Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mangling metaphors?

SD recently told me about a school teacher of her's who would ask his students to help improve the ventillation of the classroom during really hot days. I have rarely heard a mangling of the English language that still conveyed the message so artistically.

"Open the doors of the window and let the atmosphere in. I am feeling summer."

Outside the box

When you travel by train in India you sometimes get to open the door and get a clearer view of the countryside. This trick should not be attemped by children or adults incapable of balancing themselves on two feet. Full disclosure - I did not venture anywhere near the open door. I let my stunt double do all the dangerous work!

And then you get to take some nice photographs. Like this, for instance.

Or this one, which happens to be one of my favourite ones.

That's tenacity!

Look closely at this photograph. The tree is actually clinging to the rock, somehow being able to find enough traction and nutrients to keep growing. What looks like a white stream of water is actually its root!


Sometimes photographs speak for themselves and saying anything would just spoil the impact. Here are some examples from my recent visit to India.

Fading glory

A few days have passed since India got knocked out of the World Cup. In the days since then the biggest point that rankles me is that the much touted "experience" factor is what led them down.

The flip side to experience is that you also carry with you the feeling of failure and how hard it can be to swallow. The experienced batting line-up showed this in every innings India played.

a) Dravid inexplicably let the situation get to him, dropping himself in the batting order when he would have been just the man to carry India through every time the opening wicket fell quickly (I will not even go into how many times I had said that VVS could have been more useful in this 1-down spot in the World Cup than Sehwag or Uthappa).

b) Ganguly occupied the crease for long periods only to throw it away and did not even remotely look like he was playing to give strike to anyone but himself. Two points that underscore this - go back and look at the number of times the man took a single off the last ball of the over and secondly, if you think I am being blasphemous, look at Hayden's innings today - he did not score off the first 16 balls he faced. Think about that. He reached a 100 in 110 balls and when he got out he had scored 158 in 143 balls, getting out in the 48th over. Now that is how you stitch together an innings even after you start like a tortoise.

c) Which brings us to Tendulkar. 14,000+ runs will be bandied about many times in the next few weeks. Ad nauseam. But that is besides the point. The man is scared of failing. I cannot think of any other explanation for the exaggerated (and I mean predetermined) defensive posture he adopts when he comes to the crease these days. He should be made to sit in a room and watch Ponting's batting. Even the defensive shots that Ponting hits are thumped. The bat is held positively, always looking out for runs. When Tendulkar defends these days he holds it limply and it is not surprising that he inner-edges the ball when it does not hit the middle. Maybe his elbow still hurts, preventing him from gripping the bat tightly, and he is not publicly admitting it. Either way it is time for him to surf on Youtube.com and see some of the clips of his heyday and try to restore his batting to some semblance of that or just follow the Don and let his last international innings be a memorable duck.

I will not go into the bowling debacle. The blame game is easy to play but I feel the three afore-mentioned players cost India a shot at the Cup and I am not going to be convinced otherwise. What I wanted from them was a refined form of the devil-may-care attitude that Aftab Ahmad brings to the crease every time he bats. Watch this Bangladeshi guy and you will know what I mean. He rarely sticks around long enough to post a huge score but as long as he is there you know that he is giving it his all.

At least now I will be able to watch some cricket, good cricket at that, and enjoy the strategies being adopted by various teams, and not pull my hair out the next time I see new batsmen being greeted by only 4 men inside the circle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A rearguard for the ages

On March 14th, 2001, two Indian batsmen walked to the crease with not many people expecting them to do much. At the end of the day the two were still undefeated and one of the greatest rearguard actions in the history of Test cricket was well on its way.

Six years later, I still get goosebumps when I think of that match. Sadly I did not follow the scores for those two days as I was visiting a friend whose birthday falls during the same time period. When I had last checked the scores, India were 128 for 8 in the first innings. When I opened CricInfo two days later the headline said "Laxman, Dravid seize initiative for India". While the page was downloading (slow Internet connections are a terrible curse to bear during such occasions) I tried to figure out a scenario where the two could have even batted together, let alone seize the initiative for India. As the page loaded, right below it, was an article about Gavaskar congratulating Laxman. I was confused but happy. When I saw the scorecard I was shocked. The rest of the series was followed closely by me, needless to say.

My eternal regret is that I did not follow either of his innings as it transpired over those two glorious days. I just hope that there are more performances from VVS Laxman over the next few years to make that regret a little less pronounced.

Glimpses - I

Here are some more photographs I clicked during my recent trip to India. This is the first of many such (hopefully quasi-regular) glimpses into what I saw.

JM loved watching these lizards in action. Especially when one would encroach on another's territory.A very common sight on the maidans of Hyderabad - multiple games of cricket on a single field. When you are part of the action on the ground it all makes sense. When watching from outside, it seems just a tad above semi-organized chaos.

Paddy fields and palm trees. I took this picture while on the train from Chennai to Bangalore.

This was taken in a changing room at a Raymonds showroom! I can only imagine what the owner's house must be like.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Staying on my nose and eyelashes

Snowfall. Love it. Wait for it. Enjoy it. We recently experienced what may just be winter's last stand in the Northeast US for this season. Here's 3000 words describing its aftermath...

The Mumbai monologue

Opinion about Greg Chappell is sharply divided. Some, like me, believe he is doing a good job with the Indian cricket team. Others, like many persons in my immediate family, believe he should be shunted back to Australia as soon as possible.

One of the many reasons I like him is that he is articulate enough to explain what his vision for the team is (without giving away the exact strategies in place). In an unusually conducted interview, by Rediff.com, Chappell discusses his views on this vision, uninterrupted by any questions. Harsha Bhogle uses this interview as the starting point for his take on the World Cup just before it commences.

(Prem Panicker, who conducted the interview, explains in some depth about the thinking behind this unusual questioning format).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Resolves that dissolve

Nirmal Shekar has 10 resolutions that he would like the World Cup viewing public to consider. Many of them require common sense, nothing more. I doubt whether the media will have anything to write about if the journalists follow them, though.

One of them addresses a phrase that companies trying to sell their products have shoved down the viewers throats - the Blue Billion.
Let us resolve that we will never again say that Team India carries the hopes of a billion people and the prayers of that many are with Rahul Dravid's men. The truth — if anybody still cares for it in this age of ephemera, an age of boosterism and saturation coverage of popular sport in the media — is that a vast majority of that billion has rather more mundane everyday concerns. Their hopes and dreams are not hooked to the fortunes of the men in blue.

Maid in India or Maid for India?

Sometimes it is better to let someone else's words do the talking. Here is Amit Verma's take on taxation and the Government's utilization of taxed income in India.

Commentary by numbers

Amit Verma writes about the influence of television on cricket coverage and presentation in India. He makes a few of the points that I have also often thought about. While it is not up to his usually high standards, it is still worth reading.

Former cricketers have a unique perspective to present since they are privy to what goes on inside a dressing room when situations become tense on the field. Very few of them seem to grasp this concept and instead give us the type of commentary a semi-literate man pulled off the street would give. What is the point in that? Read any column by Javagal Srinath and you will know exactly what I mean.

Bordering on the ridiculous

It is rare that a news article makes me laugh out loud. But this one did just that.

I cannot decide what is funnier - that the Swiss army was able to wander off course with weapons that do not even have ammunition or that Liechtenstein-ites seem least bothered that there was a group of 170 foreign military personnel wandering around in their backyard.

The soldiers may not have had any ammunition but I bet their knives are very functional and useful in any crisis!

Nom de plume

Jonty Rhodes exploded onto the cricketing world 15 years ago with his calling card - fielding - in the 1992 World Cup. By the time South Africa played Pakistan his reputation was already being made but the run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq helped revolutionize the way the rest of the world approached fielding and cricket has not been the same since then. (Case in point, people like VVS Laxman, who would have walked into a World Cup squad in the past, are excluded primarily because of their ordinary fielding skills). (Click here to see a video of that runout).

However, one of the biggest influences Jonty had, albeit unknown to him, was on a Hyderabadi lad who eventually went on to use the name as his pen name, after slightly adjusting the spelling!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The anti-Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar biggest nemesis, Glenn McGrath, is the subject of an astonishing statistical profile by Tim de Lisle. My favourite factoid about his batting ineptitude is this one:
He has finished on the winning side 160 times, batting only 14 times, making 18 runs, and only being out three times. If he bats, it means Australia are in trouble; if he passes 5, they lose.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Back in the high life again

After a gap of almost 2 months I am back. Its been a life-changing two months. Those that know me personally will understand what I mean.

I came back from a trip to India. In the coming days/weeks I shall reminisce about the trip and also upload some of the more memorable photographs I took while I was there.

So keep coming back for more and I shall not be gone for long again. Here's a sneak preview of things to come...