Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Maharashtra cricket

Since time immemorial, the Maharashtra cricket team has been the poorer cousin of the Bombay cricketers. They had some really good players like Surendra Bhave, Shantanu Sugwekar and Santosh Jedhe who really stood an excellent chance of breaking into the Indian ranks, but for reasons unknown just found themselves (and their efforts ignored). Bhave and Sugwekar were a deadly batting combination, while Jedhe was spoken of very highly as an all-rounder - something the Indian team desperately needed in the early and mid-90s. In more recent times, I think Iqbal Siddiqui made a quick cameo role in the 2001-02 series when England visited India.

It was heartening to read two articles that showed that Maharashtra cricket is doing fairly well. The first one which caught my eye stated that Chandrakant Pandit had been appointed the coach of the Maharashtra Ranji team, and offered reasons on why he quit the Mumbai team. I was surprised, as I'd read somewhere that the Maharashtra Cricket Association had appointed an Aussie Darren Holder as a "high-performance" coach. The Mah. association sure took a bold step in this regard, because all said and done, the idea of a foreigner as a coach has never been digestable to the common man. Last year Punjab took a bold step by calling in the ex-Pakistani coach Intikhab Alam to coach their Ranji team, and it worked wonders with Punjab reaching the Ranji finals this year! One might say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but I do hope Chandu and Holder get along well and lift Maharashtra to success.

The other article was a slight disappointment, considering the fact that Tendulkar was not going to play the Zimbabwe Test series; but had good signs in that Dheeraj Jadhav was going to be replacing him. I have only heard/read of Jadhav's talents and it should be a huge boost to Maharashtra cricket if he does indeed get a chance and he does well. Although some folks might disagree, I think Tendulkar did the sensible thing by sitting out the Zimbabwe tour. I wish Tendulkar had taken things a bit easy and given his elbow a little time to rest instead of playing through the Pakistan series.

PS: I'm glad the press isnt too euphoric over the Indian victory over Zimbabwe!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Memories of days gone by...

In the past week I've gotten back in touch with two classmates I hadnt spoken to in almost 10 years (ever since I left Campion)- Beowda and Rosy (their Campion nicks). It's been an interesting thing (to say the least) catching up on the latest from both guys. Amazing to think that Rosy's now married and settled in London, while Beowds is almost a doc and works at one of the state-of-the-art hospitals in the US @ UPMC.

There still are some blokes I havent met in the 9 years - Terminator, BhopuGas, Koyal, Prince, Jaimbia, Jallu, Karlos, Jordan, ShakuniMama and Chachu. Some friends stay on the radar, some just disappear without a trace. Some have kept in touch via chat/email (Bablya, BigBull, S*xBomb, Fishy), others by phone and a couple I've met on a relatively regular basis (like H*r*y, Tipsy, Monkey, the Tolles, Vazi, Turkey, Gay1).

Everytime we meet up or speak to one another, we invariably run a roll-call and rack our brains over what news either of us has about the various guys in class. More often that not it leads to us reminescing on some arbit incident which happened in school. It's amazing how each of us remembers different incidents, though with some guys there's a stand-out incident which no one will forget!

We cant forget:
Gomo the momo - he and his threats to chew the marrow of some unsuspecting student's bones...
ILP and his Panjabi-isms.....(he was/is God in Campion imho)
Callu - and his B L X Bh...and who can forget "WATTAH"
Chaudhri - she of "page tirty-tree"
Alphonso - and his wisecracks of "Pande-Wande's too-ishuns"!
Alvaro - and his sermons...which drove the A-section to tears....gave us B-boys a good laugh...we never let the A-guys forget the day they let their guard down and let the tears flow...BOYS DONT CRY!
Frakash (...sorry Prakash) - he who mixed his P's and F's...Deepak poor bloke hasnt been forgotten!
Yadav and Dangle - who could scare the daylights out of even a hippo!
Uncle Louie - The more I practice...the more I score....
Kaydee - and his wisecracks.....
FidoDido - the coolest!

But amidst the mirth, there will always be one point which gets us sober - Miss Goswami. She taught us Geography in the 9th and 10th. She was new to school in the 9th, and was our class-teacher. We sure gave her a rough time, even driving her to tears on a few occasions. She screamed, screeched, walked out - it didnt have any effect on us - but we irritated her the same! Even lectures from Nannu didnt work, until he actually threatened to suspend the entire class.

The 'ragging' continued through the 10th, but slightly muted - possiibly because everyone was worried about their survey maps in the ICSE exams. We had pretty much made our peace with her, and we used to kid her about her single status - sometimes even linking her up with ILP! After school, we all got along well with Ms. G and used to joke about the tough times we gave her. She treated us just like made it a point to ask everyone about their love life and in turn we used to kid her about the masters in school who were bachelors. I met her pretty much everytime I went back to school.

When we heard she was getting married in 2001, all of us were pretty happy and the guys in Bombay had plans of attending the reception there. But then fate willed otherwise. We still shake our heads in disbelief thinking back and wondering how He could snatch her away the evening before her wedding.

And they say her Scooty still lies at 13 Cooperage Road, as a kind of reminder/memorial to her! Some day we guys hope to set up some sort of scholarship-fund (in Ms. G's memory) for students at Campion - if everything works out (we're still discussing the feasibility of the whole thing)!

And so that's that....

Bravery and Awards - Part 2.

WHY are we handing out military honors to silver medallists at Olympics, when the brave men who guard our frontiers and fight for our nation go unrewarded?!

Looks like we are a nation with misplaced priorities! Ridiculous!

On the topic of awards, I was amused to see Cyrus Poncha's name among the list of Dronacharya awardees. I do believe that there are other folks who deserve the award more - the case in point being Joaquim Carvalho (one of the gurus of Mumbai hockey). There's a website which lists the 'grievances' against Poncha. Some of their points make a fair bit of sense - especially the 'poaching' he does to get people to train at the academy in Chennai. Looks like has a HUGE grudge against Joshna Chinappa!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Forgotten soldier

Was surprised to come across an article by G. Rajaraman in Outlook, 'sparing a thought' for Vinod Kambli. It came as a huge shock to read that not too many people were standing by him (and Rajaraman hoped he'd be proved wrong on this one).

I was reminded of the heady days of the spring of 1993 when Kambi went berserk against the Pommies and then against the hapless Zimbabweans, scoring two double centuries in a row - and also doing pretty well in the ODIs against England. Those who were at the Wankhede that day will remember the pasting Kambli gave a hapless John Emburey. Kambli (and Sachin in the second test and good ol' Azhar in the first Test) along with the spin trio of Kumble, Chauhan and Raju went a long way in the 'brownwash' the Pommies got.

If I remember right, Sachin went through a slightly lean patch (by his standards) against the Englishmen (the brilliant century at the Chepauk notwithstanding). In one of his interviews I clearly remember him making a remark about how Sachin took the elevator to the top, while he (Kambli) got there via the stairs.

Some time after that, the world began to see a very flashy Kambli - almost like he underwent a total metamorphosis into this supposedly 'cool dude', a far cry from his Kanjur Marg (??) origins. And with that, his cricket went downhill. His weakness against the short ball was brutally exposed when the Windies toured India in 1994-95, and I dont think he recovered from that point onwards.

For one, I could well imagine how much it hurts to see his childhood buddy Sachin be the toast of India. But then I guess Kambli has only himself to blame for his problems - all the partying and boozing has taken its toll. I remember watching him play a Ranji game against TN at the Guru Nanak grounds in Chennai in early 2002, and it was painful! It was tough to imagine that this was the same player who whacked the stuffings out of some of the better English bowlers, and here he was struggling miserably against some part-time TN bowler!

As far as I know, the Mumbai cricketing community is probably one of the closest-knit ones. So it comes as a huge surprise to read that Kambli was pretty much all on his own through his latest 'crisis'.

For every Tendulkar, there is a Kambli. For every Kumble, a Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Both Kambli and Siva were the toast of Indian cricket once, but then they let it all slip away in the whirlpool of fame and femmes! Ofcourse Siva did manage to 'resurrect' himself (if thats the right word) as a TV commentator, and one only hopes that Kambli's stars will align themselves in a suitably lucky position soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sports and work

I was quite amused to read that Rajyavardhan Rathore was awarded the AVSM (Ati Visisht Seva Medal) - the second highest military honor for serving officers - last year. For what one might ask, and the answer stares you right in the face!

I have no idea about the gentleman's exploits in the Army, but the medal was surely for the silver he clinched at the Athens Olympics. It was a huge achievement undoubtedly, but to award him a military honor for that reeks of something nasty! Let's face it, Mr. Rathore earned his plaudits and awards on the sportsfield, and he got his due there. Why was there any need to give him an honor that (I think) is normally awarded to the top military commanders for their work or for brave men who have played their role on the frontiers?

I do remember that after her brilliant performance at the Asiad in the mid-80s PT Usha too wanted a promotion in her Railways job! Our good ol' friend Mohd. Azharuddin thought he needed a promotion in SBI after winning the test series against England in 1993 - well before he found other means to supplement his meagre income! Needless to say Azhar didnt get his promotion to the DGM level!

I think sports-people in India are a fairly insecure lot, partly because opportunities dont exist post-retirement (or when the music is over!). A lot of them just disappear into oblivion. Some are remembered off and on for their achievement, but most just fade away. However, sportspeople abroad shift gears and move into the corporate world with ease, or just go into coaching.

One case which comes to my mind clearly is Eric Heiden. He won 5 gold medals at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980 and was active on the cycling circuit for a few years before he moved into retired life. Even after quitting the arena, he joined medical school and is now a leading orthopedic surgeon.

It's the uncertain future which ails Indian sports-people. It's probably the reason why the Yuvrajs and Irfan Pathans do whatever advertisements they can do now, when the going is good. Who knows what the future might hold for them a year or two down the line. Might as well make merry while the sun shines. But yet at the same time, they lose focus on what they're mainly here to do - play cricket!

It's all a vicious cycle all said and done!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Mahabharatha redefined

I was speaking to a friend the other day, and we were talking about Karna and suddenly he came up with one of the most amusing bloopers I have heard in a while. According to him, Yudhishthira was Karna's father! It had me laughing uncontrollably, but to an extent it just reminded me of how at times we 'forget' the epics.

All said and done, I'd say the Mahabharatha is one of my favorite 'books'. It's full of characters of various hues, some a slightly darker shade of pale. To this day, I cant but help but sympathize with Karna, for all his 'hardships' and the tought choices he had to make. The dilemmas and secrets Kunti harbored from the Pandavas. It would be interesting to put a spin on things and wonder what might have transpired had Karna been 'accepted' as the eldest of the Pandavas.

I never realized that Veda Vyaasa had a lot more 'personal touch' with the storyline than just dictating the text to Ganesha! But then I guess Amar Chitra Katha suitably censored those parts, or I missed them!

Bheeshma comes across as a very honorable old man, but as a kid I despised him because he sided with the Kauravas in the war - yes, I had a different set of rules when it came to Karna!

The battle of Kurukshetra is an epic within an epic. The sheer force of the Bhagavad Gita is simply amazing - the words ring true even today! It still amazes me how Abhimanyu learned only the way in to a chakravyuh, and didnt learn the way out! The death of Drona reads as one of the particularly dramatic sequences, where Yudhishthira had to lie that Ashwatthama (an elephant, and not Drona's son) had indeed been killed. With that lie, his chariot which normally always stood a few inches above the ground (due to his greatness), came down to the ground.

All said and done I'd tend to think Krishna was a very shrewd player. Two instances stand out on the battlefield - the death of Karna, and the slaying of Jayadratha. All said and done both had their roles to play in the death of Abhimanyu, and Karna had laughed when Draupadi was insulted in the court - so that naturally had Arjuna baying for their blood. But still, killing Karna while he was trying to rescue his chariot from the sinking mud was slightly unfair consdering the high 'standards' set by all concerned!

For some reason when you think of the characters, one immediately visualizes the people who played the roles in the TV serials (so much for the media!)! (Also speaks volumes about what a good casting job the Chopras did!). Yes, we did have those shady battle sequences to deal with - but back then slick computer graphics were a long way off from Indian shores!

Shashi Tharoor's Great Indian Novel is an amazing 'parody' (if thats the word) where all the events in India's post-Independent history have been superimposed on the storyline of the Mahabharatha. It sure makes some amusing reading!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New York..New York...

There's something about New York which gets my heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing. Looking across the Hudson at Manhattan as the bus winds its way up/down (depending on whether you're leaving or entering NYC) the ramp leading into the Holland Tunnel is a mind-blowing sight.

I ventured into the city the other day, with the mission of avoiding the subway and walking around the city - experience the city up close and in my face! I must have walked something like 120-140 blocks (and that's not counting the avenues I crossed). It gave me an opportunity of experiencing one of the most amazing cities in the world, and a chance to think/analyze on a lot of things.

86 storeys above 'sea-level', the observation deck of the Empire State Building is quite a decent place to look out at the city, but not the best place to get some thinking done. All said and done, the hour and a half I spent waiting in line for tickets to the obs. deck was well worth it.

Central Park is an interesting place, filled with its share of kookie characters as well as the normal ones jogging, walking or meditating. Good place to analyze the past and make plans for the future, and also shoot the breeze with the couzin!

In some ways, NYC reminds me of Bombay. Maybe it's the josh. But yet I do believe Bombay's lost its charm over the years.

It's one of those places where you can forget you're from smallville and think BIG! Like Sinatra sang:

New york, New York
I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one top of the list, king of the hill
A number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it - in old new york
And if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere

It up to you - New York New York

So that's that...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Freedom at Midnight

Finally got down to reading Freedom at Midnight over the weekend, and finished it this evening. It's been on my 'to-read' list, but somehow never got down to reading it.

At the outset I'd say it's a masterpiece - the spelling mistakes notwithstanding (arent I a grammar Nazi!). Although some folks might say it read like a history book, it gives one a ringside view (ah cliches!) to what went on behind the scenes as Aug 15th 1947 drew near. Towards the end it also focused on the assassins of the Mahatma, looking at their strategies and how they planned everything out. I think Lapierre and Collins did a brilliant dissection of every character in that book - be it Jinnah or Godse, Nehru or Mountbatten. Thankfully they didnt delve into the Nehru-Edwina equation at all, and concentrated instead on the equation Nehru shared with Lord Mountbatten.