<![CDATA[anantha narayan - Different Strokes]]>Tue, 09 Feb 2016 12:13:38 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Six Matchless Cricketing Quips]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 07:09:49 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/different-strokes/six-matchless-cricketing-quipsThe homeworkgate turmoil authored by Mickey Arthur may have taken the Mickey out of the Australian team. But it has certainly sexed up an otherwise sterile test series. Tweets are flying thick and fast on the offside, onside and rear side. Cricketers have once again started discovering the lost art of trading barbs. If Ashes veteran Andrew Flintoff gleefully put up a Sesame Street toddler book as ‘Australia’s new cricket handbook’, the usually sober Michael Vaughan couldn’t resist voting for PowerPoint god Bill Gates as the best man for Australia’s No.3 slot! Thankfully for the sport, exchanging good-natured jibes has always been the hallowed tradition. Batsmen and bowlers of yore used to pride themselves in bludgeoning the opposition with a volley of words. And that’s what made test cricket truly riveting. To give you an idea of the level of craftsmanship of slanging matches in the good old days, we’ve cherry picked an all time great collection of Top 6 cricketing quotes. Just pad up, take guard and enjoy the zingers. 

Pick # 1: “They came to see me bat, not you umpire."
Humility was never WG Grace’s virtue. He just didn’t believe in wearing his fame lightly. The bearded giant knew he was the greatest cricketer of his times. Having amassed 50,000 runs, 2800 wickets, 800 catches and over a 100 hundreds in first class cricket, WG righteously assumed that the crowd had gathered around to see him play. So when he was given out plumb lbw in an exhibition match, he is said to have chided the umpire and demanded a reversal of decision. The umpire couldn’t refuse and the amazing Mr. Grace went on to make 400 not out!

Pick # 2: “If it had been a cheese roll, it would have never got past him.” 
That was Graham Gooch commenting on Mike Gatting after he was bowled by Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the Century’. Being a lover of food, wine and women (not necessarily in that order), ‘Gatt’ must have laughed his head off when he read Gooch’s take. Somehow one can’t imagine the same today. If Aswin castles Clarke, all we get to hear is a symphony of clichés from Ravi Shastri and his over-the-top ilk.

Pick # 3: “Mate, if you just turn the bat over, you’ll find the instructions on the other side.” 
Australian pacer Merv Hughes with his big mousch and bigger mouth was always a character to face. Sledging came more naturally to him than the inswinger. He and English batsman Robin Smith had many run-ins. On one particular day, when Robbie was playing and missing many times over, Merv unleashed this below-the-belter.

Pick # 4: “Coach is something you travel in, to get to and from the game."
Shane Warne never hid his disdain for Coach John Buchanan.  He publicly ticked off Buchanan by criticising him for ‘over complicating issues’ and ‘lacking common sense’. The unkind cuts obviously cheesed off Buchanan. As make good, they say, Warnie was called to a boot camp and made to push a car, uphill.

Pick # 5: "Geoffrey is the only fellow I've ever met who fell in love with himself at a young age and has remained faithful ever since" 
Dennis Lillee was not just a tearaway fast bowler but also a pugilist with repartees. Unlike today’s ‘you-scratch-mine’ players, Lillee spared no punches in taking pot shots at his illustrious peers. He had a special fondness for Boycs as Geoffrey was a thorn in the flesh during the Ashes ’77 series. Their rivalry continues to this day.

Pick # 6: “So how’s your wife and my kids?”
Rod Marsh’s welcome message when Ian Botham trotted to his crease is the stuff sledgehammers are made of. But Botham was totally unflappable. He replied without batting an eyelid: The wife’s fine – kids are retarded!


<![CDATA[How To Tune Into Sehwag's Psyche]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 07:04:43 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/different-strokes/how-to-tune-into-sehwags-psycheThe ‘Brotherhood of Butchers’ has an unwritten code: “Never give an impression of enjoying your work. When armed with the cleaver, stay as expressionless as a stone and as detached as a Buddhist. Avoid whistling, singing and cracking jokes as it may delude people into concluding that you’re a sadist.”

The Butcher of Nazafgarh, never reputed for observing any niceties, is a serial violator of this code. On many an occasion, he’s been caught on camera, humming a cheerful tune or two while murdering a bowler in broad daylight.

Now this anomalous behaviour may sound like the cold, callous act of Lt. Col. Kilgore, who insisted on playing Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ before bombing a Vietnamese village. The fact of the matter is Virendra Sehwag is no basket case. He’s just a simple bloke who believes in the power of Hindi songs to empty his mind while facing a bowler.

To quote Viru verbatim: “I try to hum Kishore Kumar songs especially those pictured on Amitabh Bachchan, till the bowler is about to deliver. I try to sing songs as perfectly as possible in order to keep my mind completely uncluttered.”

The key word to note is ‘uncluttered’. Sehwag’s listless performance in recent times (Average of 25.91 in the recent Australia test series and 10.25 in England) is a clear result of the many issues that have been weighing him down. Which is probably why, it might be a good idea for the swashbuckler to check into a Bollywood rehab to vacuum clean his head to remove all the cobwebs of the past.

If the ‘punishing schedule’ of the BCCI won’t grant him the luxury of time for such indulgences, I have a better solution. May be he should just listen to the following chartbusters on his iPod for initiating the song therapy:

1. Kuch toh log kahenge. Logon ka kaam hai kehna.
Anand Bakshi’s immortal line from the ‘Amar Prem’ gaana of the same name contains a little message for India’s first and only triple centurion. The message is unambiguously simple: Never ever listen to the critic and change your batting style. Remember, a bazooka can only fire like a bazooka even if it gets rusty.

2. Tanha tanha yahaan pe jeena, ye koi baat hai?                    
When Mehboob wrote his scene stealer for the movie ‘Rangeela’, little did he realise that there could be a cryptic piece of advice embedded in it for Sehwag. ‘Why stay aloof from the coach and the captain instead of being a team player who enjoys the collective successes and failure of the unit?’ seems to be the question the song is posing to Viru.

3. Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai.
A little Guru Dutt never hurt anyone. On the contrary, it forces the listener to get a bit more philosophical and ruminate on the things that are preponderant in life. From Sehwag’s point of view, captaincy has been the proverbial albatross around his neck. It has never earned him glory. Probably, never will. Like Sachin, Viru has to give it one hard thought and get over the adolescent infatuation to lead the Indian team. That way, Dhoni would feel a lot more secure and Sehwag can dedicate himself to demolishing the bowlers.

4. Jo vaada kiya voh nibhaana padega.
Every team has a set plan before the start of the game and a fluid plan that develops as the match unfolds. Every player is privy to these plans. Everyone knows their exact role and is expected to give their very best till the last ball. The thing to remember is: the ‘role’ varies from match to match. We are all aware that irrespective of the role assigned to him, Sehwag plays only like Sehwag. The team management is willing to give Viru a long rope. All they want in exchange is a commitment to curb the riskiest strokes for a few overs. That’s the simple plan. The Rafi number from Taj Mahal is a timely reminder to stand by that promise.

5. Thoda hai thode ki zaroorat hai.
Patience is a virtue that has eluded our man. Of the 167 test innings played, Sehwag has got out to a rash stroke at least 25% of the time. That’s a hell a lot of opportunities wasted. Gulzar saab’s classic song is a fervent appeal to the soul to discover the power of a little forbearance.

6. Bach ke rehna re baba, tujh pe nazar hai.
By ‘resting’ Sehwag for his indiscretions on and off the field, the selectors have sent him a stern warning. IPL 5 offers a chance to redeem the situation. All eyes are on the ‘Sultan of Multan’. Now is the time to prove his credentials as a match winner and captain. The Kishore Kumar song from ‘Pukar’ reinforces this need to be alert, lest there be a slip up in standards.

7. Tu cheez badi hai mast mast. Tu cheez badi hai mast.
Just in case the above play list gets a trifle weighty, I’ve added this uplifting item number from ‘Mohra’ to remind Sehwag of what the world thinks of him. So all he needs to do is to chill, believe and have fun in IPL.

 8. Abhi na jao chod ke, ye dil abhi bhara nahin.
The ‘Young’ vs ‘Old’ debate and all the retirement talk around may actually get to an impetuous man like Sehwag especially if he fails in IPL 5.  In such moments of doubt, it’s best to listen to what Dev Anand crooned to Nanda in ‘Hum Dono’. The opening line, ‘Don’t leave us now for our heart yearns for more,’ captures the unvoiced sentiment of the diehard Viru fan.

The sports psychologist working with the Men in Blue would do well to deploy these Hindi film songs to communicate with Sehwag. I am of the view that it will work like magic. And when it does, don’t be surprised if you see the ominous image of Sehwag belting out the dreaded ‘Maar daala’ song from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’! 

<![CDATA[The Donald Duck Of Cricket]]>Tue, 20 Aug 2013 07:00:01 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/different-strokes/the-donald-duck-of-cricketIf the great Indian mathematician Brahmagupta had lived to see the year 1878, he would have been particularly proud of Ned Gregory. Ned was a pioneer in his own right. He was the first ever test cricketer to boldly go where no man has gone before. Yup, you guessed it right; he was the first batsman to score a duck.

A little birdie of yore tells us that he was so mightily chuffed with his performance that he decided to retire from test matches, lest his fans seek an encore!

Inspired by ‘Noughty’ Ned, Mohammad Jahangir Khan (later to be the father of Pakistan cricketer Majid Khan), made history for our country in the second innings of United India’s first test (played in 1931 versus England) by scoring an immortal zero in the only ball he faced.

It’s been raining ciphers ever since. The indefatigable Zaheer Khan has painstakingly pieced together 25 ducks from 113 innings. But his stellar national record was just not good enough to pip Courtney Walsh’s jaw-dropping collection of 43 zeroes.

One bloke who’s been practising hard to somehow breach the Walsh milestone is New Zealander Chris Martin.  Having notched up a niggardly 112 runs from 94 innings, Chris is the exceptional man with more wickets than runs - the last guy who got noticed for such talent was Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.

Where the Kiwi pacer outclasses Walsh is with his humungous appetite for scoring pairs (duck in both the innings). In a short career spanning 65 test matches, the Chris has a peerless six pairs which kinda dwarfs the 4-pair achievement of Merv Dillon, Walsh, Muralitharan, Atapattu and Chandra.

So who is the worthiest suitor for the coveted Donald Duck award? If one goes by the shallow world of statistics, one might be tempted to give it to Walsh. But being a connoisseur of ciphers, I feel, handing it to Walsh is akin to gifting the best musician award to a composer with the most symphonies. What about quality, I say?

It’s easy for a tail ender to just walk in without any batting skill and nick one to the wicket keeper. What’s even tougher is to elegantly sacrifice your wicket braving all criticism just for the nirvana of embracing nothingness.

But how does one measure this zen-like stomach for the sunya? This is where the Ande Ka Funda (Hindi for ‘pegging the egg’) offers us a new ray of hope.

AKF is a simple measure that estimates the percentage of times the batsman chucked it all away for the bliss of the boojyam. It follows a simple formula: Number of zeroes divided by number of innings played.

For example, Sachin has an AKF of 4.82%. What that means is out of 100 innings, the master blaster will end up scoring a duck just 4.82 times.

I’ve computed it for almost every cricketer worth his balls. The result is a veritable eye opener. At the bottom of the table is a breed of batsmen who’ve never scored a zero in their test career.  Brijesh Patel leads this pack from India. Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal & Darren Barvo are some other current players who share this hard-to-imagine ignominy.

Failing the AKF litmus test are leading lights like Clive Lloyd (2.29%), Kumara Sangakara (2.79%), Rahul Dravid (2.8%), Javed Miandad (3.17%), Ricky Ponting (4.71%), John Wright (4.73%), Geoff Boycott (5.18%) and Graeme Smith (5.36%).

The Top 10 tail-enders are: Merv Dillon (38%), Dilip Doshi (36.84%), Chris Martin (34.04%), Zaheer Khan (30.12%), Danish Kaneria (29.16%), Chandrasekar (28.75%), McGrath (25.36%), Walsh (23.24%), Agarkar (23.08%) and Muralitharan (20.12%).

The Top 10 Batsmen are: Suresh Raina (19.23%), Wasim Bari (16.96%), Atapattu (14.10%), Heath Streak (14.02%), Flintoff (13.08%), Jaisimha (12.64%), Afridi (12.5%), Lala Amarnath (12.5%), Vijay Manjrekar (11.96%) and Navjot Singh Siddhu (11.54%).

Now that we’re down to our long list, it’s time we applied the filter of ‘Duck Duck Karne Laga’ for arriving at the deserving winners of the Donald Duck award. For the Bollywood-challenged, DDKL is the lilt of the chest thump that the audience can hear when the player in question is about to face the ball of death. In psychological parlance, we can term it as ‘visible signs of nervousness’ that makes the batsman run to the pavilion.

If this were the criteria, there are three men who should make the cut: Ajit Duckarkar for his almost suitcase number lock like ‘00000’ in 5 successive innings against Australia in 1999-2000. Mohinder Amarnath (AKF – 9.73%) for his binary codesque ‘001000’ against the West Indies in 1983. And Atapattu for his epic debut.

 For staking his entire career to score just 1 run from his first 6 innings, I think Marvan Samson Atapattu deserves to be crowned as the true champion of champions. His zero tolerance of runs in the pure pursuit of absolute zero deserves nothing less than an outright knighthood. As for the rest, they are mere quacks.