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.