Saturday, January 19, 2008

Miracle at Perth post Sydney fiasco

A series in Australia is the ultimate conundrum to solve for the visiting teams; more often than not, the riddle remains unsolved and the overseas teams are always found wanting. This can be due to a myriad of factors, apart from the usual cricketing skill of the players. It's not just the question of playing to your potential, but the resilience and tenacity of the players are tested beyond limits. A tour down under is considered difficult simply because it is so difficult to imagine the prospect of beating the Aussies just about anywhere, let alone at home. So, when a four match test series is scheduled with the big "bad" boys of world cricket, it is not difficult to see the itinerary and point out that India are already one down, at least mentally. Obviously, you are scheduled to play on the fastest pitch in the world at the WACA, Perth. Teams with a terrific bowling attack have failed to tame the Aussies at Perth, and India, traditionally weak at the pace bowling department are not expected to perform at the fortress of Australian cricket. It is just too much to ask from the inexperienced Indian bowling department.

The second test match at Sydney would have been a fantastic game of cricket, if and only if
  • Symonds had really hit those 160 odd runs, without becoming out on 30 (a deafening edge that fell on deaf ears), 48 (stumping decision rejected by the third umpire) and 148 (another stumping decision, this time not even referred to the third umpire).
  • Ricky Ponting had really hit those 51 runs, for on 17, he was clearly out to a leg side nick. Actually Ponting did suffer eventually, for he got an inside edge when he was on 51. Justice rendered one might say, but not at the cost of 34 runs.
  • Mike Hussey and Andrew Symonds had really hit those extra runs in the second innings. Hussey had a couple of perfect LBW decisions going in his favor, and as for Andrew Symonds, the biggest beneficiary of the Sydney test match, 9 out of 10 times, he would have been given out to the hat-trick ball from Anil Kumble, but the umpire thought otherwise.
  • Rahul Dravid had really nicked that ball from Symonds; his wicket turned the Indian fortunes at an absolutely crucial juncture
  • Ricky Ponting had really been the on-field umpire and ruled Sourav Ganguly out, when Michael Clarke had clearly grassed his catch. Sourav Ganguly was batting brilliantly till then, and it was unfortunate to see his back in such a disastrous fashion.
So, we had no options, but the anti-Indian squad headed by Steve Bucknor, and amply supported by Mark Benson saw to it that India did not get the better of the Aussies. BNJ Oxenford, the TV umpire put his hand up and was quick to point out I definitely belong to this squad. A perfect way to square the series was squandered by the on-field umpires, the third umpire and the fourth umpire (Ricky Ponting). Talk about gentlemanly conduct, and you just can't fault the integrity of the Aussies if and only if
  • Michael Clarke had not stood his ground after edging the ball to first slip off Anil Kumble. Who is umpiring? Oh yes, we have the Indian hater Bucknor umpiring, and the Indians had to cry their throats off to get the decision. Thank God, he acknowledged the edge, for a change.
  • Ricky Ponting had actually taken the bat pad catch from Dhoni's edge legitimately. In the end, it gets all the more foolish when he talks about integrity in the post match conference. Thankfully, Dhoni was given not out.
  • Michael Clarke had really taken Ganguly's catch. When replays suggest otherwise, how can we believe you, Clarke?
  • Harbhajan Singh had really called Symonds a "monkey". But, of course, Mike Procter had acted on imaginary evidence.

Obviously, our gentleman Kumble, at the end of the match said that only one team played in the true spirit of the game. Can we really fault him? The test match was a fiasco for the Aussies. They had their reputation tattered, and the tour looked in doubt. After all the deliberations, and chucking out our main nemesis, Bucknor, the Indians moved forward to Perth. WACA! Nothing more has to be said. Can we really pull it off? Even the most optimistic Indian would have said, Let's move forward to Adelaide with a 3-0 scoreline. We can take care of the Aussies in Adelaide. The pre-game Perth reached a crescendo, with every Aussie claiming the pitch to be lightning fast. The media hype that the test generated was way beyond imagination. Since already one team was playing in the spirit of the game, it was left to the other team to mend its behavior. The game was played in a radically different atmosphere compared to the tensions at Sydney. It was an enthralling game, with the Indian pace battery firing on all cylinders. It was a classic contest. Test cricket was at its best. India was wresting all the initiatives. An absolute team effort played a fantastic part in a sensational win against the best team in the world inside four days. India had got the better of the Aussies inside four days. One has to reiterate that sentence at least a dozen times for that statement to make complete sense. It is too good to be believed.

At the dawn of the new day, it just felt great to have followed an absolute cracker of the fourth day's play till 4:30 in the morning. It was well worth the night out, and the day started with a great feel good factor. The first team from the sub-continent to have won at Perth. The first team to have beaten Australia in Australia since 2003. The last time they were beaten was by India in 2003 at Adelaide. India ended Australia's streak of 16 consecutive victories the second time. The statistics will point out a hundred different things, but for me the feeling is still sinking in Team India has won the Perth TEST match at the WACA. Say it again, it's well worth it!!!
(All images have been used for information purpose only; courtesy: cricinfo, cricketnext)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The grandpa

Grandpa, is it true that there were snakes in this house? I asked innocently. Yes, when your father was very young, there were many. What happened to them? Oh! I bought a mongoose; the snakes got scared and they ran out of the house. Ran? I thought snakes did not have legs.

Why are you cutting down the tamarind tree from the backyard? Oh! We need more space. I plan to construct an outhouse for you. You know what my friends are saying; they say that ghosts stick to tamarind trees and so the tree is getting chopped. Is it true?

Grandpa, will you take me to the pond at the outskirts of the village? I want to see the crocodiles there. Who said so? Gopal went there last week, and he told me that summer is getting warmer by the day; the crocodiles may vanish any day. So, I want to see the crocodiles before they disappear.

Never a person to flinch, my grandfather was ready with his answers for all those unanswerable questions that I posed to him. He spent a lot of time with me day in and day out. In the early days of my life, I have spent more time with him than with anybody else. Our relationship was cemented right from the time he took me in his arms the day I was born. For every little question that I had, I would turn to my grandpa for the answers. Invariably, the solutions seemed too logical to doubt them even for a second. He seemed to have the right answers even for the wrong questions.

All day, he kept himself busy doing small household chores that gave him immense satisfaction. He meddled with his carpentry set and came up with nice little desks; if there was a problem with the taps, he would take out his plumbing kit or if he had no work, he would spend his time tidying up the backyard, wading out the dried branches that fell from atop the single coconut tree. He always found something to do in the backyard, since it was filled with numerous plants and trees. I just loved the season when the guavas and the mangoes used to get ripe; he would allow me to take as many fruits as I wanted. The best part is I never did it alone. I always had a group of friends to loot the produce. I would always tell him “Grandpa, whatever happens, this mango tree will always be mine.

Arun! Arun!
Come here. He never spoke aloud; I knew that there was something interesting coming up when he spoke out aloud. See that branch of the mango tree. I would strain my eyes to see the spot he was directing his index finger at. After several futile attempts of directionless gaze, my sight would find that spot. I would get amazed at his ability to pick something interesting amidst the thick cluster of leaves and twigs. Do you see that large black structure there? Yes, yes, I would cry out in glee. Well, that is the bee hive. Always remember this; never disturb a bird’s nest and a bee hive, it is not good for the house. Why is he telling me that? Am I out of my mind to get stung by the bees? But, I never voiced out my opinion.

The walk to and fro school was something I would cherish. I was always accompanied by my grandpa and it was quite a sight to see him narrate different kinds of stories. He made sure to ask me the moral at the end of the story. The story of boy crying wolf was first narrated to me by him.

There was a boy in a small village. He used to take care of his flock of sheep by taking them behind the hills. He tried to play a prank on the villagers by crying out for help. Wolf! Wolf! Somebody save me! The villagers would run to help him, and then realize that they were fooled by the young man. This happened about a couple of times and so when the third time, when there were wolves really chasing him, nobody believed his cries for help. The wolves killed the flock and he returned home empty handed.

What is the moral of the story? I looked at him and said innocently, he should have called out Tiger! Tiger! Somebody save me. At least people would have known that since he is calling out a different animal, maybe he is not lying. My grandfather would say, “So the moral is never to lie. I would be equal to the task, “Change the moral. Never lie more than once. As such the villagers came the second time to save the boy.” I never understood the frown on his face then.

My grandpa never reproached me. He always reasoned with me to convey a point. When I failed to score marks, when everyone around me drove me to frustration, he was the only one who explained to me the importance of having good education. Many a time, when I failed to come to terms with reality, he was there to convey the importance of not losing focus in life. At every stage, I looked up to him and picked up those qualities, which would keep me in good stead to lead a happy life.

When I had to leave the village to pursue my first job in town, I still have the visions of my grandfather coming to the bus stop to drop me off. Before leaving the house, I prostrated before my grandfather and I could see his eyes glistened with tears; not that mine was devoid of them. As my parents repeatedly told me to be careful with my belongings and told me to come regularly during the weekends, I could see my grandpa lost in his own world. But, of course, he had a word of advice for me. Whatever you become in life, never forget your past.

My weekend trips were a regular and I saw to it that I never missed unless I had something to finish up at the town. Grandpa stood at the bus stop awaiting my arrival eagerly. His eyes would light up as soon as I alighted from the bus. Every weekend was a reunion and both of us looked forward to it eagerly. We had our discussions, similar to the way we had during my school days, but on totally different things. As the days went by, our lives had stuck a routine. Then, one not so fine day, there was a telegram from home about the not so good health of grandpa. It was pretty much surprising because grandpa, even at the age of eighty was as fit as a fiddle, and so, I had never even considered something happening to grandpa. The journey from town to village was filled with various thoughts. There was a huge void not to see grandpa at the bus stop. The ancestral home was crowded with people, and I could see grandpa lying on the cot in the room. It was depressing not to see him involved in his usual activities. As soon as he saw me, he motioned me towards him, even at that state of unconsciousness. I dutifully went and sat beside him not knowing what to say. We have had numerous discussions during my growing up process, but this was different. Something within me told me that not all was well, and it might be one of the last moments that I would get to spend with grandpa. My parents were standing in the corner, and I had a feeling that they feared what I feared. Our worst fears were confirmed when grandpa did not see the light of the next day.

As with everything else, life came back to normalcy in a few days. Though it was tough, life had to move on. During my next visit to the village, my grandpa’s will was read out in the presence of elders. A lot of things in the household were divided among his kith and kin. He had left a reasonable fortune that nobody could complain about. At the very end, apart from everything that was shared, there was something significant read out that I will never forget for the rest of my life. As a parting gift, I bequeath the mango tree at the backyard to my grandson, Arun!

(All images have been used for information purpose only; taken from Google image search including RK Laxman's common man pic)