Category Archives: Cricket

Imperfect Sanjay Manjrekar

Book Review: ‘Imperfect’ by Sanjay Manjrekar

I have always felt that great cricketers make poor writers.

Writing requires the discipline and sage-like patience of the first session of a Test match. And I believe most great players have run out of their patience and hence choose to either steal cheeky singles or go for the almighty slog while writing their books.

I had read Allan Donald’s White Lightning – but the book tells us a lot about the man, his thinking, and his motivations – but reveals little about apartheid, and the colourful days of South Africa’s return to cricket. Shoaib Akhtar’s Controversially Yours suffered from the author ‘performing’ too much. In his effort to present a colourful story, Shoaib sacrifices narrative for histrionics.

And then, the most boring book I’ve ever read in my life – Sachin Tendulkar’s Playing It My Way – written in collaboration with Bore-ya Mazumdar. Sachin’s book – like his track record in Rajya Sabha – is devoid of any excitement. It has been stripped of any human emotion like fear, envy or resentment.

Which brings me to Sanjay Manjrekar.

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My earliest memories of Sanjay Manjrekar are of confusing him with Sachin Tendulkar. They were both openers, and around the same height. They both batted with impeccable technique, but for a few key differences – Sanjay wore a white helmet and played a lot slower than Sachin did.

He was however, a terrific fielder – and has pulled off some amazing catches in his playing days. I also recall that he retired sometime around 1997 and then went on to sing songs, before finding his voice in the commentary box.

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Now, the problem with writing a book in India is the classic India question – Tune Kya Kiya Hai, bhai?

It is a problem people like Sanjay Manjrekar and Murali Karthik face in the commentary box. Every time they make a comment on a player’s game, the first thing trolls ask on social media is ‘What right do YOU have to talk about a player like Kohli’? Unfortunately, in our pea-brained understanding of critique, you have to achieve something equal or greater than the person you are critiquing to be able to say anything about the person.

Sanjay Manjrekar – a well read and erudite cricketer – knows the importance of an impactful first chapter. And he takes a leg stump guard from the very first ball. In fact, the very first line in the book talks about how the author has never touched a bat since the day he retired. That his idea of a perfect day is to sit in the darkness of a theater and watch a movie. That if his father wasn’t Vijay Manjrekar, he probably would have been something else in life.

Sanjay Manjrekar understands the importance that cynicism plays in the life of an Indian, and rests those fears from the first over. Having forced the reader to change his line and length, Sanjay Manjrekar goes on to play the steady, assured innings that he had built a reputation for.

What Manjrekar does differently – and thank god for that! – is refusing to rabble in numbers and statistics. I find most Indian autobiographies to be detailed statistical sheets. What he does instead, is to make it an engaging personal story. The name ‘Imperfect’ makes a lot of sense as you go on to read about the man, his obsession with technique, and the constant, looming fear of a perfectionist.

Instead of cramming the book with chronological numbers and statistics, Manjrekar takes a path of his own. The first chapter is dedicated to his father – the legendary Vijay Manjrekar – and yet, he does not adopt a reverential tone. Chucking a chronological narrative, the author has divided the chapters as ‘Pakistan’, ‘West Indies’, ‘Australia’ – and my favourite – Mumbai school of batting.

Shivaji Park in Mumbai.

Shivaji Park in Mumbai.

Having read Arvind Adiga’s Selection Day, I have been fascinated with Mumbai, and the constant churning out of batting geniuses who arrive from the jagged shorelines of Mumbai. In the chapter ‘Mumbai school of batting’, Manjrekar lays bare the grind, grime and grit that makes Mumbai kids bat for days at stretch. There are wonderful snippets – like the ‘mantra’ Mumbai kids tell themselves before every ball – ‘I am not going to get out this ball’.

The book also changed my opinion on a few characters – Ravi Shastri and Gavaskar, for example. I generally find the duo overbearing and omnipresent. But reading the book, I was able to see Shastri in new light. A man who could have chilled out, joined politics, run a business – and earned millions. But the fact that he has been involved with cricket since the day he retired – is proof of his love for the game. Similarly too, with Gavaskar. There are heart-warming stories of Gavaskar being Sanjay’s senior at Nirlep (cricketers in those days worked desk jobs during off-seasons), and how Gavaskar would give him advice to tackle bouncy pitches from his cabin.

There is also my personal favourite – the much-maligned Manoj Prabhakar. Stories of his humanity, his jest, and how he was the first Indian bowler to learn the art of reverse swing from the Pakistanis. One of my pet-goals in life is to redeem Manoj Prabhakar in Indian media, and Manjrekar’s book paints a warm picture of the man who bore the brunt for match-fixing.

Instead of talking down to the reader, Sanjay peppers the book with wonderful anecdotes

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But more than anything, the book is an honest portrayal of the man himself. For someone who sounds unabashedly biased towards India in the commentary box, Sanjay Manjrekar displays tremendous maturity as a writer. He is comfortable talking about his slide, his lack of form, or the need for fame.

He has no qualms admitting that he wanted the ‘fame’ that came with Indian cricket. He admits to shouting at Mumbai bowlers while he was the state captain. He also admits that he was not the most talented and used hard-work and OCD-levels of preparation in his technique. He bares his heart out in the portions where he was dropped from the national side, and on playing in the domestic league after tasting the giddying heights of being a national player.

Sanjay Manjrekar comes across as a logical, rational, disciplined man. A man obsessed with his craft, a man who clamoured for fame, but also realised when he saw Rahul Dravid, ‘that his time was up’.

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The last cricket book I read – Sachin’s Playing it my way – reads like a Sanjay Manjrekar innings of the 90s – slow, safe, steady. Sanjay’s book reads like a Sachin Tendulkar innings in the late 2000s. He starts a little shakily, takes time to settle in, and then pulls out glorious drives, completely at ease.

Sanjay Manjrekar’s Imperfect could not have been better named. It is humane, witty, and a thoroughly satisfying read. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best cricket-based book that I’ve read.

*****

India South africa test

An Angry Rant about the First Test vs South Africa

Before I begin,

If you do not follow cricket, this post might not be for you. I am sorry; I had resolved to write lesser about cricket, but who can explain to bawra mann? 

Also, if you’re the kind whose general reaction to everything in life is ‘Tu karke dikha’ – kindly stop reading. The only way to go from there is to bang one’s head against the wall.

I cannot play for India. I do not wish to play for India, and even if I did, the closest I could get to the pitch is the cheap tickets in Barabati Stadium. But that does not mean I cannot have an opinion on matters. We are human beings after all, and prone to anger and rants.

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If you looked at the scorecard decades from now, the picture you will get of the Test match is of India folding up in two and a half days to a ferocious South African line-up. However, unlike T20 cricket, Test cricket thrives in between the lines of the scorecard. The intervals between overs, an inspired bowling change that runs through line-ups.

What the scorecard will not show decades later, is that India actually had a chance to win the match. There were a few sessions where you’d assume India was going to win it. When I closed my eyes, I could see Kohli taking off his shirt and dancing to ‘Tenu suit suit karda’, as Shikhar Dhawan does the bhangra next to him (where, unlike while batting, his footwork is impeccable).

While we are on the topic, let us begin at the top of the order.

1. Shikhar Dhawan 

It’s baffling what he’s doing at the crease. He seems woefully out of touch, and to his credit, stuck to his natural game. However, a lot has been said about this ‘playing your natural game’ bullshit; what they don’t tell you is that greatness is about adapting. If playing one’s natural game was such a great trait, Venkatesh Prasad should be among the greatest batsman. The man played his natural game for 15 years – to hold the bat and swing it like a drunk Amazonian Shamans driving away spirits. He was picked over KL Rahul, a player with a decent overseas record, and the next few weeks seem difficult for Gabbar Singh.

 

2. Murali Vijay 

I actually quite like Vijay, simply for the reason that he has the ability to leave balls consistently. Anybody can hit the ball, but to watch the ball leave the bowler’s hand, follow the trajectory, track the lateral movement, judge the bounce, and then let it go – is an intricate skill that requires the practice of a shaolin master and the temperament of a monk.

In this Test however, Murali turned up as Vijay in Puli, slashing at everything outside Off Stump. Even though he will definitely be picked for the Second Test, Murali needs to stop being Vijay and start being Arjun Rampal – wooden.

 

3. Cheteshwar Pujara

Pujara is the last of a generation.

A breed of batsmen who play to save matches. Who will take everything you throw at him, and softly knock them down. Amidst gladiators and butchers, he’s a calligraphy artist sitting under the shade of a mosque. Pujara doesn’t rake in the moolah in T20 leagues, he isn’t seen in ads and interviews. He simply takes guard and leaves balls.

Pujara couldn’t build on solid starts in the first Test. And even when he does, he takes as much time as Shah Jahan took to build the Taj. Pujara needs to step up, as he’ll be our mainstay Test batsman in the grueling tours to England and Australia.

 

4. Virat Kohli 

Since becoming the Captain, Virat Kohli has been going through a beautiful, psychedelic purple patch. Centuries, double-centuries, interviews with Gaurav Kapur that show his softer side – it was all going smooth for Cheeku.

But being the captain of the Indian team is the most stressful job in the country. Virat Kohli has to juggle his impeccable form, a team that often turns up like it’s hungover from a Bacherlors’ Party the previous night, and alien conditions.

Kohli looked solid in both the innings. Unlike his other brethren, Kohli didn’t mistake batting for fishing. He was middling the ball well and even counter-attacked the ball in patches.

I know it is easy to comment in hindsight, but Kohli’s choices with the bowling department actually gave us whatever chances we had of winning the match. However, his choices in the batting department seemed like a friendly school captain picking his favorites.

 

5. Rohit Sharma

Mr. Talent.

Mr. Super Talent.

Mr. Super Duper Earth-shattering Orgasm-inducing Talent.

Never wins us matches in difficult conditions.

In spite of all his one-day heroics, I not a huge fan of the Hitman, because pressure gets the better off him. He’s great when the pitch is flat as a highway and India is batting first against West Indies in Haridwar.

But you cannot select a player to an away Test series, based on his One-Day form in Vadodara. It defies all sorts of logic, even that of ‘current form’ that Kohli spoke about after the match. A lot has been said about Sharma’s ‘natural game’, but I think it is more about ‘natural conditions’.

Rahane might not hit the double-hundreds and blow kisses to his wife. He might not be the captain of the richest IPL side. He might not be the sort who appears in ads for children in supermarkets.

But he’s a better Test batsman.

 

6. Hardik Pandya

A dream Test debut, except for the fact that India lost the match in two and a half days.

It is difficult to expect Pandya to apply himself and play the waiting game. Some things just don’t work like that. Can you imagine asking Sehwag to sit with you through a game of Brainvita? He would break the plastic board and shove the marbles up your alimentary canal.

It is the same with Pandya. His contribution with the bat at the lower order is extremely important, and could change matches. In fact, the only time South Africa looked vulnerable in the match was when he was on song.

Sure call-in for the next Test.

 

7. Wriddhiman Saha 

Adbhut, adamya. Saahas ki pari-bhaasa hai
Ye mitati maanavta ki aasha hai
Foreign pitches pe, yeh magician hai
Ye insaan nahi nahi hai ye avtar hai
Wriddhiman…Wriddhiman…WRIDDHIMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN

(Wriddhi Wriddhi Wriddhimaan…Wriddhi Wriddhi Wriddhimaan).

Wriddhiman is a strange creature. The face of a horse, the temperament of an elephant, the batting skills of an orangutan. Wriddhiman Saha displayed all the composure of a newly-married man in his in-laws house for the first time.

He flashed at balls that he thought he could smash. He blocked balls that turned their face away like a miffed girlfriend. He poked at balls that turned and zipped. He did whatever the fuck he wanted.

He is a good keeper, but his batting is the stuff of art. I wish he remains in the team just so I can see him bat. It’s cathartic and self-harming at the same time. Like Main Hoon Indra the Tiger on Zee Cinema at 11:30 in the night.

 

8. R. Ashwin 

Another bowler who is Aamir Khan on home pitches, but quickly transforms to Kamaal Khan on away pitches. R. Ashwin however, brings in a lot more than his bowling – his calm, zen-like batting. His technique seemed stronger than anybody else’s in the team. And it isn’t even his main skill.

In fact, I wonder what could be the main skill of a spinner on fast, bouncy South African pitches? Ashwin will continue to remain in the team, and should look to quickly go through the overs and remember that life is an interval between pain and pleasure. That he needs to grin and bear it and see out 2018, and Srini Mama will organise four tournaments with Zimbabwe and Gwalior.

 

9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar 

The only potential match-winner in the team, it is hard to dislike Bhuvi.

He bats like his life depends on it. He swings the ball both ways. And is probably the first Indian pacer to add a few yards of pace to his bowling without losing his ability to swing the ball.

Unlike the batsmen of the team who are all bravado and Chak De and moustache-twirling, thigh-slapping mushtande, I like how the bowlers in the Indian team carry themselves. They are quiet, unassuming, and go about their job without any hungama. In their company, even Pandya looks like he’s read a few Paulo Coelho books to keep up.

 

10. Mohammed Shami

I doubt there are any Shami fans in the country. The guy looks like a carpenter you’d call on Urban Clap, has no histrionics to offer, and runs in and bowls fast like a disciplined, hardworking IITian.

In fact, the only times Shami is in the news is when moronic Muslims troll him on Twitter. I wonder if it gets to him. A lackluster test for the man, but still a better bet than Ishant Sharma. Shami has never played for long stretches of time due to injuries, and once shudders at the thought of him being dropped for Ishant Sharma.

Ishant Sharma is only in the team because he doesn’t get injured. And Shami is absent from the team only when injured.

 

11. Jasprit Bumrah 

A surprise package that could be dropped for Umesh Yadav in the second Test, this is Bumrah’s first grueling tour. In the next few months, Jasprit will realise what it means to be an Indian fast bowler.

What it means to be clobbered around by opposition batsmen in spite of the conditions offering pace and bounce. What it means to look around the ground and find none of the other pacers want to have a go.

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While the bowling unit over-performed throughout the Test, India’s batsmen look like they came on a family tour to South Africa that was sponsored by the State Bank of India. Half the batsmen through their wickets away. KL Rahul and Rahane were left out for two swashbuckling batsmen who didn’t really swash their buckles.

The second Test will be the real Test. Questions will be raised. Fingers will be pointed. Blood will be bayed for.

And oh, somebody pointed out that Kohli’s average after marriage is 16.5 !!

Indian Womens Cricket final PC- sportswallah.com

Stop Patronising the Women’s Cricket Team

After decades of single column articles in newspapers, Indians suddenly started watching women’s cricket.

After decades of pay disparity, subpar facilities, and step-motherly treatment, Indians suddenly woke up, had a lazy Sunday lunch and decided to do their bit for the nation by watching the finals of the Women’s Cricket World Cup. There can be two explanations for this.

  1. The recent rise in jingoism among India’s urban middle class. The habit of going online and screaming slogans and bullying everybody who criticises the country. A lazy, shitty trend where Indians think they’re protecting the nation’s image by spewing venom on social networking sites, while Mark Zuckerberg smiles in his bed every night.
  1. Mostly sexist or patronising bullshit about how ‘India’s daughters’ are no less than India’s sons, or articles and videos about how pretty the women cricketers are.
Winner of the Miss Malini Terrific Journalist of the Year award

                                       Winner of the Miss Malini Terrific Journalist of the Year award

 

Or take for example this tweet by Rishi Kapoor – a man who is 10th pass, has led a life of privilege, and spends his evenings drunk on Twitter – but has been made a social commentator by the brains in Indian media.

Aila! Barfi ka baap sexist gaandu hai

                                                  Aila! Barfi ka baap sexist gaandu hai

Stuff like this makes you question if the following Indian women’s cricket is receiving is actually for the better. If it’s worth it. So when my friend switched on the Indus Valley civilisation television in the room, I began watching the match with mixed feelings.

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By evening, my timeline was flooded with a mishmash of hashtags, pictures, and wishes for India’s daughters. Mostly patronising bullshit on the lines of ‘Hey good job, we are proud of you’ and ‘Mhari chhoriyaan chhoron se kam nahi’.

Honestly, I don’t know if these guys really watched the match, or have any understanding of the sport of cricket. Because the finals was actually a terrible match. India worked hard to wrest the match from their erstwhile colonisers, only to squander it all away with amateurish strategy in the final lap.

In case you missed the match, this is what happened.

England opted to bat first, scoring 228 – a score many would consider sub-par with India’s in-form batting line up. In response, India’s innings played out like a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie – interesting in the beginning, but making you question your time management skills by the end.

There couldn’t have been a better example of ‘throwing away a match’. Mithali Raj had to sprint for a dangerous single, and didn’t bother even dragging her bat or putting in a dive. Smriti Mandhana looked like she had taken the earlier article seriously and sent in Disha Patani to bat for her. Harmanpreet Kaur played an almighty heave just after reaching her 50, in a final no less! Veda Krishnamurthy’s innings would have given Sehwag a few heart attacks, and Deepti Sharma gifted her wicket when the team needed it most. The rest of the team hacked mindlessly at deliveries without a care in the world, and a match that should have been won in 43 overs was left to rot and go sour.

In all honesty, India threw away a match that was right in their pocket.

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If anything, I feel bad for Mithali Raj, who deserved to win the tournament. Mithali Raj owns a string of cricketing records, including the most runs scored by a woman ever. She’s been playing for India since 1999 but has admittedly been let down by a team that never was good enough. Mithali Raj deserved to go out with a bang!

They said that this match could change the face of women’s cricket in the country. Probably. But I wish we Indians weren’t so patronising to the women’s cricket team. If anything, they need sponsors, better facilities, and following. Lots and lots of following. If you truly want to support the team, watch their matches. And take your patronising statements and shove them up your ass.

The Indian men’s cricket team is not followed due to an inherent sexism, even though we ARE a very sexist society. From the shaky 90s to the semi-confident 2000s, to the terrific 2010s, the craze for cricket has coincided with improved performances from the men’s team over the decades.

If people follow you and you do not perform, the following will wane. Look at our hockey team, now watched by lesser people than Bajrang Dal activists on Valentine’s Day. Or Altaf Raja – once the heartthrob of millions, now relegated to gutkha wrappers and pencil boxes.

On the other hand, look at sports like badminton, where women enjoy far greater following because they’ve outperformed men. The most famous male badminton player in India unfortunately, is still Jeetendra in Dhal Gaya Din, Ho Gayi Shaam.

Winner of Chennai Badminton Open

                       Winner of Chennai Badminton Open wearing Abbas Mastaan Spring Fall Collection

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After the match, I sat down to write a blog on the match. And it read like the rough draft of Dangal, on our daughters bringing pride to Mother India. But it felt wrong to post it. Because if the men’s team had lost to England in a World Cup final, I’d be furiously attacking my computer. Typing out hateful, trolly post. I’d make fun of Shikhar Dhawan’s tattoo and accuse X player of sucking K player’s cock. So why was I being Sant Tukaram now?

Trolling Sanjay Manjrekar doesn’t change the fact that Indian cricketers messed up the match big time. It doesn’t change the fact that India should have steamrolled England in the finals.

I wish the women cricket team achieves great heights and wins many tournaments in the future. But let’s face it, India’s daughters made a complete mess of this match.

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Featured Image courtesy: www.sportswallah.com

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Why do all Indian cricketers look like each other?

Nostalgia, is a tricky monster.

Nostalgia makes people romanticise the trivial and the unpleasant. People glorify the agony of waiting a month for a telephone connection and LPG cylinder. Processing and accepting those emotions as some hogwash cathartic, life-coming-full-circle bullshit.

Cricket isn’t exempt from the vile clutches of nostalgia either.

I have met erstwhile fans who glorify the tension of watching the Indian cricket team in the 90s. Celebrate the anxiety of watching the Indian team totter and stutter their way to rare victories. ‘Glorious uncertainties’ – that term that Sunil Gavaskar dished out when we snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory in Bahubalean fashion. When S. Ramesh T. struggled to string together the winning runs while his partners strolled in and out of the pitch like drunk baaraatis. Most fans tend to romanticise these days of uncertainty, bracketing them unnecessarily under the umbrella of ‘nostalgia’.

I am not one of them. Give me ‘predictably good’ over ‘glorious uncertainty’ any day. Perhaps my brain had a premonition about my weak heart’s incapability to deal with these days for too long!

Cricket today is not just competing with Amul Surabhi and Chitrahaar. It’s competing with Netflix and Facebook and Tinder and Zomato. You don’t just have to win, you have to win while blowing my mind, or I’ll switch off. I’ll switch channels and devices and playlists and crawl far, far away from you.

I am happy with the state of the Indian cricket team today. I love the fact that after 80 years of international cricket, India is now feared and respected as a worthy adversary, like the Australian team we grew up watching. That we are counted among the top; that to beat us, you have to be top-shelf, surpass our strengths and exploit our weaknesses.

That you can’t beat India just because Sachin got out and the rest of the team has the batting skills of woodcutters. Not because chasing a big score in a final was ‘always going to be a difficult ask’. Not because, like my neighbour would say, ‘Today is Friday, Muslims will always win’.

To beat the Indian team of today, you have to be bloody good, play out of your skin. Elevate your standards to meet those of our many gods.

It’s a wonderful feeling. I am thrilled with with the state Indian cricket is in today. None of that nostalgia-vostalgia for me, thank you very much!

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However, I would like to lodge a minor complaint.

It is human nature after all, to lodge such minor complaints from time to time. Jackie Shroff essayed the role of the legendary Ram in Teri Meherbaniyan, but is only remembered for the Bidu caricature. Bob Dylan lodged complaints against the times he lived in using cutting letters and biting phrases. Chenghis Khan complained about the size of his kingdom and went about redefining the meaning of ‘Father’s Day’ for most of Asia. The British complained about the lack of spices in their salads, and I’m sitting here thousands of miles away writing articles with clickbait headlines. It is human nature to complain.

My complaint is the headline of this article. The words you saw on your Facebook feed and decided to give a chance because you saw potential – much like the selectors did with Amay Khurasia years ago –

‘WHY DO ALL INDIAN CRICKETERS LOOK THE SAME?’

The Indian cricket today is a clone army of supremely fit, spiky-haired, tattoo-sporting, muscled athletes. Their beards are all perfectly trimmed and shaped, their hair spiked to perfection, vague tattoos on their left arms – everybody looks like everybody else.

How did a nation with as much diversity as ours, all those races and ethnicities, the chutney of languages and foods and dialects – how did our entire team morph into one another?

Kohli looks like Rahul who looks like Jadeja looks like Rahane looks like Dhawan looks like Pandya looks like Rohit Sharma. Even Ashwin, who till a few years back resembled the topper who eats three tiffin compartments of curd rice in the last bench, has morphed into the army. Suresh Raina, who looks like his father owns a sweet shop on MG Road, has also gone for the beard-spike look. Dhoni, who was once a long-haired Samson who sported a paunch but ran like Minotaur, has also bought into the scheme.

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s great that the Indian team is faster, stronger, sharper. But at a narrative level, it is devoid of personalities. The Indian team I grew up with was a motley crew of distinctly different personalities. Like a pirate ship with cast-away crew from different lands. You could be watching the match on a grainy 7’ x 8’ black and white television in a paan shop, but you knew who was who. You could recognise them by their gait, their posture, their throws from the boundary, their hobble across the 22 yards.

They were uncle cricketers – who could vanish into any Indian crowd. They could be members of a summer picnic of SBI employees, or a Ganesh procession.

Group of Indian men waiting for traffic police to give permission for their Ganesh to start from the colony (PC: Cricinfo)

Group of Indian men waiting for traffic police to give permission for their Ganesh to start from the colony (PC: Cricinfo)

There were the paunchy, middle-aged men – Manoj Prabhakar, Saba Karim, Ashish Kapoor – whose moustaches and mullets served as tributes to the likes of Suneil Shetty and Sudesh Berry.

Then we had the Decent Gentlemen’s Club of South Indian bowlers – Srinath, Prasad and Kumble. Tall, gangly engineers who worked hard because they had to withdraw their PPF account before Diwali.

Anil Kumble, who with spectacles and moustache, slayed opposition tailenders like they were calculus problems. Srinath, who would come running in from the 30 yard circle, apologise to the batsman for hitting him on the head, and run back to his bowling mark sweating like a marathon runner. Or Prasad, who had the legs of a giraffe and the hands of a sloth. Who woke up early, wore a digital watch, bowled his 10 overs and retired to bed early (unless you were a certain Ameer Sohail).

Picture showing Indian men having a house party when their wives are away.

Picture showing Indian men having a house party when their wives are away.

There was Sunil Joshi, whose moustache was more glorious than his bowling average. Sanjay Manjrekar with his aadarsh-baalak white helmet. Robin Singh, who looked like an honest (and hence) harassed SBI employee – hard-working, sweating, his receding hairline a reflection of his worries. There was Sidhu with the 5 Ks of Sikhism, and one ‘G’ – Grin. Sachin with his curly mop of hair. Venkatpathy Raju and Vinod Kambli, who looked like boys who hung out with the seniors in the colony. Nayan Mongia, who looked like the guy who dropped out of school after 10th and was now doing a vocational course in Industrial Technology Institute.

Schoolboys clicking a picture with their class-teacher on a picnic. PC: Reddit.

Schoolboys clicking a picture with their class-teacher on a picnic. PC: Reddit.

There were the cricketers from Mumbai, their young shoulders drooping with the burden of legacy – Pravin Amre, Sairaj Bahutule, and Sameer Dighe. There were the south Indian batsmen – Sujith Somasunder, Vijay Bharadwaj and S. Ramesh – hardworking and honest (except when Ramesh faked an injury certificate and got booted out of the team!).

And then there was Ramesh Powar, who famously declared in an interview that he was ‘fat, but fit’. Who with his portly paunch and his gold chains and coloured sunglasses looked more capable of hypnotizing batsmen than bamboozling them. Who was probably given two Test matches to play because selectors placed bets on his ability to stand for five days!!  

Then there was the boss man – shoulders hunched, latching onto the ball like it was a golden snitch, flipping the ball with his shoe and catching it – all swag and coolness – Mohammad Swaggeruddin. The man who had his collar up all the time, like the World Cup semi final was just another ‘bet-match’ between Charminar and Begumpet.

You just didn’t follow cricketers, you aped their mannerisms. I tried to flick the ball up like Azharuddin all through my childhood and only learnt to do it at age 30. Ajay Jadeja’s ‘throw the ball quickly and smile’ trick was never possible because I suck as a fielder, and smiling after a misfield makes me look like a lunatic. Laxman’s tapping on the pitch was followed by millions of kids in India.

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You can’t do that with today’s team. KL Rahul has Virat’s beard and Dhawan has his tattoos, and they’re all fit and springy and quick and efficient. Their beards are all cropped to perfection and their tattoos are all dark-green mumbo-jumbo, and they all field well and rattle opposition batsmen.

I can’t tell one from the other. Even when I watch cricket on pimple-revealing HD clarity, I have to put my bottle of beer aside, and wait for the replay to curse the rare misfield. I have nobody to ape anymore, falling back upon Mohd. Swaggeruddin’s ball-flick, and Venkatesh Prasad’s sublime fielding skills.

It’s only a minor complaint, I know. But I’m only human, saar.

Like Sadagopan Ramesh.

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Sachin A Billion Dreams

‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ is two and a half hours of Tendulkar Porn!

As I stepped out to buy overpriced Coke and oversalted popcorn during the interval, I overheard a father explaining to his son—”It’s not a movie, beta. It is a documentary.”

I could empathise with the kid. Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a film that works only if you were born before 1995. The film has no hero, no antagonist, no songs or dances. In fact, the film sits more comfortably in the domain of documentaries than cinema.

If Sachin is God, his life is a mythological epic.

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The story is known to all, told and retold, written and rewritten, over and over. His childhood stories are similar to Krishna’s exploits in Vrindavan. When he looked at the skies, scoring a century after his father’s death, Indians wouldn’t be shocked if flowers came falling from the sky, reminiscent of Bheeshma’s terrible oath.

Sachin fulfils every single criterion of being an Indian adarsh baalak. Fair-skinned, immensely talented, honed by the right people, had the world eating out of his hands. But most importantly, Sachin is humble and soft-spoken. We Indians love humility and soft-spokenness—we’d prefer Harishchandra over Howard Hughes, Ratan Tata over Warren Beatty. In Sachin, kids saw what they wanted to become, and parents saw what they wanted their kids to become.

The thought often rankles me—would India have loved Sachin as much if he was flashy and proud? I doubt it. They’d wait for him to fail, and tear into him—”Told you! His success got to his head!” they’d say! But Sachin remained humble, and joined our long list of gods.

When every single detail of a man’s life is known, how do you make a film? You hire a foreigner to do it! When Indians make films on Indian cricketers, they’re either too fawning (Dhoni: The Untold Story), or mind-numbingly dumb (Azhar).

Director James Erskine uses Sachin and his wife as narrators, using home videos and wedding clips to create a personal bond. There are clips where he’s playing with his daughter, teaching her the umpire’s signals for boundary, sixer and out! This is a portrait of a man who knows nothing but cricket, being worshipped by a nation that follows nothing but cricket.

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But if you’re a cricket buff, you begin to notice the details. Take for example the Sachin of 1994-1997, when there’s swagger in his stagger—he wears Suniel Shetty glasses, a thick gold chain, and a superstar gait. The swagger quickly vanishes when he’s made the captain, and he’s the obedient adarsh baalak once more!

Like Sachin himself, India grew into a generation which likes to date before getting married. Where the wife calls him by his name, instead of silly words like “woh” and “unhein.” Like the India of today, we find out that Sachin goes through depression too.

Within an hour, you begin to feel like a part of the dressing room. You begin to feel for players like Dravid, who put in hours of blood, sweat and tears. For Shane Warne, who has graciously contributed to the legend of Sachin, in spite of being no less of a genius.

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The masterstroke though, was getting AR Rahman to create the background score. They’re not too dissimilar, Sachin and Rahman. Short, stocky, curly-haired, immensely talented, humble to a fault. Rahman’s background score is like a Rahman background score—rousing, thumping, an army of emotions charging forward. A Rahman soundtrack can make mating anteaters look graceful, so imagine the effect it has on childhood nostalgia.

By the end, as Sachin stands on a beach in shades and shorts, it feels like a trip to the planetarium. To a museum of innocence, where ugly relics of match-fixing and controversies are locked up in the attic.

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How much you enjoy Sachin: A Billion Dreams depends on when you were born. If it was before 1995, you can’t stop looking at the man who personified the nation you grew up in. If you were born after 1995, you begin to wonder about this strange obsession with this man!

The film is a heady cocktail of two of our obsessions—cinema and cricket. Now, if only Sachin would go back to the Rajya Sabha…

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This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

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Sachin’s new song almost took me to rehab!

Last week, I had written a blog about Sachin’s business enterprises and commercial projects. About how his contemporaries are now coaching and mentoring the future generation, while Sachin promotes ‘Sach’ banian and 100 Not Out Paan Masala.

And just as I had posted it and made my peace with the thought, Sachin released a new song. This time with Sonu Nigam – the last time he sang, it was deemed a security threat on aeroplanes. The song is so bad that they had to get Sonu Nigam, one of the country’s best singers just to amp up the missing sur in the song.

Like a moth to a flame, I am attracted to anything to do with the little master. I watched the song, and I have called the suicide helpline four times already. Like Shane Warne in 1998, I have had nightmares of the song, woken up in cold sweat and gone back to sleep, only to return to the song.

The song is so bad, I wished I was deaf. I called the Deaf and Dumb helpline, only to disconnect the call at the last moment. A cringe fest of the highest order, the video is responsible for Sachin fans converting to Dravid fans. I wonder what Rahul Dravid thinks of the song. I wonder if he sent the link to Anil Kumble and received a ‘Hmmmm….’ as reply.

Why do Indian stars end up singing songs? We made Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir sing songs. We made Amitabh Bachchan sing, and then Brett Lee. It was only a matter of time before Sachin would enter a studio and sing a song. And if the song is enema for the ears, it ain’t no treat for the eyes either. Featuring animation straight from the makers of Chhota Bheem and Motu Patlu, the video has Sachin smashing 2D bowlers all around the park.

And just when you get over the singing and the graphics, Sachin delivers another googly – the lyrics of the song. Just have a look at the lyrics of the song –

Sachin Lyrics 1

I looked up the song and found the lyrics were written by a dude called Varun Likhate. He should have been named Varun nahi Likhate, considering there were no actual lyrics written for the song.

The song then goes to the next para, and the lyrics go one level up –

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While I’m touched that Sachin mentioned Debashis Mohanty, I have to admit what you see above are not lyrics. They are answers to a GK question –

Q3: Name all cricketers who played with Sachin

A3: Praveen, Ravi, Subroto, Kapil, Kiran, Vinod, Azhar, Anil, Krishnamachari, Ashish Kapoor (who dafuq is this guy anyway?).

I must have watched the song five times, and it’s now stuck in my head. When I meet people, they wonder what I’m smoking. I show them the link and the song gets transmitted to their heads, as they walk around like zombies spreading the virus.

I used to think there were mindless fans who consume everything Sachin peddles. That they would come rushing to the song and download it a million times and tattoo Sachin is God on their scrotum.

Turns out, I was wrong. Turns out a lot of people are jaded by Sachin’s constant hawking of products, services and exclusive experiences. I ran through the comments section and found a few gems.

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Now you know Vinod Kambli’s YouTube channel.

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Dr. Strange Ap has the final word!

I don’t understand the point of the song. I know it is to feature in the film Sachin, starring Sachin, produced by Sachin. But I don’t understand why Sachin needs to keep churning out one bullshit product after another, when he is a member of the Rajya Sabha, and has been awarded the highest civilian award in the country.

It’s the Bharat Ratna, Sachin. Not Manikchand Screen Awards – at least behave like you deserve the award.

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If you’re a fan of cricket, me and Rohit (@rhtswn) will be touring the country with Silly Point – India’s First Cricket Based Stand Up Show. Please come down, and drag your friends along! 

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And these are stats from 2015 !!

How much more money will Sachin Tendulkar make?

When Sachin Tendulkar retired on November 13, 2013, the entire nation stood still to wipe away tears.

Mike in hand, as he addressed the nation in whites for the last time, the sun set on an era of cricket followers. When he choked up in the final leg of his speech, three generations of Indians stopped their work to realised that time had passed. Like Sachin, the entire nation had grown softer around the edges, pudgy on the sides.

There will always be whispers about the lack of celebration when Dravid or Laxman retired, but Sachin Tendulkar retiring was a true turning of the pages of Indian cricket.

The very next day, Sachin was awarded the Bharat Ratna – the greatest civilian award in India. He was made an honorary member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House in the Parliament. As he stepped off the field that day, Sachin wound up an entire era of cricket. [Read my blog on Sachin’s retirement].

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As a voracious consumer of popular culture, I am fascinated by brand stories.

I like to track the trajectory of people once their glory days are behind them. That is how I know of Zayed Khan’s production house with Dia Mirza; and that Ravi Shastri lives in the apartment below Sunil Gavaskar’s.

When Sachin Tendulkar retired, I assumed he would go on to lead the dignified life of a modern great. That he would take up adminstrative, coaching, or mentoring programs at domestic, national, and international level. He was never a man of words, so the commentary box would be too much of an ask (Also, how would he feel sitting next to Laxman Sivaramakrishnan?).

Nearly four years since his retirement, Sachin Tendulkar continues to set up business establishments across the country. Sachin today owns enterprises in sports, telecasting, clothing, sports entertainment arcades, and restaurants. This is keeping aside the numerous brand endorsements he is a part of.

Every time you see a mention of Sachin in the papers, it is in relation to the launch of a new product. In his own unique way, Sachin has moved from the Sports page to the Business page of newspapers.

But for how much longer?

One is free to argue that it is his life, and what he chooses to do with the rest of it is completely up to him. Which of course is an irrefutable argument. After spending 30 years of his life to the sport, he is free to choose how he spends the rest of it. But the question remains – aur kitna paisa banayega Sachin?

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Sachin’s contemporaries have all moved in different directions. Anil Kumble and Venkatest Prasad have taken up coaching roles, along with contesting the Karnataka State Cricket Association elections. Javagal Srinath is a match referee.

Saurav Ganguly serves in an administrative position in the Bengal Cricket Academy. Rahul Dravid is the coach and mentor of the under-19 Indian team and recently refused an honorary degree from Bangalore University because he wanted to pursue it as a full time course.

Sachin meanwhile, just launched a new app called 100MB which will provide users with a unique, fresh view into the life of India’s greatest sporting star. Another platform with ‘Yayy India won’ tweets and pictures in front of Ganesh idols.

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When you’ve been the richest sportsperson in the country for two decades, how much is too much?

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As a devout Sachin bhakt, the reports about his lack of activity in Rajya Sabha did not come across as a shocker. In an uncanny coincidence, Lata Mangeshkar – the other Bharat Ratna who was made MP and featured in Tanmay Bhat’s video – was also accused of not doing enough for her constituency.

And these are stats from 2015 !!

And these are stats from 2015 !!

There is no doubt that Sachin remains arguably the most loved Indian alive. That he has a pull over target demographies across age and geography. That Indians will buy anything he promotes – from Rorito Racer Gel to ‘Sach’ Innerwear. Through our entire lives, Sachin has sold us every single product. Want a pen? Reynolds. Want a car? Fiat Palio. Not getting your periods? National Egg Co-ordination Committee. Sachin has endorsed and sold every product that can be stocked, from the glitziest malls to the tiniest kiraana shop. From Infinity Mall to the infinitesimal.

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But as an icon of the game, as the face of a generation, should Sachin Tendulkar be contributing more to the game? Shouldn’t Tendulkar retire from our televisions, and feature in the aspirations of youngsters pursuing the game across the country?

So here it is, from a terrible poet to a great cricketer, a poem filled with hope.

My poem to Sachin, on my blog – 'How much more money will Sachin make?'

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

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Cover Picture Image courtesy: Factly.

If you are a cricket fan, look out for our show Silly Point – India’s First Cricket based Stand Up Comedy Show as me and Rohit Swain embark on an 8 city tour with the show. Please come down or spread the word. 🙂

Thank you, Steven Smith

I like to think of myself as an intense cricket fan.

But if I were to lay the facts out in the open, the truth is that I have followed very few cricket tournaments from start to finish.

I don’t mean following parts of innings when time permits, skimming the newspaper, or catching the highlights the next day. I have done all of that. I mean religiously following every ball of the match, taking breaks only for absolute necessities like answering calls from Mother Nature, food, and rolling one.
Circumstances haven’t been too kind to me in the past. As I scan my memory through the greatest moments in Indian cricket, I find myself trapped in a variety of situations that are both comical as well as tragical.

When Venkatesh Prasad made a mess of Aamir Sohail’s stumps, I was praying to God in a hostel. The only reports of the match came from a teacher who brought us detailed reviews of the matches (‘Boys, India won!’ – Yayyyyyy! ‘Boys, India lost’ – Noooooo! )

When Sachin Tendulkar was haunting Shane Warne’s nightmares at Sharjah, I was sleeping in a Sai Baba temple, the cheers and noises from nearby homes the only indicators of India’s progress in the match. When Laxman and Dravid got together to string the most magical Indian fairytale, I was battling a teenager’s curiosity of the world. When Yuvraj and Kaif waged a battle against our colonial masters, I was locked up in a room, craning my ears for cheers from neighbours.

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I have always wanted to follow a Test tournament by the ball.

As a famous Brazilian author says, ‘When you want something with all your heart, but you lead a distinctly middle class life, the universe conspires to screw it up for you’. When a young brazen English team was making Aussies sweat in the 2005 Ashes series, I was fighting off the rigours of a call centre job. Every Test series has been jeopardised by a number of internal and external factors – examinations, semesters, jobs, or mangled affairs of the heart.

But not anymore.

A few weeks before the India Australia tournament kicked off, I washed my hands off worldly callings. I did away with my freelance and content writing work, took a break from the humdrum and revelled in some Laxmi Shiva Durga. I had nothing on my plate. In fact, I didn’t even have a plate.

When Steven Smith flipped the coin against Virat Kohli on February 23rd, I was prepared. The stars had been hesitant to start with, but I had successfully manipulated them into conspiring in my favour.

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If you do not follow cricket, it is difficult to encapsulate what makes Test cricket special. On the surface, Test cricket has nothing going for it.

No other sport is played over 5 days, only to end as a draw. In the age of VR and FX and zip-zap-zoom, taller-faster-stronger – Test cricket is an archaic colonial indulgence that 10 of the world’s countries indulge in. On the surface, Test cricket is a coterie of cartels. But that’s the surface.

Scratch deeper, and Test cricket is the only form of sport where the name conveys the true meaning of the word. Test cricket is a test of human will and perseverance. Unlike other sports, where skill, talent and form can help you bulldoze through an opposition, Test cricket demands the strictest of regimes. It requires excelling across 5 days under the sun. It entails adapting to nature – soil, grass, outfield, pitch, weather – over five days.

While other sports are battles, Test cricket is war. You might lose two sessions, but you have to shake yourself off and fight again. You are required to regroup, refocus, reassess, reassure. Test cricket is cricket at its toughest, its most unforgiving form.

But ride the wave, and it is cricket at its most sublime, most nuanced.

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If one begins to believe in stars and their alignment, there’s no end to the extents even a rational man would go.

Surely it could be no coincidence that for this particular series, the Indian team would be at its strongest and the Aussies at its weakest? That their front line bowler should get injured after two tests? That our middle order should fire when the captain gets injured? That we bounce back after losing the first match? That the tournament would be undecided till the penultimate day of the final Test?

The team that was dismissed to lost 4-0 (‘Australia will lose 3-1 if they play very well’ – Harbhajan Singh. Roadies Judge) fought valiantly. At times, it was brutal. At times it was curiosity to understand the etymology of our swear words. But playing the Aussies has never been easy, given their long line of impressive leaders – Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke.

It wasn’t easy to like Ponting or Steve Waugh. They both came across as insiders, groomed under the brash Australian system that gave them their thick skins. When Waugh encouraged his bowlers to hound batsmen, or Ponting walked up to the opposition to pick banters, they epitomised Australian aggression.

For some reason, Steven Smith doesn’t seem like a mean guy. Unlike Ponting and Waugh, his face doesn’t betray a sharp, incisive man. Steven Smith seems like a captain burdened by the history of being the Aussie captain. Australian captains were always expected to lead. To take the attack to the opponents’ chin. Unlike Ponting and Waugh, Smith has none of the natural grace or technique. He resembles a crab grappling to survive on the pitch. The nervous shakes of the hand, the shifting outside off stump.

And yet, he stood strong, the best batsman on the tour. Captaining a ship of greenhorns in baggy greens.

Does that seem like the face of a cruel, aggressive leader? No! It's the face of an innocent man burdened by history. Like Draco Malfoy, if I may say so.

Does that look like the face of a cruel, aggressive leader? No! It’s the face of an innocent young man burdened by his history. Like Draco Malfoy, if I may say so.

Perhaps that is what endears him to Indians,  makes him stand out from his Aussie brethren. That he apologised after the tournament proves that he not only possesses better technique than Virat Kohli, but also a larger heart.

This tournament helped me understand the eternal puzzle in my head – the Aussie fan. I had imagined them all to be beer-guzzling hooligans who sledged and heckled. As I followed ball by ball coverage on r/cricket, the difference struck me.
Perhaps it is a cultural difference. The way we approach and consume cricket is different from the Aussie style. As fans from both sides sledged, heckled and hurled insults across each other, I was able to see beyond the surface. Beneath the shell of ‘Behnchods’ and ‘Cunts’, lay a mutual respect for each other.

Perhaps Indians tend to get overtly aggressive because of our colonial history. Or perhaps the biting truth that we are absolutely miserable in Australia. That we know deep within that we won’t be able to even draw the series when we go down under.
As the home season comes to an end, it is time for IPL. The glitz of the tournament blurs international boundaries, and loyalties melt and metamorphose into personal loyalties.
While my bread and butter, my chai and sutta is located with Sunrisers Hyderabad, I shall keep an eye out on Rising Pune Supergiants too.

The one Test tournament that I followed ball-by-ball, is being called one of the greatest tournaments between the two sides. It was a glorious summer of cricket.

A summer of leather and wood. Of sessions that swung this way and that. A summer when the two greatest exponents of the sublime art of batting led their sides.

One came off victorious at the end of an arduous war. The other won a billion hearts.

Thank you, Steven Smith.

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Featured Image courtesy: Sky Sports.

Like these brothers who couldn't spell 'Israel' because their struggle is rael. They're also not particularly fond of the card game Uno. 

Pic: Dawn.com

The origins of ‘Fuck off to Pakistan!’

‘Fuck off’ has been the nation’s war cry for a long time now.

It is not due to the Surgical Strike in Kashmir or the ‘Sir jee, kal strike’ in Kolkata. For a while now, we have been obsessed with kicking people out. 

The sentiment is not restricted to nationality and jingoism. We do it among ourselves too. Pioneers of this school of thought are the two Senas in Maharashtra – Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Right from the attacks against ‘Madrasis’ 30 years ago, to the present day, they have been playing the ‘Fuck off’ game to stellar effect.

Those who cannot speak Marathi fuck off to your own states. Biharis fuck off from Mumbai. Pakistani cricketers fuck off to your country, or we’ll dig up the pitch – which if you think about it, doesn’t do much good for anybody. If the Shiv Sena really wanted to win the nation’s approval, they should have dug up the pitch just a little. Just enough for Anil Kumble to razzmatazz the fuck out of Pakistani batsmen, dismissing them for 73 runs. That would have been smart, but alas! – Shiv Sena.

But it is not just them. Other ‘Fuck off’ situations are those between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Two seemingly developed, mature states that produced stately statesmen like Javagal Srinath and S. Venkataraghavan. The two states have been asking people to fuck off to their own states with the recent Cauvery imbroglio. Telangana people wanted Andhra people to fuck off, Kannada people wanted North-easterns to fuck off. Kashmiri separatists committed an entire genocide to ask Pundits to fuck off. Our primeval response to conflict is ‘Bhai, bahut ho gaya. Ab tum nikal lo’.

Then there is the case of social media and popular opinion. A comment that doesn’t fit the mould of a patriotism is met with – Fuck off to Pakistan. Criticism of The Leader elicits the cry to fuck off. An alternate opinion, and you’re asked to fuck off. Criticise a God, and you’re asked to fuck off.

I do not insinuate that we are the only country with such reactions. Our neighbours across the border have fancy protest too.

Like these brothers who couldn't spell 'Israel' because their struggle is rael. They're also not particularly fond of the card game Uno. Pic: Dawn.com

Like these brothers who couldn’t spell ‘Israel’ because their struggle is rael. They’re also not particularly fond of the card game Uno.
Pic: Dawn.com

Or these dudes, whose slogan 'Go India, Go back' makes you wonder if they're egging us on, or egging us out. Pic: www.latimes.com

Or these dudes, whose slogan ‘Go India, Go back’ makes you wonder if they’re egging us on, or egging us out.
Pic: www.latimes.com

But what really is this obsession with ‘Leave our land’?

Is this an inherently Indian phenomenon? Has it somehow been ingrained into our consciousness?

I think it has to do with the way our families and societies are constructed. We as a culture live with our parents and the cruelest punishment is to banish the child from the house.

Our greatest stories, our oldest epics – from Ramayan to Devdas, involve a son being asked to leave the house. Our films and our novels further propagate this idea.

And perhaps that has seeped into the way we think. Perhaps that is why we as a nation are obsessed with kicking people out of our country, our states, and our screens. The reasons may vary, the conflicts may be diverse, but the response is standard – Nikal lo.

But when there’s a war, or a question raised on our nation, we all stand together. The Bihari banished from Mumbai and the Kannada banished from Chennai. We get together and ask the new enemy to leave the nation. May be ‘ghar se nikal jao’ is a big deal for us. Perhaps it has become our first response.

As the K3G soundtrack plays in the distance, I notice that we had a traitor living amongst us all these days. Time for me to do what I must. 

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What I Hope from the Dhoni Biopic

It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand the rush to make a biopic on Dhoni. There’s something about the guy.

If Sachin made cricket India’s No.1 priority, our national obsession, Dhoni took it to the nation’s grassroots. When historians discuss his career in the future, they’ll acknowledge that MS was no ordinary cricketer.

I detest comparisons, but it is hard to resist a comparison between Dhoni and the only star bigger than him – Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin might be hallowed today, but he had a firm backing right from his school days. By the time he was 14, Sachin had Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri around him. Gifting him bats and pads, and passing on decades of valuable experience. Apart from the immense talent and incredible hard work that he put in, Sachin took five steps, and the sixth step was taken for him.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

I don’t mean that as condescence, but as a comparison. Cricket in India has always been an urban, upper class sport. I wonder why a country as vast and poor as ours would choose cricket. A sport that requires a lot of investment in time and equipment. It should make more sense for us to obsess over kabaddi, or soccer.

The history of Indian cricket is replete with Maharajahs captaining the country with their coterie of servants. Scroll further down, and you’ll find that most of our stars came from upper middle class families; from urban spaces that allowed for coaches, nets, and infrastructure.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

If Sachin represented India’s awakening as an economy in the 90s, Dhoni proved that cricket had trickled down to India’s interiors. It now flowed in the country’s veins.

Sachin grew up in a time when Indian cricket was far from its peak. With players like Devang Gandhi, Sameer Dighe and Sujith Somasundar in the fray, Sachin was a god among mortals. He stood out like a Liberty statue in a Dharavi slum.

Dhoni came into the team as a small town boy amidst demigods. Against all odds, he went on to lead the team and then form his own coterie. A team comprising cricketers from towns and villages. Sons of clerks, shopkeepers, and farmers.

Not only did Dhoni crash the party, he got up on the table, took off his shirt and flung it in the air! MS Dhoni was the biggest star in the team for nearly a decade. He was polite, but not necessarily humble. He came from simple roots, but loved his cars and mansions.

MS Dhoni the persona evolved with his stature. When he came in, he was a youngster who could cart Shoaib Akhtar over the fence in successive deliveries. By the time he leaves, he’ll be a middle-order batsman who bats with tailenders and has finished the most matches for India.

From a merciless marauder who swung his bat like a double-edged axe, to a backfooted middle-order mainstay with a solid defence. From endorsing Mysore Sandal Soap with shoulder length brown hair, to becoming the richest cricketer in the world. Dhoni survived, and Dhoni evolved.

And not once did he let his emotions come in the way. Not once.

Not once has the man lost his temper or expressed dissent (except to journalists, for whom he reserves the coldest contempt!). Surely, a biopic on the man was a goldmine waiting to be explored.

Neeraj Pandey is a dependable filmmaker, and Sushant Singh Rajput an able actor. I’m glad the film doesn’t aim to dig too deep into his cricketing career (like the godforsaken ‘Azhar’).

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But was MS always this guy? Did he always choose to smile at problems? Was he always grounded, or was there a time when he waved a middle finger to his detractors?

How did it feel stepping into a dressing room with Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble and Sehwag? Why did Sachin recommend his name for captain, when he’d only been playing for a year? What did he see in the boy with Tarzan hair?

And why did MS choose to chop his hair off? Was there more to it than the Brylcreem endorsement deal? Why did he announce his retirement from Tests in the middle of a tour? When did the small town boy become the suave face of a hundred brands?

Who really is MS Dhoni? Does he have just one true face? Or does he wear many masks?

These are the answers I seek from MS Dhoni – the biopic.

You already screwed up the biopic on my childhood hero. Please don’t botch this one up!

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