The Fear of the Matrix

Last week, the unveiling of TenVicks’ report on ‘Measuring India’s Cheer Quotient’ in Delhi brought Dilip Vengsarkar, Anjum Chopra, Dhanraj Pillai and Ashwini Ponnappa on the stage together. Talking to players from such a wide spectrum – two former greats with contrasting equations with the establishment, one player on the last leg of her playing career, and one whose journey has just begun – gave an interesting insight on the apprehension and helplessness our sportsmen face when dealing with federations of sporting bodies in India.

Former national captain and former chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar has a contrasting equation with his sport’s board as compared to Dhanraj Pillai. Vengsarkar has sometimes been with the system and sometimes against it. But, through all that, he’s always tried to carve a place for himself within it. Vengsarkar is ebullient in his praise for the IPL and feels that keeping one’s feet on the ground for IPL Richie Rich’s is an individual-level problem, and not something the cricket system needs to address. He does let on, though, that IPL is the stated dream of almost every young cricketer he comes across. So, if players want it, the sponsors want it, and the audience wants it, is it not natural for world cricket move to a predominantly club structure like football? The question seemed beyond his comprehension.

Dhanraj, on the other hand, has been at loggerheads with the system from the time he was still playing for India. He’s vocal about the politics and greed that’s cost Indian hockey dearly, with a fair bit of ‘me-myself-and-I’ thrown into it. He says that ego clashes between the IHF and the HI led to a C-string Indian hockey team went to the Olympics. He said India doesn’t need a foreign coach and talked about how he could have played one more Olympics, if the system had been fair.

Talking to Ashwini Ponnappa is a surreal experience. She’s as talented as beautiful, as aggressive on the court as soft-spoken off it, and despite being fairly articulate, equally apprehensive of speaking to the ‘media’. She was comfortable talking about the Olympic experience, but not about how the sport is run in the country. Without stirring the devil that lies in the detail, one can tell that there are strong under currents in our badminton team, something that can even take Lee-Hesh overtones in the future.

Ashwini did mention, though, that the federation should have lodged a protest against the Japan-Korea match much before the ‘deliberately losing’ controversy exploded on everyone’s faces. Lodging a protest after the other two matches came into investigation made us look like sore losers trying their luck in the new circumstances. It’s a tale not too unfamiliar with what we’ve heard of our Boxing federation this Olympics. Or, ego issues in the Archery team.

If you ask an average Joe to name one woman Indian cricketer, chances are that he’ll say Anjum Chopra. Not because too many people have watched her play, but because she is the only Indian woman cricketer who’s carved a successful media career for herself. Yet, the dread of saying the “wrong thing” is palpable. At 35, this elegant left-handed batsperson’s best cricketing days may be behind her, and that makes it even more important for her to protect her future. And, being on the wrong side of the BCCI never did anyone any good, as more accomplished stalwarts like Kapil Dev and Mohinder Amarnath have realized in the past. On-the-record, Anjum is perfect corporate speak. Off-the-record she can tell you tales of politics, one-upmanship and interference from several quarters in areas such as team selections. Something that Indian cricket fans who’ve followed the Indian men’s team closely over the years should be reasonably familiar with.

Cut-to-the-present.

The Indian Olympic contingent is back. Six medals in total. There’s a feel-good factor that’s hard to miss. Yet, it’s a time for questions. Questions like how to make Olympic champions out of players like Deepika Kumari and Devendro Singh? How do we support the likes of Ram Singh Yadav and Basanta Bahadur Rana? While we laud the likes of Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang, why we should not relegate the likes of Karmakar who came within touching distance of a medal? And many more.

As for cricket, it’s the familiar old tale. Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla return to the hot cauldrons of World T20 straight from cold storage. And Ishant Sharma returns to the test team after taking 21 wickets in the last 11 matches at an average of 68 and a strike rate of 117.

Yes, that’s the BCCI for you. The saddest part for Indian sport is that it is still the best run sporting body in the country.

Why Mallya Sr was pissed with Mallya Jr

Pomersbach’s defence in the molestation case

Paadshah wahan khade

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Dada – Mallya’s new captain

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Frustrations of a forced bachelor

“v hv been cheated by not being given that one wide!!! Bad call by umpire!!!”

“umpire need’s glasses!!! It was a wide Miles away fm leg stump!!”

“we lost coz of that stupid umpire!!”

“Its fixed in favor of heavy-weights #Unacceptable”

“go fcuk urself!”

Tweets and RTs from a frustrated team owner. A combination of his team losing by a single run, forced and prolonged separation from his wife, and the fact that his is one of only two teams that don’t have the option of picking up the phone and lodging a with the powers that be, all cumulatively adding up to an emotional outpouring on twitter. After all, there’s only so much a man can take, even one who is basically known as a trophy husband.

In this tournament, he must feel a bit like Sreesanth. Unwanted, unloved, derided, humiliated, and ignored, but still trying to make his presence felt at the party.

Wanted
Talking about unwanted owners, guess who the most wanted team owner is in this tournament. It’s none other than the bad boy from badshahland. So wanted is he that he actually wants Rs 2 crores from other franchises if they want him to attend his team’s away matches at their venues. It’s a huge step up for the man who makes the same amount of money dancing at weddings.

He thinks his attendance translates into Rs 5 crore of extra ticket sales for the home team. And he’s known to not let go of his pound of flesh.

So, let’s not get swayed by all the waves and kisses. It’s not just love that makes him tail his team.

Love
Talking about love, guess who is fast losing everybody’s love this season. It’s none other than a world-class spinner, though yarn is the only spinning he’s been doing lately.

A group within the MCBCI, rivals of the Chennai power centre, had a brilliant scheme up their sleeves. The Indian team’s performance had plummeted, the captain was losing face and faith, and their man had deserted ship before it sank. And, he announced himself as a successful captain in a club tournament. Everything seemed set for them to hype up their decibel levels calling for him to be the next India captain.

Unfortunately, and not quite unexpectedly, his bowling has become inversely proportional to the hyperbole surrounding him.

While his backers continue to make a fool of themselves on TV hailing his leadership skills, the guy toils on, day after day, his behavior being just about the only thing worse than his bowling.

Disclaimer: If it appears too true to be false, blame the writing not the writer.

What Bhajji does

The drama unfolds

Earlier, on Fake IPL Player’s fanstation post:

Don’t believe the advertisements, there’s no mineral water brand that’s uniting the teams. There are 2 cliques – the big three and the bottom three. Of the three remaining fence sitters, the Bengali stud Macho Da will prove to be decisive. At the moment, he’s looking for an invitation to join the big three. If he doesn’t see it coming, he might jump on to the other side spoiling the carefully manufactured balance.

As the undercurrents start spilling out into the open, the edifice of this world is crumbling brick by brick. Will the hyped up league live to die another year or will it implode in this Mayan year of obliteration?

The drama will unfold over the next six weeks.

And, as predicted, the drama has begun unfolding.

Good luck chuck
Out of the sea of chuckers operating in this tournament, a bowler from the Ponies suddenly got reported for suspect action. And, guess what? It’s immediately after a game in which he plays a decisive role in beating the team that think it’s their birth right to win every match. Like, them losing a game is against the rules or something. And, guess what? It’s just a few days before they are to meet again. Almost like an insurance against losing the next time round.

I think we all know who we are talking about here and we also know who was behind this sudden and unexpected act of altruism on the part of the umpires.

Lordie heard about his bowler being reported minutes before he boarded the team bus. Apparently, it was time enough for him to find the referee and let him known that, if others don’t get reported too, he will find himself deported before he can say pudhe chala.

“He will play. He will also bowl. And, if he is called for chucking, I’ll take my team off the field,” Lordie said the next day.

By evening, the matter had reached Macho Da’s ears. By morning, the umpires had heard about it. By the time the game started, they had been told to take it easy on the guy. But only for this game.

The game went by peacefully. But, this wasn’t the game for which he was reported in the first place. It was for the next one when the return leg happened.

The evening before the return leg, the grapevine was that the umpires were sure to no-ball him in the next game, if he bowled again. And a walkout wasn’t going to scare them. In fact, some within the MCBCI thought a walkout might just be the steroid this insipid soap opera season needs.

Lordie knew a threat wouldn’t work this time. He didn’t want to walkout in the first place. He wanted the two points. That’s two points closer to that elusive top four slot. He doesn’t want to leave it to any chance this time round.

He did what he does second best. Make a phone call.

Half an hour later, Macho Da was on the phone with Humpty Dumpty. Promises made just a few weeks ago were reminded. Threats made before that were reinforced. Humpty Dumpty tried to convince Macho Da that Brainy had nothing to do with the reporting of action, nor could he do anything to prevent it. Both knew he was lying.

After a series of overnight phone calls, the hitmen were called off.

The next day, Mr. Fry Chucker played, bowled, and was not called. However the Ponies still lost the game.

The Haves continue to have it their way
TV experts are talking about how, as the tournament progresses, the better teams (read the ‘haves’) have started their upward climb and how the weaker teams (read the ‘have nots’) are finding it difficult to sustain their winning momentum. To put it mildly, it’s just bull excreta.

There’s a common feeling amongst the ‘have nots’ that they are fighting several external forces. Umpires, especially the Indian ones, seem to be straight out of 80s Pakistan. To even get a clean bowled ruled in their favour against a top ‘haves team’ batsman isn’t guaranteed. It almost seems that the umpires look at which camp Humpty Dumpty is sitting in for cues as to which way their decisions should go. There’s a common joke going around amongst players of the ‘have nots’ that they may as well hand over the trophy to the team whose turn it is to win this time before the tournament even begins.

The irony of the situation is that the team whose turn it is this time seems to be chopping its own legs off. And now even their slinger is missing a finger.

Paranormal activity

Activity 1:
Captain Thappad Singh spins the coin. With Borestri already bleating into the microphone nobody can hear the other captain Laughter Jr.’s call.

“Heads is the call. Heads it is. Thappad has won the toss,” Borestri said without pausing for breath or phlegm.

Laughter Jr. just stood there bemused as Thappad chose to bat.

Activity 2:
Lordie spins the coin. Sheru calls tails.

Referee looks down at the coin. “Tails. Lordie has won.”

“He said tails,” Lordie clarifies.

Referee looks at the coin again and says, “It’s heads. You’ve won.”

Shit? Or suspicious? You decide.

Disclaimer: Fake is stranger than fiction and more believable than fact.

There’s a Nehra in all of us

Into the third week of IPL’s fifth edition, it’s finally starting to dawn on the world what makes IPL so competitive and compelling to watch, so full of twists and turns, and inglorious uncertainties.

What nobody realised, until recently, is that the sauce that makes this curry special is one man who, if you cast eyes upon once, will haunt you in your sleep for the rest of your lives. One player who, if you are unlucky to have in your favorite team, can make you tear your hair out in frustration. (Yes, that’s exactly how I lost mine.)

That player is none other than Ashish Nehra.

And the best thing about this tournament is that every team has an Ashish Nehra. Here’s a sample.

Delhi Daredevils
This year, Delhi Daredevils looks just like the city did during the Commonwealth Games. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

They may have Viru, Mahela, KP, Roscoe, Morkel and that pocket dynamite yet to come, but let’s not forget that they also have a real Nehra alive and kicking in their ranks.

In fact, so potent is this Nehra that, if fate had dealt a slightly different hand, this category could even have been called Ajit Agarkar. The Nehraness in him tends to vary from mildly toxic to fatal, the toxicity determined by how red his ears are at that point in time.

With his propensity to sulk and leave the team when dropped, Delhi Daredevils will find it very difficult to keep this Nehra’s influence sedated.

Kolkata Knight Riders
Like the Curse wasn’t enough, KKR also has deal with a unique Ashish Nehra from within. Largely in a dormant state, he rears his head every once in a while. And that’s precisely what makes him so dangerous.

He stays in the team without attracting much attention or criticism, churning out standard fare par performances day in and day out. And, right in the end, in a crunch must-win situation, the Nehra in him erupts in full fury and takes the whole team down.

In a situation where KKR needs to defend 20 runs off the last over to go into the play offs with a bonus point, he is most likely to bowl full tosses and long hops, ball after ball, with ‘Hit me’ written all over it in luminous colors. Hopefully, for KKR fans, no further introduction is required.

Deccan Chargers
It has to be one of the cruelest strokes of fate that we are being deprived of the joys of watching a true modern great, a man who has successfully made the transition from being India’s next big hope to India’s next big Nehra hope, a man whose achievements are as great as his Adam’s apple.

In fact, his previous team KKR’s IPL record is testimony to this man’s ability to conjure up defeats from the most impossible of situations.

DC’s Nehra is missing this year through an injury but, between Dan Christian and Dale Steyn, they have ensured they don’t miss him much.

But, if you look at it closely, a team that’s vowed not to let any other team get even a sniffing chance at the No. 9 spot, doesn’t really need a Nehra, does it?

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Just like their owner likes to rotate women in his famous calendar, RCB has adopted a rotation policy in their Nehra. A different player assumes the role in each match.

Other than the usual suspects, this season RCB has shocked the world by making a Nehra out of a future India captain. So dented is the man’s ego that he’s said to be suffering from erectile dysfunction in his finger.

The world isn’t complaining, though.

Pune Warriors India
You got to be kiddin’ me. Who needs a duplicate when you have the original?

Shukla ji tweets like he speaks

What does former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi have 470,308 of that the current IPL commissioner Rajeev Shukla has only 6,578 of? The number of followers each has on his online avatar on twitter.

While the world is aware of Mr. Modi’s trysts with these 140 character messages, Mr. Shukla was living in this world rather stealthily. Until recently, that is. Now, after more than two years of his existence on Twitter, the world is finally waking up to the multi-dimensionally talented Mr. Shukla.

Just his last tweet, sent on April 13, gives us a glimpse of the gems that could be trapped inside the man.

“again usa authorties unnecssary detained srk at the airport he informed me from there only was shocked to know before I got in to action srk”

If you look carefully enough, the tweet shows more than it hides. It tells us that Mr. Shukla is a man of action, a man on a mission, determined to get to his destination no matter what. Punctuations and grammar, mere flies on his path to glory, are brushed aside with disdain.

It also shows that he is inherently an honest man. Unlike those cricketers who can’t stitch together one sentence in English but generously quote Blake and Wilde in their tweets, Mr. Shukla tweets like he speaks.

A brief tweeting history
Right at the start of his tweeting life, it was clear that @ShuklaRajiv will be Mr. Shukla’s unadulterated unaltered ego.

His first tweet ever was to his good friend and KKR owner Shahrukh Khan.

“want to spk to u rajeev shukla.”

Note the sign off at the end, so there’s no confusion. And the full stop that shows authority. The tone has a hint of Luca Brasi making a call on behalf of Don Corleone.

The next tweet was also to SRK, albeit this was a blank tweet. A twitter equivalent of a ‘Missed call’.

Mr. Shukla’s third tweet was a reply to a fan asking him if he’s indeed the Rajeev Shukla he thinks he is. “yes am same rajeev shukla” promptly came the reply proving the authenticity of the account. No fake could ever capture such nuances. And, if he did, he deserves to be the real one.

From thereon, Mr. Shukla’s tweets have been little bundles of joy.

Like, “Hi. M fine ! Now in Spain with Parliament Delegation .great country of olive n solar energy. Rajeev Shukla”

He gives sneak peeks into the man behind the girth with tweets like “Loves cricket following football”

He shows his patriotic side with a tweet that is as impressive as it is incoherent.

“indian hospitality is superb and nobody cares like indians are doing cow village is like being in England”

He inspires the youth with anecdotes of great men. “Not only that einstein didn’t had toilet and kitchen he used to share community facilities with habitants of that locality”

With tweets like “I am happy and sad both today happy for sachin’ record and upset becaz howcome india lost to Bangladesh” he shows the conflicting emotions an Indian cricket administrator goes through.

And, every now and then, he reminds us that in Mr. Rajeev Shukla we may have earned a brilliant cricket administrator, but we lost an even greater philosopher. “Sometime remote control is very dangerous also suppose if wife or husband becomes remote control of the family u know what happens”

For the last time today, let’s hear it in Mr. Shukla’s words, “In my view sachin must get bharat ratna but let’s leave it to the govt decide”.

Forget Sachin Tendulkar. I’d say, give it to Mr. Shukla’s Twitter account.