Sunday Nov 17, 2013
After the Paralympic Games in London in 2012, a young man called Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda attracted a couple of days of headlines. His high jump silver had the perfect concoction for the sort of story you like to hear- emerging from penury, battling on despite a severe disability, jumping barefoot in a top-level competition - Girisha smiled easily and with a medal around his neck, the imagery was quite compelling. Upon landing at Delhi airport, he was greeted by a slew of eager TV crews. Where he delivered a sound-byte dripping with wide-eyed innocence - "Sachin Tendulkar is my hero," said Girisha, "and one day I would like to meet him."
Trained as I am in sniffing around for attractive Television content, I immediately sensed an opportunity to create an engaging primetime offering. "Wouldn't it be cool", I thought to myself, "If I could convince Sachin Tendulkar to have a brief chat with Girisha on our sports show in the evening". The ingredients for a heart-warming session were all in place - an athlete who has overcome disability gets an encouraging pep talk from his hero. Throw in the element of a surprise phone call from an 'admirer' while the show is on and it really becomes an everyone-wins scenario - Girisha gets a memory to cherish forever and my sports show stands out for its distinctive flavour.
Thursday Oct 24, 2013
"The number of two-Test series are becoming more common, which I would rather not happen at all because they are a nothingness of a nothing"- Rahul Dravid, August 2013.
The third ranked Test team in the world, yes the same one Dravid played for with distinction for sixteen years is about to embark on a schedule that features not one, not two but three such series! The visiting West Indians will be here as support cast to ensure the farewell party of a colossus goes smoothly. Two tests were all that were needed for a nice round number to cap off a mountain of statistical achievements. And then the boys hit the road for two against the World's top ranked team and another two against a team scraping at the bottom of the barrel.
Sunday Sep 22, 2013
I presume you've had a chance to sample the theme song for the Champions League T20. The supremely talented Mika invites you to groove to his beats. The slick promotion campaign urges fans to jump on the bandwagon. The embedded intelligentsia works subtly to rekindle your enthusiasm - Sachin vs Dravid on the first night for one last time, one Indian team in action at prime time on every night, sparkling talent from around the world, all the bells and all the whistles. Numb those senses my dear friends and swat your cynicism aside, just trust what you see and have fun.
As easily as we are seduced by this enchanting game, how much longer can the stench be dissipated by a cosmetic fragrance? While the 'rotten eggs' and 'bad apples' have been dealt with strongly, is their avarice simply a footnote in history? Or a pointer to just how this blatantly compromised structure operated? In a charge-sheet that runs for over 11,600 pages the Mumbai police seeks to establish a sickeningly methodical approach - play a cricket match so it produces a desired outcome.
Sunday Aug 04, 2013
Think back on how Parvez Rasool came to get his India call-up. After the exertions of a busy few months, India's national selectors decided the bowling unit needed a breather for a low profile series in Zimbabwe. So they went searching for like for like replacements for the incumbents. To substitute R Ashwin two choices were available. Either recall Harbhajan Singh, who had bowled reasonably well during the IPL. Or punt on Rasool, who had caught the eye over an impressive domestic season and made an impact with the India A team. They chose 24-year-old Rasool as part of a considered 'youth first' policy.
So Rasool was within touching distance of an India cap because he had shown the ability to take wickets with his offspin and score lower middle-order runs. But he wasn't just another up and coming Indian cricketer. Rasool was from Kashmir- and his was a story to celebrate. He had beaten the odds. He was a pioneer. Rasool was destined from that moment on to be more than just another cricketer.
Monday Jun 24, 2013
Imagine yourself court-side at Roland Garros or Flushing Meadows for the men's singles final. But the heavens have opened up and since these arenas do not have retractable roofs like Wimbledon or the Australian Open, you can't do much other than wait for the rain to relent. What if the organisers offered you a deal as the rain faded? Your finalists will now play a best of three set final and not best of five.
If they aren't able to get through three sets, they would share the title. You see, they have tickets booked to fly out of town on Monday and there is no provision for a reserve day to decide a winner. Ever heard of similar farce in tennis? No? Because it simply does not happen. Because tennis values its core value- the eminence of the contest above all else. Because administration in tennis is sensible not arbitrary. Because if you claim to be a world sport, you aspire to a standard of governance. On Sunday, cricket provided more evidence that it is run by a ridiculously amateurish method.
Thursday May 30, 2013
When the World Trade Centre was first attacked in 1993, the ambition of the plotters was no different to the more 'successful' attacks of eight years later. A bomb went off in the basement of the North Tower- it was intended to knock the North tower into the South Tower, bringing both down. The murder of thousands of people was only meant to be the by-product of a more devious design: To send the world a chilling image of the symbols of American supremacy collapsing in a heap of debris. The 1993 attack claimed just six lives and the towers stayed standing- Until 2001, when they were attacked with aeroplanes on the upper floors. As thousands of gallons of jet fuel started a vicious fire, the formidable steel holding the buildings together started to melt. Less than a couple of hours into the attack, down they came.
Indian cricket is now in an eerily familiar place. A savage missile laden with combustible fuel has attacked its top floor. The flames are in spate. Yet the occupant of that office imagines they will subside and ultimately extinguish, like they have in the past when lower floors were attacked. He clings to power merely for its sake. He is man of cricket, possibly ravaged by the excesses and indiscretions of his son-in-law. Privately turmoil may consume him, but publicly he must fight, for he knows no other way. But the steel in the edifice is starting to melt and a collapse lurks menacingly near.
Saturday May 18, 2013
Suddenly I am curious about rotten apples and bad eggs. I wonder if they mutate into rottenness on their own. Or does the air and water around play its part? Some apples in a bunch stay healthier than others. Bad eggs, I am reliably told float to the surface if you dip them in water. Apples and Eggs. They've been on my mind since the president of the Indian cricket board looked straight down a camera lens and offered this bit of comfort, 'A few bad eggs or rotten apples can't sully the game'. There was controlled rage in his voice, but we'd heard him say that before. A year or so ago in fact in ironically the same hill-town getaway. Say it if you will sir but the truth is inescapable - our game is sullied. The rotten apples and the bad eggs have left behind an unbearable stink.
Imagery has a place in our lives. On Thursday evening, one of the men paraded by the Delhi Police with his face covered in ignominy was an Indian Test cricketer and a double World cup winner. At about the same time, two captains were stepping out under the mountains in Dharamsala to toss ahead of a cricket match. It was a bewildering contrast. The Indian cricket follower was presented with a fait accompli. 'It appears some of what you were watching over the last few weeks was contrived', we were being told, 'be that as it may, here watch some more. That was just a few rotten apples and bad eggs, all is well'.
Wednesday Apr 24, 2013
Forty. Most men my age live in the anticipated dread of its arrival. Unless you are a career politician, forty tends to strongly hint at the passing of youth. Girlfriends are fading memories from another decade, exercise is that much harder, loan repayments dominate daily thoughts and spicy food needs medicinal intervention after. But as I hurtle towards Four O, the idea that Sachin Tendulkar is now that old is oddly comforting. For my generation, growing up alongside Sachin was a quirk of destiny. Sachin was zest and joy, energy and resolve, ambition and decency. Youth certainly won't dare abandon him at forty. And perhaps there is a smattering of hope for the rest of us too when the day arrives!
I remember 1989 well. It was dreadful. I was 13. A friend went to America in our summer break while I was yet to see what a passport looked like. And to make it worse, he came back with stories of how he kissed a girl on the sly! Amitabh Bachchan starred in Jaadugar and then Toofan. One Prime Minister had destroyed an unprecedented mandate. His replacement would question my right to a future on merit in my own country. There was just so much awful stuff around in 1989. And then one day, my dad in a casual conversation said a name: Sachin Tendulkar.