Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dhoni must open

Nine years ago at Trent Bridge, Virender Sehwag was sent to open the inning and responded with a 106 that changed his life. One can even make the argument that it eventually led to India gaining the #1 Test ranking for the first time ever.

Sometime tomorrow either India will somehow get the 4 wickets it needs in the second English inning of the Trent Bridge Test or Andrew Strauss will play that favorite parlor game of commentators (when will he declare?) and no matter when he declares it will be said to have come at the wrong time.

Either way, it appears that India will have to score more runs in the 4th inning to win than anyone has ever done in the 2000 previous Tests played. More realistically, they will have to bat about 4-5 sessions to secure a draw. Based on how they responded to a similar scenario in the first Test, it probably isn't going to happen.

Which brings me back to Sehwag. In 2002, India opened with Sehwag and his blistering starts have set the template for many an Indian win since then. Tomorrow, I am asking MS Dhoni to do something he has never done before in his life - open the batting in a Test.

That move has all kinds of upside and very little downside. He gets a chance to take the attack to the English bowlers. If he gets out, no sweat, he has not exactly been in the best of form and the second new ball has anyway gobbled him up. But if he does get off to a flier, he is the sort who capitalizes on these moments. By leading from the front he will regain some of that equanimity that seems to have ebbed from his countenance of late. Also, by opening, he lets the batting order settle back into Dravid at 3, SRT at 4, VVS at 5, Raina at 6, Yuvraj at 7, Harbhajan at 8...enough gun powder to capitalize on a good start if it comes.

Come on, Dhoni, show me that you still have some of that out-of-the-box thinking left in you. Step forward and pick up the gauntlet. Viru did it in spectacular style for Ganguly so many years ago, you can do it for yourself. It is the time to send messages, and this will be as resounding as any you've sent in the past, including the time you seized the moment on April 2, 2011.

P.S. By the way, I may be the only person who wants to see you suspended for a Test match for the appallingly slow over-rate maintained by your team. You look like you really need the rest. Also, what's with sending Rahul Dravid to face the press at the end of the day after what happened today at the stroke of tea? Man up, MSD, and face the microphone!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A bookworm's dream

There's an old joke, which goes something like this:

"Wow, Roger, you have such an impressive collection of books but not a single bookshelf. Why?"
"Oh, you see, I've never felt the need to borrow a bookshelf."

I was reminded of that joke when I came across this astonishing collection of bookshelves. I'd love to borrow any of them! (Hat tip: Roger Ebert).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A corner of a familiar playing field

Two Americans watched India play Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup and came up with a fabulously interesting and hilarious diary of the day's action. Very revealing and surprisingly insightful, too.

Some samples:
We are further told it's a perfect day for cricket, though we are not told what a perfect day for cricket is. Looks kind of sunny. Sunny is usually good for sports.

Surf's up: Random musings - 4

Trolling through the web I often come across things that I file away for future (posting) reference. Here are some of the ones that still seem interesting enough to pass on to you.

1) Are you a Mac or a PC person? Here's one way of finding out whether you fit into the stereotype or not. (For the record, I am a PC person).

2) I was fortunate to spend a few years in Chicago when the Bulls were winning championships with Michael Jordan. Not surprisingly, my favorite basketball player (ever?) was from the Bulls. He has since retired and enjoys a round or three of golf, which he plays very well, when he can. Ah, by now you know it's not MJ, because I said that he plays golf very well!

3) Interested in reading an online newspaper but don't quite know where to find it? Well, fret not - here's a link to ALL the online newspapers in the world laid out on a map.

4) Sans comment: What can 28,000 rubber duckies lost at sea teach us about our oceans?

5) Finally, how well do you recall the ending of Sholay? I bet this is not the ending you remember!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Objects in the rearview mirror

We all know that Sachin Tendulkar is the leading run-scorer in the history of Test cricket. Do you know who is in second place?

Not surprisingly, Rahul Dravid has quietly overtaken Ricky Ponting and trails only Sachin Tendulkar on the all-time run-getters list in Test cricket. Quite an achievement for quite a guy . . . and the lack of fanfare is typical. After all he has more important things to worry about, like saving Test matches. A task that he does really well.

In the mean time, let's raise our glasses and honor this incredible achievement.

Well done, Rahul, well done! For once, you can look back at the rest of the players in the world (but one). Enjoy this moment of zen!

(AFP 2011 via ESPNcricinfo)

The long road ahead

In a few hours from now, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and co. will resume their quest to bat India to a draw in the Lord's Test match against England. India needs 378 runs in 98 overs, with 9 wickets in hand to win.

A victory is out of question, a draw is a slim possibility, a defeat the most likely result. Yet, my every fiber harbors hope of the draw. And that is because the current Indian team, led by the resolute MS Dhoni, is cut from a different cloth than its predecessors of the last millennium. This team fights.

Tomorrow will be a good day of Test cricket to look forward to. England need 9 moments of inspiration. India need 588 moments of sheer doggedness. Well, since they can afford to be 9 down when the Test ends, one could be pedantic and say they need another 580 moments of sheer doggedness.

Either way, I know what I am doing tomorrow. I hope the Indian team does, too!

Apocalypse now

Tom Cruise is almost certain to portray Jack Reacher in the movie "One Shot".

Cruise as Jack no-middle-name Reacher?!! You have got to be kidding me. (And on top of it, it seems to have Lee Child's approval, too). For the love of everything that is holy to the west of the International Date Line, can someone smash some sense into the movie-makers?

Here are Reacher's physical attributes:

Name: Jack Reacher (no middle name)
Born: October 29th, 1961
Measurements: 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest
Hair: Dirty-blond
Eyes: Ice blue
Clothing: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam

Reacher left home at 18, graduated from West Point. Performed 13 years of Army service, demoted from Major to Captain in 1990, mustered out with the rank of Major in 1997.

Now, close your eyes and picture Tom Cruise as Reacher.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pop Quiz #3: Entertainment

Questions 1-3 are about information in the Harry Potter books, not the movies.

1) To start off, a very simple one - what is Ginny Weasley's proper first name?

2) Spoiler alert: If you didn't know by now, Voldemort split his soul into multiple pieces and "hid" them in various objects. In all, how many pieces did Voldemort's soul split into?

3) How many Quidditch championships did Harry Potter win in his 7 years at Hogwarts (well, technically six, but still...)? Hint: Gryffindor won the championship three times in that 7 year period.

4) Which TV sitcom character's phone number is 555-2390 (KL5-2390)? The area code, I presume, is 212 (Manhattan).

5) Which actress has received the most Filmfare nominations (16) for Hindi movies - 8 times for Best Actress and 8 times for Best Supporting actress? Hint: She has acted as Amitabh Bachchan's lover, sister-in-law, and mother in movies.

6) Which comic book superhero resides at 344 Clinton Street, Apt 3D? Hint: He died in 1992.

Answers after the jump:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Maggi Noodle Review: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

At first glance it would appear that ZNMD is an updated version of Dil Chahta Hai. After all it does have a Farhan Akhtar connection. I went in with the same impression but came out with a different one.

ZNMD has a superficial resemblance to DCH in that it features 3 friends, a road trip, and a woman at the heart of it. But it is different in that the entire movie is a road trip, the woman at the heart of the movie is not Katrina Kaif, and the resolution is not quite what you'd expect. I will not say more except that the writers play fair and do not cheat you with the ending.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The return of the King

Shah Rukh Khan and Farhan Akhtar are returning this Christmas with a sequel to Don.  A teaser trailer was released a couple of days ago.  It looks sleek and intriguing, except that at the very end the whole effect is lost with a smirky SRK and an inane closing line.  Oh well...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pop Quiz #2: Who am I?

(Note: Every so often I shall have a pop quiz on my blog with questions about people, places, things, events, and any other thing that comes to mind. Please take the quiz without peeking at the answers, which will be included at the end, and let me know how you did.

Click here for an earlier set of questions.)

This set of questions are fairly easy to answer.

1) Of the 65 66 ODI matches I have played for India, no less than 40 have been abroad. I played in the Under-19 World Cup final where my team, chasing 110 to win, lost by 38 runs! Five of my team-mates were out for 0 that day. In hindsight, the 4 runs I scored batting at #3 were a big deal. In the 4 editions of the IPL, I have won a championship and scored over 350 runs in each season. When people talk about me the words talented and lazy often get mentioned in the same sentence.

2) Jimmy Connons once said about me, "In an era of specialists, you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist...or you're ______ ________." I have played in at least 5 finals at each of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. The only man to ever do so.

3) My first 8 scores in Test cricket were 16, 18*, 59, 224, 227, 125, 4, 120. Less than 20 months later, aged 23, I played my last Test match for India, finishing with a career average of 54+. However, the enduring memory of my time in India colors isof me shedding tears as the world burned around me.

4) In a classic case of not letting facts get in the way of a good story, my contributions in a World Cup-winning campaign were 0, 26, 33, 8, 0, 6 - a total of just 75 runs in 6 matches @ 12.5 runs per inning. Yet the perception that has built up over time is that I was as instrumental as some of my more formidable colleagues in bringing us the win. On my Test debut, I scored an unbeaten century as my team took a 291 run lead in the first inning at home. Three of us scored centuries while none of the visiting batsmen scored a single one. Yet, we lost the Test match!

5) During the Under-19 cricket tour of England in 2002, in the third One Day International, I opened the batting and scored 177, helping chase down England's total of 305. (A few days later this feat was forgotten as the senior team chased down 326 in the NatWest final at Lord's). I then went on to captain the India Under-19 team in the 2003/2004 Under-19 Cricket World Cup, where we won 5 of 6 group matches before losing to the eventual champions Pakistan in the semi-finals. While my fellow-mates (Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Shikar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik, RP Singh, and VRV Singh) have played for the senior squad I have never had the honor of doing so.

Answers after the jump:

Seasons of change

As time goes by, Hindi movie previews are getting as polished as anything Hollywood dishes out, even exceeding them at times. Check out the preview of this upcoming Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor movie and tell me you are not in the least bit intrigued about it.