Friday, March 26, 2010

From Eye-Stabbing to Jaundiced

One of the few pleasures of being a Chennai Super Kings fan is the sitting around during breaks, trying to come up with new names for the colour of their costume ("uniform" doesn't sit well with the whole shindig, and "gear"? Gaaah, I'll pass).

From digusting poetry ("like the buttery sunshine that breaks through dense foliage on a pleasant summer afternoon") to disgustingly medical ("purulent exudate from an abscess"), it's been rather fun. I used to settle for the all-occasions "Men In Startlingly Bright Yellow", but it these days it often vacillates between "Eye-stabbing" to just plain "jaundiced".

Was there any other point to supporting the team?

... Oh, oh right. The cricket.

I honestly believe if these jaundiced men had gotten their asses into gear at the right moments, our w/l tally would be 5-1.

See, the game against-

... okay, let me try that again. The GAME AGAINST P-

Oh, lord. Fine. THAT game. The game I'm trying my hardest to forget, the game that actually haunted my dreams the night I saw it played. We were - we -

Geez. But really: that exposed something vital in the inner circuitry of the team. And it has been malfunctioning ever since. Contrary to popular opinion, I believe Raina did the best he could. It's just that something vital's just
missing. Against Punjab (yes, I said it - I think I may be moving on. No padded rooms for me, nossir), where our middle order was cracked open like a rotten egg, we found a man unable to handle the pressure that he is meant to handle: Albie Morkel. If Ashwin was determined to be monumentally idiotic in the last over, I would endeavour to say Morkel was even more so, in giving Ashwin the chance to be monumentally idiotic!

That's where, friends, we need Dhoni.

Dhoni isn't revered because he's got prodigious talent with the bat/gloves (
he doesn't), or that he's the greatest tactician out there (he isn't), or because he's got some supernatural Jedi-like ability to calmly smile in the face of an approaching tsunami (he'd be sensible and run like hell). It lies primarily in his ability to go out there, see the situation for what it is, and stop it from going sideways (most of the time). He's built most of his success as captain/batsman in making sure his team doesn't fall into the hole it resolutely persists in digging, and that's exactly what we needed there, exactly what Raina provided in our win against Delhi (seems so long ago). Except he got run-out for a needless run (all run-outs are for "needless runs", if you'll notice) against Punjab, and neither Parthiv nor Albie had it in them to take up the responsibility.

This, needless to say, is worrying.

It was like watching your favourite cousin fail in the finals after topping the class the whole year. :(

So, anyway: major dent to the psyche? Check.

Next game: Bangalore.

Look, nobody was really expecting CSK to win this one, and being the gracious team that they are, they obliged.

But how!

CSK, here's a clue: if you're gonna lose, do it humiliatingly. 100 runs, ten wickets, I don't care. That's it. Make me not care.

Don't lose... like this! (because "going down fighting" is a load of bull-crap that doesn't change anything except make you depressed and anxious; "going down with a thump" is something you can laugh off and forget)

Raina was awesome on the field as captain. Like I said, responsibility does him good! I really liked his body-language, and liked even better that that language expressed in great stops and stunning catches.

Unfortunately, the Tamilians in the squad had been hit by an Evil Supernatural Jinx greasopalmus. It's a terrible blight. I present my case:

First, Balaji dropping Kallis off Morkel. "Lost the ball in the background"? Hm.

Second, Ashwin dropping Uthappa while nearly colliding into Tyagi. What are you playing, people? An under-15 friendly?????

Third, Vijay dropping Uthappa at long-on, with no excuse. It's the kind of catch he would catch blindfolded, one arm amputated and the other with just three fingers on. And he dropped it, with all his faculties in full function. Dropped it!

And 35 runs were scored in the next two overs! (And Raina, I thought, made a serious tactical error in saving up Balaji and Ashwin for the death. Either one of them in the end is risky enough. But both? Nuh-uh.)

And "Robbie" Uthappa won the MoM! And he has the NERVE to say that he "wanted to stay till the very end"! What he should've said is, "I'd like to dedicate this award to my South Zone teammates from TN, who were kind enough to recognise that my career as an international player is close to non-existent, and help me out in that regard, as they are generally wont to do, given their modest, reserved and helpful natures. Guys, I can't thank you enough. Three jigarthandas on me next time we play in Chennai."

"GAH" is sometimes all you can say.

So: 172? No big deal, right? Easy.

Except Parthiv gets out early and Raina makes Serious Tactical Error No. 2: George Bailey.

No. 3, yo. Raina, it's YOUR position, and nobody else's. Particularly if that nobody's name starts with "George" and ends with "Bailey."

Mr. Bailey ate up a lot of balls and regurgitated nothing, until I was practically begging at the TV, "George, just get out." He obliged, but only after getting Hayden run-out. And I had practically blown my last remaining fuse by then.

It was too much, too late for the rest, and we folded predictably. And guess how many runs we lost by?


I bet Vijay's hands were burning at that point.

Speaking of bets, next match: Mumbai. Again, not one a lot of people were expecting us to win, but hey, Dhoni's back! And that raises the awesomeness by a few hundred degrees.

Buoyed by all the awesomeness and annoyed beyond measure that a lot of my classmates seemed to supporting Mumbai ("Sachin's there" is NOT an excuse. Arre, does nobody get territorial about sporting teams anymore??), I proclaimed, rather bravely, that CSK was bound to win.

And we started off well, we did.

A) No George Bailey. All rounder replacing all-rounder, i.e., Perera (who I was frightened to find out is only a year older than me) replacing Kemp. Great.

B) Dhoni's playing.

C) That point deserves repeating. DHONI. IN THE TEAM.

D) Ashwin out, Jakati in.

E) Raina walking in at No. 3.

We batted well, Raina and Badri were so awesome, but they were never really able to... just. push. the. gear. up. one. more. notch. It was a bloody shame that we were able to scrounge up only 7 overs off the last over with two batsmen who'd been out there for 15 overs at the crease, but Malinga bowled genuinely well.

So. Bowling and fielding. The single most undisciplined effort I've seen from CSK all tournament. It was painful to watch: the sheer no of wides, no-balls, sloppy stops that gave the batsmen opportunities to sneak in extra runs - was this the same team that was so delightfully sharp on the field just a couple of games ago? We really need to pull ourselves together, and fast.

Still, a few timely wickets, and the match was sweetly balanced at the end of 16 overs.

Then Perera came on to bowl, and Dhoni said ten agonising minutes later, "Hm. That might have been a mistake."

Five full-tosses. "Juicy" as they say. All of them hit for four. Twenty-one runs off the over. It was like some sort of mini Groundhog Day: Perera would run in, bowl a full toss, Sachin/Pollard would flick it off, and poof! boundary, Perera would grimace and groan, and Dhoni would get this look that says, "well, it seemed like a good idea at the time...." and then Perera would run in to bowl again, and -

You get the general idea.

Game, set and match after that.

CSK need to do some collective soul-searching. I firmly believe that this is a team with vastly underestimated players - so underestimated, in fact, the players do it themselves. They've got to figure out their roles, and need to forget 21/3/2010. It never existed.

Also, we've got the absolute worst reserve bench in the whole of the IPL. Thishara Perera? Look, I know the guy was good in India last year for Sri Lanka, but he's young, inexperienced. I thought we had Thilan Thushara in the ranks? And you know who would've been perfect? Nuwan Kulasekara. I cannot believe that he wasn't snapped up by any IPL franchise (I think).

Local players? Hi, where are the bowlers? Playing for other teams! It's actually kind of pathetic. We've got a weak pool to choose from, it's sad.

Still, we're an awesome outfit. I love this team way too much to be cussing it for prolonged periods, and I think we're in for a turnaround. Lessee.

(And it's in these kind of moments that I really, really miss Amy. :( )

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You know what Chennai's problem is? I'll tell you what it is.

Okay, I've been watching the IPL rather faithfully, but my laptop decided to up and die on me.

However! I believe it's been fixed (mostly), so, blog? Right, the blog.

Part of Chennai's problem is that they're too awesome for their own good. Who comes in where? Who gets to captain when Dhoni's injured? I was dubious about Raina being chosen (Badri, I thought, was a natural choice seeing as he's got actual captaincy experience, and has led India A and India Emerging Players on several occasions), but the responsibility seemed to do him some good against Delhi. I wasn't able to catch but the last 5 overs of Delhi's innings, where the fielding and the catching was really impressive. But more than anything else, I loved his batting. He took a leaf out of Mahi's book, and paced his innings well, staying there and finishing the job, even finishing the chase off with a six, as MS is wont to do. An emphatic 'screw you, we're all over this' to the opposition.

The only thing to avoid now is complacency.

The major part of Chennai's problem is their bowling. Look, I appreciate teams being objective about their supposed weak spots, but I think Chennai underestimates their bowling way too much. Give your bowlers a chance, yo - they're actually rather awesome, and the more you put them down, the more they're going to return the favour. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy, or something. Just one more cliche (just to annoy you): you're only as good as your weak spot. And our weak spot ain't actually that weak.

Also, this got me thinking: are there no other pacers playing for Tamil Nadu? I'm aware of Yomahesh, who's playing for the Daredevils, and of course, there's Balaji, but who else? C Ganapathy? Dakshinamoorthy Kumaran? There's Rajagopal Satish, who's intrinsically awesome (yes, I watched the first ICL tournament which the Chennai Superstars won, and the ICL tri-series where Satish led ICL India to victories against ICL Pakistan and ICL world and I know, I'm jobless), but he's playing for the MI. I'm pathetically unaware of what TN is doing with its bowling stocks, it's sad.

(And what about Thiru Kumaran of the awesomely shiny pate? He did a good job for the Superstars, too - has he been picked up by any franchise?)

Third: the Mongoose. Seriously, my sanity is at risk. If I hear one more mention about that bat in conjunction with Hayden's innings, I'm going to snap. ("Mr. Mongoose"? Seriously?) I mean, what kind of attribute is that to a cricket bat? "I've got a longer handle and a shorter blade, but don't worry: I've got a bigger sweet spot!"? And the way the papers are hyping this, you just know it's not going to end well.

Speaking of the papers:

I get the Hindu, the Deccan Chronicle, the New Indian Express and the Times of India at my home (the whole newspaper + coffee in the morning is ingrained into our genetic makeup, so more papers means less fighting/tearing each others eyeballs out between family members in the morning), and the preview to the CSK v DD match in each of them was entertaining to read and compare.

The Hindu was diplomatic (and the only paper to not have a special IPL page: go, Hindu!) while reporting Dhoni's injury: said he'd be missing only two games, that his absence would be felt, but more than compensated by Hayden and Raina, who were bound to find form.

The Deccan Chronicle who spent a long time lovingly lingering over the DC v KXIP preview (and I swear, it's the only paper that calls them the "Bulls"), and declared that CSK was nothing (nothing, I say! Nothing!) without Dhoni. Hayden and Raina have failed to put bat to ball! Kemp and Morkel are stop-gap chokers! Flimsy bowling attack can't face up to the likes of Sehwag and Dilshan and deVilliers! The Apocalypse approaches! It also said that Dhoni was definitely to miss not less than three matches, so CSK was doomed (doomed, I say!).

The Times of India bypassed all the nonsense, solemnly declared that Dhoni was to have his arm checked on the 21st, and left it at that.

I didn't read the TNIE, because I hate it.

Bring on the paper wars, yo!

(Either that, or I'm reading waaaay too much into all of this).

EDIT: You know what the Deccan Chargers' problem is? I'll tell you what it is: Gilchrist. He talks way too much.

So, you know, on one hand, it's "yap yap yap" and the other hand his bat also goes "thwack thwack thwack", so: worst of both worlds if you're the opponent.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


All you need to sum up yesterday's match between the Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab. After the fireworks earlier in the day? Boring.

Toward the end, the camera kept snapping to the Delhi bench, showing players apparently squirming with tension as Delhi chased 143. I'm not sure why. Maybe Mishra really wanted to go to the bathroom and was hoping they wouldn't need him out there in the middle at the last minute. Or something.

Because really? There was nothing to be tense about.

The most entertaining moment of the match came when Dirk Nannes muffed a straightforward stop and had the ball go straight between his legs for four. Or DK's overthrows that went straight down the ground for four.

Least entertaining? The constant Preity Zinta footage. KXIP hit a four? Here's Preity's reaction. KXIP lost a wicket? Here's Preity's reaction. Michael Jackson died? Here's Preity's reaction.

Then the commentators have to react to her reaction. "Look at her go" and the ilk.


Ooh, JUST when you think those smug smiles are gone...

... Pathan gets out.

Wow, Yusuf Pathan, why don't you do this more often for, say, I don't know, the national team, maybe?

Nice match, some great batting all around - most of which I've forgotten because Pathan was so awesome. I was just thinking about how this whole thing was a done-deal at RR being 69/4 after 10 chasing 213, and how much I hated poor Ali Murtaza because he has a very close resemblance to a particular Tamil VJ I loathe on sight (seriously, it's Pavlovian), when Yusuf Pathan said, "Screw this", and hit three sixes in a row.

Then everything his bat touched scurried to the boundary. Can wood get scabies?

And yeah, I was hoping for those smug smiles to be blasted to smithereens - the Mumbai Indians, that is.

Did you see them grinning everywhere after the match? Dudes, next time you defend like this, you ain't gonna be as lucky. What if next time you score 120, huh? Huh?

Hi, IPL, it's not good for my digestion when you have me so actively against Sachin Tendulkar so close on the heels of loving him for his double-century super-awesomeness.

Just saying.

Friday, March 12, 2010

We are not entertained.

... except by one teensy little insignificant thing called cricket, but we'll get to that later, shall we?

Look. I haven't watched cricket in a long while, OK? And I've been looking forward to this IPL. So while sitting down to watch the opening ceremony yesterday, I did not expect an absolutely unpalatable hodge-podge of poorly executed amateur gimmicks. Hi, people! 2010! Billions of rupees! Internet! International access to the best around the globe! Creative heads!

You can do better!

So it starts off with.... silence. The ceremony took the longest time to kick off, and meanwhile the camera kept panning over the crowd in the weirdest headgear. Weird headgear only = awesome when they're funny, people. These... were not funny.

I was reduced to watching reruns of Psych I'd already watched twice before when I heard that the ceremony had started. Eagerly I flicked channels. And seriously, Psych was helluva lot more entertaining.

There is this huge... cloth cuboid tent thingamajig that's slowly lifted off the stage in the centre of the ground, revealing... okay, the performers, I guess. The guy in front starts singing, and dude. It's the most boring song ever. Look, I'm as big an Abba fan as anybody, but, really? For this ceremony? For this tournament?

Indian Premier League! I.n.d.i.a.n.

Get a few local artistes, belt out some pop B'wood tracks, get the crowd on their feet, and everybody wins. What is this goshdarned obsession with foreigners? Look, if you're going to get foreigners, you might as well get Lady Gaga or somebody. Not some washed-out band that's decades old (no offence meant). The singers were the ones jumping about on the stage, shaking their made-up manes, trying to infuse some non-existent energy. The crowd? Maybe just slightly bewildered.

Then these people with the white dresses standing around the boundary came filing in.

Whoever came up with that idea, please fire him.

They were... look, I don't know. My brother suggested, "chefs" while my grandmother was pretty insistent they were "hospice nurses" or maybe "nuns". Personally, when some built in lights in their dresses started glowing, I was going for extras from a hybrid of Star Wars and The Omen (don't ask me why).

These lights were of different colours, and a lot of them didn't even work. They were scrambling about, ostensibly trying to get into some kind of formation, but I don't know. They were just going about with confused, embarrassed smiles on their faces. It was like slow torture, having to watch this (until I realised that, you know, I didn't have to watch it).

Then came Deepika Padukone and her ultra-short dance routine, with support dancers who were dressed in costumes so grotesque I can't even snark about them. The song selection started off great (I gotta feeling, by Black Eyed Peas) and quickly devolved into lameassery. And the dance moves? Were not even fit for exhibition on a Filmfare awards show.

When I came back again, they were showing a laser show on the big white tent, a sort of 'nostalgic' recap of the first two IPLs. And people, I was ready to lose it. Hello, you are only two years old! We haven't got short term memory loss, you know! We remember (like you ever let us forget)! Look ahead! Do something new and flamboyant and stop wasting our time!

And then came Lionel Ritchie and some song and some fireworks, but by that time I was tired and pissed off and wishing really hard for some cricket.

The cricket turned out to be actually kind of awesome (KKR def DC! That makes me happy) but it turns out there was one more annoyance lurking in the bushes:

In between balls of an over, the camera would shift to the digital board, which would blare out an ad in full volume.

And, listening to Akshay Kumar's inane, loony laughter while 'advertising' Micromax mobile for the umpteeth time, I really lost it.


Either that, or I'm getting cynical in my old age.

EDIT: Oh, it would be amiss of me to not mention the match preview show. Navjot Singh Sidhu is back, with all of his metaphors and gesticulations, a hilarious counterpoint to the anchor's style.

So he's waxing poetic about "music as a language" and Mr. Kocchar decides to take a brave step beyond saying "Indeed" and adds "Music is really bubbly, it gets all the batsmen bubbled up" and somewhere I was dying out of laughter.

Now that's entertainment.