Happy Birthday Gautam Gambhir; Unsung hero of 2 World Cup wins

Related imageGautam Gambhir is one of the best ever opening batsmen in the history of Indian cricket. Today, on his birthday let us recapitulate some of the high points of this unassuming cricketer’s career.

Successful career overall

Gautam has nine 100’s and 22 50’s in his 58 test career.  He has scored over 4000 runs at a creditable average of 42. He has a 200 in test cricket. 4 of his test tons were abroad and 5 were at home. India has never lost a match in which Gautam hit a test hundred. We had 4 wins and 5 draws.

He also played almost 150 ODI for over 5000 runs at a terrific average of almost 40. He has 11 ODI hundreds ( 8 matchwinning ones) and 34 50’s. His highest ODI score was 150.

Gautam had another test record to his credit, having 50’s in consecutive 11 test matches, to equal records of Viv Richards and Virendra Sehwag. Subsequently Mominul-ul-Haq of Bangladesh too scored 50’s in 11 consecutive tests and AB De Villiers and Joe Root broke Gautam’s record by scoring 50 in 12 consecutive tests.

Gautam is one of only 4 Indian cricketers to win the ICC Test cricketer of the year award, the others being Rahul Dravid, Virendra Sehwag and Ravi Ashwin. ( Sachin and Virat have won Cricketer of the year Awards).

One of only 4 players to have 5 test centuries in 5 matches. 

Only one player has hit hundreds in 6 consecutive test matches and its none other than the great Don Bradman. However there are only 4 players ( including Don Bradman) who have centuries in 5 consecutive Test matches. Gautam is one of them along with Jacques Kallis and Mohd. Yousuf. 2 of these 5 tons by Gambhir were in New Zealand which is not a happy hunting ground for Indian batsmen. 2 were in India and 1 was in Bangladesh. 4 of these 5 tons were in the second innings which shows Gambhir’s mental toughness. With this feat, Gautam crossed Sunny Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid who had test hundreds in 4 consecutive Tests.

World Cup Hero who did not get his due. 

In both the world cups India has recently won, Gautam was one of the biggest performers , especially in the most difficult match of the tournament- the high-pressure final. In the 2007 T20 World Cup, Gautam was the highest scorer for team India in the tournament. He had 3 50’s in the tournament and in the final he had a crucial 75 in 54 balls which helped India set up a target of 158. India were well and truly on top with Pakistan at 104/7 in 16 overs and 54 required in 24 balls when Misbah-ul Haq took them to a stroke of victory. However India won by 5 runs.

Similarly in the 2011 ODI World Cup final, chasing a competitive 274, India were in a spot of bother at 31/2 with Sehwag out in 2nd ball itself and Sachin too for 18 soon after. Gautam who came in at the 3rd ball itself steadied the ship with Virat who was out for a crucial 35 with the score at 114. Thereafter Gautam and Dhoni had a match-winning partnership of 109, and when Gautam departed for a well made 97, India were at the doors of victory with 52 required at a run a ball with 6 wickets left.

In my opinion, Gautam’s sterling contribution in both the World Cup wins is not given as adequate mention as it should have been.

Successful stand-in captain

Gautam was a successful stand-in-captain for India when he led India to a 5-0 whitewash over the visiting New Zealand team. He was also the man of the series and in the 3rd ODI where the series was won, he scored his highest ever ODI score of 150 and was man of the match that time as well. He also captained the ODI time a 6th time versus West Indies and that match too was won by India. Therefore it is a 100% win record for him as captain.

Successful IPL Career

Gautam has been a successful IPL player and captain. He has led the KKR team to two titles. This year he returned to his original IPL team, the Daredevils but unfortunately did not do well and for the team’s interests, dropped himself.

Recently in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match, Gauti scored 151 but chose to retire hurt when over 10 overs were left to give others a chance to bat. This was an extraordinary gesture when normally he would have been expected to try for his 1st 200 in a List A 50 over match (maybe last as well). Apparently Gauti still has hopes of making it to Indian team which seems difficult with KL Rahul, Prthvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal being 1st 3 choices and presumably  recently dropped Murali Vijay still in reckoning. However one has to praise his motivation to keep going.

It is unlikely that he will make it back to Indian team. However there is no doubt he has been one of our best players ever.

This blog on Gautam is at the request of two of my best friends, UK Based Surgeon Dr Rajinder Pal Singh and Bangalore based Software wizard Gurdeep Virdi who are his big fans.  My thanks to them for asking me to do so, and giving a tribute to an unsung hero, which normally people omit to do so.

Happy Birthday Gautam Gambhir.



Happy Birthday Amitabh Bachchan; The megastar’s cricket connection

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Its October 11, and time to wish our Shahenshah happy birthday once again. India has two passions, movies and cricket and like Lata Mangeshkar, Amitabh Bachchan too has keen interest in cricket and never fails to encourage the Indian cricket team and its players. Lets revisit some of Mr Bachchan’s interesting moments/incidents concerning cricket.

Indo-Pak T-20 World Cup match

At Eden Gardens on the invitation of former Captain Sourav Ganguly, who was the CAB President, it was Amitabh Bachchan who sang the National Anthem before the match between Indian and Pakistan before the packed stadium, the 2 teams, CM Mamata Bannerjee and Sourav himself.  Like the entire country, Amitabh too calls Sourav Dada and said “how can i say no to dada”. For Pakistan, their National anthem was sung by singer Shaqfat Amanat Ali, who said it was an honour for him to sing the anthem along with Mr Bachchan

Commentary with Kapil Dev, Arun Lal, Rahul Dravid and Shoaib Akhtar 

Mr Bachchan made his commentary debut in the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup game in Adelaide during the 2015 world cup. This was as part of a promotional activity for his upcoming film Shamitabh as revealed by his son Abhishek and director R Balakrishnan. Abhishek said that his dad was working very hard for the commentary debut and was a bit nervous as well, though he had the best voice in the world. Mr Bachchan shared commentary screen space with Arun Lal and Shoaib Akhtar and later said that doing commentary with legends like Kapil and Rahul was a big honour for him.

Subsequently, Amitabh and the Rawalpindi Express faced the media. Amitabh informed that he was a big fan of Akhtar and his raw pace and while Shoaib may not remember he had met him once at an airport. Shoaib, like an excited schoolboy said “How can i forget meeting you. It was during the 2003 World Cup and we met at Durban airport”

Blessings to the India Blind Cricket team for winning the 2018 World Cup

In January 2018 India defeated the Pakistan team and won the 2018 Blind world cup at Sharjah and Mr Bachchan was one of the 1st to congratulate the Indian team. He has always been a source of encouragement to the regular team as well and also to individual players as well for good performances.

Best wishes to Bumrah and Prithvi

Way back as on 4th April 2013, Mr Bachchan had tweeted “Mumbai Indians discovery- Jasprit Bumrah, unusual action, and two wickets in first appearance already; aieegaa”.  5 years later Bumrah is one of the main stays of the team in all formats. Just a week back on 4th October 2018, Mr Bachchan had similarly blessed Indian teenager Prithvi Shaw for scoring a debut test ton and asking him to continue to rise and bring greater honour to the game and the country. There are various such examples and these two are just illustrations.

Mistakes while tweeting

Mr Bachchan has twice committed mistakes while tweeting. He congratulated the Indian Ladies cricket team for ODI and T20 series win versus Australia while it should have been South Africa. Similarly in the Nidahas T20 tropy win over Bangladesh where Dinesh Karthik (DK) took India to a win with a last ball 6, Mr Bachchan while congratulating DK said that in last 2 overs 24 runs were required while actually it was 34.

In both the cases, the mega star quickly rectified his tweets and promptly apologised as well.

Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar

When the biopic , “Sachin, a billion dreams” was made, Mr Bachchan attended the premier with his son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya. He said that he loved the biopic as it showed how someone from humble beginnings can put up a fight and make the country so proud. He wanted it to be shown in every school and wanted every Indian in the country to see it.

Last year Sachin revealed an interesting incident concerning the megastar and his son Arjun. It was during a commercial and in between shots Arjun who was just 18 months was sitting on their laps. He was eating an orange and after finishing it he coolly wiped his hands on Mr Bachchan’s kurta. Sachin said he did not know here to look and he was very embarrassed.

Happy Birthday Mr Bachchan and all the best for your next release “Thugs of Hindostan“.

Looking forward to many more blockbusters.



Happy Birthday Rekha

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Enigma, Elusive, recluse, aloof, diva, transformational, regal, versatile. These are only some of the adjectives associated with the beautiful Rekha whose birthday it is today, the 10th of October.

Why “transformational”. This is because Rekha actually transformed herself. When she came to Bombay she did not know the language, the people, the culture and was totally at a loss. To make matters worse she was ridiculed. Her acting debut was in Saawan Bhadon and reportedly her co-star Navin Nischol called her a “namoona” ( weirdo) and “kaali-kalooti” ( dark and ugly).

Rekha was aware she was being made fun of.  As she herself says in an interview to the Telegraph, “I was called the ‘Ugly Duckling’ of Hindi films because of my dark complexion and South Indian features. I used to feel deeply hurt when people compared me with the leading heroines of the time and said I was no match for them. I was determined to make it big on sheer merit.”

Rather than getting discouraged and demotivated, Rekha gave importance to her looks, her dialogue delivery, her acting. She transformed herself and the results were there to see. Indeed, she made it huge on sheer merit.

Rekha has won awards in 4 movies. Lets take a look at her performances in them and associated trivia.

Umrao Jaan

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Muzaffar Ali’s movie with music by Khayyam, lyrics by AMU’s Urdu Professor Shahryar won Rekha the National Film Award for Best actress. However the Filmfare award went to Smita Patil for Chakra.

Umrao Jaan had some of the best songs ever such as “Dil Cheez Kya Hai”, “In Aankhon Ki Masti””Justaju Jiski Thi” and Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston”. The entire country fell in love with Rekha and her stunning performance. This movie is a highpoint of Asha Bhosle’s career as well. Choreography by Kumudini Lakhia and Gopi Krishna was highly appreciated.


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Hrishikesh Mookherjee’s movie which won best movie award also won Rekha the best actress award. She played the role of a playful and naughty young girl who comes and stays in her sister’s in-laws house and transforms a strict dictatorial family atmosphere into one of love and belongingness. Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan’s 2014 movie Khoobsurat is loosely based on the basic idea of playful stranger entering a highly disciplined household.

Khoon Bhari Maang

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This revenge thriller saw Rekha transforming herself in the movie from an unattractive lady betrayed by her husband ( Kabir Bedi) to a stunning model who takes revenge. Shatrughan Sinha and Sonu Walia ( best supporting actress) played important roles. Rekha won best actress award for her role. The movie was a re-make of the Aussie mini-series “Return to Eden”. Kabir Bedi was cast on Rekha’s advice and he returned to India only for this movie. Otherwise Deepak Parashar was originally supposed to play the role.

Khiladiyon ke khiladi

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Rekha played the role of villain here and won best supporting actress at the Filmfare awards and the Star Screen best villain award as well. This was one of the many Khiladi movies by Akshay Kumar. WWF Superstars the Undertaker and Crush featured in this movie. Rekha’s portrayal of criminal don, Maya, was well appreciated.

Happy Birthday Rekha ji.




Happy Birthday Raaj Kumar

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Aap ke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hain. Inhe zameen pe mat utariyega. Maile ho jaayenge” ( I saw your feet, they are beautiful, please do not put them on the ground, they will become dirty)

This iconic dialogue of the great actor Raaj Kumar, in the form of a note to a sleeping Meena Kumari as a co-passenger in a train journey, is from the film Pakeezah. It is unanimously accepted as one of the most romantic dialogues ever.

Let us discover some relatively lesser known trivia about this unconventional hero of yesteryears.

Born as Kulbhushan Pandit in Balochistan, Pakistan, Raaj Kumar was a sub-inspector with the Mumbai police at Mahim Police station before joining films full time at just 26. His 1st film was “Rangeeli” which did not do well. His 1st well known movie was the iconic “Mother India“.

Success also came with movies like “Dil ek mandir” and “Waqt” for which he got the Filmfare award for best supporting actor. “Pakeezah” made him famous throughout the country. Raaj Kumar had the ability to carry a film on his shoulders. His stylish performance in Karmayogi ( double role) was much appreciated and he added value to the film. Surprisingly he never received a best actor award and had only one nomination for best actor for the movie ‘Kaajal” also starring Dharmendra and Meena Kumari. This movie had the haunting Rafi Saab song “Chhoo Lene Do Naazuk Hothon Ko”. 

Raaj Kumar’s trademark was using the term Jaani, which he used to do not just in real life but in movies as well. One such famous dialogue of his with “Jaani” was in “Saudagar” where he said “Jaani, hum tumhein maarenge, zaroor maarenge, par bandook bhi hamaari hogi, goli bhi hanaara hoga and waqt bhi hamaara hoga”       ( Darling, i will certainly kill you, but the gun will be mine, the bullet will be mine and i will decide the time too”).

There are two interesting trivia about his eccentricity. Supposedly he refused to act in “Zanjeer” as he did not like Prakash Mehra’s face. This seems hard to believe and could be an urban legend but the refusal is a fact and helped Amitabh Bachchan step on the escalator to superstardom. For the movie “Sharara”, based on Irwing Wallace’s book The second lady, he learnt to play the violin and dance the waltz. The song was ‘Shabnam ka ye katra hai, pyar ka ik sharara”. Reportedly he wanted to show himself dancing with an inch long ash hanging from his cigar, and the ash not falling throughout the song. His confidence was remarkable and when Subhash Ghai narrated the script of Saudagar and told him Dilip Kumar would be in it he said “Jaani, iss Hindustan mai, apne baad hum kisi ko actor mante hain toh Dilip Kumar ko mante hain! Hamare samne jab Dilip Kumar aayega toh jalwa toh aayega!’”

Some top dialogues

Raaj Kumar has several tremendous dialogues which have become iconic. To remember just a few;

“Khudhi ko kar buland itna, ki har taqdeer se pehele, khuda bande se khud puche, bata tere raza kya hai’

“Tum bhi wahi ho, hum bhi wahi hai, naa jaane rang badalta hai ueh zamana kaise kaise”

“Mohan ki maa, yeh patthar ki kya pooja karte ho, ye tujhe kya dega, meri pooja karke dekh”

“Chinoy seth, jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hote hain, woh doosron pe patthar nahin phenka karte”

“Ye bachchon ki khelne ki cheez nahin, haath kat jaaye to khoon nikalne lagta hai”

Unique Personality traits

Raaj Kumar was a loner and a recluse. He was a family man and loved driving his son to school at Green Lawns, Worli. He also loved driving down to Peddar Road with his wife to have paan. He preferred continuity and had the same Plymouth car for 40 years. He also retained the same driver, hair stylist and tailor for 40 years as well. It is not that he did not love cars. Rather, he loved cars and had various cars like Chevrolet, Mercedes, Willy’s Jeep and Volkswagen as well, but the Plymouth was a favorite. He loved to play golf and enjoyed horse riding. He liked to visit Switzerland and London but year after year also had a two and half month vacation at Kashmir with family, where he and his wife used to go horse riding together.

Thats Raaj Kumar for you. Happy birthday Sir.





To follow-on or Not ? That is the question.

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The modern follow on rule was introduced in 1980, making it optional for a side to be asked to bat again if it has a deficit of 200. If a day’s play is washed out, then follow on can be enforced even if lead is 150. There is the famous example of Ajit Wadekar asking Sir Gary Sobers to follow on and the legend being unaware of the rule.

The trend nowadays is more not to enforce the follow on rather than to enforce it. In his classic Art of Captaincy Mike Brearley says that the advantages of enforcing a follow on are overwhelming. He once bitterly criticised Captain Andrew Strauss for not doing so, even though England won the Test.

Earlier, almost always the side which had a chance to follow on the opposition did so. It was almost automatic. The two main reasons were that one has more time to win, or rather the opposing team has less time to draw the match. Secondly, the effect on morale was expected to be magical, and it could really lift up the team.

While Brearley speaks of the advantages of enforcing follow on, interestingly one of the best ever wins after being asked to follow on was under his captaincy. It was the famous ‘Bothams Test’. England in the second innings were 135/7 and still 92 behind. Botham chose to hit for 149 not out and Australia chasing 129 were 111 all out, with Bob Willis taking 8/43.

Slowly over a period of time the advantages of not enforcing following on was seen by teams- and captains. Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke all preferred to bat for the second time and grind the opposition to submission.

It was also tempting for Waugh and Ponting to unleash the greatest spinner of all time, Shane Warne on a late 4th and 5th day track. Clarke too followed the trend and enforced follow on only once in his career – in his last Test after having resigned from the captaincy and after England had already claimed the Ashes.

It is clear that VVS Laxman’s great 281 had placed doubts in opposing skippers minds. Australia were unbeaten for 16 tests in a row. After India were bowled out for 171 in response to 445, they were asked to bat on. Laxman scored 281 and Dravid 180. India scored 657/7. Suddenly an Aussie win was out of equation as India declared with a lead of 383 with no time for Australia to chase it. Rather India shot them out for 212 claiming an epic win.

That apart, not following on had the advantage of taking a loss more or less out of the equation. Nowadays cricket is played incessantly and it made sense to give rest to bowlers. It was also pertinent that most countries played four bowlers and therefore it was difficult to ask them to bowl two innings in a row. An injury to a key bowler could not be risked.

Further, the series was more important than the particular Test. Therefore captains often did not prefer to enforce follow on in early part of series. Pertinently Clarke too had done in last Test of the series.

What could be important factors behind enforcing follow on? Most important is whether one is playing five bowlers or four. Secondly whether the opposition’s batting line up inspires confidence in fighting back. Thirdly how fast the side had batted in its first innings. Fourth is whether its a short series or a long one and if a long one whether its the early part of the series or later part. Fifth is how many overs the side has been in the field and how many overs their bowlers have bowled and finally whether the wicket is expected to be a minefield or not on the final day, even assuming there is an opposition fightback.

There is no magic formula. It is a captaincy decision to be taken considering various situations such as own bowling strength, opposition batting strength, pitch condition, time left in match, how long a series and so on.

Until then, one thing is certain. Every time such a situation comes, cricket fans will debate on both the options.

The 9th Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture-2018

Dilip Sardesai, the only Goa born Test Cricketer, called the Renaissance man of Indian cricket was universally acknowledged as one of the best players ever of spin bowling. Called Sardee-man, he was a very popular cricketer in India and in the West Indies too where he had given the memorable statement to a customs official if he had anything to declare, and he said “I have come here with lot of runs, and i will go back with more”.

Dilip Sardesai left us when he was only 67. This was on 2nd July 2007. In his memory a Dilip Sardesai Memorial lecture is held every year. Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman had been speakers in earlier years.

The 9th edition of the Dilip Sardesai Memorial lecture was held at Cricket Club of India, Mumbai on 1st October 2018. The keynote speaker this year was former international player and noted commentator Sanjay Manjrekar. Dilip’s son, noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai and former Bombay Ranji Captain Shishir Hattangadi also spoke on the occasion. So did Professor Nandini Sardesai, Dilip’s wife, who specifically thanked his friends who turn up for the occasion year after year.

Shishir Hattangadi who has captained Sanjay and also has been captained by him started the evening by telling the audience about Dilip Sardesai and also Sanjay who it was apparent was his good friend. He stated that Sanjay is very particular about how his name is pronounced and it was pronounced as “Manzrekar” and not Manjrekar.

Rajdeep also spoke on the occasion and he informed the audience that he has played university cricket with Sanjay who broke into the Indian team by scoring 6 centuries in a row, and was probably the last to enter the Indian team through the University route, unlike present players who often entered through the IPL route.

Sanjay Manjrekar started by speaking about the influence Dilip Sardesai had on Bombay cricket and how he used to enjoy his role as a selector of Junior teams, deriving full job satisfaction from the same. His 1 month clinics taught entire generations of players focus and discipline and converted national level players to international level ones. He said that Sardesai used to hate it when players were casual in approach and he used to admonish them in his own inimitable way.

In his hardhitting keynote speech, Sanjay spoke about his cricket journey. He said that his initial years in the Indian team was not a very happy period since there was division in the team and the spectre of match fixing also hovered around. The Indian team was always in self doubt in contrast to the Pakistan team led by Imran Khan.

Sanjay with a chuckle then said that currently the situation has been reversed, with current Pakistan team, a bit like old Indian team.

Sanjay went on to say that earlier Indian players were happy with a hundred or a fiver and it was all about Individual glory and winning was incidental. Sourav Ganguly (Dada)  changed the scenario and not just guaranteed a “squeaky clean” Indian team but a “team India” where the team was united. Coincidentally, one of Dada’s 1st interviews as captain was to Rajdeep and Dada guaranteed a clean Indian team under his captaincy. Sanjay also said that with players like Sehwag, Sachin, Rahul and VVS Laxman who had no fear of pace, bounce and swing, the team’s performances improved. However there was still a bit of insecurity in the team an example of which was bowling 1st in the 2003 cricket final which was a costly mistake.

According to Sanjay, this insecurity was removed when Dhoni took over. Self-confidence improved , the anxiety was gone and most importantly, Indian teams chased better. He brought calmness and India under Dhoni was a formidable team since the team did not panic unlike earlier teams as nerves started to disappear. Another important aspect where the team improved was running between the wickets. Sanjay termed the 2011 World cup win very impressive since pressure of expectations were met, as playing at home and winning was extremely difficult with enormous skyhigh expectations, as he himself had realised with the 1996 team bowing out in the semi-finals.

Sanjay ended with saying that for the game to improve, certain drastic measures had to be taken like encouraging day-night test cricket as a measure to bring crowds back into the game and discouraging time wasting tactics like numerous water-breaks for instance, which affects over-rates which was anti paying-public. He gave the example of the Asia Cup where there was 40 minutes extra time which he termed as taking the public for granted. Sanjay wondered if a tennis type system could be started to make the game faster. Sanjay also said that India needed to improve its overseas Test record and with focus on T20 and IPL it was getting difficult to get quality players for test matches, as players are training themselves for white-ball cricket and not red ball cricket.

However Sanjay ended on an optimistic note by saying that test cricket in India has a good future and it was heartening that the biggest brand Virat Kohli loves test cricket and has his heart and soul behind success in test cricket. Sanjay once again repeated that day-night test cricket was a must and the bull had to be taken by the horns. What is good for the game has to be done and not what is good for the players. He accepted that he himself was a player and players often think about the present only but it was for the authorities to take decisions if required, overruling the players.

Sanjay finally ended by saying that “If what is good for the fan is thought about, then we will be somewhat ok.”

The Strange case of Karun Nair

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The 2 Test series versus West Indies at home is starting on 4th October and the selectors deserve Kudos for finally getting new talents like Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal in the squad. There had been a feeling that once again Shikhar Dhawan’s ODI success would get him yet another chance and same with Rohit Sharma. However the selectors resisted that temptation.

What is however extremely inexplicable and baffling is why Karun Nair is not in the squad. Especially since he was in the squad for the tough 3 month tour of England and did not play a single match. How does one drop a player without giving him the chance to show his mettle, or lack of it .

Let us take the background behind Karun Nair’s selection for the England series. It was an extended 18 member team for only three tests and while there was back up for all including wicket-keeper, opener, spinners and pace bowlers, for the middle order too it was Karun Nair who was the back up and who replaced Rohit Sharma in the squad. The series did not proceed too well and mid-course correction was required after three tests. However while an opener Murali Vijay was dropped and an opener Prithvi Shaw selected, strangely a batsman Hanuma Vihari was selected for the dropped spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

Even more strangely it was Hanuma Vihari who played a Test match and not the 1st choice in the squad Karun Nair. This goes against all conventional logic.

Let us go back earlier to Karun Nair’s start in international cricket. In domestic cricket Karun was very successful with an average of over 55. He became only the 1st batsman to score a 300 in a Ranji trophy final in 68 years, after Baroda’s Gul mohammed versus Holkar. In the previous Ranji season he had a successful outing with 2 centuries in back to back knockout matches and 3 back to back centuries overall. 1st class success was the reason for his entry to the Indian team, and at 23-24, youth was on his side as well.

Karun started his test career by getting run out for 4 and then having a low score of only 13 in his 2nd innings in his 2nd test match. However in just his 3rd Test match , in his 3rd test innings, Karun slammed an unbeaten 303. England had scored a normally safe 477, but Karun’s knock took India to a 282 run lead, and as it turned out, to an unlikely win- considering England’s substantial 1st innings total. Karun was the man of the match and became only the 3rd player to convert his maiden test ton into a 300, joining legend Garry Sobers and former Aussie captain Bob Simpson.

Unfortunately however Karun was dropped the test after he scored a 300, becoming the 1st ever player to miss the next test for reasons other than injury. Andy Sandham (car accident), Len Hutton (injury) and Inzamam (injury) had missed it for injury reasons. However Karun was certainly unlucky. The player coming back from injury, Ajinkya was preferred over him. Various examples were cited including the famous example of Stuart Law who played only one test innings of 54 not out before giving way to Ricky Ponting. There was a crucial difference. There is a difference between a 54 and a 300, a feat done only 30 times in over 2000 Test matches played so far.

Karun did get a chance later but scores of 26, 0,23 and 5 versus Australia over 3 test matches saw him dropped from the Indian team. It did seem after Rohit Sharma’s failures which led him to be dropped from the team to England that Karun’s career will get a fresh start, but as detailed above, that was not to be.

Harbhajan Singh has joined those who have criticised Karun’s sacking. To Espn-Cricinfo Bhajji queried ” How can a person sitting on the bench for three months become so bad that he is not good enough to remain in the squad? Trust me, I am at pains to understand the thinking of this selection committee and the parameters that they are using for selecting national squads.”

Dilip Vengsarkar , a former Selection committee chairman himself also termed the dropping of Karun as baffling. The Colonel termed Vihari being flown in and referred to Karun as most demeaning and unfair. Calling the entire case quite intriguing he said  that only the “wise men of Indian cricket can explain why such a treatment is being meted out to a test triple centurian.”

To compound the confusion, while Karun said that neither the team management nor the selectors have communicated with him. However Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad says that he elaborately spoke to Karun and also told him the ways of getting back to the test team. Now what can that be- score runs, obviously. However why was he dropped without getting a chance to prove his worth. That question has been deftly side-stepped. MSK also said that in a home series, he did not want Karun to be in the squad without playing . Why not ? What is wrong with that. Rather that is the reason a squad is selected so that the best playing 11 can be chosen from players of a squad , keeping in mind pitch conditions etc.

Latest is that there is a rumour floating around that Karun has attitudinal problems. If so, the same may please be confirmed or denied by the team management.

 MSK finally says that Karun is very much in the scheme of things for test matches and as of now “we have advised him to focus on performing in domestic and India A matches Easier said than done, Mr Chairman. Please understand a simple point- You dont drop anyone without giving him a chance to prove himself.


Review of Laver Cup 2018

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The Laver Cup had made its debut in September 2017. The tournament, a tennis equivalent of the Ryder Cup and named after the great Rod Laver was a contest between Team Europe, captained by Bjorn Borg and team World captained by John Mcenroe. Once Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal signed up, interest in the tournament was pretty high. Two important aspects of the tournament are firstly that instead of a deciding 3rd set, there is a tiebreaker ending at 10 points if players are locked at one set all and secondly, the tournament allows on-court coaching The inaugural edition was won by team Europe.

Lets have an indepth look at the 2018 tournament.

Since the inaugural edition was hosted in Europe, the 2018 event was hosted by team World in the windy city, Chicago, USA.

As in 2017, Bjorn Borg and John Mcenroe were captains in 2018 too. This of course had been predecided as it had been stated that they would be captains for the 1st three editions. Novak Djokovic joining team Europe strengthened it, with the full team being Roger, Novak, Sascha Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and Kyle Edmund. Team World was unlucky that in form player and US Open finalist DelPo opted out at last moment just like last year. The final composition of Team World was Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Diego Schwartzman, Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe.

If we compare from last year, the changes in team Europe  were Dimitrov, Goffin and Edmund in for Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych. For team World, Denis Shapovalov and Sam Querrey were replaced by Kevin Anderson and Diego Schwartzman.

In 2017 the points format had ensured that interest remains till the very last match in which Roger Federer defeated Kyrgios to ensure Europe wins the inaugural Laver Cup. That is due to a cleverly designed points format whereby though 4 matches are played every year, day 1 matches have 1 point each, day 2 matches have 2 points each and day 3 matches have 3 points each. Technically even if a team wins all 8 matches in 1st 2 days then too it will have 12 points and the 3rd day match remains relevant. The format having a deciding tie-breaker instead of a deciding third set increases the odds of an “upset”. Points format being such, it was expected that in 2018 too interest will remain till the end.

Day 1 saw team Europe win all their three singles but then team World wrested the doubles. The singles wins were by Dimitrov, Edmund and Goffin who won against Tiafoe, Sock and Schwartzmann respectively. Dimitrov had an easy straight sets win but Edmund and Goffin won tight tiebreaks against their opponents. Then came the match all had been looking for, Roger and Novak playing doubles together for the first time in their careers just like Roger and Rafa had played together for the first time last year. However while Roger and Rafa had won last year, this year Roger and Novak lost to Anderson and Sock, with the team world duo winning the tie-break at 10-6. Day one ended with team Europe leading 3-1 on points.

Day 2 started with Sascha winning a tough match against Isner and Federer winning easily against Nick. At that point of time team Europe was leading 7-1 and was comfortable since they had a Novak match after that. However Kevin put up a terrific performance to defeat the reigning Wimbledon and US Open Champion 10-6 in the tie-break. Thereafter Kyrgios and Sock combined perfectly to win easily in straight sets against Dimitrov and Goffin. Day 2 ended with team Europe leading 7-5.

An aside was that in the Roger-Nick match, captain John Mcenroe and Nick combined to grill the umpire for quite some time after a call went Roger’s way. It was Mcenroe of old, asking questions after questions, with some questions fired even before a reply to a question had come. The volatile Nick also joined the party as well. Ultimately however the players got back to tennis. Interestingly, this tournament has the special feature of allowing “coaching” while matches are on, which makes the role of captains Borg and Mcenroe even more important.

Day 3 had the intriguing spectacle of Bjorn Borg opting to make Roger Federer play back to back matches, a doubles followed by a singles match.  While it may seem strange , with a bit of a second look , it actually makes sense to play back to back matches rather than playing, cooling down and then warming up again. The first match was doubles with Roger and Sascha taking on Isner and Sock, and then there would be back to back matches with Roger and Isner fighting it out in singles. There was speculation that if Roger won both the matches he was featured in, then the last tow matches would be redundant.

However, in a stunning performance team world took the doubles for world to take a 8-7 lead.  Isner and Roger then played breathtaking power tennis and it was Isner who had 2 match points, once on Roger’s serve and then on his as well. Roger’s experience saw him through the scare and then in the tie breaker it was Roger who prevailed, mainly due to his experience. Europe were back on top at 10-8. Now equations were simple. Europe needed to win one of the remaining two matches, and Sascha lifted himself up to shut Kevin out making the last match between Novak and Kyrgios redundant. Europe by reaching 13 points had retained the Laver Cup.

What next for the tournament ? It is already big, and the challenge will be how to sustain it. For the next couple of years with the big 3 around, it should not be a problem but then it will require a fresh bit of energy and adrenalin. As regards the coaches/captains, there should be no problem with greats like Sampras, Courier, Becker, Edberg and more waiting. Who knows, in future we may see Federer and Rafa as captain of team Europe and that itself will give the tournament an impetus. With exciting players like Coric, De Minaur, Chung, Denis, Tiafoe and more coming up, that too should help.

As of now it seems that Laver Cup is here to stay.


Lata Didi’s cricket connect;Happy birthday to the Nightingale of India.

Image result for lata sachin pics

The Nightingale of India Lata Mangeshkar, popularly called Lata Didi turns 89 today. India has two passions, movies and cricket, and Lata didi has a very close association with cricket as well.

On her birthday, I bring to you some trivia on her great love for the game of cricket.

India 1st won the world Cup in 1983. Urban legend has it that before the final, Lata didi hosted a dinner for the Indian team, who were popularly called Kapil’s devils. Reportedly she watched the finals at Lords, which was won by India stunning the Clive Lloyd led West Indian team who were overwhelming favorites and captain Kapil Dev also invited her to have a dinner at the team hotel.

While the above is anecdotal and may not have happened, it is certainly a fact that BCCI wanted to honour the cricketers but those days was short of money. It was Lata didi who performed free at a concert and 20 Lakhs was raised and every team member was given 1 Lakh each. Those days there was not much money in cricket and 1 Lakh was a big sum of money. In contrast, the players of Dhoni’s 2011 World Cup winning team got 2 crores each.

Earlier too Didi had shown her interest in cricket so many times, as had her illustrious sister Asha Bhosle. She and Asha Tai visited Mumbai’s iconic Taj hotel after India’s historic 1978-79 win versus Pakistan and gave goodies to the Indian team led by Sunil Gavaskar. Both sisters had also hosted the Indian team at her residence earlier too in the 1960’s when Pakistan had visited Mumbai, and yesteryear cricketers fondly remember the two legendary singers serving the food themselves. Didi was also a regular for India’s matches at Brabourne.

Didi has a special relationship with Sachin Tendulkar whom she considers her son and he too calls her mother. To quote Lata didi “Sachin treats me like his mother and I always pray for her like a mother. I can never forget the day when he called me ‘aai’ (mother) for the first time. I had never imagined that. It was pleasant surprise for me and I feel blessed to have a son like him,” 

Much before the cricketer got a Bharat Ratna (in 2014) which she had got in 2011, she used to publicly always say that he deserved one. Sachin’s birthday , on 24th April is her dad’s death anniversary and hence it is always a sadness for her that on Sachin’s special day of  happiness, she cant meet him.

The 2018 IPL Final was held at Mumbai but Sachin was missing in the stadium. Later he revealed in his tweet on May 28 that he and his wife Anjali watched it with Lata didi at her residence.

As MP, Didi did not take a single rupee as salary or a house in New Delhi. Similarly Sachin too did not take a house in New Delhi and donated his entire MP Salary of 90 Lakhs to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

The pic above in this blog is of Lata didi presenting Sachin with a photo frame with lyrics of two of her best songs , “Tu jahaan, jahaan chalega” and “Piya tose naina laage re”. (Pic courtesy NDTV Sports). Sachin said on the occasion that he was moving into a new house and and wanted for his music room to have some kind of article which Didi had used, and that she was always his silent companion, especially abroad as he always used to listen to music in his playing days. Sachin presented Didi with an signed tee shirt. This was at a function hosted in political leader Raj Thackeray’s house and he said that he was fortunate to have hosted the two Bharat Ratna’s together.

There is another common connect between Lata didi and Sachin. While Didi was a very close friend of Raj Singh Dungarpur, he also played an important role in Sachin’s career as well.

Not just Sachin, Didi has always, through her twitter handle encouraged match winning performances of Indian stars, such as VVS Laxman and current captain Virat Kohli. As recently as last month, in her tweet on Aug 2, 2018, she praised Virat for his brilliant test ton versus England in England. Earlier she had praised Rahul Dravid, blessed Yuvraj Singh when he was unwell with the dreaded disease and congratulated him on his return to the Indian team.  As recently as 4 days back, in her tweet on 24th September she praised the batting of our Asia Cup openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.

Happy Birthday Lata Didi.


Happy Birthday Dev Anand

Happy Birthday Dev AnandDev Anand popularly called Dev saab is one of the most popular romantic heroes in the history of the Indian film industry. Born as Dharam Dev Anand in Shakargarh tehsil of Gurdaspur district in Punjab, initially Dev Saab, after a graduation in English literature from Lahore briefly worked in a military censors office and also as a clerk in an accounting firm before entering films.

His 1st film Hum Ek Hain was as a hero which was in 1946 when he was just 23. He acted in a total of 114 movies and was hero in a record 104 , later broken by Rajesh Khanna who had 106 movies as hero. At 26, he launched Navketan films. Navketan means Newness in Sanskrit, and throughout his career he discovered various actors who went on to become established stars.

Today on his birthday let us reminiscence some rare trivia about this lovable romantic hero, two of the top heroines whom he had launched, namely Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim, his great love of his life Suraiya and how he married his wife Kalpana Kartik.

Zeenat Aman’s 1st film was technically OP Ralhan’s Hulchul, but it was Dev Saab who lauched her to super-stardom with the role of Janice in “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” and the iconic RD Burman song “Dum maaro Dum“. Dev Saab during the shooting of his film Prem Pujari in Nepal had seen a hippie girl puffing a cigarette and this gave him the inspiration for the role of Janice. Dev originally wanted his heroine in Prem Pujari and in Gambler, Zaheeda ( niece of Nargis Dutt) to play the role but she refused as she found it too westernised. This was Zeenat’s luck and destiny. Sadly, Zaheeda’s career went nowhere after this.

Later Zeenat kept getting sister roles as she was Dev’s sister in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Dev asked her to be patient and later gave her a heroine’s role in Heera Panna and also Ishq Ishq Ishq, which was also one of the earliest movies of Shabana Azmi in her 1st year in films. Zeenat never looked back and stepped on the escalator to success.

Tina Munim was introduced by Dev saab in Des pardes. This movie also introduced music director Rajesh Roshan with Amit Khanna as lyricist. The team was repeated in Man Pasand, a film dedicated to George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, though Dev Saab said it was inspired by My Fair Lady. Lootmaar was another movie where the successful team of Dev Saab, Tina Munim, Rajesh Roshan and Amit Khanna were together. Lootmaar was inspired by Dev Anand reading news of frequent theft, dacoity and crimes in newspapers and getting an idea to make a movie on it.  Urban legend has it that Tina Munim had a Mujra dance in the movie which was edited and left her fuming as she had worked very hard for it and in anger she walked out of Swami Dada. 

Zeenat and Tina Munim were not his only discoveries and there were many more like Richa Sharma, Tabu and Mink.

Suraiya, who was called the Mallika-e-tarannum was a superstar in her own right. In an era where male actors used to charge Rs 75000/- per movie, as a playback singer and actor she used to charge Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh per movie.

Dev Saab and Suraiya fell in love when on the sets of the film Vidya , during the shooting of the song  “Kinaare kinaare chale jayenge” the boat overturned and Dev Saab rescued her. However they could not get married due to opposition from her orthodox family. He had even given her a diamond ring worth Rs 3000/- which was a huge sum of money in 1950, and she accepted it happily but later her grandmother threw the ring into the sea. Dev Saab and Suraiya acted in several movies together and she was so much in love with him that she allowed some of her songs to be sung by Lata didi so that she could spend some more time with him. Suraiya was a big fan of Gregory Peck and Dev Saab used to copy Peck to make her happy. Sadly, due to her grandmother’s opposition they could not get married. In her sadness she never married and even quit singing and acting, except for a solitary return to films for Mirza Ghalib. 

Dev Saab too was very sad and Chetan Anand counselled him and asked him to move on in life. Dev Saab later got married to Kalpna Kartik in 1954 while shooting for the film Taxi Driver. Her real name was Mona Singha and the name Kalpna Kartik was given to her by Chetan Anand. It was a simple ceremony and they slipped away in lunch time  of a shoot-day to get married.  Dev Saab told her that his idea of a romantic holiday was that they will be alone , with no one near them and even the cooking will be done by him.

Readers may be thinking why so much discussion on his heroines and not on the hero itself. Its because the theme of this article is “Romantic Dev Anand”.

Happy Birthday Dev Saab.

( This blog has also been published by the leading website koimoi.com)