Friday, 27 May 2011

The Hoo-Hallah over "Club vs Country"

Till 2nd April 2011 this year, Gautam Gambhir was the most loved son of India. In fact there were a million sad faces across the nation when he missed out on a well deserving century in a world cup final. The news papers next day were all praises about Gambhir being the big match player, had put up a price for his wicket, and not to forget that dive he made to save himself off  another run out, which has not quite been a feature in Gambhir's running between the wickets. What he didn't know was that the injury he would sustain, and which he would ignore to bat again and help his country win the world cup, would come to haunt him the next month. And not only has that caused him to miss the ALL SO VERY IMPORTANT tour of West Indies, it has also raised questions about the man's integrity and commitment to play for the country.

Lets' get the facts straight here. We won't have to surrender our World Cup trophy if we lose to West Indies. Secondly, there is no harm resting your machine like body, which has been churning out runs after runs since the last three years now. Thirdly, there are better and more important tours ahead during the year which will give our best players yet another chance to prove their worth the cynics out there.

NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, which has India Blue, Red and Green teams (basically the India A and India B side) probably be a better option to play in rather than dragging your body and playing a much depleted side in some far away corner of the world, with empty stadiums and practically nobody watching the matches back home too. Being a sports reporter would have its own hazards I never thought so, for you would have to cover tournaments in which let alone the crowd, not even the players would be interested in. Until of course you are one of those discarded players trying to make a comeback into the national team or amongst those bunch of youngsters who want to make a mark of their own in the absence of the seniors. I don't see the reason behind the criticism of the players who chose to take part in the IPL and preferred to skip the most worthless tour that we have in the year. England awaits for us in July and Australia in December. Who knows that the situation would have been different had they been heading to England after the IPL. The players might have skipped the IPL because they know that England is one opposition who can challenge our number one status in Tests. Not to forget that in the last one month and a half, the level of competition amongst players has been much higher than what it would be in West Indies. We went there in 2006, without Sachin or Sourav, with an out of form Sehwag and no consistent opening order and yet we won the test series there and mind you, that was the team which had Brian Lara. We were there in 2009 again and won the one-day series, we still had no Sachin or Rahul or Laxman or any other senior player. That tells the story in itself. We don't have to bother our important players for the an unimportant tour. The world will not come to n end if we even lose a match here or there. These matches are like those Monday tests in our schools, where even an average student got the chance to score a 20/20 and have a smile on his face only to see what character it takes to do well in the Terminal Exams.

Gambhir has been one of our great finds of the decade and to question the man's integrity would just be a bit too harsh on him. He has stepped up when chips were down, he is the reason along with Sehwag that why we are number one in Tests, he is the reason why we have the world cup in our hands. And he is in no charity business. When the ministers of our country can make millions out of scams, the poor guy is atleast giving his blood and sweat to earn the bucks.

Most of us would be cribbing because he was the most expensive player ever bought in the history of IPL Jealousy would have taken the words of appreciation for that man's many other selfless efforts. I wonder the level of hypocrisy in our country, when we see the soccer players being transferred from one club to the other for a staggering amount and start liking that player more only because of the price tag he has on him. But if an Indian player gets sold for $2.4 million, we start questioning the way the game has been commercialized over the years and why players don't mind such auctions. I am not much of a soccer fan and probably would never be, but I know that Christiano Ronaldo has not won a World cup or a Euro cup for his country nor has Wayne Rooney for England. But come to the EPL or UEFA Champions league and you would see the great jump in their level of commitment on the field. Cricket is far behind many other sports when it comes to commercial value and probably demands, if not more but an equal effort by the players. Gambhir has a right to make money as long as he is making it in a legal way. We have the curious cases of Aamir, Asif and Butt, three brilliant cricketers, who made a mess of their careers in their greed of making money. These Indian cricketers are still fighting it out in the middle and have just demanded a rest, which they should deservingly get so.

Your Loyal Fan
Agransh Anand

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Friday, 8 April 2011

Anna Hazare Dharna and the 2 ladies in white top!!

Till about two days back, I had been quite ignorant about what was going around in my city or lets say in broader terms, in my country. The world cup fever was not over yet and that meant turning straight into the sports section of the newspapers. Maybe because I had got it settled in me that in another four years to come, there would be innumerable headlines about the scams. With 2nd generation scams (2G) a story of the past now, we will move onto the new generation of scams (3G maybe), see our "common wealth" going into the hands of the not so 'common' people of the nation and so on and so forth. But the fact that I was still hooked onto the world cup was that in my 23 years of being present on this planet, I felt being the part of a nation's success for the first time.

In the due course, what I missed out completely was, that amongst the last few Gandhians left in our 1.2 billion population country, one man had taken a pledge to fast unto death if the Lokpal Bill was not passed. Add to it my latest addiction with my newfound 'SMART PHONE' (maybe I needed it cause of my inability of being smart) and I got totally unaware about the fire spreading across the nation. In all it took just two days to see me lagging behind the entire nation. That night, my laptop got a bit surprised, pleasantly, when I typed Lokpal Bill instead of Facebook. It took the browser several minutes to come to terms with the reality that tonight the statuses would not be updated, comments would not be made and photos would not be liked. It was altogether a different feeling that night. I was enlightening myself from the most reliable source I know - Wikipedia. After 10 minutes of extensive learning about the bill, the focus shifted again to Facebook. But at the least, I got to know about the background of the issue and felt proud of the fact that a revolution is spreading across the country and our country could still go the Gandhian way to get the flawed system in place. 

Like many other cities across the country, people in Gurgaon too finally woke up to the hustle-bustle across the city as some good souls were busy making arrangements to start a movement here too. With the sole cause of getting the bill passed and extend support to the great man, who has been on fast for the past 4 days. If it was Jantar Mantar in Delhi and Tahrir Square in Egypt, DT City Centre Mall on M.G. Road was made the center of attraction.  The stage was set. The banners were there, the speakers, microphones, the protesters, caps and mineral water, it was all there. With the biggest of the Apparel and Footwear brands at the backdrop, quite easily minimized the presence of the man for whom this song and dance was happening. The commuters were still going to the metro station without getting affected, some were getting disturbed by the patriotic songs being played on loudspeakers, the autowallahs were negotiating with the customers as usual, some of them were peeking from the restaurants while ordering pizzas, while some initially mistook it as a regular Friday flea market. At last the "naarebaazi" started. There is a fair bit of creativity inside each of us to come up with some really outstanding slogans and I was happy that I was witness to some of it. "Abhi to yeh Angdai hai, Aage aur ladai hai" was my favorite. God knows how many times my hand went up while shouting it. "Inquilaab Zindabad" however remains the all time favorite and can hog the limelight at its will. 

While the whole scene was getting into the act finally, a pretty young lady, as I had mentioned in the title, in a white top, was seen by many of us (yes US, includes me as well) as she was entering the premises of the mall. She had hardly paid any attention to the protest, was happy fiddling away with her phone, and kept walking in the another direction. But many a heads turned, and followed her till the last bit of her hand-bag was not visible to the "Protesters". The organizers heaved a sigh of relief that she was finally gone. But the conclusion was drawn too soon. There infront of all, was a HUMONGOUS poster of Katrina Kaif, endorsing a shampoo brand. To my surprise, she was the second lady, wearing a white top, who had already succeeded in  making the protests numb. I was left wondering whether the mere presence of two women was enough to halt the protest for a while. Whatever happened to the slogans that were being shouted since the morning about being "Saath-Saath" with Anna Hazare. And I wasn't surprised to know that many of us were thinking alike. After a bit of realization, it all went ahead, just the way it had started, just the way it needed to go on. I came back after half an hour of showing protests but the show moved on. By the time the day ended, a sensible move by the government made the entire exercise look fruitful and it was the celebration time once again. But for me, I will remember the day as, when two ladies in white top brought the "Gandhian" protest to a halt and gave us a food for thought.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The 'Pie Chucker' walks away with the Pie

Kevin Peterson, while making his bold statement about the Indian southpaw, more than 2 years back, would never have imagined that he'll have to swallow his words with a bitter pill. Neither would have this thought crossed his mind that the man he was talking about would be walking away with the most coveted trophy a player can achieve in the game of cricket, The Player of the Tournament in a World Cup. Add to it the World Cup trophy and KP might just be right in finding a place to bury his head and save himself from the brickbats of a fanatic nation called India.

Its not for the first time that Yuvraj has answered the call of the hour in his 11 year old long career. The last time the Englishmen got the drubbing was when six of their fielders were searching for the white leather in all parts of the ground and Stuart Broad was happy that finally his name is going to be etched in the history of the game forever, along with the other unfortunate souls who were dispatched for six sixes in an over. Two days later, Yuvraj played a similar innings, with much aplomb against the THEN mighty AUSSIES. All it took was 30 deliveries and 70 runs in the semi finals of 2007 T20 world cup to pack them out of South Africa and end their dream of securing yet another silverware in their cabinet. They haven't succeeded as yet. Almost three and a half years later, a calmer and composed Yuvi was witnessed by the Men in Yellow but little did they know that even though the flurry of swashbuckling shots were missing , the intent however remained the same. A boundary to finish off the innings made it more than evident that Yuvraj has arrived finally. That a man whom many had accused of not having done enough justice to his talent has finally struck the right chord in mixing his Madness with a Method.

Over a decade long career, Yuvraj has seen it all. From being the poster boy of the Indian Cricket, to the heartthrob of many a girls, to the one who redefined the fielding standards in India. And for no small reason were the praises being showered upon him. He had performances to back it. A career that started with a well compiled knock of 84 against Australia, way back in 2000 ICC Knockout Trophy, a forgotten innings of 98* against Sri Lanka in Colombo, 65* versus Zimbabwe in 2001-02. But the knock which gave India the confidence that WE CAN WIN even when the big guns fail was the Natwest Series Final, where from a hopeless situation they brought the smiles back on a million Indian faces across the globe. Amongst many of his priceless innings were the knocks he played against Pakistan in 2003 World Cup, 139 against Australia in Sydney and the list can just go on. Between all this, there came a period, where Yuvraj was awarded Player of the Tournament in three successive bilateral series and mind you, the teams were South Africa, Pakistan and England.  He was growing in stature with every match and the out-of-form Sachin and Sourav just gave about that push that he needed to go that extra mile of being a permanent member in country's Test Team. A format of the game where he hasn't quite been able to make his cherished one.

This was where he gave his critics a reason to rejoice. And this we are talking about for the man who scored a fighting century against Pakistan in 2004, match winning half centuries against Sri Lanka and match saving one against our dear neighbors once again in 2007. But amongst these rare graceful efforts were quite a few failures and the return of form for Sachin, Sourav, Rahul and Laxman, which formed the most formidable middle order in the Indian Cricket history, did not help the cause either. And eventually he had to console himself that his place in the test team can never be secured as long as the Fab 4 are there.
Then came a forgettable year in 2009. Horrendous eighteen months for him not only made the world sit up and question his place in the team but also made him think about whether to continue with his career or not. Things had gone totally awry for him and it was a sad sight to see a talented player being cornered from the team. 'Weighty Issues' were being raised and what was called 'Yuvi's corner', the only after the great Jonty Rhodes to have made his own, was now being called 'Kohli' or 'Raina' corner. In India I believe, in the long run, the SHORT TERM memory prevails. The negative media, the big-mouth critics, cynics that we have all across the nation, who believe that burning effigies is a solution to everything kept adding the fuel to the fire.

But as they say, Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man. 2011 and the biggest stage in the game of cricket was there for many to make a statement. Some did and Some failed. One man who stood out from the rest, was the Lion from Punjab. He chose the biggest stage to erase the memories of the last eighteen months and walked away with the glory. The critics have got the lesson in a sweet way, the posters are not burnt anymore, the garlands can now be seen once again on the effigies. In all, it took 42 days for him to find a place in the history and be named with the players of highest ranks in the past. In years to come, people would remember him as the MAN who rose to the occasion and gave a billion people a reason to smile and not one but moments to cherish forever.

Yuvraj Singh, you surely have walked off with the PIE and deservingly so.