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Relieved!

Am I happy? Elated? Proud? Excited? Well actually, I’m all of these but the most prominent feeling is that of ‘Relief’. I’m relieved that finally, after such a long wait, I won’t have to wait for another 4 years. Every 4 years, I used to get excited about India’s prospects; Except maybe in 2007 when we had the white elephants – the Fab 4 and I knew there wouldn’t be much hope, but still I was excited. Every 4 years, I watched how India promised a lot but delivered little.

I still clearly remember 1996 where India floundered on a turning track against Sri Lanka and the crowd went crazy, Kambli cried and I still thought he could’ve done it and was surprised when the game was awarded to Sri Lanka…

I guess, 1999 is the only year which I don’t clearly remember and don’t know why.

I cannot forget 2003 where we first floundered against Australia in a league game and batting first were around 14 for 3 and was all over even before we started. But then we conquered all teams, came back to peak form and were on a high entering the finals but were massacred by the 360 of Australia. And the same story repeats itself, Big occasion, massive run chase, first over – Sachin facing McGrath tries to pull a slightly short ball which hurries on to him and he skies the ball, McGrath completes a caught and bowled and again, the game ends before it even started.

2007 was the most horrible experience, in that we got a royal sendoff by minnows Bangladesh. The batting line up that included the Fab 4 folded for a measly 183 but the commentators were still upbeat about India’s chances. Tamim Iqbal had no such doubts and he thrashed everyone, including Zaheer all over the park and Dravid’s flustered face during that match became the face I hate the most in this world. Out went India from the first round and with it, another long wait of 4 years began.

And now I know why there is a feeling of relief overpowering everything else. Because, I always thought we were good enough to win the World Cup. I personally hate it when I know I’m capable of something but can’t accomplish it. I hate it when I am proven wrong about something over and over again; that I believed the Indian team was good enough to win the World cup but every 4 years, other teams said NO, INDIA CAN’T DO IT; and this went on for a good 28 years. That is almost my entire life. On every exit, I’d feel like a stone sinking to the bottom of the ocean and I’d know that it would be another 4 years till someone comes by and fishes me out. I would then block those unpleasant thoughts out of my mind and try and continue watching; celebrating every small win, every test win and every forced retirement of the white elephants. Finally, I’m relieved, I’ll have to do this no more and I can revel in this glory, at least for the next 4 years. I’m relieved that my team has finally performed… and proven me right.

And here are the winning moments that I will re-live over and over again…

And here is that winning moment in slowmo, the calm look in those eyes at such a moment is unreal – almost scary.

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Sometimes I wonder, what is it about ‘Greatness’ that is so selective in nature. Why can’t there be a lot of Greats because every person should ideally strive to be the best that he can be. And I wonder, what is it that makes a lot of ‘Greats’ be so vain that they cannot see when their time is up. Life is, after all, a journey and no matter what some silly lines might suggest that ‘Time stood still when… (she looked at me / Warne came on to bowl / Sachin raised his bat)’; believe me, it is all nonsense. Just that a few ‘Greats’ do not accept this brutal truth and want to latch on to those few moments when they removed their shirt, and time did stand still.

Saurav Ganguly, better known as the ‘Bengal Tiger’ or the ‘God of Off Side’ or some ‘Maharaja’ is definitely one of those ‘Greats’ who characterized the marked change in the attitude of India and Indians towards the world. India went from being a meek sidey pushover to the Bull in the pit, not only in cricket but also in other areas of World recognition such as Business, Economics and even Bollywood. Suddenly, during those few years, Indians decided that they didn’t need to take ‘shit’ and found a new confidence to stand up against their ‘white’ counterparts in all fields. I guess, before Ganguly ‘roared’, even the BCCI never fully realized its economic clout in world cricket.

Unfortunately, the ‘Greatness’ promised by Ganguly remained just that – a promise; unfulfilled coz. ‘Greatness’ cannot leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth. Greatness cannot be literally told to ‘get out’ when it still wants to be in. Greatness, among other things includes, knowing when to Quit. The career of many a great sportsmen passes through domestic level, club level and finally to international level. The career of Saurav Ganguly albeit seems to reverse this pattern, just like that guy Benjamin Buttons’ life in that movie. Being out of International cricket, he has been shown the door by the IPL owners and once he’s out of the IPL, he might as well finally quit Domestic cricket. The Hero has fallen.

Do not for a minute think that we Indians know nothing better than to deride greatness. We loved his hairy chest (not like someone loves a chest but figuratively speaking) when he removed his shirt during that Natwest Final, we loved him when he creamed deliveries through the off side even though the team put 7 players to cover his cover drives, we loved him when he stood by players he believed in, and when he held his head high and carried on with his job in the wake of the match fixing crisis.

Though the announcement of his retirement sounded a little funny considering, he did retire from International cricket and none of the IPL franchises were interested in him, there wasn’t really anything for him to go on, I still thought of remembering the guy. But again, even in the dying moments of his career, he displays he still wants to latch on to his past and claims to have never spoken of retirement, though a lot of people have already published ‘tributes’ for his farewell. Somehow, this reminds me of our Principal’s speech during our Annual Day celebration in school when in the middle of his long speech, all of a sudden, the students would start clapping, not in adulation, but to let him know that his time is up.

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Last night while watching India bat against West Indies, I was getting this sinking feeling. Actually, it has been a while since I got this feeling. It felt like the 90s and the early 2000s all over again: India choking whenever there is a big match. I know, we can’t win it all but what is disappointing is the manner in which we fold up in big matches.

But then, being the all optimistic Indian that I am, I tweeted this…

“Technically, even if we loose, and the SL & WI loose from Aus by a big margin and India defeat SL, we could still be in the semis”

The rest of the evening, my mind was on Group F run rates and I turned to the cricket channel every now and then to see how SL was faring. Just before going off to bed, I checked the score – SL were 26 for 2… no make that 3 as a Dirk Nennes Yorker just caught Jayasurya plumb in front! Some relief, I thought. I knocked on my brother’s door who was already half asleep and updated him with the score: SL 26 for 3. He in his sleep, still had his brains working and said… ‘Still not possible’. I knew he didn’t mean it. I knew he’d sleep better on hearing this score.

After an hour of churning in the bed, I woke up to have water and again rushed to the TV. I saw the program “Great Centuries”. I was ecstatic coz. this could mean only one thing – SL were all out. I opened up the laptop and checked the score “SL loose by 87 runs”. YIPPPEEEE….. Now I could sleep in peace.

When I woke up at 6.30, my brother was already up and the first words I uttered were “SL 87 All Out”. “Really” he jumped with joy (see I told you). After all, all of us Indians are hopeless romantics, no?

We sat down (without even brushing our teeth, everybody else sleeping and we were getting late for office but all of that could wait) and started discussing the possibilities and the run rates. I checked the sites, got out a calculator and calculated the run rate deficit. We came up with a figure of 40. If India defeats Sri Lanka by 39 runs, we could be in the semis. Tough ask but possible…

Back in office, immersed in files, I got a call from my brother again. He asked, “How did we calculate the deficit of 39?” I explained him the run rate and said that SL is -0.6 and India is -1.58 so if India have to reach -0.6, India need to win by 39 runs… Immediately I realised the error. If India defeats SL, India’s run rate would get better while SL would get worse. So we just need to meet them half way and voila, the all important number comes down to 20. This is huge. I mean, a win against SL by only 20 runs looks quite possible. Especially, considering the fact that Indian batsmen love Sri Lankan bowlers when it comes to big tournaments.

So again we pat each other’s back on reducing India’s target by 20 runs; and get back to work, a tad happier.

But the point of this post is not the important number but introspection over why, are we such hopeless optimists?

This hasn’t happened for the first time. I’m sure all of you Indians reading would realise that this is a very frequent situation wherein India loose the first few games and then we hang our hopes on other teams to win their matches and let us in the next stage. There may be few who might, from the start say, India will be out of the Super 8s but I swear to God, they don’t believe themselves. More often than not, they are saying it only because of a superstition that whatever they say turns out to be false. But we believe, we do believe, that it’s not over till it is over. Why?

Is it the Hindi movies that do this to us? The movies where the Hero (or even Heroine now) always needs a six off the last ball and always hits it? The movies where inspite of being shot a 100 times, the hero does manage to travel half the country and reach the hospital… (all on foot) and survive to wake up fresh the next day, just with a few bandages on his chest?

Is it the 9000 odd Gods that do this to us? We always have someone to go to like even if you’re disappointed by Shiv Bhagwan, someone will tell you of a Devi Mata’s temple where if you go barefoot, your prayers will be answered? And then there’ll be a special temple of Bajrang Bali. If that doesn’t work, try Hajipir and so on and so forth…

Or is it that old dingy song that we used to sing in school that has stuck… “Hum honge kaamyab

I mean, seriously, what is it?

(Btw, 20 is indeed that all important number for the next two days)

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India vs. Pakistan

Pakistan set India a target of 303, an asking rate of 6.06. India loses by 54 runs with Dravid top scoring with 76 of a 103 balls. The record books will show that Dravid was the best performer in the Indian batting line up but the other batsmen did not perform so India lost. But the truth cannot be far from this scorecard.

Why? That is the truth – Only Dravid scored, everyone else failed.

Dravid scored at a rate of 4.4 runs an over and he used up 17 overs. So effectively, the rest of the batsmen had to score 227 runs out of 33 overs – a required rate of 6.87.

But that is why he is in the team. He is to play the role of an anchor while others around him can score big.

True. He can be a sheet anchor to an extent. Like when he was in partnerships with Gambhir and Raina, he could afford to be the sheet anchor and hold fort at one end while the other batsman was blazing away. But when Yousuf Pathan came into bat, he was a big disappointment. Ideally since Pathan was new to the crease, any batsman who has been set for over an hour and scored 50 runs would be expected to change gears and ease the pressure by scoring a few boundaries while Pathan settles down at the other end. But Dravid continued to do the only thing he knows – take a single and get off the strike. The poor Pathan who had just come in had to start hitting shots without getting his eye in. And the obvious happened. He got out trying to go for a big hit.

What is an even bigger shame was that when after Pathan, Harbhajan came in, Dravid again continued to do the same – take a single and get off the strike. This is the best way to get off responsibility and keep your score inching ahead. This is quite evident from the fact that chasing a target of 303, Dravid could manage to hit only 4 boundaries in his 103 ball innings.

Usually when Dravid walks in to bat, everyone on the other end tries to up the scoring so as to ease the pressure on Dravid and allow him to get his eye in. But not Dravid. Coz. he has a limitation. He doesn’t know anything else other than take singles. Yes if you bowl on his pads, he’ll hit the occasional boundary but that’s it.

Add to that the fact that Dravid was clearly responsible for running Gambhir out. He called for a single and then stopped. Gambhir had to turn back and was short coz. of a direct hit. This happened at a time when Gambhir was looking dangerous.

But even Dhoni failed and so did Virat Kohli.

Yes, they did fail and this post is not about Dhoni or Virat Kohli. Their scorecards revealed that they failed and that is the truth. This post is about why the score-card that shows Dravid is a top performer, is nothing but a lie because he was pathetic – truly pathetic. For instance, when Pathan got out, India still needed some 70 odd runs from 10 overs. The top-scorer was still at the crease. If at that point say you had a Yuvaraj or a Dhoni or a Sehwag or a Gambhir or a Sachin or any other batsman, there would still be hope. But with Dravid on the crease, it never even looked remotely possible. He was still taking singles.

Why have a batsman in the side who is on the wrong side of his 30s, who is incapable of changing gears when the situation demands so, who is a below average fielder and his catching skills has also gone for a toss, who is definitely not in the scheme of the team’s future and who has a career scoring rate of only 4.27 per over. He does his own thing regardless of the target or the situation. He lets pressure eat up the rest of the batsmen and finally when it is beyond him, he gets out with the top score. Yes he scores runs but at his own pace. He is severely limited and the moment you have an asking rate of 6 an over, it is well and truly beyond him.

But all of this will be deemed just emotional because the scorecard will never reveal what happened yesterday. It will not show that Dravid did not take responsibility when he was well set; it won’t reveal that he took a single and got off strike instead of taking the strike and scoring some runs; it won’t reveal that he was on self-preservation mode. What it will show is that he was the top scorer but India lost because nobody else performed.

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IPL Goes the NRI Way

But Has Terrorism has found an ally in Politics?

The BCCI has finally discovered what millions of Indians had discovered long back – Foreign land. Millions of Indians now live outside India and while they revel in foreign lands shopping in huge hyper markets choosing between 5 different brands of packaged yogurt, they always claim that their heart remains in India (and in the home made curd prepared in steel vessels warmed in the gas cylinder compartment). The drive the fanciest of mercs and chargers on expressways but claim to miss the drive in their rattly Santro on pot-holed Indian roads with dust grime and the truck ahead’s poisonous emissions mixing in their car’s perfume. They write blogs about everything Indian – Indians, customs, politics all knowing very well that they do not even have the right to vote but what the heck, “our heart is in the right place” or so they think. So why is it that in spite of being the most loyal followers of India, they go and make their lives elsewhere, just coming back for a trip once in a few years and regularly sending Forex to India thinking they are “doing their part”. Well, the BCCI just touched a few chords here.

With its announcement that it will be shifting the IPL outside India, the BCCI has done what a large numbers of NRIs have done – run away from the lethargy, the red tape, the politics and the corruption that is fast becoming the bane of India. What this means is that the staunchest Indian fan would have to suffice by watching the matches on Television with an ad break every 3 and half minutes while NRIs would lounge in a half empty stadiums sunbathing and drinking beer while watching the best of cricket in their own backyards. It would also mean that the cheer leaders would no longer have to worry about covering up. But apart from these trivial issues, in these times, it would also spell doom for the state cricket boards, the hotel chains, the airlines and loads of others who expected that the IPL would at least make them achieve their second quarter targets quite early. But what the heck, who cares? At least the Establishment doesn’t care.

The Establishment is worried about Politics – Congress and NCP are locking horns and this is one way of getting back at each other. The BJP ruled states gave a green light to the IPL whereas the Congress led states raised their hands, expressing inability to provide adequate security. The theory was reinforced in Maharashtra where the Congress chief minister expressed his inability while the NCP Home minister confirmed that they could provide adequate security to both events the IPL and the General Elections.

What does this tell you about India as a country? The IPL dates were announced months before the election commission announced the dates for the General elections. This could definitely have been avoided. I’m sure the EC considers major festivals like Diwali while deciding on the election dates. Could they have forgotten the IPL? Or did they think that the million dollar cricket franchises and international players wouldn’t mind re-arranging their schedules on short notice. Of course, the Elections cannot be held during any other month than April, can they?

But I’m sure, the BCCI isn’t complaining. Where it would need to spend a lot more on travel and staying arrangements, it would equally save a lot that would’ve otherwise been used in greasing palms and oiling the machinery in India.

So finally, who loses out in all this hoopla?

The Indian public who would’ve filled the stadiums to capacity and would’ve got a reason to be happy and paint their faces blue;

The hotel operators, air lines, tour operators, state cricket associations who would’ve earned their share in the pie;

But most of all, the perception of India as a nation in its ability to schedule and organize successful events of such magnitude. This will definitely be judged against us whenever International sport bodies are deciding venues for events as the Olympics, Asian Games and World cups.

The Taliban is definitely happy! The Congress is happy, And yes, so is Mithunda and the ICL.

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And while this post was brewing in my mind, there is news about the BJP being issued a recommendation by the EC on not giving a ticket to Varun Gandhi to contest the elections and BJP replying back strongly contesting the authority of the EC to give such a recommendation.

I tell my brother, Just see Navin, who gets justice in India? Raj Thackrey walks free, Varun Gandhi, Sanjay Dutt, Shibu Soren, everyone walks free, did Jessica Lal get justice, there are scores of other high profile cases against politicians, leaders, powerful businessmen, Mayawati, Lalu Yadav, who actually gets justice in India? Just imagine the plight of a common person; If he gets bullied or beaten by a powerful goon for no fault of his, he has nowhere to turn to. Doesn’t this give rise to the mob culture? Coz. the mob thinks there is no justice for us, let’s find our own justice. The law and order situation is so corrupt and now even IPL is moving out because of this dirty politics and lethargy. Isn’t this the reason why even You and I left India?

And he says “Maybe, this is the situation because you and I left India.

I convince myself thinking, if in spite of being powerful and having loads of money at its disposal, even IPL had to leave, then I’m just another number in the crowd. And btw, my heart is in the right place, or so I think.

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