Sunday, 7 December 2014

India Down Under - Tour Preview

India’s tour of England earlier this year was like a typical Anurag Kashyap movie. The tests began, puzzling everyone (of course, the Indian highway like wicket of Nottingham!) and then there were the joyful moments of winning the Lord’s test. But like in Kashyap’s movies, the happiness was short-lived, and it was time for the Indians to get drubbed. Like the end of his movies, the test series too ended on a somber note for the Indians.

In between the KIA Oval Test and the Adelaide Test, the Indians were supposed to play three tests with the men from Caribbean, but leave alone the tests, the ODI Series too wasn’t completed as planned. In came Sri Lanka, a fitting ally of the “BIG 3”, but for a series of 5 ODI’s. The Indians led by the dynamic Virat Kohli whitewashed the Lankans, but that is least likely to help them for the Australia tests. Come Adelaide, and the rustiness within the Indians will be evident.

Unlike any other series, this series even before commencing has been marred by a remorseful event. The tragic passing of Phillip Hughes has demoralized the entire cricketing fraternity. As a result, the mourning players were given a bit more time to come to terms with the departure of Hughes. But as they say, “The show must go on”, and here we are at the Adelaide Oval!

Virat Kohli has fond memories of playing at the Adelaide Oval. His first test ton come at this very venue and it was one gem of an inning. That inning was the coming of age for Virat, who now returns at the venue as India’s 32nd test captain. His counterpart Michael Clarke may not be 100% fit, but he will want to come out all guns blazing and win it for his “little brother”, Phillip Hughes.

There are several question marks which hover around the Indian team combination. For how long will they be persisting with Shikhar Dhawan, who averages just 29.5 outside the subcontinent.  His woes outside the off stump are well known. So is his shortcoming with the short ball. A failure in the first two tests, could mean Dhawan’s exit from the test side for a long time.  Cheteshwar Pujara, termed as the “modern day Dravid” had a poor run of scores to his name in England. His issue against the ball nipping in is obvious. However, being an excellent cutter, it will be easy for Pujara to adapt in Australia.

The last time India toured Australia, there were numerous technical glitches made by the Indian batsmen.   In Australia, it is crucial to play as late as possible. But that wasn’t the case on the previous occasion. The Indian batsmen drew themselves very early into the drives, and ended up giving simple catching practice to the slip cordon and the gully fielders. Another tactic successfully used by the Aussie pacers was of mesmerizing the batters with the chin music, and then pitching one full up. The Indian batsmen were stuck, and were neither forward nor backward. The end result- Catching practice for the slip cordon.

Every batsman in the Indian lineup has atleast one major technical shortcoming. With Dhawan, there is the off stump and the short ball issue. Pujara struggles against the ball coming in. Kohli’s angled bat woes were highlighted by James Anderson during the English summer. Ajinkya Rahane at times fails to keep the ball to the ground and ends up giving dollies to the fielders. Murali Vijay seems to be one solid batsman, and his wicket at the top will massively signify where India stand in the tests.

In the 2 warm ups, the Indian pacers got valuable match practice. In both the games, Varun Aaron stood out with his raw pace. This will be Ishant Sharma’s third tour to Australia. Ask a certain Ricky Ponting about tackling Sharma; and he will narrate about that sensational spell which Sharma bowled at the WACA in 2007/08. Umesh Yadav was among the rare positives for India in their previous Down Under annihilation. Mohammed Shami has been India’s best seamer in 2014. The talent in the pace battery is there, but now it is upto the pacers to transform the talent into actual match winning performances.

Players to watch out for:


Vijay was like a rock for India in the first two tests against England. His patience is terrific, and when he gets going, his graceful shots remind viewers of VVS Laxman. Apart from playing like VVS Laxman, Vijay would want to replicate Laxman’s success in Australia. The Tamil Nadu opener is often cautious against anything outside the off stump, so that shouldn’t be an issue. He did well in South Africa, and since the conditions of Australia are pretty similar to that of South Africa, expectations are high from Vijay. With his partner Shikhar Dhawan struggling in tests, the onus will be on Vijay to provide a solid start.


With conditions in Australia suiting his strengths, it will be Pujara’s role to replicate Rahul Dravid’s success of the 2003-04 tour of Down Under. It’s been two overseas tours, since Pujara has been lackluster. This time however, one can expect the Saurashtra lad to do well. Early on in his innings, it will be important for Pujara to curb his instincts. Once he is set, he can attempt the glorious cuts.


A lot is expected from the only batsman in the top 6 to have played tests in Australia. Virat was like a cornered tiger the last time around in Oceania. His wild celebration after reaching his ton at the Adelaide Oval is stiff fresh in everyone’s memory. Virat needs to watch out where his off stump is, and should be content to leave balls outside the off stump early on. His aggressive captaincy along with his classy batting will set the tone for India in the first test at the Adelaide Oval. He is probably the only one in the squad who can match Mitchell Johnson’s aggression.


This is Sharma’s third tour to this part of the world. Sharma has been India’s best pacer since the last three overseas tours. With the conditions greatly suiting the tall pacer, Ishant will do well this time around. He was lethal in 2007/08, and made the great Ricky Ponting his bunny. In the past, he has troubled Michael Clarke as well. It should be fun watching their battle this time around.


The Jharkhand pacer is India’s X factor at the moment. His raw pace is enough to send jitters in the opposing camp. It was nice to watch Aaron giving the English batsmen some chin music during the summers. His pace will be crucial in taming the aggression of David Warner. The short stuff rocketed down at 150 km/hr will set up a mouth watering contest. His ability to hit the deck hard will determine India’s chances in the upcoming tests.

As a whole, the Indian side lacks experience, but is full of confidence and resilience. It’s safe to say that  Australia are the favourites. This time, Indian fans should expect the team to give the Kangaroos some fight, unlike the previous occasion. Nonetheless, it will be great, viewing the two members of the Big 3 club battle it out.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Movie Review - Ungli

Thumbs Up for this UNGLI


“Jab ghee sidhi aur tedi, dono ungliyon se nahi nikalta; tab beech ka raasta apnana padta hai.” Wielding the middle finger and mouthing these words, Abhay (Hooda) indeed packs a punch. These words make a lot of sense and make us ponder about the corruption aspect in our nation.

There have been several films in the past that have dwelled upon the topic of corruption, and the path used by the ‘stupid common man’. Ungli succeeds in showing the corruption from the profundity. Ungli is about four friends (Hooda, Ranaut, Bedi, and Bhoopalam) who form a ‘rebel gang’ of sorts, in order to tackle corruption. How they go about their job and deliver justice makes the movie an interesting watch for sure. A retiree not getting his due pension; the famous ‘chamchagiri’ done on the city walls by the netas; the nexus between the training school chaps and the RTO officials are some of the issues which have been highlighted in the movie.  

Enter Emraan Hashmi, and there is that dose of liveliness. Hashmi is effortless as always and his dialogues are a treat for every B town lover. Its his style and panache which makes him a heartthrob. But regrettably, Hashmi has been under utilized in the movie. If you expect that Hashmi is here to steal the show, then you’re horribly mistaken. Like the Ungli Gang, the movie is also a complete team work, and everyone chips in with their roles.

Sanjay Dutt plays ACP Kale, but is disappointing. There were disturbing things going on in Dutt’s real life while filming the movie and that is pretty visible in his reel life. Dutt is nowhere near his best,  and his part turns out to be damp squib. To make things worse, the dubbing for Dutt has been pathetic. In one of the scenes, it is clearly evident that some amateur mimicry artist is dubbing for Dutt. That is a big let down.

Talking about let downs, Angad Bedi is another victim. His over acting in certain scenes dampens the mood. The dialogues in some cases are those typical double meaning one’s which make sense only to the writer, Milap Zaveri. Zaveri day by day is falling into an infamous stereotype. He started the trend of double meaning dialogues with Shootout At Wadala; followed it in the creepy Grand Masti and now in Ungli. It’s time that Zaveri changes his style.

Hooda is great as Abhay, the journalist. Neha Dhupia, who is rarely seen these days, is pretty good as well. Kangana Ranaut though has been criminally wasted. After doing a critically acclaimed film like Queen, one wouldn’t expect Ranaut to do the role of Maya. But the girl from Himachal defies  logic and does the role. Her screen time is negligible.

The positives of the movie are in its locations, music and the storyline. The bottomline lies in empowering the common man and that has been shown well. When you associate Emraan Hashmi in a film, the music is bound to be awesome. Ungli too follows the trend. Dance Basanti and the title track are catching and groovy.  The locations cover the suburban parts of Mumbai and the Bandra Worli Sea Link has been shown on several occasions.

However, Rensil D’Silva could have easily made it better. Its an honest attempt on a sensitive issue nonetheless. There was always the scope for improvement in the movie. To make it in a better way, more issues of corruption could have been shown.

Anyways, its an entertaining flick with a social message and is bound to be liked by the viewers.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Team KC

With exactly 100 days remaining for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the Indian selectors do not have a lot of time left. There are a maximum of 9 ODI’s, which the Indian team can play before the grand event of cricket commences. The selectors have a massive headache of selecting the best possible squad for the World Cup. A lot of permutations and combinations have been tried by the team management, to assemble the best team.

Being an ardent Indian cricket fan, I list down my squad of 15 for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. To name it, I would refer it as TEAM KC:


Dhawan has been a regular member of the team since the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. His ODI record has been fantastic to say the least. His ability to cut the ball is gifted, and a lot will depend upon the explosive starts he provides Down Under.


Having tasted success in England as an opener, and now a ton against Sri Lanka, Rahane is the ideal candidate to partner Dhawan in Australia. The Mumbai lad is technically one of the soundest batsmen within the Indian setup. As a consequence of his technique, Rahane can score at a healthy rate as well. His job in most cases will be to support Dhawan.

3.       VIRAT KOHLI

Undoubtedly India’s best batsman going into the World Cup.  With a towering batting average of 53.28 in Australia, Kohli will be the spine of the Indian batting. More often than not, when Kohli fires, the team gets to the desired result. There could be a similar situation lined up for the World Cup.


Sharma would have to come back to his original middle order slot for the World Cup. The signs as of now atleast suggest that. Sharma’s attributes of finishing the innings in a grand fashion may be another reason, behind keeping him in the middle order.


The team’s most efficient player will have to contribute in several ways. Raina has ironed out almost all his flaws against short pitched bowling. He would be expected to provide a strong finish towards the end of the innings. His handy off spin bowling is more than an asset for the side. With Raina in his ranks, skipper MS Dhoni will feel comfortable, as Raina’s bowling is pretty economical.

6.       MS DHONI

The phrase “BEST FINISHER” and MS Dhoni often go hand in hand. Dhoni has a terrific record in every nation and condition. Till MS Dhoni is at the wicket, Indians need not worry about chasing totals. His tactical moves in the field will matter the most in India’s World Cup campaign.


With the cushion of distant boundaries, expect Jadeja to be bowling freely in Australia. Skipper Dhoni has relied on Jadeja for the death overs. This may not be the case for the World Cup as spinners find very little purchase in Australia and New Zealand. However, his miserly spells and lusty blows towards the end may often turn the tide in India’s favour.

8.       R.ASHWIN

With just 8 wickets in 12 games in Oceania, Ashwin would be eager to redeem himself. And no better opportunity than the World Cup to do that. Ashwin has done well in several mega events, and another strong performance would be expected from the offie.


His bowling average may not be the best, but his economy rate of 4.60 is surely worth applauding. He may not get the desired swing Down Under with the Kookaburra ball, so it will be crucial for Kumar to make the limited swing count in the first few overs.


The most successful pacer of 2014 will have to be at his best in order to enhance India’s chances at the World Cup. Shami has been phenomenal in the death overs. Though his economy rate is high, his quick wicket taking abilities are surely a positive. Shami’s overs at the death could change the complexion of the match in India’s favour.


Going into the World Cup, Ishant will be the most experienced pacer. Sharma’s record in Australia has been decent and his knowledge of the conditions will be handy. Sharma was brilliant in the Champions Trophy played in the UK. Optimistic expectations can be laid on  Sharma, who would play his first World Cup.


The  pacer from Vidharbha was one of the rare positives when India toured Australia in 2011/12. His outswingers in excess of 145 km/hr on lively pitches will be tough to negotiate. However, Yadav would have to take care of his line and length, as the batsmen will be severe on anything loose.


Aaron recently clocked in at 152.3 km/hr on a flaccid Cuttack wicket. Just imagine how swift will Aaron be at the WACA? The most worrying sign for Aaron is his fitness. If he manages to stay fit throughout the endeavor, then Aaron will have a key role to play on the steamy pitches.


Wrist spinners have been highly successful in Australia. Be it Warne, Macgill or Kumble; all have found genuine success Down Under. With long boundaries supporting him, Karn will be an asset for the side. Karn is quick through the air, and therefore the batsman does not get the time to adjust his position against him.


Uthappa will be the backup keeper and the opener. Dhoni hardly gets injured, so Uthappa can even be played as a pure batsman. In case Dhoni is unfit, Uthappa can keep, as he is often used to it. Uthappa has toured Australia in the past, so his experience will surely count.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Movie Review - Singham Returns

The Lion is back with a bang

“Aata Maajhi Satakli”!
These are surely the new ‘three magical words’ which will be on everyone’s lips courtesy Singham Returns. Singham, which released in 2011 couldn’t have got a better sequel. A successful movie franchise is said to be the one, when the sequel is a better offering than the original film. I’m glad to say that Singham is indeed a successful franchise.  Singham Returns is a notch ahead than its predecessor in terms of storytelling and the screenplay. The story of Singham Returns is much more intense as compared to the first film in the franchise.

The story is now set in Mumbai, and Bajirao Singham (Devgn) is the DCP (Transferred for no reason from his previous post it seems.) And two minutes into the movie, we have Singham dominating the scene and passing on a lecture of philosophy to a bunch of dim-witted youngsters. The first half revolves around black money and the views of Guruji (Kher) on the same. Guruji is shown as the modern day Gandhi who meets a similar fate as the latter. Ironically, Guruji is also Singham’s mentor and role model. The crux of the plot is about how Singham and his team nab the culprits and try to cleanse the society from such parasites.

Amole Gupte’s character as the self proclaimed Baba is a cocktail of the so called “spiritual and religious leaders” of India. In one of the scenes it is evident, that the doings of a certain BAPU are shown (Pun intended). Nonetheless, Gupte is entertaining to say the least and he deserves accolades for his role. Zakir Hussain plays Gupte’s crime partner, and Hussain too is great like Gupte.  

But our man is BAJIRAO SINGHAM!!! Ajay Devgn isn’t often seen in films. But when he does one, he makes it a memorable one, that’s a certainty. (Himmatwala included in the list)! Singham Returns is no exception and Devgn gives his best. And when an actor of Ajay Devgn’s caliber gives his best, the movie is bound to be sensational. The energy and positivity can be felt in Devgn’s dialogue delivery. With this stellar performance from Devgn, he has sent a clear cut message to B Town movie lovers. “Don’t you dare think that I’m out of the race for the most bankable actor!”

Kareena plays Avni, an outspoken girl, and is awfully loud throughout the movie.  She acts in the same way she did in Golmaal 3. The character traits are similar as well. Blabbering before thinking is one such common trait. Overally, Kareena is OK and she does moderately well in the limited screen time she gets.  Any other actress could have done this role but she outclasses Kajal Agarwal, who was ‘not that great’ in Singham.

Along with Devgn, the spine of this movie is Rohit Shetty. Shetty’s purple patch and Midas touch is present this time around as well. His direction is razor sharp and to the point. Directors like Shetty can make lame and dreary stuff look profusely entertaining. The direction is accompanied by catchy dialogues and an ideal screenplay. Both the halves of the movie are equally eye- catching and not even a second of this film seems to be stretched.

Another radiant aspect about Shetty’s film making is that he gives a lot of attention to the locations. His previous outing Chennai Express was an example of the same. This time too he has done the same and has made Mumbai look simply beautiful.

As a whole, the movie is a mass entertainer and sends a strong message for the youth of this nation. On a personal note, the announcement of a third film in the Singham franchise would really excite me.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Movie Review - Kick

A Tasty MASALA Dish

The above mentioned films starring our very own Bhai are the one’s which are a part of my personal ‘First Day First Show’ Club. After spending approximately three hours in the cinema, I am glad to say that Kick, like the predecessors of my club, is indeed equally entertaining, if not more. Frankly speaking, after watching the first trailer of Kick, my perception of the movie was that of a genuine action-thriller. But Bhai being Bhai, he made Kick look like just another Bollywood action film. Still, it was surely worth the watch.

The title of the movie perplexed me greatly before the release, and finally after watching, I was able to comprehend the exact meaning of it. Kick refers to the ‘thrill’ which DeviLal (Salman) wants to undergo and relish. Needless to say, he puts the lives of several people in jeopardy for that. Its while experiencing one of his Kicks, where he comes across Shaina (Fernandez). Like they say in Bollywood:
A guy and a girl meet. (Though the guy may look atleast 20 years elder to her)
They annoy each other
They eventually fall in love
Their families finally make a mess of their love

Kick is no exception, and the above mentioned cycle is a chunk of the first half. The movie seems like a typical Salman film for the first 30 odd minutes, until the character of the Devil is unleashed. To eradicate the act’s of Devil, Himanshu (Hooda), a young and dynamic cop is assigned the case. What follows ahead, is like a typical B Town film, but the motive behind the acts of the Devil is really heart-melting. In the due course, several characters are shown. Saurabh Shukla, who plays Jacqueline’s father is there for a limited period, but entertains greatly.

The weirdest but the most entertaining character is that of Siddiqui, who is the Home Minister’s nephew. Siddiqui is one hell of an actor. Give him any role. Tough or easy. He will oblige you by effortlessly portraying it. Be it the sadistic Faizal Khan in Gangs Of Wasseypur, or the compassionate Shaikh in The Lunchbox; Nawaz is always at ease. This is Nawaz’s first try in a semi-comic role and he has indeed done justice to the role. In fact, his acting is the aspect which stands out in the film.

Apart from Nawaz, Hooda too has played his part with ease and grace. Playing an aggressive cop and a shy silly-romantic guy in one go will put several actors under stress. But mind you! Hooda is not of them. Randeep succeeds in playing the role of Himanshu with ease and leaves a positive impact in the heart's of the viewers. The lesser said about Bhai’s acting, the better. Bhai is Bhai in almost every film. Only in the emotional sequences, we see a different shade of Salman, which is of course a rare sight. Fernandez’s role isn’t worth bragging about. But she too does well in the limited screen time that she gets.  Her portrayal of the chicken-hearted  Shaina is a welcome sight and it’s a pleasure to watch her. She is one of those rare actresses who do not annoy the common cinema lover.  

The music and the soundtrack of the film by Himesh Reshammiya remains one of the strengths of the film. The track ‘Yaar Na Miley’ by Yo Yo Honey Singh (India’s best contender for a Grammy! Enough said) stands out and gets you grooving. Singh’s voice perfectly suits Salman and the so called rap by him is thereby pleasing to hear. The only aspect lacking is that of a better dancer in Singh’s track. Nargis Fakhri is strictly OK as a dancer. There are better dancers than her around! That’s for sure!

The locations shot are a massive asset to the film. The camera work and the cinematography department deserve a special mention for their excellent work. The photography done makes the film more pleasing to watch. Warsaw has been beautifully depicted and shot to say the least.

The one shortfall which remains though is that of the film diverting too much from the plot of the Devil. Rather than showing the typical lame Bollywood stuff, the director could have concentrated more on Devil’s character and his activities, which were galvanizing to watch. One would expect Mr.Sajid Nadiadwala, a man with more than 25 years of experience in cinema to direct more efficiently, but sadly that is not the case. Its an honest attempt at directing nonetheless.

Kick is a must watch for all Bhai fans, who genuinely feel that Bhai can do anything. For rational cinema lovers, it’s a one time watch flick!

Monday, 7 July 2014

India Tour Of England - Tour Preview

“Dhoni finishes off in style! India lift the World Cup after 28 years!”

Images of an emotional Sachin Tendulkar sprinting towards MS Dhoni are constructed in our minds, when we hear these words, mouthed by Ravi Shastri. Cutting back to that moment, on the night of the 2nd of April,  we remember jumping in joy and elation, celebrating India’s World Cup triumph. During those crazy celebrations, did we, in our wildest thoughts ever imagine India’s fate in their then upcoming tours to England and Australia? The answer at that moment would have surely been a NO! Who could have imagined the number one test side being whitewashed in England and Australia?

In between the two World Cups, the Indian side has toured England, Australia, New Zealand , South Africa and the West Indies. In all, they have played 15 overseas test matches, and appallingly, have emerged victorious in just a single test. The worse stat is yet to come. The Indians have lost ten of those 15 away tests, and in just one of those losses, the team looked competitive. The rest nine loses depicted a sorry tale for Indian cricket lovers. Now though, seven months before the World Cup, lies an opportunity of redemption for the Indian side.

To be fair to MS Dhoni, the English side which whitewashed the Indians was the best English side. No other English side was as complete as them at that moment. Their openers and middle order batsmen had piled up freakish numbers before the tests, and continued to do so. Their seamers had annihilated almost every batting lineup with their discipline and control. And if that was not enough, their spinner was the best in the world at that phase. On the other hand, the Indians, were without their swashbuckling opener, Virender Sehwag for the first two tests. Their best bowler had deserted them on the first day of the tour and the spinner was in the worst phase of his career. And to make matters worse for the tourists, their stalwart batsmen were in the twilight of their careers. Just one man took the English bowlers head on. It was the Indian Wall, Rahul Dravid who stood tall for them. Dravid amassed three centuries in the series. Almost all of them were brought up, with the tail.

However, this time around there seems to be hope for this young Indian side. The Indian side may be short on experience but they are full of hope and positivity. Only three members of the Indian squad have played test matches in England before. Barring Ishant Sharma, the captain of the bowling department, the Indian seamers  together have an experience of just 13 test caps, with two of the seamers yet to debut. The middle order may not have played with the red Duke Ball in England, but their run scoring ability will make Indian fans hopeful. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli did terrifically well in South Africa and piled up the runs. Kohli had a great New Zealand tour as well. In the last couple of overseas test tours, Kohli averages a staggering 69.4 with two tons and a 96.

The Indian bowling did manage to trouble the Proteas and Kiwis on several occasions. In both the tours, it was just one poor show with the ball which spoilt the party of the Indians. The best part for Indians was that Ishant Sharma; the lanky pacer bowled with discipline, and was the best seamer on display. Ishant during the couple of tours was the pick of the bowlers and took 20 wickets at an average of 34.5. Though the average was high, it was still lower than his career average. The one positive aspect about Ishant has been his fitness and his ability to bend his back and bowl the long spells. His fitness has never been doubted. More often, its his line and length which makes him an easy pick for the set batsmen. If Ishant manages to sort that issue in this tour, then the Indian fans will surely have something to cheer about.

It will be interesting to see the team combination of the Indians. India’s weak point has been the inability to take 20 wickets. For that, 5 bowlers are a must in the side. If MS Dhoni goes in with 6 batsmen and five bowlers, then it will be Stuart Binny who would make his debut at Trent Bridge. The case of R.Ashwin getting a game too cannot be ruled out. But that may only happen if the pitch is as arid as a desert. Otherwise, it’s the tried and tested means of seven batsmen and four bowlers which will complete the Indian side.

Players to watch out for:

Virat Kohli:

If there’s anyone in this side, who can attack a rampaging James Anderson, it’s Virat Kohli. Kohli was phenomenal in South Africa and New Zealand. During the Johannesburg test, Dale Steyn looked like just another bowler against Virat Kohli. His ability to counter attack in any situation makes him one of the most feared batsmen in world cricket. Not a single weakness has been spotted in Virat’s technique and run making ability. His drives and pulls are a treat to the eyes. Spotting a weakness in Kohli’s batting is as rare as spotting a swimming pool in a desert.
Cheteshwar Pujara:

The Indian batting unit may not have Rahul Dravid, but it surely has a Pujara. It may be too premature to compare Pujara with the great, but the signs as of now have looked promising. Pujara’s most significant asset has been his temperament and ability to play the ball on its merit. His 153 against the South Africans was filled with an array of strokes all over the carpet. In New Zealand, Pujara was troubled by the odd ball coming in and did look a tad uncomfortable. But in the meantime, Pujara would have surely worked out on that flaw. Pujara’s ability to counter the new ball from Anderson and Broad will pretty much sum up India’s response to the English bowling. Pujara may even be given the role of the opener if the regular openers fail. But that seems quite unlikely.

Ravindra Jadeja:

Indians have always missed the presence of an all rounder. Jadeja’s presence in the side may well be the answer to those worries. Jadeja’s credentials as a bowler are enough to cement his place in the side. But its his numbers with the bat, which have disappointed Indian fans. A batting average of just 20.77 surely doesn’t do justice to Jadeja’s batting talent. In the England tour, he may add on vital runs while batting with the tail, which may be decisive. Jadeja with the ball would be crucial. His six for on the green Durban track would be fresh in the minds of the Indian fans. If he can replicate any of that success, then the Indian team would have a major strategic gain.

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar:

In the tour of 2011 to England, it was Praveen Kumar who was the pick of the Indian bowlers. His outswingers troubled every English batsman. This time around, there is Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, a bowler from the same state as Praveen. Bhuvaneshwar is 8-10 km/hr quicker than Praveen and his accuracy and discipline makes him a must have in the side. Kumar’s ability to bowl long spells makes him an asset. In the 2013 Champions Trophy, played in England, Kumar got rid of left handed batsmen with utmost ease. It will be interesting to see, whether Kumar makes the English skipper Alastair Cook his bunny or not.

Mohammed Shami:

Since his debut, Shami has looked like a genuine wicket taking bowler. The reverse swing which he generates makes him a customer difficult to negotiate. In South Africa and New Zealand, Shami looked threatening to a great extent. But his control over his outswing deliveries was minimal; and this helped the batsmen to a great extent. In England, he would be required to bowl aggressive spells and the conditions too would suit his style of bowling.

This time, India may feel fortunate, as they would be facing an England side low on confidence. The Sri Lankans have defeated England at  their home turf. Australia managed to stun the Proteas in their own backyard. And recently, the Kiwis too defeated the West Indies in their own backyard. Its now time for the Indians, to get rid of this massive overweight monkey off their back; when it comes to winning overseas. No better place than England to do this. The Indians would want to finish their nightmare, from where it all began for them.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Dhoni Dilemma

“MS. Dhoni is surely the best captain India has ever had”.

“Leave alone captaincy, in my opinion MS Dhoni does not even qualify in my playing eleven”.

You are in for an utter shock, when you realize that both these statements were said by the same individual and that too within the span of just over 6 months. The individual behind making these hard hitting statements was none other than Sourav Ganguly, the ex captain of the Indian team. What prompted him to change his stance so dramatically, just like in a typical overcooked Bollywood film? The answer to the above question is profusely uncomplicated. India’s performance in overseas test matches was the sole and prime reason. Moreover, it was the humiliation through the hands of England and Australia, which made the Prince of Calcutta say those harsh words towards the Indian skipper.

Indian fans are familiar with that grim look.

The twin disasters endured by team India in the two nations and eventual whitewashes had left millions of Indian cricket fans in a literal ‘revolt’ against the Indian skipper. From Facebook to Twitter, everyone wanted to savagely rip apart Dhoni for the failures overseas. For millions, Dhoni was the true culprit behind the twin whitewashes in England and Australia. But were they correct in blaming Dhoni to such a colossal extent?

Well, had the critics of MS Dhoni analyzed the defeats well, then their mindless words may not have surfaced on a global platform.  On the first day of the very first test match in England, India’s spearhead of the seam bowling department, Zaheer Khan, broke down, and limped off the field courtesy of a hamstring injury. Zaheer limped off, only to return to India and the 13.3 overs which he bowled, were his only overs of the tour. For the rest of the test, India were without their best bowler, and the spinner Harbhajan Singh too was in his worst phase. Praveen Kumar was the only one who troubled the Poms to a certain extent. The Indian batting card was a line up of misery. Only the Wall, Rahul Dravid resisted the might of the English bowling. What followed over the next five days was shambolic for India. The visitors lost the game by  196 runs. Indians were positive, that the team would bounce back in the next test match, but the tale for the next seven overseas test matches had been destined, and a gloomy phase awaited team India.

Over the due course of the 8 overseas test matches, teams changed and venues changed, but that grim look on Dhoni’s face remained the same. In the due span of those 8 test matches, Indian news channels were busy cursing Captain Cool, even without examining the facts.

To win a test match, it’s the duty of the bowlers to get 20 wickets. But when it comes to overseas test matches, the Indian bowlers are all at sea. Ishant Sharma, who was termed as the ‘next big thing’ during the controversial Down Under tour in 2007-08 averages 37.56 with the red ball. Well, those numbers are even unacceptable for part timers; and Ishant is considered India’s premier seamer. Ironic isn’t it? Ishant, during those 8 drubbings took 16 wickets and averaged 68.18 runs per wicket. The numbers speak for themselves. To criticize Dhoni, people often allege that Ishant wasn’t given attacking field settings to bowl at. In the first case, Ishant was all over the place in those 8 test matches. It was only in the first 2 of the eight tests, where Ishant looked mesmerizing. In the rest of the six tests, he was a free ticket to the batsmen. From bowling poor line and lengths, to dropping sitters off his own bowling, Ishant had been the antagonist in several ways.

If the seamers don’t bowl according to the plan, then it is the duty of the spinners to bowl with responsibility. But team India took a beating in that department as well. If we consider the last four overseas test matches (South Africa and New Zealand tours), where in the team has shown some character, then too the spinners do not have good numbers. The four tests in South Africa and New Zealand make it 12 winless overseas tests for India. In those 12 test matches, India has tried 4 spinners, but none of them has performed as per the expectations. Among those 4, Ravindra Jadeja was the only one, who did moderately well. His show on the green Durban track was worth its weight in gold. His 6 for in the first innings of the Durban test, was the only bright spot in the spin department in the 12 overseas tests. The four spinners in the span of 12 tests average 76.86 runs per wicket! And yes, they are considered to be assets to the team!

The following are the stats of the spinners who have played in the 12 tests:
Harbhajan Singh
Amit Mishra
Ravindra Jadeja

The stats of the spinners portray a sorry tale. If the bowlers are not able to perform then why are people still cursing MS Dhoni? A question that may sadly never have an answer.

To set aggressive fields for the bowlers, a captain must have a respectable total on board. To add to Dhoni’s woes, even that wasn’t possible in several matches for the Indian team. The batting if not worse, was equally embarrassing as the bowling. In those 12 test matches, the Indian team averages a mere 27.12 per wicket. Nothing more needs to be said about the “world’s best batting lineup”. MS Dhoni, in the 12 matches, averages 25.4. But kindly don’t forget that he has that added burden of wicket keeping and captaincy. The batting and bowling stats of the team, depict and summarize the sorry state of the Indians when it comes to overseas test matches.

So, is it right to blame MS Dhoni alone for the losses? Well, even after showing you the stats of the entire team, you still feel that Dhoni is the culprit, then you are a pro MSD hater, and nothing more. In those 12 tests, the team has failed as a whole unit, and not just MS Dhoni, who is being mercilessly targeted.

Amidst those 12 tests overseas, Dhoni has captained India in 15 tests at home, and won in 11 of those, losing just 2. But sadly those 2 losses which came against England, meant that for the first time in 8 years, India lost a test series at home. But if we look at the positives, the Aussies were whitewashed 4-0 under Dhoni’s regime. A question to Dhoni critics will put them in troubled waters. Which other captain has whitewashed Australia?

In the Australia whitewash, Dhoni led from the front, and played one of the greatest knocks in test cricket, scoring 224 off just 265 balls. The knock punctured the Kangaroos for the rest of the tour. Playing the aggressive brand of cricket is what takes Dhoni to the top. In the last  test played in Wellington, Dhoni looked aggressive from the start and scored 68 runs off sheer dominance. In the past as well, whenever Dhoni has been aggressive overseas with the bat, he has done well. For instance the twin 70’s in the Birmingham test, in 2011.

The last couple of tours to South Africa and New Zealand have looked promising for the team. In the first test of both the tours, the team was on the verge of defeating the respective hosts. But it was either the bowling or atrocious umpiring which didn’t let India win.

Cricketing greats like Rahul Dravid have hailed the team for their show in the previous couple of tours, and have said that Dhoni should captain in tests atleast till the Australia tour next year. Any decision on his captaincy should be taken after the Down Under tests in January 2015. Till then lets give MS Dhoni his space and hope that team India does well overseas.

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