Saturday, May 24, 2008

T20 is not cricket!

Quite interesting to read comments by Jeffery Archer and purists about how Twenty-Twenty offers good entertainment but is not cricket. Every time I hear or read that, it makes me wonder, "What are these guys talking about?" You have the required personnel in form of the players and the umpires, and the necessary equipment that one uses to play cricket. 95% rules are borrowed from the 50 overs version. The players are the same. England suck at it. So how is it not cricket?

Probably these pundits grew up watching cricket in the stands of some colonial British club sipping Darjeeling tea. They swore on W G Grace when a batsman would get forward on the front foot, with head held still and eyes on the ball and tap down the ball with the softest of touches. "What an exquisite shot, eh Jeeves?W.G. Grace couldn't have played it better." The mere sight of a batsman coming down the track and whacking a medium pacer out of the stadium is bhasphemy. "Heavens to Murgatroyd Jeeves!What a brute display of violence!Savage Jeeves, this axe wielding man is a savage!" I have one question for the pundits. Didn't you guys ever play 6-a-side 5 over matches as kids?Wasn't the sport in question cricket back then?So why the resentment towards T20?

Another point raised again and again is how Test cricket needs to be protected from the onslaught of T20. How T20 will kill Test cricket is something I cannot comprehend. Both versions have their own appeal. For a dedicated cricket audience, lovers of the game, Shane Watson smashing Shoaib Akhtar over the cheerleaders' pom-poms gives the same adrenaline rush given by Sachin Tendulkar getting under a Bret Lee bouncer. In India, India's Tour of Australia in 2007-2008 was followed as religiously as the T20 world cup and the IPL. So, the idea of T20 killing Test cricket seems a tad absurd. I'll say embrace T20, keep windows for professional leagues across the globe and in the rest of the season have ODI and Test cricket. One cant complain about too much cricket!

Friday, May 23, 2008

IPL: Gazing through the crystal ball

Now that the IPL is in the business end of the season, here's yours truly wondering what the Sports headlines in the future seasons for IPL and T20 leagues across the globe might look like:

Derby Day match preview: Mumbai Indians vs New Mumbai Radicals
Its a crucial derby day for both Mumbai teams as the Mumbai Indians look to clinch a semifinal spot for the 5th consecutive year while 2 points will provide the Radicals a much needed boost in their relegation battle. Rumours of a possible takeover at the Radicals by Anil Ambani and a dressing room brawl between Harbhajan Singh and Shoaib Akhtar have compounded the misery on the Radicals who are on a 4 match losing streak...

Rajasthan Royals beat Western Australia Warriors in Champion's league thriller
It was the ecstasy of victory for the Royals and the agony of the bowlout for the Warriors as Shane Warne led his team to a thrilling victory at the WACA. Chasing a target of 250, the home team got off to a quick start, thanks to captain Ponting's swashbuckling innings of 130 off 79 balls. However, Warne spun his team back into the game picking up 3 wickets in his 3rd over...

Fan violence mars the victory celebrations for London United
Around 50 visiting fans were held outside the Chinaswamy stadium following a brawl between the visiting British and the Royal Challengers fans. Reports suggest that the fight started after the visiting fans started chanting "Kingfisher tastes like p***" to which the home supporters took offense...

Anil Ambani buys New Mumbai Radicals for $300M, decides to rechristen the franchise as ADAG BIG Radicals
Intra-city cricket rivalry entered into a new era as Anil Ambani bought the New Mumbai franchise for a whooping $300M. In a press conference, Ambani announced that the franchise would now be known as ADAG Big Radicals and that there would be massive investments made in the team for the next season...

Pune Puneri Punekars promoted from the K.K.Krishna Kunj Zeera-Soda Championship
It was a day of celebration for all Punekars as their team was promoted to the IPL. The Punekar supporters, known for their sarcastic banners aka "Puneri Patyas", celebrated the victory into the wee hours of 11PM last nite...

Tabloid talk...
$100m Tendulkar-New South Wales link rubbished by Mukesh Ambani (Mumbai Mirror)
Greg Chappell to invite Ganguly for the post of Knight Riders first team coach?? (Mid day)
Celebrity WAG Deepika Padukone dumps boy friend Piyush Chawla (Dainik Jagran)
Joey Barton arrested for assault at Wankhede (Daily Mirror, Sun, News of the World etc etc)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vengurla trip

I was in Konkan and Goa over the weekend and happened to visit a friend's hometown of Vengurla. It is situated in Sindhudurg district, some 522 kilometres from Mumbai. Now I absolutely love the beaches in Konkan and didn't want to miss out the opportunity to visit Sagareshwar, which is located at a place called Ubha Danda, within the town. The Sagareshwar beach is basically a long stretch of silver sand and further extends to the Mochemad beach near Shiroda village.

Like most of the beaches in Konkan, this is named after the Sagareshwar mandir which is situated some 200 metres from the beach. This is quite a beautiful temple of lord Shiva.(Pics to be added soon)

The beach itself is extremely beautiful. Silver sand merging into crystal clear sea water. Now, the MTDC folks warned us not to venture beyond a few metres inside the water as the tides tend to pull the sand into the sea and one tends to lose footing as the water retreats into the ocean. However, we did manage to go in till the water was up to the level of our hips and surprisingly, we could see the sea bed with the naked eye. Like Tarkerli in Malvan, this beach too has potential as far as snorkelling and scuba diving is concerned, but as in the case around Konkan, the natural weath remains totally unexploited.

It really pains to see how little MTDC has done for promoting tourism in this part of the state. We wandered into the MTDC resort near the beach and all we could find were a handful of cottages with trees all around. The rooms itself are priced unreasonably at Rs. 1300 per day with no facilities other than a couple of beds and a bath. No beach shacks, no stalls, just a long stretch of beach. Compared to this, at Malvan, a certain marine biologist Dr. Sarang Kulkarni has taken the initiative to start scuba diving and snorkelling at the Tarkerli beach. He has invested his own time and money to train the locals in scuba diving. This is a good way for the kids to learn about the beautiful flora and fauna in our seas. To further promote tourism in this part of India and attract foreign tourists, Mr. Kulkarni plans to set up an artificial beach in Malvan. If corporates and the government back projects such as these, it will not only do wonders to the economy but also give everyone a chance to enjoy this hidden treasure of nature.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Scent of a Woman climax

I happened to watch "Scent of a woman" last nite.The clip above is the climax of the movie. Its one exceptional speech delivered superbly by Al Pacino.What an actor!!!

By the way, if Scent of a Woman was remade in Hindi, would they call it "Aurat ki boo"?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Three cups of tea

Picked up this book "Three cups of tea" from my aunt's bookshelf. Its the most amazing story ever told about a man waging his own war against terror by means of education. It is the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer, an ex US marine and a nurse who tries to scale K2, probably the most challenging peak for a mountaineer, as a tribute to his late sister. A mishap involving another teammate and the rescue mission takes a toll on Greg physically as well as mentally and they have to abort the climb a few hundreds of metres from the summit. A degected Mortenson loses his way on the descent and ends up in a poverty struck village in Pakistan where he's taken care of wonderfully by the villagers. Mortenson vows to build a school for the local kids who have to take school lessons on any icy floor in the village. Mortenson, himself broke, puts in all his willpower to test and manages to build around 50 schools in Pakistan against many obstacles created by a few greedy Mullahs, the Taliban and and continues the work in post 9/11 Afghanistan. It is an incredible story of how one man has dared to change the history of the world through the most powerful tool of them all, education.

The book is an eye-opener to the western world an even probably to a lot of Indians. It shows how misdirected America's war against terrorism is, they are just killing people, be it the Taliban or in Iraq; and not the thought that is spreading across the poorer Islamic countries like a virus and in the process killing thousands of civilians. It also shows how misguided are the statements regarding the relief work in Afghanistan and how less has the world done to bring back Afghanistan to their feet.

Greg Mortenson will surely win the Nobel prize someday for his work. He's trying to fight terror by fighting poverty, by creating employment for the poor in Pakistan and Afghanistan and empowering women with education and he's doing all of that by embracing Islam and the people's way of life and not forcing the western culture in their simple lives. He has his concerns about the fundamentalist teachings in the Wahabbi Madarassas which are spreading like a virus in Pakistan, thanks to the billions pumped in by the businessmen from Saudi Arabia and is battling this by starting his own schools funded by his organisation the Central Asia Insitute (CAI). The right way to fight terror will be supporting causes such as the CAI's and funding them appropriately so that they manage to continue their work in these extremely volatile regions. More about the CAI can be learnt at this address. I recommend all readers of this blog to pick up a copy of this book online as 7% of the sales is donated to this organisation or make a small contribution to this worthy cause. Terrorism is affecting all of us, lets fight it together!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Aala Re! The IPL adventure

After endless discussions over lunch on IPL, the players, the money, trying not to punch Tomite for his annoying loyalty towards the Super Kings, Sabby's pre-match trash talks and Vinite's cribs about Mumbai Indians not signing major stars, someone came up with the idea of watching the game live in Mumbai. After two unsuccessful attempts at executing the plan (mainly due to Maddy's other commitments ;-) ) and yet another unsuccessful attempt by Vinite to carry out an online transaction, the newly unemployed your's truly managed to get hold of tickets from a Reliance Fresh outlet.

So, after weeks of planning and convincing Maddy to wrap up his plans for that day, we took the long journey to The D. Y. Patil Cricket Stadium at Nerul East. As luck would have it, there was a Megablock at Kharghar and so we had to get off at Vashi after switching two trains. "The Indians better deliver today", I mumbled to myself as the dude standing behind me in the overpacked bus kept kicking me. I did manage to stamp on the dude's shoes before I got off. Pure evil..i know! The buzz outside the stadium was obviously about the One known as God not playing. After another 15 mins in the long line, going through shady characters dealing in black tickets and the customary pushing and shoving and the so called security checks, we finally made it inside the ground.

Big D spotted the Reliance Trends outlets selling the Mumbai Indians Merchandise. The people at Reliance Industries surely wont let any opportunity to make a quick buck pass by. Selling cheap merchandise outside the stadium is yet another revenue generator for the Ambanis. The lads didn't need much convincing by Big D, and soon, we put on our new "Tendulkar 10" jerseys and walked into the jam-packed stadium.

My first impression after getting in was "Wow! this is some awesome ground!". Its absolutely beautiful with comfortable seats offering terrific view from any part of the ground, an awesome quick outfield and a state-of-the-art media centre. It will look fabulous once they put up the roof. The only negative point is the huge gap on either side of the VIP box. My guess is that all the sound escapes from these gaps and hence you don't get those Wankhede stadium noise levels on the ground. But nevertheless, its an awesome ground and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. In the words of Ravi Shastri, "you could feel the intensity in the air".

The Daredevils won the toss and not-so-surprisingly chose to field first. I think, thats the trend that seems to be catching up these days. Teams prefer to field first, restrict the opposition to a total and then chase down under the lights taking into consideration the dew in the latter half of the game and the possible advantage of knowing a target before hand. You can never say, what total will be good enough in the T20 format. The umpires then came on to the field quite appropriately to the tune of K-R-A-Z-Z-Y 4. In the back of my mind, I hoped that the 4 officials would do no justice to the Hrithik-SRK track and sense would prevail in the tense moments in the game.

Soon, the Devils came out to some dull Daredevils tune. Of all the teams, their's has to be the worst anthem!"jo khelta hai woh jeetata hai...something something..." The Mumbai opening batsmen came out to a rapturous applause and the lezim and Nashik dhol playing in the backgroud.

The Dhol got the crowd dancing on their seats. All the noise and 55000 loud supporters ought to make any opposition nervous and it showed in the first few overs. Takawale and Jayasuriya got off to a cautious start before Surya, as the crowd affectionately chants his name, hit some vicious blows to get the crowd and the score going. Yo! Mahesh finally got rid of the two batsmen in one over (the delivery that uprooted Surya's leg stump was one peach of a delivery!) and it was upto Uthappa and Bravo to consolidate the innings.

The crowd was having fun within the "dull" parts of the innings by throwing paper-rockets at A B de Villiers standing at the boundary. De Villiers was game enough to accept the challenge and threw back a few planes inside, much to the crowd's delight. There are always a couple of wiseguys in the crowd who create their own chants "Mangalmurti Uthappa" or "nick de de Dominic" (the latter coined by apna Sabby). Robin Uthappa hit a suicidal cheeky back flip to get himself out like he does so often these days. It threw the Mumbai innings in a sort of a crisis at 90/4 but thanks to some good hitting by Dominic Thornley and a late but extremely useful hard hitting by Shaun Pollock, Mumbai managed to get to a fighting total of 162/8.

The innings break was well utilized by yours truly over two yummy Samosas. Seats were swapped and I sat next to Sabby to rub on some salt on his would-be wounds if the Indians clobbered his Dare Hue Devils. The Devils innings started and Polly Kaka meant business. He tied down Gambhir (who has his own chant...Goti goti goti the tune of that Foster's ad) and finally Nehra got rid of him early. Dhawan was taken by Polly and the visitors were struggling for 7/2 after 3 overs. De Villiers and Sehwag tried to resurrect the innings but A B fell to some good reflexive work by Dhaval Kulkarni. Sehwag hit some meaty blows and the home crowd appreciatively gave him an applause for his efforts. The match carried on till the crucial 13th over when suddenly Sabby n co rose up...i was like WTF! till I realized that after 6-7 failed attempts, the crowd managed to get a Mexican wave going. And then the waves kept coming. Suddenly, the match reached a high tide with the crowd creating a wave after every 10 seconds...kudos! to the crowd for getting it right! The Daredevils innings crumbled like cookies in the crucial stage of the game much to Vinite's delight and Sabby's disgust! The joy on the face of the victor and the anguish on that of the vanquished is quite evident from the pics here...

At the end, the Indians had a good victory with a decent batting performance, a miserly bowling performance and an absolutely awesome fielding effort, hallmark of any Shaun Pollock team. Come to think about it, why was Bhajji chosen as the captain when we had the likes of Pollock and Surya in the team? Strange are the ways of Indian cricket and its wise not to question the insane. Anyhooo, one has to see an IPL game live. Watching it on TV at home is just not the same. The intensity, the atmosphere, the cheerleaders, the music and ofcourse the cricket...its one carnival not to be missed. Its an event well organised, keeping the crowd involved in the game all the time is not easy and the event organizers have done a splendid job. They have done their homework and know their crowd. When the game becomes a tad dull, a foot-stomping bollywood number is played to get the spirits roaring again. So, Lalit Modi and co...take a bow...its a job fantastically done!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Shaking off the rust...

So I'm back again with more ramblings...too many thoughts..we'll do the first in first out way as taught at the Baba Agnel Abhiyantriki Mahavidyalay, Vandre Paschim, Mumbai kramanka char shunya shunya shunya paach shunya.
To start off, it feels great to be back in Bombay (so I did come here every weekend but a vacation is different :P phbbt!!). My last days in Pune were memorable practically just chilling out with my roomies and office folks. Its been awesome fun with all these guys around...Maddy, Tomite, Vinite, Sabby, Neverknown, Kiran and even Kaka Khairnar...all the dinner time talks at Venky villa and again at Suraj Nagar ( deviation from the post for a Tomitesque joke: Sabby on our Murud Beach trip: "On our next trip...lets get the WAGS and go to Sun City? Tomite: "U mean apna Suraj Nagar??), all the drunken ramblings (U f***rs still haven't told me what the hell was floating!) and all the bluffs targetted on Vinite and Tomite (Vinite became THE target much to Bando's relief). Awesome time! (I can go on with the memories...will do in a separate blog if i remember...but if i don' know that u guys rock!)
It was a wonderful gesture on my team's behalf to give me a neat Titan voucher and a never-to-be-forgotten "what Sachin Tendulkar feels like" moment when I said my goodbyes for the final time. A team of forty five including my manager, lined up and gave me an applause as I walked up to that gate (which I always 'push' instead of 'pulling'). The feeling was just overwhelming to see my entire team and my old teammates and other old friends just standing and applauding as I waved goodbye and walked out of the Aetna Field Office for the very last time...a moment I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
Now that I'm free...well sleeping a lot...A LOT!! saw the IPL game of aamche Indians vs the Delhi Dare hue Devils...more about that in a separate post...just trying to settle down into a routine now. I've been trying to put up something on blogger for quite some time but apparently there was some virus called Trojan.Drondog which kept blocking all google sites and kept displaying some garbage on the Dashboard page whenever I opened blogger in IE. Low blow tactic from Microsoft??huhuhahahaha we need to investigate!! But har Microsoft ke liye ek Fox rehta hai aur use hum Firefox bolte a special thanks to the engineers at Mozilla for creating such an awesome software..
More ramblings to come in the near future...m targetting a post a day...kindly bear with the writer...