My all time best T20 Team

After naming my all time best Test Team and ODI team, encouraged by your responses, I am attempting my all time best T20 team.

The advantage is that everyone has seen all the T20 players in action over last few years – so no need to choose between Hobbs and Gavaskar, Chappell and Ponting, Sobers and Kallis, Richards and Sachin and so on.

Here goes!

For the openers, I’ve narrowed it down to Brendon McCullum, Adam Gilchrist, Quentin de Kock, Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Virendra Sehwag, Hashim Amla, Aaron Finch, David Warner, Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Shane Watson.

For me, Chris Gayle is a must. He may start slowly, but then he accelerates like a Formula 1 Champion. He has so many T20 records that a separate article would be required to list them all.

To mention a few, he hits a 6 every eighth ball. He has the most 50s in T20s, the most sixs, most runs, highest score, fastest 50, only player to have 2 World T20 tons and so on. Some of these records he has equalled, many he owns. He is an automatic choice for me.

Who will partner Gayle? It can be a wicketkeeper batsman or an allrounder to improve the balance. Hence regretfully, pure batsmen like Finch, Warner, Roy, Hales and Amla miss out. Among keepers, I shortlist the list further to Brendon and among allrounders to Watson.

After consideration, I go in for McCullum, as he has the most 50s in T20 along with Gayle and he is at his destructive best while opening. Watson will be discussed when we come to allrounders. If I select him, he will present an opening choice once in a while.

Middle order
The middle order contenders are Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Mike Hussey, Kane Williamson, AB de Villiers, David Miller, Faf du Plessis, Mahela Jayawardhene, Dilshan, Brad Hodge, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni.

Oof, very long list that. After going through each and every name once again, I feel it will be a monumental exercise trying to dissect the strengths and relative strengths of each of these maestros. There may not be any conclusion.

Hence, on my gut feeling and perception I will go in for Virat Kohli, and Kevin Pietersen at 3 and 4. Do you agree?

For 5, 6 and 7 let me have a look at some all-rounders and whether they can fit in, allowing me the luxury of dispensing with a batsman at 5, if their batting is good enough.

Yuvraj Singh, Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson, Shahid Afridi, JP Duminy, Angelo Matthews, Shakib, Andrew Symonds are the terrific allrounders who can be thought of.

At 5, I will go in with Yuvraj Singh who has the ability to take away the match from opposition with his big hitting. Can we forget the six sixes off Stuart Broad? Yuvi’s 50 off 12 balls is matched only by Gayle. His ability to bowl a couple of overs of left arm spin if required gets him in.

At 6 I will go in with Glen Maxwell, who is a devastating bat and can change the complexion of any match within a few balls. He is a must for me. Yuvi and Glen are my batting allrounders at 5 and 6.

At 7 and 8 I will have to choose 2 out of Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. They will couple power hitting with bowling medium pace. Shane Watson just edges out Kieron Pollard for his better consistency. Bravo makes it due to his death bowling.

Watson at 7 is of course too low and therefore Yuvi, Maxwell and Watson will be sent in from 5 to 7 depending on situation. Bravo will be at 8, once again too low but that reflects the batting strength of my team.

Brendon McCullum, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, MS Dhoni, Jos Butler, Quentin de Kock are the choices. However since I have already selected McCullum as the opener, he will do the job and the other stalwarts have to regretfully sit out.

Sunil Narine, Saeed Ajmal, Ravi Ashwin, Samuel Badree, Shane Warne, Shahid Afridi are the choices. While the first five are super and Shane Warne is in both my Test team and ODI team as well, for the spinners slot I will go in for Shahid Afridi.

Interestingly he has the most Man of the Match awards in T20 Internationals with 11, followed by Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and Shane Watson with nine each. (Mohd Shahzad of Afghanistan too has nine, the most for any Associate nation).

Sunil Narine narrowly misses out to Boom Boom.

Two quick bowlers slots are left. The names of Dirk Nannes, Ashis Nehra, Trent Boult, Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson, Umar Gul and Mushtafizur come to mind.

However for pace, accuracy, variety, slower balls and yorkers Mitchell Starc and Lasith Malinga make my team.

So the team will be Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Virat Kohli, Kevin Pietersen, Yuvraj Singh, Shane Watson, Glen Maxwell, Dwayne Bravo, Shahid Afridi, Lasith Malinga , Mitchell Starc.

The captain will be Virat Kohli.

Do you agree with my Team? What is your all time T20 team ?

My All Time Best ODI 11

Selecting an all-time best XI is always an uncertain and arduous task, but then the enjoyment is in accepting the challenge.

I will only be picking players that I have seen play and I will do my best to avoid any bias. Let’s divide the nominees into openers, middle order batsmen, all-rounders, spinners, and pacemen.

For the openers, I’ve narrowed it down to Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Chris Gayle, and Hashim Amla.

Sachin automatically selects himself.

The remaining slot is a little more difficult. There’s no doubt about Sehwag’s talent, but I believe he was best suited to Test cricket. But it’s worth remembering that Sehwag is the only opener in the history of the game to score over 7500 runs in both Tests and ODIs. Sadly, he isn’t in my squad.

Ganguly, despite amassing 22 ODI tons and 11,000 runs also can’t squirm his way in. That said, I am sure there will be a consensus that Sachin-Ganguly and Sachin-Sehwag are two of the best opening partnerships in ODI cricket.

As nonchalantly as Hashim Amla has struck his 23 tons and thirty 50s in his 139 ODIs I will have to dismiss him too. You can also strike a line through two brilliant Aussies, Hayden and Waugh.

Controversially I won’t be selecting Sangakarra, who after an exhaustive 40-day process involving millions of votes from across the globe was crowned the ODI’s Greatest of All Time (GOAT).

Gayle is a joy to watch, but his skillset is best suited to T20 cricket. That leaves us with one man standing, the great Adam Gilchrist.

An explosive batsman, he amassed almost 10,000 runs in ODIs at a strike rate of 97. While rival keeper-batsman Sangakkara has 25 tons (nine more than Gilchrist’s 16) and 14,000 runs, the impact Gilly brings to the top of the order is unrivalled.

Middle order
There is a plethora of talent in the middle order to follow up from the strong starts of Sachin and Gilly, assuming they could even be dismissed!

Sir Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Virat Kohli, Jacques Kallis (who will also be in all-rounder category), AB De Villiers, MS Dhoni, Javed Miandad, Dean Jones, Michael Bevan, Michael Clark, Steve Waugh, Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The key advantage of selecting wicketkeeper Gilchrist as an opener is that I have the ability to select a deep four-man middle order.

Sir Viv is an automatic selection at No.3 for me. His impact, legacy, and reliability are too much to overlook. Add to that his 100 wickets and brilliant fielding, and you have a ready-made team lynchpin.

Statistically, Sir Viv compares unfavourably to some of the modern cricketers. He has 17 ODI tons and 6,700 runs at an average of 47 in 187 matches. Those are great figures by anyone’s measure, but compare that to Virat Kohli.

Kohli is one of the strongest players mentioned. His career is still young, but he has so far already surpassed all three of Viv’s marks, with 25 tons and 7200 runs at an average of 51.5 in 171 matches. Despite his achievements, Kohli won’t be featuring in my team just yet, but if he continues performing as he has in all forms of the game he would be considered a great in every team you can think of.

Deano, Miandad, Inzy and Pup and even The Wall would all add incredible value to any team, but they all feature weaker records than Kohli, and so, with due respect, none of them make my final team.

At four, I will have Ponting who has almost 14,000 runs and has been involved in 163 wickets primarily through his brilliant fielding. He has also collected 30 tons and his tactics as a captain were second to none.

De Villiers, who has a Sir Viv-like ability to transform a match, is a must at number five. With a heavy heart, Lara (299 matches, 10,405 runs at 40 with 19 tons) just loses out to the South African for his incredible consistency (200 matches, 8621 runs at an average of 54.56 with 24 tons).

The number six is a crucial position. It’s the last line of defence before the opposition gets a free crack at the bowlers. Dhoni and Bevan are two of the best finishers the game has seen, but they won’t finish with a place in my squad. Dhoni’s chances are hampered by the depth of wicketkeepers already in the squad.

Steve Waugh comes in for serious consideration due to his ability to handle pressure and his quality captaining. But one has to 1st choose the 11 best players, and captain among them, so Steve misses out as he is not in the list of 11.

For the number six position, I thought of killing two birds with one stone by selecting Jacques Kallis who is both a genuine batsman and bowler. However that would mean excellent all-rounders Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and Ian Botham would all just fall short of Kallis.

After thought, i would keep Kallis in the Test squad and go in for one of the 4 classic allrounders, or Dhoni or Bevan who are the 2 best ODI cricketers the game of cricket has seen. After deep thought i would go in for Dhoni. His feat of 9000 runs in just 242 innings with the leader Sourav at 224 (only 18 less) is unparallelled. Only Sourav, Lara, Ponting, Sachin and Kallis have scored 9000 runs in lesser than 242 innings and all batted in the top 3. Dhoni is also the only player to cross 9000 runs with an average of above 50. He has almost 200 6’s , 2nd only to Chris Gayle and hence in my team he edges out Bevan.

In the top six, we now have half a dozen brilliant batsmen, two wicketkeepers, and the useful bowling contributions of Sachin and Sir Viv as reasonable spinners. You can even chuck Punter in for a spell if things get dire.

There are only two names to consider for the spinner’s spot: Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. While Murali has 534 wickets from his 350 matches, Warne is a true genius who collected 293 wickets in just 194 matches. Normally I would not be able to separate them, and that means they would both get a place in my squad. However with Sachin and Sir Viv able to spin a few overs if required, I would with a heavy heart leave out Murali and go in for Warne, even though statistics puts Murali ahead.

Now for Number 7 therefore, a slot opens up, and the natural cricket player Kapil Dev gets in. By virtue of his terrific swing bowling, ebullient batting and athletic fielding. For ODI he is ahead of the more consistent but slower Jacques Kallis. Shane will bat at 8.

With three spots to fill the nominations are Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Glenn McGrath, Curtly Ambrose, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn and Joel Garner.

The two easy choices are Akram and McGrath for their variation and incredible accuracy.

The third quick is Curtly Ambrose who with his meanness and disconcerting lift and bounce, coupled with economy edges out Waqar Younus even though he has frightening pace and yorkers and may go for runs occasionally in the quest for wickets. Curtly gets my nod.

My all-time best XI
Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist, Sir Vivian Richards, Ricky Ponting (c), AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath.

Let me know your best ODI side in the comments below.

My all time Best Test 11

I will now be writing a 4 part blog. 1st will be my best Test 11, Part 2 my best ODI 11 and the 3rd part my best T20 11. Finally the 4th will be my best all format 11. Join me in this journey in all 4 parts and i am sure it will be fun.

One disclaimer is that this will be limited to players I have actually seen live -on TV and in actual action , and hence immortals like Sir Don and Sir Gary will not be there.

Openers. Since i have not seen them, players like Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutten can’t be there. However there still are some extraordinary batsman which makes selection a tough task

Who does one choose from a galaxy of stars like Gordon Greenidge, Geoff Boycott, Matthew Hayden, Alastair Cook, Graeme Smith, Sunil Gavaskar, Virendra Sehwag and so on to name just a few. 

After deep thought I would go in for Sunil Gavaskar and Matthew Hayden. Sunny handled the feared West Indian fast bowlers in a manner which will remain in memory for a long long time. With him is Hayden who edges out Sehwag. Hayden as an aggressive dominating batsman  will be a perfect foil to the steady, technically correct Sunny. Hayden also has the ability to hit big hundreds which will help the team immensely. 

Middle Order. Here too, the stars are many. Richards, Lloyd, Border, Ponting, Gower, Sachin, Dravid, Lara, and many more. However, I will have Richards, Sachin and Lara at 3 to 5. Ponting very sadly misses out as Lara and Sachin get my nod ahead of him. Richards is my man at 3 as his very presence is inspirational. He edges out Dravid for the spot. Sachin is at 4 and Lara is at 5. While Sachin will provide stability , Lara will provide brilliance and strokeplay to take the match away from the opposition. 

What about the crucial Number 6 spot. Will we have a batsman like say Ponting, or Laxman or even Younus Khan who has an incredible 4th innings record. Or will it be an allrounder like Kapil, or Imran or Ian Both or Hadlee. 

After deep thought , i do go in for an allrounder and its Jacques Kallis, who as a batsman who has scored as much as gravid and who as a bowler has taken as many wickets as Zaheer Khan

For wicketkeeper, i will unhesitatingly go in for Adam Gilchrist. So many times we have seen in Test cricket that the opposition has somehow got Australia in a spot of bother at say 160/5 and then Gilchrist takes them to beyond 300 or 350 which is enough for their super attack of that time, Lee, McGrath, Gillespie and Warne.

Now spots 8 to 11 remain and i would select one spinner and 3 quicks. For spinner it has to be Shane Warne, who edges out Murali for the spot. Warne had the ability to take wickets at will while Murali comes a close second to him.

The 3 quicks create a big dilemma. Will it be Holding or Garner or Robert or Marshall. Or will it be Lillee- Thommo. Or Waqar-Akram, Donald-Pollock, Ambrose-Walsh, Steyn , Anderson or Lee-Mcgrath. There are so many exponents that choosing just 3 is an extremely difficult task

However task even if difficult has to be done. After deep thought i will go in for Akram, McGrath and Malcolm Marshall. Akram for his variety, and his being a left armer helps him immensely too. McGrath for his unyielding accuracy and Marshall for his frightening pace and ability to extract the maximum even out of batting tracks.

The playing 11 therefore is Sunil Gavaskar, Matthew Hayden, Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Glenn Mcgrath and Malcolm Marshall. The shrewd Sunny Gavaskar is the captain.

Do u agree with my choice of Test 11 ? 

How Mars and Venus can Meet.

When a couple come together in a matrimonial alliance they are known as a husband-wife couple. In modern times there have been increasing attempts to include in the definition of marriage unions between couples of the same sex. This is to distinguish between holy matrimony and legal matrimony. However for the purpose of this blog post, i will focus on the relationship between a man and a woman for the purposes of a legal marriage.

There is a false misconception that arranged marriage is there only in India and not in developed western countries. Rather scientific study of 142 cultures throughout the world have revealed that arranged marriage is there in as many as 130 of them. Even in USA , Arranged marriages were there till as late as 1950’s.

Is a love marriage more successful than an arranged one. Interestingly throughout the world, even today divorce rates are the least in arranged marriage prevalent society. This is not to say of course that this automatically translates into arranged marriages being more successful. A couple who have had an arranged marriage  may stay together throughout life in an unhappy marriage, while another couple may have a divorce and move on to a happier marriage with a different partner each.

What would be the difference in expectations of partners from each other between an arranged marriage and a love marriage. I would feel that in an arranged marriage expectations are very less since the couple are virtually unknown to each other. Conversely in a love marriage expectations may apparently be more since the couple have supposedly known each other before they have decided to get married.

However is a love marriage really a love marriage ? Hardly so i believe. The only difference is that the couple have seen each other and theoretically known each other before getting married. I use the word theoretically as it is possible that actually the couple may not know each other at all and rather have put on a facade or a pretence so that the other has a better impression. This would be true more for a conservative society like India where a boy and girl meeting other a few times without their parents knowing about it makes their marriage a “love marriage” as opposed to an arranged marriage where they may meet but after their parents have fixed the marriage.

Be that as it may, once Mars and Venus get married, it is incumbent upon them to not just make the marriage work, but make it successful. How can that be possible ? Certain thoughts come to mind, such as follows;

Loyalty. This is the most important attribute required to make a marriage work. Once there is loyalty, everything flows from it. Allied closely to this is Trust. This is most important since if there is no trust, then various issues are likely to arise. What is however important is that there should be trust on both sides, and there should be no breach of trust as well

Fights. I believe that it is not possible that there is no fight at all between a married couple. If so it is a formal relationship where the married partners are aloof and detached with each other . However while fights are expected to happen, what is of paramount importance is that they should be few and far between, and once it happens should be got over quickly. Also important would be to isolate fights, in the sense that for fight A for reason B, the reason B should not be brought in fight C for Reason D. One should sit down and discuss and come to a conclusion. It may so happen however that one of the married partners is not in a mood to discuss. Then the other should, if possible, respect the views of the person and give space.

It is also important, if one has a fight, not to carry it too far. The golden words, the “mantra” is move on. Easier said than done, but one has to do it.

Marriage requires sacrifice on part of both partners. Now what the exact nature of the sacrifice would be will differ from person to person, couple to couple and marriage to marriage. However some element of sacrifice is a must. In a traditional society like India, the sacrifice will be more for Venus than for Mars, but thats a different topic in itself. What is important is that the sacrifice should be seen and acknowledged.

A couple should not entertain and allow extraneous factors at all to interfere in their marriage. After all, ultimately it is they who have to face life together including highs and lows, trials and tribulations. The extraneous factor is transitory and is to be treated as such and should not be allowed to play a pivotal role at all. This means that negative forces are not in any circumstances to be allowed around a couple as it will only play the role of chiselling away at the foundation of a strong pillar.

Ideally a couple should be best friends, rather than depend on other friends. Yes, Mars may prefer cricket, football and tennis while Venus may prefer Rom-Coms but that need not affect them. One can accept the other’s likes and dislikes and move on. Yes, amidst their own particular preferences , a “we” time should be there for each other, and not “me” time only.

Respect for each other is a must. Without respect, nothing will remain. Once respect is there for the spouse as an individual it will act as a binding force which will keep the couple together.

Can Mars and Venus meet. In my opinion, Certainly. They can not only meet but be happy and comfortable with each other in a lifetime journey of togetherness, joy and love.

Feedback is welcome

Kohli’s curious Captaincy Decisions

Congrats Team India and Virat Kohli for a comprehensive win in the 1st Test of the Home series versus NewZealand. Virat has now  won 8 out of 15 Tests, with 2 losses and 5 draws.

Kohli 1st became Test Captain due to Dhoni’s injury in the 1st Test of the Australian tour in December 2014. Dhoni returned to captaincy for the next 2 Tests before abruptly retiring. Kohli took over as Test Captain for the 4th Test and thereafter has continued as India’s regular Test Captain. Under his captaincy India drew an away Test vs Bangladesh, won against Sri Lanka  2-1 (away), won 3-0 against South Africa 3-0(home) and won against west Indies 2-0 (away).

Now there will be an unprecedented 13 Tests in a row at home which is expected to further improve his Captaincy record, given India’s home strength.

Twin hundreds on Captaincy debut in Australia marked Virat out as a player who will not let captaincy affect his batting. Indeed in the second innings of that Adelaide Test, Virat played what many called the best 4th innings played at Australia. India needed 364 in 98 overs and never played for a draw. Virat’s 141 in 175 balls could have taken India to a famous win, but it was not to be as Australia fought back to reduce India from 242/2 to 315 all out. India and Virat won hearts though and ensured that unlike other tours where one left with despair, now the tour will end with promise.

Virat’s captaincy has been by and large applauded. He has been seen as a bold and decisive leader, in contrast to his predecessor Dhoni who was seen as defensive and often clueless. Yet, there have been some curious selection issues which need a closer look.

1 Karn Sharma playing the 1st test at Australia in the 2014 series ahead of Ashwin was baffling. He took 2-143 in 33 overs and 2-95 in 16 overs in both innings. He never played Test cricket again and has played only 2 ODI and 1 International T20. Now Karn has taken 66 wickets in 34 first class matches @28.87 with only 2 fivers.  Does that merit selection in the Indian touring side. Once in the squad, does that merit selection in the playing 11. India lost that Test by only 39 runs. Was Karn’s selection too much a gamble?

2 In his second Test as Captain, which was at Sydney versus Australia, India played Suresh Raina at Number 6 and Raina, a delightful ODI cricketer otherwise,failed his captain with a pair of ducks. For this Test, Rohit was promoted to No.3 and Pujara was dropped. The point is that Sydney is reputed for helping spin, so shouldnt 2 spinners have been played ? What was the point of bringing Raina back in the last Test of the series?

3  The enigmatic Rohit Sharma looks super when he bats well. The balance is classy and the unhurried time he gets to play the ball is just awesome. Unfortunately he has not shown consistency at all. To be fair, he probably has not got a full series at a settled spot. He has batted at 6, then pushed up to 3, dropped, brought back at 5, dropped again and brought back at 6.  Virat seems unsure where to play him. His selection has also brought in other complications like juggling the batting order and experimenting with Virat at 3, Rahane at 3 and Pujara as opener.

4 The curious case of Cheteswar Pujara . For some time it seemed as if Pujara was India’s replacement for Rahul Dravid. However his place in batting line up too was experimented with. Pujara was dropped, then even asked to open (as India was injury-hit), scored a hundred as opener before going back to number 3. He was dropped again and is now back as number 3. One has the feeling that he should be given a long rope at number 3, especially since now he is playing only Test Matches.

5 The 5 bowler theory. This theory was started by Virat in the one off Test versus Bangladesh and continued in the India-Sri Lanka away series which followed.  However who will be the 5th bowler was the issue. It was Harbhajan, then Binny, then Mishra. With fanfare Ashwin was promoted to Number 6 and he obliged his captain with 2 Test tons and it seemed as if the 5 bowler theory will stay. However suddenly India reverted back to 6 batsmen and 4 bowlers. The point is, why not simply say that the best 11 will be chosen depending on situation of series, ground conditions etc.

6 Dropping of Murali Vijay was also inexplicable. For a few years Vijay played only when either Sehwag or Gambhir were injured. He thereafter staked his independent claim on merit and became India’s consistent number 1 batsman. In the 2nd Test versus west indies at Kingston he was dropped and Rahul grabbed the chance, scoring 158. However in the next Test when Vijay was fit he was dropped. Logically if Rahul was to be persisted with on form, then Shikhar should have been dropped and not Vijay. In fact to compound the selection jigsaw puzzle even Pujara was dropped and the batting order went awry with Kohli at 3, Rahane at 4 and Sharma at 5.

Maybe Kohli is experimenting with different combinations before settling down to what he feels is the best. Horses for courses are an acceptable , rather probably an advisable selection policy. However it does seem that his methods of selection are the other extreme of Dhoni who preferred to go in with the same 11, irrespective of conditions.

Its still early days for Kohli as Test Skipper but he is here to stay and its only a matter of time before he becomes captain in all formats.  it would be interesting to revisit this article after say 2-3 years.

Do you agree that he has made the above mistakes ? Feedback is welcome

Top 3 Batsmen among tailenders.

Very often in Test cricket we see excellent bowling dismissing the top half of the batting line up. However then there is a dour rearguard action by the lower order batsmen. Nothing can be more frustrating to the Bowling side and its Captain.

The key advantages of runs by tailenders are (i) getting the team some valuable runs (ii) peps up the team to put in a good bowling performance (iii) keeping the team in the 5 day match, allowing a chance to come back and (iv) demoralizing an already battered opposition.

Who are top tailenders in Test cricket. A few names come to mind such as Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Shaun Pollock, Jason Gillespie, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and so on. They are distinctly different from classic tailenders like Venkatesh Prasad and Glenn McGrath who when they come in to bat will make the bowling side reasonably confident that they are getting them out and coming out to bat.

The fact that Warne, Lee and Gillespie played at the same time no doubt contributed to Australia being such a devastating team. This is because even if their redoubtable batting order faltered, these 3 stubborn tailenders would combine with the best ever keeper-batsman in history, Adam Gilchrist to take the match away from the opposition. In fact the present English team too is strong as they have a similar long wagging tail instead of a feeble one.

Is Vettori a tailender batsman ? Is Shaun pollock one, though he has 2 test tons batting at 9, and is the only one to perform such a feat. Are Wasim Akram or Moeen Ali tailenders. In my opinion, No . They are all allrounders, and may be classified as bowling allrounders at most. The fact that they often batted at say number 8 or 9 is due to their team having a strong batting line up, rather than they being weak batsmen. Vettori in fact scored 4500 runs in test cricket @30 average with 6 hundreds, and he has , if required batted at Number 6 for the Kiwis.

After considering various tailenders, I zero in on the following 3 as my top Batsmen among tailenders

1 Jason Gillespie. He is the 1st nightwatchman to go on to score a Test 200. Jason was always a stubborn customer with the bat and valued his wicket very highly. It was always an issue getting him out. He once played an important role in saving a Test match at Chennai in 2004 by scoring 26 in over 4 hours at the crease and consuming more than 55 overs in a partnership with Damien Martyn. Overall Jason had ab average of only 18.73 in Tests with 1 ton (the 200 mentioned earlier) and only 2 50’s but he was much more valuable than what his figures suggest.

2 Shane Warne He too has a Test batting average of only 17.32 but has as many as 12 50’s. His highest test score was 99 and he has scored 3000 plus runs in Test cricket, the highest for any batsman without a 100. If Dizzy was obstinate, then Warne was exuberant. This exuberance cost him his 100 as he tried to get a big hit off the wily Vettori only to hole out to Mark Richardson. Sadly Vettori had bowled a huge No Ball but those days there was no DRS. Destiny that he would retire without a 100. However no doubt he was a dangerous batsman.

3 Anil Kumble. The memories with which one will remember Kumble is getting 10 wickets in a Test innings and bowling with a broken jaw at Anigua and dismissing Brian Lara. However Kumble was no mean batsman either. His average too was only 17 but he made it difficult to get his wicket. It took him 17 years to reach a Test 100 and that too he got it in England where traditionally Indian batsman do not fare too well. In that particular innings at the Oval, 6 Indian batsmen crossed 50 with Karthick, Sachin and Dhoni scoring 91, 82 and 92, but it was destiny that among them only Kumble would get a century. His grittiness makes me pick him above Bhajji who narrowly misses out.

These are my Top 3, Do u agree ?

As regards Jimmy Anderson and Ishant Sharma, maybe they will figure in my List of Top Number 11 batsmen, but well, thats for another time

Rafi and Naushad, Shishya and Guru

Naushad was a composer par excellence. Rafi was the Voice of God. It was destined that their’s would be a teacher-student, a Guru-Shishya relationship which would give the world priceless gems. and the world would enjoy the fruits of their partnership.

Naushad’s 1st work as a music director was in 1940 for the movie Prem Nagar. It took him only 2 years to give his 1st super hit which was Nai Duniya. He first used Rafi as a chorus singer in the movie Pehle Aap.

Its said that Naushad had Talat Mehmood as his favorite singer at that point of time. However, during the shooting of Babul, he saw Talat smoking and that infuriated him so much that he did not work with him for the next 18 years. More pertinently, from Rafi’s point of view, and to his luck, the songs of Baiju Bawra were given to Rafi. This was the oppurtunity Rafi required and he grabbed it. “O Duniya ke rakhwale”, and “Man Tarpat Hari Darshan ko aaj” established Rafi as the singing superstar.

Baiju Bawra gave Naushad Best Music Director award as well for “Tu Ganga ki Mauj” which was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi. This was Naushad’s only Best Music Director of his career which is strange considering his brilliance.

Baiju Bawra was a musical landmark as the songs were composed in classical raga modes. Distinguished classical artistes like Amir Khan and DV Paluskar were also hired by Naushad in his successful attempt to bring classical music to the masses. Later in his career he would associate Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in Mughal-e-Azam .

Naushad needed a voice which public would love and in Rafi he found that voice. The dedication of Rafa was something every Guru dreams of. As an illustration, for the song “O duniya ke rakhvaale” Rafi had to rehearse for 15 days and after recording the song his voice needed rest as it was so tired.

2 more interesting trivia about this immortal song. 1stly, Rafi had been concerned that his voice had not been making impact and Naushad had assured him that this song would establish him as a singer. To quote Naushad “This Baiju Bawra theme offers you the kind of vocal challenge which, if you meet, you will find yourself made for life.’ 2ndly a hanged convict when asked his last wish desired to hear “O duniya ke rakhvaale”instead of normal wishes like wanting to see family members or eating/drinking food of his choice. A tape recorder was brought to the jail and the song was played for the to-be-hung jailbird.

Naushad and Rafi would continue to create magic together for well over 2 decades. In 1960, for the Superstar Dilip Kumar’s movie Kohinoor, Naushad had composed the song “Madhuban mein radhika naache” based on Raah Hamir. However the producer was of the opinion that the Raag was too complex for the common man to appreciate and he asked Naushad and Rafi to change it. Rafi put his foot down and said that he will not charge fees and will do so only if the masses like the song. Naushad too insisted for no change. Not only was Kohinoor a big hit, the song was a super success. Later the producer came to pay Rafi his fees and present him a box of sweets, Rafi accepted the sweets but not the fees, saying the appreciation of public was the fees he needed.

“Suhaani raat Dhal Chuki” was a song in the movie Dulari which is one of the best compositions of Naushad. After the recording was over Naushad was satisfied. However Rafi could not sleep the whole night as he thought he did not do justice. The next day he went to Naushad’s house and started weeping. A startled yet impressed Naushad recorded the song again to Rafi’s satisfaction. This magical song we listen to even today. Dulari was in 1949. Who knows, maybe this dedication was in Nushad’s mind and helped him to decide in Rafi’s favour for Baiju Bawra when he was upset with Talat.

“Madhuban mein radhika naache” was written by Shakeel Badayuni, a Muslim. Composed by Naushad, a Muslim. Sung by Rafi and picturised on Dilip Kumar, both Muslims. Indeed, Music has no religion. In fact, “Man Tarpat Hari Darshan ko Aaj” too had the magical trio, Naushad, Shakeel Badayuni and Rafi and for the recording of this Krishna Bhajan, all musicians were asked to come in proper respectful attire and the atmosphere of a Hindu Temple was created with the producer distributing Prasad and sweets and everyone saying Krishna Krishna.  Respect.

I would like to conclude this blog by narrating how Naushad gave Rafi back his confidence. After the dynamite Kishore Kumar Rajesh Khanna craze swept the nation, Rafi had less offers and his confidence had gone down. Once in Mehboob studios Naushad heard some wannabe’s giving singing advice to Rafi. Naushad went away and asked Rafi to drop in at his house. He shouted at Rafi saying that “Who are these people to tell Mohammed Rafi what to do? Isn’t Rafi too trained a performer to submit to anyone but the song composer?”He said “Sing confidently, like my Rafi does”.

Not only that, Naushad hurriedly arranged a recording for his son’s movie ‘My friend’, a song in Raag Bhairavi . Rafi sang it brilliantly and got back his confidence. This coincided with Saawan Kumar’s “teri galiyon mein na rakhenge kadam” which gave Rafi yet another best singer award. Rafi was back, and next 6 years, he was the Rafi of old.

Sadly Rafi left us early when he was only 55. Ironically though Naushad was alive till 2006, with Rafi not around he could not produce the magic which he had with Rafi. However, over 30 years, the duo has given us 149 songs including 81 solo numbers for which they will always be in the mind and memory of music lovers.


















Suhani Raat Dhal Juki Na Jane Tum Kab Aahoge

Djokovic joins the GOAT race

Congrats Stan Wawrinka for winning the 2016 US Open. The one handed backhand wizard lifted his 3th Grand Slam Title (Major) in his 3rd Final and also stopped Novak Djokovic from winning his 13th Major in his 21st Final.

However I firmly feel that Djo has  joined the race for Greatest of all time (GOAT), in which his illustrious rivals Roger Federer (Fed) and Rafa Nadal (Rafa) were competing. Nole has 12 Majors with Federer (17), Rafa and Sampras (14 each) ahead of him.

Criteria For GOAT. Offhand one can think about certain criteria such as Number of Majors won, whether career Grand Slam has been won , whether calendar Grand Slam has been won, number of weeks at Number 1, consecutive weeks at Number 1, finishing the year as Number 1 , number of ATP titles won, number of Masters won and so on.

As one sees above while Federer is ahead at 17, he is 35 and his last Major was at Wimbledon 2012. Sadly, It looks quite certain that he will not win any more Major. As regards Rafa, the great champion’s last Major was the French Open in 2014. At that point of time Rafa had 14 Majors and Nole way behind at 6. Now suddenly, just 10 Grand Slams later, Nole has 12. He has won 6 of the last 10 Slams, with Cilic and Murray winning one each and Wawrinka two. Federer’s 17 looks difficult but achievable.

Career Grand Slam is an important aspect as i feel one has to win all 4 Majors to be counted in the GOAT Race. Even Federer was taken seriously as GOAT only after he won the French Open to complete the career Slam. Same holds good for Nole as well. Wawrinka stopped him in 2015 and probably prevented a calendar Grand Slam, but in 2016 Nole by winning French Open tick marked one crucial omission in his list, just like Fed had done earlier. This is one area where Sampras with his poor clay court record and no triumph at French Open falls behind.

Calendar Grand Slam is something neither Rafa, nor Federer nor Nole have which could have been a crowning glory. One marvels how Rod Laver did it not just once but twice, and that too 7 years apart from each other. Don Budge too has done it. In Ladies tennis, Margaret Court, Maureen Connoly and Steffi Graf have achieved this awesome feat as well. However Nole remains the only other male player to win all 4 Majors simultaneously and is the 1st to hold all 4 titles on 3 different surfaces. Therefore he has held his own.

Most weeks at Number 1 is another criteria. Federer is way ahead of others with 302. However Djokovic has already completed 215 weeks at Number 1 and only Federer, Sampras (286)., Lendl ( 270) and Connors (268) are ahead.  Federer’s longest streak of 237 is huge while Nole has at present 114 consecutive weeks at Number 1.

Currently Nole has 14840 points and the Number 2, Andy Murray has “only” 9305 points, so its a fair guess that Nole is there as Number 1 for quite some time to come. On this criteria Nadal with overall 141 weeks and consecutive 56 weeks is way behind.

Ending the year as Number 1 is a criteria for GOAT where Sampras is alone at 6. Federer and Connors are at 5 times each while Nole is poised to join them as he has 4, leaving behind Lendl and Mcenroe at 4. Rafa is at 3. So here too Nole has held his own.

Now lets see Number of ATP titles and number of Masters . One sees 88 titles for Federer , 69 for Rafa and 67 for Nole. Of course Connors with 109 and Lendl with 94 have more titles. As regards Masters, Nole has 30, Federer 24 and Rafa 28.

If one looks at ATP end of the year Title where the world’s top 8 meet up, Federer has won it 6 times while Nole and Sampras have 5 each. Rafa has none and this is one tick-mark he would definitely like to achieve.

 One Last Criteria. Head to head versus other top players. Here i do not have data of former World Number 1 players but have data of Current and recent stars and it is seen that Nole has positive head to head versus all. Nole’s closest rivalry is with Fed and Rafa against whom he has a positive head to head of 23-22 and 26-23. Otherwise he has huge lead over other top players such as Murray (24-10) , Wawrinka (19-5) , Nishikori ( 10-2) and Cilic (14-0). Hence on this criteria too Nole has shown his mettle.

Ultimately however the criteria which i personally feel is most important is  number of Grand Slam Titles. Hence Fed is ahead with 17. If Nole or Rafa reach 17 then considering other criteria as discussed above , then he will be ahead of even the great Federer in the GOAT race. As of now, as discussed in detail above, Nole has definitely joined the race for GOAT.

what do all of you think ? Feedback invited please



Should Dhoni Retire ?

MSD or Mahi or Dhoni is an unique character in the history of cricket. Probably no one has ever polarised cricket fans anywhere in the world as this wicketkeeper-batsman of India who has a rags to riches story.

Labelled the best finisher, recently this label got dents with a loss each against Zimbabwe and West Indies in the last over of  a T20. There have been various discussions as to whether he should now retire from all forms of the game and not just Tests which he has done so far.

The magical journey started for this former TTE (a very junior employee of the state-run rail carrier Indian Railways) worker when he got a chance for India as other keepers did were not doing well and India dispensed with experiment of Dravid doing part time keeping. While his ODI debut saw him scoring a duck, in his fifth match he scored a 123-ball 148 and in his eighth, promoted to number three after the great Sachin fell early, he scored 183 and India easily chased 299. The Mahi script started well.

Captaincy? As destiny would have it, India were supposed to play the T20 World Cup. T20 was looked down upon, and Sachin, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid declined to play it, citing need for rest. The selectors headed by Dilip Vengsarkar sprung a surprise and made Mahi the captain.

India which went on to win the world cup in an earlier match won in a ‘bowlout’. This was in my opinion a silly experiment which thankfully was not repeated. In the event of a tie, three bowlers would bowl at the stumps. Pakistan went in for regular quick bowlers like Umar Gul and all missed. India went in with non-regular bowlers like Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa and our great offie Harbhajan Singh hit timber each and every time.

This out of the box thinking was also seen in the final by Dhoni giving an unknown Joginder Singh the last over instead of the vastly experienced Bhajji. Despite giving a wide the first ball and being hit for a huge six in the second, India defended the 12 runs reqd in last over and forced the bowl out.

Mahi later on became famous for such unconventional captaincy.

Test captaincy? As luck would have it, Anil Kumble chose to bow out after a remarkable career and Dhoni was pitchforked into Test Captaincy as well. Supposedly Sachin Tendulkar had a role to play here. Whatever be the reason, Dhoni remained the undisputed captain for all three formats until he decided to give up the Test captaincy.

There was discussion of his being dropped from captaincy but as per Mohinder Amarnath the BCCI President used his veto to retain him as Captain until he himself called it a day.

Utility as Test player? There have been lots of discussion about Mahi having a terrible technique. That could be , but well, Statistics don’t lie. In his 90 matches he has scored almost 5000 runs with six tons and 33 50s. Critics say that he hasn’t done well abroad, but aren’t Indian batsmen known for failing abroad, barring the odd Sachin and Sourav?

So why expect wonders from a keeper-bat? Isnt an average of 38 plus good enough for someone who is not a pure batsman.

Should he retire? Retirement is a personal decision and is not to be forced upon anyone. Rather selection is something which can be discussed and debated. Does he warrant selection in the ODI team and the T20 team as a player? I feel he is far better and far ahead of those aspiring to take his place.

Of late indeed the role of finisher has got some dents. Mahi’s style was to take the game till the last over and then finish it off with a few hefty whacks. However suddenly India lost a couple of matches and Dhoni was at the receiving end as he could not finish the game off, and India lost.

This has led to calls for his retirement from all forms of the game. Now should he retire ? There is no doubt that he is not at the top of his game and he is not the Mahi he once was. Cricket that way is a funny game with hardly any top cricketer retiring at the top of his game , except maybe Sunil Gavaskar or Greg Chappell. Otherwise most top cricketers have tried to prolong their career till as much as possible. Often with unfortunate ultimatums.

I leave this topic of whether he should retire or not to all of you to deliberate upon. Does he warrant selection in the ODI team and the T20 team as a player. I would say yes. While i would not go as far as Virat Kohli and Ajinjya Rahane who even now say that Dhoni is the best finisher and still will win India matches 9 out of 0f times, I would say that he is far better and far ahead than those aspiring to take his place .

Its up to the selectors and him to decide his future. Of course, as fans and avid watchers we will also have our views to which we certainly are entitled. My personal opinion is that if he plays as a player only without the burdens of captaincy we will see a transformed and rejuvenated Mahi who will win many more matches for his country.

( Note; this Blog has been published by the Aussie on line community The Roar)

Kishore Kumar Part 4; Dada and Lata Mangeshkar

I had explored different facets of the mercurial personality of Kishore Kumar ( Kishore Da) in Part 1 to 3 of this blog series. Part 4 will tell you about  Dada and his fellow genius Lata Mangeshkar ( Lata Didi) with whom he sang 327 magical duets ( second only to Rafi saab who had 440 with her). I will also bring to you some rare trivia about them, and am sure that some of this information will be new to you.

The unique first meeting. Travelling in a local train, Kishore Da saw a young and simple girl sitting near the window seat. Dada gave her a warm smile but the girl gave him a stern look. When Dadar station came, Kishore Da got down. Coincidentally she also got down there and hired a horse cart to move to her destination. He too hired another horse cart and moved in the same direction, literally following her horse cart. Now the coincidence increased. Kishore da got down at the same place where the girl had stopped her horse cart and walked behind her. She flew into a rage and  said, “You scoundrel, why are you chasing me like a roadside Romeo!”, before hurrying into the studio. She complained to music director Khemchand Prakash about a roadside ruffian chasing her. Khemchand Prakash smiled and clarified her misconception and introduced Kishore Da to her! All had a big laugh. Their 1st duet was recorded that day – Ye Kaun Aaaya from the Dev Anand Saab starrer Ziddi. 1st of many memorable duets giving us permanent magic.

Not Composer or music director specific. Kishore Da and Lata didi were magic together and were not composer specific. SD Burman gave us Gaata Rahe mera Dil. Pancham gave us karvatein badalti rahe and Is mod se jaate hain. However others too have special songs with the magical duo. Let me give just one or two magical song per composer

Khayyam- “Hazaar Raahein mud ke dekhi”. ; Rajesh Roshan- “Bhool gaya sab kuchh” and “Dil Kya kare”; LP- “Achcha toh hum chalte hain” and “Kal ke haseen mulaqaat ke liye”; Kalyanji Anandji- “Salaam e ishq meri jaan”. Bappi Lahiri “Naino mein Sapna”. Shiv-Hari “Dekha ek Khwab”

The list is unending and this is simply illustrative. You are welcome to add. thanks.

2 magnificent Solos sung by both.  “Rim Jhim gire saawan” and “Mere Naina Saawan  Bhadon” come to mind. With due respect to Lata Didi and her fans, I like the Kishore Da versions better. Legend has it that Mere Naina was based on Raag Shivaranjani, which evokes moods of romance and sorrow and is meant to please Shiva, God of destruction. Kishore in his humility apparently asked to give it to Rafi as he would do better justice to this difficult song. However an unrelenting Pancham insisted he sing it, and superstar Rajesh Khanna too had a clause in his contract that only Kishore Da will sing his songs. Hearing this Dada agreed. He said please give the tape of Lata didi , forget the Raag as i am not classically trained, i will listen to Lata’s tape and sing in my own way. And he did. History is witness that Mere naina Kishore version is much more popular than Lata version.

An aside- What are other other semi-classical songs sung by Kishore Da? My query is to those reading this. I am unable to think of any as of now.

London stage show. Dada himself says he was thrilled that he will be doing a stage show with Lata but was worried about her discipline. An issue arose as to who will sing 1st and Dada suggested that Lata sing 1st as she was his industry senior. However Lata solved it by going on stage to introduce Dada. In fact she used to say he was her dada as he was older. Yes he was, but only by a month. In the stage show, there were two unforeseen problems. Lata refused to sing the song “angrezi mein kehtey hai” as it had the word “Idiot” in it. She also refused to sing “Pag ghungroo” as she felt it belittled Meera Bai. Ultimately the stage shows were a blockbuster performance by both with choicest duets.

The famous interview. Lata once took an interview of Kishore Da which u can see in Sonu Nigam’s FB page Apparently Kishore Da’s famous son Amit Kumar had shared it with Sonu. In this interview Kishore Da and Lata didi discuss their common “Guru” K.L.Saigal. Dada says that singing gives him more pleasure than acting or composing, especially as he feels that acting is “Jhoothi” while singing is from the heart.

Lata Mangeshkar Award was a national level award started in 1984 with various state Governments authorised to give this award. MP Government started it and Kishore Da was the second recipient ( Naushad the 1st) . After Kishore Da received it MP Government started Kishore Kumar Award for contribution to Hindi cinema. What a fitting tribute to 2 geniuses.

My top 5 Kishore -Lata Songs. Now it is indeed difficult to choose 5 out of 327, when almost each one is magic,. However that makes the challenge even more exciting. With great difficulty I have shortlisted the following 5.

“Is mod pe Jaate hain”, “Hum Dono Do Premi”, “Bheegi bheegi raaton mein”, “Gaata Rahe mera Dil”, “Kya Yehi Pyaar hai”.

Is your list the same ?

The end  Sadly and eerily , in his last interview, taken by Lata Didi as written above, when asked by Didi what he wanted he said he has only one wish that God takes him away early, and he hummed a few lines from his song “Aa chal ke tujhe” with specific reference to the words “Jahaan Gham bhi na ho, aansoo bhi na ho”, implying that heaven is a place without sadness and tears and he wants to go there. Shortly, on 13th October 1987 this versatile singer (574 movies), actor (81 movies), producer (14 movies), director (12 movies) and composer as well for 10 movies left us for ever. However his songs are always with us forever, Hamesha.