Thursday, March 28, 2013

IPL 2013 - Team Preview

The classical dance season has ended. Cabaret is about to begin. In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I mean the razzmatazz of IPL.
In next few weeks, Ravi Shastri will tell us all in his booming voice that no batsman is mug with the bat and he can hit the ball like a trace bullet. He will also tell that there is a buzz around the ground and atmosphere is electric. Ramiz Raja will tell us that as soon as the ball is two overs old, bowlers can get the reverse swing going. Sanjay Manjrekar will tell us that IPL has transformed the lives across the universe. Every match will go down to the wire. It will start happening with such regularity that differentiating between the matches will become so impossible that one-sided match will start looking interesting. Yet, you will follow it like a voyeur. Yet, you will curse it like a true crib master. Love it, hate it but you cannot ignore it. Next few weeks, will be only IPL. 
Here is the preview – what teams look like.

Chennai Super Kings (CSKK) – Yellow, yellow. Sreeni Fellow will be back. Seeing MSD, Ashwin, Vijay and SIR play in yellow jersey may give a feeling that it is India’s test team playing for CSK. Just in case you get that feeling, please don’t let Badrinath know about it.  Captain cool or fool, what you call him mainly depends upon which side of 2nd April 2011 you are looking at; MSD will have a tougher time as compared to the last IPL. During IPL2012, he kept a good job in keeping his bashers happy – we had just come back from a torrid Australian tour. Before IPL2013, he had brought upon the ire of his bashers by bashing the Australian side. While bashers must be so desperately waiting for India to fall flat in South Africa, MSD may well have to tackle voo doo magic this time.
While core of the team hasn’t change over the years, mind you it was a solid core; their batting continues to look better than their bowling. This has been the case with them all this long. Baba Aparajith will be watched eagerly. Mike Hussey will join the list of “retired cricketers who keep playing IPL just for the love of the game”. Saha will keep playing as a specialist batsman. But one man who is likely to make it a one-sided affair, the man who forced Cricinfo to put Mahatma Gandhi’s quote in his profile introduction, the man who owns a horse and may name it “PuP”, SIR will be the one to watch out for. Especially after his new stupendous performance in recently concluded test series.
CSK will start by losing, get them in a terrible situation and then get out of it with yellow colors. They will surely be in the last four.

Mumbai Indians (MI) – MI will be all about just one man – Sachin Tendulkar, as it has always been. One good straight drive, all his straight drives are orgasmic BTW, and devotees will say – “See, he can still beat the crap out of any blowing attack”. One failure, especially if bowled, and naysayers will say – “He is done. He must retire”. MI will continue to be what it has been during the past seasons - Sachin giving good opening and middle order often messing it up, quite like India of 90s. Difference will be the captain – it will be fun watching Ricky Ponting lead Harbhajan Singh. More than in the middle, batting in nets will be a worry for Ponting. Watching Phil Hughes bat will be fun – especially after his recent exploits, whatever they were, in the test series. Ambati Rayudu will make us wonder what he would have done with a bit of sanity of mind and availability of luck. May be Maxwell will be able to tell us why MI paid a fortune for him. Munaf Patel will keep charming the batsmen over with his fast diminishing guile and ear to ear smile. And as always, Rohit Sharma will keep redefining the word talent.
Like always, as Ravi Shastri will put it, MI’s race for last four will be “Touch and Go”.

Kolkata Knight Rider (KKR) – The kind most confused in KKR’s case will be their supporters. The people who got bashed up last time during/after the victory celebrations in Eden will be confused – to pray for one more IPL victory and risk getting beaten up once again or pray for KKR to become the real KKR which lost it all during the last four season but was most entertaining and probably most profitable too. KKR, like all seasons, will continue to be the most entertaining team – not necessarily in cricketing terms. Gautam Gambhir will be extra aggressive as a captain this time. Gums will be chewed with double ferocity; expletives will be puked out with triple cruelty – especially against CSK and the newbie Sunrisers Hyderabad. I hope Shami Ahmed learns more tricks from James Pattinson than from Balaji.  KKR will always be confused in choosing the four foreign players from the army they have. If in 6 years a team cannot understand a simple fact that you can buy 100 foreign players but can play only four of them, maybe they never will. However, the man to hog the most airtime during KKR matches will continue to remain, not SRK, Chunky Pandey – in his blue and round shades.
One KKR player I would love to follow closely is the newly wed Yusuf Pathan. I would like to see if Pujara’s success after marriage was an aberration or the global warming is really changing the laws of nature.

Pune Warriors (PW) – Without Dada, KKR had become a Bongless team belonging to Bongland. With Dada, PW was the truest Bong team of the entire tournament. Alas, my favorite Dada’s name is missing this time in PW’s player list. PW will keep on giving tough fight to RCB in non-cricketing attractions. Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Diya Mirza, Saniya Mirza, Amisha Patel and I don’t know how many will be creating and IPL of its own – India’s Page3 League. I don’t know if I got the list right as some of them might be supporting different franchisees but who cares. But if there is one thing guaranteed in this IPL, it is that the match between PW and RCB will be a treat to watch – maybe the cricket will be good too.
As far as cricket is concerned, Clarke isn’t playing so SIR’s wrath will be distributed amongst other batsmen. The way names are in PW’s team – it looks like an A team. It will be good to see Rahul Sharma back in action. It will be good to see Bhuvneshwar Kumar in action. Ross Taylor, the man born on women’s day, will keep showing us why mid-wicket is his favorite reason. Yuvraj will flourish and flop with familiar regularity.
One player I would watch with keen interest is Parvez Rasool. His success is critical to future of cricket in J&K.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) – RCB will rely heavily on his “Have money? Will bat” man, Chris Gayle. Him, AB, Kohli and Dilshan form together an explosive top order worth dying for. RCB is a strong believer in keeping the balance in the game. Bowling attack comprising of RP Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun, Unadkat and Vinay Kumar provides just that. Or one can say that with only such bowling attack one can set a target challenging enough for the kind of top order RCB has. RCB seems to have left their bowling in the hands of Gods – maybe that’s why the names like Muralitharan, Ram, Rudra and Jaydev.
Maybe Zaheer Khan will give us some hope of a comeback. Maybe Harshal Patel will give us some hope for the future. Pankaj Singh’s presence, the man with a heartening story, will once again show us the positive sides of IPL. I hope Virat is smart enough to hide his lips.
Forget cricket. Who follows RCB for cricket, especially after departure of Dravid and Kumble? Whatever RCB is better known as, we shall surely get plenty of it. Glad to see that the name of Luke Anthony Pomersbach is missing from RCB’s team list. He was anyhow better suited for Delhi Daredevils.

Delhi Daredevils (DD) - In form of David Warner, DD has a wannabe Sehwag. In form of Unmukt Chand, they have wannabe Virat Kohli. Shahbaz Nadeem may well become next Murali Karthik. The way Irfan Pathan goes for runs nowadays; he seems to be hell-bent on becoming another Ajit Agarkar. Maybe this is the problem with DD. Nobody is himself – everyone is someone else in their own side. And the ones who are idols, they themselves are no better than those who are idolizing them. Only exception in this theory is Venugopal Rao who looks Nagarjuna.
That’s why Ashish Nehra is my favorite player in DD – he has always been and will always be Ashish Nehra, the only originality in their side. It is impossible to emulate him and Ashish Nehra is incorrigible.
On a serious note, I have no hopes from this team. Maybe Sehwag will win a match or two. Maybe Mahela will flourish. Maybe Andre Russell will show us some Gangnam style steps.
However, one man who I will surely be watching in this side is none other than Ajit Agarkar. Oh those juicy full-tosses at least once in an over and those innocent looks on the face “What? He is allowed to hit those? Hell I keep scoring blobs in vain”. He will be the man to watch in this side.

Rajasthan Royals (RR) – This team has got fire. This team has got ice. With Rahul Dravid and Brad Hodge, this team will have experience providing stability in batting. Rahane will be keen to start from zero – that’s where he left in Kotla. It is always fun watching Brad Hogg bowl – born a few years later, he would have been a star of international quality. Siddharth Trivedi is poor man’s Venkatesh Prasad. That’s all fine. This was mainly ice.
The two men expected to provide all the fire to this side are – Shanthakumaran “the man who moon walks” Sreesanth and Shaun “I retire twice everyday” Tait. While Sreenath’s fantastic seam position will make us wonder why we are missing what we are, his “blow hot blow cold” performances will tell us why. Shaun Tait’s bowling will tell us that unless well directed, pace is just a number. But these two will be fun to watch. 
There are two reasons why RR is my favorite team. First one is Rahul Dravid. But second reason is more significant. In the times when HE is showing the mortal side of God, people are saying that Sachin is getting the Tendulkar treatment, his devotees are fast losing the battle of stats against the bashers and even God may be asking the retirement question, RR provides us the hope for future. In the times when we all are worried about life after Sachin, RR is going to announce Baby Sachin to the world. Or in simple English, RR is going to announce Sachin Baby to the world.

Sunrisers Hyderabad (SH) – It wouldn’t have mattered one single bit if Mumbai Dabbawallah would have sponsored MI in place of Reliance – people would have supported MI because of Sachin. Same can be said about CSK. I say the same for Hyderabad. Alas, the case is a bit different.
I liked Hyderabad (Deccan Chargers rather) for one reason – Gayathri Reddy. I loved the way she rooted for her team – every single time, didn’t matter if they lost or won. I loved the tinkles in her eyes when her team won – the team didn’t win much in the first season. I sulked with the tears in her eyes when her team lost – they have lost more than they have won. Normally you follow a side for the players – someone you always wanted to be. I followed Hyderabad for someone I am – the fan. I followed Hyderabad for Miss Reddy. Alas, she will not be around this time as sponsors have changed.
I am not sure if I shall watch any of SH matches. Why would I or for whom – for Parthiv “the young and upcoming keeper” Patel or for Ishant “I am unlucky. I have time for love” Sharma or for Shikhar “187 in 187” Dhawan. Maybe for Dale Steyn but he can only lure the viewer in me for four overs.
Sorry SH, you are not my team.

Kings XI Punjab – I almost forgot them. They are still around? Well, they are. Interestingly they have a few players who are unique in their own ways. Piyush Chawala is the only leg spinner in the world to have dimple cheeks. Azhar Mahmood is the only Pakistani cricketer allowed on Indian soil. Praveen Kumar must be the only cricketer termed as “Mentally unfit” to play by the match referee. They even have Luke Pomersbach in their side. All these players are quite unique in their own ways.
I am not sure if Gilchrist is still the force he used to be. David Hussey will be the key to their batting. Paul Valthaty will also play. Shaun Marsh will hope that his fortune of first IPL is back. Who to watch out for in this team? I don’t think there is anybody better than Preity Zinta. Hope she spares the umpires this time.

This concludes the preview. There has been an interesting trend being followed by IPL tournaments for last three years. Boredom of IPL2011 didn’t allow the feeling of winning a world cup in 2011. IPL 2012 looked like thrust upon us after the catastrophe that followed the world cup. We are entering IPL2013 after the euphoria of 4-0 win against Australia. I hope the trend keeps following. I don’t mind the boredom of IPL2015 killing another joyous feeling.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Family Cricket!!!

So the season has ended. The dish best serve cold, revenge, has been served. Right now, emptiness occupies the mind. Soon, a fantastic season of classical dance will be taken over by month and a half of cabaret. Color white will be thrown somewhere in the dustbin for quite some time. Ravi Shastri will shoot tracer bullets by his booming voice for next couple of months or so. The type of cricket to be seen in next couple of months is said to be targeted towards the family – read women. You don’t need to sell cricket in India to men. It is the families which need selling. 
Actually, selling cricket to families in India shouldn’t be that difficult. There is a bit of a cricketer/official in every family member in India. Every family member resembles some kind cricketer/official in India.
Here are a few I could spot -
Husbands – Husbands in Indian families signify Indian captains. An Indian captain is expected to martial his troops for the entire day; win the match convincingly, speak without letting the tongue slip to call “Red Light Signals” as “Red Light Areas”, attend the post-match press conference, tell people why a left arm spinner didn’t bowl 45th over of the innings, go back to hotel and start practicing for the toss. He has to repeat the above mentioned steps, almost every day. He has one more responsibility, should be a cakewalk really, of keeping everyone happy. Husbands do a similar job. Just that their job is a tad easier as they have to deal with other side of the gender divide, which is a tad more confusing in the sense that they don’t know if they are dealing with their own players or opposition’s, which is a tad more complex than dealing 11 Sreesanths in the side.
Wives – Wives are quite like off spinners. Their guile lies in invitation, deception and invincibility. Giving generous a flight is what reflects invitation. It is an invitation to drive; mind you it is against the turn, by reaching the pitch of the ball. As you think you have reached the pitch of the ball, the turn deceives you; it goes through the gate and knocks you over. They are almost invincible in this art unless dealt with craft and finesse. If you want to have any chance against an off spinner, you will have to be positive. You need to think a step in advance.
Bitter gourd in lunch means you have forgotten something like “five years back, our Horoscopes were matched”, hence must go home with flowers. Surprise “I Love You” sms means an expensive crockery set has been bought and your monthly saving plan has been murdered.
More defensive you get, more aggressive the off spinner will get. If turn doesn’t get you, bounce will. If charm doesn’t get you, tears will.
However, there is a fundamental difference between and off spinner and wives. You would prefer an off spinner who has a Doosra.
Mothers – Mothers are like Sachin fans devotees. No matter what a son does, mother’s love in her son is as immovable as devotee’s faith in their God. If a son is rejected by a girl because he looks like a Chimpanzee, mother will remind people that her son used to look like a chocolate cake when he was 2 years old. When people remind the mother that almost every 2 year old looks like a chocolate cake and her son is actually ugly, mother will tell people that her son’s face may be ugly but eyes are gorgeous. Mother may also have a problem with women liberalization which has given women a chance to reject men. Mother will surely have a problem with the girl – she doesn’t have an eye for beauty. For every mother, her son can do now wrong. For every Sachin devotee, he can do no wrong. Questioning every failure is met with the arguments like “You know how long he has been playing”. A counter argument is dealt with “He has scored more runs than the number of hair on your body”. This goes on. Finally, it all ends with typical motherly tears – “Give him a chance. He will do it as he has so often”.
Fathers – Fathers, in an extended family, are like umpires. They don’t play but officiate. Whenever there is a dispute, people leave it to them to decide. The party that loses, almost always, feels vindicated whereas the winning party says – “That’s okay. It is his job, isn’t it?” Quite often kids in the family take the DRS route – Dad’s Redressal System. Like umpires, fathers also have quite a thankless job. It’s not the good ones but the bad decisions are what for they are remembered for. Don’t agree with me? Tell me one decision you remember from one the most blessed fathers in our mythology – Dasharatha.
The Kid – Any kid wants very few these things on his birthday. He wants his birthday cake with pictures of Doraemon, Ben10 and Spiderman on it, if it cannot be done in one cake then 3 separate birthday cake. The Kid wants to invite all his friends but Guddu, he can invite Guddu but then Pappu will not be coming, if both of them come, Shalu will surely not be invited. If all three come together, the kid will not celebrate his birthday unless he gets a battery driven car as his birthday gift. The kid wants all his friends to come with the gifts and leave as soon as the gifts are handed over so that he can open them. If mood permitting, the kid will not mind opening the gifts in front of his friends but on condition that nobody will touch his gifts. Once all the guests are gone, the kid wants to open each and every gift, break at least a dozen of them and bunk the school on next day. Day after the next day, kid is found in a pensive mood because it is Guddu’s birthday and who would be getting all the gifts. The kid wants to celebrate his birthday on that day as well and on the next as well. He wants to celebrate his birthday, every day.
The kid is no different from an average Indian fan. They want everything. Once they get everything, they complain of boredom saying, “This has become so easy. There is no fun left in it”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Final Report!!!

Occasion: Final of the cricket tournament – Maharashtra Krida
Teams: Infosys and Barclays
Venue: AFK ground, Pune
Date: 16th March, 2013

Don't chew more than you can swallow is what I was thinking after making big promises to go to the ground and watch the match. It was Saturday morning and I was feeling really lazy.  However, a true man will always keep his word, his friend’s secrets and Sunny’s clippings. I had to keep my word.
I reached the ground with another friend of mine. The biggest challenge of finding the ground turned out to be a piece of cake because of Google maps.
The ground was exactly opposite of India’s test venues – only place where one could find any greenery, there was loads of it, was the pitch. Both the teams, my team and opposition, were doing the warm ups. The toss was already done; we had won it and opted to field.
The match started.
Their openers reflected a typical Indian score – 12/2. It was time for Kanishk Singh to walk in – a right handed batsmen who had batting stance like Gundappa Vishwanath. He played a few pleasing strokes but was soon found out by KP, one of the medium pacers in our team. KP played a bit of chin music and Kanishk folded up.  In the same over, KP picked one more wicket and I joked, “He is like SIR. When he takes one, he takes two”. If not for a dropped return catch, KP would have taken 3 in four balls but then, I compared with him SIR and that explains. It had to be exactly two in an over.
Since morning, I had not eaten anything but a bit of my toothpaste. I needed something very desperately to avoid fainting. So I, along with a friend, went on hunt for some food.
By the time we came back, they were 47 for five in 11 overs. While Gaurav and KP had ensured that the opposition didn’t run away with a good start and were on the back foot during middle overs, Dilraj and Vinay cashed in with canny spin bowling. Dilraj was really impressive – bowling excellent line, generous flight and getting good amount of turn. He was hit for just one boundary and that too was an edge through the slip cordon. At the other end, Vinay was equally good.  
Vinayak, a right handed batsman, was playing a MSD like innings – slow but steady. He guided the tail well. We kept on taking wickets. The match kept moving. Meanwhile KP did it again – two wickets in an over. I laughed.
On the other hand, Vinayak lifted the tempo during the last few overs. As I said, it was quite an MSD innings – slow to start with and finishing with a flurry. He played well.
When KP was bowling to the last batsman, there was a chance for him to pick up five. But again, it couldn’t have happened. It had to be exactly two in an over – I had compared him with SIR after all.
112 is the score what they managed. Unless cricket is nothing but an insect for you, you would know how many we needed to win. We had 25 overs to do it.
Start of our innings was nothing but a laugh riot. Bagchi, wicket keeper and opening batsman, needed 13 more runs to become the highest scorer in the tournament. Unfortunately his batting partner, Gaurav, looked in no mood to allow Bagchi to score those 13 runs. No, it wasn’t the usual “yes, no, sorry” run out story. The way Gaurav was batting murdering the opposition’s bowling attack, it looked like Gaurav was going to score all those 113 runs himself. We all kept teasing Bagchi, “Hurry up else he won’t leave any runs for you to score”
Gaurav had gone berserk, simple berserk. A lofted six over mid off, a lofted six over long on, a pull over mid wicket, a cover drive over the cover fielder – it looked as if the match would be over by the tenth overs.  Thrice the ball was lost.
Such was the ferocity was his batting that it all started looking too boring – it was just so one-sided. Maybe that was the mistake Gaurav made – he got too bored and allowed the madness of his methods to take over. A mishit found the fielder and gone he was.
Opposition may have reached the ground at 8:00 AM in the morning but they arrived only after the fall of Gaurav’s wicket. And boy, did they arrive or what.
Baghchi, who had become the highest scorer in the tournament by then, was bowled by their right arm spinner – someone who looked like Abdul Qadir bowling left arm spin, such was his action. He bowled beautifully. The control, the flight and the purchase he got off the pitch was amazing. He was opposition’s second best bowler of the day.
I commented, “Maybe it is a day for left arm spinners”. Later in the day, Xavier Doherty proved me wrong, horribly wrong.
It was the moment when Kanishk Singh caught my eyes for the second time in the day. Bowling left arm fast medium, he showed excellent control. He had it all – line, length, swing and control. He even bowled a ball which spun like a classic leg-spinners delivery. He was their best bowler of the day.
Sandeep was adjudged LBW when he tried playing across the line. Two more were clean bowled by Kanishk.
Every time we lost a wicket, I inquired, “Do we have enough batsmen?”  
“Till number eleven” is what the answer I got, every time.
When KP was caught at deep cover, we were six down and the answer to my question changed to “We have two more”
While Gaurav’s cameo had ensured that required run rate was not a problem, Kanishk and their left arm spinner made sure that wickets were.
With more than 40 needed at less than three an over but just four wickets in hand, we needed some sense to prevail. We needed to see off Kanishk and the left arm spinner. We needed someone to be smart, play normal cricket and drop the urge of becoming a hero.
Suddenly the bowling which looked toothless had found some venom – the discipline is what they lacked at the start. Suddenly the fielding which looked terrible was notched up by multiple notches – so pathetic it was at the start. Suddenly a team which could have complained of getting molested was suffocating the other team – such is the beauty of the game, it turns and turns suddenly.
The laughter of contempt for opposition’s inability to compete in one camp had changed into shouting of encouraging slogans to go for the kill in other camp.
For the batting side, runs had totally dried up. Number of balls didn’t matter.  The fielding side knew exactly how many balls did they need – four balls, four wicket taking balls.
If few overs back I was wondering how the other team managed to reach the final, they were showing me how they did that. How it all had changed.
The game was on.
It was the time when Dilraj and Hrishikesh got their senses together and started a partnership which turned out to be a match sealing one.
To start with, Hrishikesh looked edgy. A brave leave was two inches away from being termed as a terrible misjudgment. An outside edge went between the first slip and the keeper. An inside edge went between the keeper and the off stump. Good thing was that Hrishikesh kept fighting.
Right from the start, Dilraj looked cool as a cucumber – as NS Sidhu would have put it. First over he faced from Kanishk, who was looking tired at the end of his spell, worked as a shackles breaker – two covers drives for four.
Both the lefthanders started rebuilding in their own ways. Hrishikesh did it mainly in singles whereas Dilraj did hit a few boundaries. There was a moment when both the batsmen were at the middle of the pitch and anyone of them could easily have been run out but fielder’s confusion of which end to throw saved them. Having options is a good thing but not always.  
Sensible thing both of them did was to see off Kanishk’s and left arm spinner’s over. After that, it was easy, well relatively easy.
When just ten more runs were needed to win, I came out of the ground to click a few photographs from outside the ground. I saw Bagchi ruing to Gaurav about the ball he missed and lost his stumps. Bagchi could easily have explained the pain of his dismissal without using any words – it was all written over his face. You may say that cricket is a boring game because once a batsman gets out; all he has to do is to sit in the dressing room. But that’s what makes it challenging. Because once you get out, you cannot do anything but sit idle in the dressing room. So don’t get out, just don’t. The pain of getting out was visible on tournament’s highest run getter – he had played two matches lesser than the second best.
As I started to strike a conversation with Gaurav, I saw him shouting “Oye Jeet Gaye” and off he went running inside the ground. Dilraj had hit a straight six, taken out the stumps and was dancing.
Soon everyone joined him. The team had won the championship.
There were handshakes all around. There were cheers for the winning team. There were cheers for the losing team. If Ravi Shastri was around, he would have said “In the end it would be fair to say that cricket was the real winner”. In his absence, yours truly did the honors.
I couldn’t stay for the presentation ceremony as I had to rush back but my purpose of going to the ground was fulfilled. I wanted to find out the difference between “Our team winning” and “My team winning”. The difference lies in happiness of jumping in front of the TV and sheer joy of jumping with the team – the difference is gigantic, the difference is pleasant.
In an hour’s time, I had to disconnect a friend’s phone when he was telling me about Shikhar Dhawan’s majestic debut because I needed to explain it to my son – why I missed the Parent-Teacher’s meeting in the morning. Seeing my explanations were not hitting any luck, I turned his attention to the character I consider the biggest obstacle in me watching cricket – Doremon.
As they say, there are no permanent friends or foes in life – it is just the change that maintains its permanency.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

14th March!!!

What is so special about March 14th?  I tried wiki but couldn’t find one day in the history which could stand out. Well, this also tells about the poverty of my history knowledge but still, there is nothing so special about the day. At least I couldn’t find anything.
Yet, 14th March is special for me, a very very special day. It became special in 2001 – 14th March 2001 was a super special day.
14th March 2001 was a typical morning, a lazy one. Sun had come up like usual, people were busy responding to nature’s calls, busy with newspapers, busy with toothbrushes, busy with showers, busy sleeping, there was a rush in the hostel amongst those who attended classes. It was a typical morning.
Yet, there was something different about the morning.
I had skipped classes to watch the match. And what match I was going to watch – Australian juggernaut was rolling, final frontier was about to be conquered, Australians had stocked their dressing room with Champaign and Michael Slater was busy smelling the virginity of his Cuban cigar. The day was supposed to show the Australians that there was sweetness beyond number 16 and they indeed were the best team of all times – having ruled all the continents.
The day was supposed to be the worst for Indian captain - one of the best ever but he had talked a bit too much before and during the series. The day was supposed to shake some careers too.
Yet, there was something different about the morning. I don’t know why but there was a sense of optimism. Maybe it was hope of saving innings defeat – so badly the expectations had fallen, maybe it was some resistance shown by our own team on our own turf – so was the dominance of Australians. But there was something different on that morning.
As day the unfolded, it showed its true colors. The colors carried the joy of brightness for Indians and gloom for Australians.
It was the day when VVS and Dravid batted on and on. They just batted - plane, simple, test cricket batting. No hurriedness, no stupidity, no timidity. They just batted.
VVS pulled, Dravid cut it. VVS drove straight; Dravid drove it through the covers. VVS flicked and so did Dravid. Both of them left lot of deliveries. Both of them kept playing straight. Both of them, just batted.
VVS showed that he was not just another domestic cricket bully. Dravid showed that Warne was just another leg spinner. It was a day when we saw an angry Dravid – a rare sight.
Australians, the best bowling attack, tried everything. By everything, I mean everything. They even tried Matthew Hayden.
But nothing could separate these two, absolutely nothing. I wonder why Fevicol hasn’t made an ad based on this day. But these two were inseparable.
Well, it was not a bed of roses all along. There were a few moments of troubles.
Laxman’s attempted dive wouldn’t have saved his wicket had the fielder hit the stumps. Yes he, Laxman with all his elegance, dived. Such was the day.
Laxman’s attempted pull could have fallen straight in the hands of mid-off but there was no one to catch it. It went for four. Such was the day.
Ponting, in the last over before lunch, troubled Dravid with his swing and Dravid survived a few close calls. On any other day, umpire might have ruled it in bowler’s favor but not that day. Such was the day.
Laxman’s attempted cut went flying through vacant slip region and Tony Greig said on air – “When you take them out from slips and put in covers, they don’t get caught”. But the stroke play had forced the field placing to be a bit defensive – making mighty Australians go on defense. Such was the day.
As the day was coming to an end, everyone looked tired. Batsmen were not willing to run, bowlers had given way to part-timers and fielders were more interested in looking at the clock. Yet I saw Ponting diving full length to stop a four. It was all in vain but did tell us a lot about commitment – Ponting was a disaster with the bat in the series and wanted to make amends in whichever possible way.
As the day ended, VVS and Dravid walked back to applause and standing ovation. Standing ovation wasn’t just restricted to the stadium but had spread across the country. They were invincible that day. Even if Australians had Truman, Larwood, Lillie, Thompson, Alderman, McDermott, Benaud and anyone else in their bowling line up, they would have failed to separate the pair. It was destined to be their day. We Indian cricket fans who had tolerated the gaucherie for ages were bound to witness such a day which started a turnaround in our cricket. It was destiny.
As the day ended, McGrath walked back, baggy green perfectly fitted and head held high. He had tried everything he could but failed. So did his other colleagues. Australia on that day was beaten by two men who had just started their respective journeys towards greatness. Australia had met the impossible on that day. Steve Waugh’s comment said it all – “It’s okay. Nobody died. Sun will come up tomorrow”. Australians had accepted defeat with complete admiration for the opponents.
That day spoilt me. After day that I expected a miracle every time we were in doldrums – forgetting the basics of miracles that if they started happening every time you expect them to, they wouldn’t be called miracles but norms.
That day taught me. Miracle is always just around the corner. They don’t happen unless you expect them.
Yes, that day confused me. A part of me still lives in that day.
That day changed a lot.
The day, ladies and gentleman, will always be a Very Very Special for me – the 14th of March, 2001.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Comparison Conundrum!!!

I came across an article where the headline was “Is Pujara the next Rahul Dravid?” The author had compared first eleven tests of Pujara and Dravid and tried to show that we have unearthed a new Dravid - in first 11 tests, Dravid’s average of 48 and one century faded against Pujara’s average of 67 and four centuries.
You may call it my impatience to read or the high expectations I set from any article but I will put it down to my jealousy. That’s a human trait and believe it or not, I am human. I hardly like the article written by others, hardly. To satiate my ego, I try to find out the flaws in the logic given. 
I tried comparing records of a few Indian batsmen in their first eleven tests – Sachin, Sehwag, Ganguly, Pujara, Amre, Dravid and VVS Laxman. Vinod Kambli’s record in his first 11 tests was far better than any of them – he averaged 80, Sachin averaged 39 and VVS averaged less than one third of Kambli. In his first eleven tests, Kambli had four hundreds including two double hundreds, Sachin had just one hundred, VVS had none. In fact, if not for terrific performance in much hated and ridiculed domestic cricket, VVS had a strong case of being dumped forever.
So what does the Pujara-Dravid comparison tell, absolutely nothing.
In fact what does comparing players of two different eras tell you?
Actually this comparison is what snatches away the joy of enjoying present. All of us are big fan of Sachin, huge. I am no different.
But one of the reasons I could enjoy Sachin’s batting, apart from the fact that I followed him in my formative years, is that I didn’t have to compare him with anyone. I didn’t have anyone. 
By the time I started following cricket, Gavaskar’s retirement was more than two years old. Other names were good but not great – most of them were anyhow in last stage of their respective careers. Sanjay Manjrekar was as new as Sachin and Azhar was still trying to cement his place – after a terrific debut, he had gone through quite a long not so good period.
So actually, for me, there was no comparison. I could enjoy Sachin’s batting without burdening myself with the theory of relativity. I could enjoy Kumble demolishing oppositions without having to compare him with Chandra.
When Sachin scored only two half centuries in his first series, I didn’t have to compare him with SMG’s 774 in his debut series – I had no emotional connect with that. When Kumble failed to dislodge tail-enders, I didn’t know who Chandra would have ruled them because I didn’t know how he bowled. When Sachin batted with all the protection gears, I didn’t have to compare him with Tiger Pataudi who batted with just one eye – for me he was some cricketer people termed as great. When Kumble didn’t turn it square, I had no ways of finding out how Subhash Gupte did it.
I had no past to compare. My present was all I had and I was happy with it.
Unfortunately we don’t have that luxury not. We have been witness to greatness for more than a decade now. We have seen Sachin showing his immortal side, Dravid showing what determination means, VVS showing what made him so special, Kumble proving that how accuracy and discipline can make you a truly great bowler. Even the world had not seen anyone like Sehwag.
They were the idols we have grown up with. We didn’t have the burden of history to compare them. Our present was perfectly fine. 
Unfortunately, all but one idol are gone. Unfortunately, we are still in that past. Coming back to present isn’t that easy especially if you past has been memorable. It takes time. There is always a lag.
We will compare. It is human to do so. It is human to compare and be unhappy about your present – very often that’s the driving force for progress. If you are always happy with your present, your progress may never happen.   
With every defensive stroke Pujara plays, we will compare his body position with Dravid’s. With every crisis situation Kohli handles, we will compare how VVS would have guided the tail better. With every start Rahane gives, we will compare how dominating Sehwag would have been. Worst is yet to come. Wait for the day when Sachin hangs his boots, we will be comparing even our morning motions – how good they used to be when he was playing and how constipated you have become now.
It is okay to compare when unhappiness derived out of it can make a difference. Why to compare when it isn’t going to matter?
Problem with such comparison is that it is never an “as is” versus “to be” comparison. In reality, it is always “what was that would have been” versus “as is” comparison. Problem is that while comparing you set a bar measured by “what was” and whenever “as is” manages to touch that bar, “what would have been” pushes it higher. So your “to be” is never satisfactory.
This is the problem we will face now. We have a past to compare with our present.
Problem with such comparisons which are not on equal footing is that they always leave you in an unsatisfied state.
Imagine yourself enjoying a candle light dinner with your sweetheart. What if someone comes and tells you “You know that four foot tall, ugly idiot who use to stink like ammonia? He scored a night with the hot chic you were fancying”. You would surely like to use the same candle, which was the light of your dinner, to set the world on fire. What would have been kills the happiness of your present. 
Imagine yourself sitting in the lavish cabin in your office and flirting with your hot secretary. What if someone comes and tell you “You know that moron who couldn’t get a job in campus? He is running his own business these days and is a billionaire”. You would surely give your piece of mind to the very same hot secretary. What would have been eradicates the opportunities of your present.
You will always find someone or something to compare with and make you unhappy. We humans have a tendency to search for the “Mirror of Erised”, sit in front of it for hours and be unhappy. We are humans.
My question is – why to search for such mirror if it is surely going to make you unhappy. Why not simply avoid it.
The problem our generation faces is that we need to start afresh. Being too much hung up about the past will never make it easy. Secret to handle this problem lies in stopping the comparisons. Simply stop it and enjoy the present.
A Pujara will never become a Dravid. By the way, a Dravid would also have not become a Pujara. No point comparing VVS’ gentlemanly qualities with Kohli’s middle finger. Watch them, follow them, appreciate them and criticize them on a standalone basis, not relative. Relativity will not make any sense.
If you are so much hung up on comparisons, compare SIR Jadeja’s performance with Kallis. After first three tests, Kallis’ record doesn’t stand half a chance against SIR’s. 

Photo courtesy : MSN