Friday, January 27, 2012

The Coach XI!!!

With modern technology, DRS, new training techniques, more stress on strategy and all that, one position which has really become important as well as highlighted in cricket is the coach/support staff. In fact in some cases, it’s become more important than the team itself. Who can forget the grand efforts of KKR in IPL when they had more support staff than the team itself – coach, batting coach, fielding coach, bowling coach, nets coach, throw down coach, bowling machine coach, bat polishing coach, mental conditioning coach, hair conditioning coach, drinks coach, press conference coach, captain’s coach, vice captain’s coach, substitute’s coach, praying coach, toss coach and god knows what else. For last 4 years, KKR supporters have had a wish – wish that owners had paid importance to selecting players rather than support staff.
However, here is a tribute to these gentlemen – the coaches. This is how my Coach XI will look like.

1.     David Lloyd – Bumbo, as he is fondly called was considered to be an unlucky cricketer – for himself that is. Till recently, I didn’t know he has worked as a coach. For me he has always been a commentator who sounded as if he was shivering in nervousness if the match was as close as last Sidney test. And if his team, England, needed 12 runs in 47 overs with all wickets in hands against an attack boasting of Nitin Gadkari, Pinchoo Kapoor and Guddi Maruti, he didn’t take a breather unless England won the match. But Bumbo was the torch bearer of the philosophy – a team doesn’t just need team of its supporters, they need bigger supporters in the team as well. During his stint, the number of members in England’s increased from one to almost the entire population in the country. Since everyone who could spell the word cricket was part of England’s support staff, they had to start importing players from South Africa. While giving his last speech as a coach, Bumbo thanked all the English cricketers in the team for extending their support to him. Alas, he didn’t hear a single clap but how could he? He was thanking English cricketers but the team was full of South Africans. “We flippin’ murdered them” he must have thought.

2.     Mohsin Khan – Considered being extremely talented batsman especially on fast and bouncy pitches, his best performance came in Saathi. His test career average was 37 and quite expectedly, he averaged 43 against India. He could have become another tormentor for us had Reena Roy not come to country’s rescue and cut short Mohsin’s career. She made sure he tormented us on screen of a different kind – the celluloid one. Saathi was slated to be Deewar of 90s – Aaditya Pancholi was soon going to become Big B and Mohsin, at least Shashi Kapoor. While former did become Big B of Nepal or Bhutan, not sure, Mohsin finally has grabbed the most lethal post in sports for a non-player. He has become Pakistan’s coach, interim though. There is no doubt that given his record, he would be more than useful as a coach. But how would Pakistan use his acting skills? Or do I see Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Aasif ruing the fact that they didn’t get to learn acting. You get my point, don’t you?

3.     Javed Miandad – Rumor has it that Javed was forced to sign his retirement papers on a gunpoint. Otherwise he might still be playing and practicing his high-jump for WC15. I have never seen such an involved coach – during the match. When his bowlers were bowling, he would often signal to bowl bouncers – even to Saqlain Mushtaq. When his batsmen were batting, he would often signal to play some strokes which he would have played. Once I lip read one of the batsmen – “Yeh khud hi aake khel ne na” (why doesn’t he come and play himself). While playing against Pakistan, opposition isn’t as much worried about sledge from the team as much it’s worried about Javed’s sledging – even his own team remains wary of his sledging. Javed had one dream to beat India in India – in the capacity of the coach. But this may never be fulfilled now. Not because Pakistan cannot beat us at home. Not because Javed will never become Pakistan’s coach. It’s because Javed may never get an Indian visa now. His son has ruined his chances

4.     Greg Chappell – He told Sachin that maybe he should hang his boots. After that Sachin scored more international runs than Guru Greg could manage in his entire career. Guru Greg got Ganguly kicked out from the team and rest is history. When Sehwag’s form got bad in ODIs, Guru Greg played a part in taking corrective measures and Sehwag was dropped from the test side. He told Deepak Chahar that he wasn’t made to play cricket. Deepak went to take 8 wickets on debut in Ranji, demolished Hyderabad and is now Rajasthan’s strike bowler. Guru Greg told all of us that Suresh Raina is next Sachin and Sachin must wondered if he was so bad. Raina cleared Sachin’s doubt and must be wondering if it was the Bhaang that he had mixed in Greg’s milk once which made him say that. After over 200 years of British Rule, the best thing that could have happened to us was that from numerous states, we became one country.  Entire Hogwarts responded to Harry Potter’s call in his war against Voldemort, barring Draco Malfoy. Even team India got united after Guru Greg’s era and we saw a golden run. By the way, we also got to see DracoMalfoy.

5.     Duncan Fletcher – Long back, he was asked to coach an England team in the days when it was slam banged in Ashes. He took a vow to make England number one in test cricket. He succeeded in 2011. So what if he wasn’t coaching them, maybe he was coaching for them. Duncan Fletcher became a hero in the world of underdogs when he helped Zimbabwe winning against Australia in WC83. If he almost single handedly defeated them in 1983, he has pretty much made it for Australians in 2012. So what if he isn’t playing against them, maybe he is coaching for them. In 2007, Duncan Fletcher decided to quit cricket and adopt Rugby as his “the game”. I wish he had. He didn’t. Tell me, what has changed in Indian cricket since 2nd April 2011 to now. Sreesanth is no longer playing for us but I am not sure if it’s a bad thing. Poonam Pandey is not making “those” promises and I am pretty sure it’s a good thing. Well what has changed is the headmaster at Hogwarts. Earlier it was Garry Potter. Now it is Duncan Riddle.

6.     David Williams – It’s difficult to fill the wicket keeping spot in this team. Andy flower is yet to show if he is a fit here. Hence I am picking David Williams – the man who had to wear heals so that he could stand taller than the stumps. David Williams was Sir Agarkar’s inspiration – he scored 7 ducks in his 18 completed innings in test cricket. David Williams was Martin Crowe’s inspiration – for making a comeback in competitive cricket when he fielded as a substitute in a test match even though he was an assistant coach. I am sure he must have fielded better than Monty Panesar.

7.     Kapil Dev – Kapil Dev was India’s first high profile coach before Guru Greg stole that honor from him. A great all-rounder and a very popular cricketer, Kapil never kept secrets. He even disclosed the secrets of his energy. But one thing that he has never disclosed is – why Indian didn’t enforce follow-on in THAT test against New Zealand. Kapil was an all-rounder in every sense. Post his retirement, he has been a commentator, a coach, a politician, a key executive in ICL and has held an important position with NCA. He had his moments in each of these roles. Once on air, Kapil made a legendary comment about Jimmy Adams who had just recovered after being hit “there”. Kapil said “Unki dharampatni ko chinta karne ki ab koi aavashyakta nahi hai. Adam ab theek hain” (His wife needn’t worry as Adams is fine now). When Rahul Dravid scored a ton to save India from blues of losing a test match against New Zealand at home, Kapil gifted him a bottle of Jam as Rahul’s nickname is Jammy. Thank god Noel David didn’t save that test match. For the blink-and-miss period in which he donned Indian cap, Noel David was given nick name of Noella - after Vinod Kambli’s first wife Noella. But after his playing days, Kapil didn’t last long in any of the roles – be it commentator, coach or anything else. Maybe he would have lasted in ICL but ICL didn’t last long.

8.     Bishan Singh Bedi - Mr. Bedi was on the hit list of global environmentalists when he called for polluting Pacific Ocean. After a shoddy performance in his coaching days, Mr. Bedi announced “This Indian team should be dumped in Pacific Ocean”. Soon, he was dumped. Mr. Bedi was a man for fitness. He put so much emphasis on fitness during his coaching regime that lot of players retorted back when asked why they weren’t showing energy on the field “Because we are spending it all in the nets”. Mr. Bedi is known for his flight in tweaking and fight in talking. He is known as best left arm spinner by those who have played him. He has called most successful off spinner a javelin thrower. He has called Sunil Gavaskar a destructive influence. During India’s tour of England in 1990, India wasn’t giving much of a fight to England. Hence Mr. Bedi led by an example and showed everyone how to fight. He fought a fierce battle with Sunil Gavaskar – in media. But given the sad state of Indian cricket, it won’t be a bad idea to make him Indian coach. Maybe the theory of common enemy will work. To all his 267 wickets, to all his efforts to improve team’s fitness in his coaching days, to all his comments on the most destructive weapon to a peaceful life after infidelity – Doosra , his best contribution towards the species called humans came in his comment about John Buchanan "Tell us, John, have you made this Australian team great, or have they made you?"

9.     Venkatesh Prasad – By the time he became India’s coach, lot of deliveries that he bowled during his playing days had reached the batsmen. Venky made our bowler expert in bowling those three kinds of balls he himself was an expert – slow, slower and slowest. Venky, who took a vow of non-violence as soon as he decided to become a fast (???) bowler, believed in uniformity. Under his regime, Munaf Patel and Harbhajan singh proved to be his perfect pupils and achieved same pace – 105 kph. Idolizing Venky, we got many you-can-go-get-married-in-north-Indian-style-before-my-ball-reaches-the-other-end kind of express fast pacers. Praveen Kumar is one. Vinay Kumar is another who showed the world how great nation we are – we are a land of equal opportunities for everyone, I mean everyone. Even Jhulan Goswami, the Padma Shri award winner, attributed her success to Venky saying “Sir Prasad is an inspiration to anyone who wants to bowl superfast. It’s because of him; I can bowl faster than Vinay Kumar, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar”. No kidding here, she is world’s fastest female bowler.

10.   Jeremy Snape – I remember him as a bald off spinner who played ages back for England – in the days when Dinesh Mongia was joining the ranks of Gagan Khoda. So when I saw him years later, sitting in coach’s corner, I was shocked – has the time passed so fast. The thing that struck me most about him was his hairstyle – even after so many years, he didn’t lose any hair on his head. Maybe it was because he never had any. By now, Snape had become a sports psychologist. England drafted him in the side as sports psychologist to improve their performance. Snape’s performance earned him a spot in the England side for T20WC07. See, anything is possible in this world. Who knows, we might well see Paddy Upton representing India in T20WC12.

11.   John Buchanan – No one has described him better than Fake IPL Player. No one has known him better than Shane Warne. No one has asked a better question about him than Bishan Singh Bedi. But John has always been THE coach and will always be THE coach. That is why he is in this team – to coach. Maybe he can play as well. He is known to have brought new dimensions to the world of coaching. Be it his methods of reciting poems in the dressing room – imagine him singing Ba Ba Black Sheep to Mohammad Aasif in Pakistan’s dressing room. Or be it his multiple captain theory for KKR in IPL2 – maybe Pakistan took a leaf out of it and didn’t consider appointing a captain for WC11, although they finally did make Afridi their captain. John Buchanan’s contribution in bringing Ashes back to its life cannot be forgotten by the world (and not forgiven by Australians). He single handedly won it for England – it was the same hand which didn’t pick up the ball on which Glen McGrath slipped. Rest is history. I hope BCCI appoints him as India’s coach and Vinay Kumar slips on one of the balls he doesn’t pick up. Hope he sings Tune mera doodh piya hai tu bilkul mere jaisa hoga in the dressing room for Sir Ravindra Jadeja and he becomes a successful coach like John.

PS: Pun intended. Please don’t sue me.   

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh those gems!!!

Nothing is immortal, not even non-living products. Every product has a life. If it doesn’t get phased out in a timely manner, it simple gets discarded by the competition. Hence it makes lot of business sense to plan a product’s life cycle and give it a fitting retirement rather than the product getting fired at the last leg of its life. Some products create such a niche for themselves that they almost may last forever – like Maggie, which is still savored by most of us. Some products are hit by ever changing times so fast and badly that they almost don’t see a life – like pager, the only page I remember is Pappu Pager. But there are a few products, which even after being phased out, never die. They always remain fresh in the memory - some because of their usability, some because of their unforgettable qualities and some because of the nostalgia that we often end up saying – “Wish if I had one today”. Here are a few examples

Nokia-3310 – If a thief entered your house, you could actually break his head by using your Nokia-3310 and call the police using the very same Nokia-3310. Nokia-3310 was the most robust equipment developed after, maybe a road roller. Apart from regular cell phone uses, it could be used as a paper weight, as a hammer, as a crusher and sometimes even for self-protection. I have heard different stories related to this model of Nokia. Once a friend called me to tell that a truck drove over his Nokia-3310 and yet it was working. Once a friend forgot his Nokia-3310 in his pants, washed it in a washing machine – his pants were torn because of the cellphone but saving grace was that the cellphone was still working. Rumor has it that once AIWFHA (All India Wife Fearing Husbands Association) complained to human rights commission demanding banning of Nokia-3310  because wives were beating their husband using the cellphones instead of their traditional weapon – Belan.
As time passed by, Nokia-3310 started becoming less and less visible. Nokia 3315 was quite like Nokia-3310 but not Nokia-3310. Difference was same between Aishwarya Rai and Sneha Ullal or between Rambo and Ravindra Jadeja. But I will never forget Nokia-3310 for its robustness, user friendliness and the fact that it was my first cellphone.

Maruti-800 – Sometime in early 90s my dad, just after returning from Thirupathi Balaji and full with the faith that God would be smiling at him after his trip, announced – “Now within next two years, I will buy a Maruti”. It’s another matter that he didn’t but what is important here is the name. He didn’t say he would buy a car, he said he would buy a Maruti. Such was the brand in those days when owning a car was as rare as owning an IPL team these days. Maruti was like Kochi Tuskars Kerala getting listed – everyone can by a share in it, just that I wouldn’t have the flamboyance of Sir Jadeja.
There is a story related to Maruti which I read somewhere. Once the first Maruti-800 was out, people had their doubts about its performance – whether it will survive on the non-existent Indian roads. Doubters were plenty, believers were a small minority. Manufacturer was required to show the first model of the car to the top bosses (maybe PM) in Delhi. Hence the caravan started – full of ambassadors, fiats, maybe some foreign cars and one Maruti-800. It was pouring that day in Delhi. Soon the city was flooded and looked as if it had been converted into Venice. Out of the caravan, only one car managed to reach its destination. It was Maruti-800.
I am not sure about the auto market in 90s. But the foreign cars remained limited to movies. Ambassadors were almost entirely owned by the government. Fiat’s Premiere Padmini was meant for doctors. If the common man could think of affording a car, it was Maruti-800 – better technology, higher mileage and lower price. What else one could ask for. Alas, the end is nigh.

LML-Vespa – Once I asked my uncle, “Why don’t you sell your scooter and buy a bike. Bikes look so stylish?” He responded saying “My dear nephew, bikes are for rowdies. Scooters for family men like me. I can make stand your sister in the front, pack your fat brother between me and your aunt. While I am coming to meet you on your birthday, I can tie your gift with the Stepney. There will still space for a week’s vegetables and maybe some more grocery”
LML-Vespa was every groom’s delight and almost a must in the list of dowry. You could carry three adults with ease and yet there was place for a kid shorter than driver’s height in the front. Not to mention, the space sufficient enough to accommodate a month’s vegetables and grocery. Unlike its predecessor scooters, LML-Vespa was much trendier in looks and better in mileage. If Shantakumaran Sreesanth ever goes to an old age home, he will be like LML-Vespa of scooters – trendier than the rest. Nitin Gadkari is like LML-Vespa of scooters – can carry unbelievable amount to weight with a smile and yet move. Sunny Leone is like LML-Vespa of scooters – every groom’s delight for the reasons thou-shalt-not-name.

Rotomac pens – At school, we were discouraged from using dot-pens. Fountain or nib pens were the trends which were so successful because of lack of competition as well – only noteworthy competitor was Reynolds which came in boring blue-white attire. Enter Rotomac, in glassy and blue attire, by the hands of tip tip barsa paani fame Raveena Tandon. For all those who remember the song, I can see the spark in your eyes for the reasons once again thou-shalt-not-name. When Raveena sang Likhte Likhe Love Ho Jaye, she easily sold us into it. We were still under her spell Tip Tip Barsa Paani. Rotomac had a better grip than Raynolds, was better in looks, wrote finer and darker plus Raveena sold it. We bought it. But like Raveena, Rotomac also seems to have gone in the hiding of time.

Rasna – Rasna was our staple drink before Pepsis, Cokes and the rest spoiled us. Come the summer vacations and every house, with or without a refrigerator, stocked it. It tasted good with ice. It tasted equally good in normal water. Try drinking modern day beverages at room temperature and you will understand. But more than anything else, I liked Rasna for its ads. Those were not the days when even cement was sold by a bikini clad girl. Ad making good enough to leave a lasting impression on viewer’s mind was a challenge. I didn’t like Rajeev Kapoor and Dharmendra’s Rajdoot ad. The famous pyar hua ikrar hua ad of you-know-what was too embarrassing to watch in front of parents. Jaya aur Sushma in Nirma were quite irritating. In contrast, Rasna ads were different – they had the freshness of Rasna itself. And Rasna, I loved drinking it in colorless glasses. Those colors are still fresh in my memory as they are symbols of the most important colors in my life – colors of my childhood.

Maybe I am too gadgetized to use a Nokia-3310 now, maybe I will never get to own a Maruti-800, I hardly write with a pen these days but come next summer and I am definitely going to grab a few packs of Rasna. Some products are, just immortal

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Tribute to Imperfection!!!

Athleticism is the name of the game these days. What used to be a splendid catch few years ago became a great catch few months back. It may well be treated as a regulation catch in the next match. No matter at what speed a batsman hit the ball to long-on, no matter how away from the fielder it was, as a matter of principles batsmen never took more than a single for that shot, never. These days, even if the ball has been hit like “tracer bullet”, straight to the long-on fielder, batsmen always try to steal an extra run (barring R. Ashwin) – damn the principles and traditions. Things are becoming too competitive, too perfect now. It’s quite like Bollywood – most of them have perfect figures and are fast becoming demigods, provided you are not Abhishek Bacchan. Gone are the days when a Sanjeev Kumar with pot belly could not only face the camera but act bloody well also. Out of 10, 8 Indians can claim to look like Sanjeev Kumar but how many can claim to look like John Abraham or Katrina Kaif? Too much of perfection kills reality.
Hence, let’s pay tribute to the imperfection, reality. Let’s pay tribute to players who, when asked “Why didn’t you dive to save that single” or “There were three in it and you didn’t even reach any further than midway, why?” will simply try to kill you with their looks. Let’s pay tribute to XI common men of cricket.

Sanjay Manjrekar - Okay, I am going to choose makeshift openers and SM would be one of them. Because the way he used to run between the wickets, it will be difficult to find batsmen willing to partner. He wasn’t a lazy runner. He wasn’t slow either. And he was definitely not too adventurous while running between the wickets. But somehow, he could never run. Or in other words, he over anticipated his ability to run – always thought he would make it walking but couldn’t even make it sprinting. Out of the 10 matches played by India in CB series-92, he was run out on four occasions. Out of 6 matches he played in WC92, he was run out in 2. 20% of his ODI dismissals came in form of run-outs. Just before the WC92, Tiger Pataudi made a remark that if India wants to win the world cup, Manjrekar would have to give up his habit of getting run-out. SM had a great regard for Mr. Pataudi hence he couldn’t have let him proved wrong – India didn’t win the cup and SM’s running remains history.

Asanka Gurusingha – Walking in his cricket gear, AG often looked a misfit to me. I mean his attire. He would be a misfit in current times when cricketers are almost expected to have six packs. AG would have been much better off in a Koli fisherman’s dress – Lungi and the rest. He possessed the densest beard in his times which coupled with chubby cheeks, made it difficult for him to spot the ball unless it was coming directly at him. Hence it impacted his fielding in the slips. With tummy big enough for Tadenda Taibu to hide inside it, he found it difficult to field anywhere else either. But he batted well, really well. That is because the ball was coming at him and his beard, cheeks and tummy couldn’t be any hindrance. Maybe he should have been a wicketkeeper who always stood tall and covered the area between leg-slip to first-slip alone – his size would have done so. His white dress could also have acted as a sight screen for the umpires as well.

Vinod Kambli – Vinod Kambli’s biggest contribution to Indian cricket remains his underperformance during 1995-96. His non selection in England tour of 1996 gave us Rahul Dravid. In return, God gave him -Kambli, Andrea. Kambli’s brilliance in the field was first seen in WC92 when he, known for his enthusiasm, consistently over ran the ball. While his batting masked his talent in the field during his second stint with the side but like Samantha Fox’s you-know-what, it couldn’t have been hidden forever.  Kambli was known for his flamboyance and he always maintained it no matter what. He is still doing it. Some say, it was his flamboyance which often undid him in the field. After all, how many can adjust their earrings, take out their cap and wear it with flap in opposite direction, take out the book – 1000 ways to celebrate and select the most innovative way to do so before fielding the ball. Not many which definitely included Kambli. Quite ironically, death knell to his career came while fielding when he twisted his ankle – he was fielding as a substitute.

Inzamam-ul-Haq – During last two decades, Pakistani batsmen didn’t fear Courtney Walsh or Curtly Ambrose. Glenn McGrath was a worry but not a fearsome scare. They played Warne with ease. What worried them most was – what if Inzi comes as a runner? Rumor has it that Inzi is behind Afridi’s 16 retirements – “Inzibhai bolte hain ki mujhse ek baar to apni running karwa lo. Ab bhai ko mana karo to unka dil dukhega, na karo to apna record thukega. Isse accha retire hi ho jao. Na rahega baans, na bajegi baansuri” (Inzi often asks me to let him act as my runner, at least once. If I refuse, he gets hurt. If I don’t, my record gets hurt. It’s better to get retired. If there is no bamboo, no one can play flute)
If Manjrekar was Honda City of run-outs, Inzi was a supersonic jet. He wasn’t a slow runner but the laziest one can ever see. Very often he started to take a run and stopped after a few steps as if he was saying “Hat saala, Itna kaun daudega?” (Move brother-in-law, who will run this much?). It was often said that Inzi was a bad communicator but I disagree. Every time he got run out, all of us saw how well he communicated his thoughts about his partner’s mom and sis. It was also said that he was an awful example for running between the wickets. I disagree – he was perfect. In life, it’s important to know what you should do but it’s more important to know what you shouldn’t. God sent Sachin to score runs. God sent Murali to take wickets. He sent Inji to get run out.

Mohammad Yusuf – Yusuf’s athletic ability was displayed by his running on the ground. Whenever a batsman mistimed his stroke, he ran after the ball, then ran with it and very often beat it before the ball could cross the boundary line. Many a times, he gave it a handicap – allowed it to pass through his legs and then chased it before finally winning the race between him and the ball. A modest man that he is, he just never boasted of this ability of his. His record of beating the ball in its race to the boundary for maximum number of times has totally gone unnoticed in the record books. Running between the wickets was another of his talents. Just that he did a Rahul Dravid – born in an era overshadowed by a bigger legend. Nonetheless, watching Inzi and Yusuf bat together was always a laugh riot for the viewers and a nightmarishly busy time for the third umpire. At least these two made sure that third umpire wasn’t gifted but earned his salary.

Arjuna Ranatunga – Till the time Russell Dwayne Mark Leverock had taken that breathtaking leap of faith to dismiss Robin Uthappa in WC07, Arjuna was the roundest cricketer ever known. 92.78% of Arjuna’s non-boundary runs came while walking, 7% while strolling and rest while jogging. Only once he was seen sprinting and the referee had to abandon the match because of craters left by Arjuna on the pitch. ICC decided to celebrate that day as National Runners Day and requested Arjuna to never run more than the speed of 0.89 centimeter/minute. While fielding, Arjuna would stand upright, legs apart and arms crossed. If the ball went to his left, he turned left and saw it reaching its destination. If the ball went to his right, he turned right and saw it reaching its destination. If it came towards him, he kicked it back to the batsman with vengeance – “How dare you hit it towards me?  I am here to lead the side and not to field, you moron. Hit it to my subordinates”. Once during a net session in Kolkata, Arjuna dived full length to take a catch. Japan felt the tremors.

Kamran Akmal – After an hour of pressing my mind, digging out cricket websites, discussing with friends, I couldn’t find a wicketkeeper who would even come close to replacing Akmal in this side. Replacing him with Parthiv Patel would be like asking Nitin Gadkari to replace Usain Bolt. Asking Courtney Browne to replace Akmal would be like asking Guddi Maruti to dance in place of Katrina Kaif in the song “Sheila ki Jawani”. Such is the legend of the man. The man is such a legend. Only reason for me to follow WC11 India-Pak semifinal on cricinfo, even though I was watching it on TV, was to read Kamran Akmal jokes. The jokes about his keeping I mean. This was the reason I followed Pakistan-Zimbabwe match on cricinfo - to read Kamran Akmal jokes. The reason was no different when I followed the match between Kenya and Zimbabwe - to read Kamran Akmal jokes. Such legendary are his keeping skills that if he had started charging for every joke made on him, he would have singlehandedly bailed out his country’s economy out of doom. The rate at which he drops them is phenomenal. God forbid but if ever there is a war between India-Pakistan, I pray to God that entire Pakistani army is injected with Kamran Akmal’s DNA – they would drop all the bombs as soon as they touch it, on their own soil I mean.

Anil Kumble – If you misfielded off his bowling, Kumble would kill you with stare and glare. If he was fielding off your bowling, you might have preferred to kill yourself. Whenever the ball came to him, he would bend down on his knees, put his arms on the ground and grovel. In a way, he made a bridge from his body below which the ball passed. Sources say that Bandra-Worli sea-link was modeled on Kumble’s epic position. No wonder it took a decade to be built – not easy copying something which was perfect. Once the ball crossed him between his legs and arms, he would lie down flat. That was his dive, the legendary Kumble dive which we fondly called Chaupaya. To all his greatness in bowling, Kumble was extremely ugly in his other cricketing skills – batting and fielding. Once, during India’s 2001-02 NZ tour, he tried ducking a knee high full toss and when he saw ball was about to hit the stumps, he did it himself. He was out hit wicket as if he was saying “I am the master of my life, death and stumps behind me”. But the Marilyn Monroe moment in his running-between-the-wickets-career came during a test match in Bangladesh when he could have been run out on both the ends  and there was an appeal for both batsmen being run-out at their respective ends. Yet he survived. Or shall I say Bangladeshi fielders were so much caught up in the comedy that they forgot to do their bit in time.

Javagal Srinath – In his days, the biggest prayer by the batsmen was “Oh God, let him field at forward short leg. I can just drop it and run two”. Srinath was a born bowler. He would bowl, bowl and bowl. Even when he was fielding, he would bowl instead of throwing. If he didn’t bowl his throws, he would throw them underarm - from long-on, from deep cover, from deep mid-wicket. I always loved the way he took catches, occasions came far and few though, and the way he ran oscillating to celebrate his achievement. NatGeo often shows some of his fielding moments under the topic – Believe it or not. But the desert to his seven course meal fielding epic was his expressions when he missed the ball. And the desert was served more than the actual meal, much more. We even made a poem for his expressions – as if he was saying

What can I do, I am and stand tall
Look at this cherry, it is so small
Go jump if you think to stop it, I would fall
Why don’t you watch Jumbo and let’s all do a LOL

Monty Panesar – Finally someone from outside the subcontinent makes it to the team but pay attention to the roots, will you? Even if England was bundled out for 15 and opposition was piling on the agony with a score of 800/2, only thing which brought cheers to Barmy Army was the ball being hit in Monty’s direction. Monty the Jhonty as they often called him, was left-handed in every sense – bowled left-handed, batted left-handed, threw left-handed and even ran left-handed. I mean his body was always tilted towards his left side. Maybe it had got to do something with aerodynamics – tilted body is expected to cut air faster than straight body. Just that his efforts for fielding stopped then and there. To Monty, fielding was all about his facial expressions. If Mark Waugh remained cool as ice during brilliant exhibition of his fielding, Monty’s expressions were exactly opposite – maybe hot as Sunny the Leone. His skills weren’t restricted to stopping the ball. He threw as if he was throwing javelin. Someone once asked his coach about Monty’s fielding

Someone – He isn’t the best of outfielders, maybe worse than Phil Tufnell. But how is his catching?
Coach – Excuse me?

Venketesh Prasad – Prasad was the third pillar of Indian bowling attack during late 90s. This means he was the third fielding stalwart his captain needed to hide in the field. He was the tallest in the team. Hence it was quite difficult for him to get down and stop the ball. To his credit, he proved that it wasn’t difficult at all. Rather, it was impossible for him. Ball almost always enjoyed its journey between his legs. We all know about his slow bowling – some of the balls he bowled are yet to reach the batsmen. Only thing which could beat the pace of his bowling could be the pace at which flyovers are built in Mumbai. But his throws gave a tough competition to his bowling as well. If Prasad stopped a ball at the boundary, SRT with his strong arm would run up to him from first slip and throw it back to the bowling/keeping end. This was quite regular scenario in late 90s. If everyone waited for Prasad’s throw, umpires made sure that they took the drinks break between Prasad throwing and his throw reaching the destination. After all, it was their responsibility to see that match gets over in stipulated time.
Ladies and gentlemen, with such a team, entertainment is as guaranteed as death in life.

PS: Pun intended. None of these players were as bad as I described them, barring maybe Kumble. But what’s life without sarcasm and humor?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The End!!!

Date  - 21-12-2012
Time – 10:00 AM in the morning.
Place – my residence.

I was getting ready – as always in a rush. Suddenly the doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw someone standing there with a smile.

“Yes?” I asked.
“Good morning. I have come to collect you” he replied with a smile.
“Is it? But I am not travelling out of town. I haven’t booked any cab”
“You don’t get this. I didn’t say I have come to pick you up. I said that I have come to collect you”
“Oh is it. And what does that mean exactly – to collect me?” I had sarcasm in my tone.
“Son, I am God. I have come to collect you since your time is over. Hurry up.
“Dude, if it’s some kind of an act to collect money for charity, let me tell you that I am in no mood to entertain. Now if you please excuse me, I got to get ready. I am already running late” I banged the door on his face and turned back.
But turning back turned out to be a shock of my life. He was sitting on my sofa and smiling at me. I was frozen in amazement filled with fear.
“How….how did you get inside?” I shouted while looking out for something with which I could hit him.
“Son, I am God. Hurry up, I am little short of time” he had nonchalance in his smile.
“Shut up and leave now or I will call the police” I shouted in extreme anger.
“Son, by now they would have reached the place you are supposed to go. I knew you wouldn’t believe me. Tell me how I can prove it to you that I am God”
“Dude, I am not an atheist but that doesn’t mean you can fool me by these cheap tricks. God is invisible. Only God I have seen is Sachin”
Ailla!!! Lahukar kar” a five and a half foot tall guy, with curly hair was sitting on my sofa and speaking to me in Marathi. He was chipping the nails of his right hand and left hand was adjusting you-know-what.
Saaaaaaaaaaccccchhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnn” I shouted in disbelief. Just that no voice came out of my throat.
“Now you believe that I am God?” the face claiming to be God was back in place of Sachin.
“Oh God. Oh my God. It’s you. Is it really you?”
“Yes my son. It’s me”
“But why are you here - to collect me? Means I am going to die?”
“Well let’s just say, I am fulfilling your belief”
“What belief?”
“Don’t you remember today’s date? Its December the 21st, 2012”
“Oh is it? Yes it is. So it’s happening. Mayans, Mayans were right. I knew it. I always knew it.”
“Yes they were right and so was your belief.”
“But why? why?”
“Son, let’s just say these are my rules. All things, good or bad do come to an end. Like, like your childhood, like your youth, like your golden days or like the days when you were sick, like when you were really pissed off with life. Everything has to end one day”
“Yeah, even Ra.One ended” I said with tongue in cheek.
“Oh, thank God it ended” he said and immediately realized that he himself was God “I mean thank me”
“Yes I do. All of us do. But tell me something; are you individually collecting everyone like you have come to collect me?”
“Well I would love to. But the rate at which you people have grown, it’s physically impossible for me to do so.
“Oh is it? Why are you visiting me then?”
“I took out the list of people of were the biggest crib masters – why I’ve never won a lottery? You name came out the in the lucky draw in that list. This is the lottery of your life”
“Finally, hope fructifies. But oh almighty, I wish you had given me some hint about this. Maybe I would have lived my life differently”
“I did give hints my son. I gave loads of hints. The tsunami in Japan was a hint; your so called credit crisis was a hint, uncontrollably increased entropy of this planet was a hint, Vinay Kumar making his test debut was a hint”
“But can’t we do anything to avoid it? I mean they must have got some plans, the Yankees I mean. They have saved this planet so many times, so what if in movies. They have done it”
For first time during our conversation, I saw his smile fading a bit “I will highly appreciate if you don’t take their name”
“Why? Are they not your children?”
“Yes they are. But they are really mischievous kids of mine. My house is divided on whether to take them or not”
“Why is that so?”
“Artful sellers they are. They sold some investment ideas to Indra. When Indra suffered some losses, Yankees showed him some calculations which were actually showing Indra’s losses as his profits. Indra took some more exposure. This went on and on. Indra ended up with such huge losses that Kubera had to come for his rescue. Now rumor has it that Yankees are trying to sell Kubera some of their investment plans”
“Oh, this all has reached there too?”
“Yes my son. Your world is burning. When there is fire, there is smoke. The smoke has reached up heavens too” he said while pointing upwards.
“I am listening”
“Now Indra wants Yankees to come and sell his plans to Kubera too. With Kubera making same mistakes, Indra will have the monkey off his back”
“Well this is how it works often. Make sure your preacher makes the same mistake and he will not be preaching you again” I said in a sympathizing tone.
“I don’t want them in my house either. I don’t want a recession at my place for sure. But lawmakers in my place are adamant – this planet has to be vacated. Mother Nature has been complaining of being overloaded for ages. I have a dilemma”
“So what are you going to do my Lord?” I asked.
“Well, I will have to take them ultimately. But I will also have to make sure that they remain decoupled from the rest”
“Completely?” I wondered.
“Maybe to start with, but as you know, they are my kids too. I cannot discriminate. Maybe they could prove their innocence and make amends after causing a rift in my house”
“How can they do it?”
“They have told me about some instruments which give handsome returns. They have said that these instruments are compliant with all the regulations and there are absolutely no chances of another catastrophic crisis. In addition to this, these instruments will give me handsome returns with minimal risks”
“So they have sold you as well into it?”
“Not the way they did it to Indra. I am not that stupid. But I also need to look after my funds. Once this planet is done away with, I will need huge amounts of funds for capital expenditure so that I can sow seeds of life in some other planet. Yankees can help me there. I have done all my due diligence”
“God, don’t you think you are making the same mistake we all made, Indra made?”
“Nope. I have checked the business plan, the NAV, run several stress tests in worst case scenarios. I have checked it all”
“But that everyone did. You are falling in the trap. Please don’t, please. You are becoming greedy. It’s the greed which killed us all.”
“I know what I am doing son. And let me remind you, I am God. I am immortal. Now if you please hurry up, we got some distance to cover. So hurry you up, and I will go start my engine” he said while moving out.
A loud cacophonous sound hit my ears. With each passing second, it was becoming louder. I woke up. The movie 2012 was in its climax. I switched off the TV and went back to sleep.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An ode to DC downtown – the Dange Chowk!!!

An ode to DC downtown – the Dange Chowk!!!

On the left of Mumbai-pune expressway, lots of dust in my hair
Warm smell of diesel, thick smog in the air
Up ahead in the distance, somewhere in my sight
I saw a busy crossroad, with no traffic light
The traffic grew heavy and hopes to drive through got dim
I had to stop in my plight
There it stood in the doorway
It looked like a huge well
And I was thinking to myself
This could be heaven or this could be hell
A traffic cop came to me and I had to make his day
There were shouts of expletives all around me
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the DC downtown
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely place
Plenty of chaos in DC downtown
Anytime of the year, you can find it here

To one side there is Pimpari,
One side is Kalewadi Phata,
It also leads to Hinjewadi,
But in total it looks like a massively erroneous errata

Its roads are totally busted, and they are full of gutters
Even if you get Schumi, he can’t drive without flutters
Even if you drive in 5 degree Fahrenheit, you will still sweat
For sure this is one country road, you just cannot forget

So I called up the God,
And told him this place is divine
He said, we have been collecting spirits here since nineteen sixty nine
And all those voices keep calling from far away,
They wake you up in the middle of the night
You just hear them say...

Welcome to the DC downtown
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely place
So many souls here, took their last vows
What a daredevil place, bring all your foes

No lights on the street,
Lot of potholes to greet
Often here they say life is a struggle, it’s not a treat
And the days of rain,
There is a lot to gain
If the place becomes like Venice
You can’t call it pain

Last thing I remember, I was
Crossing it in the night
An oil tanker on my left and I had a Tumtum on my right
There was nowhere to go and a truck was pushing me from the back
My prayers got answered
And I got away just with a minor scratch

Oh I could hear them all say
Welcome to the DC downtown
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely place
Go pay it a visit and you will aggrieve
Maybe you can do so but your memories, it won’t leave

Welcome to the DC downtown
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely place

PS 1: Credit goes to Eagles for all the inspiration!!!
PS 2: Pun intended!!!