Farewell Sir

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If Sachin was the teacher’s pet marked for greatness ever since he joined the school, Ganguly the arrogant gang-leader of the cool kids and VVS Laxman the freakishly-talented loner in the corner, Rahul Dravid will always be the hair-cleanly-parted, diligent “good boy”, the one who studies every waking hour to get the best grade.

The perfect student.

Not for him the arrogance of knowledge. Nor the satisfaction of absolute success. Dravid was always learning, and as one of the  first ads he shot for so prophetically said, “always practicing”.

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BPL

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A sentiment often encountered online, from Indians of course, is that Bangladesh is somehow undeserving of Test status and that it was a conspiracy of the BCCI that led to them getting their place at the big boy’s table. This sentiment, needless to say, offends my sentiments. Dictating that a country should not play just because they lose most of their games is like saying someone should not sing just because he has a bad voice. Bangladesh deserves every bit of their Test status. And this they do purely on the basis of their fans and the enthusiasm and joy they bring to the game.

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The High and The Mighty

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Indian fan, in search of answers, asks the High and the Mighty.

Ravi the Shastri: Why did India lose? Well, the Australian bowlers, strong strapping lads all of them, got the balls in the right areas, were straight, pitched up and hit the deck. Hard. Real hard. The pitch had some juice, there was bounce and carry, and the cherry was hard. Hard.Real hard. It was an important match and the Australians brought their A game but the Indians, their body language was all wrong and soon the cat was among the pigeons. Then…. [Fat lady sings]….oh wait that’s my ringtone….need to take this call. “Oh hello, Mr. BCCI, that cheque you sent me, it was a competitive total, but it had Sunny’s name written all over it…YES don’t you understand? it was in his name…the lady at the bank didn’t agree when I said ‘It doesn’t matter how they come as long as they come”…So please send me MY cheque fast, yes…mail it to me as fast as a tracer bullet…” So yes, as I was saying…

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The Legend of Sir Aggie

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India has been blessed with great talents in the 90s, pace bowlers breathing hell, fire and brimstone. There was Srinath, of the whippy action, who would throw his hands up in the air whenever the ball was creamed past point with a “I would have caught that you slow-moving fielder” and seemed to be still grumbling about it, as he round-armed his throws from the deep. There was Prasad with his slow and slower ball  about whom it has been said that many of his deliveries, like light from distant stars, have not yet reached the batsman many years after he released them from his fingers. There was Debashish Mohanty, all gangly arms and legs,  Harvinder Singh, Abey Kuruvilla, Doda Ganesh, David Johnson, Thiru Kumaran—a line of carving stations at a sumptuous Vegas buffet, that would get batsmen from across the world melting in their own saliva.

And yet above of all them was this one man. A colossus. A legend. My personal favorite.

Sir Aggie.

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Memories of Eden Gardens

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In 1987, they had come in great numbers for something as earth-shaking as a World Cup matchup between Zimbabwe and New Zealand match, shouting “Ali Shah Hai Hai” with a seriousness that bordered on the bizarre.

They did because it didn’t matter who was playing.

In 1976, with India at the door of a crushing defeat against England, 50, 000 Kolkatans had thronged the stadium to watch Bishen Singh Bedi bat.

They did because it didn’t matter who was winning.

Because the crowd always turned up at the Eden.

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Retire? Never.

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There are the greats.

There are the legends.

And then there are those sportsmen who transcend labels, those who represent something greater than merely excellence in their respective disciplines.

Jessie Owens. Mohammed Ali.

And Shahid Afridi.

For me, and dare I say for many others, Afridi is not just merely a ball-biting, pitch-scuffing, boom boomer that wears the jersey of our next door bomber.

He is the very anthropomorphism of its foreign policy.

Like when he sticks out his crotch after getting a wicket, Afridi becomes an emphatic visual metaphor for the Pakistani position of  “Yeah so we are going to support the Haqqani Network and other terrorists, so what you going to do about it eh?”
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The Wall

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[Inspired by  George R R Martin's "A Game of Thrones" which I just finished]

They were in a small clearing, many miles away from battle. The dense woods hemmed them from all sides like a phalanx of ancient giants, silent sentinels from the time of Early Men. The roars, the battle axes grinding against each other, the fizzle of sparks flying, the cries of anguish, the jeering of the crowds seemed far far away, almost as in another world. The only sound was that of the brook gurgling forward, its waters glistening like diamonds as it caught the last rays of the setting sun.

The Wall sat on a giant black rock by the side of the stream balancing his chin at the edge of his broadsword. His chain armor, heavy with the memories of blood, tears, sweat and time. His face, black and ominous as an approaching storm. His lips pursed into a grimace, as if trying to dam an ocean of wrath.

But the Wall crumbled. It had to.

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Country vs Club

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And so the IPL is finally finished. Who would have thought at the start of the tournament that Chennai Super Kings would win it. I certainly didn’t. Not when the auction rules were changed “suddenly” at the last minute with only one team owner being given notice, not when the “home” pitch for Rajasthan was changed at the last minute while playing against ahem…Chennai Super Kings. The final result was thus very surprising, something as unexpected as, let’s see, the geography teacher’s son getting highest marks in geography on the class test.

I might deny saying this later but I actually felt bad for Shahrukh Khan and his team. They did a lot of things right but when you have your star bowler painting balls on woman’s hands, the star maverick going “Brrrrr” (if Lalit Modi was in charge, it would have been “Burrr”), Sanjay Kapoor rubbing off his charisma on the team as a celebrity supporter, their dud buy for three seasons going on to become pure platinum and a Trojan horse in the team, there is not much you can do. That they got to the fourth position was creditable. Though what many have forgotten is that this time they won just one more match from what they did last disaster season. Food for thought.

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IPL The Excitement

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For me the highlight of the IPL so far has been Paul Valthaty. Amidst all the millions of dollars and the often dial-in performances of the national and international fatcats, Valthaty is enough to warm the hearts of even the most cynical among us.

If the IPL has any redeeming value, it is that it provides Indian first-class cricketers, off the radars of selectors, who otherwise would be consigned to a lifetime of playing great innings in front of empty stadiums in Ranji trophy, an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of thousands.

Because otherwise this IPL, in comparison to the other three, has been tepid. I am not talking about the quality of cricket (after all, cricket is to IPL what character development is to porn) but about the masala.

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Walking With The Men In Blue

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I was expecting an article from my favorite Goddess of Overbloated Things, Ms. Roy on India’s triumph in the World Cup. Since I presume she has not written one yet, let me write it for her. This is *a parody* and does not purport to be written by Ms. Roy. It is also considerably shorter than her 25-page rantings.

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Rudyard Kipling, that endearing old-world colonialist, once called cricket a game of  “flanneled fools”. They don’t wear flannels any longer though, favoring tacky, garish uniforms made glossy by shining droplets of sweat from the foreheads of those who made them, in Mexico or closer home in Dhaka. What still remains are fools, namely those who believe they are watching a gentle competition between bat and ball and not a few hours of vacuous manufactured reality, whose raison d’etre is to serve as an orgiastic assertion of  India’s overwhelmingly Hindu middle class’s hyper-nationalistic vanity.

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