God willing…

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It was a quiet day, had a good lunch and came back to my desk and started working. Obviously working involves browsing the web side by side and vice versa. So suddenly when I switch tabs and refresh the page, there it was… It hit me hard, harder than the man who used to hit it.

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This was expected, rumors were floating around, even the faithfuls knew this was coming sooner than later. His ODI retirement had actually softened the blow to an extent. So instead of just crying there, my mind actually raced to think what next? Okay do this first:

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Nice to have a manager who asks no questions if you plan your leaves in advance. So that is taken care off. What is left is just the small matter of booking the flights and then getting the match tickets. Yep, very easy, considering the fact that they haven’t announced the fixtures yet. We have got a very helpful board who keep us waiting because they think traveling across the country is as easy as hiking to Roopkund (Ouch!). But, in this case there was no doubt in my mind about where he is going to play his last ever test match. So, even before they could announce the fixtures I went ahead and booked flight tickets to Mumbai one month in advance. All this within hours from the announcement.

And as expected, it was Mumbai. Now to get the match tickets, the toughest of them all. There were all sorts of rumors doing the rounds with respect to tickets. They said sponsors have got all the tickets, SRT himself has got the bulk of them and there will be only 4000 tickets available for the general public. But I told to myself that none of these things are going to dampen my spirits and decided that whatever happens, I am going to Mumbai, I am going to Wankhede and I am going to watch him in flesh in his last test match. Had a word with few like minded friends and asked them if they can come with me, everyone said NO except for one fellow who said:

“If you are going to go all out and get the tickets somehow then I am also in it, let’s do this together.”

After days and days of waiting, it was announced that some of the tickets will be sold online through kyazoonga.com and the sale was just 3 days before the match started. As I said earlier, very helpful organizing. Fan friendly.

The sale was scheduled to begin at 10am on a working day and that was the only chance of getting the ticket rightfully. So I got up early and went to office as early as possible (that doesn’t happen on normal days) and before 10am I was ready with the site open. Also, good to have friends in your team who can understand that you are crazy about this and offer to (read forced to) take up your work for the day.

You don’t get anything easily in this country, for everything you want, there are thousand others who want the same thing. What is the need for others to book tickets now huh?? Can’t they just watch the match at home?? Competition for anything and everything here  meant the website stopped loading and was unresponsive to not just me but to everyone around the country. Angrily muttered to myself “Why are we such a populous country? bleddy ancestors!!” and started refreshing the page one side and was checking Twitter on the other side to check whether someone else got in and booked the tickets.

Nothing, no luck, what life is this, Damn it…!! Okay, lunch time..

Back again, same old same old. Kyazoonga on their twitter feed were assuring people that the tickets are still available and asked everyone to be patient. Okay, that is good news, but what is the use if I can’t even see the booking page. It has been more than four hours and I have not been able to move past the home page.

BAM, that’s it, through to the tickets page, selected the stand.. payment page please, payment page please.. NOOOOO NOOOOO NOOOO!! Not the homepage again, NOOOOOOOOO!!! Damn it…

Evening…  This isn’t happening, nothing will ever happen. My luck is like that, my life is like that.

Suddenly, got a ping from my office messenger, name was unheard off, but the title read IT officer..

“Hi, we can see that your system is sending some data that is attracting malware. Please give your IP address”

Oh, not this now.. I am going to get busted for nothing.. And just as I was closing all the tabs, they somehow took my IP and connected to my system via remote. For some reason, I don’t use Chrome which was my default browser, instead I was using Firefox. But since Chrome was in my taskbar, they opened that and checked the history which had nothing in the last 3 months and I got away with just a warning that I shouldn’t browse non work related sites (Yeah.. right..)

Back again, nothing at all, the day is over and I have not been able to book the tickets online. I can see people posting on Twitter that they have got through somehow and booked it. Cursed to myself as I packed the bags and left home..

Back home and immediately switched on my personal laptop and started crying again or you can also say trying again.

No I don’t want dinner, I am very depressed and I know I am crazy, just leave me alone.

Yes, I am annoying during times like these, but my mom and wife took turns in feeding me dinner as I tried in vain. Two hours passed by, but zilch as usual. Father who was watching my craziness till now lost his cool and asked me to go and sleep. Wanted to say it is because of him only I started watching cricket and he should be the one to take the entire blame for raising a kid like this. But I was already tired and felt feverish, so just closed everything and went and slept off.

Morning, Open eyes, check phone, there is a message, there is the mail with these below screenshots which were titled “gethu po”

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*Flashback start*

That one friend who said, “let’s do this together”, called me just as I was about to sleep.

“I am trying for it, let’s see how it goes”

*Flashback end*

MOHAN, you lucky bugger….  FINALLY!!!!, THANK YOU GOD (pun intended) It is as if all the luck in the world was with me (actually with Mohan) and finally there was a purpose in boarding that flight to Mumbai.

…To be continued

The victorious loss..!!

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School life is usually a template. Only the perspective changes. As usual we have a gang which will be a mix of toppers and creative souls who would ace academics, sports and cultural activities. There will be another gang who are back-benchers and despise the whole premise of school based education.Those two groups at least have conviction in what they are doing. Now there is a third group….

This bunch exist quietly in between these two extremes and they actually do not know what they are there for. They aspire to become like the toppers one day, but sometimes very narrowly avoid the back benchers. They are the proverbial pendulum that swing and bring balance to our school life. They are largely insignificant as far as the entire school narrative is concerned. No one remembers them, they just make up the numbers and move out when it is time.

But, there are small moments that define those in betweeners. Again, no one remembers them for those moments. But, they themselves will remember it as their magical time in a life clouded by normalcy. This is one such time…

It was that time of the year. The yearly sports events happen leading up to the Annual Sports Day. One such event is Kho-Kho and it was a place where heroes were made. This was the only event where almost the entire school come in numbers to cheer the players and their respective teams. Each day had two to three games and the happenings of those games will be topic of discussion the next morning. This is the closest one can get to feeling a real sportsperson’s life. If you are a player that is…

Like every year, yours truly, being the perfect ‘in betweener’ that he is, also aspired to play this game and represent his team one day. That one year and one day came in his final year of senior secondary school. Stuff of dreams that was, to finally play in front of a live audience who will actually cheer you. Suddenly you are not so insignificant any more, at least for those one or two hours.

Simple tournament rules, four teams play each other in a league format and the top two play the finals. Like always, there was one strong team which can steamroll the opponents any time, any day and as you would have guessed by now that is definitely not a team which would have me. So as the fixtures were drawn we had to face that strong team first up. That team had a player who is my classmate and he has been playing this game and tournament since he was in primary school. He has won this many times in the past, but this time it was different as he was the captain. As if these people needed extra motivation now!! So there I am playing in this stage for the first time against this already strong team with proper focus and experience.

Yes, we lost that game by an innings. For starters that means we didn’t catch as many of them in two chances as they caught us in one chance. But not all went wrong for me there. Survived a full minute inside the court before they brought me down and then when my chance came, caught the only one our team managed to catch the entire game. Yeah, got some cheers as well. I would like to think that was for me.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing about our team. We were a bunch of average runners, but we had one player who was on par with the best in our school. He was a pocket dynamo, so little that he will slip in between people unnoticed. That probably covered one part of the game, but we still needed to catch people to win games. And to do that, I needed help from my childhood friend who plays for his school kho-kho team. He told me a trick of giving a fake kho, that is you tap your team mate, but that doesn’t mean you pass the chance unless you shout KHO. This meant the runner gets confused and holds his ground or moves in the wrong direction. By using this trick, we managed to get past the other two teams with lots of cheers and applause and suddenly we were a team to reckon with. Credits seemed to flow by my side, everyone started talking about this trick the next day and for the first time I felt I am not there to just make up numbers. I got my moment in the spotlight.

Now comes the difficulty. To dwell on the cliches, the cat was out of the bag, everyone knew we were doing this fake kho thing, so that lentil will not boil if we attempt the same in the finals. We needed to do something different to get past the strongest team in our school. The team that was destined to win, the team that had the most experienced player as its captain.

What we did? How we did? Who did it for us? That part will be explained with so much subtlety and poise by my dear friend, opponent and captain right here.

So, you know who won now and why we won it and who won it for us.

Those last few moments were completely different for me. Those last few seconds…

We were counting our hearts out when the last ten seconds were evaporating. We couldn’t wait to get into the court and jump up and down. This was easily one of the best, if not the best sporting victory of my lifetime.

When the final whistle was blown, we ran onto the field and lifted our little fella. Most of the opponents were my classmates, they were my best friends, they were literally in tears. But I couldn’t care less about them. This was about us now. The proper underdogs emerging victorious like you have seen in a number of movies these days. The satisfying feeling of coming out on top after all the trash talks I had with the opponent’s captain (despite knowing we had little to no chance of winning this).

So that was that… Our captain treated us with some soda and snacks later that evening. Next day yours truly was back to leading his normal life again.

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Counter view – T20

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You can read Kartikeya Date’s views in this link if you haven’t already.

First of all, let me make one thing pretty clear. The data and the evidences that are being provided in so many ‘numbers’ are about events which have already happened. The action is already complete and the results are there for you to see. This method of deducing a formula from events that have already happened or completed often give you a trend. But that doesn’t mean that is the reality. Correlation doesn’t mean causation.

Example:

India wins:

Every time R.Ashwin takes 2 wickets or more in his first 5 overs.

Every time Virat Kohli scores 50+ in a chase.

Reality: India have won when this has happened in the past, but that doesn’t mean India will win always if this happens again in the future.

To put those in simple words, let’s give some values to batting and bowling now. Say, a 50 to batting and a 36 to bowling. Imagine those values are the result of an action which is completed. Now I am going to arrive on a formula which I think is the method that resulted in batting getting the value of 50 and bowling getting the value of 36.

I say 22+18+10 = 50 which equals batting and 15+19+2 = 36 that equals bowling.

Can you deny this? Of course, you can’t. But can you deny the fact that 25 + 25 or 18+18 will also result in the same outcome? Yes, you are right, it can be that too. Now you get it?

Kartikeya says that:

“Kohli brought RCB 973 runs for 12 dismissals at 152 runs per 100 balls. Would RCB not have been better off getting those 973 runs spread over two or three batsmen at a strike rate of closer to 180-190? They had the wickets to spare”

In theory, this looks great and I can see why he thinks this method will be successful. But this takes out everything with respect to cricket or for that matter sport and I don’t blame him for thinking like this because he says T20 is not cricket. But, there is no guarantee that a given player will score the given number of runs in a given game or a set of players will do the same against a set of bowlers. They don’t play on hard courts where you come in gauge the pace of the pitch from the first delivery and hit it out of the park. Also, they aren’t playing against bowling machines where any batsmen can walk in and score the same number of runs in the available deliveries against any bowler. The whole human element is being taken out here. Whatever he says can only happen when you give autoplay in EA cricket for an innings to complete and even that algorithm changes occasionally.

Certain batsmen target certain bowlers, certain batsmen can target any bowler. That is the difference between Gayle and Kohli/Ab De Villiers. This was evident even in the final. Gayle targeted Sran, Cutting and Henriques while Kohli went after Mustafizur. This is the kind of strategy teams follow these days. There is a certain “What if” to this tactic, and to cover that, you need a proper batsmen who doesn’t have any limitation against any bowler. This is the reason why I would take in a top class batsmen any day into my T20 team instead of a Andrew Symonds or a Kieron Pollard.

This theory of big bashers failed spectacularly in 2008. This is bound to happen in a long tournament where only quality survives. When the IPL auctions first came through, this seemed to be the idea for Deccan Chargers. They loaded their teams with hitters after hitters and it was clearly evident how that method fared. They finished at the bottom of the table. There was a game where Rajasthan Royals required 17 runs from the last over and that was bowled by Andrew Symonds-a bowler who perfectly fits under Kartikeya Date’s definition of “a marginal bowler with hitting ability”. That bowler conceded those runs to Shane Warne whereas a regular bowler would have probably won it for them (Bhuvneshwar Kumar defended 18 runs in the final). The marginal bowler with hitting ability most often cancels out himself. In that particular game Symonds scored 117 runs from 53 deliveries and then conceded 46 runs from 17 balls. The same Deccan Chargers did win it in 2009 when their regular bowlers RP Singh and P.Ojha took 23 and 18 wickets respectively. This is why a quality bowler has a place in T20s. A Bhuvi/Fizz will tick most of the boxes in most of the pitches while a lesser quality bowler will be losing the game for his team even if he scores some additional runs.

It will be very interesting to do a complete case study on Rajasthan Royals (2015) and Delhi Daredevils (2016) on how they failed in those respective tournaments. The pattern was eerily similar, both teams had a jump start, but lost the so-called momentum towards the end and crashed out. This was attributed to their constant chopping and changing of  the first team even while winning comfortably, even when there were no injury concerns. Maybe, they were following a set formula? A set theory where only a certain player can play against a certain opponent or a certain player needs a break every 3 games to keep himself fresh for the remaining games. This theory must have stemmed from the available evidence-the data and the events which had already happened. But in reality, those theories or formulas are not fully prepared for all contingencies. It doesn’t take into account something which might happen out of the ordinary. It only knows what happened before and can counter the same if it happens again. It isn’t dynamic enough to modify itself when something new happens. This somewhat explains the failure of both RR and DD. Not to mention both teams had the same head coach and mentor.

I remember the Chennai test in 2013, where Pattinson was steaming in under the hot sun and was bowling 150kph thunderbolts. He dismissed Vijay and Sehwag in his second and third over but surprisingly did not get the fourth over of his spell. Normal logic would be to go for the fast bowler who is in full tilt against two new batsmen who are yet to get off their mark, but that didn’t happen. It was because sports science dictated that Pattinson is only effective in three over spells. India built a partnership from 12/2 to 105/3 before Pattinson himself came back and dismissed Pujara. India went on to put a huge total and won the game and that set the tone for all the remaining games in that series. The interesting part here is that, this also seemed to have proved that the theory of using him in 3 over burst is right as he came back and took the wicket, but his fourth or fifth over would have probably done the same and that would have tilted the game in their favor and thereby throwing the data and resulting theory into garbage.

These are just some top of the mind examples where following a set of preconceived actions based on evidences brought upon the downfall of a team and I have not even mentioned the famous English debacle of World Cup 2015 and Peter Moores, the data man. I am not saying we should ignore these studies completely. They do tell us a story, but how we use that to write our own story, will determine whether this becomes an evidence in the future. Finally, let me finish this with a quote from M.S.Dhoni:

“Cricket has a lot of abstracts, but we need to do a lot of the small things right. Put in the intensity and hope it all turns out”

Stop crucifying the bouncers

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We saw it, we felt it, we know it.

For the ‘past few weeks’, we have seen a lot of people mention about the ‘past few weeks’. Yes, it has affected the game and yes it was a major loss to everyone involved. But, it was heartening to see how most of the media, general public and cricketers dealt with the situation and how everyone emphasized the need to move on.

Apart from that, an uncomfortable feeling grew in whenever there was a mention about the bowler. There were lines like:

‘thoughts are with him’

‘hope he recovers from this’

I understand the concern here, but honestly felt this is not what that person would like to see out there in the social media or in the mainstream media. We all know it wasn’t his mistake, he knows it wasn’t his mistake, the batsmen knows it wasn’t his mistake. Then what was the need to go on and on about it by writing countless pieces and sending out thousands of tweets (Yes, his name was trending on Twitter). If there was a genuine concern or a need to comfort him, it should have been addressed personally and not through the medium where the whole world can see.

We all admire the boy’s courage and the ability to bounce back so early and sincerely hope he is left alone for the rest of his career without anyone reminding him about that fateful day. (I hardly think so, but hope is the only thing we have in this world)

Now, that is almost done and dusted. There is one more ‘thing’ which demands immediate attention and that poor ‘thing’ hasn’t received any support* over the ‘past few weeks’. In fact it is being treated like a criminal that has no place in the society. Let me begin by case with a small story.

It was the summer vacation and after days of begging and fasting, I finally got my parents to enroll me into a cricket coaching camp. It was a big thing back then for a middle class family as the kit alone costs more than a thousand bucks. First few days of the camp, we were asked to run around the ground and then the next thing would be to practice the forward defense for the rest of the session. Like a dance step we had a count for doing it.

  1. Stretch your right leg as far as you can (I am a left hander)
  2. Bat and Pad close to each other
  3. Meet the imaginary ball right under your eyes
  4. Smother it

After doing this for a week, we were finally given a chance to implement it in real time. Each one of us will get to bat an over on the condition that we should play only the forward defense. After waiting for another 15 minutes, I finally got a chance to play proper cricket with my new bat (Enough excitement, even though it’s just the forward defense). Everything was going according to plan until the penultimate ball. The forward defense has become a subconscious thing by then, so when the ball was delivered, the mind worked like a computer and started to stretch the leg forward. But the poor mind noticed the change in trajectory a little too late. By the time the adjustment was made, the ball was well on its way to hit the balls. CRACK was the sound it made (Yes, I was wearing protection and no I didn’t wet it) and the next moment I was down on the ground wincing with pain. They carried me over to the corner of the ground with my voice echoing all around the place. There was a pricking pain coming from inside and when I removed my pants and checked, the box was broken to pieces. That was it, the shouting changed to uncontrollable weeping. Not because it was embarrassing to get hit in the unmentionables or not because ‘if not for the protection there would be no reason for me to use a protection in the future’. It was because I should again beg my parents to get a new box and the fear that they wouldn’t allow me to come back here. The poor soul didn’t see the bigger picture of the hit, but it also didn’t know that the ‘Short of a length ball’ is what that caused so much humiliation, pain and fear. The mind failed to realize that the short of a length ball is menacing, it is fiery and it is the method of showing aggression to an innocent part of the body. From then on the mind should have actually feared that particular delivery, it should have struck fear every time that ball is bowled in a competitive match, it should have later asked me to write blogs about it or tweet about it. But none of those things happened, it was like any other ball and I started playing cricket the same way as it was before.

 

We have seen discrimination in everything, from race to religion to caste but never thought we would do that to the length in which a ball is bowled. The actual reason for both the incidents is very obvious, the timing of the shot was wrong, the mind should have realized it sooner than it actually did. One was fatal, the other was not. If it was, would we be blaming the length in which the ball was bowled?

From the moment we started playing cricket, we knew that bouncer was an integral part of the game and it is within the rules to bowl one and it is important to be prepared for facing one. There is no need to sensationalize every time one is bowled or every time a batsmen is hit. Freak accidents occur in every walk of life, this was one such and the pain was felt throughout the sports world. We all prayed and supported the concerned family when it required the most and now is the time to move on.

Head always thinks itself as the most important part of the body and that is why anything which is aimed at the head is termed as more dangerous than others. But when heart mixes with that thinking in the right proportion we would see a rational point.

PS: This write up is simply the extrapolation of shouting SILENCE when we want people to be quiet. The irony is part of it.

*Just as I finished writing this, it has received a well deserved support from the best fast bowler himself.

-Murali Mohan.S

Playoffs qualification scenarios – IPL7

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After MI’s loss against KKR yesterday, there were widespread suggestions in twitter and in the commentary box that their tournament is well and truly over. Well, that is not entirely true. Let us start looking at the competitors who are vying for the last two spots (Yes, the 3rd position is still not sealed by Rajasthan Royals)

Before starting with the teams, the magic mark for the playoffs is 16 points. If it is 16, you are comfortably placed in the top 4, if it is 14 then you are in that NRR game with others.

Kolkata Knight Riders:

KKR currently have 10 points.They have four games left and victories in three of those will ensure a spot in the playoffs. Even though that looks really straightforward, it isn’t. They have 3 games against the competitors who are also hunting for that same spot, which means those games might work in favor of the Mumbai Indians, as one of their competitors will lose points either way. KKR travel to Hyderabad for an away game against SRH and then host RCB & SRH in Kolkata. Those three games will make or break their tourney. Their other game is with the mighty CSK, which makes it more difficult for them.

IN: 3 wins

OUT: 3 losses

NRR game – 2 losses and 2 wins

Sunrisers Hyderabad:

SRH currently have 8 points. By skipping the obvious scenario, let us move straight to the cluster of possibilities which are in store. Three of the remaining four games for SRH are against the competitors, which again means ‘advantage Mumbai Indians’. SRH host KKR and RCB after which they travel away to Ranchi and Kolkata to face CSK and KKR. Their games against KKR and RCB will decide their fate with respect to the playoffs. The equation for SRH is more or less similar to that off KKR and hence the tussle between those two teams will decide the way for themselves and to the other teams like RCB and MI.

IN – 4 wins

OUT – 2 wins and 2 losses

NRR game – 3 wins and one loss

Royal Challengers Bangalore:

RCB have a mighty task in their hands, three of their four games are away from home. It is no secret that they thrive in their home conditions with short boundaries and powerful hitters (the fact that they have been beatable there has been a major worry this season) Their situation gets even worse seeing that their opponent at home is none other than their nemesis CSK. The bigger problem for them is that they play 3 games in Ranchi,Kolkata and Hyderabad where the pitches are completely different from what they get back at home. It will be interesting to see how the free flowing RCB batsmen adjust to the slow and low tracks in those venues. As discussed earlier, they have two away games against their competitors (SRH and KKR) and the result in those games will decide whether RCB go through to the playoffs or fall just short for the third consecutive time in three years.

IN – 4 wins

OUT –  2 wins and 2 losses

NRR game – 3 wins and one loss

Mumbai Indians:

The fact that they are still in contention for a playoff spot might surprise a few of you. But they still have an outside chance as long as they win their own games (very difficult considering their current form) and wait for their competitors to mess up each others chances. The one fortunate/unfortunate thing for the Mumbai Indians is that they do not face any of their competitors again. Although, they still have a chance to bring down Rajasthan Royals and make them as one of the competitors. The equation for Mumbai Indians is to win all their matches and wait for their competitors to win or lose against each other in a such a way that, it will benefit them. Mumbai play two away games against RR & KXIP and two home games against DD & RR. Their two games against RR will be a wonderful chance for them to bring them into this competitors club. If RR lose both of their games against MI and lose one more game then they will also become a part of this NRR game thereby opening up two places for five teams.

IN and NRR game – 4 wins for themselves, 2 losses for KKR, 1 loss each for RCB & SRH and a better NRR than all of them (Too far fetched? I know)

OUT – 1 more loss

Rajasthan Royals:

It might be a harsh call to add them here, but as specified earlier they still have not sealed the spot in the playoffs, largely thanks to their bizarre batting order against CSK. The scenario is very simple for RR, they win two of their four games and they walk into the top 4. In their current form, one can expect them to do that with ease, but who knows what batting order they have got this time.

IN – 2 wins

OUT – 4 losses

NRR game – 1 win and 3 losses

All the above scenarios might become a complete waste if KKR win 3 of their games and RR win two of theirs. But those of you who watched CSK (IPL2012) script (pun unintended) their way back into the top four will know that the playoffs spot is not such a simple equation.

 

-Murali Mohan.S

Mumbai Indians – What actually went wrong at the auctions?

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Over the days we have seen lots of pieces on this topic, number of points have been raised on how Mumbai Indians have messed up their IPL winning combination by picking the *wrong* players at the auctions. I agree to most pieces on the subject level, that is MI had a very bad strategy at the auctions. But this piece is written to bust the myth that the blunders were not the most popular ones which are doing the rounds here, rather the simple ones which could have been done in order to enhance their winning combination. Let me start with the list of *popular* players left out by MI.

 

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Pic Courtesy – Google Images

Glenn Maxwell:

We have to start with him of course. He has been a revelation this season, but before the WT20 started how many of you honestly expected Maxwell to be in beast mode?

I can hear people saying “Mumbai had Maxwell with them for the whole of last season, they should have known his potential and should have retained him ahead of others”

Ahead of whom? Pollard? Kieron Pollard, the man who won them the finals last season after the dramatic top order collapse? The man whose pyrotechnics against the Sun Risers got them the second place which allowed them to recover after the loss in the playoffs against CSK? Pollard showed maturity last season, played some important knocks and was a live wire in the field as well. There was no question of not retaining him.

“But they could have got Maxwell instead of Corey Anderson right?”

Yes they could have, but we all saw what Corey did against WI and India. He showed he had all round capabilities which would add the much required balance to a T20 team whereas Maxwell was never seen as a player who can bowl 4 overs in every game. With respect to batting, Anderson had scored the fastest 100 ever in an ODI game. He had some whirlwind knocks against India, almost scored the fastest 50 against them and also took a fifer. So I would definitely not blame the MI management in going for Corey Anderson over Maxwell. The golden rule for selection is they are done based on the potential a player has. Corey had the potential to bat at No.5 and bowl 4 overs, on the other hand Maxwell can bat at the top 4 and is of little use with the ball.

“But Corey is not at all bowling right? They could have had Maxwell instead?”

Well that is speaking retrospectively. Corey was coming back from an injury, did not settle in quickly and lost the team management’s faith. All in all we would need a separate analysis for that.

Dwayne Smith:

Dwayne Smith was Mumbai’s savior last season, an important cog in the wheel for them. He had delivered for them in crucial games which includes both IPL and CLT20. He was their unsung hero and was the man whose performances saw MI getting qualified for both IPL and CLT20 finals. Yet why did MI look beyond him for this season?

Here is why, Smith had partnered Tendulkar for majority of the season. Tendulkar being the senior partner provided the stability at the top. Once Tendulkar was gone, MI needed someone to play that role and control the innings right from the start. Although SRT was poor for them in the last two seasons, that was the role he played for them. With such a requirement in place, there is none better than Michael Hussey to take up that position. To refresh our memories, Mike Hussey was scoring runs for fun last season and was the orange cap winner. He was the player who set the tempo for CSK’s innings and was scoring at a very good strike rate as well. MI management must have thought he would be the right person to replace SRT at the top and I do not fault them at all for thinking on those lines.

At the start of the IPL how many of you would have preferred Hussey over Smith? Most of the CSK fans would nod in unison here. It is unfortunate that Hussey did not take off here with MI and that is the key reason for their non-performance this year. On the other hand Smith has had an excellent tournament up until now, but how do you think one can foresee this? We cannot discuss selections on hindsight, can we?

If we are talking about Hussey’s age here, then take Brad Hodge and Pravin Tambe. Hodge played some crucial knocks for Rajasthan Royals last season and Pravin Tambe’s story is a cricketing fairytale in itself.

Mitchell Johnson:

Mitch was the joint leading wicket taker for Mumbai Indians last season along with Harbhajan Singh. MI had played two overseas bowlers for most of the season last time, the reason for that was they did not have a good Indian replacement, the combination worked for them last time around. But this time the idea was to get a good Indian bowler so that they can strengthen the middle order with a foreign player. General consensus is not to waste two overseas slots for an out and out bowler in this batsmen friendly format and MI had toed that line this time. Also Mitch did not help things himself by having a horror CLT20 which saw him lose his place to Nathan Coulter-Nile.

PS: I was sure that Zak was not the ideal Indian replacement they were looking for and I am glad Praveen Kumar has replaced him now.

Actual Auction Blunders:

  • Retaining Dinesh Karthik instead of Rayudu should have been a no brainer. A top order bat who can also keep wickets, also performed exceptionally well last season should have stayed with MI.
  • Having known the potential of Akshar Patel and Yuzhvendra Chahal all along, they should have gone for at least one of them and should have left out Pragyan Ojha. (who was definitely costlier than his actual worth this auctions as other teams who were looking for lead spinners increased his price)
  • They should have used RTM on Rishi Dhawan, who was key in providing the balance for the side last season. Lack of domestic all-rounders is one of the main reasons why they struggle with the fifth bowler’s quota in almost all the games.
  • Instead of going for a team of keepers, they should have got one proper domestic batsmen like Lokesh Rahul, Karun Nair, Manpreet Juneja or Baba Aparajith.

IPL is a tournament which moves at a breakneck speed. If a player is not in form, there is little time for him to gain it in this format as he is almost always on the move. The form of a player leading to the tournament is very crucial. Maxwell and Smith had some form coming into this tournament as they had a good WT20 whereas Hussey was coming back after a long layoff. Corey Anderson and Kieron Pollard were coming back from injuries.The form of their key players combined with some really poor decisions at the auctions means Mumbai might fail to defend their IPL and CLT20 double this year.

 – Murali Mohan.S

WCC Match Review – Season 3 Match 7

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7 debuts and 3 returns featured the XI that played on Saturday (12-May-12) at HINDU college ‘B’. By the time WCC plays the last match of a season there is usually no 13th man and the playing XI will be quite different to the one that started the season (with-). This time there were barely (a playing) 11 with as many as 8 players from the first eleven not available for this game. Simple, I, M.Venkat Sudarsan, lead the team. So that gives the idea how depleted the team was.

The one real good thing that came out of this situation was the debut of Lil. Ashwin. Ragavendran made a comeback too. After missing previous games for WCC I returned to the line-up too. So that made two people from the first WCC-CSCA match. As much as I was privileged to lead the team, I was that much terrified of losing. Coz then, I would have given a chance for kartik and karthik to take me for a ride pointing to the win percentage being non-existent.

It was also the return of Babloo to the WCC lineup. There were as many as 7 debuts for WCC in this match. Gunachandran, Gunasekaran, Santhosh, Rathnavel Pandian, Karthik Sharma from Sindhi college cricket team, Raja from my league team and WCC’s own Ashwin were the proud debutants. After missing previous games for WCC I returned to the line-up too. We reached the ground in time only to find out that the winners of the Morning match had to be decided through bowl-out as the chasing team managed to match the score of 239 off 30 overs! The chasing team lost in the bowl-out. And it took away good 15 minutes out of our allotted time.

I was called for toss and was informed that the match would be only off 27 overs per side since the earlier match took time. I asked the umpire what if we finished bowling 30 overs within 2 hrs that they allotted. He laughed at me and said “No chance! 27 overs or 2 hrs whichever is earlier!” I tossed the coin and ended up winning the toss choosing to bat first.

I usually go for a toss wanting to lose and also I end up losing most of the time. I never liked being asked to choose between the two. It was advice from raja and the heat that made my task of choosing quite easy! Talking about heat, it was one of the reasons for a gentleman Vishak to pull out. I was livid at first but when I went into the field I understood his feelings.

 

I asked Gunachandran and other bowlers if a score of 150 was enough for them to defend. They seemed pleased to hear 150. And to reach that was made our goal. Here is a thing. I usually play out in my mind the way others would get out. It was a nasty game. I always pictured Babloo getting out LBW getting struck on the pads with his front foot across trying to flick. Feel free to comment with the mode of dismissal you picture others with. Like Murali shuffling and getting LBW.

Karthik Sharma usually hits the ball out of the ground when it’s in his slot and since there was no other option for opening slot I went ahead and gambled by letting him open alongside Babloo.

Ah. Gone were the days when two Stalwarts walked in to open for WCC (nandubut- You feel me?).

Babloo and Karthik Sharma were sent in to provide an explosive and stable start. Babloo started with a flick off the pads to get a boundary off the first ball. He picked the gap once more to finish the over with 8 runs. At the other end karthik found it tough to get bat on ball with the ball getting him once on the box. Pretty soon he got out bowled by a delivery that nipped back after pitching on the line of 4th stump! Rajesh went in confident and had a good 20 runs partnership before Babloo got out just when things started to seem good.

At no 4, I went in and joined Rajesh. I was tensed and there was a reason. It’s been 4 months and I had taken guard only once. I was taking for the second time. My nerves settled when I hit the first ball over the covers for four and followed it with a controlled cut to find the square boundary. Man the outfield was lightening quick! Rajesh scored at a good pace and we were going strong when the usual happened.

An offie bowled and I went for a sweep shot missed the ball and dragged my leg out of the crease to find the keeper removing the bails. A poor shot considering the ball pitched way outside the off stump. I had scored 30 runs off 24 balls. Raja an excellent all-rounder replaced me in the middle for 2 balls before joining me at the pavilion. 4 down for 60 odd runs off 13 overs. There was not much batting to come. Or so I thought!

Ragavendran went in after the drinks and joined Rajesh. Both ran quick singles and two overs later Rajesh perished after scoring 25 useful runs. I was looking at a score of 100 which seemed quite difficult at that stage. Gunachandran went in and joined Ragavendran in the middle. Then came an innings of utter brute. He smacked sixes and fours at will.

Raghavendran not only rotated the strike brilliantly, but also scored timely boundaries. He met most of the balls walking or jumping down the pitch fearlessly until he got out scoring 27 runs. And it was time for Ashwin to take guard. I feared for his safety. But the way he played was very pleasing to watch. His stance and batting style reminded us of Murali. He was pretty busy picking up singles off every ball he faced. All this while, Gunachandran never stopped hitting. The fear of being bowled out within the allotted overs passed and the scoreboard read 194 at the end of 27 overs!

 

Gunachandran ended up scoring 77 runs of 50 balls with Ashwin scoring 17 off 14 balls.

Raja picked up a wicket off the very first ball getting the batsman to nick to the keeper. With the kind of bowling at my disposal I was sure that the score was at least 50 runs too many for the opposition. But one Mr. Gokul seemed to disagree with my belief as he made a mockery of the new ball smacking almost every ball he faced over the covers for four. 2 overs from Raja went for 20 runs. Ragavendran at the other end bowled with sense using variations with good control to limit the scoring. He picked up a wicket with a superb ball – A fast bowler’s delight as the top of the off stump was hit by a ball moving in after the batsman decided to leave the ball alone.

The change was to be made at the other end though and it was either Gunachandran or Santhosh to have a go. I threw the ball to Guna since he has that extra pace which could rush the batsmen. But, Gokul kept scoring off boundaries on the off-side. I asked Guna for his wicket. But instead he produced a hat-trick! Yep. He bowled the batsman who tried to smack him over midwicket with a pitched up ball. The 2nd and 3rd dismissals were similar, but by no means easy. Both were edged to gully and Raja who had a very bad game thus far, took two stunning catches to his left, picking one just inches off the ground left handed. Guna completed the hat-trick with that. But Gokul wasn’t among those dismissals.

He kept scoring at a fast pace even though wickets were tumbling at the other end. They were soon 6 down for 80 runs with gokul scoring 60 of them.  Then I brought myself in. and took wicket of the first legitimate ball. I followed it with full tosses and went for runs. It was Guna who finally took out Gokul getting him bowled for 67 runs. It was all formalities from then on.

But, WCC always took pride in letting the lower order score runs. The 10th wicket pair frustrated with a stand of 40 runs. It seemed to have tortured the umpires more than it did us, as mentioned earlier we have got used to that!  Just when the opponent felt they had a chance to get back in the game (a message with drinks),  Rathnavel Pandian took the last wicket in his first over ending the innings 40 runs short of the target. Good all-round display gave us a very comprehensive win.

 

Gunachandran was easily the best performer of the match with both the bat and ball. Scoring a quickfire 70 is one thing but following it up with a hatrick is something I only dream of. He sizzled and bagged a cap for being the man of the match. Ashwin not only was good at batting he fielded very well too. Ragavendran played a good hand and his all round performance was helpful too. He ended up with 2 wickets and so did Santhosh. Raja, who got out trying to reverse sweep the second ball he face, gets a mention again for his two athletic catches at gully.

 

 

It was a match that should have been played couple of months earlier and with an entirely different eleven. With Adi anna, Kartik, Sunil, R.Karthik, Murali, Ashwin, Vishak unable to join us the squad looked thinner than ever. Though, we were happy with the result they were missed for the fun, their attitude and the spirit each individual provided.

 

Congratulations Murali Mohan and Priyanka Tetali who got engaged the previous evening. Wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Thanks Adi anna for giving me the opportunity to lead a team I was always enthusiastic to be part of. And thanks again for encouraging me to post the review. Wishing to play many more matches for WCC!

By – Venkat Sudarsan

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