Thursday, November 23, 2006

Falling behind or staying ahead?

Brian Lara is 37 years old and Ricky Ponting 31. And they are in the midst of a purple patch of frightening proportions. Lara scored his 34th century and Ponting his 32nd, within a day of each other. They are fast approaching Tendulkar (33 years old) who is atop the list with 35 centuries.

Do Ponting and Lara represent two peaks with Tendulkar the valley in between, age and hunger-wise? Or is Tendulkar at a point just as high as the other two? The three Tests that India play in December will tell us a lot about it.

What do I think? After watching the Aussies beat his bat repeatedly in the Champions Trophy I had my doubts. But after watching the tiny adjustments he made on the bouncy track at Kingsmead and the ease with which he handled the pace attack, I think the man is ready. His cover drives were of the top-shelf, vintage Tendulkar category.

Ponting will eventually be the leader, but he has a lot more work to do than he probably thinks he has to. Hopefully, Tendulkar will see Lara's productivity at 37 and continue to keep playing as long as he can.

We are in for a treat in the coming months. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as the three of the batting titans of the game today launch an assault on the record-books.

Will IT repeat itself?

Not to belabour a point, but after the Indian 91-run debacle yesterday against South Africa, I find it ironic that today is the 10-year anniversary of a famous Indian triumph over the very same opponents.

Check out the scorecard and notice the irony in light of yesterday's meltdown. 22 batsmen came to bat in this match, and only one recognized batsman scored a 50. (The other 50 was from de Villiers, who in his entire career scored just 4 first-class 50's and was just throwing his bat around in this innings). With India tottering at 91 for 5 in the second innings, VVS Laxman shepherded the tail in his debut Test match, eventually being 8th out at 180. The margin of victory? 64 runs.

Once again, when an early Indian wicket falls in an ODI, and the bowlers are breathing fire and lightning, would you rather see Laxman or Kaif/Rainia/Mongia? I hope we don't need a 0-4 drubbing from SA to drive home my point.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Al dente

Last night I saw Casino Royale, the latest James Bond caper. A detailed review will follow in a few weeks as I do not want to reveal plot elements just yet.

I have seen all the Bond movies (except the original Casino Rayale) and, for now, all I will say is this - the last 15 seconds of this movie leave an indelible mark.

Best ending for a Bond movie...ever!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Switching to success

Peter Roebuck writes well, needless to say, but he also knows how to drive home his point. Here, he discusses semi-ambidexterous cricketers.

Like all good writers, he drives home his point (pun intended) with his last paragraph. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Shouting from the rooftops

When it comes to the the issue of selecting (or not selecting) VVS Laxman in the World Cup squad I shall scream myself hoarse.


Consider the alternatives who are being tried out because they supposedly have other skills (in most cases - fielding abilities) that are markedly better. Here are Laxman's career stats:
Laxman: 82 innings, 2338 runs, 31.17 average, 6 centuries, 10 fifties

Compared to other incumbents (also filtered to their last 85 innings where applicable):
Sehwag: 156 innings, 4727 runs, 31.72 average, 7 centuries, 24 fifties
Sehwag (filtered): 85 innings, 2441 runs, 29.76 average, 2 centuries, 13 fifties

Yuvraj: 159 innings, 4286 runs, 34.84 average, 7 centuries, 25 fifties
Yuvraj (filtered): 85 inings, 2613 runs, 37.32 average, 6 centuries, 13 fifties

Kaif: 122 innings, 2725 runs, 32.83 average, 2 centuries, 17 fifties
Kaif (filtered): 85 innings, 2008 runs, 32.91 average, 1 century, 14 fifties

Raina: 33 innings, 585 runs, 27.85 average, 0 centuries, 3 fifties
Mongia: 53 innings, 1154 runs, 28.85 average, 1 century, 4 fifties

The others being tried are not really that superior to him in terms of statistics, but the middle order lacks that crucial ingredient - a #3 unafraid of big moments and menacing attacks. Of ALL the players that have donned India colours over the years ONLY Laxman has multiple centuries IN Australia. And this against arguably the greatest ODI team ever.

Hmmm, what about comparing him to "superior" contemporaries?
Dravid: 82 innings, 2939 runs, 40.81 average, 4 centuries, 26 fifties
Tendulkar: 85 innings, 3387 runs, 45.16 average, 9 centuries, 18 fifties
Ganguly: 85 innings, 2465 runs, 32.86 average, 4 centuries, 14 fifties

Well, he pales in comparison with the first two, and rightfully so, while he is fairly comparable to the third. The above-mentioned trio are among the greatest ever in ODI history and his record compared to everyone but the top duo is comparable, if not much better.

When one of the openers gets out quickly, which of these names do you think is most likely to comfortably fend off the fast bowler breathing fire and sending down thunderbolts - Mongia, Kaif, Yuvraj, Raina or Laxman? Hmm, deep down even you know the answer to this one.

Take a look at this snap.

That is Laxman in ODI gear, playing a short-pitched ball with minimum fuss. The man can do it and do it better than any of the players taking up his spot in the team.

If Laxman is not in the World Cup squad India will not win the World Cup. More crucially (for me, at least) I shall not watch the games.

And I am not the only person who feels this way about Laxman, here is a noted columnist who shares my view. To add insult to injury, Yuvraj Singh failed a fitness test and in his stead the wise selectors have sent a back-up keeper! Grrrr.

A state of mind

Bob Woolmer, who has a slightly more difficult task than Greg Chappell in pure cricket-coaching terms, talks about the language (and other) boundaries that he has to cross in coaching the mercurial Pakistani side.

Number crunching

Whichever way you look at it, Roger Federer is having a season for the ages. And anytime Lendl's and Borg's names get mentioned in the same breath, I am happy.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I couldn't resist stopping on the road, backing up, and taking a snap of this sign for a pizza place. The picture says it all!

Shaking a leg or two

Every year the end of October signals the organizing of a Diwali bash by the Indian Students Association. After the cultural programmes and dinner, the real fun begins. Chairs are removed from the ballroom, Indian music of all types blares from the speakers, and inhibitions are thrown to the wind as dancers of all skill levels converge onto the dance floor.

Three hours go by in a blur of movement. Most of the songs are, by now, totally unknown to me but the beat, the rhythm, and the sensation are still the same. Everyone's feet and hands move on their own accord. Each of us dances to a different drummer, and semi-organized pandemonium of the best kind follows.

Drive-by sightseeing

Every so often I get into my car and drive. My favourite time of the year for such drives is during the Fall. The idea that trees are busily chugging along, breaking down foliar pigments, reabsorbing nutrients, getting ready for winter while still showing a pretty face, is oddly reassuring. If you haven't experienced a drive through fall foliage, a field trip should be on your travelling agenda for the future.

Once in a while, I stop the car and walk by a lake. Leaves of all sizes, shapes, and colours peek back at me. Where will they finally end up, I wonder?

In the evening, as the sun goes down and the world begins to settle in for the night, everything becomes calm. The sheet-like surface of the lake, transparent and unrippled, invites me to go back in time and become a child once more. Much joy is achieved by simply counting the number of times a stone skips off the surface.

Some days are just perfect. The rest are there to let you appreciate them when they do come by.

The Sports Guy remembers

Bill Simmons, of, wrote a loving obituary-type article when Red Auerbach passed away recently. I had heard of Red but did not know much about him, except for some of the major details of his accomplishments as an NBA coach and General Manager of the Boston Celtics.

As BD will no doubt attest, Simmons writes so well that you feel you know almost as much about Red as you would by reading a complete biography of his.

Something to Crowe about

Take a look at this scorecard. The opening bowler for the losing team, who also batted at #7 and was the second-highest scorer, is more famous for his exploits in another field.

His cousins did not do too badly for themselves on the cricket field either.