Monday, October 29, 2007

Interview with Sony Cheruvathur, Kerala's new Ranji Trophy team captain

By John Cheeran
I was calling Sony Cheruvathur on the same evening (27-10-2007) when Kerala Cricket Association selected the state Ranji squad to take on Vidharba in Nagpur on November 3.
Let me quickly share this with you all. In Kerala’s cricket history, Sony is the first Ranji Captain who hails from Kunnamkulam, a provincial town imbued with rare survival instinct. Sony, though lives in Chengannoor, with his parents, is a true blue Kunnamkulam Nasrani.
Kunnamkulam is known for its printing presses and areca nuts and basketball players.
I have over the years talked to various cricketers including Sir Gary Sobers, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev for professional reasons. Never ever had I thought I would be talking to a cricketer from Kunnamkulam. Not even the Ranji variety!
Being Kerala Ranji team captain is not an insignificant honour, when you consider that the state has produced two Test cricketers – Tinu Yohannan and S Sreesanth – in recent times. Who knows Sony could be the next fast bowler in line.
I’m a realist. At 29 years young, Kerala’s newest cricket captain (Sony is making his debut as captain on November 3 against Vidharba, though he has led the side in pre-Ranji season tournaments this year. The odds are stacked heavily against Sony as far as forcing is way into the Indian national team.
Though he has been with Kerala Ranji squad for the last six years, Sony has got only a fair trial only in the last season. Sony played three matches and took 13 wickets including a best performance of 5/42 against Goa last season. As Sony says he has played only eight Ranji Trophy matches.
Kerala Cricket Association, it seems, has given Sony the leader’s role for his cool approach to the game as well as recognition for his all-round skills. Sony’s bold batting had landed him a place in the South Zone side for the Deodhar Trophy one day tournament. Sony had hit a quick fire 82 against Tamil Nadu in the Subbaiah Pillay Trophy to merit the list.
Skipper Sony is confident that Kerala, without the crutches of professionals, should do well in the Plate Division. KCA has abandoned the practice of hiring players, a policy that ran for the last six years, from outside. Last year, Kerala’s opening batsmen were imported from Tamil Nadu – S Suresh and Sadagopan Ramesh.
Kerala’s strength is their pace attack, points out skipper Sony, who himself is a crafty swing bowler. “There is Tinu but definitely we will miss Sreesanth.”
Sreesanth’s assignments with the national side have given other youngsters rare opportunities to show their arsenal. Sony makes an interesting observation when he points out that Kerala’s athletic tradition should be the reason why the state has produced a string of pacers. “Bowling is more similar to athletics. There is no requirement for refinement. Batting requires a lot more fine tuning in that sense. We have very few turf wickets available and this makes it difficult for the state to produce quality batsmen.”
Vellayani, CRL and Palace Oval are Kerala’s major turf wickets. These are not simply enough for a state that has a huge craze for cricket.

The Hindu editorial on Dhoni

editorial in the hindu, september 20
The right choice
The appointment of M.S. Dhoni as captain of the Indian one-day cricket team for the home series against Australia and Pakistan is commendable. While the selectors had few other choices - apparent from chairman Dilip Vengsarkar's statement that the decision took all of five minutes - Dhoni staked his claim on merit. Already, in his three years as an international cricketer, the 26-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman has shown the ability to adapt quickly without divorcing his instincts. Former coach Greg Chappell identified very early Dhoni's cricket intelligence, both intuitive and conscious. That Dhoni has captivated the masses with his mix of rustic unorthodoxy and native shrewdness, and won the confidence of his team-mates with his preternatural calm under pressure, illustrates why he is such an attractive option. He has kept clear of the lapses in discipline that have compromised the captaincy aspirations of other young Indian cricketers. Dhoni of course needs time to grow. Former Indian captains have alluded to how dealing with the game's capricious administrators, handling the intrusive media, and coping with the fickle public can take their toll. For all his success with the bat (a Test average of over 36 and an ODI average of over 44) and his mental strength in keeping effectively despite struggling, Dhoni isn't yet a world-class wicketkeeper. Rather than rush him into Test captaincy, the selectors must give themselves time for assessment. The highly respected Anil Kumble, who deserves more than filling a vacancy, is our editorial choice for leading India in the significant Test series against Pakistan and Australia. In judging Dhoni, the selectors would do well to consider why his elevation from Twenty20 captaincy was necessary. The decision of Rahul Dravid, not one ever to shrink from a challenge, to step down is an indication of both the attendant pressures of the job and his honesty. Dravid said captains had shelf lives; the demands of modern-day cricket, he noted ruefully, were shrinking these shelf lives. Further, the strains of captaincy had just begun to affect his excellence with the bat. Dravid timed his exit well, even if he denied himself a chance to be celebrated as a great captain by leading the side successfully in Australia. The upstanding Bangalorean will be remembered as a sound, intelligent, and intense captain. Contrary to popular perception, he was tactically more aggressive than Sourav Ganguly; however, for a variety of reasons, he wasn't as successful in managing the system. Yet under Dravid the team transitioned from one that won Tests abroad into a side that won series abroad. He remains one of only two Indian captains - Ajit Wadekar is the other - to have won Test series in the West Indies and England.

Times edit on Dhoni, the new captain

Thankless job (the times of india
19 Sep 2007

The selectors have done the right thing by appointing Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India's ODI captain. After Rahul Dravid's sudden resignation from the captaincy last week, there was no obvious choice to fill his shoes. Sachin Tendulkar was the front runner for the job, but he is reported to have said that one-dayers were taking a toll on his body. In such a situation, appointing a younger player as captain of the ODI team is a positive move. Dhoni, who is at present leading India's Twenty20 team, will now have to come to terms with the incredible pressure that accompanies the job. Soon after quitting as skipper, Dravid said that there is a "shelf life" to the Indian captaincy, which he felt could be getting shorter with every passing year. Both Dravid and his predecessor, Sourav Ganguly, suffered a loss of form at some stage of their captaincy. Moreover, the captaincy takes a toll not only on the cricket field but also off it. The expectations of Indian fans are huge, often unreasonably so. In that sense, Dravid probably had taken as much as he could. More importantly, he quit when the going was good -- after a memorable series' win against England -- and not when people were calling for his head. There are a few lessons for both BCCI and Indian cricketers. The cricket board must try and help make the job easier for captains. Separate captains for the shorter and longer versions of the game -- which is now a distinct possibility -- is one way to do that. A fixed tenure for the skipper is another way to ease some of the pressure. This will allow a captain to tide over a temporary loss of form. A full-time coach as well as a carefully selected manager must always accompany the team. Under Dravid, India toured England without a coach; the manager was a former cricketer who last played international cricket in the 1960s. BCCI can definitely do much better in terms of giving back-up support to captains. All this will only go a little way in helping to ease the burden of Team India's skipper. He would himself have to find ways to deal with a job that possibly comes with more stress than that of the prime minister. The trick, as Dravid told reporters of this newspaper, is to be completely focused at the right time and to switch off at other times. The trick is finding the switch.
John Cheeran at Blogged