Monday, February 28, 2011

World cup times – Edition 2.0!!!

Ladies and gentleman, I am back with the second edition of the world cup. Finally we completed one week of the world cup. It may have sounded like an eternity, but it is still just a week that has passed by. A week that has seen crisis in Libya resulting in 40% downslide in my portfolio, although I have never understood why a media stock should go down because of crisis somewhere in middle east. If any impact, it should be positive because there is no good news like bad news. A week that witnessed a superstar falling down to the levels of controversy queens of two neighboring countries  although I have not understood how comparing the TRPs of two reality shows is equivalent to criticizing the superstar. This week witnessed a rung of one-sided matches when it was a David playing Goliath. The same week also witnessed that the contests become more even when David plays another David or it’s a Goliath V Goliath contest.

Match between West Indies and South Africa was assumed to be the first real contest of the tournament. West India proved the assumption wrong. Twice Lara has scored a century against SA in a world cup game. Twice West Indies have won against South Africa in world cup game. Both the twice have coincided with each other. This time Lara failed to score a century and West Indies lost to SA. Imran Tahir continued to be SA’s trump card. This could result in diversion of Pak-UK visa requests to Pak-SA. WI’s trump card Pollard continued to fail again for them but he will make amends in IPL. Bravo got injured but he will surely be fit again for IPL.

NZ once again proved that their match against Kenya should not be held against their reputation. They are still NZ. Other teams along with NZ have requested ICC that in ODIs, NZ innings should start at 80/5 in 22 overs. They anyhow achieve this target efficiently, in every match. This will save a lot of time for everyone. Rest of the time can be used for strategic timeout. Lee showed you can still learn at his age. He bowled really well in his first spell and went wicket less. His colleagues bowled rubbish and got wickets. So he also bowled rubbish in his comeback spell and was rewarded. Sometime you have to get your bowling to the level of opposition batsmen. It’s all relative in this world.

Ireland and BD showed that they are almost equally matched. BD showed why I used the world almost. BD has something which Ireland doesn’t – a test status BD justified the difference. Ashok Dinda look like Shafiul Islam bowled beautifully and turnout to be a star. Ashok Dinda might well have thought if he was born a few hundred miles east of his birthplace, he could have been a star too.

Afridi continued his jest to become the fastest bowler in this world cup i.e. fastest in the race to break the record of maximum wickets in a world cup. Chamara Silva proved that he could well in directing boring Hollywood movie – you bang your head against the wall thinking what is going on but the movie does to make up for your boredom in the last with a bed scene. Pakistan kept dropping Silva but for once I think it was not an expression of shabby talent but execution of excellent strategy. Akhtar showed again that he can still run in fast, bowl even faster and run like an airplane after taking a wicket. I just get feeling that something is going to happen here. I think he will again retire after this world cup.

Neither of India and England wanted to lose the match. Hence it ended as a tie. Surprisingly neither of them wanted to win it either. ICC must be appreciated for their prudence of shifting the match from Eden to Bangalore. If Indians could not hear a snick in a crowd of 40,000, imagine what might have happened in a full Eden. Not for no reason, Mr. Bedi has doubts over moral standards of Indian spinners. All their leg spinner bowls is googlies and off spinners has a history of bowling only doosras. This match added to the belief that “keeping lesser fielders out of the inner circle will always help the batting side” is a myth. Batting power plays have been fast turning out to be a weapon for bowling sides. When my son asks the meaning of blessing in disguise, I think I have a perfect example now.

Schedule of ongoing week has only two matches to be played between evenly matched sides – NZ v Zimbabwe and SL v Australia. Hope to see a close contest there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

World cup times – Edition 1.0!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are amidst first week of WC11 – world cup preceded by most number of world cups of different kinds. Just to make sure that viewers don’t miss out on this being THE WORLD CUP, ICC has made sure that first round lasts for more than a month so that everyone gets to know that there is a world cup going on. And just when you start getting bored, you will be told that the real tournament has just started i.e. sometime late in next month. So you can still go on a vacation to moon, have no access to any events on this planet, come back, and catch the real part of the tournament.
With knock-out rounds not expected to have any “surprise” participants, financially drained teams like West Indies would have travelled by cheaper source of transport and made it in time to participate in the knock-out round. May be that is why they are put in the same group as Bangladesh. Now they can’t say “Maannn, we will crush the minnows anyhow. Let’s jog to the subcontinent and save some cost.” Incidentally, Bangladesh has best win/loss ratio against West Indies if we do not count other minnows including New Zealand. You may ask, “Why New Zealand were put in a different group then?” It is because New Zealand would not have come to participate if they were put in the same group as Bangladesh.

While I missed the opening ceremony because I was still at work, I was told that a commentator better known as Tracer Bullet described it as “The atmosphere is just electrifying. I just get the feeling that something is going to happen here.” He used the same words for opening ceremony at T20WC07 or IPL08 or IPL09 or IPL10 or Indian Idol 2011 or even his first night. He always gets the feeling that something is going to happen here. Something always happens there. We cannot blame him for being repetitive. I have also found all the opening ceremonies exactly similar – thousands of dancers will come and dance, some “once they were star” band will come and perform, lots of firecrackers, laser show and lights which make it impossible for you to see anything. So I didn’t mind missing the opening ceremony. Anyhow, if you are employed by someone, you employer always take precedence.

I also missed the first hour of India’s match against Bangladesh because I was busy transferring money from my pocket to Mr. Biyani’s. If you are married, Mr. Biyani’s pocket always comes before your own.

While Indian batsmen made Bangladesh’s bowlers look like McGrath and Muralitharan in WC07, bowlers didn’t do a terrible job in that match by extending it to 48th or 49th over. Batsmen corrected their mistake and India amassed 370. This time around, Indian bowlers committed mistakes and allowed Bangladesh to score 284. After all, Indian bowlers also need some motivation for the India-BD encounter in next world cup. Sehwag said he wanted to bat for 50 overs which surprised everyone because till now, he had batted for 80 overs in two world cups. Sehwag almost batted for 50 overs. I hope he meant 50 overs in each match rather than entire WC11. MS Dhoni had complained for the problem of riches in selecting final XI. Sreesanth, the saint he is, sacrificed and made sure he won’t contribute to this problem in WC11 anymore. He may not contribute in WC11 at all now.

NZ-Kenya match took 20% lesser time than a complete T20 match takes. NZ made a statement, “We have NRR of 7.62. We are sure for the next round.” They complained of their statement being misquoted once someone reminded them that they need to win points also to move to next round. However, they were happy to know that there is no Bangladesh in their group.

In the match between Sri Lanka and Canada, Canada reminded Sri Lanka that they could play cricket but only for the 25% of the match. For rest 75%, Sri Lanka reminded Canada that they were playing against Sri Lanka.

Zimbabwe bowled really well against Australia for 85% of their innings. But for rest of the match, they were not as good as 15% of Australia. Incidentally, it was alleged that Ricky Ponting broke a TV set after being run out. Cricket Australia came hard at rumors and gave us the true picture – “Ponting was visibly frustrated as he left the field after being run out, and he threw his groin protector at his kit bag, only for it bounce up and hit the corner of the television.” ICC is looking to hire a metallurgical engineer to find out the material of which Ponting’s groin guard and kit bag are made off. After all a kit bag is supposed be made of some cloth which normally absorbs the momentum of an object thrown at it. So Ponting’s kit bag must have been made of some hard metal which added to the bounce of the guard, and guard must have been made of even harder metal to break (damage) a TV set. I, being a metallurgical engineer, have sent my CV to them. They also want to hire a physics expert who knows Newton’s third law better than Ponting knows how to respect umpire’s decisions . Please send your CV if you are good at physics.

England called back Swann just after Swann was blessed with a baby because England thought beating Netherland will take all their strength. Netherland didn’t disappoint them. England was not proven wrong.

Kenya played the most dangerous team in the world – Pakistan. If you wonder why Pakistan is called the most dangerous team in the world, you may ask Sri Lanka especially Samarveera. Kenya did to Pakistan what Canada did to Sri Lanka.

Today, the world cup begins or it claims to do so when South Africa takes on West Indies.
See you in next edition.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I stay here!!!

While chatting with a friend, a topic came to fore which has always been lingering on my mind. Am I doing right by opting to settle down in India or I should have taken my chances to move out of the country? When I talk about moving out of country, I mean US or UK. For an Indian, these are the only foreign locations. At least for most of the Indians.

While I keep hearing the comments from my family members – “Kitni aag jala di, lekin ketli hai ki garam hi nahi hoti” or in simpler words – “Most of your life you claimed to be studying in promise of a good future. And we have been waiting for you to go out ever since you started working. But You are just not willing to buzz.”

People term me a job hopper which I categorically deny. Just that whenever my employer has tried to separate me from my beloved motherland, I have separated myself from my employer. Hence my first passport died a virgin . While second passport has been conceived, I try to analyze the reasons I prefer to stay here. May be the opportunities I got were not meant to fructify. May be future has much better opportunities in store for me. Or maybe I am simply xenophobic.

One of the reasons I could find out by thinking about few advices given to me by a friend when I was about to file my papers for processing visa

“Dude, you must learn how to cook food”
“Why? I will hire a cook”
“Dude, you are going to the US of A. Be rest assured that you will be paying your monthly salary to your cook even if you manage to hire one”
“Do all of them work for Hilton or what?”
“Dude, it’s a land with population density of 1/10 that of India. Service of any mammal may cost you more than a car, depending upon the mammal and the service. Don’t you understand that the basis of your job is that high cost of service?”
“Oh Ok.”

Entire idea of getting back from office and cooking food for myself gives me shivers. Make no mistake by my slim trim figure, I live to eat. Or let me correct. I don’t like eating out. I live to eat home cooked food. Few years back, when I was a bachelor, I was sharing a flat with three friends. Their average weight was 40% more than my weight but my diet was 30% more than their diet. If you know me, you must be aware with the fact that I cannot survive without eating at least a kg of potato every day. I am not sure if they grow potato in California or Canterbury.

Another of multiple suggestions I got was as below -
“Take a haircut. I would suggest get your head shaved.”
“Why? Don’t they have barbers?”
“They have but their barbers don’t sit under the trees, making their clients sit on a brick and charge Rs. 5/-. They will cost you more than a celebrity saloon might cost you here. “
“Yeah but I am going just for a month. It takes more than 6 months to get them back”
“Yeah but you have a habit of taking haircut every 15 days. You don’t have much on your head anyhow. Your barber must be joyous to get customers like you. If we calculate the ratio of his fee/number of hair cut, you must be a chart buster for him. Get your head shaved”
“I can, but the problem is that I am not confident enough if they will come back.”

I cannot live without taking a haircut after every 15 days. I cannot wash my cloths. I cannot clean my house. My wife has been trying her level best to domesticate me but I will still be graded 1 out of 10 in the matters related to household work. But I enjoy the backup of excellent support system here. I am not sure if any of my friends abroad have that luxury.

If I understand clearly, biggest attraction for any Indian to settle abroad is huge difference between the quality of life here and there. The 8 lane highways even to go to your toilets, the 150+mph travel by car, supposedly low level of corruption, the ease of paying your utility bills, the neat and clean air, and all those beautiful photographs people keep posting in their FB albums. But beautiful places are good for the purpose of tourism. Peace is at home. Home may have a different definition for different people though. Some have changed it, most have not. I have not.

One of my friends has stayed in Detroit. I was told by him that people often visit shopping malls because they want to see people – it’s so deserted there i.e. out of India. Here in India, we are running away from people. If on any day I see less than 20 heads per square yards on Dadar station at 11:00PM in night, I will be scared for life. Because that will make me think there just has been a terrorist attack. In fact even in that case we might have thousands of onlookers. If I go to Kanpur and see less than 10 rickshawawals trying to pull my hand as soon as I move out of station, I will think there has been a curfew imposed there. When I try to imagine myself, driving my car on some highway in Europe for a stretch of 100 kilometers without even a single pedestrian trying to stop me waving his hand, I tend to think as if I have been asked to act in Raaz 3 – the sooni sadak. I am addicted to the crowd.

Every time my son demands Kurkure, I can take him downstairs to a shop and buy one. Will it be possible in those desirable locations? What if he demands it at 9 in the night? Either I will have to drive some 20 odd kilometers to get to a gas station to buy one or I will have to keep a stock myself. In India, there is no concept of a market area and a residential area being separate. They are inseparable. Tell me, what good an apartment with all the modern amenities is if I can’t have paanipoori downstairs? Some may call it a complete lack of planning a city which is witnessed all over the country in many forms – roads, power, water supply, bridges or even family. Probably best way of planning in India is to have no plan at all. But I like to have no plan.

My friends boast about the civility of cops in foreign countries towards civilians. I am often told that - Even if you have drunk truck loads of beer, ran away from the bar without paying the bill, driven at 400mph, broken a few signals, barged your car into a police station and stopped at the toes of police commissioner, the police man will come and say “Sir, can I have your license please”. Imagine doing even half of it in India. I am sure your imagination will not be half as real as reality could be. Can you imagine a policeman calling you sir while imposing a fine on you for writing numbers on the number plate in light black (One of my friends has faced this situation)? Assumption here is that you are not travelling in a lal batti. If you are, he may even touch your feet. I am not saying I am addicted to corruption. But I am used to of it being part of my life.

Every day I meet one particular group of strangers in the train. They don’t know me. I don’t know them. But hear their conversations – sometime interesting, most of the times boring. But I know, if I talk to ten of them tomorrow, I will not be too averse to talking 5 of them on the day after tomorrow. I am sure I will get along well with at least two of them. Common connects are language and our issues of life – job, cricket, politics, films, stock market and the ever increasing crowd in the train. I start shivering at the onset of talking in any language other than Hindi. To add to it, discussing Obama’s speech on north Africa’s conservative economy policies resulting in soaring commodity prices and its impact on socio-economical balance in Mozambique or appreciating Dhobi Ghat for its artistic brilliance in showing the Mumbai spirit in true colors doesn’t excite me at all. I would rather discuss a scam on our own land; we have millions of them, or simply cricket. You may call it fear of coming out of my comfort zone. I agree. I am afraid of coming out of my comfort zone. Tell me who is not?

In India, daily life is a struggle, it’s a fight for survival, and it’s a war. I am too addicted to it. May be life will be lot easier out of India but the thought of that ease gives me discomfort. If I reach home in a hassle free journey of an hour, what will I crib about? My mind will have a lot less to worry about. Worries keep it occupied. I won’t be happy with a less occupied mind. May be an occupied mind is likely to be happier than an unoccupied mind that’s why India ranks in top 25% in happy planet index . I like this fight for survival.

Few years back, Ramchandra Guha had summed up our condition beautifully saying - “In India the choice could never be between chaos and stability, but between manageable and unmanageable chaos.” If there is one addiction which has covered entire nation, it can be called chaos. Not surprising that I am also addicted to it.

I know there are loads of issued with the governments here. I know we have lot of racial issues based on caste, religion, and region. But a democracy which doesn’t think twice before appointing a minority candidate as its PM, president or captain of the cricket team provided he is worthy enough, this is the best democracy in the world.

In short, I am too used to of the lifestyle I have grown up. For example, a cactus will never survive in a pond because it is too accustomed to a desert. A polar bear will never survive in African forests because his body is so used to of snow. A Rohit Sharma will never do well in International cricket because he is made for playing IPL.

To top it all, there is one abuse I will never hear in India – “Bloody Indian”. May be out of north India, some may call me “Bloody North Indian.” I have a tamilian friend who I often call “Blood South Indian.” My friends from Mumbai can be called “Bloody West Indian.” But no one can call me a “Bloody Indian”, no one. I am going to stay here, forever.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For the clarity of vision!!!

Soon after my marriage, my wife was surprised by my insatiable ability to watch cricket. Every time she wanted to watch HBO or VH1, she invariably had to switch to these channel from ESPN or Star Sports or Ten Sports. She knew I liked the game but she had not imagined such stiff competition from my love for watching cricket. More than anything else, she was amazed by the fact that how someone sitting in Pune can watch a match between two Australian clubs playing in Perth. But what she couldn’t understand was that like in a joke where presentation becomes as important as the content, I was glued to screen because of the quality of the broadcast - the hot spots, the super slow-mos, the hawk eyes and to top it all, the digital quality pictures.

I belong to the generation which entirely relied on DD for any short of entertainment. Thankfully, I made my cricket viewing debut in a series which was not produced by DD. While pictures were not of digital quality, I loved watching India – Pakistan 1989 series because for the first time in my life, I was watching cricket with full interest. You just love to stare at your first crush for hours and hours - looks, age, relationship, social status and in some special cases even gender doesn’t matter. Also, I didn’t even think about the picture quality because I had nothing to compare it with. If you don’t know how to drive a car, you wouldn’t even think about how comfortable it is to drive an Audi as compared to driving a Fiat’s Premier Padmini. For the record, I still don’t know how to drive a car.

From Pakistan, we travelled to New Zealand. DD didn’t oblige saying broadcasting rights were too costly. But DD was kind enough to broadcast the ODI series. For the first match, my father woke me up at 3:00 AM. Our TV, a 21 inch colored TV of the brand called Cenza, didn’t have any of the modern features. But a look at it sent me to different world. For the first time in my life I realized that watching cricket from the comfort of your drawing room can be an amazing experience. For the first time I realized that you can actually see the ball leaving bowler’s hand, reaching the batsman, moving to the boundary rope once batsman has hit it. And you can do it again in slow motion – the broadcaster actually shows it. I could only see the first innings as I had to rush to my school by the time second innings started but I was completely smitten by what I had seen. I enjoyed seeing cricket with such good camera work with the same glee as any female does when she walks past a jeweler’s shop.

India was scheduled to travel to England after New Zealand. DD was showing its reluctance to broadcast the series as rights were too expensive. I was still hopeful thinking they will at least broadcast the ODIs. They didn’t. I followed the entire series on radio.

The team came back home and played Sri Lanka. Things were back to normal or should I say way below sub normal. The broadcasting quality was so poor that all you could see was bowler running, batsman moving his body, fielder running, the crowd, and the multiple Samachhar breaks. If you had told some, who knew nothing about cricket, that they just act and there is no concept ball in cricket, he might well have believed you. I remember an incident. England was playing Board President XI in Lucknow in 1993. Graeme Hick got out. Commentator, I am sure he was sitting in DD’s office in Mandi House and watching the match on TV, said, “Hick is bowled.” Few seconds later he announced, “That was well bowled. Actually he was stumped.” His co-commentator said “I think he has been hit wicket.” Both of them were not clear and final verdict was “Dear viewers, we will soon find out and let you know how he got out” They must have found it out next day in the news papers that he was given out LBW. Alas, by then the match was over and they had no way to inform us about Hick’s dismissal.

I felt like a kid who was going to school after 2 months of summer holiday. After that series, it became a catch-22 situation for me. For the quality for broadcast, I prayed that India should always play out of India. But the probability that DD would buy the broadcasting rights for an away series was as low as they showing Basic Instinct on Saturday night. DD did show some of the matches of WC92. We were pampered. But those matches couldn’t avoid the regular breaks for Samachhars or Rangoli. Our viewing was hampered. Cable TV was making its inroads so reliance on DD for away series was reducing. But another event was about to change it all and change it forever.

Cricket association of Bengal (CAB) was organizing Hero Cup in 1993. They sold the production and broadcasting rights to TWI. It was a shock to DD. They wouldn’t have had any objection in taking the feed from TWI and broadcast it. But they were not going to get it free. Not this time. For them it was their birthright to broadcast any tournament held at home. Now CAB and DD locked horns.

There was also an issue with the cricket stadiums. Cricket stadiums in India had a complaint against broadcasting of cricket matches – if a match is broadcasted live, people in the city prefer watching it at home than coming to the stadium. To some extent, this was true. While DD’s picture quality was terrible, watching a cricket match in stadium was even worse. I remember going to Green Park in Kanpur for a cricket match (India – SL). Stadium was already full with more than half the capacity crowd waiting outside – valid tickets in their hands. With everyone shouting – “India will lose today,” it was not hard to get confused with the location of the match. It did look as if we were in Kandy and not in Kanpur. Injustice can so easily kill patriotism. India got bowled out at 78 replying SL’s 196. So the cricket stadium’s always wanted some royalty from DD in lieu of allowing the usage of stadium for broadcasting the matches. After all the stadiums were hosting the event which was used by DD free of cost as a feed to their broadcast. DD never paid a penny.

The war between DD and CAB was heating up. At one point of time it looked like Hero Cup will meet the fate of Kapil Dev’s epic 175 in WC83. The matter went to the court. A verdict came out which was revised. It was revised again, and again. After several revisions, the matter was sorted out. DD was allowed to air the tournament but they couldn’t use TWI’s feed. They needed to use their own production team to make their own feed. TWI was allowed to sell the broadcasting rights to other channels. Both the parties had their own production and broadcasting. For the first time, Indian viewers saw different quality at the same time.

While cable TV had entered India, its penetration was still shallow. At least it didn’t reach my home, not before 1998. Huge chunk of population was still relying on DD. So, if you had cable connection at home, you saw how Jadeja and Kumble suffocated South Africa in the middle over before Sachin won the Hero Cup semi final in his
THAT over. I, with complete dependence on DD, saw Samachar and may be Chitrahaar during that period.

Things started changing after that. At least DD got a message that it can no longer take things for granted. And competition was arriving at its home turf, a stiff one. May be they realized something which power plants running on rice husk are realizing or will realize soon. In any business, raw material can never be free forever. If you have a consumer base of a decent size, better use the cost benefits of free raw material to build a brand, to penetrate the market and above all, ensure your consumers are addicted to the excellence of your quality. Otherwise, competition will set in sooner or later and someone else will do what you couldn’t. He will reap the benefits also – of higher magnitude and for longer time periods. DD lacked this vision. But changed scenario provided us a much better vision.

At my home, Bal Ganesha has just won over the highlights of Eden – 2001.

PS: I have written it entirely based on my memory. Any accuracy is regretted.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

And the rest!!!

While I would have loved to write a detailed view on rest of the teams, but I am too lazy to do so. It will also become boring as well. So, here is my take on rest of the teams.

Bangladesh – Bangladesh are like teenage girls. You eye them thinking they are easy catch. They look vulnerable as a bubble. But sometimes, the bubble may burst and hurt you. Sometimes it may hurt you in the worst possible place. It did hurt us real bad in WC2007. BD is one of those elective subjects which you would have taken in the college – you chose them because there was supposedly lesser effort in clearing them but you still need to study as failing means you would have an “F” grade in your result card. While playing BD, all you might get to see are ugly but effective batsmen batting all the time. You might see left arm spinners bowling all the time. But they will field well or at least try to do so. They will give you a bit of brilliance, a bit of stupidity and loads of mediocrity. Their recent triumph against New Zealand would have sent their confidence to new high hence rest of the teams will do better by being more careful.

New Zealand – They are like an ageing cabaret dancer. She knows she has lost her charm; dark circles below her eyes are not getting any brighter, body is losing its flexibility and end is not far away. Yet she gets up every morning, in hope that this day will turn out to be better than the last one, tries to put up a fight, but stumbles again. She goes to sleep hoping she won’t see the next morning but she does. In this age of New Zealand cricket which is gloomy, two Indians have done them a huge favor. First one is the owner of Dheeraj Builders who is sponsoring them. Second one is SRK who, after letting NZ’s second best player to lead KKR in IPL2, made sure that one thing NZ will definitely not face in this age of crisis is the rift within the team for captaincy. I am sure after his experience of leading the legendary KKR in IPL2; Brendon Maccllum would not like to lead a team even in his own backyard. So Vetorri can be rest assured of his chair although I doubt if he would mind someone claiming it. NZ will fight and die. Sometimes they may not fight yet die. But die they will.

West Indies – They are like an old widow trying to revive her sex life. She would have her dates – few ending fruitfully, most ending aimlessly. And then, when a date has ended in a disaster, she would recall the days when she used to have those steamy nights with her husband. West Indies have been in a total mess. Their leading spinner has been asked to leave the field by their captain. Their best hitter is not even considered a cricketer by their legends . Their best all rounder has a tendency to develop special kind of injuries which make him unfit to play for West Indians but leave him fit enough to play for Mumbai Indians. But they have players who can win a match on their own, a lot of them. Alas, they may not have players who can win the match as a team.

Zimbabwe - They are like a young, promising, talented, child artist who promised to become a star once she grew up. But as she was growing up, she met an accident which sent her in coma. That killed all the promises she had made. Since then, she has been trying to break through without much luck. While it’s good to see that they have done away with “all black” team policy, it’s sad to see the state of this team. Zimbabwe of WC99 was real good – the flower power, the all rounder’s, the streaks, the fielding. Zimbabwe of WC11 is mostly unknown. While they may cause an upset or two, they will still be yet another “also ran.”

The rest will come, play, lose, and go. So people, get the stage ready, raise the curtains, and let the show begin.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I am thinking!!!

Yesterday, I happen to come across these two guys again – in the train, off course. Incidentally, A had given an interview in B’s company. A was just inquiring about the feedback.

A: Dude, did you manage to talk to your boss?
B: Yes, I did talk to him about you. I told him that you are so eager to join us that you can join us even tomorrow.

A: What did he say?
B: He said,” Okay. Let me think about it.”

A: Dude, it’s been six months. How long he want to think about me?
B: I don’t know. Every time I ask him, he gives the same answer.

A: Holy shit!!! It looks like he doesn’t have anything to do apart from thinking about me.
B: Err…

A: I am sure no one in the entire universe has thought about me as much as he has done.
B: Hehe…

A: Not even my wife would have thought so much about me before deciding to marry me.
B: You must be glad that she didn’t.

A: Why?
B: If she had, she wouldn’t have married you for sure.

A: Yeah I know. I knew it even before I started thinking about marriage. That was my secret to success.
B: Means?

A: I had decided that if I like a girl, I would make sure that she finds herself taking 7th phera before she manages to put on her thinking cap.
B: That is bad. You took her to a family picnic before she could realize it was actually kidnapping. You didn’t even give her a chance to think.

A: What is so bad about it? She has all her life to think about it now.
B: Yeah. Just that the reason to think has changed from “whom to marry” to “why I married him”

A: Dude, don’t change the topic. What is the issue?
B: Boss says you have change jobs very frequently.

A: Dude, it’s just my current job where I am looking for a frequent shift. Other than that, I have always had decent stints.
B: Yeah, he is a bit skeptical because of that,

A: But I did tell him I would stay with your company as long as possible.
B: Yeah, but he doesn’t like people making frequent jumps. He has never changed his job. He said that one should stay in any job for at least two years. That is why he hired me. I have been pretty stable in all my jobs.

A: Fuck him!!! When I met him last, I had spent 9 months in my current job. Add six more and I have spent 15 months in my current job. So even if he makes an offer to me, considering the pace at which corporate world works in India, I don’t see myself joining your company in less than 6 months.
B: Yes if we consider your notice period of 3 months as well.

A: Yes. That would mean I have stayed in my current job for 2 years.
B: Agreed.

A: Then his issue is completely invalid. Why did he ask me in the first place “Why are you making such a frequent change?”
B: Hehe….

A: Go tell him this tomorrow.
B: Okay I will try. BTW, you have been looking out quite actively isn’t?

A: Yes, why?
B: How is the job market?

A: Why? You want to change.
B: Yeah just thinking.

A: But dude why? You have recently made a move.
B: I know but if I start looking today, it will take at least 3 months to get anything worthwhile trying. By the time it all gets finalized, it will be more than a year. I would have spent 2 years in this place by then.

A: Ok.
B: So pass me the list of consultants you have.

A: Ok. I will do that.

By then, my stop had come. But I will be looking forward to see these guys.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Queen’s brigade!!!

During first 5 world cups, England looked determined to give back rest of the world what it took from it during colonial era. Every time they reached the finals, they let their opponents take the cup away. England did it thrice. For rest of the two times, England did so in the semi finals. Post WC92, they have been performing their act of payback for atrocities during colonial era in the per-semi final stages. Like most of the world cup, they are seen as one of the hot favorites. I wonder why. Just look at the recent England-Australia series and you may start accompanying me in my amazement.
Andrew Strauss – An average of 35 in modern day ODI cricket doesn’t sound great. But average of 49 in last one year with strike rate of 94 does look impressive. However, if you bring him to the subcontinent, Strauss’ average drops to 33. If you make him play against host nations, he averages 27 in 8 innings at a strike rate of 69 – and this includes a 74 not out against India. England supporters will be relieved to know that it’s not just India and Sri Lanka that Strauss may be playing. They will be happier to know that Strauss will get a chance to bat against West Indies in this WC. Against them, he averages 50 at a strike rate of 106. So what if all that has come in a solitary innings.
Matt Prior – I am told that he is not a naturally gifted keeper but he works real on his game. Prior was on his way to glory and fame through hard work. But as they say, there is always a woman behind a man’s success. So Prior’s wife set the bar of fame high for him by one act. So he worked harder. His hard work has fetched him an average of 28 in last 3 years which is 12% better than his career average. Career average of 25 looks low to me. One may argue that, being a keeper, he comes lower down the order hence gets lesser chances to score. But out of 55 innings he has played, he has batted in top 4 in 43 of them. Bowlers may treat him like a mere formality in the subcontinent, especially in India. In the subcontinent, he has batted 12 times with average of 23 and strike rate of 66. Take out his exploits against Bangladesh, and he averages 18 in India with strike rate of 62. Prior is yet to take guard on a Sri Lankan ground. Welcome Mr. Prior. ECB might regret sending you later.
James Anderson – England wanted to keep James Anderson as their surprise weapon. So they sent him, along with the rest of the team, to a holiday named boot camp. They also tried their best to keep him out of action. But Anderson did come back and came back strong. With his swing and pace, Anderson has been one of the best fast bowlers in the recent past. His near future in WC11 may not reflect his recent past. In India and Sri Lanka, he has taken 16 wickets in 19 matches with economy rate of 5.24. It is more likely to worsen this time,
Ajmal Shahzad – He is a little known quantity. His Cricinfo profile page says that he has shades of Darren Gough. But Gough’s record was pretty bad in subcontinent as compared to his career record. Shahzad may not even prove to be his shadow.

Ian Bell – “Ian Bell had been earmarked for greatness long before he was drafted onto the England tour of New Zealand in 2001-02” I don’t say that, Cricinfo says that about him. Bell is a good batsman but his record suggests that he is long away from greatness. Distance between him and greatness seems to be even longer when we look at his record in the subcontinent. I don’t have much to say about him.
Graeme Swann – They say he is world’s best off spinner. I disagree with them and say he is just a good off spinner. Harbhajan may disagree with me and says he is just an ordinary off spinner. Sehwag will surely disagree with both of us and say spinners do not have a right to exist.
Tim Bresnan – In the recent Ashes series, Bresnan made new highs. Things may get reversed in WC11. But one thing is sure, if England plays New Zealand in this world cup, their cricket boards would not want both teams to travel together. With Bresnan and Jesse Ryder in the same flight, it may never take off.
James Tredwell – He is an off spinner who can bat.

Stuart Broad – Apart from being a useful all-rounder, Broad could well be England’s insurance against few match referees.

Jonathan Trott – People like him keep the faith alive in globalization. This import from South Africa is England’s most effective batsman. England have always had at least one batsmen who belong to the category of not elegant but effective . So when Collingwood is on the verge of retirement, Trott is filling his shoes perfectly. If there is one batsman bowlers would like to dislodge as soon as possible, it is him.

Paul Collingwood – Some may be surprised to see his name in the list of XV after a dismal ashes performance, but Collingwood is still very much utility cricketer to be picked. An ugly but effective batsman, a medium pacer who bowls only slower ones and an excellent fielder is something that defines him. But in the later stages of his career, he seems to be losing it all. We will not see him in WC15 for sure.

Luke Wright – Wright was seen as Andrew Flintoff’s replacement after his replacement. If we compare his and first 3 years of Flintoff’s career, there is not much difference between the batting averages but bowling department shows difference in the class. I predict that Wright’s career batting average will remain where it is because he made an unforgettable mistake in his career. He scored a 50 on his debut against India. Indian curse has been a little harsh on him till now. It may turn out even harsher in future.

Eoin Morgan – A decent batsman who can be dangerous in the world cup.

Michael Yardy – He bowls a bit. He can bat a bit. He can field also. So in short, he is a typical “itsy-bitsy” Englishman joining the likes of Mark Elham, C. White, Ronny Irani and many more.
Kevin Pietersen – He is one of those who make us doubtful about 100% success of globalization. For his class, you may not like to look at his average but KP seems to be extremely vulnerable to the law of averages. Career average of 42 in 109 matches and strike rate of 87 do look impressive. KP has batted 99 times in an ODI and 67% of the times he has scored less than his average. As has been the case in recent past, you feed him a couple of boundaries and he is more likely to gift his wicket in return. When England plays in this world cup, all KP may get to bat against is left arm spinners. He could be the only reason for Yuvraj’s inclusion in India’s XV.

I may be wrong but England will continue their act of repentance for the era of colonialism. It is one team which is most vulnerable to injuries. So don’t be surprised if you see that the team announced for the WC is different, team that lands here is different, and the team that departs post WC is different.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The hate objects!!!

When you have hit the bottom, many will pity you – ask me. When you are at the top, more than many will hate you – ask Australia. With last 3 world cups in their kitty, performance in each of them better than the previous one, almost everyone wants Australia to crash out of the world cup 2011. ASAP. Those who don’t, they must be Australians. In recent times, Australia has done a lot to strengthen the belief of those who want them crashing out of WC11 in the first round itself. But never discount Australia. They may not be as strong as they were with the presence of their stalwarts, but they can still be strong enough to edge out a more favorite contender. But if Australia is not clear favorite this time, there are lots of reasons. Anyways, here is my take on their side –

Ricky Ponting - He is surely one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game. But many believe that he is way past his use-by-sell date as a captain. If that is true, Ponting may not feature in Australian batting line up as well. I cannot recall an ex-captain playing for Australia. In last 12 matches, he has scored 351 runs with an average of 29 which is 32% less than his career average. Add up the rarest of rare title of 3 ashes losses under his captaincy, and many will start arguing against his place in the side. But question remains – who will replace him? Not an imported product for sure who doesn’t want to emulate him . Not for the world cup at least. But this world cup will surely be his last. Ponting may do well to find a buyer for himself in Bangalore where he won’t have to feel sorry for his problem because, like Jesse Ryder, he will be seen as a customer there.

Michael Clarke – When Alan Border was nearing his retirement, Australia had Mark Taylor ready. By the time Taylor retired, Australia had groomed Steve Waugh to lead the side. Before Steve Waugh retired, Ponting was ready to peak as a batsman and leader. But Australia may not say the same about the current situation. If people have been demanding Ponting’s head for ashes disaster, they have been demanding Clarke in totality. Clarke averages 49 in ODIs in last 12 months but this doesn’t tell the story of how “Ashes” has burnt his form. 193 runs at an average of 21 in the test series have been followed by 124 runs in 5 ODIs at strike rate of 63 when his team scored at 87 runs per 100 balls. May be he will turn it around in the remaining matches. May be he will not. But he may like subcontinent especially India. India is where he replaced Darren Lehman with a century on his test debut and forced Lehman to retire. This is where he foxed everyone by his 9/6 bowling in Mumbai. But this is also where he couldn’t find anyone rich enough to buy him .

Douglas Bollinger – CSK was reeling in last IPL till he joined them. They won the trophy after that. A look at his record says that he will be quite a handful for Australia.

Brad Haddin – Haddin was brought as Gilchrist’s successor. But Gilchrist-like success is hard to emulate. So Haddin tries hard. If he cannot reach the ball, he will extend his reach by throwing his gloves at the ball to stop it. Haddin remains the only wicket keeper in the history of game to get a batsman out bowled while keeping wickets . Alas, it wasn’t attributed to him. While an average of 32 in 74 ODIs at a run rate of 5 per over may not be able to impress many, his performance in Australia’s tour to India in 2007 will surely do. At the age of 33, he may well be many of current Australian players who may not play next world cup.

John Hasting – A new face. His cricinfo profile page speaks volumes about him but so does Gagan Khoda’s.

NM Hauritz – I remember it very clearly that I saw somewhere Hauritz’s age as 35 years. I was about to write that he is John Traicos of Australia but I thought of checking his age over the internet. To my surprise, his age turned out to be 29. He may not know how to turn the ball by 5 degrees but Hauritz surely knows how to turn around his age by 180 degrees. Since everyone was stuffing truckloads of spinners for the subcontinent, Australia decided to oblige Hauritz. Obviously they could not have run the risk of stuffing beer in the ship especially if the captain of the ship has had drinking problems.

D. Hussey – Australians have a tradition. If main skill of two brothers is batting, their debut must be separated by at least 3 years. Mark Waugh made his ODI debut 4 years after his brother had done so. So did David Hussey but at an age of 30. This means he doesn’t have a long life as an international cricketer. But, is it his fault that his brother made his debut so late? Shouldn’t Australia have done away with the tradition? He is equally gifted in both the departments – batting and bowling. That is what a batting average of 31 and bowling average of 33 suggest. But he could be useful in his world cup - his first and most probably last.

M. Hussey – Hussey was considered to be Australia’s Bradman till 2008. Then he came to India. His superhuman test average came at more human level. Considerations were doubted. He went back and resurrected himself. He came back to India. Average remained at human levels. Considerations were again doubted. He went back and repeated his act of resurrection. Now he is coming back to India. But his ODI average in the subcontinent still remains at super human level of 73. Strike rate of 83 makes it even more dangerous. Although he is yet to take guard on a Sri Lankan cricket ground. But he will be one of the most important Australian batsmen in this world cup. This may be his last though.

Mitchell Johnson – What is the similarity between Mitchell Johnson and a Zebra? Both seem to have dark strips painted all over their body. When the movie mixed doubles was shown to him, he didn’t like it at all, why? May be it’s because he doesn’t like to swing. But he has been pretty effective with the ball in the subcontinent – 31 wickets in 18 matches with an average of 24 and economy rate of 4.94 tell the tale. On his day, he can be quite dangerous with the bat too although those days have been far and few.

Brett Lee – Another one to play his last world cup. In his 12 year long career, Lee has been a fighter. He fought for a place in side in initial years, and then he fought against injuries. Once he was fit, he fought again to get back into the side. He again went to fight an injury. If this wasn’t enough, he had to fight with the captain as well. He gave up and retired from test cricket. He may well retire after this world cup and may be fighting for a place in commentary box henceforth.

Tim Paine – Paine is doing what Haddin did for ages i.e. he played the role of a standby keeper for Gilchrist. By the time Haddin retires, Paine might reach the age when Haddin confirmed his spot in the side. So Paine might well have a standby doing to him the same what he is doing to Haddin – scaring him by being a possible replacement. But this will not be his last world cup for sure. At least he won’t in the retirement club when next world cup is played.

Steve Smith – Smith has almost everything what Shane Warne had. Blond hair, tall and bulky body, title of leg break bowler, casual and easy run-up. Australia claimed that they had discovered Warne’s replacement when Smith took 3 for 51 in his first innings versus Warne’s 1 for 150 in his first. But what they missed was that Smith lacked in one department – spinning the ball. Although a batting average of 30 and bowling average of 25 (economy rate of 5.19) may force his strong supporter to believe that he is an all rounder, he is yet to play in subcontinent where he may have to face the likes of Murali who can bowl leg-spin better than him. He will also have to bowl to the likes of Sehwag who believe that spinners do not have a right to exist. God bless him.

Shaun Tait – As Ravi Shastri would put it, “Shaun Tait announced himself to the world cricket in 2005 with express deliveries of 200+khp.” Shaun Tait announced his retirement in 2008. Bringing a Pakistan to Australia’s shores, he came out of retirement soon. If you have followed his career, Shohaib Akhtar seems to be his role model. Both can bowl 150kph+ deliveries, both had their bowling actions being doubted at the start of their respective careers and both are playing international cricket post retirement. If Perth 2007 is repeated to him, he might again announce his retirement.

Shane Watson – He will be Australia’s “the man” in this world cup. If Australia does manage to win the cup, he may well be “the man of the series” as well.

Cameron White – White is quite similar to the bowlers India produced in 80s and 90s. They all came as a bowler, improved their batting when they realized that bowling may not have talent enough to survive and ended up as a specialist batsmen. In short, he is Australia’s Ravi Shastri. Just that if Ravi Shastri was “Shan ki Sawari Loona” in terms of strike rate, White will be a Ducati. Okay, Okay, point taken. Most will be Ducati when compared to Shastri’s strike rate. But White is a smart cricketer. He realized very soon that if he plays as a spinner, his performance will be compared with Warne’s. That would have given him as little chance of surviving as Canda has of winning the world cup. So he positioned himself as a batsman. I am sure he will last till the next world cup.

While not many treating Australia as favorites, England has returned a huge favor to them after their Ashes victory. England has given Australia a taste of victory in recent ODI series. You never feed a shark with blood when you are bleeding yourself, you never handover the microphone to Siddhu when you need just a 30 seconds bite and you never go too far away from the toilet if you are suffering from lose motions. Similarly, you never feed Australia with the confidence of winning when world cup is less than a month away.