Monday, October 30, 2006

What really ails Indian Cricket?

If you saw the Ind-Aus encounter on Sunday, thats a question your mind is bound to question !!

What we saw happen was not the best team coming out cropper. It was a one sided encounter, where India did not even compete to finish first. Infact, for all practical purposes it finished third..

India is used to losing a lot of matches and often I do not complaint about losses.. This was really different and pitiable. There are about 6 reasons I can count on my fingers why the Indian team needs a jolt in its behind.

1. The fielding. No no no.. I am not complainting that our players aren't athletic enough or dont know how to dive. That was the past. Indian fielders didnt even run hard to get to the ball. Munaf Patel, 23 years of age, hailing from a farming family and once known to the fastest bowler in India, can not bend AT ALL when fielding on fine leg. I cant beleive he has fitness issues or is too old to risk his back. McGrath, 37 doesn't think twice before sliding 6 feet to disallow the opposition 1 extra run. But Munaf cant.

2. Team Communication/ Strategy. Its over no 40 (or nearabout) and Mohd Kaif is leaving deliveries outside the Off stump.. not just once but a couple of times atleast. WTF is that? Is he trying to play out the 50 overs or what? Someone needs to find out. Same is the case with Raina. He is trying his best to score a single. He manages after 3 dot balls. And its over no 43, with India still having 5 wickets to go. What is he trying.. if he cant slog, shouldnt he make way for Irfan Pathan or Bhajji?

3. Dinesh Mongia. Whats he doing inside the 11? I know Yuvi is injured. But thats no excuse. Specially at no 3. He is not a International class batsman. And he proved it earlier. This guy isnt sure what to do with the bat. He might be decent with the ball now, but definitely doesnt quality as a batsman and definitely not as an allrounder either.

4. Mohd Kaif. I had over the years supported Kaif. But I think his time is up. He doesnt fit in the team anymore. And the lower order more so. He isnt a slasher or even a stroke maker. He is struggler who will nudge here and there and never cross the strike rate of 75. Natwest was an abberation. Indian management is fooling itself by keeping him at No.5 or 6. I personally think its time for him to go. Try someone new.

5. Captaincy. The more I see of Dravid, the more I miss Ganguly. Atleast Ganguly, the captain. He understood his cricket better and was more passionate about winning and his team. If that amounted to screaming on the field, so be it. Dravid sometimes comes across as too placid and within himself to motivate his team. He did not introduce spin and specifically Bhajji until Aussie were already 120 odd. We had already lost by the time Harbhajan had a bowl. He kept persisting with Pathan (who was bowling better, though was still being clobbered), Munaf (who was an idiot all this match) and Sreesanth (erratic at best). You need to keep trying something if Plan A isnt working. You cant just keep going downhill and expect them to make a mistake. I dont know what we can do there.. but its a major area of concern.

6. Attitude. The Indian Teams attitude sucks... And the worst is that the Team management including Chappel hasn't managed to work on it. You have to see them to beleive that they had lost the match by the time they arrived on the Mohali ground to play. They completed the formality in 95 odd overs. Losing isnt always a disgraceful thing, but not trying is.

If not sacking the key culprits, I think a severe reprimand of the entire team is the least, the coach and management can do. Or we should resign ourselves to our fate, which is all black and blue.

Satta/ SMS Contests.. Whats the difference

I am (un)happily engrossed in the Ind-Aus 'Quarterfinal' cricket match of the Champions Trophy, when the forever screen hogging Mandira Bedi or one of the commentator mumbles away the details of the Predict2Win Contest of the channel(SET MAX). It asks the viewer to predict the 1st inning score between 4 choices (range of runs scored). The winner 'shall' receive exotic and exciting gifts and what not.. (I didnt follow that part). Thats usual.. Just an interruption to the cricketing action..

My wife quizzes me there.. why and how is this different from '
Satta'.. You predict.. you invest.. and if you come out correct, you win... EXACTLY the same in both these scenarios..

God, she sounds right.. There is soo much of a similarity that I dont seem to find the differentiating factor between these contests and 'satta'... You might argue, that in these contests you dont invest or chip in with your bet money to the punter.. you are wrong.. you are investing, you pay the SMS money to the contest organizer, small thought it maybe to the tune of
Rs 3 - Rs 5, it goes straight to the organizer.

So there we are sitting in our living rooms participating in 'satta'.. (not that I
ever SMS those kind of stuff personally!!) without a hint of guilt !!

BTW, I returned to Hyderabad on Sunday, after a week long of masti and festivity well enjoyed with family and friends in Delhi.. And am back to work and this time it promises to be Big and Bad..

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Taking off for a Diwali vacation..

Folks, its vacation time here...

Diwali is just round the corner and with it, comes a much needed vacation.. So I am off for a week to Delhi, back where I belong..

As always, the last few days before the vacation are soo hard to get on with.. I am already in the holiday mood.. waiting for its onset !! Personally, I love this phase.. where I anticipate all the fun, the masti and gettogethers that I hope to have in the break.. Sometimes its even more fun anticipating the holiday than the actual holiday itself....

So I have been deriving my fun planning about the get-together me and my friends are having right on Day 1.. So, its gonna be lotsa masti meeting up with everyone and having a drink or two.. (or three......) :).

Day 2 offcourse is Diwali.. the D-Day.. time to be family.. gorge on all the sweets I can.. and generally have fun at home.. Anyway let me not reveal all my cards at this stage...

Well, on the other hand, Champions Trophy is underway with most 1 st round matches all through. The tournament hasnt been as dazzling as we all would have liked it to be.. It started of on an ominous note with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif testing positive for drug use. Then the pitches havnt really been at par.. playing slow. Not enough runs scored in the tourney as yet.. and no real exciting matches to take note of. Well, lets hope the second league matches change that.. Atleast a little more close matches to cheer about.

Personally, I dont really have hope for an Indian victory in this tourney. They have been out of sorts specially in the Batting department with no signs of improvement on display in Match 1. After a reasonable bowling effort, they made all the efforts they could to nullify it and spoiled what should have been a easy cake. The only positive from that match, IMO, was the return of Irfan Pathan. If he can keep his form on track, we are good...

The the next big thing doing the rounds on Diwali eve is the arrival of 2 Bollywood movies: DON and JAANEMANN Having said that here are my predictions for what I expect from the two movies:. Well, without taking sides, I declare wanting to watch both (for a change).

  1. Directed by Farhan Akhtar (one of the best guys directing in Bollywood), I expect DON to be tight, thrilling and different to the previous one.
  2. SRK looks kinda cool as DON, though I dont expect him to turn out in a major performance. He can not and does not want to come out of his style thing. That sucks !!
  3. Other major attraction should be... Boman Irani. (Were you expecting Priyanka Chopra, the girl who can't act). Boman is THE best supporting actor today in Bollywood, IMO. He just adds his own reference to even the most staid and overdone roles.
  4. Overall DON should be a decent watch. Unless you start comparing with DIL CHAHTA HAI, the classic which I am sure Farhan wouldnt be able to repeat again.

  1. Directed by Sirish Kunder, H/O Farah Khan, It looks quite run of the mill stuff with Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar fighting over the same girl, Preity Zinta.
  2. The promos, contrary to popular opinion are pretty corny. Too much glitz and not enough character.
  3. The music sucks bigtime.. Anu Malik claims to having reinvented himself with his music here. God help Anu Malik !!!
  4. Inspite of 1,2,3, I am still hoping for a miracle. Part of the reason... make it most of the reason, for that is Salman, my fave guy in movies. I believe, Salman is someone who can raise even an average movie to a worth-watch level. He isnt the best actor around, but has that magnetism that makes you root for him. Lets see, if that can happen here.

So, though DON looks more promising, I am still rooting for Jaanemann.

On a completely different note, I hope Farhan takes up a new and exciting subject for his next, and not a remake of an old classic. And I hope he doesnt pick an actor on star value.. like SRK, Hrithik etc.. I am waiting for a "proper movie" from him with a real cast. I am bored watching Amitabh and SRK playing the same damn roles over and over. And Farhan is someone who can actually churn out something truly novel.

Anyway, winding up this post, let me wish you all and your families a Very Happy Diwali.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

King Kong and LG DS9481

Well, that isn’t the latest kickoff in the King Kong series. And LG DS9481 isnt an adversary to King Kong but is a DVD player from the LG stable.

I have been watching DVDs on my PC for all this while. It was kind of ok, but there were a few issues with that arrangement. First of all, PC DVD player isn’t really all that great.. The PC DVD drive is meant to read data.. and read it nice and proper. With the kind of DVDs we get here, which are scratched big time, the PC DVD drive has a hard time trying to read it all up. It doesn’t have error correction as good as most ‘proper’ DVD players, which would simply skip the next few frames resulting in just a few fuzzy frames and not really a hang.

Then, my PC doesn’t have all that great viewing position. I needed to drag my sofa all the way from the drawing room to another room to get good viewing comfort. It was getting to me a little bit off late.

So, one fine Saturday, I just made up my mind, that we did need a proper DVD player. The choice fell between Philips and LG. It was tough call in the end, with a longish phone call with Kunal finally sealing the fate in favor of LG, though somewhere in my heart I was still pining for Philips, with its much better designed remote control and experience of owning a Philips DVD player back home.

Anyhow I paid for a LG DS 9481. It supposedly plays all the usual formats: DVD, VCD, MP3, JPEG… and also the newer stuff like DivX and MP4. God knows if I will ever really use DivX and MP4 content. That was really the differentiating factor over Philips in terms of features. Time shall tell…

I also bought a 5 meter long Audio cord, so that I could connect the DVD Audio output to my Sony Music Player. Back home, I realize that even ‘5 damn long meters’ is too short to reach anywhere near my Sony System. Paaah.. I tried some other combinations, moving the DVD player closer to the Sony system etc etc.. and it all resembled a Dhobi Ghaat, with wires flying all over the place. Really blew my nerves.. These damn Electronics Manufactures will give you pathetically small lengths of cords.. and then you are all on your own figuring out a configuration to connect it all somehow…

I tried to move my Computer Speakers “Creative 2.1 channel” to connect it with the DVD player, only to realize that these damn things take only a TRS (Headphone) Jack while the DVD player has only RCA jack outputs.. So I realize I need a RCA to TRS converter. I could only manage to find one on Sunday. The final thing, with my 2.1 channel speakers connected to the DVD player is setup, though predictably I cant turn the volume up and down, cause Comp Speakers don’t come with a remote.. J

The first DVD I watch is King Kong, to unleash a pure visual movie on my spanking new DVD player system. The overall impact turned out to be pretty average. Not really blaming my system, the DVD was pretty dark and dingy most of the running length. And to be honest the story wasn’t as engaging as I would have liked.

It is very visual movie that must be enjoyable in a movie theatre, but on a 21” TV, it was less impactfull then expected. Naomi Watts hardly looks appealing enough to woo the audience though she certainly does the giant ape in the movie.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Akhtar/ Asif caught in drug web

Well its a sad day for Cricket and Champions Trophy as well. Shoaib Akhtar, the most exciting and dashing bowler in the world (IMO) and the upcoming Mohd Asif have both tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in the random drug tests during Champions Trophy. They stand to get suspended upto an year or even more from competitive cricket. And thats really sad...

Well, we all know what Shoaib Akhtar is.. he is the most fearsome contemporary fast bowler.. who brings zing and a dash of glamor to the otherwise staid gentleman's game. Its always been a delight to see him run up to unleash his pacey stuff. He is someone who actually glamorized the 'run-up'. He was sometime erratic and would get slogged all over the park, but there never was a dull moment with Akhtar on the field.. there couldnt be...

If Imran Khan was the hearthrob, the gentleman.. Shoaib was his antithesis.. the sly, the wicked bad boy of cricket..

Asif was the find of the year for the Pakistani Cricket team.. the steady bowler they had always fantasized about.. He wasnt express fast but really steady.. someone who could bowl wicket to wicket all day ala Glenn McGrath.

It certainly is a bad day for cricket.. And its specially stupid of these two blokes to commit such irresponsible behavior when random drug screen is so much a part of international sport.

P.S.: Looking forward to what Mandira Bedi, the cricket 'expert' has to say about it..

Friday, October 13, 2006

Woh Lamhe - a Review

Woh Lamhe is the latest offering from the Bhatt Camp. Now, Bhatt Movies have some very specific traits.. all of them are quite medium to low budgeted, feature upcoming actors, boasts of impressive/ popular music and is always promoted innovatively. The last aspect is soo interesting, it can be a separate blog post altogether.
In this post, I shall only talk about Woh Lamhe, the movie and more specifically its music.

The movie, which I saw a couple of weeks back at PVR Punjagutta, Hyderabad is all in all average. It isnt as bad as a lot of other recent releases. And it isnt really that good. Mahesh Bhatt claimed this a true story based on his and Parveen Babi's love story that ... in the mid-80s. I wasnt in touch with the latest in those days, being a toddler, so cant comment how much of it seems true. It doesnt seem to be too much an accurate account, nonetheless that is least of a moviegoers concern. The story is pretty interesting as presented in the movie. But the direction, I would say is lacking. It starts off pretty well but then the second half fails to keep up. Contrary to what you would expect from the subject, the story fails to bring the viewer really up and close to the two central protagonists. So, even as the movie rounds up, you dont really relate as well to either of the characters as you should.

Acting on the other hand is quite decent. Shiny Ahuja is pretty strong here. He is definitely one of the big finds in the last year or so. Not only is he bashfully handsome, he is a genuine actor, who can underplay his part and yet sparkle on the screen. And he has been consistent on that front in all his releases so far : Hawaaron Khwaishen Aisi, (Kal, I havnt seen much, so cant comment), Gangster and here. He has range and it shows.

Kangna Ranaut is breathtakingly beautiful... She stands no competition as far as good looks go. She is just sooo conventionally beautiful, that you dont need to adjust your paradigms to accept her as a leading lady. If you have been watching the likes of Antara Mali, Nisha Kothari and ilk, you would know what I am talking about. ;-)
I dont think she is a great actor. But who cares? Well, on a serious note, she is quite adequate here, playing a Schizophrenia infected actor. The role demands loud drama and she can manage that. In Gangster, which was a little more sombre role for here, you could see her shortcomings in the acting department. But then she more than makes up for that on the looks front... Lemme stop ravishing on Kangna, else I'll be in trouble at home...

I hadnt been exposed to the music of Woh Lamhe before I saw the film, thanks to lack of hype and lack of TV viewing on my part. I thought the music was kinda nice when watching the movie. Offcourse, more attention was on the visuals than the audio then.. (please re-read the previous para to get the context...:) ) Later on, when I heard its soundtrack, I thought it was even better. I have to give it to the old man (read Mahesh Bhatt) to deliver decent quality of music with ever film. He has got the knack!!

The music is done (mostly) by Pritam, who is known to be good with innovative arrangements. He composes 3 original tracks and arranges 2 here. The best of the lot is with no doubts "So Jaon Maine..". Actually it is composed by Roop Kumar Rathod, while Pritam probably only doing the arrangement. It comes as two versions, Kunal Ganjawala and Shreya Ghoshal singing the two solos. And I can claim unabashedly, that is is Kunal's best effort with the microphone. The song is absolutely a dream. Its an amazing piece of composition, that when infused with the velvety voice of Kunal Ganjawala, creates a dreamy and melancholic effect on the listener. This song is actually what epitomises "Woh Lamhe" the movie, with its apt lyrics (by Shakeel Aazmi):
"So Jaon maine.. tum agar.. mere khwabon mein aao...mere khwabon mein aao..
Kho jaon maine.. tum agar.. meri yaadon mein aao...meri yaadon mein aao..
jaagi nazar mein..
soyi nazar mein...
har pal sanam tum... jhilmilao..."
Without going overboard, let me repeat, this song is a dream, the kinds you want to sleep listening to..

The other really nice number is "Chal Chale.." sung by the fresh-voiced James, the Bangladeshi Pop sensation. He sung the immensely likeable "Bheegi Bheegi" in the movie Gangster, incidentally for Pritam. This song is a nice cheerful number with a lot of turns and variations, well rendered by James. The song has been written by Sayeed Quadri.

The next memorable number is "Bin tere kya hai jeena", allegedly another *adapatation*. This is in the voice of Jawad Ahmad, a Pakistani singer. Nice composition and is mostly in the low range. Jawad doesnt seem to have a vast range, but manages this song well enough to keep it likeable. The overall impact is soft and soothing.

Another Pakistani singer, Glenn sings the ghazal "Tu jo nahin". This isnt really a great piece of music. Comes out too flat to really appeal, but in keeping with the mood of the album which is Slow, Soft and Soothing, this one blends in well enough.

The last song in the album, discounting the remixes, is "Kya mujhe pyar hai", sung by the immensely talented KK. This one belongs to the formulaic league, the ones you watch on music channels and find on the lists. Peppy, energetic and fast, its got a zing about it, thanks mainly to KK's kinetics. Its an average number, you wouldnt mind listening in a nice compilation of an album. Also, allegedly this one is a rip-off of an Indonesian hit "Tak Bisakah".

Overall, the music of Woh Lamhe is no masterpiece, but is a good contemporary album to listen. Its a nice album that mostly keep 1 mood, without trying out too many things, a rarity these days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hyderabadi 'Traffic' Blues

This is the land of the finest Biryani, the Haleem and extraordinarily bad traffic. I come from Delhi, the place I though boasted of the worst traffic anywhere, until I landed here in Hyderabad, which took the cake and the icing. The normally mild mannered and soft spoken Hyderabadis turn into Road Warriors and Night Riders when on the wheel. You are not safe when facing them all by yourself on the slim curvy roads of Hyderabad. They inspire all the latest PSP and XBOX City racing games. They really define the term manoeuvre.
Some of the very specific pecularities of Hyderabadi driving are :

1. When on the road, gaps between vehicles are measured in 'mm' not meters or even inches. You can never really get too close.. it kinda helps in bonding.. :)

2. Small is big. The smaller you are, the more dangerous. Its really a city of nano-technology. The Autos rule the roost. They fear no one.. not even the killer buses that people and even cars dread of in Delhi. Autos will overtake buses from left on the thinnest of roads and ride on.. The scooters and bikes will criss cross through the traffic splitting the few inch gaps between cars.

3. Honk, the Hyderabadis will, need be or not. So you honk, if there is someone ahead of you or behind you. Or if you want to stop (which is rare) or if you want to take a turn. And you will also honk if you like the weather today or if its just too hot. Honk is soo very multi-purpose.

4. Red lights. You speed off if you see a red light. Just speed off with no regrets. But if you see a Green light, then slow down.. take a good look if what riders/ drivers on the other 3 segments of the crossing are doing before you honk away and then ride off. But red lights are safe to make a quick getaway.

5. Parking is an art. And Hyderabadis are eclectic when it comes to this art. They will innovate when it comes to parking. Its soo frigging boring to park under a parking sign, or in a public parking. So you become creative, and park in the second lane of a busy road.. or you park right on a crossing. And its not just SUVs or cars I talk about, the bike riders are as innovative. They will park right across the entrance of a Cafe to ensure all visitors rub through your bikes to make an entry.

6. Roundabouts. What roundabouts.. Roundabouts and its protocol (to drive clockwise until you get to your segment) is for losers. Its what the Brits infected us with. But not the oozing with pride Hyderabadis. So they will drive where they want to drive. If its a lane they want to take on the ride, they shall drive anti-clockwise to it.. Hell, its even fun to stop on the curve..

7. Mobile, the Hyderabadis are in a true sense of the word. Infact, doubly so. Not only are they riding/ driving, they are constantly talking on their mobiles. Be it the cars/ trucks/ Autos/ Bikes, one hand is always occupied to chat away. Actually, I suspect they are constantly in touch with the *base-station*/ ATC transmitting their coordinates and getting the next set of instructions. That probably explains the reason they manage to evade not only accidents/ collisions but also the polite roadside 'mamu' read Cop. High-tech, aint it?

So the next time you are visiting Hyderabad, and intend to drive/ ride, get an acclimatisation mastering the
Monster Truck Madness. It isnt half as good to help you, but then you have a reference point!!

P.S.: Wish I had some pics to give you a first hand insight.. but then saving my life on the roads was a higher priority... :)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cricket season again..

Well, you may like it or not.. but the Cricket season is back.. and its BIG as ever..
Champions Trophy' 06 began the day before, though for now the Minnows (SHOCK: WI and SL are in the contenders as well!!!) are battling it out for 2 seats in the main league.

But Set MAX, who are airing it in India promise to make it more than just cricket. They are the ones who fused cricket with babes.. when they got the aweful Ruby Bhatia and then less aweful Mandira Bedi to eat away airtime. They now want to expand the scope of the 'extras' until you wont notice it was cricket in the first place that you switched onto. Well, guess it serves well, when the cricket, atleast the Indian effort is not going to bring in any joy. Atleast you have noodle straps and pouting babes to make up for it... or can they?

Indian team, unsurprisingly is back to where they belong. Erratic and Unpredictable. Just before they play the Second biggest tourney (as per ICC folks) in cricket, they arent sure of a lot of things. I think I could have collated a nice compiled list of 11 points of Indian team's concerns, but then who really cares and maybe I might have struggled to fit them all in 11.

So, not going that route.. and continuing with the present form of brain-dump.. let me write about the biggest of our concerns. .. and its not Greg Chappell.

Over the last couple of seasons, a lot of youngsters have got a chance to play in the 11. And interestingly and luckily for India a lot of them converted their chances to be among contenders for a 'permanent' seat (yup, we have permanent seats in Indian CT.. ask Sachin). So we have Sehwag (ok, he has been there for more than a couple of seasons), Dhoni, Raina all fulltime on the payrolls. But unluckily, all these players are in essence slashers or some species close to that. All, love the flat turfs of subcontinent, smashing the opposition until they bleed, and as soon as the ball smells of swing, they are only wielding an array of edges. They are all exciting prospects and good finds for India, no doubts about that. But when successive seasons throw players of the same variety.. then as you might expect, we will see-saw through amazing and aweful performaces, which has exactly been the case.

So, now apart from DeWall Dravid and Manager Sachin, we have a team of slashers : Sehwag, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Raina.. with ironically Irfan Pathan sent as a pinch-hitter above our slashers for some strange reasons. So when we have played on placid and true wickets, all these boys fire and rip up the bowling.. They spare no one.. And, when playing on wickets that dont let you slog in peace.. they again spare no one.. Sehwag will be out playing his natural game, bowled of a swinging yorker, Yuvi would be spun-off, Dhoni caught of a mistimed pull and Raina, still new would explore a new way.

After a record breaking run against Lanka and South Africa, where they unbelievably won batting second, they have found ways to lose matches in WI in astonishing manners.
So, though they are back to staid and placid wickets at home, their confidence is in doldrums. Worst of all, Pathan is lacking in confidence, who in my opinion is the best Indian Cricketer. Unless, he gets back to his swinging ways, we are going to remain in trouble.

Interestingly, Dinesh Mongia is back. He who made us cry in the last world cup. Though, I feel its the right thing to have happened. He had an amazing record in the Counties last 2 years. Nt only did he score with the bat, he was outstanding with his bowling. If that didnt warrant a recall, nothing will. But, his first knock after being back put him back where he was. He 'seemed' to have top scored with a 50 odd, eventually running out of partners. But the truth is he still doesnt understand that Cricket isnt just about throwing a ball and hitting it around. There is this match situtation to contend with too. He just stood there as an idiot, giving tailenders the strike when all India needed was 20 odd of like 50 balls. As ever, the match score sheet lied at the end of the match. Not that the selectors will ever know.

So, now lets wait and watch, what Chappell and Sons have in store for us in the coming days. Will Pathan get back to his lethal ways? Will Sehwag slaughter away like a madhouse? Will Dhoni make bowlers repent on their career choice? Or will India invent newer ways to lose matches from unlosable situations?