Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Ashes ~ Cricket at it's best!

IF Cricket is Religion... Ashes is it's most revered celebration!

July 10, 2013: Once again it's that time of the year when the most keenly fought and most keenly followed series in the history of Cricket begins! 

While Australia and England fight for the pride of the historical trophy, Ashes over the years has changed hands much. More so in the recent years after the consistent supremacy of the team from down under was broken. The rivalry between the teams has seen many a high point and a few lows too, for the modern day cricket is quite 'no holds barred'. 

The Ashes 2013 is going to be no different, for the war of words and strategies have already begun. 

While we Indians have been subjected to an extreme overdose of T20, especially the much-tainted IPL, the  recent Champions Trophy has been a refreshing change from the shortest format to the One-Day version. 
However, Test Cricket has been universally accepted as the real 'test' of cricket, and there cannot be a better way to start the season but for Ashes. While I would like to go on and on in eulogising the 'real form of cricket', for the ardent follower of cricket, just the mention Test, is enough. 

The much celebrated Australian team is not the same again. Sans Ricky Ponting, this inexperienced team lead by Michael Clarke will be up against a rejuvenated English team lead by Alastair Cook. Rejuvenated from their recent successes in cricket and buoyed by a sports crazy nation basking in the glory of the historical achievement of its favourite Tennis star.

Andy Murray, who won for his country at home, the mecca of Tennis - Wimbledon after a long wait of 77 years, will surely be a huge inspiration for England.

The mecca of Cricket - Lords, beckons another War!

July 10, 2013 is a day of reckoning, an eagerly awaited date for the connoisseurs of the game, for this will decide whether the longest version of the game will bite the dust or rise from the Ashes.

Thus, I sign off with the same lines as my previous Ashes blog post ended (appended below)

--------------- My July 5, 2009 blogpost on Ashes ---------------

Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust...
…If Thomson doesn't get you, Lillee must!
Sgoes the folklore of cricket that seems to have been the hallmark of what cricket was all about – Test Cricket! Add Gary Gilmour to the attack, and cricket in the 70s and 80s was in its fiercest form of competitiveness, in spite of the fact that it was played over six days with a day’s break in between. The West Indies defined the four pronged pace attack and the spearheads like Croft, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Marshall sent chill down the spine of the batsmen. There were batsmen of the likes of Geoff Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar who would play out days and nights to blunt the above attack.

Cricket in flannels is still considered the purest form and Ashes the flag bearer. Today cricket is followed as religion in India but then the passionate following that this game has dates back to 1882 when a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks wrote a mock obituary in the Sporting Times, which read: “In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP. NB: The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.” That was to be Australia's first victory on English soil over the full strength of England.

Things haven’t changed much even to this day, Ashes conjures some of the most competitive displays of the gentleman’s game and has stood the test of time. If the overdose of Twenty 20 through the Indian Premier League and the T20 World Cup makes the modern follower feel that test cricket is losing its sheen, then look back to the year when Kerry Packer hijacked the cream of the cricketers to a new brand of coloured clothing game, which brought a revolution to the fifty over format.

The 1978-79 Ashes was played in direct competition to the unofficial WSC matches elsewhere in Australia and, while England lost a few regulars, Australia fielded a weak side that lost the series 5-1. The crowds dwindled and Test cricket seemed threatened. After things settled down the following year Ashes saw some of the most memorable performances The 1979 series was notable for the remarkable number of players who made nineties - Kim Hughes (99) Boycott (99*) David Gower (98*) Greg Chappell (98*) and Graham Gooch (99), missing out his maiden century being run-out. Those days cricket was keenly followed on BBC and ABC radio and of course through the newspaper columns. Even as One Day cricket with coloured clothing and white ball made strides, Test cricket continued to flourish and yes with some record breaking performances across the World.

After almost two decades of dominance Australia lost the Ashes to the English in 2005, but then regained it at home eighteen months later with an emphatic 5-0 whitewash. Two years later and with the cream of the Aussies leaving, the team from down under are facing a stiff challenge, not just to retain the Ashes, but also uphold the dispassionate interest that followers of the game have always had in the five day version.

July 8, 2009 is a day of reckoning, an eagerly awaited date for the connoisseurs of the game, for this will decide whether the longest version of the game will bite the dust or rise from the Ashes.

--------------------------------------------- pics : Internet--------------------------------------------------

Friday, 5 July 2013

An India that lives in Villages!

4.15 am: Thursday June 13, 2013: We (I was accompanied by my friend from Hyderabad) alighted at Villupuram in Tamil Nadu (Vizhupuram in Tamil) after a 5 hour journey from Coimbatore. Too early in the day for our proposed meeting with an Agri Professor in a deep interior village, so we decided to stay put in the town for the next six hours.

10.15 am: Boarded a private town bus from Villupuram to Vikravandi, the distance of about 15kms took over half hour, with frequent stoppages for the filled-to-the-brim bus to offload passengers at the villages and take more in.

Vikravandi (Panchayat), I learnt, had a very high literacy rate, the dusty town bus stand led me to the narrow street where I asked the auto guy for directions to Ganapathipattu, a village some 8 – 9 kms from the bus stand. He said it would cost Rs. 150 one way. We had no choice and got into the auto for a long winding ride on some tarred roads, some stoned roads and some no roads leading through some amazing greenery. 

As we reached our destination half hour later, Shiva Kumar, the auto guy introduced himself thus, asked would we take long. I said we would need an hour and half, and he may leave if he wanted to. He said there was no way we would be able to go back to town as there was no other mode of transport. His was the only auto that reached the village edge at that moment. Shiva volunteered to come back if called, but then changed his mind to stay back till we were done with our work.

About an hour and 45 minutes later, having finished our meeting with the highly intellectual humble Agriculturist, we were back in his auto for the return journey. Shiva told us that we would find it difficult to reach our next destination from the Vikravandi bus stop and offered to drop us on the Highway near the toll gate, where we could have our lunch and also board any bus towards Chennai. The idea sounded good for we were very hungry and tired
That’s when I got started talking (for my friend knew very little Tamil, he was a silent spectator), enquiring about the way of life, the political scenario, the rains, the real estate boom and its effect on the land prices and then to Shiva and his family. Like most villages abutting the highways in India, the farming was fast disappearing, the agricultural lands were being gobbled up by realtors and sold at exorbitant prices. Politicians had their fingers in every pie and this place was no different. I steered away from the topic and thought it would rather be interesting to know about the young man and why he preferred to drive an auto in the small town.

At 30, Shiva was the youngest amongst 5 siblings. One of his sisters was a teacher in a private school in a nearby town and another was a home maker, his two brothers were well educated, one was a post graduate and the other a doctorate. He too did his intermediate, for he was quite fluent in English, and followed it up with an ITI certification in electrical winding. Jobs for his qualification were hard to come by and the mills in his town hardly paid much. He did find offers from other major cities, Coimbatore and Salem offered lucrative jobs, but he wanted to stay closer to his home town and with his ageing parents. 

Married and blessed with two kids, Shiva for a brief period worked to cultivate his 10 acres of farm, his frail body couldn’t allow him to do much and continue with it, that’s when he sought his brother-in-law’s services to toil in the land. He found the local travel in and around the twenty odd villages of Vikravandi was quite difficult and thus bought an Auto to ferry people. The earnings did make his ends meet and he was happy with what he was doing, despite the strong objection from his brothers and sisters, who wanted him to do something better.

His two children are going to school and he takes much interest in their education. For someone who has not moved out of his district, Shiva dreams of his children to cross the seas.

With pressure mounting from his family, Shiva yearns to earn a little more to have a travel company of his own, a humble fleet of 2-3 cars, himself driving one of them across the State.

Soon, we were on the highway, as we alighted I asked how much? Shiva simply said “ungallukku yenna thonardho kudungo saar” (Give what you think is right Sir). Overwhelmed with the simpleton I bid goodbye to him after paying him aptly.

Post a sumptuous late lunch, we boarded a bus near the Vikravandi Highway Tollgate and soon my friend dozed off, I was not sleepy and preferred to watch the the outside, as looked out of the window at the vast greenery I was lost in thought…

In an era when most youth of his age and education would not think twice to move to greener pastures across the World, here was a villager who earned a decent livelihood, stayed grounded and dreamt of a Worldly living for his children.

Summer Rains

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