Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Those Days

Promising Azhar Ansari, who earned a maiden call-up for the Ranji ODI squad, recalls how his parents couldn't afford a cricket kit for him

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 12, 2009

A year back, his parents couldn't even afford to buy his cricket kit. If that was not enough, his parents strongly disapproved his desire to pursue cricket seriously. But Azhar Ansari managed to tide over all that in his steely resolve towards making it big in the sport."My parents didn't approve me taking up cricket. They felt that education was important as they saw no future in me playing cricket seriously at that time. Ever since I made it to the Maharashtra Under-19 team, my parents have given me a free hand to pursue cricket with all dedication as they know that if I stay focused and keep performing, there is a future for me in cricket," Azhar recounts his struggling days.
Probe him more about his early days in the game, he wears a broad grin about playing in local tournaments in Nandurbar district with borrowed cricketing paraphernalia from his cronies. "I initially started playing in tennis ball cricket. Gradually, I used to borrow pads and gloves from my friends to play in the real ball game."Life took a 'significant' turn when his prolific run with both the bat and ball (500 runs and 38 wickets) in the MCA Under-19 Invitation League for the 2007-2008 season catapulted him to being selected in the Maharashtra under-19 team. Everybody seems to talk about his brilliant 119 against Mumbai in the C.K. Nayudu (Under-12) Trophy match at Deccan Gymkhana, where he capped off a dream run, snaffling four wickets and pulling off two brilliant catches. "It was my day, I guess. I performed with the bat, ball and in the field," he says.
Even MCA president Ajay Shirke was bowled over by that innings. "You should have seen innings. Azhar was outstanding that day. He's an exciting prospect for us."Rewind to today, Azhar is picked in the 16-member Maharashtra Ranji one-day team on the back of a string of power-packed performances. But that joy is laced with apprehension because he is yet to recover from a left ankle injury which he sustained in one of the practice games. In fact, Azhar belted a magnificent 100 off only 99 balls in a crucial stand with Kedar Jadhav after Maharashtra Red were in a spot of bother at 60 for 4 in the penultimate practice tie at Pooma Club on Tuesday and was rested for Wednesday's final warm-up game so that he can recover fully for the opening Ranji ODI against Gujarat on February 15. "My physio Abhishek Joshi is looking after me. He's confident that I would be fit as a fiddle for the first game against Mumbai. Of course, the dream of playing for the Maharashtra Ranji team is the ultimate thing, I know for sure that day is not far off if I keep scoring runs consistently," he sings an optimistic tune.

Kedar or Ameya?

Former Indian fast bowler T.A Shekhar, who is the vice president of the GMR Group, which owns the Delhi Daredevils team, says the choice will narrow down to the two

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 11, 2009

The buzz over whether any cricketer from Pune would get an opportunity to ply their trade in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is all set to crank up in the next few days.Even as names of Kedar Jadhav, Ameya Shrikhande, Harshad Khadi-wale and Samad Fallah are bandied out as the likely players to make the IPL cut, it is increasingly becoming clear that only two guys - Kedar Jadhav and Ameya Shrikhande are in the running for the Delhi Daredevils outfit.Former Indian fast bowler and vice president of the GMR Sports Group, T.A Shekhar, which owns the Delhi Daredevils team, made it clear that only Kedar Jadhav and Ameya Shrik-hande are in the race as far as the Delhi Daredevils side are concerned."Yeah, we are trying to have a close look at Kedar Jadhav and Ameya Shrikhande. I saw Kedar bat during the Duleep Trophy final in Chennai a couple of days back, and he looked good to me. We're also eyeing Ameya Shrikhande though I'm yet to see him bat. I've a good feedback about him," Shekhar told Pune Mirror.So the obvious questions is: will Delhi Daredevils look to snap up both of them? "No. We feel both are bright talents, but only one of them would make it," he clears the air.One can't resist the tempation of asking him when a final call will be taken. Shekhar toes the wait-and-watch line. "Our sports committee will toss the same and take a decision on it. I'm pretty hopefull that we would be able to arrive at a decision by Febru-ary,' he concluded.

Unaware

Maharashtra Ranji cricketer Ankit Bawne, who won the BCCI's MA Chidambaram Trophy award for being the best U-15 cricketer in the country, says he wasn't aware of it until told by Pune Mirror
Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 11, 2009

The State cricket fraternity was swelling with pride after news trickled in that Ranji player Ankit Bawne was awarded the MA Chidambaram Trophy by BCCI for being the best Under-15 cricketer in the country.The 16-year-old pint-sized right-handed middle-order batsman has amassed over 1,200 runs at all age groups tourneys and it was this consistency that catapulted him to national attention.So did the Aurangabad lad expect to get the coveted award? "I was not in the know. I came to know this good news from you only. As far as expectations go, I don't know what to say," he blushes. "I am just happy to get the recognition"Bawne feels that he has evolved as a cricketer over the last one year. "I'm only 16, so there's so much to learn and coach Shaun Williams has been giving the tips to improve further."If he has to choose one knock which he cherishes the most in the last one year, which one would be that? "I reckon my double hundred (200) vs Saurashtra in Rajkot was an important as Maharashtra won that match," he says with a tenor of contentment.Maharashtra coach Shaun Williams poured praise on the young turk. "Ankit has got the right attitude to succeed. What I like the most about him is that he's very keen to learn all the time and when you see that kind of thing in a youngster, the job of a coach becomes joyful," he says.Dwelling specifically on his batting, Williams said a bit of fine-tuning has done a lot of good to his batting. "Ankit wasn't great cutter of the cricket ball before but trust me, he's improved his cut shot by leaps and bounds and made that shot as one of his potent weapon in his batting armoury," he added.

Ten-wicket Joy

Ranjane Cricket Academy coach Subhash Ranjane is elated after seeing his ward Sanjay Sharma snaffle a rich bag of 10 for 97 against Poona Club

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 8, 2009

The heady feeling that a coach gets in seeing his ward excel is something only he can best describe. And for Ranjane Cricket Academy coach Subhash Ranjane, it's a day he will savour after seeing his ward Sanjay Sharma rip the heart of Poona Club Ltd, taking a magnificent match haul of 10 for 97 (6/33 in 1st inngs & 4/64), steering his side to an impressive victory in a Group B match at the Tata Motors ground. "Sanjay was very wayward when he first joined Ranjane Cricket Academy. He was putting the bowl all over the place. I insisted on him bowling to an one-stump line to improve his accuracy," he said of Sanjay, whose bodacious effort fetched him the Man of the Match award."What I liked about him is that he is a willing learner. I'm very happy to see him essay a big role in our victory."So, what does Ranjane think about the secret of his ten-wicket haul? "Well, Sanjay was swinging the ball prodigiously and was straying down the leg-side while bowling over the wicket. I told him to bowl round the wicket, and once he did that, he got rich dividends as he was getting the ball to nip into the Poona Club batsmen," Subhash explained.And for the boy in question who played for Mariya Sports Club, , it'not the first time that he had got a ten-wicket haul. "I want to make this a habit (of getting ten wickets in a match). I had earlier taken 11 for 78 for Mariya against the Kolkata Cricket Coaching Centre in Kolkata last year," the 9th standard student of Anjuman Islam, Mumbai.So schooling in Mumbai and cricketing in Pune. Won't be a tough ask balancing both studies and cricket? "My first passion is cricket but I don't want to overlook academics. I will find out a way so that both are pursued smoothly," he said.In another match, Varroc Vengsarkar Cricket Academy secured first innings lead over PDCA after they nearly forced a win after enforcing the follow-on on the latter.Brief Scores: Varroc Vengsarkar Cricket Academy: (I Innings) 267 all out: (Omkar Sankpal 97, Rohan Benhal 62, Hari Sawant 38, Indrajeet Pharate 4/75) v/s PDCA: (I Innings) 135 all out: (Dhanraj Shinde 40, Ashwin Kardekar 5/13) and (II Innings) 116/7: (Omkar Sankpal 5/40). Result: Match drawn (Varroc Vengsarkar Cricket Academy took 1st inngs lead).Poona Club Ltd: (I Innings): 88 all out: (Shantam Mehra 40, Sanjay Sharma 6/33) and (II Innings): 102 all out: (Shaikh Aquib 42, Sanjay Sharma 4/64) v/s Ranjane Cricket Academy: (I Innings): 190 all out: (Aniket Jagtap 54, Amannulla Shaikh 6/40) and (II Innings): 1 for no loss. Result: Ranjane Cricket Academy won the match by 10 wickets.

Real Time

Bangladesh speedster Mashrafe Mortaza is kicked about linking up with Kolkata Knight Riders owner and his childhood craze Shahrukh Khan
Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 11, 2009
The feeling of looking up to a childhood fan is one thing and rubbing shoulders with him is quite another. Bangladesh speedster Mashrafe Mortaza would soon be experiencing the latter when he links up with Shahrukh Khan, who owns the Kolkata Knight Riders team in part-nership with Juhi Chawla Mehta and her husband, Jai Mehta for this season's IPL campaign."Just to say that I will be interacting with Shahrukh Khan from close quarters gives me a heady feeling. I'm a great fan of his movies, I've watched his first movie, Deewana in 1992, I've also watched Baazigar and many of his other movies. He's a fantastic actor and I'm really excited about meeting him," Mortaza told Mirror from Dhaka over phone.What now matters to the 25-year-old is that he doesn't disappoint the Bollywood Badshah. "That's the last thing I want," he says. "I'm determined not to let any complacency seep into my game. All I'm thinking about is how to translate my consistency showing for the national side into the IPL from game one," he say with guarded optimism.For someone, who makes a crore every season playing for Bangladesh, the amount of US$ 600,000 offered by KKR is clearly much more heftier. So is Mortaza going to do with the whopping amount?. "I will look to save as much as I can for future," he grins.So, no plans to go shopaholic? "I don't think so. As far as personal belongings go, I've whatever I need be it a car or house. Of course, my wife, (Sumana Haque) will be upping her shopping list now," said the gangling bowler, whose family is into prawn farm business.And if there's one regret Mortaza has: it is of seeing him team-mate Shakib Al Hasan unsold. "He has been the most consistent guy for us this season both with the bat and bowl. I feel sorry for him but then there is also an opportunity for a talented player like him in future," he added.

As I see it

West Zone Duleep Trophy team coach Praveen Amre offers his take on the three Maharashtra cricketers in the squad

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 8, 2009

The inclusion of three Maharashtra cricketers – Kedar Jadhav, Samad Fallah and Ameya Shrikhande in the West Zone Duleep Trophy team has been looked upon with much excitement and anticipation in the state cricket fraternity. Two of the three –Kedar Jadhav and Samad Fallah figured in the playing eleven against East Zone, and made a fair impression in a West Zone team swarming with talented players.Getting into the playing eleven was itself a 'challenge' for the State boys. But looking at the bigger picture, where do these boys stand among the plethora of talented players in the domestic circuit? West Zone coach and former India middle-order batsman Praveen Amre gives his take on the trio.Kedar Jadhav: We took a tough call in having Kedar in the playing eleven against East Zone as we preferred him over seasoned Ramesh Powar. Kedar looks a bright prospect for the future. He has got over 600 runs in Ranji Trophy this season which is a testament to his consistency. I also know that he has got about six fifties this Ranji season but needs to convert those into big hundreds. Sometimes you may get a hundred and your team loses, but it really counts when someone like Kedar gets a crucial forty and also pulls off a brilliant catch at forward short-leg (Kedar took a blinder of Saurabh Tiwari off the bowling of Rajesh Pawar). It's all about making it count in the bigger platform, and I too made it to the national team through a string of good performances in Duleep Trophy. With guys like Wasim Jaffer and Parthiv Patel around, Kedar has a lot to learn which should stand him in good stead. Samad Fallah: I had seen Fallah bowl last season. The basic difference I see in his bowling now and then is that he has improved on bowling the right line. Last year, he was erratic and had the tendency to spray the ball around. This season, he has worked on his consistency which has yielded him rich dividends (he has taken 33 wickets this season.Ameya Shrikhande: For the Ranji Trophy, the boys are together for three to four months for Mumbai. But in Duleep Trophy, we are together for two days which doesn't allow me to give a fair opinion of him. Plus, Maharashtra this season were not in our half, so I haven't seen much of him in match situations. But what I saw of him at the nets so far, I can tell you that Ameya seems to be a good student of the game. But that's not enough. He needs to grab whatever opportunities that comes his way, as chances doesn't come according to your own convenience.

Superb Spell

Sahil Kothari's 5-20 was the first five-wicket haul of the tournament, as it enabled Katariya wallop NMV by 91 runs to win the Rotary Midtown Inter-School Invitation Cricket Tournament
Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 1, 2009
One is not sure what Sahil Kothari had for breakfast on Sunday. Surely, he must have had something 'special' if his magnificent match-winning spell of 5 for 20 for Katariya High School against NMV High School is anything to go by.The 13-year-old left-arm spinner spun a web around the uptight NMV batsmen, which enabled Kataria High School pulverise NMV High School by 91 runs to win the Rotary Midtown Inter-School Invitation Cricket Tournament.What makes his Sahil's effort even more bodacious is the fact that his dream spell was the first five-wicket haul of the tournament, which also ensured that the tweaker also emerged the highest wicket-taker of the tourney. "No one had got a fiver till the final match in the tournament, which makes me happy. What's more, the five-wicket haul has also helped me to become the highest wicket-taker of the tourney, though I'm not finicky about records," said the suave, soft-spoken young turk, who owes his success to NMV High School coach Shakil Sheikh. "I owe this performance to Shakil sir. He was the one who taught me left-arm spin bowling and I'm grateful to him for that," gushes Sahil, who also trains at the Cadence Cricket Academy under coaches Surendra Bhave and Harshal Pathak.Actually, left-arm spin bowling didn't came naturally to Sahil. He was a left-arm medium-pacer, who switched to left-arm spin on a few months back. "I was primarily a left-arm medium-pacer for almost two years. It was during the LIC trophy in Mumbai that I fractured my left hand which prompted my NMV school coach Shakil sir to shun medium-pace bowling and turn to left-arm spin bowling only five months back. Since then, things have taken an upward turn for me," quipped Sahil. So what are the things he did right on Sunday to nullify the plans of the oppositon? "The wicket had some purchase. The ball was skidding onto the batsman. The NMV batsmen were grossly guilty of playing me from the backfoot when they should have played from the frontfoot," said Sahil, who idolises New Zealander left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. "What I like about Daniel Vettori is that he is always at the batsman. He always looks to stifle the batsmen. I want to imbibe some of his qualities in my bowling," remarked the youngster, giving the impression of knowing what's the right path to chart.Brief Scores:Katariya High School 154 for 8 in 40 overs (Yash Nahar 33); NMV High School 63 all out in 22.1 overs (Sahil Kothari 5-20, Yash Nahar 3-7).

Shuttling to Success

Salute Her
Prachi Naidu, who travels everyday from Lonavla to practice at ClubSo-laris, savours her first round under-12 win

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, January 30, 2009

A first round victory in the under-12 category may not catapult her toin-stant stardom, but for ten-year-old Prachi Naidu, it was a winworth sa-vouring about.Nothing more can accentuate Prachi's desire to make it big in thesport than the fact that the fifth standard student of Auxilum Convent School, travels every day from Lonavla to hone her skills atthe Club Solaris courts. Her mother, Sandhya, a former na-tional kabaddi player for MadhyaPradesh, does all the spadework of bringing her kid everyday. "Weengage in four hours of travel five days a week to ensure her hertraining is not af-fected. I take a local train at 4.15 pm and reach Solaris at around 5.30 pm and she trains her for two hours till 7.30pm," Sandhya said, swelling with pride after her daugher brushed aside Brahamine Pingle 8-2.
For the record, Prachi took up tennis only six months back. What lends Prachi's win a special touch is the fact that the youngster took her unit test exams in the morning before dashing off to the venue with her mother. "Prachi gave her exams in the morn-ing from 8.30 am to10.30 am and then we took a local train at 11.00 pm and reached thevenue at 1.00 pm for the match. Prachi, for her part, feels it was her consistency wore downBrahamine. "I was ripping winners consistently which was beginning tounsettle her. The nerves got to her and she started hitting the net often which helped my cause," she fired a parting shot.

Racquet Story

Kushal Mulay's father had to buy a new racquet during his u-16 1st round tie against Jayesh Pingliya after he broke it during practice, but used a borrowed one to scrape through

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, January 27, 2009

Setbacks, small or big can pan out to be the clinching factor indeciding the result of a match. But, if a player manages to tide overthat and emerge as the win-ner, you got to give full credit to him.Kushal Mulay deserves all that. The thirteen-year-old broke his racquet while warming up for hisunder-16 first round tie against Jayesh Pingliya. His father, RajuMulay, who is a Residency Club coach, scampered out of the venue tobuy a new one for his son even as Kushal had to borrow a racquet fromone of the participating players. "I broke my racquet while serving during the customary warm-up session before the match against Jayesh. The racquet that I borrowed from one of the participants wasn't allowing me to play my natural game," moaned Kushal, who on Monday also made it to the second round of the under-14 category.
In fact, Kushal struggled to hold his serve four times before carving out a hard-fought 8-7 (7-5) romp to progress to the pre-quarterfinals of the under-16 category. "I was finding it difficult to hold my service with the borrowed racquet. It was even stevens at 5-4 before my dad got a new Head racquet for which he had to shell out Rs 8,200 as the only other racquet I had was with my elder sister Daksha, a former national-level junior player, who is currently using it while compet-ing in the ongoing Inter-University tourney in Gwalior. Luckilyfor me, I got the racquet in time as my opponent was threatening toseize the initiative," he breathed a sigh of relief.
Admitting that he didn't play as he would have liked, Kushal said hisopponent was unnecessarily getting rattled. "I was taking my own timein between points which was needling Jayesh. I think he got frustrated with that and start complaining to the umpire which of course had noeffect on me," he speaks his mind.
The ninth standard Singhad City School student gives us a shocker whenhe reveals his desire to shun academics and opt for tennis. "I am inninth standard but I don't think I will be taking the ninth standardexams as I will be mostly likely opt for a distance learning course sothat I get enough time to pursue tennis with utmost dedication."His father, Raju Mulay has ensured that his feet is kept firmlyplanted on the ground. "Kushal is a big Roger Federer fan. But I keeptelling him that every parents can't make his son become Federer. He has a long, long way to go in terms of improvement," his father presses the realistic button.

Non-committal

Indian hockey's ad-hoc committee convener Mohammed Aslam Khan mum on which of the two factions in MHA would get the right to host the National Championships

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, January 27, 2009

There may be a lot of hearts warming over Pune being allotted the National Hockey Championships later this year. But the one question that keep tongues wagging is that the city- has two hockey bodies - the Ikram Khan-led faction and the Benny Boodle-faction. In such a scenario, which one will earn the right to host the national ships? Indian hockey's ad-hoc committee convenor Mohammed Aslam Khan feels it's a non-issue. "You guys like to create controversies. But let me tell you that I'm not aware that there are two factions in Maharashtra Hockey Association (MHA)," he said, trying his best to sidestep the issue. But then, how can one overlook the reality of two factions functioning. Is the ad-hoc committee of Indian hockey looking at ways and means to sort things amicably? "As a convener of the Indian hockey's ad-hoc committee, I can only tell you that it's a trival issue to be given so much importance. Whatever call needs to be taken on it, ad-hoc committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi will act on it," Khan quipped.
With the championship likely to be held in two months time, is he willing to stick his neck out on a timeframe for the same? "I don't want to repeat what I had said. As I told you, Mr Kalmadi will decide," was how he put it.

Ray of hope

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, January 20, 2008

It didn't happen once, not twice but thrice to Maharashtra cricketers.First it was Harshad Khadiwale and Samad Fallah who made it to theWest Zone Duleep Trophy team last season, but only contrived to warmthe bench. Then, it was the turn of Kedar Jadhav to make the cut forthe Deodhar Trophy team but even he also ended up being confined tothe sidelines. So, though recent history may not portent anythingauspicious when it comes to State players making to the zonal team,and actually going on to figure in the playing eleven.
So, would the outpouring of joy and bliss over three Maharashtracricketers – Kedar Jadhav, Ameya Shrikhande and Samad Fallah beingh picked in this season's West Zone Duleep Trophy team merely end upwith making the numbers? A close look at the West Zone team wouldsuggest that it won't be far-fetched to be an optimism as at least two of the three Maharashtra lads are primed to make the playing eleven this time around.
A peruse of the West Zone team would makes one fathom that the likesof skipper Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, ParhivPatel (as wicketkeeper), Bhavik Thakkar are very much automaticchoices with Kedar Jadhav heavily tipped to take the fifth batsman's slot. Who knows even Ameya Shrikhande may be preferred over Gujarat'sBhavik Thakkar. Abhishekh Nayyar would be a firm favourite to take theall-rounder mantle.
Coming to the West Zone bowling attack, one can't simply overlookSamad Fallah's name of not being on the playing eleven. A rapidlyimproving youngster, Fallah could get the opportunity to share the newball with Dhawal Kulkarni with Siddharth Trivedi as the third seamer with the chunky Ramesh Powar as the lone tweaker in the eleven.
Of course, the team management will take the final call, one cansafely say this is the kind of team composition they would eye on.
So how does the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Samad Fallah fancy their chances of being in the playing eleven after experiencing the frustration of sitting out last season in Deodhar and Duleep Trophy respectively.
"It was a kind of learning curve to be in the Deodhar Trophy side lasttime, though the disappointment of not playing was very much there. I'm hopefull that this time I will get the opportunity of proving myworth," he remarked.
Seamer Fallah toed the same line. "Last season, I sat out of all the Duleep Trophy games. This time, I'm not going to be just happy atmaking the team but finding a berth in the eleven, as I want to provethat my good run in the Ranji season was no flash-in-the pan stuff."
Quiz West Zone selection committee chairman Surendra Bhave on thethree Maharashtra guys making the Duleep Trophy side and he offers a straight bat. It's not fair on my part to talk about their chances of figuring in the playing eleven. All I can say is that these boys deserved their berths in the side for the consistency they exuded throughout this season. Let's leave it at that."