Monday, December 31, 2012

The Coach Hour with Arnab - Concluding Part!!!

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This is a work of fiction, written in hope that you will find some sense in the humor. Idea is not to insult any individual. Any sentiments hurt are deeply regretted. Here is the part 1 of this series.


“You don’t wake up Sehwag, definitely not like that. He has been sleeping for last two years, I mean two hours and no one has had the courage to wake him up. So I apologize to you on his behalf. Let’s make a new beginning” said Dhoni.

It had taken him two hours to placate Arnab and finally he succeeded. “Okay” said Arnab.

Arnab entered the dressing room with Dhoni.

“Sir, Bhuwneshwar” said a youngster.

“No, not today” Arnab replied “I am busy here for the entire day. Do I have an appointment in Bhubaneswar, BTW?”

“No Sir, not Bhubaneswar. I Bhuwneshwar, Sir”

“Oh, you are the new kid on the block, the new going-to-be Kapil Dev. How are you Mr. Kumar?”

“Fine sir. Laddoo sir, home made from Thaggu ke Laddoo” said Kumar while offering him Laddoos.

“See ladies” said Arnab while Chawla blushed “and gentlemen. Oh, I am sorry. It is a game of men, gentlemen. Gentlemen, look at this young kid. Coming from the land of natural resources, coming from the city which transformed the great Emperor Asoka, coming from the place not well known to groom cricketers, he has made it. He is real India – coming from the place India lives. People of India live in small towns, gentlemen. It is where the soul of India lives. So Bhuwneshwar, tell me. How was it growing up in Bhubaneswar, the Kalinga, and dreaming about playing for India?”

“Actually Arnab, he is not from Bhubaneswar. He is from Kanpur” Dhoni whispered in his ears.

“Oh I know that. I was just joking. See, this is real India. Someone is born in Kanpur and carries the name of another city. This is India – unity in diversity and vice versa” Arnab continued his speech “Do you guys know what everyone wants to see? What people of India want to see? They want to see a fight. They want to see you getting up on your feet and punching it back. They want to see you winning. People of India, whole 1.25 billion and counting, want to see you put up a fight and winning. This, gentlemen, is your duty. This, gentlemen, has to be your destiny. You have to fight gentlemen, fight. You have to win. There is no other option”

Arnab stood in a pose – hands half stretched, looking down at an angle of 30 degrees, and his face was bearing a really serious look. His nostrils looked tight and his spectacles had slipped down his nose. He just stood there holding that pose.

Suddenly everyone stood up and started to clap. Arnab heard it and thought - Yes, I have made them move. Yes, I have touched their conscience. Yes, I have motivated them.

“Okay gentlemen, calm down. I know that was a motivating speech but no claps please” said Arnab while asking everyone to sit down.

“Actually Arnab, it was not for you. Paaji has come” said Gambhir.

Sachin had entered the room and was exchanging pleasantries with everyone.

Aaila, Arnab. How are you?” said Sachin.

“I am fine Mr Tendulkar. How are you?”

“Not too bad. So you are the new coach, eh?”

“Yes Mr Tendulkar.  In such an illustrious career, I am sure you would have seen many coaches. Maybe I will be your last coach” said Arnab with a wink.

“Oh yes. I don’t know which number would be higher, number of coaches I have seen or the number of years I have played. Why do you think that you might be my last coach? Is BCCI going to do away the policy of coaches?”

“I like you sense of humor, Mr Tendulkar” said Arnab “Gentlemen; you are in presence of greatness, absolute greatness. And I am deeply impressed by the respect you have shown to this man. He happens to be an honorable member of parliament too. By showing respect to him, you have shown respect to the constitution of our democracy”

“I am no civics expert, Arnab but I am sure constitution gives equal respect to everyone” said Sachin.

“See, see the humility this man has. Thank you Mr Tendulkar, it is always a pleasure meeting you”

“Please call me Sachin. I insist”

“Okay, Sachin it would be. But let me thank you on behalf of people of India. If you weren’t there, we wouldn’t have witnessed greatness. If you weren’t there, gaucherie of 90s wouldn’t have turned into mastery of 2000s. Thank you Sachin”

“It has been a pleasure to serve this nation, Arnab. BTW, you were telling something about BCCI doing away with the policy of coaches” inquired Sachin.

“No, no. I didn’t mean it. What I meant was that you will retire soon. Hence I am most likely to be your last coach”

“I don’t know Arnab about my retirement. I am not thinking about it”

“What? You are not going to retire? You want to continue playing even at this age?”

“I will give up the day I think I don’t love this game anymore”

“Okay. For the sake of your love, you will continue playing and block the way of an upcoming, talented youngster” said Arnab which made Rohit Sharma nod “That is so selfish”

“No Arnab. Retiring on a high is selfish. I am not on a high. I will give up when I think I can no longer contribute”

“Contribute? Did I hear the word contribute? You know Sachin, off late your only contribution has been towards James Anderson’s wicket column. I am not going to be fooled by this contribution logic. People of India are not going to be fooled by this contribution logic. When are you going to retire?”

“Arnab, as far as retirement is concerned, it is my decision. If you think I am not good enough to claim a place in the side, drop me” said Sachin with his usual smile.

“So you are daring me to drop you. An honorable member of parliament is daring me to drop him. Mr Tendulkar, is that a threat? Are you threatening the journalism in this country? Are you threatening the freedom of expression of citizens of this country?” Arnab’s pitch was getting a raise.

“No Arnab. All I was saying is that if you don’t find me good enough, drop me”

“Mr Tendulkar, this is the problem we have. We don’t understand roles. It is selector’s job to pick or drop a player. I am the coach. I cannot do that”

“Let them do it”

“Okay. I ask the selectors of Indian cricket team. I, on behalf of people of India, demand an answer from the national selectors. Do they have courage to drop this man? The question I ask is - how long we can go on picking people on records made in distant past. How long we can keep compromising on young talent in order to keep big names in the side. How long we can keep picking incompetency in the name of reputation? How long the people of India are going to tolerate this, how long?”

“Are you calling me incompetent?” wondered Sachin. He couldn’t believe he had heard it.

“Mr Tendulkar, the way team has performed in last year and a half, entire team is incompetent. We don’t deserve such bunch of an inefficient, incapable, non-committal, incompetent and surrendering people. People of India don’t deserve this. We just don’t” said Arnab and stood in his usual pose – serious face, looking down at an angle of 30 degrees, arms half stretched, nostrils testing their ductility and spectacles hanging at the tip of his nose, “Maybe Mr Bedi was right. Maybe Mr Bedi was ahead of his time. If any team needs to be thrown into the Pacific Ocean, it is this”

“Arnab, I take offence. This is an insult” there are very few things which could make Sachin angry and questioning his commitment was one of them.

Arnab was so focused on Sachin that he had almost forgotten the others. Only if he had paid attention to their faces, he would have realized the trouble he was in.

Arnab had given the players a bitter pill of truth to swallow. In last years and a half, they had become accustomed to it. Arnab had battered their ego. Not much was left any how after what had happened in last year and a half. Players were fine with it. Continued failure had made them quite a pachyderm.

But Arnab had crossed the line. He had insulted their God, the God. And they heard their God admit the fact that he had been insulted. They may not have been a master in English but the line “This is an insult” was something they had learnt pretty well in last one year and a half.

While they could live with them being insulted, God was beyond any insult. Not even their opponents had shown the guts to do it. It was blasphemy. It was a crime, serious crime.

While Arnab’s stay in the dressing room had created a bubble, Sachin’s last word acted as a needle which had pricked it.

The bubble had exploded.

#$$$$!@#$@!#$ Arnab Dude. Forget dunking us in Pacific Ocean; let me dunk you in what Pacific Ocean contains” said Virat and poured a bucket full of water over Arnab. Gambhir, Ishant and Dinda followed.

Arnab was soaking wet in water. If that wasn’t enough, everyone started calling him Papa, Papa. He had absolutely no idea about why people were calling him Papa.

It is then when I realized. My kids had thrown water on me to wake me up so that I could take them to the park and play with them – it was a usual weekend routine.

It is then when I realized. Once the match had gotten over last night, I started watching “News Hour with Arnab Goswami” on Times Now and dozed off.

It is then when I realized. It was all part of a dream. Nothing of this sort ever happened.

The sun was shining and it was time to go through the morning rituals.

Off I went.


PS: Events in this post are based on a dream I had and discussions I had surrounding that dream. This is a complete work of fiction. Any sentiments hurt are deeply regretted.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Coach Hour with Arnab Goswami!!!

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It is work of fiction, completely. Any sentiments hurt are deeply regretted.

He tightened the knot of his Versace tie. He put on Gucci shoes. He looked at the time in his Rolex. It was time.

Arnab Goswami had been appointed to coach team India. While his appointment had come as a surprise to the rest of the nation, cricketing fraternity and cricket board welcomed it. Now if team performs badly, they wouldn’t need to face Arnab. The hunter was assuming the position of the hunted now.

Arnab entered the dressing room.  For him, it was moving out of his comfort zone. For first time in ages, he was moving in a workplace where cameras and microphone weren’t allowed. For Arnab, they were his oxygen and water – he couldn’t imagine life without these two.

Anyhow, this was a new challenge.

All he could see in the room was cricketing gears thrown around here and there, Virat Kohli putting on some gel on his hair, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma deeply engrossed in each other’s eyes and Ravindra Jadeja watching the movie 300. Rohit Sharma was frantically searching for something and when asked what he was looking for, he gave a one word answer “Talent”. MS Dhoni was complaining about the pitch at which Ashwin was singing the song Koi Lauta de mere, beete huye din.

It was total chaos, almost.“Gentlemen” said Arnab in his booming voice. No one paid attention.

“Gentlemen” Arnab repeated with higher pitch. Result didn’t change.

He went straight to Virat, put his hand on his shoulder and said Virat.

Oye hatt #@#@#$!#$ saale Ishant. I am not Gambhir. !@#!@#$ let me style my hair”  said Virat while turning back “Hey Arnab dude, the news hour. How are you man?”

“Hi. I am your new coach”

O teri !@#$#@!%@. You are the new coach. Oh yeah I heard that sometime back. Welcome coach”

“Thanks Virat. Can we have some order in the house please? Can you please ask rest of your colleagues to gather around quietly so that we can have a meeting?”

“Dude, DIY. I mean do it yourself and let me know when you are done. Make sure the meeting is quick. I have a date tonight and don’t want to miss it. Oye bolo Papa Ranjeet ki jai, !@$@$$%”Arnab stood there and watched. It didn't look like if he was going to get any attention. Meanwhile, Awana and Dinda spotted and came to him.

“Sir, coach sir. Dinda. Fast. Bhery Fast sir. Swing also sir. Bhickets in Ranji sir. Bhery promising Bhowler ,sir” said Dinda.

Awana also nodded with every word Dinda said.

“Mr. Dinda” said Arnab in his usual booming tone, “do you think I am blind. Do you think people of India are blind? Do you think our democracy which has been born and bred by millions of patriotic Indians is Nincompoop? In case you think so, you are suffering from enantiomorphism. The people of this country are not dilettantes Mr. Dinda. The people of this country are connoisseurs as far as cricket is concerned. And they are bloody concerned.”

Dinda slowly took a step back. Awana was looking at Arnab, agape.

“When you say you are a fast bowler, do you even know what it means Mr. Dinda? I ask you Mr. Awana, Parvinder Awana. Do you even know what fast means? Do you even know what people of this country expect from a fast bowler?”

By now, Dinda had disappeared. It was just Awana and Arnab. Awana’s face looked flat.

“I am asking you a question Mr.Awana. On behalf of people of India, I am asking you a question? Don’t you feel ashamed? Don’t you feel ashamed that in the name of a medium fast bowler, all you do is run a bit more than the great Anil Kumble and bowl a bit faster than Venketesh Prasad?” Awana’s silence was making Arnab lose his patience. He wasn’t used to of such surrenders. “Answer me Mr. Awana. India demands answers” said Arnab while almost shouting “Are you dumb, Mr Awana?”

Two tears rolled down from Awana’s eyes. He started sobbing.

“Dude, what are you doing!@#$@#$!$?” said Virat as he came running down to wipe off Awana’s tears “He doesn’t know English”

“What? He doesn’t know the language? How the hell we are going to succeed with such illiteracy in the team” Arnab looked shocked.

“We are cricketers, Arnab. We are no journalists writing articles on

Paaji’s leg glance” said Virat.

“But your opponents’ minds are written in English. You need to read them, Mr Virat”

“Do you ever think before you speak?” asked a stern Dhoni.

“Here he comes, the captain cool – Mahinder Singh Dhoni. Mr Dhoni, may I request you to call upon your colleagues so that we can have a team meeting?”

Everyone gathered around Arnab.

“No, no. Please don’t encircle me gentlemen” said Arnab. Virat moved out the circle first and he was followed by Gambhir. Ah, he wants to meet the gentlemen only, thought Virat.

“Please arrange a banana shape table. I will sit at one end and all of you sit in the rest of the chairs. That is how I do my meetings” said Arnab.

The meeting started.

“Mr. Dhoni. I would like to start with you. Will you be kind enough to tell us all, the people of India, that why are we not winning? Despite the fact that our board is the richest in the world, despite the fact that we get to play in world’s most wanted cricket league, despite the fact that we have God on our side, despite the fact that we have so much talent in the side”  said Arnab which brought a sheepish smile on Rohit Sharma’s face.

“We have been battered in the recent past. Our hopes have been crushed under the crusaders of pace bowling, our wishes have been bulldozed by the juggernauts of the batsmen in opposition, and our eyes have wept like an infant by this side’s laughable fielding. Laughable, did you gentlemen hear the word? It has been laughable” continued Arnab while shaking his head “May I have some answers Mr. Dhoni”

“Well off course…” started Dhoni and was interrupted immediately by Arnab.

“No Mr Dhoni. You cannot do that. You cannot keep doing it. You cannot use the word well any more. It is high time you start to dwell instead of saying well all the time. Please leave that job to Mr Shukla” Arnab continued “May I ask you Mr Gambhir. What is the reason that suddenly, from a fighting tiger, you have become a leech on team’s batting”

“Well, I am just a century away from my form” said Gambhir.

“You, Mr Gambhir, are not a century away. It is because of your irresponsible, and I repeat, irresponsible batting that we look like a century away from winning. Just to make it clear to you Mr Gambhir, by century I mean century of years and not the runs you may make”

Arnab continued his motivational lecture. He randomly picked up the cricketers and told them about what he and the people of India think and expect.

At the end of the table, it was Sehwag. Right since Arnab had entered the room, Sehwag had been sleeping. In fact he was put on the chair by others but he didn’t wake up.

“He was practicing till 4 in the morning. Let’s wake him up only if it is absolutely necessary” was what others had told Arnab.

By now, Arnab’s patience had run out. He never believed that Sehwag would have been practicing till 4 in the morning. That was not the Sehwag everyone knew. But it was the manner in which he was stopped from waking him up that had stopped Arnab.

“Mr Sehwag, it is high time you must wake up. People of India are awakening against the capitalist society in Indian cricket team. It is high time and you must wake up. How long we, this country, the people of India, can tolerate your irresponsible behavior, how long you can keep donning Indian cap with pathetic level of fitness, how long we can tolerate you typical excuse of playing the natural game. Wake up Mr Sehwag, how long we can tolerate your incompetency in the name of see the ball, hit the ball theory” Arnab started shaking Sehwag’s body “Mr. Sehwag, I don’t want to sound like a martinet but in my regime, discipline will rule. You will wake up on time, sleep on time. You will practice on time. Your see it, hit it theory will just not work Mr Sehwag. Wake up. People of India want you to wake up Mr Sehwag. You need to go for net practice. You need to sharpen your instincts. Without that, even your see it, hit it theory is useless”

Phataaaaakkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suddenly Arnab felt as if he was in universe and his head was surrounded by stars.

“Mr Sehwag. You hit me? Why the hell”

“Oh Arnab, it is you. Sorry. I just saw you. Sorry boss, I need to go to practice. See it, hit it theory may not work, always. In fact I am not sure if it works even now” said Sehwag and off he went.

Arnab’s right cheek had become blue by now. It was bleeding blue


To be continued…

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thank You, Sir!!!

535x330xsachin2-1110810.jpg.pagespeed.b.ic.jRxzNg83FUAs soon as I started my car this morning, the music system started playing a song from Aashiqui – Ab tere bin, jee lenge hum. Irony is the world which can sum up my morning.

Okay. He hasn’t announced his retirement from test cricket yet but that day isn’t far away. It is debatable if he is the greatest batsman ever to play test cricket. Maybe he isn’t. But there is no doubt that he was the greatest batsman to have played the 50-over format, ever. No debate about it. Period.

How do you write about him? There is nothing that hasn’t already been said or written. You don’t need statsguru to find out his records – we all remember them. Forget innings, even particular shots in different masterpieces are etched hard in our memories – we all remember them.

How do you write about him? I thought of writing with LOTR in background. How Frodo wasn’t letting the ring go. How Frodo missed dropping the ring from the tip of the volcano on that night of 2nd April 2011 and now ring looked like controlling him. But there is a fundamental difference. Frodo was nobody. He was just chosen to carry the ring to its destination so that the world survive Souron’s wrath. Others fought fierce battles to keep Souron’s eye occupied whereas Frodo continued his journey – not only battling the surroundings but also his own mind. But it will be fair to say, without disrespecting his deeds, that Frodo was just a postman doing his duty.

Sachin’s case is different. Sachin invented the ring. He was its master. Like Frodo, he didn’t have the luxury of others fighting battles for him – at least in 90s. In fact he fought others battles too. He carried the ring all along with Souron’s eyes focused on him, completely. Yet he never showed any signs of omens of the ring impacting his mind. It never did. Okay, he did miss the chance to drop it when at the tip of volcano and looked tired after that. But he has dropped it now. Unlike Frodo’s story, Souron doesn’t get finished with the ring here. The way things are now, Souron seems to be awakening.

These two stories are different hence it is a bad analogy.

How do you write about him? I tried taking comfort in another of my favorite bunkers – Harry Potter. Like the Ministry of Magic story, I thought of deriving an analogy. I thought of writing how Dumbledore comes back visiting Harry, they discuss cricket, they crib about Sachin’s retirement and how Dumbledore tells Harry “He was like one of us. He was a wizard. He was a magician. In fact, if Lord Vondelmort had killed you on that night, I would have chosen him to do the job”.

Like Harry, Sachin has been a wizard –just that he used a bat instead of a wand. Like Harry, Sachin had amazing ability to read his opponent’s mind. Like Harry, we rested all our hopes on Sachin to bail us out. Like Harry, we all said about him – “He is the one”. Like Harry, Sachin was the best.

But again, Harry Potter was a fictitious character. Sachin is real.

Back to square one – how do you write about him? I thought of comparing the impact of economic growth on different generations in India and Sachin. India’s economic growth coincides with Sachin’s career. From a country which was living in a silo-ed economy, living in License-Raj, living with a forex reserve of 15 days, we have come quite a distance. Yes economy is in trouble right now but we have made some progress, let’s not deny that. Oh by the way, our economic downturn also coincides with Sachin’s decline and now departure.

With change in economy, we have seen the generations change. Somehow for all their good qualities, I find my previous generation a lot more defensive, lot more laid back. Most of them spent their lives behind one single desk. We cannot blame them – they didn’t enjoy an open economy. But what troubles me is that they boast about it. They seemed to be content, that too completely, in their comfort zone. It is quite similar to Gavaskar’s 36 in 60 overs story. Chasing a score of 334, he accepted defeat and used 60 overs for batting practice. Using 60 overs for batting practice in a world cup match? Yes. No attempts to even try it. It was the “I will do what I am comfortable with” attitude.

Things changed with Sachin. He never accepted defeat. He just never did. He always wanted to make a difference, no matter if it meant traveling miles out of his comfort zone.

You don’t have an opener? I will do it.

Your main bowler, a legend, isn’t confident of bowling the final over? Let me do it.

A desert storm is threatening to abandon a must-win match for us? Let me scare it away with my stubbornness so that I, yes I, can take you to the next round.

You are chasing a 5.5 runs per over against a fearsome attack? No worries, I will bring the run rate down to 4 for you.

It was will to move out of comfort zone. It was fearlessness. It was belief that opponents are human and they will fear you if you stand up and punch them back.

Thoughts of accepting defeat just because you have a mountain to climb were no longer in existence, not at all.

I see my generation as much more progressive than my previous one. We are more fearless, willing to do things we aren’t so comfortable doing and venture into unknown territories.

I see next generation as much more rash as compared to mine. I see them aiming lower than they should be because they get rewards good enough to survive by aiming lower. I see them opting for call center jobs which comes relatively easily - with a bit more hard work, they can achieve lot better things. I see them seeing IPL as future.

But again, sample set of my observation is very small – just based on my experiences. It is just how I see the world. I may not be right. But this is how I think.

One can write about him as if he was an infallible God but last year and half has proved that he is fallible and he is Human. This wasn’t the first time when we said – Sachin is finished. But he proved every time that he wasn’t – he always came back stronger. Just that this time, he has given up playing in a format he was best ever; he has shown us that he is human after all. He has decided to let it go. Life is all about letting it go. What hurts more is not getting a chance to say good bye. I wish we had got our chance. But that’s okay. I wish a million other things too. I will live with that.

In short, it is impossible to write about Sachin. It is impossible to capture him in words. It is impossible to limit him in any form of communication.

All I can say is – Thank You, Sir. Thank you for those wonderful memories – the “Let me show you your place, Sir” over against Abdul Qadir, the “Give it to me, I will do it if none of you have the balls” over in Hero Cup, the “Get the hell out of here, I’ve got a match to win” innings in Desert Storm, the “Let me kill them myself so that you can walk over their dead bodies to capture the post” innings in 2003 world cup against Pakistan, the “Oh you are bowling short to me? Sorry dude, but I knew the line and length of this ball a week in advance” six of Caddick in 2003 world cup against England, the “It’s just 350. I will chase it down alone” innings of 175 against Australia, the “Oh, I haven’t scored a double hundred in ODIs? No one has? Let me do it then” double hundred in ODIs.

Thank you very much Sir for not letting Cricket go Hockey way and letting Sunil Gavaskar become a Dhyanchand.

Thank you very much for keeping my own childhood alive in a corner of my heart till now.

I am a father myself now. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to say good bye.

It is time to say - Thank You, Sir!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Coach is Sunny, Honey!!!

download This is a work of fiction.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Bakaiti Times, the epitome of sensational journalism. Like last time when we did a nationwide survey on Sir Jadeja’s selection in New Bombay, we are back with more sensational piece of news. Rumor has it that Sunny has been interviewed by BCCI to take over as Team India’s coach. No, it’s not Sunny G or Sunny Paaji. It’s Sunny Leone, the Sunny Leone.

To make some money, BCCI is looking to find a buyer for that interview. Ah, they never leave a chance to mint money. We have heard that Andhra Bank – much more to do with YOU in focus, Sony – Like no other, and Toyota Innova – All you desire, are the front runner to buy the video of this interview. However, you needn’t worry. Our journalists have, through their sting operation, obtained a copy of that video. We cannot provide you the video due to obvious reasons but here is the gist of the interview. An old cricketer from BCCI, Tracer Bullet interviewed her. Just to keep the name of the cricketer secret, we are referring him as BCCI.

TB:  Hello Mrs. Leone. Let me complement you first. You are looking gorgeous.

SL: Thanks a lot, TB. Do you like my top? I bought it especially for this interview.

Pointed towards the green top she was wearing.TB: Yes, yes. I like it. It’s bit a different to see you with a top, though.

SL: Thanks. We can begin.

TB: What do you think about the reasons for our failures?

SL: I have seen some of the matches. You cricketers look jaded. They look tired. They don’t seem to enjoy. This is where I will bring the difference. This is where I will be their light. I will make them enjoy. Look at your captain. He has such a stoic face. He needs to understand – everything is line is about expressing yourself. Look at my performances in the past – do I bear dead emotions? No I don’t. I express myself. The world sees that I am enjoying. The world enjoys with me. No matter what you do, you must enjoy your work like I do. Look at your future captain. He is more interested in mothers and sisters of opponent. They don’t matter. Cricket does. I will make him interested in me. I will make him interested in cricket.

TB: What will you do to improve the situation? Don’t you think for a team of men, a woman will be too soft for being a coach?

SL: Dude, let me tell you. I may look like a soft Barbie doll but I am no averse to getting things strict, getting things hard when needed. In fact, it has been my forte.

She kneeled down a bit while saying it.TB: Mrs. Leone, I know and I agree. Let’s focus on the interview please.

SL: As you wish.

TB: Our players don’t fail overseas. They don’t like green tops, bouncy pitches?

SL: Well, don’t you like my green top?

TB: Yes I do Mrs. Leone. But our players will love it if every ounce of greenery is removed.

He said with a wink.SL: Shall I? I am sure you would love the bounce too. Against the popular belief, Indians do love bounce.

TB: No, no Mrs. Leone. I didn’t mean that. Obviously I don’t mind that but since we are recording this interview to sell it as an educational video for youth of this country, we would like to keep this neat and clean.

SL: Well, I have done a lot for education of youth in this country and the rest of the world. But I do get your point.

TB: We have lost or swing bowlers and not many are in sight.

SL: Swing. Do you mean swing? Oh, I am an expert in swinging.

TB: I meant swing, Mrs. Leone. Swing.

SL: Yeah, yeah swing. In swing, out swing, I know it all. I will teach them all. I can and do swing both ways. You just don’t need to worry about this aspect.

TB: Team has lost the art of managing pressure.

SL: Don’t you worry. I will teach them how to get hard when there is pressure, how to give all you have and how to relax and go back to your cocoon when pressure is released. Don’t you worry, I will teach them how to come out that cocoon fast and get back to hardship.

TB: Fitness…

SL:

Cutting in between, this is one thing I would like to talk about. Just look at the coach you have – fat, old, unfit.

Standing up in Marlin Monroe style, look at me. This is called fitness – to have where you should and to not have where you shouldn’t. One needs to lead by example. I will be their example. One needs a reward to succeed. I will be their reward.

TB: Oh great. Even I have started thinking about making a comeback now. I am sure you will make me fitter.

SL: Sure TB.

TB: Our batsmen have lost their ability to score.

SL: Oh I can teach them that. I know they are all hard hitters.  Just that they’ve not been motivated enough to hit it hard. And you won’t get a better motivator than me. When I say HARDER, they will hit real hard – be rest assured. When I say FASTER, your bowlers will bowl faster.

TB: Too many hard hitters may be a problem in test cricket. We don’t take enough singles.

SL: That’s the problem with the social upbringing. See, India is a society built upon solid foundation called family. The moment a baby is born, people start talking about his marriage and babies. One just cannot remain single here. That’s the problem – you guys don’t believe in singles. I will teach them all – the importance of singles. I will teach each of them personally. “Single and ready to mingle” will become their motto. This will improve the team spirit to, don’t you think?

TB: Our tail is really a tail. It doesn’t wag anymore like it used to in our better days.

SL: Well, tails do wag in front of me. I know how to make them wag, TB.

TB: So you think you have an answer to all out problems and make us a champion team once again?

SL: Women can do wonders, TB. Don’t you remember how a women’s mere promise motivated your team to win the world cup. Imagine what I, Sunny Leone, can do. Do you have any more questions or we are done?

TB: What are your plans for the evening?

TB said with a wink.SL: Extremely sorry to disappoint you but I have already made my plans. I am going out with one of your players?

TB: What? My player? Why?

SL: Let’s just say, I have started the homework. I have started the exercise called team bonding.

TB: Who if I may ask?

SL: Oh it’s that cute chubby guy, the guy with dimples. I am forgetting his name.

TB: What? You are going out with him? HIM?

SL: Why not? He is so charming. I have heard that he was picked up in the side because of his charm. Let me find out if he has got any.

With this, the interview ended. But we have heard that after this interview, many ex cricketers have started planning to make a comeback. India may soon have problem of plenty. However, our readers needn’t worry.

Bakaiti Times will keep you posted.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Can Love Happen Twice?

downloadRooting for my dad, who was batting, from the fence is my very first memory of the game. He played at club level – rubbed shoulders with the likes of Gopal Sharma and Rahul Sapru, some big names in UP cricket. That’s where the game entered my blood.

I vaguely remember Ravi Shastri driving around his Audi in Melbourne-1985. I clearly remember Miandad’s last ball six in Sharjah. “SardarJi hits only sixes” my uncle had told me about Navjot Singh Sidhu’s heroics in 1987 world cup. I watched Sunil Gavaskar’s first hundred in ODIs followed by him getting bowled in the semifinal. I was interested in the game but wasn’t smitten by it yet.

It was Sachin’s debut series in 1989 that got me hooked to the game. Seeing a kid refusing to go off the ground when his tiny nose was bleeding made me wonder – how brave he must be. I was entering an age group which believes it cannot die. Anything heroic leaves this age group in awe and they want to do it. They love heroes. They want to become like them.

I wanted to be a hero. Cricket became a way.

I picked up batting as I couldn’t roll my arm over. I still cannot bowl without bending my elbow. I surely bend it more than 15 degrees.

I realized what makes batsmen going on and on. It is the sound when you time the ball well – “Tuk”. The sound is really pleasing to the ears. No matter how noisy the surroundings are, it still echoes – instantly to the outside word and keeps doing it in your mind for the rest of your life. You wonder the speed at which the ball has gone because for your hands and wrists, it feels as light as a red hot knife slicing the butter. It’s a feeling which doesn't last for more than a second but lives on forever in your mind. Now I understand why batsmen, you-know-who is the biggest example, do not want to give up the game. It’s the addiction to that feeling. It’s orgasmic or frankly speaking, better than that. It’s that sound “Tuk”.

I remember playing with a cork and/or leather ball with just a bat in my hands – pads, gloves, other protective equipment were not affordable. Bat was my sword. Bat was my shield. Fear of getting hit by the ball never even crossed my mind. All I wanted to do was to not get out so that I could keep hearing the sound – “Tuk”. Oh that addiction. One lesson was learnt for life – if you overcome your fear and block the routes of failures, fruits of success will keep coming.

I have wasted one year of my life because of cricket. My engineering entrance exams were due in May but the sky fell down in March – after Sachin got out on that night in Eden-1996, we surrendered.

India needs a solid middle order batsman so that Sachin’s fall doesn’t have a dominos effect and I am going to be that middle order batsman. I decided. Damn the exams. They happen every year.Yes.  I was being stupid but what will be adolescence without believing in stupid dreams?

Maybe playing for the entire day in the month of April could be called as putting hard work in my game.

“Damn the exams”, I had said. Exams said “Damn you”. Well, my career in cricket is an open secret anyhow. I would have been in a lot better place in life had I not lost that year. But the lesson learnt was – hard work has to be a vector quantity.  When it becomes a scalar, buckets of sweat produced go down the drain instead of watering the flowers of your dreams.

I have been disappointed, gutted like a kid whose demand for a toy hasn’t been met by his father. I have had sleepless nights and thought how differently Kiran More could have played his paddle shot and India had not lost by just 1 run in Brisbane – 1992 or how the hell a batsman can be given out shoulder-before-wicket. When India lost to Zimbabwe in 1999 world cup, I was told by my father that I woke up from my sleep, shouted “We have beaten Zimbabwe” and went back to sleep again. Yes, I have cried with dry eyes.

I have also hoped like Andy Dufresne or maybe better than him. Eden-2001 was moment when I learnt a big lesson in life. You will lose sometimes in life but if you start believing that you can and will win, miracles can be expected to happen. As they say, it’s not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that matters. While jumping in joy when Glenn McGrath was adjudged LBW, I decided to pick up some of that attitude – Screw you. Just because you have punched me down, it doesn’t mean that I will not get up.

I have been told by my wife “What is this? You are always watching cricket on TV. It doesn’t look as if we are staying in a house. I feel as if we live in a stadium”. I learn that I was married.

I have had heroes. I have grown up with them. I have woken up at 1:00 AM in the morning, counted seconds till 3:00 AM when the match was expected to start so that I could see Sachin bat. I have missed few minutes of my exam so that I could see Dravid winning the test in Adelaide. I have shouted “@!#!@# saalon ki” at the middle of the road when I saw Ganguly waving his T-shirt in Lords balcony. I was watching this in a Pan-Shop. I have grown up with the hope given by VVS and loving the intensity of Kumble. Yes I have grown up with them.

I am intellectually challenged but only subject in which I get some respect in a discussion is cricket. Human mind is an ever hungry monster looking for thoughts to eat up and my mind feeds on cricket. At this age when you come to work only because you don’t have a choice, have become slave of life’s rut, really don’t have much to look forward to apart from mundane affairs in life, cricket brings the emotions out of me. When Pujara got run out in Eden, I was roaming around in a shopping mall throwing expletives at nothing but air. People around me were looking at me as if I was insane. I gave them the ugliest possible stare This is a test match for God sakeHow the hell you can get run out. Now get out of my sight before I puncture your eyeballs.

It’s good to see your emotions coming out – proves that there is something which keeps your adrenal running. It feels good to be passionate about something. At least I am not a dead man walking.

To sum it up, I have been in love with the game. Madly. Hopelessly. Crazily.

Love is a feeling, a state of mind. Love is intangible. But its genesis lies in different objects – beautiful eyes, good looking face, the persona, assets – literally or figuratively. It’s the ornaments of the object which make you fall in love with it, generally.

Alas, the world is changing. Times have been bad off late.

We have been losing. Losing doesn't hurt that much. What has hurt more is that the dog in the fight has lost the fight in the dog. The dog doesn't even seem to be bothered about it. My love is under stress, big stress.

My object of love is weakening. Its ornaments, the pearls, the rubies, the diamonds are either all gone or going. Soon, they all will be gone. I am not sure if new ornaments will be as good as the old ones. Even if they are, my mind is too practical and realistic to buy new stuff. Before buying, it will think of inflation, return on investment, future value and depreciation. It will not be bought into. Someone will need to sell it and sell it real hard.

My love for the game is being questioned by my mind. If I don’t find answers, I will be left alone with my mid-life and its crisis. I will be suffering. Its love which keeps one’s mind going, keeps one alive at heart. I need love but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to.

One way out could be to change the object of love. After all its being in love that matters, object is just a way. Maybe I can start following another game, another sport.

But the question is, is that possible now, at this age. Even bigger question is, can love happen twice?

I would rather hope that my existing object keeps shining.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Go Ravindra!!!

imagesOkay. Let me plead guilty first.

I have never been a Ravindra Jadeja fan. Forget being a fan, I have been a front runner in Ravindra Jadeja hate club. I have argued that he is so 90s, the most forgettable period for the cricket fans of my generation, hence needs to be forgotten. I have even looked into how planetary motions have shaped his legend of inaptitude. When he was picked up in the test side, I ridiculed him.

Now let me accept. My opinion about him has changed. It has changed for good.

“Let’s play Sir Jadeja at number six. He is a good fielder. He can bowl left arm spin. He even has a triple hundred to his name. Above all, he is sir. Let’s play him” I used to joke with friends before England arrived at our shores. English were expected to get butchered on square turners here. Alas, they didn’t meet the expectations.

Jadeja’s triple hundred in his opening match during this season of Ranji Trophy was laughed with the regular contempt “Ah, our substandard domestic cricket”

“Sir has reached his double ton” messaged a friend one day. Is he onto his third one? I wondered.

“Dude, 21st December is true. IT has happened” messaged the same friend. Jadeja had hit his third triple hundred, second for the season which was not more than 10 matches old. It got me thinking. It got me back to statsguru. I did some research.

He played one good innings in England. He gave some crucial performance during the home series against England which we won 5-0. India’s first win during their horrendous tour to Australia came in a T20 match where he was man of the match. Things turned to usual uselessness for him after that match.

Human mind is a strange creature. It sees things the way it wants to. Maybe it was his two triple hundreds this season which were making me think differently about him. But one thing is sure, he doesn’t look as bad as an MSK Prasad or a Gagan Khoda did.

While our batsmen in national team were finding it difficult to last more than 20 overs each, mind kept thinking – they don’t care anymore and are good for nothing. By nothing, the mind meant IPL. Is there anyone who can bat more than one session, barring Pujara? I thought.

In came the mind changer about Jadeja. Triple hundred in the first match was followed by a failure in the second match but just before I could term his triple hundred as an aberration; my eyes saw his bowling figures. He had taken nine wickets. Next match was a failure with both bat and with ball. But this was an aberration. This was a lull before the storm. Storm came in the next match. He scored one more triple hundred. Next match was followed by two half centuries in a low scoring match and 8 wickets.

Ravindra Jadeja was setting the domestic season on fire. And I quite liked this. What I liked even more was – no foot in the mouth talk, just the performance.

Shine your IPL tag has become a fad among the players. Line of thought that all they care about IPL isn’t entirely wrong. Wrong is to blame them for that, entirely. After just one hundred in IPL, Paul Valthaty became talk of the town. How many of us even care to check Robin Bisht’s performance in domestic cricket. IPL isn’t yet the selection criteria for selection in national side but it does play a role, I believe.

Let me give an analogy. When we hear someone speak, our first impression is formed by how fluent his English is, how good his vocabulary is, how eloquent he is. It’s not that we completely miss the content but by the time content is noticed, first impression is formed. So unless the content is really bogus, the first impression sails through. You may not understand this analogy if your command over this language is excellent. But ask someone like me. For all my life, English has been my biggest fear. Talking in English, writing in it, reading it out are the things which have given me and still give me jitters. I am semantically challenged. My mind is designed to get impressed by a glib talker. Content takes second precedence. It is most important but it takes second precedence. It’s natural.

Our domestic cricket is the content. IPL, at least for me, is English or rather fluency in it.

But here was a player trying to impress everyone with content. He has been and still is a very expensive English orator but he isn’t seeking relief in it. He is willing to put the hard yard to show us the content he is made of. And what a show off it has been - 794 runs at an average of 113, 24 wickets at 21 apiece.

Son of a business tycoon will always be a successful businessman – well not if you are someone I don’t want to name here but known more for your BBM pin than business acumen. That’s because he has all the support. All he needs is to build upon it. A talented cricketer will always do well especially if he has support of men who can implicitly or explicitly impress the men who matter – well not off course if you are Rohit Sharma.

It’s the progress of those who belong to the not-haves category that matters. I am yet to meet a true Ravindra Jadeja fan. I don’t think he finds any good support in media or among men I have talked about in previous sentence. Yet, he is in the side. Yet, people are silently smiling at him instead of laughing. Thank god it’s not because of fluency of English but the content he has shown.

Success of people like Pujara or Jadeja is critical for future of India’s test cricket. Because it will send a message – if you perform in first class, prove you can last long; you will get a chance to succeed. It will also prove that out first class system is still the same which gave is Dravids and Laxmans and Kumbles. It will restore our faith back into the system. It will also send the message – you may give more importance to the fluency over content, but we are still going to pick people with content and they are taking your places. For India’s test cricket to have a better future, people doing well in domestic cricket must succeed.

Being sincere in life and good at studies is no guarantee for success in life. But it increases the possibilities. Hence you want sincere and studious kids to do well in life so that you can tell your own kids – look at them.

With that note, I would like to end this eulogy. Last time a Frodo look alike debuted for India, he turned out to be Harry Potter of Indian cricket. I know there seems to be a shade of Dark Lord which differentiates his looks from Frodo, such is our state that even Cedric Diggory will fit the bill. Harry Potter was once in a life time wizard.

Go Ravindra - may the force be with you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ravindra Jadeja’s selection!!!

images (2)Ladies and gentlemen – the title of the post says it all. The news comes like water in Gobi desert for Indian cricket fans. While they have seen their cricket going down the drain in last one year, they must be thrilled to see the selection of this savior of Indian cricket. Sections of the crowd have already started calling him Noah and hope he will get the Indian cricket to safety in his arc. An ex-cricketer, better known as Tracer Bullet, called him Moses of Indian cricket but tracked back his statement when he was reminded where has his last Moses of Indian cricket has ended. “I was misquoted” said he. Overall, there is a feeling of hope – hope that things will turn around on Sir Jadeja’s jerking head for Indian cricket.

We, at Bakaiti times, interviewed the members of different strata of society to know what general public feels about this event of gigantic historical importance.

“See, our party is the way. Look at this series. We have won only one test and that was played in the Gujarat, the state where we have our government. Only one batsman has been able to score some runs in this series and he hails from Gujarat. With Sir Jadeja’s selection, things will turn around for good. It’s only our government which can provide environments for match winners to prosper. It’s only or government which can provide pitches where we can win test matches. People of India will recognize and vote out this corrupt government by voting us in” said a leading MP in BJP.

“Let me ask you. What was the reason that he wasn’t picked in the test team till now? It was only when PM visited the state and intervened; he could be selected in the national side” said a politician better known as Diggi Uncle.  “It was an RSS conspiracy” was his response when he was asked reason behind Sir Jadeja’s sacking from the Indian team earlier this year.

“He is a very productive all-rounder and you know the reason behind that. He was born in Jamnagar, the place which hosts Jamnagar’s most productive refinery in the entire country. I am very happy for him. Only if government can allow us to increase the prices, we can be more productive” said a leading businessman. When he was reminded that it was his inability to increase the productivity in a well renowned basin which was a major setback for the entire economy, he said “I am not talking about producing oil. Let us increase the prices and we can produce more of what I meant. When was any doubt on Indian’s ability to produce babies?”

“You know who is behind this inspired selection? It’s me. Hope he debuts in Nagpur” said Mahesh Bhatt in his standard pose – eyes closed, frowning face arms fully stretched so that the world could see his extremely fertile armpits. When he was asked to give explanation, he said “When was the last time a string of stupendous performances forced the world to select and debut someone? When was it? It was Bhatt’s who selected gave a chance to Sunny Leone in Jism2 after his string of fantastic performances in domestic matches”

“Country demands” said noted journalist Arnab Goswami before our correspondent disconnected the call because he wanted to avoid a melodramatic torture.

“Oh, he has been picked. Good. I would have loved to tell you my thoughts but I am running short of time. I need to repair my drinks trolley for Nagpur” said Manoj Tiwary on the condition of anonymity.


PS: It is a work of fiction. Any sentiments hurt are deeply regretted. If they are, please drop a comment and I will remove this post.  Please don’t follow the routine in such cases.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

Living in the Glories of Past!!!

downloadOne of the worst things that can happen to you in life is – you start living in the glory of your past because your present is just not good enough to give any hope for a better future. Looks like that’s where Indian cricket fans are headed.

For the last decade, story of Indian cricket can be summed up between two dismissals.

While chasing up a herculean task of eroding the deficit of 274 runs in Eden 2001, Ganguly got out caught behind to McGrath at the score of 232. This was late in the third day. Next wicket didn't come till the morning of the 5th day.

Things changed after that.

Not that we conquered the world but we learnt one of the most important lessons in life – miracles don’t happen unless you believe that they would and to get that belief, one must cling on to hope as if it is his last chance to breathe.

Not that we won every time we stepped onto cricket ground but we learnt to pick ourselves up after we had been punched down, we stood up and fought back again. We were no longer considered to be mere pushovers.

Not that we Indian fans switched off our TV set with smiles on our faces every time we watched cricket, but we went to bed and slept with a bit of satisfaction in our hearts – yes we lost but we did put up a fight.

The period lasted till Gautam Gambhir got out bowled to Stuart Broad in Lords 2011. Next wicket came almost immediately and so did the next to next. Since then wickets have been tumbling like a house of cards would do in a storm, opposition hasn’t been just beating us but piling up on our agony and we are no longer mere pushovers, we are worse than that. We have become a formality.

Yes. The past was good. We always had at least one reliable opener. Our middle order was, to put it precisely, the best we have ever had and one of the best the game has seen. Our lead spinners didn’t always run through the opposition but could always be trusted to make the life miserable for opposition batsmen. We were never brilliant fielding side but at least we had a stable, agile and reliable slip cordon. And make no mistake; we kept getting a decent supply of men who run more than 20 yards to deliver the ball.

Yes. It was not a fairytale throughout. Debacles did happen. Tradition of losing the first test in England continued in 2002 but we came back to draw the series. NatWest is history. Result of 1-1 in Australia-2004 was seen as an underachievement by India – doesn’t matter if Australians didn’t have their frontline bowlers, it was a remarkable improvement as compared to the loss of 3-0 in the previous tour and 4-0 before that. We did lose by 2-1 to Australia in our home series in 2004 but there were a few identifiable reasons – rift in the side, Greg Chappell, Ganguly’s self-life as a captain being in its last leg and the way one of the best ever sides played against us.  But that series may well have ended in 2-2. Even with a loss of 2-1, the world didn’t look like coming to an end.

We recovered.

Debacle of WC 2007 was followed but sweet memories of first series win in England since Chetan Sharma told us all in 1987 – I am worth more than just the memories of THAT six.

The controversial loss in Sydney was followed by demolishing Australia in its own den – Perth. During next 3 years, we just marched on. We had even picked up a skill which wasn’t our forte in our best period – hanging on session after session to draw a test match. We were good.

The series in South Africa during 2010-2011 was our peak.

All good things do come to an end. We all know it. Somewhere in our subconscious minds, we are prepared for good things in our lives coming to an end. It’s a defense mechanism to guard against withdrawal symptoms.

A gradual process of ending good things doesn’t really impact us. An abrupt end does. It just doesn’t impact you; it shocks you with the bitterness of truth. And if truth doesn’t just brings the bitterness in your present but also provides the glimpse of darkness surrounding your future, you have no option to seek comfort in past.

I am afraid considering the current state of Indian cricket where talent may not be scarce but willingness to compete, forget winning, in the longer format of the game – the real cricket as connoisseurs would put it, looks to be completely missing.

All but one man who bought glory in our past are watching the worrisome present with us. The last man standing seems to be dragging our gloomy present to the darkness of future. Soon, he will join the rest.

With that I guess, we would prefer watching “India Glorious” series on Star Cricket instead of live telecasts of India playing test cricket