Saturday, September 29, 2007 

One's that are very important

Vakratund mahakaya, suryakoti samaprabha, nirvighnam kurmedevo sarvkaryeshu sarvada

For a long time now I have been thinking of writing a post on a caricature. I think the first of such attempts has to be one person that I have inherited much of what I am today from. My grandfather Ganpati Dhamdhere or as we all called him Anna.

I am the youngest amongst all the cousins, so you would think that I would have been my grandfather’s favourite. But as anna had three sons, he used to spend his time separately with the three sons and least of it with us as we lived in Delhi and he liked to stay in his home at Jhansi. When my father moved out of his parental house he went to faridabad and later shifted to Bombay when I was born. We lived in this small place called koliwada which is apparently famous for bhaigiri. Whenever I used to see anna he used to call me ‘koliwade ka dada’ and never understood what that meant. But I took it as a compliment.

Anna was a quiet gentlemanly character, who did not have a big say in the family even though he was the eldest son. His father was a dominating influence till he was alive and he held full control of the family even the bringing up of anna’s sons (my father and uncles). But anna never retaliated and played along. His influence on my father was probably as much as my great grandfather or maybe less from the surface. But his tacit presence in my father and then in me have made both us good individuals. His calm and composed behaviour is something people complement me for a lot.

In his last days he started losing a lot of his senses, but the one thing he didn’t lose was sensibility. He knew that he was not in a good shape and would let you take decisions for him so that you could feel good. He praised everyone for almost everything. I remember in 1997 when Atal Behari Vajpaye came into power he was very very excited. Vajpayee was a one time mate of anna’s. But till then he had lost a lot of his hearing, sight and ability to comprehend. I made arrangements for him so that he could sit in front of the tv and watch the oath taking ceremony. But the long rituals of the ceremony were too much to bear for the old man and he got tired and asked me to put him to bed again as he couldn’t sit anymore. I was happy that I could do something for him. Can never forget that moment, it still fills me with a feeling as if I won the world cup.

Towards the very end anna was bed ridden for almost 4-5 months. He was in a very bad condition and there were no signs of progress. He could barely recognize us, atleast the grandsons. I can’t even imagine how my father would have felt when he would not have recognized my father. As a 14 year old I could not stand to see a man is such a condition. Nobody could, and everyone knew that it was about time, but the amount of pain he was going through was frightening. But even then, the last time I talked to him he hisked in sound that meant I don’t know what you are talking about but god bless you. In December 1997, my father took us to vaishno devi for the first time. In January 1998 anna passed away.

If my father went there to make a wish, I think god might just have answered it. A man who never troubled anybody should not have had to go through such painful final moments. Anna will always remind me that humility and grace is the way of life. He was a true number 11 (hard working and committed) like I am and I am proud of it.

Today I feel bad about how little I could do for him. But the real difficult part is to realise that its all in the past and I have to look forward and try and learn from him to become a better person.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 

A Hit , and lots of Giggles

However small that number be, but there are people who like to read my posts. The thing that they like the most about my post is the very personal connection I present. But today’s post is not well thought out. This is a direct dedication to the Indian team for it memorable performance at the T20 championship. I feel proud whenever I tell someone that we are the world champions.

Where has this team been? Where has this zest for performing well been? I beg to disagree that this is a change that came overnight. MS Dhoni might have very few fans who adore him as much as I do, but I don’t think that his captaincy has changed the entire perspective of Indian players. There is something else to this mystery, leads of which can be found from Rahul Dravid’s early resignation. But this team looked like they were playing cricket. They wanted to score runs, take wickets, field well and win the game. It sounds so simple, but if followed it actually is that simple. Somehow we have managed to overlook the simple things and tried the more difficult ones in the past.

Yuvraj Singh’s amazing batting was a testimony to what loads of people have been saying so far. I remember Greg Chappel said in his last days as the coach, that Yuvraj himself doesn’t realise that potentially he is the best in the world. He proved that he has the talent. People keep talking about Kevin Pieterson,. But I think he has been just hyped, he is a normal batsman who can hit the ball a long way.

It was a tournament where everyone contributed. Save for Piyush Chawla, everyone got a game and everyone left a mark. Gambhir, RP, Irfan, Dhoni, Bhajji, Sehwag and even Sreesanth, if we are talking about leaving a mark. Jogi bowled two pressure overs and took important catches, Utthapa got a fifty and fielded briliiantly, Karthik took that stunner to get rid of Smith, Yusuf pathan, scored 15 good runs, bowled one good over and took a catch, Agarkar err….

But forget about the individual performances, if you look at the pictures of the team’s celebrations it just makes you so proud that you love this game. Everyone is jumping on each other, there are no bars to consider. Everyone can fearlessly say and express themselves, no protocol has to be obeyed. I think not having a coach helped, and with Dhoni I don’t think we need a head coach. He has a sense of direction and India will do well if we have only one director.

The sad thing though is that this win has come a little late in the day. I think the game is making its way down. The game is dying. Had such a victory come 10 years ago, I would have spent the night burning crackers, and dancing on the street. This time it was just high fives with friends and then coming to the balcony expecting some fireworks. But there were almost no firecrackers. Ofcourse there would have been celebrations across India at other places. But it has really cracked down a bit. The celebrations there would have been this time would not compare with the celebrations when India beat Pakistan at Bangalore in 1996.

I think the clock has started ticking backwards. The game is getting shorter. I am all in favour of having 20-20. But the reason why I support it is that I myself don’t have that much time. If people like me will come to accept shorter versions of the game, then that’s pretty much the end of it. But till it’s on, the battle is on. The fun is endearing and the lessons to learn remain the same. And to top it all we are the first world champions. History books will always say that

Thursday, September 20, 2007 

Hit and Giggles

While there are times when achieving something is very difficult, there are times when it becomes ridiculously simple. Or so you believe at first. However, there is always an apprehension to comprehend the simplicity of the process of achieving something.

I recently got a chance to go abroad (Chile) to work at an international office location for my company. Everything about the opportunity seemed perfect. The responsibility would have required me to coach and groom a team of analysts (around 4 to 5). I would have had to handle projects from end to end with entire responsibility falling on my shoulders. And most of all, the international experience tag would have put four moons on my resume. All I had to do was say yes!

Well, I did say yes, but every time and to every person I said yes with a disclaimer that ‘it won’t break my heart if I don’t get this opportunity’. The point I am trying to make is that when I get something served on a platter such as this, I try to shield myself from losing even the given by telling myself that I can live without it. That is not something ambition breeds on. That is not what you call proactive approach towards success be it in any field. You have to put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable to be able to achieve it. I will always remember these words of Sunil Gavaskar – “when you are making your debut you will be nervous and it’s a good sign. It means that you care”.

Of course the opportunity did go down the drain, perhaps not because of my fault. But if I would have been more eager or at least showed the eagerness to the powers that be, I would not have let other problems come in my way. So while even though I cared, I was probably too proud to admit it. Or too weak to accept it and then be let down because of some other issues not in my control.

I think Ricky Ponting had the taste of this feeling recently. Australia came to the World T20 Championship as the world champions. But they were not sure if they would be world champions here as well. So they simply downplayed the whole idea of the tournament. It was great fun watching them go down to Zimbabwe. Ponting has quickly realised that either he needs to take the game seriously or give up totally. The plan of hanging in there pretending nothing is at stake seldom works.

Saturday, September 15, 2007 

the PERFECT 10

Things don’t always go quite the way you want to. But it is possible sometimes that everything goes the wrong way. Especially things that you really want to come good, there are times they just go all wrong. But the real motivation of writing this post is not to enlist the problems going on in life. As I think of times when a lot is going wrong, I tried to recall the time when absolutely everything was right. Perfect if I may.

It was 7am on chilly February morning in 1999. I took bus no. 281 from outside my house expecting my friend Saurabh to join me in the same bus from Vivek Vihar, and he did. Next stop was to be Preet Vihar where we were joined by Naman. And the three of us started towards what was going to be quite simply the time of my life.

It all started a week before. Saurabh told me that the second India Pakistan test match is to be played at Ferozeshah Kotla. Having seen the dramatic, intense and mentally draining first test at Chennai, there was no needing a second invitation. However, watching a cricket match in the ground seemed like an impossible thing to me. So I just played along with guys subconsciously believing that we’ll never get the tickets. We went to the oriental bank branch in CP after school hours. There were lower rates for school kids and the ticket was worth 300. The general ticket was for 500. I spent two days trying to convince my mother to give me 300 bucks to see the game. She eventually gave me the money. When we reached the bank we were told that student lot tickets are finished. I felt low, but I was almost sure that it will not come through somehow. As we moved out of the bank a man approached us. He told us that he has tickets but he will let them go only for 500 bucks. We were class 11 students; very gullible and unfamiliar to the concept of black ticketing. Even then we managed to somehow convince this pimp to give us the ticket for 450. But there was a problem. We had set out to get three tickets with 900Rs on us and ended up buying only two in that amount. Saurabh somehow used his contacts to get a third ticket for 500. But the real problem was to tell my mother that now I had spent 450 instead of 300. Those were two tough nights.

The test match started on the 4th of February but we could not go for the first day due to school. But finally 5 February came when we were entitled to bunk school by parents to go and see the match. We reached the Kotla ground pretty early. Saurabh and I had bought the ticket for the entire match, but the third ticket was to be shared between three people. So for day 2 of the test match it was Naman. Naman was a crazy fan of Sachin Tendulkar. In those days my favourite cricketer was the captain – M.Azharuddin and Anil Kumble. We were standing in queue to get inside when the cricketers’ buses arrived and my friend naman got a peak at his hero who had had his window slightly open. Naman went crazy, “yaar Sachin ko dekha maine, yaar sachi wala dekha yaar. Dhamdhere yaar me pagal ho jaunga yaar Sachin Tendulkar ko dekha maine” these were some of the expressions he used to express his joy. We were all pretty excited. We reached inside settled into the best seats in the ground. Well they were not really seats but more like the sitting arrangement in an OAT. This is a tip for someone going to watch a game with tickets of the section where there are no seat numbers – try your best to get behind the bowlers arm. From square on the game is not even half the fun.

On day 2 India were resuming their innings at something like 240 for 9 I think. The last wicket was left with Mongia and Prasad walking out to bat. They didn’t last for too long and India’s innings came to an ened at around 250. Then Pakistan came out to bat, India got them out for not too many. I think India got a lead of 30 odd runs in the first innings.

Day three was going to be India batting again, and this was going to be more fun. We were expecting to see the best Indian batsmen at that time to fire and show us some class. Azharuddin (my favourite), Dravid, Sachin and Laxman all failed. But one boy stood his ground like he was born to make it big one day. He probably never made it bigger than that day. But on that particular day Sadagoppan Ramesh showed how the might of Akram and Waqar can be made to look spells of lesser mortals for once. Ramesh played an absolute beaty. Only bowler who troubled him a little was Saqlain who himself has a terrific game. Finally Ramesh got out for 96. He stood there startled, he actually stood still for a good 10 seconds before it struck him that he was out and could not get a well deserved hundred. Probably he himself knew it more than anyone else that he came so close but ended up so far.

Dada Ganguly and another non batsman, Srinath, then put on a partnership that saw India take a lead in excess of 400. Srinath was also very much a favourite for me, and it was sad to see him get out for 49. Ganguly hit two sixes that came in our direction and maybe me might have been seen on TV for the brief moment. Eventually India got bowled out and set Pakistan a target of 420 to get in the fourth innings, the highest ever if Pakistan would chase it.

The fourth day was actually when India finished there innings, early in the morning just like on day 2. I had to go to my coaching class in the evening, but told my parents that the match will go on till 5.30 so I’ll miss it. I don’t know what they said in reply. The Pakistan innings started with a flourish, something you associate with Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi. The two just took the bowling to all corners. Anil Kumble was bowling from the Pavilion end in the morning. At lunch Pakistan were a 101 for no loss, with 5 sessions to play. We feared the worst.

What happened after lunch is pretty much documented ball by ball in many cricketing gospels. So much has been said about the decisions of AV Jayaprakash the Indian umpire in the match. But still let’s go through it one by one.

  1. Shahid Afridi – caught behind by mongia. From mongia’s reaction it looked a very obvious nick. Ofcourse keepers breed on those histrionics. But Kumble went up straight away and so did the finger. It was most probably out.
  2. Ijaz Ahmed – Struck in line and Kumble doesn’t spin the ball. It was a skidder and very adjacent. Out was my call.
  3. Yousuf Youhana (the then) – plumb in front, no doubt in anyone’s mind.
  4. Inzamam – A big one, chopped on to the stumps. The flipper I would think no answer to it.
  5. Saeed Anwar – the really big one, two noises, pad first and then glove, simple catch at short point.
  6. Salim Mallik – he put on a partnership with Akram, but it was starting to feel that we will win. The flipper did him to as he tried to pull the ball thinking that it was short but it ran through to hit the top of the bails.
  7. Moin Khan – BEAUTY! Classic leg spinner’s dismissal. Pitched on middle and leg. Spun, would you believe it, took the glove and looped for a simple catch for even a non fielder like Ganguly. This was the time we started to hope for the unachievable. Or so it seemed till then.
  8. Saqlain Mushtaq – Unlucky man, he got a ripper first up, that he dug out almost like a Yorker. But to his misfortune the next one was quicker and caught him half forward. Not only would the ball have hit the middle stump, it would have gone for a walk with it. Nerves piling now, the match was in the kitty but still there was so much tension. Can he do it?
  9. Mushtaq Ahmed – I think he was also held at slip, not sure. But now the pressure was so huge

Javagal Srinath came to bowl the over from the other end to Waqar Younis. All six ball were spot on, wide enough that waqar couldn’t lay bat on it, but not called wide. It was one of the most beautiful periods of test cricket in my recollection. It made me understand that in ateam game like cricket you owe so much to your teammates.

  1. Wasim Akram – I was numb for a moment. As Laxman turned around to take a simple catch at short leg, the ground erupted. I don’t know if many of you know the meaning of erupted. No one could belive what they had just seen. The entire Pakistan batting line up cleaned up inside 2 sessions.and cleaned up by one man alone. Anil Kumble my hero from the times when he used spectacles on the field had done me proud, hell the whole country proud. Wasim Akram actually gave the impression that said “what has happened to this guy he just doesn’t want to stop” when he got out. All the players jumped and hugged the great man. We were dancing in the isles, actually that was when I realised what Tony Greig means by that phrase. It was a moment of great pride. Anil Kumble had taken the Perfect 10. All ten wickets in an innings.

We didn’t want to leave the ground. The players obliged by doing a lap of honour around the ground. I saw all the players from almost 10 metre distance. It feels like it must have been a dream. I still wonder if I was really there. Finally the time came when we had to leave. As we boarded the bus from outside Kotla, we were telling everyone in the bus that India had won and Kumble had taken all 10. There was so much happiness, such a sense of belonging that it felt worth to have told it to everyone. There were smiles all around in the bus, people doing high fives. It’s amazing how a game can connect so many people.

I soon realised that it was still just 4.30 and I could still catch my coaching class. And now I wanted to go and tell my friends there that I was there, I saw my hero take all ten wickets in an innings. The third day the third ticket with us was taken by Nitin Chadha, for all my passion and knowledge of the game, he was the one who told me that the feat had been achived some 40 years ago by a man called Jim Laker. Well it could not take anything away, it was happy moment. I don’t remember thinking about anything else for the next hour or so.

Later that evening when I reached home, I remember I was sitting on dinning table chair taking of my shoes. I must have had the pleasure and happiness in my eyes. My mother watched me take off my shoes, she didn’t ask anything. She just knew that I had had an experience I will never forget in my life. She then actually said that you enjoyed so much then it was worth a lot more than the Rs 450.

5-7 February 1999, probably goes down as the best time of my life. There was nothing to be sad. Nothing went wrong. I enjoyed every moment of it. Every single moment!

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