Sunday, October 13, 2013

An ode to a master

So, this is it.!!! The much-awaited(rather it should have been much dreaded) announcement is done. With 24 years of International cricket behind him, he has gathered all his courage to call it quits. Though, mortals would have advised him and said "Its always better to go, when everyone asks you why now instead of why not now", Sachin is no mere mortal. Nine in ten, would agree, this announcement is been long overdue, but he still instils a range of emotions as no other person can: a sense of sadness, emptiness, a never ending nostalgic feeling,  feeling older than you really are, a feeling that Indian cricket can never be the same, whichever person comes in at number no:4 against South Africa(not even sure if the tour is on, at this point) your mind would immediately deviate towards the person who is no more at that position, rather undeserving to the person who had replaced him.(I meant just the no:4 position)

So, now that the legend has called it quits, just wanted to relive some of the memorable moments, from the time i started watching cricket. These are not the top 10 or top 20 moments, its just a recollection of some of most inspiring moments for me in cricket.

1996: He started playing international cricket at 1989, but at 2 years, I have no idea how his debut was. So, I start from the days and years that I remember. World cup in India 1996 is my first cricket event and distinctly remember India V Kenya where Sachin scored a blitzkrieg 140, where he demolished Kenyan bowlers and made them look like some club cricketers. The joy and inspiration was so much that, few of my friends strolled to the park to play cricket on a hot March afternoon even as he went past 100. That is inspiration for you, a first hand account, when people and cricketers say he has the reason for them to hold a cricket bat, how true is it. No wonder, that generation includes some of the promising young cricketers now, like of Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to name a few.

1997: Don't remember much any particular innings of his, as his 1996 WC heroics was more than enough to sustain for 2 years.

1998: Sharjah!!! Do I need to say further. Those couple of innings against Australia is well documented all through out the world. But, for people who saw it LIVE, they never stop talking and raving about it. Such was the magnitude of that innings and very few innings around the world can match such aggression in a manner that one man just rode past the entire opposition, not once, but twice consecutively.

1999: Another WC and again against Kenya, but this time in the backdrop of a personal tragedy for Sachin. But, the way he came back from his father's demise and show the way for the team which was in a must win situation was quite memorable.

2000: This time not a big century but a cameo against Australia in ICC Knockout, Nairobi was enough to enthral millions. The match more remembered for Yuvraj Singh's debut, also saw a blistering and aggressive Tendulkar, sending Aussie bowlers all over the park, taking a special liking to Glenn McGrath who was at the peak of his prowess. Innings of just 35-40 runs, but had the substance of a brilliant century.

2001: Third test Chepauk against Australia in that famous Australian series. His sedate yet series clinching 100 came against the best bowling attack in the world at that time, likes of Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Kasprowicz. Memorable!!!

2002: Headingley, against Emgland where he played a master class to score 193. More known for Dravid wallesque batting, but what followed was a batting treat from Sachin. If Dravid blunted the opposition, Sachin capitalized and pummelled England into a submission paving way for a memorable away test victory.

2003: The WC in South Africa and more particularly, the match against Pakistan. He looked like a man possessed, bordering to as if he had steroids. The way he bulldozed the entire Pakistani bowling, Rawalpindi express derailed in particular was jaw-dropping stuff. India had won the WC even before it went to Finals.

2004: Sydney 241. The innings which prompted Hayden to say, "I have seen god, he plays at No:4 for India in test cricket!!!". Coming amidst the back drop of number of failures due to his dodgy form and bad umpiring, here is the man who refused to play cover drive through out the innings, sensing some weakness there and then going on to get a wonderful double century, against all odds, was simply magnificent.

2005: A dry year by his standards, know more for his solitary 100 which propelled him to go past Gavaskar's 34 centuries to become highest century maker in Test Cricket. Who would have though he would go on to make 17 more centuries after that in Test Cricket alone.

2006: A tragic moment. Memories of him on his knees while getting bowled to an in-swinging delivery from the lanky newcomer Mohammed Asif. There started the initial murmurs of critics asking him to retire. Amazing that he has withstood all those every increasing clamour for retirement for 7 long years.

2007: More known for a shocking world cup in 50-over format and raise of young brigade in first ever T20 format. It is also famous for Sachin missing quite a few hundreds in One day and test cricket. Amazingly, he was out in 90's 7 times in that single year.

2008: Again Chepauk and this time the opposition being England. A masterful 100 in the fourth innings to a square turner, to take India past the finishing line in the final session was incredible, albeit after a wonderful start given by Sehwag. Emotional too, as it came weeks after 26/11 in Sachin's hometown and him dedicating the victory to the victims.

2009: Couldn't remember a particular innings, just like in 1997. It was a year where suddenly people started shouting, "Come on Sachin!!! this is enough!!! you are past your prime and retire gracefully!!!". and critics made sure it reached loudly to his ears.

2010: Back with vengeance, to eek out his fertile year in his entire career. At 37, to score 1500 runs in Test Cricket is no mean achievement and to be the first man in history to score 200 in one day cricket, was the perfect finish to an excellent year.

2011: Dream achieved. His child hood dream of a world cup medal is achieved after being in International cricket for 22 years. Again the highest run scorer and deserving every bit of that WC trophy. He lofting the cup in the back drop of India gate is the collector's dream.

2012: First man to score 100 International hundreds and what an achievement. True champion. Can stick my neck out and say this equivalent to 99.96 of Bradman

2013: 200 tests and bidding adieu from Cricket. True legend!!!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Man who looks out of place in his own home

And there ends the quest for revenge. Australia has been whitewashed 4-0 in our home series. Few outstanding individual performance, an alert captain and one of the worst opposition team line-up to have visited India in recent memory have all contributed to an emphatic win against the Kangaroos. Lots of highlight moments in this series; a blistering double hundred by Dhoni in the first test set the tone for the entire series(could almost be compared to a commanding hundred scored by Ganguly in Brisbane to show his young team the direction), extremely accurate bowling by young Jadeja(though he has to work hell a lot in his batting to find a permanent place in the team) and some signs of Ishant Sharma coming into some kind of form are all great signs for this team moving forward.(this guy, if fit could a handful in South Africa). Also, notable performance by certain players who has taken maximum advantage of a very weak Australian team are few positive bowling spells from Ashwin, calm and composed batting stints by Pujara and positive, but also cautious batting display by M Vijay. Future of Vijay, Pujara and Ashwin may well depend on how they perform in South Africa and that really is the place where the men will be differentiated from the boys. As usual, Kohli looked nimble, hungry and at-ease at all times in the wicket, though he is yet to come out with a big innings in his test career.  Having said these, South Africa will be a huge turning point of this young team and in any case, we are clear underdogs against an extremely strong and inarguably the best team in the world at this moment.

In all these, there is no mention of one man from the team - Sachin Tendulkar. For a whitewash of such magnitude against the most dreaded opposition in recent times, there was not a single notable contribution from the legend(his 81 in Chennai was his highest in the whole series). Australia for long has been his favourite opposition but he has not even been a shadow of himself. His average of 32 is most disappointing and he has struggled even against the likes of people like Lyon and Pattinson. The most painful was the legend who played with a wrecking back and almost won a game against the like of Akram, Waquar and Saqulain on a 5th day wicket was not able to face the likes of Lyon and Maxwell.

He looks out of place and am sure deep down he would be agonised by the fact that his contributions was almost zero in this series against arch rival Australia.  Not only will he be agonised, it would be heart-breaking for those people who had went through phases in cricket where Sachin was that single man army and was the go-to man for the entire team. He would set an example in every facet of the game and was the reason for many watching the game with lots of emotion and passion. Now, he is just a part of a winning team which has come from somebodyelse's contribution.

Is it all for the tag that he would be first man to have played 200 test matches? Has he forgot, that his fans and well-wishers would no longer be able to unabatedly back him in any small debates in the drawing rooms, coffee rooms, restaurants etc? In all accounts, he has surely played atleast 20 test matches past his prime. Surely, nobody will remember him as the only person to have played 200 test matches or 100 centuries in International cricket. Rather, he would always be remembered for this blitzkreig in Sharjah, many duels with McGrath, WC 2003 match against Pakistan and even a single six against Caddick in WC 2003.

His fans who worship him and take pride in saying he is a Sachin fan, are slowly but surely are feeling deep down why is Sachin putting them on a spot with his mediocre play  and his stubbornness to not call it quits.  He would really have to take a hard look at himself and his future before taking that plane to South Africa, because it surely is only Sachin who can stop himself and accept the fact that the time is up and he needs to put an end to the embarrassment his fans are suffering for sometime now.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Politics of High Command

India as a nation has been ruled for over 55 years out of 65 years of Independence by a single party. Even within those 55 years, almost 40 years has been directly ruled by one family and another 10 years, it is said they have been at the helm indirectly. Critics have been holding one single family responsible for the unrelenting under- developed parts of India. Many believe, the nepotism in the the grand old party has helped and shown the way for Nepotism in many of the other parties.

Though, the party boasts of the best and modern minds who take important positions in the Governement, right from the Prime Minister, to the Finance Minister, it has always been the first family which heads the party and in some cases, indirectly shows the way to the government. This has always been the criticism of many learned minds. Critics say that for a vast country like India, every decision cannot be controlled from New Delhi and by a single family.
But, somehow, we also need to understand that a large group of intelluctuals and party men need to have a single high command where the buck stops. This was proven, if we take a slight look at the opposition party and the disarray it finds itself.

The opposition has in equal measure, if not more people with excellent track record and people with wonderful experience. But, they are not able corner an already beleaguered Government, mainly because of the infighting within the party. Anywhere, whether its a office instituition or a party, you will have clash of the egos within people of equal experience and repute. So, its paramount, that someone with all-encompassing powers, who can get in times of in-fighting and times of decision-making to take a final call.

Its a worrying sign that opposition party is not able to project themselves as an alternative, even after 10 years of central government rule by a single party and that too with the second term dotted with lots of corruption scams and policy paralysis. Leave alone projecting them as an alternative, they have almost become a party which opposes anything that a government does without any conviction or logic. Though, the opposition has its own limitations in terms of their acceptability in the southern states, the main impedement is that they dont have a single high command who can take along all the well learned party leaders in one direction. Former Prime Minister from their party had the charisma and ability to bring everyone under his supervision. But now, even the  primary essence of choosing their party leader, is marred with controversies.

So, i would believe, though a party has to be as well represented as possible, its important that there is one single high command to listen to all views and then take their own decision. Hopefully, the opposition learns it fast and if not, its not in the interest of the nation that there is no oppposition and its always a one way traffic.