Champions Trophy ’17: When Sri Lanka went full Pakistan

lanka

How the eff did Sri Lanka lose that game? I have watched the highlights of the game thrice now. What was that one moment that took the game away from the Lankans? – I have struggled all night to answer that question because throughout the game, there were so many of them.  At Cardiff, Sri Lanka weren’t stupid, Angelo Mathews’ men were simply moronic.

The day though started well with Dickwella driving Amir through the covers and scooping Junaid over the keeper. They lost an early wicket but the ball didn’t do much and the Pakistani fielders did their best in converting ones to twos. Then Hasan Ali slipped one through Mendis. However, at 82 for 2, it was all cool. But Sri Lanka’s ‘Mr. Potential who never lived up to his talent’ Chandimal decided to throw the spanner into a smoothly rotating Lankan wheel. It was still cool because with a partnership of 78 runs, Mathews and Dickwella brought things back to normal. At the 30 overs mark, Mathews decided to throw down the gauntlet. He danced down the track, hoicked one over mid wicket and the match started to tilt the Lankan way.

Enter Pakistan’s green-eyed retro cherub – reverse swing. Pakistan shifted into Pakistan mode. Weirdly, Sri Lanka too did the same. The left-armer pacers union kicked in and with four down within the next six runs, Sri Lanka were lost, they were super lost. Somehow someone kicked some sense into them and Gunaratne and Lakmal realised, hey, there’s a semifinal spot at stake here.

236 isn’t a big score but with Pakistan chasing, you understand why I say that. But a good lunch break must always be followed by a comforting siesta. Understandably, the Lankan lions sleepwalked through the first 10 overs of the chase.

Except Lasith Malinga. He tried. He really tried hard. But how much more can a 33-year-old-creaking-joints-trying-hard-to-land-his-yorkers pacer do? He delivered his full range – the yorker, the slower, the slower bouncer – but the Lankan fielding was off the charts. Catches to the left of them, catches to the right of them, catches above them – they dropped them all. They even ruined Sarfaraz’s Steve Waugh moment. Just when Sarfaraz was about to walk past Thisara and deliver the Waugh-ish jibe, they dropped him again.

pak

But hey, you can never blame Pakistan for not trying. They are the only side in cricket who believes in total entertainment. Over the years, Pakistan have always maintained that you don’t need to play great cricket to entertain the audience. Mind numbing cricket does a better job. They take it up as a challenge. Whenever an opposition dishes out a sub-par performance, the Pakistan cricket team goes, ‘hold my Tarbooz ka Afraa…we can do worse.’ Then they sprinkle moments of genius over it to give it a tangy flavour.

At Cardiff though, the script looked different. After a terrific performance with the ball, Pakistan took the game by the scruff of the neck. Azhar Ali looked determined while a graceless Saeed Anwar-clone Fakhar Zaman tore into the Lankan bowlers. With the Pakistan openers rattling along, we all wondered, “Where’s the collapse?” Zaman reached his fifty. We waited. Zaman got out. Everyone sat up. Babar Azam followed.

With 2 for 92, Pakistan looked too comfortable. Hence, the senior citizens got to work. Mohammad Hafeez did his bit. Shoaib Malik obliged. Then Azhar Ali thought, “Why should they have all the fun.” With six down and 80 to get, the script was set. But Pakistan don’t read the script. The script reads Pakistan. Help arrived when Sri Lanka took a big step back… and literally, f****d their own face. As if they wanted to make a statement to Pakistan and beat them at their own game. And boy, they didn’t drop character ’till the DVD commentary.

As Sarfaraz ran towards his mates after hitting the winning runs, the camera panned on Angelo Mathews. The Sri Lankan captain stood still contemplating the moronicity of the situation. His sunglasses kept his expressions hidden but the tautness of his ferocious gum chewing jaws gave away his despair. He won’t sleep well for at least a week now. He will stare at the ceiling wondering how the Lankans looked like Sri Lanka but played like Pakistan, disguised as Sri Lanka. But more importantly, what exactly went wrong after a stellar win over India.

Here’s what went wrong Angelo, your mates went full Pakistan man. Never go full Pakistan.

Sir Ravindra Jadeja’s Excalibur: It cuts. It cuts deep

255739

November 5, 2009 brings back bittersweet memories for every Indian cricket fan. In a cliff-hanger against the mighty Australians, Sachin Tendulkar produced a modern age classic. Chasing 351 runs to win, Tendulkar scripted an epic knock of 175. But India fell short. India fell heartbreakingly short. India lost the game by mere three runs.

The superhero’s carnage made it into the history books but that night India found a new villain. A 20-year-old. He didn’t do much wrong. He scored a 17-ball 23 and looked steady. He almost took India home. He faltered at the finish line. He ran for a non-existent single and became the whipping boy for a billion people.

That was the start of a hate story.

It gathered wind in 2009. While chasing 7.5 runs an over, he blocked his way to a 35-ball 25 against England. It became worse in the 2010 World T20s. First, a walloping against South Africa. Then, an Aussie chastening. Finally, a pestering in the hands of the Windies. He single-handedly confirmed India’s exit from the tournament.

The ‘Rock star’ label peeled off and Sir Ravindra Jadeja became a cult figure. With every failure the legend grew. So did the boos. Sir Jadeja became the toast of the internet, the darling of the Twitteratti.

The axe came down in 2011. India won the World Cup and Sir Jadeja began his journey towards oblivion. But fate wouldn’t have it. Yuvraj Singh’s health gave in and India needed an all-rounder — a player who can blast the ball in the end overs and can chip in with valuable breakthroughs. Yusuf Pathan failed. As did Piyush Chawla.

The selectors turned towards MS Dhoni and the man from Ranchi fixed his gaze on IPL’s ‘rock star’. He threw Jadeja into the deep end. He made Jadeja swing his bat. He made his left-arm fall off his shoulders. He made him cover every blade of grass. Jadeja dropped short. ‘Aage daal Jaddu‘ – shouted Dhoni. Jadeja threw darts. ‘Ek chakka khake dikha’ – screamed the skipper. Then, Jadeja turned one off-the-track. ‘Howzaattt’ – Dhoni whipped the bails off in a flash. Jadeja failed. Dhoni pushed. Jadeja failed again. Dhoni pushed harder. ‘Are you out of your mind?’ – The nation wanted to know. But Dhoni never answered.

He didn’t because Merlin had found his Arthur.

He took him to England. With India struggling, Jadeja walked out at Lord’s. Moeen Ali was spitting cobras. Liam Plunkett had his tail up. Then, there was Jimmy Anderson. India needed a partnership but Jadeja decided to make a statement. Out came the sword from the scabbard and the ‘Saurashtra Bradman’ tore into the English bowling in true Rajput style.

That was the start of a new love story. Sir Jadeja’s cult was now official.

260499

“Some time ago people didn’t consider me a Test bowler. This season is a good response to them”, said Jadeja after picking up his Man of the Series award.

In December 2012, he was ranked 89 in Tests as a bowler. December 2014, he was at 20. 2015 saw him at 23. Then, he took off. December 2016, he chased Ravi Ashwin. Now, he isn’t Ashwin’s plus one anymore.

Sir Jadeja has finally taken over.

The ‘Jadeja story’ should be widely celebrated. It should be because he is scripting our story. He’s fighting those scorns after failure and the disapproving nose twitches. He taking on the bullies for us and explaining what m*d**c**d really means. He’s teaching us a power packed lesson on improvement and self belief. The best part, he’s doing it with aplomb — he’s put his arm on auto mode, picked up his Excalibur and is swinging it.

He’s swinging it bloody hard.

IPL 2014: The KKR fans owe Shah Rukh Khan an apology!

33960

The Kolkata Knight Rider fans owe Shah Rukh Khan an apology – there, I said it! All of us, including yours truly, who ever doubted Shah Rukh Khan’s calibre as an owner to produce a champion team, owe him a heartfelt apology.

KKR has lifted the IPL trophy twice in the last three years now. Only the Chennai Super Kings can boast of such a fabulous record but KKR slowly, but surely, are becoming the “team to beat” in the Indian Premier League.

For a team that made peace with their position at the bottom half of the table for the first four seasons, it’s been quite a turnaround and Shah Rukh Khan deserves all the praise for it.

He does because Shah Rukh Khan stuck by KKR for the last seven years, even when we didn’t.

Shah Rukh Khan is the superstar in India and his ventures seldom fail. In fact, even his worst efforts do better than the best of most. But KKR failed – the first three years were miserable.

Money wasn’t a problem. KKR had all the financial muscle, yet every time, they misused it on out-dated stars, who inflicted nothing but humiliation on his side. He had the best Indian captain leading the side, the best coach in the world formulating the strategies, the most devastating T20 opener, the fastest bowler in the world and even recruited the first mystery spinner; yet it didn’t work. Even the change in jersey couldn’t help his team hit the purple patch!

That’s cricket; if you don’t get the combinations right, you can never forge a team that wins consistently.

Neither did KKR.

For the first three years, KKR was an ensemble of burnt out stars with monster egos. It was dubbed as SRK biggest flop and the anthem of “Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo” became a joke. Even the great Rahul Dravid took a dig at King Khan in one of the IPL award ceremonies.

That was it!

The Badshah threw the stick in the wheel. He called in the pest control and wiped his house clean. That was his best move and his biggest mistake. In pursuit of building a new team, he lost his fans – the entire city turned against him. He became the new Greg Chappell!

Leaving out Sourav Ganguly was a massive call, but it was the right one. Dada was way past his prime and to be honest, offered very little to the IPL team, as Pune found out very soon. Then there was Mr. Buchanan – a man with weird theories, who treated KKR as a science lab for performing cricketing experiments.

Shah Rukh Khan had to get rid of the dead wood. He did and like it or not, it bore results. After qualifying for the Champions League in 2011, they won the IPL for the first time in 2012.

However, fans in Kolkata didn’t acknowledge it. They were more concerned about their hero’s fate rather than their city’s success. Effigies were burnt, morchas and michils were held, immense disrespect was hurled at the team and then Eden Gardens shamelessly turned into a sea of blue the day KKR took on Pune Warriors – we, Kolkatans, did our best to pull KKR down.

That’s our problem. The entire city is driven by emotions and somehow logic fails to drive home its point. It’s always us against the world because we love to believe that the entire universe has nothing better to do but plot conspiracies against us.

Even today, most people don’t understand the concept of franchise sport here. They fail to grasp that franchise sport has nothing to do with regionalism. Yes, IPL started with the “icon” concept but it had to fade off because the icons had to move over once the stakes went higher. A Virat Kohli and a Gautam Gambhir became more valuable than a Rahul Dravid and a Sourav Ganguly because it was the how the game evolved.

But as usual, we refused to evolve!

Shah Rukh Khan basking in glory!

Then again, nothing succeeds like success and now, the glory hunters are back. This year we have strained our vocal cords cheering for Robin Uthappa and have flooded the social media with “Abb ki baar….KKR” updates because now we have a problem. We haven’t got a hero to support, we are devoid of a cause to rebel and of course, we all want to be a part of a winning team.

And that’s why, every Kolkatan, who despised KKR should extend an apology to King Khan.

We need to because Shah Rukh Khan didn’t deserve our wrath. He didn’t deserve the severe criticism either. He could have walked away and KKR would have easily become another Kochi Tuskers or a Pune Warriors.

He didn’t.

He didn’t because he was in it for the long haul. He was in it for his pride and so, he stuck his heels in and took whatever we threw at him with immense humility. He cried with the team, danced for them, jumped up and down in stadiums, got roughed up by cops and at times, made snide comments about how he failed as an owner.

It perhaps has been his most difficult journey and he knew that he couldn’t charm his way out of this one. He knew his dimpled smile that melted hearts, won’t win him the IPL and his outstretched arms wouldn’t appease a grieving city.

There was only one way to win Kolkata back – by winning! He needed his team to produce results to conquer the city and last night, apart from winning the IPL again, he might have accomplished his bigger mission!

I offer my sincerest of apologies to Mr. Khan. Will the rest of the city do it?

Even if they didn’t, Shah Rukh Khan won’t leave our side because as he says, “bade bade deshon mein….”