Thursday, March 22, 2007

India v Sri Lanka, And what rides on it

So this Friday is the clash that will determine if India goes thru to the super 8's or not. It will determine if the big hearted tigers from Bangladesh will get to show the world that beating India was not a fluke. It will determine if not one, but two minnows(Ireland being the other) will most unexpectedly make it to the next stage.
Interestingly, there is more to it than meets the eye. In cricket at least, the mantra is simple : Big Bucks are where the Indian team is involved. Massive travelling support, TV deals, sponsorships ride on how far down the road the Indian team goes. The super eights schedule was drawn up long time before the tournament started. Ridiculous as it may sound, it was based upon the ODI rankings as of April 2005(huh!!!). Teams were labeled team 1 and team2 in their respective groups based on these rankings. In group B's case, India was team2, or B2 and SL was B1. Even if India were to win all their games, they would still be B2. From one perspective, it does'nt really matter if you are B1 or B2 since you are gonna have to play all the rest of the teams in the fray in the super 8s. But what this kind of system allowed the organizers to do was to draw up a schedule of the super 8s in advance. Allowed them the luxury to conveniently schedule the "marquee" games on weekends and public holidays. And needless to say, most of these marquee games involved India. India's clashes with Pakistan, Australia and South Africa were definitely mouth watering on paper and so were set to be played on weekends. Taking the ICC's word for it, companies have already rolled out big bucks for advertising slots on these gamedays. In-ground advertising has been booked way in advance. Ticket sales soared, Indian people from overseas, especially the US, made arrangements for their travel and stay at the venues in question.
All these people might already be looking for ways to get out of what can very well be a mess.
But if they are not, then god help them. Because one thing we can be sure of - A Bangladesh v Ireland Super 8s game is not going to attract quite the same number of people as an India v Pak game would have.
Pakistan may be out of the picture, but the Indians do still have an outstreched arm in it. What are their chances? what would it take to get past the marauding Lankans. Lets examine..
What I personally feel is that ideally, India should be batting first and setting a target. Two reasons, the pressure while chasing with their survival in the competetion on the line may be too much for the Indian batsmen to deal with, secondly, Sri Lanka's middle over bowlers sometimes just get impossible to score quickly off. Then again, I am saying this with absolutely no knowledge of the picth and weather conditions. If they get a green top and overcast skies, messers Vass and Malinga can wreak havoc. All said, I still feel that chasing would be too much to take(for me sitting and watching too).
About the team composition, I was proved wrong by Kumble last time around. But then it was only Bermuda. Right from the begining, i was not a big fan of Kumble's inclusion in the squad. Always felt Bhajji is a more attacking bowler. Also, what counts against Kumble is that the Lankans have always played him well. The problems at the top of the order are still present. Would they drop Uthapa for Kartik? would they open with Sehwag? I think putting Kartik in the line of fire for this one will not be a good idea. Either they should stick with Uthapa or, and this might be a long shot, bring in Pathan for Uthapa.
All questions will be answered this Friday. Unfortunately, I will only be able to follow the game and not watch it(damn them having the WC in the same time zone).

As all sporting previews end.. "May the best team win"..err.. I beg to differ..


otherwise, all those people queing up for the India-Pak game, be ready to watch Ireland-Bangladesh's EPIC battle.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Of fallen powerhouses and deceased coaches

What a dramatic week in the world cup. India and Pakistan losing to minnows and Gibbs hitting six sixes and of course, the sad news of Bob Woolmers passing away. It was the last news that the cricket world found hard to digest. And yet, this piece of news is inevitably going to get pushed further and further back in the pecking order. It will take a while for everyone to realize how big a loss this is to the cricket world. It will take a while for the Pakistan team to get used to the fact that their coach has not been fired, has'nt quit, has'nt lost it in the wilderness that pakistan cricket politics is, but has actually passed away.... It is a sad sad loss for cricket in general, May his soul rest in peace.

But as they say, the games must go on, and gone they have indeed. Black armbands and minutes silence and all. There have been incidents in the history of sport of events being continued unhindered, which, in my personal opinion is the right thing to do. Not only does it bear testimony to the tenacious nature of sport and of those involved, but also proves that sport is like any other thing in life, and it must move on. Inspite of the no less than 9 Israili athletes being murdered in what has come to be known as the Munich Massacre, the 1972 Olympics still went on. When the plane carrying the whole Manchester United football team back home crashed , killing most of them, Man U continued the season and actually went on to make it to the finals of the prestigious FA cup. The Pakistan team now owes it to Woolmer for all he gave to them during his tenure as their coach. It might be too late for them in this world cup, but they will have more chances after this. and they need to pick themselves up and perform again.

Getting back to news from the field now. India lost to Bangladesh and India's own overconfidence. Yes, it was over confidence, and nothing else. Lets face it, India lacks consistency. And this just does not allow them to walk with a swagger no matter how hot a winning streak they are on. Having steamrolled the hosts in a warm up game, some of the guys I think just took if for granted that the Bangladesh game would be a walk in the park. This is what eventually cost them the game and left them to bear the brunt of the fickle minded fans back home. True, they did wake up and resume business yesterday against an attack worthy of a club side, but I hope, really do hope that they do not carry anything from this game into the game against Sri Lanka.
I dont know why people talk of Australians as being on the decline. Inspite of a bad record right before the world cup, I still think they are favourites. I think their batting is just way to strong and their bowling, even though not venomous, is enough to get the job done. I think australia will complete a hattrick of world cup wins quite comfortably.
New Zealand and Sri Lanka are being talked about as contenders. And to an extent that is true. I think both of them have a good all round side. though I seriously doubt New Zealand's top order batting, their lower middle order of Oram,McCullum and Styris is formidable. Of course, there is the up and coming Ross Taylor. As for Flemming, sorry but i never consider him much of a batsman.
England being touted as one of the tournaments surprise packages is, well.. simply put.. crap!!
less said the better about them, they are going nowhere, thats for sure.
So the way its looking right now, I think Australia and South Africa would the faves, in that order. But that little hope that India has, wish it takes them farther into the competetion.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The world cup is now wide open

So whats going on in the cricket world? Australia loosing 5 in a row? Ganguly diving on the field and taking spectacular catches? India actually having a pace attack worth talking about? Marlon Samuels (who???) embroiled in a fixing controversy?

Strange happenings, are'nt they? especially when the world cup is just round the corner. Rumour mills are working overtime. I have heard some really ridiculous ones such as Australia throwing games so that there is some interest still left in the world cup which, until not too long ago was theirs for the taking. I mean get over it guys, was'nt fixing in cricket a copyright of the subcontinent? Why would the Aussies throw games? why would they care if there is interest in the WC or not? They would just want to win it, and so would the other teams. So lets just forget all these stupid speculations and enjoy what promises to be an exciting tournament.

Team India looks nice and balanced. Batting is clicking, bowling is doing reasonably well, and with some young guys diving around fielding looks good as well. If only someone could find a solution to the conundrum that is Irfan Pathan, I think we would be a complete team. The very fact that Dinesh Karthick was picked to replace Pathan shows us that he now considered a pure batting option and no longer an all rounder, let alone being considered a bowler. And whats with him being picked inspite of being injured? Need some answers about him and need 'em fast.

The guys making a comeback to the team have performed admirably, or at least most of them have. Zaheer is is fine form, his swing and perfect length almost always providing an early breakthrough. Ganguly, well he has really been born again, has'nt he!! Down and dusted, not getting along with the coach, falling out(allegedly) with some of his teammates, no one really gave him a chance to make a comeback. Then when he was recalled to the test side, everyone thought that even if he did get this far, there is absolutely no place for him in th ODI side. But he made it, and how!!! To see him bat like he used to is really heartening. To see him dive around on the field is really refreshing, and , I dont know if its me or is it for real that he seems to have more hair on his head now. Last time I saw him, he was balding!! With Sehwag's form on a downward spiral, I felt initially that Sachin and him need to be re-united at the top, but the meteoric rise of Uthapa, that looks unlikely. The other comeback man though has left a lot to be desired and raised a lot of questions. I am talking about Anil Kumble. There is no doubt he is a liability in the field (his "knee first" diving technique is as ridiculous as it is hilarious) . I think our loss to Sri Lanka in the second ODI was brought about by his wasting 5 balls which Dhoni could have used. And lets face it, there is not too many places where you play 2 specialist spinners in an ODI. And with Sehwag, Sachin and Yuvi more that capable of sharing 10 overs, why the selectors have decided to to pick Kumble is beyond me.
So the stage is set for the Carribean magnum-opus. More teams this time, degrading the opening round to merely something that will decide who play who is the super-eights as opposed to a who makes it there thing. A super eights instead of the old super-sixes. Less number of venues which means less travelling for teams, something for the Americans to worry about .
But most importantly the "anyone can win it" feeling. South Africa in cracking form, Australia wounded and waiting to strike back, New Zealand on the moon after whitewashing the Aussies, England and Sri Lanka trying to get their acts together, Inidia also having a good recent record, and as always the unpredictable Pakistanis. Really sets the stage up does'nt it.

Predictions anyone?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Indian Media.. Something to think about

Got this email as a forward from a friend...
dont really open forwarded emails too often, but ended up reading this one, and this is interesting..
no idea how true it is or how much of this is just a figment of someone's imagination.

So here goes... its titled "SHAME ON INDIAN MEDIA"

By the time u guys read this news, the body of Major Manish Pitambare, who was shot dead at Anantnag, would have been cremated with full military honors.

On Tuesday, this news swept across all the news channels 'Sanjay Dutt relieved by court'. 'Sirf Munna not a bhai' '13 saal ka vanvaas khatam' 'although found guilty for possession of armory, Sanjay can breath sigh of relief as all the TADA charges against him are withdrawn' Then many personalities like Salman Khan said 'He is a good person. We knew he will come out clean'. Mr Big B said "Dutt's family and our family have relations for years he's a good kid. He is like elder brother to Abhishek". His sister Priya Dutt said "we can sleep well tonight. It 's a great relief"

In other news, Parliament was mad at Indian team for performing bad; Greg Chappell said something; Shah Rukh Khan replaces Amitabh in KBC and other such stuff. But most of the emphasis was given on Sanjay Dutt's "phoenix like" comeback from the ashes of terrorist charges. Surfing through the channels, one news on BBC startled me. It read "Hisbul Mujahidin's most wanted terrorist 'Sohel Faisal' killed in Anantnag, India. Indian Major leading the operation lost his life in the process. Four others are injured.

It was past midnight, I started visiting the stupid Indian channels, but Sanjay Dutt was still ruling. They were telling how Sanjay pleaded to the court saying 'I'm the sole bread earner for my family', 'I have a daughter who is studying in US' and so on. Then they showed how Sanjay was not wearing his lucky blue shirt while he was hearing the verdict and also how he went to every temple and prayed for the last few months. A suspect in Mumbai bomb blasts, convicted under armory act...was being transformed into a hero. Sure Sanjay Dutt has a daughter; Sure he did not do any terrorist activity. Possessing an AK47 is considered too elementary in terrorist community and also one who possesses an AK47 has a right to possess a pistol so that again is not such a big crime; Sure Sanjay Dutt went to all the temples; Sure he did a lot of Gandhigiri but then........ ...

Major Manish H Pitambare got the information from his sources about the terrorists' whereabouts. Wasting no time he attacked the camp, killed Hisbul Mujahidin's supremo and in the process lost his life to the bullets fired from an AK47. He is survived by a wife and daughter (just like Sanjay Dutt) who's only 18 months old.

Major Manish never said 'I have a daughter' before he took the decision to attack the terrorists in the darkest of nights. He never thought about having a family and he being the bread earner. No news channel covered this since they were too busy hyping a former drug addict, a suspect who's linked to bomb blasts which killed hundreds. Their aim was to show how he defied the TADA charges and they were so successful that his conviction in possession of armory had no meaning. They also concluded that his parents in heaven must be happy and proud of him.

Parents of Major Manish are still living and they have to live rest of their lives without their beloved son. His daughter won't ever see her daddy again. Finally Major Manish, to my generation is a greater hero, someone who laid his life in the name of this great nation.
So, please forward this message around so that the media knows which news to give importance, as it is a shame for us since this Army Major's death news was given by a foreign TV channel!!!"

Leave it out to anyone who is reading for comments..

Monday, January 22, 2007

Have had better weekends

A bad weekend for me, healthwise. Friday night started feeling the beginings of a severe cough and cold. By the time I got up on Saturday afternoon (yes, afternoons are mornings for me on weekends), I was coughing real bad. Thought its a temporary thing and ignored it. Managed to worsen it by having a chilled beer at a friends place in Orlando on my way to watch Guru. Kept tossing and turning in bed saturday night, as I just could not stop coughing. And on Sunday my 'sour throat' had gone so bad, that it was painful to swallow anything solid. Had to remain on a liquid diet all day. Included in that was drinking warm water, which I swear to god is the worst tasting thing to drink. Finally gave in, got some cough syrup which made me so drowsy that I went to bed at 11.
As if this was not enough, the Patriots lost in the AFC champs game to Manning and the Colts. Yes, Brady-Bellichick lost a playoff game!! Well, thats it for the Pats this season.
Also watched the Mani Ratnam movie 'Guru' on saturday. Must say this, Mani Ratnam's movies almost always carry a social messege, this one did too. Only this time, i thought it was more 'anti-social' than 'social'. In a nutshell, an attempt is made to justify all the hook-or-by-crooks and one-way-or-the-others involved in the rags to riches story of an Indian businessman. Agreed, as a movie, its as good as you would expect from Mani. Dont really agree with its messege though. But, thats my opinion entirely.

But there was indeed some silver lining on the otherwise dark cloud that was this past weekend for me. India won a cricket game at last. Beat the West Indies although not real convincing in the end, but was good enough that they won. Another good news on the personal/professional front might be round the corner. Not ready to reveal that just yet...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

O Bannerjee Saab, Aapne to kamaal kar diya jee!!

Confused by the title? I am sure you are. I am talking about, in my opinion, one of the best movies released last year.
Its called Khosla Ka Ghosla. The deep rooted dilliwalla accent used in the movie and the name of its director (Dibankar Bannerjee) is the basis of the title of this post.

Not often in the age of these so called "big movies" do we get to see such genuinely content driven movies. All the characters in the movie are so lifelike and believable that you sometimes wonder why do we need flying superheroes in movies. This is not a review of the movie, for that you can visit indiafm or any other desi movie site, just randon thoughts about it.

The first thing that strikes me is the language used. The accent and the tone is very very typical dilliwalla. Being a dilliwalla for 25 years myself, you can take my word for it. Starting with the O at the begining of each sentence and the jee at the end, going onto the quintessential sardarji using the well known expletive in many of his lines to the witty and cunning owner of A-One Agency ( there is one by this name is every neighborhood in Delhi). It is just totally lifelike, makes me feel like back home again.

Even the characters demeanours are so well enacted, so natural. The major characters in the movie strike you with their towering presence. Boman Irani as the property dealer, Anupam Kher as the typical middle class man with big dreams, and Pravin Dabas as the son who wants to escape.

But here is where many people will disagree with me. There were these minor, hardly noticable characters in the movie which struck me as more typical dilli. Anyone who has been to Delhi to buy property or in fact even gone to buy anything for that matter, is bound to encounter someone very very simillar to the middle man "propty" dealer shown in the movie, Vijender. The way he sucks up to Khurana and the way he dupes poor Mr. Khosla is a classic portrayal of middlemanship, so prevalent in Delhi.

If the middle man was terific, the ever nodding lackey to Khurana, called Munjal in the movie was absolutely awesome. So real is the way they have shown the guy's behaviour that it reminds me of so many such people I met when travelling with my Dad to his clients sometimes. The way he always has a cellphone in his hand, the way he refers to everyone as "Sir jee", the way he handles the situation in the police station, its just totally life like.

But the character that steals the show for me, albeit being in a minor, somewhat insignificant role is the good for nothing elder son of Mr. Khosla, Bunty Khosla. Credit should go to Ranvir Shorey for pulling off this role in the way he has, and continuing on with his awesome comic form last year with Pyaar Ke Side Effects and some others.

Of course there were many other positives in the movie which made me label it the best of 2006. But from my point of view, stuff that made me so nostalgic was the best. As my younger brother aptly put it when reccomending this movie to me "the best portrayal of Delhi on cinema thus far".

But after all, you all know as well as I do, the awards and addulations for the best movie and all that are all going to go a certain 4 hour, never ending crying contest between SRK, Rani and Preity and co. (read KANK). Why?? because Indian movie goers dont want to see what actually happens around them on screen, they want to see their fantasies painted on screen.

Who cares about awards anyways, as long as we get to watch these well made, life like movies..

and yes, whoever thought of the name "Chironji Lal Khosla" ought to be given special applause.. (you will know when you watch the movie)

Please go watch this if you have'nt yet.Highly Recommended.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A day at Tampa Bay

This game of American Football never really caught my attention until recently. I always used to wonder why they call it football when only 10% of the time, the ball touches the players' feet.
When I was in school here in the US, I used to hang out mostly with Indians and my exposure to this game was limited if any. But when I started working, I started feeling increasingly left out of the post game football discussions that my colleagues indulged in rather passionately on mondays.
So starting this season(football season starts in september), armed with a cable connection worth a small fortune, egged on by colleagues and inspired by friends, i entered the world of another sport. Being a sports freak as it is, it was'nt difficult for me to catch up and start taking part in those discussions which seemed so elusive not so long ago.
Having a football fan for a boss and a even bigger fan as a team lead helped. The company arranged for a football game trip on November 19th 2006. We went to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Washington Redskins. People with some football know-how will ask why such a crap game? well, because my boss is a redskins fan, thats why.
More than the game, the atmosphere really got to me.
The way the teams entered the arena, the fly past by one of the US Airforce planes that was arranged, the huge flags, the cheerleaders, everything added up to make the atmosphere absolutely electric. It was a small matter that the game itself was dull.
Made for a good day out, away from the mundane atmosphere of the office.