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On the other side

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Sometime during 2000/01 in Indore, Dainik Bhaskar, the Bhopal based newspaper (which also had an Indore edition) held a series of media events that were open to the public. During that week, many prominent media personalities visited Indore. Suddenly the otherwise quiet town was in focus (or it was made to look like that to us, anyway).

In my late teens then, I had never seen anything like it. One like minded friend, Girish Sekhar (who was already disillusioned with our netas then and later joined the Army – always ahead of his times, Girish Sekhar) and I decided to make the most of the opportunity. We wildly hunted for passes that were freely available but required traveling to another part of the city, trying to get into as many events we possibly could. Indore’s public transport was pathetic then so commuting was a major problem. We did manage to get a pass to the event at the infamous Sayaji Hotel, one of the town’s few five star hotels. It was the stuff we could only dream about — hearing top media people speak at the best hotel in town, for free.

Loitering in the hotel after the event as if we had always belonged there, Girish pointed me out to a man walking in the lobby, who seemed to be returning from the rest room. “I’ve seen him somewhere – I just have”, exclaimed Girish. I had the same gut feel and of the two of us, I turned out to be the assertive kind. I walked to the man, all confident and ready to speak the clich├ęd line: jee, aapko kahin dekha hai (Sir, I have surely seen you somewhere). The man looked at us, broke into a smile and said: aapne mujhko Zee TV ke kaaryakram, Ru Ba Ru pe dekha hoga (You must have seen me in Zee tv’s program, Ru Ba Ru).

That man was Rajeev Shukla. Down to earth, introducing himself to a bunch of nobodies in a Five-star hotel lobby. Of course, he was much thinner then though his moustache, almost gone now, loomed thick when you looked at his face. he broke into a smile often and when he spoke his pure hindi, you could swear that you had never met a more modest man than him (I also realize now that he may have been a MP then).

In the late 90s, Rajeev Shukla, someone who started his career as a journalist went around seeking answers from people in power, on national television. In his usual head wobblling style while stating things matter-of-factly, he would ask uncomfortable questions in chaste hindi that made way for more uncomfortable answers. His website claims that “he interviewed eminent personalities ranging from political leaders like Congress Chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Ministers Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr I.K Gujral, the then President Mr K R Narayanan, Benazeer Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Dalai Lama to film celebrities and sport stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan”.

Come to think of it, maybe that is why Girish recognized him and was happy to meet him. Because here was a man that made it very uncomfortable for the same people that we had grown to get disillusioned from, and in a way we could all admire not just from a distance. We could bump into him in an expensive place and he talked to us in a way that we could understand. He was one among us.

That is also why I am now disillusioned by the same Rajeev Shukla who now, among holding other powerful positions, is also incharge of The Indian Premier League. And who, despite everything that has happened, has mostly been mum about the latest scandal that has rocked BCCI’s premier tournament. Wouldn’t the Rajeev Shukla I met in 2000, the man who looked for accountability from the most powerful people of his times, be outraged with this silence by now?

Maybe this is how life comes a full circle. Maybe this how it is on the other side.

Written by aditya kumar

May 21st, 2013 at 8:41 am

Bangalore to Goa by road

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No, I am not going to Goa by road. Well, actually, we did that last month. But this is not a travel post (I don’t do much travel writing these days because, well, I hardly travel as much as I’d like to).

For those who random googlers who frequently hit my blog seeking the route from Bangalore to Goa. Just a short note to post one of the conclusions of our road travel to Goa last month: Take the NH-4 (Pune-Bangalore Highway) till Hubli. Then after you have hit Hubli, take the NH-63 till Karwar. From Karwar, take the scenic and beautiful NH-17, north till you hit Goa! Best way to reach Goa from Bangalore!

Written by aditya kumar

December 22nd, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Unreadable

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Perfect example of making a newspaper website/portal unreadable and drive loyal readers away:

timesofindia.com, as on 29 Aug 2010

Someone tell these guys at timesofindia.com, money is not everything.

Written by aditya kumar

August 29th, 2010 at 11:44 am

Posted in Cricket,Personal

Madness

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Two bombs went off yesterday at the Bangalore cricket stadium, minutes before the Bangalore-Mumbai IPL match. 15 were injured, several among them in a serious condition. Despite all this happening at the match venue, the match went on. A 30 minute delay was all that these bombs managed, apart from the 15 injured. The match went on, Bangalore eventually lost the cricket too while DNA, the day after, has this headline: “Cricket wins over safety”.

And if all this was not enough, rediff and timesofindia.com have reported, here and here, the discovery of another live bomb, at the Mahatama Gandhi Statue just outside the stadium.

My question to the IPL commissioner and the Police commissioner of the city would be why was the match allowed to go on, despite two bombs going on within a few meters of the stadium. With the bomb that was discovered on Sunday, it appears the match went on with a live, yet to be discovered bomb in its vicinity.

Lalit Modi is a greedy man and it is high time he is made to realize the repercussions of his deeds.

Contrary to what DNA said, I do not think that it was cricket that won yesterday but it was eventually the money.

What surprises me further is that everyone, including some of the most admired Cricket commentators involved in the event look like they have sold themselves off. While they could admire the MRF balloon all they want while discussing its virtues and influences on humanity (not to forget the karbonn kamaal catches), I think it is a disservice to cricket that these individuals have started to advocate everything, good or bad, that the IPL stands for. Well, it is the bad that hurts.

It would also be interesting to see if any of the senior cricketers, of the likes of Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar, come out in the open, questioning the decision of continuing the event in a scenario such as this.

The BCCI should ask itself questions, retrospect and take ownership. Or has this madness of money which is often confused with cricket, overcome us all?

Written by aditya kumar

April 18th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

The Argument Against Harbhajan Singh

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A couple of months back, in one of his articles at Cricinfo, Harsha Bhogle wrote about India’s triumph at test cricket — Being on the top of the ICC Test Cricket rankings. It looked like one of his regular writeups, one of those you can read out while silently nodding your head in agreement and adding Harsha’s insight to your knowledge of the game. But there was one line, in fact two, that stood out. For once, I didn’t agree. I felt like digging deep and evaluating his statements further.

So what were those lines, then? Here is one of them, and I quote: “Amit Mishra and Sreesanth have had their moments in the sun, and Harbhajan has taken more wickets than many of us think he has“. It sounded like, “okay, lets not be too harsh on this guy, he has not been that bad”.

I am not sure if Harbhajan has ever dug into cricinfo’s statsguru and appreciated its beauty apart from doing some serious retrospection but here I am going to do just that.

Initially, I had thought to keep it simple — compare Harbhajan’s first four years in International Cricket with his last four years. It is still simple, just that I then accommodated his years in between, in my analysis. So, we have phases of 1997-2002, 2006- till date and from 2003 till end of 2005. These are the first four years, the last four years and the years in between.

Since making his debut in 1997, till the end of 2002 (31-12-2002), Harbhajan played 33 test matches. His average stood at a gleaming 26.59. His SR was 60.4 and 11 times in these 33 tests he had taken 5 (or more) wickets in an innings(5WI) apart from the 2 counts of Ten Wickets in a Match (10WM).

In the next phase, from 1 Jan 2003 till 31 Dec 2005, he played 17 test matches with a bowling average of 30.33. His SR was at 62 with 6 5WI and 2 10WM.

More recently, since 2006-till date, our man has played in 32 matches, with a rising bowling average of 37.16 and a SR of 75.0. He has now managed to get 6 5WI and once a 10WM.

Now if you have followed cricket closely, you will agree that mostly in every great bowler’s international career, the first few years are rosy. The bowler is high on confidence, gets wickets, improvises, the batsmen are yet to figure him out and all that. Then comes a time when the bowler starts to lose his sheen, the statistics turn unfavorable. There is a sudden rise with the bowling average. This happened to Zaheer Khan, Bret Lee and more recently with Ishant Sharma. But then it is somewhere here, I think, lies the hallmark of an outstanding bowler, the one most likely to be remembered as a bowling great — something happens and the bowler is back taking wickets, improvising again, devising new ways to get the batsmen out and playing mind games. This is when the form lasts the longest. The class shows. This is what differentiates an outstanding bowler from a good bowler.

So, coming back to statistics, if you were to make a graph of the statistics of such a bowler after he has achieved the above mentioned nirvana, you will see that the graph line goes right up at the beginning and then there is that downward spiral and then, in the third phase, a slow but more consistent rise. Let’s take an example of Zaheer Khan here. Between 1 Jan 1999 and 31 Dec 2001, Zaheer played 17 test matches and he averaged 24.47. Then, starting 1 Jan 2002 till 31 Dec 2006 he averaged 34.58 in 35 matches — an increase of 10 runs per wicket. But then again, starting 1 Jan 2007 till date, Zaheer has played 27 matches and his per wicket has cost him 29.39 — A drastic improvement from his outings between 2002 till 2007.

With Harbhajan, the problem seems that he is stuck in the downward spiral forever. There is an account of his disastrous outings in 2006 and 2007 where he averaged 52 and 46, respectively. These were the years when Pakistan, Australia, West Indies and England — all respectable teams (barring, to some extent, WI) completely outplayed him. But maybe you would think that his average of 37.16, in the last 4 years has mostly been this high because of his past deeds in 2006 and 2007. Maybe — because he then averaged 31.53 and 30.17 in 2008 and 2009. And maybe it was this statistic that made Harsha say that line. The glimmer of hope — that Harbhajan has started to come out of the woods, a beginning of the end of his downward trend goes away when you take a look at what 2010 has been. An average of 72.25 in the two test matches he has played. Perhaps the only thing more horrifying than that could be the fact that one of these test matches was played against Bangladesh and all of these matches have been played in home or home-like pitch conditions.

So maybe Harbhajan is slipping into his spiral again. Just when you think he is coming out of it, he hits a new low. You wish to see him giving the ball more air but he never seems to be tired of bowling fast, flat, almost like Anil Kumble but nowhere near in effect.

The rest of the argument has to start with Harsha’s second mention of Harbhajan Singh in the article. He goes on to say, “Harbhajan Singh desperately needs competition to take him to another level…“; It is clear that Harsha Bhogle thinks that maybe even at a sub-conscious level, Singh is missing Kumble. These guys were bowling together for a good 10 years. But has Kumble’s retirement made any difference?

Since Kumble’s retirement on 2 November 2008, Harbhajan has picked up 48 wickets, averaging 33.37 runs in 11 matches. What do you compare this statistic with? Lets go three years before 2 Nov 2008. From 1 Jan 2005 till 2 Nov 2008, with Kumble mostly in the playing XI, Harbhajan picked up 110 wickets in 28 matches at a horrible average of 36.22.

While discussing cricket the other day, someone jokingly remarked that Harbhajan should be locked in a room with a DVD player and DVDs of match recordings of his first few years in cricket. Harsha may certainly not agree. But what he will surely agree to is that with Harbhajan not playing the brand of cricket we know he is capable of, India’s days at the top of the summit may not be many. And while Harbhajan Singh may show his inclination towards participating and producing Reality shows on TV— at this stage, a Reality check may serve him, and the country, better. Surely, the DVDs would help.

Written by aditya kumar

February 12th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Cricket,Writing

Sports News

with 3 comments

No excuses for a month long hiatus but lots of things happening with Sports:

India’s Hockey team goes on a ‘strike’ because they are not paid their dues by Hockey India. This is how we treat those who are the best players of our National game.

And then, India’s first individual Olympic Gold Medalist says he wants to quit the game because of, none other than, the National Shooting Federation.

Is this because of our obsession with Cricket? If you ask me, I don’t think so. You can’t blame Cricket for the mismanagement and apathy towards other sports shown by Government Sports bodies.

In tennis, Sania Mirza would be quitting tennis soon. No, she is not unhappy with All India Tennis Association, as you may be guessing by now but she thinks it would be the right thing to do after marriage.

Meanwhile, The Big daddy of Marathi Manoos Inc, has issued a latest threat — Australian cricketers won’t be allowed to play in Maharashtra. How can they be allowed to play here when in Australia, Indians are being stabbed on an almost daily basis? Very considerate about Indians. What happened to this nationalism when his party ‘workers’ thrashed non-marathis on a regular basis?

So much for the sports.

Update: An updated version of the last para above has appeared in today’s edition of DNA in Bangalore. It made its way as a “Letter to the Editor” and talks about Indian Politicians approving of Violence, among a few other related topics.

Written by aditya kumar

January 16th, 2010 at 11:22 am

Not the same anymore

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In the overall constructive years of my adolescence, my cricketing conscience was taking shape. So in 1996, when Michael Atherton played the shot and at ESPN they said that it’s the best cover drive you can ever get to see, true to copy book style, I took it to heart.

It was also the year when I formed one of my earliest opinions of the Indian Cricket team of the pre-John Wright/Ganguly era. I noticed that India always lost its first test match when they toured. And then they trailed. If they were lucky, they’d come back with a 1-1 result but that was a rarity. Generally it was 0-2, 1-2, or worse, 0-3.

Indeed, it was ironical that when this particular opinion was formed, the same very series, two boys debuted in the second game of a series that India was trailing and one of them went on to bring a whole new dawn to Indian Cricket; the one on which I have named an “era” in itself. The second cricketer, of course, will be seen as the one who always lived under the shadows but rose to be called the greatest test cricketer India has ever seen.

So the 1996 India tour of England, has been on my mind this evening. Why, you ask? None of the reasons above, I can tell you that.

Well, the India tour of England, 1996 was India’s first test tour after the 1996 World Cup debacle. It was also the tour when Ganguly and Dravid debuted in the second test match, in Lords and Dravid fell short of a well deserved century by all but 5 runs. But why I remember this tour the most is because of one Chris Lewis. A well-toned, dark body, running at full throttle and single-handedly destroying the Indian batting in the first test match at Birmingham, England.

It was horror. A 15 year old test cricket loving boy’s, and I tell you – you won’t find many, expectations lay shattered.

And it is indeed an irony again, that the same Chris Lewis is in prison. Well, maybe not the same Chris Lewis.

It formed some opinions, that series. It still does.

Written by aditya kumar

May 22nd, 2009 at 2:16 am