Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thank You and Good Bye

So, we have reached the 365th day of the year 2011. 
A year full of Happy memories and Sad memories. I have seen events which made me Delighted and Excited and there were events which made me Shattered and Heart broken!!
2011 was the year of change and it did change my perception towards the life, I realized "Jeta chhilo na chhilo na seta na Paoai thak, sob pele noshto jibon". It helped me grow and find happiness from certain aspects of life which I did not try out seriously earlier.
As usual this year was a year of great Friends and awesome friendships!! Made lots of new friends, some of them are now very close to my heart, lost touch with some old ones and obviously there are some eternal ones to fall back on when you need them.
In Summary, 2011 might have more bad memories than good but being that eternal optimist let me call this as a 'Mixed Year'!!
Bring it On, 2012!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Missed Chance

You go to a foreign country. In the first test you face a difficult bouncy pitch and overcast conditions.  And you guys fail. Collective batting failure in both the innings and you lose by a huge margin.
I will accept that. I will take that loss. Obviously it's difficult to go to new country and play your best immediately. 'Fine' I will tell myself, "This guys will play better in the next test."
But what you did today? I mean seriously. You guys were in control. very much in control. Still you let it go. Yeah, I am not upset with Ponting and Hussey's partnership yesterday. Those are great players and they would fight till their last innings, but James Pattinson! How come?? This kid with 3 test matches in his bag scored 37!! How??? Low intensity? Just waiting for things to happen? Taking things easy??
You made me upset. Gautam gambhir, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, I love you  guys. I am so proud of you. Gautam, my 'T-20 Don', VVS who made me write 'Why fight for Ram when we have Laxman' as my Facebook status message after last year's Mohali test and Virat, the best of his generation, or is he?
333 and 240 are not big scores. At least the pitch was not so bad that, I would expect Australia to score less than that. Yes, still we could be more attacking. Some more close-in fielders to Aussie 9-10-11 was required. But that's part of the strategy. Overall bowling looked good. Zak looked awesome, Umesh looked threatening, Ashwin looked working on a plan in the first innings.
But batting? Still problem continues. SRT and RD looked solid till they bat and then suddenly got out to good balls. Sehwag, I will not make any comment, he is like that only.
I am not watching the match any more so don't know how MSD is batting.
The most disturbing part is, what can we change in the next match? Yes we can bring Rohit Sharma in place of Virat. What else? Any other change in the team? I can't see any.
Strategy wise, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, please be attacking. Please talk to Sourav Ganguly. Please use couple of players in both side for bat-pad catches while Ashwin is bowling. put more pressure. Trust me, this Aussie team is vulnerable. There are lots of self-doubt in their batting line up, exploit that. Attack that.

I know I should not do this, I should not write this piece till the 10th wicket is down. I should have faith on MSD, Zak, Isshannt (that's the new spelling of his name which he changed after consulting a numerologist) and Umesh to fight hard, keep grinding and bat as long as they can.

But this is not a match report. Even if India win or draw this match with any divine invention (they call Melbourne, the city of four-seasons a day, how much I would like Melbourne to have a monsoon, starting in next half an hour and continuing for next forty-eight hours) that would not change the fact that you guys have missed a chance. A great chance to stamp your authority and run away with this series.

All the best for remaining matches. Just remember, cricket is just like life. Life rarely gives us a second chance, I hope cricket will give you another chance in the new year test.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ravindra Jayanti

         Till 2007, the name ‘Jadeja’ in India would identify with a man with true all round ability, a prince, who debuted during a world cup match in Australia, who went berserk on Waqar Younis in the next world cup quarter final in one of the most anticipated sporting encounter of that decade, who was one of the greatest ODI finisher for India in late 90s, who is holder of a bowling world record, who also flirted with a young Bipasa Basu in a Close up ad and starred against Celina Jaitley in ‘Khel’ after his cricketing career was over due to his alleged involvement in match fixing during early 2000.
         It changed somewhat post 2008. I still remember, I was in my office and going through cricinfo pages in a lazy evening when I came to know the just announced Indian team for the U-19 cricket world cup in Malaysia. And it was kind of fun to find a team with super ambitious names like Napoleon Einstein, a Bengali wicketkeeper in Sreevats Goswami, a MS Dhoni look-alike in Saurabh Tiwari and a captain called Virat. Among all these I could have missed Ravindra Jadeja, but then I suddenly noticed his birth date and became an instant fan! 6th December, 1988! The year was not important but here’s this guy who is playing for India, even if U-19, whom if I wish ‘Happy Birthday’ then he should reply back with ‘Thanks and same to you!
          So, I obviously decided to follow this guys performance in the tournament and he was kind of star. With his slow left arm spin he did bamboozle a lot of those English, kiwi and South African kids and was quite tight with his economy rate.
          India won the tournament and with the first season of Indian Premier League around Jadeja was picked by Rajasthan Royals. And for rest of the season the story was quite magnificent. RR won the IPL; Jadeja was recognized by the Great Shane Warne as one of the most notable young talents in India and he became a star which followed up with a great Ranji season with 739 runs and 42 wickets.
           He was picked to play for India and scored a gutsy 60 in losing cause in his first game. All was good. He was fighting for the all rounder spot with Yousuf Pathan and did come on the top for the battle of the number 7 position till 2009.
          Then the path towards downhill started for him. He was mediocre in 2009 IPL, still picked for world 20-20 in England, where he had a very poor match against England. Chasing 153, India was lost by 3 runs and Jadeja, coming at number 4, ahead of Yuvraj and Dhoni, scored a scratchy 25 of 35 balls. His technique against moving ball was questioned. Poor form continued. His ability to tackle the pressure situation was questioned once again when he was run out 3 balls after Sachin’s dismissal of 175 in india’s epic chase of 350 which they end up being 3 runs short again.
          Big blow came before IPL 3, when he was suspended by Rajasthan Royals for trying to make unauthorized deals with other teams, a big disappointment for a youngster like him and it also shows that success was going in his heads. He sat home during the entire length of the IPL but promptly selected by Indian team for 2010 world 20-20, to be held in West Indies.
          The poorest display came in the match against Australia. 12 balls in his two overs went for 0,1,0,6,6,6  6,6,6,0,0,1. 38 runs in 2 overs and then he was again run out for 4. It was the final nail in the coffin and most of the Indian cricket fans wanted his head.
          He still got selected for the tour of Zimbabwe, Asia cup and tri series in Sri lanka and after his moderate success was dropped. A victorious world cup campaign came and gone with no Ravindra Jadeja in it and lots of pundits in Orkut and Facebook were glad to see that team management’s obsession with Ravindra Jadeja is gone.
         After a decent IPL-4 with the new team Kochi Tuskers Kerala and a not so noteworthy Ranji season Jadeja was picked for the Indian ODI team in their disastrous England tour in 2011.
His comeback match was once again a close loss for India, but unlike earlier times Jadeja was the only saving grace for the away team. After 0-4 thrashing in the test series and already 0-1 behind in the ODI series, India collapsed to 25/4 and then 58/5 in the 19th over when Jadeja entered. He was out in the 50th over after reaching his highest ODI score of 78 and pull India to 234. England finally won by 3 wickets in D/L method but with his 2 wickets Jadeja got the man of the match in his return.
         Post this he has played all the following 9 ODIs for India till today, scoring runs at an average of 39.80 coming at number 7. His bowling was more note-worthy with 18 wickets at and average of 23.44, more importantly in all the 10 matches after his return he took at least 1 wicket with 33/4 being his best in this period coming against England in Eden Gardens.
          In his second coming, Jadeja looks solid with the bat and effective with the ball and he is always a wonderful fielder. But a new urgency can be observed in his cricket now, may be finally he has realized the importance and the immense pleasure of getting a chance to be in India’s playing eleven. With his captain supporting him strongly, I will hope that this guy will make a very successful career of his own. He is one of those true all rounders which India craved for long and if he can make himself good enough for number 6 spot in tests that would give India lot of variety, specially in foreign conditions.
           So, Happy Birthday dude! Play well, play sincerely! Let me be proud of another player who shares his birthday with me after the Freddy- Shirt waving- pedalo riding-beer drinking- Flintoff, and Rudra Pratap- Raw Pace- Singh!

Post Script: I finished the above piece on Sunday morning and decided to post it on 6th. Then I realized that he has a match on 5th and decided to add those stats with his stats after making a comeback to India team. But for the first time in his return he went wicket less, got run out again for just 11 and India lost a close ODI. I just hope his terrible form is not coming back and it’s just the effect of law of averages.

Carry on the good work boy!! Happy Birthday and All the Best for the coming year!!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Finally, celebrating my first published story in a web magazine!!

It's an awesome feeling!!

Thanks 'kotha to bolar jonneyi' team!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Favorite Movies

First of all, a disclaimer: I am not a movie buff. I do not watch two movies every day; I do not go to KFF or any other film festivals. In fact I rarely go to a movie theatre to watch a movie. Most of my movies were downloaded using the IITK LAN or Bit-torrent. But, yes, I like to watch movies, mostly comedies and romantic ones, also I can bear a few serious ones time to time but action-adventure is not my genre, I find it mostly too artificial, except Bond flicks, because I watch them as flicks and not movies.
Also, I like to watch my favorite movies multiple times. In a choice between a new movie and some classic which I have already liked, I more often than not end up watching the old one again.
And obviously, I am not a movie expert or critic; I can not catch the flaw in script or impact of great camera work easily. So, I am not going to try that. The following is my tribute to 10 all time favorite movies of mine, which I can watch any time of the day, any day of the year. I am going to touch a few things which I remember about them, please do not look for serious movie discussions then you will be disappointed.

The following list is in chronological order not in any order of preference.

Thanks to my father’s influence and ‘Dooradarshan’, I am watching movies of Charlie Chaplin since I can remember. But most of those were his tramp act and not the other ones and I absolutely loved them in my childhood.
So, in Kanpur, as soon as I got my own computer and get connected to LAN through DC++, I started downloading all the Chaplin movies, ‘The Kid’, ‘Modern Times’, ‘A King in New York’ and obviously ‘The Great Dictator’. Chaplin in a double role as Adenoid Hynkel and a Jew barber was just awesome. I loved the movie. Such a wonderful message was given in such a simple way. The scene of Hynkel playing with rubber globe is one of the most memorable which I have watched many a times, even sometimes in You Tube.

This one is another movie which I watch for the first time during my IITK days. I have heard of it before and wanted to watch it. But I knew it is a serious movie and hence kept it untouched after downloading it, waiting for a proper mood. Then one of those days, when I did not feel like going to class, I started watching it at around 8 o’clock and missed my break fast as I could not move for next one and half hours.
This is one of the most realistic movies I have ever seen. In none of the scenes it looked like a movie is going on. The kids playing that pebble throwing game, the general conversation between the people and the traffic flow in the road, all were so simple and real.
My personal favorite part is the relationship between Antonio and Bruno. I liked they way they roam around the streets of Rome to find the stolen bicycle, those small conversations, the rain scenes, and obviously the scene in the restaurant have taken a permanent place in my memory.
I remember the sadness I felt for Antonio when he tried to still a bicycle himself and was caught red handed, when the man decided to let him go then some guy said, “And you can thank God.” Seriously! After that whole day!!
The background music of this film also merits a special mention.


 And what more should I write. The number of remakes has been made of this movie in all possible languages that is the biggest testimony of this film’s appeal. I watched it every time and I find it as fresh as ever. The beauty of Audrey and the personality of Peck will remain forever in my memory.
Don’t want to write anything much, but yes I will remember the message which I got from this movie, ‘World’s Greatest Love Stories do not necessarily end up in a Wedding Hall.’

A man is sinking under huge amount of money. That was the only scene I could remember after watching it for the first time when I was around 10-12 years old. And then I watched it again, in Kanpur (no surprises there) and I loved it.
By then I have already seen some of other ray movies and was well known to his treatment. For me the most interesting part in this movie was not the hero but the unusual mix of fellow passengers in the train. The way they become such a strong part of the movie was mind blowing. Obviously the life story of the hero was fascinating. Uttamkumar was in one of his sublime best and one of the scenes I will always remember when he banged his fist and said, “I will go to the top, the top, the top!”

The book ‘Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen’ is one of the earliest which I received as a kid. As with all my other books in childhood, I have read this one lots of times and almost memorized it by heart.
Then in 1990 I was admitted to the same school as the great Satyajit Ray. Obviously at that time that was something to be proud of and with his Oscar and unfortunate death during early 90s he was pretty much in news. So I also read his biographies and movie lists in various newspaper articles and came to know about this movie.

Now, during the same period DD Bangla started a special summer vacation show called ‘Chhuti Chhuti’, where during vacation every day there used to be an hour long show in the afternoon which included magic show, animation movies, song & dance and obviously children’s movies, both Bengali and English. But since it’s just an hour long show, they used to show the movies in 3-4 parts and that’s how I first watched ‘Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen’, the movie, over a period of 3 days. I still remember in my first viewing the most fascinating scene was the dance of ghosts. To me that was one of the most innovative and creative works of Ray.
Obviously as I grew up with ‘Gugababa’ in last 16 odd years, I could identify more and more mesmerizing aspects of this movie. I have watched it in all possible ways, in DD Bangla, with the ads of ‘Jhharna Ghee’ and ‘Kabj har’, in my local cable, with ads of local jewelry shops and private tutors. Even I forced my then Marathi girlfriend to watch this one; I told her that she has to watch this one to complete her transition to Bengali culture!!

I think this one is the best Bengali comedy film of all time, a wonderful story, some brilliant dialogues and some good acting by very young Ayan Banerjee and Mahuya Roy Choudhury.
But above all there was Utpal Dutta. His antics throughout the movie were tremendous. And obviously he came up with one of the all time great Bengali dialogue, “You will burn the face of the country.”
Can watch it any time and laugh!

The only Hindi movie in this list, but no way less important. At some point few years back my mother actually refused to switch on the television as me and my father was planning to watch it again in the afternoon show in Set Max.
But still whenever it happens in TV both of got glued to the TV sets to enjoy the antics of Ramprasad Dasharathprasad Sharma and Laxmanprasad Dasharathprasad Sharma.
Obviously, it has the great Utpal Dutta, Dina Pathak, Deven Verma and Om Prakash. Keshto Mukherjee as the business man (!!) showed his class in last five minutes!!
Hrishikesh Mukherjee made a number of great comedies in late 70s and early 80s, but this only clearly takes the cake for the best of them all.

By now, you must have realized that in IITK, I have learnt more about movies than Statistics through the number of great movie discussions and movie download sessions! In one of those days I came to know that, previous night around 10-12 of my batchmates have watched a great movie called ‘The Shashwank Redemption’. By that time I have heard of ‘The God Fathers’ and ‘Sound of Music’ and ‘A Beautiful Mind’ but never heard of this one. But all my friends were praising it so much that I was forced to download it and then watched it with another friend of mine who also missed the earlier show. 
And wow! What a movie, so intense, so thrilling and with that wonderful twist at the end.
Morgan Freeman is always one of my favorite actors, and I also liked the restrained acting of Tim Robbins. So I end up watching this movie another 4-5 times in last 5 years and also suggested this one to lots of my friends!

I love animation movies all my life. From the Spiderman in 1987, He-man in early 90s to Duck tales and Uncle Scrooge in late 90s. And in between there were Aladdin and Lion King.
So obviously, once I started downloading movies, I looked for good animation movies. In last five years I have watches the Toy Stories, Shrek, Monsters inc., Tangled and many more but still my favorite is the one which was my first animation movie in my computer, which is Finding Nemo.
I loved the adventure of the fish world to find the little Nemo. I found the story of this movie pretty heart worming along with great animation and great characters, which included a fish that was inspiration for Aamir Khan for his role in Ghajini!!

This is the 10th and last movie in my list but may be one of the Top favorite movies of me. After watching it twice in the theatre in a week, I actually stopped watching movies for a period of six months. I was so overwhelmed that I thought no movie would match the awesomeness of this experience.
Heath Ledger was a master, in this movie he was as mesmerizing as John Denver by his songs and may be that’s why both of them are legend with mysterious and untimely deaths.
Great direction by Chris Nolan combined with smart fast paced story and Heath Ledger made this one as the movie to watch whenever you want some thrill.

My List is done. But as my dear friend Abhishekda always says, any list should consist of 11 members and not 10, here goes my tribute to the greatest Hindi movie of our time.

Kanti bhai Shah is a genious and Gunda is simply a masterpiece. There are only two types of people in the world, people who have watched Gunda and people who do not know anything about movies.
The first 15 minutes of this movie should be made compulsory for everyone in this world to watch. I can not describe this magnificent piece of art with my limited writing power. I can only say that, awesomeness was dripping from each and every dialogue ‘jaise nanni munni bachcha-ki nunni se pisab tapakte hai… tap, tap…’
Don’t even dare to think the last expression was my creation, it was written by the Great Guru KB Shah; I am just a mere follower.
I consider myself lucky to watch this one, now I could do with never watching another single movie in rest of my life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Blogging Life

Today evening, I got pleasantly surprised when Rik asked me about how to choose template for a blog. Rik is one of my closest friends and owner of a wonderful sense of humor. So, Rik writing a blog is always an interesting piece of news.

So while helping Rik, with the instructions to get a template for his new blog, I realized that even my blog template merits a change, my template was old and also had limitations like a very narrow column structure which does not help when you want to add photos with your writing.

So, I also started exploring all the possible template options and after some research which included preview of almost all available template I selected the one, which is called 'Picture Window', this gives a soothing blue background and I was quite happy with it.

So, I changed the template, re-arrange my other gadgets like, 'Labels', 'Logo', 'About Me' etc. and then I felt nostalgic about this blog and decided to walk down the memory lane regarding this blog. Although I have to accept this blog is just 3 years, 10 months and 4 days old with just 31 posts.

I read my first post. I re-lived the happiness and pleasure I got when I found a way to express myself, when I finally decided to blog seriously. I was ecstatic to have my own space in the web world.

And then I saw that I had promised myself to write about almost all the things possible under the sun! If I go in Tarapodo Roy's way and quote myself, I said,

'I will write about the earth and the sea, I will write about the winter and the autumn, I will write about the mountain and the desert, I will write about Tiger Prawn and Pao bhajji, I will write about the casino of Las Vegas and slums of Kolkata, I will write about Harry Potter's wand and Sherlock Holmes' pipe, I will write about Marlon Brando and Rajanikanth, I will write about friendship and love, I will write about the Tajmahal and the Pyramids, I will write about George Bush and Steve Bucknor. I will write about life and death.'

Yeah... too dramatic! I feel now. Excitement for my then newly found toy may be. But what I have actually written in last 46 months? I did a check, check of all my tags and what did I found?

I have written 10 posts about cricket! Not a big surprise considering my love towards the game and players. Also another fact is that my 2 only published works are about cricket only. Those 10 posts include player profile of Sourav, VVS, Harbhajan and Sehwag. Also there are two fictions including one of my favorite 'The IPL Overview' written during the first season of IPL. Even I managed to find time to write one post about the 'Fake IPL Player'.

One of my most searched and most commented post is 'Kopai-e KelenkariO Anyanyo'. It described our 'Once-in-a-lifetime' trip to Shantiniketan in 2008. It was one of those completely crazy trips and we had some very very memorable moments there. It was very easy for me to write that post as so many peculiar events happened in that trip that I did not have to do anything to make my post funny.

I also like my 3 posts regarding 3 of my most favorite Pheluda stories. Those ones also pretty much well read and well appreciated by my friends.

Outside the blogging world my life was very very eventful in last 3 years, with some good memories and some not so good memories, some laughter and sorrow, some new friendships and some broken relations and all those events gave me enough reason to inscribe my random thoughts and that's why you will find 9 such posts and may be this will be the 10th one.

In 2008, with all the excitement for my newly started blog I completed 11 posts, which reduced to 7 in 2009 and 5 in 2010, even first 9 months of 2011, resulted in only 2 posts but then somehow I found my motivation and now I have promised myself write more often.

I don’t know whether any one is going to read this one, but someone manages to glance through it I am sure he would find this one quite boring, so let me make a promise that in my next post I will write about something interesting.

Let’s call it a day for today, Pakistan is trying to change the course of a cricket match from seemingly a no-hope position, which they do quite frequently when they are in Sharjah, let’s see what can they do today.

PS. Started this post by mentioning Rik's attempt to start a blog and here is his first post. Pretty neat work! Keep writing!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Have a Very Very Special Birthday

You are a very cool person. In the field, you smiled all the time. When you bat you look like a painter, you just flick your wrist with a bat in hand and it feels like you are drawing a soothing picture with your brush. A very nice, light colored picture. It does not include bright colors, it's not a picture full of darkness. More often than not it's like an uncomplicated painting of a flowing river or a beautiful scenery with mountains in the far end.

One ball, you flick an outside off stump delivery to mid wicket and in the next ball you lean on to the same delivery to drive through cover. You did that and then give a smile to the bowler and your partner. The way we connect toughness with Dravid, Passion with Ganguly, destruction with Sehwag and something grand with Sachin, for you I always connect calmness. You go very easily about your business and keep scoring runs or take most unbelievable catches standing/ diving in the slip cordon.

You love to play against the Aussies. You scored a breathtaking 167 in Sydney in a loosing cause during the 2000-01 tour. And then you have played your greatest innings against them in the return tour. 281 in the second innings in Eden gardens, then 148 in Adelaide Oval, and again 200 in Delhi. But in their last tour in 2010, you have played which perhaps the greatest fighting innings by an Indian cricketer. Those 73 runs, scored in just over three hours with severe back pain are part of Indian cricket's folklore. Last 92 runs of the chase was scored with number 10 and 11. What an effort!
And with 6 runs left you did the unthinkable! You got angry!!

Cricnfo describes,

Hilfenhaus to Laxman, no run, 137.4 kph, Angry Lax A rare sight. Laxman is furious. He is shouting at Ojha. OMG! It was driven to right of mid-off and Raina had set across for the single but Ojah wasn't so sure or so confident.. They both get back in time. Laxman actually used a couple of expletives there! They all get together and now smile. Calm heads now!

And then I realized, yes you are a human being too. You are tough, you are passionate and the way you wave your bat you could have been destructive too if Ojha would not be in the non striker end.

I am sorry I could not write more as I have to go to office early today. But it's because I want to take a couple of leaves in the week of 14th. In my last visit you have scored a century and frankly speaking I got addicted. So I will go again hoping to see Sachin and Dravid and VS but also, I hope you make a hat trick of centuries in Eden Gardens where your average stands till date at a Bradman like 94 plus.

Happy Birthday Champ!! Have a Special Day!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Miss You, My Friend

Dear Bhajji,

First of all, belated Diwali wish for you and your family. As you know, I was little busy with the arrangements of the last ODI between India and those hapless English boys, hence could not send you a timely greetings card. I thought I will wish you during your visit in November and us being best of friends you will understand.
I still remember you first trip here. It was the year 1999; you were a young Sardar, still in your teens, playing in your 5th test match, that also against Pakistan in the first match of Asian Test championship. Indian team was full of ecstasy and euphoria after beating Pakistan in Delhithanks to Anli’s ‘Perfect Ten’ in the second innings. You were pretty much a young apprentice under him, learning the tricks of the tread.
To tell you the truth, I did not notice you much during your first visit. There were so many other great performances in that match. Javagal’s 86/8 in the second innings after his first innings return of 46/5, which I think one of the top three bowling performance by an Indian pacer on Indian soil, Anwar’s 188 runs in the second innings against that rampaging Javagal. And obviously that fast bowler called Shoaib Akhtar, who took 8 wickets in the match including the great Tendulkar for a first ball duck in the first innings.
Also, there were shameful crowd troubles after Tendulkar’s dismissal in the second innings and also in the last day. Among all these drama, I did not notice your two wickets. I faintly remember that you hit one boundary through thirdman, coming at number eleven in the first innings.
I vividly remember your next visit though and I have to remember it. This was the visit when you and VVS put me permanently in the heart of every Indian cricket lover. But before going to that, let me remember the background history.
You played your 8th test match against New Zealandin October 1999. Then you were dropped in favor of… who were those guys? Right, I remember. There names were Nikhil Chopra and Sarandeep Singh. Then thankfully, the good sense prevailed. Captain Ganguly fought for you in the selection meeting and was successful to include you in the squad of the first test againstAustralia. You got 4 wickets in the first test in Mumbai, and despite the 10 wicket loss you kept your place in the team and came here to play your 10th test.
The test match was from11-15th March, 2001, test match number 1535. Against those all conquering Aussies, who came here to avenge their innings and 219 run loss in 1998 and to get their 17th consecutive test win.
But, Australians were humbled and the face of Indian cricket changed forever. Millions of cricket fans started believing their adored Indian cricket team. They knew this team can fight now, they have learnt snatching wins form the jaws of defeat. They knew this team consists of fighters like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and off course you. You are a Sardar and you behave like one in the field. You carry your heart and pride in your sleeves and every movement of yours on the field exhibits that.
People always talk about VVS’ 281 and Dravid’s 180 and their unbroken partnership on the fourth day. But, you, Harbhajan Singh, you had started the fight back with those seven wickets in first innings, three of which came in consecutive deliveries to make you the first Indian bowler to take a test match hat trick. I still remember, my heart started beating fast when the decision for that catch of Shane Warne went to third umpire. Those 20 seconds were cruel, painful. But I can still see the elation in your face when the red signal was given. A star was born in front of my eyes. A star who would come back again and again to create history.
You finish the match with 13 wickets and although VVS got the Man of the match, you effort was no less important.
And after that you returned many times and not only became the most successful bowler in this part of the world, you also became one of my favorites, almost like a family member.
India never lost any test match in Eden since then. We won once against Pakistan and twice against South Africa. Also drew against West Indies and Pakistan. In one of the test wins againstSouth Africa you took seven wickets in the second innings and were given Man of the match award.

I also remember the last test match. That kid from South Africa with a long beard, Hasim Amla, he was not ready to get out. He kept batting on and on. You guys were a bowler short due to Zak’s injury. But you also kept trying and fighting. You bowled ball after ball, over after over. You finally got Morne Morkel in front of leg-middle, 9 balls before the end of mandatory play. You bowled 48 overs and 3 balls, almost half of those were maiden. And you got 5 wickets for 59 runs. I remember your mad dash towards the crowd after getting that last wicket. You ran, you jumped, your beat your chest and shared all your happiness and joy with them.
I have seen lots of players in last 80 years. I have seen the big muscular Dilawar Hossain batting with a fractured skull against Douglas Jardine’s England team in 1934. I have seen Rohon Kanhai’s poetic 256 in 1958. I remember those three artists from Hyderabad, ML Jayasimha, Md. Azharuddin and VVS Laxman. And they also shared a special relationship with me.
And I have observed you. You are from Punjab and although now days you earn millions and wear costly clothes and watches there is something very earthy, very simple about you. You chat with crowds. You clap for them. You take off your hat when they applaud for their appreciation of another great over. You make them feel that you are one of them. As if at any moment you can just jump this side of the fence and have a chat with them about the latest bollywood movies.

I heard that, your performance was not up to the mark in last few matches. I was sad. I wanted my friend to be here. So I did some research on your test performance in last 12 months. I found pretty interesting stuff.

(For a better view click here)

So, you have played 11 test matches in last 12 months to capture 38 wickets. 3 of those tests were in home against a mediocre New Zealand side, where you took only 10 wickets. Although your economy rate was decent, both your average and strike rate were significantly higher than your overall average. You got two hundreds though, first one after coming to bat at 65/6 but since your primary job is to bowl will not give you much points for that.
Still you went to South Africa and West Indies and your performance in the both the series was top rated. Your average was below 30 in both those series. You also took 7 wickets in Newlands to give India an outline chance to get a series win. You also score a gutsy 70 at Sabaina Park, coming at 85/6, but you are an Indian bowler, if you can’t bat at a crunch situation you are useless, if you can bat at critical situation then you are not useless but a bowler and your job is to bowl!
And then you went to the England tour. Indian team was thrashed and you performed miserably. You played two tests to end up with a bowling average which was 3.8 times higher than your overall overage. And your strike rate for the series was 173% higher than your average. You got a stomach ligament tear after that and headed back home. India lost the tour 0-8 (combining tests, ODIs and T20s) and then although you recovered you were dropped.
They do not think that this England tour could have been what in Statistics called an outlier. Like the general public memory these selectors also seemed to have a pretty short memory and they only consider your latest performance and dropped you from the ODI team.
And then yesterday, I heard the news that you are dropped from the test squad too, after playing 98 tests. And I am heart broken. I desperately wanted you to get selected for the first two tests, so that you can come here to play your 100th test. You deserve a great celebration for playing your 100th test and what could have been better than reaching that milestone in your favorite ground in front of me. I had dreamt of each event of that match, when you would step on the grass, when you would bowl your first delivery, when you would get your first wicket, may be a typical plumb in front of Ramnaresh Sarwan or a nick to your Doosra by Marlon Samuels I would leapt in joy, shout my heart out and even start doing a bhangra with my terrible dancing ability.
But everything is lost now. You are not coming to Eden Gardens to play your 100th test match. They will be players like Sachin, Dhoni, Gautam and Rahul but I will miss you my friend. There will not be another Harbhajan Singh amidst all those great names.
Another T20 match is going to start in some time. Let me go now. I need to be ready for the occasion. But I will be sad, the club house, the big scoreboard, the lash green outfield they are sad. They are going to miss their man, their passionate friend called Bhajji.
That’s it for today from my side. I will write to you again pretty soon.
Eden Gardens
PS. I may have been teary eyed while reading the news of you being dropped from the team. Hence, I missed one small detail. The latest team is for the first test only and you can still come back for the second test. But even if that miracle happens you will play your 99th test match here and not the 100th one. But still I will be overjoyed to welcome you. Something is always better than nothing, isn’t it? Your dream of playing your 100th test here is shattered but you don’t always get all the wickets you deserve in the game of life. Right Bhajji?
Your friend, E.G.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Experience with Eden Gardens

Kolkata is home of lots of great personalities. It was the home of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Swami Vivekananda and many more. It is the home of Rosogolla and Mishti Doi. Kolkata is also one of the homes of Indian cricket. We may not boast of too many great cricketers from Kolkata but we can definitely be proud of Eden gardens, one of the most beautiful place for playing cricket under the sun. One of the largest cricket ground in world with a history of more than 75 years of test cricket, Eden Gardens is a very very special place for lot of cricket lovers including me.
My first memory of Eden gardens was a one day international in 1991. Incidentally this match was also the first international match for the South African cricket team after their return to international cricket. I remember watching it in our old B&W television set. Sachin Tendulkar and Allan Donald was the joint man of the match in that match. India won chasing 177 despite Donald got 5 wickets for just 29 runs.
In next 15 years, thanks to our televisions (B&W replaced by a colour one just before 1999 world cup), I have seen some unforgettable matches in Eden gardens.
I saw Azhar’s 182 against England in 1993. Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble’s magic on the Hero Cup semi-final and final, the massacre against Sri Lanka in the world cup semi-final, Azhar’s 74 ball hundred against South Africa, and that match against Pakistan where they won, after being 26/6 in the first hour of first day, thanks to Saeed Anwar’s 182 in the second innings. This match also gave birth to a new star, fast and controversial Shaoib Akhtar who showed both those aspects of his game through his two dismissals of Sachin Tendulkar.
Obviously I can’t forget that special match against Australia in 2001. Some very special memories are attached to that match. Let me recollect a day by day account:
Day 1: Australia came to India with 15 consecutive wins in their bag. They thrashed India by 10 wickets in the first test in Mumbai and in that process got their 16th consecutive win. In the second test, they were around 150/1 when I left for my Stats tuition. In those days of no cell phone, there was no way to follow the score and even KC (one of the greats in the field of Statistics) was also not so keen to check the scores. After I returned around two and half hours later I came to know that Australia was 7 down with Harbhajan Singh taking the first hat-trick for an Indian bowler.
Day 2: Despite that heroics from Harbhajan, Australia ended with 445, thanks to a typical gritty century by great Steve Waugh with able support from Jason Gillespie. But I still think one of them was caught behind earlier which was not given. Indian batting collapsed again. At the end of day 2 they were 128/8, trailing Australia by 317 runs, follow-on was on the cards. Although VVS Laxman was unbeaten on 28 but I remember there was a news article on next morning’s ABP, which said, India is going for wholesome change after their loss in this test match and one of the person who is going to get dropped would be VVS!
Day 3: India finished at 171 thanks to 59 from Laxman. Steve obviously put them to follow on (A trend which would become rarer and almost extinct after this match). Tendulkar failed again. Captain Ganguly scored 48, post which he lost his concentration apparently due to some sledge from McGrath regarding his wife and lost his wicket. VVS reached hundred which at that point I thought would give him license for another five tests. When the umpires called time India were 254/4, VVS and Dravid were batting. Still the deficit was 20 runs with two more days to go.
Day 4: 90 overs, 335 runs, zero wickets. Do I need to say more? I still thank myself to take that splendid decision of bunking school because of my trust on the Indian team which did let me down in many past incidents but not that time. I can still see, VVS Laxman, stepping out just outside leg stump and cover driving Shane Warne time and time again. My respect for Sunny G increased, as he was as enthusiastic as a kid for Laxman to overcome his 236, which at that time was highest by an Indian in single test Innings. India was leading by 315 runs at stumps on day four.
Day 5: The day started with a host of debates. Should Ganguly declare overnight and give his bowlers the maximum possible overs or should he add some more run to ensure that Aussies can’t chase it down, the flaw in this plan was that at the end of the day you could face a scenario where Australia were 7 or 8 down and match got over.
Ganguly went for the second option and let his team bat for another 13 overs to add another 68 runs. He had confidence on his bowlers and I remember him saying after the match that, his thinking was that if his bowlers couldn’t get those 10 wickets in 77 overs then they would not get it in 90 overs either.
Australia started slowly, reached 24 without loss in 12 overs at lunch. Between lunch and tea, they added 139 more with loss of 3 wickets. Ganguly dropped a tough one at leg gully and it looked like the match was going for a draw.
The magic started 14 balls after the lunch. One of the greatest fighters in cricket history, Steve Waugh was gone. Ponting went in the same over. Gilchrist goes for a pair in the next over. Suddenly Sachin Tendulkar decided to become the greatest leg spinner in cricket to give some complex to certain Shane Warne whom he got with a googly. He also got Hayden and let Harbhajan got the other lesser mortals to finish with 12 wickets in the match. Kasprowicz and McGrath survived 53 balls before umpire SK Bansal got fed up with McGrath’s pad play and gave him out.
India won by 171 runs, pandemonium took place in Eden Gardens, one policeman jumped in joy along with 100 thousand more and Tony Graig captured that moment in his incomparable commentary. My consecutive bunking got justified.
There were some more matches from 2001 to 2005, especially one against West Indies where SRT finally got his first Test hundred in this special ground.
And then I started going to Eden Gardens to enjoy it live, in front of my eyes. I will get back into this after another small childhood memory.
Around 1993, I visited our ancestral home in Munger. One thing about my relatives from my father’s side is that, almost all of them are keen on reading and hence in most of the time you would find a library in their house. Same was the case there and my father suggested me a few books and let me carry a few of those books home. Two of those books were called ‘Cricket Omnibus vol-1 & 2’ by Shankari Prasad Bose.
These two books were collections of some of his books on cricket written in 60’s with some very romantic names (‘Eden-e Shiter Dupur’, ‘Romoniyo Cricket’ and ‘Laal Ball Larwood’ to mention a few). Those books gave his account of following a few matches in Eden gardens during that time period. Those old wooden stands in Eden Gardens, Bugle after every good shot, the wind from the Ganges, he did create the magic for a 10-11 year old me. I still remember his version of India’s first test win in Eden in 1962 against England, His bias towards Chandu Borde, His pun of Nadkarni (Nad Kori ni) and his frustration to see Vijay Manjarekar scoring 4 runs in an hour ( ‘15 minutes for each run!’).
Those books also covered historical times of W.G. Grace and cricket in England as well as a detailed account of the famous bodyline series. But I later found most of those were word by word copy of the Great Nevil Cardus but still Shankaribabu was successful to build the base of this young boy’s fascination regarding cricket statistics and history which finally reached its peak when I met So, whenever I think of Eden gardens these books also come to my mind.
Generally I do not go to Eden Gardens with a group. I go there alone, to feel the vastness of the ground, to absorb the enthusiasm of the crowd, to enjoy some special performance by players, to make sure that there is no way I miss any beautiful moment of the game.
I am not a regular visitor to Eden Gardens. I have been to Eden not even 10 times. That includes 3 times to watch a test match (two against Pakistan, one against South Africa), 4 IPL matches (2 against RCB, 1 each against CSK and DC), 1 domestic one day match between Bengal and Orissa. I also went to Eden as the part of U-13 team of our local club in 1995 but could not get a chance to play.
But even in my short visits I have seen some wonderful matches and awesome performances. I remember the brilliance of Chris Gayle when he hit 7 towering (and I mean it) sixes to score 102 of 55 balls in my last visit to Eden. KKR lost but on that day, against that in-from Chris, for any team the result would have been same.
I remember Harbhajan taking 7 wickets in the second innings to give India a win against South Africa in 2005. This is somehow a very low profile performance and according to me this should have got more respect than it received. I realized why Bhajji was an instant hit with the crowd as he was regularly chatting with them, was taking off his hat at their claps and even did some bhangra when Africans were nine down.
I have also seen Rahul Dravid at his technical best scoring a hundred with Dinesh Karthik as company, who was unlucky to be dismissed for 93.
But all these memories were nothing compared to what I experienced on 1st December 2007.
The second test match between India and Pakistan was started on 30th November. India was already 1-0 up in the series thanks to their win in Delhi, where Misbah-ul-Haq did this.
At the end of first day, Indians were 352/3, pretty comfortable position with Wasim Jaffar batting on 192 and Home boy Ganguly on 17. Till then Ganguly had only one fifty in Eden Gardens. 65 in a test match in 1998 against Australia where India’s batting card looked like this:
VVS 95, Sidhu 97, Dravid 86, Tendulkar 79, Azhar 163*, Ganguly 65, Mongia 30* and 18 extras with the team total 633/5 decl.
No wonder, India won by innings and 219 runs.
But in general, Sourav was not very successful in Eden. It looked like he used to get tensed, could not convert his starts and got out after scoring 20 odd. Even his previous two test innings in this ground were 12 runs each. He was almost reaching the end of his career and with the rotation system for test grounds by BCCI he would not get many more chances to fulfill his long cherished dream of scoring a hundred in his home ground. And yes, it goes without saying that my dream was to see him score that century.
I reached there nervously at around 8.45 in the morning. I was in H block, which was near long on if you bat right handed from Club House end. India started briskly. Jaffar got those two boundaries required to reach his 200 in the second over of the day and then suddenly he got out to Tanvir. VVS Laxman joined Sourav.
I was sitting with a mixed crowd. Just beside me there was a man in mid forty with his son who was around 9-10 years old. There was also a group of people in late twenties-early thirties who were those typical ‘Parar Dada’ types, who kept shouting at almost everything. And yes there was fair share of fairer sex in our stand to keep the crowd excited in case of some dull moments in the game.
Both Ganguly and Laxman batted in a pretty relaxed way for next forty minutes. Suddenly in one Sohail Tanvir over they gone crazy and shared 4 fours between tham. The thing with VVS Laxman is that whoever his partner may be, let it be a rampaging Sachin, Sehwag or Sourav if VVS is in form then you can not ignore him. He is one batsman in my cricket life time who literally paints picture or pens poetry through his shots and that day he was sublime.
In lunch India was 449 for 4 with Sourav notout on 62. By that time, the murmurs were started, “This time… Dada is looking solid… it will happen…Dada can do it…”, the chants of “Dada- dada” was ever increasing. I realized that I have another 90K people with me, who could not have a proper lunch due to the nervous energy inside them anticipating something special may finally going to happen in front of their eyes.
Around 10 minutes after the resumption the small amount of lunch from those people were almost puked out when Ganguly fended an Akhtar bouncer but Yasir Hamid could not hold into the tough chance, the ball went to the boundary and Dada reached his highest score in Eden Gardens.
Ganguly kept grinding through singles with a couple of boundaries of Kaneria in between. As he reached 80’s I realized that crowd was getting tensed. There was silence after every dot ball and huge cheer even after every single by Ganguly. A boundary each of Sami and Butt took him to 98 and then he was ready to face Danish Kaneria, batting at Club House end.
The crowd was scared. They were not ready to take the pain if he would get out at that point. For last twenty odd minutes I was silent. I kept praying to my god and clapped sometime for his boundaries. Ganguly got his 99th run. I do not remember how. I was just too tensed, waiting for that moment. Laxman gave him the strike back with a single couple of balls later and Sourav Ganguly took stance.
How many balls is he going to take? Is he going to play couple of maiden overs now? The ground was electrifying, people were tensed. Everyone got numb.
Kaneria started his run up, it’s too short to give people some time, I can still see that ball, it was on the off stump, Ganguly leaned forward, drove it in the mid off, he is running, running as if his whole life depends on it. He has reached the other end. He did it, he kept running towards us and then he jumped in the air. He celebrated his century with his supporters, the most loyal group of supporters for a sportsperson in the world. His tears were shared by them and then he shared his joy with them.
The entire crowd got crazy. Each and everyone was standing on their seat, jumping, shouting, clapping, dancing and waving their shirts. And then I found my self crying. Uncontrollable tears were rolling down my cheeks. I realized that small kid was looking at me; he was surprised to see me crying. I did not care. I clapped so hard my palms became red. I did not care. I still wonder if anything at all could have any impact on me at that point of time. I sent an SMS to my then girlfriend, “I have seen him scoring a century for me in front of my eyes!’
I am sure Ganguly was also exhausted after fulfilling his dream. He got out after another five minutes trying to put Salman Butt out of the ground. He left the ground content, with a standing ovation from 90,000 people after an extraordinary knock.
Laxman kept hitting those beautiful cover drives and mesmerizing flicks to reach his hundred soon afterwards and a younger maverick MS Dhoni scored a 50 to take India 600 plus. But I was not following those events much. Old memories were rushing through my mind. That day in 1991 when my dad woke me up at 5 o’ clock to let me watch “a Bengali lad playing for India”, I was sleepy and went back to sleep as soon as he got out for 3. I remembered Those days in 1997, when I used to woke up at 6 o’ clock to catch the 6.30 news in radio and TV to get the result of Sahara cup matches, where SG made it a habit of wining the man of the Match award match after match, his six hitting against left arm spinners, especially Nicky Boje, his captaincy, his shirt waving antics in Lords after India’s Natwest win.
I remembered those times when I got into nasty fights with a pan-Indian population in Orkut and in the canteens of IITK, explaining time and time again how Sourav Ganguly was a much better player than Venugopal Rao. That Pepsi ad came to mind, “main hnu Sourav Ganguly, bhule to nehi?
India declared after scoring 616 and then Pakistan reached 50 at stumps losing one wicket. But all those details become insignificant for a huge chunk of crowd including me who left the ground very happy and proud to see their prince achieve his dream.
I am sure I will again go to Eden Gardens in future. But I am sure I will never get the same feeling which I felt at the end of that day. Unless something as big as winning a world cup happens in front of my eyes.
Couple of notes:
  • Although I do remember lots of details regarding old cricket match scores but I do not possess a photographic memory and hence I am grateful to this amazing website to help me with the details. I have also relived some of those moments thanks to another brilliant website.
  • Initially my plan was only to write about my feelings on that day of December when SG got his only 100 in Eden Gardens in front of me, but as I started writing this piece I realized how much I cherish those 5 days of March 2001 and could not stop myself from penning down a day by day account. I know people do not need so much detail but personally I felt good while writing them.