Thursday, July 29, 2010

IPL Aftershocks

So. A lot of people like to blame the IPL for a lot of things: you know, cricketers worrying more about where the moolah is coming from than representing their country, a footballer-esque tendency to be seen with arm-candy, the utter suckiness of the Indian team and their inability to do anything right in the last two editions of the T20 WC, corruption, the belittling of the international game, eroding the values of Test cricket, headache-inducing commentary, piss-poor broadcasting, advertising to the point of utter nausea.

Did I miss something? Oh yeah, pollution, global warming, terrorism, American Idol and pretty much every evil in the world.

BUT! There are things (if things is the word I want) that are much, much worse that tend to slip under the scanner; things that piss me off to no end.

a. Its influence on Indian selection. I don't even have to explain, just name names. Manpreet Gony. Rohit Sharma. Vinay Kumar. Sudeep Tyagi. YUSUF PATHAN.

b. The fraying of mute buttons on TV remotes all over India. Even now my finger still twitches toward that button every time I sit down to watch cricket. Damn thing hardly works anymore.

c. A deluge (and I mean tidal wave, frickin' tsunami) of IPL critics. Suddenly the IPL is responsible for everything! The tournament isn't without its many faults, but the utter acid (most of it completely gratituous and horribly pretentious) that dripped from so many "informed observers" corroded not just my laptop screen but also my ability to enjoy the game at all. ("Test cricket is the only cricket worth playing! Oh these young 'uns with their terrible tastes in music and sport and heroes and movies are ruining our culture!" Stuff it, guys.)

d. THIS:

(and a zandu balm ad featuring the delhi daredevils which i unfortunately couldn't find online)


I died. Several times.

You're talking about the IPL being a terrible influence. Hahahahaha.

You have no idea.

EDIT: About the current (travesty of a) Test series?

Dhoni: "A bowling attack with experience, variety and skill? Durrrr.... what's that?"

Sangakkara: "You know, I'd be happier if the double hundred came against a regular Test-playing nation. Y'know, like the team that's number one in the rankings right now. Like -- wait, what do you mean, we're playing India?"

Raina: "OhyayIscoredaCENTURYonDEBUT! IscoredabuttloadofrunswithTENDULKAR! I'msohappyIcanpogostickallthewaytoChina!"

Tendulkar: "Uh, so. Another Test, some more runs scored. Same old, same old. *yawn* Which country are we playing now, by the way?"

Zaheer Khan: "I'm kind of reeeeally glad I'm halfway across the world from Sri Lanka right now. Actually, scratch that. I'm just glad there's this many miles between me and the Indian cricket team, period."

Ishant Sharma, et al: "Pleeeease can we join you, Zaheer bhaiya?"

Harbhajan Singh: "Look at me, I'm down in the dumps. LOOK AT ME, dammit."

Random Sri Lankan spinner: "So! Somebody was telling me that playing Test cricket against the best lineup in the world would be tough! Dammit, wish I'd taken a bet against that."

Atul Wassan: "It's kind of worrying that even now India has to depend on Tendulkar to get them out of trouble. If after so many years we're not able to fend for ourselves -- "

Everybody else: "The dude's doing his friggin job as a middle order senior batsman. And whose shortcomings is he trying to make up for? Dravid and Laxman, who've been playing pretty much forever too!"

Muttiah Muralitharan: *points and laughs*


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is ANYBODY really looking forward to this series?

What it says on the tin.

Aside from it being Muthu Muralitharan's last shindig in a long and illustrious career, is anybody really looking forward to the India v SL series starting tomorrow? This is the first Test series I'm going to be able to see after a long time - and reading stuff like this and this hasn't been really encouraging.

Particularly stuff like:

Who can stop Tillakaratne Dilshan from smashing a ton against this Indian attack? If he can play with controlled aggression, a hundred is there for the taking. And he can set the tempo by denting Ishant Sharma's already fragile confidence with a few boundary hits. It should be much fun watching Dilshan bat in this Test. Will he be over eager to attack? Can he show judicious shot selection?

Right. Riiiight. That's just gone beyond analysis and straiiight into 'eh-what-the-hell' snark.

So we've got a sucky bowling attack. So what?

I'm holding out for a Ishant five-for in the SL first innings. Why? Because I can. And I want some reason to look forward to the Test cricket, dammit.

(And because if I read "India's problem is its bowling", I'm going to implode. Hi, bandwagon people! Quieten a bit, whydontcha?)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Clicking of the cosmic tumblers

It's been a nice few months without cricket - exams, a month-long trip to the USA (where if you mention "cricket" you will be handed a bottle of insect repellent), and a healthy dose of disgusted disinterest pretty much wiped cricket off my agenda. Things have been fairly crazy, India and Sri Lanka are playing each other to the point of hair-rending boredom, the usual cricket is corrupt! (seriously, cricinfo? The IPL Mess? That's very educated and so enlightening. I'm going to imagine you're talking about some communal meals programme that Lalit Modi very kindly started for all the players) cricket is racist! (you nominate a guy even you don't like. Then imagine just how much you loathe the organisation you're nominating him to) nouveau-riche India is holding the cricket world in its filthy, corrupt hands (Hi, rabid anti-BCCI agenda! Also, BCCI =\= India. Seriously.) and all that jazz. However! I'm back, and looking forward to watching some cricket after the self-imposed exile. Before that, of course, a few things need to be pushed off the table:

Oh yeah.

Despite everything, did I ever stop watching the IPL? Nosiree. Anything that has "Chennai" tagged on to it should be the best, and wow, were we ever awesome. Halfway through the tournament, only thick-skinned optimists (such as yours truly) hoped they would reach the semifinals. I ventured a belligerent "they could even win, you know", only to take it back almost immediately with an apologetic grimace.

But CSK, man.

Perhaps one of the most gratifying things about watching the IPL was that, despite the fracas going on in the background, and all the jabbering about Twenty20 as a flashy chip of paint off the strong and proud edifice of cricket (listen to me gag... or not), the players (the ones who mattered anyway) took it seriously. There is some payoff to all the nights I spent up, all the emotion, and all the time I invested, when I see someone like Dhoni literally punch his face in intense emotion after winning that game, after practically pummelling his team into the semifinals from an impossible situation. From seeing someone like Sachin Tendulkar (been there, done that, bought half-a-million T shirts- Sachin Tendulkar) risk worsening his injured hand just so he could play the final for the MI. To hear from both captains what the game meant to them in the post-match ceremony. As long as we can get commitment like that from the dudes that matter, the twenty-two dudes on the field, then I am willing to ignore pretty much everything else. I will remember the IPL for that emotion, and will continue watching it for the same.

Not to mention opening my eyes to the potential of quite a few players - Ashwin (who I was delighted to find lives in the same area of the city that I do, and is a super-smart school-topper-college-graduate), and, of course, Dougie Bollinger, who may be the Awesomest Person that ever Awesomed.

After that, the Twenty20 World Cup. I watched India's league matches, and assured by Raina's Century of Awesomeness against South Africa, I left for the US the night before we officially started our Super Eight campaign. For weeks I had no clue about what was going on in the tournament, as all the US papers were interested in talking about was baseball, some dude called LeBron James who was making some other dudes in Cleveland very angry, with little by-notes informing the presumably disinterested audience about the happenings in the world of tennis. I was finally able to find a paper that was published exclusively for NRIs, and even in that, buried somewhere in the back-pages was an article titled "England win World Twenty20" followed by a grinning Paul Collingwood holding up the trophy.

If you were anywhere in Southwestern Texas at that time in Mid-May, you might have heard my resounding cry of "England won a world title??!!"

(Seriously, people. I'm sorry. I'm still thinking the whole thing is some kind of cheese-induced dream. And USA eats a lot of cheese.)

((... England?... ))

Not that I expected India to win the title, or anything - although I'd hoped they would - but I'd placed even Zimbabwe with a higher chance of getting the trophy than England. Cha, now there's a perfect record permanently marred (Jokes apart, congratulations to the English team, who now suddenly seem to be in the form of their life - although even that is not enough to provide immunity to the Loss to Bangladesh Out Of The Blue Syndrome).

However! I did not see 90% of the tournament, so I have no further opinion on it. But what's a blog without shameless pandering of opinion, right? So let me tell you of what I did see that May.

The U S of A. It was an interesting trip, and I have a few observations:

1. It is huge. And I mean, HUGE. It crosses three different time-zones, which is kind of a bother when you're trying to cover as much as you can in as little time as possible. It is not fun to keep adjusting clock every other day, and oh, the jet lag? Unforgiving. (there is a trememdous amount of flying to be done. I, for instance, took thirteen flights within the US. My spine hasn't forgiven me since.)

2. As huge as it is, there is very, very little in between. Most people live in suburbs that are several kilometres away from the hub of the city, which means taking out the car and going for a long drive just to shop for groceries. Or clothes. Or go to school. This is completely weird, at least to me, because Indian cities like to fold on top of themselves, rather than really spread. I can't walk more than a few metres from my home without hitting several dozen shops catering to your every possible need squeezed together and spilling onto the pavement; a bus terminus and an MRTS terminus a few roads over; a hospital, and no less than three different schools.

3. Speaking of: the cars. There are just so many of them. Even high school kids. Except in a few select areas, public transport seems to be a near non-entity. Which, again, weirded me out, because, hey. For all our faults, we at least have an extensive public transport system.

4. There is a strange kind of beauty to the vastness, too: the climates and the surroundings change from place to place -- you might be in the scorching (well, compared to Chennai, rather pleasant, I thought, and cackled in mad glee that I was conveniently missing the worst of the Chennai summer) heat of the Nevada desert; another day in chill, windy New York; another day driving through Idaho and Wyoming where the land seems to hug the sky in a spectacular union of clouds, mountains, sleet and rain.

5. You really have to admire the American tradition of preserving and promoting their natural heritage. A visit to a National Park there is an exhilarating experience. I visited the Niagara Falls, Yellowstone Park - and it snowed! - and the Grand Canyon, some of the most breath-taking things I've ever seen, or ever will see.

6. They eat. A lot. Practically everything available there is super-sized. I ate the largest slice of pizza I'd ever had in my life (took pictures and everything before I took my first bite, too) and had the pizza guy tell me it was medium-sized. Medium-sized! Coffee, cheese, sugar, chocolate abound. McDonald's. Arby's. Wendy's. Subway. All just a few metres apart, literally, and so cheap; it occurred to me just how easy it would be to lose yourself in the food, how easy it would be to put a welcome sign on yourself to conditions ranging from atherosclerosis to stroke.

7. American Born Desis have the weirdest conceptions about India. First off, an almost Pavlovian reaction of supreme disdain to anything Indian (a muted version of which you can detect in their immigrant parents). Secondly, a habit of ending sentences with, "...oh, do they have that in India yet? Do they allow that in India yet?" (Because we're obviously Timbuktu circa 1845.) Thirdly, some of the weirdest theories. Writing papers about our infamous fairness creams ads, wherein our "obsession with fairness was obviously a consequence of the inferiority complex we still suffer from due to the centuries of subjugation by the British". Pop!Sociology, I have found your messiahs.

8. Faux-politeness. "Good Morning, how are we today?" "Fine, thank you" seems to be the traditional greeting there. Shop attendants. Airport security officials. Random people on the street. Everywhere. They go, "oh, I like your shirt; just where did you get that design?" and I'm sort of dumbstruck, because that's a complete stranger I'm just passing by, and we're just so unused to such manners from all quarters that it's doubly frustrating to come back to India and face people who obviously fell asleep when road rules were being taught; who spit at your feet and give you hostile glares if you so much as make a request for them to move so you can walk past. The politeness is all a facade - on a level, you're aware of that and it's disturbing, but still.

9. ... and that's all she wrote. About the USA, anyway.

Because, cricket? Right, cricket.

I saw some of the Fateful Zimbabwe Tour. Mr. Srikkanth, were you really kidding us? You think you could just slap on India colours to a bunch of IPL successes (Manpreet Gony and Yusuf Pathan ought to have provided sufficient deterrent to that method of selection by now) and they'll be all "look at our youth power! we're totally ready to fill in full time roles in the national team!"? Personally, they played like India A's second reserve team in an off-season. Cha.

I did see the Asia Cup. The India-Pakistan game did restore some of my faith in the game, and 'sides, I had a good time speculating about Obviously-Alternate-Universe-Century-Hitting Shahid Afridi. Our ODI team is just not looking settled: batsmen seem to be okay, apart from Sehwag busting his shoulder every other day, Yuvraj's happily feeding and twittering away, Rohit Sharma is the absolute worst excuse for an international cricketer I have ever seen. Our all-rounders are Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja, an unenviable choice. I have no idea what's our bowling attack any more, except that it's Zaheer Khan, et. al.

But what's ZK now? A pretty, pretty princess that keeps falling on some pea practically every other week, missing important series just when she's working herself upto some real bowling form. And of course, he had to go to Jo'burg for rehab. And he even mentioned something about catching the football wc final there! I swear I saw red.

Also, just a word here: Mr. Haigh's rant raised quite a few hackles, but I just laughed and laughed, because as soon as I read it I was reminded of this:

And now? The Test series v Sri Lanka to look forward to, followed by ODI series no. 87678 between India and Lanka (with NZ making a guest appearance. Gawd.)

Will we win? Will Mahendra Singh Dhoni's marriage affect his performance? Will it affect his team's performance? Will it create more fissures in an already cracked team? Will India be able to exorcise the ghosts of 2008? Will Sreesanth ever get to bowl again for India? Will Ishant Sharma ever get a proper haircut?

As Arnab Goswami's dulcet tones discuss these burning issues, I will turn off the TV till July 18, and I will hum, "When I get older, I will be stronger..."

Because I can.

(Also, I dedicate this post to my best friend, A, for nagging, encouraging, and prodding me back to blogging. Love you and hope you like. :D)