Wednesday, March 30, 2011

B for Bhajji, C for Catch, D for Drop,G for Gul,M for Misbah, W for Wahab

Millions of fans were treated to a fantastic game of cricket that didn't go down to the wire but was a fabulous game nevertheless with its series of high blood pressure moments, high swearing moments and high fiving(this doesn't exist, so what!) moments!

The stadium and indeed, the city, resembled more of an old fort where the kings and queens, on their thrones, would keenly watch the warriors with daggers and spears on horseback fight it out for ultimate glory with the denizens of the kingdom supporting in the loudest possible manner . Today, the kings and queens were the Prime ministers of the two countries, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and the respective cabinets. The warriors were 11 eager players from each country (India and Pakistan) fighting for glory and the denizens were billions of fans around the world watching the game via some technological innovation of the last century or the last decade.

India came out victorious but not before a fabulous fight from Pakistan.When India batted first after winning a crucial toss, things began at a frenetic pace. Sehwag played like he would in the Vasant Kunj ground against Delhi Division 3 cricketers, showing 0(Yes, ZERO) respect to the opposition bowlers ,specially Gul . So that brings us to G for Gul who contributed to the game and in this case, the victory, by getting swatted all over for just over 7 boundaries in his first spell. Even Sachin was a mute spectator till W for Wahab came by and got Sehwag first, then the sun-shades wearing Kohli and the Maharaja Yuvi, all in quick succession. He indeed was the Chupa Rustam because he wasn't supposed to be playing today! Akhtar out, Wahab in, meant a wonderful five-for for the talented south paw. In between these dismissals we had the most important moments represented by D for Drop and C for Catch. Pakistan provided unprecedented competition to Sri Lanka (they dropped Morgan 3 times) by dropping Sachin 4 times!Sachin ain't Morgan to not take advantage ! Add to that, Technology helped him twice with the result that he survived Six times before he made 85 when he was out finally. The Indians were in a bind when Ajmal , Afridi and Hafeez bowled ( and they did so brilliantly!) but somehow scratched around to 260 led by Dhoni's single game, Raina's impressive slog overs stint, Pakistani's friendly fielding and Gul's

At half time when the score read 260, many of us were firmly of the view that India had lost the plot, that they were one spinner short and that they can afford only one of Nehra or Munaf in the playing 11.(A leading newspaper has published a study that suggests India's athletic ability per minute or (AAM) goes down by 37% when both of them are on the field!!)Well, we were all proved wrong thanks to a fantastic team performance , imaginative and aggressive captaincy by Dhoni , some help from the dust bowl at Mohali and some help from the opposition !

M for Munaf( my friend calls him the bowling machine!) bowled a beautiful line to get Hafeez out and later Razzaq. B for Bhajji bowled a fantastic spell to get rid of the mighty dangerous Umar Akmal and Afridi and we thought we were well and truly through. Crucially enough, M for Misbah played a mysteriously scratchy, defensive, later converted to a partly aggressive innings that helped India seal the game! Before the team was reminded of what Misbah was capable of (remember Jo'burg in 20-20 final? ) , the door was shut on our neighbors thanks to an amazing knock where he consumed a lot more than he produced! It was a case of Misbah killing Misbah and for that alone, he deserved the man of the match award!

As the match ended, there was utter chaos and celebration around the Indian team and absolute gloom in the Pakistani camp , that promised so much but didn't deliver in crunch moments. Sonia Gandhi hurrayed, Aamir Khan smiled, Sreesanth jumped, the PMs clapped and an entire nation of one billion plus celebrated a wonderful victory that they will cherish for ages to come. As a result, we will know play Sri Lanka in the finals that promises poetic justice to the man they call the God of Cricket - Sachin Tendulkar - being played on his home ground , its the world cup final, a chance to go to his 100th century and a very good opposition . Now you know why the streets would be empty on Saturday!

Anyway, superbly played India, well played Pakistan , Thank you for the game of cricket. Now for the finals, Ladies and Gentlemen!!!!

The mother of all clashes !!!

Its the Day ... day everyone has been waiting for.... unbelievable hype, tickets being sold for more than a lakh of rupees and 2 very excited nations, PMs of both nations representing their nations at the stadium and billions of fans wanting to watch the match . Its India vs Pakistan in a World Cup semifinal and there hasn't been so much anticipation for a very long time (especially considering the fact that they were in different groups) .

Everything that needs to be said has been said .... everything that needs to be done has been done . Its time for the clash .... 90 mins to go ! Let the game begin!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Signs of Four

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and surprise , surprise, New Zealand are the semi finalists. Its a celebration for the sub continent teams as all of them came through in conditions most favorable to them . Whereas India outclassed Australia in a close ,tense match, Pakistan and Sri Lanka demolished the West Indies and England respectively. Biggest upset though was caused by the Kiwis . The South Africans simply collapsed as is their forte. Apparently, its come to a stage where every time there is a knock out , SA just collapse. The media, their opponents, the crowd - no one allows them to forget the dreaded 'C' word. Lets not take anything away from the Kiwis though. Lets look at the first semi -final then, between the Lankans and Kiwis.By the way, its their 6th World Cup semifinal . Exceptional for a country with just 4 million people and cricket not being their primary sport! Its like having a cricket team comprised of players from Jayanagar, Basavangudi, Indiranagar, Malleshwaram and Koramangala!

The visitors face an extremely challenging task of playing at the dancing and partying Premadasa, which is also THE Lanka fort! Home pressure also counts for something as was evident when the Lankans dropped Morgan 3 times but their superior batting led them through .

From the Kiwis side, Ryder and Taylor hold the key. Brendon Mccullum has promised much but delivered so little. Their lower middle order with the young but extremely talented Williamson, the quarter final man of the match, Jacob Oram and the captain himself, Vettori is very much capable of piling up the runs but can the big question is whether they can do it against Lanka's spin. Sri Lanka like in the quarter finals , will surely field 3 spinners and tackling them might be really tough on a slow and low wicket tailor made for the home team. Add Malinga's slingas to the mix and the entire match might be decided by whether the Kiwis will be able to handle Lanka's bowling.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka's top order is in unbelievable form - Dilshan, Tharanga and the golden 2 - Sanga and Mahela - with the top 3 in the top 5 scorers' list of this World Cup but if the Kiwis are somehow able to get through to the middle order , then the game might turn out to be interesting. The Kiwis won't forget the 2007 World Cup when they started off excellently but were done in by a Mahela Jayawardene master class. As always, Mahela and their inspirational captain Kumara Sanagakara are the key predators in their line up. Much will also depend on the field placements off Vettori . Having atleast 6-7 extremely athletic and flexible fielders would surely save 10-20 runs for the Kiwis but field placements are the key. On the bowling front, the black caps will field 3 spinners in Vettori , the younger and currently more accomplished Mccullum and I forget the 3rd bloke. It is going to be a battle between spin of the 2 sides and Lanka's top order vs Kiwis' middle and lower middle order!

Best way for Kiwis to pull off an upset (again)? - Taylor/Mccullum tackle Lanka's spinners and the Kiwi bowlers get the top 4 of Lanka out before the half way mark.

Best way for Lanka to pull off a victory - Top order tears apart Kiwis' bowling . Mahela and Sanga milk their bowling with their spinners going on the prowl during their bowling stint and Malinga running through the lower order.

Key questions - Will Muralidaran play ? Can the Lankans soak in the home pressure and the Kiwis' dare devil attitude to conquer ? We will know in the next 24 hours but If I have to put my money on one of the teams, it has got to be Sri Lanka with a 64% chance . You ask me how ? Well, I ran a complex algorithm starting with the Diffie Hellman Algorithm followed by running the player's statistics against a complex statistical analyser. Do you want to know more ???

Anyway, the stage is set then for a very colorful 1st semi final ,which is almost a blessing in disguise especially because the entire world is probably looking at the 2nd one!

Friday, March 25, 2011

An unforgettable screening of Nero's guests

This evening in office, a couple of people(Jive Matthew , one of them) organised a screening of Nero's guests - a Deepa Bhatia documentary dealing with suicides of farmers( Nero's guests takes its name from a Roman incident where Nero had a party thrown to people and to illuminate the place he had his men literally burn people.

The documentary turned out to be an hour of creating awareness about a cancerous disease that has spread to every nook and corner of the country. Leading the crusade for the last couple of decades has been the well known Hindu journalist Palagummi Sainath ( . In the documentary, he speaks about the various causes and illnesses that hamper our farmers and explains what we all know really well - that in this country, the rich get richer and the poor end up penniless. He ridicules the Western countries and our system which is hell bent on bowing before them. A colleague of his, once apparently said "The dream of an average Indian farmer is to be reborn as a cow in Europe"(coz' atleast there, the Govt. mandates spending 2.7 pounds/dollars per day on each cow..

He highlights the inadequacies in our society where 500 reporters travel and cover the India fashion week( which by the way happens twice a year) but can't have a dedicated reporter to talk about abject poverty. He ridicules the political system in which a finance minister can fly down to Dalal street within 2 hours of a stock market crash to pacify the sensitive , tear-jerker billionaires but takes a Prime minister 10 years of continuous deaths in Vidharbha(that's where the documentary is shot) to visit that city. He points out, almost in a matter of fact way, that the power cuts in Vidharbha mortuary and Govt. hospitals had to be stopped because there were 6-8 post postmortems to be conducted at various times of the day and night, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Shocking isn't it?

This powerful yet painful, eye opening documentary was watched by around 40 people and as you can imagine, shook us all up. Followed by that, we had people from Bangalore highlight issues currently being faced by farmers in Karnataka. Did you know that many silk farmers in Karnataka( the destination for 60% of the silk of the country) are now contemplating suicide, because the interest rates were brought down to 5% from 30% in the recent budget ? Did you know that the so called micro finance companies lend out money to farmers at 50% interest rates ?? Yes, you read that correctly , bloody 50% when vehicle loans are offered to the IT crowd at less than 5% interest. What sort of Government policies are we talking about here ? The kind of policies that help kill people easily ? What happened to all those values we learnt as we grew up ? Here is a story that was covered in a couple of newspapers (after a lot of convincing) about one of the farmer's suicides that happened recently - . Farmers, for your information, go ahead and take that step for loans of Rs 25,000. Why can't we do anything about this ?

Many of us middle class citizens, after reading about farmer suicides, just say that its unfortunate, curse the Govt. for a minute and don't do anything about it(I definitely am part of this list, unfortunately) and the so-called responsible media has almost stopped covering these topics because its considered passe. Today 10 farmers , tomorrow 100 and the day after, 1000 . Who cares ?? To the Rajdeep Sardesais and Arnab Goswamis of India - why don't you cover these topics extensively on your channels ? The best was what one of the editors apparently told some of the protestors recently - We won't publish about suicides because this will encourage other farmers to take this path. . That means that we should not talk about those several thousands and lakhs of farmers around the country who die every year.

What sort of a society are we living in ? Have we all become so materialistic and absolutely emotionless that we don't care one bit about the deaths ? Does it take a Sainath to wake us up every now and then before we go back to our slumber ? Wake up and try to do something about these. As one of my colleagues pointed out, it needs a determined effort to go to the other side to even contribute in some manner and to take that leap in this system in many ways, would also mean spoiling a lot of things for yourself. Do we have the courage to do that ?

I would urge all of you to watch this documentary. A snippet of that can be seen in this video ->

The action task force group in Bangalore have started to raise their voice and there is an email group that I will publish on the blog as soon as I am a member of that group. I hope and trust that we can all make a difference in any which way, be it by attending protest marches or making a monetary contribution or just lending support to this cause.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time for the Quarters!

30 days of non-stop cricket and we have ladies and gentlemen , the quarter finalists! Some would say the team list is predictable but most definitely it wasn't the case. Inspired performances from Ireland and Bangladesh kept one of the groups alive till the last match. If there ever was a prize for the most entertaining team in the league stage, the deserving winner would be England! With that background, lets look at the clashes and possible winners and match winners!

QF 1 : Pakistan vs West Indies - The match of the unpredictable nations though Pakistan I must say has been most impressive. The Windies haven't won a match against a renowned test nation as yet. Is this the match where they will fire ?

Key match moments and potential match winners (KMMPMW) - Pakistan's spin attack vs the Windies batting. Windies have a phenomenal ability to collapse leaving even gully tennis ball cricket teams far behind. If Pakistan bat first and score 250+ , then West Indies might have to bat out of their skins to win the game. Don't forget Gul. On the other hand, if the Windies play 3 fast bowlers - the 3Rs Roach, Russel and Rampaul (instead of the "nothing can affect me but i will still frown" Benn), then it might be interesting!
General Favorite - Pakistan
My favorite - My heart always supports the West Indies but more often that not my heart ain't right but hope it is this time!

QF 2 : India vs Australia - Some are already saying that this is the final before the final! India surely, I mean SURELY, go in as favorites. Australia seems to be wobbling with a lot of inconsistency in their ranks presently.

KMMPMW - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and Veeru against the Aussie pace attack. Ashwin and Zaheer vs Watson and Ponting. Hussey vs the Indians. Finally, the Batting Powerplay! India has gone from 9/29 to 7/51. Someone might mistake these numbers for Jim Laker or Anil Kumble's best bowling figures in a test match but this is India's performance this World Cup ! I will say this though , if Watson gets going and scores a hundred, Australia will win else India will ! India, avenge the 2003 World Cup final defeat. Do what the Aussies did to you ! Go India Go !!!

Favorites - India ! Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega ! 60-40 to India.

QF 3
: South Africa vs New Zealand - Hmmm, somehow seems like a no brainer . Out and out South Africa and I suspect this will be a one sided game unless Taylor and co. can go hammer and tongs against Steyn and co.

KMMPMW - New Zealand bowling vs SA top order - specially Hashim Amla and AB De villiers. Tahir and Peterson vs Taylor and Oram . Finally, Steyn vs the entire New Zealand team.

Favorites - South Africa unless they choke. It will be a HUGE upset if the Kiwis pull this off. 90-10 to South Africa.

QF 4
: England vs Sri Lanka - This , folks, promises to be a kickass clash! Sri Lanka's spin vs the English. Mahela and Sangakara vs the English. Premadasa vs the English. Mouth watering. Both teams have done well but Sri Lankans at home are clearly the favorites but England is probably the new Pakistan . Moreover, I stand to win 600 rupees if England wins the World Cup !!!
KMMPMW - Its all about how either team will play Spin. Murali vs Swann . Strauss vs Sangakara. Awesome clash! Also remember half the England team is out injured and that means, new faces but with fresh minds! Never ever count out Malinga but I have a feeling the bragging rights will end with Morgan !

Favorites - Sri Lanka
My Favorite - Sri Lanka but am excited to watch the English! Never thought I would say this (ever!)

4 days - 4 matches and we will have the semi-finalists!
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, ready steady go !

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Holi !

Friday at work is supposed to be a combination of boring as well as exciting, what with the weekend looming over and not many probably in the mood to work for long hours.

This past Friday was probably all of that but with there was an unusually high level of enthusiasm in the air thanks to a painting competition that was organised on the eve of holi . There was color everywhere in the canteen...poster colors, acrylic colors , white sheets to paint, various paint brushes, the completed and "in progress" works of art and most importantly the people.

Personally speaking, I am next to hopeless when it comes to painting but did give it a try. Lets not talk about the result but I have always wanted to do something similar to what Aamir Khan does in Taare Zameen Par during the painting competition. In the movie, he hangs up a sheet, does some drawing , throws some colors and paints on that in a most artistic manner , poses in weird angles to look at the effect, scrubs the colors on the painting with paper and even his own hands and the final effect is a masterpiece. Flashback to Thursday evening when I tried my luck with the paints. It had some of Aamir's effects but the overall effect was nothing short of ridiculous! What did happen though during this fortuitous time was that I met another colleague ,Jai(pronounced Zai for the relatively less knowledgeable folks like me!) , who was putting forth a very philosophical version of a human self-painting. We discussed our expertise in the world of art ( her expertise was definitely more than mine! ) and had a good laugh.

Cut back to Friday morning ,(the wait is indeed over!) Jai came over and suggested energetically that we do some crazy spray painting and indeed have the fun of throwing paint and colors and depict an awesome canvas at the end of it. People occasionally quote the legendary line from Godfather - "an offer that can't be refused" and this belonged to that category. What did we do next ? Zoomed up a series of newspapers , stuck them on the wall, "uploaded" a clean white sheet of paper, gathered some paints and water and the stage was set!! We started spraying paint in the most audacious of ways and soon we had several tens of thousands of colleagues ( ok that was an exaggeration) who came along to try out "THE" act of the day! The pure unadulterated joy of throwing color even satisfied your soul! We created a rule whereby the participants had to stand behind a line and hoist paint with their paint brush onto the canvas. We even thought of monetizing it! (For 5 rupees, you get 2 sprays! For 10 , you get 5 sprays(a good deal ?)) Jai tried the "J" in a way that was clearly inspired by Banderas' "Z" in the mask of zorro! In a single word, it was legendary!! It was aptly titled "Exclusively inclusive!"

The next act was equally awesome. We wanted to capture thumb/finger/hand prints on the white sheet and we soon had aesthetic artistic impressions from our colleagues who participated in large numbers to make it very memorable! Someone drew a flower with tips of their fingers, someone else left their "chaap" (literally like a stamp) , someone else left a good old tikka on the canvas. A myriad of colors and combinations adorned the "wall of thumbprints". All in all the entire event was super successful and I was bowled over by the talent and dedication of people who were participating. Paintings included, amongst others, colorful images of Lord Ganesha, wishing the Indian team, global warming, pure techie syndromes, welcoming the season of spring ,getting away from the corrupt black world and a variety of self portraits. A big thanks to the entire team that organized the event and to the absolutely insane and crazy Jai for going through with fantastic ideas!

What a way to welcome the most colorful festival in India! Happy Holi!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Paper tigers

Half time - India vs South Africa - India's Score - 296 all out

Someone who hasn't seen this would say "Wow! Awesome performance" but the fans who probably saw them collapse in the manner they did would be very angry, very irritated and deeply shocked !

It was almost like Indian cricket team of 90s and 2000s - Once Sachin falls, every one else follows. If Sachin ever told his team to follow him , he never ever meant that they should follow him back to the pavilion and at the pace at which they did.

To imagine that they were 267/1 and lost their last 9 wickets for 29 runs, is just worse than club cricket. 0 3 1 0 0 0 were some of the scores that our Indian batsmen had against their names on the scoreboard. Our cricketers forgot the concept of singles! So to remind all of us , if you touch the ball with your bat and run across to the other end from where the bowler just bowled (and the nonstriker runs to your end provided you are not caught) , then 1 run is added to your score! If you touch the ball with other body parts and run across, you still get one run (if you are not LBW etc etc).

Many proverbs/phrases were probably made just for the Indian team , an example being "falling like nine pins".

By the way, if someone asked you who is the best bowler of the world cup you must (MUST) tell them that its the batting powerplay.

Last but not the least, a big salute to Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. An amazing amazing knock with those trademark straight drives , flicks, cuts, sixes !!! The guys in the dressing room were posing when he was batting and even seemed like they wanted to bat. No one even tried to bat after that! My teacher once said "Paper tigers" with reference to students' writing exams but that quote is so very apt for our batting today! So paper tigers, will you turn out to be bowling and fielding tigers later today ?

Well the game is over and South Africa fought and fought till they won. Hitherto not so good cricketers come good against India and Peterson showed just that right at the end.

India were 10-15 runs short thanks to their woeful batting. Dhoni's luck finally ran out. Maybe Bhajji who had a fabulous day getting the crucial wickets of Amla, AB Deviliers and Duminy, should have bowled the last over . Who knows what would have happened ? Bowling a intoxicated looking Nehra in the last over was in hindsight, a massive mistake. The fielding surprisingly was pretty decent but as they say in life , you pay for your deeds and India did on the cricket field for their miserable collapse. India probably didn't deserve to win today. As Dhoni summarized in his post match conference - "Play for the country , not for the crowds"! As a result, no one has qualified for the quarter finals from this group !!!

Last point - Guys, please win when Tendulkar scores a century :P

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Return of the Enigma - Yuvi

A 19 year old burly left handed batsmen walloped Glenn McGrath for a straight four , a lazy flick and another straight four. The world sat up and took notice and there were immediate questions about who the boy was, who batted fearlessly against the Aussies scoring 84. It was none other than our Punjab da Puttar, Yuvraj Singh.

Trained by his dad Yograj Singh and at a later stage, Bishen Bedi, Yuvi, as he is popularly known, soon became one of the mainstays of the batting line up in One day internationals. What followed after that must have made the roller-coaster creator proud! Many cricket experts made fun of his batting style and technique (remember Boycott?) and that he could never ever play cricket that mattered the most - Test Cricket. He even proved them right through a series of crazy disastrous performances but in One days, he was always there. He was groomed as a cricketer by probably the best Indian captain ever, Sourav Ganguly and was extremely fortunate to have played alongside the big 4 of Indian cricket. He eventually did play tests and scored some memorably hundreds but he was known for his exploits in the shorter format.

There was a period (close to a couple of years) that started at the 2007 20-20 World Cup when Yuvi could do no wrong. He had hit 6 sixes in an over, was a crucial cog in the Indian 20-20 line up that won the World Cup and terrorised most nations , specially England at home when everyone else was struggling. He was regularly seen on TV either on ads or umpteen interviews or on Awards night ,dancing away with Shahrukh Khan. His captain (Dhoni) said that he stood out when compared to Tendulkar. He could do no wrong. But life , as they say , is funny. Just when things seem to be totally in control, you realise they aren't !!!

IPL came, he just couldn't captain well nor play. There were regular questions about his attitude and commitment . The media always (I mean always) put up pics where he was only seen partying wildly. He made stupid mistakes like calling Tendulkar a Grandfather in the media. He behaved poorly in a match against Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan crowd. He was dropped from the test squad, there were injuries, there were regular linkups with actresses and supposedly even had an altercation with a journalist. Suddenly there was this massively built cricketer (punjab ka sher as many people referred to him!) who had performed consistently well for close to 7-8 years or more, and now was made to look like a mere mortal.

I always wonder what goes through a player(in a more generic sense, a human being!) when they have seen the peaks and suddenly have to face the troughs. Life is pretty much like a mine field especially for public celebrities - you step on a mine and boom, the media and the known and the unknown enemy( More of the unknown enemy in another blog post but for now, lets just say that its not wise to trust everyone you think you can trust!) rips your mental framework apart. Slowly, incidents are blown out of proportions, things play on your mind, everything cascades into something double or triple of what it actually is and the celebrity is almost given a public burial !

From a similar situation, our man had to fight back. Did he ? Yes !!! One of my first observations was after the IPL auction this year when Punjab dropped him and Pune team picked him. In a press interview, he said that he had nothing to comment about the auction and he was there( wherever the interview happened) to play for India.

Even when the World cup started, his traditional No 4 position was someone else's and there was probably the least spotlight on him coz' not many expected him to play well ! The Sehwags , Dhonis, Tendulkars and Kohlis figured in every interview, ads, pre-match and post-match interviews and our man was in the background,working hard to be part of the team.

He has worked very hard on his bowling to add to his batting and fielding skills as was evident in the run up to the World thup and even during the games so far where he has bowled really well. What has been most impressive is his batting. There seems to be a calm and composed ( mature is probably the right word ) outlook and has played well in every game where he has had a chance. Its probably too early to say if he is going to be the Chupa Rustum this World Cup ( Don't jinx his performances!) but I must say there is every indication of that happening!!! Lets wait and watch how things shape up for Yuvi and Team India but in the mean time ,I can only say this - Chakde Phatte Yuvi!!!

Monday, March 07, 2011

India vs Ireland @ Chinnaswamy

Finally, I mean FI - NA - LLY , I got a chance to see a match live in the stadium. It was a match between India and the much-improved and dangerous Ireland. A few of us friends, especially Ankit ( oh a bad poem awaits you at the end of the blog) was kind enough to buy me a ticket for today's match even before the Irish beat England.

We reached the stadium around 11.20am for a 2.30pm match to find tons of people in blue, all dressed to support India, loads of policeman, chaotic traffic outside the stadium, many flag sellers and flag painters( we got one painted on Ankit's face!). First thing that caught our attention were banners and we bought a couple of them coz' they were so bad !!! You can see one right here as part of this post. How and Who comes up with lines like these ???!!!!

It was my first experience at any stadium for a one day international . I know what you're saying! Even I can't believe it. After waiting for eternity for our dear friend, during which we came up with that hopeless poem( see right at the end of this post but first read this!),we went up and ran around for 25 mins surveying the situation and trying to find the most optimum place from where we could catch all the action. Did so eventually and tried drawing out some cartoons on paper so that we could somehow be captured by some camera !! The sketches were soon in place and we waited and waited for the "boys" to come out for practice. Funnily, have you ever thought about the fact that whatever be their age, the cricketers still remain boys , eg The boys played hard etc. Anyway, the stadium was filling in fast and long last, we saw the cricketers on the field. Didn't recognize many Irish faces( will take more time I suppose) apart from their coach, Phil Simmons of WI. I never fail to recognize any West Indian...

Soon, there were Gambhir( or Gambeer as our foreign commentators pronounce) and Pathan lethargically walking on the field. 10 mins passed by and there was suddenly a deafening roar. We also joined in(crowd mentality) and what I saw gave me my first goose bump moment of the day. In the backdrop of the pavilion, there was Sachin Tendulkar walking onto the ground, with his gloves and bat tucked under his shoulders, a cap on and looking absolutely focused, calm and determined. That very moment was sufficient to underline the man's greatness. A huge bow to you Mr Tendulkar!

2pm came by and it was the "Toss" time . A huge roar followed Ravi Shastri's "Good afternoon Bengaluru". Dhoni won(Yes! He does win tosses!) and put the Irish in. As we prepared for the start, the 2nd goose bump moment occurred. The stadium was pretty much jam packed. The boys of both teams walked onto the field in their colors for their respective national anthems. Everyone stood. The Irish anthem came first. "JanagaNa mana" then followed.It was out of the world! 38000 sang the anthem in unison. I will remember those 52 seconds for a very long time . They gave me the strongest goosebumps of the day. It was truly magical. Felt very proud to be an Indian.

The game started on time (2.30pm) and Zaheer sent 2 of them back to the pavilion. From 9/2 the Irish recovered well. Any other minnow team might have collapsed but the Irish did well till they shot themselves in the foot through a stupid run out. Around the time the Irish were consolidating, our very own Venky aka Venkatesh Prasad made a dramatic entry to the part of the ground where we were seated, in a pink shirt( who wears a pink shirt!) but did some checking with the policemen about the seating arrangements. Loud cheering followed for Venky! Back to the game...A couple more men came and went and then the stage was set for Irish's most popular cricketer in the last few days - Kevin O'brien(KOB). There was a massive roar(Maybe Bengaluru will award some sort of citizenship to O'Brien or RCB might soon opt for this guy) and the expectations were high. Piyush Chawla( who looked like he should have been eating Chawal in the dressing room) got hit for a 4 by O'brien and the crowd went berserk! Seemed like Tendulkar's relative was batting.

At this stage something else happened that changed the course of the game decisively! This requires a bit of background though.So, superstitions are ripe in cricket and there are always stories about how cricketers/even people in the ground or at home don't move when a key member of the team is playing and hits a 4 or even a 6. To elaborate, the rule states that a person should remain in the state of motion or rest till some such time that the Universe conspires to get the batsmen out or wickets stop tumbling depending on who you supporting.

Back to the game, immediately after that 4 , for some reason, my friend Ankit felt thirsty and wanted a pepsi(first 30 overs he didn't need it!!) So without telling anyone about when he wanted to implement his plan(Yes! He forgot the damn rule),he stood up, took one step and DHAN!!!! KOB got out! AHHHHH. There was total silence in the stadium. It was surprising to see not many people celebrating. The Irish then checked in and out ( like source code) with little development to the score. The only man who made merry was Yuvi! He got a five for and probably those are his best figures. In the meantime , what was consistent in that entire session were a series of Mexican waves and occasional crazy Saaaachinnnnn (spread across 4 rhythmic beats),sachin(spread across only 2 such beats) cries every time the maestro touched or even walked somewhere close to the ball. The Irish set India 208 to win and our dream chase was as follows: Sehwag and Sachin score 100 runs in 10 overs ,and Sehwag gets out, Pathan comes in and Bam bam bigelow! Game is over in 20 overs. These kind of dreams somehow remain only as dreams.

India resumed their innings. The 3rd goose bump moment occurred.I am sure you have guessed this one. The crowd went NUTS( in capitals) when Sehwag and Sachin walked in. Sehwag fell first, then Gambhir followed suit. Tendulkar seemingly was playing great but he fell too! There was some level of tension when Kohli fell but Yuvi( the golden man,maybe he got inspired by Bappi Da?) and Dhoni ensured that the crowd went to sleep with their singles. Rare crowd "yayy"s woke up people in the stadium, either when a catch was missed or when the 2nd run was taken. I MUST say this though. The Irish were 10 times better than the Indians on the field. They were truly outstanding. As the game went on and on, Dhoni fell and deafening cries welcomed Yusuf. God bless Yusuf! His arrival woke up the crowd. He came in and launched a dhamaka ! 4 6 6 and another 6 a bit later sealed the match for India. But the Irish were fantastic and I don't think any team should underestimate these fellas!

We walked out once it was over as no one needed to even think to guess who the man of the match was! To summarize, it wasn't the greatest match that you would like to watch in a stadium but nevertheless, it was not the worst one as well and combined with the fact that this was a World Cup match, featuring India against not-so-minnow quality Ireland , it was Paisa Vasool!

If you have come till here ,then you deserve the poem ! (credit goes to Abhishek and myself)

(Abhi):Ankit called me in the morning and told me he's going to be late,
and asked my friends and myself to wait.
(me): I am telling you that you should not fall for the waiting bait,
lest you miss the game by somehow tempting fate,
in which case you should go catch a movie of Winslet Kate.
As we create this, Ankit might call and say "How are you mate"
We would tell him to land on Museum road and walk right ahead to gate number eight,
and land up if not on time,at least on the same date!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Ajab Afridi ki Ghazab Cricket and Captaincy

5 4 5 - if you were wondering whether those are the first 3 digits of my debit card pin, you are indeed wrong! That my friend, are the number of wickets the Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi has taken in the first 3 games of the World Cup (serially). Some people thrive under pressure and Afridi is definitely one of them. History tells you that to captain a Pakistan cricket team really well and more importantly win games , you need a strong individual who commands the respect of the team. Right from Zaheer Abbas ( who the Indians, including Gavaskar referred to as Zaheer Ab Bas coz' of the plethora of runs he used to score against India) to the legendary World Cup winning captain Imran Khan to the Sultan of Swing Wasim Akram, Pakistan has been blessed with certain individuals who had the ability to fire up an entire team and their massive crowd base with superlative, leading from the front performances. To this list, I would add this year's World Cup captain Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi.

A bit of history about this man. He burst onto the scene as a 16 year old (though some say he was 19), in the late 1990s with the fastest 100 in ODI cricket of just 37 balls (record that still stands). Since then, cricket watchers across the world sit up in anticipation almost every time Afridi comes to the crease. More often than not, being an Afridi fan myself , he has been disappointing . But then, his contribution to the side doesn't end there. He has always been a good fielder and over the years, has improved his bowling tremendously. My first memories of his bowling were when he snapped Brian Lara a couple of times in Australia during a tri-series but from then to now, there is sea change of difference in his variations and his general consistency.

If we look at his career, for every ball tampering incident (remember him biting the ball ?) , there has been an incident similar to the one where the bookmakers have said that it was impossible to tempt Afridi into any kind of wrongdoing. Cut to just 2 weeks before the World Cup , the selectors hadn't even named the captain as yet since Misbah-Ul-Haq had led the team superlatively in New Zealand. There seemed to be utter chaos in their camp in the lead up to the tournament. But as usual, every person who understood cricket kept saying, don't underestimate the Pakistanis.

Soon, Afridi was named captain for the World Cup and I must say he has been exceptional. Right from his first press conference where he said that he wants to win the cup for people back home to his performances in each of the 3 games ,in crunch situations, he has been bang on !

His body language on the field has been outright aggressive. He has been fielding brilliantly , making the right bowling changes, rebuking his own bowlers at times for bowling rubbish and celebrating in his trademark style with his hands raised up to the heavens above. That he is the leading wicket taker in the tournament at this moment isn't surprising! He hasn't clicked with the bat as yet but going by the way he is bowling right now, that might not even be needed !

Long back I read somewhere that Leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way and through his performances so far , Afridi has proved himself to be a Leader. To the rest of the teams - better be wary of Pakistan coz' they are well and truly ON!!!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Why the Irish will celebrate MahaShivratri in 2011

Om Namah Shivaya. While the entire country is celebrating Mahashivratri, there is another country celebrating inside India thanks to a hugely impressive cricketing win - Ireland. As David Lloyd screamed "This is it , this is it this is it", an entire nation must have silently said "this is it in cricket". Wooooo hooooooo !!! They came up with an unbelievably stunning performance to beat their arrogant(at times!), cricket wise more accomplished country-cousins England in our very own Bengaluru. From the evidence that we have so far, apparently Bengaluru hosts the awesomest and bestest matches of the World Cups held in Sub continent. Remember Jadeja vs Pakistan and Prasad vs Sohail in 96 or the India vs England game just 3 days back (see my prev blog post for more details) ?

I must say when I saw the Englishmen in the afternoon beating the Irish bowlers all over the park , I thought the match would be over by 8pm IST. Who would have given the Irish a chance to chase a mammoth 328? The half time joke was that the Irish bowled better than India coz' they conceded only 328 compared to 338 that India conceded!

The Irish then played and man, did they play out of their skins. They were 5 down for 113 and am sure most of the Englishmen were thinking of packing up soon and heading out to a bar. But but but Kevin O'Brien had different ideas. Apparently around the same time he started batting , some of the Indians taught the Irish how to chant "Om Namah shivaya" !

I switched to Star Cricket around 9pm hoping to catch some post match theatrics from Irish turbaned Sidhu , Bhogle and team but was stunned to see Brien batting on 76 from 38 balls and you bet, we didn't change the channel after that ! Brien's knock was reminiscent of Vivian Richards in the way he played minus the swagger but he more than made up with his reddish pink hair(apparently, the brothers look so similar that the team had difficulties identifying who's who between them and Kevin offered to color his hair! That was my joke , no offense! On a more serious note, its for charity fund raising ) He tonked 13 powerful boundaries and 7 massive sixes,including the biggest six of the tournament en route to the fastest World Cup hundred ever!!! It was wonderful to see the 100 celebrations from Brien, the Irish team , his parents and the "always support the underdog" crowd.

What was also on display during the chase was a great cricketing brain from the Irishmen. I can't say the same about the English though! For example ,once Brien reached his hundred , the supporting cast of Cusack and Mooney played the aggressor's role while Brien played second fiddle. At a crucial juncture, Cusack even sacrificed his wicket to help Brien stay at the crease.Cool , calm , composed batting towards the end helped them beat their "we had no idea what to do" bigger brothers. As the captain described at the end of the game , this was the day of their lives. What a difference 3 days can make. Strauss could do no wrong with the bat on Sunday and he had no clue what to do right after the 25th over on the field!

Finally, O'brien told Michael Atherton that they won't be able to celebrate in the bars tonight coz' of the 11pm rule in Bengaluru. Its a pity that the city would miss the famous Irish drinking songs and celebrations (hopefully tomorrow evening they can indulge in the famous pubs of the city!) but hey, the Irish can definitely go ahead and witness celebrations across the city on probably the only night when tons of people would be outside!

Whats next for England ?? They have to recover somehow (no idea how !) and try their best to beat South Africa whereas the Irishmen will face the Indians, again in Bengaluru.(Both games on Sunday). Oh and don't forget an expensive IPL Contract going out for O'Brien. Till then wish you all a happy "jaagarane" if you're going to stay awake the entire night. Wish you all a very happy Mahashivratri! Om namah shivaya.