Don Of Cricket!

Sir Donald Bradman
Sir Donald Bradman
It was in February 1951 Ashes test, Day1 Australia were 254 for 3. Arthur Morris was batting on a spectacular 140 not out at the end of the day, and Keith Miller was unbeaten on 24. It was an exciting day of cricket, and the spectators had got their money’s worth, with the home team dominating. A gentleman in his early 40s was walking out towards his car in the parking lot of the Adelaide Oval. A kid stopped him.
“Morris is the greatest Australian batsman”, the kid said. The gentleman stopped in his stride, and said to the kid, “Yes.”
“Do you like cricket too?” asked the kid.“Yes” said the man, “have played a bit myself too”.
The kid was suddenly awestruck. “Can I know your name Sir?” He asked politely. “Donald Bradman” said the man, and quietly walked away to his car. Such is the public memory. People forget the greats very easily, once they find new heroes.

And going gaga over the World Cup 2015, we all, the ardent cricket fans, have done the same.
Not much of us seemed aware today, that 14 years ago on this day, the world of cricket was robbed of Don, whose batting was actually was the dawn of the fast scoring style of batting, which is prevalent and admired the world cricket now, for more than 2 decades, and is entertaining us cricket lovers.
On this day in 2001, the Don passed away. He was to the cricket world, what Sachin was in the Last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the millennium. Few of his records have been so steep, that in seven decades after his retirement, no one has been able to get near to his batting average of 99.94, or his 309 test runs scored in one single day.

Volumes have been written about the Don, and there is not much I can add to it. But there are a few anecdotes, which I would love to share here in his remembrance.

It was 1930, the Ashes. Percy Fender had warned Don, that his technique of employing horizontal bat shots won’t work in England and he will have to use a straight bat. Don had made Sir Percy eat his words in the first test, scoring 131 in the chase. However, Australia had lost the test by 93 runs, and that had stung the Don’s Aussie Pride. The Aussies won the second test at Lords by 7 wickets, largely due to the Don’s 254 in the first knock. That instilled a great deal of confidence in Don. With the series poised delicately at 1-1, the third test was crucial for both the teams. The team who would dominate in the third test would have wrested the advantage. On the eve of the Leeds test, Bradman had a dinner appointment with Neville Cardus, the great cricket author. Don called him earlier in the day, and said, “Can we have this meeting on another day Mr. Cardus? Tomorrow’s test is important, and I will have to score at least 200 in it. So need to retire early to bed.”
Cardus was a bit offended by this, and he thought that the Aussie was being too cocky and overconfident, and was underestimating the English attack of Larwood, Tate, Dick Tyldsley, Hammond and Maurice Leyland. But the Don lived up to what he had said. He reached his century before lunch the next day, plundered another 115 runs in the post lunch session, and walked proudly unbeaten to the pavilion at the end of the day’s play having scored 309 in a single day. Australia had made 458 for 3 in the day, and Don had scored two thirds of the runs singlehandedly. Australia went on to make a mammoth 721 in that innings, and played England out of the match, and the mother country did their best, still could only save the match. Don didn’t do much in the next rain curtailed Manchester test, but came back to his elements in the final test at the Oval, scoring 232. Series tally of 974 runs in a five test series. Take that folks!
Another one is from the India tour of Australia in 1947-48.
While batting in a tour match against Ghulam Mohammed , Don pulled a bit uppishly, and the ball only just eluded Square leg. “That was risky!” exclaimed the wicketkeeper Khokhan Sen. Ghulam Mohammed promptly pushed square leg a bit deeper. “Just wait and watch.” Don told Sen. The next ball was also a short one, and Don pulled it again in the air, again only just eluding Square leg. Ghulam Mohammed pushed the square leg further back, and again bowled a short one. Don again pulled it in a way that it just eluded the square leg. Then he turned to Sen again, and said: “I am not playing Ghulam Mohammed’s bowling to the field, I am “playing with” him to his field.” Such Mastery! He also went on to warn Sen not to pay so much attention to this, or Sen might lose his concentration.

That was the way the Don backed himself, and more often than not, delivered. 29 centuries and 13 fifties in 80 innings is a testimony to that!

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

Mahendra Singh Dhoni- Test Retirement!

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Having salvaged the situation for India at the MCG, what happened in the end is something that no one would have expected. For us, it was surely shocking news, more of a disbelief. With the end of the test match at MCG, we saw closed curtains for Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the five-day format of the game.
Was it sheer pressure, or the timing was planned is something that only MSD can tell us. With recent debacle of the team in test format, and more so, in the overseas matches, India lost on 15 counts, two drawn matches and only one victory to boast about.
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 gets 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).
Coming from the Steel City of Ranchi, MSD was like any other School kid, wanting to play sport, rather than studying. He had to get working as early as the age of 19, when he got recruited in the Indian Railways as a Ticket Checker, but kept playing the sport he loved. Our earliest remembrance of Dhoni was a double century partnership of his with Shikhar Dhawan against Pakistan, in 2005-6 and both were slaughtering the hapless attack going hammers and tongs. He didn’t change this style of batting all through his career. Just backed himself, and let it go. A few innings of his “attack is the best defense” approach which come to our mind are, a couple of 90s he scored in England, his top score innings of 224 against Australia, and his batting in the last series in England. In all these situations, he looked by far the best batsman in the Indian batting line up. Explosive batting, out of the book Technique and strokes employed, and refusing to get bogged down, had been his forte all his career.
As a wicketkeeper, he never had the best technique, had hard hands, but made up for it by his cat like reflexes. He did drop a few catches, but has still ended up having the maximum dismissals in test cricket by an Indian Wicketkeeper. He did prove it here too, that not going by the book, isn’t always wrong!
As a captain, we would rate Dhoni as inspiratory. 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. 9 years back , MSD made his test debut for India against Sri Lanka on 2nd December 2005.Seldom did he know that one day he would lead India in all formats of the game and become a successful captain ever. But one thing he did, was he had a dream and had a belief in him to achieve it. With years passing by, he achieved one dream after the other and set a benchmark that are difficult to surpass.

As the year comes towards the fag end, Dhoni has decided to quit Test Match format and that will surely have lot of impact in the entire cricketing fraternity with the kind of leadership determination, and success he has lead the team all these years.

What is the legacy MSD leaves behind then?
1. Back your instincts, and go all out
2. Keep your restlessness in your mind. Once it reflects in the body language, your team panics, and your opposition senses an opportunity.
3. Back your decisions and stand by them
4. Don’t pay heed to criticisms

Finally it was a typical MSD type cool Signoff.In a flash.No farewells,and no emotional speeches!
With the baton passed on to Virat Kohli, who is yet another example of a good leader, we hope he will be able to fill in the big shoes of the cricketer we love and admire- Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Credits to Sanjeev Sathe for sharing his views and thoughts, who himself,is a class batsman and an ardent cricket fan.

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.

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