Tuesday 23 October 2007

Of catcalls, monkey chants, Guy the Gorilla and Incredible India!

Well, finally the ill-tempered Ind-Aus ODI series is over. While the BCCI, Cricket Australia and ICC dwell on the degree of racism, I’ve been taken aback by the discrimination displayed by cricket players and administrators towards the animal kingdom at large!

Reams have been written about monkey chants and reporters/columnists foamed in the mouth explaining how racist it was. But did anyone bother to spare a thought for the hapless monkeys?

For starters, catcalls are not considered compliments, but why is it that monkey chants constitute racial abuse? I mean this is a serious prejudice that has in fact the entire monkey species up in arms, knocking the door of the Simian Primates Rights Organisation, demanding an answer.

Much to the monkeys’ dismay, cricketers walk in hoping to have a WHALE of a time out there, commentators’ hail HAWKeye, tailenders are called RABBITS and FERRETS, fielders are positioned in COW corner and the entire Bangladesh team boasts of being the TIGERS. Scratching furiously their heads, the monkeys simply don’t know why cricket has no problems with other animals but all hell breaks loose when it comes to monkeys!

In fact it has been a long-standing injustice that continues to upset the monkeys. Knighted Ian Botham does not object to his nickname Guy the GORRILLA; Arun Lal does not mind being called PIGGY; Ajit Agarkar remains the Mumbai DUCK: and then you have Joel “Big BIRD” Garner, Darren “RHINO” Gough, Anil “JUMBO” Kumble, Clive “Super CAT” Lloyd, Glenn “PIGEON” McGrath, Dave “TADPOLE” Mohammed, Graeme “Little DOG” Pollock, Peter “Big DOG” Pollock…well the list is endless.

And finally, I must share a doubt of mine. Did part of the Indian crowd really intend to insult Andrew Symonds when they hurled those monkey chants and aped the apes at Wankhede? My doubt is that the Australians simply went bananas in this case and before you bay for my headstrong head, let me explain.

Indian culture is a marriage of tradition and modernity and hence vulnerable to misinterpretation by ill-informed critics. Well, first get our basics right. Man’s evolution from monkey is something taught in schools and I believe therein lies the secret.

Well, those who know Hindi know that “Are, Yeh To Baap Nikla!” is a compliment of highest order by an awestruck speaker, which literally would mean “Gosh! He Proved Our Father” but would actually mean,”He proved who’s the boss.”

Andrew Symonds has been the batting mainstay for Australia in the series against India and when he came to bat in the last ODI at Wankhede, two gentlemen – bona fide ambassadors of Indian culture – aped monkeys to imply “Are Yeh To Baap Se Bhi Aage (which means forefathers= monkeys) Nikla”.

Now if that tribute is misconstrued as racial abuse, one can only hope that next time other teams visit India, they just get versed with the culture here to avoid any misunderstanding about Incredible India.

Image: Getty Images

Saturday 20 October 2007

Bat, ball and Bollywood…Dhoni dating Deepika Padukone, or is it Priyanka Chopra?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni surely has a charm about him that transcends the boundary of cricket. Ask Deepika Padukone. Well, if grapevine is to be believed – well, calling it grapevine and then begging to believe it is too much -- this model-cum-actress and Dhoni share a mutual admiration. While she turned up to cheer for Dhoni’s Daredevils against Ponting’s Pirates (errr, does that sound racist?) in Saturday's Twenty2o tie, Dhoni is expected to reciprocate by watching Deepika’s debut movie ‘Om Shanti Om’.

Deepika, daughter of India’s lone badminton star Prakash Padukone, has become a household face, courtesy innumerable commercials and her soon-to-be-released movie against Shah Rukh Khan “Om Shanti Om”.

Dhoni apparently has a crush on the lanky beauty but there are also reports that link ‘Mahi’with Priyanka Chopra. And there also were reports that the dasher from Jharkhand has an admirer in Koena Mitra as well.

Some say there can’t be smoke without fire but I’m not insisting that these are to be believed. Gossips are gossips after all. Following is a list – I can’t call it comprehensive – of cricketer-actress matches, though I can’t take responsibility of authenticity!

Mohsin Khan – Reena Roy

Garfield Sobers – Anju Mahendra

Viv Richards – Neena Gupta

Sandeep Patil – Debashree Roy

Imran Khan- Zeenat Aman, Moon Moon Sen

MAK Pataudi- Sharmila Tagore

Zaheer Khan- Isha Sharvani

Sourav Ganguly- Nagma

Yuvraj Singh - Kim Sharma

Mohd Azhrauddin- Sangeeta Bijlani

Ravi Shastri-Amrita Singh

Kapil Dev-Sarika

Usman Afzal- Amrita Arora

Manoj Prabhakar-Farheen

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Why Dravid Should Quit ODIs

Once Ricky Ponting and Co. leaves the country with the Futures Cup, someone from the BCCI needs to take Rahul Dravid to the corner, lay a hand around his shoulder, appreciate his contribution and convey to him that the ODI series against Pakistan would be his last. And also tell him that the Board has a grand farewell plan for him at the end of the series.

Tough to put it in words but truth is Dravid has exceeded his shelf-life as a one day cricketer. Our affection for the man and his craft should not be allowed to clutter our common sense. An avid reader, “The Wall” surely has not missed the writing on the wall.

Of India’s Holy Trinity, Sachin Tendulkar is more effort than effervescence and Sourav Ganguly continues to oscillate between sublime and farce. But, at least, they have proved that Team India is yet to find their replacement. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with Dravid.

Dravid’s position in the batting order, especially while chasing, has become an additional woe for his captain. Mahendra Singh Dhoni can’t really toy with his former captain, who till the other day used to pass on the instructions. The Nagpur ODI is a moot case. As if explaining a defeat was not bad enough, Dhoni had to defend the decision to promote Dravid at number four. And then Ponting too made fun of the move, questioning the logic behind it.

It’s unfair to pan Dhoni. He was just trying to accommodate Dravid. I mean once the chase had gone down to the wire, Dravid is not the kind of batsman you expect to guide the side to home with some late charge. Dhoni had no other way but to send him up. And that precisely sums up Dravid’s position in the order.

Dravid was never cut out exclusively for one day cricket and all its thrill and frill and it was because of his sheer grit and industry, give credit where it’s due, that he went on to play 333-plus ODIs, scoring 10,000-plus runs – a feat any cricketer would have been proud of.

But despite his record, the series against Australia left a message, loud and clear, that Dravid does not command a place. Of course he still can play the sheet anchor’s role to perfection but often in chase, the role itself has become redundant. In such scenario, having Dravid in the ranks is a luxury India can ill-afford.

Personally for him, Dravid does not stand to gain anything from ODIs. On the contrary, he might lose his aura, which he acquired largely due to his exploits in the longer version of the game. He’s indispensable in the Test squad and is still the most bankable of Indian batsmen. He has been an intelligent cricketer throughout and he should not find trouble seeing wisdom behind quitting one dayers.


Wednesday 3 October 2007

Warne denies dating Jemima Khan

Shane “Incorrigible” Warne insists he is not dating Jemima Khan. They are “just friends” he asserts and we should not have problem with that. For those blessed with celebrity amnesia, Jemima is the ex-wife of former Pakistan captain Imran Khan who was, and is, twice her age. Lately, she was dating Hugh Grant, or vice versa.

Even if it was true, it would have been quite natural on Warne’s part. The spin star’s marriage has hit the rocks for the second time – no mean feat, thanks to his misfired text that was meant for his lover but eventually landed in wife Simone’s cell!

And according to a magazine, the text was actually meant for Jemima!

"Hey beautiful, I'm just talking to my kids, the back door's open," read Warne’s message.

Simone’s reply was "You loser, you sent the message to the wrong person."

The classic goof-up helped Simone to come out of her illusion that they can still pick up the pieces of the wreckage of a marriage and put them together.

And if it’s true, it’s good to see Warne looking beyond British nurse, while for Jemima, well, old habits die hard.

Image: Getty Images

The curious case of Sreesanth and his aggro

S Sreesanth comes across as a likeable fellow. Hailing from the backwaters of Kerala, where people prefer feet and a bigger ball, Sreesanth is an aberration. His unbridled enthusiasm, and not to forget his nippy pace, makes you sit up, take notice and do some online sports betting. Of late, it’s unfortunately his idiosyncrasies that he’s getting attention for.

Since Sourav Ganguly taught the new tit-for-tat language to his teammates, a Team India player is no more the one who would take his eyes off the opponent, lower his head and digest the abuse hurled from, say, an Australian bigmouth. That’s past. Instead, he would now stare eyeball-to-eyeball and is often the last to blink. He does not mind giving someone double his size a piece of his mind and is ready to meet fire with fire.

Naturally, we hailed Sreesanth when he hit Andre Nel for a six and then ferociously twirled his bat before finally breaking into a war dance of sort in South Africa.

But since the tour of England, Sreesanth’s aggression has been more of a worry, ask his the then embarrassed captain Rahul Dravid. The sign was clear that the demon within had just gotten out of control. You can call Kevin Pietersen names or spurn a dinner invitation from Matt Prior. But Michael Vaughan is not the guy you would barge into. And I’m not buying the theory that it was an inadvertent effort to actually rub shoulders with the English captain.

It should worry Team India that of late, Sreesanth has become a Match Referee’s favourite and his names dominate the meetings on breach of ICC code. Instead of going back to the nets to finetune his craft at the end of a match, Sreesanth is heading for the Match Referee’s room to be harangued on something as dull as code of conduct and he seems to have has made it a habit as well.

For a nation bullied and browbeaten for ages, Sreesanth positively reflects and probably personifies our ambition to settle all those old scores and pay everyone back in their own coin. But in doing so, Sreesanth is probably digressing from what is his primary job, to bowl and take wickets.

For a fast bowler, a minority community in India, it pays to be frugal. It’s a demanding job and hence tiresome. You have to be as miser as Ebenezer Scrooge with your energy to be effective. Some of the greatest bowlers we have seen -- and Andre Nel is not among them – did not need to mouth foul words to get a batsman out. In fact, I wonder, if that ever did the trick.

Had that been the case, Dennis Lillee would not have wasted his energy in the MRF Pace Academy trying to show a youngster how to grip the cherry for the perfect outswinger. Instead, he would have just arrived here with a truckload of sledge-lexicons and asked his wards to cram them.

In Sreesanth’s case, he is spending half of his energy on those verbal duels. It can be a huge distraction and even the most veteran player tends to get carried away. And he’s just 24!

Already he has embarrassed his captains, be it Dravid or Dhoni. Dravid had to issue a note to curb Sreesanth in England and Dhoni, on his arrival from the Twenty20 World Cup, admitted, though jokingly, that Sreesanth can become a captain’s worry.

Now, that’s the last thing you want to hear from your captain. If your skipper has to be more concerned with your volatile temper than team strategy, then you are not worth the place in the side. I mean, it still is not the case with Sreesanth but he should mend his ways.

The kind of aggression he shows actually stems from a petty selfishness. It’s like any street brawl. In such cases, ego takes over and you just go with the flow. It’s against the team’s interest, because you want to win that personal battle, even if that cost your team the war.

For Sreesanth, it’s not a major problem to channelise his energy. He in fact does not need to look beyond the team. Zaheer Khan could be a role model for him. He can learn from his elder pace colleague how to be aggressive and effective at the same time. How to have the batsmen on their toes, not because of your foul moth but because of your guiles. At the end of the day, cricket still remains a game where the bowler has to get the batsman out with the ball as his lone weapon. The sooner Sreesanth realizes it, the better.

Image: BBC