Friday, March 25, 2011

DEAR RICKY

Dear Ricky,

Let me start off by saying that over the last decade, probably noone has abused you more than I have.
I was a young lad in Bahrain, still not knowing what a Hell-Volhard-Zelinsky reaction was, when I first read of your black eye. "Ha, what a little punk", I said to myself. "He'd better shape up, otherwise a good career could very well go to waste", I would say, before heading back to Lakhmir Singh and Manjit Kaur's treatises on biology for Class X.

We cheered the loudest when Harbhajan got you out in the 2001 series. Steve was always welcome to make centuries, of course. Adam Gilchrist was the wicketkeeper we all wanted to be. But you were the temperamental genius, the spoilt young kid from a land which we only identified with the Tasmanian Devil (the cartoon character, to be sure). We hated you. We loved getting you out and the fact that you were clueless on Indian soil and helped build the confidence of our second most important spinner ever.

Then, you started to make a lot of runs. You started making runs in bucketloads. We weren't too concerned. We had Saurav, Rahul, VVS and Sachin (in that order of importance) who made us a better team.

In the meantime, you suddenly became captain. We laughed. Border, Taylor, Waugh. Huge shoes. Respected all over the world. And they give the guy who was involved in a pub fight the captaincy? Good day, Australian domination!

And then, you had the sheer impudence to win. Again and again. Not just that, you had the audacity to make runs. More runs than Tendulkar! What, is that even ALLOWED in this BCCI-dominated era?

And then, your 100th Test. The form of your fucking little life. Two centuries. I remember that image, Ricky. You were in the air, pumping your fist. You were a dominator. It was clear.

Ricky Thomas Ponting was not just a flash in the pan or a supremely talented batsman. He was a legend. It was clear that he'd end the decade as the leading run scorer, by a mile.

Which, Ricky, you did.

Along the way, Australia became the most hated team in the world. Why was that, again? Was it because you 'cheated' in 2008 in Sydney? Perhaps. We Indian fans would like to mollify ourselves by saying that. But then again, we've been beneficiaries of many a poor decision ourselves, surely? And if Michael Clarke hadn't taken those three wickets in the last over, surely, Sydney would have been just a blip instead of S&M for Indian cricket fans? Yeah, you probably shouldn't have told the umpire that you had, indeed, caught the ball, after refusing to walk. That wasn't very nice.

But yeah, it's not like we haven't all sinned at some point of time in our lives. I'm willing to bet my 450 GB collection of pirated music on that.

But anyway.

The world amplified events like these. We loved hating you. Do you realise that the entire world celebrated Ashes 2005 and 2009? We weren't celebrating England winning - we don't care two hoots about them - we were celebrating you losing. Yes, we hated you.

I clearly remember 12 March 2006. The greatest ODI ever (all you '99 fanboys and your talk of even bat-and-ball contest, shut up). In my hostel, there were tears of joy. We were jumping up and down, crazy. Think about it, Ricky. A bunch of Mallu to-be engineers. Celebrating an Aussie loss in a faraway land. Note: Aussie loss, not a South African win. We hated you, boy, did we.

But then, that nasty thing happened to us. Well, atleast to me. Age. And with it, a questionable amount of maturity. It wasn't cool to diss music 'below' rock and metal anymore. We started worrying about our girth and started exercising. We quietly Googled how to invest in mutual funds.

And, most shockingly, we developed a sense of respect for you.

Yes. We did.

It had to be acknowledged. Some of us even said you were a better batsman than Sachin. Which in the noughties, you were.
You won three World Cups.
You captained your team to victory in two of them.

You didn't exactly cheat to get there. Sure, mental disintegration and all that, sure. But if a player can't take a few abuses, what's he doing in top-flight international cricket anyway? Right?

You don't get three winners' medals by not having a little bit of talent. Neither do you do it totally by subterfuge. We quietly, grudgingly, admired you and your team. We'd turn our screens away from public gaze and watch your innings on YouTube. Alongside making investments in mutual funds as our roomies ordered pizza.

Mind you, to appear cool, we'd still mock you and make fun of you. Which is why Pontingface is the revolution that it was. But heck, we don't make a Smithface or a Jayasuriyaface or a Flowerface, even though they're amazing players who've had excellent runs against India. We loved hating you. And your arrogant team.

We haters only remember the Ashes victory, but conveniently tend to brush under the carpet the 6-1 walloping you gave the Poms after that (only Test cricket is real cricket, no?)

But oh, Ricky, we all loved you. Secretly. When a team would rack up 400/2 on Day One, we'd say "YEAAAH! Play like the Australians... Errr... Ah.", ending in a self-realising stutter.

On Thursday, I think for the first time in my life, I felt a pang of pity for you. You were now leading a bunch of guys who couldn't hold a candle to the legends you were used to playing with, and still made something out of them. And as good as we Indians were, it was anything but a convincing victory and I'm still not convinced we're a World Cup deserving team. Neither were you, but like us, you were trying. You never gave up. Wotta catch, that Clarkie. Good talent, that. He could be the next you, Ricky. Amazing talent. Lots of it. Importantly, we all hate him. The 2010s could be his. Train him well. We already have a Clarkface, don't we?

You knew your time was up, during the presentation ceremony. Must have been hard. And I really felt sorry for you, mate. Really did. Here was a legend, being boo-ed by an obviously immature audience. Would Bradman have been boo-ed in England?

I can't bring myself to apologize for abusing you over the years.
But somehow, I don't think it makes an iota of difference to you.

A tweet someone put out yesterday summed it up perfectly. "All you buggers who're abusing Ponting are silently celebrating because you all have him in your fantasy team."

Thanks for all the entertainment over the years, Ricky. You're a fucking legend. You know it, the world knows it.

Yours,
A grudgingly converted 'fan' (and I use that term loosely).

PS: You're still an asshole. But like James Hetfield sang - So fucking what?

==

Note 1: This post is dedicated to a dear friend, V, who passed away a couple of years back in a bike crash. He was an amazing buddy and a hardcore Australia supporter. I admired him for having the courage to choose when most of us stuck to the option we'd been born with. When he left this world, Australia's position in the world was unquestioned. I'm sure he'd have liked it that way. Rest in Peace, man. I miss the Boggle sessions.


==


Note 2: Hooboy, it doesn't take much to outrage people, does it? Show them stats that Ponting's been a better batsman than Tendulkar in the 2000s and they still refuse to believe. Anyhow, for anyone who questioned where my ACTUAL loyalties lie, please see this.




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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CRICKETERS STORM THEATER TO PROMOTE CRICKET WORLD CUP

It was an incredible sight on Sunday at Fame Adlabs, Andheri, when 47 cricketers from various countries stormed into Hall 6 to apparently watch Dum Maaro Dum. Critics claim the real reason they were present was to promote some minor cricket tournament called the ‘ICC World Cup’.

‘These buggers – some nerve, they have. Coming shamelessly to a theatre and promoting their silly little tournament. Is there no sanctity left in this world anymore?’, fumed lead actress Bipasha Basu.

When it was pointed out that the entire cast of the film had, indeed, shown up at Nagpur to promote the film support the team a week back, she floundered and replied, “Err... Ah, well, that indeed... Well, that way, we are only showing our, uhm, support for our team and the, er, national game, no?”

On being told that hockey, indeed, was the national game, she had this to say, “Oh what? Really? They should have something like a Hockey Premier League, no?”

On being told that such a league did, indeed, exist, that too, years before the IPL, she gave up and ran to John Abraham for cover.

In the meanwhile, Lalit Modi, who was nearby, fumed at the fact that such a league existed. “Nevairrrr. How could a league other than the IPL exist? This is outrageous, I say. I order this league to be banned.” He was then told that not only could the BCCI not ban leagues of other sports, but he infact was ousted from the BCCI and could not do anything anymore. “Oh well, guess I’d better sit down and watch this movie, then, no?”, he said, exchanging dirty looks with Shashi Tharoor who was present in a Kochi Tuskers Kerala jersey.

In the meantime, the cricketers claim innocence. “What’s wrong, can’t a bunch of cricketers come to enjoy a movie?”, asked MS Dhoni. On being asked whether this was in retaliation to the whole of the cast showing up at the South Africa game, he answered, for the 923472349th time in his career, “Well, of course.”

On being asked whether an event as large as the Cricket World Cup really required any further promotion, Yuvraj Singh had this to say: “Hey, I came for the free food. Quit the cricket questions.”

Saurav Ganguly was unavailable for comment as no one invited him. Last heard, his manager was trying to get him a free pass to the screening.

==

This post inspired a Faking News post here: http://www.fakingnews.com/2011/03/dhoni-nehra-to-watch-dum-maaro-dum-to-support-bipasha-basu/. Yayness! :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

ROCK ELITISM AND US

A few weeks ago, aging pop/rock star Bryan Adams came down to Mumbai for a show. I was excited, having been a huge fan of his music during my school days and thought I'd pay tribute by attending his show and generally indulge in some nostalgia.

Hoo boy, nothing had prepared me for the backlash that was to follow when I told some people I was going.

Ranging from taunts, point-and-laughs, phone calls to see if I was serious, and a very short, sweet SMS, simply containing the word "Thoo".

"But you listen to Dream Theater and Karnivool", said one gent. "I also like Carnatic classical. What's your point?", I replied.

Apparently, you can't listen to stuff like Bryan Adams when you 'graduate' onto music that speaks about ripping flesh and suicide. Ah, yes.

Rock elitism. One of the worst sorts of snubbing in our little society of delusion.

You know how you're at a concert waiting for some metchul band to play, and the PA system plays a riff that sounds familiar? You get excited and start humming along, not knowing what the song is. Then you realise it's Linkin Park (Heavens! And you're in your Cradle of Filth tee-shirt!) and immediately stop humming - and make a contorted face which questions the parentage of the DJ. Rock elitism.

It's basic human nature. As we 'graduate', it only becomes cooler to diss things we've graduated out of. Remember at school when you used to look upto the fifth graders as Gods? Heck, that devotion vanished when you were in the sixth grade. There were times we'd think how the blazes you'd ever finish a novel. Now that we read Steig Larsson and Tolkein, we rubbish Chetan Bhagat. And similarly, it becomes uncool to listen to Bon Jovi. Or Def Leppard. No?

Sure, an Adams concert may not have the dopeheads sophisticated rock crowd that knows their G minors from their Cadd9s and their Seymour Duncans from their Dimargios. It may not have the lyrical intelligence of Led Zeppelin or Dream Theater, but saying that 'this music is shit' or 'gay' is not just desultory but reeks of double standards.

Let's look at the points that the rock elitists usually cite, when trashing music lower than their acceptable levels.

1. Lyrical content

'Ooooh baby, baby.'
Is a line that could have been delivered by either Justin Beiber or the Backstreet Boys. But truth - Robert Plant sang it too, in Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You.

Okay, that was a little extreme, but I was just trying to make a point.

Popular music will never have the epic storylines of progressive music, or the opinions that metal tries to portray. Heck, that's probably why it's popular music.

But just saying 'the lyrics are kiddish' is a foolish reason to trash music.
Listen to the lyrics from early Beatles songs. But with the insurance of 'better' words from Sgt. Peppers and Abbey Road to back up the overall espousal of the band, it's safe to say 'I like those songs'.

2. Loudness and speed

This is even lamer. Patience (by GnR) is a 'softer' song than Larger Than Life (Backstreet Boys) and Nothing Else Matters (Metallica) is a slower song than Love Sensation (911). If the reason you like music is because it's loud and closer to incomprehensibility, I'm sorry.

3. Doesn't leave you with the same high

During the Adams concert, I looked around me. What I saw was one of the most poignant scenes I've ever seen during a show. People of all ages singing along. Kids perched on their parents' shoulders singing along and enjoying what was undoubtedly their first huge concert. Sure, there were no rip-roaring guitar solos, no invocations to the devil. But it just seemed that everyone fucking enjoyed it and enjoyed being there.

That left me with a high. Just like how straining my neck along with 30,000 others to For The Greater Good of God during Maiden '07 did.


I don't listen to pop or even Bryan Adams anymore. But I'm yet to see close-mindedness like the sort displayed by rock elitists. Example - look at forums when it was announced the Backstreet Boys were coming to India. Talk of pelting them and killing them. Movements to heckle people who go to their shows. Rallies to boycott them and ensure they never come back to India.

Really, guys? Really? Even a review on one of the most respected rock sites in India spoke of everything BUT the music (isn't that what the review was neutrally supposed to be about, in any case - and not the prevailing sense of negativity?)

I've possibly rambled on a bit and lost the original point I was trying to make out here. When people read an Enid Blyton to 'relive old times', it's cute. When people see Ice Age instead of their Tarantinos and Formans, it's called 'refreshing'. But go back to something played on just synthesizers and.... oooooh!

I have the same opinion on music listening as I do for religion - you practice what you want. I have no problems with that. But don't force your religion on me, and don't expect me to change my ways just because you do it.

Peace out, rock on.