Thursday, August 21, 2014

The women. The Cricket. And the gossip!!!

This was expected. After a debacle as bad as it was, people had to find reasons behind it. Be it bad batting, poor bowling, lack of spine, IPL, pitches, politics, captaincy, aftermath of policy paralysis during UPA regime, failure of NDA government, lack of oxygen on Mars or anything else.  Hence, question of presence of WAGs with players, especially when a Bollywood actress was involved, had to come up.
Were they, the women, reason behind failure?
Did Anushka’s lip-job result in Virat’s monumental decline in form?
Were Gambhir & Ishant distracted because women were accompanying the team?
Was Pujara more worried about booking a table in some restaurant for some candle light dinner rather than how Anderson might bowl?
Were they really a distraction?
I don’t think so.
Well, they’ve been blamed in the past for the same – the women I mean. Here is a look back on some of such instances when women made an impact on men’s cricket.
Tracer Bullet Vs Mard Singh – News from the center was that Ravi Shastri, Kirti Azad and Amrita Singh formed a love triangle or something like that. However, someone had to give up and all three results were possible – who would give up. As it turned out - in the end, Ravi Shastri was the real winner. I just get the feeling that it was Amrita Singh who smashed and smashed hard at him. This affair hogged all the possible limelight in 80s. However, Amrita Singh broke up with Ravi Shastri to marry a Saif Ali Khan. As Saif grew younger, he realized he was no mug with the bat, divorced Amrita Singh to marry a decade younger Kareena Kapoor – maybe to average out women in his life.
Couple of years back, even Ravi Shastri had filed for divorce and I don’t know the result of that. Who knows what future holds? Maybe the love birds of 80s are destined to meet and mate again. Will there be another twist in the tale?
Azhar – Bijlani – Azhar was married, happily. I am not too sure about Sangeeta Bijlani. Yet, the rumors were too strong to be ignored. Sangeeta was seen watching India-SL semi-final in WC1996 in Eden. Some termed it as bad omen which was behind India’s loss –having an extra marital affair is morally wrong as per the yardsticks of society we live in. Azhar got a divorce. He married Sangeeta. Match fixing scandal happened. Sangeeta Bijlani’s picture with a man who was alleged to be a bookie made rounds. That added fuel to fire. Hell broke loose. Azhar was banned. The couple took the backseat. They have been living happily ever after.
Yuvraj Singh – Deepika Padukone – Well, Virat should have seen it coming. This has happened earlier. After being briefly linked with Dhoni, Deepika was seen dining and wining with Yuvraj during India’s tour of Australia in 2008. Yuvraj, was fresh from his heroics of T20WC2007. Alas, the test series which was supposed to establish Yuvraj in Indian middle order proved to be disastrous. ODI series which followed the test series sounded better not because it was. ODI series looked better for Yuvraj because test series was completely forgettable.
Wasn't Kohli hero of India’s campaign in T20WC2014? But for hopeless batting by, oh well, Yuvraj in the final, India may well have lifted the cup. Maybe during the match Yuvraj passed on the bug of 2008 to Kohli. Girlfriend travelled with him to England. Form remained at home.
Noodle Straps – Mandira Bedi is the only name in this list who isn't remembered for wrong reasons. Mandira Bedi was biggest star of WC2003 after Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and South African calculators. With her, Sony Max tried to sell cricket like cricketainment – though they devised the name later. Well, they had tried doing it an year earlier in champion’s trophy. But WC2003 was bigger and better. It had Mandira. Legend has it that India’s performance in a match had a direct relation with Mandira’s dressing – people were either happy on both the fronts or sad. I hope you get what I mean.
Not just that, Mandira created history in another way. Chinese might have made noodles famous but Mandira innovated, added straps to the noodles and made noodle straps famous. She did her job wonderfully well. As Harsha Bhogle once put it – “Good part about her job was that she didn't try to become a cricket expert. She would have failed had she done that. She tried being a presenter and did it extremely well”. It wouldn't be wrong to say that in WC2003, Mandira wasn't just a presenter, she was presented too and was presented well.
Anushka Sharma – Last but not the least is Anushka. Well, we all know her story, don’t we? As correctly conveyed by this article in faking news – it is wrong to blame her for Virat’s failure. Do we blame Virat for Anushka’s poor acting?
I have said it earlier. I will say it again. Problem is not with Anushka. Secret of misery lies in her surname – Sharma. From Chetan Sharma’s last ball in 1986 to Ishant’s hairdo to Rohit’s abundance of talent, this word Sharma has been the bane of Indian cricket. Keep it away from cricket I say. We shall do just fine.
BTW, if you search for pictures of Munaf Patel's wife, you will find pictures of Bobby Darling. Ho figure.
PS: If your surname happens to be Sharma, let me remind you that pun is intended. Even if you are offended otherwise, please don’t be. Offence wasn’t meant. Pun was.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Analyzing in hindsight!!!

There is nothing more intelligent than hindsight. Absolutely nothing. You might have taken your most calculated risk ever but if you fail, you will have the world coming hard at you saying how stupid your move was. How failure was written all over it. Why did you do it?
If it succeeds, well – nobody has had as many fathers ever as the word called success.
Hence any analysis, of that 3-1 debacle in England, has to be discounted for the intelligence which comes from hindsight. Yet we, being human, cannot do it. We all make that mistake – all of us.
I have read a few reports on last series. Apart from this wonderful piece from Jarrod Kimber, I couldn't see a single one devoid of this malice. I used to be a fan of Sid Monga. Alas, some of his last pieces may have lost a fan in me. Here he argues how bringing back Gautam Gambhir was a bizarre selection move. I don’t remember him backing Dhawan after third test. I don’t remember anybody backing Dhawan after third test. Alas, like everyone else, Monga also had the benefit of hindsight. He enjoyed it in his analysis.
I am no fan of Ayaz Menon (@cricketwallah). No disrespect but I am not his fan. I think I have this right. I hope he wouldn't mind. But I follow him on twitter. I remember his tweet (after loss in Southampton) about how India’s strategy of going back to theory of four bowlers was defensive and indicated a negative mindset. 
Safety first tactics, exemplified by including extra batsman despite having won previous Test with 5 bowlers was the other bummer...

When I asked him how many overs did India’s fifth bowler bowled in first two tests, I didn’t get a reply. Another reason could be that on twitter, celebrities don’t reply to unknowns. I have no issues with that. I am a nobody.
Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha), after 4th test I think, criticized selecting a workhorse in Pankaj Singh over a faster but erratic bowler in Varun Aaron. It is a different matter that when Pankaj Singh made his debut, the mood all around was so good as if he had won noble peace prize. I asked him on twitter if he had made this observation public before third test started. Well, you know rules of twitter. They applied.
Jamie Alter (@jamie_alter) slammed Ishant’s bowling on third morning of last test. 
 Aug 17 Problem is not of no-balls, its Ishant Sharma. Seriously lacks a cricketing brain

I reminded him how he had praised same bowler’s similar bowling after Lord’s. 
Well bowled, Ishant. Hope this proves the change in career graph that we've been waiting for for too long #

Thankfully he replied saying bowling in Lord’s was as bad as on that day – Ishant got lucky. I showed him his tweet. The tweet had praise written all over it. He said he was hoping for future– not sure if he was hoping Ishant to improve or bad bowling to be lucky repeatedly.
My point here is not to pinpoint what Jamie had said. Or anybody said. I am just pointing out the shortcoming of human nature which often surrenders to the powers of hindsight. We all do it. We all go with what the rest of the world is speaking in what we thing world wants to listen to. Hence we just try to justify a result in a way we think everyone around us wants to. We just flow with the tide.
What am I doing then pinpointing everyone and claiming I am not doing so? Well, I am giving a precursor to my analysis of this debacle. The analysis, is obviously, has been powered by hindsight.
We shouldn't have played a 5 test series. We just shouldn't have because to play a series as long as 5 tests on a foreign soil in alien environment, you need arsenal to last. We didn’t have. Ishant was injured in second test and missed the next two. We badly missed him. The fact that India missed Ishant speaks volumes of the quality of arsenal we had. BK was looking like a sure shot contender of man of series till Lord’s. As the series progressed, he looked a pale shadow of himself. Other bowlers really didn't matter.
Logically a longer test series gives you more time to come back. But then, recent history was against us. This was a team which hadn't played more than a two test series outside India. Even their much celebrated predecessors hardly ever played a long test series. Two of 4 test series will be remembered for ever – England 2011 and Australia 2012. Last time we played a five test series was more than ten years back in West Indies and we lost it 2-1 even after leading by 1-0 at one point of time in the series. That was a much stronger side. Before that, there was a 5 test series in Australia in 1991-92 and we lost 4-0. Yes, the 4 test series in 2003-2004 was drawn 1-1 in Australia but then, Australia didn't have two of their best bowlers available – McGrath and Warne.
Other than that, we have been playing 3-test series overseas. We have done well in some of them, yes. But then, we have failed in some others as well. After winning the first test in 2006-07 in SA, we lost the next two test. Had we played two more, I am not too confident we would have won or saved. And that, was one of our best teams ever playing in SA.
So I am not sure if sending our least experienced (and probably weakest too) to play a 5 test series in alien conditions was a good idea. The team is in transition. Or rather, is in infancy after transition. When did we go through such phase last time? 1993 maybe, after the world cup and on tour to South Africa? We had some experience with us – Azhar, Kapil and Ravi Shastri. Young brigades had names like Tendulkar, Kumble, Srinath who went on to become big names. But then, there is no point talking about them in this scenarios – who knows what current crop will become in coming years. We lost 1-0 to a team which was making a comeback in international cricket after 23 years.
1996 in England – Sachin, Azhar, Kumble and even Srinath had become stable members in the side. Ganguly and Dravid made their debut in this series and rest is history. We lost the series 1-0. And that England team was weaker than this. Ronny Irani played for them.
Compared to those two, I would consider this team to be least experienced and maybe weakest too. Most experienced batsman in this line up was MSD who isn’t really a batsman in this format. Yet, he turned out to be second best scorer. Second most experienced player Ishant, was, is and will always be Ishant.
Bhogle later commented that a five test series tests you like no other. Why do you send such a team for such a test is beyond me? Maybe you can argue with the logic of throwing a baby to the water and all that, but then I would say – baby sank, you knew it would hence don’t whine about it. Or at least, don’t let hindsight lighten your analysis.
Well, if this was a 3 test series, 1-1 wouldn't have looked that bad. Reasons like testing the team, if transition is good or bad, if such a strong test will do more good than harm to the new crop, if long series has given sufficient time to Virat and Anushka to work on their relationship can all go to hell. If you are really too bothered by this result of 3-1, don’t tell me you would've been happier with a 3 test series. Even their predecessors hardly played a longer series and when they did, they failed more often than not.
Well, this isn't the only reason for the debacle. But a shorter series would surely have avoided it.
Not that we have lost for the first time. I would still consider losses in Australia and England to be worse than this. So, why the magnitude of disappointment is at its peak right now.
There is a reason.
Every time we have lost, there has been some hope of a revival. Playing for India used to be the biggest aim of all these international cricketers and we knew they would do anything to continue doing that. Alas, times have changed.
The monster called IPL gives them options.
Irfan Pathan came like a bang, gave hope, lost form, lost place, lost pace, lost swing, regained fitness, came back, won us Perth, scored a 100, lost form, lost place, got injured, got fit and played IPL. Since then, the long sentence has got shortened – Irfan gets injured, gets fit, plays IPL, gets injured, dances on some TV show, gets fit, plays IPL and then again gets injured.
RP Singh used to be a fantastic bowler who could swing consistently at 140+kph, had a good arm, and didn’t throw away his wicket. He was good. Last time I remember him doing well for India was in Australia 2008. IPL started in 2008. Since then, he has almost gone missing. When he was recalled in England 2011, he arrived with a tummy which looked to have hidden a Parthiv Patel inside it. When you are outside the team, you are supposed to be burning with desire to come back and should be ready to bowl even woken up from sleep. Alas, RP was woken up in Miami. In that shape.
If I am not wrong, RP wasn't even considered good enough to play in last auction.
Then there is Munaf who shrugs away sixes hit on him in IPL and spends rest of the year in hiatus. Manoj Tiwary is Irfan Pathan of batting. Unmukt Chand couldn't even succeed in IPL. Varun Aaron has played more IPL seasons than number of tests. Tendulkar preferred playing IPL over a test series in West Indies. Sehwag delayed a surgery because of IPL.
I am not even talking about how this tournament plays with the technique/temperament of batmen or bowlers. That’s secondary. Primary is motivation. And that seems to have become IPL.
The new generation has that option. They may not care. That’s the fear. I hope they know that decline in quality of cricket they play for India will surely have adverse impact on IPL. But then, who thinks that much. I cannot really blame them. If I can make 3 year’s salary in 2 months, why would I take the pain of coming to office every day?
How I wish all these players skip IPL2015, sign up a contract with some county, work on whatever was missing from their repertoire in this series, become better players. Maybe a county stint will help becoming mentally stronger to counter a 5 test series too. How I wish.
But then, who can say no to money. Not many.
That’s why when I read the news of Cheteshwar Pujara deciding to stay back and play county cricket in England, I smiled. I smiled with hope.
How I hoped others too had skipped CLT20, stayed back after ODIs and played a few county games. How I wish someone like Rohit Sharma does that.
But then, Rohit wouldn't do that. He think he doesn't need that. After all he has talent.
And others, others have commitment. Towards the circus. Called CLT20/IPL.   

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Cartoonist!!!

One of the biggest problems in growing up is that connect with your childhood becomes weaker with each passing day. It is like memories of each day settle over the memories of the day before. This, in process, marks old memories for deletion because like most things in life, even human mind is limited in capacity.
However, there are a few chapters in life which don’t give up and give in to the force called time. They are like those highlighted chapters in a book which you visit again and again till they leave a permanent mark in your mind. These are those moment which are etched in your mind forever. It could well be toys you played with as a kid, it may well be some friends or it may well be the bashing you for form your parents after disappearing from home without informing anyone. Or it could be something which kept you entertained and you desperately looked forward to it. Like, well comics?
Gentleman who created one of such indelible marks, Pran Kumar Sharma or Cartoonist Pran as we knew him, passed away today. A sad demise. He gave me one bunch of such strong memories.
How did I or most from my generation came to know him? Well, I belong to the generation which didn’t have to deal with pressure of social media – the twitters, the facebooks, the orkuts, the whatsapps of the world are invention of 2000s. I didn't even have to deal with the cable TV for large part of my childhood. All we had was DoorDarshan in the name of entertainment. Some may find DoorDarshan and entertainment oxymoron which explains a lot about the choices we had.
Oh yes. We had outdoor, an entity which kids of these days don’t even know what it means. But then, it wasn't possible to go outside and play during summer vacations when temperatures often threaten to complete half century. Inside home, either there was no power or no TV or nothing on TV in the name of entertainment.
This is when magazines like Nandan, Champak, Lotpot came to our rescue. While I was never patient enough to go through the text and read, what caught my eyes were the cartoons. That’s when I came across my favorite and first superhero of any kind – Chacha Chowdhary.
Character of Chacha Chowdhary was perfect for kids – an elderly gentleman who could break a bone or two of goons when needed, who possessed mind sharper than computers, who was always well dressed and had a mustache which gave him a royal look. He had a sense of humor. He had wit. If he lacked any qualities, it was maybe a physique which could intimidate – something which was complemented by another character – Sabu. Oh yes, these two made up for the qualities any kid dreams of at that age – he/she wants to be sharp and powerful. Chacha Chowdhary was sharper than computers. Sabu had power.
It weren't just the stories in the comics, it were some anecdotes too which found way in my day to day life.
For example ­Chacha Chowdhary ka dimag computer se bhi tej chalta hai (Chacha Chowdhary’s mind is sharper than a computer). Although it’s a different matter that I didn't really know what a computer was – for me it was a machine which was intelligent enough to be compared with Chacha Chowdhary’s mind.
Chacha Chowdhary ki naak mein jab khujali hoti hai to iska matlab hai khatra (Itching in Chacha Chowdhary’s nose means danger). For quite a few years, I actually became a bit wary as soon as there was any feeling of itching in my nose.
Sabu Jupiter se aaya hai (Sabu has come from Jupiter) or Sabu ghade mein chai peeta hai (Sabu drinks tea in clay pot) or Jab Sabu ko gussa aata hai, Kahin Jwalamukhi fat-ta hai (Whenever Sabu gets angry, somewhere a volcano erupts). One of my relatives told me that Sabu was his neighbor. It took quite a lot of efforts for my parents to make me understand that my relative was joking – I so very much wanted to meet Sabu. Being a kid with a fragile frame, I wanted a friend as powerful as Sabu to do something I couldn't do – bully others.
Soon I was introduced to Billu ­– a kid who every one of my age could assimilate with. Billu was everything we were – mischievous, lazy, running away from studies. What made us like about him - in the end he always came out of trouble unscathed. If I thought I was quite like Billu, I wanted to be exactly like him. Not sure if analogy makes sense but he was Nobita of my generation sans Doraemon.
Then there was Pinky, the female version of Billu.
While Pran tried to catch attention of kids by these characters, his character Raman caught eyes of adults as well. Raman was a typical common man busy with his monotonous daily life. Jokes on his life made even my senior generation chuckle – they could assimilate with him.
Soon, other characters started emerging – not just from Diamond Comics (Pran was part of this) but other publishing houses as well – Manoj Comics and Raj Comics come to mind.
I never liked characters of Manoj Comics but Raj Comics did interest me a lot.
Bankelal was a perennial villain always turned into a hero in comical circumstance. The reason was the curse he bore – whenever he tried doing bad, it automatically turned into good.
Nagraj ­wasn't really a favorite because of snakes – I find them scary and cannot stand them at all.
Fighter Toads, as I have come to know of it only recently, were copied from Ninja Turtles. However, the characters of Computerr, Cutterr, Shoterrr and Masterr were funny.
Then there was Doga – Suraj, an orphan, was raised by some good Samaritans. In day time, he boxed with people in boxing ring. He put on a mask to box the evil out at night.
Among all these heroes, if there is one hero who stood out and could compete with the characters created by Pran in terms of being a favorite, it was Super Commando Dhruv. Through him, first time I came know that if you want to become a superhero, you must change the way your dress up below the belt. That’s one reason I never tried being one. Popularity that Super Commando Dhruv gained found its genesis in tried and tested trick – sympathy. A kid orphaned in a circus grows up to become a street hawk. Soon, his sister Chandika also joins the brigade.
Some of the comics in Super Commando Dhruv series had awesome stories. Mujhe Maut Chhahiye is my favorite. In this story, a man cursed with long life comes to Dhruv hoping he would kill him. Dhruv, being the hero, does everything to save his life in every possible way. He even puts his own life in danger. However it is the end when the old man realizes the crucial part of the curse – he would get his desired freedom from life as soon as he does a selfless act. Mujhe Maut Chhahiye was a classic.
Soon I had moved on from Pran’s characters to new age heroes. However, they couldn't hold my attention for as long a span as Pran’s characters had done. New age comics had started becoming a bit too violent – some of them bordered along the category of being gore. I didn't like it.
Oh yes, I was growing up too. Board Exams, Cable TV, dream of becoming Sachin Tendulkar had distracted me away from comics. Soon I moved out of this phase.
This morning, the news about Pran’s demise made me nostalgic. With him, another link to my childhood has died. Like it did in November last year when Sachin retired.
Maybe it is time to let the childhood memories fade away. Maybe this is how it’s meant to be.
Maybe this. Maybe that.
Yet the characters of Pran, like videos of Sachin’s innings or songs of 90s, and the anecdotes will keep that child in me alive, always. Because the day that child in me dies, I shall be dead too.
For the moment, all I can say – RIP sir. Thanks a lot for wonderful memories.