Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ushering in the 51st century

While it may sound funny that I am writing about 51st century even as we are still in the nascent stages of the 21st century. But this comes at the back of an achievement, a record, a feat that will remain unparalleled for years to come.

Yes I am talking about the 50th test century that the best batsman of the modern generation of cricketers, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has scored. In a country, which fantasises about personal achievements in cricket more than anything else, this record breaking effort has caught the eye of every cricket follower across the world. Every newspaper is carrying a sizeable coverage of the feat with the Sydney Morning Herald even conducting a poll amongst its readers, comparing the Little Master with the great Sir Don Bradman.

As I write this blog, I recollect the edition of TIME magazine that featured the Little Master among 60 Asian Heroes. The section that covered the athletes and the explorer featured the likes of Jahangir Khan and Bruce Lee to name a few. And here found our batting genius, an introduction, which is an apt picture of what was to expect of the man. An excerpt of the article is presented below:

"When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam. When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to "open" the Nehruvian economy. It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will."

They say immortals never die; they remain in the hearts of the people, even after they are long gone. That may not hold true in every sense. We will never get to see John Lennon write, compose and perform like the way he did. Nor will we see Rod Laver winning the grand slam for the third time, no matter how badly we crave for! And so I consider myself blessed, more than lucky, to have been born in an era, when Tendulkar played and scored all those 50 Test centuries. It is a candid enough confession that I have faint memories of the first few hundreds scored by him, even though I was not even in my teens. And thanks to my elder brother who happens to be as sports fanatic as yours truly, that I could stay up late and watch the highlights package in the good old Doordarshan days. I remember the winters of 1991-92 and 1992-93 when India toured Australia and South Africa respectively in the summers of the southern hemisphere. The Doordarshan days were ‘special’ in every sense, as there was no satellite television in the country, which meant no live coverage of cricket matches when India toured, and all that the viewers could see was the one hour highlights package which would begin with a blue screen displaying the programme and the venue blinking at a rate more than a car indicator would, at a traffic signal.

So it was during these highlights show, that I saw Tendulkar bat for the first time. It was the tour of Pakistan in 1980, which also happened to be SRTs first. And it was in one of the one day exhibition matches that my brother asked me to occupy the privileged seat in front of the TV. He mentioned about Tendulkar for the first time and told me that this is the guy who resembles Pappu and plays superb. Pappu?? Hang on. Pappu was the elder son of one of our family friends and in the murky days of Doordarshan every one would resemble someone or the other. This was the match, when the then 16 year old kid from Bombay took on the then best spinner, Abdul Qadir. Pakistan had had set India a meagre target of 158, and the crowds jeered Sachin by calling him “Doodh Peeta Bachcha”. India got home thanks largely to Sachin’s 18 ball 53. That one over from Qadir read 6, 0, 4, 6, 6, 6. Twenty eight runs were scored in one over off the miserly Abdul Qadir. That marked the arrival of Sachin on the big stage.
Sachin got to his first test century on the tour of England in 1990, when he scored a brilliant 119 not out to help salvage a draw for India at Manchester. Next hundred came on the tour of Australia, where India were completely outclassed and lost four of the five test matches played. Tendulkar scored his second hundred (148 not out) in the third test match at SCG, which also saw Shane Warne’s debut and Ravi Shastri’s highest test score of 206 not out. India were undone by the rain and saw them draw a test on foreign soil after coming within sniffing distance of a victory. India headed to Adelaide for the fourth test and were again unlucky to lose the test match by 38 runs, chasing 371 in the last innings. The fifth test of the series was at the “bouncy, pacy” WACA Ground, Perth. India were struggling at 69 for 2 when the 18 year old kid walked in to play the biggest innings of his life. All the Indian batsmen had struggled on the fast, bouncy pitches of Down Under against the likes of Craig McDermott, the hostile and the burly Merv Hughes, Bruce Reid and Mike Whitney. But one man stood tall. That was the master class. Sachin scored a superb 160 balls 114. The Aussie bowlers bowled the short stuff brilliantly, but the little batsman from Mumbai had every answer. Nothing could sound sweeter on the television than listening to Bill Lawry’s voice that still echoes “Short, wide, cut, four”. And the script was full of cuts, pulls and drives. A hundred studded with 16 hits to the fence. That for many remains the best hundred that Sachin, has scored. Other hundreds that rekindle are the ones scored in Chennai (136) against Pakistan, at his favourite SCG (read Sachin’s Cricket Ground) where he scored a no driving in the off 241* against Australia.

So before I wrap up this article, here is my list of top test 100s by the man:

1. 114, WACA, Perth against Australia 1991-92. He was still in his teens when he scored this hundred on a pitch, considered by many as the graveyard for the batsmen from the subcontinent.

2. 136, MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, against Pakistan 1999. Out of nowhere, Saqlain Mushtaq was bowling his Doosras with pin point accuracy. Yet again the famed Indian batting line up collapsed, this time to a spinner. This is where SRT played on a turning fourth day pitch and scored a chanceless hundred. He fell to a rash stroke, which meant India lost hopes and with it the match.

3. 241*, SCG, Sydney, against Australia 2003-04. SRT struggled in the first three tests on this tour with his favorite drives on the off side, which brought his downfall in every innings. He headed into the final test at SCG and did not score a single boundary on the off side with the drives. To cut out his favourite stroke and yet score a magnificent double takes a lot of determination, grit and focus. And this is what one witnessed in SCG.

4. 155*, MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, against Australia 1998. Yet another hundred that sparks brilliance is 155* against Shane Warne led Aussie attack in the first test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy in Chennai, which Warnie famously put it as having nightmares of Sachin dancing down the track and hitting him over his head.

5. 168, Newlands, Capetown, against South Africa 1996-97. The tour of South Africa with the dusty, bouncy Durban, where India was shot out for a mere 100 in the first innings and lost the test match inside three days. The second test at Newlands was no different in the manner the Indian batsmen faced the red cherry. Allan Donald was the best fast bowler then and was breathing fire. Sachin, in the company of the wristful Azhar launched a counter offensive and scored huge hundreds in quick duration. He fell to the brilliance of Adam Bacher and the match ended in yet another Indian loss on foreign soil.

In my next blog, I will pick the best ODI hundreds by Sachin, hopefully by which time he would have scored his 100th International hundred.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


So after my work on the square of a number, I tried to move up in the same direction, this time to look out for similarities in the cube of a number. This particular observation is a lot different from the one that I mentioned in the square of a number, in the sense that it establishes a link after a calculation has been carried out.

So, let us consider the following before we set off with the calculations:
N= Number, the cube of which needs to be determined.
N-1= Number that precedes N.
Now, (N-1)cubed gives the cube of the number (N-1)

So the cube of the number N can be derived from the cube of the number (N-1) in the following way:
Ncubed = (N-1)cubed + 3{N*(N-1)} + 1 Eq (i)

Now, in order to illustrate the above linkage further, let me take two random consecutive numbers 5&6.
N = 6
N-1 = 5

Now cube of 5 is (N-1)cubed = 125

So, the cube of 6 according to the above mentioned observation should then come down to:
6cubed = 5cubed + 3{6*5} + 1
6cubed = 125 + 90 + 1
6cubed = 216.

This observation holds true for the calculation of the cube of a number from the cube of the number that precedes it. However, I would not recommend using this observation as this involves a multiplication, which can prove to be cumbersome in case the numbers turn out to be large. But in any case, this analogy again gives us the link that exists between the numbers and their further calculations, just as it did in case of the squares.


I usually do not talk about my mathematical abilities. People close to me, often talk about my quick calculating abilities. To put it simply, I would say, it’s nothing special that I do. I calculate each calculation, and that’s about it. Yes, I like to research on the mathematical calculations, and so here I am, sharing with the readers, something unique. I am not sure, if the following two have been researched or not, and so I do not lay any claims on it. True to my words, I am not circulating my blog amongst my readers. I call my research work an observation more than anything else.

SQUARE of a number:
We all seem to be fascinated by squaring of a number, especially when we are young and at a later stage, preparing for some competitive exam or the other. This particular observation was done by me when I was probably in my first year of graduation. It may seem to be similar to the FIBONACCI SERIES, though it is unique in its own way.

The square of a number can be found out by adding the number of which the square is to be determined and the number preceding it, to the square of the number preceding it. So, let us assume the following:
A= 1st number.
B= 2nd number.

Then the square of “B” is given by:
Bsquared=(A+B) + Asquared

If, the same can be put in the form of a mathematical equation, the same can be re-written as:
N2(squared) = {N + (N-1)} + (N-1)squared Eq (i)

Let me consider two numbers: 2&3 as an illustration to this observation:

We need to calculate N2(squared) i.e 3squared
Now, N+(N-1) = (2+3) = 5

So, substituting the above values in Eq (i), we get the following results:
3squared = (5+4) = 9

Similarly if we take another set of two numbers i.e 10 & 11.

We need to calculate Nsquared i.e 11squared
Now, N+(N-1) = (11+10) = 21

So, substituting the above values in Eq (i), we get the following results:
11squared = (100+21) = 121

This series continues for the calculation of the squares of all the following numbers running into millions & billions and so on and so forth. As a result of this, the tedious task of doing the calculations or having to remember the squares of a number can be let go, by making use of this observation. In the following blog, I will describe yet another research observation, wherein I will describe a linkage in the calculation of the cube of a number.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What makes ordinary players great coaches?

This is one question which makes me think after every successful campaign by a team or an individual. There are examples of very ordinary players who have gone on to become good captains and even more, a highly successful coach. Here is one list which I have jotted down:

Dav Whatmore
John Wright
Late Bob Woolmer
Bobby Simpson
Tom Moody

And as I write this, I can think of some ordinary players, who were brilliant captains: Mike Brearly, Hansie Cronje, Nasser Hussain. Even Steve Waugh, who many consider to be the best captain Aussies ever had, was a very limited batsman, but with his sheer hard work and mental toughness, went on to become one of the most prolific batsmen of his era, scoring most of his runs in the most difficult situations. Not far behind would be Allan Border and Mark Taylor, who were tough mentally and scored runs heavily in spite of their limited abilities, and yet were outstanding captains. And who can forget the great Ian Chappell, who has forced me to write a blog on him.

Some of the outstanding football coaches:
Sir Bobby Robson
Sir Alex Fergusson
Jose Mourinho
Arsene Wenger
Louis van Gaal
Guus Hiddink
Louis Felippe Scolari

I want to specifically make a point towards Jose Mourinho. He is indeed “THE SPECIAL ONE”. Having played football till the age of 27, he realized he wasn’t good enough, albeit as a player. So, he forayed into the world of coaching, starting off as an understudy to Sir Bobby Robson, himself not a very distinguished player, but yet again a successful England, Barca, Porto , Newcastle United coach. For Mourinho to have ventured into management would have surely come as a difficult decision to make. What a tough lad he would have been, when he decided to suppress his ego and take up a challenge. The man’s success speaks for himself. Porto, Chelsea and Inter. I fondly remember Didier Drogba in tears after “The special one” made a move from Chelsea. That is the kind of influence the man had on his players. Someone else said about him “He comes, he wins and he leaves”. That is with obvious reference to his latest challenge of coaching Real Madrid and bringing back the silverware that has been eluding Santiago Barnabeau for a while. But more importantly, this statement also drew parallels with Julies Caesar.

Interestingly, his Bayer Munich counterpart in the Champions League Final, Dutchman Louis van Gaal, was also an understudy of Late Sir Bobby Robson and a mentor for Jose.

And the list just doesn’t end here. Tennis is one sport that has been always in the limelight for individual accomplishments more than anything else. This list is too topped by someone who has bred the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Todd Martin, James Blake, Maria Sharapova – Nick Bollitieri. Nick Bollitieri is the most low profile coaches in the world of tennis and continues to groom his protégés from his tennis academy in Florida. He is the most sought after coach when it comes to grooming tennis champions for the morrow. He is often referred as the Ramakant Achrekar (the man who nurtured SRT) of Tennis. Some of the more remarkable names that come to my mind are:

Brad Gilbert
Tim Gullikson
Paul Annacone

Some players like Gustavo Kuerten started with his grandmother being his first coach. While Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis were continued to be coached by their parents well in their playing days, the interesting point to be noted is the relatively unknown who have brought the talent from amongst these players.
So this brings to the poignant question that has kept me searching for answers. Why is it that they did not make it big as players? Is it that in spite of their great insight on the game they played, their limitations kept them away from the glitterati? And if they were so knowledgeable and great visionaries of the game, why weren’t they able to figure out their way out? These are some answers that still elude me and will continue to do so…

The Art of Captaincy!

A few years back I had read a book on captaincy that has evolved the Australian cricket into becoming the world beaters of the modern era that they are. And all this while I have been very inspired by the leadership skills by the Chappells, Borders, Taylors, Waughs. I never include Ricky Ponting in this list of great captains. Ponting has had a fairly great run with his luck. Having lost the Ashes twice, the Final Frontier, CB final back home, the inglorious Monkey Gate scandal are reasons enough for him to be sacked long back. And compare this with just one poor VB series that wielded the axe on Steve Waugh. More importantly he inherited the legacy that was left behind by Steve Waugh in the form of a team which comprised of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Justin Langer.

Coming back to the 1970s when Aussies were developing the arsenal to take on the world. Ian Chappell has always been the best commentator. His knowledge of the game is immense and is ever so perfect with his analysis. And it wasn’t just this knowledge of the game that made him one of the better captains of his time. He could understand the situations well enough to make things turn around for him, even if the situations meant understanding human relations. His handling of Dennis Lilee and Jeff Thomson has been so immaculate. This reminds of one such situation in the book. Dennis Lilee and Rodney Marsh were the best of friends. And this was one aspect that was very well acknowledged by Ian Chappell himself. However, to have used this as a means for getting the message across was very tactful of him. On an Ashes tour, Dennis Lilee struggled through the first few tests, even though he was bowling at a fiery pace. So in one of the test matches, when the Aussies had set a competitive total for England to chase, the fiery Lilee failed to get important breakthroughs. And Ian Chappell, with all his great cricketing acumen would observe the way the ball would land in the keeper Rodney Marsh’s gloves, standing right next to him at first slip. “When Lilee would be at his best, there would be a thud sound as the ball would land in Marsh’s hands” remarked Chappell. Seeing this, Chappell remarked to the second slipper “I will have him dropped for the next test”. The best friend in Rodney Marsh picked this one up and conveyed it to Lilee. And the temperamental Lilee ended up taking up 6 wickets in the innings with 3 in that very spell. That comment from Chappell was an intended one, and it did the trick!

Ian Chappell’s younger sibling, Greg Chappell was also a very shrewd captain, famous for his decision to bowl under arm in a match against New Zealand. The mantle was later passed on to Allan Border, followed by Mark Talyor. While Border was a brilliant motivator, Taylor was an impressive tactician. I fondly remember Taylor struggling with the bat in 1996-97. He even dropped himself in the one day matches so that the team did not suffer. But his captaincy skills were always perfect. Steve Waugh took over the one day captaincy in 1997 and the test captaincy in 1998. And, like his predecessors, was again very different. He changed the way test matches were played, with the Aussies scoring in excess of four runs an over throughout the day. This gave his bowlers enough time to bowl out the opposition twice. I can’t recollect the number of test matches that Aussies won by an innings, for they were far too frequent. Under Waugh, the Aussies even changed the way they approached “dead rubbers” or matches that were played after the series was won. Mark Taylor would often lead his side to victory in the first few matches and then go on to lose the last one. However, Steve Waugh, being a perfectionist himself, always yearned for the perfect series result – a whitewash. During the later years, after being sacked of the one day captaincy, Steve Waugh suffered from a batting slump, but continued to lead the Aussies to victory in every series. It would have been a perfect end to his illustrated career if he had managed to claim the Final Frontier – a series win in India.

I would also like to mention the captaincy skills that were showcased by Ian Healy and Shane Warne. Ian Healy was a deputy to Mark Taylor for a long time and was a smart leader as well. I remember him taking over the leadership during the one dayers of the 1997 tour of South Africa, when Mark Taylor failed to find his batting form and dropped himself from the side. Australia went on to win the win the seven match series 4-3 with Healy leading in six of them. Shane Warne was made captain in few games in the VB series of 1999-2000 when Steve Waugh was injured. And that stint was highly appreciated by all. He came out with innovative field placements during the first 15 overs and would bring himself on to bowl first in the first ten overs. The tactics were an instant success. This was further lamented in the first IPL season, when Warnie led an ordinary looking Rajasthan Royals to silverware. Unfortunately, his off the field behaviour meant he could not lead Aussies after Waugh had left the game. Many have called him to be “The best captain Australia never had”.

Even our very own Sunil Gavaskar is a keen observer of the game was known to be a master tactician of the game. In one of the books authored by him on the success of World Championship of Cricket in Australia in the year 1985, he mentions about how Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was unleashed against other teams. All the teams continued to struggle against his leg spin and his googly was his lethal weapon. Gavaskar, himself the captain on that tour, had special orders for Siva not to bowl a single googly in the nets. Gavaskar had known the Australian media well enough in the years gone by and was sure the media would have put up cameras to pick up Siva’s secret weapon. Even Ravi Shastri showed exemplary leadership skills in the one test match that he led against the West Indies. But, he like Warne was not given the “job” for his off the field demeanor.

Yet another captain who has been a success story is Imran Khan. I remember Imran walking out for the toss in the 1992 World Cup semi final against New Zealand, wearing a T which had a tiger imprinted on it, instead of the national colours. This was immediately asked by Ian Chappell during the toss interview, to which Imran replied “I want my boys to play like tigers”. Pakistan of course went on to win the World Cup, with Imran leading from the front and Chappell, talks about this incident, to this date.

All these cricketing greats have gone on to become successful commentators, a feat that laments their stature as players, as captains and as visionaries of the game. They wore their hearts on their sleeves and went on to become national heroes. They made CAPTAINCY an art, more than a job, a difference which made their sides into world beaters!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Atithi Devo Bhava – it ain’t quite literally

Traveling in a bus is always fun. And if the bus zips through the city, it’s always a special ride. One can feel the sense of “National Integration” while traveling in a city bus. Yes obviously, one may think of the people from different states traveling together. But there is a different aspect to it as well. Go to any city and travel in its fleet of city buses: DTC (Delhi), BMTC (Bangalore), BEST (Mumbai), PMPML (Pune), Mini Buses (Kolkata), one can distinctly see the similarity of the experience:
• No matter how vacant the bus is, one can still find commuters cramping up the entrance.
• Exit: What does that mean?
• A polite request to move further up the aisle and you will be met with eyeballs which even Shoaib Akhtar would vie for.
• The virtual stampede that takes place the moment a seat is made available.
• And if you are the lucky one to get that seat, you will be made to feel that you have superseded a senior for a promotion.
• The stubbornness that accompanies in occupying seats meant for women and an equally unrelenting attitude to make way for them, even if it is not meant for them.
• The ever rude conductors – wonder what makes them rude? Is it the duty hours, or is it the meager salaries that they draw?
• The drivers who so often stop at all places other than the bus stops.
• And yes how could I forget this – The ever so redolent commuters: blame it on the Indian climate or on the daylight bewadas.

A few netizens may argue over some of the points, which even I must confess is different from one city to another, for eg, the ever helpful Kolkatan commuters, or the ever so strict Chandigarh Administration buses. Well these are just one of those things that no one can explain. But it surely is flash in the pan if we as Indians are serious about Atithi Devo Bhava!

Saturday evening: A bike and a highway

It was one of those Saturdays, which had boredom written all over it from the moment I had woken up. More so after all the time that was spent in the preceding months on the online tests, projects, assignments. It felt more the Bangalore way! However, there were subtle differences in this Saturday with the way I had spent in my three years of stay in Bangalore. For, there were no books / newspapers to read, no TV to be glued to in the middle of the IPL season, no clothes to be washed in the washing machine and no weekend MBA coaching classes. While it may seem a long time that I attended the coaching classes, yet the very first thing that comes to my mind about a weekend is attending the TIME classes.
So, here I am, surfing my way to boredom, checking the usual forums/ tweets which keep me occupied just about everyday. But as they say, prolonged usage of every thing meant boredom was meant to creep in. And at this point, in walked Hari, the frustrated bank intern. “Lets watch a movie”, said he. And the next minute, I was in his room. So Cast Away it was. And I didn’t mind it watching second time. There are very few Tom Hanks’ movies which one wouldn’t want to catch again. And with the movie accompanies Tattai (south Indian version of Matthiyan), Mysore Pakh and Sohan Papdi. While the movie took its turn towards Robinson Crusoesque story, we decided to have lunch and then move on. Post lunch, it was back to surfing and boredom creped in yet again. A few hours into the evening, Potta comes calling, asking me to drop him to the nearest bus station. No wonder where is he headed :P.
This meant, I had the bike and an evening to spend. The frustrated bank intern was also vying for a change, and that made the duo move out. A stop at the petrol pump meant a bigger plan was in store. What was thought to be a sojourn, turned out to be a bigger, better joy ride. A quick dash to the Wakad crossing, and the left indicator was flashed impromptu. And with this we were on the highway. The engine revved up to 70 kph and it seemed like a never ending highway. “Chalo lets go to the Mumbai – Pune Highway” was my call, which was nodded in favour by the pillion. Hari, having never commuted on the expressway, expressed his desire to check it out, but for the rules that mandate it to be used by the “Big Boys”. Well that didn’t deter us from returning and instead we headed straight to the old highway NH4. The highway, which runs parallel to the expressway, had been explored before. However, this time it was different, for the two wheel drive was adding the thrill to the whole experience.
And within no time we were burning tyres on NH4. As we crossed the Toll collection gate (which obviously is free for the bikers) Hari came with yet another idea – Toni Da Dhaba. TDD has been special for us in more ways than one! A quick call was made to VK about his plans. VK’s refusal, however, wasn’t a dampener and we were in TDD in no time. What followed was completely uncalled for. A biker duo, with no intentions to drink, and to create the ruckus that follows, was denied the “coveted” sitting area. “Family section hai sahib, aap nahi baith sakte”. The altercation followed till it had reached to the threshold limits of the bikers. And without getting exasperated, we left, our positions on the bike being swapped. A stone’s throw away from TDD, we found a new place, called Wheels, which had a few swanky cars, and loud music, enough for the starved bikers to walk in. We decided to have dinner, with the grudge of having to dine without VK. While dinner was wrapped up in no time, the journey back home beckoned us. The drive back home was as soothing as it could get. The boredom had been kicked off from the minds and had unleashed a fresh lease of life. Hari managed to get it close to 100 Ks an hour. “How I drive, depends on my mood” says he. Well that sure is an indication of how we felt throughout the day. Another 30 minutes and 30 kms later, we were back in the hostel, but with a difference. Yes the two hour drive changed the mental state of being, it changed the way Sunday was to follow, it changed the approach that we seemed to have adopted toward our internship. “I will start doing something new from Monday yaar” was what I said. “Haan yaar, even I will sleep on time and get up on time, and see I will make the best report amongst all the interns” was Hari’s reply. Guess the drive was one of those boosters that pumped us? Guess we all need to go on long drives, time and again! Guess this is what is meant by “change”! Guess this blog entry wouldn’t have been possible without Potta’s Mumbai visit! Guess its time I said “A bike and a highway made it a beautiful Saturday!”