Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Doosra Annual Award 2008


Time for red carpet, stealth light, stretch limos, bowties, pinstripes and black satin gowns. As another year goes by, welcome to the second Doosra Annual Award Gala Night. A tradition started last year, Doosra doles out the annual gongs and the winners are:

Col Gaddafi Club Membership: MS Dhoni, the only other living person with a retinue of female bodyguards.

Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) Man of the Year: Andrew ‘gone-fishing’ Symonds (he’ll collect the award after returning from the fishing trip).

Yo-Yo award: Mohd Yousuf, for completing the ICL-IPL-ICL cycle.

Alcoholic Anonymous Citation: Paul Harris for his legendary candour after South Africa won the Melbourne Test. ("I don't think there's enough beer in all of Australia to satisfy us tonight.”)

Overthrow of the Year: Muntazer al-Zaidi. Having two simultaneous attempts at George W Bush and missing both speaks volume of his waywardness.

Best Ducking of the Year: George W Bush. Ducking two beamers at the same time is a feat beyond lesser mortals and this guy evaded two size 10 shoes hurled at him from less than 22 yards with no umpire to call it NO! Cricket’s loss has been politics’ loss as well.

Anti-Gambling Movement Appreciation Medal: Ishant Sharma for his taming of the ‘Punter’.

Lifetime Shit-Midas Trophy: Greg Chappell. Everything he touched became shit. Look at Australia.

Annual Humble Pie Award: Kevin Pietersen, for his pie-chucker comments.

Lapidary Association Medallion: Sachin Tendulkar, for advocating the evolutionary stone-to-milestone theory.

The VIBGYOR Trophy: Adam Gilchrist, for badmouthing Tendulkar in ‘True Colours of My Life’ and then changing colour and crying hosanna of the Little Master.

Poppy Growers’ Appreciation Medal: Mohd Asif.

Gandhi Truth Award: Gautam Gambhir for his blatant truth that elbowing Shane Watson "wasn’t deliberate".

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Mohali Test...Day 5

1052: What do you do when fog delaying start of play becomes a ritual? Tendulkar works on a doosra (No big deal, I too work on a Doosra anyway), Laxman realises he can send down decent medium pace stuff, Botham fools around, Harmison comes off a self-imposed exile to make a rare pubilc appearance and Anderson proves his dexterity and tries left-arm spin.

1157: The imposter out there in Gambhir's garb is trying to inherit the slur from Mudassar Nazar. Mudassar took 557 minutes to score his century against England. Luckily, however, Gambhir won't have as much time at his disposal.

1307: Lunch down their throat, Yuvraj and Gambhir walk out to bat again! Dhoni in no mood to declare. Flintoff can't believe it and asks the batsmen if they are serious. So Mudassar need not lose all hopes.

1522: I'm straining my eyes to see if Dravid is marshalling the field at the fag end of the match. Didn't Dhoni have that sort of farewell for Ganguly? Remember, Dravid too scored a Bradmanesque duck here. To my disappointment, I see Amit Mishra setting field. Nay, Kumble has just left, way too premature for Mishra.

1953: A convert KP sung 'pie-chucker' Yuvraj's praise in the press conference. "One of the cleanest strikers of the ball, his sixes leave me dumbfounded," he gushed. But then pie-chucker? "Come on, little bit of fun and banter doesn't do any harm," he said. Dhoni said he would love to have some more pie-chuckers. MSD also thanked the Poms for returning for the series to prove India is safe post-Mumbai mayhem.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Mohali Test...Day 4

0912: Only a superman with his x-ray vision can sight the pitch in such thick fog. Even the track has slipped under a blanket. Wish I could afford such luxury. The frisking just outside the stadium borders on groping and the thought of going through that for five straight days is pretty unnerving. Supersopper mopping the outfield dew, some shadowy figures playing football, could be the Indians. KP and his men could not be traced.

1030: The fickle fog keeps coming back. Harper-Rauf duo inspects the pitch for umpteenth time before retreating, perhaps to tell Dhoni and match can start if he opens with Bhajji-Amit. Kirsten is out with a tennis racket, which changes hand and Munaf Patel shows why Federer should consider himself lucky that Munaf stuck to cricket. Meanwhile, logistic manager Russel Radhakrishnan loses quite a bit of his flab trying to collect Munaf's returns.

1114: James Anderson just got a tattoo done by Dhoni. A terrible judge of a single, Anderson was scampering to return base when Dhoni's full-blooded throw grounded him.

1340: When most relished their lunch, I attended a rather desolate press conference where ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat said -- i) ICC would conduct separate recce before allowing match officials to tour Pakistan for the series against Lanka; ii). Oz-NZ have been put on standby but no reason why sub-continent can't host 2011 World Cup; iii) ICC January meeting would decide fate of 2009 Champions Trophy. And Lorgat was grinning ear-to-ear, explaining how SA's win over OZ at Perth opened up a three-horse race for No. 1 spot.

1348: Strauss, Sehwag, Collingwood, Yuvi...Chennai sizzler proved Mohali fizzlers. Can Tendulkar buck the trend?

1354:...the answer seemed NO. But hold on! there was a big inside edge and Asad Rauf got it right. "You know my father is a Match Referee?" Broad asks Rauf after hie LBW appeal is turned down.

1414: So, Tendulkar too falls to the Curse of Chennai. Can't call him a cricketer with conscience. Broad troubled him all along but he gave Anderson his wicket.

1834: One of the best press conferences involving Yuvi. "Pie-chucker is coming, I'm loving the name," he announced as he walked into the room. Inevitably the first question was about his new sobriquet and Yuvi was on song. "I knew this is going to be the first question.

I got up in the morning and read the paper and thought what does that mean? It means useless bowler. It means KP is getting out to me and useless bowler getting a batsman out five times means useless batting, I must say.

Clearly enjoying every moment of it, Yuvi now attacks KP the bowler...
I have got a better action that KP, his action is useless. But if he works hard he can be a good bowler…I can give him some tips and teach how to bowl in the rough.

And still no love is lost between the two. Sample this...
At the end of the day, everything is on the ground. Me and KP are good friends off the field, but on the field never dare to make friends.

He is a phenomenal player and batted like a champions. He has 15 hundreds in 45 Tests. Actually he tried to get under my skin and brought out the best in me and I tried to get under his skin and brought out the best in him. It's okay, but I don't like to wash dirty linen in public.


Sunday, 21 December 2008

Mohali Test...Day 3

0900: Fog delays start. Umpire Daryl Harper says he'll inspect the pitch as soon as he sights it! Pietersen, meanwhile, tries to play cricket with a football. To be honest, you can't sight a smaller ball in such fog. Dhoni & Co, meanwhile, get into the Great Indian Huddle where Kirsten checks if Munaf Patel has brushed his teeth.

1010: Has David 'Bumble' Lloyd converted to Islam? He seemed offering namaaz on the pitch. The Groucho Marx of world cricket clarifies he wanted to see if the pitch was dry enough not to soil his troussers!

1527: Sorry for the delay. ICC boss David Morgan held a p.c. and said i) no sanction on BCCI for shunning Pakistan; ii) T20's popularity is good for the game; iii) Cricket (T20) in Olympic not possible before 2020; and iv) India, England oppose Test championship.

2041: Kudos to KP, the tragic hero. Rauf's LBW decision had him rooted and later in the press conference, KP demanded benefit of doubt. On MSD bowling the 3rd over with Yuvi, KP said he was amused to see a 'pie-chucker' replacing Zak "one of the best bowlers I have faced ever." His switch-hit provoked Kirsten to seek change in laws to aid the hapless bowlers. KP says it's not a risky shot but a scoring shot.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Mohali Test...Day 2

0901: Since landing, returning and landing again in India, England has won only hearts and nothing else. See how string of defeats derange English mind. It's so foggy out there -- in fact the Test is yet to see sun -- but Pietersen still has his shades with him! Not covering his eyes of course but doubling up as hair band. Considering how closely cropped his hair is, it's a shade unnecessary.

0947: He does not roll his eyes, chew tobacco, crack whip or inquire about Holi. The entire English team has been a huge let down and I found Amjad Khan is no different either. But then what you expect from a Copenhagen-born Danish bowler with Pakistani roots and a British passport?

0958: Gambhir stright drove Broad for a lovely boundary. TV camera caught a couple of PYTs clapping. "Shot of the day", said a colleague, "by the cameraman, of course." Boys will be boys, of course until they 'go to Denmark'.

1236: The door that seemed ajar has been slammed shut now. So Dravid plays cricket and Badrinath sudoku. Pen replaces bat and Badri is caught on camera engrossed in another game. After all, any engagement is better than just twiddling thumb.

1352: Flintoff just demonstrated why Martti Ahtisaari should consider himself lucky, having pipped Freddie to the Nobel peace award. Butter-finger Alastair Cook-ed Flintoff's goose (read Yuvraj) and still Freddie retained his smile! Now you know that you don't always need a number of them. At times, just one Cook, especially with eyeliner eyes, is enough to spoil the broth.

1617: A relaxed Dravid listens to music, so far he was only facing it. He was not really on song today, but his return to form would still be some sort of music to his fans' ears.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Mohali Test...Day 1

0909: Welcome to WNWSACWR (What Neo Won't Show and Cricinfo Won't Report, for the uninitiated). The sky is laden and light is so low that upire Daryl Harper is groping in his pocket for the light metre. Finally it's out but Harper is struggling to read the reading. The press box, however, looks more illuminated, more so with the presence of Mike Brearley, Mike Atherton, Angus Fraser and the massive Derek Pringle.

1005: Sehwag proved third time lucky. After two botched attempts to edge Stuart Broad, he nicks it third time and lays the egg -- his 10th Test duck. Grateful Broad adimts even teammates didn't greet him better on his return.

1012: Brearley offered tips to KP in the flight from Chennai to Mohali. I think he is still contributing. A registered psychoanalyst-cum-psychotherapist, I suspect he is a hypnotist as well. Just before the dismissal, Brearley picked up a binocular and gazed at Sehwag who looked in a trance and nicked it.

1043: If Chennai was a great advertisement for Test cricket, Mohali missed that commercial. Crowd is sparse, you have more hair in Sehwag's bullhead. Organisers blame low turnout to exams in school. Flimsy excuse no doubt. Dravid faces the mother of all exams and even he turned up for the match!

1230: Every time a plane passes over the stadium, English fielders look up, as if ECB was supposed to airdrop their saviour. Derek Pringle was overheard saying one of those had Steve Harmison inside. Planes are flying really low, apparently after BCCI assured the airlines that Sehwag is out and there's not much aerial threat for the flying machines.

1538: Nursing a fractured rib and probably a broken heart, KP tried to do a Denis Compton. Compton had famously ran out Vijay Hazare in an Eden Gardens Test with a deft kick from mid-on. But then Compton had also won 54 caps for Arsenal as a footballer! No wonder, Gambhir is safe home.

Monday, 15 December 2008

7 cricketers who deserve Doctorate, à la Dr Sania Mirza

As UN names an Intergovernmental Panel to figure out what really provoked the MGR Educational and Research Institute University, Chennai to accord Doctorate on Sania Mirza, Doosra lists seven Indian contemporary cricketers who thoroughly deserve the prefix.
1. Dr Sachin Tendulkar: For his contribution to medical science. Tennis elbow came into being only after Tendulkar was diagnosed with it. Currently, he is playing the game with his second shoulder, third elbow, fourth knee cap and…Also for staying on course to sharing the dressing room with son Arjun.

2. Dr Yuvraj Singh: For his generous contribution to astronomy. NASA scientists just revealed that the six-star constellation over the southern tip of the African continent is actually the six sixes Yuvraj hit off a Stuart Broad over in the Twenty20 World Cup. Scientists blame Yuvi’s fury to the hapless bowler’s father who insists another Doctorate cricketer from Punjab's fertile land, Dr Harbhajan Singh, is a javelin thrower.

3. Dr Harbhajan Singh: For his expertise in Escapology. Throughout his career. Dr Singh displayed an amazing ability to dig a hole for himself and eventually clambering out of it, often creating a crisis that threatened to split the cricket globe.

4. Dr Gautam Gambhir: In recognition of his die-hard optimism that he can do any bodily harm to someone like Shane Watson.

5. Dr MS Dhoni: For covering the entire gamut of coifing and unfailingly coming up with thematic, series-specific hairdos.

6. Dr Virat Kohli: A product of the MSD School of Thought, people need to recognize his state of the head. Come hell or high water, or even a catch in his direction, Dr Kohli always ensured his spiked tuft is intact before making a dash. Upset with the existing helmets, he apparently has sought one with a slit in the middle.

7. Dr Munaf Patel: For his deep understanding of the South African culture and ability to laugh at the popular siSwati, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu jokes cracked by Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

7 reasons why Dhoni has applied for a gun

1. Dhoni realises World Cup is a bagatelle, a mere trinket in comparison to Olympic medal. And by the time cricket returns to Olympics, Dhoni won’t be wielding willow but walking stick. Bindra (not IS, but Abhinav) has shown the way in Beijing and MSD wants to follow in his footsteps.

2. MSD knows how fickle lady love can be. A gun would pre-empt love triangle, quadrangle and similar headaches of different geometric proportions.

3. Let’s admit it, can't really trust Yuvi. Losing captaincy still hurts Yuv'nor and you never know when dormant ambition finds a violent manifestation.

4. To silent Krish Srikkanth. Selection meeting sucks and eardrum hurts. No more allowing Srikkanth to holler into his eardrum. Putting the gun on his mouth should do the trick. (It, however, doesn’t sound foolproof. Knowing Cheeka, he might chew and spit out the gun and then wax eloquent how ‘Habsolutely Tasty’ it was.)

5. To shoot the ‘leaking’ selector: Yashpal Sharma or Raja Venkat?

6. To shoot the messenger i.e. the reporter who got the ‘leak’.

7. To make Munaf Patel bat in the nets.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Return of the prodigal son

Srikkanth to Pujara:
Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:32).

That 6,6,6,6,6,6 over in Kingsmead was surely more glorious than feeding pigs. Nor can one equate leading Kings XI Punjab to the swineherd’s job. Still, Yuvraj’s comeback story is very much cricket’s own Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son.

Pray, he’s here to stay. Amen.

Five winters back, it took an abscess in Sourav Ganguly’s thigh to facilitate his Test debut. Now Ganguly’s exit should cement his place. Else, Yuvraj can go back and look after the pigs again.

IPL, I meant.

Eight years in the business and still a persona non grata when Test caps are doled out. We still don’t know what to do with him. Yuvraj is a busy man off the field but if he ever cares for the truth, he would notice that the accusing fingers are pointing back at himself.

But this was surely not to be the case. It looked almost a matter of destiny before the precocious prince became the lord of all he surveys. Accordingly, chrism was concocted and hymns were hummed. But the Prince who could be the King tossed aside everything and preferred to remain the perpetual pretender to the throne.

What went wrong?

A flawed technique is only the part answer. Even a technically-retarded Sadagopan Ramesh played 19 Tests from 1999-2001!

The demon lurks in the mind. The guy upstair stuffed so much talent inside that discipline had to be left out. It’s not an issue of ability but application. And the bedazzling success in the shorter formats probably blurred the road ahead.

The brevity of ODI/T20, where end justifies means, glosses over the chinks. Test cricket exposes them. It’s a subtler and crueler proposition which separates the wheat from the chaff and disrobes imposters of all their borrowed plumes.

Stuck somewhere between his potential and achievement, Yuvraj must consider himself lucky to have got another chance to banish the imposter and prove he belongs. If motivation runs dry, qualms should keep him on course. Sitting glumly on top of his run mountain, Cheteshwar Pujara has a genuine grudge after all. Much like the old brother from the Gospel of Luke.

Yuvraj badly needs to clear this Test. Else he can go back and feed the pigs again.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

7 ways to avoid a 7-0 whitewash!

1. Mortgage the WAG brigade to Allen Stanford;
2. Pray that during one of those Great Indian Huddles, earth splits and gobbles up the gang;
3. Hope ISRO packs off Yuvraj in Chandrayaan II, its first manned mission in moon;
4. Deals delight Lalit Modi. So hatch a deal with BCCI’s Mint in Suit and make India do mirror-batting in the next three matches;
5. Pull out of the tour, in an IMMEDIATE protest to the Indian government’s 1989 decision to confer the Nehru award on Robert Mugabe;
6. Fly home by the first flight available and call up BCCI to let them know that the travel agent bungled everything and packed them in the wrong plane;

...and if all these sound far-fetched...

7. Win at least one match, you morons.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Mind the thorns Mahi!

He could grow a flower on stone, make a stuffed cuckoo sing and evoke rain at Thar. The sea would split to pave his way, the wind would change course to propel his sail and the world would conspire to fulfil his wishes.

First time since his coronation, a thorn in his bed of roses pricked him and Dhoni still can't believe it!

Welcome Mahi, to a world of leak and lies, suspicion and subterfuge, clique and cartels, malice and malevolence.

Dhoni didn't like it but this was surely not the first occasion when confidential selection debate made its way to the pages of a daily. Unfortunately, this won't be the last either. For his own benefit, Dhoni should learn his lesson from the stumble to avoid an almighty fall.

BCCI head honchos, teammates, selectors, media, fans -- it requires a tremendous balancing act. Man management has to be spot on. Board mandarins with kingsize vanity and non-existent love for the game have to be kept in good humour. Selectors would go into a huddle with an agenda on mind and an axe to grind but Dhoni has to grin and bear it.

And then you have Team India, an assortment of fragile egos of different size, from the miniscule to the monstrous.

Dhoni clearly revels in company of fellow back street boys. But such prejudice has to wed pragmatism to avoid a strife. Presence of former captains bogs him down but Mahi would do well remember that Tendulkar is 'The Untouchable' and Dravid, though no more a Holy Cow, is better left alone.

Among the next generation teammates, Sehwag is a force of nature, not to be messed with and Yuvraj, a weapon of both mass and self destruction, needs utmost care all the time. To ensure the bowling unit keeps firing, Dhoni will have to pamper Zaheer and protect Ishant. Harbhajan is a proven match-winner but he needs to be constantly reminded that. At the same time, the Amit Mishras should not feel unwanted.

There is something reassuring in Dhoni's brand of captaincy that promises the marriage would last. But as Mahi himself would admit, the honeymoon just got over.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ind vs Eng ODI Live Update from Kanpur

0827: Welcome to WNWSACWR (What Neo Won't Show and Cricinfo Won't Report). Waking up groggy at ungodly hours and making your way through a maze of security is never easy. Some people still retain their zeal-- like Ravi Shastri out there, trying to flirt with the Neo babe, the neonate in cricket broadcasting.

0837: The guy (I mean Guy the Gorrilla) who wanted to sent his mom-in-law to Pakistan is out there. Sir Ian Terence Botham, OBE, just had a brief discussion with Kevin Peter Pietersen, MBE, in the middle. Beefy looks in good shape but you can't say the same about England. I reckon KP was trying to woo him out of retirement. Considering the shellacking Broad & Co received in Indore and Rajkot, it can't get worse.

0844: Talking about in-laws, a certain Sunny Gavaskar was denied entry in the team hotel last night. Sunny's wife hails from Kanpur and he is certainly not the first son-in-law to get such cold treatment from his sasural. Also saw Sunny Sir admiring a new hat but there was time when he was wearing quite a few of them.

0900: Laxmanshivaramkrishnan, Gavaskar and David Lloyd stand together facing the camera. Looks like a fairness cream commercial that improves your complexion in three stages.

0909: Shastri and Rajiv Shukla bridge the gap between their statures and engage in a neck-spraining discussion. One has grown vertically and the other just expanded horizontally. I guess Shukla was seeking an explanation from Shastri on Raj Thackeray's drive against the north Indians.

0915: Surrounded by Shastri, Gavaskar, Botham, Shiva and a few of his former peers, Krish Srikkanth takes a nostalgic tour down memory lane and enthusiastically shadow-practises shots before proceeding to study the pitch, something he was never accused of doing in his playing days.

0929: Men in Blue around me. Actually UPCA had freshly painted the chairs in the press box and the Sun reporter just discovered to his horror that the paint has tainted his cream colour troussers. A colleague of him takes a snap of the tainted bottom and I expect colourful copies in the British press tomorrow. Meanwhile, it leads to a strange spectacle in the press box where guys ask each other to have a look at their bums. They may be fierce professional rivals but you have to appreciate their 'Dostana'.

1141: In the press box, Angus Fraser isn't amused with the paint on his troussers, shaking head in disgust and mumbling the unprintables. He wears specs and the glasses are really thick and powerful. If he wants, he can take one off here and burn a hole in Russell Tiffen's troussers out there in the middle.

1211: Flintoff fell to Yusuf Pathan and another Great Indian Huddle. I was always intrigued what they discuss in the huddle? Should be their unparliamentary emotions which they otherwise can't express in front of the umpires or near the stump microphones.

1239: Bopara back, Samit Patel and Owais Shah waging grim battle and Monty Panesar is being missed. Can we have a true blue English team, please?

1529: India trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Complacency? Boredom? spiked drink? voodoo? Curse of Punter?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Thanks for the Dadagiri

If Indian cricket is Bollywood, Sachin Tendulkar is its Amitabh Bachchan, who refuses to age or wane and M S Dhoni, its SRK – the urbane, glib-talking heartthrob.

I bet he’s not going to like this but Sourav Ganguly has been its Mithun Chakraborty.

Daily chores over, rickshaw-pullers, labourers, coolies and small shopkeepers throng dingy theatres in nondescript towns where Mithun badmouths baddies before battering them thrice a day. Script, storyline, cinematography, music – everything else is secondary. Week after week, they cheer every blow Mithun lands on the villain and whistle every time he shakes a leg with a buxom beauty.

Ganguly has been as much a hero of the hoi polloi, the messiah of the mass, who could identify with his brand of leadership. Indeed, few knew better how to involve, incite and ignite public minds.

And the touch of Bollywood is too unmistakable in his comeback as well. Pushed to the brink of the precipice by a gora villain, the post-interval session sees the hero clawing his way up to punish the baddie and settle score.

In many ways, Ganguly reflected the ambition and aspiration of a nation which, bankrolled by a burgeoning economy, dreamt of entering the big league, demanding equal respect.

Fans shared his wholesome hatred for prevailing norms, which suggested cricket is played between two sides but won only by Australia. And when he took his shirt off in Lord’s hallowed balcony and hurled a mouthful back to Flintoff, it was virtually a collective catharsis for a nation which had stopped turning the other cheek.

Indeed, if Dhoni & Co are speaking an aggressive language on the field, it was Ganguly who had laid down its grammar.

And as the man walked into sunset with a trail of eulogies and effigies, bouquets and brickbats behind him, few acknowledged his contribution.

It’s not the 18000-plus runs he scored, mostly through the off-side of which he was the God. Neither is the fact that he taught how to win Tests abroad. Nor is it about instilling aggression in teammates.

Most importantly, Ganguly restored faith in public mind and upheld its integrity, thus helping cricket survive a potential disaster, a splitting of the game and its followers.

Ganguly inherited the team at a time when Indian cricket was struggling to shed the match-fixing slur. Every dropped catch set the tongue wagging, every dismissal was dissected in hushed tones and every outcome was seen through a veil of suspicion. It was clearly cricket’s darkest hour.

To his credit, Ganguly established the integrity of the game and a secular India embraced cricket as its religion.

In between his fairytale Test debut and Bradmanesque exit, Ganguly was never the best batsman around, neither statistically nor aesthetically. And still Ganguly on song ranked among the most beautiful scenes in cricket.

Few incurred so much hatred, and fewer got the love that came his way. Much more than just a cricketer, Ganguly was a character, whose exit leaves the game poorer.

Tendulkar’s greatness doesn’t trigger debate, Dravid’s persona doesn’t strain friendship and Kumble is a genuine sweetheart.

In contrast, 16 years of ceaseless scrutiny has yielded precious little and jury is still out on whether Ganguly is the saint or the Satan.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Take a bow, Jumbo

Jokes, like jokers, have a limited entertainment value, beyond which they don't amuse, only annoy. Having wagged indefatigably for 18 long years, finally no impish tongue would ask in jest whether Anil Kumble is the fastest slow bowler or the slowest fast bowler.

The subsequent avalanche of applauds was inevitable, perhaps equally so was overlooking the message sent out by the man who just walked into sunset. Predictably, we read only the words, not the deeds.

Those who care to see beyond the numbers, each of his 619 Test wickets tells a tale -- of the triumph of the trier. It says you don't need to be born special, you can work your way and become special. It says success is not an exclusive domain of the wunderkinds and toil is as important as talent.

Indeed, he didn't have the prodigious turn of a Shane Warne, probably because he was not the man for exaggeration. With his brand of leg spin, he would rather probe than poach. And yet, he was successful!

Certain success stories make their way into syllabus. Kumble's should be one, for it spreads hopes and talks about life. It says how an ordinary man can go out and make his own destiny, rather then just playing the part destiny had scripted for him.

Unlike a Warne or a Tendulkar or a Muralitharan, he was no quirk of nature, endowed generously and destined for immortality. Kumble learned and earned it. He was out and out a proud, self-made man.

His achievement transcends the limited boundary ropes of the game and spills into life, for it advocates the triumph of simple and yet so necessary values like commitment, integrity, discipline and dignity.

And it also says nice guys do finish first.

In the heart of heart, I know Kumble was surely not the best. Warne probably has a more logical, statistical and aesthetical claim as well to that. But Jumbo, when I have a kid and he or she grows up, I would love to see him/her persevere through pain, just like you did with a bandaged jaw in Antigua and a stitched finger at Kotla.

Warnie, I'm still in awe of your wile and guile and would have your poster in the study room of my kids. But sorry mate, they would rather have Jumbo as their role model.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Ind vs Oz...Day 5

1513: 91 minutes and 18.4 overs and nothing to live update! It's all over, covers are off, they are sprinkling water on the 22-yard that was the centrestage of the drama that lasted a little over four days.

Ponting admitted Australia are not accustomed to leading 0-1 in a Test series. And that they are not accustomed to be beaten like this. And that there is no rift between him and Brett Lee.

1525: Zaheer, meanwhile, is busy attending the hearing after charged for an assortment of Level II offences -- over-appealing, over-celebrating 9after Hayden's dismissal), over-chatting and other overdeeds.

1530: Indian team disperses and will re-assemble on 26th. Ponting wants two day's introspection break.

Worst defeat of his career? "Possibly", says Punter.

1535: Dhoni has that midas touch, everything he touches turns gold. I think reason enough and time ripe to replace P Chidambaram. Anyone at 10, Janpath listening?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Ind vs Oz...Day 4

1003: After Haddin and Hayden grassed and Ponting leaked, Australian are suddenly making atonements by throwing themselves around. Suddenly they realise it's the cricket board which takes care of their laundry bills!

1108: Drooping shoulder, increasing frustration. Ponting finally injects some life and brings in Mike Hussey to roll his arm over. Last time Hussey was seen bowling was when Hillary Clinton was running for the US Prez's post, Yuvraj Singh was dating Deepika Padukone and Ms Padukone was not dating Ranbir Kapoor.

1315: India leading by 510 runs and Dhoni still not declaring. Needs to give bowlers time to bowl out the Ozzies. I think he is overestimating his bowling unit and underestimating Ponting and party.

1324: In between his attemps to halve the ball into two, Dhoni the Woodcutter was experimenting with a different scoop shot. So far we have seen the scoop famously bungled by Misbah which takes the fine leg route. Here, Dhoni was trying to scoop whatever White hurled at him to the third man area! Indigenous indeed but success still Dhoni.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Ind vs Oz...Day 3

1024: Welcome to What Neo Won't Show and Cricinfo Won't Report (WNWSACWR). Wait for me to grab a syrup-spiked coffee before I get going.

1025: Having survived twice, Hussey completed his hat-trick today. But just before he exhausted lifetime of luck in this match, Dhoni finally holds on to one. It would have taken some talent although to drop that. Mowgli (Ishant, for the uninitiated) elated.

1029: Shane Watson just averted being trialled for culpable homicide, while Rudy Koertzen escaped an attack on his life. Zaheer banged it short, Watson went for a pull and Koertzen at square leg feared for his life. Well, there are more civilised ways of denouncing the very concept of umpiring.

1056: Harbhajan swallows Haddin. Last time Mohali saw Bhajji in action was when he planted a slap on the Michael-Jackson-of-Indian-Cricket's cheek. At safe distance, Sreesanth these days is busy exploring alternative career option as a leg-shaker on the telly.

1302: Koertzen does a Statue of Liberty. Only instead of the torch, he brandishes the new ball around. Ishant almost slays Lee with the first ball but Binga still manages to retain that smile. Many asking which toothpaste Lee endorses.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Ind vs Oz...Day 2

0920: Welcome to WNWSACWR (What Neo Won't Show and Cricinfo Won't Report). Munaf Patel and RP Singh in the middle -- in other words, play yet to start.

0948: Ganguly faced a couple of balls and suddenly went AWOL, leaving behind the clueless fielders and baffled umpires. I sniffed delaying tactics, a friend suggested nature's call. Before speculation took obnoxious turn, here he's back. Man, India would surely and sorely miss his nuisance value.

1047: Apparently, no one told Dhoni that he was playing a Test match, hence Mahi going run-a-ball. Also apparently, no one told him that Shane Watson is a pacer, for Mahi comes dancing down the track against the blond. Well, ignorance is bliss indeed.

1102: Cameron White has been non-existent in this comatose session. No wonder he's engaged in an engrossing chat with Asad Rauf at square leg, probably discussing kebab recipe.

1621: Blame the inordinate delay to ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat who spoke at length and made hardly any point in the press conference here. He is upset with empty stands greeting Tendulkar on his milestone. "Need to ensure Test cricket's primacy" he advocated, before going on to announce 2010 T20 World would take place in West Indies. England hosts it next year, which means we didn't know it has become an annual affair!

1626: Hussey edged Ishant and Harbhajan but Dhoni, on first occasion, didn't go for it at all and on the second, didn't stoop. Some are cursing him but to me, MSD looks a man of high self-esteem who refuses to bow for anything he perceives below his dignity.

1635: Clarke broke free and came dancing down the track to hit Bhajji for four. I suspect it was the bad breath/body odour of the close-in fielders hanging around his blade like a school of piranhas.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Ind vs Oz...Day 1

0930: Welcome to WNWSACWR, in other words, What Neo Won't Show And Cricinfo Won't Report.

0940: Peter Siddle just sent down his first delivery in Test cricket, which reared off like an ill-tempered mule and whacked Gambhir on the helmet. Gambhir apparently has not lost his memory and recognises Sehwag. Sigh of relief across the stadium.

1021: The nearest cricket stadium was some 700km away. So my entire childhood was intrigued by the curiosity to know what players did during the over breaks. Finally, I arrived at my own conclusion that everyone stood still and were allowed to move only when broadcast resumed. It was a shock of my life when I saw them actually moving in front of my eyes during those breaks.

1027: Siddle is bowling from media end and the sightscreen behind Haddin displays a general insurance advertisement with the punchline 'Muskurate Raho'. Well, it's asking for too much, especially when you are hit around the park. At best, Siddle can only grin and bear it.

1039: Brett Lee, India's ambassador to Australia and son of the Mohali soil in IPL, greeted media with a chaste 'Sat Sri Akaal' on Wednesday. Siddle believes otherwise and welcomed Gambhir with a whack on the helmet this morning. Sehwag greets Watson with a boundary. Diwali greetings all around.

1054: The presence of Peter Roebuck in the press box puts me in August company this October 17. Tall man, taller nose (pardon my journalistic exaggeration. A journalist sans exaggeration is SRK minus stammering or spreading of his arms, whatever you like). His trademark sun hat lying on his desk, besides the laptop which he assaulted to pen this nice piece on Tendulkar. Wanted to talk to him but do I really fancy meeting someone who drove Richards and Garner out of Somerset and was jailed for caning three wards? Maybe some other day.

1104: With the Oz attack looking as toothless as the lady who played Indira Thakrun in Satyajit Ray's masterpiece "Pather Panchali", this is the only way they can hope to get Indian wickets. Gambhir and Dravid in an almighty mix-up but fortunately there's no damage. It turned out Gambhir was calling in Punjabi and Dravid was responding in Kannada. I always felt Indian cricket is in badly need of a lingua franca.

1222: The brand new car (I'm not paid, why should I mention the brand?) is perched on the edge of the boundary ropes under a harsh sun. I guess by the end of the fifth day, it would simply evaporate. Friends here are not amused by my thoughts and attribute the perceived banality to the vile lunch we had here. Thanks to the largesse of an Oz company (same reason for not naming them), my peers have turned beer barrels.

1248: After Siddle aimed at his head, Gambhir this time had a full-blooded Ponting throw hit his calf muscle. He clearly has reasons to fear for his life and limb. Hope Gambhir has got his insurance papers right.

1303: So far, Brett Lee has been as effective as Gandhism on gangsters. Imps insist Ponting needs to get Preity Zinta here to hug Lee. Well, I have nothing to say on this issue. I mean, why gild the Lillee...err...lily?

1326: Well, well. They just showed a Preity Zinta poster and Lee removed Dravid! That should be enough to establish the infallibility of my theory and silence the Doubting Thomas.

1444: Peter Siddle just made history by sending down the first ball in the post-tea session. Tendulkar glided it to third man, ran three and the bar was set higher for posterity. Brian Lara, just pushed off the pedestal, must be texting his congratulatory message in his palatial mansion at Trinidad's capital. Take a bow sir.

2009: Talk about controlled aggression.
"I have been around for 19 years and all these 19 years I did not play to prove anything to anyone, not in my first year not in the 10th, 15th or 19th year...I'm not here to react to what X,Y,Z is writing about me or saying about me. People will say lot of things, not necessarily they are always correct. I don't take their opinions seriously. many things are being said and written and not necessarily those are right. Those are only opinions. What I feel within is more important. People tend to give opinion about what's going in my mind, so I don't know how they can figure out what's going in my mind, which is something even I can't figure out at times...As long as I enjoy I'll play. I don't need X,Y,Z to tell me when I should stop or when I should continue. When I stared, no one told me you should start or you should continue, so nobody needs to tell me now either."
I have never seen anyone masking his aggression better. In the press conference, it was Tendulkar all the way.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

OZ vs BP XI...Day Four

1040: Yuvraj just completed his 100. I'm itching to pat him on the back and kick further six inches down as well. He's outrageously, almost obscenely talented and blasphemously endowed. The space was crammed with so much of flair that discipline had to be left out, I guess. Here he's posing security threats to low-flying aircrafts, launching Krejza and Clarke on orbits. Twice the ball got out of shape!

1208: I had Biryani at lunch, Yuvraj had Krejza. Poor chap Krejza, must be feeling exactly like what he felt when his drink was spiked two years back. Cricket Australia told team management to take good care of him, now I know why. After the trauma in the middle, he may need a trauma centre. I guess he would be of as much help to Oz as Mamata Banerjee has been to West Bengal.

1217: At mid on, Mitchell Johnson is twiddling thumb. No, actually he is tapping it. Suddenly it hit me, he looks like Jim Carrey's estranged brother, isn't it?

1227: Vigorous sweeping at both ends though there are no batters or bowlers in the middle. Actually it's innings break and two HCA ladies, in bright sea blue saree and brandishing brooms, are in action.

1231: Rolling is on as well. Alas, dieting had the desired effect on Adnan Sami. Else, he could be of any use to humanity.

1259: Hussey kept wicket after Haddin injured his finger. Last Ozzie to have a finger problem in India is sitting in the dressing room. This Durga Puja, artisans in Kolkata's Kumartuli need not model 'asuras' on Greg Chappell.

1314. Parthiv Patel has a chat with Hayden. Asking if Gujarati thali would tickle Aussie tastebuds and opening a restaurant at Kingaroy is a good idea. Whatever, it was a brief neck-aching experience for both I guess, considering their respective stature. Parthiv is down to earth but does that mean Hayden should look down upon him? Not done Haydos.

1434: Curse of the finger draws blood on the floor. Now Pragyan Ojha is bleeding. In his case, it's index finger. Wish Jeff Thomson was here. Man, he wanted to see blood on the pitch.

1439: For the umpteenth time, Virat Kohli into this hair-raising exercise. He looks a cocky cock, rufling tuft every now and then. Has a certain swagger but then he has hit a ton too.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Oz vs BP XI...Day Three

1000: Chawla and Ojha tweaking Oz tail. The damage is more than just their bowling figures. I think Punter & Party would go into the Test series with mauled minds and battered confidence. Kumble surely owes a drink to the spin twin. For the Ozzies, they are trembling in their boot, looking as comfortable as someone whose hands are tied with a colony of cockroaches marching over him.

1136: I think speculation should be put to rest about who should open with Hayden in Bangalore. Neither Jaques, nor Katich but Stuart Clark. Come on, he looked better than most. And opening means he would have longer rest before he comes out to bowl. Hope Nielsen reads Doosra.

1516: Badri just got out in a manner that would haunt him for a while. Lee banged it short and wide and Badri had no business chasing it. He was on his toes, I mean literally, and looked like was searching for something to hang his bat on. Walking is fine but after you are picked in the Test squads, scores of 2 and 14 only jeopardises your chances of getting into playing XI.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Oz vs BP XI...Day Two

1026: Protege Pathan must be giving Guru Greg a reason to feel vindicated. Oz attack banging head against brickwall to polish the BP tail. I can see Kumble grinning. Pathan almost exhausted all his luck today before Clark saw his back.

1051: Just witnessed the Sidhu-made-famous Rajendra Talkies cycle stand of Patiala here in Uppal. The same batsmen who were swatting whatever the Aussies hurled at them suddenly looked in a hurry to return to the hut's comfort. The 500-mark looked well within reach before the collapse in heap.

1148: A number of times, Sunny Gavaskar spoke of how umpires made it Australian XIII Down Under. On the other extreme is Shavir Tarapore. BP XI got a couple of bad LBW decisions y'day and now Tarapore turned down Gony's appeal against Hayden. The ball pitched on stumps, rapped him right in front and no movement whatsoever. Can we please cut down on this kind of hospitality for visitors, please?

1247: Just saw Katich saying something to Pragyan Ojha. I have a sneaking suspicion, he was trying to convince Ojha to migrate to Australia. Does the ICC rule book empowers umpires to curb spin trafficking?

1256: To my horror, Piyush Chawla was talking to Ricky Ponting. Hope he didn't say 'I'm readymade..I mean..ready mate.' Anyway from BCCI watching?

1500: Oz bowling looked mediocre and now their batters seem vulnerable. Chawla tormented Ponting before Punter decided offence is the best defence. Except Hussey to some extent, none could really read Chawla. And this is not the free-scoring Aussie side you know. Kumble's grin widening.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Live Oz vs BP XI one

(What Neo won't show and Cricinfo won't tell)

1214: Feel like talking more about the lunch than the match. As it happens every time, Aussies grabbed three quick wickets to take upper hand. Yuvraj y'day said he has a point to prove, something he has not done yet. I mean he hit through mid-off, third man and mid-on. One past/through point too, please.

1231: Exactly 17 minutes after I submitted my requisition, Yuvraj hits through point. Thank You Sir. Point noted.

1235: Mitchell Johnson took a catch and grabbed a wicket as well before lunch. You probably can have a better bowler but certainly not a better lover. 'Notch' left Queensland for Western Australia to be with his lady love Jesssica Bratich. Considering Jessica is a former karate champion, just hope it was not under duress.

1259: You don't get to see an uglier dismissal. Yuvraj was all prose so far till Johnson banged this one short. Yuvi plans a pull and then abandons the plan altogether at the last moment. The ball hits his retreating bat and lobs up for Hussey to take a dolly at gully. It was almost an obscene end to a sublime knock. Tsk..tsk..tsk.

1406: Some people derive pleasure in making fun of others. Rohit Sharma is currently thumbing nose at the lack of vision of Krish Srikkanth & Co.

1429: A man in Khaki with a sniffer dog is making round of the ground right after 'Pup' completed the last over before tea. Cricket has gone to the dogs, no doubt about that.

2043: Back in hotel. Rohit was little sad in the press conference. The ton came a day late probably. Srikkanth was here, as was Hirwani and they patted Rohit, saying keep it up. Srikkanth being Srikkanth (that man speaks before he thinks, MAK Pataudi once said), he was itching to speak to the media but Hirwani played spoilsport and dragged him away. They are not supposed to talk about VRS plans for senior players. Hirwani's eargerness to toe BCCI line is understandable. BCCI resurrected him from obliviion and is paying to boot!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Chasing Ozzies in Hyderabad

1135: Covered all major players in y'day's media interaction. Shane Watson's candour and Michael Clarke's clarity of thought impressed most. Clarke showed me all but one of his tattoos. Hayden surprisingly came across soft-spoken. Brett Lee confirmed he is working on an album. 'Right now, I'm busy writing the songs mate.'
1235: Reached Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Uppal. The exterior is not impressive but interior is. Ponting bowls in the net with Greg Chappell as the umpire. Ponting is garrulous, Chappell stoic, a manufcaturing defect in the god's workshop I guess.

1315: You just love the Aussies for their tidy planning of everything. Wish BCCI learnt a few things from CA. Nielsen addresses press conference. I think, no, I'm sure he's cock-eyed. Can't really follow whom he is eyeing.

1415: Saw a stunning young lady journalist, some i TV mike in hand. Straight out of Telugu movie. On the wrong side of a press conference I guess. My hotel is in the Lakdi-ka-pul area. I thought it was Ladki-ka-pool. Friends scolded me for what they perceived as daydreaming.

1430: Collectively buttonholed Badrinath for his reaction. Got a gem of a line. "I think...I don't think we can take this match easily." Make up your mind, dude.

1440: Fortunately Pragyan Ojha remembers we met in Vadodara. Was keen to know who got into the Test squad. You could sense everyone had that in their mind. Viraat Kohli was clowning around, trying to convince about something spooky in the team hotel. Pragyan seemed disappointed to learn that Amit Mishra got the nod.

1445: Yuvraj's eyeballs almost popped out of socket. Irfan Pathan and Parthiv Patel could not help screaming "Kya? Amit Mishra?". They reacted as if they were in the race for the spinner's slot.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Live Irani Trophy Updates...Day 4

1033: Sehwag-Gone-Home episode has stirred the hornet's nest here. Some claim he was unhappy with poor accommodation, some claimed he was bitter after Munaf abused him. Talked to DDCA Sports Secretary Sunil Dev, who returned by the same flight y'day and he says Sehwag had a migraine and hence he gone back. Braveheart Gambhir menwhile wages a lone battle.

1431: Well, the match is over and Rest of India thumped Best of India, Ranji champions Delhi, by 187 runs. After the match was over, a new batsman appeared at teh IPCL ground -- pads, gloves and blinding baldness. Anil Kumble and Chetanya Nanda were bowling to him and he struggled to middle a single delivery. By the time he came out all sweats, Gary Kirsten looked very much a tortured soul.

1435: Buttonholed Paddy Upton for an interview and he goes on dwelling on anything and everything but you can't take note, for it's off-the-record. He's anxious to get the okay from BCCI to post articles on the website. So am I.

1437: I didn't abuse anyone but still being made to stand under a scorching sun. Waiting for Match Referee RR Jadeja to announce the verdict of the hearing into Gone-Home Sehwag's complaint against foulmouth Munaf Patel.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Live Irani Trophy Updates...Day 3

1022: It's drinks out there and tea for me. The tea served in the Press Box reflects the prosperity of Gujarat -- thick, full cream milk and 'kuncham kuncham' elaichi as well.

1112: Chetanya Nanda resembles Kunal Kapur of 'Rang De Basanti' fame, isn't it? Fellow long-hair Ishant Sharma keeps reminding me of Mowgli. And they say Dhoni can play Tarzan.

1146: MS Dhoni probably realises if there is any threat to his Test captaincy dreams, it's Sehwag. So a slogsweep, fierce drive and a reversesweep off the Delhi captain. Half of Dhoni's shots could be traced to woodcutter's manual. On one occasion, he apparently attempted to cut the ball into half and Mithun Manhas' palm must be sore now after stopping it.

1302: Did I keep quiet for long? Blame it on the sumptuous lunch. Anyway, Dhoni seems hell bent to prove he would have made an equally effective left-hander. Just reverse swept his way to his 23rd fifty. No prize for guessing the bowler, Sehwag. This was the fourth occasion he reverse swept aside Sehwag!

1320: Well, blacksheeps are not that difficult to find and apparently we have shot ourselves in the foot. One of the TV reporters yesterday went to Rest of Inda team hotel and because he was not obstructed by anyone there, he filed a story on how it's unsafe for the players (I presume he wished to be obstructed). His channel added enough spice to the half-baked stuff and projected how a human bomb could easily make his way to the hotel. Stung police authorities have now reacted by barring everyone - except staff and boarders - from entering the hotel. Those of us who had lined up interviews are now left twiddling thumbs!

1325: BCCI continues raising the bar when it comes to logic-defying. Chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar and his colleagues Venkatapathy Raju and Ranjib Biswal were here for the tie. What for? After all, they are not going to pick the squad for the series against Australia, it would be the first assignment of the next batch. In other words, the selectors who were here won't pick the side and those who would pick the side are yet to be officially unveiled. So what was the logic behind the extire exercise? I would love to believe it was BCCI's parting shot to the outgoing selectors.

1330: Mowgli bowling to Tarzan and hits him on the pad. No appeal. Ishant is mature beyond his age and knows can't afford to antagonise Dhoni. Of course it hit Dhoni little high but Ishant had broken into Tarzan screams against other batsmen in similar situations. Smart boy.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Live Irani Trophy Updates at Doosra...Day 2

(Those who want to follow the scores live, you've typed the wrong URL. Those who want things that Neo TV won't show and Cricinfo won't report, welcome aboard. Oops, forgot to say, Doosra reports live from Vadodara IPCL Stadium)

1110 hrs: R P Singh makes peace with sparse crowd. Half an hour back, he was shouting at someone 'Arre, sightscreen ke saamne kya kar raha hai? Hat ja". A few people were hurling some not-so-flattering words to the UP pacer, who finally folded his hands and gestured to the crowd. No love seems lost as those camping near the sightscreen greet him back. No mediator required.

1129: Munaf is emptying his reserve of aggression well before the Oz series. Rajat Bhatia patted back one to the Non-Resident Gujarati pacer who hurled it back hoping Bhatia to do Inzy. Bhatia apparently does not idolises Inzy.

1135: The official scorers in the press box keep calling the Delhi wicketkeeper Puneet BUST. Casting serious aspersion indeed. I bet he would have preferred BEAST. Come on Puneet, show them you are a MAN.

1147: Kumble delivers his second NO BALL, a borderline case. Not impressed, AK has a chat with umpire, probably asking which contact lense he uses.

1151: Officiating under a harsh sun with 11 people screaming into your eardrums and giving you pan-Indian assortment of choicest abuses and ugly stares is not an easy task. Both the umpires seem hungry and can't wait for lunch, checking the time every now and then. Or checking if the watch has stopped ticking.

1158: Y'day, Dravid played Chetanya Nanda as if he was Ajantha Mendis. Today, Puneet Bust...errr I mean Bisht and Raja Bhatia are playing Harbhajan Singh as if he is Jaspal Bhatti.

1310: Watching Munaf Patel chasing a skier ranks among the most hilarious sights you hope to see in cricket. Sangwan hit one off Harbhajan, Munaf reacted as if he had sighted a UFO, chased only to see it land near his ankle and he could not help kicking it, inadvertently of course. As the ball races to the rope, Munaf realises his folly, stoops and picks it but his momentum almost takes him to the other side of the boundary line. To avoid that, Munaf does a little Kangaroo jump and manages to stay inside. Quite an entertainment package in the end!

1322: Zaheer Khan just 'leaked' a ball and both Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha came rushing to stop it from reaching the boundary line. Ojha is the second substitute for VVS Laxman after Ashok Dinda did the job in the morning. No word on Laxman, has he gone fishing?

1325: Even Ojha has rubbed his trousers red. Is it the clay or the color of the ball? Whatever, cricket should develop a better, and more decent, way of hiding growing cases of dermatosis among its practitioners. And no wonder, you have so many groin injuries to cricketers.

1444: I always felt that insomniacs need not lose hope. All they need is to sit and watch the entire post-lunch session of any domestic tie, preferably with Dravid and Jaffer inaction...I mean in action. Jokes apart, both Dravid and Jaffer have done what they are supposed to. They must be sipping their rich elaichi-flavoured tea with some satisfaction for not allowing Delhi make any inroads in their second essay.

1629: I suspect Ajantha Mendis has done some permanent damage to Dravid, who continues to struggle against Chetanya Nanda. He edged twice, though it didn't carry to the slip. Finally Dravid does a Misbah and scoops it to get some runs.

1846: My swansong update of the day. Talked to Vijay Dahiya, who was upset with Delhi batsmen's shot selection and hailed RoI's superb catching. Meanwhile, I'm fending swarm of hungry mosquitoes in the media box and posting. Got hold of Paddy Upton who informed Laxman is down with food poisoning, hence could not field. "Things are better this afternoon, he's spending less time in loo, you know." Quite a jovial guy.
See you all tomororw.

Monday, 15 September 2008

EXLCUSIVE! Roy Speaks to Doosra!

Those who thought the Dragon has gulped me down with generous dose of authentic Chinese tea, I must say it was a premature celebration. The following Andrew Symonds exclusive interview explains my prolonged absence from blogosphere. My childhood angling experience taught me it’s never easy to catch fish, and even tougher to catch people catching fish. But anyway, my hard work finally bore fruit and here you have Symonds speaking his mind out.

Doosra: Mate, first of all, I must sympathise with you, considering what’s going through your troubled mind.

Symonds: X%@$%*!

Doosra: err…well…I mean…ok, let’s get on with the interview. Roy so what lies ahead?

Symonds: Grrrr…lies! You mean I’m lying? You X%@$%*!

Doosra: Oooops, calm down Roy, I just meant so what’s next for you?

Symonds: Sounds better and you better avoid double-meaning.

Well, now that I’m no more supposed to attend any compulsory meeting, I think finally I can go fishing, without bothering about consequences. Those equipments cost me a lot you know.

Doosra: But why did you skip the compulsory team meeting and went fishy..err I mean fishing?

Symonds: No double-meaning, told you. Anyway, I skipped the meeting because there they made players read ‘Art of War’ in Braille. Only Buchanan has left, not his madness you know.

Doosra: Roy, what is the lesson you learnt from the entire episode?

Symonds: Lesson? What lesson? I’ll teach those %$#*& a lesson, special Clarke. I’ll give you a scoop. You know what? Pup is not straight. He’s the guy behind Binga’s broken marriage.

Now I realize, Australia never really embraced me. They never really knew what to do with this England-born of Afro-Caribbean parentage. I’m thinking of migrating to India.

Doosra: India! But people there booed you!

Symonds: Not really. Now I believe I misunderstood them, cultural difference you know? Didn’t you hear about people who spit on each other’s face to greet? Likewise, Indians have weird ways of greeting you.

I guess I misunderstood Bhajji as well. He swore he never called me monkey, rather inquired about my mom’s health. So nice of him.

You know what? I have a sneaking suspicion that it was actually Matty Hayden who called me monkey, he’s a master ventriloquist you know.

Doosra: Well, what happens if they don’t welcome you in India?

Symonds: Well, in that case I can return to London and make my England A debut.

Doosra: England A!

Symonds: Why not? I could have played for the Poms in 1995 but I turned it down. Now I realise it was a mistake to prefer Australia. But it’s never too late. Besides, they need me.

Doosra: Well, I can’t be as optimistic, what if they too don’t welcome you?

Symonds: That would leave me with no other option but to return to my roots.

Doosra: You mean West Indies?

Symonds: Nope, South Africa. I like Graeme Smith more than Warnie and the Proteas need me to come out of the apartheid era.

Doosra: But that era is already over!

Symonds: Who says? They just became untouchables after Poms, of all people, beat them and that too in ODIs! Can you believe it!

Doosra: Well, it seems you don’t have dearth of options. Count fishing as well. Anyway, it’s reassuring to know that we have not seen the last of Symo. Willow or fishing rod, bat or boat, bowling line or fishing line. All the best Roy.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Entering the Dragon: Doosra takes Olympic break

Decks were cleared some six months back and here I’m off to my date with the Dragon. It’s official, for the next 20-0dd days cricket would take the proverbial backseat in my scheme of things.

Beijing beckons.

So, I would not rave about Mendis’ bag of tricks, marvel at Sehwag’s apparent brainlessness, rue Dravid’s comatose batting, ridicule county cricket or lampoon Lalit Modi.

Instead, my focus would be on how much punch Akhil Kumar can pack in the ring, if Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s gun goes off for glory again and if Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi can create that old magic to finish on the podium.

And I would love to see Sania Mirza proving she is more than just the Czarina of Foofaraw. And hope Anju Bobby George will rise to the occasion, both literally and in the true sense of the term.

A medal might be daydreaming but I would want the women’s 4x400m relay team to give others a good run for their money and medal and plead to Monika Devi, lone Indian weightlifter, that we surely don’t want another doping stigma.

Thanks to a watchmaker, I’m also set to meet the James Bond girls, Cindy Crawford, Alexander Popov and Ian ‘Thorpedo’ – that missing link between man and fish. I guess it makes a heady concoction and retaining sanity would probably my biggest challenge.

So, friends, Romans and countrymen, please bear with me and come back again. I’m not sure if I can post – about Olympics if not cricket – before August 26 but don’t desert me. See you all.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Musings of mauled minds

Dented pride? Wounded ego? Tarnished reputation? Well, that's no-brainer. After Murali and Mendis molested them in broad day light, you needed Doosra, the closest you have to a clairvoyant, to find out exactly what passed through the mind of those Indian batsmen who went through the trauma.

Rahul Dravid: Well, it’s never wise to pick up a fight with someone who has been an army gunner till the other day.

Gautam Gambhir: I told Kirsten in the plane that I’m scared of flights.

Sourav Ganguly: Hmm…Dona has got better footwork.

Sachin Tendulkar: I mistook Mendis and thought an LTTE Tiger was lobbing a hand grenade at me.

VVS Laxman: It’s all destiny. Since ‘Ramayana’ days, every Laxman is entitled to setbacks in Lanka.

Virender Sehwag: Boycott was back in the commentary box and I needed to give him fodder for thought.

Dinesh Karthik: Why pretend? My job is to keep the seat warm till Dhoni returns and lays his bums. Why break sweat?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Men in White: Necessary Evils or Jetsam?

Neville Cardus felt umpires are as good as bathroom geyser. “We cannot do without it, yet to notice it only when it is out of order.”

In the same piece, he went on to mourn “The umpires are the Dogberrys of the game. We see them as essentially comic characters. Whenever a batsman swipes to leg and hits the umpire in the small of the back, how the crowd roars! If the wind blows the hat off the umpire’s head, laughter holds side.”

Not surprisingly, Cardus’ romanticism finds no taker, least of all in the ICC. Now that the referral system is being trialled in Sri Lanka, I wonder why don’t we completely do away with the custom? Why on earth place two hapless souls under the scorching sun and steady drizzle, ask them to stay put and focus all day as if nothing exists beyond the ball’s trajectory – only to end up as butts of numerous jokes for a rare moment of transgression? Why can’t we just replace them with technology and completely wipe out the ‘human error’? Or is it that they provided the entertainment value, as outlines by Cardus?

A fence-sitter weighing the pros and cons, I listed what could be the arguments for and against the Men in White?


  1. We just love Billy Bowden, the ghost of a ballerina trapped in an umpire’s body.
  2. Umpires make excellent almirah. And you don’t need pest control or rustproofing either!
  3. Idiosyncracies are part-and-parcel of the game. Cricket would have been poorer without Steve Bucknor’s slow-death finger, David Shepherd’s hilarious attempt at a pirouette or Billy Bowden’s ballet.
  4. Rival team does not lend hankies when you have running nose.
  5. You need an interpreter of maladies called sledging to ensure there is no communication gap between players.


  1. High time cricket did its bit for the environment. Cricket’s contribution to noise pollution stem from the sheer existence of the umpires. Take them away and future Shane Warnes would have no eardrum within earshot to holler into, thus saving a tribe from going deaf as well.
  2. Bucknor is perennially one match behind in his decision making.
  3. When you replace umpires with robots, you don’t need to care about their salary, perks, legally binding contracts and their rights too. Just make sure those are not from any Isaac Asimov sci-fi.
  4. Allow Virender Sehwag play his straight drives without the fear of culpable homicide.
  5. Finally, stop making annual fun of Simon Taufel’s Androgenic Alopecia in the annual ICC awards night.
Image: INKCINCT Cartoons

Monday, 21 July 2008

Of Nadal, asteroid and an Indian XI

The other day, Rafael Nadal, that veritable Spanish bull on two legs, had an asteroid named after him. Here goes an Indian XI and things that could have been named after them:

  1. Irfan Pathan = Meteor
  2. Ajit Agarkar = Comet
  3. Virender Sehwag = Aircraft Safety Hazard
  4. Sourav Ganguly = Kamikaze Planes/ Nail Clipper
  5. Rahul Dravid = Defence Headquarters
  6. Sachin Tendulkar = Peaks/National Museum/Departmental Store
  7. S Sreesanth= Tinder Box
  8. Ashish Nehra = Band Aid
  9. Anil Kumble = Diplomatic Mission
  10. Harbhajan Singh = Nuclear Reactor/Volcano
  11. Zaheer Khan = Nursing Home.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The curious case of Irfan Pathan

According to a recent survey, around 75,000 children have been identified as missing across India in the last one year. Alas, you never get data about cricketers who take the obscurity-prominence-oblivion route.

Let’s admit, Irfan Pathan has become an anachronism, though that was not supposed to be the case with an otherwise immensely likeable chap with a disarming smile. An obituary to his career seems premature but I’m afraid he would go down in cricket history as a mere case study -- how not to tamper with a talent.

Indeed, Irfan can’t be faulted if he looks back and feels he got stuck somewhere between his own potentials and Greg Chappell’s aspirations. In his weaker moments he would probably admit that the aspiring all-rounder in him subdued the bowler within. Suddenly, belting looked so glamorous and bowling such a chore. No wonder, pace dipped and swing deserted, rendering him lesser a bowler.

To make it worse, too many mentors compounded the crisis. Irfan simply lost his way in the haze of advices that came from left, right and centre. Suddenly, everyone had something or the other to offer to him. No wonder, Irfan’s slower became a tautology and at some point of time, Jhulan Goswami was bowling faster than him. The same bowler who could make the ball talk, now only releases it and implores the almighty for the rest.

He probably got up one morning to discover in his horror that he has been robbed of his endowment.

My sneaking suspicion is Irfan had an identity crisis all along. He began as Zaheer protégé, was the next Wasim Akram at his zenith and then rumormongers exclaimed India has just got the new Kapil Dev. The truth is, he probably never had an identity of his own and that made him easy prey to failure.

Again, this was not to be the case.

The other day, Rafael Nadal had an asteroid named after him. I won’t be surprised if someone proposes to name a meteor after Irfan.

Image: BBC

Monday, 14 July 2008


So cricket got its own Ben Johnson. Of course this is not the first time. Remember how we had to digest a World Cup sans Shane Warne? And a Champions Trophy without Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif?

But then what’s World Cup or Champions Trophy vis-à-vis IPL? These are mere bagatelles, compared to the blockbuster that IPL is -- a veritable cricket Olympic with a slightly altered view on its frequency. Industrial baron Lalit Modi is cricket’s answer to Baron de Coubertin.

While IPL fountainheads are yet to lay all the cards on the table, the million dollar question is whose sample proved positive? Doosra looks at the options.

1. Shane Warne: Sick and tired of dal-bati-churma, Rajasthan’s Most Famous Son (he beat Greg Chappell in a photo finish) sent an SOS-SMS from his legendary cell phone (which has scalped as many victims, especially plump English nurses, as the spinner himself) to cricket’s second most famous mother (after Jane Boycott). Soon flew in a Qantas-load of baked beans and a familiar jar. Well, the Australian’s doting German mother thought his son was through with international cricket, so why care? After all, mom’s love knows no bound, WADA or not.

2. Shoaib Akhtar: Well, how else you expect a thirtysomething pacer to react after he is slapped a five-year ban? The ban simply left him fuming and smoking. The fault anyway lies with the appellate tribunal which still contrived a way to allow him grace the IPL when he was least expecting it.

3. PCB Appellate Tribunal Members: Even Shoaib Akhtar vouches they hardly looked in their senses when they waved the green signal for the Rawalpindi Express to chug into IPL.

4. Vijay Mallya: Even the cruellest of hearts would admit that the thrashing which the Bangalore Royal Challengers were receiving with an alarming regularity was reason enough to escape from harsh realities and hallucinate .

5. Lalit Modi: Mr Mint-in-Suit, are you sure it's not yours? After all, old habits, they say, die hard.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Worshipping false gods?

The manner of defeat can be more horrifying than defeat itself and I don’t think MS Dhoni or Gary Kirsten missed the obvious.

The Asia Cup slipped through fingers. Worse, Indian batters can’t play spin!

For the uninitiated, India has traditionally been the land of rope tricks, hemp, fakirs, tweakers and batters with supple wrists. Lo and behold! One more myth lays shattered.

It’s not about one Asia Cup or Ajantha Mendis’ bag of tricks. Let's admit Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa and Suresh Raina (did you say Dhoni himself?) are veritable duds against spin. And interestingly, they don’t exactly fancy the rib-ticklers either!

At least Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman played spin better!

Are we worshipping the false gods, who, at best, are mere murderers of medium pace on docile tracks? Is Team India’s ODI future in safe hands?

But this was not supposed to be the case in this spin-fertile land where more tweakers sprout than ferns. You grow up playing them in serpentine bylanes, main streets on a bandh day, school grounds, practice nets and on full 22 yards at every level upwards. Then how come the sheer prospect of facing a spinner leaves you with paraplegic footwork and leaden wrists?

Consensus is Yuvraj is outrageously gifted, while Rohit is perhaps the best thing to come out of Mumbai since Tendulkar. Raina on the other hand is tipped, by the venerable Wisden, to define cricket in the next decade.

I’m afraid, unless this yawning chink in their armour is fixed, they would remain perpetual pretenders to the pedestals.

Image: AFP

Monday, 7 July 2008

Mendis and the faculty of serendipity

Murali, Malinga and now Mendis. The Land of Serendipity will soon be known as the place where maverick bowlers, possibly with surnames that begin with M, are as ubiquitous as landmines there.

And both are equally devastating, ask the Indians.

Like the Three Princes of Serendip, the Lankan selectors seem endowed with this faculty of serendipity to discover freak talents, by accidents and sagacity. How else you explain unearthing freak bowling talents with such amazing regularity?

Ajantha Mendis did not look like a hoax as he bamboozled the Indian batters, some of whom can blunt spin even blindfolded. The Lankan army gunner is no Paul Adams, all theatrics and little craft, and if Jayawardene is to go by, he has got six different deliveries up his sleeves, which makes him The Special.

Mendis poses equal dilemma to cricket writers and batters alike. Well, what next? a googly? an off-break? a top-spinner? Or that carom-ball delivery? It’s as if you are standing in front of a spin departmental store. You name it and you have it.

In Mendis, The Great Lankan Freak Factory has produced another gem of a maverick and fortunately no coach, at any stage, tinkered his action or tweaked his approach. Mendis also has the privilege to pick Murali’s brain as the mentor and protégé operate in tandem and the youngster has to make the most of this opportunity.

The Asia Cup final was just the beginning -- and what a beginning -- of a journey. The post-mortem of his action has already started on many a laptop and ploys are being discussed by hurt opponents. The real test lies ahead. Moratuwa's poster boy has to ensure he lives up to the sky-high expectation he has just raised and not wilt under it.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Here is how England remains immune to change

# The Egyptians, at some point of time, used slabs of stones for pillows;

# Sometime in the ‘60s, schools in Tanganyika were closed because of a queer outbreak of contagious laughter that lasted for six months;

# Sometime in the ‘80s, workers in a Las Vegas hospital were suspended for betting on which patient would die first.

So, let’s be honest and admit that stranger things did happen in the past. Taking the mickey out of Geoff Miller and his selectorial colleagues is a trifle rude, so what if England is on the verge of another world record – of picking the same XI for the sixth Test on the trot.

While nitpicking critics call it creative bankruptcy on the selectors’ part, here are 5 reasons why England will field the same XI again, and again and again:

  1. Let me share a scoop. Demanding their share of the Stanford pie, the selectors are actually on an industrial strike, leaving ECB with no other option but to field the same XI, matches after matches, till the deadlock ends. Impressed by his troubleshooting in the Gujjar row, ECB is all set to approach Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to end the stalemate;
  2. Convinced (by Stanford, who else?) that Test cricket is the worst thing to happen to mankind, ECB decided to parade the same XI faces till the crowd is bored to death and stops coming to grounds;
  3. ECB realised creating a sense of belonging and job security are vital to ensure optimum productivity (in strict cricketing sense) from the players. Besides, it also pre-empts supra-cricketing efforts -- like Sidebottom bringing down Grant Elliot -- to cement place in the squad;
  4. Notional infallibility of the fact that players are bound to come good at some point of time, ensuring occasional moments of success;
  5. Finally it upholds selectorial integrity by nixing possibilities of favouritism and nepotism at one stroke.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mayhem at Mannofield Park

The publishing industry is abuzz and grapevine has it that ICC fountainheads Ray Mali, David Morgan and Sharad Pawar are burning midnight oil, co-authoring “101 Sure Shot Ways to Kill One Day Cricket”.

How else you explain pitting an unsuspecting Liliput against the big Brobdingnag bully resulting in the ugliest mismatch in one day cricket’s history? And if this is how ICC envisages the associates improving, Mali & Co should at once be put through the SCAN.

Trust me, boxing – at least amateur boxing -- may look a gory sport but it’s more humane. You don’t see a flyweight pugilist hurled into the ring to be easy meat for his super heavyweight candidate. And then there also is this provision of RSC or Referee Stops Contest when it becomes mockery of a bout.

But then cricket is a different proposition, a different BALL game altogether. Licensed to overkill, bobblehead ICC nods in affirmative whenever an ODI tournament is proposed and the Mannofield Park massacre also reveals its criminal indifference to the associate members’ future.

Tip-toeing in its cricket infancy, all Ireland needed was to be guided to the pool. Instead, they were thrown into the deepest end, with a hungry shoal of sharks waiting for a feast. Poor Irish bowlers must have been shaking and shrinking in their boots when the McCullum-Marshall-Taylor trio was setting the ball on orbits, posing serious security hazard for the low-flying ScotAirways planes.

If ICC still claims to care for its associate members, it should engage shrinks to help the Irish players come out of the trauma.

What baffles me is ICC’s adamance not to learn the lesson from its Bangladesh experience and persisting with the same logic-defying rush to elevate the associates despite the obvious counter-productive outcome. I won’t be surprised if Kyle McCallan and his boys develop an inferiority complex, convinced of their inability to break into and hang around in the big league.

Meanwhile for ODIs, IPL has already done enough to put it on the deathbed. ICC surely can’t wait to administer the last rites.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Whither Zimbabwe?

The wound has been festering long enough and chucking Zimbabwe out of the Full Members league looks a fait accompli as ICC goes into a huddle in Dubai.

I don't doubt the reasons either. Probably Mugabe stands for all the vices of the world and the money meant for the players are finding their way to Peter Chingoka's account too. So ICC should not be worried about any backlash even if they slam the door on Zimbabwe.

But what about the players?

Will it force Brendon Taylor come Brendon the tailor? Hamilton Masakadza once put his career on hold to pursue a university degree. Will the decision mean complete abandoning of his craft? Can anyone guarantee that Mluleki Nkala, Kadoma's poster boy, would not return to his Ndebele tribe? Maybe 'Psych', who scalped Tendulkar with only his second ball in international cricket, would be spending the rest of his life washing toilets at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport to feed his 13 siblings.

In all probability, it would be end of all roads for Chamu Chibhabha and his sister Julia, captain of their women's team, as well. Probably their worried parents would tell them to stop dreaming pie in the sky and do something more pragmatic.

I fear, Prosper Utseya would remain an embarrassing misnomer. I won't be surprised either if Blessing Mahwire goes haywire. Having once remodelled his action, he may now need to remodel his career altogether. Tatenda Taibu, understandably, would be frugal with the USD 125,000 he generated from the IPL auction, while Henry Olonga would continue to oblige the British media from his base in exile.

Does anyone see the road ahead? Is there one at all?

Image: BBC

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Doosra goes AWOL!

As you sulk and shout throughout the year, rave and rant till you froth at the mouth with relentless rage at an increasingly imperfect world, the keyboard caper, in its vulnerable moments, craves for a pause.

It’s almost a Quixotic exercise of tilting at windmills as passionate bloggers, armed with their lone weapon -- keyboard -- wage a crusade against all the perceived ills and take the cudgel on their shoulders to right the wrong.

But others would vouch for me -- it can be draining at times, especially when you are juggling it with a demanding profession, which is almost equally necessary to keep the oven/microwave burning.

So I’m off till June 26th and the week-long sabbatical should have me renascent and rejuvenated enough to make up for the pause with unbridled verbal diarrhea.

So, inscrutable friends, Romans and countrymen (I think I have run the whole gamut!) who for some inexplicable reason visit my blog, heave a sigh of relief but not for long as I hope to hit back with vengeance. Cheers!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

5 wonders that await Asif on his release

As Mohammad Asif packs his bag, hugs his new-found friends at the Dubai detention centre and heads for Pakistan, you cannot really rule out a Rip Van Winkle syndrome.

Cricket is no more the game it was when Asif was nabbed in Dubai and here are the five wonders that are bound to make him as hallucinated as he was at the time of his interception.

  1. Kevin Pietersen switching on and off;
  2. Brett Lee’s alternate profession as owner-cum-model for downmarket underwear;
  3. Collingwood brandishing Trion-Z magic bracelets to counter Vettori’s smart-pant voodoo;
  4. Appellate Tribunal decreeing that Shoaib Akhtar would be legally entitled to crack his bat on Asif's thigh in September 2009 and not in a distant 2013;
  5. Sreesanth finally settling into a life without Harbhajan Singh and picking up a fight with hotel staff in Bangalore.
Image: AP

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

On is off, off is on, right or wrong

So here comes the official confirmation -- on his off, off is on, right or wrong.

As Pietersen the peacock goes swaggering around after MCC announces that the touch of madness is actually a stroke of genius, my cynicism hits nadir. Replacing leather-flingers -- already at the receiving end of cricket’s own state-sponsored pogrom -- with bowling machine seems the natural culmination of the process custodian and executives of the game have undertaken.

How else you explain MCC’s willingness to alter LBW and Wide Ball rules just to accommodate one of the most vulgar shots you can come across?

The only plausible logic put forward by the MCC eggheads was that it adds to entertainment. So does recreational drugs and I've Mohd Asif to vouch for that. So?

My sneaking suspicion is MCC’s decision to pander to the hoi polloi stems from its fear of redundancy. After all, cricket’s toothless watchdog is as relevant to the game as UN is to America’s foreign policy.

Consider the bowlers’ plight. Already pushed to the brink, he recalls the batsman’s chink in the armour, sets him up, makes minor field adjustment and then ambles in to bowl that delivery but lo and behold! Every bit of his plan is hit for a six because he did not come prepared to see mirror batting at the other end.

I don’t have problem with Pietersen’s wholesome hatred for tradition. But I don’t either think switch-hitting would make 'The Ego' any better a bat than what he is now. But of course it helps him remain the Prince of Foofaraw, whose coiffeur and cricket would continue to assume equal importance.

My problem is not with the shot, or any shot for that matter. I’m appalled by the sheer readiness of the MCC and ICC to play to the gallery and the absolute marginalization of the other, equally important, protagonist of the bat-ball drama. Beneath the haze, cricket is essentially an exercise where bowler initiates the action and the batsman merely reacts. But unfortunately, those who run the game are hell bent to make it a complete mismatch pitting the author-backed batsman against a no-hoper bowler.

This is surely not cricket!

Image: BBC