AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarion.

Blog Posts by AR Hemant

  • A warrior awaited

    Harbhajan Singh turned 32 today. Is he relevant to India’s cricketing future?


    “Harbhajan Singh is a fighter.”


    — MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Jonty Rhodes, Ravi Shastri, Suresh Raina, Davinder Arora and many others.

    During the IPL, the running joke was that the BCCI’s cash benefit for ex-players should have been extended to Harbhajan Singh. It’s been nearly a year since he lost his place in the Indian team. Harbhajan had it coming. In the months preceding his ouster, he had let lesser bowlers outshine him. Most notable was Yuvraj Singh, who fronted India’s spin attack at the World Cup beautifully despite the developing symptoms of cancer.

    Keen to overlook his failings, Harbhajan’s supporters had been in the thrall of his reputation. It seemed the feisty sardar himself was beginning to buy into his hype. “I know I am good enough, and that's why I have taken 400 wickets,” he had said last year. With his poor performances, his reputation corroded. On the tour of England, he was axed on the pretext of an injury.

    In the last 12 months, there’s been no shortage of sympathetic

    Read More »from A warrior awaited
  • The Style Evolution of Kevin Pietersen

    After his days of blond bleaches, blue streaks, skunk cuts and tattoos, the English batsman has settled for the sedate close crop. As he celebrates his 32nd birthday today, here's a look at his changing style over the years.

    After his days of blond bleaches, blue streaks, skunk cuts and tattoos, the English batsman has settled for the sedate close crop. As he celebrates his 32nd birthday today, here's a look at his changing style over the years.

  • IPL5 final highlights: The costly no-ball, Bisla's heroics and more

    Scores | Match report | Action in images | IPL5 | Preview | Road to the final

    The teams at the start of the game.

    The Toss


    Chennai Super Kings have been in four IPL finals, and they've batted first each time. The thread connecting the four games is Chennai's solid batting performance — particularly in the 2011 final when they decimated Bangalore on a slow pitch at the Chidambaram Stadium.

    The title holders looked to repeat that template — post a big score, then asphyxiate the opposition with their three front-line spinners. Dhoni said that with the grass in the wicket, it was not expected to turn much. Chennai were unchanged while Kolkata Knight Riders brought in Manvinder Bisla in place of Brendon McCullum who sat out due to L Balaji's hamstring injury.

    Chennai's Strong Start

    Mike Hussey and Murali Vijay know when to turn it on. They had put last year's final beyond Chennai with a hell-raising 159 run stand. Here they had owned Kolkata's bowlers in the six overs of fielding restriction.

    Shakib Al Hasan shared the new ball

    Read More »from IPL5 final highlights: The costly no-ball, Bisla's heroics and more
  • Gayle and Kohli show keeps Bangalore's title hunt alive

    Bangalore beat Delhi by 21 runs; Gayle smashes 13 sixes in his unbeaten 128.

    Scores | Action images | IPL5 | Points table

    Gayle and Kohli added 204 unbeaten runs, a new T20 record.

    Chris Gayle is a man in desperate need of a challenge. Bowlers in T20 competitions around the world have failed to provide him one. Back home in the Caribbean, on the bouncy wickets of Australia or the flat ones in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and most of all in the IPL, the big Jamaican has butchered one attack after another. It’s hard to fathom what bowlers have been doing wrong.

    His run-scoring has been formulaic: settle down, see off the new ball, let the weaker bowlers come on, turn off Bruce Banner, turn on Hulk, go smash. That’s exactly what happened today.

    Briefly, Umesh Yadav seemed to have found the magic mantra to keep Gayle quiet. Yadav bowled short of length around off-stump, swinging away from the left-hander. The unthinkable happened: Gayle played a maiden over. It has got to be one of the bowling moments of the tournament.

    Gayle took his time. He moved to 10 off 17 balls. He hit a couple of sixes over long-on, reached 38 in 34.

    Read More »from Gayle and Kohli show keeps Bangalore's title hunt alive
  • A monster the BCCI created

    Greed is in the IPL’s DNA. It won’t go away by banning five nondescript cricketers.

    The BCCI have fine-tuned the IPL ecosystem to make money. So why deprive uncapped players?

    "There's a little bit of the whore in all of us. Gentlemen, name your price."

    —  TV mogul Kerry Packer, negotiating the TV rights with the Australian Cricket Board in 1976.

    ***

    Before the start of IPL5, we at Yahoo! Cricket flirted with the idea of creating a rating system with help from our friends at Impact Index. The system would reveal a player’s real value per dollar paid to him by his team. It would be a Return on Investment (ROI) index with a difference.

    There are other such indice around. The difference we were trying to make was not gauging a player’s utility by his runs or wickets tally alone. Instead, we would consider his Impact Index rating, which gives us a clearer picture of one player’s performance against the 21 other in the same match, while also factoring in match pressure and quality of opposition — variables that absolute numbers can never reveal. 

    Fabulous idea. Or so we thought.

    Even before we’d begun, our idea hit a brick wall. It was a fundamental problem: how

    Read More »from A monster the BCCI created
  • In praise of straight talkers

    And how a cricketer’s playing style reflects in the way he talks

    Sehwag: straight as an arrow, sharp as a knife

    Cricket press conferences are dour affairs. For good reason too. In the age of 24x7 media, every word players utter in the public sphere ends up in the news. The news is then subjected to more scrutiny by hair-splitting pundits. Heavens forbid a cricketer makes a loose comment. It can snowball into a full-blown national calamity in minutes.

    This is why cricketers tend to avoid masala quotes that can whip up media frenzy. Instead, they provide inquisitive journalists their stock quotes, delivering them with practiced ease game after game.

    “We will stick to our basics.”

    “It was a team effort.”

    “We will do well if we execute our plans.”

    “We want to stick to our strengths.”

    And here’s the most ludicrous one which somehow never goes out of fashion.

    “Bangladesh are not to be taken lightly.”

    This tedium, this masquerade, has been persevered with game after game, year after year. Cricketers will not tell you what they really think. It can cause trouble. There are also financial disincentives to

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  • Hogg-ing the spotlight

    Rertired in 2008, back in 2012, and how. Here's the story of the man with the most famous tongue in cricket.

    Hogg celebrates a wicket in IPL5. In the ongoing IPL where match after match passes by in a blur, this will be one of the standout moments. Against Rajasthan in Jaipur, Chris Gayle — arguably the most dangerous T20 batsman of all — was indisposed and was scheduled to bat at No. 4 instead of his usual opening slot.  

    On the field, Rajasthan’s Brad Hogg had been wired to speak to the commentators on air. One told Hogg there was a good chance he would bowl to Gayle in the middle overs. Hogg, 41, said he was up for the challenge. Remember: this was a semi-retired bowler trying to defeat a destructive batsman in his prime. “But how would he plan to get Gayle out?” Hogg was asked.

    Hogg said, “I’ll push him back, try to get him LBW or bowled with the wrong ‘un.” With his third ball to Gayle, Hogg had him on the backfoot. The ball turned in. It hit Gayle in front of leg-stump. Asad Rauf gave it out. Hogg ran what may have been the quickest 50 metres anyone has covered while celebrating a wicket (barring, perhaps, Sourav Ganguly

    Read More »from Hogg-ing the spotlight
  • The old man’s game

    Far from unearthing fresh talents, T20 competitions like the IPL seem to be nurturing over-the-hill veterans.


    After a brush with the IPL in its first season, Ricky Ponting stayed away from it. National duty comes first, he had reasoned. In 2009 he was relieved from his contract. “Dropped from KKR” was how Lalit Modi put it on Twitter. In 2010, with a security threat clouding the IPL, Ponting told his team-mates not to tour India. The team-mates, who’d normally walk on hot coals for their captain, were said to have dissented. And why not? They stood to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars by taking his advice.

    There’s water under the bridge now. Ponting has been axed from the Australian one-day squad. He has hung on to the Test side by a thread. Now that his cricket calendar has freed up to a degree, it was interesting to hear his most recent views on the IPL. He said:

    “New Zealand just don't schedule any international cricket when the IPL’s on for the simple reason they would have lost most of their players to IPL and been left with next to nothing. I think there's something to be learned
    Read More »from The old man’s game
  • Curtail the summer madness

    IPL 2012 will have 76 games over 55 days. Can the enormous length of the tournament guarantee great cricket?


    Here’s a little exercise for you.

    Strain your memory for a bit and answer this simple question: who were the four semi-finalists of IPL 2011?

    Write the four names down. Then, check your answers.

    Maybe you’ve named the four correctly, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve also noticed that this was a trick question: there were no semi-finals last year. This writer must admit he tried this test and could only name three — despite having seen most of the games in the tournament.

    How does one go through a tournament this long and remember so little of it? After all, if one were to believe the hype, the IPL has been the greatest thing since two-minute noodles. No prizes for guessing why: it’s the length of the tournament that has proved counter-productive.

    ***

    THIS YEAR, the IPL is down to nine teams. But the tournament will still be 55 days long and comprise 76 matches. The previous edition, with 10 teams, was three days shorter and had two games less. Now let’s put these numbers in context.

    The

    Read More »from Curtail the summer madness
  • Fruits of the season

    Kohli is India’s best at the moment. His efforts tell us why India must persist with youth.

    KohliA few months ago, Virat Kohli had failed in four straight innings in the Melbourne and Sydney Tests. We heard calls to axe him. We were told how the Indian youth was not ready to take over from the veterans. Young, reckless, arrogant — the list of characteristics ascribed to Kohli ran long. His rude gesture to fans in Sydney made it worse for him.

    Imagine if he had been dropped from the Perth Test. Imagine the effect it would have had on his confidence which had been dented by those failures. If he had been dropped then, we probably wouldn’t have had the chance to see what we did — the gritty 75 in Perth, the 116 in Adelaide, and then his fearful slaying of Sri Lanka in Hobart and Pakistan in Mirpur.

    The Adelaide innings wasn’t a mere hundred – it was a coming-of-age moment for Kohli. You only need to see the list of Indian Test centurions in Australia to know that Kohli has put himself in the company of India’s greatest. His slaughtering of Sri Lanka and Pakistan were bonus additions

    Read More »from Fruits of the season

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