Monday, January 24, 2005

The Great Cricket Match - Part V

Jalandhar decided to quit glaring, lest he get eyestrain – something the average marauding bowler is forever afraid of. Besides, he had business to attend to. With a fifty in the first innings and three wickets already in this spell of his, Jalandhar seemed all set to become the toast of the class. Besides, Jalandhar probably thought to himself, ‘I shall become the captain instead of the captain’, judging from the wide smile that lit his face up as he started his run-up.

Manikandan, a hard hitting pioneer who had never heard of the wisdom of hitting the ball along the ground, was on strike. At the non-striker’s end stood Murugan - another person of the Sanjay Anand mould - who was incapable of thinking (or hitting) beyond ones and twos.

But Murugan differed from Sanjay Anand in two important aspects. Firstly, he was only about half as wide as the heir to Dravid. And secondly, Murugan, unlike Sanjay Anand, was a good runner and kept rotating the strike.

The policy of taking the singles and ‘rotating the strike’ (as the pundits seem to call it for some reason) seemed to work as Manikandan got the strike often enough to hit as many balls to the fence as possible. I wondered how people who had never heard of Wisden or cricketing manuals managed to play so effectively, while on the other hand those such as me – a treat to watch at the nets, if I may say so myself – failed so dismally.

However, Manikandan – in spite of his unstinted efforts at hitting the opposition out of the game as unscientifically as possible – was unable to improve the situation greatly. Soon, there were 47 runs needed off the last 30 balls.

I was getting worried. Amit did not seem to be keeping up his part of his deal. Maybe he considered beer too passé (or worse still, he’d been offered copious quantities of the same by Sanjay Anand).

Jalandhar rushed in at the start of the next over. Jalandhar Singh’s deliveries had the appearance of being lollipops merely waiting to be smacked to the fence. But appearances were deceptive and shots off his bowling generally worked out to the batsman’s disadvantage.

Murugan, usually as steady as they come, fell prey to the same feeling that I had earlier in the day and tried to hit Jalandhar over the top of his head.. The ball took the outside edge. The wicket-keeper caught it after fumbling three-and-a-half times. As he threw the ball up in the air, he realized he was making a bigger fool of himself than Captain Russell had in Lagaan. Amit was, equally Lagaan-like, signaling a no-ball – minus the British accent, of course.

Jalandhar glared at him and strode purposefully to his delivery marker, muttering oaths which Guru Gobind Singh used when Aurangazeb launched an attack on his rearguard without informing him a priori.

The next ball was a beautiful ball which had no pretensions of being a lollipop. But Amit called it a no ball too. We started hooting from the side of the ground. A few brave souls, taking advantage of the mountain man’s discomfiture, began making disparaging remarks about his head-gear (and were systematically torn apart by Jalandhar at the end of the match).

Jalandhar was distressed and began to bowl badly. Murugan started playing him all over the ground and quickly scoring runs.

Murugan had the unnerving habit of running around the stumps screaming ‘double double’ or ‘triple triple’ even when he realized there was no possibility of running another one. It is extremely unnerving for the sensitive bowlers and fielders to watch batsmen run around the stumps, and their irritation often resulted in stray throws which ultimately contributed to the previously non-existent second or third run.

And Amit continued to shamelessly call every other ball a no-ball. I felt he was pushing his luck and was expecting the cunning Sanjay Anand to request a change in the umpires at any moment. But Sanjay Anand, already irritated with Jalandhar for overshadowing his own sterling performance with the bat, saw his erratic bowling as an excuse for chastising him in public.

He walked over to him - all three chins quivering in anger and distaste and asked him tersely in chaste Madrasi Tamil,

‘Daiii wa**a om****a te*****a Pa***a, do you know what a crease is?’ and then walked off to his fielding position muttering something about how nobody but him knew how to play cricket.

God continued to be on our side, as Sanjay Anand decided to bring himself on. Though Sanjay Anand considered Sanjay Anand to be a bowler in the mould of Jacques Kallis, Sanjay Anand was in reality a bowler whom even the minnows of inter-class cricket could dispatch to the fence with consummate ease.

We did not need Amit’s help as Sanjay Anand was belted all over the place by Manikandan. We needed just 6 runs in the last two overs.

It was then that 9B revolted en masse against Sanjay Anand. The ball was snatched from him as he grabbed it for another shot at using ‘swing and variation in pace to effect a breakthrough’.

Amidst scenes that reminded one of the storming of the Bastille (Sanjay Anand was definitely wide enough to be mistaken for the Bastille), Jalandhar was given the ball.

This time though, Amit was the square leg umpire and was powerless to call anything but a bouncer a no-ball. And as far as the white washer was concerned, he was as incorruptible as Dickie Bird (presumably) was.

Jalandhar’s first delivery would have received plaudits from none less than Mc Grath, pitched outside the off stump and cutting away. Murugan’s desperate slash missed it completely. The next four deliveries were equally unplayable, and Murugan began to turn slightly desperate.
Jalandhar’s last delivery was a Yorker that sent Murugan’s stumps flying to strike the wicketkeeper’s shins. We were tense as our spinner N.Ra walked toward the crease. The utter sobriety of the atmosphere was ruined by the unmitigated laughter of some at the extreme discomfort the wicket-keeper was facing.
Next: The exciting conclusion of the match! Will N.Ra and Manikandan manage to mop the six runs necessary in the last over? And less importantly, will 9th B’s wicketkeeper be maimed for life?

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Great Cricket Match Part IV

This is the fourth part of an epic that has its beginnings shrouded in the mists of time. Or to be more precise, four posts earlier. Please read them before you peruse through this

There was a stunned silence as the truth sunk in, after which a couple of able bodied blokes dragged Mahendran over to where the rest of the team stood fuming.

Surendra Babu screamed, ‘Why the **** did you not tell any of us about this, you [replace with a hundred choice expletives]?’

‘ I thought it could be a, you know, surprise for you, guys…I was sure we would bowl them out quickly!’, said that prince among thieves.

‘You…yOU…thought so….YOU WERE SURE! And you bloody gave some sixty runs away in your five overs!!!’, sputtered Surendra Babu.

I felt it was rather unfair of Surendra Babu to blame Mahendran thus, for he had given away only 55 runs and not 60. I decided with immense tact not to correct him because I decided silence would be prudent at that moment.

Surendra Babu was in a quandary. He scratched a thoughtful chin, deliberating on whether to punch Mahendran in the face and send him home wailing, or to get on with the game.

A respectful hush descended upon those assembled at the sight of the great man cogitating. After a few seconds of deliberation, he decided upon the latter. He would need everybody, even rogues like Mahendran, to bat if he had to win the match. And besides, when we lost, being a proponent of the Scrooge McDuck School of Economics, Surendra Babu wanted Mahendran around to pay Surendra Babu’s share.

As three ‘senior members’ decided upon the batting order, I saw them throw a glance at me - a dashing figure in my ‘keeping pads - and raise their eyes to the heavens. They went into a huddle. Surendra Babu came out of the huddle and told me to open the batting.

I was astonished, shocked and a hundred other synonyms, if you know what I mean.

Surendra Babu was the kind of player who nursed a healthy disrespect for things like coaching manuals, playing along the line of the ball and stroking the ball along the ground. He was a firm believer in the efficacy of the cross batted heave and scoffed at everything else. I, on the other hand, had been scared at a young age by a heavy handed coach into never playing a shot in the air. And as far as cross-batted shots went, playing them was an even greater sin! The last time I had dared to play one, my coach almost dismembered me with a sturdy cricket bat. I did not ask the rationale behind their (obviously sensible) decision, lest they change their mind.

‘Coo, thanks…’, I sputtered.

I walked in with Radhakrishnan who was a legend among the patrons of the ‘chapatti’ shot – a cross-batted swipe that cut a heavy swathe in the air two times out of three and sent the ball sailing into the fence the other time. As I left, Surendra Babu told me tersely,

‘ If you ****ing defend one delivery…one teeny, weeny delivery… I will personally throw you into the well near the vice-principal’s quarters!’

I shuddered. I knew Surendra Babu was capable of all that and worse.

As I walked in, Sanjay Anand made a few disparaging remarks, in keeping with tradition. He once told me that great captains like Steve Waugh and himself often make such comments to keep the morale of the team high. Though he refused to let me in on how exactly a verbal barrage at the batsman kept the morale of his team high, I guess there was something in it – mysterious are the ways of great captains, I guess…

As usual, Sanjay Anand was the opening bowler. I liked Sanjay Anand’s bowling. He preferred to bowl either full tosses or deliveries he euphemistically called bouncers – they rarely bounced above waist level. That made things easy for a batsman like me.

I fended his first delivery off. I heard Surendra Babu turn the air blue in righteous anger. The next delivery was a Sanjay Anand bouncer, wide outside the off-stump. I played the only shot I could play well, the square cut. And the ball actually rushed to the boundary. I distinctly remember seeing Surendra Babu rubbing his eyes in disbelief.

The next delivery was Sanjay Anand’s other stock delivery – the gentle full toss. I turned the ball onto the legside and ran two runs. Surendra Babu wasn’t visible, then – and I suspected for a moment that he had passed out in disbelief. After ensuring that our great leader was still among those standing, I turned to face the next delivery.

For the next few overs, I did my best to give the strike to Radhakrishnan who did not feel in the least inhibited when playing cross-batted shots. We were well on course at the end of nine overs, with a score a healthy 70, to which I had contributed 23, which was by far the highest score I had ever scored in one of these encounters. Surendra Babu had thrown abuses, stones and other miscellany at me (‘dai t****** p*****, defend pannadei... vettiduvein!’) just six times in the last nine overs – good going, considering the general volatility of Surendra Babu’s temper at that time, and his complete lack of trust in my batting skill.

It was then that Jalandhar Singh came on. I felt a rare surge of adrenalin and decided to hit him into submission to make up for dropping that catch! I swung the bat wildly at the first delivery. I managed to take a top edge which went flying up straight into the hands of Jalandhar.

The next few overs seemed to have sealed the fate of our team as we lost four wickets for just eleven runs. Soon, it came to a point at which we needed another seventy five runs in the remaining eight overs. Then, the teams decided to call for a drinks break.

It was then that Mahendran propounded his idea to me. He told me that Amit’s position as an umpire was a gift from God himself. I soon realized the portent of what he was saying. Amit, being the proverbial bad apple, would be easier to bribe than Mohammed Azharuddin. However, my sense of fair play pricked at the thought of bribing a match official. I apprised him of my conscientious objections, and also worried aloud as to whether we would be booked under the ICC.

Mahendran gave a short bark, which I interpreted to be a sarcastic laugh.

‘Okay! Let’s go by your rules! Do you have fifty rupees to pay your share if we lose the match?’

I winced. It had been a long time since I had last seen Mahatma Gandhi’s benign face smiling down at me from his position of pride right next to the signature of the RBI governor. This held true irrespective of the denomination of the note. A 50 rupee note seemed to me a particular distant dream. And I shuddered to think of what would happen to the Warrier soul (or more importantly, the corporeal self of the Warrier), if I informed Surendra Babu of my inability to pay.

I arrived at a decision.

‘Let’s do it!’, I said.

Upon this, Mahendran strode purposefully to Amit and told him,

‘We can’t afford to lose this match…’

‘If you can’t, then win it!’, said Amit slyly for he realized where the conversation was heading. He knew we were about to violate the code that had made the gentleman’s game what it is today by bribing a match official. And he didn’t seem to particularly mind that. Amit, unfettered by scruples as he was, was indeed a gift from the heavens.

‘You know, those Pepsi Blue Bottles with Ajay Jadeja’s face on them are rarer than an intelligent remark from Siddhu here!’, said Mahendran rather uncharitably.

Amit laughed, a guffaw eerily reminiscent of the devil in the Exorcist. (or am I thinking of the Real Adventures of Jonny Quest?).

‘Pepsi bottle …!!!’, he spat, and went on to describe in graphic detail his views on Pepsi bottles with Jadeja’s photos on them, and what he thought Mahendran could do with the Pepsi bottle. It was extremely unpleasant for one of my refined sensibilities to tolerate. But Amit was in the driver’s seat, and I could do little but laugh with the boor.

‘What do you want?’, said Mahendran simply.

Amit jumped at the opportunity.

‘One beer – that’s all!’, said the brazen mercenary and stood there, an ugly smile plastered on his face.

To say that Mahendran and I reeled would be to understate it entirely. Being the sweet, innocent kids that we were, we lived under the delusion that the consumption of alcoholic beverages was restricted to the dregs of society. (A delusion we were cured of in later life). Though neither of us thought very highly of Amit, we hadn’t expected him to plumb the depths as quickly as this. But the man had to be humoured, and both of us realized that. We threw a conspirational glance at each other and Mahendran answered quickly.

‘If you do as we wish you to and ensure the trophy is ours - a beaker full of the warm South, full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, with beaded bubbles winking at the brim and purple-stainèd mouth will be all yours.’, said Mahendra almost lyrically. Mahendra was the kind of bloke who thought of himself as a modern day Jeeves. He buried himself in dull books of poetry written by such hardened criminals as Shakespeare, Milton and Keats and tried to use quotations from their works as often as possible.

But the poetry was wasted on Amit. Being a person with a single digit IQ, he was incapable of understanding cryptic sentences such as those Mahendran had been displaying a penchant for. He bristled visibly, and said rather violently,

‘Dai, I don’t want any of this shit you offer me. Beer is what I want, and beer is what I better get! No beer, no deal…’, said he, contributing his bit of doggerel to the conversation – the conversation began to take the aspect of a kavi sammelan.

‘Indeed, but that was just what the poet Keats had to say on the topic in Ode to a Nightingale.’, said Mahendran, ever the intellectual.

When Amit began to speak frankly on what he thought of the poet Keat’s (and Mahendran’s) ancestry, I realized that the conversation appeared to be heading towards fistcuffs.

I decided to intervene. I told Amit in simple, almost pidgin, English,

“See, Amit … No balls, wides, all you give nicely, especially when batsman out…then you get nice cold beer bottle. You open you drink and then you hit wife, do what you want–not my problem. I am making myself suitably clear?”

Amit’s face lit up visibly. He agreed after arguing a bit on how he couldn’t possibly hit his wife because he didn’t have one and how it would be impossible for him to call a wide when the batsman was out. After shaking on the deal and refusing Amit money in advance, we walked away, leaving Amit dreaming sweet dreams about the alcohol that he would soon down.

Sanjay Anand waved his players onto the field imperiously as he walked his way to mid-on – his fielding position of choice, for it offered him an untrammeled opportunity to advise bowlers on the ‘finer aspects of the fine art of bowling’.

Jalandhar tossed the tennis ball up and down and glared balefully at the batsman on strike. Amit settled himself in behind the stumps. Mahendran and I crossed our fingers and prayed. Hard!

Does Amit prove himself as adept at malpractice on the cricket field as in the classroom? Will Mahendran have to make the long, arduous journey to the wine shop at the end of the match? Or will he make the longer, more painful journey to the bottom of the well near the vice-principal’s office? All this and more tomorrow, same place same time!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Great Cricket Match - Part III

This is a continuation of the saga that has its beginnings two posts ago. Please read the first two parts before you peruse this

I felt rather like Parthiv Patel – almost completely helpless in the face of the onrushing yellow projectile. But then occurred the one incident in my life that put me off atheism forever. The ball decided to do me a kindness and hit my forearm which was awkwardly in front of my chest. Nature and Newton’s laws – god bless the good man - did the rest, as the ball rolled down onto the stumps.

Pradeep, whose attention span is shorter than the average American couch-potato’s, was rather happy to see the end of it all. He did not relish the prospect of watching Sanjay Anand’s monotonous renditions of the forward defensive stroke for another half an hour, and walked off with a rather cavalier swagger flinging the bat onto the ground.

Our team erupted into a veritable orgy of celebration. I joined in - fancying myself rather a hero – awaiting the praise and apologies I so richly deserved. But then, Surendra Babu suddenly tilted his face upward and thanked god for my forearm. I slunk away as Surendra Babu turned around to thank me – honeyed words which somehow felt like they were laced with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

The next two batsmen did not last long as both of them believed strongly that our outfielders had smeared copious quantities of butter on their palms. As they departed in quick succession, Sanjay Anand ranted at length to me about how great players like him and Dravid never received the right kind of support at the other end.

Between overs, he told me of the pains he had taken to ‘get set to play the sheet anchor role’ and how all the others were crude idiots. I smiled at him and informed him that I understood the tribulations cricketing genii had to face.

‘ NO! YOU won’t understand. But well, maybe, you could try…’, he said, in a tone that seemed to indicate that I was more to be pitied than censured for my ineptitude.

The next batsman who walked in was the formidable Jalandhar Singh. Known variously as the ape-man, the chimp who walks and the incredible hulk, there was nobody who could dispute his greatness as a cricketer (though Sanjay Anand regularly tried to).

Jalandhar shared the belief of his predecessors at the crease that nothing short of a miracle could get him dismissed. Unfortunately for us, though, Jalandhar had the talent to justify this confidence. Brought up on parathas dripping with the purest kind of ghee, he was the quintessential Sardar (read big as a house, strong as an ox and about as intelligent as one) who could dispatch the best of deliveries to any corner of the ground that caught his fancy.

Coaching manuals would have scoffed at his technique. Bradman would probably have turned in his grave. Gavaskar would have shaken his head in silent disapproval. Jalandhar wouldn’t know a forward defensive stroke even if he were served one on a plate with watercress around it. But that didn’t hinder him one bit as he set about taking our bowling apart with consummate ease.

Throughout the history of cricket, when things go wrong and a batsman sets about torching the field ablaze, everybody in the team sets about blaming a scapegoat for the sordid mess. Sadly, the scapegoat in most teams I was a member of was usually me – entirely unjustified and puzzling, but true nonetheless.

Some half-wit who thought himself rather a wit made a comparison between the distance separating Pamela Anderson’s legs when in bed and mine (when behind the wickets, you pervert!), when a ball that kept low happened to slip through between my legs. Somehow, the rest of the boors seemed to find it extremely hilarious. I tried saying something about how the same thing had happened to Alan Knott in 1976, but then I realized discretion was the better part of valour when first slip threw a sizeable stone at me.

The long and short of it was that we were plumbing the depths of cricketing hell. We were feeling rather like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did when they sauntered into Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. (Remind me to look it up in the Old Testament sometime)

Thanks to Jalandhar’s heroics and in spite of Sanjay Anand’s best efforts to stay at the striker’s end, the score at the end of fourteen overs stood at a formidable 110/3.

In the 15th over, Surendra Babu decided to stem the flow of runs by taking the ball himself. I winced and moved further away from the stumps. Sanjay Anand inspected the pitch, tapped the rough (in spite of the fact that the whole pitch was one big rough) and took guard. He waited patiently; bat resting on his belly, for the two minutes that it took Surendra Babu to reach the popping crease. His delivery was fast, and surprisingly, had a perfect outside-the-offstump line. Sanjay Anand played another one of the tentative prods that he called a forward defensive stroke. However this time, it took the outside edge. But Sanjay Anand on that day had the same luck that keeps the vilest politicians alive to the age of ninety. The ball ran down to the boundary though one of the fatter members of our team made a comical attempt to save the boundary.

To our surprise, Sanjay Anand lifted his bat up to acknowledge the non-existent crowd to celebrate his quarter-century. He then turned to me and asked me,

‘Did you see how perfectly timed that late cut was? Just like Sobers!’

Surendra Babu seemed possessed. He ran in and bowled the ball right at Yorker length. Sanjay Anand’s defensive prod missed it altogether. The stumps flew up, as did all the close-in fielders. That something was amiss struck us only after we had celebrated for a few seconds and I had accidentally prodded the bloke at first slip in the eye with my glove.

It was then we noticed that Sanjay Anand was desperately trying to tell the umpire that he had signaled he was not ready, the building behind the bowler’s arm had moved, the sun was on his eyes, I was singing lewd couplets behind the wickets, one of the fielders was sitting down and there were more than the stipulated number of fielders on the leg side.

But the umpire was not impressed. Sanjay Anand did not budge until he saw a beaming Jalandhar calling the next batsman in with an almost unholy enthusiasm which did not speak highly of Jalandhar's team spirit. When the next batsman ignored Sanjay Anand's protestations and took guard, he realized the futility of his endeavour. It was an overwrought Sanjay Anand who walked away, muttering loudly about traitors, match fixing, unfairness and professional jealousy that burnt green in the hearts of those less gifted.

We soon realized that Surendra Babu had done something akin to biting the hand that fed one by dismissing Sanjay Anand. The other batsman was rather happy pushing the ball for a quick single, leaving Jalandhar Singh with the lion’s share of the strike. And Jalandhar did what he did best – massacre the bowling.

I dropped an edge from Jalandhar in the seventeenth over, and I was roundly castigated for the error of my ways. But the Gods were once again on my side as a top edge from the great man in the next over skied up in the air and plopped into my waiting gloves.

However, 9th B was already comfortably placed at 138/5, and the rest of the team seemed all set to close their eyes and heave at every delivery with gay abandon – a strategy that seemed to work admirably as they raced to 155 for the loss of another two wickets at the end of the twenty overs.

It was an almost impossible task. As we tried to decide upon the batting order (though all I did was hang around the peripheries, making suggestions which everybody ignored), Mahendran crept up to us with a sheepish smile. He told Surendra Babu that he had something important to say. Surendra Babu curtly informed him that this was neither the time nor the place for it. But Mahendran persisted. Ignoring the stream of expletives that Surendra Babu let loose at him, Mahendran dropped a bombshell that made Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like boy’s toys,

‘Imsorryguysitslippedmymind to tell you before…But I think you should know that this is a bet match… I mean, if we lose, we’ve gotta pay ‘em 500 bucks, so bat well guys everything depends on you’ and tried to stealthily stalk away.

To be continued...

The Great Cricket Match - Part II

This is a continuation of the saga that has its beginnings in the previous post. Please read that before you peruse this

The toss went the way of 9th B. They chose to bat, without concern for the moisture in the pitch (thanks to my water bottle) and the early swing of the tennis ball. I was to be the wicket-keeper. The umpires walked on to the field.

The leg umpire was a no-gooder named Amit. Amit was at one time a student of my esteemed institution. But Amit had this inexplicable habit of spending the morning session in our school and the afternoon session in the school opposite ours – where he was persona non grata, so to speak. It was a kind of disease which I presume grew over him. All went well until a teacher in the other school began to notice his presence only in the afternoons. It was soon all over for Amit and he was expelled (from both schools).

The other umpire was my classmate in primary school, till he dropped out of school to join the ranks of whitewashers.

I enjoyed being the wicket-keeper. It gave me a chance to wear my wicket-keeping gloves and pads. I usually ignored the hoots that accompanied my keeping to tennis balls with gloves and pads on. I had chosen to be the wicket-keeper for it was something everybody hated to do. This ensured my place in the team, though there were always cynics who doubted the utility of a wicket-keeper in the first place.

I walked in with all my paraphernalia, unmindful of the comments made by the batting team and some traitors on my own team. Surendra Babu picked the ball up, and walked towards the boundary line. Surendra Babu was one of those fiery fast bowlers who unfortunately lack accuracy. If his delivery went straight, usually either the stumps flew or the ball flew all the way to the fence. But his deliveries did not go straight on to the stumps as often as a wicket-keeper with doubtful skills like myself would desire. That kept me busy.

Keeping this in mind, I requested for a third slip and a leg-slip. I was shouted down.

Sanjay Anand, being the captain, walked in first as was his wont. Surendra Babu rushed in from the goal post which marked the boundary line. I began to edge backwards. I kept inching away until the fielder at third man informed Surendra Babu that he was closer to the bowler than me and Surendra Babu imperiously waved me forward. The long run began again, and I watched with growing trepidation from behind the stumps.

Sanjay Anand was according to Sanjay Anand the most technically correct player since Gundappa Vishwanath. The first ball strayed a full two metres down the legside, and I made a valiant dive to my left. The ball went on past my gloves to the boundary.

I was screamed at for my failings. I screamed back citing the disadvantages a wicket-keeper faced until I realized everybody else was of the unanimous opinion that I was a ghastly bounder.

For the rest of the over, Sanjay Anand displayed his technical correctness by defending the ball and allowing the wides to pass through with a movement which he told me was akin to Manjrekar’s. He ‘glanced’ the last delivery for a single. Sanjay Anand liked to hog the strike and play at a snail’s pace (to quote the great man himself, ‘My great innings are all masterpieces of graft. Haven’t you read of Boycott?’). However, Surendra Babu’s inaccuracy – and according to my teammates, my wicket-keeping – ensured the run rate was a healthy 9 at the end of the first over.

At the end of five of the stipulated twenty overs, 9th B was at 45. What was more depressing was that only 18 had come off the bat. In the sixth over, the other batsman, Pradeep, who had no pretensions of being anything but a expert on ‘chapatti’ shots got an opportunity to face his third delivery of the day, after more than two overs of watching Sanjay Anand’s sickening ‘technically perfect’ batting. I was relieved too, for I had listened to Sanjay Anand’s instructive discourses between deliveries until my ears were ready to burst. His discourses were primarily on the subject of his skill and how lesser mortals like myself could attempt to learn the fine art of batting from one as talented as himself

Surendra Babu, with his regal authority, decided to remove the other bowler who was much slower (and hence, easier to keep to) but much more accurate than the captain. But Surendra Babu was a law unto himself. It did not occur to him at any time that he could have removed himself from the attack. I was of the firmly held opinion that it would bring the run rate down (with a little help from Sanjay Anand). But my opinion was not usually solicited. So I kept it to myself and merely told this to the stumps and the batsman.

Surendra Babu brought on a spinner following Martin Crowe’s illustrious foot steps. But Surendra Babu was not Martin Crowe. And neither was our spinner Dipak Patel. The long suffering batsman vented his frustrations at not receiving the strike by executing some of the most ugly shots I had ever had the good fortune to witness.

But they were undeniably effective. N.Ra watched as his long hops, his full tosses and his good length balls reached the boundary. Pradeep had by then become over-confident. He began to walk down the pitch to knock the next one right out of the ground. The ball slipped out of N.Ra’s hand and went down the legside. I saw an opportunity to establish myself and smiled to myself in a knowing way. I could see everybody on the team falling all over themselves, apologizing profusely for all the abuse that had been hurled at me. I could see, in my mind’s eye, Surendra Babu approaching me with tears in his eyes begging to be forgiven for his lack of judgement. I decided that I would speak harshly at them, but forgive them nonetheless. I was patting myself on the back for my magnanimity when I saw the ball was almost indecently close to me, rushing in at a velocity that would have put any self respecting tsunami to shame…

Will our intrepid wicketkeeper fight all odds and stump his way to cricketing glory? All this and more, tomorrow...

The Great Cricket Match - Part I

Your eyes rest on the countenance of a sufferer. A sufferer who suffers – terribly. Yes, dear readers, I am down with a severe case of writer’s block. This is illustrated by the fact that I have spent the last two hours trying to compose a Statement of Purpose in support of my application to a B-school, and what I have written thus far is–

I have been greatly interested in management ever since I chose to study Computer Science at the

Very rummy, all this. But what I find even more distressing than the fact that I may miss the January 31st deadline for my application to one of the few good B-schools that may condescend to call me is that I am unable to get myself to write a line to post here on my blog.

It was therefore a moody, despondent self that trawled through my hard disk, more out of sheer boredom than anything else. It was then that I chanced upon this story I had written years and years ago. So, till I recover from this debilitating disease, I have decided to post this up on my blog in parts. So, I present a never-before-seen piece, penned by a younger, less lissome schoolkid named Siddhu -


It was the Physics hour. It was not among the subjects in which I was good. But then, the subjects in which I could claim to be proficient were few and far between.

So, as was my usual practice, I looked sleepily onto the blackboard and slowly began to see that, by some freak of nature, there were two of everything. I could see not one, but two people talking about the important role Netwon’s third law would play in our futures.

It was when the teacher began to delve into the depths of inertia and other things I couldn’t care less about that I felt something running up and down the small of my back. I initially suspected it to be the work of a pesky mosquito, but with the logical mind that is the hallmark of a Warrier I deduced that mosquitos do not frequent classrooms at two in the afternoon. I then put it down to my imagination, for stranger things have been known to happen in the addled minds of Physics students. A few minutes later, I received a blow on the side of my head.

I could not put this down to the effects Physics have on young minds. For never before in written history had a Physics lecture caused sharp pain on the side of one’s head. Itching, maybe, but pain, no, not even a lecture from that acknowledged bore, my principal, could do that. After thus concluding that there was a human hand behind the blow, I turned behind to face Sujit.

‘What do you want?’, I asked, sounding aggrieved.

He stuffed a paper into my hands and told me to turn towards the blackboard before our long suffering Physics teacher took at a dekko at the small of my back.

My curiosity was aroused. The whole cloak and dagger process of exchanging notes in class excited me. I began to imagine myself as a RAW agent making contact with his mole in the Pakistani establishment in front of Pervez Musharaff. It was then that it struck me that my teacher would look rather like Musharaff if he would wear an Army cap. I was beginning to wonder how exciting it would be if it turned out that our teacher were actually Musharaff. At that moment, the second blow struck exactly the same place the first did. This time I did not turn back, for the teacher was answering a query of a first bencher – a first rate blighter who asked them unrelentingly though he knew the answers anyway.

‘Look at the paper, dammit’, hissed Sujit, reminding me of the snake who played the hero (or was it heroine) in that Sridevi starrer the name of which I am presenty unable to recollect.

The paper contained something written in Mahendran’s unmistakable scrawl. It was a scrawl that had sent many a teacher to the friendly neighbourhood opthalmologist. I struggled to read it, after first determining which side was up. It had something to do with a proposal for a inter-section cricket match. An inter-section cricket match! I could not figure out what an inter-section match was, and considered all kinds of interesting possibilities before I realized that he was referring to a match between our class, 9th C, and 9th B.

I brightened up. It had been a long time since we had played such a match. I wrote down a few lines which would inform Mahendran of my support and patronage for any such endeavour. I also told him that my services as Captain of the team were also at the class’ disposal. I passed it along with the panache’ of one who has been passing notes since playschool.

The next message from Mahendran informed me that the back benchers’ union, led by Mahendran, was not interested in handing the captaincy over to my able hands. But it welcomed me onto the team as long as I would bring the stumps along (and rather ominously, it seemed to me, the team seemed to be willing to dispense of my services otherwise).

I sometimes suspected that the stumps I possessed had more to do with my being a regular member of the team than my cricketing skills. But I generally dismissed these thoughts as unfounded. The next paper tossed at me gave me the date for the encounter. It was the next Saturday.

Saturday arrived and there was not a cloud in the sky. But then, clouds in the Chennai sky are rarely seen, as the skeptics among the readers may comment. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day for cricket and the temperature was a pleasant 41 degrees. As we sweated our way onto what served as a pitch to hit the stumps in (always a difficult process which involved emptying a water bottle onto the earth to make it more receptive to the stumps), we noticed the captains ‘walking out’ for the toss. As they walked towards the pitch, there was a small commotion and the chap who had conveniently appointed himself captain of the 9th B team was dragged back to the trees by the side of the ground. The real captain, a plump fellow named Sanjay Anand, huffed and puffed his way to the pitch where our glorious leader, Surendra Babu stood in wait.

To read the exciting conclusion of this tome, and the beginning of the great Cricket match, tune in tomorrow at

Monday, January 10, 2005

People of the year 2004

I have never been considered bright or sharp by anyone I know. In fact, my friends, acquaintainces, teachers and miscellaneous mongrels have been known to speak of me as a rather vapid and irreflective chap. But that hasn’t by a long shot made me immune to the occasional flash of inspiration. These flashes, though few and far between, often result in great things. I have had another flash of inspiration. Though not as flashy as some of the earlier flashes, it’s a rather fruity idea nonetheless.

It struck me when I was reading one of the earlier issues of Time Magazine. For the uninitiated, Time Magazine has this habit of declaring a single person (or persons) the Man of the Year. Their choices in the past have spoken well of their wisdom; like when Adolf Hitler was their man of the year in 1938 (for his efforts to ensure peace in Europe) or the American Soldier in 2003 (for providing countless Iraqis a live demonstration of the very latest genocidal techniques).

Then, it struck me that I could do the unsuspecting world a great disservice by presenting my own Man of the Year awards. On deeper introspection, I realized that I couldn’t present a single award and leave it at that. There were so many people in the past one year that merit a mention. So, without further ado, I bring to you – hotshooottts…(er… sorry, I don’t know how Eminem slunk in here)

1.The DPS Girl

The DPS girl – for want of something better to call her – has had quite a year, by any standards. She started the year by proving that she could unbutton her school shirt faster than most, leaving her competitors struggling with the third button when she rushed onto the next item on the agenda. She also regaled listeners (and viewers) around the world with her witty lines, which had us boors in splits.

The way she estimated the probability of her choking on her breakfast for the day before she actually ended up doing so had intellectuals the world over shocked at her sagacity. The adroitness that her tongue displayed left many with appreciative smiles plastered on their faces. She also proved herself an authority on DTC bus timings, remembering that she had a bus to catch at a time she had lots of other things on her mind (and mouth).

Though her taste in men left lots to be desired – evident from the fact that she failed to look down south at another metro for a much better catch (who didn’t have a camera phone to record her exploits and witticisms) - she has indeed proven herself worthy of this prestigious award.

2.The Indian entrepreneur

This was rather a big year for the Indian entrepreneur. Indians dared to venture where no man had trod before. Though the IIMs claim to have a copyright on training the best enterpreunial minds in India, IITians proved that they didn’t need a PGDM to wheeler-deal with the best of them. This spirit was on display when an IITian found an opportunity to make a profit in the market, created (read downloaded) a product to meet these requirements and took great personal risk to translate this idea of his into a commercially viable product.

Though he did not receive the remuneration he expected, he has been relieved of the burden of having to pay his college tuition fees ever again. He has also been granted free accommodation in one of the Indian Government’s finest and best guarded establishments. He has also placed himself on par with several other luminaries like Avnish Bajaj and the Shankaracharya of Kanchi. (He is also responsible for the fact that the Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur moved up several notches in most B-School Rankings)

3.Abu Gharib

Abu Gharib gave close competition to the DPS girl in the race for the Siddhu Person #1 of the year 2004. But mainly owing to the fact that she was a lot prettier than Abu Gharib and could do things that the building couldn’t possibly dream of doing, Abu Gharib was pushed down to a lowly third.

The American Army did to Abu Gharib what Saddam Hussein could not do in 40 years – made it the rallying point for sadists, masochists and miscellaneous perverts from all over the world.

Thailand cried foul at this intrusion into what was previously their forte. Prostitutes from Bangkok to Boston took to the streets protesting that all their clients with ‘different’ tastes had enlisted in the US army, leaving them in the lurch. Guantanamo Bay, which had been the average US Army sadist’s favorite destination till then, lost its sheen with everyone from the commandant downward vying to join the party at Abu Gharib.

Abu Gharib’s doors were left wide open for anyone who wished to walk in. All your average masochist, whose greatest desire is to receive his daily electric shock and whipping, had to do was walk around with a Kalashnikov or a Koran (both WMDs, according to the liberators) and look Arab. In most cases however, the first requirement was waived. Those handicapped by reasons of ethnicity could always call themselves Mullah Mohammed Omar to avail themselves of a seat…

This about wraps it up for this year, folks. Wish all of you a happy new year…

Note: All of us are of course cognizant of who the real person of the year 2004 is – moi! But us modest blokes don’t believe in letting the veil of modesty slip… ;-)

Thursday, January 06, 2005


To those of u who wanted to know why the fiction's all gone (and especially to curses, who threatens to sue me) -

a) Curses, I think my earlier post pretty much sums everything up. Don't call your lawyer, I can't afford it. And no, I'd never get myself beaten up by Amrish, however much you may desire to see me beaten up by the aforementioned character. ;-)

b) and anon. (hey cmon, tell me who u are), I disagree with you, its not life thats mean, but people who are!

c) And Usha, yeah, I totally, completely agree with the principle of wat u say. Even if I am an egoistic Mallu (as certain people put it), I think I have within me the ability to laugh at myself - to an extent.
Lets hope i get to singapore, then we can have a longer discussion on the ethical rights and wrongs of this issue... ;-). And maybe I'll soon put our psychobabble/philosophical discussion up here soon enough in the form of a discourse by the peerless Siddmund Freud. Provided of course you waive ur IPR over it.

Cheers everybody


P.s: this is by far my most grammatically incorrect and semantically incoherent post - EVER

'Shit happens! Thats why you should carry toilet paper with you' - Siddmund Freud, 2005

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Suppression of the freedom of expression

In Cuba, Fidel Castro has the bad habit of castrating journalists who have at any point in time dared disagree with them. The choice of castration as the preferred method of reprisal is quite possibly because Castro’s name bears a striking resemblance to the unsavoury process.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein sent his enemies in the press (not that there were many who dared write against him in the first place) to Abu Ghraib where they played lots of fun games.

The United States – well, the world’s greatest democracy believes in getting the FBI, the CIA and a hundred other acronyms to raid the offices of the newspaper that offends them. If you still don’t listen, they give you bright orange clothing and matching chain mall and send you to a seaside resort called Guantanamo Bay. According to many, that’s why masochists around the country write about how Condoleeza Rice did a Janet Jackson at the Congressional hearings. Collars don’t come gratis otherwise…

India, however, seemed immune to this upsetting trend till recently. But, things have begun to change. The mother (and no, I don’t mean Mother Theresa) recently filed a hundred and fifteen defamation cases, and if that didn’t work, used more interesting techniques one would rather not describe. More recently, some poor IIT Kharagpur student was arrested for trying to make a living by catering to mankind’s most basic urges. Avnish Bajaj soon joined him there, for the poor kid was feeling lonely in prison.

More than journalists however, I find much more to sympathize with writers who attempt to write fiction, and end up stepping on the wrong toes. Salman Rushdie stands testimony to that, living as he does in the shadow of six bodyguards. Taslima Nasreen said she got a rash on her neck thanks to a veil, and she received a fatwa slapped right on her (unveiled) face. (However, the fatwa was not entirely inhuman. A learned scholar offered to forgive her sins and allow her to join his exclusive club of 65 wives – though why any right-thinking man would want Taslima Nasreen in his harem is something that is beyond me! And why Taslima Nasreen let such an eligible bachelor as the 76 year old scholar slip out of her grasp is another question that vexes me greatly.)

In the less recent past, P.G. Wodehouse wasn’t allowed to return to the United Kingdom because he swapped jokes with Hitler on Berlin Radio (notwithstanding the fact that he had fifteen carbines, five grenade launchers and invites from six different concentration camps staring him in his face as he exchanged pleasantaries with the aforementioned luminary)

Today, this intrepid blogger has suffered the same fate. Faced with some rather unique methods of reprisal for writing what he had in the last two days, he has been forced to take an original work of fiction out of his blog. A couple of the messages he received in response to what he had penned earlier reminded one of the way smiling KGB agents spoke to unfortunate blokes who’d dared to speculate on the colour of Brezhnev’s underwear.

My readers – at least those among you who understand the true meaning of freedom of expression – could possibly be shocked. Was I intimidated by these brazen threats? (ok, not so brazen threats!)

Since I have been accused of behaving unethically, I think I should apologize if my story had offended any single person’s sentiments, for it was absolutely unintended. I also apologize to her protectors and guardians. But as Wodehouse once said, a humorist’s lot is a pitiful one indeed. Anyway, henceforth, I’m going to take a leaf out of Khrushchev’s book and write humor as the doyens of the Communist party like it. So my next few posts may go like this joke by Khrushchev which had the praesedium in splits …

‘In Russia’, he used top say, making his important speech to the Presidium, ‘we have a proverb – A chicken that crosses the road does so get to the other side, but wise men dread a bandit.’, and then his face would split in the middle and his eyes would disappear into his cheeks like oysters going down for the third time in a oyster stew, and the comrades would realize that this was the big boffola and that if they were a second late with the appreciative laughter, their next hob would be running a filling station down Siberia way.

Things will remain thus as long as I live a society like ours where we take ourselves way too seriously. Maybe later, sometime in the future, I can find out for myself what the true meaning of freedom of expression is. Until then, I leave you with the words of Albert Einstein on the same -

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

P.S: What’s your take on this, people?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

* What follows is completely and without exception the work of a deranged maniac who ought to have been locked up in a padded cell quite some time ago.
* What the aforementioned deranged maniac has written has absolutely nothing to do with reality
* To wax eloquent on what has already been mentioned in the previous statement: no character in what follows even remotely resembles any human being, animal, animagus or dementor living on earth. And any reader who attempts to draw parallels to the real world is, to put it succinctly, being a chump.
* And NO! None of the characters resemble any plants either.
* And as usual, if you believe none of the above, it’s all a huge conspiracy to defame yours truly – hatched by George Bush, Jacques Chiraq, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Elvis Presley and Radio Mirchi RJ Suchitra. Al Qaeda, ISI and the Taliban helped, too.

In addition, as the story unfolds, it will be clear to the meanest intellect that though this story is written in the first person singular, it has absolutely nothing to do with me, because:

* I was not admitted into the group of the seven dwarfs who ministered to Snow Whiste, for I was two inches too short.
* I have been blessed with a face which, even when not ridden with pimples, has the ability to stop clocks of all sizes and shapes.
* Strong women who remain impassive when confronted with tarantulas, king cobras and spiders, let out screams of disgust and repulsion when my face is suddenly sprung upon their unsuspecting selves. In other words, magnet to the opposite sex I’m not.
* My physique – if I could call it that - is also nothing to sneeze at. (For an inadvertently loud sneeze could displace me quite a fair distance.) Dilton Doileys the world over derive solace from my existence – living proof that people DO get punier than they.
* My idea of an intellectually stimulating conversation is me. Which is, as is quite apparent to those who are acquainted with me, not the most intellectually stimulating topic in the world. * Also, my IQ has been, after repeated tests, identified to lie somewhere between that of a dodo and a dinosaur. Scientists concluded that I was an evolutionary anomaly, for I should have by all rights been extinct.

To summarize therefore, it is nigh impossible that any of what is described below could have conceivably happened to yours truly. Read on, and you’ll realize why the author exudes an air of flippant confidence as he makes the aforementioned statement. Therefore, what follows is a mere figment of the author’s fervid imagination.

NOTE – Why Disclaimers?: (Readers already bored to tears by the disclaimer are requested to detour and go ahead to the story about which I have spoken so much)

This is the season for disclaimers.

Or have I got it wrong? Yes, I think I have committed what the British call a blooper (or was that bloomer?). Strong men the world over, glued to their monitors as they peruse this blog, in all probability winced and bit their tongues when they saw me call this a season for disclaimers. Many, I imagine, looked upon each other with a surmise which couldn’t have got any wilder if I were Cortez staring at the Pacific (refer previous blog).

I think it is but fair, therefore, that I elucidate upon what I have just stated.

Blogs around blogsville – as I heard someone call it – are filled to the brim with disclaimers. It was but the other day that I noticed Vinod mention something of the sort. Then it was Navin’s turn next – though his disclaimer seemed more like a pugilist’s challenge to all comers than a disclaimer. Realizing that disclaimers are not merely the flavour of the season, but also insurance against overactive imaginations jumping to conclusions on the basis of what is assumed to be written between lines, I decided to jump onto the bandwagon and post a disclaimer before I continued any further.

- Siddhu (4th January 2005)