As an Indian, the last two months have been utterly disappointing. More disappointing than depressing because things on various fronts promised so much only for them to be steamrolled down at an alarming periodicity. A new ruling party in the heart of our capital showed everything that can be right with a democracy; a month later it also showed why everything cannot always be right with a democracy.
Similarly, at the start of the English summer, a new look Indian team showed its true mettle. Burgeoning with self confidence and epitomising a quintessential 21st century ‘I will not take a step back’ (read compulsive hookers – just the ‘shot’) Indian mentality, they blasted their oppositions with alarming ease and even more alarming tactics – giving Ishant Sharma the 18th over in a 20 over match – on their course to a Champions Trophy success. 7 months later, the very same team has somewhere lost its tenacity and its desire to outperform themselves.
To top the gloominess off, we now have one of our prime-ministerial candidates giving an interview on national television with a maturity level last associated with a turkey. These are terrible times for India, indeed. Living in a time where interviews from leaders don’t make sense anymore, you would expect the relief to come from the sporting field. But being the smart thinker that he is and his ability to play according to the situation, MS Dhoni dropped a mental dung-bomb, with the expertise and the ease of a typical marketing executive, when he said that he won’t change his current team selection because they (MSD and BCCI) have ‘invested heavily’ on them.
Now, of course, MS Dhoni doesn’t say anything relatively new when it comes to conferences, but you have to admit this was an all-new low. In the press conference, amidst his volleys of ‘well, of course’ and ‘let’s admit, our batsmen can’t play short balls’. He actually did not admit the latter, if only he does, but he did admit that India had crossed the point where they can drop their players (Rahul G-esque moment for him).
So, as I pondered over that statement, I thought maybe I could list down five players whom Dhoni would never drop; players who would be the only constant amongst all the changes in the world, and more importantly, the players he believes he has invested heavily on. Here we go.
1. Suresh Raina
CSK Player # 1
In his last 30 ODI matches, Suresh Raina has crossed 50 only once (that too against Zimbabwe) and has made his teammates, followers and nephew experience unseen and unbelievable lows in life, matched only by England’s tour to Australia. The problem is not only with short-pitched deliveries anymore but also with perfectly normal good length deliveries; he has given a new lease of life to bowlers who were feeling strangulated with the latest fielding restriction changes in cricket.
Even when the bowler is in his run-up, people have spotted Raina going deep back into his crease in apprehension of getting bounced out, thereby turning even a good length ball into a short-pitched ball. In the last 1 year of ODI cricket, amongst all the batsmen who have played in more than 5 innings, Suresh Raina has the 86th-highest batting average.
Yes, you read it right, the 86th-highest batting average in the world. The fact that Dhoni wanted to and the fact that Dhoni did try him out at the number 4 position keeping in mind that the next World Cup is going to be held in Australia and New Zealand is enough to keep Indian fans retching to their sleep every night.
Going by their current forms, if Jade Dernbach was to bowl to Suresh Raina, cricket definitely wouldn’t be the ultimate winner.
2. Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma is an enigma people haven’t been able to lay their fingers on and also happens to be the second-most hated Sharma in the entire Indian team. Nobody knows what exactly makes him tick, although there have been muffled silences of it having something to do with *cough* home *cough* conditions. You know the Bradman from Bansod is destined for greatness when you see one of his elegant cover-drives, and you also know that he is not when he sledges back to Dale Steyn saying, “We’ll see who scores more when you come to India”.
Needless to say he didn’t last for much long and eventually ended up scoring less runs than both Steyn and Vernon Philander in that Test
series. Also, the captain of the team of players Dhoni has invested so heavily upon – was profitable only during the India-Australia ODI series, barring that his stock shares have always shown a red down arrow against the blue Indian jersey.
CSK Player # 2
Ravindra Jadeja is a fairly straight-forward player; one look at his face whenever he is batting or bowling or fielding and the only thing that you will notice is that he has a blank expression almost all the time. He fails to crack under pressure and is unperturbed by lack of form, which bothers the lesser mortals surrounding him, and he makes absolutely no qualms about his smartness.
And all these things are not chance happenings. It is only because Sir Jadeja doesn’t over-complicate things; he just fails to think. Why else, pray answer me, the first thing after entering his restaurant would you see a Chennai Super Kings jersey, and not an Indian one, in that ridiculous garish yellow colour emblazoned on the wall? Talk about interior decoration.
Regardless of his mental aspect, Jadeja had a disastrous 2012, where he averaged Bradman-esque with the ball and Jadeja-esque with the bat but turned it around in style in 2013, where he was by far India’s most impactful ODI player. His recent run of form shows that he has matured even more as a cricketer and is the only player on this list who should be selected on the team-sheet without any reservations whatsoever.
4. Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma is every cricketing country’s FDI to India. Being a politically uninterested, socially unaware person, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the FDI hullaballoo in press has something to do with him. Hell, I wouldn’t even be surprised if all these inflation talks have anything to do with him. To just imagine Ishant Sharma having a say in our political setup is downright scary, let alone him being a part of the Indian national team.
After a lot of internal turmoil and hastily arranged support-staff meetings, MS Dhoni finally had the guts to drop Ishant Sharma in the recently held India-Australia ODI series, but the lanky underperformer-of-the-century Sharma made a comeback to the national set-up without playing even a single List A game.
The only Ranji Trophy match Ishant played before being called back again was against Haryana (a team that got relegated, eventually), one in which he managed to pick up 9 wickets. The other part of the story was of course that he had 5 lower-order dismissals to his name. After making a comeback, he promptly set the stage on fire and shockingly took two 4-wicket hauls (none of which resulted in a victory) before cushioning it with mediocre performances on either side. Faith was once again restored in the universe.
CSK Player # 3
(i) 53-0-290-1 – Ravichandran Ashwin’s cumulative return in his last 6 ODI games for India.
(ii) 290 – Also, the same amount of runs (almost) Dale Steyn conceded in his last 10 ODIs while picking up 26 wickets.
How an international player can still retain his place after astronomical figures like that is hard to fathom (obvious reference to point (i)). What is even more harder to understand is the player himself coming out and saying that he was in the ‘best frame of mind’ while committing these blatant butcheries. To say that his bowling is world-class is a chronic understatement. His carrom-ball is so badly disguised and easy to pick out that he shudderingly reminds me of Piyush Chawla sending down his faster ones.
To further drown him in statistics, amongst all the bowlers who bowled in more than 5 innings away from home in the last 1 year of ODI cricket, Ashwin has the second-worst bowling average after Xavier Doherty.
The worst part? Even Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli have a better bowling average than him. Even though he can be charged with mental debauchery by many Indian fans, he still has kept the balance intact in international cricket. His obvious fall in his bowling average has been counterweighted by the increase in his batting average. Is he our next Irfan Pathan? He is at least on his road to enlightenment.
CSK # Player of all players
Indian Law of Cricket: Any Dhoni team without Srinivasan cannot be a Dhoni team and vice-versa.
The mastermind of them all, the megalomaniac Srinivasan is the one who calls all the shots. The fact that there have been as many as 14 players from Chennai Super Kings, all seasons and all squads combined, who have represented India shows a problem somewhere in the system at least in one way or the other (not that people didn’t know that there was a fault in the system in the first place).
Undoubtedly though, amongst all the players mentioned on the list so far, Srinivasan has by far been the most consistent. Even when he was under severe pressure, he went out positively and straight-batted all the doubts and questions to each and every corner of the ground and eventually emerged as the lone winner.
In the post-match conference, he also heckled his opponents by saying, ‘If you couldn’t get me out back then, you can never get me out’, a statement accompanied with a slight smirk. Classic Srinivasan moment, that. With a player like him in their ranks, there is no surprise that BCCI comes out as the winner each and every time, Big 3 or no Big 3.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are the author’s own. They do not reflect those of the website as a whole.