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Have started a new blog at wordpress. Already post twice there. Please do check them.
» 10 reasons why the T20 World Cup is better than the IPL.

  1. No “soap opera” happenings on the sidelines if you can discount the genital warts (well, the PCB cannot exist without pulling off some embarrassing stunts) and the “team unity” press conference (Dhoni does do things differently).
  2.  No DLF maximums. A hit over the boundary is a six and not a product of a real estate company.
  3. No shilling of tournament magazines (which by the way is one of the crappiest ways to spend a hundred bucks…not that I spent a single rupee) and continuous thanking of the sponsors. We get the fact that they are funding your food, drink and parties. Stop banging it in our heads.
  4. One can actually see the action without putting the TV on mute. The T20 WC commentary team is diverse, subtle, speaks when necessary, does not shout with excitement unless something extraordinary has happened and more importantly, is knowledgeable. The IPL commentary team was the exact opposite except for its diversity. Also this time we got Kumble. The man used to bowl leg spinners, has captained the country and is a thorough gentleman. Now one can see that he can talk like Benaud also. And that voice! Holding sure got competition for the manliest voice in the commentary box.
  5. The boundaries are long. Very long. A six (not a maximum) has to be actually earned. It is no surprise that the most successful batsmen here are good technicians and not flat track bullies. One could say that IPL 2 also had lesser sixes. But it was more due to compulsions since the tournament was moved in the last minute and that the end of season South African pitches were not flat tracks. If it had happened in India, we sure would have seen 65 yard boundaries, flat tracks and unreal amount of DLF Maximums (not sixes). After all, it is all about repeating your sponsors’ names until it is drilled in the very essence of our being.
  6. There is a real purpose in watching the game. An IPL match seems just like a form of entertainment and the players seem to represent their employers and not their countries. I do not mind the Mumbai Indians losing (they do play pathetic at times) but never like the Indians losing (even when one feels that they seriously need a kick up their back sides now…which the West Indians have provided in style). City based franchisee competitions still has to find acceptance in cricket like it has in football. Then again, even the format in football is criticized as being too money centric and one that discounts club loyalty.
  7. The cricket is of a higher standard. The IPL does have some of the best players but not all of them are the best. The 4 overseas player restriction means that a minimum of 56 Indian players had to play. And India and for that matter any other country does not have that many world class players. So you had the finer players having to shield the weaker players. All IPL teams were a mix of great players and those whose standards were not up to it. Here there are no such issues and a team can play its 11 best players. We do have weak teams but the better teams do not seem to have weak links. Hence a match between two top teams is of a better quality than the match between the top two IPL teams.
  8. Not much of Modi. In the IPL, when the commentators were not shilling the magazine or the sponsors, they were singing paeans about the lisping egomaniac. Everyone was sucking up to him whether it is Shastri (Moses Modi. Really?) Granted Modi has done a great job in getting the IPL show running. However it is not as if cricket would have died a miserable death if he had not been born. In this World Cup, there was just one shot of Modi standing in his usual showman style and gesturing towards no one in particular. The commentators kept quite and I kept my finger off the mute button.
  9. No opening ceremony. Granted it was cancelled due to bad weather. Seems like the Gods above were in a good mood and spared us the agony.
  10. No strategy break. Enough said.

» Chapter 2 - Ignorance is bliss.

"Hope it is not a rejection letter"
This was my first reaction when the admission letter from K came to my house. Till that time, all I had seen was "Candidate not selected" or "please wait for the next list". The first lists of all the IIMs had already been released and no call had been forthcoming. I was depressed and hopeless. My CET preparations were going badly and I was seriously thinking of applying for a job.

Actually going into the whole CAT exercise, I knew it would be tough to get into an IIM. That inspite of a score of 99.48 percentile while put me roughly in the top 600 of the approximately 100000 people who gave CAT in that year. The reasons for the conservtive outlook were many - I was a BCom fresher (i.e. no work experience), had never exceeded 81% marks after my sixth standard and was not into the "hep" extra curricular activities (elocution, class representativegiri, etc.)

Now I was no dud student in any ways. However I am talking of some seriously high standards. I had three common GD team members in most of my GD/Interviews. This seemingly coincidental meeting of us four was due to a small but big fuckup by the great Mumbai University (small for them but BIG for me and my fellow sufferers). Normally the 3rd year BCom exams happen in May. Actually most Graduation exams happen in May. Which is why the IIMs and other MBA instis hold their GDPI (Group Discussion and Personal Interview) in March and April with the hope that the freshers are able to give their exams peacefully fresh with the knowledge that they have been selected and need to get only 50-55% since their life has already been set (maybe not what they set out to do but this was how I was thinking). Trust the Mumbai University to screw up matters. They preponed the exams to coincide bang in between the scheduled interviews. Unfortunate events normally lead to the congregation of the unfortunates. This is how I met these three dudes. We four along with our concerned -yet- pissed parents started the "reschedule exams and/or GDPI" campaign. Getting the beauraucratic behemoth like the Mumbai University to reschedule their exams for four piddly students was going to be like getting Sehwag to bat all day with the strike rate of a Dravid. Still we tried and our efforts went in vain.

What followed was a heap of mails to the IIMs requesting, nay begging them to reschedule the interviews. The IIMs were more accomodating. They tried their best to accomodate us. Still two of my GDPIs happened on exam days. I remember waking up in the morning, running off to the exam centre, giving the exam, grabbing a quick snack, meeting my father who had bought me my formalwear for theinterview, changing my dress in the stinking bathroom of the exam centre, then running out to catch a taxi which transported us to the interview centre in the nick of time for the IIMC interview, going through the GD and PI process and after it was all done, sit in the lobby of the centre with these three co- unfortunates and start studying for the next day's exams. It was kind of ironical that this next day's exam was the one where I scored the most.

Now that I have rambled about how I met these three co - unfortunates, let me go back to my point i.e. of the high standards. Of these three:
-One was a habitual merit lister who found time out of pursuing his full time hobby of standing first in all the exam he gave to complete a two year NIIT course. He used to say that he had not much time to concentrate on his TY exams. He eventually got 84%. I got 70%. And I was supposed to be one of the brighest.

-The second was similar to the first one. Not much remarkable about him. He ended up barely making the cut in IIML in the third list.

-The third was a virtual piece of awesome. Till that time his list of achievements read like this:
Founder of a youth oriented NGO
Writer of three books
Columnist in a very popular youth newspaper
Winner of some 50 odd inter collegiate awards.
And he was just 21 at that time.
This piece of work got into IIMB, was chosen as best all rounder and ended up starting his own business.

Knowing these chaps was a great but depressing experience. Great as in I got to know some genuinely bright guys who were not all about mugging up and vomitting out answers. Depressing as in how in front of them, I found myself to be just a regular average boy who just had that 99.48 percentile to show off as a mark of his intelligence. If I had known then that the CAT score forms a negligible part of the final selection (this was divulged in early 2007 when someone asked for the selection criteria using the RTI Act), I would have got into one big depression and not performed that well in the GDPIs, which is what I seriously think got me into IIMK. Seriously ignorance is bliss!

» Chapter 1 - "Day One"

The stomach feels very strange. It seems as if all air within it was being slowly sucked out and a vacuum created within its walls. In fact it is not strange at all. It is a feeling I had experienced quite a few times in the 23 years of my life - before exams, before presentations, before proposing to a girl (only to get rejected….again), etc. This is that distinct feeling that one got when they knew that the few minutes from now, your life is going to change. You are worried whether the change is for the better or for worse.


I am walking up and down the corridor trying to control my nervousness. People around me are watching me walking, nay bounding all over the corridor and are asking me to slow down. Chill dude, thand le, tension mat le are some of the words said to calm me down or at least stop me from doing my Road Runner imitation. I want to stop but can’t. If I stop walking, the mind will stop working on propelling my legs to make me move faster and start to think about the next few minutes. Then it will think about the million ways the next minutes could get screwed up and the million ways in which life would get fucked up. These thoughts of screw ups and fuck ups would make it forget all the hours of preparations and hard work put in trying to make the next few minutes go well. This could not be allowed. I would rather have two cramped up and painful-like-hell legs (and I was getting there fast) than a mind full of negative what – ifs.


“You are next, Mhatre”. These words are uttered by the placement volunteer, a First Year junior. I look at him. He is actually elder to me by five years. An MBA being a course open to people of all ages leads to some interesting age related situations where people in their middle thirties are “junior” to guys like me just because guys like me decided to try their luck with the CAT as soon as they were eligible while the others decided to wait some time and get a little work experience. Anyways, I looked up at this guy (literally, the guy stood over six feet tall) and thanked him for the info. He had that sympathetic look on his face. This look was being flashed for the past three days and would continue to be flashed till next day. The amount of people it was flashed to had reduced from 125 on the first day known as “day zero” to around 95 on the next day known as, well “day zero” (do not ask now). Today on “day one”, it was being flashed to only around 70 odd people including me. I was hoping that the next few minutes would lead to it being flashed to one less person. This look was the look which came naturally to one when they saw a person waiting for an interview. I was next in line for giving an interview to ___ Bank, one of the “day one companies” i.e. a company which was scheduled and had come to recruit on this the “day one” of the “placements” of the 2005 batch of IIM Kozhikode.


My legs finally give up on me and I have no option but to sit down. The interviewers are taking their time while interviewing their chosen candidates. They have interviewed 3 people in the past two hours. I guess that I hve to wait for a minimum of thirty minutes more. I have nothing to do and I cannot let my mind think over the negative what ifs. So I sit and do a brief recap of the past two years I have spent here at the youngest of the IIMs (as of 2005).


To be contd….

» Chandni Chowk to China - Bakwaas picture hai naa!!!

The trailers looked good. The team behind it boasted of some talented people (Rohan and Ramesh Sippy, Shridhar Raghavan, Nikhil Advani, etc.). The filmed marked Warner Brothers' entry into Hindi films and they created a hell of a buzz for the film in international markets as well. The film had the services of some seriously talented kungfu artists and also had as a villain, the granddaddy of Chinese bad boys, Gordon Liu. Above all the Indian starcast included Ranvir Shorey, Deepika Padukone, Mithunda and above all, the current box office Midas, Akshay Kumar. With all this, one could surely bet that CC2C would at least be a thrill a minute entertainer and at most a milestone in Hindi cinema and a real international success. But then in their haste to create history, this dream team apparently forgot to include one thing - a coherent script. The result is that CC2C is one big cluttered and incoherent bunch of scenes pretending to be a film.

The "film" starts promisingly though. The story is about one unlucky bum (Akshay Kumar as Sidhu acting as lowbrow as Govinda and Shakti Kapoor during their Raja Babu days) who works in his foster father's (Mithunda is really awesome kicking the hell out of Akshay Kumar) dhaba and how he is mistaken by two visiting Chinese villagers for a reincarnation of an ancient Chinese warrior and taken to China to fight the villagers' oppressor, Mr. Hojo (Gordon Liu, extremely good and boy, can he kick some ass even at his age!!). One may ask the following:
1) What the heck are two supposedly not well to do Chinese villagers doing having a holiday in India? Also, how on Earth do they have so much money which finances Sidhu and his "feng shastra" expert friend Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey who has not much do here and pretty much adequate)?
2) Why is Mr. Hojo (the name somehow reminds me of Mojo Jojo of the Powerpuff Girls) oppressing a tiny village when the dude has other revenue streams which include diamond smuggling?
But then logic is not the forte of Indian masala blockbusters. Ghajini had so many loopholes and yet it worked. Hence we can tolerate it.

In all this, there is a subplot involving the leading lady, Ms. TMN (Deepika Padukone does a good job looking hootttt) who is visiting China to meet the Chinese inventors working for her tele shopping company (the meeting scene involves Chinese men and women indulging in a whacky hindi song medley). They gift her some Bondish gadgets including a translating device and a parachutic umbrella (no use finding logic here folks). She also has another agenda - she wants to come here to find her missing father and twin sister (shades of Seeta and Geeta, a Sippy film). You see, her inspector father once caught Mojo Jojo Hojo and put him in bars. Hojo boy wants to take revenge by wiping out inspector's family (shades of Sholay, another Sippy film). Jojo Tojo succeeds in flinging the inspector from the Great Wall and kidnapping one daughter. The daughter turns out to be Tojo Pojo's female assassin Meow Meow (Padukone with Chinese features and lots of ass kicking abilities). Here further questions creep up :
1) How the hell do two twins have different racial features? Ms. TMN has Indian features and Meow *2 has Chinese features.
2) Was this subplot really needed?
But then so far so good. We are being entertained though a feeling of boredom is creeping up. The mood is uplifted when Akshay pays homage to Jackie Chan, Jet Li and the drunken kungfu style by playing out an elaborate action setpiece while drunk and singing Bappi Lahiri's "India se aaya tera dost". Bappida meets kungfu. I seriously wished that Mithun were involved in there somehow.
Then it all goes seriously wrong. Till now the outrageous scenes (eg: Akshay dancing in different styles at one go, Deepika in a howlarious ad for a howlarious product, Mithun kicking Akshay into the stratosphere, etc.) were at least entertaining. Now onwards, they got wierder and painful. The plot twists get so twisted that one wants to twist the neck of the plotter. Worst, Mithun is killed off. Then Akshay is kicked off the Wall (the Great Wall seems to be a very convenient assassination point inspite of being a heritage site and hence, well guarded) and saved by, you won't believe it, the inspector father of the two hot twins!! The dude seems to have lost his memory (shades of so many masala films) and is now a destitute. Then after some more twists, outrageous setpieces (Akshay and Deepika singing a duet while gliding in the air using the Bondish umbrella, Akshay literally unleashing a tornado on the henchmen and the ridiculous cosmic punch) and some great action (Akshay's training scenes are well done though it is interrupted by a Godawful piece of romance between him and Padukone), the film ends with a threat of a sequel. I almost peed in my pants thinking of another film like this.

The film aims to be a sort of homage to Indian and Chinese films, a sort of Kill Bill in a lighter mood. It ends up being a hotchpotch khichdi with no direction and absolutely no sense. Quite a few scenes in isolation are great. The action scenes are awesome with some real beautiful stunts being done. The comedy of Akshay Kumar is great as always. The only problem is that these scenes are joined by some awful scenes. Just when one gets engrossed by a good scene, a bad scene comes up to make him forget the earlier scene and start hating the film again. The film should have been edited mercilessly and at least an hour chopped off. The story of the film is such that one suspects that scripts of two different films were jumbled up together and the crew shot the film without separating the two. It really gets very incoherent at times.

Mithunda acts like he always does and is a treat to watch. Deepika is good to look at and she seems to have worked hard on her action skills. She now needs to work on her acting as she cannot act at all. Gordon Liu is awesome as Hojo and shows our wannabe villains how to be a bad guy without overacting. Akshay tries really hard to make the film work. He does it all -comedy, tragedy and some really good fighting. Carrying mediocre films on his shoulders is a habit for him - Garam Masala, Bhool Bhooliya, Welcome, SIK were all mediocre films which worked due to him. However here the burden is too much. 

CC2C could have been awesome if it had been kept as simple as fried rice. However the film ends up like a triple schezwan with Gulam Jamun on top. In parts tasty but on the whole, vomit inducing!!!


» 387-A milestone in Indian cricket.


Watching the first Test between India and England at Chennai, one felt a sense of deja vu. The Indian team after a good series with Australia always tends to drop in terms of performance. It happened in 2001 when after defeating Australia in one of the greatest series, they lost a test match against Zimbabwe. It happened in 2004, when the team performance spiraled down dramatically after the good series against Australia (albeit it was followed by victory over Pakistan). It seemed to happen against England as well. The Indian batting collapsed on day two and the Englishmen were playing well and piled on the runs. The same script was being played out.

In spite of the match situation, Gary Kirsten was optimistic and actually went on record saying that this team can achieve a lot. Overconfidence, one felt. Kirsten is not a man to boast but India's track record in fourth innings does not reflect his confidence. India has collapsed badly in fourth innings many a times. Even in India, we have seen the team collapsing to 100 all out from 75 for 3 just two years ago in Mumbai against the same opposition whose bowling was weaker on paper than the current one.

On day three a glimmer of hope could be seen in the second session. Zaheer Khan showed why he is the best reverse swing operator in the world today by bowling a great spell. He was supported by Ishant and India controlled the England scoring and limited them to below 400. Even then a target of 387 on the last day on a turning pitch was daunting. It was a 113 more than the highest successful run chase in India. And that run chase was controlled by the King of Calypso cricket, Viv Richards. It required a monumental performance. By God, it got one.

Sehwag started it by whacking the ball as if it was a 20/20 game. People say Sehwag takes too many risks for an opener. They do not know that we are mere mortals who do not understand how a genius thinks. If Sehwag were a blind risk taker he would not average over 50 runs over such a long span. He knows how he plays best, and when he plays like he can, we should just shut up, watch and marvel at the wonder that is him. Here, his stroke play and aggression blunted the bowlers into a defensive mindset. It was such a damaging innings that the England team and not fully attack again even after Sehwag got out. How he did it, I do not know as I am just a mortal.

Dravid failed again early on the fiifth day. However he contributed by not allowing the other in form batsmen to get exposed late on the fourth day. Dravid looks in a bad shape mentally and needs a break. I hope he is not retired soon as he is a great and seems to have a lot of runs. He just needs to get his mojo back. With him gone, in came the Little Master. Tendulkar has got bitter memories of fourth innings in Chennai in 1999 when his one man show against Pakistan took India to the doorsteps of a great victory only to be locked out by the abysmal performance of the tail. Like hell he would have let the same thing happen. He played his innings watchfully without taking any risk whatsoever. Like his 194 in Multan in 2004, it was a "masterpiece in minimalism" (Quote inspired by Pundits from Pakistan by Rahul Bhattacharya). He guided his partners on the crease superbly especially Yuvraj no doubt recounting the pain of 1999. Gambhir also played an important part playing support to Sehwag and combining well with Tendulkar. Yuvraj was a revelation. I always thought him unfit for Tests due to his temperament and weakness against spinners. However his performance here should shut his critics up me included. Laxman played a beautiful cameo. His next great innings seems around the corner.

These batsmen combined achieved a target thought to be too much on Indian wickets. This was in spite of a spirited performance by England who have won hearts by their willingness to come here and to fight to win a Test. Above all it has given hardcore Indian Test cricket fans reasons to dream.

I have been a cricket fan since 1992. I have seen India getting whacked overseas and win on Indian dustbowls in the early nineties. I have seen Tendulkar's emergence as a great batsman and his team's pathetic overdependence on him. I have seen Dravid and Ganguly debuting and making the Indian team a great batting side with bad bowlers especially overseas. I have seen Kumble and Srinath toiling hard without any adequate support from others. It was tough being an Indian cricket fan especially when the match fixing saga started and my earlier favourites, Azharuddin and Jadeja were caught while cheating me and other Indian fans.

I then saw Dadagiri and could finally see Indian players confidently play overseas to win. However even then, they were inconsistent with great performances followed by pathetic ones. The years 2005-2006 were bad considering the high expectations that were built by the great performances in 2001- 2004. The same was capped off by a disgusting performance in World Cup 2007. It was depressing. However since then,  things have looked up. India has won a World Cup (20/20 in 2007), performed heroically against Australia in Australia, won a Test against Sri Lanka inspite of Mendis and Murali (I bet no other country can win a game there if Mendis and Murali keep bowling like they are doing now) and beat Australia at home. There have been setbacks like the drawn series against South Africa and the lost finals in some two insignificant bullshit ODI tournaments. However these setbacks have been minor. A lost Test match against England would have meant that the Indian team was still in the same cycle of victory followed by defeat. This victory showed that this team may have finally learnt one great trait of all time great teams – consistency and hunger to keep on winning.

I may be overly optimistic. Maybe the future matches could show up this team as being the same as the earlier versions of new India – brilliant in patches only. However this time one gets a feeling that now is the real deal. Maybe it has to do with Kirsten being so confident. The figure 387 may just be one milestone in a fascinating journey to come – a journey which an Indian cricket fan has been dying to take for since a long time.

» A feeling of impotence.

It has been a long time posting. I had been preparing a post on Kumble and Ganguly all this time but the events of the past two weeks have totally changed plans and motivations.

It has been 11 days and people are still talking about it fervently. News channels are still showing the images of the Taj and the Trident burning and of Nariman House gutted, politicians are still talking about taking action (talking, not doing) and people are still showing their anger. There have been umpteen terrorist attacks on India and Mumbai. However this time one gets a feeling that it is different. Till now all attacks were done through suicide bombs in crowded places. The attack lasted seconds and then it was over to the police to tie up the ends and make arrests and encounters, human rights activists to condemn the police for "fake" encounters, politicians to give darshan to the affected spot and then spout sound bytes about terrorists being cowards(all the while changing their clothes and look dapper), the media to go melodramatic about our suffering (and the spirit of Mumbai if it happened in Mumbai) and then after some days, everyone would go back to following their routine. However this time, the attack involved terrorists undertaking a commando operation which would have been admirable in its execution if it had not involved killing innocent civilians. The attack lasted three days and led to 170 plus dead innocents and with only 10 terrorists killed. 17+ innocents for 1 terrorist. The operation has been a huge slap on the face on India's homeland defence mechanism. It showed us as being unprepared and caught us with our pants down.
The actions of the politicians has been oh so typical. The opposition instead of showing solidarity is trying to take advantage of this in the next election. Narendra Modi flies down and melodramatically hands over a cheque of Rs. 1.0 crore to the slain ATS chief's widow. This after publicly maligning him for doing his job when his department arrested and is prosecuted a Sadhvi for the Malegaon blasts. The cheque was returned back which increases my respect for the Karkare family). The Maharashtra CM went underground the whole time when the attack was happening when his leadership was required the most. Mr. Deshmukh has been one of the most incompetent CMs ever whose only purpose in life has been to manipulate FSI norms and please the builder lobby. To say anything about Shivraj Patil would only increase one's BP. As a Maharashtrian, I feel extremely ashamed and degraded when I see these hermaphrodites represent Maharashtra and Marathi people. Them being relieved of their positions should have been at least a little step towards finding a solution. However the reasons provided for the same depresses one even further. The FSI CM was removed not because of inaction and incompetence but because he took Ram Gopal Verma for a ride in the Taj. The deputy CM was removed not because of lack of efficiency but because he hurt sentiments by saying wrong words in a language he barely understands. The Fashion conscious Patil was removed only when Madam Sonia could not protect him further. Our politicos have got their priorities all wrong. They demand and get Z security while they have shown no inclination to secure India - a job for which they were recruited by us in the first place. Do we pay taxes to see them move around in pomp causing a big nuisance to all or to improve our living conditions. Why is so much money being taken away from me when I cannot be sure while stepping out that I will come back alive?

The media's role in this situation has come under criticism. In their haste to get breaking news they disclosed details of commando operations to the entire world. India TV had a terrorist speak to them on live television when the ideal thing to do would have been to tell him to fuck off. In their haste to get higher TRPs, they (especially Barkha Dutt) dragged worried relatives in front of the camera and making them break down. When there were no new developments, fictional ones were created. Rajdeep Sardesai went ballistic about a shootout in CST on day 3 when there was none. People were advised to leave offices because of the misinformation. Power without responsibility is dangerous. Media has got a lot of power. If they shirk responsibility, it needs to be imposed on them.

One interesting thing to note has been the absence of the voice of the human rights activists. Where are those dicks, assholes and Arundhati Roy now? Seems like they do not care much about dead policemen and citizen. Hey, some US and UK citizen also lost their lives. Great oppurtunity to speak some frothy lines about degrading security in India and earn brownie points from the Western liberals.

Same goes for the "Marathi messiah" aka "The Great Marathi Hope". Where is he now? Wasn’t Mumbai his baap's jagir? Does one not have to do the duty of saving's ones jagir when it is under attack? Why did he not send his brave activists to the Taj, Trident or Nariman House and make them do some actual constructive work by attacking the terrorists instead of taxi drivers?

What does one do in such circumstances? Obama talks about being the change. How can one be the change when he is surrounded by such filth? It overwhelms us and demoralizes us.

The huge gathering on 3rd December was a great sight with thousands of people gathering to protest the incident. It was great to look at and know that there are a lot of people who also care. However beyond the uplifting feeling, what will it achieve?

How do we tackle this mess? Some want us not to vote which just shows how much grey matter they are endowed with. Not voting defeats democracy and will lead to the same people coming to power to abuse it even further. Some people want us not to pay taxes. That has valid points. Why should we pay the Government if it is not serving us well? Just like one gets demotion when he does not deliver the goods, the Government deserves to be paid less. However, will it work? It is illegal and gives further excuses to the government to not do anything at all.

A solution needs to be found to this huge problem facing us. Till that time, all of us will have to watch the show as bystanders (unless we become a victim of another attack when we become the collateral damage) having the power to make absolutely no difference. It is a bad feeling, this feeling of impotence.

» The Fab Five - The Master
The India/Australia series played in India seems to be the last series played together by five great cricketers who have been the life of this Indian team from the time I and countless others have been watching cricket. As a sort of tribute, I am posting my thoughts on each one of them. I start with my favourite cricketer of all time:

It was 1991 and a Ranji Trophy final between Haryana and Mumbai was being telecast on the television. It was the last day with Mumbai needing 300 odd runs in the last innings to win. The situation was bleak with wickets falling around Vengsarkar who was the only batsman playing with some semblance of sense. Then a young kid all of 18 entered. My father said to me, "Watch this man" in Marathi and told me about his exploits in Pakistan where he played despite being whacked on the nose by a gentleman named Waqar Younis. I was 8 years old with no interest in watching cricket since it looked boring watching a game played over five days with no guarantee of a result. Then that young kid set out to open my eyes towards the beauty of the great game. He scored 96 runs in around 75 odd balls with some pretty awesome strokes. Mumbai lost the match but I was hooked for life. Sachin Tendulkar made me fall in love with cricket on that day.

My entire cricket watching life has been centered upon Tendulkar. They say cricket is a team game. They say that the team towers over the individual. I agree with them. However Tendulkar is different. Somehow when Tendulkar is batting you forget about the team. You know it is unpatriotic and irrational but when Tendulkar hits a century, one does not care about the fortune about the team. I am not the only one who thinks on those lines. It is only here in India where a home team wicket is cheered i.e. when the second wicket falls. There is a bond that many Indians have with Tendulkar which is irrational and difficult to comprehend.

Perhaps it has to do with the early 90s Indian cricket team. The Indian cricket team in the early 90s was full of flat track bullies, an old and toothless Kapil Dev, two token "fast" bowlers (when Srinath was not playing), an inexperienced Kumble who was not yet adept at bowling in foreign conditions and one another spinner who worked only on Indian tracks. India won in India but sucked outside. If even two shards of grass were found on the pitch the Indians got nightmares and batted like snails with a hangover. It was dismal seeing the paper tigers collapse and making a fool of themselves and the fans who rooted for them. In all this, Tendulkar was an exception. Other batsmen scored in patches, he scored consistently. The Perth century in 1991 should have merited at least a draw but India were walloped. The 169 against South Africa wherein he played a breathtaking counterattacking knock with Azhar deserved more than a loss. The 136 against Pakistan in Chennai in 1999 deserved only a victory but India lost. The 1996 World Cup saw Tendulkar in imperious form. However in the semi final he lost his wicket and India collapsed. Between 1990 and 2000, Tendulkar averaged an astounding 80.16 against quality bowling opposition of those times (Australia, England, South Africa, NZ, Pakistan and West Indies). This is more than on occasions when India won (53.70). Most of Tendulkar’s runs and centuries during his prime days went in vain.

With all this, it was but obvious that people would start giving him more importance. Tendulkar became the symbol of hope for all cricket fans including myself. Especially after his double bill performance in Sharjah in 1997, he became bigger than the team. He brought in the money and the huge contracts. He won matches single handedly (of course only the ODIs where you do not have to take 20 wickets to win) and he got the recognition as a great batsman from the Don. What more could you ask? Indians are suckers for individual performances and Tendulkar gave them something to cheer about in spades. Then Dravid and Ganguly got settled into the team. Dravid became the Wall and India no longer relied just on the Master to counterattack and provide brief entertainment before the inevitable loss. Then Azhar got kicked out and the age of Dadagiri began. With Laxman coming on his own against his favourite whipping boys, a steady stream of fast bowlers coming first under the tutelage of Srinath and now Zaheer, Harbhajan establishing himself and Kumble reinventing himself, the team started to actually perform in the overseas Tests. Also unlike a decade earlier, the batting did not depend on Tendulkar alone. This also coincided with a dip in form of Sachin which was exposed more and more as the others started to dominate and Tendulkar began playing a supporting role. Unfortunately for Tendulkar, he was not in his peak when India consistently took 20 wickets. His contributions were there in pivotal wins but they did not stand out. If this same team had been there when he was in prime form, those great knocks would have come as part of victory and not just as a diversion from a humiliating loss or a frustrating draw. Also those Tendulkar baiters would have shut up.

I mean what is with these idiots? They keep on carping about how he is obsessed with records and that he has not won India matches. It is a common argument that Tendulkar has not won many matches on his own. With respect to ODIs, that is rubbish. There are countless instances where his knocks were decisive the latest being the finals in Australia in 2008. With respect to Tests, he has not won a match singlehandedly because it is just not possible. In Tests you have to take 20 wickets to win a match. Also there are 20 innings played by your team. One sole effort is just not enough. People speak of Lara’s heroics against Australia in 1999 when his great innings of 153 won a match. However one forgets that it was set up by great bowling by Walsh and Ambrose which restricted Australia. When Lara scored over 600 runs in Sri Lanka, WI still lost the series 0-3 because there was no one to take wickets. Then there is the supposed weakness while chasing. During his pomp, there have been lots of matches where Tendulkar has guided the run chase and players a match winning knocks. After 2000 some of his greatest knocks while chasing include the brilliant 98 against Pakistan in WC 2003, a 95 on a green pitch against some hostile Pakistan bowling in Pakistan in 2006 and the century in the first final against Australia in 2008.
To quote some statistics:
In ODI matches against countries (Australia, England, Sri Lanka, NZ, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) which have a consistently good bowling attack where India chased after 2000, Tendulkar averages 37.26. While this is below his career average, it is still good enough to warrant a place in the Indian side. When India won those matches, the average goes up to 41.73. In tournament finals, it jumps up to 57.60 – against quality opposition while chasing. All Tendulkar baiters, if you want to check, be my guest and check for yourselves. Seriously, what have you been smoking?
Some more statistics with respect to Tests now:
There have been 22 Test matches where Tendulkar played in the fourth innings after the year 2000 against the opposition mentioned above. In this, his run tally is the third highest in the Indian team after Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly. Of these matches, Indian won or drew 15 matches. In these, Tendulkar’s tally is 284 runs at an average of 47.33 which is the most after the Wall whose figures by the way are unbelievable. While Tendulkar’s figures are not on level with his career figures, an average of 47 in matches drawn or won is good for a player thought to be at his worst in the fourth inning.

In conclusion, Tendulkar has been an extraordinary player who has endeared himself to millions of Indian and non Indian cricket lovers to such a degree that his presence on the batting crease becomes an event in itself overshadowing the match going on. Some people hate him for not living up to his pre 2000 standards. His career has transcended many generations. He is part of my first memories of watching cricket and he remains a major reason to watch it close to two decades later. Cricket without Sachin is a hard to digest prospect. I still hope that I have to cope with it only after a couple of years.

» Hello Dravid of 2003/04??
Am I dreaming?? Have I gone back four years in time? Or has Dravid finally got his mojo back? At 35 runs in 51 balls, not only is he outscoring Gambhir but also taking quick singles. I do not care if he gets out now. It is great to see the Wall of old back!!!
» India-Australia
One of the most hyped and awaited series also has one of those rarest things -a slow and intensive buildup. Expectations with the series is growing up with the players having got enough time to take rest and plan their moves.

Thoughts on the players' form and prospects:
Australia seemed vulnerable against spin, however the second innings in Hyderabad saw them negotiate spin pretty well. The Aussie offspinner sucked but he may not get a game with White coming in. Everyone is ignoring Clarke which is a great mistake on the Indians' part and a great boon for the Aussies. Lee looked like he was conserving his energy for the Tests which is smart. Siddons is a good line and length bowler and will be an asset on variable bounce wickets. Ricky Ponting actually came out and hit some gorgeous sixes against Ojha. If he hits even one such six against Harbhajan without getting out, his slump against spin will end. Clarke has always been a good player of spin and he will the MVP for Australia now that a certain fisherman is out.

The Indian fast bowling looks better than ever. The spinners seem to be licking their fingers in anticipation but they should not be overconfidant. Unlike pace, spin is easy to play once you are exposed to high quality spinners in spinning conditions. The improvement shown in the second innings at Hyderabad should serve as a warning. The batting remains a concern. Of the "Fab 4" Tendulkar has not played any game this season due to injury - something which was not the case when the Aussies toured earlier. Ganguly played one game and pretty much sucked like Monica Lewinsky. However he sucked even more before making that comeback in South Africa. Also this being his last tour in all probablities, he can come out all guns blazing knowing it will not matter. Ganguly is the most dangerous in such a mood. Laxman looked indifferant but he is a big match player and the opposition is Australia. Dravid stonewalled the shit out of the Delhi bowlers. He is trying very hard and there is no Mcgrath and Warne to tie him up this time.

In summary, the Aussies look more settled than the Indians who are relying more on reputation than actually current form. I may be jumping the gun based on a handful of first class encounters but i do wonder at the intelligence of those who are calling it 3-1 or 3-0 India. It will be much closer. If Australia had a settled spinner it would have been advantage Australia.
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