Another Roland Garros and another win for Nadal. Nothing unusual about that. During the course of the match, my daughter asked me who I was rooting for.  Having figured me out for a Federer fan, I guess she was curious to know who I was rooting for in this particular match. I answered “Djokovic” and then she stumped me by asking why. Almost ashamed to admit that I did not want Nadal to win, I said “because I like Djokovic”.  This was a half truth or more truthfully a half lie. Yes, between the two, I like Djokovic, but my overriding reason was I did not want Nadal to win. Which brings me to the fundamental question as to why I do not like Nadal or more accurately why don’t I want Nadal to win tennis matches.

I do not claim to be a big tennis buff. I have never played the sport and all that I know about tennis is by watching it on television. I think the first match that I saw was Wimbledon 1980 0r 81 (I think it was 81) when Borg beat McEnroe in the final. I absolutely loved McEnroe and was terribly disappointed when he lost. McEnroe had a lot going for him, especially from a 10 year old’s perspective. He was aggressive, rebellious, manic, served and volleyed compulsively and looked adorable. In contrast, Borg was an automaton. Completely devoid of character, at least the kind of character a 10 year old can identify with. With tennis, my idolatry affections continued along similar lines. I abhorred Lendl, Wilander, and all the clay court specialists. Paradoxically, some of the players who, it could be said, matched McEnroe’s on-court personality like Connors and subsequently Becker, left me cold as well. Possibly, their style did not equal the grace and obvious genius of John. I did have a brief, short lived flirtation with Edberg. Moving on, I rooted for Agassi against Sampras. But till Federer came along, I was more or less a tennis widower, without no one in particular to shower my affection on. And how handsomely did Roger make up for my period of widowerhood. More so than even McEnroe, he was winning and winning all the time. I could hold my head high and proudly proclaim that I was a Federer fan. In fact, there was a time when I pitied Rafa and even commiserated his fate for being a contemporary of Federer. Possibly, the seeds of my not liking Rafa were sown when he started overseeing the demise of Roger, especially when it came to Grand Slam matches. And then there was obtuse joy when Djokovic threatened to do a Rafa on Nadal. Alas, that is also proving to be a false dawn. Rafa is continuing on his merry winning ways, while the wannabes are falling by the way side. I am slipping into a period of mourning awaiting the arrival of the next Rafa slayer. I am reliably told that there is no one in sight other than a career threatening injury.

After careful and deep introspection, completely out of place and uncalled for in terms of this issue’s priority relative to other pressing issues in my humdrum life, I have come to the conclusion that I do not like Nadal, only and only because of his style of play. He is the ugliest player I have seen on court. He makes tennis look like an effort which will scare away a lot of kids from taking up the sport. He is singularly responsible for making extinct serve and volley tennis and the sport is lesser off because of this. Take away his racquet and he cannot beat Leander Paes. Contrast that with what Lendl had to say, more or less, after receiving a thrashing from McEnroe in, if my memory serves me right, a Masters Final. He could have beaten me even if his racquet was strung with noodles. I rest my case.

 

 

Writer’s Block

June 7, 2014

No doubt, it is a presumptuous title for a post by me. After all, I am hardly a writer. However, this has been state since my last post sometime in 2011. So what prompted me to write now. It was a piece by Nandita Das that I read recently. In the article, she has candidly admitted that most times when she sits down to write she has no idea of what she is going to write about. Yet she manages to keep to her writing commitments. That was the spark I was looking for, and here I am typing away with absolutely no idea as to how the rest of this post is gonna go. 

I had gotten into a state of mind which made me believe that the posts that I was writing were not worthy of being written. After all, aren’t there enough and more people already writing and expressing their points of view. What is the point of one more person doing the same. It is not as if my world view offers anything original, unique or interesting. It is also not as if my unoriginal points of view are being articulated more eloquently. But now, come to think of it, originality and eloquence are hardly prerequisites for me to continue writing on my blog. It is my own place on this earth and I am at liberty to write about, by and large, what I want and in the manner I can. This was reinforced to me a while back when my 12 year old daughter was asked, by a judge in a writing competition, why she writes. Her paraphrased answer was “I write because I want to write”. It has taken me a while to realise this simple truth. Hopefully it is the beginning of a slightly more prolific writing phase. My poor followers !!!!

 

Pathan or Raina

March 27, 2011

As we await the India Pakistan semi final, the one question that keeps coming to mind is who, between Pathan and Raina will make it to the playing XI on Wednesday. Raina played calmly and efficiently against Australia in the company of Yuvraj to see us through. However, given the presence of spinners in the Pakistan team, will the Indian team management continue with Raina or will they bet on Yusuf to deliver the goods against the spinners. I would plump for Yusuf.

On similar lines, given the ineffectiveness of Munaf and Nehra, will Kirsten and gang opt to bring in Sreesanth for the semi final ?. Given the frailties of the Pakistani batting, I would be tempted to give Sreesanth a go in this match. The pitch at Mohali is also likely to favor a Sreesanth type aggressive medium fast bowler. It is also tempting to imagine that some of the new found maturity evident in Yuvraj would have rubbed off on Indian cricket’s “bad boy”. The poise with which Yuvraj is completing his quota of overs and the presence of capable part timers like Yusuf (or Raina), Sachin, Sehwag or even Virat offers sufficient insurance in case Sreesanth happens to have a bad day. Additonally, opening the attack with Ashwin and Sreesanth will also enable Dhoni to have enough of Zaheer’s overs with the older ball and during the death overs. An attack comprising Zak, Sree, Ashwin and Bhajji sounds a lot more potent than what we have had on display till date in the WC.

It is also revealing that only one of the qualifiers from the supposed “group of death” made it to the semi final. In fact, the rest went down to their respective opponents without even much of a fight. But for the fielding errors, Sri Lanka are looking a very dangerous side. The intent with which they batted during the run chase makes them, to me, the favourites for the cup.

The World Cup begins

March 21, 2011

It’s not often that I agree with Ricky Ponting. However, his consistent view that so many of the associate nations have no business to be part of a World Cup is spot on. Period.

With the chaff out, the rest of the matches will be what a fan will die for. Sri Lanka vs. England should be spectacular. Notwithstanding Siddhu, Swann has been the most influential spinner in this tournament. He is not going to make it easy for the Lankans. Sanga has been ploughilng a lone furrow for the Lankans. Mahela giving him company off and on. I will be rooting for the English.

India vs. Australia will be tight. I hope India can get Watson out soon enough. India should win, finally.

Pakistan and South Africa should come through the other matches.

Can this line up beat anything thus far in the world cup.

Good bye, Santa Klaus

June 11, 2010

I lost a dear friend last week. Another one of my class mates called me to convey the news. There is something surreal about a death of a near or dear one. It takes a while to understand the full import. This time was no different. I grieved for a while. Cursed fate’s conspiracy. Pitied. Sulked. Drank. Got drunk. Sobbed. Cried. At the end of it all, realised the selfishness of my grief. Once more. And not for the last time.

The friend who passed away under tragic circumstances, away from his home, was my Santa Claus at school. For a start he looked like one. In a school which appeared to have a disproportionate number of students from parsimonious Tamil middle class families, he was the lone exception. He was always there for me (or us) with the greenbacks. And boy, was he generous. We took shameless toll of his generosity. At that time, it was (and still is for a few of us) easy to pretend that he was buying our friendship. It took us time to erase such felicitous pretensions. Post school, we went our own separate ways. I continued to rely on him as an emotional anchor. He was always there for me. He was the first one to tell me on my face that I was a “demanding” friend to have. But he said that with beguiling sincerity. I loved him even more for that. In the last decade, our relationship ebbed and flowed. Distance sometimes helped, more often hurt. He went through an emotionally wretched phase. Sadly, I was not there for him in his worst of times. I was a fair weather friend. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I found it impossible to understand that a friend who had so much to give would himself be in need. There are no bottomless reservoirs inside a person. Even Santa Klaus needed replenishment.

In my life, I have come across people who epitomize adjectives. I can name various people who are synonymous with words like “self centered”, “selfish”, “professional”, and so on. “Nice” is the word which I shall always associate with my SK. I hope the netherworld understands and treats you better. They will not find a nicer person. May your soul rest in peace.

A strange series

February 22, 2010

When the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in world cricket lock horns in a test match series, you do not expect them to take turns and beat each other by an innings and a bit, do you. If the same results had been played out by the same two teams in the late 90s, murmurs of match fixing would have done the rounds.

Beyond the result, there was a strange symmetry to the series starting with the number of tests. The SA batsmen dominated the first test and the Indian batsmen capitulated. Tables were turned in the second. In both the tests, two batsmen from the vanquished side had centuries in losing causes. Likewise, on both occasions, the winning team’s bowling was dominated by one bowler. But for weather intervening in Kolkata, both the matches would have run their course in 4 days.

In the end it was obvious that this would have made a riveting 3 or 5 match series. The 3 match one day series could have easily made way for one more test. In the end, commerce overrides matters cricketing. The SA caravan has to rumble through the Indian hinterland for it to make sense for the BCCI. Cricket fans as a species know the value of and therefore appreciate the honourable draw. However, if a series is drawn thanks to the continued stupidity of the organisers, it does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. What could have been the finest series of test matches played in the country in some time was cruelly shortened.

India has much to thank Sehwag for the way he sets up matches these days. In hindsight, considering how easily India could have run out of time at Kolkata, his knock was crucial. Besides the tangible benefit of having scored his runs in a hurry, the intangible benefits of a demoralised attack worked to the advantage of the rest of the Indian batsmen. Despite giving the impression that he takes leave of his sense ever so often, there is no denying that Sehwag is the most influential Indian batsman ever. One can wax eloquent about Dravid’s technique, Gavaskar’s powers of concentration, Tendulkar’s precociousness and Vishwanath’s wristiness, but none exemplifies India’s coming of age as a cricketing nation more than Sehwag. The Indian middle order of recent vintage has a lot to thank Sehwag for.

I guess Hashim Amla deserves all the bouquets that are being showered on him. He did everything possible to save SA the blushes on the final day. Notwithstanding the fact that when the last man, Mornie Morkel, arrived at the crease there were still about 90 minutes (which is a long time for the No. 11 batsman to hang in there) to go and all the smart money was riding on an Indian win, I was surprised that even towards the end there was no attempt on his part to farm the strike. In the end there were about 20 odd deliveries between SA and a heroic draw. Amla himself said that Morkel (and before him Parnell) was confident and comfortable playing out one end. But was it not incumbent on his part to take as much of the strike as possible, especially towards the end when a draw was emerging a distinct possibility. I can think of atleast three legends of the past having done this – Miandad, Border and Waugh. And of the current lot – the tragic Paul Collingwood. As an Indian fan, I am glad Amla did not crave for more glory, yet as a cricket fan, I am more than a little disappointed with his abdication of responsibility. Amla was dismissed only one while facing more than a 1,000 deliveries from the hapless Indian bowlers. Facing upto a few more and thereby shielding Mornie would have given his team a decent chance of having regained the top ranking.

Stretch…..

February 20, 2010

The gist of a story:

Widower meets divorcee. Widower is a law enforcement officer and divorcee is new in town. She has relocated to the small town following her parents’ invitation. Widower’s wife was killed in a still unsolved hit and run case. True to form, widower and divorcee fall in love. It turns out that divorcee’s brother was the perpetrator of the “crime” that killed hero’s wife. Brother is traumatised when he realises that his sister is in love with the gentleman’s wife whose death he caused, albeit unintentionally. Brother confesses. Gentleman widower forgives him and the widower and divorcee live happily ever after.

We have a story in less than 100 words. This has been cunningly made into a NYT bestseller by one of the most prolific authors of our times who I am reliably informed has sold more than 10 million copies. I will not reveal identity of the author for fear of invoking the wrath of his legions of fans (and here I am hopefully assuming that at least a few hundreds of them avidly follow my blog).

I go back to my earlier reference in another post on the need to be clever with words. Being precise is not a skill that will always come in handy if one has ambitions of writing a best seller, especially if reputations have already been made. Making do with an anemic plot and then stretching it then will please publishers plenty more. This is what I have come to realise. This reminds me of the way we were advised to approach examinations in subjects like economics and commerce. The idea was to fill up as many sheets of answer paper as possible without paying much heed to what was actually written. And going by the marks awarded, there is reason to believe that this is how students were actually evaluated.

For long, I believed Bollywood’s ability to produce trash was unparalleled in this world. I am increasingly convinced that American publishing will run them close.