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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 5

From Part 4 of the Series- From CK to VK- Indian Skippers in England lets move on to Part 5. Datta Gaekwad at 89,is India’s oldest living international cricketer. Vijay Hazare debuted in the 1946 England tour and went to his next tour (1952) of England as a captain of the side. Datta Gaekwad debuted in the 1952 England tour for India and went to the next England tour (1959) as the captain of the side. Both Played for Baroda. And as far as the test match careers are concerned, there end the similarities. Hazare, between 1946 and 1952 had impressed in test cricket, scoring courageous runs both home and away.

Datta Gaekwad
Datta Gaekwad
Datta Gaekwad, however never established himself as a batsman at the international level. He was extremely prolific at the domestic level and had been a pillar for the Baroda middle order for a decade before this tour. An extremely disciplined man, he was chosen to lead the Indian side after Colonel Hemu Adhikari, who had led India in the preceding home series against the West Indies was mysteriously overlooked for selection.

It is said that Dattajirao was made captain due to his being a Gaekwad (the Royal family of Baroda), but much that the writer of this piece is baffled at the exclusion of Adhikari, I refuse to admit Dattajirao Gaekwad must have used any of the royal influences to become a captain. Having met the man, I can vouch for that. Gaekwad had made handsome runs in Ranji trophy for nearly a decade was probably the best batsman in the country at that time, and hence got the nod for he captaincy. He had led Baroda to Ranji Trophy title in 1958-59, and that must have been a factor in Making him the captain of the national side. Yet he disappointed.

Gaekwad had a reasonably talented bunch of players in his squad, but they were inexperienced. Out of the proven players, Manjrekar had gained weight as voraciously as he used to gather the runs and was a liability in the fielding set-up.

Umrigar took much time (until the fourth test when the fate of the series had already been sealed) to find form, and the lapses in the techniques of Contractor, Chandu Borde, Ramakant Desai and Bapu Nadkarni were inexperienced, and the captain himself was not in the greatest of batting forms. Wicketkeepers Nana Joshi and Naren Tamhane, though excellent with the larger gloves, contributed precious little with the smaller ones.

As is proved over past the past 138 years of test match cricket being in England, the team having the maximum capacity to stay on the crease comes up on the top, as once the swing and the seam movement is negated, runs can be easily scored. That precisely was lacking until England took an unassailable lead of 3-0 in the series, and then when some Indian batsmen started exhibiting some resolve at the crease, the series was already lost.

The first test followed the pattern of the first tests in the earlier four tours. England piled up 422, Captain Peter May made 106 and Godfrey Evans, Ken Barrington and Horton made half centuries. Subhash Gupte picked up 4 for 102 runs. India made 206 in the first knock, all their batsmen got starts and threw them away. Pankaj Roy made 54, Gaekwad 33. Made to follow on, they put up an even worse display, folding up for 157. Roy 49, Gaekwad 31. Fred Trueman and Brian Statham simply blew India away with their combination of pace, accuracy, swing and seam movement. Innings victory for England.

In the second test, Gaekwad, Borde and Nadkarni were injured, so Roy captained India. Contractor, hit by Statham, batted with a cracked rib but still made almost half of India’s first innings runs, with a determined 81. Greenhough took five for 35 as the last six wickets fell for just 24 runs. The Indian bowlers then hit back and reduced England to 80 for six, but Ken Barrington, with another 80, found unlikely batting allies in Statham and Moss, so England claimed a lead of 58.

Trueman dismissed Roy and Umrigar in the first over and though Manjrekar and Kripal Singh added 89 for the fifth wicket, the last six wickets fell this time for 34 and England required only 108, which an unbeaten 63 from Colin Cowdrey easily achieved.

In the third test at Leeds, England made six changes, bringing in a lot of their fringe players. Yet, India made only 161 in first innings and England piled on 483/8. Cowdrey made 160, Barrington, Pullar, and Parkhouse all made 70+, drowning India in torrent of runs. India, in the second innings, showed no fight and were all out for 149. Only Borde (41) and Umrigar (39) showed some resistance.

Again the scourges were Trueman and Statham, this time helped by the chucker Harold “Dusty” Rhodes who claimed 4 wickets in the first innings. At Manchester, India fought, but the rubber had already gone England’s way. India had roped in a handsome Oxford blue by the name of Abbas Ali Baig in the playing eleven.

England made 490 Pullar and MJK Smith made centuries, Barrington and Cowdrey made half centuries. Surendranath bowled valiantly to take the first five for of the series. Indian first innings amounted to only 208, Borde making a fighting 75. Yet, England batted again and declared their innings closed at 265/8, and setting India a monumental target of 548 runs to win. This time India tried to win.

Debutante 21 year old Abbas Ali baig became the third Indian batsman to score a century on debut, after Lala Amarnath and Deepak Shodhan. Polly Umrigar made 118, and at last Indians had started scoring centuries in the series. Contractor made 56. Yet India could score only 376 all out, and lost the test by 171 runs. Gaekwad didn’t play this test due to an injury, and India was skippered by Pankaj Roy.

In the last test of the tour, India batted poorly against Trueman and Statham and only a late partnership of 58 for the eighth wicket between Tamhane and Surendranath brought any comfort. The innings of 140 occupied five hours and 85.3 overs. England relied on a third wicket partnership of 169 between Raman Subba Row, who made 94, and MJK Smith (98), and then Illingworth and Swetman made maiden Test 50s in putting on 102 for the seventh wicket. England made 361 India’s second innings was more spirited than their first, with Nadkarni making 76 in four hours, yet they folded up for 194 and but the result was never in doubt.

Datta Gaekwad went on to play one more test for India. And played for Baroda for 5 more seasons. His son Anshuman represented India too, and with far greater success. An attractive stroke maker when he started, Anshuman Gaekwad was known for his heroic resistance against the West Indian Pace attack, and his batting in the 1976 Jamaica test is actually an interesting story, but that is for another day. Gaekwad lives in Baroda, with his son Anshuman and Grandson Shatrunjay, who all have played first cricket. He still keeps in touch with the game, and voices his strong opinions too, albeit now only at home. To quote a recent interview of his by Wisden,“Now there’s too much cricket. Everyday there is a match, whenever I switch on TV. I get fed up watching it,” he says, summing up world cricket’s problems in simple terms. “And somebody is doing this (reverse sweep), somebody is doing this (Dilscoop) – this is the sort of cricket going on.”

Thats all about Part 5 of series- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England. Untill then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 2

Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy
Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy
Though one can write about C K Nayudu with awe and respect, the same is not true about the man captaining India on its 1936 England tour. It is said that the captain is always only as good as his team, but this man, though having a much balanced and talented team compared to the 1932 sojourn with the Colonial masters, he was not able to make good use of his players. On the contrary, in this tour it was the captain Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, (Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram) aka Vizzy who was the chief detriment to his team’s performance.

There was an excellent ppening batting pair of Vijay Merchant and Syed Mushtaq Ali. The middle order boasted names like Syed Wazir Ali, C K Naidu and L P Jai. There were two world class allrounders in Amar Singh and Lala Amarnath and one of the best wicketkeeper in Dattaram Hindlekar. This was a formidable squad, yet it didn’t perform to it’s potential in England.

In the first test at Lords, England won the toss and put India in. India started well with Vijay merchant and Dattaram Hindlekar defying the new ball and putting on 62 runs for the first wicket. But after that, the batsmen went to the wicket to bat and batted as if they were very concerned about the scorers and thought that it was better if the scorers not be troubled by scoring runs. Here, the captain played a captain’s knock as well as his limited abilities would allow him and from 97 for 6, guided the Indian team to a somewhat respectable score of 147. Vizzy’s opposite number, Gubby Allen was the wrecker in chief, taking five wickets for a mere 35 runs.

India covered up their bad batting performance by responding well with the ball. Amar Singh took 6 wickets for 35, Nissar 3 for 36 and CK Naidu took one for 10. In spite of Maurice Leyland’s defiant 60, England were skittled for 134, giving India a slender lead of 13 runs. In the Indian second innings, Gubby Allen took his second five wicket haul of the match, Headley Verity claimed four wickets, and Indian innings folded up for 93, which was the first of the many subsequent spineless Indian batting performances at Lords.

England needed a mere 107 runs to win, which they easily got losing a solitary wicket of Mitchell and Harold Gimblett scoring 67. India had lost by 9 wickets. In the second test at Manchester, one of the most dazzlingly audacious performance of the Indian Cricket team was seen. In the first innings, nearly all the Indian batsmen got starts, but couldn’t convert them to big scores. India scored 203, with Syed Wazir Ali top-scoring with 42. England responded with a mammoth 571/8 declared, with the mighty Hammond making a handsome 167, and Stan Worthington, Joe Hardstaff Jr., Headley Verity and Walter Robbins getting half centuries. England plundered the Indian bowling, which looked toothless.

India went in to bat again, facing an innings defeat, and least would have anyone expected what happened after that. An ideal opening partnership, where one dashed and other blocked was made. The stoic Vijay Merchant scored 114 and the debonair flamboyant Mushtaq Ali scored a blistering 112. Mushtaq beat Merchant by minutes to score India’s maiden test match century overseas. His batting was superlative in that innings. The great Neville Cardus wrote,’ There was suppleness and a loose, easy grace which concealed power, as the feline silkiness conceals the strength of some jungle beauty of gleaming eyes and sharp fangs. At times his cricket was touched with genius and imagination.’ Cotar Ramaswamy scored 60, CK Nayudu scored 34, and Amar Singh a brisk 48 not out. India scored 390 for the loss of 5 wickets, and the match ended in a draw.

Vizzy remained not out and didn’t score a run. He presented Mushtaq with a gold watch. India needed inspiration from second innings of the second test, Indian batting considerably improved in the third test at Oval. The hosts, riding on Hammond’s double hundred and Worthington’s 128 scored 471/d in the first innings. Nissar took another five for, and India was again up against a mammoth total. Merchant and Mushtaq again started well, scoring 52 apiece and putting on 81 for the first wicket, but the rest of the batsmen contributed little precious and the Indian innings card showed only 222 runs.Allen immediately imposed the follow on, sensing an innings victory. But in the second innings, India defied the hosts well. Merchant, Naidu, Dilawar Hussein and Ramaswamy batted well and India made 312 in the innings. Naidu made 81, which was his top test score. Given a mere 64 runs to chase, England achieved victory losing only Arthur Fagg. Vizzy’s tour was over, and so was his international cricket career.

The 1936 tour to England was perhaps one of the most acrimonious in the history of Indian cricket. He was fickle-minded, and whimsical, and the dressing room atmosphere was always polluted with plots and schemes to ensure disunity in the players. A few of the occurrences masterminded by Vizzy will remain like eyesores on the canvas of Indian crickets.

Vizzy’s cricketing ability was much inferior to the likes of Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, Vijay Merchant, Nissar, Amar Singh and CK Nayudu, and he was tremendously jealous of these better players. He had Amarnath sent back for “disciplinary” reasons after humiliating him repeatedly and also had a feud with Nayudu. He asked Baqa Jilani to insult C K Naidu at breakfast and rewarded him with a place in the test 11. He had also famously asked Mushtaq Ali to run-out Vijay Merchant during the second Test in Manchester, but they went on to have a 203-run stand.Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy was a prince, a scheming man, a bootlicker of the British Government and if he called himself a cricketer, was a very very ordinary one. He, however was extremely well connected, was filthy rich and had an ambition to lead India in test cricket.
To his credit though, Vizzy had made space for a cricket ground in his palace in Banaras, and invited international greats like Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Leary Constantine to India, paying them handsome sums of money, and arranged for them to play in matches in various locations in India, thereby granting India a glimpse of their geniuses. He was also instrumental in the development of Syed Mushtaq Ali, Dilawar Hussein and Baqa Jilani. But his was nothing compared to the huge damage he caused to Indian Cricket. Vizzy died 26 days short of his 60th birthday in Banaras, in 1965.

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

Team India Tamed in Their Backyard!

We are not done yet!
Back in 2001, Australia visited India being undefeated for 16 matches. They were already dominating the world and entered India with the quest to conquer fortress.
However, their winning juggernaut were brought to a halt by Ganguly & team.
Under the captain ship of Kohli, the number 1 test team in the world – team India were undefeated for 19 test matches until Smith & co; Company spoiled the party for India by defeating them hands down in all departments in the first match of the test series in Pune.
It was shameful for India to see how the Aussies dominated with the ball on the conditions tailor made for Indians. Though there were few eyebrows raised on pitch conditions before start of play, but the way Indian team performed, specially with bat shows lack of character and maybe sign of over confidence where they were basking on past glory.
The score for 105 in the first innings and 107 in the second innings are not even the scores that can be considered for T20 matches, forget even worth considering for Test match. Drop catches, waste of reviews added salt to the injury.
In first innings, India could negotiate only 40 overs before succumbing to the spin twin of Australia. In second innings, the Australian bowlers wiped out India in 28 overs. This clearly indicates that India batted effectively for only 2 sessions, helping to wrap up test match within 3 days. Though chasing 440 was a mounting task, but team India didn’t show any sign of fighting back or even holding on the fort for a draw.
The star of the match was O’Keefee with 12 wickets in a match, 6 wickets per innings. In the post-match press conference, Kohli was prompt enough to mention that bowlers who were turning ball went wicket less, while the one without turning the ball bagged maximum wickets.
The only positive thing that came out was that the team will bounce back from the first delivery.
The fans expect team India to play positive in the second match starting from 4th March 2017, and we hope that team India will not cut a sorry picture for the fans.

Dancing to the Calypso Tune .. Part 2

Part 2:

Before we start with the part 2 of the series, lets have a look at a very interesting video:

1970-71:
West Indies, the only country India had not so far beaten, were mastered in the second Test. This win decided the series in India’s favour. Only once before had they won a rubber away from home, 3-1 against New Zealand, in 1968.
Test cricket was played for the first time on Sundays in the West Indies. The one exception, however, was the first Test, at Kingston. The Indians’ number of tests won on that tour, would have been much better, had Wadekar, their new captain adopted a more positive approach. His bowlers always looked match-winners, but the batsmen were not encouraged to give them the opportunity to go for the kill.
While victory in the series opened a new chapter in the history of Indian cricket, West Indies suffered the disappointment of losing their fourth successive rubber and their second at home. It was ironic that West Indies should have failed to win even a single match in a series which saw Sobers bat in supreme form for 597 runs (av. 74.62). Charlie Davis, of Trinidad, playing one Test and two innings less, also totalled over 500 runs and finished at the top of the averages (132.25). If my memory serves me correctly, Charlie Davis was the last white cricketer to represent the West Indies for nearly a quarter of a century, before Brendan Nash played for them in 2008.
The consistency of Sobers, who failed only in the second Test, and Davis was more than matched by Gavaskar and Sardesai. Before the team departed for the West Indies, the chairman of the Indian selection committee Vijay Merchant, had told the batsmen in the Indian tem, to emulate Gavaskar’s technique in spite of him being the youngest member of the side. And how prophetic did Mr. Merchant’s words prove to be! For the next 17 years, every batsman in world cricket was trying to do just the same!!!
Gavaskar’s arrival on the Test scene, at 21, was phenomenal. Despite missing the first Test through a finger injury, which he aggravated by nail-biting, Gavaskar amassed 774 runs at an average of 154.80. Gavaskar’s achievements equaled, surpassed or approached several important records. No Indian batsman had hitherto made 700 runs or more in a single series. Only Aussie Doug Walters before him had scored a century and a double-century in the same Test. Gavaskar fell only five runs short of Everton Weekes’ aggregate of 779, the highest in a series between the West Indies and India. Gavaskar also established a new record for the highest aggregate in a maiden Test series (703 by G. A. Headley in 1929-30 was the previous highest). Only one other batsman can pride himself on a higher average for a series than Gavaskar – Sir Donald Bradman (201.50 v. South Africa, in 1931-32 and 178.75 v. India, in 1947-48).
It was after this dazzling performance by Gavaskar on debut, Lord Relator composed and sung a calypso for him. You’d probably love to hear this.

Sardesai, far from assured of a regular Test place at the start of the tour, also performed admirably in scoring 642 runs. He held the batting together and gave it all its personality till Gavaskar recovered from his injury. Sardesai came to India’s rescue in every crisis they faced and it was significant that the only game they lost was one in which he was rested.
Both Viswanath, who went on the tour with a high reputation, and Wadekar batted well below their best, but in the left-handed Solkar India discovered a batsman not likely to stumble in the dark alleys of adversity. But for his partnerships with Sardesai, India could well have lost the first, second and fourth Tests. Still young and inexperienced, Solkar betrayed one or two palpable deficiencies in technique, but his resources of courage and determination were endless. As an all-round fieldsman, Solkar was invaluable and as a bowler in two styles he always tried hard. He did not get the due for his talent in his career, has been my humble opinion always.
Considering the quality of the bowling they faced, India did not realise the full potential of their batting strength. India led on the first innings in three of the five Tests, but actually batting success was more evenly spread by the West Indies than the Indians.
Lewis, the Jamaica wicket-keeper, who came in after the first two Tests and opened the innings in the fourth and fifth, proved an obdurate customer, averaging 86.33 over five innings. Kanhai made 433 runs in the series, his match-saving 158 not out in the first Test being his outstanding effort. Foster’s 177 runs in the last two Test s and the manner in which he made them suggested that he should have won a place earlier in the series.
The Indian tactics of attacking their leg stump made life difficult for the left-handers. Only Sobers flourished. Carew, troubled by recurring muscle injuries, and Fredericks were severely restricted. By his own standards, Lloyd had an indifferent series but he was very unlucky in that in his ten innings, together worth 295 runs, he was three times run out and once was bowled by a cruel shooter. He passed fifty three times and on each occasion he looked more than formidable.
The oft-repeated criticism that West Indies would be better off with Sobers batting higher up the order was again applicable. It did not help the West Indies that, generally speaking, their pitches had lost their former pace. The pitches for the two Tests in Trinidad were certainly sub-standard. The new one at Sabina Park, Kingston was also appreciably slower than on the last Indian tour. It took spin quite early and put the gifted Indian bowlers in their element.
The West Indies tried various combinations of bowlers, of whom Sobers, when roused, looked the most dangerous. For one who had always to be prepared to play a long innings, Sobers did a considerable amount of bowling. His quicker style left its mark on more than one Indian innings and he also bowled a couple of dangerous spells of wrist spin. Perhaps he should have bowled more of this variety, particularly at Solkar.
It won’t be out of place or of immodest pride to mention here, that the Indians had made the genius of Sobers too toil hard to remain in the play, for the entire series.
West Indies’ leading wicket-taker was Jack Noriega, a 35-year-old off-spinner from Trinidad who, when he began the season, had not played first-class cricket for eight years. He captured 17 wickets (av. 29.00) in the series but to put his performance in proper perspective it must be mentioned that 15 of them were obtained in the two Tests played on the dubious pitches at the Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad. Nine of them were claimed in the first innings of the second Test, this being the first instance of a West Indies bowler taking more than eight wickets in one innings of a Test match.
Although Chandrasekhar, later the scourge of England, was left at home, the Indian bowlers excelled themselves, the three main spinners, Prasanna, Bedi and Venkataraghavan, between them taking 48 of the 68 Test wickets that fell to the bowlers. All of them were remarkably accurate and even if the pitches tended to aid them, there is no doubt that their mastery in flighting the ball gave them a great advantage.
Prasanna, one of the world’s leading off-spinners, missed two Tests through finger injuries, but the rapid advance of Venkataraghavan during the tour enabled India to make light of Prasanna’ s absence. Venkataraghavan captured 22 Test wickets. Using his height, he got a surprising amount of bounce from even the slower pitches. Only Subhash Gupte, who took 27 wickets in 1952-53, has taken more wickets on an Indian tour of the West Indies.
The Indian close fieldsmen took some spectacular catches, yet a lot of simpler ones did not stick. However, the percentage of catches dropped by the West Indies was higher and this factor, more than any other, tipped the scales in India’s favour. Gavaskar, often early in his innings, and Solkar were major beneficiaries of West Indies’ fielding errors. Most of these dropped catches went down in the slips and even Sobers, on occasions, was found wanting.
The inclusion of Lewis solved part of West Indies’ batting problems, but one felt that Findlay was unlucky to be dropped after his patchy performance in Trinidad, for the pitch was not exactly the easiest one to keep wicket on.
It was after the series, Dickie Rutnagar had said,
“Their long-awaited win over the West Indies will prove a source of inspiration and confidence to the Indians in future engagements. Although rudely shocked by the result, West Indies are not likely to be dispirited, because enthusiasm for the game has never been higher in any of the West Indies territories. Its development is receiving much dedication from administrators and ex-cricketers, and there is ample promise of West Indies cricket coming back to the forefront in the near future.”
It was to come true six years later, when a highly stung Clive Lloyd’s side took on India in 1975-76.
1975-76
As at the end of the tour, the Indian team trudged towards their home-bound airplane they were battle-weary and a lot of them were enveloped in plasters and bandages. Indian team was down and out, both physically and mentally.
The bandages were the war decorations of a controversial and somewhat violent final Test which the West Indies won to prevail 2-1 in a four-Test series.
Following an overwhelming win for the West Indies in the opening contest in Barbados, the second in Trinidad was drawn, with India very much on top. At the same venue, India won the third in a blaze of glory, their triumph being achieved by scoring over 400 runs in the final innings — a feat that had only one precedent in the history of Test cricket, by Bradman’s invincibles in 1948. And it took efforts of none other than the Great Don himself, alongwith Arthur Morris, to achieve this feat.
Both sides went into the series suffering from a common disadvantage. Only a month earlier, the West Indies had finished a long and exciting tour of Australia during which they had lost the Test series by a humiliating margin. India undertook the West Indies tour directly after a visit to New Zealand. The humiliation in Australia, turned this band of pleasant, cavalier cricketers into a pack of wounded lions, ready to kill whatever comes into their way, with ruthless cruelty.
Obviously this was not a vintage Indian side but it is equally true that because of thoughtless planning of the tour, the team was given less scope to do itself justice early on. Such was the intensity of West Indian attack. Both, with bat and ball !
They just managed to keep their heads above water in the first two tour matches. Then they were trounced by Barbados and beaten just as severely in the first Test.
It was to the credit of Bedi’s leadership that his team came out of the depression and acquitted themselves so well thereafter. It must be said that even during the early days of struggle, Bedi’s tactics were constructive and positive. The batting and bowling performances show that.
Indeed the Indians proved very resilient. But it has to be said that three factors helped them to draw level in the series after their rout in Barbados.
Even more significant, it was to India’s advantage that the third Test was switched because of adverse weather from Georgetown’s Bourda to the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad, where the Indians both bat and bowl as well as on any of their own grounds. Had the match been played at Bourda, as scheduled, the most likely result would have been a draw.
The whole of the Guyana leg of the tour was washed out.
Another sad aspect of the cancellation of this match was that it was meant to be Lance Gibbs’s final appearance in a first-class match at home and he had, in fact, been honored with the captaincy.
The third factor that influenced India’s comeback was the decision of the West Indies selectors not to include Lance Gibbs, despite his successes in Australia. The policy was part of a long term plan to bring on a successor. Had Gibbs played in either or both of the two Tests in Trinidad, there might have been a different story to tell. The Indians certainly would have found the going harder in chasing a total of 400-plus in the third Test. Gibbs was a top class spinner, and a force to reckon with. But even cousin Clive Lloyd being the captain, couldn’t save his place in the team.
Vivian Richards was the outstanding batsman on either side. He scored 556 runs (av. 92.66). The rich form he had struck in Australia stayed with him and apart from his consistency, Richards batted with the authority of a truly great player. The fourth Test was the only one in which he failed to make a century.
Lloyd was the next most consistent, but he could not reproduce the versatility of his batting against the Indians in the previous series, played only a year before in India.
Clearly, the West Indies batting on the whole was still trying to rise from the disasters in Australia. Although he played two innings of substance, both of them most valuable, Kallicharran’s performance suffered by his own lofty standards. There was no doubt that his powers were limited by the shoulder injury which first manifested itself in Australia and which, later in the year, was to cut short his English tour while he underwent an operation.
With Roberts left tired by his toils in Australia, the whole burden fell on Holding, who carried it with ease, all credit to his smooth flowing action. He took 19 wickets conceding a paltry 19.83 per wicket.
Although his crowning glory came in the final Test, the result of which he so strongly influenced, Holding’s true worth was even more apparent when in the Third Test, he took six wickets in the first innings on a sluggish pitch in Trinidad. This performance stamped him as a great fast bowler.
Inevitably, Gavaskar and Viswanath were the pillars of the Indian batting. Gavaskar, who sustained a bad facial injury in New Zealand, missed the first two matches but found his touch straight away, looking every bit himself. Didn’t he love the West Indian Bowlers ! But he could not get himself to concentrate and build a long innings till the Second Test.
Viswanath, having discovered his form in New Zealand, batted effortlessly from the start in the West Indies, although got out to balls that kept unplayably low. Men of short stature both, Gavaskar and Viswanath were happiest batting in Trinidad. Gavaskar, as in 1971, made centuries in both the Test matches there while Viswanath played the match-winning innings in the Third Test.
Brijesh Patel’s talent also furnished in the two Tests in Trinidad but even while making runs, he looked suspect against fast bowling. After repeated early collapses, the Indians experimented with Anshuman Gaekwad as an opening batsman and Mohinder Amarnath as number three. Gaekwad’s height, his dogged determination and sound judgement of direction fitted him for his new role. Both became known as extremely gutsy players of genuine fast bowling.
In the bloody Kingston Test, Gaekwad batted a day and a half in the teeth of hostile fast bowling and seemed to have established himself as an opening batsman for a long time to come. But eventually he ducked into a ball that did not rise to the expected height and took a blow which put him in hospital and might well have killed his taste for the assignment. It is a part of folklore now, how he insisted to come back and play, even when he was being carried out of the ground with blood pouring out of his left ear.
Amarnath fulfilled India’s immediate requirement and even distinguished himself by playing a supporting role over a long period to Gavaskar, Viswanath and Patel while India were shaping their famous win in the Third Test. It was sheer raw guts which he put to practice, while scoring that pivotal 85. India won the test with Gavaskar making 102, VIshwanath 112, and Brijesh Patel 49, but it was Amarnath’s 85 which held the innings together.
More batsmen failed than succeeded on this tour and among those who statistically left no impression was Dilip Vengsarkar then merely19-year-old, who was picked before he had played even one whole season of first-class cricket at home, basis his Irani trophy century against Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat.He obviously lacked the experience to be a force but from the manner in which he coped with the heavy fire during the Jamaica Test, there was evidence of class. He had a safe method of taking evasive action against the bumper and fearlessly drove anything that was pitched up to him.
The last series between the two sides having been played only a year before, the West Indies batsmen were familiar with the Indian spin attack. Still, Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan asked searching questions of them.
Chandrasekhar and Bedi were the leading wicket-takers, with 21 and 18 victims. Venkataraghavan had only seven, a figure that conceals the fact that he suffered most of all in the matter of dropped catches and that he was close to bowling India to victory in the Second Test. That was when Prasanna’s downslide began….

To be continued…..

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

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.

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)

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.