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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Will Watson lead ? Ferozshah Kotla and some history

After sting of defeats and touching rockbottom, India is exuberant – they are 3-0 up in a 4 match Series.  In their 81-year history of Test cricket, India have never won four consecutive Test matches in a series ~ will Mahendra Singh Dhoni accomplish that too getting past  Michael Clarke`s men at the Feroze Shah Kotla. Well, Clarke himself may not be there.  Ferozshah Kotla was cruel to my favourite ~ the tall suave, good looking offie, reverred as very shrewd and intelligent cricketer Srinivasaraghavan Venkatraghavan.   More on that person whose llustrious career stretched over 18 playing years.  He led India in 5 Tests and more importantly in the Inaugural and the second edition ODI World Cups. 

Unlike the Southern parts of India, Delhi has seen much of occupation and wars.  By some accounts Delhi is  known to have been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC ~ and in most of its history, it has been the capital of many kingdoms, starting from the days of Pandavas when it was Indraprastha.   In AD 1639, the Mughal emperor Shahjahan built a new walled city in Delhi which served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1649  which was later captured by British. The Feroz Shah Kotla  is a fortress built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq to house his version of Delhi city called Ferozabad. It was the new capital of the Sultan of Delhi on the banks of Yamuna river.  History states that  most classical music performances were staged here.

Kotla ground is different ~ mostly no music to bowlers – reportedly smaller where batsmen make merry.  The Feroz Shah Kotla Ground was established as a cricket ground in colonial days of 1883. It is the second oldest international cricket stadium still functional in India, only after the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.  Unlike Venkat, Anil Kumble has happy memories for it was here he took ‘perfect 10’ [10 for 74] against Pakistanis.  In 1965, S Venkataraghavan, in his debut series, demolished the New Zealand line up with figures of 8 for 72 and 4 for 80. England's John Lever had a memorable debut at the Kotla in 1976, when he notched up a half-century and had match figures of 10 for 70. In 1983-84, Sunil Gavaskar scored his 29th century to equal Don Bradman's long standing record for the highest number of hundreds in Test cricket.

How the same place is great to one ~ bad to another.  In the eye of storm after `homework-gate`, all-rounder Shane Watson  is probably looking forward to great glory of leading an Australian side. Peeved at being dropped from the playing XI of the third Test in Mohali after not completing a presentation on team performance, Watson went back home as his wife was due to give birth to their first child. He is back now as ‘proud Dad’ and if Clarke’s back is to continue the way, he will be leading Aussies.  Clarke is undergoing intensive physiotherapy for the back problem that usually resolves itself in three or four days, although he seemed to be particularly affected when the Mohali match finished on Monday. There have been rumours of possible differences between the two but both have denied any fallout and maintained that they are good friends.
photo courtesy:
Pattinson, in all likelihood, will be coming in place of Mitchell Starc, who has flown back home to have ankle surgery, so too Wade in place of Haddin. 

At the greener grass side, Mumbai mirror punned on the caption ‘Raina back in Dhoni’s team’ hinting not Team India.  It is a veiled mention of Dhoni-backed firm called Rhiti Sports Management Company. The latest is that Suresh Raina, left-handed allrounder and a World Cup winner, has gone back to that celebrity management company.  May be a mere coincidence, the comeback to Rhiti has Raina back in the Indian team.  Dhoni, Raina, Jadeja are all managed by this company and there is rumour of more are to join……….

Getting back to Kotla haunting the reverred Offie - Against the Clive Lloyds West Indies at home in 1974-75, Venkatraghavan had the ignominy of playing the 1st Test Bangalore taking 4 & 2 [off the 6 that were to fall]; captaining India in the 2nd Test at Delhi which was lost by an innings; Venkat  was made the scapegoat, dropped, humiliated and made  the 12th man in the very next match at Calcutta.  In that Delhi Test, Viv Richards went on to make an unbeaten 192 helped by a poor umpiring decision, which could have changed the fortunes of that Test and the way Venkat was to be treated.   Again after the disastrous 1979 England tour, he was unceremoniously dropped.  He did make a comeback in 1983 whenIndia toured Windies under Kapildev.   He played 57 Tests and made 748 runs in 76 innings.  He also played 15 one dayers.  He took 156 test wickets with best bowling of 12 for 152 at Delhi against NZ in his debut series.

He was a remarkable close-in fielder, played English league, captained Tamilnadu.  Known for his strict discipline setting personal examples, Venkat revelled as a  player, captain, manager, administrator, selector, columnist, expert television commentator, match referee and umpire.  Have heard him speak on a couple of occasion and have admired his language skills too.  He is known to be a deep thinker and a very passionate lover of the game able to analyse and bring out the nuances of the game to the fore. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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