Deamon's Dealer

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Was There

When i started the journey from mumbai along with my cameraman I was told specifically to go to Rajkot first (Baroda was my other destination) because Sourav Ganguly would be making his comeback after his controversial tour of Zimbabwe. Everything for him went wrong in that tour and in a way no one in media supported him because everyone needed someone to criticize and Ganguly was that man for the Indian media.

When i eventually reached at Rajkot the buzz was already there. Half of the ground was filled as everyone wanted to see DADA bat. For most of them their wish came true in the dying moments of 1st day. Rohan Gavskar was out and with just few overs remaining Ganguly batted with Caution till the stumps.

The evening was Bizzare. I waited for 2 hours in the hotel lobby with a hope that ganguly would come down and maybe i can have a small chat with him but instead i had a interview with Shahbaz Nadeem, the then young emerging left arm spinner, from Jharkhand.

Next day everything was setup an hour before the match began. The ground was almost full of capacity. People of all age group were out there and all they wanted to see was their 'DADA'. I had the priveledge to sit near the boundry ropes. Once the match began, Ganguly's bat started to talk.
North Zone had a wonderful bowling attack for a domestic team. It consisted of Gagandeep Singh, Amit Bhandari, Amit Mishra and Sarandeep Singh who had already played for India and a very Young VRV singh who would go on to play for India.

Ganguly was tried with bouncers, but he just initially doged his way to a well controlled 50 but after his 50 he was uncontrollable. He treated Mishra and Sarandeep Singh with Disdain. Gangully eventually brought his century with a huge six of Sarandeep Singh. Dancing down the track he just picked the ball as if he was a left arm spinner.

I guess that was the speciality of Ganguly. He loved pressure and the weight of expectation on him. The entire country was watching him closely after the Zimbabwean Tour. Selectors, Coach, Close freind in Dravid all were against him. They all wanted him Dead and Burried but here was a man who wanted to prove everyone wrong. Everytime he went out to bat, feilded a ball, came out in the dressing room people cheered for him. To many cricketers that can be disturbing especially when not everything is going right for them but Ganguly always had that half smile on his face.

That year Ganguly played in the most remote places in India and while he was playing in the domestic cricket Chappell along with Kiran More and Rahul Dravid was spreading a hate campaign against him. Yet he kept fighting and eventually helped Bengal to reach Ranji's Final that year.

Now that he is gone and when i hear him talk about his life in wilderness i somehow always take that special pride in reminding myself that I was there from where his second Innings in his cricketing journey began.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Warne does it again!!!!!!

A wrong'un in every sense of the word. In a text message to an unnamed lady friend, Shane Warne wrote, from his home in London: "Hey beautiful, I'm just talking to my kids, the back door's open." Unfortunately, and unwittingly, the romantic teaser winged its way nearly 11,000 miles to Warne's ex-wife, Simone, in Melbourne instead. Even for Warne, this was a clanger of deliciously cringing proportions. "You loser," spat Simone in reply, "you sent the message to the wrong person." Warne, fed up with his bleary-eyed texting faux pas, insisted in a statement that the pair had split up on August 5, 2007 and denied he was having an affair. Ever the entertainer, even in semi-retirement.

For the love of the game

The next time you hear of a player retiring hurt with a hairline fracture of his pinky, point him in the direction of David Morrison, a league wicketkeeper in England who has broken each and every finger and thumb. The end result does not make for an attractive picture, and his crooked digits certainly rule out a future career as a glove salesman, but let us admire the man's blind courage and determination. Far too often the modern cricketer is wrapped in (sponsored) cotton wool, metaphorically and otherwise, when the most effective treatment is a frozen bag of supermarket peas.

"My fingers still work, more or less," Morrison said through gritted teeth. "I can bend them all from the first knuckle, although I do have a physio who manipulates the joints to soften the tissue."

His wife, Valerie, is powerless to stop the man injuring himself further. "He's back playing for Barton as if nothing's happened," she said, "then he creeps home on Saturday night with yet another black eye."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Media for Sale

Times of India in its 20th September edition printed a full page interview of Rahul Dravid. The interviewed covered many aspects of his personality. On how aggression for him is not what he thinks of other sportsperson's mother, wife and sister. How he has dealt with certain difficulties in life. But the last 5 questions in that interview (out of 23) were all about Rahul's loyalties with Reebok in an era of shifting loyalties..etc..etc.

Undoubtedly this interview was a paid interview by Reebok who in few days time will be launching their new brand of shoes RD 10 celebrating their 10 years of association with Dravid.

The question that now arises is how much Journalism is up for sale?

TOI few weeks back printed a full page interview of Pantaloon Fashion's CMD, Kishor Biyani. They termed him as The retail king of India. Rediff soon joined the bandwagon and printed " Meet the Retail king of India" as one of its headlines.

Yes Kishore Biyani may be one of the first few entrepreneurs who saw potential in the retail secor but two full page articles in two of the biggest media organisations clearly indicates how hard Mr Biyani is trying to woo investors to invest in his new company, The Future's Group. And with the lure of easy money how easily the two Media giants of India termed him as The Retail King.

Even NDTV has also signed a 5 year contract with The UB Group and even named their lifestyle channel after UB group's tagline.

CNN IBN is also not far behind as they kept screening "Hutch is now Vodafone" as one of its headlines on 21st September. Strangely Vodafone is using the same tagline in all its advertisments.

As a media student I once heard Rajdeep Sardesai giving a long lecture on how the marketing man has entered in the editorial meets and how we should kick them out.
Going by the way Mr Sardesai, Mr Roy, Times group are letting the marketing man interfere with the content I guess Media is up for sale and the highest bidder will get to eat the pie.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Giving voice to the voiceless

In his Ramon Magsaysay Award acceptance speech in Manila on August 31,P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, spoke of the legacy bequeathed to Indian journalism by freedom fighters who doubled up as journalists, and said he was accepting the award on behalf of the same tradition of giving voice to the voiceless.

Mr. Sainath won the award in the Journalism, Literature and CreativeCommunication category for his "passionate commitment as a journalistto restore the rural poor to India's national consciouness."This is the text of the speech:

This is the 60th year of Indian independence. A freedom fought for and won on a vision that placed our humblest citizens at the centre of action and of the future. A struggle that brought the world's then mightiest empire to its knees. A struggle which saw the birth of a newnation, with a populace overwhelmingly illiterate, yet aiming at and committed to building a democracy the world could be proud of. A people who, one freedom fighter predicted, would make the deaf hear and the blind see. They did.

Today, the generation of Indians who took part in that great struggle have mostly died out, though their achievements have not. The few who remain are in their late 80s or 90s. As one of them told me recently:"We fought to expel the colonial ruler, but not only for that. We fought for a just and honourable nation, for a good society."I am now recording the lives of these last stalwarts of a generation I was not part of, but which I so deeply admire. A struggle that preceded my birth, but in which my own values are rooted. In their names, with those principles, and for their selflessness, I acceptthis great award.

In that great battle for freedom, a tiny press played a mighty role. So vital did it become, that every national leader worth his or her salt, across the political spectrum, also doubled up as a journalist. Small and vulnerable as they were, the journalists of that time also sought to give voice to the voiceless and speak for those who couldnot. Their rewards were banning, imprisonment, exile and worse. But they bequeathed to Indian journalism a legacy I am proud of and onbehalf of which tradition, I accept this award today.

For the vision that generation stood for, the values it embodied, are no longer so secure as they once were. A nation founded on principles of egalitarianism embedded in its Constitution, now witnesses the growth of inequality on a scale not seen since the days of theColonial Raj. A nation that ranks fourth in the world's list of dollar billionaires, ranks 126th in human development. A crisis in the countryside has seen agriculture — on which close to 60 per cent ofthe population, or over 600 million people, depend — descend into the doldrums. It has seen rural employment crash. It has driven hundredsof thousands from villages towards towns and cities in search of jobsthat are not there. It has pushed millions deeper into debt and has seen, according to the government itself, over 112,000 farmers take their own lives in distress in a decade.This time around, though, the response of a media politically free but chained by profit, has not been anywhere as inspiring. Front pages and prime time are the turf of film stars, fashion shows and the entrenched privilege of the elite. Rural India, where the greatest battles of our freedom were fought, is pretty low down in the media's priority list. There are, as always, exceptions. The paper I work for,The Hindu, has consistently given space to the chronicling of our greatest agrarian crisis since the eve of the Green Revolution. And across the country are countless journalists who, despite active discouragement from their managements, seek to place people above profit in their reporting. Who try desperately to warn their audiences of what is going on at the bottom end of the spectrum and the dangersto democracy that this involves. On behalf of all of them, all these colleagues of mine, I accept this award.

In nearly 14 years of reporting India's villages full time, I havefelt honoured and humbled by the generosity of some of the poorest people in the world. People who constantly bring home to you the Mahatma's great line: `Live simply, that others might simply live.'But a people we today sideline and marginalise in the path ofdevelopment we now pursue. A people in distress, even despair, who still manage to awe me with their human and humane values. On their behalf too, I accept the Ramon Magsaysay award.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Warne weaves his web....AGAIN

Generations of grandkids will know of the greatest one-day match of all, and of the man who scripted it. It's the stuff of folklore; the bizarre last over, with the two boundaries hammered by Lance Klusener, the inexplicable mix-up with Allan Donald, the scores tied. But without a doubt, every soul who was at Birmingham that lovely day will say it was a pudgy blonde's day.

Five months after a return from shoulder injury, Shane Warne bowled a spell uncannily reminiscent of the semifinals of the 1996 World Cup, when victory had threatened to slip out of Australia's reach. South Africa, chasing 213 to walk into their first such final, were 43 for 0, with Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten looking good. Enter Warne.

With the second ball of his second over, he ambled in, tongue protruding; eyes fixed firmly on Gibbs, he unleashed a beauty. It was mesmerizing to watch live at the ground - it looped up, drifted away, landed in the rough outside leg stump, and fizzed past a dumbfounded Gibbs to clip off. The ball of Warne's ODI career. As canary-yellow bodies swooped in and embraced red-faced bowler, batsman stood in disbelief, refusing to acknowledge that he had been bowled.

Five deliveries later, Warne floated another one up in the footmarks outside leg, Kirsten went down to sweep, missed and the ball hit off again. As he let out a war-cry heard all the way back in Ferntree Gully, Warne was a sight to behold. Hansie Cronje lasted just two deliveries, as an attempted flick to the onside went to first slip - replays suggested there was no edge - and Warne had three wickets in eight balls.

Warne was taken off after eight overs, but every South African knew that he'd be back for 12 deliveries. The 43rd over was a quiet affair, but in Warne's final one, Shaun Pollock slammed a six and a four before stealing a single into the covers to bring Jacques Kallis, on 53 from 91 balls, on strike. You can never count Warne out of a contest, and sure enough, conventional wisdom was upheld.

One last time, Warne tossed it up, Kallis checked his drive and sliced straight into the waiting hands of Waugh at cover. A spell of 4 for 29 had been completed. Warne's captivating display inspired his flagging team-mates, changing the mood in a way that only born champions could.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Clark overlooked, except by batsmen

Going mild … Stuart Clark's not your average fast bowler.
Photo: Dallas Kilponen

FAST bowlers usually conform to a type. Cranky. Skittish. Nutty. Fast bowlers scowl and swear and mutter and sulk. Only one Test player in history has been hanged. He was a fast bowler. "No doubt they are nutty on the field," says former Test opening batsman, Justin Langer, who got hit in the head again and again. "They're bullies, really, throwing a little red hard ball at 140-160kmh at poor innocent batsmen like me."

Stuart Clark, the fast bowler, goes against the type. He's not nutty, even if he claims to have a temper. His evidence is weak, buried in hazy tales of red cards on soccer fields as a teenager, or snippets of on-field abuse that fellow players cannot recall. He says he can unleash a rage that "just comes flying out", but no one seems to have witnessed it.

Clark alleges that he is impatient. This, too, rings hollow. He took almost a decade to break into the Test team last March. He was 30, an age when fast bowlers' spines creak and crack from years of twisting and jarring. He had appeared doomed to miss out. He had never been anointed as the next big thing. He had projected no aura of entitlement, boasted no cheer squads or flashes of glamour. Despite the sheer bastardry of the outcome, it seems Clark was easy to drop when the World Cup squad was announced on Tuesday.

A jumble of hinges and straight lines, not unlike a Meccano model, he took 26 Ashes wickets this summer at an average of 17. This followed a man of the series award in South Africa, his debut series, when suddenly his manager was calling to demand he shave for his "corporate image". Clark did not engage batsmen in gamesmanship. He smiled occasionally, an expression steeped in irony, a nuance unknown to fast bowlers since English paceman Frank Tyson battered batsmen with Shakespeare quotes.

Clark had looked certain to go to the World Cup. His wife Michelle was pondering a Caribbean holiday. "If I was selecting the squad, I'd be in it," Clark joked a few days before the announcement. He admitted he would be "devastated" to miss out. But if he did, he would be freed up to complete an extra subject for his commerce degree at the University of Sydney, which he undertook to qualify for a law degree.

Clark may play county cricket this winter. He may take an exam in "mergers and acquisitions". This helps explain why he is different to most quicks, who don't stack up as studies in wide-eyed wisdom. Long ago, he realised sporting success was no shortcut to enlightenment. Much of the thinking he applies to cricket has been gathered through experiences away from sport.

"To play cricket is something I love doing," he says. "If I'm not playing for Australia it would be with NSW or Sydney Uni or whoever it may be. Now I'm doing it at the highest level and getting paid for it - what is there to be worried about?"

Last weekend, Clark bowled a hat-trick in a state game and snared eight first-innings wickets. There was no stronger statement for inclusion, and he had typically delivered it without saying a word. But it wasn't enough: in hindsight, it appears the decision was already made.

Such disappointments date back 15 years, when he got dropped from fifth grade cricket but kept turning up to training. He meets adversity each time with a sort of awakening. "I go out into the field with no fear," he says. "They pick me because they know what I can do. If they don't pick me, then they don't pick me. I'll go to uni, I'll do life and do other things. That's what I can do. If people don't like it then too bad."

FOR someone a tick under two metres, Clark seems adept at blending into his surrounds. For the past two years he has regularly planted himself at a University of Sydney coffee shop or park bench. He has learnt more than business theory there. Many students seem to start a degree and "never leave", he observes with child-like wonder.

Lectures remind him of the classroom - smart kids at the front, dopes down the back. A few days ago, three boys presented cricket bats for signing while he waited for Michelle outside a shopping centre. Clark finds the recognition "weird". Even his biggest fans speak of his ordinariness. "He is a very unnoticeable guy in a lot of ways," says coach and former Test bowler, Geoff Lawson. Another close friend, David Givney agrees: "He's a person you do not notice."

Clark grew up in humble surrounds, but seems in no hurry to blow his relative wealth on pretensions. He can be spotted pushing 10-month-old son Lachlan in a stroller around Cronulla. The search is on for something bigger than an upstairs apartment, where Clark pads around like a giant in a doll's house.

He lays out his hopes with thoughts that overrun one another, and the occasional flapping of an arm. His urgency to learn is simple enough: cricket allows him not to otherwise work, but cricket won't always be there. Yet Clark's curiosity goes deeper than practical concerns. "I want to know everything about everything," he says. "Michelle thinks I am a busybody."

He speaks of being "hopelessly curious" and of a fondness for Question Time. His conversation is broken with sing-song lilt each time Lachlan looks to escape down the stairs. The Dan Brown book jammed into a shelf is Michelle's; Clark's curiosity does not extend to novels. He reads newspapers, and not from the back page in, picking holes in economic policy spin for the fun of it. He totes his laptop everywhere. The stock exchange is a favourite website.

His "thirst for knowledge" dates from his early 20s, when he was averaging more than 120 runs a wicket for NSW. "I've always found cricket easier when I've had interests outside of cricket," he says. "For those couple of bad years, I didn't do anything else except play cricket, and I hated it. I love the game, and always will, but I didn't find it mentally stimulating enough for me. I needed something else besides cricket to keep me occupied." Clark tired of real estate when he felt he couldn't learn any more - anyway, evicting tenants was never much fun. He wants to work in finance, perhaps funds management. His degree marks have been strong, despite many stymied study attempts. Teammates wonder why he isn't studying photos of women.

Clark does not want to be a lawyer, but the unseen mongrel within growled when someone suggested he wasn't smart enough to do a law degree. "I don't like being told what I can and can't do," he says. "It's like when you're told you can't touch the hot plate - you go and touch the hot plate."

His dedication to cricket, and now study, is embedded. After NSW won the Pura Cup final two years ago, Clark was home by 7pm. He nearly yielded to schoolies week after year 12, but played cricket instead. Passing on weekend carousing was once tough, he says, but "10 out of 10 times" cricket came first.

Stress fractures kept him out of the game for two years, and later ankle and rib injuries hampered his progress. He gained a Cricket Australia contract in 2002, then lost it. He stopped trying to be something he was not. It was a "big kick in the guts". He forced himself to discard the "if only" whispers in his head. Now Clark will do it all over again. "I've drawn a line in the sand," he says. "I'll start again."

HE always wanted to play cricket. Clark's father Bruce umpired his son's matches; his mother Mary was the team scorer. Younger sister Susan recalls a sibling rivalry. Her brother once pulled the plug on the Commodore 64 computer before she could record her Olympic hurdles event record. "I was a bit devastated," she says. "I still am."

Clark was a good student, averaging marks in the high 70s, though no one remembers him trying hard. He maintains close friendships formed at school. They include a real estate agent, Tim Skelton, an accountant and a professional golfer. Skelton says golf-course banter tends to be more about nagging spouses, or cars, than cricket.

Clark was never the standout. Brett Lee is a year younger than him. Growing up in Sydney together meant Clark was never the fastest bowler going around. Now they play in the same Test team as pillars of contrast. Lee will celebrate a wicket, any wicket, with antics befitting a game show contestant. He is a sporting rock star. Clark is a sporting tradesman.

He has refined his pursuit of fast bowling by pursuing other things. The reasons for his cricketing success are the same reasons that cricket is no longer as important to him as it once was. Once, happiness was measured in wickets. Not any more. Playing in a World Cup final would have been a dream. Yet other visions, such as the smile of his son, will endure longer.
Being hit for four is "fun, to some extent". Being abused by an angry tenant is "hard work".

"Cricket isn't all that special after a while," Clark says. "When Michelle fell over at five or six months pregnant with Lachlan - that was more stressful than anything I've ever done in cricket. Cricket can't be that stressful. It's not life or death."

Patrick Carlyon

Saturday, February 03, 2007

My Magazine cover