Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Trademark shots

It’s happened countless times...

After getting relatively set, Sachin plays one of the straight drives which has the purists drooling. And the commentator (Mr. Manjrekar / Mr. Shastri being the usual suspects) observes, "Now that he has found his timing, he looks set for a big one."

No, this is not about our national obsession of whether Mr. Tendulkar is past his sell-by date. It’s not about what Mr. Manjrekar's views on the subject are. And it’s definitely not about Mr. Shastri's receding hairline and his increasingly shriller views on the fitness levels of the Indian team (coming from him, that’s a bit thick!).

This is about the shots which makes the world’s top batsmen what they are. The shots which are deeply etched in the collective consciousness of the viewing public. The shots which some have made their very own.

Tendulkar – A natural tendency is to go for the straight drive or the (rarely seen anymore) lift over mid-wicket. But my personal choice is the punch off the backfoot through backward point. The bend of the front leg while going back and across and the blade descending in a blur, ahhh … this would always be Sachin for me.

Ponting – Nothing else but the audacious front-foot pull off fast bowlers. The bat starting at right waist and ending up over left shoulder to deliberately lift the ball over the boundary. Just to show all the Ntinis and Harmisons of the world, who’s the boss. And some catching practices in the crowd for added fun.

Dravid – A toss up between the textbook cover-drive and the on-drive played with magical wrists. My vote for the on-drive, simply because of its difficulty levels against faster bowlers and the way Rahul finds the gap every time with this one early in his innings. A special mention to the lofted extra cover drive, something seen infrequently, but oh what a shot !

Sehwag – A popular choice would be sword thrust flaying the ball in the general direction of point / cover point. But for sheer amusement value it’s the inside-out cover drive which he plays off spinners while going towards the leg side and exposing all his stumps. A shot to give Geoff Boycott the shudders and Shane Warne a particularly bad migraine.

Lara – Undoubtedly the scissor like cut played off spinners. I have no choice but to quote Osman Saiuddin here who sums it up most evocatively – “That back lift, golf-like, paused and poised briefly at the top of its arch, is almost as compelling as the shots that it eventually manufactures. The real wonder is how he coordinates so many movements - the shuffling, the back lift, the bendy wrists twitching at the death to find gaps, lifting the knee - into just one picturesque image.”

Ganguly – The one which shortened the domestic careers of many a left arm spinner and which I am sure still gives Ashley Giles some sleepless nights. Its all there - the quick judgement of the length, the lightning step-out and the dramatic finale laced with delicious timing sending the ball to the mid-wicket stands. (And Tony Greig repeating those stupid words for the umpteenth time, “They are dancing in the aisles, out there.”) It’s a pity we may never see its like again in an International match.

Gilchrist – The thump over mid-wicket to perfectly good wicket taking balls on the off-stump. The ball ricocheting off the boundary boards before the bemused bowler completes his follow-through. And then a wide good-natured grin to show the bowler “Well, that’s life, mate! Nothing personal in it, ya know.” In case you could only record what the bowler wants to say at that moment, it would have put the Amar Singh tapes to shame !!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This is what you call a desperate post. A post to tell the world (mostly consisting of myself) that, I can still write something. I can still put together a string of words. So what if does not make any sense. Most of Phillip K Dick's books didn't make any sense when they were read for the first time. Some still doesn't. Maybe someday my blog would be discovered by aliens who could decode the ciphered messages and figure out what I really wanted to say.

I see an impossibly high over bridge in my dreams. The one near the station surrounded by hills from all sides. The station in which the little blue locomotive stops. The locomotive which carried me and her to that far away land. She looks East Asian in the early morning haze, but I can't make out her eye color. Don't have a fucking clue what I am doing with her in this weird place, but somehow my steps follow hers on the over bridge. Iron railings on one side and sheer drop on the other. A shining thread which has to be a river visible through the gaps in the rusted iron on the steps.

Is this somewhere in the Andes, I wonder while concentrating hard on my next step. I must have dreamt this locale up based on the "Prisoners of the Sun". But the drop seems real enough. So does the sound made by our boots on the steps. And the knowledge gleaned through reading countless fantasy novels does not help either; a death in your dream is the end of your life in reality.

Why are we wearing stupid business suits instead of life jackets and parachutes? Why is she going on endlessly about "the boy" instead of focusing on the simple task of staying alive? Who the hell is "the boy" anyway? "You don't know how drunk I had to get him to kiss me", she says. Huh? We are crossing an impossible over bridge which shows no sign of ending, so that she can kiss this boy? Am I somehow trapped in Bridget Jones' diary? The steps become more rusted, sometimes disappearing almost completely. I discover I have been clutching a hunting knife tightly all this while. A knife with names engraved on the hilt, so old that it can't be read anymore.

I was so engrossed in negotiating the next gap in the steps that I almost bump into her when she stops suddenly. Strange ! She seems to be wearing some body armor under the black business suit. Am I doing the same? No time for checking out now, as my eye falls on what made her stop. The steps have given away to a sort of landing here. And standing at the edge of the landing, humming the tune of "Smoke on the Water" quite nonchalantly, stands the Keeper. His dressing is heavily inspired by gangster flicks, right up to the grey fedora shadowing his eyes. The fact that he only has one metal leg, does not seem to dampen the menace dripping off him in any way. Not with that number of guns stuck on his leather belt. The smile playing on the corner of his mouth is a surprise, though. And so is the cry of delight which emanates from my guide.

The fedora tilts itself somehow. Revealing a face which might have passed off as Alec Baldwin, apart from the camera like devices where you would expect eyes to be. The devices which flash pictures of sandy beaches, grassy plains, misty meadows and a faintly remembered river in quick succession. "Hi Keeper", I hear myself say. Eh? How do I know this creature straight out of a video game? My fingers surprise me further by bunching into a strange two fingered salute. "You're home", she murmurs somewhere near my ear. Another locomotive seems to be steaming into the station far below us. The sound of the train drowns what Keeper is saying. I can barely make out the word "Goodbye". The buzzing pain inside my head, makes my steps falter a little. And suddenly I am flying.

My eyes open and stare listlessly at the cream colored wall. The pain in the loss of the life I left behind in my path for everlasting glory is still fresh in my mind. But I know its not gonna last. Already Keeper’s face is blurring in my memory. I turn around and look into my son’s face. Does he know what he has signed up for? The sleeping face does not tell me much. I start wondering how I woke up with a headache.
Silly dreams !!