MSD – A VVS 92


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I have been waiting for this moment for quite a while. There were people crying for his blood. The so called Indian cricket experts wanted him to be stripped of his royal robe. Cricketers who were just average in their playing days voicing their opinion on Dhoni’s playing abilities just irks me. Just because you have the mike in hand doesn’t mean u have to blabber.

Have any of the greats from other nations voiced their opinion in the same way. It is because they know Dhoni’s value as a player or is there something happening behind the scenes which forces the Indian cricket experts to say so.

 I have been watching cricket since 1996 even before cricket became a religion. It was a defining year for Indian Cricket. It was only after 1996 cricket turned into a marketing phenomenon.

A lot has changed since then India has become cricket powerhouse. T-20 has turned into the most lucrative opportunity for cricketers who cannot make it to the big league. But one thing has remained a constant, the fragile nature of the fans. Just a couple of failures and people write him off. It didn’t surprise me when I heard similar voices when Dhoni failed.

I waited like an eager fan waiting to see the vintage MSD once more. There’s quite a distinct quality about Dhoni – He knows when to make a statement. He knows his stage. His 100th ODI in India and he made it his own with absolute gusto like a king who regains his throne. 92 precious runs with the team in trouble, 92 runs which showed why he’s still vital to India’s limited overs unit despite the emergence of the younger generation. A very very special 92.

The bowling effort too was top notch and Dhoni once again came into his own with 3 catches, a stumping and his trademark moments of brilliant captaincy. The fact that he did it without his two main spinners Ashwin and Mishra made it all the more special.

Age might be catching up with him but he is not finished yet. Dear cricket fans before you write off a player try to evaluate what the team’s position would be without him. Of course there will definitely be life after Dhoni but give him a chance to time his own swan song.  He deserves that for the way he’s served Indian Cricket.

Dhoni himself has said he will re-evaluate his position after 2016. I guess he’s eyeing another ICC trophy- The World T-20 to be held in India.  Going by his past record in ICC tournaments there’s a very good chance that Dhoni might hold the trophy again.

For now keep calm and cherish Dhoni the player and captain until he fades away from limelight and be a little more graceful in victory and defeat.

 

 

 

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THE WHEELS COME OFF – THE ASHES


I have never been a great fan of the Aussie brand of cricket but seeing them lose was so pathetic that you almost felt sympathetic. But this Ashes gave us all an eternal lesson. “NEVER WRITE OFF AN AUSSIE SIDE”. Who would have thought that the urn would change hands so quickly. Not only did the Aussies win the Ashes they won it in some style 5-0. It once again proved that playing method cricket is no substitute for natural flair and aggression.
It has been a tale of two men – the unlikeliest of heroes – BRAD HADDIN and MITCHELL JOHNSON. Johnson was never a first choice. We never knew which Johnson would turn up. But injuries to Jason Bird meant Johnson had to start. Neither England nor the audience were prepared for what was to come. Johnson steaming in like a tiger. England all over the place searching for an answer. It wasn’t a mere win it was annihilation. 
And then there was Haddin – the eternal saviour – my personal Man of the Series for without Haddin’s runs all of Johnson’s effort would have had little effect on the eventual outcome. He was like the shield. Aussies in trouble – just one answer – call Haddin. He batted with purpose and grit often being the bridge between the top order and tail enders.
England – Poor England – Oh what can I say. They arrived like KINGS with the whole English media churning out different margins of an English victory. How things change ? They leave the Australian shores beaten fair and square. But there were signs. For years England have got away with playing automated -robot like cricket. The joy of seeing a sporting nation in action was missing. Even while winning the Ashes in England they were always on the verge of losing it. What a difference a series makes. Cook looks away in despair, Swann retires midway. Trott leaves. Hopefully things get better from here as England look for the right answers.
For the Aussies – it’s a tough road ahead with SA waiting to pounce. A side which had lost only 3 tests in 4 years. South Africa will be ruthless much like the Aussies were in their reign at the top. All set for an even contest I guess. But for now let’s celebrate this win – The aussies and cricket needed this to restore balance in the cricketing world.

THE GRAND FINALE PART III – SACHIN SACHIN!


 
I vowed not to cry but somehow despite my own firmness there were tears in my eyes. The master has bid farewell to his long time love – CRICKET.  The stage is empty without it’s lead performer. No more SACHIN SACHIN!. For the last decade and a half I have grown up watching him perform magic on the cricket pitch. It has all ended.
SACHIN has always been a big part of my life since 1996 not for the runs that he scored but for huge doses of inspiration he often provided. SACHIN RAMESH TENDULKAR is not an individual neither is he a sports person. He is a symbol of hope for many who grew up watching him. He’s been the pivot of India’s industrial revolution and more often than not he’s been a brand which everyone could connect with.
It’s all yet to sink in. 16th November 2013 will be etched in Indian Cricket history. It was the day when the son of the soil bid adieu. Quite fittingly the Virat Kohli – the heir to the throne walked in when TENDULKAR got out. Maybe he will notch up records like Tendulkar did but he will never move our hearts like Sachin did. There can and will only be one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
All good things have to come to an end but this loss has left an unforeseen vacuum in the cricketing world. The source of joy to millions of Indians has been snatched away. With him go our childhood memories. With home goes our expectation of a century in almost every match. He’s been one of us for a long time now.
Even time froze when the LITTLE MASTER shed tears. It was one of most stirring farewell speeches I have ever seen in my entire life. He remembered every one of them. People who left an impression in his life. The people who have helped shaped his career. To me though the moment of the day would be when the master walked back to the 22 yards which has been his stage for 24 long years.
It’s time to celebrate a great career . A career which has given hope to millions of Indians. It’s time for a royal salute to our very own BHARAT RATNA.
 
 
 
#ThankYouSachin.
  

THE GRAND FINALE II – SACHIN SACHIN!


 
74 it is.. 74 priceless runs by the LITTLE MASTER in what might probably be his last test innings.  74 runs which served as a glimpse of the years gone by. An innings filled with all of his trademark shots. Fittingly SAMMY didn’t celebrate after taking the catch even as the whole crowd went into silent mode. It seemed as if time had come to a standstill.
There will always be arguments as to whether he was the greatest batsman of all time. For once let comparisons be set aside. It’s time to celebrate the genius for what he has given us over the years.
My journey with Tendulkar started way back in 1996 when he set the cricketing world on fire. It was during his century against SRILANKA in a world cup league match that I had my first fleeting glimpse of SACHIN. I wasn’t a cricket fan back then so it was a mere glimpse but by the time world cup ended I was a cricket addict.
It was the tour to ENGLAND after the WORLD CUP that aptly sums up SACHIN’s prime. It actually started with yet another defeat abroad. The whole batting crumbled as TENDULKAR hit another defiant hundred. It was yet another lone warrior act of the little master. Hardcore critics of SACHIN tend to conveniently forget the fact that he had to struggle with a set of mediocre bowlers in his own team for most of his prime.
Trust me it is not an easy task to live up to the expectations of a nation every time you walk into bat. It is not an easy burden to carry. There is a reason why we call him the GOD of cricket because he’s delivered almost every time. The occasional lapses if any can be forgiven.
 
He can weave his magic with the ball too. There isn’t a ball he cannot bowl. Who can forget the HERO CUP final over. He was a good fielder in his hey days as well. We rarely get cricketers who are a complete package. Tendulkar was one of them.
Agreed he averages just 36 in the last couple of years but that’s better than what most of his contemporaries’ average over their entire career. The impact of TENDULKAR isn’t measured by sheer numbers. He’s been a walking inspiration in the dressing room and to his legion of fans spread over the entire nation.
By mere coincidence I had the chance of watching every one of his last 74 runs without blinking my eye. It served as a reminder of what I would be missing in the coming days. The sheer joys of watching the warrior take guard against the best of bowlers and dominating them.
Let the critics lie to rest as the sun sets on a glorious career. It is time for a royal salute as the future number 3 and 4 take guard. To me he will always remain the greatest batsman of this era alongside RAHUL DRAVID.

THE GRAND FINALE -SACHIN SACHIN !


 
Finally! The GOD of CRICKET decides to bid farewell. A couple of years too late if u ask me. It should have during India’s World Cup victory march at the Wankhede. There will arguments as to whether he was the best especially when compared to the technically perfect “RAHUL DRAVID”. But there’s no denying the fact that he was the face of Indian Cricket for a very long time. In his prime he was the lone warrior for India much like BRIAN CHARLES LARA in his heydays.
There was a time when the chat “SACHIN SACHIN” was a mantra for the Indian cricket fat. His was the only wicket that mattered. The critics who voice against SACHIN never knew the master in his prime. It was like seeing an artist at work. Who can ever forget the SACHIN’s twin knocks in SHARJAH or his domination over SHANE WARNE in the BEST BOWLER vs BEST BATSMAN contest.
He made 100 a landmark number, became the first man to reach a double hundred in ODI’s. There’s a saying that statistics don’t matter. But in his case the numbers speak for themselves. To maintain that level of consistency over such a long period of time is no mean feat. And there’s one thing we all tend to conveniently forget. As Indians we always tend to have short term memory loss. The first and foremost reason we all started watching cricket was SACHIN RAMESH TENDULKAR. As a cricket fanatic there’s nothing which has given me more joy than watching SACHIN bat.
Every journey has to come to an end. It’s been a long and colourful journey thus far. A journey filled with wonderful memories. To me SACHIN was never a name; he was a brand, the brand which shaped the dreams of an entire nation. He was the face of INDIA’s global renaissance.
 
( A reproduction of my earlier post )

RAHUL SHARAD DRAVID – THE WALL


 
The timing of his retirement from all forms of the game and what happened thereafter sums up his whole career. There’s just one word for it – OVERSHADOWED.  Right from the time DRAVID made his test debut he’s been overshadowed by his equally illustrious team mates. If SACHIN showed us how to win it was DRAVID who gave us our most famous wins abroad.
There are people who found his batting boring. But his team mates found it reassuring. He’s one of those rare breed of old school cricketers who believed in grinding it out. He never played to the gallery but was always effective. He was the partner in crime in most of India’s famous partnerships in the past decade. He was India’s go to man – the MR DEPENDABLE. But what sets him apart from the rest of the pack. There’s one thing people tend to conveniently forget he was the one who scripted India’s famous test match wins abroad and believe me it’s no mean feat considering the fact we were TIGERS at home. The test win outside the subcontinent remained elusive until DRAVID came into the picture.
I still remember LEEDS 2002. If you look at the scoreboard now it says DRAVID 148, SACHIN 193 and GANGULY 128. But it was Dravid who did the tough part of playing out the first morning along with Sanjay Bangar making it easier for those to follow. That was his role – to bat out the tough periods. It was a role which he relished.
For someone who started out as a test match batsman it was quite admirable that he adapted himself to the limited overs format as well.  There’s one more thing people tend to conveniently overlook. He was an able leader standing by GANGULY when the need arose. To me he will always be the best NO 3 batsman.
People who criticize his style of batting always remember – “Even the GOD OF CRICKET needed the WALL to shield him”.
Two legendary cricketers bit adieu. But as always THE SHOW MUST GO ON without its two famous leads for no individual is bigger than the game. 
MY FAV : Shoaib Akthar steaming in and Dravid answering him with a mere defensive prod. The smile on Akthar’s face said it all.

THE ZIMBABWE LESSON


 
For those who watch cricket – for a neutral cricket fan yesterday was a historic occasion- A rare Zimbabwe win. Considering the fact that it’s last test win was against Bangladesh the win yesterday was all the more special.
I don’t know why but there’s always a feel good factor in seeing the minnows win.  Maybe it’s human nature to applaud when someone fights against the odds and emerges a winner. My mind travels back in time. Gone are the days when the FLOWER brothers used to give the opposition a fight. HEATH STREAK would often be the lone warrior with the ball.
For a long while the trio ensured that Zimbabwe always put up a fight and there would be occasional surprise wins. But all that was part of a glorious past. The present looks bleak. The whole country is in turmoil. The economy is just gloomy. Coaching staffs had to be laid off. Pay dispute between the players and the board before the series started threatened every game. It all looked ugly until yesterday.
  Before the game started Chatara was just a rookie. But the way he bamboozled Pakistan into submission shows that he has spirit for the big stage. For Pakistan it was a typical unpredictable performance. We have now seen so much of this that we are not sure which PAKISTAN would turn up on a particular day. The mediocre one or the flamboyant one.
The victory celebrations after the win told the whole story. For one fleeting moment nothing else mattered except the fact that ZIMBABWE had beaten a top test team. 
Is it a lone bright spot or is it a sign of things to come. I am not sure. But for now let’s celebrate the victory of the underdog

RAVINDRA JADEJA – DHONI’S MAN FRIDAY.


Ravindra Jadeja or should I say Sir Ravindra Jadeja.. From a nobody to a Superstar. I agree even I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly he’s raised his game so much so that he’s become Dhoni’s go to man. He gives Dhoni the cushion that he needs by juggling in as an all-rounder.
He’s not one of those big names of Indian cricket but he quietly does what is required. The way he bowls is no secret he’s neither got the doosra or the carrom ball. He does not turn the ball much. Just keep it simple bowl a straight line and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes. That’s his mantra.
While batting he provides the much needed impetus late in the innings. And more often than not it works. Along with Raina and Dhoni he can give the innings the flourish that it requires. With captain cool backing him to the hilt I can forsee bright times ahead for Ravindra Jadeja. He may not be a Kallis but Jadeja is definitely the Lance Klusner of India. Just like how the 1999 World Cup had Lance Klusner written all over it this Champion’s trophy is Jadeja’s centrestage
There are jokes floating around that for Sir Jadeja nothing is impossible. At the present moment it seems so. He can do no wrong. Everything he touches turns to gold. He just has to be in the playing eleven the rest will fall in place by itself. 
All hail SIR RAVINDRA JADEJA.

SHIKAR DHAWAN – OUR VERY ROWDY RATHORE



Shikhar Dhawan – The heir to Sehwag’s throne. I think so. In a very short period he’s shown everybody what he’s capable of. He’s inherited Sehwag’s fearlessness but unlike him Dhawan’s not throwing his wicket away when he has the bowlers at his mercy which is a good sign. 

But what has impressed me the most so far is his footwork. While Sehwag’s game was purely based on his hand -eye coordination and Dhawan seems to move his feet a lot once he settles in. He’s also prepared to grind and leave the bad balls unlike his predecessor who went hell for leather from ball one which cost him his wicket on numerous occasions much to the frustration of the viewing public and his very own team mates.
I came across an article which said that Dhawan wanted to quit cricket. Thank God he didn’t otherwise we would have lost another precious talent. He’s shown he’s got the style and the game to play at the highest level. The only question that still lingers “Will he be able to sustain himself in the longer run”? Only time will tell. 
Bowlers will eventually work him out. His ultimate success will lie on how he improvises his game after that. His start reminds me of a famous Indian captain Saurav Ganguly – the man who re-shaped India’s destiny. He started out with a flourish in England. Though his captaincy was top notch he faded as a batsman once the Aussies found out his weakness against the short ball. Let’s hope this is not the case with Dhawan.
For now let Dhawan bask in his new found glory. Time is on his side. Let’s enjoy the proud twirling of the moustache by our very own Rowdy Rathore.
PS: His 187 against the Aussies is one of the most breathtaking innings I have seen recent times.