Ganguly: I always believed I had it in me to play

There’s a steaming mug of tea in his hand when he opens the door of his suite to let me in. “Shall I make you a cup?” he offers. “Or perhaps you’d prefer Coke or Pepsi?” I turn them all down, firmly but politely, for I’m nervous and can’t think of anything but the questions I have for Sourav Ganguly, in this much-postponed interview that’s finally arrived. I’ve rehearsed my questions but immediately make a nervous mistake: “So, 100 Tests must be special for you. You’ve seen Sachin, Rahul and Sourav reach the milestone …” Read more …

Reluctant captain, capable leader

If you want to know the difference between leadership and captaincy, look no further than Younis Khan. In Pakistan, traditionally the captaincy is such a coveted position that players are jostling for it and stories of behind-the-scenes machinations are plentiful. Younis is different in that he has given up the captaincy more than once. The first time, it was because he didn’t quite see eye to eye with Shahryar Khan, the then chairman of the board, and did not want to be a powerless captain. Later, soon after the World Cup, almost everyone agreed that Younis was the best option to lead the side after Inzamam-ul-Haq. But then, at a reception marking his wedding, in his hometown in Mardan, a group of fans, disappointed at Pakistan’s loss in the World Cup, brought a donkey to the place where the reception was being held, and asked Younis to ride it. His confidence in fans, and their propensity for reacting sharply to losses, ensured that he dropped any notions of accepting the captaincy of the Pakistan team. Read more …

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Flak flies as India suffer

India unravelled in such spectacular fashion that even their greatest critics were forced to pause for a moment before spewing forth the bile and vitriol that follows every thumping defeat. In losing by 342 runs in the third Test against Australia and meekly surrendering an undefeated home series record that was so proudly held for 35 years, this team has attracted plenty of anger and disappointment from the man on the street and the media. But they do not deserve all of it. Read more …

McGrath aims to shake up the flat

The pitches for the first two Tests of the India-Australia series have been accurately described as sheep in wolf’s clothing. Now, with the caravan moving to Nagpur in central India, there is talk of a green top. Anyone who has played or watched cricket in India will tell you that no such thing exists. And yet, in the lead-up to the match, which starts on Tuesday, there is empty talk of grass on the pitch and of pace and bounce. If any teams can produce a result on the pitch at Nagpur, it is these – but even for them it will take some doing. Read more …

Dixit, Kartik, Patel: An IPL story

You probably haven’t heard of Subhash Dixit, but you should listen to his story. In 2000, he was captain of the Indian under-15 cricket team that played the World Cup. Talented kids like Irfan Pathan and Ambati Rayudu played under Subhash. Wind the clock forward seven years. Dixit, still young at 22, hasn’t been able to kick on from his teenage success. He has played under-19 cricket for UP, but can’t make it to the Ranji team. On June 9, 2007, Dixit left home to go to practice at the Green Park stadium, but made a stop on the way, at Krishna Tower, a nine-storey shopping complex overlooking Kanpur’s Test ground. On the 6th floor, he took a detour from the staircase, stepped onto a ledge, and threw himself to his death. Read More …

Back in Control of Cricket in India

The best place to begin any introduction is the name. Meet the BCCI —The Board of Control for Cricket in India. Not the Board for Control of Cricket in India, which would make logical and grammatical sense, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India. There are many theories about how the body that governs India’s most popular sport got its name, but none makes any sense. In its current construction, though, the operative word is control, and not cricket. And today, with IPL Gate providing a powerful lens with which to shine a light on the BCCI, that one fact comes through more clearly than anything else: like all battles, this one is about control. Read more …

The Dark Side of the Sachin Superfan

Adelaide. Melbourne. Perth. Hamilton. Auckland. He’s everywhere the Indian team plays.
Yet, he has no source of income.
He’s a frequent visitor at Sachin Tendulkar’s plush Bandra residence, often sharing a meal with India’s most wanted. Read more …

Bowling bouncers, quoting Wordsworth – Frank Tyson’s tale

Richie Benaud, who has been to more Test cricket as a player and commentator than any man yet born, called him the fastest bowler he had ever seen. The rest of the world simply referred to him as The Typhoon. Frank Holmes Tyson, who played only 17 Tests for England, between the years of 1954 and 1959, was a true Ashes hero. Born in Farnworth, Lancashire, on June 6, 1930 to an employee of the Yorkshire Dyeing Company who would not live long enough to see his son sport the Three Lions England crest, Tyson was unorthodox and frighteningly fast. Read more …

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Pujara – Loss of mother made our hero immune to pressure

When Cheteshwar Pujara, the man who has taken Rahul Dravid’s coveted No 3 spot in the India Test line-up, was on 199, facing Graeme Swann, the field changed dramatically. Every available fielder was posted on the off side and Alastair Cook at gully was so close to the nearest man that he could have shaken hands. With the largest and most voluble crowd he has ever played in front of roaring in anticipation, Pujara opened the face of his well-worn bat to thread the needle, trotting to the other end to begin a most well-behaved celebration. Read more …

Dhoni’s cunning plan outfoxes England

There exists a template to winning Test matches in India, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become the latest in a long line of captains who deploy this to best effect. On a pitch that only briefly had anything in it for the bowlers, late on the second day and spilling over to the third morning, Dhoni ensured that his bowlers used every trick in the book. Read more …

Off-field battles overshadow cricket

If a week can be a long time in politics, a year can be an entire era in sport. Specially if the best part of that year was spent dismantling the structures around which a sport had been run, practically unchallenged and unchanged for nearly nine decades. The Board of Control for Cricket in India will remember 2016 for a very long time, even if it wants to forget it at the soonest. By the Chinese calendar, 2016 was the Year of the Monkey, and, with no disrespect to anyone, it was a year in which Indian cricket got more airtime and column inches dedicated to legal battles than runs scored or wickets taken. Read more …

SC-inspired ‘mass culling’ leaves BCCI in ruins

At a time when India is the No. 1 Test team in the world by the International Cricket Council ratings, the last thing needed is a prolonged period of instability off the field. The BCCI derives its clout from the performances of the team and the loyalty of a large fan base, but the game can neither be run by the courts nor run itself in the long-term. Read more …

Keeping up with Virat Kohli

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, is a bit of a riot on social media. He, more than most sportsmen, knows exactly how to use Twitter to stir the pot, putting out cheeky one-liners that have large groups of people up in arms. But when he is being serious, there are some great insights to be had, and over the course of the World Twenty20 2016, he became a complete Virat Kohli convert. Read more …