Saturday, January 28, 2006

The hunt for a good sports-magazine!

When my father and uncle were in school, the pre-eminent sports magazine of those days was called "Sport and Pastime". I remember an old issue lying around in Achamma's house which had Conrad Hunte on it's cover, and it took me to an era I had not even imagined back then - the late 50s and 60s when the Windies dominated under the great Sir Frank Worrell, and Gary Sobers was taking his first steps enroute to future greatness.

My love affair with Sportstar began sometime in the mid 80s (yes, that early) around the time the Indians won the B&H World Championship of Cricket in Australia. This lasted more than a decade and a half into the next millenium. Some time in the late 80s they added a poster instead of their normal centrefold, and their popularity rose unbelievably. Many a poster graced the walls of our flat in Bombay, not to forget the "cousins room" in Coimbatore (Today I can only think of that room as Achan's pooja room). Everyone had to get their copy of Sportstar, and even in class we'd wonder who would feature next on the poster. I cannot forget how the Sportstar would be hidden away from my prying eyes during exam-time, only for me to hunt (or rather smell) it out from a variety of places ranging from the kitchen to the store-room!

Many an eminent writer contributed his columns, including Gavaskar and Harsha Bhogle - Bobby Simpson still is a regular. The lenswork of Indian sport (mainly the cricket/cricketers by VV Krishnan) was amazing, while the photos from abroad were generally by AllSport. I think Stan Smith's Tennis lessons and Jack Nicklaus' golf tips (comic-style) are still going strong! Those were the days before the internet came along and we depended on our loyal Sportstar for sports news from foreign lands.

The special countdowns to the Olympics, World Cup soccer and the cricket World Cup were read from cover to cover and then bound for future reminescences. They brought alive the magic of Pele, the Windies cricketers in the 70s and 80s, Jesse Owens, the rivalry between the Kaiser and the Flying Dutchman, and so many flashbacks from the past!

However, with the advent of the internet, as they say, we have the world at our fingers and I guess I've become more net-dependent for all news and articles. Sportstar (like jap-cakes and jilebis) is now a memory of days-gone-by, savoured with zest when the opportunity comes along (like in India this winter!).

Cricinfo's new magazine (I just read their inaugural issue) comes as a breath of fresh air. I have realized I am addicted to good cricket journalism. Achan and Amma were quite amused by my innumerable trips to the local magazine vendor to check whether he had received the magazines! Couldnt believe that Zatta wrote the cover story on Dravid - but then he's hot on the cricket-writing scene with his chronicle of the Indian tour of Pakistan in 2004.

Cant get enough of this stuff! That's all I can say! I'm even tempted to request A-A to subscribe and keep the issues for me when I go home next!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

MCC/Chepauk memories...

Been a regular at the Madras Cricket Club (MCC) over the years - thanks to R & S. When I was younger, a summer vacation trip to Madras would be incomplete without a lunch/dinner at the MCC; much like the trip to see KMama and KMayi (which I'll save for another blog-post). Went there for a lazy lunch last week, and it brought back fond memories.

My first impressions of the Chepauk were formed during the 1987 World Cup match, which India narrowly lost to Australia. One of the lasting memories of that game had the Aussies walking off after winning the match, their whites/off-whites caked with the brownish black mud. Made me wonder if they played on grass or in what I then used to call (in typical Mumbaiya Hindi) keechad!

The club used to be filled with snaps of various cricketers who had graced many a party hosted there. I do remember seeing photographs of the various Windies touring teams, but sadly they seem to have disappeared (along with the Calypso kings). The odd photo of a Viv Richards and Sobers partying away in the club are still to be seen though.

One of the most unforgettable matches I witnessed was the 2001 test against Australia, where the Indians just about scraped home to win the series. Tendulkar has always had a decent run at the Chepauk, and the collective gasp around the ground when he mistimed the ball in the air in the direction of Michael Slater, followed by the sigh of relief when Slater put the chance down still rings clear in my head. The end of the test was however watched safely ensconed in the safety of my drawing room!

The other match I watched at the Chepauk was largely forgettable - the ODI between India and England in 2002. It was nice to sit in the Clubhouse, right next to the players and watch the game. Ganguly sat out the match (nothing new about that, isnt it!), and I dont think I'll see him in action ever! And oh yes, Gower gave me the royal miss again! Did manage to snag an autograph from one Ian Terence Botham though.

It's been interesting to see folks like Venkat, Robin Singh, WV Raman, Badani and few others relaxing in the club in the evenings. But what's been a much more joyous experience is imagining the innings/games that have been played here.

Sachin vs. Warne, thats how the series was built up in the spring of 1998 when the Aussies toured India. Despite college being a stone's throw from the Brabourne Stadium, I had to give the match between the Aussies and Bombay a miss - and thats where ST scored his first double century in first-class cricket. It was a precursor to what lay in store at the Chepauk, where he bludgeoned the Aussies into submission. Warney bowling outside the leg-stump only to be swatted away for a boundary by ST - that's one of the memories I have of that innings!

An innings I havent seen (not even on TV), but something everyone raves about was the 97* GRViswanath made against the Windies in 1974-75. For its sheer brilliance (and people still rave about it) it was also ranked #3 among the top 10 innings played by an Indian batsmen ever.

The tied test will forever be remembered in 2 snapshots - one of Greg Matthews absolutely cock-a-hoop after trapping Maninder Singh lbw, and the other of a very dehydrated Dean Jones enroute to his double century! But just imagine the guts Deano displayed, and who can forget the valiant attempt the Indians made chasing down 348 in a day's play!

And last but not the least, a silent tribute to the television tower keeping a watchful eye over the Chepauk!