Monthly Archives: March 2011

We won!!

An India – Pakistan encounter is not a cricket match. Those who believe it is, also believe that the earth is flat and that the Nazar Suraksha Kavach does work. Its a bloody war, baby.

I have memories of India-Pakistan encounters in the WC since childhood. In 1999, when Venkatesh Prasad, who still looked pissed about the Aamir Sohail incident, took a five for and knocked Pakistan out of the cup. Then the 2003 version where Sachin showed Virender Sehwag the Upar Cut, a shot that would be raped of all its glory in a lousy advertisement. Its true that they did beat us once in a while in between, but a Singer Cup is not the World Cup.

Like all the earlier matches, this one had its hype too, but nothing beats Rehman Malik’s immense show of confidence in his countrymen. Afridi’s bravado before the match about Sachin’s hundred was taken with a pinch of desh ka namak. Sachin does not need to be told when to score his 100th century.

By the time I reached the room, I was told India had won the toss and decided to bat. When I opened the door, the first thing I saw was Umar Gul’s expression, and I knew something was wrong. If Umar Gul wasn’t a cricketer, he would have been a street-theater performer. He comes up with the weirdest expression, and the ones he gives when he takes a wicket are about as pleasant as watching Bheeshm Pitamah running around in a park, serenading a heroine.

Umar Gul had just given away four boundaries, and bowled a no-ball, and the umpire was circling his hand above his head, signalling a Free Hit. The crowd was going crazy, the guys in the opposite building sounded as if something had caught fire. But the euphoria was short lived. Sehwag would perish, but not before he had created a platform that India could build a formidable score. But there was Sachin at the other end.

I know people will say this wasn’t his best innings, that he was like a cat that had six lives, and that he relied more on luck than anything else. True. But he did one thing that no one talks about. He saw off Afridi, the leading wicket taker of the tournament, and easily their best bowler so far. Yes, there were chances grassed, but there were also assertive shots that ensured Afridi did not begin yet another collapse.

Yuvraj Singh, in his defence got the ball of the match first up. An evil, swinging yorker that struck the base of the middle stump like a guided missile. Harbhajan again batted like he was batting for the State Bank of India team, and Ashish Nehra looked as comfortable with the bat as Kamaal R. Khan with an Academy Award.

Raina, who should be spending a considerable amount of his match pay buying lottery tickets considering the luck he has had in both the matches, yet again made sure he stood up and got counted. 260 seemed like the tricky score that you don’t know whether to chase in haste or with care, and you could trust the maturity of Pakistani batsmen to do the rest.

While they began, it looked like one of those days again. I was reminded of how India lost a bunch of matches in the 90s. Sanath Jaysurya would whack Prasad and Srinath to different parts of the ground and the match was over before you knew it. Zaheer Khan seemed to be going for runs, the gaps between the field seemed generational, and nothing seemed to be going India’s way.

But the fielding was surprisingly tight and it was just a matter of one wicket. One wicket, and one knew the others would come tumbling after. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had the expression of Arjun Rampal – expressionless – throughout the match, and it was his composure that gave us some confidence.

But before everything else, I would like to spend some time talking about India’s favourite cricketer the other side of the border – Misbah ul Haq. He has always been a mystery. He is not your average uneducated, uncouth, sledging Pak cricketer. He is always calm, smiling, and confident of his abilities. He is not flamboyant and more than willing to play Sahadeva to his other more flashy teammates.

But come a match with India and Misbah is the most charitable person in the world. He became a household name a few years back for attempting a Dilscoop with five runs remaining. But today, there would be no such madness. What he gave today was a lesson in match-fixing – playing innocuously slow in the middle overs, and then hit a few shots in the end when it didn’t matter to salvage some reputation. Not like those dumb fast bowlers who screwed it up in England last year.

I really do not know what he was thinking, and I seriously have no complaints. Misbah is living proof that history repeats itself, and how! By the 42nd over, I did not consider Misbah a threat. Afridi did play a few dangerous looking shots, but Harbhajan, who has been more consistent than him with the bat, gave him one full toss and he holed out with David Dhawan like predictability.

After that, the match was pretty much in the bag, it was just a matter of when. If Pakistan look back and see the highlights, they’ll realise how close they had come to winning the match, but till another four years, that’s all they can do.

After the match, I was relieved. So that I did not have to see another pelvic-darshan celebration from Afridi. So that Bal Thackeray would not give us another of his assertions of relevance. So that the record against Pakistan remains intact. We have played you five times. And no matter what the pitch, situation, or state of the team, we have beaten your asses hollow. So there!

You can win all the matches you want in between. We shall resume this discussion after another four years.

R.I.P. Orkut

A few months back, some friends were doing a Vox Populi, and the question was ‘Which is better – Orkut or Facebook?’

My answer was Orkut, without any doubt.

For most of us, surfing the web meant google or porn or sending cute e-cards to friends. Orkut brought a meaning to our virtual lives. We all had a name, an identity, and a Salman Khan DP. Orkut began the trend of being cool on the internet.

I am also partial to Orkut for the way it revived the cyber cafes in Orissa. After the desi-baba days of the early 2000s, cyber cafes in Orissa were losing business. You see, for half a decade, the cyber cafes were the melting pots of Oriya people of all kinds. College goers, couples, middle aged office goers, the local electrician, school children, and every few months, the friendly cops next door. It was a virtual Madhushala and they all flocked for their daily fix.

And the cyber cafes acknowledged their diverse clientele by breaking technological barriers. There was a cafe called ClassicNet. This guy was the Walmart among Cyber Cafes, simply due to the innovations he had brought about in the domain of one-handed surfing. So if you were sitting in ClassicNet, you would hear a voice going,

“Bhaiyya, isko kaise chalana hai?”

“Kuchh nahi, bas ‘Enter’ button dabao”

You see, the guy would add all the porn clips to the playlist in Windows Media Player, and keep them ready. All you had to do was pay him, enter your cabin, sit on the stool, and press ‘Enter’. Customer is king, you see. And even kings have their needs.

But the internet cafes were losing out to home internet connections, till Orkut struck us like a lightning. Cyber cafes were again full of people, college goers who were adding the latest Altaf Raja blockbuster to their profiles in the hope of getting that elusive girl in college. Though Orkut today looks like Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, it began it all.

Who can forget the excitement of seeing who visited your profile, and then disabling ‘profile visitors’ so you could check out girls’ profiles? And the profile pages that had the ‘Professional’, ‘Social’, and ‘Personal’ columns. The ‘Personal’ section, that had interesting questions like ‘Turn Ons’, and ‘Looking For’ – where guys would expect to see ‘Wild Sex with strangers’ on girls profiles.

Before Orkut, web surfing was a personal affair. With Orkut, it became a common thing where people could talk about. Having a cool ‘About me’ was a must. Something like, “I yam wat I yam. Its mah lyf. Skrw da wrld”.

And talking about each others Orkut profiles was the in-thing in college discussions. So one day, I meet this guy and he says,

“Dude, I saw your testis. They are awesome”.

I was like, “What the fuck? How did YOU see them?”

“Testimonials, dude. They are awesome!”

And the communities that everyone joined just for the heck of it. Joining a community was more so that you could show it off on your profile. There were communities for everything, there is even an ‘We love Antara Mali’ community. So you joined any damn community, the last activity in which would have been before you even started shaving.

And the ratings that your friends gave you. “You are 70% sexy, 50 % cool, 20% smart”. And the ‘scraps’ that you could send to your friends,

Everything was going well, before Orkut started to act smart. They introduced Privacy Settings. This killed half the joy of being on Orkut in the first place. I mean, who would want to browse a girl’s profiles if all her photos were blocked and she was ‘Looking for: friends’??

Gradually, Orkut began to ape Facebook for everything. There was more emphasis on users safety, which doesn’t make sense. We are a nation which zooms at 90 kph on rainy roads without a helmet. Whoever thought of users’ safety? Gradually, every feature on Orkut began to look like Facebook, including a ‘What’s on your mind?’ button. But Orkut was about mindless voyeurism. There was nothing on our minds when we surfed Orkut.

There were changes made every week to the layout and features, and the early Facebook users began to look down upon Orkut users. So if you were in college talking about the latest way to get colourful scraps to your profile, the FB user would give you a disgruntled expression, saying, “I am not on Orkut. I am now on Facebook.”

But Facebook is no comparision to Orkut. In Orkut, you could ogle at anyone for as long as you wanted. If you did the same on Facebook, you would get a

“You are my top stalker. Creep.” written on your wall the next day.

On Facebook, you cannot make ‘fraandship’ with anyone, as some people have even blocked the ‘Add as friend’ option. It’s more personal, more sauve, and as a result, sucks.

But Orkut was something else.

The Curse of being an Indian Fast Bowler

For every child in India, the ultimate dream was to grow up to be Sachin Tendulkar or Sunil Gavaskar. Have you ever heard a kid saying that he wants to be Venkatesh Prasad??

India is a country that loves its batsmen. They get the ads, the fans, the money. Spinners do hog the limelight once in a while, but it is after years of toil, or if they take all the wickets of a friendly neighbour nation. Fast bowlers, meanwhile, have no such luck.

It is more to do with the upbringing. In ‘mundu’ cricket (as we called galli cricket), the emphasis is always with the batsman. The kid who brings the bat to play, dictates the terms of the game, and is batsman cum third umpire, judging himself not out at regular intervals. Bowling was not cool. Batting was.

The lack of green pastures in cricket grounds is another reason for aspiring bowlers to look for greener pastures, like batting or wicket-keeping. And the same attitude is carried on when we grow up and only watch cricket. Batsmen are hailed as gods and bowlers are lesser gods, like Kubera or the Ashwini twins.

It was worse in the 90s, when Indian batting revolved around, began from, and merged with Sachin Tendulkar. A typical day in the office for the bowler would involve Sachin batting, with the remaining batsmen making short trips to the pitch. Which would be followed by the bowlers getting on to the dry, flat, dust-bowl of a pitch, bowling at a steady 125 kph, and getting whacked by the batsmen.

Indian fast bowlers, you see, are not the normal breed of fire-breathing kind who stop every few overs and remind the batsmen of his lineage. Indian fast bowlers put the ‘gentle’ in the Gentleman’s game. Their bowling, is selfless, harmless, very giving. This trait can be seen even today with Sreesanth for example. He bowls a few tight overs, and then, his heart goes out to the batsmen, and lo and behold! there is a nice, expensive little over so the batsmen doesn’t get depressed.

Another thing about Indian fast bowlers is their build. They are not huge and intimidating like West Indian quickies. They are gentle, 9 to 5 kinda blokes. India never had fast bowlers like Jeff Thomson or Curtly Ambrose. We did have Nilesh Kulkarni at 6’4, but he bowled a gentle slow left arm spin. They are not aggressive, do not sledge, do not give emphatic statements, and hence do not make for good news copy or ad material.

The first person who comes to mind when one talks of Indian fast bowlers is Javagal Srinath. Now, Venkatesh Prasad at least had his Prasad moment when he showed Aamir Sohail the index finger. Srinath did not have even that.

For eleven years, the man went about bowling on dusty tracks, in one-sided matches, and in lost causes without so much as an angry retort at a batsmen. I have never seen him sledge a batsman. In fact, in one instance, he hit a Sri Lankan batsman on the helmet, gave out a loud gasp of pain, and ran to the batsman to check if he was ok.

More the industrious than the flamboyant, Javagal Srinath epitomised India’s fast bowling in the last decade. Together with Venkatesh Prasad, he carried on his shoulders the rickety cart of fast bowling. While his counterparts would run up to the batsman and give him pieces of their mind, Srinath would quietly walk back to the bowling mark, drenched in sweat.

Through thick and thin, summer and winter, this one man just ran to his mark, and bowled a teasing line to batsmen, who were always given a sample of Indian hospitality everytime he bowled. He was the true gentleman, who once famously said, “I’m the fastest vegetarian bowler in the world”. Srinath grudgingly became a non-vegetarian when everyone blamed his diet for his pace. But they didn’t know that it was something within him.

Today, as India struggles to find a bowler to partner Zaheer Khan, one wishes we had that mustachioed man with the drooping shoulders run in and bowl a tight over outside off stump. Sadly, he never got his due.

As a tribute to the two guys, here are two ads. One of Srinath, and one of Prasad. If only we had them today!