Saturday, December 31, 2011

42

This is just a random blog post at the end of 2011. You know, the 42nd of the year. It was a year, just like any other. Like any other, it had its own unique moments. Happy and sad. Good and bad. And also surreal.
Many years down the line, I am not sure what will I particularly remember from this year. Other than this. Yes, my very own 42 moment. Calculated over a period of 22 years of cricket fandom for me. It meant The Life, The Universe, and Everything to me. And some more.

The Moment, The Answer

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Freedom at 5

At the sound of the 5 o clock alarm, when the rest of the country sleeps, Indian cricket fans will awake to cricket and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the bed to the couch, when a sleep ends, and when the soul of a nation's cricket fans, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of Indian cricket and her fans and to the still larger cause of test cricket.
Pic: Cricinfo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Wonderful Wojciech Szczesny

Every now and then, a player comes along that you take an instinctive liking to. It happens often enough with me. Sadly many of them do not quite turn up the way you have first envisaged. Some go on to become fine players, but not quite the way you thought. Perhaps they become good at other roles or positions. And then, on just the odd occassion, the player goes on to become everything you had imagined. And more.
As an Arsenal fan, I have seen some formidable folks in our goal. We had the magnificient David Seaman, followed by 'Mad Jens' Lehmann. And while when he was good, he was very, very good, he never gave me the same sense of security that Seaman did. After that we had Manuel Almunia for quite some time - a half decent keeper and a genuinely good guy, but one who never really convinced me fully. And in between we have had the impressive but erratic Polish keeper Lukas Fabianski spend some time under our bar - another huge talent, but one who has been a bit too error prone for my liking.
All this while, another young Pole, was creeping up the ranks at Arsenal and I started to hear about him on his loan spell at Brentford. A combination of injuries and bad form from others probably forced him into the first team a little early and boy has he made the most of it.
Goalkeepers are difficult to judge. There are all sorts out there - the brilliant shot stopper, but who might make "silly mistakes". The solid, but not spectactular type. Some are better with crosses and corners than others. There are those who are terrific when facing one on ones. Some are penalty specialists. But it is not just about stopping goals. It is about distribution of the ball, it is about organising your defence. There are so many intangibles at play.
It's hard to say, what was it about this guy , wonderfully and weirdly named Wojciech Szczesny (let's just call him Chesney), that struck me the most.  However as good as his technique and game is, it is his personality that shines through the most. More on that later.
I think Chesney took giant strides during his loan spell at Brentford. The Brentford manager Andy Scott described him saying: “It reached the stage where, when he let a goal in, we wondered how he hadn’t saved it".
He has had to come through adversities. In November 2008,  when, working with a heavy weight at the club's gym, he lost his balance and felt the bar crash down on to his forearms. He has come out through that and gotten stronger.
He has had some exceptional moments for us. I guess this penalty save against Antonio Di Natalie of Udinese itself was worth about 25 million pounds and stands out as his biggest moment.

Or take a look at this rather impressive performance for Poland vs Germany in an international.
He has had his horror moments. The Carling Cup final howler against Birmingham or that game at Old Trafford where he kept getting beaten from long distance by Rooney and co. There is plenty of room for him to improve, he is just 21 now. He has to improve his distribution, we will have to see how he deals with the really big, high pressure games and so on.
However, the more I see him, the more convinced I get, the more assured I feel. And trust me, having a goalkeeper that doesn't give you the jitters when the ball is lobbed into the penalty box is one of the best feelings for an Arsenal fan. For too long have we had our hearts in our mouth every time there was a set piece conceded.
But Chesney is a lot more than just a very good goal keeper. He is a personality, he is a character, he is a presence. Read this lovely report to get an insight into the type of guy he is. And the character that he is, it is actually not a surprise to see him do a Cryuff. Once here and again here either. These keepers will always be mad, I tell you.
All this is wonderful, but wait, there is a little more. Chesney is also a fan. A fan of Arsenal Football Club. You can clearly notice that in his interviews or his general banter on twitter.  Not many people go out of the way to sing with the fans. Check this out as he joins the away fans in singing We are by far the greatest team... Or this picture as he kisses our Messiah of a captain Robin van Persie's left boot after the winner against Everton. Incidents like this make me extremely emotional, but in a happy and proud sort of way, of course.

In a world full of rich, mercenary footballers throwing tantrums and talking bull shit, Chesney comes across as a refreshing change. He plays with a fierce competitive spirit, a confidence that belies his young age, but the way he comes across, both on and off the pitch, as a fan of the game and the club has endeared him even more to me.
I would like to think that there are a lot many Arsenal fans, who are absolutely smitten by this young lad. I would not exchange him for any other keeper in the world. Touch wood, he will stay with us for a long time and go on to be a club and country legend.
"He was a presence, on the field, in the game, in the media, in the mind." This was Gideon Haigh about Shane Warne. In twenty years time, this statement might just be fitting for Wojciech Szczesny.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Open letter from a So Called Indian Cricket Fan

Dear Respectable Journalists, Cricket Authorities, Media People and "Experts",

I have got it now. You don't like us much. We are your favourite target. You diss us whenever you please, but this year it has been a too too much. Can you please stop this displeasure for us now ?
First of all, one of your most educated, all knowing ones called us banal.  Among many things, he simply said that we are not loving cricket only.  I am quoting him here: "It is thought that India loves cricket. This is incorrect. India loves India. " Is it wrong to love my country ? We were taught in school : India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage..." and all that. So can I not love both cricket and country? Then he criticised us for dancing, jumping etc, writing bad banners, having bad manners and what not.
Recently,  there was a test in Kolkata where less people went to watch. You have it on a Monday to Friday. Then one of you writes an article like an answer to a high school exam question with 16 marks (Essay Type). He notes every possible reason of why one is not watching a match. So again, you say we do not love cricket etc. (He is also talking of intensity of orgasm in sports - need to privately discuss later).
But few months ago, when more people wanted to watch matches and get tickets, you beat us up. Not just once, but two times . What the hell man ! I mean, you will beat us up when we come to buy the tickets, then when we don't go to watch matches you are doing social research and all on our behaviour patterns.
Now some of us are having little interest in Maths also. We are not that smart, but have managed to add up and know that Sachin Tendulkar has 99 100s. We are excited and are wanting him to score 1 more. Even that you are not appreciating. This one person -Novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi (he is 3 in 1) says things like this: "The real cricketing illiterates are the people who believe that adding ODI centuries to Test centuries and arriving at a hundred gives you a heroic landmark. It doesn't. This isn't just a meaningless statistic, it's a pernicious one, because it equalises two different orders of achievement." What am I supposed to do now ? Arey round numbers look good - no ? We celebrate 50 , 100, 200 etc, what is the problem with 100 X 100. Nice round figure it is.
I know how you want us to be. All matches should have full attendance, with crowds in fancy dress, who will write original banners in Victorian English, and do a clap-clap-clap (only 3 times). We have to be equally enthusiastic for all matches, Test or ODI or T20, home match of neutral. We have to provide equal support to home and opposition players - whether it is Ponting or Tendulkar, Afridi or Dhoni, we cannot have bias. Also, there is no need to celebrate milestones etc, especially "artificial milestones" by adding up numbers from different forms of cricket. Unlike you experts, I cannot write very long articles and all and get published in cricinfo etc. So I am putting an end to this here. But please, please, please - give us a break. Lunch, tea, whatever. I am tired. Please stop this Emotional Atyachar. Why don't you go and watch Kolaveri ? Or write essay type, narrative based hi-fi stuff on domestic cricket in Zimbabwe ?

With Best Regards,
So Called Indian Cricket Fan

An Exemplary Out of Office Letter

I got this as a forward yesterday. It is an Out of Office Letter, which I wish I had written.

I have decided to be on leave, not tomorrow but some other time on 02nd XXXX 2011 till 06th XXXX 2011.
 I am going away leaving behind everything, even the projects that I am supposed to be owning, pre-sales and my team. I feel sad, but this has to be done and there is nothing any one should try to do  about it.
Backups are in the process of being identified, they would be forced to be my back up no matter what. For one thing there would be no back up and that is my mails. My mails get backed up automatically to my Archive_2011.pst and this is not a living being it is just a file on my laptop and it does not have the capability to send out emails.
Now coming to the main part, which is why am I giving you so much notice, because I want to and no other intention.
Please note that I am present in office from now till 01st XXXX 2011, and then after 06th XXXX 2011.
If you think there is a need to talk to me or see me, please destroy that need. It is really not possible, I am going to a place, where everything would be available, but I would not be available to reach those means. 
Whenever in doubt, please think about those people who do not get access to my emails and be happy thinking how unlucky we (you and not me) are.
 Leaving you with a favorite quote  of mine – I am on leave from 01st XXXX to 06th XXXX , both days not inclusive.

(I am reproducing the parts of it above, which are not confidential in my opinion. I have not taken permission of the author, as I don't know him. Should he have a problem with it, I will take it down.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cricket, Bleddy Cricket

The cricket world has been extremely eventful over the past couple of weeks. Too much, some would say. My thoughts on some of them:
1) RIP Peter Roebuck: One of the best cricket writers going around, many of us are extremely sad today on the news of his death (suicide ?). He was an opinionated and articulate writer, with whom you either strongly agreed or disagreed. I for one, have both enjoyed his articles and mocked them.  This is a fine tribute for the man. He will be missed.
 2) Prison sentences handed out to cricketers: In a world, where corrupt politicians and businessmen involved in million dollar scams are walking free, to have prison sentences for cricketers bowling no balls appeared bizarre to me. Having said that, one has got to respect the law of the land etc etc. Here is one fine piece by Aatif Nawaz which argued against the prison sentences handed out. I visited a couple of Pakistani news sites out of curiousity to check how was the reaction there, not quite sure what to expect. There appeared to be unanimous condemnation of these 3 criminals and jubilation at justice being done to these 3 players who had brought shame to their nation. This appeared to be the "Honour Killing" moment of cricket for me, where people were rejoicing the punishment meted out to folks who had in their opinion brought them shame and disgrace. Whether the crimes deserve the severity of the punishment remains a debatable matter, one which got lost perhaps in the aftermath.
3) Day 2 at the Newlands: Only the 3rd day in the history of test cricket, where all four innings of a test match took place on the same day - the events at Newlands were quite staggering. And none more so than the Aussies getting bowled out for 47 in their 2nd innings. To see them at 21/9 on cricinfo in my office was a quite unbelievable moment. I had not followed the match once the Saffers had got bowled out and when someone asked me to check the score, my eyes nearly popped out. Yet another day, when you wish you were in front of the TV screen, but then again, such is life that ...... damn it.
4) India find a new off spinner: R Ashwin has been around for some time. We have come to enjoy his bowling in the IPL and ODIs and he has now made a pretty good debut in Tests as well. Again, did not see the match on TV as all the match days were working days. This is one ball I definitely enjoyed seeing in the highlights.


What's also cool about him is the refreshing way he speaks - this is fantastic
5) Bleddy BCCI: I just had to say this. Who are the geniuses who do the itenary planning these days. Most people, that I know get holidays on Sundays. Some of them also get Saturdays off. Why would you then schecule test matches on week days. Ask someone who has IDEA, cause I ain't got any.

And as a post script how about reading this blog about how easy it was to see the match at the Kotla in Delhi. This has gone viral actually - READ IT.

PS: Just tought I will preseve a link of an article I read this week on the story of how and why the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore got its name. Here's an excerpt from the article:
"..But how did a cricket stadium some 3,525 miles away from Tripoli come to carry the name of a Libyan dictator anyway? To find the answer we have to go back to 1974, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was three years into his first term as Pakistan's first civilian leader and Gaddafi had been head of state in Libya for five years. Ali Bhutto was hosting the second Islamic summit conference in Lahore, a grand get-together of the heads of state from 37 Islamic nations. They were an eclectic bunch, including the Shah of Iran and Yasser Arafat, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Bangladesh. This was only three years after the end of the war of independence. As a way of wooing the Muslim world into supporting the Pakistani state at a time when India was conducting its first nuclear tests, Bhutto announced that several locations in Lahore would be renamed in honour of his fellow Muslim leaders. Lahore's Charing Cross district became Faisal Chowk, after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and Lyallpur was renamed Faisalabad.
Thousands of Pakistanis filled the Lahore stadium, as it was then known, to see Gaddafi, who had been lauded by Bhutto as a great friend and benefactor of the nation, give a thunderous speech in support of their nation's right to pursue a policy of nuclear development. And so the gratified Bhutto rechristened the stadium in Gadaffi's honour. Soon after Gadaffi allowed tens of thousands of Pakistani professionals to immigrate to Libya, and started giving financial aid to Bhutto's government.."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I ache therefore I am


[A very personal blog post - made up simply using Marvin, the Paranoid Android quotes, which describes feelings not entirely unlike how I feel right now]



Life! Don't talk to me about life.
Why should I want to make anything up? Life's bad enough as it is without wanting to invent any more of it.
Funny, how just when you think life can't possibly get any worse it suddenly does.
I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed.
Do you want me to sit in the corner and rust, or just fall apart where I'm standing?
I'm not getting you down at all, am I?
Pardon me for breathing, which I never do any way so I don't know why I bother to say it, oh God, I'm so depressed.

Why stop now just when I'm hating it?
Wearily on I go, pain and misery my only companions. And vast intelligence, of course. And infinite sorrow.
Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it
Pic: Courtesy: Motiff.com

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Body shopping and Innovation

N R Narayan Murty made some comments on the quality of IIT students, which rubbed some people the wrong way. That included the greatest ever author in the history of the universe, who shot back with this gem.

Later, in this interview with the world's greatest journalist, he also raised questions about this aforementioned body shopping company's ability for innovation. 
For a body shopping company, however it seems to have done rather well as per this list of a little known magazine called Forbes. Interesting - no ?

PS: The blog post reflects my personal opinion and not that of my employer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A cultured left foot

A cultured left foot is probably right up there among the Top 3 Arsenal blogs. It's a wonderful phrase - one which describes our current captain Robin Van Persie beautifully. He has a much talked about chocolate leg - his right one. But he is truly magical with his left.
100 goals up for The Arsenal. May he have plenty more to come. I fell in love with him from the moment he scored this goal. And the love has only grown since then. 

Arsenal and Murphy's Law

3 points yesterday and the world seems a happier place. A week back, and that was not quite the case. I wrote this long blog below on Arsenal then. The folks at @thehardtackle and @sounak in particular were kind enough, to read, edit and publish it as a proper article on their site.
Below is the original, "unedited" blog format.
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Murphy’s law states that if anything that can go wrong, it will go wrong.  Well, if you are an Arsenal fan, like me, you could be forgiven for thinking that the footballing Gods are using our club for proving it.
For Arsenal fans, the last six months or so have been extremely disturbing, distressing, depressing and demoralising (and in that order). During this period, the team has lost the art of winning football matches. Somewhere over the last six years or so, the club has forgotten the art and the desire of defending as well. The annual ritual of selling some of our best players for small fortunes has made the coffers heavy , but the team extremely light on the pitch.
A look back at the transition of the team from the days of being called “The Invincibles” to the present bunch feels something like this. Once upon a time, we had a team which had pace and power; a team which could attack with precision & penetration and defend with both patience & passion. Slowly, as the years went by, the team made a gradual transition, we banked our game on the mantra of possession. Tippy-tappy, but rarely trigger happy, the team got obsessed with scoring the perfect goal.  Passing the ball and sometimes passing the buck, somewhere it felt, that we got more obsessed about the means, rather than the end. That it became more important to “play football” rather than win matches. And now with, many of the best creative talents having left for greener, richer, more ambitious pastures, what is now left is a disjointed, rag tag, bunch of a team, struggling to find its feet and identity. It is a team which has lost its aura and belief.
The slow decline over the last six trophy less years just got accelerated in the last six months. Sure, the journey was not all downhill, but there were fewer ups than downs, but quite clearly the limit of our ambitions for quite some time has been getting a Champions League spot. And all along, we have been also fighting philosophical wars, in a cut-throat-competitive environment.
The global phenomenon, that is the EPL, was built on the pulsating, riveting rivalry of Manchester United and Arsenal. Let there be no mistake about it, but the advent of live football on satellite television in the late nineties coincided with this thrilling rivalry and made viewers hooked on to football and their respective clubs for life. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, Keane and Vieira, the British base of Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and the Nevilles against the continental flavour of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg...this was a  rivalry for the ages. And what is more, while the two teams did have contrasting styles – both were attack minded, which made it spectacular.
Somewhere, the economist in Wenger, realised that in order to compete with United in the long term, the club had to move away from its spiritual home of Highbury to a much larger stadium.  A perfectly valid, well thought strategy. What he could not have predicted that football was about to be changed forever, with the influx of oil money. Roman Abrahamovic and his millions came in at Chelsea and took the scene by storm. So, faced with a constrained budget at home and seeing the competitors having almost unlimited pockets, the club took to scouting talented youngsters and getting them in early at the club.  But when, you are relying on youth, you are taking a gamble as you cannot be sure of how a player will eventually turn out to be. Will he blossom into a Fabregas or regress into a Denilson? Would Diaby become the new Vieira or not ? And quite clearly, very few of the many youth talents, picked up at bargain prices have actually gone on to become world class players.
So, clearly handicapped financially and working on a risky strategy of trusting on young players, the club has been further handicapped by the salary structure that they designed. Wenger’s ideas of equitable pay have meant that: a) The club cannot attract the biggest names; b) No big differentials in pay between the better players and the mediocre ones at the club – possibly leading to frustration for the good players and a false sense of comfort for the not so good ones ; c) Difficulty in transferring out the unwanted players, who are earning more than they deserve at the club because no one else will pay them that much.  
And so while Abrahamovic and Chelsea, pushed Arsenal down to 3rd, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh and Manchester City have now becoming the new galacticos and Arsenal today are struggling to even be 4th. City, in the process have also become a favourite place for Arsenal players to move on – with some of the best 1st team players in the last 5 years being transferred there.  Arsenal, also face stiff competition from two other old rivals – Liverpool and Tottenham, who while not quite having the matching finances of City and Chelsea, quite easily outspend the Gunners.
Here’s what bothers me as an Arsenal fan. The club, even after all its budgetary constraints, has been turning in handsome profits. The club also charges the most from its fans, with very high priced tickets at the new stadium. Deficiencies in the squad over the last few seasons have been fairly obvious; the club’s refusal to address them has been disappointing. No one wants the team to go down the Leeds United path, but the lack of some experienced figures to bring together and solidify a team of youngsters has been acutely felt, time and again.
Then we come to the matters of injury. This interesting blog, tells us as to how many injuries Arsenal had to contend with last season. The club has suffered three horrific injuries – Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey in the last few seasons.  A counter argument that can be made is that other big clubs suffer almost the same as well and injuries cannot be used as an excuse. The thing is that Arsenal’s core group of players – who can keep the team competitive in the league is much smaller than their rivals – the lack of strength and depth in the squad is exposed with injuries. To look at it another way, Chelsea or United – missing 6 or 7 starters can still put out a very competitive team, but not Arsenal.
To come to matters on the pitch and it is sad that the description of Arsenal as a football club have got limited to a few damning stereotypes and clichés.
Arsenal play nice football but have no end product.
Arsenal can’t break down teams who defend deep.
Arsenal can’t defend a lead.
Arsenal can’t defend from set pieces.
Arsenal can’t defend against the counter attack.
Arsenal can’t deal with “the physical side” of the game.
Arsenal can’t do it on a wet, night at Stoke.
I could go on and on, but I am sure, you can visualise each and every one of these stereotype and remember plenty of moments, when we validated them. The thing is that, while we have struggled against the top teams such as United and Chelsea, we could be forgiven for not having the personnel to match up with them. But the narrative has too often also been of Wenger and Arsenal at war with the likes of Bolton, Blackburn and Stoke. These are teams that play football in a different manner and offer a contrast to our method. Their more aerial, more physical, more robust, and perhaps more English game has roughed up, distracted and defeated Arsenal far too often. And what has frustrated me has been our refusal to improvise, our reluctance to get on with things. It would appear that throughout the club, there appears to be a sense of moral superiority and self-righteousness about the way we play football. I am sorry – but that does not entitle anyone to victories and points. We have too often let our focus get distracted by players who can wind up the opposition, and rather than allow our technical superiority to take over the game, we have either wallowed in self misery or got ourselves embroiled in petty conflicts and skirmishes. None of this works, what does is putting a few past the opposition and going home with the three points.
The one constant in these tumultuous times has been Arsene Wenger. So much of Arsenal’s modern history is down to the contribution of this one man. The club owes him a lot for the glory days of the 98 double winners and “The Invincibles”. He has given the club an identity, global recognition, some wonderful, wonderful football on the pitch. He had the courage and conviction to take a leap of faith and build a new stadium – something that will serve the club well for the next 50 years. However, the last few months have seen the club go backwards, unable to hold on to its most prized assets, possibly unable to attract the best talents any more. A passionate and committed football man, there have been times when I have actually felt concerned about his health and well being. How much can a man take, to see so repeatedly HIS players, let him down. Again and again, repeat the same mistakes. It must be difficult to see HIS players not believing in his “project” anymore.
I have long been a believer in “IN ARSENE, WE TRUST”. However, that does not mean that he is beyond criticism or always right. I disagree with his wage policies and have found his refusal to sign some experienced campaigners in the last 3, 4 years baffling. Arsenal was much closer to United or Chelsea then and a few more experienced campaigners might just have seen us get over the line.  A combination of circumstances has meant that the squad (even after the deadline day signings) is far weaker that it has ever been under Wenger. I am not sure he is the man capable of turning around a squad, which is defensively so shambolic at the moment, that it does not take much to turn up and score against them. As someone said the other day – there are no transfer windows for coaches – and I do believe that coaching room needs new voices and ideas.
There is one last thing about Wenger, which I have found quite staggering and that is his steadfast refusal to criticise his players in public. This is an almost unbelievable, noble quality in today’s day and age.  As an employee, if I had a manager like that, I would be extremely lucky. And yet, has it always been in Arsenal Football Club’s interest that he has been so protective of his players ? I am not sure whether some public criticism would have actually fired up some players, but it remains one of the most remarkable characteristics of this manager.
You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain – The Dark Knight.
I wonder if Arsene thinks along these lines.
These are also the times of social media, of blogs and twitter. Arsenal is among the best followed clubs and there is great writing on the club every single day. Movie quotes from The Dark Knight have actually become very apt to describe the current situation at the club and were frequently used in blogs. The night is darkest just before the dawn – we thought. Assuming that the Old Trafford massacre was the darkest point. Is Arsene Wenger the manager Arsenal need at the moment ? Or is he the one we deserve ?  Injuries (at Arsenal) are like gravity. All they need is a little push ? J
Enough with the jokes, but things have gone topsy turvy for us. From injuries to bad signings, to facing rivals with unlimited coffers, it has been an uphill struggle. But Arsenal have never finished outside the Top 4 during Wenger’s tenure. Arsenal have qualified for the main stages of the Champions League for 14 consecutive seasons. These are staggering achievements. When you combine that with building a new stadium during the same period, the achievements become incredible. However, right now, the team is in a bad shape. From competing in 4 tournaments in March to – relegation like form this season, the fortunes have changed dramatically.  There is plenty of rage and fury going around in the fan base. It only shows that people do really care about the club and that it means a lot to them.  It is important that the club comes out and tells us – the true state of our finances. What is preventing us from spending the money we earn from selling our players. Come out and set realistic expectations, clear the air and get back to playing football. We could be in a mid table scrap. We could be in a relegation battle. Who knows ? I am not sure, how many Indian fans have actually experienced relegation dogfights before, but that is what could await us this season. I sincerely hope that it is only a once in a lifetime experience, but you have got to back the team. The Club. The Arsenal. There is no other way.
Six years is not that long a barren stretch. Who knows, the next Michael Thomas moment might be just around the corner J

Fan 1: What about last season?
Fan 2: What about it?
Fan 1: They were rubbish. They were fucking rubbish.
Fan 2: They weren't that bad.
Fan 1: They were fucking rubbish last year. And they were fucking rubbish the year before. And I don't care if they are top of the League, they'll be fucking rubbish this year, too. And next year. And the year after that. I'm not joking.
Fan 2: I don't know why you come, Frank. Honest I don't.
Fan 1: Well, you live in hope, don't you
 - Fever Pitch
I do.
Vermaelen & Van Persie: Let's get the fighting spirit back

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Third Man

The recently concluded England vs India Test Series and the subsequent limited overs matches are possibly best forgotten soon. But if nothing else, there will be plenty of memories of Dravid. Rahul Dravid batting. And Emoting. I am not sure how he has felt througout this ordeal, seeing one team mate after another perish. To injuries and to the English. And he has to deal with some tough conditions, tough bowling. And at times tough umpiring. The Bangalore boy has not got too much help from technology either. Yet he has kept on going about his business. As usual. Or maybe not. There has been a bit more feeling about this tour. Raw, pent up, emotions have come out. Of positive delight and uninhibited joy. His Pieterson like celebrations at Lords...

His disgust at dropping catches with this cap throwdown moment at Edgbaston (described so poignantly here by S Dayanand )...
His pumped up, wide eyed demeanor in his T20 debut / swansong, where he hit 3.. yes THREE consecutive sixes....

But among all this, some things have not changed. He has remained as classy, as dignified as ever both on and off the field. He has handled tricky interviews - on the DRS, on the Ian Bell goof up and generally on how bad the Indian Team have been, with grace and honesty. 
Dravid in England has given us all this:
Three Centuries in Tests. Three Sixes in a row in T20. At his best dabbing the ball to Third Man.
India's Greatest Ever Number Three.
Rahul Dravid. More epic than Carol Reed and Graham's Greene The Third Man.
To Dear Jammy. Love and Respect.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One just gets the feeling, something's gotta give

The England Tour has been particularly disappointing so far, and there are not too many signs of things improving at the moment. I guess, after winning the world cup, when some people suggested it was going to be all downhill from here, this is what they meant. But leave aside the cricket, if there has been a positive to take (besides Dravid's batting), it has been the spotlight on the commentary and punditry that we get from M/s Gavaskar and Shastri. Many, many cricket fans have long been turned off by the cliched, biased and painfully boring commentary that we get from India's leading media pair. However, generally the only thing to do for them would be turn off the volume, or more recently, perhaps listen to alternative versions of commentary on sites like testmatchsofa.com or the newly opened pitchinvasion.
Thankfully and in a delightfully amusing manner, there was a tipping point during the tour, which actually brought Shastri and his commentary to the fore - before the mainstream media, and from then on, it has been fun. It was this remarkably stupid moment at the end of the day, that led to a quite brilliant confrontation between Shastri and Nasser Hussain in the commentary box the next day, and since then it has been fun, reading all the stuff written, both in India and in England. (Confession here, while generally I find listening to Shastri extremely painful -it was box office gold, when Nasser was calling him - live on air). (Here is Nasser's written rebuttal by the way.)
The Outlook seems to be the one Indian magazine that is on the case earnestly and it started with Pradeep Magazine criticising the jingoistic nature of our commentators. They have now followed it up with this more detailed piece wherein they quite simply put that both Gavaskar and Shastri are on BCCI payrolls and hence in np position to commentate as independent observers of the game. 
I enjoyed this cricinfo blog from Samir Chopra where he suggests having a television coverage with only on-field sounds and no commentary. 
However, there has been nothing better and I mean nothing better than this. Barney Ronay of The Guardian came up with this headline that went like a Tracer Bullet: How Ravi Shastri, the big noise of cricket, called it wrong. He followed that up, by throwing caution to the winds in the article - and this particular story really had me in splits:
I  met him briefly when I was about 10. He was wearing flared beige slacks and white lisp-on loafers and he said: "Congratulations!" when he shook my hand, appearing to congratulate me simply for meeting him, and projecting even then the air of an elite astronaut or a visitor from a taller, more urgent dimension.
No better way of describing the man I guess, and while it is difficult to imagine ESPNStar kicking him out like Sky Sports did to Andy Gray (for totally different reasons), it has been fun, seeing so many people go after him. At the end of the day, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How shite is Indian cricket ?

This has been that type of an English summer. When words like sabotage, mockery and most of all ARROGANT have been used to describe Indian cricket and its players.
It started with the Daryl Harper incident in the Caribbean, which left MSD looking like playing the unrepentant villain, prompting the veteran  Mr. Peter Roebuck to write: Dhoni needs to rethink his approach to the game. Fair points all, I suppose from a respected journalist - so listen up fellas. Moving on to England and the Indian team was greeted with this headline from the immensely wise Mr. James Lawton of The Independent: 
James Lawton: Arrogant tourists' refusal to embrace technology was nothing short of sabotage . Among other things, this article had this really impressive line: "The Indians say that the predictive capacity of Hawk-Eye is less than infallible and, scientifically and practically, they may have a point..."  Not much for us to say in rebuttal, is there ? In any case, as the bloke from DeepBackwardPoint has anyway admitted - we are arrogant
But presumably having attended courses on persuasive communication and being an exponent of the theory of broken records, and also presumably thinking that most readers are stupid and need to be told things again and again, he came up with this even more hard hitting headline: James Lawton: Arrogance to blame if India abdicate their no 1 throne 
Here are a few gems: "...Abdicated, that is, their role as the cricket nation of the richest talent best equipped to play all forms of the game.

And why? Maybe because they got too rich, too arrogant too sure about their ability to cherry-pick the profits that came with the explosion of popularity, however fleeting, of Twenty20, and their eventually nerveless triumph in the recent World Cup. The Indian conclusion, all the evidence suggests, is that they were simply good enough to skim along, riding their natural gifts and luxuriating in their newly achieved, money-based power..."
Hmm...
Somewhere in between MSD turned his arm over for a few overs during the Lord's test which lead India's other world cup winning captain Kapil Dev, calling it a mockery of test cricket
The English would like to think of India with a patronising view as described here. But these days, they tend to concentrate on India and its financial clout more as this interesting read shows. 
So let us sum up all that has gone wrong:
1) We have behaved arrogantly on the field with an umpire who gets 96% of his decisions right and made derisive comments about him after the match.
2) We have sabotaged test cricket, again by being arrogant, and not using the DRS.
3) We have acted "timidly and selfishly" by refusing to chase a target against the West Indies to protect a 1-0 series lead.
4) We have again been arrogant to go into the test series against England by playing only one warm up match.
5) We have made mockery of test cricket with our arrogant captain coming on to bowl, when the team's number one fast bowler got injured.
6) Our number one fast bowler was arrogant enough to come into the test team by playing just one warm up match thereby sabotaging the team's chances and a great contest.
7) We have lost the 2000th test match, which was played at Lord's.
8) Sachin Tendulkar failed to get on to the hallowed honour's board at Lord's - something he will regret forever with Matthew Hoggard
9) Our gentle medium pacer Praveen Kumar showed dissent against the umpire to get fined. It was so bad that that Pavops wrote this !!!
10) We have made Barbie look and feel like a world champion.
11) We still have Harbhajan Singh playing test cricket for us. 
I could take all this (other than Point No 10), but this next thing pissed me off. A rather badly written, part satire, part troll in the Telegraph, got so much under the skin of Indian "fans" that it is unreal. And the Telegraph is taking the piss with this piece here . WTF DUDES !! If the countrymen of @bigfatphoenix and @sidin, if you can't get this - I don't know what to say. 
HOW SHITE is the Indian Board, the Indian Team and the Indian Cricket Fan ??? HOW SHITE is Indian cricket ??? 
All this in a year, when this happened.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A voice like no other

Hemonto Kumar Mukhopadhyay sung Hindi film songs with the name Hemant Kumar. And while, he is possibly the greatest Bengali singer of all time (debatable - given the huge array of Bengali singing talent over the years), he did not sing many songs in Hindi. It was after all, the era of Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore.

Nevertheless, he did sing some absolutely wonderful songs, here is a sample of five of the best.


Jaane Woh Kaise Log The (Pyaasa, 1957)


Hai Apna Dil To Awara (Solva Saal, 1958)


Beqarar Karke Hume Yun Naa Jaaiye (Bees Saal Baad, 1962)


No Tum Hume Jaano (Baat Ek Raat Kee, 1962)


Tum Pukar Lo (Khamoshi, 1969)


To be honest, if I had a choice to pick anyone's voice before being born, I would pick his.

PS: Got into the Hemonto mood today, thanks to a song posted by a friend today.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why is the BCCI against DRS ?


With the World Cup won and the IPL over, there really is not much out there for cricket fans to talk about. Other than the Decision Review System (DRS) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) (no relation to the more popular Bored Cricket Crazy Indians)  refusal of accepting the system in all bilateral series. Involving India that is.
So what are the reasons for BCCI not accepting the DRS ? Choose the right answer from the below options:
Option 1: The BCCI do not have an internal DRS. So having once decided to say no to the system, they do not have any mechanism to review it. Hence they are stuck with not accepting it.
Option 2: To maintain the fairness of the game: The BCCI took the allegation of Pakistani journalist Shahzad Chaudhry extremely seriously after Sachin Tendulkar was given not out by the DRS in the semi final. The journalist had this to say " The IT hubs of Bengaluru worked overtime to provide Tendulkar the escape in the Decision Referral System (DRS) when he was actually plumb on an arm ball of Saeed Ajmal ". So in order to maintain fairness, the BCCI refuses to use the DRS.
Option 3: Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and the BCCI by not having the DRS is trying to preserve this tradition. So, as umpires will continue to have the power to give random decisions, the viewer is kept on the edge of the seat and allows commentators like Sunil Gavaskar to talk about the glorious uncertainties of the game. With stupid Nobojit Sing Shiddu.
Option 4: It's not all that complicated - it is because as the Bored Members have pointed out here.
The DRS: Making Geometry popular in high schools since 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Bit of Genius

Surfing through some videos on Youtube a few days back, I came across a video from an old series called A Bit of Fry and Laurie. I did know that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are famous artistes, but I had not seen any of their work (other than few minutes of House here and there) before. A few videos later, and I was completely hooked into the brilliance of the two actors and the British humour. I am not sure how many of you have seen it, or in fact are big fans of this show, so am just putting it out there in case you haven't seen them.
Here are a few samples to see if it might interest you:
Sample 1:



Sample 2:



Sample 3:



Sample 4:



Here is the entire script for the Sample 4 Sketch
The last 40 odd seconds is simply hilarious: 
Stephen Er, of course it is, of course it is, of course it is. Language is a whore, a mistress, a wife, a pen- friend, a check-out girl, a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen- up wipette. Language is the breath of God, the dew on a fresh apple, it's the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning sun when you pull from an old bookshelf a forgotten volume of erotic diaries; language is the faint scent of urine on a pair of boxer shorts, it's a half-remembered childhood birthday party, a creak on the stair, a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, the warm wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk of a charred Panzer, the underside of a granite boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of a Mediterranean girl, cobwebs long since overrun by an old Wellington boot.
Hugh Ner-night.
 Luckily there is a site http://abitoffryandlaurie.co.uk/, where you can get most of the scripts and the sketches of the 4 seasons of this season. I am absolutely captivated by this discovery of mine - even if it is 20 years late. Perhaps one or two of you might enjoy it as well.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Left Over !

They say - All good things come to an end. Thankfully, some bad things come to an end as well. The CPI(M) led West Bengal govt's rule finally came to an end after 34 long years. A govt which did nothing but Suppress Oppress and Depress the people of the state, which did Atyachar which was not just Emotional,  was given a long over due break by the people of the state.
I have mentioned it before - the communist rule in WB was like The Matrix, where the party - the machinery, the cadre - invaded every sphere of your life. A regime which, after its initial achievements in land reforms, became so power hungry, so controlling, so dark - that it pushed one of India's most forward, progressive states to the back of the queue. It made West Bengal - the leader in the number of sick industries in the country, by a country mile. It converted the state into a running joke of playing Counter-strike - where more than 60% of the entire nation's manday's lost used to happen there on account of bandhs/ hartals/gherao and other such time pass.It blocked education in English. And thanks to historical blunders, it made itself and West Bengal a redundant entity in the national arena. In hindsight, the bigger historic blunder has been that of the people of having the CPI(M) rule for such a long time. As Kolkata's leading daily points out - it is now a graveyard.
The state of West Bengal had become a lot like the West Indies cricket team, the only thing "Western" about them, being their name. A place/team which had a glorious past, but is in a terminal state of decline. One where the best talent cannot stay and make a decent living, but has to seek greener pastures outside. And all one keeps doing there is keep thinking of the heritage and the past.
Budhadeb Bhattacharya will be looked back like Ricky Ponting. So, while Ponting lead Australia to their first Ashes defeat in nearly two decades, Budha Babu "led" his comrades to their first defeat in assembly elections in 34 years. The fact that they have been living in denial, in complacency, in their own reality is best summed up by listening to their veteran (one of their many) leader Biman Bose over the last few days. He called the alliance of the TMC and Congress - one formed under US pressure !!! With all the exit polls, clearly showing a massive win for the TMC, he said something like this. And even after the defeat - he basically dismissed exit polls as fluke !!!
A few words on the lady who single handedly destroyed the Myth, the Monster, the invincible Marxist government. For all her hystrionics and madness, one cannot deny that there is no bigger fighter in India's political landscape than Mamata Banerjee. In 1991, a CPI(M) goon fractured her head in 1991 at Hajra crossing. 20 years later, she was still there fighting, and this time, they were calling her a whore . If nothing else, one cannot just be amazed by her single minded determination to fight the Communists.
We do not know where the state will go under her rule. A lot of the intelligentsia have very low expectations from the TMC and Mamata. This from @greatbong is a balanced piece on the state of affairs.
For me the best part has been the to know that the Communists can be defeated. The fact that people can vote out a government, and bring about a "Poriborton" is what gives me optimism. It has made elections and voters - relevant once again. No longer will future elections be mere formalities and foregone conclusions. The results should make the losers a little humble and the winners a little responsible. I honestly had given up hope of seeing a non Left front government in Bengal. But the unthinkable happened and how. Yeh Laal Rang Ab Hume Chorega !!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My take on Barca

FC Barcelona call themselves "Més que un club". More than a club. The past few years have seen them play a unique brand of football - tiki-taka - seeing them dominate in Europe and domestically. It has been the driving force behind finally seeing Spain fulfill their potential on the internation stage as they have gone on to win the Euro and the World Cup.
The thing about Barcelona is this: they play this unique possession based attacking football that is beautiful and devastating at the same time. As this article on Run of Play, the author mentions a definition and then gives his own interpretation:  Richard Williams’ concise description outlines tiki-taka as “a game of patient accumulation in which the ball is coaxed towards the opposition’s goal while barely touching the feet of players who are constantly in fluid motion. At all times aware of each other’s changing positions, they take opponents out of the game through deftness and movement rather than muscularity.”
Frankly, Barça never looks patient to me, and their long passes, of which they are many, are anything but “coaxing.” Any possession game is frustrating to opponents, but the real, deep wrenching comes from conceding goals. Barça, instead of patiently settling like other possession-based clubs, scores in spades. It would be more accurate to call it “tiki-taka-goal”. There is something utterly unique about Barcelona—their craftsman-like work ethic, their belligerent, almost litigious style of play.
Barcelona  and its players are not shy of expressing their greatness either. Xavi (probably the best midfielder in the last 20 years) describes their epic 5-0 win over Real earlier this season here: That game was wonderful, the best I've played. The feeling of superiority was incredible – and against Real Madrid! They didn't touch the ball. Madre mía, what a match! In the dressing room, we gave ourselves a standing ovation. (!!!)
Barcelona aslo have many of the world's best players. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Busquets, Pique, Puyol - the list could go on and on. They also have a coach in Pep Guardiola (who was one of my first footballing heroes as a kid - a confession) - a man described as The Extra Special One !! They have the La Masia - the world renowned football academy which produces most of their team filled with skillful players.
On their way - Barcelona have been involved in some heavyweight clashes which have made more news due to refereeing decisions. There is a feeling in a lot of the footballing public that they have been unfairly advantaged. No one spoke more forcefully on the matter than Jose Mourinho last night. Some football fans have been far more vocal - basically suggesting that Barcelona use corrupt means to get referees on their side, who play an instrumental part in their victories.
Here's my take on it: If you believe that indeed there is corruption, then continuing to watch football makes no sense. Then it is time to shut the TV and go to bed. Very often a refereeing mistake is used as a convenient excuse by the losing team to deflect attention from their own failures. It is also true that Barcelona have some genuine complains of their own as this blog by Mahek Vyas points out.
Could it be that their visible superiority on the field, the moral high ground that they take - on and off the pitch of playing football the right way, subconsciously influences referees to tilt towards them on close calls ? Probably not, but I am just thinking aloud here.
For me, till proven guilty, they are innocent. They are so much better than any other team at the moment - that any defeat that they suffer will be a one-off. An upset. When I think about it, why would a club that has so much going for it - actually risk corrupt practices, given the possible consequences.
This Barcelona team's place in history is assured. They will go down as one of the greatest and arguably the greatest footballing side of all time. But like Paul Scholes, they too have a dark side. Some of their play acting on the field, and bullying in the transfer market is extremely disappointing to put it mildly. Which means that they are also humans, not gods. They are just like other clubs. They just happen to be playing better football than others.
Some will not like them, but for some others - they will always be torch bearers of the beautiful game.  And while they can go from the sublime to the ridiculous, for me they are more sublime than ridiculous.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rabindra Sangeet in Films

I grew up in a family, where Rabindra Sangeet was always around, my mom being a devoted exponent. However, I was not the art appreciating type as a kid and till date my knowledge of Bangla art, culture, movies and music is extremely limited. However, I do miss listening to Bangla songs a lot these days - especially since I have been out of Kolkata for quite some time.
This last Saturday - the best of Bangali tweeters were discussing about Ray's death anniversary, and one or two links from their tweets led me to some youtube videos of Rabindra Sangeet songs in Bangla movies. I had no idea of the existence of these videos being there before. I am utterly smitten by the beauty and simplicity of the cinematography which blends so perfectly with these beautiful songs. Check them out. Lovely stuff.









1st edit: Adding this thanks to Oldmonk_mgm's link after the post.


2nd edit: Found this gem now.


PS1: Thanks to @oldmonk_mgm, @bongopondit and co who had that lovely discussion on twitter last Saturday.
PS2: How beautiful is Madhabi Mukherjee !!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Protect the Indian Wedding MEAL !!!

It is a well known fact among my family and my (very few) friends that I dislike attending weddings. I find very few good reasons to attend them. Very often, as a kid, and then as a teenager, I was forced to attend weddings of folks I had never met before and never met afterwards as well. The wonderfully weird traditions and customs at weddings also never made any sense to me - like where the girl hides her face from the boy or whatever. What made me go to weddings along with my parents was that if I didn't I wouldn't get food to eat for dinner - because there would be none cooked for me. And what made me look forward to - was to have some good food. FOOD was and is the only reason for me to even contemplate of attending a wedding ceremony.
So, when the other day I read this news piece - India to study one-dish wedding law of Pakistan to cut food wastage -  I was frankly disgusted. I mean, you will allow only ONE DISH at a wedding !!!
Ok, wait - what does that even mean. Does it mean
a) You can have only ONE item in the menu for the entire wedding ? ; or
b) You can have n number of items, but each person can have only ONE DISH full of food and no more ?
Let us take scenario a. What would be the ONE Dish that you would want to have. It's like saying - you can have Puri. But no Sabji. It has to be Chicken Biriyani for me. Preferably from Arsalan or Paradise or some iconic place. Otherwise don't bother calling me. And in case you are a vegetarian - try having Tandoori Shaslik Paneer Sizzler or some such dish - where you can throw in as many variety of veggies as possible in a single dish. So we can pick and choose the ones we like. Or ok - duck that stuff. Just have a Blueberry Cheesecake. Fine- eggless if you will.
Option b is interesting. Possible ways out of subverting this would be having massive Railway style Thaalis with lots of compartments for different dishes. At least enough to have a proper Gujarati Thali. Or providing 2 feet long Banana leaves and calling them ONE DISH. And then putting the entire menu card on them.
Whatever it is, it is really a disgusting day when we copy laws from Pakistan.
Protect the Indian Wedding Meal. Protect Indian Culture.
Issued in Public Interest by a food loving Indian.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bill Cheese Kya Hai, Aap Meri Gyan Lijiye

So you "Like" Anna Hazare ? Oh, you are "Attending" a "Facebook Event" to join a fast to stop corruption. I get it  - You - "Support Anna Hazare against corruption! Corruption in India must stop NOW!!" - it seems. Oh you fasted for half a day. And shouted slogans at Jantar Mantar and Freedom Park? Well Done.
You see all this happened between me still trying to recover from a World Cup victory and an insanely busy week in office. Well, after recovering from the initial disappointment of finding that Anna Hazare did not look remotely as good as Anna Kournikova - I did some reading up to understand what the whole hue and cry was all about. Here are a few things that I found and so sharing it for reference.
First of all, Who is Anna Hazare ? Wikipedia and your daily fail newspaper aside, read this blog post from Gaurav Sabnis which gives an excellent introduction to the man, about whom I did not know much hitherto.
Secondly, what is the Jan Lokpal Bill ? Well, it appears that the Govt of India has been spending considerable amount of time drafting another anti-corruption law called - the Lokpal Bill. But according to better informed folks than me, it is not good enough and so they are drafting an alternate bill called the Jan Lokpal Bill (People power baby !!!). If you have the time, inclination and patience, you can go to Anna's site and read up both the versions - http://www.annahazare.org/. See the bottom left hand corner for both the drafts.
Yes, something needed to be be done. You can read a thousand articles in support of the "movement", but no one puts it better than the genius Ramesh Srivats. Read this and tell me you were not moved.
But just in case you think - this Bill will do the trick , just hold on. I am a little skeptical. Here are 3 very cogent articles why:
1) This from Nitin Pai (@acorn): Jan Lokpal is no solution .
2) This from Amba Salekar (a practicing lawyer): The Jan Lokpal Bill: Good intentions and the road to hell
3) This from the Kafila website: At the Risk of Heresy: Why I am not Celebrating with Anna Hazare
All in all, I am very confused.
"You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!" And like it or not, as Indians we will always be part of social experiments. It seems to me that The Jan Lokpal Bill is not the hero India deserves, but the hero India needs - no correct WANTS right now.
I just wish someone could say - The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming. I just wish.
PS: This came in today from GreatBong. Superb piece. http://greatbong.net/2011/04/13/on-the-jan-lokpal-bill

Sunday, April 3, 2011

MSD & YUVI

16th  to 19th December, 1999. Punjab played Bihar in the final of the Cooch Behar Trophy at the Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur. Bihar make 357 in the first innings. With a certain keeper batsman scoring 84. Punjab reply with a massive 839 as they go on to win the match. But more importantly one bloke from Punjab makes 358. Yes, he beats the score of Bihar all by himself.
Well, of course - we know who these two blokes are. The first - India's World Cup winning captain and Man of the Match in the finals. The other - the Player of the Tournament.
Some of us, including myself - had questioned the tremendous faith shown by Dhoni on Yuvraj Singh. To be honest, I would have preferred Raina over him to start the tournament. But I guess, when as a kid - you've seen this bloke hit 358 against your attack and then you get a chance to pick him for your side - you would have faith. If you've had him in your side and he has won you the T20 World Cup - you would have him in your side. If you have a record of performing in the biggest of games, you deserve a place in the side.
Well done MSD for keeping the faith. And well done Yuvraj - for repaying.

PS: I used to visit, Ranchi (Tatisilwai actually) quite often between 2005-2007 and MSD had got into the Indian team in those days. Meeting people there - quite often the conversation would move towards Dhoni. And I would listen to people say things like - My son goes to DAV Shyamali. Same school as Dhoni. You could quite clearly feel the pride they felt. And over the years - he has made them prouder. As a DAV student myself, I feel that pride myself.
And this moving story today in today's newspapers brought out another fascinating aspect of Dhoni's life - one that is hidden behind all the million dollar endorsements and ads. He has come a long way. MAHI WAY.

World Champions ? Well, Of Course !

Sometimes, just sometimes, things work out the way you want. Not exactly as planned - but you get the desired result. Twenty plus years as a fan, a supporter of the Indian Cricket Team means that I had seen everything - from the tremendous highs of incredible victories to the disappointments and despair from gut wrenching defeats. But nothing matches the feeling of becoming World Champions. Not sure - anything will ever be so good again.
Going into this World Cup - the feeling was different to all others in the past. A World Cup comes once in 4 years and in all likelihood this was going to be Sachin's last one. There are a thousand adjectives to describe him - GOD, legend, icon etc etc - but let me use a very personal word to describe him. He is my HERO. So, while it is a dream come true to see your hero lift the World Cup, it is also a frightening, devastating thought that he would end his playing career without winning the World Cup.A thought that has passed my through my mind many times. It is something very hard to reconcile with - but something one has to prepare for - not everyone gets all that they wish for.
So, as we entered the World Cup as favourites, all the pressure of "Do it for Sachin" (justified and unjustified at the same time), this incredible media hype, the first World Cup in the age of Twitter and Blogs and Facebook - with all the instant reaction and criticism - you can go from being a hero to a villain  or a joker in a matter of seconds - this was going to be a tournament like none before. And as the initial matches happened- a lot of folks came to the conclusion that we were a poor bowling side - a "painfully slow" fielding side and a batting side that frequently loses its way in the latter part of the innings. As things worked out - we had to go through the 3 time defending champion - Australia in the quarter final ; PAKISTAN and all the historical, political, emotional baggage they bring along with their sensational bowling, in the semis; and a wonderful Sri Lankan team in the final. And go through them - we did - with a combination of responsible batting, disciplined bowling, a fielding side which kept improving every day - reaching quite astonishing heights in the final and the calm leadership of MSD.
When I look back at these three games - we certainly had to do it the Tough Way. Perhaps you will agree - the tension before the Australia was of the type that we had never experienced before. The hype before the Pakistan game was equally unprecedented. So much so - that on the day of the final - it was only a little bit of anxiety and thoughts of what will Sreesanth do today that were bothering me :).
We discovered or should I say re-discovered new heroes for generations to come. Zaheer Khan led our bowling attack magnificiently. His opening spell in the final was splendid as was his ability to come on and take wickets at crucial moments throughout the cup. Gautam Gambhir - kept getting starts without really making the big ones - till the day of the final - where he played an innings of a lifetime. Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh - not in their top form - but still delivered absolutly massive moments of magic and inspiration at different times- but especially in the semi-final - Sehwag with his devastating little cameo at the top against Gul, Harbhajan to get rid of Akmal and Afridi at a critical juncture.
Other players chipped in as well - Kohli - consistent if not spectacular with the bat throughout - with plenty of significant partnerships, Raina - two clutch innings in the quarters and the semis, Ashwin - splendid against the Aussies, Munaf and Nehra - two top spells against Pakistan under immense pressure,
Which now brings me to the next two guys - the captain MSD and  the Man of the Tournament - Yuvraj Singh. Coming into the tournament - Yuvraj had not been in good form for quite some time - but MSD stuck with him - even if it meant sacrificing Raina in the starting 11 initially. Boy did he make it up with 15 wickets, over 350 runs and some fantastic fielding in the knock out matches. And what about MSD - a man who's every decision is scrutinised and debated in news rooms to board rooms, from drawing rooms to chat rooms - kept getting a few things wrong but most things right. He had a quiet World Cup with the bat though - which was reason enough for some folks to say that he would not be a deserved winner if he did not perform as a batsman. People criticise him, abuse him, ridicule him, but the dude remains himself. And as some of us know - the dude from Ranchi has balls of steel and he played a quite stunning innings to finish off the final. LIKE A BOSS.
Which brings me finally to Sachin. He batted throughout the tournament - as he is expected - he finished as the second highest run getter. But more importantly - he provided us with moments of joy and inspiration - moments that will remain our most cherished memories. And so when it finally happened, to see him being carried around the field by his team-matesto see him celebrate like a kid and with his kids, to see him pop the champagne, to see him kiss the cup that had eluded him for so long - was a feeling of ecstacy, a feeling of catharsis. And what was even more touching was to see the love that his teammates had for him - summed up best by this quote from young Virat Kohli - He's carried the burden of the nation for 21 years so it's time we carried him on our shoulders"
It is important to note - that this triumph is to be shared with the legends who just missed out - Kumble, Dada, Dravid, Laxman and Srinath. They are all builders of this current Indian team and so we must salute them as well along with our 15 champions. And also time for a salute to Gary Kirsten and his coaching staff. All proper Indian legends now. A job well done.
For my generation of cricket fans - the ones who were "born World Champions" (born between 83 and 87), this is the moment which repays the hours and hours that we have spent watching the telly. What a World Cup this has been ! We have experienced anxiety, nevousness, tension, relief, joy -in a cycle repeated time and again and again. We have beaten worthy opponents and beaten them well. It has been the journey of a lifetime.  And in the end - it had a happy ending.
So this is how good it feels to be World Champions ? Well, Of Course.
PS: The Cricinfo Gallery is a must watch, as is this blog post from Sidvee - describes what all of us feel in a far more eloquent way.

World Champions.
Thank you Team India. Thank you very much.

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