Category Archives: Cricket

Vintage 11 Part 1- Syed Mushtaq Ali

सईद मुश्ताक़ अली :
भारत की घरेलु T20 प्रतियोगिता सय्यद मुश्ताक़ अली ट्रॉफी के लिए खेली जाती है। BCCI के द्वारा इस तेज़ तर्रार क्रिकेटर का यह अत्यंत उचित गौरव है।

१९९९ में विरेन्द्र सहवाग के आने के पहले, मुश्ताक़ अली ऐसे बल्लेबाज़ थे, जो गेंदबाज़ को नहीं, गेंद को खेलते थे। गेंदबाज़ की लय को बिगाड़ने के लिए मुश्ताक़ अली क्रीज़ में इतना ज्यादा हिलते डुलते थे, कि उनको गेंद करते वक़्त गेंद की लाइन, लेंग्थ और टप्पा कहाँ रखना है, गेंदबाज़ बड़ी दुविधा में रहते थे! कभी कभी तो मुश्ताक़ चलते चलते आधे पिच तक गेंदबाज़ के रन अप में होते वक़्त ही चले जाते थे।अपनी आक्रमक बल्लेबाज़ी से वे गेंदबाज़ पर पहली गेंद से ही हावी रहते थे। विजय मर्चंट के साथ उनकी सलामी जोड़ी खूब जमी!भारत के लिए देश के बाहर टेस्ट शतक बनानेवाले मुश्ताक़ पहले खिलाड़ी थे।

मर्यादित ओवेरों के क्रिकेट के लिए इनकी बल्लेबाज़ी की शैली बिलकुल फिट थी। १९३६ में ओल्ड ट्रैफर्ड टेस्ट में दिन के आखरी सत्र में उन का प्रदर्शन देखकर नेविल कार्ड्स ने कहा था, “उन के हाथों में बात जादू की छड़ी की तरह लगता है। कीथ मिलर उन्हें भारतीय क्रिकेट का एरोल फ्लिन कहते थे। मुश्ताक़ अली ने ११ टेस्टों में ३२.२१ की औसत से ६२२ रन बनाये, जिस में दो शतक शामिल थे। दुसरे विश्वयुद्ध के कारण उन के क्रिकेट करियर के बहुमूल्य ७ साल खोने पड़े, और १९४७-४८ के ऑस्ट्रेलिया दौरे पर वे अपने भाई की मौत के कारण न जा सके। वर्ना उन के आंकड़े इस से भी सशक्त होते। मेरे विंटेज एलेवेन के सलामी बल्लेबाज़ का स्थान का हकदार सय्यद मुश्ताक़ अली के सिवा कोई नहीं हो सकता।

Syed Mushtaq Ali
Vintage- Syed Mushtaq Ali
कट, ड्राइव, पुल, हूक सारे स्ट्रोक्स मुश्ताक़ अली बड़ी सहजता से खेलते थे। विकेट पर वे टिक जाते, तो दर्शक उनकी आकर्षक बल्लेबाजी के कायल हो जाते! पेंटाग्युलर, रणजी, दुलीप ट्रॉफी, सारे घरेलू मैचों में अगर मुश्ताक़ अली खेलने वाले हो, तो स्टेडियम दर्शकों से भर जाते! वे बड़ी ही तेज गति से रन बनाते थे, और आकर्षक ढंग से खेलते। १९३६ की उस मशहूर शतकीय पारी के दौरान जब मुश्ताक़ अली ९० पार कर गए, तब इंग्लैंड के वाल्टर हैमंड ने उनके सावधानता से बल्लेबाज़ी करने को कहा, ताकि वे शतक पूरा करने के पहले आउट न हो जाए। मुश्ताक़ ने उस के तुरंत बाद वाले गेंदों पर दो चौके जड़ दिए और शतक पार कर लिए! मुश्ताक़ ऐसे बल्लेबाज़ थे। डर उनसे डरकर दूर ही रहता थे।

RR vs Kings XI Punjab Dream11 team – IPL 2019

With three games down during weekend six teams have played one game each so far and the focus now shift to remaining two franchise – Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.

Rajasthan Royals Vs Kings XI Punjab
Rajasthan Royals Vs Kings XI Punjab

Pink city is all ready to roll red carpet for Match 4 of IPL 2019 where IPL’ first champion and home team RR takes on Kings XI Punjab.
Both sides have all the right balance of players from batsmen to bowlers and handy all-rounders.
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Rajasthan Royals Possible XI: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi K Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni/Varun Aaron
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Kings XI Punjab Possible XI: Chris Gayle, KL Rahul (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Nicholas Pooran, Mandeep Singh, R Ashwin (c), Sam Curran, Ankit Rajpoot/Varun Chakravarthy, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
X Factor: None other than Steven Smith who will enter field with all focus and cameras trained on him.
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ShamsnWags Dream11 team
J Buttler, Chris Gayle, Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Mayank Agarwal, B Stokes, R Ashwin, Sam Curran, J Archer, M Shami, Mujeeb UR Rahman
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Captain Choice: From Josh Buttler, Steven Smith, Chris Gayle

Vice-Captain: From B Stokes, Mayank Agarwal, J Archer

Toss Win: R Ashwin from Kings XI Punjab

Keep Playing…Keep Reading

Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Capitals Dream11 team – IPL 2019

If you are a true Mumbaikar, there would be two familiar sounds that would pass your ears while crossing Marine Lines station – local train’s horn and ‘Mumbaaaaiiiiii’ ‘Mumbaaaiii’
It’s that time of the year when Wankhede goes blue in color and decibel meter alarming as fans cheer loud for the start of IPL match.

Mumbai Indians Vs Delhi Capitals
Mumbai Indians Vs Delhi Capitals

Game 3 of IPL 2019 will have Mumbai Indians or MI famously known taking on rebranded Delhi Capitals at home of Mumbai Cricket – Wankhede Stadium.

While MI is always strong at home ground it’s the quest of playing best XI as the team has all firepower both on field playing ones and bench strength. Delhi Capitals on the other hand will regroup with a new name and cricket brains (Ponting, Dada) and will try to achieve better result in this year edition.

MI look more formidable side with all possible balance. Their batting will revolve around captain Rohit who has announced opening followed by Evin Lewis, Surya Kumar Yadav, Pandya Brothers and Caribbean star Pollard. Interesting to see if De Cock will be in playing XI which will make Evin Lewis sit out.
Bowling too is concrete with Bumrah leading pace attack with McClenaghan, Cutting and Pandya brothers all rounder duties.

Delhi Capitals on other hand rely on power hitter and young blood Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and captain Shreyas Iyer in sublime form in recent Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 championship. They have destructive openers in Colin Munro and Shikhar Dhawan.
DC bowling looks pretty decent as well with Nepalese star Lamichhane delivering magical spells supported by veteran Amit Mishra, Fast & Furious Trent Bolt and seasoned Delhi boy Ishant Sharma.
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MI possible XI: Rohit Sharma (c),Quinton de Kock/Evin Lewis, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan (wk), Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Ben Cutting, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mayank Markande, Jasprit Bumrah
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Delhi Capitals possible XI: Colin Munro, Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (c), Colin Ingram, Rishabh Pant (wk), Axar Patel, Sandeep Lamichhane, Kagiso Rabada/Trent Boult, Avesh Khan/Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma
Spotlight: The go to man of Indian Cricket “Yuvraj Singh” as MI will have to brainstorm all possible combination for him to be in playing XI
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ShamsnWags Dream11 team
Rohit Sharma, Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Colin Munro, Evin Lewis, Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Sandeep Lamichhane, Trent Boult, McClenaghan

Captain choice: Rohit, Dhawan, Pant, Bumrah

Vice-Captain choice: Shreyas Iyer, Krunal Pandya, Sandeep Lamichhane
Toss win prediction: Rohit Sharma MI captain

Keep Playing..Keep Reading

KKR vs SRH Dream11 team – IPL 2019

The cricket crazy Kolkatans have been deprived of watching star studded cricketing action for over 4 months now. Last one (Nov 4 2018 India vs WI T20) being a lackluster where it was low score of 109 posted by Windies team.

KKR Vs SRH
KKR Vs SRH

Today they’ll break their fast with Match 2 of IPL 2019 see KKR take on last year runner up Sunrisers Hyderabad at Mecca of Indian cricket ‘The Eden Garden’

While KKR team will get huge cheer for their stars – Sunil Narine, Russel, Chris Lyn, Robin Uthappa and wicket keeper skipper Dinesh Karthik and Kuldeep Yadav and young gun Shubhman Gill,
Sunrisers will also hope to have applauds for local boy Wridhiman Saha and powerhouse performers like Warner, Williamson as captain, Magical Spinner Rashid, Bhuvi and Vijay Shankar

Spotlight: It will all be on David Warner for sure who is making a comeback to his successful franchise. Expect some high voltage performance from this southpaw.

Pitch: Eden always has good batting pitch with support to spinners. Being a day game, it will be a good contest to watch with both Bat and Ball having balance on match result.
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KKR possible XI: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Shubhman Gill, Dinesh Karthik(C&WK), Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Brathwaithe/Lockie Ferguson, Kuldeep Yadav and Prasidh.
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SRH possible XI: Warner, Saha(WK), Williamson, Manish Pandey, Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Vijay Shankar, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar, S Kaul and Sandeep Sharma/Khaleel Ahmed.
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ShamsnWags Dream11 team
Warner, Williamson, Chris Lynn, Yusuf Pathan, S Narine,Vijay Shankar, Saha (wk), Rashid, Bhuvi, Kuldeep, Braithwaite/Lockie Ferguson
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Captain choice: From Warner, Narine, Kuldeep

Vice-Captain choice: From Rashid, Saha, Vijay Shankar

Toss Win prediction: Williamson captain SRH

Happy Playing..Keep Reading.

CSK vs RCB- Dream11 team – IPL 2019

CSK Vs RCB
Captain Cool Vs Captain Aggressive!

While ‘Falgun’ month is on with colors all around its that time of the year every cricket fan in any corner of the country cheer loud and wait for biggest league carnival to kick start.

Match 1 of IPL 2019 will see defending champions CSK take on RCB at their home in Chepauk. It’s the clash of the Titans with two giant captains MSD and King Kohli march their teams to achieve opening match glory. With a batting paradise pitch expect this one to be a high scoring match.
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RCB probable XI: Moeen Ali, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Shimron Hetmyer, Shivam Dubey, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Mohammed Siraj.
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CSK probable XI: Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (c), Sam Billings, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir, Mohit Sharma, Deepak Chahar.
———————————————————————————————–: ShamsnWags Dream11: MS Dhoni (wk) Virat Kohli, AB DVilliers, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Shimron Hetmeyer, Dwayne Bravo, Moeen Ali, Imran Tahir, Tim Southee, Mohit Sharma
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Captain choice: Choose from MSD, Virat, Shane Watson
VC choice: Choose from Ambati Rayudu, Imran Tahir, AB dVilliers, Tim Southee

Toss win prediction: MS Dhoni of CSK

Let’s see who draw first blood. All the best everyone…keep reading…keep playing

The Taste Of A Test!

Gosht Nihari is one of the best Dishes I have ever eaten. It is cooked over a painfully long time. The aromas keep tempting you, You nearly get frustrated many times and are about to eat it prematurely and find it under-cooked, or at times you are so pissed off with the idea of waiting, that you give up the idea of having the dish at all. But the cook doesn’t give in to your demands and cribbing until the dish is perfectly cooked. And when it is finally cooked, and served, only then does one realise, that the wait was worth it!

Close-in Fielders!
Close-in Fielders!
The Ongoing Adelaide test match reminds me of eating Nihari.
It is a complete, delicious package. Unfolded like a saga. For an Indian 48-year-old fan, it is not very uncommon to get up early in the morning to watch a game played in Australia with great hope, and just by the time you get ready to go to work, the hopes evaporating like a drop of water on a hot dosa plate. The start to this match was no different. Indian Openers, and captain were back in the hut in no time, the so-called dependability of Ajinkya had failed him once again as it has done frequently in this season, and India looked to be staring into the defeat in the very first session of the test match. But Cheteshwar Pujara cooked a good Nihari.

He threw in the first ingredient of patience early on in the innings, added an impenetrable concentration to it, and wore down the Aussies at one end.He did not succumb to the pressure of the consumers’ expectations, and cooked his dish delectably well. Ashwin, resolutely stood for his twenty-five runs, and Rohit and Pant played two cameos which were irresponsible to say the least, yet contributed a valuable 62 runs between them which, while looking at the equation of the match appear more precious than they did on the first day. Yet Pujara stood out. He is head and shoulders above many poster-boys of Indian cricket when it comes to playing test cricket. When all the other front-line batsmen were lured into the same trap of undulating deliveries of fast bowlers outside the off-stump like a bear to honeycomb, Pujara left them alone like a celibate sage. He had unwavering concentration, and yet he was very much in the game to pounce on the very few scoring opportunities offered by the disciplined Australian attack.

Though it may have looked audacious bordering on the frenzy of madness, his up and over square cuts played when he was in his 90s were a perfectly calculated risk, The Square boundaries on the Adelaide Oval are short, and once connected, the ball is sure to have carried over the ropes. Pujara was the rock of Gibraltar. Immovable. Very patiently, he had moved in to his nineties, and he had changed gears once Ashwin fell. He was aware of the Indian lower order’s incapability of resist and hang in there, and so had to accumulate runs quickly. He did it but didn’t look as if he’d lose his wicket playing these strokes. He had analysed and memorised the bowling attack and the behavior of the wicket like his wife’s birthday and was not going to take any wrong step. No bowler could get him out, and ultimately, he got run out. India scored 250 with just under half the runs coming in from Pujara.

The Bowlers responded to Pujara’s effort splendidly, sawed off the first four Australian wickets when they had not even scored 100. Then, rookie Travis Head started playing an innings beyond his years, and in a sedate matured manner batted with Handscomb to add 33, and the tail supported him too limit the Indian lead just to 15. But slender or whatever, India had taken lead over Australia in the first test match of the series, and it was a huge confidence booster. K L Rahul’s slam-bang approach to batting, for this instance worked, and the needed impetus was given to the innings at the very start. Scoring 18 off 53 balls, Murali Vijay played a good hand in blunting the new ball. Then Pujara was joined by his captain and both of them between them added 105 runs in 308 balls, biding precious time and ensuring that Indian wickets didn’t fall in a avalanche like they often do. Kohli’s departure for 34 brought in Ajinkya, who carried on in the same vein and India were at a healthy position at 243 for 3. But Pujara’s fall for 71 then brought the Indian lower order back in their elements, and 7 wickets fell adding a mere 63 runs between them.

India have set the Aussies a target of scoring 323 to win in 140 odd overs. With 4 Australian wickets down, a further 219 required to win, and the wickets crumbling, the odds are heavily stacked in India’s favour. Some Indian fans must’ve already put champagne on ice. All looks good for them in Indian test cricket. Being an Indian fan, I am delighted too. But what has excited me more than a probable Indian victory is the way in which India has played this test match. There was irresponsible batting, not playing in the team’s interest in the name of “natural game”, overambitious stroke play, complacency and as usual the big-mouthed coach bragging, but there were players who put their hand up, rose to the occasion and hung in there on both sides. Patience, perseverance, and grit was amply on the display.

The opening notes of this symphony called the Border -Gavaskar Trophy 2018-19 series have been savory to the ears and the unfolding melody promises to be pleasing too. Lets hope this performance is repeated repeatedly. Yes, one likes to see his side winning all the time, but the battle should be closely fought. The tantalizing uncertainties which have punctuated this match are ones which make the plot intriguing and puts bums on seats. A 300 scored against a hapless bowling attack can never substitute a century scored against a potent bowling line up, where the fast bowlers are always at you, breathing fire and their tails up, and a quality spinner is spitting venom. Yes. I found watching Pujara’s 123 more gripping than watching Matty Hayden flaying the Zimbabwe attack for 380 runs. And as the number of overs in a game reduce, the possibility of such tales with numerous twists and turns is further reduced. All that people get to watch is a mindless, frenzied slam, bang wallop game, where the bowlers appear just like whipping boys, meant only to get pummeled by the batsmen. Test cricket has it’s own flavour. It is to be had like wine, sip, swirl, and let it glide down the throat. It is not to be swallowed like beer or gulped like a vodka shot. The intoxication is slow, serene and supreme, and it takes watching cricket to a next level, where we start appreciating the fact that the game is played 10% on the field and 90% between the ears. I feel we’re going to end 2018 and start 2019 by a feast of good, hard and intense test cricket. Amen. 😊

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 15

Virat Kohli took over the captaincy from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2014. There can’t be two characters who are so contrasting, yet very similar. Kohli is fiery, MSD is Ice Cold. Kohli wears his heart on his sleeve, MSD is immune to emotions. Kohli retaliates with anger, MSD is coolly sarcastic in reply to criticisms. Kohli, as a cricketer, is one of the technically most sound, MSD is unorthodox to the core. Virat is supple, graceful, and attractive to watch when he bats, MSD just either pushes and prods or butchers the bowling. MSD has only two gears, first and top (sometimes reverse too, these days). Virat likes to play along the ground, MSD loves taking the areal route. The Only similarity is, both are extremely aggressive, yet the expressions of their aggression are polarly opposite. Yet, when it comes to the results they produced while captaining the Indian team to England, no dissimilarity was found. Just like Dhoni, Kohli too lost the series in England.

Virat Kohli in action!
Virat Kohli

Not that he was not trying to win. It was just that the team let him down, more often than not. Kohli the batsman excelled in the tour, and outshone virtually every batsman in either side, with circumspect technique, great temperament, and fighting with the skin of his teeth, placing a large price-tag on his wicket. Yet, though Kohli sold his wicket very dearly, the other batsmen kept falling prey to the deliveries outside the off-stump, not leaving them alone, and getting drawn to them like young men to naked breasts. The team fell apart around Kohli, but he stood tall being a tower of courage. Though the bowlers pulled their weight in, the fielding was poor, and batting even more so, excepting the captain.

Kohli was no foreigner to the English conditions, he had been there on the 2014 tour, and had failed dismally. He was an Anderson bunny then, but so were all the Indian batsmen. While Kohli had learnt from his experience of the earlier tour, all other batsmen kept repeating the same mistakes, and India lost the series.

India went into the first test after losing the ODI series 1-2. Edgbaston was cloudy when Kohli lost the toss, and he might’ve chuckled when Joe Root chose to bat first. The fast bowlers were licking their lips. Just before the match, Michael Holding had had a chat with Ishant Sharma about the lengths which should be bowled in these conditions. Strangely, Ashwin came in to bowl in the 9th over and promptly removed Cook. After the spinner had drawn the first blood, Keaton Jennings stuck together with his captain and they strung together a decent 72 run stand. Jennings fell for 42, and Dawid Malan followed quickly and Johnny Bairstow joined Root to add 104 runs and take England to 216/3. But Bairstow and Root fell in Quick succession, making 80 and 70 respectively, and for once, India didn’t let the tail wag too much and England was all out for 287.

Virat Kohli- Century Celebration
Silent celebration post century

Ashwin and Shami were the picks of the bowlers for India taking 4 and 3 wickets respectively. Indian reply had a solid start, with Dhawan and Murali Vijay put on exactly 50 for the first wicket, before losing their wickets. Then KL Rahul fell quickly at 4, and India were tottering at 59 for 3. Then the captain took over. Kohli single-handedly took India to 274, in the process scoring a very matured 149 runs. There was no support from the other end, though Ajinkya and Pandya hung around for an hour each, their scores of 15 and 22 were no pretense of support for the captain. But Kohli was “in the zone”. He shielded the tail-enders, farmed strike, and played a Steve Waugh kind of an innings. He scored a whopping 54% of the team’s runs and looked impenetrable. When he was last out in search of quick runs, India had conceded a slender 13 run lead to England. Debutante Sam Curran took 4 for 74. The England batting too crumbled in their second essay, and apart from Sam Curran (63 n.o.) none made a sizeable score. Ishant Sharma claimed a five-for and was well supported by Ashwin and Umesh Yadav.

England were all out for 180, leaving India a target of 193 for a win. In pursuit of 193, India began shakily, they quickly were reduced to 78 for 5, and the captain was the only hope to either save or win the match for them. Kohli found some support in Dinesh Kartik and Pandya, but it was not enough. With the score on 141, he fell to Stokes, making 51 in just over 3 hours. Sedate by his standard, but he had shown immense maturity in playing according to the situation. Still 52 short of victory, and with the tail-enders only making token appearances with the bat, Pandya opened up a bit, but fell as the Last Indian wicket with India still short by 30 runs. India lost, but not without putting up a fight, and that was the silver lining to the cloud. The team was at least showing intent to fight. Only the batting needed to click.

In the second test the Lord’s history loomed over the Indian team, and they performed dismally. The first day was washed out, and where the wicket would have sweated and offered more juice to the quick bowlers, India made a baffling decision to play two spinners. India made 107 in their first innings, and James Anderson picked up 5 wickets at the cost of a mere 20 runs. With India a fast bowler short, England smashed the Indian bowling around, and despite being in a hole at 89-4, they came out of it due to some lusty hitting by Johnny Bairstow and Chris Woakes, the former making 93, and the latter scoring a brutal 137 (n.o.). Sam Curran continued his purple patch making a quickfire 40, and England declared at 396/7, 279 ahead of India. In the second innings, Anderson and Broad picked 4 wickets apiece and Woakes took 2. India all out for 130. India had vastly improved on their margin of loss, this time losing by an innings and 159 runs.

2-0 down India lost the toss and were promptly put in by England. The openers put on 60, but both were out in quick succession, followed by Pujara. India again 82-3. But the captain was there and had an able ally in Ajinkya Rahane, and the two added 159 runs. Kohli made a fine 97, and Ajinkya made an obdurate 81. Then the tailenders too contributed bits and pieces and India for the first time in the series crossed 300. In reply to India’s 329, England batting was all over the place. Hardik Pandya broke the backbone picking up 5 for 28 in a mere 6 over spell, and England folded up for 161. With a 168 run lead, India would have backed themselves to win this test, and they batted with a new-found confidence in their second innings.

Dhawan and Rahul gave India a fine start, Pujara made a characteristically defiant 72, And Hardik Pandya made a run-a-ball 52, but the pick of the Indian batsmen was Kohli. He had missed out on a century in the first innings by a mere three runs and was well set. He knew the importance of hanging in there and made a fine, fine 103 in just under 5 hours, punctuated with 10 gorgeous hits to the fence. His innings was a masterclass in batsmanship. He was sound, confident, alert, and his footwork was assuredly quicksilver. India made 352/7 before declaring their innings closed, and gave England a monumental target of 521 for a win. The English top order faltered, and they lost their first four wickets for 62 runs. But then both Ben Stokes and Jose Butler played innings which were very much contrary to what they are known for. Both these dashers showed exemplary defiance and took England to 231 before Butler fell for a well-made 106 in just over four hours. Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad and Anderson, all tried to resist, but eventually, England wilted and were all out for 317. Bumrah took a five-for, and India won the test by 203 runs, giving themselves a chance to square the series.

The fourth test at Southampton began very well for India. Winning the toss and batting first, the decision looked to have backfired on England, as they were quickly reduced to 6 for 86 by Ishant, Bumrah and Shami. Moen Ali (40) and Sam Curran (78) put on a handy 81 runs for the seventh wicket, and another 33 run partnership between Curran and Broad took England to a respectable score of 246. In reply, India made 273, Pujara making an obdurate 132 not out, and Kohli making 40. None of the other batsmen contributed anything of significance. Five Indian wickets fell to Moen Ali’s pretense of off-spin. He continued to make merry at India’s expense. England made 271 in their second innings, riding on Butler’s 69 and Useful 40s from the captain Root and the ever contributing Curran. Mohammad Shami was the pick of the bowlers taking four for 57. India had to make 245 to win. Definitely gettable, just they had to hang in there. But that is precisely they did not do. Apart from Kohli (58) and Ajinkya Rahane (51), no batsman thought it was worthwhile to stay at the wicket for more than an hour, and India folded up for 184. Again, Moeen Ali took 4 wickets, bagging 9 in the match and in the process, sealing the series for England.

The fifth test was a dead rubber, and the master opener Alistair Cook was going to call it curtains after this test. England were keen to give him a winning send-off. Electing to bat first, England made 332, Cook himself making 71, Moen Ali Batting one drop making an even 50, and Jose Butler continuing his dream run with a score of 89. “Sir” Ravindra Jadeja took 4 wickets and Ishant Sharma and Shami took 3 apiece. Indian reply was lacklustre. They made 292, the main contributors being Kohli (49), Hanuma Vihari (56) and “Sir” Jadeja 86 not out.

In the second innings, Alistair Cook came in determined to make his mark on his last test. He batted for six and a half hours and made a superb, stoic and sensible 147. Joe Root too, after the first test found form and made a scintillating 125, and riding on these two hundreds of contrasting nature, England declared their innings closed at 423/8. Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja came under a lot of stick, conceding 110 and 179 runs respectively.

India were to make 464 to win. They were quickly 2 for 3, losing Pujara and Kohli for ducks. Kohli made a golden duck, out first ball. But for the first time in the tour, KL Rahul was batting with a great deal of assurance. He was joined by Ajinkya Rahane, who batted well, hanging on for nearly two and a half hours before he fell to who else? Moeen Ali. Though the 118 run partnership had retrieved the situation, India were still in danger of losing another one badly. Much was expected of Hanuma Vihari, after his defiant first innings half-century but he didn’t trouble the scorers. It was Rishabh Pant who had to support Rahul to help India save the match. But the young wicketkeeper had other ideas. After getting his eye in, he launched in a flurry of strokes, Making 114 studded with 15 fours and four sixes, adding 204 with Rahul for the 6th wicket. With the score on 325, Rahul fell for 149 and immediately after three runs were added to the score fell, Pant. Indian lower order didn’t do much and India were all down for 345 losing by 118 runs and losing the series comprehensively; 4-1.

Kohli the batsman in this series was superb. He was in the form of his life (as he had been since 2015), scored 593 runs at an average of 59.30, the best performance by an Indian captain on an England tour. He learnt and remembered his lessons from the previous tour. When you have got the talent as much as Virat Kohli is blessed with, you have to be more aware of what not to do, than what to do. It is simple for him. If he stays at the wicket, runs invariably come at a good clip. The next best Indian Batsman was Pujara with 299 at 39.71. It is this chasm between the Scores of Kohli and the others, which tells the story of the series. The bowlers did their job admirably, more often than not. But the batsmen let the team down. Kohli the captain, came in for a lot of criticism, but a captain is only as good as his team and in the end, is judged by the number of wins. On that count, the captain had failed. Nevertheless, India had been fighting well in the series, but when the bowlers brought them back in the match, the batsmen frittered the advantage away. Too much T20 was showing it’s effect.

Kohli was also a lot unimaginative as a captain and failed to make things happen on most occasions. Besides, wrong team selections cost him at least two matches. But this doesn’t mean he is a bad captain always. Yes, he is evolving as a cricketer, as a captain, is supremely fit, and has an astute cricket brain, Besides, he can channel his aggression well, and motivates players of similar combative nature, like Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant, by backing them to the hilt to play their natural games. One disappointing series doesn’t write him off as a captain, and looking at his form and fitness, he has at least a decade to play and take Indian cricket team to new highs.

And yes, he leads from the front. And always does himself what he asks his team to do.

Hope you liked the final part of the series- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 15 . Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 14

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is Street-smart. He always has been. As a young boy, he never was in awe of any cricketer. He had no idol. He never watched cricket on TV. He never was very passionate about cricket till his mid-teens. Cricket along with basketball, badminton and football was just another sport for him. He played all the sports which came his way and was the goalie of his school football team. His sports teacher asked him to keep wickets in the cricket team. Seeing the popularity of cricket in the country, Dhoni agreed to. At the time, being good at a sport was the only means for him to get into a decent university. Excelling in sports was much easier than burning midnight oil for studies. Yet, there was a hitch. Being a son of a pump operator meant he would have to support his cricket on his own. Cricket is an expensive sport.

M S Dhoni
Captain Cool- MSD

He did a lot of things for that. Blessed with the strength of a bull and speed of a gazelle, he knew that he had the basic attributes to excel in the sport. And he also had immense stamina. He took to playing tennis ball matches and taking money for it. Took up a job of a ticket collector. But kept playing. An entry to a university never happened, but he entered seamlessly in the most glamourous field in the country. Suddenly, in fray for a place in the Indian Cricket team. That too didn’t happen without drama. The Bihar Cricket association didn’t deem it appropriate to intimate a player from Jharkhand that he has been selected to represent the East Zone in the Duleep trophy. A congratulatory call from a friend of a friend was the means by which Dhoni came to know he has been selected. Yet it was too late, and despite desperate efforts by his friends, Dhoni missed the flight to Agartala.

However, Dhoni went to the next match in Pune as the 12th man. He kept performing enough to remain in the fray for the next 3 years, but the national call up won’t come. Things changed in 2004, India A, ODI and Test match debuts happened in a year’s time, and the small-town boy had made it big. Dhoni quickly became a brand second only to Sachin Tendulkar. Within three years, Dhoni was leading the Indian Cricket team in all the three formats.Much has been written and cinematographed about his story thereafter, and there’s no point in repeating the same here.

The Indian team which went to England in 2011 under Dhoni was on a high, having won the 2011 world cup. They felt invincible but were brutally brought to the ground by the English Cricket team. Just like the West Indies had slaughtered the Indian Cricket team with vengeance after winning the 1983 world cup.

The first test was the test match # 2000, and Dhoni, winning the toss, put England in. Bad move to start with. Initial success came as Cook fell for 12 when England had made 19, and Strauss for 22 when the score was 62. Then the South African imports, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pieterson got together and added 98 between them before Trott fell for 70 workmanlike runs. His name is Trott, but he made his runs in a saunter always. Bell (45) added another 110 runs with the in-form KP. Thereafter, another import, this one from Ireland (Eoin Morgan) lasted only 3 balls and didn’t bother the scorers, and with England score 270/5, India could hope to make a comeback in the match. But wicketkeeper Matt Prior and Pieterson added 120 brisk runs and snatched the game away from India. England declared at 474/8 and KP was unbeaten on 200.

Zaheer Khan picked 5 for a 106, but just when he was bowling well, got injured and was ruled out of the remaining tour. The Indian openers, Abhinav Mukund and Gautam Gambhir put on 63, but both were back in the hut by the time the score had reached 77, and it fell on the senior pros Dravid and Tendulkar to salvage the situation. They added 81, but that was not enough. Thereafter, it was a mere procession to the pavilion with only the captain and the ex-captain showing any resistance. Dravid finally got himself on the Lord’s honours board with an unbeaten 103 and Dhoni made a patient 28 off 102 balls, and added 57 with Dravid, but as India were wrapped up for 286, even saving the match was going to require a gargantuan effort. Yet the bowlers hadn’t lost heart. They made the new ball talk, and reduced England to 62 for 5, and then 107 for 6. But the first innings villain Prior was not done with tormenting the Indians. He scored an unbeaten 103, and along with Stuart Broad, (74 off 90 balls) added 162 and put India completely out of the game.

Indian second innings was a sad story. All their batsmen got starts, but only Laxman (56) and Raina (78) could convert. India all out 261, but they played 96 overs for that. Anderson (5/65) and Broad (3/57) destroyed the Indian innings, and led England to a handsome 196 run victory, to draw the first blood in the series.

In the second test, Dhoni again won the toss and put England in. Yuvraj Singh had come in for Gambhir. But this time around, the bowlers proved him right. Ishant Sharma, Pravin Kumar, and Shantakumaran Shreesanth all claimed 3 wickets apiece and bundled England out for 221. Stuart Broad (64) top scored for England. India opened with Dravid and Mukund, and Mukund was out without scoring. Dravid and Laxman then added 93 stoic runs and Laxman fell making 54. Tendulkar failed so did Raina and Yuvraj combined with Dravid to add 128. Yuvraj made 62 and after he fell, the remaining 5 Indian wickets could add only 21 runs. Dravid was out 9th, making 117, his second century of the series. Broad claimed a six- for and India secured a lead of 57 runs. In the England second innings, Ishant Sharma removed Cook cheaply, and then came Ian Bell. He held the England Innings together with a masterly 159.

Dhoni recalled Ian Bell to bat again when the latter was given wrongly run out. It won Dhoni the spirit of cricket award for the year 2011, but lost India the match. Prior, Pieterson, Prior and Bresnan all responded with big half centuries and England put up a mighty 544 and set India an improbable 478 to win. Bresnan and Anderson scythed through the Indian batting and reduced India quickly to 55 for 6. Sachin Tendulkar (56) and Harbhajan Singh took India past 100, then the little master fell, and Praveen Kumar threw his bat around for a run-a-ball 25. But 478 was too imposing a target and India folded up for 158, losing by 319 runs.

India were down and out, trailing 0-2 in the series and in the Birmingham test, they were ground to dust. Batting first, India scored 224, Gambhir and Laxman made 30s and the captain made a fighting 77. England put on an epic 710/7, Cook making a career best 294 , Morgan made 104 and Strauss, Pieterson and Bresnan made fifties. In the second essay, India made 244, the captain made another fine 74, and Tendulkar and Praveen Kumar made 40s. India lost by a small matter of an innings and 242 runs.

A thoroughly demoralised India went to the Oval to play the final test England won the toss, made 591/6 and put India out of contention right from the day 1 of the match. Ian bell made a silky 235 and Kevin Pieterson hammered 175. In reply, India reached 300 for the first time in the series, the “Wall” standing tall for a stoic 146 and carrying his bat through the innings. All the batsmen did come to the wicket, but they might as well have not, as their stays were short, and contributed precious little. Dravid found an unlikely ally in the rotund Amit Mishra who scored 44 and added 87 for the 7th wicket.

The injured Gambhir walked in to bat, hung around grimly for an hour and added 40 for the 8th wicket with Dravid. RP Singh threw his bat around for 25, and India made an even 300. Following on 291 runs in arrears, India made 283 in the second innings, Sachin Tendulkar (91) and Amit Mishra (84) being the only innings worth a mention. Another innings defeat, and a 0-4 whitewash. India were never in the game for the whole series, and barring Rahul Dravid and Dhoni, none of their batsmen showed the grit to graft in tough situations. The bowling was lackluster and so was the fielding. No wonder the result came out as it did.

Yet three years later, Dhoni was again at the helm when India toured England. And he was there on Merit. India was the number one test side in the world, it’s young batting line-up was formidable on the paper at least, and the bowling attack too was of a high quality. BUT THERE WAS A HUGE DIFFERENCE THIS TIME AROUND. None of the fab 4 were in the team, and the team had a point to prove, that despite losing 4 great batsmen to time, they yet were a formidable unit.

In the first test at Nottingham, Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat first. India made a formidable 457. Murali Vijay made 146 gorgeous runs, Dhoni made 82, but the highlight of the innings was the 107 run 10th wicket partnership between Bhubaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami. Both scored individual 50s. England replied with 496. Their rising star Joe Root made an unbeaten 154 and added a mighty 198 runs with James Anderson for the last wicket. Anderson made 81. Garry Ballance and Sam Robson made fifties. It was a peculiar case where the 10th wicket partnerships had crossed the 100-run mark in two successive innings of a test match. India batted again making 391/8 declared, debutante Stuart Binny made 78, Vijay and Pujara made 50s and Bhubaneshwar Kumar made his second fifty of the match, scoring 63. The five days were over and the match ended in a draw. But both the teams looked even Stevens in their form, promising a closely fought series ahead.

The second test was at the Lord’s. Captain Cook called correctly, and put India in. India made 295, riding on rookie Ajinkya Rahane’s unbeaten 103. Anderson took 4/60. England replied with 319. Garry Ballance made 110 and Liam Plunkett 55. Bhubaneshwar Kumar took 6 wickets for 82 runs. India in their second innings, made 342, Murali Vijay making 95, Sir Jadeja made 68 and Bhubaneshwar Kumar, carrying his batting form from Nottingham to Lords, made another 52. England were set 319 to win, but the lanky Ishant Sharma went through their batting line up like a hot knife in butter, and bowled a man-of-the-match winning spell of 7 for 74. Only Joe Root (66) and Moeen Ali (39) showed some fight and England folded up for 223. India had won at Lord’s after 18 years, and gone one-up in the series.

Stung by the defeat at Lord’s, England came back strongly in Southampton, piling up 569/7 in their first innings. Cook made 95, Butler 85, and Ballance and Bell scored big hundreds. The hero of Lord’s, Ishant Sharma was out of the team due to injury and the rest of the bowlers looked hapless. India scored 330 in reply. All their batsmen got starts, but only Rahane and Dhoni could make 50s. England didn’t enforce the follow-on and scored a brisk 205/4 in their second innings. Cook and Root made 50s. Ravindra Jadeja took 3 for 52. Set 445 to win, India made only 178. Rahane made his second 50 of the match, but that wasn’t enough. Of all the people, Moeen Ali, who bowls innocuous looking off spin took6 for 67. India has this knack of making heroes out of unlikely players. England levelled the series with two more tests to go.

The fourth test found India hitting a new low, getting bundled out for 152 and 161 in their two innings. England made 367 in their only innings of the match, riding on fifties from Bell, Root and Butler. The only scores worth mention from the Indians were a vigilant 71 by the captain in the first innings and a brace of fighting 40s by Ravichandran Ashwin in each innings. But that was not enough. India lost by and 54 runs as the match ended in 3 days’ time.

In the final test at the Oval India stooped further, making only 148 in their first innings, the captain again making a valiant 82 and after being reduced to 9 for 90, adding 58 valuable runs with Ishant Sharma who hung on grimly for an hour and a quarter. In reply, England made 486, Cook, Balance made fifties, Butler made 45 and Joe Root a fine, chance less unbeaten 149. In their second essay, India capitulated for 94, thus ending the disappointing series, the only bright spot being the win at Lord’s. After this series probably, it was total loss of motivation for Dhoni to Continue leading and Playing for India in the test matches, and he suddenly announced his retirement from the format in the following Australian tour.

Yet, Indian Cricket will never forget MS Dhoni’s contribution. He was the coolest head in the team, always unperturbed, through the Best and worst. And his journey is one of the most amazing tale of self-belief and perseverance.

Starting as a small-town basher, the guy went on to become one of the most successful Indian Cricket Captain. He placed India at the top in all the three formats of the game, winning the T20 and ODI world cups, and also getting India ranked at Numero Uno in the ICC Test Rankings. A goodish wicketkeeper (wouldn’t call him one of the best), a very aggressive batsman, when he got in, and a very astute, and attacking leader, for most of his career (He appeared a bit lackluster due to loss of motivation probably, towards the fag end of his Test Captaincy career).

As a captain, we would rate Dhoni as inspiration. He never appeared to be agitated, irritated, or never did his shoulders sag in adversity. Dropped catches, bad batting displays, typically Indian bowling woes overseas, nothing could ruffle his feathers anytime when on the field. He looked like a tower of peace, notwithstanding what was going on around him. That doesn’t mean that he was off guard or unaware of his job. He did it well, most of the time. He gambled quite a lot, and also had the guts to back himself in tough situations. More often than not, he was also able to inspire his players to rise to the occasion. It is not so easy to captain a team which has a Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Kumble in it, but MSD did this with consummate ease, and to a very good effect. He didn’t like criticisms. He kept backing players like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, though they were not always consistent performers, and could extract flashes of brilliance from them, nurtured Virat Kohli’s potential, and also the senior players were not far behind in contributing.

People who go by stats, forget that by changing or sacking or blaming a captain, they are doing no good to the game or to the team more so in case of Dhoni.

Despite all these achievements, his leadership in England Tests was not rewarded with results, and though he came out as a fighting batsman on both the tours, he found no support. And this was again to be repeated in the 2018 England tour, under a different captain, who came out as the best batsman of the Series for India, yet couldn’t secure a series win for them…

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 14. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Debdeep’s Pilgrimage to Mecca

In 1996 when I was barely 11 years old, I went to Eden Gardens for the first to watch an India vs Pakistan match. In those days, bucket seats were a fantasy. So, everyone pretty much would sit on the cement slabs and Eden could hold 1 lac people at one time. So, on the first day , Javagal Srinath ran through the Pakistan batting line up and every time a wicket fell, the crowd would be on their feet and roaring. Imagine 1 lac people roaring for 3 sticks being uprooted, sounds pretty weird but that was passion. From that day, a few things stayed with me forever and that left a big imprint on me.

First, it was the way Azhar would walk around the field as if he owned Eden Gardens and hence was always the favourite of Eden, then his trademark dive at gully to save a certain boundary which would definitely attract loudest roar of the day and then the whole crowd clapping whenever there was a great shot from Salim Malik. Eden crowd always showed appreciation for great and sporting players from the opponent. Something I miss now a days. Oh, I almost forgot to mention my backside was aching by the end of the day because of jumping up and down on the cement slabs.

India was all out just after tea and then I had what I would call my first and only man crush. I saw Wasim Akram coming at Indian batsmen at full flow. Even at that age, I could feel that he was running with fire and he was spitting venom and the batsmen had no clue what was hitting them. I have seen faster bowlers, I have seen many swing bowlers but I have not seen a better bowler. If I had to pick someone to bowl for my life, it would be Wasim Akram every time. When I left the field that day, I had fallen in love with that game and I could not stop blabbering about the same to my parents. Anyone who knows Bengali’s, football is our first love but I always felt that day cricket just took over. I started following the game, learnt the names MCG, Boxing Day, Lord’s Cricket Ground and many others. Somewhere in my mind, I wanted to go to all these places, but you never know.

26th December 2006, I was in Melbourne as a student and with another 3 of my friends were thinking what to do since we really did not want to go shopping. Just to let everyone know, during Boxing Day, you get everything for dirt cheap and usually its a holiday in Australia and somehow everyone is on the streets either shopping or drinking beer and enjoying themselves at Federation Square, if you are in Melbourne. Someone in the group suggested lets go for the match since we took it for granted that tickets wont be sold out. We went in, bought the tickets from the counter and entered the stadium.

Luckily, we got the lower tier seats absolutely next to, from the where the players would walk out to field. India were already batting and I was just standing and looking at the magnanimity of the place, the lush green outfields and everything. That day I got to see Sachin and Sourav bat together and take the Aussie bowlers to the cleaners. I somehow took a flag from someone and started dancing on the seats. Left the day highly disappointed with India playing horribly after lunch.Another Test, I went to watch and India lost, just like the Kolkata test. But what remained with me is Dada walking out to bat and me shouting ‘ Dada century chai’ and Dada turns around and gives me a thumbs up, Sachin Tendulkar warming up right in front of eyes inside the rope, I could have jumped to his feet but I was too much in awe of him at such close range. I left satisfied to have watched India play.

Debdeep at Lords
Debdeep at Lords
Cut to 9th September 2018, I was entering Lord’s Cricket Ground as a tourist and not to watch a match. I had an opportunity to watch the Test match at Lord’s but I had to pass. Anyway, the moment I entered I was a little nervous and ’96 Eden memories rushed through my mind. I turned a child again. Something was going on inside me but I could not explain it to myself even. I crossed the huge gates, security check, crossed the Middlesex shop and into the reception and the first thing that caught my eye was the Prudential Cup that Kapil Dev won in 83.

I could have fainted then & there. A group of people were there and someone was explaining the whole history of Ashes, I heard it but I kept looking at the signed jersey of Sachin Tendulkar inside the glass room behind us. We walked out and it was time to walk into the cricket ground but before you get there, you have to stand in front of the statue of WG Grace. I had no option but to show my respect in my country way. I literally touched his feet because you cant know cricket without knowing him. So everyone went ahead with the guide and I kept loitering and absorbing this huge thing and suddenly I see that a door is open, unmanned and that would lead me straight to the grass of Lord’s. I was ready to risk it and had started walking towards it. That’s when a guard appeared and told ‘ you are not allowed, Sir.’ I argued for a while but he wont relent and I had to give up.

I , finally , reached the long room where I thought the view was alright but I was itching to see the dressing rooms and honors boards. So, we first went into the home dressing room and except a few things nothing interested me so much. Then it was the turn of the guest dressing room and this is where the fun began. The guide went on to tell about different stories about the place. There were hardly any Indian in the group and there were people who did not come with the understanding of the game.

I really thought, if Sourav Ganguly is not mentioned here, I would be robbing all these innocent people off the most beautiful thing that happened at Lord’s ever. So, I asked the inevitable question, ‘ is this the same balcony where Ganguly took off his shirt?’. At the very mention of Ganguly, the guard and the guide put their hands on their head and said something like ‘ oh gosh!!! He was another one!!’ This expression of the Englishmen was priceless for me. So, they showed me the exact spot where it all happened and I requested permission from the guard that I be allowed to take a picture waving my jacket. The guard simply smiled and granted me the permission.

Debdeep imitating Ganguly in the Lords's Balcony
Imitating Sourav Ganguly in Lords’s Balcony
My wife took the photo and when I saw the photo I said to her, ‘ Now, I can die in peace.’ Interestingly, my son started showing off some of his jumping skills in this balcony and thats when I thought to myself, we own this balcony. After that, we went to the stands and that’s as close I could go to the grass of Lord’s and when I walked into the stands, it was surreal, I could visualize Kapil Dev lifting the trophy, Kaif and Zak hitting the winning runs, Yuvi running to the field and Dada taking off the shirt. I could feel all of it, right in front of me. The guide went on with the history and everything but I had just two questions, one about the Lord’s slope and why the slope has not been leveled yet.

Then , we went up to the media center which is one of the most amazing architectural work. I was amazed by the view and how sun cant disturb you ever. Then it was time to hit the Lord’s shop and then move out. Just before I was about to walk out of Lord’s I asked guard again, are you sure I cant step onto the field and feel the grass even once, I come from Kolkata which is like 1000s of miles away but again he declined. Before he closed the huge gates onto us, I looked at the ground and had a quiet conversation with it which mainly, I could not feel the grass this time, but I will be back and I will feel it, one way or the other. I think Lord’s replied ‘ will be waiting for you, mate’

I finished my trip of ‘Meccas of cricket’ and I feel happy about it. Don’t know if I can ever explain anyone the feeling of it or the madness about it. I wish someone who reads this will understand sometimes you just fall in love with some things and the child in you is spurred by those things. I had my moments and I consider myself lucky to have been to these grounds but the journey does not end here, I wish to go to the home ground of none other than Sir Vivian Richards, the man who redefined cricket.

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!

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 13

People call Rahul Dravid, “The Wall”. He was extremely difficult to dislodge, technically correct, and yet, elegant to the eye. He could be as attractive a batsman as any when in full flow, and was just the perfect foil to the flamboyance of Tendulkar, Ganguly, and the wristy artistry of VVS Laxman. Yet, his most commendable virtue was his work ethic.

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid- The Wall of India!

Rahul Dravid always played to the demands of his team. In 1996, on his debut at Lord’s he batted with the tail, farmed the strike, and in the process got so preoccupied with keeping both ends safe, forgot that he was 5 runs short of a Lord’s debut hundred, and got out on 95. No, he didn’t crib. He never cribs. For him, the team is the foremost. He is the go-to man of the team. The readers would observe that I am writing about Rahul Dravid in present tense. That is because he is the same even when coaching the U-19 and the India -A sides. Nothing deters him from serving the team. And he doesn’t say no to any task the captain assigns to him.
Bat the day out? – Sure Skipper, and I wouldn’t mind the spectators’ flak too.
Accelerate? – I’d do my best.
Keep wickets? – Yes, Captain!
Open the batting? – You can depend on me, Captain.
Captain the side? – Sure, I’d give my best.

And, whatever his record might suggest, he gave his best, sold his wicket dearly and placed the team before the individual, always.
For someone who just watches cricket as a hobby, Rahul Dravid’s batting won’t be attractive. But, the connoisseurs would drool over him for making a 30, in about 2 hours, on a sticky wicket. He can do that and despite the wicket, appear impenetrable. Not many can.
By the England tour of 2007, Dravid had shed his “Blocker” tag with some astonishingly quick innings in the 2003 world cup, and was a complete batsman, who could block when required, and attack when the situation demanded so. Mind you, he debuted in T20I in his last playing season, and his first scoring stroke was a six over long-on. The side was well stacked with talent and experience too.
The openers Jaffer and Dinesh Kartik were in good form, Dravid himself was in excellent nick. Saurav Ganguly and the “GOD” and the Very Very Special Laxman were in the side. The young wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked like he belonged to the international arena. Anil Kumble was amongst the best spinners in the world, with quality seamers in Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, and RP Singh.

In the Lord’s series opener, England won the toss and elected to bat. Strauss scored 96, Vaughan scored 79, while Cook and Peterson made useful 30s to take the England total to 298. All the bowlers picked up wickets, a good sign for the first test of the series. Indian reply was lukewarm. They made only 201 – Jaffer made 58, Sachin and Sourav made 30 odd each, and the captain himself made only 2. England made 282 in their second innings, with Kevin Pieterson making 134. RP Singh bagged a fifer and Zaheer Khan bagged 4. India were set 380 to win in 5 sessions. India started briskly, and the opening pair added 38 in 10 overs, and lost Jaffer. The captain followed Jaffer quickly and the score read 55/2.

Sachin Tendulkar scratched around for his 16 runs and fell with the score at 84. Ganguly and Karthik then stitched up a partnership to steady the rocking boat, and India ended the day at 137/3, with 7 wickets in hand and 243 more needed to win. But on the fifth morning, both, Ganguly (40) and Karthik (60) fell in quick succession, and Indian hopes of winning were dashed. Laxman and Dhoni hung around for 30 odd overs, but India still was staring at a customary Lord’s defeat. With 231 on the board, Laxman fell for 39.
After that, Dhoni was at one end and wickets kept falling at the other end, and India slipped to 282/9, one wicket away from defeat. It was nearly curtains for India, when the rain gods intervened, and no further play in the match was possible. The match was drawn. Dhoni had played an uncharacteristic innings of 79 in 159 balls and remained unbeaten. This show of his maturity might well have earned him India’s T20 captaincy for the inaugural T20I world cup in South Africa, which India went on to win.

After the narrow escape at Lord’s, the Indian side went to Nottingham in a more alert frame of mind. Dravid won the toss and sent England in to bat in an overcast morning. England were bundled out for 198. Only Alistair Cook made a substantial score of 43. Zaheer Khan bagged 4 wickets, Kumble 3, and Shreesanth, Ganguly and RP Singh took one wicket each. The Indian reply was a lot more purposeful.

All the top order batsmen- Karthik (77) Jaffer (62), Dravid (37), Tendulkar (91) , Ganguly (79), Laxman (54) – pulled their weight on, and India took a handsome lead of 283 over the hosts. England fared much better in their second innings. They made 355, Strauss (55), Vaughan (124) and Collingwood (63) being the main contributors. Zaheer Khan claimed a fifer, and Anil Kumble took 3. India required 73 to win, the openers scored 22 each, Tendulkar could manage only a solitary run, and it fell on the duo of their captain and the former captain to guide them across the line, which they did. India was 1-0 up in the series.

The last test was at the Oval, which has been a happy hunting ground for Indians. Oval didn’t disappoint the Indian batting line up. Once again, the entire top order Karthik (77), Jaffer (35), Dravid (55), Tendulkar (82), Laxman (51), Ganguly (37) and Dhoni (92), played their part, but none made a century. The solitary test century for India on the tour came from…. Anil Kumble. He scored a chanceless 110 and went One -up against Shane Warne in the leg-spinners’ competition going on then, though in an unlikely area outside both of their core competence. Jumbo now had a test century, and Warnie’s top test score was (and is) 99. India were all out for 664.
England replied with 345. Cook, Bell and Collingwood scored half centuries. India batted again, scored 180/6 (Ganguly 57, Laxman-46, Dhoni-36) and set England 500 to win in 110 overs. England batted out these overs, none other than Pieterson (101) and Bell (67 off 62) making a dash at the win, Prior and Sidebottom stonewalled for an hour, to ensure that they do not lose a wicket, and the match petered to a draw. India had won a series in England after 21 years, and the captain, though not at his best with the bat had inculcated a sense of purpose in the team, which saw the players sticking to their tasks, and putting clinical performances to achieve their series victory.

The same year, Dravid (and India) had a disastrous world cup in the West Indies and he stepped down from the captaincy. But the team man he is, he kept giving his best for the Indian team, and played some of his best cricket in those years. After retirement, being offered to coach the India seniors’ team, he politely declined the offer and asked to be the coach of the U-19 and the India-A team, to “build a strong feeder system to the Indian team” and the results are evident.

Yet, he has a rare dignity and sense of occasion about everything. Quiet, Methodical, and confident approach to his work ensures success, but when the success comes, he chooses to savoir it in the confines of the four walls, and not giving bragging interviews or indulging in wild celebrations. Among the subsequent India captains, despite the difference in their personalities, one admirable common attribute is evident – Work Ethic. When you are fortunate enough to rub shoulders with Rahul Sharad Dravid, you are bound to have an impeccable Work ethic.
That’s the Legacy of Rahul Dravid, which the Indian team should be indebted to.

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