Tag Archives: India

The Sun Also Rises

23 Feb

As the sun began to set over the Azad Maidan in a hazy mid-November dusk, Prithvi Shaw tucked his bat under his arm and walked off unbeaten on 257. Over a billion Indians had given their final farewell to Sachin Tendulkar a few days earlier and with this 14 year old the burden of carrying their hopes seemed to find a new recipient.

It was on these same dusty orange pitches in 1988 that Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli put on 664 runs in a Harris Shield game, a partnership that still resonates around the world. Down the same threadbare pitches as Shaw they danced, silencing the boorish drone of the late afternoon Mumbai traffic.

Tendulkar was many things – master batsman; role model extraordinaire; advertising gold dust – but most of all he was a modest man who chose dignified silence and weight of runs to speak for him. He spent his entire career allowing the big players of Indian cricket to burn brightly and fleetingly: first it was the same school friend, Kambli, who allowed himself to believe his own legend, and eventually was consumed by celebrity. Then Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag came and went in a blaze of glory and controversy all whilst Tendulkar shied away from the limelight. As his career progressed from teenage starlet to wizened and fabled hero he saw it all, absorbing the adulation and expectation.

Yet his last years were not golden ones. He failed to score a Test century in the last 24 months of his career and the vultures were circling overhead long before he announced his decision to retire as the world watched the great man scrape and forage uncomfortably, willing him to find a final innings to savour. The last two fruitless years were not pretty, nor were they deserving for a man who had meant so much to so many people.

What about his highlights, then? For there were moments which brought India, and the cricketing world, to a standstill. His three shot salvo that went ‘six-four-four’ against an electric Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup. The year of 1998 against Australia, the world’s best team, in which he averaged 97 runs per innings across 12 visits to the crease. Then 10 years later and the fourth-innings 103* versus England in Chennai, as he led India’s colossal chase of 387 to win the match.

And all this achieved whilst he had the pressure of being the latest in the line of prodigious Indian batting talents. From Ranjitsinhji, the British Indian who revolutionised batting, through to Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohammad Azharuddin, India has a rich history of strokemakers. Tendulkar found himself tasked with the responsibility of continuing this legacy with the dust of the Maidan still on his whites when, at the age of 15, he scored a century on his Ranji Trophy debut.

Whilst he was at the crease the nation would stop working and there would be hope for India’s innings. Whilst his supporters felt that his achievements meant more than life, the little man in the middle did not. He was still the boy at the Maidan, scoring centuries with his friends against the din of his beloved hometown, which was diminished beyond the sound of his bat on ball. Cricket was just cricket, no more, no less. And as the sun set on his career, Indians were lost as they sought a new idol.

Back at the Maidan, and the day after he had begun his innings, Prithvi Shaw was finished with 546 runs after batting for a day and a half. The extraordinarily talented young man appeared to herald in a new time – a new sun – for Indian cricket.


Kevin Pietersen – from reintegration to the highest echelons

19 Nov

152047Kevin Pietersen is approaching his 100th Test match. He’s a brilliant, cocky mess with fatal flaws. He’s the antithesis to a world of bland sportsmen, too scared to offend. He’s a throwback to a world of cricketers with attitude. The last 18 months have been the toughest in the career of KP, but with one innings on the orange tinged turner at Mumbai he won over all those who had doubted him before.

The well-known problem with KP is his enormous ego. It has made him a nightmare for teams for years. He left South Africa, joined Hampshire, left Hampshire, joined Surrey, and for a while left England after he called then captain Andrew Strauss a very rude Afrikaaner word in a text to some South African players. Whilst he has failed to contain his ego for years, a battle that is more even is the one he conducts against another flaw of his – his Achillean anger.

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The beauty of silence

15 Nov

1360383314_sachinIn a very loud world, there are few greater pleasures than total silence. The absence of noise, or, to be more precise, unwanted noise, is a rare treat. For a cricketer, walking from the boundary edge to the middle is quiet. Often it’s almost silent, as you cross the demilitarized zone before you reach the front line on the square. A commentator is not paid just to make noise, but rather to make the right noises – to be emotive and respectful to the atmosphere, without crashing it with their own voice. Some – Richie Benaud, John Arlott, Christopher Martin-Jenkins – had this difficult art down to a tee. For others, it is harder.

On Wednesday evening, I was watching a live feed on the Cricket Australia website of England bowling out the Cricket Australia Invitational XI. It was filmed on one camera – a throwback to a time before mass media, when for half of the overs you had a front on view of the bowler running in. There was no commentary. It was utter silence. It was utter bliss.

I decided to see how well the TMS commentary on the same game would match up, and to my surprise, it was almost perfect. Aggers and co. went about their merry way with a sense of irreverence that was befitting a warm up game at an almost deserted SCG, which was excellent. And as is the nature of radio, they were talking more often than they weren’t. Though whenever they were silent, it was a second of harmony.

Jump forward to this morning. After watching the first 38 runs of Sachin Tendulkar’s innings against the West Indies yesterday, I couldn’t stomach the idea of another early morning to see how many more he would score, even if the fates were on his side, and he scored a century. So when I awoke to see that he had been dismissed for 74, I went straight to YouTube to find a video of his final dismissal.

Tendulkar edges it, and Darren Sammy takes a very good catch at slip. Silence in the stadium. The shock of over a billion Indians is tangible as Tendulkar turns to leave the crease for the last time. As he leaves, the weight of the nation’s expectations lifts off his shoulders. No longer is the pressure on him, and his shoulders, though slumped, seem less heavy then usual. Suddenly, the roar from the crowd erupts, as they celebrate the Little Master one last time. Whereas the wall of noise that greeted him when he first emerged on Day 1 was excitable fervour, the adulation which adorned his curly head when he left the ground was emotional and raw.

Until Sunil Gavaskar opened his mouth.

Immediately, the moment was ruined. The Indian commentator – who in 2011 was reportedly being paid Rs 3.6 crore annually by the BCCI to toe the official line and promote the views of the Indian cricket board – took over describing the moment as Tendulkar left the ground, and decided that that special moment, as the roars of 33,000 people carried Tendulkar up the stairs to the dressing room, was the best moment to remind the viewers that, just like in this game, Darren Sammy caught Tendulkar at slip in a Test match in 2011. As the crowd’s cheer became the perfect accompaniment to the end of a brilliant career, Gavaskar crashed it with his harsh voice, telling the unrelated story, before returning the present to send Tendulkar off with a gushing and cringe-inducing “Sachin…Ramesh…Tendulkar. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

A good commentator knows when the pictures do the talking, and when silence is golden. And on this occasion, the pictures did the talking.

The modest Master bows out

13 Nov

sachin_at_lords300Cynicism is an overbearing, pervasive attitude. It’s an increasingly prevalent one too, in a modern world of disposable opinions and anonymous criticism. It has served this author well over the years – particularly when it was announced that Sachin Tendulkar was retiring.

Like many before me, I found myself searching ‘Sachin Tendulkar slow innings’, or ‘Sachin Tendulkar fail’, for evidence to back up a pithy, put-down article. Soon it was penned, and off I went. Even sooner, people were tweeting with glee that his highest score at Lord’s was only 37, or reminding each other that his 100th International hundred was a pedestrian innings that slowed down his team’s scoring rate, causing them to lose the game. Vitriol was sent back and forth and although I was spared most of this, it still didn’t sit well with me.

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The Age of Kohli

1 Nov

168917At 24, Virat Kohli has achieved a lot. He is hurtling towards 5000 ODI runs, has just notched up his 17th century, has 4 Test centuries to accompany them and a lucrative deal with his IPL franchise, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, sees him captain a group of superstars. His brash manner on the pitch and his mannerisms off it have earned him a reputation as a bad boy, as well as plenty of adoring fans. He is the modern day Indian rock-star – with all the skill to set the world alight.

And it all started so gloriously inauspiciously, too. He scored 10 on his First Class debut against Tamil Nadu in 2006 (aged 18), did not bat on his List A debut and made 35 on his T20 debut a year later. In 2008 he made his ODI debut, and again failed, scoring just 12 against Sri Lanka. Two years later on his T20 international debut he scored 28* to win the game against a weak Zimbabwean team and when he got his Test cap in 2011, again, it was an occasion to forget. He scored 4 and 15 against the West Indies, and it didn’t get much better in the 2nd and 3rd games of that series – a sum total of 57 runs in 3 innings summed up a miserable start to his Test career.

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Should Sachin have retired earlier?

14 Oct

sachinAmidst the inevitable emotional outpouring that followed Sachin Tendulkar’s announcement last week that he’d retire after his 200th Test, one of the ever-present criticisms of his recent career was temporarily silenced. Should he have gone earlier?

When Andrew Strauss retired, he did so earlier than everyone was expecting: a year before an Ashes series, he deprived himself of the opportunity to win yet another series against Australia. Similarly, Michael Hussey caught everyone by surprise when he announced his decision to retire – none more so than the Australian team, who have been struggling to fill the void his retirement has left ever since.

Keep reading at The Cricket Magazine!

England need to capitalise on Australian antics

15 Mar


Given what is occurring Down Under at the moment and the cricket they are playing in Wellington right now, the English cricketers must be feeling rather smug.  For once, the chaos isn’t amongst their ranks.  For a change, the usually brash, confident and self assured Australians are glancing over their shoulders, infighting and finger-pointing.  As well as being hilarious it is also a bit sad, as we are looking at people’s lives and careers being put through the wringer.  But we’ll gloss over this and look at it another way – if England are to go into the back-to-back Ashes series that people are discussing as if they were starting tomorrow with a discernible advantage it has to be won now.

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