Thursday, October 14, 2004

Umps or Fools?

It is 'walky time' these days at Chennai. According to news reports, Gilchrist 'walked' after he edged Kumble to Yuvraj via his pad. Then Gillespie turned towards the pavilion after he was caught by Kaif. Kasprowicsz then edged Kumble to Laxman at silly mid off and walked away. It did not end at that. At the fag end of the day, Yuvraj 'walked' soon after he realised that Gilchrist had pouched his thin edge off Warne.

Of these four Walkabbies, only Kasprowiscz seemed have walked when/after the umpire, in this case David Shepherd, turned down the appeal. Going by the reports, the umpires were in the process of making the right decisions in the other instances. So why the huge fuss?

It is because, in some ways, walking when the ump says 'not out' is going against the official decision and hence dissent. Cricket 24x7 points out that a couple of years ago, Stephen Fleming was fined by the match referee for pointing out that Australia had gone against fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs and placed three men on the boundary, even though the umps on the field agreed and no-balled the Aussies for the digression. Fleming was doing the right thing and then fined too, which sounds stupid.

Well, maybe the both the teams wanted the umpires to look stupid. So did the teams get together before the start of the test match (in light of the mistakes from the umps that went un-punished at Banglore) and decided that they will walk for every legit dismissal regardless of what the geriatrics in the black trousers feel.

And making Shepherd look foolish might just be the start of this exercise to induce the ICC to act and pull up the inconsistent umps and maybe even push the introduction of more technology aids for the umps. Anybody know what Gangs and Gilchrist (and Ponting) think about this whole fracas vis-a-vis umpires using technology?

The new dictionary of the Indian BCCI team?

These should be the new classifications and some of the words in the Indian BCCI team’s cricketing dictionary. The first set of words is the words that shall hence forth be referred to as Key Words – words that are key to any success both in the present and in the future. The next set of words are termed Illegal Words/Phrases - the ones that need to be dropped from use because they seem to be words that are not being used any where else in the world where cricket is played professionally. The third group is the set of Other Words – words and phrases that are still used world-wide, but in a restrained, qualified manner (unlike India) to ensure that they do not overrule the use of the first set, i.e. the Key Words

1: Key words/Phrasesruns, wickets, bowler, batsman, opener, wicket keeper, long term, fitness, true pitches, professional management (assets and talent), rest, independent facility management.

2: Illegal words/Phrases: make shift, short-term, experiment, the team’s cause, part time.

3: Other Word/Phrases (for Qualified use): all rounder, foot work, style, numbers.

The timing of the post might actually look wrong, because India seem to be doing well at this point of time (I mean today). But if you really look closer and follow the progress of the Indian BCCI cricket team, you will probably understand what I am trying to tell you here, because the (seemingly) small blemishes seem to be because the Indian BCCI team works according to some of these words from the second and the third set and ignores some of the other key words from the first. Please leave your comments!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Lessons and thoughts from Banglore

I watched most of the first test. ‘Most’ because everyday, I was either sleepy (and hence disinterested) or the Australians were pulverizing India. Overall, I think (fairly obvious thought here) that the Indians bowled their way out of the match on the first day. In fact, on the first day I was too pissed off with the bowlers to watch the game after lunch.

The story of the test match, for India at least, was Irfan Pathan! Pathan showed the way - first with Patel in the first innings and then with Dravid and Harbhajan in the second innings. A look at Pathan’s batting in the second innings should highlight what I am trying to convey. Dravid used to drive the ball into deep cover and refuse the single that was there for the asking. And on the last ball of the over, try to the take a single to keep strike. But Gilchrist would shrewdly moved the field to cut the singles and Pathan would have to face the next over. And he did just that.

For the first 79 balls of his 141 ball innings, Pathan was the obdurate defender going, at one point, 87 minutes without a run. Now if that isn’t what our esteemed commentators would call “going into a shell” then I must be mistaken. And then Dravid got out. At this point, I expected, regardless of his first inning 31, Pathan to get out soon, but he did something else. For the next 62 balls he faced, Pathan was the confidence personified. He proceeded to 55 mixing boundaries (6 more) and a couple of huge sixes over deep mid-wicket with the display of the some of the best defensive strokes that I have seen played against Shane Warne. I have seen a lot batsmen pad away Warne’s turners, but the use of the straight bat, particularly by a tail-ender, with such frequency blew my mind. We might have seen the first of many such innings from Pathan. However, he has to be treated cautiously. Regardless of the fact that he seemed to be a better batsman (going by his 85+ runs in this match) than Patel, the urge to move him up the order any more should be resisted.

As for Warne, the wait continues. Regardless of what a few people claimed, the ball that got Laxman in the first innings can (and should) never be compared to Warne’s first ball in an Ashes series. Laxman had only himself to blame for this dismissal. It seemed as if he had lost track of where his off stump was and this dismissal was quite similar to the when Shoaib Akhtar got him during a game in the Pakistan ODI series. The ball pitched on middle and leg and just went past his edge to take the off stump away. Standard leg spinner and he did not even have to use the rough. Warne seemed to wilt under Pathan and Harbhajan’s attack in the second innings.

At one point, after hitting the six that pushed the runs on Warne’s bowling analysis over 100 in the second innings, Harbhajan actually smiled (looking at Warne and clapped). And though the old bad habits (like the checked drive that he played against McGrath in the first innings) still were around, Pathan’s defense seemed to have rubbed off on Harbhajan and both played Warne comfortably and batted him out of the attack till Gillespie and McGrath came back to finish the formalities with the new ball. Zaheer threw his bat around at the new ball and contributed to the proceedings too, frustrating the bowlers to the maximum extent possible. But the new ball helped end the misery, though much later than originally thought.

The umps played a role too. While I don’t agree with what Sanjay Manjrekar (or was it L.Sivaramakrishnan) said – that the bad decisions that went against either team compensated each other, I still cannot cry over those decisions and yet be impartial, which I try to be. But I also have started to believe that cricket is a sport where if there’s a mistake early in a team’s (or a batsman’s) inning then that mistake has a greater possibility of affecting the result than a mistake that comes much later. Hence, I think Sehwag’s dismissal in the second inning had a greater impact on the result than a few others. Moreover it seemed as if luck (associated with an ump’s good decision) deserted India in just the most inopportune of times.

Well on the hindsight, the negative line from Harbhajan on the first day might have been the right strategy - to try to exploit the footmarks of Zaheer and Pathan. But it did not seem to work and the ball did not do much. It just seemed that Harbhajan was waiting for a mistake from the Aussie batsmen (a top edged sweep to be specific). That worked too and Hayden fell for that trap. But I would have tried that tactic only after I was sure that an attacking field did not work. And in going on the defensive with Harbhajan, I thought we lost the psychological advantage that carried over from 2001. I also thought Zaheer and Pathan were taken off too early. As the later days showed, the pitch had something for the fast bowlers as well.

In both the innings, it was as if the Indians had taken a leaf out of Kenwood’s tactic against the Master Blasters in 1996-97. For the uninitiated, the Master Blasters, a short lived team for which I played a couple of games in the Hostel Tournaments, was put into bat by Kenwood, a team that had a reputation of being unbeatable. And after dismissing us cheaply (50 odd I think), they decided to bat top down and send the tail-enders first. A combination of tight bowling, inept batting by the Kenwood pseudo-top and middle orders and an awesome catch or two gave them quite a scare and they finally won in the last over (16 over game) with a wicket to spare. However in India’s case it was quite the opposite.

What I mean is that the tail-enders showed the way with Patel, Zaheer and Pathan having impressive outings with the bat. The other batsmen perished to being in an inflexible frame of mind, given the nature of the wicket where McGrath and Gillespie seemed to be ineffective (in taking wickets) with the old ball. Only Kasprowiz seemed have it in him to trouble every one, but then I expected him to do that all the same given his billing as a sub-continent specialist in recent times. Batman after batsman came in and left without consolidating. And to our folly, anytime a batsman of the same caliber as that of the Indian top order, plays to consolidate, we fans call for their head and lament the fact that these batsmen have lost their strokes. Sachin baiters – are you listening?

Regardless of this test match, I wouldn’t go for any change for the next. Sachin is more or less unavailable (regardless of the unsuccessful disinformation aimed to psyche the Aussies) and so the only change, if the team management wants, would be to replace Yuvraj with Kaif. Yuvraj did not make much of an impression, other than those catches and in any case, if Chopra needs to be rested towards the end of the innings, Yuvraj can be brought in to substitute for Chopra at silly point or short leg. Another change, which I wouldn’t advise too much, would be to let Agarkar take Zaheer’s place. On the second day of the first test, I made a comment to my friends which I thought I never would. I have always thought Agarkar was over-rated, but the absence of any variety in the pace attack might be the catalyst for his inclusion. Aaah… If only Balaji was fit!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Gavaskar-Border Trophy

Gavaskar and Border presenting the trophy named after them to Saurav Ganguly Posted by Hello
My call for the latest edition of the Gavaskar-Border Trophy is 1-1, with draws in Banglore and Nagpur. The results in Bombay and Chennai however are too close to call.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Ekam Sat, Vipraha bahuda vadanti

Over the last 200 to 300 years, the incidence of urban legends and unsolved mysteries like the Abominable Snowman and the Yeti has increased multi-fold. While not being in the same scale, the mysticism surrounding AR Rahman's upcoming works, particularly the ones that are long overdue surely evokes the same effect among his ardent fans (which includes me too).

Ekam Satyam is one such effort. So what is Ekam Satyam anyways? In June, 1999, the Hindujas announced a series of concerts by Michael Jackson. For the second concert in Munich (the first one was going to be in Seoul) Michael Jackson was going to be accompanied by some Indian artistes including Rahman, actors Prabhu Deva and Raju Sundaram and actress/danseuse Shobana called the "Michael Jackson & Friends" concert for the aid of the “world's needy children”. The proceeds from the charity concerts were to aid the efforts of the International Red Cross Society, the Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund, and the UNESCO. The Hindujas roped in G. Bharat (aka Bharat Bala) and his wife Kanika Meyer Bharat to conceptualize this performance. Rahman stepped in with his musical poweress and set the ancient Sanskrit verse Ekam Sat, Vipraha bahuda vadanti, the literal English translation of which goes Truth is one, the wise call it by different names (source: a search on Google) to music with English lyrics to supplement the Sanskrit verse.

Associated Press reported that this concert took place on June 27th, 1999. The concert is notable for the minor mishaps that befell Jackson while he was performing. A bridge on the stage separated too soon and MJ fell in, but climbed out to continue his next two songs without any apparent trouble. However he left after performing for just over half an hour and Associated Press reported that he was treated for minor burns caused by fireworks (during the concert) and stayed overnight at the hospital.

Indian newspapers and websites later reported that Rahman and his fellow artistes closed the nine-hour open air concert after Jackson entertained an audience of more than 55000 fans at the gigantic Olympic Stadium. Jackson later came on stage to join the finale performance with the Indian troupe and gave a rendition of the English translation of the Sanskrit verse and Rahman's number 'Ekam Satyam'(One Truth) with folded hands wearing a white outfit designed by Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra.

The Tribune which describes this concert also mentions the cutting short of the concert and the hospital visit. But I thought there was a slight descripency between the accounts from AP and the Indian websites. While the Tribune mentions that the Indian artistes were the closing act of the concert, it mentions that Jackson left after his performance of 35 minutes. So where the Indian artistes made to cut short their performance? Or did MJ cut his performance midway, making the Indian group come on early and then enter the stage to finish his duet with them and leave the concert.

Anyways that’s the confusion. So what happened to the single? In one of his MTV interviews, Rahman said that he has “rendered the Sanskrit portions written by A.R Parthasarathy while Michael Jackson has rendered the English lyrics written by Kanika Myer Bharat”. So I am assuming that just the title and the first line of the song is from the Sanskrit verse from the Rig Veda. Rahman also said then (in 1999) that “since it became immensely popular among Jackson fans in the West, it was decided to release the song as a duet sung by Jackson and myself” and that while he expected the single to be released by the end of 1999, he also expected the single to be included with Invincible, MJ’s then forthcoming album. However neither happened. And are their any recordings of the concert? None, it would seem. Maybe the Hindujas could throw light into this.

However a lot of samples/music files make their way across cyberspace claiming to be recordings of the elusive Ekam Satyam and frequently they set the alarm bells ringing on the ARR fans Yahoo group. And it happened again last week. This person said he had uploaded this long overdue composition into some server or the other where all of us (the other members) could download it. Before some of us could respond and ask him about the source, a lot of other people had jumped and tried to download the file (in mp3 format). The group was privy to a number of frantic (to say the least going by the liberal sprinkling of E’s and L’s in the usually short word that is “HELP”) emails from a lot of people who could not download the file. Then someone emailed saying that the song cannot be THE Ekam Satyam because it sounds too amateurish to be Rahman’s collaboration with Michael Jackson. And then someone else stepped in to tell us what a lot of people knew already – that this mp3 file was the same one that has been floating on the net for quite sometime now. That has stopped the mad rush for the time being (at least for the next one year, if Rahman does not announce the release of the single in some form or the other).

So when is the single gonna be released? Or have we heard samples of it already as a BGM, like we heard “Telephone Manipol” as one of Roja’s BGMs? Reportedly Rahman is in touch with the group and some of the members and the only way the confusion can be cleared up is by him and him alone.

The man talks!

Playing cricket is the ultimate thing

I should be doing what the team wants me to, and not what someone sitting 85 yards away in the commentators' box feels. You can't be talking about what the country should be doing and then focus on an individual. There is no question that it is a team game, and it is the responsibility of all 11 individuals to execute a team plan on any given day.

I really don't know how to put it across, because I can never make everyone happy. If I play a big shot and get out, some people will say, what's the need to do that when there are so many strokeplayers around, can't he just try to play 50 overs? I feel I should play the way I think I should play and not according to how XYZ feels. There might be a day when we need 100 runs in the first 15, and I will bat differently.

People keep saying, ah, he is not playing the same number of shots as before, but if you look at the strike rate you'll see I'm scoring at the same pace, just scoring in a different way. As you spend more and more time in the team, your role changes. It cannot be what it was 15 years ago or seven years ago. I don't think there is any player in the world who has played in the same gear throughout his career.

Is that a good enough answer for all you doubters?