India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 3rd day

India's gritty boys

For contrasting reasons, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli were under pressure but they responded in the best possible manner to keep India in the Test

Sidharth Monga

December 15, 2012

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli batted through the third morning, India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 3rd day, December 15, 2012
MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli combined to add 198 for the fifth wicket and drag India back into the match © BCCI

Saturday in Nagpur was not a big test of skill. It was a slow and low pitch that it was difficult to get out on, which - if you look at it in isolation and as a neutral - has provided drab cricket. This was a different kind of test for two different kinds of men in two different kinds of predicaments. You can look at MS Dhoni's face when he is walking back, and not tell whether he has won a game or lost it, or even tied it. But turn to Virat Kohli and there is a full match report written on it. They have both been copping it of late, and not entirely unfairly.

Dhoni has led India to nine defeats in the last 10 Tests he has played against Australia and England. Any captain will be questioned after that, but the way it has been handled isn't been ideal. First we got the impression the selectors didn't want to touch him, then when they became former selectors they alleged they couldn't touch him because of the BCCI president's backing. All that in the lead-up to a Test India need to save to avoid a first home series defeat in close to nine years.

Kohli, the man most likely to replace Dhoni as captain whenever he is replaced, had gone through a perplexing series until today. One of the best traits of his batting is that he doesn't gift you his wicket. In this series, though, he had been playing loose shots. It was tempting to think Test cricket was getting to him, but that couldn't have been the case. Just before the series started, in a tricky but successful chase against New Zealand in Bangalore, he faced 15 dots before scoring a run under immense pressure from a good attack under overcast skies.

Lesser batsmen have been known to throw it away at such times, looking for release from that pressure. Suresh Raina did so with a shot that might have ended his Test career (maybe not, for you never know with Indian cricket). Kohli, though, showed no emotion or itch. He waited and waited before a ball arrived that deserved to be scored off, and came back with an unbeaten fifty and a Test won. Incidentally, his partner then was Dhoni.

Kohli is too good a batsman to keep getting out the way he has been, playing nothing shots outside off. It isn't the bottle or the technique that he has been lacking. Whatever it was, those who had not followed his efforts in Perth, Adelaide and Bangalore were questioning him, and his scores deserved those questions.

A current captain and a future captain were both losing trust, and they needed to do something about it. Okay so this was not a test of their pure batting skills, but it was a test of temperament, of patience, of mental and physical energy, and most importantly of staying in the present. Don't think of the past. Shut out Jimmy Amarnath, Sachin Tendulkar's wicket, the loose shots outside off. Don't think of the future. Shut out the ticking clock because this is not a pitch where you can score quick runs, and starting at 87 for 4 you can only cause damage by thinking of whether you will have enough time to force a result. Also forget that one of you plays possibly the best cover-drive in the world, and the other has never faced more than 187 balls in a Test innings.

The biggest target for India on day three was to end in a position where they could make use of it should the pitch break up and start turning. Had India trailed by 100 on first innings, which looked quite likely at the start of the day, no amount of turn would have helped them. Alternatively if the pitch doesn't break up, quick runs won't help anyway.

"This pitch isn't made for pretty but India don't need pretty. Batting like millionaires hasn't been working; they need to bat like paupers for a bit"

Dhoni and Kohli showed that if you just put your mind to defending, it's too difficult for a bowler to get a wicket. They just batted. Defend, defend, defend, sneak a single here, convert two into three there. And boy did they run? It wasn't pretty. This pitch isn't made for pretty. India need the unpretty. Batting like millionaires hasn't been working; they need to bat like paupers for a bit.

For a long period, it didn't seem even the centuries mattered to them. Kohli reached 90 in the 109th over and the hundred in the 115th. In between he hit Dhoni's bat with a straight drive, which cost him four runs. That was the only time his expressive face showed any sign of anxiety. Dhoni reached 90 in the 113th over and was run out for 99 in the 130th, but until that run-out you would have thought he was batting in the 30s.

Perhaps it was the non-expressive Dhoni face that led you to believe the hundred didn't matter. Perhaps it didn't matter. Perhaps Dhoni thought that was a normal run: remember he had to run slightly around James Anderson, and still he had reached the line when the stumps were hit.

Whatever the case may be, the two had fallen at crucial moments. From a position where they could have gone after quick runs on the fourth morning, they had been reduced to a situation where being bowled out is the best thing that can happen to them. As has been happening over the last 18 months - Raina bowling in the middle session on day four at Lord's, the hat-trick at Trent Bridge, the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid either side of stumps at the MCG - India had come second-best in a critical phase once again. A side that has been losing a lot of its talent can't afford that.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Dhanno on (December 16, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

@meanster - harsha - vacant mind . My objection was to suddenly making too much out of one innings, when the realities are both dhoni/ kohli's backsides were on fire before this game. In age old indian tradition they are buying themselves time and thats about it. I bet 5 years from now Kohli would not reach same heights as cook/ amla in 5 yrs of TEST career. For the vacant mind, I was referring to author making big deal of virat's temperament/ character based on 15 balls he faced against lo and behold NZL! I dont think australians/ Saffers consider their batsman great when withstand SL bowlers for 15 mins (no disrespect to SL, point is SL bowlers are in as much unfamiliar territory when they are visiting SA/AUS as NZL were in india). And for harsha fellow, i duly apologize for not realising test-odi-t20 are all same and runs scored in each format are equal and by that logic virat is really the best batsman in cricket today. wish you goodluck in lalaland!

Posted by Dhanno on (December 16, 2012, 15:43 GMT)

@Samroy. Cmon you are bringing down Sutcliffe to the level of samerveera ? You could have your own (or wisden's definition) of greats, nothing against Hobbs/ Hammond. Although from my readings and if I would have watched these guys play, I would have admired Sutcliffe more than Hobbs (who was truly one of the greats, and sorry for missiing his name!) But this last innings by Kohli/ Dhoni if it had to be to compared, Hobbs was not the name that would first come to my mind.

The point is We have articles touting Virat as next leader, his patience based on "15 balls he faced under pressure". Given his potential he should be doing this (getting good scores, not just playing 15 balls patiently!) day in day out, all four test matches. You can see how that one good innings manifests itself, the guy is throwing tantrums/ intimidating umpires today. So hold horses (and these articles) that is all that I am saying. He is no leader yet, unless arrogant richard-heads is what you want for leaders!

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 13:40 GMT)

When everybody is taking about Dhoni's captaincy, why nobody talks about the Great Shewag.......... As long as he is in the team, India can forget any win either in the Home series or overseas matches. Probably by continuing with Shewag may be a an Advantage for Team India so that he will bring in-fight in the rival camp by claiming who is going to bowl for him because it is the easiest wicket even a school lad can claim........

Posted by shrastogi on (December 16, 2012, 12:49 GMT)

Dhoni played a very mature innings and so did Kohli but this branding in the article of existing captain & future captain is not correct. At present India is playing a fairly young team and the seniors are not contributing enough hence the burden is falling on young players. The contribution from Gmabhir , Sehwag, Tendulkar is not sufficient for frontline bats. If India had posted bigger totals Engalnd would definitely have faced scoreboard pressure. The young bowlers would have had more runs to play with. Now should Dhoni be test captain given the fact that Nagpur test ends in a draw. Its a very big challenge for selectors as neither Gambhir or Sehwag have runs with them to be surity as a captain. That leaves Pujara & Kohli. Both of them are just too young. So Dhoni appears to be the TINA factor. But we can definitely give T20 captaincy to Kohli to ease burden on Dhoni as Dhoni is undisputable leader in one dayers and see how Kohli fares.

Posted by Saravjit on (December 16, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

Someone wanted Stats on Dhoni: This will be 3rd Series Loss in Last 20 Months in Tests , Last 3 T20 World Cups India has been ousted in the Super Six Stage . 50 overs : Triangular in Aust India was Last and in Asia cup again India Last So does he Deserve a place in the Team forget being Captain

Posted by Rajeshj on (December 16, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

well.. this is a slow pitch where there is not much spin or swing and you can stay sure that there won't be short stuffs.. and its as good as a flat track with not great scope for boundary clearance... do you think this was the greatest test for these two men.. there were plenty of innings they could have played this in England or Australia or even in the previous 3 tests.. I wouldn't say this innings has proved great skills of these two men and its quite dangerous to say Kohli is the future leader, pre-maturely... he has still not proved his skills against tough opponents in tough pitches.. I would say Pujara would be a better choice than Kohli given his technique which would suit both Tests and ODIs.. plus he has a cool head and humble which is must rather than the hot and flamboyance of Kohli..

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 10:48 GMT)

Indians just about have saved this Test. But there was no attempt to win it. How sad. England would laugh their way back to home and Christmas.

Posted by Inducker on (December 16, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

How much longer will India be allowed to get away without the DRS? Can't India rely on anything more than doctored pitches and intimidating umpires into bad decisions? I challenge CricInfo to publish this post.

Posted by salil247 on (December 16, 2012, 6:29 GMT)

Apoorv Bansal- "india will go downhill fast unless dhoni & srinivasan are replaced" Please provide data to backup your statement about Dhoni. As for Srinivasan, are you serious? You certainly have no clue about the order of things.

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (December 16, 2012, 4:51 GMT)

from the articles these days it looks like cricket is dead in india. It's not the case and it's not the end of life if India lose this series. Next up big Indo pak series. It's just a transition period where india don't have legend batting any more so just give a break to indian players and let them lose some matches and series. don't always criticize the captain and don't always make new captains even before thinking. Cricket is big business in India and it's not that easy to just sack a captain.

Posted by NairUSA on (December 16, 2012, 4:38 GMT)

The Captain's swan song!. Hope Indian team recovers from this string of defeats for a better future with young faces

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (December 16, 2012, 4:14 GMT)

Kohli has shown with his application at such a crucial juncture that he is the perfect choice to be the captain of young Indian team of future. He is an aggressive guy and seeing how he led the 2008 u19 captain he believes in leading by example and being aggressive.The crucial hand in last year 2011 cup final and his blazing knocks against SL in Hobart and Pak in Asia Cup shows though still slightly in-experienced but he has the good in him to make a team in his own image.

Posted by Nish_US on (December 16, 2012, 3:00 GMT)

Raise above your personal achievements and may be someday you can be a captain

Posted by AjaySridharan on (December 16, 2012, 2:59 GMT)

It is frustrating to see the guys score only when their backs are against the a I'll prove it to you kind of way. That is lack of professional integrity. Why would you ever want to sin against your talent?!

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 2:45 GMT)

This inning can be the turning point for their career but still I think they done 80% of work.They could have converted this innings as epic innings of Laxman-Dravid. As we see the no of bowls they faced and time they spend,It showed the example for other players.I am in favor to give chance to younger players but the same time selectors should be sure that the incoming boy has enough skill to handle international bowlers because our poor standard of domestic cricket, making runs and having good skills and temperament not always come in same line.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

@apporv bansal well, better you can keep wickets in test matches instead of dhoni.. and also take up the captaincy... it seems u can turnaround India's path uphill with your skills... speaking is much easier than doing my friend

Posted by Ankush_J on (December 16, 2012, 2:11 GMT)

I really think those two guyz played really well bt they both get out in wrong times,still a 50-50 of luck team india

Posted by Chris_P on (December 16, 2012, 1:55 GMT)

Too late & far to little.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (December 16, 2012, 1:07 GMT)

@jimbond: Correction Jim, it's not "Kohli MAY have the skills"... but "Kohli HAS the skills". What an innings from an amazing young player. Love his attitude and the way he made the English bowlers look weak. It was a tricky pitch with zero pace and bounce and yet he controlled his natural instincts and played a game of attrition. It will serve him well for years to come.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (December 16, 2012, 1:02 GMT)

@Dhanno: Your comment lacks total logic and common sense. You are comparing apples to oranges. Amla and Kallis have been in test cricket longer than Kohli. What are you on about ? Why is it that every time an Indian player shines, we have jealous folks come here and speak trash ? This man is the next legend of Indian cricket. It's only a matter of time. With this brilliant knock of determination and attrition, Kohli has shown he belongs at this level. Why bad mouth him even before he has started ? I cannot understand you folks.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 0:52 GMT)

after watching du Plessis in Aus in second Test and Cook earlier in the first test, i thought Kholi could have kept going on instead of saving his test spot. nonetheless played well.

Posted by Harsha_Reddy on (December 15, 2012, 23:43 GMT)

@ dhanno .....who is the top scorer in 2012...let me guesss.... VIRAT.... runs are runs scored in test/odi/t20 ..funny that people are so dismissive about his achievements ...give him his due ....he will captain india in future ....and he will do good .....all of 24 years ...this is his first year in test give him time ...

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (December 15, 2012, 23:33 GMT)

@Dhanno on (December 15 2012, 15:34 PM GMT) you say that "the bowling stocks all over world are at lowest in decades". You havent got a clue. You only say this because it is bowling stocks in INDIA are at lowest in decades. And when did Clarke get a hundred "every game" in recent Ashes series in Australia?!? When I looked on cricinfo stats Clarke V England in 2010/11 scored 193 runs in 9 innings with a top score of 80 and an average of 21. He could not handle England bowler. Just because India have no bowler does not mean that nobody else does either.

Posted by funnykumar on (December 15, 2012, 23:12 GMT)

Mr Monga you should really get a life... Just for the heck of righting a column do not exaggerate just ordinary innings to epic proportions.. I was watching the game for more than 3 hours and it was so boring.. there was nothing in the pitch to trouble the batsmen.. BTW - I am an Indian, and I love test cricket more than any other form of cricket.. Seriously BCCI should immediately stop scheduling test match series going ahead and restrict themselves to IPL tamasha... and let them gloat in the hard earned IPL tamasha... I for one will be happy following Australian, Safas and English Test Cricket... I am ashamed that I still follow BCCI's test cricket.. PS: If BCCI feels there is no money in test cricket.. let them not play test cricket at all.. Indians fans would be happy them not playing test format than to see them losing so badly..

Posted by baduva on (December 15, 2012, 21:54 GMT)

A good batsman doesn't necessarily become a good captain. A captain needs to remain calm, size up the situation quickly in the field, motivate his teammates when they are down and be able to contribute to the team's performance either with batting or bowling and be on the look out for developing players.

I feel Virat Kohli is not fit to be the captain of the Indian team at present. He is too immature, not in control of his emotions and I am sure he will crumble in a tight situation in the field, at least at the present time. He has to learn a lot more in the game before taking up the responsibility.

Gambhir is the only other player who comes close to do the job in the current Indian team. How he will do remains to be seen as I don't think he is mentally as tough as Dhoni. I would say we persevere with Dhoni because he has got exceptional qualities for the job but he should be removed completely from the T20 squad so that he gets some rest.

Posted by avikr22 on (December 15, 2012, 21:26 GMT)

@Sidharth Monga.. Hope you read this comment.. I think you are working for cricinfo full time.. So you must put the stats here correct.. dude.. i am into some other job but I keep myself updated with cricket,, Dhoni has not led to last 9 losses .. If i m not wrong sehwag was the captain in the Adelaide match... So its 8 losses.. Not expected these silly mistakes from guys like you...

Posted by SanjivAwesome on (December 15, 2012, 20:20 GMT)

I admire Dhoni and Kohli's dogged innings in hopefully the last test of their cricketing days with Team India. I predict a 3-1 result to England against this pathetic team selected by Srinivasan and his selectors. When will we start honouring real performance in my country?

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 15, 2012, 20:09 GMT)

I concur with @apoorv , N srinivasan should be replaced as BCCI chief/secratary. He is the reason Indian team is mediocre with a captain who rely on luck more than tactics. England constantly applied pressure. What happen to two triple centurian ravindra jadeja? He is ideal bowler for SA or AUS because he can keep one end tight but he is not Test class batsman. He is lose. We probably need few grinding type batsman who wants to put prize on their wicket. But with ODI and T20 batsman natural instinct becomes attacking. That said if you want to see greatest player his defensive technique wlll become attacking. We will see in future when people use body to defend on hands. if you played ping pong you know you hit the ball not with hands more with big muscles of tilting shoulder for control and accuracy. Same thing applies to cricket.

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 15, 2012, 20:01 GMT)

I predicted Dhoni makes century without knowing i don't have luck today. He got out within inches. What ever the inning is Dhoni needs to be fired. Where were the grittiness in 10-0 loss? When his job on the line he is playing heart out. Pathetic. Dhoni needs to be dumped of Test. No remorse. He has to go. I also think if sehwag do not move to middle order he also has to pack bags. WIthout big four he needs to put prize on his wicket. I don't buy this is the way i play crap. Duncan fletcher should be fired. I pray india lose this match. I know may be my bad luck india can win?. Its possible. That said BCCI won't remove duncan or dhoni or sehwag or even sachin. For me sehwag needs to be rested (other way to say dumped). I want kohli to be captain if we continue to lose and gambhir to be vice captain if gambhir in the team. Worse case kohli captain and dhoni vice captain to guide him. Sachin and sehwag should be rested against pakistan.

Posted by NSDie on (December 15, 2012, 20:00 GMT)

All aside.. India needs to play with guts here.. Things change only when you have confidence and never say die attitude..Hope they come of the ropes and define themselves wit a win..BANG..!!!

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 19:54 GMT)

This article somehow has very awkward editing.

Posted by ashgnetics on (December 15, 2012, 19:38 GMT)

I have been reading your article for sometime now.. to me, u r quietly but surely doing a fantastic job and ur views are definitely upright.. please.... continue doing it in the same way... we love this true and unbiased views...

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 19:24 GMT)

They batted well.....oh yeh? Big deal.....that's what they were suppose to do on the first place!! It's about time somebody woke up to score.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 18:25 GMT)

Wonderfully written! Credit must be given where its due. Gritty batting by both. Did the basics right. Had they and the rest done this before, everyone would not have been running for their heads in the first place. I know many will disagree but I feel England, did not do anything extraordinary, well except for some fine batting by Cook and KP! Otherwise, there was no scope for that anyways! They just did the ordinary, right. India, on the other hand messed up their heads with square turners, selectors, poor form etc etc! Learning lessons to be taken, a drastic reaction can probably wait!

Posted by Kays789 on (December 15, 2012, 18:24 GMT)

I knew it after reading the first couple of articles from this writer that here was yet another indian journalist with an overwhelming propensity for hyperbole and the ridiculous. he has proved me correct with almost every article of his since then. how quickly the indian cricket fan's attitude changes is fascinating beyond words. all these words of praise for dhoni and koli will dry up worse than the sahara the moment they get dismissed for nothing in the second innings.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

@Apoorv Bansal, Absolutely, Mr Srinivasan is Mr Fit for Nothing President of Indian Cricket. He doesn't know the basics of cricket. Unless India find strong attacking pace bowlers and a quality leg spinner, the team will be the same forever.

Posted by SamRoy on (December 15, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

@Dhanno, you certainly don't understand cricket. First of, nobody is saying Kohli is a great player already. 3Ws, Hammond are legends of the game though Sutcliffe is not. He is a fine bat who had a great average because people with averages lesser than him during his time were considered far better batsman (Len Hutton and Jack Hobbs). He is a bit like Samaraweera. Averages always dont tell the true story. Anyway, coming back to Kohli; he is a young talented batsman not afraid of failure and ready to take responsibility. That's what is good about him. Though I would prefer less articles about him and let him play. There is no need of gloating over his cricket.

Posted by Nampally on (December 15, 2012, 17:10 GMT)

Fine Tailor made batting by Kohli & Dhoni to suit the occasion & the Pitch.Both rose to the occasion & did India proud of them. I wish Sehwag & Tendulkar showed the same level of responsibility! At this time, the loss of Pujara to a bad umpiring decision looms large. If the ball did not hit the arm guard, it would never have carried to the fielder. Why didn't the Umpire check with the square leg umpire who had clear sight of the batman & the fielder? Such blatant umpiring mistakes are not excusable. Lack of DRS is not an excuse to this, as many have suggested. Great Umpires in the past never blundered on such simple issues. India would have been in better position had Pujara not dismissed by the Umpire! Nevertheless the wkt. looks flat & slow & batsmen will be be out only if they make mistakes. So Draw looks most likely unless one side collapses.Chawla would have been handful on a turning wkt. - a wrist spinner will do better than finger spin.Only interest- Who leads the first inning?

Posted by InnocentGuy on (December 15, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

I think Kohli is a fantastic choice for captain. He has loads of talent, he has aggression, he has the fighting spirit, and he is young. Exactly what Greame Smith had when he took over. I think if Kohli is made captain right now, he has the potential to turn this Test team into a formidable one in say 5 years. We have got to make use of him while he is still young and has time. Now, is a good time, probably the best time to make him captain. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean you drop Dhoni, just strip him of Test captaincy and make him a LOI captain. I think it is the best route to go as far as captaincy is concerned.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 16:51 GMT)

15 dot balls? What a shining instance of self-denial! Historians to come will comment with wonder at this extraordinary feat of Spartan heroism.

Posted by doubtingthomas on (December 15, 2012, 16:29 GMT)

People have been working overtime to find a silver lining it seems. Let it go guys, it's not going to happen. Rather, it is a case of miscued priorities, power mongering and catering to the lowest common denominator. Side effects were bound to surface, and people responsible are the least bit sorry for them. As for fans, we just have to wait till this phase passes. Sad, but true.

Posted by Dhanvanth on (December 15, 2012, 16:25 GMT)

I like the way monga writes articles- sarcastic and sometimes appreciative! Not tryin to hit the nail on the head but do it a round about way! Good going!

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (December 15, 2012, 16:20 GMT)

One knock out of 15+ test matches and you writers glorify so much that MSD will remain captain for ever. What a joke.....According to law of Averages they were bound to score, so whats the big deal. Mr Moonga why we Indians are happy with one such performance beats me. Where is the consistency and further Kohli thought his job was done once he reached the 3 figures. This is where these players have to learn from Dravid and LAX, how to go on to mae a big score as I still think ENG is full control of this game. All they have to do is set India a targetof 200 or less and India will fold.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

Replace Dhoni?with who?with someone who can not even keep his place in the side.He just scored 99 and he is not even a specialist batsman.

Posted by Dhanno on (December 15, 2012, 15:34 GMT)

"Just before the series started, in a tricky but successful chase against New Zealand in Bangalore, he faced 15 dots before scoring a run under immense pressure from a good attack under overcast skies." Seriously Monga ? He faced 15 balls ?? Should we now put him in pantheon of Sutcliffe, Weekes, Hammond etc now that he " soaked pressure, against mighty NZL bowling under overcast skies (of Bangalore) for all of 15 balls" ?? Is that the standards we are setting to next generation? facing 15 mins is all it takes ? And we dont need a rocket scientist to tell us how bad of test player raina is. With due respect to NZL, ENG the bowling stocks all over world are at lowest in decades, the pitches are flat as compared to even 20 yrs forget 50 yrs (bangalore was "tricky pitch" because we are playing cricket on patta all time). Better batsman like Clarke, Cook, Kallis, Amla are scoring hundreds every game. Kohli is not good to shine their shoes currently so stop this sycophantic babble.

Posted by jimbond on (December 15, 2012, 15:31 GMT)

Kohli may have the skills, but it seems he doesnt have the attitude to be the captain of an indian national team. Tipping him so early for captaincy may have a detrimental effect on his ego as well as his game. For some reason, Indians raise too much fuss about captaincy. Possibly its because of the higher ad endorsements associated with the post, or possibly the power they wield. India needs to have a system by which they select the team first, and then select a mature person from the team as a captain and retain him as captain for a couple of years. The country does not gain by having a younger captain if he is unsuitable.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

india will go downhill fast unless dhoni & srinivasan are replaced

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