Mar 25, 2012

Game of Tags. You neither win nor die.

It seems I got tagged. By a lady at that!

Now, I usually stayed away when this 'tag someone' thing was being played out on the blogosphere since I saw it as one more way of forming cliques and promoting each others' blogs. Or that's what I liked to think, because no one ever tagged me.

When I started blogging, it was pure self-indulgence. Plus. I usually write stuff here only when I feel like it. Or get some crazy idea. This whole concept of writing based on someone else's ideas or questions is a bit alien to me. Kind of like forced thinking.

But what the heck, one can always make an exception. Especially for that rare species who read and comment here. I mean, don't you have better things to do?

But, I am not re-posting the rules. You can visit her blog-post to read them.

So, here are my not-so-bright answers to the 11 questions:

1. What does blogging mean to you?
A means of inflicting my inanities on people without getting hit. And it’s free!

2. Name the person who influenced you most.
Dad. Ok, Mom too, because she’s the one who’ll read the blog. :) 

3. Which is the last book you read?
The Girl who played with Fire (Stieg Larsson). It’s one of three books that I was reading, and I have finished this one. The other two are Dance with Dragons (George RR Martin) and Ka (Roberto Calasso). I usually have multiple books, one for the commute, one for home, one for weekend etc.,

4. Which are the subjects you hated most in school and college?
School: Biology. Especially the part where I had to draw the human eye. Clearly, I had no sense of aqueous humour.
College: Marketing Management. And HR (it was called People and Performance, and we shortened it to Pi and Pee).

5. If you were to become a sports celebrity overnight, who would you choose and why?
Vishy Anand. To experience how mind-boggling chess moves are made at such speed.

6. Name your dream travel destinations- India and Abroad.
India: Andaman. Ladakh. The North-East.
Abroad: South Africa. Madagascar. Antarctica.

7. Describe your job briefly.
Project Finance. I appraise infrastructure projects, for viability, identify risks and ways to mitigate them, so that they can be financed.  

8. What is your alternative career option?
Teaching. I did it for four years and keep fooling myself that I will go back to it once I have made my money.

9. Do you really think the world will come to an end after December 2012?
Yes and No. It has to come to an end someday. Whether it happens next week or in the next billion years, I don’t know.

10. What are the things you would like to do before you die?
My bucket list? I prefer not making one so that I can go without regrets.

11. Your views on television soaps?
Don’t have one. Frankly.

Now, it seems I have to tag 11 people. Most people I personally know now have dormant blogs. And the others I follow are unlikely to come here and have a look. So, skipping that part too. Sorry. Like chain mails in my inbox, this ends here.

Mar 21, 2012


Post which has been brewing in my mind for quite some, no thanks to well-wishers who, um, wish too well...

This one's dedicated to the uncles and aunts
and their regular, unfailing, unbearable taunts
"you are getting old, it's time to get married"
This one repeated remark makes me harried,
my single status has become a ghost who haunts...

I have been telling them all time and again
"Bachelorhood's a pleasure, marriage a pain"
I am too used to doing just as I please,
and am not giving up my freedom with ease
my getting married will be nobody's gain...

I am short, fat, half-blind and am losing hair
And you say you can find my 'matching pair'?
It's like what Groucho Marx said about a club
"Any gal idiot enough to not give me the snub
is not a gal about whom I'd particularly care"

And even if I change my fickle mind
I have so many other axes to grind
Don't believe in this matching of stars
"Is she from Venus, am I from Mars?"
Been saying that like a tape on rewind!

The days when you avoid rice and have wheat
Is when I actually gorge on some tasty meat
I also help myself to a really 'neat' drink
The only thing I don't do is a leery wink
at chicks who dress down in this Bombay heat.

Plus I don't really care about how she looks
Am more interested in whether she reads books
So instead of bringing my mom a pic, remember
to just check whether she's a Crossword member
you know, different fish nibble on different hooks...

And I hope this is not too much to ask
Although I feel it'll not be an easy task
But if she can reward my PJs with laughter
even fake it, and we'll live happily ever after
after all, most married folks do wear a mask

Of course, the best would be you find a match
for my younger cousins, sorta like skip a batch
Some, actually all, of them are really very nice
Full of 'matrimonial virtues', with hardly any vice
Or what you old folks call "a really good catch"

PS: Now, when I think about it, I should have saved this post for next year's V-day rant. After all, even I can't keep coming up with stupid lamericks on demand!

Mar 15, 2012

How not to quit...

TODAY is my last day at Team India. After almost 16 years in the team — first as a debutant at Lord’s, then as captain for 2 years, and now as senior player — I believe I have been here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the spectator continue to be sidelined in the way the team operates and thinks about playing cricket. Team India is one of the world’s richest and most important cricket teams and it is too integral to international cricket to continue to act this way. The team has veered so far from the place I joined right out of domestic cricket that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Team India’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our public’s fandom for so many years. It wasn’t just about winning at all costs; this alone will not sustain a team for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the national team. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love playing for this team for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I mentored newcomers through our grueling selection process. I was selected as one of 11 people (out of a population of more than 1 billion) to play in our national team.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look newcomers in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Team India, they may reflect that the current BCCI chairman, and the captain, lost hold of the team’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the team’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of receiving the first ICC cricketer of the year award, captaining India to overseas victories in Pakistan, England and West Indies, and participating in the most number of century partnerships. I have always taken a lot of pride in playing the way I believe is in right, even if it means losing lucrative sponsorship. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Team India. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The team changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for BCCI (and are not currently an ex-ICL rebel) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Hit a few big “sixes,” which is cricket-speak for what commentators call the DLF Maximum. b) “Hunt Bowlers.” In English: get your opposition bowlers — some of whom are world-class, and some of whom aren’t — to rue their bad luck in bowling on flat tracks. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like executing a slog sweep over mid-wicket. c) Find yourself fielding at the boundary where you job is to raise a finger and spout four letter words.

Today, many of these ‘leaders’ display a Spirit of Cricket quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend team meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can save a Test. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off T20. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a Test match batting mindset was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about throwing their wickets. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different middle order batsmen refer to their own wickets only as “ambitious shots,” sometimes to the media. Even after the England whitewash and the Aussie floor-mopping! No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the boundary rope in and doctor flat pitches to ensure lucrative contracts to players even if they are not the capable of facing the short ball? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If your feet don’t move, they will eventually stop making runs. It doesn’t matter how well ‘hand-eye coordinated’ you are.

These days, the most common question I get from juniors about cricket is, “How much money did we make off endorsements?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior cricketer sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “cross batted slogs,” “DLF Maximums” and “getting laid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model cricketer.

When I was a debutant analyst I didn’t know who an endorsement manager was, or how to play the reverse sweep. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a forward defense shot was, understanding patience, getting to know our strengths and what motivates us, learning how to define success and what we could do to help ourselves get there.

My proudest moments in life — the impossible turnaround in Kolkata, the dogged fight in Adelaide, the delightful double century in Rawalpindi — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Team India today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of cricket control in India. Make Test cricket the focal point of your business again. Without Test cricket you will not have a game. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt T20s, no matter how much money they make for the board. And get the Spirit of Cricket culture right again, so people want to play for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this game — or the fandom of its spectators — for very much longer.

PS: Some people quit like that, making a lot of drama. Thankfully, our man was a class act. And he walked away with his head held high.