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Nov 30, 2006

After yet another forgettable performance by the Indian cricket team yesterday against South African in Port Elizabeth, its with sheer exuberance that I scribble something on the wonderful bunch out here.

After almost a month here, certain cricketers have certainly helped lend a hand at creating a post on the their talents both on and off the field. This post is a follow-up on a previous one on certain members of the SA cricket team.

Ajit Agarkar: Namade Ajit... He is proof that it takes a lot more than fragile stature and flappy ears to bring down a batsman. His reasoning at bowling a slow bouncer in the last over of a tight match has been referred to in various textbooks on Unexplained Human Behavior. Peter Jackson's S-FX team had contacted him for the role of Gollum in LOTR, but it was subsequently rejected due to lack of enthusiasm (apparently namade Ajit didn't know Liv Tyler was taken).

Virender Sehwag: The case of Missing Wickets has been filed against him is reportedly being referred to the Police commissioner of SA. Complaints have come from fans about the various ways he manages to lose his wickets. Cricinfo's chief statistician has been given the go-ahead to start a new stat on the number and various ways a single batsman has gotten out. Our Virender apparently leads the table (followed closely by the Royal Canadian Mounties cricket league's standby 11th man). A gangwar is currently brewing among members of the Mumbai underground on who's playing the Sehwag card.

Mohammed Kaif: Quite possibly selected due to his experience in the ODI squad; this tactic backfired because selectors didn't realise at that point that the experience was actually for the betterment to the bowlers that bowled against him. Cricinfo's chief statistician has not yet recorded a shot off the middle of his bat. The 8th annual Gum-Maker's association convention tabled 'sticky gloves' on the top of its agenda after realising the possibility of making enormous amounts of moola from selling gloves to him. Due to the slow advancement of technology, the gum is not yet strong enough to ensure the bat stays still in his hand, hence sticky tape and genetic technology is being considered.

Dinesh Mongia: A major mystery nagging the Indian cricket selectors and the general public has been how Dinesh managed to make the ODI squad. Many suspect diplomatic involvement - apparently Dinesh was included because this move would inevitably lead to SA taking a series white-wash, and thus would ensure continued inter-government ties thereby ensuring lasting Indian investment in Africa. The possibility of few other moles have not been discounted. The Chinese are crying foul, and are considering sending their rugby team to SA.

The rest of the players seem to have played their hearts out, hence their roles will not be brought to light (not just yet)...

(Disclaimer: the above post can be considered as the lamentations of a proud, but unimpressed Indian supporter. Any remarks against a reader's hero is purely uncoincidental and intended).

Nov 28, 2006

Thattukada in Gabarone

The sign outside a resturant in Gabarone:

I recently had to visit Gabarone, Botswana for work, and was really not looking forward to the bland food on offer at the hotels. But, I was blissfully surprised when my friends took me to a South Indian resturant in Gabz...

We had Kappa and fish curry with fish fry as a side dish... Just loved it! Its times like this that make being a Mallu so kewl... The possibility of enjoyin my favourite South Indian dishes a couple of km's away from my hotel is one of the many joys of this beautiful country...

Yesterday I had the most succulent fillet of steak I've ever had.

Nov 15, 2006

Safari in Sandton City (or, how we managed to get pics with members of the Indian team)

In true cricketing spirit (and subdued fanatical tendencies), a couple of buddies and I decided last night to prowl around the up-market Sandton City shopping mall in Johannesburg in search of members of the Indian cricket team. The grapevine insisted that the team would be housed in the glamorous Sandton Sun (a hotel in the same complex as Sandton City), and so, the probability of spotting a member of the team should be pretty good. So, armed with trusty camera-phones and a sizeable measure of charisma (gotta charm the cricketers and/or their WAGs into posing in photos for us), we ventured into uncharted waters hoping to be the only ones to single out helpless cricketers on our radar.

Very big mistake - the place was uncharacteristically populated with brown-skinned, camera-toting Indian families furiously scouting every nook and corner for signs of a celebrity.

The evening started well for us though. In true alpha male fashion, we decided we would stop over at the Nando's Portuguese fastfood chicken outlet before sending out the search parties. After ordering the usual, we grabbed a table and started engrossing ourselves with chicken and chit-chat (why the chicken crossed the road seems to be the favoured topic at this restaurant). Through sheer luck, I let my eyes wander from my plate (bad Pramod! bad! No food for u!) to the unfunctioning escalator in front of me. Lo, and behold, the figures of Munaf Patel & Wasim Jaffer walking down and turning towards the information board. After meekly mentioning it to my buddies :-) and startling a few customers, we strategised on our next move. Luckily, there weren't any other scavenger Indian supporters around, so we decided to make our move (ok, ok- it was more instinctive).

Anush decided he'd go up to them and ask them where they were from and what they wanted. I was left to look after the food (again, true alpha male style). Lucky guy, that Anush - his fluency in Hindi has never let him down. After approaching them, and chatting for a couple of minutes, he came back and announced that they might be having supper at Nando's (yeah!). They also promised photographs after their meal. So, cool and composed, we carried on with our supper, peeking up frequently to calculate how much distance was reduced between them and our table.

They eventually ordered and sat at a table next to us. In the mean time, we prepped ourselves with possible advice to give to them on how to beat the South Africans at home. For the gossip columnist reading this blog, Munaf Patel eats a s*(&(t load of food - one full chicken and 4 Portuguese rolls (usually reserved for a family of 4).

Feeling a little embarrassed of the possibility of making fools of ourselves next to our cricketing heros (and the rather impatient row of people waiting for out table), we decided to wait for them outside the restaurant.

While there, we met another league of supporters from TCS who also spotted the pair and decided to meander around the restaurant. One of them mentioned that they had spotted Dravid around the corner. Our party quickly broke up with half of us rushing to that side of the mall in search of him. No luck - apparently he'd left. I have my doubts - I think our fellow supporters were trying to wiggle their way to the top of the queue... Hmmm..

Well, they eventually came out, and we took a few pics before letting them go. The TCS pack started running after them like little schoolgirls, but we decided to keep our pride and try the hotel area instead.

Best move of the evening. We (by luck) managed to block off Tendulkar, Sehwag & WAG, and Agarkar on their way back to the hotel. Pics taken with them was posted earlier.

Details of this unscrupulous operation the next post...

Nov 10, 2006

While browsing through an the online newspapers on India, I came across the article on
Ganguly being considered for a position in the Indian cricket "due to his marked form in the
domestic series, as well as the disappointing form of the current team setup".

Normally I would have dismissed the article as a mere attempt by the West Bengal Board of cricket to bring back their prince, but after Team India's recent form in the Champion's trophy, I'm rather inclined (with a slight queasy feeling) towards bringing him back.

Never been a huge fan of Ganguly. I always felt a number of his hundreds were flukes (dropped catches, bad teams etc.), but, to his credit, he does have a handy repertoire of shots. When he pulls it off, it looks good. The real test though, would have to be his (and I guess, any other ODI player's) real test would have to be his performance against the Aussies. I pulled out the stats from the StatGuru section from for analysis:

Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St
unfiltered 279 10123 183 40.65 22 60 93 5/16 37.31 2 96 0

filtered 30 647 100 22.31 1 4 7 3/41 46.42 0 12 0

for India 30 647 100 22.31 1 4 7 3/41 46.42 0 12 0

Australia 30 647 100 22.31 1 4 7 3/41 46.42 0 12 0

In other words, an average of 22.31 against Aus vs 40.65 against all teams.

The hundred was in a VB series match in Australia in 2000 where India lost the match chasing a total.

So a rash player, in serendipitous form, with a apparent negative influence on other players of the team (according to Chappell). Does Team India really need a player like that?

I hate to say this, but I think they do. The current team setup is lacking an experience left-handed batsman with a bit of attitude. Now would be a real good time to bring him in, as there won't too much pressure on his ability to bat. The pressure would rather on the rest of the players and coach of the team. Hopefully he won't hash it by blocking 40 balls without scoring a run (like he did in his last test match against Zimbabwe).

Hopefully this will be the last chop-n-change exercise on the team. Time is rapidly running out on the team of selector's attempts at finding that star new player for the team, and I believe they should rather focus on correcting glaring errors in the current team, and prepping them for the matches in the WC next year.

I also feel we aren't seeing any of that 'risky' cricket. Dravid's captaincy is solid, and dependable; but I can't see some of his tactics pulling through against the might of a strong team like Australia. I was impressed by Brian Lara's captaincy at the ICC championship. The manner in which they approached the last game was truly courageous, and I believe they could have pulled if off, if it weren't for some slacking at the 2nd half of the WI innings.

I also believe that this is how a match can be won against Australia - by keeping a foot on the pedal at all times, thereby controlling the flow of the game, and ensuring that the opposition
always keeps trying to enter the game. The incredible SA-Aus game at the Wanderers was an excellent depiction of such a tactic. The Aussies really looked out of it that day; or rather, were never allowed to command the game like they're used to doing. The game is still one of my favorite of all.

England's defense of the Ashes this year is gonna be pretty interesting. Looking forward to some good cricket when India comes over here next week. I plan to attend the first ODI at the Wanderers. Look out for a bunch of 40-odd rowdy, ill-dressed Indian supporters on the grass embankment furiously waving placards with Malayalam swear-words.... ;)

Nov 6, 2006

Movie of the week: Don - the chase begins again

Watched Bollywood director Farhan Akthar’s remake of the Amitabh Bachchan 80’s classic ‘Don’ a few weeks back (on premier afternoon, in fact). Expectations of this movie were almost nothing as I had never had the pleasure of watching the original, nor had any clue of how the plot would unfold (the advantage of watching on premier day).

The director’s previous 2 endeavours have been Dil Chahta Hai (DCH) and Lakshya. DCH is still currently holding strong on my top 5 list of the best all-time hindi movies – the defining aspects of this movie were the charming scriptijng, some innovative shots, a great team of actors, and last but definitely not least, a star director. I was heavily impressed by the debut and it was with great anticipation when I saw Lakshya. Bad mistake – every time I’ve watched a movie expecting a big one, I’ve always been disappointed.

The first half of the movie was slightly dragging especially Don’s encounter with Kareena Kapoor’s character (perhaps to pay homage to the original). Deciding to meet on a beach to conclude a business transaction might have also been a bit contrived. But it was the multiple shots of the action scenes (see editing) that caught my attention. The fight scenes never faulted through false shots (not usually the case, esp. in Malayalam movies ;) ). Every punch, throw or movement of a car seemed as real as can be through some slick editing that showed just enough to keep the intention sensible. This technique has been perfected in English movies for a while now, and more recently in Tamil movies (‘Gajani’). I thought a few of the stunts may have been copied from somewhere, but I might be mistaken...

The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy was fantastic. Another attempt at paying homage to the original by remixing its music (I wouldn’t really call it a remix as each song or score had a fresh originality in it). The use of techno music in the theme and in a couple of scenes in the movie is sure to strike a chord (intended!) with the modern generation (ala DCH).

The locations were superb. Malaysia looks like a paradise. The dialogues, I thought, were simple and to the point. The Don’s little one-liners like ‘Don ko pakadna mushkil nahin… namumkin hai’ etc. etc. were humorously classic (excuse the expression, can’t think of another better description). I have a feeling the script-writers may have pulled it off the Chuck Norris website ;)

The best part of the movie was obviously the ending. Don’t worry – no spoilers here. Credit to the director for pulling off a ‘James Bond’ style movie, with ample twists and turns to keep the audience on their toes till the end. The authenticity of the movie has definitely set a new standard in Hindi movie-making. Here’s hoping for a lot more on similar themes.