Sports | Life

A Lesson from a Great Rival

Australia India cricket rivalry has been at its best during the last dacade and has to an extent rendered the hype behind Pakistan-India bashes far behind. Of late the encounters between Republic Day sharing nation’s cricket teams have been so engrossing that the respective prime ministers have taken active interest in the goings-on, both on and off the field. Recent statements by Australian PM Ms. Gillard about Tendulkar’s 100th international century is a case in point.

Australian media also leaves no stone unturned in helping home team to score a few psychological points over the Indians, which earlier (read 15 years ago) was a reserve of Poms and the Springboks (err. Proteas).

100 100 and the Bloody Binary Dilemma (will be / won’t be this time)

By being on the centre-stage for so long and carrying a billion hopes alone, Sachin Tendulkar has already attained greatness. The 100th century hype is all but denying him the pleasure of playing the purest form of the game which by right is his.

After giving so many years to the sport, I’d say it’s his right not to be judged by what he has, or is going to, achieve. In India, we treat greats unfairly and thereby making them vulnerable. I remember my father saying it so may times that “There can not be another Vishwanath or Viv”, sure there can not be another Vishwanath, certainly not another Sir Viv. … However, it’s no guarantee that we’ll not get players similar to them or, I daresay, better than them.

For so long our definitions of “test cricket opening bat” was charted by the likes of Boycott and Gavaskar, now it’s redefined by Langer, Sehwag and Hayden, do we need to compare them? Not at all, they bring pleasure in different packages and that’s how it should be. History keeps evolving and who knows, another 400+ score may be just round the corner.

Lessons Aplenty

Coming back to Australia-India tour 2011-12, it has been deja vu all along. How many times we have faltered in the first encounter due to lack of practice matches? How many times do we see ourselves picking up and licking our wounds from a terrible defeat in the starter? Still, instead of addressing the real issues, the BCCI chooses to look other way and find answers the questions to which aren’t there at all.

Watching the matches so far these are the leadership lessons I drew from the Australian team’s execution of plans:

  • There are many plans, A, B, C etc. for each player AND every stakeholder knows them
  • Team loses a session AND comes back even harder (taking bigger risks) to make up for the recent loss
  • Leader chooses his words and timings very carefully AND takes a dig at the opposition stalwart in the moment of his utter vulnerability
  • Team creates doubts in the opposition’s mind by taking huge risks AND makes it look fashionable, so much so that the opposition tries it out and dies of it
  • Team rallies behind the beleaguered warhorse AND lets him take the freedom to choose the way he wants to play
  • No one, including the captain digresses from the per-discussed plan
  • Team functions like clockwork, irrespective of whether they are getting beaten left, right and centre
  • Rookies are given freedom to express themselves, not get bogged down by opposition’s reputation AND be verbose (towards the battered opposition i.e.) at times too
  • Killer instinct isn’t something that comes out of muttering a few mantras, it comes AFTER a few successful moments against quality opposition as a result of sustained quest for excellence
  • One team rests on the laurels of a few, the other however, forgets these things quickly AND nurtures the wounds to take inspiration
  • There’s no use of being a Tiger and go hungry for days in adversity, be a pack of wild dogs instead and collectively take down any ‘prey’, adapt if you can, AND quickly
  • Show respect by bringing in the best in you to beat the hell out of the opposition AND then tell everyone that it was required to overcome such a quality side
  • Never let an under-pressure Ace have the breathing space, they are best for us when dormant
  • Easy centuries and landmarks should never be conceded, it undermines the quality of the contest, sport suffers as a whole

Michael Clarke has suddenly scaled a notch on the captaincy table, sadly enough, likewise can not be said for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Ponting’s poor run with bat has perhaps given Clarke the much needed space to expand and be himself while the old warrior was struggling to gain a foothold back. Blessing in disguise? I’d like to believe so, and I don’t see Australia complaining at all 🙂

As I write this piece, Australia are most probably making India pay every Paisa of the Indian Rupee that they might have thought they were worth. The final point, grind the opposition to dust once you have the opportunity, do it now AND don’t let the opposition forget about it ever.

Where’s Cricket Headed to?

Team India’s decline as such is good for cricket overall, and I hope India take a lesson out of these defeats rather than feel deflated and find solace in axing a few old heads. Being a true # 1 side requires much more than sheer talent, talent per se is now a luxury more-than-less of us can afford due to the exposure and early training. True perseverance is hard to achieve (especially in the face of unfavourable results and easier alternatives) and should be pursued.

Season’s greetings, and a very happy new year to you all.

May this year NOT be the last for our beleaguered planet as many would like to believe (pun intended) L.O.L

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Deep Slumber and the Awakening

Start

Finally, after almost a year, I felt the need to write something. This delay wasn’t because I didn’t want to write, or there was some kind of ‘block’; it was simply because I’m keeping too busy these days with my research and there’s hardly any motivation left post some short and sweet Twitter updates once in a blue moon.

Science

This news about Large Hadron Collider (CERN) raising hopes of Higgs-Boson particle’s sighting actually pulled me out of my comfort zone of 140 characters. I’m more into Mathematics and CS, but advances in Physics excite me no end. More importantly since many breakthroughs in theoretical and applied Physics have transformed the Computer and Electronics industry as such.

Gibberish

There are other churnings happening in Indian Polity, India is at the crossroads… yet again.

One is about the unfortunate episode of government attempting to check the freedom of expression by (proposed!) monitoring of the Internet – thankfully the giants of the www didn’t budge. I can only pray that this disgusting culture of sycophancy, egotism (and nepotism) somehow gets decimated and that of tolerance and public debates befitting a true democracy prevails.

Two is about the Lokpal (people’s ombudsman) bill making pretty big strides, and going by the look of things, it’s going to be a reality sooner than later. Kudos to all of India for achieving an awakening at least. Perennial skeptics have their daggers out already about the efficacy and what-not of the proposed bill in curbing the corruption menace, but the protagonists (that includes one and all who sympathise with this movement – I’d excuse myself from calling it Anna’s movement) shouldn’t lose heart. They have taken the all important first step. The way would be only easier from here on.

The Bradman Oration – 2011

Rahul Dravid was invited to deliver the annual Bradman Oration at the Australian war memorial. I’d like to say that he finally (and rightfully) got his due, I’m happy that he got this opportunity before Tendulkar – for obvious reasons. The speech was impeccable, balanced and touched upon major pressing issues facing the game of Cricket.

An important point raised by him was that of respecting (listening to) the spectator. In Asian stadia, it’s a normal practice to ignore the comforts of the general public, no shades, no open areas for the fans to feel welcome for a family outing, makeshift and substandard parking, touts, utterly mismanaged ticket sales & pricing, and above all, absolute lack of hygiene.

Overdose of non-test cricket isn’t helping the cause either. Hats off to Dravid for stating it the way he did.

Time Travel Paradox and Channel 9

A very interesting stuff came up while watching Hawking’s “Time Travel with Stephen Hawking” on Discovery today. It was about the wormhole paradox, wherein a scientist can prove it’s impossible to travel through time using the much glorified time-machines/wormhole by going back a minute in time and shooting himself dead — thus questioning the existence of himself (in the present,) if one side is takes effect, the other can’t hold and vice versa. Godel would’ve loved it.

Hawking says that this proves that time travel via this particular medium isn’t possible and thus historians of the world can breathe a sigh of relief.

I was thinking, if such a wormhole is actualized somehow even in the distant future, will it be free for all? Or will it be some privilege bestowed on a select few?

In the first case, let’s revisit our paradox; if it’s free for all, then the paradox itself is baseless as the history (if considered as a complex mathematical formula with zillion unbounded variables) will be changed by the extent the resultant nett efforts the participating parties put in to change the ones that are in their control. The same thing happens to alter the present, isn’t it?

In the latter case however, if only the privileged few are supposed to travel through, where’s the paradox then? Isn’t the present being dictated by the chosen ones anyway? If time is a dimension as it is perceived today (and someday it’s proven true by any chance i.e.) every micro-second is being altered by them and thus the history is taking the course as ‘designed’ and not as ‘destined’ (whatever is the difference between these two terms.)

That does in fact bring us to the gibberish of “The wormhole’s existence proves that it can’t exist.” And another one, Time, as the fourth dimension as perceived by humans, exists only in the meta plain.

Channel 9 vs. the Others

I have been watching cricket telecasts for a long time now and have always been fascinated by the way Channel 9 of Australia covers sports as opposed to what the other channels of the world do.

For me, just like the Australian cricket team, 9 has been at the forefront of their field and the others just follow. I remember they started the experiments with speed guns, picture-in-picture, stump camera, ultra motion, and recently the player’s run-time vitals etc. But here what I am talking about is the info bars and the graphics part. The way 9 represents the player profiles and match stats is just out of this world, plain, tasteful, simple and very effective. No gaudy colours, no bold faced crap, just plain & simple information that can be consumed without any fuss.

They use the screen real-estate like no one does, if you want to see what I’m talking about here, have a re-look at the graphics shown during Ashes coverage and the recently concluded test series between SA and India, or travel (if you may :-)) slightly backwards in time to compare the above with the Ind-NZ series telecast and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

In the latter’s case, the screen looks as if some gaming-geek has had a shot at painting an over-sized mural, thereby utilizing just about 40% of the screen to show what actually matters to a viewer. Right now I’m trying to follow the NZ-Pak series and I wasn’t surprised to see a far better telecast of these matches too, may be that geographical area itself has this gift of effective creativity and it seems Sky (ANZ) is a distant second and at least making an effort towards catching up — that’s refreshing.

Regarding the standards of commentary on the other side of the fence (read non-Aus/Eng), well, lesser said the better.

What a Start to the Year!

Cricketers are artists who have the gift of painting poignant, evocative and yet at times, grayscale pictures and story-lines. At the same time, they are statesmen who by virtue of a large following (thanks to the media of the day) have an unenviable role of upholding a nation’s ethos and sporting traditions. This fact is never more evident than in the Test arena, and recently concluded Castle Test series between South Africa and India was a fitting testimony.

As it is said for any high profile series, it tests the best and gets the cream to the top in the process. Whether this happened during this series is to be pondered over. From the purely sports prowess point of view we can safely surmise that it did happen. Laxman won us a match single handedly as only he can – by batting like an angel in the second innings i.e. Tendulkar reached his 51st century (50th in the losing cause and 51st in an honours-even joust.) Kallis pressed the gas pedal and drew nearer to the modern master by reaching his first double (in the drawn Centuriun contest) and by achieving a rare feat of two centuries in two innings of a test match, thereby igniting an otherwise valid debate as to whether he’s got his dues… I’ll have to mention Harbhajan and Sreeesanth here for the way they came back after nasty verbal jibes from opposition captain as well as the local team and crowds.

To me however, there were moments that went under the radar of pundits (and I say this after reading, listening to and viewing a lot of them during this series) which defined the contest between two best sides in the world cricket. SA epitomizes a mechanized approach towards Cricket, something that Germany is to Football; whilst India is all that can be termed Uruguay/Argentina of Cricket, no algorithms, just the sprinklings of madness, sanity, method, timidity and genius in vastly different measures (based on the time-line of reference) and you have a team that can surprise its most staunchest of the supporters and detractors alike. I, as a fan, would any day prefer teams like West Indies, Pakistan and India to an England, Sri Lanka, Australia or SA.

The first test started as every other series opener has since time immemorial, India losing the toss (yet again!) and put in by a very shrewd SA captain on a pitch on which even the Trumpers of the day would’ve been happy scoring a good 40, Indian Warrels and Kanhais managed around 20 each to their early undoing. Result was obvious after the first innings failure of Indian bats and subsequent easing off of the pitch into an Indian sub-continental featherbed. SA piled on the runs and made hay while Sun baked the pitch and Zaheer nursed his injury.

Smith

I’d not call myself a fan of his batting to start with, to me he’s yet another Hayden wannabe who thinks his stance and build will intimidate the bowlers of the world – fails to work now — and that shows how he’s been getting out to Zaheer of late. He didn’t win a fan in me either due to his overly gloating words and preposterous remarks afterwards about almost everything. He failed to recognize and acknowledge with grace that the first test doesn’t totally reflect on the true potential of the series, instead he went on blabbering like what not. He must have rued his words while the second and third tests were underway.

He also presented an ugly face of a sulking host when he complained about Sreesanth’s on-field behaviour through media (when he himself was caught on camera waving his bat in a hostile manner at Sree) and later about Umpire Ian Gould being drunk during the evenings (and thereby suggesting that there was more to the questionable decisions during the second test that plain human error factor.)

Hope Smith learns soon enough what he’d like to be remembered as,  “RSA’s best captain after Cronje”  or “SA’s very own Ponting” before he does enough damage to his image by emulating two of the baddest boys of cricket (read Ponting for arrogance and Symonds for crying hell at the drop of hat while pretending to be tough as a nail.)

My take is that he’d be better off being Smith and not aping Cronje, Symonds or Ponting for obvious reasons 🙂

Dhoni

For me a captain’s foremost job is to represent his own team’s cause, which he failed to do and he was miserable at calling his faculties to work when needed most.

He pulled up Sreesanth in public which dented the youngster’s morale (probably cost us the last match), played into the hands of Smith by taking his words (that Sree said a few personal things) against another’s.

The second blunder he pulled off was when he failed to thank the SA crowds that thronged the grounds braving all sorts of erratic weather. For me it became a glaring faux pas when Smith came later and did indeed thank the people and ground staff.

He also missed scoring a few mental points over Smith by failing to point out that hosts were all-out for a score that was less than that of India’s for three innings in a row. You should never leave an opportunity to hurt the opponent’s ego if it’s too pronounced as it is in Smith’s case. That too when Smith was so vocal when India folded up cheaply in the first test… True, the performance should speak, but at times it does nice things to see some red faces in the opposition camp.

So far…

The score line in the end did read 1-1, in fact this holds for the way both the captains managed situations as well, alas, neither could say they fared better. On the hind sight though, had India won the toss in the first test, would the story (and the score line) be any different? Well, that’s why they say cricket is a funny game 🙂

It will be a good tussle to watch in future as the divide between the top three sides narrows down and rankings fluctuate by the rate of completed series.

India in Sri Lanka, Krishna in Islamabad, and other Musings…

India v. Sri Lanka

India’s two test tour of Sri Lanka started recently with the Galle face-off. M. Muralidaran, the man with 793 scalps — as I write — in test match cricket and the current world record holder for the maximum number of wickets in this format of the game has decided to bid adieu after this match. Now, he would be one man who has endured possibly the most number of doubting puritans and skeptic opponents ever.

Right from Umpire Hair to our very own Bishan Bedi, he has had no dearth of people baying for his blood, still the man he is, he kept working towards his goal and ultimately, would be known as the person whose record remained untouched for at least two to three generations, may be more. Take that for a revenge, his presence on the cricket ground has always been eventful (both ways) and he has never till date failed to entertain us.

His stature among peers could be gauged by the fact that not many could play him with authority apart from the greats like Lara, Sachin, VVS, Dravid, Sehwag and Waugh brothers. Despite apparently rebutting his status as the premiere tweaker, every batsman worth his salt secretly fancied a century against him, such is the craft he possesses. As I have always said that there could be only one spin genius and that’s Warne, but the game of cricket has hugely benefited by the flares of brilliance of Kumble and Murali. He is one hell of a hard worker and a persistent soul, and this will keep him in good stead always. All the best mate!

Coming back to the test action, the score that Sri Lanka have posed seems to be enough for another historic win for them provided that the rain Gods relent and Sehwag decides to keep his blitz limited to a century or a 150+ in India’s first innings. Third day’s action also saw Ishant coming to terms with the Galle pitch and India suddenly waking up from deep slumber, though it was too late in the day, but still it made for a heartening sight. Harbhajan’s and Sehwag’s injuries are worrying signs and India must guard against any negative thoughts if they fancy saving this match.

The selection panel would like to look beyond the current pool of fast bowlers that India has, they never have learned from history, so I’m just keeping the fingers crossed.

India v. Pakistan

Last week saw one of the biggest ‘expected’ dramas on the world stage when a state representative of a self confessed ‘deeply rooted in tradition’ country behaved like a man possessed in front of international media. I guess he’d have many things to ponder after seeing himself on TV or YouTube.com now. Not only the content of what he uttered was flawed and out of place, but also the belligerent and self indulgent manner in which he spoke was weird. Never have I seen a foreign minister of a country (well versed in a language) speak with such dramatically accentuated long pauses — so much so — that the effect and purpose both were hilariously lost in transit.

Making measured statements has been the forte of statesmen and parliamentarians till now; but judging by the goings-on in the parliaments/senates and the world summits, I think the age of loud mouth netas and bellicose foreign ministers has well and truly arrived. Instant peace was never the expected outcome of these talks, these were more about the ‘talks’ and I’m afraid the last strand of civility between the two old foes has snapped.

Well…

  • INR received a symbol and became one of the few currencies across the world to do so, the design is interesting and looks like the Devanagari with a strike-through. I’d be more interested in seeing it gain international acceptance as an attractive foreign exchange, the day is quite far by any estimate
  • Kashmir has started to burn afresh with the fuel of stone-pelter’s new found vigour and vengeance; and Omar is currently not finding any answers, the Army is back in the valley and it’s likely that the shrill demands of repeal of AFSPA will gain further ground. Though New Delhi is backing him big time, the coming days will be tougher than he might have imagined
  • Saina Nehwal climbed to 2nd spot in world badminton rankings and there was not enough flutter created on the news channels, guess her achievements are not as important as that of her almost namesake
  • Common Wealth Games 2010 are doomed to remain in choppy waters as the governing bodies are busy making their political ends meet before they actually start thinking of the ‘Games’, BTW when the hell are they going to start
  • Sachin Tendulkar would publish his autobiography with the bonus gift of his blood strewn across the pages, innovative idea to keep the DNA fingerprint stored at various places as well as telling the ‘original’ from the fake (pun intended) 🙂
  • Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan is making everyone sit up and take notice, though it’s still to be seen whether this becomes one of the few movies that translated critical acclaim into BO riot, I can’t recall even a few, was Saraansh one of those… Hmmm
  • Almost all the developed countries are planning (or already have) legislation(s) to curb the influx of skilled immigrant population, so much for globalization, I guess the yardsticks are different for different eras and geographies

The week was good, better than expected, weather in south of India has started taking turn towards rainy days and cool nights and that’s cool.

What’s not so cool is frequent rail accidents (especially the head-on collisions) happening, and subsequent statements by the Railways Ministry accounting ‘possibility of sabotage’ as a reason for the mishaps… More than 60 people lost their lives in the recent train accident in Birbhum, West Bengal is the case in point, when will we learn to respect lives? Brushing aside a glaring question is like wishing the demon away which unfortunately happens only in the grandma’s stories. I wonder what kind of tale we’re living right now. It sure isn’t the one that India would like.

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