Remembering Lala Amarnath on his Birthday

EVEN AS the India cricket team gets ready to play against New Zealand on Friday (September 11) and thus start another season of non-stop action today, there is a reason to pause and pay tribute to an Indian cricket icon, Lala Amarnath.

The legendary cricketer was born at Kapurthala in Punjab on this day in 1911. Nanik Amarnath Bhardwaj better known as Lala Amarnath, one of the great figures in world cricket was born on September 11, 1911. He belonged to a very simple family and took the world by surprise, when he scored 109 runs while playing for Southern Punjab against MCC in the year 1933-34. Wisden quoted his innings as “A Brilliant Display.” His performance got noticed and he became a star with a century on test debut at the genteel Old Gymkhana ground in Bombay.

Despite his performance, he had to sit out of the national squad for more than 12 years. The simple reason being that he raised voice against the dominance of royal figures and their supporters prevailing in the Cricket scenario of India those days. But after the nation got Independence, he led the Indian Cricket Team to the tour of Australia. In the year 1952-53, he led India to first series win against Pakistan. He played his last Test match against Pakistan at Kolkata in December 1952. Amarnath scored heavily in domestic circuit but couldn’t replicate the same success on International stage. He scored 878 runs in 24 tests and took 45 wickets. The figures are very ordinary, but they do no justice to either his spasmodic brilliance or his enduring influence.
It was his influence that made his two sons Mohinder and Surinder to takeup cricket as a career. Mohinder Amarnath later played a vital role in India’s triumph in 1983 world cup. Amarnath was called an icon by Atal Behari Vajpayee and his knowledge of Cricket was impeccable. In the later stage of his life he acquired widespread affection as the nation’s leading source of cricket anecdotes.

As a Cricket fan, I pay my respect to this great Cricketer on his birthday.

Interference in Team Selection: Story of Sports in India

Cricket in India is more than a sport. It is a religion which is followed by billions of crazy fans. This popularity has increased the flow of money in the sport as well. This can be attributed to the success of the team at international level and tremendous marketing strategy. The introduction of Indian Premier League last year changed the careers of many aspiring cricketers in terms of monetary compensation.

As the sport has grown in the country so has the competition. There is a very stiff competition for selection in district, state and national team in all categories. And this cut throat competition has lead to corruption in the system as well. The corruption is very much prevalent in the various sports played in India. The influential people in the association have ensured the selection of “their wards” in the team by hook or crook. We have come across various stories in newspapers. But perhaps for the first time the players have revolted for such malpractices against the association.

Indian Cricket Star, Virender Sehwag has made allegation against Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) for manipulation in the selection of Delhi under-16 and under-19 team and Ranji teams. Sehwag had lashed out against the DDCA administration on Sunday. “It has often happened that four selectors get together and vote for ‘their’ players, leaving the chairman of the committee and me defeated,” he said. “Especially when I am on national duty, they put pressure on the stand-in captains and the interference becomes more rampant.” There was allegation leveled on Sehwag as well that he has been allotted 23 acres of land by Harayana Government and thus he wants to leave Delhi and represent Haryana in the upcoming Ranji Trophy Tournament. But later few other senior and former players backed Viru thus giving ample of reasons to affirm that what Sehwag is saying is true. These names include Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Aakash Chopra and Mithun Manahas.

“There’s a need to bring about transparency in the selection process. If things don’t improve, I will not hesitate to move out of Delhi this year itself,” Gambhir said. Nehra, meanwhile, said this was probably the DDCA’s last chance to set things right. “The manner in which the DDCA functions, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to leave Delhi. I think this is the last chance for the association to clean up their mess. For two years, when I was injured, I didn’t hear one word from anyone, and the moment I made my comeback, they are all looking to cash in on me,” he said.

Mark Twain once said- “It is curious – curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.” As a Cricket fan, I am in full support of the players who have shown moral courage to speak for the legitimate. If they are very genuine in their allegations then they must be supported and backed. They have shown courage to take on the association directly. Mind you, it requires lots of guts to revolt but someone needs to do that to keep things right. DDCA must ensure that it sorts out matter with the players and must not act reluctantly by allowing players to leave. Instead the nepotistic should be taught a lesson. This is an issue which concerns all the sport in country and it will be good for sporting fraternity if they can show such courage and stand for what is just.

It is a fight not against the system only but also for the ethics and well being of the sport as well.  If such corruption is allowed then many young dreams will die young and many careers will finish before they start.

Revival of Test Cricket

India is always considered as a cricket-loving nation. India’s journey to fame of cricket was not so easy. Fans worship their favorite cricketers next to God. Recently, there was news that the MCC and ICC are worried about Test Cricket, and think its in trouble. Yes, there is no doubt to it. We all know that Test Cricket is a real talent test for any cricketer in the world. But what I see from here, test cricket will eventually become somewhat similar to the proverbial goldfish swimming in a bowl, players playing in an empty stadium or for the benefit of those who can subscribe to media carrying the highlights.

Don’t Blame BCCI & ICC:

For those, who are constantly criticizing BCCI and ICC for introducing IPL. I really don’t understand how a two-year-old baby of cricket can destroy 130 yr old tradition of cricket. In England T20 is played from a long time, why not cry for that?

I am a big fan of Test Cricket when it’s played at the highest level but that doesn’t mean I just shun off other versions of cricket too. I doubt any T20 would have given you the thrill the last moments of the drawn Ashes Test or the Test-saving innings from Laxman-Dravid against Aussies.

Makeover: There are many ways that ICC shall adopt so as to make test cricket amazing and pull the attention of cricket lovers back. Here are some of the ways I would suggest.

1.      Introducing an International Test Championship

2.      Making sporting pitches, not the deathbeds for bowlers mostly seen on the subcontinent

3.      Allow substitutions to make it more interesting at least in the 3rd and 4th innings, so teams can adapt mid-way. Imagine defending a 120 run target with 7 bowlers

4.      Allow day-night versions of test cricket. The crowd will start pouring in.

5.      Performance-based points/payments for Test cricket.

Although some of the above-mentioned points seem to be ridiculous at first glance, but you never know which might hit the jackpot.

We need to make sure that Test cricket will not die – but will change and become more exciting.

What do you think? How can Indian cricket play a role in reviving the oldest form of cricket?

Postpone IPL: Is it the only solution?

IPL or Elections

There is a national debate going on throughout the country, whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) Cricket tournament scheduled from 10th April 2009 should be postponed due to security concerns as the dates clash with 15th general elections  or to  go with both events simultaneously. Recently, our home minister voiced concern over terror threats on both of these events.

Earlier, it was believed that terrorists would never attack cricketers or cricket matches in the sub-continent as it will bother the sentiments of this cricket crazy part of the world. But, the Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team disproved this conventional notion. And looking at the impact of those attacks, any fool can predict that the next terror strike could be on the high profile cricket event IPL to be held next month in India. And it makes it even worse for security agencies that this event of tremendous public interest clashes with another major event with heavy public involvement – the general elections. For a huge democratic country like India general elections would be the event of utmost priority and no cricket tournament is bigger than elections. The constitutional requirement is that the general elections to the Indian Parliament were due before May 2009, which has to be fulfilled. So it is very much clear that elections are going to be held as per there schedules.

If we look at arranging both the events simultaneously then it will be a tough job for our security forces.  Making security arrangements for the elections in the rural and urban areas is always a very difficult task. And also, the level our political parties can go down to in the crucial election periods if there are lapses in the security arrangements is not a very big secret. And to conduct polls in such a huge region, we require our entire force. So it will be tough for our security agencies to protect IPL at the same time.

West Bengal and Punjab already said that go for IPL if you don’t want security for elections, Andhra and Delhi denied the security while Maharashtra and Rajasthan asked for central forces, which means they are not providing the state police forces for IPL. There could be another reason behind this stand taken by above states. Most of these states are Congress-led and it may be the anxiety of Congress not to step down before Sharad  Pawar, who’s the honcho of cricket in India along with a ministry in UPA cabinet  and can also be playing the major role in preventing the professional judgment in above matter. Also, the IPL chief Lalit Modi is close to Vasundhara  Raje (BJP). We have seen what happened to him in Rajasthan as soon as the government altered from BJP to Congress in Rajasthan. T he stand taken by these states might be just an extension of that. But, no matter what, the security of the life and property of common citizens along with the pride of the country, should not be put up on stake. If we do not postpone IPL and go on with these two major events simultaneously with some changes sought by IPL organizers and if there would be any attack on any event due to lack of security, then this will be a major setback for us. As we are hosting some major sporting international events in upcoming years, including the Commonwealth Games(one of the reasons of Delhi’s fast track development) and the Cricket World Cup 2011, our authorities should be much more careful and sensible in taking such decisions.

Taking a look at the other side of the coin, if we go on to postpone IPL, it will be a win for terror groups and looking at IPL’s prospect, a large commercial loss as they are just one month away from the tournament. It will be close to impossible for organizers to hold this event at some other time of the year, as ICC’s schedule for international teams would keep most players out of it and climates then would not favour the game. One more thing we should not forget that cricket and IPL earn some reputation for India, though they are not bigger than our democratic identity

What’s the bigger picture here? What’s the issue of concern here? Is this politics or is this security concern?

Whatever it is that is happening, what is more important here is a sensible decision that all the concerned authorities need to consider in benefit of all.

So, we have to find some alternatives to the concerned situation. We still have some amount of time and better cricketing infrastructure at our hand to manage the tournament. Ultimately, it is the home ministry who’s doing to decide the faith of IPL. The picture will be all clear in few weeks. But, I still feel that security should be given prime concern and elections are utmost important than any cricket tournament. We hope that our home ministry and IPL organizer come up with a more professional and practical solution.

What is your take on it?

Indian cricket under Sourav unified the country

Cricket is a religion in India and the passion and emotion which it instills in every Indian is unbelievable. The massive fan following that the game commands across the length and breadth of this country is a testimony to its unsurpassed popularity. But I feel the importance of the game in Indian perspective has reached a new level. At a time when we are surrounded by questions on terrorism and regionalism, cricket is perhaps, the only unifying force that exists in the country now. During this period of sectarian violence, terrorism and caste-based politics, cricket has come as manna from heaven for us.

At a time of crusade against “outsiders” in Maharashtra, demand of Telangana in Andhra, Bundelkhand in UP, Gorkhaland in West Bengal, terrorism being used as identity for Hindus and Muslims, riots in Orissa, freedom for Kashmir, attacks on Hindi-speaking people in Assam, water dispute in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, ethnic and cultural differences in other parts. Cricket in this testing time is the only place where you can say: This is “Unity in Diversity”.

Cricket was not like this in the last decade but its face changed ever since the legendary Sourav Ganguly took over captaincy of the national side. He sidelined regionalism in the selection process and it was under his reign, that he unearthed few very exciting talents from the streets of India. He created a side which believed in team effort rather than individualism and made new records. The current Indian team has players from the diversified backgrounds, language and cultures but when they enter the ground, they are Indians and only Indians.

As Pradeep Magazine says, “In the aftermath of the anti-Muslim killings in Gujarat in 2002, while the Indian team was practicing on eve of a one-day international in Baroda, some Hindu spectators were initially taunting Muslims in the crowd. But once Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan entered the ground, this taunting lot started shouting slogans in favour of the two. When Suresh Raina or RP Singh play in Mumbai, nobody is bothered about their home state. The scene of Bhajji, Zak and Ishant celebrating each other’s success is a soother to the eyes.”

The support which people give when the team is in trouble reinforces the fighting spirit and it tries to battle it out till the end. It is India that matters and nothing else when Sachin’s willow speaks or Munaf comes out with a brilliant spell. We all appreciated the efforts taken by John Wright, Andrew Leipus, Greg King and now Gary Kirsten to help the side. People from all walks of life and of every colour and religions are seen together cheering for team India after remarkable success in T20 World Cup and CB series. The whole nation stood behind Harbhajan Singh when he was accused of racism.

This typifies the binding power of cricket.

But when I think of what is happening in the country apart from cricket, my very notion of being Indian starts wobbling. The whole credit goes to our political parties who are continuously dividing the people on the basis of religion, region, caste, colour, sex, etc.

They have perpetuated the parochial views and have questioned the “Indianness” in our minds. Perhaps, we need another Sourav Ganguly in Indian politics too, who can sideline the differences and take India forward to achieve the vision 2020. Cricket has given various regional and ethnic identities a sense of national belonging and we want the same on political stage as well. It’s time for the generation which thinks about the nation in a different perspective, free from any religious and regional clutches to come together and realise the dream of taking India and only India to the top. Our spirit of unity got us Independence and same is needed for continuous growth and welfare of the nation.

Dhoni plays it straight

India’s captain brings an uncomplicated, honest approach to cricket

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a forthright, straightforward cricketer unburdened by the baggage that generally accompanies a man onto the field, thereby restricting his outlook. At once he is intelligent and simple, aggressive and canny, tough and respectful. He did not come to cricket as a youthful dreamer but as a young street rat. He did not arrive with high expectations or parental pressure or anything of that sort. He was not a favoured youth plucked from the masses and put through the academies and tracksuits and felicitations that await prodigies, condemning most to a life half lived. He enters the arena with one thought in his mind: the uncompromising pursuit of victory. It is a liberating, empowering simplicity. And it is going to take India to the top of the rankings, and without an excess of celebration. Dhoni brings to Indian cricket not hope but expectation. It is the bravest force in sport.

Dhoni has taken to cricket and leadership without fuss or fear. In a land of gods and legends he has not sought permission to lead. The captaincy was bestowed on him by authorities who recognised the power of the clean slate, the potency of the uncluttered thought. Of course he has an ego but it works on both a greater and lesser scale than the common run. He is happy to lead or serve, does not need the game, has no romantic illusions about it, might just as well be racing bikes. Cricket and Dhoni met by accident not design, took a look at each other and decided they could get along. It’s not that Dhoni cherishes the game or is obsessed with it. Nor is it merely a means to an end, a vehicle for an uncovered talent. He just plays it exceptionally well. Accordingly he can look it in the eye.

To him it is a job as much as a game, a profession as much as his passion. And he came to cricket as Dhoni the man, not Dhoni the boy cricketer. He plays hard because he lives hard. He fights to the last because Ranchi boys do not quit or cry. He plays a ruthless game because with every bone in his body he wants to win, because that is how games are played back home. He celebrates victory because he is proudly Indian, not because he is against anyone else. History has not touched him, with its movements and its Wisdens. He is not post-colonial, he is post-politics. Its not that he challenges notions of India; he is not a philosopher or an economist. He is modern India.

To him Indianness is not a cause. He is a patriot not a nationalist. With his unparaded affluence, his composure and laughter, and his rags-to-riches story so easily told, he is modern India, not a land of a thousand dreams but a place of a hundred possibilities. As a contemporary Indian he senses that life is to be lived. As a modern Indian sportsman he knows that matches are not to be played but to be won. His rugged bottom-handed batting gives no ground to aesthetic sensibilities. It is the unspoken message a rising generation was waiting to hear. Indian cricket is lucky that the call came from a full-grown man.

Cricket comes easily to Dhoni because he was not overwhelmed by it. It was just the game he happened to play. Captaincy comes easily to him because he did not pursue it. He was born to lead but in his boyhood no one thought along those lines, or took themselves that seriously. After all, Dhoni and his pals were growing up in ignored Jharkhand, in forgotten Ranchi, surrounded by each other, making the best of things, laughing a lot, enjoying whatever thrills and spills life had to offer. He was not a boy struggling to break away from a restricting background, was not unhappy, had not been defeated. Always he has been able to focus on matters in hand – the next skylark, the next ball. Throw him at a wall and he will not break.

It was Dhoni’s lack of defined ambition that made achievement possible. Frustration messes with the mind. He lived the life of a typical outstation youth: active, audacious, not bothering so much with books, getting on with life, never expecting it to fall at his feet. He came to cricket as might a passenger at a train station, reached captaincy, runs, fame and riches not as some ruined child or as a street urchin destined to cover himself in bracelets but as a grounded and gritty young man for whom wealth was a consequence and not an aim. He wanted to rise, but on his own terms; he was not hungry enough to sell himself short. He is Obama in white clothes.

Throughout his surge he has remained the same. Certainly he dresses sharply and speaks fluently, for a man does not want to embarrass himself or his constituency; but his essence has not changed. He gives the impression that he’d be just as happy with his school pals. Indeed he goes to see them whenever he can. It’s not that he is afraid of success or publicity or glory. To the contrary he has embraced them all. Just that they do not mean that much to him. He does not get carried away, keeps things in their rightful place. His Dad operated a pump. His character has deep roots.

Dhoni’s primary skill as leader lies in his ability to forge his side into a united force with one thought in mind. As India takes to the field, they form a huddle and he talks to them, mighty and meek, old and young, famous and obscure – none of it matters to him; all are treated the same, all are playing in a team. Players respond to him, trust him, and he does not let them down. When a paceman sends down rubbish he does not rant or rave or scowl but points out that “everyone has an off day”. Judgment is left to the priests. Players like him because he does not make a fuss, or get flustered or back down or yet confront. Misfields, dropped catches and other mishaps may occur and he takes them in his stride. Because he has faith in himself, he is able to convey faith, and without any clapping or backslapping or other artifices. Because he fights so hard he is able to instill the same attitude in his charges. Because he works so hard with gloves and bat he is able to coax long stints from his pacemen and long innings from his batsmen. Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan have bowled entire sessions; Virender Sehwag has been willing to deliver lengthy spells.

Ruthlessness and daring, an unusual combination, have been the main features of his captaincy. Previously India may have been defiant, even cynical, often charming, but they were never quite as ruthless as they have been under Dhoni. His 8-1 field set on the third morning in Nagpur was as uncompromising as it was unsettling. It was a civilised version of Bodyline. His India did not so much as pretend to play by the unwritten code. Overnight the team had been in a tizzy as the Australians had scored freely. Dhoni could feel the match slipping from his grasp and had to respond. Nor did he so much as contemplate half-measures, instead instructing his pacemen to aim well wide of off stump – a plan they loyally and precisely executed. Australia did not accept the bait and the game ground to a halt. It was not pretty but it was effective: 42 runs in the session. Australia lost momentum and never recovered.

On the final day India again fell back under an Australian assault. Despite the loss of three early wickets, Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey were able to push the score along at five an over, well above the required rate. Realising he was losing control, Dhoni sent four men to the leg boundary and ordered his spinners to bowl down the leg side. Although not against the rules of the game, the tactic offended its spirit. It was also a mistake, allowing experienced batsmen to collect runs without taking risks.

To make matters worse, Dhoni and his team dawdled to such an extent that only 21 overs were completed in two hours. As far as cricket was concerned, it was not a pretty sight. Indeed Dhoni was lucky that wickets started to fall and the game ended gloriously. But it was the unsentimental conduct of a single-minded leader prepared to stand his ground come what may. India was better served than the game, a viewpoint that may sound pompous in the hour of glory. Dhoni did not appreciate criticisms but then he was not a spectator.

These shortcomings pale into insignificance beside the achievements of a remarkable man who arrived from nowhere and with nothing except a lot of power, strength and ability. No one saw him coming. Boldness not meanness has been the hallmark of his captaincy. As much can be told from his leadership of the one-day side. Just that he has not yet embraced the rhythms and responsibilities of Test cricket, has not convinced himself that it is the ultimate expression of the game. Indeed, he withdrew from India’s last overseas Test tour.

That will change. Dhoni will come to understand that Test cricket is the greatness of the game, that the rest is a rush. For now it is enough that India has found its next cricketing leader. Certainly the community can absorb the loss of their fading champions without fearing for its future. It is in safe gloves.

–Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

Cricket at the Olympics

The game has captured the hearts of a billion people for the last few decades. Will it be long before this sport creates a rage all across the World? An inclusion in the Olympics will be just the shot in the arm this Cricket needs to spread globally.
Baseball id the favourite sport in the United States of America and though comparisons are often made by Indian techies who go to the states, Cricket is still unheard of. But to think of it, there are more cricket fans in India than the baseball fans in the world put together. Is it just an obsession in India, or does the Sport have it in itself to be the most loved sport all over the World?
But to say that Cricket would be making its debut at the Olympics if it were to be included would be erroneous for Cricket has been played at the Olympics before. Just about a hundred and eight years into the past. In the 1900 summer Olympics, the Great Britain and France played the sport at the Olympics. So what if there were twelve a side, and the format included a two day match with France being bowled out for 26 in the second innings but still the other normal rules of Cricket applied. Great Britain won the Gold and France bagged the silver. Pretty convenient for they were the only two teams taking part. Wish India had played then, they would have been sure of at least a Bronze medal at the 1900 Olympics and one bronze would have been enough to trigger a stampede at the airport even in those times.
Coming back to 2008, Cricket has spread to a lot of countries. Other than the elite test playing nations, there have been cricket competitions conducted by the ICC in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, UAE and the Netherlands. Going by the positive response, ICC should be looking at including more countries in the test playing nations list. But first the teams will have to show their cricketing prowess in the short and the really short version of the game.
The England Cricket Board together with the International Cricket Council have already approached the International Olympic committee for the inclusion of Cricket in the 2012 Olympics which will be taking place in London. There are plans to include T20 cricket at least as an exhibition sport. Look at Beach Volleyball, it was an exhibition sport that was included in the Olympics but it has now become one of the most watched sports on Television. It could be the same with T20 cricket for this viewer friendly format of Cricket does not really expect you to give up on five days of working life. Rather you can simply enjoy a game at prime time after a hectic day at office. The success of the T20 World cup in Johannesburg, the domestic T20 cup organized in England and the recent Indian Premier league all speak volumes about how crazy people can get behind this sport.
Several present and former cricketers have come out in support of T20 being included in the Olympics Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Kumar Sangakkara as well as Sourav Ganguly have shown their interest in featuring cricket at the Olympics. Once that happens the sport is sure to attain interest globally and a lot more countries will want to feature in this sport. There will at least be no dispute between India and America over the Indo US deal, it will all be sorted out on the Cricket pitch.

Dhoni gets Rajiv Gandhi Khel ratna award

At a glittering ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan on National sports day Mahendra Singh Dhoni became only the second cricketer to receive the highest sporting recognition of the country- the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from the President.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel ratna award instituted in the year 1991-1992 recognises sporting talent. It is definitely the highest honour that can be given to a sportsperson in India and for Mahendra singh Dhoni to get this at such a young age is definitely a huge achievement.
Mahendra singh Dhoni has had a dream journey since he made his cricketing debut. After announcing his arrival in cricket with his flamboyant stroke play, this young man went on to capture the hearts of millions of cricket fans in India. The small town boy from Ranchi went on to lead India to its first World Cup triumph since the Prudential Cup in 1983.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni represents the Indian youth of today- flamboyant, aggressive and confidant. He loves bikes and cars, still wakes up to drink milk in the morning and as a Pepsi commercial says was never good in studies. But the transition took place once he was entrusted with a job of responsibility. Since Dhoni has become the captain of the ODI and the 20-20 side of India, he has gone from strength to strength and achieved greater heights. From being a young keeper batsman in world cricket he has gone on to become one of the most shrewd and dependable captains of today. His relaxed approach behind the stumps, confidence in all his players and his positive attitude have won him the respect of all his teammates and ex cricketers.

The noticeable difference in Dhoni since his debut has been the change in his batting approach. From being a dasher in the early part of his career to the finisher of the innings, he has succeeded in both his innings. The highlight of his career would definitely be the 20-20 World Cup win in Johannesburg by beating Pakistan. It was the perfect gift for a billion plus cricket crazy nation and made up for the World Cup debacle in the Caribbean islands.
Dhoni has become the poster boy of cricket in India and it is only fitting that he got the Rajiv Gandhi Khel ratna award- An award that has gone to sportsmen who have ad tremendous achievements in the international sector. Sachin Tendulkar is the only cricketer to have been awarded this recognition. The other men who have been given this honour include Vishwanathan Anand, Geet Sethi, Cdr. Homi D. Motivala and Lt. Cdr. P. K. Garg(Yachting), Karnam Malleshwari, Leander Paes and Nameirakpam Kunjarani (Joint), Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, Dhanraj Pillay, Pullela Gopichand, Abhinav Bindra, Anjali Ved Pathak Bhagwat and K. M. Beenamol, Anju Bobby George, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Pankaj Advani and Manavjit Singh Sandhu.
Dhoni also represents the dreams and the aspirations of the small town people. Players from the major cities and towns had a strong hold over Cricket but this generation is producing players which are coming from unheard sources. Ranchi, Baroda, Rae Bareali are some of the little towns that have produced talented cricketers for India. Dhoni has realized the dreams of many such youngsters who thought that it would not be possible.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni epitomizes the aspirations of millions of young cricketers in india today. He has shown that apart from having the talent he also has the cricketing acumen in him to make him a successful cricketer. Till we have a cricketer like Dhoni as captain of the side, you can be rest assured that Indian cricket is in safe hands. He has emerged as one of the greatest sportspersons of this country.

Happy Birthday Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin turns 35 today. First of all a very
Happy Birthday Wish to Sachin Tendulkar. जनम्दीन की हार्दिक बधाई ! May this year be Injury Free Year.

Just continue the way you are playing for many more years.

SachinSachin Ramesh Tendulkar, a name which has made the country proud, promoted the game and brand INDIA worldwide. The aggressive right hander is better known as the “Little Master-Blaster” and is the demon for the world’s best bowlers. Even the great Sir Don Bradman once said, “Sachin is one of the greatest players in the history of cricket.”

The talent and greatness of this maestro is unmatched and his humility makes him more adorable. He is the one player who has faced more criticism than anyone else in the game. The ‘good part’ is that the most of his critics are not even near him in his stature, and their knowledge about the game can also be disputed. He has been subjected to criticism every now and then and in the last couple of years all hells have broken loose where the self proclaimed critics are clamouring for his retirement.

The one thing which disturbs me is the expectations of this cricket frenzy nation from him. Last year, when he was getting out in 90s, people were becoming restless and questioned his mental strength. He failed in the 3 innings of the recently concluded CB Series and people started running after him suggesting retirement, taking a break, etc.

The good thing about Sachin is that he never speaks but lets his bat do all the talking. He bounced back in the last three innings of tournament, and inspired the team to a rare win. For all those who feel that time for Sachin is over, they must look at his batting scores in the year 2007, be it a Test or ODI. The basic problem is that people want him to score a century every match. Even if he scores the crucial 30s and 40s, they see that as ‘bad’ performance. If you have such expectations then I am sorry to say that these people are helpless. They need to realize that he is human too, and it is not possible for him to meet those unreasonable expectations, even great Sir Don was unable to do so!

The other set of his critics are those who question is attitude and commitment to the game. My simple reply to them is – Before pointing fingers at others, see that you if are doing a credible job.

The fact is that the cricket crazy mass of India have been so spoilt by the Masters’ exploits and thus they expect so much from him. The more he has succeeded, the more has been expected. This is the reason they are not ever satisfied by him. I doubt if there has been any player in the world, in any sport, who has been subjected to such intense and back breaking pressure. Sachin has taken all those things in his stride. This was the reason Shane Warne regarded Sachin as the mentally toughest batsman he ever bowled to.

There is no denying that Sachin is approaching the twilight of his career, but he is not over yet. He has been through many crests and troughs but has always bounced back. His selfless approach and devotion to the game coupled with no ego or attitude problems make him the most respectable person in the arena. Sachin has commanded respect all over the world and the reception that hostile Sydney crowd gave him after his century in the first finals is the latest proof of that. We are the luckiest people to see Sachin playing in front of us because you get this offer only in a lifetime. We must cheer for whatever he has in store for us. You are free to criticize the performance but not the performer. And my request to all those critics: “Please don’t make decisions for others!”

Shane Warne wishes Tendulkar as many playing years as he wants and so does his fans. Good Luck Tendu!!!!

The Controversial Australian Summers!

‘AUSTRALIAN SUMMERS’ is coming to an end. This summer, we have witnessed a fierce competition between bat and ball. Indian Cricket team has challenged the supremacy of Australia and has been reasonably successful as well. The test series started with Australia on a winning streak that continued till Sydney Cricket Test match. Then India came back strongly and defeated Aussies in Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) ground, which is considered to be the graveyard for teams from subcontinent.

This win shattered there dream making world record of consecutive wins’ in test matches. The test series ended and then began the last edition of CB series. The very young Indian side under Mahendra Singh Dhoni has done well so far and will be roaring to perform in the finals starting this Sunday. But this summer we have witnessed some of the most bitter and  ‘obnoxious’ controversies. I doubt whether this series will be remembered as one of the toughest challenge that Australia faced after long time or the  ‘bad blood’ that has crept between the two sides.

Symonds and HarbhajanIt all started in Sydney when Australia stabbed the ‘gentleman’s game’ and racism allegations from Australian team along with the dumb umpires in the match lead to series of controversies. BCCI and Indian team under the tough captain, Anil Kumble forced International Cricket Committee to remove honourable Steve Bucknor from Perth test match. Australian media too criticised their team and demanded sacking of Australian captain, Ricky Ponting.

Australian media reported that team selection in India is based on casteism citing some very stupid figures of caste break up in India and representation of the same caste group in the team. They went a step ahead of saying that Indian team players are the ‘worst behaved’ on field. They collected the figures, which said that in last 10 years, 43 Indian players have been found guilty by ICC. Little did they realise that it brought the ‘ racist’ face of ICC in front. ICC does not hesitate to take action against players of Asian origin but is also not willing to take action against so called ‘white’ players. The history is full of such bias decisions. Latest being the fine on Ishant Sharma while letting off Andrew Symonds. India maintained Sharma was provoked by Symonds, and that Australia had been harassing them throughout their tour. Matthew Hayden called Harbhajan an ‘obnoxious weed,’ but was not even reprimanded by ICC.

After the end of test series, Harbhajan was cleared by special judge citing there were no evidences to prove that Harbhajan said something racist to Symonds. This perhaps left Aussies bit disappointed. They criticised BCCI of flexing money power. The sledging took a new dimension when it went off field. Matthew Hayden called Harbhajan ‘obnoxious weed’ in an interview to Brisbane radio. While it was meant to be a light-hearted radio interview, Hayden’s lack of diplomacy acted like petrol on a bushfire.

So what are the reasons that we have seen so many controversies and particularly the sledging. There are different views regarding this but the views that many hold is, “What India has shown this summer is that it is not afraid to expose any so-called on-field secrets. Many touring teams have come and left with their tails between their legs. India certainly hasn’t, and, in some ways, Australia is not used to this.” They just cannot digest the fact that India is posing a threat to their crown and are perplexed by the fact that they have continually been made to look like the guilty party during verbal confrontations with the Indians.

Whatever one may say but this series has raised few questions. A sport is intend to bridge the cultural gap, promote friendship, understanding of customs and cultures. But this series has just created hatred. The people have become more nationalist leaving the ‘sport’ far behind. They are treating this series as never ending war. If we expect that by dividing the people or creating differences we can do any good to the reasons of playing international sport, then we must stop playing. ICC cannot remain a mute spectator and let things go off from the hands. They must design a blue print towards ‘zero tolerance’ on sledging. As Harsha Bhogle said, “Cricket is on the path to hatred and the ICC needs to pull it back now. No sledging, no personal abuse, no crude gesturing, no innuendo. We have lost that option and deservedly so.”

There have been times during this series when I considered unplugging the TV, turning off the radio, and disconnecting the Internet. My love for cricket has been overshadowed by series of controversies. The present generation of India does not follow Gandhian principles and believes in  ‘tit for tat’. If they cannot take it ‘back’ they must refrain from ‘throwing’ it towards opposition. They have always used sledging as part of mind games but were not ready for the same game being played on them. Both the teams must share the blame but I think that Australians must do some serious soul searching and behave on field. Cricket has lost its innocence somewhere this summer and the ‘credit’ goes to the sissy Australian cricket team.