Monday, July 28, 2008

A True Cricket Story (All reals)

I left from home at 930 am yesterday and came back at 730 pm as part of the Renaissance Education Foundation Cricket Tournament winning team. The tournament was played by 12 teams over two days. The 8 over games were played with a taped tennis ball, and each team had 8 players. And that's where the simplicity of the rules ended. The first wide in an over cost 1 run but every wide after that in the same over cost 2 runs. The same rule applied to no-balls as well. And to kill the MCC's rule book even more, free hits were awarded for waist high full tosses (and the usual over-stepping).

Our two group games took place on Saturday at the Travis County Cricket Grove (a picturesque ground that we share with another league team). The ground was split into two so that two games could take place simultaneously, and so when I was fielding at deep square leg in our side of the ground, I was also standing at cover point on the other side. Yes, the division of the ground made it a run fest, and we scored 134/2 in 8 overs in our first game. My services were not needed with the bat but I bowled a couple of overs for no wicket. The next group game was against our traditional taped tennis ball rivals (who for some reason changed their name to 'Old Pods'). We had not beaten them in the last 2 games that we played and so we were not a 100% confident that we would win convincingly (but, as a wise man in my team said "win win hai").

We picked up an important wicket early but we weren't consistent in our bowling. In such a small ground, anything slightly short or full was going to be hit for a boundary. The first ball I bowled was a flat off-spinner that was just short of a good length and it was pulled away for six. I then bowled a couple flat yorkers that were played back to me. The next ball was swept away for a four that I felt should have been stopped (I guess the Austin heat did the fielder there). I then took my time for my last ball, and decided to change the pace a bit. I bowled a slow, loopy off spinner, the batsman played early and I got an easy return catch. It felt good, considering I was not required to do anything with the bat. They scored 98 in 8 overs (par score for the size of the ground) and we finished it off in 6.4 overs, for the loss of one wicket. It did turn out to be a convincing victory in the end and we were through to the semifinals.

The semifinal turned out to be more eventful than we would have hoped for. We were playing on the actual matted wicket and against a team that did its bit in pissing us off. They batted first and after about 4 overs, their opening batsman could not run fast anymore because of his lack of fitness. He called for a runner and I told him that he was tired and not injured, and that he could not call for a runner. The umpire over-ruled our Captain's decision and allowed the runner for the batsman. Soon they were running for everything and our bowlers and fielders were getting frustrated. I came into bowl in the 5th over and the first ball I bowled was a full toss on the middle stump that the batsman cheekily paddled away to fine leg for four. He then played a stupid reverse sweep to the point fielder. Following that, I bowled a couple of quicker ones that he confidently picked twos off. I decided to vary the pace again, tossed a loopy off spinner on driving length outside the off stump and he drove it uppishly straight to covers. Their main batsman was out of there.

At the end of the 8 overs, they had reached 79. It was clear that our team was angry and there were talks of sending in a runner with the opening batsman just to spite the opponent. Luckily, better sense prevailed (for the time being) and we started off slowly in what was a much larger field. Soon, the chaos started again. A cameraman from a local news channel had come on to the field to cover the Cricket and both teams were not happy with this. A compromise was finally reached and we played three balls that would not be counted on the score-sheet. Trials, as we call it in street cricket. This seemed to affect the batsmen's concentration and the first legal delivery after that got rid of our opening batsman and we had our captain, PK, and NZ at the crease.

NZ called for a runner almost immediately and we could see that the fielding team were getting incensed. Shouts of 'run, run' from our team seemed to really anger the guy from the opposing team who started all this runner nonsense in the first place, and he showed the finger to one of our guys. My valiant attempts at making my fellow team mates see that Cricket was a gentleman's game failed and now there were quarrels happening almost every other ball. NZ played and missed and was given out because the umpire got intimidated by the appealing bowler. He gave the umpire his two cents before leaving the crease, and PK fell soon after to an accurate yorker.

This meant that I now had a chance to bring my team to safety with the bat. We were 5 down and we needed 23 of 14 balls. I missed the first ball and then took a single off the next. The first ball of the penultimate over was a chest high full toss and I pushed it to covers and started running. I looked over at the square leg umpire for a no-ball call but I saw no signal and so I made the foolish mistake of going for another run to keep up with the required run-rate. The throw was accurate and I was run-out by a distance. The umpire then extended his hand to declare a no-ball. I felt so terrible - I had just put so much pressure on the last batsman.

M walked in and I was to later find out that he said this to our much more accomplished batsman, D, standing at the other end - "When you bat, you do your thing and when I bat, you tell me what to do". The first ball he faced was a free hit and he picked a couple off it, but here's the kicker - it was another waist high full toss and so we got another free hit. The next free hit was a wide and the following ball was another waist high no-ball that was hit for another two. The following free hit was played over square leg for four by M and at the end of the over we needed 4 off 6 balls. 18 runs came off that penultimate over! In the last over, a single and the 2 run wide rule won us the game and we couldn't believe how we pulled off that win.

We then sat for about two hours as another eventful semifinal took place and it had its fair share of disagreements and quarrels. The final began when the afternoon sun was its peak and we batted first after losing the toss. We lost two wickets in the first over and it was clear that we were sluggish after sitting around doing nothing for two hours. It was then damage control time and PK and NZ played off an over cautiously before deciding to tee off. PK smashed a six over square leg and NZ pulled a bouncer over the fine leg fielder. It was great to see two attacking left handers flaying the tired bowling attack. We were cruising at 15 runs/over at a stage but then both PK and NZ got out. We lost some more wickets soon and I went into bat in the last over. I was not in there for long as I played the first ball I faced onto my stumps and thus ended a disappointing tournament for me, personally, as a batsman. We ended up with 106 in 8 overs and we were very confident of pulling off the championship win.

I was asked to take up the wicket-keeping duties since our last keeper had struggled a bit in the previous two games. I took up wicket-keeping in the 8th standard because there was no other way for me to get into the playing 11 of my school team. I love wicket-keeping because you are always in the game and you do get to understand the wicket and the batsmen much better. Oh, and I also like to show off a lot. While the bowler marks his run up, I stand up to the stumps and start practising moving left to right, right to left and act as if I'm stumping the batsman. This act was so successful one time in school Cricket that the batsman thought that I was the Tamil Nadu State Wicket Keeper.

I wasn't required to bowl and I was glad - my head was aching due to the incredible heat and the fact that I hadn't eaten anything but bananas and gatorade did not help my cause. The tiredness did make me drop a catch and then subsequently miss a run-out chance. The batsmen were stranded in the middle of the pitch watching me drop the catch and my shy at the stumps, standing merely five feet away from the stumps, missed the leg stump by a whisker. It didn't prove to be costly as we took the game and the tournament with a convincing 30 run win. And to make it extra sweet, we beat the same team we had defeated to clinch our Twenty20 championship last year.

My Cricket coach in India used to tell me that there is nothing better than to win a tournament with your mates. As usual, he was right.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Remember Shakti: Giriraja Sudha

My favourite part of the video is at 6:04.

One of my biggest regrets is sleeping through most of one of Remember Shakti's concerts in Chennai. My taste in music was very limited back then. I will, however, never make that mistake again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight Movie Review

Spoiler alert: I do talk about a couple of scenes from the movie.

I’ve never reached a theater an hour before the show is supposed to begin. I had bought my tickets online, but the line to retrieve those tickets extended up to the parking lot. I also greatly annoyed those beyond me when it was my turn to get my ticket – fifteen of my friends stuffed their online ticket confirmation receipts in my hand. But see, I didn’t give a hoot – I was going to see Batman!

I’ve never seen a movie which has ever had to bear the burden of so much hype (the trailer was so kick-ass). To overcome the unbelievable expectations of the audience had to be impossible, right? Seriously man, what a movie!

The Joker is introduced in an awesomely masterminded bank robbery and Heath Ledger plays the villain in a way Jack Nicholson never did. The Heath Ledger Joker is a maniacal villain who does what he does because he relishes destruction, enjoys slowing down the agony. He taunts a police officer in the movie, saying that he knew his friends best because he saw what they really were, when he slowly used his knife to take away their lives.

Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Harvey Dent/Two Face were very good in their portrayals as well, but seriously, this is Ledger's movie. The scene with Batman pounding the hell out of the Joker and the Joker responding with his crazy laughter is one of my favourites. He just keeps laughing and taunting Batman ("What are you going to threathen me with?"). He derives insane pleasure from getting under the skin of a man he dearly wants to unmask.

The special effects and stunts in this movie take a backseat amidst the performances of Ledger, Bale, Eckhart and Oldman (as Inspector Gordon). How often do you see the CGI merge seamlessly with the narrative? The effects don’t take precedence over what the actors are trying to convey, and yet build up the riveting tension that Ledger and Bale love to play off.

There is a truck that does a somersault, and Batman bursts out of the Batmobile in a motorbike – this is very much an action movie. Yet, there is much more. There is a marvelously constructed story that has as one of its main underlying themes what Harvey Dent says in the beginning of the movie – “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

My Verdict: 9.5/10

Thursday, July 17, 2008's coming but not really

I fell asleep at 7:30PM because studying for my Government class was just too boring. I'm up now, two hours later, and it feels so weird. It feels like it's the morning but the darkness outside is kind of unsettling. So much for catching up on sleep.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na - A Short Review

When I came out of the theater on Saturday, I was not able to figure out why I was so enamored with Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I remembered looking at my watch a couple of times during the movie (when there is no intermission, 153 minutes is very long), I found the supporting cast of Rotlu, Bombs, Jignesh and Shaleen to border on the annoying quite a few times and the ending was obvious going into the theater (movie tag line:'When do you know its love?').

The movie had quite a few faults, but there were these moments and performances in the movie that just made all those defects seem inconsequential. In the beginning of the initial credits appears the message 'Special Thanks to Naseeruddin Shah'. The marvellous thespian deserves so much more than just a special thanks -he was hilarious as the fearless and violent Rathore from Ranjhore. The movie came to life whenever his portrait did. All his scenes with Ratna Pathak Shah were just class - the two actors were on form.

There were some truly laugh out loud scenes in the movie - Jai's mother uttering 'Voh mera pati ka beta' as she sees Jai riding on a horse through the streets of Bombay, and of course Jignesh inviting Jai for his 'surprise' birthday party. Imran Khan and Genelia, as Jai and Aditi, turned in impressive performances. They had great chemistry and they rocked that final climax scene in the airport.

I'm pretty sure this movie is going to be my new Dil Chahta Hai. I'm going to end up watching this movie whenever there is nothing to do, and I don't expect to stop humming 'Kabhi Kabhi Aditi Zindagi' any time soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Music and Moments

I reminisce a lot and I blame the music I listen to for this. Somehow, the moments that I truly remember have a song associated with them.

Anjali Anjali, from Duet, is one of AR Rahman’s best tunes, quite possibly just because of the magnificence of SPB’s voice, beautifully set up by Kadri Gopalnath on the saxophone. The song takes me back to those lazy Saturday afternoons in Madras, when Tamil movies from the 90s would be playing on Sun TV, Raj TV and the like. I remember seeing Duet quite a few times – I would sit eating ‘batchanam’ while my dad would fall asleep on the reclining chair.

I have never mentioned any attempts of mine to woo the fairer sex mostly because there have been close to none. UB40’s version of Can’t Help Falling in Love reminds me of my first real crush. It was hardly love but I remember hearing that song lot those days, and I was listening to it out of necessity rather than choice. I shall leave it at that, for I do love to create the intrigue.

Malargale from Love Birds, another Rahman score for the ages. I remember it being my uncle’s favourite song and he told me about how hard it was to sing to this tune because there were no real beats to help the singers. I accepted that without disagreement (possibly because I was 8) and now I don’t care to find out if that is true, for that could possibly ruin the moment, right?

I’m going to move away from my Rahman obsession for a moment and impress you with my taste in Irish music. Lough Erin Shore by The Corrs was the first song I listened to right after my final 12th standard board exam. I was so tired when I reached home that I just threw my bag away and lay down on the couch, aiming to get some sleep before meeting my classmates later that day. This song was playing on my Ipod and it hit me then that school was over for good, surprisingly something that I had been wishing for the past 13 years.

I don’t remember too much of the first five years of my life, when we were in San Jose, California. Two songs, though, have stuck with me. I was 3, I think, when I first saw Kizhakku Vaasal – too young to understand what was going on but still old enough to enjoy Veetikku Veetikku Vasapadi Vaendum. It was sung and composed by Ilayaraja and I used to watch that movie almost every other day just for that song. I think the video cassette got worn out just because of my repeated viewing. The other song I was jamming to at that age was Kuzhal Oodhum Kannanukku from Mella Thiranda Kanavu. Another Ilayaraja classic and my mom would play it in the car everyday as she picked me up from kindergarten. I think it was mostly on my insistence.

I went to quite a few birthday parties in Madras. My mom’s friends loved to throw these lavish parties for their kids – everyone in sight was invited – and all I really enjoyed was the cake. There was this one party, however, that for some odd reason had Hindi music playing. This was a rare occurrence those days (about 11 years ago), to hear non-Tamil music in a birthday party. It seemed as if they were playing Meri Mehbooba, from Pardes, on loop and that’s when my obsession for Hindi film music began. Yesterday, someone expressed surprise when I guessed what song was playing (Pappu can’t dance) as soon as the singer went ‘this is…’

No near end in sight for this obsession.

Music and Moments

P.S: The Summer issue of Nazar is out, check it out at