Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Boom Boom, May You Forever Bloom.

Fifteen years ago, when you came on to the field with a bat in your hand, a handsome teenager for the girls to drool, a well build boy for the guys to expect some style, a confidence waiting to overflow from the tip of youth, I knew I had a new hero to admire.

When you started your career with a clean deposition over the cow corner, there started a new era of hard hitting, that no Ricardo Powell or Kris Shrikanth had seen. You made history that very day, didn't you? October 4th, 1996, Nairobi. A record that is placed well above the reach of any human, on the shelves of greatness.

You stand tall. You stand bold. You stand strong.

Geoff Boycott ridiculed your age, people ridiculed your consistency, haters ridiculed you just because they weren't good enough to be you.

You feared none, all could, but, fear you on the pitch.

I remember you taking a test away from India. I also remember you chasing down a mammoth Motera target. I remember you not for chasing it down, but for the courage you had in the game. Being hit by a short ball from Irfan Pathan, you cared not to feel shoulders, which for any other lesser mortal could've been a serious blow, but to you my dear Pathan, you gave him one snarled look and deposited the next delivery beyond the ropes.

You, are one of my cricketing darlings.

Your batting form dropped, but you were always the team man. Your bowling soon came on to the front and you led the spin attack in the hazy days past the Mushi-Saqi days. Ajmals and Rehmans come and go. Kaneria refrained from the white ball. But you held on to one end, day in night out.

Doe any other bowler have a better celebration than you on taking a wicket? NO. Standing firm, hands aloft, you bring the world to you. You are the magnet in the team, for most of the Pakistani fans. Oh dear o dear, I will miss that.

People expected you to just be a crash test driver, you came out to be a formula racer. You were better than what I wished for.

You brought in Aamer right into a world cup, backed him up like he was your brother. You gave him the love and space the kid needed to make it large under the world's eyes. You made him a match winner. You cautioned his caretakers to keep him safeguarded from evils like Mazhar Majeed when you left test cricket, but they never listened, and there went Aamer.

You led Pakistan in the world cup from the front. With the ball. You took the most wickets on cricket's biggest stage. You marshaled a side of tid-bits, a side of jigsaw clues that were strewn all over the floor. You brought them together, wrapped them into a tight unit and took them as far as you could.

The semi-final defeat was my saddest game in the world cup. But, you will always be a champ in my eyes.

You started your career with Rameez Raja, Waqar Younis, Jayasurya, Muralitharan, Dharmasena and the likes. Raza covered your games on the mic, Waqar became your coach, Sanath was the appreciator in the studios, Muralitharan ended his career before yours. You started your career with a six off Dharmasena, and ended it when Dharmasena became an umpire, even officiated your game(s) in the last world cup. Time may have changed, not you. You remained the same stylish big hitting cricketer with a beautiful leg-spin armory.

I wish you stayed with international cricket for longer. But I also wish you, as a human being, would live in peace. So, I guess you made the best decision and are now a free bird, free from the clumsy foul grips of the PCB.

May you have a good future in whatever you venture into. May God bless you like always.

If you, Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi, happen to read this, please know that I love you from the deepest depth of my cricketing heart.

With a tear in my eye, for the first time in such a case since Dada's retirement, I admit, I will miss you.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

IPL Bites. And chews and spits.

So, the IPL4 saga, drama and etc etc got over yesterday night so that everyone bored of it can tune in to UEFA Champs League, some real international cricket, cup-board cleaning, driving classes, college applications, eating, bathing etc etc... As in my case, I was asleep even before it ended, as the pointless Lankan seamers and nonthreatening Lankan spinners motored their way to the dressing room at the end of the day with only Jimmy-A's wicket to celebrate (for which England were thankful) after which I slept off.

Oops, wrong match to report?

Oh yeah, the men in yellow won the IPL for the 2nd time running. CSK, in my serious opinion have been the only team wanting to play proper cricket, have had a clear vision and have done well ever since they disposed off the actor Vijay as their cheerleader. I mean, ambassador. The cheerleaders' squad they picked up from Spencers Plaza two hours before their matches got some good camera time. So did MSD's Lady.

Ravichandran Ashwin is signing a contract with WWE after the English tour. He has, till now, survived a blow to his head by the costly guy named Saurabh Tiwary, and also wrestled himself alive after being mobbed by his teammates on dismissing Gayle. "He would do well in 3 on 1 matches, tag team matches and Lumberjack Matches" quoted Vince McMahon, owner of WWE.

For the 4th time in four years, Mumbai "Indians" fans are bamboozled that IPL did not come to them, in spite of playing Chachin in all their games. KKR did their best to take MI as far as they got, but a certain left arm spinner (indistinguishable from the 234 other left arm spinners that played in the IPL) got the wicket of Chachin. Investigations reveal that the spinner's name is Syed Mohammed, and an inquiry has been lodged to unearth the celebrations he performed after dismissing Chachin, which were obviously against the law.

Gabriella Pasqualotto has vowed to return to IPL5 as a "Podcast" presenter. She is sure that she knows more about players than newbies like Shibani, who apparently asked Venkatesh Prasad on screen "So, you are the assistant coach, right?". After Donna Symmonds, cricket might want to listen to Gabriella the most.

Priety Zinta and Shilpa Shetty were cleared by "Cricket for Dumbos" tuition center as "People with knowledge of cricket". Both were able to answer who was their respective team's captain. Amongst other questions were "how many arms are raised when the umpire signals a batsman out?", for which Zinta had written a couple of sheets' length of answer. The invigilator refused to supply her additional sheet. Shilpa answered most questions right, and some examiners feel that she received illegal help from Liz Hurley with those questions. Anyway, this season Zinta was able to figure out on her own about whom to hug.

Rohit Sharma was as usual awake as soon as his IPL alarm clock rang the bell. He is the Kumbhakarna of IPL, the bear of IPL, waking after a hibernation. This time, he came closest to performing for India, by performing for Indians. The Mumbaikar variety. Of course, he showed his class, when he thought his super-IPL-man character should be taken one step higher. He wanted to score runs by now depositing the bat beyond the ropes. His attempt didn't succeed, as the bat barely reached the inner circle. Shane Warne, however, was playing the real cricket, and his penultimate ball in cricket (unless book cricket becomes official) turned and stuck its tongue out in front of Rohit Sharma as it beat his flying bat and (In Ravi Shastri's glorious words ->) "the keeper made no mistake".

This IPL will be most remembered for the contribution of Abhishek Nayar to world harmony, as he gave the scorecard a "c. Symonds b. Harbhajan". There, IPL should've been ended right then.

Some players are still confused about which team they play for. Dada went to Pune, and helped KKR reach playoffs (I had to strike off quarters, and semis, before finally remembering that it is "playoffs"). And then Balaji, in KKR, helped CSK reach 2nd spot. Random Fact - Lord Balaji's abode is closer to Chennai than it is to Kolkata.

Gayle gave his folks a preview of Pirates of Caribbean *fill in the blank with the current sequel number* as he vandalized his ex-home. Of course, that match will be more remembered for the look on Virat Kohli's face when, with few runs left to win and Gayle at the brink of his century, Kohli absolutely smacked the living hell of a half tracker lolly pop jujubi giftwrapped Christmas present from Iqbal Abdullah to the mid wicket fence and wore a horror struck face in apology to the huge figure of black-bandana-wearing non-smiling 6 foot 5 inch giant Chris Gayle standing few yards away and say "I didn't mean to do that". Come on, Kohli, we love you. But, for your cricket, "catching" Bollywood is for guys like Siddharth Mallya etc.

Kochi seemed to have had discovered their winning formula - by making Sreesanth their cheerleader. Somehow, even that didn't help them after a few games.

Pune Warriors, like their Marathi counterpart, added "India(n)" to their franchise name. But, even that addition couldn't help them score brownie points in the INDIAN PL.

Deccan had a record breaking season, by breaking the home jinx and securing a win against some team (which I hope one of my readers would remind me ;-) ). The DJ at the stadium was so happy to play the "Go Deccan Chargers, go Deccan Chargers, GO, go go go!" for three consecutive days in the stadium non-stop. He knew it was never coming back, might as well savour the moment "until it lasts".

In other news, Lalit Modi claimed to be Adrian Shankar's father, Jason Gillespie claimed to be his batting coach, Zinta revealed that she was his girl-friend and Siddhu (ex)claimed that he was his English tutor.

Right, so a friend came to me this morning and told me that Valthaty got that Passat. He will be busy getting his driver's license. MSD will be off to the honeymoon, in a place that doesn't recognize him as King Midas. Caribbean cricketers will be given red jerseys. Jacob Oram will be given a Nokia phone to feel connected. And Abhimanyu Mithun will re-trace his path and find out why he made the grave mistake of being a bowler.

Some time soon, Vijay Mallya will recover from his hangover and realize RCB have lost the IPL4 finals.

[Disclaimer : My brain is parked outside the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff, where Alistair Cook is trying to impress his selectors and try to book a berth in England's ODI squad.]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sports and Society.

I'm a big sports buff, and am constantly faced with questions like "what is there is sports" or "why do you watch sports?" or "is that all you do all day? watch sports?"

People, there is quite a difference between "watching" and "following" sports. If you like a movie star, you just trail him/her and even go to the extent of finding out what they eat for breakfast and whom they broke up with and how. Well, in the world of sports, that doesn't even matter. I just keep my eyes open for what the sportspersons do on and also off the field, most of which have been in good favour to the society at large.

Let me list a few things that sportspersons have done to the society, apart from entertaining you people in their profession!

NBA has a social wing, NBA Cares, that almost everyday lends its hands to the society - in helping kids at school, to funds for treating diseases, helping at the times of disasters etc. Two examples - NBA donated a lot through its fandom to the Tuscaloosa floods, and, 2 years ago, NBA helped raise funds for the Haiti quake, mainly funneled through the works of Haiti's own man, Samuel Dalembert as other players joined hands (donating money per point scored etc). And they are global too.

Roger Federer is a Goodwill Ambassador at UNICEF, and travels around the world to advocate education to the kids, and help extend UN's arms to even remote corners of the world.

In the world of cricket that I'm most familiar with, there are a lot of things to bring to the surface.

Steve Waugh, one of the best cricketers and captain the world has witnessed, is the heart and soul of Udayan in Kolkata, which is an institution for the disabled children and women, where Waugh contributed a lot towards people affected by leprosy. He is addressed as "Steve Da" there, just so you know how close he is to the people there. He is family. Also, he is the founder of The Steve Waugh Foundation .

Glenn McGrath, one of the best bowlers I've seen, founded The McGrath Foundation. Every time there is a test match played at Sydney, huge donations from the game and ticket sales are made to this organization.

There was a massive earthquake in New Zealand in February. Iain O' Brien just ran a fleet of stairs (1,037 steps over 38 floors) of the Gerkin tower in London barely couple of months after a surgery in his legs to raise money for Christchurch.

Adam Parore scaled the heights of Mt. Everest to raise money for the same cause! We are sometimes lazy to walk across the street to buy commodities, but some people do philanthropic things in manners like these. Respect!

When an Indian national level volley-ball player was thrown out of a train and lost her legs, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh came forward and donated money to her and her family, so she can get good treatment and her family can stand on its feet. She has been given a stable job by the railways, one of the two things she wanted to achieve. The other, was to represent the country in the sport. You see, no matter what you are, you don't get much attention once you are down and disposable. It was very kind of the cricketers to help her and try bring her on to her feet, which now will, sadly, just be a metamorphic sentence. And you know what? She is donating the help she receives to the under-privileged, wants to open sports academy for the needy. There is so much good to go around in the world.

Ron Artest, an NBA player now with the Los Angeles Lakers sold his first and only NBA championship ring to donate the money to children suffering from mental illness. He has been associated with charity work so much that he was recognized with the Citizen Award.

There are numerous other examples from the world of sports that I don't follow wit the same degree. But I'm sure they all come to point the same thing.

Having seen all this, tell me, is this "just" sports? It is much more than that. You idolize some for their play on the field, you idolize some for their work off the field. But it is the combination of the two that makes sports what it is - a wonderful world living in harmony with the world around.