From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

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Outfielded

In opinion, sports on August 31, 2007 at 9:19 am

When we win:
Batting: Powerful line up, vast experience, inimitable skill, explosive lower order
Bowling: Skillful swing bowlers, exploited conditions beautifully
Fielding: Competent and reliable while not spectacular

When they lose:
Batting: Top order well past their prime, bad runners between the wickets
Bowling: Lackluster and pedestrian
Fielding: Weak arms, too many slow movers, butterfingers

This is not really a piece in staunch defense of the men in blue but a study in the yo-yo effect the Indian team’s performance has on the the analytical abilities of the revered ex-cricketers with microphones. I’ve always had my indifferent reservations about the validity of comments made by Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri as opposed to the likes of Richie Benaud or Ian Chappell. To me, it has always sounded like the former pair only stated, repeated and belabored the obvious.

Example:
fast-medium bowler overpitches and gets driven through the covers for four

RS/SG: “Oh thats a glorious shot, beautifully driven trough the covers for four. The fielder had no chance….He’s (the batsman) looking to be aggressive here…and thats a good thing”

RB/IC: “It doesn’t matter how much the pitch is seaming if you bowl that length…got the treatment it deserved…lots of gaps in the field and thats four…”

The none-too-subtle difference in the two where our home-grown stalwarts play to the gallery (thats in delirious raptures), to heap praise on what is actually a bowler error to present a delivery that an arthritic 60 year old with a cane could hit.

Considering the almost godly soothsayer reputations that these two enjoy, no wonder that every observer uses their catch-phrases as their sounding board. I’m going to stick my neck out on how two particular cases where they’ve made shallow assessments

Case #1 – The ‘Mahi’ way
Last year, when Dhoni was pounding attacks in India, piling one destructive knock on the other, he was power (the agricultural swings) and style (the brylcreemed hair) combined – an advertisers dream and our answer to Gilchrist (to me its traumatic to even put the names in the same sentence). Messrs RS and SG also announced him as such, proclaiming him as “jjjust what India needed”. I didn’t get it. All I saw was a strong dude with a front foot and huge axe swings. Flintoff and co. have reduced him to awkwardly fending off the backfoot spooning catches within the circle. The dude’s got a good attitude though, so, am guessing he’ll work on his game before Australia.

Case #2 – 11 Yuvrajs in the field would eliminate India’s fielding woes
As per RS/SG, the weak links in India’s fielding are Ganguly, Munaf, Powar and RP Singh and that Dravid screws up by not having them inside the ring and placing Yuvraj on the boundary. Sure, those names might be examples of the ‘anti-Rhodes’ (something like how the devil is the anti-christ, or isn’t he?), some basics that the experts seem to’ve ignored. Good fielding consists of 2 things, both equally important a) stopping the ball and b) getting it back to stumps in the shortest possible time. The best fielders, think Ponting and Collingwood, rarely dive! Because they’re quick enough to get to the ball. Observe how Y Singh can’t seem to stop anything without ending up sliding along the ground, compare that to the English captain. Secondly, Ponting and co always (read always) come up with the ball in their dominant hand and fire in the throw (which hits the stumps more often than not). Y Singh parries the ball much like a goalkeeper, so the batsmen end up getting the single anyway. Runs saved? Zero. The fact that he lets loose a vicious throw (which never hits) even if the batsman is past the crease and about to the face the next ball is an aside and just an irritating Indian habit.

Bottomline, we have no exceptional fielders, barring Agarkar, who , I think is the best Indian outfielder of all time (sounds surprising doesn’t it, considering the firm of RS/SG haven’t said so!). But a disregard for fielding as a discipline at the grassroots is what results in the likes of Munaf wandering cluelessly about the outfield and the team being embarrassed time and time again.

England, the team that traditionally made us look good in the shorter version, just upped the ante. A 5-2 English win would help Indian cricket more than a 4-3 Indian win. Time to wake up and smell the grass-stained trousers.

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deltoids: deploy

In blah, life, opinion, rant on August 19, 2007 at 6:24 am

Set piece: A somber room, in twilight glow, save for the center, which is brightly lit with a battery of powerful lights focusing directly beneath them. And there, you lie, anesthetized by the sleep-inducing chemicals entering your blood stream. Blissfully unaware of the millions of nerve endings screaming to those parts of your brain that can decipher the well-being of the body it resides in, that all’s not well. The individuals grouped around you have to make the decision as to whether the mass of sinew, bone and blood vessels that form your left arm (A) should be salvaged or (B) has to be amputated. The last thing you did before going under was to pick the team that huddles around you…

Team #1: A handpicked team comprising of a couple of orthopaedic specialists, vascular surgeon, a neurosurgeon, a seasoned anesthetist, with the requisite support staff

Team #2 : A team put together by making random sweeps of different areas of the city, taking care to represent all sections of society, professions, races, religions and so on and so forth

Now, what if you didn’t have that choice? That the decision was based on the following reasoning:

  • You are a successful white-collar professional who makes several multiples of your country’s per capita, hell, maybe even more than that of the most developed countries in the world
  • Yours is not a physical profession (e.g construction labor) plus you’re right-handed, so its not your dominant arm anyway
  • (A) (refer above) means you recover in 10 weeks and go back to your life, possibly rejuvenated and be more successful than ever
  • (B)  would mean you would require a prosthetic which means a chance for the company that manufactures those to stay afloat, also for the farmers who supply the raw materials to avoid penury

Fiction, all of it, macabre albeit.

But then how is it, that when it comes to making decisions that sculpt laws, policies that govern intakes into institutions of learning, zoning regulations that determine setting up of commercial hubs, financial policy that oversees utilization of gargantuan amounts of money are based on the overarching principle of “Majority Wins!”? that saffron-painted thugs can go burning vehicles and demolishing property in the name of the ‘common good’? Is the democratic way really about doing what’s best or is it the blunt instrument of the teeming worthless hordes? Maybe its time for a rethink?

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gamesmanship and happy returns

In blah, life, rant, sports on August 3, 2007 at 1:41 pm

“I drive a porsche…what car do you drive?” <drumrolls…thunderclaps…sharp intakes of breath even!> How could he?! The horror of it all!!! ummm….what? Apparently this l’il line picked up by the stump microphone during he 2nd test at trent bridge is the subject of much teeth gnashing. The reason? It was said in a clipped brit accent to one of India’s batsmen. As per Simon Barnes from The Times, this indicated the nadir of sportsmanship on the cricket field. He reckons “the combination of vulgarity and insensitivity is mind numbing”  because “is it a suitable remark to make to a man from a Third World nation who is a guest in your country?” He even goes on to call that hallmark of german engineering a “penis substitute”! 

In the process of getting his knickers in a twist, he seems to’ve forgotten that put together the match fees, board contract and the endorsement deals, the batsman in question would be making roughly about 5-10 times his english counterpart. More importantly, this insult would rank so low in the context of the typical sporting encounter, I think its entirely probable that the bloke was actually considering buying a Tata Indica and hence was comparing notes on mileage and maintenance. I guess when you make your living as a writer, you have to keep you ‘molehill locator’ on high alert all the time.

Broadcasters have taken to recording snippets of players introducing themselves rather than showing a graphic on screen. So, you have “Ian Bell…age 25…right hand bat” The 1st and 3rd bits of information, I have no problem with…I mean…wouldn’t look good to announce someone else’s name or to mislead ppl into thinking you’re a left-arm chinaman bowler when you’re not. Its that middle bit…I’d spent most of my cricket-watching ‘career’ seeing young ‘uns my age play the sport…not any more seemingly…l’il squirts…all born y’day…or the day before…who the hell allowed them onto the ground…oh ok..i’ll admit..am a year older…grrr…

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