Weekly Dispatch – 1

Starting this week, I’ll share some interesting stories, books and videos I’d seen of late. Here comes Weekly Dispatch – 1:

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The last semester of my undergraduate course has just begun, and it is exciting. I have taken two challenging courses and I hope, like every time a semester begins, that I learn and do well in them. Plus I have my undergraduate thesis, which I hope will get into a good form in two months from now. (In my adviser’s words, I want to have a good undergraduate thesis.)

At the beginning of every semester, there is a pleasant optimism in the air. I have encountered it many times in these four years but have not found reasons for its waning one-and-a-half months into the semester. It seems to have something to do with sticking to schedule and doing things. This is not the time to stage to repent the past, but I seem to be lacking in the doing things part. ‘Lack of discipline is what kills most people on the planet,’ my adviser said the other day.

This year has been very different in college from the past three years: one because the coursework was less, which gives me enough time to focus on one or two things I can learn properly; experience tells me that I cannot handle many courses at a level required to do well in them. I have just one semester to prove my point, but it does look like an indication. Second is my thesis work: beyond the subject matter of what I did learn in the past five months, the most important–shall we say insight?–I got is how science is done on a day-to-day basis. Pleasantly, this experience is in continuation of my summer-internship work in Chennai last year. The list of experiences I gained and advice I received is long; it deserves a post on its own. So sometime later maybe?

Coming back to what is happening today.

It is a good Sunday, no doubt. Woke up on time, went jogging, breakfast, did laundry and cleaning before I sat down to do some project-related work. Seriously, there’s nothing like physical activity. Last Friday and Saturday were a bit hard on my sleep and productivity but I managed to get through with Internet’s help. (IYKWIM). It’s funny that I saw this on my  Facebook feed when I was missing my daily jogging drill.

runningshoes

Then there is work itself. I’ve done the one thing that I must have done and I would feel miserable had I not done that; that in itself makes me happy in a way. Now before I could attend to other things I had planned, I read a few interesting articles on the web, and I thought I must catch up with my plan to ‘broadcast’ (or ‘weeklycast’ or whichever fancy word you like) things I read, watched, and planning to in near future. Let’s start:

This link is from my draft from two weeks ago. Alan Watts is credited to have popularised Zen Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy at large to the West. He had also been a cultural icon, doing tours on the college circuit in the U.S. during the counter-culture days of 60s, I learnt. Many of his lectures have been televised, and have found a new audience in the YouTube era. Some of them are here. I have also read and thoroughly enjoyed his book The Way of Zen. It merits to be reread and reflected upon. For some months, I have been looking for a primer on Buddhist philosophy; this was just the right kind of book I was looking for.

Among other books on philosophy, I remember Shankaracharya’s Vivekachudamani that I stopped mid-way, and which is with a friend now. Talking about this book, a friend told me this as one of Shankara’s teachings: the point is to attain moksha (liberation/realisation); if chanting/idol worship may help, so be it! I was at once struck how forward-looking his thinking had been. So, applying the aphorism in my own little way to the blogging activity: the point is to reflect, unwind thoughts and write; if blogging helps, so be it! And dear reader, my objective might have been realised after I publish this post, but you may help me with some constructive feedback. And if this post helped you in any way, I’ll be pleased to know.

The School of Life comes across as a wise and restrained voice in the clamour that Social Media is. Discover more.

I really wish this scheme sensitises enough people in Delhi to the problem of pollution. Granted, it was a mad solution, but if it can help, why not?

Dravid is the intellectual in that generation of cricketers, and an astute observer of our society, and I am told, an avid reader — all very rare for a cricketer. Add to that his commitment level to the game: most number of deliveries faced, most minutes at crease, most catches in Test Cricket, part of the biggest partnership (with Tendulkar). And Dravid would not miss nets during IPL in the searing heat of May. To quench your Dravid-mania I shall refer you to Timeless Steel, but I’ll leave you with this for now, from the Pataudi lecture:

It is important for our young cricketers to continue with their education – even if all the time away from schools makes it hard for them to finish their graduation. It will be something they can go back to in case the cricket dream doesn’t come true for some reason. But aside from all that, it is important to stay connected to school and college because it will mean they have friends outside cricket, conversations outside cricket and life experiences that are not connected to cricket. It will give them the perspective needed to become well-rounded adults.

What kind of a gentleman in a cricketer can say such words! If you’re intrigued, please also peruse his Bradman Oration in 2011.

That’s all for now, folks! I’ve other things to attend to, and let me keep this business interesting enough to be willing to come back next week. Stay happy!

 

What I want to hear from Tendulkar’s Playing it My Way

You have all seen the excerpt from Tendulkar’s autobiography due to hit markets this Thursday:

“Just months before the World Cup, Chappell had come to see me at home and, to my dismay, suggested that I should take over the captaincy from Rahul Dravid. Anjali, who was sitting with me, was equally shocked to hear him say that ‘together, we could control Indian cricket for years’, and that he would help me in taking over the reins of the side.”

The publishers and marketing people have done a swell job in bringing forth the controversy that was widely publicised yet less talked about: in the words of Sourav, that (2005-07) was one of the worst periods in Indian cricket. Clearly, the coach was not listening to the cricketers who were in their prime form; in fact, he did go after each of them and appeared in the media for the wrong reasons.

Now, if Tendulkar is telling his story of his career, and be – we have a reason to believe – brutally honest, then there are sooo… many stories to look out for. My favourite list:

Note: This is rather a testimonial to Tendulkar himself and the wonderful stories cricket matches and gossip have given us over the past twenty years. (Twenty years! I shuddered while I typed it.) We would definitely want to go over them again, and see them in the book itself.

The happy occasions:

The Sandstorm Innings:
Almost nothing can go wrong when Sachin made up his mind to beat the target. So it did happen that India needed 285 to beat Australia in the Coca Cola cup in Sharjah in1998; an interruption that came in the form of a dust storm. The target was then revised to 276 in 46 overs. As it often happens in Indian cricket, there was another important number: score 237 to get ahead of New Zealand and get into the final. Tendulkar is said to have told coach Anshuman Gaikwad that he will go with full force at the Australian attack – Kasprowicz, Fleming, Warne, Moody and (Steve) Waugh. And how he did! The second dust storm of the evening followed, apparently. Australia saved the match but Sachin’s ton helped India get through.

The final face-off happened on Sachin’s birthday (turned 25) and India once again had to chase 273. That innings was nothing short of historic; watch it for the technical brilliance and intent on display and the verve of Tony Greig (the English cricketer who eventually groveled), one of the finest commentators of the game, who dwarfed Ravi and Sunny (both Mumbaikaars) in his praise for Sachin. He whacked, he pulled, he drove, he lofted. He didn’t stop. If you like some drama here, Sachin didn’t take off the helmet as he usually does, as he reached his fifteenth ton. India comfortably reached the target even as Sachin (134) departed after being adjudged lbw by Steve Bucknor.

So with his 98 vs Pakistan in Durban, 2003 WC. How he sent Shoaib’s delivery flying for a six over third man will be talked about for many more years.

His masterly peers: Bhogle, Dravid and Ganguly
Harsha Bhogle, one of the ‘Few Good Men’, was invited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for the Benson and Hedges World Cup in 1992, and has ever since been a voice of the game. Like Sachin, he too started early; at 19, while studying in Hyderabad, he was already a commentator at the All India Radio. Harsha is the best loved commentator of our times; he can make the ordinary (and some mediocre) look glorious. Take a look:

Michael Vaughan makes a mess of Sachin Tendulkar’s stumps after the latter has played a gem of an innings. A dismissal as soft as they come and people are crestfallen. Shoulders droop in front of TV sets, and in comes Harsha, “Oh what a shame! It was reminiscent of a soldier who survived the war when all the bullets were flying by his nose and then got run over by a bicycle in his native town!”

In the match when Tendulkar scored 200*, MS took charge in the final overs of the game and kept blasting boundaries. Then came Sachin who softly caressed the ball to a boundary. Here is what he said: “We have a surgeon at one end and a butcher at the other.”

Tendulkar and Ganguly have the highest opening partnership runs (6609 in 136 innings) in ODI cricket; 1300 runs ahead of the second best. With Dravid, Tendulkar shared a memorable partnership in the middle amassing 6920 runs in 143 innings – ahead of Jayawardena and Sangakkara, the duo who, it looked, batted forever. The stories of the rise to the top of the Fab Four (Sachin, Sourav, Rahul, VVS) and the team itself are our best memories of the decade that went by.

A few sad ones:

Match-fixing controversy
At the turn of the century, it looked as if Cricket lost its audience in India. Match-fixing made news and several players (including Indian) were implicated. Under the leadership of a new skipper (Ganguly) and coach (Wright), India staged an extraordinary and a less-known comeback. We want to read more on this.

Nervous nineties and the defeats
Tendulkar got out in nineties twenty-eight times and had to wait twenty-three innings after his ninety ninth to get his hundredth ton. He has a dubious distinction of scoring for a losing cause, though stats clearly show otherwise. Yet, there are stories…

Particularly heart-breaking is his knock (175) vs Australia in Hyderabad in 2009. Chasing 351, it looked like a sand-storm all over again. But Sachin fell cheaply for a slow delivery, and the rest failed to get the required nineteen runs of seventeen balls. India lost by three runs. His majestic innings won the MoM. Watch this for the sound of the ball hitting the willow.

The long wait for World Cup
Sachin was a part of all world cups from 1992; he was the top scorer in 1996 when India lost to SriLanka in a forgettable semi-final in Eden Gardens. In fact the match was ‘awarded’ to SriLanka. Again in 2003 he was the player of the tournament; he fell for 4 in the final as India buckled before the mammoth target set by the Aussies. Then there is 2007, which I am sure is written about. That was Guru Greg’s time.

The wait ended in 2011. I really want to read what happened in the dressing room after the openers fell and before MS Dhoni promoted himself up the order. That was the best gamble ever. Dhoni says it is Gary(Kirsten)’s decision but he may be downplaying it. That night Virat Kohli said – and is widely quoted thereafter – “He carried the burden of the nation for twenty-one years; so it’s time we should carry him on our shoulders”. Sure he filled the void left after Sachin’s retirement. Kohli’s phenomenal rise post 2011 made everyone sit up and observe. His important part in the final chase in 2011 – calming down the nerves after two important wickets fell in quick succession and generating runs nevertheless – didn’t go unnoticed.

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Now the inevitable question – after Sachin who? A refined question may be: will we get another Sachin the cricketer and Sachin the person. We can bank on our enormous cricketing talent but Sachin the person is clearly a product of his times. All along his career, his strike rate stood sturdily at 86. For now, we have Kohli the person, Dhoni the person. What is important – as far as cricket is concerned and wherever cricketers can make amends – is to win matches. That is what the stalwarts of the age that has gone by insisted on. పేకాట పేకాటే!