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Dancing to the Calypso Tune .. Part 1

It has always been a breeding ground for Indian Batting Heroes, and a group of countries where all Indian Cricketers are loved! No doubt the Indians love the West Indian team too! The flamboyant brand of cricket the Caribbean cricketers play, their easy go lucky, laid back attitude, doesn’t affect their quality of performances.

Calypso
Calypso

Well, rather it didn’t till recently.

Still, even remembering the past series India played in the West Indies, reading about, and watching footages of a few which were played even before I was born, have always been a source of joy to me!The West Indian team, started into the international arena in 1928, and even then, were good enough to challenge the best. The all-round capabilities of (later Baron) Leary Constantine, the fiery pace of Manny Martindale, Herman Griffith and George Francis was backed by no batting prowess, but that changed swiftly after the advent of George Headley, the ‘Black Bradman’, as he was called. Inducted in the West Indian side in 1930 series against England, he quickly stamped his authority by taking 21 and 176 in the match, of the attack consisting of Bill Voce, Wilfred Rhodes, and Nigel Haig. For many years, he carried the torch of West Indian batsmanship alone, until the Bajans Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott got into the team. Then on, the West Indies had a batting unit as formidable as any in the world, for the next six decades.

1951-52
The earliest Indian tour of West Indies I have read about was their first one, in 1951-52. In their earlier visit to India, the Caribbeans had plundered the Indian bowling for 11 centuries, (four of which in consecutive innings, by Sir Everton Weekes, and add a 90 run out in the fifth innings) and the Indians were expected to go down meekly when playing the West Indians on their home turf. But this was not the case, and the Indian team put up a very good resistance. True, that the Windies had only one genuine quick bowler in Frank King, but they had the most dreaded spin duo of the time, Alf Valentine and Sony Ramadhin. Indian team then found a few batting heroes, who in the coming years went on to become the backbone of Indian batting. Polly Umrigar, Madhav Apte, Vijay Manjrekar, Pankaj Roy, Vinoo Mankad, all were amongst runs, and they did put up a decent fight against the mighty batting of the West Indians, namely the 3Ws (Weekes, Walcott and Worrell). Everton Weekes got 207 in the first Test, and followed that up with scores of 47, 15, 161, 55 not out, 86, 109 and 36. Weekes did not spare Indians in the colony game against Barbados: he got 253. Walcott got 98 in the second Test, 125 in the fourth and 118 in the final Test. Worrell was grace personified, he would bat superbly for 30 or 40 runs and invariably got out to a marvelous catch. The Indians used to tease Worrell: “The other two Ws are murdering us, why don’t you get some runs?”
He would reply: “Don’t worry, it will come soon.” And it did, in the final Test, where he got 237.
It was a good tour for India, who were considered to be minnows in International cricket, where they could secure four honorable draws, and lost only in the second test in Bridgetown, Barbados, where they were running neck to neck with the hosts for victory, and in the end were done in by a magical spell of bowling by Sony Ramadhin, who took five for 26. The Indian bowlers performed well on the tour too, with Subhash Gupte taking 28 wickets, Mankad 15, Phadkar 9.

The most inexplicable event after the tour was the disappearance of Madhav Apte from International Cricket. He opened the batting in all five Tests, and had scores of 64, 52, 64, 9, 0, 163 not out, 30, 30, 15 and 33. With a tally of 460 runs (average 51.11) he finished second to Polly Umrigar in the Test figures and ahead of Hazare, Mankad, Roy and Manjrekar. His century was a marathon innings that helped India to draw the match after they were in danger of defeat. And after the tour, Apte was gone. He had been dropped like a hot potato.
It was during a tour match here, against Barbados, the Indians got a glimpse of a 17 year old all-rounder, Garfield St. Auburn Sobers. He was to continue entertaining the world for two decades after that. It was also a tour where Subhash Gupte found the love of his life, when he met Carol in Trinidad. He married her and made Trinidad his home.

1960-61 :
The 1960-61 tour was a bad one. India did actually have a very balanced team, with batsmen like Umrigar, Jaisimha, Durrani, Rusi Surti, Chandu Borde, Vijay Manjrekar, Tiger Pataudi, Dilip Sardesai and Captain Nari Contractor in the team. The bowling Unit contained Ramakant Desai, Surti, Durrani, Bapu Nadkarni, and Vasant Ranjane. A very balanced team, and a strong one too. Alas, it was so just on paper.
The score cards of the matches in the West Indies were a correct reflection of the players’ form on the tour, but certainly not an accurate index of the strength of the side when it left India.
All the batsmen, barring Umrigar, and occasionally Durrani failed, and the bowlers were lackluster too. To be fair to the touring Indians, they did not come to the West Indies in the best of conditions.
Circumstances, to an extent, militated against the touring side touching peak form in the West Indies. The heavy domestic season, which had started in August instead of in November, had taxed their energy, determination and concentration beyond measure, and it was folly on the Board’s part to hustle them into a tour in so short a time after the end of the home season.

The Indians took the field under a hot Trinidad sun within twelve hours of arrival from wintry London and New York. A crop of pulled muscles and stomach disorders was inevitable, and throughout the tour the players’ nostrils were filled with the odours of drugs and liniments.
A nasty accident to Contractor, the captain and opening batsman, half-way through the tour, had the team in a state of shock, anxiety and extreme unhappiness. What most of the outside world heard about the incident was that Contractor was struck through ducking to a ball delivered by Charles Griffith, which never rose beyond the height of the stumps.
Contractor did not duck into the ball. He got behind it to play at it — he probably wanted to fend it away towards short-leg — but could not judge the height to which it would fly, bent back from the waist in a desperate, split-second attempt to avoid it and was hit just above the right ear. A few hours later, in his second over of the second innings of this match in Barbados, Griffith, a fast bowler, was no-balled for throwing by the square-leg umpire Cortez Jordan.

Indian batting side in the West Indies looked one of the finest ever, especially after a successful series against Ted Dexter’s English side. No longer did the Indian batsmen show that hysterical uneasiness against pace, and one felt that if Wes Hall was played with, determination and good sense, India should have always been able to put up sizable scores. This was not the case.

India also sadly missed Subash Gupte, and never more than in the last two Tests, when West Indies had to bat a second time. In spite of Gupte’s absence, the spin bowling was of the highest class, though it sorely lacked variety. Often, when runs were being scored too fast, Nadkarni and Durani had to bowl opposite each other, and the versatile Surti delivered orthodox spinners as often as he bowled with an upright seam. When free from fibrositis of the back, Umrigar bowled his off breaks with admirable steadiness, valor and hostility.
Durani was the foremost wicket-taker, and Borde performed creditably till Pataudi took over the captaincy. Having learnt and played most of his cricket in England, Pataudi seemed inexperienced in the handling of spinners, a chink in the armour which the Prince removed very shortly.

The saving grace of the Indian’s performance on this tour was their ground fielding, which was as good as that of any contemporary Test side. Surti was outstanding. If the catching had touched even half these heights, the Indians would have saved themselves a lot of humiliation. Isn’t that a very surprising statement to make when one is speaking of the Indian Cricket teams of the past? To look at the other side of the coin, there were few chinks in the West Indies’ armour, and these were not fully exposed because of the limitation of the opposition.
One of their most glaring weaknesses was at the top of the batting order, with Hunte experiencing probably the leanest series of his career.

Lance Gibbs emerged as a world class spinner in this series. So masterly was his variation of flight that he appeared capable of succeeding on the truest pitches. Sobers again proved his versatility with the ball. As a purveyor of the Chinaman and the left-hander’s googly, he looked a vastly improved bowler than when he toured India in 1958-59. And he was to improve to such an extent, that he ruled the cricketing world as the most complete cricketer that ever was, for the next 14 years.
The next trip to the West Indies by the Indians, was to prove a milestone for Indian cricket, though.

1970-71 to be covered in the next part..

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

Top 4 Unconventional Bowling Style

In this segment, we bring to you the bowlers with most Unconventional Bowling Style. Let’s have a look in the reverse order. 

 Sohail Tanvir Shamsnwags
4) Sohail Tanvir
No. 4) Sohail Tanvir- Left Arm fast bowler from Pakistan lands on wrong foot at the time of delivery. Normally at the time of delivery, in the final stride, a left handed bowlers ends up on right foot. But if you closely watch Sohail Tanvir, he ends up landing on the left foot. This unconventional style has not affected his bowling and he has never tried to change his action.
Lasith Malinga Slinga Malinga Shamsnwags.com
3) Lasith Malinga ‘Slinga Malinga.
No. 3) Lastih Malinga- This deadly fast bowler from Sri Lanka fondly known as ‘Slinga Malinga’ has a round arm action. His arm does not come from behind the ears. It comes from the side and from a very low height which makes it difficult for the batsman to spot the deadly Yorkers. When he plays for Mumbai Indians, the entire crowd goes Malinga, Malinga. His smile is as addictive as his lethal deliveries.
Patrick Patterson Shamsnwags.com
2) Patrick Patterson
No 2) Patrick Patterson- When we talk about unconventional style, how can one forget the Caribbean fast bowler Patterson. When we talk about the unique thing about his bowling, one must see his final stride of delivery. He had this habit of dragging his right foot along with the ground, as a result, he had no choice but to “strengthen the toe end of his shoes with Steel’
Paul Adams Shamsnwags.com
1) Paul Adams

No. 1) Paul Adams- If there were any award for the most unconventional bowling style ever, there is no doubt that there would be any difficulty of choosing the winner-Paul Adams, chinaman from South Africa. He held the ball with two fingers of his left hand (thumb, and the index finger) . He would look skywards at the time of delivery.He also had a very interesting style of celebrating a dismissal with a somersault.

These are top 4 Unconventional bowling styles that we have thought. There will be more such segments coming up, until then keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Cricket’s 10 Greatest Rivalry

The game of cricket is full of rivalries spanning across generations of players and teams. Let’s take a look at Top 10 greatest rivalries in cricket:

1 Australia vs England: It’s the battle between Australia and England for the Ashes Urn. The Ashes urn is made of terracotta and about 15 cm (six inches tall). It is reputed to contain a burnt cricket bail. Ashes history – Test Matches.

2 India vs Pakistan: Across all formats of cricket, the rivalry is always intense. Pakistan has never won against India in any of the ICC Tournaments.

3 Australia vs New Zealand: Their rivalry is more of Fist against Face being neighbouring countries. Its called ‘Chappel- Hadlee’ series.

4 West Indies vs Australia: Goes back to time when WI dominated cricket world 70’s 80’s.

5 India vs Australia: After breaking Oz’s winning juggernaut in 2000-2001 series, the rivalry has become fierce with time. Not to forget the famous ‘Monkeygate’ scandle. Series is currently called ‘Border-Gavaskar’ Trophy.

6 Pakistan vs Bangladesh: The excitement and emotions are always high when these two nation play against each other. Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan (called East Pakistan) till 1971. The high point for Bangladesh was when they defeated Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and all Wasim Akram could say is “We lost to our brothers”.

7 India vs South Africa: The first series was played between these nations after RSA made a comeback to International arena in 1991. Since then the rivalry has been pretty healthy between these teams.The series is currently called “Freedom Series”

8 Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: Their rivalry has grown more in past two decades. It has increased post 2009 incident where Lankan team was attacked on their series tour to Pakistan.

9 South Africa vs Australia: The contest between these two nations is for the battle of supremacy and top the ranking table. Being two of the most consistent team’ in world cricket as far as record book goes there rivalry runs really high on emotion. Who could forget 1999 World cup Semi Final Tie between these two teams.

10 CSK vs MI : Yes, you read it right. It’s not the odd one in list. As we all know IPL is most popular T20 league in the world and what better when you see 2 giant franchises contesting each other. Both these teams are consistent in IPL in every term and their rivalry on field is worth watching. Not to forget it’s that time of the year when Shams n Wags become Shams Vs Wags. (Shams support CSK, while Wags is ardent MI follower)

KHADDUS! The Mumbai batsmen !

Rohit Sharma
This guy Rohit Sharma is totally putting me off while I watch test matches. He simply doesn’t look like a batsman who is willing to stay at the crease. Well, though Rohit’s performance at Fatullah is not exactly the inspiration I had for writing this article, but it is certainly a trigger. And a forceful one.
I am not being territorial or favoring one region, but the Indian test match teams have been over the past nearly eight and a quarter decades been having batsmen from Mumbai, and all of those (well, I now have to say nearly) known for their Khaddus attitude. Khaddus elsewhere might be an expletive, or a berating word, but when talking about batting in Mumbai cricket, it is the greatest compliment a batsman can receive. A Khaddus batsman means one who will make it as difficult as possible to the bowler to dislodge him from the crease. The batsman who knows the value of occupying the crease, and realizes that the runs only come when you are at the crease. And that is THE essential for test match batting in all situations than not. And Khaddus is a quality which will always be required for test batsmanship, be one batting at any position. It is all about spending time at the crease and surviving, before one’s batting begins to flow, and then the runs come automatically.
Just take a look at the batsmen who have been mainstays of the Indian batting lineup over the time since India started playing test Cricket in 1932.You will encounter the names of Merchant, Hazare, Vijay Manjrekar, Polly Umrigar, Vinoo Mankad, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, (a few might be surpised at his mention in this list, but will come to that later in the article), Pravin Amre, Wasim Jaffer, and after a big void of time, now Ajinkya Rahane.
Not that only Mumbai batsmen have been Khaddus, in Indian team, there have also been Mohinder Amarnath ( My most favourite cricketer in all the 30+ years I have been following Cricket), Anshuman Gaekwad, Arun Lal, Navjot Singh Sidhu, now more known for his verbal diarrhea rather than his batting exploits. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman (a real Khaddus artist) Chheteshwar Pujara….. A few players who batted in the lower order also depicted this quality in abundance! Bapu Nadkarni, Ramakant Desai, Syed Kirmani, Shivlal Yadav, Madanlal, Roger Binny, Balvinder Singh Sandhu, Arshad Ayub, are a few names which come to the mind. But having experience of playing majority of my cricket in and around Mumbai, will stick to the Mumbai batsmen, and try to analyze what actually has ingrained the Khaddus mentality into the Mumbai batsmen’s’ minds right from an early stage. Let’s take a look at the structure of Mumbai cricket, to understand the point better. Mumbai, traditionally known for its batting talents (much lesser Mumbai Bowlers have represented India as compared to batsmen) the cricket is majorly played on proper turf wickets. The wickets are generally “pata” i.e. unresponsive for the bowlers. And there, when it would seem that ALL Mumbai batsmen are blessed with ideal batting conditions, the seed of insecurity gets planted in their minds. Any batsman who gets his eye “in” on these wickets can make huge runs, and then typically the batsmen batting in the middle order or lower order keep thinking, “When would we get to bat”. The competitiveness creeps in the young Mumbai Cricketers’ minds at that early age, and then whenever they get chances they have to survive at the wicket, and make big scores…. If we take a look at the junior level top scores of Mumbai batsmen who made it big internationally, one would come to know. Here are a few -Ajit Wadekar – 324, Sunil Gavaskar – 327, Sachin Tendulkar – 329, Vinod Kambli – 348 …..
Even the newest sensation of IPL, Sarfaraz Khan (originally from Ajamgarh brought to Mumbai by his dad with the sole purpose of making him a cricketer worth his salt) in UP scored 439, the record broken recently by Arman Jaffer (498) who is Wasim Jaffer’s nephew. Wasim Jaffer himself had a Harris shield top score of 403. To say the least, even considering that all these cricketers were mere schoolboys when they scored these runs, and were facing schoolboy attacks, these scores are gargantuan! And despite the quality of attacks faced by these batsmen, the sheer application, hunger and stimana to stay at the wicket and score runs shown by these players is something very uncommon. And I feel, at least the insecurity is THE element which motivates these young cricketers’ minds to inculcate these qualities going beyond their ages. But it is not the mere application, grit, and hunger to stay at the wicket makes a batsman worthy. The skills are required too.And when it comes to honing of skills of surviving on difficult wickets in difficult conditions, and still keeping the concentration going, the Times shield and Kanga league tournaments, which are typically played in the monsoon season play an important role. Typically played on the famous maidaans of Mumbai, the Azad, the Cross, the Oval, and various gymkhana maidaans like Hindu, Islaam, Police, Shivaji Park, Dadar Union, Dadkar maidaan, in Mumbai, in knee high grass growth, pouring rains, and very often multiple matches simultaneously going on in a very small place. Each player has to always “be on the ball” of his own match all the time. How’s that for grooming of concentration! It is also notable here, that majority of players travelling to these maidaan use Mumbai’s public transport, the BEST busses and the local trains. Someone who has a reasonable amount of experience of these journeys will testify, that the journey from Kalyan or Dombivali to CST, or that from Viraar to Churchgate itself saps energy from an individual, which is not less than that consumed for batting 25 overs in on a sun soaked day! Despite that, the drive for the game these players have, the energy they put in the game, and the zeal with which the game is played in the Metropolis is something to be seen for one’s own believing. No local train service holdups due to rains, no waterlogging issues, and no other circumstances deter these players from making a full-fledged attempt to reach their respective match venues in time for the match. The stories of the Kanga and times shield matches are truly ridiculous. The fans too used to watch the Kanga league (and times shield (Inter Office Tournaments) with amazing regularity and zeal. And why wouldn’t they? Most of the players were employed by some corporate, and used to be seen extremely regularly in these matches. Ones who couldn’t just afford going to a Wankhede or Brabourne stadium due to the high ticket rates here, used to please their eyes watching these players sitting on the Marine drive katas of the Gymkhanas, or standing in the Azad, Cross or the Oval maidaans. And watching players like Gavaskar, Sardesai, Wadekar, Vengsarkar, Shastri, Sandeep Patil, Ashok Mankad, Chandrakant Pandit, Sanjay Majrekar, Pravin Amre, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli playing on these Maidaans used to be real thrilling, as I have experienced during my growing years. And for the younger lot of players, despite their average lifestyles and strenuous ways of commuting, it would be worth turning up for the matches so that they can rub shoulders with their idols, play alongside them, and pick their brains.
However, these hardships were viewed always as challenges, and not deterrents by the Mumbai young
players. My dad remembers having met Bapu Nadkarni in a second class local train compartment frequently in spite of after Bapuji being an Indian regular test player, and not complaining about the meagre money paid by the BCCI to the test cricketers then. So much for the cricketers and the way cricket is played in Mumbai.
Coming back to the reason behind most Mumbai players being Khaddus at crease, let’s look at the chances they have got (and even created at times) and the way they have grabbed them. The first one I saw on our new television set, was a lanky left arm spinner coming in at 6, albeit surprisingly, despite his dismal batting performance in the last three Ranji seasons and the only 3 tests he had played till then from number 10. Rising to the occasion, Ravi Shastri made a defiant 33 and surviving 133 balls, and then India had discovered a batsman, who would put his life on the stumps, and spend all the time at the crease guarding it. Shastri then went on to open for India, and became a batsman of some distinction, making an impact in the shorter form of cricket as well.
A fairytale debut which would come to mind, is, an opener, who went as a rookie to the West Indies tour in 1971 and was surprisingly hailed by none other than Vijay Merchant, as “ … though he is the youngest member of the side, all the senior batsmen would do well to take a leaf or two of this man’s book as far as batting technique is concerned. The guy missed the first test of the tour due to a freak injury, made twin fifties in the second that India won, and the rest, as they say, is history. Enter Mr. Sunil Gavaskar to the arena of test cricket! It is well worth for readers to go through the careers of Vinoo
Mankad, Eknath Solkar, Pravin Amre, Vijay Manjrekar, Vinod Kambli, who did come from a bit of underprivileged background, but made their mark in Indian cricket. But this article is not for such stories.
Another point I would like to make is, that the Khaddus attitude was not only seen in the players who came from middle, or lower middle socio economic backgrounds. Even players who came from influential families, like Vijay Merchant of the Thackersey’s and Madhav Apte from a very well placed family owning a textile business, had the same attitude. Having had an opportunity to interact with Madhav Apte, I was astonished at the down to earth approach he carried to his game. He said, “Mumbai

Cricket was, and to a large extent, still is Meritocracy my dear boy! If you won’t have that Khaddus attitude, won’t grab all the chances that come your way with both hands, you will be chucked into oblivion. The family which you come from, and your talent can’t earn you a permanent place in the Mumbai side. !” It was also an astonishing uncertainty of Indian cricket revealed, when Mr. Apte was inexplicably out of the Indian Test match team after a series in west Indies in which he had made 460 runs in 4 tests at an average of 5 1! Dropped like a hot potato after playing 7 test matches in Toto…
The Khaddus nature, also has a lot to do with Mumbai’s psyche as a city, I’d think. Mumbai, this city does come across as a mean place where one just can’t let go of anything he has earned / achieved. There is enough competition in every walk of life, even to the level of getting in the queue for the ticket to catch a train in time to get to office, you will find people jostling and furiously fighting for their place or space! So once a place is earned, may it be in the local train, or in a bus, or in a team, or at the crease, a Mumbai man won’t just leave it. Will cling to it tooth and nail! HE would do everything within his powers, to make sure that his place is secured, and won’t give it away easily. You would see, that Steven
Waugh is considered as an equal (if not better) by Mumbai cricket connoisseurs to Mumbai’s very own Sachin Tendulkar. TO them, the fact that Steve Waugh won’t give his wicket away easily is a quality which laces him at par with Tendulkar, who was head and shoulders above Waugh in the department of talent. Not a quarter given, not a quarter asked for, is an attitude highly respected in Mumbai Cricket, and that has reflected in the nature of their batsmen. Khaddus! You will find many a cricket fans still angry over Dilip Vengsarkar’s habit of throwing away his wicket almost instantly after he used to reach the 3 figure mark in his early days.
Hence this chap Rohit Sharma irritates me. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly, because a man of his talent and
artistry is too difficult to condemn.
Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article

The King Of Double Hundred!

Rohit Sharma-
Rohit Sharma

Rohit Gurunath Sharma, is now the first and only cricketer to have 2 double hundred under his belt. With a score of 264, he made sure that India crossed the 400 mark with in no time.

A young talented opener, who is often referred to as lazy player, has time and again come out to make his bat do the talking.The crictics can now, for some time, shut up their mouth and have some words of praise for him.In the current list of the double hundred club, there are only 3 players featuring in it. Only Indians, yes all there are Indians. All of them great openers and on a given day, they could tear apart the opposition and only can only pity their bowlers. He has 5 Centuries to his credit, out of which, 2 are double centuries. Team Sri Lanka is already under lots of pressure losing on all the 3 matches, and with Rohit Sharma posting a double ton, there is no chance for the Lankans to win from here.
Having set the record, it’s time for him to concentrate more on his batting and prove his worth for the World Cup that will be played downunder.
Once again, congratulating Rohit Sharma and wish him good luck for the matches to come.  Lets us all share our views in comments and praise and wish him luck.

The Comeback Man Of Cricket!

 

Mohinder Amarnath
Mohinder Amarnath

I have spent a majority of my lifespan being a passionate follower of the game of cricket. It has been a real fulfilling journey, and I do owe a lot to the game. The game has helped me enjoy, overcome my tough times, solve, and survive at various points of time in my life. And when I try to correlate any situation in my life to the great game looking for a solution/ escape or enjoyment, it boils down invariably to the way a particular situation a particular player has reacted to a similar situation in some match, and suddenly answers are available.
As I grew up as a person, the favorite cricket heroes of mine changed, and I feel they were a reflection of the situation I was in my life at that point of time, and how I looked to come out of these situations. However, one name in the list has always been Mohinder (Jimmy) Amarnath. Jimmy doesn’t essentially feature in the list of All Time Greats of world cricket, or even Indian Cricket, but he stood out. His cricketing life was very much like the real life of any average person, who has as many ups as downs, and has had to battle insecurity day in and day out for the whole life. He had to go through constant rejection, had been dropped despite his good performances in favor of much less deserving players, had to bear humiliation and was made a mockery of in spite of his class, abilities, and caliber.
But he stood firm, never stopped being himself, and lived life as he had wanted to. Never compromising himself for being in good books of all and sundry, and still not bearing any bitterness in his mind when he walked in to bat when the team was in dire straits. More often than not, Jimmy was the savior of the team, when everyone else looked scared of genuine fast bowling, and short pitched stuff. And he still was always in and out of the team. If you look at the number of comebacks Jimmy Amarnath has made in his two decade career, you would know how many times he was thrown out, and still with sheer force of performances, he managed to come back.
GRIT, THY NAME IS MOHINDER AMARNATH!!!
It was an irony, that in India, where Gharaneshahi (Dyanastic rules) has been peoples’ choice all the while, Mohinder Amarnath Bhardwaj should suffer this fate. Born as the second son to Lala Amarnath, who scored the first ever test century for India, Jimmy’s family was a truly cricketing family. Lalaji, his father had captained India,  Elder brother Surinder, in his debut test match, scored a sparkling 124 overshadowing none other than the Little Master Sunil Gavaskar, and in the process creating a unique record of father and son making centuries on their respective debut in test cricket.. Lil bro Rajinder also played domestic cricket for a long time. However, being in and out of the team has been a curse bestowed on all the Amarnath Clan. Lalajee, despite his all-round talent was never a permenant fixture in the Indian national cricket team, majorly due to his forthright outspokenness, and refusal to bow to the regal patrons of cricket in India, who then ran the entire Indian Cricket. He was called the “most dazzling stroke player I have ever seen” by none other than Don Bradman during the 1946-47 Indian tour of Australia, when only Hazare, and Phadkar could show some mettle against the fearsome pace attach of Lindwall, Miller and Toshack. However, constantly rubbing the local princes and backers of the British Empire the wrong way, incurred a heavy price, which was getting only 24 tests over a career spanning nearly two decades. He also then became a test selector, Official, and a very outspoken, fiery commentator.
Both his sons, Mohinder and Surinder were too Subjected to inexplicable ommissions and overlooking throughout their careers.
Let’s now look at Mohinder Amarnath, the subject matter of this article.
Born on September 24th, 1950, Jimmy had started making the headlines right from his schoolboy cricketing days, scoring heavily in Coochbehar, Vijay Merchant and Vizzy trophies played for youth cricket in India. This heavy scoring followed in the Ranji, Duleep and Irani trophies as well. Indian Cricket had discovered a prolific batsman.
Strangely, Jimmy made his debut as a new ball bowler, thanks to the idiosyncrasies of the Indian Cricket in its early half century of existence.  It was against Bill Lawry’s Australians, in 1969 in the torrid Madras (Now Chennai). He bowled 7 wicketless overs in the first innings, but claimed the prized scalps of Kieth Stackpole and Ian Chappel in the second. Batting at 8 in both the innings, he made 16n.o. in the first and a blob in the second innings. Nothing noteworthy, though in the second innings, 11 out of his 24 overs were maidens. A performance much below average.
The next chance came 7 years later, in 1976, in the series against the Kiwis. 238 runs at 59.5, with one score of 64. A performance good enough to earn a place in the side for the 1976 tour of the West Indies. Big challenge, Roberts, Holding, Julien, and Daniel breathing fire down the Indian batsmen’s throat. First three tests, nothing special. A top Score of 26, not enough to justify his place in the team as a batsman. Still, managing to latch on to his place in the side, mainly due to limited batting resources. In the fourth test, West Indies, riding on Viv Richards’ rampant 177, made 359 in their first dig, and wrapped India up for 228, Jimmy contributing 25 coming in at number 3. West Indies, in their second knock, made 271 for 6, Allwyn Kallicharan leading the charge this time with a silken 103 not out. Llyod left India with the challenge to score 404 in the fourth innings, in a day and a half. Sunil Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad, strung a decent partnership of 69, not particularly breezy, but solid. In comes Jimmy, at the fall of Anshuman Gaekwad, and kept good company with Sunil Gavaskar, who went on to score a 102, adding 108 important runs in the process, but more importantly keeping their wickets intact. When Gavaskar eventually fell for a well-made, disciplined 102, India still didn’t look confident enough to even save the match, let alone win it. Still 226 runs in deficit, and two sessions to survive, things looked difficult, with the West Indian quicks fired up from frustration of not getting the wickets. Jimmy’s character was evident for the first time on the international stage. He held fort stoically, batted for 440 long minutes, didn’t get carried away even when Gundappa Vishwanath was setting the Queens Park Oval ablaze with his artistry, and by the time he fell run out, short of 15 runs of his maiden test century, he had definitely bailed out India from a losing situation and provided a launch pad for Vishwanath and Brijesh Patel to launch the killer attack to win the match. Jimmy the immovable workman, had arrived.
This successful Indian Chase had so annoyed Clive Lloyd, that in the subsequent test in Jamaica, Lloyd ordered his pace quartet to launch an all-out bodyline attack on the Indian team, and only three Indians, who were to be later known widely for their grit and courage, were the only ones who could offer some resistance. Anshuman Gaekwad, with a defiant 81, before being knocked unconscious by a lethal bouncer, Mohinder Amarnath, with a two gritty knocks of 39 and 60. Though not making lofty hundreds, Jimmy had made it clear to the Indian Selectors, that if there is any Indian batsman who can stand up against genuine pace other than Gavaskar and Vishwanath, it was him.
He made a couple of fifties in the home series against New Zealand. In spite of a nondescript performance in the home series against England, Jimmy found himself on the flight taking the Indian team to play a Packer depleted Australians. This was probably the only time when he was given a longer rope, and Jimmy made the most of it. He scored 436 runs at an average of 72.66, and though the Australian Side had lost their major stars to the Packer Circus, they still had Jeff Thompson bowling at his fastest. Jimmy also captured 5 Australian wickets in the series while bowling. His deliveries were preceded by a lazy, reluctant run up, and delivered at what Henry Blofield described as “irritating” pace. Looked like Jimmy’s place in the Indian National side had been cemented. Jimmy also notched up his maiden test century (an even 100) in Perth, which had the fastest and bounciest wickets in the world at that time. 1978 gave Jimmy nothing to write home about, apart from a score of 86 against Australia at Adelaide.
In 1979, again against a West Indies Side depleted by Packer Circus, Jimmy made a 101 not out at Kanpur, his second test hundred. But after that began a series of poor performances, and then came a blow, which would have proven to be fatal to any batsman’s career, and no one else with grit and tenacity lesser than Jimmy would have survived. Already under fire for not having scored well for quite a few matches, Jimmy came to the wicket wearing a Sola Felt hat, which is made of a hard material, which was due to his confidence being shaken by the poor run of scores, and a constant criticism that he is “scared” of fast bowling. Strange, how people say this in spite of him making that stoic 85 against the West Indian pace battery in full blow, and making a century at the paciest and the bounciest wicket in the world, facing Jeff Thomson in full cry. However, his confidence was quite low, to say the truth. He had just scored a couple of runs, when Rodney Hogg, smelling Jimmy’s lack of confidence at crease, and having read all the articles about he being vulnerable to fast bowling, promptly bowled a straight bouncer heading for the area between Jimmy’s eyes. Jimmy attempted the hook, missed, and the ball hit his felt hat, which fell on the stumps. Immediately, everyone started calling for Jimmy’s head, and he was axed from the team promptly. Many thought, End of the road for Mr. Mohinder Amarnath…. That’s it!
Here, let me tell you, that I never thought Jimmy was scared of fast bowling. But he refused to duck to bouncers, and employed the hook shot compulsively. It is his compulsiveness to the hook, which is largely a percentage stroke, which got him into trouble. And he had an enormous ability to endure body blows, and still keep batting unflinchingly.
But there is the difference between a good cricketer, and a great one. Jimmy took his domestic cricket very seriously, set up a string of huge scores in the Ranji, Duleep and Irani Trophy matches in the next 3 seasons, and made it impossible for the selectors not to consider including him for the 1982 tour of Pakistan. He also made conscious changes to his batting (he changed his side on stance to a two eyed, square on one), using his alert cricketing brain, and thus started the purplest patch of his playing career. He notched up a string of scores which read 109n.o, 5, 3, 22, 78, 61, 64, 120, 19 and 103 n.o. against a Pakistani attack of Imraan Khan, Sarfaraz Nawaz, and Abdul Qadir. No mean attack that! He followed up this series with another good series against the West Indies, scoring 29, 40, 58, 117, 13, 91, 80, 54 and 116 against the pace battery of Marshall, Holding, Garner and Roberts in the 1982 series against the West Indies. He was at this time, clearly the mainstay of Indian batting, and averaged even more than Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar, in his book Idols, added Jimmy at the last moment to the list of his cricketing Idols, and called him ‘The finest batsman in the world”. Jimmy was the best batsman in the world then, representing a very weak side, and holding it together with his will of steel!
Then came the highest point of all Indian Cricketers, Cricket lovers, and everyone associated with Indian Cricket.
THE 1983 WORLD CUP.

Mohinder Amarnath
Man of the Match 1983 World Cup

India were not even considered as the dark horses, let alone favorites. Underdogs, at the most. And in the first upset in this world cup, India defeated the defending champions and favorites West Indies, Jimmy contributing handsomely with a knock of 80. He did make a lot of useful contributions with the bat and the ball during the tournament, and topped it off with Man of the Match Performances in the finals and Semi Finals. For a 12 year old going through an extremely rough patch with school grades and adolescence, it was an overwhelming sight to see his new hero lifting the champagne magnum which was the customary award for the Man of the Match of the world cup finals. Mohinder Amarnath had reached the peak of his Cricket!
Sadly, a steep downfall was in the immediate offing. West Indies, badly stung with the World Cup final defeat, were on a tour to India in 1983, and had come for revenge! Mohinder’s scores in the 4 tests he played- 0, 1, 0,0,0. He was named as Mohinder Amarnought by his critics, and his followers were dumbfounded. That ended the period of Mohinder Amarnath’s greatness. He did prod on, making no less than 3 comebacks till 1988, and faded away. There were occasional flashes of brilliance and consistency, but they were just flashes in the proverbial pan.
But for those who followed Mohinder Amarnath’s career, it teaches a lot about life.
During his entire career, Jimmy was as fit as a fiddle, and had seldom missed a match due to injury. He was at many points in his playing days, ridiculed, told that he was just not good enough, and discarded by the selectors and Public, but he had come back enough times with sheer grit, application and concentration. It is this what keeps him immovable from my All Time Cricketing Heroes list. He won’t go away.
Jimmy, following you has guided me at very crucial junctures of life, and I owe you a lot!
Take a bow!!!

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

The Grim Immovables!

95 days gap between two consecutive tests, since the last test (March 5th in Cape Town) is the longest absence of Test Cricket that doesn’t involve an ODI World Cup since 1973…!

It has been a real long wait for the ones like me, who actually love to follow the TEST Cricket. In the frenzies of the T20 world cup and the IPL, it appeared that all the cricket lovers had just forgotten the existence of this vintage form of the game, and were lost in the blitzkrieg T20 format.

The game is all about asking for nothing, giving nothing away, and hanging in there till you break the opposition.

And that is why it has got its many qualities and names….

The great leveler, the game of uncertainties, Chess played on the field, the mind game, and what not.

And now, that brings me to the subject of this article.

When any cricket follower is asked to name the all-time great batsmen of cricket, the list will inevitably consist of the names of Trumper, Clem Hill, Wally Hammond, Sir Don Bradman, Neil Harvey, Sir Len Hutton, Peter May, Tom Graveny, Sir Garry Sobers, the 3 Ws, Clive Lloyd, Sir Viv Richards, Ian & Greg Chappel, Doug Walters, Sunil Gavaskar, GR Vishwanath, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Mark Waugh, Mohammed Azharuddin, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jaques Kallis AB D’Villiers……

All of them, either very attractive stroke makers, or explosive batsmen who could tear any bowling attack apart. No doubt, that they all have been greats of the game, very attractive to watch when they batted, and had a very long lived consistency of performances to go with it. Yours truly is in no less awe of these names, then anyone of you ardent cricket lovers are!

However, looking at the more recent test matches (more recent would mean the ones which took place since the start of this millennium it has been observed, that a breed of batsmen, which are not the ones to be the apple of the eyes of the spectators, appears to be on the way to extinction. They are called the stonewallers, the one who fight tooth and neck to save their wicket, concentrate amongst the frustrated bowlers and fielders of the opposition and would even wither body blows and still hang in there, but not get out. They are the guys who are actually the glue which holds the entire woodwork of an innings together. They may not be attractive to watch, they may not be scoring always at a brisk pace, but the mere presence of these guys at the wicket makes the opposition feel that they have no chance of getting a wicket at their end. They were the epitomes of concentration, resilience, grit, and the never say die spirit, which actually are essential ingredients of good test cricket.

And in this list would feature a lot of batsmen, who don’t have a bad record, either, in terms of the runs scored, batting averages, and centuries and fifties (if they are any measure of greatness). The batsmen of this variety are, Bill Woodfull, Bill Ponsford, Jack Hobbs, Ken Barrington ( who, in the mid fifties was described as the most attractive stroke maker in 1955, and then in 1962, as the slowest crawler on the cricket field), Bill Lawry, Conrad Hunte, Basil Butcher, Chris Tavare, Geoffrey Boycott, Mohinder Amarnath, Allan Border, Steve Waugh (whose career also progressed much like Barrington), Rahul Dravid, Shivnariane Chanderpaul, Gary Kirsten….. All dour, boring, hard on the eye, but very difficult to get rid of !

Just to dwell a bit on what value these batsmen brought to the table, without being essentially entertaining, and many a times boring the spectators to sleep, a few things come to my mind. And thinking about this, what surprised me is, that how close these qualities are, in order to achieve success in life too. If were to look at these qualities ..

Hanging in there: These batsmen, come what may, would hang in there. They may be beaten repeatedly, get edges, offer  chances, be hit on the body, be sledged at, be the constantly ridiculed by the media, but when on the field, what mattered to them was only the red cricket ball coming towards them. It could be bouncing awkwardly, could be spinning viciously, swinging wildly or hurrying them for pace, these batters would simply stand there with the primary motive of keeping it out of their wicket. And thereby, provide their team with immense assurance, that at least at their end, wicket won’t be lost. They were keen on surviving.

Looking at the broader picture, and not brief flashes of Glamour: These batsmen never had a problem playing the second fiddle to their more entertaining partners. When a Sehwag was blazing all guns at one end, you would essentially see a Dravid grafting, and making sure that he doesn’t lose his wicket, and thereby relieving Sehwag of any pressure that would curb his fearless stroke play. Same applies to many Great partnerships between the pairs like Lara and Chanderpaul, Tendulkar and Dravid, and many more. If you would go into the match situations of many great partnerships over the nearly 140 years of  test cricket, you would see that in many a partnerships, Bradman wouldn’t have able to dazzle like he did, without support from Jack FIngleton, Ponsford, Woodfull, Sid Barnes all of whom were stonewallers. The fact that the stonewallers batted that way didn’t essentially mean that they were incapable of strokeplay, instead it meant that they were able to curb their rush of blood in the interest of the team most of the times. You can’t say that Rahul Dravid couldn’t play attractive strokes and score at a brisk pace, just take a look at his ODI record and strike rates. Similarly, Chanderpaul’s 69 ball hundred in the epic chase of 418 for West Indies against Australia belies the man’s reputation of being dour, uninteresting and ugly. Also not to forget the replies the normally sedate Mohinder Amarnath gave to the bowlers, when bouncers were hurled at him. However, exceptions to the stonewallers always putting the team’s interest before their glory do exist in Boycott and Barrington, who were dropped from the England side for “selfish batting” while eyeing personal milestones. Boycott, incidentally had scored  246 n.o. against India, and was dropped in the very next test.

Resilience: Many of the innings off these batsmen have been match saving innings, rather than match winning ones. This  would show that, these were the guys to rely on, when the chips were down. They would not give their wicket away, and due to their cool heads, would have the best chances of averting defeat, and if they then would see any light at the end of the tunnel, scoot along to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The  example of innings of such quality is the 180 and 281 scored by Dravid and Laxman on the Eden Gardens against the mighty Australians in 2001. They first batted to save innings defeat, and then went on to build an innings for India, where they could only win, on that turning Kolkata track.

It has also been seen that at least a few of the batsmen featured in the above list of flamboyant stroke makers, as their game matured, and they grew older, had come to value their wicket more, than playing to the galleries. They did open up and please the eye, but only when they were well set. They realised over the time, that to thrive, one must survive….. Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis are very good example of that. A few of the innings which come to the mind of these players are, the 9 hour 172 scored by Gavaskar at Bangalore in 1979 to tire the Pakistan Attack of Imran Khan, Sikander Bakht, Abdul Qadir, and Iqbal Qasim into submission, Sachin Tendulkar’s 241n.o at the Sydney Cricket ground, And Kallis’ twin centuries in South Africa against India in 2011.

This proves a point, that whatever these batsmen did, was of big, lasting value for their teams. And hence, I wouldn’t make a request of sparing a thought for the contribution of these guys, but would ask people to recognise what these people have done for their teams and the flamboyant stroke players therein to flourish….

And yes, in the new breed of batsmen too, there are guys of this variety turning up for teams. There are Ken Williamson, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hashim Amla, on the scene, who, in spite of being capable of exquisite, explosive strokeplay, are prepared to scrap, hang in there and provide security to their teams’ batting line ups.

To conclude, I would borrow and modify a line from James Henry Leigh Hunt’s poem Abou Ben Adhem, which was a part of my school curriculum and say,

“May their Tribe Increase…..”

They are extremely essential for the survival and growth of test cricket, and cricket as a whole….

Amen….

 

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

 

 

 

The Two N’s of T20 World Cup!

As they say evolvement is the name of the game and only thing remains that constant is change, cricket is no exception. In the quest to provide quick fire entertainment and the fact that the game gets over in few hours, T20 matches were introduced.

Cricket has always been a great entertaining sport, but different format provide different amount of entertainment.

Test match has its own charm, but being played for 5 days, it only adds entertainment towards the last day or in patches. Limited Overs International brings in more entertainment as it gets over in one day and lasts for 50 overs a side.

The first T20 match was played on 13th June 2003 between the English counties and since then it has taken a huge plunge. Its popularity has helped in extending it worldwide. The first International T20 match was played on 17th Feb 2005, in Eden Park, Auckland, between Australia and England.

The first edition of the International T20 Word Cup was played in 2007. Who would have imagined deadly finals between India and arch rivals Pakistan? And boy did India kept the tradition of not losing to their arch rivals in any of the world cup formats?  In Steve Waugh’s words, in case he were to comment on this, “Sreesanth caught the World Cup”

The T20 world cup is played once in 2 years .Talking about the teams, we have 2 teams who got their T20 status on 28th June 2014 .One is a football crazy nation, the other is our neighboring country.

Let’s welcome the two ‘N’s of the T20 Cricket, Netherlands and Nepal. It will be great to see how both the teams shape up and provide entertainment.

 

Change for better or worse !!!!!!!

We saw in Maniben.com that how the girl’s fiancé wants her to change her identity completely for him before they get married, just to match his lifestyle. .
This one is a real nice story for all the people in this world that we get to know after seeing this episode of Maniben. There are moments in real life that many of us feel where we are disappointed and decide that it’s the end of everything. But here’s Maniben who does not get the certificate in the finishing school, still she is not upset, she is all the more positive and wants to keep people around her cheerful.

She understands the human values of companionship and Love; and that she expresses in the way she treats Jaman even after him treating her rudely.
But well said by Maniben, “Badlav ache ke liye hona chaiye, bure ke liye nahin”

Well that’s how all the Maniben’s should be…. What say?

God Of Cricket Turns 36

A very Happy Birthday to our very dear swashbuckling master blaster Sachin from Shams & Wags.
The Master turns 36 today, long live the pride of India, long live the symbol of cricket.
Shams was watching a cricket program this morning on a News channel in which Sachin said “It still feels to be a 16 year old. Same enthusiasm, same energy only the side locks greyed and years on calendar changed”.
There’s no point in discussing his records and stats here. He was, is and will always remain as the best player the game has ever seen.
Shams clearly remember a small quote on a billboard in Sydney cricket Ground which says “Go and commit sin while Sachin bat, coz even God watches him play”.
So all of you readers please log in and share your wishes or any thoughts with us on Sachin.