Smaller than Life
Why a blog? Simple. Cacoethes Scribendi -- the urge to write! My literary pretensions and caprices bring me here. Like any writer I write to be read. All my posts, though fettered to my small world and trivially myopic, will live and yearn that somebody connects to them someday. Cognitive frenzies, sardonic musings, aimless banters, incoherent ramblings and trivial indulgences; this is simply an episodic narrative of my trivial world -- in a grain of sand… Smaller than Life.


When I am dead,
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read'.

- Hillaire Belloc

This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me, --
The simple news that Nature told
With tender majesty.

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

- Emily Dickinson

The thoughts of our past years
          in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction

- William Wordsworth

Monday, January 03, 2011

It lingers
Like the urge to move
A lost limb.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Watching pool in Vegas

Watching the Mosconi Cup 2009 in Vegas has been one of my most fulfilling experiences to date for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that there are few sports where you can watch the pros from such close quarters. The only other sport where I have invested such enthusiasm and energy is cricket and it's very tough to get to look at somebody like, say, Sachin Tendulkar up close. I watched the best battle it out for 4 days. Each person had a unique style: each held the cue differently, stroked differently and had different styles. That made me ask the question: if they can all be so good despite employing different (some unconventional) techniques, what are they all commonly doing right?

As I watched, I gathered some interesting metadata about them as opposed to wannabe geniuses at the pool halls.

Each person had a very deliberate routine. No matter what the pressure was, he followed it unforgivingly. He analysed the shot, saw the angles, got into his stance, stroked the same number of practice shots and stroked in the same manner every single time. Watching them do their work in 'pin drop' silence was like watching a suspense film in slow motion.

The one other fascinating point was they never tried to play a flashy stroke or try to play to the gallery. In every scenario, they played the simplest shot possible. They 'took what the table gave them' (to quote a pool phrase) and did not try to force the situation. They repeatedly played the easiest shot possible and it was almost boringly repetitive. It's almost like repeatedly playing expert defensive shots for singles as opposed to trying to clear the field for six. They just played the table and never the opponent or the situation. Great methods.

The most interesting aspect was when they made the odd mistake, they never lost their cool. The next time they got a chance, they just went through their routine like nothing had happened the shot before. Amazing resilience borne out of hours and hours spent trusting and perfecting their methods and playing under pressure all the time.

Watching them, you felt no envy that you couldn't play like that, because the tremendous amount of work that they had put into perfecting their methods stared at you right in the face. Just watching them play, I think I became a better pool player! Not really, but almost. :)

These were great lessons for me and I learnt more about methods and why some people reach the top than I could have ever learnt by working on those three days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
A calypso for the master

A friend of mine is going to the Carribbean for the World Cup. He wanted me to write a calypso so that he could put up a banner. I don't know if it even remotely resembles one, but, anyway, here goes:

Three slips and a gully;
Pacers seething under their sunscreen,
Find da out-of-shape cherry,
Smashed back over da sightscreen.

Spinners can weave their spin
Do their drift or bounce or turn
But they're bowling to da kingpin
He milk da gaps for runs.

Ya fielders can sit back, drink a rum
Or watch mastery over a pint o' beer,
Ma'an, bring out da pipes and drum,
His Majesty, Lord Tendulkar is here.

He is da master of leg breaks, they hushed,
And the zooter, the flipper -- he's Warney.
Lord Tendulkar danced down and smashed
And Warney look real corny!

Y'all sit back and drink a rum
Or swig a pint o' beer,
Ma'an, bring out da pipes and drum,
His Majesty, Lord Tendulkar is here.

"He's my target," coo McGrath
"I will out him," he boasted.
Mighty Lord Tendulkar's wrath
Had da pigeon roasted.

Y'all sit back and drink a rum
Or swig a pint o' beer,
Ma'an, bring out da pipes and drum,
His Majesty, Lord Tendulkar is here.

"Fell him with pace, I can."
"I'm da fastest," say Shoaib Akthar.
When da ball sail over third-man,
He look like B-grade actor.

Y'all sit back and drink a rum
Or swig a pint o' beer,
Ma'an, bring out da pipes and drum,
His Majesty, Lord Tendulkar is here.

"I find a chink in his armour,"
Proclaim foolish Andy Caddick.
He was send out of da deep-midwicket stand
To look for da ball and his... trick!

Y'all sit back and drink a rum
Or swig a pint o' beer,
Ma'an, bring out da pipes and drum,
His Majesty, Lord Tendulkar is here.

And then the silly Olonga
He bowl an irreverent bouncah
The next time Lord Tendulka'
Make him fall Oblonga!

Da Don, da King and da Prince
Will all sit back, drink a rum,
Or watch mastery over a pint o' beer,
Ma'an, bring out da pipes and drum,
His Majesty, Lord Tendulkar is here!

-- Lord Imitator

Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Spilt tea

Spilt tea trickles down my room,
My walls and carpets soak in
The aroma of a tea that has been spilled.
The spill slowly trickles out
Into richly scented rivulets...
There is more milk in the house,
And invigorating crushed tea leaves;
Crystalline cubes of sugar that wait
To melt into more cups of steaming tea,
For guests that have left.

Friday, February 17, 2006
Willows and Whites

Here on, I will be writing my views on Cricket here from time to time. If you, like the millions of Indians, follow cricket, welcome to the Cricket blog of an average cricketer!

Sunday, November 27, 2005
Observations on Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin, Nov, 26, 2005 (Pic courtesy: Indiatimes)

Sachin, Jan 7, 2003 (Pic courtesy: The Hindu)

Much has already been said and written about Sachin Tendulkar's return to international cricket: his onslaught in the first two innings and the subsequent quiet. The batsmanship of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar -- his compactness in technique, minimal and precise footwork, balance, the power he generates on his shots and, most of all, his understanding of his own game -- has evoked a lot of interest from cricket followers world over.

Like millions of Indians, I find myself fascinated by the man's game when he is on song. Of particular interest to me are the technical adjustments that he makes for every series: the transfer of the shuffle to the front or back foot, and minor adjustments in his grip. Of late, I have been particularly intrigued by the change in the way he grips the bat. That he grips the bat very low on the handle is a well known fact. But, starting World Cup 2003, I noticed that Sachin began to grip the bat with the face of the bat more closed than earlier. It is tough to explain a grip, but I will make an effort to do so. It seemed to me that, when he gripped the bat, the webbing of his top hand was more towards to the "back" of the bat handle ( i.e. if you draw a line extending the line formed by the intersection of the two wedges at the back of the bat) than earlier and not towards the outside edge (as is in the conventional grip), while the webbing of his bottom hand had shifted a little towards the 'back inside edge' (the edge between the back of the bat and the surface of the inside edge) of the bat. Simply put, with this sort of a grip, the bat face will seem more closed than normal when one takes stance.

If a beginner tries to copy the grip, he will probably find his coach telling him that, with that kind of a grip, he will be restricting his range of shots on the off-side. But Sachin, almost all through the World Cup, did not even look like failing or having difficulty playing the classical extra-cover drives. On the bouncy wickets of South Africa, he was his aggressive best. I decided to observe more closely to try to get an inkling of how he managed to successfully adapt with that kind of a grip.

On closer observation, I found that his wrist-cock was more pronounced than before. I will try to describe what the cocked position of the wrist is. If you take stance holding the bat with your top hand alone, and, keeping your forearm still, try to lift your bat up straight back to about thirty degrees upward, you will find that the wrist of your top hand is in a cocked position. The wrist cock, any bio-mechanics expert will tell you, is one of the most important power-generating mechanisms while batting (or, for that matter, in most racquet sports). It is almost as if you wind the bat upwards and expend all the wound-up energy while coming down hard on the ball during the swing. Coming back to Sachin, to the simplistic observer, it looked almost as if he was levering the bat up (like with 2 class one levers in series, a fulcrum at the elbow and another at the wrist) and coming down on the ball. It seemed to me that he had made this technical adjustment for the bouncier wickets of South Africa, so that when the ball bounced more, this kind of a lever mechanism, in fact, made it easier for him to keep the ball down when he played the cover drive or the extra-cover drive, or even the flick. Most important, he was able to pull off this adjustment and still play the cover drive with ease because he was still side-on while shifting balance to the front foot and hence did not disturb the rotary mechanics of his trunk while hitting the ball. Also, most Australian and South African batsmen -- batsmen reared on bouncy tracks -- have a pronounced (sometimes exaggerated) wrist cock, and so the pieces seemed to fit and I could not help marvelling at the man's cricketing acumen.

When he was plagued by tendonitis in his left elbow -- the 'tennis elbow', so to speak -- the one major difference in his game was that the wrist cock was visibly absent. As a result, it looked like he was using only his bottom hand to pick the bat, and when he played the cover drives, it was almost as if he was trying to guide the drives into the cover-point gap using his bottom hand. There seemed to be very little of the top-hand in play. It was almost like the fulcrum at elbow during the levering action was missing; similar to how you 'cheat' while doing the tricep curl at the gym, lying down, with the barbell, pulling your elbow out of the line. I find myself unable to recall seeing a single booming extra-cover drive during that period -- India's tour of Sri Lanka for a one-day tournament, and subsequently, Pakistan's tour of India. It was no surprise, really, that he chose to undergo surgery on the tendons of his left elbow.

The whole of India waited, with bated breath, for his return from surgery and every practice session of his made news. I managed to watch all his innings but the most recent two against South Africa -- starting from the Challenger Trophy -- since his return, and I noticed that there is more top-hand control in his shots now than there was pre-surgery. Why, in his return match against Sri Lanka, he played a well timed extra-cover drive and even came down the track to Maharoof and smashed him over extra-cover. But watching him smash the bowlers, though a very pleasurable experience, has, strangely been not as fulfilling to watch. For, it seems to me that the top-hand is still not taking complete control, and the wrist cock is still not quite in place, which is a sure sign that he is still recuperating from the surgery. When one cocks the wrist, the muscles of the outer forearm have to pull right back to the elbow while the tendons at the elbows stretch, and maybe his elbow is not quite ready to take the full stress yet. I found a couple of the photographs that have captured him all poised to play the ball. One cannot read too much into a couple of photographs but there are a couple of important leads in them. Specifically, notice the difference in the ways in which he has picked the bat. In the second photo (courtesy Indiatimes, Nov 26, 2005), he has picked the bat to play the shot and the wrist is not cocked (had it been cocked the bat will have been straighter and higher) and the left-elbow is a little out of the line. In contrast, look at the first photo (courtesy The Hindu, Jan 7, 2003) where you can see the left hand firm, with the wrist cocked. Essentially, after watching his comeback matches, I seemed to get the idea that he is still in the process of recovering and not back to his fittest yet. And, I am hoping that this is indeed the case, and that this is not going to be a permanent niggle for him.

The Indian public will probably do well to give a thought to the possibility that he might have played the first two matches the way he did purely on adrenaline, and that he might not have recovered one hundred percent yet. And the Indian media (especially the likes of Indiatimes et. al.) will certainly do better to refrain from writing mindless baloney to instigate public opinion. It is paramount now that he is given a little more time (maybe even a break from cricket) before the scrutiny and the assessments begin. For, people like him (and Brian Lara and a few others) are of a rare breed that can pull the masses to the grounds and need to be nursed carefully through to their twilight. I hope, as the whole of India does, that Sachin remains to play for a good three years more, for the cricketing world will experience as much delight seeing very few other batsmen in action.

Friday, November 04, 2005

(With apologies to Madhura for not having found the time and inclination (at the same time) to fulfill her book tag. Writing about favourite books is an onerous task. I hope to do it someday.)

Why fifty-five? Why could he not write a fifty-six word paragraph? He looked at the passage long and hard, scratching his chin with the pen tip. If he changed the 'could he not' in the second sentence to 'couldn't he' he will have his fifty-five, he found. He checked again and smiled. And left it unchanged.



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