What was it about Dhoni then, eh?

cup-1015644_1280As captains…

Sourav Ganguly won exactly Zero finals in tournaments that involved 4 or more teams.

MS Dhoni won 12 finals in tournaments that involved 4 or more teams.

Virat Kohli won exactly Zero finals in tournaments that involved 4 or more teams.

The Dhoni list…

2007 T20 World Cup

2010 Asia Cup

2010 IPL

2010 Champions League Twenty20

2011 ODI World Cup

2011 IPL

2013 Champions Trophy

2014 Champions League Twenty20

2016 Asia Cup

2018 Asia Cup

2018 IPL

2021 IPL

That’s 6 leagues and 6 international tournaments.

Dhoni was also the first captain to take India to the ICC No. 1 rankings in Tests, ODIs and T20s.

Olympic Gold Medal won, now time for a World Cup

tokyo-olympics-4784972_960_720There was a peculiar jinx when it came to sports and politics in India. Every Olympic Gold Medal and Cricket World Cup was won when there was a Congress Prime Minister.

Just look at the list…
1948 Hockey Gold: Nehru.
1952 Hockey Gold: Nehru.
1956 Hockey Gold: Nehru.
1964 Hockey Gold: Shastri.
1980 Hockey Gold: Indira.
2008 Shooting Gold: Manmohan.

You can argue that most of our hockey golds came early on when only the Congress used to rule. But even if you count from 1977, when the continuous Congress rule ended, then the only 2 golds had been under Congress PMs.

The same was with the cricketing World Cup.
1983: Indira.
2007: Manmohan.
2011: Manmohan.
The only hockey World Cup was also won under Indira in 1975.

Apart from the World Cup, the ICC has been hosting many other global tournaments from 1998. 1998-2021, the Congress has ruled for only 10 years. But even here they score.
ICC Knockout Trophy 2000: India lost in the final when Vajpayee was PM.
ICC Champions Trophy 2002: Final washed out. We shared the trophy technically, but didn’t win the final outright.
ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Final lost when Modi was PM.
2019-21 ICC Test Championship: We lost the final when Modi was PM.
The only ICC Champions Trophy final we won outright was when Manmohan was PM in 2013.

In a way you could call it a 70+-year-old jinx.
But now Neeraj Chopra has shattered this jinx in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics by winning the Javelin Gold. This is a stupendous achievement because athletics is probably the most competitive arena around. Forget every country: It is intensely fought over in every school in the world. Billions have tried their hand at some athletic discipline or another.
To make matters even greater, this was our greatest Olympics ever with 1 Gold, 2 Silvers and 4 Bronzes for a total of 7 medals and many hard-fought fourth positions in diverse sports like women’s hockey and golf.

Now it’s time to break the World Cup jinx and India should win the ICC T20 World Cup later this year.

Why Djokovic’s the ultimate all-time great

Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal have 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles each. Novak Djokovic is close on their heels with 19 titles and is the youngest of the troika at 34. He has plenty of time on his side to go way beyond both of them.

Here is a list of things where Djoko has already outdone Fed-Rafa…

Djokovic1. Djoko has beaten both Federer and Nadal in all 4 Grand Slams.

Federer has never beaten Nadal in any French Open. The two never met in the US Open. But what of Djokovic? He has beaten Federer in at least one match in the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Fed-Djoko have met 3 times in Wimbledon finals. Djoko leads 3-0.

Djoko beat Nadal in three straight final line-ups: 2011 Wimbledon, 2011 US Open and 2012 Australian Open. Later he beat Nadal in the quarters of the 2015 French Open and then again in the 2021 semis. That’s 4/4 Grand Slams for the 2/2 of the “greatest” players!

2. Dominates the trivalry in terms of one-on-ones.

Federer’s nemesis is Nadal. The two have met 40 times and Nadal leads a good 24-16. However it is only Djoko who has the better of all of the rivals he has played with after he came into form (he had a few failed rivalries only at the beginning of his career). Djoko and Nadal have met 58 times, which is an Open era record and Djoko leads 30-28. Anyone having 30 wins against anyone is also a men’s tennis record.

With the all-time great Federer, Djoko leads 27-23. Interestingly in 2011, he met Federer-Nadal 11 times, winning 10 of those matches! More importantly in all finals, Djokovic leads Federer 13-6 and Nadal 15-12. Did you know that only one person in Grand Slam men’s singles history has 11 losses to one player? No prizes for guessing that it’s Federer who lost to Djoko. Overall with Andy Murray its 25-11, Stan Wawrinka 19-6 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 18-6.

Tennis balljpg3. Held all four Grand Slams at once.

Rod Laver was a legend who did a calendar Grand Slam first as an amateur in 1962, then as a professional in 1969. However after that for decades, nobody managed to win all four at a stretch. Andre Agassi became the first to do a career Grand Slam in 1999. He was emulated by Federer in 2009 and Nadal a year later.

Djoko won the following titles back to back: 2015 Wimbledon, 2015 US Open, 2016 Australian Open and 2016 French Open. In the process he became the first person since 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles. That’s after a good 47 years! He is also the only player in men’s tennis history to hold these Grand Slams on three different surfaces at the same time. In more all-round records, Djoko is the only player with 9+ semis and 72+ wins overall in each of the Grand Slams.

4. Two Grand Slams each.

Djoko is the only men’s player in the Open Era to have won at least 2 each of all 4 Grand Slams. He will play for a few years more and if he picks up one more French Open, then he would have won 3 in each and that could be one record which could stand for really a long time. He is also the only person in history to have entered at least 6 Grand Slam finals each.

5. Highest ATP ranking points ever.

Djoko has these short bursts where he looks near invincible. Like the time he won four straight Grand Slams. The same is with the ATP ranking points. He is the only person in history to have crossed ATP ranking points of 16000 in 2015 (if you win each and every tournament you play in a year, then you can go to 21000). To put things in perspective, when Djoko had 16950, that was more than the No. 2 + No. 3 combined (Andy Murray and Federer).

In 2015 Djoko won 3 Grand Slams, 6 masters and 11 titles. He ended the year in style winning the World Tour Finals title and became the first to win 4 straight end-of-year finals tournaments. He also created another world record that season, beating 31 Top 10 players. Earlier in 2011, when Federer and Nadal were at their peak, he won 41 straight matches, the best after John McEnroe’s 42 in 1984. He had another such burst in 2018-20.

6. The only man to win all 9 ATP World Tour Masters 1000.

After the Grand Slams and ATP Finals, these are the most prestigious tournaments and Djokovic is the only man in the world to have won all 9, called a Career Golden Masters. In fact in 2015, he won 6/9 in a single year. In the terms of ATP finals Federer has the most with 6, but Djokovic already has 5 and so well could go past him.

Dollars7. Became the first to get $100 million prize money.

There was a race between the three to get $100 million in professional tennis earnings and you never knew who would get there first. Finally it was a race between Federer and Djoko and the latter prevailed. Currently Djoko is in the range of $150 million as against $130m by Federer, which is the highest ever. In 2015 he became the only man to cross $20 million prize money in a year. Nadal’s yearly highest is $15+ million and Federer’s $13+ million.

8. Most weeks as World No. 1.

In the 1970s/1980s, Jimmy Connors spent a record 268 weeks as World Number 1. Ivan Lendl narrowly went past that with 270. Pete Sampras, who won his last singles Grand Slam in 2002, did 286. Federer did 310 and now Djoko has gone past him and is still counting (324). For year-ending No. 1s, the record 6 jointly shared by Sampras and Djoko, but the latter has time on his side. When you look at the 2010s, then weeks at No. 1, it’s Djoko 275 weeks, Nadal 159 and Federer 48.

9. King of the Hardcourt.

Nadal has a whopping 13 French Opens. Federer has 8 Wimbledons. Both stand alone there. Additionally, Federer has 5 US Opens, a record he shares with Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras. But Djoko has made the Australian Open his own with 9 titles. At the end of his career, could he touch 13 or beyond? Who knows! Djoko also has 3 US Opens, so he could also join Connors-Sampras-Federer for the most there. If Federer is the King of Grass and Nadal the King of Clay, Djoko is the undisputed King of the Hardcourt.

(This blog first appeared on July 16, 2018. This is the updated version of the same)

Why Indian cricketers aren’t poor travellers and ace foreign tours

plane-841441_960_720England is yet to win a major multi-nation ODI tournament outside England. South Africa and New Zealand have not won any World Cup anywhere. Forget a Test series—Sri Lanka has never even won a single Test in India. Pakistan won their first Test series in West Indies quite late in 2017 as against India way back in 1971.

The truth is that when you combine all three formats of the game, then only Australia and India are the best travellers. Only these two teams have won maximum multi-nation tournaments in maximum countries. It’s a myth that Indians are poor travellers in international cricket overall.

We have won in…

united-kingdom-1043062_1280England.
1 ODI World Cup—1983.
1 ICC Champions Trophy—2013.
3 Test series—1971, 1986, 2007.
1 ODI Tri-series—2002.
3 ODI series—1986, 1990, 2014
1 T20 series—2018.
Total = 10.

sydney-3680862_960_720Australia.
1 Mini World Cup—Benson & Hedges World Series 1985.
2 Test series—2019, 2021.
1 ODI Tri-series—2008.
1 ODI series—2019.
2 T20 series—2016 (Australia’s only whitewash in any format on home soil ever since 1877), 2020.
Total = 7.
(India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Aus by tying the Test series in 2004)

South Africa.
1 T20 World Cup—2007.
1 ODI series—2018.
1 T20 series—2018.
Total = 3.

Lanka-2099225_1280Sri Lanka.
1 ICC Champions Trophy—2002.
1 Asia Cup—2010.
3 Test series—1993, 2015, 2017.
3 ODI Tri-series—1998, 2009, 2018.
4 ODI series—2008, 2009, 2012, 2017.
Total = 12.

West Indies.
5 Test series—1971, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2019.
1 ODI Tri-series—2013.
5 ODI series—2002, 2009, 2011, 2017, 2019.
1 T20 series—2019.
Total = 12.

pakistan-641446_960_720Pakistan.
1 Test series—2004.
2 ODI series—2004, 2006.
Total = 3.

New Zealand.
2 Test series—1968, 2009.
2 ODI series—2009, 2019.
1 T20 series—2020.
Total = 5.

dubai-1113262_960_720UAE.
7 multi-nation tournaments—1984, 1985, 1988, 1995, 1998, 1998, 2018.

Bangladesh.
2 Asia Cups—1988, 2016.
4 Test series—2000, 2004, 2007, 2010.
1 ODI Tri-series—1998.
3 ODI series—2004, 2007, 2014.
Total = 10.

Canada.
2 ODI series—1997 (Pak), 1999 (WI).

clover-445255_960_720Ireland.
1 ODI series—2007 (SA).
1 T20 series—2018 (Ire).
Total = 2.

Zimbabwe.
1 Test series—2005
4 ODI series—1998, 2013, 2015, 2016.
2 T20 series—2010, 2016.
Total = 6.

Grand Total = 79, that includes 5 World Cups/mini WCs, second only to Australia’s 6 away such wins.

India has won at least one 5-nation plus tournament in Australia, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka, UAE, Bangladesh and India.

(This blog was first published on October 1, 2018. This is an updated version of the same)

Kohli-Kumble-CT musings

cricket-players-2027502_640Gavaskar fought with Kapil.
Kapil fought with Sachin.
Sachin fought with Azhar.
Ganguly fought with Chappell.
Kohli fought with Kumble.
Same old same old.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Kohli—What happens in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room.

Kapil Vs Sachin Vs Azhar = Everyone quit as coach/captain.
Chappell Vs Ganguly = First Chappell went, then Ganguly.
Kumble Vs Kohli = Kumble quit.

Indian cricket has currently many masters…
BCCI.
Supreme Court.
CoA.
Sachin-Dada-Laxman panel.
Kohli.
Coach just went, but will be replaced.

Politics cut short…
Kapil’s coaching.
Sachin’s captaincy.
Chappell’s coaching.
Ganguly’s captaincy + career.
Dravid’s captaincy.
Kumble’s coaching.

Most Indian captains have at least one tournament final crash…
Kohli = 158 all down, 2017 CT.
Dhoni = 173 all down, 2008 Asia Cup.
Ganguly = 54 all down, 2000 Sharjah.
Jadeja = 168 all down, 1999 Pepsi Cup.
Azhar = 125 all down, 1999 Sharjah.
Kapil = 187 all down, 1986 Benson & Hedges.

Virat Kohli has 76% ODI wins as captain, unheard of in India.
In Tests he has a 16-3 W-L record.
No replacement in sight.
He’s captain till the 2019 ODI World Cup.

Fact of the day.
Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag became the first players to win the ICC troika of ODI + T20 World Cups and Champions Trophy.
MS Dhoni joined them in 2013—the first as captain.
Kohli needs a T20 World Cup to join the club.

These versions by Sunil Rajguru

Musings post India’s loss in the Champions Trophy…

stadium-580364_640In the 1983 World Cup final, we made just 183 runs in 60 overs.
We shouldn’t have won that.
The West Indies batting line-up was the most powerful in the world.
In the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy final, we made just 129 runs in 20 overs.
We shouldn’t have won that.
England were former T20 World Champions too and were further playing on home soil.
In the 2000 ICC KnockOut final, we beat the best teams of the tournament—Australia and South Africa—and yet lost to a much weaker New Zealand team and till date that remains their only ICC tournament title.
In the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final, India was a vastly superior team.
Yet Pakistan gave the vastly superior performance both in batting and bowling.
I guess it all evens out in the end.

We lost to England in the 1987 ODI World Cup semi-final.
We lost to New Zealand in the 2000 ICC KnockOut final.
We lost to Australia in the 2003 ODI World Cup final.
We lost to Sri Lanka in the 2014 T20 World Cup final.
We lost to West Indies in the 2016 T20 World Cup semi-final.
We lost to Pakistan in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final.
No team is our bogey.
We are our own bogies.
If we don’t show up on that day, we lose miserably.

After playing brilliant cricket throughout the tournament, India choked in the finals of the 2014 T20 World Cup and the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy along with the semis of the 2015 ODI World Cup.
After this dastardly performance, whenever we enter the finals, we can’t be called the favourites but will always be the underdogs.
The glorious golden 2007-13 MS Dhoni era is well and truly over.

After the Sri Lankan team attack in 2009 when Pakistan is facing a virtual home boycott, it won its first T20 World Cup the same year, its first Asia Cup in 12 years in 2012 and its first ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.
Amazing how it keeps coming out with a superlative performance once in a while with all the turmoil and chaos compared to the solidity and stability of say a South Africa!