The Interview

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[This is a work of fiction. Resemblance to anyone alive or dead is purely coincidental]

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Danguli leans back into the comfortable board-room chair. “For coach, I am going with Anil Bumble. Great slide deck, nice bar graphs, professionally formatted strategy document, vision plans, effort tracking tools, and, what can I say, he has a good brain for “Anil-atics”.” Danguli allows himself a sideways grin, “Kya PJ mara yaar”.

“Last time you looked at a bunch of fancy graphics on screen and got so excited, we got Chappall”. WWF Laxman says, adjusting his hair.

“There is a difference.”

“What? The font size?”

“No”, says Danguli with a smug grin, ” This time I am not playing.”

Laxman leans forward. “I still think we should go with Bom Moody”.

“No no”, Danguli shakes his head animatedly, “One Modi in Delhi is enough. No need for another.”

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Goodbye Viru

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sehwag

Rebels mellow. They adjust, they compromise. They buy a house, settle down, change diapers, drive below the speed limit, nod along at work to whatever the boss says, and score excruciatingly-painful-to-watch double centuries without driving through off.

Not Virender Sehwag. He started a rebel and signed off as one.

“I also want to thank everyone for all the cricketing advice given to me over the years and apologise for not accepting most of it! I had a reason for not following it; I did it my way.” [Link]

Yes he did. He did it his way. Day in and day out. He played cricket the way a schoolboy played it, pahele ball ko chauka marenge, century ko sixer maarke layenge, and he did this at the highest level, against the best of opposition, over years, on hard foreign pitches and on domestic dustbowls, all without losing a beat. Coaches grabbed him by the collar, experts urged watchfulness, and yet he never listened, he never toned it down. Some may argue that the backup provided by the greatest batting middle-order India has ever seen gave him the license to be Sehwag, but something tells me, that he would have been the same, either way.

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Club vs Club

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bhimani

Someone seriously needs to tell Mr. Bhimani that he does not need to laugh derisively every time a panelist on Arnab Goswami’s show says something in favor of Dhoni. It is natural to feel insecure given that Yograj Singh is a Patiala peg away from replacing him on the one place that still gets him in front of a camera. But it is safe to say that Mr. Bhimani’s animated, though overwrought (in a Kareena Kapoor in a “Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon” way)  Dhoni-baiting has cemented (yes note the ironic use of the word) his slot in Arnab’s noisy menagerie as the go-to-act for anti-Dhoni vitriol, and I am happy for him. Now if he could only go a little light on the ketchup.

Fulminating over Arnab Goswami’s show is an exercise in recursive hypocrisy and I am not going to do that, mainly because I enjoy watching its hashtag-ridden “what angle will get me maximum TRP” synthetic outrage. With its narrative of national shame and epic betrayal after every loss, however the cricket segments have become incessantly grating,  and by the stellar standards of his show, that is saying something.

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Cricket Cup World Cup

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Cricket Cup World Cup. Boom Boom Mutton Chop. Cricket Cup World Cup.

To set the mood, here is my favorite World Cup song of all time, from last edition, and if this doesn’t get you pumped up, you are obviously Ajay Maken after the Delhi polls.

So  “Who will win the Cup?”

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Will it be Bangladesh? It doesn’t matter because for Bangla fans they have won it already, by virtue of having defeated India in one game in 2007 and then having spent every moment from that time to now speculation about sinister Indian conspiracies to gut the great Bangla team, starting from Pune benching Tamim Iqbal through the season in order to break his heart and through that sabotage Bangla cricket to debilitating verbal broadsides thrown at them by the likes of Sehwag and “Nabhjyot Singh Seeedhu” (video taken down from Youtube). In their first practice game against Pakistan, they put up a good performance, which included contributions from India-slayer Tamim, “what-exactly-does-that-guy-do-in-the-team” Mahmadullah and Shakib pitched in too by not making even one obscene gesture at the crowd (unedited pic here).  And while it would take only a great optimist, namely every Bangladeshi fan, to think that they have a reasonable chance of going the full distance, expect a national holiday the day India gets eliminated.

Will it be Zimbabwe? I have no idea because I really know very little of their team, except that they don’t have a Ramzada or a Haramzada in their team but definitely a Masakzada…sorry even that I got wrong Masakazda. Wish I could say something knowledgeable but I really don’t know, except that I am pretty sure they can’t make it to the end.

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On Dhoni

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It’s strange, this phenomenon. Hours and hours of watching my favorite sportsmen on the telly, and I begin to believe that I know them personally. That’s why I tuned in when Sachin was close to a century and become all emotional when Ganguly walked out that last time. Even though it is extremely silly, I become personally invested in the individual successes of these strangers, that goes above and beyond my team winning, just like I would do for my friends.

And just like I do for my friends, I make these little mental stereotypes.

The passionate. Sourav.

The gentleman. Dravid.

The self-absorbed geek. Sachin.

The guy who never gets his due. VVS.

The maverick. Sehwag.

The relentless. Kumble.

But what about Dhoni?

I don’t think I have that personal connect with him, not in the way I have for the names above. As Harsha Bhogle writes, in this beautiful piece,  he could not figure out who he was and he is someone who actually knew Dhoni pretty well in real life.

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On Sachin and the Bharat Ratna

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SRTOne would have thought, at least I certainly did, that people would at least wait till the tears dried on the cheeks after Sachin’s heart-wrenching final moments on a cricket field before starting the snark and the snap, now that contentious issues like whether he should retire (which I believe he should have in 2011) are no longer germane.

I was wrong.

When I heard that they were giving Sachin the Bharat Ratna, I felt “Finally. Someone who deserves it. I am sure everyone will agree this time a government award is most appropriate.”

I was, once again, wrong.

Apparently, Sachin Tendulkar, we are being told does not deserve the Bharat Ratna. No not because Rajiv Gandhi and Morarji Desai have won it and we wouldn’t want Sachin to be in the same list.

No. It is because Sachin Tendulkar somehow does not make the cut. Qualitywise.

Because he is 29th on some ranking prepared by ICC. Or because his career average, is less than Kumar Sangakkara.

Yes.

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My Sachin Story

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All of us have a Sachin story. For a generation and perhaps even more, he is the thread that runs through so many of our memories. Of faces, people, blurry TV screens, sleepless eyes, cheers, gaalis, of sitting-at-one-place-and-not-moving-lest-we-jinx, clenched fists, pumped arms, spilled Pepsis, crumbs on shirts, smiles, tears, desperation, and elation.  This is why all of us feel that we know him, and if time spent simply looking at someone and of being invested in his success is a measure of intimacy, then I suppose many of us would accept that we are closer to him than we are to quite a few cousins and uncles.

It’s strange really, this kind of personal relationship with an abstract entity, abstract in that we do not really know know him. Kind of the relationship those of faith have with God. No wonder then that that word is used in association with him, so often. No wonder that his passing leaves many empty, as if the string has been yanked out and our memories are now bouncing free, like colorful beads on the floor, and we fear that some of them will roll underneath the bed, never to be found.

As for me, little old me, I don’ t think that will happen.

But for that, I need to tell you my Sachin story.

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