Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kolkata Knight Riders - How deep is the sea of tears?

The Kolkata Knight Riders' woes in the IPL 2009 season continue. Mr. Murphy is vindicated and whatever could have possibly gone wrong, has gone wrong. The failed Multiple-captaincy (or, the get rid of Ganguly) theory, Ganguly's ouster from captaincy and the subsequent public backlash, the pathetic fielding standard, new captain Brendan McCullum's woeful form, the Fake IPL Player's stinging and salacious blog, authentic or not, and now the racist allegations. Theres enough there to fill in a dozen HR case studies! And its turned the captain, who till a few weeks ago was in top form, into a mournful, gibbering wreck. To his credit, though, he's put up a brave face and carried on manfully. This must feel like the longest 6 weeks in his professional career. 
This from a team that had everything going for it, on paper. An owner capable of generating mass hysteria with a juggernaut-like PR machine, the largest brand value amongst the IPL teams, one of the largest and most imposing stadiums in world cricket as it's home base, the most passionate home crowd already steeped in club culture and some fantastic ODI cricketers in Gayle, McCullum, Ponting, Sharma and Hussey. 
But lets not dwell on what has been a disastrous outing for the men in black and gold. Here are a few things Joy Bhattacharya and Co. can consider going forward: 

1) Change the kit: The black and gold ain't cutting it anymore. See what the Deccan Chargers have achieved with a smart revamp of their 2009 kit. From bottom placed no hopers last season to serious contenders this time around. SRK can get his good mate Manish Malhotra to come up with something suitably jazzy as the 2010 season approaches. 

2) Get rid of the existing coaching staff: Buchanan and Co. have been an unmitigated disaster. KKR needs a behind-the- scenes kind of coach, and not a superstar primadonna we have right now. When you have strong personalities like Ganguly and Ponting already in the squad, you need someone with the tact, subtlety and diplomatic skills of an Indian civil servant, and not a laptop toting, overbearing, de Bono quoting professor with all the subtlety of a brass band. Didn't we learn from the Chappel/Ganguly episode? Where's someone like John Wright or Gary Kirsten when you need them? I quite agree with Warne's theory of not needing coaches at top level, especially for a slam bang 6 week tourney like the IPL. One doesn't need active coaching at this level, but someone who can help get the best out of the squad, help strategise and motivate. And what's with having more support staff than players? Cut the staff size down to 4-5 max. And get a good mix of foreign and local staff. 

3) Create a city bond among the squad: What do the foreign players actually know about Kolkata apart from its hotel rooms, the Eden Gardens and the social service opportunities it presents? Lets get them a little more entrenched, I say. The local players could educate the likes of Ponting, Gayle, McCullum, Hussey and Hodge about the city, its culture and sporting history (glorious when it comes to football, nothing much to write home about as far as cricket is concerned). They could try something like a student exchange program, where the local boys could host the overseas pros in the city for a week/fortnight. Tough when you consider the international cricket calendar, but might help the overseas boys bond a bit more with the franchise. This could help ease whaterver alleged racial/communal tensions that exist between players from different nationalities. Compulsory community work at Nirmal Hridoy should be made a must for all players as payback to the fans for such a horrendous 2009 season. 

4) Invest in local talent: KKR doesn't suffer from lack of quality overseas talent. Its the lack of decent Indian/Bengal cricketers that's letting them down. Invest in getting back Bengal troopers Manoj Tiwary and Shreevats Goswami. With the ICL cricketers soon returning to the mainstream fold, there is the talented Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and the utilitarian Rohan Gavaskar to chose from as well. Cheteshwar Pujara, Tiwary(should they get their hands on him), Saha and Shukla should be given ample scope. Agarkar, Chopra, Bangar,Taibu, Akhtar, Hafeez and Henriques should have their contracts cancelled (Most of them should not have been contracted in the first place). The aim should be for a lean, well oiled and performing squad and not the 50 strong batallion they have now. The extra cash could also help...theres a recession on, by the way. 

5) Strong leadership: Should Ganguly play in the next edition, he should be made captain with McCullum as deputy. He is a strong individual who can galvanize the team and make things happen. Should he give up cricket altogether, in disgust, after this car wreck that was 2009, Ponting is probably the best man for the job. While his tactical skills aren't the best in the world, at least he looks the part. We're tired of seeing a haunted and desolate McCullum match after match. 

6) Tone down the hype: You'd be forgiven for believing that the KKR outfit was topping the league tables, given the amount of hype surrounding the team. Lets tone it down chaps. Empty vessels and all that. Keep things quiet for the next year and focus on the cricket. Robbie Williams sings when he's winning. So should you. 


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Calcutta - Nostalgia/Romance

Calcutta time again...found this article on Calcutta and how young romance bloomed in its 'good ol' days' in 60s and 70s. A stark difference from how things work today. Achingly penned by Jyotirmoy, from the website India Mike. Read the original content here.

"One of the unique features of the mid level eateries of Kolkata was the “Cabins”. Basically these were cubicles along the wall with curtains or swing doors. Some four or five people could sit at a table in these cabins. During the evenings families dined in these and those would like to have their tipple in privacy would choose these, New Cathay in Esplanade was one such. On the days when the horse races took place you could find great scholars of numerology, astrology, equestrian biology and all such sorts pouring over sacred literature & frantically doing a series of extremely complicated mathematical calculations. In the evening you found the same people most of them drinking to get over some financial misfortune and a very few drinking to celebrate the gains.
During the slack hours of the afternoon courting couples mostly students would enter the scene. The waiter would lead them to a cabin & take the princely order of two cups of tea & a plate of finger chips(French fries were unknown)
After some time of delicious intimacy if by any chance you happened to look at the curtain you found a pair of feet under it. And if you
didn’t have the chance & the tea was getting too cold or he was too tired waiting on his feet for you to see it, the waiter would transmit a signal via a very discreet cough. He would deliver the stuff & get away & wont come back to show his feet for a long time probably would doze off to a slumber induced by the monotonous sound emitted by the antique ceiling fan.
Basanta Cabin near the Hedua on the Cornwallish street was known for the congenial atmosphere provided by the kind & friendly owner. He had over the years seen some great romances blooming there & attended many a marriages that followed the courtships at his establishment. The words like dating, seeing, didn’t arrive. People fell in what is called in the local lingo as “Prem”, intense love. You became brave, honest, compassionate & so sure of life. “Otho mein jawab ane do, kamshini pe sharab, Oh Khuda tera Khudai palat dunga..”(Let words come to my lips & blush to my beloved, Oh God I will change the way you lord)
There were no pubs or discs and no going on a drive. So you went for a walk in the Botanical gardens & ate peanuts, or took a boat ride near the Strands. The boatmen would row to a buoy, tie the boat & disappear on the other side of the boat leaving you alone. After the predetermined time they would noisily take up their oars & the helmsman would again come back to his position on the side you had been seating. You went there after if finance permitted to the Gay Restaurant (Gay meant happy & just that) and sat with ice creams looking at the big ships sailing by. On some days you would go to the sprawling
Maidan(after metro construction a fraction of it remains) & sit down under one of the magnificent old trees. There would be hordes of goats grazing around. Some of the chai wallas would buy some fresh goat milk which the young caretakers sold on the sly. One of them would come and squat very close to you. Public property so you cant do any thing except buy tea from him & he will go away. No sooner had he left a vendor of Shar e botrish bhaja( vendor of a concoction that had thirty two & half ingredients) would appear. As the dusk fell & the birds flew back over the dome of Victoria Memorial you walked back to Chowringhee & went to Anadi Cabin. After a Moglai Parotha & tea you took the tram this way & she took the bus that way.
For having some entertainment together you went to the
Rabindra Sadan on the morning of the birthday of Tagore. You waited for Chinmoy Chattopadhya to sing the wonderful love songs by Tagore & wish you could sing like him & what a cooing would that be! You wept at the prospect of an imaginary separation when Hemanata Mukherjee sang Jakhon Porbey na more payer chinha ei bat e(When you don’t find my foot marks any more..)
When you had progressed further you took the suburban train or a bus from Esplanade early morning & went to Diamond Harbour where the
Ganaga meets the sea. You walked miles on the embankment with the salty air ruffling your hairs & sat down while the gentle waves lapped at your feet. Ate rice & egg curry at the tourist canteen & bought Jai Nagorer moa( a fragrant ball of puffed rice cooked in the jaggery made from juice sapped from date palm trees) & shared them while returning back to Kolkata.
All this went on when the city was plagued with acute shortage of food & every other essential commodities, baby food had did the vanishing act. Soon the cries of “Bel
phuler mala nebe go”(Would you buy a garland of fresh Jasmine) or Chai baraf kulpi baraf( Do you want kulfis) in the lanes at night gave away to shouts like “Chalbe na chalbe na manbo na manbo na” Thousands came out with radical political views & soon the worst & the biggest armed political warfare started. Streets were deserted after dusk. Thousands of bright young men laid down their lives, bombs were being made at every nook & corner often the hands of the makers were blown off accidently. Indigenous R&D produced “Pipe guns” Not a single family was to be found who hadn’t lost a near & dear one. Para military police unleashed unprecedented brutality.
Love left the city. “Sat
mahaler swarnapurir nibhlo hajar bati”(The thousand lights of the majestic seven floored mansion went off one by one”
After a long period of darkness from the bloody mud of the city & mangled flesh & abandoned bones rose great writers like
Samaresh Bose, Shanker, Sunil Ganguly, Joy Goswami & others. Little magazines appeared, some disillusioned men in a small house in Behala started writing the lyrics of Mohiner Ghora guli(Mohin’s horses, the first folk rock band of Bengal) A very very tall man pawned his wife’s jewels to make films that would stun the world.
Love again returned to soothe the tormented souls but that’s another story