The second test at Manchester turned out to be a nothing test, as rain washed out a major chunk of play, and not even two innings could be completed. England, batting first made 425, with both their openers crawling to their respective half centuries, then Botham coming and hitting 128 brutal runs, and Geoff miller unlucky to miss his hundred by two runs. Dilip Doshi took 6 wickets, Madan Lal 3 and Ravi Shastri 1. When India started their innings, they were quickly reduced to 25 for 3 by Derek Pringle and Bob Willis, and a collapse looked in the offing. However, Veteran Vishwanath (54) and night -watchman Syed Kirmani (58) steadied the ship and took India to 112.

Yashpal Sharma fell cheaply, and Sandeep Patil and Kapil Dev added 96, Kapil scoring 65 off 78 again in his characteristic fashion. Madan Lal added another 97 with Sandeep Patil, and Patil remained not out on 129. It was a memorable century for Sandeep Patil, as he hit Bob Willis for 6 fours in an over during the course of that innings. The skipper failed to make a big score, and with the entire fifth day of the match washed out, the match ended in a draw.

The third and the final test was played at the Oval, where in the last tour Gavaskar had nearly won the match for India, singlehandedly. However, there was no single-handed display by the captain this time. England batted first and posted a mammoth 594. Geoff Cook made an even 50, Allan Lamb 107, and Derek Randall 95. But the star of the innings was Ian Botham. He scored 208 off only 226 deliveries, hitting 19 fours and 4 sixes. It was entirely Botham’s day. Such was his luck, that he removed India’s most prized batsman when he was batting. A blistering cover drive off Doshi’s bowling hit towards Gavaskar, who was fielding at silly point with brutal force shattered Sunny’s shin. Gavaskar couldn’t take any further part in the match. He had single-handedly pulled India out of trouble on this ground in 1979 but had to leave the same ground in 1982 limping on a single leg.

In Gavaskar’s absence, Shastri and Vengsarkar opened the innings for India and though Vengsarkar fell early, Shastri, Vishwanath, Sandeep Patil all made half centuries, and Kirmani a typically gritty 43. Kapil Dev made a fiery 97 off only 93 deliveries, hitting 14 fours and 2 sixes. India replied with a formidable 410 in the first innings, and England had to bat again. They made 191/3 in their second innings, with Tavare making 75, and Gower and Lamb a brace of 45s. India were given an improbable target of 376 in 36 overs. This time India opened with Ravi Shastri and Suru Nayak. India made 111/3, out of which Gundappa Vishwanath made a sparkling 75. The match was drawn, and the series was lost 1-0.

Much has been written about Gavaskar as a player, as a person and about his game. Me trying to write on it would result in a mere repetition.But I would still like to make an observation.

Gavaskar versus England, in England is a curious case. He had all the wherewithal to succeed in the English conditions, in terms of technique, concentration, reflexes, and temperament, yet he couldn’t match his own high standards while playing England in England. Albeit, he played what he himself rates as his finest Innings (57 at Manchester in 1971), and arguably what the critics call his best innings (221 a The Oval in 1979) came in England, he only made 1152 of his overall 10122 runs in England. His average in England is a good 10 runs lower than his overall average of 41.12. He has scored only 2 out of his 34 hundreds in England (5.88%) where he played 16 out of his 125 tests (12.5%). Much that I am a fan of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, I must concede that he was a failure in English conditions.

However, this fact doesn’t devalue his contribution to the Indian Cricket, both in terms of runs, and psychology. In a country which lacked self-respect during Sunny’s playing days, it was he who exemplified standing tall against the opposition and giving it back to the opposition when the opposition cricketers used to dish out sledges and abuses to the meek Indian cricketers, both on and off the field. Till this pocket-sized rookie appeared in the West Indian tour of 1971-72, Indian batsmen had a world-wide reputation of being scared of fast bowling. By the time Gavaskar retired, tail-ender Shastri had become a regular opener, and even the likes of Shivlal Yadav and Madan Lal had developed courage to get behind the line of the ball when express bowlers were bowling. This might appear insignificant to the fans who have watched majority of their cricket in the new millennium. In today’s days of sledge-hammer sized bats and rules favoring batsmen, the fast bowlers look hapless more often than not. But back in the 70s and 80s, quick bowlers from West Indies, England, Australia and Pakistan invariably induced the fear of death in the minds of the batsmen then. There were no helmets then, use of chest guards and thigh guards was considered unmanly, and batsmen had to purely rely on their technique, reflexes and concentration for their own physical safety.

Gavaskar was never injured while batting. It was not that he was not capable of exhilarating stroke play. He has shown it in the 1983 Delhi test against the west Indian attack of Marshall, Holding, Roberts and Daniel, and again in the following Ahmedabad test, and again in the 1987 world cup match against New Zealand. But, for his entire career the Indian batting was hinged to him, and unless Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath came up with their sporadic special performances, it was he who had had to hold the innings together. I dare say, that if he would have been allowed the luxury to bat more freely in his career, he would definitely have ended with 13,000 runs and 40 test centuries. But that was not to be, and Sunil Manohar Gavaskar was destined to carry the burden of Indian batting on his 5’5” frame for 12 of his 16 years in international cricket. And how admirably did he do it !

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 9.Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

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Sanjeev Sathe
An explorer of life, a small time writer, nearly ex- cricketer, and a salesman by profession. Intellectually Backward. :) Cricket and Reading is in his lifeblood.

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 8

Moving on to part 8 of the series- From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England, its turn of the next Indian Skippers In England.
Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan has had the longest active cricket career. He debuted for Tamilnadu (Then Madras, as the team was called then) at the age of 18 in 1963. He represented the country in 57 Tests from 1965 to 1983, was captain in five Tests and the first two World Cup competitions, a manager who doubled as a coach on the tours of Australia in 1985-86 and West Indies in 1989, was secretary of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association from 1986 to 1989, a national selector in 1991-92, a regular and respected columnist for newspapers and magazines for many years, expert commentator for television for innumerable Tests and one-day internationals, ICC match referee in the 90s, and ICC panel umpire from 1993 till 2004.

S. Venkataraghavan- Former Captain, Match Refree, Umpire.
S. Venkataraghavan- Former Captain, Match Refree, Umpire.

He was a very stingy off-spinner, miserly yet penetrative, could bat when the situation demanded, was a live-wire fielder even in his late 30s, and was an astute student of the game. Maybe his engineering education had imbibed a constant pursuit of perfection and precision in him, and he expected the same from his team-mates. This was good for a cricketer individually, but it made him a very grumpy and short-tempered captain. He was always the fittest player in the team, and as a captain, expected the entire team to match up to his very high fitness standards. The portly Prasanna, beer-loving Vishwanath, and the reluctant Vengsarkar were not exactly comfortable with this.

After the 1978 home series against West Indies, Sunil Gavaskar was mysteriously removed from Captaincy and Venkat was appointed the captain for the Prudential World cup 1979 and the subsequent test match series against England in England. Venkat had earlier captained India in the inaugural 1975 world cup too. Indian Performance in 1979 world cup was similar to that in the 1971 world cup. Disappointing. The Indian team just hadn’t matured to play one day cricket till then. In the test series that followed, India fared much better.

Of course, they started with the customary heavy-first-test-loss in Edgbaston. England scored 633 for 5, riding on two centuries of polarly opposite natures. Geoff Boycott’s 155 was painstaking for the batsman himself, and painful for the spectators to watch, and David Gower’s 200 not out was one of the most beautiful innings one could ever see, laced with 24 delightfully effortless 4s. A budding batsman called Graham Gooch made 83. All the five wickets to fall were taken by the 20-year-old Kapil Dev at the cost of 146 runs, and Ghavri, Venkatraghavan, and Chandrashekhar all ended up wicketless and conceding more than 100 runs. Barring Kapil Dev, the rest of the bowling attack was rendered impotent by the English wickets, and this sorry state of affairs prevailed for most of the series. Indian first innings was worth 297 (Gavaskar 61, Vishwanath 78), and England promptly imposed follow on. In their second essay, India could muster up 253, with only Gavaskar (68) Chauhan (56) and Vishwanath (51) resisting. India lost by an innings and 83 runs. Ian Botham took 5 for 70 and began a dream series for himself.

In the second test, the Lord’s wicket continued its angry spell on Indians. India were shot out for 96, and only Gavaskar (42) made a substantial score. Ian Botham took his second five-for (5/35). England made 419/9. Gower (82), Miller (62), Randall (57) and Bob Taylor (64) being the mainstays of batting. India was again staring at a huge Lords defeat, but the epic courageous display by the two most stylish Indian batsmen Vishwanath (112) and Vengsarkar (102) denied England the victory. These were the second and third hundreds scored at Lords by Indians after Vinoo Mankad had scored 184 27 years before. Gavaskar made 59. Gavaskar had made good scores in all the innings in the series so far, yet had failed to convert them into a big one. It might be an awesome display for an average player but was way below Sunny’s own lofty standards. He was the best opening batsman in the period and would deal in hundreds. However, the hundreds were just not coming. But it was a most honorable draw secured by Indians, nevertheless.

The third test began at Leeds, and Botham spanked a blistering 137 in 152 balls in England’s modest total of 270. India responded with 226 for 6 riding on Gavaskar’s one more non-hundred score of 78, Dilip Vengsarkar’s unbeaten 65 and Yashpal Sharma’s gritty 40. The match was very interestingly poised, and heavy rains washed out any possibility of further play.

India had to win at Oval in the fourth and final test to avoid losing the test series. Much was at stake. England elected to bat first and scored a respectable 305, Gooch and Peter Willey scored fifties. The captain, for once took 3 for 59, and Kapil Dev took 3. India, in reply, were all out for 202, only Vishwanath (62) and Yajurvendra Singh (43) offering resistance. India had conceded a lead of 103 runs in the must-win game. The probability of Indian victory now was next to nothing. England pounced on this and scored 334 more runs at the loss of eight wickets. Geoffery Boycott presented another insomniac’s delight by scoring 125 runs in 7 hours. David Bairstow (Jonny’s dad) scored 59. India was to score a small matter of 438 runs in four and a half sessions to win the match and square the series. What followed was an incredibly astonishing display of the greatness of one single man. Sunil Manohar Gavaskar.

India began their innings with an intention to bat out the four and a half sessions of the match to at least salvage a draw. That was the best they could do with their backs to the wall. By the end of the fourth day, India hadn’t lost a wicket and posted 76 on the board. Both Gavaskar (42) and his most trusted opening partner, Chetan Chauhan (32) off to a decent start. On the fifth and the final day, yours truly, an eight-year-old but fast succumbing to the beautiful addiction of cricket was following the commentary on radio BBC. To me then anything that Gavaskar did was divine and had to be imitated. The memory of listening to the commentary and with a bat in hand trying to essay the shots described is one of my most cherished memories.

Gavaskar and Chauhan stayed together till the scoreboard read 213, and Chauhan, sticking to his habit of missing out on 100s, got out on 80. Gavaskar was joined by Dilip Vengsarkar, and the two took the score to 366, 72 runs away from victory and Vengsarkar fell to Edmonds, scoring 52. Gavaskar was going strong at the other end. And here, Venkat made a tactical error which cost India the win, if not the match. He changed the batting order, suddenly sending Kapil Dev in the place of the in-form Vishwanath, who had top-scored in the first innings. Kapil Dev was immediately removed by Willey and had failed to score. Still no Vishwanath. Yashpal Sharma came in, and looked to hold on the other end, but consumed valuable time in scoring 19 of 47 minutes. In the meantime, Botham, Gavaskar’s closest friend, and fiercest foe was introduced in the attack, and as he warmed up, Gavaskar called for water. I feel this was a grave error Gavaskar made. His innings was always built on concentration, and the distraction of taking a drink in the innings at such a critical gesture proved fatal, and in Botham’s first over of the spell, Gavaskar on-drove a half-volley uppishly straight in the hands of David Gower at Mid-on. India 389-4.

Finally, Vishwanath walked in to replace his brother in law. He gave it his all, scored 15 off 13 balls, but fell to Willey. India 410-5. Yajurvendra Singh, the last of the recognized Indian batsmen, walked in and walked out, scoring a solitary run. The captain tried throwing his bat around but was run out for 6 made in 4 balls, India were tottering at 419 for 7. After 4 runs were scored, Yashpal, who was holding one end up fell trying to up the ante, and India were 423 for 8. All Ghavri and Bharat Reddy could then do was to play out the rest of the overs, ensuring that India doesn’t lose. Winning was out of the question; so close, yet so far. What would have been a heroic win and a feather in the cap of Venkat, turned out to be a disgrace for him. Venkat was unceremoniously removed from captaincy and replaced by Gavaskar. The pilot of the aircraft carrying the Indian team back to Bombay from England made this announcement in the plane. How inappropriate! But that’s the Indian Cricket fan-hood for you.

Yet Venkat wasn’t the one to easily give up. He persisted, made a comeback in 1982-83, played for that entire season, and retired from playing cricket, yet didn’t retire from cricket. His stints as an administrator, Match referee, and Umpire speak volumes about his commitment to the noble game. Venkat’s cricket credentials stretch over a period of 40 years ­. Has any other cricketer in the game anywhere in the world and at any time during the last 141 years of international cricket run up a resume even half as varied and impressive?

All this can be achieved only by a man who thinks deeply about the game, is passionate about it, and is able to analyze issues objectively. Venkat’s transition from player and captain to match referee and umpire was quite natural. As a player and then as captain, he was always interested in the cerebral aspects of the game, and he made a close and careful study of the laws. He was a sound leader not only tactically, but also technically. Indeed, in the days when he was captain, I frequently saw Venkat pull up the umpires on a point of law! With this background, his taking to full-time umpiring did not come as a surprise, but few would have expected him to emerge as one of the leading officials in the world.

But then, for Venkat, there are no half measures. His attitude has always been that anything worth doing is worth doing not just well but very well. Of course, the initial study of the laws and the interest in the technical aspects of the game did come in handy, but Venkat also brought the stamp of authority to a rather lackluster job. He had played the game at the highest level for many years and had led his country. No other umpire in the history of international cricket could boast of these credentials, leading players to respect Venkat’s decisions ­ something that today’s cricketers do not always do.

However, I haven’t seen any of the current cricketers caring to consult Venkat about anything. Strange. But our Cricketers are demigods. They need no Gurus.

But Venkat is still well and truly around, and accessible. It would only take the Indian cricketers to get rid of their IPL-inflated egos to reach out to this reservoir of immense cricketing knowledge and acumen. Hope the day arrives soon. Venkat is 73 now.

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 8. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

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Sanjeev Sathe
An explorer of life, a small time writer, nearly ex- cricketer, and a salesman by profession. Intellectually Backward. :) Cricket and Reading is in his lifeblood.

Kapil Dev da jawab nahi!

Born on 6th of January 1959 in a humble timber merchants family on the outskirts of Chandigarh, coached by an (then) unknown Desh Prem Azad, a career spanning 17 years from 1978 to 1994 amassing in 131 tests 5248 runs with 8 centuries, highest of 163 and 434 wickets in tests; becoming the highest wicket taker in the world at that time, still the only cricketer in the world to complete the double of 5000+ runs and 400+ wickets- we are talking about none other than our very own Living Legend- Kapil Dev Nikhanj.

Kapil Dev
Kapil Dev lifting the most coveted Prudential World Cup- 1983

In the career spanning across 225 ODI’s, Kapil scored 3783 runs, and 253 wickets. But his most important innings – the one that really mattered was played on the 18th of June 1983 -the 175 run innings. It was and still is the most striking and outstanding innings in our memories. It was a hot sultry Saturday afternoon in Bombay. I was at work trying to wrap up all my work early, so that I could leisurely listen to India play Zimbabwe, at a small unheard-of country ground in England: The Nevill ground in the village of Tunbridge Wells.It was the 3rd edition of the cricket world cup. The Prudential World Cup 1983.

India’s record at the 1st and 2nd World Cups in 1975 and 1979 had been so dismal and pathetic, that we- the fans, BCCI and even the only possible broadcaster then, Doordharshan- had zero expectations from our team. Only the finals on the 25th June were scheduled to be shown live. But we were getting live, ball by ball, radio commentary. However, this Indian team surprised us. Lead by a newly appointed captain in Kapil Dev, they beat the might West Indies In their 1st round match, lost to Australia, beat Zimbabwe, lost to the West Indies In the 2nd round. And then won against Australia. And suddenly we were with a real chance to qualify if we won this 20th match of this World Cup against a lowly Zimbabwe.

A friend of mine, Giresh joined me, as full of pleasant anticipation, we tuned the radio on to BBC , expecting an easy victory.
India batted 1st. And started disastrously. In no time Gavaskar was out 0-1, Shrikant followed 6-2, as did Mohinder Amarnath 6-3. It only got worse as Sandeep Patil was out 9-4 and then Yashpal too left 17-5. By now the alarm bells were ringing. Disheartened, frustrated and angry, I chased Giresh out of my office, switched off the radio and resumed work.

And so, I missed out hearing live, the epic and iconic, 175 runs, Kapil Dev century. By the time Giresh called me to tell me India was past 200, and I switched the radio back on, Kapil Dev had gone on to hit a ton and catapulted himself into the annals of history. The legend of Kapil Dev was born on this day.That he marshaled his troops so well and India won the World Cup is now a part of historic lore. His words to his team mates- ” only 11 can play” have now gone down in history, as have his instructions to Balwinder Singh Sandhu to bowl only out swingers;luckily the Sardarji disregarded this and bowled Greenidge with an in swinger. The most abiding memory is his catching Richards off Madanlal in the finals.

Kapil’s 1st tour was to Pakistan in 1978 as a raw teenage pace bowler. He showed a lot of promise and went from strength to strength, cementing a permanent place in the team as an all-rounder. He has many matches for India, both with the ball and the bat. In 1991 he took a ‘fiver’ to beat Australia, in their den. His 9 for 81 in Ahmadabad, albeit in a losing cause against the West Indies was a lion-hearted effort. As was his hitting Embury for 4 consecutive 6er’s in England to save a follow on.
He also led India to a test series victory in 1986 in England.

The trip to Australia in 1993 was to be his swan song but he bowled his heart out there finishing as the leading wicket taker form both sides with 26 victims, going past 400 career wickets. It took him to within sight of Sir Richard Hadley’s world record of 431 test wickets. He retired immediately on making this record his own- 432 test wickets, having served his country for 16 long years and having played 132 tests and numerous ODI’s.

My admiration for this humble but great legend doubled when I witnessed his gesture of consoling Dilip Vengsarkar after he led Haryana to a narrow 2 run win against Mumbai in a Ranji final. A living Legend!

Hope you liked revisiting the memory lane of the Prudential World Cup 1983. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

A special thanks to Hemant Sood for contributing his wonderful piece of article. In his own words, as he likes to be introduced- वेला बंदा is a retired businessman.But surely he is surely a busy man. An avid cricket fan, and an encyclopedia of Cricketing Knowledge, Hemant is a very welcome addition to Shamsnwags writing panel. Hemant has been following and living cricket since his childhood and has carried the passion to his second childhood uninterrupted.

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ShamsnWags
We - Saurabh Sharma aka Shams and Paresh Waghela aka Wags are super enthusiastic and die hard cricket fans. Sharing our take on cricket matches, players comes with a lot of passion. We eat, drink and sleep cricket.

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 7

We are back after a small break. From Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi in From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 6, we move on to the next captain- Ajit Wadekar a god’s gift to Indian Cricket. Wadekar was the precious possession Indian cricket chucked away with its brash arrogance. Sad that his story is all but summed up in these two sentences.

The Indian Cricket team left for England in 1971 with the most upbeat mindset, as compared to the Indian teams that had toured United Kingdom previously. Fresh from a series win over Gary Sobers’ mighty West Indians (albeit against a depleted bowling attack), India had batsmen who could score big and bat long periods overseas in Gavaskar and Sardesai, the artistry of Vishwanath was at their disposal, and with a string of bits and pieces allrounders in Abid Ali and Solkar, quality spinners in Chandrashekhar, Bedi, Prasanna and Venkatraghavan, an express bowler Govindraj and a Farrokh Engineer who can be called an ancestor to dashing wicketkeeper batsmen like Kaluwitharana, Adam Gilchrist, Brendon Mc Cullum and our own Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ajit Wadekar
Ajit Wadekar
Engineer, Bedi and Venkat had been playing county cricket regularly for 3 seasons from 1968, when the English board allowed overseas players to play for counties. More importantly, the squad never appeared to be complacent, because the English team had Boycott, Fletcher, Edrich, who were supreme batsmen, a world class all-rounder in Basil D’ Olivera, the world’s greatest wicketkeeper in the eccentric Alan Knott, who was no mean batsman, and a fierce bowling attack comprising of John Snow, Peter Lever, Norman Gifford, Dereck Underwood, and the captain Raymond Illingworth, a shrewd bowler, useful batsman, and the best cricket brain in business. It was going to be a closely fought series, and so it turned out to beThe background of Wadekar’s appointment is curious too. He was a moderately successful batsman before the 1971 tour of the West Indies with many other players in the team faring better than him, yet Vijay Merchant, the Chairman of the Selection Committee had vetoed his name in place of the charismatic MAK Pataudi. It was a bold decision and Merchant was criticized of favoring the fellow Bombayite Ajit Wadekar. However, the uproar had died down after the team recorded India’s first series victory in the West Indies. The unassuming “khadoos” attitude of Wadekar was needed to marshal the resources the team had, and Wadekar showed that he fit the job like a hand in the glove.

Wadekar grew up in the Mumbai maidans where even tennis ball cricket is played with only one motive. To win. He was aspiring to be an engineer, and a chance meeting in a BEST bus with Baloo Gupte made him into a cricketer. A languid graceful left-handed stroke-maker, Wadekar could stonewall equally effectively. He was a part of the Mumbai Squad who won the Ranji trophy 15 times on the trot from 1958 to 1971. He had played a pivotal role in India’s first overseas test win against New Zealand scoring 80 and 71 in the test. He captained India to their first overseas series win. Wadekar certainly knew how to win.

Out of the first eight matches against the county teams, India had won 5 out of which four were successive wins. The Morale was certainly puffed up, and the England team felt the heat in the first test at Lords. England’s first essay counted for 304 runs, the top scorer strangely, being their premier bowler John Snow (73). Bedi was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets. India fared only slightly better, mustering up 313 in their first Innings. The captain top-scored with 85, Vishwanath made a sparkling 68 and Solkar a dogged 67. England fared even worse in the second innings, and on a deteriorating pitch, they crumbled to 191 against Bedi, Venkat and Chandra. Only Edrich batted well for 62.

India were to chase 183 to win, which could have been their first test match win at the Lords. But the occasion had to wait for another fifteen years. Apart from a fighting 53 by the prodigal Sunil Gavaskar, there was no substantial resistance shown, and in the end Solkar and Venkatraghavan had to hang on by the skin of their teeth to ensure that the match was not lost. Rain came to the rescue too. When we think of this innings, it is a case of “what might have been…” Both Solkar and Venkatraghavan were no mugs with the bat and who knows, they might as well have scored the required 38 runs for the win. But the elusive win had to wait for a few more days. This was the first occasion where India had not lost the first test of a series in England against England.

But any pretense of complacency which might have creeped in due to the performance at Lords was quickly wiped out in the second test at Manchester. England were rocked by Abid Ali’s opening spell and stuttered at 4 for 25 yet posted 386 in the first innings riding on a captain’s knock of107 by Ray Illingworth and 78 by debutante John Jameson. With the Manchester pitch and weather known to have mood swings comparable to any self-obsessed film star, this was a mammoth total. India could make only 212 in reply and suffered a deficit of 174 runs. Gavaskar scored 57, which the little master himself rates as his best knock. Solkar made 50. No other batsman resisted the English attack. Peter Lever on his home ground broke the backbone of the Indian batting taking 5 wickets. In the second innings England rattled 245 for 3, Lackhurst making 101 and John Edrich 59. India were given a target of 420 runs to win. India batted for 27 overs scoring 65 for the loss of 3 wickets on the fourth day. The fifth day was washed out, and the match ended in a draw.

With two tests played in the series and each of the team having dominated one, Wadekar now started feeling the pressure of the over-expectant Indian public. His decisions of not including seamer Govindraj and Erapalli Prasanna (Whom Gary Sobers had rated to be the best off-spinner in the game) in the playing eleven was criticised. Wadekar had opted for Abid Ali owing to his ability to swing the cricket ball, and the portly Prasanna’s claims were outweighed by Venkat being better with the bat, a much fit and agile fielder and familiar with the English conditions.

Wadekar and India had much to prove in the final test at the Oval.The team had to utilize their vast reservoirs of resilience and be aggressive when the opportunity would present itself to grab it. And they did just that. Illingworth won the toss, England batted first and scored 355. Knott made 90, Jameson made 82, and Richard Hutton, justifying being the son of papa Len, made 81. Solkar’s medium pace brought 3 wickets and the rest were shared by Chandra, Bedi and Venkat. India replied with 284, Wadekar and Solkar making useful forties, and Sardesai and Engineer making 50s. India trailed by 71 runs.

England begin their second innings, and Jameson was run out with a freak throw from Chandra when the score was at 21. Wadekar called in Chandra to bowl. The medium pace of Abid and Solkar was largely proving ineffective, yet the ball was new, and hence Wadekar may have preferred Chandra’s fastish leg breaks (like Anil Kumble’s) over the finger spin of Bedi and Venkat. Chandra immediately obliged by castling the stumps of John Edrich and having Fletcher caught by Solkar, both not allowed to score. The wickets of D’Olivera, Knott, Hutton and Illingworth fell around Lackhurst, and eventually he too fell to Chandra scoring 33. Hutton and Snow threw their bats around and England barely managed to get to three figures, folding up for 101. Chandra’s 6 for 38 would be written in letters of gold in the history of Indian cricket, Venkat took two wickets, and Bedi had one.

India needed 173 to win. Doable, yet easier said than done. The ruthless professional Englishmen won’t give up easily. Snow bowled Gavaskar for a duck and fellow opener Mankad’s wicket followed quickly. Then the two Senior Pros, the “khadoosest” of Mumbai batsmen Sardesai and Captain Wadekar got together and took the score to 76, when Wadakar was run out for 45.

Jitters !!!

Then came the tiny Vishwanath to join the Burly Sardesai (Rajdeep’s papa) and the two added another 48 runs before Sardesai fell with the score at 124. India yet had to get 49 more, but Eknath Solkar, who had inevitably scored useful runs when the batting seemed wobbling on the tour, chose the most wrong moment to fail. He scratched around for 16 balls, scored a solitary run and was snared in the standard Underwood’s trap. Caught and bowled Underwood. In walked the Brylcream boy of Indian cricket, the debonair Farrokh Engineer. Along with Vishwanath, he took the score within 3 runs of victory, and Vishy fell for 33. In came Abid Ali, played 3 balls watchfully, smashed the fourth one for four, and won India the match and the series.
Wadekar’s Indians had tamed the English lions right in their den. Things were changing. Having beaten the West Indies and England, the best teams of the time in two successive series, Wadekar had turned the often written off Indian Cricket team to a fighting unit. A famous Victory bat was erected in Indore by fans to commemorate this victory. Wadekar was to repeat the feat in the following home series in 1972-3, when India beat England 2-1 in a five-match series.

With these two series wins under his belt, Wadekar again led the Indian team to England in 1974. However, things would be much different this time around. In order to accommodate two series in the season, against Pakistan and India, the English season was extended to August and India was to play it’s matches in one of the coldest and wettest English summer. Hardly cricketing conditions, yet the Englishmen were more adept at playing in these conditions. Old Pro Dilip Sardesai had retired. Wadekar had requested Tiger Pataudi to play, but he had declined.

England too were far from merry. They had been drubbed the previous summer by a resurgent West Indies and then outplayed in a return series in the Caribbean, from which they had emerged with an unlikely draw. What’s more, Mike Denness, appointed as England captain for that tour, was a far from unanimous choice and he had been under immense media pressure from day one.

The old custom of India losing first test on an England tour was restored as India lost to England by 113 runs. England batted first, made 328 for 9 (Fletcher 128) and declared their innings closed. In reply, India made 246, Gavaskar scoring a flawless 101 and Abid Ali made 71. England extended their 82 runs lead by a further 213 batting again( John Edrich 100), setting India 296 to win. Indian second innings was thrown into a disarray by England’s pace bowlers and they were all out for 182. Gavaskar made 58 and Vishwanath made 50, but it wasn’t enough.

Riding high, England scored 629 in the first innings of the second test at Lords. Dennis Amiss made 188, Captain Mike Denness made 118, Tony Greig 106 and John Edrich made 96. With Bedi tossing up the ball in a “no matter what” fashion, the English batsmen made merry. Bedi returned with 6 wickets, conceding a small matter of 226 runs. India replied with 302, Engineer making a swashbuckling 86, Vishwanath 52, and Gavaskar and Solkar getting useful 40s. India were asked to follow on and they followed on disastrously. They were shot out for 42 in 17 overs. Solkar (18 not out) was the top scorer. Wickets were shared by Chris Old (5) and Geoff Arnold (4). Bhagwat Chandrashekhar had injured his thumb and did not come in to bat in the second dig. Not that it would have made much of a difference.

Indian cricket had hit a new low. The summer of 1974 came to be known as the Summer of 42, a blot on the name of Indian Cricket. The team morale was shattered, and so was the unity. Defeats are orphans, Success has many fathers. The very people who had heaped praise on Wadekar, were now calling for his head. The Victory bat erected in Indore in 1971 was painted black and subsequently destroyed by angry fans. Wadekar was lonely. The footmarks of the earlier victories seemed to be washing away by waves of disaster. But he had to stand.

Off the field there was a lack of unity. The squad became involved in a public row when they were told they would not be admitted for arriving late at an Indian High Commission reception. Opener Sudhir Naik was arrested for shoplifting. The charge was then proved to be wrong. The team was in shambles, both on and off the field.

India began the third test at Birmingham on this background. They were put in to bat, and on the first ball of the match Gavaskar was removed by Geoff Arnold. India somehow tottered to 5 for 115, then Farrokh Engineer took over, scored 64 not out and India made 165 in the first innings. England replied with 459 for 2. Amiss made 79, Mike Denness helped himself to yet another 100, Fletcher made 51, and David (Bumble) Lloyd made 214. Bedi took 1 for 152 and Prasanna 1 for 101. India made 216 in the second innings. Sudhir Naik, putting the earlier humiliating incident behind him scored a valiant 77. Ashok Mankad made 43 and Engineer 33. India lost by an innings and 78 runs and took the series 3-0. The final nail was hammered into Wadekar’s coffin.

Wadekar was voraciously criticized by the Indian media, and promptly dumped by the selection committee headed by C D Gopinath. The most victorious captain of the Indian cricket team had no place in the Duleep and Irani trophy by the end of the season. The hurt Wadekar announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. He concentrated on his banking career and retired as a very high ranked officer from State bank of India. But he returned to his first love post retirement, and went on to coach the Indian team, and tried to instill discipline in the team successfully.

Despite the tragic end to his playing days, Wadekar will always be remembered as the Captain who taught Indian cricket team to win.

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 7.Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

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Sanjeev Sathe
An explorer of life, a small time writer, nearly ex- cricketer, and a salesman by profession. Intellectually Backward. :) Cricket and Reading is in his lifeblood.

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