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):