Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The godman and the game

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My colleague Deepika has done a story I wish I had done. It goes:
Tennis was not quite blessed in the land of the Sathya Sai Baba. The India-Philippines tennis test series at Puttaparthi — the home of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba — could not take place a couple of weeks ago because of bizarre circumstances.

According to sources, the first of the two ties — India won the second 3-0 at the DLTA facility here — did not happen because the Sai Baba could not turn up to inaugurate the tie and bless the players.
Apparently, Doordarshan had begun the live telecast of the game only to be told that since the godman hasn't shown up to "bless" the event, the fixture would be cancelled. However, the tennis association says this was done because of a power failure at the venue.

This story amuses me for many reasons, one of them being that I'm an unbeliever in a family of Sai devotees. Not your normal devotees, but the Saturday Bhajan Mandli variety.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

India's greatest Test match win ever?

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As Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark hammered India’s bowlers, I was taking out my frustration by gnashing morsels of lunch with my extended family. Will these two buggers do the unthinkable? The tension spoilt the taste of the delicious sambhar-rice, curd, carrot pickles and mushrooms.

"Turn the TV off" said Shyam, our young domestic help. "When you switch it back on, Australia would have lost."

We laughed off the suggestion. And almost as if providence had listened to Shyam, the power went off.

"Turn on the radio," I shouted to Shyam. There was no way we could miss the action. And as soon as he did, we heard Sushil Doshi scream, "Aur yeh out!"

It was the wicket we had waited for what seemed an eternity. It was the wicket that would make ensure India a win in Perth. Shyam was right: in its own mysterious way, turning off the TV helped.

And then, the very next instant, the power was back, almost as if to prove we should have listened to Shyam in the first place.



What a win!

I could think of a lot of wins that would match this one. Kolkata was delicious in build-up, explosive in finish, and mind-boggling considering India's odds. But it still was on home-turf, and some umpiring decisions went our way.

Sabina Park (2006) was on a minefield of a wicket but India were a far superior side in the series, and West Indies were lucky not to lose 0-3. Similarly, India won 1-0 in the West Indies in 1971, but like Sunil Gavaskar himself said on air today, the momentum was with India, and West Indies were not at the peak of their powers.

Johannesburg was phenomenal and hard-earned but against a vastly beatable side.

Adelaide was ground-breaking, almost unthinkable at the time but Australia were vulnerable without McGrath and Warne. Something similar could be said about The Oval win of 1971, when nobody in their right minds would have bet on India.

Leeds saw a gallant India, taking in the bullets and then shooting England down. But it was also possibly the strongest Indian side to tour England.

Coming back to Perth, the opposition was on a 16-match winning streak. India were trailing 0-2 and the bouncy pitch wasn't expected to be to India's liking. I, for one, thought India would be 0-3 down after Perth.

Then, there was all the negativity surrounding the Sydney Test. Our best fast bowler --- Zaheer Khan --- was also injured.

From that position, to beat the top-ranked side in the world is something to be immensely proud of.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lies, damned lies

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I did not kill my wife.
— O.J. Simpson, 1997

I did not sleep with that woman.
— Bill Clinton, 1998

I did not fix that one-dayer.
— Hansie Cronje, 2000

We will find those WMDs.
— George Bush, 2003

There is no way I grounded the ball.
— Ricky Ponting, 2007

Monday, January 07, 2008

Open letter to Ricky Ponting

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Dear Ricky,

Congratulations on winning a keenly-contested Test match at Sydney. Your team fought back from despairing depths on Day 1 to emerge the unlikely winners on Day 5. Truly, the work of a champion team.

As a supporter of the Indian cricket team, I am aggrieved with the standard of umpiring in the Test. But hey, it happens. You were better, one way or the other.

But what I am aggrieved more as a cricket fan is the conduct of your team — and yourself. Your sanctimoniousness and arrogance were not befitting of a world champion team and its captain.

Let me borrow a line from Richie Benaud who had described the Sachin Tendulkar seam-cleaning incident at Port Elizabeth as "If that's not ball tampering, then I am Mrs. Doubtfire."

Ricky, if your team played within the spirit of the game in Sydney, then
I am Mrs. Doubtfire.

There’s no disputing that yours is the best team in the world. That’s a well-documented fact. Similarly, after what happened in Sydney — and the world saw it — yours is also an ill-behaved team that displays little ethic or sporting spirit, or the gall to stand your ground when returned a favour, as we saw in Harbhajan Singh's case.

I remember an incident from a recent one-day international where Murali Kartik didn’t walk. After India won, you pointed out later that it would have been nice for Kartik to have walked.

That game was of no consequence. You had already won the series. But I’ll tell you what would have been nice.

It would have been nice if you had walked when you were caught down the leg off Sourav Ganguly. It would have been nice if Andrew Symonds had walked on 30.

It would have been nice if Clarke had not shamefully stayed on having knocked the cover of the ball and waited for the umpire to give him out.

Ricky, it would have been nice if Clarke had not asked Ganguly to "f*** off" after taking a dubious catch. It would have been nice if you had not appealed for a catch of M.S. Dhoni that you had grounded.

Yes, I am questioning your honesty, and if it comes to talking about integrity, you should not be standing there.

I know your team has won everything it could win.

Next time, try winning hearts.

Sincerely,

A Cricket Fan