India Insight

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s pursuit of cricketing excellence

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Barely tipping the scale at 57 kilograms (a bit more than 125 pounds), Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the antithesis of a fast bowler. In fact, he isn’t one. At best, his pace is military medium.

At 24, Kumar looks like he came straight out of junior college, and if not for his India colours, the guards at Lord’s probably wouldn’t let him enter. He has a frail build, shy disposition and an almost apologetic expression every time he beats a batsman. They are a far cry from a classic menacing fast bowler that India hopes he’ll one day become. But scratch the surface and his boyish charm gives way to a relentless desire to make him count every time he walks on to the grounds.

It’s too early to say that Kumar has turned the corner, but it’s fascinating to watch the honest effort and commitment he has brought into his game. It’s an elusive state of being — being a complete athlete — and yet every professional athlete seeks it in his own sport. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s quest is infectious.

He not only swings the ball both ways to keep batsmen guessing, he wields his willow with the assurance of a middle-order batsman. And he has a safe pair of hands in the outfield. Kumar is good in all the three departments of the game, but what he’s seeking is excellence in each of them.

Kumar doesn’t have the sheer speed to hustle a top-order batsman. In fact, the lack of it rather perplexes a batsman, who often realizes too late how much he achieves with the ball. The pace may be harmless, but his length and movement, in the air and off the pitch, leave even the most accomplished batsmen baffled. With his nagging line and probing length, he made English batsmen look almost club class in their own backyard.

A victory of defiance, not a dead pitch

(The views expressed here are solely those of the author, and not necessarily those of Reuters)

Cricket is a contest of attrition. The game is a lot more about skills and strategies than just the “condition of the pitch.” It’s certainly more cerebral than what a few contemporary commentators would have us believe.

If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami put on a magnificent 111-run partnership for the last wicket, credit should be given to their extraordinary defiance, and the lack of it to England bowlers’ inability to out-think the two tailenders and partly to Cook’s captaincy.

Tendulkar exits, Anand slips during emotional 2013

Sachin Tendulkar bid a teary-eyed farewell to cricket while contemporary Viswanathan Anand lost his world chess crown in an emotional year for Indians in sports.

Forty-year-old Tendulkar, statistically the greatest batsman ever, walked into the sunset in November after his 200th test at his home Wankhede Stadium brought the cricket-crazy nation to a standstill.

“My life’s been 22 yards for 24 years. It’s hard to believe that wonderful journey is coming to an end,” an emotional Tendulkar said during a moving farewell speech as most Indians on and off the ground battled to hold back tears.

Sachin Tendulkar: What his peers said over the years

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th test match, against West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium, will also be his last as the ‘Little Master’ brings the curtain down on a glittering 24-year cricket career at the age of 40. (Click here for main story)

Here’s a look at how Tendulkar’s peers on the cricketing field have described him over the years:

    The nature of the cricket fans in this region is such that if a player tries to prolong his international career they tend to forget him soon after he retires – Javed Miandad (Nov. 2013) I have seen God. He bats at no. 4 in India in Tests – Mathew Hayden (1998) Don Bradman is the greatest, there is no debate. Don is the No. 1 and then come the rest. And among the rest, Tendulkar probably is as good as anyone. So legitimately, he may be the second best cricketer to have played the game – Steve Waugh (March 2010) I played 122 tests alongside Sachin, I never threatened his place as a batsman but he threatened mine as a bowler. He was a natural with leg spin – Anil Kumble (Nov. 2013)

Documentary captures Indian cricket’s lesser-known faces

Prithvi Shaw is 14 and looks like any other schoolboy at first glance. But those who have seen him wield a cricket bat call him India’s next Sachin Tendulkar. They say he’s as natural and as powerful in his stroke play as the world’s most famous batsman was at that age. Shaw started playing when he was three, going up against people more than twice his age.

“He was shorter than the stumps he used to bat in front of,” Shaw’s father said.

The teenager plays cricket for one of Mumbai’s best school teams, trains with Tendulkar’s son Arjun at the city’s famed MIG cricket club, and is considered the next big thing in Indian cricket.

Piecing together the ‘Great Tamasha’ of Indian cricket

The Great Tamasha” is a book about cricket, but it is also a tale about the rapid rise of modern India and the corruption that plagues it. A series of scandals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the glitzy Twenty20 tournament run by the country’s cricket board, got James Astill hooked to the game in India. What followed was the 40-year-old journalist’s first book – an account of India’s rich cricketing tradition, politics, religion and the emergence of the cash-rich IPL.

Astill takes the reader from the slums of Mumbai to a village in north India, places where cricket is as much tamasha (spectacle) as it is religion. Bollywood stars, business tycoons and cricketers, both past and present, feature in “The Great Tamasha”. So does Lalit Modi, a former IPL chairman, now an outcast in India’s cricketing circles.

Astill spoke to India Insight about his book, cricket and its celebrity culture. Here are edited excerpts.

Elsewhere in India: Maria Sharapova wins hearts, minds of cameramen

Here’s some more news that we found in the Indian press over the weekend and would like to share with you. Rather than present stories of great national importance, we would like to highlight some of the items that you are less likely to see in world news reports. Any opinions that the author might express are surely beneath contempt, and are not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.

Tennis pro Maria Sharapova visited India. Gushing ensued. “The 25-year-old, here to announce her partnership with UK-based real estate company Homestead, sported an infectious smile throughout the interaction even though the lensmen could not get to focus enough of capturing the blonde beauty. ‘Well, it is just the hair and make-up you know. I don’t wake up looking like this,’ quipped Sharapova when a scribe called her pretty. Here only for a day, Sharapova said food and culture was something she would take back from India. ‘I arrived last night and asked the chef what should I try of the Indian food. I had a dosa which tasted really nice. I wanted to have this great Indian experience. There is so much energy in the city, I have been in some quiet areas recently, resting. I really like the culture and people. You all have been really welcoming.’” Final score: love-love. (NDTV)

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s interests spread wider than wrestling or politics. He is also a lover of poetry. “For more than 35 minutes, Mulayam Yadav analysed the content of the book, ‘Yatharth ke Aas Pas’, written by a Congress leader, Chandra Prakash Rai. “This collection of poems on some very sensitive issues like girls, female foeticide, loneliness, loss of faith and other human emotions must be read by everyone,” he said. (The Indian Express)

Time to look beyond Rohit Sharma

Indian cricket has always been blamed for persisting with players on account of reputation — and in some cases experience. But the way Rohit Sharma, who currently lacks both, was handed game after game on the recently concluded tour of Sri Lanka shows a new trend emerging — one that of selecting players on the basis of “unrealised potential”.

Rohit may have it in him to succeed at the highest level but the Indian team management must decide how many is too many, for now at least, especially with Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane waiting in the wings.

Rohit had a wretched run against Sri Lanka, scoring just 13 runs in five matches, the least by a recognised Indian batsman in a series of five matches or more. He was late on the ball, had his feet anchored to the crease — signs of a batsman short on form and confidence.

Mark of Boucher

In cricket, and in life, a perfect end is a rarity.

Even Don Bradman was bereft of it. Yet a not-so-perfect ending cannot deny a few sportsmen their legitimate place in the sun. South Africa’s wicket-keeper Mark Boucher is one such cricketer.

His remarkably long international career, of almost 15 years, was tragically snuffed out when he was hit in the eye by a bail in a warm-up match against Somerset on July 9 during the ongoing England tour. He was only one short of 1,000 victims — an unheard of feat in the 145 years of international cricket history.

Agonisingly short of a milestone, just like Bradman who could not score the four runs in his final innings to sign off with a perfect test average of 100.

Sachin Tendulkar: from Wankhede to parliament

So it’s just a matter of time, according to media reports, before Sachin Tendulkar swaps his India jersey for starched white and walks into the Rajya Sabha.

While the clamour was growing to honour him with the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, few expected him to be nominated to the upper house.

That too when he is not yet done with cricket.

Tendulkar’s meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Thursday was probably the early inkling of a new innings and by afternoon, political parties were falling over each other to congratulate him.

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