Sunday, 24 July 2016

कप्तान कोहली से विराट उम्मीदे!

जीत, ड्रॉ, हार - ये है बतैर टेस्ट कप्तान विराट कोहली का डेढ़ साल का लेखा जोखा| मैदान में अग्रसक्रिय सोच, युवाओ को प्रोत्साहन और फ़ैसलो में जोखिम लेना और उसकी ज़िम्मेदारी लेना, ये कुछ खुभियाँ जो इस संक्षिप्त अवधि में फॅन्स और समिक्शो को भा रही है| कोहली ने एक पेचेदि भरे मोड़ पर कमान संभाली थी, जब टीम ऑस्ट्रेलिया में संघर्ष करते वक्त धोनी ने अचानक सन्यास की घोषणा की| लेकिन अपने स्वाभाव के अनुरूप कोहली ने उस जटिल परिस्थिति को एक अवसर में तब्दील किया| भारत ने उस दौरे की आखरी टेस्ट मॅच ड्रॉ किया और २०१५ में खेले गयी बड़ी शृंखलाओ में कोहली के नेतृत्व में भारत ने जीत दर्ज की - श्रीलंका में २२ साल बाद जीत और दक्षिण आफ्रिका को - से पछाड़ा| १० टेस्ट मॅच भले ही एक अल्प समय हो किसी के कप्तानी का आकलन करने के लिए, मगर इतने कम कार्यकाल में कोहली ने अपनी छाप छोड़ी है|

अक्सर कड़ी मेहनत के बाद एक तुलनात्मक रूप से आसान काम सामने आता है जो मेहनत का फल प्राप्त करने का अवसर प्रदान करता है| हालाकी तल्ख़ नज़रिए से, मगर अनिल कुंबले के कोच बनने के बाद दिए प्रतिक्रिया में रवि शास्त्री ने कहा था की पिछले १८ महीनो में भारतीय टीम ने काफ़ी तरक्की की है और अब समय गया है उसका फल मिलने काइस हफ्ते से वेस्ट इन्डीज़ के खिलाफ मॅच की शृंखला का आगाज़ हुआ है| आयसीसी टेस्ट रॅंकिंग में भारत दूसरे पायदान और वेस्ट इन्डीज़ आठवे पायदान पर है| पिछले 2 दौरों (2006 और 2011) में भारत ने जीत दर्ज की थी| इतिहास और फॉर्म देखे तो भारत को ये दौरा कठिन होने की संभावना कम ही है| पहले पारी के खेल अपेक्षा के अनुरूप भारत के पक्ष में जाते हुए दिखा|

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Captaincy Conundrum!

8 teams, 60 matches and 7 ‘Indian’ skippers (discounting Duminy and Miller) constituted the recently concluded 9th edition of the Indian Premier League. This featured 2 new teams, unfamiliar captains (Raina, Vijay), seasoned IPL leaders (Gambhir, Rohit, Dhoni), a motivational veteran (Zaheer Khan) and Indian cricket’s man of the moment - Virat Kohli captaining a powerful side. Right through pre-tournament previews till the beginning of the finals, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) wasn’t the most fancied team in the competition. The team was led by the only non-Indian skipper - David Warner, who didn’t have any prior experience of leading Australia. The middle order appeared fragile and injuries to experienced Indian international players (Nehra and Yuvraj) added to the perceptual woes.

Quietly and probably facilitated by the lack of attention, SRH managed to string in consistent wins and stay in the hunt for the title. The template of SRH was designed to ensure penetration with the new ball and control at the death, and not rely heavily on the batting. The playoffs summed up the story of SRH for the season - the trio of Warner, Mustafizur and Bhuvneshwar Kumar functioning as the lynchpin, while others standing up at crucial moments.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Avoidable Magnification of Home Advantage?

‘No undue home advantage’ is how Virat Kohli shrugged off criticism with regard to the track at Nagpur in a match which India wrapped in under 3 days. South Africa’s 9-year, 15-test series long unbeaten streak was broken and it also marked a wonderful start to Kohli’s stint as the test team captain on home soil with a series win against the top-ranked test side. Ashwin who ended up match figures of 46-13-98-12 backed his skipper asking, ‘what's the problem with spin and bounce?.. It is about skill for batsmen to play it and counter it’. Team director Ravi Shastri added, ‘Nothing wrong with the pitches.. I have no qualms about it’. When a cricket match is over and players are questioned more about something other than individual/team accomplishments, you know the events through the course of the match have entered a contentious territory.

In an era of sheer batting domination the success of bowlers from either camp should have been a cause of joy for a cricket fan but instead has commanded critical reviews. 3 out of the 4 lowest team totals (17 innings in 5 tests overall) at Nagpur, a venue which has had 4 results and only 1 draw, were recorded in this match. This match came on the back of the grossly rain-affected Bengaluru test and another quick finish at Mohali. The match at Mohali recorded 2 out of 5 lowest totals (where a side has been dismissed completely) at the venue. South Africa’s first innings total of 214 at Bengaluru was the joint lowest total at the Chinnaswamy stadium.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Satisfactory Grades In A Tough Examination!

The googly from Amit Mishra on the last delivery of the 85th over of Sri Lanka’s second innings overwhelmed the number 11 batsman Nuwan Pradeep and sealed a famous, rare series win for India in the island nation. Celebrations, accolades followed and a sense of satisfaction settled on the contemplation of India’s away tours’ log-book for the last two seasons (Oct 2013-Sep 2015). India travelled to 6 test-playing nations within ~21 months, played 17 matches, won only 3 but ticked a lot of boxes affirmatively.

Vijay, Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Rahane, Dhoni were India’s top 7 in the first test against South Africa in Johannesburg in December 2013; Rahul, Pujara, Rahane, Kohli, Rohit, Binny, Naman Ojha formed the top 7 in the latest test at Colombo versus Sri Lanka. Ashwin, Zaheer, Ishant, Shami were the frontline bowlers then and Ashwin, Mishra, Ishant, Umesh in the recently concluded test. Dhoni retired (from tests) in that phase, likes of Gambhir & more recently Harbhajan were given comeback opportunities and India test caps numbered 281 to 285  were awarded to 5 players (Stuart Binny, Pankaj Singh, Karn Sharma, KL Rahul & Naman Ojha) during this period. A nucleus was allowed to form and permitted to find its path disregarding the statistics, and rightly so.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Turning Fortunes On Away Soil!

The day started with the prospect of a famous away win on Independence Day but ended with the team imploding to its 6th test loss since the win at Lord’s last year, something which could well feature in the list of India’s most disappointing losses. With 153 needed at the beginning of day 4, the morning session was to decide the fate of either side and it appeared it to be India’s game to lose despite having to chase that in-between total. By the time the teams broke for lunch India had lost 6 wickets for 55 runs; the win was nothing but sealed for Sri Lanka and India was left to ponder over an alternate approach in the run-chase. The formalities were completed within an hour from lunch with Sri Lanka securing a 63-run win.

As anticipated, Sri Lanka entrusted its spinners in the quest to defend a modest target of 176. The duo of Herath & Kaushal delivered with combined figures of 38.5-7-95-10 out of the overall figures of 49.5-12-112-10. While the reviews of this match would hail Chandimal & Herath, question the shot-selection of Indian batsmen and penetration of Indian bowlers in the 3rd innings, ponder extensively over India’s stubbornness in befriending the Decision Review System (DRS), it would also put this batting slide in the growing concern of Indian batting unit’s loosening command against spin bowling, especially on away soil. 15 wickets were lost to spin in this match, while 5, 12, 0, 4, 9 were lost in the 5 defeats since that historic win at Lord’s. Among the 45 wickets in this sample space which covers matches in England, Australia & Sri Lanka, 25 belong to dismissals of the first-6 batsmen.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Challenges for Virat Kohli-The Test Team Captain!

A loss & a draw marked Virat Kohli’s first two tests as the captain of the Indian team. Characteristic attributes of India’s leadership on foreign soil like reactive decision-making, defensive field placements, safety-first approach didn’t quite find an association with Kohli’s captaincy in that brief phase. The debut test in this regard included an hundred from him in both the innings, while the following test as the designated captain of the test team featured a magnificent ton in the first innings and a significant rearguard knock to salvage a draw. A win wasn’t achieved but the brand was refreshing as much as effective, and there was something more than just the difference in the exuberance of a 26-year & 33-test old against the wisdom of a 33-year & 90-test old experienced player.

The absence of captaincy baggage permitted him to flaunt his free spirited mind by picking Karn Sharma ahead of Ashwin at Adelaide, and chancing a run-chase on day 5 of the test when most visiting sides would have settled in the pursuit for a draw. Kohli has been pretty vocal about his approach to a game recently, wherein he doesn’t mind risking a defeat for a possible test win. Thus far in his young career things are being practiced as they are preached. In the Sydney test, the bowlers managed only 13 wickets but the batsmen exhibited commendable resolve when the runs were too many to keep the series scoreline down to 0-2.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

5 Possible Add-Ons To The Indian Premier League!

Another fresh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is underway and like always it has quietly occupied the viewership space. The format and its timing clicks, so does quality of cricket and the concoction keeps onlookers engaged through the course of the tournament. The audience is always looking forward to the innovation in terms of organization, broadcast & sponsor features, which keeps respective entities busy with R&D. Here are 5 things which the IPL can live with and probably help it grow further!