Rahul Dravid’s recall to the one-day team: a friend reacts

August 8th, 2011

My friend Ravi, an intelligent and knowledgeable cricket follower, sent me an e-mail yesterday after he heard of the selection of the Indian cricket team for the one-day series against England. He has always been an ardent follower of Dravid and is one of those who believe that Dravid is one of those cricketers who- despite his acknowleged greatness- has never really gotten his due. I present his mail below (with some minor edits), which perhaps echoes the sentiments of a large section of Indian followers:

Couldn’t help laugh when I read that RD was recalled for ODI series in England…. and I had to respond to this joke.

He was dropped in Oct’2007 as it was perceived that he does not fit into the scheme of things for India in the shorter version. This was after he had resigned abruptly from captaincy after coming back from England, where had scored a 85 ball hundred in an ODI….

He is then called back to ODIs in 2009 after a disastrous T20 WC campaign where the Indian youngsters could not handle “BOUNCE”. He may have played about 3 games and was again left out…… to be recalled now in 2011 since most of his team mates cannot handle “SWING, BOUNCE”. ….. maybe even “SPIN”. That’s about the batsman

The irony is that it’s a World Cup winning team……..The “WORLD CHAMPIONS”……… need a 38 year old …. probably not even to win … but to reduce their margin of defeat.

In my opinion no one would be laughing harder than the man himself for BCCI’s step in the wrongdirection.

Ravi wanted my views on it and I didn’t have a straight answer– I was just in one of those moods!

BCCI is showing that it is a flexible organization that can adapt itself very quickly; it is flexible and not as rigid as the rest of the envious world makes it out to be. They realize that Dravid is the man in form and they are adopting a horses for courses policy—he is the horse that can respond to swing, seam, bounce and spin. What’s more, he may well keep wickets, which will allow Dhoni to focus on his captaincy and also contribute a bit as the fifth bowler. That way we can have an additional batsman and really strengthen our already formidable batting line up.

You see, BCCI and the selection committee use hindsight and foresight in their selection; it’s bunch of smart guys we have out there.

Nevertheless, later in the evening, Rahul Dravid himself gave the best response to the selection panel- he announced his retirement from the shorter format of the game to focus on test cricket. Being the gentleman that he is, Dravid didn’t decline the opportunity to play in the forthcoming series– which he couldn’t be blamed for even if he had done it.

When a deal no longer sounds like a deal

August 6th, 2011

I received an e-mail today from a Singapore daily deal site. As I glanced through, I saw one offer for something at S$28. The original price of that product was marked at about $320!

There are two ways I could have looked at it. The first one was: “Wow, what a deal! What a steal! Over 90% discount!”. However, that’s not what came to my mind. The immediate ‘reflex’ thought was: “What the heck! These guys have been minting money off us at that price!” Instead of feeling an affinity for the merchant offering that unbelievably low price, I felt a kind of revulsion—- I found myself questioning whether the product had been any good at all in the first place.

I see a lot of “deals” these days– after all that’s the flavour of the season now. But the more I see these outrageous sounding deals, the more I feel distanced from them. They seem to be becoming unrealistically cheap. I’m not sure if such deals are sustainable at all and if consumers will continue to be drawn towards them.

A deal has to sound and feel like a real deal!

Qantas or Air India?

June 3rd, 2011

We all know of the problems with (and of) Air India, which has figured in a few “worst airline” lists previously. I wonder if Qantas is striving to match or better Air India in the worst airline stakes. In fact, it has a new “first” to its credit that even Air India cannot claim: rats on board an aircraft that is about to take off from Sydney to Brisbane!

Does this say anything about the general upkeep of the airport and/or the aircraft? Thankfully, we haven’t heard of any ‘rodent warfare’ conspiracy theories thus far!

IPL4: a case of elusive charisma and dynamism

May 31st, 2011

That IPL 4 commenced and concluded as scheduled is perhaps proof that no individual is indispensable; an institution is greater than an individual. That the event should have meandered to a close with empty stadiums— even the Wankhede Stadium looked more than half-empty for a game featuring Sachin Tendulkar in a knock out!- is proof of the difference than an individual can make to an institution.

Could Lalit Modi have made the IPL Season 4 any different? Could he have prevented the sharp drop in TRP ratings or gotten more bodies through the stadium gates? May be not. It is being argued that even with our gargantuan appetite, we had reached the limit of how much cricket we could ingest. However, if you hear some of the owners on what they had to say about IPL 4 without Lalit Modi, it is clear that they felt he could have made a serious difference to how this year’s event finally turned out.

This is where charisma and dynamism come into play- people possessed with these enviable traits make things happen. I can’t help feeling that Lalit Modi’s involvement would have given the much-needed impetus to the event— he’d have foreseen satiated appetites as a result of the World Cup and turned that ‘liability’ into another opportunity.

IPL 4 needed someone to think of dishing out ‘hajmolas‘ before the event to make people want to have more of the same. Alas, the person who could have done now seems to prefer a diet of Barcelona versus Manchester United at Wembley, though.

Better value for money, better service(s) in India compared to Australia?

May 31st, 2011

It’s not often that one gets to see a positive comment about India in the Australian media. Hence this article by Matt Wade in the Sydney Morning Herald caught my attention.

Be it mobile phone services, broadband, airlines and air tickets, India offers superior products at cheaper rates and therefore, greater value for money than in Australia, says Wade.

But, is Wade’s comment on the relative merits of what’s available in India consolation enough? Not quite, but may be we can take heart and rekindle some hope, for we in India can hardly stop complaining about product and service quality!

Seam? … Yes! Bounce?….. Maybe no…

January 1st, 2011

Jacque Kallis unsuccessfully tries to avoid a snorter from Sreesanth at Kingsmead, Durban

Years from now, if someone were to see this picture without a caption detailing its context, it is unlikely that anyone is going to believe that it is that one of the greatest ever South African batsmen trying to evade a snorter from an Indian medium pacer in South Africa, in their own den- the Kingsmead in Durban! This picture tells a story, as does the result of the test match at Durban, where supposedly the green and bouncy track was supposed to have blown away the Indians: the story is that the current crop of medium pace bowlers India possesses are perfectly capable of making the most capable of batsmen hop and fish if they were to get a seaming and bouncy pitch.

This is a lesson which overseas teams don’t seem to have absorbed- at the WACA in 2008, Shaun Tait was supposed to blow away Indian batsmen, but it was the Aussies who were blown away by the swing and seam of R.P.Singh and Ishant Sharma. And now, Durban…

As the captain Dhoni sai on the likelihood of encountering a green pitch at the Newlands in Cape Town for the decider, “the greener the pitch, the better it is” , it is very clear that the Indians are confident of doing well on seaming tracks. I believe the Indian batsmen are more adept at playing the moving ball than batsmen in some other parts of the world, including Australia and South Africa, while their bowlers are skilled at seam and swing bowling, which makes up for their lack of pace on helpful tracks. More than seam or swing- or for that matter, pace- the challenge seems to be bounce and that is something that the Indian batsmen have still some way to go before conquering.

The end of a generation

December 21st, 2010

About two hours ago, one generation of my family came to an end. Janaki Amma, my paternal grandmother and the last of my surviving grandparents, passed away at her home after several weeks of being bedridden.

At this moment, as I visualise her mortal self lying in the stillness that defines the culmination of our journey on earth, I can only wish for her soul a peaceful passage to the world beyond.

Farewell, Acchamma!

Jacques Kallis- the greatest cricketer of his generation?

December 19th, 2010

Jacques Kallis scored his first double hundred in a test match today at the Supersport Park in Centurion and, as the commentators,  proclaimed “finally got the monkey off his back”. It’s only just reward for such an illustrious career. For me, Kallis is certainly one of the greatest players of his generation, if not the greatest. I don’t think anyone would be too far from the mark even if he was called the greatest.

For some reason, the word “great” hasn’t been used as liberally with Kallis as they have been with players who have far less to show as their achievements. True, Kallis is neither the most attractive of batsmen- mind you, he looks darn good- nor is he the most explosive; he is the not the kind that will fill up stadiums like a Tendulkar or a Sehwag would. 

However, he could most certainly win a game for his team with either bat or ball, and of course his slip catching.  He has been the one genuine all-rounder that cricket has seen in the last decade and half, though many have been bestowed the title rather easily.  

With close to 12000 test runs, 38 test centuries, over 260 test wickets and over 160 catches (stats courtesy: Cricinfo), Jacques Kallis is the Gary Sobers of this era. I feel it is high time he gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the other legends of the game. He richly deserves it and it’s only fair!

Disappointing FIFA World Cup finale… but a priceless memory nevertheless

July 13th, 2010

The match between Spain and Holland (July 11, 2010) was the only game of this year’s FIFA World Cup that I watched, and throughout the game, I couldn’t help wondering if it was worth staying awake to watch it. The desire to not miss the once-in-four-years’ spectacle got the better of me, and aided by a couple of cups of hot Milo and some digestive biscuits, I managed to get through the start-stop-yellow-card-start-stop-…game. 

I had been eagerly looking forward to the Spain/Holland game in the hope of seeing some attacking and skillful football, but to say that I ended up disappointed is an understatement.  There were, of course, some good moments and some skill on display- everytime the ball went to Robben, it seemed like something could happen; Sergio Ramos looked good and the match picked up some pace after Jesus Navas came on. Overall, though, these moments were few and far between.

Since I first got a taste of watching international football  in the 1986 episode in Mexico City, this was the first World Cup that I didn’t watch any game other than the final.  What an initiation it was— the quarter final game between France and Brazil is etched deep in my memory; the image of legends like Socrates, Zico and Platini missing penalties, in a game that just seemed to flow from one end to another; or the wonderful final between Argentina and Germany that was another see-saw battle.  As I reflect back on that game, I am reminded of my soccer-mad cousin, barely 3-4 years elder to me, who stayed awake that morning to watch Diego Maradona lift the World Cup; today, he’s still struggling to recover from a paralytic stroke  that’s taken away a big chunck of  his memory and his mobility.  I still hope someday we’ll get to sit down together over  a beer or two and pull one another’s legs..

Anyway, coming back to 2010 and the Spain vs Holland game — there’s only one good reason that may have made the staying up worthwhile. It was Neel’s initiation to a  World Cup soccer finale.  I woke him up just as the second half of extra time was about to commence, and with slightly watery eyes, he watched Iniesta score the goal that differentiated the two teams on the night. He insisted that he stay awake to see Casillas lift the trophy. 

Many years from now, may be Neel will remember the first time he watched a World Cup game….and if you ask me, memories such as these are priceless!


May 18th, 2010

Neel learnt the following 10 lines by rote for a recitation competition at his school – his first attempt. The notice about the recitation competition was quite short, which meant he effectively had time from Friday evening till Sunday night to memorize a poem. We weren’t sure what poem to give him to prepare for the competition– I looked at some by Indian greats like Tagore and Sarojini Naidu, but felt those were much tougher. Finally, we chose 10 lines from Rudyard Kipling’s “If”.


If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!


Watching him memorize and then recite those, while trying to give it “expression”, was a thrill in itself. As I write this, all I know is that he recited the poem in class, and “everybody clapped for everybody”.

48 hours to learn 10 lines of poetry for a recitation competition… and a lifetime to understand, appreciate and practise those values…