Category Archives: Cricket

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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?'

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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. 

Tanushree Dutta endorsing Multani mitti. Fuck off to Pakistan, Tanushree Dutta! #PeopleWhoShouldFuckOffToPakistan

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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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anil kumble

What sort of a coach would Anil Kumble make?

When I heard that the war for India’s next coach had boiled down to a battle between Anil Kumble and Ravi Shastri, I knew Kumble would win hands down.

Especially since the panel consisted of Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, and Sachin Tendulkar.

You see, these guys have worked with Kumble. They have travelled and played and lived with the man. They know what he’s all about.

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For those who began watching cricket in the 2000s, allow me to give you a short introduction to Anil Kumble.

Anil Kumble is the greatest bowler India has ever produced.

Yes, there are those who will mention Kapil Dev – but his value to the team was mainly as a bowling all-rounder. There is my favourite – Javagal Srinath – the fastest vegetarian bowler in the world at one point. The older ones might mention the spin quartet of Bedi, Prasanna, Venkataraghavan and Chandrashekar.

But my nomination will go to Anil Kumble. There aren’t many ‘heroic’ stories around the man. Most cricketers leave ‘moments’ that epitomise the player. Venkatesh Prasad went out of character and immortalised himself with the Aamir Sohail moment. Sachin Tendulkar’s Sharjah was an exhibition of a man at his peak, against the best. Dhoni will always be the man who struck the shot that won us the World Cup. Anil Kumble doesn’t have many such.

There is the legendary ‘bowling with broken jaw’ incident, the 10 wickets against Pakistan; but nothing else about the man lent itself to folklore. Back then, the Indian dressing room was a jamboree of sorts.  There was Sachin, the Lord Ram of everything – pure, unblemished, righteous and supreme. Ganguly, the angry young Bong-man who had arrived on the scene. Azharuddin, the man loved by commentators, gossip columns, and Harsha Bhogle. Jadeja – the ladies man who featured with petite models in Close-Up ads.

Then there were the representatives from below the Vindhyas, South Indian Gentlemen bowlers Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Venkatpathy Raju, and Sunil Joshi. The South Indian Brotherhood had a few principles – they’d never abuse a batsman, they’d walk back silently if provoked, they’d clap if a batsman reached a personal milestone. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would have been proud.

Venkatpathy Raju trying to act cool by holding a bottle of champagne. We all know they didn't drink any of it.

Venkatpathy Raju trying to act cool by holding a bottle of champagne. We all know they didn’t drink any of it.

It is difficult to slot Anil Kumble in either of the categories.

He was educated, like the other South Indian brothers in the team, and yet he wasn’t calm and affable like his brethren. He rarely made the news, nothing was known of his life off the field, except for his passion for photography. He featured in no advertisements, except for NIIT. The only business venture he made was a video game with his brother, which Sidin Vadukut reviewed as being ‘marginally more interesting than picking one’s nose’.

He broke into the team as a wiry, wily, leg-spinner who bowled with spectacles and a wrist watch. Long before Daniel Vettori, Anil Kumble donned large, Dawood-style glasses and silently devoured sides with his bouncy leg-breaks.

anil kumble young

But it would be wrong to label Anil Kumble as a docile man. He was hardly docile, the man. On the field, his face resembled a Kathakali dancer’s – emotions running wild, eyes glaring, sighs of disappointment, hands raised in frustration at a sloppy fielder (which, honestly was more than half the team).

Kumble wasn’t a very large spinner of the ball. He bowled quick, with very little turn, choosing to surprise the batsman with pace, bounce, and just the slightest turn. That’s the standard description of the man. Read any essay, any commentator talking about him, and that’s what they say about what he did.

But what he truly did was wipe out sides. Kumble would wait for the moment. About three wickets down, a big score to chase, or a hot, sweaty day in Vadodara, when he’d bring out his bag of tricks. The one that moved in quickly and didn’t turn one bit. The one that turned just a little bit after pitching at driving length. The one that turned the other way. Or the faster one, where his pace was comparable to Venkatesh Prasad’s.

Anil Kumble wiped out oppositions, choosing his best for the tail. Many a tailender have poked and prodded, and left completely bamboozled. It helped that he consistently had the world’s best slip-fielders at his service. Mohammad Azharuddin who could pluck catches out of thin air. Or Rahul Dravid, who displayed zen-like concentration for days on a trot. All Kumble needed was one mistake. One mistake, a momentary lapse in concentration, and someone would be running away with a red ball in hand. Anil Kumble wiped out sides like a determined aayah in a boys’ school.

But that wasn’t all Anil Kumble did, he also got pissed off. A lot.

anil kumble

The persistent image of Anil Kumble is of a man who would glare at you such that you could feel your insides burn. Drop a catch off his bowling, and he’d give you the look of an urchin pickpocket, of a low-life imbecile.

I remember a match where Saba Karim dropped a few catches, Anil Kumble glared at him for a few seconds, like a Maths teacher before the Pre-boards exam. He stared at him while taking his cap and handkerchief (there was always a handkerchief), and probably all through the next over from Third Man.

Nobody was spared Kumble’s wrath, not even the umpire. His bowling required immense concentration on the umpire’s part, a veritable nightmare. A poor decision, and Kumble would turn around and dish out a sigh, and a look of utter disappointment. Like a son who just caught his father drinking away his pocket money savings.

You could do a lot of things in the Indian dressing room in the 90s. You could date supermodels, throw away matches, and feature in advertisements for cigarette companies. But you couldn’t fuck with Anil Kumble.

No, sir.

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So what sort of a coach would Anil Kumble make?

It’s been a decade since he has left the Indian dressing room, and much has changed. India is no more another Asian competitor; it has risen in ranks, like Petr Baelish, right up to the top. The game is different, and so are the players of today.

Saba Karim comes across as a calm water buffalo when compared to the beasts in the Indian dressing room today. A generation of players spoken about 24*7, one that’s ready to whip out a quote for the ages, participate in a reality show, launch businesses, and spew obscenities at the opposition.

How is Kumble going to deal with such a team?

Is he going to fling away Rohit Sharma’s phone every time he pouts for a selfie? Is he going to make Suresh Raina spend the entire night in the nets, dodging short balls? Is he going to make Jadeja write an imposition – ‘I will work on my batting more than a beard’ a thousand times? Is he going to advise Parthiv Patel to buy a plot in Mumbai and plan for the future?

The choice might have been made, but I doubt the Indian cricket team has a true grasp over what they called upon themselves. Anil Kumble is a suave gentleman on good days. But I doubt you’d want to spend a bus ride in Harare with him after a batting collapse.

kumble ishant sharma

News reports have already begun to flow in. Reports of the team being whisked away to an undisclosed location for a ‘One Hour Challenge’. There is surely more to come. Practising running between the wickets by wading through an army of charging buffaloes. Field practice by plucking fruits while dangling from a delicate tree.

You brought this upon yourself, Indian Cricket Team.

 

Courtesy: http://www.india.com/whatever/icc-cricket-world-cup-2015-if-ms-dhoni-virat-kohli-and-the-indian-cricket-team-were-superheroes-319393/

Can we please not make a ‘God’ out of Kohli?

There comes a time when a player reaches a zone, a certain zen-like metaspace where nothing else around him or her matters. Roger Federer enjoyed that zone for a good part of a decade. At their peak, the Australian cricket team was an unbeatable force, an unstoppable juggernaut. It goes without saying that Virat Kohli is in that zone right now.

But while tributes flow in from all quarters, there are some that amuse me. The comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar are inevitable, but I am amused by the word ‘God’ that is being used to describe Virat Kohli.

 

Thoda zyada ho gaya, bro.

Thoda zyada ho gaya, bro

 

Perhaps it is our tendency to deify people; perhaps it is an integral part of our ethos, of elevating people to a pedestal and worshipping them. A handful of Indians have acquired this Godly status (if we exclude Babas and saints, that is).

There is Lata Mangeshkar, who is often referred to as Maa Saraswati herself, there is Rajinikanth, a phenomenon that defies every logic of modern cinema-making. And of course, there is Sachin Tendulkar. There are people who have had temples made for them (Khusbhoo), but not all of them can boast of a divine following that Amitabh Bachchan commands.

*

What does being a ‘God’ entail?

One, supreme talent. To become a God in India, you have to be supreme at what you do, the absolute best. Being one of the top, or someone who was there for a while, won’t cut it for us. You need to have an impeccable record, one that can be easily converted into numbers – 100 centuries, 25,000 songs, 30 years in the industry.

Secondly, you need to adhere to the Indian morals of humility and grace. There were people who were very good at their craft, but could not become Gods because they did not possess such qualities. Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Mohammad Azharuddin.

More often than not, you need to begin as a child prodigy, slowly climbing up on the basis of hard work and talent. That’s the other thing, we place a huge amount of importance on talent. Perhaps the thought can be pegged back to our mythological times, when talents were ‘gifts’ bestowed by gods and goddesses. You also need to have a long career – an origin story, a story of resurgence, victory over evil. That’s another integral part of the narrative.

But being ‘God’ comes with its own set of problems. One, there is insurmountable pressure on you all the time. You have to live up to the pedestal created for you, and that entails a blemish-less professional and personal life. Being linked up to people, or losing your temper are out of question. As a God, you don’t get a day off; it’s a full time job.

And when you fail to live up to the stature of God, all hell breaks loose.

Amitabh Bachchan had to apologise to his fans publicly for films like Boom and Nishabd. Tendulkar was dragged into Maharashtra vs India mud-slinging contests for no reason whatsoever. ‘Non-believers’ still taunt Sachin fans about him asking for a tax refund on his Ferrari. Dhoni had stones pelted at his house when he failed in a match. Lata Mangeshkar refused the Filmfare Award because it came in the form of a naked woman. They had to wrap it in a handkerchief before giving it to her, apparently. (I wonder how the trophies are stored in their cabinet, though. Did Lata-di get little sarees stitched to protect the dignity of the Black Lady?)

We also become intolerable to criticism over our Gods.

Look at how we have handled Sachin’s legacy after his retirement. Whenever a legendary player comes to India, we invariably asking him the ‘Sachin Koschen’ –

 

Reporter: ‘Do you think Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest player in the world? Yes or no?

Former Great: ‘Ahem, well…you know…’

Nation: ‘Aye, gandu! What do you know about cricket? Fuck you, Tendulkar is best’.

PoopScoop: ‘Five Reasons why Former Great is a dumbass’.

Facebook Posts: An Open Letter to Former Great. Dear Former Great, Fuck You. Thanks, Indians’.

Twitter: ‘Aye Maria Sharapova, tu Sachin ko nahi jaanti hai, jhoot mat bol saali’ #Khangress #Aaptard

Baba Sehgal: Hey Sharapova, you wanna share-a-poha?

*

And the chaos descends into pandemonium. For you see, while being God is a full time job, being a devotee is also a full time job. You have to worship, you have to defend. You have to take up virtual arms against those that question the godliness of your God; it is your right, as well as your duty.

We did that to Tendulkar.

The guy had to single-handedly fight through shitty batting line-ups, and by the time there was a stable set of guys around him, he’d been elevated to God-level. The pressure was visible in his game – the jittery starts, the slowing down while nearing the century, the nervousness while chasing. I wonder how many matches Sachin could truly enjoy, like he did as a youngster. I wonder how he felt when he heard a hundred thousand screaming fans turn pin-drop silent because of him.

And then, when he went through a bad patch, he got booed by his home crowd. It happened to Gavaskar in his final match too. There were reports of people flinging their food and fruits at him!

*

Kohli is 27. While he is yet to truly peak as a batsman, there will inevitably come the bad patches. It is in the nature of the sport, considering the numerous aspects involved with the game today – schedules, endorsements, corporate and national responsibilities, the pressure of being a living-breathing brand.

Kohli is from a different generation. In fact, there is very little that is ‘Indian’ about Kohli. In all aspects, he is ‘Australian’ – there is the brash approach, the ability to take up challenges, the consistency. It is a different generation. One that is comfortable walking hand-in-hand with a superstar girlfriend, and also pointing a middle finger at a packed Sydney Cricket Ground.

what kohli

kohli-middle-finger_getty1

Virat-Kohli-fined-for-finger-gesture-300x240

This is a different generation, and it requires another epithet – ‘God’ seems outdated and quaint. Let him be who he is, an outstanding player, a brash, aggressive fighter. Let him screw up and make mistakes and go through good patches and bad patches.

Fuck God, and (I never thought I’d say this) fuck Tendulkar.

Let him be Virat Kohli. No God, just a human.
***

 

(Featured Image courtesy: www.india.com article – What if the Indian team were superheroes?)

Kohli images courtesy: 1) crichotline.com, 2) Getty Images.

Image by veganbengaluru for infornicle.com '15 Reasons Why Once You’ve Lived In Bangalore You Will Not Like Another City'

Why Bangalore is the best city to smoke up, and a little plug-in for tonight’s show

The decision to stop posting on Facebook (which, if you have a good boss and a friendly work atmosphere, you should have read yesterday) was the best decision I could have taken.

I have come to Bangalore, and Bhavneet has brought his Kurukshetra-era laptop with him, and I decided to flip it open and start writing a blog. I feel liberated and wild – like a Marwadi teenager who goes out with friends and orders Egg Burji. It’s very nice.

I don’t have to open a note book, and then look around for Reynolds Racer Gel (Best pen in the world, must write about it sometime). I don’t have to find a note book that is unruled, with both the pages new and untouched, and then with a Red or Green pen, scribble down the first draft, and then open my Ayodhya-era laptop and type it all out again. This is better.

*

This is my third visit to Bangalore in the last few months, and it has been able to impress a cynic like me.

I am not a fan of malls or pubs or other shit like UB City or whatever. I have a barometer of my own to judge a city. They involve trees, stray dogs and Mom & Pop stores. I have no solid reasoning behind it, there’s no elaborate philosophy or theory on why I chose these three aspects; but it just is.

It took me a few visits to Bangalore to discover there’s more than malls/pubs/robot-mating centres in the city. If anything, Bangalore is the best city to smoke a joint in.

Of course, you can’t smoke in public (not even a cigarette in some of the areas), but if you find a corner on a street, it’s a sensory treat. The roads are wide, trees forming a canopy, and you can still hear birds chirping (something that is a rarity in urban Hyderabad today, it’s almost like the birds left with the last Nizam).

I like to associate places with substances – Bhubaneswar for me will always be the city of Bhang, Himachal the place to worship Lakshmi-Shiva-Durga, Goa and booze.

Bangalore is the place to smoke pot. Just you and some good pot, a small joint, a pair of earphones, and a walk in the streets. It’s beautiful.

There are old men sitting outside their houses reading newspapers at 11 AM, the sun is not sunny, but a benevolent friend smiling down at you. Stray dogs are well-fed, friendly, and appear in all corners, in all shapes and sizes. Cross a main road and enter a colony, and the sounds of cars and streets are tuned out. What you have instead of honks and noises is a light buzz. Like the one in your head. Bangalore is the best city to smoke a joint in.

*

Now, for the second part of the post.

Cricket has been an integral part of my life, as I’m sure it of yours.

For in India, if you like cricket, life’s good. But even if you don’t like cricket, you are surrounded by friends, parents, relatives, grocery shopkeepers who follow it like a religion.

In a way, growing up for me has been a journey that swivelled, turned and revolved around cricket. Along with a few buddies, we have written a thematic Stand Up Comedy show around Cricket. It’s called Silly Point and is India’s first cricket based stand up comedy show.

If you’re from Bangalore and free this evening at 7, please come down to Rangasthala Auditorium at the MG Road Metro Station. I can’t promise a joint after the show like I usually do in Hyderabad, because Bangalore. But it should be fun.

That’s all. Got shit to sort out for the show, and take a bath, and watch Raja Babu on TV.

Have a good day!

 

***

(Featured Image: A beautiful capture by veganbengaluru for infornicle.com ’15 Reasons Why Once You’ve Lived In Bangalore You Will Not Like Another City’)

All Star Cricket League

Take-homes from the All Stars Cricket League

 Watching the All Stars Cricket League was a strange experience.

Firstly, it wasn’t like I had made a slot in my schedule, marked the day, finished bath and food early, and sat down in front of the TV. Naah.

It was a memory at the back of my mind, something I could always get to, after two beers, and catch up on.

That was what it was about. Catching up.

Catching up with those guys I loved and adored and watched and imitated and cut pictures of and stuck to my scrap book. The guys were getting together once again, and it would be fun to see how they’ve aged.

Strangely, the Indian players didn’t seem to have changed a lot. Sachin played a slow, cautious innings, holding it together, the fear of losing early wickets perhaps too deeply embedded in his psyche.

Laxman swung and missed, and went back to the pavilion before you could say ‘Odomos’. Much like he has been doing for Kochi Tuskers, that team where everybody seemed to have elephantiasis. And Agarkar. Agarkar didn’t do much in the match.

Then there was Sehwag, doing what he has been doing all along. My only pang of regret was that McGrath wasn’t in the opposition. I’d have liked to watch Sehwag cart him across deep mid-wicket, all the way to Alaska.

The Indians were just going about the motions.

The Sri Lankans were at it too. Being efficient and productive, diving around and fielding well, and doing their bit for the team. The Australians were fit and effective. In many ways, it could have been the 90s and the players gotten together for a charity match.

Except for a few things.

Curtly Ambrose.

Curtly Ambrose in my memories was a fearsome, frightful bowler. One who took no bullshit, and gave back in good measure.

Over the years, something happened. I am guessing Ganja.

Curtly Ambrose Reggae Band

Curtly Ambrose has metamorphosed into a smiling, swinging guy who doesn’t give a fuck. There must be some greens involved there. Probably because he joined a reggae band after retirement. Probably because his favourite musicians are Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

But here’s my biggest take-home from the league.

Indians love Pakistani cricketers.

No matter what the Shiv Sena wants you to believe, and no matter how many Pakistanis they ban from playing or performing, the roar you heard when Akhtar came on to bowl, proved that Indians like the guy. The applause that Wasim Akram got when he came on to bowl was further proof of that fact.

I assume if Sachin went to Pakistan, he’d receive the same kind of treatment. It is because we Indians love cricket.

We will play cricket outdoors and indoors. We love Tests, One Days, and T20s.

We will play cricket with cricket balls and tennis balls. When there are no balls, we’ll roll up papers and crunch them into balls.

When there are no papers to tear, we will play book cricket.

The All Stars league was just a way of letting people of my generation revisit their nostalgia once again.

It wasn’t really serious cricket. But who cares?

At least it wasn’t like the IPL, where there is a fake sense of seriousness over trumpets and painted faces.

This was like the cricket matches you play on a team outing with your office colleagues. Nobody cares. It is about playing the game. It is about revelling in it.

I can’t wait for the next two matches!

The 2015 ICC Cricket Old Cup

The World Cup that begins today feels like a birthday that comes close on the heels of a wedding.

I do not feel the surge of excitement that I did for the earlier World Cups.

It’s strange how World Cups have acted as pegs to hang my memories on. Any particular year I think of, its association is deeply embedded with the nearest world cup. World Cups have acted as bookmarks in my mind, sorting things out, giving me a quick recap of what was what.

I began following cricket from the 1996 World Cup.

Before the Wills World Cup, memories of cricket are hazy. Cricketers dressed in white, playing cricket on a hot afternoon – Shastri and Kapil and Srikkanth. A few television ads for Dinesh Suitings and Palmolive Shaving Cream.

The Wills World Cup got me hooked to the game.

I was in Primary School, and didn’t watch a single match in the entire tournament. Yet I got my information from two sources – letters from home with updates about India’s matches. And a teacher named Shruti Raja.

She taught us Maths, and was one of those rare Maths teachers who didn’t try to pull out your appendix if you didn’t know 7 Table. She regaled us with stories of her trips to Paris, and bubble-baths that she enjoyed, and other colourful tales that caused mayhem in my mind.

During the World Cup, she would give us updates about the matches. It was the first time I heard the names Azhar, Tendulkar, Jadeja – my first heroes. The passing of information was very basic. She would walk into the class and announce – “Boys, India won the match”.

Yay!! An eruption of cheers followed, even if the only thing we knew about the situation was that we belonged to India.

She would then add some frugal details, like “Srinath took four wickets”, or “Jadeja scored a fifty”, which was followed by more cheers.

But I had no idea about the format, the counties that played in the tournament, or what the World Cup actually was. It was when I went home that year and found an Outlook 96 World Cup special that my interest in cricket was born.

It was a beautiful edition – pictures and articles and team profiles and opinion pieces. I remember going through each and every team profile, and I could tell you all the players from all the teams. It was like a magical Hogwarts book, a world I could dive into when I wanted.

I brought the magazine back with me to school. I began playing cricket, following it through The Hindu, and generally fantasising about sharing the dressing room with Sachin Tendulkar one day.

That time when Bengalis behaved like Khap Panchayats.

That time when Bengalis behaved like Khap Panchayats.

1999 World Cup : Teenage was arriving at the horizon. Along with pimples, sly thoughts of the sexual kind, and a generally more holistic knowledge of cricket, the 1999 world cup gave me a glimpse of what cricket meant to Indians.

It was the time of Indipop music. Of Come On India, Dikhado…duniya ko hilado. It was also the time when Britannia ran its extensive Britannia Khao World Cup Jao (Passport kya tera baap dega) Offer.

The company from Hungerford Street had decided to tempt gullible young cricket fanatics like me into gulping down packets after packets of biscuits and cakes with the hope of going to England to watch the world cup.

Like an idiot, I fell for it. Any money I saved was spent on Tiger biscuits. I’d eat those shitty biscuits, telling myself it would all be worth it when I meet Deba in London and discuss the nuances of cricket with him.

The 99 World Cup was also the first time I learnt that sports was not just about following a team playing a sport. It was about pain and anguish and hurt and disappointment. Shortly after the world cup, the match fixing scandal broke out. Azhar, my hero, was shamed in front of the entire world. I remember shedding a few tears in a particularly delicate moment. I remember feeling aghast, wondering what sort of a person would do something like that.

The 99 World Cup also taught me that we take cricket very seriously. But teenage was knocking on the door, and I pushed cricket out of my mind, and rushed to open the door.

A picture of the Australian team with the World Cup.

A picture of the Australian team with the World Cup.

2003 World Cup: This was my Angry Young Kid phase. I think the phase is called Intermediate because at that age, all of us are intermediaries between donkeys and real, thinking adolescents.

I had issues with people, ran away from home, and took up work and residence at a small PCO booth cum travel agency in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. The PCO booth was located in front of a leprosy colony, and a shady basti called Prem Nagar where eloped love birds built their nests.

Which meant a strange motley crew of people who came in to watch the match on the tiny black and white television. Drunkards, children with fingers missing, teenage mothers holding children with permanently running noses, drunkards, alms-seekers, drivers, and drunkards.

I’d finish school, go back by the school bus, take off my uniform and sneak into my secret dual life. I watched each and every match of that tournament (except Scotland vs UAE sort of matches, for which the guy would never lend his TV).

During the final, I watched with horror as Ganguly chose to bowl after winning the toss. I looked away as tears welled up in my eyes when Sachin lofted a mishit shot off McGrath. I played fervently as rain poured in briefly in the middle overs. I went to bed that night, Sachin’s words ringing in my ears like gigantic cymbals – “I’m happy to receive this award, but I’d have been happier had we won the tournament.”

Another picture of the Australian team with the World Cup.

Another picture of the Australian team with the World Cup.

2007 World Cup: By this time, cynicism had creeped into my system like a virus that originates in Africa and spreads its tentacles to Switzerland. Hurt as I was from India’s disheartening show in the previous outing, I was too scared to invest any emotions into this edition.

Somehow, my feelings seemed to resonate with the Indian cricket team as well. Most of the stars seemed drugged, we lost matches to smaller teams, and didn’t even qualify for the India-Pakistan match in the second round.

Between shitty jobs and scabby relationships, I spent a few hours every day watching the matches, but my heart was looking forward to the sun sinking. And then, when the clock struck 6, I’d rush out to have Bhang. And as the hostel swam in a slow, steady motion, I sat on the cot and looked at the world and smiled.

The 2007 World Cup had nothing going for it. The matches seemed like they were being played in a local park. The commentary was drab, the matches seemed like friendly encounters, a coach was killed mysteriously in the middle of the tournament. It was almost as if the World Cup itself was embarrassed by what was going on.

I couldn’t care less.

2007

2011 World Cup: There has been enough said about the 2011 World Cup. Of how the stage was set to perfection. India matches on weekends, an India-Pakistan semi-final where 5 catches were dropped off a single batsman by the name of Sachin Tendulkar. A final at Mumbai, a six to finish the match.

Much of the World Cup passed by in a drunken, smoky stupor. Old Monk from the local store (you could still find it in Hyderabad at the time), and top notch pot from Dhoolpet, friends with flats where you could drink like Ravana and pass out like Kumbhakarna.

This time, I fell for the blitz. I hummed the tournament’s catchy tune, created my Fantasy team and rooted for them. On the day of the semi-final, I had to drop off my ex-girlfriend at the airport. I was getting messages from friends about Sehwag taking on the Pakistani bowlers, and the trip to the airport and back would take a good two hours.

As she looked at me with her lovely doe eyes, I told her I couldn’t do it. I asked her to go to the airport by herself. I have often questioned myself if I did the right thing. If I was a selfish bastard. If things would have turned out otherwise…

But when I reached the room and saw Sehwag belt five fours off an Umar Gul over, I forgot about everything and settled in front of the television.

When Dhoni hit the final six, I felt a sense of calm. I felt vindicated for all the years I had invested in the sport. All the hours defending Sachin Tendulkar against morons who considered Ganguly to be the greatest Indian cricketer. The hours spent hunting for the score, the awkward hanging around paan shops to watch the match after buying a packet of Tiger biscuits for three rupees.

I had invested so much in the sport, and it all came together beautifully when Sachin was hoisted on top of his teammates’ shoulders. I ran downstairs to the streets and found people dancing. I joined them and danced, in spite of my two left Jeetendra feet.

I watched as a crazy fan waving an India flag jumped on to the back of an APSRTC bus. But time, tide, and APSRTC buses wait for none, and the man had to come walking back an hour later, the spring in his step lost somewhere near Jubilee Hills.

I drank myself to sleep and crashed some time in the night. Cricket had given me back everything I had given it.

2011 WC

Sreesanth be like ‘Eeeeee, now let me fix matches in the IPL heeheehee’. Gandu saala!

2015 World Cup: This time around, I am too old to do it.

I can’t take the glossy advertising campaigns, the stupid jingoism associated with every cricket world cup. I can’t take the Pakistan-bashing, the lame jokes, the waking up early and sleeping late to catch each and every match. I can’t take two nine-hour matches everyday, and the gigantic dhobi-bundle of statistics that every World Cup dumps on my head.

I am too old for that shit.

This year, I’ll be watching cricket for the sake of the game. I will pick and choose games that I like, irrespective of whether India is playing in them or not.

I love tournaments played in Australia. The commentary is better, the stadiums are beautiful, the ball bounces up to a good level. There are spectators lazing about, drinking beer, running to catch the ball, laughing heartily when it slips right through their hands.

I am going to watch the tournament like that pot-bellied Australian you see on the screen – sipping his beer, waving his hand, drunk out of his wits.

I am going to support South Africa and New Zealand. If India wins, good. If it doesn’t, too bad.

I remember this one particular man who would walk in to watch the matches in Munna Travels (where I watched the 2003 World Cup). He would sit at the back, stoic and composed, indulging in a smile every once in a while when he saw us go berserk. I would wonder how he could watch the match so passively.

I am that guy now. I will sit back and smile.

You are free to go crazy.

I have retired as a cricket fan. Let the youngsters have their fun.

***