Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cricket WC 2015 -- Bring it on !!

“And Dhoniii, finishes off in style. With a magnificent hit…”. The words and the video are now etched into the memory of Indian cricket fan forever. India lifted the 2011 World Cup and made a generation of people happy. This generation was always “listening” to 1983 heroics and now they had their own memory of the cricket world cup triumph.

It is hard to realize that 4 years have passed by since Dhoni lifted Kulasekara for a six. 4 years is a whole lot of time in any sphere of life and the same is true with cricket. The world cup venue now is Australia and NZ. IND is no longer the favorites to win this cup. The equations have changed, the teams have changed and now we are heading into an exciting new World Cup.
This blog is an attempt by me to put my views on an ideal team, analyze the different teams and finally to predict the World Cup results.

To start with, we can have some basics first. This world cup is being played in AUS and NZ, two very different countries with regards to pitches and grounds. Australian pitches are a bit favorable to bowling and also the grounds are big. You will not see a team scoring more than 300 so easily. On the other hand, NZ grounds are short and you can see 300 being scored more frequently. The pitches in Australia favor the batsmen who rotate the strike, take singles and twos. NZ can be a friendly wicket for the slam bang batsmen.

The new rules also are important. The restriction on the number of fielders outside the circle makes it very difficult for teams with just 4 genuine bowling options. On the sub-continent pitches, you can scrape through with a part time spinner. The same is not the case on Australian pitches.
I. Ideal Team:
The ideal team for me has the following combination:

4 batsmen + 1 batting allrounder + 1 Wicket keeper + 1 bowling allrounder + 4 bowlers.  Atleast one of the bowlers should be a genuine spin bowler.

The obvious question will be about the batting allrounder and the bowling allrounder.  Let me take examples of ideal allrounders to help explain the point.
An ideal batting allrounder = Shane Watson or Mitchell Marsh

An ideal bowling allrounder = Faulkner or Afridi

This above combination will be the ideal combination. Now, we can understand why Dhoni is pushing Stuart Binny to bowl opening spells in this just concluded tri series.

II. Teams and how they stack up:
While the other sections for each side are self explanatory, I am adding an “X-Factor” section that needs to be explained. I am going to write the “X-factor” players for each team. These are the players whom many people will not expect to play a defining role. But if they do their job, they will increase the chances of their team manifold. So, it is that player who is misfiring/under the radar but if he plays well throughout the tournament, he would be solving a big problem for his side and increasing his team’s chances “dramatically”.

1. Australia: Surely got to be the team to beat !! What makes Australia a powerful team is that they have the ideal mix of specialists and allrounders.

Ideal Team: Warner, Finch, Watson/Mitchel Marsh, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Faulkner, Maxwell/Doherthy, Hazelwood, Johnson, Starc.

Allrounders: Watson/Marsh are batting allrounders and Faulkner is the bowling allrounder. The advantage for AUS is that Maxwell too is an allrounder and can be a useful spinner too.
Tough choice: Between Maxwell and Doherthy. It should strictly be a better bowler of these 2 players who should play. Australia already has a good batting lineup and they should not compromise on the bowling by going for Maxwell’s aggressive batting. In crucial matches, I think Maxwell’s high risk batting cannot come on top against strong bowling attacks. Infact, I thought Lyon should have been selected as the specialist spinner in the squad.

Sure shot success: Faulkner, Warner, Finch. These players are in great form. Faulkner’s injury is a concern but if he plays he is that ideal bowling all-rounder any team will look for.
X-Factor: For Australia, this is Michael Clarke. Clarke has an average of 45 at strike rate of 80. Just imagine, everytime he walks out he scores 45 on average. Which means he will be involved in a 100 run partnership. That will be the strong platform his lower order needs to launch a ferocious attack.

Clarke and Faulkner – two key players should recover in time for Australia. Then it will be very difficult for other teams to cope up with them.
2. Newzealand: No more dark horses !!  It is amazing to see NZ prepare for the World Cup. Each and every single position was tried by different players. And finally they came out with rationale decisions (except, maybe, for the exclusion of Matt Henry). It was as methodical as it can get.

Ideal Team: Guptill, McCullum, Williamson, Taylor, Eliott, Anderson, Ronchi, Vettori, McClenaghan/Milne, Southee, Boult.
Allrounders: Eliott is the batting allrounder, Anderson is the bowling allrounder

Tough Choice: Looks like none as of now. It is a testament of the fact that they are so thoroughly prepared. However, the 3rd seamer might be the point in question. McClenaghan and Milne are front runners while it is tempting to go for Mills as he offers a bit more with the bat.
Sure Shot Success: NZ has a blue print for batting in ODIs. It is simple – a 100 run partnership in the middle order !! The players who will do that will be Williamson and either Taylor or Eliott.

Williamson is the 2nd best batsmen on this earth right now. He is the Roger Federer of cricket, all class !! He will be surely building partnership after partnership in this world cup.
X-Factor: Got to be Guptill. If Guptill fires, the strength of this mighty side will be doubled !! He seems to be working back to form now.

3. Sri Lanka: SL is a team that has a good composition but they are not playing the right people at the right positions. The opening is still a problem and continues to be the biggest headache.
Ideal Team: Dilshan, Thirimanne, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Chandimal, Mathews, Perrera/Senanayake, Hearth,  Malinga, Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad.

Allrounders: Mathews is the batting allrounder and Senanayake is the bowling allrounder.
Tough choice: Thisara Perrera or 2 spinners ? When Perrera comes off, it is so good for the balance of the side. But lately, he is switched off. SL’s strength has been spinners and might be better if they stick to that formula even on AUS pitches.

The other tough choice is to decide whether to open with Jayawardene or not. It will make the batting very top heavy and hence they might go with Thirimanne only at the top.
Sure to be success: Sangakkara. No more words to say.

X-Factor: The 2nd opener. Thirimanne playing well will almost book a high score considering the batting depth to come.

4. England: By the time England woke up, they were too late. They are desperately trying to change the team and the approach. They also had success against IND in the tri series, but you cannot read too much into this one series where IND looked jaded and tired.
Ideal Team: Bell, M Ali, Hales/Taylor, Root, Morgan, Butler, Bopara, Tredwell, Broad, Anderson, Finn.

Allrounders: Ali is the batting allrounder and Bopara is the bowling allrounder.

Tough Choice: Bopara and Tredwell. ENG inexplicably keeps dropping Tredwell. And they play Bopara only as a batsman !! This has to surely do with the inexperience of Morgan as a captain that he is playing a specialist batsman at #7.
Also, they need to decide on Hales. He is too explosive to not even get one chance. I see a redundancy in Taylor and Root. Root can do better at what Taylor can do.

Sure to be success: Root.
X-Factor: The captain himself. If Morgan comes good, it will just ensure that ENG gets to competitive scores.

5. South Africa: The dream team of many. The SA public seem to believe that this time they will win the world cup. A very strong team indeed.
Ideal Team: Amla, Decock, Du Plessis, ABD, Miller, JPD, Kyle Abott, Tahir, Philander, Morkel, Steyn.

Allrounders: JP Duminy can be the batting allrounder but they don’t seem to have a good bowling allrounder. South Africa is the only team that can be exempted from the theory of 2 allrounders. The reason is that their specialists are so good that they don’t want to give up #7 slot to someone like Behardien. It may just be that weak link the other teams will try to exploit. Instead they can just go for a good bowler (Abott looks the best option) and ensure that they have 5 super special batsmen and 5 super special bowlers.
Tough choice: As explained, the #7. I suggest going for the best available bowler. 

Sure to be success: ABD, again no more words to say.
X-Factor: JPD. Duminy is the finisher and he is the one batting all rounder in case of an off-day for one of their bowlers. His absence was felt dearly in the recent AUS ODI series.

6. India: The World Champions but not the favorites this time. IND looks confused with the strategy, the line up undecided and key players either injured or out of form.
There are 3 teams that are suffering in ODIs due to the T20 cricket format. INDIA is the first team that suffered due to the T20 cricket. Their bowling department thinks that wickets will come on the boundary lines and not in the slips. And they are fine with giving 7 Runs per over.

But, the one thing with IND is they are tournament players. Bring a tournament and they will switch it ON. So, do not write them off yet.
Ideal Team: Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli, Rahane, Raina, Dhoni, Binny, Jadeja/Ashwin/Axar Patel, B Kumar, I Sharma, Shami/Yadav.

Allrounders: Raina is the batting allrounder and either Jadeja/Ashwin/Axar Patel will be the bowling allrounder. They also have Binny.
Tough choice: The spinner and Stuart Binny. Of the 3 spinners + Binny combination, they have to choose 2. If Dhoni chooses more out of this pool, then the already weak bowling will become toothless.

Sure shot success: Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Watch out for them.
X-Factor: The first one is more of a hope. If Dhawan fires, then IND will be in that position where they will easily get to 300. But Dhawan has technical problems. However, teams like PAK and WI have bowling attacks that can enable Dhawan to work into some form.

The biggest X factor has got to be Bhuvaneswar Kumar. He can swing and when in form he will take wickets. He is the one who can really transform this weak bowling attack into something reasonable.
7. West Indies: Graeme Smith believes WI cannot reach the QFs. This may be true till that point of time but not now. Now, WI will ensure they prove him wrong.

The team was mired into controversies. Dwayne Bravo and Pollard are out of the squad for non-cricketing reasons. Bravo was the captain at that time. And selecting Miller in place of Narine is a bit of surprise when they have other quality spinners like Permaul. And giving Holder the captaincy now is a shocker, they could have easily given it to Ramdin.
The problem with WI is that they need specialists. Their main problem is that they have too many bits and pieces allrounders. It is hard to think about matches that Dwayne Bravo won for WI either with the ball or with the bat. And Pollard’s ODI record doesn’t justify his selection. Dwayne Bravo should have been selected in the side but there is no question in my mind that Andre Russell is now a far better allrounder than Dwayne Bravo.

WI cricket got ruined with T20s in both the departments. Their bowlers think that giving 7 Runs per over is acceptable and their batsmen think that there is no need to play 50 overs !! The surprising part is that the WI batting doesn’t seem to last more than 40-45 overs but they still end up with 200-250 scores !! T20 effect at its best/worst ?
Ideal Team: Gayle, Smith, Darren Bravo, Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Ramdin, Russell, Benn, Holder, Roach, Taylor.

Allrounders: Dwayne Smith is the batting allrounder and Russell is the bowling allrounder. You can consider Gayle and Samuels also as batting allrounders but their spin will be mostly ineffective in AUS/NZ conditions.
Tough Choice: Got to be the exclusion of Sammy. The more tempting option will be to include Sammy for his batting and exclude Taylor. But Taylor is more of a wicket taking bowler and I would really want to see the above team.

Sure shot success: Samuels. He will play well but his tendency to throw his wicket at crucial times is the one to be looked at in this world cup. If he uses more caution, then WI will give fight to other big nations.
X-Factor: Gayle will play devastatingly in a few matches. And everyone is talking about how important Dwayne Bravo is to this team and hence his exclusion. But I think it is the other Bravo (Darren Bravo) who will be the X-factor. WI has too many allrounders and too less of specialists. And WI batsmen generally are averse to singles and twos and concentrate only on boundaries (Raina made this comment in the 2014 T20 world cup for which Sammy gave a pathetic answer and eventually his team lost due to this very trait). Darren Bravo is the best test batsman of WI (even better than Chanderpaul in recent times). So, it should be Bravo who should rotate the strike, stitch the partnerships and place a high price on his wicket. The problem with Darren Bravo is that he is trying too hard (you can see him being dejected everytime he gets out, just check when he got out in his last ODI played – the 4th ODI in IND) and it is not hard to see why he is opting out frequently for personal reasons. It looks like he is taking too much of a stress. Sadly, WICB is in no position to help its players. Worst, I am sure they don’t even realize how important Darren Bravo is.

If Darren Bravo plays well, he and Samuels will become the “Williamson and Taylor” of WI. They will give a platform to the power hitters down the order to play their T20 style of innings. The key for WI is that the No. 3 to No.6 batsmen should play till the 45th over. And the onus is on Darren Bravo and Samuels.
If there is one player who can change the equation of the entire tournament and make WI a real competitive team, it is Darren Bravo.

The other X-factor in this team is Andre Russell. He is going to be the finisher for this side and his bowling is very good as per current WI standards.

8. Pakistan: Truly an unpredictable team. The team selections are highly debatable and latest is that they lost their best bowler Junaid Khan. This is one team that is literally hoping some of its players to come good rather than taking bold/correct decisions.
Also, PAK is the 3rd and final team that suffered due to the T20 cricket. Their batting was always the weaker department but now they think that it is fine not to last 50 overs.

Ideal Team: Shehzad, U Akmal/ Sarfraz Ahmad, Harris Sohail, Misbah, Shoaib Maqsood, Sarfraz Ahmad/U Akmal, Afridi, Irfan, Yasir Ahmad, Ehsan Adil/Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali.
Tough Choice: Too many tough choices to make. Otherwise, the run of the business stuff will not work for them.

First and foremost, the opening slot. Hafeez’s injury may be a blessing in disguise. He is not a good batsman on these kinds of pitches. Add to that his ineffective spin bowling on these pitches is now non-existent.
I would really like to see U Akmal to open. Unpredictability has been PAK’s strength and given their current form they should throw a bold/aggressive surprise to other teams. Get U Akmal/Sarfraz Ahmad to bat at the top. Nasir Jamshed  is currently out of form and it is hard to work into form immediately on the AUS/NZ pitches.

PAK need to let go of Younis Khan if he does not perform. Shoaib Maqsood is a very good talent and he should come in.
Sure to be success: Misbah ? Afridi ? Mohammed Irfan ? Cannot say with confidence but it looks like the 2 veterans will play well. Afridi is one of the best bowling allrounders in the world. But the key is to treat him like that – more of a bowler.

X-Factor: Harris Sohail. He is the batting allrounder PAK can use in this World Cup. They really don’t have many choices.
But the biggest X-factor is Shoaib Maqsood. PAK won the 1992 World Cup and one of the major contributors was a baby faced Inzimam Ul Haq. If ever there is a batsman who can be that bold and play with that freedom and also has that range of shots, it is Shoaib Maqsood in this side. It is a pity that he is not being selected in the playing 11.

III. Predictions:
Group A:
This group is the stronger of the two groups. Australia will be tough to beat. New Zealand also is one of the contenders. The real matches that decide the group standings are as below:

AUS vs NZ: A match between two contenders. This match will be an aggressive match with lots of fireworks. The match will be decided in one half, AUS bowling vs NZ batting. As impressive as NZ are at the moment, AUS is a different proposition and NZ’s batting is still their weaker department and still prone to occasional collapses. So, it is here that AUS will win this match and stand at the top of the group.

SL vs ENG: ENG has been playing something close to “decent” cricket now. But SL will get Malinga back and the main factor is that SL is an ICC tournament team. They play well in the big tournaments. The experienced folks in SL know the crucial moments better than the “Still finding its feed” ENG team. SL will win this match.
Group B:
SA vs IND: IND will come into the match on the back of an emotional, stress-relieving, first victory of this tour and that will be against PAK. So, there will be real hopes of doing well against SA based on that victory. However, SA is a very good team at group stages and the SA batting vs IND bowling is a no-contest. It is scary to imagine the kind of score SA will put up if they bat first and IND has literally no chance if they lose the toss and chase in this match. So, SA to win this match.

PAK vs WI: Even though a few folks are predicting WI to get eliminated at the group stage, I don’t think that will happen. If WI is prone to a shocker defeat, then PAK also is equally prone to a shocker defeat. These 2 teams will have to guard themselves against the minnows and treat this particular match a bit more seriously. The loser may well end up playing a QF against AUS.
I think WI will be aggressive in this match and they have a slightly better batting unit compared to PAK. The PAK bowling used to be very good but now it is not the case. Hence WI will win this match.


Group A
Group B
South Africa
New Zealand
Sri Lanka
West Indies


Australia vs Pakistan: Australia will be a settled side by this time and their confidence would be sky high.  On the other hand, Pakistan will be coming off a weak display in its group. Also, I don’t expect Pakistan to make the correct selection throughout the tournament (the ideal squad that I picked for PAK will be different from the actual squad they pick). Australia will come up with an authoritative performance in all departments to serve a notice to the other teams. AUS to win this QF.

New Zealand vs West Indies: This is one of two quarter finals that have the potential to be close matches. WI is a dangerous team and qualifying for the QF itself is a big victory for them (so unfortunate that nobody thinks WI has a real chance after what all happened in the last 3 months).
NZ is a disciplined team and the NZ bowlers are skillful at dismissing the hit or miss kind of batsmen that WI has. It is here that Darren Bravo and Samuels have to really come good. “If” they come good, then this match will be very close.

However, it is no secret that the NZ batting will be far more superior to the WI bowling. This match will be a high scoring match and eventually the NZ batting depth and the new found discipline and confidence will carry them through to the Semi finals.
Sri Lanka vs IND: This is the 2nd interesting quarter final that I was talking about a little earlier.  This is really the reason why IND needs to win their group match against SA and finish at the top of the table. Sri Lanka, in ICC tournaments, is a difficult team to beat. All matches involving IND depend a lot on the toss because they want to bat first and put pressure on the opposition (seriously, their bowling doesn’t seem to be in a position to put pressure on the opposition).

SL has Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan in the batting department. But it is the SL bowling vs IND batting that decided the recent matches between the two sides (IND chased a big score in 2011 ODI WC final, IND restricted to a low score in the 2014 T20 final). The same will be the case with this match too. The conditions (IND has a little more experience now on these conditions) and also the recent history between the two sides (the recent 5-0 drubbing for SL at the hands of IND) will play a part.
IND will handle the spinners better and the Indian batsmen will win this match even though their bowlers will be under fire from the experienced SL top-heavy batting line-up.

England vs South Africa: So, finally the moment of truth comes for South Africa. Their knock-out syndrome has to end somewhere and ENG is the best chance to do that. South Africa will come out all guns blazing against England. I expect SA players to take this match more seriously and personally too. Their batting will click and a cool Hashim Amla will help to calm the nerves. Expect a big SA score if they bat first and SA to win this match.

Now, the tough part for predictions.

Semi final 1: IND vs AUS: Once again, an India vs AUS contest !! But this time, it has far more meaning and impact. This match will really be a test of character for IND.
Winning the toss is crucial for IND. But, either batting first or batting second, the AUS batting line-up simply seems to have cracked the code with the Indian bowling line-up. IND would be jaded and tired by this time.

This contest will have any semblance of a close match only if IND bat first and put up a big score. But there are too many “ifs” here and even though all such conditions come good in India’s favor, AUS is just too tough to crack for IND and the recent dominance will help them.
My heart says India but my mind says AUS. I am sure this is the case with other folks also, AUS is just so obviously a better team in those conditions compared to India. I will be the happiest person if this prediction comes false.

Semi final 2 SA vs NZ: This match will be a dream semi-final. South Africa and New Zealand have a history (the 2011 WC QF which turned out to be a war of words). These 2 sides are well balanced. NZ has the allround strength while SA has the specialists that can hit centuries at will or take 4-5 wickets on a routine basis.
This match will be a fiercely contested match and the X-factors will come into play here. Guptill cannot be a walking wicket to the SA pacers and if SA get an early wicket then NZ will just play catch up all the time.

This match has to be analysed in two contests:
NZ bowling vs SA batting: This will be an even contest. At the end of it, SA will get to a good score but one that will be chaseable on the NZ grounds.

NZ batting vs SA bowling: As I said earlier, NZ batting is still prone to the occasional collapses. Against a very good SA bowling attack, with Steyn and Co playing in one of the most important matches of their career and also having just conquered the “knock out syndrome”, SA will be steaming in with the ball. NZ batting will be marginally losing this bout to the SA bowling.
If not IND, I want either NZ or SA to win this WC. And for this match, my heart says NZ but the mind says SA.

Final AUS vs SA: The final that a lot of neutral fans will be hoping for at the start of the tournament.

This match is really more a test for the strength of the mind and character. Both the teams have the skills of the highest quality. SA has the best bowling attack and a batting unit that churns out centuries at will. AUS will play as a team and they will try to intimidate. Do not be surprised if AUS comes out to this match with some on-field verbal strategies.
The bowling unit of SA is so intimidating for any team. Steyn, Morkel and Philander make a hostile pace attack for any opposition. But historically, AUS always wanted to target the opposition’s main players. And they will try to do it in this match also. The good thing for AUS is that they have the skills necessary to do that and the proof that Australian sides of the past have done that (remember 2007 WC super six match ? Mathew Hayden, in a premeditated attack, took out Pollock).

This is the match that ABD will have to play well. He is the one player who can absorb the pressure. And when in the right frame of mind, he is the No. 1 batsman in the world. However,  the most important observation for this match will be a specialists team vs Allrounders team. South Africa believe more in specialists and Australia has more of the allrounders. It is a match between teams of different psychology, team composition and think tank.
In this match, the finishing skills of JP Duminy will be evaluated by the Australian bowlers. Also, Australia will devise strategies to take out the potent SA attack. If SA chose a weak No. 7, then that player will surely be exploited by Australia.

Ultimately, I think I have to use the same sentence for the third time. My heart says SA but the mind says AUS.
AUS is just too good to beat when they are on a roll and from November (when the home series against SA started) they are on a bit of a roll. Unless ABD plays really well and others support him, I don’t think SA will overcome an Australian juggernaut. For that matter, South Africa will run Australia the closest in the entire world cup and this final will be remembered as a classic. And I think, for once South Africa will leave a tournament with 2 changes in the result – (1) they go far and deep into the knock out stages (2) When they lose, it will be to a team that is playing some very very good cricket and not because of their own deeds and the “c” word.


Monday, 27 October 2008

The Trip (In 2007)

Not without a reason,it is said that activities related to God are never to be postponed. Who knows what happens when God is angry ?

Lord Balaji is one of our most favourite Gods. Venkata is a part of my name and also my brother's name. Some people even call us Venkat instead of Kishore and Kiran. From the times i can remember , we used to go to Tirupathi every year. I went with friends too once in my graduation days to "please" the God for a big help he has done :) So, when i took up a job, my mom was correct in saying that we all may not be able to continue going together to visit Balaji from now on.

In the first year of my job, somehow i managed to visit Balaji along with my parents. But, after that there came a break. Then, one day i thought -- i have to go to Balaji atleast once again, and offer my hair. But the lazy guy that i am , i postponed this for too long. Maybe the trouble has already started.

I used to go to Mantralayam too, quite often, and used to do 108 rounds there. So, my wish was to go to Tirupati -- climb the hills by feet and come down too by feet. And also visit Mantralayam and do 108 rounds.

Atlast, i decided to go in either November or December , after postponing it for atleast 5 months. My brother, my sister and brother-in-law told me that if possible, they also would join. But, as luck may have it, they couldnt. That is when i decided -- enough is enough, i have to go this time , even if it means going alone. I have already delayed it. The day of journey is going to be December 12th.

December 2nd : Its a sunday, we were sitting at home -- me and my friend. We watched a horrible movie in the pc. I told my friend that we need to go out and watch another movie, to erase this one. My friend said No. I persisted and we started for a movie called "Takkari" -- if you have watched it, you would be knowing our fate. If you havent watched it, lady luck is on your side atleast in this matter and let it remain that way. As usual, it was a second show, and when we returned back after watching the second bad movie for the day (this one in theatre)it was 12:45. You will find in another blog on what my 3 phobias are, but for the timebeing, just take it for granted that i am never comfortable when a dog is around. In the midnight, on our way home, a dog chased us -- we fell off the bike trying to speed away on the slippery-sand surface. Maybe the dog is too shocked that it forgot to bite us.A 130 Kg vehicle may well have fallen on it, it escaped narrowly. Had the bike fell on the opposite side, the dog is gone. But then, it started barking loudly and soon we were in the middle of "the gang". The kuha gang. Kuha = kukkala hadavidi (dogs' mess).

Somehow, we managed to escape, our friend's room is right there and the bike too damaged. By the way, why am i telling all this ? No, i am not mad. My legs were badly damaged, i couldnt walk properly for the next 5 days. Especially, the left leg -- the knee was badly bruised. Remember , December 12th is around the corner -- Tirumala hills up and down; and 108 rounds in Mantralayam -- a test of fitness !!

After 5 days, condition improved, i thought ! I was able to walk slowly, but still sitting with legs folded on the floor is impossible.

December 11 : The time to "plan" for the journey. As usual, a plan at the last minute. I would reach Tirumala on December 13th morning. I should start climbing up the hills at 11 AM. Reach there by 2 PM. Get my hair tonsured by 3 PM and stand in line. I should start my journey down the hills by 6:30 PM.

December 14th is supposed to be only for visiting local temples. And i would start in a bus to Mantralayam by the night of December 14th. When i reach Mantralayam on December 15th morning, i will have time till the night of December 16th to complete my 108 rounds !! Ah, too easy, this last part -- i thought !!

My friend Manoj listened to me patiently about this plan and then told me -- "you had an accident, however minor it is. So, dont go for too much". I brushed aside saying that my new found interest towards fitness will help me. Not even a month ago, i was able to run the 10K Run ,with just a single stop ! But he himself ran the 10k without even a single stop !! i should have listened to him a bit more...

December 12th and 13th : Cometh the hour then, the journey started. I reached Tirupati safely. Hotel rooms were not available and i got a "katara" room (couldnt describe that any better). I adjusted. I was told that Darshan will take 3 hrs. I started climbing up the hills at 10:45 AM. I reached Tirumala by 12:10 PM. Goodness me !! How wrong Manju was, i am doing too well, i thought. The hair tonsure was done quickly and i stood in the line at 2 PM. No food. Then started the wait. By the time i came out of Darshan, it was 6:15 PM.

My initial plan was 6:30 PM to start the journey down the hill. 6:15 is earlier, but then i realised that nobody is going down by feet. So, there is a chance that i maybe alone and 6 PM is too dark in the hilly area. In my journey upwards in the morning, i sat beside a scorpion !! And this is night time !!

I literally ran down the hill. But there was a rain in the afternoon and the steps were slippery. Getting down is not as easy as i thought because one mistake and it would be costly. I somehow found a company in another guy. We were the only two getting down at that time !!

By the time i got down 2 hours later, there are a lot of feelings -- tired, hungry(skipped lunch right ?) , headache ... Ate and went to sleep. Then there was this little nagging pain that started in my leg -- the dog chase-bike fell-knee hurt -- region. Maybe due to the hectic activity ? It would surely go away with a good night's sleep ? So, i went to sleep.

December 14th : The day when it turned on. My friend's words came true. The leg pain is "significant". It surely hasnt gone away with a good sleep. I checked-out of the hotel and put the luggage in cloak room and went for a bus to visit local temples. Alas, the rush was huge and couldnt get a ticket, its house-full time. But then, we have our Govt to fall back -- APSRTC bus to Kalahasthi. But first, I went to a medical store and told him that i had a minor accident recently and its paining now. When he told "take rest", i wanted to hit him on the head. Anyways, took 2 pain killers straightaway !! Then started the journey to kalahasthi. Came back. Visited a few more temples in an auto. When i returned back to the bus stand in the evening after done with the local temples plan, i couldnt even sit. The leg pain, though with the intake of 2 pain killers, is too much. It is like someone is beating with a stick there , at the knee -- all the time. One more pain killer, and i boarded the bus to Mantralayam. First leg of the journey complete.

December 15th : Got down at Mantralayam by 6 AM. The luggage is looking increasingly heavy -- what a difference our perception makes ! I couldnt stand, i couldnt sit too, i want to sleep. Oh my God, its unbearable. People are coming to me for guiding me to a lodge. They soon realised, its better to leave a frustrated person alone. Went to the nearest lodge, its the costliest over there, but i cant walk any further. I asked the lodge guy to get me some "good" pain killers from a medical store and a paste and a soap (left them all in Tirupati) and also asked him to wake me up after 4 hours. At that time, i had only one thing in the mind -- go to sleep, get up and if it still like this, take the return journey to Hyd. No way 108 rounds !! Surely the thought that the trip will be only half complete, came to the mind as a question mark. Immediately, i fell asleep.

This is the day , the day of the journey. 108 rounds is not a joke, each round is atleast 100-200 meters, it is a big temple. Remember my initial plan ? The most easiest part this is supposed to be, and see now -- its like an impossible task.

The guy whom i asked to bring certain things returned back at 10 AM. Disturbance of India !! He told me that the medical store guy is saying to "take rest" !! How the heck would i come on a tour and take rest ?? Took these new pain killers and also the old ones. Total 4 !!

Slept again and woke up at 12:30 PM. When i woke up, it was a wierd feeling. Coming for a journey to visit temples, on my own, like a man on a mission, and now sleeping ?? God, what's happening ? I said, let me try today and if it doesnt improve, will return back by the night bus. Went to the temple at 1:15 and had the Devasthanam lunch after the Darshan. Surely, no rounds now please.

Came back, slept again, after all i ate pain killers like peppermints. Woke up at 5 PM. Now, the decision time !! To go or to stay ? Go Go Go said the mind, stay said the heart. My friend aizu told me once --"All our friends who followed their heart have done well". Well, i was not thinking of this dialogue at that time because he told me this, this year (2008), the journey was in 2007. But then, that day, i decided -- enough is enough, even if i crawl, i am going to complete this. What is it like to come with a target and go back without doing it ? After all, came on a devotional trip, so it is God's responsibility to help me :) Went to the temple, started the "pradhakshinams". Could somehow complete around 30 in the span of roughly 4 hours !! A baby would be faster by manifolds. When i came back, a couple of pain killers again and went to bed. Dont know when i fell asleep.

December 16th : As per the plan the previous night, woke up at 6 and went to the temple. Had breakfast and/with 2 pain killers. After Darshan, started limping to complete the rounds. Dont know what others thought of me, but went on with one leg doing well and the other leg being dragged literally. That was the time/session when the war of pain vs willpower was at its peak. The pain increased, but the speed too !! It was like I wont care what happens tomorrow, i need to do this today and now !! Completed all the remaining by around 12 PM ! Hurray !! Game, set and match Kishore.

The journey was tipped off by the visit to Panchamukhi, where my favourite god Hanuman ji is there, in a share auto. Came back in the afternoon and slept again. Got up in the evening, went to the temple again, after all the temple is too near to the bus stand and if i sleep again now, dont know when i can wake up ! And in no time, i am in the return bus. Came back to Hyderabad, with the seemingly ever-increasing luggage.

The journey was done. If this was a test, i can say i passed atleast one test in my life !! A big trip, alone, unexpected twists, huge pain.

Decemer 17th onwards: Stopped "eating" pain killers. But then, the effect has already been made. Fell sick, vomitings,dehydration and all. It took 3 days for me to recover. And the leg ? Well, some more time...

But but but -- All is well that ends well !! Hurray...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

What is Toastmasters ?

Toastmasters is a club for folks interested in enhancing the public speaking skills. Me part of the club in our company :). There will be a total of 10 project speeches that one has to complete to be able to achieve the "Competent Communicator" certification.

For the official website, please visit

Please note that these are prepared for doing well in speeches, and hence you people have to bear with my imaginations/hallucinations :)

Dreams -- Project Speech 2

"I have got ten names for myself. Each name signifies a particular charateristic or aspect of me and my life. I look terrible when i am angry. I have taken an oath that I will kill all those who hurt my brother. I am Arjuna and I cannot be defeated by anyone. No one can defeat me." -- Arjuna, the great warrior, the peerless archer, spoke these words on the eve of the Virat Yudh (the war of Virat).Just to recollect, Arjuna is the main hero of the Mahabharat epic, the classical Indian religious epic. What a confidence this person had -- "I am Arjuna and no one can defeat me" !!

Ok, let me tell you all a story. Long long ago, there was a kid born into a middle class family. This kid used to show a lot of interest in Mahabharat. He was very impressed with the character of the Arjuna. He told himself one day that he will choose any one particular field and will say to the world "I am so and so, and I cannot be defeated". So, ladies and gentlemen -- good evening all, good evening fellow toastmasters, welcome to the world of dreams. Today, I am going to talk about those dreams that keep you awake, not about the dreams that come and go in your sleep. Dreams, that are foundations for achievements.

Well, we were talking about a stupid kid who thought of becoming as proficient in any one field as Arjuna was in his archery. Silly, stupid... how can someone become like that -- Arjuna had Lord Sri Krishna as his charioteer, such was the greatness of that man. Anyways, we will go and find out what happened to the kid as he grew up. He wanted to say "I am so and so, and I cannot be defeated". But, 25 years into his life, that kid of yesteryears is standing right infront of you guys and is going to say -- "I am Kishore, and I can be defeated by anyone and everyone".

So, what does that mean ? No one should dream ? Or dreams should be restricted ? No, not in any way. There is a vey age-old saying -- "Aim for the sky, atleast you will reach the tree tops". Very often it is not where we are that matters, but the path that we have taken that matters. This kid tried his hand at all the things. He was never a champion in anything, but he tried his hand at everything – acads, sports and all. The result is that this kid holds one of the best educational qualifications in all his family circles. This kid still remembers the class friends he had in those days, who are still struggling to get a decent job. He too could very well have went that way, had he not chased his dream of doing well in academics.

So, the essence is – no matter how big, or rather how stupid, a dream is , you can still have positives out of it.

1) Let me take you all through another story – Long long ago, back in 1940 – a girl was born into a very poor family. At the age of 4, it was discovered that this girl had polio. Due to the illness, her left leg was paralysed. She had to wear an iron leg brace to walk. She could not even get proper treatment because of the financial constraints of the family. But, she always dreamt of one thing – one day to walk without the leg brace. She knew it was difficult but she kept dreaming of this and kept on trying to walk without the brace. One day, she achieved her dream – she was able to walk like normal kids. How she could do that was a medical wonder. She eventually went on to live her dream to the fullest – she is none other than “Wilma Rudolph”, the American athlete who won three Olympic medals at the 1960 Olympic games !!

A gentleman once famously wrote --

The ability to dream on is one of the fine quality of human race that other species do not possess.

2) Let us go back to a story about a young man who was the son of an itinerant horse trainer who would go from stable to stable, race track to race track, farm to farm and ranch to ranch, training horses. As a result, the boy's high school career was continually interrupted. When he was a senior, he was asked to write a paper about what he wanted to be and do when he grew up.

That night he wrote a seven-page paper describing his goal of someday owning a horse ranch. He wrote about his dream in great detail and he even drew a diagram of a 200- acre ranch, showing the location of all the buildings, the stables and the track. Then he drew a detailed floor plan for a 4,000-square-foot house that would sit on a 200-acre dream ranch.

He put a great deal of his heart into the project and the next day he handed it to his teacher. Two days later he received his paper back. On the front page was a large red F with a note that read, 'See me after class’. The boy with the dream went to see the teacher after class and asked, 'Why did I receive an F?'

The teacher said, 'This is an unrealistic dream for a young boy like you. You have no money. You come from an itinerant family. You have no resources. Owning a horse ranch requires a lot of money. You have to buy the land. You have to pay for the original breeding stock and later you'll have to pay large stud fees. There's no way you could ever do it.' Then the teacher added, 'If you will rewrite this paper with a more realistic goal, I will reconsider your grade.'

The boy went home and thought about it long and hard. He asked his father what he should do. His father said, 'Look, son, you have to make up your own mind on this. However, I think it is a very important decision for you.'

Finally, after sitting with it for a week, the boy turned in the same paper, making no changes at all. He stated, 'You can keep the F and I'll keep my dream.'

Monty Roberts, the famous horse trainer – had shrugged off all the obstacles in his way to achieve his dream. He had achieved his horse ranch that he so lovingly dreamt of. One day, the teacher who gave him an F in the schooldays came to the ranch with his kids. The teacher told Monty – 'I now realize that during those days I stole a lot of kids’ dreams. Fortunately you had the gumption not to give up on your dream'.

A gentleman named Martin Luther King Jr, once delivered a speech – considered as one of the greatest speeches of all time, and was ranked as the top American Speech of the 20th century. The speech was named as “I have a dream”. In that speech Martin says

-- "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

-- "I have a dream that one day the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

At that time, he dreamt of these things and now his dream is fulfilled.

No one knew what Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani had dreamt of while selling “pakoras” in his early days, the result is the empire called the "Ambani Group of Industries". No one knows what Mr. Narayana Murthy dreamt of, the result is this organisation called Infosys. Probably God only knows what Mr. Sachin Tendulkar dreamt of, probably to score a century in every match he played, the result is a stellar international career with countless records. And probably even God doesnt know what a certain Gentleman called Albert Einstein dreamt of -- the result is a theory that is still "RELATIVELY" too difficult to comprehend -- yes, the "Theory of Relativity".

Eleanor Roosevelt once quoted -- "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." 2 months back, I have seen a person coming to the toastmaster's session for the first time. I have known this guy for years, he is a very shy guy when it comes to speaking infront of a good public, even though he has some ideas. But, i knew that this guy is dreaming something, probably to give a very good speech to a very good audience and get a very good review. And today, while i am talking to you all, this guy is parallely giving a speech on a topic called "Dreams" for the best part of 6 minutes !! He is still not finished, still doing it. I never imagined that before. This guy has crossed his first step and the most difficult of all steps -- giving a try infront of a big audience. So, guys -- dream big, achieve big...

This is Kishore, signing off for the day.

About me -- Project Speech 1

Mark Twain once famously quoted – “Success is nothing but the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Left, right, straight, faaast, sstop !! U –turn. Straight again….Am I talking about Hyderabad traffic ? Nooooo. Is it a video game then ? Naaah, a game it is but not a video game. So, dear friends – good evening all and welcome to the game of the life. The game being played by “Yours truly”, also called as Kishore.

The other day I was thinking about life as a game. What game it resembles the most ? I was asking this question to myself. I found that – life is nothing but a game of treasure hunt in which I am searching for “more happiness” or the “ultimate happiness”. And every now and then , God is giving me clues in the form of opportunities and is helping me to find my “Treasure”.

It all started in October 1982. I was born in 1982 into a family of an engineer and a teacher. My dad , Mr. KV.Rao currently is working as a Deputy manager in the APPMills , Rajahmundry. My mom, or my darling as I fondly call her, is Mrs K.Laskhmi, a teacher. I have an younger brother named Kiran, currently doing his graduation. I continue thanking god for the wonderful family given to me. I started the search to happiness with an advantage of a great family.

My schooling was done in APPM Model high school, RJY. I used to be a bright student back then. Once ,there was this strange thing that happened.In my Sixth class, I lost my first rank to another student in the pre-final exam. In any case, it shoud not matter because for the final exams, i am still leading by a long way. But, my passion to stay at the top was so much so that i could not sleep the whole night.It was 2 o'clock in the mid night and i was wandering in the dark in the balcony. A firm voice came from my back saying "Kishore, are you not afraid ? Its 2 in the night, and you are walking alone in this darkness ?" !!Then i told my dad i am not afraid of the darkness but feel sad for losing the first rank. As you can expect, there were some words of wisdom from my dad that night. The passion, the passion to do well – oh, in our terms to play the game of life well.

Well, for that sixth class final exams -- I was just unbeatable. After all, Harold Stephen once quoted

There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.

In schooldays, there were some awards that i won in the talent tests -- a town 1st ranker, a couple of district 1st ranks and a couple of state ranks -- that was about the time when my name appeared in the local newspaper every single time a big talent test was conducted. A quiz here, an essay writing there. Add to that atleast 3 awards for various sports events in the annual competitions. And then the big thing – a school record of achieving the school first medal continuosly from 1st to 10th std. That was when I was playing the game of life well. Finding happiness frequently.

It all changed in the X std. I just about managed to get school first, but not a satisfactory total. The expectations on me were very high by one and all – the teachers, friends and all. It all got blasted down.

Now then, the game is getting tougher ? --- Probably YES.

I got free admission from a couple of Intermediate colleges, out of which I decided to join Gautam Junior College, Vijayawada.I didn’t read all too well but then somehow managed to come out with decent EAMCET and IIIT ranks. I decided to join IIIT Hyderabad.IIIT Hyderabad is a dream of a college. There you have everything -- acads, bunking of classes, different kinds of professors and students.It is a world within itself. Worked reasonably hard in first 4 semesters and held onto an average CGPA. But then the comfort zone started.

Albert Einstein once told “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.”

The comfort zone reached its peak in the 7th semester when I used to organise cricket tournaments , but not used to study even one page a day. Add to that , our placement has been over with, and almost all everyone got into a company, including me. So, the game of life or the search to happiness came to a halt temporarily.

My stupidity did cost me dearly, I failed in the 7th semester in a course that is compulsary for my degree certificate. I had to take it again in the 8th semester.

I worked hard again and passed this course in 8th semster to earn my degree certificate. From the heights of a state ranker to the depths of a classroom failure -- I have seen it all, i have done it all. So, what is the lesson learnt ?

"The moment you are giving just 99% of your efforts, you will be beaten by atleast 99% of your opponents". – words of wisdom ? I am not telling that – Serena Williams, the tennis champ told this and this probably applied to me then.

The bandwagon moved to this company in June 2004, I started searching for “happiness” here. The company has taught me virtually everything -- most importantly patience. Variety of projects, different kinds of people; in one sentence -- Unity in diversity. One moment it looks like a place full of workaholics. The other moment it looks like a place of parties , what with the Family day celebrations and all. It is a dream of a company to work with.

Well, the road ahead is unknown, though there are a few overwhelming targets. But then, i can look back on my journey so far with the confidence that I have negotiated both success and failure equally well. So, whatever is in store for the future, probably i will be ready for it.

And oh yes, what about the game that I started ?? Am I winning it or am I losing it ??

Henry B Adams once told the world – “Only on the edge of the grave can man conclude anything”. I hope there is a lot of time for me before that :)

Thanks all… This is Kishore, signing off for the day !!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

An inevitable defeat

To begin with, I pay my deep condolences to Woolmer’s family and friends. A great cricket coach was lost and this will be a black mark on the World cup forever. Take a bow for your dedication to cricket, Mr. Woolmer.

Coming to the cricket, Ernest Hemingway once famously quoted – “Courage is nothing but grace under pressure”

The opening scene of the movie Musafir says that when one is nearing the end, the whole life will flash infront of the eyes. On March 23, when the death of Indian cricket is nearing, there is no wonder if some fans like me have the life of Indian cricket ,especially the Chappel era , flashing for a moment. The experimentation, the strategies…

There is a reason why it is said that battles are more often than not, won and lost in the mind. When the Indian cricketers stepped out to chase the 255 against SL, it is exactly the courage defined above that they lacked. What they lacked has nothing to do with talent.

The match started promisingly for Indians, the SL were 4 down for not many runs and the run rate also not quite healthy. The eternal trouble for India, Jayasurya went quickly. The experienced Sangakkara and Jayawardene also went cheaply. Enter the Srilanka middle order. In almost all the previews about the worldcup, the only negative in this talented SL side was presumed to be their brittle and inexperienced middle order. So, India had a chance to shut the SL out of the game ? Well, not quite. Or rather, absolutely chanceless. The way Chamara Silva and Dilshan batted, it was a masterclass on how to pull your side out of trouble in the mid innings and set up for a big score. Once the SL innings was over, you got a feeling – Indians have done alright, but still the SL have scored 255 !! Hmm, your opponent is only as good as you allow him to be. Sri lankans did not allow India to shut them out of the game

And when the Indian innings started, you always knew that a similar mid innings construction is always going to be difficult for India in a pressure match. So, the start was very crucial. And we have got an opener who is quite young and the other who has some 10000 odd runs to his name. But, ironically , the senior bastman Ganguly did not take initiative. Probably, he thought that seeing off Vaas is better. We will come to that later, but ironically again, Ganguly fell to Vaas. Shortly after, when the great Sachin fell, you knew the Indians are almost out of the match. Dravid, as always, tried honestly. But, it was beyond him. The wickets at the other end kept falling regularly.

So, what was the problem ? What should be done now ? Oh, we need to criticize the team ! Perhaps, some wise men will suggest “Payment on performance” strategy. Well, that will not work, I am afraid. Can we pause for a moment and get more deep into the problem ? For that, let us have a glance at some thing else too…

The next day, there was this marquee match-up. Australia is no more the invincible team, said many people. Aussies lost the last two series, one an embarrassing Home series to Eng and the other an even embarrassing whitewash to the Kiwis. They are on the decline , screamed a lot of people ! And they are facing SA , the team that is the world No. 1 now and they “snatched” it from the Aussies. Also, SA beat Aussies in their previous series, with that mind boggling run chase of 434.

So, what made SA get to the top ? One of the main strengths is their bowling !! And headed by whom ? The ever reliable Shaun Pollock. And I can assure you almost all other teams would think of “playing him safely”. That is the difference between the mindset of a champion and “any other competitor”. When the situation demands , the champions respond. Aussies just don’t follow the trend. They set the trend. They just don’t accept that something is impossible. They know only one thing – dominate the opposition. Whatever the opposition does, we can do better. And they attacked Pollock. After 10 overs of Aussie innings, with the SA main bowler bleeding runs, Aussie won half the battle !!

India, on the other hand, started rather sedately against SL in pursuit of 255. They might have thought of avoiding wickets to the main strike bowler, Vaas. But, usually when Indians try that , they just score lesser runs against that bowler than possible and keep on losing the same wickets !! Attack is the best way of defense.

Now, coming to this positive attitude aspect again, probably the problem is not just with the Indian cricket team. It is probably with the Indians, as a whole. Maybe, Indians try to put a “What if I fail” tag at the beginning of every task. There are many aspiring entrepreneurs in the country and believe me, a lot of them are talented at that. But, it takes more than just talent at the crunch times. In such a crunch time, or when the situation arises to choose one of the career options, almost 90 % go for a conservative approach. India has got a glorious past, but more and more the people are preferring to be trend followers. It maybe anything, and in any field – career options as discussed earlier, exams , sports … to name a few. I remember succumbing to pressure many times in crucial exams. What if I fail ? !

Coming back to cricket, can there be a better batting lineup, talentwise in the country ? Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Yuvraj … well, it is probably true that ours is one of the best batting lineups in the world. If there is no pressure, and it is a big IF, ours is the most destructive batting lineup !! But then, seldom in the world of competition, you face a no-pressure situation in a major challenge.

Probably, this defeat will spur on greater things for Indian cricket. The fear of losing and backlash should now be reduced in the coming generations. India cant fail more than this in cricket. This should make our future generation of cricketers fear no result. “What if we lose” ? The answer for them is -- Nothing, nothing happens even if we lose. India has done that before and was able to bear that too, albeit with a lot of pain. But, let us be more positive this time !!

And what about the world cup now ? Well, I am a cricket lover and hence I will still follow the cup. Aussies may not be the outright favourites as of now – NZ, SL , SA, ENG and WI – all are capable of pulling off the big ones on their day. But then, Aussies are not the world champions without a reason. Hmm, picking Aussies as the favourite team is an easy choice at mind, but a tough one at heart. There is a dialogue in the movie Gladiator. “Some things I do that i like to do, the rest of the things I do that I have to”.

P.S: Apologies if anyone is offended by comments on India as a whole