Category: _author:Baidurjo Bhose

Amitabh Choudhary Accuses CoA of Systematicall…

New Delhi: Just a day after the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators decided to take away all functioning powers of the three principal BCCI office bearers, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary has hit back by writing a scathing letter to the committee headed by former CAG Vinod Rai.

In the letter Amitabh Choudhary has questioned the CoA’s motives behind constantly hounding the BCCI members, rather than working in tandem with them to implement the reforms suggested by the Lodha Committee. The letter goes on to question several decisions taken by the committee ever since its formation and accuses the committee of systematically taking away powers from the BCCI office bearers.

In the letter Choudhary has accused the CoA of not following due procedure while appointing senior professionals and of also creating roles like GM (Marketing and Digital Communication), which never existed in the board.

This comes after the CoA stopped board officials from using the BCCI funds to meet legal expenses in connection to the Lodha Panel related cases. The officials now cannot plan their travel and accommodation for various meetings without CoA’s permission.

Here are excerpts from the letter, which is in possession of Cricketnext –

“As my humble mind understands, the orders dated 02.01.2017 and 30.01.2017 had two parts: a) Expeditious implementation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court judgment of July 18, 2016, and, b) supervision of management and administration of the BCCI. The spirit of the orders clearly is that the latter role had been assigned to facilitate the execution of the primary role of implementation of reforms. However, despite my best efforts I have still not been able to find in these orders, the two cardinal aspects that the CoA has been giving effect to since your very first day in office, namely, that i) No office bearers exist ii) CoA will supplant and replace the office bearers and assume their powers and functions. Doubtlessly, the undersigned will remain ever grateful to the Committee for showing under what lawful authority has it been giving effect to the two aspects referred to above.”

“While nominating the persons who would constitute the Committee of Administrators for the supervision of BCCI, the Hon’ble Court vide the same order dated 30.01.2017 noted as under:

‘9. Be it noted, on the last occasion, it was submitted by Mr. Datar that B.C.C.I. has to send a nominee to attend the meeting of ICC which is likely to be held in the first week of February, 2017. For the aforesaid purpose, names have been suggested by Mr. Datar. Considering the names suggested by Mr. Datar, we are of the opinion that three persons, one from the Committee of Administrators and two from the B.C.C.I. shall attend the ICC meeting so that there will be objectivity and transparency. For the aforesaid purpose, we nominate, Mr. Amitabh Choudhary, Joint Secretary, and Mr. Anirudh Chaudhry, Treasurer, B.C.C.I. and Mr. Vikram Limaye, Managing Director and CEO, IDFC Ltd. Needless to say, B.C.C.I. shall make all arrangements for and bear the expenses of the same. It is further clarified that these persons have been nominated to attend the ICC meeting only for this time.”

“However, the very first act of the Committee of Administrators who assumed charge on 31.01.2017 was to show complete disregard to the above order within 24 hours of its pronouncement. In complete violation of the said order the Committee of Administrators, acting through the CEO of BCCI, communicated with the ICC via e- mail on 31.07.2017 as under:-

‘Dear David,

The Committee of Administrators appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court to administer the BCCI met in Mumbai today under the Chief of the Committee, Mr. Vinod Rai.

The Committee has informed me to communicate the following requests to the ICC:

1. Mr. Vikram Limaye has been nominated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to attend the ICC Board meetings on behalf of the BCCI.

The Committee has also requested that since this is Mr. Limaye’s first outing with the BCCI, the ICC may kindly allow one additional person from the BCCI in the meeting who could sit in as the Observer and assist Mr. Limaye.

2. F&CA Meeting: The BCCI has been represented in the F&CA Committee by Shri. Anurag Thakur in his capacity as Chairman of the Development Committee. The Hon’ble Supreme Court appointed Committee has requested that the ICC allow Mr. Vikram Limaye attend the meeting.

3. Chief Executives’ Committee: The Committee of Administrators has recommended that Mr. Rahul Johri, CEO BCCI participate in the CEC.

This is for your information and the necessary confirmation.

Regards, Rahul.’

It is evident from the order itself that the Hon’ble Court had given no liberty to the committee to modify the order and upon being informed about the violation by Mr. Kapil Sibal on 01.02.2017, the Hon’ble Court observed that their order was very clear and the Hon’ble Court stopped at that only on account of the assurance from the learned Amicus that all the three persons nominated by the Hon’ble Court will represent the BCCI in the ICC.”

“As if the above was not enough, you chose to write directly to the CEO of ICC on 01.02.2017 incorrectly representing the Hon’ble Court’s orders in the following words:

“As a consequence of these two orders, the Committee of Administrators is in charge of the management and administration of the BCCI and duly empowered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to take decisions for and on behalf of the BCCI. Accordingly, I have consulted with the other members of the Committee of Administrators and am addressing this email to you for and behalf of the BCCI.”

"It is strange that while you keep referring to the order dated 30.01.2017 so often, you have failed to notice that even in the said order, the Hon’ble Court had made a clear distinction between the COA and the BCCI being aware that the CoA had a very limited and defined role whereas the BCCI as an institution had to continue to function through its office bearers. This was further confirmation of the original view of the court that the BCCI must continue to function and had therefore it had been careful to nominate its acting president and acting secretary after removing its President and Secretary in its January 2nd order.”

“With this as the background one is not at a loss to understand what occasioned the latest directives. By all accounts, it seems they sprang from the COA being left without an answer by the undersigned’s reasoned and point by point missive on the irregular appointment process of the so called GM Marketing which also sought to address your unfounded concerns on introducing day night test matches in India. In the process there is now a further confirmation of your long standing effort to continue to run down the office bearers by going so far as even preventing them from appearing in Court through their counsels effectively gagging even their fundamental rights and ensuring that there is no contrary viewpoint before the Hon’ble Court.”

“The orders dated 02.01.2017 and 30.01.2017 clearly lay down the job of the committee viz, the implementation of July 18, 2016 order and supervision of administration and management of the affairs of the BCCI. The spirit of the orders clearly is that the former was Committee’s primary job and until this primary job is concluded expeditiously the Commitee were required to supervise the administration in the interim. The supervision part was only for the interim period and what is cardinal to the whole scheme is that the Hon’ble Apex Court was clear that the office bearers not only existed while you thought and believed they did not, they must discharge their responsibilities. The scheme does not even remotely suggest that the CoA could supplant the office bearers or the General Body of the BCCI. Yet right from day one, as has been demonstrated, the entire effort seems to be directed at ousting the office bearers, preventing the office bearers from functioning and repeatedly enjoining the court to do away with them which further strengthens the view that rather than implementation of the reforms your interest lies elsewhere.”

“Coming back to the paramount goal of realization of reforms in the BCCI i.e. the implementation of the 18th July order, I do not recall of any mail or other communication made to me in the last 8 months which refers to the implementation of the reforms.”

“On the other hand it has only been on account of my single handed efforts in the last few months, being bound by the undertaking given before the highest court of the land, that as many as 13 full members of the BCCI, nearly half of the Board, have converged upon one point of view of accepting all reforms barring the Board, have converged upon one point of view of accepting all reforms barring the very few impracticable ones as has been mandated by the Apex Court on July 24, 2017. An email embodying this said convergence has been sent to other members of the BCCI and was even forwarded to you. I am hopeful that more members will come around by the time I file my affidavit before the Hon’ble Court.”

“Several appointments have been made in the BCCI without any information of the procedure adopted to the office bearers even on posts that hitherto did not exist in the BCCI like that of the GM (Marketing and Digital Communication). Selections to the post of the Director NCA, the head of the ACU and many other posts have been made on the basis of the advertisements issued by the undersigned but the undersigned was kept completely in the dark about the selection process and the decisions made therein till suddenly the appointment letters were dropped by e-mail for being signed on the dotted line.”

“Considering more than a year has elapsed since the appointment of the Committee the undersigned therefore requests the Committee, with all humility at his command, that instead of running each other down it guides us all with single minded determination towards the paramount objective of expediting the implementation of the 18th July, 2017 judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.”

Skippers to Give IPL Opening a Miss? BCCI to P…

New Delhi: The Spirit of Cricket captain’s pledge is as integral a part of the Indian Premier League opening ceremony as is the swashbuckling show put on by various Indian and international artists to kick-start every edition of one of the most successful domestic T20 leagues in the world. But this time round, the captain’s pledge is set to be filmed in advance on April 6 and the recording will be played out during the opening ceremony at the Wankhede Stadium on April 7 before the opening game between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.

Speaking to CricketNext, a senior BCCI official said that the move was made to ensure that none of the four franchises who play on April 8 — Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab — miss the presence of their captains on the eve of their campaign opening games. The opening ceremony was initially planned for April 6 at the Cricket Club of India before the decision was made to host it at the Wankhede prior to the opening game.

“Having the captain’s pledge at the Trident Hotel in Nariman Point on April 6 means that all the leaders can go back to their respective teams before their opening games. With the opening ceremony now on April 7, having the pledge live would mean keeping Virat Kohli (RCB), Gautam Gambhir (DD), Dinesh Karthik (KKR) and R Ashwin (KXIP) away from their teams on the eve of their opening game on April 8. So, if we have the event in advance, they can happily strategise and make last-minute plans before the game,” the official said.

The Spirit of Cricket segment during the opening ceremony is the signing of a pledge by the 8 captains prior to the start of the season and it sees all of them share the stage for the only time in the tournament as the IPL trophy is put to play by the defending champion.

Interestingly, a member of one of the franchises playing on April 8 applauded the decision and said that it wasn’t the most ideal situation to have the captain stay away from the team on the eve of the match. His sentiments were further echoed by a senior official of another franchise.

“See, while it is up to the BCCI to decide on these things, having the captain’s pledge a day in advance augurs really well for the four teams that are playing on April 8. It is the opening game for you in the tournament and you don’t really wish for your skipper to stay away from the team as there are many last-minute plans that need to be chalked out going into the season opener,” he told CricketNext.

Interestingly the itinerary for the opening ceremony is to be decided on March 16 as BCCI members and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) continue to debate on the plan of action for the day. While the CoA has refused to allow an increase in the budget for the opening ceremony, some board officials feel that the opening of the IPL is one of the most-awaited events in the country.

“Some of the top international artists have come and performed at the opening over the years. It is a much-awaited celebration of 50 days of non-stop cricket that follows. To not allow an increase in the budget is unfair. But, we have a meeting again on March 16 and we will decide on the final plan of action on that day.

“The concept of having separate openings at the various venues in the previous edition was a huge dampener and failed to create an impression in the minds of the viewers and that means we need to be all the more careful with our planning this time round,” the official said.

Mohammed Shami’s Contract on Hold: BCCI Source

New Delhi: While several Indian players have got a windfall after the BCCI announced its reworked annual contracts, it was surprising to not find the name of pacer Mohammed Shami in the list of players. According to top BCCI sources, the move comes in the wake of the recent controversy where his wife has claimed that Shami has been up to certain activities which amounts to adultery and domestic violence.

Speaking to Cricketnext, the official said: “Shami is very much in the scheme of things and his contract is just put on hold. We need to verify a few things before getting to the bottom of the matter. Ideally, the current controversy regarding Shami and his family should have been looked into by the ethics committee of the BCCI. But, since there is no such provision as of now, a final call will be taken only after a conclusion is reached. While the matter could be debated both ways because the claims against Shami has nothing to do with his cricketing career, it was felt that the wait and watch policy is the right way forward.”

Earlier, Shami took to social media to clear the air regarding the controversy surrounding his personal life, after his wife Hasin Jahan accused him of cheating and domestic violence.

Shami, in a tweet said, “Hi I’m Mohammad Shami. Ye jitna bhi news hamara personal life ke bare may chal raha hai, ye sab sarasar jhut hai, ye koi bahut bada humare khilap sajish hai or ye mujhe Badnam karne or mera game kharab karne ka kosis ki ja rahi hai.”

Jahan had accused the pacer of assault and cheating.

“Shami abused me and started beating me even after returning from South Africa. He has been doing this for quite some time now and now I have had enough,” she was quoted as saying by ABP News.

Shami was earlier in the Grade B of the annual contracts. He is an automatic choice in Test cricket for India, but has not had a regular place in the limited overs team for a while now.

MS Dhoni is the General in Virat Kohli’s Army,…

New Delhi: With pacers dominating the scenes in all the three Test matches between India and South Africa in the Rainbow Nation, the pattern wasn’t expected to unfold any differently in the limited-overs series. But spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal had other ideas. While Kuldeep finished with 17 wickets from 6 ODIs, Chahal picked as many wickets from 6 ODIs and 2 T20Is. A finger injury sustained during the 6th ODI ensured that Kuldeep was rested for the T20Is.

While Kuldeep is still around 10 days away from regaining full fitness, the chinaman bowler is already thinking about his next tournament — the IPL. But before the IPL, one must talk about unprecedented success that Kuldeep achieved in South Africa. The exuberance of youth is clearly evident in his voice as the reporter gets him to decode the secret of his achievement. Without making any bones, Kuldeep says he can’t thank his stars enough to have two stalwarts in skipper Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni as teammates.

Speaking to CricketNext, Kuldeep says while skipper Kohli plans it all — from field settings to the style of attack against each opposition batsman — former skipper Dhoni ensures that the bowlers implement all of it. Kuldeep doesn’t mind calling Dhoni the general of Kohli’s army.

“What we have achieved in South Africa has a lot to do with the way Kohli bhai and Dhoni bhai guide us in the middle. While you can all hear Dhoni bhai constantly guiding us on the stump microphone, it is Kohli bhai who actually plans it all. It is a complete work of two individuals who are brilliant when it comes to first planning and then implementing the plans.

“Credit has been given to us (Kuldeep and Chahal) for taking India home in the limited-overs series, but we couldn’t have been half as effective had it not been for the two senior pros guiding us. You need a skipper who backs you and believes in your ability to shine on the big stage. You think we could have been so successful if Kohli bhai had not given us the freedom to attack? I don’t think so,” he said.

Asked to talk about the thought going in his mind when he was handed the ball in the first ODI — the spin duo picked five wickets in the game — in Durban, Kuldeep is nonchalant as he says that looking at the wicket isn’t his way to go into a game.

“My role is to attack and also abide by the directions given by the skipper. I don’t really give the wicket much importance. I am an attacking bowler and I believe that if I can do my job, the wickets will come. Chahal telling me in Durban that the wicket had sharp turn gave me further confidence.

“In fact, I must admit that when I reached South Africa — during the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg — the mood in the camp was already upbeat. We had the upper-hand in the game and after coming so close in the first two games, it was for the first time that the result was also turning in our favour and that win set things up for the rest of the series.

“But yes, we did need to focus all over again and try and make inroads at the start of the ODIs. Keeping the winning momentum was very important for us as a team and that is what helped us because had we not won the first two ODIs, the Proteas would have come back strongly and the series could have ended in a much different manner,” he confessed.

While pundits were a bit surprised that Kuldeep didn’t find a place in the Test team, the chinaman bowler says that there was no place for a third spinner in the ranks after R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on foreign soil.

“Yes, I would be lying if I say that I didn’t feel disappointed to miss the bus, but then, that is a part of every sportsperson’s journey. You also need to realise that the team already had two master-class spinners in Ashwin bhai and Jaddu (Jadeja) bhai. So, I went to South Africa with a clear mind and looking to make the most of the opportunities that I would get. To be fair, I didn’t think that we (Chahal and him) would get the kind of purchase that we did. I enjoyed bowling on those wickets and I think the numbers speak for themselves. I only looked at expressing myself in the middle,” he revealed.

Done with the tour of South Africa, the next challenge is England and Kuldeep feels the team will do well even there under the leadership of Kohli. “Kohli bhai leads by example. His aggression rubs off on all of us and that is why this team has the ‘never-say-die’ attitude. I am confident that we as a team will produce another good performance there. But before that, I am looking forward to bowling against Kohli bhai and Mahi bhai in the IPL,” he signed off with a smile.

KL Rahul Ready to Roar for KXIP after Career-d…

New Delhi: After a career-defining season with Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2016, injury saw KL Rahul sit out the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League. The name synonymous with Bangalore and RCB is ready to be a part of season 11 of the cash-rich league. But this time round, he will be playing for Kings XI Punjab and the batsman who also doubles up as the wicket-keeper in the most successful T20 league in the world is super excited.

Critics have in the last couple of seasons taken digs at Rahul for his tattoos and at times his flamboyance. But it gets really difficult to judge someone who you have seen ply his trade even before he became a household name and an India star. But one thing the reporter can vouch for is the conviction in Rahul’s voice as he speaks about the game. It hasn’t changed one bit from the last time when he did an interview with this reporter at the Ferozeshah Kotla after being picked in the Indian team on the back of back-to-back hundreds in the final of the 2013 Duleep Trophy final.

Asked if he had goosebumps starting a new journey with the Lions (KXIP is also known as the home of the lions), Rahul said: “You are always excited to start any new journey in life and this is one such thing. Yes, I have learnt a lot from RCB and other franchises like Sunrisers Hyderabad. Every franchise that you play for, you learn a lot about yourself and also learn from the teammates and the support staff. This will be a new experience and I am looking forward to it. Like I said, the way I play the game doesn’t change. It will just be more responsibility on me and I love being that person that the team looks up to when it comes to winning games and also really looking forward to a couple of months in Punjab.”

When it comes to looking up to teammates, Rahul has made no bones about the fact that India skipper Virat Kohli has been a huge inspiration. And he reiterated the same after winning the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at a ground where he has fond memories — the Kotla.

“He is an extremely good player and we all know the numbers that he has achieved in the years that he has played so yeah, he is a big inspiration and it is great to have a captain like him in the team who leads from the front,” the 25-year-old said.

While Rahul did not have the best of tours of South Africa, the batsman has learnt a lot being around the big boys of the team in the last year and a half and says that it is admirable how they keep going through the grind and handle the pressure of expectations that come with playing for the country.

“Being with the national team, you are always put under a lot of pressure, not just with your skills, but mentally and physically all the time. You kind of figure out a way on how to keep yourself motivated, how to keep fit and how to keep performing day-in and day-out and those are the things that I have learnt from the big boys in the Indian team who keep doing so well consistently,” he said.

Coming back to the IPL, Rahul is KXIP’s first-choice wicket-keeper and the batsman has changed his style of training to adapt to the challenges that come with keeping wickets and play a lead batsman’s role in a hectic format like the IPL where you play one day and travel the next day.

“When it comes to training, it has changed a lot. I am not used to keeping wickets for a long time. It’s been the IPL and a few matches here and there for my state. Physically, I have changed the way I train as I have to keep day-in and day-out for a long time as it takes a lot out of my body. I am looking to get stronger and hopefully keep away from injuries,” he smiled.

Interestingly, Rahul must be said to be one of the most versatile cricketers around. He opens in Test matches (even batted at No.3 in the second innings of the third Test against South Africa at the Wanderers), bats in the middle-order in the shorter formats and even keeps wickets when it comes to T20 cricket. But for Rahul, it is the demands of the team that holds priority.

“You don’t get to choose. You have to be prepared for whatever challenges are thrown at you – be it wicket-keeping, batting up the order or in the middle order. It’s up to the team management and captain what roles they want to give me,” he reiterated.

The talk with the batsman can’t be complete without a mention of Karnataka’s third Vijay Hazare win. In fact, the batsman flew into the country only on Monday before joining the boys in the middle for the final. But Rahul says it is a dream to play with the boys he has grown up playing with.

“Really happy to be back with them. The team did really well right through the season and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t add more trophies to the cabinet this season. But I have been keeping a track even from South Africa and it is always exciting to play with the boys that I have played all my growing up years with,” he said.

The chat was supposed to end in 2-minutes, but when it comes to cricket, Rahul just gets into one of those zones just as he does when facing the new ball against some of the best fast bowlers in world cricket. It finally takes the teammates from the balcony at the Kotla to shout his name out as he smiles and excuses himself to go and celebrate a victory in the final.

People Tend to Forget Dhoni’s Contribution as …

New Delhi: He will be remembered as much for his skills as a finisher as he will be for lifting every ICC trophy — World T20 in 2007, World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013 — on offer. But India’s Test No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara feels MS Dhoni the Test captain was just as instrumental in laying the foundation stones for making this team under current skipper Virat Kohli the world beaters that they are. Kohli was presented the ICC Test Championship mace on Saturday after the win in the Wanderers Test against South Africa meant that no team can move ahead of India in the Test rankings at the April 3 cut-off date.

The conversation that started with congratulating Pujara on becoming a father — wife Puja gave birth to a baby girl on February 22 — soon veered to cricket as the reporter had to wait all through the Test series in South Africa — as per BCCI policy — to finally get the batsman to discuss the tour to the Rainbow Nation, his decision to play for Yorkshire, India’s rise to the No.1 ranking in Tests and the changes he has had to make to adapt to the captaincy styles of former skipper Dhoni and current skipper Kohli.

“To start with, it feels really good to retain the top spot in Test cricket and get the mace. It is something we as a team thrive to do and to be honest, be it under Dhoni or now under Kohli, the motive has always been to win Tests and not just in India, but also overseas. It is true that this team has done really well in Test cricket in the last two seasons, but to be fair, people tend to overlook Dhoni’s contribution as Test captain.

“India became the No.1 Test team under him (in November 2009). India’s longest stint at the top in Test cricket was from November 2009 to August 2011 under Dhoni. And we are looking to take that forward as a team and for that we need to do well overseas and the win in Wanderers stands us in good stead. To win on a wicket like that meant that the morale of the team reached another level,” he told CricketNext.

“Also, talking about the two captains is a bit unfair because Dhoni led for a while and Kohli has just about started off and settling down. Maybe we can do that in some time from now. But yes, it was a pleasure to play under Dhoni and it is no different to be led by Kohli.”

While the scoreline suggests 2-1 in the three-match series against South Africa, Pujara believes it was much closer than what the records shall suggest.

“Just a matter of a couple of partnerships. Trust me, things would have looked very different had there been just a couple of partnerships. The team played some really good cricket and the bowlers were fantastic. We had them on the mat in Cape Town and again in Centurion, it was the batsmen who failed to stitch partnerships,” he confesses.

Talking of Centurion, Pujara deserves as much flak for getting run out in both the innings and the sport that he is, he accepts the same and says that as a sportsman you have to move on and not get stuck up.

“Yes, it was not the best of ways to get out. But, you have to move on and think about the next game. It was the kind of wicket which I felt I could score on, but the unfortunate thing was to get run out. As a sportsman I just put it behind and started preparing afresh for the third Test,” he said.

The third Test saw a different side of Pujara altogether as he batted for 53 balls before scoring the first run. But he says that it was the need of the hour.

“Sometimes, you just have to grind it out and wait for the right balls. I was pleased with the effort I put in and I feel that the win on that wicket set the ball rolling for the rest of the ODI and T20I series. Wickets like those really make me want to pad up and hit the crease. Those are conditions wherein you need to be on the top of your game both mentally and physically. One good ball and you are back in the hut,” he smiles.

Interestingly, the wickets right through the Test series seemed to be prepared for the bowlers, but Pujara isn’t complaining as he feels that it only makes the batsmen relish the runs they score. In fact, he says that is the reason he is looking forward to his stint with Yorkshire.

“Well, nowadays you do tend to get challenging wickets a lot more and it is only fair. The Indian team had no issues playing on the wickets produced in South Africa. In fact, the county stint with Yorkshire should further help me prepare for the challenges that lie ahead of me when India tours England. The challenges that shall be thrown at us — by James Anderson and boys — is not something we aren’t aware of. This stint in England shall help me prepare for that,” the 30-year-old said.

Elaborating a bit more about his upcoming county stint, Pujara said: “I am really looking forward to it. Playing county cricket means you prepare on wickets where every ball could be the last you face in an innings. The wickets are really challenging and I love challenges. County cricket has improved me as a player and I just want to score as many runs as possible for Yorkshire and prepare for the Test series against England and the road ahead.”

Pujara’s County Championship record reads 816 runs with three fifties and three hundreds. So clearly, the Indian team management couldn’t have expected for a better preparation ground for India’s most dependable Test batsman.

‘Manjot Kalra Takes to Challenges Like Duck to…

New Delhi: He is the toast of the town after his unbeaten 101 in the final of the U-19 World Cup against Australia helped India clinch their fourth title on Saturday. But coach Sanjay Bhardwaj is not amused. The man who has also coached the likes of former India opener Gautam Gambhir, Amit Mishra, U-19 World Cup winning skipper Unmukt Chand and rising star Nitish Rana says that Kalra always loved scoring big and on the grandest of stages.

Speaking to CricketNext, Bhardwaj said that speaking after the semi-final against Pakistan, he had just reminded his ward of his desire to score big hundreds right from the start of his cricketing career. And he feels that was enough to get the southpaw to tear into the Australian attack.

“These are young kids and when they are away from home and playing on such big stages, they need just a bit of motivation. All I did was reminded him of his U-14 days when he would tell me that just a 100 was not good enough for him. He would hit 150s even at that age and that continued for him even at the U-16 level. Some kids are born with the desire to shine on the big stage and take challenges. Kalra for me is one such player,” he said.

Asked about how he feels now that two of his wards have scored a century in the final of the U-19 World Cup, Bhardwaj said: “Well funnily enough, I gave Kalra Unmukt’s example. I told him that the reason Unmukt became a household name after the U-19 World Cup was not because he was the captain of the team that won the tournament. It was because he had scored a century in the final and that ensured that the media made him a household name.

“Let us be honest. If Kalra had hit a swashbuckling 75 off say 45 balls, how long would the media remember him? At most a couple of days. But this knock will ensure that he remains in the minds of cricket lovers for some time to come. After the kind of display put in by the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, it was important that Kalra hit a big one on the biggest stage to show his true potential.”

While Kalra has an IPL contract with Delhi Daredevils, the batsman is yet to find a place in the Delhi Ranji Trophy team. But Bhardwaj doesn’t wish to get there for now.

“It is okay. He has shown everyone what he possesses and I am sure Delhi Daredevils would not have picked him if they did not see talent. Also, Rahul Dravid would not have backed him if he did not have the mettle. So, let us not talk about what could have happened or what should have happened. Let us look ahead and see what he can do with the foundation that he has laid with the opportunity given to him by the BCCI and Dravid,” he signed off.

Virat Kohli and Boys’ Scintillating Show at Wa…

Johannesburg: Not known for their ability to adapt to foreign conditions, Team India’s rise to the No.1 ranking in Test cricket, till recently was criticised by many as it had come on the back of a scintillating display on home soil. But after the 63-run win over South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday, those with basic cricket knowledge will no longer challenge the ability of this Indian team and its rise to the top spot in the longest and oldest format of the gentleman’s game. In fact, the win augurs really well for Virat Kohli and boys considering the long overseas season that lies ahead for this unit.

Talking of wins on foreign soil, the top-3 that come to the mind immediately are — the second Test against England at Lord’s in 2014, first Test against South Africa at this very Bull Ring in 2006, and the one at Adelaide in the second Test against Australia in 2003.

Two things are of vital importance in these three wins. Firstly, none of these games had seen the Indian team completely dominating proceedings. In the Lord’s Test, it was the spell by Ishant Sharma (7/74) in the England second innings that saw MS Dhoni’s boys win. In the Johannesburg Test in 2006, it was the famous spell from S Sreesanth (5/40) that scuttled out the Proteas for 84 and set the path for an Indian win under Rahul Dravid. And in 2003, it was Ajit Agarkar’s spell of 6/41 that saw Sourav Ganguly’s boys register a historic win over Australia.

Secondly, in none of these games, India had the pressure of being down and out in the series. In England, the first game had been drawn before the boys won the second Test. In South Africa it was the first game of the series, and against Australia too, the first game had been drawn in Brisbane with skipper Ganguly hitting a magnificent century to set the tone for the remainder of the series.

But at the Wanderers on Saturday, this team under Kohli came back after losing the first two games of the series in Cape Town and Centurion, to register a comprehensive win at the Bull Ring. More importantly, this came after an indirect dig was taken at the boys by South African skipper Faf du Plessis when he said post the win in Centurion that it was very satisfying to win on an ‘Indian style’ track at the SuperSport Park. If the Proteas won on an Indian type of wicket, Kohli’s boys couldn’t have found a more disconcerting wicket than the one produced for the third Test in this series.

In fact, the move to have a wicket with pace and bounce backfired so badly that the home team was almost on the verge of pleading with the concerned officials to stop the game, sighting safety of the players. But not for once did Kohli or any of his boys raised any concern on the state of the wicket, despite the Indian players taking body blows themselves.

“We never complained about the tracks we played on. When we saw the pitch, we knew it’s going to be an equal chance for both sides. We decided to take the challenge head on, so it feels really, really satisfying to have won on a pitch that was supposed to have pace and bounce and it did and it played to our advantage,” Kohli said.

In fact, Kohli went on to add that it is the belief that this team has, that sets it apart from others, especially since it does not bother about what is being said or written about the boys. “Probably, what (games) I have been involved in, Lord’s was very special because we were playing on a similar sort of pitch; not as fast as this, but it was very challenging and we had won their because of our batting efforts and the bowlers coming together well.

“So, we had to show character in this game, and step up not for anyone else but for the belief of the team. When no one is believing in you, no one’s backing you, it’s very important to back yourselves as individuals. We knew that if we play well together as a team, we can win here, and we felt we were close in the first two games also but didn’t close off well,” he reiterated.

Talking about the brave decision Kohli took in batting first after winning the toss in overcast conditions, Kohli said: “As I mentioned in the last press conference as well, we don’t think like people on the outside. When things don’t go well, we as a team don’t say ‘oh we should have done this’ or ‘we should have done that’. That’s the easiest thing to do.

“I can say or write anything about anyone but when you’re in there, facing their bowling attack on that sort of a wicket, and then when you decide to bat first, you need to be sure and you need to have belief in yourself. So, we certainly back ourselves as a team and that’s something we have done throughout this tour. Yes, we were disappointed things did not come together in the first two games but we are really proud of this effort,” he said.

Du Plessis too accepted that the Indians played better cricket and deserved to be winners in the third Test. “As I said before the Test match, you just have a ground where you play better at. And I mentioned us as an example, we haven’t lost a game in Perth. I don’t know what the reason is. You’re just successful as a team. Obviously it’s got something to do with the conditions here.

“The Indian bowlers are very successful in these conditions. So that’s something we’ve got to remember when we play them here next time, that why is it that they are successful here. Obviously you could see that their bowlers were a real handful in this Test match. And credit to their batters, they put their hands up and put the runs on the board,” he said.

But what many people seem to be overlooking is the 5-match Test series coming up against England on their home grounds in June 2018, followed by the 4-match series against Australia Down Under. So, more than anything else, this win on a dangerous wicket will enhance Kohli and his boys’ belief and reputation that this team can win on foreign soil and become true world beaters.

Shami Picks Five as India Thrash Hosts by 63 R…

Johannesburg: A finger on the mouth as he shut the South African supporters was all that was required from skipper Virat Kohli as India made it 2 wins and 3 draws from 5 Test matches at the historic Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Kohli and boys had come into the game with the visitors never having lost a Test at the venue and they kept the unbeaten run intact, despite the hosts preparing a fast and bouncy wicket that had pundits calling it unplayable and dangerous all through the third and fourth day.

India defeated South Africa by 63 runs as the No.1 Test team showed what it takes to first grind it out with the bat, taking blows on the body, and then scuttled out the hosts for 177 to avoid a humiliating series whitewash after losing the first Test in Cape Town and second Test in Centurion.

Mohammed Shami finished with a five-for as he has become almost unplayable in the second innings on South African wickets. Unfortunately for Dean Elgar, he remained unbeaten on 86 as Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma finished with two wickets apiece. Bhuvneshwar Kumar finished with 1/39.

The atmosphere was electric at the Bull Ring on Saturday as the crowd got into the game in the third session with both teams fought tooth and nail to grab the upper-hand. While the South African supporters kept booing the Indians every time the hosts’ batsmen scored runs, the Indian supporters would be on their feet every time the visitors took a wicket. In the end, it was the sparse Indian crowd that had the last laugh as the Proteas failed to chase down 241 in their second innings on a wicket which had the hosts running for cover.

In a game that had the Indians dominate the first three days, the South Africans came back strongly on the fourth morning after overnight rain delayed the start by an hour. The duo of Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla batted for 265 deliveries before Amla (52) was dismissed 20 minutes before the tea break. Till then, it was a complete case of domination from the Proteas on a wicket which suddenly looked to have sobered down overnight.

The reason for the change in behaviour was the home side using the heavy roller on a wicket which was damp after it rained till around 7am. The cracks had softened up and when it was pressed by the heavy roller, it came together and closed up – causing a natural binding sensation. This combined with some poor display with the ball from the Indians ensured that South Africa started to claw back into the game. In fact, the teams went into lunch with the score on 69/1 with Elgar on 29 and Amla on 27.

But with the sun finally out and drying up the wicket, the cracks started to open up and as the players returned after the break, Ishant started to look good. Even though Amla and Elgar still looked in control as they evaded the bad balls and hit the good ones for runs, Ishant finally struck 20 minutes before tea when a half volley on Amla’s legs saw him clip it straight to Pandya at short mid-wicket. Brilliant reflexes from the all-rounder sent Amla (52) back to the hut. As is the case on wickets like these, one wicket leads to another and AB de Villiers (6) left 3 overs later when a ball from Jasprit Bumrah kicked from the spot and took the edge of de Villiers’s bat and landed in the safe hands of Ajinkya Rahane at gully.

Skipper Faf du Plessis and Elgar took the hosts to tea with the score on 136/3. But soon after tea, Ishant was back in the wickets column. This time, he got one to hit the crack and skid onto the off-stump even before du Plessis (2) could get down and dig the ball out. Team India’s attitude started changing as they could feel that the game was slowly getting back in their grasp. And things became all the more clear when Bumrah then caught Quinton de Kock (0) plumb in front one run later. From 136/3 at the tea break, the score read 145/5.

After that, it was a complete Mohammed Shami show as he got the ball to reverse and sent back Vernon Philander (10), Andile Phehlukwayo (0) and Morne Morkel (0) back to the hut. India’s lower-order nemesis Kagiso Rabada was accounted for by Bhuvneshwar as he got the perfect left-hander’s outswinger to take the edge of Rabada’s bat and land in the hands of Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip.

Elgar and Lungi Ngidi did try to bring the hosts as close to the target as they possibly could, but the Indians were just too good and Ngidi was the last wicket out as the Indians started celebrating a famous win on a wicket which shall clearly earn a warning from the International Cricket Council once match referee Andy Pycroft sends in his report.

Kohli & Rahane Prove Mettle, Reputation at Sta…

Johannesburg: Two Indian batsmen with contrasting fortunes on the current tour of South Africa came together at the crease post lunch on the third day of the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium on Friday. While skipper Virat Kohli had a point to prove after the team’s No. 1 Test status was being questioned, post the losses in the first two games of the series, deputy Ajinkya Rahane had been dropped from the games in Cape Town and Centurion citing lack of form. The only thing common was an opportunity to shut detractors in trying conditions.

On a Wanderers wicket that got worse with each passing delivery, finally forcing play to stop early after a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer hit Dean Elgar on the head, earlier Kohli and Rahane stitched a 34-run partnership that not just changed the complexion of the game, but also proved that this Indian team can no longer be called flat-track bullies. In fact, former English skipper Naseer Hussain went on to tweet that next time one calls Kohli’s boys by that name, they should be reminded of this Test match.

Interestingly, it was a hit on home team opener Elgar that forced the umpires to discuss the option of abandoning the game on grounds of player’s safety. ICC match referee Andy Pycroft did discuss the concern raised by umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould with the two team captains before it was decided that play will start as usual on Day 4 at the Bull Ring.

But Rahane felt that the conditions were similar for both teams and there was no reason to stop play as the Indians had survived on the very wicket by taking a few blows on the body. “You cannot call it a dangerous wicket. When Hashim Amla got 60-odd in the first innings, no one was talking about that. Everyone was talking about his innings, and how he played. Unfortunately, Dean Elgar got hit on his head, and I hope he’s fine. But I don’t think the wicket is too dangerous.

“I think the ball was back of a length, a hard length. Slightly more bounce than usual, but if you see the wicket and see the bounce here, it was completely natural. Even when Bhuvneshwar and I were batting, or Vijay was batting against the new ball, we faced the same. It is not dangerous, it is completely similar for both teams,” Rahane said.

Coming back to the two Men in Blue, Kohli has time and again said that raising questions about the wickets on offer was not how this Indian team operates and the captain’s gritty knock on a minefield even as balls almost turned square at 140kph – after hitting the cracks – showed that he has the game to back his claim. In fact, the ball from Kagiso Rabada that finally broke through his defence was another one that cut in viciously after pitching. In between, he was hit on the gloves a couple of times and quite a few shot up from the goodlength area. But the knock of 41 was enough to show the world that testing conditions gets the best out of him.

For Rahane, it was about proving to his detractors that he was still India’s best bet in the longest format of the game. And what an innings he played to remind all his critics that form is temporary and class is permanent. Just when the team needed him most, he stood up and delivered. His 48 was nothing short of the 150 that Kohli hit at the Centurion in the second Test. In fact, at times it looked like Rahane was batting on a different wicket and the rest on another. But timely blows on his body bore testimony that it was vintage Rahane on display and the wicket was still a ‘poor’ one, if not ‘very poor’.

Getting out down the leg-side to a flick off Morne Morkel was definitely not the best way to miss out on a well-deserved fifty, but by then, he had already taken India out of troubled waters and the lead read 196. After adding 34 with skipper Kohli, Rahane added another 55 with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bhuvneshwar carried on the good work further as India finally ended with the score reading 247 and South Africa needing 241 to win.

But the bouncer in Bumrah’s first over – landing around the 8.5 metres-mark on the pitch map as per former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar – finally ended the day’s play as the umpires felt things were getting too close for comfort, after numerous deliberations all through the day. While a bouncer hitting a batsman is never a good sign, what South Africa coach Ottis Gibson said at the press conference at the end of the day’s play was sad. Calling a bouncer a length ball showed the hosts in very poor light.

“Dean went forward and the ball took off from a length. Whether it was 8m or not, even on a third-day pitch, you are not expecting the ball that pitches at 8m to take off and hit the batsman on the head without the batsman even having the time to take evasive action,” Gibson said.

“At the end of the day, the umpires will make a decision, which they did. Before you go on about India batting twice on the same pitch, yes they did. And there were balls that were taking off from a length, and our captain was saying that, ‘I’m not sure that this is fair either.’ So it’s not like we are sour grapes or anything. We felt this morning that when balls were taking off off a length, it was obviously a little bit tricky and a decision would have to be made.”

The umpires and match referee have jointly decided that the match will start at 10am on Saturday morning and if anything, it is South Africa’s reputation at stake as the team asking for fast and bouncy wickets has gone on and backfired so badly that their batsmen have found it almost impossible to adapt to the minefield at the Wanderes. For India, it is about picking 9 wickets and registering a victory that shall be remembered by both fans and critics for years to come.