Beer, Chips and Cricket

This is a site about drinking beer, eating chips and thinking cricket. I am not a former player, a television commentaror or a journalist; my qualification to being worthy of hearing is that I drink a lot of beer, eat a lot of chips and think a lot about cricket. The thoughts need not be politically correct and often include colourful language but there will be no deliberate bias towards any player, community or state. I don't care about popular opinion or perceptions and I speak it as I see it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

march 18

It is a cruel world out there; this world of cricket. A man completes 10,000 runs in test cricket - no mean feat whatever the standard set - and really, no one cares. Yes, the media went to town and all the papers talked about "India's jewel" etc but the comman man on the street was not really bothered.

Why should he be, anyway? Obvious with Tendulkar so close to the mark, he would be bound to get it some day or other; this test or the next. His getting the landmark or not would not really alter the context of the match and this is a line of thinking that has become popular among Indian fans very recently. I am not shooting in thin air about this; it is not as if I went and took a straw poll in Hyderabad but I have a lot of friends / collegues with whom I talk cricket every day and I base my opinion on what I hear from them. Some people love him and some hate him; but his 10,000th run is not as important to them as the result of the Kolkatta test is. That is a good sign.

I read an article in the Indian Express today - by Harsha Bhogle - about not getting fixated with Sachin's 35th ton etc. It was a very sensible article; nothing mindblowing about it coz it stated what many of us think. However, I was surprised at the direct way of writing this politically incorrect truth. The link is here - What made me like this article more than I would generally (if not for this I might have dismissed it with a sneer) is the reference to ESPN-STAR. Harsha is among the team at ESPN-STAR who r always at the forefront of leading the hosannas for SRT; they just don't praise him; they worship him and woe to those who even appear critical of him. I remember in a series in South Africa some years back when Sehwag was new in the team (he played his first test in South Africa and scored a ton if I remember correct; SRT too scored a ton in that match ... the Mike Denness series, if u still need some memory refeshing), there was this program after the first ODI where SRT scored well and a caller from India asked the experts on ESPN-STAR if Sehwag should open regularly for India instead of Tendulkar (Sehwag was fresh from his exploits in Sri Lanka and SRT was coming back from injury, I think). I think Gavaskar seriously risked his life that day by listening to the question - he went blue / red / purple, his blood pressure soared and he was almost biting back swear words as he answered the caller. He didn't answer the caller as much as rant and rave about "people wanting to replace a match winner like Tendulkar ... who has 30 odd hundreds ... blah blah ... Sehwag has just started his career and how can someone compare him to Tendulkar ... some people have no idea of cricket ... they just want to comment for sakes of commenting ... blah blah blah". I don't know if it was the same match or a different one where Ravi Shastri (also on ESPN-STAR) made a comment about Sehwag not being fit to tie SRT's shoelaces.

Fit to tie his shoelaces? Fit to tie his phucking shoelaces? The man has scored a lot of runs and no doubt is a great player but he is only a cricket player, for god sakes. How can someone degrade another human being by wondering if he is fit to tie SRT's shoelaces? Is Shastri fit to tie SRT's shoelaces? Is Gavaskar worthy enough? Tell me, I really want to know.

The caller was probably some middle class cricket fan from India (calls were charged locally, if I remember correct; they re-routed the calls to the studio in South Africa) who works a regular 9-5 shift every day and enjoys sitting back and watching SRT / Sehwag etc play great cricket. Does he deserve to get that kind of answer for a simple question - should Sehwag open in place of Tendulkar? Just coz Sunil Gavaskar has made 10,000 test runs and is called the "little master" and Ravi Shastri was once the "champions of champions", they can run their mouths off at anyone who dares comment on cricket and differs from their opinion about darling Tendulkar?

I remember Harsha too was in the commentary box at this time and he looked totally bewildered by the emotions showed by Gavaskar (as I said, I don't remember if Shastri said his comment in the same match or the next ... it was in the same series, I remember) and was speechless for a couple of seconds before making a very weak comment about "very strong sentiments here from Sunny" and quickly going to the next caller.

Man, that was a massive rant from the Chuckster and I just might avoid my next stroke coz of releasing that pent up frustration. What I basically wanted to say was - I liked Harsha's article more because of his comment admitting overdoing it even at ESPN-STAR. Hats off to Harsha for that comment.

Personally on the 10,000 run landmark, taken as a form of achievement over his career, it is something to be proud about, even for Sachin haters. It takes bloody hard work to score 10,000 test runs and all of us who have struggled to score 50 in galli matches would testify to that. However, to glorify Tendulkar's cricket of today (as in the last couple of years - comments like "he IS a great player" and "he IS a naturally attacking batsman and "he IS a genius, no doubts about that") on the basis of that mark would be foolhardy. The man who made most of those 10,000 runs disappeared from public view a long time back, leaving behind his shadow. Praise the man, not the shadow.

I felt sorry for SRT today, though I am nowadays usually on the "SRT sucks" bandwagon. I wasn't always on the bandwagon ... four years back I could close my mind and answer "Sachin" when asked about the most exciting batsman to watch (even if you compare him to the Sehwag of today; frankly the difference in class - if not the rate of scoring - is massive). Today, following the commentary on Rediff, I was reminded of how beautifully SRT could play when he doesn't try to restrict the drives that flow so naturally from his blade. Yes, he was still playing and missing and he didn't do that some years back. However, "positive" cricket seemed to have disappeared from his lexicon and today's play made me wonder if he had re-discovered it? He has scored many runs even in the past couple of years but frankly, if he scores them the way he scored that 240 odd in Australia, I rather watch Batista power bomb Triple H through a table as part of the WWE telecasts (man, u should watch those shoulder muscles on Batista ... I dunno if u know Brock Lesnar, yeah the guy who left the WWE to join the NFL and is nowadays considering returning to the wrestling business coz he didn't do so hot in the NFL ... well, this Batista looks like he could fight Lesnar on equal terms and I can't say that about most others).

As I said, I was enjoying the style of play from Tendulkar today and was looking forward to his getting his 35th hundred - believe me, playing the way he does nowadays, I couldn't get excited even about his 50th - in a manner befitting Sachin Tendulkar. Hey, u know what ... that thing about not finishing matches and not scoring when required etc etc etc .... here was a chance to kick that theory into the dustbin too with India requiring an innings here that would give them a lead big enough and fast enough to force a win.

Alas, Steve Bucknor, in his 100th test (25 too many, in my opinion) gave him out when there was - to quote a comment from a website I surfed - "space for a hord of elephants to pass through". That too after SRT had appealed unsuccessfully three times for bad light. Cruel cruel way to get out and if this doesn't get a lot of flak in the media in the next coupld of days, nothing will. I am looking forward to seeing SRT's facial expression in replays when the decision was given - in the press conference, obviously he will talk about "these things happen" etc. I still remember the LBW given by Bucknor (again, bloody Bucknor) in Australia in the first test and SRT's rection to that one. I remember writing in one message board I frequent the following (just searched for it ... had a hard time finding it too) - "SRT's dismissal was superb to watch ... of course it was not out .. there is no doubt of that even though he didn't offer a shot ... but when u see the replays, u see SRT cool and collected knowing he is not out ... then absolute shock as he realizes he has been given out ... his mouth almost fell open with shock ... and then he just tucked his bat under his shoulder and walked. Reading some of the comments about his gentlemanly conduct etc, one feels the media is going overboard with the praise part ... but when u watch the same on TV live ... it really is awe inspiring."

I read this funny article someplace about today's decision by Bucknor - - I think Mr. Bucknor is going to get a very heavy backlash, specially if we lose the test. If we go onto win, I am sure everyone will forget it.

Anyway, SRT and Dravid did a great job today after the bowlers had brought India back into the game. Even yesterday, I hadn't lost hope simply because I knew that like India, Pakistan too could capitulate and that is precisely what happened. I don't understand one thing and maybe someone can explain that to me - what is Ganguly's problem with providing Kumble and Bhajji some close in fielders; forward short leg, silly point, slip and leg slip? I know it opens up spaces in other places but hey, our spinners are not that bad that they will keep getting hit in those spaces? Specially a leg slip for Bhajji who turns it across the batsman in such a way as to bring the leg slip into play ever so often. What is the big deal anyway??? I don't even think it is a matter of "good captain" and "bad captain". How does the simple matter of putting fielders around the bat not occur to the captain but occurs to every commentator, spectator and Chuckster?

Anyway, with Ganguly in one never knows what he will do. It was a brave decision to walk out knowing SRT had already complained about bad light etc; he could so easily have sent in a night watchman. But being brave does not necessarily equate to runs scored and Ganguly must work hard tomorrow. Dravid is a machine and will keep going on and Laxman is an enigma who can score a ton or a five with equal ease; so basically there is only Ganguly between Dravid and the tail (I know I know ... some would say Ganguly is part of the tail but that is a bit harsh ... heh heh) and we still have a lot of work to do. India has to make Pak chase an excess of 350 in the fourth innings; I would have loved to say 400 but it might take too much time and if Laxman doesn't score a lot, I really don't expect too much from Ganguly (though I am willing to be pleasantly surprised ... I remember the Headingley test on our last tour to England where Ganguly hit a ton ... repeatedly came down the track to hit the bowlers, playing to score fast). India has to play positively tomorrow and declare around tea with a score of 350 to chase; enough to keep the Pakistanis interested and yet tentative coz it is not a small number. If they don't declare by tea, it will be very hard to get the Pakistanis all out on the fifth day, even with the pitch going bananas. 5th day pitch reminds me - even the 4th day pitch won't be a delight to bat on and that is why someone like Laxman is so crucial; he can just negate the evil in the pitch by his ease of batting. People are talking of Laxman being on the hit list of "can be dropped" players but I don't think so. I know he scored a zero in the first innings but when u get out on the first ball, I really think u cannot blame the batsman. He has just come in; he is yet to get adjusted; anything can happen in those first few deliveries and if something does, then basically it is bad luck. Laxman had that bad luck in the first innings but I don't think Yuveraj or Kaif are really challenging him right now for a spot ... in my book, no way.

Two holidays to come and cricket to watch ... damn damn damn, I would have loved to watch SRT live when he was playing those flowing drives. Damn u, Bucknor. However, I do have a lot of work to be done tomorrow; not related to office but related to being married ... ;-) ... I hope it doesn't interfere too much with my cricket watching.

Damn, this has been a long post. To end it, let me post a news item u might or might not have seen yet. Apni Sania Mirza has received a wild card to play in the Nasdaq Open in Florida from March 23 onward. It is a tier-1 event with all the top names like the Williams sisters, Sharapova etc etc etc in it. Oh, and an Indian named Sania Mirza will be playing there too. Feels good to take all those names in the same conversation ... heh heh. Actually, two Indians coz Neha Uberai (cousin of Vivek Oberai .... sister of Shikha Oberai who is the next highest ranked Indian player after Sania ... while Shikha is qualified to play for India in the Fed Cup, Neha the younger sister still is not eligible ... so I guess she cannot call herself an Indian player either) is also playing that event courtesy a wild card.

Wife is out of station so gotta eat outside. I ate out for eight years (including three years in a hostel while doing my post grad) but the past couple of days have been the first since marriage that I had to go to some lousy hotel to get food. Nice change but two days later, I am already looking forward fondly to eating wife-cooked food again. I will never tell her again that the salt is less or the chappatis hard ... damn, I love her so much.

Cheers for now

The Chuckster

Monday, March 14, 2005

Damn, it rained

"Be careful of what u wish for; u just might get it" goes one saying. The Chuckster realized it on Saturday when the match between India and Pakistan ended in a draw, not coz of the rain the Chuckster had wished for but the heroics of Abdul Razzaq and Kamran Akmal, the Pakistani keeper.

Sure, in my last post I had wished for rain that would force the match into a draw. I know it is like "cut the nose to spite the face" but still I so wanted the proceedings of Day 3 of the match to be spit upon by the countless Indian fans who dote on cricket.

There are many ways to look at the result of the match - The Indian batsmen (SRT, Ganguly) lost it, the dropped catches in the second innings lost it, the bowlers in the second innings lost it, not including Bhajji in the final eleven lost it, Akmal and Razzaq's batting lost it (for India). You can never convince anyone of one reason simply coz none of these reasons are such that they could not be overcome.

India batted very slowly but still a better bowling / catching effort on the 5th day would have won it for us. Bhajji might have made a difference but then he might not have. Face the facts; if Bhajji had played, Balaji wouldn't have ... it was a toss up between the two, so to now talk about Bhajji's inclusion is really not done. India went in with 4 good bowlers who could have done the job ... who did the job for 4 days. Including Bhajji would in no way have "ensured" a different end to the match.

My personal opinion on this will not change. The batsmen are to to blame simply because they gave it away when India was on top. On the final day, the bowlers couldn't get that required breakthrough but it wasn't coz they deliberately didn't try to get it ... they just weren't able to though they tried their best to. The fiasco on the third day was coz the batsmen deliberately tried to waste time for some terribly secret reason ... don't tell me India's batsmen scored at a rate of 2 for most of Day 3 coz of some special bowling by Pakistan coz I won't believe it ... if the batsmen give that as a reason, they r lying. If they attribute it to some game plan advocated by team management, then it is obvious the team management has no clue as to what the time of day is. I mean - Imagine the scene where Wright, Ganguly and Dravid are sitting in the pavillion and saying -

Wright (or Gangs or Dravid) - "Now that we r totally in front and smashing the Pakistanis out of existence, what should be our next step"?

Ganguly (or Wright or Dravid) - "I think we should score at the rate of 2 per over for the rest of the day so we don't get too far ahead. We should end the day without ensuring a sizeable lead for ourselves. It is true that we are totally in command right now. We should try to ensure the situation changes soon".

Dravid (or Wright or Gangs) - "Sounds like a good plan to me".
Wright (or Dravid or Gangs) - "Yeah, that is ok with me"
Gangs (or Wright or Dravid) - "Yeah, me too. Send out the word to Tendulkar that he should stop scoring at 4 per over and restrict himself to one or two per over, that too if he really thinks he should score".

So the word goes out to Tendulkar and he thinks - "Man, that is such an awesome plan. I don't understand some aspects of it but let me not question it. In the team's interest, let me stop scoring altogether".

Hence Day 3 happens according to the team management's plans.

Funny part is that I haven't really heard too much resentment being expressed over Day 3 in the national media. I wonder if it had not been SRT out in the middle of it all, how many former players (also known as experts) would have given their opinion on this stupidity ... many, I think. But with the world's greatest batsman out in the middle, which expert really wants to get sacked from his commentating / expert opinion job by calling for his head??? If anything like this happens, u can just imagine the Gavaskar types springing to SRT's defence, curling thier lips and commenting stuff like - "SRT has 34 test match centuries and around 10,000 test runs to his name. I wonder still why people continue to think they know better than him as to how he should bat. SRT is the best judge of his batting and I think he should just ignore these people and concentrate on playing his natural game". The same Gavaskar types won't really answer the relevant question about the batting on Day 3.

Anyways, Kamran Akmal got the man of the match and through my wounded pride, I couldn't help but applaud. Well done, boy.

News from Kolkatta, the venue of the second test is that the pitch is supposed to be grassy. One headline I read screamed "Ganguly wants green top for second test" and I was like "What ..... Ganguly wants grass???? Wasn't he the one who said some years back "Grass is for the cows"? Hmm, no, that was Michael Chang, I think". Anyway, when I read the article, it said that the curator at the ground had said that there was no word from the Indian captain about removing grass from the pitch. So naturally the headline became "Ganguly WANTS green top". LOL.

About the green top thing, I think the think tank's strategy might have changed in view of the bowling efforts of one Dinesh Kaneria. Simply put, he was the better spinner of those visible in the first test and has emerged as Pakistan's trump card in bowling. If not for anything else, India might prefer green on the wicket just to keep Kaneria at the disadvantage. Yes, it would also mean one of Bhajji and Kumble sitting out again but the Indian team of the recent past has tended towards the defensive, and if it is thinking more about how to negate Kaneria than how to enhance their own attack, I wouldn't be surprised. Seriously, Kaneria has bowled well but when we have cleaned out Warne, why should we worry about Kaneria? Again, when we cleaned out Warne, we had a Tendulkar who wasn't a master batsman just for name sakes; that is definitely a factor. Even Laxman, who can really make a bowler tear his hair out in frustration, time and again fell to Warne in the recent Australian series. The defensive mindset agsain, in my honest opinion.

That was my opinion on the green top theory given by the media but personally, I think India will play Bhajji in the second test, if not for anything else, just coz he has history at the ground to back him. I don't see any great game plans from the team management; history might just be the factor for deciding among Zaheer and Bhajji.

Anyway, away from cricket, the news channels focussed a lot on Bhajji's beauty parlour in Chandigarh. It catered to Pakistani fans free of cost for the duration of the test match and all news channels gave it a lot of coverage. Yeah well, if Tendulkar and Ganguly can have a restaurant, Bhajji can have a beauty parlour. Why not??? LOL.

I read about this PIL against Ganguly's captaincy ... some guy (it wasn't me, I swear) thought that Ganguly was doing a lousy job as captain and someone like Dravid would be better and so went to court and filed a PIL. The judge threw out the case. Really, some of these cricket fans r nuttier than a fruitcake.

Saw an item on the sports channel about Australia's Michael Bevan. The guy who was not too long back considered the best ODI player in the world has not been in the Australian team for some time now. He is also getting on in age which made many doubt if his playing days for Australia were over. The news item basically focussed on Bevan's good showing in the current domestics in Australia and echoed his feelings of playing for Australia in the next world cup. Interesting ... he is out of the ODI squuad but he still averages pretty high (haven't looked up but I think it is around 53 or so).

On tennis, Shikha Uberai (Vivek Oberoi's cousin and Indian - formerly US - tennis player) beat a player in the top 100 last week. She then lost to the world No. 41 in the second round. Really, Sania or Shikha might not win wimbledon but it is nice to see an Indian name among the biggies of international tennis. Incidentally, Shikha Uberai lost to Venus Williams in the US open last year.

Shakti Kapoor's casting couch expose by India TV on Sunday was really funny. Stupid guy took names like Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee, Subhash Ghai and Priety Zinta. He is so screwed, man ... he is so phucking screwed ... he can claim all he wants that he was set up - and no doubt he was - but taking these names makes him such a dead man. LOL LOL LOL.

Anyway, my head is aching like the blazes. I am over and out here.

Just a last addition ... was just surfing rediff and saw that the Eden Gardens officials are trying to do something about increasing the height of the sight screen since SRT was bothered about it at Mohali. While they are at it, they should ensure the spectators coming into the stadium shouldn't wear brightly shined shoes, shirts with bright colors or have red colored hair (for these cases, they could have a hair dye shop at the gates itself). It might impede Tendulkar in picking the ball.


The Chuckster

Friday, March 11, 2005

Hope it rains tomorrow

I am a very passionate cricket fan; I would be the first to admit that. That is why it pains me when a team plays like it did yesterday. The bowlers have really given the Indians a second shot at winning the match but the fact remains that the first shot given by Sehwag was wasted by the Tendulkars and Gangulys.

Laxman scored 58 odd runs but faced the perennial problem of playing with the tail. I have said it before and I will say it now - This guy has no clue what to do with the tail. As long as Dravid, SRT, Sehwag or Gangs is at the other end, Laxman looks good. The moment the wicketkeeper, spinner or fast bowler types walk in, Laxman is not the correct man to be out there. Simply put, he bats the same way as he does with the top order, maybe even a little bit slower ... maybe he feels he oughta be more careful since he is the only good batsman left. It is totally opposite of what he should be doing - which is farming the strike and nudging up the rate of scoring so he does more damage to the opposition than the opposition does to the tail. I have seen this in Laxman for a long time ... I remember even in the West Indies, he would be stuck with the tail and wouldn't have a clue and that was almost 2 years back. Anyway, the way he plays the ODIs and then cribs about being left out of the team, it is obvious he is a very poor adapter ... so if he wants consistent big scores, either someone has to do him a favour and push him up the order ... or ... I don't see any other way, really, except that one of SRT, Gangs, Dravid, Sehwag plays with him always. He is not gonna learn anything and improve ... that doesn't seem to be one of his strong points.

Anyway, Balaji and Kumble bowled India back into the match and seriously, SRT and Ganguly ought to be bending over and kissing their (Kumble and Balaji) respective asses this evening ... without the performance they put in, Pakistan would have well been on the way to a comfortable draw. That is why I want it to rain ... coz if it doesn't, India will win and everyone will forget the farce played out by these chaps. I want people to curse the cricketers and remember Day 3 of the test .. today no one really grudges the cricketers the millions they earn .... but every time days like Day 3 of the test happens, people will start asking "this is supposed to be sachin phucking tendulkar??? this is what sourav phucking ganguly is being paid crores for???" ... that is when they will improve ... when they see their names being dragged through the mud in the media. For that to happen, it has to rain and the match end in a draw.

Ok, that was a relief; letting all that steam out. Really, it shouldn't rain ... and it is not coz I suddenly like SRT or Ganguly any better than I did 5 minutes back. It is coz if it rains, it would be cruel on people like Sehwag, Kumble and Balaji who earned every bit of the pittances they earn (compared to the heavyweights, of course ... compared to the Chucksters of the world, even the pittances r not really so). Balaji deserves a man of the match award in a winning effort; or maybe it will be Sehwag ... my choice would be Balaji but the point is - these guys need to win this test ... it would be cruel for them to have the test end in a draw coz of rain.

I read some reports where supposedly SRT said the short sight-screens at the ground was a factor inn his slow batting of Day 3 ... since SRT is short too, he gets affected even when a taller batsman might not be coz his angle of view is different. He didn't attribute it completely to the sight screens but implied that it had a lot to do with it. What a phucking misery of a gutter rat is this guy, anyway? To think he was once great!!!

Gary Kasparov announced his retirement from competitive chess a day back or so. Everyone will remember him coz he was the greatest even when he said enough ... if he had waited till the Topalovs, Gelfands and Anands (for all of his exploits, in my opinion, he will never approach Kasparov in terms of greatness) were beating him every now and then, he could have renamed himself as Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.


The Chuckster

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Morning session would be crucial

Even as I type out this post, play has started on the 4th day and Pathan and Laxman seem to be doing ok. 3 overs up in the third day and it looks obvious that today's game plan is way different from yesterday's.

This habit of the Indian team never ceases to amaze me. Someone (in the recent past, mostly Sehwag) would take the game totally away from the opposition and then the rest of the team would concentrate on giving it back to the opposition. Sehwag's blitzkreig in the first innings chasing the total it was would guarantee a win for the team in most cases, except when the team in question is India. Tendulkar and Ganguly didn't really have to do anything special ... they didn't have to be brutal like Sehwag. These players have the required class to just push things along without any undue fuss ... but the way they batted yesterday, one wouldn't be faulted to think the bowling attack consisted of Marshall, Holding, Roberts and Garner. I have always maintained that Ganguly's test playing days will continue till he is captain ... I don't dispute that he is the best option for captaincy right now but the day we get another good option and the change is made, Ganguly will struggle to hold onto his place as a batsman ... Note - This is talking about Ganguly in tests and not ODIs. Tendulkar however is a different case. He has been injured and in and out of the team so often in the past year or two that it is difficult to really judge him ... every time he plays it can be said "oh but he is just returning from injury". Frankly, as one guy in my office put it - "Great ... Tendulkar is out ... now maybe we can try to win the match".

Martina Hingis recently played what she called an exhibition match in Thailand. Opinions vary as to the reason for the match ... with many calling it a test of whether she still had it to play at the top level. She lost in the first round and promptly said - "as I said, it was a one off match I played as an exhibition match ... now as planned, I won't play any more". She may have been a good world no. 1 in her heydays and all that ... but if she had come back to tennis and spent the next three years losing in first, second and third rounds, it would really have been giving away all the glory she garnered over the years on top. That is what is happening to SRT at present ... even the papers I read today morning described his innings as "painful .... almost a relief when he got out" ... etc.

Pathan seems to be ready with the pull shot today morning, already having played it 3 times in the short time they have been out there. The need of the hour is really to bat at a fair clip, run up a lead of 300+ before tea and declare. If they bat beyond or if the lead is less than 300, Pakistan will still hope to make a draw of it. Yesterday's play by Ganguly and SRT really has shown Pakistan a glimmer of hope in saving the match and I was so pissed when I heard the "experts" on the various news channels calling SRT's innings a brilliant one .... I hope my boss never calls me brilliant from now on ... I think I would be insulted.

Another statement was funny ... at close of play, Sehwag gave newsbytes to the media in which he said - "it is a pity SRT couldn't make his century and it is really sad he wasn't around at the end of play since tomorrow morning, we would have to score runs quickly" ... what, Sehhwag ... did u eat too many paranthas or what ... u need quick runs and so u want SRT to be around??? Hey, someone please don't give the captaincy to this guy ... he really has lost his marbles.

Chalo cheers, here is wishing god speed to the Indian batsmen ... if they score at 4 per over in the morning session, the match is ours.

The Chuckster

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Karthikeyan, Mirza and the Mohali test

Hi all,
Firstly for the F-1 update since I did manage to catch it completely on STAR. Obviously the commentators were aware that they were tending to a huge Indian viewership coz they mentioned Karthikeyan a lot before the race began. Karthikeyan started 12th on the grid and was positioned directly behind Kimi Raikkonen (the starting line up is basically divided into two columns). When the warm up lap was signalled, Raikkonen's car stalled and so while the rest of the line up took their original places after the warm up lap, Raikkonen had to move to the end of the grid. Basically, this meant there was an empty space right in front of Karthikeyan, something F-1 drivers dream about. Instead of weaving around the cars, at least for the first couple of seconds, he had a clear path ahead. That is what made his race disappointing for me. I don't know if his car gave trouble or if he was just ultra-conservative but when the lights went off, he moved ahead so slowly that instead of taking advantage of the space left by Raikkonen's car, cars behind him basically overtook him in the first couple of seconds. Yeah, maybe the cars behind were better than the Jordan cars but one of the cars that overtook him by the first bend was his own Jordan teammate, the Russian - Montiero. He is the second driver for the team and so even if there was a difference in the cars, Karthikeyan would have the better car ... but still five seconds into the race, Montiero had passed Karthikeyan.

Yep, I know that finally Karthikeyan finished ahead of Montiero but the point I was making here was - he was terribly terribly slow off the blocks and possibly that cost him a higher place. He finished 15th after starting 12th ... ideally he should have finished 12th or higher. Anyway, after the start, STAR basically didn't cover him a lot since he was among the tail. Fisichella won and Schumi went out ... ;-) ... Schumie tried to be too smart while overtaking the other car and almost pushed him off the track and in trying to get back, the other chap took out Schumie. "Basically nobody's fault", Schumie said after the race which basically means he knows he was more to blame than the other guy.

Anyway, both Jordans finished the race and that is something for teams like Jordan. Better luck to Karthikeyan for next time (Malaysia in 2 weeks time).

Read about Sania Mirza's sudden increase in ranking (she is now world No. 77) and worth in terms of endorsements. Seems six months back, she was commanding Rs. 5 lacs per endorsement contract ... it went to around 50 after her Australian Open third round entry and WTA win in Hyderabad. After the Dubai open, according to Deccan Chronicle, her sports management team has upgraded her rate to around 1 crore ... which is more than what guys like Yuveraj / Pathan / Sehwag command though lower than the Sachins, Gangulys and Dravids. Also (according to Deccan Chronicle ... not vouching for accuracy), she is only the fourth tennnis player after Steffi Graf, Edberg and Agassi to have her own signature line (clothing / shoes etc) ... i.e. - it hasn't started yet but she is reportedly signing a contract pretty soon. Check out this link for details - Great going, girl ... we needed some attention to be taken off the cricketers and u seem to be doing it. I think it will be good for everyone in Indian sports, fans included, to focus on something other than cricket. Just keep ur head and u will go far.

Finally on the first test in Mohali. Didn't post on that one since I haven't watched the day's play ... in office, like a good boy, though following it on crickinfo and Rediff (Prem Panicker giving commentary there). As I posted some days back, they gave Gambhir first go at the opener's slot and that is the correct way to go. Bhajji vs. Balaji was always going to be a dicey decision and the pitch selected Balaji. Basically, all three who sat out - Nehra, Bhajji and Yuveraj - were North Zone guys and the match is being played in a North Zone stadium. Ironic ... but correct, I think. Also worth mentioning is that Yuveraj who was left out of the 12 was included as the 12th man and Bhajji goes out of the 12. I guess they thought that since Bhajji wasn't playing anyway, better to take the better fielder among the two.

From whatever commentary I read from Prem Panicker in Rediff, seems Balaji was easily the fastest of the three quickies fielded by India ... though at our speeds, that probably doesn't mean too much of a difference. Though the Mohali wicket was supposed to be a green one, from all accounts, it is not bouncy ... pretty low bounce on occasions though the pace seems to be decent. 300 odd for Pakistan and India deserve to be kicked for letting them reach so far ... India always has to make someone a hero and this time they selected Asim Kamal for the honour; he made 91. Balaji took 5 wickets and India bat first thing tomorrow morning.

Will watch the highlights tonight if DD shows it ... problem with bloody DD is that they show the complete re-run of the match and not the highlights. Who has the time to sit for 6 hours to watch an entire re-run? When will they really learn something about sports packaging and marketing ... have they ever heard of something called "highlights"??? Sigh!!! Probably will have to depend on news reports.

Anyway, cheers. Have a good day, everyone.

The Chuckster

Friday, March 04, 2005

Mirza, Karthikeyan and Lee

Mes amis,
I managed to catch Sania Mirza's match yesterday live on Ten Sports. It was bloody disappointing as she was totally off color. There was huge crowd support for her, a fact that her opponent seemed oblivious to in the first set as she remained really cool ... in the second set, however she showed signs of irritation when people in the crowd repeatedly made calls when she was serving - "come on ... another one" - her second serve after faulting her first. Bad sportsmanship by the crowd and that might have been crucial coz in the second set, it was obvious the Serb was losing her cool ... but Sania on this day was just unable to get her game together.

The difference between the top players and the wannabe toppers is probably the consistency of good play. No doubt, Sania had played a great game to beat Kutzensova (I saw the point in the first set when Sania twisted her ankle ... man, it was a bad fall as Kutzensova wrong footed her) but against the Serbian player, Mirza played like a player who really doesn't belong. Make no mistake, there were the odd shots here and there that were breathtaking but they were too few to make a difference. Her service was pretty weak too but since I haven't seen her service a lot, I don't know if it was just an off day or her service is indeed a weak point. She does have a great forehand though. When it comes off, she hits blinders. But she showed her inexperience at this level by gifting away the match to her opponent ... unforced errors, double faults ... with that "ah, what a beauty" shot in between.

Anyway, the points she gathered from this tournament should be enough to get her into the seventies which in itself is pretty tremendous. Hopefully, she will only get better from here on. She has a good game that is build on power from the baseline. She needs to add consistency and avoid things like hitting the ball into the net or over the opponent's baseline for no reason at all ... I mean, under pressure in a point it happens but shouldn't happen just like that in a rally when the pressure is not really against her. Her volleying is pretty weak when she does venture to the net (which isn't much at all).

Sania seems to have gained herself a name among the players too even if its coz they know everyone has come to watch her. Serena Williams after her victory over Daniela Hantuchova joked with the crowd about their really having come to see Sania and not her.

Though it didn't get a LOT of publicity, there was this uproar recently over Brett Lee bowling a beamer to Brendon MacCullum in the recent ODI in NZ. Though Lee apologized on the spot to the batsman, NZ coach went to press threatening to launch a court case against Lee claiming Lee's constant beamers (supposedly this was his 4th in recent times) pose a threat to the batsman's safety. Now it seems the players have patched up with McCullum saying publicly that he had accepted Lee's apology.

Yuveraj seems to be having a cracking domestic season ... in the last game one day back, he cracked a hundred in the first innings and a quickfire 50 in the second to clinch victory for North Zone. Bhajji, Nehra and Balaji were all among wickets so I guess no one should be complaining in the series against Pakistan that they were rusty. Hopefully not.

In the Davis Cup, a shocker of sorts as Leander Paes (the playing captain of the team) decided to skip playing singles against the Chinese as part of the Asia-Ocenia group tie. At the last report, Mankad had won the first match in straight sets and Amritraj was leading the second match by one set when rain interrupted. Leander has really played his heart out for India in the past and somehow it isn't the same even if India manage to pull off the rubber successfully. Paes's commitment to his country's efforts can be judged by the fact that the more illustrious and famous Andre Agassi recently made the announcement about wanting to play the Davis Cup again for the US ... after a gap of 5 years or so.

Anyway, Karthikeyan made his mark in the 2005 season of F-1. He collected the first fine of 2005 for overspeeding in the pit lane stretch during practice. Its ok ... nerves ... with Jordan cars (think they have a Toyota engine inside), u never know if they will finish the race or conk out in the middle. Might as well make a mark when the car is running ... ;-)

Cheers for now. Here is wishing Karthikeyan tons of luck for his first run in F-1 this sunday.

The Chuckster

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

second day running ... go Chuckster

Its so bloody amazing that I don't have to make an effort to start off a post without it being about cricket. Frankly, if u do not start off the post by talking about Sania Mirza's win against Kutzensova at the Dubai open, u have to be an *unprintable* ... ;-). She beat her in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 and that too after being 0-4, 15-30 down in the first set. Can u believe this one? Go girl!!!

Anyway, I again went to Bloglet ( from where I have taken the utility for people to register for email alerts when I make a post. It was again inactive for some reason (maybe coz I didn't post for long) and I activated it. Hopefully, it will now send mails and people who forgot about beer chips and cricket will remember it again. Here is to hoping!!!

The upcoming series against Pakistan is really strange ... a team that has come off a beating at the hands of Australia meets a team that has had a lot of rest after a tour of Bangladesh ... ok, let me re-phrase that as "meets a team that has had a lot of rest. period.". What does one expect? In normal times, considering the teams that India and Pak have, I would expect an easy series victory for India ... but the last time India rested, they played awful cricket immediately afterwards. What will happen this time around ... ???

SRT is fit for this series ... hopefully all this talk about his elbow will die a natural death and not crop up again if he scores a duck or two. This tennis elbow thing has really gone on far too long to be funny ... once the man says he is fit and once the doctor / physio says he is fit and once the selectors say he is fit, no one should really talk about his injury again. Yes, after an injury a cricketer takes time to get into his groove but that is why the Duleep Trophy game he played two weeks back was so important - the West Zone vs. South Zone one.

What does he do??? Gets out for four in the first innings for which I do not blame him coz it happens ... sometimes the batsman wins and sometimes and bowler and here the bowler was no other than Kumble. So no shame in that one ... the idiotic thing in my opinion was in the second innings when he sent in Pathan at Number 3 and he made 61 to finish it off. I agree Pathan is an exciting find and a possible all rounder of class, but look at priorities ... presently, it is more important to make sure SRT is back in touch and it is not really that important to find out if Pathan can bat at 3. Unless he was injured / ill, this move makes no sense at all. If he was injured, then again, is this "tennis elbow" related? Will we ever hear the end of it?

It was funny to read about that Naved Hassan guy (the balding medium pacer in the Pakistan squad) talk about targetting SRT and Dravid in the current series. What man, today u don't really have to be a McGrath to mouth off about targetting batsmen ... at least with McGrath, u know he walks the talk ... but if every Naved and his uncle r gonna talk about targetting batsman, that too of the class of SRT and Dravid, then it should really be taken off the list of "mind games" coz it then belongs to the list of "mindless games". Incidentally, I read an interview by Anil Kumble recently where he talks about the concept of announcing beforehand the batsman targetted by a particular bowler ... he was talking specifically about McGrath and why he doesn't do the same. As part of his answer, Kumble said - "maybe I should start doing it too". Ok yaar, Kumble is no McGrath (yes one is a spinner, another a medium / fast bowler ... etc etc etc ... but I can still compare them and proclaim McGrath to be one grade above him ... sue me) but he is still good enough to walk the talk if he actually does talk. But don't tell me about Naved Hassan ... sharafat ka zamaana hi nahi raha.

So the man, the mouth, Shoaib Akhtar is gonna stay home. The more I see of Shoaib Akhtar, the more contempt I have for him. He has the potential to be devastating but for that to happen, he first has to wait for the world to think of him as good instead of telling the world to think of him as good. For the amount of talk he gives, Akhtar really should have around 600 wickets in ODI and tests ... maybe 700 ... then his talk would be equal to his walk. Right now, he is bullshit. In short spells, he could have been a handful for the Indians but nothing we couldn't have handled ... now we just get to beat him up in the ODIs. Damn.

Yuvi's inclusion into the test team against Pakistan again opens up the debate about whether he is an opener or not. Simply put, the middle order of Dravid, SRT, VVS and Gangs is not gonna change unless injury strikes and with Sehwag as one opener, the only possible spot up for grabs is that of the second opener. There r lots of reports over how Kaif should have been selected over Yuveraj and I agree with the basic premise of those reports - i.e. - Kaif is a better test player than Yuvi. However, in this scenario, when the only slot under contention is that of opener, there is no point in selecting Kaif and making him fetch the cold drinks. This way, with Yuvi selected, at least India has the potential to go in with either Gambhir or Yuveraj as opener. I don't say I agree with this ... coz as previous (and many times at that) mentioned, Yuvi as opener is not gonna work, IMO ... but at least u give Yuvi another shot at the slot he is aiming at, the second opener's slot. Might be unfair on Gambhir and with good reason, but it is upto Gambhir really. I am certain Gambhir will be the opener in the first test and Yuvi gets a look in only if he fails ... so if he doesn't fail, there is no question of anything being unfair coz he remains opener. If he doesn't do well ... well, it isn't charity we r talking about here ... and Yuvi is the captain's blue eyed boy. At least Gambhir should be well aware of the possibilities and can't say - Hey, I am shocked at the move of dropping me for the second test. U didn't grab ur chances, mate, if u have to say that.

I really thought that after the recent domestic season, Dhoni would have the inside track on selection but the selectors went with Karthick. I don't have anything to complain about in this coz Karthick hasn't really done anything wrong but he really hasn't shone in the limited chances he has got .... whereas Dhoni has shone as of late. Good to persist with Karthick but it might well change if India lose a test and Karthick doesn't do well with the bat. Face it, a good keeper is important but in today's world, it is essential he contributes with the bat ... Patel seems to have learnt the lesson bottoms up coz his batting is really coming along ... just his keeping that doesn't keep up. Dhoni in the Number 7 slot could be India's Gilchrist ... the guy who comes in and does something extra-ordinary. Somehow I never see either Patel or Karthick as being able to do something extra-ordinary ... they might do well ... but Dhoni might actually turn a match on its head. Karthick better watch out.

So the TV rights go to DD finally ... ESPN / STAR and Zee both get their asses kicked by the courts and what irks me about this is that the BCCI still comes out of this smelling of roses. They messed up the entire thing ... and still don't suffer. Sad.

Chalo cheers for now. Stay tuned for more of the Chuckster ... hopefully with a lot of Sania Mirza posts. Hey, this weekend, its the Australian Grand Prix ... let me see if I can give u something good on Karthikeyan's performance there.

The Chuckster

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Hi chaps

A post after a long time and seriously, I couldn't help it. Terrific workload, terrific home life ... terrific sex ... etc etc etc. Whoops, pardon me, I got a bit carried away.

Anyway, with the Pakistan series coming up, I hope this blog really gets back into action else what is the point of having a blog? Right?

Many things come to mind right now and not all of them r cricket. That is good, coz most of us who follow cricket also follow other sports and its good to talk about it all.

Where can I start except with Sania Mirza. Last I posted, she was gonna play the Australian Open. She did and what a result ... beyond expectations, by any stretch of imagination. Of course, the media went gaga over it and its good not to lose perspective but even considering all this, she did more than what we expected. A third round entry into the Australian Open is terrific and losing to Serena Williams is nothing to be ashamed of. I watched a TV interview of hers with Shekhar Gupta, who conducts the program called "Walk the Talk" on NDTV (I think) ... she was like "I lost ... too bad ... next time I will try to beat her". Way to go, baby.

After the Aussie Open, of course, she played the WTA tournament in amchi Hyderabad ... and though I didn't get to see her matches (u had to be really well connected to get the tickets for the final rounds), I did get to see the rush outside the stadium where the matches were played. Chuck and wifey were going to Abids and happened to pass by the stadium and man oh man, cars parked all over the place and police presence throughout the area ... everyone who is anyone in Hyderabad had turned up to get their photo in the papers the next day and the stadium was packed. Sania won and moved into the top 100 in women's tennis. Terrific ... one can crib that top 100 is not really something special but when we talk about women's tennis in India, u know what ... it is something special. I found the media hype during the Australian Open somewhat more amusing .. .the Indian media went gaga over the fact that Sania Mirza was the second most popular player in the Australian open, a statistic gleaned from the count of hits on her profile at the Australian open website. Seems she was second only to Maria Sharapova ... lol ... with one billion Indians around the world and nowadays with every Chuck and his uncle having internet access, obviously she got a lot of hits. Not to say she didn't do well coz she did ... but to say she was the second most popular player after Sharapova is really silly. Amusing, but still silly.

As I write this post, Sania has won the first round match at the Dubai open, a top notch tournament with the lowest ranking of around 39 ... of course being 99, Sania really wasn't eligible to play and got into the main draw coz of a wild card. But looks like she is taking her chances with both hands ... Agarkar might learn something about taking one's chances from Sania. Anyway, in the first round, she beat a girl ranked 34th in the world and next meets the defending US open champion, Kutzensova. Man oh man, if she wins this one, India will go wild.

The next topic I want to talk on is Narain Karthikeyan. As all of India now knows, he will be the Number 1 driver for Jordan when the Formula - 1 season starts in March with the Australian Grand Prix. The first Indian to have reached the Formula-1 level, really he should have made it a year or so back when he got an offer from Jaguar. At that time, he couldn't get in coz he couldn't get the money required. U know what ... this concept is really funny ... the driver pays the team money to let him drive their car and win them fame and glory. Of course, the company is giving a very expensive piece of machinery into his hands but still, it sucks when a guy meriting entry into Formula-1 cannot make it coz he doesn't have enough money to pay the team. This time, when Jordan gave the offer, some TATA group company among others came up to put forward the money, and Karthikeyan is ready to roll. Here are some interesting things I read over the days and just mentioning them in case u guys didn't know this. The current world champion (for the past 5 years or so) Michael Schumacher, started his F-1 career as a rookie driver with Jordan. That is exactly what Karthikeyan is now doing. Apart from Schumie, other drivers who r today top names in Formula-1 started off with Jordan. Jordan, by the way has a reputation of taking in new guys, something other teams don't really do. They just poach drivers from other teams after seeing their performances in Formula-1. It takes balls to take someone who hasn't really driven at the top level before and recruit him for the entire year. Incidentally, both of Jordan's drivers r rookies ... I forget the other guy's (Jordan's second driver) name but he will also be making his debut at the Australian Grand Prix. Another nugget of information is the salary Jordan is paying them ... guess how much is it ... Schumie is paid millions by Ferrari ... and Karthikeyan gets ... gets ... gets .... NOTHING. He pays Jordan for driving for them and he doesn't get paid a salary. He gets money from Jordan if he gets them points - for those not knowing, the first 6 (or is it 8) finishers in each race get points - and nothing if he doesn't get them points. So how does he live? His sponsors , basically. Interesting, huh?

It is good for sports in India when people like Sania Mirza and Narain Karthikeyan come into the spotlight. They let people in other sports know that there is a good life for them out there, if only they r ready to earn it. Of course, cricket in India has matured to an extent that the hardest thing for a cricketer is to get into the national team. There is a system for his sport at the domestic level, however good or bad it might be. With sports like tennis and F-1, for example, if u depend on the system, then don't complain coz it is not gonna help u and that is certain. U gotta go out and earn what u deserve by ur own efforts ... maybe it is unfair but that is the way it is. A neighbour or mine, who teaches at Nasr school in Hyderabad, where Sania Mirza did her schooling, told me about how Sania's mother used to run around for her daughter ... she used to run to all the newspaper offices with details of tournaments her daughter was playing and the results ... I have previously mentioned that newspapers in AP really give a lot of info about their sportspeople and back them ... while the "backing them" part still remains, now I realize that it wasn't the media which really bothered to get the info about Sania's progress through the last 2-3 years of her career ... I was always amazed coz I would read in Deccan Chronicle about Sania reaching the semi-finals in some non-descript tournament in some non-descript city in South Africa and would say to myself - "wow, Deccan Chronicle is really doing good to sportspeople of AP since they keep track of small / insignificant news items like this one". Now I know it is really Sania Mirza's mom who made sure that Deccan Chronicle carried those small pieces of news on her daugher ... basically she provided the news and they printed it. Similarly, she used to run to her daughter's school with the same news bulletins, begging the headmistress of the school to adjust things like school attendance, re-schedule examinations and in some case cancel examinations. The school officials too obliged and so like unlike many other sportspeople, Sania Mirza is actually 12th pass (which of course, being a board examination out of control of the school, she would have had to pass on merit).

Same with a guy like Abhinav Bindra, who won a lot of accolades with his shooting efforts before the Olympics (yeah, he fizzled in the Olympics but then that is the general trend) ... from all reports, till the time he became a big name, his dad used to finance his needs of weapon / ammunition etc ... if he had depended on the system, we wouldn't really know there is a guy around named Abhinav Bindra.

Now lets come to cricket. This post is already becoming too long so let me not talk about the Pakistan series right now. Let me talk about the direction given by the govt. to the BCCI (and other Sports federations) about their players not being allowed to sport the tri-color on their garments / helmets etc. There was this hue and cry from the cricketers (who naturally got the spotlight ... damn them) who claimed to carry their patriotism on their sleeve. There was this whining from Yuvi among the cricketers though SRT (the one guy whose helmet for the past many years has carried a tricolor) was diplomatically (and characteristically) silent. There were also some interesting comments from others, notably from Narain Karthikeyan ... I really love this guy. He says (I quote) - "We as sportsmen are only doing the country proud by performing well. I have the tricolour on my helmet, but I can probably sell that space to sponsors and make a lot of money." - Read the entire article here -

My take on this. Forget sportspeople ... they r not the beginning and the end. U and I, the common man on the streets, have to follow the flag code ... till a couple of years back, we couldn't even fly the tri-color from our houses if we wanted to ... today, we can but it is still a tricky situation coz u don't really know what the govt might contrue as "disrespect to the flag" and who wants to find out by going to jail? Basically, the same laws apply to sportsmen, whether Yuveraj takes pride in sporting the tri-color or not ... what a cry-baby ... really ... this basically tells me that before this recent order, he really had no idea there was something called a flag code. See, its not like I am saying it is correct or not correct but what is applicable for me is applicable for Yuveraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar.

Ok time for me to run home to wifey ... more posts soon. I still have to talk about the Pakistan tour and hopefully follow it properly over the course of the tour.

Look out for more posts from me, guys. I just got a second wind.

Of course, I cannot end this post without mentioning our finance minister who, with his latest budget, has really made me a richer man from the next financial year. I guess all I can say is - there really is god, and his name is P. Chidambaram.


The Chuckster