Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Abhinav Mukund a case of missed opportunities

Just over three years ago, this column wrote about the need for Abhinav Mukund to focus on his game and not be talking about his life style and his favourite cars ( It was also around that time that his confused mind was shifting from the longer version of the game to the T20s. He was keen to prove himself as a capable One day and T20 player (it may be recalled that Kohli and Abhinav went on the same flight to the Youth World Cup several years ago).

He has lost out a few years in that process of trying to ‘convert’ into the T20 mode.  The way he played the first over against Rajasthan in that huge 600 + chase in the Ranji Trophy Final at his home ground a few years ago was indicative of that (it was shocking especially given how the Rajasthan openers had applied themselves in the first half of that game).

Two years ago, he was in contention for the TN Captaincy but was hesitant to take it as he was keen to focus on his batting to try and make his way back into the Indian team (and hence Balaji continued  as the captain for a year or so longer!!!).
                                                      The Young Abhinav in his early days

Unfortunately, Abhinav had two bad years in Ranji prior to this season (except for one odd century and double century). Hence when the captaincy came his way mid season this year, with the injury to Prasanna, Abhinav accepted it albeit two years late, with the prospects of his India cap having faded.

New comer KL Rahul has grabbed his opportunities with both hands in Australia. Not just that, Rahul has come back from Australia and shown the kind of intensity in scoring runs in trying circumstances in Ranji Trophy that seems to be lacking in Abhinav – he has gone into a dead bat mode this year.

Rahul has scored almost the same number of runs as Abhinav in half the number of chances ( including batting on one leg in the final to score close to a double hundred) in the Ranji season. And many of those have been when the team has needed it most similar to Vijay’s knocks that have helped TN win a couple of crucial matches.

Captaincy dries up runs
And after taking over the captaincy, Abhinav has been in miserable form (that was one of the reasons he had hesitated to take up the captaincy a couple of years back). He scored a century in his first match as captain but since then he has struggled to get runs (his only half century was a meaningless 2nd innings knock in the Semi Final when the match had been decided). Also, it has been stressful to watch him bat – very slow and dogged, something that is definitely not inspiring for the batsmen to follow ( The message was sent across to him by the 'management' that it was time for him to get some runs).

His knock of 35 on the first day of the Ranji final this week also left a lot to be desired with absolute lack of intent to score even given the fact that TN lost early wickets.

(On the positive front, away from his batting contributions or the lack of it, he has led TN into the Ranji Finals from a stage earlier this season when they were looking like missing out on the qualification for the knock outs)

He has scored just over 800runs and if Karnataka’s innings ends sometime over the next few hours on this fourth day, Abhinav may still get some runs over the next 100overs to close in on the 1000mark for the season but those will remain for the statistically interested and will not have any impact on the Trophy.

During this period, Abhinav has also clearly gone out of favour in the T20s - his style is not suited to that format of the game (he was dropped last season both from the TN one day and T20 team) though he did make a comeback in the one dayers this season for TN.

Technical deficiencies
Sources in the team including the coaching staff have indicated that Abhinav does not listen to suggestions on taking ‘corrective’ steps to his technique (his mode of dismissals this season is another indication of how he has been getting out).

An earlier coach had indicated that he was not suited for the opening slot given his technique and style of play (though he has scored all of his first class runs as an opener - he has been an opener for the time he lifted a bat).

Earlier this season, during the summer break in Madras, he had taken special permission from the TNCA to miss a few league matches here to play in the minor county league in the UK and scored a lot of runs there. But really, despite early runs in the season, he has flattered to deceive yet again. 

Another season has passed. Irrespective of how much he scores in the 2nd innings (that will be inconsequential), he has lost out on several opportunities this season where he has played all the 11matches.

With newer players coming in at the top of the order, he could well be losing time to get back to the Indian team.

One hopes that he will work hard during the end of season break on trying to get back his favourite strokes getting away from the dogged mindset he has got into of late and become the run machine that he once was ( 

And for that, he has to show some positive intent to score and not just 'dead bat' at the start of the innings.



Anonymous said...

Good one again !!

One small thing though... That post script must probably have been a paragraph in the middle, or even one of the first 2 paras.

The guys who LOVE Mukund and those who know less about cricket (in short those who aren't objective), will read this fantastic analysis as a rant against Mukund. Which according to me would be very unfair to the analyst / writer.

Anonymous said...

Many people lose focus along the way I guess. I see it at work too so often.

M said...

My thoughts exactly sir!

When KL Rahul reached his 150, I sent commentary feedback to Cricinfo saying "I hope Mukund has given a big slap to his forehead: once you play Test cricket, you come back to score a minimum of 150 and not a cute 35 in the domestic games". The comment was not published but it is true in every way.

Anonymous said...

BTW, noticed something really interesting :)

The TN batsmen have a very poor 1st innings record. Almost all have a low 30s average in the first.

Unless you improve on that (and be consistent), you are never going to win a tournament where victory is decided by the first innings lead.

There is no use scoring 100s in a dead second innings. And this format is such that most of the times the second innings is dead / inconsequential.