Saturday, January 21, 2012

Warne with a microphone

T20 cricket has its critics and issues. But it has some really cool things going on as well.
I have not followed the Big Bash League (BBL) - the franchisee based Australian domestic competition which in its first season. I watched it for half an hour today and I had a terrific experience.
Shane Warne was bowling with a microphone attached and he was taking the TV viewer literally through each and every ball that he was bowling. I knew that this was something that was happening in this tournament, when this Mccullum dismissal had happened a few weeks back.
Nothing of that sort happened today. While I was watching, he bowled 3 overs to a couple of old adversaries - Herschelle Gibbs and Paul Collingwood. And yet, as he took the viewer through each and every delivery of his, I got a glimpse, an insight, a little peak,  into the mind of probably the most fascinating character - the game has ever seen. I also got to see and listen, how he makes every delivery of his - an event in itself, each ball that he delivers -  has a life of its own; how he speaks on the field and tries to get into the mind of the batsman; how he attempts to bluff and double bluff the opposition. This was genius at work and as a viewer, you could not get any closer to see him work.
A T20 match perhaps doesn't allow Warne to have an elaborate setup and deception that perhaps a long test match spell would offer. And yet, post his retirement from international cricket, we have been privileged to see him in short cameos playing T20 cricket. He has been wonderful to watch while playing and captaining Rajasthan Royals and now with the microphone on while bowling for the Melbourne Stars.
I am not sure, we will be seeing test matches with players speaking while bowling or batting any time soon. Perhaps we should keep it that way - I don't know. But this format of cricket did provide me something different and special. And it was terrific fun.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Testing Times

I have a problem. I mean, I have many problems, but this is one of them. That I cannot give up on my old loves. Well of course, it is a problem in many different spheres of life. This cricket team of ours is just one such old love. The events of Friday the 13th, 2012 (take a look a the date - a combination of some seriously evil omens) have left me in grief and contemplating.
The Kubler Ross Theory states that there are 5 stages of grief. I think the combined test tours of England and Australia has been a journey in this for me as a fan.

Denial: It started with the first two tests in England. I lived in denial. I thought what was happening was an aberration. Some of our players were not fit. Some were coming off a long break and the general high of the World Cup win. Things were not as bad as they looked. I mean, how long could Barbie stay in form.We would come back.I now realise I was in denial.
Anger:  We flopped again in the next two tests. This was bad. I was angry at the players for not playing well. I was angry at the board for not giving us enough time to practice. I was angry at the umpires, the media. Just angry.
Bargaining: We had the West Indies home series next, but my eye was already on the next tour down under. I thought things would get better. England was an aberration, give this team some time and we would get the job done. We almost did that in Melbourne, but fell short. I bargained for some more time - give us a good pitch in Sydney and we would do it. Definitely.
Despair:  Then Sydney happened. Where we manojed, I mean managed to get ourselves out for less than 200 on a good batting pitch. Then let that bitch, I mean Pup, score a triple, effin hundred against us. And lost by an innings. It really was desperately poor stuff. Despair.
Acceptance: Day 1 Scorecard. India 161 All Out. Australia 149/0. Need I say more. It is over. This golden generation is history. I accept.
I am not really in a position to say what went wrong and why. You could say that this was over much earlier, but then I was a fool. I accept the fact today. I am skeptical of all those who are doing the post mortems. Some of the hysteria in the media is shameful and disgusting. Like one ex BBC sports editor calling Dhoni comes across like a State Bank of India clerk on an Indian television channel, a kind of double abuse, which is unfair to both MSD and an SBI clerk. It is perfectly honourable to be an SBI clerk and if Dhoni came across as one he would be doing fine. That gentleman would do well to remember his adopted country's world cup count, but then again being in the media, everything is fair game for him.
Some of the best writing has been from cricketingview such as this one. I do not believe that we lack fight or courage. Frankly, very few of us are in any position at all to judge the temperament of players. I would like to believe that our shortcomings are technical and not mental. Much of our batting problems are due to the problem of batsmen getting older and  the fractional slowing of reflexes. Time has taken a toll on this most incredible of line-ups. Our bowling issues on the other hand are more structural. Lack of depth, lack of experience and general inconsistency are some of the problems. It was never our strongest suit, it is not exactly in the most pink of health now.
Yes, mistakes have been made in transitioning, but I am honestly not sure if I would have done too differently myself as a selector. I know that we will eventually move on. And get back up in the test arena. Till then I just have to man up. And take it on the chin.
The journey of the Indian Test Team from the lows of 1999-2000 to 2011-12 has been fascinating. We started from a low point. We are back down under now. But it was a thrilling ride. Thanks for the memories. And get well soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There and back again !

First things first. A definition. GilbertoSilver tells us What is va va voom?
It’s many things. It’s a style, an attitude. It’s a grace, an impudence, a gallic flair. It’s instant control, a side-footed finish, and a shrug of celebration......
Last night I had a dream. Correction, I SAW a dream. I am certain millions of Arsenal fans across the world saw the same dream, at the same time. Live. About 60,000 in the stadium and the rest like me on their TV sets. Thierry Henry played for Arsenal Football Club and scored a goal. A winning goal !
Everybody loves old heroes to return. Now and then, you get to see famous stars come back and play - perhaps a benefit match, or a testimonial. Or even a veterans tournament. You check that out, you feel happy, you remember the good times.
You see that in films too, an old hero returns for a cameo appearance. You get a little nostalgic perhaps and giddy eyed for a moment. You feel good.
But, what if the return is for real ? If only for a short time, but for real. In the middle of a season, when you are struggling, you get the boost of your greatest ever striker turning up for a couple of months. You feel delighted. You wait with bated breath to see what magic awaits you. At the same time, it is at the back of your mind., that you should not expect miracles, this is not the same player anymore. He cannot be.
Except that when he got the chance last night - he just reminded you - how good he can still be.
Thierry Henry was a teenage hero of mine. I really have no words to describe him other than a hero. He was one of the most important reasons for me having a happy life back then. I used to worship him. When he took that sublime first touch, opened up his body and sidefooted the ball into the back of the net - inside out - in an oh so familiar fashion, time stopped. Bang in the middle of the night here in India. It felt like being transported back in time. Deja vu ! Va va voom !
I started with one great blogger. I will end with what another great one - Tim Stillman has to say here.
"..When you stick around it for enough years and you penetrate the hype of Sky`s 'Super, Mega, Ultra Sunday`, you see that every game is a potential classic. Every match a potential soap opera. And every game has a potential storyline that just lifts you up and takes you away. That gifts you the sort of moments that can make you smile at your desk, despite the chronic lack of sleep. It`s true you have to wade through some mediocre fare to get them, but when you do, it makes every second worth it. Life doesn`t give you many moments like that. But if you stick around long enough, football will give you plenty.
On the face of it and to the uninitiated, a 1-0 win 3rd Round Cup win over lower league opposition on a Monday evening has no right to produce such emotion. But it does. And there`s no explaining or rationalising it. You either get it or you don`t..."

By God, this was one such moment. Thank you Thierry Henry.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

The game, Mrs Hudson, is on

I don't do (more accurately - can't do) movie reviews, and I rarely watch TV shows. A combination of factors such as : a) Being a childhood Sherlock Holmes fan;  b) glowing reviews from a number of folks, including this one from @udupendra and c) some free time, meant that I watched Sherlock finally this weekend. IMDB currently rates it a 9. I would say that with a rating of 9, it is under-rated.
This particular version of Sherlock, created by Mark Gatsis and Steven Moffat, has got far less hype than the Guy Ritchie movies in India, at least. But I think, judging by twitter, the series is slowly gaining viewership and popularity.
A detailed review of a detective show would mean that I give out spoilers and so will not give out too many. This reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes is set in 21st century London, in a digital age, filled with mobile phones and blogs. This Sherlock now uses Text messages instead of Telegrams, Dr Watson writes an online blog about Sherlock's cases instead of a hand written diary. And yet, and yet, despite the dramatic change in surroundings, and over a century of difference in time, the series remains faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation in a wonderful way. It took me less than 10 minutes into the first episode - A Study in Pink, to be absolutely smitten. Here when Holmes takes Watson's mobile phone (In Conan Doyle's original - it was his pocket watch I think) and summarizes his past using that, you can instantly start feeling the links to the original. And this feeling has continued through all the 4 episodes so far (3 in Season 1 and 1 in Season 2). I admit that someone who has read the books will love it more, but even if you have not, I would think the show has more than enough to attract you. Each episode is 90 minutes long and so is practically movie length.
A word about the two leads. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes is charismatic, enigmatic, brilliant and talks even faster than Jesse Eisenberg. Cumberbatch is bloody brilliant just like his character. Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson, plays the perfect straight faced foil. Freeman as Watson comes across just as you would have imagined Watson as a kid, without the moustache :).
There is not much else to add here. Watch it ASAP. As he says these days - The Game, Mrs Hudson, IS ON.
PS: Quick Edit on 22nd Jan to put my ratings for the 6 episodes in the first 2 seasons. I watched the last of the episodes this Friday night.
S1, E1: A Study in Pink: 9.5/10.
S1, E2: The Blind Baker: 8/10
S1, E3: The Great Game: 8/10
S2, E1: A Scandal in Belgravia: 9/10
S2, E2: The Hounds of Baskerville: 8.5/10
S2, E3: The Reichenbach Fall: 8/10.
As in the original post, I am not offering any explanations for the ratings to avoid giving out spoilers. It would be fun to compare them with other fans of the show.

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