Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lamenting England's loss

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In a way, England's continued failures in the subcontinent are helping cover India's own rediscovered incompetence away from home. You cannot criticize India without having England's example thrown back at you. Perhaps depending on England is risky. May be Australia and South Africa will show the way.

Although England's results after being crowned #1 are following the same slope that India's slid through, I somehow am more sympathetic towards England's efforts; which seem genuine; than India's which seem dishonest. Which only means I expect England to figure out and what ails them in subcontinental conditions in a more earnest fashion than India, whose response will always be a filmi - "We will see you in our own backyard". Ultimately England will probably be as crap in subcontinental conditions as India is away from them. 

Moving on...

Admittedly, I am not as exposed to India's 24 x 7 cricket media and my only exposure to cricket related media coverage is the internet and live feeds from Willow and Dish Network. Although this has been enough to have a severe diabetic reaction to the felicitations of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. 

Yes they have earned them but please in a year where you have lost almost all Test Matches away from home stand up and mute these exhibitions of personal achievements, even if these celebrations mark an entire career where there have been notable successes for the team.

Together as a team you have helped India achieve nothing that past Indian teams have not, except a series win in Pakistan. Yes you have bettered personal records and instead of 

Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Kapil and Gavaskar...

Statsguru shows...

VVS, Rahul, Kumble and Sachin. 

It's not the least impressive. 

Been there done that....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sachin Tendulkar will out last the British monarchy

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There is growing consensus among historians and scholars that Sachin Tendulkar will out last the British monarchy. There are many among the community who believe that the Queen of England take lessons from Sachin Tendulkar if she wishes to enjoy the same kind of love and affection among her subjects that Sachin enjoys.

Sachin experts also think that much like the seed of scoring 100 100s was planted by John Wright in Sachin's mind, Virendra Sehwag's 'cricketers can retire at 30 or 60' may have done a similar trick. While there is every possibility that Sachin Tendulkar will play till he is 60, whether the British monarchy will last that long is not as assured....unless the monarchy is willing to learn some lessons from Sachin.

The Queen herself is well aware of this. Sources close to the Queen reveal how Her Majesty always talks about India's relationship with 'individual exploits' being similar to the British people's fascination with the monarchy.

Known to be a cricket buff herself, she held a secret admiration for Sir Donald Bradman. She has followed Sachin's career very closely and in a private conversations with her staff (often while watching live cricket, albiet on pirated video streams of Sachin's games) she has wondered aloud how Sachin has mantained his humility even as he has grown to mouth the kind of dialogues Amitabh Bacchan used to boastfully mouth in the movies of the 80s.

It is rumored that her recent diary entry read something like this...

"Today after I read Sachin's muted but distinctly angry responses in the media on his 100th, I had the same goose bumps when I saw Amitabh Bacchan in Zanjeer and many other movies. However while Amit was being Amit, boastful and over-the-top, Sachin was being humble as ever. It was humble, unsure anger"

She further wrote...

"Sachin may have scored a 100 100s but I have witnessed close to a 1000 100s including all of Bradman's 29 and never before have I seen a more selfish 100 than the one Sachin scored against Bangladesh. Yes, this is including all of Geoff Boycott's 100s as well.

Yet Sachin has earned enough respect with his subjects that he can come in front of the media the next day and suggest that he is being selfless in not retiring. His aimlessly meandering, career is begining to resemble a bollywood movie gone horribly wrong. Yet, he implicitly called Imran Khan and Sunil Gavaskar selfish and no one, not even a single Pakistani objected to it. 

I must learn from him.

How can I get my subjects to respond to me the same way Indians respond to Sachin. The man's a genius. Thousands of years of monarchy and I feel we need to learn from him to survive"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why this Kolaveri?

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By all accounts, this has been a good cricket week for India. Tendulkar has cracked the code and scored the 100th hundred. While we celebrated his monster achievement, we were given a window into the future by Virat Kohli’s stupendous knocks.

Rahul Dravid gracefully called time on his career and left with his head held high. Aakash Chopra (fast becoming one of my favorite cricket writers) gave an account of the technical adjustments made by Dravid on Cricinfo. Never has technical stuff sounded so cool. Back and across…back and back…bat coming from gully….high backlift….weak off-side play…still till delivery…mmmmm….mmmmm…good….But I digress…

Kohli talked about pressure to perform against Pakistan. This was strange to me because here’s a guy under no pressure because every time he walks out to bat in a chase, India knows we are in for a great ride. Eleven centuries already and he’s not even opening the batting. India it appears has already gone beyond the Tendulkar era. Kohli has already given so much to the team that a few failures don’t mean much. Fans will allow him the space to score a few eggs. Yet he has this desire to keep doing it over and over and never give it up.

Sure.... for my old-fashioned ass, his over the top celebrations are blasphemy. But I have watched enough NBA and NFL to know it’s alright. So long as he keeps delivering bad behavior is going to be forgiven. Poor Kambli was born in a different, sterile era. His tattoos and bling were not considered cool enough for him to stay in the team after scoring two double hundreds before his pal Tendulkar had scored even one. But I grieve for someone who knew the rules and didn’t play by them. He ended up committing career suicide.

Sehwag and Gambhir were put in their place by the selectors, BCCI President and captain alike. Gambhir celebrated too for his century, but promptly scored a duck and reduced himself to a complete idiot. It’s interesting that the “senior” wants to act like the “junior”. I am a Gambhir fan in reality. Only lately has he made it to my shit-list. Gambhir was a huge contributor over the last two years and the way he handled Steyn and co in SA was fantastic. Unfortunately, it appears that attitude isn’t aligned with heart. Gambhir has adequately served as a successor to Sidhu when it comes to opening the batting. He knows his place.

I must be the most idiotic cricket fan because I have been taken in by the Rohit Sharma hype. He’s not done much. Not yet anyways and I’m already a huge fan. I have barely watched him. In the few times that I watched him in the IPL and ODI games he gave glimpses of his talent, but not big scores. Yet, I’m taken in. I’m sold. Inexplicable!

Kohli endorsed his batting and the conspiracy theorist in me saw that as a rub against the seniors. I don’t know why, but Kohli didn’t say it was a pleasure batting with Sachin. He picked out Sharma. Maybe he was playing up his Vice Captain role as being the main cheerleader for the younger crew. Who knows? But I saw conspiracy.

And for all of this fun, I’m mad that India lost to Bangladesh and that they are once again at SL’s mercy to be in a final. Let’s hope that DPMD and Sanga are getting enough IPL dollars to do Indian cricket a favor. I’m looking for a juicy match against Pakistan. It’ll be terrible if Pakistan were to steamroll Bangladesh in the finals instead of a nail-biting encounter against India. Historically, I remember only one instance in my adult life when a batsman followed up a great performance with a greater one in an ODI tournament. Tendulkar in desert storm! Now it could be Kohli’s turn to turn in a performance like that.

Hopefully, that will convince Tendulkar that Indian cricket’s future is in good hands. This is how the world of music must have felt when Beethoven arrived on the scene following Mozart.

Friday, March 16, 2012

1 v 100

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The possibility of Sachin Tendulkar scoring a 100 100s had occurred to me somewhere around 2007 when India were visiting England. Its significance isn't obvious or acceptable to all. Many have implied it is akin to associating 2 random events and trying to find some meaning.

To me it is a somewhat relevant milestone. Especially for the time in which he played his cricket.

Bradman did not need a batting average of 100 to demonstrate that he was miles ahead of his contemporaries. Likewise, Sachin did not need a 100 international centuries to demonstrate that he is miles ahead of his contemporaries. These numbers though are just one way that confirms their respective standings in relation to their contemporaries of the era they played in.

May be in a few years it will be strike rates that will be relevant to confirm greatness of batsmen in a future era.

Even as Sachin got to his 100th. I had grown to feel disgusted at the drama around it. Even more disgusted at how Sachin handled the media questions about it before and after the milestone. I had also grown to be extremely disconnected with his words and actions. I never thought this would happen but it has.

Today, I am reminded of his first 100. There was no live TV coverage in India of the series where Mohammed Azharuddin was in dazzling form. I listened to the entire series on radio. My grandfather's grand old Phillips radio that was at least 50 times larger and heavier than the iPhone that I used to learn about his 100th.

22 years ago, I was visualizing every word the commentators on BCC were uttering. Today, I had access to the live feed on multiple devices and yet did not have it in me to even care to switch any on.

When he scored his first, I wanted to watch the movie Agneepath in the theaters but never did. 22 years later they remade the movie and I missed this one too.

His first 100 was to make the game richer. His 100th was devoid of any context whatsoever. Only a stark reminder that He is now bigger than the game.

His first saved a game for India, which we should have lost. His 100th cost us a game that we should have won.

His first came as India were well and truly trying to rebuild in earnest. His 100th comes at a time when India is trying hard to regress.

His 100th comes at a time when everything is a google search away. His first came a time when I am not really sure how we found anything.

In these 22 years we have had 2 Bushes in the White house, 2 Clintons (nearly), 3 more Khans in Bollywood (Shahrukh, Saif and Imran), 2 Germanys became one, One Soviet Union became many countries. We have seen 2 Gulf wars, 0.35 seconds shaved from 100 meters sprint world record, 5 Olympic games yield 1 Gold Medal for India...

Its like his 1st came from an entirely different era from the bat of a man I instinctly felt pride for. By the time his 100th came my admiration for Sachin Tendulkar is no longer unconditional.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The buffoonary of Gautam Gambhir

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I have been yearning for the seniors to leave so that Dhoni can then take over this team and build a team for challenges that are more relevant for today than the challenges Sachin and Company were conditioned to overcome.

However after seeing the hideous celebrations on reaching personal milestones...Virat Kohli's celebrations in Adelaide and Gautam Gambhir's at Mirpur... I fear I just don't get it. With this generation that is.

The words foolish and clownish come to mind.

I think somewhere with all the money, fame and "honey traps" our guys have lost a sense of grounding and have an inflated view of their personal achievements.

Virat Kohli's 100 at Adelaide was a significant achievement. It was his maiden century. It was made in Australia. Not a typically or rather sterotypically Australian pitch but I guess the atmospehere must have been as daunting. It was a great innings in terms of how Virat Kohli counter attacked. It fulfilled a promise.


It was to make no difference to the result of the match. India were losing their 8th Test in a row. India were, for all practical purposes humiliated and the only answer a once competitive side had for was to adopt a strategy of denial and find refuge in Statsguru.

Virak Kohli's celebrations might have led you to believe that that innings laid the foundation for a 17th consecutive Test match win for India or that he was auditioning for the kind of role Sunny Deol would sleep walk through in a Hindi movie.

I am still scratching my head as to why Gautam Gambhir would think his 100 yesterday was worth induldging himself into the kind of buffonary that he did. Now that he has stooped so low what will he do if he scores a 100 against Pakistan in a World Cup final?

With Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, we have just seen the most promising generation of cricketers of our time, achieve nothing for India that previous generations did not...

Except better personal milestones.

And I am now resigned to watching the next generation do the same.

At least the celebrations were more civil in my time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Great Indian Soap Opera Episode Umpteen

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The last two weeks of Indian cricket soap opera has been like watching a lame Hindi film in which some "majboori" prevents the hero or heroine from simply telling the truth and getting it over with. Usually, these "majbooris" are based on pop morality rather than actual grounding in any substantial ethics or morals.

Sehwag has clearly been dropped, but Srikanth and others simply will not acknowledge it. In reality, acknowledging it would enhance Srikanth's stature, but I'm sure a mix of "majboori" and cowardice prevents the chief selector from owning up to the true nature of Sehwag's axing. The Chennai gang of Srinivaasan, Srikanth and Dhoni got even with Sehwag and Gambhir. It's unfortunate, it had to be that way because the facts and circumstances are on their side.

Gambhir is likely in focus because his response to the mini-demotion that was not really a demotion would now be in the spotlight. Should Kohli make Asia Cup hay, and Gambhir fail to reel off a couple of high scores, his commitment will come into renewed question.

In yet another mindgame, the selectors have brought back Yusuf Pathan. I can't for the life of me fathom how both Jadeja and Pathan can fit into the mix at the same time. Jadeja is the $2m man and there is little likelihood that Dhoni would drop him. Why then did the selectors waste a slot by bringing Yusuf into the team? Is he going to play? I doubt it. If he does, Yusuf will likely play at his brother's expense. Another travesty is in the making. Irfan Pathan's handling during the CB series was pitiful. The guy had the swing and the pace, but his lines were all too dumb.

So the team embarks on a meaningless Asia Cup, winning or losing which will make no difference to anyone. Rohit Sharma et al will be on trial again as soon as the new season begins post-IPL. Tendulkar getting his 100th ton in the Asia Cup against Bangladesh would further demean his achievement, much like Gavaskar's 10,000th run against Ijaz Fakih (who?) is fondly remembered today. Gavaskar was smart enough to call it quits at the end of that series. Will Tendulkar do the same at the end of the Asia Cup?

Rahul Dravid, a true servant of Indian cricket retired and the celebrations and commemorations have been appropriately stately. Dravid deserved a fond, classy farewell and he is getting one. In my book, Dravid was number two after Dilip Vengsarkar when it came to making the most difference in match-winning causes abroad. The comparision doesn't really end there. The Colonel was elevated to Captain and failed to energize the team. Likewise, Dravid who was a good number 2 to Ganguly shuddered when elevated to the captaincy. Dravid underestimated the effort it takes to run Indian teams and he preferred to remain spotless rather than dirty his linens. Nothing wrong with that.

Just like Vengsarkar eclipsed Gavaskar in the eighties, Dravid eclipsed Tendulkar briefly in the those golden years of Australia and Pakistan away wins. Dravid remained a purist till the end and continued perfecting his art, until his eyes did him in against Australia this summer. He remains one of the few cricketers who will leave the Indian scene with his head held high. Kumble set the highest standard for a retiring cricketer and Dravid isn't too far behind. Laxman, Tendulkar et al have a hard act to follow.

Unfortunately, like Gol has said, Dravid will remain a somewhat unsung hero because he scored all the runs in Adelaide and Rawalpindi that we wanted Tendulkar to score. He didn't make batting look sexy the way Lara or Tendulkar make it look. He didn't make it look ridiculously easy like Sehwag does or Ponting in his pomp carting the world's fastest bowlers to all corners. So he won us matches that we wanted Tendulkar to win for us. We thank him for that, but sorry we can't feel as good about it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Opinions on... Rahul Dravid

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Every once in a while there comes a movie which everyone wants to watch. You do too. You make plans. Everything is in place except there are no tickets to be found. Not wanting to stay at home like a loser, you settle for another decent movie.

Not as popular. Not tweeted about much. But good enough to make the evening memorable.

Rahul Dravid is that other movie, that no one really goes out to watch but ends up watching as a compromise. He is the universal second choice.

Anyone who says Rahul Dravid is his/her favorite cricketer is either lying or is his wife. I did meet someone at Grenada during the 2007 World Cup who said, she "hoped" Rahul does well. She later revealed she was his cousin. 

Rahul Dravid...he was the very best at being being 2nd best. It is said (now I read this somewhere) that Abraham Lincoln's strategy during the Presidential nomination process was to make sure he was every delegate's second or third choice.

It sure worked for Abraham Lincoln and through out Rahul Dravid's career it was his destiny. He was every one's after thought.

Out of his 13,288 Test runs, 13,284 were scored when people were cheering for Sachin, VVS, Sehwag or Ganguly. I don't know about others but I can say that 4 of those runs had at least one person rooting for Dravid. That was me. When he creamed that boundary to give India a win at Adelaide in 2003.

That was the innings when the greatness of Rahul Dravid sunk into me. For the first 7 years of his career, he was just someone to respect and say nice things about.

Even as speculation about his retirement was doing the rounds it was Sachin Tendulkar who confirmed it first by saying, "I will miss him (Dravid) in the dressing room". With that statement Sachin inadvertently announced his own non-retirement.

His debut 95 was Saurav Ganguly's show. One of his finest innings that showcased his fierce will to fight was overshadowed by another Very Very Special innings.

Nobody, I know of, would go out of their way to watch a Rahul Dravid innings. Rahul Dravid was always someone whom you settled for when the Sachins and the Laxmans did not deliver or needed someone to support their causes.

It is not often that I have ventured to watch a Test Match at the ground. In a stadium. Most times it has been to watch Sachin Tendulkar do something special. And on all those occasions I have come away with watching Rahul Dravid do something I would have preferred Sachin Tendulkar to have done.

Even in retirement I would have preferred that we would be confronted with Sachin Tendulkar's retirement and not Rahul Dravid's. That's just me. 

Anil Kumble, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid collectively fronted a side of maniac talent with a structure. A method. Collectively they were able to channel India's talent to substantial wins with a bit of intelligence. They brought passion, fearlessness and a will to fight. With Sachin Tendulkar for company they gave us the #1 Test ranking. 

With the 3 of them gone, day time soap opera like dramas, with Sachin reduced to being a mere spectator will be common place. 

Without Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly for a while now India will be like a less illustrious offspring of a marriage between Bangladesh and Pakistan.