B’lore Test: Disappointing, not disheartening…

India lost the Bangalore test with under 6 overs to spare. When a draw might have been the ideal result for us, given the toss and the quality of our bowling in both innings, it was indeed a disappointment, when the efforts of all our batsmen did not culminate in a draw, but a sore defeat.

Two things stood out for me (and Sudharshan) — poor bowling in the second innings, about 1 r.p.o higher than what we should have restricted them to, and over-defensive batting, that was too alien to us to play the entire day off. It however amuses me (though we of course did not deserve it — tell me, does any other team does?) why we need to be unsupported by weather, light et al, unlike, say, a South Africa at Wanderers, an Australia at Sydney, or Chennai, a New Zealand at Mohali, Pakistan in Colombo (30-5 in a Asia Cup 1997 game)to name a few. As someone remarked once, God was probably not Indian, what with us being at the receiving end of all the nature-dictated results! Could bad light not have intervened before the sixth last over of the day? Or could the rain not have come 15 min earlier in the last test in the Carribean (2002)?

I know the daggers are out at all, including the ever-so-consistent Rahul Dravid, who has but a dismal record at his own home ground, much similar to the dubious record that India itself holds (of course only in Tests!). What irks me a lot is, more than the poor form of Saurav Ganguly, is how the media is thirsting for his blood. Every failure, which of course he has been producing for a few innings now, is greeted [sic] with such disrespectful criticism that I’ve stopped reading several columnists. I am not trying to circumvent his poor form, but someone of his standing as an international cricketer, with nearly 15000 runs, needs to be given more respect. There’s not a batsman who hasn’t performed as badly in the past. Even the great Tendulkar had more than 2 consecutive ducks in a WI home series [Matches 1 2 3 4 5], till he bounced back to be the man of the series (I remember right!). In fact, there was a Wills World Series sandwiched between the ODIs, where he caught some form, and even the Man of the series! Statistics such as the lowest number of runs scored by a captain in a test, and so on, is just pure garbage. Even Sachin scored 10 & 0 in his first test as captain, with Mongia chipping in 152 to score a victory against Australia in the one-off test at Delhi. Statistics over a large sample can give some conclusions, but as the adage goes, it’s often “Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics”, as it all lies in the hands of the interpreter. No one threw stones at Steve when he ran out Martyn and subsequently got `hit wicket’, ignominiously for a duck in the Brisbane test, that has more come to be remembered as Ganguly’s last good game. But in India, much in tune with our general attitude, is to tarnish anyone and everyone. Recall the Nagma incident when Australia toured in 2001. It took some quality cricket to kick the media guys back into their places.

I can go writing on and on. It’s the Indian attitude that has to change. Defeatist. That’s what the media is. Optimist. That’s what Ganguly is. That’s what got us the Natwest. That’s what took us to the finals of WCC 2003, after an abysmal (for want of a better word) tour of NZ on doctored pitches. That’s what got us to win after a follow on in 2001 at Kolkata. To win when all chips are down — it’s something that this Indian team has done. One defeat is a backward step, but it’s not all over. I’d be least surprised if dada roars to form with sixes over point off Sami. India, get a move on.

— A die-hard fan (so much for my fanatic pro-India views)

PostScript: Sudharshan just sends me this article on ” Kapil backs India skipper Ganguly”. Makes so much of sense. One defeat or one victory is not all. Simple. Build a team, and wins shall follow.

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The enigma that is Saurav Ganguly

In one line, “India’s best captain ever”. Yes, he’s not won the world cup as the great Kapil Dev did. But one final victory does not make a captain. At least, that’s not my yardstick for judging a captain. Ganguly changed the Indian mentality, the Indian way of playing cricket.

A very crucial defining moment as captain came when Steve Waugh’s Australia toured India in 2001. India paid back Australia both with words (read sledging) and with the bat. Yes, maybe he was lucky that Laxman chose to play the innings of his life (everybody’s life!) when it mattered most. But yes, the “never say die” attitude ground in the past years by Saurav did make it happen.

A quick look at Ganguly’s batting… Let us accept that he was never a great test bat. He has an average of 41.5, and as captain, it’s not much different. As he warily mentioned during the post match conference on Sunday (after the Ind-Pak match at Kolkata), he’s had a good last 14 matches. In fact, his average in the last 15, which includes a couple of really bad matches like the one at Kolkata, is nearly 43. The presence of geniuses like Sachin and Dravid, who’ve got averages the height of Everest should certainly not undermine Saurav.

He’s made great sacrifices as a team man in the shorter version of the game, dropping down the order to accommodate the belligerent Sehwag and the popular Sachin, though he was at his best opening and had been the most consistent. (For a long time, Saurav had a better ODI average than Sachin).

Yes, his fielding is indifferent, he’s too cocky at times, but overall, he’s been great for India. It’s the only thing India needed when it was abounding in talent with the likes of Sachin, Dravid and the dada himself — direction and motivation.

And no eulogy of Ganguly would be complete without the innings that changed India’s fortunes — Brisbane, 2003, 144(196). It’s an innings that gave India too much impetus, that Australia could bounce back only at Melbourne, thanks mainly to some shoddy lower order batting. And yes, his form in South Africa before the 1999 WC, creaming Pollock square of the wicket for six after six. It was a pity that we managed to lose so many matches in SA, despite the form Saurav and Sachin were in. And why end this whole essay without a mention of that imperious 128 at Headingley. Yes, Dravid, Bangar and Sachin himself had built the platform. But, No. 5 batsmen never build platforms, they rub it in when the others have done their part, and that’s what Ganguly did with such awesome arrogance.

Reaching the WCC 2003 final, ICC knockout 2002, reaching the finals of ICC knockout 2000, the Natwest 2002, and more.. were all partly due to Ganguly, some as captain, some as batsman too.

Kudos to you dada. I believe your best is still to come.
p.s. will try and hyperlink the quoted matches soon.

The Man who knew infinity…

Just finished the first Chapter from “The Man who knew Infinity“, by Robert Kanigel. It’s a fantastic exposition on the early days of Ramanujam, and a Westerner’s view of Indian culture and Ramanujam’s! One must really appreciate the research that’s gone into the writing of this chapter, right from the fact the Erode (Eeera Odu) or wet skull, as well as descriptions of Indian temples, the general culture, the Iyyanar statues, grama devadhai etc.

Close on the heels of finishing my first reading of “Autobiography of a Yogi“, by Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, this almost seemed to be a continuation, with spirituality and science and their co-existence and profound influence on India’s greatest mathematical genius! Got to quickly finish this remarkable book and write more… no wonder it’s on the great Donald Knuth’s reading list!!

Team India makes it 1-0

It’s an auspicious start for this blog.. with a memorable Indian win! A lot of thanks must go to Dinesh Karthik for the wonderful stumping which set the day up. Hardly did we look back from there!

It was but expected that Kumble would maul the Pakis — Balaji and Bhajji duly denied him another perfect ten. Just to point out the similarities between this match and the one in Ferozshah Kotla early 1999, where Kumble picked his 10-74 — both targets were 420+, both had an Afridi cameo, and in both, Kumble looked like the only bowler who would take wickets!

This was almost a perfect team performance, with everybody chipping in with their bit, though Dravid, Kumble and Karthik take the top honours. Maybe, there should be a few words of praise for Darrell Hair as well — however bad he may have been in the past — this was a fantastic test for him. Obviously, the same can be hardly said of his more illustrious partner, who’s now been making the headlines regularly for the wrong reasons. Perhaps, he’s getting blind with age. And now that he’s played Test 100, he could really think of retirement, lest ICC thinks of dismissing him!

As for Bhajji’s doosra being reported, it’s really interesting, because there were more interesting `bowlers’ on view, such as Afridi (who delivers a legal ball once or twice a match)! Maybe after a spinner from Scotland (no longer England’s spinner – I forget the name) would be told to assist him correct his action!

Kolkata does continue to be a dream venue for India. It’s not so much the venue, as the team’s performance itself that matters now I guess. I guess I’d be vindicated if we win at Bangalore, which has exactly the opposite history, to Kolkata, as far as Indian wins go (in tests). Good luck, Men in Blue!

Cricket Rambles …

Just saw Amit Varma’s India UnCut blog on cricket. Thought I must start a blog as well, for the maniac that I am!

As the title Cricket Rambles does suggest, most of the posts here are going to be disconnected, digressive, and of course, a touch biased towards India (immaterial of how they play!). Lot of really arbitrary statistics that have been cached in my head since ages will slowly find their way into these posts.

Read on…

Shiva Ganga

Shiva Ganga is a hill about 50 km from Bangalore, 20 km ahead of Tumkur. It’s a pretty tall hill with two Shiva temples, one very close to the foot of the hill and another, that’s possibly around 5 km uphill! The deities are “Gangadhareshwara”, and his consort “Swarnambha”.

The place is just fantastic, with breathtaking views from the high altitudes. Brilliant are the views of the surrounding city, the nearby `pushkarini’ or pond, from the top of the hill. Most of the place is rocky, with railings to hold on to as you climb, and monkeys to make sure you don’t take any offerings to the deity on top! A very forgettable experience was how my friend (Saketh) was `searched’ by a monkey, feeling for what he had in his pockets or in hidden beneath his shirt! And all this after another monkey had already robbed him of the coconut/flowers he had brought! Pretty intelligent creatures, one must say! Thankfully, I managed to salvage my camera, safely through these testing times!

Some of the places on the way to the top were reminscent of `Prince of Persia’, where you had to figure out a way which is hardly apparent to the eye (the typical hidden ledge you would climb on to)! In all, it was an experience in trekking as well :D. Inside some of the rocks (of which even the temple and the deities and sannidhis are a part of!), you could find some small fountains or water bodies, that we were told, never dry up throughout the year! But the most intriguing of all was a tunnel which supposedly led into the heart of Bangalore (couldn’t snap this up though!).

The way back was the same, but more easily traced (without the pebbles of Hansel and Gretel), and more nourishing, with regard to the breaks for a Maaza and some coconut water. Took about 2-2.5 hours to go up I guess and around 2 hrs to get down the hill. Being a Saturday, there was hardly any crowd, but we were told that there’s a lot of queueing on Sundays and on Maha Shivarathri (last week, 8-Mar). Overall, it appears to be a great place for a quick weekend trip.

Photos to follow… and yes posted now (14-03-2005, 0920) on my blog.

The first aerial view..

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The blazing sun (the camera could not capture!)

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Gopuram of the temple

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The easy lower part of the journey.. about 15%, with nice steps. Note the Nandi in the background..

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Another of the aerial views.. note the `pushkarini’ and the far-off hill..

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Yet another view of the earth!

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This is the hill on which the temple is. Note the water stains on the rocks.. Water must be flowing here often…S3010239.jpg

That’s Saketh (before the monkey debacle – note tha bag in his hand :D). Such steps were there in part of the way to the top..

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The way to the top is never easy…S3010241.jpg

Such huge rocks were on either side of our path…S3010242.jpg

Another sample of the rocks around!

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More picturesque…

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These railings were present in some places.. there are also some pseudo-steps (just inset in the hill) to help you climb..

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Closer to the top…
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From the top! One of these poles had a torch that could be lit (now dilapidated). S3010248.jpg

The temple on top..

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Higher and higher…

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This tree was beautiful.. only flowers.. hardly any leaves.. Don’t think that’s too apparent from this pic though!

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A Nandi on top…

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A view through two huge rocks…

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The Nandi from a distance, from in front of the actual temple

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Last few aerial views (1)

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Last few aerial views (2)

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Last few aerial views (3). Looks almost like a satellite pic from the top of the world!

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Whoa! The final pic. A bird’s eye view of the civilisation around in God’s world! This is my favourite snap:
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Just to know who went to this place… the photographer is yours truly, to the right!

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If, by Rudyard Kipling

One of the most awesome poems ever… read it and admire!

If
– Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!