Friday, November 20, 2009


I am yet to meet a girl who understands the meaning or the reason behind sports, and I do meet quite a lot of girls, probably a bit too much for the liking of my wife. The common thread which connects all the girls that I know is their distinctive lack of knowledge about anything which involves a stick or a ball (well..almost!!). But the brighter side of this effect is that they have given me incidents or one liners which are enough to make me laugh until my death. Here goes some. Sit back and enjoy.

Inarguably, Sir Alex Feguson is the most popular non-player sports personality around the world. This is how one of my female friends summed up what he achieved with Manchester United, which is the stuff of legends and almost impossible to overtake, in the last 23 years: “Alex Ferguson..Who is he ? ohh.. is he the person who wears a black shirt and look at the players when they play?”. Later it turned out that she was talking about the referee! Thank goodness that Fergie was not around to give her his famous hair dryer treatment.

One of my friends never believed that bowlers change ends at the end of each over, until she saw it once when commercials surprisingly stayed away during an over change. Her immediate question was “ Isn't it easy for the 2 batsmen to change rather than for everyone else to change? “. I didn't bother about explaining the varying pitch conditions at both the ends and bowlers making use of slope, wind direction and pitch conditions from two ends!

20 teams play in Premier League and each team has to play home& away in every season, which result in 38 matches for each of them. The top four will qualify for the champions leagues while the 5th and 6th teams will play in Europa league, previously known as UEFA cup. Some girls never seem to understand something as simple as this. I have heard lot of them asking why some teams play so many tournaments and some seem to play only once in an year. Their amusement and difficulty in understanding this hierarchy forces me to think that Platini comes right next to Einstein and Edison, for managing the European Leagues.

Apparently there were girls who never bothered to watch Test cricket because they thought it is a game in which people from same side compete against each other. The reason : everyone wears white jerseys!

One of my friends was complaining that his wife didn’t talk to him for a week because she found him taking part in a throwing-crumbled-round-paper-balls-to-basket competition in a office party with colleagues. The thing which irritated her most was that everyone in the party happened to notice her husband when he raised his voice in excitement in the middle of the game. She just couldn't’t believe that her husbad was doing something so silly in an office gathering. She will probably never understand that sports is embedded in the Men’s genes and they yearn for anything which has a tinge of competitiveness.

The thing which confuses girls the most is neither E=MC2 or Newton’s third law, but the offside rule in Football. Well..cant really blame them, considering the number of times linesmen get confused in a match, and FIFA seems to enjoy this by changing the rule every year!

This girl found her husband awake in the middle of the night, busy watching Men’s swimming in Olympics. He tried to tell her that he wanted to see Micheal Phelps winning the 8th gold of the event. Pat came the reply: “Have you ever been worried about buying at least one piece of gold for me?”

“You infernal moron, are you watching Golf? Is that a sport?” That came from my wife and this time it didn’t appear funny as I heard muffled laughing from next door.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I am a self centered, sports oriented, uncultured, shameless moron. That is the opinion of my better half and she doesn’t hesitate a bit to announce it on the days which I, according to her, “waste” by watching a Test match or on the weekend evenings which are invariably occupied with Primetime Premier league or Super Sundays. Not that this continuous degradation of my radiant personality bothers me, but at least it forced me to do an introspection, and if possible to give myself a justification for all those adjectives!

I was in a private school run by a brahmin family until my 3rd standard. After the classes my father used to pick me on his way back from office and that meant spending at least 2 hours even after the school timings, waiting for my father to come. As the school owner’s house was in the same compound, I would end up spending most of the time inside their house in the evenings. The owner of the school was a well known person locally, who arranged and organised lot of cultural events and more importantly he was a cricket fanatic. He even had a matting wicket at home for his 2 sons. And there I got my first glimpse of Television and the only program I found them always watching was cricket, which made me believe that TV is for watching cricket. Probably I still believe it and that may be the reason that my wife accuses me of watching only sports channels in TV. When I was not watching TV, I would go to a shed in their compound, where they keep all those cricket gears. Old cricket balls with broken seam, brand new and splinted bats, the matting wicket, pads and batting gloves. The thing which I clearly remember from those visits to that shed is the peculiar smell of batting gloves. Those who have worn batting gloves at least once will understand that, it has got that sweaty and worn out smell which all cricketers consider good and enticing and everyone else is scared to experience that even once! In TV, every time I see a batsman leaving his gloves on the ground for drying at the end of a session, I feel that smell which i experienced 20 years back. No wonder that I love dogs!

Then we bought the most prestigious electronic equipment of those times. We were the proud owners of a BPL colour TV and along with that came the matches telecast by Doordarshan. More than the Malayalam movies on every Sunday, I waited for the Sportstime they showed on Saturday evenings. The most beautiful sounds of those times must be the 4’o clock bell in the school and the thudding sound of ball meeting the willow. The Doordarshan hindi commentary was the stuff of legends which, sometimes, can be experienced even now. “Superb shot to the boundary..uhh.. but straight to the fielder at point” was the norm while what really happened would have been the batsman playing a leg glance to midwicket!

Kapil Dev, Doordarshan, tape recorders and bajaj scooters made way for Sachin Tendulkar, cable TV, Walkmans and Maruti 800 by mid 90s, as the living standards of middle class surged through along with the boom experienced in Indian economy. Mark Mascharanes made a living out of showing Sachin’s face on channels and making him say “Boost is the secret of my energy” in his girlish voice. Dhoni and Co can thank him for all the luxury they have now. The beginning of change happened then. Probably our cricket administers were the best economists that we ever had, as they realised and showed us that our huge population is not a thing to worry about and it can be utilised to generate exorbitant and unbelievable amount of revenue from sports, which nowadays exceed the total income of some of the African countries. But the price we paid for this is the innocence of our beautiful game. Day-Night Test matches, pink balls, Twenty-20 and Scoop shots are the things that we discuss now and those old times appear like Utopia.

Not that I was unduly worried about all these then. Even I sped through my transition from a boy to man. The change of sound in my vocal cords was forgotten in the shouts of Howzzzat, Catch it and cheering for India. As every child growing up then, I too wanted to be Sachin Tendulkar and play for India, but by the time I finished my 10th, I probably realised that I will never go beyond school or college team, considering my background and limited talent. The only two shots I could play well was the forward defence and drives, with the help of my strong bottom hand grip. I used to keep my index finger of the bottom hand behind the blade of the bat to get power and elegance in my drives, and even I was convinced about the effectiveness of my drives whenever the ball is overpitched. But the problem with this method is that, every other shot in the book is almost impossible with that grip, especially the cross batted ones, cuts and pulls. I survived a couple of matches with this tactic and my wicketkeeping, but that was the end of it. Rather than trying to become a player, I settled for the less glamorous, but equally stressful and tiring position of Indian supporter.

To support Indian cricket team in 90s, you had to be more self motivated that Bill Gates, as our team oscillated between horrendous defeats and improbable victories. The day after an Indian defeat, you may find all your friends cursing the team and vowing never to see Indian Team’s matches. Most of them couldn't tell between a square cut and on-drive, but still that was the gang you have to live with to watch the matches. But that was fun too. The usual disappointments, agony after losing a close match, the pure joy of watching India winning, the celebrations and of course the pride of being one who can understand the logic of two men running like mad between two sets of upright sticks!

I got a taste of hostel life and the freedom which comes along with it when I started my graduation. Before first girlfriend, first kiss and xxx-rated movies corrupted my mind, my world included hostel room, college building and the play ground, not necessarily in the correct order of priority. Bunking classes to stand in the scorching afternoon sun in the hope of catching a ball or hitting a six was fun and running behind the lecturers at the year end to meet the attendance quota to sit for the exams was exhausting. In some semesters the number of back papers I had exceeded the runs I made in an year, but who cares. Playing cricket day time, rushing to the football ground in the evening and then having fun at the indoor badminton court, life progressed without any purpose. But sports has always been a get away and mode of relief when tougher times arrived. I was the happiest man on the day in which I came to know that I failed in all my 3rd semester papers, because VVS Laxman was painting an epic 281 in kolkata and Harbhajan soon sent the Australians in a spin to turn all of us in our hostel to a bunch of lunatic delirious hooligans. Cricket again came to the rescue and improved my spirits after I caught my soon to be ex girlfriend two timing with me. India under Saurav Ganguly produced a magnificent run in 2003 Worldcup then. And in the blink of an eye, I was out of college and the job of a job hunter was thrust upon me.

After working in 2 small companies in Cochin for an year, I came to Bangalore and a different life awaited me there. The smell of a multicultural city was fascinating, but like every jobless person, I was confined to share a room with 3 other job hunters. With no TV in the hostel, watching sports was always a problem. As someone who has been used to at least 5 hours of sports everyday, either watching or playing, it was suffocating, but soon found a way around. The beauty of this city is that it is a shopper’s delight and that means at every corner you can find an electronics showroom which shows live matches to the general public. The toughest part of watching a match standing in the road is that once the crowd swells up, the shop keepers switch off the TV and then it is a frantic run to the next nearby shop to not to miss many overs, and that means in a day I used to end up covering the entire showrooms in one area. The aftereffect of this exhausting but exciting exercise was that at the end of a 5 match Test series I was as tired as the players! But this experience helped me to realise what this game means to the common man on the street. There were people who sacrificed their daily wages to watch the match, there were those who used to take a peep in between selling 5Rs hand kerchiefs and there were those who behaved as if they lost their entire savings, every time India lost. When India was losing the considerable crowd used to lean down to a handful of us but we knew that, come the next morning, we would again be there, however bad the previous loss was. There were cobblers, street vendors, fruit sellers, pick pocketers and every other kind too. It was probably the best multi social, political and economical gathering Bangalore could ever find!

When I met her I was lean, jobless, watched non stop sports and loved her too. Now I weigh a solid 68Kgs, have a house and a job, married to her, watch non stop sports and still love her too. So she should be proud that I still remain same to the core and not many things have changed from the person she started loving. Recently I tried telling her this and those adjectives resonated in my house again. Nowadays I am just resigned to my fate!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Why did we all start playing the game when we were kids? Definitely it was not for making money, nor was it for gaining the knowledge to tell between an outswinger and leg cutter. Playing for India was a dream, but not the motive. It was for the pure joy of hitting the ball as far as we can, for experiencing that feeling of ball meeting the middle of that bat, for hearing that perfect thud, for seeing the ball take wings and soar higher and higher in the sky. Probably it is the same thing which still drives Sachin Tendulkar forward. At the age of 36, when most men of that age settle for a steady job and start worrying about their kids, he wore the the outfit of an 18 year old maverick, looked the challenge straight into its eye and painted an epic 175. He ran between the the wickets as if his life depended on it, egged on his younger partners for better shots and stamina, thrashed all the Aussie bowlers around the park as if he despises them and then showed the disappointment and bitterness of a child who lost his favorite toy after India lost.

How does Sachin do that? Run after run, day after day, defeat after defeat , he shows the same commitment and desire to improve, to win, to enjoy and more importantly to get out of the bed everyday and think about only cricket, all over again. When Carl Lewis was a kid, his coach asked him what does he want in life. He answered that he wants to be best athlete in America, he wants to be a millionaire and he wants to be famous all over the world. His coach calmly told him that, if his focus is on all these things, he is going to be nothing. But if he starts focusing on becoming the best athlete ever he will achieve that and all the other things too. Carl Lewis went to achieve all that and how! Ramakant Anchrekar might well have said the same thing to sachin too. In the last 20 years Sachin’s unrelenting focus was on cricket and cricket only, and all the records and accolades are testament to that.

Sadly his innings was not enough to take India to victory. In every sense it was like going back to the 90s. Sachin single handedly fighting for victory and the entire team crumbling around him. He just stood apart among his teammates as a gladiator amidst ruins. Sachin’s biggest contribution to Indian cricket is not winning numerous matches or making cricket popular, but taking an entire generation back to its childhood. Bunking classes, standing in front of a TV showroom, taking turns to climb on friends’ shoulders to catch a glimpse of the action over the crowd, cheering for each boundary, clearing our throats out when he scores century, those were the best days of life. And every time he walks out to bat he takes all of us to those beautiful days. Yesterday, it was one of those days.