December 15, 2010

Let the War begin

December 16 until recently was famous as a date when the Bangladesh War of Independence ended with the surrender of Pakistan and also a pretty chic but failure-at-the-box-office movie featuring Danny Denzongpa, Milind Soman and Dipanita Sharma. Its also a day when the nine-day celebrations culminating in Christmas begin. The day is also celebrated as the Sports day in Thailand.

But the sexy beaches of Phuket, Phang-Nga, Pattaya or Hat-Yai or the sports played therein would be the last thing on the minds of 44 white-flanneled gentlemen as they walk out to face the ultimate test of their lives; half of them at the WACA, Perth and the other half at the Supersport Park, Centurion.

Its the biggest day for Test Cricket in a long long time, a time that has been gobbled up by the street masala that was dished out in the form of short-cut T20 cricket or the IPL. The real spice now releases its aroma as the top four cricket teams lock horns. No 1 takes on No 2 at the latter's home while Number-3-on-an-upswing takes on a recently numbed No 4.

Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni will not be the best of friends as they walk out for the toss at Centurion, a stadium that gave the town its name! A confident Indian team takes on a strong home side South Africa. And the teams match up one-on-one against each other as well as the Indian proverb nehle-pe-dehla can describe.

While Smith and Peterson are not a patch on Sehwag and Gambhir, the middle order is where the muddle can happen. Amla, Kallis, de Villiers and Prince would like to see themselves supercede the experience and stardom that emanates from the names of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman and soon from Raina too!

While Mark Boucher can fight it out along with Paul Harris while batting, Dhoni and Harbhajan can put it past or over the fielders rather interestingly. And Bhajji can tweak it better than Harris is a decided fact.

While the consistent Morkel, Steyn and Tsotsobe on home turf appear better than a niggling Zaheer, a temperamental Sreesanth and a on-off Ishant, those moments of madness from any of the latter three could be enough to do permanent damage. 

A 60-40 upper hand to the hosts is what I predict but if those 40 are with perfect timing, then the hosts can forget getting back the top spot.

And while the first ball is bowled at the Centurion, it would past tea-time at the WACA, till recently regarded as the fastest pitch in the world. Whether Messers Anderson, Finn and Tremlett get to use the cherry first will be decided by the toss of an Australian Dollar, but even if Ryan Harris et al do get the kokkaburra in their hands first, its gonna be one-helluva-start, as Ian Chappel would proclaim, sniggerings from Sir Botham not withstanding. The Barmy Army needs their men to pick one win atleast from the three tests to extend the Urn's residence tenure.

Underneath those covers lies the key to the question whether the current England team would be the first ever to claim the Ashes even before the Boxing day test begins at Melbourne. While England field a rather settled outfit, barring just once change to bring in either Tremlett or Bresnan to replace an injured Broad; the Australian tabloids have been having a field day creating rumours and securing donations and raining voices to get Shane Blondie Warne out of retirement and reverse the fortunes of the Team Down Under before it sinks deep down under beyond recognition. Unfortunately, Blondie has been turning around Miss Hurley rather than practicing hurling down turners at the nets. So the Great Aussie Dream can remain just that, a dream, a wish, unfulfilled!

Ryan Harris must be familiar with the situation. At his IPL team Deccan Chargers, he was unsure which paceman would partner him. Vaas or Harmeet or whoever. He would never have imagined that donning the Baggy green, he would have been under a similar dilemma. Hilditch seems to be ditching Bollinger and Siddle and calling back Hilfenhaus and Johnson. And yeah, VB is not the only beer to be part of the Aussie line up for a change! Wildcard entrant Michael Beer must be hoping he does not get a debut so that he escapes the criticism! There is a possibility that considering Steve Smith is already in the side as a result of North's form which went southwards, Ponting might want to take in Siddle or Dougie to complete the line up. Remember, we are at the WACA. Under those covers, is all that matters. If there is juice in there, you get no Beer!

For those few Indians who appreciate real spice and not street masala, the show starts at 8AM IST at the WACA and goes on until 9PM IST at the Centurion. If its not being seen on TV, its being followed on Cricinfo!

The advertisers can show their Colgate smiles as they walk away to Axis Bank to deposit more money than you could have won at KBC. For those masala freaks, Feb-May 2011 is when the action is. For some crazy connoisseurs like me, the War begins in a few hours! 

December 04, 2010

The Mystery

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 17; the seventeenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Circa 2007. At 9.30PM, I get a call from from one railfan informing me that a white loco was spotted travelling towards HYB. We were at a cousin's place near NLRD. It took me precisely 5 minutes to get two of my cousins into my car and off we drove off towards HYB. Instead of wasting time on the platforms, we headed towards the Electric Loco Trip Shed.

Parked the car outside and trudged in. No sight of any white monster prowling. However, at a distance we did find some loco with shades of white. From afar it looked like a white loco, however the light was insufficient and the loco was far. So, we took a decision of trying to head to LKPL to see if it takes out 2721 or a special to Jodhpur scheduled for later. Or would it be a trial special?

Back to the car and off to LKPL a little more than two kilometres away. It was 2215hrs and there was a motley crowd of college students seemingly back from a movie. Seeing three grown up people getting worked  up about an impending train was making them curious. "Was it some really different train? Was some VIP travelling? If yes, what or who? If no, why were these three idiots getting so worked up?"

Ultimately at around 2235hrs, we heard the melodious tones in the distance. Eyes peering out into the distance. Ears intently listening. Ultimately, it was a bit of a disappointment to see the red WAP4 of Lallaguda scream away with the 2721. Even the amazing accelaration by the top notch LP could not console us! We were disappointed that the identity of the white monster remained unknown.

We had a last hope on the Jodhpur Special. However, as with all specials, it was unknown whether the IST would be followed. Anyways we decided to hang on. The departure from HYB was at 2300hrs. At around 2315hrs, we heard a distinctly different long tone. It was surely not the WAP4. Bated breath. Palpitating hearts. Peering eyes.

As the twin beam headlights neared, it became rather apparent that it was a roof mounted headlamp cluster and not a waist mounted. The loco did have white on it. But it was only a band. Sandwiched between red and blue.

The mysterious White Monster that should have been turned out to be a New Katni Jn 'Tigerface' WAG-7 # 27119 !! Disappointed at the outcome, but satisfied at the fun we had, we trudged back from LKPL!

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