Period piece

Sometime back in seventh grade, I developed a fascination for long sentences. I once wrote a 100-word answer on Mother Teresa’s contribution to humanity in 3 sentences — the middle sentence was 63 words long. So you will understand why I was fascinated by this paragraph by Brit humorist and cricket writer Andy Zaltzman:

The cricket did not match up to the pre-match hype. This was inevitable. The only way it could have done so was if Virender Sehwag had scored a 25-ball century, Sachin Tendulkar had posted his 100th India 100 before being carried away into the skies in a flaming chariot, Kamran Akmal had taken a series of sensational one- and no-handed catches, Asad Shafiq had run into a phone-box, whizzed round at high speed and emerged as an at-his-peak Garfield Sobers in a superman outfit with a Pakistan passport in hand, hammered his team to the brink of victory, before Virat Kohli came steaming in like Dennis Lillee’s pet wildebeest and obliterated the Pakistan tail with a blood-curdling barrage of 100mph yorkers, bouncers and googlies, before with four needed off the last ball Saeed Ajmal danced down the wicket to Zaheer Khan and reverse-cover-drove him off one knee in the air towards a diving Ashish Nehra on the boundary who caught the ball in the tips of his fingers to prevent it going for 6 before a passing kestrel pecked it out of his hands and dropped it on the ground in front of Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani who then ceremonially tied their feet together and jointly kicked it over the boundary rope for the tying runs, before saying “No-one deserves to lose this match,” then holding hands and launching into a rousing rendition of ‘Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong’ while the Mohali crowd harmoniously crooned backing vocals and all cuddled effigies of Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The rest of the article doesn’t quite match up his usual standards of brilliance. But not a bad read, overall.



On the India-Pak semifinal

I don’t think I would’ve minded terribly if Pakistan had won yesterday. Theirs has been one of the more interesting stories of the tournament — a team that had the whole kitchen thrown at them before they entered the tournament played with joy and verve to reach the semis. Beating India was not entirely out of the question.

Having said that, the scrappier team that made fewer errors won yesterday. Pakistan’s bowlers (Umar Gul excepted) deserved a win, but their fielding and batting was abysmal. What the heck was Hafeez trying to do with that paddle sweep-like shot to a ball outside off? Misbah stayed long enough to have the opportunity to make a late charge, but I guess he spent too much time seeing if his bat would withstand gentle contact with a cricket ball. The initial portion of his innings was reminiscent of Vadivelu’s lochak-mochak-bachak martial arts practice sequence in Pokkiri.

Much has been said about Tendulkar’s various lives. But what really galled me was the MoM award. True, the fact that he kept his head and ground out 85 runs despite all of that is creditable. But I feel that award ought to have gone to Wahab Riaz — his was the standout performance of the match and deserved a lot more kudos than it got.

Speaking of which, did Dhoni actually credit “Shahid and Saeed” with a great bowling performance in the post-match interview? Or did I get it wrong? If that is indeed what happened, Wahab may just have to keep taking five-fors against India until we remember his name. I can imagine him getting Yuvraj out time after time saying, “They call me Mister Riaz”.

Dear Virender Sehwag

Dear Viru,

Congratulations on that knock. After scoring less than 150 in your previous hundred (other than being prime, 131 has no redeeming qualities), I thought maybe you were losing your touch. Good to see that this is not the case.

I do, however, have one request. Would you please, for the love of God, just SHUT THE F*** UP?

Try and understand this from the opponent’s perspective. Take Muthiah Muralitharan, for instance. Highest wicket taker in tests, just 12 wickets shy of 800. Quite a feat, don’t you think? Especially considering how much mental strength he had to have had when the world and its grandmother-in-law was suggesting that he try out as a baseball pitcher and leave the bowling to people with straight elbows. Whether or not there were optical illusions involved, that couldn’t have been easy to deal with. Here he is, at the fag end of his career, pushing his body to bowl one more ball. His figures at the end of the day: 20-0-119-0. Not that any of the other bowlers fared any better.

Now, I don’t expect you to go easy on them. I don’t expect you to gift your wicket to Murali and help him along to 800 before he retires. If the ball is there to be hit, hit it, and hit it hard. I’m as patriotic an Indian as anyone else, so you’ll hear me cheering all the way.

But when someone asks you about your innings at the end of the day, don’t say something like: I try to hit only the bad balls.

Are you f***ing kidding me? You hit 40 fours and 7 sixes, dude. How bad could those balls have been? It just sounds ridiculous. Not to mention insulting to a bowling attack that you just destroyed. Leave the soundbytes to the gentle souls and leave the mayhem on the pitch when you walk out, okay?




As a die-hard Federer fan, I was both happy and sad to see Nadal lose in the fourth round of the French Open.

Like Federer himself says, he doesn’t have a problem on clay, just a Nadal problem on clay. And now that the problem lost to Robin Soderling, the path was finally cleared of its biggest obstacle. But I have to admit — him not getting a chance to win at Roland Garros against Rafa in the final is a bit of a let-down.

However, what the defeat did was make me a Rafa fan.

Think about this: At the beginning of the tournament, the only bets punters were taking on Rafa was how many sets he would lose on the way to his fifth title. Losing in the fourth round has got to hurt. And to a player you don’t even like very much? Double ouch. Now go read that post-match interview here.

So when one player bad, must lose. That’s what happened today. I have to accept with the same calm when I win than when I lose. After four years I lose here, and the season continue.

When offered an opportunity to frame an excuse about the wind causing him to play very short, he responded:

No, no, no, no. The wind is there for both players, so no, no? I not going to put any excuse right now. I think I played short because I played short. I didn’t have my day.

Now, this isn’t news. He’s always been gracious in defeat. When he loses, he simply says, in his broken English: I played badly, my opponent played well, I lost. It is when it comes at this venue that it begins to seem poetic, I guess.

Contrast this with someone like Serena Williams. A couple of US Opens ago when Serena lost to Justine Henin in the quarters, she started off blaming everything from her back to her ankle to butterflies flapping their wings in Tokyo to her fairy godmother having PMS. And when she did talk about her own faults, the gist of it was: my opponent didn’t do anything special to win this match, I lost it.

So my new resolution is: If Rafa is playing anyone other than Federer, I’ll root for him. If these two are on court, I’ll try not to pray that he trips and sprains his ankle. And if Federer wins a Grand Slam final against him, I’ll limit my happy dance to thirty minutes.

Because unlike Rafa, I think Grace is an actress who married the Prince of Monaco.