Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Golden Age of Batting ?

Amit Verma has started a new discussion on Wicket to Wicket a blog run by Cricinfo. The topic being whether the game has become too friendly for batsmen such that matches like this one are happening.

Let me add my two cents worth to the discussion. Amit starts off with a rip van winkle who goes to sleep in the 1980s and wakes up in 2006 to watch the afore mentioned match. Let me slightly change it. Lets say I am a test batsman (yeah yeah I am always dreaming about it) making my debut in 1980. I know I am gonna get screwed. The Windies have a fearsome pace attack, the Aussies have Lilee and Thompson, the English have Botham and co, Indians have Kapil (theres Dhileep Doshi a highly under rated spinner) and the Pakis have Imran and co. . Now the same night a genie appears and tells me I can either give up this chance and instead play in 2004-05 against the strongest bowling attack, the Aussies. Now what would I do.

Lets see the Aussies have Gillespie, McGrath, Lee and Warne (Mr Kasper and McGill will have to bear with me). Now given this choice what would I do, definitely plump for 2004. Gillespie and McGrath are good bowlers mind you but then once the pitch is flat pretty much ineffective and nowhere close in pace to some of the pacers mentioned above. Lee is quick but his bounce is nowhere near close to what "Big Bird" Joel Garner can generate. And Warne has pretty much no variety, only a leg break and more works on a batsmans mind with his reputation

Point I am getting to is that the bowlers after 2000 are just not penetrative enough to cause any batsman to lose sleep(though Mr Glichrist would have something to say about a certain Mr Flintoff). And no there were flat pitches in the 1980s also. There were and thats why lots of conossieurs rate this innings as the best they have seen at Chepauk (even though Sachin scored which in my opinion was the best innings he has ever played in his life in 1999 there against Pakistan). Viswanath did not even score a century only a 97, on a bouncy track. And that merits a full coloumn on it in the newspaper that has easily by a huge margin the best sports journalists writing for them in India.

Think about it Pollock has lost his pace, and a patient man like Boycott will never give his wicket to him, Ntini bowls pretty much inswingers the whole day and Gavaskar will dent with all the effort it takes him to lift the mike he speaks into while doing commentary. McGrath is slightly better but again no pace, and is out of ideas once the batsmen start attacking him, a certain Viv Richards is licking his lips in anticipation. Warne, Murali, Vettori and Kumble good turners(the last name has started doing that off late) and probably cause a few problems but only needs to think of Messrs Bedi, Prasanna and Chandra and what do we get, my dreamy batsman still prefers the newer version. The Windies attack probably wouldnt trouble the Mumbai ranji trophy team forget about some of the great batsmen of the 1980s. Shane Bond, Mohammed Asif, Shoaib, Vaas make such contrasts to names like Garner, Roberts, Holding, Marshall, Lilee, Thompson that I think the Chapell brothers would think it was more competitive playing in their backyard.

My take is simple, as long as we had great bowlers and I mean bowlers who could take wickets on any kind of surface like Wasim (just think of Chennai 1999 and ask Rahul Dravid how he was bowled and I think he must still be searching for an answer), Walsh/Ambrose (as a pair were very deadly giving batsmen no breathing space), and Pollock and McGrath lost their pace theres this void of incisive bowlers that has been left behind.

There might be more to it than meets the eye though. The fast bowlers never want to go flat out since they know they have to play so many matches. Also some of the pitches these days are so flat that Michael Holding talks about "pulling a muscle sort of pitch" in his pitch report. In the case of the spinners though theres another problem, they bowl flatter in ODIs to contain and get wickets and are somehow not able to adapt their flight to the longer version. Harbhajan is a typical case. On the other hand Vettori played a lot of test matches before he played an ODI which meant that he stayed an attacking bowlers and thats the reason that he always seems like getting a wicket. It has helped Anil Kumble as well not playing ODI cricket I mean.

So a combination of a lack of penetrative bowlers, aggressive bowling, far too much ODI cricket, flatter pitches have all contributed to this being a golden age of batting.

Just to make my point I was thinking that if some of the so called "great batsmen" of this era were to be transported 20 years back how many would survive:

1. Hayden --> Would have been worked over in no time by the pace quartet of the Windies since his back foot play is as weak as Sunny Deols dances.

2. Ponting --> The lunge forward would only take him to the hospital before he can even get going in his innings, and Wasim has trapped him so many times in front. On the other hand hes a horrible player of quality spin bowling (Bedi would be salivating at the prospect).

3. Gilchrist --> Couldnt work out Flintoff, cant think of what Kapil, Botham or Hadlee could have done, also not very assured against spin.

4 Kallis --> Is equally at ease against spin and pace and has the required patience. Could have survived in the 1980s.

5. Lara --> I think he would have scored against any attack at any time on any ground IF he has the heart to do it. (Though 400 would have been very tough)

6. Sehwag --> Cant play bouncers of Matthew Hoggard. Holding and Marshall would probably have worked him over much too easily the way a IIT-ian would work out the roots of the equation x^2-x-1=0.

7. Dravid --> Has a great technique probably the best to take on any of the bowling attacks.

8. Sachin --> Combining Laras eye with Dravids technique and loads of concentration, Sachin is a truly great batsman so he would have scored heavily even against the greats of the 80s.

9. Inzy --> Picks length earlier than any other batsman in world cricket right now, though his propensity to stay on the back foot goes against him but then again picking length is whats important. Would have survived I guess.

10. Younis Khan, Mohammed Yusuf, Graeme Smith, Pietersen, Vaughan, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya etc etc these are the ones who are making hay while the sun shines!!! Good for them.....Its a long post and my fingers are paining. So I am stopping here. (The poor New Zealand batsmen dont make runs even now except when they are playing the Windies)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Being Cyrus, or How I stopped listening to my inner voices and wasted a Hundred and Twenty Bucks

By now you must have realised that this post is going to be a review of Being Cyrus. Lets get the story over with. There are 7 characters in the story, 5 of them from the dysfunctional Parsi Sethna family. The movie begins with Cyrus (played by Saif) in Panchgani trying to learn pottery from Dinshaw Sethna (brilliantly played by who else but Naseeruddin Shah) a genius in his own time but now living a life where hes doped most of the time and nothing seems to penetrate his smoke filled world. And of course theres the promiscous, bored and ambitious wife Katy Sethna (Dimple Kapadia).

Soon Cyrus is caught up in a web of trying to patch up the whole family the other three memebers being Dinshaws father Fardounjee Sethna, his younger son Farokh (another awesome performance by Boman Irani) who gives back what he learnt as a child by straving his father and the Farokhs wife Tina played by Simone. The first half intrigues you with hints of something more dark and sinister about the whole Sethna family right from the senile Fardounjee to hints of something dangerous about the "demure young bride" Tina. Just when you refilled your Pepsi and come back and settle down in your seat after the intermission, you see a really vague dream that Cyrus is having and from then on the movie becomes so hopelessly predictable that you want to go back home and watch a re-run of Jaani Dushman.

And if you are wondering who the 7th character was then it is the performer of the movie in Manoj Pahwa who plays Inspector Lovely who does generate a lot of mirth in most of the scenes that he appears in.

"Being Cyrus" stays afloat because of some brilliant performances. Dimple overdoes it towards the end, Simone and Saif give average performances. Being Cyrus is worth watching only if you have nowhere else to be (I am sorry but the cliche was too good to be missed).

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Stupid enough but I have been tagged by a Confused Mind apparently. Its gonna be another one of those frusth posts.

So here goes.

Five things I can't live without
1. Food
2. Water
3. Shelter
4. My Bonzer
5. And how can I forget this.

Five movies I'd see as many times
1. The Shawshank Redemption
2. Mulholland Drive
3. Jaani Dushman (Before you ask, its the new one)
4. Rainman
5. Remember The Titans

Five places I'd love to go any day
1. Cheddis
2. Corner House
3. Home
4. RRC Grounds where I learnt all my cricket
5. NAL Grounds which has sort of become my home ground now

Five places I'd love to visit
1. SCG
2. Lords
3. The Himalayas
4. Antarctica
5. The Pyramids

Five websites I visit day in and day out

Five things I love doing at work
1. Take tea breaks
2. Chew on my pencil
3. Listen to music
4. Chat
5. And writing stupid things since I have been "tagged"

Five books I've loved
1. Lord of the Rings
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
3. Lila
4. The Spy who came in from the Cold.
5. English August

Five English songs I'd listen to anyday
1. Time Pink Floyd
2. Romeo and Juliet Dire Straits
3. November Rain Guns N Roses
4. Cats in the Cradle and The Silver Spoon Guns N Roses
5. Blowin in the wind Bob Dylan

Five famous personalities I respect
1. ML Jaisimha
2. Steve Waugh
3. Ayn Rand
4. Ramchandra Guha
5. Adam Smith

Five fictitious characters I like
1. Wilt
2. Inspector Morse
3. George Smiley
4. Don Quixote
5. Who else but Agastya

And no I am not going to put anyone in misery by "tagging" them.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Whither VVS

Read this article on Cricinfo about the future of VVS Laxman. If indeed this turns out to be the last series for VVS then I will be disappointed. There wont be any fun in watching India bat. We have brutal power in the form of Dhoni and Sehwag and some real orthodoxy in Dravid. And with Sachin playing a more defensive role its hard to find a batsman who takes batting into another plane altogether. When Laxman is on song its almost as if the ball is being cajoled to go to the fence and the fielder chasing it thinks he has it covered while he can just look on in agony as the ball keeps getting faster as it goes closer to the boundary.

While Dravid makes you feel that you are listening to something precise like a rendition of one of Beethovens Symphony Laxman on song is like watching a jazz band performing a brilliant number. The brilliance is transient but thats enough to make it worth it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

No Nana, No!

What can you possibly say about a movie where Priyanka Chopra crashing onscreen about three minutes into the end of the movie results in a theater that cheers?

'Taxi No' (as the movie was called rather prominently on one of this hellhole's less-worse theatres) or to give it its full name, "taxi numbah 9/11' is a dramatic vehicle for the exposition of the central theme of "never lie - you have to cook up too many excuses". Johnny Baba is a rich playboy, and some random female imitator plays his mercenary (and bloodthirsty) girlfriend. The next thing you know, Johnny baba injures his poor car on his way home. This paves the way for the entrance of:


(Applause customarily given Capone-da on his on-screen entry may, without prejudice, be extended to Nana. He is the best actor this movie has. Which doesn't say much, I must admit.)

Nananono plays an "Insurance agent" who drives a taxi, driving an interesting class of customers, until he meets his match in Johnny Baba. Next follows a dizzying ride through the high- and low-spots of Mumbai (namely, the cophouses and courts) until the ending, which comes far too late to be of any use to the sanity of the audience (fair warning: sweet-tasting sugar substitute involved.)

The movie boasts a surprising number of twists and turns, which is a tribute to the farsighted and pragmatic designers who grew Mumbai from the swamps, and planted a local railway network since they felt the number of places to do battle properly were too less.

To continue a tradition of miseducation, here are the things that a not-so-average viewer[1] ought to take away from this movie:

  • Kill off yourself, but ask permission before you kill anybody else

  • Gain a fortune. Lose it. Gain it again. Congratulations! Your name is now SENSEX

  • Taxi drivers drive at thrice their usual speed (i.e. 40km/h) if you pay them at the going rate of a rupee a metre

  • While still on killing: when your victim looks like Nana the Pot, be careful: you're his victim.

  • Invest in the automobile industry. Johnny Baba the penurious heir breaks atleast three cars, and still has more to run around with. (Which begs the question of why he got into a taxi in the first place, but then, I'm not all that curious to know.)

[1] Statistics: where normal is mean, and deviation standard.

PS: One year, 32 posts. Where does that leave people with a life?