Having Dinesh Karthik in the side could help Dhoni’s captaincy

G1…twist the thinking a bit than just view it as a ‘vacant spot to be filled’.

The action has moved from the baking heat of the subcontinent to the chilly weather of the United Kingdom. The mood has changed. From the blink-and-miss action of T20, we move on to the saner and the more ‘traditional version’ of the shorter format.

The composition of the Indian ODI team has changed a bittoo when compared to the recent past, primarily in the batting department. While Sachin Tendulkar had announced his retirement from International cricket but for Test slate last year, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have been given the message to work on their form before being considered for International cricket again. The ones to make their way into the squad are the highly successful opening pair from the Test series against Australia – Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. Dinesh Karthik is the other player to stake a claim to the relatively new look Indian batting line-up.

The captain, MS Dhoni, seems less inclined to disturb this opening combination even with a woefully out of form Murali Vijay.

Dinesh Karthik though, is not an automatic choice and might have to fight it out with his Mumbai Indian team-mate and captain, Rohit Sharma. Dhoni might not mind the headache caused by this middle order duel.

On his part, Rohit Sharma has been a revelation this year. With some heavyweights and experienced players reluctant to take the responsibility of MI captaincy in the IPL, it fell on Rohit Sharma half way through the tournament and rather unexpectedly. Allowing the responsibility to spur him on, Rohit Sharma contributed heavily as a batsman and captain to get Mumbai Indians to win their first IPL title.

Dinesh Karthik was spared such scrutiny and wave of expectations but nevertheless, came in to rescue the team on multiple occasions. Promoted to No. 3 in the batting order by the different captains that took over Mumbai Indians, he repaid the faith with some blistering knocks, most of them delighting the eye of a purist as well.

What impressed more than the solid performances in the domestic season and the IPL has been Karthik’s ability to handle pressure situations and come out on top. He seems to have grabbed the opportunities at the right time too; his recent unbeaten century against Sri Lanka in the warm-up game being the latest in the list of pressure knocks.

Rohit Sharma’s inconsistency at the International level despite being fed a number of opportunities would be a tad worrisome for Dhoni. His failure to adjust to the conditions in England in both the warm-up matches, could also work against him in this tight contest for the middle order spot.

What could make the decision-making a lot easier for the Indian captain is to twist the thinking a bit than just view it as a ‘vacant spot to be filled’. It could be an interesting prospect to play Dinesh Karthik as a wicket-keeper batsmanthan just a batsman for two reasons. One is the impact that it would have on the multiple roles that MS Dhoni plays in the team. Of the 3 layers of Dhoni’s contribution, ‘behind the wickets’ is the area where he’s least indispensable. He has much more to offer as a captain and as a batsman especially in the shorter format. The kind of fitness required of a wicket-keeper apart from the pressures of batting and captaincy in all 3 formats of the game can be quite dehydrating physically and mentally. There have been some serious troughs in India’s performances in the last couple of years lending credence to this line of thinking, prompting Rahul Dravid to comment at one point in time that Dhoni was indeed starting to look jaded.

The other point is the issue of sameness to the Indian team in all 3 formats of the game. Teams like South Africa, Australia and England use different players donning the country colours across the formats particularly from one extreme of T20 to the other of Test cricket. This allows the team to preserve key players from injuries, keep the team looking and feeling fresh, and, conform to the cliché of ‘horses for courses’. India has been steadfastly ignoring this line of thought despite less than satisfactory performances in the recent past.

It would be interesting to see how MS Dhoni puts together his batting members but the relief that Dinesh Karthik’s inclusion can offer the skipper, if played in his full role, is worth more than just a passing thought.

Is there a clear road ahead to curb Match fixing?

G1..while it is impossible to rid the game completely of the evils, there is enough that can be done to reduce their occurrences and in the process protect the game from such undesired publicity..

Well, IPL really could not escape a year without controversies. Just at a time when the fans were ecstatic for the underdogsthat were making it to the playoffs, the arrests involving 3 Rajasthan Royals players for being involved in spot-fixing broke out to shock the cricketing community.

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of news with various people, most of them connected with the game expressing their views on what could have been and what needed to be done to avoid such mortifying experiences to the game.

Interestingly most people agree that while it is impossible to rid the game completely of the evils, there is enough that can be done to reduce their occurrences and in the process protect the game from such undesired publicity.

Some interesting and simple suggestions (if there is an inclination) have emerged and I’ve attempted to put them here together:

  • Education sessions – It is true that it is impossible for the governing bodies like the BCCI or the ICC to be effective beyond a point since they do not have the powers that law-enforcing agencies have. With the interesting trend emerging of small time players and ex-players taking to be the conduits, it is almost impossible to monitor or smell anything fishy just by following public interactions.

What the administrative bodies could do and ought to have done is, to educate the players of not only the actions that are admissible and not, but also of the ramifications in not following the rules. The education on ‘consequences’ would be more vital as there is already a basic level of awareness in place as some leading players have admitted. It would be useful to keep the players informed and remind them of the risks they would be undertaking as a player and as a person by even flirting with the wrong temptations.

Giving illustrations of how a lot of these offenders have often got caught and have been made to face severe consequences can be a serious level of deterrent in itself.

While the minds cannot be completely stopped from wavering,a fear element with a high probability of being caught could do the job to a large extent.

  • Bans from the sport – While the educational part is a proactive measure, imposing bans is a reactive measure and something that has been adopted in the past by the cricket boards of most nations involving varying timeline of bans from the sport according to the nature of the offence.

Some former and current cricketers have in fact asked for all the concerned players’ records to be expunged too if found guilty.

The BCCI has constitutional limitations that prevents the bans from being imposed till the guilt has been proven through an internal inquiry or the legal process. But the bans can come into being once the guilt is proven or even with sufficient ground for suspicion after 30 days of constituting an enquiry.

The BCCI have under the circumstances, taken the reactive measure of suspending the three players – S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan, Ajit Chandila pending inquiry.

  • Monetary fines – The contract with the players (including domestic players) could be made tougher with monetary fines enforced in addition to the bans. The amount of fine would ideally need to be the illegal amount involved in the transaction(s) plus a certain %of what the player might have earned through the sport for punitive measure.

If the player is not made to lose all of what he has earned and more, there is very little merit in loss of place and face alone.

The administrative bodies’ ability to stop the rut could more or less end here. But it would do well for the board to take all of these measures to contribute its bit in reducing these instances of transgression rather than raise its hands in despair and not have done anything at all.

  • The anti-fixing law – One does not know the seriousness with which this would be pursued by the Indian Government though this has been mooted by the Union Law Minister himself.

The various governmentsin the centre have had ample instances of match and spot fixing to learn from in the past, involving Indian players in the worldwide scam that hit the sport in 2000 and more recently in 2010, the ones involving prominent Pakistani players. They were cases enough for an anti-fixing law to be introduced in our country but for reasons best known to conjecture, we still do not have one in place in 2013.

The law, if and when it sees the light of the day though, would account for an opportunity for the offenders to be prosecuted which would also mean a Jail term along with Match bans and societal censure.

  • Legalising Betting–While this might not directly affect the spot-fixing attempts, this could very definitely reduce the instances of black money flowing in the market freely between bookies and players. The players could still get greedy and indulge in spot-fixing but free flowing black money could still be stemmed.

There have been enough connections played out between Terror outfits, Criminals and bookies in the past and in the current case that it would only serve the National security’s case to put a block in place. Going by the staggering amount of money involved in betting and fixing, it would add a few Rupees to the government coffers through taxes as well.

Regulated environments with watchdogs could also curb fixing in the open-market akin to monitoring of Insider Trading in the stock market.

This is not a disease afflicting cricket alone or India alone for that matter. The national policy in Australia against match-fixing has asked for International debates and information-sharing in the area of match-fixing, as any specific betting ring usually involves multiple countries within its ambit.

Introduction of a tough law with severe punishment including imprisonment for offenders will see an International community taking note of India’s actions which currently has a tarnished image when dealing with corruption in any form.

While a lot could be done to curb the presence and proliferation of match and spot-fixing, much of it depends on the inclination of the parties involved viz. the BCCI, the ICC and the Indian Government in particular to get the policies and laws in place. A certain amount of cynicism seems inescapable but despite the doubts, the way forward for the spectator end of the cricketing community is to hope for some of the suggestions to find their way through to implementation.

The sport certainly commands its due.

Flexing the core of Rahul Dravid yet again

G1..he has shown the willingness to drop his age by a few years and play by the rules of T20, visually pleasing or not.

‘Unorthodox batting’, ‘agile on the field’,‘diving around’ – these are descriptions not usually associated with Rahul Dravid, not since I started following the man since his Test debut in 1996.

The sixth season of IPL seems to be presenting a completely different Dravid, competing in an imaginary challenge with the Under-25s – running hard, bludgeoning balls powered by the bottom hand, dashing around to effect run-outs and throwing himself to take outstanding catches.

The man made his intentions pretty clear right from the start of this season that he is not going to fall prey to his love for technique or his sliding reflexes, not for a T20 tournament. He surprised everyone withhis unconventional shots in Rajasthan Royals’ opening campaign.He made a quick-fire 65 against Delhi Daredevils garnishing it with a couple of sixes as well. Then came a diving take to dismiss Robin Uthappa in their game against Pune Warriors a few matches later. If he had still not driven the point home about his fitness and utility in the T20 format, he effected a sharp piece of fielding that led to a confused Ambati Rayudu and Harbhajan Singh running between the wickets, eventually resulting in an embarrassing run out of the latter in their match against Mumbai Indians. The bat kept contributing steadily in the meantime and the mind marshalling the meagre resources of Rajasthan Royals, to get them to within a knock’s distance of a place in the play-offs.

Turn back the clock by a few years, Rahul Dravid had not been accorded the warmest of introductions to the most expensive cricket tournament in the world. He did not enjoy a great run with Royal Challengers Bangalore – not as an Icon, nor as a skipper or a player. It was palpably a lack of a defined role, a failure of the team management and the batsman himself in not being able to work out the part in this slam-bang-sprint game.

Before the 2011 player auction, there were rumours abound about there being be no takers for Rahul Dravid. But Rajasthan Royals persisted with their practice of picking low profile or high value players who get overlooked by other teams when they just cross their prime.

Shane Warne deserves to grab credit for visualising the role of an opener for Rahul Dravid. With the backing of an extremely intelligent brain and someone who could match his stature on the cricket field, it looked like the confidence started to creep back into the wall brick by brick. The perennial trier was not going to let go of this opportunity and he set about carving a role for himself within the limitations of his game.

Now in his second year of captaincy with the Royals, he seems very much the man in control, unafraid to experiment and to learn on the road while ensuring a clear adherence to a plan.

What continues to makehim an interesting matter of study apart from his ceaseless commitment to the gameis his readiness to step out of the comfort zone. The new media assignments would keep the flow of money steady into his bank account but he still went missing from the commentary panel in the Test series against Australia preceding the IPL. The talk in the circles was that the man wanted to excuse himself to get back into shape and match fitness. While the National players were getting their match practice by making mincemeat of Australia, Rahul Dravid was working in the nets, probably trying his hand at cross-batted shots that have so often been pulled out this season. After all, at 40 years and being among the oldest players in the tournament, the body and reflexes weren’t going to get any cooperative.

At Sourav Ganguly’s behest, this devout cricketer had taken upadditional responsibilities behind the stumps to make himself more relevant to ODIs in the early 2000s. It worked wonders to the batsman himself and to the balance of the team for a long time. This time around, he has shown the willingness to drop his age by a few years and play by the rules of T20, visually pleasing or not. As Paddy Upton, the Head Coach of Rajasthan Royals had indicated, the veteranis batting more freely since he has removed the age-old habit of putting a price on his wicket. In doing so, he has reinvented himself yet again.

While I brace myself for one last announcement on his playing career post this season of IPL,I would like to sit tight till then and enjoy whatever little is left on the field of this youngster and trier extraordinaire, Rahul Dravid.

About the writer: Gayathri Venugopalan, an entrepreneur and management graduate, is a self confessed test cricket lover. Her passion for the game stems from a university cricket career that was sacrificed for education. Her writing reflects cricketing nuance rather than a woman’s perspective.

Moderating the aggressor

G1‘..the administrators of the sport have a responsibility to the audience, to the game and the players themselves to reduce the occurrence of ugly incidents..’

The flavor of discussion these days seems to be the booing of Virat Kohli by the Mumbai crowd following the run-out dismissal of Ambati Rayudu in the MI vs RCB game last week.

The victim and aggrieved, Virat Kohli has admonished the crowd’s behavior reminding them to respect the fact that he plays for their country as well and sounded out a warning that it could make players hate each other.

While the crowd behavior was indeed boorish as condemned by a proud Mumbaikar, Sanjay Manjrekar himself, it’s unjustified to put all the blame on the crowd alone. And certainly over the top to ask the spectators to cop it for the players’ inability to maintain civility with each other.

Two sides to a coin

The incident in Wankhede stadium which provoked the drama was the unintentional collision leading to Ambati Rayudu being given run-out. Ambati Rayudu had reached the crease but thanks to the collision with the bowler, Vinay Kumarwho had his back turned to the wicket, Rayudu’s bat lifted up in the air just when the ball hit the stumps. Virat Kohli was well within the rules of the game to appeal and have the batsman walk back as it turned out. But does the decision to appeal, make the cut when viewed under the lens of a ‘sportsman like’ conduct? Well, it does make for a disputable case and therein lies the source of some of these problems.

It becomes imperative to remember that Virat Kohli is no less a culprit himself, crossing the lines of decency on multiple occasions in the name of modern day aggression.

Whether it was about the finger showing in Sydney in the 2011-12 series down under or the chest thrusting barge involving his senior India and Delhi team-mate, Gautam Gambhir in this year’s IPL, these incidents have not made for pretty watching. The latter has found himself in embarrassing situations as well, what with multiple incidents of finger-pointing and mouthing obscenities, some of them directed at his own team-mates in KKR.

While it is one thing to earn admiration for match-winning performances, it is quite another to command love and respect from contemporaries and fans alike for an on-field package in totality in this gentleman’s game. The men under discussion need not look too far to draw inspiration from, having played enough games with the likes of Dravid, Sachin, Kumble and Laxman to be able to appreciate the difference and still be able to perform on both counts.

Big Daddy’s role

Let’s not for a moment underplay the passion and pressure at play, both capable of stroking emotions beyond the grasp of the ordinary. But it is common knowledge that beyond the space allowed for tantrums, there is a slice of responsible emotion to be taken care of as well.

Cricket being a general and mass entertainment game, the administrators of the sport have a responsibility to the audience, to the game and the players themselves to reduce the occurrence of such ugly incidents. The incidents unfortunately are not one-offs with the men in question. They have played many a memorable match for the country and deserve as much to be counselled and taken care of as to be censured. One of them looks a certainty to be leading the team in the future and a wrap on the knuckles with a protective glove would not be completely uncalled for.

If the players do slip into juvenile stuff every now and then, it is up to the Big Daddy, the BCCI to step in and get things under its fold. Spectators or players, let there be no room for uncouth behavior.

As Chris Gayle has mentioned, it would be a shame to allow Cricket to get into this realm of soccer.

About the writer: Gayathri Venugopalanan entrepreneur and management graduate, is a self confessed test cricket lover. Her passion for the game stems from a university cricket career that was sacrificed for education. Her writing reflects cricketing nuance rather than a woman’s perspective.

Whistlepodu – at the Eden Gardens this time!!

AshutoshChennai Super Kings moved up to number 3 on the points table after a thrilling win over defending champions KKR on the latter’s home turf – the Eden Gardens. The matched witnessed frequently changing fortunes till Ravindra Jadeja’s exhilarating innings of 36 coming off just 14 balls sealed the match for CSK. The men in yellow found themselves in familiar territory when chasing what initially seemed to be an easy target of 120, they required 49 runs off the final 27 deliveries. And yet again, one of their players played an innings of sheer brilliance to take them over the line.

Things didn’t start well for CSK after Dhoni lost the toss and KKR’s surprise opening pair of Yusuf Pathan and Gambhir raced to 46 for the opening stand. However, off the penultimate ball of the power play, Gambhir played a cut in the air and Michael Hussey took an excellent low catch on the boundary to draw first blood. After that, a superlative fielding performance by CSK sent jitters into the KKR camp. Badrinath ran out Kallis when he had just one stump to aim from point and Bravo ran all the way to short mid-wicket off his own bowling to run Pathan out when the batsman was attempting a second run. With Morgan’s wicket sandwiched between the two run-outs, KKR lost its way and couldn’t recover during its batting innings. The tights lines and lengths by the CSK spinners – Jadeja and Ashwin, who also accounted for 5 wickets between themselves, meant that KKR could put up a score of 119 for the loss of 9 wickets at the end of their 20 overs.

When CSK came out to bat, it was Dhoni’s turn to surprise the opposition by sending in Ashwin as the opener along with Hussey. The opening pair put up 24 – CSK’s third highest score for the 1st wicket in IPL 6 thus far. The sluggish Eden Gardens’ surface, mystery spinner duo of Senanayeke and Narine along with able support from the other KKR bowlers put a lid on CSK’s scoring rate. Michael Hussey played the role of anchoring the innings but the unfortunate run-out of Dhoni meant that either of Jadeja, Bravo or Morkel would have to play a scintillating innings. As it turned out, Bravo and Morkel were not required as Jadeja hit 3 fours and 3 sixes in the 14 balls he faced to hand CSK yet another win. After he came to the crease 53 runs were scored off 22 deliveries and the KKR team would’ve been left wondering as to what hit them.

Critics may still question the CSK style of play where they keep things till the last over. Well, when you have finishers like Dhoni, Jadeja, Bravo and Hussey – they can afford to do that. They win more than they lose this way – so, who’s complaining!

Writer: Ashutosh

CSK yet to be tested fully

G1If you are the opposing team captain playing against Chennai Super Kings, you might just be praying to win the toss and be able to field first.

High or low, the CSK have shown their mettle to chase totals down winning 4 out of the 6 matches they’ve chased in so far. It is their defense of totals which has not been tested much. They have been required to set a target only once which they defended successfully against Delhi Daredevils who did not give them much of a fight.

It would be foolish to pick the qualifiers for the Play-offs at less than the half-way stage in a T20 tournament. But one team which is increasingly looking ominous for the others is Chennai Super Kings.

Traditionally known to be lethargic starters, CSK have deviated from the trend and placed themselves in a comfortable position with 11 matches still to go. 4 wins from these should ensure that they move on to the next stage.

For all their reputation of being consistent performers, the previous editions have invariably seen a potential qualifier just about crawl through to safety. From a ‘will back my players to the hilt’ strategy, Dhoni has emitted enough signs this time that he’s willing to tinker around with the composition and batting order right upfront lest the familiar should return to haunt them.

What has worked for CSK is that a majority of their arsenal has been firingin the matches played so far.

Having the fire power is one and getting them to perform in tandem is quite another. We’ve seen thisvoid with some of the other teams in the competition.

For the Super Kings, the likes of Bravo, Dhoni, Raina and Badrinath have played important roles in pulling the performances together while Hussey and Jadeja have been quite incredible. They’ve lifted their team from near impossible situations helping them cross the line on more than one occasion. The bowling hasn’t been put under much pressure till now. Newcomers Chris Morris and Mohit Sharma seem to have found their feet amongst the more experienced team-mates and have been winnowing away parts of the rival batting line-ups.

The better news for CSK however, is that some of their key performers in the past likeAshwin and Vijay haven’t yet hit top gear. Ashwin has been a dependable performer for the team in the last few years and would be hurting to not have contributed much. Vijay has always shown a tendency to frustrate his own captain more than anyone else, but has managed to get into a destructive zone in a couple of games every season when it has mattered. Raina has been the top scorer for CSK in every season so far and wouldn’t want that to be taken away. He has shown glimpses of form in a couple of matches and would be hoping to stretch it further.

The audacity with which CSK have gone about some of their wins would sound an alarm bell fortheir competitors. They have teased the other teams into smelling a victory, just to snatch it away when just inches away from the finish line.

Against RCB, they were required during the chase to score 84 in 42 balls with 4 wickets down and they still managed to see the target off. Against KKR, they managed to pull back from precarious positions in both the innings. Against Kings XI Punjab of course, they made it look like a walk in the park with a 10-wicket win chasing a total of 139 runs.

With a batting line-up which runs well into No. 8 or No. 9, no amount of pressure or runs on the board seems too tall for CSK to overcome at the moment. Getting them to bat first and set a target is one option to confound things a bit for them.

This is not a format to take punts at. Going against conventional wisdom of avoiding predictionsin a T20 tournament, I would put CSK as one of my four picks to make the playoffs.

About the writer: Gayathri Venugopalanan entrepreneur and management graduate, is a self confessed test cricket lover. Her passion for the game stems from a university cricket career that was sacrificed for education. Her writing reflects cricketing nuance rather than a woman’s perspective.

Rajasthan Royals at the Chennai Fortress

This year the IPL has not seen many tall scores. As a matter of fact the low scores around 120 runs has had floundering replies. The reasons that come to the fore are out of form Indian batsman, both domestic and international. The Indian internationals, despite enormous experience,have neither converted starts nor been successful finishing artists. The domestic content on the other hand have found the standard of cricket a little beyond them.

Any form of cricket is still a batsman dominated game. Then why are they under performing?. The answer to this has to be ascertained quickly. The games are soon going into the second half of the tournament. Teams like Delhi Daredevils, have found themselves languishing at the bottom of the table, primarily due to the inability to post challenging scores. Imagine destroyers of any bowling like Warner and Sehwag not putting up challenging scores. Mahela Jayawardane has to open the innings for their fortunes to change. Sehwag is sure to benefit batting at number 3 or 4. He needs a little time in the middle to over come this horrendous bad patch

The T20 has made bowlers smarter changing their approach with the many variations. Fast bowlers developing more than a couple of slower deliveries different in its release and the effect it has on the batsman have become meaningful resources. The wide Yorkers and the traditional block hole delivery has effectively forced the batsmen to adapt or perish. Similarly the spinners have used the low and slow wickets to become the chief wicket takers. The carom ball , doosra’s and subtle variations in pace, line and length have given them rich rewards.

While its heartening to see slower bowlers like Amit Mishra, Ashwin and Jadeja besides others providing match winning performances, the likes of Malinga, Nannes and Steyn remain true to their quality. The crucial resource the fast bowling all-rounder’s have experienced a mixed bag thus far. Probably because of the higher success rate to the slower variety their usefulness has not been as dominating compared to the past.

Chennai Super Kings have found their away victories against Delhi Daredevils and KOlkata Knight Riders to get back into the top bracket. The loss to lowly placed Pune Warriors at Chennai exposed CSK minus Hussey. The Rajasthan Royals to the surprise of all IPL fans have put in a reasonable performance . Batting revolves around Watson,Hodge,Rahane and Dravid. Watson unlike in the past is struggling to put up match winning knocks.Their big victory against Mumbai Indians was followed by a depressing showing against Royal Challengers.

Dravid returns to Chennai a city he played his league cricket with The India Cements cricket team. This apprenticeship helped him in becoming India’s best batsman for more than a decade. Post retirement he still boasts of a strike rate 111 and no letting up on the zest for runs with two 50’s. He is by no means a destroyer but in this years IPL he has shown the acumen to tune his game to the current trends. A piece from the era that was tutored and seasoned to bat in the traditional mould, Dravid has imbibed the quality to accept modernisation, while still looking every inch graceful.

It’s Dhoni’s lions that Dravid’s Royal’s are up against, a battle worth watching. It was under Dravid’s captaincy Dhoni emerged . Personally as part of the selection panel that chose India’s most accomplished captain and wicket keeper batsman is joy par excellence.

Loyalty to CSK and Dravid the friend, choosing a favourite is difficult. Leave the game of cricket to decide who plays the best to win the day.

Looking back at Brendon Mccullum’s 158: The IPL Kickstarter

CRICKET-NZL-ENGIt was one of cricket’s JFK moments. Most observers would remember where they were on the 18th of April, 2008, when the first ever IPL game was played out on a muggy evening at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium. To my memory, there was much excitement, anticipation, and uncertainty. Would the IPL really live up to all the hype and the manner it had been projected by the BCCI? Would the players take the format seriously enough and justify those ridiculously high price-tags?

There seemed to be much nervous energy among the players that day, and they understandably looked a bit stiff. The game – and the tournament – needed someone to cut through the tension and get the ball rolling. That someone turned out to be the New Zealand opener and wicketkeeper, Brendon McCullum, and it is worth remembering the impact his innings had. His 158 remains the highest score in any T20 game till date, and perhaps ought to be remembered as the defining innings of the last decade.

After remaining scoreless for his first six balls, he simply tore into an RCB attack comprising no less than five international bowlers; his first fifty took a further 26 balls, and next two came up in 21 and 17 respectively, and along the way he clubbed 10 fours and 13 sixes, the latter still and IPL record. But it was really the manner in which he scored those runs that sticks in the mind. The Chinnaswamy pitch offered the bowlers lateral movement, and there was extra bounce, yet McCullum was playing a different game to everyone else that day; the next highest score was Ponting’s 20, and RCB were rolled over for 82 in reply. There were a couple of false strokes along the way – a thick outside edge off Zaheer Khan that went for six over third man comes to mind – but apart from that it was controlled carnage all the way. Zaheer was brutally dispatched every time he pitched short, Ashley Noffke and Jacques Kallis were repeatedly driven down the ground, and the old wily practitioner Sunil Joshi was slog-swept
to submission. Praveen Kumar, who in his first three overs had been the only bowler to be treated with any respect, went for 21 in his fourth. In an opening game which featured names like Ganguly, Dravid, Ponting, Kallis and Kohli, McCullum outshone them all.

This breathtaking innings, however, has proved to be a double-edged sword as far as McCullum’s career is concerned. Back then, he had only recently been thrust into the opener’s role by New Zealand, and he mostly failed to live up to it in international matches and in the IPL. This was perhaps a result of trying too hard to dominate the bowling from the word go, with little consideration to the bowling or field placings. Only recently, he has moved back to the middle order to which he is better suited – his excellent performances in the recent series against England at home bears this out. His 158*, therefore, is another example of a particular innings having almost adverse long-term effects on a particular batsman’s playing style, much like Shahid Afridi’s hundred on his ODI debut.

In my opinion, the innings was also an influential one on batting approaches one-day and test cricket, as it ushered in an era in which batsmen who enjoyed success opening in T20 could successfully make the crossover to opening in test cricket. While men like Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle had already been opening in tests for some time, this has since been followed by the likes of David Warner and Tillekeratne Dilshan, as well as McCullum himself, taking on this role with some success.

But perhaps most importantly, this was the innings that really set up the IPL as a cricketing spectacle. The tournament badly needed a high-profile beginning, and this effort gave it the blockbuster opening that has since propelled it towards becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Writer: Suhas Cadambi

Why captaincy chases Mahela Jayawardene?

G1MahelaJayawardenehad sprung a surprise by quitting his captaincy from the Sri Lankan reigns in 2009.

He has displayed a refreshingyet unusual trait seen among captainsto give away the roleat the helmvoluntarily. He has quit his International Captaincy three times in the last 4 years.

Much as he might choose to stay away from the politics of the role in his country, other Captaincy roles continue to chase him!

Exploits as a Captain

His first stint captaincyin Sri Lankan cricket was a natural progression from MarvanAtapattu, but the subsequent assignment was more of an interim arrangement when TilakaratneDilshan was forced to step down after the team’s fortunes hit a trough in both Tests and ODIs under his leadership.

Considered as the best captain to be discovered from the Sri Lankan stables since ArjunaRanatunga, Mahela’s Captaincy records explain the reasons behind this pedestal position. The numbers might not set the record books alight but what they do indicate is how Mahela holds his own    and has performed better than some more popular captains in World Cricket.

Statistics of some illustrious Captains with World Cup Winner and Runners-up credits:

Player

Country

Tests as captain

Won

Steve Waugh Australia

57

41 (71.93%)

Ricky Ponting Australia

77

48 (62.34%)

MS Dhoni India

47

24 (51.06%)

MahelaJayawardene Sri Lanka

38

18 (47.37%)

SouravGanguly India

49

21 (42.86%)

Allan Border Australia

93

32 (34.41%)

Imran Khan Pakistan

48

14 (29.17%)

ArjunaRanatunga Sri Lanka

56

12 (21.43%)

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Country

ODIs as captain

Won

Ricky Ponting Australia

230

165 (71.74%)

Steve Waugh Australia

106

67 (63.21%)

MS Dhoni India

135

77 (57.04%)

Allan Border Australia

178

107 (60.11%)

MahelaJayawardene Sri Lanka

130

72 (55.38%)

SouravGanguly India

147

76 (51.70%)

Imran Khan Pakistan

139

75 (53.96%)

ArjunaRanatunga Sri Lanka

193

89 (46.11%)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jayawardene’s captaincy cupboard too includes a Runners-up cheque in two World Cups – the ICC World Cup 2007 and the ICC T20 World Cup 2012.

As a Leader

His contribution as a leader has been more than just numbers. Known as a calm yet firm leader, his exemplary demeanourand control of proceedings on the field have won him and his team many an award:

ICC Awards for and under MahelaJayawardene

I.            Spirit of Cricket (Team) – Sri Lanka, 2007 ad 2008

II.            World One-Day XI – Captain, 2006 (Jayawardene’s first year as Sri Lankan Captain)

Not to be left behind on performance, the Sri Lankan team under Jayawardenerose to show grit like never before. The tougher tracks of England, New Zealand and West Indies saw Sri Lankan victories being registered on a more regular basis. The team could boast of many an occasion when Jayawardenewould walk in with his side in trouble and bail them out with his unperturbed and collected approach.

A heavy Challenge

For the moment though, Jayawardene is leading a Daredevils team sans much devil in them. The team is languishing at the bottom of the IPL table, failing to score a single win and points after playing 6 games in 2013, their weakest start ever. Losing 6 games in a trot is something that Jayawardene has never experienced in his International captaincy.

With VirenderSehwag expressing his desire to step down after last year’s IPL, the Delhi Daredevils had turned to the best leader in the ranks to take the team’s fortunes ahead.

‘it is the job of the leader to be a sponge that takes the stress from inside and the outside…if you allow it to bog you down, it can bog you down entirely’, oncesaidChandaKochhar, a much renowned and powerful Business Leader in India.

Jayawardene has more often than not delivered handsomely on this parameter. With Delhi reeling under the pressure of some poor performances and with stars failing to come to the party,Mahelahas his task cut-out. While he has not been the best of shorter format players, his key role would be to pull the team together for now. He would be expected to dig deep into his leadership skills andtake some tough calls to restore some pride in the remainder of the IPL.

Leaders have a reputation to protect afterall!

An Amazing Summer Deal

VB chandrasekharAnother win under CSK lions’ belt, the momentum is realistically shifting for the former champions. The electrifying chaos, only T20 can produce was all too evident in the last 5 overs. The pressure turned reactive for the RCB unit on the field. The removal of the left-armer Syed Mohammed (3-0-15-2) from the attack was one such instance. The emergence of Dhoni at the center was more reactive than proactive tactics. The Indian Captain has a history of discomfort against left-arm spinners, making him susceptible early on. This was the turning point of the game when CSK needed 13.5 runs per over. Dhoni played a major part in dominating Rampaul. His blistering hits, one of which landed on the stadium roof, gave him valuable time to focus on his next move. His assault on Rampaul was a setback for RCB.

Badrinath and Raina had established a steady platform after the early loss of the openers. Their contribution was valuable for the men to follow pursue the fortuitous win.

An amazing summer deal was waiting to unfold for the viewing public. RCB vs. CSK was going to be the biggest game of IPL 2013. RCB’s target of 169 was indeed a situation that required playing out of one’s skin considering the conditions prevailing at Chepauk.

The game was very much in their grasp until the very last ball.

Ravindra Jadeja has his limitations in his quest to be the all-rounder that India desperately requires. He was edgy at the start to earn important runs in the chase. Once he was set, his willow was blasting runs from the middle. Dhoni fell but the man to be commended in intelligent gathering of runs was Chris Morris. He was looking for 2 runs per ball instead of the all or nothing mindless slogs. This was indeed refreshing to watch.

The Tamil New Year’s eve brought Chennai fans an unbelievable finish. Most had given up before R P Singh did the unpardonable act of bowling an outrageous no-ball leaving RCB absolutely gutted.

CSK from here will be looking forward to vanquish all opposition that visit the lion’s den, Chepauk.