Spectators or Expectators?

It is them who makes the play worth it
It is them who makes the play worth it

With the Cricket World Cup less than a month away, every cricket fan is filled with excitement. There is euphoria among fans all across the globe and particularly in the cricket crazy country, India. For India, it has always been more than just a sport; every person is either going to be glued to the television or radio, or will be watching it outside an electronics shop amongst the crowd or will be live streaming it from different parts of the world. With the team expected to successfully defend the trophy, the BCCI and the Indian cricket team has a big challenge ahead of it. But is it justified to expect the Indian team to win?

With each victory or defeat in the world cup, it is the fans that bring out the most to the game. I watch the part where the entire Wankhede Stadium sings VandeMataram in chorus(see video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP4urHR_qn4),

just four overs before thethe 2011 World Cup finals and it still gives me goose bumps. That is the kind of impact the fans can have on you. The whole nation erupted with joy with Dhoni’s finishing sixer. It was a dream come true for most of the fans and I am sure it would have meant more for the players. No one expected India to bring home the first version of the T20 World Cup either, with a team which was feeble and led by an inexperienced leader then, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. So much so, even when Misbah played the scoop shot, most of us thought it went for a six, until Sreesanth caught it to end the Pakistan’s innings. All of India was lit up with firecrackers in celebrations when India won and the tri-colour was unfurled and waved in every nook and corner.

Of course, there have been situations when India did not perform as we expected them to. One of the biggest upsets for the Indian cricket team was the 2007 edition in West Indies. India had all the goods to deliver and emerge out victorious, but it was quite unfortunate that they lost to the underdogs, Bangladesh which eventually paved their early exit. Did the players not give their best? Did they not want to ‘win’ the World Cup? I don’t think so. However, the fans were agitated with their poor performance; there were nationwide protests held all across the country with fans burning the players’ posters,conducting mock funerals and pelting stones at their houses. These same fans, who considered the players to be their role models had now started hating them, and for what, one poor performance, seriously?In my opinion, these people are a bunch of plastic fans, who suffer from split personality disorder.

'Perform or Perish' is the way of life for Expectators
‘Perform or Perish’ is the way of life for Expectators

India did not have a healthy start to the 2003 World Cup either, outplayed by the Australians both, with the bat and ball. The fans disappointment was witnessed yet again, with effigies of the players being burnt all over the country. With things not going their way, the Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar came out to apologize and lift the performance of the team as a whole. India did manage to get back and go ahead win the games all the way to reach the Finals. As fans, all we need to do is have faith in the players who are giving their best in every single match and trying to stay fit at the same time. They need our support at every stage of the World Cup or any series rather; we rejoice with their victory but we need to trust in their abilities and help them come out of a defeat.

Not to forget the ugly scene that sprung up in the semi-final of 1996 World Cup at Eden Gardens that was being witnessed by people all across the globe. I am not sure how the match would have ended (link to the Scorecard here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/65190.html), had there not been bottles hailed in the field, but I am quite confident that neither India nor Sri Lanka wanted the match to end like this and this is how it goes down in history. Yes, the batsmen failed to deliver, but Jayasuriya was spinning it square, making it difficult for the batsmen to play under such obscure conditions.Not all fans understand these technicalities of the game, yet they go crazy because the team they thought they supported has let them down. Although this sounds quite old to be in news, situations still haven’t changed. It was just last year when Yuvraj Singh’s house was pelted with stones for not being able to put runs quickly on board in the finals of the T20 World Cup. How can one forget Yuvraj’sheroics in bringing two World Cups home? Some might argue that he did not rise to the occasion as he previously did. None of us can be on top of our work every day and it is unfair to expect these hardworking sportsmen also to deliver in every single match.No one can feel worse than a competent player like him for not being able to perform at the most crucial situation when his country needed him the most. Even Dhoni said in the press conference that followed that no one would be more disappointed than Yuvraj himself, having failed to meet his own expectations. Sportspersons are more skilled and hence make it to the International level, but in the end, they are humans too.

Fans need to understand that results of a match cannot be changed by removing your frustration on the performers. Imagine your boss pelts stones at your house because you could not meet a deadline. Of course, situations here are different; you are obliged to perform for your boss because he is paying you and that is the sole reason why you are hired in his team/company. If you fail to deliver quite a few times, it is most likely that he will fire you, but not vent out his anger on your family or curse you on social media. This is how the cricketing world works too. May be Yuvraj was dropped out the side because he could not get back to his prime after the 2014 T20 World Cup.Let us stand by him and hope that he makes a comeback soon, may be in the following IPL.I believe that we all must enjoy the game, hope that the country we support wins the World Cup. If not, let us hope that the best team wins. Let us have faith in the players’ skills and when they fail to deliver, let us stand by them and support them through their rough journey. Let us look at it as a win-win situation because ultimately, it is cricket that emerges out as the winner!

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Mistakes Indian Batsmen Should Learn From

Indian Team Huddle
Indian Team Huddle

An ODI series just before the World Cup is an ideal preparation for any team and in the same country which will host the World cup, is just a perfect preparation any team could have asked for. But is it fair on other countries to allow an ODI series just a few days before the World Cup? Al the teams set to play the World Cup, want to know their best eleven before the same, especially in Australian conditions.After two matches where the home team won both the matches, it is time for India and England to step-up their game and try to keep up their name as one of the World Cup favorites. After the test series against Australia,Team India understood, even with a lot of youngsters,our batting line up is one of the best and they also understood that bowling is going to be a huge concern for them. For India to defend the World Cup, their bowling is going to be a key. In the first ODI, Indian batsmen performed decently but they couldn’t post a good score in-spite of Rohit Sharma’s heroics. There is a lot of pressure on Indian batsmen to perform well as their team’s chances of winning a match, rests on them posting a high score on the board. On their day Indian batsmen can absolutely score tons of runs against any team, and this ability ends up piling the pressure on them to post a good score, just about each time they set out to bat.

If we look at India’s batting in the last match, Rohit and Raina were cruising until 34th over where India took the ‘batting power-play’ and Raina went for a slog and lost his wicket. What Raina felt was that a good start to the batting power-play would be a pre-cursor to them posting a good total on the board, which eventually would increase their chances of making it difficult for the opposition to win.However, one important point which each and every batsmen will have to bear in mind before taking a decision to begin the slog is, it is not going to be easy for a new batsmen to come and score runs immediately, especially on tracks Down-Under. Before Raina’s wicket, Indians were cruising towards the score of 300 but with the wicket India were restricted to under 270 which is 30 runs short, and in itself, a huge margin.

The Indian top 6 batsmen are all attack minded and will go for their shots when they think the ball is in their zone which is a great sign for a team who are dependent on their batsmen to win the games. However, going for your shotson Australian tracks, without considering the situation of the team, is definitely leadingyour team into trouble. For posting a high total, not losing wickets with the new ball is critical. With Dhawan at the helm of the line-up and a swinging Kookaburra, India always stand a chance of losing an early wicket, as he is not in good touch and this automatically means Indians are pushed onto back foot early on. This fact surely plays on the minds of the batters to follow and a road-blocktowards posting a big score. One more problem with the current Indian batsmen of this squad is that they lack the experience of Australian tracks, visible in their tendency to play with the full face of the bat, even for a short ball, which is a grave sin when playing away from home. Rahane’s dismissal is a classic example for that.

Accelerating at the right time is important
Accelerating at the right time is important

If Indian batsmen play to their potential, they are unstoppable, just like how Virat and Rahane were in the test series. Given ODI is the preferred format for both of them, means just one of the Indian batsmen can take the game away from the opposition. When Virat is in touch, he is a treat to watch and nobody wants to bowl at him but he tends to go for the shots too soon sometimes like he did in the last match. Losing Virat’s wicket is something Indian team doesn’t want, especially early in the innings, which gives a lot of confidence to the opposition and facing a opposition who are high on confidence is going to be really difficult for the new batsmen.

Indian team may be vulnerable when batting first as they have the pressure to keep a big total on board but when chasing India is the one of the best. Even though the Indian top 6 is very good, the lower order is inexperienced which means, the team cannot peg any hopes on them to assist the top 6.However, most of the buys who bat at the tail, have a proven record in domestic circuit but not much batting experience on pacey and bouncy tracks, which will again be a huge problem for the team. If at least one of them performs, it will be a great help for the team and help make the difference between posting a 270 vs a 300 score on board. Also, in the present line-up, we don’t have the privilege of a Faulkner or a Thisara Perera or a Sammy type hitter who can smash the ball out of the ground at will, which again will be something not any captain would like. It can be argued that Sir Jadeja can hit a few out of the ground, but then consistency is missing there and Axar surely seems to be out of that league as well.

If Indian batsmen can learn from the mistakes they made in the first ODI alone, they can perform a lot better. Inexperienced Indian batsmen can learn loads of important things from this series before they take the ground for the World Cup. (There have been a few positive performances as well like Rohit and Raina which I didn’t mention much in this.)

This is a Guest Post by Navaneeth Kalluru, presently pursuing his Masters in USA. He is a die hard fan of Cricket and Football.

Semifinalists Forever?

new zealand world cup 2015 squad
New Zealand World Cup 2015 Squad. Source

They are a team that is never blessed with exceptional batting talents like Kohli, Amla ,Clarke or Sangakkara nor do they boast of men like Steyn, Malinga, Naraine or Johnson who can give sleepless nights to the opposition. Every time the teams are analysed before the World Cup, they fall into a category of their own- a team that has all the potential to reach the semifinal but a place in final still looks a distant dream.  If the numbers don’t lie , then this team looks more prepared than ever to leave behind this reputation and take a step ahead, after all they have been the most impressive team of 2014 and are continuing their dream run in 2015 with 2-0 test series whitewash to Sri Lanka. Yes, we are talking about the New Zealand , the black caps or the kiwis and the co hosts of the ICC World Cup 2015.

There is an almost unanimous opinion among all those who follow cricket closely that 2014 has been New Zealand’s year. They have won the one day series against India and Pakistan and have won 3 of their last 4 test series against the Windies, India and Sri Lanka and drawn 1-1 against Pakistan in UAE. The dream run started with a home series against India in which the visitors could not taste a single victory in 5 ODIs and 2 tests. The tour was particularly marked by Brendon McCullum’s two double centuries in tests that included one triple ton and a splendid performance by Kane Williamson in the ODI series scoring a total of 361 runs with 5 consecutive half centuries. Since then, this has been the tone for the New Zealand batting line up- Captain McCullum leading from front and Kane Williamson his rightful deputy.

McCullum has scored three double centuries in tests and missed the fourth one by mere 5 runs in 2014.  His 202 in 188 balls against the Pakistan in Sharjah test and 195 in 137 balls against the Lankans at Christchurch are intimidating enough for any bowling attack in the world. As Harsha Bhogale pointed out, he has hit total 33 sixes in tests in 2014 which is more than the collective number of sixes hit by India(31), South Africa(25) and England(25).  Complementing McCullum is the vice captain Kane Williamson who has emerged as their Mr. Dependable across all the formats.  Williamson has scored 1240 runs in 19 test innings with 5 centuries(Highest 242* vs SL) at an average of 50 and strike rate above 80 since 2014. In ODIs he has smashed 770 runs in 12 innings at a staggering average of 70 and strike rate of 87.  His 49 ball 101* against Cape Cobras in the Champions League t20 was just another master class to mark his superiority across all the formats. Williamson was also the skipper of the side that grabbed the 5 match ODI series against Pakistan in UAE. One of the reasons for Williamson’s success in the middle order is his partnership with Ross Taylor- one of the most experienced players in the current world cup squad.  Taylor has scored 662 runs in 13 ODI innings with 3 centuries at whooping average of just above 66 and strike rate more than 88 in the year 2014. In addition, his experience of last two world cups will be highly valuable to guide a talented but relatively inexperienced team.  At least one of these top 3 batsmen have to get runs in every game to keep the campaign going for New Zealand.

If one thinks that the New Zealand are running on a tight budget in terms of the batting resources in a format that is largely dominated by batsmen, the all rounders have been the biggest treasure of New Zealand Cricket for last two decades. Starting from Chris Cairns and Chris Harris, the allrounders have always been the backbone of the New Zealand team in limited overs.  The current world cup squad boasts of 5 all rounders in the form of Daniel Vettori, Corey Anderson, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills and Grant Elliot. Daniel Vettori’s heroics with both bat and bowl and the expertise he brings to the table from his 18 years of experience is beyond anyone’s doubt. Corey Anderson who seems to have created an aura of himself after that squash buckling world record hundred in 36 balls has improved as a genuine allrounder. His 350 ODI runs in 2014 at an average of 43.75 with a mind blowing strike rate of 177 and 17 wickets including a 5 wicket hall make him one of the most dangerous players in this world cup. Nathan McCullum who doesn’t have any big records on his name has proved to be a useful allrounder with his career economy rate of 4.81 in 71 ODIs and is also one of the most skilful fielders in this New Zealand side. Kyle Mills has always showed his utility with a quick fire 30 in the lower order and a wicket or two in a supportive role over his 6 years old career. The inclusion of 35 years old Grant Elliot over Jimmie Nisham may have raised a few eyebrows but it is expected that his experience will be useful in nail biting finishes. The Kiwis have got a quality wicketkeeper in the form of Luke Ronchi who can contribute with the bat to provide the necessary depth in batting.

In the bowling department, the black caps might be lacking in experience but certainly not in terms of talent and versatility. The comeback of their most experienced player Daniel Vettori has bolstered the confidence this highly energetic bowling attack comprising of Southee, Boult, Milne and McClenghan. Daniele Vettori, admitted by many is the Master of the Craft when it comes to limited overs and has been consistently among the top 3 spinners in the world over past 7-8 years.  His 289 ODI wickets in 263 innings at an economy rate of mere 4.12 says everything about the impact this man can have over entire match.  The pace attack coached by Shane Bond has shown some impressive signs in past 12 months with Boult and McClenghan rising to the occasion when needed in recently concluded series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Besides, the Black Caps are banking on Tim Southee- the leader of the pack to provide crucial breakthroughs on regular basis throughout the tournament.

As I said earlier, this team is surely lacking star power but they make up for it with their collective team effort. Plus, they will be playing in favourable conditions at home in front of huge fan following- something the Kiwis haven’t had the privilege of in the world cups. Their record in this tournament is more than impressive with 3 semifinal births since 1999 WC. Surely, this is their best chance to establish themselves as a dominant team in cricket especially at a time when the passion for the game in their country is fading. If this team can manage to break the semifinal jinx this time to at least reach the final, it will be a fitting farewell to their legend Daniel Vettori and a huge boost for the game in a country that is still largely known for its Rugby.

This is a guest post by Aditya Bivalkar a Computer Engineer from VJTI currently working as software engineer at Core Athena Systems, Mumbai. An avid lover of cricket, likes to read content related to cricket and an ultimate foodie.

The “DRAVIDIAN” Style Of Play

Will he lead them to the ultimate glory?
Will he lead the to the ultimate glory?

Welcome 2015 – the year in which cricket’s most prestigious tournament returns to Australia and New Zealand. I distinctly remember waking up to the news of the fastest ODI hundred record being broken on the morning of 1st January 2014. Afridi ( whose record had been bettered ) and innumerable cricket lovers worldwide had not heard of Corey Anderson – the man who belted the fastest ODI hundred then. Since then, Anderson has been spoken off only during his whirlwind knock which helped Mumbai Indians chase down 190 runs in 14.4 overs set by the Royals and thus edge out the Royals on the basis of a better net run rate to qualify for the knockouts.

The Black Caps – one of the first countries to celebrate the New Year is also one of the country with the finest work ethic on the field. The Black Caps have a tradition to punch their weight over the others when it comes to the World Cup. The team which doesn’t really boast of stars is always the team to watch out for. The team is known to win big matches on the sheer ability of its collective talent and unity. One man that could help New Zealand go right up the summit is Kane Williamson.

This griity right-handed batsman has an impressive footwork and a compact technique. A guy whose name is hardly spoken of but still works silently and guides New Zealand to important wins,Williamson’s attributes include patience and persistence, much to the Dravidian style of play. It is said that Williamson, at one point,was known to have an outrageous average of 400 during his formative years at school. Kane was always rated highly in New Zealand Cricket after he led New Zealand to the semi-final of the U-19 world cup in 2008 in Malaysia. ( their first semi final appearance after 1998 ). Lady luck smiled and he was asked to make a tough Test debut on a turning Motera pitch against India in November 2010. Against India’s best spin pair of Harbhajan and Ojha then, the lad made a gritty 131 in his maiden innings to lead New Zealand’s fightback, thus becoming only the eighth New Zealander to score a test century on debut. With key performances in 2013 and 2014 and being named in the ICC Test team of the year 2014, Williamson looks set for a promising future.

Will Kane Williamson extend his form to the big stage of World Cricket?
Will Kane Williamson extend his form to the big stage of World Cricket?

Quiet and meticulous and in a batting order filled with belligerence, Williamson’s orthodox approach may not be pleasing to watch but his silken touch has allowed New Zealand to revolve its batting around him. Providing the right flair for the number 3 position, Williamson allows McCullum and Taylor to play their natural game while he drops anchor. The collective fine performances of the trio along with the bowlers have made 2014 as one of the best years for the Black Caps. On a personal level as well, this has been a good year for Williamson. He led New Zealand to a series win in UAE in McCullum’s absence thus proving his credentials as captain. With a hundred and 2 fifties in the series against Pakistan, Williamson is all set to carry this form into the new year with a 7 match ODI series against Sri Lanka.

The one down position in the batting order is pivotal, in the essence, that it allows the batsman to dictate the game, either set a target or set up the chase. For India, it is Virat and for South Africa it is Amla ( who eventually has moved up to open the batting ). Williamson, a self -confessed admirer of Amla carries a calm head like Amla himself and can also rise to the occasion with an aggressive knock to chase down a target. This makes him one of the most sought after youngsters in World Cricket today. Besides cricket, Williamson is an all round athlete with good skills in rugby, basketball and football. Reminds me of the great ABD here. An interesting fact I’d like to share here – Kane has scored 4 ODI Centuries so far 2 each in a win and a loss and all 4 against different oppositions, 3 in the first innings of the game and 1 in the second innings. Dravid had exactly the same stats in his first 4 centuries in ODI’s.Do we have another “Jammy” in the making? Possibly, yes. If Williamson borrows even 1/3 rd of the traits of each of ABD, Amla and Dravid, the lad would mean serious business.

The tale of the World Cups will now be different. With no Sachin Tendulkar, the World Cup has lost its major sheen. However it allows cricket aficionados to look at other players who could become World Cup heroes. In a batting line up filled with aggression right from McCullum, Taylor, Anderson and Neesham, Williamson at 3 could provide the ideal foil to dictate the game for New Zealand. Williamson was in the side that played the World Cup semi final in 2011 and knows the pressure and expectations of his countrymen back home. New Zealand have not had a batsman after Martin Crowe who has dominated the World Cup single-handedly. Have they found one this time, only time will tell.

They have the team, they have the batters, they have the bowlers and they have the support, this could be the best chance the Black Caps have to break their semi final jinx and play the final. And the man who stands out for me in this line up is Williamson. If he performs consistently, he could well write his name in the history of New Zealand Cricket.

This is a Guest Post by Nilay Shah completed his B.E in Electronics and Telecommunication and is Currently pursuing MBA – Marketing from KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research. He is an avid follower and lover of Cricket which includes writing and discussing the same, a food lover, loves travelling and believes in living life to the fullest.

“The Man Who Never Failed To Surprise Us, Right Till The End”

 “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshou Kada Chana,

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani”

(Meaning: You have the right to perform your actions, but you are not entitled to the fruits of the actions. Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty.)

dhoniThere is no better phrase to describe the man, who silently served without much fanfare, un-orthodox style be it with the bat or with the captain’s arm-band and the man who knew his job was to play and never let an emotion crawl in. His interactions with the masses included a few witty words, a grin and as someone who stood by his boys throughout.

The man is known to surprise people with his decisions always, be it the out of turn defense of Fletcher  or making Ishant Sharma bowl those bouncers to the English batsman as we registered a historic away Test win at Lords. He never longed too much for attention nor let the critics play with his mind. He has remained humbled both in victory and defeat, and he has signed off similarly as well. Honestly, I wouldn’t say that I was sad or heart-broken when I heard the announcement. Maybe it was indeed time for him to hand over the rudder to the man he has been patient with and has backed right from the 2011 series down-under, in-spite of a poor form then, to the “spoilt-brat” as referred to by the kangaroos aka King Kohli.

It is indeed surprising and sometimes scary, how people who worship Cricket as a religion, can make you either heroes or even turn a back on you overnight. Gone are the times when they will dance to your laurels of the past and let you free-ride, because they indeed mean business, every single time. Dhoni has been on the unpleasant side of the wrath of the masses, quite often these days, majorly for his ability to lead “aggressively enough” in the longer format of the game. A batting average of just above 26 in the last 4 years and 15 lost overseas tests out of 18 that we played, the man certainly was breeding in trouble, compelling demands to see change at the helm. But was it really his fault entirely that our boys were never able to cross the line ever overseas? What actually did put him on auto-defense mode the moment he thought of playing a test abroad? The openers hardly clicked while we never found Viru type opening onslaught again. When he needed his bowlers to step up, he got served as Ishant Sharma as the leader of the pack. When he looked for a settled no.6, he was served with “Talent”. No wonder karma is a bitch. Jumbo left a void to never be filled by any spinner again. Imagine an Indian captain, with not a single quality spinner at his disposal. How do you expect them to clear the tail at ease? The tail will surely wag and it added to his woes. The Indian batting never fails to collapse while the bowlers fail to bowl good line and length and we expect the captain to be aggressive, really how? It adds immense pressure on you when a nation of 1.2 billion people expect you to do right, each time. They may tag him as ‘Captain Cool’ but he yet remains a human, as susceptible and vulnerable like any of us. The side-effects were evident as it started affecting his batting. He might not be technically the most effective batsman, but has been there to hold up when needed and scored short of 5000 runs. However, dancing down the track to the seamers, all the time these days, clearly showed that the ‘Cucumber’ had started to wear out and it was only time that he gave it all this a serious thought. Known to back his instincts, he did not wait for another 10 tests, to reach the 100 test mark, most of them to be played at home, ending on a high with a whitewash, and leaving a sweet memory in the minds of the people. This gentleman, rather chose to do the right thing, to pass the baton at a time when a possible victory at Sydney, might just be the perfect morale booster and a starter for Virat. Yes, this guy will never stop to amaze you while you could be busy finding another reason to complain.

We all have been fancying Kohli as that captain we need to pull us out of this debris, a feeling quite similar to, before Ganguly took over the reigns from Azharuddin. He is the man who can match Ganguly’s feat of making Steve Waugh wait at the toss by deliberately going late, not once but apparently, seven times, during the entire historic home series of 2001. His thinking coincides with that of the expectations of the masses that the ‘Men in Blue’ should go out on the field to make war and not love. My only caution would be that Kohli’s aggression, no doubt, is working for him but will that much aggression also work for d rest of the boys? There is a thin line between being courageous and being foolish while you are aggressive. Remember Saha’s dismissal at Adelaide and KL Rahul’s at the MCG? It is at such times that we will actually miss the calmness of the ultra-mohawk, grey beard guy. To the most successful captain-wicket-keeper-batsman, maybe you felt the ‘whites’ had seen enough of you as you silently walked away; but do let us know well in advance before you plan to walk away from the ‘Bleed Blue’ too, you deserve to be celebrated and do bless us with that one final chance!

Similar or Different?
Similar or Different?