Friday, May 16, 2014

An Enigma named MS Dhoni

All this time I have been writing about IPL, Indian cricket, Aussies playing in IPL etc. but I felt something was missing which needs be addressed. The missing aspect here is none other than our very own MS Dhoni who enjoys number of sobriquets namely "Mr. Cool", "Best finisher", "Most successful Indian captain" and many more. Believe me I am confused as to what to write about him and how much, for there are plethora of things to be written about him.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni or MS or MSD or Mahi has metamorphosed from a flamboyant young man into a matured, smart leader. This metamorphosis itself is very interesting. I do remember first time when MS was interviewed on TV, after he was selected to play for India, some 9 years back. I saw this care free, flamboyant dude with hairdo like a rock star talk about his selection. Looking at his persona anybody would get an impression of a carefree, prodigal man who loves all good things in life. A person who is a show off. My feeling was no different. I thought he will come and go. I had a reason for this feeling. In past some of the players who led a flamboyant life were caught in the match fixing scandal and were banned for life. But MS was way different than others.

Early in his career he was noticed more for his hairdo than his cricketing prowess, but that changed when he scored his first ODI century against Pakistan a score of 148 which was followed by a knock of 183. That was a turning point in his career I think. He had announced his arrival on the cricketing scene with these two big knocks and there was no looking back since then. His day of reckoning came when he was handed over the reins of the Indian T-20 team for the world cup. With the stalwarts like Dravid, Tendulkar opting out of this tournament, proved to be a blessing in disguise for MSD, who passed the test with flying colors, bringing home the maiden T-20 world cup. This was a big achievement for a novice captain like MSD and it paved way for him to wear the thorny "Tiara", of captain of the national team in other formats as well; and how beautifully he has embellished this thorny crown of his, with jewels in the form of win after win, be it T-20 world cup or the ODI world cup, champions trophy, number one test team, beating the Aussies in their own back yard and the list goes on. He is rated as the most successful Indian captain ever. In recent times no one comes close to his achievements. What surprises me is his exponential growth as a player, as a captain, and his achievements. They are mind boggling, and one needs to have immense talent, persistence and hunger to get there, and not to forget the guiding hands from the heavens. It wont be a misnomer if he is called the king with a Midas touch.

All these years shouldering the burdens of a professional cricketer and being the captain of the Indian team has matured him immensely and helps him excel and stay grounded. Gone are those days of boisterous celebrations after picking up a wicket or after winning a tough match. You would see a phlegmatic Dhoni who very rarely displays his emotions on and off the field. His ability to stay calm and composed in the most difficult situations has baffled one and all; earning him name, “Captain Cool”. No one knows what goes into that head and how he manages to stay so nonchalant in difficult situations, when other mortals might pull their hair, chew their nails or even hurl expletives at the opponents, but that’s not Dhoni. He is unruffled by the surrounding mayhem, and that augurs well for the team. A calm leader is likely to take correct decisions than one who presses the panic button at every given opportunity. Seldom you would see he losing his cool and getting cranky, in spite of simmering tensions inside, his calm exterior is a boon to the team. After India won the 2011 ODI world cup, there were even talks of studying his brain to understand how he manages burgeoning tensions and not lose his cool. That’s MSD, a rare breed of captain.

The greatness of this individual augments with his humbleness, seldom you would see him getting embroiled in any sorts of controversies. At times his restraint from answering questions to the controversies surrounding the team, irritates the media, but he prefers his performance to do the talking. More than 8000 ODI runs, wins in all the major cricketing tournaments speaks volumes of his caliber and talent. He has achieved almost everything a professional cricketer can think of in a short span of 9 years. After Tendulkar’s retirement, I think he is the talisman of the team on whom the team can rely completely, and one who brings in calmness and solidity to the team. Undoubtedly he is the poster boy of Indian cricket, with greatness comes responsibility, and he is one, who conducts himself impeccably on and off the field. Success being his close ally for long now, he is still very grounded. To me he is an Enigma for sure, but who cares if he keeps bringing glory to Indian cricket.

IPL 7, the Aussie Juggernaut – Part 2

You see, in current times sequels are a given. Be it movies, books, or soap operas you would see the story continuing in a sequel or even more. Keeping up with the current trend, this article is a sequel to the “Aussie Juggernaut” saga, which is for everybody to see in this version of the IPL – 7. The Aussies representing different franchisee teams are showing what professionalism is, and how deep rooted “The never say die attitude” is, in their DNA. No match is lost until the last ball is bowled is what they believe in and give in their best in most precarious situations to come out winner most of the times. No wonder they are the blue eyed boys of their franchisees.

The other day the match between RCB and RR was a treat to watch and brought to the fore the twists and turns of T-20 matches. This match brought back YUVI to form and gave glimpses of how destructive he can be by scoring 80 + runs in mere 30 + balls and also taking 4 wickets to push the rivals RR on a verge of a massive defeat. But there was an unexpected twist to this tale. With the top 5 RR batsmen back in the hut with score less than 100 and the asking rate mounting to 15 per over, the task for the remaining batsmen was Hanumanian if not impossible. The result of the match was a fore gone conclusion in RCB’s favor, but the following blitzkrieg change the tide in RR's favor and eventually they won the match by literally snatching it from the RCB's jaws. The culprits from RCB's point of view were two innocuous, nerdy looking Aussies namely Steven Smith and James Faulkner. They simply tore apart the RCB bowling attack and made them look pedestrian. Such was the juggernaut, that the opposition could do very little but watch the ball fly out of the park repeatedly. The 2 Aussies started the onslaught by hammering their countryman Mitchell Starc to all corners of the park and augmenting their score with good 21runs after his over. This opened the floodgates for the marauding Aussies. The next in line to face the brunt were helpless bowlers from whom the Aussies plundered good 40 runs, to hand over a well fought, deserving victory to the RR team. I was watching this match with bated breath, for RR being my favorite team. Seeing them win so handsomely only augmented my appreciation for the Aussie cricketers.

The Aussies once again showed why they are rated so high and how professionalism is ingrained in their DNA. Many a times you would see them fighting till the end and not giving up easily, be it playing for a franchisee team or for their country. They hate to lose, for that matter everybody hates to lose, but I think they take it too seriously which helps them on the winning side most of the times. “To fight till the end” or “Never say die attitude” is easier said than done, and it really requires a steely resolve to have these attributes as part of one’s personality. I think, Aussies, besides the cricketing traits of batting, bowling are also taught to fight it hard and not give up easily. This aspect of their sporting culture comes out, especially when they are down and in precarious situations. I simply adore the Aussies, for they bring so much onto the table and are assets to any team. I would reiterate they would have the cricketing fraternity and fans respect and love them for their cricketing prowess, provided they don’t cross the line of sportsmanship (read sledging). Having said that, would not like to take away the fighting spirit and sheer entertainment they bring into the sport of cricket. I hope in coming days of IPL- 7 I am compelled to bring out another story about their heroics, so don’t be surprised if you see an Aussie Juggernaut – Part 3.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

IPL 7 – The Aussie Juggernaut

In spite of all the noise made for wrong reasons in the past, and a clamor to ban it this year, IPL is back with a bang and entertaining one n all. Viewership it has garnered since it started 2 weeks back is not surprising, with cricket loving Indians thronging the stadium's or are glued to the TV while the matches are on. The severe beating IPL brand received because of the fixing scandal last year, has not deterred the audiences, it seems. With just the first leg of the tournament over, audiences have already witnessed some amazing skills from the players from various franchisee teams.

Players from down under so far have been the front runners in all departments, be it batting bowling or fielding. The Aussie cricketers are a tough breed of professionals who do not give up easily and their never say die attitude augurs well for the teams they represent. Glenn Maxwell going hammer and tongs and bludgeoning the bowlers is a treat to watch, though it can induce fear in any bowler, who would prefer not to bowl at him, and see his back ASAP. His aggressive brand of batting, very much Aussie, is creating mayhem in the opposite ranks. The pyrotechnics he produced in the last few innings have blown away the bowlers to smithereens.  Punjab team is riding a wave of success with his contribution. Besides Maxwell, the other Aussie batsmen, read Warner, Finch, Smith, Watson are not far behind in matching Maxwell. They can frighten the living daylights out of the bowlers and the teams playing against them. Aussies have impressed all and sundry with their acrobatic skills while fielding and have taken some mind blowing catches which can defy the laws of physics. The catch grabbed by Chris Lynn the other day was an epitome of professionalism and has set a benchmark for others to match and transcend. No superlative or adjective is enough to describe that catch. Similar skills were demoed by the other Aussies in Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc. They have redefined the skills of catching and fielding overall. The Aussies play there cricket aggressively and don’t shy away from expressing themselves onto the opposition. They can be intimidating at times and the opposition can buckle seeing the Aussies run on field like a pack of wily wolves. The game won by Rajasthan Royals in the super over was a great exhibition of cricketing acumen from the Aussies. The Aussie pace attack of Mitchell Johnson, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Starc are doing excellent for their respective teams and exhibiting the art of fast feisty bowling. Seeing them run hard to bowl, can make the best in the business nervous and run helter-skelter.

The Aussies bring a lot to the table and are fierce competitors. The testimony to it, is they outshining the other foreign cricketers playing the IPL. There thorough professionalism is something others should imbibe and follow suit. Their brand of competitive, fierce cricket make them the best in business provided they stay away from sledging and not cross the boundary of sportsmanship. They are a value add to any team and can be a game changer. With just the first phase of IPL- 7 concluded, the Aussie Juggernaut is stealing the show and crushing the opposition mercilessly. In coming days it would be an Hanumanian task for others to stop this Aussie Juggernaut, who as always are fighting to win, period.

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I met Doeremon

I don’t know if it’s a story of every household, but you know, my kid blackmails me. You stunned? But it’s true, by kid BLACKMAILS me, and Threatens me. Now you would be expecting some spicy gossip about me, but you would be disappointed to know my kid blackmails me to watch his favorite TV program, the cartoon network. He threatens me to go on hunger strike if he is not allowed to watch his favorite cartoons. I have to give in to his whims and watch the programs he loves. My wife being a mother, also sings the same tune as my kid and coerces me to listen to him. With all helplessness creeping in and a dejected look I sit in front of the TV and watch Doeremon with my kid. He looks at me with a sardonic smile happily munching on the food items. He makes every attempt to ridicule and taunt me on this defeat of mine.

Doeremon - The Cute Cat

That day was no different and I had to give in to my kid’s pressure and watch Doeremon with him. I am not someone who hates watching cartoons, but I would rate it much below in the list of must watch. To my surprise I loved the cartoon and the characters in it. While watching the cartoon, something struck me and I started envisaging but could not continue for long. At dinner my kid explained to my wife how much I loved Doeremon, to which I nodded, not sure to say yes or otherwise. But something in that cartoon had caught my attention and I thought hard for long. That night I happened to bump into Nobita and his friends, and we had a great time, but something was missing until I met this lovable magician Doeromon, with tricks galore up his sleeve. To my surprise he welcomed me and showed all his magic tricks and the gadgets. These were the same gadgets which he lent to Nobita to counter his bully friend Jian and his crony Suniyo. This benevolence on his part for Nobita invoked jealousy in me and I wondered why I can’t have a friend like Doeromon. That very moment I had a sense of déjà vu, and I could trace it to me envisaging something after watching Doeremon. I desperately wanted to meet Doeremon, for I thought I would have the Panacea for my country’s woes.

Doeremon - The Magician
Doeremon with his magic tricks

Doeremon - Jian the bully
Jian the bully
Without any delay I requested help from this new friend of mine. Doeremon though little confused, agreed to hear me, for he could not fathom the thought of me asking him for help. I handed over a list to him. Doeremon, though initially perplexed turned thoughtful looking at this list. The list had some of the major problems that my country India is facing. Rampant corruption which like a cancer is eating through the country, abject poverty, security concerns for the women folk, natural disasters, unrest caused by religious tensions and many more. The way Jian bullies others, these are the grave problems which are bullying my countrymen. Before Doeremon would react and say something I pleaded to him with folded hands to help me and my countrymen tackle these menaces. Doeremon dumbfounded, shot back, how I can help you with these problems? to that I said, can you not give me some of your magical gadgets, like you give it to Nobita? I would use these gadgets to eradicate corruption, poverty, create a safe environment for everyone and avoid the natural disasters. This will help my country immensely and provide better life to its citizens.

Doeremon - Jian the bully
Jian bullying Nobita
Doeremon, with a smile ridiculing me shot back and said, he would not be able to help me in anyway. I pleaded again and again but to no avail. He said he does not have any gadgets which would eradicate the perils, conundrums created by the humans. I almost sank to my knees crestfallen. I had high hopes but they all came crashing down in no time. Noticing my despondency Doeremon taught me something which was a sermon of sorts. He said no gadgets or magic tricks can solve the problems of your country or for that matter any other country. The menace of corruption, poverty, security threat is all created by the people of your country. With greed engulfing them, they are looting other people, and their only aim in life is to earn money by whatever means possible. This is the root cause of corruption, and the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, resulting in unrest in the society. With no deterrent in place and hopeless politicians making callous statements about women, what can be expected in your country, but insecurity for women. Politicians and other powerful people, for their own benefit, propagating hatred among people of different religion is only going to create a rift and unrest amongst the communities. Scant regards for the environment, rampant deforestation, illegal constructions on mountains, forests, pollution in the rivers, lakes, oceans is a recipe for disaster, and you humans are not shying away from it. With this disharmony with nature why won’t there be any natural disasters? It’s only the people of your country to blame for this sorry state. 

Doeremon - Compassionate
Thoughtful Doeremon
No gadgets can resolve these issues but only the people, if they wish to. I was stunned the way Doeremon admonished me, but I did agree with him. I thanked him for this sermon, and he too wished me best things in life. Suddenly something woke me from my slumber and there was no Doeremon or Nobita to be seen around. Soon I realized it was a dream. But this dream made me think again, there is no magic bullet that can solve the country’s problems and no amount of tricks or gadgets can relieve my country of the mess that it is in today. To clear this mess a concerted effort is the need of the hour. Without sounding preachy let us all pledge to do our bit for our country and help it make a better place to live, for us and for posterity.

Does Aggression mean Sledging?

With cricket being played round the year, we often hear this word sledging being discussed repeatedly, in fact, I got conversant with this word only because of cricket. Many sportsman mistake sledging to be a form of aggression, which is a must for any sportsman in competitive sport. But I am afraid that’s not the case. Aggression on the field does not mean you abuse, slander the opponents based on their race, color or the country of their origin, etc. That's not aggression, but foul play to put simply, and it has no place in civilized society and definitely in cricket which is called the gentleman's game. Unfortunately the truth is, we still see many cases of sledging on the cricketing field. Aussies are considered to be the proponents of sledging in cricket and they don’t shy away from practicing it, be it on or off the field.

The Aussies are a tough nut to crack and they play the game hard; their “never say die” attitude is something which is part of their sports culture. I think this trait of theirs should be imbibed by other cricketers. But then, they go overboard most of the time and cross the boundary of gamesmanship when they mistake sledging to be aggression. In the past, there have been a number of instances wherein they have been involved in verbal duels with fellow cricketers, abusing, vilifying them under the garb of playing the game hard, but in doing so, they hurt the feelings of others. Owing to this nature of theirs they are not liked and adored by the cricketing fraternity. In the eighties when the West Indies had the most ferocious cricketers, they ruled the game for many years. They ruthlessly decimated the opponents wherever they played, but they never ever rubbed the teams the wrong way or indulged in something that would tarnish the sportsmanship and hence they were the most loved team then and even now. That won’t be said about the Aussie cricketers when they were the dominant force in the nineties. They were often involved in controversies for their sledging and on field behavior. I think they suffer from the “foot in the mouth syndrome” and they blur out the choicest of expletives whenever they get an opportunity.
Sometime back their very own talented player James Faulkner said something uncalled for against the West Indians. The West Indians came hard at him and thrashed his bowling taking it to the cleaners; this resulted in a near fatal loss for the Aussies. This is not surprising and there have been many instances where the Aussies have been involved in verbal spats with many cricketers. Sarwan – McGrath altercation, Harbhajan – Symonds monkey-gate, the recent toxic talk by many Aussie players against Stuart Broad or Jonathan Trott or the old rivalry between Ian chapel and Ian Botham. Whenever they have been embroiled in the on field transgression or have been probed on their shenanigans, they say we love to play hard and we play to win. Now, no team plays to loose, and that does not give anybody the license to misbehave or bring ignominy to the game. It would be unfair to name just them in the sledging saga. There have been instances where players from other countries have resorted to this false way of aggression.

Aggression does not mean you pump your fists, beat the chest and make a lot of noise or abuse people. Aggression can also be expressed by showing great resolve in precarious situations, to fight it out, and not allow the opposition trample you, by displaying grit and gumption. This is something which the games great have practiced. Cricketing greats like Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, Lara, Kapil Dev, Malcolm Marshall, Chaminda Vaas, Steve Waugh, Don Bradman, Nasser Hussain and many more have been aggressive in their approach but never ever misbehaved or demonstrated aggression which crossed the line of decency. They were aggressive enough to fight and win matches for their home country without bringing any disrepute to the game of cricket.

Unfortunately, many players still resort to sledging or mental disintegration to score over others. They need to realize that they have the arsenal, fire power in their cricketing abilities to score over their opponents and they don’t need to provoke or sledge to score a point. They need to understand, Sledging and Aggression are not the same and aggression can be demonstrated even without slandering someone. If this is imbibed and practiced, the menace called Sledging would be kept at bay and teams would fight it out in the premises of gamesmanship and sportsmanship, fostering bonhomie.
Play the game hard and in the right spirit and say no to SLEDGING.