Sports biopics are the flavour of the past few years in Bollywood.
But have they really been worth catching on the big screen?
‘Bhaag, Milkha, Bhaag’ was phenomenal.
And ‘Budhia: Born To Run’ with its almost documentary-like yet moving treatment of the young boy from Orissa who languishes in a sports hostel, still banned from running by the state, was worth a dekko.
But you can’t say much about ‘Azhar’ or, for that matter, ‘Sultan’, a fictional wrestler’s story, that enjoyed blockbuster success at the box office.
I haven’t seen ‘Mary Kom‘ but I’m against the very concept of having a Punjabi actress depict a North-Eastern boxing icon.
Gautam Gambhir stirred a hornet’s nest on Twitter with his remarks criticizing the trend of biographical films on cricketers.
Was the Delhi cricketer taking a potshot at his former skipper? It is no secret that Gambhir could have been in the running for the captain’s post had his stint in the side continued.
James Erskine’s ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams‘ is also expected to be in theatres in the near future.
I, for one, saw nothing wrong with the left-hander’s statements.
Successful cricketers are accorded the status of demi-gods in India. Reams of traditional and online media are dedicated to telling and retelling the stories of their humble beginnings.
Gambhir is right that we need to focus on real heroes who have devoted their lives to the country whether it be on the battlefield, social service or business.
Yet, sports other than cricket need heroes to follow and for every successful sportsperson, there are countless others who have tried and given their best—participating or coaching.
Wouldn’t you like to know the story of Ramakant Achrekar?
How about Sakshi Malik’s coach Kuldeep Malik who is yet to receive his cash award of Rs. 5 lacs? He has in his possession a photo-copied cheque instead!
Celebrate India’s successful sporting stars? Yes, do. But don’t forget those who helped them become great and in the process made this country greater—in all spheres.
What he said:
“I am nothing more than a mere mortal when it comes to judging Bachchan, even if he was cooking an omelette.”
Former India cricketer and opener Gautam Gambhir professes his unreserved admiration for the great Hindi film thespian Amitabh Bachchan. The baritone-voiced actor sang the Indian national anthem prior to the Indo-Pak World T20 encounter last evening at Eden Gardens in Kolkatta.
“Here he was, at my beloved Eden Gardens, his deep voice in its full youth, loaded with grace and admiration for the national anthem. Only soldiers can sing better that Bachchan did on Saturday.”
What he really meant:
“I’m a huge fan of Hindi film cinema and Amitabh Bachchan in particular. In my eyes, he can do no wrong. He could even boil water and I’d watch with open-mouthed admiration.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I wonder how Shah Rukh Khan would have sung the anthem instead. Perhaps, a duet with Kajol would have baked an Eden cake.”
When two former India players almost come to blows on the cricket field with the choicest words exchanged, it makes for headline news.
When the two in question, Gautam Gambhir and Manoj Tiwary, have an acrimonious history, it makes for even greater sensationalism.
Tiwary was dropped by his erstwhile Kolkata Knight Riders colleague and skipper during the 2013 IPL wherein he immediately tweeted that it was the worst day of his life. The offending tweet was later deleted with the current Bengal captain claiming that his account had been hacked.
Tiwary now turns out for Delhi Daredevils.
Last Saturday, the two were once more involved in a public fracas during a Ranji trophy game between Delhi and Bengal at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.
The incident occurred in the eighth over when Tiwary signaled for his helmet.
The Delhi players were incensed believing it to be a time-wasting tactic.
Manan Sharma, the bowler at the time, had something to say to the Bengal skipper.
Gambhir entered the fray abusing Tiwary who retaliated in kind.
That was when Gambhir calling upon his best Hindi film dialogues said:
“Shaam ko mil tujhe maroonga (Meet me in the evening, I will hit you).”
Tiwary, evidently another Hindi film buff, responded:
“Shaam kya abhi bahar chal (Why wait till evening, let’s go out and settle it now).”
Tempers were raised further with Gambhir charging towards the batsman with umpire Krishnaraj Srinath intervening only to be pushed away by the pugnacious left-hander.
The players were later summoned by match referee Valmik Buch.
“I have huge respect for Gambhir for whatever he has done for the country. But today, he crossed all limits by making some personal comments. I was really shocked to hear that. I did not start it at all.”
Gambhir, too, issued a statement:
“At no point did I threaten or push any on-field umpires. Nor did I threaten to beat Manoj up. In fact, I attended match referee’s hearing post the day’s play where he accepted that he doesn’t have any video evidence of me pushing the umpire. On the contrary, the match referee conceded he had video evidence where Manoj is seen pushing Pradeep Sangwan.”
Buch fined Gambhir 70% of his match fee and Tiwary, 40%.
“Obviously they were pressurising me but that does not mean he has the right to abuse me. What I said, sledging in a competitive way is good but you don’t have to sledge taking your father or mother’s name. You don’t want to cross line when you play competitive game.
I spoke to him [Ganguly] and told him about the whole incident. He was very upset because, somewhere his name was also raised.”
Tiwary also took to Twitter—obviously— to proclaim his side of the story.
The Bengal skipper has since upped the ante claiming that Gambhir made racist (read parochial) remarks against Sourav Ganguly and Bengalis, in particular.
“He made racist remarks about Sourav Ganguly and Bengalis. I spoke to Sourav Ganguly and he is very upset that his name has been dragged in the matter. We will never accept anything against Sourav Ganguly.”
“Gautam Gambhir is not saying the truth. If I had done what Gambhir is saying why have I been fined 40 percent and him 70 percent.”
Gambhir may be facing a ban because he shoved aside the umpire Srinath. Cricket is a non-contact sport and simply touching an umpire physically invites censure.
The Delhi skipper released another statement defending himself from Tiwary’s latest allegations.
“On Sunday, Manoj Tiwary stooped to a new low by claiming that I made racist remarks about Bengali community and my favourite India captain and one of the best cricketers I have played under Mr Sourav Ganguly whom I fondly call Dada. Let me categorically state here that these allegations are baseless and Tiwary’s way of sensationalising things through his figment of imagination.
First of all I am a proud Indian who respects all religions, communities and sexes. Then, ever since I have had the honour of leading Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL I have been humbled by the love and affection showered on my team and me by Bengali community. I have said in numerous interviews that Bengal is my second home and the support of the fans is the biggest X factor for KKR. I can’t thank them enough for helping us win IPL title twice.”
“Dada taught Indian cricket to play aggressive brand of cricket and modelled the team to win outside India. His contribution to Indian cricket is unparalleled. Personally, I made my India debut under Dada’s leadership and can never forget the way he eased me into the team dressing room. Besides, I have picked up a lot of things from Dada’s leadership ways and put them in practise for KKR. It is unfortunate that Dada’s name was dragged in by Tiwary perhaps to gain cheap publicity.”
The media is always seeking sound bytes aside from the mandatory tweeted reactions from fans and websites.
Bishan Singh Bedi promptly obliged.
The inimitable Sardar said:
“This is a direct result of the IPL because of the competitive nature that tournament lends itself to for these so-called professionals.
I feel sick. I watched the TV report and this is absolutely shameful. There’s too much of this ‘giving it back’ attitude. All this while it was about giving it back to foreign teams. Now, this syndrome is creeping into the Indian scene. Give back something sane, not insane. And give back something good to the game that has made you professionals.”
“Look, fines are like loose change for these cricketers. You’ve got to ban them for a few games and hit them where it hurts. The ball is entirely in BCCI’s court.
They need to take to drastic steps to ensure such incidents are not repeated. This is awful for the game of cricket. Erring players must be put on the mat. They call themselves professionals. Does professionalism entail such behaviour? We have been too lenient with our big names. This is not the first time Gambhir is involved in controversy like this.”
There may be a bright side to this whole skirmish.
Just when interest in the domestic game is dying out, the passion exhibited by these senior cricketers simply proves the competitiveness of their nature and the intensity of rivalry at the state level.
There is hope yet and fears of spot or match fixing may be ungrounded in these games. (We hope).
That, of course, is not the point readers and young cricketers wish to take away from the sorry episode.
Shyama Dasgupta, in the Economic Times, writes:
“Firstly, about the attitude of the star players–internationals-towards the other players. A `big’ player will usually play domestic fixtures either because there are no assignments or because he has been dropped. It’s one thing for someone who has played just a game or two for India, but for someone to have played at the highest level with some distinction, the step down is a tough one.
They often expect, and get, star treatment from their state associations and from everyone else. It can get quite feudal, says a former cricketer. Another, also a commentator, uses the word aukaat. Worth. To mean that the stars don’t think of players junior to them as being worthy of being peers. Except, that is exactly what they are: members of the same team, playing at the same level.
Then, about the attitude of star players towards umpires and vice versa. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of stories of bullying and of being bullied.
A senior colleague had once told me about a veteran international umpire who gave tailenders in the domestic circuit out if there was even a whiff of an appeal-what, you are going to score 100 runs or what, he is known to have told an upstart of a No 11 when there was a protest. It’s fair to assume this No 11 wasn’t an international or a former international. Sure, there are umpires who don’t back down in the face of bullying, but there are likely as many who can’t.
These things, the cricketers I spoke to agreed, just haven’t changed. Two of them–former internationals–admitted to having done the same thing in their playing days as well.”
Cricket is termed a gentleman’s game but the only true gentlemen on the field are probably the umpires.
What he said:
“I think Sunil Narine will offer just another 12-second smile even if one day he sees pigs fly.”
Gautam Gambhir is certain that his team-mate Sunil Narine will meet both success and failure expressionlessly.
The Kolkata Knight Riders skipper is amazed that the West Indian bowler is none-too-perturbed at being reported for a dubious bowling action to the Champions League T20 Committee.
“We were in the dressing room. I was waiting to see if his face reveals an expression. It didn’t. In the bus as we headed back to our hotel, I was still waiting. Nothing happened. At the hotel a cake shaped in numerical “13” to mark our winning streak was waiting for us.A cake riot followed but my man offered just a 12 second smile. Later in the night we were all huddled in our team-room on the 16th floor. The boys were having fun downing beers and chicken wings rejoicing our achievement. My expression-less friend and I were in one corner playing football on Playstation. He played a flowing game and won. I thought he’d exult but nothing happened except a smile.”
“Good or bad, success or failure, win or loss Sunil has never showed emotions. Therefore, when he was warned for a suspect bowling action after our win over Dolphins on Monday night, I was worried. I didn’t know how he would react. I kept observing him searching for a hint of disappointment, worry or the likes on his face, but his expression was consistent.
I knew deep down he was hurt and his pride dented. No sportsperson likes to be nudged for unfair practice. Sunil is no different. He must have been simmering deep down but he didn’t show it to anyone. We had a one-sided conversation for about 40 seconds. I told him, ‘Sunny (Sunil’s nickname), I have full faith in you.’ He offered a straight face. I continued: ‘I know you are not resorting to any unfair practice.’He nodded. ‘Just don’t worry, the entire KKR team is with you.'”
What Gambhir really meant:
“Narine’s my match-winner and I have to make sure that he is in the right frame of mind for the upcoming crucial games. Tonight, I’ll have hogs fly past his window just to make sure.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’m sure that Narine has nothing to say about being reported. It’s just one of those things that have happened in the past month. Perhaps, he feels he’s in exalted company. Or it’s just another hazard of the off-spinning trade. Maybe, he’s a stoic. Possibly he’s been advised by his agent and/or lawyer to admit to nothing. I wonder if he’ll stop bowling in long sleeves now.”
What he said:
“I have enjoyed when a gorgeous cricket ball declines the advances of my well-manicured cricket bat. But loaded with the perseverance of a sincere lover, my bat wins.”
Gautam Gambhir waxes lyrical on the value of practiced perseverance. The Indian opener confesses, that unlike Andre Agassi, he loves his sport.
“Whenever I look at the Gautam Gambhir in the mirror it seems tennis star Andre Agassi is reading out passages from his autobiography, Open. Agassi says he ‘hated tennis with dark and secret passion’. This is after tennis gave him identity, fortune, silverware, a few wanted and unwanted perks that a successful, young man is prone to get, later on a beautiful wife and most importantly adrenaline of being in a competition. But the fact is he hated his sport. You’d say either Agassi teamed up with the publishers to sell his book, or he’s just being cynical. Sorry, neither.”
“Unlike Agassi, I love my sport. I can watch any game of cricket on TV. Even if the repeat telecast is for the 600th time, I’d be glued with excitement of a woman watching serials on conniving ladies. I might bat like a novice in the middle but I just love batting and its romance. I have enjoyed when a gorgeous cricket ball declines the advances of my well-manicured cricket bat. But loaded with perseverance of a sincere lover my bat wins. It then starts to caress, cuddle and later even lovingly thump its once shining lady.
But the real challenge lies beyond these dreamy passages. You wake up on a match day and you are in company of fear of failure. You turn on the shower and instead of water you have expectations beating on your body. You dress up but in reality you are wearing the image of a celebrity that the outside world wants to see you as – a champion or a loser.”
On Andre Russel, his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate:
“Even in the past he has been our Superman. On most occasions he’s dancing, grooving, laughing and when he gets bored he does all of these all over again. He secretly admits that he wants to dress up like a Jamaican but can’t do it as he’d stand out among ‘sober Indians’.
Amid all this, he is still a bloody good cricketer. There is a method to his power-hitting. Just recall his use of the depth of the crease while hitting those sixes against Chennai Super Kings. He does 100 meters under 11 seconds which I think anyone having a Jamaican passport does. I told him that his Mohawk hairstyle needs a bit of a mojo as it has flattened out. He just gives me a hearty Jamaican laugh as if to say, ‘No mojo skippermaan, my hair needs Viagra!’ Don’t be surprised if Andre actually tells me this one day.”
What Gambhir really meant:
“My love of the game is based on practice and perseverance. The more I persevere and practice, the better I connect. “
What he definitely didn’t:
“Now if James Anderson and company were here, I’d show them how well I’ve mastered their ‘Lady in Red’. For now, I love hammering the ‘White Widow’ on Indian soil.”
Team India conceded the initiative and the series lead once again. The Indian team capitulated in three days at Old Trafford. It could have been all over sooner if it was not for the twelfth man for the Indian side—the rain.
The signs were ominous from the start. Pankaj Singh retained the confidence of his skipper and his place in the side.
Varun Aaron came in at the expense of Mohammad Shami. I truly feel for the UP bowler; he has been bowled into the ground since his début and is not the bowler he was at the start of his exciting career.
Aaron did enough to justify his place in the side. The inclusion of Ishwar Pandey could have made things even more interesting. I would rather have an express bowler in the side than a medium pacer on these pacy wickets especially when the journeyman is not a Zaheer Khan, that is, he lacks variety.
But the real story was that our much-vaunted batting line-up failed once more; the senior bats were made to look like novices against the moving ball.
The attitude of the new batting stars should undergo a sea change. Instead of muttering that things will be different when the English come to India—it was not, they beat us 2-1—it might be better that Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli consider a stint in county cricket to build their technique in overcast, murky conditions. The question is how and when? Will their IPL and Team India commitments allow them to do so? Or are these fancies to be indulged in only by players on the fringe of national selection?
Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan failed to deliver when it mattered. It is time that the selectors selected in-form batsmen for crucial overseas tours and not hope that they strike form on tour—a strategy fraught with obvious dangers.
Dhoni can gamble and have Naman Ojha or Rohit Sharma open the batting. I would go with the latter.
There appears to be no option but to persist with Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli and hope that their twin failures galvanise them to improve their performances and live up to the reputations of their predecessors—Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
Ravindra Jadeja is another perennial favourite with his skipper. It is time he sat out.
Why does one have a sneaky feeling that the Indian skipper prefers either his Chennai Superkings teammates or players from the North?
Ishant Sharma makes his return to the side conditional on a full recovery from his ankle injury.
Pankaj Singh—at last—made the record books claiming two wickets in his second game. He is more suited for the shorter format of the game where containment is the name of the game.
My team choice for the Kensington Oval:
It was the same old story all over again. Ishant Sharma, the hero of the Lords test, looked on dejectedly, while his teammates squandered all his hard work and repaid him with a Sisyphean task for the final Test—if it comes to that.
Sharma injured his ankle and will be sitting out the fourth Test as well.
His replacement, Pankaj Singh, proved to be an inadequate replacement. His time is past though he is a game trier. A few chances of this bowling went a begging but if Dhoni was brave and honest with himself, he would have admitted that Varun Aaron or Ishwar Pandey were better bets. You do not replace your main strike bowler with a medium-pace trundler.
Rohit Sharma’s entry into the squad in place of Stuart Binny upset the balance of the squad. Just four main bowlers and two-three part-time spinners is hardly the recipe for a side looking to seal the series.
The Indian skipper does not have a lot of trust in his top order and preferred to either go in with an extra batsman or a couple of all-rounders. This decision seemed sound in the first two tests in retrospect; it was the lower order that saved the team blushes in the first three innings.
It is time MS Dhoni had a hard look at his resources and what he’s trying to do with them.
Gambhir has the gumption and the patience to play long innings. Bring to mind his effort at Napier, New Zealand in 2009.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stay. Class will tell.
Rohit Sharma goes out. The talented Mumbaikar has even his most ardent fans tearing their hair out in frustration; I am but one amongst them. Duncan Fletcher should have a quiet word with the young man and tell him that if this continues he will be touring a lot more—with the India ‘A’ side.
Dhoni continues and should back himself to the hilt about being aggressive with the bat.
At the start of the series, Dhoni said:
“I’ve realised that I have to be far more aggressive in my batting because I play much better that way than when I try to play like a proper batsman. It’s important to back your instincts and not think too much about the situation. I shouldn’t look to bat out time because there are other batsmen who can do that. If the ball is in my slot – whether it’s the first or the last – I should go for it.”
They were not the most heralded of the Indian bats when the series began. But they have quietly become the mainstays of the line-up.
Ravindra Jadeja, bat and moustache twirled, sits out. Ravichandra Ashwin comes in.
(How the selectors could overlook Amit Mishra and Praghyan Ojha for such an important series is anybody’s guess. Among the back-ups, are two wicket-keepers who may probably never get a game. It is effectively a 15-member squad.)
Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey lend much-needed support to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.
My side for Old Trafford:
Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, B Kumar, M Shami, V Aaron and I Pandey.
What he said:
"There’s nothing to be heartbroken about.A bowler needs to bowl on every kind of wicket. A batsman never says he is heartbroken if it is a green top. They simply play on any wicket."
Gautam Gambhir is unsympathetic to Ravichandran Ashwin’s cause. The Tamil Nadu spinner lamented that the Wankhede pitch for the third Test against the Windies was unhelpful to spinners.
There will be many occasions where he will have to bowl on wickets that are more flat than this one. So there is no need to feel cheated.
It is a great challenge and everyone should try to accept it and get the best out of it.
That’s what Test cricket is all about. You don’t get a five-wicket haul or a hundred easily. You have to work hard for it.
The Delhi batsman believes that Ashwin is one for the long haul.
"He has taken two five-wicket hauls in this series and has a great future ahead.” said Gambhir.
What he really meant:
“Good for me ,nine times out of 10, wickets in India are batsmen friendly. I’d be groaning too if every pitch was Mohali.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Ashwin, I’d like to roll my arm over if you’re tired.”
The English came, saw and were conquered.
The freshly crowned No.1 Test team were all at sea when it came to negotiating the sub-continent’s slow turners.
A 5-0 trashing might satisfy MS Dhoni and his young brigade ;the true test is to come when Team India tour Australia at the end of the year.
The Indians looked sharp in the field owing to young legs in the side.
A consolation T20 win for Graeme Swann, no little thanks to a belligerent knock by the man he termed not captaincy material in his autobiography, “The Breaks Are Off”—Kevin Pietersen.
The hoi polloi were not impressed; the stands were less than full for the games.
A surfeit of cricket coupled with the dismal surrender in England implies that fans cannot be taken for a ride—surely not all the time.
The squad picked for the first Test in the return series against West Indies at home has three express bowlers, each capable of bowling at 140+ kmph.
Does this mark the dawn of a new era?
Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron are chomping at the bit to have a go and make their mark on the selectors before the crucial tour Down Under.
Harbhajan Singh,however, has been sternly castigated by Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his merry men; he remains out of favour.
Rahul Sharma, Ravindra Ashwin and Praghyan Ojha are the twirlers chosen by the wise men of Indian cricket.
Virender Sehwag returns, Ajinkya Rahane is rewarded for his fine displays and Yuvraj Singh makes it back to the Test side and ‘Grade A’.
Virat Kohli has yet another chance to prove his credentials in the longer format of the game—should he play.
Kohli and Ishant Sharma have moved up in the Indian cricketing world—rewarded with Grade A contracts.
Ashish Nehra is the surprising omission from the list of contracted players. Why is he being punished?
The first Test match is scheduled for November 6, 2011 in Delhi at the Ferozeshah Kotla.
Two spinners and two pace bowlers are par for the course on sub-continent wickets.
Will Dhoni risk a Sehwag without adequate match practice? A similar move did not quite work wonders in English conditions. But then this is home advantage and the Kotla is the Nawab’s home ground.
Can Dhoni leave him out?
The second pace bowler’s spot is a toss-up between Yadav and Aaron—Dhoni’s call.
Rahul Sharma is the least experienced amongst the trundlers. Safe to say, he will not play.
The squad picks itself:
M S Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag (Ajinkya Rahane), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav (or Varun Aaron).