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: