Thursday, March 31, 2011

THE Game is Over, Human Hosepipe Opens

A match that made me weep... A match to remember.

India faced Pakistan, and I was the most pro-active fellow in the room of 60 for 99 overs, and then my insides went all too emotional. India landed themselves in the finals of the World Cup, but Pakistan left the World Cup.

It was a mixture of emotions, happiness in one eye, tears in the other... Is that cricket? Dear cricket, tell me, is that why you are here? To confuse my insides? My love made me laugh and cry!

It was not an easy ride... Yeah, the game happened. People kept on swearing at Nehra and Munaf all day long. Nehra's head was at the axe right from the beginning... Munaf never got the respect he deserved.

And the default man they choose to cheer played the worst ever game I've seen him play in my life. he made roughly 12 runs for every life he had in the game. And for that reason, Pakistan's fielding was equally worse.

But then, there was one fire in that ocean - Wahab Riaz. Like that debut game against England last summer, Riaz lit up out of no-where and just washed the Indian batting like it were a grass bed in his garden. That ball to Yuvraj - mother of reverse swing. Yuvraj was a bunny! When I saw Riaz bow down to earth and pray on getting his 5th wicket (Zak), I had utmost respect for him, given that he was there only because Shoaib wasn't fit, and that he hadn't been any great in the WC earlier... It was magical!

I felt the total was competitive, 10 more must be safe, though.

As the 2nd innings started, I could only hope for wickets. Zak was bowling blunders in his first spell. Nehra was bowling a great channel. His first ball of the game silenced some critics, I'm sure. I was saying that India needed a miracle, just like the filth ball Southee threw at Tharanga last evening and Ryder caught the undisputed catch of the tournament... And before I could finish the text, Zak threw a wide delivery and Kamran gave Yuvraj his first gift.

Yuvraj and Bhajji were brilliant in getting the wickets at the right time. Hafeez's stump being re-arranged by Yuvi was quite a sight. Bhajji getting rid of Umar Akmal eventually tipped the scale in India's favour.

But, my two true heroes - Munaf and Nehra. Munaf was hostile, Nehra was merciless. Did anyone ever get the better of them? NO! Munaf hit the good length at will. Once, a graphic showed that the strike rate off his good length deliveries was an astounding 10%. McGrath! Nehra kept bowling in that superb channel across the right hander, never really gave the batsmen any room to get under his bowling. If this doesn't shut the bloody people who call themselves fans of the team but are ready to swear at them, I bet nothing can... I dare you all to throw the same taunts you threw at these two, at your mother. let me see if you are alive to live another day...

If you can't respect motherhood, if you can't respect women, please die... you don't deserve to live that cheap, anyway.. what is the point? go enact whatever you swore at the Indians and at the Pakistanis! and then....

If you don't have human values, you are no more than a rabid animal. It really doesn't matter where you come from, what social status you bear or the colour of your skin, or your religion. If your attitude sucks, you suck.

As for the game, India won, and sent me in search of food...
I may have seen a couple of UFOs, but for all I care, I was soothing under one of the most beautiful matches I've witnessed. I will miss Pak team in this world cup.

Shoaib Akhtar, I shall always love you! Boom Boom, ditto.

What does this world cup have to offer me any more? this is all over for the emotional cricket in me. the finals vs SL means nothing to me. of course, it will be nice if India win it, but it really means nothing as compared to this

Sunday, March 27, 2011

VoilĂ  ! It's India vs Pakistan!

India meets Pakistan for the first time in a semi-final of a World Cup. The hard-core neighbouring rivals lock horns once again in a World Cup match, this time, it will be played out at Mohali.

There could only be one better stage for this match-up, in the finals. But, given the situation, we have a semifinals at our hands. And it's between the two teams that more than half the cricketing world is going to be watching with pumped up following. I am pretty sure, the production rate of the two countries is going to reach an all-time low. Holidays would be declared in many cities. Prayers will be more frequent. Every single V channel will carry the scoreline. Every single TV will tune in to the game. People will throng the streets in-front of that barber's shop to watch the game.

It is not just any game, it is a game to buy a berth in the Finals of a world cup. While India hasn't won it in nearly 3 decades, Pakistan hasn't in 2, in-spite of both teams once making it to the finals since, and being humiliated in both those finals, by a common winner- Australia.

Ironically, Australia is out of this world cup, thanks to the two teams I've been talking about. While Australia had no clue to Pakistan's bowling, Australia had no clue about India's batting. The loss to Pakistan meant that Pakistan top the group and Aus slip to 3rd place. After India beat WI at Chennai, India set its date with Australia at Motera. And India beat Australia with some beautiful all-round display.

The verdict - it's INDIA vs PAKISTAN.

The Indian cricket team has had to undergo the wrath of numerous bandwagon "fans" who are ready to drink the blood of the Indian cricketers if they lose a game, and are ready to swear the dirtiest words at them for a loss, howsoever close it may have been. But they call themselves "fans" of the team. Yeah, they become fans the very second India wins a game. Team India, led by the coolest captain India has ever had, has managed to keep the fickle emotions of the public aside and concentrated on the things at hand, and when it was needed the most, he has led the team to sanity, to victory, to a place in the semi-final (thus far).

Pakistani cricket team has had to keep their own faith, manage to keep the faith of the board, and woo the fans to continue to keep their faith in the team. Over the past two years or so, this team has gone through what-nots on and off the field! Every loss has been scrutinized as a potential "match-fixing". There have been incidences like Akmal's show in Sydney, Aamer-Asif-Butt episode, the Afridi's "hunger for the ball" in Australia etc. The PCB has had its own issues with the team. Senior players were in and out of the squad. But what has happened in-between all that, is the slow rise of a thick unit, a close unit which knew what one wanted and what one had in themselves. The captaincy debate was mutually solved, and a love for the game was generated. Fans who have lived with the team's luck know what I'm talking about.

Cometh the world cup, and the Pakistani team has shrugged off the "dark horse" tag and wore the "contenders" tag. Afridi is the leading wicket taker in the tournament, ahead by a country mile over the rest of the pack. Gul has become menacing, Rehman and Ajmal have been wisely used. Kamran's batting has been a cover for his poor keeping. Misbah and Younis are the middle order main-stays. Hafeez finds his touch in the middle order. Umar Akmal - Razzak - Afridi trio is still sounding fear in the opponents.

Indian batting is as big as it sounds like. Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj have all had atleast one resounding half-century. Yuvraj's form has been prolific with both the bat and the ball. Raina's entry was excellent in the QF clash, and MSD has been brilliant with the captaincy and some great keeping, though not at best with the bat. Not much has been the need for him to do that either. Zak, Bhajji and Ravi Ashwin have been brilliant with the ball. Munaf has been industrious.

Both teams in prime form, there couldn't have been a better time for a semi-final clash between the two sides. the Prime Ministers from both the nations will be present to witness the game in the best cricket stadium & pitch in India.

I will love to see India win this game. But, I will not be saddened if Pakistan wins the game either. I love both the teams, I will continue to love them.

I just pray that the team which wins this game goes on to win the finals too.

It's pride at stake, but it will be filled with love.

Aman Ki Asha

Sunday, March 20, 2011

As the League Phase Clears, nothing is clear

It's been the fastest month in the past 4 years, and I've loved almost every moment of it! 42 intriguing games, some of which inconsequential, most of which, pulsating, just got over. And, surely, this has been the best world cup I've witnessed.

After the league phase, there is no clear favourite to win the World Cup. Every team has had atleast one of their problem disclosed public. This makes the tournament even more interesting moving into the last 7 games.

A special mention to Ireland for bringing life into the tournament. They won only twice, but they gave their opponents a run for their money, and also created havoc in the points table. Bangladesh were so close, yet so far. But, a team that couldn't score more than 100 twice in the tournament doesn't deserve a spot in the QF, howsoever I would want to emotionally sympathize with them.

Australia, who were looking "clear favourites" during the course of the tournament were made to look ordinary against Pakistan. Australian bowling revolves around the 60 balls released from the palm of Brett Lee. Tait wasn't imposing, and Johnson was good in patches. Batting looks fine, but if Australia can replace Ponting and White with better batsmen things would look better. Oh, Ponting is the captain, sorry.

South Africa have looked the best amongst the teams to have qualified for the semifinals. Their batting has been very good, except for Smith, who managed some good runs vs Bangladesh in their last league match. After one lone trouble vs England, the middle order survived to carry the team past India. Bowling, led by the pace battery of Steyn and Morkel have been pretty hard to do away with. So too, with their new found spin-duo, Imran Tahir and Botha (if at all he spins), SA have a good variety.

India have just about managed to keep their heads up with a sound victory over WI. India's inability to accelerate in the final overs against SA and WI is a clear cause of concern, as is bowling in he slog overs (vs Eng, vs SA). Batting looks good, bowling has started to look better, in isolation.

Sri Lanka have been good against lesser opponents, were over-shadowed by Pakistan and couldn't play a complete game against Aus. Their bowling is revolving around Murali and Malinga, while Perera and Kulasekara have been consistently causing the batsmen a problem of scoring off them. Sri Lanka have had a taste of the Whakede and have come out good. Whatever happens, I am not ready to eat another India- Sri Lanka game. Let the tournament follow any other path possible. IND-SL... damn,

England have been the clear entertainers in this world cup. Somehow, by losing to Bangladesh and Ireland, and dodging the axe against Nederlands, England managed to tie with India, strangle SA and sneak a pulsating victory to cancel their flight back home and stayed in the competition. They have lacked discipline in bowling, as almost all their good bowlers have gotten injured or lost form...COMPLETELY. Their batting has looked fine at times, and fragile at other times. Inconsistency will be the best way to describe them.

Pakistan have carried a good momentum into the QF stage, after seemingly losing it in the middle of the tournament. They started the campaign on a high after owning Kenya and getting the better of SL, but then were made to do some soul searching in the game vs Canada and were shocked in the last 10 overs by Ross Taylor... Well, credits to some filthy slog bowling by Pakistan and cleverly taken PowerPlay by NZ. Pakistani bowling looks very strong with Umar Gul leading the pace department, and specialist spinners, Afridi-Hafeez-Rehman taking good care of the run flow on turning pitches. Batting is fragile, of course.

West Indies is now a side with a good top order batting, vapourising middle-order and a good bowling line-up. Roach, Benn, Russell have looked good. And now, Bishoo and Rampaul have added themselves to the list. Devon Smith and Devon Thomas, both came in as emergency replacement for Barath and Baugh and have been excellent with the opening and 'keeping respectively. Gayle has looked good with the bat, playing in two gears. Brian Charles Lara-II has looked solid in the middle like a diamond.

New Zealand have suddenly lost their wheels after Vettori got injured and missed their encounter vs SL, where they completely failed with the bat. NZ have depended on their looooooooooooooong batting line up to "click" against opponents. It did vs Pakistan, but failed horribly vs Australia and SL. Atleast they were able to recover vs Australia. Their bowling has been dependent on Vettori, who would want to make his return to the line up soon, and Southee, who has looked exceptionally good in recent times. Oram, Styris, Mills, Bennett have all made good contributions, when they collectively perform well. Other times, they've looked ignorable. Nathan McCullum has been their best player, multi-dimensionally.

Breathtaking one month, a nail-biting Group-B music, and a few good games in group A. This World Cup has been what I expected it to be - full of fun! Almost all days have been very pleasing. Some excellent games coming up in the next week as the knock-out fixtures start!

23rd - PAKvsWI, Mirpur
24th - INDvsAUS, Ahmedabad
25th - SAvsNZ, Mirpur
26th - ENGvsSL, Colombo.

A dream QF for me as WI and Pakistan lock horns in the most beautiful match of the world cup. If things go the way I want, it will be an IND-PAK semi-final. And that will satisfy my quench for the world cup. Anything happening in the semi-finals and the finals is controlled only by the Cricket God.

Let the best team win!

De Ghuma Ke

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Cup of Two Worlds

Routine Activities of a Group-B team (INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, ENGLAND, WEST INDIES, BANGLADESH, NEDERLANDS, IRELAND) in the World Cup :-

05.45 am - Wake up.

06.15 am - Assemble in the hotel gymnasium for treadmill jogs. Half an hour.

06.30 am - Quench thirst with recommended drink (with 45 essential minerals, vitamins, etc ect).

06.45 am - Break, take bath.

07.00 am - Breakfast. Cannot question the menu.

07.30 am - Yoga and Team bonding exercise.

08.00 am - Stretches and exercises in the open.

09.00 am - Game practice.

11.20 am - Decide strategy for the match.

11.30 am - Break, freshen up.

12.00 noon - Leave for the stadium.

12.20 pm - Decide strategy again, break your head over how this match will affect the consequences of other matches in the group, how net run rate is more important than a loo-break, how a tie affecting QF chances is more crucial than the bird that flew over your head and almost pecked you, and find out how you could end up not earning a QF berth by reading a couple of newspaper articles.

12.45 pm - enter the ground and practice, inspect pitch, meet captain, discuss the pitch, update strategies, scare opponents, wave at fans, earn neutral fans, pray pray pray.

02.00 pm - Toss, update strategies again. Shake hands if the team wins the toss, curse the coin if not.

02.20 pm - National Anthem

02.30 pm - Game time, 1st innings

06.00 pm - Half-time analysis, post-mortem of the pitch after 3.5 hours of play, update strategy, build up the killer instinct for the 2nd half

06.45 pm - Game time, 2nd innings

10.45 pm - End of game. Celebrate hard if on the victory side (it's almost one hand on the QF berth) and talk confident in the interviews, or, just look stunned (QF spot is slipping) and be diplomatic and convincing in the interviews.

11.10 pm - team meeting, discuss probabilities and chances of QF spot considering best and worst case scenarios. make sure 3 pencils, a calculator and 3 pairs of batteries are available for the calculations.

11.45 pm - board the bus to hotel on the request made by stadium authorities to vacate the stadium.

12.15 am - Reach hotel, complete calculation in hotel lobby. Sigh of relief, there are still possibilities. Hi-fives all around and go to room.

12.30 am - log into twitter. Apologise and promise in the tweet if on the losing side, thank fans for support if on the winning side.

12.45 am - sleep.

- - - - - - - - -

Routine Activities of a Group-A team (AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, PAKISTAN, SRI LANKA, KENYA, ZIMBABWE, CANADA) in the World Cup :-

06.45 am - Alarm rings, snoozed.

07.15 am - give up snoozing, and wake up.

07.30 am - breakfast. Eat all your favourite delicacies, and make an early order for lunch, including the favourite ice-cream flavour clearly mentioned.

08.00 am - go walking with the team, sign autographs.

08.30 am - Jacuzzi.

09.00 am - Tweet about your favourite meal of the day, upload photographs, reply to followers, share jokes.

10.00 am - practice.

11.00 am - break from practice.

11 30 am - watch TV, listen to the news predictions about match, change channel, repeat process.

12 noon - lunch.

12.20 pm - dessert.

12.45 pm - Bus to stadium

01.00 pm - Strategy, team bonding, pitch inspection etc etc etc.

01.10 pm - practice

01.50 pm - sign autographs, tweet about the beautiful stadium, appreciate the dressing room air conditioner, talk to former cricketers and legends.

02.00 pm - toss... Indifferent attitude about the toss... grounds are new, anyway.

02.20 pm - national Anthem

02.30 pm - game time

02.45 pm - turn on TV in the dressing room, if free...

03.00 pm - break TV with whatever in sight, because of some lame reason.

03.30 pm - watch match from dressing room balcony. tweet about boredom.

06.00 pm - end of first innings, yawn, tweet, eat dinner.

06.45 pm - go into the field with as as-a-matter-of-fact-guess-who-is-going-to-win attitude.

09.45 pm - end of game. good presentation ceremony and interview, all scripts well prepared 4 weeks ago for every game, no way the scripts can go wrong there, very neat speeches.

10.00 pm - reach hotel before fans can leave the stadium.

10.30 pm - eat your favourite dessert, just to forget the win, or to celebrate the win. Walk around the hotel, meet fans, appreciate the monument, buy new goods, tweet about it, sing in the hotel, party atmosphere.

11.00 pm - tweet "good night ya all" and sleep.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

South Africa beat India, but how?

22 days ago, we were told by a famous scholar,

This game is going to be a cracker
- St Shri Shri Ravi Shastri

India were playing the SAffers, termed as chokers, no matter how they lose, or even if the don't. India, the host, was playing its 5th game after 3 unconvincing victories and a superb tie that even made the camel in the driest lands of Thar desert go in the search of a rest-room.

SA came into the match after they had trouble playing at near-sea level. They played well at Mohali and Delhi, which are at higher altitude, where you are actually likely to choke. But, lost at Chennai... So, it's anti-choking. Just to clarify.

So, some possible reasons for the loss would be :-

1. MSD won the toss. You see, as good a cool captain he is on the field, MSD expects to take decisions only after the play starts. To be faced with the decision to bat or bowl struck him as a surprise. He did take the right decision, but was in deep thinking as to how he could win the toss.

2. Sachin Tendulkar got out earlier than expected. We all love Sachin. He scores centuries just like I make toasts in my kitchen when I'm home alone with a loaf of bread. I'm an expert at it. So, is Sachin in scoring centuries. But just like when I throw the polyethene cover of the bread loaf away it pollutes the earth, the dismissal of Sachin causes a big havoc in the team. India reeled under that indigestible pressure, and all players wanted to return back to the dressing room to pay homage to His Highness.

3. Larger problem than that was Sachin scoring the century itself. It's been quite an unlucky charm when he scores a century. In 2003, he scored 97s, 98s etc... And India won with ease. Look at the 2 centuries - vs England (last over tie) and vs SA (last over loss).

4. MSD. If you extended the lines of everyone in the world as to who is responsible for the loss, half of those would centre at MSD. Like I said, he was still puzzled by the toss, so, don't blame him. If you were told that your bike has been stolen, you will obviously be stuttering when your girlfriend calls and says "pick me up in 10 minutes". But unfortunately, one can't put that as an excuse. If he couldn't face the reality of toss in 3 hours, he can't do that in 5 days. He must practice "Call it right (or wrong) at the toss" to get his mindset right.

5. Earth's gravity. 5 years ago, on the same date, SA chased down Aus' mammoth score. So, Smith was not afraid of India's scoring rate at all. But Steyn was not happy with the beating he got up front, and so, like an angry bull terrier, he went and chased and bit the Indians hard towards to end. That helped SA's cause. But, surely, it all made it easy for SA to chase on a 12th March. They perfectly know how the gravity acts on this day, where the moon is, and where the sun is. They are experts, and Esyabhatta has clearly written in the ancient books about where the ball would be at what instance. Peterson is a good scholar from SA'n school of Ball_Locationomy, and he showed us how he topped those classes.

6. Tournament schedule. Having known about this great information, the same tournament organizers who said "we don't want bigger teams (indirectly mentioning India, hidden in an artificial cough) to exit in the first round", the organizers specifically chose 12th of march for the occasion. And things fell in place for SA and blah blah blah...

7. Ashish Nehra. Clearly, Ashish was at fault. Not because of what Peterson did to him, but because Nehra's over-confident about time sense. He misread the time. He asked MSD what the time was before the last over. MSD said "tooo late now" (since it was already half an hour behind on over-rate). Nehra heard it as "twelve eight now". Nehra suddenly felt like superman. He too is a scholar of Esyabhatta's subject of Ball_Locationology, (not from Peterson's class though) And, Ashish Nehra knew all about March 13th. So, he demanded the ball after saying "this is MY day". He was bowling with the tactics he employed on March 13th, 2004, against Pakistan at Karachi. Alas... If only someone had reminded him about the misconception...

8. Wrong people at the wrong place. You see, 9 years ago, when India defeated South Africa in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy, Sehwag had taken India to a good score over 6 an over after 15 overs, India had then fumbled and posted a less than acceptable total. In the chase on that day, SA had lost Smith early, and their in-form player had got injured... So, as you see, SA did their part of the game well today with that script. India didn't. Yuvraj should've been at short fine leg to catch one of those many aerial sweep shots (remember how he caught Rhodes then?). Gauti should've caught du Plessis in the deep fine leg fence. In 2002, Bhajji had caught Dippenaar on the fine leg fence. Gauti's miss was very costly indeed, as du Plessis was as hot as his French name is. And the biggest mistake - Sehwag wasn't bowling. He had taken 3 wickets that night to peg SA on their back.

If you are wondering what match I'm talking about here, it is This One :-

If India take care of such "small small" things, India will surely win. Don't worry, all you fellow India fans, India is still going smooth in this tournament. Just one loss doesn't mean we are out (though SA lost just one game to India in T20WC 2007 and were out of the tournament :-P ).

De Ghuma Ke!

(photo courtesy The Hindu e-newspaper)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Adding an Extra Dimension

We want a 3D TV, we want a 4D in physics, we want an extra dimension in everything! Cricket is not far behind in any manner. There has been a growing need for all-rounders in limited over cricket in the 20th century.

There was that era of yester-years, when Sir Gary Sobers, Sir Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan, who stood apart from almost most other contemporaries by being a hall-mark character of their own kind in their own countries. All, in different periods of time, too. They were what is called "all-rounder". Excellent in one department, and very impressive in the other. Everybody who played for their teams after that were scaled in comparison to the greats mentioned above.

And you look at most teams that played till mid-1990s, and you find a clear cut between the duties of the 11 players in the team. 5 bat, one keeps wickets and 5 bowl. Sometimes, 6-1-4. The batsmen rarely bowled, the bowlers rarely wasted time with bat in their hands. Captains have sometimes even declared their innings even if they trailed the opposition, so that the bowlers don't get tired...or injured!

But, from the mid-1990s, the ODI teams felt the need to have a few more all-rounders in the team. Then came in Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Hooper, Freddie Flintoff, Robin Singh, Ganguly, Sachin, Jayasurya, Michael Bevan, Chris Harris and the likes. They became the lynchpin of the sides. They were the batsmen they depepnded on most of the time, or the bowler who could be trusted with the job of strangling the opposition of runs or take wickets, as the case may be.

The boundary wall between the batsmen and the bowlers thinned a bit. The bowlers could play a few lusty blows towards the end of the innings, in test cricket too. Bowlers came in to avoid follow ons. Nehra once hit a 4 off Andre Adams to win a tough game in NZ. Alex Tudor hit a game winning 99*, coming in as a night watchman. Gillespie scored a double-ton, maybe the first one to have scored a double-ton in (unfortunately) his last test. Kumble once made India's only century on an English tour.

And batsmen rolled their arms over at times. Sehwag triggered a collapse in the South African camp in a Champions trophy semi-final. Jadeja stemmed the flow of Zimbabweans at Sharjah, when he temporarily took over the captaincy from Azharuddin in the middle of the match, as Azhar had a minor injury to treat to. Dwayne Bravo's fortune changed the moment he got Yuvraj Singh bowled in the last over of a pulsating match to stop India's record number of chases. Jonathan Trott, recently, was the pick of the English bowlers on one day, when he bowled a few economical overs (comparatively) and picked up a couple of wickets.

Nowadays, it's hard to find a uni-dimensional cricketer in an ODI team. Most of the batsmen are capable of swinging their arm around for an over or two when needed...and bowlers are off-late used as floaters for pinch hitting.

Also, the ones who were in the system were forced to make the transition to keep themselves afloat. Dilshan, who was a bowler when he came into the side, developed his batting. Now, he is a lethal batsman, effective off-spinner, electric fielder, good wicket-keeper and also a thinking (vice-) captain. He checks every box in the list of "Things cricketers do". Others in his line include fellow teammate, Thilan Samaraweera, Cameron White (who doesn't bowl anymore, for God-knows-why), Shoaib Malik and of course, Sachin Tendulkar (the aspiring medium pacer, only to be brought to the path of righteousness by Dennis Lillee). Batsmen who have turned into good all-rounders include Shahid Afridi, Shane Watson, Abdul Razzak, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle, Luke Wright etc.

Some naturally born all-rounders? Shakib al Hassan, Collingwood, Sammy, Pollard, Yusuf Pathan, David Hussey, Angelo Matthews et al.

The new blood being recruited are full of multi-dimensional players. In a few years' time, we wont be able to call anyone "batsman" or "bowler". They will simply be, a cricketer. We might as well be enjoying a complete game of cricket in every player. Hope no beauty is not lost in the process!

(I do not own any of the pics used)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

With love, Minnows!

Dear ICC,

First of all, I am very happy to know that you were kind enough to admit my family into your monetarily rich party featuring your more glitzy friends.

I am also sad that you are planning to reduce your party size by doing away with us for the next party. I thought you were delighted to have us at your parties every time.

Do you remember, sir? We used to be with you right from your first party, the one you hosted in England in 1975. My uncle from Africa used to tell glorious tales about it to me. He enjoyed it a lot. He told me how he got to meet so many big names of cricket. he only heard of many of them, didn't see them until he could face them just 4 yards away. He used to say that he didn't have TV sets in those days, and only a few radio sets in the whole city to know about this game he had inherited from the friendly people who came to his home. Only one of his kids has attended your party since.

You wouldn't even give us a smile, but we took the invitation itself as a great honour. In 1983, my Lankan aunt danced better than your Kiwi friend, and that was the first time you took a photograph with us. Our family was very excited. We thought we had attained the pinnacle of joy that day. But one day 13 years later, she won the dance competition on your floor, and you adopted her into your family. We were so happy that some of our kids will grow in those posh households of yours.

But, most of us still live in the ignored land.

We didn't complain much, sir, to be honest. We were just happy enough that atleast one of us came to the grand event, so that he or she would return home and tell us about it. It was like being the first boy in the family to graduate, or earn in a big city!

In 1992, we actually played the party-game better than the big man of the house, The Lord of Marylbone. We used to spend years and years just looking at him play it like there was no other to match him. Of course, his two favourite mates, one with a strong accent and one who liked Caribbean music played it like him. The three of them were our idols.

By 1996, the African uncle's son became good at dancing and beat our aunt (who now ate in your house). She was proud of us that day too! You had also invited more from our family, so we could have fun amongst ourselves, when you had a high-profile buffet in your "big-wigs only" mansion. We enjoyed playing in the mud, but we always wondered what was inside. Our aunt was in there, but she never came out. I think she became a much better dancer than we ever knew. Money can buy many things they say. We were happy that she was the best dancer on her own floor.

My cousin from Zimbabwe had also improved on his singing skills for the 1999 party. My cousins Scotland (Scottie) and Kenya (Keens) took along my baby sister from Bangladesh to the game. We were so glad to watch on the public TV that cuz' Zimmy was allowed to have dinner with all the sizzling stars after the evening party ended! And sister Bangu came home all smiles, after her last drawing fetched her a big bar of chocolate. Do you realise how much that means to us? We pasted all of Bangu's drawings all around our house, and everybody would tell her that she was going to scale new heights. Little Bangu could just smile and eat her chocolate bar.

In 2003, you allowed Namibs and Keens to host our own party game. We all came to their beautiful houses, and we also saw Keens beat our aunt again. She wasn't that happy, but I'm sure she was proud of us. We were proud of us, for sure. Little Bangu couldn't draw better than uncle Canny from Canada, but we gave her another bag of candies so she would not lose hope on herself. She just nodded and went home with the candybag, promised to come up with better art work next time. You see, we all loved what we did. You took the centre-stage, and we danced around you. You came to our home, and sometimes you didn't even come to our place though we invited you. We had to come to your dinner to discuss about it, but we were had to leave before the dessert, since we haven't had much of them, and didn't know how to handle the spoon on the ice-cream. We spilled the soda, and we had to leave.

You invited more of us to Caribbean uncle's yacht. We were so happy, we came there in different colours from around the globe. We brought in new tricks. We were outplayed in many competitions in the party by your glorious friends, but we had our moments. You remember my baby nephew from Bermuda playing slug fest when the Indian musician was singing? We had fun, they all had fun. And remember Bangu? She had grown into a beautiful artist, and could also sing better than your Indian girl-friend. She had so much ego that she went home early. I heard her friends started teasing her very much. We didn't mean to hurt her, we just wanted to show her Bangu's multi-talented personality. Bangu's modern-art were better than Zuid Avrica's, you know? Zuid was surprised his painting got ruined. My sister-in-law, Irine came in too. She too sang beautifully, she is good at country and folk. But you would never know that, as you lived in pop and rock and whatever you call it...rap? Your Pakistani star actually slipped a tone while trying a duet-duel with her.

You see, we always had a nice thing or two to do in all your parties. Even in this year's party, we have been at or around the lime-light, but you treat us like your slaves. We have to carry your party caps to the ball-room. You can't have the party if we don't help you decorate it. You say we don't know table manners, while you never care to teach us. You say we don't know how to party, while you never let us party with you in the any other place. We can't learn from just one party in 4 years, sir. We can watch you swing and sizzle, but when we try, we don't look that cool. We know it, but we can't help it, since you always shun us after the party hours.

And because your girl friend got angry last time, you scheduled your party such that we can't enter into your swimming pool and enjoy it for a little longer time. Sorry sir, if you are trying to indirectly say that you don't like us at the back of your photograph, we are very hurt. We do look beautiful, we don't use make-up. But, you fail to see the point. You rich people have a little too much of pride to stoop an inch below your glasses of suspect and look at our beauty.

By closing the doors on us for the next party, what do you think I will tell my children about all these fun? That we had a good time watching you guys light the crackers, and that our children may not even get the privilege to see them?

What we had held as a dream is diminishing every day, and maybe some day our kids will call it a fairy tale, too much to be real.

Sir, we enjoyed whatever you allowed us, and we will make sure that we will eat your cake in this party, and make a point or two before we leave for good.

Yours lovingly (we still love you)

Mr. Minnow & family