Pay It Forward

To kick off this year I’m participating in this Pay-It-Forward initiative: The random 3 people who comment on this post with “I’m in” will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year – anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something homegrown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise! There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy. These 3 people must be willing to make the same offer in their posts.

Let’s do more nice things for each other in 2014, without any reason other than to make each other smile.

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IPL RETENTION AND DETENTION

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The Indian Premier League is about to enter its seventh season, and Friday  was the last day for teams to firm up the core of their side for the next three years.

So why is player retention so crucial? Aside from the obvious reason that it ensures continuity, it prevents your best players from testing the market. Hence, a team can retain a player for a certain cost to their salary cap, even though they might have got more had they been in the auction.

More importantly for the franchise, the amount deducted from their auction purse could well be considerably less than what they might be paying a retained player. For example, the Chennai Super Kings retained Mahendra Singh Dhoni for $1.8 million. Compared to that, the Kolkata Knight Riders paid $2.4 million for Gautam Gambhir in the 2011 auction.

It’s safe to say Dhoni would’ve drawn a far higher price, and may well be paid more than the $1.8 million CSK lost from their salary cap for retaining the Indian captain. That freed up a considerable sum that CSK could use on buying other players in the auction, which they did by outbidding other franchises for players like Mike Hussey, Ravichandran Ashwin and Dwayne Bravo.

It is no coincidence that Chennai and Mumbai Indians, the only teams to retain the full quota of four players, were also the only sides to make the playoffs in each of the three seasons since the retention.

So how have the teams used their options this time? Here’s a look at who the teams have retained, how many more they can retain through their “right to match”, and how much money they’ve left for the IPL auction scheduled to be held next month.

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Given that the team composition requires sides to play atleast seven Indian players in the XI, Chennai seem to have done the best business by retaining four Indian players. They might use their right to match on Hussey, who’s having an excellent season with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash.

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Mumbai have retained three Indian players and their two overseas retentions, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga, are among the biggest names in T20 cricket. They had such a strong squad that one can see them use their “right to match” on any one of Mitchell Johnson, Pragyan Ojha, or Dinesh Karthik.

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Rajasthan Royals have kept a healthy balance with the players they’ve retained. Australians Shane Watson, James Faulker, and new India recruit Stuart Binny can bowl. They’re also good with the bat, which is what Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson have been retained for. Samson also keeps wickets.

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Royal Challengers Bangalore are woefully short on Indian players and bowlers, but to be fair to them, none of their bowlers or Indian players are likely to fetch Rs.5.5 crore in the auction, which is what RCB would’ve had to pay to retain a fourth player.

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Kolkata Knight Riders have gambled on building a new squad, although they can retain two of their players in addition to captain Gautam Gambhir and ace spinner Sunil Narine. They could’ve considered retaining an uncapped player in the form of Rajat Bhatia, who has been a key performer for them since 2011 and for the Delhi Daredevils before that.

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Sunrisers Hyderabad surprisingly chose to not retain Amit Mishra. The leggie has been one of the most consistent players in the IPL and with only two teams retaining a spinner, one can expect a lot of demand for slow bowlers.

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While losing Rs.12.5 crore of their salary cap for David Miller might be high, Kings XI Punjab simply couldn’t afford to let teams get into a bidding war over one of the cleanest hitters around. None of their capped Indian players were worth retaining for the cap money they’d have lost. They also gave the biggest surprise of retention day by keeping Manan Vohra. It’s difficult to see how he would’ve fetched a bid of Rs.4 crore, or why they didn’t retain Mandeep Singh for the same amount as he’s rated higher in the domestic circuit.

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Delhi have chosen to build from scratch, although they could use their right to match for players like Kevin Pietersen and David Warner. Given that most of their best players are foreigners, it may not be the worst move to wait for the auction and retain them at a lower price.

‘King Kallis’ signs off with a special knock

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South Africa’s Jacques Kallis marked his impending retirement by scoring a century in the 166th and final Test of his career, becoming the third highest Test run scorer in the process.

On December 14, 1995 – when Jacques Kallis walked to the crease at Durban, little did the cricket fraternity know, here was a legend who would become one of the finest all-rounders, and possibly, South Africa`s greatest sportsman ever. But when the 38-year-old walked on to the same ground 18 years later, on day four of his final Test match, the crowd gave a rousing reception to the man who many believe is arguably the greatest ever all-rounder to have played the game.

It was a slow start by South Africa on day four of the Durban Test. Amid overcast conditions, Kallis and Steyn came to the crease, so did the crowd anticipating a good knock from their legendary sportsman. Kallis walked to the field unbeaten on 78, and he was 22 runs short of what would be a memorable knock in his last Test innings. Even if he scored 30-40 runs, it wouldn’t have done any damage to his image as a world class player. And honestly, I am sure a big knock wasn’t expected from the 38-year-old, who had witnessed a lean patch in 2013. But all these predictions were put to rest by a nervous but determined Kallis, who scored his 45th Test ton.

While Kallis was often compared with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting, one shouldn’t forget that simultaneously, he was also compared with the mighty Garry Sobers. A single player’s comparison with such legends in itself is a testament of the all-rounder’s unmatchable class.

Kallis couldn’t have asked for a better Test for a farewell. It was a match where he completed 200 Test catches, surpassed Rahul Dravid to become the third highest run-scorer in Tests, and finally did something which the trio of Lara, Ponting and even Tendulkar couldn’t – signing off with a century in his final Test innings.

Sachin Tendulkar tweets : …… It’s been a joy to have played against you. Jacques you are a true Champion. Retired life isn’t so bad :-))

South African time

ImagePietersen left South Africa. Amla stayed, endured dark times and eventually flourished.

It is a warm evening in south London, with just a hint of the hazy stickiness that infuses the capital’s air when the temperature and humidity climb. It is July 2012 and the sunshine comes as welcome relief after weeks of sullen skies and intense rain.

The Oval is tense as Kevin Pietersen searches for the fluency and restless innovation which are the leitmotifs of his best batting. The South African attack is fast, skilful and persistently accurate. On 14, Pietersen is dropped at second slip by Jacques Kallis. It is an illusory release of pressure.

He has added only two runs before his stumps are shattered by Morne Morkel, a gangling young Afrikaner with gentle features which contrast sharply with the coltish aggression of his bowling, where pace and bounce are all. Pietersen, with his proud, upright bearing and composed demeanour, leaves the field. The mood is heavy with the scent of unburdened emotion and thwarted ambition.

One of the South African team is Hashim Mahomed Amla, a 29-year-old from Durban who is now among the world’s greatest batsmen. He has met Pietersen before. In 1999, Amla and Pietersen played for KwaZulu-Natal against England. Pietersen saw himself as a shackled, repressed talent, forced to bowl off-spin while dreaming of a better life abroad; Amla was 16, saturnine and clean-shaven, yet to become the wearer of the second-most-celebrated beard in cricket history.

A few months later, Pietersen left South Africa. Amla stayed, endured dark times and eventually flourished. His batting is a potent amalgam of technical precision, fluid timing and understated power. In 2012, in England, this is as good as the batsman’s art can get.

The history of South African Test cricket is weighed down by unfulfilled expectations and denied promise. Great, great players – Pollock, Procter, Richards, van der Bijl – went to their cricketing graves without an extended opportunity to display their talents on the widest stage. But this is to say nothing of the legions of cricketers who, because of their race, were denied the chance to stand even on the rung below.

Once upon a time, Amla would have been the player required to leave his homeland to realise his potential and live out his dreams. It would have been the destiny of Pietersen, with his expensive Pietermaritzburg education and his apparently inviolable sense of self-certainty, to wear the national cap.

Amla is a modest, reserved, devout man. He wastes little emotion but, as he leaves the field at the close of a day on which he has completed the highest individual score by a South African Test batsman, he exudes calm satisfaction. His place in history is secure.

Cricket is a game of conjunctions, of ironies, of veiled resonances. When Hashim Amla was a boy, his country didn’t have an international team. Now, for him and his nation, the feeling of belonging is sweet.

This is their time.

Magic

magicsmoke

Read this to yourself. Read it silently.

Don’t move your lips. Don’t make a sound.

Listen to yourself. Listen without hearing anything.

What a wonderfully weird thing, huh?

 

NOW MAKE THIS PART LOUD!

SCREAM IT IN YOUR MIND!

DROWN EVERYTHING OUT.

Now, hear a whisper. A tiny whisper.

 

Now, read this next line with your best crotchety―

old man voice:

“Hello there, sonny. Does your town have a post office?”

Awesome! Who was that? Whose voice was that?

It sure wasn’t yours!

 

How do you do that?

How?!

Must be magic.