Friday, 13 March 2009

Transition

India was playing West Indies in a Group A match in the ’96 cricket WC and it was the first cricket match for me. Though I did not understand the game completely, a brilliant 70 from Sachin Tendulkar,a 3-35 return from Anil Kumble and a five wicket Indian victory was enough to get me hooked to the game,which I would fall in love with, by the end of the tournament.

I have followed cricket religiously since then and for somebody like me, the current run of the Indian team starting with the T20 WC triumph has been a wonderful dream and I hope it continues forever.After the mid 90s, the Indian cricket can be broadly divided into three distinct phases each unique in itself.

First was the Azharuddin era.He was then considered one of the best Indian captains ever and needless to say,he was the most elegant on-side player on the scene with his typical Hyderabadi flick through the midwicket,only to be matched with Vishwanath and VVS Laxman. The team had greatness shaping up in the form of Sachin , Kumble and Srinath ,who were well supported by the likes of Sixer Sidhu,Prabhakar ,Prasad and my favorite , Muscles (for the uninitiated : Venkatpathy Raju). The blockbuster twin debut of two future Indian captains – Saurav Chandidass Ganguly and Rahul Dravid at Lords, in the summer of 96, gave India a great cricket team on paper which had individual brilliance on the field winning India its matches now and then. “Consistency” was not in the dictionary and hence India never got better than a ranking of 4-6 out of the ten or so cricket playing nations. It was a shame for a team which had brilliant players on the list. But then it is not always about brilliance and there were problems. Fielding was as bad as it could possibly be. If it had any competition, it came from India’s running between the wickets. It was worse. The apparently strong Indian batting line-up failed in alien conditions,be it the seam and swing in England and NZ or the bounce in Australia and South Africa.For a change , sadly , they were consistent with this. Dravid due to his impeccable technique and patience was an exception though.Amongst all this, I almost forgot Ajay Jadeja. His range of strokes, running between the wickets and superb fielding made him an ideal and effective ODI player.His career unfortunately was cut short by false (probably) allegations and a five-year ban ,which was later quashed by the court but it ruined a bright career anyway. Azhar , Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma ( surprisingly he played only one Test for India) were among the others caught in the scandal, which badly tarnished the image of the game in the country. It could have gotten worse but for the second phase.


Saurav Ganguly took over the reins of captaincy after it was indisputably clear that Sachin Tendulkar was not as good a leader as he was a player.Srinath later went on record to say that he expected the level of every player in the team to be the same as his.That of course was not possible. Ganguly primarily played three important roles. One, he motivated the players wonderfully well in those bad times and ensured that India started winning games, which was the best way to restore people’s lost faith. Two, he gave a sense of confidence to the youngsters.This was unheard of before in the Indian dressing room. As a result, over the years , the then youngsters : Yuvraj Singh (ironically the player who eventually pushed him out of the Test team), Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bloomed into brilliant cricketers and now form the backbone of the team. He cannot be applauded enough for that apart from his elegant as well as destructive batting. Tendulkar meanwhile continued what he is probably born to do and became a legend from a great player.Three, he taught the team how to win and believe in their abilities. The team gelled together as a unit and produced great results especially away from home which almost never happened consistently before him. India tried something new with the introduction of a foreign coach : John Wright.The Ganguly-Wright combination clicked and a subdued Wright complimented the aggressive and commanding Ganguly well.Steve Waugh called the 2001 tour his final frontier and Australia started the series by demolishing India at Mumbai and they were well on their on way to do that again and seal the series at Kolkata, as India followed on.But then , Dravid and Laxman came together to stitch a partnership that would be engrossed in every cricket lover’s memory forever.Laxman’s 281 was magnificent and Dravid’s 180 was classic with delightful on-drives against Warne .The duo batted through the day, by the end of which Warne-McGrath and co were not even looking for answers.They tamely submitted to fate and to the genius of two of India’s best test batsmen.Harbhajan (Turbanator , after this series’ exploits) bamboozled the Aussies with his doosra and picked up 30 odd wickets to hand Indian cricket a famous win.India reached a low in NZ just before the WC 2003 but an inspired performance in the WC saw them reach the finals-the high point of the second phase.A successful experiment with a foreign coach tempted India to try the formula again but this time they got the wrong man for the job-Greg Chappell.He tried doing things his own way which would not have worked in a team full of greats who had already achieved so much. Dressing room controversies spilled out, the team was divided and soon, Ganguly found himself out of the team. Dravid took over and tried his bit to repair the damage but things got ugly. He was booed at the Eden Gardens, which is the best cricket ground in India but sadly, has arguably the worst crowd in its stands. India was knocked out of the much anticipated WC 2007 after being defeated by Bangladesh but such is the spirit for cricket in the country that after momentary anger, the support was back.India did well in tests in England and SA where Ganguly’s grit allowed him to make a successful comeback which was a slap in the face of his critics.It is funny how a paragraph meant for the entire team talks about Ganguly mostly but then such was the charisma of the man and it reflected on the team too. It was Dada time indeed!


The seniors of Indian cricket ‘opted’ out of the T20 WC in SA and the captaincy fell in the hands of Mahendra Singh Dhoni who was given a young team which was led to the WC trophy and India were the T20 champions, a young brigade and force to be reckoned with. MSD was the new poster boy and was handed the ODI captaincy and eventually the Test crown too after Kumble had a brief but successful stint. India found a new coach, Gary Kirsten who would remain behind the scenes and yet keep a watchful eye on team’s progress. Specialization is the keyword now and India has separate fielding and bowling coaches on the bench. Fielding is not yet the best in the world but surely has improved appreciably with the influx of Rainas and Sharmas.Venkatesh Prasad has done a great job with Indian bowlers and for the first time , India has a pace attack to send the shivers down the opposition batsman’s spine.Ishant Sharma-Zaheer Khan is probably the best new ball bowling pair in the world at the moment. Zak has been the spearhead of the attack for quite some time now while Ishant provides the pace and bounce apart from his obnoxious seam movement.He made Ricky Ponting his bunny down under after the famous Sehwag-Ishant dialogue : “Ek aur karega?...Haan , karunga”. The spin department has been boosted by the introduction of variety in the form of Ojha and Chawla to aid Harbhajan.If only we can have a consistent third seamer, the bowling attack would be complete.Irfan often seems to show some signs of his good days but he needs to be consistent to give India the much needed all-rounder.His brother Yusuf, on the other hand , has come into his own after his IPL success and can be a nightmare for the bowlers in the death,or whenever maybe.Add to that his athletic fielding and a few overs of off spin and he is indispensable at No 7 in the shorter formats.Yuvraj Singh is currently the best hitter of the cricket ball and going through a period of golden form and forms the backbone of Indian middle order.MSD has improved his keeping a notch and batting has never been a problem for someone who is No.1 in ICC ODI batting rankings.At the top ,Virender Sehwag has rediscovered himself and does not give his wicket away after a cameo.He is just as destructive as before and now , a nightmare for the opposition bowlers.Gambhir is the perfect foil for him with his controlled aggression which necessarily does not come from big shots but from quick rotation of strike and powerful drives. Sachin Tendulkar , of course is continuing to pile the runs and records like he’d never stop.His innings of 163* against NZ recently was a delight with glimpses of Sachin of the old.Though his body is now showing signs of wear which is obvious after 17 years of cricket, he can easily continue for another two years and nobody needs to tell him when to go.Greats go on their own terms and so shall he.I am pretty sure he’ll hang his boots himself the day he is luggage for the team. That day is nowhere near for now and the critics can just keep shut until then;not that it matters for he answers all of them with his bat. IPL is one of the best things to have happened to Indian cricket in this era , unearthing a number of talented players like Amit Mishra,Ashok Dinda,Ravindra Jadeja ,Abhishek Nayar and the likes.They can happily warm the benches until they get to perform for India.The Indian dominance can be summed up by Vettori’s post match comment :

"We probably needed about 500 tonight the way they played.That would have been a good game."

The team does not rely on one player to win the matches and almost every win is a well-earned team effort which is so refreshing to see.The future now looks as bright as it ever has with India looking to be the best team in all formats of the game and if they continue playing like they have in the past 8 months,that day is not far.


P.S : I have scribbled whatever I remembered as I went on writing this article and thus I am sure I'd have missed a number of important points/players.Please chip in with those if you wish.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Canvas

A canvas born,
new stroke each second,
depictions and mysteries,
and the layers pile on.

Colours of joy,
tears to dilute,
layers to unearth,
mysteries to reveal.

Breath slows down,
the strokes weaken,
and brush withers,
a master piece created.

The painter cremated,
garlands to decorate,
tears leave the discoloured spots,
which dry to merge within.

The finishing touches,
and the painting ready to be hung on the wall
to gather dust,
and the layers pile on.

Echo


I tried erasing the sketch,
the boundaries darkened,
and shouted at me to tell,
that I love her even her more.

I lived on her smile,
rage,insanity and I punched.
A toothless smile,
a smile which I love even more.

She spoke and it was music,
I plugged my ears,
I cried a tear in the silence,
it trickled down to whisper in my ear,
I love her even more.

She is a painting,
I poured water,
the colors splashed over me,
and told,I love her even more

I climbed a mountain,
a torrent of air hit,
I heard an echo,
it said,I love her even more

She lived in my heart,
I burnt it down,
She rose from the ashes,
and I live no more,
A heartless life...a lifeless heart,
a heart which loves her even more.

Colours


He is red,
flame and fire,
He is burning,
and you will be ash.
Blood in his eyes and eyes on you,
Stop..for he won't!

He is blue,
water and sapphire,
Come,heal your burns,
give it back to him,
he will take it all,
for the storm is away and he is calm.

He is gray,
a dark cloud about to burst,
In a whirlpool,in pain,
he is losing,
as words,people and soul hurts,
giving him wounds forever.

He is orange,
he is shining bright,
A new dawn,
tears dry with the dew,
the birds celebrate
and flowers bloom

He is white,
grave and pyre,
he rests in peace.
All colors on the final display,
as the pyre burns,
and colors dance in the mirage.