Saturday, 15 September 2007

Why not Jumbo? and Indian cricket's future

Rahul Dravid has resigned as the Captain of the Indian cricket team.
The search is on for a new captain (and not to forget a new coach)

The media is teeming with possibilities. Well not really. They have come down to 2 candidates - M.S. Dhoni and S.R. Tendulkar. I must confess that I have never been a big fan of Sachin. Of course, like any cricket admirer, I have enjoyed watching him in full flow. But unlike the majority of the Indian population, for whom Sachin is a living god, my support and admiration was always spent on Brian Charles Lara.

But, its not out of the lack of admiration I say this - Sachin should NOT be made captain., but out of common sense. The man has had two shots at it and failed miserably. Those who clamour for him say that the next few tours are going to be tough ones and that it is necessary for someone with experince to lead the team.

Well, there is one man who comes to mind. He is almost as experienced as Sachin. He is undoubtedly India's greatest match winner ever. Anil Kumble! By far one of the most committed player to the national cause. no one can doubt his work ethic and team spirit. No one doubts his aggressiveness on the field either. Make him captain, give him a decent coach and make the vice-captain someone who will lead the ODI and let these guys along with Sachin, Dada, Robin and Venky take the team through the transition phase.

True, Anil has retired from ODIs. So what? I say. Let him be made the test captain, and make some youngster the ODI captain. Guess MS is the first choice that comes to mind, although I dont think he should be made, I honestly cant see who else can be. The problem with Dhoni is that, he is more of a batsman than a keeper. If he was a better keeper, then one would not have been too worried if his batting suffered under captaincy. But Dhoni's batting is very important to our ODI success and I hope I am wrong when I say this, but in the last couple of tours, MS does seem like he has curtailed his stroke play. Barring that one burst he had at Oval during the third test, I cant remember a typical MS innings for quite some time now. Ironically, its his griity ans somber match saving innings at Lords in the first test that comes to mind when one thinks of his last few memorable innings. MS no doubt is a thinking cricketer who does have a great attitude towards the game.

The sad part of all the commotion that Dravid's resignation has caused is that all the important matters have been pushed aside for the time being. Like India's pathetic fielding. Pathetic is an under statement. Ok, one cantexpect a fielding coach to create miracles, but its not over optimism, if you think that a fielding coach should ensure atleast the basics are not found wanting. Catching a straight forward catch and stopping a ball that is coming straight at you should not be so hard now. Good thing for India is that the malaise of poor fielding seems to have spread to all the international teams for some reason. Even the Aussies had a poor time on the field against Zimbabwe.

I would like to conclude this post by stressing on the importance of Yuvraj Singh for the future. Especially in ODIs. He is definitely the player to watch. In future ODIs, when one takes a look at the ODIs that India triumph in, I will stick my neck out and say that in a majority of the wins Yuvraj would have had a prominent role to play. He is not a leader of men, just let him be!!!

Monday, 3 September 2007

Yonder abound in Yercaud and Erode

An army marches on its stomach and a low budget traveller travels on free food and if the free food is unbelievably tasty and served with love and affection like the one we got for 3 days in J's house, trust me when I say this, you have found paradise.

My final summer holidays, the kind you get in school and college was ending. Last week in fact cos I had to start working from July 2nd. Something had to be done and done fast. S calls, Erode as the destination decided. Convince B to come along and we set out to Erode. 3 days away from home. Not enough, but it has to do at the moment.

We land on a tuesday morning to be greeted by a mountain of Pooris with side dish that includes liver and chicken kurma. Stomach juices are going to work overtime next 3 days. Lunch is J's mom's special Mutton Briyani and its sumptuos as always There is also Chicken curry and our stomach has gained 2 inches within 6 hours.

Evening plan is to go to Bhavani Sangam, where 3 rivers are said to meet (one mythological river) not sure of the name of the rivers but I have the sneaky suspicion that its only one river that splits into 2 around an island. There is this temple on the island which is for the death rites and hence the surrounding waters are slightly polluted (to say the least) but the main source of attraction for me was the coracle ride. Have never been on one before and it was super fun.

Once thats done with we head to this ice cream parlour in Erode called Boomerang. Its ok, nice place to sit and relax and to catch some moments of rest and as dinner time is around the corner, we dont want to risk eating too much. What else can dinner be but more of the heavenly Briyani.

The next day is an early start as we catch a bus to Salem and from there we take one to Yercaud. Yercaud greets us with a light drizzle, and I slowly realise why the British took time and pains to develop hill stations. The climate is closest I would get to England. We have sights to see and the only vehicle we have is our two feet.

First stop Kiliyur falls (3.5 kms from the lake), super walk for the adventure lover. The last half a km is a narrow path for one person there is a board saying go at your own risk greeting us, with the hill's facade to one side and the gorge on the other the fall would definitely hurt and the only thing that can stop us if we slip are barbed wires. In between there is this huge tree trunk blocking the path. Three of us (me, J and B) go under the tree while S decides to climb over it only to get caught in a very delicate position with one leg stuck to the barbed wire and the second leg on the other side of the trunk, S's loins get stretched a bit more than he asked for. J helps S get out of this situation. Once that's done we get back to search for the falls.

The path becomes filled with stones and large boulders and we are now in thick foliage. Silence, our only companion. Every other step is a slip and eventually a few scratches and dirty pants later we reach the falls. Pity there is no water, cos it would have been some sight to see. After relaxing for a bit, the return trip looms large. The thought of starting my career in a sling scares me and I force my fellow travellers to take an easier route through a private estate. It costs us 30 bucks to bribe some worker to get entrance. Bloody wate of money at the end of it.

We come back to where our bus dropped us, opposite the natural lake in Yercaud and stop at a hotel for lunch. Once that's done we go to the boathouse and get ourselves 2 peddle boats. Lovely weather and lovely settings for a pleasant boat ride.

Once through with the boat ride, we decide to set off on foot and check out some view points. Starting with the Lady's seat (2.5 kms from the lake). A nice walk that takes us through resident locales and make us wonder how life would be in a hill station. Kids wearing sweaters are returning home from school and B is swearing that he will never come on a trip with us cos we make him walk a lot. Once we reach Lady's seat, all the complaints have gone. Its an amazing view point, a 270 degree view of the town as well as the curving road that comes from Salem and also the town of Salem.

Half a km from Lady's seat is Gents seat. Not as good a view but its more private and we disturb a young couple in the midst of expressing their passion for each other. Embarrassing situation for them, but I am sure they get to do this often. Really romantic spot with the breeze and the mist and the height and the view. Dont blame them for enjoying each other's warmth.

The time is 5 and we need to head back to Erode cos J's mom is going to pamper us with some of her world beating Egg Parotas. The thought of it motivates me to do the walk a little faster and we climb on to the bus.

Egg Parotas are beyond belief. Amazing is the word. It undoubtedly must have taken a lot out of J's mom. There are three layers..first the roti, then the Kheema and finally the egg.. BRILLIANT!!! A nice sleep is the ideal dessert and we get to enjoy that as well.

The next day, our last in Erode, is spent within town limits. We visit the Periyar memorial. The house where the social reformist Periyar lived ahs been turned into a memorial. Pity there is not much of information as far as his teachings and philosophies are concerned and the books available are in Tamil, so the illiterate half of me wins.

Next up is a movie. Just to keep us engaged till evening. Once evening comes we set off to Bhavani Barrage. Oneof the little temples of modern India that Jawaharlal Nehru must have referred to. The overcast skies and the reservoir with the dam as the backdrop creates the moment that I dream of in travels. Where you are alone, just you in the moment. Skipping pebbles on the river and hoping time would stop still.

But time does not wait for any man, least of all me. And we board the train back to Chennai with the taste of J's home's wonderful food and the succour of their hospitality giving us company till we reach Chennai.