AUGUST 27, 2014

English cricket

Cook's boys are all right

Criticism has been as regular as breakfast for Alastair Cook. He saved himself from becoming an "untenable" option as Test captain but the focus has now shifted to his one-day capabilities. With former players questioning if England have the composition to win a World Cup, Stephen Brenkley, in the Independent comes to the support of the embattled England captain

Cook's batting strike rate as captain is 81.89 runs per 100 balls, acceptable even by the era's standards. There seems to be a desire outside the selection room to pack the team with sluggers on the grounds that one or two are bound to come off. England may actually have it right as long as the totals to which they aspire are based on conditions on the day, not some statistical database. The plan is to backload the innings after a solid start with Joe Root, Morgan and Jos Buttler all scoring at a lick

JUNE 25, 2014

England cricket

Tend to Cook the batsman, before Cook the captain

England's hopes of a new era were struck down in Headingley by a young and hungry Sri Lanka. As much praise as Angelo Mathews and his side deserves, the hosts did not do themselves justice both in terms of the cricket they played and the tactics they used. Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, casts the magnifying glass on the captain Alastair Cook and suggests he might be trying too hard to change himself and the process if proving to be detrimental.

If Cook were to score runs in the kind of quantity he once managed, then that would underpin the innings, with others feeding from it, and leadership would seem easier. It does appear, however, that he might be placing too much emphasis on being in the vanguard, perhaps trying to be something he is not, rather than being a little more selfish in that regard and thinking primarily about his own game. The point has not yet been reached where either Cook or his employer should be considering whether his position as Test captain is appropriate for both the team benefit and his own but it will be under discussion.

APRIL 05, 2014

Indian cricket

Wadekar's shoes and a Karnataka triumph

In the Telegraph, historian Ramachandra Guha reminisces about Karnataka's semi-final against Bombay in March 1974, en route to their first Ranji Trophy title. Guha writes that Karnataka beat Bombay in that game (on first-innings basis) due to two human errors - the first an umpiring decision that went in favour of Gundappa Viswanath off the first ball he faced; and Ajit Wadekar's slip, which resulted in his run-out and allowed Karnataka to take a lead.

Some 20 years after I watched Karnataka defeat Bombay for the first time, I met Ajit Wadekar at a reception in New Delhi. I reminded him about the match and how he had got out, adding that had he not slipped he would still be batting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. His answer, offered with a laconic shrug of the shoulders, was: "New shoes."

JANUARY 12, 2014

The Ashes 2013-14

How Clarke outwitted Cook

Australia's dominance of the Ashes was clear at every term - except, perhaps the top-order batting in first-innings - and you don't need many numbers to show why they won 5-0. However, in the Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Knox has dissected how Michael Clarke used his bowlers to never allow England a foothold in the series.

The Australians talked a great deal about bowling in partnerships, but the most productive of them was an unexpected one. Johnson and Harris captured more than half the English wickets, but not necessarily while bowling together. Johnson took 20 of his 37 wickets, in fact, while Nathan Lyon was working from the other end. Lyon took 14 of his 19 wickets in tandem with Johnson. The England collapses in both innings in Brisbane, in the first innings in Adelaide, and in the second innings in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, all occurred while Johnson and Lyon were operating together.

JANUARY 09, 2014

The Ashes 2013-14

Give Flower all the power

Andy Flower likes to tap into the knowledge of other sports, and their coaches, as he decides on the best way to go about his job. That job has now become very tough in the wake of the Ashes whitewash and there are suggestions he will walk if he doesn't get his way over Kevin Pietersen. Sir Clive Woodward, who guided England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, writing in the Daily Mail, provides an view from outside the cricket world about how the ECB need to go about rebuilding.

No matter the sport, the head coach must be the only man who is unequivocally in charge, yet even Flower's job title of 'team director' muddies everything. In our national set-ups both in cricket and rugby, too many key decisions are being made by committee. That in turn leads to popularity contests and allows compromise to come into play. When things go wrong reports are commissioned -- the 2006-07 Ashes whitewash sparked the Schofield report -- but nobody fronts up to take the blame.

JANUARY 06, 2014

The Ashes 2013-14

The worst implosion ever?

The UK media are picking through the bones of England's Ashes skeleton, partly trying to work out where it all went wrong and partly assessing where it ranks among sporting thrashings. Paul Hayward, in the Daily Telegraph, argues the 5-0 whitewash has to rank at the top of English humiliations given that they came off the back of winning 3-0 just a few months ago.

This time, after a reasonable first day of the series in Brisbane we saw England assailed by technical, intellectual and emotional chaos, with no one able to stop it. Recent Ashes history makes no sense. The swing from the summer is too great for us properly to comprehend because it takes us beyond mere sporting factors into a vast realm of psychology, team spirit and character. Flintoff has spoken of his depression on the 2006-07 tour. One wonders at the private thoughts of captain Cook and his men now and how they will suffer with the results from these five Tests slung permanently around their necks.

In the Daily Mail, Paul Newman writes that the rebuilding for 2015 - the next Ashes - has to start now and that five players who appeared in this series should never play for England again

The senior players have let England down. Graeme Swann will be the hardest to replace. Jonathan Trott will have to convince England that he is well enough not to leave a tour again if he is to come back but Matt Prior will return, possibly as early as the first Test of next summer. But there will be those who should never play Test cricket again after this -- Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Chris Tremlett, Michael Carberry and Jonny Bairstow.

In the Guardian, Vic Marks assess the performances of Boyd Rankin and Michael Carberry on the third (and last) day in Sydney

We have seen plenty of Carberry already on this tour. He has impressed by his swift-footed valour against Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris at the start of the innings. Then, so often he would stagnate. Perhaps he felt he was doing his duty as wickets fell at the other end. Then he would be dismissed, a victim of his own inertia.

In his column for the Daily Telegraph, which was also published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Geoffrey Boycott does not think England will take the tough decisions that are needed.

Over recent years England have employed more backroom staff believing it makes them more professional. In fact, they have over-complicated professionalism. We have coaches for everything. Psychologists, team analysts and an 82 page diet book that made us a laughing stock. It is time they got into the real world and stopped wasting money on frivolous luxuries that do not make any difference when Mitchell Johnson is whistling it around your earhole. The players have stopped thinking for themselves.

OCTOBER 09, 2013

Indian cricket

Dhoni faces defining challenge

MS Dhoni enjoyed a brief respite from international cricket as India toured Zimbabwe and before that, during the West Indies tri-series when he broke down with injury. Though he has the advantage of home conditions to tackle the immediate challenges of Australia and West Indies in November, G Unnikrishnan of Deccan Herald predicts Dhoni's legacy is on the line as India get back on the road again

If that [South Africa] tour happens, then it will mark the beginning of a year that will see India visiting New Zealand, England and Australia - places that offer not much comfort for visiting teams. Here, Dhoni's skills as captain, batsman and man manager will come under harsh assay. It's a possibility that India may not have the towering presence of Tendulkar on those tours, leaving Dhoni in charge of completely new-look Test team

JUNE 23, 2013

The Investec Ashes 2013

Australia need to learn to love the coach

An unsettled Australian team has historically never done well in England and with problems regarding the team surfacing on this tour, questions are being asked of Australia's ability to match England in the upcoming Ashes. How they counter these problems, according to Tim Lane in the Age, will depend on team unity and the backing that the coaching staff - specifically Mickey Arthur and Pat Howard - can provide to Michael Clarke.

Australian cricket took a long time to accept the concept of a coach. Bob Simpson was the first and he was eventually forced out for being too interventionist. Ian Chappell, who profoundly influenced Australian cricketers over more than one generation, always said coaches were for transportation from hotel to ground. Shane Warne, whose level of influence needs no elaboration, was similarly dismissive. These two are archetypal figures of Australian cricket and their views resonate. Right now, though, it's hard to avoid the view that Clarke needs all the support he can get from off the field. And if that involves tough love, so be it. Those who are causing trouble need to be confronted with the type of coaching discipline footballers expect to receive if they wilfully step out of line.

MARCH 03, 2013


'The captain is always the boss'

Greg Chappell, the former Australia captain and India coach, talks to the Telegraph's Lokendra Pratap Sahi about his relationships with Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and his philosophies in cricket.

The role [of a coach] is highly misunderstood [in India] and the expectations are very high... When I took over, the expectations were such that nobody could have achieved what was expected. One must realise that, at times, you need to risk losing in order to set things up for the future.

Dravid showed courage because, for everyone else, it was we can't do this, for if we get beaten, the media would tear us apart... Dravid did a magnificent job, because he bought into the philosophy of taking risks, making changes and looking ahead. As I've said, you don't stand still in sport... We wanted to take risks because we wanted to get better as a team.

FEBRUARY 04, 2013


Ingredients of an effective captain

Former England captain Mike Brearley, who works now as a psychotherapist, talks about the importance and tactics of captaincy, the Kevin Pietersen saga, the role of coaches and more, in an interview with Subhash Jayaraman in the Cricket Couch.

Basically, these guys have to decide whether to have two slips and a gully, or whether to bowl this bowler from this end, or whether someone is tired and needs to be changed, or what is a good score on a certain pitch etc. That is the tactical side, and you still have a great responsibility of influencing the team, for grooming people together into a team that really supports each other, or building up the confidence of someone who is less confident, or challenging someone who is over confident. All of that, and trying to play yourself. All these things are absolutely the same.

JULY 09, 2012

Who is the most successful captain of them all?

Satyam Mukherjee, a scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois, has tried to come up with an answer to a question that has often inspired much debate: who was the greatest captain the game has seen? Mukherjee has used, what he calls, a “complex network approach” to come up with the answer. More from the Economist.

So who is the most successful captain in Test history? According to Mr Mukherjee, it is Steve Waugh, captain of Australia between 1999-2004. It is difficult to disagree with his finding. Mr Waugh holds the record for the most consecutive Test wins at 15 (the team itself was unbeaten for 16).

MAY 24, 2012


The unluckiest captains in world cricket

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is two IPL matches away from leading Chennai Super Kings to their third straight IPL crown. Dhoni’s success ratio has prompted some to call him one of the luckiest captains in history. Avinash Subramaniam, writing for, looks back at the tenure of Kim Hughes, Brian Lara, Ravi Shastri, Tatienda Taibu and Aron ‘Ali’ Bacher, all captains that did the job with varying success.

How lucky a captain is Mahendra Singh Dhoni? Most people would unabashedly say, well, of course, very. Speaking of the role luck plays in the life of a captain, here’s what one of Australia’s great captains, Richie Benaud, had to say on the matter, “Captaincy is 90 percent luck and 10 percent skill. But don’t try it without that 10 percent.”

Keeping Benaud’s pithy views in mind, here are five captains who, in the opinion of this writer, certainly possessed a bit of skill but didn’t have Lady Luck on their side. Is this a complete list? Well, of course. Not.

JULY 20, 2011


MS Dhoni: Things just fell into place for me

MS Dhoni enjoys the trappings of success, deservedly so, but remains rooted in the simple work ethic of his family, says Simon Briggs, in an interview with the India captain in the Daily Telegraph.

England captain Andrew Strauss describes himself as a winner, but for all the kudos of his three Ashes triumphs, the man on the other side of Thursday’s coin toss has done it all: World Cup, World Twenty20, World No 1 in Test cricket. And he has done it with such serenity and poise that you would think he was still playing in a tape-ball street game back in his native town of Ranchi. This is one of Dhoni’s greatest talents: the ability to transmit calm and relaxation to his players when things are tight. Yet it is something of a conjurer’s trick, for he is keenly aware of the responsibility he carries. Indeed, he himself sometimes feels the need to escape from the pressures of fame climbing aboard one of his 25 beloved motorbikes ...

England's Test series against India brings threats to Andrew Strauss' authority on and off the pitch, says Mike Selvey, writing in the Guardian.

He [Strauss] no longer has a complete empire on which to fall back. So now his international future will stand or fall on his Test record alone, on the success of the team and the runs he contributes personally. The young pretender is in place. Strauss believes, and he may be right, that concentration on one aspect will buy him time. Yet it may also place too high a demand on this drive to succeed. He has little margin for error now.

Nasser Hussain and Sourav Ganguly, were captains who introduced pugnacity and backbone to Test sides that were languishing in the rankings, says Rob Bagchi, writing in the same paper.

Twelve years ago the fortunes of both sides were bleak. England were ninth in the rankings, rock bottom beneath Zimbabwe and New Zealand, and India, led reluctantly by Sachin Tendulkar, were fifth with barely half the points of Australia. Two men in the commentary box for their home audiences for this seductive series, Nasser Hussain and Sourav Ganguly, were the catalysts for the progress made over the past decade and while they have been eclipsed by their successors, both sides owe a debt of gratitude to the men who transformed their character.

APRIL 06, 2011


Dhoni among the all-time greats

MS Dhoni ranks right up there with the best international captains – think Imran Khan, Mark Taylor, Arjuna Ranatunga – of the last three decades, says Ian Chappell, writing in the Hindustan Times. Like all good captains, says Chappell, Dhoni displays an aura that, no matter what is happening on the field, suggests to his team ‘all is well’.

Dhoni and Ranatunga both had moderate attacks, which makes their achievement in winning a World Cup even more meritorious … Neither Dhoni nor Ranatunga were ones to lament their lack of attacking options; they just devised plans to beat the opposition with the bowlers they had in hand. Dhoni even admitted after the semi-final he’d misread the Mohali pitch but that still didn’t stop him from finding a way to win with the attack he had…

Dhoni gradually brought his team to a peak during the tournament and they were at their best in the final. And, as good as they were, not even Imran, Taylor or Ranatunga put on such a commanding personal performance as Dhoni did in a World Cup final.

Meanwhile, writing in the Daily Telegraph Tanya Aldred says Wayne Rooney could learn a thing or two from the calm-under-immense-pressure India captain, after the footballer received a two-match ban for his expletive-laden goal celebration.

Testosterone can take you a long way, but it doesn’t defend you from looking like a thug … On the same Saturday, over on the other side of the world, another man was under more pressure than even Rooney could imagine. A small town-boy, sturdy, stubbly and with a most magnificent nose, MS Dhoni was leading India in their pursuit of the cricket World Cup against Sri Lanka … The din was transcendental, the weight on Dhoni’s shoulders oppressive. Yet there he was, ridiculously, unbelievably, calm.

That six that won the Cup, high into the exploding Mumbai sky, was icing so pink and delicious it was almost sickly. Never will he play a more rewarding shot. And yet, though he gave himself perhaps a fraction of a second too long to admire the ball sailing into the night, there were no foul-mouthed celebrations to camera. Just embraces with team-mates and worthy handshakes with opponents…

Abhishek Ghosh remembers his one-time school-mate, a certain MS Dhoni, in Tehelka.

FEBRUARY 04, 2010


Captaincy: No comparison between cricket and football

Michael Atherton, writing in the Times, says captaincy is a far more serious business in cricket than it is in England's most popular sport. The captain is central to everything that goes on in cricket unlike the "half a million quid" reference that has come to characterize the role in football.

When Andrew Strauss pulled out of the tour to Bangladesh that starts this month, the reactions of dismay or understanding explain neatly why the John Terry affair has only a passing relevance to England’s chances in this summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa.