Saturday, May 31, 2014

WHAT IF?

The room was abuzz with activity. Journalists uncomfortably shifted in their chairs, murmuring among themselves. Rivals from various TV channels forgot their contractual obligation to confidentiality, and freely discussed things that had been going through the grapevine. For, if what was being rumoured was indeed true, it would change the landscape of India’s favourite sport for ever.

The murmur suddenly reached a crescendo, and then fell to absolute silence. He’d come. Lalit Kumar Modi. Some say the most powerful person in the ICC, the one who really calls all the shots.

Modi took his seat, and quietly surveyed an army of journalists and cricket enthusiasts in front of him. He spotted a few legends of the game as well, some not from India. He knew very well the implications of what he was about to say – it would draw flak from the pundits, shock among the masses and panic amongst advertisers. He knew it all. But ‘Lalz’ was a brave man. Despite a voice frequency which could make a tuning fork move on its own, he knew how to get into dangerous and controversial things. And pull them off. After all, he was the kingpin in his school Tazo mafia. A quick thought of him exchanging a worthless Cheeto Tazo for a prized international Lay’s one from a ‘gelf’ Mallu sucker flickered through his mind. He smiled briefly and then let out a puff of air. It was time.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming”, he delivered. “Our great sport, started by our British and Australian ancestors in the 1870s, has come a long way. From Grace to Bradman to Sobers to Lillee to Richards to Tendulkar to Murali. It’s been a journey. But change has been constant, my friends. And we must endeavour to move with the times.”

The crowd took in a small gasp. They knew what was coming.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour, privilege and deep responsibility to unveil before you, The World Test Cricket Championship.”

The crowd stared. They knew precisely this was what would happen, yet they couldn’t believe this was happening. The journalists took it all down, not wanting to miss a moment. This would shape the future of cricket as they knew it.

“The top eight T20 teams in the world will now battle it out over a period of ten years to decide to World Test champion. But, I sense unrest among a lot of you, and would like to assure you that this will have no impact on the current T20 or ODI schedules. The yearly World Cup of each will continue to happen, we will continue to have the IPL, but we must embrace this new format, which is making waves around the world. This IS the future of cricket.”

There were questions galore, but no one knew where to start. Lalit saw this all and continued to smile. Perhaps now he could continue, he had prepared a long speech for all eventualities.
“See, over 130 years ago, when England and Australia played that first T20 match, when Charles Bannerman scored the now legendary 57 not out off 33 balls, little did we know how cricket would evolve. Many things have come and gone since. The scoops and reverse sweeps have made way for cover drives and square cuts. Those of you who watch grainy images of Don Bradman’s epic 166*, the highest T20 score to date, will attest to that fact. The rebellious Kerry Packer, in a bid to increase the amount of advertiser revenue possible, staged ‘longer’ matches, which he called One Day cricket. And to the horror of many people, he started using white uniforms regularly to distinguish his so-called one-day league! But today, it is accepted practice to wear whites and no one really raises a fuss.”

“Last year, after a complaint by some of the counties in Papua New Guinea complained they were not getting enough matches, the PNGCB came across a novel idea – a three-day match of 50 overs per day... With two innings. Many of you remember that, I remember there being much criticism in the press... Your press... About the same. How the world’s top T20 country could do something that could kill the game! But the floodgates opened! People loved this new method. Cricketers loved it too! They said it didn’t have the frenetic pace of T20, and could focus on constructing an innings.”

“RUBBISH!”, screamed a legendary Malaysian T20 cricketer from the crowd, part of the 1977 World Cup winning squad. “Constructing an innings? What nonsense! It’s all this new generation and their lazy attitude! In our days, we’d just get out there in our coloured outfits and smash the bloody ball around! The worst kids would be given the ball, to teach ‘em a frikkin’ lesson. Why, we used to thwap sixes the height of the Petronas in those days...”

Modi sighed. He expected backlash. “I agree to your point, sir. But this is not 1977 anymore. Things have changed. There are more youngsters interested in building their technique and defence. And what’s more, bowlers are starting to feel marginalized, and have got better. Infact...”, and he knew this statement was going to bring the house down, “I have made it mandatory for each team to select bowlers on merit.”

The din took five minutes to subside. “Defence?!” screamed a pundit. “What new-fangled rot!” and left the room in disgust.

A journalist, known for his statistical bent of mind, took the audience mic. “Sir, this is very brave. But... Everything’s going to change. What will a good innings be now? A batsman has virtually unlimited time to score runs. Will we be seeing scores of 200s and 300s made by a single batsman?”

“It could very well happen. The idea is to give a batsman time to construct an innings and the bowler, being a vital part of the game, will aim to outfox the batsman proactively rather than hoping for an error. We’re hoping that someone will be able to better Shane Warne’s 2/4.”

Some of the audience couldn’t fathom it. A bowler taking more than 2 wickets in a game! Things would never be the same! What would happen to the IPL, the institutional tournament which was into its 23rd year? How would players be able to handle the heat and conditions for 5 straight days, for over 80 overs per day? All this fitness nonsense was going to ruin the game, many felt.

Modi smiled, realising his work was done. “On a parting note, friends. I’d just like to tell you not be afraid of change. Yes, this may seem too much and too daring. But it could have easily been the other way round. Imagine if we had started out with Test cricket instead, and slowly changed to T20 over the years. Imagine if Bradman were a Test cricketer – imagine the number of runs he would have scored! Imagine if bowlers were given competent wickets to bowl on all this while, they might actually have had a role to play. Why, some of them might have picked up all ten wickets in an innings!”

At this last point, the audience burst into laughter. Modi’s legendary wit had worked again. And at once, they knew it was alright. Change was inevitable. Yes, many could picture parody articles on cricket websites for the next few days (“Modi proposes timeless Test matches”, one satirist was already thinking up). There would be flak.

But that was how cricket had to evolve if it were to keep up with the other sports of the world. T20 cricket was for too long snubbed by Americans as being ‘mentally bland’, compared to the intellectual requirement of golf or 3-day baseball. Perhaps Test cricket was that lease of life that was required to save cricket.


In a corner in his room in Bangalore, a young cricketer who’d never been able to break into the India T20 team smiled. Rahul Dravid knew his time had come.

==

This piece was originally published on Yahoo! Cricket.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

150 PLACES TO VISIT IN MAHARASHTRA - ON A GOOGLE EARTH FILE

Short version: I love travel. Here's the Google Earth file. Enjoy. Share this post.

==

Long version:

So, there comes the time in every person's life where he's bitten by the travel bug.

In Mumbai, where I stay, people have the common lament that:
1. Travel is expensive
2. There's nowhere worth visiting nearby except the same ol' hill stations which are now commercialized.

I beg to differ. Maharashtra is home to some spectacular places - beaches, hill stations, treks, caves and many more. Now, I'm not a veteran traveler - indeed, the bug's bitten me only recently - but even in my short travel time, I'm astounded by the amount this state has to offer.

Self and wife went to Malshej Ghat - gorgeous greenery. We went to Malvan - stunning beaches. Heck, you can even just roam around Mumbai's forts and old city and discover amazing stuff on a weekend.

Add this to my love for Google Earth - which I believe is one of the finest programs ever. So what I did was very simple - I spent a lot of time mapping out various places that I'd like to visit in Maharashtra. And put placemarkers for them, and classified them.

Over 150 places in Maharashtra. Get off yer ass and go!

Places categorized!

And I'd like to share that file with you.

Download it from here (it's a 16 KB direct download).
Open it with Google Earth. And voila! Enjoy!

There are over 150 places, but a few disclaimers:
1. It's not comprehensive. I went through about 20 lists - from trekking websites to Wikipedia, but could have missed something out. Lemme know what these are, and I'll add them in (and update)
2. Some places are repeated. For eg: The same places might be in 'treks' and in 'forts'. And some forts might not be in 'fort' because it's in 'treks'. Kindly adjust.

Well, there you go. Don't ever complain that there are no places to visit near Mumbai or Pune. For cheap buses, check out the MSRTC website.

Well, enjoy :D

And yes - spread the word across people from Mumbai. More people need to get off their arses and go out rather than vegetate home on weekends ;)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

THE CRICKET KWEEZZZ

I once did a cricket quiz for @kweezzz. Kinda proud of the questions. Have a look?

01) Who has the highest score on first class debut?
Hint: He was padded up when Sachin and Kambli put on their 664 run stand

Amol Muzamdar

02) Which English cricketer played for a (now) EPL club?

Denis Compton

03) If Rahul Dravid had scored 5 more runs in the Lord's Test against England in 1996, what first would have been created?

Hint: The first was finally performed by Pakistan v South Africa in 1997

Two debutants scoring a century in the same innings. Lord's 1996: Ganguly 131, Dravid 95 | Rawalpindi: Mahmood 128, Naqvi 115

04) In 1789, a cricket 'tour' was supposed to happen between two nations. Why didn't it?

Hint: One of the countries wasn't a future Test playing nation

English cricketers' tour of France. Cancelled due to French Revolution

05) In 1900, which bowler dismissed WG Grace, taking his only first class wicket?

Arthur Conan Doyle

06) In Dec 2001, A denied B a major record in Test cricket. In Jan 2002, B denied A the ODI version of the record. Identify A & B.

Hint: Bowling record. Many Zimbabweans were harmed in the making of both.

A - Chaminda Vaas, B - Muralitharan. Vaas took the last wicket when Murali was on 9/51, and Murali took 2 wickets when Vaas was on 8/19

07) Martin Guptill has 7. Fred Titmus had 6. What am I talking about?

Toes. Martin Guptill lost 3 toes in a forklift accident, Titmus lost 4 in a boating one.

08) In 2009, Noor Ali of Afghanistan achieved something that only 3 others have before him - Arthur Morris, Nari Contractor, Aamer Malik. What?

Hint: In Test cricket, only Yasir Hamid and Lawrence Rowe have achieved this.

Century in each innings of the game.

09) Connect: Charles Bannerman, Geoffrey Boycott, Adam Gilchrist

Faced the first ball of each international format - Test, ODI, T20Is respectively.

10) Alec and George Hearne, Eng v SA, 1892. Ed and Dominick Joyce, Eng v Ire, 2006. Connect.

Only instance of brothers on opposing sides in Test and ODI cricket respectively

11) Who was the last cricketer to score a double century in his last Test innings?

Jason Gillespie.

BQ) FC cricket. Who sent away all his fielders, wicketkeeper included, leaving only himself, the two batsmen and the 2 umpires. Then he recalled just one fielder, placed him near the stumps. When asked why, he replied, "I've troubled the umpires enough, this guy's going to pick up the bails". True to form, he clean bowled the batsman, the fielder picked up the bails and handed them to the umpire. Who was this bowler?

Bart King, widely regarded as USA's best ever cricketer.

12) Ranjitsinjhi, Deodar, Nayadu, Merchant, Hazare are the only cricketers to be ___________ ?

Commemmorated on Indian postage stamps.

13) The question I asked Steven and got it featured! When was the last time that whites were worn in an ODI?

Hint: A near-emulation of Kapil Dev-Eddie Hemmings.

Zimbabwe v India, December 2001

14) Sunil and Rohan Gavaskar are the only father-son pair to do what?

Take a wicket off their first over in ODIs.

15) Which is the only cricket ground in the world that was built over a water body? Hint: 12th and 13th men

Basin Reserve

Thursday, September 12, 2013

THE WEDDING CHRONICLES, PART 3

I really wanted to post the day after the wedding, but that never happened for a variety of reasons - including being inundated with relatives and ferrying off to various temples. I apologize to any of you who were waiting for an update here before taking stock-market decisions.

Well, it's been close to two months now after the wedding. Now, I really don't want to bore you with the usual jazz of how things have changed, but what else is one to do with a post-wedding post? I can't randomly go off and talk about the Mike Mangini vs Portnoy era of Dream Theater, neither can I segue into a critical analysis of the best packaged chaas available in the market. So post-wedding stuff it will have to be. 

But I'll keep it bulleted because bullet points, for some reason, have this psychological ability to make a huge wad of text look less daunting than it actually is.

1. If anyone tells you life before and after marriage is the same - they're lying. A lot has changed, things feel different, you feel the need to make an Excel file for accounts and you suddenly realise that you need to take permission to buy your next pair of headphones.

2. We went to Bali for our vacation and what an amazing trip it was. I'll put up a separate post on that later. We had a ton of fun - beaches, scuba diving, SO MUCH SEAFOOD ZOMG, more beaches, greenery... It's an absolute paradise and if you're planning to go, I'll be more than happy to help you plan your trip (in exchange for 'he's such a nice boy, he deserves a new pair of headphones' prods to the wife)

3. When you're married, your house ceases to be one large laundry pile where you come back to pass out every day. Suddenly things find themselves into cupboards, photos go from being digital to framed on walls, a hibiscus will find its way in, and even if the only thing you watch on it is FRIENDS off a pen drive, you will have a TV. 

4. You will now be the target of 'be decent. You're married now' ridicule from friends when you attempt to do something vulgar such as read Playboy or watch Virat Kohli.

5. I wanted to call the house router 'Husband and Wifi' but that was overruled in favour of 'IP Gangnam Style'. It's hard not to be attracted to someone who can fit a technology term into pop culture and make it funny.

6. We have promised each other that there will be one weekend trip per month. We've been to Malshej Ghat thus far. Let's see how this pans out. 

7. Apparently, I am allowed to buy new headphones only if I hit 75 kg, or the dollar hits ₹45. We all know which of this is more likely, so does anyone have Raghuram Rajan's phone number? (Also, my keyboard has a rupee symbol thing. I wrote this point just to show that off)

Yeah, that's largely about it. More later. Including Bali.

Friday, July 12, 2013

THE WEDDING CHRONICLES, PART TWO

So, how much has changed since I last posted?

To be honest, not much. The date is getting closer, more people who I don't know but I must pretend I do are being spoken to, and so much  money is being wasted you would think my family was effluent (hehe).

Now, from my limited exposure to wedding-based Punjabi music videos (face it man, we all had a crush on Malaika Arora in that video), it pretty much seems that the groom is the cynosure of all eyes, and my reticent silent-corner-seeking self was dreading the prospect of the whole wedding shindig for just this.

Fortunately, it turns out that the groom is never in the aforementioned cynosure. This is due to a variety of reasons including the fact that a TamBrahm wedding is largely never about the bride and the groom. It's actually all about the clothes. In fact, it's quite okay if the groom doesn't show up as long as well-laundered apparel does. 

Secondly, as you saunter around the TamBrahm universe, which is a fate I wouldn't bestow upon even Steve  Bucknor after the Sydney Test of 2008, you realise that it is rife with hypocrisy. For instance - on one hand, they admonish you for indecent clothing when you walk around home with shorts, but seem to have no issue asking you to bare your chest in front of an auditorium of 500 strangers.

Today is apparently my last day as a bachelor (technically engaged tomorrow night. I think. I don't keep up too well with these things, I just go along) and have had no time to do any bachelorry things (however, I did sneak out to have a vada and lime juice. Don't tell parents).

It's frustrating being a non-practicing engineer while meeting random people. For instance - my brother and I are at many times dragged from our reveries to be introduced to many people. Now, I - with all due modesty - happen to work for the biggest and best advertising agency in the world. The brother - with all due respect to him (he's cut out for WAY better things than software) works in a not-exactly-top-level software company. Conversations with random strangers (RSs) typically go like this:

RS: So what do you do?
Me: I work for an advertising agency. Ogilvy and Mather.
RS: Oh... Hmm... Ok. Did you see Australia batting? Hmm. Ok. Nice. And you? What do you do?
Bro: I work for US Tech.
RS: OHWOWISTHATTRUEJIZZIHAVEANUNMARRIEDDAUGHTERAREYOUINTERESTEDTELLMORETELLMORE

Bro and Me: #facepalm

Also, way too many people are given respect for nothing more than their ability to have sired a very large number of people. Reverence is always to be given and never questioned. Where's all that scientific temper that we speak of? ;-)

In the middle of all this, the brother and I have managed to sneak in time to practice a few songs. Those of you who are coming for the reception and are sticking around at the end - we promise you some interesting stuff. 

So anyhow, I've got a whole lot of ceremonies to look forward (?) to. I'm writing this blogpost in blatant defiance of orders that I've been given by my aunt ("Don't work at a computer - go straight to sleep"). The next time I write a post, I will be in some stage of matrimony. 

Wish me luck (for surviving the aforementioned ceremonies more than anything else!)