Thank You Greg!

Dear Greg,

We owe much to your shrewdness for the help you gave in re-changing the face of India cricket. So, here goes a list of things that we need to be thankful to you for.

Thank you Greg for:

1. forcing India to learn the term ‘Process’, without really making them understand what it really meant. Not just the common masses, but the Indian team itself may not know what it was supposed to be!

2. making cricket in our country more exciting than it already was by your ‘leaked’ emails and smses to a few of our favourite journalists.

3. almost ending the career of the best ever skipper India has ever had.

4. making us realize that every defeat was a ‘learning curve’

5. persisting with underperforming players (read Suresh Raina) averaging just about 15 odd in the last few games and destroying the confidence of players who deserved better (read Mohd Kaif)! By giving such people more chances, he was moulding them to become better. Anyway, those who were performing better didn’t need that opportunity!

6. helping us realize that if you have an injury to the middle finger, then it heals faster when it’s left standing as the other fingers are bent.

7. giving Indian cricket fans the best ever performance in a world cup after what the team had done in 1979!

8. giving Indian cricket back the old tag it had throughout the 1990s – ‘consistently inconsistent’! During John Wright’s reign of four years, we got bored by the single term— ‘consistent’!

9. defining roles for individual team members, but not for the team as a whole!

10. introducing the concept of diversity in unity in the Indian team. ‘Divide and rule’ still can work wonders!!!

11. giving us action-packed and thrilling press conferences.

12. helping us realize the importance of team-spirit by watching our opponents play as a unit and defeating us convincingly and consistently.

13. killing the champion bowler in Irfan Pathan by forcing him to come at one-down. It improved his batting skills and opened the way for other bowlers to enter the team.

14. enlightening us on an important management lesson that ‘sucking up’ can take you places. That explains how you retained certain players despite a string of terrible performance.

15. lots of other things that I really am not able to remember now.

We really are grateful for all that thou hast done for Indian cricket and for taking Indian cricket to a new level altogether! We wish you a nice farewell and have a nice trip back home to Australia! I am sure they all missed you! Hope you enjoyed the Indian hospitality.

Thanking you.

A sincere Indian Cricket Fan.

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“Someone told me that a few years back, you were arrogant. Is it true?” A friend messaged me a couple of days ago. It got me thinking! Who was I arrogant against? Only when I realized who that ‘someone’ was did I know why he would have said so.

The first time he had seen me was at a camp, when we played basketball! And in that game, I was getting on my opponents nerves and this guy happened to be in that team!

People know me as a calm and cool customer, someone who never gets angry! But those that have seen me play any game on the ground would know that I am diametrically opposite to what I am otherwise! But fortunately, only a few have had that ‘privilege’! I get extremely aggressive and argumentative. If I see something unfair happening, then I raise my decibels to a not-so-desired level! I play to win. Period. I am a very bad loser. That explains why I’ve cried a few times after ending up on the losing side. But I do believe I am a good winner!

My friends hate me when I am playing cricket (or any other sport), but only if I happen to be in their opponent’s team! The first time Carlo and Anish played against me was when we played some friendly matches and called it Mallus versus Non-mallus. Anish happened to say something when I was bowling and immediately I burst out with some really rash and harsh words! And every time I took a wicket, I had aggression and anger written all over my face. I batted with venom that day! I don’t know what got into me but Carlo and Anish were not amused and they made that clear later on! Even I was embarrassed after it all!

I wasn’t going to change though! Because I am quite sure the same two loved it when they played for the team I skippered, in a box cricket tournament in college. In a game, I got quite angry with the umpires and used some choicest words. Well, not exactly! Because I would rather die than use abusive words. And me being me, there’s no question of me picking up a physical fight either! So, these were just in the form of ‘rude’ (for want of a better term) words! “Dude, you need better glasses,”, “They’ve paid you or something,” “Try umpiring in a game of marbles”—just examples of an array of words I used on the umpires!

Maybe I have taken inspiration from Sourav Ganguly! Maybe I am just over-passionate about winning! But on a sports field, I might never change, even if it is just a friendly game! Maybe that is why God never made me a sportsman!!! He didn’t want people to hate me!!! If my first meeting with all my friends was on a sports field, I wonder if they would ever have wanted to meet me! I guess I am arrogant after all, but only when I am playing something on a sports ground!

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The Story of Mumbaikar

As the young politician unwrapped the pack and showed it to the crowd, I turned around and sat down, not wanting anyone to see me. A year has passed and I still don’t know why I did that, but there sure was a tear or two in my eyes then. Or maybe, my eyes were just moist. Maybe I was exhausted. Maybe I was just relieved that it indeed was all over. Maybe I was overjoyed! Maybe it was all of the above!

About a year or so back, inside one of the large classrooms of XIC, Milind Deora released the magazine ‘Mumbaikar’, a project undertaken by the journalism students of XIC. Now, each student was supposed to interview and write a feature on someone who stands out as a mumbaikar. So, out went all the wannabe journos hunting for prominent and not-so-prominent mumbaikars, who best describes (or described) the city. We weren’t just supposed to hunt for mumbaikars, whom we were to interview, but also for mumbaikars who were willing to pay and thus, advertise for a student project. The second somehow seemed tougher than the former task!

More than a month into the project and there were no signs of any money for the ‘soon to be released’ magazine. I roamed around the city trying to find a willing mind or two who’d be ready to ‘donate’ their hard earned shilling for a magazine that would be read by only a couple of hundred people, about 50 of these 100 would be the developers of the magazine themselves! Found none! Either they were already ‘taken’ by a few early-birds from our class or they weren’t interested. Finally, I found a ‘saviour’ in the form of an uncle from church, who readily agreed.

The mumbaikar I interviewed was Adrian D’souza, the Indian hockey goalkeeper. I wrote my article and thought a major worry of mine was over. But, little did I know that the headache had just begun. The layout and production team was supposed to take up the responsibility of designing pages. I was in production and unofficially, the leader of the team! Although certain guidelines were given about the way in which the pages are supposed to be designed, it seemed very few were in the mood to follow them. One of our tutors for the project, who also taught us pagemaker, told me that 90% of these pages would have to remade or redesigned! But the most unfortunate part of this whole mess was we were way past the date of release and some people were yet to find a mumbaikar! On the hind sight, we did have a lot of money and sponsors aplenty. But the possibility of these cheques being returned back to the advertiser seemed possible, as bringing out the mag seemed just a distant dream! The mag would have seemed like a mini-version of yellow pages!

Finally, after a lot of pushing and prodding, the class found just about enough so-called ‘mumbaikars’! Interviewed them. Wrote articles—some of them just for the heck of writing! But then, the tougher part started. Designing them on Pagemaker. I had initially thought this would be easiest part since everyone by now, was supposed to be well-versed with designing. But wasn’t to be!

Pages now had to be designed again and redesigned and again designed. And the pain started when we were to create a dummy for the mag to know where to adjust the huge amount of ads and how to place the articles. It took Pooja, Mayura, Sami, Priyanka, Gayathri and me one whole evening (and a night) to sort out the dummy correctly and yet, there had to be some compromises. This now meant, that the layout and production team, comprising of two mallus, had to redo the entire designing again—about 44 articles and 80 odd pages!

Bijoy and I made the computer lab on the 2nd floor our home from thereon. Romeo, the in charge there, became a family member. Life for us between lectures revolved around Mumbaikar, the supposed-to-be-already-released magazine, shuttling between the lec halls, computer lab and a little grab at Pav Bhaji from the canteen! But every time we got into a good rhythm and speed, a new complication arose. A lot of ‘minor adjustments’ had to be made at many places to fit in articles in a page! And after all the articles were fitted in, it was not turn to make the centrespread, index page and the editorial. The editorial and the centrespread took me an entire day at home to finish. As if that was a big thing, designing just the index page took me another day! Seemed like a simple index page with not much creativity needed. But then, two pages were to be filled with ‘non-creativity’!

Finally after all the designing was done, it was time to take the final soft copy to the printer. I had already made a couple of visits to the printer and had finalized the costing, the type of paper and the cover page paper. The printer had his eyebrows raised when I told him with confidence that we were ready to pay the amount he estimated!

The day I took the final copy was action-packed too! It was the day of our final editing for radio production module. Reached the studio a little late cause of a minor mishap but with a major back pain. I could hardly move about. But I had to rush back (to the computer lab of course)with Bijoy and do some final ‘touch ups’. Poor Bijoy had to be pulled back for another one of our modules (News Broadcast). He had to clean the studios!

So, I headed for the printer and there was a powerpoint presentation I had to make in another half an hour for the Public Speaking module. Had to go to Byculla and come back within half an hour!!! But off I went! Reached back to the lec hall about 15 minutes late, but thankfully, much before my presentation was to start!

The planning for the release took very little time and our Chief Guest, who had to be a high profile person, was also decided and agreed upon! South Mumbai MP—the young Milind Deora! Caterers and food was also decided and I was to take up the presentation on the ‘Story of Mumbaikar’!

And a few more phone calls from the printer later, Ida, our XIC office secretary, called us to the office. “The magazines have arrived!” Our joy couldn’t be controlled. And off we ran to the room where the mags were stored. I told a couple of my friends about the arrival, as I ran upstairs. Ida took only four of us inside the room and told us to lock the room. Those couple of friends were not amongst the four! They came up, just stood outside as the doors shut on them and went back angry! Ida opened the packet and the magazines looked awesome and remarkably professional. Everything looked so perfect and original! Right from the cover page picture, for which Rishi took pains to get the right shot of the Queens Necklace, to the photographs in the articles.

Somehow, I had something else in mind! I went back and apologized to the two friends but I realized it will take much more than that to get them out of the ‘insult’ they suffered. The words spoken were little, but it conveyed a lot! The mag was to be released in two days and the last thing I needed was two of my good friends getting angry. That put me off and I told my other friends I ain’t coming for the release. I walked off the college without attending the last lecture. Next day was a holiday and I hadn’t at all prepared for the presentation I was to make for the release. A friend called up and I told her I wasn’t coming! “Don’t be stupid ok? If anyone deserves to come, it’s just you!” I don’t know what made me so upset. Maybe I was just drained out! But then, I knew I couldn’t possibly avoid not going for the release of a magazine that I would dare to call my very own!

And all dressed up, I was in college much before the release. Some last minute rehearsals of my presentation and a few more adjustments here and there. Bijoy, Priyanka and Rachita did a good job coordinating the programmes for the release. Perhaps, the least I worked for the project was on the day of the release! But, even the release was done professionally! Not everyone from the class felt like being a part of the project and hence, came for the release with little or no interest. A few others were missing. But I cared a damn! This was a day that I should be proud of!

As Milind Deora unwrapped the covers to release the magazine, there were shouts from around the room! He held the magazine high and showed it to the audience. The clapping continued. I was standing next to the PC. Found it hard to hold back my emotions! The entire class could see me and so, I just sat down hiding myself behind the table and with my eyes wet, I covered my mouth! Bijoy sat down asking what’s wrong! I just shook my head unable to utter a word in the English vocabulary!

My presentation—‘The Story of Mumbaikar’—was well received! It was complete with a lot of humour and yet, the ‘story’ was conveyed with an ‘Amen’ in the end! “I dare say this, the batch next year will try to come out with something better, but this (a pause as I held up the copy) will still be THE BEST,” I said as my sign-off line!

Mumbaikar brought out the best of all emotions within me. Frustration, anger, depression (kinda), discouragement, sadness, ecstasy and finally, a great joy and relief. I lauged. I cried. I spoke harshly against my very own. I held my head and finally, I punched the air in delight! Mumbaikar would never have come out if it wasn’t for a few names I mentioned above and especially, Bijoy! I had the same thing to say what Bijoy said, while heaving a huge sigh, during his vote of thanks, “It’s over!” I indeed was glad it was all over! It’s been a year since this magazine has come out, but everytime I look back, I still feel like patting myself on my back for a job very well done!

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A post about the World Cup missing from a cricket freak… So, finally, here it is…

Woolmer murdered! Pakistan out! Records tumbling almost every second day. This had to be THE most happening cricket world cup ever! Yet, for some weird reason, this World Cup didn’t give any birth of excitement inside me. Almost every Indian is an eternal optimist when it comes to India at the World Cup. So, I joined the million others in ranking India as one of the favourites to bring home the cup.

But now I am just sad and disappointed. Just like the million others are! Not just because India showed their worst ever performance after 1979, but also because of the way a few Indian legends will bid adieu to the World Cup. It is indeed sad to see Sachin, Sourav, Rahul and Kumble go out to such a sad self-inflicted farewell.

Indians still had hopes of making it to the round of Super 8, despite the first loss. Memories of a slow start during the 2003 World Cup came back. But that team was different. They believed in being like Phoenix—rising from the ashes! This team was hit by the huge roadblock tried on them by a coach with his weird and ‘out of the box’ ideas. He called it the ‘process’. Every defeat (and there were many at that) was termed as a ‘learning experience’ for the youngsters. I am really sorry Mr. Process, but your two years of experimentation with the process cost us dear, broke our hearts and almost ruined the career of a best ever left-hander India has ever produced.

Post mortems will flow out in the media and a few questions will be raised and be left unanswered. Fingers will be pointed. ‘Dravid’s captaincy desired more’, ‘the process failed’, ‘Sachin should retire’, so on and so forth. What’s the point? We can only watch a worthy winner lift the trophy a month from now.

But then, all will be forgotten when India heads for the Twenty20 World Cup next year in South Africa. That will trigger a fresh ray of hope and prayers, but the team will have a new foreigner (read coach) on board and possibly a new leader too.

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