Category Archives: Cricket

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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.

*

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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(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.

***

A Dressing Down in the Dressing Room

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The white plastic chairs are set around the table. They trickle in one by one, each taking a chair and easing himself on it.

He waits for them to settle down, cursing under his breath, but holding the cool exterior that he was known for. When the last one of them had settled down, Ravi Shastri began speaking.

‘Right, so here we are in the dressing room today…and it looks like this one is going down to the wire’. ‘Cliché’ mutters someone under his breath as the bowlers begin to giggle. Shastri glares at them and they stop.

‘We have been asked by the higher-ups to have a meeting and discuss what’s happening. One just gets a feeling-‘

Suddenly, Varun Aaron stands up, yells, and charges at the wall. He crashes into it, then turns around, and charges towards the opposite wall. Dhoni shares a glance with Shastri. They understood.

Ishant Sharma sat on his chair, his lanky frame hunched. ‘Idontwanttobowlwiththenewballbutbehnchodtheseguyskeepaskingmeto…’
‘Is there something you want to say, Ishant?’
‘Mmmmmgrumblegrumblemumblemumble’
‘You are the leader of the attack, you need to pull up your socks now.’ Ishant stops, bends down near his bag, pulls out his socks, and runs out of the hall. Dhoni shrugs his shoulder and looks at Shastri.

Ever so slowly, the chairs begin to shift a little, gravitating towards comfort zones of their own. Dhoni is gradually surrounded by the calmer ones – Pujara, Rahane, Ashwin, Vijay and Shami. Towards the other side, Virat, Rohit, Dhawan and Yadav are forming a circle of their own.

Shastri looks at the team, wondering if he should have brought Sunny along. But Sunny was growing older, and one couldn’t control what he’d do to the players when he lost his cool. Shastri’s mind went back to the last time Sunny bhai had addressed the team. Sreesanth had picked his nose, and Sunny bhai abruptly poked a burning agarbathi in his cheek. May be he was better off doing this by himself. We have to fight our demons alone. He had jumped at the opportunity to guide the team. Little did he know he’d have to deal with such nutcases.

He cleared his throat. ‘Alright, bright sunny day out here in Brisbane today, packed crowd, you can feel the excitement out here…’ Suddenly, a loud crash was heard from the other room.

Yadav ran across, and dragged Varun Aaron back to the room. He had charged at the television and smashed it into bits. ‘Leave me, I’m a fast bowler,’ he kept grumbling, but Yadav made him sit on the chair.

‘Right. So let’s begin with the meeting. I’d like each of you to state out the reason, according to you, for our loss. Let’s begin with Pujara’.
Pujara:
Shastri: Are you sure? But what about the wickets?
Pujara:
Shastri: Alright. Now let’s move on to Rohit. Why did we lose the match?

Rohit stands up, pulls out a handkerchief from his pocket, spreads it out on the table, and begins rolling it into a ball. Shastri is now losing his cool. ‘Let’s move on to Virat, then.’

Virat stares at him for a while, anger writ large on his face. And then, he speaks – ‘Motherchod teri maa ki choot saale bhonsdi ke haraami kaat daalunga saale behenchod harami’.
Rohit Sharma quickly turns around, takes out a notepad, and jots down some points.

‘If only he did that for his cover drives too,’ Shastri thinks, but knows better than to tell the players anything. He had been like them once – young, hot-blooded, brash, arrogant. The team managers had tried to stop him too, but it was a lost cause. His mind went back to that mad drunken night when he had 17 beers and humped Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. The world was shocked when he announced his retirement later that month.

‘Alright, then. May be we should move on with the-
Suddenly, Varun Aaron was up again. He took off his shirt, bellowed like a drunk bull, and charged at Shastri. Dhoni shook his head, looked at Kohli, and cursed under his breath.

Kohli, Rohit and Yadav ran to hold Aaron down, when Ashwin flung a chair at them. Enraged, they ran towards him, when Dhawan twirled his moustache and slapped his thigh, egging them forward. Rahane now stood up to block the marauding gang, but they got to him and slammed him down on the table.

Chairs were flying around, the screams inside the room had reached a crescendo. The voices grew louder and louder, as furniture, plastic, cloth, and bottles were flung across the room.

Dhoni sat in a corner and was quietly doodling on a piece of paper.

Two mountains, with a half-sun peeping out between them. There were a few clouds, r shaped crows, and a river that began at the point where the two mountains met. He proceeded to draw a house in the plains below, with three steps leading to the house. Should I add a window- BOOM!

There was a monstrous noise, as they all froze, and turned to look at the door.

Dressed in a black leather jacket, brown corduroy trousers, and dark brown boots. The jacket was open, revealing chest hair, and his hair was carelessly thrown across his forehead. There was no mistaking that look, no mistaking the magnetic power it had all over all – man, woman, object. It could only be –

Jackie Shroff. He walked towards the group, the click-clack of his boots echoing in the new silence. He said nothing, walking till he reached Dhawan.

‘Maushichigand!’ he slapped him hard across the face, as Dhawan flew across and landed on his knees. Dhoni made a mental note to put him in the slips.

Jackie walked on to the rest of the group. ‘Mach mach mach mach, all you fuckers do is talk all the time. But when it comes to playing-

He pulled Rahane up by his collar, till his toes were hanging in the air, shook him violently and threw him back on the chair. Rahane, facing yet another unplayable delivery, fainted.

‘And you,’ Jackie spat, his eyes on Varun Aaron. ‘You make even that monster (pointing at Yadav) seem like Gandhi in comparison’. He lifted Yadav and threw him on Aaron. Aaron yelled and began to charge at Jackie. Jackie raises his hand, and Aaron stops, whimpering and simpering.

‘And you’, He turned to Kohli and raised his hand. Only to smile and high five him. ‘Your girlfriend is hot. Kal dekha main. Kadak item hai’. He then turned to Pujara. ‘Do you have anything to say?’ Pujara stared – his lips moved, but you couldn’t hear what he was saying. Jackie lifted him up and slammed him on the table.

Ashwin was punched in the stomach once. And then kicked in the balls. ‘That’s the doosra, asshole. Use it’. He walks across to Rohit Sharma. ‘You. Talented cricketer. When the fuck is your talent going to win us matches? Or are you happy hammering West Indian bowlers in Vadodara? Behnchod go play in Ranji, then.’ He raised a beer bottle and smashed it down on his head.

‘And you’, he said, turning to Vijay. ‘Your name is Vijay, but you never get your team to a winning position. Look at me, my name is Jackie, and I’m Jackie Shroff’. He slaps him hard across the face.

Finally, as the rest of the team lies on the floor, twisting and writhing in pain, He approaches Dhoni, who seems unfazed by it all.

‘Abey oh, cool customer! Maushichigand!’ He lifts Dhoni up and choke-slams him down on the floor. ‘Don’t give me that calm and composed drama, understood? I played Shirdi Sai Baba for fuck’s sake. No one can be calmer than me’. With this, he lifted Dhoni and slammed him down on the rest of his teammates.

Amidst the noise, Shastri listened from the opposite room. He had sneaked out just in time, and sat huddled next to Duncan Fletcher on the floor. Jackie walked around the room. Varun Aaron stands up, looks at Jackie, but folds his hands in obeisance to The Lord.

‘Motherchod. I wake up every morning at five o clock, only to see your sad, idiotic drama. Maushichigand!’.

His work here done, Jackie gives the team a look of disdain, and leaves.

As he retires to bed that night, Jackie is a relieved man. Tomorrow he’ll wake up to watch the third test.

***

How To Survive the Agony of an Australia Tour

An Australia tour is an excruciatingly frustrating experience. 

Once you get over the initial excitement of bouncy green pitches, an overseas tour, and the experience of waking up early to watch cricket, history hits you like a gigantic Amrish Puri slap. 

Your mind trudges back to all those tournaments when you pinned your hope on your favourite hero, only to watch him walk back to the pavilion, his stumps in disarray thanks to an Aussie fast bowler you hadn’t heard of. 

And then there’s Glenn McGrath. Not content with wrecking India’s happiness consistently over the last two decades, the guy will appear on television with his standard prediction – 4-0. There will be people talking about why this time there are better chances of winning a test, but deep within, your mind is saying LOL ROFLMAO. 

The entire experience of watching India totter its way through four test matches, each loss more brutal than the other, is utterly painful. And yet, we as cricket enthusiasts fall for it every single time. 

For all you heartbroken fans out there, here are some ways that could help you soothe the pain. 

1. Watch the matches online: If you’re watching the matches on TV, good luck to you. Not only are the matches generally depressing, the ads on TV these days could force you to look for a long rope. The agony of watching Hema Malini handing over a glass of water to you, and speak in that refreshing alien voice of hers, could drive a sane man into a Sreesanth. 

To give you something to cheer, watch the matches online. The commentary is far more interesting, the ads are even better. Then, when you’re done with one live streaming channel for a while, switch to the transmission of another country. Do this on and on, every few hours, till you land up at a Pakistani live streaming website. Your day, dear friend, is made. 

2. Watch Zee Cinema: In case you’re still wondering, Zee Cinema is the greatest TV channel there is. At any given point of time, you turn on Zee Cinema, and it turns you on back. In fact, the films showed on Zee Cinema are handpicked by God himself (once he has allotted the requisite 72 virgins to members of the ISIS). And since matches in Australia are telecast early in the morning in India, Zee Cinema is at its peak. If the cricket doesn’t interest you, switch to Zee Cinema and watch as sounds and visuals keep you enthralled. If you’re in luck (meaning if your maid doesn’t turn up early in the morning), you could even, you know, spend some quality time with yourself. 

3. Place bets on how many overs Shikhar Dhawan will survive: When Shikhar Dhawan arrived on the test scene, he hammered Austalian bowlers to all parts of the park. Since then, every time he has toured another country, he has given new meaning to the term ‘Shaktimaan at home, Shakti Kapoor abroad’. And since it looks like he’s going to be opening batsman this time, make sure you earn money while he’s earning brickbats. Choose a fellow sufferer among your friends, and place bets on how many over he’ll survive. Raise the stakes if Mitchell Johnson is bowling. 

EDIT: But be careful guys. Don’t take it to an industrial level – Meriyappan. 

4. Make use of the early mornings: If you’re waking up in the mornings anyway, you might as well make good use of them. Once you’ve switched on the TV and seen the score (75/6), grab your shoes and step out for a run. I generally imagine I’m a warrior charging at the Australian team with a sword in my hand. It’s amazing the difference that the right motivation can bring you. 

5. Follow Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar: Finally, if all fails, make use of BCCI’s annual Sarva Nidra Abhiyaan – Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar. Shastri, who is renowed the world over for introducting the Clichean language, is a force to reckon with. Watch him as he mouths out your favourite cliches – That went like a tracer bullet, That’s just what the doctor ordered, or One just gets the feeling… Place bets on how many cliches he can deliver in a minute, and smile as he reads out the score even though you can see it in large bold letters on your screen, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

And then, there’s always Mr. Sunil Gavaskar, the one reason the world of cricket hasn’t degenerated into Ice Hockey yet. The BIS standard hallmark on cricketing ethics, basics, and values. Watch him launch into a tirade against hapless, uncultured Australians as they make the grave mistake of picking their nose on camera. Watch as Gavaskar decides for the world how unethical the Aussies are. 

And then, just as Australia wrap up the series 4-0, watch Shastri remark that in the end, cricket is the winner. 

YAWN SAMBANDH: Yet Another Sri Lanka Series

Yet another Sri Lanka tour took place, and I chose not to watch a single match in the entire tour. Not one. I’d rather watch a Haryana vs. Saurashtra match on Neo Cricket.

So common are India Sri Lanka tours, that after his record breaking innings, Rohit Sharma went to his room, watched some porn on Xvideos, and went to sleep.

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Indians have watched so many tournaments with Sri Lanka that they are aware of the cricketers, their statistics, full names, and which schools their children study in. And Sri Lanka will tour any country to play a match. I mean, come on. They went to Pakistan and one of their players got shot in the shoulder. Shot. You have gone to play cricket, and a random terrorist dude takes out a gun and shoots at you.

If all the polar bears left in Iceland got together and formed a cricket team, Sri Lanka will go to play a tournament there. 5 tests, 17 one day internationals, and 22 T20s. Cos that’s how they roll.

I have always felt that we as Indians are like crack addicts. We need our fix of cricket every few months, or we’ll go crazy. Just imagine, if there’s no cricket played for a year. Guys will climb up trees and start humping monkeys. We need our cricket, bhai.

And BCCI knowing this, gives us our hit of cricket by organising these tours. Players are happy, fans are happy, all happy happy. But of late, the BCCI has been alarmingly inconsiderate about the feelings of an Indian cricket fan.

Why would you organise a tournament with West Indies? And then when they pull out, organise a tour with Sri Lanka, of all people? Haven’t you ever thought about it?

That there are just about 10 nations that play cricket on a global scale, and all of them are crackpots? There are India and Pakistan, two nuclear armed neighbours ready to go at each other’s throats. One nation where visiting cricketers are shot at. One country that has a militant ruler who likes to do what he pleases. And then West Indies, that’s not even a country, but a collection of seven countries getting together to play cricket. And yet, whose cricketers look stoned all through their matches, like they’d rather be at a Honey Singh concert than play cricket.

Why should BCCI get to do as it pleases with our cricket? I hope Kejriwal raises this issue sometime soon. That the sport is run by a private body of industrialists and politicians, with as much transparency as Anil Kapoor’s chest in the 90s.

Kejriwal should then go on to demand transparency and people’s participation in the process. For example, when Shikhar Dhawan gets out to one of those ‘I’m a drunk woodcutter chopping away lalala’ shots, BCCI immediately gets a guy from Bihar to speak to Dhawan on national TV.

Come to think of it. BCCI has so much money, is among the richest sporting boards in the world, and is single handedly responsible for 80% of the cricketing world’s income. Why the fuck would you want to organise a West Indies tournament with all that money?

Why not simply put it to better use?

See, one never knows when the good times will end. For all you know, the rest of the cricketing world might gang up against BCCI and end its monopoly. While you have the money, you should rule the roost.

And here are some top class ideas for what to do with all the money that BCCI has.

1. Employ Australian cricketers to do embarrassing shit on television.

For years, we got hopelessly thrashed around by the Aussies in each and every tournament. The Aussies were on a roll, till they met a formidable match in umpire S.K. Bansal, who took the most Aussie wickets in that match after Harbhajan Singh.

But even while that match is hailed as the turning point in Indian cricket, the narrative was not as linear as it is being made out to be today. India still got thrashed by Australia in every tournament they played.

Now, it is time to avenge those losses. And this is how you do it.

Pay Australian cricketers good money to come to India. As we know, Australians will do anything in India for money (case in point being Brett Lee, who will soon be found selling Vada Paav at CST). Pay the Aussies good money for appearing in cringe-worthy Indian TV shows and films.

Like a movie where Harman Baweja singlehandedly smashes Australian bowlers to all parts of the park. Oh wait, that’s a real movie.

How about one where Jackie Bhagnani fucks Glenn McGrath on a velvety bed, with a Sajid-Wajid track playing in the background?

You have the money, make the Aussies pay.

2. Start the Sachin Tendulkar Show.

Indians love Sachin Tendulkar.

So charge them money to watch a TV show where people get to watch Sachin Tendulkar all day. Which side of the bed he wakes up from, how he brushes his teeth, and how many out of our 33 crore gods does he worship? (Then ask Vishnu devotee to send in a message to 57575).

And while we are at it, we could get Sachin to do some Indian culture stuff. Like brushing his teeth twice a day, being a good boy, drinking milk before going to bed.

Just to add some masala to the show, we could have Vinod Kambli enter the show for a few episodes. Walk in with a beer bottle, break some furniture, and break down and cry because he wasn’t allowed to control global warming.

Sachin could then sit Kambli down and explain to him about the many virtues of Indian culture.

3. Make Cricket Movies.

As a nation, our only popular culture is cricket and cinema. That’s it. A nation of a billion people, hundreds of languages and dialects, and all we do is watch cricket, and pay money to watch ugly middle aged men pinch teenage girls on their hips.

But what’s done is done. BCCI should now invest money in combining the two together to come up with Bollywood Cricket series of movies. A unique franchise where cricket and Bollywood get together for the sake of the nation.

One can imagine Ravi Shastri and Jackie Shroff hang out in Rampur like Jai and Veeru. And then add Nagma, Nayan Mongia, and Raj Zutshi into the picture. Just.

4. Just give away the money.

How about the BCCI just decide on one person every week, go to his/her house, and just dump money on his head?

Give away money to people on a lottery basis, and help themselves to get their daily fix of cricket.

I don’t really know.

Dear BCCI, do anything.

Just don’t organise another tournament with Sri Lanka.

Why I plan to give Sachin’s Book a miss

When there was news about Sachin’s autpbiography coming out, I was not among those who shared it on Facebook with the tagline – “God!!! Bless me with three kids and a hefty dowry”.

It’s not like I am not a Sachin fan. But the hyperbole around him just makes me a little wary of discussing anything related to Sachin. There are essentially two discussions on Sachin.

One that he is the greatest ever. He is the greatest batsman, the greatest player of any sport, the reason why the earth rotates around the sun, the very reason for the Big Bang. And on the other side, there is the argument about how he wasn’t really a matchwinner, how he slowed down his innings near a century, and was a selfish player.

As a cricket enthusiast, you are sandwiched between these distinctly opposite opinions, with nothing to do except pick your nose awkwardly, waiting for the debate to end. As Indians, we cannot have an objective debate on Sachin Tendulkar. Take for example the time when Indians attacked Maria Sharapova on Twitter because she didn’t know who he was. That’s how much we love cricket and Sachin. We love cricket and Sachin so much that we call Maria Sharapova a fucking whore for not knowing about our Gods. Yes, we are a little Talibanish when it comes to Sachin Tendulkar.

An autobiography is supposed to reveal something about the person that the world is unaware of. But what really is there that we don’t know of? Whatever it is, I am sure Sachin has no intentions to reveal his personal details (may be if it was Vinod Kambli…). Sachin’s life has been written about, spoken about, hailed, and enumerated by thousands of kids who dislike their Maths teachers across the country.

And through the many years that I have known him, Sachin has come across as the ideal boy, the ideal father, the ideal patriot – the nation’s Shravan Kumar. With such a huge baggage on his shoulders, I doubt he is going to be name dropping at this juncture of his life. Sachin has been upright, honest to a fault, and has never showed any signs of anger, disturbance, or aggression. In short – a very boring sort of person.

There have been numerous books on him, and each of them has toed the line that the grand Indian narrative has of the man – the perfectionist, the God-like talents, the humility, the enthusiasm. How much more of it can one take?

I certainly can’t, and have decided to give it a miss.
There’s also the fact that Sachin is never likely to talk about match-fixing. He will never reveal what Azharuddin and Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar discussed between matches. He will never talk about how he never went public against these men who were accused of throwing matches for money, floundering the chances of the nation that he so dearly loved.

And one can’t really blame Sachin. He has been the poster boy of the nation. In his success, India roared. In his failures, India mourned. It is highly unlikely that he would want to ruffle any feathers at this stage of his life (he’s only 41, and yet isn’t it strange how we talk about him like he’s an old man?). And this refusal to ruffle any feathers is probably the one big reason I will give his book a miss. Unlike Shoaib Akhtar, who gave lesser fucks than his batting average, about issues like this.

And then, there’s the biggest reason I will avoid the book.

It has been scripted by Bore-Yeah Majumdar.

For those of you who have lives and do not watch the IPL, Boria Majumdar is Arnab Goswami on steroids. He doesn’t attack his guests or interviewees, choosing instead to attack your brain with his examples, explanations, and rhetoric that could put a T-rex to sleep in minutes.

I fail to understand why Boria Majumdar was selected to write the autobiography. He’s hardly a cricketer, and quoting statistics is hardly the reason people are paid to speak about a sport. And as if his rhetoric isn’t coma-inducing enough, there’s the portion where he begins talking about cricket’s technicalities. Tune in to a news channel after a match, and you’ll find the man talking about Virat Kohli’s stance being problematic, and how Piyush Chawla should attack the stumps more often. It’s all a bit too much to take. Boria Majumdar makes Arun Lal seem like Groucho Marx in comparison.

When the reviews of the book began to trickle in, all my fears about the book were proven right. Sachin has conveniently given important issues a miss, has remained more or less reverential to everybody in the cricketing fraternity (even if they were throwing matching under his nose as the captain). And Boria Majumdar has stuffed so many numbers and statistics in the book that it is being prescribed as a textbook in universities.

So there you have it.

I grew up in the era of Sachin Rajya. I bit my fingernails when he batted, prayed for him to do well.

And yet, I don’t think I am going to be reading his autobiography. I am reading Naseeruddin Shah’s autobiography though, and I laugh out loud every morning after breakfast, leading my roommate to believe I am completely mad.