Monday, March 31, 2008

Dancing in the dark

On Saturday, March 29th:
From Rome's Colosseum to the Sydney Opera House to the Sears Tower's famous antennas in Chicago, floodlit icons of civilization have gone dark for Earth Hour, a worldwide campaign to highlight the waste of electricity and the threat of climate change.
The always innovative folks at Google headquarters had their own unique way of marking this event, as evidenced by the screen capture shown below.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Horatio on a burning deck

"I just keep it simple. Watch the ball and play it on merit."
Sachin Tendulkar. November 1, 2007.

"You control each ball on its merit and stay put at the crease."
Rahul Dravid. May 1, 2004.

I looked to play the ball on merit. It also came to the bat a lot better and once I was set, I played a few more shots.” Rahul Dravid. January 10, 2008.
For all the talk about playing each ball on its merit, the only Indian batsman who actually does that is Virender Sehwag. While everyone else about him plays the ball before it is bowled, producing spells of exaggerated defence and deference to the bowler, Sehwag marches to his own tune. His philosophy is simple - the first thought is to figure out whether he can score runs. If he cannot, then he defends it. Dravid often falls into the opposite rut and can't seem to get himself out of it. Lately, Tendulkar seems to have shelved the more cautious approach and it paid enormous dividends on the tour to Australia.

But when Dravid gets into the defensive rut, it sucks the life out of the rest of the innings. Dravid got to his century in 271 balls yesterday. I doubt that he can look at himself in the mirror and say that those 271 balls were worth only 100 runs. It just wasn't so.

On the third day of the first Test against South Africa, Sehwag scored 108 runs in 67 balls from lunch to tea. At one point he was batting at 172 with 4 overs to go for the tea break.

His last 14 balls were:
444.4411636414 - taking him to 218 at tea!!!

And those two sixes were off Mkhaya Ntini. He went from 193 to 199 with a 6. What a character. Dravid and Sehwag had a 96 run partnership in 102 balls at that point, of which Dravid made 10 runs in 56 balls while Sehwag contributed 84 runs in 46 balls.

Sehwag smashed 15 of the 16 runs in the last over before tea. The last ball was smashed to mid-off and as soon as he played the shot he turned and started walking to the pavilion before the ball reached the fence! Last over before tea!!! So much for the conventional wisdom of playing out the last few minutes before a break. On CriInfo, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan summed up the man, echoing most of what I felt.

At tea he had scored 218 of the 309 runs scored by India. What would India do without this dude at the top of the order?

When that was happening I sent an email to AV telling him that it was as if Sehwag was playing book cricket. To which AV replied, "Stop watching the highlights package!"

Aptly put - it truly felt like that. I hope Sehwag never loses that glint in his eye. He will fail at times and I just hope we have the patience to see him through those phases. More importantly, I hope he then works hard at playing through the strain and remembers the lessons he learnt during this innings.

Straight bat

MS Dhoni has had a relatively smooth transition into the role of the captain of the Indian cricket team. It looks like he was born to do it and yet, last year, very few would have ventured to suggest his name when Dravid stepped down as the captain prior to the Twenty20 World Cup.

In a candid interview with CricInfo, MS Dhoni touches upon this and many other issues. I was initially going to place this in the links posting of earlier today, but realized that there was enough meat in the interview to warrant a separate posting by itself.

Unafraid to speak his mind and possessing a clear vision of what he wants in, and from, his team Dhoni is turning out to be a very astute captain, rising immensely in my esteem.

His basic philosophy on captaincy could be a from a course in leadership skills at an MBA institution. He has a nice way of describing it.
...I've always said the captain is the guy who accumulates all the pressure and then channels it to different individuals - bowlers or allrounders or batsmen. Basically he's a selfish guy who picks guys to do the job for him. It's very important for him to motivate others who'll do loads of jobs for him.
He'd fit right in with WVUCC, too. Here's an anecdote that sounds so similar to some of the things we did.
At school I used to score regularly but I think they were quite afraid of my temperament. I was very aggressive with the guys who were not really 100% on the field. Once, in a senior district tournament game, we were playing a comparatively weak side on a matting wicket. There were some guys who dropped catches and were laughing around and all that stuff. I said, "Okay, I'm bowling." I told those three or four guys: "You stand at midwicket and do all the talking. I'll manage with the six others."
Dealing with egos is bound to be the biggest obstacle for a captain. Dhoni explains how he deals with players who are not in the squad for a particular game.
I keep it very simple: "This is the thing I want and that's the way it'll go." So instead of going there and explaining too many things and confusing yourself and confusing him, it's important to make it very simple. At the international level you have guys who've played a lot - either at the domestic or at the international level - so I don't really believe in telling them too many things or making everything clear - they are clever enough to know what is happening and what are the demands of the game. That's one of my theories. I think it's working.
It is interesting that the two captains that India now has are both folks who were not considered to be the 1st, 2nd, or even the 3rd option before they got the job. Commenting on Anil Kumble's style of captaincy, Dhoni has this to say.
His communication is a lot better than mine. It's one of the things I'm learning and should learn. The rest I think we're the same. I think communication-wise he's a lot better than me.
In closing, his parting shot is aimed at the media that seems to need to focus on some negative thought to push for higher TRP ratings. He makes a very valid point here.
If the result wasn't in our favour, what would have happened then? Would people have really been behind this side? You questioned this side and now that this side has performed, you should back them; you should say good things about them as well. We all knew what would have happened if the side didn't win in Australia. It would have been, "Oh, we all knew this side wouldn't win". But now that it has done well, why don't you appreciate this side?
Actually, I think the side has been appreciated quite a bit for the victory in Australia, but the emphasis seems to have been on individual performances, more than on the team's accomplishment, which may be what he is trying to say.

All in all, Indian cricket in in good hands. I hope he is able to maintain his equilibrium and receives the support he should get when things don't go so well. But why I am skeptical about that happening?

Heading down

What is wrong with this map? Actually, nothing!! We are so used to seeing maps with the conventional North-South projection that it is surprising to realize that maps are just a visialization of the earth and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

On a website dedicated to providing the alternate "view" of the earth you can find a lot more information. (Link via a visit to the Jabberwock blog)

Opening up

After many years of solid operation the Begumpet airport in Hyderabad has closed and in its place brand-new state-of-the-art airport has opened in Shamshabad, on the outskirts of the city. The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, to give it its name, has a very nice website associated with it. I got excited about the "live feed" option, but it turns out to be linking to a photo gallery, but that has some good photos, too. Come to think of it, having a live feed from the baggage claim area would be a nice option. That way people can see whether their friends have arrived and how much longer it will take for them to exit the airport. If the airport authorities can arrange for a large "waiting area" parking lot that receives live feed from the baggage claim area then people wont have to crowd the terminal entryway and wonder how long they have to wait.

Growing pains are bound to be a part of the new experience, but this takes the cake - a pilot is not informed of the new airport and refuses to land his plane, instead taking the plane to Delhi and then onto Mumbai!

Linking up

1) Verifying the actual age of players in age-group events has always been a problem. It's not as if humans can be aged as easily as trees, for example. Of late, the BCCI has focused its attention towards winning matches at the Under-19 level, producing dramatic results. But has it been turning a blind eye towards the issue of how old the players are? Makarand Waingankar explores this in some depth and, thankfully, uses specific names to make his case that some players may be fudging their birth certificates. I wish he had made more concrete suggestions on how to tackle this issue, but that may be a story for another day. Hopefully.

2) Rahul Bhatia, has been reporting on the ICL on behalf of Rediff. Here's an extensive piece on the ICL that discusses what the league is about, what it hopes to accomplish and, importantly, what obstacles it faces. The IPL's attempts to strangle to ICL are bordering on the ridiculous.

3) Never one to mince words, Stephen Fleming outdoes himself here with a very candid assessment of his accomplishments during the last days of his playing career. My favourite part:
Regardless of the unspoken grievances, Fleming was asked if he would leave the game satisfied with his contribution. "Only just," was his disarmingly honest answer. "I am satisfied with 40 on the chest. It sets you apart, in terms of New Zealand batters anyway, but as a batsman I'll always feel I underachieved because I couldn't convert my starts, and I'll never know why. Sometimes I was the master of my own failings, other times it just wasn't meant to be.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Peter repeater

Tring tring

"Welcome to the XXXXXXX credit card company. Please enter your 16 digit account number."

"Thank you. Please hold for the next available customer service representative."

"Hi, thank you for holding. This is Bill. May I have your 16 digit account number?"

"Hi, Bill, I just entered the number before I was transferred to you".

"Yes, Mr. M______, but I still need you to tell me what the number was."

"Why? I just gave you the number a few seconds ago. Does my account profile not show up on your screen?"

"It does, sir, but I need to confirm that it is indeed you that entered the number."

"Who else could it have been? And how does my repeating the number confirm that?"

"Sir, I just need to hear the number."

"But you have my account on the screen, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then why do need to repeat it again?"

"Would you like to speak to my supervisor, sir?"

"No, I am talking to you, why would I want to talk to your supervisor?"

"So he could tell you why we need the number."

"But you already have my number!"

10 minutes and three transfers later:

"Okay, sir, now that we have confirmed your account information, how may I help you?"

"I would like to know if you can reduce my APR."

"That is handled by the finance section. Let me transfer you, sir."

"Hi, thank you for holding. This is Jane. May I have your 16 digit account number?"

Oh no, not again! I made some remark about introducing their right hand to their left hand and and hung up.

Sometimes, picking your battles makes less sense than trying to fight the system.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Forever Young

(I apologize if you do not "get" some of the references made in this post.)

I wrote this poem last year right after the 2007 NCAA and the NIT basketball tournaments were done. India had just been ousted from the cricket world Cup (and Sri Lanka were en route to the finals where they lost to Australia). Hardesty refers to David Hardesty, the erstwhile President of WVU; MSG is Madison Square Garden in New York; Nicholls, Young, and Smalligan were players on the WVU basketball team (nickname: Mountaineers); Commish refers to the "commissioner" of the WVU Biology bracket league; John Bielein was the WVU basketball coach who subsequently defected to Michigan.

Now that the rest was won

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
If the NCAA rebuffs you, win the NIT you must!!

Dreams of making the Big Dance went to dust.
So on to the NIT we went, MSG or bust.
With heads held high, we walked into the fray
Especially Nicholls with his daggers, and Young with many a trey
So what if it's the 2nd tier, we are still ranked first!

Christine's picks matched Ricardo's, oh what a fool!
And by the end of the 1st round, she was taken to school
By the Commish's "associates", a euphemism for cronies
Who hatched this elaborate pool just to take our monies.
But hey WVU won the NIT, so everything's just cool.

So we'll start next b'ball season hotter than a hooligan
And frankly, my dear, what we'll need is a mulligan.
For when we are favored, our teams lay an egg
And the misery we feel cannot be assuaged by simply a keg.
And to compound it all our center will still be Smalligan.

In John Beilein we trust, so said our own Hardesty
And to lose him to Michgan will be such a travesty.
But money is a big factor here, a beguiling mistress
That could probably, for us devoted 'Eers, cause major distress.
If that happens, then we'll barely protect our b'ball modesty.

It's 11:30 at night now, my basketball season is done.
So now I can focus on cricket and have some fun.
But while I was distracted, India did not make the Big Dance
And as for rooting for Sri Lanka, there isn't a remote chance.
So with a deep sigh I can say my TV watching days are done!

Lets Go, Mountaineers!! Fork up every dime.
Pay Beilein what he wants, even if it's a wind chime.
And next year give us the wisdom to not fund the Commish,
Or if he finagles our money, let's ensure he swims with the fish.
I'll stop right now as I'm struggling to find words that rhyme.

CSM, March 29, 2007

Spring cleaning

Spring is in the air, and closets are being swept out! Over the past few months, while trolling the web, I picked up articles that I thought were very interesting or informative. The following links will give you an idea of what I do when I am not watching the riveting action on the screen.

1) Sanjay Bangar describes the role played by the 12th man in a squad. Methinks that some of the things they have to do is really menial and degrading, for want of a better word.

2) Paras Mhambrey gives us a very revealing inside look of the dressing rooms, a view that very few people get to see.

3) R. Ashwin talks about cricket as a professional sport in India and how it compares to Australia.

4) Anand Vasu interviews Sourav Ganguly. Like Anand, I have changed my opinion about Ganguly, too, having written him off as a Test player not too long ago.

5) When the umpires for the India-Australia 2007-08 Test series were announced, DSC and I had had a long discussion about the persons chosen and I remember agonizing over the choice of Steve Bucknor. Unfortunately, I never put it down in writing so I can't really claim the "I-told-you-so" high ground, though I did feel he was going to be responsible for a ruckus even then. Amit Verma, in his own way, talks about Bucknor and what can be done to assist fellows like him and prevent them from destroying matches.

6) Of all the fluff pieces that came out after Anil Kumble crossed the 600 Test wicket threshold, this article by Anand Vasu was the best one I read.

7) Another fine writer, Sambit Bal, interviews Anil Kumble after the dust has settled on the India-Australia Test series.

8) Peter Roebuck, in his inimitable style, pays tribute to Adam Gilchrist - one of my favourite cricketers ever. Strange to think that a guy younger than me has retired from his profession, while I am just starting in mine!

9) And while on Peter Roebuck, here is an article he wrote in 1991 predicting the 7 players who represented the future of Australian cricket. Pretty prescient of him, I must say.

10) You say potatoes, I say potatoes. Here are two contrasting views that were gleaned from the same basic interview that MS Dhoni gave to the press. The Aussie view highlights how Dhoni promises to keep on sledging, while the Indian view is that Dhoni is criticizing the Aussies for their sledging. You say tomatoes, I say tomatoes.

11) I judge a batsman's true worth not by the runs he scores or the average he maintains (though those are useful indicators) but by the partnerships he is involved in. A very revealing statistical study by CricInfo separates the show ponies from the real players. Note how many 100+ and 50+ partnerships Rahul Dravid has been involved in!

12) Peter Roebuck once again. In my estimate, he is one of the top 3 or 4 cricket-writers in the world. He gives his views on the rising fortunes of Indian cricket.

13) The richest cricketing Board in the world, the BCCI, has a very pathetic, non-functional excuse for a website. Compare that with the excellent offerings of the rebel Indian Cricket League. Shameful. It can't be that hard to set one up. Even MS Dhoni, that boy from Ranchi, has his own official website. What about the Indian Premier League, you say? Well, here's their official website - better but it still leaves a lot to be desired. Just for fun, click on the tab for the Tournament rules. The players have been bought, (ahem) auctioned, but there are no rules in place, it appears, on what to do with them or what they will do!!

14) While writers outside India (and some within) have been slamming the IPL, and all the money that is being flouted, Amit Verma tells us why the IPL is a good thing. I just wish (hope? pray? beg?) that the IPL honchos leave the ICL players alone rather than continue with their current efforts to treat them like pariahs. After all, there are a limited number of players who can play in the IPL. Why not let the ICL be a source of income or an avenue for the fringe players to display their talents? I think the IPL and the ICL can coexist, but it will never happen as long as the current set of administrators rules the roost in the BCCI and the ICL. There is too much pride at stake now, and too much mud that has been slung.

15) Mukul Kesavan bemoans that something Sachin Tendulkar said recently may have been an indication that Test cricket is dying. I don't share his pessimistic view but I am concerned, nevertheless. Give me the attritional swings of fortune during a Test match over the slam-bang, whim-wham, of an ODI or T20, any day of the week and then twice on Sunday.

16) Siddhartha Vaidyanathan explores the schedule of cricket's busiest player and wonders when the body will give in to the strain. Watching Dhoni collect the ball with one hand during the 2nd final of the VB Series was very disconcerting. Judging from the "appearances" he is making on a daily basis, ranging from hectic visits to temples to opening motorbike stores, I wonder if he is really getting the rest he needs before the series against South Africa.

16) And finally, in his own words, Daniel Vettori describes the only time he ever asked for an autograph from a cricketer. It is not who you think it would be. It is very revealing that in a testimonial match for Sir Richard Hadlee, he took someone else's autograph!


Shaquille O'Neal knows a thing or two about clearing some space for himself on a basketball court and, sometimes, off it, too. I haven't laughed this hard at something in a long time.

Here's the best demonstration of one man parting the Red Sea since, well, Charton Heston showed us how.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dancing with the stars

From CricInfo:
"The expenses involved are huge and I am not doing the figures. I will see what it is like at the end of the year and then, depending on the balance sheet, I will have to dance at a few more marriages."
Shahrukh Khan is ready to go the distance to make his IPL franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders, a success.

The sad part is that he was probably telling the truth!

Coming soon to a wedding near you....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Full moon rising

I know, I know, I promised that I would not write about cricket for a while, but I could not resist this one.

Today marks the 7th anniversary of that seminal day on which the Indian Test team began morphing into the force it currently has become in the longest version of the game.

If you were looking for an indication about the shifting strengths of the two protagonists, look at the lineups in that match - 6 of the Indians are still playing for the team (In Zaheer's case - when healthy) with a 7th, Anil Kumble, who would have played that game had he been uninjured, currently leading the side. Also, an 8th member, Venkatesh Prasad, is very actively involved with the current team as the bowling coach of an assembly line of accomplished pacers. In contrast, only 2 Aussies are still active, and neither of them are bowlers.

Of all the reports I read about that match, the ones that still resonate with me were written by Prem Panicker. Prem often tends to belabour a point, using a 100 words where 10 would do, but this was one of those periods when his verbosity was an advantage. Check out his reports for days three (Laxman puts his hand up), four (Silent assasin strikes Aussies), and five (Aussies stumble at the Final Frontier). I could read them again and again and still feel goosebumps.

I cannot wait for the Aussies to come back again for the 4 Test series they are slated to play in India.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Less than meets the eye

There is a compound out there, almost ubiquitous and severely unregulated. In fact, according to this website:
Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.
You will some more shocking facts about this toxic chemical here (scroll down the page for more information).

Should we be more worried about it? Or is there less than meets the eye?

Mythbusters in white coats

If teenagers around the world ever get wind of this article, watch out parents! A review article in the British Medical Journal attempts to clear the air regarding seven common medical myths.

Logically speaking

Have you ever had an argument with someone and found that their explanation of something just does not make any sense? And you couldn't clearly explain to him (or her) what the flaw in their logic was?

Well, fret not. The next time it happens you can tell them to "wait a nimit" and then quickly look up which of the 20 most common logical fallacies they are guilty of using.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cricket in the 'Burgh - part 23: Finishing touches

On October 18, 2007, I began a project on my blog that aimed at chronicling West Virginia University Cricket Club's historic 2007 season in the PCA. Today, it is finally done!

Here is the very same moment captured on video by Abishek! (Notice how Sohail, not surprisingly, slips away very quietly at the 1:27 mark)

(Even though it looks blank, do click on the video below, it will play)

The 13 members of the 2007 WVUCC playoff team are: Abishek Muralidharan, Venkata R. Sathi, Nishit Banuri, Avinaschander Manivannan, Sumanth Dommaraju, Arvind Thiruvengadam, Ajay Nayak, Abhijit Bhagavatula, Sohail Chaudhry, Ashok Varadarajan, C.S. Manish, Amol Bhavsar, Nikhil Burri

My blog has been on a hiatus for a long time. Now, I can move on and resume normal blogging. Thank you for your patience!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Captain's corner - Take 13 : Sohail Chaudhry

This post is being written with contributions from 4 of the 5 members of the 2007 WVUCC think tank. Over the past few posts, Sohail has evaluated all of his teammates, and now, it is our turn to return the favour...

Sohail Chaudhry
Right Hand Batsman/Bowler/Wicket-keeper (Captain)

Here is the first of 4 profiles:
by Arvind Thiruvengadam.

First Impression About Sohail: Prior to the start of 2005 season for WVUCC (my first), I heard a lot about the team and, in particular, about Sohail from WVUCC veterans. Interacting with him on the day of the first practice session, I was truly amazed by this character. It’s not often one gets to see that your team-mate is truly to international standards in the game, and I realized that fairly quickly with Sohail. The one thing that amazed me most was his ability to accurately judge the capability of a person. This is a very important characteristic that a captain should possess (especially one who is captaining a team in which everyone claims that he can bowl as well as bat!). The fact that Sohail is technically so strong on all aspects of the game makes it easy for him to figure out the weakness and strength of every player. And when I say every player, it includes himself. Not many of us realize the mistakes we make as a player, but Sohail is quick to notice his own mistakes, as well as those of his team-mates.

Favourite Innings: There are two innings of Sohail which are my favourite:

1) The first is the innings he played against PittsPunters in 2006, during which there was an opening wicket partnership of 150 runs, of which Sohail hit 91. This was a truly amazing batting performance by Sohail. It was a treat for me to stand on the other end and watch him rip apart the PittsPunters bowling attack. He was not only playing this great innings, but as it was my first game as an opener for WVUCC, I was receiving batting coaching from my captain throughout the entire 18 overs that I played! Thanks a lot to Sohail for that moment. It gave me great confidence as an opener after that game.

2) The second is the semifinals game against Hurricanes in 2007. While most of us find it impossible to bat without drinking water, Sohail played this innings of 82 not out off just 39 deliveries, in an important semi-final game, while fasting for Ramzan. As far as I am concerned that’s truly remarkable. That performance (in the game) was an excellent display of his strong mental abilities, coupled with his brilliant batting skills.

Favourite Shot: Front foot drive, with his bat blade tilted, towards backward point, which often results in a towering six over that region. Teams that have studied him well often place good catchers in that position, hoping to get him out there with a mistimed drive. But it happens only when he is in very, very, extremely bad batting form, which again is very, very, extremely rare.

Here is the second of 4 profiles:
by Abishek Muralidharan.

There are numerous wonderful things I’ve admired and envied in him not only as a cricketer but also as a human being. Seeing him play I used to wonder why on earth such a talented player, in his mid-twenties, was playing club cricket in a remote corner of the world instead of performing national duties. I learnt that circumstances can play games too with people’s lives.

Sohail the cricketer
When you look at him bat it becomes obvious that he’s someone who’s worked very hard on his game in his formative years. He has a very classical and methodical approach to batting. So much so that he was particular about being informed well in advance about his position in the batting order so that he could do his mental preparation. All the ingredients for perfect batsmanship can been seen in this man, starting from having a still head, watching the ball all the way to the release, to playing it late. Added to these he also is a wonderful timer of the ball, often sending balls that disappear into the trees surrounding the little Edgebrook Field effortlessly.

He has a very pronounced backlift wherein his bat goes perpendicular to the ground and then comes down as a rapid swish transferring good amount of power to the ball. This process, coupled with his timing, ensured the balls had enough momentum to race across the turf. Though high backlifts aren’t unusual the uniqueness that I saw in his backlift was that he achieved it with only his wrists and not with his entire arm which I thought gave him good balance and control while playing the ball. The shots that I saw him play most productively were the open bladed effortless slices over backward point for six. He was able to play this shot perfectly because he played the ball so late. He would open his blade at the last moment and give it an upward slice. In the first half of the 2007 season he was dismissed cheaply a couple of times. Probably it could be the swing that some bowlers achieved had caused him some discomfort. His leg-side play was also very good. Sometimes he chose to play the paddle to fine leg rather than the conventional approach of playing it square. He mentioned that for some reason he thought this shot had eaten up his flick. However, he did flick the ball on other times without falling over or losing balance. The paddle, I guess, was just a great batsman having some fun when he no longer felt challenged by the opposition. To sum it up, his batting had class written all over it and was such a treat to watch.

I’ve always been a strong believer in the fact that the most important thing to be a successful batsman is temperament, even above physical strength. Physical strength without mental strength will not help a batsman sustain at the crease. In Sohail’s case his mental strength was on par with his physical strength. His mind would never waver and he would calmly build his innings with singles and twos and not just boundaries. I don’t think I’ve seen him get a rush of blood leading to a rash stroke. He would go about his batting in a very structured fashion that it would resemble a skilled worker performing his daily duties in an organized manner without any fuss whatsoever. His mental calmness was also reflected in his captaincy. He never panicked and always emphasized enjoying the game more than anything else. He marshaled his resources very well and at the same time ensured that everyone got to exhibit their skill and did not feel left out.

As a bowler he was very accurate and controlled and never tried to do anything fancy. He was a thinking and smart bowler often setting up batsmen and dismissing them with perfection. For example I loved the way he would bowl a couple of quick balls outside the off-stump to frustrate the batsman and then slip in a slower one on the stumps inducing a rush of blood in the batsmen enticing him into a false stroke.

As a wicket-keeper, again, he was top class. It is said that you gauge a wicket-keeper by how much he doesn’t get noticed during a match and that’s exactly what he did. He hardly drew attention while keeping wickets because he rarely failed to gather the ball or drop a catch. People were astonished to see him keep up to the wickets for bowlers like Karthik Venkatasubramanian and even Hari Menon once. However my take was that this was just a testimony to the caliber of this cricketer. In international cricket there is hardly any fuss to keep up to the wickets for the seamers and it is considered normal and that’s where I believe Sohail belongs.

He was a very good fielder too, always attacking the ball, moving swiftly, running hard while chasing balls, and made catching look like a wonderful thing to do on the field.

Overall he is a complete cricketer fully equipped for top level cricket but has been pushed into oblivion by the dark forces of fate and destiny.

Sohail the person
As a person he is one of the most disciplined, modest, calm, and gentle person I’ve seen. Never once have I seen him get angry or lose his mind. Even when he wasn’t pleased with something he put it across in such a manner that the other person was not hurt in any way. The quality that I most admired in him was his patience and calmness. He never complained about the numerous duties he handled and did not use it as an excuse when he failed to deliver. The willpower in him was amazing. This was evident when during Ramadan he hardly had any strength in him due to the continuous fasting but still he summoned the last joule of energy in his body to drive to the games and perform without complaining. He always shied away when praised for his efforts and never talked about his performances or what he had done. I haven’t seen an iota of ego in him given his stature as a player and he never once hesitated to praise another individual’s efforts. In all he’s a wonderful human being. I’ve looked up to him and tried to change certain things in myself.

Other opinions
A very spiritual person who is extremely learned about other religious doctrines. You can speak to him about the Quran, Bhagavat Gita, as well as the Bible. I was very happy to see the feedback report about his team players, and wondered how keenly he has gauged every person on the field. I was very fortunate to have played with him and to know him as a great friend.

Here is the third of 4 profiles:
by Ashok Varadarajan.

First Impression of Sohail: During the summer of 2002, I happened to hear about cricket being played in WVU at the club level. That season, I was a happy bench warmer waiting to see someone score big or get tired while fielding because of nice hot and humid weather, so that I could get a chance to run onto the field. That year there were more than 11 players who would have been in any team's line up, hands down - Usman Omar, who was similar to Afridi as he could smash the ball all around the field; Usman Hashmi who was a left-arm fast bowler; Nandakishore Jalumuri, in typical VVS Laxman-style - when the opposition got tougher he got more tougher; Abishek Anjanappa, who could drop anchors at will; Sikkil Kaarthick, who as far as I know, was the fastest spinner ever to play for WVUCC; Karthik Mahadevan (leggie) who came with me and (I later realized) who adored Warne and copied all his tricks; Jayendran Srinivasan (Jayanth) who was always thinking about McGrath when he bowled; Venkatesh Parthasarathy, who was a good keeper, but never got the ball as the batsman in the opposition liked to hit it before it reached him; Michael Julius, who I am sure if you had seen field then you would have been surprised how quick Rhodes must really be; Santhosh Balla, who did everything in his own style, including talking to the opposition. Compared to all of them, one guy stood out – Sohail Chaudhry. He was tall but quiet, looked like a beast but was soft, and no one could ignore him on the field because of his merits as a pure cricketer.

I had heard that he was from Pakistan and instantly got scared because of his size. So I did not talk to him much and tried to avoid him all the time. After some net sessions, I realized that the impressions I had about this giant were nothing but wrong. During that time he wasn’t the team’s wicket keeper but when the keeper came to bat during practice, he just donned the keeper's role and did it to perfection. When the practice went into a lighter mood, he would try spin bowling apart from his regular pace bowling. Initially, we had a rule that if you got out twice in practice, you were done with batting and one guy I really hated to see batting was Sohail because getting him out once was hard enough, twice was almost impossible at times.

Favourite innings: It’s always easy to remember the matches which we won and most of the wins must have come with Sohail's contribution. One instance can show how good a team player he is. WVUCC needed something 218 to win and we were at 217 for no loss. Prasheel Chaganti had already scored the first century ever for WVUCC at that point and Sohail was on 96. We were all thinking that it was possible for Sohail to score a century. Prasheel didn't take a run off the last ball of an over so that Sohail could try for a boundary to get to a century. Sohail’s reply was, "Don’t worry about the century, we need to win" and insisted on taking just a safe single. Sohail ended up at 97 not out. That innings was the best innings I have seen him play, based on the class he showed (and by Prasheel, too), as most of the boundaries were all on the ground and timing of the ball was picture perfect.

Favourite shot: Not many would have thought about playing this shot in the international arena, till the T20 games. The favorite shots are always are the ones which others generally cannot do. When you watch videos that teach you how to pull a ball, they always insist that the head should be positioned inside the line of the ball, as you may get hit if you miss the ball. However, Sohail had a unique way of playing it, an upside-down paddle shot over the keeper which is something not too many pro's will even think of trying.

Sohail Chaudhry is a selfless competitor, true sportsman, and a team player. Simply put – “Sohail is a man who has more facets than a disco ball.”

Here is the fourth of 4 profiles:
by C.S. Manish.

First impression: In the summer of 2001, WVUCC had a formidable team with Sanjay Palakamshetty at the helm. Towards the latter half of the season, we heard about a student who would be coming to WVU from Pakistan. I clearly remember the first time Sohail came to practice. He was easily one of the bigger guys on the team (size-wise) but he did not say a single word, preferring to stand on the sidelines, awaiting his turn to show his skills. In those days, our practice field was on a baseball diamond that has since been converted into a parking lot for the WVU Recreational Center. Bala Balakrishnan, the manager-coach at that time, asked him to keep wickets and we immediately knew that we had found a good player. The first thing that struck us was the time he seemed to have to collect the ball. Breaking tradition, the think tank decided to play him in that weekend’s game itself as a wicket-keeper batting lower down the order. In the 7 years since then, Sohail has not missed a single game for WVUCC.

Role in the team: At the second practice, Sohail batted for the first time and I went from being the wicket-keeper/opening batsman to being the #11 batsman in the side in just two weeks! And I did not care one bit. Sohail was and is vastly superior to me in both regards and it was a pleasure just to be able to watch him from close quarters. We did have a really good batting partnership against OSU that season but, overall, Sohail never really clicked into the gear we were hoping he would. In hindsight, I would put it down to culture shock. He was an 18-year old boy, all alone in a foreign nation, trying to fit in. In the 2002 season, Usman Hashmi was named the captain and, in spite of having a good team, we fared badly. The only shining light were the performances of Sanjay and Sohail. When the 2003 season began, Bala and I had a decision to make about appointing a captain for the team. We discussed all the candidates we had and had absolutely no hesitation in wanting Sohail, still the youngest fellow on the team, to be the leader. Sohail was close to tears when we offered it to him and he humbly promised us that he would not let us down. Over the course of the next 5 years he has been true to his words. For years after that, Bala and I talked numerous times about that decision and consider it to be one of the best ones we ever took.

At the start of the 2003 season, we had a dearth of bowlers. Sohail approached me to take up keeping once again, while he began bowling. All his life he had just been a wicket-keeper batsman, but he had no problems shifting into being a bowling all-rounder. That year, he took the Midwest Cricket League (MCL) by storm with some inspirational batting and bowling, including the first hat-trick by a WVU player (see below for details). For his efforts he was rewarded with the Most Valuable Player award for the MCL in 2003. His fourth year, 2004, saw him go from strength to strength. During that season we had, arguably, the strongest batting line-up ever for a WVUCC team – Sohail, Prasheel Chaganti, Nandakishore Jalumuri, Usman Omar, Kaustubh Deshpande, and Tafazzul Khan – but the lynchpin was still Sohail, who still managed to consistently outshine all the others. Fittingly, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the entire league for the second year in a row.

At the MCL All-Star game that year, two former West Indian players, Larry Gomes and Faoud Bacchus, were invited to participate in the proceedings by playing for the All-Star teams. Sohail captained one of the sides that went on to win the festivities, with Bacchus and Gomes observing carefully while playing second fiddle to him. Sohail led the charge with an exhilarating 79 from 29 balls in the second match (after not batting at all in the first as he wanted all the other All-Stars to get some batting at his expense!). At the awards dinner that night, Gomes and Bacchus were asked to give their evaluation of the talent in the league. Gomes was polite and mentioned about 5 or 6 names. Bacchus, after asking us if we wanted an honest opinion, said that he saw a few okay players but just one with the talent to do well at the very highest level. No prizes for guessing who he named. What was special to us was that he addressed Sohail the whole time as “my cap’n”. During the game Sohail was constantly talking to Faoud and Larry about the strategies a captain adopts on the field and he regaled us on the 4 hour-drive back home with all the tips that Bacchus and Gomes had given him, tips that he has used numerous times in the years since then.

When Sohail became the only member of the famed line-up to return the following season, we knew the 2005 season would be a long one. In an agonizingly long season, where we lost 7 out of 8 games, the stress of driving to Cleveland and Columbus began to take its toll. The best thing that came out of that season was that we decided to look around for a league closer to home and found the Pittsburgh Cricket Association (PCA). The final season in the MCL was not a total loss as by the end of the campaign, Sohail became the first batsman in the history of the MCL to cross 1000 runs, and later on was the first bowler to cross the 50 wicket mark, too. In fact, two seasons have come and gone, but Sohail is still in the MCL's Top 10 all-time run-scorers list.

In 2006, Sohail took over a fairly new-look WVUCC squad into the PCA league that began to gel towards the latter half of the season. It took some time for Sohail to adjust his playing style to fit the new league, but once he hit his groove, he took his new opponents by storm. By the end of the season, Sohail was once again named the MVP of the regular season (called the Champion Player in the PCA) but a semi-final loss to the PittsPunters stung him very deeply. It is one of the few times in my association with him I can recall Sohail being unhappy with some of the members of the opposing squad.

Which brings us to 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. Oh, by the way, at the PCA awards dinner, Sohail was named the Champion Player of the league one more time (the 4th time he has been the league MVP in the last 5 seasons, and, that too, across two different leagues).

Technical analysis: a) Wicket-keeping
At WVU, I have been fortunate to see two outstanding keepers – Sohail and Hari Prashanth. As a wicket-keeper I have rarely seen Sohail dive for the ball, while HP almost brought about situations that required a spectacular (but safe) dive. At around 6’1” Sohail is unusually tall for a keeper but he compensates for this with impeccable sideways movement that enables him get to balls while his hands are still low enough to the ground to help keep his balance. At times I have felt that he could have dived for a ball but maybe the ball seemed closer than it was because of his quickness in getting to its vicinity. Where Sohail is exceptional is when he stands up to the wicket. Time after time, I have seen Sohail stand up to the wicket from the first ball of the match. In terms of sheer speed of reflexes, I must say Hari Prashanth, who now plays for Cuyahoga Cricket Club, was superior but overall Sohail was better to the fast bowlers, while HP was spectacular to the spinners. In the PCA league, Sohail only kept wickets occasionally, when he saw an opposing batsman standing outside the crease. Sanjeev Singh was the victim of two spectacular leg-side stumpings off our opening bowlers and just hates it when Sohail dons the gloves.

Technical analysis: b) Bowling
Sohail began bowling serendipitously at practice one day, and was so good at controlling the swinging new ball that it became the second string in his bow at the expense of wicket-keeping. He has a long run-up that gathers momentum at it nears the wicket. He does not have much of a jump (except when he suddenly starts to imitate Imran Khan) and has a prominently chest-on action. He is not a big swinger of the ball. In fact, if anything, I have hardly seen him swing the ball. What he does have is incredible control over the length. He is not metronomic, in that he does not bowl the same line and length to all batsmen. Instead, he adjusts it depending upon the state of the game. During the end overs he bowls yorkers almost exclusively. In the last couple of years he unveiled a slower ball, which is actually quite easy to pick up, and has been smashed around the park. Maybe he ought to try bowling it with a split finger grip to be able to hide it better from the batsmen. Uniquely, his actions and run-ups change every year and can be traced back to which bowler he saw the most of during the off-season on the television/internet. He is best, however, when he imitates Waqar Younis’s style.

One year in the MCL, we were playing Cleveland 2 and they were romping along at 161 for 5. Sohail was in the Waqar phase of his bowling action and proceeded to take 5 wickets in 6 balls, all bowled by yorkers, including a hat-trick, to end the Cleveland innings! To top it, he then remained not out to win us the match when we chased down the target (more on that innings later).

One last thing about his bowling; one day at practice he was trying to show one of our left-arm spinners how to position his body at the wicket and proceeded to bowl a few overs of controlled left-arm spin, too! I have often asked him to try it out in a match as a variation, but he has resisted my suggestion to date. Maybe this year he will try it out once, just for the heck of it.

Technical analysis: b) Batting
As a batsman, he is not someone you will pay a significant amount to watch. That is, he is not aesthetically pleasing (Abishek, Raj Gopal, and Nandu in the off-side, are the ones you’d probably put some money for) but he is extremely effective. What he lacks in style, he makes up for with unmatched hand-eye coordination. When he is preparing for the bowler he prefers to look at the crease until the bowler is almost at the delivery stride. Many times I have seen umpires stop the bowler because they feel Sohail is not ready. It is actually a little unnerving bowling to him because of this. From his wicket-keeping background, he has developed the skill of watching the ball out of the bowler’s hand. At times, early on in his innings, Sohail plays the ball before it is bowled, meaning that he predetermines what he wants to do by anticipating what the bwler might bowl. This is when he is most vulnerable. Good swing bowling can get to him as he tends to overplay the swing, often inner-edging the ball onto the stumps. If you can draw him forward with the new ball, while making it swing in or out (Sanjeev Singh and Amit Raina are the two bowlers who can do this on a consistent basis in the PCA), you can get him out at the wicket (caught behind, LBW, or bowled). You will NOT get him out on the backfoot, unless the ball keeps really low and scoots through (a distinct possibility at Edgebrook Field).

When he is in good batting form, Sohail gets at least a single off every ball, at the bare minimum. Ironically, if you see him hit a lot of boundaries at the start of an innings, it means that he is struggling with something. At such times it is not uncommon to see him caught at the boundary, as he tries to hit his way out of the discomfort he is experiencing in his batting. When I opened the batting with him, his constant instruction to me would be to take the bulk of the strike and play out the swinging ball, shielding him from it. While I think that he was just trying to make me feel comfortable and not worry about about batting so slowly, I also think that it was influenced a little bit by his one weakness as a batsman.

There are so many Sohail innings I could write about, but I want to focus on two in particular. In the afore-mentioned game against Cleveland 2, we were chasing 162 to win and the opposing team figured that stopping Sohail from scoring boundaries would do the job. From the first ball, they spread the field and kept at least 5 fielders on the boundary, and waited for his patience to wear out. When it finally did, and Sohail got his first boundary, he had already scored 80 runs. He did not need to add a single run to that total – he had taken the liberty of attacking the boundary because we needed just 4 runs to win! This ability of his to take what the opposing team gives him sets him apart from the rest of the batsman in the PCA. The book on Sohail is not to stop the boundaries at the start of the innings; incredibly the best way to get him out is to force him to hit over the fielders!

The second innings I want to talk about took place in 2006. WVUCC cleaned up the Lumberjacks for just 81 runs in that game. The LJ’s correctly assumed that their best hope of winning the match was to take wickets. Fat chance! The first ball was carved over cover for a 6 and Sohail’s most brutal innings was on its way. In 19 balls, he hit 4 fours, and 7 sixes, reaching 69 not out from a total of 82 for no loss in just 5.3 overs. The 13th ball he faced was the only dot ball of his innings, and that itself was stopped just inside the cover boundary. By then his personal score was at 52!

Mental analysis:
Having played a lot of cricket, and at various skill levels, he has a very good understanding of strategies and is good at gauging the oppositions strategies. At the same time, he has a pragmatic approach and does not take too many risks if they are not warranted. Sohail once told me about an incident that took place in 2006, when we were playing the defending champions, Strikers, and had gone into the match with just 9 players. In the 20th over, we needed 12 runs to win and if we achieved it in that over we would get two bonus points. Sohail was informed of this by his teamamtes but preferred to settle for the win. He defended the first two balls bowled by Sanjeev Singh. The third ball was an attempted yorker that went down the leg-side and he instinctively flicked it over square-leg for a six. Before Sanjeev bowled the next ball, Sohail told me that he guessed what was to come. Since Sanjeev had just been flicked over square-leg, Sohail adjusted his stance, stood outside the leg-stump and did not shuffle across. As expected, the next ball was full but ouside the off-stump. A swish of the blade later the ball had cleared the cover boundary and the win had been achieved, with a bonus point to boot! And oh, by the way, Sohail was unbeaten on 104, meaning he had gone from 92 to 104 and did not even know his score.

In fact, whenever he batted he insisted that he not be told his individual score, and did not care much to "celebrate" the passing of the team's milestones (50, 100, 150, etc.). So much so that, in a trait that was unique to WVUCC in the PCA, we were the only team that never jumped up and down when the score passed those milestones. For the past few years, no batsmen has even been aware of his personal score until after the innings is done. Sohail always put the team ahead of the individual and all of us gladly followed suit.

Sohail’s inner calmness helps him stay above the water in situations where others would panic. In fact, he stresses more over his teammates’ failures than he does his own. He went through a prolonged batting slump in the middle of the 2007 season but it did not show in his attitude or demeanor. The one knock against him has been that, at times, he is willing to forego his success in order to see his teammates do better. In 2007 he batted down the order so that his teammates could get the best of the playing conditions, sacrificing his stats in the process. In the 7+ years I have known him, I have not heard him swear, I have never seen him admonish a teammate, and barring two incidents, I have never seen him angry. It is a testament that both times that I saw him get angry, he was upset at the treatment that a teammate had received and not at something that directly affected him.

What else:
Familial responsibilities cut short what had been a promising cricketing career in Pakistan, but he never brings it up as an excuse or explanation, and if he feels sad about it, he does not show it to us. He is quite shy and shirks individual publicity of any kind. He is quick with a word of praise for his teammates and, in all my years of association with him, has never ever referred even once to some feat of his on the playing field, unless repeatedly asked to talk about it. All the stories that involve Sohail, some legendary but all of them true, have been spread by us. If no record had been kept of his achievements, you would never have known how good a player he is simply from talking to him about it.

For the WVUCC think tank, it has been really easy having him at the helm. All we had to do was select a team and relax. He took care of the rest. Some men command respect by their actions, some men command respect with their words, but very few men command respect in both ways. Sohail is one of them. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to play alongside him and, more importantly, be considered by him as a friend.

In the team huddle at the start the 2007 final against the SteelZags (see below), he said, “I don’t care if we win or lose today. I only care that we go out there with a positive attitude from start to finish. If you can do that, the win will take care of itself.” We played hard in that game and I can safely say that all of us wanted to win the tournament mainly to give Sohail the richly deserved chance to lift the trophy. The rest was just icing on the cake.

This year he sets out again into Pittsburgh, with another refurbished side, trying to defend our title. We wish him all the best!!

Marks out of ten this season (10/10)

Captain's corner - Take 12 : C.S. Manish

For the next few posts, I shall hand over the blog to Sohail and let him talk about each WVUCC player (along with player ratings for the 2007 season). Here is Sohail, in his own words...

C.S. Manish
Right Hand Batsman (Vice Captain)

(Even though it looks blank, do click on the video below, it will play)

Every team has a few individuals who form the pillars stabilizing the team. Manish was always that pillar for WVUCC. An all-round cricketer Manish could bat, roll his arm over with some intimidating off-spin, and take superb catches behind the stumps. No matter what role he was given in the team, Manish always came out as the winner. He showed all of us that it was the mind and not the body which makes you better than the rest. He is what we call back in Pakistan, "the street fighter" of WVUCC.

Manish was the only player to have had the honor of being the Captain, Vice Captain, Coach, and Manager of the team at some point during his long association with WVUCC. You can send him at any order in the batting and he would adapt his new role with perfect ease. I remember him opening for WVUCC earlier and in the very next game coming down the order at number 11. He was the most positive bloke you will ever come across, constantly encouraging the team and lifting the spirits of everyone around him.

It always came as a surprise to me that Manish was not a big run-getter. He had all the ingredients for becoming a top order batsman. He was technically sound, mentally strong, and had the right temperament to stay at the crease for long periods of time. In fact, we always relied on him to block one end up while the scoring would occur at the other end. Statistics are not a very good reflection of his contributions purely as a batsman for the team.

Every great batting performance relies on building partnerships. Manish was an architect behind many match-winning and match-saving partnerships. For the last two years alone he was involved in nine 40-run partnerships or more which include four 50-run partnerships. Having adopted the role as the coach of the team Manish decided to return as a player for WVUCC once again in 2006 and 2007. His last outing for his team proved to be the most fruitful for himself and his team. In 2006, playing in the top-order Manish scored 143 runs with a highest score of 22 against the PittsPunters. In his last season for a team he so loved and a team he wanted to succeed Manish displayed his skills and potential to the fullest. Scoring 145 runs in just 9 innings, Manish scored his career-best 64 off just 60 balls hitting 6 fours and 1 mighty six. Simply the best I have seen him play.

The reason behind his success was his mental ability to come up with something new, something different, and disturb the bowler’s length. He would dance down the wicket as if challenging the faster bowlers of the league while they would still be in their run-ups. They had no idea whether to bowl up to him or bowl short. He was all over the best of them at times in the league.

Opening the innings, returning to his original spot, Manish ran well between the wickets and consumed the new swinging cherry on many occasions, making it easier for the middle order batsmen. He was involved in many partnerships again, stabilizing the top order and setting up the platform for the likes of Abhishek, Sumanth, and Ashok. He even had the honor of dismissing arguably the best batsman of the league, Naveen Peiris, with a smart ball down the legs.

Fittingly, Manish scored the winning runs for WVUCC taking them to their first ever championship in the history of WVUCC. All the hard work and years of effort had paid off. Apart from his batting and bowling Manish was a very tidy keeper as well. I still rate his diving catch off my own bowling against the Akron 11 as the best wicket keeper catch I have seen for WVUCC.

My favorite Manish Stroke: Pull shot for six!!
My favorite Manish Innings: 64 against PittsPunters.

Technical Analysis:
As a batsman, Manish is technically very sound. He has a good defense and his bat comes down straight. He is well balanced at the crease, even when he decides to take a walk in the park and attack you. He is primarily a back-foot player and a testament of that is the ease with which he pulls and cuts the ball. Very strong square of the wicket Manish struggles with his front foot play. Even though he compensates that by his quick footwork, Manish can improve his front foot play for better results. In my opinion the reason for his weak front foot play is his back-lift. For any good batsman to drive the ball on his front foot the back lift is very important. I remember in years gone by, Manish hardly had any back-lift. Apart from this, Manish has no flaws, technically, as a batsman.

Mental Analysis:
This is where he is the strongest among his team-mates. Not only is he calm and relaxed under pressure situations, he thrives in such testing moments, and they bring the best out of him. It was because of this ability of his that WVUCC was able to defeat the Punters. For anyone of us who has played against them, we know pretty well how they wear down the batsmen with their constant appealing and sledging. Manish played the best innings of his life against them, calmly doing his business and taking them on.

On the field as well, Manish is the loudest among the voices and constantly talks to fellow players and the opposition alike. He never lets the situation get to him and in my long friendship with him, I have hardly seen him give up and think negatively. All of these are signs of a good leader.

What Else:
With Manish as my Vice-Captain I always felt pity for the opposition. It was as if we had the strength of two captains. He was the smartest when it came to picking up the right team. From day one, Manish came down strongly against indiscipline and at times we would pick 7 or 8 players even when we had the liberty of playing a full squad just because of indiscipline. Wrong compromises were never made and in the end all of that paid off.

However, it is off the field where Manish truly contributes. Year in and year out, Manish organized the net sessions, represented the team in public gatherings, and kept up the spirits of everyone around him. It was Manish and Bala years ago, who appointed me as the Captain of the team and not a moment since then do I remember them not supporting me or backing me up. In times when the team is winning and doing well, everyone supports the captain and backs him up but it is times when the team is losing and things are not going as planned that the captain is looking for words of encouragement. Manish was always around when such times tested the team and myself. He always believed in me and I always trusted him. Thanks Manish for all that you have done for the team. Your name will always be taken with respect and love whenever someone will open up the annals of WVUCC history. Now that you have moved to other things in life, we wish you all the success and keep in touch!

Marks out of ten this season (8.5/10)

Captain's corner - Take 11 : Nikhil Burri

For the next few posts, I shall hand over the blog to Sohail and let him talk about each WVUCC player (along with player ratings for the 2007 season). Here is Sohail, in his own words...

Nikhil Burri
Righ Arm Medium

(Even though it looks blank, do click on the video below, it will play)

I have seen few cricketers who possess such commitment for the game as Nikhil. He reminds me very much of Ashok in his early days. If there was an award for sincerity, commitment, and perseverance, I would have given it to Nikhil.

At first glance Nikhil seems to be a complete misfit for a game like cricket. He runs with difficulty and his bowling action is a mere walk to the stumps. He surprised me a lot of times with his athleticism on the field. It seems as if he is not going to make it but then somehow he always does. A very good fielder with safe hands is Nikhil's greatest technical strength. He played seven games for WVUCC in his very first season and that is a great achievement in itself. Playing with one of the most talented WVUCC team that I have ever witnessed, Nikhil was always pushing for a spot in the playing eleven. His commitment can be gauged by the number of times he volunteered to be the 12th man and travel with the team.

On the surface, it is the people who score a lot of runs or take a lot of wickets who emerge as the heroes of the team. It is people like Nikhil, standing in the background, who form the real strength of the team. Every team could have players who bat well or bowl with venom; few teams possess people like Nikhil who would be willing to support the team to any length and serve the team in any capacity. Standing for hours outside the leg-side boundaries and patrolling the dangerous borders of Edgebrook field is no easy job. Almost every time someone was needed for this difficult proposition, Nikhil was the one to stand up. Not only did he volunteer for these uneasy jobs in the team but he did it with a smile on his face. I salute him for his selfless struggles which went a long way in making this team a winning combination. He performed the scoring duties in many games and was always ready with a bottle of water for our tiring batsmen or panting fast bowlers. He was with the team in every battlefield with his moral support and gentle care.

Technical Evaluation:
In my humble opinion, Nikhil is a better batsman than a bowler. I don't think that he himself quite realizes it and if he spends more time and energy in improving his batting, I see him to be a very stable batsman in the future. His biggest asset as a batsman is his straight bat and solid defense. I always say this, 'If you can defend your stumps as a batsman, you can do anything.' His stroke range is limited but that will come with time. We have examples of people like Manish and Ashok in our team who always used to have a very good defense and now they are great stroke-makers. All you need is commitment and Nikhil has plenty of that.

As a bowler Nikhil can improve if he works on his run-up. The reality is that he has no run-up. He just walks in a hurried manner to the stumps and his eyes are glued to the bowling crease. This causes his head position to be wayward and his bowling arm to be inconsistent. He has reasonable pace and if he is able to correct some of these technical problems, he can be a very good all rounder.

Mental Analysis:
Since Nikhil suffers from a few technical problems in his bowling, he is inconsistent. This inconsistency takes away the confidence from him and he feels a lot of pressure when bowling to a good batsman in a real match situation. I think he will improve mentally once he figures out the fine details in his bowling action. As a batsman I think Nikhil is very stable and I saw him become better over the season batting in the practice sessions. If given more opportunities, he is bound to improve. I see him contributing more with his bat in the coming seasons for WVUCC.

What Else:
Nikhil is a great guy to have in the car while driving to and fro from the games. He constantly talks and keeps you up, especially if you are driving. He likes to talk about nearly any subject on Earth. He is a bit sarcastic at times, which I think is enjoyable. Like his fellow team mates he is a captain's dream since he is willing to fit in any role the captain has for him. I also think that Nikhil has a good cricketing brain and he understands what happens on the field pretty well. At the end if we all were to have even half the commitment Nikhil has for cricket and the team, no team would be ever able to challenge us. Keep it up guys!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Captain's corner - Take 10 : Nishit Banuri

For the next few posts, I shall hand over the blog to Sohail and let him talk about each WVUCC player (along with player ratings for the 2007 season). Here is Sohail, in his own words...

Nishit Banuri
Right Arm Medium Fast

(Even though it looks blank, do click on the video below, it will play)

Nishit is another one of those quiet, shy, hardworking, and immensely skilful players that WVUCC can proudly lay its claim over. I don't know whether it is the air of Morgantown or belonging to a club with a history of players with calm demeanors, but something definitely makes WVUCC players relaxed, composed, and elegantly lazy in the most demanding of times. Sumanth, Abhijeet, Venkat, and now Nishit, all do their jobs as if they didn't care; yet in all their inexplicable ways there lies a deeper, hardworking, thinking cricketer. I wonder if even they realize their inner-selves. If I were to pick a bowler from this current team to bowl for my life, it would be none other than Nishit Banuri. I would categorize him in the Glenn McGrath, Mohammad Asif category of players who bowl tight lines and tempting lengths with the slightest of seam movement and present magical performances repeatedly, match after match.

At first glance Nishit seemed to me to be a very likeable cricketer. His body movements suggested that he is a very stable fielder and could cover a lot of ground with very little effort. This being his first season for WVUCC meant that it would take him some time to establish himself in the playing eleven competing with the likes of Amol Bhavsar and Venkat Sathi who had already proven their worth. Missing the early part of the season was not very helpful either. At one point during the season I had lost all hope of seeing Nishit return and be a part of the team.

Things however are not always as they seem. Nishit returned and what a return it was! Coming back close to the end of the season, Nishit became one of the most reliable bowling options in the middle overs when the slog was on. During the earlier part of the season WVUCC had lost the grip over most games in this very critical middle period where bowlers would go for plenty and lose line and direction. Nishit provided the team with much needed control over the run flow in that middle period and, not only this, but he picked up Naveen Peiris and Ram Paluri during the semifinal and final, respectively, which just proves how well he bowled in those last games.

His best bowling for me was definitely in the semis and finals of the tournament. Just look at these figures for someone bowling with an old ball in high pressure games, against the top batsmen of the league and that too in his first season:

Semifinals against Hurricanes: 6-0-27-1
Finals against Steelzags: 6-0-33-2


Nishit ended the season with a total of 9 quality wickets. His other great contribution was his athletic fielding performance standing at square leg and saving boundaries at will. In my rough estimate, Nishit must have saved at least 40-50 runs standing at that position in the season for WVUCC. (Editor’s note: Nishit was also responsible for two critical runouts from the square-leg position in the finals against the SteelZags).

Technical Analysis:
Nishit, like many other WVUCC bowlers, does not have a measured run-up to the stumps. Yet I see no problem with his approach to the wicket. He hardly jumps at the crease and uses his quick arm action to hurl the ball towards the batsman. He is very slippery and it is hard to pick him up right away. His head position is good and he has a very high arm action. One thing where Nishit lets himself down technically is that he is very low to the ground when delivering the ball at the crease and does not use his entire height to extract more bounce. His front leg is not straight at the point of delivery and bends excessively, thus reducing the height from which he bowls. His seam position is very good and his command over line and length is excellent. He has the ability to bowl on a particular line and length all day long, thus making him an excellent bowler for the captain to set fields for, and work on getting a batsman out by bowling to his weakness.

Mental Analysis:
Nishit is too clever to show his emotions while bowling. He does not change his plans much after being hit and counts on the fact that if he bowls within the stumps, the batsman can't afford to miss the ball. He builds pressure by bowling the kinds of lines which only he can bowl and surprises the batsman with the slightest of seam movement which is just enough to trouble the batsmen. It was his pressure bowling which got rid of big guns like Naveen and Ram during the playoffs. I also think that Nishit is good at ignoring what the batsman wants to do and focuses instead on what he himself wants to do. This makes bowling simple and much effective. I think he is and will be an asset for any team he plays for.

What Else?
There are some people who earn respect through what they say and then there are others who earn respect though what they don't say. Nishit is among the latter group. Being a new member of the team, Nishit usually stays within himself and attracts attention through his performances. He is a low profile player with high effectiveness. He is easy to talk to and his wisdom is apparent in his limited speech.

Marks out of Ten: (8.5/10)