AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarian.

Blog Posts by AR Hemant

  • 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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  • Tendulkar and the art of big game hunting

    If you look at Sachin Tendulkar's performance in Wednesday's semi-final in absolute terms, 85 runs off 115 balls with four dropped catches and two favourable reviews make it atypically ordinary by his standards.


    But when you factor in the opponent, the stage, the pressure, the wicket which behaved in an un-Mohali manner and how much batsmen after Tendulkar struggled, you realise the innings' worth.


    In a game like that, you'd take your runs whichever way they come. Tendulkar has now played three World Cup semi-finals, scoring 65 in 1996, 83 in 2003 and 85 on Wednesday.


    This is what the South Africans call BMT - big match temperament. Except 2007, Tendulkar has shown plenty of BMT by scoring heavily in all World Cups. Now all that's left is one final push in his home town.


    MS Dhoni praised both him and Suresh Raina for playing the two innings that made the difference in the final analysis.


    "He batted really well," Dhoni said of Tendulkar. "When's he's there, he makes batting

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  • Leading By Example

    Pat Symcox highlighted an excellent point today after the Pakistan-WI match. He said the previous World Cups have been won by captains who've led by example during the tournament.

    The thread connecting Clive Lloyd, Kapil Dev, Allan Border, Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting is that they'd been among their teams' top performers.

    By that yardstick, who has been the best leader by example at this World Cup?

    Afridi and Sangakkara are the leading bowler and batsman respectively in the tournament. Dhoni, Vettori, Ponting and Smith have catching up to do.

    Who will be the last man standing?

  • What’s Your Cricketing Superstition?

    Steve Waugh with his red hanky.Steve Waugh with his red hanky.

    It’s that time of the World Cup when die-hard fans would go any distance to keep their teams from losing. Indians being a people with a thing for the irrational, expect them to do some crazy things when their team meets Australia in the quarterfinal.

    The most well-known superstition among cricket fans in India goes something like this: when the team is doing well, do not move an inch from your position. A slight movement risks tilting the planets off their favourable positions and bring bad luck to the team.

    I can tell you of my own experience.


    In the Natwest final of 2002, India were down in the dumps, five-down chasing 326 when Yuvraj Singh unleashed three fours in a Ronnie Irani over. Sensing a build-up, I took my position on the drawing room carpet in front of our TV.

    While Yuvraj and Kaif got India closer, I stayed still, not moving a millimetre. My legs fell asleep, my back hurt and the tension made me uneasy. As three wickets fell, I began to doubt my method but decided to

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  • How Teams & Umpires Coped With The DRS

    Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva was the most notable omission from the list of match officials for the quarterfinals. This isn't surprising.

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  • Yuvraj’s Paunch-tantra


    Chennai's legendary heat seems like a jacket soaked in warm water clinging to you. The newly built stands at the Chidambaram Stadium with the white canopies on top have been neatly cleaved, allowing a steady sea breeze into the ground. But despite the breeze and Saturday's relatively pleasant 32 degrees Celsius, the humidity can leave your throat parched if you as much as took a walk along the boundaries.

    This writer doesn't possess Olympian fitness, and his thoughts immediately turned to Yuvraj Singh who had joined the Indian team in a warm-up game of football in the middle.

    A few minutes into the game, Yuvraj had veered towards the sidelines. His hands were on his hips as he let the others pass the ball around. Even Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra, Universally Recognised Slouches, seemed fresh as daisies as they enthusiastically partook in the game.

    Despite his runs and wickets in the World Cup, Yuvraj's sluggishness is becoming the stuff of cricketing legends. Remember Gary

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