Friday, May 02, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
1. Rajasthan Royals: After a slow start the overwhelming underdogs have humbled three major teams. Definitely the biggest surprise package so far.
2. King's X1 Punjab: Another slow start with Yuvraj looking completely clueless in the first 2 games, but they have got their act together with back to back wins. Finally, the impressive star cast is coming to form - Sangakkara, Katich, Lee, Hopes, Yuvraj, Jayawardene all delivering.
3. Deccan Chargers: A terrible start finally seems to have been halted with a Gilchrist special. If Gilchrist continues in this vein, this is the team to look out for.
4. Mumbai Indians: The worst imaginable start with 4 defeats in a row but finally a great win over the Knight Riders with the overseas stars coming to the party has got the campaign going. With the imminent return of Tendulkar, things might have turned a corner for the Mumbai Indians.
Teams Going Down
1. Kolkata Knight Riders: Two defeats after two wins and the batting really coming up with nothing after McCullum's fireworks.
2. Bangalore Royal Challengers: After a painstaking win at Mumbai, things are going from bad to worse for Dravid's men. Three consecutive losses and the morale can't be anywhere but in the dumps.
1. Delhi Daredevils: One of the more consistent lineups, had a bit of a hiccup at Mohali, but got their campaign back on track with today's win.
2. Chennai Superkings: Yes ! Rock solid baby ! Right at the top ! With no competitor in sight ! This is beginning to look more and more like a seven team competition to see who can challenge the roaring Lion !!
Throughout the article Mr. Malik finds no reason to delve into specifics satisfying himself with very broad and general terms. He says this about Sreesanth's behavior in the IPL:
He has sledged, abused and provoked rival players, even junior batsmen and plain tyros.
Pray, could you give at least one specific instance ? I do not deny Sreesanth has been chattering away but no one has come up with any complaint with regard to abuse, sledging and provocation. What is sledging anyway ? Sledging is a term that is used very loosely these days. In its classical sense sledging is one gets abusive personally and starts talking in terms of the opponent player's family tree in not very polite language. Well Sreesanth might have done that but there has been no specific incidence, evidence or complaint from anyone. On the other hand several other players have also clearly been indulging in it.
With this solid start, he launches in a further attack:
The fact is Harbhajan is not the best behaved sportsman in the world. Sreesanth hasn’t slapped anyone yet but, overall, he’s even worse.
Fact ? Wouldn't it be more realistic to base this as your perception or opinion ? Or at least the majority opinion ? Do you know how a fact is defined ? Pray what kind of behaviorometer did you use to measure these players, do let me know.
Waving his bat, exercising his pelvic muscles mid-pitch, screaming and shouting, bearing his teeth, grimacing menacingly without reason, Sreesanth is the most visible face of this cricket boor; at least on television. The face, let us accept, is ugly.
Boor ? The English dictionary defines a boor as a churlish, rude or unmannerly person, a peasant, rustic, country bumpkin or a yokel. You might find the face ugly Mr. Malik, I personally found the waving of the bat and shaking of the hips charming and like a breath of fresh air. Yes, he is not a choir girl. No one claimed he was. But why should we just accept what you want us to ? And why should the face matter so much ?
As a parting shot here is what Malik comes up with:
By making a public scene, playing the wronged guy, crying on camera, blaming it on his “fever in the morning”, Sreesanth has betrayed a streak for exhibitionism and a low emotional quotient.
I mean come on - give the guy a break. He is going through a rough phase in his career. His teammate slaps him in public. He is a temperamental emotional guy. Does Malik seriously believe that those tears were fake ? It is one thing to say he could have handled it like a man, some men are different.
The whole piece rakes of callousness deep-seated hatred against one individual.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
My take on this is simple - this is club cricket, not international cricket. Traditionally in such games there are always the old local pros who have been around for donkey's years. They are there to knock some sense in the heads of the young tyros. Imagine how much Kohli would be learning sharing space with Dravid ! Not just about how to bat in this hit-or-miss thing (of which perhaps Dravid might know precious little) but of approach to cricket in general which would help the young kid in the long term in what really matters - his test career.
Often it might happen that these old pros might not come up with the goods. I'm totally okay with that. I think they should be afforded that luxury for their services and reputation. They are the ones who are giving identity to these local teams after all.
What an innings that was against the Knight Riders ! What wrists ! What strokes ! What grace ! What Calypso flavor !
Do not miss out on the highlights - will post the Youtube link when it arrives !
1. sivamani bangalore cricket
2. SHIVAMANI AND DHONI
3. price of Rayban glasses in Kolkata
4. about sreesanth
5. Harbinger singh slapping sreesanth
5. ball trajectory bowling cricket images
6. cricket spectators boundaries want cheer four banners
7. dhoni support of sivamani
8. chennai crowd cricket
I loved #3 and #5 the best
Monday, April 28, 2008
The period was pretty much like the present. I landed in Chennai earlier this year. I was to spend a semester as a visiting student at the
So when these two lovely cities go head to head in the IPL clash this evening, I have more than a minor conflict of emotions in my heart. I know that for the locals this is a needling rivalry and I have friends on both sides who wouldn’t really like me sitting on the fence over this one.
Picking up the cricket connection I have reason to support
Sunday, April 27, 2008
In T20 cricket, like in Test cricket, only the best of the best bowlers can survive. That is why a McGrath will always survive over a Bracken, a Lee over a Sanjay Bangar. These dibbly dobbly bits-and-pieces type bowlers (think Styris, Harris, Larsen, Robin Singh, Bangar, and a whole bunch of others) who made a career out of bowling the "boring" middle overs in a 5050 game will have no place. They will be ruthlessly shown the door and that can only be good for the game.
Look out for more big names among the bowlers to shine - Dale Steyn, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Asif - just to name a few. Oh how I wish Shane Bond was here.
The Biggest Crowds
So far, I had been lucky to be able to travel in largely empty, comfortable trains to and from the stadium. All that changed today, with the infrequent afternoon local train being crammed with an ocean of humanity in a narrow pipeline bursting at the seams. There were cricket fans, of course, flocking in large numbers to attend the “big game” but there were also non-cricket-fans, notably a group of young girls, extremely annoyed with the unexpected hardships in travel they were subjected to. Initially, I was quite thrilled by the rush, for, what is the experience of train travel in an Indian metro if not one defined by one such? Later, however, it got a bit irksome, as I discovered I was being acted upon by several external unbalanced forces, made to undergo random Brownian motion over which I could exert no control. In all the chaos, I was most concerned about guarding my Ray-Ban glasses and more importantly, my match ticket. Luckily, I managed both. Such chaos continued out of the train onto the platform and all the way till I entered the stands, where, luckily things were more orderly.
As earlier, the Chennai Super Kings were going through their warm-ups close to our stand. Stephen Fleming was so close he could have virtually heard any whisper in the crowds. Fleming’s is an awesome presence – watching him on TV all these years, did not give me the true picture of how tall he actually is. Of course, Ishant seems actually taller and he too made his way towards us during their practice. Besides, Ravi Shastri also passed by a couple of times, he went past the stands somewhere and I could have literally shaken hands with him through the fence if I wanted to. And then there was the large Zimbabwean Pommie Mbangwa, who, quite astonishingly looks even more deadly up close than on TV with his flashy hair locks.
As was speculated, Shah Rukh Khan did not make an appearance at the game. Perhaps, he knew his superstar status would have competition here in the South, unlike in the rest of the country. Perhaps he feared that the Chennai team was going to be too strong for his Knight Riders anyway and he stayed away. Perhaps he was simply busy with something else. Anyway, he did send over a couple of his giant 10-feet tall knights (the mascots) over.
Like he did to Steve Waugh in that famous 2001 tour, Ganguly chose to keep Dhoni waiting at the toss too. I must say, it is a most annoying and unsportsmanlike gesture. Back then, I had joined the rest of the Indian fans and applauded it as a masterstroke. But sitting in the stands I appreciate that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth if both captains do not walk out for the toss together.
As the game began, McCullum’s massive six hit the roof of our stand just a few meters away from where I was sitting, it was a phenomenal stroke but soon after that he got out and then Ponting followed; and that was the beginning of what was to be an extremely one-sided game.
I have now been at the Chepauk for day games and night games but today was the first time I was there in day-night game, so to say; and I had the pleasure to see the lights turning on. They follow a very systematic pattern - it is the two central columns which light up first, starting with the top row and going down to the bottom. Then the adjacent columns light up and so it spreads outwards. Llike almost any other landscape in the World, a cricket stadium looks its prettiest at twilight; when illuminated partly by nature and partly by man. It was in this light that Parthiv Patel hooked a short ball from Ajit Agarkar up in the air right into the hands of Ishant Sharma in the deep, one whose trajectory I am happy to say I followed from start to end.
Lastly, I was honored to have the opportunity to shake legs to the beats of the living legend Sivamani. This guy is absolutely amazing. I already mentioned the fact that he moves around the stadium with his drums so that all sections of the crowd can enjoy him. But what I noticed yesterday was that he also plays while he is on the move and his assistant is carrying the drums for him. Besides a great percussionist the guy is also a magnificent showman as I discovered and has the ability to carry the crowds with him. When he parked himself at our stand and beat the drums for our dancing pleasure, I focused on the way his hands moved the sticks.
It was as graceful and subtle as a very skilled batsman with a bat in his hand.
Unfortunately the cricket today was all about brute force and lacked that grace and beauty.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The IPL Party finally arrived at Chennai yesterday – the last of its eight stops all around the country. I had returned to Chennai only the day before and presumed that I was too late to join in. Tickets, it seemed, had sold like hot cakes and I had resigned myself to watching the game on the TV in the hostel room.
With the match scheduled to start at 8 pm, I set out with some vague plan after 5. I had been told by sources that the best chance of picking up tickets at this late hour would be at one of the Landmark bookstores in the city. I tried and failed. Faced with the choice of returning home and taking a chance at the stadium, most likely on a black ticket, I opted for the latter without much hope.
Even before getting off from the train at the Chepauk station, the floodlights from the stadium stared right into my eyes. It was an awe-inspiring sight. I had seen the same light towers day in and day out when I was there for the test match, but at night, the towers are a completely different spectacle. By the time I detrained, and joined in the thronging crowds I was welcomed by the loud music that was doing the rounds inside. The ticket counter was surprisingly still open. Anxiously, I asked for the ticket and I could scarcely believe my luck as the old man calmly told me to hand over Rs. 1000 and tore out one. For the second time in a month, completely unexpectedly, and hence unprepared, I found myself walking through the gates of the Cognizant stand and into the Chidambaram stadium. I had done the right thing by taking the chance.
Though there was still more than a hour and a half to go for the game, the players were already on the field doing their warm-ups, the crowd was already sizeable and the entertainment show was on full blast. This was my first time at any live sport event played at night and the spectacle is awesome! The lush green outfield blends beautifully with the blue of the Mumbai Indians and of course, the yellow of the Chennai Super Kings. Once I was in my seat I tried to figure out who the performer was. Luckily the stage was right opposite to our stand; yet it was too far away to identify the people. Then I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that it was Hariharan who was supposed to be the artist today. Later of course they showed him on the big screen. I haven’t been following that guy’s music too closely but it seems he is projecting himself as more than a musician, more like some sort of a rock-star and he did some dance moves that appeared a bit scary, to be polite. His music was good though and he mixed Tamil numbers with Hindi ones – notable among those I remembered were “Kay Zala?” and “
The crowd was understandably, quite different from the test match crowd a month ago. It was very young, very vibrant crowd, mainly of teenagers and people in their early twenties. And it was a completely festive atmosphere with everyone partying their hearts out, dancing and singing. There was ample amount of cheering and applause for players from both teams as well as for the entertainers. And in the middle of it all suddenly everyone went crazy and I couldn’t understand why – and later realized it was Vijay, the super star of
Once Hariharan was done with his show some time before the toss, Sivamani, the famous Tamil percussionist took over with his drums. He was great – throughout the Chennai innings he stirred up the crowds with his beats and moved all around the perimeter of the ground so that all sections got a chance to soak him in. Dance and music was the theme of the night and for once, a purist like me, did not crib about cricket being only a part of the whole. If you have been watching IPL on TV thinking it is big, you haven’t seen anything yet. You have just got to go out there in the stadium to feel what passion, what heat this thing has generated all over young
As the game began and Chennai Super Kings batted each boundary was greeted with a new piece of music from Sivamani and others, and the crowds rose to his beats and tunes. There were cheerleaders, yes, of both camps; and the poor gals and guys of the Mumbai Indians got very few chances to cheer during the Chennai innings. But we loved their anthem and some of their numbers. In fact I could relate more to some of the Mumbai numbers because naturally I was unaware of some of the super-hit Tamil numbers that had the rest jumping from their seats and me a bit confused. The weird part though was that the cheerleaders were fully clad in trousers perhaps bearing in mind the relatively conservative culture of Chennai. I mean what next? Cheerleading with sweaters on in this heat?
Coming to the cricket, I can now appreciate how difficult it is to catch those high catches under lights. Several times looking straight up into the lights I completely lost the ball. Yet several wonderful catches were taken – notably by Bravo, Joginder, Raina and Badrinath. We cheered Hayden as one of our own yet he didn’t really show much appreciation after reaching his 50. The strokeplay on either side was spectacular – Raina for Chennai and Bravo, Jayasuruiya, Utthappa, Nayyar and Bhajji from Mumbai. The new fast bowler Gony from Chennai was most impressive. He was bowling away from us and I could feel the weight his ball generated troubling the top players like Jayasuriya. I also noticed Harbhajan completely lost as a captain and towards the end of the innings Jayasuriya was taking the lead helping him out adjusting the field and swapping fielders.
As the match reached a climax, the crowd tensed up just a little bit. It was an open game with three balls to go but somehow with Dhoni on our side I never believed we could lose. It was oh so similar to the T20 World Cup final with Joginder messing up at the start before holding his nerve to win. It was a massive roar and a collective sigh of relief that followed the win. It had been an amazing game and an astonishing spectacle of cricket and one grand party. To make it even more special the presentation lasted beyond midnight which meant it was Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday. There were several attempts to attract attention to this fact and that we remembered it by the crowd, unfortunately Tony Cozier during his presentation didn’t quite lap it up and I don’t know if Sachin received our wishes. Of course, he was cheered everytime he made an appearance on the big screen.
The Indian Premier League like a superhit Bollywood (or Kollywood) movie has enjoyed a grand opening. I hope it can sustain this success because it is just great. It has managed to harness the passion and energy of a whole generation of Indians. There is no reason to believe why it can’t go on to match the Premier Leagues of football in
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Such incidents resulting from Dravid being the erudite, classic scholarly captain leading a team of brash young street-smart cricketers from the play-station generation little intent on bookish knowledge with short attention spans did ultimately contribute to his having to resign from the post.
Now, the other day, when leading BRC against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede, when Mark Boucher went in to join Jacques Kallis at a crucial juncture, Dravid chose to encourage him in his own unique style again - instead of a pat on the back or exhorting words, he merely reminded Boucher that he and Kallis had at the same venue 8 years ago built a match-winning partnership to win a Test match against India.
This time it worked !
Monday, April 21, 2008
When Harbhajan got him caught and bowled, there was sufficient reason to question the catch and Dravid did for a moment. One could see him shake his head and actually look at the square leg umpire before he asked Bhajji and took Bhajj's word for it. Whether or not it was a clean catch is another question. I'm sure Bhajji was in his mind, completely honest he had caught it. But I'm also sure if it had gone to the third umpire, Rahul would have got the benefit of the doubt.
But I'm sure after that initial instinctive reaction Rahul immediately looked at the bigger picture. What repercussions would there have been all over the World especially in Australia if the picture was painted that Indian players themselves did not trust Harbhajan's word ? It would have been Christmas in Australia, it would have damaged Harbhajan's international career and had at least some medium term effects on the morale of Team India.
Kudos to the great man for his statesmanship and big-heartedness once again. Salute !
Friday, April 11, 2008
Weird. Here is a sample commentary.
56.4 Sreesanth to de Villiers, no run, better length outside off stump, de Villiers leaves it be this time
On a related note - what's up with Sreesanth and all these slower balls ? So boring.
Friday, April 04, 2008
If anyone in this team needs to be under the scrutiny it is this man - MS Dhoni. Mr Superstition who believes in sacrifising lambs and in exercising his power over senior players who have achieved heights he can only dream of at this stage.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Cricinfo has gone bonkers. It is crazily exaggerating the so-called 20-20 fever that has gripped the country. It might be the most lucrative form of the game – I don’t know why that should make writers like Dileep Premachandran jealous of its success. Anyway it is highly doubtful if it can be classified as the least-skilled form of the game as from whatever I have seen it extracts more skills out of bowlers than the boring 50 over format.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
It was a frustrating morning. Certainly, the wicket was a bit more helpful to the bowlers today than any earlier time. All the ingredients of a turner were there, it was just that it did not happen soon enough for this test to live. The spinners bowled quite well in the morning. We saw Sreesanth drop a simple catch – this was also a new experience, to see and feel a dropped catch on the field – and RP a tougher one off his own bowling. The crowd was expectedly a bit less and less vocal today.
I experimented with my seating position in the stands today, given the status of the game. It has long been an accepted axiom that the best place to watch the game is from behind the bowler’s arm, and staying true to it I had got myself as close to this angle as physically possible in the stand. It is also said that the mid-wicket view, the side-ways view is the worst. Today, after tea, I decided to try out this particular view. It was a revelation. It shattered years of blind belief in what had been passed down as gospel. Like several others, (play in the V, get your foot to the pitch of the ball, play out the first few overs) this was a cricketing myth. It was enlightening and wonderful. While it is obviously true that the line of the ball cannot be judged from that view, it is just as obvious that it is the optimal position to follow length, and resultantly, bounce. Duh! It is just simple geometry, when one comes to think about it. If line is what you want to observe, stay behind the bowler’s arm, if it is length, stay at mid-wicket. And who is to say which is more important? Michael Holding, famously said, “Line is optional, length is mandatory”. I guess it depends on your perspective for the moment. Today, when there was little turn, and Harbhajan relying on the bounce, it was the right choice I made.
If there was one aspect of the game I had not been able to witness it was a great catch. And that discrepancy was rectified when RP Singh pulled off a blinder at square leg. I saw the ball from the time it left Bhajji’s hand till it reached RPs. It was a matter of a fraction of a second! Wonderful. It was at this point that I felt sure that I did the right thing in coming today.
All along Harbhajan was bowling beautifully. This was one of the things I enjoyed most in the Test even amidst the towering batting performances of all and sundry. He takes some time to settle but once he gets the line and loop going he can be beautiful to watch.
The bounce is the best part to watch in Harbhajan’s bowling, along with the flight. Ashwell Prince’s wicket was memorable for me. I was a bit distracted today given the state of the match but luckily just focused on that particular delivery. It was slower, given good flight bounced and ended up in the hands of short leg. Again, I followed the trajectory of the ball all the way. Awesome.
With the wicket of Amla just before lunch the last dire hopes were rekindled and I decided to stay on. A bit surprisingly so did most of the crowd. But it was not meant to happen. It was petering out to a tame draw. Kumble left the field – and with part-timers Sehwag and Laxman on, there was no denying the inevitable. Yet, it did not get boring. The crowd did not leave or turn silent; on the contrary it turned more vocal. And strangely, I felt the same way too. What was happening? Suddenly it dawned upon me. The match was over as a contest between two nations, but the cricketing contest was still on.
It ended rather abruptly, and quite aptly so. It would have been overkill to have gone on any longer. The presentation was expectedly a major anti-climax. There was no mention of Dravid’s achievement. However Makhaya Ntini once again obliged us with his dance. He ventured almost into the stands and shook hands and signed autographs for several kids.
The match was over. Cricinfo reported it as a boring draw. I reported it otherwise. I guess they were right. I don’t care about them though. I will remember these five days for the rest of my life.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The excitement was tremendous. It had been perfectly set up. The expectations were endless. More history was anticipated. No one wanted to miss out. All roads led to Chepauk.
I had to be on time. I could afford to slack on earlier days but not today. I didn’t. And it was a good thing. Sehwag turned the very first ball for a single and broke his own record for the highest ever individual score by an Indian. A couple of boundaries later the hearts began racing. Pictures of the world record were already being formed. Only to be rudely woken up from the dream. Sehwag was out, caught in the slips. An epic had ended.
The applause was staggering. After a pause for a fraction of a millisecond it resumed again to welcome Sachin Tendulkar. This ground is like a home away from home for him. But he disappointed. No matter. We cheered again, this time for Ganguly. Some of his strokes were beautiful.
But another milestone was coming – 10000 runs for Rahul Dravid. It came via a single, played in our direction. The reaction was quite special. It was a massive ovation from crowd renowned for its knowledge ability. Dravid appreciated it. It meant a lot to him. He celebrated in a manner he seldom does. Rarely does he celebrate hundreds like the way he did his eightieth run today. For some reason he seemed to have taken a particular liking towards our section. This could not possibly be true, but I’m pretty sure I could feel him looking me in the eye and raising his bat as I saluted. Dravid is legend and my admiration for him is beyond description. Even on this monumental day people cribbed about his batting. He didn’t care. I didn’t care. We didn’t care. It was very special for him and for me.
Today was the first time I felt under some pressure to protect my vantage point seat in the stand with the larger crowd. Also, I believe I came on camera today. At least it was very difficult for me not to have, since the cameraman shot right at us from about 10 feet away. I was holding up a banner proclaiming I had come all the way from the
As Dravid played some crisp strokes towards the end of the innings I was also treated to some Very Very Specials from Laxman. Just like watching Sehwag in the stadium as opposed to on TV is special, so is it with VVS. The thump is replaced by the touch. The loud thud is replaced by a sweet ting. But the end product is just as spectacular. Dhoni, however, disappointed. Steyn’s bowling towards the end was quite superb especially the two consecutive bouncers he bowled at Dhoni and the way he shattered the tail. It was high quality pace bowling the full weight of which can only be experienced when live than on TV. This was preceded by another very good spell by Ntini in the morning in which he removed Sehwag, Tendulkar and Dravid all caught at slip. The overcast conditions could have been a factor too. And then in the evening Harbhajan and Kumble just about began to pose some problems. It was wonderful to see so many different art forms (fast bowling, swing bowling, off spin, leg spin) all being exhibited on a day.
One of Dale Steyn’s express deliveries hit Sreesanth badly on the hand when he was batting. Sree was in pain, but clearly he was mentally ruffled too. He fielded right in front of us for most of the time and was fiddling with his hand all the while. Several times he had the physio look at it. Also he seemed very angry about it. Usually he responds to the crowd cheering with a wave but this time he was only looking away. Later, however, he himself took the initiative and got the crowd – which had gone somewhat silent – involved. He egged us to cheer on which we duly did of course, not that it helped. A lot of Indian players have been more interactive with the crowds because of Makhaya Ntini. Ntini really is a hit with the crowds, perhaps because this is going to be his home ground in the IPL. At first he was a bit confused, but once he realized the crowd was gaga over him he responded fabulously – every time he is placed on the boundary the crowd went wild, and Ntini broke into some African dance jig. It should be fun having a character like him for the IPL.
This match as of today appears dead and it has been somewhat of a letdown after the highs of yesterday. However I am not one to crib – not after being as honored I have been over the past 2 days. I still hold out hope for some possibility of a result tomorrow.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I wasn’t expecting to do so as I boarded the by now familiar train to Chepauk. After all who does ever? The day began with a tinge of cloud in the air. It was the first minor weather concern for the test match. Luckily, it blew past. Maybe the heavens, unlike me, expected history to be written today and did not wish to interrupt.
I missed the first couple of overs. That was all I missed. What happened after that has been written in one glorious chapter in the annals of cricket, and, in a very small way, I was part of it. I stood up to applaud as Sehwag completed his 100, his 150, his 200, his 250 and his 300. I cheered 42 boundaries and 5 sixes. It was the fastest triple hundred ever and Viru was only the third man to cross 300 twice – the other 2 being some little known cricketers, Bradman and Lara. Though I still did not carry my camera, I recorded that moment in the evening when he flicked Makhaya Ntini towards square leg for a single in my memory forever.
He always looked in the mood to attack today. Up until yesterday I was looking at the field, figuring out the possibilities where runs could be scored and deliberating about lines of attack for the bowlers. All such trivialities were thrown out of the window today. The fields, the lines, the bowlers all became irrelevant. Sehwag was seeing the ball, Sehwag was hitting the ball.
A lot had been said up until today in all sorts of places about the flat Chennai wicket and the way it was detrimental to the cause of test cricket and depriving the fans of a good contest. That might be so, but all I can say is, while I might have missed a “good contest”, I had the opportunity to witness history. I am not complaining. My only grouse is that because I am not a historian I may be incompetent to narrate it. Therefore, I shall not attempt to do so. I would make a fool of myself trying to confine the magnificence of Sehwag’s innings by bounding it in adjectives. I will leave it at that.
Throughout the innings Dravid was supporting Sehwag superbly, maybe not in the best way in terms of rotating the strike, but certainly in terms of providing encouragement and appreciation. At every landmark he patted him on his shoulder, egged him onto greater heights and when the big moment came, entered into a great hug. But the most wonderful moment of the day came at the end of the day’s play. Sehwag was just done with the customary Ramiz Raja interview when Tendulkar all padded up walked out and broke into a most wonderful brotherly hug. At this point, I was only a few feet away from the action and the smile on Sachin’s face was to be cherished forever.
Later, while Sachin was waiting for his net session to begin, Yuvraj and Dhoni were pulling each other’s legs. Dhoni tried to mimic Yuvi by taking a left-handed upright stance and Yuvi returned the favor completely taking a right-handed slightly crouched stance tapping the bat a few times like MS usually does.
The stadium was almost 80% full today. This figure increased to 90 by the end of the day. There was a group of rather vocal MBA students sitting right behind me. They were apparently terribly distressed by the fact that not many people agreed that the best way to be enthusiastic about the game was to shout at the top of their voice. The content, while irrelevant, was mostly inane. At least one of them seemed particularly angry with the way Jaffer and later Dravid were batting and made it known to all that he had paid Rs. 300 to buy the ticket and he wanted every paisa worth. He very wisely described the Chennai crowd as “too knowledgeable” and “too sporting” and went gaga over how wild the Mumbai crowd could get. He further went on to say, nay shout, that he wanted to see Tendulkar bat today, that he didn’t care about how many wickets we lost and reiterated that he had indeed paid Rs. 300 to get in.
While this was a bit stupid and grew tiresome at times, the group as a whole was nice lively company. In their attempts to get wild, one of the things they did was to try to initiate the Mexican wave. Now, I have already described how I was part of the Mexican wave yesterday. To join it is great fun, but to initiate it is a job that requires a lot of patience and persistence. Several times it dies out within the first few degrees across the stadium. But once the spark is lit it spreads like wild fire. And it is even greater fun knowing you were one of those who lit the spark.
Once again, at the risk of repeating myself I stress – I witnessed history today. Some souls, undoubtedly more lucky than me, watched the ICL.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The Indira Nagar station had another surprise in store for me today. I had, I thought walked for an eternity once again until I reached the location of that most wonderfully isolated ticket counter only to find it absent. I was a bit ruffled, after all I needed to get the ticket. Soon, I realized, that I needed to walk down towards a further eternity. Eventually I got there. The person at the counter today was not as helpful, but efficient nevertheless.
I planned to attend the afternoon sessions today ostensibly to prove to myself that I was spending some time at work and to leave open the opportunity to report to my advisor.
I really enjoyed watching Harbhajan’s spell this evening. He bowled a very good and tight line, got good bounce, kept tempting the batsmen and was rewarded. There was a brief period when he chose to go round the wicket. I could clearly see the move was flawed, looking at the offside field which was right below my nose. I could see that with the angle several gaps were available for exploitation. Luckily he figured this out soon and switched back.
Today I tried to focus on what players do between overs. Why is it that over-rates are so poor? Of course with a right-left batting combination things always get complicated with continuous field changes. I saw both bowler and captain make changes to the field right up to the last moment pulling the boundary fielders couple of feet closer, a few degrees wider and so on. I saw players, particularly Ganguly taking their own sweet time to assume position. In this aspect it has to be said that
The lasting memory for today will be the Mexican wave in the crowd. I have always loved this phenomenon which seems to be shockingly banned at some venues in
At the end of the day’s play today I waited for a bit and tried to get right down on level with the playing field. RP Singh was coming out for a bat in the nets and Dhoni was already having kids throw at him as he tried to perfect his shots. This was happening barely about 10 feet away from where we were standing. I hung out for some more time as Gary Kirsten, Prasad and Sreesanth also made their way out. I made a mental note that this was perhaps the best opportunity for photos/autographs if any.
After walking for a seemingly endless time through spaces that seemed to be created exclusively for me, I reached the tiny ticket counter. Luckily, I knew that Chepauk was one of the stations on the track in the direction of
The train arrived soon enough. Now I have very rarely traveled in local trains, only once in a Mumbai local train, and that was the afternoon local from Churchgate to Victoria Terminus. I know of course what train travel in Mumbai is via accounts from friends and the media. Yeah, you can call me a spoilt child, I know. I knew Chennai wouldn’t be as bad as Mumbai, but was extremely pleasantly surprised to find that it was almost a ride in the park – it was not crowded at all, which could either mean the operation is a big success or a big failure depending on the way you look at it.
On the train was another young guy wearing a Google-ACM-geekish looking T-shirt and carrying a backpack on his shoulder. After some time, he asked me (in Tamil of course) something related to Chepauk. Naturally, I expressed helplessness. He asked the same of another man and was apparently satisfied with the answer. I do not know an iota of Tamil but I could figure out that he was asking about Chepauk station. I ventured to ask him (in English) whether he was going to see the match. He was. He seemed a nice bloke. I felt happy to see someone eager to go to the match making sure he made it on time. “Stay back, enemy, you still have some way to go so long as we have our staunch loyalists fighting.” – I thought to myself. At the same time I felt a tinge sad that I was not going to be there at the stadium today.
I knew that the stadium was close to the station and was reasonably confident of finding my way around but I received another pleasant surprise on discovering that I was already there as soon as I put my foot outside the complex. Surely, things were falling into place today. Surely, I would not have any problems in getting tickets now? I asked for the ticket counter, for the stands that my friend had recommended as reasonable yet offering a good view and comfortable seats. Just outside the counter I met another young guy who seemed quite desperate to sell one of the tickets he had bought. It was a ticket for all 5 days worth Rs. 1200. He was willing to sell it for Rs. 1000. I, of course, was planning to buy tickets only for the weekend, which would have cost me about Rs. 600. But, right at that moment, looking at the crowds streaming in, I found the offer too tempting and surrendered myself to my instincts. I had a 5-day pass and I could if I wanted to go watch the Test any time I wanted. I was still not sure I had the energy to do this but I wanted to go in right at that moment and not be on the train back to IMSC. My return ticket was valid for the whole day after all. I confirmed with the guy that the ticket was indeed genuine, handed him 2 notes of Rs. 500, felt a bit awkward with so many policemen watching me trade in the black market and then walked in through the gate.
Security check was a breeze. No problems whatsoever. As soon as I entered the stands I was convinced I had been stupid all along to even hesitate about coming here. I have watched a few ODI games in Nehru Stadium, Pune with varying degrees of enthusiasm and enjoyment but none of the experiences come close to watching real cricket in an arena. The Chidambaram Stadium is quite beautiful. The officials have done a good job in making sure that the stadium retains a sense of cool because as is well-known the heat and humidity can get brutal here. Towards that end, not only are all stands well-covered and the better ones provided with adequate cooling facilities but the colors are most soothing – green and blue. In addition, the stands are covered by cement material which helps to keep them cool.
The crowd was great. It was by no means a full house, but equally you could not call it disappointing. It was a vociferous crowd making plenty of noise. It had groups of youngsters flocking in, it had couples – young and old, fathers explaining to their sons nuances of this great game, and sons, in turn, asking curious questions. It had a fair sprinkling of the female population of all ages – another pleasant surprise and also a few South African supporters, both black and white. The crowd made a lot of noise using all sorts of improvised musical instruments but the show-stealer was the African group singing at the top of their voices. A group of Indian youth tried to compete with them, most unsuccessfully. But, importantly, the crowd lived up to its reputation of being extremely knowledgeable. It cheered the fall of wickets as also delightful strokes, it applauded the great bouncers as also the maiden overs, it appreciated the delightful flicks as much as the solid forward defensives. And no, there were no thugs or goons or politicians in there. Yes, there was a fair number of policemen, who also got a chance to enjoy the game. Indeed, the fact that the crowd was lesser in quantity as compared to what it would have been in an ODI enhanced its own quality and made viewing a pleasing experience. Test cricket is alive and kicking in this country. “Boo, Enemy, Boo”
All in all, I realized that the idea of cricket watching in stadiums in
The view from where I sat, while not being optimal was quite a decent one. It was the fineleg-long-off angle from the point of view of a left-handed batsmen. Several of the players fielded close to our position at different times and we could look at them up close. Most players were responsive to the crowd’s appreciation – Sreesanth, RP Singh, being the foremost. Harbhajan Singh also spent a fair bit of time at our boundary and while Sachin never patrolled it, he came halfway towards on occasions. I had heard that cameras were on the list of prohibited items so I had opted not to risk carrying mine. I have a poor recent history with cameras, but apparently smaller cameras could be sneaked in quite easily. Of course mobile phone cameras were omnipresent. One interesting tidbit in the day was when Sreesanth was fielding at the boundary a couple of the ball-boys while offering him water also passed on some advice. Sreesanth smiled and patted the kids on the back then told them that he would be catching the ball on the boundary pretty soon and showed them how he would do it. Of course that catch never came.
The cricket itself was reasonably entertaining. Not the best ever seen, by any stretch of imagination. I enjoyed the strokeplay by Smith and McKenzie as also their wickets taken by Kumble and Harbhajan. But those moments when the game gets boring when you watch on TV are conspicuously absent when you are in the stands – possibly because there are so many things going on that you can keep track of – on the pitch, in the outfield, on the boundary, in the stands and in all other places. Besides you also do not feel the frustration of your team not doing too well that you do when watching from home. I think this is because you see the players so close out there performing and realize that they are trying their best. This I think is very similar to the difference between watching cinema and watching theater. Watching test cricket in the battleground arena is the ultimate theater.
Amidst this awesome experience, I always knew at the back of my mind that I needed to report for work at some point in the day. Reluctantly, I returned at tea time. I would be back however – maybe in the afternoon tomorrow and then all through the weekend. This is going to be an experience to cherish.
Tomorrow is the big test between
I am not sure I am going to watch the game. This is the first time I am living in a city when a Test match is being held there and hence my first real opportunity to watch a “live” game from the stands but somehow I’m not too enthused about it.
Maybe the enemy has worn me out – the enemy in this case being the general notion of the decline of Test cricket doing the rounds. The enemy does its job well. It issues propaganda about how this series is squeezed between two “major” events – the CB Series and the IPL and makes it out to be little more than a minor distraction. It proclaims loudly and proudly about how the Chepauk is all set to be the home of some individuals who collectively call themselves “Superkings” – if only they could come up with a less terrible name! Sigh!
The enemy is not the only obstacle though. I need to get myself out of my usual inertia. I have heard many stories and have had some first-hand experience of how watching cricket matches in stadia in
Plus, this is a new place for me. I have never ventured into Chennai city in the one month I have been here, having confined myself to the area around IMSC. I have no idea about how public transport works in this place – and presume, maybe somewhat unfairly, that it would not be too good.
I don’t even know where I can get tickets – which are the good seats and how available the tickets are. My earlier experience in Pune tells me that you get the tickets – very expensive ones if you wish a decent view – through some contacts and then hope all the mayor’s thugs do not come and kick you out of your legitimate seat. How am I going to handle all this here in this foreign city ?
Also, I have few friends around here and I am convinced none of them will be willing to accompany me – not because, I am particularly obnoxious company but simply because they have already succumbed to the enemy or endorse the enemy themselves. Or maybe they don’t want to spend time and money watching the test match, again a passive way of supporting the enemy. Doing all of the above all by myself? Conducive to inertia, I must say.
Moreover, I am supposed to be doing research here. I have just come back after spending a week vacationing in
All these put together mean I have pretty much resigned myself to missing out on this experience. To make matters somewhat worse, I am not going to be able to watch the game on TV either. The game is only shown on NEO Sports which is not available here at the guesthouse. Great! Looks like a complete victory for the enemy.
Late at night, I am killing time on the Internet, chatting, reading trash and visiting cricket forums, when one of my “net-friend” confirms he is going to be there in the stadium for the last 3 days of the Test match. This is the first time that a little bit of spark is ignited in me.
I begin to consider the possibility of stepping out of my inertia, of standing up to the enemy. Why, I ask myself, am I letting go of this rare opportunity? Why am I meekly surrendering to the two enemies – the enemy within and the enemy outside? No, I decide, I must make an effort. As I go to bed I entertain thoughts of taking the Chennai metro (which I have never given much thought to before and which I only vaguely know takes me to my destination) to Chepauk.
I decide to compromise – I need to work I say, so I shall probably get tickets only for the weekend. But I’ll buy them tomorrow morning at the stadium which will give me an idea of how to find my way around the city. I feel contented. I have taken a small step standing up to the enemy. I sleep.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Anil Kumble's statesmanlike stewardship and his master stroke of "only one team is playing in the spirit of cricket" ?
Sachin Tendulkar laying his finals demons to rest with that astonishing performance ?
Harbhajan fighting his way out against the entire Australia ?
The smirk wiped from Ricky Ponting's face ?
What is your abiding memory ?
I'll tell you mine - I don't think many of you will share it and maybe it is just my personal bias - but for me it is that over on that glorious morning in Sydney when VVS Laxman hit 4 boundaries off Mitchell Johnson. Up until that time Indian batting was as pathetic as you could possibly imagine and those 4 shots virtually broke all the shackles - Indian batsmen rediscovered freedom with them ... what a player ! What an artist !
Friday, February 29, 2008
Allow me to henceforth refer to Sir Matthew Hayden as "An Obnoxious Fat Pig". So the "Obnoxious Fat Pig" called one of our players "mad boy" in one of the games and I have reason to believe that "boy" when used to address persons from the subcontinent is a racist term.
This is because in history since people from the subcontinent were short in stature and used to work as "coolies" in Africa the Europeans often referred to them as "coolie boy", hence the connotation.
Needless to say I am deeply offended by it. It could well be that you had never had any idea of this just like we never had any idea that "monkey" was a racist term, however that should not matter, and something must be done to redress the insult we as a race have felt.
It is possible that you may not find any writen documentation on this and you may accuse me of creating this as a figment of my imagination. Let me assure you that in Indian culture passing of knowledge has largely been verbal and not documented and I can vouch that this knowledge has been passed on to me via my family right from the time of my great grandfather's second cousin's father-in-law who was similarly racially insulted when Britain ruled over India.
I hope you realize that every culture needs to be respected and our tradition of passing on knowledge verbally needs to be too. I hope you will act upon my grouse.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Just earlier this year these bowlers (well Zaheer and RP at least) bowled us to one of our greatest series wins ever and then within six months we have lost all of them to injuries. All because they played so many one day games. schedules, officials, ignorant public !
It is obvious that the India Australia test series is the most important thing in cricket and yet these fools made no effort to preserve these valuable resources for a important series.
Today when our bowlers are unable to create an impression on the flat slow Adelaide wicket my minds goes back to thinking how Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth and RP Singh could have made a difference. And even if they hadn’t isn’t it important to have our best possible men serving at such an important time.
Mark me, I have nothing against Ishant Sharma. He is a fine young bowler and I believe he has a great future ahead (Oh hang on has he ? Who is to say that he won’t succumb to injuries like Zak and Sreesanth and RP did due to that ODI cricket ?)
Even Irfan Pathan – although in his case the immediate reason was slightly different – but it was still ODI cricket that did him in IMO. Anyway I don’t see any one do any thing about it. The BCCI of course don’t care at all. All they are bothered about is the money. No long term planning, no goals no targets whatsoever. Oh yeah there are targets in terms of money but no targets in terms of cricketing achievements.
If they had they would have marked out the tour to Australia as a important (what an understatement) event in their calendars and tried to conserve and optimize their resources for it. Once they identified the fast bowlers who bowled us to victory in England every effort should have been made to conserve them for the big series down under.
This is certainly not the way to go about it. Between the 2 big series India played 20 one day internationals not to mention another 3 test series and 8 2020 games. Not just that so many of our resources were expended on these largely meaningless ODIs.
Zaheer played in 17 of these ODIs, Sreesanth 5 and RP a 13. Add to that Sreesanth and RP played in all 2020 games too. Predictably Sreesanth missed all 7 tests, RP missed 4 and Zak missed 4 more importantly almost all the ones in Australia.
To be continued …