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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Magic of Monsoon

He stared out of the window and his eyes found no reason to brighten up. The uniform sheet of dark grey monsoon clouds was reverberating with thunder and bolts of lightning. There was no way that the rain was going to stop or the waterlogged street three floors below was going to clear up for the rest of the day.

His stomach ached with hunger pangs as it was already more than an hour past his regular lunch hour. He thought about dialling the Dominos pizza delivery and leaving it to their delivery boy to battle the rain, but, what about Rosy then?

Rosy was the shining light of his life for the last six months that he had spent in Delhi, nestled in a one room rented accommodation in Mukerji Nagar where he prepared for his IAS at a reputed institute. He met her on the third day of his arrival when searching for good quality food, he stumbled at this nice little eatery called ‘fresh food restaurant’.

She was there at the cash register, taking orders from the customers in front of her as well as from the incessantly ringing phone.

Incessantly ringing phone?

He just realized that his phone was actually ringing. It was the alarm for him to take his scheduled one hour nap. Weird as he was, he needed an alarm to make him sleep as he often lost count of time and the need for relaxation.

Coming back to Rosy, he saw her and her image got instantly embedded in his mind, heart, wherever. She was just not another girl. She was magic, the sunshine that you enjoy on a wintry freezing day, the cool breeze that you enjoy on a hot summer day, the lashing rain that you enjoy on the first day of the much awaited monsoon season and she was the much needed umbrella on such a rainy day when you need to go out for important tasks.

Coming back to rain and hunger, he realized that he had to make a move and now. What harm could seasonal rain do? Certainly not more harm than missing out on food and the once in a day interaction with Rosy. Over the course of last six months, he had found out almost everything that was known about her, but, the only thing he didn’t do was to tell her what he felt about her or for that matter even talk to her beyond the few words required to place the order. He had her cell number too and had added her on whatsapp, but, he never sent any message, never called, just admired and loved.

He put on his shoes, raincoat and rushed downstairs. He paused momentarily at the main gate, but, then resolutely waded the knee deep water to take the walk to his ‘date’ with Rosy. We must mention here that right on the street where he lived, there were at least half a dozen popular eateries, but, not Rosy’s.

10 minutes later he entered ‘Fresh Food restaurant’ and his eyes instantly looked towards the cash counter. 

No, Rosy wasn’t there. 

Crestfallen, he crawled up to the counter and ordered his food. Then he mustered the courage to ask the guy at the counter, ‘Hey why is Rosy not here today?’

‘Are you Rajan?’ came the reply.

He was stunned and after what seemed like an endless groping for an answer, he nodded in affirmative.

‘Rosy madam’s scooty was hit by a car this morning when she was coming here. She is in xyz hospital now.’ Came the reply.

‘What???No, it can’t be like that. What ward/bed number?’ he asked.

‘Bed number 420, Emergency ward’. The attendant replied.

He dashed out without collecting his food.

The hunger, the nap, the evening class, it was all forgotten. As he ran to the metro station, all he could think of was of Rosy’s face, her heartwarming smile, her intelligence, her hair, her fragrance and her touch (Yes, he had once brushed against her arm by chance while collecting a food packet).

He could hardly recall how he reached the hospital, but, he ran through the entry gate 1 and made a dash towards the Emergency ward.

There she was.

Standing right outside the building entrance, under a pink umbrella and she smelled/looked just as extraordinary as ever.

He stopped, smiled feebly and then hugged her tight.

‘Thank God, you are alright Rosy!’

‘Stop crying! I am sorry I had to do this my secret admirer. I had to know how much the foodwali meant to you beyond your favourite food’.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked sheepishly.

‘Do you think you will go around the town asking about me and I won’t get any clue for six months? I am not a dumb girl Mr. Rajan Pillai.’ She laughed.

He was dumbstruck. He didn’t know what was coming up and feared a severe reprimand from Rosy who according to all his sources was very severe with anybody daring to propose her.

‘Will you not speak up even now Rajan? I am still a traditional girl who doesn’t believe in saying I love you first.’ She blurted out and then blushed as she realized what she just said.

‘I love you Rosy! I love you a lot, but, its just that I was scared of upsetting you and losing out my…’

‘Losing out your food? Don’t worry, you get to eat the food and hopefully keep the girl too’ This time she hugged him.

As they walked together towards the parking where her scooty was, she remarked, 'They say Monsoon creates magic of Romance, well seems like it worked for us.’ 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Apples in the clouds!

To a born wanderer like me, a relaxing vacation means exploring new places, creating memories and of course to be as close to the nature as possible. Northern India has plenty of options to choose from when it comes to finding a cool, relaxed hill station to beat the summer heat. Last Monsoon season, I, along with some close friends embarked on one such weekend exploration to Himachal Pradesh and 'Narkanda' is what I discovered. It is a fabulous place situated amidst apple orchards, dense pine forests and a really pleasant climate at an altitude averaging around 9000 feet.

Getting to Narkanda is pretty easy and there are various options available depending on one's preferences. You can fly down to the Himachal Pradesh Capital Shimla and from there it is a scenic drive of about 65 kms to Narkanda or if you want to travel at your own pace, you can hit the road. That is the option that we took and we drove down from Delhi to Narkanda in about 11 hours with stoppages for meal breaks. You can also take a morning train from Delhi to Kalka and from thereon you can hop onto the toy train (a UNESCO heritage site now) to Shimla. From Shimla you can hire a taxi for Narkanda or if you want, you can take a bus too. This option is recommended only if you have plenty of time and patience as the toy train chugs at a pace of, well, a toy train :).

Road from Delhi to Shimla is in fairly good condition and the stretch after Kalka is where the hills start from. Driving becomes a bit slow after passing through Shimla, but, the beautiful scenery and the nice weather makes up for it. We left Delhi shortly before 5AM and took our early morning meal break at Murthal (about 50 kms from Delhi), a place that is really famous for its highway dhabas that serve delicious north Indian food. After replenishing our famished stomachs, we drove off on the National Highway 1. The drive was quite a breeze with the new Toll Plazas and flyovers that have come up and by 11 AM we were at Himachal Pradesh (Himalayan State) border. Rain clouds were getting ready to pour and despite being early July, the weather was pleasant enough.

After getting the vehicle refueled and a brief haggling (courtesy the local transport authority officials, who tried to fleece the driver on noticing that it was a tourist vehicle), we entered Himachal Pradesh via Kalka. Road became serpentine hereafter and with each turn the altitude as well as the surrounding hills started getting higher and picturesque. We stopped for a meal at a place on the NH 22 about half way between Kalka-Shimla. Looking down from the restaurant terrace, one could see the train track emerge out of a tunnel and after a brief glimpse disappear in a tunnel somewhere below the restaurant. For a while the weather was bright and sunny and after a half an hour break we decided to drive off and to stop only at the destination. Soon we drove past Shimla and guess what, we were not able to determine which road to take as the road directions were not exactly accurate. After asking several locals, we drove on a road as told to us, but, even after a drive of half an hour, we couldn't spot a landmark that was supposed to have been seen after about five minutes on that road. Oops we had taken the wrong turn again, and we drove back to the previous point (saving grace being the beautiful green surroundings which ensured that we enjoyed getting 'lost' in the hills.

Once we took the right road, it was not difficult to reach Narkanda, though; the drive seemed to take longer than expected due to the not so good road becoming a bit more difficult due to the rains. We reached Narkanda about half past three. The very first glance of the surroundings brought two words to mind, 'beautiful' and 'desolate'. We had booked ourselves into a resort called 'Tethys' which is a fairly nice place in the mid budget (3500 rupees a night) category. We opted for the rooms in the main resort building, but, there is also an option of staying in cottages which are built a little higher on the slope housing the resort, towards the far end of the lawns. Even though, there are many other accommodations available at Narkanda, this place had an advantage in terms of the location. The rooms provided breathtaking views of the lush green hills and the valley. Rooms were clean and very comfortable, though; the place fails to score much on the room service or staff quotient. Food was ok and served in buffet style in the dining area only and one could survive if he/she didn't have a problem with eating the same dishes on consecutive days. The location of the resort is such that it has no neighborhood, but, absolutely serene and secluded forests. A narrow dust path from the resort leads to the main road which in turn connects to the outside world. After dark, there is no activity or movement outside the Resort premises and lawns and the staff doesn't encourage any venturing out/late night walks. One should remember that this secluded location also means possible unavailability of items on request and any unscheduled request for food or snacks is unlikely to be fulfilled.

On the first evening, we enjoyed sitting around the bonfire in the lawns and chatting in the pleasantly cool and thankfully dry weather. We retired early that night as the tiredness of the long drive proved to be overwhelming. I woke up very early the next morning. Though it was just about 5 am, the visibility was pretty good and I went for a stroll outside the resort lawns. The sun was still some distance from shining down on the valley and the air was soothingly cool. Dried leaves and twigs were scattered on the serpentine dust track that took one a little down into the valley below. I almost squealed with delight when my sight fell upon the first apple tree, laden with green apples (In July the apples were still some distance away from ripening for sale). As I looked around, I realized that the entire track was flanked by apple trees all around. After breathing in the unpolluted mountain air for better part of an hour, I returned to the confines of the resort. Though, I am not an early riser by any angle, I never miss the sunrise views whenever I am in the hilly region and I must say that the feel of seeing the very first rays of the sun, peeking from behind some lush green hill are always a sight to behold. The sky changes colors rapidly and then like the shining diamond of a ring, the solar disc gradually becomes visible.

After a while the entire resort started warming up to the day and we had a fairly sumptuous breakfast which I must admit tasted better than the dinner the previous night. The day’s itinerary included going to Hatu peak and roaming around the area. We decided to hire a local vehicle instead of trying to drive up the hill. The vehicle chosen was a Mahindra pickup truck which afforded the option of standing in the open back and savoring the unhindered views as the vehicle negotiated hair raising bends. By the time we started our journey, rain clouds had enveloped the entire area and it was an extremely pleasant weather, though, it robbed us of any chance of seeing the snow capped peaks of upper Himalayas which as per the claims of various websites and the resort staff, are easily visible on clear weather days. During the drive uphill, I discovered the direct relationship between fear and singing and I must say that singing is a very potent reliever when you try to overcome your fears. The bottomless free fall options that greeted us at almost every 100 feet of the uphill drive were not exactly the ideal views for the faint hearted and some people in the group preferred sitting in the cabin which did provide some feel of safety. We saw some shepherds who were out grazing flocks of sheep and the narrow road uphill was flanked by flowering shrubs, cherry and apple orchards, lush green forest patches, not to mention the clouds floating around at and below the eye levels. It was simply an incredible experience and a memory to cherish.

Singing/praying/singing we reached the peak. The actual summit was some 100 feet above where the vehicles stopped and we ran helter-skelter towards the top as soon as we got out of the vehicle. I am sure the locals would have considered us to be some crazy lunatics let lose, but, being crazy was the real fun.

The view from the Hatu peak beat all that we had seen from the resort compounds or on the way to Narkanda. As far as the eyes could see, there were lush green hills, clouds floating in the valleys below and dark grey rainclouds forming a constantly leaking canopy above us. The slopes were covered with wild flowers, pine, spruce fur and some other kind of trees. One could witness the ‘echo’ effect which is always so much fun to do in the mountains. No wonder one can live without cell phone signals as all you need to do is to yell out and the receiver would hear every word even half a mile away :P. There is an ancient Hatu Mata temple on the peak and it has quite a following among the local population (In my opinion all the accessible peaks in Himachal are topped by a temple anyhow as I find the hill people to be quite superstitious and God fearing. It also gives a mystery and story feel to the places and might be instrumental in getting more tourist traffic). People were queuing up, seeking blessings for various reasons, getting their new vehicles, children or cattle blessed or to seek curing of physical ailments, personal issues and also to seek protection from the Goddess. The old temple was a very small one built of stone, but, there was a new elaborate and quite ornate wooden structure under construction (must be operational by now as it neared completion). The wooden carvings on the upcoming temple’s pillars seemed to be a perfect mix between the lion and the Chinese dragon. We were shocked to know that the practice of animal sacrifice was common there and we refused despite the pundits asking us if we wanted to offer a sacrifice to the Goddess. We just prayed, sought blessings for us and for the animals and after spending sometime frolicking around, decided to drive down for lunch. It was pouring quite steadily and the path on our way downhill was covered in thick fog at most stretches and I must say that it was really a correct decision on our part to rely upon the local driver for this trip because the driver was absolutely aware of the track. He comfortably drove through what seemed to be a curtain at many points. We had lunch at an outlet in the Narkanda market and though the food wasn’t anything to feel great about, there were no worthy options either.

Later in the day, we went to another local ‘landmark’ as suggested by the driver, but, it turned out to be just a shallow artificial pond built on a flat clearing amidst the thickly wooded area. The setting was quite picturesque and the rain which was quite heavy by now, added a chill to the air. It was all extremely peaceful and an ideal setting for young couples/honeymooners. By the time we left this place, the rain and fog rendered it impossible to expect any further excursions. Back to the resort, we spent the remainder of the day savoring the sights from the premises, chatting up and interacting with the staff and other tourists. There is a snooker table and a small library to help kill the time while being holed up inside the premises. Around dusk the weather cleared and we were able to see some splendid light play on the hilltops surrounding us. We took a walk towards the apple orchards and had fun plucking some apples from the trees. The dust track was very slushy and difficult to tread upon, thus the darkness forced us to curtail any further walks and return to the safe indoors. We were scheduled to leave early next morning so this in effect brought to an end, our exploration of this magnificent and easily accessible place.

Overall, Narkanda comes across as a place where you can simply laze around throughout the day, enjoying the views, romance and the pleasant weather. There are no tourist crowds, no vehicular sounds, just dense green forests surrounding you. If you are a romantic couple, a writer or a poet, you would never get tired of this place. It is said that this area receives heavy snowfall in the winter (a fact that I hope to verify in the coming winter season :)).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pre-success days!

Yes, there is a prequel to success and that often comes in the form of failure, despair and defeat. Unless you are born with a silver spoon, you will have to endure these prequels to write a great success story. Make no mistake, no inventor succeeds in creating the perfect appartus in the first attempt, no baby walks in the first attempt and often no athlete wins the top honors in the first attempt.

In fact, the probability is way too high for tremendous failures, unbearable set backs and great testing times for your faith in the supreme power, in the principle of justice and above all, in your own capabilities. The challenges are so tough, the setbacks often so severe that the strongest of the strong creatures roll like nine pins. However, it is not only the might of the adversary and the extent of difficulties that sets a person back, but, also giving up, getting distracted are the main follies.

The world, though, it looks extremely complex, in reality runs on very simple and balanced principles. We all read the proverbs like "As you sow, so shall you reap". What does that mean? A simplest explanation would tell you that it means "you will achieve results as per your actions." Then there is another proverb "You will lose, if you lose heart and you will win if your heart wants to win" and also the one quotation that Shah Rukh Khan famously used in his film "If you want something with all your sincerity, the entire universe conspires to bring it to you". These are not just statements/proverbs, but, the very fundamental principles of life.

Science has already proven that the entire world is made up of nothing, but, energy. There are positive particles and negative particles and in the same way the human mind emits positive vibes/energy and negative vibes/energy. You stay positive and calm in adverse situations and release positive energy, you will get positive results and if your stance is negative, vibes are negative then you will get negative results.

There is never a story that will achieve the true greatness unless it is created out of failure. There is never a success that will taste sweeter and more ecstatic than the one that is achieved after having endured pain and failure. A billionaire makes another billion, so what? Isn't that the normal course? A person from the street rises to make a billion. Now that's some success story and we all would want to know how he did it.

Therefore, if I see defeat today, if I am insulted today, if I am broke today, if I am injured today, all I need to do is to take stock of the situation, recollect myself and work towards my goal while carefully avoiding the past mistakes. I might be badly hurt, really broke, savagely shattered and it might take me one month to do what a normal person did in one day, but, the point is that I will do it. Once I do the initial toughest part, the next one will be slightly easier and thereafter, things will keep smoothening themselves with every new endeavor.

In this quest, whether in the moment of winning celebrations, while enjoying the grandeur of power and wealth or while enduring the harshest defeats, pain and despair, never lose touch with your human side. Earn as may blessings as you can, bring smiles on as many faces as you can, be thankful to the Lord as many times as you can be, help as many people as you can because it will all come back to benefit you.

Today's nobody can be tomorrow's superstar and though, nobody might listen to you, nobody might even read my blog, history is in the making and maybe there will be a day, not too far in the distant future when your words will be golden quotes and this blog might be a sought after message. Belive in yourself and take good care of yourself. God bless everyone and me!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The inseparable enemies!

My dear friends, before I express my sentiments and thoughts on the subject of India-Pakistan relations, I would request you all to read this piece in a neutral light. For once, don't read it from the "Pakistanis are traitors" or "Indians are evil" point of view. Thereafter, your valuable comments (in a civil parlance) will add great value to my blog.

Enemies we are, we have fought four direct wars with each other in a short span of 60 odd years and for the last two decades an indirect war is being faced by us. At the same time, inseparable we remain and why not. What's their to differentiate between us apart from the forced symbols and seeds of hatred imposed by a few scheming men in the last 65 years or so. I say 65 because the real gameplan begun sometime towards the end of the World war. We are the same race, we speak the same language and of course, we react the same way. When I say we, I mean 'we' the ordinary citizens and not our rulers and elites. With the heavy damage suffered by the British and in lieu of the promise that they had made to the Indian National Congress, it was quite evident that the Britons would leave India for good. There were a million opportunists and headed by factions, each of which thought that they were the best option to rule the nation. Ambition can often cloud wisdom and honesty. That's exactly what happened. There was the popular Hindu leader backed by the Father of the nation and then there was the Muslim leader. Both sauve and sophisticated ideologists, believing in their own right to run the nation.

The nation was a Hindu majority country and the Muslim leader realized he won't overcome the other. The only way was to wait for the second turn, but, then he probably knew his life won't afford him that much time so it had to be then and there. Well, he got his chance by becoming the premier of an exclusive Muslim nation, the land of clean hearted people. At the head of the nation lied the largest state, the paradise and the cynosure of all eyes. They were not affiliated to the secular country, nor to the Muslim nation. One saw its chance and attacked the weaker state, the other dragged itself into an eternal conflict by getting involved in the war and getting senselessly manouevered by the politicians. Kashmir is beautiful, divine and all. By design of war, infiltration or whatever, at present both the nations control almost half each. What has an average Pakistani earned from their part of Kashmir. The answer is huge bills for their army, terrorist camps and anarchy in the rest of the state. What has an average Indian earned from Kashmir? The answer is huge bills for the army, a spate of terrorism, four wars and a never ending hatred.

How may of the 1.2 billion Indians have been to Kashmir and how may of the 17 crore odd Pakistanis have been there? How will it destroy the prosperity or the peace of an average household in either of the countries if we accept whatever we have as our share and spend all this money on bettering our mainlands, if we end this hatred and start beneficial and real well meaning cooperation? No it will not hurt, it will go a long way in ensuring prosperity, but, it will very well render our mutual enemies toothless, it will negate the impact that weapons have on our psyche. Rest assured they will not let such a truce happen because the truth remains that they enjoy the status of enemies. They don't cry when people get blown to smithreens in Peshawar, they don't care when hundreds die without food in Orissa. They would be alarmed when peace initiatives take place and then only.

Foreigners have always understood this mental and emotional weakness of ours and exploited it to the hilt. Britishers did it for over two centuries, USA for another half a century and now China is there to encourage this divide in a bid to maintain its supremacy. Vested interests in both the countries will keep playing ball to the evil designs due to the luxuries and power that they get by being a part of this game. Another great tool that the war mongers have now found is the media. The media is all pervasive and omni present. At the same time, it is a human tool and is prone to misuse by power, pay or pressure. The media's business is not to showcase the calm routines and the real issues, but, to find out the spice, the potential flare ups and to optimize their visibility. Same is the deed of the politicians. They won't solve the real issues, but, they will focus on issues created by them. One faction will call the other corrupt and when faced with corruption in its own ranks will call it trivial and fake.

Is there a single sane person in both the countries who doesn't know the truth? Who doesn't know that there is absolutely no rule, no fairness and no desire to face the truth among our leaderships. Every single tool of governance has become corrupt! No political establishment, public figure can stay detached from the rhetoric. Directly or indirectly, everyone has to support some kind of dislike. It is true that we have issues and we are very much emotionally attached to these issues. I won't ever say "Give our part of Kashmir to Pakistan" and I am even more confident that a Pakistani won't say "Give our part of Kashmir to India.". However, what's the benefit in destroying our lives for something that we have never ever had?

Last, but, not the least if anybody ever believes this false notion of 'Kashmir being a key to peace between the two nations', there won't be a bigger moron than that. It is just a figure head of a dispute, cleverly chosen keeping in mind the ease with which this issue can be milked and the difficulties that will be faced in solving it. Even if for one instance Pakistan gets the Indian part of Kashmir, will it be at peace? Will the Talibanis disappear? Will their political leaders shed their corrupt ways of life? Will their army stop calling India as the long term enemy? The answer is 'NO'. If this happens then all these people will go out of business and that they won't tolerate. They would ensure that the Kashmir issue is not resolved despite making noises about willing to solve it.

The only way that peace can come to the region and we all can roam freely without worrying about evil, about a suicide bomber or a time bomb ticking somewhere, is to understand the reality and to solve the real issues rather than chasing the farcical 'K' word. First let us become capable of effectively handling what we already have and providing good lives to our huge populations, rather than worrying about what is lying in the other's plate. The above mentioned factions will not let that happen, but, there must be enough sane powers to work for it. The real public needs to alienate itself from the hardliners, the terrorists and join hands. If the masses on both sides refuse to accept/support hate campaigns, farcical issues and take a vow to work together to improve the countries, support peace and to see the reality, then only the fires burning in the sub continent extinguish. If we look for fuel, there is never going to be a lack of it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Freedom at last!

‘It has to be now because this miserable life can’t go on any further and I need to be free from these shackles, this despair and the constant defeats’, thinking these thoughts, Rajat stepped onto the parapet of the 23 storied residential building, pausing for what appeared to be an eternity he looked at the vast cityscape visible to him comprising of the milling crowds, the endless rows of traffic, the swaying trees and the pouring clouds and as he stepped forward to feel the hollowness of thin air under his feet, his heart ached for the life, for the one chance to redeem himself, though, the longing came to halt with a flash followed by darkness as he felt his head hit an air conditioner that was sticking out of a window several floors below.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The battle of Tasmanic proportions

Even if the gap between the cricketing might of the two Tasman neighbors is more pronounced than the sea separating them, their matches are never short of great performances. When one talks of a stage as grand as the World Cup, there is going to be no shortage of adrenaline pumping displays. Australia is the reigning world champions and has ruthlessly run through the last three world cups without much trouble. In fact, they didn’t even lose a game in the last two. On preview table, the Kiwis don’t stand a chance against the might of the Australians, but, they are a dangerous side nonetheless.

They can spring up a few surprises and they certainly don’t have a dearth of experience. Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Daniel Vettori and Brendon Mccullum are vastly experienced and capable performers. James Franklin has risen to become one of the best all rounders of present day and Tim Southee is also improving fast. The way they annihilated the Kenyans in their WC opener, shows that they are ready to give a close fight to anyone. On the other hand the Australians struggled in the warm up games as well as their WC opener against Zimbabwe. They have the finest bowling attack of this tournament and that should be some solace for Ponting’s men. Ricky himself is looking to finish his WC career by lifting the trophy third straight time as a captain. He is a big match player and has the experience of playing in four successive World Cup finals, a feat that no other current player in the history of the game has managed.

Even when many of the cricket pundits have written them off and are not giving much value to the Aussie might, the Castrol performance index says exactly what I had in mind. Ricky Ponting has a current form of 94% and his strike rate is an impressive 91+. Their flavor of the recent times Shane Watson has an incredible 125% current form and he along with Brad Haddin has been giving some brilliant starts to Australia’s ODI games. Down the order they have in form big hitters like David Hussey and Cameron White and Michael Clarke in the middle order is another tremendous batsman with current form of 133%. The interesting trivia factor is that Clarke, who is tipped to be the next Australian captain, will be celebrating his 30th birthday on the 2nd April which also happens to be the day the WC Final match is scheduled for. I am sure Clarke will be eyeing the trophy as a birthday present for himself.

As a team also the Australians clearly outplay the Kiwis on the Performance Index with the Kiwis having only 163 points compared to the 182 point tally of the Australians. Therefore, as per my prediction, this game is slated to go Australia’s way and the Kiwis need to come up with something extraordinary to prove otherwise.

Till my next Castrol Index powered analysis, enjoy the cricket..

(Castrol Performance Index is provided by Visit to get detailed stats, performance indexes of teams as well as individual players and a host of other cricket related information.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vintage Dhoni warms India up for the World Cup

India steam rolled the Kiwis in their final warm up game and strode into the World Cup on a confident note. The superb batting display and the ease with which the Indian team wrapped up the New Zealand chase, must have pleased their supporters immensely.

However, the performance still needs to be evaluated and analyzed. Incredible as it was, still, it wasn’t faultless because no matter what you do, there is always a scope for improvement. This holds true for the mighty Indian team too.

The most heartening aspect of today's batting display was the stroke play of MSD on his adapted home ground of CSK. He was truly at his vintage best and I haven't seen this kind of big hitting from the man ever since he donned the captain's role. This was just a warm up game, but, it gives great satisfaction to know that big hitting is not a 'lost art' for the Captain Cool.

To a great extent, I felt vindicated by the performance of our batsmen and the end result. In a recent discussion where people were talking about Sachin, Gautam and the flavor of the season aka Virat Kohli, I emphasized that this trio is extremely important, but, they don’t hold the key to India’s World Cup win. Now this statement of mine might raise a few eyebrows just as it did that time, but, it is not completely out of context. Indian batting line up traditionally consists of seven batsmen and four bowlers, two of which would be capable of hanging around and hitting a few runs. It has been the same composition since the 1999 WC because we have never had a genuine all-rounder in the team ever since Kapil, Prabhakar etc retired from international cricket.

Sachin Tendulkar is a man who needs no recommendation for his batting. He is so skillful and experienced that he can conjure up a century even when he is not in form, by merely nudging and placing the ball around and finding the odd gaps. His commitment to the game is beyond any questioning and this being his last world cup tournament, there is going to be no lack of hunger in the little master. Gautam Gambhir, though, not as experienced or innovative as the maestro, is still a very confident and in form batsman. Just like Sachin, he also has a very good command over rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking. The youngest of them all, Virat Kohli is a very confident and consistent player. He has decent technique, great commitment and in the last one year, he has been the most prolific scorer for the team India, often coming up with back to back meaningful knocks. His performances in the warm up games indicate that he is ready to set the World Cup stage on fire. Therefore, my point is that these three guys will succeed more or less on most occasions because they can manipulate and rotate the strike even if they are not at their hitting best.

The difference to India’s batting performance will be made by the other four, i.e., Sehwag, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Raina/Pathan. All these guys are the sort of players, each of whom can make the bowlers feel like retiring when on song. Sehwag is expected to give a blistering start at the top and the others are highly destructive finishers. Therefore, the roles of Sachin, Gambhir and Virat will be more as sheet anchors who will try and see that the innings doesn’t crumble, but, the difference between 250 to 350 will have to be created by the other four. The Indian spinners are on song and on the home pitches they will always do well, but, the pace attack is dull. Zaheer is the only bowler who can be expected to do well and the others merely play the role of getting the shine off the ball for the spinners. In the two warm up games, the seamers failed to have any impact on the rival teams and it was only the spin attack that won the games. Even against a relatively weaker Kiwi side, the opening bowlers gave 70 runs in first ten overs without taking a wicket. We need a cushion for the inept bowling and a score of less than 300 will give each of our rivals a good chance of chasing it down and if we are set to chase then we should be looking forward to chasing around that much on most days.

That’s where the form and consistency of these four big hitters will make all the differenceand that was exactly the point manifested today. Though Sachin failed to get going, Virat and Gambhir contributed handsomely and two out of the three succeeding is a fair ratio. Still, India would have hardly gone upto 300 if Dhoni and Raina had failed because with Sehwag’s failure the blistering start factor was gone. They both did tremendously well and made huge difference to the end total, taking it to 360 which was way higher than the anticipated near 300 total. Pathan didn’t get much to do today, but, he had a good cameo against the Aussies. If India has to win the World Cup then this kind of performance where four-five out of the seven come up with good scores and at least one of them scoring a century, has to become a routine rather than an exception. Sachin, Virat and Gautam can set a game up, but, in my opinion the victory shall be achieved by the performances of Sehwag, Dhoni, Raina/Yuvraj/Pathan. They have got to be the Castrol match winners of the day more often than not.

Good luck to the men in blue!