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2004 Summer Olympics
Aug. 13 - Aug. 29, 2004

2006 Winter Olympics
Feb. 10 - Feb. 26, 2006


Super Bats

Statistics will tell only a part of the story. What they won't is how admiring moms and doting daughters will put off their high-heeled afternoon waltz in shopping malls to watch two young men of India weave dreams with their bats. Statistics will never spell how calm men in their mid-70s will pump their fists in the air, and clap thunderously when the two are on song. Statistics?and these two have very impressive ones indeed?will never quite capture the admiration and the joy that two 24-year-olds have begun to bring to millions of Indian homes and cricket lovers across the world.Neither will they reveal how some of us frequent-fliers will not think much of darting half way across the globe (these days you just don't go miles to watch them play, but all the way) hoping that one of them would strike up a 50 or 75 at less than run-a-ball.

Statistics can also hide so much that is electric, and momentous, they'll never, for instance, tell us how a President in uniform will shimmy up to one of these smiling assassins, the one with the long locks and the springy walk, and tell him that the young man should keep his hair.But statistics are important. They tell us that today one man has the highest strike rate (108.73) of all in one-day matches, and also the best batting average (53.

95) of them all. They tell us that more often than not when both young men bat well, Team India goes on to win. They are match-winners with a cause.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni from Ranchi with Bjorn-Borg like locks and Yuvraj Singh with the crew cut from Chandigarh are two of a kind. With their stupendous batting that helped India flatten Pakistan 4-1 in the recently concluded one-day series (Hutch Cup) and before that in the 6-1 annihilation of Sri Lanka in India in the one-day matches, the two have become symbols of a surging, confident India. Dhoni was the Player of the Series against Sri Lanka, Yuvraj got the same honour in the Hutch Cup.They have lifted the spirits of a nation, displaced the Sensex as the number one subject of conversation in drawing rooms and TV channels.

They are part of a resurgent India that is telling the world that there is nothing quite as beautiful, and re-assuring as a young man's self-belief.They back themselves to the hilt, these two certainly do. One man is often seen stepping down the pitch and hitting a fast bowler out of the ground.

Another will milk anything outside off-stump through covers. It's their style that is refreshing, uncomplicated, winning. They chase down formidable totals on the scoreboards with the same ease with which they turn singles into twos. A few years ago an Indian batting line-up facing an asking-rate of more than eight runs an over at the halfway stage of a chase would collapse like nine pins. Not any more. Time and again in recent weeks, against quality opposition like Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the two have not just batted India out of trouble, they have also won matches handsomely for the country.

They are getting so consistent in their batting that it is difficult to see India lose too many one-day matches in the coming seasons. Both have worked hard, Yuvraj has cut down considerably on the high-risk cuts and flicks in the initial stages of building an innings, and is playing straighter than before. He has learnt to shift gears very smartly towards the end, and then lets loose and collars the attack. Dhoni too is playing very straight, mostly. Once in a while he will hook savagely, and cut viciously, but most of his runs are flowing down the ground.

Both are good at finding gaps, both score rapidly, and as statistics will reveal, they score more than half their runs in boundaries. The strike-rate and average in recent matches has been fantastic. In fact, Dhoni's is the best in the world.

Take a look at their records in the last 11 one-day internationals (ODIs) and last five Test matches they have played. The wicket-keeper batsman has scores of 183 not out (highest in the world by a wicket-keeper), 45 n.o., 0, 80, 17, 14, 12, 68, 72 not out, 2 not out, 77 not out. It is clear Dhoni likes to finish matches, or stay till the very end, the high percentage of not outs is an indication that he will protect his wicket with a great deal of passion.

In all, Dhoni totalled 570 runs from 502 deliveries at a strike rate of 113.54 and a batting average of 95. In fact against Sri Lanka, Dhoni's strike rate stood at 119.31 and his average at an astounding 115.33.

The other happy sign for Team India is that Dhoni got 61.05 per cent of his runs (348 out of 570) in boundaries. There were 57 fours and 20 beautifully struck sixes. Also, in the last five Test matches that he has played (out of a total of six), Dhoni has got a hundred, a fifty and a score of 49.

He's certainly looking good for the future. He is the biggest batting gain for India in the last three months.Yuvraj's scores are equally impressive. The left-hander sparked up things in his last 11 one day matches with scores of 79 not out, 0 not out, 103, 4 not out, 53, 49, 39, 82 not out, 79 not out, 37, 107 not out.

He's amassed 632 runs from 694 balls with a very impressive strike rate of 91.06 and a world class average of 126.4. It is ability to remain unbeaten in the end, a trait that Dhoni is displaying in ample measure, that's helping Yuvraj maintain such a fantastic average.What has also undoubtedly got the turnstiles moving and the cash registers ringing is Yuvraj's ability to entertain in every big knock he plays.

Of the 632 runs, 358 (56.64 per cent) came in boundaries. There were 76 fours, and nine sweetly timed sixes that were such a treat for the eyes that you can watch the replays for the rest of the year and not tire. And for a man who was not considered a Test class batsman till very recently, Yuvraj Singh hit two 50s, a century, and notched a score of 45 in his last five Test matches.There you are. Two men who wear their confidence on their shirt sleeves, pack tremendous punch in their shots, do not like to throw their wicket away, and importantly, win India matches.

Savour them. The statisticians are delighting. And the world's acknowledging their presence.

Link: http://www.indiaempire.com/v1/2006/March/coverstory.asp.


By: Sayantan Chakravarty

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