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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.

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 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.