Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: The Insider - Decoding the Craft of Cricket

I bought this book (The Insider - Decoding the Craft of Cricket) soon after its release mainly because I have been a fan of Aakash Chopra’s columns; and, not to mention, of his commentary, too. Unfortunately, I could never start reading the book immediately, and all for a long time it was sitting pretty on my bookshelf. However, I have read it now and I am happy to share my experience of the book.  

Aakash Chopra is a familiar face in the commentary box. And, for those like me who follow cricket writings, would know Aakash can be trusted with his words too.

In his third book, The Insider, Aakash Chopra tries to capture the various nuances involved in the game of cricket: how players think, what goes into making great players, what makes a player successful, how a player fails. He has shed light on mind games that go on between players and teams. What factors determine a player’s form? How a player should prepare for Tests, ODIs, and T20s. How certain players are successful and how some players are not? Why most teams succumb under pressure?   

These questions are very familiar and often discussed in cricket discussions and debates. However, there are no easy answers to these ones. Aakash has tried to answer all the questions with √©lan. While doing so, he has managed to keep the flow and the pace of the narrative smooth and unhindered. There is never a dull moment because the author, through his experience, has shared interesting anecdotes and trivia to make the chapters interesting. And has succeeded with flying colors

In this book, Aakash has discussed, at considerable lengths, the rise of popular cricketers in this generation: their strengths, their weakness, how their mind works, the work ethics these great players follow, how they approach a big game, what makes them great, and what can young and aspiring cricketers learn from these greats.

This book is well suited for cricket addicts, aspiring cricketers, and people who want to learn various intricacies of the game. This book covers all angles of cricket—from how opening batsmen mentally prepare themselves before going out to bat to how bowlers visualize knocking the stumps of batters. That is where this book is a winner. Aakash takes you to a comfortable spot from where you can develop a different perspective about the game. He takes you to a point, which is beyond what meets our eyes.

Readers, as they complete reading the book, will have a lot of learning and may be look at the game from a different perspective and be little more sympathetic to players. Because they try hard, but there is only one winner in a game.

Given that Aakash Chopra is primarily a cricketer who switched to cricket commentary and writing after his retirement from the game, his writing is top-notch. We, at least in India, barring a certain Mr. Sunil Gavaskar, do not have precedents of a cricketer gaining success in writing after retirement. Sunil Gavaskar has authored four books until now; Aakash has three titles to his name. This is one record of Gavaskar’s, he would certainly like to break, and he has the time and merit on his side.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Did Tremendous Success Of Bahubali Ring The Death Bell For Bollywood?

A still from the film Bahubali

Image Credit -
Bahubali, a vast historical drama that fascinated millions of Indian moviegoers this month, has left the Indian Film Industry a little perplexed, with box-office experts viewing the movie’s runaway success as a warning bell for Bollywood.

Though a regional film, made in Telugu-language, and staring actors, not known outside of south India, Bahubali has made a tremendous business of over 850 million rupees within a fortnight of its release, in Bollywood’s traditional stronghold.

What is even more interesting is that the film’s good run at the box-office was not affected by the release of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a new Hindi film featuring the star actor Salman Khan.

It’s not just a regional film like Bahubali, dubbed as the most expensive cinema made in India with top-notch computer graphic, which is threatening Bollywood’s monopoly in the country. Out of the top five successful films in the first half of 2015, three were from Hollywood.

Released in April, Furious 7, the seventh film in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, earned more than 1 billion rupees in India, as did Jurassic World, the dinosaur extravaganza that released in May. The same story continues for Avengers: Age of Ultron that grossed around 700 million rupees in India, overtaking some of Bollywood’s big-ticket movies like Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Dil Dhadakne Do, Bombay Velvet and Roy.

Should Bollywood, the world’s biggest film industry by output, be alarmed by the current scenario, where its movies are failing to impress its audiences?

Yes! The industry has every reason to worry. All the creativity and innovation is coming from outside. Be it the Hollywood franchise movies or regional films like Bahubali, they all have a larger audience pool now, than what they enjoyed before.

Hollywood producers, in the past, have always struggled to grab a foothold in the domestic movie market in India. However, the last few years have seen some drastic change in the trend. Thanks to movie franchises like Batman, Superman, Iron Man, and Transformers, Hollywood movies have made a prominent mark among the Indian audiences. Hollywood’s gross box-office collections in India have jumped to significant numbers in the last two years compared to the years before that.

Bollywood, on the other hand, has failed to create too many successful franchises, and have chosen to survive on the popularity and charisma of few top stars to woo the audience. People in India, especially the younger generation, are exposed to Hollywood movies like never before; add to it the U.S. television series (Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, Hannibal, Suits, etc.) that are a huge success in India, and they expect the same quality from Bollywood cinema.

Did Bahubali’s tremendous success ring the death bell for Bollywood? Or, are we judging too quickly? Whatever the discourse may be, one thing is proved by Bahubali’s success. Indian audiences now have other options. This could be the beginning of the end of Bollywood’s monopoly in the Indian movie market.

This article was published in on 30-07-2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Virender Sehwag Retires - Thus Ends The Golden Years Of Indian Cricket

Virender Sehwag won’t play cricket for India anymore. With his retirement, the golden era of Indian cricket is over.

A group of highly skilled and passionate cricketers, who formed one of the best line-ups in world, helped take Indian cricket to new heights that resulted in the team’s unprecedented rise to attain the numero uno status in Tests for the first time in 2009.

By the time India reached the top spot in test ranking in 2009, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble had already hung their boots. A few years later, in 2012, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman retired. A year later, Sachin Tendulkar decided to quit international cricket. With Sehwag’s departure from international cricket, the golden era of Indian cricket is now a piece of history.

The fab five
Dream line-up.
Image Source: Drive Cricket
These players, now iconic figures in Indian cricket, gave wings to the imagination of every cricket fan in the country, entertained cricket viewers around the world, brought grace and dignity to the sport and gave us sweet memories to last forever.

Not often do you come across such brilliance in one team. If one has to find similar quality in one line-up, Australian team under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting would certainly qualify. Apart from that, no other team would possibly qualify from that era.   

The best part of the Indian team in the last decade and half is that it had a mix of everything that a cricket lover could ask for. When they played, they were like classical music – rich, profound and in perfect rhythm. They lifted the team when needed, complemented each other well and at the same time were successful in creating their own niche.

Though they had separate and distinct styles, they were bound by the passion and love for cricket. Sachin Tendulkar was the god, the supremo, a person who did who could do wrong on a cricket field. Rahul Dravid was the silent protector - much like the Batman – who possessed great technique and temperament. Sourav Ganguly was a fighter, a man of steel, and one of the finest captains India ever had. V.V.S. Laxman was a poet with the bat. His every shot played with wrist was poetry in motion. Anil Kumble was a fighter and a fierce competitor. However, the one who had no similarity with the rest was Virender Sehwag. He is supremely talented and rewrote the rules and grammar of batsmanship with exceptional audacity and amazing skills.

It was through their great skills and cricketing acumen, the team earned great respect both on and off the field. It was a combined effort of the team and individual belief that culminated in India gaining No. 1 status in Test cricket and winning the world cup in 2011.

The records tell the story of their enormous achievements. But these men are worth a lot more then what the numbers show. Besides being great cricketers, they have been wonderful ambassadors of cricket. They added immense value of the sport and left the fans with opportunities to tell stories to their grand kids in years to come.

This article was published in on 23-10-2015.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wonderful Satkosia

A two-day trip to Satkosia Tiger Reserve, on the banks of the Mahanadi River has left a lasting impression on our minds. Four of us (Madhumay, Jeetu Bhai, Debarshi, and me), away from the hustle and bustle of the city, had a very pleasing stay at one of the cottages in Purnakot (maintained by the Government of Orissa). 

Satkosia offers something to all nature lovers. Studded with mountains full of vegetation, creeks, caves and waterfalls, surrounded by wilderness and mountains on all sides, all one can think of here is how wonderful life could be without gadgets — we did not even have a mobile network there, and the best part, we did not miss it either. 

With beautiful landscapes, breathtaking sceneries, and unique animal habitat this place is a photographer’s delight. By the time we entered Satkosia, our cameras were already out. From macros to landscapes, we captured everything that caught our eye. While my three friends had their own DSLRs, I managed it quite well with my Sony Cybershot, a gadget that I am very proud of and is always a part of my travel. 

Sadly, neither did we get to see the big cat, nor did we see any elephant cross our way, but what we did experience is Nature at its pristine best. The amazing greenery all around surely astounded us. At times, the silence was scary, but it was intermittently broken by the cries of animals and songs played by villagers nearby.

Honestly speaking, before this actually happened I had heard of Satkosia once from a friend, but never took it seriously. Now that I have been there, and know what the place has on offer, I would love to go back again; but next time definitely with a DSLR! 

P.S. This article originally appeared in Mushroom's November 2013 newsletter.