Mar 26, 2003

Post it
Though people have been so unusually forgiving this time, the fact remains that we lost by a large margin, we had more than just can be explained by an off day and there wasn't much left even to pray after the first 10 overs had gone by.
It was easily the biggest match in terms of importance I watched in my life, but for most of the time, it quite didn't seem that way, nor did it turn out that day. This World Cup has been cruelly severe on any weaknesses, fully shorn of any romantic results and the mild, weak and meek had no gifts coming their way. Contrast this to earlier Cups: Pakistan's incredible escape from England thanks to the showers that also unceremoniously dumped the South Africans like an irate schoolmaster mercilessly failing the class dunce not once but twice. Or a fist pumping, "Comm-onnn" yelling, leg break turning Shane Warne getting rid of Gary Kirsten while the Turbanator couldn't believe his eyes on this dual-in-one spinning/seaming wicket at The Wanderers. Or Kapil Dev's unrecorded moment of magic at Tunbridge Wells: contrast it to a well watched Fleming against the South Africans (why are they in every wow-story in the Cups?). Or at least a modern and aging Arjuna late cutting to third man to complete the grudge that began with many allegations involving colours, ancestries and most of all, the saga of the right-elbowed bowler and the right outstreched hand of a portly man: All we got close this time was Ganguly waving goodbye to the Kiwis. Rhodes broken, Donald shaken and stirred, De Silva running out, Warne medicated, Hussain? na-ssir!, What are the memories of this World Cup? Rain teasing millions of Indians threatening to be the saviour in the final? The quickly clearing clouds stamped home the message: expect no freebies.

And for the umpteenth time, yes, we got it dead right by bowling first, for proof, please refer the New Zealand v India match in the Super Sixes. There on a pitch that seemed more placid than at the final, Ganguly called correctly with Zaheer & co. reducing the pre-tourney tormentors to 140-odd. I say this though I believe in big games it is better to bat first and let the opposition chase: it only takes 10 good balls to get 10 wickets, even if the total is 150, but chasing 350+ is going to probably happen only once in the history of the game.
For those who have only watched the final, it would be an abject display of India's past failings, but we believers would have to look at the overall tournament and say: "Not too bad". But even we must remember: "Opportunities like these don't come knocking each day!". Look at Pakistan: 4 years ago, steaming down the pitch and now en masse exiles. Except for New Zealand and India (that too over the last 18 months), every team has gone downhill. Except for Australia, who are increasingly being left out of everyone's thoughts about cricket because they've managed to raise themselves psychologically into a bracket above the rest. Zimbabwe (pardon the unkind pun) de-Flowered after losing Johnson and Goodwin earlier, South Africa mentally disintegrating, so much that for the first time probably since the Nawab of Pataudi, the cricket world sees a young captain, chosen more for his brashness (Aussie-copying?), an admission of empty barrels, England who are great cricketers only in the fertile minds of the English press, the Lankans bumbling their way about, and the Windies trying their best to undo their gains of the last year. It has got so bad for the Pakistanis that even the Indians are feeling sympathetic for them. Will we see the Wasim magic again? Me thinks not.

With all the nosediving of cricketing standards being brutally exposed in the World Cup by upstarts and champions alike, the only happy time was had by the Indian fans. Gone were the days when we would hope to sneak into the next round through the cat-door, hoping to metamorphose into a lion (for one day only) in order to win the finals: we, more than anyone else (barring our immediate Western neighbours) have taken full advantage of the "uncertainties of cricket". This time, we kicked the door open, marched in boldly, much in the vein of Yuvraj Singh leaping over the gates at Lord's under the noses of the snooty gatekeepers that magic day in the Natwest Trophy. And ironically, the one thing that we had harnessed, we chose to leave at the hotel rooms: our strength of mind. Indian teams of the past hardly expected to win: when it happened, there was always something left unexplained, unrepeatable, defying analysis. This time, it was un-miraculous, expected, players saying "kya yaar, Kenya se kyu.n haarenge, mai.n dikhaataa huu.n 40 for 3 se kaise jeetna hai.n". And that's the way it was, hiccups dissolving in measured sips of water. That's why the final baffled. Much in the mould of the mysterious Ronaldo seizures of 1998 afflicting more than a player but a team. But by assigning mystery, one places the defeat outside the scope of analysis. Which is wrong. Say it, we made a big howler. We didn't think. We lost it big time. We didn't say to ourselves "Do we want to let a mere attack of nerves spoil it for us?". We went blank, line-and-length lessons of a lifetime going poof! on the pitch. Srinath's late 90s brand of infuriating bowling re-incarnated. All this on a pitch that was assisting even spin! That's why we had to bowl first. And why did we even think about sledging! Tulsi Bhabi trying to play Bhiku Mhatre. I'm surprised Hayden didn't say "Tum jis school ke vidhyaarthii ho, hum us school ke headmaster reh chuke hai.n". But, giving credit to the Aussies, it was a near perfect batting display. An occasion when the phrase near chanceless innings applies not just to an individual but to the entire team. It was like being in a very, very bad dream, as an Indian spectator. It was too perfect to be real, but it was, it was. I cannot remember anyone getting to 300 plus scores losing only 2 wickets. Heck, they didn't lose wickets even in the slog overs. That batting display was a miracle, too superhuman even for the Aussies. But I saw it happen too.
Interestingly, the Indians fought, so much that probably the only person to take things rashly was Sachin Tendulkar. Even when Pakistan put up 314 in Dhaka (another innings that comes close to the final in terms of its depressingly (for an Indian) merciless innings), arguably, no one except Sachin, Saurav and Robin thought we would make it. The regularity of chasing 300-pluses meant that this team wouldn't mind taking a shot at it, but we've seem to have hit the magic thresholds in the 300 region that will be chipped away at in the manner of the 4-minute mile or the 10 second sprints, there will not be a mega-improvement in the psychological steeliness required for one attempting these Herculean, sporting tasks.

Messrs. John Wright & Co. came close but failed by a distance. In the process, they taught us interesting lessons: never take your eyes of the ball, go for your opportunities when they come because the rivers don't part to make way for you every time. They were right in talking about the final as just another game, thus hoping to rein in the monster, but failed to pull it off in reality. Little did Sandy Berger know that the threads would come loose after withstanding one buffet after another. We are the real story of the 2003 World Cup: we made the conversations interesting and in our loss, we have provoked more thought. But where will we go from here? I don't believe (unless we have an Australia-like 4 years, going from strength to strength) we'll have a super team again in the next Cup, but seeing that the Sehwags & Nehras emerged from the hinterland in the last 2 years, why not? Srinath won't be there and no Kumble too, maybe no Ganguly, Dravid won't be peaking again. And what does fate really have in store for Sachin Tendulkar? Only 5 digit aggregates and "arguably the best since..." arguments on the trophy cabinet? Will he have a peak or will it be a more spaced out mountain range? Will he get increasingly insecure about his place in the pantheons of gods (for the un-believers will start chirping soon)? The mental battles rage fascinatingly.

Post-script: Can't the people who vigorously slammed Dravid and waited for him to make a major mistake stand up and admit that he did pull off an almost unbelievable effort: no major messups (and what about Boucher & Sangakkara!) while maintaining a high average. This, for me, will be the most cherished memory of this underrated cricketer's, one of India's finest ever, contributions to his country's cricket. Hopefully, they will go back to dropping the seventh batsman and let Parthiv Patel, well, flower Flower-like.

Mar 22, 2003

Whatever be the result tomorrow, in my opinion the Indian cricket team has gone farther than any other team before it: drawing whoops of pleasure from the lay cricket watcher, but a quiet I-told-you-so from the serious Indian fan.
I've considered my loyal following of the team and I have to permit a sense of euphoria that I can share with some of my friends, Gaurav & Harish in particular, our belief has been vindicated to a large degree, I'm sure a feeling we share with not too many prior to the Cup. The reasons for our optimism were simple: the talent was too impressive to ignore. This has been the team that has achieved the most: Test matches won abroad (no great feat, but compared to the non-achievements of the past, a big change in fortunes), some great turnaround wins that will go down in collective cricket memory. They have just seemed to break with the past, and I'm happy Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and John Wright have found themselves a team that can punctuate instead of puncturing their aspirations to cricketing greatness in their own chosen way. And for doing it without needing to be too ruffian-like like some other *aggressive* teams: not flinching in the face of the sledger but with no need to resort to the same behaviour.
That's why I still find it extremely shameful how people trashed the same team after the Australian loss: so what if they lose, badly at that? Who gives us the right to throw tar at a young cricketer's house? Don't people make mistakes in their own lives? These idiots surrendered their sense of worth to a game of cricket and derive their so-called national pride from a six over third man. No one asked them to, but they did. How difficult is it to take a skier staring into a pack of high-watted lights while a mob is ready to judge your sincerety on whether you can hold it in your sweaty palms, do we know? And when you consider this team has hardly gone about shouting down journalists' mikes claiming to be the "best" (and then getting a pasting from the very next day). So what if they appear in endorsements? Isn't it their right to make a living for themselves, to exploit their own skills for their own economic reasons: don't we try and use our own academic training to attempt pretty much the same. And no cricketer asks his ad to be aired the ironic & annoying moment after he has been dismissed. Still we gun for them. How consistent is our performance in our own lives?
Of late, I've been able to invest less emotionally in the game of cricket and India's performances in it. It has made it more easier to watch the game. Remember, our generation grew up with the cricket boom, and endured the many disappointments of Sharjah & World Cup fiascos & idols-turned-ordinary-men & the crassness of crowds and cricketers and administrators alike. Finally, we have a chance to legitimately claim we're among the top three nations in this beloved sport of ours, let's not spoil it by yo-yoing with the unpredictable results.
And hopefully, by about 9.30 pm on the 23rd of March, 2003, the xxx3 year trend ('83: World cup, '93: Hero Cup) will have found more takers and Sachin Tendulkar will not have one notable fact attached to his valiant name: of being the greatest player never to win a World Cup.
While it hasn't been the most thrilling Cup, it has given us a great deal already. And if we simply seem destined to win, even the Indian team can't help but fulfil that?

Mar 20, 2003

Kenya beats India.
The final between Kenya & Australia (including the reserve day) is rained off.
Kenya are joint World Champions.

Mar 13, 2003

At 23, sitting at a desk 2 continents away from home, this is not the best thing to read right now: brings me back to all those questions that continue to whirr away just out of focus in the back of my mind-frame.
Was led into it by this Slashdot story.

And while on the subject:
(zombie like)
Smile, you're at Smiley's would
you like to try our new bacon and
egg fajita, just a dollar twenty-
nine for a limited time only?

Actually, I'd like to fill out an

She stares at him, confused by his age and attire.

There's not jobs for manager, it's
just for counter.

Good. I'm looking for the least
possible amount of responsibility.

:: American Beauty

Mar 11, 2003

In response to Anu Garg's appeal on his successful mailing list, A Word A Day, to spread the word on his book.

Here are details about the book:

A Word A Day: A Romp Through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words
ISBN: 0471230324

"A delightful, quirky collection."
-The New York Times, Nov 28, 2002

"Indefatigably jaunty hilarity."
-The Observer, Jan 19, 2003

"Part reference work, part entertainment, English teachers, addicts of
Scrabble, solvers of crossword puzzles, and other bibliophages will enjoy
this book."
-Times Literary Supplement, Jan 21, 2003

"Triggers the kind of passionate reaction that actors, authors and
memoirists would die for."
-USA Today, Jan 1, 2003

See all reviews at

Get the book at your local bookshop or online at:


Mar 9, 2003

Hopefully coming soon:

Lo mei.n aa gayaa!
Home, Joy, Jug-dish
The Booktaker
8 hours
Catch me if you can
Tipsy Irishmen
The Glaze

Mar 7, 2003

The biggest days in the COEPian social calendar are here. The college's annual gathering begins today (I think).
And Sunday is the biggest day with Chakravyuh, COEP's own quiz, now in its Third Edition (little khushi ke aa.nsuu here). The Sabyasachi trophy will go out to the winner of this Open Quiz. The Abhimanyu trophy will be claimed by the best COEPian quizzer in a Mastermind style intra-COEPian event. I won't be there (boo-hoo), and I'm sure to miss a great show. The organizers have promised a super show and a little peek under the tent has revealed a special format, but my lips are sealed...

And to round it all off: The 75th Annual Regatta of the COEP Boat Club will literally light up the Mula river the same evening. Will miss the Kayaks, Arrow Formation & the glorious Punt Formation (here's hoping this year's show will be better than before).
Awaaz COEPcha!