Tuesday, December 27, 2005


This summer some friends and I visited the World Golf Hall Of Fame. The highlight of the day was a chance to swing a golf club. They have an island green challenge where you get prizes for hitting 2 out of 3 balls onto the green, about 145 yards away, protected by water on all sides. Indicative of my abilities, I got only one on. If you look closely at this photograph you can actually see the ball on its way. Yes, this was the one that was on the right track!

Sing me a song

I always have a song playing in my head. I wake up humming, I go to bed humming, and during the day when I am working I often realize that I am humming (or lately, whistling) to myself. And songs jump into my consciousness with no apaprent rhyme or reason. Mostly.

And sometimes songs long forgotten are restored in the mind, perhaps triggered by other events. For the past couple of days a Patty Smyth song (featuring Don Henley) that I have not heard in a decade has taken over; particularly these haunting lyrics:

But there's a danger in loving somebody too much
And its sad when you know its your heart you can't trust
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough

Almost heaven

Fall is my favourite time of the year and this photo, taken at Cooper's Rock, gives a fair idea of why that is so. Every year I get into my car and drive around while soaking in the changing colours and once in a while I get a perfect angle into one of the many valleys in West Virginia. And for a few moments everything seems just right.

The brook

During the past year, my last as a student, I shared a house with 7 other graduate students. It may seem like we lived in cramped quarters, but actually each of us had our own bedroom (and our own Internet connection) so it was quite a comfortable co-existence. I was the first among us to graduate and always assumed that I would be the first to leave, too, but found a job right here in Morgantown. But one by one, each of them have now left this town after finding a job elsewhere. Last week as I dropped the last of my roommates at the airport I realized that I had outlasted them all. It has been a long stay in this town that I have come to think of as my second home and as I drove back from the airport I was reminded of the last lines of a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson. I quote:

For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever

Monday, December 26, 2005

The clock stops

I have very closely been following a couple of promises made by the BCCI.

a) That the source that leaked Greg Chappell's email shall be identified by a probe.

On September 27, 2005: The BCCI President, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, condemned the action (leaking of Greg Chappell's email to the media) and promised to find out the source of the leak. He announced various times over the next few days that an internal "probe" of the matter was being conducted by the BCCI.

b) That the ACC shall announce a charity match to benefit the victims of the recent earthquake.

On October 18th, 2005: Shaharyar Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), said: "During a recent conversation with Jagmohan Dalmiya [ACC president], an ACC-sponsored relief match was considered. We agreed to examine possible dates for an international match in the next few days."

A couple of things have happened in the interim - Jagmohan Dalmiya is no longer the ACC President and Ranbir Singh Mahendra is no longer the BCCI President. Consequently, the above two promises appear to have died a natural (but unsurprising) death. Expecting the latest edition of the BCCI to follow up on these promises is not a great idea, especially since their primary focus seems to be in getting endorsement deals for anything even remotely connected with Indian cricket.

And with that, my solitary vigil on these two issues ends.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The hungry Hyderabadi

VVS Laxman played an innings yesterday that would have made Rahul Dravid proud. The general impression about Laxman is that of a wristy player who is always looking to score runs in boundaries (almost 60% of his Test runs have come in boundaries). But like Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls, his true worth may only be realized after his playing days are over.

Sanjay Manjrekar once described him as "an attacking batsman with the temperament of a defensive player." How true. Many an opposition captain believes that if you dry out the boundaries Laxman will perish. This is far from the truth. The man has played some monumental innings and you cannot do that by simply bashing every 5th ball to the fence. And if you do not believe me, compare his numbers with other contemporaries - only Hayden and Lara have a higher career best score in first class cricket. Laxman is the only person to score two triple centuries in the Ranji Trophy. (A certain recently-deposed former captain would do well to learn from Laxman's purple patch in domestic cricket which paved the way for his comeback to the Indian team).

And as the Tests pile up his list of important contributions to the fortunes of the Indian cricket team keep increasing. And yet people cannot look beyond that 281, expecting him to match it every time he wields the willow. It is time we did so. Here is one such effort to do just that.

At the end of the day Anil Kumble, he of the 100 Tests, discussed the days proceedings and other issues quite eloquently.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good guys do finish first

Anil Kumble will play his 100th Test match a few hours from now. For most of the '90's, having left the shores of India, I followed the Indian cricket team via the Internet. Only in the past few years, with the help of live video feed on the Internet and cable TV, I have been able to follow the progress of the Indian team once again, here in the US.

I have been fortunate (and privileged) enough to have watched the resurgence of the man since the Adelaide Test in 2003. I still haven't fathomed how he did not play in the World Cup final against the Aussies. (Dinesh Mongia over Kumble?? Would we have had to chase 360? Maybe, maybe not, but Kumble would certainly have made some difference. I also believe VVS Laxman at that stage was a better option than Mongia. But enough digressing). I shall stay up tonight and watch him take the stage. And applaud him with all my heart. For his accomplishment is a victory for all those people who persevere without sacrificing their ideals or their morals.

The essence of the man is captured well in this piece in Cricinfo, where you can also watch this photo-feature on the man's major accomplishments. His teammate, and fellow great-guy Rahul Dravid, pays tribute to the man who showed that spinning a ball 3 inches is all you really need. Sometimes, simplicity is the most destructive option.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The final word

In the movie "Saajan", the two heroes (Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt) are in love with the same girl - Madhuri Dixit. Once they both realize this, they go to great lengths to try to "step out of the way" of their friend's love, eventually reaching a climax where Madhuri, finally, catches on to this. And she says (liberally paraphrasing and condensing her teary, voluminous rant), "All this sacrificing each other's love is well and good, but has either of you considered, even for a second, whom do I want to be with?"

Why was I reminded of "Saajan"? The vox populi has been that Ganguly deserved a more ceremonial exit. Further, that he should have been allowed to announce his exit himself, rather than be dropped. To which I would like to ask - Has anyone asked Ganguly if he even wants to exit? The man has been almost vehement in repeatedly stating that he has a few good years left in him. So if the selectors were to have gone up to him and said that the Ahmedabad Test would be his last, would Ganguly have then agreed with them and gracefully exited the stage? I don't think so. Therefore, one must wonder what ulterior motives all these politicians have, so much so that the Indian Parliament is going to discuss this. Discuss what? Will they, after the discussion, pass a law that forbids the BCCI from dropping anyone until they have had a chance to leave on their own terms? Don't these people have more pressing matters to attend to? As I was pondering this, I came across an article that wrote about this and other related points.

I am tired of thinking and reading any further about Sourav Ganguly and the merits/demerits of his inclusion/exclusion from the Indian cricket team. As a parting shot - here is an article by Peter Roebuck, a foreign voice making some very valid points that the mudslingers would be well-advised to read. And with that, on this blog, I shall not discuss this issue any further.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Do kingmakers themselves have to be kings?

One of the most common point of the verbal attack on the BCCI selectorial committee is the opinion that some of them lack experience at the highest level of cricket to make a judgement on the abilities of people who have played 100's of international matches. Here is an example of one such diatribe, where the central thought is condensed into a couple of sentences that themselves are sad to read (and, once again, raises that 15,000 run monster...grrr).

So, five men with a collective experience of 49 Tests (and 103 ODIs) sat in judgement over Sourav — somebody with over 15,000 runs in international cricket. It’s laughable. Regrettable, too.

How come such a hue and cry is raised only when your favourite player is not chosen in the team?

Prem Panicker, on his blog, compiled a list of recent selectorial committees and says all the things I want to say about this issue, and responds to the above article. Reproduced below is an excerpt from his posting.

Actually, what to me is both laughable, and regrettable, is the fact that issues about the qualifications of a particular selection committee are raised only as part of an ad hominem attack when you want to query a particular decision. To underline my point, check this out -- here is a list of selection committee members (first named person being the chairman) starting with the 1995-'96 season:

1995-'96: G R Vishwanath, Kishen Rungta, Sambaran Bannerjee, MP Pandove and Anshuman Gaekwad (You will remember this as the committee that picked Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly for national duty; incidentally, you are all suitably impressed with the stellar Test and ODI records of Rungta, Bannerjee and Pandove, yes?)

1996-'97: Ramakant Desai, Rungta, Bannerjee, Pandove and Shivlal Yadav (The committee that installed Sachin Tendulkar as captain for the first time)

1997-'98: Desai, Rungta, Banerjee, Pandove, Yadav (The committee that sacked Tendulkar, giving 'Captaincy has affected his batting' as the reason, and reinstated Azharuddin, two weeks after the latter in Sharjah blotted his copybook so badly, even then-secretary JY Lele called for his head. Did anyone at the time pause to wonder how many Tests and ODIs this panel had played, to sit in judgment on a Tendulkar in his prime?)

1998-'99: Ajit Wadekar, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra, Madan Lal, AP Deshpande

1999-2000: Chandu Borde, TA Shekar, Ashok Malhotra, Madan Lal, AP Deshpande (The committee that, following Tendulkar's resignation on the heels of a 2-0 defeat by the Proteas at home, anointed Sourav Ganguly skipper.)

2000-'01: CG Borde, TA Sekar, Ashok Malhotra, Madan Lal, Sanjay Jagdale (How many articles in how many papers do you recall, from this time, questioning say Jagdale's qualifications to be selector?)

2001-'02: CG Borde, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra, Madan Lal, Sanjay (that man again) Jagdale

2001-'02: Chandu Borde, Shivlal Yadav, Malhotra, Kiran Mre, Sanjay Jagdale

2002-'03: Brijesh Patel, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More, Sanjay (what, again?) Jagdale (By being otherwise occupied, I must have missed all the heated articles questioning Pranab Roy's immense Test and ODI experience -- which amounts to all of two Tests and no ODIs?)

2003-'04: SMH Kirmani, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy (encore), Kiran More, Sanjay (oh yes, again) Jagdale

004-'05: Kiran More, Yashpal Sharma, Pranab Roy (take another bow), VB Chandrasekhar, Gopal Sharma (Anyone, anyone at all, remember anyone, anyone at all, questioning VB Chandrsekhar's claim to selectorial fame?)

2005-'06: Kiran More, Bhupinder Singh Jr, Ranjib Biswal, VB Chandrasekhar, Sanjay Jagdale

Point being? Simple -- our selection committees have invariably comprised gents without the paper qualifications to sit in judgement on players of the accomplishment of an Azhar (ignoring for the moment his off field activities here), Sachin, Sourav, Rahul, Kumble and such. The More committee dropped the Karnataka leggie for the domestic ODI series against both Sri Lanka and South Africa despite a record that boasts more match winning performances especially at home than even Sachin, or Dravid, or Sourav; in his first outing this season, he has proved his current form with a match winning performance in Tests -- is this a good time to argue that after Brijesh Patel and then Kirmani (both of whom got to serve just one year apiece) were 'sidelined', 'sacked', whatever, the committee developed a distinct anti-Karnataka bias?

The writing on the wall

So Sourav Ganguly has been dropped from the Indian team. The reaction to this has, naturally, been very bipolar.

Though, come to think of it, no matter when the decision would have been taken it would have been a contentious one. His exclusion from the team would not have created a controversy only if he had announced his retirement, which in any case would not have been likely for another 4-5 years had he continued to be in the team. So the selectors were placed in a dilemma.

They supposedly decided this in 5 minutes. Having done so, I wish they had spent an additional 55 discussing how to announce this to the public. Then their reasons for exclusion, which have come under considerable ridicule, would not have provided additional fuel to the fire.

I have intentionally not linked to any of the articles that discuss opinions on this issue. There are way too many of these. Oddly, one thing keeps popping up - almost everyone is questioning "why now" (i.e. after his Delhi performance) rather than "why not". The overall consensus being that he deserved to be able to go out on his own terms. But his "terms" did not match the selectors "terms" so this decision was inevitable.

And if I hear one more time that he scored 15,000 runs and deserves a spot .... grrrrr. By that token G.R. Vishwanath, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath and all the other greats who were jettisoned before they wanted to retire should still be playing until they "had a chance to leave on their own terms".

My frank opinion? He should have been in the 15, but not in the 11. If any of the batsmen got injured (or lost severely lost form) then he should have been next in line to replace them. That way he could still be a mentor to the youngsters and we would have a viable experienced batsman as a back-up option. And how long should he continue in this role? As long as he continued to show form and fitness in the first-class matches that he would have to play during the non-Test period to show that he still was capable of playing at the highest level. If experienced footballers can end their careers playing as substitutes, why not Sourav?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dancing too close to the flames

His first 5 scores in Test cricket were: 110, 48, 105, 122, and 54 not out. His last score was 102. In between somewhere, according to a CBI report, he was lured to the dark side. Accused of fixing matches, he was tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion and by the BCCI, though Mohammad Azharuddin has insisted ever since that he is innocent.

I do not know what the truth is. What I do know is that since my grandfather first pointed him out to me as a batsman to watch out for, he was a source of joy for the next 15 years or so on the cricket field. A magician with a bat in his hand, and a superb fielder with a trademark prowl - he ignited an interest in cricket that has not waned since then. In my wallet I still carry a small card in which he wrote, "Best wishes", and signed his name.

To me he shall always be the person because of whom I fell in love with the game of cricket.

As time goes by

The Fateh Maidan Club is located in the bowels of the Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad. I was reminded of the place last night as I sat down to eat the lamb curry I had cooked for dinner. I had a sudden longing for Fateh Maidan parathas - a unique type that I have never encountered anywhere else. I have eaten many a pretender but none that surpassed the ones I had in my memory.

Are they really as good as I remember them to be? Or is time the real distance that makes the heart grow fonder?

The sounds of silence

Have you ever sat quietly and just listened? I do it sometimes and the various sounds that we filter out while we are "busy" doing other things is quite amazing.

Right now, most of the sounds around me are drowned by the central heater blowing away in an earnest attempt to keep the sub-zero chill out of my apartment. But at other times, when it is quieter, I swear I have almost been able to hear the grinding of the wheels in my brain. Almost.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The passing of the torch

For years, Kapil Dev has held a unique distinction - of being the only person to hold the world record for wickets in both limited overs (ODI) matches and Tests. Today, Sachin Tendulkar made an entire nation come to its feet by matching Kapil's feat in terms of centuries made in both forms of the game. (There are some well-compiled profiles and articles about his achievement on Cricinfo).

The self-proclaimed "child of the one-day age" is now the greatest accumulator of 100-plus scores in Tests (35 and counting), to go with the 38 he has in ODI's.

On the same ground in Delhi where Sunil Gavaskar had equaled Sir Donald Bradman's century mark, Sachin eclipsed one of his childhood heroes. Gavaskar's century was a frenetic affair, smashing fours almost at will and reaching his century off just 90 balls, a type of innings one imagines Tendulkar usually conjures. And ironically, Tendulkar's century was one that could have been manufactured by Gavaskar - 177 balls of studied determination, defending ball after ball, waiting for the bowlers to change their line and length to his demands.

For a long time one complaint I had against Tendulkar was that while he had the hunger to score centuries, he did not seem to have the temperament to make it a huge one. Someday, somewhere, a key was been turned in his mind, and a lock opened. In the past few years this has changed as evidenced by his scores the last 5 times he has crossed a 100 - 193, 176, 241 not out, 194 not out, 248 not out.

What is better than starting the day batting on zero? Starting the day batting on 100! Tendulkar gets to do that tomorrow. I look forward to watching this one unfold.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The menacing metronome

As the years have gone by, one bowler who has risen sharply in my esteem is Glenn McGrath. Having followed his initial career through scorecards and match reports I had built an image of a metronomic bowler who invariably won the battle of attrition. In the past few years I have had a chance to see him bowl in many different settings and realized that he is much more than a metronome, he actually hunts with a plan.

Slowly and silently (though sadly, he does occasionally resort to ugly verbal volleys) he sets up the batsman and lulls him into a false sense of security. And when the batsman lets his guard down - in a flash the man strikes again.

And lest you think he feeds on meek tailenders - he is at his best when bowling to the top order. In fact he is better at prising out top batsmen than any other fast bowler in the game's history (among those who have taken at least 300 Test wickets).

And how vital is he to the Aussie team? In the recent Ashes series, he did not play 2 Test matches and Australia lost both of them. In the 3 Tests he played, Australia won 1 and drew two.

When McGrath claimed his 500th Test victim, Peter Roebuck wrote this ode to him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In summary

On Rediff, Prem Panicker has a thought-provoking piece, encapsulating most of what I have felt or wanted to say over the past few weeks about the off-field activities in Indian cricket.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Lara ascends another peak

A man with a penchant for big, big scores - Brian Charles Lara - added to his legacy with a fighting 226 (the next highest score was 34) for the West Indies against Australia at the Adelaide Oval. In the process he became the highest run-getter in Test history, a position that he may just be keeping warm for the other great legend of this era - Sachin Tendulkar. In a career spanning almost 13 years, Lara has had more highlights than a generation of cricketers combined.

Opinion is divided on who the better batsman of the current era is - my money is on Tendulkar as he is more compact and consistent - but there is no denying that Lara clearly outdoes Tendulkar in one department - getting a huge score once set at the crease. Only Don Bradman has more Test double centuries (12) than Lara (8 and counting), while Tendulkar's first (of 4) double century was the 21st century of his career. Lara's first century was a 277 against Australia! (Lara is also the only man to have posted scores in the 100's, 200's, 300's, 400's and 500's).

The return of the maharaja

In one of my previous posts (unhelpfully titled - L.P. Sahi in the news), I had mentioned that Sourav Ganguly did not deserve a spot in the ODI team, though I did feel that he could not be dropped yet from the Test team. The Indian selectors felt the same way, too, but stopped short of backing him on batting merit alone. By doing so, they intensified the pressure, not only on themselves, but also on Ganguly. The impression they have now created, due to their bumbling explanations, is that Ganguly is in the team solely because of the shenanigans of people behind the scenes.

The point I am trying to make is explained here, with greater lucidity, by Harsha Bhogle.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two thumbs up, way up!

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of her show, Oprah Winfrey revealed that she owed a lot of her success to another Chicago televison icon - Roger Ebert. On his website, Ebert's recounts how it happened in his inimitable style.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Profiling a role model

VVS Laxman is the subject of an article, by Dileep Premachandran, in which his quiet dignity and simmering passion for the game of cricket is captured quite well.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Bird of Paradise

Native to South Africa, the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a large tropical herb that is a member of the banana family (Musaceae). The plant gets its name from the spectacular flower shape which resembles a bird's beak and head plumage.

The Biology department at WVU has a plant that flowers periodically. And when it does I cannot resist capturing it on film.

Night vision

The dust- and pollution-free atmosphere of the lower southern hemisphere allows photographers to capture the Milky Way and other galaxies very clearly at night. The above photo, amazingly, was shot without any additional or artificial light. Imagine lying on the ground at night and looking up at that. No wonder the great poets of the past rhapsodized endlessly about stars in the sky.

Tick, tick, tick...

In a couple of previous posts titled "Here we go again...(??)" and "The curious incident", I referred to two promises made by the BCCI, one on October 18th, 2005 and the other on September 27, 2005, respectively, and decided to keep track of any further news on that front.

It is December 26th 2005, today and the BCCI has sadly, but not unexpectedly, kept mum.

Laxman's other wrist work

My favourite contemporary cricketer is VVS Laxman. Apart from being a joy to behold when on song, I discovered that he is quite thoughtful and frank when he writes about the game.

Here are his views on sledging, playing our biggest rivals, the current kings of the game, the mental aspect of the sport, and finally, why he wields a bat and not a stethescope.

I hope the fellow Scorpio plays for many more years, and writes for even more years beyond that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Empty pocket, empty....

He may be the most powerful man in the world, yet all President Geroge W Bush carries in his pocket is a white handkerchief. At least he is well prepared should he have to relinquish his position.

Riches cannot buy you everything

The BCCI is the richest cricket board in the world. And India is the hotbed for computer software engineers. Yet the Indian Board is the only one that does not have an official website. Obviously some marriages can be made only in heaven.

Friday, October 28, 2005

L.P. Sahi in the news

Rahul Dravid is quite at ease with himself and demonstrates, yet again, that an articulate and thoughtful man can still lead from the front. In an interview with L.P. Sahi he speaks quite candidly about himself.

This exchange, towards the end of the interview shows that he is not one to be carried away in the wake of 1 comprehensive victory when there are 11 more matches to come.

Q: Is a good beginning to a series half the job done?
A: (Laughs yet again) One-twelfth of the job has been done...

And in another article in The Telegraph L.P. Sahi provides his insight on the fate of the previous captain, Sourav Ganguly. Oddly he has this nugget at the end of what is mostly an opinion piece:

Logically, he (Ganguly) should take Gautam Gambhir’s place in the XV and (if the Nagpur side is retained on Friday) Yalaka Venugopal Rao’s in the XI. But, then, every selection isn’t driven by logic and other factors come into play.

The "logic" part of this equation is hard to understand. In the two ODI's played so far, Gambhir has not been in the 11 (+1), while Venugopal Rao has featured in both but not batted even once. So what have they done to be dropped? The argument, no doubt, is that they made the side because Ganguly was injured. But what really boggles me is how he can depose two guys, one to get into the pool and the second to swim with the team.

Ganguly's last few ODI's have not shown the batsman to be in form prior to his injury, so therefore a century in a 4-day game should not automatically qualify him for a return to an ODI squad, once healthy. (I shall have an issue with the selectors if he is dropped from the Test squad, however, but I shall discuss that should it happen).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The South Siders get there first

After decades of futility, the Chicago White Sox are the Major League Baseball champions of 2005. They did this without any superstars and with very little fanfare and hardly any support outside the midwest.

Here are some interesting facts about this year's Chicago White Sox that I picked up from an article on ESPN by Jayson Stark:

• They won their final eight games in a row -- tying the 2004 Red Sox for the longest winning streak any team has had in a single postseason.

• They went 11-1 in their 12 postseason games -- tying the '99 Yankees for the best postseason record of the 11-season wild-card era.

• They played six road games in this postseason -- against teams (Boston, Anaheim and Houston) that finished a combined 69 games over.500 at home this season -- and won all six.

• They became just the third team in history to sweep a World Series after a season in which they were in first place every day of the season. Those other two teams were the 1990 Reds and the fabled '27 Yankees.

• This was a team that, amazingly, won 15 games in which it scored one run or two -- the most by any team since the '69 Mets.

• And this was a team that, including the postseason, went an insane 68-35 in games decided by one run or two -- the best record in baseball.

• They outscored the Astros by only six runs over the entire World Series and still managed to sweep it -- tied with the 1950 Yankees for the smallest margin by any sweepers in history. And how fitting was it that the grand finale was one last 1-0 game?

• How fitting was it that the White Sox wound up sweeping a World Series in which they never led by more than two runs at any point in any game?

Welcome back

Sachin Tendulkar made one of the most publicized and anticipated comebacks of any sports athlete ever. And he was gone for just 6 months.

More than the fact that he did well in his comeback, it was the way in which he came back that was illuminating. Gone was the tentative, innings-building, bowler-sensitive, Sachin that we saw post-World Cup '03. In his stead was a version reminiscent of his glory days - attacking, cheeky, aggressive, and above-all, looking to dominate the bowling irrespective of reputation, as Muralitharan found out.

Of course, this was one match, one success. Some days those aggressive chips over the infield may not be timed as well and the fielding side will be back in the business. When that happens it will be interesting to see whether Sachin will revert to his recent avatar or will he continue to tap into the Sachin of old. I hope it is the latter.

In the past couple of years, perhaps because the elbow was hurting much more than he let on, Sachin had regressed into the role of an accumulator. So much so, that the man who had made his mark playing Australia, at home and abroad, was no longer feared as much as Brian Lara by the Australian bowlers. In a year or so he will have a chance to rectify that opinion of theirs.

In the meantime, the frenzy over the return of the self-proclaimed "child of the one-day age" is at its peak. Many articles have been written about the return of the king. The one I liked best, maybe not surprisingly, was Harsha Bhogle's take on the man.

Happy birthday, and happy hunting!

When India toured Australia in 2003, to play that historic cricket series, (Steve Waugh's final stand), on the team was a bowler who was expected to be a passenger, a drinks boy, a gap filler, for the tour matches. He was drafted into the Test side for the Adelaide Test and has not looked back since.

Irfan Pathan's first four Test wickets were a veritable who's who of current Aussie greats - Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. Of late he has also shown that he can be more than just a menacing swing bowler. Today he turns 21.

I hope and pray that his career stays on this upward spiral for a long time to come. Batsmen of the world beware, Irfan has come of age!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The strength of the pack...

.... lies in its numbers.

On October 15, 2005 the West Virginia University Mountaineers (gridiron football team) hosted #19 Louisville Cardinals, which joined the Big East Conference just this year. At the start of the 4th quarter WVU was trailing 24-7 and things looked really bleak. The defence then stopped Louisville and forced a punt. WVU got the ball with 13:10 on the clock.

The Mountaineers then proceeded to score 17 points to tie the game, with NO turnovers by the other team!

We scored a TD to make it 24-14, then recovered an onside kick (which, in hindsight, should not have been WVU's ball) and went down the field and got a field goal to make it 24-17, with 4:40 on the clock. The defence stood strong and forced the Cardinals to go 3-and-out and punt it back with 3:41 on the clock. We then drove 60 yards for a TD to tie the game with a minute left.

Strangely, with 54 seconds to go and 2 timeouts left, Louisville chose to play for overtime and ran out the clock.

We finally won in the 3rd overtime, after scoring a TD in each one. It was an exciting game and, for me, the most heartening part was this - in spite of being down 24-7, by my count, WVU attempted 30 rushes and 9 passes in scoring the next 39 points for the win. A very composed performance indeed.

Here is an excerpt from the the Big East Conference PRESEASON media guide which sized up WVU's running back situation thusly: "Sophomore Pernell Williams will see time behind [junior Jason] Colson. Junior Erick Phillips, who is returning from knee surgery, will also look to make an impact, along with tailback Jason Gwaltney, Josh Bailey, Brad Palmer, Justin Dziak, Owen Schmitt and junior college transfer Louis Davis, who will compete for time at fullback and tight end."

In this game against the Cardinals, a WVU running back had 31 rushes for 188 yards and 5 TD's, and 3 catches for 20 yards and another TD. WVU is to running backs what the Steelers are to linebackers and the Broncos are to running backs - a factory. The guy who did all this is a true freshman - Steve Slaton, who is not even mentioned in the list above!!

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Slaton has started only two games but leads the Mountaineers (6-1, 3-0 Big East, ranked 17th in BCS Poll) in rushing with 459 yards and a robust 6.1 yards per carry.

The remaining teams on the schedule are South Florida, CONNECTICUT, Cincinnati, and PITTSBURGH (home games in caps). These teams are 3-3, 4-2, 3-3, and 3-4, respectively. Hopefully the Mountaineers can retain their composure and earn a BCS Bowl bid.

Stay tuned for weekly updates on the progress of the Mountaineers.

Here we go again...(??)

Addendum to a previous post: After all, it is the thought that counts, right?

True to form, on October 18th, 2005, the Asian Cricket Council announces another star-studded cricket match for charity - this time to aid the victims of the massive earthquake in Asia.

Shaharyar Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), said: "During a recent conversation with Jagmohan Dalmiya [ACC president], an ACC-sponsored relief match was considered. We agreed to examine possible dates for an international match in the next few days."

Hmmmmmm, this sounds eerily similar to something that happened a few months ago. Lets see how long it takes before the ACC, having reaped the rewards of the positive publicity this announcement will generate, reneges on its committment, citing unavailability of players due to cramped international schedules. {It is December 26th, 2005 today}. I shall try to keep a track of this and see how long it takes for them to act upon their words. If they do, I shall happily eat my words.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The curious incident

When Greg Chappell's email was leaked to the media, the BCCI President condemned the action and promised to find out the source of the leak. He announced various times over the next few days that an internal "probe" of the matter was being conducted by the BCCI. The first time he mentioned this was on September 27, 2005. It is December 26th today and, as yet, no news on what the probers found. I have no illusions that the BCCI will ever announce who leaked the email as it reminds me of this exhange between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gregory in Silver Blaze.

Inspector Gregory: “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Sherlock Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Inspector Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Sherlock Holmes: “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

(If you haven't read Silver Blaze, you should! Sherlock Holmes solves a case primarily based on the above information).

Biting off more than one can chew

People who are unaware of the implications of having exotic pets can wreck havoc with ecosystems by releasing their "pets" when they become too cumbersome (or big, or dangerous) to handle.

In Florida the Burmese python has been found in alarming numbers recently. How formidable are the pythons? They are unafraid of taking on alligators. But it does not always pay off for them. Check this out. Click on the photograph to get a clearer picture.

(Warning: if gory pictures are not your cup of tea, you may not want to enlarge the picture)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Graduate

Harsha Bhogle is one of India's more erudite sportswriters. For years, he has followed and reported on cricket and usually provides a fan's perspective of the game. With Indian cricket being dragged through the muck by the shenanigans of the BCCI, Harsha cries out for Sachin Tendulkar to come back and shine once more. The more disturbing thing, for me, is the underlying sense of frustration and despair that courses through the entire article.

Will the BCCI honchos wake up and turn things around anytime soon? Why do I feel like I already know the answer? Why does it not make me smile?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The big picture...

As reported here on CNN, Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum, and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association, both based in Tokyo, Japan, captured the first pictures of a giant squid in its natural habitat ~900 metres below the surface in the cold, dark waters of the North Pacific.

"This is the first time a full-grown, healthy squid has been sighted in its natural environment in deep water." Kubodera added.

"It went after some bait that we had on the end of the camera and became stuck, and left behind a tentacle six meters long, " Mori said.

Hmmm, so they report the first picture of a "full-grown, healthy squid" and in the process of doing so render it not-so-healthy owing to the loss of one of its tentacles!! Ah! But they got their picture, didn't they?

Curiously, when the Environmental News Network (ENN) reported the same event there was no mention of the damaged appendage at all. Why did they leave out that piece of information?? Your guess is as good as mine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

After all, it is the thought that counts, right?

After the tsunami ravaged many coastal areas of southern Asia, the ICC announced a pair of cricket matches matching the worlds best against each other, all for a good cause - to raise money to help the victims of the disaster.

There was overwhelming support for the first game, played in Australia, where millions of dollars were raised.

The second game was first postponed, and then called off. The reasons given were ones that could have easily been foreseen in January itself, but in the end were lamely put forward in the hope that sufficient time had elapsed and the public would have moved on to other concerns.

If the authorities truly, honestly, cared about their word then such issues could have been settled for the sake of the bigger cause. But it was not to be. Once more, mere lip service was provided to assuage the general public who expected to hear that some charity would be provided and were told that measures would be taken to achieve them.

Thank goodness, the first game was ACTUALLY held. When the two-match series was announced, my fear was that this was a public service announcement, a knee-jerk reaction to the disaster. When the first game took place, I was happy. And when the second was cancelled - I was not surprised. I had almost expected that to happen. For too long I have seen the authorities promise monetary (and property) rewards for sporting achievements, only to not hear about them any more after the grand announcement or for the athletes to only get a fraction of the promised sum (such as this one, or this one, or sometimes change their priorities in support of the flavour of the month).

Somehow, I did not expect this tsunami benefit series to be any different, and I was not mistaken. Sadly, the losers here are people whose hopes were raised when despair was their sole outlook.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The end of a streak?

In spite of the best efforts of his teammates, Greg "Mad Dog" Maddux's attempt to extend one of the most impressive streaks in baseball may have come to an end today. All season I have been rooting for it to somehow come true and the Cubs manager, Dusty Baker, even tweaked the rotation to get him an extra start, but it was not to be.

Oh well...at least he pitched enough innings to be able to extend his contract for one more year. I hope he comes back, and all indications are that he will.

Welcome to oblivion...

And with these words I begin my journey into the world of blogs...

And speaking of oblivion, here is a typical example of why the most ardent fan of the Indian cricket team despairs when the thought of any BCCI-sanctioned activity is announced.

For many days now Prem Panicker's blog has been sharply divided on this issue, and it is clear that like the Indian team, the followers of Indian cricket are (for the most part) supporters of either the captain or the coach.

My opinion? The coach appears to have a clearer picture of what needs to be accomplished, both long-term and short-term, and should be persisted with. Sourav Ganguly, on the other hand, has been hanging on by the slimmest of threads and needs some time away from the international scene to work out some very obvious kinks in his batting.