Saturday, 21 July 2012

From England: "Cook"ed with finesse!

Back in 2006, when Rod Marsh tipped Alastair Cook to become England’s captain and boast of a startling average of 50 in his career, few would have nodded in agreement. The youngster, all of 21, had just been pushed into England’s Test side that prompted a quick debut against India with a crackling hundred. He went on to score three more Test tons in the same year. Although he did not have a great first Ashes series, Cook had certainly shown enough potential for a fresher at a tender age.

“Cooky” isn’t the most visually attractive batsman, I agree. Especially when I look at his flamboyant teammate and one of my favourite cricketers, Kevin Pietersen! The former is a technically correct batsman but lacks the style, while the latter displays tremendous flair coupled with good-looking shots, in spite of not possessing the best technique in the game. Right from the start of his career, Cook has been one of those silent performers who’d prefer to stay backstage while the others took away all the limelight. This could well be the reason why, despite being the youngest Englishman to score 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000 Test runs, he was still somehow not a part of the elite. But Mr. Chef was destined for bigger and greater things.

The Ashes of 2010-11 brought much relief to the southpaw, who was already under scrutiny for his lack of form earlier in the year as well as losing his place in the ODI setup. 766 runs in seven innings and Cook suddenly looked like a messiah England desperately awaited since 24 long, painful years. That, for me, was the moment to cherish. That, for me, was Alastair Cook! To be honest, I was never so happy with an Australian loss or for that matter, for an English victory, but this feeling was something special. Those were the days when early mornings mattered and every minute of watching him play were worth sacrificing my sleep.

An inspired English Ashes win confirmed Cook’s credibility in the side and that was the beginning of a fruitful, glorious journey. It isn’t a surprise when you look at his figures as they tell you the story of a hard worker who has shown great amount of dedication and determination to stamp his authority as one of the most exemplary modern cricketers in England. What surprises me is the age at which all the success has rapidly knocked on his doors. At 27, he stands just two Test centuries short of equaling Wally Hammond, England’s leading century-maker, one short of rubbing shoulders with his Test captain, Andrew Strauss and on par with the legends of Ken Barrington and Graham Gooch, along with mate Kevin Pietersen.

There is no doubt about the fact that Cook will eventually get past of all these sooner or later and consequently build more records, but what deserves attention is the immense maturity that he has shown at an age where cricketers are just about settling in. Sure, there will be bad patches, injury scares, etc. but I believe every cricketer who fights the toughest of battles emerges only stronger and better. I would love to see Alastair Cook conquer greater heights and come out as an even better cricketer, than he already is. Arguably one of the finest left-handers around, Bedford’s tall and handsome school boy has come a long way in his career and has miles to go. To draw comparisons between him and Sachin Tendulkar would be foolish. Instead, why not let the flower blossom the way it is meant to?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The curious case of Rohit Sharma

I am absolutely appalled by the way the Indian media, along with our so-called pundits have time and again criticised Rohit Sharma for his batting failures. Why is he the only one who has been constantly singled out as the reason behind Team India’s recently adopted rotation policy in Australia? Was it just because our captain cool said it was necessary for Rohit to get a few games in the initial stages of this tri-series? I strongly disagree.

Rohit has worked his way into this star-studded Indian line-up and he deserves to be in the playing eleven. Two-time Man-of-the-Series in 2011, both against the West Indies; Rohit has steered the Indian team to crucial victories when most seniors were rested, including Dhoni. He did this when all others failed, not to forget the stand-in captain, Suresh Raina. The statistics that popped up on the television screen this morning show exactly why he should not be made the scapegoat; as if denying him a Test debut wasn’t enough already when the team went through a series of whitewashes. For the first time ever, I agreed with Ravi Shastri, when he mentioned how Rohit automatically qualifies to play in the side ahead of the CSK lad. Frankly, Raina has not been at his best off late, but is yet considered to be an important aspect of this one-day outfit. With all due respect to his fielding skills and keeping in mind his batting position, I would still give him the benefit of doubt. But if the rotation policy has been devised ONLY to give Rohit a chance, this does not seem fair, in my opinion. The idea behind this strategy was to “rest” seniors, but why pick on Rohit as the reason? Is it not possible to rest Raina for a game or two, and go ahead with all three openers?

Cricket is a cruel game; you never know when the axe is on you! Harbhajan Singh can probably describe this feeling better. It is sad to see how Rohit’s talent has been ignored all the time. Not giving him credit where it’s due, denying him a Test opportunity, and oh, I must not forget to mention how he wasn’t a part of India’s 2011 World Cup-winning squad. Yes, he has been inconsistent at times, but every cricketer has gone through a bad patch in his career at some point. What's the whole fuss about Rohit Sharma's form? Has he NEVER scored runs for India when the team was in dire need? Or maybe Dhoni is just too fond of his CSK teammate, eh?

And before anyone asks me, (Yes! I am obsessed with Rohit Sharma)...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Salute to India's Holy Trinity: Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman!

They say getting on top is no big deal, but dominating your position when everyone else is vying for it, is a bigger task. Team India's three musketeers have already been there, done that. They need not prove to the world what they're capable of. Those years of dedication and hard work are easily visible in their records. But, the world is cruel and it's people are worse. One slump of form and gone! All those drops of sweat that went into the making of a legend are washed away because of some mindless critics who do not think before they talk. What I really fail to understand is what evokes such criticism? Perhaps, we won't realize what he have until it's gone. With retirement rumours doing the rounds, every cricket fan in this country is scared, for what Indian cricket is going to lose will certainly be one of the biggest losses to the fraternity. And I, for one, don't know how cricket's gonna be like like without my favourite cricketer.

MS Dhoni's away record has been terrible, we all know what happened in England and the 3-0 drubbing against the Aussies so far has been nothing less than a recap of the disastrous England tour. But, my question goes out to all those who question Dhoni's captaincy and the team's performance - How many captains have succeeded in winning a Test series in Australia in the past? Why is it that apart from the captain, only the trio of Tendulkar-Dravid-Laxman are held responsible for everything that has gone wrong so far? Cricket is a team game, all the players are equally responsible for whatever they achieve or don't. Spare a thought for the seniors, they have been India's best batting bet in Tests for a long time now and even the sum total of their achievements cannot justify their significance in the team. Those are some really big, heavy shoes to fill. It's not going to be easy for the so-called "young guns" to step into them and repeat the feats of our great batsmen. I agree, every team goes through a transitional period, where the seniors step out with dignity and the young make their way in. But, to treat them like they have never really mattered is insulting. Steve Waugh retired graciously, he was an asset to the Australian team, Adam Gilchrist hung his boots to some tears among his fans, Shane Warne's popularity never really wiped away his presence from the dressing room. These are men of honour, they deserve more respect than anyone else and the Australian media did justice. The least we can do as fans, is stand by our heroes who have given us so much to remember all our lives. Retirement is inevitable, it has to come someday. What matters the most now is not what we lost, but what we were blessed with for so many years. It doesn't matter if they aren't delivering now, they have done it continuously in the past. Show me a man aged 39, standing tall at the crease, defending 9 out of 10 times and still scoring heavily with as much grace and patience; show me a saviour who has literally taken his team out of a pothole filled with troubles; and yes, show me someone who has given everything to the game, scored the most number of runs, faced an equal amount of criticism and still managed to keep that childlike smile on his face!

My message to the fans and critics is simple: It's easier said than done! If we can be so passionate about watching cricket and analyzing the game, it is really difficult to imagine the level of commitment and effort our cricketers put in delivering the same. We do not know what they go through when their time is not right. As it is often said, "Form is temporary, Class in permanent". And I consider myself extremely fortunate to have witnessed some real class in the Indian cricket team.

Thank you Sachin Tendulkar - for showing us how it feels like to be GOD and human at the same time; Rahul Dravid - for proving to the world that there can be a stronger WALL than the Great Wall of China; VVS Laxman - for being a lifesaver and an important cornerstone in the success of Indian Cricket over the years!