Monday, May 29, 2006

To always be someplace else

I have been very restless for a few days now, not sure what to do with the little free time I have. Deep down, I want to just be able to jaunt from place to place. No, I do not mean that want to take a short trip. I want to be able to emulate Gulliver Foyle.

Confused? One of my favourite sci-fi stories is "The Stars My Destination", by Alfred Bester. The book introduced a mode of transportation known as jaunting (named for the scientist Charles Fort Jaunte who discovered/invented it) whereby humans travel from place to place on earth simply by teleporting (akin to apparating in the Harry Potter series).

Gulliver "Gully" Foyle, the main protagonist, is described as "A man of physical strength and intellectual potential stunted by lack of ambition.....He had reached a dead end. He had been content to drift from moment to moment of existence for thrity years like some heavily armoured creature, sluggish and indifferent.....but now he was adrift in space for one hundred and seventy days, and the key to his awakening was in the lock."

The story is about this man and what he does when he realizes what he is fully capable of. Gully Foyle's moment of awakening is a paragraph that always raises the hair on the back of my neck when I read the story. Here is the description.....

After thirty years of existence and six months of torture, Gully Foyle, the stereotype Common Man, was no more. The key turned in the lock of his soul and the door opened. What emerged expunged the Common Man forever.....The acid of fury ran through him, eating away at the brute patience and sluggishness that had made a cipher of Gully Foyle, precipitating a chain of reactions that would make an infernal machine of Gully Foyle. He was dedicated.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Eye on the ball

Changing a habit of a lifetime can be a daunting task. For most of the 3 decades that I have been playing cricket I have been batting with a particular grip, stance and foot movement. With time I have noticed that my reflexes are not what they used to be. Consequently I cannot work the ball around with as much ease as I used to.

This season I made a conscious decision to change the way I played. I religiously watched all the cricket I could, all the while focusing on what the batsmen were doing to be able to hit the shots they did. Laxman, Sehwag and Pietersen are exciting to watch but difficult to emulate. Tendulkar is almost always in balance but has not been at the crease long enough for me to pick up tips from. So I have been studying the two batsmen who are leading from the front these days - Dravid and Ponting.

Surprisingly, these two are not that dissimilar in their technique. But their mental make-up separates them. Ponting looks to attack and take the battle to the other camp. Dravid looks to play himself him and then expand his repertoire. In the end, a long innings by both of them invariably ensures a victory for the team.

So armed with the knowledge I have gained, I have been changing my batting style. It has been a slow process but it is not the first time I have revamped my style of play. A few years ago, while golfing, I decided to change from an overlapping grip to an interlocking one and during the transition my golf scores shot way up. But now I am a much better player and shoot lower scores. This memory is what I fall back upon everytime I get my feet into a tangle and get out in practice.

My teammates have been trashtalking and ridiculing my batting these past few weeks but they do not know that I am going through these changes. My captain, SC, knows what I am doing and the two of us (along with AV) have been putting in extra time working on the position of my feet when I drive the ball.

This evening for a couple of hours SC, AV and I batted while one of us threw the ball at the batsman. My muscles are starting to memorize the new style of play and it is starting to come. Towards the end of the throwdown session, for the first time that I can recall, I did not have to remind myself how to move my bat and feet when the ball came my way - I just moved on my own! Our season starts this coming weekend and I cannot wait to see how effective my new technique is going to be in a real match.

I will not have to wait long - after all I am the team's opening batsman!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cricket fever is at hand

Tomorrow India begins another series against the West Indies. First up are 5 ODI's. My interest in them is ho-hum. I am waiting for the 4 Test series to begin in June.

A friend in the Windies (SM) and I have exchanged a few emails in anticipation of this series, though his interest has waned a little since Sachin Tendulkar is still not fit to play. We both hope that the Master will be back in time for the real deal and put some distance between himself and Ricky Ponting in the centuries column. Should he do so, India is bound to have done well in the series, too.

Falling from the sky

Books rarely get made into good movies. There have been many successful adaptations, too numerous to recount here, but most of them shared one common trait - the director took liberties with the stories to make a better pictorial account of the happenings. (Read the Godfather and then see the movie and you'll know what I mean - the book's legendary status owes more to the fine work by Francis Ford Coppola, than vice versa).

Ron Howard's predicament is that "The Da Vinci Code" has been read by too many people and that has tied his hands. I have not seen the movie, but I can tell you that it will not be received well by most movie-goers (and critics). Those that have read the book will nitpick the stuff he left out or changed. Those that have not read the book will not understand all the things simply because Howard does not have the time to lecture the audience the way Robert Langdon does in the book. In the end, what we will get is a movie that tries to hit the main points and relies heavily on the star power of the actors on the screen (Hanks, Tautou, McKellen, Reno, Bettany, Molina - to name a few) to pull it through.

I read JRR Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings" during my trip to India a few years ago. If the book was a Test match, then the trilogy of movies were the highlight packages. JRR Tolkein famously said about his work - "The tale grew in the telling". The movies actually managed to squeeze it back into its skeletal form. An impressive and breath-taking skeleton, but a skeleton of the story, nevertheless.

Unfortunately for Howard, The Da Vinci Code is not a magnum opus for him to make the bones interesting enough. He will be skewered for making the movie. I just hope the huge paycheque he receives will compensate for it.

And yes, I look forward to watching it at the first available opportunity. I just wish the producers had hired Harrison Ford to portray Robert Langdon, especially since Dan Brown himself describes Landon as "Harrison Ford in...tweeds".

Monday, May 15, 2006

For richer or poorer

Akash Chopra's latest posting dispels the myth that playing cricket is a very profitable venture for Indians.

Four years ago, on a guest columninst (Subodh S. Chitre) did an interesting analysis to see who the most "consistent scoring" modern-day batsman was. Read on and enjoy. It is interesting to see how we view the same batsman today!

A close encounter

On Sunday morning I had a very close look at a fine specimen of Odocoileus virginianus.

Last Sunday I was driving on the highway at my cusomary 65 mph, on my way back from the airport. A car in the faster lane was hugging my blindspot and tagging along for a fair bit. About half a mile down the road I noticed a solitary deer ambling across the highway. At first it seemed like the deer would cross the road easily, but then for some unfathomable reason, it took an about turn and wandered back into my lane!

I braked harder than I ever have before. Eventually I squealed to a complete stop, sliding the last few feet, ending up at a 45 degree angle to the road. I looked out of the windshield and the deer held my gaze. She nonchalantly walked back across my lane and nodded at me before disappearing into the adjacent forest. I nodded back, took a deep breath, and continued driving.

The driver in the next lane did not overtake me during the remaining 40-odd mile drive, and kept a safe distance between the two of us. I wonder why...