Friday, October 27, 2006

The distant dream

Harsha Bhogle recently wrote an article in the Indian Express wherein he argued that there were (realistically) only two batsmen who could vie for the last batting spot in India's World Cup roster, a position currently occupied by Dinesh Mongia.

He wrote: Match it with your own but I had Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar, Anil Kumble, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, RP Singh, Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. That is seven batsmen, a wicket keeper and ten bowlers. It means there are a few options going around with the bowlers but we have very few degrees of freedom with the batsmen.

He then ends on this note (which, as my regular readers will know, I concur with thoroughly): For India to be serious World Cup contenders they need runs and I’m afraid by the look of it they will have to hope that these very batsmen do it for them by playing the way they did 12 months ago. The only player who can complete that short list, as of now, will therefore have to be VVS Laxman.

But I doubt that the selectors will go that way. I write this blog the evening after India lost a game to West Indies because no one in the much-vaunted batting line-up withstood the tight bowling they came up against. The current incumbents for the middle-order batting spots are Raina, Kaif and Mongia (in that pecking order, it appears). The biggest negative against Laxman is his perceived weakness as a fielder. But since Dravid has become skipper, he almost always operates with a slip. Surely Laxman, one of the best Indian second slip fielder ever, can cover that slot that people like Sehwag and Tendulkar have filled in the recent past.

A point that I have been trying to make, in vain, was lucidly pointed out by Dileep Premachandran of Cricinfo, while delivering his verdict on the India-WI match: The cameo is something that comes naturally to Suresh Raina as well these days. If he wasn't making a run, you could just write it off as bad form, or bad luck. But when a batsman manages to get a start, and then throws it away in a variety of ways, it reveals a deeper malaise (. . .) A batsman of the calibre of VVS Laxman has been excluded on the grounds that his fielding isn't up to scratch, but when those that replace him aren't worth more than 15 or 20 runs with the bat, it makes you wonder about the wisdom of sidelining a man who has one-day hundreds against Australia and Pakistan.

Will common sense prevail or will Laxman once again have to bear the ignominy of being excluded from the World Cup?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

66% of the truth

JO recently showed me this snap of what appeared to be a mutant leaf that had begun changing colours. (Yes, it is one leaf). We spent a great deal of time looking at this interesting leaf and marvelling about it.

I then showed this photo to SM and she burst my bubble in about 2 seconds when she pointed out that it was just a sugar maple leaf that had lost its right lobe! Oh well, so much for that, but it still is a pretty picture.

(Here is an image of what a complete sugar maple leaf looks like).

Tête - à - tête

During his heyday as the world's best golfer, Nick Faldo was known for his dour personality. Faldo's sense of humour has become more visible in the recent past, especially since he took to his role as a TV analyst as easily as a duck takes to water. Here in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Bamberger, Nick reveals a little more of his persona.

Subtle humour - just the way I like it.

Take me home...

I spent a major part of this summer on the road. Or so it seemed to me. Driving on the interstates in and around the state of West Virginia is not as taxing as driving elsewhere because of the sights you get to see.

Sometimes, however, an act as simple as overtaking a truck can become a beautiful experience. Luckily I had my camera with me, and as the traffic was light, I was able to capture this nice shot of the sun rising on the highway.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Drifter

When you read books of all shapes, sizes and genre's, as I do, you come across a multitude of characters, most of whom inhabit the pages and then pass from your memory. Once in a while, a rare character comes along - one who may not be what you are or what you want to be, or even what you stand for - but when you read about this character you want to know more and understand what drives him/her.

A few weeks ago, while sifting through the thriller section at a bookstore, I saw a book that featured a character named Jack Reacher. The book (Persuader) was the 7th in the series. I confess that I am a big fan of mindless action thrillers, but I was stumped as I had never heard of either the character or the author - Lee Child. The only reason I picked it up was because it was the 7th in the Jack Reacher series, and I am a sucker for recurring characters.

Just one sentence into the novel, I was hooked. So much so that I then bought 8 other Jack Reacher novels the next day (there are a total of 10 in the series so far). The latest book - The Hard Way - has not yet been released in paperback and I could not get myself to pony up the big bucks for the hardcover version.

With each story, Reacher gets some more layers, his compulsions get more clearly defined and, oddly, he gets more intriguing. I think, somewhere deep down, I have a latent wish to be like Reacher (without the guns, the guts, the girls, and the gory mayhem he usually find himself in). Reacher is as independent a character as you'll probably get and, in many ways, reminds me of Howard Roark, another drummer who marched to his own beat.

In the end, maybe it is all about wanting to be independent, isn't it?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Just a little bit longer

JAN complained today that my blogging has become very infrequent of late, and that he rarely visits my site as he doubts he will see anything new.

Mea culpa.

On the weekends, I have been playing cricket in Pittsburgh for a few months now. Wait, let me rephrase that. On the weekends, I have been a member of a cricket team that is participating in the Pittsburgh Cricket League. Yes, yes, I do play, but it would be exaggerating if I said that the team would do worse without me in it.

Our regular season ended yesterday and we stormed through to the playoffs, which will held in less than a fortnight. I do not want to jinx our team, so I shall refrain from talking about it, but as soon as the season is done I shall give you a long re-cap (with pictures, of course) of what has kept me occupied these past few weeks.

As Jack Bauer would say, "I promise you."

Hurting in the shadows

Regular readers of my blog would know by now who my favourite baseball player is. I shall write more about him in a couple of days.

Today I want to focus on the person who is second in my esteem. The Big Hurt, as Frank Thomas is also known, had the misfortune of having his best years overlap with another Chicago sports figure (Michael Jordan). Now many years later, in the autumn of his career, Thomas is having a resurgence that is bringing him back into the limelight.

In the late 1990's I watched him play at Comiskey Park (as it was then called) and even from a distance his size (6'5", 250+ pounds) stood out. For years he has been a vocal presence in asking for rigorous steroid testing in baseball. Many of his exceptional deeds on the baseball diamond have been overlooked because they paled in comparison to the behemoth numbers put up by suspiciously large individuals.

Breaking down his many accomplishments, Andy Behrens of makes a case that Thomas's fans have had the previlege of watching, arguably, one of the (if not the) greatest hitters the game of baseball has ever seen.