As the Michigan winter slowly releases its grip, Motown Captain Sathish Thandapani has announced plans for a series of indoor practices and, possibly, indoor matches, in anticipation of the forthcoming MichCA season. Look out for more announcements in the coming weeks, and get that cricket kit out of the basement.
Monthly Archives: March 2012
In the last of three Willow Talk columns this week distinguished former first-class cricketer and coach of international players Dr V. V. Giri, who conducted High Performance coaching sessions for MCA last year (and made a huge difference to the performances of the Academy’s fortunate youth players), bids farewell to one of the all-time great batsmen. For more on Dr Giri, check out MCA’s Profiles page.
THE ‘GREAT WALL’ OF INDIA
Rahul Dravid: ‘Wall’ on the field; ‘Wonder wall’ off it.
It is not easy to be called the most technical batsman in the world.
It is not easy anchoring an innings with remarkable consistency over 15 years.
It is not easy to be called Mr. Dependable
It is not easy to be called “The Wall” by even the most ardent critics time and again, and…
It is not easy being Rahul Dravid.
A mammoth 343 matches and 317 innings, in which he has faced over 15,000 balls, to score close to 11,000 runs, may define Dravid the cricketer. Numbers and the sport alone cannot ever define Dravid the person. What defines this man is three-fold:
Approach to the game,
Approach to the team and
Approach to life.
For all who may have seen Dravid in person and on television, humility would be by far the most apt adjective on their mind. Never once has it appeared that success has taken this man’s feet off the field and into the glitzy world of glamour or the mucky world of controversies.
So when skipper MS Dhoni was 15 and an 8-year-old Virat Kohli and a 10-year-old Suresh Raina would have probably just begun to know what cricket is all about, Dravid announced his arrival on the international stage. For all the criticism early on about Dravid not being skilled enough for the 50-over format, that match against Sri Lanka in 1996 gave India a star.
It is simple to glorify a player on his retirement. It is simpler still if the player is Rahul Dravid. The 38-year-old may have been-there-done-that like most international cricketers, but take a slightly closer look: Jammy is miles apart from any of his contemporaries. No sledging, no controversial statements, no scandals and absolutely no implications in any racket. Those who have claimed innocence when charged with demeaning allegations, meet Mr Rahul Dravid and learn how not to get implicated in slander.
In many ways, a focus on the game and how to improve may be seen as the main reason for Dravid’s excellence – on and off the field. After all, from ‘not that good an ODI batsman’ to becoming the highest scorer in a World Cup (1999 with 461 runs) is a journey not many have managed to complete. To complete it with added responsibilities of being a wicket-keeper is just another plus in a long list of additions.
Even today, I am unable to understand how on earth the then selector, Mr Vengsarkar, found fault with Dravid and criticized his captaincy and role in the ODI team!! Jammy was the darling of the entire nation, (except of course for Mr. Vengsarkar!)
Why not? He was the only senior who got along well with Greg Chappell and followed his instructions meticulously, while the others – Ganguly, Tendulkar, Kumble, Bhajji, Sehwag, Yuvraj & Zaheer Khan ganged up and betrayed the coach. When Ganguly refused to open the batting in tests (he was a regular opener for ODI), Dravid, as the captain of the national team, opted to open the batting and saved the face of the team in Pakistan.
His speech at the Don Bradman memorials recently in Australia says a great deal about this gentleman. True, his image took a beating after his failure in tests against the Aussies. Yes, it could happen to anyone, even to the Wall. That’s one of the glorious uncertainties of the game.
Memory may dwindle just a bit but perhaps the only two things that Dravid did not do were to bowl and to lead the team longer (over a period of time at least). An excellent slip fielder, Tests now will be the only format that will continue to bask in Dravid’s presence.
Having said that, no one man is greater than the game itself. Dravid isn’t either. He is only someone who will be remembered as one of the biggest exponents of the gentlemen’s sport that we know still as cricket.
Now tell me, who deserves “Bharath Ratna”
In the second of three Willow Talk columns this week distinguished former first-class cricketer and coach of international players Dr V. V. Giri, who conducted High Performance coaching sessions for MCA last year (and made a huge difference to the performances of the Academy’s fortunate youth players), looks at the challenges facing India’s Chairman of Selectors. For more on Dr Giri, check out MCA’s Profiles page.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth came out with yet another stunning performance in the team selection for the Asia Cup. I really pity Srikkanth for being the chairman of the National Selection Committee at this moment. It is a really tough luck to be in that post for such a mammoth cricketing nation with so much money rolling around and with fans who have taken up cricket as their religion. But, let me tell you, Srikkanth has done the job commendably time and again and this time, almost spotlessly. This team is also the best possible at the moment.
There has been a lot of mudslinging and the media wanted some spice for their work. I, who have played a huge amount of cricket with Srikkanth and have known him for many, many years, am not surprised at the way he barked at the media. Cheekkaa is always outspoken and it is very difficult for him to be a hypocrite like so many other cricketers in India, especially from Mumbai.
First, the media and the cricket fans wanted to know about Sachin Tendulkar. In my opinion, Sachin is still one of our best batsmen. He is fit. I mean really fit, when compared to half the side — Ashwin, Gambhir, Zaheer and others. His technique is still the best in India. When you see Sehwag, Dhoni, Raina, Gambhir bat, you always come to this conclusion. And tell me, who will replace him in the playing eleven? Rohit, Rahane? No way.
All Sachin needs is a century – the pressure caused more by the cricketing world than by himself. Isn’t it a terrible feeling to see half the spectators (even in Australia) walk out when Sachin gets out? When you are aware that the world is looking for that milestone, it is always at the back of your mind and affects your normal game. It is common for all, in every field of endeavour. I hope and pray that Tendulkar gets that milestone and then can breathe normally. Take it from me, if Sachin gets that coveted century now no one would be able to stop him and in no time he will reach 20,000 runs. But, of course, Sachin may prefer to quit ODIs and focus on tests. So, in my view, Srikkanth did a wise thing by keeping Sachin in the team.
Again there was a complaint against the selectors for ‘resting’ Sehwag instead of dropping him. Some went on to say Cheekkaa was a coward. If anyone at all in India has the guts to drop Sachin and Viru, it is only Srikkanth. I write this, knowing him well. Gavaskar, in his recent article, even said Cheekkaa is the right person to ask Sachin to retire from ODIs.
I want the media, who are looking for some masala, to look into the past. This is the same Srikkanth who meticulously dropped Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh, who were always supported by the media and the sponsors. So it is unfair to call the chairman a coward.
Many people question the inclusion of Jadeja. I am surprised at their ignorance. These people just go by statistics. They don’t know the usefulness of the players and their true abilities. Jadeja has done extremely well, walking out to bat at the end or in a crisis, bowling when the medium pacers were being hammered, and fielding at the Jonty Rhodes position and saving many runs. He is the best fielder in India.
Similarly, people should understand the value of Ashwin. Dhoni always makes him bowl during the power plays. Many Indian pace bowlers are scared to bowl during PPs and towards the slog overs and even walk off the field at that time. Ashwin is also a great bat. (Greg Chappell would have had him open the batting for India).
At last India has some good all-rounders, in the shape of Jadeja, Irfan, Ashwin, Raina, Sehwag and Yusuf. But in this Oz series we noticed that there was no planning, home work, and consistency in Dhoni’s captaincy. Dhoni must make use of them properly. My worry is not about the players, it is about the captaincy which is rated ‘very poor’ by cricketing giants.
Finally, there was talk of a ‘rift’ in the Indian side. Even though the BCCI, the managers, Dhoni, Sehwag and even the President negate that, these selections (resting Sehwag and stripping Gambhir of the vice-captaincy) suggest that there is no smoke without fire and one can clearly see Dhoni’s hand in it.
But it is Cheekkaa who has performed a brilliant balancing act.
In the first of three Willow Talk columns this week distinguished former first-class cricketer and coach of international players Dr V. V. Giri, who conducted High Performance coaching sessions for MCA last year (and made a huge difference to the performances of the Academy’s fortunate youth players), shares his trenchant opinions on off spin and gives some excellent advice. For more on Dr Giri, check out MCA’s Profiles page.
What’s wrong with Ashwin?
During last year’s IPL and the subsequent ODIs played in India Ravichandran Ashwin
tormented the best batsmen with his off spin and was universally celebrated as the best Indian player. A few weeks later he went to Australia and after the test series he was criticized by almost everyone and branded as a ‘not-so-good’ bowler.
Why this sudden change of label? A man who controlled and fooled almost all the top batsmen in the IPL was suddenly found wanting. Well, that’s test cricket. Many spin bowlers have been reduced to a dust when it comes to test cricket, especially overseas. In tests, quality batsmen have all the time to read your bowling and negotiate accordingly. There is no need for them to score quickly and so they don’t make mistakes. You don’t get as many chances in test cricket to get a batsman out as in the limited overs.
If spinners want to survive long in test cricket, they need the following.
- Terrific control.
- Vicious spin.
- Clever variety.
- Never-say-die attitude — heart
Control, as you all know, is nothing but accuracy. In test cricket a spin bowler cannot compromise on line and length. It has to be precise throughout the spell. That’s the difference between the various formats of cricket. A test spinner is supposed to bowl every ball on a good length or where he intends to. Whether it is a ‘well-flighted’ delivery or ‘lower trajectory’, the ball has to pitch exactly in the planned area.
In the past I have seen almost all Indian spinners bowl with awesome control, continuously pitching the ball where they wanted. Whether it was a new ball or an old ball, they never messed up with line and length. But today, unfortunately, every spin bowler delivers most balls with enough width to be hammered. If today’s spinners bowl two balls on a good length, they are immediately considered excellent bowlers.
The next important factor is spin. There is a lot of difference between turn and spin. A turning ball need not have good spin and a spinning ball does not necessarily turn. You get ‘turn’ more out of pitch conditions. If the ball gets enough ‘grip’ on the wicket surface it turns. Just a few revolutions of the ball are enough to turn it on a rough surface. But spin is something in the hands of the bowler. There are three parts of the body involved in spin bowling – fingers, wrist and arm. If all three coordinate well, you get maximum spin on the ball. Spin is very important to get respect from the batsman. A bowler with vigorous spin will always worry the batsman.
Clever variety: at the highest level you definitely need to have some variety to make the batsmen guess. If you keep bowling the same spinning or turning delivery, batsmen at the test level get accustomed to you quickly and play you easily. The variety could be anything — arm ball, faster one, under cutter, top spinner, carrom ball, doosra, or the latest, the teesra.
All the bowler has to do initially is to show the batsman that he possesses varieties and the batsman is immediately under pressure. But bowling the variety ball in a good area and at the correct time is a real talent. Very few people utilize their variety balls skillfully.
Finally, the spin bowler needs a good heart at the test level. I am of the opinion that you’ll be a good spinner only if you get hammered in your early days. You should bowl on placid wickets to grinding batsmen to get the heart to bowl in tougher situation. Normally a spinner gets a ‘never- say-die’ heart only after he crosses 30 years or puts on even more years of experience. Till that time, spinners are still being seasoned.
Now, what is wrong with Ashwin? Ravichandran Ashwin is a very clever bowler. There is no doubt about that. He is a thinker, plans well and fools the batsmen most times in other forms of cricket. In test cricket, too, he was able to mesmerize the youngsters and beginners. On the Australia tour he was able to remove the inexperienced batsmen quickly, but veterans like Ponting, Hussey and Clarke pulverized him.
When you analyze the tussle between Ashwin and the top Oz batsmen you see that Ashwin was comfortable when bowling flatter, as in limited over games. The batsmen were playing him easily, scoring ones and twos. When he tried to toss the ball up these experienced batsmen came out and easily put him wherever they wanted.
In the 60s and 70s we saw Bedi and Prasanna tossing up the ball to the great Aussie batsmen – namely, Chappell, Walters, Redpath and Simpson — and they caused them lots of problems. What was so special about what they did that Ashwin couldn’t do now?
It is the spin factor. I have seen, in Indian team net practices, Bedi and Prasanna bowl with a new ball and spin it madly. In fact, I could hear the ‘fizz’ noise of the new ball spinning. They had supple fingers and gave enough tweak to the ball with only two or three fingers. They never used the thumb or palm, which normally prevent the spin. They could spin the ball like a ‘spinning top’, yet put the ball on the spot. Such was their talent.
Ashwin is not a great finger spinner. He gives a mild tweak on the ball sideways and, if the ball gets the surface grip, it turns. A good spinner spins the ball parallel to the pitch. That is, the seam should be facing the batsman and the spin should be in the same direction to cause more problems for the batsmen. This is called over spin. If the bowler spins the ball sideways, it doesn’t worry the batsmen that much.
How to bowl an ideal off spin delivery:
- The off spinner must hold the ball with not more than three fingers. (Normally the fingers are kept on the seam, not across the seam). Thumb or palm should not touch the ball.
- Take a comfortable, easy, fixed run-up to the crease. Do not look at the crease during the run-up or delivery.
- At the time of delivery, go sideways, closer to the stumps, arc your body backwards, bring the body in front along with the arm.
- Aim and deliver the ball with a good tweak — using fingers, wrist and arm to spin the ball to the maximum.
- Bring the body in front and bend enough to touch the ground after the delivery, which is called the ‘follow-through’.
- After delivery make sure that you move away from the danger zone.
When you follow those steps, you get enough “venom” in your delivery. Because of your arc, body-bending, follow-through and spin, the ball, which first goes up in the air, suddenly drops down due to the over spin. This is called the “DIP”. When you get such dip, you automatically get the “NIP” — which means the ball jumps high after pitching. This ‘dip’ and ‘nip’ phenomenon is the effect of following all the above conditions. This can be done on any wicket and in any conditions.
When a spinner is able to get this dip, he can flight the ball courageously and invite the batsmen to come out and play. There is every chance of fooling the batsman in the air and the batsman also may not be confident enough to come out, fearing the ball will dip and deceive him in the flight.
As I noted earlier, spinners like Prasanna and Bedi used to flight the ball high up in the air to even the best batsmen, inviting them to come out. They would do this on any wicket (even in Australia, England, or in the West Indies). Batsmen seeing the ‘dip’ fear to go out and finally try to play within the crease — and perish.
Ashwin, unfortunately is unable to do this. That’s the reason Clarke, Ponting and Hussey came out and drove him whereever they wanted. He must learn to spin more and also use the waist and follow-through effectively. If he gets that, he will be a real menace. His line and length also were not ‘test class’. Because of insufficient spin on the ball, the batsmen were in no trouble whenever the ball was pitched a little short or full.
A good example of a fearsome off-spinner today is Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal. If you watch replays of his bowling you can see all the above six steps being followed. He also possesses the required qualities for a classy spin bowler-Spin, Control, Variety & Heart.
Dr V. V. Giri.
On Sunday, 15 January, the MCA XI playing in the annual Florida Cricket Academy tournament at Miramar Regional Park, Fl, suffered a third consecutive heavy defeat, losing to Atlanta’s Cricket Academy USA by 112 runs. CCUSA, batting first, posted 191/8 in 40 overs, with openers Sunny Aggarwal (26) and Tanmay Parikh (47) leading the way, ably supported by no 4 Viraj Patel (40). Chicago’s Arnav Sridher, one of the youngest players in the tournament, was the best bowler for the Midwesterners, taking 4/26 in five overs. The MCA XI (playing as Midwest Cricket Academy) struggled from the outset, with only Chicago’s Arjun Ahuja (20), Akhil Sridher (19), and Monit Khandwala (12) reaching double figures. After last year’s successes, this was a disappointing tournament for all the returning players; lack of practice between October and January certainly took its toll, with several players looking out of form.