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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Friday Flashback: The Older You Get

Posted by anandrr on February 27, 2010

Normally, I would have been content to relegate some of this story to a sidebar in my last post, but this really does deserve a post of its own. In my last post, I briefly mentioned a memory of Vijay Amritraj playing Martin Jaite in a Davis Cup match. I shall now try to memorialize that moment and another equally important moment.

Those of us born in India and of a certain age (mostly in our 30s) have good reason to look sympathetically at the younger generation. They might have 100 channels on the TV, they might have opportunities that we might not have had, they might have a lot more of a lot more than we ever could, but there are some sporting memories they will never have. India beating the West Indies in the Prudential World Cup in 1983 marked the start of India’s dominance of world cricket. India’s victory in the mini-world cup in Australia in 1985 (Ravi Shastri – man of the series and an Audi to boot!) continue that trend. Of course with these warm memories, we also have the traumatic one: Javed Miandad hitting Chetan Sharma for a six off a full-toss last ball when Pakistan needed four to win in Sharjah. Those of us of a certain age haven’t really recovered from that either. We can all remember where we were when those events occurred, what we were doing and the joy or crushing sorrow that followed each of them.

But besides these, two other memories stand out. And having arrived at a riper age, I am now able to appreciate those memories and sporting efforts much more than I did in my callow youth.

It was 1987, summer was approaching, and I’m not entirely sure how I managed to watch so much sporting action in that week of March, final exams must have been in a week or so, but yet I did and I’m quite thankful for that.

The Indian tennis team in those days comprised Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan. Vijay was 34 or 35, his glory days were well past, but the Davis Cup always seemed to bring out the best in him. He was a natural on grass and could serve and volley with the best of them. This was around the time that tennis was transitioning away from the Borg/Connors style of play to the current style that was introduced by Becker, Edberg and the rest. Ramesh was always a curious anachronism, his serves so soft, his volleys silken smooth, his baseline play all touch no power. One imagined Rod Laver playing that way, but a player in the age of colour television? But there they were, Vijay and Ramesh waging battle against younger, more powerful, and higher ranked players in a sport that seemed not have room for them any more.

India was playing the Davis Cup quarterfinal against Argentina (in New Delhi perhaps?), and at the end of 2 days of play, Vijay had won the opening game, Ramesh had lost his to Martin Jaite, Argentina had won the doubles, and Vijay was now playing the return singles match against Jaite.

Simultaneously, India was playing Pakistan in a cricket test match in Bangalore. This was going to Sunil Gavaskar’s last test match, at 37 years old and many cricket records deep, Gavaskar was finally going to call it a day. The Bangalore pitch was a disgrace. Mostly loose dirt and cracks, the ball was unpredictable from day one. Pakistan was skittled out on day one for a pitiful score (116) and it wasn’t clear which way the match would go. Would India manage to pull it off or would the pitch truly wreak havoc getting worse from day one to day four? On day two, India managed 145, Vengsarkar managing a 50 in the process. Pakistan came back in, and set India a target of 221.

In the meantime, things were getting exciting at the tennis game. Vijay was playing Martin Jaite in the reverse singles game. Vijay was 35 years old, playing a 21 year old Jaite and getting beaten up. Down two sets to one, we were at set-point and match-point in the fourth set. The match had gone badly, Vijay was probably looking at going down badly and India was on the verge of getting kicked out of the Davis Cup for the year. Again. Jaite served for the match and the tie, Vijay returned serve, Jaite returned beautifully. The game was on the line, the Davis Cup tie was on the line. At this juncture, Vijay played the sweetest drop volley in the history of the game. What a shot to play at this juncture! The visual from that shot is burned into my sports-memory. Vijay plays the drop shot, Jaite rushes to the net, but can’t make it in time, match-point is lost. Jaite fell to pieces after that point as Vijay went from strength to strength. As an adrenalin-fueled Vijay recovered, fist-pumping his victories, the Indian supporters went crazy in the stands. At the end of it all, five sets later, Vijay had just handed Jaite the thrashing of his life. A match where Jaite had tasted victory had now ended with India having a fighting chance in the last match of the tie. Ramesh Krishnan went on to win that match as well, India won through, then played Israel in the quarter finals, won against Australia (including Wimbledon-winner Pat Cash) in the semi-finals and went on to the finals. The finals were against Sweden. In Sweden. In December. Sweden at the time featured Mats Wilander and Anders Jarryd, both unstoppable on clay. Of course they played on clay. India didn’t have a chance. But the memory of that unbelievable display by a 35-year old player stays with me. As I get older, I realize what it really meant for a 35-year old to play at the level that he did. As I think about it today, I still get the goosebumps.

In Bangalore, India was in chasing 221 on the fourth innings of a disastrous pitch. Nothing would go right for India. Losing to Pakistan was unthinkable but India was falling apart. In Gavaskar’s last test match yet. But Gavaskar, 37 years old, was not about to go away so easily. I remember sitting at home and watching him inch his way towards his century. At the other end, the batsmen wouldn’t stay long enough to give him company. As the wickets fell, the situation got more dire. Gavaskar was our last hope. At 96, if Gavaskar could manage to hang on for a century and then some, India would be home safe, Gavaskar would have one final century in his last game, and Bangalore would be happy. But even Gavaskar was no match for that treacherous pitch. All innings-long the ball had been obscured by the great mounds of dust kicked up every time the ball bounced or any other action took place. Even the great one would succumb to this treachery, and he did at 96. Four short of a century, and a victory that India could just about taste. But once Gavaskar was gone, so too were all hopes of a victory. The Indian tail was wrapped up shortly thereafter, 16 runs short of glory.

And thus over a weekend and a bit, a young adolescent watched some great sporting action that would stay with him for a lifetime. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to appreciate a lot more what that must have meant for Amritraj and Gavaskar and also what it must have taken out of them to put in the physical and mental effort that they did. It didn’t matter that India had won just one of the two ties at stake, what I had witnessed was some of the finest sporting action to which I would ever be privy.

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Posted in Cricket, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Frederick Forsyth on the Unpleasantness in Guinea-Bissau

Posted by anandrr on March 3, 2009

Thanks to a happy concatenation of circumstances, I was in the car today when the BBC was talking about all the recent unpleasantness in Guinea-Bissau1. And who should they have found to talk about it but Frederick Forsyth who just happened to be visiting there on the day of the coup. This led to the best foreign-journalist reporting that I’ve ever heard on the radio. I recorded it for posterity and archived it off here. It’s equal parts wordsmith talking about the events, for instance,

As [the General] sat down at his desk, someone with a doohickey pressed the appropriate button and a bomb went off, creating out of the general, an ex-general.

and also traditional British stiff upper-lip:

I was due to fly out tomorrow afternoon, and I rather think they’re going to keep the airport closed which is very inconvenient.

Listen to the whole thing of course, it’s rife with entertainment as he talks about the President that would not die and the forensic pathologist in charge who helped him piece it together and on and on.

————–

Fn 1: For those who do not wish to click through and read it all, the President of Guinea Bissau had the General of his Army killed,  the Army not taking too kindly to this interference had their President killed right back and now the country is without a President as well as a General. All quite unfortunate of course.

Posted in Army, Foreign Policy, Funny, Literature, Politics, Sports, wtf | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Brilliant Bay Area I

Posted by anandrr on December 2, 2008

Shoreline Golf Links, Mountain View

Shoreline Golf Links, Mountain View

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Golf, Shutterbug | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Seductive San Francisco I

Posted by anandrr on November 25, 2008

It was the best November day ever, unfortunately all I had was a dinky phone

It was the best November day ever, unfortunately all I had was a dinky phone

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Nostalgia, Outdoor Stuff, Shutterbug, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: Bong Hits Edition

Posted by anandrr on November 7, 2008

We’re reminded of when we were kids and our school in which had started just that year (Go NPS!) had to come up with names for the four houses. Those were simple times with simple teachers apparently so when it came time to choose the names they went with simple Red House, Blue House, Green House and Yellow House. It was a letdown of sorts but with appropriately themed paraphernalia we were quite willing to root for our color and did it enthusiastically and vociferously. We have to believe that the theming had something to do with it, we could tell our red themed compatriots from a distance, and knew to boo when the blue fellows had their turn up at the starting line. (Today of course, NPS seems to have gotten a lot more sophisticated and has real historical names of mighty significance for its houses.) Why are we reminded of this? We’re watching the NKP Salve Trophy on the TV. It features 3 cricket teams from India, chosen by a nameless face in the sky. The teams are India Red, India Blue and India Green. So already it’s looking weak. Why not just choose the three strongest state teams? Then, the teams are chosen completely randomly, so what’s in it for me to root for one team over another? Finally, here’s the India Blue uniform:

© The Hindu

India Blue: Image © The Hindu


That’s not so bad, nice and bluey. So what does India Red look like?
India Red

India Red: Image © The Hindu


That’s right. Mostly blue. But if you’re thinking that’s bad, wait till you see India Green. Check out the guy in bright yellow:
© The Hindu

India Green (and Blue): © The Hindu

Posted in Cricket, Nostalgia, Showbiz, Sports, TV | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Psmith in the City

Posted by anandrr on September 25, 2008

The BBC is dramatising Psmith in the City. And quite excellent it is too. And all available for listening online. What greater joy than listening to:

“Aah Bickersdyke, the merchant prince of commerce. That explains your ignorance. Please Comrade, no need to apologise. In your relentless pursuit of doubloons, you have had little time to get acquainted with the rituals of summer, the sacred codes of behaviour governing perambulation and bowling screens.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Psmith, the P is silent. As should you be, Comrade. Utterly silent. After your frightful blunder.”

Thanks to Crooked Timber for telling us all about it.

Posted in Business, Capitalism, Cricket, Economics, English, Funny, Literature | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beware of Mile High Biking

Posted by anandrr on August 21, 2008

The Democratic Convention will be held in Denver soon, and the Denver Police is looking suspiciously at people with bicycles. Obviously these fringe liberal convention protestors would go around on bicycles from their hippie communes to the convention center. But here’s the thing, Denver is a mile above sea level, places where most of the rest of America comes from is much lower, and the left fringes obviously reside almost entirely at sea level. One of the things we learnt the hard way is that once you get used to the abundance of oxygen at sea level, it’s hard to do anything strenuous at a mile above. We used to live in Salt Lake City and go mountain biking every day. Then we moved to the Bay Area and a couple years later when we tried mountain biking in Salt Lake City again, we quickly found that our body wanted a lot more oxygen than the thin air there could provide. If I were the Denver police, I would stop looking for the bicyclists with maps, just look for the hippies who got stoned the previous night and can now barely stand next to their bikes as they gasp for air.

And what, they couldn’t just head to the suburbs and find Cartman? (Watch episode)

Posted in Outdoor Stuff, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who Cares for the Olympics?

Posted by anandrr on August 19, 2008

Mandar thinks we need to stop being ridiculous about our Olympic dreams and get serious about realising them. I don’t know, on my list of top things India needs to do to in a hurry, winning individual Olympic golds ranks so low we shouldn’t talk about it for a couple decades, minimum. And then if (when?) we get to all the other things on the list, we still won’t have to talk about it because we’ll be winning those golds anyway. Another thing I hope I never hear Indians talk about: When will we host the Olympics? We were against it when San Francisco wanted to host it, we’ll be against it when New Delhi prepares its bid.

PS: Oh, and my gym does allow women to dress as they please.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Oh noes! He said a bad word.

Posted by anandrr on June 14, 2008

Pepsi has this really funny ad feature MS Dhoni doing a Rajni imitation. I just saw this ad on DD. They’re very sensitive at DD. They mute out the word “rascal.”

Posted in Advertising, Cricket, English, Funny, Showbiz, Sports, TV | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Professional Football is Really Popular in India

Posted by anandrr on June 8, 2008

How popular is professional football in India? I did not miss a single game of the Premier League so long as I was in India. Every game was televised live. The pre- and post-game shows were produced specially for Asia out of Hong Kong. Now that Euro 2008 has begun, it turns out that ESPN is running a special India feed. The pre- and post-game shows featuring the same host and experts as the Premier League shows are now clearly India-only. And the games seem to feature Hindi commentary. I have no idea how one gets alternative language commentary on Indian TV sets, with any luck our friends in the north are plastered with Hindi-only commentary to make up for years of Hindi imposition on us during cricket games. If I never hear the phrase “gendh thappa khane ke baad…,” again in my life it won’t be too soon.

The downside of all this is that the only really popular clubs in India are the rich guys like Man. U. No point pointing out to the young impressionable minds that supporting Man. U. is like supporting the Yankees or the Australian cricket team.

Posted in Culture, Football, Sports | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »