Monty Panesar and the tale of LBWs

Aakash Chopra: does that name ring a bell somewhere ? He is an ex-opening batsman for India. He opened with Sehwag in that famous 2003 tour of Australia but suddenly lost favour with selectors after that.

Well, he is now a columnist at cricinfo and he is earning rave reviews for his reading of the game.

Here, in this piece, he is discussing the two LBWs: Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in the first test between India and England.

In Sachin’s case, the ball had been spinning appreciably, if not alarmingly, away from the batsman off the surface, plus Monty Panesar was bowling from the Nursery end (so the slope was helping as well). As a batsman you tend to play outside the line of the ball to cover the spin. That’s what Sachin was probably trying to do when that particular delivery held its line and thudded onto the front pad. There was no change in the bowling action on that delivery – it was definitely not the arm-ball and there was not much variation in the speed either.

Once you’re hit on the pads, the immediate reaction is to push your pad as far outside the line of the off stump as possible, so as to create doubt in the umpire’s mind about whether the impact was outside the line. When you push your already planted front leg further down, the bat gets hidden behind the pad. This can easily be misread as not offering a shot, but that’s not always the case.

Now, watch the video of the maestro’s dismissal and see if Chopra’s logic makes sense.

I would agree, except for the fact that I feel Sachin was really not offering a shot in this case.

Now, watch this video and tell me if playing inside the line to Monty would be a less risky option:


Poor Kaif looks absolutely stunned, but then that was in the dustbowls of India. The ball turned — ever so slightly — but it did turn. Playing inside the line (and not stretching full stride forward) was a huge mistake. Going back to the Sachin video, one would get the feeling that the bat was waiting for the turn.

But, lest we get drowned by logic, shall we applaud “the Monty” for his efforts !!!


Goli Maar : “The Indian Thriller”

I can write and write and write about telugu cinema, but I….you got to watch this to believe it !

Notes on Telugu Cinema

I have been regularly watching Telugu movies for the past couple of years (most of these have been 2 or 3-year old movies on DVDs). With that background, I feel I have developed a sense of what to expect every time I watch a new (in my world, “new” means something that I havent watched before as opposed to a newly released movie…)

The Telugu movie industry revolves mostly around stereotypes and set patterns: the college students always have a violent streak, the boss is always stupid, the housewife is always loyal and the parents are always loving.

The most astounding trend I noticed was the way in which a typical Venkatesh movie is structured. The whole process seems to be: think up a few funny social situations involving a couple of people and then think of a suitable plot to wrap these situations in. Of course, it helps if you can bring the whole shazam to a happy ending — the masses still love happy endings ! Malleswari, Vasu, Nuvvu Naku Nacchavu — all outcomes of this process. Most of these films, I am told, have been successful at the box office. All this only seems to feed the belief of film-makers in “the process”.

To digress, this “process” is very reminiscent of the way Hindi movies were structured: the “angry young man” around the Big B in the 70s, the “prankster with a villainous streak” theme around SRK in the mid 90s, the “young man dealing with an old man with a mental block” theme around Amol Palekar and Utpal Chatterjee.

To get back to our story, there is nothing wrong with set patterns if it brings box office success (isnt that a major reason for making movies ?). The only problem I have with it is that it is starting to come in the way of finding out what more can be achieved. There are some brilliant actors today (Kota Srinivasa Rao and Tanikella Bharani to name two) who really have potential for far better roles. It is almost as if the set patterns have choked the artist out of them and reduced them to mere automatons who perform assigned tasks — nothing more, nothing less.

For instance, in Gharshana we get the opportunity to watch Venkatesh in what you would dare to call an “off-beat Telugu movie” (there was nothing off-beat about the movie— the mere fact that it departed from “the process” made it look different, if you get my drift). His failure to carry what would have been a very straight-forward role in ordinary circumstances, was stunning (His theatrics in the climax almost make you feel sad for him and wish he had never taken up this role in the first place. Dr. Rajasekhar Rao has patented this kind of role and a younger version of him, if available, would have carried it off better). Now, Venkatesh did not start off as such a one-dimensional actor. Some of his performances in his earlier movies (Swarnakamalam, Prema, Shatruvu come to mind) were fair, if not great. Somehow, due to a vane in popularity (or due to advancing age ???), he has chosen to carve a niche for himself and settle down. Needless to say, it disappoints me immensely. I do not know if he would have turned out into a great actor, after all. But it does make you wonder what if…what if he had explored himself a little more.

The advent of RamGopal Verma was a bookmark in Telugu cinema. When he started off, he had this peculiar habit of making very mainstream cinema look offbeat (Shiva and Gaayam are prime examples). He was successful because he had the ability to borrow from real life, to make his audience laugh at everyday situations and to scare them with everyday sights and sounds.

But Telegu cinema cheerfully carried on after Verma stopped making movies here. I wonder if there will be a storm wild enough to shake its roots. Every now and then you do get a strong breeze blowing, but that’s about it. I had hoped that the newer generation of directors and producers would bring in fresh ideas and use the medium for their experiments. Sadly, however, what they have brought in is technical finesse. The tone of the movies is still too loud to make any difference in the scene. Maybe, it is us, the so called “masses” who refuse to approve of change. I still believe that its only a matter of someone taking the mantle and giving it a shot. Change is inevitable. We will have to wait and see who takes that proverbial first step.

I am no expert of cinema…I do not understand half of the so-called “classics”. I do believe, though, that good cinema can attract the masses without being too loud.

Lets wait and watch….

“This much…”

I read this while on an auto-rickshaw this morning:

 I asked Jesus

“How much do you love me ?”

“This much”, he replied

Then He outstretched his arms

And Died

Is that a pun or a piece of sublime devotional literature ?

I guess I’ll go straight to heaven if I can figure that out…

The “Dis-abled” debate

From one of the rare and refreshing pieces of writing from The Hindu, we hear of a debate which has been raging in the sports world for years but has only now taken a twist.

Oscar Pistorius is 20, brave and, perhaps, too fast for his own good. He is a double amputee, who runs on carbon fibre feet, and wants to run in Beijing. Not in the Paralympics where he is already a gold medallist. But in the Olympics. Like any other man.

IMHO (and the writer says the exact same thing), this is not a matter for debate at all. If sportspersons across the world can use better energy drinks, better cricket bats (remember the graphite bat that Ricky Ponting tried to use ?), better clothing and so forth, this instance should be no exception.

What makes the debate tricky (and, I feel, self-serving for the protectionists) is that we are talking about artificial limbs here. At this rate, the future could well bring upon us genetically coded superhumans ! Will that destroy the true spirit of sports ?

 This is a good debate to engage in if only to address the demons inside all of us. Ultimately, however, we need to remind ourselves that this young man would not have gotten to this stage without his enduring human spirit…with or without prosthetics..

 Soon, the IAAF will reveal whether Pistorius (who hasn’t qualified for Beijing yet) is eligible for the Olympics. But in a way it does not matter, for Pistorius is already the very ideal of the Olympian. Whatever the springiness of a carbon-fibre foot, it pales before the strength of this human’s spirit.

The “Other” Blog

Introducing a blog which has been on the back-burner for a while. This one is mainly dedicated to the best writing on the web. The Writing Wall will mostly focus on freedom, free markets, freedom of speech and such-like.

Hope you will like it.

Notes on “Dateline Islamabad”

Just finished reading this fascinating account of the tumultous relationship between India and Pakistan. The author was the Islamabad correspondent for The Hindu between April 97 and June 2000. Incidentally, this was also a period of high-drama in the relationship between these two nations: Kargil, the nuclear tests, the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight, the military coup by Pervez Musharraf…. As expected, the author has much to report.

Some notes:

  • There is no such thing as the “state of Pakistan”. It depends on who is at the helm. Pakistan is a heady concoction of multiple power centers taking turns at directing its foreign policy (admittedly, much of this “foreign” policy is India-centric). The Prime Minister and his cabinet, the ever-present military, the President..even the Supreme Court ! Who do you deal with ? What do you frame your policy on ? In its search for peace with Pakistan, the Indian leadership sure has its work cut out.
  • The Pakistan Army (The Fauj) is the biggest conglomerate in Pakistan. It owns sugar mills, huge tracts of property, educational institutions, hospitals, fertilizer units….you name it. It yields such a huge influence over the destiny of the nation that no political leader (not even one with a powerful mandate) can dare ignore or sideline it.
  • The Kandahar hi-jacking: I cannot, for the life of me, understand what it was that the Indian leadership was planning to do. The Aribus A-300 flight was hi-jacked from Kathmandu and was forced to land in Amritsar since Lahore had denied landing permission to the hi-jackers. The lethargic Indian leadership could not act fast enough to keep the plane there. Instead, the hi-jackers flew the plane to Kandahar: the strong-hold of the Taliban. Even at this stage, the Indians were blind to the turn of events. No official was sent to Kandahar to negotiate. When finally, the horror of the threats turned real did the government make a move. And what a tame move it was !
  • Pervez Musharraf has been able to keep the Indians on a leash all through the last few years. I believe it has been a huge failure for the Indian leadership to not be able to push him into a corner even when the tide was against him. I think the Indians need to go under the surface and deal with the General’s real compulsions instead of blindly trying to prise a deal out of him.

I believe the book had a lot of potential. Fascinating as it was, I had expected more from the book when I picked it up. The Hindu has always been my favourite daily and I expected some juicy insider bits from this correspondent. Also, a huge disappointment was the absence of any pictures. A lot of metaphorical water had passed under the bridge during this period and there would have been a lot of photo ops. Also missing is the much-expected account of the workings of the Pakistan media, how it viewed India, how it viewed its own government, what challenges it faced in a turbulent state.

Where do I get all that from ?!?!?!