AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarian.

Blog Posts by AR Hemant

  • Life After 400

    In KR Guruprasad’s delightful book Going Places which profiles India's small-towners turned-superstars, Harbhajan Singh's mentor Devender Arora describes a memorable incident from an Under-16 match — one, which would underline Harbhajan's bowling prowess.

    Arora coached the Jalandhar side in an inter-district match in Patiala. Arora noticed something on the good length outside off-stump. It was an ant mound. The ball would misbehave upon landing on this soft, sandy patch.

    Arora called Harbhajan and asked him if he could see this spot from the bowling end. Harbhajan could. Arora told him to land the ball on the spot. He could.

    The 13-year-old spinner took 15 wickets in that match just by landing the ball on that spot.

    "Even at that age," said Arora, "Harbhajan was so accurate that he could land the ball wherever he wanted to. It was a God’s gift. I was very sure from there on that he would be a great bowler."

    It's been 18 years since the incident. Harbhajan is 31. He sits on a pretty

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  • In Praise of Good Old Grit

    Rahul DravidRahul Dravid

    It took so long coming, some of us had forgotten what a gritty Dravid hundred felt like. Here was the author of some of India’s greatest moments on a cricket field. Yet in the last five years, he had inexplicably struggled to score the hundred that would take Indian cricket and his own legend forward.

    Sure, there have been several memorable performances by him in this period. Between Sabina Park 2006 and Sabina Park 2011, there was the 93 at Perth. The 177 in Ahmedabad. The 62 in Napier. But what was missing was the one innings which typified Brand Dravid: the over-my-dead-body innings at a time everybody else had surrendered to the conditions.

    This was Dravid’s first Test hundred outside Asia in five years, and just his second since Adelaide. He’s had two fruitless tours of South Africa, and below-par tours of England and Australia. In recent times Dravid's overseas record had fallen from its lofty standards. With young talent waiting to break into the Test side, Dravid's clock is

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  • 1976: Massacre at Sabina Park

    Clive Lloyd unleased a new era in West Indies cricket, with a little help from Michael Holding.Clive Lloyd unleased a new era in West Indies cricket, with a little help from Michael Holding.

    Whenever India play at the Sabina Park, it is important to revisit the events of 1976 which marked the lowest point in their cricketing relations with West Indies.

    It is also the start of West Indies’ two-decade long supremacy, and an occasion which caused a livid Sunil Gavaskar to make a racially-charged comment about Jamaican people.

    But before we get to how Clive Lloyd unleashed a torrent of fast, dangerous, short-pitched bowling on India, sent half their top-order to the hospital and caused captain Bishan Singh Bedi to 'surrender' the match, we have to see what went on in Caribbean cricket before this match.

    Lloyd had made a fine start to his captaincy with a 3-2 win in India and the World Cup triumph of 1975. But it all changed with the tour of Australia.

    “There is basically not much between the two teams where talents and skills are concerned, and you don't need a crystal ball to predict the outcome could hang on a slender thread,” Lloyd said upon his arrival in Australia.


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  • Fool-proof Technology and Other Manohar Kahaniyan

    After a week of hearing about the pros and cons of the DRS, I’m still unclear about one thing: why exactly is India — or specifically, the BCCI and one or two cricketers — opposed to it?

    Here’s a list of India’s grievances with the DRS:

    1. I am not going to buy a life jacket that doesn't come with a warranty. [Dhoni, November 2011]
    2. It is the judgment of one system (computer) against the other (the umpire). — [Shashank Manohar, August 2010]
    3. I have even told the ICC that we have no problem with HotSpot. Our objection is to ball tracking.  [Manohar holds his ground, last week]
    4. Sorry, we do have have problems with HotSpot - it is an expensive, monopolistic, military technology, and it can get stolen. [Unnamed BCCI source]
    5. I am not fully convinced with DRS. [In Sri Lanka, 2008], I was not convinced with many decisions. I did not feel comfortable ... I would rather go with HotSpot because that establishes the contact between the bat and the bowl. [Sachin Tendulkar, 2010]
    6. I am not against DRS,
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  • Warne, One Last Time

    Shane Warne had a little chat with Rahul Dravid, who ran in to say something to him. Warne scratched his chin and surveyed his field. He waved to his fielders, adjusted their positions a little. A banner in the stands read ‘Bowling Shane', a relic from the 1990s. James Franklin waited on strike. Warne made some more adjustments to the field.


    He smiled as he walked in, one final time.


    Just like Anil Kumble's final delivery in a Test match, it was a full toss, on off-stump. He had tried too hard. Franklin drove it to long-off for a single. The fielder collected the ball and threw it in. Warne took the return on his knees. He then held a thumbs-up to the fielder. He was done. It was his final delivery in competitive cricket. A journey that started 20 years ago lasted over 92,000 deliveries and produced 1851 wickets came to an end at the Wankhede Stadium today.


    His final victim was Rohit Sharma, Mumbai's top-scorer today. The dismissal had all the flair of the master deceiver Warne

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  • Will Delhi Unleash the World’s Fastest Indian?

    On the eve of the India-West Indies match in Chennai, I visited the MRF Pace academy, a few minutes away not too far from the Chidambaram Stadium. Nestled in a leafy corner on the campus of the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School in Chetpet, the Academy wasn’t easy to locate.

    But having arrived there, I realised it wasn’t the best time of the year to be visiting. The training season was a few months away. The Academy looked quiet, empty. On the practice wickets, a few youngsters were having an evening knockabout. I caught their attention as I walked past the Academy gates.

    Upon closer inspection, one of them turned out to be an India discard from the mid-00s, now with an IPL team. It seemed he had gained weight. Or maybe the myth about TV adding 10 pounds works the other way around.

    Two boys were in the academy gym. One of them walked out, and I chatted him up about what was going on at the academy. He said his name was Varun. He played for MRF; that he had been training

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  • 9 Players India Wishes a Good IPL

    Ishant Sharma (Deccan Chargers)

    An IPL record of 25 wickets in 31 matches for a frontline bowler is woeful. Ishant was an accurate pacer operating in the high 140s. But since IPL 1, his pace has slid steadily, his confidence dips when under attack, and he has lost his edge. From being Zaheer Khan’s understudy, he’s joined India’s burgeoning army of also-ran pacers. But if he wishes to, he can start his turnaround now. A good run in the IPL would boost his chances of returning to the team that left him out of the World Cup. A lot will depend on how Kumar Sangakkara handles him.

    Irfan Pathan (Delhi Daredevils)

    Irfan has gone from being India’s most exciting all-rounder since Kapil Dev to its biggest regret. He was the player you built a team around. But he slowly lost his swing and pace and veered out of limelight. The good news is he has been plotting his comeback. With him in form and good health, India can have the luxury of five bowlers — and we know how MS Dhoni favours pacers —

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  • The Man Who Can Do No Wrong

    Over the last few weeks, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has done things which have made little sense to India’s supporters. Questions were asked. Why Chawla? Why not Ashwin? Why Sreesanth? Why not Sreesanth? Why isn’t Harbhajan taking wickets? Some questioning was justified. Some wasn’t.

    Some of Dhoni’s answers were strange.

    “Chawla needs to be given confidence.”

    “Ashwin is mentally tough.”

    “Harbhajan is a big match player.”

    “I cannot control Sreesanth.”

    You couldn’t get through to Dhoni. He must have smiled inwardly and thought, “Fools. What do they know?” He carried on, living in the bubble that couldn’t be pricked. Like he had a master plan only he understood. Like everything would fall into place at the right moment. In the end, it did.

    But as Dhoni revealed after the final, the pressure on him was immense. It was best displayed in the dying moments of India’s chase when he nearly ran himself out. For the first time, horror occupied his creaseless visage. Not tension. Not anger. But pure horror. Dhoni screamed at Yuvraj Singh for the near mishap and hit his pad with his bat in disgust. But this incident didn’t deter him.

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  • How Kirsten Plotted India’s Rise

    If you want to know about Gary Kirsten’s work ethics, who better to tell you about it than a childhood mate? Herschelle Gibbs in his no-holds-barred autobiography, To The Point, offers excellent insights into what makes Kirsten tick.

    Gibbs befriended Kirsten as a 16-year-old. They went on to forge a successful opening partnership in Test cricket for South Africa. Their method of net practice was simple yet intense: they took turns to throw balls at each other at great speeds from 16 yards. Sometimes, one would hit the other on the helmet and then return the favour.

    “The practice sessions Gary and I had together were sometimes more draining than actually facing bowlers in the middle,” Gibbs wrote. “Gary practiced like he played – with a lot of heart and determination. He always wanted to get things right.”

    In one stroke, Gibbs explains why India are No. 1 in Tests and South Africa aren’t. He reckons members of the current SA squad are spoilt and selfish. “The guys won’t throw to each

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  • India vs Sri Lanka: A Clash of Equals

    The stakes have never been bigger. A billion or more people are expected to tune in. Thirty-three thousand more cheering your every move loudly, having spent tens of thousands rupees to be there. There’s noise, there’s scrutiny, there are thousands of prayers going up every second. Wagers will be made, work hours will be lost, appointments will be postponed. There’s also pressure. Lots of pressure. And it makes you do funny things. Lance Klusener would know.

    The most successful bowler ever is pitted against the most successful batsman ever. There’s a $3 million purse on the line. Let’s not even start about the life-making windfall awaiting the victor. Above all, here’s the chance to be remembered as the greatest among the greats. In the most even playing field in recent memory, two teams have filtered through layer upon layer of challenges – injuries, controversies, ups and downs, wins and losses, and – as India discovered in Mohali – lunches which were not served on time.

    Beneath all

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