Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Nehra???

As soon as India lost to South Africa, entire universe shouted in unison – Why Nehra? I was told that lightening doesn’t strike twice at the same place but it did. As soon as Sanjay Manjrekar did his insider trading act yesterday, before the toss was done, by letting the folks in studio know about Nehra’s inclusion in the side, the same question was repeated – Why Nehra? I am sure that even amidst the worst of arguments between Nehra and his wife, she would never have regretted choosing him with such intensity.

As the day started, I was quite confident that India will beat Pakistan until I saw TV presenters at CNBC wearing India T-shirts.

“Damn!!! There goes the match.” I thought “Expectations and hype are our biggest enemies.” My hopes dropped down.

A friend messaged “Who won the toss?”

I replied “Toss is not done yet”

“What is our team for the day?” he asked again. I thought of informing him abouth the rule that team is declared at the toss and not before it. But I m quite silent types. I didn’t reply back.

We won the toss. We were batting first. Ashish Nehra was playing in place of R Ashwin. Only if Dhoni had thought about his fan that he lost in the match against Australia, I might have survived a torturous interrogation. Only if Manmohan Singh and Soniya Gandhi had my number or gtalk id, I would have said “Entire country asked me why Nehra is playing in place of Ashwin?”

And I wondered, “Who is Ashwin? A good bowler who has done well at domestic level, IPL and opportunities given to him. He should have played but is he so big? He is no Warne or Murali for sure”

Never watch an Akshay Kumar movie just because its promo looks good. It may not look good even in promos. Never target a girl just because she looks to be worth targeting. What if her dad is not so rich? Never answer your wife’s question without thinking. You will have to face more questions. Never judge a pitch by the way Sehwag plays. He plays the way he wants to.

He did the same yesterday. It looked like a 300 pitch. “No. nothing less than 350 will suffice.” said someone on twitter. “Hope we play out 50 overs.” I was thinking.

Sehwag was given LBW. Never challenge Simon Taufel’s decision. Sehwag did, immediately. He failed. “That was a wasted review. That was plumb” said someone. “Well if there was even 1% of probability of success, you take the chance because it’s Sehwag” I thought.

Sachin was given LBW. May be you can challenge Ian Gould’s decision. Sachin did, after consulting Gambhir. “That was plumb. Why the hell he went for a review? He missed the trajectory of the ball completely” I thought. Decision was overturned. Never challenge Sachin’s ability to judge the trajectory of a ball. In fact never challenge Sachin at all.

Sachin looked patchy, very patchy. But he kept going on. Pakistan’s fielding looked terrible. They kept dropping Sachin but catching others. Soon we were 4 down. Dhoni came in. “I am playing well in the nets” he said something like this before the match. “Azharuddin. That is Azharuddin. Damn, he lost in the semis” I thought.

33 overs were done. I messaged a friend “Shall I leave the office now? I did so in the match against Australia.”

“DO IT” was his reply.

To reach home, I took a Virar local at Churchgate station. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Mumbai – Mahatma Gandhi was abused and thrown out of a train in South Africa for the reasons well known. But if you board a Virar local from Churchgate and try getting down at Borivali, there is a huge probability that you will be abused, beaten up, and thrown out of the train once it has crossed Borivali. I took that risk in the match against Australia but the train looked empty then. I took the risk yesterday although train looked full. “Anything for the world cup” I thought.

I got a sms from a friend, “260. We win.” I agreed.

Another friend called up “50 short. No chance”

“Pitch is not easy. Even Sachin struggled” I said.

“No. It’s not that difficult. They made it look difficult. Even Ponting struggled the other day on a difficult pitch. But there is a difference. Sachin always looked like getting out. He couldn’t score freely. Ponting struggled but he was scoring freely. Ponting never looked like getting out” he replied.

“Next time you talk, please think before doing so” I requested.

The chase started, smoothly. Twitter was full of messages like “Ashwin. Oh Ashwin. Where are you?” The way some of them were chanting for Ashwin, looked like they might jerk off soon.

“He is cricket’s Rahul Gandhi. A national hero without having done anything worthwhile” I thought.

I tried my most trusted tutka. I cut off myself from the world and handed over the TV to mom so that she could watch Sasural Genda Phool. I started playing Age of Empires.

“Mayans, shit. I hate Mayans” I cribbed about the civilization I got in the game. I started concentrating on Sasural Genda Phool. I have watched almost all the episodes of Sasuraal Genda Phool but last night’s episode was making me sweat. It was tense.

“Shit. Suhana has got brain tumor. What will Ishan do now? One wicket and all will be fine” I thought.

Phone was full of messages – Match gone, Take a wicket, will they have a 10 wicket victory, where is Ashwin?

Phone rang, “Dude, just be quiet. Understand. Let’s just be quiet.”

“I am not watching. I am trying my tutka” I said.


I switched on to the match thinking “A wicket must have fallen. That is why he called”

I was wrong. Two wickets had fallen.

The tutka had worked again. I started hopping around – TV serials, AOE, match, Cricinfo.

“Wow. Computer's civilization is Persians this time. Let’s make some monks now.”

“Suhaana’s sister-in-law looks so bitchy. She stays in my building.”

“Wait, people are shouting. Yes. Younis Khan is out. Umran is in. Hell, he can bat and bat well.”

“Oh, computer has attacked with Paladins. Where are my halberdiers?”

“Mom, what is next? Phulwa. Oh I love that serial”

“Hey wait, people are shouting again. Umran is gone”

Mom was getting irritated as I was not eating my dinner.
“Wait Mommy. Please don’t disturb. I am too tense to eat”

“What happened” she looked worried for me. She always looks worried for me.

“Match Mom, Match. I will eat once the match is over.

Arey Khaana kha lo. Jeeten ya haaren, tumko kya milega?Chupchaap khana khao” (Eat your dinner. What will you get if we win or lose? Shut up and eat your meal) she ordered.

“Mom, you have known me for over 3 decades? Yet you are talking like this?”I thought and obeyed her. I am an obedient son.

We kept chipping away with wickets. Misbah did yesterday what Miandad did in 1992 – batted Pakistan out of the match.

We won. We are in the finals now. I started shouting. I started laughing. I almost started crying. Mom came running from her room. She looked worried thinking her son has lost his mental balance.

“Indian won” I said. She smiled. Oh I love that smile. “Keep smiling mom” I thought.

Phone started ringing. Its message box was almost full. Presentation ceremony started. Mr. Tracer Bullet was at his repetitive best.

Dhoni said “I think we misread the pitch. We should have played Ashwin”

People said “See. He accepted his mistake. He should have played Ashwin in place of Nehra. Lucky Bastard.”

I thought “Read between the lines you morons.”

Sachin looked so embarrassed when asked about how he felt after getting 7 lives “No. There were 5”

Now, Lankans are coming. Or shall I say “We are coming, Lankans”.

But as Saturday comes closer, entire nation will keep mulling over one question – Why Nehra?

Once again the enemy is coming from Lanka. Don’t we need a Ramchandra (Ashwin) to win this battle for us? Or do we? Dhoni will have to decide. But if he decides to do what he did in Mohali, Entire country will be asking the same question - Why Nehra?.

In each of past India-Pak encounters in world cups, a perticular event became the image of the match . This time an event prior to the match became the image of the match. Whenever I think about this match in future, the image of this match will be that question  - “Why Nehra?”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When rain falls down from the thunderous sky
When it floods all and nothing is left dry
It’s the winters that you are waiting for

When your innocence starts giving way to the realities of life
When the child in you starts realizing that there is lot of strife
It’s the maturity that you are waiting for

When you start losing breath but don’t give up
When you fall down every time just to get up
It’s the victory that you are waiting for

When every new day feels as if it’s a déjà-vu
When only person you have with you it’s no one but you
It’s a change that you are waiting for

It’s easier to go jump but quite painful to wait
But sometimes it's worth as it may just be a delay in your fate

Monday, March 28, 2011

Memories that just don’t fade away!!!

4th march 1992, 9th march 1996, 8th June 1999, 1st March 2003. Next date to be added to this sequence is 30th March 2011 when India faces Pakistan in a world cup game (ODI world cup). Just hope that this next date continues its tradition - India beating Pakistan in world cups. Here is how I remember the earlier encounters.

1992, the frog jump – For the first time, India plays Pakistan in a world cup. Governments mull over security arrangements. The tension between two countries remains where it has always been. Experts say its India’s batting versus Pakistan’s bowling - India has a very strong batting line up on paper whereas Pakistan has a strong bowling lineup on the ground. Supports say – even if you don’t win a single match after this, DO NOT LOSE THIS ONE. Sponsors enjoy their financial orgasm.

India drops Shastri because he was batting slowly. But Srikanth doesn’t let us feel Shastri’s absence. He scores 5 of 39 and as Moin Khan takes his catch, Imran Khan gives Moin a glare as if he is asking – “Why Moin Why? When will you learn reading between the lines?”

Sachin takes India to 216 but is it enough? Pakistan’s chase starts. Haq is given LBW even before Kapil turns towards the umpire in his appeal. Shastri says in the dressing room “He is a dead duck.” Another wicket falls. Sohail and Miandad start rebuilding. Suddenly Miandad starts jumping. He does it thrice. Everyone is in a state of shock. Pakistan’s sports minister rues – “He is in a wrong profession. We have just missed a gold medal in high jump.” Richie Benaud says on air “Javed, Javed” as if he is getting embarrassed by the act of an old friend of his. I don’t know about their friendship but Javed surely looks too old to do something like that – forget the immaturity of the act, he looks too old for even jumping like that.

India wins. Almost all of us say “This was our world cup. We have won it. To hell with the world cup, we don’t care if we don’t win anything else in the tournament.” Indian team obliges and doesn’t win anything else in the tournament barring their match against Zimbabwe. Pakistan wins the cup that matters.

After the match, Harsha Bhogle tells one of the major magazines in an interview “There was a Banner about Khalistan. People did ask me about it. I avoided the question as it could have started a controversial debate.” India-Pakistan has never been just a cricket match. It will never be.

Image of the match – The Miandad Jump

1996, the mistake of Trojans – Once again, it looks like Sachin versus the rest of the world. So Pakistan also shifts its entire focus on Sachin. They lose focus on Siddhu. He scores 93. These days whenever I think of filing a PIL against him for tormenting his countrymen by his commentary, it’s that innings of 93 which stops me. Pakistan has so much focus on Sachin that don’t even know Jadeja is also playing. Jadeja makes them payback, heavily.

Their chase begins, emphatically. Score of 84/0 in 10 overs in 1996 is like watching a colored, HD 3D Blue Ray DVD in 1930. Anwar gets out but Sohail keeps hammering. He bludgeons India’s off spinner Venkatesh Prasad to cover boundary. Then he does a Troy act. He sledges Prasad.

In the movie Troy, Trojans flatten Greeks. Greeks accept the defeat and start preparing for a sail back home. Trojans discuss to launch a surprise attack on the Greeks, who were already dusted, to kill their morale for the future. Hector opposes. He argues – “They are going back home. They are divided over the purpose of coming here. If you attack them now, you will not only unite them but also hand over a very important weapon – reason to stand up and fight back.” Trojans don’t listen and attack. Rest is history. Hurt your enemy but don’t give him a reason to fight back. If his reason to fight back is bigger than your reason to fight him, you will lose.

Till now, Sohail was feasting on Prasad’s slow pace. But his words irk Prasad and give him a reason to bowl faster. He does, may be for first time in his life. Prasad is India’s Achilles. Rest is history.

Miandad gets run out. Tony Greg says on air, “Probably this is the last time we have seen this cricketer on a cricket field.” For once, prophecy about the retirement of a Pakistani player comes true.
India wins. But they lose in the Semi Final.

1999, the practice match – At the toss, Pakistani captain says “I think this will be a good practice match for us.” One of the commentators says on air “He has committed a huge mistake. Not by thinking that it will be a good practice match for them but by thinking itself. Some jobs should be left to sane minds”

Sachin plays well. Dravid and Azhar score half centuries. India scores 227 – again a less than safe score.

The chase begins. India keeps on chipping away with wickets. They bowl really well. They field really well. They don’t give away an inch. Mohanty tries to bowl an in swinger. He bowls a wide. He tries again. He bowls a wide again. Gavaskar says on air “Why is he trying to bowl in-swingers? It is fine for a change but all he has managed to bowl are wide balls.”Incidentally those two wide-balls remain the only extras given by Indian bowlers in the entire match. How is that for discipline? At 76 for 5, match looks to be over for Pakistan. In comes Moin Khan and looks to be winning it for Pakistan. Prasad bowls a short ball to him. He is caught at fine leg by Sachin. Sachin’s way to celebrate tells us – it was a ploy suggested by the great man himself. Wasim Akram is the last man out – caught by Kumble at mid-wicket. Before players walk or in fact run out of the ground, it is full with spectators. They lift their Achilles - Prasad, and carry him out of the ground. Does Prasad looks overwhelmed by this gesture? No. he doesn’t. He tries to look overwhelmed but in reality, Prasad looks scared. Only politicians can look overwhelmed when they are surrounded by a mob supporting them.

Image of the match – nothing in particular. The events out of cricket were more disturbing. We were fighting in Kargil.

2003, the upper cut – You might have seen Basic Instinct many a times. But all you may remember is “was it nice “or “fuck of the century.” Mr. Devegowda might have given many a speeches in his life but all we remember, is him sleeping in the parliament. There have been numerous scams in India but its Bofors scam which will never be forgotten. Sometimes, a small event becomes the image for lifetime. Sometime a small event in a match becomes the match itself. For this match, it was THAT over or the upper cut.

India is chasing 274. Akhtar is running at 200KPH to bowl to Sachin. “I will blow him to pieces” he must be thinking. He is wrong. Not in “what he is thinking” but “why is he thinking at all.” The upper cut over third man, the straight drive passed mid-on and the flick of the wrists. If you are a cricket crazy person, you can actually fantasize these strokes to do “you know what.” Rajjaq drops him at mid off. Akram says “#@$$, jaanta hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai?” Crowd is shouting at the top of its voice. Suddenly, it becomes silent – just for a few seconds. May be it was a collective break to rest their throats. Afridi appeals for a LBW against Kaif. Umpire says not out. Afridi says “Teri maa ki Ch****”. In a freak coincidence, Afridi says this exactly when the crowd was silent. Entire crowd gets to hear what Afridi thinks about the umpire’s mother. His words echo like an aakashwani.

India is cruising. It is all going fine till Sachin faces his biggest tormentor – the injury. Physiotherapist treats him. The match resumes after the break. First ball after the break and he is gone – caught at point while fending a bouncer by Akhtar. Pakistan’s wicketkeeper hurls some expletives at him. Sachin doesn’t respond back. He never does. I feel like breaking Pakistan’s keeper’s head. But that will result in me breaking my TV. My roommates stop me saying we will have a better answer for their keeper. Dravid and Yuvraj give that better answer to him. We win.

Image of the match – the cupper cut

2007, the invisibility – India crashes out of the world cup before being eligible to play Pakistan. Pakistan refuses to move ahead in the tournament because the motivation to play, beating India, is no more. The world cup ends before it reaches the business end. Sponsors cry gallons of tears. Bob Woolmer passes away. Everyone loses.

Image of the match – I wish there was one.

2007, inevitability - Okay. I am talking in hindsight. But 2011 victory over Pakistan looked inevitable. It was the semi final of the tournament - this doubled the pleasure of beating them. Match started on familiar note - Sehwag's blitzkrieg. Match ended on a familiar note - India's win. In between these two events, we witnessed Sachin living cat's life, divine intervention changing angle of ball for DRS, a well begun chase by Pak, Misbah's test batting, an excellent, yes an excellent, bowling performance by India. But what impressed me most was the intensity with which team played. Such was the level of commitment that even Ashish Nehra dived to take a catch - an attempt which made him miss the final.

Image of the match - Ashish's Nehra's dive.

I hope we keep doing what we have been doing in world cups. I also hope we don't give it back.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

World Cup Times – Edition 7.0!!!

Ladies and gentleman, we are back. So are the Australians and West Indians or they will be in sometime. They missed it and we missed them. But we didn’t miss South African captain Graeme Smith even though he missed it as well, again. We caught up with him after the match. We think this was the only interview which he might have given. Not that he was reluctant to give any interviews; it required immense courage to go near him tonight. However, we did manage to interview him somehow. Here is an excerpt of that exclusive, exhaustive, exasperating, exacerbating and extra terrestrial interview –

On asking - Hello Mr. Smith, How do you do?

Immediately gets up and holds the interviewer by his collar. The interviewer is shocked.

Smith - Dare you ask me this? Bloody we have been looking to find it out for 19 years now. I don’t know how we do it. We just do it. Oh, you meant my well being? What well being? We just jumped into a well. There is no being now. It’s all has been now. It’s always has been.

On asking about South Africa’s contribution to WC11 -

Smith – Yes we have added a lot. We have been the biggest cynosure in all such tournaments. If you have ever studied in a college, you would know which is the chic most in demand? It’s not the one who is hot. It’s not the one who is easiest pick. It’s someone who is both. Hot chic looks good on your CV. Easy pick for obvious “I am going to knock her out first” reasons. We have been that hot chic but easy pick of the world cups. Doesn’t everyone love us because of that?

On asking about who will captain South Africa after him -

Smith – Don’t know who will captain us next? May be we will not have a captain. In last 19 years, we have tried winning with 4 captains – one of them is dead, other two didn’t take up commentator’s job this time because they wanted to save their lives from Siddhu. Nothing has clicked under any captain. Why not a no captain theory? KKR tried multiple captain theory. They were raped. We use single captain theory. We Choke. Look at Pakistan. They just thought of going without a Captain and look where they are – in Semi finals. I tell you, captain and winning have an inverse correlation. May be you can stop a rally. To do that, all you need to do is to catch hold of its leader. But can you control a mob? Mob doesn’t have a face. It doesn’t have a leader. We will hide our faces somewhere and play without a captain – exactly like a mob. We any how don’t have a dearth of mobsters in our country anyhow.

How different was this time –

It was different. It is different every year. 1992 was rain. 1996 was Lara. 1999 was the chaos. 2003 was calculation. 2007 was capitulation. 2011 was the first time when we lost because of only cricketing reasons. This means that we lose because of more controllable reasons. Now all we need to do is improve the control. If you work on improving the processes, end result will be taken care off. May be we can do it by 2027.

On asking what is the take away from WC11 -

There has been a lot to takeaways. Kallis showed once again that his new hairdo is resulting in lot of success for him. In the match against NZ, he showed that success hasn’t changed him at all. He is still same old Kallis. But new hair on the body, do result in success. It has worked for Kallis. It worked for Sehwag. It even worked for Mohammad Yusuf who grew it somewhere else. May be you can tell your captain to do the same. Coming back to positives - we taught England that when it comes to choking, it all depends upon how many South Africans you have in your side - more the merrier. Hopefully they will stop stealing talent from us. I met Morgan, Deane not Eoin. I will soon be back next month. There is a lot to take away next month for sure.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The day it was!!!

24th March 2011, sometime early in the day –Am I nervous? Yes. Am I tense? Bloody Yes. Do I have butterflies in my stomach? They are having a carnival inside. Am I unperturbed by the ghost of 2003? Will you please shut up?
Time moves on like a snail. It's 2:15 now. I switch on the TV in office. Siddhu is not letting anyone talk. Tony Greg is trying to snatch away some airtime from him. And Harsha? He is wearing a tie which looks to be made of Mandira Bedi’s saree. Et tu Harsha?

CNBC flashes “Sehwag is out injured.” What? “Fly in VVS then. He has Australian's number” I take out my cell phone to tell Cheeka. Pity, I don’t have Cheeka's number.
The moment of truth has come. If we win, there may be 2 more moments of truth. If we lose, when was the truth not bitter?

Ponting wins the toss. They bat first. Sehwag is playing. Damn CNBC.

“There goes the match” most of the people on my gtalk/FB say “Pressure, chasing against Australia, we are not going to win. They need to be contained within 260 else we lose. But they won’t score anything less than 300 against our bowling”

Didn’t we chase 300+ against them very recently is what I am thinking. Anyways, all I say to them is “Hope that the loss of the day is done with the toss”

Ashwin bowls the first over.

“Dude, why the first over to Ashwin? What is the strategy?” a friend calls and asks.

“Well isn’t what everyone doing these days. It’s supposed to be a turning track.”

“Yeah that is okay but why the very first over? Normally people give the second over to their spinner. What is the strategy?”

“Don’t know” I say. “How the hell does it matter” I think.

Ashwin does turn the ball. Dust flies as the ball pitches. “Pitch is bad” I tell a friend.

Watson hits a few fours. People around me start saying “He will hit a 100 today. He always does well. He always does well against us also.” A subset is contained in its superset. I learnt it in set theory. May be they didn’t.

Ashwin nails Watson. Ponting comes. He is totally out of form. He hits a few runs. “He will repeat his 2003 act today. We will gift his form back to him today.” more than 20 people tell me via different modes of communication.

“Dude, 4 bowlers used in 15 overs. What is the strategy?” same friend calls again.

“Let me call Gary and ask” I respond

Ponting and Haddin have a good partnership - 90 odd for 1 in 20 something overs.

A friend tells me “Match is gone now.”

“Just 20% of the match is over. Aren’t Australians also playing to win? They will surely score a few or you want a wicket every ball” I ask.

“Hmmmm” he says. I take it as permission granted. So does Haddin. Hits a four. Soon, he gets himself out.

Clarke comes in.

“He always does well against us” a guy standing behind me says.

“Well who doesn’t?” I feel like asking but don’t. Speech is silver. Silence is gold.

Sachin comes to bowl.

“Why?” I think “He hardly bowls these days. He will be erratic.”

He bowls a full toss. Luckily, it goes for just a single. “I told you so” I feel like flying immediately to Ahmadabad and tell Dhoni.

Sachin does a Warne – turns it square. Ball of the match. Ponting looks stunned. “Did I just see Warne bowling to me?” he thinks. "Golden arm" I think.

Clarke gets out. Zaheer is back. He nails Hussey. I calculate - If I start now, maybe I can reach home before our batting starts. I contemplate - or should I watch it in office. In a fight between office and home, you know who always wins. I am off to Churchgate station.

261 to chase is what a friend tells me. “98 lesser than the last time” I feel happy.

“What you say?” another friend asks on phone.

“We win.” I say confidently.

“No. We lose. Pitch is so difficult. Even Ponting found it difficult to score. We just do not stand a chance.”

“He has been finding it difficult to score for over a year” I say “We should win”

He disagrees. “No problems. Let’s agree to disagree”

“You can disagree with me but I cannot be disagreeable” he says. My head spins. English has never been my forte. Can someone please explain to me what he meant?
The chase begins. Lee bowls. It’s all there – pace, bounce, swing, line & length. Give all these four as choices to answer an MCQ. Munaf will answer “None of these.”

Tait bowls the second over. He has been our friend - since Perth 2008. Sachin hits him for four. Then he misses an upper cut. Tait sledges him. “Let’s thank Tait. He has done us a huge favor” says a friend. I agree. Completely agree.

We have a decent start. But I am tense. I go to the toilet. When nature calls, you respond.

I come back. Sehwag goes back. “I just don’t have any self control” I think.

GG looks scratchy but he improves. Sachin is making it look so easy. He always does.

GG dabs it to square leg. Ponting claims a catch. Then he says I am not sure. Over to you Mr. TV umpire. If Ponting is saying he is not sure, no point troubling the TV umpire” says everyone. For once, there is universal consensus. For once, it is true. It bounced a foot before Ponting. “Not his fault. He wouldn’t have known for sure” said someone on Cricinfo. "But how? I think Attila belongs to be. I am not sure. Can we ask the supreme court to decide?” I would have said in reply.

We are chasing 250+. We are one wicket down. Pitch looks a bit difficult but we look very much under control. Required run rate is quite manageable. We still have nine wickets in hand. “Hey, I have seen it before.” I think “Its déjà-vu but where?” Damn 1996.

“Don’t worry. He won’t get out this time” I think while going out to buy something. He does.

“It was 98/2 then. It is 94/2 now. Shit. Shit. He is gone again.” says a friend on phone.

“Relax. We are not the India of 90s. They do not have Murali or Jayasuriya or Arvinda” I reply.

Chase resumes. Delhi duo is doing fine. It looks easy.

I am too hungry. But to eat, I will have to move. Last time I moved, we lost Sachin. “Hold your hunger” orders a friend. I obey.

“Australian bowling hasn’t looked murderous. They are committing some mistakes in the field too. Indian batsmen will have to do something monumentally stupid to get out” says Ian Chappell on air.

Kohli hits a juicy full toss straight to mid wicket and asks Chappell “Did you mean something like this?”

Yuvraj comes in. He is having a dream run. Another partnership begins.

Try, try, and try till you succeed. GG tried exactly thrice. He succeeded on his third attempt. For first time in my life a thought came to my mind “Spot Fixing? Indian?” No. It cannot be. My faith in the team is unbreakable. Maybe GG wanted to consol Kohli in the dressing room. Kids need to be pampered. Seniors should groom them. But what if Younis Khan or Misbah had done a GG?

Dhoni is in. Dhoni and Yuvraj have won many matches for us - under more difficult circumstances and against better attacks. I am a big Dhoni fan. He is a great finisher. Or is he? He throws it away. May be the finisher is finished. “He has just lost a fan” I text a friend.

Raina comes in. He is shadow-practicing his pull. Opposition has bowlers who can bowl at 150+. It looks precarious now.

“No. We are not the team of 90s.”I hope". Chin music brigade comes back. Required run rate starts reaching towards six. I feel hard to breathe. Suffocation?

“There goes the match” shouts entire universe in my ears. I start to agree a bit. But I have one last throw of the dice left in my bag. I try my most trusted Tutka. I switch off the TV. I give Photon some rest. I start playing Age of Empires. It has worked, many a times.
Phone rings. I don’t pick it up. It rings again. I put it to silent mode. 30 minutes pass by. There are 12 missed calls. 8 messages – one of them saying “Please ask Mr. Tracer Bullet to shut up” Hurray!!! It means the match is still on.

I forfeit the game to computer and click on Cricinfo. It is taking time to open.

“Good signs are these. It means that the match is not lost yet” I think. Cricinfo is always slow in opening when the match is close. But my heart has come in my mouth. Cricinfo opens. Headline says – Yuvraj steering India into the semi final. My heart goes back to where it should be. I live to die another day.

I rush and switch the TV on. We need four to win. Yuvraj gets them. We win.

I call up my wife. I haven’t talked to her since morning. “I was confident we were going to win. It’s good that we did not bat first. If you cannot chase 260 with this batting line up, you don’t deserve to win the world cup. Our batting is best in the world.” she says.

I agree. An intelligent man never disagrees with his wife. I am intelligent. Iti Siddham.
Now, it’s over to Mohali. I hope Zee Cinema shows Gadar on this weekend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mumbai Lessons – Edition 1.0

A friend of mine has done his graduation from IIT Bombay. That was the only time he stayed in this city – for 4 years in IIT campus in Powai. He is now happily settled in Pune now. Well, at least he claims that he is happily settled.
He messaged me this evening

“Dude, what’s up?” a casual sms came.

“Not much. On my way back home” I responded.

“What? It’s been 2 hours since you left office. Haven’t reached home yet?” He looked to be dying of amazement.

“Fucking traffic dude, I’ve moved 100 meters in last half an hour. Life is not that easy in Mumbai” My auto was stuck at Borivali station for half an hour.

“Oh. But I loved Mumbai when I was there” He looked like he was lost in golden memories of his college days.

“Dude, you were in love with Mumbai. I am married to it. I hope you understand the difference” Well, I am pretty much settled in Mumbai.

PS: I am married and I love my wife. For me, same is true for Mumbai. Still, any feelings hurt – because of my comments about either Mumbai or marriage, are deeply regretted.

World cup times – Edition 6.0!!!

After more than a month of formalities, we have reached the state of the tournament which is termed by Mr. Tracer Bullet as the business end of the tournament and you can take no half measures now. Although till now it has been one of the best world cups, all we can hope is that every “sudden death” will be painfully slow for any team which dies in the tournament from here on. So ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelt, switch off your cell phones,  and get set for the knock out round –

QF1, Pakistan Vs West Indies – This is a contest between the extremes of two different kinds. Pakistanis have lived up to its expectations of being unpredictable. In their group matches, they won comprehensively against Australia but lost hopelessly against New Zealand. On the other hand, West Indies have been completely predictable - every time they are 100/2 in 15 overs, you can trust them to collapse to 150/8 by the time 30th over starts. If Pakistan can explode with miraculous brilliance, West Indies can implode with stupid mediocrity. West Indies relies heavily on their top order batsmen to fire. Pakistan’s batting fire power is in their late middle order. Pakistan’s leading spinner is one of the most aggressive spinners in the world. West Indies’s leading spinner looks to be the most reluctant looking cricketer ever. When Pakistan plays in QF1, there can be only one thing predictable – you will get loads of “Kamran Akmal” jokes to hear. When West Indies plays tomorrow, only unpredictability will be in their final XI – you never know when one of their key players will develop an injury which can be healed just in time to play “you know what.”

QF2, Australia Vs India – Indians have been like a young boy in love who takes out his girl on his first date. Everything goes fine and just when they are about to kiss – with lips less than a touching distance away, the boy sneezes on the girl’s face. The love story ends then and there. Australia has looked like an old man nearing his retirement. While everyone shows his respect to the old man, not many mean it. Every now and then, the old man is reminded that his end is just around the corner. He bites back on every reminder but often loses his dentures in the process. Strange thing about dentures is, it doesn’t matter if they are inside the mouth or not. Bite is often the same. It will be a match between “I know how to dig my own grave” and “I am just about to enter my grave.” Let’s see who gets to the coffin first.

QF3, South Africa Vs New Zealand – The word that irks South Africans most is “choking.” New Zealand has hardly choked in the recent past. They have lost heavily. But the contest between these two will be a treat to watch for their fielding. Trust New Zealand’s inability to win against a quality opposition. May be they have run out of their WC11’s quota of winning in the match against Pakistan. Trust South Africa to find a new way out of a world cup. May be they have already devised one. One thing is sure, New Zealand’s opening batsman and South Africa’s opening bowler, both will be watching DVD of one particular match – first match of IPL2008 between KKR and RCB. The former will watch it to massage his ego whereas the later will watch it to hurt his ego. Let’s see if it’s the massage that hurts or the hurt needs a massage.

QF4, Sri Lanka Vs England – England say that they are the Pakistan of 1992 – doing their worst in the league stage and hoping that the best is saved for the knock-out round. I say Sri Lanka are the New Zealand of 1992 – as long as possible, we will play at home. Pakistan and New Zealand met in the semi final in 1992 and Pakistan broke New Zealand’s myth that they were invincible at home. England might do the same. In the group stage, haven’t they have won when they were supposed to lose or lost when they were supposed to win or tied when they got confused? I just don’t want Sri Lanka to win. If there is even a remote chance of another India – SL encounter, I might start puking. Please, no more India – SL matches. No more.

Let the show begin.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eight years and 1,148 ODIs later!!!

By the end of 2002, I had shifted to a new place with 3 friends of mine. We had yet not bought a TV. Anyhow, India was getting hammered in New Zealand so we didn’t regret much. WC03 started. India won its first match against Netherlands although the win was not entirely convincing. I was busy preparing for my MBA entrance interviews scheduled next month so I pretended I didn’t mind absence of TV at home. I pretended.
Before the next match started, we bought a TV. India was hammered by Australia in the next match. With that, the hell broke loose. Every expert thrashed India. Players’ personal property was attacked, effigies were burnt, and the players were almost declared national criminals.

Necessity is mother of the invention. There was a necessity. The famous huddle was invented.

“We are not getting much support from outside anyhow” said Ganguly “So we decided to generate the maximum support from within the team.” He was India’s best captain ever. Period.

We started winning. Our level of cricket improved – match by match. Batting was dangerous, bowling was murderous, and fielding was at its best. Every match had a new hero. Every performance was near perfect. Every victory was a result of collective brilliance. Most importantly, India’s WC03 campaign was a lot about SRT instead of being all about SRT during previous campaigns.

We reached the semi final – an achievement which deemed impossible by the most when we lost to Australia. In hindsight it looks that meeting an opponent tougher than Kenya in the semi final might have been better. It would have prepared us better for the final. But the way we played in that tournament, we would have won against any other team with the same ease or difficulty as we won against Kenya. Only exception might have been Australia whom we met in the final.

It was fitting that India and Australia, two best sides in WC03, met in the final.

While India’s every win was comprehensive, Australia’s victories had been fearsome.
While India’s campaign was like a typical romantic movie in bollywood – after all the running around in the movie, hero and heroine meet and mate in the end, Australia’s campaign was like a boring documentary about how tigers mate – you know how they mate and they mate exactly the same way you know.

While India’s campaign was like rags to riches story, Australia’s campaign had been like “never been poor.”

It was 23rd March 2003 when the final was to be played. I had an interview on 25th of March but I didn’t care. Not every day your team reaches a world cup final. MBA entrance exams are held every year.

We did all the preparations and sat in front of the TV. Pre-Match show started. We watched Mandira Bedi. We heard the experts.

Ganguly won the toss and asked Australia to bat. In the very first over, Zaheer put all his efforts to unsettle Gilchrist by sledging him. Only if he had put half of those efforts in his bowling, things might have been better. Zaheer went for 15 in his first over and I think we lost the match then and there. Australian openers started hammering us all around the park.

I was forced out of the room by my friends saying “You are unlucky. Better go and study for your interview” I left the room.

A wicket fell.

I came back only to be forced out again.

Again a wicket fell.

I came back again. New pair of Ponting and Martin was proving to be more dangerous than the openers. This time I was forced out of the house. “Every time you stop watching, a wicket falls. Why don’t you just roam around outside for a few hours? We might get rest of them out, very soon” I was told by my friends “Go surf the net and read about the budget. You will definitely be asked questions on this year’s budget. “

I went to an internet café. “To hell with the budget “I thought. I was hoping that superstition of me not watching the match will work “Anything for the world cup”

I came out of that café after 2 hours and saw a few guys watching the match in a shop. As soon as I entered the shop, I saw the ball slowly moving towards the boundary line. The Australian fielder chasing it was even slower. The ball reached the fence. "Had the fielder ran a bit faster, he would have stopped the ball for sure. May be Australians are jaded" I thought "See, I am not so unlucky. As soon as I started watching, Sachin hit a boundary“

But as it turned out, it was the action replay of the shot Sachin had played before I entered the shop. Next ball, he was out. That was the first ball I saw, live. Suddenly the shop was deserted.

I asked the shopkeeper, “How many did they score?”

“I just got a call from your engineering college. You have been stripped off your graduation degree. Your boss called up to say that you have been fired. With such credentials, you can not appear for your interviews as well. BTW, you owe me 10 lacks. In case you don’t pay it immediately, I am going to take out your left kidney, liver and both eyes to recover my money” he told.

Actually all he said was that we were chasing 360 but it wasn’t any better than if he had told me what I wrote above.

By the time I came back, we were 3 down. It was getting a bit cloudy so Australians operated spinners to rush through the overs. Sehwag feasted on them. We cheered every six. We cheered every four. We even cheered a dot ball - at least it wasn’t a wicket taking ball. We, especially yours truly, were all shouting at the top of our voices. For a very brief period there was a scenario under which, if D/L had come into the picture, we were close to the par score. Slight drizzle started and we desperately hoped for it to get converted into a full throttle rain.

“Stop it. Stop the bloody game. It’s raining so heavily. They will get drenched.” I started shouted like a madman “Oh no. It’s not normal rain. Its acid-rain. They will all die. Stop the match. Save lives. Bloody ICC, where is the human rights brigade?”

“Calm down. You anyhow don’t have much of a chance in your interview. A sore throat will make it even worse.” I was told by a friend of mine.

Drizzle seized and so did our hopes. We lost. Australia won. But there was no shame in the loss. We had lost to an opposition which was miles ahead of the rest. We had played our best cricket in that tournament and made a remarkable turnaround after initial hiccup. But it was a loss nonetheless and that too in a world cup final.

“Don’t be sad. It’s okay. We played so well” my father rang me up after the match “Did you eat something or not?”

“Yeah I had a very heavy dinner. I am going to sleep now” I lied. I didn’t eat anything that night. “What about you?”I asked.

“I had a heavy dinner too. Go rest. You have a big day coming up. Good night” he said.

Later my sister told that my father also didn’t eat anything that night. India’s food consumption must have gone down heavily on that night.

Things have changed since then.

Zaheer was young bowler then, may be a bit over enthusiastic – over enthusiasm can be self destructive as it happened that day. Now, he is one of the best medium pacers in the world.

Yuvraj was the fittest member in the side. Now, he is the fattest.
Harbhajan was India’s second best spinner in WC03. The best spinner sat in the dressing room on that day. Now, he is India’s leading spinner. The best spinner retired three years back.

Sachin was Sachin, is Sachin, and will always be Sachin. Same is true for Sehwag. Rest watched the WC03 final in the same way I did.

As a team, our performance in WC03 was much better than what it has been in WC11 till now. Australia is nowhere close the team it was in WC03. They are very much beatable.

On 24th of March 2011, 8 years and 1,148 ODIs later, we are meeting Australia again in a world cup final. From now on, every match is a final, isn’t it?

Hope we return the favor this time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

World cup times – Edition 5.0!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are just a few days away from what Mr. Tracer Bullet calls “The business end of the tournament.” We are not writing the review of the week that has passed by because we couldn’t have written anything different – England adjusting to the levels of their opponents, majors crushing minors, local cricket associations protecting TV sets from Australian captain and West Indies players trying to impress IPL bosses. Hence, we went around and interviewed some of the world cup captains. Here is what they had to say.

MS Dhoni – Off course we haven’t done too badly. Obviously I am happy with our performance. But one should look at the larger picture. People have been vying for my blood because I haven’t played a particular spinner till now. Off course he will play but what I think is that this world cup is just a medium for something I want people of this country to achieve. They should aimfor Ramrajya. In Tretayuga, entire country waited anxiously for Ramchandra. He finished a war, came back and Ramrajya started. We celebrate Diwali on that day. Now I have made entire country to wait for another Ramchandra (Ashwin). He will finish this war of what you call world cup, come back, and we will see the start of Ramrajya next month. You may call it IPL but for us, that is Ramrajya because it brings prosperity never seen before. In case you do not agree, ask my Caribbean friends. Razzmatazz in IPL is no less than Diwali. We celebrate it every year.

Andrew Strauss - Look, you Indians do not have a right to question me. It’s because of you; last world cup was one of the most boring world cups ever. How can you lose to Bangladesh? On reminding that England also lost to Bangladesh this time – See we showed how to lose to Bangladesh. British Empire might have ruled this country for more than 200 years, but now we no longer believe in colonialism. We believe in equality. First we tied our match against you to show that we are as good as you. Then we lost our match against Bangladesh to show that we are as bad as you. More than that, you were the guilty of making last world cup a really boring affair. We have made it one of the most entertaining world cups ever. Now if you could excuse me, I got to meet Kallis and find out from which bank to take loan for my hair transplant. These close matches have turned me bald yet you guys don’t let me play IPL. You will never see such altruism, never.

Shahid Afridi – First of all, let me thank almighty. Without his grace this would not have been possible. Shohaib bhai is retiring. Inshallah we may never see him again. I mean playing for Pakistan. Or you never know. He has been a comeback man. You never know, he may comeback from this retirement also. And please stop making fun of Kamran. He is such a talented keeper. His entire family is in the business of keeping. Hence we decided, for anyone to play for Pakistan as wicketkeeper, he must come from Akmal family. Our government has made a pact with the government of UK that any exception to this rule will be given a shelter in UK. On being asked that where is the Boom Boom Afridi has gone who used to come half way down the pitch even to fast bowlers and hit them for towering sixes – Oh yeah? You are challenging Afridi the batsman? Just drop Dhoni for once and let Kamran keep wickets for you. Then I will show you those towering sixes.

Graeme Smith – Eat your words. Munch them. You called us chokers. Did you guys see how your team choked against us? I tell you, we will do it, this time for Africa. Just to make sure we do it this time, we have taken so many do’s in our team– Do mini (Du Miny), Do please (du Plessis). Do you see a single don’t? We have done so well in spite of the big players not firing. Kallis will soon get some of his IPL money hence he will pay off his loan taken for hair transplant. He will be able to concentrate of cricket. Other teams are trying to get me out by getting their left arm pacers look like Zaheer. But they cannot fool me. I recognize Zaheer from his tummy. Only David Boon had such a big tummy and he is retired. AB is losing hair which is making him a bit tense. I have asked him to look at Petersen – Robin not Kevin. AB will soon realize that this is a tournament for bald heads. Van Wyk has colored his hair in blonde to look like David Gower and Ian Healy. On reminding that he looks to be keeping wickets like David Gower and bat like Healy ¬ So what? Both were greats. Greatness in any form is welcome. Look at your Ashish Nehra – he is as tall as Wasim Akram and bowls as slow as Bishan Singh Bedi. Both were greats. Try to embrace Nehra’s greatness by both hands.

Kumar Sangakkara – What man, why we are playing our last match in India? Why not at SSC? You know, SSC wicket is so flat that we could have played entire world cup on it. You know, we have to send Mahela again and again to SSC to make sure he can put his bat to ball in nets. For Mahela, playing is SSC is more important than breathing. We are playing in Mumbai, damn. I hope any of your hair dressers or fashion designers don’t catch up with Mallinga. He is already over fashioned. Poor guy had gone to a zoo just before the world cup. Officials there forcibly put him in a cage. Only when they saw Pepsi’s slinga ad, they realized their mistake and allowed him to come out. On the other hand, his hair has become so long that they block the entire site screen for a batsman. To make it worse, white ball becomes similar to his hair color after 5 overs. There is no way a batsman can spot the ball when he is bowling. Now ICC is asking him to either get his hair colored black or get them cut. He is not going to do either. And ICC won’t allow him to bowl once the ball is 5 overs old. What the hell? Can we play our last 3 matches in SSC?

Ricky Ponting – Now what you want? Why am I not batting well? You guys forced me to change my groin guard just because a TV was damaged. I am always scared thinking if this new groin guard made of plastic can save my balls or not? Please try and understand. My balls have been crushed many a times by you Indians, by England in ashes and to make it worse, cricket Australia is holding me by my balls. I need better protection. As far as our performance is concerned, we are still undefeated. Only time we might have lost, God made sure it rained. See, God is on our side and not yours. Hussey has come back to replace Bollinger. I am sure Hussey will bowl as fast as Bollinger could. I hope he can bat as well as Bollinger could. We have many positives to take from this tournament so far – nobody has talked about Haddin’s keeping because Kamran Akmal has bettered him, Tait has yet not declared his retirement, and Smith has started doing what Warne did so well i.e. coming in my way. Smith is blonde like Warne, bulky like Warne and I am dead sure one day he will bowl like Warne.

Daniel Vettori – Everyone wants to meet us in QF. See, what a chaos we have created in group B because of this. It is as if playing against us in QF has become more important than winning the world cup. Team which gets a chance to play us in QF will become complacent. They would think they have achieved a bigger objective than winning the trophy. Complacency is first step towards failure. Other teams will be heartbroken because of the failure. A low morale is also the first step towards failure. How do I know so many first steps towards failure? You need to fail as often as we have. Then only you will learn. There is no shortcut to experience. . We have already taken care of 50% of our opponents and we are still a week away from knock out round. Not for nothing I have been considered to be the best captain available in New Zealand.

Darren Sammy – What? You know I am captaining this side? Thanks a lot. I am so glad. Because more than 99% of people I have met, they think its Gayle who is leading the side. What can I do if we are losing? Our board had sent a good all-rounder with us. He has gone back due to injury. He will come back to play next month for Indians on western part – Mumbai Indians. I wish he was fit to play for West Indians. Last night against England, I asked Sarwan “It’s your turn. Pick up your bat and go.” He picked up his bat and went to washroom instead. Don’t ask me which bat he picked up. I asked Benn to go field at long leg. He happily agreed because he could slip in the dressing room from there and sleep. To keep him on the ground, I have to place him in slips. Now if you have Benn fielding at slips, how can you win? Not my fault at all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Death and Life!!!

Death is beautiful, life is not.
Yet we search for beauty in life.

Death is certain, life is not.
Yet we crib for certainty, all our life.

Death brings peace, life doesn’t.
Yet we hope for peace in life.

Death ends pain, life hardly does it.
Yet we all crave for a longer life.

Death will always embrace us, life may not.
Yet we hope that death is a window for another life.

Such is life. Full of strife.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Desert Storm!!!

If you are asked, which Amitabh Bacchan’s performances is your favorite? You will think for a while because there have been many. Probably you will say “Deewar” or may be “Zanjeer”or whichever is your favorite. If you are asked, which is your most memorable day of your married life? You will think for a few days and probably say the day you got married. Every time there is an argument between two married people, the day of marriage is cursed the most. If you are asked, which your favorite post in Fultoo Bakar is, you would immediately say – “I think you must stop writing and delete this blog.” I would like to believe that it’s an attempt to ignore the question because for you, it’s impossible to choose one. I have a right to be wrong, isn’t?

But if someone asks you to name one innings from SRT which has left an irremovable mark on your memory, probably most of you will come up with the answer – “The one he played against Australia in Sharjah. The Desert Storm one”

That was first year of my graduation. Although exams were hovering over my head, I never cared much for them. Last few months had been full of enjoyable cricket – After winning the test series against Australia, India won all their group matches in the triangular ODI series. Just before the final of the triangular series, one of the Australians made a remark “India has won all the league matches. May be they will lose the final to us.” We obliged in the final.

India moved to Sharjah to play another triangular series. Suddenly the team which looked unbeatable in India found it difficult to win in Sharjah – a ground which has given me one of most painful memories. Soon, we reached our familiar territory – India can reach the final only if A beats B by C runs and India doesn’t lose to B by more than D runs and India beats A by E runs.

So before the final league match against Australia, India had its task cut out. They were not supposed to lose more than a certain margin.

Azhar did what he did best in those days. He won the toss. We batted first.

By halfway mark, Australians were looking set for a huge score. They had not lost many wickets and Mark Waugh was in ominous form. They kept scoring. Bevan scored a 100 and Australia reached 284.

India started its chase. Well, really no one was looking for a win. All we wanted to get pass the score of 252. That would have ensured India’s entry into the final.

SRT was his usual self – batting brilliantly. Suddenly for some or may be no reasons, one of the Australian bowlers decided to sledge SRT. I think it was Kasprowicz.

Never give your mail id on a porn site unless you want to close that mail account. Never switch to a channel showing Baghban when you have your parents sitting with you unless you want to listen to a lecture on how thankless your generation is towards their parents. Never let your wife know your real salary unless you want her to spend it all. Never sledge SRT unless you want to get hit badly.

Kasprowicz forgot one of the most basic rules of playing against SRT. What he got in return was two giant hits ending in the stands.

Ganguly got out but SRT had a good partnership with Mongia. But soon Mongia got out and so did Azhar and Jadeja. At 138/4 in almost 30 overs, it looked all dark. India was always behind the eight ball but with 3 quick wickets, dreams to make it to the final were almost shattered.

There was a strong breeze blowing throughout the Indian innings. Slowly it got stronger. It also started blowing lot of sand with it. Suddenly everyone realized that there was a sandstorm passing across the stadium. Play was stopped. Commentators told that it was raining somewhere close the city.

“Okay. The match is over. Let’s go and study” most of us thought. Lot of the guys went back to their rooms. I didn’t.

The sandstorm was so strong that everyone was looking for cover. Someone was lying on the ground and covering his face with his shirt, someone was trying to protect eyes by covering by his hat. Most had gone back to pavilion. Because of the sand, visibility had dropped to near zero.

Amid the storm, camera zoomed in on SRT. He was standing still, one hand on the waist, other holding the bat. He wasn’t looking down or trying to cover his face so that sand doesn’t go in the eyes. He was in fact staring at the storm; in its eyes as if he was saying “You want to scare me? Get lost. I have got a game to win.” Sandstorm took everyone by surprise that night but SRT looked unperturbed as if he faced it every day. He looked like a proud general of an army who was standing alone to guard his post.

All we could do was to pity him. Even though he had played so well, we were going to fail.

We were wrong. What followed after the storm was something even more ferocious.

Match resumed. Target was revised. India needed 237 to qualify and 272 to win the match. We never expected the victory. But now even qualifying for the final was looking a distant dream.

VVS Laxman, a newbie in those days, joined SRT. For SRT, he was nothing more than someone standing at the other end because as per the rules, one cannot bat alone. SRT kept batting. Few boundaries brought cheers in our hostel’s TV room. They brought back the crowd as well. The partnership started growing and we started hoping again.

Soon, the balls hit by SRT’s bat started looking like they were shot of a gun. If it was an average ball, it went for a six. If it was a good ball, it went for a four. If it was an excellent ball, he gave it respect, played it softly and ran like crazy to get 2.

SRT pushed the ball and called VVS for a single. VVS did not respond. What followed was an event even rarer watching a peaceful budget session in the parliament. We saw an angry SRT. He was so angry at VVS that VVS could hardly lift his face. SRT kept yelling at him for ages. 1 billion mouths were agape at this event.

Play resumed. So did the fours and sixes. But the target was so steep that even Gavaskar said on air “India should be happy to score 237. I don’t think even little master can win this match now.” Little master had other ideas.

India needed 76 in 6 overs which was unthinkable in those days. For us, we needed 41 in 6 overs to qualify for the finals.

We needed 67 in 5. Tony Greig had been saying only three words till now, “What a player.” He said something else this time “I think he wants to win this match.”

“Does he? Yes he does. He always does” we thought but “Can he?”

48 were needed in 4 overs.

34 were needed in last 19 balls. India had qualified for the final. But SRT was not playing for this milestone. He was playing to win, as he has always done.

Damien Fleming bowled a leg side bouncer. SRT tried to hook but failed. Gilchrist collected it and appealed with strong conviction. He always appealed with strong conviction. So did Fleming. SRT looked at the square leg umpire. The ball had surely bounced over his head. It should have been a no ball. Square Leg umpire, I think it was India’s old friend Steve Bucknor, remained unmoved. Umpire at the other end did not move as well. Australians looked frustrated as well as puzzled. They thought SRT had hit the ball but an umpiring error was going to result in continuation of their torture.

“No way is this out. Australians should be fined for showing dissent” we thought. But we saw something that left us at a loss of words. We saw SRT walking back. He used to always walk those days. Later replays confirmed that he had hit the ball before Gilchrist caught it. Replays also showed that ball had gone above his head hence it should have been a no ball. That is what SRT waited for. But umpire didn’t declare it a no ball and SRT walked.

“Stupid” I thought. But it showed his greatness. At a juncture when Australians looked to have accepted the defeat, because they knew there is no stopping to this storm, SRT showed his sportsmanship and walked. If you have worked real hard to achieve a goal and reached within touching distance, it takes a lot of courage to give it away for one word - ethics.

Soon after he got out, the difference between his and his teammate’s class was visible – not only in abilities but also in attitude. After his departure, India needed 34 of last 3 overs. All we could score was 8. Probably Australian bowling was too good for our other batsmen. Probably they were happy with the fact that India had reached the final.

In the presentation ceremony, SRT said “In India, we won all our league matches and lost the final to Australia. Here Australia has won all their league matches. May be we can return the favor”

2 days later, on SRT’s birthday, India did return the favor. SRT scored another master class century and India lifted the trophy. Not that this century was any lesser in quality than the previous one, just that the circumstances, the power hitting and the sandstorm added more drama to the previous century.

He has scored many centuries after that. No one knows how many he will score in the future. But if there is one century which stands out, it is the desert storm one.

Monday, March 14, 2011

World cup times – Edition 4.0!!!

Welcome to the fourth edition of world cup times. And what a week it has been. No, there were no miracles that happened but just to sensationalize – what a week it has been.

Canada did not falter in the batting power play and overpowered Kenya.

I had mentioned somewhere that it is easier to win the world cup than losing to New Zealand. Pakistanis read my blog and decided to prove me wrong at any cost. After all, I am an Indian. But that means I am becoming famous now. Pakistan’s players have been infamous for being bad team players. This theory was proved wrong in this match. When Akhtar gave away 28 runs, he was sure to be declared as Match ka Mujrim by AajTak. Rajjaq came to his rescue and gave away 30 in his over. Kamran Akmal gifted the best possible birthday gift to Ross Taylor. The way things are going; Kamran Akmal jokes may well form a book bigger than Wisden. The best one I have heard till date is – “Behind every successful batsman, there is Kamran Akmal.”

India, playing Netherlands, once again showed that they are not far behind England when it comes to adapting to the quality to opposition. Yuvraj Singh has suddenly become India’s crisis man. He has been a man in crisis for last few years anyhow.

Dilshan, the poor man’s Sehwag, had been a failure in the tournament till now. He took out all his anger against Zimbabwe. Along with Tharanga, he almost delivered what Sehwag promised before that tournament – to bat out 50 overs. No wonder piracy is flourishing. Sangakkara made a new record for being padded up for most number of overs in an ODI.

West Indies played against Ireland. Later half of West Indies’ batting was cheered more in an Industrialist’s house in Mumbai as compared to Caribbean. Just when West Indies was about to prove that they are Pakistan of WC07, Ireland woke up from their dream. West Indies failed in their attempt.

England continued to be an excellent ambassador of ODI cricket. May be they want to prove to their ace spinner that his sacrifice of giving more important to professional life over personal life is not getting wasted. If West Indies couldn’t do a Pakistan this time, England did an India. What an adaptable team they are.

India trusted on SA’s ability to choke. SA broke their trust. But it was a great match – at least a perfect showcase for dos and don’ts for batting power play.MSD gave the last over to one of his most trusted weapons for slog overs. Make no mistake; Ashish Nehra’s bowling is all about being technically correct. So he did his calculations and bowled the perfect Yorkers. Poor guy didn’t know that an event prior to match day had resulted in shifting of Earth’s axis of rotation. Hence the calculation mistakes resulted in those perfect Yorkers being perfect length balls. BCCI is looking to hire a consultant to keep track on planetary movements so that such mistakes could be avoided in future. From being the crisis man, Yuvraj again became a man in crisis. The loss has resulted in typical reactions from the supposedly ardent called cricket fans – “Fuck you. I will never follow cricket after today.” The reactions are quite justified. After all, team India does go door to door to convincing people to follow the game.

New Zealand continued with their job of minnow mauling in this tournament. They were supposed to be definite number 4 in their group – an opponent everyone in group B wants to meet in QF. Hence there was supposed to be a stiff competition in group B to top it – topper would get to play 4th rank team in group A. Suddenly, NZ don’t look like a sure shot number 4 but they are still most preferred opponent in QF in group be. No wonder group B teams are losing the matches they were supposed to win. Rank 2 or Rank 3 is now more preferred than Rank 1 in group B now.

Australia continued to confuse. They play like they are known to play during first 25% of their matches. For rest 75%, they play like they were known to play. Anyhow, Australians did make up for Kenya’s insult handed to them by Australia’s neighbors. Anyways, Australia is happy that Tait has played another match without announcing his retirement, Lee did not trouble the physiotherapist and no TVs were broken in the dressing room after the match.

See you in next edition.