Culture of Whites

As a young kid, impressionable, ambitious, and a little crazy as I might have been back then, there was a little thing that was sacrosanct. That someone who was really serious about his Cricket, wore the “whites”. The other colors were for fun. Like the Benson & Hedges tournament down under. The cherry was supposed to be red. For it to be menacing and serious. You get the point.

So, when I went for my first cricket camp, since I could not really have a separate set of appropriate whites for playing cricket only, it boiled down to my white school shirt, and that white school trouser that you were supposed to wear on a specific weekday, for example, a saturday. I had white canvas shoes as well. But this time, thankfully, big brother came to my rescue. He had played school league already, and much as it would have affected the monthly budgets, my parents had bought him a pair of cricketing shoes with spikes and everything. He had outgrown them, and they were available for me. A little worn out, but a matter of pride, because not everyone had them. And you had to go to “Main Road” to buy them in Ranchi.

But, in short, the whites were sacred. Once you donned the whites, you played seriously. The stakes became higher. The intensity, that much stronger.

And the players wore those white V-neck sweaters in winters. The ones which had a combination color rim around the neck. The colors representing your country colors. Indians had blue. Aussies had yellow and baggy green. Me and my brother had pleaded with mom to get her to knit one of those sweaters for us. And she did. And we wore them, and felt let like the real deal. Nothing could go wrong after that. Yet it did. You did gt thwacked around the park. Or bowled out for a duck. But that could happen to Kapil. OR Kris Srikant as well. It’s just that you felt that you were giving your 100%.

And you imitated. That wonderful Kapil pose. Or the long Kumble run up. Or, that menacing Akram yorker. Or, even Gladstone Small. Or, that Shashtri defend and take a few false steps trick. Or that Kris Srikanth twitch, walk to the leg umpire, stretch your feet apart much more than any other batsman would, and try to take on the Akrams and the Ambroses of the world.

And much as the game was called a gentlemen’s game, complain like rowdies whenever you felt that a decision was unfair against India. Be ridiculous about supporting Sunny’s walking out. Be kiddishly gleefuk about that akram yorker that brought some ofthe finest to the ground. And discuss the match for several hours after it ended. That hit and that miss. Quite different from the post-match package by Sony Entertainment.

And just as the day would be coming to an end, with a little bit of light still left before sunset, run to the ground to get a five over game in. You and your band of fellow gentlemen. Whites or no-whites.

Such was the culture of whites. As I remember it.

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A Very Very Special Friend

Have you ever had a friend that you depend on without really being overtly worried about where they are at this very moment? The kinds you don’t bother to call for days and weeks and months, but you know they are there. The conversation with them starts seamlessly every time. Irrespective of the break. Maybe not so often, but they are the ones that you call when you really need to talk.

Today, I can feel a void. One such friend has decided to call it quits. Not be there. A very very special friend.

A little too much is said about Tendulkar (who kept me interested in cricket in an era where there was hardly anything going for indian cricket fan and all the “talent” was in Australia, Pakistan or West Indies), Ganguly (who brought the spunk in the team with shirtless heroics), Dravid (the wall that stood tall), Dhoni (the deliverer of the world cup), etc. But not so much about Kumble.. and this very very special guy from Hyderabad, Vangipuruppu Venkata Sai Laxman.

As a young cricket fan, I watched every match, every series, every tournament. Always hoping, never believing. Always knowing that it’s possible, always scared that it won’t happen. And then, “it” happened. On the third and the fourth and the fifth day of a test match in Eden Gardens. And whether I accept it or not, that was the day I stopped being scared. He became the friend that I did not talk about too often, but always knew that I could depend on him. He might have failed me a couple of times, but that’s ok. I never burdened him with the weight of my expectations, and he never acted like he didn’t care.

Dravid once wrote – “Nothing calms you like Laxman”. So true for the fans too. And while saying that, I am not discounting what a Sehwag or a Tendulkar or a Dravid had done already or were doing. But, here is a cricketer who did not have the odds going in his favor, who was the favorite scapegoat on the sacrificial altar, and who had been left out more often than he was called in. For a batsman of his caliber to not have played the world cup despite a 16 year long career, would be considered blasphemous in many countries, and I struggle to find an example so intimidating for the opposition, yet so indifferently treated by his own countrymen. And in the middle of all this, that sense of calm is enviable. I remember that 5 second jumper from Michael Jordan in 1998 against Utah Jazz. The remarkable thing was the sense of calm as he went up, and time stood still for a moment, as he downed the jumped. If I had to take a bet on someone who could do something similar for Indian cricket team, it would have to be VVS. And nothing brings it to the fore as acutely as the test match against west indies.

As Mukul Kesavan points out in his article in Telegraph today, someday, the statisticians will discount the value of VVS by looking at his sub-50 averages that “will strike the future fan as pedestrian”. But while the phone minutes run higher for your most recent girlfriend, the value of that single call made to that dear friend in that moment of need cannot be quantified. And you, VVS, have been one of the dearest friends of Indian Cricket.

 

(Image Courtesy: HindustanTimes)

Cricket Can Be Like That

Long ago, I was working on a difficult project. The analysis had been difficult, the recommendations not too obvious, the storyline not so coherent. One of those engagements where V75 of the deck looks completely different from V01, and quite different from the final version of what is shared with the client. Intense debates happen. All the time.

At about 4 in the morning, we finalized the presentation. After 2 hours of going through pennies and dimes and the lines and the fonts and the colors and the boxes and the flows and words and the sentences, we sent it to the client. We were all sure about the great job we had done. We had couple of hours left to lighten up and get refreshed. We had a plan. And we felt good about it.

First 20 minutes were by the book. It was a good feeling. Then we hit the third insight on the sixth slide, which made us refer to slide 192 of the appendix section. That number was wrong! Shoulders dropped. We all lost a bit of our altitude and attitude. From that point onwards, for the next 1 hour 40 minutes, things were on the tenterhooks. We could not be sure any more. And the client was not sure. They double checked everything. They had a feedback about almost everything. We felt bad. We were not ready to concede our mistake so easily. They were not ready to acknowledge the work that had gone in. Everyone was unhappy. And we get into that mode of well, give us another chance and we will set it right. But some problems are just difficult. Sometimes.

Critics often remind me of clients. They are the gatekeepers of the collective insights, through their (right or wrong) opinions. A mistake, that nudge or that poking of that ball that you should have left, the ambitious loft, the failure to get your act together in the face of crisis, are dissected in every possible way. And if nothing else, the leader. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.

What did I do when it was all over – I was terribly upset. I got all defensive initially. Angry in a bit. And finally… I don’t remember :-).  I would have liked to remind myself – Shit Happens!

Tomorrow, we will win

My heart skips a beat, as I think about the match tomorrow. In anticipation, trepidation, excitement and fear.

In 1983, when India won the worldcup, I was 3 years old, my brother was 7, and we were a joint-ish family living in a small town of Uttar Pradesh. I think it was around the middle of the world cup that our family bought a TV, a black and white Uptron TV, that used to come with wooden slider doors to keep the TV safe while you weren’t watching it. It was on that TV that my mamaji, my cousin, my dad and everyone else saw India lift the cup, and it was then that my brother became a cricket fanatic. I think my love for cricket has something to do with that world cup, because I do remember watching every match of the World Championship Series in Australia after that, and Ravi Shastri winning that Audi as the man of the series.

In 1996, I was a India fanatic when it came to cricket. A fan, who believed that irrespective of the quality of opposition, India is entitled to win every match. Just to get disappointed every now and then, but holding on to the belief. Tendulkar had come of age. I had belief. And there was a small matter of faith in match winners like Ajay Jadeja and Anil Kumble.

In 1996, we played Pakistan in Bangalore, and in that era, my brother was a gully cricket mate of a certain Mahindra Singh Dhoni, and I was Mahi’s school cricket mate. I had played cricket at the school and district level. I had played alongside this someone who I thought could make it big, but never would. It was too difficult to break the shackles of corruption in Bihar, inside sports as well. Nepotism was a fact, and the opportunities were fewer. My brother had stopped representing any team, and started trying to build a career based on academic education, and I had chosen to get ready for the mass orgy known as IIT Joint Entrance Examination. I had, for what it was worth, hung my boots. But I was a fan nevertheless. The evenings in a small town like Ranchi, and in a township like Mecon are all about celebrating the victory of the match gone by, or the drowning of the loss. We played tennis ball cricket. We felt happy that India had defeated Pakistan. Few days later, we met Sri Lanka, a team we had lost to in the league stage (and we called it a fluke), and a team that we lost to yet again (bad pitch, right), despite that oh so hopeful brilliance of getting Jayasurya and Kaluwitharana out early. The memory of Vinod Kambli in tears still swells me up. Even though I know for sure that we could not have won the match from there.

15 years later, I am still a fan. I am not fanatic anymore. MSD is inside the television, and I am on the armchair. Given the company I keep, and the analysis that everyone does, and the views and opinions that are bombarded at me from all corners, I have, I believe, become pragmatic. When India plays Australia, I weigh options, and think of getting Ponting out cheaply because he is not just a sheet anchor, he is also a destroyer, and an aggressive leader. I evaluate the weaknesses of Indian bowling. Back then, watching a cricket match was about shouting childish abuses, stupid chants of abracadabra – arvinda desilva swaha, and wishing that every delivery get a wicket, or every shot from Tendulkar’s willow be a boundary. Today, it’s about appreciating that brilliant spell from Wahab Riaz or Brett Lee, even as they come close to demolishing the Indian dream of winning this world cup. If I don’t do that, people will think that I am a biased Indian who is not enjoying the game in totality, and missing out on much the game has to offer. Well – intellectualism comes at a price. It often takes your passion away. One upon a time, I too wanted to wear the blue. And those who wear it, and have walked inside a stadium full of people cheering you to win (Mahi wears it. I envy him. And I love him for that), I can only dream of the high they feel. At that one moment, its not rational. And I create that moment. I am no Navjot Singh Sidhu sitting in an air-conditioned studio analyzing the game. I am ‘The Indian Fan’. And to me, the only thing that eventually makes or breaks my days, is whether India won or not.

And so, this world cup, for the quarter final and the semi final, against two brilliantly tough opponents, I let my heart be where it belongs. I watched and predicted like an Indian fan. Before the match started, my heart and mind knew only one thing. That we will win. I chanted. And I cursed. I did not get up from seat with the fear of jinxing things. Things might have looked like going this way or the other as the match progressed, but I knew only one thing. That we will win. As Ponting accumulated a masterclass century, and people started talking about the pressure, I still said only one thing. That we will win. As Wahab Riaz ripped Indian top order, and analysts and pundits said that we are some 30 runs short, I still said only one thing. That we will win. I added, purely from my heart, that the margin will be 30 runs at least. And my heart was right. We did win. By 29 runs.

Now, we are back to an opponent who’s given us one of the worst scars of cricket, with the exception of Miandad’s Six in Sharjah. Incidentally, after India lost the sharjah, I tore off all the Chetan Sharma posters at home, that used to come with Cricket Samrat. When India lost that 1987 match against Australia, I did feel betrayed by Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri and co. In 1996, I felt sorry for Sachin, and I hated the entire team for what they brought the match to (apparently). Was there any logic in those emotions? I doubt.

I don’t want to be pragmatic and think about the strengths and weaknesses of my team. No. I am back to where my heart belongs. I know that we are going to win. And damn it, I will raise the stakes this time. If India bats first, we will win by at least 35 runs, and if India chases, we are winning by at least 5 wickets. And till these predictions are violated, you can try and use any mathematics, logic, divine analysis to suggest that something otherwise would happen. I would just stick my tongue out at you.. make a :P, and then go “brrrrrrrrrr”. I will be there. Watching every ball of the match. And believing in only one thing. That we will win.

You still want to say something? Brrrrrrr…. We Will Win

India-Pak Semi: The Pinnacle of Advertising in India

Today should be noted in the books of history. It doesn’t happen too often. And it’s unlikely to happen again in the next 8 years. As India play Pakistan in the semifinal of Cricket World Cup, the world of adveritsing would have changed, and the price barriers would have set a new benchmark for how expensive an ad slot can be. It will be interesting if any weed smoking son of the gun can calculate the real ROI of an ad slot today.
Here’s the opportunity (the ‘for dummies” version) –

  • Everyone’s watching – It’s that one topic. If you are marginally aware of cricket, you’d be watching it. If you’re not, then you’d be forced to, because the others won’t let you put anything else on the tube.
  • The same thing – The match is being telecast on three channels I guess- DD, Star Cricket, Star Sports. Each of them have their reach and captive audience. English speaking audience would prefer Star Cricket, given the commentator panel. DD would be the default for the parts of the country where people don’t still have cable tv/ set top boxes.
  • And they are confident India would win – the confidence of the nation, because despite the relative strengths or weaknesses, Pakistan has never defeated India in a world cup match. Oz and SL have. And that’s why the emotions are a lot more subdued. Lots of critics would weigh the balance of the two sides. And lots of people on the street would feel that we are going to the final. Its as much a celebration as it is an encounter
  • Yet they expect it and want it to be competitive – It has usually been like that. And more so in our head than in reality. A 50 run partnership in another match can be seen as normal, but would be seen as a high pressure situation for the bowling side today. So, people are going to take it to the wire, irrespective of the end score.
  • Without any lapse of attention – Its an 8 hour+ marathon. That tension would means a higher adrenalin rush, and greater attention to the most minute details of your ad. People will be all eyes and ears. They will watch just that one channel, and will keep looking for it. Because they don’t want to miss that moment when something happens – that wicket, that boundary, that divine shot, or that cut, or that miss.
  • And will be discussing it – everyone’s a critic today. Everyone has an opinion. And today, it’s out in the open. To the extent, that they would discuss the ads that feature the cricketers to assess how weird/funny/ridiculous it might be. In some cases, those ad taglines would be used in the context of the match. Imagine Shoaib bowling a bouncer to Sachin and thousands of people quipping – aisi delivery khelne ke liye protection chahiye.
  • In their rooms – Quite like the superbowl, there is a frenzy in metros and villages alike. Inverters/ Batteries/ Generators have been arranged for and charged to ensure that a power failure does not stop them from watching the match. Watch-dos have been organized by people inviting friends/ family/ colleagues. Offices have arranged for projects and audio systems for large hall screenings. And people will be reaching early to get their prized seats early.
  • Or, on the internet – If OZ match was an indication – half the internet generation of India would be tweeting/facebooking about the match, with their emotions out in the open. There will less analysis, and more expression of the moment. Y
  • And will remember – Yes. We may not remember what the boss said this morning. But we are pretty good at remembering that six Sachin Tendulkar hit of Kasprowicz in that Desert Storm innings, or the exact shape of the Venkatesh Prasad delivery that took care of Aamir Sohail. And Sehwag ki Maa stays as one of the most epic ads (in terms of recall) ever. I won’t be surprised if Yuvraj’s Revital and bhaag daud se bhari zindagi might be the next one.
  • If they like or dislike something – the opinions and expressions are not always about things people dislike. It covers the likes, the neutrals, the sharpness or the dimwittedness of the moment, analysis of players, analysis of commentators, ads, presentation ceremony and everything else.
  • And while doing all this, they are consuming! Let’s not forget that these viewers will also be guzzling down large quantities of drinks (Alocholic and non-alocholic) with chips, popcorns, dine-in orders, kebabs, pakodas and what nots. Unless the delivery guy of the neighborhood shop refuses to go for delivery today, or the ever so accommodating mothers and wives decide to join the cricket party.

What you are assured of is an assured and a HUGE number of viewers who’d not flip the channel even as you beam them with the most inane and absurd ads, and there are quite a few of them. What you gonna do that’s gonna leave a name for you? In advertising, there cannot be bad recall, as long as there is recall.
And yes, its also a day where the nation’s collective productivity loss would have most likely offset any commercial return possible. Even the Prime Minister is not working. Yet, wouldn’t the ultimate master of ceremonies say – “People of India, and People of the World, ARE YOU HAVING FUN?”

Shaz, Waz & Bhaz? Dunce Premier League

Harbhajan Singh has made some shocking revelations in his yet to be published autobiography, portions of which were leaked online, reportedly by himself. He has apparently been inspired by Rakhi Sawant who believes that Jejus favors those who claim their rights, lefts and centers, at the drop of a hat. Unconfirmed sources reveal that the Turbanator, whose last successful outing was a dance competition where having gone for a back breaking dance performance along with partner Mona of “Bhajji jaisa koi nahi”, lost interest in any kind of outings shortly after the show.

He developed a keen interest in innings though, a phenomenon which is hardly driven by the feedback he received for his dance performance after winning the show. The judges, the good looking duo of Waseem Akram (known for his in-swinging Yorkers) and Sushmita Sen (who has been a bollywood industry insider for a while), caught his fancy, though it was unclear till now who had a longer lasting impact on Bhajji. During the feedback, Bhajji apparently heardthe judges say that “broke dunce” was something actors like Hrithik excelled at, and could be a great asset for a Bollywood career, if he ever decided to pursue one. Drawing inspirations from the successful Bollywood careers of previous actors like Mazhar Khan, whose blockbuster role “naam abdul hai mera sab ki khabar rakhta hoon”, and Mohsin Khan (whose unforgettable performance in Saathi, featuring songs like “chahe meri jaan tu le le”, are stuff legends are made of), Bhajji decided to immediately check the dictionary meaning of broke dunce.

Having concluded that Waseem bhai was instead making a point about what he thought of Bhajji (dunce) and his financial status (broke, the reason he apparently decided to become a swinger rather than a spinster), a devastated bhajji took the vow that he will beat Waseem bhai at his own game – toe crushing yore curse. Though he never looked up the meaning of toe, industry insiders claim that they fully understand the part of Waseem bhai’s anatomy he was going to crush/curse. Too tired to be a Moin Khan shouting “shabaas waseem bhai, shabaas”, Bhajji took to black magic, especially visible in his black turbanating performances in international cricket being supremely superior to all other spinsters being tried by the Indian team. He finally earned his rightful place down the order and in the middle overs.

I'm a black magic woman!

Black Mamba!

Bhajji trying doosra

Bhajji has also seen black a few times, the signs of which could be seen in his symbolic conversations with Symonds in a match during the friendly Australia series.

Sign is king!

Lately, unconfirmed reports from media suggested that Bhajji having read the confederacy of dunces (he reveals in the leaked prints that he never actually read the book, he just heard that it’s an award winning book which talks about the force that intellectuall duncity can be), and getting spurred by the successful run of 3dunces, led by the karismatic/kareenatic Aamir, remarked that being a dunce is not a bad deal, as long as you are not broke. Since then, he has decided to consume a lot of MSD for keeping him high up the preferential ladder compared to noobs like Mishraji (the mixed one) and Ojhaji (mera black magic tumhare ojha-tantrik jhaad phoonk se better hai). Some crack indeed. These addictions have also revealed why Waseem bhai’s comments hurt Bhajji so much.

After Shaz, why not Bhaz, is a question, he reportedly asks in his book. “Bhazzi & Wazzi on the beach” could have become the greatest love story since “Ajab Prem Ki Ghajab Kahani”! I think that Wazn’t meant to be!

Faded Memories: Playing Cricket circa 1994, with Mahi.. or… Dhoni(?)

It was 1994. One year since I moved from Kendriya Vidyalaya, the government school that I was used to studying at, to DAV Shyamali in Ranchi. End of my standard 9th exams, a below average academic year by the standards set for myself, in a new school, and a notice on the notice board which talked about an upcoming cricket camp during summer vacations, I joined the camp. I guess more because it was cricket, and twice a day, than the fact that it was a camp.
That was first time I changed from being a backyard gully cricketer which probably 90%+ of school going boys were in those years, to someone who took (or wanted to take) cricket a little more seriously. And that was the time I met my cricketing quad – Anil Singh, Niraj Singh, Mahi (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and myself. The camp was for 12-15 year olds. I was 14 then, and Mahi was 13. Niraj and Anil were my classmates.
Note: We still remember him as Mahi. His earlier cricket records from school league would mention Mahinder Singh. Not Dhoni. And yeah, it’s not the punjabi way of saying MAAAAAHI. It was Mahi, simple, with a very very short emphasis on ‘a’ (the ma of Maa – mother vs. the ma of Mandir). Or more ruggedly, “ka re, ee mahiyaa kahan hai”, which was not the mindblowing Maahiya kinds. It was the bihari Mahiyaa (with a very short emphasis on the first “a”).
The quad? because the four of us played for the DAV cricket team the same year. Anil was a left arm fast bowler, with a very nice angling run-up (Mitchell Johnson kinds) and had a natural outswinger. But too inconsistent, and too prone to nautanki (like trying to invent a left arm version of Kapil Dev’s vintage bowling pose). Niraj was a leg spinner who also batted up the order. Mahi was a keeper batsman (used to come in at 1 down or 2), and I was an off-spinner (the most lowly of breeds in the game of cricket).

In a short stint, I did well (I had my own off-spinner’s version of Anil Kumble – run up to the crease, jump, and pace – full package deal). That was the era, when India used to have spin trios all the time (Raju, Kumble, Chauhan kinds). So, having bowlers like me, Niraj et al in school league, which was more about slam, bam, thank you ma’m, was not a misplaced error from the selection committee.

Those of you who’ve followed ‘Dhoni’ would remember K R Bannerjee, the school teacher who moved him from soccer to Cricket. Though, in my memory from 1994 onwards, I don’t remember Mahi ever playing football/soccer that seriously. All my memories of him are of him playing cricket with me and the school team folks, or of him playing cricket with the team which had my brother and the likes of Tunna. But then, I must be wrong about his simultaneous calls from district level cricket and football being an urban legend.
We used to live in Mecon colony in Ranchi, and Mahi’s house was in the lane behind our house. J block. And, my brother was his tennis ball cricket team-mate ( they won a few local tournaments together), and I was his leather ball/school league cricket team mate (we also won a few tournaments together).

Back then, like his earlier years in international cricket, he was a mercenary batsman. Few snapshots I remember very vividly from 1994-1997 era- hitting Subroto Banerjee (who had just come back from an India team outing) for a six towards the square leg boundary (the ball landed on top of a huge water tank, several storeys tall a couple of blocks away from the stadium), hitting the double ton in school league final (a 35 over match), hitting 5 sixes in the space of 10 balls in a day-night tennis ball tournament (where for some weird reason, he had not come in at his usual 1 down, and had come pretty late down the order). One of those sixes was a hoist over cover boundary (and believe me, its not very easy with a tennis ball, when playing under dim lights).

The only thing I had in common with him was the devil may care attitude about our game. Hit me for a six, and I would hardly be flustered. Get him out first ball, or beat him three balls in a row, he would hardly be flustered. And he would have the widest grin for everything. That is something still seen on TV. Though I dont remember seeing him get angry about anything back then. He does now. Guess the stakes are too high now.

A batch junior to me in school, and with our limitations limited to the cricket ground and thereabouts, he was the usual 9th standard Ranchi kid back then. Always up to some mischief or the other, had a wise-crack for almost everything, was interested in the girls around, but probably hadn’t talked to more than a couple, loved batting more than keeping, loved taking a single off the last ball to keep the strike, and avoiding doubles even when the opportunity would be for a quick three. Don’t remember him as someone who’d walk away with his bat if he got out early. He also wanted to hit more boundaries than take runs. And he could run the first run really quickly, if it was the first delivery of the over.

There aren’t a lot of outings we had together. Why? I was from a background where hopes resided on my academic abilities more than my athletic abilities. My brother anyways was a much better cricketer than me, and had succumbed to the ways of preparing for engineering entrance examinations long before me. Though, to be fair to myself and everyone else, I did play a few important matches during that year’s school league, and had the call to join the district team. Its a different matter that the final round of NTSE exams on 14th May 2005 coincided with the district team training and selection camp. That being said, the outings we had together, we never dropped a game. And in some of them, I did play my part as well.
So, starting with the camp, I took 7/12 in the final match of the camp, and Mahi scored 43 of 30 odd balls. I think he took 30 odd balls because Jitendar Bhaiya (the wicketkeeper of Mecon cricket team who was running the camp) had threatened him with repercussions if he threw his wicket away.
In the school league finals (under 15), I took 3/22 in 6 overs, after he scored a double ton against my earlier school, Kendriya Vidyalaya. School league finals (with oldies), I had taken 4/23, while he scored a half century.

We went to the DAV east zone selections together, where we both got selected. It was the year, when the trials had happend in torrential rains. For one of the catches during fielding trials, I had skidded a distance of over 15 feet, involuntarily I must add. Anyways, I was considered as a bowler who had pace variations, a nice loop, and a nice dip. It’s a different matter that I took up off-spin bowling because I did not have the height or arm for pace bowling, and unlike Kumble I was conceptually against building a career in spin bowling, unless I could actually turn the ball. For him, there were no adjectives. He came, played for his trials in the nets, and there was a tick. No one asked a question, no one gave any answers.

By the way, the only time I remember batting in a match in those scattered matches across two years (I did not play much after 1995), was in an internal match where he was in the other team. For the record, I did not get him out in that one, but conceded only 15 runs from 4 overs for 2 wickets. Some achievement, huh?

Fading memory – me and my brother talking about him in 1999, when he had started playing for Bihar/ Railways. Our fear back then was that even if he survived the politics of Bihar cricket (you had to be a favorite of Deval Sahay to be in the Bihar team), it would be difficult for him to survive the national cricket/zonal cricket politics and reach the Indian team. And this was the era, when the teams world over had brilliant wicketkeeper-batsmen (Andy Flower, Alec Stuart, an emerging Gilchrist, etc.), and we wanted to place our bets in him. Bhaiya felt that he was not as good a wicket keeper, but his batting should have been enough to get him the slot, if there was no politics.

BTW, that just reminded me of an incident that a colleague of mine narrated about Devang Gandhi. When he got selected for the Indian team as an opener, apparently, Sadagopan Ramesh missed out. At that time, the culture of Ranji was that you played more cricket within the zone, which mean that DG (from Bengal) would play more against Tripura, Orissa, et al. DG was scoring heavily at that time in Ranji. SRamesh quipped – against teams like that, even Mahatma Gandhi would have scored a double century.

Anyways, almost everyone that we know from those years in Ranchi, like Kaushal or Deepak et al, they’ve all met him post his rise to stardom, and they all say that he is still the same. The wickedness and the nicety in the same pack. And its good to see him rise so much. It’s a small town story that we see in movies. He really did not have a kit full of bats, or a car dropping him for nets or a set of boots (one for batting and one for keeping). He often played cricket wearing canvas shoes (or chappal, for tennis ball cricket). But he was brilliant then. And he is excellent now, in a different way.

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