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.)

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