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Kesavan, Che, Rohit and short shrifts

by Homer

In his essay on the ESPN Cricinfo website, Mukul Kesavan observes

"It is a truth increasingly acknowledged that a young man possessed of an ODI berth stands a better chance of holding down a Test match place than a young man without one. Pujara doesn't play limited-overs cricket in any format for India and hasn't been able to find an IPL franchise that wants him. Rohit, in contrast, is a lion in Lilliput: the shorter the format, the better he gets. This counts against Pujara because while Rohit and others like him are constantly in the public eye because of the modern cricketing calendar, he is out of sight and mainly out of mind except when Test cricket looms on the horizon."
----
Before the Bangladesh tour, his first full tour as captain, Virat Kohli vocalized the following thought

“I certainly believe in giving the team a chance to pick up 20 wickets. I am a big fan of playing five bowlers in a 6-5 combination. You only need two to three batsmen to click to get a score of 500,” 

5 bowlers give the team the variety, on any surface, to prise out 20 wickets.5 bowlers also give the captain of having a fall back option should anyone of his bowlers go off the boil during any session in the course of an fielding innings.

This though comes with the caveat that the team will go one batsman short. And in the absence of a genuine bowling allrounder of pedigree, and out of their comfort zone of playing 6 batsmen + MS Dhoni, India have played Harbhajan Singh and Stuart Binny, as cover.

This had had mixed results against Sri Lanka, and remains a work in progress.

The other part of the equation in having 5 bowlers is to give them enough time to get the 20 wickets. Enter left, Rohit Sharma.

We felt that if he gets going, even in a Test match, he can take away a session or two from the opposition. That could be the difference in us winning a Test match and getting close (but not close enough),” said Kohli.

 For a team fixated on the idea of winning, with the draw being an afterthought, time, especially time remaining in the game, becomes of foremost importance.

By scoring quickly, and scoring big, teams give themselves ample time to bowl the opposition out twice. (The flip side of this is of course that teams geared for speed are rarely if ever able to buckle down to play for the draw.)

India, for the better part of 20 years, hankered for the next Gavaskar. And to this end, any batsman, however remotely in the Gavaskar mold, was fast tracked. And when that failed, converted openers became vogue, to bolster the middle order.
Till Saurav Ganguly decided to move Virender Sehwag to open the innings,

Unlike that wait though, the replacement for Rahul Dravid emerged through the ranks during Dravid's playing days. Cheteshwar Pujara is everything Dravid was, and generates the same emotions in the Indian hoi polloi that many many "next Gavaskar"s did after his retirement.

But, given the team philosophy, does Cheteshwar Pujara necessarily fit the bill?

To go back to Mr Kesavan, I quote this passage from his excellent book "Men in White"

"The straight bat, the long innings of attrition or in defence, surviving the new ball, setting out your stall and playing forever, genuine slow bowlers wheeling their way through dozens of overs,none of these things will disappear from the game, but they are ceasing to define Test cricket, and as a result, the game is changing.It is rather like the decline of "serve and volley" tennis; it will not become extinct and there will always be the stray Stephen Edberg,  but where once first "serve and into the net" used to be the staple of the men's tour,now the game is defined by ground strokes. Modern racquets give baseliners such power that rushing the net has become a low percentage ploy.
It is not a coincidence that there are more results in Test matches of late. This is partly because batsmen carry their one-day idiom into the longer game, partly because their defensive techniques have deteriorated through neglect, partly as a result of much improved fielding ( and catches take, more run outs effected), partly because glory now decisively belongs to the swashbuckler and the solid anchor is likely to be seen as a stolid barnacle.Cricket, even Test cricket, is now played to force a result not to effect a successful holding action. The strategic draw is becoming obsolete".

Rohit Sharma may or may not be the answer to India's quest, but neither is Cheteshwar Pujara.

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When the world ends, will Che Pujara still be batting?

by Naked Cricket

Che Pujara batted
And Che Pujara batted some more
And if that wasn't enough
Che Pujara batted some more still
Batted, batted, batted
For that's what Che Pujara does best.

He opened, he closed
He was a shopkeeper who was there
To put the Open sign
He was a shopkeeper who was there
To put the Closed sign

He batted on the first day,
Two fell before him
Rahul and Rahane
He batted
He batted with Virat
He batted till the rains came down
He batted till the covers came on

He batted on the second day
Mathews teased Virat outside off
Prasad teased Rohit outside off
He batted till lunch
Binny fell after lunch
He batted after lunch
He batted with Ojha
Ojha holed out
Prasad teased Ashwin outside off
Mishra came in
He batted till tea

He batted after tea
He batted to a 100
He batted to Mishra's 50
Mishra wandered off
He did not wander off
He batted till the rains came down
He batted till the covers came on

Che Pujara batted
And Che Pujara batted some more
And if that wasn't enough
Che Pujara batted some more still
Batted, batted, batted
For that's what Che Pujara does best.

He batted till stumps Day 2
After Gavaskar, Dravid and Sehwag batted
Che Pujara batted
He batted right through the innings
He batted right before the innings
He batted ten minutes before the innings
In the nets

Che Pujara was always there
Just that India wasn't there for him
He batted on bad days
He batted through form drops
He batted minutes adding to minutes
To make batting hours
Scrapping in foreign lands
Winning us Lord's
To be dropped at Sydney
To be left out in Bangladesh
To be left out in Galle
To be left out in Colombo

To be left out for a lesser player
To be left out by lesser men
To be left out by talkers of aggression
Will you drop yourselves too?
When the bad patch comes calling again?
When Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped for Rohit Sharma, for the Sydney Test (Jan 6 - 10, 2015), I feared the worst for him, cricket obscurity. Batting at three - Pujara's position until then - Rohit scored a half century in a drawn Test. That picked Rohit for the next four Tests at least - one in Bangladesh, followed by three in Sri Lanka. However, injuries to the openers combined with Rohit's dodgy form at three tossed the batting order like it had been dumped into a Sumeet mixie.
The series locked at one-all, Shastri-Kohli's hand was forced and they hurled Pujara into the deep end, making him open the batting on a green top. If he fails, it will only vindicate their stand of leaving him out; if he comes off, they picked him, didn't they?
Ajinkya Rahane had already been tinkered with enough; pushing him from three to open was not an option, not now at least. And after Rohit's forgotten travails at three, no way they were going to make him open. So that left them with Pujara. Had one of the two openers been fit, there would not have been a Pujara comeback hundred.
When Pujara walked into open he would've been aware: he had been forgotten. No amount of runs in county cricket or for India A was going to change that. His time in the middle was mostly as 12th man or the drink's man. He was there at forward shot leg. He was only remembered by default.
In the past months and even today, Sunil Gavaskar has gone on about how slowly Pujara scores. He goes on to compare the virtues of fast scoring, that he nonchalantly attributes to Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and yes, the other day, to KL Rahul.
Dear Sunny, since you aren't tiring of saying the same stuff again and again, I won't either. Please compare the strike rates of the batsmen and then comment. You're on air, not on hot air, sir. Do not mix the limited overs format with Test cricket. Granted, Rohit is like a son to both you and Ravi, but it does get blatantly obvious, often cringe-worthy just to listen to you.
Yes, Pujara was batting against propaganda. He was up against, not a batsman, but a reputation, a prophecy, a talent. If Sunny wasn't enough, you had the Mumbai Indians' fielding coach, Jonty Rhodes parroting the virtues of "The Talent". These people are now doing Rohit more harm than good, wanting a player to succeed is one thing, but without realising, they're now taking the piss.
When India was at 135/5, Sunny said that a Pujara 50 wasn't going to cut it for him, only a "Big Hundred" - a 150, maybe a 200.
Then again, maybe Pujara wasn't batting against any of this. Maybe his mind was clear. Maybe all he saw was the ball. Maybe when he spoke of getting starts and not converting them into bigger scores, there was an acceptance to improve. He's made changes, standing further outside the crease, for one.
It's now up to Shastri and Kohli to make changes; they could start by accepting Pujara as a mainstay of the Test team, stop all that aggression and rhetoric please. Or is this part of a new pecking order, where everyone is expendable? Where anyone can be asked to bat anywhere? That could make for interesting times too, more so, if it holds true for the captain and the director and Rohit.
But start by living in the present, guys, and not what a player can or will do.
On August 30, 2015, Pujara became the fourth Indian to carry his bat through the innings. His 145 not out was his seventh Test century. His lowest score of 100 and more is 113. His other Test centuries are: 135, 153, 159, 204, 206*.

First published here

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WTF do I do with the mementos, Sachin?

by Naked Cricket

Sangakkara and Tendulkar chat on the challenges of retirement
Kumar Sangakkara's gravest concern was not what after cricket, it was the immediate future - what was to be done with the mementos that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and his well-wishers had burdened him with. If that wasn't bad enough, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) shipped the excess from Sachin Tendulkar's showcase. There was never any love lost between Sanga and these cricket boards, but it was too early to discard the pointless mementos. Sanga did the first thing that came to his mind; he called up the "Master of Retirements".
Kumar Sangakkara: Thank you, Sachin, for your tweet. I noticed it got the maximum retweets and people who weren't even aware I had retired, or knew that I played cricket or existed, called to ask me, what had happened - was it because of another showdown with Sri Lanka Cricket; were they forcing me; why was I not playing the third Test?
Sachin Tendulkar: No, Kumar, I should say "thank you". Thank you for all the memories. It was a pleasure to lose the toss in the World Cup final to you...
KS (giggles): Hehe I'm sure, lose the toss and win the World Cup...
ST (giggles): Always completing my sentences aren't you, Kumar? So how did you remember me on such a busy day? I remember during my retirement, I didn't have a moment to breathe... though an early finish did help... aah you guys got free early too.
KS (giggles): My wife has given me an ultimatum.
ST: WHAT? You too? Damn it, don't tell me, it's the "me...
KS: Mementos... yes, Sachin, it's those useless, pointless...
ST: ... Ugly, thoughtless, cheap...
KS: BCCI discards that didn't make it to you.
ST: Don't say, any with Srini's signature?
KS: Ha plenty... and some with your name and mine added as an afterthought.
ST: Good lord, I myself got some which were left over from the times of Dravid and Dada and VVS. Imagine...
KS: Of course, that's all beside the point. It's the sheer number, it's like a f***ing siege, in our little island we've never seen anything like it.
ST: My sympathies, Kumar, but what can I do for you?
KS: Exactly, what did you do with the trash?
ST: Can I be honest with you? Nothing.
KS: Nothing? Are you kidding me? Nothing?
ST: Just for Anjali's sake, we sat down with Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar...
KS: OK, both of them are here, then...
ST: Shastri suggested we open a museum with all these mementos and brand the museum the "Milestone Man's Museum".
KS (giggles): Hehe trust Ravi to come up with something like that. But it's 2015 and there still isn't any such museum; or is there?
ST: No. Between you and me, that was to calm Anjali down.
KS: Ok, what did you do with all those mementos? Bet yours were far more than mine, way more than...
ST: Sunny said I was like a son to him. He said there was a safe house he could keep them all in and nobody would know...
KS: Wow? Really, where?
ST: Just between the two of us, Rohan's house.
KS: Rohan?
ST: Yes, Sunny's son, Rohan Gavaskar's house...
KS (giggles) And Rohan Gavaskar agreed...
ST: How could he not? But there were too many for him. Once I ran into Mr Amitabh Bachchan. He had heard from Sunny, and felt very bad for me; so he volunteered to have a few hundred kept in Abhishek's room...
KS: What would we do without good friends and their sons... What do you I suggest I do?
ST: Speak to Sunny, he really made quite an emotional speech; work on him straight away. I'm sure there's still space in Rohan's house for another champion.
KS: Oh, Thank you, Sachin. You always have a solution.
ST: Enjoy your retirement, Kumar. You could start by investing in a place in London, if you haven't already.
KS: And watch Wimbledon?
ST: Exactly. Also Sotheby's is big on auctions of these mementos. Every year I put a few down there, it's good pocket money for the kids...
KS: I'm starting to think that these mementos aren't so bad after all.
ST: Oh which reminds me, you could even keep a few at Kambli's place, he's delusional enough to think that they were meant for him... the left-hander angle and all.
Sangakkara and Tendulkar ended their conversation there. Sanga next picked the phone and called Jehan Mubarak who at 34 years with scores of 0, 49, 22 and 0 in the series, was also ripe for retirement and some of Sanga's stash.
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here

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After Sangakkara and Clarke, will India retire from Test cricket?

by Naked Cricket

It has already overstayed its welcome, should have retired after the big four
The retirements were thick, fast and often furious but India refused to see the writing on the wall or between the headlines. First Sourav Ganguly, then VVS Laxman, followed by Rahul Dravid and ultimately, Sachin Tendulkar. By November, 2013, when Tendulkar retired, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was already six seasons old. Tendulkar (1989-2013) had played his 200th and last Test match. Compare that to India which made its Test debut way back in 1932 and is still playing in 2015 - 489 Tests in all. If Tendulkar could call it a day at 200, why has India overstayed its welcome?
Could it be the 500th Test milestone: There are hushed whispers behind closed doors that India could retire from Tests altogether after they play their 500th at home. Previously, teams such as the West Indies (508 Tests) have played on well after their decline but it's only to lose their first series at home against Bangladesh. India is yet to lose a home series against Bangladesh but this could only be because Bangladesh is yet to a play a Test series in India.  
MS Dhoni retired from Test cricket in December, 2014, and with him a substantial chunk of his IPL fan boys also pulled out from the longer format. Somewhat significantly, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) also threatened to be pulled out soon after Dhoni's Test retirement. Although Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) mandarins claim the two events have no connection with each other whatsoever, it only takes a wise conspiracy theorist to put two and two together. "The only reason I watched India play in whites was to see Mahi dirty his whites so that they resembled a CSK shade of yellow." said a boy who fancies calling himself Arvindswami Baraharami from Chennai via Ranchi.
August, 20, 2015 marks the start of the end of two great Test careers - Michael Clarke (2004-2015) in his 115th Test and Kumar Sangakkara (2000-2015) in his 134th Test. Both players were fairly forthright in their reasons for retiring. Michael Clarke said he had not scored a Test fifty all of 2015 and would have preferred to retire from 2015 but unfortunately cricket and time were not that gracious. "If only I could have had one more go at the Indians, I'm sure a big score would be just round the corner. But here I am stuck with England in England. Honestly after I couldn't even score a fifty against the West Indies in four innings, I should have called it a day. But one last stab at the Ashes, who can resist that? Not Michael Clarke." said Michael Clarke, stabbing his finger at his chest rather accusingly, followed by an "OWWW that hurts!"
Elsewhere Sangakkara appeared calm sitting with his mate, Mahela Jayawardene in their restaurant, Ministry of Crab.  "After Mahela retired, I've really been bored in the middle. I don't know how you can go on for five days without a friend? Of course, with India it doesn't go on for that long but I miss the banter in the middle. And we have so much to plan here, new recipes, tweaking old ones, hosting our friends and families. Also the lunch breaks aren't long enough to enjoy a good take-away meal from the restaurant. And then you'd rather grab a nap than chase balls in 100 per cent humidity at my age. Not playing in Chennai in the last few IPL seasons has made me not want to play in Sri Lanka as well. It's so much comfier this way. Like I said before, cricket has nothing to do with my retirement from Test cricket." said Sangakkara as he cracked his way through a giant crab.
Another retiree, Chris Rogers (2008-2015) could only muster 24 Tests, 23 of them in the last two years, said he'd rather retire now than be dropped again and wait another five and a half years for his next Test. "Making a comeback at 43 isn't that exciting. Retiring with a Test average of 43 on the other hand isn't that bad" said Rogers, appearing pleased with his mathematical acumen.
A BCCI spokesperson however was bullish when he said, "If Rohit Sharma is playing Test cricket for India, India will continue to play Test cricket for India." Rohit on the other hand wasn't so sure; he shrugged his shoulders and said he loves the shorter format but he must respect the wishes of his captain and coach.
Virat Kohli did not confirm nor contradict India's retirement from Test cricket. Instead, he added with a smirk, "If India has to retire from Tests then it must retire aggressively".
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here

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Great Expectations by Kohli & Shastri

by Naked Cricket

To be translated by their darling boy, Rohit?
"Rohit Sharma is a class player, it's just a case of him smelling the coffee and then we know what he can do."
- Ravi Shastri.
Rohit Sharma has been blessed with Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli. Their belief in him probably surpasses his belief in himself. Each new lease of life that Rohit's Test career receives seems to have a new angle to it. Rohit is now packaged as can-take-the-game-away-from-the opposition-at-No 3 wala Rohit. "Of course he will have to be patient to start with," Shastri will add, hedging his bets, as if by saying all this, Rohit will restrain himself. It appears to Shastri and Kohli that they have the controls, the joysticks, and Rohit is this highly intuitive video game, just waiting to do their bidding. "Leave ball, Rohit!" Rohit will leave ball. "Smash for six!!" Rohit smashes for six. "Through the covers". And Rohit on the front foot will dutifully drive.
In November 2013, Rohit blasted two Test centuries during Tendulkar's farewell series against an Invitation XI from the West Indies. Following those home Tests, Rohit has toured South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia and Bangladesh. In these 16 innings, he's accumulated two half centuries and seven single-digit scores - three ducks and four times simply 6. Will Rohit get as many chances to fail and then succeed in Tests as he did in the shorter format? Will he continue to be given a rope longer than most?
In the warm-up match against the Sri Lanka Board President's XI, Rohit batted at three in the first innings, making 7. His supposed competitor for that spot, Cheteshwar Pujara, came in much lower at six, made 42. In the second innings, Rohit was made to open, he scored 8. Pujara's long vigil from 28/3 to 112 ended when he was retired at 31. It now appears to be a foregone conclusion that the No 3 slot is for Rohit, and India will go in with five batsmen plus the wicketkeeper, Saha.
Both Rohit and Pujara played three Tests down under scoring 173 and 201 runs respectively. What appears to have been an ordinary series for Pujara, seems to be the start of something big for Rohit. He was retained as India's number three for the lone Bangladesh Test.
As the new Test captain, Kohli has repeatedly emphasised the need to score quickly. In Rohit, who strikes at 51.62 in Tests and Kohli at 53.13 (compared to Pujara's 49.25) is the new attacking India. While they're at it, why not pick Raina too - he strikes at 53.14. All these bloated perceptions are often based on the players' ODI and IPL records - seldom do they have much bearing on how a player transplants to Test cricket. Few would know that before Pujara's lean patch in England and Australia, he had a much better Test strike rate than both Kohli and Rohit.
Shastri has harped on about an aggressive brand of Test cricket, about not being afraid to lose Tests in order to win them - about taking 20 wickets. So in all possibility, India will look to field five bowlers. It gets tricky though. India's Mr Patience, Murali Vijay, is out with injury - the five other batsmen all play a similar brand of cricket, more hit ball than leave ball or block ball. And while Ravi Shastri attributes England's Ashes' success to five bowlers, he will do well to notice the impatience in Australia's batting. But for Chris Rogers, the Aussies have batted like Test cricket had gone out of fashion and they had a T20 league to catch.
"I think what he definitely brings at No 3 is the flair factor. With the kind of cricket that this team is looking to play, wherein we are wanting to at least go past 300 on each batting day, that's where somebody of his (Rohit) calibre can chip in and contribute in that manner."
- Sanjay Bangar, the batting coach.
Bangar even went to the extent of saying that Rohit is batting well in the nets. Déjà vu all over again. Gautam Gambhir said something like that three year's ago and I made this cartoon.

click on cartoon to enlarge
C'mon Rohit, do something, shut us all up, we're all in such a terrible loop. But if you don't care for coffee, kindly tell the spin doctor to stop ordering it.

First published here

*Batting at 3, Rohit scored 9 vs Sri Lanka. Previously in the innings, he was dismissed of a no ball. Both times LBW.  

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I failed to lead from the back: Michael Clarke

by Naked Cricket

With the Ashes not just lost but squandered, strewn across the British Isles like tattered little bits of nothing, Australia's Test captain, Michael Clarke, has decided to call time on his international career. After losing the fourth Test, and pretty much their marbles too, the Australians have decided not to prepare for the fifth and last Test. "It's not as if any of the prep has done the boys any good" chirped coach, Darren Lehmann.
At first, the articulate Michael Clarke said he failed to lead from the front. But then realising that it meant nothing as he had only demoted himself down the order continuously, he swiftly corrected himself - "It may not be wrong to say that I failed to lead from the back - I started off as a top order batsman, but now I'm pretty much a middle order bat, what is my position - five? Six? Hard to tell really, the wickets fall so quickly, especially when we got knocked over for 60, I was in before Boof could say Pup!"
Pup continued in the same remorseful way - "If I overstay my welcome any more, I might end up as a tailender. Also because of these constant niggles with my back, and the lack of advancement in medical science and the inadequacy of those painkillers, my wretched back was just that. You tell me, with a back this bad, how can you lead from the front or for that matter, the back? Yeah, I'm asking you?" He snapped at an Indian reporter who insisted on asking if a farewell Test at his home ground, the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) might not have been an appropriate way to bid his billions of fans adieu.
"Guys like you would like it if I played my farewell Test at the Wankhede, right? But we Aussies are different. We're not a sentimental lot, really. We drop our heroes when they lose their "A" game, and quite often when they're at the top of their game. I say this with the greatest respect for Sachin Tendulkar but if he was leading a bunch of losers like my mates, he would've called time on his career too after an England series. 60? Honestly how does a team get dismissed for 60?"
The Indian reporter further persisted if Clarke saw any changes in the team for The Oval and would the captain contemplate dropping himself further down the order or from the team altogether. Clarke showed immense patience when he said, "No, next question." Not satisfied, the reporter snapped at Clarke, "What about bowling some left arm spin; don't you think your spin might be more useful to the team than your batting?"
Clarke took a deep breath, and then asked the reporter earnestly, "Why are you such an a**hole? Next question." An Aussie reporter asked the same question to which Clarke said he'd like to turn his arm over one last time if his back permits.
Other questions from the presser:
Any regrets? "Yes, not playing another five years."
Indian reporter (again): You recently said that Chris Rogers started off again at 35 and you... "Next question."
Future of Australian cricket: "It's in good hands, I've seen Steve Smith take some blinders at slip."
Darren Lehmann vs Mickie Arthur as coach: "It's all down to the homework, isn't it?"
Indian reporter (again: About Chris Rogers... - "Next question."
You recently said that if Chris Rogers could start all over again at 35... "Yes I did say that, it varies from player to player, doesn't it, mate?"
Indian reporter (again): Is Sachin Tendulkar the greatest batsman you have ever seen, even greater than Sir Don? "Well, I haven't seen Sir Don bat... Next."
How's the back, Pup? - "I can stand it, but it's worse when I sit down for long."
Indian reporter (again): When you got married there was a photograph of your wife on a horse; will you be taking to horse rearing now? "Nay (neigh)... Next."
Do you see Haddin and Watson back for the fifth Test - "Yeah, quite honestly, I see a complete overhaul from our last misadventure... except for me."
Indian reporter (again): Your favourite IPL franchise... "Has to be Pune since it's the only one I've played for..next"
Sri Lankan reporter: Sangakkara will be playing his last Test against India; where do you rate him among the modern greats... "Amongst the very best."
Indian reporter (yet again): If Pune Warriors returns to the IPL, will you also consider returning to the IPL... "Will you just back off, mate?"
Michael Clarke will retire from international cricket at 34 years of age. Imagine.
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here

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Falling in love with a porn star.

by Naked Cricket

The last day of exams meant the boys made it to Nirula's for a Big Boy burger and a hash brown followed by somebody's empty house that had a VCR with a remote control that worked. Before that a visit to Horizons video library for a blue movie.

“Print acha hai? Chal chal ke phut toh nahi gaya?”
“Nahin, nahin, brand new print, very good movie”
“Print acha nahin toh vapis kar denge, ok?”

Sometimes, the print would be returned in an hour just to get another blue. Sometimes it would be kept for an extra day, sometimes two extra days, sometimes it would never be returned.

That day, seven made it to the safe house, panting, eager to slide the blue into the new front loading VCR. But the blue ejected itself. “Oh, wrong side, idiot”. Laughs. “Right side, she likes it” “How do you know the VCR's a she?”

Seven seated around that new 20” colour TV with their shorts down to their ankles with yesterday's Matrimonial supplements and last week’s Appointment Ads scattered in front. It was around then that BB was called Big Boy first. Followed by Boner Baba. Years later, when the other blues happened, BB King was the obvious upgrade. BB didn't play any games, he wasn't hot in his studies, he was just cool enough to be part of the group. That day, someone even suggested he be called Maha Burger but it was BB that stuck.

BB took his porn seriously. While watching he got so intense, you'd think he was a fireman on the 27th floor. He'd started watching porn way earlier than all of us, partly because he'd sneaked into his dad's collection, partly because he hung out with older boys. All this came out the day of the grand unveiling, before that, nobody cared enough to ask. Once we were done, someone played Steppenwolf, and out of nowhere someone sang, “Porn to be wild”. That became our anthem of sorts.

In college, the girls felt secure around BB, he never hit on them. Legend has it that one summer afternoon, BB's first girlfriend was ready to sleep with him but he was nowhere to be found. They were alone at home but BB had excused himself, leaving her alone in the bedroom. When she went looking for him, she found him in his parent's room, with the front loading VCR playing a blue. She sat next to him. Together they watched their first blue together. She confessed to him that it was her first time. BB said it was his first time with a woman. From that day, they watched many blues together, very often with the same actress. BB confessed he was in love with her, and while he hated to see her get it off with other guys, he didn't mind her doing it with other women. Would he finally like to do it with her? BB didn't answer. They soon stopped watching films together.

The front loading VCR gave way to a VCD player to a DVD player to Blue Ray. The lame joke in the old gang was Blue in Blue Ray at BB's! BB failed to have any long term relationships, his love for porn proved fatal. And that porn star was like the other woman in the relationship. By now he was well out of the closet – she was his screen saver, his cover photo. Often mid-way through parties, he'd excuse himself and return after a five minute quickie with his phone.

He was especially touched by the movie, Her, and quoted verbatim from its IMDB page

“Left heartbroken after his marriage ends, Theodore becomes fascinated with a new operating system which reportedly develops into an intuitive and unique entity in its own right. He starts the program and meets "Samantha", whose bright voice reveals a sensitive, playful personality. Though "friends" initially, the relationship soon deepens into love.  

He would go on and say, Alexia and me are no different. After her, I find it tough to be with another woman, even another actress.

BB followed her on FB, Twitter, Instagram, you name it; he’d already coughed up a small fortune to chat Live with her. What did he say to her? BB said it wasn't important. Had he told her about his feelings? One day when he was whacked out of his mind, BB asked us friends to join him for a video chat with her. It was awkward. BB was quiet. It was like he was mystified, speaking to a beautiful stranger he was in awe of. Alexia was professional, doing her routine. BB introduced us all. Alexia said that since it was the seven of us, it would cost more. BB paid. He asked her not to take her clothes off. It was an odd ten-twelve minutes, spent mostly silent, with a few wisecracks from the very drunk ones - “So, how's work?” “Have you been working HARD lately” “Do you know his name is Big Boy” “Boner Baba”. Most of us looked at our glasses, a few cigarettes were lit and passed around. BB even apologised for the jokes, she didn’t seem to mind though.

On Sunday, 2nd August, 2015, BB learnt that Alexia's website had been blocked by the Government of India.   A few of us caught up with him in the evening. He's thinking of leaving the country. “I'd rather be somewhere, somewhere where people will just let us be...” he said staring into his empty glass.

(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)  

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After Wankhede, SRK wants to be banned from Eden Gardens

by Naked Cricket

The Wankhede ban on Shah Rukh Khan has been lifted. While the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) did not give any specific reasons for this, it's learnt that the Bombaiya in SRK prevailed. SRK has often spoken of his loyalties split between Mumbai and Kolkata when it came to the Indian Premier League (IPL). While he sees himself as the owner and ultimate fanboy of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), he also thinks of himself as "Bollywood ka badsha".
"I was not a very good actor that fateful summer's night in May, 2012. If I had hammed some more, I'm sure the MCA would not have banned me. Instead, I was trying to be earnest and protective of my children. They did not recognise this side of me. Even that guard (who later swore to be a diehard SRK fan) did not think it was me. He behaved with me in such a high-handed manner. I recall him telling me, 'Don't give me the SRK flop show, only star airs work here in Bombay'. At first I thought he was talking complete rubbish and abused him - that too without any dialoguebazi - just straight from the hip MC BC that we speak - not what you hear in the films."
Vikas Dalvi, the security guard in question, said he'd prefer to forget the NASA scientist-wallah SRK. "For me, Swades was a crap film. Too much reality, that's not how Bollywood is. And when he said he'll hit me with a hockey stick it reminded me of Chakde! India - another film for pseudo intellectuals who have tried their best to stop SRK from overacting - if I wanted to just see good acting, I won't pay so much money. For poor people like me, the more money I pay, the more acting I want to see."
SRK regretted missing out on two seasons at the Wankhede where he could have sat shoulder to shoulder with the Ambanis and the Tendulkars. While the Ambanis were unavailable for comment, Sachin Tendulkar said he was not aware of the SRK ban and would prefer not to comment without knowing the whole truth. "Anyway, if the ban has been lifted, there's nothing left to be said," he added.
The actor says he does not want to rest on his laurels and hopes to be banned from the Feroz Shah Kotla (Delhi was his home before Mumbai) and Eden Gardens. "The Kotla is such a third class stadium and the Delhi Daredevils (DD) are such a third class team, but because of my commitments to KKR, I have to go and watch these one-sided crappy matches. Gambhir has such a bloodlust when it comes to DD, we all know he will beat them every time, especially in Delhi, no matter what. Also when I'm in Delhi, all those pile-ons from St Columba's and Hansraj come out of the woodwork... avoiding them is becoming serious hard work... and yeah, my in-laws are here also."
As for the Eden Gardens, SRK says that being banned from there is the ultimate challenge. "If you would've noticed, especially in the World Cup quarter-finals in 1996, Eden has very low standards. The crowds are the ultimate badmash. For me to be banned from there, maybe I'll have to be at my best behaviour ever. Then I suspect it will not be up to the low standards of the stadium. Mamatadi is very protective of me and even if I am banned, I'm sure she will blame a cartoonist and ban the poor artist instead."
When asked what the next big thing for him in the IPL was, SRK was non-committal at first but then took a deep breath and said since he'd already been banned protecting his daughter, Suhana, he'd now love to be banned shielding his youngest son, AbRam. But where does that leave his elder son, Aryan? "He's a big boy now, he should be looking to have his own Wankhede experience!"
The Wankhede security guard, Dalvi, confessed that if Aamir Khan ever found himself in a similar situation as SRK, he had full faith the actor would give his most OTP Satyamev Jayate performance. "That's why Aamir will never be banned, he gives you full value for your money. Before brandishing a stick at him, I'll be drowning in a pool of my tears", he added choking on his own words.
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here

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Without Anushka Sharma, can this tour go on?

by Naked Cricket

After WAGs ban, media threatens to boycott Sri Lanka tour
"Anushka (Sharma) is like the opening batsman in my best cricket stories," declares Abhijeet Sarkar, an erstwhile cub reporter on the Bollywood beat. He continues, "Bollywood was never my true calling, not that cricket is, but when Bollywood flirts with cricket, I really get turned on by their chemistry. Till last year I couldn't tell mid-off from mid-on, but now I know all about maidens and the overs they bowl to their mad men outside the maidan". Sarkar is part of a growing tribe of cricket journalists who cover what goes on under the covers - Bollywood's nexus with Indian cricket.
When Sarkar learnt that wives and girlfriends (WAGs) would not be allowed on tour, he cancelled his air tickets to Colombo. "Without Anushka, Indian cricket is zilch, zero, shunya... I'd rather do a story on Anushka and her separation albeit brief from her loved one, something that has an emotional connect than a dour one-dimensional series with Sri Lanka that has no interest whatsoever."
Suraj Rai Gangaram, a journalist with BollyStump.com nails it when he says, "Without Anushka, who will India blame for their misfortunes? Without Anushka, who will India thank for their good fortune?" Gangaram harks back to the golden era of Tiger Pataudi, "Frankly, more than how Tiger played cricket with one eye, wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see how he romanced Sharmila Tagore with one eye."
Meanwhile the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has actually had the gall to say, "Most of the players on tour are coming off a month-long break where they had enough time to spend with their families. And we've decided that their wives will not be allowed on tour". But what about the media? What do they expect us to write about, cricket? Even MS Dhoni's return to the one day international (ODI) team will be of little consequence without his better half, Sakshi Dhoni, holding on to their little bundle of joy, Ziva. And Shikhar Dhawan is half the batsman without his wife, Ayesha Mukherjee and their cutie, Zoravar.
"Think about it, without their glamorous wives, Jayawardene and Sangakkara wouldn't have been half the players they were. Certainly, no telecast would've been the same - every time they were in the nineties, who did the camera focus on - not Mahela or Sanga, but their lovely ladies praying or holding on to each other nervously. That's what the public wants to see, the glamour, the human connect, not two batsmen under helmets whose facial expressions are hidden from them. For me, more than these two greats retiring from the game, it's the first ladies of Sri Lankan cricket bidding us adieu," opines world famous sports psychologist, WADP Gurusinghe.
Dhoni's replacement behind the stumps, Wriddhiman Saha, looks at the ban on WAGs as a lost opportunity for him. "I really was looking at this Sri Lankan tour as an opportunity to be better known by virtue of my wife spending time with Anushka. It was too good to be true. I could almost hear the commentator saying, "... and that is the lovely Romi Saha sharing a few laughs with Anushka while their men muscle their way through the Lankan attack".
For a player like Cheteshwar Pujara whose wife, Puja Pujara has been regularly seen with Anushka Sharma in the stands, this is a bolt out of the blue. "I'm not sure of my place in the playing 11 anymore, and without Puja, I will also be missing out on a strong support structure. Puja and Anushka had previously built strong partnerships in the stands, and always been there for each other, especially with heavy overhead conditions when an early wicket or two fell and Virat and I were batting together. Yes, they had seen each other through some nervous moments, especially in England and Australia."
If Virat Kohli was bothered about Anushka's absence he didn't show it. "I just learnt that Ravi Shastri will be there for the first Test so all's good here."
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)

First published here

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How Bhajji can play under Dhoni again.

by Naked Cricket

Bhajji in Bangladesh. Bhajji in Zimbabwe. Bhajji in Sri Lanka. In almost Asterix like adventures, after a shot of the magic potion, Bhajji appears to be everywhere. Bhajji's return coincides with Dhoni's retirement from Test cricket (as for the One Day Internationals (ODIs) in Zimbabwe, Dhoni gave it a miss). Previously I had written here of how once good friends became largely indifferent to each other. What I'd like to explore now is if Bhajji can play again with Dhoni, how would it pan out?
1. Dhoni appears in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Auction. Mumbai Indians snap him up at an obscene price and appoint him captain. Bhajji being an MI mainstay will naturally play. Though don't put it beyond MI to bench both players to add to their already formidable bench strength of coaches - Dhoni as coaching captain, Bhajji hug coach
2. Bhajji has a terrific Test series in Sri Lanka, a series so good that comparisons with the VVS-Dravid Australia series hurl themselves at us - to top it, Bhajji even takes a hat-trick. If this comes to pass, Sandeep Patil, Anurag Thakur, N Srinivasan, Sreesanth, just about everybody except the Lankans will demand Bhajji be included in the ODI series.
3. Bhajji is included in the ODI squad for the Sri Lanka series but not in the playing XI. Dhoni asks Bhajji to bowl to him in the nets, technically that's playing together, right?
4. Tendulkar is known to be close to both Bhajji and Dhoni. He invites both over for a chai pe charcha, they knock around in the backyard to let bygones be bygones. For good measure, and to show he really means it, he even invites his old mate, Kambli; who agrees to attend just so that he can "fire his friend".
5. The mature beyond his years, R Ashwin, who only recently admitted to being prepared to lay down his life for Dhoni and even more recently that Bhajji was his role model in the early 2000s, arranges a "Smash it over sambar!" event in his cricket academy. To add to the levity, Ashwin shrewdly asks MS to bowl to Bhajji while he himself keeps wickets. Mrs Ashwin tweets about the event, Mrs Dhoni shares yet another candid pic (of Mahi and Bhajji in the 2007 World T20 Cup) and it breaks the deadlock. Bhajji and Dhoni start to appear in ads again, this time without getting personal.
Much as I'd like Bhajji and Dhoni to chill together, it does seem unlikely. To keep the positivity going, here are some more likely events:
1. Virat Kohli decides that a drawn Test match is way better than a lost one - abandons his quest to win his first Test as captain and starts to work in earnest towards a draw. Mouths platitudes such as "Defence is the best form of attack" and "we need someone like Pujara to bat at No 3 so he can control the innings while the rest of the team bats around him".
2. N Srinivasan distances himself from cricket. Admits that he has neglected golf for way too long, starts a golf league with his bête noire, Lalit Modi, together they form the IPSML (Indian Premier Srini Modi League)
3. Ravi Shastri maintains a two-minute silence during commentary. Breaks his silence with a subtle chuckle (Benaud style) and proceeds to stay quiet again. Breaks the silence with a whisper, a precious gem almost lost to the inattentive ear. Fails to mention even one of his Shastrisms. Finishes his stint by saying it was wrong of him to call the English jealous.
4. Dhoni returns to Test cricket after taking retirement from ODIs. Claims that he doesn't see himself playing in the 2019 World Cup and "It's now up to Virat to put together a young team like I did in 2007". Goes on to say his return to Test cricket was prompted to tour Bangladesh, West Indies and Zimbabwe, nations he had neglected in the past.
5. Former cricket greats finally break their silence on match fixing, claim they knew all along, didn't dare speak as there was too much at stake. But finally the love of the game (read as an obscure First Class cricketer's confession with condemning evidence) changed their views.

First published here

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