Thanks to the DCL 2011 committee’s resolve to start the season on May 14, 2011 – the Glads vs. Pokiris game took place despite a messy and rainy weekend. The weekend saw many games scheduled to be played on Saturday morning being rained out and all games scheduled for Sunday being rained out. That pretty much meant that only some brave and die-hard cricket fanatic teams who took a chance on Saturday morning and the games scheduled for Saturday afternoon really took place. After six months of hibernation everyone just wanted to play and despite watery conditions the Glads and Pokiris were determined to get their game going. Credit both teams for their mental resolve to play this game out no matter how bad the weather conditions might have been.
Considering the fact that the Pokiris were a new team and no one knew a thing about them it was very difficult for anyone to predict with any degree of certainty as to what could be expected from this game i.e. expect the unexpected was the mantra as far as the Glads were concerned. A thorough lack of knowledge did not stop many of the so called pundits and chumps from walking around blatantly predicting a resounding Glads win based on their past experiences and this is something that I found to be highly repulsive. All these overwhelming favorites tag attached to them meant that the Glads were feeling the pressure and the heat of these baseless uninformed predictions. Based on my myriad insights and experiences on this subject, I believe that we often are gullible to these predictions of the so called pundits because of our desire for certainty. The cognitive psychology of mankind desires a definitive answer so whether sunny or bleak, convictions and predictions about the future satisfy mankind’s hunger for certainty i.e. “We want to believe. And so we do.” Granted these so called pundits got this one correct but let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment and pose the hypothesis as to what would have happened if the Pokiris had routed the Glads team by the same margin – I can guarantee you that these same pundits when caught with their pants pulled down would have emitted squid-ink clouds of obfuscation, harrumphing that they got the timeframe wrong, or that it almost happened, or that an unpredictable exogenous shock derailed the forecast or that there was no realistic way they could have known that the Pokiris were this good and so when all else fails they would have turned around and blamed the Committee and said “Man the Committee made a blunder and did a real disservice to the DCL by making the Pokiris an unseeded team, blah, blah, blah” i.e. when all else fails blame the committee by doing a plunder on the blunder and the committee becomes the favorite scape goat for one and all.
As if the pressure from the self-professed pundits was not enough, The Glads Captain has about 15 players available for the game and everyone wanted to play the first game of the season. With about 15 players available and only 11 spots – The Glads Captain had to make some tough choices which included benching himself for the game. Finally a 12 man team was declared with Rakesh Boeana declared as 12th man – A last minute fever to one of the Glads key players meant that Rakesh moved into the playing eleven. The Glads are one of the very few DCL teams that have no practice sessions throughout the week. The Glads just show up on game day and the Glads Captain just wings it from there based on who can do what and usually the dice ends up falling on the correct number. To complicate things the Glads did not have a pre-season meeting this year and that meant that the Glads had no Vice Captain on record as their beloved former Vice Captain Naeem Afridi had relocated to Boston. On game day at around 9 AM, Glads Superstar Sameer Munot became available but by then the Glads Captain had declared the playing eleven. The character of a man can be determined by how a person responds under trying circumstances and Sameer Munot has loads of character as the first thing he told the Glads Captain was “Viju – Please don’t change the team because of me. I just called to let you know that I am available but please don’t drop anyone because I am available” and in his imitable fashion the Glads Captain told Sameer that the declared playing eleven will not change under any circumstances unless someone volunteers to sit out i.e. once a playing eleven is declared we will not change that eleven just because a better player is available – that is our commitment to our players. At 1 PM the Glads Captain made it known to the declared playing eleven that Sameer was available and if anyone wanted to volunteer to sit out so that Sameer can play then we would consider it else Sameer would be the 12th man. If a player wants to play for Team Gladiators then he must have good character and be a team player else we have a policy of not even considering that person for our team for the simple reason that the Glads Captain cannot stand selfish, me first players – Honestly those kind of players are a vexation of the spirit and are simply not worth the resulting heart burn. Despite wanting to play so badly the first game of the season, both Tusharbhai and Vishal Patel volunteered of their own accord to sit out the game so that Sameer can play and the rest as they say was history. On Game day, about 5 minutes before the game could start Rakesh Boeana was selected unanimously as the new Vice captain for Team Gladiators and the Stand-in Captain for the match against Team Pokiris. Rakesh Boeana has his work cut out for him as filling Naeem Afridi’s ginormous shoes is going to be a tough ask but we are all confident that Rakhi can get it done for he is as good as Naeem in almost all fields i.e. he is Naeem Afridi – Version 2.0. With so much extracurricular activity going on, it was a challenging task for any Glads player to focus on the game at hand or on our opponent and that may have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed everyone to play freely and with a clear mind.
The Glads regular season Captain gave only one instruction during the course of the entire game to the Stand-in Captain – “If you win the toss, Please elect to bat.” Boeana did the rest by winning the toss and electing to bat.
Srini Bodhan is the Glads regular opener for all important games. Srini is a wonderful straight bat and has played many valuable knocks from this position for Team Glads (Just ask Team Brownstown). Joining Srini was Ankur Doshi who is another solid player who is gifted with an analytic mind and can pace his innings according to the circumstances. Alas for Glads disaster struck in the third over of the day when Pokiris opening bowler Aswin had Srini clean bowled with a peach of a delivery and the score read 7 for 1 wkt.
Last year against GLCC in the Day/Night Marquee game the Glads Captain had made a blunder by sending Arjun Ajbani three down and in that match Ajbani remained undefeated with 29 runs next to his name while GLCC wreaked havoc on the rest of the Glads team. Finally Arjun was left as a bride at her wedding altar as one Glads batsman after the other ditched Ajbani at the altar by simply refusing to partner with him to win the game. That game ended in a 3 run loss for Glads in the biggest game of last season. Ajbani remained not out while the entire Glads team collapsed around him like a deck of cards. The Glads learned a painful yet valuable lesson that day i.e. never again send Arjun three down – Next time send him opening or one down and that is exactly what happened against Team Pokiris as Ajbani walked in at the fall of Srini’s wicket.
Both Arjun and Ankur were very circumspect at the beginning of the Glads innings as the Pokiris were bowling a good line and the ball was keeping lower than usual on a damp pitch. In the fifth over disaster struck again as wily Aswin had outfoxed Ankur for a soft caught behind dismissal and Diaz Thomas behind the stumps made no mistake and the Glads were reduced to 16 for 2 after 5 Overs. The fall of Ankur brought Anoop Bhokare to the crease.
My son is at an age where he is a fanatic of DCL cricket and always wants to know who is the best batsman, best bowler etc. in the League and if I throw out a bunch of names then he is not satisfied till I narrow it down to one answer and the honest truth is often there is no one answer that may fit all circumstances. In trying to get him to observe more, I tend to tell him to watch the good players in the League and see what they are doing right and on Glads I have always told him to watch Bhokare bat as I have always felt that Bhokare has more time than anyone else to play any shot. His timing is almost always perfect and when he hits a ball the ball tends to race to the boundary because the timing was that perfect. He seems to always put minimal effort while getting maximum effect. He plays with such fluid ease that he never seems to exert himself. His shots are so consistently brilliant as to be monotonous. Bhokare doesn’t explode at you, he just does everything better than everyone else. His late cuts which are played at the last possible moment remind me of a Roger Federer who can hold the ball on his strings longer than any other player before he unleashes that violent forehand that simply explodes off the court. Alas for Glads, Bhokare like the great Roger Federer is going through a lean patch by their other worldly standards. On game day Bhokare perished when the score read 32 for 3 at the end of 8 Overs .
The scorecard read Bhokare bowled by Aji for 3 and the Glads Captain sitting in the comfort of the dugout was having visions of Deja-vu as the GLCC nightmare kept flashing all over again as Arjun seemed to see one partner after the other take the long walk back to the pavilion.
At 32 for 3 at the end of 8 Overs – The Pokiris were giving the Glads everything they could handle and the game looked even and balanced. The Glads were certainly not running away with it – If anything the Pokiris had the Glads on the back foot. Bhokare’s fall brought the Pink Panther (AKA Sameer Munot – If someone want to know the origin of the Pink Panther name then they need to contact the Ex DCL Multi-Millionaire Vijay Namburi living in Hyderabad, India for all the juicy details) to the crease and the deadly duo of Ajbani and Munot put on a show the likes of which have never been witnessed in DCL history. They launched a blitzkrieg that ended in a ferocious onslaught on every hallowed DCL batting record. While Arjun was solid right from the beginning, Sameer was shaky at the start of his innings and even had a fortuitous heave that missed the ball entirely but to the great dismay of the Pokiris the ball just bounced harmlessly over the stumps and that was all Sameer needed to settle down. With the calming influence of Arjun on the other end, Sameer settled down and once he settled down the ball refused to settle down as Munot unleashed a dazzling array of strokes that reminded me of Kieron Pollard. When Munot hit the ball – The ball stayed hit as sixes started raining on the Novi Power Parks ground. The ball when it left Munot’s bat landed outside the boundary and outside the fence. Both batsmen were depositing balls with such unfailing regularity outside the fence that finally a fielder (I believe the gentleman was from the Cruisers teams was permanently stationed outside the fence to fetch the ball.) I personally felt sorry for this gentleman as the Glads batsmen were merciless and this gentleman appeared to be running from pillar to post to retrieve the ball and seemed to do more fielding than quite a few of the Pokiris fielders. The Pink Panther had a number of “How’d he do that?” moments, that left everyone observing gushing as even players from adjacent grounds were more attuned to watching the explosive shot making that was lighting up the skies of Power Park Ground #5. Munot was so explosive that at one point both batsmen hit their individual fifties just balls apart from each other and for the briefest of moments Munot had overhauled Arjun’s total. By the time Munot departed in the 24th Over the score read 213 for 4 and Munot had a fine looking 68 runs next to his name. Munot had unleashed a full assortment of creative strokes to paint his latest cricket masterpiece on Motown Cricket’s most prestigious canvas and thereby stamp his class in DCL folklore for years to come.
But the day belonged to Glads Runs Accumulating Machine (RAM) Awesome Arjun Ajbani (AAA) who is yet to get out in a DCL game and seems to be getting better with each passing game. Welcome to the world of Ajbani because when Ajbani is at the crease there is momentum to be sustained, morale to be dented, pride to be salvaged, reputations to be restored, individual glory to be attained, personal battles to be won, there’s an audience to be entertained and the Glads Captain’s wallet to be raided.
On May 14, 2011 Ajbani put on a show in front of his father, his captain, his stand-in captain, his teammates, his opposition and the audience watching the game in Power Park – One for the ages as he played a chanceless innings on his way to setting a record that has eluded every other DCL player for the last 16 years i.e. since the inception of the League.
From the outset, Ajbani’s approach suggested that he was in the mood. In the first few overs he was cautious and found the boundary only once, though creamy cover drives that often landed in the neighboring ground, precise footwork, decisive judgment right from the start and impeccable judgment of length gave evidence that he was in top form. Early in the innings he placed the ball well into the gaps and ran the singles hard to ensure that the Glads strike rate was in a comfortable zone. As the innings progressed Ajbani’s buccaneering masterclass became more and more evident as he clobbered the ball to various parts of the areas outside the fence. Some of the balls were struck so furiously that those who had not seen the ball travel could have mistaken that a ball had not been bowled. Dazzling stroke play, delicate late cuts, slicing the field like a knife cuts through butter were the order of the day. Some batsmen take into account the nature of the pitch, time of day, phase of innings, and quality of bowler but the Glads RAM prefers to have only one parameter in mind: type of delivery. This was batting reduced to its simplest form. Conditions don’t seem to matter as AAA truly believes that when he is as balanced at the crease as he was on May 14, 2011, there’s little to stop him. Ajbani’s greatest strength is his mental toughness and his steely determination. No amount of noise, activity or sledging can shake him off his game rather the person doing the sledging is wasting his breath. You could have an earthquake on the field and Ajbani would still remain unshaken like the Rock of Gibraltar. The task at hand remains his singular focus and all else just fades into oblivion.
Ajbani has been hitting numerous centuries in MICHCA but till today very few people in Metro Detroit has heard the name Ajbani as MICHCA does not have people who can draw and bring attention to such talented individuals. But the story in DCL is different as even guys who hit thirties in DCL become superstars and rock stars as the DCL Media Machine is unmatched by any league in North America. Last year was Ajbani’s first foray into DCL and the match against GLCC changed a lot of minds, as the new kid on the block in the Glads team drew plenty of attention for his superlative innings. This century has put Ajbani over the top as the name Ajbani will enter DCL history books and live in perpetuity as the first man ever to hit a century in DCL. The names Sunny Gavaskar and Tendulkar will live in perpetuity in Test Cricket and ODI formats as those gentlemen were the first to cross the 10,000 (career total) and 200 (ODI Record) run tallies respectively. Like their records or for that matter any record, Ajbani’s records will probably fall one day but no one can take away the fact that Ajbani was the first to reach the holy grail of the DCL.
At present Arjun Ajbani is playing a brand of Cricket that’s never been played before in the DCL, one combining classic grace with modern (IPL type) power. Arjun is humble to a fault, wary of drawing attention to himself. His relative strangeness is exacerbated by his seeming eagerness to be self-sufficient. At a time when players switch teams and go to the highest bidder (for more prominence and self aggrandization) and players trumpet themselves as “The Greatest or The Local Sachin” without one bit of the character and integrity of the real Sachin, Ajbani goes at it with a bare minimum. His game does most of the talking. On Saturday May 14, 2011 there was no showmanship; no dissing the opponent, no dissing the Umpires – The entire Glads team to a man was just seeing a special person playing a special innings and were rejoicing in the fact that the guy called Arjun Ajbani was on their team. Never have I seen such talented players like Anoop Bhokare, Ankur Doshi, Rakesh Boeana, Baiju Patel, Nishant Yadav, Vishal Patel, Tusharbhai, Srini Bodhan, Ronak Patel, Mike Patel – All just hoping and praying that Arjun hits a century. They were ecstatic and jumping like little kids with joy as they recounted the brilliant and breathtaking shots of their illustrious teammate. As the magical mark neared, I had to excuse myself as I couldn’t take it anymore and gave the scoring to Rakesh. When Arjun was on 98, Rakesh’s palms were sweating profusely and he couldn’t take it anymore and he had to scream for help as the pressure got to him. Thankfully Arjun put us all out of our collective misery by scoring those two runs quickly. Everything else after that was just for academic interest.
Considering the talent on the Glads team, the Glads Captain had challenged his teammates to go after the DCL scoring record and score a century. The Glads Captain had promised a $1000 cash award for any teammate that could hit the magical mark. The other two Glads founders (Sankar Melethat and Chetan Thakkar) also promised $100 each if anyone could hit the magical mark – Little did we realize that the mark will get shattered in the very first week itself. Those are some of the privileges I guess for playing for Glads as we like a challenge and are willing to put our money where our mouth is for we are very passionate about the game. In light of the superlative innings by Ajbani a check for the amount of $1,200 will be presented to Arjun Ajbani at the next match he plays for Glads. We want to play the best teams with our best team and we never shy away from a challenge for when the best teams play at peak strength, cricket is the winner and after all we only play for 4 months so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we are at it. We are not the best team in the DCL, but we do believe we can give a reasonable fight to the better teams in the DCL if a few things go our way. On May 14, 2011 against a pretty good Pokiris bowling attack a few things did go our way and we are thankful for the same.
Pokiris Bowling, Fielding and Batting:
As stated earlier I am convinced that the Pokiris bowlers are pretty decent bowlers. I was particularly impressed with Aswin and Aji. It was their misfortune that they ran into a hot duo that was at their destructive best and on top of their game. In Ravi they have a thinking bowler who tried his best to break the partnership by varying the line, length, speed and trajectory of the delivery alas it was one of those days where nothing worked. I will be surprised if more than five teams from Pool B score a hundred against this same bowling attack as the Pokiris bowling attack can hold their own against most teams or so I opine. The Pokiris fielding and keeping are decent however they could improve on their field placements. It does not help when the batsmen are hitting the balls outside the park consistently and when a suggestion is given – Place the fielder on the boundary and the lickety-split reply is “What is the point in placing the fielders on the edge of the boundary when the ball is being deposited outside the park?” I can see the logic in that statement still one needs to have a plan and stick to the overall plan even when all hell breaks loose else it will soon get out of hand. When Pokiris batsmen score only 13 runs off the bat there is nothing much you can write about their batting other than their batting needs improvement i.e. it is a work in progress. In Praveen the Pokiris have a capable batsman who has good technique and we should see him in the runs soon and hopefully he will get more than decent support from Aji and Sunil who looked good during their brief outing at the crease.
The Glads bowlers are good but are they this good that they can bundle a team for 17 all out? If that question was posed to me, then my answer would be this was a freak occurrence for everything that could go right for the Glads went right for the Glads on May 14, 2011. Starting with the weather where it rained Saturday morning, Saturday night and all day Sunday but the Rain Gods held up the showers till the afternoon games scheduled for Saturday could be completed i.e. there was a small window opened from heaven so that heavenly creatures could observe something magical happen on earth below as Lord Ajbani and Lord Munot held complete sway over the proceedings of the match. As if that was not enough there were direct hits by Glads fielders (Baiju Patel) from deep backward of square leg that had the batsmen out by a mile, there were catches that went just where the fielders were stationed, and the bowlers just gave 4 wides in ten overs (something that was a rarity for Glads bowlers last year) i.e. the Glads had a magical day on the field and could do nothing wrong.
When reviewing statistics it is important to keep everything in perspective. To some stats are like bikinis in that what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital – This group of pundits will say that the Glads bowlers stats revealed their utter domination of the game while concealing the fact that luck, pitch/ground conditions also had a role to play in the dismissal of the Pokiris batsmen. To some stats are like miniskirts as they reveal more than what they hide – This group will say that the Glads have a bunch of bowlers who all can hold a tight line but hide the fact that no single Glads bowler has taken 5 or more wickets in a single match since the clubs formation – A glaring fact that the Glads have hidden well over the past few seasons.
In the final analysis, I would take the Glads bowling figures with a bag of salt to boot i.e. they are good but not that good. One magical day in the office doth not put you in the same class as the defending champions. Until we see a consistent performance from the Glads bowlers let us put this performance in perspective and not give them too much credit but rather just state the obvious – They had a decent outing on May 14, 2011.
The following DCL Records were set on May 14, 2011
Highest Team Score in DCL History: 219 for 5 in 25 Overs
Highest Individual Score in DCL History: 109 Not Out by Arjun Ajbani
Highest Partnership in DCL History: 181 run Stand between Arjun Ajbani and Sameer Munot
Highest Margin of victory in DCL History: 202 runs
Record Number of Sixes in a DCL Match: 16 Sixes
I do believe records are made to be broken and some of the above records will probably fall faster than we would expect. I do believe that Arjun has now challenged players in the DCL to think 110 and above and the DCL has players who are capable of doing that. The Bridges Aditya Bommaraju can break the 109 if he has a magical day for I have seen him in action and have seen him slam some of the best bowlers to all parts of the fence with reckless abandon. So too the 219 for 5 and the record for sixes is within striking reach of teams like GLCC, Bridges, Brownstown and Megabytes. The other two records i.e. Highest margin of victory and Highest partnership are more likely to stand the test of time for a longer duration as both those records require a number of factors to go a certain way if one were to attempt to break it. If I were a betting man then I would say that the 181 run stand between Arjun and Sameer will probably be the last record to fall for breaking that requires two batsmen to go ballistic.
Perhaps in all the hoopla the one thing that will be forgotten is that many of the records would not have been possible but for the sacrifice of Vishal Patel on game day. Arjun and Sameer will walk into the history books but Vishal walked into the hearts of all Glads players by his sacrifice for the team. Vishal made the records possible and everyone on the Glads team is acutely aware of it – None more than those who set the records themselves. By virtue of his vicarious sacrifice, Vishal put the Glads team in the record books and for that fact and that fact alone – Vishal is my MVP of this game. In a selfish and me first world, Vishal is the very antithesis of the selfish player and he by his example showed everyone that Cricket is a team game and he is the Glads Ultimate Team Player. Baiju should be so proud of his elder brother Vishal but so is every Glads player for we all know the value Vishal brings to the table. The Glads as a whole salute and tip their cap to Vishal.
That Lucky Dog – Boeana:
Some people are good and some people are lucky and some have all the luck in the world to go along with their oodles of talent. Glads newly minted Vice-Captain falls into the latter category. For a player who did not play on the Glads team last year, five minutes before the game started Rakesh Boeana saw himself being unanimously selected as Vice-Captain for the Glads teams. In his very first game as Vice-Captain of the team, Boeana gets an instant promotion to become the stand-in Captain for the Pokiris game and as if that was not enough he sees all kinds of DCL records tumbling in his very first outing. When a DCL Trivia question is asked on DCL Night some years down the line as to who was the Glads Captain on the record setting day of May 14, 2011 – The guy who answers correctly would have answered Rakesh Boeana. From playing in Dallas in 2010 to playing in Chicago to Captaining Glads on a record setting day – Boeana is living the charmed life that Melethat with all his Cricketing IQ or Afridi with all his brilliance or Zachariah with all his hard work and toil could never achieve. Who would have thunk it!!!
Ajbani and his Record Prize Check:
Playing for Glads – Cost $0
Winning Glads Best Batsman Award in 2010: $100
Winning Glads MVP Award in 2010: $150
Prize Money for Becoming the first Centurion in DCL History: $1,200
Having your Father, Captain, Stand-in Captain and all teammates holding hands as they watch you live hitting the magical 100: Priceless
So what is Arjun going to do with all this money – Here is a thought – How about blowing it all on Poonam on DCL Night as Parthiv and Poonam dance up a storm as Amitabh (DCL’s best singer) sings the super hit (you really have to read Poonam Rising to understand this):
Shilpa sa figure Bebo si adaa, Bebo si adaa
Shilpa sa figure Bebo si adaa, Bebo si adaa
Hai mere jhatke mein filmi mazaa re filmi mazaa
Haye tu na jaane mere nakhre ve
Haye tu na jaane mere nakhre ve laakhon rupaiya udaa (Arjun make it hazaron Dollar Udaa)
Ve main taksaal hui, darling tere liye
Cinema hall hui, darling tere liye
Poonam badnaam hui, Darling Paarthiv Ke liye
Poonam item bomb hui, Darling Arjun Ke Liye
Finally the game is all about characters and the Glads have plenty of characters and on May 14, 2011, Munot and Ajbani stole the show from everyone else.
Having met Arjun’s dad and after interacting with him, I can honestly say the apple did not fall far from the tree for if Arjun is simple and humble then look no further than his dad. Character develops over time and Arjun made his entire family and his team proud with the way he deals with everyone on and off the field.
Looking forward to playing the Champions this weekend to see what the Champs may have in store for us. Sure they may not be the 2010 Champs but with a Team name call Champions we hopefully expect that our hands will be full with the task at hand.