Vantage point

Monday, December 29, 2003

Some say that to beat Australia, you need bowlers who can take 20 wickets a match. That is wrong. You need bowlers who can take 40 wickets a match. Every batsman gets a chance early in his innings. Even today, Hayden survived an absolutely plumb LBW appeal very early. If that had been given, who knows what might have happened.

Like everyone says, what is expected from umpires is not perfect decisions. there are bound to be mistakes. However, at times, the umpiring gets a little too bad. At such times, the umpire concerned should think about retirement.

We all are talking about Sachin's poor form. Another person who has been in horrible form is David Shepherd. People who saw the WI-Aus series early this year will remember his atrocious decisions there as well. He seems to hate giving LBWs to batsmen who have a propensity to plonk their front foot forward. This means the entire Aussie team gets a benefit of doubt almost all the time.

India have collapsed a couple of times in this match. Australia, has not been allowed to collapse by the umpire. I recall so many times when immediately after a dismissal, there was a plumb decision turned down. Indian bowlers tend to attack the stumps more than the Australians, as was shown by the Hawkeye stats yesterday. Zaheer and Nehra are left armers who have modelled their bowling loosely on Wasim Akram's. remember the huge number of LBWs he got, and you will know what I mean. Kumble again, is not a big turner of the ball. His main wicket taking deliveries are his flipper and googly, both of which trap the batsman in front. So refuting a chunk of LBWs dries up a major source of wickets for our bowlers. Hayden got 3 reprieves in his first innings century, Waugh got 2 in his 19, and Ponting, hell, don't even get me started. He had got 2 lives in his duck at Adelaide.

What makes me not respect this batting lineup is the extremely high number of lives they get. Very very rarely have I seen them play a chanceless innings like some of the other better batsmen in the world. Which is why, for me, the batsmen of 2003 are Lara and Dravid, not Ponting and Hayden.

So anyway, Aussies rode their luck and won the test match. We did not help the cause, by giving our wickets away most of the time. Our tail reverted back to its usual habits, adding just 8 runs between them in 2 innings. V V S Laxman is one player who rarely uses his pads, and so at the rare occasion when he does use it, he gets into trouble. MacGill got him twice in this test with decent deliveries, but had Laxman played his natural game, he would have let them go.

Credit must also go to the Aussie bowlers. They used the second new ball in the second innings really well, getting it to seam sharply. Dravid and Ganguly fell to this seam movement.

There are, however many positives that have come out of this test.

Our bowling has generally been up to the mark, even though looking at the huge Aussies scores and the rapid runrates, one might laugh at this. But as I said, a few decisions given right, and this attack looks very good.

Saurav Ganguly has added another feather to his battered helmet. He has now silended those who dismissed his Brisbane knock as a fluke saying "now he wont make a big score for a year". His decision to shield Tendulkar shows bigtime guts. When everyone is still not fully convinced about his own form, he took on the Aussie assault in the closing hours of the day. This shows real leadership. He stood up to the Aussies, and wasn't fazed by the situation. His decision was vindicated to a great degree, with him getting a good half century, and Tendulkar scoring an "almost-back-to-form" 44 before he became too ambitious, trying to drive a ball that wasn't quite there to drive. Ganguly's innings should be remembered as one of the bravest gestures made by a captain. Not just bravery, but even the way he was playing was very compact. His feet were moving, his bat was coming down straight, and he was finding gaps in the offside. This man is in form, and mark my words, he will get big scores in the VB series.

Dravid is like the energizer rabbit. He keeps going on and on and on. The Australians have no idea how to get him out. They just keep bowling hoping he makes mistakes. He made a mistake in the first inning on 49, but the second inning delivery was a beauty from Lee. The ball pitched at a length and line, that he had to play at, lest it come back and hit him on the pads in front. But it seamed off the pitch sharply, taking the outside edge. There is very little anyone can do to such a ball. Just like his dismissal at Brisbane , he again was unlucky to get the best ball of the innings. However his form is amazing and it will be interesting to see who has a higher average at retirment, him or Sachin.

Sehwag's first innings was masterful. The Aussies had no reply for him. They did plan his dismissal in the second innings though, having noticed his tendency to scoop the ball to the onside uppishly. But as I said in my last post, i think he has enough brains to figure out what his mistakes are. This is a man who has got 5 centuries in 19 tests, 3 of them away on seaming tracks on the first day of a test match. All the centuries have come in pressure situations against good bowling attacks. We should really stop thinking that we know more about cricketing technique than him. Just because a player scores rapidly, doesn't mean he is another Afridi.

Another big plus from this match was the attitude of Parthiv Patel towards his batting. He seemed to have very little trouble protecting his wicket against the new ball. His duck in the first innings was to a beauty of a delivery, and he couldn't do much about it. But in the second innings, batted with maturity way beyond his 18 years. Playing out the first few balls of an over, trying to get a boundary, and then taking a single off the 4th or 5th ball of the over to shield the lower order. This guys bats better than any Indian wicket-keeper in the last decade or so. And I am not referring just to his talent or technique, which of course is there. I am talking about his attitude of putting a price on his wicket, and staying on top of bowlers. If a bowler glares at you, glare back. Fantastic. And this guy is just 18 years old. This guy is captaincy material. Now if only someone told him to correct his attitude towards keeping. Even there though, the changes required are minor.

Akash Chopra has been batting consistently well on this tour, and had he not been at the short of of a wrong decision stick, he might have played another valuable innings. He did not look troubled by the Aussie bowlers at any stage. In fact what makes this Indian opening pair amazing is the chanceless way in which they open most innings, not like Hayden and Langer riding their luck. Which is why they have outperformed the fancied Aussie pair so far. I think Chopra is a better selection ahead of Ramesh, and once again I must admit that Wright and ganguly made the correct decision by sticking with him despite Ramesh's successes in the tour games.

Anil Kumble. What has gone unnoticed in all this hoopla is his second successive 5 wicket haul abroad. I have been one of his biggest critics, but I must admit my mistake. He has been bowling very well , and even though other may laugh at the 320 plus runs he gave away for those 11 wickets, had the umpiring decisions gone his way, he would have had even better figures. He will be a key man in Sydney. However, he has this tendency to give one loose ball every now and then. One hopes that he shall correct this soon.

On to Sydney now. It will be interesting to see what sort of a pitch we come across there. Lately, Perth has been a paceman's nightmare, and Sydney has been a spinner's bane, contrary to the traditional nature of their pitches. The last time we came to Sydney, it had a green top. Whatever the nature of the pitch is, despite this defeat, I am convinced that the better team is india. Hope the luck with the umpiring decisions changes in the new year.

Here's looking at a series win. All the best, India.

The mercury in Lucknow has suddenly rediscovered gravity with a new passion, and is down like crazy. Just like last year, those damned "Western disturbances" have caused another cold wave. Already almost a 100 people have died in U.P. and we aren't even into January. I remember December last year, and it was not so cold. Full-day-fog had not made its appearance, and we would get the regular hours of sunshine. January was horrible last year, with hundreds dying in U.P. and Bihar, both states declaring it a calamity.

This year, the last few days of december have been like January last year. It makes me shudder, literally and figuratively, at the idea of what this January would be like. What makes the cold even more unbearable is the wind. Biting chilly winds blow whole day long, and they make the outdoors seem even colder than they are.

Thankully, I am going to escape the worst of the cold wave, since I will be in Pune and Konkan during the first week of January. Here I come. :)

Friday, December 26, 2003


One thing that the 2001 India-Australia series did was to get me well and truly convinced that test cricket is the ultimate entertainment if you are a true lover of the game, and not in just for jingoistic kicks. If you are like me you would have enjoyed Sehwag's cut shots infinitely more than his well struck 5 sixes. This evolved appreciation of the game takes one to a truly different level, and you start observing the game and savouring every aspect of it, rather than just gorge on it, like most one day lovers do. The difference is like that between someone who enjoys vintage wine and someone who guzzles down beer.

Hoever, it is very difficult to sustain oneself in such an "evolved" level of the game's appreciation unless you have around you likeminded people who will discuss the game with you. Back home, there are people like Harish, Ameya, Ramanand and Neeraj who make such conversations delightful and in IIML there are people like Tony, Sunil, Pushkar and Rajkamal.

Over the past few weeks, we have been having innumerable discussions about one topic - "Lara or Tendulkar?" Who is better among these two masters? Tendulkar's recent poor run (not form mind you) and Lara's purple patch have led many to believe that the swashbuckling southpaw has finally stolen a march over the near-perfect right hander. The debates have had the usual tools employed, like career stats(tendulkar averages higher, and has got 50% more centuries), window stats (in the last couple of years Lara has a phenomenal record), one shot case studies(Lara's 213 in 98 against Australia or Tendulkar's 193 against England), the list goes on and on.

The thing with stats is that you can put filters on them and come out with totally conflicting conclusions. You can say Lara's 6 double hundred (including a triple) proves he is better at compiling big scores. You can also say that 24 of Tendulkar's 31 hundreds have won or drawn the match for India (8 wins and 16 draws) so he is better at saving India. In short, stats don;t really tell you much beyond a certain point. As I always keep saying, stats might tell you who the best 5 players in the world are, but they can not rank them.

There is a big question of what exactly constitutes "best batsman". It is very difficult for me to articulate it perfectly, but I shall try to put forth my definition nevertheless. First we must get this thing of stats out of the way. Lara and Tendulkar both have similar career stats, so forget that.

GOODNESS OF A BATSMAN = Talent X Technique

A product of talent and technique is what makes a good batsman in my eyes.

Now both the guys are amply talented. But raw talentwise, Lara has an edge over sachin. You can see this by the way he bats when he is going well, and by the way he can just convert good balls into 4 balls and 6 balls is astonishing. Tendulkar has talent as well but I think his technique is superior to Lara's. That is not to say there are any permanent flaws in Lara's technique, though some have crept in time to time, only to be eradicated with alacrity.

Let me explain this technical superiority of Sachin in another way. When a batsman is out, there are two ways in which he goes. Either the bowler takes his wicket , or he gives it away. A batsman gives it away by playing a rash shot, or misjudging the line and length, or playing the wrong shot. A bowler gets it when the ball is so good that the batsman can't prevent getting out. If you look at Lara, about half the times he gives it away, and half the times, the bowler gets him out. However in Sachin's case, my claim is that as high as 95% of the dismissals would be those where he gives it away. Very rarely do I remember him getting out to a good ball. A very good catch, many times, but a very good ball, rarely. Most good balls, he either plays out, or even hits for boundaries. This shows his good technique.

Tendulkar watches the ball like a hawk, literally till the last moment. He plays his shots very late, and that is why so many commentators marvel "He has so much time!!". With Lara's flourish, it is different. he sees the ball early, but he doesn't play the shot very late. Most of the times, he sees the ball, makes up his mind where to hit the ball and goes through with the shot, without watching the ball for the last few milliseconds or so. So take the case of short balls. If there is a less-than-best short ball, say on the legside, or something, Lara will play it much better than Tendulkar. His hooks and pulls off not so good balls will connect better than sachin. However if you have well directed bouncers, Sachin will play them better.

This superior technique of Sachin's has come through years and years of dedicated practice. Lara has had major ups and downs in his career and had even given up cricket for a whole year once. But there are qualifying factors for sachin too. His back problems have cut down his repertoire of shots bigtime since 1999. Remember how he charged down the track (danced down the track doesnt seem a fit description) hitting bowlers, fast and spin, out of the attack. He can't do that now. he can;t hit those straight sixes charging down the track. If he does so occasionally, like against Caddick in the 2003 World Cup, it has to be a horizontal bat shot. Lara having no such problem, post 99 can truly claim the title of the best player of spin bowling in the world. Because once the straight batted shots were taken away from sachin, his ability to decimate spinners reduced manifold.

Still, by and large, I think this product of talent and technique is higher in sachin's case. Produce a tough pitch to bat on, and get a really tough bowling attack, and my hypothesis is that Tendulkar will score more runs against them than Lara. Hence I feel tendulkar, despute his golden duck today, is still the best batsman in the world. And while watching Lara in full flow is more entertaining, at 34, it is too late for him to attain the level of greatness or "bestness" that Tendulkar has achieved through an unbeatable combination of talent and technique.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Some more excerpts from the "Daily Some Achaar"

Melbourne - What was earlier dismissed as rumour has now been confirmed. The Australian team has a "Mouth Coach" who trains the players about what to say in the media and on the field. Cricket Australia (CA) officials had been dismissing the reports of such a person, but this correspondent finally uncovered the secret when he accidentally walked into a "training session" being conducted for the players at the MCG.

The coach, whose name was later discovered to be Moe Termouth, has been working for the Australian team since the last 5 years. He is only 12 years old and was appointed as the coach at the age of 7 when erstwhile captain Mark Taylor witnessed him fighting other children on a playground. The wide array of boorish insults Moe heaped upon other kids impressed Taylor and he was immediately recruited as the Mouth Coach.

The Australian team however has not confirmed his existence. However speaking off the record, one player told us about Moe's methods.

Before every tour, he sits with the players and decides on comments which are to be made to the media. These comments are decided on the basis of prior research done by Termouth. He also gives the players a list of abuses to be hurled at opposition players.

"On our 2001 tour to India McGrath could sledge Ganguly about his extra marital affair only because of Moe's suggestions." the player said.

There are also daily sledge practise sessions to make sure that all the expletives and insults are memorised.

"Moe's best suggestion so far has been to keep repeating in the media "sledging is a part of modern cricket" until everyone accepts it to be true."

However murmurs are being heard about Moe's effectiveness. His place is in danger after Australia's recent failures against India. Even though publicly, Australian players blame the batting for the Adelaide debacle, sources tell us that the failures have been attributed to the ineffective "mental disintegration".

"Some blokes are beginning to wonder if Moe is now too old for the job. We think that at 12 years, he is too mature to chalk out our mouth strategies." Already there are talks of appointing Chet Terbox, an 8 year old who has shown promise on Sydney playgrounds, to the post.

Another player, a big left hander who holds the world record for the highest test score, told us on the condition of anonymity "I think Moe is over the hill. Two months ago, he told me to say Laxman is scared of short bowling. Now after Laxman pulled so ferociously in Brisbane and Adelaide, i thought Moe would have a different strategy in mind. However what I was told to say was "Laxman is really scared of short bowling. I wonder if that is really going to work"

The pressure really seems to be getting to Termouth as the Australian team plans on new comments and abuses to hurl at the Indians in the run up to the Boxing Day test. This correspondent saw Moe list the following comments on the blackboard during the training sessions-

"Ganguly's wife is really fat"
"I don't like Sehwag's face"
"Sledging is a part of modern cricket"
"Agarkar has dandruff in his hair"
"Sledging is a part of modern cricket"
"All of Tendulkar's hundreds have been flukes"
"Our fast bowlers bowl fast and our spin bowlers bowl spin"
"Sledging is a part of modern cricket"
"Does Parthiv Patel even shave?"
"How can Indians be test champions if they produce such crappy movies?"
"Indians are too brown"
"Sledging is a part of modern cricket"
"Sledging is a part of modern cricket"

Australia's comeback in the test series now depends completely on whether Moe Termouth, the Mouth Coach can deliver. And if he doesn't, then youngChet Terbox may be running their mouths next series onwards.


The award jointly goes to Kareena Kapoor and "India's best friend"(in the words of Boycott), Stuart Macgill.

Before the first tes, when all Aussie bowlers were licking their lips at the thoughts of bowling to an Indian side, reputed to bat horribly abroad, all the bowlers were making weird statements in the press. Brad Williams first said "I should be picked because I have proven that I can perform at the test level", on the basis of his sole test against Zimbabwe. Then after Nathan Bracken was picked for the first test ahead of him, he made the infamous "I was not picked because I bowl with the wrong arm" quote.

However the most hilarious quote came from Stuey Macgill, who pushing for a place in the Adelaide test said, "I should be picked because I turn the ball away from right handers." What an astounding quote coming from a leg spinner!!!!!!!

Not as astounding as what Kareena Kapoor said though. Kareena, born with a silver clapper in her hands, brought up in a rich household, and handed a film debut on a silver platter said "I don�t identify with Chameli�s character". Chameli incidentally is the story of a low class prostitute , inspired from Pretty Woman.

Kareena and Stuart, please share the award.


One of the best things about living in Lucknow is the food. The Nawabi cuisine is legendary and millions of foodies have salivated gallons while thinking of the tunde kebabs, nahari-kulchas, biryanis, prakash kulfis, aloo chaat, pani-battasey that the city dishes out.

However today I will talk about two places known for fare that is not traditionally associated with Lucknow.

I am going to talk about.....and a BIG statement coming up next.....THE BEST Pizza place and THE BEST coffee shop that I have ever been to.

Pizza Port is a tiny restaurant located behind the Kapoorthala Complex in Lucknow. Other than pizzas, they also serve a bit of chinese food, and a bit of continental stuff. However their pizzas are worth dying for. Both vegetarian and non vegetarian pizzas are absolutely scrumptious. Pizzas have been part of the Indian food scene for about a decade now. While I do like any kind of pizza, I have noticed that there are two extremes. One is the Pizza Hut or Dominos type of pizza. Yes, they say they have tried to adapt the pizza to Indian palate, but I don't think they have quite managed it yet. Most pizzas from these big places leave one feeling very dry. And for a cola-hater like me, an irritating fact is that you have to keep asking for water like it is a rare commodity. Another thing I have noticed about these foreign chains is their sparse toppings. Maybe it is a ruse to get people to order extra toppings and thus make money off it, but the "default" quantity of the topping is very unsatisfactory, and this adds to the "dryness" factor.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are your total desi pizzas. These people use apna normal cheese, simple tomato puree and extremely weird pizza bases. You can make a similar pizza at home.

Even regards the price, pizzas occupy antipodes. An 8 inch pizza in an American chain would cost you around 120-180 rupees, while the same in a desi joint would cost you 30-40 rupees.

I give you Pizza Port. They have achieved the golden mean not only in terms of the price, but the taste as well. The toppings they use are a true combination of Western recipes and Indian preferences. The cheese, veggies and meat are in ample quantity and the pizza base is not visible on the top surface, like in Pizza Hut. A veg 8 inch costs 60-65 rupees and a non-veg one costs 65-80 rupees. The taste is just phenomenal. The ambience is pretty decent, and the delivery service is very fast.

Needless to say, Pizza Port is doing good business in Lucknow. Dominos views it as a major threat, especially since the owner is planning to open 2 more branches. IIML students have been begging him to start a nationwide chain, and we hope he will do so very soon. Because when we leave Lucknow, one thing I will really miss is the pizzas from Pizza Port. Not only the pizzas, but even the limited chinese and continental fare here is amazing. The veg au gratin is definitely the best I have eaten anywhere, as is the fish and chips.

The second place I will miss a lot is Cappuccino Blast on Mall Avenue(next to Mayawati's house). Though I discovered this place only last week, I have already fallen in love with it. The place is a pinnacle of interior decoration for a coffee shop. Artfully selected tables, chairs and cups are just one part of it. One wall is dedicated to announcements, notices and messages that patrons want to put up. Another wall has the best 3-D collage I have ever seen. It has an entire chess board, and a tea tray hangling perpendicular from the wall. The chandeliers that light up the place are exquisite. The third wall is a glass wall, and you can see the tables located in the garden outside.

A gift shop is attached to the cafe, where you get gift articles like key chains, earrings, trinkets, cutlery, hankies, and Giordano watches.

The menu is varied with different types of coffees and snacks, and the prices are just a shade lower than Barista. The coffee served in cute steel cups is great as well.

With only 2 months to go in this city, rest assured that I will frequent the two places a lot. I do hope both establishmentsdecide to open nationwide chains, because I will miss them when I leave Lucknow.

Monday, December 22, 2003

~~Dewdrops~~ is now updated.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


You do not mouth off about Indian batsmen without being punished for it. Yet Stuart MacGill has not learnt his lesson. Reading this article, one realises he is acting like a sore loser, a belligerent schoolboy who was been thumped badly, but still pretends to have his prestige intact. A few excerpts -

"It's not as if they know what I am bowling, it's almost as if they don't really seem to care what I am bowling. They get to the pitch of the ball a lot better than most batsmen," he said.

"I really do like [the challenge], that morning day three was probably the most enjoyable time I've had in Test cricket without taking wickets. I never thought it would really do it for me, because wickets are what I play for. I really liked seeing the confusion on their faces as they hit me for four."

Confusion, eh? With an egg on his face, he probably finds it difficult to see what is on others' faces. Never mind, he will learn at Melbourne.....or at Sydney if he survives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


At the end of the second day, I said to my friend, �This test has Calcutta 2001 written all over it.� At this stage, India were 180/4, still needing 176 to avoid a follow on. And no, it is not only Dravid and Laxman�s performance that reminded me of that famous win. It was the statements coming out of the Australian camp.

Ponting said that no matter how cheaply India gets dismissed on day 3, Australia WILL NOT enforce the follow on. That for me showed that for all their bravado, they are still under mental pressure and are a bit scared of the Indian batting lineup. It was a rank defensive statement if there ever was one. The actual decision to not enforce a follow on might have been a prudent one, but talking about it so early showed that the Aussies still hadn�t exorcised the ghosts of Calcutta, the World Cup final and the TVS Cup final notwithstanding.

Everyone was wishfully talking about another mammoth partnership from Dravid and Laxman, and the dressing room that morning seemed pleasantly relaxed, communicating that they were sure that those two would bat long, maybe all day long. Day 3 is when India really delivered a major blow to the Aussie psyche. The way the Aussie press was interpreting the end of the Brisbane test as some brilliant tactic by Waugh, which gave the Aussies, the mental edge back, showed how much the whole nation was in denial. Only the players were aware of the challenges that lay ahead. This awareness was driven home firmly by the Indian batsmen on day 3, and it was this psychological edge that eventually won us the match.

At the end of the first inning, and even now, everyone was clucking their tongues about how India let Australia make 556. That is a really shocking way to think. Our first inning bowling performance was as good as the second. Only we were unluckier. Look at the score � 556. Now consider the chances that Ponting got. Even if you discount the dropped catch, consider the 2 plumb LBW appeals that were turned down. Had the umpire given them, notice the fact that hardly any other Aussie batsman made a good score, and if decisions had been fair, we would have dismissed them for under 400. Under 400 on a batting paradise!

But just like all of us, even the Aussies didn�t realize that their 556 was really built more on Lady Luck�s rather than Ponting�s shoulder. As the clich� goes, she is a fickle mistress, and deserted them in the second innings, seduced by Laxman�s charm and Dravid�s grace, to join the Indian camp. All the stupid shots that the Aussies played got the punishment they deserved, except for the standard reprieve to Gilchrist. Agarkar bowled well, as did the unsung Pathan and Nehra, to make sure the Aussies never really got off to a flier.

When Gilly got going for about half an hour, that was the only time after day 2 that I thought we may just lose this match. Fortunately Kumble took care of that and once the target was under 250, it was always going to be easy for an in-form Indian lineup.

Who is Stuart Macgill? No seriously, who is Stuart Macgill? I read a news piece in which he said �I am happy with my Brisbane performance and will unleash everything at Adelaide�. That statement itself confirmed my opinion that he will never be even a tenth the bowler Shane Warne is. Someone who has such low standards for himself that he thinks 4-86, in which 2 of your wickets were batsmen playing on 75 and 144 who threw away their wicket, and the other 2 tail enders with single digit averages, is no match for the Sheikh of Tweak. Even in this match, he was totally ineffective. Our batsmen handled him with total ease. He really doesn�t deserve a place in the side, but thanks to is dismissal of Tendulkar, he will stay on I guess.

About Tendulkar now�..what is he doing? He is doing the exact opposite of what Sehwag does at times. Sehwag plays an unnecessary and technically flawed attacking shot. Sachin has recently started playing technically flawed defensive shots! A ball, pitching in line, and he pads up!!! I hope this win makes him realize that he is no longer the only man in the team, and he can afford to play his natural game. He is a naturally attacking player, and him leaving balls, is like a tiger voluntarily embracing vegetarianism. After India�s abysmal performances in the late 90s, he was forced to play this way in both forms of the game. I think it was the Natwest series, followed by the successful chase of 325 against West Indies, that made him realize, �Hey we can regularly win even if I get out early.� The key word being �regularly�, not flukes like at Dhaka in 1998. So in he World Cup, he changed gears. He went for the hooks, the pulls, the lofted cuts, backing his talent and technique to pull them off with a high probability of success.

This belief of his was further cemented when he got out 100 runs away from victory against Pakistan and yet the team sailed to victory. He knows cricket enough to realize that days like the WC final and the Natwest series final, will be there in your life.

What he needs now is a similar transition in his test match game. He needs to look at the phenomenal record of Dravid and Laxman over the past 2 years (not just this match). Dravid has got 3 double centuries in the last 9 test matches!!!! Laxman has averaged more than Tendulkar in the period from 2001! This win will now drive home the fact in his head, that for the first time in his career, he is actually part of the team, rather than being the team itself. Here�s to a more attacking and free-flowing Tendulkar from Melbourne onwards. Ganguly also said today that he can sense a big one for Sachin right around the corner.

People criticize Sehwag too much. Leave him alone, and let him work out his mistakes by himself. He is too talented to keep getting out in 40s, and he realizes it. See what a fantastic 2004 he has.

Now about the Australians. As Harish said in this blog post, Steve Waugh�s team an not handle pressure. Not just that, Steve Waugh just isn�t that good a captain tactically. He can lead from the front in an adverse scenario by batting well, but that�s all. He can�t outthink the opposition, as Harish has pointed out. It is just because he has won so many tests, that people attribute to him many qualities he doesn�t possess. I love his batting, and he is a fantastic player, but a thinking captain like Mark Taylor, he is not.

The commentators kept praising his field placings, and how he constantly shuffled the fielders around, making the batsmen think. That was ridiculous idolization of something that was very ineffective. Tugga, as Steve Waugh is called, has a policy of �dynamic field setting�. It is purely reactive rather than attacking. And for all the praise showered on him for his �astute fielding changes�, I cannot think of too many batsmen who were �thought out� by Waugh. He has not been able to come up with any specific weaknesses of the Indian batsmen, except for � a. Indian batsmen, specifically Ganguly, don�t play short bowling well (YOU DON�T SAY!!!!!!) b. Sehwag can�t handle a left armer who seams the ball into him.

The first weakness was shown to be truly ineffective, as except for Dravid on 233, no Indian batsman in the two tests has been dismissed, directly o indirectly, by the short ball. The second weakness was correct, but he inexplicably dropped Bracken from the team and neutralized that.

His bowling changes haven�t been great shakes either. The morning of the third day, he gives Bichel the ball only at the fag end of the morning session. Until then, the batsmen were well set. And even now, at the end of the match!! Bichel dismisses Ganguly, in comes Laxman, and immediately edges one that falls just short of the keeper. What does Tugga do? Spin at both ends!!!! Laxman embraced this generous gesture, and proceeded to figuratively yank up the whistle of the pressure cooker and let all the steam out of the situation. Then onwards India strolled to a win, and any memories of past failed chases, stayed buried. By the time Bichel was brought back, India was already eyeing the chequered flag with no sight of Australia in the rearview mirror.

As opposed to this, Ganguly has been an unsung captain. Yes, everyone applauds his attitude and how he has made the team mentally stronger. But we just do not appreciate the tactics he employs when fielding. So many Aussie batsmen have been �thought out� by Ganguly in this series. Ponting in the first test was an example, when he kept only one fielder on the onside, and asked Zaheer to bowl short. Ponting went for the hook, though the bouncer was outside off, and fell for the bait hook (!), line and sinker. Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist in the first innings here were dismissed using methods propagated by Stephen Fleming. Steve Waugh in the first innings was an excellent example. Nehra kept him on the backfoot using bouncers, and then sent a beautiful length delivery that castled him. Katich�s dismissal in both innings was the standard �dig-it-in-keep-a-fine-leg� stuff.

But kindly take note of one fact. For all the talk of chin music for the Indians, more Aussies have fallen to short bowling in this series. It means either the Indian bowlers bowl better bouncers than this second string Aussie attack, or the Indian batsmen handle short stuff better than the full strength Aussie batting attack.

Yes, Ganguly�s captaincy has not been absolutely perfect. Far from it. He still misses a trick or two. I still haven�t figured out the logic behind his no-thirdman approach, even when the Aussies love driving and cutting. But he certainly is a smarter captain than Steve Waugh. He is the best person to lead India at the moment. Harish advocates Dravid, but I have my doubts.

Talking of Dravid, man what a performance. After batting in the hot hot weather for about 5 sessions, he fielded sharply, and batted supremely in the second innings. Ponting, too tired after his first inning double, got a few favours from fortune, but didn�t last long. Dravid�s stamina however is phenomenal, much more than Tendulkar. His batting here was reminiscent of Steve Waugh in the 1990s, and I hope he is still far from his peak.

Laxman is in magical form, and Ganguly too seems to have found self-belief. With Tendulkar looking like approaching top form, I get the feeling we are in for a glorious 2-3 years ahead.

What was heartening was that though Ganguly looked happy, he seemed to have the 2001-2002 West Indies at the back of his mind. There too India got a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 after playing some really pathetic cricket in the last 2 tests. He is aware that though he is getting the plaudits now, they could be whisked away from him if they lose the remaining two matches. Though he will go for a series win, even a 1-1 draw will ensure that the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the only one missing from the office of Cricket Australia, will stay in the Northern Hemisphere.

So what next? I suggest, we continue the good work. Some Australian papers had said they felt that Indians had peaked too soon at the Gabba test. By dismissing all 20 batmen in the absence of Zaheer Khan and scoring over 750 runs at a run rate of around 3.3, we have managed to say �Yeah right, mate!!!� to those deluded loonies.

We should keep out-batting them. The pitch at Melbourne will be a drop-in one, so cant say what will happen there. We are yet to bat on the first morning, but in such a dry summer, it shouldn�t be a problem. We batted first at a green top in Leeds and beat the Poms by an inning. A Warne-less and Mcgrath-less Aussie attack is not much better than the English attack anyway, something I hope now people will agree with, even if you throw in Lee.

Let us wait and see. Till then, let us savour this victory. :)

Monday, December 08, 2003

O&M does it again!!

O&M India have done it again, by coming up with the ad-series of this season for Hutch.

The ad season typically follows the cricket calendar with most of the ads being unleashed in a big way during a major cricket event. Most of the ads during the World Cup were disappointing to say the least. Hutch's ad then, featuring Rahul Dravid was irrrrrrrrritating to say the least.

This time, they have launched an ad series which does not have a cricket theme, but which will get even the grumpiest of us smiling. I think it was launched a couple of months back with one ad, but they have released the whole series recently, with the Australia tour.

Those outside India or those who haven't seen it yet can check the storyboard of the flagship ad in this series here - The Hutch Storyboard.

The message is simple, the little bulldog is very cute and the children are not annoying like in other ads. A pleasant song plays in the background, with a voice that sounds like Lobo's, whose "Baby I'd love you to want me" was used in the Tata Indica campaign a couple of years ago.

The ad series tugs at the "awwwwwwwwww cho chweet" sentiment in you, something that very few Indian ads have been able to achieve. Most go for either in-your-face humour or sentimentality.

The first ad is there in the storyboard, it is a 30-second spot. There are a few other 10-15 second spots which go like this -

Ad 2 - The bulldog is seen running from one spot to another, both spots about 10 feet away. The camera pans to show that above him, his owner, the little boy is on an oscillating swing. Then the message come on "Wherever you go, our network follows", with the jingle.

Ad 3 - A little boy is getting ready for his photograph. He smoothens his hair, straightens his shirt, and is wearing a genuine photographic smile. All the time we hear some muffled whimpers in the backgrounds. Then, just as the camera takes the snap, the dog jumps up with a yelp and is seen on screen. The message come on "Wherever you go, our network follows", with the jingle.

This ad series deserves all the kudos it is getting.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The best thing to happen to the Indian cricket team today was the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar.

Yes, you read that right. The best thing to happen to the Indian cricket team today was the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar.

Because today as the Indians sleep, resting on the overnight score of 362/2, they will realise that they did this in Brisbane with the contribution from the master being nought.

It does not matter what happens tomorrow. Today's day was significant because today, the Indian team grew up a lot. They did not repeat the same mistakes of the past, they worked hard, and they finally did justice to themselves.

Sehwag came good, though he would have liked to hang around and get at least 50, if not 100. Chopra justified his selection ahead of Ramesh by lasting at the crease for 3 hours. Laxman continued his good work abroad, saving India from another hole. Patel proved to the world that his batting really has improved in leaps in bounds, and he is THE best wicket-keeper you can pick from India. Agarkar proved that he can make runs in Australia, and also laugh at himself.

But the day belongs to Saurav Ganguly, who played a heroic knock and has silenced critics, most of whom are his own countrymen. Ganguly was being put under trem,endous pressure by the media, both Indian and Australian. They kept criticising his technique, his attitude and his form. They put spins on facts to make him seem like a villain. For example, when he got out against the Queensland Academy side, the handle of his bat was broke. For a few moments, he lingered at the crease, examining the bat, maybe bursing his luck that his bat's handle should break at that very moment. Then he walked off the field and immediately went to get the handle repaired. And what the media reported was - "Ganguly abandons team after showing dissent on being given out". Everyone talked about how they would bowl short at him, and how he would be hopping all over before hopping back to the dressing room.

His innings today was exquisite, and definitely his best. Right from the moment he came, he started striking the ball. A signature cover drive early in the innings, which raced to the long Australian boundary gave indications that he might get a good score today. And get a good score he did! He never seemed ill at ease against the short balls, pulling quite a few. He was "GOD" today on the offside, as Dravid once famously remarked about him. He was hitting boundaries off some very good balls, and not letting any bad balls go away unpunished. When he reached 144 off 181 balls, I was thinking of whether he could get a double hundred today. Unfortunately he got out to McGill. But never mind. I think this is going to be a defining moment in Ganguly's career, very much like Steve Waugh's knock in the West Indies in 1994. From now on, we will see a different 'Dada', one who will bully opposition bowlers regularly, the way he does in one dayers.

Laxman's inning will get eclipsed by this splendid knock by Ganguly, but it was no less defining. Laxman today played like a man out to get a big score. He was playing well, built his innings meticulously, yet rapidly, and was hitting anything that was bowled to him by anyone, no matter how hard Steve Waugh tried to pretend he was setting an "imaginative" field. His 75 today was good enough for a hundred, like Tendulkar's 76 against Australia at Mumbai in 2001.

Both Laxman and Ganguly gave away their wickets to Stuart McGill, which is probably a good thing, because it will ensure his selection for the next test, when sachin says to him "Kya bola tha re tu? lara mujhse accha hai? saale bowling ki hai kya kabhi mujhe toone?" using his bat.

Another reason why I felt elated today was that 1 of the 2 overrated Australians I despise, Andy Bichel, was carted all over the park (the other one being Ian Harvey). He completed his bowling century today, at an economy rate of around 5 an over. Yeeha!! *wicked smile*

I feel bad for Rahul Dravid. He got what was probably the ball of the day from Gillespie, pitching in line at a testing length and then moving away, taking an edge to Hayden at first slip. He would have wanted to erase the only blemish on an otherwise splendid overseas record. Of course, there are at least 6 more innings for him to do that.

Coming to the Sachin Tendulkar dismissal. I will criticise Steve Bucknor, not because he misinterpreted the trajectory of the ball. I will criticise him for missing something that an experienced umpire shouldn't miss. But then I guess that is pardonable because it is something none of the commentators noticed either. And it was the simple fact that the wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist and first slip Matthew Hayden, who, apart from the batsman, were in the best position to judge where the ball would go, did not appeal! There was a cursory appeal from Gillespie and when Bucknor didn't react for a few seconds, Gillespie quietly started to walk back to his run up. Now imagine this. An Australian bowler calmly accepts that the batsman is not out. That too when the batsman is Tendulkar. No way in hell is that going to happen. Aussies raise hell when they feel the umpire has given a bad decision. The bowler would have barked at Bucknor, glared at Tendulkar and made enough hue and cry to make you suspect he was being fed IIML mess food. But he was quiet. Even in the face of all this, Bucknow raised his finger. That is the biggest error in my opinion, ignoring all these signs.

Parthiv Patel's inning was a gem today. He played some elegant straight bat drives, and he also played some beautiful horizontal bat cuts. He survived a lot of fiery Gillespie overs without seeming in too much trouble. He was absolutely unflappable even when Ganguly was out. This boy, whom I saw bat for the first time today, is destined for a great career. Mark my words, he is going to lead India one day, and with distinction.

However despite all this, the moment of the day for me will be when Agarkar came to bat. A lot of the Australians in the crowd must have jeered at him, reminding him of his last 7 innings against Australia (5 in Aus, 2 in Mumbai), which went thus - 0,0,0,0,0,0,0. Facing Stuart McGill, he turned a ball to the onside and called to Patel for a single. As soon as he completed his run , he lifted his bat and waved it at the crowds, the way a batsman does when he scores a 50 or a hundred. Then he started laughing as the crowd applauded his gesture. It was a really heart-warming gesture from a man who had the ability to laugh at himself, and move ahead from his follies. At the end of the day's play he was batting comfortably for 12 off 25 balls.

When light was called off for bad lights, India were sitting pretty at 362/6, 29 runs ahead of Australia. Forget the fact that we made Australians eat their own words with a helping of vegemite. Try to remember the last time any team scored 350 plus in a day at a runrate of over 3.5, against the Australians. Try to remember the last time the Australians conceded first innings lead in a meaningful test match at meaningful I mean a test match in which the series is yet to be decided. Try to remember the last time India had an opening stand of 50 plus abroad. Try to remember the last time India scored more than 300, with both Sachin and Dravid together contributing just 1.

Splendid day, was it not?

So what do we do tomorrow? It would be great if Patel and Agarkar punish the Aussie bowlers a bit, even better if both get half centuries. We should bat so well that we declare about an hour before lunch. That will give us around 22 overs or so to play. Suppose the tail makes 70-80 runs. That will give us a lead of 100 odd. Even though a bright and sunny day is predicted tomorrow, and conventional wisdom would dictate that the Asutralians will also be able to bat easily, remember Calcutta 2001. At the end of the 4th day, everyone said "Very nice, Laxman saved the match, but no way can we dismiss them in under a day". We all know what happened there. So don't assume anything. This is the game of glorious uncertainties. For all you know, I could be making a post about a sensational Indian win tomorrow.

p.s- a lot of cynical Indians will definitely snort and say "Oh Lee and Mcgrath weren't there". I am amazed at how a lot of Indians derive depraved pleasure in criticising their own team and discounting its success. And how they will invent reasons to do so.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Another short news article from the "Daily Some Achaar"
Indian cricket coaches to help improve literacy
New Delhi - According to some unconfirmed reports, there is hectic paperwork in progress in the HRD Ministry to sign on two new ambassadors for the Literacy Campaign about to be relaunched with renewed vigour.

These two ambassadors are going to be Bruce Reid, the bowling coach of the Indian cricket team and John Wright, the coach. The two are going to appear in ads mouthing Hindi in Kiwi and Aussies accents.

The slogan is tentatively supposed to be "Reid aur Wright kahe - Padhna aur Likhna seekho"(Reid and Wright say - Learn to read and write). The two coaches are currently in Australia assisting the Indian team's efforts to improve their away record.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

An excerpt from my favourite newspaper - The Daily Some Achaar (Our motto - "Lip smacking news that you can preserve")

Maharashtra Mulling anti-BPO bill
Mumbai - Maharashtra, the state where most Indians head to find employment is now considering an anti-BPO bill. Sources in the Sushilkumar Shinde government say that these moves are afoot because of the pressure being put on the government by the "Bollywood Extras and Junior Artistes AssociatioN"(BEJAAN), who are miffed over losing their jobs to foreigners because of an increasing number of movies and songs being picturised abroad.

"We have worked hard for years to be a part of this industry and is this the return we get?" fumed Maina Chungi, the spokeswoman for BEJAAN. "We have put on weight, worn atrocious orange and purple clothes and danced to insipid tunes for a pittance. We deserve better than this."

It is estimated that songs in Hindi movies employ up to 50,000 male and female dancers every year. However with the trend of shooting movies and songs abroad, their income has been steadily dwindling.

"10,000 BEJAAN members are jobless. Their jobs are being stolen by lithe and fit dancers in America, whose only qualification is that they are white. They get to wear clothes of normal colours and yet they get paid more than us." Miss Chungi said.

Things came to a boil last year when Karan Johar's tear-jerker "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham" featured a song that had hundreds of British and American dancers in the background. Industry sources say that this song is the most expensive song ever in a Hindi movie, for the sole reason that the extras were paid in dollars.

"Our jobs are being outsourced to America. Not only that, our government is losing vital foreign exhcange" Miss Chungi explained. She talks about the good old days when she made her debut over two decades ago in Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi". "I remember I got paid a handsome amount for being an extra at the funeral scene in Gandhi. I was just told to wear a white sari. That was Hollywood paying us. But Bollywood has treated us shabbily." she raises her voice.

"For the sake of Gandhi, we request this government, which is from the same party as him - Ban BPO in Maharashtra."

The Shinde government is tightlipped about such a legislation. However Dty CM Chagan Bhujbal said "We sympathise with the plight of the BEJAAN members."

Meanwhile the Shivsena has jumped into fray with Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray supporting the BEJAAN demands.

"By hiring dancers from abroad, filmmakers are going against the Indian culture. We demand that along with stars, all extras be taken abroad for shooting songs."

The Shivsena is thinking of making an example out of the latest Karan Johar flick - Kal Ho Na Ho, in which almost every song features American dancers. There are talks of giving the producers a time of one month in which to reshoot these songs with BEJAAN dancers, failing which Sena members will stop the screening of the film.

It remains to be seen whether the Shinde government actually brings an anti-BPO legislation. Some Maharashtra legislators are already drawing up plans to visit the United States to study anti-BPO laws so that they can be replicated in India.

"We hear the best drafts of the anti-BPO laws are available in Florida, California and.....which is the state which has those Casinos in Las Vegas.........Nevada. We are planning a study trip to help this legislation" a minister said on the condition of anonymity.

So the scene is set for a politico-legal waltz. Meanwhile the members of BEJAAN are hopeful. Maina Chungi says

"We wait for the day when the jobs that the First World dancers have stolen from us are returned through legal means."

BJP wins "semis" 3-1

Surprising......but then again maybe not considering that these elections were, surprisingly, fought on real issues, like roads and power.

I have been to Delhi as well as Madhya Pradesh in the past year. In delhi, I noticed a sea change compared to some years back. Fantastic roads, good power situation thanks to partial privatisation. In MP, horrible roads, power cuts lasting for ages.

Dixit got back the power in Delhi with a thumping majority because she worked on the real issue. Diggy lost in MP because he didn't.

One heartening trend with less than a year for the General Elections is this. Though the elections were close by, I did not hear of any Bhojshalas, Togadiyas or Trishuls for the past 5-6 months or so. This means that the BJP think tank has realised that the benefits of the Hindutva card will not last long.
They better start focussing on issues.

So with the general elections round the corner, they would do well to banish the name "Ayodhya" from their lexicon. If you look at the past 4 years with an objective eye, the Vajpayee government has done reasonably well on the Economic front. A commitment to privatise PSU's, the highway project that is on track, the impending power reforms...... they have done quite well considering the world was going through a recession.

Agreed that the Vajpayee government could have done better. The Kandahar hijacking remains for me, the biggest blot on this term, closely followed by the stupid unilateral ceasefire that gave terrorism a new lease of life in Kashmir. Conferring legitimacy on Musharraf crowning himself President by inviting him for talks weeks later was another booboo. But most of these have faux pas have been in foreign policy.

My contention is that the greatest service politicians can do a country is to not interfere in its progress. And a stable government ensures that the ruling party won't be diverted from this. If the Babri riots hadn't in 1993, Narsimha Rao's government would have done much more in terms of reforms.

Which party actually rules the country is immaterial, since all of them have evolved, more or less, an economic as well as a foreign policy consensus. As long as the government is stable, the economy will breathe easy.

Sonia or Atal? My vote goes to whoever looks likely to form a government.


We all lament that the world today has no great people like Gandhi. Today while Sara and I were chatting, we found out a way to create another Gandhi. Here's a bit from the transcript.

We started off talking about this article and noticed the pathetic fact that be it the Jamaat in pakistan or Shivsena in India, their way of thinking and their methods are equally retrograde.

Gaurav says:
why dont people protest against these things by other means that will be more effective?
Gaurav says:
like gandhiji. he did not like people wearing british-made clothes. he didnt go around saying "anyone wearing british made clothes will be beaten up". he himself started wearing khadi and exhorted his followers to have bonfires of british made clothes. very soon there used to be daily bonfires of british made clothes as people switched to khadi clothes
Gaurav says:
such was the effect that even today, millions wear khadi.,.....even though all sorts of clothes in india are now made in india
Gaurav says:
forcing something down people's throats by violence actually drives them to defy it
Sara* says:
Exactly..but then who would take over this task ,this age lacks such phenomenal souls...
Gaurav says:
thats what we like to apologetically believe. there was nothing great about that age. and he was not born that way. if u have read his biography, u will realise, he was a very normal regular man. bad habits, lazy, bad temper, liked the rich things in life.........until that day
Gaurav says:
in fact the greatest lesson for me from his life is not his teachings, but his life itself.
Gaurav says:
if mohandas k gandhi could become a mahatma, any man can
Gaurav says:
he was a regular man until thrown off the train that fateful day in 1893 in south africa
Sara* says:
ab train ka koi incident apni zindagi mein ho ga tu meray tumharay andar ka mahatam jagay ga atleast in my case all mahatmaism in me is fast asleep...
(So if we ever get thrown off a train, maybe the mahatma in us will awaken. At least in my case, mahatmaism is fast asleep)
Gaurav says:
heehe, true
Sara* says:
okay that was stupid...
Gaurav says:
we should all get thrown off trains .........but considering the condition of trains in india and pak..........we would be happy for it instead of angry like gandhi was
Sara* says:
Lols..sahee hay...
Gaurav says:
maybe if we got thrown into a train...........yup that's it!! That's how we create mahatmas out of normal people in this day and age. We throw them INTO trains

And there you have it. A simple recipe of how to create mahatmas. :P