Guru Greg ‘demystifies’ Tendulkar

With India out to conquer the ‘final frontier’, and the Australians in admittedly patchy form, Cricket Australia have taken the issues very seriously. To ensure that the Border-Gavaskar trophy does indeed stay down under, they have enlisted the services of Greg Chappel to ‘demystify’ Tendulkar who has remained an enigma to Aussies of this generation and the previous. Here is Guru Greg’s address to the team:

‘Right. Welcome, boys. I have been called upon to ‘demystify’ Tendulkar and I intend to do just that. First, you must have all read my book Fierce Focus available for only AUD 7.99 from all leading book stores. You haven’t? Shame on you. You really ought to have. Tell you what, I am going to extend this into a two-day session and your assignment for tonight is to go buy the book and read the Tendulkar-related sections in it. There will be a quiz tomorrow and that will contribute toward your selection for the first XI. Don’t think of cheating for I will get to know when I get my royalty check.’

‘Now that that is cleared up… Pup! Stop kidding around. You’re captain, for crying out loud! Punter, come off it; you’re not the captain any more. Deal with it. Don’t make that PontingFace again. There are enough memes on the internet as it is. Warner, put down those dumbbells. We’re finding it hard to make shirts for you as it is. Yes, Mike. The four hundred and sixty fifth run you scored was indeed a drive through the covers. Now stop it. Fierce Focus, people. Fierce focus.’

‘Now, Sachin. Hmm. Yes. Sachin. Good lad, that. Plays well and all that. A good player indeed but certainly not as good as me of course. But then again, who is? Ha! Anyway, yes. Sachin. McGrath, Warnie, Brett Lee and all those other bowlers tried and failed. You know why? Because they did not bowl to a plan. Fierce focus, people. Fierce focus.’

‘OK. Let’s do an analysis. First off, he is terrific off the front foot. So don’t bowl it pitched up on or just outside the off-stump. Next, he is brilliant off his hips. So don’t bowl it on his pads. Short of a length is most definitely a no-go for he will just punch it through the covers. Hmm. So that does pose a problem, what? Never fear. I do have a solution after all.’

‘As we Aussies say, “when it doubt, pitch it short.” OK, I just made that up but nevertheless, it’s true.  So that’s an area you ought to be looking at. Now again, there is a problem here. He is all of 5 foot 4. So pitch it too short and he is happily going to let it go and don’t pitch it short enough and he’s gonna wallop you through mid-wicket. So you ought to pitch it just about short. Remember, not too short. Not too not-short. Simple, no?’

‘Oh yes. Spinners. Do we even have those? Oh yes. I’m sorry Nathan, I forgot you were here. And while we’re on the subject, if you really want people to call you a lion, you really ought not to confuse people with that spelling of your surname. I’m sorry, pup. You can whine all you want but I’m still not calling you a spinner. But I will call you skipper, so cheer up.’

‘Ah yes. Spin. That lad is quite good playing spin, I must admit. However, there is a way to entrap him. There always is. The offie ought to pitch the ball just outside off and spin it inwards while the ball maintains its trajectory and goes on straight. He will perhaps think that the ball will spin(and you probably thought so as well) but it will hold its line and go straight on. You’ll be as confused as he is. I’ll have a chat with the curator. The leggie? Well, try not to sleep at night. Warnie had nightmares. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.’

‘Ah yes. I think that’s the end of my chat. I’m pretty sure I’ve demystified Tendulkar for you. There’s nothing to it, really. Just bowl in the right areas, get the ball to nip, cut, swing, spin and seam. All at the same time, of course. And, let me see. What did I leave out? Hmmm. Ah yes! Of course. Of course. Get the ball to do all those things and in the meanwhile, get the lads to do one more thing. Pray. But not to the cricket Gods of course. For if cricket is religion, then surely you’re praying to the wrong God for the wrong reason.’

The hundredth

2nd April 2011, the day that is forever etched in the memory of Indian cricket fans. India won the world cup that day. Now forgotten. 12th March 2011. The day that is most crucial to Indian cricket today. It was the day Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar scored his 99th international century. We are still awaiting 100 number hundred.

He has played 4 ODIs and 6 tests since then. That’s a total of 15 innings and he still hasn’t scored a century. What is going on? Well, if you ask Edward De Bono, he will say that the universe is conspiring against Sachin and preventing him from getting that all elusive hundredth ton. If you ask George W Bush, he is likely to say that it’s all because of those WMDs and if you ask Dhoni, he will say, ‘well of course’.

We, in India, treat cricket as religion and by extrapolation, Sachin as God. There has been no shortage of reasons as to why Sachin has not reached his hundredth. A famous astrologer came on national television and said that according to numerology, Sachin’s name was all wrong. According to the lining up of Mars and Jupiter on Sachin’s horoscope, his name only added up to 99 and not a hundred. He suggested that Sachin change his name to Saachchin to reach that hundred. The slightly wittier public suggested a better alternative – Sachin Tondulkar. Sachin (99) + ‘Ton’dulkar = 100. Voila!

Of course, not everyone is thrilled by this. Of course, any time that Guru Greg feels that he is out of the limelight, he releases a book and disses Sachin or Saurav or both. But never Dravid. Or Pit=yush Chawla. He has come out and said that Sachin lacks the mental toughness to get that elusive hundredth. ‘Sachin is mentally very fragile. He might get 99 hundreds but only when he gets that hundredth will he actually get to a hundred’, he said. Captain obvious, we said.

There has been no shortage of support from all quarters. Sreesanth said, ‘I have graciously agreed to donate my only century in test cricket to Sachin paaji.’ When we looked up the stats, Sreesanth was referring to the inning where he had more than a hundred runs to his name. In his bowling figures. Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh would, of course, gladly do it ‘for Sachin’ but one is approaching his century in kilograms and the other looks like the only century he will be making any time in the near future is in the nets in his backyard. The Indian team seems a long way away.

Not to be left out, the BCCI have also pledged their support and have tried to help the cause. ‘We see that this is a serious problem of national importance and that this mist be dealt with as soon as possible. As a result, we have decided to award one of Dravid’s centuries to Sachin. After all, Dravid is the most loyal servant of the BCCI. We call him up when ever we want to, drop him from the next tour, call him after five years and then promptly drop him again and he never once complains. We’re sure that he will graciously agree to donate his century.’ Dravid was unavailable for comment. He was practicing in the nets.

Even past legends like Shane Warne, Henry Olonga and Andrew Caddick have offered to come out of retirement to offer Sachin incentive to get his all elusive century. Shoaib Akhtar tried to lure him by making his autobiography controversial but Sachin did not fall for it.

Meanwhile, the twitterverse has taken this as some kind of a joke and has even come up with the hashtag #thingsThatWillHappenBeforeSachinGetsHisCentury and were audacious enough to add such comments as ‘Sachin will get his century. LOL’, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful will come to an end’ and the worst of the bunch, ‘Afridi will turn 19.’

There is only one solution to this madness. EA Sports cricket ’97. Hit the pause button (space bar). Put ‘131’. Richie Benaud will say, ‘congratulations. You have cracked the cheat code. Good luck!’ And then play the game. A century. Guaranteed. Put ‘321’ for good measure too. It turns gravity off.

The Butt-trial

The spot fixing case has been on full throttle and it reaching its final crescendo. Here is an excerpt from the examination of one of the prime accused, Salman Butt, the erstwhile captain of Pakistan and the man at the eye of the proverbial storm.

‘For the record, state your name.’

‘Salman Butt…’

‘But what?’

‘What?’

‘Salman but what? Have you changed your name? Salman Butterworth perhaps?’

‘Objection my Lord!’

‘Sustained.’

‘So, Mr. Butt, let me get straight to the point. Were you involved in the fixing?’

‘It depends. I was involved in fixing the broken birdcage at the hotel I was staying in and back home

in Pakistan, I have a reputation of being a handyman. In fact, my Asterix-oriented friends even call

me Getafix.’

‘I meant match-fixing, Mr. Butt.’

‘Well, if you know the system in India and Pakistan, marriages are arranged and I have indeed

suggested alliances for my friends. So, in that sense, I have indeed fixed matches. Are you looking for

a Pakistani bride?’

‘I meant, spot-fixing, Mr. Butt.’

‘Well, that goes without saying. Marriage halls must be hired and I have been known to occasionally help out my friends in that regard as well – to fix the spot of the wedding.’

‘Mr Butt! I was talking of spot fixing during the infamous test match against England.’

‘Oh! That! Well, I do not think I know anything about it.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘No. I am Salman.’

‘Mr Butt! Some degree of seriousness is of the essence. Now, please let us know of your relationship with Mr Mazhar Majeed.’

‘Well, let’s see. My cousin from my father’s side is married to his aunt, which, I calculate, makes him my second cousin. Or wait. Is it the third?…’

‘Mr Butt!! Could we be a little serious here? Now, please let us know of how you came to be found with £30,002 in your hotel room -room 714 at the Marriott in Regents Park.’

‘Oh! That? Well, I was sitting in my room one evening and the police came in and found the money. D-uh! That’s how I was found.’

‘I can see that this is going nowhere.’

‘Indeed. This witness box is most uncomfortable. Could we continue this outdoors?’

‘No.’

‘Fair enough. It was worth a shot though. Oh well!’

‘Moving on… could you name the others accused?’

‘Well, Mohommed Amer – I can’t really be sure of how he spells his name these days – and Mohommad Asif.’

‘Go on…’

‘Well, that’s the whole lot.’

‘No no. You were just saying something. Mohommad as if what?’

‘Eh?’

‘Nothing. Moving on. Shahid Afridi. Just to set the context right. How old is he?’

‘Eighteen.’

‘Mr Butt! May I remind you that you are under oath. So tell us. When was he born?’

‘Alright. I’ll tell you. He was born on 1st March.’

‘And the year?’

‘Nineteen eighty… and then it keeps changing.’

‘Your co-conspirators and you have been accused of deliberately underperforming to remove him from captaincy and make you the captain. What do you have to say?’

‘Shahid’s a good kid but he got captaincy way too early in his career. He was hardly 18! But he was a good kid.’

‘Mr Butt, you have not answered the question.’

‘Well, I have nothing to say. As with all the other accusations, I deny this one as well. Now, I need to ask you a question.’

‘Yes?’

‘When is lunch? I’m starving.’

 

The case continues…

Controversially yours

Hello there!

I see you have seen me and fail to recognize me. That is probably because my face now has as much botox as has J.Lo in her, er, never mind. No problem. I, as you all know now, am me.

I am sure you remember me. I am that chap who was on a one man mission against the stumps of the world. I hated the damn things. Hence I broke a great many of them. I bowl. Bowled, might be more apt. I was a bowler. Now I wear a bowler! Ha! See! I’m witty! That’s why I have a book and you don’t! Ha!

Anyway, I’m sure you already know who I am. I am that fellow who used to bowl real fast. Some were, of course, jealous. Hence they called me a chucker. Now you tell me this. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Or how fast would I chuck if I could chuck? Gotcha! Ha!

You’ve probably seen my varied hairstyles and hair-dos, and some hair don’ts as well. So don’t. Or do. As you like it. I have plugs now. Or so you think. I like to think of them as rooted to the crease. Of my head. Not the crease lines on my forehead. Which I like to think of as the boundary. Four-head. Boundary. Get it? Ha ha! I told you I was witty.

Fun fact: Did you know that I was the only one from my generation to never retire? Not once! I can see that disbelieving look on your face. Allow me to dispel the notion. Go and check for any records of me retiring. I shall give you two minutes. I see you have come back and have not been able to find a thing. I see that you jaw is on the floor failing to comprehend my stupendous feat. You are thinking of how I can be so supremely gifted and yet not have retired even once in spite of my contemporaries retiring at least once and in some cases, many times over. Well, that’s just me! Wink!

OK, I am retired now but I have never been retired in the past. Or so I think. Wait. Yes. I just confirmed. Never retired; only banned. Don’t look at me like that. There is a difference. Don’t believe me? Look it up!

Well, what can I say? I am special. Some people even called me the Rawalpindi express. Pfft! I hereby anoint myself ‘The Rawalpindi jet’. A train is too slow for me. I’m leaving on a jet plane. Now, don’t mock me because of my extreme bulk and size. I am not a jumbo jet. Not yet, anyway.

So I’ve written some stuff in my book. I have written Sachin, in the early part of his career, could finish a game. Well, I stand by it. Have you ever seen Sachin finish a game when he was 15? No? See! That’s what I meant! He only debuted at 16 and so could not finish a game at 15! And you think I’m stupid! Ha!

I see that the book launch in India has been called off because of this. Their loss, for they shall never get to see the epicness that is me in person talking about the epicness that is my book.  I also see that Wasim Akram has said that I have always been a problem when I was playing and continue to be one when I am retired. Hmmm. I am still looking for a good retort. I shall revert to you when I have one.

Last, but not the least, the PCB wants me to behave rationally. They want me to behave rationally? Really? Ha ha! I find that to be a bit of a farce. I have behaved nothing but rationally. I have not spoken a word about how someone at the PCB loved Brian Adams so much that he decided that Afridi ought to be 18 till he dies or about how the PCB actually thought that a matrimonial website was designed to fix matches. And they call me irrational. Humbug!

Controversially yours,

Chucky.

P.S I just found that retort. Wasim Akram spelt backwards reads Misaw Marka. Ha ha ha! See! I told you I was clever. What? You don’t get the joke? Pfft!

Professionalism in the backyard … and what a role model!

The other day, I was pretty jobless. As ever, I made my way down to the local cricket ground and sat on the parapet wall, watching the game. This kid got out. Now he was grumpy. Naturally. He wanted to fling his bat but since there was only one bat, he had no option but to hand it over to the kid who went in next. That, however, did not stop him from shoving it onto the other kid’s hand with an utter look of disdain and disgust on his face. The kid came up and sat next to me. He was still fretting.

‘The bloody umpire is blind! How was that an LBW?!’ he fumed. Now I was perplexed. I have played my fair share of backyard cricket but never have we had LBWs. ‘Wait. You guys have LBWs?’, I asked.

‘Of course’, he said in a matter of fact way and looked at me as if I had landed from the planet Zork and asked him if this was the planet Earth. ‘The problem is that these stupid kids can’t umpire. They don’t know what a proper LBW is. I wish I could umpire but I need to bat as well. I hate this! I was due for a century today’, he continued. ‘All because of this BCCI! I wish we had UDRS here. Clean not out!’

‘Clean not out!’ brought back memories. Now, this kid was all of 12 but was talking about the politics of cricket. When I was 12, the only politics I knew of was that there were these guys dressed in weird looking clothes that ran the country.’ I was intrigued.

‘The BCCI? Why? You want the UDRS implemented?’ I asked innocently, leading him on. ‘Of course! Don’t you know that hawk-eye uses the same technology that is used in missile guidance? If it’s good enough for the army, it should be good enough for the BCCI!’ I was blown away. No pun intended.

‘You know, sometimes I wish we were in Pakistan’, he said. I knew I would be sorry but I went ahead and asked anyway, ‘Why?’ ‘Well, see that kid who went out to bat? He’s the captain. He saw that the bowling was weak and he could improve his average. So he went out to bat! If this was Pakistan, I would’ve just banned the captain. But since this is India, he thinks he is Dhoni and promotes himself up the order any time he wants!’ What depth!

‘No wait. You guys maintain averages?’ ‘Of course! And strike rates, too. How else can we find who the man of the series is? In fact, I have the highest average among all the openers this series.’ If the content was stirring, the manner in which he said it was even more so. ‘Of course!’ it seems!

He suddenly found his train of thought again. ‘Or England. You know they have 3 captains for the 3 formats of the game. I bet if this were England, I would be one of the captains’, he said and lifted the non-existent collar of his round-neck tee-shirt. And before I could say anything else, he went on, ‘or the West Indies! I would ban him from even discussing with the board! Ha ha!’ An evil laugh to top it off. Brilliant!

I was beside myself with amazement when I realized that this pint sized man sitting next to me and slyly mocking world cricket was actually a smug 12 year old kid. I had to show my supremacy of course. It was a matter of pride. So I asked him in this condescending tone, ‘So… who is your favourite cricketer?’ In truth, I sort of knew the answer already. Sachin Tendulkar. It had to be.

‘Manoj Prabhakar’, came the reply. Now I could no longer keep my jaw from falling down. ‘Manoj Prabhakar? Why? I mean, if you’d said Sachin or Saurav or Dhoni or even Sreesanth, I’d not have been surprised. But Manoj Prabhakar? Seriously? I mean, have you even seen him play? He was way ahead of your time. Manoj Prabhakar? Seriously? Really? Really?’ I was hysterical and I knew it. I calmed down.

The innings was over and it was time for the kid to go field. He looked at me as if I were a deranged lunatic who had just gone off his rocker and jumped off the wall to go back to the field. I called out before he could go. I was still shivering.

‘Why?’ I asked, in the calmest tone I could muster.

‘Because he got opening batting and opening bowling’, said the kid and ran off. Kids will be kids.

He grabbed the ball from the umpire and went to mark his run up. ‘Right arm fast medium’, he said.