Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chak De India, Once Again!

And finally, it's over - another exciting world cup, the best for India ever! Yes, we still have the finals in Mumbai, but that's like going on a honeymoon when you have already... LOL.. you get my point.

Early in the morning is when I get my bright ideas and yesterday was no exception. I was wondering how best to plan out the day when I thought of catching it at ESquare... we quickly booked 7 Platinum tickets on BookMyShow (it's amazing how freakingly friendly the site is - kudos to them!), caught a quick lunch and plunked ourselves in the airconditioned comfort of Screen 5, the mega high definition screen, where you can clearly pick out the poor fly getting squashed between the ball and the bat when there's a nick - technically, that should be not out, isn't it? With a thousand crazy fans screaming Bharat Maata Ki Jai, it was going to be a very exciting evening!

India had won the toss, and as I predicted in my earlier post, Dhoni chose to bat. Like me, he had read the pitch wrong, and gone in with an extra seamer Ashish Nehra, in place of the done-well-so-far-and-expected-to-play-today R Ashwin. Sehwag gave India the kind of start that only he can provide, smashing Umar Gul to the boundary 5 times in one over. He raced to 38 with 9 boundaries before Wahab Riaz did him in with a beautiful LBW. Gambhir joined him and stroked around for a subdued 27 before he perished stumped behind in the attempt to up the scoring rate. Kohli managed just 9, and then the shocker that silenced the nation - Yuvi going for a golden duck to a beautiful reverse swining yorker from Riaz. Tendulkar meanwhile was leading a very charmed life, dropped not once or twice, but 4 times! He also survived an LBW after a referral, and a stumping after a 3rd umpire review. Sachin was approaching his 100th 100 when his luck finally ran out, caught Afridi bowled Ajmal. Dhoni tried to hang around, but when he left and India were pretty much tottering at 205-6, Raina played another of his stellar knocks in the company of Bhajji and the bowlers, giving India a more than respectable 260 on the board. With the start India had got, 340 was not impossible, but the pitch had got slower and it was difficult to strike the ball. Would Indian bowlers be able to make a match of it? Would Dhoni's decision to drop Ashwin for an extra seamer come to haunt us?

And what a bowling performance they put in! Hunting in a pack, the seamers Zaheer, Munaf and Nehra, using guile and deception, the spinners Harbhajan and Yuvi using control and variation of flight and length, struck at regular intervals, backed by absolutely stunning fielding, even by the much maligned older members of the squad. Singles were impossible to steal, the returns fast and quick. Catches stuck like glue, and the pressure was building up every ball. From an asking rate of just over 5, the rate kept climbing as one Pakistani batsman followed another back to the pavilion after some excruciating moments on the pitch. The mastery and control of the Indians can be gauged from the fact that the first extra came only in the 35th over or so, and India conceded only 8 wides (5 of them came in one crazy ball from Zaheer that went right off the radar) and no no balls!

Pakistan never really got the upper hand, and barring the statistical possibility of winning the match, the Indians never lost grip on the innings. And the inexplicable strategies of the Pakistanis only served to make matters worse - Misbah played like he was trying to save a Test match, blocking and defending countless deliveries, never looking to even steal a single. Shahid Afridi refused to take the powerplay until it was too late. (And then came up with some unintelligible explanation during the presentation ceremony, ending with "I think the Indians played better than us"!)

With 30 to score in the last over, Misbah couldn't get a single shot to the boundary, ultimately holing out to Virat in the deep.
And it was India 5 Pakistan 0.
And it was only the beginning of the show! As fans streamed out of their homes, restaurants and theatres to celebrate, roads jammed, the incessant beats of dhols, tashas, car horns and chants of Chak De India rent the air. But no one was complaining.
On our part, we piled into the Endy, blasting Chak De India on the speakers, driving through town (wherever we could squeeze through traffic) with folks sitting on the car window sill.... the celebrations were unrestrained... there was no religion, caste, age, sex, or income bracket... people hugged and wished each other, with just one identity - proud Indians!!! India had beaten Pakistan, yet again, and there were no two ways about it... once again, a proud nation was adoring its heroes.
A lot was said and written - and along with the war cries were thoughts that this was all a hype. It was just a cricket game, after all, they said. But no, it was not just a cricket game. It was an event that united a country. It made millions of youngsters feel proud to wave our flag, to sing our anthem, and wear our colors. And when I see my daughter, first in 2003 and now in 2011, proudly wear India colors and wave the flag, proud to be an Indian, I think I have done well to expose her to the madness and hype called Cricket!
India travels to Mumbai on Saturday, and yes, I will be at ESquare too... but hey, now it's just a game of cricket :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So Far So Good

India have won the toss and elected to bat, so far so good!

At ESquare, HD cricket with Dolby, electric atmosphere, and Viru has just smashed Gul for his third boundary... And 21 off the over

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Options in Mohali

Mahi has always struck it lucky with his strategies, the latest master strokes being his handling of Ashwin, keeping him under wraps till the crucial final games, and getting the finisher Raina in place of the hard hitting Yusuf Pathan in the match against Australia. Both have worked brilliantly in his favour...

So what awaits us in Mohali?

Mohali is expected to be a pacer's delight, which will suit India well, because it neutralizes Shahid Afridi, who has been the only real threat from the Pakis in the run up to the semis. Shoaib is a spent force, and playing him against India will most likely help the Indians milk him like they have done in the past. Umar Gul and Abdur Razzaq are good, but not likely to hurt the Indians too much. On Dhoni's part, I think Sreesanth will get a look in, fresh from being on the bench all this while. He might replace Munaf, or in extreme situations, might also end up playing instead of Ashwin, with Zaheer, Munaf, Harbhajan and Yuvraj completing the line up, and Sachin rolling his arms over for the part timer. Yusuf might just get a look in too, adding both an extra bowling option, and hard hitting against Shahid and the quickies.

I would definitely bat first, set up a massive total, and put in the Pakis to bat under pressure. Chasing any score, especially with an unfortunate couple of early dismissals, will really put the Indians on the boil, although they are likely to come out unscathed.

Libyan Crisis

The tide is turning again in Libya. After Gadhaffi's forces had quashed the rebels and taken back most of the cities from rebel control, US-led air attacks by NATO forces have crippled the government, and rebels have regained control of Ajdabiyah and other areas. Hope this bodes well for the people of LIbya, but what is stark and repelling is the United States' obvious double standards with respect to human rights and democracy. When oil is concerned, the US is a "saviour" of human rights... Kuwait, Iraq, and now Libya. But when millions die in Congo, Sudan and other African nations from unspeakable atrocities by its dictators, the US simply turns away, and leaves it to poor, under-equipped forces from the UN member countries to try salvage some humanity. Come on big brother, you can do better than that!

Movie Review: The Eagle

A braveheart Roman commander sets out in search of his family's honour, on a quest to find and return the "Eagle", lost along with his father's 5000 strong army in the unconquered wild world in the Northern part of Britain. Brilliant locations and a good cast make this period drama a good bet, although one feels the movie could have been subjected to a little more liberal dose of the editor's knife.

Movie Review: Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai (Marathi)

MPM is a sweet story about strangers, about love, about Pune and Mumbai, and their love-hate relationship. Shot in popular locations around Pune, the movie takes a light hearted jab at Puneri paatis, the people and the Puneri abhimaan that will resonate with anyone who's lived in Pune, although pukka Puneris might not agree with all that's said :)

Swapnil Joshi is a little repetitive with his dialogue delivery, but Mukta Barve as the Mumbai girl does a very good job.

Do watch it, and if nothing else, try identify all the Puneri locations. My personal favourite - seeing my favourite waiter at Wadeshwar in the movie :)

And Now, The English!

Another semi-final, another crushing defeat.. the time, the Lankans making a joke of laboriously compiled English total of 220 something, toying with the attack to reach the target with all 10 wickets to spare, and Upul Tharanga joining T Dilshan with his own century off the winning shot.

With the wannabes joining the once-champs, the semi-final lineup now boasts India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka along with the New Zealanders, each winning their own QF encounters with convincing and one-sided wins over their opponents.

Sri Lanka stand an excellent chance against the Kiwis on Tuesday, while India should win the mother of all games on Wed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chokers At It Again!

The chokers have done it again, crashing to a humiliating defeat against NZ in the third quarter final, failing to chase a tiny 200 odd score, after being in a commanding 100 for 2 at one stage. As the South African captain said in the presentation ceremony, there's really nothing else to say!

Movie Review: Black Swan

When the director of a popular ballet company chooses her to play the lead role in the new version of his production, Swan Lake, Nina (Natalie Portman) sees all her hard work and commitment as a ballet dancer paying off. But Nina has competition from a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis). Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the graceful White Swan, and the Black Swan, who represents the dark side of seduction and sensuality. And while Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly, the director believes Lily's spontaneity more closely represents the Black Swan. Nina faces off Lily in an increasingly complicated relationship. Or is it just her mind playing tricks?

A good psychological thriller, but only for serious movie buffs. Natalie Portman puts in a fantastic performance!

Yet Another Life

While we were clapping and shouting our hearts out for India, yet another beautiful life was snuffed out, a young 19 year old on her 2 wheeler, struck by a bus, died of grievous head injuries, just a few meters from where I live. For a lot of us, a 2 wheeler might be unavoidable, but can we at least take precautions and wear a helmet? Ride slow, and carefully? There are really no second chances here.

Sweet Revenge!

Almost exactly 8 years ago, on 23rd March, a young Indian fan borrowed 3 chunnis from his sister to stitch together an Indian flag. It was India vs Australia in the finals of the 2003 WC, and India had played brilliantly to beat the best teams in the competition, and deservedly eyed the trophy. A victory rally was planned, and he wanted to be prepared! But before the last stitches were through, Australia had batted India out of the game with a 350 odd score.

Yesterday, 8 years later, along with a billion other Indians, he had his revenge!

Australia won the toss and elected to bat on a difficult pitch at the Motera in Ahmedabad. Ponting probably wanted the Indians to flash back to 2003, and bat them out of the game. However, the much-maligned Indian bowlers were raring to go. Led by the indomitable Dhoni, they kept at the Aussies, striking at regular intervals, never allowing them to settle down. Dhoni opened the bowling with his secret card Ashwin, who struck in the 10th over, Yuvi got two critical wickets, and Zaheer's brilliance with the ball meant that Ponting's lucky 100 (he was given not out when LBW to Harbhajan, and India had already exhausted its quota of referrals) just about managed to take the Aussie score to a respectable 260. India fielded brilliantly too, saving at least another 15 runs with diving efforts.

When the men in blue took the field, Indians wanted just two things - Sachin's 100th 100 and an Indian win. Sachin and Sehwag opened with a flourish, and Sachin soon raced to a brilliant 50 after Sehwag's early dismissal, in the company of Gambhir. In the process, he also completed 18000 ODI runs. But the stadium was stunned into silence when he was given out to a possible backfoot no-ball. With a not-so-threatening RR, Indians never lost sight of the target. But after a disastrous set of mix ups in the middle with Yuvi, Gambhi ran himself out. With Virat falling to a rank bad shot, and Dhoni similarly catching himself out, India suddenly seemed vulnerable for the first time in the game. With 70 odd runs to go, and 5 down, with the last recognized pair of Yuvi and the out of form Raina in the middle, would the team falter like they did in the SA encounter? The pitch was also expected to deteriorate and turn, but Ponting had packed his side with his "fearsome" pace bowler quartet. But Yuvi and Raina were up to the task, first striking Lee for 14 in the 40th over, followed by Tait's 13 run over. Suddenly the pressure was off. Raina even hit Lee for a huge six, the first and only of the innings. When Lee got hit with the ball at the boundary during a diving attempt, and had to walk off the field bleeding under his eye, the signs for Australia had turned very ominous. There was no stopping the men in blue, and it was only fitting that the winning boundary came off the blade of the Prince of Indian cricket off a Lee delivery. With his 4th fifty and 4th consecutive man of the match award, Yuvi had silenced all his critics with a performance when it mattered the most.

With Chak De India blasting from his Endeavour's speakers, the young man and his daughter took off on a vistory rally to celebrate what had been a most memorable victory! FC road was jam-packed with revellers, clambering on buses with huge waving tricolors, and celebrating like there was no tomorrow. India had proved, once again, why we are #1 in the world, and for a billion Indians, here was yet another reason to celebrate!

Next stop, Mohali, for the war with Pakistan. As Dhoni said, for most Indians, this is the match that matters, and if we win this, the WC will no longer matter!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

India Takes On Australia

So here we are, probably the match of the tournament.. India takes on Australia. Australia have won the toss and happily for India, have decided to bat. Probably looking at a repeat of the 2003 final, when they batted India out of the game.. but if Zaheer, Harbhajan and Ashwin (is he playing?) can restrict the Aussies with some early wicket, the Indian batting machine can finish off the job.

Fingers crossed, here we go...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Red Stunner


Back in Goa after a couple of years for Holi, we had an awesome time! After warming up at home with eco friendly colors, buckets of water and the garden hose, we piled into an open top Gypsy loaded with screaming kids and buckets of colored water and water cannons and went out into the battlefield :) The great thing about Holi in Goa is the decency about the whole event... You don't play dirty. Most folks sportingly joined the fun, the rest were left alone. Foreigners, especially, love the experience and we obliged :) Of course being in an open top jeep meant we were completely exposed too, and took buckets of water ourselves!

To end the day, we had a good win over the Windies... along with some chicken cafreal!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pretty Sentinel

Wings Of Water

Samara's Masti in Dapoli

We were off on yet another trip this weekend, to Dapoli. And Samara took the opportunity to indulge in her favourite passtime - splashes in the Dapoli rivulet by the beach.

Movie Review: Tanu Weds Manu

TWM is one of these movies that you go to with low expectations, and come out having had a good time, actually! Shot in small town UP, the screenplay and cinematography is excellent, and evokes poignant memories of a different India a couple of decades back - which is still alive and kicking in most of the small towns all over the heartland. Vividh Bharati, for example.

Kangana as the rebel Tanu and Madhavan as the simple Manu are perfectly cast. Jimmy Shergil looks pretty good in his role too. And while the story is nothing extraordinary, the 2 hour 15 min movie will keep you interested till the end.

A good one time watch, especially for Kangana fans.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Yet another alien invasion, this time water-thirsty creatures and machines that hurl thousands of meteors on Earth, aiming to colonize us. Yet another US Marine platoon sent out to retrieve a clutch of civilians from the "bomb zone", a lot of sacrifices, lot of hardware, dust, blood, and finally, the noble Marines of the US of A save the world and we all live to fight another day.

If the camera work was not so shaky (yes, we get it, it's tough during a war, but really - do you HAVE to shake it so much?), I would actually have enjoyed the visualizations...

Not too bad.

Movie Review: Hall Pass

If you have loved your "Hangover", this one's for you. When Rick and Fred, two no-longer-in-college married men, are given a week off from marriage by their wives, they are confident they can quickly make some kills, but alas, realise they don't really have it in them anymore to lift their plans! And when their wives themselves start having some fun, things quickly get out of control. A lot of graphic crude humour a la Hangover, this movie is a lot of fun if you go along with your partners in crime, but definitely not a recommended date movie!

Guys, watch it!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Movie Review: Saat Khoon Maaf

The movie had been pending for quite some time now, and I finally got a chance to catch up with it today. Not bad at all! A well made dark movie, it keeps you spell bound right through to the end... which itself will ensure you get out of the theatre more than just a little confused, and wondering. I loved the way the camera has been used, and the stifling atmosphere that engulfs you in every scene, making you want to break free, making you emphatize with the "murderer"...

Priyanka puts in another excellent performance. The rest of the cast is pretty much on the dot, too.

Overall, for those who like serious cinema, not a bad option at all. For those looking for a light hearted entertaining evening, avoid it.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

India Beat Ireland

On a day England came back from staring defeat in the face to beat a stunned "choker" South Africa, India went about their business calmly ensuring Ireland didn't need to party tonight. Winning the toss, Dhoni put in the Irish to bat first on a placid wicket, and Zaheer struck immediately twice, before the Irish put up a century partnership, exposing India's weak link - their bowling. A fine 5 wicket haul by Yuvi ensured that the Irish folded at 208. India went about their task cooly, and while wickets fell regularly, the depth and experience of the lineup meant victory was never in doubt. And after Dhoni departed, Pathan struck some lusty blows to ensure any hopes the Irish had of a close fight were quickly dashed. Yuvi got a well deserved 50, and became the only cricketer in WC history to get both 5 wickets and 50 runs in a single game.

India now meet The Nedherlands, followed by SA.

Which Is Better?

Samara recently got some of her "flab" removed - need you to tell me which looks better :)

Movie Review: The King's Speech

It's the 1930s, and Europe is on the brink of war, with Hitler's histrionics unnerving an increasingly worried England. With King George V dead, and his eldest son abdicating the throne in order to marry his commoner, divorcee lover, England desperately needs a charismatic King to lead it into battle. The man next in line to the throne is the younger brother George ("Bertie"), the future King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II. Suffering a dreaded stammer and considered by many as unfit to be king, Bertie takes treatment from a speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Will Lionel's unorthodox techniques break the barriers between the commoner and the royalty, and will the King find his voice?

Colin Firth puts in an Oscar winning (and deserving) performance as the King, while Geoffrey Rush as Lionel is outstanding too. While the movie is slow, the performances are brilliant, and coupled with some fantastic screenplay, gives an outstandingly intimate look at the lives of England's royalty, a romance with which has been unshaken, inspite of not so inspiring examples in recent times.

A definite watch for serious movie aficionados.


As Egypt comes to terms with a new order, searching for the promised freedom post Mubarak under an army and institutions ruled pretty much by the same old order, Libya's embattled people are fighting for survival against an increasingly maniac Gadaffi, who has vowed to fight till the end, and for whom sending air fighters to bomb his own cities is a very acceptable strategy. The Saudis and the Sheikhs of the oil rich gulf are pumping in billions of dollars in social schemes, aiming to quash any revolutions before they take unmanageable proportions, like they threatened to do in Bahrain. China, having already blocked Facebook and Twitter, is ensuring that any online calls for meetings and demonstrations are quickly overwhelmed by a huge show of force, with police officers completely outnumbering any potential trouble makers. Iran has also responded in a pretty similar fashion. After Tunisia, Ivory Coast and a bunch of other smaller nations threaten to follow suit, but the governments there have responded with ruthless show of brutality and power. The next few months will tell if this is good or bad for the world - will we see the rise of true democracy and human rights in the Middle East and Africa, or will these nations degenerate into a boiling cauldron of terrorism and fundamentalism? Interestingly, the US, its faithful alliy UK, and pretty much all of the West, is uncharacteristically quiet - concerned, but unsure how to engage in the region.

In India, another revolution is quietly but surely taking place. From religion and caste based politics, the focus is shifting to corruption. A resurgent Supreme Court, a revitalised BJP, and a very involved common man is ensuring that corruption is top of the agenda. Kalmad is facing intense scrutiny on the CWG scam, and is likely to be arrested any time soon. The high rollers of Adarsh society are nervously waiting for the inevitable demolition. Raja has spent close to a month in jail now, while head honchos of dozens of corporates are very worried about the fall out of the 2G scam sucking them in as more and more skeletons fall out of their closets under investigations by the CBI, CAG and a bunch of other enforcement agencies under tight supervision of the SC. The PM and his government, unfortunately, seem to be clueless on how to tackle this, unable to read the minds of the people, allowing blow after blow to sully the government's image, and allowing the BJP to resurrect itself from near extinction. With the CVC's appointment being quashed by the SC for his involvement in earlier corruption cases, the PM has had to suffer a very public humiliation, given his open support to the CVC and his feeble attempts at justification of the appointment earlier. How many of these cases will ultilately go to closure, how much of the black money will eventually be recovered, and will the BJP be able to wrest control is yet ot be seen... but the departure from religion and caste is a result well deserved by this country!

And finally, the WC continues to lumber along, the pace slowly picking up... but into its nth week now, the excitement and passion is yet to really explode, the minnows ensuring that most 50 over matches end up finishing faster than T20s! Yes, Ireland beat England and Indians will have just that additional crease on their foreheads today when they take on the Guiness guzzlers today, but come on, if ODIs are to survive, we need a lot more of the India-England action from last week.

And finally, Mazda is recalling thousands of a popular model on fears that a particular yellow spider might have built nests in its fuel tanks. It's a spider's world!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ireland Blanks England

What an incredible match today - chasing 327, Ireland beat England by 3 wickets with 5 balls to spare. Kevin O'Brien scored the fastest century in WC history (off 50 balls), and John Mooney chipped in with a chanceless run a ball 30 odd runs in the end to take the very calm and cool Irish to their first historic victory in the WC.

Finally, the minnows are making heads turn!