My Thoughts

The win against Afghanistan in the final game and Virat Kohli’s hundred after 3 years should not mask what a disastrous Asia Cup campaign this was for the Indian T20 team. India entered into the tournament as clear favorites with Pakistan being their competition but their performances were inconsistent to put it politely. The biggest issue for India was the lack of clarity in selection of the playing XI. While the team composition for the first 2 games looked right, some injuries and management succumbing to pressures of including some players in the XI caused some confusion with the playing combination.

The biggest issue with the previous leadership was the same that they lacked clarity with the team selection. While most often the top 3 remained same the rest of the batting order constantly kept changing which meant that India went into major tournaments without a settled batting order. The current leadership group seem to be following the same patter ahead of an important tournament. India is the number 1 T20 team in the world by a comfortable margin but again you wouldn’t be able to guess that by their performance in the Asia Cup.

The batting order was muddled. While the top 3 were okay, the rest of the batting kept changing. The first 2 games had the 2 all-rounders in the middle which gave the captain 6 bowling options, which wasn’t the case in the second stage of the tournament. India had to bowl just the 5 bowlers as it seemed like the captain did not have confidence in the bowling of Deepak Hooda. One has to question the selection of Hooda in the XI if he wasn’t going to bowl. India did have the option of Axar Patel in the absence of Jadeja which the management for some reason failed to make use of. For example Dinesh Karthik was chosen in the squad for his finishing abilities but again he wasn’t there for the two crucial super 4 games where a good finish might have given India those extra 10-15 runs.

The World T20 is just over a month away and India as usual are struggling to figure out what their ideal combination for the tournament would be. This is exactly what happened in the 2019 WC and the 2021 T20 WC last year. The team keeps experimenting till the last minute and manage to include players who haven’t played much in the squad leading up to an imbalanced playing XI in crucial games. I agree that the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel left a big hole in the bowling line up but again there were no excuses in the batting.

If India want to seriously win a world tournament they need to identify and stick to a playing XI for at least a few games to let them settle. India have announced their T20 WC squad and except for the return of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel, there isn’t many surprises in the 15. The good thing is that India have picked the same squad for the series against Australia and South Africa which gives them ample opportunities to figure out their right playing combination for the World Cup. I understand that the playing conditions are completely different but again India for sure need to try and play the best team composition which they think will work irrespective of the surface they play on. If they continue to experiment too much leading up to the WC, they might end up with an unbalanced playing XI in the World Cup which might come back to haunt them in crucial games.

World T20 Squad:

Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh.

Standby Players: Mohammed Shami, Shreyas Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi, Deepak Chahar

The year 2022 has been really poor for Bollywood as far as box office successes go. Very few films have actually done well and majority of the big star films have tanked badly this year. Majority of the media and critics have attributed this lack of success to the “Boycott Bollywood” trend which is being run by a few on social media. While this may have a miniscule impact on the business of a film but blaming everything on it is just living in denial. It is an easy way out isn’t it? Blame it on some unknown people on Social media for your failures and then continue to repeat the same mistakes. It has not been all doom and gloom for Bollywood though, they have had their successes through “Kashmir Files”, “Gangubai Kathiawadi” and “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2”. If social media could influence people to boycott films, the above movies wouldn’t have been successful. Before people brand me as a hater, let me tell you that I grew up in Delhi and even though I am a Thamizhan, I grew up watching Hindi films more than Tamizh. Sure over the past decade or so that has changed as the content from Hindi does not excite me anymore except for few films here and there.

Here is my take though as to what is causing these failures.

Arrogance of the Bollywood Actors:

The actors in the Hindi film industry have always come across as arrogant and as someone who don’t give too much importance to their fans who support them unconditionally. Recently someone said that star power alone cannot bring audience to the theatres anymore in Bollywood, which is absolutely true. If the movies which released this year had released pre-pandemic, most of them would have been huge successes but again things have changed a lot recently. The biggest difference between the Southern stars and Bollywood is their relatability and humbleness. Something which is completely absent in majority of the current Bollywood stars. For example a statement like what Arjun Kapoor gave in his recent interview would never come out of any South Indian actor, star or not. The accessibility to more South Indian stars and their movies during the pandemic has caused this transformation in the Hindi audience which seems new to the stars Bollywood. An entire fraternity who has taken the audience for granted have now realised how important they are and why they should take them seriously. This is one of the major reasons why the Hindi films aren’t pulling in the crowd just by star power. This is the time to change and probably a change in attitude is warranted for the entire Hindi industry who has so far neglected their core audience and had started to think they are moving west with their content.

Remakes and lack of good content:

The second and most important reason for audience not coming to theatres is that most of the movies which has come out in theatres from Bollywood has been either remakes of famous South Indian movies or have been outdated content. Over the past 2 years Hindi audience have watched a lot of South Indian content on OTT and on YouTube and when you bring the same movies with just Hindi actors to theatres, the fans would obviously reject the same. When they see great content from other Industries in the country, the audience want something different from Hindi cinema as well which so far hasn’t happened this year. This is the major reason for audience to not show up in theatres as the non-remakes which have come to theatres this year have been outdated stories which the audience have seen multiple times in the past. When Bollywood starts making good content and if the word of mouth is good, I am sure the fans would rush to the theatres, “Boycott Trend” or not.

Rooted stories relatable to Indian Audience

Long time ago, Bollywood had stopped making content for Indian audience. The content made in Hindi cinema had started to cater to western sensibilities about 20 years ago. I agree that there are few directors like Anand L Rai and Anurag Kashyap who make rooted content but those are very limited. A regular movie goer will never relate to majority of movies made in Hindi cinema. The audience were accepting what was being served by Hindi cinema until couple of years ago have learnt now that you can make entertaining films while staying rooted to your region and culture. This is where South Indian cinema has always done well. The movies are always rooted in the local culture of the state which makes it easier for the audience to connect. Most of the Hindi films aren’t relatable to the audience which has made them distant from the content, no matter how good it might be

There is also some section of the audience who feel Bollywood spreads Hindu phobia which may be valid in some cases but that isn’t the major reason for the movies not doing well.

Bollywood has two of their biggest releases in the coming months. Brahmastra releasing today and Vikram Vedha releasing at the end of this month. Both these movies boast of great content and performances. The success of these two movies will further emphasize that good content will always succeed and audience will always want to watch such cinema.

The creators in Bollywood had gone into this comfort zone of not trying anything and just sticking to what they have been doing for years while all the other industries have moved ahead. They also had formed this arrogance and not caring about the viewers over the years and this year has been a reminder that audience is everything. If you disrespect them or take them for granted they will not respect or support you back. I hope this year has been that lesson for Bollywood and they will make some changes for good. Also they need to understand that just because Brahmastra or Vikram Vedha succeed doesn’t mean that they are off the hook and keep releasing substandard content. The audience will still reject that irrespective of who is starring in it.

The biggest problem we have had over the past few years with the Indian cricket team has been arriving at the right balance for a LOI XI. While in Test cricket there isn’t much room for experimentation in ODIs due to the enormous talent pool at their disposal India started to play around with their combination so much that they end up playing an unbalanced XI at most times.

In the ongoing Asia Cup if we look at the first 2 games, the balance was perfect. The two all-rounders at 6 & 7 followed by 4 bowlers was the ideal combination for a T20 team. India had 6 genuine bowling options in the first 2 games which helped India to juggle the bowlers better. When Jadeja was injured after the Hong Kong game, the Indian team broke that combination in their first Super 4 game against Pakistan which led to an unbalanced XI.

India had finally given into the wish list which the fans and experts have been calling for since the start of the tournament. The inclusion of Rishabh Pant is one such wish list which wasn’t needed in the scheme of things. Dinesh Karthik who played the first 2 games of the tournament hadn’t done anything wrong to be dropped for the game against Pakistan. Also the inclusion of Deepak Hooda did not make sense as well as India already had a like for like replacement for Jadeja with Axar Patel.

While Hooda was selected in the XI as a batter who could give you couple of overs, the fact that Rohit never used him with the ball is perplexing. This would only lead us to believe that Rohit Sharma or the team management do not have much confidence in the bowling abilities of Deepak Hooda. We saw that both Hardik Pandya & Yuzvendra Chahal had an off day and still they completed their full quota going for 11 an over. An over or 2 by the 6th bowler could have helped Rohit if he had the services of someone like Axar Patel at his disposal. This is what happens when you start heeding to chatter around you instead of selecting a team which gives the best balance for the XI.

If India wanted to play Rishabh Pant, he should have replaced Karthik but Hooda does not make into the XI as it affected the balance which the team had for the first 2 games. If Axar Patel was available and fit, he should have been in the XI in the place of Ravindra Jadeja. Axar is a genuine bowler, who most often than not gives you miserly overs in the middle and also picks up wickets. The lack of conviction in picking up the ideal LO XI has come back to haunt India. To be frank except for couple of forced changes, India did not have to make any more changes to the XI but they did it anyways.

The T20 WC is just over a month away and neither the fans nor the management know what India’s ideal XI is. Winning the Asia Cup is important but more than that India need to decide what batting ideal for the T20 team leading up to the marquee tournament. The biggest problem India had in 2021 WC in UAE was that the team was all over the place and there was no consistency in selection. India came into the Asia cup with some strange selections where players who played most games over the last 18 months were overlooked and now with this ridiculous meddling with the playing XI they are digging themselves into a bigger hole.

India take on Sri Lanka today for an important clash which will decide whether they can make it to the finals or not. I hope that some sense prevails and they go back to the combination they had for the first 2 games. Having a lot of talent is one thing but playing the right combination is what wins you tournaments.

I know that India are known to back a bowler when they think that they see some potential. The Indian team management has backed Avesh Khan an lot over the last 18 months. Avesh has played 15 T20Is during this time and has mostly looked underwhelming. He did have couple of good performances over the last few months but mostly he has failed to provide the control which India needs from their third pacer in the XI. When we look at the last 18 months Avesh Khan has played 4th most number of games for India just behind, B Kumar, H Patel and H Pandya. His 15 games have only produced 13 wickets at an average of 32 and an economy rate of 9.1.

If you look in T20 terms, 15 games is quite a high number and none of the other bowlers except for the 3 others I mentioned above have played that many games. Even in the IPL where Avesh Khan had a decent time there were others who did better than him who weren’t considered for the National side. Mohammed Shami played just 5 T20Is over the past 18 months and had better average and economy rate than Avesh but was still not considered for the Asia Cup.

When we look at the IPL 2022, there were some great Indian bowling performances. The one bowler who comes to mind immediately is Moshin Khan. Moshin played 9 games this season and took 14 wickets but what was outstanding about his performance was his economy rate of 5.96. It is incredible for a fast bowler to bowl quick and also have a low economy rate as well. It would have been great to see him bowl for India at least against Ireland and Zimbabwe to see how good he can be at the international level. Umran Malik also impressed everyone with his pace. That x-factor is what which got him into the Indian XI quicker than expected. Agreed that his first 3 games did not go well but again India need to make sure such a talent is not ignored. He had a great IPL where he picked up 22 wickets at 14.

The other bowler who India completely ignored was Umesh Yadav who also had a great IPL 2022. His economy rate was just over 7 and he picked up 16 wickets in the tournament. Umesh Yadav decided to play county cricket this year and did exceedingly well with the ball in the Royal London Cup. Agreed that Mohammed Shami hasn’t had the best of times in this format for India but again he has lots of experience in white ball cricket and has been a constant performer in IPL. He once again had a good IPL season this time around picking 20 wickets at an economy rate of 8. Khaleel Ahmed who has represented India in the past in limited overs format also had a great IPL with better stats than Avesh Khan. Now the question to be asked is whether picking Avesh Khan was a wise decision for the Asia Cup. India haven’t picked any other pacer in their main squad which means that they cannot swap him over with a replacement through the reminder of the tournament.

The signs were there through this year. I understand that Avesh Khan looks a great prospect. He can bowl quick, when he does well he picks up wickets but again those performances are rare and he most often than not gets taken for lots of runs. There is a pattern when we look at his overall stats. He played 3 ODIs for India and went for 7.74 runs in them. His List A economy rate is 5.64 and his overall T20 economy rate is 8.14. So this begs the question what was the rationale in picking him as the sole third seamer for a competition like Asia Cup?

India have moved on to the super 4 stage of the competition and it will be interesting to see if they continue to play Avesh Khan in those games as well. With Hardik Pandya back to bowling at full tilt there probably is a chance of playing Ravi Bishnoi or Ravichandran Ashwin as the third spinner in the XI instead of Avesh Khan. I feel that his performance against Hong Kong should make the management think whether they should continue to pick him in the XI for the rest of the tournament. The team management and the selectors need to realise that we are not in the 90’s where there was a dearth of fast bowlers in the country. India now boasts of great talent at the domestic level which hasn’t been properly explored. There are great bowling options available for India if they want to try them out and give them a chance. India did pick Arshdeep Singh who comparatively had a very poor IPL 2022 but again he has shown that he has the skills to succeed at this level with proper guidance.

India still has some time before the World T20 and I hope that some sense prevails and right backup pacers are picked. Australia is a tough place to bowl fast and India would need bowlers who can hit the deck and keep runs in check as well. Avesh in his limited time with the Indian team has shown that he cannot consistently provide that control. I am not saying that we should discard Avesh Khan permanently but again at this moment he isn’t the right choice for India in this format.

India, over the past 2 years have been experimenting a lot with their limited overs side. This may be attributed to the amount of cricket the Indian players play in a year. The combination of IPL and the busy international calendar means that India are forced to rotate players to prevent burnout. What this also does is that many high performing players from IPL and domestic cricket get to experience International cricket and prove their worth. This also means that when selecting a team for a tournament like World T20, the selectors and team management are presented with way too many options which might make the process more tricky.

Since January 2021, India have played 37 T20Is, a number which isn’t huge but again we are taking that timeline as that provides as with recent performers. India are playing in UAE before flying out to Australia for the World T20 which means that the squad picked for the former would mostly be the one which is selected for the latter as well. The spin bowling combination is something which is always up to debate when a squad is picked. Last year for the T20 WC which happened in UAE, India went with the mystery of Varun Chakravarthy along with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as their three spinners. While Varun started the tournament as the lead spinner, he was dropped for the 3rd game after initial 2 losses but did play one more game against Scotland where he ended up wicketless. Varun hasn’t played much since then and is nowhere in consideration for a spot in the India team at the moment.

Over the past 18 months the spinner who has played most games for India is Yuzvendra Chahal. He has played 17 games and has an average of 21 with an economy rate of 7.49. He has been the main spinner for India over that time and is rightfully in the squad for the Asia cup. Ravi Bishnoi though is a surprise selection this time. Even though everyone knows the talent Bishnoi possesses he has been picked ahead of Axar Patel who has played the second most number of games over the last 18 months. Bishnoi himself has played 9 games over this time at a very good average of 16.5 and an economy rate of 7.15. Also Bishnoi bowls a different style of Leg Spin to Chahal and does provide India with an X-Factor in the middle overs.

The other surprising selection for sure is of Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin has a fine record in T20Is over the same period but including the 3 games he played in the WT20 last year, he has only featured in 8 of the 37 games India have played since January 2021. While the team management have been adamant about Ashwin being in the plans for T20 WC, he did not feature in too many games over the past few months. He though has the best economy rate among the 4 spinners picked which is an incredible 5.78.

The fourth spinner though is Ravindra Jadeja but again he will feature in the team as an all-rounder. While Jadeja and Axar Patel have similar bowling record over this period, the batting is the reason Jadeja gets the edge. Since the beginning of 2021 Jadeja averages 51 with the bat at a SR of 141, which is brilliant for a lower middle order all-rounder. The only bowler who might feel a little hard done is Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep has only played 4 games over the last 18 months for India and while he hasn’t done badly, his lack of games tells us that he was never in consideration.

The biggest problem for India is that there aren’t any spinners who are standing out in recent times. The fact that Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are still relavent in T20 format is because of the dearth of good spinners in domestic cricket . Ravi Bishnoi is the only spinner who comes to mind and he is part of the India squad. To be frank the selectors have picked the only options they have available for the Asia Cup and they cannot be blamed for their choices.

While the spinners picked have been based on statistics and performances it will be interesting to see who will actually play in the XI. The fact that Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are a must as all-rounders , it leaves room for only one spinner in the XI and Yuzvendra Chahal for sure is going to occupy that spot. Deepak Hooda who might play in the middle order will double up as the third spin option. The spinners for the World T20 for sure will be picked from this bunch and considering there are no games before the marquee tournament after Asia Cup, majority of the same group might be travelling to Australia as well.

The squad for the World Cup though might still see some changes. Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav might still be in consideration for a spot. Kuldeep especially as he bowled well in Zimbabwe and he does bring the necessary variation to the spin attack. The problem though is that the T20 World Cup is in Australia which means that India might not pick too many spinners in the squad.

The one position India have been experimenting a lot over the past 18 months has been the opening slot. Like all the formats in cricket openers are key in T20 as well. In the last World Cup, India openers failed to provide good starts in two most important games which meant that India struggled to put up good totals on the board. While experimenting and giving opportunities to players is fine, with the tournament so close India do need to identify who their 3 opening candidates will be.

In the last 18 months, India have tried as much as 11 different openers. In the ongoing series against West Indies as well India is experimenting with Suryakumar Yadav at the opening slot. It is strange that they are trying to get Sky to open as he just scored a brilliant hundred playing in the middle order against England last month. Rohit Sharma who will for sure open in the World Cup has played the most games as opener since January 2021. He has had 20 tries at the top followed by Ishan Kishen who has played 16 games. KL Rahul who when fit might be the other first choice opener has played 11 games.

Apart from these 3 India have randomly tried multiple people at the top. Ruturaj Gaikwad has played 8 games at the top, followed by Dhawan with 4. India have also tried Rishabh Pant, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav and even Virat Kohli at the top over that time. It does seem like Shikhar Dhawan might not be part of India’s T20 plans anymore as he wasn’t selected for any series this year in that format. Prithvi Shaw who just played one game and got out for a duck also does not seem to be in the radar. The rest though have been with the squad at various times over the past 18 months.

While it is okay to play around with the middle order and given them a taste of various positions in the batting order, the opening should always be a specialist one. If India thinks Ishan Kishen is their main option, they should be playing him at the top with Rohit in every game he is fit and available. I don’t see a reason why there was a need to disrupt Suryakumar Yadav’s middle order success to fit him in as an opener. This not only disrupts his rhythm, it also makes him lose confidence with some low scores. Yadav has been playing in the middle order in IPL and India and that is where he has had most of his success. So changing that isn’t going to help him, even for this one series.

This also upsets the rhythm for Rohit himself as he has been playing with so many different openers over the last year or so. As a combination you would like to open with someone you are comfortable with and it does seem like India quite unnecessarily have been meddling with this position. Ishan Kishen has played 16 games as an opener over the past 18 months and has 508 runs at 32 at a SR of 135. Good record in this format and should be playing as an opener when Rahul isn’t available.

This exactly was the way India approached the WC 2019 and T20 WC 2021 and what it created was a chaos and a inconsistent team combination which fell flat at the most important juncture of the tournament. While juggling the middle order is okay to provide players with chances and opportunities to spend time at the middle, the opening combination needs to always be settled. With KL Rahul not being available due to fitness and COVID, India should take opportunity to play Ishan Kishen as much as possible at the opening slot. Ruturaj Gaikwad who has played 8 games as an opener is also someone who could have been given a longer run.

The World Cup is just 2 months away and the right players aren’t getting opportunities to play. Unless India are genuinely thinking that Suryakumar Yadav is a opening candidate, he should not be playing that that spot. I feel India’s best bet at the top would be Ishan Kishen, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KL Rahul and off course Rohit Sharma. These are the only 4 players who should be playing at the top with more opportunities to get the necessary practice. The Asia cup squad would give us better insight as to what the team management and the selectors are thinking but again so far the combinations the team has been playing have been muddled.

Before we search for an answer to the question in the title, let’s look at the last two world tournaments India have been part of. After a heartbreaking loss at the 2017 Champions Trophy India made a host of changes in the years leading up to the World Cup in England. Most of the changes were welcomed by the fans and experts alike. The biggest failure of the Kohli-Shastri era in the limited overs format was their lack of patience.

When we look back at the 2019 WC, fans might say that India did very well. You cannot argue with them as the team reached the semi-finals in one of the toughest formats in recent times. India won most of the games in the league stage and were comfortable entrants into the knockouts. While the above was true, the wins in the league format just papered over the cracks which existed in the squad ahead of the tournament. While all of us wanted India to do well and win everyone knew the squad picked wasn’t right.

In the 2018/19 season India were touring Australia where the former managed to win their first Test series down under. Not only did they win the Test series, they also won the ODI series there. From Australia India travelled to New Zealand where they once again won the ODI series 4-1. The success of the above two mentioned wins along with an impressive 5-1 in South Africa a year ago was due to the fact that the Indian top order was in blistering form. The bowling was doing exceptionally well with Kuldeep & Chahal picking up wickets with their spin in the middle overs. Ambati Rayudu was India’s preferred number 4 and even though Virat hardly played the same XI in two consecutive games, the team did look settled.

The series in Australia & New Zealand was just a few months before the World Cup and for some reason every thing went haywire between those series and the WC in England. The squad selection was all over the place and India discarded Rayudu who was with the team for 2 years prior to that and picked Vijay Shankar from nowhere. Rishabh Pant made it to the squad as well despite not doing much in LOIs prior to the tournament. India did enter the tournament banking a lot of the top 3 which showed in their performances through the tournament. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were all in great form and they did kind of drag India to wins in the early part of the tournament and helped mask the mess which was the middle order.

India did get a glimpse of what could happen against Afghanistan but again a narrow win in that game made sure they did not learn much from it. The biggest problem for India was that for 2 years after Champions Trophy India failed to settle the middle order. The top order form meant that middle order hardly had to do much and players who were part of the teams over that time were discarded prior to the tournament. Shreyas Iyer who had some good games for India lost his place, so did Rayudu who did well for India averaging 50 over that time. The squad selection was so absurd that India ended up playing 3 genuine wicket keepers in the semi-finals against New Zealand. The injury to Shikhar Dhawan did not help India’s cause but again you don’t go to a tournament without a proper replacement for the openers. KL Rahul who started in the middle order was moved up to open and that left a huge hole in the middle order in the absence of Ambati Rayudu who was playing at that spot for 2 years prior to that tournament.

Vijay Shankar who played the first few games was discarded and India started playing random players in the middle order. When the top order failed in the semi-final the inexperienced middle order struggled to pull India out of the hole they dug themselves into way before the match began. The 2021 WC was similar in the sense, India went in with an unsettled batting order again depending on the top order who this time weren’t in form. The 2022 T20 WC in Australia unfortunately resembles the chaos India had before the 2019 WC. India’s first choice top 3 aren’t in greatest of forms and KL Rahul hasn’t played for a while.

The middle order isn’t any better with a host of names being thrown around but the only solace for India is the return to form of Y Chahal and Hardik Pandya. Majority of Indian first choice players are resting for this series against West Indies and for sure will not travel to Zimbabwe as well. This would leave a bunch of undercooked players turning up for the tournament with many of them not in form leading up to it.

I have lots of respect for Rahul Dravid as a coach but I feel he needs to make sure the mistakes of the last two tournaments aren’t repeated this time as well. Virat Kohli is a sure shot selection for the T20 WC but has no runs behind him leading up to the tournament and he isn’t playing any games right now. Rohit Sharma is shaky form and he isn’t playing much games either. KL Rahul is injured and hasn’t played much this year either. These are worrying signs. India are basically playing the next two series with second string teams with many of them vying for a spot in the squad. Squad selection is crucial and I hope players who have been performing well over the past year are given priority. Shreyas Iyer & Suryakumar Yadav should be in the squad and so should Deepak Hooda who will most probably play the games leading up to the WC.

India also need to make sure they have appropriate backups for each position and do not go in expecting there will be no injrues. Shubman Gill needs to be in the squad as well as an opener. The WC is still 3 months away but with limited games in hand, the selectors along with coach/captain combo need to make sure they pick the right players for the tournament. India have struggled to win major tournaments for a while now and this year will be crucial for Rohit/Rahul combo. They have had a good run in ODI/T20’s but again WC is a completely different challenge to the bilateral series they have been winning. India need to figure out their ideal playing XI which cannot be done with majority of the payers resting for most of the year. WC isn’t the place to experiment and if India want to make a mark in this world cup, they need to make sure they know what their best playing XI will be.

I grew up predominantly in the 90’s. My early tryst with movie reviews were through newspapers. We lived in Chennai and Hindu’s Friday feature was the only way to get a movie review at least till mid-90’s before satellite TV took over. Even though there were movie reviews in print in the 80’s & 90’s people went to the theatres solely based on either the cast or the director. Tamil cinema is one of the few industries where directors have the same pull as the actors. For example in 70’s & 80’s K Balachander, Mahendran, Balu Mahendra & Barathiraja had their own following and people will flock to theatres just to see their films. Even when movie reviews were prevalent in the print media in the 80’s word of mouth was still the preferred way of people finding out about the quality of a movie.

For example when a Rajini film released no one cared about reviews, you will see people standing in long queues to watch a film. Same with Kamal Hassan and other big stars. Once the first few shows were over, the audience talk will what will decide the fate of a film. Things have changed drastically over the past decade and with the advent of social media reviews are almost instant. While the audience post their reviews on Twitter while watching the film, there are 100’s of YouTube channels reviewing the movies as well. To be frank I have lots of respect for people who have their own YouTube channels. It takes courage to put yourself out there and talk about anything. There are a few creative channels while most of them are either reaction channels or movie review channels.

There are a few professional ones working for famous publications while others who have garnered subscribers through their content. I have no way of knowing credentials of any of these so called “Film experts” by just looking at their content though. It is very important for anyone who is reaching out to a large audience to understand that movie reviews are basically personal opinions. Something the experts these days seem to have forgotten. The popularity of their channel or the subscribers they have seems to have completely gotten to their head which makes for some cringe movie reviews. As a consumer of such reviews, the only thing I want to see is what the reviewer thinks about the film, what he/she likes or dislikes about the movie. I am not there to see some agenda driven rant or the reviewers trying to show off their knowledge of film making. As a common man I care a damn about some of the content of the reviews as it does not matter to me.

Also as a reviewer you need to steer clear of generalising. Everyone has the right to say they don’t like the movie but they cannot be under the illusion that they speak for others. The reason these “experts” have a huge following is because people actually respect their opinions. When that happens it also becomes the responsibility of the reviewers to stay balanced when they review the movies. Using their popularity to further their agenda or someone else’s agenda isn’t very ethical and that is the reason I steer clear of few of these channels these days.

The other irritating part about these YouTube channels is that they go looking for controversy as soon as some update on a movies comes about. A film releases it’s first single or a look or a teaser they immediately go on the streets with a mic and a camera asking people on the streets their review. Reviewing a movie is a tough art and being balanced is even tougher. I have hardly seen a few reviewers who give their opinion and let the audience make a call whether they would like to watch a film. That’s how it should be as trying to influence the audience is not why you review a movie.

The one thing everyone needs to understand is that there is nothing called a perfect film. A movie which is perfect for someone might not be for someone else. A film succeeds because there is something which keeps the viewers entertained throughout its runtime. That is exactly what the audience wants. Most of the reviews these days feel like they come right out of a film school. While it is good to show off your knowledge of film making, I feel that should be in a separate video and not in the review itself.

The biggest disappointment for me though is that while technology wise we have come a long way, the quality of movie critics has fallen in recent times. Things aren’t going to change much as in this age of competition people are ready to present controversial content to gather more views and subscribers. When that is what these channels aim for, you cannot expect them to give quality content to the viewers. The sad part is that the viewers also have gotten used to these substandard and agenda driven reviews that they seem to think that this is the norm. I have stopped watching majority of the review channels and only follow a few who I think try to provide balanced take on a film and leave rest to the viewers.

What do you think about movie reviews these days? Do you think they provide you with balanced views on a film? Or do you think they try to push their agenda on their viewers?

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so I have seen both the Doordarshan times as well as the satellite television boom in the mid-90’s. Before Satellite television came to India in the early 90’s movie stars were extremely elusive to the fans. They were like this larger than life hero figures in the mind of the fans who only appeared in films. In those times this actually helped a lot with success of films for these stars. This is how the star culture was formed. Fans who do not see their heroes other than on movie screen or posters rushed to theatres to watch them on the big screen.

In a way Tamizh cinema still has that star value. The elusive nature of the Tamizh stars has always worked in their favour. You would normally not see Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith or any major superstar making too many public appearances. This surely has helped them to maintain that culture which we see in some of the next generation actors as well. This means that most of the movies in Tamizh cinema comes with little or zero promotions, especially the big star films. For example Vijay’s interview for Beast earlier this year was his first in years but again you can say that he at least appears for audio release functions.

This lacklustre promotions from the stars has trickled down to the female leads and the supporting cast as well in Tamizh cinema. In recent times we have seen majority of the cast not being present for any promotions of a film. For example “Vikram”, the industries biggest hit this year had no promotions from any of the cast except for Kamal Hassan, Naren and Gayathrie. Recently Aatharva’s “Kuruthi Aatam” released after lots of struggle but again except for the hero and the director, none of the others were involved in any promotions for the film.

The biggest issue though hampering Tamizh film industry is that the release of a film is unknown to anyone at most of the times. The director of “Kuruthi Aatam” said in an interview that he just knew a week before that his film is going to release. We see a trailer released for a film and hope it will release in the near future but we end up seeing the movie a year or two later in theatres. This also causes issues for the cast to make themselves available for promotions. I understand that getting screens and taking the movies to the audience has become a huge problem in the industry but again the makers are making it difficult for their movies to succeed if there isn’t enough time to market their films. You might have a great product but if the audience don’t know about it, they are not going to come and see it. This is the era of OTT and you need to reach the audience big time if you want them to leave their home to watch a film. The big star films are fine as the fans will come in huge numbers just by watching a good trailer, but again that is not true for smaller films.

The other elephant in the room for Tamizh cinema is the Pan-Indian films. If we look in the past, Tamizh film industry was kind of the pioneers for Pan-India success. Manirathnam had Roja and Bombay and then we had Shankar’s Indian, Robot & 2.0 all being successful ventures all through the country. The biggest thing Tamizh movie makers need to learn now is that not all films are going to be successful when released through the country. The recent success of Telugu & Kannada cinema has taught us that there are certain type of films which appeals to the Hindi speaking public.

The Tamizh actors are extremely lucky as they have formed a great market in Southern states especially in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana but that’s not the case with Hindi audience. Yeah some percentage of the population knows some of the Tamizh actors through their dubbed films on TV but again that is not going to help sell the films there. The first thing is the content. It is very important as to what movies we are dubbing in Hindi language. The kind of cinema which would mostly work is Big mass masala films like Bahubali 1 & 2, Pushpa & KGF or Movies about our Indian culture like Karthikeya 2 or Nationalistic films well made like RRR. The second most important factor is promotions. People might say that Nikhil did not promote Karthikeya 2 nor did Dulqar for Sita Ramam but again these films did great in the Hindi market.

The reason for the same is that Telugu cinema has created a lot of goodwill with the Hindi audience. They have released the right kind of films with the right kind of promotions which has made the audience there to take notice of any film which comes from that industry. This is what Tamizh cinema has failed to do in the last few years. We are thinking like in the 90’s when Roja, Bombay, Indian succeeded we can just dub a film and release a trailer 10 days before the release and that will bring the audience to the theatre. It does not work that way now. In the 90’s before Satellite channels, just movie posters were enough to sell a film to the audience and if released at the right time people used to come to theatres. They did not have the alternatives they have now in terms of OTT or TV which meant that they had to look at cinemas for entertainment.

Now in this era where marketing and promotions are crucial just dubbing a film and releasing it in any language isn’t going to work. Tamizh cinema also has this very poor trend of releasing movie trailers just a week or 2 before the actual movie release giving the actors just about 6-7 days to do the promotions. That may work in Tamil Nadu but will not work in rest of the country. For example “Naane Varuven” movie touted to release on the 29th of September just saw a teaser release on the 15th of the same month. That is ridiculous but again Dhanush’s popularity means that the audience will make it to the theatres despite no promotions.

In the past 2 years we just dubbed Master, Valimai, Beast etc in Hindi and released them in theatres without any promotions. Most of the Hindi audience don’t even know what these films are, so you cannot expect them to come to theatres. For Vikram, Kamal tried his best but again the time for promotions was very less and he was the only one doing the same. If Tamizh cinema are really serious about going Pan-India with their films, they need to take a leaf out of Telugu and Kannada industry. They need to see how they promoted their films over the past few years and how they have made a market for themselves all over the country. I think the problem lies with the producers who want the film to go Pan-India but again cannot convince the actors to actually promote the films

Tamizh cinema needs to wake up and realise that the method which has been working for them for decades in the state isn’t going to help them sell films to different audience across the country. The producers should stop advertising a film as Pan-India if the actors aren’t game to aggressively promote their films all over the country. If the actors are happy to just have their films release in southern states, so be it, the producers to make the films for just that audience. The next big film which is going Pan-India is Ponniyin Selvan (PS1). The director is Manirathnam who has had huge success across the country with his films. The film is just 2 weeks away from coming in theatres but we haven’t seen any promotional activities. The movie is clashing with one of the biggest Hindi films of this year, Vikram Vedha and the crew is still not taking this seriously it seems.

PS1 is a film which has a possibility of succeeding all over India. It has a theme of Indian history which Hindi audience like and with right amount of promotions this might become Tamizh cinema’s biggest hit of the year. The only good thing about the cast of PS1 is that everyone is game to promote the films. Vikram, Jeyam Ravi and Karthi always promote their films well which works in favour of the makers. The film will take a huge opening in Tamil Nadu as it is our history and we will for sure flock the theatres to watch the film but again the film needs to be promoted aggressively in other states for it to succeed. Manirathnam has done this in the past with his Hindi films so I am hoping that he understands what needs to be done to take his film to the nook and corner of the country.

To be frank if PS1 fails in Hindi, I don’t think we have any chance of getting a successful Pan-Indian film in the future from our industry. The film has the right content and the right actors to go all out to take the film to the audience, so if this fails that means it will be on the makers to not give enough time for marketing. The good thing is that the movie stars Aishwarya Rai in an important role which means that there will be promotions at least in Mumbai but I don’t think that will be enough. If PS1 succeeds it might give a template to other makers from Tamizh cinema as to how to promote films which they seem to not aware of due to the no-marketing culture in the industry. The stars need to wake up and smell the coffee. They get paid ridiculous amount of money to act in a film and I feel they need to make an effort to help out the producers if they want to go Pan-India with the content.

I am a big Virat Kohli fan and like everyone I want him to come back to form and score loads of runs for team India. Since his last hundred against Bangladesh in 2019, Virat has struggled in Tests mostly but has had decent success in other two formats until recently. The home series and the one which just concluded in England hasn’t been very kind in terms of runs for the former captain. The problem also has been that in between these poor performances, Virat hasn’t been playing too much cricket. He did play in the IPL this year though with limited success for RCB.

After another poor series against England earlier this month, Virat has once again requested for a break thereby missing the series against West Indies. Over the past year or so the Indian superstar has hardly played any international cricket or otherwise except for the IPL. This is why these constant breaks need to be taken with a pinch of salt. As a star player in the team and one of the leading players in the world a prolonged struggle for runs mean you either play as many games as you can or try to improve form in domestic cricket away from the spotlight. Virat hasn’t done either over the last couple of years.

While the reason for Cheteshwar Pujara to represent Sussex might have been due to the lack of interest from the franchises to pick him, it is at least commendable that he forced his way back into the Test XI with performances. Virat Kohli hasn’t played much domestic cricket nor has he expressed any desire to play county cricket to try and get back some form. While mental fatigue might be one of the reasons for players to lose form, Virat’s issues seems technical too. The way he has been getting out in all formats over the past couple years shows that his weakness outside off stump has returned.

I am not saying that Virat isn’t working on his chinks but again practicing in the nets can only take you that far. It will be wonderful if Virat gets back his form and starts scoring runs again as that will make India much stronger in all formats but breaks aren’t going to help him achieve that. Rohit in no uncertain terms has confirmed that Virat Kohli will be part of the Indian XIs despite his lack of runs, so we will for sure see him in the team once he is available. The question now will be how long will that rope be extended to the legend before it runs out? The question only the team management can answer or maybe they don’t have to if Virat starts scoring runs again.

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