Dreams do come true!

As a kid who grew up and just came to understanding things around him in the mid 80’s in India could not have been more influenced by anything as much as the the cricket explosion in the country. I was no different.

The ’83 world cup, the World Series in 85/86, the 2-0 test series victory in England in 1986 and the so near yet so far Reliance World Cup in 1987 were enough to want me to do nothing but be out there on the field and keep aspiring to become a cricketer. I have lived my life along these cricketers, in my head they were always there, we had conversations. I Read all sports section in the Gujarati and English newspapers, subscribed to the Sportstar occasionally even read the hindi magazine Cricket Samrat. From collecting crowns of Thums Up for getting flip books of a Sunil Gavaskar straight drive or a Vivian Richards pull shot or collecting wrappers of Big Fun the 25 paise chewing gum for Shrikant’s posters for me while growing up the staple diet was cricket and nothing else.

A first love as I always like to call it, I don’t claim to be a historian or a statistician or an expert but I claim to be a lover of the sport. Its a never ending love affair, with the Indian team’s performance becoming my mood driver.

In my boards in 10th India were touring New Zealand and my Mom was surprised when on the first day she heard me putting an alarm for 3.30, she couldn’t believe I was gonna study, but well I did study during the ad. breaks of that tour, only reason I got first class in 10th.

If the mid 80’s were inspiring for an Indian cricket fan, the 90’s were damning, the team that was set to take on the the cricketing world slackened, became tigers at home, lambs abroad, slowly a lot of people in this country started depending on just one guy to lift the mood of the country. The reason why Sachin became what he was is somewhere in this I would like to believe. India looked like they would become now a pretty combative a team in world cricket during the mid 80’s but like the nation itself its cricketers perhaps did not believe in it and so when kids like us were growing with high aspirations, loving only cricket and nothing else during the 90’s there was only one refuge the Sachin batting display among a lot of losses abroad, we would lose a test horribly and yet we would seek our happiness in that back foot punch off a 7 feet tall fast bowler through cover that our short master blaster would deliver time and again. Whilst some other batters and our spinners would put their hand up when we played in our own country abroad it was a decade of some pretty ordinary results.

It was here that the obsession in my head started to take shape more, increasingly I started to judge our batsmen on how they performed in countries like Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand at one point even performances in Zimbabwe mattered more than in India.

I can for one never get over the loss in Bridgetown in 1997 when India needed 120 to win in the 4th innings and fell short by 38, Sachin was skipper then and it seemed like it broke him by the year 2000 we lost at home to SA and Sachin resigned and it looked like it was all over, there was a point in life when you thought this love and mad obsession about the sport was all misplaced and you would better get on with life and the many other facets to it, cricket after all was just another stupid game and I should be doing more with my life than let the mood be influenced by what was happening on a field of play. In some ways my life reflected the state of Indian cricket in 1999 I passed out of college in third class, I could not pursue an MBA as I did not have any good grades to make me eligible for an entrance and my parents couldn’t afford a payment seat. I was to take up a job of a marketing executive selling computer courses with a salary that was lesser than the office boy who served tea to us and most of the income depended on how I performed abroad, I mean outside office and how many enrollments I brought in.

Things were bleak, college over, time to stand on your feet, you are in love, her dad discovers, you earn really less, India lose in India to SA and then even more painfully in Chennai to your arch rival Pakistan, your God had cried in the dressing room after that match, your idol was involved in match fixing and there was never a sadder moment in life as then. A dark abyss it seemed awaited.

But not for nothing I guess they have this old adage of it being darkest before dawn eh?

The new millennium brought new hope, a feisty Bengali came to lead the Indian team, a core group of some excellent batsmen gathered, Sachin discovered he was not alone, a wall from Bangalore was there to shield him, an artist from Hyderabad joined it, a dasher from Delhi reinforced that the Bengali had vision, hopes soared, a legendary spinner to back the batsmen, always one good quick around to keep us in the game and even without enough bowling things started to happen. A miracle was performed in Eden Gardens in 2001 when one of the greatest team ever to play test cricket was on a rampage and their fast steamrolling bulldozer was brought to a grinding halt by two men possessed, batting like a dream, a Sardar spinning the ball viciously earning himself the name of the “Turbanator”!

A landmark victory that brought new hope, belief and inspired you to dream again! It was followed by Headingley in 2002, Adelaide in 2003, Wanderers in 2006, Trent Bridge in 2007 and the heady feeling of revenge and righteousness after the 2008 Perth Test win, surely it was a memorable decade. Life at personal front also started to slowly improve, good breaks, good jobs, marriage, kid and eventually a business that started to find its feet. Somehow series victories in South Africa and Australia still eluded us but then you cannot have everything in life in just one decade can you?

When a railway employee donned the skippers hat, it was like now the time for world domination has come. It looked like he had all the resources and that a golden era was to begin, whilst we won a lot in limited overs cricket under him. Test success abroad eluded him, I for one cannot fathom how he managed to earn such a horrible record in Tests abroad, we surely were not that bad or were we? He eventually threw in the towel on another frustrating trip down under and that is when this Feistier than anyone in life I have ever seen Delhi boy came up to take up the reins of Indian cricket.

Since last year I had been waiting for this year, tours of SA, Eng and Aus beckoned, hope was in the air, perhaps a chance to settle matters once and for all, it was during this whole year I was slowly wondering in my head if I could feel like the West Indian fans felt during their two decade domination or like the Australian fans who didn’t know what it was to lose from the mid 90’s to a few years ago.

I am a hopeless optimist, I never quit hoping as far as the Indian cricket teams chances are concerned. SA happened, we played not too badly, but we somehow managed to mess up things and lost the series owing more to our own inability or inexperience in winning in alien conditions, we managed to screw something or the other, a strategy here a selection there. Come England and it looks like there never was an opportunity better than this to beat them in their own conditions and suddenly in a blink of an eye England lead the series 2-0. Like I said, hopeless optimist, when India turned the tables at 2-1 I was getting this silly feeling that we could come back. We couldn’t, it was not as bad as the 4-1 scoreline suggest but it was a loss.

In my hopeless optimist manners even before the England tour I had thought in my head that we will beat England in England and our crowning of the undisputed best team in the world home and abroad would happen in Australia and so I booked my tickets to Australia smartly planning to fly off the day after I hear the winning speech of Kohli at Sydney. This was a long leap of faith, forget travelling to Australia but India beating them there and me being there to see it. Life had changed from earning less than our office boy to dreaming of an Indian win in Australia. By the time England beat us 3-1 it started feeling like a bad idea, whilst the experience of watching matches and travelling around Australia would be fun, I feared I would be all grumpy if India lost the series.

I was praying India would not blow the series in the first two matches as I was to reach for the last two test matches.

As luck would have it, it read 1-1 when I reached there, Boxing day test match was not the exciting, racy, thrill a moment cricket match, but a match where I felt like the team was determined to not let itself down. Not trying to make a statement any more, they just seemed like they didn’t care about anything other than winning and were ready to get dirty in the mud if the need be. They grinded to a painful 200 odd runs on the first day, they tired out the bowlers, it was searingly hot, it took its toll, India won the Test, I was there.

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This kid has been a discovery like no one before him in our history, if he stay’s fit and healthy, Indian cricket will conquer many a land which they never could earlier!

In many ways this victory was poetic, after years and years of attempts at winning down under, some magnificent Test battles were won with magical performances at times, the only time we won the War here it was down to sheer determination and grit.

I don’t know if this will mark the era of dominance for our team from here on, but this little piece of history I witnessed will always stay with me. I will always brag and boast and say, when India beat Australia in Australia in a Test series for the first time, I was there to witness history.

Yes dreams do come true, they take their time but don’t stop dreaming for when they do come true, the happiness you will feel will be unlike anything else you can ever feel.

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This historic stand was there to record another piece of history, India’s first series win down under! 🙂

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C for Cricket

DSC_0120The most compelling of all sports, without any trace of doubt if you ask me. Is there any other sport apart from Test Cricket that presents as much of a test of character, resourcefulness, stamina, perseverance and skill all together in one game?! I would like to know if there is another sport like this or better than this with all the diversity this sport offers.

 

Give a few kids a bat and a ball and watch them go, its here, most naturally you will see how captivating and likable the game is. Belting the ball as hard as you can, foxing the guy trying to belt the ball whilst flicking the ball to him or running like made watching skywards trying to grab the ball with open palms, the fun is evident.

 

It is apt that I have to be writing this after yesterday’s test match at Lords, after a rather long season of limited overs cricket it was back to the game’s main version, the main course or the real deal, whatever you want to call it. Just fascinating was the game that just ended. A really dead, low kind of pitch and you might have thought, okay this might just be a drawn match, but, if cricket does not throw a surprise, who will?

 

A 42 year old veteran, who many thought should be retired came out and scored a century, after reaching his century did some 15 push ups, an underdog team that is always found to be unorganised actually managed to trip a far more pedigreed opposition. At all times you thought the comeback was inevitable, however, inspired by Misbah, his team mates won the match in 4 days and symbolically at the end of it indulged in a push up show to prove that they had a lot left in them even after 4 days of pressure cricket.

 

Test cricket has so much drama that it woos me, there are so many plots and subplots and so many characters who are involved at so many different times that it fascinates, a slip catch being bobbed up by one and being grabbed by another, a short leg fielder ducking and getting crouched every time a batsman goes for a powerful shot, the leaping wicket keeper that jumps to collect a ball above his head delivered by an angry fast bowler, a batsman lured out by a spinner and beaten in the air, the thumping straight drive from between a fast bowlers legs, oh there is just so much to love about this sport.

 

Like any good book, Test cricket needs to be entered with a bit of patience if you are not a lover already, read two three chapters of a book and you cant stop, similarly, stay for a couple of sessions, watching, analysing, absorbing and discussing Test cricket and you will be smitten I promise!

 

You might say Test cricket is an ancient form, stretched over 5 days in this fast moving life of the twenty first century, who has the time, but trust me for lovers of this form of sport there is nothing that even comes close. 🙂

2 days to go…

For the African Safari to start.

Yes, its a short tour, but it won’t be any short on the competition. The Proteas will be out to get us, we will have to play out of our skins to keep our pride intact or come back with bruised ego’s and can’t play on fast pitches adage.

The crowd maybe nasty with the team as well as they have been robbed of a long series and the way they can get back to our cricket administrators is via the players.

Steyn – Dhawan
Morkel – Kohli
Ashwin – De Villiers
Philander – Rohit
Amla – Pujara
Zak – Smith

Boy… this is going to be one heck of a short series and I promise to cover it here! 😀

Adios’ Sachin!

Sachin,

Thank you is too small a word really. Yesterday tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw you struggle, pause, choke, struggle through your speech to convey your thanks to the people who really mattered in helping you realise a dream. If not for them perhaps you would have been doing a 9-5 office routine balancing most things in life like a large majority of us do living a domestic civil life.

But then you were cut out for something special, by no means was your life just fun and frolic but I absolutely understand the hours of practice you put in, the sweat, your crazy craving for perfection, the insecurities when it came to choices which you made perfectly at all stages that you got to live a dream that was not just your’s but of a lot of others. Not just that you told a lot of us growing up kids that there is hope, that you can play and still make a life. For me you signified hope, you inspired us, you provided joy, lifted us up on numerous occasions and took a brunt of our expectations on your shoulders.

My growing years and your career almost together I have followed most of your career and there are some unbelievable memories.

Your batting in Pakistan against Waqar/Wasim/Imran even after being hit in the nose and bleeding told us that you were not going to be rattled, however, we had quite a few gritty players before you and so whilst we felt that you were not one to throw in the towel we still didn’t know how special you were. But then it was only the beginning and you were just 16. Then came your century in England which perhaps told you that you were to be here for a while and be a part of Indian cricket for a while.

But then better things awaited, for me your defining moment came in our disastrous tour of Australia and even more significantly when you smashed that 100 in Perth, the worlds fastest pitch, the rowdy Aussie fast bowlers and we Indian’s always dreaded the thought of Perth. Perth signified terror for us. To see you score that hundred, defy the bowlers and actually scintillate and dominate was something we Indian’s had never seen an Indian do. Unfortunately this being a team sport we didn’t win much then, but you gave us hope, that we could dominate. Though we lived in the subcontinent and the pitches here didn’t bounce it was not a deterrent for us to go and play around the world, not just play and compete but dominate.

The word ‘Dominate’ was rarely used for Indian cricket, I may be wrong, but I cannot remember too much of the word Dominate being used for any Indian Batsman overseas. Yes, they scored runs, grinded the opposition out and eeked out a ton but watching you Punch of the backfoot through cover, Hook, Pull, Square cut was a completely wonderful feeling. I guess after that tour of Australia you and the whole world knew that you are here to stay for a long long time.

Over that long decade you provided with so many memories that its difficult to list them down, we cried with you in Chennai in that pain staking century which ended in a defeat and we were thrilled when you raised a desert storm in Sharjah. I can for one never forget even more than your performances your dedication to your sport and the hours you put in practice. For me the tale of you preparing for the 1998 tour of Australia, with L Sivaramankrishnan bowling to you around the wicket with the pitch dug up told me volumes of how much you worked at your craft. The innings of 155* that followed where you collared and completely obliterated ‘The Warne Myth’ is what every one remembers and is stuff of legends. However, the hard work you put in for that performance to follow is what defines you for me.

The legendary battle that took centre stage in Chennai... The Myth that the world could not decode was smashed to all parts of the ground. With arguably the Best Bowler in Cricket History acknowledging that he got nightmares of Sachin running down the pitch and smashing him...

The legendary battle that took centre stage in Chennai… The Myth of Shane Warne that the world could not decode was smashed to all parts of the ground. With arguably the Best Bowler in Cricket History acknowledging that he got nightmares of Sachin running down the pitch and smashing him…

I hated it when people called you lucky, you weren’t, you damn worked your ass off for your successes and I salute that effort you put in day in and day out.

Innumerable memories will remain and I for one cannot even imagine what you might do without playing cricket. I guess your love for the game can be second to none, what came out in your entire playing career was your sheer passion, enthusiasm and love for the game. I hope and wish you a very good time ahead and hope you can find something to engage with equally passionately in your life ahead.

For me and an entire generation you were a Superman, a dream, an inspiration and gave us a lot of reasons to smile, feel joyous on a tough day and I would actually like to thank you for that.

Baffling…

The selection policy off late is baffling really…

Why is Vinay Kumar played ahead of Shami Ahmed?? Beyond me…. unless the selectors feel that its better that Vinay is bashed about more in such conditions and want to protect Shami from losing his confidence there is no reason why it happens.

Why Ishant can’t be released from the ODI and Test team and allowed to play Ranji away from the limelight is beyond me. His confidence must be in tatters after the Mohali mauling and it would only make sense to send him away for a while. He is 25 and might still become useful if he can learn to convert potential into performance.

Why Zaheer is not in the Test team against the West Indies is another shocker!! Selectors are also saying that he is in very much in their plans for South Africa and yet they ignore him against the West Indies. Would you not atleast make him play one Test and check it out if he is fully fit rather than directly allowing him in a Test in SA?

It is completely beyond me how the selectors are going about their work as far as the bowling is concerned.

I also seriously hope that MSD does not alter his theory of 5 batsman in Tests. With Jadeja now out though his resolve on this issue will be really tested.

To consider that West Indies will be no match will be foolish, I actually think if West Indies bat well, it could be a close series.

I hope Sachin’s retirement is downplayed by the team atleast and they focus on playing. As much as Sachin has been a joy to India, Sachin’s joy is in India winning and lets hope the team can focus on just that.

darkest before dawn…

Without doubt it was never so glum, 8-0 in tests abroad and 2-1 at home against England. The era I could say I started understanding and following cricket probably starts from as long back as 1992 the world cup in Australia and the emergence of Sachin as a top batter in Australia. I have been madly following Indian cricket since then and it would be fair to say that now that I understand the can see things above being just a crazy fan that our team was rather ordinary during those days. Indian cricket was all about a wristy Azhar Century or a Strokeful master stroke Sachin, at home Sidhu’s would also run rampage but when abroad… it was all about watching a Sachin century whilst all around him fell.

 

Then came the mid 90’s and probably the core started to emerge… the emergence of Sourav, Rahul, Anil, Srinath gave us hope of better things to come. It all went very very bad though before it started to turn around. A 3-0 blank down under, skipper resigning, South Africa beating us at home and it looked like the Final Frontier for Waugh’s team was also to be conquered. 1 test down and following on in the second even the staunchest of staunch Indian cricket fan would have given up… but cricket they say is a funny game.

 

All Indian cricket fans would know that we saw an India that was different from the norm, from 2001 to probably 2011 we saw a different India, one that did not buckle down under pressure, yes 2004 happened Australia won in India but together such a long stretch as is now has not been seen. Its been a period of denial. A near miss in South Africa to win a series to the World Cup Victory to this… phase its been an unbelievably quick downslide. More worrying was the denial of many obvious things.

 

In many ways it would serve India probably better if they were to lose in the Test starting from tomorrow in Nagpur.

 

However, cricket, as they say is a funny game and now that suddenly former selectors decide to spill beans, former cricketers bay for players being dropped and the fans baying for blood. Don’t be surprised if you find a new India tomorrow in Nagpur.

 

The cricketers I guess will be forced to fight their inner demons which they have been running away from. These are talented people, however, seems have been basking too long in their glory. It seems destined to wake them up from their slumber and probably rumble tomorrow.

 

Beats me though, maybe it is the Indian (read subcontinental) mentality or something else that we cannot ever be always highly motivated and intense by ourselves and need to be pushed in a corner before we start delivering punches… I leave that for you to judge… I will watch closely the guys in Nagpur and hope they can put in a much better effort than the one they have been putting up.

 

Amen…

Ramblings

Nothing really worth enough material to post and yet I feel my blog has been neglected way too much and I again need to start the writing habit of mine. Apparently so much action is happening in life that there is barely time to sit back relax and form a post.

 

Either I am working out investment portfolio’s for clients or sorting out badly sold insurance policies to them if that were not enough the renovation/extension work at home takes up hours and worst is it comes up at any time and the plumber/carpenter/mason are even more important and vip people then my clients. They get first preference, also it seems that the work just doesn’t get over either. Even though the major work seems to be done there is no decrease in the hours it takes of mine. Sporadically I do manage to still venture on FB and give my system the much needed virtual injection. 😛 Then there is so much of sporting action happening everywhere, Olympics, India v SL, NZ v WI and Eng v SA. Actually I am complaining of too much on my palate sigh…

 

It was a treat to watch Saina Nehwal play, I must confess I have not watched her earlier but she did play like a champ and I was pretty hopeful she would get a Gold but then not everything we wish for happens. But it was a wonderful feeling watching her play, full of concentration, focus and skill. The shooter’s doubled their medal tally from last year. The hockey team though tried their best I guess the loss in the first two matches in which I thought they fought quite well took its toll and knocked the stuffing out of them. They would probably be feeling very disappointed having lost all 5 matches. But lets not focus on that, lets talk about Mary Kom, honestly I didn’t know much about her before a week. I am kinda amazed at the achievements of the woman a 5 time World Champion, a mother of 5 year old twins and boxing like this !!!!!!!!! Gee… I am gaping and ashamed that I take the elevator to reach a third floor in the building ! :-/

 

In the world of friendly cricket matches, SL managed to almost lose everything but our blokes decided one day to collectively have a brain fail during a batting display in the second ODI giving something to our friendly neighbours.

 

The other highlight of the last week was Kevin Pietersen’s batting against Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Whilst England were pummeled into submission in the first test, in the second in Headingly in a tricky situation KP showed why he is badly necessary for cricket. With all due respect to Sachin, Brian, Ricky this has to be one of the most manly attacks on a bowling line up I have seen recently. No he didn’t score a 60 ball 100 but the manner in which he took on Steyn and Morkel and their short pitched stuff and the thumping he gave was superb. No it was not cover drives, there were hooks with 3 players on the leg side boundary. Don’t be-little him, it was Steyn and Morkel, it was Yorkshire not Chennai and yet I saw Dale Steyn shaking his head at the helplessness he felt in front of KP’s assault. Then as usual, KP’s innings was overshadowed by none other than his own stand-off with the ECB. Pity this man can’t just focus and play Test Cricket.

that is Dale Steyn going over the straight boundary

 

Guess he is a bit like me can’t do one thing at a time, must always focus on multiple things in life ! 😛 Talking of other multiple things clogging my timeline were planning for a Monsoon trip to Goa and well its my first visit to the Travel Capital of India it seems, rarely have I met anyone who has not been to Goa. Fair in another fortnight’s time I will be able to join all those people. Apparently it seems I can’t really take to the beaches or the water sports there but Monsoon promises its own share of beauty. What with Outlook Traveller featuring Goa in the Monsoons and whetting my appetite. My raincoats are ready and I can’t wait to rent an Activa and drive on the tar roads bordered with the fresh green vegetation. :mrgreen:

 

Well, I think I must stop my ramble here and get ready to shop for curtains or else my wife is going to make me sleep in the balcony by the look of things… 😛 But before I shop for the curtains I will leave you with this song that is on my lips at the moment 🙂

 

so begins the world cup !

Yes…. the world cup has started and I have not yet made a single cricket post !!!!!! Geeez…. !!!! If only I would be able to sit more on the computer.

I even missed the most colourful opening ceremony live… and the pre show for the India Bangladesh match… but I was there before the national anthems started… ! I frantically drove my scooter from office parked it and made a dash to the hall & put the TV on.

Albeit I am not the biggest fan of T-20 and ODI cricket, I am a die hard Test Cricket fan, however my favourite team India must be watched in all forms.

Over the years I have always blindly supported them, I can never hear anything against them. Yes I do take in the criticism about their play, but if someone talks about their intentions being malicious or their integrity or anything other than their cricket, they immediately become my non liked people !!!! I seriously hate such people, infact wonder why they watch or discuss cricket if they think so…

Yes… do take note of that.

I consider myself to be their biggest fan, I never quit watching even when they are losing. I always have my logic that all will leave the team when they are losing but how can I leave my heroes when they are having a bad day. Infact if I were asked if Cricket was my first love or the Indian team… I did really have a tough time replying to it.

My team is my team and I dream of being in the midst of them in the dressing room one day… STILL !!!!

Sigh….. AMEN… !!!

Anyways… for this World Cup I am too scared to make my prediction… I dont want to jinx anything… ! I wont discuss my team and their strengths and their chances…. Let it just wait till the cup ends… !!!! I am praying and hoping for an Indian Victory.

But before I would end the post… following are the 3 new young players that I think are going to be the ones to watch out for in this world cup and the future… !

Virat Kohli – well this post is a day late… he already proved quite a bit… but he is the one to watch out for in the future… A huge future I think lies ahead for this starry eyed boy… !!!! and I mean HUGE !

Darren Bravo – I think this junior of Dwayne is a sensational batsman though I would like to see a bit more of him…there are so many shades of Lara in his style… ! Watch out for him !!!

Steve Smith – I think this Aussie Leg Spinner is very talented, however I think the Australians dont give him enough backing. He has a lot of potential… lets see how the Aussies use him…

and I have lots of predictions… but I will keep them to myself… !!!! I am too Superstitious to share them… !!!!!!

For the moment I guess all of you sit back and just enjoy the Runs… yes there will be wickets too but few and far in between…

God save the bowlers this World Cup !!!!!!