Thursday, October 13, 2016

A bearded leader and some bearded men

Virat Kohli smiles a lot. He also gasps, fumes and grimaces. Sometimes his inner Captain Haddock takes over on the field if his deep fine leg is standing on his heels. At other times he's found wringing his hands in dismay or having a rueful smile when his nice fielders get into a tangle with the ball. Read Rahane. Or Ashwin. When he's running like a grammar school kid after school. But Virat gets his job done. I won't mind saying that this cute little team has more talent on field than the times of Saurav or Dhoni. But putting the available talent to work and getting the best out of each guy is another sort of work. Your talent cannot graze grass at third man like some of the pacers did in other times. Nor they can be toggled between third slip and midwicket in fervent hope that the ball will show signs of deviant bounce or the pitch shall show frantic signs of turn just after 3.17 pm in the afternoon. Talent has to be put to work. Logical. Yeah, but try telling Amit Mishra that. Or Praveen Kumar. Praveen may even bring down his family mace onto your head. It's the near past. Just look through the score sheets and see how these guys were used. Virat has succeeded in this. I would not venture to say fully. I fear a caustic Viru tweet if he ever reads this. Ever. But sample this. You have a setting sun. You decide to change Ashwin's end and bring in the tall bowler against the setting sun. You employ a leg slip for his faster ones. You have your best in field catchers at all the close in positions. Then you put in yourself for the uppish drive at short mid on. You ask Ashwin to go about his business with trajectory and drift. You get results. The science and art of talent management onfield comes alive. It's beyond all fixes and cave ins. Virat loves his hours of the day. His declarations have had a certain certainty to themselves. It isn't about waiting for Rohit's fifty or Rahane's hundred. It's telling them that he's going to declare at this hour and they better move their arse if they have to get the team anywhere near to an objective at that appointed hour. Then, like a fielding captain with a Border level mojo, he rotates his bowlers. Shami and Umesh or Bhuvi for the first eight. Jadeja for some quickies in between. Ashwin centrestage. Grinning and fuming. Alternately. Bhuvi certainly near the twenty fifth. Shami for the thirtieth. Reverse swing, you see. Setting sun. Jadeja back for his bootlickers. Ashwin, the hulk in the dark. Shami, if someone needs to smell some leather. Virat senses. The team rallies. Watch Umesh run for the ball. He knows he's being valued in the deep. They all pester him for the piston throws from the deep. Jadeja must throw. Saha must dive for the unreachable. Rahane must walk in a few paces for the faster ones coming off the edges. Angles. Trajectories. Gambhir found himself at sea for a few minutes before he accepted the new order of things. His bones didn't. Play for the team. It's a team game. Good man and cinema feature, Dhoni, brought this concept back into Indian Cricket after Greg Chappell had majorly messed around with the lateral thinking of the nation's favourite team. But Virat is making it sharper. He does not need a saw. He has allowed the beard to flourish. Like that other great thinker of our times, Misbah ul Haq. Forward thinking. Take more singles. Adds to a total. Drive in the V. Get the partnerships going. Facilitate two all rounders suddenly. Get your quiet wicket keeper to breathe at the wicket. Allow your speedsters to do the seam and bounce thing. Junk containment. But dry up the runs through aggressive fields. Allow your premier spinner to give away runs in search of wickets. Keep working on the impish left armer's fields for a variable bounce off the pitch. Forward thinking. Think ten overs hence. Scenography. Again Misbah. But not as inscrutable. Not at all. Voluble. Jolly. Very Punjabi! Kohli!!

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