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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sunil Gavaskar criticises Dhoni for playing slow !!

MS Dhoni walked a single to third man to reach 10,000 ODI runs, but there was barely a clap heard at Lord's. Even the Indian dressing room was glum.  In his syndicated column, Sunil Gavaskar was quick to launch a wileful attack saying – ‘MSD knock reminded me of my infamous 36’  ...

Rewind a few years back to that day  in Adelaide  A supremely calm MS Dhoni guided India to victory, with two balls to spare, over Australia in the ODI at Adelaide Oval. Dhoni's composure was best measured by how he paced his innings. It bordered on the statuesque early, before he raised tempo with swift running between the wickets. He saved his one stroke to the boundary - a towering six over long on off  Clint McKay, a clean 112 meters as the ball disappeared .. .. 

At Lords now,  Dhoni was booed as India's run rate came to a virtual standstill in the final 10 overs, after the chase of 323 fell apart. Boos and slow-hand claps rang across the ground because Dhoni was reluctant to play aggressively. Dhoni had walked in at the fall of Virat Kohli's wicket with India needing 183 in 23 overs, the asking rate a shade below eight. By the time he was dismissed for 37 off 59 balls, 20 overs later, India had added just 75 runs, and the required rate had nearly doubled. It was also the first time since the 2011 World Cup semi-final that India failed hit a six in an ODI.  Not a great show and an uncharacteristic innings from MS dhoni.  When Dhoni was finally caught slogging Liam Plunkett to deep midwicket in the 47th over, the crowd clapped his dismissal. At the presentation, Kohli reasoned that Dhoni's plan was to ensure India did not suffer a big defeat.

Immediately there are some voices on his effect waning ~ fitter and faster than players 10 years his junior, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is irreplaceable in the Indian ODI team right now, is what  national coach Ravi Shastri felt recently.  Dhoni proved all his critics wrong by leading dad’s army CSK to a convincing win in IPL 2018.  Dhoni's form with the bat has been heavily scrutinised in the recent past with every failure being looked upon as an ominous sign. However, the talismanic keeper-batsman did well in the just-concluded limited overs and has baled out India many a times. 

That is clear MSD in 90 tests 144 innings had 4876 runs averaging 38.09 with a striker ate of 59.11; in onedayers 320 – 273 – 10004 – avg 51.30; strike rate 88.27 add 1487 runs @ SR 127.09 in T2oI.  Age is just a number – it is the capability and fitness that matters most. 

Now read to understand what happened in Lords in 1975 by the smart commentator, wise Sunil Gavaskar, who certainly had the most organized defence.
India’s baptism in One day international was in  1974  which was disastrous tour for Indians by all means.  India participated in the inaugural WC in 1975 and lost the inaugural match to England.  That was a match to forget for the Nation as also for one the finest batsmen India has ever produced – Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. Sunil  had the most compact defence and probably played fast bolwing better than any body else. Yet he would like to forget that match under the captaincy of Srinivasan Venkatraghavan.  Of the three,India lost to England and New zealand and beat the novice East Africa. 

It was only ODI No. 19, and Indians had played only two matches earlier.  Anshuman Gaekwad, the bespectacled player from Baroda was considered not good enough for the limited over version.  His batting might not have been elegant but he displayed raw courage in handling red hot pace and made most runs against the quickest of the Caribbean bowlers at their land.  Women had already played their First WC two years earlier when the men’s inaugural version was launched in 1975.  On June 7 1975, the hosts England played India in perfect English surroundings of glorious sunshine and good weather at Lords.   England plundered the amiable Indian bowling  and piled up 334 for 4 in 6o overs – obviously the new high in ODI in those days.  Dennis Amiss the opener socred 137, supported by Keith Fletcher’s 68.  To show what acceleration was all about, Chris Old more better known for his swing bowling bludgeoned a 30 ball 50.  Karsan Devraj Ghavri, the indian left arm pacer proved too expensive conceding 83 in his 11 with a maiden and no wickets.

To say India lost would be extremely complex under-statement.  India made 132 for 3 and lost by 202 runs.  Gavaskar crawled to 36 not out off 174 balls with just one four and perhaps that was the only time Anshuman Gaekwad outpaced him.  There were more than 16000 spectators who left the stadium without happiness even when their home team won the match comfortably.  To rub in to the wounds, the manager GS Ramchand stated that Gavaskar had considered the England score unobtainable and so had taken practice. It was an excuse, but not one that anyone believed.  Rumours were aplenty.

Years later there was mention that he had actually been caught behind off the second ball of the innings.  Why Alan Knott did not make a sound appeal ?  Days later Clive Hubert Lloyd made a whirlwind 100 of 85 balls to ensure a win in the finals.  It was indeed a great finals.  For long that stood as fastest century. 

The 10000 club in ODI reads : Sachin Tendulkar (18426 off 463); Kumara Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jawardene, Inzamam ul Haq, Jacques Kallis, Sourav Ganguly, Brian Lara, Tilakaratne Dilshan and MSD ..  .. .. MSD has the best average 51.30 – next comes Sachin with 44.83; Dhoni is the 2nd topper in strike rate ; Sanath has 91.20 – MSD has 88.27 .. .. and not to forget the fact that he has 294 test victims, 407 ODI victims including 107 stumpings and 87 ODI victims as keeper.

Gavaskar became the first batsman to cross the 10000 barrier in Tests; went on to play 108 one dayers scoring 3092.  In his penultimate match against New Zealand, a WC group match, he scored his only century.  It is another matter that in what turned out to be his last match - the semi final of 1987 WC against England, when Indians were chasing 254, he was bowled rather uncharacteristically to De Freitas for 4.   India lost that match. Sunil owes explanation to Indian fans and more so his captain Srinivasa Venkatraghavan for that disgraceful innings, but now wielding pen and mike, he disgraces Dhoni’s innings !! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th July 2018.

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