Friday, December 31, 2010

10 Points to ponder

1) In my report at the end of the 4th day, I had said:
P.S. Ishant Sharma, can you move your bowling mark back by about 6 inches such that your front foot lands inside the crease and not on it? I swear that if you get another batsman out off a no-ball, I will catch the next flight to South Africa, shave half the hair off your head, and catch the next flight back. Runs are precious, Laxman fought and fought to get you most of those, don't go and gift the SAffers some free ones with your irresponsible no-balls.
Well, wouldn't you know it? Ishant Sharma went and did just that when he got Morne Morkel caught at gully off a no-ball. Virender Sehwag's reaction - flinging the ball on the ground, said it all for me. (Since apparently no one reads my blog closely enough to call me on it, I have decided to ignore my threat and will not travel to South Africa to meet Ishant Sharma).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Burning deck, meet Mr. Laxman

Anyone who's read this blog knows that I am an unabashed admirer of VVS Laxman. So, it always gives me great pleasure when he displays his fire-fighting skills under pressure.

Over the past few years VVS has built up the type of fighting reputation that even the most ardent of Sachin Tendulkar fans will wish their hero had accumulated. Time after time, with the team in strife, the genial Hyderabadi with the steely resolve of a gunslinger has bailed the Indian team out. Like any other mortal, he has had his share of failures, but more often than not when the chips are down the reassuring sight of Laxman signalling the end of another over with his curious habit of repeatedly tapping his bat inside the crease is a welcome one.

The heart of a champion

The second Test between South Africa and India is very evenly poised at the end of the 3rd day's play. One man has made the difference. On a pitch where 33 batsmen have gotten out so far, only one man has made more than 37 runs in an inning. The incredible thing is that VVS Laxman has done it twice, top-scoring for the Indians in both innings.

When he came to bat Kepler Wessels noted on-air that Laxman has too many 50's in comparison to 100's (48 to just 16) and wondered why it was so. Many times over the course of the next day he had a chance to figure it out but he never did so. This inning was a classic demonstration of why. Batting at #5 or #6 for most of his career, Laxman has not had the luxury of having partners stick with him too many times. Far too often, he has had to play with the tail and forced to watch as the wickets fell and that stat-padding 100 was too far away to reach. Today, when the 5th wicket (Cheteshwar Pujara) fell, Laxman was batting on 23, the team score was 93 (effectively 167 for 5).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hurtling ahead

At the end of a manic second day of the second India-South Africa Test match, a result is definitely on. Who will win is still in the balance.

The food in the pavilion must be really good or the wicket must stink a great deal. How else does one explain the haste with which batsman after batsman has left the crease? 18 wickets fell in the day and, in reality, the number should have been much less. In the first inning, India's last four wickets fell in no time at all. And South Africa scarcely batted long enough to register in the scorebooks.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Moving day

On a day when 16 wickets fell on two different continents, one thing became apparent. There isn't a single batting line-up these days that can score runs when the ball is swinging and moving around. A few days ago, England suffered when Mitchell Johnson broke the habit of a lifetime to find swing in Perth. The vaunted™ Indian batting line-up has now collapsed twice in two Test matches. I haven't seen the South Africans bat in such testing conditions yet, but I don't really see why they should be any different. If India's luck holds out, we may find out later on the second day of the second Test match in Durban.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

61 and dwindling

A combination of NASA-generated high resolution camera work and back-of-the-envelope calculations by Dr. Nalini Nadkarni (Evergreen State College) yields the figure that, on the Earth, trees out number humans (61 trees for every human, to be exact).

She asks a very pertinent question: how many trees have you used up in your lifetime? Have you not met, met, or exceeded your share?
How Many Trees Per Person?

It's a cool question, and easy to calculate. Nadkarni looked up the world's human population as of Dec. 31 and found that on that day, we numbered 6,456,789,877 (again, very more or less). Punching the figures into her calculator, she figured that the world supports 61 trees per person. When we talked — and you can hear our conversation in our "Morning Edition" story — she was thrilled. "Hooray!" she said, "I get more than one tree!"


This got Nadkarni wondering: How much of our 61-tree allotment does an American use in a lifetime? All of it? Some of it? More than 61? She didn't know. So she asked her graduate students to make a list of tree-based products — and they came up with a list so long, it almost never stops.

Here's some of what they found: baseball bats, barrels, books, blocks, benches, crutches, coffee filters, guitars, grocery bags, pencils, pine oil, beds, billboards, buttons, candy wrappers, buttons, chewing gum, cork, crayons, egg cartons, fruit pie filling, kites, linoleum, luggage, paper, pingpong balls, chopsticks (especially the disposable kind), rubber, tambourines, telephone books, tires, toilet paper, turpentine, xylophones and yo-yos (the wooden kind).
Check out some of the other wonderful things being done by Dr. Nadkarni.

Go Big Red!

You don't always need Santa Claus to come bearing Christmas gifts, and you don't always need to turn to fiction to read a heart-warmingly happy story that will bring tears to your eyes.

Would this story have been possible if the Internet had not been invented and Roger Ebert not battled cancer successfully?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Happy New Year!

Oh! What a feeling...

Oh, what a feeling
When we're dancing on the ceiling

- Lionel Ritchie
When I was watching Inception I was reminded of Fred Astaire. To took me a long time to think of the connection. I assumed it had to do with the nature of the movie but I couldn't quite pin it down. Until it hit me yesterday!

The scene from Inception that got me thinking of Astaire was the one with the rotating hallway where the protagonists fight on the wall and the ceiling. But I got caught up in the movie and forgot about Astaire.

So, without belaboring the point any further, here's the Fred Astaire's masterpiece. The choreography for this sequence is spell-binding, especially since the whole scene, once it starts is filmed in one shot.

And here is how it was done. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for Astaire to remember which way the room was going to rotate next and keep dancing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spanish for dummies and sundry things

1) If I had an iPhone, I'd definitely get this app. Especially since I am traveling to a predominantly Spanish-speaking country in the very, very near future.

2) Check out this slideshow (be sure to click through the 13 slides). Snowflakes as you have never seen them before. No wonder the saying that no two snowflakes are identical is probably true. Also, these are some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. No wonder when I grow old, I shall retire to a pace surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Here's a sample of one of the photos...

These snowflake photos were taken by Kenneth Libbrecht of CalTech, using a specially-designed snowflake photomicroscope. They show real snow crystals that fell to earth in northern Ontario, Alaska, Vermont, the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

c) Move your mouse over this image of Hong Kong and see it transform.

d) I know, I know. I am putting something sports-related but it is very interesting in its own way. Here's the background. Earlier this year LeBron James announced that he was going to leave Cleveland and play for the Miami Heat during a live televised event that was even called The Decision by ESPN.

"...I am taking my talents to South Beach..", he said without a trace of bashfulness. He was widely criticized for it. Where he goes to play is entirely his business and what we think of it should not be talked about, but doing it in such a crass way is what I had an issue with.

Anyway, Nike tried to rehabilitate his image with this ad:

Numerous responses were offered to that ad, but the one that takes the cake is this one:

Finally, to put an end to this business comes an ad purportedly offering Michael Jordan's point of view of the whole issue. End of discussion.

The best medicine

In these times of strife and trouble, here's something to make you smile, maybe even laugh:

P.S. I apologize for the terribly trite and lame pun that I used as a title for the post. I'm sure there are a 100 better titles I could have used.

Deflecting focus

Thank god for small mercies (and the lower case g is intentional).

When the #1 team in the world loses by an inning scant minutes into the fifth day of a Test match where most of the first day was lost to rain, the headlines should be about that fact. Instead, thanks to the emphasis the media places on personal milestones (and we are complicit in this, too, as you will see below), Sachin Tendulkar saved the Indian Test team's bacon to a great extent.

SRT crossed Brian Lara's aggregate tally of 11,953 runs in October 2008. Since then the fellow has added a scarcely believable 2560 runs with 11 centuries and 8 fifties to his tally. Phew! And the talk back then was when, and not if, Ricky Ponting would overtake the fellow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Crash, Bang, Wallop

Yesterday, I had written:
I am probably tempting Fate by bringing this up, but I shall say it nevertheless. Kallis has scored 38 centuries in Tests, yet his highest score is just 189. (His highest first-class score is just 200). Scoring large centuries is just not his style. So, historical data suggests that Kallis is not the one who will be leading the charge on the 3rd day. Lying in wait is Abraham Benjamin de Villiers.

The Indians are in for a leather hunt and statisticians worldwide are going to be reaching for the record books.

For the fake Slim Seh-whack

Dear Virender Sehwag,

To paraphrase Eminem:
So, won't the real Slim Sehwag please stand up,
please stand up, please stand up?

There was a time, Viru, when a score of 50 was just the appetizer. You had mountainloads of patience and were content to motor along playing the ball on its merit and chugging along beyond 150, 200, 250, and even 300. These days that Sehwag has morphed into Seh-whack. Once you reach 50 and the field spreads you do the impossible - you make deep midwicket a catching position and long-on and long-off practically close-in catchers. Especially when a spinner, who you wouldn't give the time of the day, is bowling to you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's eating Gilbert Grape?

Jacques Kallis usually scores at about 45 runs per 100 balls. A big chunk of the criticism directed towards Kallis, and a huge reason why he is not revered as much as his mind-boggling stats indicate that he should be, is that he tends to hold one end up and bats in a frustratingly sedate, single-minded, plodding manner irrespective of the match situation.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the very same Kallis blasting his way to a 130 ball century. One of the hopes I held out for the 2nd day was that the South Africans would bat slowly, scoring only about 270-300 in the day's play. Instead they motored along at more than 4 runs per over and are extremely close to batting India completely out of it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thank you, Graeme Smith

It will not take long for the knives to sharpen and for India's "lack of preparation" to be bandied about as the reason for the spectacular opening day collapse against South Africa at Centurion.

Pshaw! The reality is that the bowling by the two pacemen was so sustained and brilliant that India would have collapsed no matter which match of the series they were playing. Heck, ANY batting line-up (including the SAffer line-up of this very Test) in the world would have collapsed. Dale Steyn is the deadliest wicket-taker in the history of the game (if you keep a cut-off of at least 113 wickets). He takes a wicket once every 40 balls. In this inning, so far, he is striking at twice that rate (once every 20 balls). Steyn is a rare gem - a super-fast bowler who relies on swing and accuracy, rather than bounce or fear to get people out. The last bowler who I can recall having a similar effect on me was a similarly small-statured Malcolm Marshall (whose strike rate was 46.7 balls per wicket).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Therefore I am

Some random observations that flit through my head when I think about these Test series:

West Indies - Sri Lanka
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The once mighty West Indies Test team is now relegated to celebrating drawn Test series, even calling it a "massive achievement". Even worse, the series was drawn because rain interrupted normal proceedings on an almost daily basis. Sri Lankan cricket is not helping itself by producing pitches where batsmen make merry and the bowlers suffer. Sri Lanka has the most varied bowling attack of all Test teams today (including Pakistan) but the team does not get to showcase that strength of theirs. Which is very sad. Test cricket should not be a batathon. Gah!

Friday, December 03, 2010

From here to eternity

For those of you wondering why I have been off the grid for the past few weeks, it is because I was traveling and taking care of some other matters.

Now I am back in the US of A and will be blogging again starting this weekend. Some things to look forward to (assuming there are folks who look forward to reading my blog):

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The price of power

Dear MS Dhoni,

You know I like you and have been a huge fan of your captaincy and am thoroughly impressed with your leadership skills and handling of personnel. But that does not mean that I am not perplexed by some of the things that have lately been creeping into your leadership style.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Holding court (the third time)

Here's a recent Roger Federer interview. This was conducted after the first round of the If Stockholm Open. (Yes, that is the name - the If Stockholm Open). In an age where athletes are monotonous and speak only in politically correct and generic, repetitive tones (yes, MS Dhoni, I am talking to your recent avataar), Roger is a breath of fresh air and all things good.

See the interview for yourself. The dude is genuinely interested in what the interviewer has to say, is elaborate with his responses, makes fun of himself, and is in no rush to finish the interview. What a man!

Counting crows

I have long marveled at Ian Chappell's forthrightness and eye for talent. Naturally I am biased toward him because of his affection for VVS Laxman.

However, a few years ago he made a suggestion that (in hindsight) was so horribly wrong it is worth repeating here. On March 30, 2007, he wrote:
In the fallout from India's early demise at the (2007) World Cup one of the major decisions will concern the future of Sachin Tendulkar.

Before anybody else makes a decision on what will happen to Tendulkar the player himself has to have a good long look into the mirror and decide what he's trying to achieve in the game. At the moment he looks like a player trying to eke out a career; build on a glittering array of statistics. If he really is playing for that reason and not to help win as many matches as he can for India then he is wasting his time and should retire immediately
(Link brought to my attention by AP).

Raju ban gaya gentleman

Many years ago, Ambati Thirupathi Rayudu was hailed as the Next Big Thing after a splendid time in England on an Under-19 tour. He even captained the Indian Under-19 team for a while when the world seemed to be opening up for him.

 (Farjana K. Godhuly/AFP/Getty Images; via 2003)

Along the way, however, life intervened and after serving a (still rankling) "suspension" for playing in the ICL, Rayudu came back to prominence playing for the Mumbai Indians in the recent edition of the IPL.

In the years before the ICL, he had significant problems with the Hyderabad Cricket Association, particularly with the nepotism of Shivlal Yadav, who favored his son Arjun Yadav over others. It is a measure of the (mis)management of Shivlal that his son even managed to play a game for India in England while AT Rayudu never even came close to sniffing a spot in the Indian team. Three years ago I was so angry about this state of affairs, I wrote about it on my blog. Not surprisingly, since everyone in the BCCI selectorial committee and their mothers read my blog, Arjun Yadav has not shown his face near an Indian dressing room again.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I am raking up the past is that AT Rayudu is going to play for Baroda this upcoming Ranji season (by the way, I thought it was Vadodara...what happened to that?) and the Hyderabad coach, Venkatapathy Raju is spitting all over playing the "how dare he back-stab us?" card.
"It was done in bad taste," Raju told PTI. "As a senior member of the team, he should have taken the responsibility to guide Hyderabad this season. He should have been loyal to Hyderabad. This move reflects his commitment to the Hyderabad team."
Please, Raju. You ill-treat a fellow for years, treat him like a pariah, and then expect him to stick with you now. Heck, the Deccan Chargers did not get him into their team when the ICL-related suspension was revoked. Where was the loyalty you speak of then?

Here's a prediction for you, Raju. As long as the Yadavs are in charge of Hyderabad cricket I don't see Rayudu playing for us.

(Full disclosure: Many, many years ago, during my schooldays, I batted against Raju in an inter-house cricket match. I was bowled first ball by him. It was on that day that I realized that a slow left-arm spinner was not really that slow, after all!).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Walking on air

Is there anyone here who'd have the guts to try something like this?!!! No way will I even contemplate that. Ever.

By the way, this is the El Caminito del Rey. My question is simple: how did they build that damn walkway in the first place?

Storm front

Living in the Midwest US means that the weather is not just a topic of conversation but is also the source of considerable excitement. I, personally, love storms so I revel in watching the sky boil over. The flat terrain lets me see for miles and watching a storm front approach is quite the spectacle.

Recently, a good friend captured what is not an uncommon cloud formation when these storms approach. The photo was taken at about 5pm, and came with a lot of lightning and heavy winds but no rain or tornadoes. At least not that day. In about an hour or so, the sky was clear and the sun was out again.

(Zhongming Huang 2010)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I know, I know...

Of all the folks who have written about VVS Laxman's heroics in light of the Mohali Test, the best one of all comes, much to my surprise, from an ex-cricketer who puts more accomplished writers in the shade. Step forward, Ian Chappell. You indeed did save the best for last.
It's incredible to think that in his early days this remarkable strokeplayer would often ask, "Have you seen anything wrong with my batting?"

There was no lack of confidence through the whole ordeal in Mohali. Laxman was unflappable until victory beckoned. Then even he became animated and remonstrated with his partners for not completing a crucial run as the deficit dwindled to single figures. This rare display of passion served to reveal the depth of his intense competitive drive.

Laxman's contribution to India's breathtaking victory went way beyond the runs he scored. His decision early on to put his faith in Ishant Sharma's batting ability played a big part in the gangling quickie's vital role in their match-winning partnership. Laxman has always been tactically aware; he would have been India's best choice as captain following Sourav Ganguly's successful reign. He will never captain the team but he'll forever be remembered as India's most prolific match-winning batsman

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Millions and millions of words

Here's your Kick Your Feet Up And Relax video of the day:

This is the opening sequence of "The Fall" by Tarsem, one of the most visually stunning movie I have ever seen. (Click here to see all the different posts I have written about this movie).

The musical piece accompanying the scene is one of my all-time favorites, too - Beethoven's 7th symphony, 2nd movement. I play it at least once a week at work when I need some music to calm me down.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Last Update: The smiling assassin

Okay, I swear I am done with articles about VVS Laxman and just in time, too, as the next Test is starting in about 24 hours. (See the Last Update below for the latest update).

Last Update: Finally, Harsha Bhogle weighs in on a fellow Hyderabadi. Many years ago, Harsha wrote the only authorized biography of Mohammad Azharuddin. Maybe someday soon he will write one about VVS Laxman. Until then, we'll have to catch snippets of Harsha's views on Laxman through his articles on CricInfo. Here's his latest offering.
For a major part of his career he has batted at No. 6. It means the tail is a stone's throw away. It means the boundary riders are out for him, offering him the single to attack the rest. It means he stays not-out more often; once every sixth innings almost, compared to about one in 10 for Tendulkar and one in nine for Dravid. You might argue it boosts his average but the innings rarely go as far as they might have gone. Hence, only 16 centuries. Hence, too, the change in batting style; from a free-stroking player to someone who must guard his wicket and prolong the innings. Number six is a difficult position to bat in if you are a batsman who doesn't bowl because your numbers rarely look as good as those of the men who precede you.

Down in Australia, they think we are daft but we have never bestowed on him the stature we have with Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, and more lately with Sehwag.

That is why he has had to walk the selection tightrope far too often for a player of his ability. That is why many believe he has been underrated. Down in Australia they think we are daft, but we have never bestowed on him the stature we have on Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, and more lately Sehwag. And so, every time there was a new kid on the block, the attention shifted towards Laxman. And yet in the last two years (from January 1, 2009, to be precise), he has scored a century every four Tests and averages 80
Update: Two more articles on Laxman's role in the Mohali Test have come up that need mentioning. (There will be one last update tomorrow when Harsha Bhogle's column on CricInfo comes up, too).

True grit

The true measure of a person's character and aptitude is when they are under duress. Earlier today, the Indian cricket team's chances of winning the first Test against Australia was slim and edging towards none. Eight wickets had gone down, 92 runs in the arrears and at the crease were VVS Laxman, playing with a dodgy back and Ishant Sharma, on an injured knee that would cause him to miss the next Test match. One man was left in the pavilion, Pragyan Ojha.

What followed was gripping theater of the kind that only Test cricket, with the abundance of time at hand, can provide. Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, I'll put down the various thoughts that spring to mind after this epic.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Eiger sanction

I know at least one person who will probably enjoy watching this movie. This one's for you, BD/DSC.

Update: See below the movie preview for a scene from an Indian movie of recent vintage that I thought was quite spectacular, too.

Here's a scene from Lakshya that you'd probably like, too:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Swiss chocolate

Now, this makes me want to go out and buy some chocolate...right now!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Handy music

This is the funniest and most entertaining video I have seen in a long time. The expressions (or lack thereof) on the faces of the duo are priceless and add to the fun element. Amazing.

The song is very catchy, too. I wonder how long it will take for it to become a Salman Khan song.

Update: Performed and choreographed by Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding
Film by Jonny Reed
Music: Yolanda Be Cool & D Cup featuring Cleary & Harding

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The fork in the road

I am sure minds better than I can find flaws and glitches with the idea, but the thought that we can have more efficient roadways that help reduce the dependence upon some of Nature's limited resources is intriguing. The cost-factor is one that is not discussed in the video so who knows where this idea will eventually go.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The best medicine

Props to Megha for directing me to this absolutely wonderful video. If this does not tell you how special a time it is tight now to be a tennis fan, then I don't know what will. The two players at the top of the game challenge each other's destiny and fight for every inch on the court while off the court they are so comfortable being friends with each other.

And while I was trolling for some more videos, I found this one - Rafael Nadal, 12 years old and already displaying some of that exception court awareness of his.

And lest you think I am getting converted to the Nadal camp, I still feel this fellow is the GOAT. No doubt whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Changing of the guard

The Rajah is dead! Long live the King!

Tennis is fortunate to have two wonderful human beings at the top.

Rafael Nadal continued his (seemingly) inexorable glide towards tennis destiny by taking the US Open crown yesterday evening. For a fellow who was initially considered to be a one-trick (read: clay) pony, he has transformed into the most formidable tennis player in the world today. Pound for pound, no one scares their opponent more than Rafael does.

My impression of Roger Federer as the Greatest of All-Time has not changed one bit (and I am not interested in a protracted discussion of the merits of Nadal or the demerits of Federer, either) but it is hard to see how Roger can beat Rafael, especially on clay, unless Federer (shock! horror!) improves his game.

Roger has 6 Wimbledon titles but, today, Nadal is the better volleyer and a much better constructor of points. Very rarely do you see Nadal charge the net when it is not a good idea. Federer apologists will say that Nadal gets illegally coached by his uncle. To hell with that! You can coach a fellow all you want but he still has to perform on the court. Nadal is outstanding in that department.

His post-match comments at the prize distribution ceremony were worthy of a champion. His English is improving, his command of the game has reached new levels, but his comportment as a person has not changed one bit. He is every bit as endearing, charming, and polite today as he was when he won his first French Open title.

Mr. Nadal, I will still root against you everytime you reach a Grand Slam final (and especially against Federer) but it will not stop me for giving you a standing ovation when you do win the tournament. You are a credit to the game of tennis. Long may you continue to play and be successful.

P.S. By the way, the next time you meet Dick Enberg, can you tell him that your name is not pronounced Ra-FEE-al Na-DOLL?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Change is coming - update

I'm breaking the habit of a lifetime (of blogging) and presenting something that connects very personally to me on my blog. The way I see it, the more the word gets around the better it will be for me in some small way in the future. I think.

And continued after the jump are a couple of screenshots that will be of interest to some of you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pardon the French Spanish

With all the lousy stuff swirling around in the world of Test cricket, it is wonderful to have the Rajah show me why I love watching sports.

Here's reason number 7,235,897 that Roger Federer is the greatest player in the history of tennis (in my opinion and that of a few others, of course, so if you disagree that's okay).

I watched this as it happened and a full day later, I still cannot get enough of it.

Proof positive

I do not know a lot of things about cricket. I am sure Test cricketers have forgotten more stuff about cricket than I will ever learn in my lifetime.

But I do know one thing: if I am fielding at short mid-off and a fast bowler is bowling, at the point of delivery I will be watching the batsman and NOT the bowling crease.

Dear Salman Butt,
I was hoping against hope that the bookie was making stuff up and that maybe, just maybe, there was some semblance of respect left in the actions he claimed were fixed. After seeing photo reproduced below, I have given up on that hope.

(Sky News 2010)

You have a lot of explaining to do, Mr. Butt. I just hope the Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC has the guts (and the brains) to ask the right questions.

(Strangely though, for a body designed for the express purposes of weeding out just this type of riff-raff, they are a lot like the cops in the movies, showing up after all the damage has been done.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Say it ain't so, Joe

Mohammad Aamer may have over-stepped (pun intended) the boundary that separates the could-have-beens from the never-weres. (If true) Why, oh why, did he have to do it? A sensational spell of fast bowling that I felt privileged enough to watch has been tainted forever.

(News of the World, UK, 2010)

Somewhere, a fellow-blogger must be sharing the shock I am feeling, coming as this does just days after he wrote a loving tribute to this skillful southpaw.

As the world turns

While I have been missing from this blog, a lot has happened and at the same time nothing much has happened:

The Indian ODI cricket team is coasting along while 4 of the players who will walk in blindfolded into the team - SRT, GG, Plaha, and ZAK - are nursing their wounds or, in the case of the Golden One - enjoying a vacation with his family. So, with only 7/11ths of the team in play (and even among the 7 folks like Yuvraj are living off of potential than performance), the Indian team is displaying the schizophrenic nature that is typical of teams that are about average, which is what the ODI team is.

By the way, losing just before the World Cup is good for the Indian team. Trust me. If you don't, think 2003.

Roger Federer comes into the Fall of 2010 in an eerily similar state to where he was in 2008 - Rafael Nadal had just completed the summer double - he had been losing to everyone and their grandmother and his tennis obituary was printed and posted. In 2008, he mowed down Andy Murray to win the title. Will 2010 be a similar story? If it happens, what will people remember of 2010 - that Federer lost his stranglehold on Wimbledon and appeared mortal or that he won as many Grand Slams in this year as Nadal did?

A new batch of students have come to my College and the excitement on campus is one that I have not felt in a few years. There's a buzz in the air and classes have been a lot of fun so far, even when on the first day the computer refused to cooperate and I resorted to the old-fashioned style of lecturing.

After an inauspicious start to the cricket season (our team was bundled out for 83 in the first match), we have now won 6 of the last 8 games and are beginning to resemble the juggernaut that we were expected to be based on our dominance of the past two years. Strangely, though, it has coincided with a series of single-digit scores by me even as my wicket-keeping has improved by leaps and bounds, especially down the leg-side. As long as we win, I can deal with that, I think.

After weeks of resembling a tropical island, it has finally stopped thunderstorming and raining in Nebraska. However, the temperature has also started dropping to more manageable proportions. Maybe there's a connection between the two. Who knows which butterflies are not flapping their wings in Nicaragua to cause this to happen?!

Will we ever go back to such innocent times again, where two characters could cavort this way and no one raised eyebrows, least of all their girlfriends?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Strange stories, amazing facts

Exactly one year ago today, Tiger Woods did something he had never done before - lose a Grand Slam tournament after taking a lead into the final round. That too to an unknown player named YE Yang. On that day, right after he lost, if you had told someone that losing to Yang would probably be the high point of Tiger's life in the next 365 days they would have laughed at you. But incredibly, that's what happened. Whodathunkit?!

One month ago, if you had told someone that the #1 ranked Test team in the world would be bowled out for 88 in an ODI and that the #1 ranked ODI team would be bowled out for 88 in a Test match, they would have laughed at you. But incredibly, that's what happened. Whodathunkit?

If two weeks ago, you would have told someone that Virender Sehwag would be batting on 99 and facing an off-spinner (not named Murali) in his rookie year on two separate occasions and would fail to get 100 both times, they would have laughed at you. But incredibly, that's what happened. Whodathunkit?

Truth is, often times, stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jumping Jacks

I am speechless.

I do like the cliffhanger ending, though.

P.S. AV/BRB offers up the following video as a response to the one above.

The Sultan of Strokeplay

(AFP 2010, via CricInfo)
The first time I watched VVS Laxman bat was in 2001. I had followed his career as closely as one could in the pre-CricInfo days from across the Atlantic. After the Indian team changed the course of world cricket at Kolkata in 2001, expatriates in the US were treated to the first web stream of a cricket match on the last day of the Chennai Test as India were in the midst of pulling off the heist of the century. While the audio was uninterrupted, the video was a series of images 3 seconds apart. Such was the excitement at the computer lab (that us Indian graduate students had taken over) that we did not care that we were watching a game in 3 second intervals.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A thousand words of pleasure

Happiness comes from watching moments such as this:

(AFP 2010, via CricInfo)
Much, much more to come in a day or two after I am done basking in the after-glow of a very, very satisfying Saturday.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wishing upon a star

One of my favorite movies (ever) is Forrest Gump. How different would it have been if it had been made 40 years ago and featured James Stewart in it? Well, let's see a "preview" and get a glimpse of what might have been.

Warrior of the worlds

I found an article, slightly dated, that talks about Virender Sehwag. What makes it different is that I found it in the New York Times and, unlike most other articles that try to explain cricket to the average American, this one does it in a rudimentary, off-hand manner, while playing up Virender Sehwag's credentials as the cricketer of the 21st century. I kid you not.
As sporting awards go, it lacks the status, hallowed in years, of prizes like the Cy Young in baseball or even Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. Yet there is an impressive ring to “The Leading Cricketer in the World.”

That is the title Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the game’s 146-year old annual work of record, has again bestowed on the Indian batsman Virender Sehwag. He is the first repeat holder since the prize was created in 2004.

The winner is decided by the Almanack’s editor, Scyld Berry, after consultation with an informal panel of experts. The question they ask themselves is: Who would be the first name on the team-sheet for a notional World XI to play Mars

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The buck stops here

This one's for you BD/DSC. Every time I go past this local store I think of you. Naturally.

(C.S. Manish 2010)
Though, it does seem quite rude of the store owner to say this to me when I am taking photos!

(C.S. Manish 2010)
P.S. Please excuse the awful pun in the title of this post.  I thought about it for a long time but could not come up with anything better.  Any suggestions?

Monday, July 26, 2010

A love affair

I thought that Up was, by far, the best movie of 2009. As time has gone by, my impression has not changed from what I expressed when I reviewed the film.

At the heart of the movie is a 4-plus minute long montage of the life shared by Carl and Ellie. A dialog-less montage that gripped me and provided the emotional anchor for the rest of the movie. See for yourself and get a glimpse into one of Pixar's greatest bits of "filming" ever. It should serve as a lesson in the lost art of movie-making magic to the likes of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. Simply amazing and poignant.

Maggi Noodle Review: Salt

Let me state this upfront: I am neither a big fan of Angelina Jolie nor do I think that she is particularly beautiful. My disdain for her acting prowess is based on the Lara Croft movies. My indifference to her beauty is more because of personal taste. In spite of that, I found her to be particularly effective in her latest movie. She is a little too thin to convince me that she is physically capable of some of the actions sequences she participates in. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Salt is an uncommon action movie among today's whiplash-inducing, CGI-heavy, action genre movies. It is not as if it does not have the requisite parkour-heavy running sequences, car chases, exploding buildings, and bullet-wasting shootouts. It is just that it is done very effectively. The story is about a woman who may or may not be a sleeper Russian agent and whose goal is to eliminate some big guns to cause worldwide panic. Or something like that.

As in any action movie, the initial story is just a set up for a series of set pieces where the characters speak only those lines that will move the movie forward. Salt is no different but about 10 minutes into the movie I stopped paying attention to the absurdity and just got carried along in the slipstream of its fast-paced action. At less than 100 minutes, the movie does not linger to contemplate the enormity of the conspiracy that is being perpetrated by the main players. If you can believe that a person can chase a fast-descending elevator for 8 floors and do it with just a grunt or two of exertion while jumping from girder to girder, then I have just the movie for you to see.

I don't know how else to say this, but here it is - Salt is an action movie to its core and yet it is easily the best-made action movie of this year. By a wide margin. Take a bow, Angelina Jolie.

Here's the preview for the movie, one of the better previews of late:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Atlas shrugs

(Click here for source)
Let's start this post from an unlikely angle. Years ago, Sylvester Stallone wrote and acted in Rocky which, by the way, won an Oscar for Best Picture. (If you're counting at home, that's Sylvester Stallone movies: 1 Oscar, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin movies: 0 Oscars).

Apart from providing fodder for 5 additional Rocky stories as well as countless rags-to-riches sports movies, Rocky popularized a pose, one that was immortalized in Philadelphia with a statue of the same. Here's the pose at the end of the short video (the extremely recognizable and cool Rocky theme music is an added bonus as you watch this training montage).

To do or not to do

In a few hours from now, India and Sri Lanka will resume festivities on a cricket field (again). I will be watching it and am tempted to maintain a running diary. But am nor sure if I should or not. Should I? What do you think?

To do or not to do, that is the question.

A stitch in time

1) Something I have wanted to know forever but never really thought about finding out the answer for is how a sewing machine works. If you share my wonder, click here for the answer.

2)There's nothing common about the wealth being squandered by the authorities as India prepares to host the Commonwealth Games. Can anyone say White Elephant?

Friday, July 23, 2010

TGIF: Songs to hum - 4

Every Friday afternoon, after I am done teaching the last lecture of the week, I sit in my office, put my feet up on my desk, lean back in my chair and softly hum songs to myself, unwinding and releasing the built-up tension of the week so far. Youtube is a good companion during these times and I have my own version of Chitrahaar, with the songs following some unfathomable pattern, changing per my mood and wishes.

Here is today's trip through Youtube:

First up, a song from the Telugu movie Magdheera which has among the best special effects I have ever seen in an Indian movie. Almost seamless!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Farewell to arms

How many wickets has he got? 792. He's confident then, one more Test.

Michael Clarke reckons Muttiah Muralitharan's last Test is enough time for him to reach 800 Test wickets (July 7, 2010)
When the India-Sri Lanka series was pigeonholed into a gap in the schedule leading up to next year's World Cup, it was almost as an afterthought before the main dish - India-Australia for the right to be the #1 ranked team in the world.

Then something nice happened - Muttaiah Muralitharan made it more meaningful. Sadly, he had to announce his retirement to get people to pay attention to yet another Indo-Sri Lanka series. But attention did get paid and Sri Lanka responded to the situation with chilling efficiency.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Maggi Noodle Review: This is it

In the early 1980's, I was a budding quiz enthusiast in Hyderabad who was mostly content to ride the coattails of my more accomplished brother. Let me rephrase that - my much, much, much more accomplished brother. Gathering trivia was an obsession and I remember stumping him once by declaring that Michael Jackson had the biggest selling album of all-time. (It's a totally different matter that my brother was more into Geeta Dutt and SD Burman so I don't think he cared that I knew MJ's name!). The Grammy Awards were telecast in India for the first time the year MJ won 8 awards for Thriller. While watching the show, my brother and I surmised that he was "preserving his voice" for his concerts. Only much later, when I actually heard the songs, did I realize that MJ did have a high-pitched voice.

Over the years, Michael Jackson's world got more bizarre by the day, eventually culminating in an early demise. However, music has a beautiful way of lingering on long after someone is gone. This is it is more than just a collection of Michael's songs - it is a window into the last few days of the talented singer-dancer. Say what you want about his off-stage activities and medicinal challenges, on the stage the man was transformed into something else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Maggi Noodle Review: Inception

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master...
-- If (by Rudyard Kipling)
Of late, movies that make the audience think are becoming the exception. The joy of such movies is that you don't quite know what is going to happen next, and at the same time, you are trying to figure out what the characters should be doing. Inception is one such movie. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie could fit into the science fiction genre but firmly has its roots in heist movies.

All the elements of a heist movie are in it - an initial plan that provides a basis for showing us what the main characters do, the break-up of the gang leading to a recruitment process in exotic locales (Mombassa, Paris, etc.) where the rest of the new (improved) gang is assembled, the "target" is explained, all the "rules" that must be followed are demonstrated, followed the sting, the job, the heist.

Water, water everywhere

It has been raining a lot in Omaha of late.  The days start off hot and sunny. By the afternoon, the humidity picks up and thunderstorms are commonplace, sometimes accompanied by tornado warnings.

Freedom Park, our home ground for cricket, is about 500 yards from the Missouri River.  So when the river runs high, the corresponding water table is so high we have big pools of water on the ground after even the slightest rainfall.  This was the case this past Friday but we were determined to have a game at home on Saturday.  And we did.

This is what we had to do to get the ground ready in time!  Those are 50 gallon buckets you see there.  In all, we removed about 60 buckets full of water (i.e. moving more than 3,000 gallons).  I bet they'd love to have us in Galle right now!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reviving rhythms

Once in a while there is a perfect storm in an Indian movie - picturization, actors, acting, song, singers, lyrics, and music all come together and create everlasting memories.

Here's one that came rushing through into my thoughts a few minutes ago and took me back almost 30 years...Kamal Hassan, Sridevi in Aakali Rajyam:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Travelogue - Colorado: Day 3 - The Rockies

The convenient aspect of a road trip is that one can be flexible about the route home.  Having seen the Rockies in Wyoming, a detour into Fort Collins accorded the opportunity to see the more famous section of the Rockies in Colorado.  Heading directly west from Fort Collins towards the Rockies...

(C.S. Manish 2010)
 ... takes one to the edge of the thick band of parallel ranges that make up the bulk of the Colorado Rockies.  The eastern-most of them are not as snow-capped as the central ones, but vestiges of ice caps do remain even in the middle of the summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Travelogue - Wyoming: Day 2 - The Grand Tetons

To get to the Grand Teton National Park from Rock Springs, WY, involves driving north for about 3 hours until you reach Jackson, WY. The road meanders its way through little towns and farmlands that stretch all the way to the far mountains.

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Travelogue - Wyoming: Day 1 - The ascent

The favorite part of traveling, to me, is the journey more than the destination itself. However, for the July 4th weekend I was interested in both. Opening up an atlas, I spent a couple of hours casting my "net" all around Nebraska, until my eyes settled on Wyoming. Far enough to seem elusive, yet near enough to be alluring. Having decided on the journey, I had to decide on the destination. After considering (and rejecting) Yellowstone National Park, the destination presented itself in the form of the Grand Teton National Park.

Armed with little more than an atlas, a rental car, and a semi-formed idea of what to see, the journey had begun. The snow-capped mountains in the far distance were calling, and an almost primeval urge needed to be fulfilled.

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Freedom at mid-day

On July 10th, 2010, after weeks of hard work, struggles with the weather, flooding, and most of all, perseverance, the Cricket Association of Nebraska hosted its first home game. The picturesque Freedom Park in Omaha provided a great backdrop to the game.  More pictures to follow...

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An evening to remember

(Four months ago, a few like-minded and dedicated folks formed the Cricket Association of Nebraska. The organization, of which I am the President, has gone from scratch to having a fully-functional charter, non-profit status, a dedicated ground to play on, organizing cricket demonstrations and coaching camps for school kids, and playing in the Heartland Cricket League.

If you wish to know more about the organization or its activities you can contact me at csmanish13 at gmail dot com.)

(C.S. Manish 2010)

(C.S. Manish 2010)
The Cricket Association of Nebraska (CAN) was formed with the main mandate of popularizing and spreading cricket among the local population of Nebraska and beyond. In keeping with this goal, on June 26th, 2010, CAN organized a fundraiser - India Night 2010 - a fun-filled evening dedicated to entertaining guests while introducing them to the sport of cricket. Guests at the event were treated to a combination of good food, cultural programs, presentations on cricket, and dance music courtesy of James from SupaFly Promotions (DJ).

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tingling with anticipation

After a long, long time a movie preview produced goosebumps as I watched it.  I can hardly wait for November (and July) to roll around...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Grand design

I will be resuming regular blogging very soon. Travel descriptions, book and movie reviews, cricket stuff, links, and a special night (India Night 2010) are on tap for the next few days.

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of what I have been up to lately...

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Confucius said nothing

I opened a fortune cookie today and found nothing inside it. No slip of paper, no confusing words of wisdom. Nothing.

For many it would be an ominous sign. But I, on the other hand, smiled. After all, it is something that Jack Reacher would approve of.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Just like that only

Words of wisdom from Jaunty Quicksand's infertile mind:

There are many ways to skin a pig but only one way to eat it. Unless it is in a cake, in which case you can't eat it if you've made it. (Who'd want to eat a cake made of pork anyway?!)

If at first you fail, don't give up. Your second failure may be more spectacular...and teach you something new. (See: India's 2010 T20 World Cup campaign)

Merely standing under a coconut tree will not get you coconuts. You have got to shake the tree or be prepared to climb it. Or you could just walk down the beach and buy one from the vendor.

Swimming against the current is not a lot of fun. Especially if you have a finger in an electrical socket. And you just stepped out of the shower.

Plant a tree. Don't forget to water it, too. In a few months you will realize that the tree can survive without you but you cannot survive without trees.

Never trust a man who does not look you in the eye when he shakes your hand. Or spits in it before he fields the ball, in which case you can be excused for looking him in the eye but refusing to shake his hand. (See: Ricky Ponting).

If someone tells you they've got your back, turn around and face them. If they really supported you, they'd be standing next to you not behind you. (Julius Caesar learned this the hard way).

Smile as often as you can. You never know when it might make someone else's day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coupe du Monde

While the rest of the world is preparing furiously for the football (soccer) World Cup, I am curiously detached about it. I do not even know when it is starting, who are in the main draw, what the names of the players are and, here's the big deal - I don't care to know either. (Sorry, Tifosi Guy!)

But I do know this, if you are even remotely interested in the event, this super-cool ad by Nike should get the juices flowing. Heck, even I was curious enough to see who the "Roo" was referring to!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Maggi Noodle Review: Rajneeti

I wrote a fairly detailed review of the movie but did not post it. Today, I am glad I did not. Trolling the web for other reviews, I found that ALL of them had picked up the Mahabharat and Godfather connections that Rajneeti is heavily inspired by. (One of the more entertaining reviews is by Greatbong.)

Instead, I shall jot down random thoughts that flit through my mind when I think of the movie:

Sunday, June 06, 2010

An evening to remember

On the same day that Roger Federer lost before the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in 6 years, I took a 3 hour road trip to Sioux Falls, SD. The object of the visit was to meet Lee Child, the writer of the Jack Reacher series. (Previous posts on Reacher and Child are here).

(C.S. Manish 2010)

There were about 80 people who showed up at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Child was scheduled to read a chapter of his book and then sign autographs. We were given strict instructions that he would sign only one book and no videotaping was allowed. We were allowed to take photos.

At about 6pm, Child made his way through the crowd. A tall man, Child is slimmer in person than his photos suggest. I was expecting a fellow more on the lines of Reacher (who is listed at 6'5" and 250 pounds) but the voice was the same that I had imagined Reacher would have.

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Child's play

Here's a sneak preview of my next post. Details coming very shortly!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Heading home

Music teaser for Raavan:

More anyone else, I am eager to watch the movie for Vikram, who is not shown in the music preview but can be seen in other previews for the movie.

Maggie Noodle Review - Kites

Ten years ago Rakesh Roshan launched his son Hrithik in a movie that was tailormade to showcase all the actor's assets. Kaho Naa...Pyar Hai successfully launched a phenomenon. Unlike most other star-sons, Hrithik did have the talent to justify the launch. A few days ago, Hrithik's career was relaunched, this time aimed across the Atlantic with Hollywood firmly in its sights.

Kites is a Hindi movie that tries very hard to be something different, all the while placing Hrithik front and center. The only time the camera even seems to go away from him is to showcase Bárbara Mori, a Mexican actress, in agonizingly long and drawn out slow motion scenes. Hrithik exudes a lot of energy but tries too hard. Odd as this may sound, Hrithik needs to watch a few Sharat Saxena movies before facing the camera again.

Hrithik has worked hard on building a muscular body and spends most of the movie displaying that. The director, Anurag Bose, probably believes in equal opportunity so the heroine is not left behind either. Along the way, however, all of them forgot that eye candy can only take you so far. The storyline is actually a pretty interesting one (not original but interesting) that could have been exploited a lot better. Instead, after a fairly decent first half hour, it degenerates into a loooooooooooong commercial for Hrithik, full of suspense-killing slow motion that telegraphs the plot twists minutes before they should.

It may have helped if the supporting cast featured better actors. I am told that Kangana Ranaut is a good actress but I will have to wait for a different movie to evaluate her. Kabir Bedi is wasted in a small role while the guy that plays his son (I am not interested in trying to find out what his name is) is atrocious. On top of his awful acting, the fellow is saddled with a whole slew of terrible scenes that would make a seasoned actor cringe.

Pardon the pun, but this Kite should have been reeled in a long time ago.

(Memo to Indian movie-makers: If you are going to film scenes in an American setting it would be a good idea to read up on some of the laws and rules of the country before portraying the cops in the movies as being no different than in Hindi movies. This is especially true if your ultimate intended audience is an American one.

Hrithik: Muscular, good-looking guys who are also good dancers are dime a dozen in Hollywood. I would not make that my MO if I were you. You have considerable acting chops. Focus on showcasing that before you lose your shirt. (Forget my note on Sharat Saxena...take a look at Chiranjeevi's first Hindi movie - Pratibandh. For a fellow whose calling card in Telugu movies was his dancing ability, he very smartly chose a strong story to showcase his acting talents and did not have a single dance number in the movie. After Pratibandh became a big hit, he showed his other skills in Aaj Ka Goonda Raj. Now, that was a smarter way of trying to make a first impression).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Better left unseen

Sometime, it is better to have simply heard a song than to have seen it and had your vision of it ruined.

हर कोई चाहता है एक मुट्ठी आसमान ...

Today, I had the misfortune of having this Kishor Kumar gem ruined by its picturization. Oh dear! I wish I could go back 5 minutes in time...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Maggie Noodle Review - Iron Man 2

Iron Man is a rarity among superheroes. Like Batman, he does not have any special powers or abilities but relies on his inventions and inventiveness to seem like he is super-human. More critically, he is about the only superhero I know who not only does not hide his "human" identity, but instead actually revels in it.

Iron Man 2 picks up from a little after the first Iron Man movie ended. The first movie took its time getting into what makes Tony Stark tick (almost literally) and this movie takes the premise even further. Robert Downey, Jr., plays Stark, the man behind the outfit, as a fellow who laps up the attention and uses Iron Man's visibility as a deterrent to the bad guys. He has an ulterior motive for exposing a narcissistic streak but just as the movie gets interesting a curious thing happens. The attention is repeatedly taken away from RDJ and shifted elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bleeding heart

A few years ago, I decided not to pay attention to the IPL indirectly because of one man - Lalit Modi. Paradoxically, in the past few days, I have started paying more attention to the IPL because of the same man.

Unfortunately, it is not the cricketing news that I am interested in. How sad.

Lest people think I have a grudge against the cricket in the IPL, let me clarify that I do not. The ICL/IPL model had three things going for it that pleased me immensely:

Friday, April 16, 2010

TGIF: Songs to hum - 3

Every Friday afternoon, after I am done teaching the last lecture of the week, I sit in my office, put my feet up on my desk, lean back in my chair and softly hum songs to myself, unwinding and releasing the built-up tension of the week so far. Youtube is a good companion during these times and I have my own version of Chitrahaar, with the songs following some unfathomable pattern, changing per my mood and wishes.

Here is today's trip through Youtube:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I see you, Jake. Again

I would definitely pay to watch this movie, wouldn't you?

War of the Worlds - Bollywood ishtyle

Did you know that Bollywood has already taken a stab at a proper sci-fi movie ? And I am not referring to duds like Love Story 2050. The movie I am talking about was called Wahan ke log and was released in 1967.

This is an absolute gem - a blast from the past, pun fully intended. The movie, starring Pradeep Kumar and Tanuja, finds time for item numbers, cabaret dances, and plenty of spine-tingling moments of suspense. And yes, aliens, too.

वहां के लोग हीरे हैं, यहाँ के लोग मोती हैं!

(video link via Ultrabrown)