Tag Archives: Shikhar Dhawan

Who’s Next?

*This column is cross-posted at my column in CricAges*

If for one fleeting moment, we can push the hullabaloo from India’ disappointing T20 world cup campaign and the debacle of the second unit in Zimbabwe aside, we can actually see a team that is sitting atop the world Test rankings. The long, winding and arduous climb to the top has been a product in the making for almost a decade, riding on the backs of some of the finest cricketers the game has ever seen: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman. Two of the five have already said sayonara to the international game and the others, being on the wrong side of 35, are not far away either.

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The IPL Finals – Running diary Part 2

GOD walks in!!

Read the Part 1 of the running diary on Chennai Innings

Part 2: Mumbai Innings

We all settle back in. Some of the CSK fans, including me, bemoan the fact that they have to root against Sachin Tendulkar. Such are the times!

1.0 overs: Fabulous first over from Ashwin. Not much turn to speak off but he has kept a tight line and has changed the lengths. Keeps Shikar Dhawan quiet. Perhaps, MI plan is to weather the storm early and go after the bowling later? Why? Shouldn’t the idea be that everybody bats around SRT. CSK will always be on the defensive as long as SRT is still in. Shikhar Dhawan needed to be a lot more aggressive. Way too much respect for Ashwin in the first over.

1.2 overs SRT gets off the mark with a single. His bread and butter shot. Flick to the onside. Towards the fine leg area.The stadium erupts. You would’ve thought MI has already won the game.

The viewing junta

1.4 overs Dhawan gets caught behind off Bolly. Too close to cut off a short-of-length ball slightly swinging away from him. Abhishek Nayar (who played 3-4 games the entire IPL, coming back from injury) walks in. One of several missteps by MI in the batting line up.

Usually, I am more tense than I was while watching this run defense by the team I was rooting for. I have confidence in Dhoni to come through in the big match. Plus, Chennai has an above par total, I think. Dhoni did a fabulous job of defending 150+ score against Pakistan in the 2007 T20 world cup final. The CSK fans are delirious. Its still early days, but they don’t seem to care. Especially, Madhu. He is cursing everybody out. He is blaspheming. He is praying for Sachin to fail. He is throwing out his analysis of the situation, some of it is not even relevant but he doesn’t care. As always.

4.3 overs SRT writes the coaching manual on how to dispatch a full toss from a spinner bowled slightly wide of off-stump. Gently, as if not to hurt the ball, he caresses it, while coming on the front foot, with, of course, the head dead still, past extra cover for a glorious boundary. My response to it on twitter.

5.5 overs Please see 4.3 above, only this time, it wasn’t a spinner but a medium pace delivery from Albie Morkel. Hail the Lord please! Reminds everyone why he still holds the court when he is out there. On the inside, wanting SRT to stay out for as long as possible, while also wanting CSK to win. Oh the dilemma!!

The running between the wickets is atrocious but Chennai is yet to hit the stumps. SRT is very alert but Nayar is all over the place. Tries suicidal singles but gets away with it. Prompts Prem Panicker to comment on twitter this. MI innings almost mirrors the CSK innings so far except CSK lost 2 wickets. Pretty even stevens. Can’t pick a winner yet, as MI has lot more batting to come.

6.0-6.6 overs Murali is employed earlier than usual by Dhoni. Murali comes over the wicket. Lately, he has relied too much on the doosra and has been coming around the wicket. Me saying aloud: I hope Murali comes over as SRT has trouble with sharp turning off-breaks and Murali does. Imagine giving myself a pat on the back. Quiet over. Hayden drops a tough catch off Nayar at slip. Sharp turning off-break pitched outside the legstump of the left hander. Dhoni was moving to his right. Hayden was probably blinded for a moment. Still got low and down to get his hands to ball. Hits him on the wrist, can’t pull it in on the rebound. Toughie!

9.4, 9.5 overs Nayar breaks free by hitting Jakati for two sixes. Madhu unleashes a stream of curses at Jakati.

9.6 overs Brilliant effort from Jakati. Nayar takes off for a sharp leg bye. Jakati moves in on the follow-through, picks up and throws underarm at the stumps while airborne. Just missed. Sachin makes it in. Barely! The running between the wickets is getting to hilarious proportions. When are CSK gonna strike?

11.2 NOW!!!!! SRT is absolutely disgusted. Slams his bat on the ground. Nayar is out. Raina bowls a fast one from around the wicket. Nayar plays it to square leg. SRT’s call. Says NO. Nayar too far down the track. Dhoni runs, picks up with the un-gloved right hand, takes a bit of time to line it up and hits the wickets on one bounce. Shows the rest of the team how its done!

Surprise, Surprise!!!! Bhajji walks in ahead of all the renowned big hitters still waiting in the wings. Hmmm.. What is MI’s strategy here. You only have 8 overs and change. You have 4 proper batsmen who can easily clear the park but you went with Bhajji?? CSK fans don’t complain at all.

11.6 After a delicate cut for four by SRT on the 4th delivery, Raina gets Bhajji LBW off the last ball of the over. First look, looked out for me. Sridhar thinks – may be sliding down. I contend that he has shuffled too far. Hawkeye shows its barely missing the top of the stump. Chaitanya, the MI fan, is disgusted with Koertzen’s umpiring. He thinks MI got jobbed there. Of course, profusely interspersing it with curse words.

Hmm… what do they say about things evening out over the course of a game?

13.1 CSK get Rudi Koertzen-ed!!!!!!!!!!!!! Called wide by Koertzen after a brief consultation (nod of head) with the square leg ump. Dhoni and the bowler Raina went up for the appeal (for caught behind) immediately. The batsman is SRT. Given not out. Replays show a definite deviation ofd SRT’s glove. I am sure Chaitanya is not taking any of his Koertzen’s abuse back.

Leads to an immediate discussion about the need for players to “walk” by CSK fans. The pros and cons are weighed. Someone mentions that Sachin always walks and he didn’t here because its the final and his team is in trouble. Immediately, everyone jumps on him that Sachin never ever walks. He lets the umpire do his job. I have no problems with SRT not walking at all. But CSK was robbed. Oh well, we move on!

13.4 Rayadu putting some oomph in the MI innings. After hitting six of the previous delivery, hits an inside out cover drive for a four. The MI fans in the house make their presence felt. Rayadu being the aggressor here and playing around SRT. This should have happened when Dhawan’s wicket fell. 11 overs late. The run rate climbing ever so rapidly.

During this stretch in CSK innings (overs 12-16), Dhoni and Raina got 71 runs off the 5 overs. Can MI duplicate it?

14.2 THE BIG FISH FALLS. Perhaps the stitches on his bottom hand led to the dismissal. Not enough power in to the off-drive as he would have liked. Vijay pulls off the catch very, very calmly and strikes the pose. He did that in the semis too. Way too nonchalant. CSK fans off their seats and going crazy. Pandemonium!!! Personally, I am a little sad to see SRT go. What a player!

No sign of Pollard. Tiwary walks in. Another interesting move. Explanation later given is that MI wanted to get Pollard in after the spinners are done. Oh come on man! Its the god damned finals. You don’t get a second chance.

14.5 Two in the over. Tiwary slogs across the line and Raina pulls off an absolute screamer, running in from the boundary and taking the catch a mere inch off the ground. CSK team mobs him. So far, the fielding and catching is proving to be the difference between the teams!!

STILL NO POLLARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JP Duminy walks in. Struggles to get the ball off square and the batsmen get singles for the next six balls. Some 2’s too. Finally, JP feels frustrated and tries to dump Murali outside the mid-wicket boundary, does not have enough distance. Jakati takes a great catch, stops his momentum taking him outside the rope by breaking in to an impromptu game of hop-skotch. FANTASTIC. Now, in comes, Mr. Kieron Pollard.

55 required of three overs. 3 runs every ball. Even for Pollard, it seems beyond possible. But that’s why they play the game.

Over #17: Bloody Massacre. As expected, Dhoni throws the ball to Bollinger, CSK’s best fast bowler. First ball goes over the keeper for a 4, off the top edge. Kieron bludgeons Bolly for another 18 runs off the next 5 balls. GAME ON! The boundary off first ball, is followed by a 6 over midwicket, a couple, a sliced four in the third man and tops it off with a ginormous SIX over long on. The ball seemed to be traveling for a very long time, before it settled in the 3rd level of the stadium. This boy is country strong and doesn’t get cheated when he goes for it. Carnage. The 3 Mumbai fans are going bonkers. Chennai fans are truly worried. I am sure all of them are having flashbacks to all the times their favorite teams (Be it CSK or India) have lost from an impregnable position. I am telling Sridhar that this game is still Chennai’s to lose. Even after all the mayhem, the required rate has come down to only 16.5 from 18.

33 required off 2 overs. Albie Morkel is on to bowl.Dhoni adjusts the field. By the looks of it, the instructions are for Morkel to bowl full, and slightly wide of off-stump. Chennai fans relieved that Pollard is off strike.

18.1 overs: precious, precious dot ball. A full length delivery, dug back to Albie by Rayadu.

18.2 overs: Only a single as Pollard refuses the second. Rayadu seems a little miffed but Pollard is not paying any attention.

18.3: DING! You are free to move about the country. Pollard blasts one over the head of the bowler. CSK fans worried, yet again.

18.4: DOT BALL. Full delivery that gets under the bat off Kieron and goes to Dhoni. Excellent keeping by the captain.

18.5: Mad confusion and Rayadu sacrifices his wicket. Actually, he needed to. Not sure why he didn’t push for the second, from the get go. May be, he wanted to be the hero? Pollard was always keyed in for the 2nd run to get back on strike.

A distraught MI dugout

18.6: GAME, SET and MATCH: CSK. Dhoni adopts a totally unconventional field on the off-side. A wide-ish short mid-off AND a straight deep mid-off. This man is as cool as they come. Kieron tries to blast this ball too, a little too full and too wide, ends up scooping to mid-off. Hayden – in a solitary act of doing something to earn his pay for the day – comes around to his right, dives and take the catch with both hands, just off the ground. Bedlam in the desi graduate students apartment. Once again, Madhu loses his cool, breaks out a stream of swears, tells Pollard to suck on his….. popsicle (let’s keep this PG, alright?) and all that. Lots of high-fiving all around. MI fans are distraught. They see the writing on the wall. There isn’t gonna be a miracle tonight.

20.0 Another run out in the 20th over and now the only curiosity is whether CSK will bowl MI out. Thanks a missed catch by Raina, they don’t. Confetti rain, take cover people!

After a long delay for setting up the stage, during which time, MI fans in the stadium pretty much have all left. Not waiting for the awards ceremony. Sore losers? Perhaps! May be it was too late in the night and they have to get to work Monday morning. May be! But I think they knew about Modi’s speech. What a bunch of self-congratulating, Zen+Gita quoting crap that was. Whatever little sympathy he may had with the public, he lost it by that speech. The moment belonged to the Chennai Super Kings and Modi tried one last roll of political dice. That cheap bastard. By this time, we saw online that he has suspended by the BCCI from the post of Vice-President. Whatever.A very long presentation ceremony. All sorts of awards. Medals. Bleh. Finally, they hand the trophy to the Captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 2010 IPL Champions: CHENNAI SUPER KINGS!

The victorious CSK huddle


IPL Finals Preview

We are only few hours away from the final match of the IPL 2010 tournament. On the outset, it looks like a match-up of a team that’s been clicking on all cylinders and another team that has clawed and scratched its way through to the finals, with moments of inspired leadership. The previous two editions of IPL also featured similar matchups in the final games. In 2008, Chennai, which had the best batting line up of all, took on the Rajasthan Royals, who got on a run, motivated by their innovative leader Shane Warne . In 2009, it was the Deccan Chargers led by Adam Gilchrist.

In 2010, Mumbai won 10 of their 14 league matches and crushed the Royal Challengers in the Semifinals and look set to bring home the trophy. Their batsmen have all produced at some point in the tournament, ably led by Sachin Tendulkar, who himself ranks #2 in the list of run scorers, as of today. Their batting has immensely been buoyed by the presence of capable local indian talents of Shikhar Dhawan, Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayadu (of course, in addition to SRT). Add to this mix, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo. These two provide such balance to the squad as they are also uncanny bowlers, mixing up their slowers and yorkers. Of course, they are electric on the field as well. The Mumbai bowlers led by Zaheer Khan and Lasith Malinga have routinely provided the breakthroughs and bring tremendous amount of experience. Harbhajan Singh has opened the bowling, which I completely expect him to, today facing an off-color Mattie Hayden. The crowd will also be with the home team. They have looked the most complete team and it has showed throughout the tournament and deservedly, they have grabbed their spot in the finals.

Chennai Super Kings were hanging by the proverbial thread and were in danger of not making the final four. Thanks to brilliant knocks from their middle order and a thoroughly brutalizing finish job by their captain Dhoni against the Kings XI Punjab in their last league game, they found themselves in the semifinals, which they won largely due to a fantastic performance by their bowlers. They have a few issues. Mathew Hayden has not performed for a long while now and has gotten the spot at the top of the order, mainly due to his reputation and partly to the fact that the replacement would be Parthiv Patel. He has seemed too aggressive at the start, which has been M.O. all through his career, but the pitches during this tournament have not been conducive for that. I fully believe Dhoni will keep him up top for the finals and I hope he re-calibrates his approach in the finals and decides to bide his time at the crease before he launches on. M. Vijay has looked in pretty good nick but has not had a big inning in a while. The fact that he has made in to the Indian team for the T20 World Cup (albeit due to injury to Sehwag) will do nothing but keep is confidence high. Raina, Badri and Dhoni have played pretty well up to the point. If Albie Morkel can contribute a bit with bat (if he has to), that rounds up a solid batting line up. The key for Chennai’s batting lies at the top. Hayden and Vijay need to set the platform for their middle order.

Chennai’s bowling, which was its Achilles heel for most of the tournament, has been showing signs of turning it around. R. Ashwin opening the bowling has been a good performer and the arrival of Dougie Bollinger has given Chennai a genuine fast bowling wicket taker they had lacked all the while. Morkel has looked decent, without being very threatening and Jakati has done not too shabbily, as well. The 5th bowler has been a tough choice to make for Dhoni. If the pitch looked to aid spin, he has gone with Murali. But I think if the pitch for the finals looks to help a seamer, Justin Kemp should be brought in. Raina could chip in with a couple too.

However, the elephant in the room is Tendulkar’s split webbing. He seems to think that he wouldn’t miss the finals but it would be tough to perform to his usual levels with 5 stitches in his hand, but I wouldn’t put anything past this man! If Tendulkar does not play, Huge edge to Chennai. If he plays and play well, Mumbai should start the game as favorites. Dhoni has shown his ability to handle big match occasions and has the experience of having played in the T20 World Cup final and the IPL final before (1 win, 1 loss).

If Tendulkar plays:

Batting: Advantage Mumbai (Slightly)
Bowling: Advantage Mumbai
Fielding: Advantage Chennai (Slightly)
Captaincy: Advantage Chennai
Crowd Support: Advantage Mumbai (Huge)
Favorite: Mumbai

If Tendulkar does not play:

Batting: Advantage Chennai (Huge)
Bowling: Advantage Mumbai
Fielding: Advantage Chennai (Slightly)
Captaincy: Advantage Chennai
Crowd Support: Advantage Mumbai (Huge)
Favorite: Chennai (Huge)


Cricinfo gives the edge to Mumbai based on some statistical facts. Who cares about facts? Not this CSK fan!