Monday, December 28, 2009

Indian Cricket: The decade that was...

From being labeled 'lions at home and lambs abroad' to being crowned numero uno in tests, team India has taken a billion people along on an exhilarating  journey that has witnessed a lot of highs and a few lows. What follows is, in my opinion,a summary of moments that hold special significance in the team's story during the last decade in chronological order.
  •  Champions Trophy 2000,Nairobi:Where it all began
The foundations of an aggressive and resurgent team India were laid right here, when India defeated Australia in a nail biting encounter, against all odds. Two guys- both southpaws-one with the bat and other with the ball-made their mark. Yuvraj Singh with a blistering 84 followed up Sachin's aggressive cameo (one of the rare occasions where the little master actually swore at McGrath)  and Zaheer Khan's bowling at the death which included that classic yorker to Steve Waugh turned out to be the defining performances of this match. The match might have faded into the horizon of public memory now, but this was the beginning...
  • Eden Gardens,2001: VVS Laxman,Rahul Dravid. Period.
Need we say more? In one of the greatest tests of all time,David had felled Goliath. And what a match it was. The Aussies had India by the scruff of their necks, and by the end of the 2nd day it appeared as though the final frontier would be conquered with ease. But standing there were two mild mannered gentlemen who turned  warriors and carried out one of the most impossible come-from-behind acts. And the rest,as they say, is history. To this day, teams around the world think twice before imposing a follow on. All thanks to this classic.
  • The  Lords' balcony and Sourav Ganguly: The Natwest final '02
"Bowled himmm!!! this was on the cards..."  screamed a despondent Harsha Bhogle from the commentary box as Ashley Giles castled Sachin Tendulkar with India tottering at a precarious 146/5 or something, chasing a then-monumental score of 326. Who knew that two youngsters, in their early 20's would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat from there. Yuvraj Singh and Mohd Kaif's inspirational partnership blended   frenzied running between the wickets and counter attacking stroke play and in the process scripted one of India's most celebrated wins.The twosome did a Houdini act, right in front of an exasperated Nasser Hussain and team. And who can forget  that once-in-a-lifetime reaction from Sourav Ganguly which is now part of cricketing folklore.
  • World Cup 2003:The Australian jinx
If I've got my memory right, we lost only two matches in that whole tournament and both were against the eventual champions, Australia. Between these two matches however, Sourav Ganguly and his team played some really inspired cricket in the face of fans turning fanatics and going on the rampage back home after that humiliating first round loss to Australia. It took a certain Sachin Tendulkar to appeal for calm and support. The whole team rallied around each other and played like deserving champs, only to be humbled by the brats from down under.
  •  "Do you realize whose catch you've dropped?"
The tension was palpable and the hype leading up to this match had attained  fever pitch. The match lived up to all that hype and how. Sachin Tendulkar's upper cut six over third man off Shoaib Akhtar in the innings of a lifetime elevated this contest to a different level altogether. Up against a stiff target set by Pakistan with their impressive line up of fast bowlers (Wasim Akram,Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar) the Indians rose to the challenge and maintained their world cup record against Pakistan unblemished. Not to forget that  assuring partnership from Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh which saw India home.
p.s. The quote at the beginning is what Wasim Akram said to Abdur Razzak after the latter dropped Sachin early on in his innings. This was said in Urdu of course.
  • India v Australia, 2003-04: Exorcising the overseas ghost
Steve Waugh almost ended up with a loss in his farewell series, thanks to  some really compelling cricket from the Indians. It all started with that brilliant 144 by Ganguly  at Brisbane on a seaming wicket. It all culminated in Adelaide with India's first victory, the chief architects being Rahul Dravid,Ajit Agarkar(with the ball in case you are shocked!) and VVS. Though we lost at Melbourne, the final one in Sydney saw Australia just scraping through. The series was fought against all odds and considering that we were whitewashed 3-0 in our previous outing ('99), this one is right up there among the best.
  •  T20 World cup, 2007: A Mallu in every corner of the world, including one at short fine leg at the Wanderers
Misbah-ul-haq,more than anyone else will agree to this Indian adage about folks from Kerala.As Sreesanth tantalizingly held on to that scoop from the Pakistani  off Joginder Sharma, a nation erupted in joy. In what would later turn out to be the precursor for the IPL and the T20 revolution, this inaugural world cup gave us some eminently memorable moments-none more than Yuvraj's six sixes in that 'Broad' over and that heart-stopping  bowl out against Pakistan in one of the earlier matches. For me, the more significant consequence of this victory was the emergence of MS Dhoni as a fearless and attitude oozing leader of men who would , eventually help India scale the test summit.
  • India v Australia, 2007-08: When Ricky Ponting ate humble pie
By this time, the India-Australia rivalry was (and still is) being spoken of in the same breath as that of the Ashes. This particular tour vindicated that hype. From  the infamous monkeygate  incident in the Sydney test to the redemption in Perth, the team gave back as good as they got. Anil Kumble's leadership during those times is nothing less than the stuff of legends.Ricky Ponting and his men might have won the test series, but not any admirers. Anil Kumble stood vindicated with his "there-was-only-one-team-playing-in-the spirit-of-the-game" quote. We had lost but we won. As a sort of poetic justice that was to follow, the team under MS Dhoni thrashed the home team in the tri-series finals. This too, was after some of the seniors were axed from the ODI side and the seniors v juniors debate started raging. Not to forget, the little master's brilliant innings in the two finals. :)
  • The fab 5
This is not about just one particular moment or series, but the relentless pursuit of 5 gentlemen known as Sachin Tendulkar,Rahul Dravid,Sourav Ganguly,VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. The golden generation of Indian cricketers whose efforts in the last ten years or so have led us to the peak today.With their combined exploits, they helped build the team brick by brick, inspired youngsters,guided them and have been the source of joy for a billion fans. We have already seen the last of a couple of them,and the rest will soon hang up their boots sooner than later.
There have been many other moments too, which deserved a mention, but for the sake of keeping this short (I know it is already long) I'm not discussing them here. Some of those include the India-Pakistan matches at home and away, the famous triumph over Australia at home (which was Sourav's and Kumble's last series) , the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka and so on. The peak on which our team stands right now is actually the result of the journey the men in blue undertook ten years back and in due course they scripted many a memorable tale, some of which are highlighted above. Hope the next decade will continue to be as exciting, if not more, for we stand to witness the farewell of Sachin,Rahul and VVS in a few years time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A figment of my imagination...

Time for some time-travel now. Lets go back to the future-say 16 years from now in the year 2025. Following is what I guess will dominate the headlines. This is just an extrapolation of the current state of affairs in the world in general and India in particular.
And yes, you’ll do well not to take it too seriously…

1.India submits yet another dossier on the 26/11 attacks to Pakistan; President Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari says proof still not conclusive. 

Pakistan today categorically dismissed India’s 100th dossier on the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. In a press conference president Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari unequivocally reiterated the historical stand Pakistan has taken on all the dossiers and proofs provided by India so far, that it was still not good enough to say that the attacks were planned in Pakistan or by Pakistanis. He also accused India of trying to tarnish Pakistan’s clean image on the issue of terrorism.

2. Kasab trial drags on to a record 18th year;still no sign of a verdict.

Chief accused in the Mumbai terror attacks Ajmal Kasab continued his antics in the Mumbai high court and complained of the lack of high speed broadband connectivity at his Arthur road jail campus. He further went on to crib about various restrictions being imposed by the jail’s network support team which allegedly prevented him from downloading movies , songs  and viewing streaming videos. The judge then adjourned the proceedings for the day and directed the jail authorities to address Kasab’s issues under tremendous pressure from various human rights groups and intellectuals who have been accusing the government of inflicting torture on an under trial prisoner whose complicity is yet to be proven.

3. Narendra Modi praises Benazir Bhutto in his book, faces expulsion from BJP on grounds of going against the ideology.

Former BJP president Narendra Modi  invited the party’s ire after the his latest book on India-Pakistan relations hit the stands yesterday. In the book Modi  has apparently praised Benazir Bhutto as one of the most attractive women he had ever seen and has also admitted to having had  a crush on the slain Pakistan PM. The BJP ’s disciplinary committee for literary affairs rushed into a meeting and immediately came out with a suspension order on the former president on grounds of deviation from the party’s core beliefs. Modi  on the other hand displayed a devil-may-care attitude and went on to add that it was not as if he was attracted to Pakistani ladies only and that he has also harbored a deep infatuation for the yesteryear’s bombshell Mallika Sherawat.

4. China makes new claims over Madhya Pradesh,condemns PM’s visit to Bhopal.

In keeping with its outrageous tradition of making ridiculous claims on areas that are integral parts of India,China today raised the bar a few notches higher by crying foul over today’s Prime Minister’s election rally  in Bhopal. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman read out a strongly worded communique issued by the government which condemned the visit saying such actions in disputed territories would seriously undermine peace in south Asia. On the other hand, the Indian foreign affairs ministry  officials dismissed the claims as baseless and went as far as suggesting that they had better things to respond to.

5. Mayawati defies critics;announces plans  for more statues

Within weeks of being voted to power in UP after a landslide victory in the recently concluded assembly elections, CM Mayawati announced plans of building more  statues of herself  in a press conference held at Lucknow. Justifying the expenses that would be incurred for the same, she said that it would help generate a lot of  employment for a large number of sculptors and give opportunities to  thousands of laborers.She further added that she was just fulfilling the wishes of the public who have been yearning for more and more statues of her. On the question of land and space for the construction of the statues, Mayawati replied that no additional land would be needed as her statues would be replacing street lights on the roads and then fitted with tube lights. One of the reporters present at the press conference couldn’t help saying “what an idea behen-ji!!”

6. Test and ODI cricket to be part of history lessons in school says HRD Minister Sourav Ganguly

Union Minister for human resources development and former Indian cricketing great Sourav Ganguly said that the government has finalized plans to introduce lessons on cricket in history textbooks for class 6 onwards in CBSE affiliated schools. Elaborating on this he said that the current generation of kids were being brought up on a diet of T20,T10 and the more recent High-Fives’ and it was important that in a cricket crazy country like ours the younger generation ought to know the roots and origins of the game-the antiquated 5 day and 1-day versions. He also appealed to college goers to stop circulating SMS  jokes that mocked at the  the older versions, which he felt deserved a lot of respect.

7. T20 legend Rohit Sharma goes hammer and tongs at new format,says High-Fives is killing the game.

In a scathing attack on the newest 5-over format of cricket,batting legend :D  :P  Rohit Sharma said that the latest version is out to kill T20 cricket,which according to him is sacrosanct. He also cautioned young and upcoming cricketers against getting carried away by what he called as ‘bikini’ cricket and said that the 20 over game was still the best and most challenging format of all the three,T10 and High-fives being the other two. Some veteran journalists present at the press conference however took this opportunity to remind him about how T20 had led to the extinction of the then-holy-and-sacrosanct ODIs and 5 day games.To this poser however, the former India player appeared defensive.

So with that,ends my news bulletin. :)
The more things change, the more they remain the same. This is the one liner that helped me spawn all these stories in  a futuristic light. However, these are just what the blog is titled- figments of my imagination.

p.s. I am an incorrigible optimist. So I hope and  know that none of the above will be true in 2025. May be the Mayawati one will,who knows! And of course the death of the longer versions of cricket. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Crystal gazing on T20

Even as Lalit Modi and his cohorts continue to brag about the apparent revolution that they have brought about in cricket with the IPL and the Champions league T20,it remains to be seen whether this so called watershed actually benefits the game or kills it. If one were to go by Modi's vision, he sees cricket entering the domain of soccer- where the club/franchise based games will emerge and push international cricket to the background. While the effects of T20 have been more than obvious now on the 50 over version with people calling for curtains on the latter ,international cricket still remains the bread and butter of the game. We still haven't reached a stage similar to soccer ,where the various premier leagues and the UEFA champions league take centerstage.Lalit Modi's intentions ,apparently are to popularize the game. But amid all the din and dazzle of  T20,lurks the danger of a premature extinction of the game atleast outside the sub continent.

So we potentially have two situations that could arise out of the Lalit Modi 'revolution'. Both ways, club cricket will come to the fore and relegate international cricket to the back burner. ODIs will be part of cricketing folklore, or at best played once in 4 years in the form of world cups. The first situation would be that of the gentleman's game treading the football-path. What that would mean is cricket being embraced in new places like Russia,China, south-east asia,africa and possibly the Americas.The Indian Premier League would then be bracketed with the great soccer leagues of the world like the EPL, the Primera Liga et al  and the CL T20 would emerge as the cricketing equivalent of its counterpart from the beautiful game.Lalit Modi's name would go down in history as someone who opened up this game to the whole world. Sounds quixotic isn't it? And Lalit Modi is the Don Quixote here if he thinks this can be possible, not me for writing such nonsense on this blog. ;)

The other more possible, probable or rather inevitable scenario would be the baseballification of cricket.We all know how popular baseball is outside the US, isn't it? Cricket will most probably meet this fate,with India becoming its only home. Cricketers will turn freelance, left,right and center. Andrew Flintoff and Symmo would be the icons of their ilk. The IPL will then expand to occupy the whole calender year. And we will have teams like the Hubli hurricanes taking on the Guntur guzzlers. Or picture a Jallandar juggernauts locking horns with the Banarasi babus(no offense intended) :D. Outside the sub continent,the game would be long gone. This, unfortunately seems to be more realistic. The recently concluded Champions trophy in South Africa alludes at this, more than anything else.

I might sound like a doomsayer, but it hurts to see the game getting increasingly adulterated, for the kind of cricket that I ve come to enjoy over the years is of the type where there is a level playing field for batsmen and bowlers. Of a game where batsmen were made to earn every single run. Of a game which has seen some of its greatest thrills in the longer versions. T20 cannot provide us those moments. Even if it does, they will not linger on for too many days, unlike that of a beaming Kapil Dev holding aloft the cup on the Lord's balcony or that of Sourav Ganguly taking off his shirt signaling a scintillating win, from the same balcony. Or for that matter Dhoni's men winning the tri series down under.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A bulging embarrassment :D

I ve pulled out this post from Channel-One again. It was posted a couple of months back:

The other day as I was getting ready for office, I saw a guy in the mirror placed right opposite to me. The fella had an obnoxious tummy protruding out. I was absolutely shocked to see his face- it had a striking resemblance to mine. Embarrassing to the core. What a turn off it would be for my potential girl friend. Yours truly is still single (and quite desperately so), and for someone like me, it isn’t a very good sign if I hope to impress a girl or two.Time to put on my jogging shoes mate, and get running! Now that is the most I can do, I am hopelessly lazy to go to some gym-somehow I don’t like gyms-I always feel good whenever I read that just jogging will take care of that bulge. That said, well it’s been around 10 years now that I’ve been planning to start jogging. Not that I’ve never done it, in fact I can boast of a strike rate of almost 80%. Yes, I have actually gone ahead with my jogging plans 8 out of 10 times. Only that all the enthusiasm fizzled out in a month at the most. I remember the last time I had started , it lasted for almost a month. I was almost feeling proud of myself to have sustained it for so long when it was interrupted by an early morning shift that warranted me to rise at such unearthly hours as 4′0′clock. The following week,I almost had an attack of selective amnesia-that j-word had ceased to exist in my vocabulary. I mean I can still manage getting up at 5.30, but 4  is  a bit too much. Even as I glance at the keyboard to type this out I cant help noticing that pathetic convex-shaped curve. Yuck.The current state of my  physique is slowly getting me into a position where I can no longer hope to wear t-shirts and manage to look decent enough. Scary proposition indeed. I’ve been trying my best to battle the bulge in ways which do not require me to do some accelerated physical activity-like trying to survive only on fruit salads for lunch. What follows that on most occasions is  a snack-binge in the evening. So it becomes a zero sum game. And at home my aunt makes such delicious food which subjects me to selective amnesia again, as far as my diet consciousness is concerned.So the effect of the calories I manage to avoid with fruit salad is completely nullified and then over-compensated by the daily evening snack festival(consisting of stuff like mixture, murukku,bisuits  etc and then of course by the  typically south Indian veggie dinners replete with ghee-laden preparations and that irresistible thayir sadham (curd rice for those uninitiated in Tamil) .The reason I am so terrified right now is because people have started noticing that its not flat anymore(if you can tolerate a deadly PJ here, The world may be flat for Thomas Friedman, but the stomach is no longer flat for me :P sorry for that. Just couldn’t resist. )- actually it hasn’t been flat from almost 5-6 years , but  since the last two or three months,its threatening to break out from the shackles of my buttoned shirts in broad daylight which makes my friends tell me “hey, you got a thoppai da!”(thondh nikal aaya/aayi hai yaar!) ouch!! That hurts. All these days I was the only guy who knew about it. Now the whole world knows it.And its not a very good feeling. If you ask me what I am doing to get back in good shape, the answer is I am taking it one step at a time. I have started waking up at 5.30 somethings (See, I’m a firm believer in planning before executing and right now I am in the process of formulating a master plan which will put me on the fast lane to achieving that perfectly flat stomach ;) ) and hopefully I ll get myself to start jogging all over again notwithstanding the sarcastic queries that I will have to confront from my aunt and sister , like, “oh you started jogging again?”, followed by smiles which eventually make way for loud uproarious laughs. But the danger is that I have a morning shift coming up in the first week of August. So should I post pone it again? The battle within continues for now…

As you can see, I started out with the intention of writing aimlessly about anything that comes to my mind, but ended up with this. What was actually  titled as ‘Just-for-the-heck-of-it post’ has now attained this name.And yes, I am certain this will see the light of the day.
p.s. : All fitness related tips are most welcome. But excuse me if it would need me to go to the gym. So anything else would be great.Actually if it can make me get up and go jogging no matter what happens,nothing like it.

Rant on!!

This one's reproduced from my most recent blog on Channel-one, my company's own internal blogging website. Again,for the lack of new ideas ;)

Disclaimer: Before I go on to say anything,let me add a small but important disclaimer. This post is being written under a lot of desperation arising out of not updating my blog for a long long time and lots of unsuccessful attempts at writing something. So I don’t know what I am going to talk about. Yeah, its deja-vu time again. Been there,done that. How many times have I started out on a blog and abandoned it mid-way? The answer is ‘n’. What’s more,I even published one, but deleted it immediately before anyone could get to see it. It prompted mails from some of my subscribers(1 to be exact ;)) asking me why they(he) got a notification mail in the first place. :) The reason I deleted that blog was because I thought it was very,very unimaginative to say the least. I tried to do my version of the popular my-life-according-to-movies meme. Anyway, that is now consigned to the trash can.No point talking about it.Oh, and by the way, my disclaimer ended approximately 7 lines above this one. :) So it was short indeed,as ‘disclaimed’.  :D (At this point if you are thinking I am up to utter nonsense and nothing else, you are bang on target.)

What you read above were the beginning credits of a b-grade blog. The actual rants start here.

1.A bolt from the blue and a blast from the past:A few weeks back when I decided to arrange my things at home I found  a Sun java certification voucher.Approximately 6 months back, yours truly ,with loads of enthusiasm had purchased it with the noble intention of becoming a certified Java programmer.This was the blast from the past. Months passed by. Nothing happened. And one fine day the voucher presented itself, begging to be utilized for the cause it had been purchased for.The bolt that struck me was the expiry date on the voucher,rather ambiguously printed as ‘11-10-2009′. Assuming it was 11th October, I rushed to one of the prometric centres , only to be told the date was 10th Nov, and not the other way. Phew!That gives me a chance to give it a shot with some sort of preparation. Nature’s way of waking people up I guess. :)

2.How many passwords can the human brain remember?Of late, I’ve caught myself  typing the Cognizant password while logging into my gmail. And there are a few other websites for which I have to click on the “forgot password” link every time I login to them.Not to suggest I keep forgetting and mixing up every single password, but how many can one remember without getting confused?This one’s a filler before I come up with a better rant. I know I can do better. [:D]

3.Rahul does a Rakhi. I heard they’re planning to do one more of those sick reality shows this time with the quintessential psycho Rahul Mahajan. The great man wants to get married again now, so who better to emulate than Rakhi Sawant.Wonder who the participants are going to be, but if you are competing to marry him, I’m sorry, you’re just not in sound mental condition. Not trying to imply Mr. Rahul “Most-eligible-married-man-turned-bachelor-trying-to-find-a-bride” Mahajan doesn’t deserve anyone. Who better than Rakhi Sawant? May be he should’ve participated in Rakhi ka Swayamvar.That way he would have done great public service by not imposing one more reality show on us.Who knows, he would have impressed the folks at Stockholm and got himself a Nobel!

4.Reality bites,Reality TV sucks. The seemingly perpetual reality shows are now taking up different forms .After looking west for some inspiration(Indian idol, India’s got talent etc etc..),we  now  have some ‘original’ reality shows with a strong desi feel, like Rakhi ka swayamvar and whats the other one where couples get to take care of infants with cameras staring from everywhere?And another one just started season-3. To think that Amitabh Bachchan, of all the people is playing host is really disgusting.

5.T20: The game killer? Looking at the lukewarm response the recently concluded champions trophy got(both in terms of stadium attendance and TV viewership), it goes without saying- the 50 over version is dying a slow, cancerous death. The cancer here is T20.And did anybody notice they’re playing the champions league T20 right now?

6. Sometimes,it pays to be lazy :D My mobile phone charger went missing a few days back.In fact, I had lost two before. After searching almost every nook and corner , I just resigned to fate and decided to buy one more during the weekend.Thanks to my lazy ways ,I just kept procrastinating until my brother found  it out of nowhere and saved me some money and more importantly, the effort involved in getting up and going out to buy it. Yeah, I can be that lazy on weekends. :P

7. Making a billion people proud? Not really.This one’s to do with the nobel prize.No, its not about Obama deserving it or not. I really don’t care. But when the media starts going gaga over some scientist-of-Indian-origin who is an American citizen now and starts labeling it as a proud moment for Indians, I get pissed off. It keeps happening every now and then-with Sunita Williams,Indra nooyi and so many others.No offense meant here,what they have done is phenomenal, but lets not start calling them Indian-I don’t think they really want to be called so.

So with that  I end my 1st official no-holds-barred-all-rants-blog.Looking forward to write something more meaningful very soon. :)

Midnight musings

What happened a few months back is that the poet lurking somewhere within me unraveled himself. The result of that was the poem I have below. This was posted in my company's internal blogging site,known as Channel-one (Ch-1 in short). I've been struggling with new ideas to revive this blog,so here goes the poem , just for the heck of it,for the sake of an update.

A poem is what I want to write,
For the words and thoughts, within myself I fight….
Wondering when the time will be right,
for the poem, which I want to write!

Am not short on inspiration,
Which is a poem’s basis of construction….
Putting this together, is a lot of contemplation,
A fact it is, and no fiction…

Wanted to get back to ch-one,
Ideas and intent were plenty,but the determination,was none
Reading blogs is always fun,
But writing them is, the feeling number-one!

Is it getting silly, or long, myself I ask,
Never mind the meaning or length-as in the sunlight of satisfaction, I bask….
Looking back, writing this wasn’t really a task,
Just a means to cover my feelings with a mask…

Is this a flash in the pan, I wonder,
No, not at all, to myself I mutter…
As in being regular,
Lies the answer!!! ;)

p.s. It is titled so because it was written at the stroke of midnight. The events leading up to this poetic outburst caused a lot of frustration and disgust within me, which in turn gave way to the 'poet' within me. Good or bad, I was able to divert my mind for a while and it definitely made me feel better. :)