Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Namesake

When I read 'The Namesake' by Jhumpa Lahiri a while ago, I was very impressed. She had unerringly captured the emotional turbulence and a sense of not belonging anywhere that millions of immigrants go through. I even placed this book above her Pulitzer prize winning 'Intepreter of Maladies'. However, when I heard that Mira Nair was planning to make a movie out of this, I was a bit skeptical. This was the sort of ficiton that does not lend itself easily to a movie screenplay. There is no plot or twist. No definite start or end. And infact, no moral or message. It was with a sense of curiosity that I went to watch The Namesake this weekend with my wife and a bunch of friends.

And what I saw was beyond all my expectations. To say Mira Nair has done justice to the book is an understatement. She has brought the book to the masses without losing the nuances and the subtle touches that Jhumpa Lahiri excels in - be it Ashima asking Ashoke "Do you want me to say I love you?" or Gogol's naani asking her servant to follow him when he goes jogging in the dilapidated streets of Calcutta.

The next 2 paragraphs might contain some spoilers.

The cast is probably the biggest strength of this movie. Irrfan as Ashoke and Tabu as Ashima have given incredible performances. Infact, Tabu has completely stolen the show from Kal Pen who plays Gogol. My favorite scene in the movie was when Tabu hears about her husband's death on the phone. Her initial reaction is that this has to be a mistake. Soon, she's slowly plunged into darkness and dispair and tries to fix this by turning on all the lights in the house. Her thumb starts twitching uncontrollably, but tears fail her. You sense the feeling of claustrophobia that slowly creeps up on her as she runs out of the garage and lets out a heart-rending scream. Later, her transition from being a meek clueless Indian housewife to being a strong maternal presence is shown beautifully. I can't imagine anyone other than Tabu handling this role.

Irrfan and Kal Penn are not too far behind. One of the most poignant moments in the book is the scene where Ashoke explains to Gogol the significance of his name. This has again been captured wonderfully well in the movie, with both actors underplaying the scene with subtle expressions and body language. You can feel a special bond being established between father and son in that particular moment. Gogol struggles his whole life with his name, something that Jhumpa apparently went through as well. Also, his attempts to make sense of his Indian parents and upbringing and balancing it with his American lifestyle have been shown much more realistically and starkly than the usual ABCD flicks we come across.

The photography and editing is very good. Calcutta has been shown as the run down and dirty city it was in the seventies and eighties, while they have thankfully not glorified NewYork too much like other movies based in the city. People who've already read the book will notice that the switch to NY from Boston has been made, probably because NY brings out the All-American flavor in movies better. The family's trip to Taj Mahal, where Gogol finally decides he wants to be an architect, is remarkable for the breathtaking angles in which the camera has captured the Taj.

One of the toughest things to do when translating such an epic book (that spans multiple generations) into a movies is to figure out which moments to dwell on and what pages to cut. Here again, Mira Nair shows her touch. So, we never see Pierre in the movie. The 'affair' is shown through a note written on a book, a phone call in French and ultimately a chance showdown between husband and wife. However, there was one thing I found lacking. A big part of Gogol's childhood were the house parties, fraternizing with other Bengali families and feeling that he did not belong in this setting. He was a very lonely child growing up. This has not been brought out very well in the movie, even though they do show their Bengali parties with their fried samosas and drunken uncles.

The bottomline is that this is a very well-made movie with a great cast, sensitive direction and a very real story that a lot of people can recognize themselves with. A few of my friends had never read the book, and they ended up really enjoying the movie as well. So I guess reading the book is not really a pre-requisite to viewing this movie, although it did help me understand the subtleties of each scene better. Ultimately, the movie - just like the book - leaves you with a feeling of emptiness as well as a ray of hope about the future. It does not preach. But it does tell you the importance of understanding your past and that its never late to make a fresh start. As the movie ended and the audience started filing out the theater, there was complete silence, something you don't associate with an Indian audience (although there were quite a few foreigners). Each of them appeared to be drowned in his/her own thoughts. Its the kind of movie that leaves its mark on you whether you like it or not. As for me, I was ready to go home and call my parents in India.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Picking up the pieces

Now that India's 2007 WC campnaign is over, its time to pick up the pieces and move on with the rest of our mundane lives. But not before I put my cricketing acumen and expertise to use to figure out what really went so drastically wrong for India. Since I had predicted a semifinal spot for India, let me first take a minute to eat my words.


Let's get on with our analysis, shall we?

What went wrong?

Fitness and fielding:
Everyone knows India had one of the weakest fielding outfits in the cup. The other one was Pakistan. Do you think its a coincidence that these two were the first to get eliminated from the tournament? Ofcourse not. There are no coincidences. An example: India has just reduced Srilanka to a precarious 120 odd for four wickets. Two new players are at the crease. And what does Silva do? He keeps hitting the balls straight to the fielders and sneaking singles and doubles. Zaheer tries a quite simple one-handed pickup at the boundary, and falls flat on his face and gives away valuable runs. Munaf Patel stops the ball and sits down near the boundary, slowly gets up and finally releases the ball. There must've been enough time to run five runs. The only guy attacking the ball and inducing some fear in the batsmen is Yuvraj Singh. If we had gotten one more wicket at this stage, we could've reduced SL to within 220. Instead, we end up chasing 255. Robin Uthappa, who used to very fast on the field, has visibly put on a few tires around the midriff. And please do not give India's age as an example. Jayasuriya and Muralithyaran were scorching the turf.

Seniors and superstars:
What's the advantage of picking up seniors over talented newbies? Everyone says its the 'experience'. So what do our mucho experienced seniors do? Saurav ends up handing his wicket on a platter when he should've stuck it out and let Sehwag get on with the job. Sachin awkwardly puts one leg out and inside edges as he has done on numerous occasions. Shouldn't he be learning from his mistakes? Sehwag, who was playing so well, tries to run it down third man when there is a slip in place. The 'best batting lineup on paper' has become a sarcastic tagline. It says we're only good on paper, and hardly ever on the field. Yes, we have people with tens of thousands of runs. Bullies on easy pitches against crappy teams in meaningless matches. But what happens when we face the music in a must-win situation against quality opposition in the only tournament that counts? We come unstuck. Its time to look beyond our overpaid superstars and back some youngsters, if we can actually find some!

Opening conundrum:
Saurav and Sachin. Sachin and Sehwag. Sehwag and Uthappa. Saurav and Sehwag. Saurav and Uthappa. Are you kidding me? This reads like a game of musical chairs! Every other team has had a settled opening pair for atleast a year. India comes in not knowing which pair we're gonna use any given day. Does it ever occur to Chappell or Dravid that there has to be some chemistry and understanding between openers? This was the world cup and we were trying out new combinations here like this were some kind of gully cricket. And invariably, we lost 3-4 wickets within the first 15 overs.

Harbhajan and the fifth bowler:
In ODI these days, you need 5 bowlers or atleast 4 bowlers and an all-rounder. We had 3 bowlers, 1 non-performer in Harbhajan and a bunch of undependable tweakers. One of the reasons for India's phenomenal form and unbeaten run a couple of years ago was the rise of Irfan Pathan as an allrounder of substance. I know he's not been in form recently. But if you brought him all the way to the WC, shouldn't he get to play atleast against Bangladesh? And he would've definitely scored more runs than Uthappa because he has a more mature head on this shoulders. Harbhajan continued his completely unimaginative bowling and predictable doosras. You only have to see Murali in action to figure out how effective a spinner can be. We need to unearth a few allrounders or hope Pathan gets back to his old form. I envy other teams that have Jacob Oram, Andrew Symonds or Jayasuriya.

Where's the fighting spirit?
Everytime we hail the arrival of the fearless 'new' generation, we are soon proved very wrong as they inevitably fail in pressure situations like their senior colleagues. Wasn't Dhoni supposed to have nerves of steal? Wasn't Yuvraj supposed to be India's answer to Michael Bevan and finish off games on his own? Everyone has a temporary lose of form or an occasional rush of stupidity. But one thing that has always been predictable about India is that we will fail in pressure situations. The bigger the game the harder we fall. As a race, are we a bunch of pussies? Is there something in their upbringing that makes the Aussies mentally tougher than us? Is it the way our domestic cricket is organized, encouraging a lot of meaningless games and bullies? Is it the pressure exerted on these youngsters by the constant media attention, corporate sponsors and insane expectations from billions of cricket fanatics? How do we incorporate mental toughness in our next generation of cricketers? I don't have an answer, but this needs to be address by people who know better.

Where do we go from here?

Youngsters and bench strength:
Its time to go back to building a team for the future. Bring back the Rainas, encourage the Karthicks and keep faith in the Pathans. Its time to bid farewells to the Agarkars. What happened to D. Balaji and Nehra? Another thing we tend to do is pick out brilliant talent from the under-19 squad and drop them into the high-pressure world of international cricket and hope they succeed. Most of these youngsters haven't even had a chance to play domestic cricket, finetune their techniques and gauge how good they really are in pressure situations. So time and again, we see them start off well before the other teams work out how to handle them. After that, they get dropped and go back to obscurity. Pathan and Raina were excellent examples. Not everyone is a Kapil Dev who can soak up pressure as 17 year olds. And let's face it. There's a lot more pressure, media exposure and money now than there was during Kapil's days. Its time to start the rebuilding process, improve bench strength, rotate players and keep faith in them. Also, we should be giving chances to the not-so-young who have ground it out in domestic games and preformed consistently for years. They invariably have more mental strength and value the opportunity more. Remember Robin Singh? He was one of the toughest players we've ever had.

Back to the basics:
As redundant and cliched it sounds, we just have to go back to the basics. Chappell and Dravid kept talking about 'processes', but when it came to the crunch they panicked and just went back to the old Indian ways. How many long-term prospects have we really discovered since WC 2003? The only ones I can think of are an injury-prone Munaf and unfortunate Karthick (since he'll always play second fiddle to Dhoni) and a clueless Pathan. Sreesanth had potential, but is still raw and leaks runs. But we should give him his chances. As the WC backlash continues, inevitably, heads will roll. I hope the board, selectors, coach, captain and senior players sit together and talk about what is good for Indian cricket, rather thn what will satiate disappointed and blood-hungry public. How do we ease out senior players and bring in new ones? Saurav will probably quit. But I think Sachin and Dravid still have a lot to offer. Sachin's role has to be redefined. And he should make his 'experience' count instead of being a liability to the team when questions are asked in pressure situations. We need to rotate our bowlers. Munaf must be told to improve his fielding or leave. Its probably time for Agarkar to slip away as well. Zaheer should not go back to the old complacent ways.

Improve domestic cricket:
This is probably the only long-term solution. Reduce the number of teams, and make every match count. Look at how 7-8 teams fight for the Sheffield shield in Australia. Improve the pitches and make them sporting, instead of batsmen with mediocre talents bullying around the bowlers. Reward good performances in domestic cricket with money, sponsorship and a place in the national team. We hear complaints all the time that its extremely hard for a domestic player to get into the national team after 25 or 26, as the selectors are increasingly relying on the under-19 players. Keep an open mind. Who knows when we'll discover a 31-year old Michael Hussey?

Ofcourse, we can go on and on. But we all know that none of this is ever going to happen. We'll muddle and flounder. We'll discuss endlessly. We'll develop a roadmap. But close to WC 2011, we'll panic, there will be calls to stop 'experimenting' and go with experience. We'll throw out all our 'processes' and bring back past 'stars'! There will be more burning of effigies and destruction of players' houses. Australia will keep winning, Srilanka will be the top team in the subcontinent and Bangladesh will emerge a cricketing force to reckon with like SL did in the eighties and nineties. The agony of being an Indian cricket fan! I just wish I could give up cricket and take up American football/baseball/basketball like all my desi-turned-American friends. Sigh!

Friday, March 16, 2007

WC quickie 3 - 6 X 6 = massacre

The setting: Dan van Bunge (Netherlands) bowling his fourth over to Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa) in a world cup league match.

Van Bunge (to himself): If only I could get this Gibbs bugger out, I'll be in for world cup glory. I could go to the RLD in Amsterdam and get any girl for free. Let me try temmpting him down the track.

29.1 van Bunge to Gibbs, SIX, Violence! Gibbs charged down the track and hoicked it over long on.

Van Bunge (to himself): The shitfaced wanker! No worries. One six does not make a bad over. He'll be full of overconfidence now. Let me float something up, get him to hit on the up and someone will surely catch him.

29.2 van Bunge to Gibbs, SIX, Murder! Floated on the leg and middle stump line and Gibbs sends it soaring over long-off.

Van Bunge (now a little distraught): Okay, this over is not really going according to plan. Can't really flight on these goddamned small Caribbean grounds. I'll just bowl 'em flat and leave the rest to God.

29.3 van Bunge to Gibbs, SIX, Carnage! Flatter one this time but it makes no difference to Gibbs. He just stands there and delivers. This one also has been sucked over long off

Van Bunge (now shit scared): What the f$@#!!! This guy is crazy. Oh shit! What am I gonna say to all those people whole garlanded me and sent me off at the Amsterdam railway station. Everyone from the town cobbler to the carpenter is gonna spit on me. I just hope I can keep it quiet for the rest of the over. I hope I don't screw it up by bowling a low full toss or some similarly awful delivery. God help me!

29.4 van Bunge to Gibbs, SIX, Wah Wah! Low full toss and guess where this went Yep. A slap slog and it went over deep midwicket! He is going to go for 6 sixes in this over!

Van Bunge (on the verge of a nervous breakdown): You gotta be kiddin' me. I've lost my reputation, probably my job and I'm quite sure my wife has left me by now. I wish I had brought a white hankerchief I could wave at him. I wish I could just sit down and cry. I don't want to do this. I don't belong here!

29.5 van Bunge to Gibbs, SIX, Short in length, on the off stump line and Gibbs rocks back and swat-pulls it over wide long off. Simply amazing. What a batsman. This is pure violence!

Van Bunge (past the point of no return): Jesus! I hope no one noticed that I've peed a bit in my pants. Not my fault really! Noone told me this was possible when I took up cricket as a midlife crisis. I've got myself into one deep shit. How do I explain this to my 2 sons who were looking up to me proudly? When the divorce judge sees replays of this over, I'm not even going to get weekend custody. If there is a God, this would be a good time to intervene. I'm just going to bowl this one wide and I hope Gibbs lets it go.

29.6 van Bunge to Gibbs, SIX, He has done it! One-day record. No one has hit six sixes in a row. GIbbs stands alone in that zone. And the minnow bashing continues! Full and outside off and bludgeoned over deep midwicket

Van Bunge (to himself): Oh well! Atleast I have that 'weed' in my hotel room. Let me get high and kill myself! This is a cruel cruel world.

PS: Yes, this really happened today!

PPS: Given Gibb's altercations with bookies and match-fixers, has anyone looked into the bookie market to see if a big bet had been laid on someone scoring six sixers in this game? Just a thought.

Updated with video below. Enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Wedding - Ceremony

After the energy and the euphoria of the cocktail party, the actual wedding ceremony had a hard act to follow. But the toned down affair was probably a welcome change from the partying the previous day. Big W had rightly planned the wedding the next evening. Although other reasons were cited, I have no doubt that this was meant to give all the party-goers some time to recover from their hangovers and get into shape to wish the happy couple during the most important part of the celebrations. An early morning affair - like most South Indian weddings - would certainly have found the wedding hall near empty, the bride's father a little disoriented and the bride groom most certainly missing.

I got up the day of the wedding with severe stomach cramps. Whether it was due to the amount of alcohol consumption or the spicy food in the chaat stall, or as my uncle (who incidentally is a doctor) put it "its just wedding day anxiety" is up to conjucture. However, as I joined the rest of my family at the breakfast table that day, it was with some serious pain, a tinge of self-pity and a bucketload of advice from everyone who was anyone. I probably took 15 pills ranging in color from green to purple, swallowed a few pounds of ayurvedic medicine and worked on a few more strips of pills provided by my previously-mentioned Doctor chithappa.

Big W had scheduled one last lunch for the families to socialize before the evening's wedding. I wore my Kurta Pajama and headed out to the place mentioned in the printout (The 'printout ' was an ode to Big W's organizational skills. It had the schedule, place, timings etc for the entire 3 days and there was a copy in each of the hotel rooms we occupied). I was finally wearing an Indian outfit, and as many kind observers mentioned, was apparently finally looking like a "maapillai" (bridegroom). The lunch was at a classy Gujarati restaurant that was brightly lit and had a tasteful traditional decor. My table was occupied by Ram, Gokul, ET, SP and my brother Chandru. Kunal, my would-be brother-in-law took up the other spot. Being a Gujarati, he gave us the nitty gritty on each of the Gujju dishes that were being served on the thali and the assortment of cups on it. We were very grateful to him for this. My stomach cramps came in waves, every 5 minutes or so. But that did not stop me from cleaning up the plate and washing it down with glasses of buttermilk in the intervening periods. There were tentative plans of going shopping with my friends after lunch, but I was still tired out from lack of sleep and my physical ailment. I decided to save my energy for the evening's ceremony and prompty went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow in my hotel room.

Evening came and I got up refreshed and feeling much better. I had a quick shower and got into my ornamental Sherwani. Suffice it to say that I was the cynosure of all eyes. Okay, okay, I might be exaggerating a bit here. A sleek black skoda decked up with flowers was waiting to take me to the wedding hall. As I entered, my mother-in-law came to take my aarthi. For some reason she asked me to look up and managed to pull my nose before I even realized it. This was the start of numerous funny customsand rituals that evening. Then, W came out, incredibly beautiful and decked in a breath-taking designer-made 'Lehenga Choli' that probably had a million hand-made decorations every square inch. The combination of jewellery, assortment of bangles and mehendi all combined to make her costume very rich. In short, she was a sight to behold. As she garlanded me and welcomed me into the wedding hall, I couldn't help thinking that I had to be the luckiest guy on the planet. The aunties had somehow managed to outdo their cocktail party costumes from the previous day. There was an eye-popping amount of jewellery on display, probably close to the GDP of a small country in Africa.

For those who are unfamiliar with north indian wedding ceremonies, there is an incredibly funny and totally useless ritual which, for lack of a better title, I will call the "stealing the mojri". Here is a brief description:
1. The groom wears a traditional mojri (pronounced 'mojdi', a traditional rajasthani shoe not unlike a jodhpuri) with his Sherwani.
2. After he comes to the wedding hall and before he enters the actual ceremony area, he has to take these off (the mojri, not the sherwani!).
3. As soon as he does that, his shoes are stolen by the bride's family, friends, sahelis and an assortment of giggly girls.
4. Since walking around shoeless is considered inappropriate and embarrassing, the groom has to negotiate with the aforementioned gang to get his mojris back. This usually involves a sizeable bribe that gets divided amongst all thed shoe-stealers.

As you can see, this is a very effective money-making scheme. And after the "paisa dedo joothe lelo" song from "Hum Aapke Hai Kaun", this event has acquired cult status (although Lata Mangeshkar has tried her best to make it sound unappealling!). My dear mother-in-law had warned me about this incident beforehand 'coz she thought I was a poor innocent South Indian boy, a 'bakra' (goat) waiting to be massacred by the evil, guileful and experienced friends of the bride. After considering a variety of alternatives including keeping a spare pair of slippers, I finally decided to rope in the help of my own family and friends - my cousins Swetha and Sumi would be the primary guardians of the shoes, closely supported by SP, Chandru and ET. I promised them riches beyond their wildest dreams (read 'a few hundred rupees each') if they grabbed the shoes before the other party did and manage to guard them with their lives till the ceremony was over.

As I was escorted to the ceremony platform, I realized that W's best friend Rashu had closely followed me and had somehow managed to cordon of my 'shoe'guards. With a very sweet and innocent smile, she was advising me to take off my shoes before getting onto the ceremony platform. I smelt trouble and immediately called for my gang who managed to come just in the nick of time. As I stood there, they started tugging on my mojris. This was quite embarrassing to say the least. I was trying to resist this for a while and even managed a "I've never had so many women at my feet!" that elicited some guffaws. However, very soon it degenerated into a free-for-all with everybody and her sister getting into the act. I could feel people scratching my legs and arms while W's elder sister was busy biting everyone around (I can produce Chandru and ET on the witness stand). For the initial couple of minutes, I was enjoying the attention. But now, I was scared for my life and limb. All I wanted to do was get out of those shoes, but this was proving to be quite difficult what with everyone staking a claim to them. Very soon I was toppled over and managed to land safely on a nearby chair. Eventually, the mojris were gone and I didn't bother to find out where they were. There were more important matters to attend to - my hand was actually bleeding as I entered the ceremony platform. Thankfully, there was a lot of oil and ghee around for the occasion, and the pundit was kind enough to apply some of them on my wound and staunch the flow of blood.

The ceremony itself was short and sweet, punctuated by quite a few misunderstandings as a result of the communication gap between the families. There was one occasion when the pundit thought my family wanted to perform a ritual, while my family was waiting on the pundit. So there they were, both sides patiently waiting for the other side to make a move while W and I sat there scratching our heads. Finally, W, with her usual presence of mind realized what was going on and cleared the air of mystery amidst much amusement. There was also the time when my family wrongly thought it was time to tie the knot and all of them were ready with flowers and rice in their hands. We had to ask them to relax and wait a bit while we finished up with some mantras first. I was happy we didn't bring along our own pundit. Matters would have gotten totally out of hand. There was another occasion when W's mom gives her away to me symbolically. Just when the mom was about to walk away, some aunties asked me to go grab her sari. As inappropiate and completely out of place this sounded to me, I was getting used to these funny rituals. Even warming up to them. So I ran and grabbed her sari's pallu while she tried to run away. Apparently, this was a metaphor for "please don't leave me alone with your daughter" or something to that effect. But the photo did come out quite funny!

Eventually, I tied the knot and walked around the fire with W, and we were declared married. Though this was the exact moment we'd been getting ready for over the last few months, it just sneaked past us. It was not exactly the kind of emotionally overpowering and intense moment that I had been expecting. It really took time to sink in. Following the ceremony, people dispersed to socialize and sample the buffet dinner down the hall. W and I walked around getting everyone's blessings, accepted gifts and posed for photos. Finally, following dinner, we were taken for a special photo op session where we were asked to stand in incredibly filmi poses that would capture this day for eternity.

And that's the story of my Tam Brahm-Sindhi wedding in Gujarat. This was not just a wedding between W and me. Rather, this was (is) a bridge between 2 completely different cultures, attitudes and customs. And it is a testimonial to not only how broad-minded our society has become, but to how delightful the outcome can be when this happens. When we finally wrapped up that evening, W and I were utterly exhausted. We still had a hectic schedule ahead of us. The next day, we were flying to Kerala for a short honeymoon. Following this, a brief stop at Chennai to attend a reception thrown by my parents before flying back to the US the very same night. But all that's probably a story for another day.

PS: If you made it thus far in the post, you might be wondering what happened to my mojris. I had earlier softened Rashu up by showing her my bloody hand and laying the blame squarely on her and her ilk. Then, I sent Chandru and SP to negotiate with her. They must've pretended not to know Hindi or Math or both. But they got me an awesome deal. I'm not going to reveal the amount here and spoil it for future shoe-stealers :-)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

WC quickie 2 - ICC's schedule faux pas

A friend brought this article to my attention today. In short, in the official schedule that ICC has published for the Super 8 stage, our beloved ICC has already predicted who the super 8 teams are going to be, even before the first ball has been bowled and the first swear word has been uttered. Is the ICC being so smug and supremely confident about the 'quality' of the lower ranked teams or is it just being practical and making sure it schedules the BIG matches well to maximize revenue? This usually involves scheduling India's matches on weekends, which is exactly what ICC has done. What happened to the "encourage the minnows!" and "spread cricket" catch phrases that ICC has been trumpeting around? I'm sure ICC will correct its faux pas once this snowballs into a full-fledged uproar. But for now, its just fun to sit by the sidelines to see an 'official' body making a fool of itself. If ever it wants to land on its foot from this episode, it definitely needs to look for the pre-mentioned foot in the deep recesses of its own ass.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

And if you are planning on catching all of India's Super Eights action, and were waiting for the end of the group phase before making your bookings, don't bother: India will play Australia on Saturday March 31; New Zealand on Monday April 2; South Africa on Saturday April 7; England on Wednesday April 11; and the West Indies on Thursday April 19.

How do I know? Because the ICC the global body that conducts the World Cup -- told me so, right here on its official site.

There you go, the entire Super Eight schedule, all nicely laid out for you -- so now, you don't have to bother going through 13 sleepless nights, and 24 pointless games, to figure out when the big boys play each other.

You do realize the irony, here? The ICC conducts this tournament; the ICC picked the teams and drew up the schedule; the ICC brought together 16 teams and, per its schedule, will spend the first 13 days of the Cup, and 24 matches, to decide who the eight teams in the Super Eight round-robin stage should be.

And the selfsame ICC, by publishing this schedule, effectively tells you it is all eyewash; that eight of the teams in the only global competition cricket has are there purely to make up the numbers; that they are so below par that even before the first ball is bowled in the World Cup, it has drawn up its schedule for phase two.

Monday, March 05, 2007

WC quickie 1 - Bermuda's Big man

Meet Dwayne Leverock, Bermuda's key spin weapon. On the wrong side of 35, this guy can apparently tweak the ball pretty well or hit it a long way. He weighs in at close to 20 stones. At a conversation scale of 1 stone = 14 pounds = 6.5 kgs, you do the math. And did you know Bermuda is in the same group as India? It would be fun to see the fear in Sachin's eyes when this not-so-gentle giant covers the entire sidescreen with his huge head while delivering the ball!

And you thought poor Ramesh Powar was big. Shame on you!