I Miss Sachin

by Sidin Vadukut in

So the other day, after a typically pulsating match at the Cricket World Cup that I completely forgot about in the time it took me to get up from the sofa and go make a cup of tea, Sky Sports played a short, shallow but enjoyable documentary on the life of Sachin Tendulkar. As I watched the grainy film clips and stock shots of Mumbai and the waxing and waning of Sachin's hair over the years, I felt a little tear well up in the corner of an eye..

What I am saying is this: I miss Sachin.

I miss waking up on the morning of a cricket match and thinking, before anything else, "Oh baby Jesus please take care of him today and make him score a lot and don't even think of making him walk back to the pavilion with his head hanging..." Only after this did I move on to other thoughts such as: "Also it would be ideal if my parents have not been killed in their beds by an axe-murderer."

Of course I never wanted to be in a position where I had to choose between my parents and Sachin. But if push came to shove I may have gone with the best cover-driver in the room. 

I miss going to school, on the school bus, mentally preparing myself for a Sachin failure. This is true. I would actually make a list of convincing reasons for why Sachin failed in a match EVEN BEFORE THE MATCH HAD EVEN TAKEN PLACE. We all did. Admit it. Not because we had to fend off Sachin haters. (This was before Sachin-hate had been invented in West Bengal.) But so that we had something to cling on to when he wafted outside off-stump or mistimed a...

Sorry. I cannot even imagine such terrible things. The Sachin in the real world may have retired. The Sachin of my head and heart has not.

I miss sitting on a train or on a bus and thinking: What if there is an alien invasion and earth is nearly destroyed and the aliens agree to let us be if we can beat them in a cricket match... and then we need twelve runs in the last over and Sachin is at the striker's end, and the first two balls are dot balls and then he adjusts his family-guard and looks up in the sky and then... drums violins...

Who will save the earth today in such a situation? Kohli? Nonsense. He doesn't have the focus. Dhoni? Dhoni is almost certainly an alien spy in disguise. Our only hope is that Sachin will come out of retirement and... 

Goosebumps everywhere.

I miss watching the toilet-end of an India-Australia match--when the Aussies need three runs, with five wickets and four overs in hand--and desperately, desperately wanting Sachin to be given the ball. I mean... what is the worst that will happen? He will bounce up to the crease in that jovial, benign way of his and deliver a cocktail of deception. Maybe he will get a wicket. Maybe he will not. Maybe he will slow them down. Maybe he will not. But at least you could go back to class the next day and have soul-soothing conversation.

"But anyway... at least Sachin tried."
"Yeah. That is there. It was nice to see him bowl."
"He should bowl more often. So nice to see."
"Oh he wants to. Ganguly doesn't let him."

I miss listening, mouth gaping, to old-timers from Mumbai talking about the time they saw him bat when he was in school. "Oh he was just something else..." they would say sitting back on the sofa, eyes glazed over, recalling some sunny day in Mumbai's past, the palms swaying, the crows kawing, the trains rumbling, the buses honking, the boy late-cutting.

I miss reading yet another profile in yet another issue of Sportstar or Mathrubhumi Sports Masika or Outlook and comparing our ages and thinking: "What the hell am I doing with my life? No really."

"What the hell are we doing with our lives?" we would murmur inside the TV room at REC Trichy as we watched Sachin during that tournament in Sharjah. "I have to forge an Electrical Engineering Lab report tomorrow," somebody would quip. And we would all laugh laughs of sadness and regret.

I miss, later on in his career, arguing simultaneously that while he was the best batsman in the world beyond any doubt, he was by no means the batsman in India.

Why not give the others a chance? But why? He is not clicking. So? Just because he is not clicking you will drop him? And replace him with some one-Ranji wonder from Chandigarh? Mad or what? You are mad. YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CRICKET! Shut up man have you even lifted a bat in your life?

And this would go on till I found someone else to argue with instead of myself.

I miss hating Lara. Fool. Upstart. Selfish little... I still hate Lara.

I miss seeing Sachin take wickets or catches and then celebrate. Sometimes you could see, for the briefest nanosecond, a flash of aggression and the wrath of retribution. But then his middle-class upbringing would intervene and this flash would vanish and Sachin would be all fist pump and woo hoo.

So the point I am making is this: I miss Sachin. 

Anyway. Hope we win the World Cup.



Cricinfo column: The columnist's cut

by sidin in

Good morning. It is Monday again. How horrible. Let us hope we can all cope.

I write to you this morning regarding the latest Cricinfo column where I spoke about how the grossly inflated scores in contemporary cricket were sure to scare away youngsters. There was also some blending of cushions involved.

Many thanks to those who tweeted/wrote/outraged back to say that they liked the piece.

Therefore what you hear next will surely shock you.

The version you read on the Cricinfo website was a second iteration. One vastly different from the first one I sent to the folks at Cricinfo. My first column, which started identically to that column, was called "How to tell if a cricket match is fixed?"

Unfortunately I was told that the venerable cricket website has a strict no-match-fixing-not-even-if-it-is-a-joke policy in place. And since my column seemed to condone, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek, match fixing, they asked me to give it a full rewrite.

Now it give me great pleasure to say that in a world exclusive, this blog will publish the original version of that cricketing column. As you will see it starts identically, but goes to entirely different places.

I'd sat up till four in the morning writing it. And it seemed a pity to let it go waste. So, as they say in Germany, et voila!


How to tell if a match is fixed?

When even Ireland is scoring 300 runs, fans need to know when they’re seeing the real thing. This is how you can tell.

Many years ago, way back when I was a gawky but not unhandsome boy of 7 or 8, my younger brother and I used to spend our school summer vacations at my ancestral home in a tiny village in the southern Indian state of Kerala. (Kerala is also, incidentally, the home of S. Sreesanth, the cricketer popularly known as the Louis Vuitton of Indian pace bowling. This is because even though he is very expensive, he is very attractive and there is always very high demand for him. Especially in China.)

During these vacations I was normally watched over by my paternal uncle. My uncle, a kind and caring man, is of the persuasion that children should be involved in rigorous physical activity and should spend as little time as possible indoors. Doubly so in the case of me and my brother because our favourite indoor activities included gently electrocuting pets, liquidizing small items of furniture in the blender, and going to the toilet in the VCR.

Therefore he devised a unique variant of cricket that would keep us occupied for the entire day. My uncle would bowl comfortable medium pace at one of us while the other one fielded. The batsman could only be dismissed by being caught by the fielder. There were no stumps, no LBW, no run outs, no stumpings or any other means of getting out. And of course there was no limit on the number of overs bowled.

Which means you either scored a four or a six. And nothing else.

Often one batsman could bat for an entire day without being dismissed. But even then the best my brother or I could ever manage to hit in one day was something in the range of 250 runs.  In the 1980s and 1990s this was a stupendous total in cricket. (Which is also why I retired from all forms of cricket in 1994, while I was still on top.)

So you can imagine my consternation at the current state of ODI cricket. Match after match we are seeing teams score well in excess of 300 runs. Just yesterday Ireland easily overcame England’s score of 327 runs to record a massive upset. Largely due to a stunning century by Kevin O’Brien. (Incidentally, also from Kerala.)

What the heck is going in the game? More than a few fans have their eyebrows raised: Are these scores for real? Is there some monkey business going on? Are bookies involved? What are their contact details?

However this speculation can be most damaging for the game. Therefore in order to help the avid cricket fan distinguish fixed games from un-fixed fixtures we have a drawn up a ready reckoner. This is a list of incidents you should watch out for during a match. If any of these things happen, then there is a severe likelihood of hanky-panky. If not, the match is most likely authentic.

The match you are watching could be fixed if:

1. Dhoni wins the toss and elects to field first. When the commentator asks him who will open the bowling, Dhoni absentmindedly says: “Zaheer will open the bowling with two slow leg-cutters and then one over-stepping no-ball.”

2. After bowling three tight deliveries Sreesanth is halfway down the run-up for his fourth delivery when Billy Bowden signals a wide.

3. Kamran Akmal takes a sensational catch when he dives to his right, only for the ball to hit the tips of his gloves and loop high into the air. The ball then catapults earthwards, passes straight through the grill of his helmet and lodges itself in his mouth. During the ensuing celebrations several Pakistani players can be seen punching him in the stomach.

4. At the 2015 World Cup opening ceremony in Melbourne, ICC president Sharad Pawar ends his inaugural speech by officially declaring “West Indies as the new World Champions!”

5. At the 2015 World Cup the West Indies become World Champions.

6. Shane Watson is trapped in front of stumps by a Lasith Malinga scorcher. But the umpire refuses to give Watson out. The decision is referred to the third umpire. Who looks at the screen for five minutes and then thoughtfully says into the walkie-talkie: “Pass”.

7. New Zealand look well set to win a game when suddenly Brendon Mcculum is caught in the slips. Jesse Ryder is due next but discovers that someone had left a tube of super glue on his seat when he sat down. Ryder has to rip himself off his chair only to notice that shoelaces on both his shoes are knotted together. Just as he finally sorts things out and walks out to bat, Scott Styris trips him and Ryder falls down the stairs in a bloody heap. Determined to bat, Ryder staggers onto the pitch when the returning drinks trolley drives over him. Ryder then has to return to the pavilion because he is Timed Out.

8. The spinning ball hits the deck with venom and rears up to hit the batsman plumb in front of the stumps. Yuvraj Singh throws both hands in the air and appeals with a scream. Yuvraj Singh is the batsman.

Sincere fans will do well to look out for similar indications in matches. If nothing like this is forthcoming then you can rest assured that what you’re watching is the real thing.



P.S. Coming to think of it, I could pimp my columns and articles more here. It would give the illusion of frenetic activity on the blog. Maybe I will...


Once again you have said it best without saying anything at all

by sidin in

If you are a spouse, inferior half, life partner, dependent visa holder, civil partner, living-in (Shiva! Shiva!) type or similarly Facebook-relationship-status-ed, you are well aware of the many ways in which your partner is capable of communicating to you without audibly saying a single word. Not even a full glance, just a tiny sliver of a glance. A glancelet, if you will. But it contains multitudes.

Peter Paul with the Clintons at Gala Fundraise...

In fact if you are a resident of Mumbai you are already aware of one jolly good way of doing this. Of conveying messages across long distances without noise or electronics. Surely you've noticed that air-kiss-noise thing that, at least in my case, makes my skin crawl. (Also I can't do it properly. It makes my face itchy.) I think I first noticed this air-kiss-messaging-service early on in my tenure in Mumbai. I was at Dadar station having a nimbu pani, waiting for my train. I had just paid the fellow in some large-ish denomination note when my train came.

Absentmindedly I ran towards the train. Which is when I heard this horrible, piercing, squeaky noise from behind me.

I turned around to look and you wouldn't believe it. Exactly. Whining athletes from New Zealand! And Wales!

Oh ha ha. CWG comedy. For contemporary relevance. Just like that.

No. In fact it was the man minding the juice stand. I had forgotten to pick up my change.

I don't know if you've ever been to Dadar Station. It is a busy establishment. Yet somehow I knew that the juice man was kiss-whistling exactly at me. The hideous noise drilled through the thronging masses, as if with turn-by-turn navigation, and drilled into my head. Somehow I knew he was calling me.

Only one head turned around. Mine.

I ran back, picked up my change, thanked the man profusely, before jogging back to my train. Just as it seemed that I was going to find nothing more than a tiny, perilous little foothold on the very edge of the doorway, a resilient, hardy Mumbai hand reached out of the crowd and--tears come to my eyes when I think of the city's unbelievable warmth and sense of community--reached into my nostril and ejected me from the train.

Tip: To make a kiss-whistle pout vigorously with your lips. Make a tight almost-shut 'O' shape. And then suck air in through the tiny gap between your lips. If done correctly it should make a noise like old banians being ripped for kitchen use. And the kiss-whistler should be left feeling like one is about to commit a sex crime.

But the point I making is that there are numerous ways of communicating without words. For instance take the case of the missus. I will now list just a few of the numerous wordless transmissions she achieves using merely a combination of look, grimace, weighed pause and small kitchen utensil. Ha. No no I am kidding. No kitchen utensils on weekdays.

A brief, selected list:

1. The 'I don't care if blind Trappist monks made it by distilling their own sweat, and it costs hajaar. It is still beer. Terms of engagement shall be the same as Tuborg or Haywards 2000. Have two. Or less. Or whatever. You are a grown man. Have one.' look.

2. The 'Jaunty beach shirts are so fun and jolly and really make fat people look cool. I completely this look for other fat people.' look.

3. The 'This tremendous excitement you see on my face about this potential  Twenty20+MatrixTrilogy+KFC party being planned by these friends at our place next weekend is utterly fake. Be a man and back out now. Or at least get it moved to someone else's place.' look.

4. The 'No. Use your PS2 properly and exhaustively first. At least finish God Of War II at some sort of respectable difficulty level. Instead you may chat with the saleswoman for a bit.' look.

And finally 5. The 'What? She is thinner? Is that it? Should I straighten my hair too? STOP TALKING TO THE SALESWOMAN YOU OBJECTIFYING LETCH!' look.

There are a plethora of other looks of course, meant for use in every situation from family office parties, overlong blogger meets, to new BlackBerry launches, and even a series of distinct and impactful pregnant pauses meant for mobile phone use. (Can't wait for 3G and video calls when we can go back to looking and pausing instead of just pausing.)

One of the cool things about this is that wives and girl friends think that nobody else in the room notices these looks. In my experience EVERYONE, including the expat using the wifi on the table next, notices the look. Subsequently everyone else there lets loose a flurry of rapid inter-personal silent despatches. Perhaps an illustration will help.

Let us assume there are three couples in a room. Let us call them A, B and F. For ease we assume all three are men-woman couples, and individuals shall be referred to as Husband-A, Wife-A, Husband-B and so on. Let us assume that Husband-A has made an observation that his wife does not approve of. Such as:

"I'd totally apply Zandu Balm on her if you know what I mean!!?"

The following subsequent exchanges are all unspoken:

Wife-A to Husband-A: What the... How cheap... I am disgusted. But I have to laugh now with everyone else... Chi chi chi.

Husband-B to Husband-F: Did you see that look? BURN!!!

Husband-F to Husband-B: I swear.

Wife -B to Wife-F: Thank god we're not married to the type no?

Wife-F to Wife-B: I swear.

Wife-B to Husband-B: It is not that funny.

Wife-F to Husband-F: It is not that funny.

Husband-F to Wife-F: Sorry babe. Only because Husband-B laughed.

Husband-B to Wife-B: Sorry babe. But Husband-F laughed first.

Husband-A to himself: How quickly that moment has passed...

Husband-B and Husband-F to themselves: Zandu balm. Malaika. Mmm...

Uff. The politics I tell you.

And now, I have realized suddenly today, the missus has developed a brand new, high-impact, high-velocity look.

It happened like this. I was sitting this morning reading the papers and flipping through the news channels enjoying all the excitement around the Commonwealth Games and Talking Newspaper Advertisement developments. (Note to Volkswagen people: Next time your recording could start with the kiss-whistle. Super customer connect.)

Suddenly something most most jovial occurred to me.

"Darling!," I said to Kaaliya, "what if there was a special Commonwealth Games campaign in the Times of India?"

"Have you brushed your teeth yet?" she responded shrewdly.

"So you open the paper and suddenly the AR Rahman theme begins to play out of the newspaper... and then as you are astonished by this development, a mosquito flies out of the paper, bites you and then you get Dengue. Ayyo classic no?"

A furrow appeared on her forehead. Her brows approached each other tentatively. One corner of her mouth smiled. The other frowned. And then she nodded. No. Don't.

It was a new look. It was her shiny new: 'Oh god. You really, really want to tweet that wisecrack so badly right now don't you? And then madly check for retweets no?' look.

And she was right.

So I didn't.

I wanted to inform all of you of this significant development in my marriage. These new looks don't happen often. Therefore I wanted to save this development for posterity.

Or should I say pause-terity. Classic!

Ok. It appears I am not allowed to tweet that either.