Monday, 30 April 2012

WANKHEDE. IT’S ALIVE!

WANKHEDE. IT’S ALIVE!

Fan following report – Mumbai Indians vs. Deccan Chargers, 29th April, Mumbai.
First published on ESPN Cricinfo - 
http://www.espncricinfo.com/page2/content/current/story/563233.html



Choice of game
Contrary to what popularity belief, IPL is also cricket. And when any kind of cricket happens at the Wankhede, a cricket-loving Mumbaikar can’t help but go! There is an intrinsic need to see live cricket and experience the stadium atmosphere. So I, along with, my extended clan set off to watch Mumbai Indians take on the Deccan Chargers.

Team supported
As our jerseys, armbands, caps, banners, bandanas and flags suggested, we were out there to support the home team. In fact I don’t think anyone at the Wankhede was wearing deep blue for any other team but Mumbai Indians.  And although I was supporting Harbhajan’s men, I admit, one of the main reasons I picked this match was to watch Deccan captain Kumar Sangakkara (which didn’t happen of course) and see Dale Steyn bowl live!

Key performer
The key performers for the winning team were their bowlers, bundling out the opposition for a measly 100 runs in 18.4 overs. Lasith Malinga showed that his injury was left behind with a lethal spell and four wickets and even skipper Bhajji came to the party with two. But as the Man of the match Award suggested, Dale Steyn was the best performer of the day. Just watching him bowl at that speed is sheer adrenaline rush! With figures of 4-0-10-2 in a run chase of 101 against a prolific team, Steyn made sure that nobody who saw it would forget his performance, even I he ended up on the losing side.

Face-off you relished
Lasith Malinga vs. Batsmen and Dale Steyn vs. Batsmen! With the two most lethal T20 bowlers out in the middle, there were always going to be fireworks. And they didn’t disappoint. Watching Sachin Tendulkar square up to Steyn, Cameron White get beaten my Slinga’s pace and Levi’s stumps taking a flying leap on the first ball were all exciting!

One thing you’d have changed about the match
Some people at the Wankhede have all the maturity of a child Sreesanth and Shahid Afridi would produce! I say this from all past experiences at the ground and I maintain that when it comes to sensibility, there is something seriously lacking. There were the usual scuffles and arguments – “Please sit, I can see/ you are blocking my view of the camera. So? Does your Pop own the stadium?”  But there were some loud (not to mention unnecessary) fights as well, which ruined the atmosphere. Especially in the second innings where the music shuts off thanks to the 10-pm deadline. And in stadiums where people do not know the difference between ‘noise’ and ‘din’, those trumpets and whistles should be banned!

Crowd meter
The Wankhede crowd meter is always high to the pint of busting and this was no different. The buzz around the stadium is something additive and every time I step in I feel that Wankhede is a living entity! The incessant chanting to their God, Sachin Tendulkar, is something you have to see to believe. And the hoarse cries of ‘Malingaaaa, Malingaaaa’ for each of the 22 deliveries he bowled, are enough to pep up all the other bowlers. (I suspect Mali isn’t loved and cheered for so much even in Sri Lanka!) And the shout-outs for captain ‘Bhajjiiii’ were so enthusiastic, there is no way he could have continued his dry run. The Mexican Waves, albeit not as eager, was good to watch. But the silence when Steyn was doing his thing was bit of a letdown. As the only Mumbai Indian cheering inanely at Levi’s wicket I’d say, let’s appreciate good cricket and forget sides for a moment.

Entertainment
For some strange reason, dancing to Bollywood songs on a far-off stage was considered entertainment. But the choice of songs wasn’t bad, from English chart-busters to Hindi item numbers to popular Marathi numbers, the music was a medley aimed at catering to the entire crowd. Though nobody would complain if they played that trademark trumpet-horn sound a little less often.

Anything else you care to mention
I call this article ‘The Cult of the Mumbai Indian’ for a reason. I was asked who a Mumbai Indian is and the best I can put it is ‘The hordes of people transcending age, class and community, who descend at the Wankhede all dressed in blue and covered in merchandise every IPL with a loud noise and even louder behavior. And I say this with affection. I have seen people who claimed who go all out crazy at the stadium, elderly ladies in all traditional finery jumping and screaming player names, kids naming international and domestic players after spotting them from a distance, decked-up-for-the-runway girls armed with their mobile-camera clicking everything in sight and entire families coming out together and letting their hair down. But I find this very appealing because it shows me the reach cricket has and the way it can bring people together. Underneath all the clatter and chaos, lies the love for cricket that every Indian is born with.

Marks out of 10
8. A point cut for the rowdy spectators and another for the slow and almost boring batting. But the 8 points for the insane atmosphere, the shrieking crowds made of all age groups and the adrenaline rush of watching a cricket match at the Wankhede!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE CHINESE GP


RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE CHINESE GP


The third race of the 2012 Formula 1 season, the Chinese Grand Prix, is done and the results have surprised most, me being one. Personally I did not consider the Mercedes AMG car was winning material, and even if I was told that the car could take the podium, I would have imagined 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher would be the driver leading it. But today it was another German for whom the Champagne flowed – Nico Rosberg. Son of former Champion Keke Rosberg, he became the seventh German driver to win a F1 race, winning it by a comfortable margin of 20.6 seconds. He was followed by McLarens’ Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

To be honest, I have mixed feeling about the results of the Chinese GP. Though I am happy for Rosberg and really glad that the Mercedes AMG car has shown potential, I am a tad bit disappointed with Michael Schumacher’s race. When he qualified at the Number 3 position, I expected a podium finish at least. But that expectation was shattered on Lap 13 when a tyre problem forced Schumi to retire. I am not sure what exactly happened but from what I saw, he lost a wheel-nut because the front-tyre changer was unable to secure the wheel-nut before the system gave the go signal. According to www.f1pulse.com, this is what happened - “Schumacher pits for prime tyres. He comes out right behind Button. On replay, we see Rosberg lock up his front-right tyre and run wide, as his soft tyres begin to give up grip now. Race over for Schumacher as he pulls his Mercedes to the side of the track. On radio, he said he was 'losing a wheel.'


The contrasting emotions at Mercedes Camp aside, it was indeed a good race to watch, especially when you are forced to come to office on a Sunday. Mark Webber’s wheelie, Rosberg’s pit-stop strategy, Button’s remarkable comeback after losing almost 10 seconds in a faulty pit-stop were all enjoyable to watch. Of course I was hoping for a better performance form Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel and felt bad for Sergio Perez, from Number 1 to Number 11. But overall it was a fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon in office…

Thursday, 12 April 2012

AALA RE, IPL AALA.


AALA RE, IPL AALA.


The Indian Premier League (IPL) is called a lot of things. From a circus to carnival, a Bollywood movie, an entertainment package and sometimes even a culprit for all untoward happenings. But under all the hype, hoopla, frenzy, glamour and packaging, the IPL is about cricket. Although not exclusively, but it’s still cricket being played and it is still the game most of us love, even though it’s played in colors we don’t like and in ways we don’t appreciate. But IPL, in an odd, random way, is just like itself; you don’t really have what you want or expected, but you learn to live it by ignoring the unpleasant and focusing on the bright side. Gyan apart, the fifth edition of the IPL began last week and it is time we prepared ourselves for almost two months of the trumpet sound, Citi Moments of Success, DLF Maximums and Karbonn Kamaal Katches!

A Mumbaikar at heart and a proud Indian (clich├ęd I know), I am supporting the Mumbai Indians and throughout these two months, you can read all about the MI Paltan and their Duniya Hila Denge actions right here!In 2008, Mumbai barely made it, in 2009 they just about scampered though, but in 2010 fortunes changed and they ended up runners up and in 2011 they won the bronze in IPL but struck gold in the Champions League T20. Now it’s 2012 and time for a fresh start under new captain Harbhajan Singh. We already three matches into the season and MI have won two and lost one, but it’s still inconclusive evidence when it comes to predicting what’s in store for them.

In the inaugural match against Chennai Super Kings at Chepuak, Mumbai did well to defeat the defending champions comprehensively. New recruits Richard Levi and Pragyan Ojha proved their worth and trusted men Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga and James Franklin showed yet again why they are considered more Mumbai Indian than their own nationalities!
Unfortunately in the second match vs. Pune Warriors India at their home ground Wankhede, MI fell short by 29 runs chasing only 129 runs. Credit to Ashok Dinda and Steven Smith, but the way Mumbai lost, I thought it had a teeny bit of complacency somewhere. There was more of the same in the third match but a brilliant innings from Rohit Sharma saved the day and earned Mumbai some vital points.Of course I can be wrong and it certainly is too early to tell.

Coming to the team, at first glance the thought that comes to my mind is there is no reason why they can’t make it to semis and further. The squad is strong, well balanced and has a good quota of proven match winners. It does look like there is a glut of foreign players and with only four spots available, MI has a problem of plenty which is always a good problem to have.Unlike back in the day, the team is more than just the name of Sachin Tendulkar and has a strong batting order around him. Levi and his fellow Protean opener Herschelle Gibbs, Aiden Blizzard and Davy Jacobs are all good opener options. Among the home grown players, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik are certainties and form the core of the middle-order. Suryakumar Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have a lot of untapped potential and batting with international players will only help.The all-rounder department is loaded, with the superman Pollard, Harbhajan (yes, in T20, we can consider him as one), Franlkin. Clint Mckay, Thisara Perera and Robin Peterson add more strength to the order. The bowling unit is spearheaded by the indomitable Malinga and the ever-improving Munaf Patel, well supported by Dhawal Kulkarni and Abu Nechim and is made stronger by the addition of R P Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Mitchell Johnson.
In conclusion, MI Paltan is a team with great potential and could go all the way if they manage to play consistent cricket. The men are there, the means are there and the motivation is surely there (as skipper Bhajji says that he wants to win it for Sachin) What remains to be seen is that can Mumbai Indians replicate their CLT20 success in the IPLT20 where they will face tougher competition and stiffer opposition. For now, all I am going to say is, Duniya Hila Denge Indians!