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Friday, April 29, 2011

A ROYAL Day Indeed!

Today was a royal day on so many counts.  For starters, it was the day of the Royal wedding.  Prince William and Kate Middleton became man and wife today.  They will now be called as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  And here's some photos of Kate's dress with lace galore(plenty and plenty of lace!) and Prince William and his receding hair line.

Then the Rajasthan Royals won the match against the Mumbai Indians.

And finally Royal Challengers Bangalore ended the day with a win against the Pune Warriors!

Now isn't that a perfect Royal day?

PS - Think I found an explanation to why Pippa Middleton - Kate's sister is trending on twitter more than her sister.  Think the following picture explains it all.

So much for the rule that no one should look better than the bride!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Duck Hunting Season!

Someone once told me that 4 overs was too less a time for a bowler to dominate the batting team and it was nearly impossible to get a five wicket haul.  Ishant Sharma did both that yesterday in just 2 overs!  The Kochi-Deccan match was played on a surface that would have to described as a batsman's horror.  It had grass, bounce and some moisture making it a deadly combination.  And combine swing bowlers in Kochi's ranks such as R.P. Singh and in Deccan's side, Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma, you got yourself a nightmare on your hands and that's exactly what the batsman were subjected to [SCORECARD].

Deccan batting first found themselves at 20 for 3 with in form Chipli out.  Cameron White was completely out of touch and together he and skipper, Sangakara dug in and started to slowly rebuild the innings.  Sangakara was bowled of a no-ball by Sreesanth and then things got ugly.  At the 10th over they were only had some 30 odd runs on the board, but then Sangakara got going and with a few lusty blows from White, they found themselves at 110 for 4 at the end of the 16th over.  They managed a mediocre 130 which apparently was a much bigger score than it seems.

Kochi started of badly as McCullum in the very first over to Steyn.  And it got worse as Sharma dismissed Patel, Gomez and Hodge in the second over.  With the score 2 for 4, things looked bad, but it was about to get worse.  In Sharma's second over another two wickets fell including that of Jayawardna making the score 11 for 6 with Sharma having a dream bowling figure of 5 for 6.  The top six batsman in the Kochi team together contributed just 4 runs and all that coming from the blade of Jayawardna.  Five ducks in the top six!  Jadeja, and Perera showed some fight but it was a mountain to climb and with Deccan's pace battery the Kochi team was soon bundled up for a measly 74 with 7 ducks and just 3 scores in the double digits.  Deccan's batting wasn't much better but the two people who did get in the double digits made it count.

Whatever the case, Ishant looks all fired up and let's hope that this new Ishant lasts for India.  So with nine ducks in the match, I think duck hunting season is finally open!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Challengers triumph the Delhi Dare

Finally things are looking good for the Royal Challengers Bangalore as they have now have started winning matches.  The Challengers have an excellent team and they needed to play like that team.  However in recent past they have not been doing that but now things looked to have changed [SCORECARD].

Vettori having won the toss, put the Daredevils inn and Delhi got off to a great start with Sehwag look ominous.  But with Warner dismissed with the scoreboard at 33 thanks to a brilliant ball from Zaheer, Delhi started looking vulnerable.  Sehwag soon followed as he was run out in a very lazy way and Mathew Wade who made his way into the team soon followed his skipper having only 8 runs next to his name.  Hopes who was promoted to number three had to play the anchor role and he did that with perfection.  Hopes and Venugopal Rao got the Delhi ship moving and with Rao's dismissal at 115, things looked pretty decent for both teams.

In the last 5 overs, Delhi never did get going and Hopes, who was caught of a no-ball by Mithun earlier perished trying to up the ante.  With wickets falling quick, the Daredevils finished their innings with 160 for 6.

RCB chasing 161, got off to the worst start as they lost Dilshan in the very second ball of the innings.  However Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle then took charge of the Delhi party and almost ruined it.  With some brilliant strokes and counter0attacking cricket, Delhi were blitzed and when Gayle finally did depart, the score was 83 for 2 in just 7 and a half overs.  However soon things started to go horribly wrong for the Challengers as they lost a host of wickets to find themselves at 107 for 5.  Tiwary and Vettori put on a decent partnership to get the team close and with Tiwary's wicket, Delhi sniffed a chance at the game.  But Vettori and Syed Mohammad who played some lusty shots had other plans, and RCB clinched a thriller of a match stunning the Kotla crowd.  Morkel must feel hard done that his team lost despite his 3 for 25.

Now Delhi find themselves in deep trouble while RCB are looking decent on the table.  More wins are required and hopefully this is just the beginning   

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The continuing soap opera of the Pakistani wicket-keepers

One of cricket's biggest soap opera took another climax yesterday as the prodigal son and former Pakistani keeper, Zulqarnain Haider returned to Pakistan.  Haider was the the player who went missing in action during the series against South Africa last year and was later found in London.  The man who feared for his life after receiving numerous death threats decided to seek asylum in England, and now is back on the native soil he ran away from. He has revoked his plea for asylum and after getting assurance from the Pakistan interior minister has decided to return home.  So is this the end of the soap opera of the man with the gloves who uses Facebook to update us, or is this just the beginning?

Speaking of keepers, Kamran Akmal who was dropped for the current series against West Indies, now feels he can play as a batsman.  Now he should have taken that decision years ago before he missed a total of 84 catches and stumping costing his team an average of 31.14 runs.  If Pakistan could afford to keep him in the side when he was hurting them, they surely should be more than happy to have him now.  His batting average is 27.44 in ODI's so with the number of missed chances, he's actually been contributing a negative 3.7 runs per match when he has been the keeper.  Maybe now, he can make that a positive number.

The story of Haider continues as he is now being sued by Kamran Akmal's father-in-law.  Shouldn't Kamran Akmal and his kin be more happy that now there's less competition for the spot of keeper with Haider's retirement.  But instead Kamran's father-in-law is suing Haider for calling him a bookie involved in match-fixing.  On second thought if that was actually true, then Kamran's dropped catches hold much more significance.  So now a 100 million rupee defamation suit awaits Haider and the soap opera continues leaving us all gaping for more.  

And finally speaking of Pakistan, they are leading 2-0 against West Indies in the current series.  Now how many of you knew that a series against these two was going on?  

Friday, April 22, 2011

One Hand, One Bounce

With today being Good Friday, I don't have the time to write a post, so I'll just redirect you to World Cricket Watch.  They do a weekly podcast called 'One Hand, One Bounce', and in their latest pod, I've made an appearance talking about the IPL.

Do head over there and listen to it and also subscribe to their podcast.  David Siddall and the other panelists make the podcast a memorable experience with their wit and cricket knowledge.

That's pretty much from me, and wish you all a very happy Easter. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kochi win the battle of the South

Kochi Tuskers Kerala are proving to be quite a good team and they proved it again yesterday as they beat the 2010 IPL Champions [SCORECARD], Chennai Super Kings at home.  In a rain shorted match, Kochi came out ahead virtually in all departments and look more like a team contending for the title.

Kochi fielded first and bowled well with the new ball.  R.P. Singh got some good swing movement and it looked like the old RP we all know had returned.  He got Micheal Hussey and registered his first wicket this season.  Raina and Vijay then strung a good partnership, but Vijay departed to a beauty from Perera just as he was looking dangerous.  With rain starting to fall down heavily the match was interrupted with the match still in balance.   When the rain did stop, the match was reduced to a 17 over affair and CSK managed a decent 131, on the back of a Raina half century.

Kochi once again opened with Jayawardna and McCullum and they got into their strides in no time.  Jayawardna fell in the 5th over to Ashwin, but the Chennai bowlers got no reprieve as McCullum started punishing the bowlers with some brutal strokes.  Parthiv Patel gave him good company and together they added 51 runs.  Patel was also at his classy best until he fell to a pull of Bollinger.  With a little over 20 to get, Jadeja finished the match with a small cameo that included 2 huge sixes.

With this win, Kochi look like a team to watch out for, while Chennai are left with some unanswered questions.  But I must admit this Kochi team does look good when Sreesanth sits out in the dug out.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Episode 1 - The Debut

Finally the much awaited fortnightly podcast hosted by Poshin's World debuts. The podcast titled 'Verbal Slogs' is an audio podcast that gets cricket writers/bloggers, experts, fans and general public's take on various issues regarding the beautiful game. Here's hoping you guys enjoy this new addition to Poshin's World.

In the very first episode, I am joined by Deepak Balamurali from Chennai (he blogged some guest posts on Poshin's World). In this episode, we discuss about the ICC's decision to cut the associate nations from the next two World Cups, and how IPL season 4 is coping up in regards with viewer-ship, fan interest, and quality of cricket wise compared to the previous edition of the IPL. And finally we give our verdicts for the IPL teams that we believe will make it to the playoffs.

Panelists - Christopher Poshin David and Deepak Balamurali.

If you wish to download the podcast click here.  You can also subscribe to it via iTunes or any other podcatchers by clicking here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

IPL's Star - Paul Valthaty

Paul Valthaty. Now that’s a familiar name to all cricket fans and for most other people who watch the IPL, if not follow cricket. If I had said his name a week ago, I’m sure I would have been met with a blank expression even from the most informative cricket expert and I’m sure I didn't know a Paul Valthaty existed a week ago.

Now, just 7 days has passed and we have a superstar in the making. Punjab sings and chants his name, while others view silently with respect and awe. Everyone is curious and wants to know more about this little known star and the cricinfo has his name as the most searched player in the last week. That is the IPL for you.

Paul was a little known player who had played just three IPL matches before the match against Chennai Super Kings at Mohali. He had a measly 11 run aggregate in the three innings he had batted in and when he walked into the middle at the fall of the first wicket, everyone had their heads scratching trying to figure out the move. Chasing 180 plus in a Twenty Twenty match, you’d want your best players in early and face the most number of deliveries. Not some unknown face. But within the next hour all perception of this little unknown man changed as he scripted a fine century burying the Super Kings. The next minute an instant star was formed and Valthaty was hailed as Punjab’s find of the season.

A few days later in Hyderbhad, the same man wrecked havoc on the Deccan Chargers. However this time, not only with the bat but also with the ball. He picked up four wickets restricting the Chargers to 165 and then came out and struck a brilliant half century and took back the orange cap from Sachin.

Valthaty’s career started well and he was included in 2002 in the under 19 India team, but he never made the final eleven and an injury to his eye almost finished his cricketing days. And now here he stands, modest as ever as the perfect T20 player.

Valthaty probably would have been an unheard name if it weren’t for the Indian Premier League. We wouldn’t have ever heard or seen his face and talent. As a batsman he has all the strokes in the book and looks like a very aggressive and at the same time sensible cricketer. He can play the big shots for sixes at will and at the same time caress the ball through the point or cover region. He can cut, pull, sweep and slog. In a sense he is the perfect T20 batsman, and combine that with a deceptive medium pace bowling, you got yourself one good all-in-one package named Paul Valthaty.

Valthaty will probably never play for India and the highest success he’ll ever enjoy is the Indian Premier League. If it wasn't for the IPL we would have never seen his talent or heard about his name.  Paul’s time is now and he is shining in the limelight, and through him the IPL is too. Who said that IPL was all bad?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kochi kill Mumbai!

Kochi Tuskers Kerala defeated Mumbai Indians in Mumbai after Sachin Tendulkar scored his first IPL century [SCORECARD]. Now that is a crime!  A crime no team should commit!  And yesterday Jayawardna's team actually committed that very crime in front of 40,000 spectators and millions world wide on live television!  The tuskers in their ugly Purple and Orange uniform upstaged the mighty Mumbai Indians!

The first match since the World Cup finals on the 2nd of April at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, and what a match it was!  India's Mumbai's favorite son - Sachin Tendulkar show cased his masterclass once again for the people who bother to watch this little man break milestones as he brought up his first IPL century.  With records in every arena, how could he not have this one, specially when this record is held even by people like Murali Vijay and Paul Valathaty.  He was into business as he unleashed some trademark Sachin drives and cuts and took a special liking to Perera.   Davy Jacobs on the other side played painfully slow, but with his dismissal, Raydu walked in and started exactly where he left of in the previous match.  Raydu matched Sachin's class with some clean strikes out of the park and together took the total above 175.  In the last over, with Sachin stranded on the nineties, Raydu did the most memorable thing a player can do for his teammate by sacrificing his wicket so that Sachin might achieve that three figure mark.  And with the last ball, another century had been scored and 182 runs was scored by the Indians.

Kochi strangely decided to drop their icon player, if I may call Sreesanth that, and also the world's best spinner in Muralitharan.  VVS Laxman sat out due to an injury and Jayawardna took it up on himself to open the innings along with McCullum and together they made it living hell for the local team as they put on 128 runs in very quick time.  Both the players complimented well and treated all bowlers with disdain.  Even Malinga was taken to the cleaners.  Pollard had an absolute nightmare as he was carted to every part of the stadium.  The bowling was bad, one must say and the fielding too a little sloppy, but you'd expect this Mumbai team to win at no cost.  However that didn't happen.  Malinga got rid of Jayawardna and things looked a little better for the home team but McCullum just then got started and kicked on.  With the match slipping from Mumbai's hands, they did a brave move by making the keeper stand up to the stumps for Malinga.  Yes, up to the stumps for Malinga!  Davy Jacobs must know no fear!  And it worked as McCullum was bowled in the very first ball and a very relieved Jacobs made his way back to his usual place.  However any glimpses of victory was soon dashed by Ravindra Jadeja as he finished the match with two sixes of Harbhajan.

Kochi record their first IPL win and against one of the best IPL teams!  Just goes to show you, no team is invincible in T20 cricket.  The team with both the orange cap and the purple cap bows down to the team in orange and purple!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Chargers Break the Jinx

The Deccan Chargers have finally won a game at home as they beat the touring Royal Challengers team by 33 runs [SCORECARD].

RCB having won the toss put the chargers into bat and as Zaheer Khan picked up Dhawan, things looked easy for the visitors but that's where the positives stopped for the visitors as they captain Sangakara and Sohail put up a brilliant 50 run stand.  With Sangakara falling, RCB had a chance to close the game but Chipli played a magnificent innings powering his team to a high total of 175.  Bharat Chipli who for the last three seasons for the most part  warmed the Challengers benches in the podcasts showed his former team what they missed in him as he unleashed a flurry of shots.  He looks technically strong and plays good cricketing shots.  He looks very classy and watching his batsmanship is actually worth your money.  A 29 ball 50 is brilliance.  Sheer brilliance.  I don't know how RCB missed this massive talent but RCB's loss is now DC's gain.  RC's bowling was also lacking teeth.  I still can't comprehend the decision of playing Ninnan.  The bowling was bad for the most part though there were spots of brilliance in parts.  The fielding was also a letdown as quite a few misfields resulted.

RCB started the run chase in the worst way possible as they lost Dilshan in the very second over to Ishant Sharma.  Zaheer Khan was promoted to first down - another move that is not understandable, and the pinch hitter who was floated up the order lasted for three balls before returning for a duck of Steyn.  Soon wickets started falling and by the end of the 6th over, RCB was in deep deep trouble with 3 wickets down and just 30 on the board.  AB de Villiers soon departed and the score read 29 for 4.  Not the ideal start for a team chasing 176.  Saurabh Tiwary and Kohli looked to put up a partnership but the former skied a ball of leggie Mishra to be dismissed.  Pujara and Kohli looked good and with some good long hits from Kohli and classy shots  from Pujara, a slim outside chance presented itself.  But with the required rate over 15 and the pressure of scoring, Pujara and Kohli soon found themselves back in the hut and another loss for the men in red and gold.  The positives RCB can take from that disastrous run chase is Kohli's innings and their own mistake of sending Zaheer early.  Manpreet Gony was absolutely on fire yesterday as he bowled fast.  He clocked 150k!  When was the last time an Indian bowled at that speed?  He made the RCB batsmen jump and dance to his tune and his reward of three wickets back him up.  Here's one bowler for the future.

It's still very early in the tournament but Deccan Chargers with that win do look charged up while RCB look a little uninspired.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Blonde Strikes Big!

185 runs of 96 balls.  That's Shane Watson's score today against a hapless Bangladeshi side in the second ODI at Mirpur [SCORECARD].  Yes, the blonde all-rounder hit a whopping 185 not out to steer Australia to a very very comfortable victory with a little less than 150 balls remaining (144 to be exact).

15 sixes and 15 fours was scored by Watson as he made the Bangladeshi bowlers look like a bunch of school boys.  With just 230 for victory, Watson scored 80% of the runs and would have surely beaten Sachin Tendulkar's record of a double century had the target been a little bigger.  His knock today broke many records including the highest score by an Australian as he surpassed Mathew Hayden's 181, and the most runs scored through boundaries.   Once Watson hit his century of 69 deliveries, he went berserk as he scored 85 runs of the next 27 deliveries.  Watson's scoring sequence once he reached 100 was - 4 1 1 4 1 1 6 6 6 6 2 1 6 2 1 0 1 6 6 0 4 0 6 0 4 6 1.  Someone remarked that watching his innings was like watching an highlights package - short, and filled with sixes and fours.  Well anyone who can hit 15 sixes and 15 fours in an ODI match is truly a world class batsman.  And without a doubt, Shane Watson has evolved into that.  Any guesses to whom the man of the match went to?

The man who has received the Allan Border award for two years now, once again stands up and shows just why he is Australia's most valuable player.  A arrogant and proud player who is full of aggression, Watson has added the word consistency to his dictionary.  And without him, the now weak Australian team would surely lack serious teeth and bite.

A couple of days ago in the first ODI, Micheal Clarke hit his first century as skipper and led his team to victory.  The team under Clarke seems to be going in the right direction, but it's too early to call and Bangladesh are too weak a team to provide the litmus test for Clarke and his boys.

No one expects Australia to lose this series, and Australia are doing no surprises.  However no one expects a 96 ball 185 from a batsman in a single match, even if his name was Virender Sehwag, or Shane Watson!  So take a bow Watson and hopefully you can do the same against more worthy opponents next time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Royal wins (and the ugly new kids)!

The new Kochi team has the most ugliest kit among the teams in the IPL.  Orange and purple do not go together and that's a fact.  Shane Warne is a legend.  That's another fact.  A.B. de Villiers is the next great South African batsmen in the moder era, while Johan Botha the next greatest (well maybe not) spin all-rounder for the Saffers.

Now I was privileged to watch all the above facts be true yesterday in the IPL.  In the very first match Deccan Chargers took on Rajasthan Royals at home only to lose miserably [SCORECARD].  No surprises there, as Deccan have always struggled at home and have never looked like winning.  It is actually rumored to be a curse and the team management is desperately looking to end it before more home matches are played.  Rajasthan played like an inspired team under their skipper Warne and kept pegging the chargers with regular wickets.  Kumar Sangakara who resigned Sri Lankan captaincy and now is the Chargers captain found himself being dismissed for a duck.  However the highlight of the match was watching a 41 year old man with a tummy in place amble slowly to the crease and bowl some spectacular leggies.  J.P. Duminy was all at sea and watching JP being made to look like a tail ender was just amazing and speaks volumes about Warne's skill and control.  He returned with figures of 2 for 21 of his 4 overs.

The Royals started slowly with Dravid taking his time.  With the run rate slowly creeping, Johan Botha was promoted to number three where he attacked and thrashed the bowling while at the same time keeping a cool head.  He stayed till the end to see his team through and justify his hefty price tag in the auctions.

The second match was with the new ugly kids taking the Royal Challengers at home [SCORECARD].  Making their debut, they did show great fight as McCullum and VVS Laxman  almost took the match away from Bangalore with their opening blitzkrieg.  However with Laxman falling, the run rate slowly dipped and and Vettori and Dilshan got the game back into the Challenger's court.  Zaheer Khan also bowled his heart out and showed all his skill and variations in the slog overs.  Asad Pathan, a leggie with an action similar to Kumble certainly did impress me.  After the first ball, I actually mistook him for a medium pacer!  He was wayward in the first over but showed his talent with a few deliveries that took off.  I'm betting this man has a big role to play this season.  His batting was also sensational as he hit 12 runs of 4 balls to win the match for RCB.  Kochi Tuskers finished with 161 runs on the board which I felt was 10-20 runs too less.

RCB had the worst of starts as they lost their star batsman Dilshan in the very second over to Sreesanth.  However Kohli and Agarwal played a few shots and ran brilliantly between the wickets keeping the run rate in check.  It reminded me of the partnership Gambhir and Kohli had in the finals.  However with Kohli departing, RCB were placed in a precarious position and A.B. de Villiers needed to play a very vital knock.  That very knock he played, with the minimal of risks.  Agarwal and Tiwary gave him good company before he launched into Gomez's bowling slamming him for 3 sixes.  With 12 needed of 12 Pathan finished the match with three boundaries.

So both the Royals win their first match giving Deccan and Kochi something to think about.  Specially Kochi and their kit!   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The IPL is back (so is Lalit K. Modi)!

Within a week of the world cup win, the Indian Premier League has started.  So it's another 6 weeks or so of some amazing cricket with Karbonn Kamal catches, DLF Maximums, Citi moment of successes, and of course the Max-Mobile 'strategic' timeout.

The IPL kick started yesterday with a pretty neat opening ceremony with the usual captains signing the spirit of cricket pledge, some entertainment and some Shah Rukh Khan.  The defending champions, Chennai Super Kings then took on the new Kolkata Knight Riders [SCORECARD] minus their iconic player Ganguly in what turned out to be a thriller with no surprise result.  Kolkata threw away a game they well had under control and Chennai took that chance with both hands.  Yup, the same teams, the same habits, new players, just no Ganguly or Lalit Modi and the same results.   IPL has well and truly returned.

Chennai opened with Murali Vijay and Krishnamachari Srikkanth's son, Srikkanth Anirudha, who strangely enough plays much like his father.  His game consists of edges, mistimed shots and lofting the ball into no-man territory.  Interestingly this game, like his father has been successful for him.  However the young lad does have a more calm head than his father.  KKR opened with spinners and instantly got a wicket in the first over, but after a couple of easy drops from Yusuf Pathan, Raina and Anirudha took the game away.  Just when CSK looked forward to press the initiative, they lost Raina and Dhoni joined Srikkanth junior.  Amid some tight bowling, CSK lost the plot and momentum and eventually finished with an average score of 153.

KKR opening with Kallis and Bisla started well and put on a steady platform.  At 64 for 1 after 8 overs, KKR looked cruising with Kallis solid as a rock but the old ghost came back to haunt them as Gambhir decided to send other batsmen to face the turning ball on a turning pitch.  I really didn't understand this move as Gambhi in my opinion is India's best player of spin bowling.  With a flurry of wickets and some inspired bowling and captaincy from Dhoni, KKR got themselves in a muddle with 33 required from the last three.  Manoj Tiwary got into the act thrashing Randiv for two back to back sixes (rather DLF maximums) and got the equation to 9 required of 8. But that's when common sense deserted the KKR batsman, as he fell trying to slog and finish the match in that very over.  With 9 required of 6, the target was still possible, but with new boy Tim Southee and his brilliant yokers the match was put beyond the hapless KKR side.

So nothing seems to have changed has it?  Another interesting thing was that that Lalit Modi now seems to have become a commentator.  He was actually tweeting the entire match and started to trend in India.  Maybe that's what happens when you are jobless and have nothing else to do, or maybe he is trying to beat cricinfo's online commentary and create a better site.  Whatever it is, the man who was brain-childing/architecting/commissioning/governor-generalling the IPL till now still wants to look like he's doing that very thing.

Guess you can take the IPL from this man but can't take the man from IPL.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Destiny's Children

The following article is an article by my friend and former Royal Challenger's Chief Blogger, Aneesh Surender.  He was there at Wankhede during one of the most memorable and historical moments in Indian cricket if not the most memorable moment.  And here's his account of that day, the second of April.  A day we'll all remember for a long time to come.  Here's his story!  


It was destiny. It had to be.

The hands on my wristwatch nudged towards half past noon. Four hours had passed since me and Neeraj Narayanan had parked ourselves outside the Wankhede stadium, blindly hopeful of securing tickets for the most important event of our lives without having to sell a kidney to afford it.

We’d watched wistfully as a father patiently painted his ten year old son’s face in the Indian tricolor, and then turned model as the excited kid gleefully returned the favour. A final dab later, they walked through the hallowed gates and we nodded approvingly, concurring there could be no greater gift a dad could have possibly thought of. In him we saw our future.

Tickets still needed to be got though. And we put on our best sly-on-the-fly behaviour to approach and negotiate with potential sellers and forge alliances with other buyers in the hope of getting a good deal on a bulk purchase.

But to no avail. With both teams on their way to the stadium, the asking price of a single ticket still stood at the cost of a return flight to the next cricket world cup in Australia and New Zealand.

As we gauged our options standing next to the Ambassador Hotel, that sinking feeling of missing out on the making of a history that mattered so much to us, resurfaced.

The world was a vampire.

And then the phone rang.

It was a call we were hoping to get but weren’t expecting.

“Aneesh, have you gotten your tickets yet?”

“No Sir, not yet”

“A friend has extra tickets which she’s not using. I’m sending you her number. Get in touch.”

And in twenty seconds, our world had turned upside down. I bit my lip to temper a scream of excitement.

“Sure” was all I could mutter.

As I broke the news, the glow on Neeraj’s face was telling. “Kya bola tha maine?” (Told you, didn’t I?)

The adrenalin was kicking in. We were believers again.

Another call and twenty breathless minutes later, we found ourselves by the striking red Grand Piano in the lobby of the Oberoi hotel, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the lady who in our minds we'd already canonized.

As she handed over the two tickets, we lovingly kissed the piece of paper we would safeguard for life and exchanged a look that could only be described as a cocktail of emotion and triumph.

We were going to the Wankhede. Finally.

We hadn't realized immediately, but the tickets were for the Sachin Tendulkar stand.

We'd grown up with Sachin. If corporate life is defined by the weekend-to-weekend phenomena, our childhood was all about going from one Sachin innings to the next.

We basked in his reflected glory. Every century was a notice for unabashed celebration, culminating in a gully cricket challenge to see which kid could bat like him; every picture dutifully cut from the weekly Sportstar and pasted in a scrapbook using gum from a sticky translucent Camlin tube.

With him, and only him, school was forgotten if an innings was due; ice cream refused if he got out early.

This was the hero we loved from the bottom of our hearts.

Hell, we even cheated in book cricket to ensure he had enough runs against his name.

Life was cricket. Cricket was Sachin. Sachin was life.

And we were going to watch him lift the World Cup from the very stand in which he was immortalized.

It was so fitting we could have cried.

Defeat for India wasn't a possibility that crossed our minds. It couldn't have.

Chests puffed as we marched to the stadium, phone call after phone call was made to inform loved ones of the conquest. The outpouring of emotion had just begun, and it was agreed that a Facebook status update would be a worthy investment of time too.

But the hunt for an internet café (no, our phones weren’t 3G enabled and sending a message to 92FACEBOOK didn’t work) was ditched in favour of getting the Indian flag painted on our faces.

Sadly though, we discovered we wouldn't be able to watch the match together, for the seats were in different sections of the stand, with separate gates of entry.

But it was still going to be our day, and like brothers at a Bollywood inspired mela, we parted ways to find the path into the destination of our dreams.

And boy was the ICC ready. Five layers of security checks took just fifteen minutes to pass through, there were seats to be had for every single spectator, food and drink was reasonably priced and the washrooms were five star.

As I climbed out from within the belly of the massive structure into the soft daylight of the top tier of the North Stand, I had my own Julius Caesar moment.

I was the king of all I surveyed, and the Wankhede a Colosseum packed to the rafters, awash in blue.

The view from my seat dazzled too, positioned right in the line of the pitch, perched high above the ground at an angle from which advice could be easily whispered into the ear of third man or fine leg or long-off and long on.

The only thing missing was a wreath and a throne. And it could wait, for goosebumps time had arrived.

After discovering to my utter disbelief that Sri Lanka’s national anthem was indeed not the longest in the world, I geared up for the minute of reckoning.

We sang loud and proud in unison, all thirty three thousand of us, and as the Sanskritized Bengali of “Jana Gana Mana” reverberated around the stadium, there was a sense of assuredness in the crowd that implied “Today is our day”.

And sure enough, it looked that way right from the start. Where the 2003 final had begun with five wides, here Zaheer got one to nip back into the pads. Where all that Yuvraj saw on that fateful Johannesburg day was balls disappearing into the boundary boards, here he lunged and dived but never allowed the Lankans to go past him at point.

In the midst of the fun and frolic, Neeraj’s message arrived. His phone’s battery was about to go out. It was decided that we would reunite at the Hotel Ambassador after the match and dance all night on Marine Drive to celebrate the impending victory. Faith truly had no boundaries that Saturday.

Till the 44th over, we remained steady. Screamed hard when wickets fell, showered noisy appreciation for a good shot or piece of inspired fielding, danced to every song, and mastered the Mexican wave. Crowd business as usual in an ODI.

In our optimistic bubble, these were merely runs being put on the board for Sachin to have a shot at that 100th hundred.

And then the sweet murder began. Mahela Jayawardene brought up the classiest hundred a World Cup final has ever witnessed with a series of exquisite boundaries and as the Lankans rocketed to a total far beyond our comfort levels, a Delhite in the row to the side uttered a rather apt “Hain?!”.

Ah, the stress. I needed to eat.

Barely had I laden my carton and ventured back up did I hear the dreaded sound of heart beats over the speakers. TV umpire review. Gulp. Not Sachin for a duck, noo.

I was glad it was Sehwag instead. He would get his time in the future.

Legend has it that Tendulkar has scored a century every time I’ve watched him live at the stadium. The previous occasion was in 2004. It was about time to watch another.

And so I settled in. Confident front foot defence. Check. Backfoot punch through the covers. Check. Scorching cut past point and third man. Check. And the shot of them all, the glorious straight drive. Check.

Even as I imagined the TV commentators go, “Whaddaplayyaa!” with that last stroke, the unthinkable occurred.

Sachin edged to the keeper. Gone.

There would be no divinely ordained century. No standing ovation as he walked back to the pavilion. And at 31/2, horror of horrors, the possibility of finishing without a World Cup medal.

A small part of me died.

I felt anger and grief. Why must the world be so unfair?

We watched the next few overs in silence. The going was slow. A guy in the row ahead buried his head in his girlfriend’s shoulder, unable to bear the thought that was playing on all our minds.

She ruffled his hair. It will be alright, she gestured, putting up a brave face.

And it was. Ball-by-ball. Over-by-over.

Kohli went, and Dhoni entered, and Gambhir stayed. We were a distance away from the dream, but never too far either.

We danced again, if only to banish doubt, and as the music got better, the chase began to strike the right notes.

It was 200-3, and Dhoni pelted a tired Murali to the cover fence. As the ball slapped against the rope, we knew a significant battle had been won. Now time was the only enemy.

As India raced towards the target, our heartbeat tried hard to keep pace. The tsunami we’d waited for all our lives was going to hit us.

We fidgeted after every ball, legs shivering from the excitement. A trio of senior citizens in their 60s jumped up after every boundary, playing umpire by slowly waving their hands to signal a four and jumping right back in their seats in glee, loving the experience of being surrounded by the all-pervasive energy around them.

When the moment arrived, we knew it had to be special.

Sehwag had begun this tournament with a four. Dhoni would finish it with a six.


What I heard, from myself and those around me, was the frenzied bellowing of a group that knew they had just shared something special.

We were delirious. We had lost it. And when Sachin lifted the cup and was carried around the stadium, we cried.

The dream had come true. Life had come full circle. We could have died in peace right then.

But an appointment still needed to be kept.

So after a half an hour walk dotted with impromptu chants and breaking into a dance on the streets, I jogged the last thirty metres to the Ambassador Hotel.

And at the same spot exactly twelve hours after we’d received the call that would change our lives forever, me and Neeraj embraced and jumped around with a roar of sheer happiness.

Another cricketer might come along tomorrow and amaze our progeny, but we will not envy them.

One Tendulkar in a lifetime is enough.

And twenty years later, when the question is asked, “Where were you when India and Sachin lifted the World Cup?” we will think back to the adventure of April the 2nd, smile, and repeat those three words in our head.

We were there.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's with the names?

The fourth season of the Indian Premier League starts in a couple of days and it's time I finally start to write about it.  This year's IPL will be diferent on so many counts as Lalit K Modi will not be part of it, two new teams will be playing and finally most of the players now have shifted to different teams due to the auction.

It's now even more difficult to remember the players in each team now. For example Zaheer Khan who was part of RCB in the first season, then Mumbai Indians in the second and third now finds himself back with RCB. Similarly Yusuf Pathan the star of Rajasthan Royals now is with KKR while Ganguly is no where to be seen. Even more strange is the fact that Symonds and Harbhajan will be in the same team sharing the same dressing room. However this post is not about all the new changes in the IPL, but rather the funny names the teams have.

Royal Challengers Bangalore - Well nothing really is very amusing in the name other than the fact that it is named after a liquor brand and in the previous seasons rightfully had Jesse Ryder as a member.

Chennai Super Kings - Another team from the south with an average name. The name tells it all that they are Kings who are apparently super and from Chennai. Maybe Super is the right word there even if it sounds akward, as this team has finished as winners, runners-up of the IPL and winners of the CLT20.

Deccan Chargers - One of the better named teams in the IPL, the team's logo and name make it sound as a world class club.

Mumbai Indians - I seriously don't know where Nita Ambhani got this name from. My theory is that she is weak in geography and doesn't realise that Mumbai is in India or India consists of Mumbai. However bad the name is - lacking iimagination and dull, they easily make it up with a player in their team named Sachin.

Rajasthan Royals - Another decently named team with a good history behind the name is Rajasthan Royals. A team plagued with court cases and tight purse strings, this team suprsingly has a proper name that is etched on the trophy as winners of the first season.

Delhi Daredevils - Yet another good name that clearly describes their opener - Virender Sehwag.

Kings XI Punjab - A stupid name if there ever was one. I don't understand what the team's name even means unlike in Mumbai Indians case. Are they trying to say there are 11 kings in Punjab? If so then who is the leader? All 11 of them?

Kolkatta Knight Riders - Easily the most controversial team of them all, KKR have a stunningly idiotic name. Some one has to inform Shah Rukh Khan that Knights already ride horses. So a Knight Rider would actually be a person riding on top of a knight who is already on a horse.

Sahara Pune Warriors - Another team that copies the RCB style of naming the team after a product and thus using it as an marketing tool. Pretty clever thinking and I do like the name. Pune Warriors has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Kochi Tuskers Kerala - If there's a team that knows how to mess up things, then go no further than the Kochi team. The Rendezvous Sports World Pvt. ltd must consist of the dimmest minds found in business. They mess up their bid for a franchisee and somehow scrape through it. Then they get into some mess with the share holding paterns and equity sharing and once all that clears up they come up with the worst name on the planet for a team. Indi Commandos Kochi is stupider than the stupidest name available to any human thinking capability. Then in the auctions they chose a team full bowlers and rename the team as Kochi Tuskers Kerala. Somebody please tell them that Kochi is in Kerala and like with Mumbai Indians saying either Kochi or Kerala would have sufficed. The team with the likes of Sreesanth and an hideous name and so many issues even before it was formed looks like the one to provide most humour and laughs in the days to come. Watch out for this team.

That's pretty much it with the IPL team names. However the T20 tournament in Australia, The Big Bash has gone the IPL way by introducing some new teams with new names and looks and new ownership paterns. However I must admit, none of the names of the teams in the Big Bash is as worse as Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

Team names

Adelaide Strikers

Brisbane Heat

Hobart Hurricanes

Perth Scorchers

Melbourne Renegades

Melbourne Stars

Sydney Sixers

Sydney Thunder