On choking and the South African cricket team.

Vikram Sathaye, a terrific cricket humorist and author of the book “How Sachin destroyed my life” is an excellent mimic. In one of his mimicry of Mohammed Azharuddin interviewed by Geoff Boycott, he asks “So Azhar, whats the Plan?” and he replies in Azhar’s typical style “Not much, bat well, bowl well, field well”.

It would be wishful thinking if playing international cricket and winning matches is so easy. Rather, often despite best efforts one is not able to bat, bowl and field well and ends up squandering a winning position to what is said “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” This situation is often termed as Choking.

Generally speaking, choking in sports is when a team is in a winning position in a match but then proceeds to lose it. A less common variant could be if a team is in a neutral position but then instead of extending and proving its domination to go to a winning position loses its way to be in  an inferior position to what it was expected to be.

The cricket team which is most associated with choking is South Africa (SA) The first time the term choking became popularly associated with the South African team was in the 1999 World Cup Semi Finals at Birmingham against SA. Shaun Pollock’s 5-36 was largely instrumental in restricting Australia to 213. However Shane Warne took 4 wickets and the final over saw SA needing 9 runs with one wicket in hand. Lance klusener smashed 2 boundaries in the 1st 2 balls off Damien Fleming and SA suddenly needed only 1 run with 4 balls left. White Lightning Allan Donald survived a run out but again in the very next ball was once again run out, resulting in a tie. Australia proceeded to the Final as they had finished higher in the Super 6 Stages.

Prior to this match too , many years earlier, SA had shown signs of choking. Once was as early as 1993 in the Hero Cup Semi Final against India in front of a huge Eden Gardens crowd. The target was only 195 but the South Africans messed it up. Finally in the last over, with 2 wickets left SA needed 6 for a win with the big allrounder Brian Macmillan at the crease, but at the non-strikers end. Fanie de Villiers took a single and should have stayed put to give Brian the strike but he went for a second run and ran himself out. Allan Donald could not take a single run in the next 3 balls and only managed a single in the 5th. Macmillan needed a 4 in the last ball but could only take a single , leaving India with a 3 run win.

I will give 2 more examples of SA choking when in sight of a win. In the 1st Test match of the 2013-14 series at the New Wanderers Stadium, Johannessburg, India had set a huge target of 466. Centuries by AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis took SA close to what seemed a certain win. At one stage they were 402 for 4 with 48 required in 13 overs with both ABD and Faf at the crease. Inexplicably they lost 3 more wickets and could not close it out, finishing at 450/7. Later in a bizarre press conference South African skipper Smith said that the Indian team did not show enough desire for a win and the Indian team spokesman Virat Kohli (who missed a golden chance for tons in both innings of the same Test) also said that he was shocked that the SA team did not try for a win.

The final example is of yet another World Cup, this one in home conditions where one can say South Africa choked in the dressing room. It was conveyed to Mark Boucher that as per D/L method 6 was required for a win and he hit a massive 6 and raised his arms in celebration and blocked the next ball to walk off when the rains poured down. Sadly, 7 was required and the wrong communication meant that once again SA , in consecutive World Cups had messed it up to convert a sure win to a tie.

With these examples let us analyse what exactly is choking. As said earlier, a team cannot close out a win.

Why ?

Firstly. one thinks too much. One gets anxious. Accordingly the bowling suddenly appears more penetrative and batting appears more difficult. There is pressure, there is nerves and choking may happen. The solution- Dont think much. When Australia scored 434, Kallis told his teammates, Hey this is 1 450 pitch , they are 15 short. A hungover Herschelle Gibbs smashed his way to 175 to help South Africa to an epic win.

Next is lack of communication. If one sees the video of Klusener blasting Damien Fleming for 2 boundaries in that famous 1999 match at Edgbaston, one can see that both Klusener and Donald are in their respective creases. Hence there were 2 consecutive run out chances and one fructified, to the horror of the batting side. Proper communication would have helped, and also calmed down nerves. So also when Boucher lost the plot and defended  a delivery after assuming they had won after hitting a 6, it was an example of improper communication.

Overexpectations is linked to thinking too much. One has huge expectations especially when one is a highly ranked team with lots of match-winners. Translating that into actual winning becomes difficult.

Finally, past history plays a role. Every South African team will be having the burden of previous ‘chokes’ or ‘meltdowns’ and it will be weighing their mind, whether they are batting or bowling or even fielding. Such burden is not conducive  to putting in match winning performances.

Currently, the Number 1 ODI team in the world , South Africa has crashed out of yet another ICC Tournament, the ongoing Champions Trophy. They will be looking forward to regroup, plan and make a charge at winning the 2019 world cup.

Sadly, till they dont win a major tournament, the “chokers” tag will remain with them.




Why Baahubali is a must watch

Baahubali; the Beginning was released on 10th July 2015 and was seen by millions across the globe. I was not one of them- till after Baahubali-Part 2 ( Baahubali-the Conclusion) was released on 28th April 2017.

Consequently it seems strange that I am now advocating that Baahubali-Part 2 is a must watch. My interest arose when some close friends, who are otherwise most stable and relaxed calm persons passionately and repeatedly praised the movie with gay abandon. The question “Why Katappa killed Bahubali?” I had heard for 20 months now and I had ignored. Ultimately i did become curious as to who is Katappa, who is Bahubali and why the former killed the latter. Well, to know that, one would have to see “Bahubali Part 2” or rather “Bahubali the Conclusion”.

Hence i decided to watch Baahubali-2 and to understand it better I saw Baahubali-1 on 30th April 2017. I loved it and immediately followed it up by seeing Baahubali-2 in the theatre the very next day. I loved it too and strongly feel it is a must watch.

Why ? Read on.


Bahubali -2 is grand. Its magnificent. This is a fantasy drama which showcases the magnificent kingdom of Mahismati. I do not think anything grander has been seen like this in Indian cinema so far. This indeed is India’s Lord of the Rings and the visuals are stunning and will remain in memory for a long time.

Marvellous and breathtaking fights. 

While the fights are violent, they are glorious and spectacular. There is both combat in its most primitive form of one gladiator assaulting another with full fury and geeting hit backed at with redoubled vigour by the opponent. There is also use of strategy and guile. Finally, David vs Goliath has always been a tale of fascination, and here too one sees the outnumbered taking on numerically superior and powerful opponent with planning and strategy.

Prabhas and Rana Dagubatti. 

No action movie is watchable unless one has not only a tough hero but an equally tough, if not tougher villain. Prabhas plays the role of both Amarendra Baahubali as well as Mahendra Baahubali and it is an amazing performance. Rana Dagubatti as the powerful Bhalla exudes menace and hostility. He also has an air of invincibility which makes the final fight between him and Mahendra a much anticipated one. The special effects, i assure you is enthralling and does not disappoint at all.

Film has it all

The movie has it all, Adventure, romance, love, betrayal, conspiracy, valour, weakness, deception and much more. It is a roller coaster ride of enjoyment.

Anushka Shetty. 

Anushka as the beautiful warrior princess Devasena steals the show as well. Not only does she look good, she fights magnificently too. It is a terrific performance by her.

Why did Katappa Kill Baahubali

This is the most important question for the last 20 months and the answer is revealed in Part 2. Why will a loyal and devoted follower kill the person he loves more than anything else in the world. See the movie to know, and i assure you that the Director has crafted the story well.

For all these reasons and more, go and see Baahubali 2. This is the biggest ever movie made in India and promises to be the biggest ever hit as well. It is India’s 1st movie to make 1000 crores. and still counting.

Go and see it in the theatres and be a part of history, while you are having an enjoyable three hours as well

Thanks a lot Rajamouli Ji. Looking forward to see you make the Mahabharata. I feel only you can do justice to this Epic.

Amazing and Great Cricketing Families

Dynasty politics is looked down open , since it the perception is that nepotism , rather than ability plays the prominent role. However sport is democratic and almost always ability decides whether someone can successfully go on to play Test matches.

A great player can be the son or father of an ordinary player. For instance the greatest batsman of all time Don Bradman’s father George was a club level cricketer while his son John played only schools cricket. However Cricket also has several instances of gifted families where more than one family member played at the highest level with distinction.

Lets take a look at some of them with a slightly more detailed writeup about the most famous of them all- the Mohammed Family, and a brief mention of a few more.

1 The Mohammad Family

Incredibly, 4 brothers, Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq played for Pakistan.  The 5th brother, Raees too was 12th man in a Test match. The previous evening their dictatorial Captain Kardar had said Raees was playing but the skipper changed his mind the next day. Interestingly the 4 brothers say that Raees was the most stylish batsman among the brothers.

Eldest brother Wazir known as Wisden for his fascination for cricket trivia played 20 Tests. He scored a crucial 42 not out in Pakistan’s 1st win over England in England. Pakistan were just 85 ahead with 8 wickets down. Wazir’s 42 helped them set a target of 168 which was enough for their talismanic fast bowler Fazal.

The original “Little Master” Hanif played 55 Tests and scored 3915 runs with 12 hundreds including a match saving 337 vs West Indies at Bridgetown which is the longest Test innings in history and the only second innings Test Triple century. He also scored a 499 in 1st class, a record later broken by Lara with 501. Hanif’s son Shoaib too played  test cricket (45) with 7 tons. His grandson Shehzar, at 25 has played 1st class cricket for 7 years now.

Mushtaq played 57 Tests for 10 tons and also took 79 wickets with his legbreak spin. Supposedly the most talented of the brothers, Mushtaq was a very successful county cricketer with more than 30000 1st class runs, 72 hundreds, and 900 plus wickets.

Sadiq was a right handed batsman who was converted to a left handed one to increase his chances of Test selection. He had 5 tons in his 41 Test matches. Being a short and compact left-hander Sadiq was compared to the great Neil Harvey

Incredibly, for 89 consecutive Tests ( and 100 out of 101 consecutive Tests) and 27 years at least one  Mohd family member was in Pakistan’s Test squad.

2 Grace Family

WG Grace and his Brothers Edward Grace and Fred Grace who are called the “Three Graces” played Test cricket for England. However Edward and Fred played only one Test each.  WG of course is one of the greatest players in the history of the game and played 1st class cricket for 44 years. Incredibly all three played in the same Test, and only the Mohd’s and Grace’s have achieved this rare distinction.

3  Chappell Family

Ian and Greg both captained Australia with distinction.  Ian played 75 Tests while Greg played 87. Greg retired at his peak, scoring 182 in his last test innings and being a rare player to score a century on debut and in farewell Test. Trevor Chappell , their younger brother also played 3 Tests for Australia but is more famous for bowling the underarm delivery to Brian Mckechnie on the orders of his brother and Skipper Greg.

Their grandfather Vic Richardson also played 19 Tests for Australia and is one of the few double internationals, having played baseball too for Australia.

4 The Headley’s. Known as Black Bradman, George Headley played just 22 Tests for West Indies but is widely regarded as one of the best batsmen of all time. His son Ron Headley was a fairly successful 1st class cricketer but played just 2 Tests for West Indies. George’s grandson Dean was an useful quick bowler who played 15 Tests for England.

5 Khans and Burkis. Along with the Headley’s the Khans are the only other 3 generation Test Players. While Jahangir Khan played Test cricket for India, his son Majid Khan and gradson Bazid Khan played Test cricket for Pakistan.

The Burkis are a family who produced as many as 40 First class cricketers for Pakistan including 3 national captains, namely Javed Burki, Majid Khan and Imran Khan. All 3 are first cousins and their mothers, Iqbal Bano, Mubarak and Shaukat are own sisters. 3 sisters becoming mother of National Captain is unique , not just for Pakistan but for any country .

6 Amarnaths. Lala Amarnath who scored India’s 1st Test century ( on his debut) is considered one of the legends of Indian cricket. A commentator referred to him and his batting as “Pure romantic, the Byron of Indian cricket”.

Two of his sons Mohinder and Surinder played Test Cricket for India. Mohinder or Jimmy Amarnath is considered one of India’s most gutsy batsmen against fast bowling. He had back to back Man of the match performances in the semi final and final of India’s 1983 World Cup winning campaign. Surinder is considered one of the most talented batsmen with unfulfilled potential. Another son,  Rajinder also played 1st class cricket but not with much success. Surinder’s son, Digvijay at 24 is a current 1st class player.

7. Marsh’es. Geoff Marsh was a gutsy opening batsman who also played an important role in Australia winning the 1987 Cricket world Cup. His two sons Shaun and Mitchell are currently playing Test cricket for Australia.

Mention must be made also of Legendary wicketkeeper Ian Healy whose niece Alyssa is currently the Aussie Women’s team wicketkeeper and is married to Australia’s premier fast bowler Mitchell Starc. There are many other brothers who have played together like Michael and David Hussey, Brett and Shane Lee, Mark and Steve Waugh, Some famous father son pair to play Test cricket are Vijay and Sanjay manjrekar, Chris and Stuart Broad, Peter and Shaun Pollock, Mickey and Alec Stewart, Walter and Richard Hadlee , Vinoo and Ashok Mankad, Lance and Chris Cairns

Can add to the List?. Looking forward to your inputs.

Encourage domestic tourism please

Mr DK Das is a well known retired IRS officer. He was the cadre-controlling Chief Commissioner of Income Tax in Kolkata and I was privileged to work as his Dy Commissioner (DC) Headquarters. One everlasting memory i have is of more than 12 years back. A fellow DC asked for a weeks leave. Sir asked him, “What have you written as the reason for requiring leave.? The officer hesitantly said “Rest and Recreation, Sir. Why Sir, anything amiss, Should i amend the reason.”?

Mr Das said “absolutely not. I am very happy. Recreation means recreate, the rest will help you recreate ourself and while you are an excellent officer this leave for much needed rest and recreation will have you rejuvenated and recreated”

What does this mean? Simple. Man needs to take off once in a while to recharge batteries. While exotic international holidays are not possible for all, but surely there are mini-breaks available which will suit all budgets and tastes. The answer is in Domestic Tourism a solution which is there in front of us but we normally fail to see it, or we deliberately do not want to.

Domestic tourism as distinguished from foreign tourism is having holidays within the country. It is an essential aspect of tourism and has tremendous potential. This is because there is no need for passport/visa, conversion of currency, extra and temporary insurance. One simply notes the time one has, decides the budget and makes a move. It can be on short notice as well, sometimes within hours.

Domestic tourism can be divided into the following categories;

Local Tourism– Have we taken a look at the various places of tourism interest in the place we live. One will be surprised to find out that maybe one has not. It is a good idea to find out more and visit these few places one by one. Say you are in Mumbai or Bhubaneswar or San Francisco or Atlanta. Have u seen the places in your city. Make a list and start ticking off one by one.

Regional Tourism. The next stage is regional tourism. Explore your State. There will certainly be many places of interest which you have never seen. For instance i have heard that there is a book 52 Getaways for 52 weekends in Mumbai. This means there are various nearby places where one can go for a day or two. Out of 52 even if 15 is covered in a 3-4 year stay wont it be nice ? Similar story for wherever you are located, be it Orissa or California.

National Tourism. Here one takes a train or a flight and goes to another state. Of course, in USA this too is often done by road due to the marvelous infrastructure and roads. However in India one can fly to various holiday destinations and the most popular probably are Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari there are many wonderful holiday destinations which one can choose to relax and unwind.

Now how can domestic tourism be encouraged and what are the factors which can lead to growth in domestic tourism. Some of them are as follows;

Good Roads. This is of utmost importance. Roads should not only be good, they should have facilities like food mall on the way, signs everywhere so that even in GPS era, the motorist is convenienced, good rest rooms, fuel pumps and so on. There should also be signs that the distance to the next food stop and fuel pump is such and such kilometer. People should be encouraged to stop only in these designated stops and nowhere else. Highway police should ensure this is implemented strictly so that people feel secure.

Culture of promoting tourism by locals. The local population should realise that tourism will help them and they in turn should encourage domestic tourists as well.

I remember 2 incidents of more than 20 years back when i and my wife visited Goa. The 1st was when we asked a tiny old lady where we will get a cab for Mapusa. She said if we are not in a hurry we can take a bus since the bus ticket was Rs 12/- while cab fare was Rs 225/- and the bus will take only 20 minutes more and moreover she was going there and would ensure we reached safely. Now Rs 213/- was a big sum of money 20 years back and we jumped at the offer. The second was when we wanted to have a bus tour and there was only one seat/ticket left. The local Guide said hop in, I will stand and guide you. He actually did. It was wonderful. Wont such culture promote tourism. Definitely, Yes. Such a welcoming culture should be by all locals everywhere.

Culture of asking your Junior why not applying for leave rather than why applying for leave. Often we take pride in “boasting” that “I havent taken leave for 3 years or 5 years”. I too am guilty of this. However it certainly is not anything to be proud of. Rather one should take leave regularly so that one gets back energised and works better for the organisation. One should also encourage others to do so. In any case , in the concept of earned leave, someone else is in charge and hence work continues to be done.

On this topic , one can go on and on, but the above illustrations are I am sure sufficient to raise some thought process on this important area. Tourism is a must to improve the perception of a country worldwide and domestic tourism is a must too which will produce numerous social, cultural and economic benefits and contribute to nation building as a whole.

Let us all do our bit for domestic tourism.

Thanks and looking forward to your feedback.






An open letter to BCCI

Dear BCCI Honchos, there is a 5 day format, an ODI format and a 20-20 format. However there is no 4 day format. So why have 4 day matches. Please take time out to read the following reasons why 4 day matches should be done away with.

The 1st week of the new year 2017 saw 2 enthralling Semi-finals of India’s premier 1st class competition, the Ranji Trophy. Mumbai defeated Tamil Nadu by 6 wickets while Gujarat prevailed over Jharkhand to set up an all West Zone Final for the prestigious Trophy.

Both the semi-finals were 5 day matches, as were the quarter-finals too. The current format of the Ranji Trophy is that the league matches are 4 day matches while the knockouts are 5 day matches. Now thankfully, the knockout stage is of 5 days, or the world would have missed a debut 5th day 100 by young Prithvi Shaw, who became the 2nd youngest debutant centurian for mumbai after a certain Sachin Tendulkar.

Now, my basic premise is that why have 4 day matches at all. That only encourages teams to try for the 1st innings lead. This year for the 1st time we had neutral venues, otherwise 4 day matches often meant for instance that the home team would try to have tailormade pitch for their spinners, so as to increase chances of winning if they needed wins desparately.

That apart, a 4 day match often does not allow a team which has slightly faltered in the 1st innings a chance to have a comeback, as with 1 day and 90 overs less, the other team is tempted to shut out the match after the 1st innings lead is secure. This also means that a dangerous defensive propensity may set in and this often may be difficult to alter in knockout 5 day games and more important, in the test matches.

Ultimately, the Ranji Trophy is meant to prepare the players for Test matches. So why not make the players play 5day matches from the beginning. Imagine how much a player of the 2 finalist teams will gain. He will play as many as 10 matches of 5 days each in the cricket season, counting 7 in the leage level and 3 in the knockout level. Even players of teams who do not qualify for the knockout level will benefit as they will play as many as 7 5 day matches. Ultimately the BCCI will benefit as more test playing players will be available for selection, giving the 5 wise men a wider pool to select from.

Lets take the Mumbai Tamil Nadu Match as a case study. If it had been a 4 day match, it would have ended as a tame draw with Mumbai winning by 1st innings lead. Rather, 5 days led Tamil Nadu to bat boldly and declare at 356/6 and giving Mumbai a 251 run target. Who knows, if Shaw had not scored a ton, and the pitch would have helped the bowlers, TN would have actually had a chance to win. In any case, the match being of 5 days duration increased the interest in it tremendously.

What could be the points against 5 day league matches. Maybe a longer cricket season, maybe fears of less crowds. Well, as it is there are less crowds in 4 day matches as well, so it will not make a major difference. A longer season will only help the players and make them tough and better Test prospects in the future.

BCCI. Go for it. It will mean only 7 more days of cricket for all the teams but could dramatically increase the talent pool for selection of test players. India is the Number 1 test nation as of now, and this could be a way of ensuring India holds on to the Numero Uno rank

2 Declarations from Kohli and Smith. But Who was right?

On the fourth day of the fifth Test against England, India batted on and on, eventually declaring at 7/759. This was India’s highest ever Test score, but that was not the reason for the delayed declaration.

The reason was to provide young Karun Nair a chance to scale the batsman’s equivalent of Mount Everest – scoring a triple century.

Was Indian captain Virat Kohli right in allowing him time to get to 300? Or should he have declared earlier, when Karun was on 250, so as to give India’s bowlers extra time to make a late break-through.

To be fair to Karun, he upped the ante and took just 33 balls to progress from 250 to 300.

The pitch was supposed to be placid. The majority of the pundits were of the opinion that England should have been put in with an hour or so of play. England survived the five overs they had to play. They even survived the first two hours of the fifth day and went in for lunch with all ten wickets left. However afterwards, they spectacularly lost all ten wickets in the next two sessions to lose by an innings. This was the first time any team lost by an innings after putting up 477 in the first innings.

Was Kohli right in allowing his young batsman a chance to reach a triple century?

Sunil Gavaskar in his article before the fifth day’s play had said a few “churlish” questions will be asked, especially if India does not bowl out England, as to why an individual landmark was given importance. However, i feel Kohli was right, even if England had held on for a draw

300s don’t happen often. Only 19 batsmen in Test cricket’s history have scored a 300.The series was already won three-nil. Even if England drew, there was little difference to the overall series result.

If India couldn’t bowl England out in 95 overs, then there was no guarantee that they would get him out in 105-107 overs.

By allowing Karun to reach a triple century, he gave him the rare honour of being only the third batsman, after Sir Garfield Sobers and Bob Simpson, to reach the milestone during their maiden Test ton innings.

The achievement may also give him the confidence to play many more long innings for India, while improving the morale of the entire dressing room.

In contrast, during the first Test between Australia and the West Indies in 2015, captain Steve Smith declared his innings at 4/583 when Adam Voges was 269 not out. This declaration denied his batsman a chance to go in for a historic triple century. However it was in line with the Australian thinking that personal landmarks have no role in a team game.

But i feel Steve Smith was wrong to declare.

Australia were 583/4 in only 114 overs. Their run-rate was over five runs an over. It was not even lunch time on the second day and time was not of the essence.

Adam Voges was 269 not out in 285 balls at a strike rate of 95. His strike rate, in fact, was better than the team’s.

A historic 300 was missed, without any material advantage for the team.

And as things had it, West Indies batted for a combined 106 overs in both innings put together.

It is not that individual landmarks are more important than the team’s interests. They are not, and can never be. However, when the team’s interest is not hampered, there is nothing wrong in allowing a personal landmark. It may lift the morale of the individual and the team, thereby helping team interest overall.

What do u think friends, of these two declarations ?

Is there any such thing as a great Captain?

In football, the coach is the boss, however in cricket, the captain rules the roost.

The skipper makes the crucial decisions from the toss until virtually the last ball of the match.

He also plays a major role in team selection – he is invariably consulted while the team is selected and plays a crucial role in selecting the playing 11. Once the team is selected, the captain makes all the important decisions, like batting order, bowling changes and field placements.

With regards to the captain being a selector, there are contrasting views. Some feel that the captain’s biases get in the way, while a selector will be detached and impartial. Others feel that since it’s the captain who has to deliver the results he should be allowed the players of his choice.

The role of Australian captains over the years makes for interesting study. Allan Border was particular about his players and once reportedly had a heated telephonic discussion when Geoff Marsh was dropped, so much so that he delayed the match by 20 minutes.

Steve Waugh was not interested in being selector, while Ricky Ponting fought his entire career to be a selector but did not succeed. Ironically, when Ponting stepped down Michael Clarke was given the role of both selector and captain, although he stepped down when Australia lost 4 nil to India, and since then the captain is no longer a selector.

In India, while the captain is not a selector, his views are given importance. Earlier selectors in India were even more powerful and in fact took part in panel discussions on TV and wrote much awaited syndicated columns in newspapers.

Currently, the BCCI does not allow selectors to write columns and during both Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s tenure it was apparent that the captain played a very important role in selection. This is justified as the captain is expected to get the results on the field and hence is entitled to get the players of his choice.

The problem is that when it clicks, the captain is praised. When Tom Moody was reportedly not in the Aussie team for 1999 World Cup and Steve Waugh had a long argument with the entire selection committee ending in his selection, it proved a masterstroke, with Moody playing a vital role in Australia regaining the World Cup. In contrast, Sourav Ganguly, who is regarded by many as India’s best ever captain, was severely criticised for selecting Dinesh Mongia over VVS Laxman for 2003 World Cup, for bowling first in the 2003 World Cup final, and for dropping Anil Kumble for that crucial match.

What about other areas where a captain is expected to show leadership skills? First is the Toss. Don Bradman said, “One bats first, or thinks, then bats first.” Sunil Gavaskar said, “Give the first hour to the bowler, next five hours are yours.”

However, of late, the captain has decided to bowl first – if it clicks, he is called brave, although if it doesn’t, and the opposition runs away to a big score, then his decision is criticised bitterly.

Next is batting order. Normally in Test cricket the batting order is more or less certain but in ODIs pinch hitters are often sent in. It may click, may not. Dhoni’s decision to promote himself in 2011 World Cup final was a captaincy masterstroke, after he hit 92 not out, including the winning six, to lift the World Cup.

However, if he had failed, he would have been howled down, as he promoted himself above the in-form Yuvraj Singh, when he himself was not in form.

Bowling changes and field placements are two other important areas. Here too, if the decisions taken by the captain clicks, it is praised and he is termed inspirational. If it doesn’t, then he is shouted down for allowing the game to drift.

Success or failure determines a captain’s legacy. It also shapes his temparement. Dhoni was praised as ‘Captain Cool’, but when his team did badly, the coolness was frizzled. Similarly, Alastair Cook is relaxed, but in the on-going Test series versus India, he has displayed irritation in press conferences.

If a captain has a terrific team, his job is simpler. When Ricky Ponting had Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glenn Mcgrath and Shane Warne as bowlers and a terrific batting line up, including Adam Gilchrist, his record was second to none. But was he a great captain?

In contrast, if a captain doesn’t have such riches, his job is very difficult.

To sum up, a captain is as good as his team and captaincy is an overrated concept.

India-England Series Review

India by winning the 4th Test match versus England at Mumbai have won the Anthony D Mello series 3 Nil with one match to spare. Interestingly the series in England is known as Pataudi trophy. Sharmila Tagore’s request to name the series here as Pataudi trophy was not accepted by BCCI which instead started the Pataudi Annual lecture, a much awaited annual event with Gavaskar,Dravid,Kumble and Laxman as earlier speakers and Farokh Engineer as the speaker in the event scheduled for 13th Jan 2017

A super, clinical performance by team India so far. Lets look at various aspects of the game and how the two teams fared.

Toss. Too often the toss is given huge credit for wins in India. Yes, toss is crucial, but more important is utilising it. India’s wins are even more highly creditable as they lost 3 tosses out of 4. In the 1st test England amassed 537 but India batted well to get a commendable draw. Two of the 3 Test wins were after losing the toss. Especially at Mumbai it was commendable to win after  England put up 400 which is a huge 1st innings score at Wankhede.

Batting. Overall, India batted better as a team. The stark difference of course was Virat who led from the front.  At Mumbai he conjured up a genius 235 on a difficult track to get his side a 231 run lead. At Vizag he scored a century from 22/2 and in the second innings on a dreadful track too he got 81. Virat already has 640runs in the series so far. Pujara is now settled at 3. While Vijay and Rahul too show that they can be a settled opening pair. For India , Rahane had a couple of low scores in this series. However he is too valuable for the Indian team and has shone in adverse circumstances abroad. It is only a matter of time before he shines in India as well. I expect him to score big versus Australia.

Patience to bat long has been a highlight of Indian batting in this series. Both at Rajkot and at Mumbai they played for a long time which always helps in Test cricket. At Rajkot batting for 160 overs helped them get a creditable draw. At Mumbai they outdid that and went on to post 631.

India has performed creditably as regards the lower half of the order. Ashwin, Jadeja and Saha have chipped in with important knocks. Parthiv stepped up as an opener and did well. Jayant scored a century at Number 9 at Mumbai and earlier in the series too had critically important knocks as well. In contrast, England batted reasonably of as regards the top end of the order but not in the lower end. Even at the top, they did not function well as a team except in the 1st test and that helped India win 3 out of 4 Tests.

The bonus batting gain for India has been that their 3 spinners, Ashwin, Jadeja and Yadav batted very well. Ashwin shows assurance and provides comfort. Jadeja is consistently getting 30’s and 40’s. Jayant of course is batting like a proper top order batsman. Apparently he bats at 4 or 5 for Haryana in Ranji trophy and it shows in the composure and confidence he brings to his batting.

One thing India needs to think about for the future is a 3rd opener. Parthiv did the job superbly here, but may not be able to do so overseas. However there is time. Let us see what the 5 wise men think about this issue.

For England, the silver lining is that for 3 years they struggled to find an opening partner and now suddenly both Haseeb Hameed and Keaton jenning have impressed.In fact Duckett too is promising and should be retained in future scheme of things.

However they lack  an effective number 4. Probably Root can now go back to 4, with Cook, Hameed and Jennings at the top 3.

Captaincy. Here too Kohli is ahead. Cook had a chance in the 1st Test but gave India a too difficult task of scoring 310 runs in 53 overs. Probably a target of 270 or so in 65 overs should have been given. Who knows, an attacking Kohli could have taken up the challenge and England could have gone 1 Nil up. That potentially would have changed the course of the series. Cook may have missed the bus there. Virat deserves credit for constant attack and keenly looking for a win.

Bowling. Ashwin has once again shown himself as India’s leading bowler. He now has 247 wickets in 43 Tests, and is on the way to break Dennis Lillee’s record of fastest to 250 in 48 Tests. Indian greats Kapil Dev and Bedi had 25 plus wickets in a series 4 and 3 times each , and now Ashwin  has achieved it 4 times. With Jadeja as 2nd spinner and Jayant as the 3rd the spin attack seems secure. The pace attack too seems settled with Shami, Yadav, Bhuvneswar Kumar and Ishant Sharma available.

What about abroad. Jadeja has been criticised as being ineffective. So maybe he will make way for a 3rd quick abroad, especially as Jayant with his solid batting will be helpful in all conditions. Or possibly India would like to go in for an extra batsman abroad. Time will tell. I expect this Indian team to do well abroad too.

English bowling was severely hampered by lack of an authentic spinner. Moeen Ali was supposed to be their number 1 spinner, but his lack of effectiveness hurt England badly. They also seemed to have gone in for a wrong selection in Mumbai by going in with 4 quicks. A bowler of calibre of Chris Woakes bowling his 9th over when the team had bowled 170 shows how badly this selection had gone wrong. Trott, Cook and Root all admitted that this was a mistake. Jimmy Andersen getting 4 wickets in 3 Tests shows how ineffective the English bowlers were.

Overall, the better team won against a competitive team – in fair conditions.

India has now won 5 consecutive series in a row. Congratulations.

ATP World Tour Finals Preview

The year end ATP World Tour Finals is a much sought after event. It is not a normal tournament but features the world’s top 8 players, divided into 2 groups of 4 each. Out of the 8, 4 proceed for the semifinals, then 2 for the finals and finally one emerges as the Champion.

The Past– The event was 1st known as Masters Grand Prix and started in 1970 with the 1st winner being Stan Smith . The event remained the same for as many as 20 years till 1990. Illustrious winners were Ilie Nastase ( 4 times), Mcenroe (Thrice). Lendl (5 times) and Borg ( Twice).  Edberg, Connors, Becker, Manuel Orantes, Vilas and Stan Smith won once each.

From 1990 to 1999 the event was known as the ATP Tour World Championships and the event winners were Sampras ( 5 times), Becker (twice), and Agassi, Stich and Alex Corretza once each.

From 2000 to 2008 It was known as the Tennis Masters Cup, and while Federer won it 4 times, Hewitt won it twice and Djokovic, Nalbandian and Kuerten won it once each. Thereafter from 2009 it is known as the ATP World tour Finals and of the 7 events so far, there are only 3 winners, Djokovic 4 times, Federer 2 times and a surprise winner in Davydenko in 2009.

No surprises that on checking the stats for the event that Federer has the record for maximum entries , as many as 14, with 10 Finals entries. Next were Agassi (13), Lendl (12) and Becker, Connors and Sampras (11 each). Federer has won the event 6 times, maximum for any player. Next is Djokovic, Lendl and Sampras with Five wins each. A big surprise is that 14 time Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal has not won it once even, and this is one of the few, if not only blemish of his glittering career. The player with 2nd most Finals is Lendl with 9, with 5 wins and 4 runners up. Lendl’s record is even more incredible as he played all 9 Finals in a row. Sampras too has 5 wins and 3 runners up, while Djokovic has won all the 5 finals which he has played.

The future– Barclays has confirmed that after 2016 they will not continue as sponsors, and the event will have to find a new sponsor. I do not foresee that as a major crisis as the event is much sought after, both by players and spectators, including the valuable TV audience.

The present- This year, both  Federer and Nadal are not there which is a big blow to the event. Federer of course is ranked 16th and in case was not qualifying. However Nadal, was very much there even though he had the worst year of his career. He however opted out to concentrate on 2017 and Thiem got lucky.

The final line up is as folows;

Andy Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic, Monfils, Thiem and Cilic.

Murray, Wawrinka, Monfils and Cilic are in 1 group while Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic and Thiem are in the other. This works both ways for Djokovic. While his semi final entry may be easier then he will on the other hand have to defeat both Murray and wAWrinka in consecutive matches. It will be a tough task.

If one looks at the 8, only Djokovic has won it earlier. However now suddenly, after seeming to be invincible for almost 2 years he has suddenly seemed disinterested on court and has lost 3 tournaments in a row early. One of them was to Cilic , and it is pertinent that he had as many as 14 consecutive wins over the big server without a single loss.

In Contrast, Murray seems to be in the form of his life, and has captured the world number 1 ranking after a huge span of 666 weeks in which federer, nadal and djokovic had monopolised it. The only small query is that the last 4 wins , including the Wimbledon final is against opponents other than Djo, but well, that certainly is not the Scots fault if Nole loses out earlier than the final. The fact is that Andy Murray looks fit and confident.

The other 6 contenders make for an interesting combination. Any one of them can create mini upsets but apart from Wawrinka i have my doubts as to whether they can go on to win the tournament.

So, let the tournament begin. We will soon see if we have a new 1st time winner in any of the 7 apart from Djo. Or will it be Djo who will shrug off his recent indifferent performances to lift his 6th crown.

There is motivation for both Murray and Djo in the sense that the winner will end the year as Number 1 , and year ending Number 1 is one of the milestones as well for a tennis player. Will that be that little bit of spark required to rejuvenate Djokovic. We will know soon. It will indeed be incredible for tennis if murray and Djo face off, with both knowing that the winner will retain/regain the Number 1 ranking and start 2017 as Number 1. Looking forward.

Meetings are not just eating and cheating.

Meetings are an unavoidable part of day to day work life. They ought to be constructive or they will be reduced to what one of my 1st bosses said “Meeting should not be all about eating and cheating”.

When my boss said this around 15 or so years back, i was puzzled. Seeing the quizzical expression on my face he said “Don’t u think so?”and continued “Aren’t meetings usually about quickly brushing through the agenda, and concentrating on the food served, and whether the meeting is followed by lunch etc and the most important point is only deciding the menu and date of next meeting?”

Unfortunately, what Boss had said then still holds true. Meetings are often about eating and cheating. More time is often spent on deciding the menu than on discussing the agenda items. So it becomes cheating as well.

However, the fact remains that Meetings are an indispensable part of working life. At one place decisions/information can be communicated to many. Ideas can be shared and exchanged. Plane of action can be arrived at. Stock-taking can be done. There are so many other positives which make meetings unavoidable. So lets have a look at what are the various aspects /points which can help to organize meetings in a more efficient manner.

First, have a clear idea on the agenda. Prepare a 1st draft, visit and revisit it several times, then make a final agenda. Communicate it in writing.

Second, decide the list of participants. This is very important. Visualize the need of the agenda, who can contribute and who can make it an effective meeting. Call all of them

Third, decide the venue. Make it a venue which is accessible and convenient to most. The venue should take into account the number of participants as well so that an appropriate size of the room is chosen.

Fourth, Convey the time, venue and agenda well in advance to all the participants so that they can note the date in their calendar and that they can prepare themselves for the agenda items.

Fifth, give a name and telephone number where regrets for non attendance can be given. However also emphasize the importance of the meeting in the original communication itself and that in case of non-attendance alternative participant may be given.

Sixth, One day before the meeting, have a telephone call made to all participants as a reminder. There is no ego about it. Its just a polite reminder considering that all are busy and for genuine reasons the meeting date may have slipped the mind.

Seventh, On the day of the meeting , if you are presiding over the meeting, Do check and and plan and mentally prepare your speech and how you will generally conduct the meeting . Check the physical arrangements , such as chairs, audio-visual system, cordless mikes and so on.

Eighth, Start the meeting on time. Nothing is more exasperating and punishing for people who come to a meeting on time and are made to wait for participants who are late.

Ninth, Keep the meeting focussed and to the point. Stick to the agenda. Request participants to switch cell phones off or at least keep it on silent mode.

Tenth, plan the tea break appropriately. If its a short meeting for say 45 or 50 minutes, you may consider having the tea break at the end of the meeting. However do ensure to keep drinking water in front of each and every participant.

Eleventh point is that plan the seating arrangements carefully and meticulously keeping in view seniority and importance of the participants.

Last but not the least, end the meeting with a positive note. Sum up the proceedings in a few sentences if possible and identify the action points for participants to carry out so that there is clarity. yes, fix the tentative date of next meeting- to be confirmed later in writing.

These 12 points according to me are important and need to be kept in mind while organizing and conducting meetings. Yes, everyone knows these, but I thought its better to keep them at one place, otherwise meetings will be reduced to meeting, eating and cheating.

Do You agree? Any points to add? Please feel free to do so.