Sunday, September 9, 2012

Question – The wrong’un!

Yep! You are not dreaming.  Wait of the century has just ended.  Yes, it was waited even longer than the 100th hundred!
Alas! I have just written something about the worshiped god of cricket. Yes, that is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
After the demise (?) and departure of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and a series of sub-standard performances (?) fingers are being raised, though half raised would be the apt word but nonetheless they are being raised on Sachin’s place and role in the team.
I have two question marks in my previous sentence/paragraph. The first signifies that the demise of VVS was a relative term and can never be used with Tendulkar, howsoever pathetic he might get on a bad blue day. 

Stupendous..but God!!
The second is to re-consolidate the fact that class is permanent and form is temporary. Hasn’t Sachin been in tremendous nick off late? Those not agreeing mustn’t have seen his stupendous cover drive during one of his last few innings. It hardly matters if he got out for 5 afterwards. Huh! The pun was intended of course.

I might look biased against Tendulkar to an extent (and I agree I am no big fan of him) but I would try to be as neutral as possible. We Indians in general are double standard at whatever we do, myself included – most of the times. But come on man! Have some senses, some value of words. And specially people who are looked upon when they utter a word. My Granny talking in the awe of Meena Kumari is one thing and a renowned author/sportsman talking non-sense sentiments is another. 

What irritates me most is the way they discriminate among people. The way they loathsomely praise Tendulkar with the heroics he never did and make him a god (may be just to project the world that we still have the best) as if cricket is a mythology and not a game is utmost disappointing. 

I have for my full life believed that there will always be two kinds of people/views – right or wrong. Unfortunately I find it missing here.
Take few recent examples from cricketing realms –
1)      Sourav Ganguly – There were few people wanting he should be dropped (myself included) and there were few blind ones who did wanted him in. Thankfully, he was dropped – may be a touch too late.
2)    Sourav Ganguly revisited – I know, I know! The ghost of Bengal disapproves to vanish. You can punch him hard but he comes back roaring. Doesn’t he? Anyway, this time he was in a good form and scoring loads. I was against dropping him but he was dropped. Anyway, not everything I think is right nor is the world bound to run the way I wish.
3)      Ricky Ponting – There may be questions if the time was up for him or not. But then again there are just two camps – he should have been dropped or he should have been not.
4)    Andrew Strauss – This is more notable and honorable appearance for a player who has been average at best. Yes, I regard him an average batsman and has never been on my watch list, ever. There were no camps eventually. No fighting, no pondering over the issue if he should be dropped or not.

Here comes our god. The little master, the blah-blah-blah man and every trend goes abroad! Don’t ask me where they go, I won’t be able to recall.

The big question today asked is weather Sachin should retire or not?
Till when should he play?
When should he be discussed for his future plans?
What kind of selective games should he now be playing?
To which players should he be grooming with his experience?
Should he move down to soak in the pressure from the junior guys?

I see lot many questions being asked, only problem being, unfortunately none of them are questions – they are pleading, lame ones.

A man who has given so much to the game, a man who has taken so much from the game, a man who lives cricket all through his life, a man who breathes cricket should never be asked about his retirement plans. No! Never!
Why should he retire? Who are we to ask about his retirement?
Are we asked when are we going to die? Or till when we want to walk?
He may and should play until when he wants to play. No one has earned the right to call for his retirement or even suggest him an inch on that.
For the other group who wants him to still play – I call them insane. I have never denied his accomplishments not have said that he is a poor player, but god! Yuck! Gods will be crying if they hear this.

His only big accomplishment is his longevity and that too is due to two major facts –
1)      He entered at a very young age, not many of us get that lucky.
2)      He has been given support in a way or the other to stay up and in. Luck or faith or blindness – whatever!

Play any boy as many games as he did in that conditions, at least 80 tons are guaranteed. 20 more don’t make you an immortal!

A man who has been pathetic leader (it is proven) is not going to aid the youngsters in any way with his experience. Believe it or not, he just plays for his love of the game. Team spirits and all are just shit! Ever heard of him juggling his batting order? Good players are always capable of moldings as per the team’s need. Coming down the order is again a needless question now.

He already plays fewer numbers of games and was taking full advantage of runners in the game. Thankfully ICC got some life and poor Raina’s were saved from running for him. Do you still see Sachin fielding for full five days? Hopefully I am not a blind yet!

Why still play when your fitness is so poor? Why select him at all? And why play a random game here and there? It is not a job for homesick fathers. Will my company allow me to skip a month every now and then just because I do excellent work otherwise (or I am assumed to do so)?

That's just OK... just not the title!
Regarding his accomplishments, read a piece from any of the authors with eyes open and you will know how biased they are (or afraid or some abc fans?) when they write about him. Mr. Guha writes his world cup inning as sublime and compares Strauss big ton as equal to his. Why? Strauss was a visiting batsman, facing spinners, he is an average player and still scored about 40 more runs that Sachin at a greater pace and still he is somehow equal! And our man whose strike rate was second lowest and the score second best is sublime! What a pity!

For past more than 2 years he has score only 2 centuries – both in losing cause – one against mighty Bangladesh!

He did not toured West Indies, did pathetic in England, rubbish in Australia (everyone else was even poorer does not mean that he will pass) and was ugly in India against the poor New Zealand whom even Ashiwin tonked wherever he liked. But no, our sportsmen from past say – He is in fine touch. He should be preserved for South Africa tour in 2013.

Touch! Preserved! My foot!!

At this point of time I remember Greg Chappell, a person I am not very fond of, say “I would invest 10 games of someone who is young even if he scores 25 runs per innings rather than giving an oldie 10 games to score 30 runs per inning to complete a record he just can.” 

The investment on a mediocre at best Tendulker is not going to yield anything to the sports or India. He is a mortal and should be treated like one. He was very good and exceptional at times; He has been average off late and is sharply turning in to a poor shadow of his glorious past.

We don’t get too many gentlemen like Strauss, Dravid and Laxman but that does not mean that we always live on the glories from the past.

I don’t have a problem by his getting out or the way he gets. I have an issue with those who consider him special and above the sports. At the end of the day, he is just another good player for me.

For all the pleasure he gave to me, for all the joy he has added to the game, for all the hope I found because of him, for all the glory he brought to us, yes I am deeply, profoundly grateful to Sachin. 

But hey, life must move on. I still have one question, the right one, “Why not drop him?”

Medals will not win you more medals; history will not write another history – Construction everyday is going to make future – only if we are interested enough!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Yaksha's question, love and the tree

During my flight upwards after my fifth and the last dip in the Gangas I felt as if sun has just came low, so very. It was bright, lustrous yet cool. So, it’s not sun then, I thought. I rushed and he stood an inch away from me, ok may be two.

He had a circular ring of light around his head; his forehead glowing with intelligence, his body had more gold than hairs and cloths. His robe was golden white, his dhoti was as neatly done as it could have been and nonetheless we were standing in water almost chest deep, his dress was as set as it would be on a still day. He raised his hand as if suggesting (ordering?) me to march towards the bank. I nonchalantly followed.

We took up about 10-12 steps and the water came up to almost my thighs when he signaled me to stop and he himself rose, as if the water was a normal pedestal. By this time I got a bit habituated of his aura and was not totally allured or amazed. Not to demean his stature, he wasn’t that young or had any abs; rather his tummy looked more out of shape than mine. It was then that the lights went back to normal and then he began.

“O young man! You shall freeze in this holy water if you try to move even a single pace.”
“Why? What have I done? And how could you anyway just pop up out of water and put such curse on me?” Thanks to my senses, I didn’t act over smart by moving.
“Nothing! But I am the owner of this part of water and I swear I can do what I promised. I am Jal Yaksh, brother of the mighty Bak yaksh.” His voice sounded very convincing.
“Is there anything I can do to reprimand my innocence? Anyway to get out alive?”
“Of course little human!”
“How? Please tell me?” Little, duh! Stand at the same heights and everyone would know who is taller. I rejected this thought in a nano-second so that he could not read my mind out.
“You look like a learned man, aren’t you? We Yakshas love quizzing learned dudes. Do answer this one question of mine and I will not only spare your life but will also grant you a wish. But in case you fail to answer, you will stand still here until all the water flows over the human race.”
“Sure sir! If I don’t have a choice I would rather take a chance that to die here standing in a dhoti and unshaved chest.” How damn embarrassing!
Listening to this, the Yaksha took out a mattress like thing from air and placed it on water and sat on that and started narrating this story to me:

Long ago in not a far off place there was a huge tree, old, wise and unaffected by the seasons. One fine monsoon morning a creeper took birth and was soon grown up like a green and beautiful scarf. She looked at the tree with a hope, an expectation of shelter. Her eyes mesmerizing, her voice docile and her approach reverenced.
The tree who was conceived as god of all the animals, insects and birds was kind and proud. He took upon the liana and allowed her to climb up. They loved each other for days and months. The tree looks like wearing a crimson, pink and green scarf. It look beautiful to eyes, his fame enhanced and only godly Kalptaru could have had matched that.
The creeper was also very happy, it replaced almost all small twigs and leaves down under. The greenness has increased and it almost glowed. The gussets blossomed at an exponential rate and now the tree and the creeper could not have been imagined separately.
Days of chanson and love passed away, the season changed summer was in with its brutal force all over.  The birds moaned in heat, the leaved ached in loneliness, but the tree stool still embraced with the green and lovely limbs.
Slowly but surely the pain and the grief of the smaller kind went upon his very summit, the vultures have arrived.
Oh art thou! The god of life was surrounded by the signals of death. The ones whom he took oath to protect were dying in front of his eyes. The tree was shattered and down. He asked his beloved creeper:

Dearie O' creeper, love for we live,
Burning they are, children, their hid,
Can you abash, contract a bit,
So can they get shelter they need.

She brutally refused saying:

They are all grownups,
they are no kids,
Nor are you father,  
to fulfill their needs.
I used so less,
that too for love.
Why don't you just say,
there is someone else.

Months passed. The glory and wealth of the tree were now a story of past. By the look it felt that the tree must have been splendid sometime but it was no more the same. The creeper grew younger though.
One day after the offering the morning prayers to sun, the tree was watching carefully if any of the birdies were around to talk he saw his beloved creeper clinging to the other tree on his left. “So, that was it? That is why she was ignoring me.” He thought.
Though creeper said they were only friends and talked rarely, the news spread and so did the creeper over the other tree. The other tree in itself was small and fruitless and had millions of thorns. Their story didn’t go too far and the bindweed came back to the tree, her older loving friend. The tree was broken somewhere inside but still loved here so much that he didn’t even murmured.
Time is such a special agent; it brings so many things and situation we could never imagine.                  The tree was now getting really hollow, devoid of his loved ones, his authority, his pureness, his majesty, his empire, his ego and most of all self esteem. There was another young tree taking shape nearby. It has a similar aura the tree had in its youth. Same twigs, same strong branches, same hardened and mighty roots and same desire for greatness. “Ah! Older days! The tree would think often. ”
One of the vultures one day told the tree that the creeper has been seen embracing the another tree and alas! It was true. The green scarf was missing from the monstrous tree. The symbol, the identity which was there now for almost 18 years has gone and where? To a nearby tree! Another tree!
The tree decided to have a final talk. When the world was sleeping, it murmured slowly into the ears of the creeper “Why shall you do this to me?”
“You are no more the same you. You have changed a lot. You keep asking too many questions. I don’t get any personal space. Moreover, everyone looks for a better and secure future, what you have today to offer me? A junkyard body? ” Her reply was as blunt as it gets.
“So?” The tree was still confused.
“I don’t think it is working anymore between us. Let us part our ways now.”
“Part our ways! Is this a joke for you? I gave my golden years to you and now part our ways? Is there anything left for me now?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to talk over it now.”
The creeper now stays wrapped to another tree and they look generally happy. The tree still prays and looks to the star. It is still the tallest tree around yet ruined and best describable as a skeleton of its stupendous past.
It’s been seven  years since then when the creeper came back to the tree yesterday saying that it has been her best friend. She always wanted to keep it as an option and never seen it out of her life. She wants to come back as another tree takes no more interest in her. She has again started engulfing the lower step of the tree in her warm embrace. The tree now says nothing – neither yes nor no. It is quiet, as quiet as an old age sinner sitting on the Himalayas, repenting for his sins.

The Yaksha took a deep breath after narrating the story. “Who do you think have been at fault the most: The tree, the creeper, the other tree, another tree or the vultures?”
I gathered all my thoughts and learning on market strategy and women empowerment. I had no guts to face feminine activists on saying a word against creeper; she had to be pious as Gangas itself. The other tree represented backward class and rose above all with quota and on saying anything I might have been spared by Yaksha but not by law. Another tree was strong and the future of earth, saying anything to it would bring me bad name for sure.
“Yes! I know it. It is the tree who is culprit for all this.” I said in a blink.
“Good! You answered it perfectly. I shall spare you now. Ask your wish intelligent man.” He smiled.
“I would for once want to see that tree in case it is still there.” I was interested to see the giant who failed in love.
“Granted son!” The Yaksha and the light vanished.

I was puzzled for few minutes. When I gathered that I do not have anything to ponder about I retreated back to home. Not sure why, but I took the longer route which takes me home along the country and not the road. Very few people used that and there was pleasant silence on that path which for my amusement was not to be there today.
I saw about 50 men standing like a crowd and inquired about the incident.
“The huge tree which had almost no leaves has fallen off suddenly.”  Someone said.
I was shocked! 
Was the Yaksha god of death? 
Was he confirming if the tree should be killed? 
Was the tree hurt that not even a story listener stood by his side?
I turned my head in disbelief and there she was – All green, vastly extended over the another tree, smiling with all the beauty she had.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fire Breathing Dragons - There is a LITTLE more to cricket

Raw power and brutality
Not all the dragons are devils; I wish you’d have heard of Yinglong. The responding dragon, Yinglong is one of the most powerful dragons in Chinese mythology and is said to be the god of rain. Or may be Ryujin also known as Owatatsumi, the tutelary deity of the Oceans in Japanese mythology as the dragon symbolizes the power of ocean. Whatever it is, white or grey, dragons symbolize power and heroism, the macho which is unmatched. The worriers who take up opponents fist on fist, bouts on faces, cuts and punches and yes, blood. 

Royal conquerors; fearful, effective, brutal yet poetic and beautiful. Yes, only at times.

Playing 120 something with no assistance on cattle yards, going bonkers over the cow corner and hitting sixes in small ground is the new era cricket, T-20s. With ropes reducing in perimeter, with bats getting wider and better, with guards getting comfortable, with bowling getting meeker, and with the invent of white balls the balance has now subdued. Taking nothing away from the batters, the increase in averages over these years has to do with the degradation of pace bowling. 

Compare this:

A Praveen Kumar coming in from the far end with 124 KMPH with a white leather and you are having thigh pads and helmets on, and smack, four!

Holding: No one wants to face him
A Michael Holding running in with 150+ on a lush green with seam upright, the red cherry bruises your unprotected jaws and lo and behold, you mouth is all blooded.

What situation would you want to be in? Uh, dare I ask? Have sometime to watch the body-line series clips on Youtube and you will feel the shakiness and numbness in your limbs.

Fast bowling has always been one of the most sought after and special skill in the arena of cricket, India been an exception, as we have always been deprived of good fast bowlers. Batting is what we cherish and regard and the vicious circle goes on.

Remembering a thing read few days before; it wasn't just Australians in the Bodyline series who weren't terribly keen on facing Harold Larwood at his fastest. During a county match at Grace Road in 1928, the Leicestershire fast bowler Haydon Smith sent down a few bouncers, before his batsmen reminded him who was lurking in the opposition ranks. When Smith came out to bat later, Nottinghamshire's fielders were quick to inform Larwood who the new arrival was. Duncan Hamilton's superb 2009 biography of Larwood takes up the story: "Larwood's opening ball reared past Smith's face. He didn't see it, but felt the cold air as it rushed past him. The second took the edge as Smith backed off towards square leg. The ball shot towards gully, where Sam Staples caught it on the bounce. Smith began to pull off his gloves and walk off. 'Wait a minute,' Staples shouted. 'It was a bump ball. I didn't catch it.' 'Yes, you certainly did,' said Smith, not daring to look back." Such was the fear, who would want to go back on stretchers?

West Indies of old, Australia, Pakistan and to an extent England and South Africa always had a rich tradition of pace bowling.

Starting of it, the first name that strikes my mind is Frederick Trueman, one of the all time greatest. The fearsome English pacer of 1950s had taken so many wickets that it was thought that the record will never be broken. Thanks to the increasing number of games and increasing career span and some great bowlers, the records look paltry at best now.
Nonetheless, the nickname Fiery Fred given to this hairy, speedy Englishman cannot be denied. He had the rare talent to swing the ball both ways and with the speed he had, it turned out to be a nightmare for the batters around.  
Roberts, Holding, Croft and Garner; Nothing gets bigger. The 70’s and 80’s terror from the Caribbean was so difficult to face that half of the world just meekly surrendered in front of them. And the mastery over the art was such that they never need to be a Shantakumar, spitting. The red leather did all the talking. Such was the effect that they didn’t lose a test series for as long as 15 years.

Whispering Death was the name given to Holding, by the umpires! You heard it right; death can be so calm and quiet! He made no fuss as he didn’t needed arrogance to bring out aggression in his doings. His deeds were enough as he has all the arrows in his quiver; from toe crushing Yorkers to nipping away out swingers. He was a 400 meter running athlete and effectively used that in to his cricket, possessed one of the longest run-ups and smoothest action.
Marshall: Accurate and fierce
Owing to his humongous height (6’8”) Joel Garner was named Big Bird, and you would never ever witness a Yorker better than his. He could hit a pin in your toe. Don’t mistake that a Malinga with rubbish action only can do it. It has already been done and that too in a much graceful way.
Talk of fast bowlers and you would first think of bouncers. Ah! Not the ones our Indian blokes through to be hung up over fine leg by Ricky Ponting. Here I am talking about the WI pace battery, Andy Roberts, who had a special ability of dual bouncers that looked same but were of entirely different speed and acted as trap to the batsmen.
8 wickets for 29 runs! Ah! That’s Colin Craft for you. This tall aggressive bowler completed the quartet of West Indian mighty attack and was an expert in angling the ball inwards.
It takes special skills to be Malcolm Marshall, for he was small (5’11”) by the standard of pace men at that time. Yes, he is regarded one of the fastest and finest pacers of all time.  He broke so many noses; including Mike Getting’s that people around requested to ban his bouncers. Such was the fear.
The tradition was kept high by fellow countrymen Walsh and Ambrose with that we saw the golden age of West Indian cricket coming to an end.

Opinions divided and taken in good spirit, ODI and T-20s are cricket too, but a closer look will tell that this ain’t basic cricket. As someone said, you either win or you lose, containing someone for less does not mean your win. If you cannot take opposition wickets all, you do not deserve to be the winner. This is the essence of cricket and only test cricket still cherishes that.

Batters can save you matches, scores run, but for winning the games you need to take 20 wickets and that too cheaply. Look at any good team and you would have to agree to the facts. The mighty WI of the 70s and 80s, the Aussies of 90s and 00s, having a perfect dart man in McGrath and likes of Gillespie supporting him, the Pakistan of 90s with Imran, Akram and Waqar, the South Africa in Donald and Pollack.
Even when you look around today the best teams around are South Africa and England and they have an excellent pace attack.

Steyn: Class apart
There can be nothing better than watching complete batsman like Sangakara, Dravid, Mahela, Cook batting in front of a pace attack comprising of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Merchant De Langes.

Or on the other side, some Ponting, AB, Kallis or Sachin batting in front of Anderson, Broad, Tremlett, and Finn. Wow!!

Anderson: Institute of Swing bowling
Ironically, these mythical gods are so rare these days. I feel an urge to keep James Anderson and Dale Steyn cotton wrapped, for we are witnessing pace bowling death in Pravin Kumars and Shahadat Hussains.
Otherwise, time will only have stories of leg cutters and swings. Bowling machines will replace pacers and cricket will no more be the game I cinched for.
Being a purist from heart, I cannot see the steadfast death of cricket, but alas I don’t have a choice, do I?

I would still, in my all capacity pray to the gods, the dragon gods, the warriors to return back, to enrich the game once again, for this art of fast bowling goes beyond the normal human capability and only fire breathing, yet calm, clinch fished dungeons, the gods of rain and the sea have the capacity of keep it alive.

The prayers hope they reach beyond the skys. And someday, even during this age of swat hitting we will witness the fight of concentration and furious moving leather. There are fewer better sites that this.
May this wish come true, the dragons may return by the monsoon, amen!


Before I take leave, this is the time for last 15 day’s star. This time it is Mahela Jayawardene, for his superlative batting display in both the tests, add to it, his excellent captaincy. Keep it up MJ!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

There is a LITTLE more to cricket - I

Perhaps it is a touch late on my part to write this, but as they say “better late than never”. Talking about cricket in a country like ours is like breathing or walking or eating or sleeping as if no one notices, as if it is so common and as if everyone out there is well, well verse with the head and tale of this thing, called cricket.
Why this then? What is the need of writing this?
Essentially, even I myself am not very convinced with the idea of writing a column like this but then deep down somewhere I feel something is missing amidst the hurricane of sixes and fours. Something is not there between the cans of cola. Something that has not to do with as Ravi Shashtri says on TV. Something a cricket lover ought to know. Something that separates us from hola-de-berserk crowd and makes us comfortable in the admirer’s balcony. Something that teaches us to enjoy even the losses, for a game ain’t a war.
Yes, a detonation was required and was fired from someone very dear and here I am with my insight of cricket and how it is getting along. I am bound to be wrong almost every time, but hey! That’s OK to be wrong I suppose!
Just before I start, I would admire and cherish you sincere comments and would try to answer them in my capacity (if there are any at all). I am at will to be active at least once every month and specially during any important series. Feel free to bang me, if you want me to cover something special (not someone and certainly not THE ONE specifically).

This was to come earlier but because I am very late in everything, it has somehow automatically become a fitting tribute to Rahul Dravid, a man who deserved it all but never made it at first choice.
This ain’t going to be a song of praise for he does not require one from someone like me at least. This ain’t an analysis of the work accomplishments at all for this was his job and he had to do it and he was paid, quiet well.
This doesn’t mean that he does not have them, he have them and in abundance. No less than anyone in the sporting world, if not more.
But this is about the poise and calm he brings in. The technique, the composure, the grit and the flow; they are simply matchless. And during all this that could have well been absolutely stupendous he remains totally restrained and by the deference you would only help yourself believe that this was natural and obvious and was effortless- nothing exceptional.
Yes, that’s been a characteristic of the man who never liked the name given to him, The Wall!
He often joked that this makes him easy target for critics; they can easily say that wall is down or cracked if he failed.

Call it a fan obsession or our near sightedness, we have learned to live with this name which to me, does not seem to have done justice to this great cricketer. Yes he has the steeliness yet he has not been just a blocker, for those who have not seen his powerful cuts and purer than the purest drives have missed something for sure. Those who have seen have missed a heartbeat or two. He for sure does not have the flamboyance of a Ponting or the brilliance of a Tendulkar but he has more of it. Both on and off the field.
And cricket is not only about record books.
Ed Smith, a fellow at Kent County and now a columnist say that during his county stint with Kent, the players met a special human being first, an international cricketer second. Such has been his presence that makes things look normal. This does not mean that he does not know the value of his stardom or his success stature but such is the obliviousness that comes inherently in his nature that he looks and makes everyone feel so normal.
There certainly are humble people around, more so lesser these days but they surely have been and are still there, but it can be seen from their faces that they have been trying very very hard to be normal. The sheet of over modesty is palpable on to their face. This is somehow missing from Dravid’s ethics. He surely would not be human if he does not like the charm and the publicity and the glory but no one has ever scented a hint of it for the past 16 years. He has remained normal all through his life.
He is an honest gentleman. Again, gentleman is a misconception we often attach with being good looking, well dressed and charming. Of course he has all these inherently but being a gentleman demands more. It is being constant and restraint in every condition. It is being there for every situation and fulfilling you duties and obligations without a fuss.
And Dravid has it all. He is able to deliver what he thinks and what he does. He knows him quite well and has always been a great student of the game. He is tough as are his in-numerous innings: at the Oval, at Jamaica, at Rawalpindi and the list goes on. But the toughness comes automatically, he never paraded it. It has to come from within, by the job he does, by the process he follows. He has always been social, polite, mentally tough and intellectually curious.
And yes, he has been extremely honest to himself and to his fans and country. Despite being one of the most modest men, he never covered himself with the artificial modesty or macho yobbishness that most of the sportsperson do. On the contrary of the usually myth that they had nothing special and they worked very hard, he has always accepted that very early it was seen that he has this special talent, the ability to do it all and he worked hard to it. He knew he was different. "I was given a talent to play cricket," Dravid explains. "I don't know why I was given it. But I was. I owe it to all those who wish it had been them to give of my best, every day."

What an insightful truth! What a man!
There can be no greater examples of humbleness and truthfulness.
He could well have carried it a bit longer, as everyone else has been doing and you know who does what.
But it would have been undravid (this deserved to be in the dictionaries now on) to not do the way he has done it, the retirement.
It is no wrong in hoping for a farewell test, where fans stand up and gather in large number or waiting for a fairy last game to happen but as said, he has been a man of no fuss, no individuality, and no stardom tantrums. Nothing!
He stepped down when he felt it is time, and it skipped between the lines, as he always have been. He has been the glue which has not to be seen but seeps through gently and importantly, without creating any news or amusement.
Not many people would know that his retirement was planned, for he was thinking of it for almost 8-9 months, starting the tour of West Indies. He was the first man to vacate seats for new comers, those who deserve to give a run of their money. He chose the English tour to say it last where it started 16 years ago. In a team of old, wounded, injured and talentless folks he fought a war solely and splendidly. Yet, he was not satisfied for he could not help for the cause, win. Dravid and personal milestones never stood together.
On being asked after retirement, if there are any regrets of doing a failed tour of Australia, he simply quips that after a greatly successful tour to England, it would have been unfair not to serve his country. He owed this much to his team, sadly not every story ends like a fair.

Arguably the fittest person having played for such a long time, he never learned to complain as he always says, “There is no end to complaining and learning. I choose to do the second.”  He says that cricket has given him so much that complaining does not suit the bill. And he keeps learning, for learning to not only the adjustment he has to make but a continual process of evolution. Rahul Dravid, the phoenix keeps on evolving come what may.
Done everything for the team, when he could have done the way he would have wanted to, makes him stand out from the greats. Fortunately for the cricket there are few people with whom senses prevail and they know the value of cricket personified. The speech at Bradman’s oration speaks volume about what he thinks and how much how good he thinks about cricket. Leaving hefty ads and going to Abu Dhabi and testing the ICCs idea of Pink ball day and night tests tells the story about this man’s dedication.
More than the Blues, I would miss him in the whites. His humbleness in taking guard and serenity in acknowledging his fans on centuries and not pumping the fists like Kohlis and Rainas, his straight from the book cover drives and his rock solid defense and the mature smile will be missed. More than this I will miss the sportsmanship which drives him to rise and reach to Ponting to congratulate him for his long sought century when other 10 players spend time swearing and crying.

It’s been 15 days of finding salvation and crying and mourning over the last closed book of cricket, the gentlemen’s game it once used to be. Yes I know life never stops, yes I know cricket will move on, yes I know there will be more talent, yes I know that nothing is irreplaceable is a good line to speak. But then I know that playing IPLs and T-20 s will not make a Rahul Dravid. Choosing grit over beauty, humility over arrogance, struggle over rejection and self belief over instinct is what makes one Rahul Dravid.
It hurts while writing these lines as I could not stop the flow of water from my eyes, the riches of which have been flowing through the veins of my cricketing body. My heart does not want me to believe what I have lost 15 days back, yet again there is Dravid calmly, slowly but steadily subsiding down on the floor of my cricketing self.

Thank you my friend for making me rich with these 16 years of yours. In the years to come, perhaps too late we might realize what we have lost; the civility and the craft, the steel attitude and the dignity, the team spirit and the sportsmanship, we have lost cricket, period.

Before I leave, I would mention the star performer for the last month. And this month it has to be Shakib Al Hasan for his all round heroics for Bangladesh in Asia Cup and preceding BPL. This man can do it all and deserves a place in any team today (yes, even in Aus or Eng) based on his performance. More on him, sometimes later.
 Virat Kohli and Jhoolan Goswami (can she not play for the men’s team?) are missing by a little.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A bowl of gold dust

She was six when I first saw her.
No. Six days, not years or months. It was a wet August afternoon when Sunil came running to our house, “Uncle ji! A little laxmi has arrived in mamma’s lap.” Papa tapped him and went away to see Sharma ji and Mrs. Sharma. My mother was already there.

Sunil was five then and I was eight, the tallest, the strongest, the least charming and the oldest. Eh! I hate this idea. But when you stay in a company of a six year, five year and a new born one, you have very little to help yourself from the feeling of being old. 

Old at a paltry age of eight! So was I. Sunil was a junior at studies, though we were never to the same school. We, my family including the big old me, stayed in his house as tenants. He kept on hanging in my kitchen as much, because my mom is the most fabulous cook of all time. OK, arguably she is, but I am not in a mood to argue over this. Not today, actually on a second thought, never!

He would turn up with his books to papa for studies and then will keep on playing with my kid brother. They gelled well as they were of the same age group. They both had this habit of pestering my mother for sooji’s halwa (a sweet dish we prepare with coarse flour, butter and sugar). My mother, as much she is skilled, as she is kind, to crap kids.

Me! I was only the wrong’un, who didn’t fitted the picture but Sunil handled me well. Honestly he had little to choose from as I was the only one who knew maths, and the maps, and the drawing and yes! Above all, the marble tricks.

We visited Sharma’s in an official ceremony; the auspicious one celebrated on a kid’s 6 day completion. And there she lie, wrapped in cotton wool, softer than the surroundings, as cute as the fresh siwaiyaan Asim’s mom kept in his Mickey Mouse lunch box, as beautiful as a Asha Parekh in one of the Chitrahaar songs I kept watching secretly with one eye. Ah! As lovable as it gets. She was right there.

She was the youngest and was more of a doll to all. None of us gave her any respect in true sense, though love was flooding in the form of cheek biting and nose poking. Soon she got a name for her, Smita. But none of the other kids called her by this name. She was named mita, seemu, mooli, lakdi and more than anything else I always called her Nanhi for she was so young and cute.

She apparently never liked those names and we never gave an ear to any of her likings. Specially the younger kids would treat her with all sort of fun and she would eventually turn up to me with big droplets over her cheeks, calling them names and to comfort her I’ll have to scold them. At times I would even beat them up for false to make her happy. She would giggle and smile and laugh and clap. Awesome!

She never named me as my brother never did. I was always her Bhaiya and they there were Atul bhaiya and Sunil bhaiya. She would say this to everyone, I’ve three bhaiyaas, one is Sunil, one is Atul and the third one, the biggest is Bhaiya. Name? Uh! He hasn’t any.

Time passed as it always does, the good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter, the little and the big. Years moved, calendars changed. She was a notorious six year old now, when we left her house and moved in to our own. The distance was not much and so the detachment was not felt soon. We kept in touch, daily became weekly, monthly, quarterly and then it was really hard.
There was school, there was cricket, there were a lot of other stuffs and then we were not that much in touch. I missed her smile but the days have to move on, without much glitches they did actually.

I’d meet up Sunil once in a while and enquire about the little Nanhi but those were reducing times and we had a whole world to enquire about. And then I had to move out of town where even my mother and papa were quite out of touch. The dust slowly subsided, the talks faded and she was on the backdrop somewhere, deep, down, buried, yet alive.

I am thirty two now. It’s been nine years since I have been working here and I am now the talent manager here.
Delivering a speech on company ethics and work policies here, I am happy to see the smiling young faces. There are a dozen of kids who just finished their engineering and joined our company with loads of dreams in their eyes. As I finish it and wish them luck for their career, three of them approach me to clarify some doubt over their role in the projects and the locations in coming months.

Everyone is leaving now. I have closed my laptop and my marker, I am about to leave and find her gazing at me, I quickly look around. No! She is watching me, there’s no one else in the room.

“Excuse me miss…”
“Um, nothing… sorry.”
“It is OK. You alright.. Miss ?”
“No! Call me Nanhi.. Bhaiyaa!”

The tears, they are real pearl beads. I am speechless and glowing.
Love is in the air, the chilly wind has unfurled the age old book. The gold dust is floating in the air. And Nanhi, she is as cute as it can get.
A drop wins the fight with my eyelashes; my cheek feels its warmth, my heart feels hers. 

The Christmas carol rolls over… 

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Friday, December 23, 2011

The anecdotes of a far off friend who just vanished

The night is about to leave; there are no signs of sun yet. Sun anyways is late these days. The fog!
No! there ain’t no fog. No smog, no suffocation. The sky is as clear as a glass of purified water we get to see in one of the charming TV ads.
The wind is not strong, but is enough to talk to the loneliness. Enough to caress the jowl, and certainly capable of making one dither with cold.

The chilly gushes from the nearby river add to the agony. Only hopes of warmth are the dying stars and a couple of lamps twinkling far off the vista.
I still hold the last 100 rupees note inside my right thigh pocket. The pocket and the note help me overcome the cold, what if only a bit.


“It buzzed”
“Your phone”
“Ah! Um.. Sorry! I keep it silent during work hours. Didn’t notice. Thanks.”
“Mention not. It just blinked right away.”

Over the hedge of the barley farms
When the sun is just about to engulf
In the river on the far side of the trees
Right behind the square of bamboo bushes
Let me thank you before the kiss of dusk
For you’ve been a forever allurement

There were days when his texts made me smile.
Now! Now they scare me, if they are any, ever. It’s been six years since the last one.


It’s getting heavy. Not the weather, the air filled inside my lungs. As if someone is smoking puffs and barrels inside. I feel like drowning, suffocating, and my eyes wide open. I’m trying to cry out loud but couldn’t, I am numb and I am deaf. I am about to turn blind. All I can feel is the pain, the emptiness, the shame and my veins… my veins are bursting.

Why didn’t you turned up? Why have you always been so careless? What is the point of being so pointless?
Casual! No, you ain’t. It ain’t any excuse. Words must count and this should extend to a time period also known as always. You yourself collar this time and again. Ok, you have had in quite past.


I was in your city after 14 years. You married a couple of years back. No, I didn’t. I’ve no such intentions, never had any. Not counting your’s for the sake too. To be honest, I recently came to know this. Someone told someone else and it propagated. I don’t know the order of proliferation, not sure if you would even mind that at all.
At least I would not. It has never been my business anyway.

I didn’t inform you about my visit, I never do and you have known that now for eternity.
You nevertheless know that I am in the town. Ain’t we at the luxury of having common friends? Does it matter anyways?

We didn’t see each other for eight years now. Um.. wait! 9 years and half I suppose.
Wasn’t it you who said it is all over between us?
Over! For the matter of nothing! Ok, take my head off, almost nothing.


The shivering has eloped. Not sure if months have rallied or only I have aged. I don’t feel any colder now. The hand cuffs, the wrist bones, the ache. The Vandyke, I just want to loosen it up. My hands are getting wet, actually only the palms are. Yes, the armpits too. You never miss to remind me of my panting oxters.

I feel like something flowing on the back of my right ear. It feels like I can not breathe. I’ve been encroached by a huge python and his coil will leave only hay out of me. The blood is about to flood out of my nostrils. I just take out my hands from the pocket. The note, it is acting as a tissue paper in my hand. At least one of my palms are dry, the expense looks quite less at this hour.


“Keep this. In case you do not wish to come back, it will make you come back.”
I had no option but to accept your generosity: had it been those days and I have been writing it then, I would simply called it your love.
We met a number of times since then, you never allowed me to return the favor.

Turning back, when I ask back to myself…

I wanted to pay… Yes!
I tried to pay…Yes!
You wanted to take… No!
You tried to take… Doesn’t matter!

I still hold that note and roam around. Not sure what has kept me going. I don’t want to do this. I never wanted to. OK; I actually did at a point of time but that’s an age old thing now. Only if I could take out my hand and return it to you, only if you could hurt me beyond my threshold, only if I can set free of the web, only if the sun could come out early in the mid sky.
If only we can meet and cry and week and fight and……fade!


The silence is so intense that my breath notes seem to be talking within themselves. As if I cannot miss a single note, as if the world’s rhythm is dependent only on me. As if this responsibility is taking off all the weight from my shoulders, freeing me up. As if I would never get a better morning. The air has the warmth and coziness I’ve been missing for years now. The sky is getting darker as if the spark of the day is just about to take oath. The river meanders in the shape of a beautiful smile. The happiness seems to be inherited in every twinkle of the stars.

I see a couple of fireflies moving from leaves to leaves, from twigs to twigs, burning, fuming, leaving, flying, sitting and vanishing in to the identity of the dwelling they take shelter at.
The flow is so neat, so clean, so pure, so painful but so effortless at the same time.
I take out the note from my pocket, straighten it up. I simply keep looking at it. It means almost you to me but I want to set you free. More than that, I want to free myself up. Dropping down when time is right is way better and commendable that hanging forever for no reason. Not all leaves are painted on the walls; they have to fall when time comes.

I tear it up, in 2-4-8 pieces and free them in to the flowing river. The sun has come out. The first ray just kisses one of the bits flowing through and finds its way to my face. I can see you, free from all malaise, I can see other chunks glittering, shining on the calm surface. I am feeling light, I can count them. I can feel myself; I can feel the freshness in the air.
I can hear the nightingale singing the melody of happiness.


One of the pieces does not take the destined course though. It has messed up with a nearby bush against the flow and I could not free it up.
I am leaving your city and you. For ever!
I won’t be back if I talk senses.
But something somewhere like the last piece of the note is still hanging from the cliff.
Someday, sometime if you could just call, just wish… I won’t be very far!
After all life is all about beliefs and memories! And death! Even that does not seem to defy a thing… I believe, I do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Complaints!! My Willow!!

No, these are not the words anyone spoke to me. These are the breath-notes of the finest gentleman this world has at this time. OK, arguable. My statement holds hard soil when we talk about sports at the least.
It has not been a new phenomenon to forget people who don’t know branding/marketing. It’s grievous and an act of awful shame that we always had a tendency to forget the real worriers. Be it Ramayana, Mahabharata, Struggle for Independence or our own parents, we don’t give that a damn.
Aanhaa! Disagreeing buddy? Without asking Wiki, do tell me Chandra Shekhar Aazad’s Birth Day. Here you go!! You will only remember Gandhi Jayanti. Oh! Won’t you?

Time and again we have been a disgrace to ourselves. No wonder we have been good for nothing for ages now. Now cut the crap about man power, GDP, IT hub Gurgaon and rising nation. Get over and face the cruelty i.e. the truth.

Lot many people are writing about him, you know who, these days. Emotion is flowing through twitter and facebook. Not to mention cricinfo as well.
Can’t we stop being filth, dirt and a sack of lie? I mean no one, not a single crap writing author/writer or follower of sport (minus a bunch of truly dedicated fans) has written any great things about this man and now he turns in to a great man over night?
And I would rather say, offensive.


Rahul Sharad Dravid, a most humble person, a lean and a good looking batsman debuted against England 15 years back. I started watching test cricket that very day.
It has been 15 good years and we have been asking him whatever we can and the reply has always been the same “Yes. I will do it.” with a broad smile and tons of assurance.

“Hey Rahul, We don’t have a number seven, will you?”
“Yes! Gleefully.”
“Hey Rahul, our number five is unwell. Can you do it?”
“Hey, you need not request. I shall do it.”
“Hey Rahul! You are slow in ODIs. Will you move out?”
“Ah! Never mind. There are better folks. I have been lucky to play this far.” Even after scoring more than the replacements.
“Hey Rahul! We have a problem. We only have spinners and all we need is a player with real good reflexes at slips. Will you do it?”
“Why not? The pleasure will all be mine. I would get to learn and contribute.”
“Hey Rahul! Would you mind coming in at 3 in tests? Actually, we are going on lush green grounds and our most experienced player has returned home after having a rough time with the captain.”
“No Problem. I am up to the task. I shall present myself for the team.”
“Hey Rahul! I told you, you would go places at number three. Can you take that position in ODIs as well?” As if you did nothing on your own.
“Why not? I would respectfully take it and perform my duties to the best I can.”
“Hey Rahul! Ours’ is a weakly balanced side. Will you mind if I ask you to keep wicket? Actually no one wants to do it, and everyone said that you can do it. You can actually do anything.”
“I certainly will do it. I will have to bend a little more but OK I have no problem if it is good for the team.”
“Hey Rahul! We have lost once again and our captain has no courage left to face the media. Can you…”
“I will take up this challenge and shield our openers, bowlers, fielders and anyone but me.”


And the days passed, he took every burden and performed like Hercules. Stone after stone, steps after steps, runs after runs, catch after catch and we had a WALL of our own.
Relatively newer, more humble, more grateful yet, stronger.
And then…the requests were taken for granted.
“Our pacers are too weak. They can’t field. You need to run from first slip to third-man/fine-leg and get the balls.”
“I will take that responsibility.”
“We don’t have an opener. We have brought a rookie and he might not see the first over itself. You need to consider yourself as an opener and play all day long holding the fort.”
“I will play for the whole five days, it is an honor, though I do not deserve this much respect. Why are you worried?”
“Though he is a cricketing god, he can’t open under any circumstances. And you know, we must not ask reasons to god. So, it has to be you only.”
“No need asking him. I can do it as well.”
“Our god is playing yet again for his record, like a snail. Do the honor of calling him back. Mind you, that you take all the blame.”
“As ordered! For the spirit of a team-man.”
“Hello Rahul! Captain a team where we don’t have bowlers and openers.”
“Aahaa! It is the highest honor for a kid like me. I have never even dreamt of it. I am not that good for it.” After scoring 20000 international runs. You kidding me?? Are you?
“Hey! We can’t bowl, we can’t score runs. You have to win against West Indians on your own.”
“Affirmative. I shall comply.”
“Rahul! Go for the 20-20 world cup.”
“No! Give youngsters a chance. I will convince other senior fellow as well. We won’t take part.”
“Rahul! We don’t have an opener and we want to play Yuvraj. Sachin and Yuvraj are not keen to open.”
“I am the captain, I’ll do it. I will face the fresh leather.”
“We won’t listen to you, Rahul. Either you stay or we will.”
“Ok folks. For the good of the team, I quit.”
“Rahul! We are dropping you from ODI side.”
“I must improve. I have not been great.”


Two years passed and Dravid did not play any ODI. He has been playing only tests and never asked for any break/rest and was never sick. Flawless!
“Rahul! We are going to bouncy tracks and we don’t have players to last 50 overs. Join us.”
“It is an honor, I will do it.” He was the second highest scorer and yet he was dropped after the series.
Two years later, India- Dravid struggled in England. And the facts:
                    Everyone except Dravid skipped the practice match. Count SRT too.
                    Everyone except Dravid, struggled.
                    Everyone except Dravid played at his normal position. Dravid kept and opened, yet again. Not for the last   time though.
And bingo!!!
“Dravid! We need you back in ODI. O savior! Please save us.”
“OK. Though I wished to retire from ODIs without any fuss today, as you have asked I am committed for this series.”


How long man!!
How long will we insult him and in this course, the game of cricket and his humbleness?
It is not a frailty or a crime on his part to be good and kind. Agreed, he might not been the most exciting to watch for many. Taken that he might not be the all time best, he still is the finest human being and greatest sportsman the history will remember.
A true team man and a real worrier when the odds are stacked against, he never ever learnt to complain. This man knows only one thing and that is playing for the game and he does it with all the serenity a yogi could have. He is stuffed with the calmness only gods are authorized to, the strength only mountains have and the application only wind could possess. Rahul has never missed a single game (count domestic games, practice games and what not.). And our gods, they can't even field for the whole match. What shame!!

The game has seen many flamboyant and charismatic characters throughout the evolution but there have not been a single perfectionist as RSD who makes us believe why cricket was termed to be a gentleman's game.
Someone once said, no matter how highly everyone out there is rated only one person can stand anywhere with his bat. Yes, even on the mine fields having explosives everywhere. And that is Rahul Sharad Dravid.
He must have deprived us of his services in this ODI series but given the kind of gem Jammy is, this was expected that he will do it. He will do anything for the game.
Unfortunately, Scotland and England have understood his worth better that ourselves but then, this is how we Indians have been. Thankless bunch of non-sense zombies. Ah! I wish zombies don’t take it as an offense.

Somewhere 40 years later, I will be telling this to young kids:

There once was a humble tree
Who let everyone absolutely free
Anyone could have demanded anything
He would dance, write, choreograph and even sing
For his deeds he always stood second,
he was humble and never tried to pretend
None after him who could seed that faith
Even in the evening we will be safe.
For his staying and even a defense
I could throw down every crossing of fence.

No! He is not an unlucky player to not get the appreciations he deserved.
No! He is not an underachiever who could not make it large when time loomed.

It is us, the fellow countrymen who are the losers.
It is us who missed to read the art he sketched on the field.
It is us who missed standing and appreciating his stature.
It is us who never returned the faith he has given to us.
It is us who could work for he stayed there holding the forte.
It is us who have been thankless insects who does not value the cold light from moon.
It is us who do not actually know what batting is.
It is us who lost the opportunity to watch the classic and the class.

Saying anything for him would literally be less, he is the ultimate star and role model both as a cricketer and as a human being.

Salutes mate! For giving me pleasure for 15 years and honor for life!!

You simply are the best on and off the field!!!
The Knight India never deserved but always needed...
Miss your back-foot cuts, miss your river like calm celebrations, miss your cover drives, miss your sharp nips at slips and I will miss cricket in its classical form. You have been the sportsmanship personified. Period!