05 February 2008

Another victory for Hyde over Jekyll.

Here's the quote-unquote version from tennis.com: Mirza pulls out of Bangalore, citing the religious and national controversy that has plagued her for the last few months. "I am not playing in Bangalore Open. I have been advised by my manager not to play because a lot has been happening in the past few months," she said. "Every time I have played in India, there has been some kind of problem. So, we just thought it was better not to play this time."

The brightest ever Indian women's tennis talent barely 4 years into her career is fighting a losing battle against the Hyde side of the nation. She overcame the lack of resources, training, facilities and mentoring that is so glaringly typical of India for any sport bar cricket. She overcame the sexist hurdles and history itself . But eventually fell short in the face of religious hypocrisy and some devious paparazzi elements(who on earth came up with that "Indian flag insulting snap" angle anyway ?).

The ad shooting fiasco followed by the Indian flag controversy (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7188952.stm) not to mention a fatwa early in her career finally seems to be taking its toll on the 21 year old. A blossoming career that needs much nurturing is coming apart right before our very eyes. The Serena Williams and Maria Sharapovas of the world can never do as much damage as these religious fanatics and the apparently jobless (these folks have way too much free time to be holding a job) celebrity vultures of our country can.

What we must understand is that Sania's stature has put the entire country in the spotlight and needless to say this family feud will turn some heads. Sania's story is quickly turning national pride into global embarrassment. Sadly, instead of Sania, its the shortcut to fame seeking lawsuit huggers
who are now representing our country. I totally second Sania's decision to pull out of Bangalore open. Unfortunately its the fans of the game who are being punished. I guess in order to kill Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll must die too.

25 January 2008

Challenged- Yes; Dethroned - far from it.

I am as big a fan of Roger as I am of tennis itself, and if you are anything like me then there is no sadder sight than the one above. Its the same dismal feeling I get when Sachin departs the batting crease without making a statement. After 10 consecutive grand slams we will finally have one without the champion. Its going to be terribly exciting to have the new candidate for the throne playing the wild gun Tsonga, however its also going to feel like a second tier ATP tournament final.

Admittedly Roger never looked his supreme self during the past two weeks (except for when he clinically dismantled Fabrice the magician) but somehow even when he is not at his best we are used to seeing him play at least marginally better than his opponent. However Djokovic is one of the few off late who has refused to be a part of that list. (Nadal and Nalbandian being the others. Lets not even talk about Canas; that was an anachronistic incident and wont be happening anytime soon again.) Except for his losses to Nalbandian and Nadal all the other loses have been because of Federer himself and not because of the other guy. Kudos to Djokovic for joining this elite group.

After three consecutive years of single digit losses in the entire calender year and an era of sheer contempt and outright domination, we may be entering a new era; one where the World No.1 tag will be restored its sanity and the divide between 1 and 2 wont be as gaping. I believe Federer's best is better than any other players best and therefore there is nothing to worry about. Roger is being compelled for the first time ever to make room for more folks at the top, but he is far from being dethroned. Its time to wake up and smell the coffee, coz if 2008 is half as exhilarating as the Australian open has been, we are in for a thriller.

01 November 2007

The high kick backhand.

How awesome is this shot? Sebastian Grosjean kick jumps to attempt an aggressive backhand on a high ball. Its an outright hallmark of athleticism. Pete Sampras' overheads and Boris Beckers diving volleys kinda fabulous. Its the shot (and not necessarily the player in the image) that gets me swooning. The only female player on tour I have seen doing that is Amelie Mauresmo. Its a sheer joy watching her do that. Its a reminder that these guys are not just tremendously talented players, they are also athletes.

Some shots like the backhand down the line, I can imagine myself hitting one day....but I cant visualize myself hitting this shot anytime soon. Wont stop me from trying though.

05 February 2007

The opportunity behind a hiatus.

A hiatus is basically defined as a pause in the flow of things. But in many ways for the person undergoing it...it is anything but. Life is a roller coaster...but it is at its wildest during the hiatus. Last month I moved out of my project and in the hiatus that ensued, secured about five offers and felt pretty good about myself...I also then got smacked on my face twice by Google(i refuse to elaborate...i have only recently recovered and do not intend to relive it) and felt pretty unwanted for awhile.
I proceeded to realize a philosophy based on the following.

In more or less the same time frame, Roger Federer after the brief winter break, went about the routine of securing his 10th Grand Slam without having to play even more set then he had to (yep...without losing a single set). Serena Williams blazed away to another championship making it look like she was never away. Sourav Ganguly, also after a much debated time out, relit the dying flames of his cricketing career by some solid performances and made all his critics (including me) look like a bunch of vultures who love scavenging on scraps of legends. Virendra Sehwag is also currently on a break and attempting a much touted come-back in the series against SriLanka. The list goes on and on...Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble et al.

My point; I believe what they do in this time away from the spotlight is what contributes most to the character of these men. The work behind the scenes being cardinal to the mind blowing performances that eventually result. I derive faith from these men to believe that the ugly face of a hiatus is but a disguise behind which lies a blessing. So the next time I crib about my 4 weeks of forced vacation, I will think of how much I learned; about how I finished a 500 page book on Algorithms for a 60 min interview. If wisely handled a hiatus can turn from a chink in the armour to a weapon in the arsenal.

05 December 2006

Agarkar...where agony & euphoria become synonyms.

This very insightful read on cricinfo.com made me wonder if I had been unfairly and savagely critical (purely out of cricketing human emotion) to Ajit Agarkar in my earlier post (and in general). According to the article, simply put, the combination of Agarkar's bowling average, economy rate and strike rate is better than anyone else who has bowled quick in Indian cricket! (Feel free to read that sentence again...I know I did.) Whats missing ? Why does he look like a faint shadow of his statistics every time he comes to bowl ? Where does this disparity stem from ?

After a fair bit of reading and some thinking, I concluded that this disparity stemmed from first impressions. The very first Agarkar we saw and the adjectives we associated with him. The occasional glimpses of the vintage Agarkar that sometimes seeps out even today doesn't help either. For example, every time he is hit for a boundary, the idea that he always concedes one per over is refreshed by our selective memory and the image lingers on and feels at home. This is compounded by the notion that he hasn't fulfilled his potential. That he could have been a great all-rounder and done much better.

I guess we owe him a apology or at the very least a pat on the back for bearing the cross and running in with all his heart all these years. He may not be the legendary bowler we have always been looking for but meeting the expectations of 1 billion fans is no mean task and its up to us to try and remember this the next time he bowls. Credit is due here and today I look only at his achievements and congratulate him on a job well done.

30 November 2006

Fretting, fuming and frothing in frustration.

Before I embark on a scathing account of the terrible mess that Indian cricket is right now, I will try to be calm and analytical & spend a few mins on retrospection. After dismal performances in WI, Malaysia and the Champions trophy we knew we had our hands full with the SA trip and some intelligent thinking to do. Here is what the Selectors brainstorming resulted in - Wasim Jaffer as an opener in ODI's and KKD Karthik as a batsman (insert your choice of profanity here). Jaffer was supposed to be the technically sound accumulator, a role Laxman has already performed with decent results in the past and Karthik the keeper was considered a batting asset. Obviously Jaffer is not going to feature in the world cup plans so if we did need an opener, we could have sent Gambhir who has been performing well in domestic matches. Apparently the selectors were not using their heads (either that or they should be charged for WUI -Working under intoxication) and looking solely for immediate results.

After about 2 weeks of cricket, the selectors re-brainstormed (There should be a law against this by now). Laxman suddenly finds himself being promoted from batsman who was upstaged by Karthik to Vice-captain. VRV Singh is back. The only reason he is playing for India is coz he the biggest bowler in the country. Not the best, not the fastest, just the biggest. Even Singh must be wondering what he did to deserve this gift. Dont take my word for it. Watch him bowl in any one match and decide for yourself. He reminds me of David Johnson the ex-fast Indian bowler who bowled some of the fastest wides in Indian history.

And here is the icing on the cake, Ganguly who is known for his short-comings (pun intended) against the rising delivery is now our hope against the SA bowling attack on bouncy wickets. This isnt good thinking....this is desperation. Or maybe since its Christmas time, the selectors decided to hope for a miracle. If Ganguly saves us from even one test match defeat by virtue of his batting, I will print this blog out and eat it. No questions asked. I hope Ganguly plays well....I really do. But I dont think he will. So far we have seen 2 weeks of bad cricket sandwiched between ridiculous sessions of team selection. But the blame belongs as much to the players as it does to the selectors.

Sanjay Manjrekar put things in perspective in his cricinfoTalk interview when he said we need to play more on pitches that assist bowlers (like Mohali) but that all will be forgotten once we start winning on flatter pitches in the sub-continent. How unfortunately true that is! I shudder to think of our team once Sachin and Rahul retire. They will probably make it illegal to issue passports to cricketers so they cant go abroad and humiliate themselves and waste our time and money. Let me end with this fact which underlines the situation, Willow.tv slashed its rates for live streaming video by almost 40%. Well at least now you cant blame the cricketers for wasting you money.

16 November 2006

How strong the foundation of burst bubbles.

The trip back down to earth, as me and my partner found out, is quick and humbling. The so-called balloon which was merrily prancing its way through the pin lined maze has burst. and by-god it hurts. All the more because it signaled the end of an unbeaten streak which is beginning to feel like a myth now. The match was straight as an arrow and it went straight through my heart. No questioning that. "Toss. 6-1 6-3. Hand shakes. Adios." I have no words to explain the match because it had no drama and we were bettered in every department(Except the unforced errors section). It took a 20 min silence during the drive back home to soothe my frizzled nerves.

Isn't it amazing how one loss can undo what took several hard-fought victories to build. Self-belief. Bruised, battered and limping its way back home is our self-belief. I read somewhere that losses should not be taken personally for that creates enormous pressure on your game....and you may not learn from your mistakes. If thats true, I may never learn. I cant play competitively and not get mad when I lose. I cant want to save the match point with all my heart and moments later lose it and be smiling and shaking my opponents hand. I would rather gnaw my hand off or better still, save that match point. Its not the end of the world I know, in fact we may well be hitting on the court and enjoying ourselves before it stops raining outside; however there were moments yesterday when all our hard work seemed futile. Like a spider struggling to avoid being flushed down the toilet. Fruitless.

I know I cant be stunted by such defeats. The beauty lies in getting up, dusting yourself and asking for more. Like a plant whose older twigs have to be trimmed so newer ones will grow, I will be stronger from my loss. They say sport builds and fixes character and now I will have the honor of experiencing it for myself. Foundation, plaster, stitches, bubbles et al ....... and I cant wait to be re-born.