Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Goodbye Dada?

As an 11th grader I once wrote an essay on Sourav Ganguly which fetched me the highest marks in the class and made my teacher keep a copy of it. He had just won his first ODI series as the captain of the Indian cricket team versus the West Indies at Toronto. He was of course then only a stop gap arrangement and no one could have thought that he would go on to become India's most successful captain. It's pertinent, I think that I mention here that I am a Bengali born in Kolkata, although apart from frequenting my maternal grandparents' home in the first two years of my existence (they shifted base to Silchar after that), and occasionaly visiting the city to buy old books while on the way to someplace else, I have few memories of the city. So I am a Bengali but not a Kolkatan, two terms which are commonly mistaken to mean the same thing. Coming back to the essay, yes I wrote it because I was proud that Ganguly is a Bengali but mostly because no one had given him a chance to begin with. From the disastrous tour of Australia where he was accused of refusing to carry the drinks because he was the Maharaja which was followed by four years of exile, to the fairytale comeback with back to back centuries at the Mecca of cricket, Lords and Edgbaston to leading India, Ganguly's life had almost come full circle. I loved him for his silken cover drives, I loved him for his piercing square cuts but mostly I admired the fact that he had been able to prove his detractors wrong. Six years down the line as the most successful captain and the most hated man in Indian cricket finds himself sidelined partly due to his own flaws and partly due to the power play of the Board, it's time to ponder, is it goodbye for Dada.
To start discussing about Ganguly's career stats would be simply a waste to time because 15,000 runs later if a man still needs to prove that he is good enough for international cricket, then there's something seriously wrong with the system. I ain't contending the fact that his run of form has been woeful almost for the past 2 years and sooner rather than later he has to perform to justify his place. Both on and off the field, his greatest strength has always also been his greatest weakness. So you had the "In the off-side, first there's GOD and then there is Sourav Ganguly" compliments walking side by side with scenes of catching practice to the slips and the wicketkeepers. Here we had a captain who was not afraid to speak his mind out, who was not afraid of playing mind games with a certain Steve Waugh hell bent on conquering the final frontier, who got the team he wanted and backed the players he believed in. So whereas Indian cricket continued to thrive, lead by a captain who wore his passion on his sleeve (remember Lords, Natwest Finals), the same attitude got people questioning his methods of backing a few players to the hilt and ignoring others. He made many enemies in the media by his I-dont-give-a-damn attitude and reluctance to stick to the good boy image of a Sachin Tendulkar. He removed regionalism from the team by backing players on merit and so you now have Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Pathan, Zaheer and Sehwag forming the future of Indian cricket. He dropped himself down the batting order in ODIs to accommodate Sehwag, a huge selfless act considering the fact that he along with Sachin formed the best opening combination in ODI history ever. Meanwhile India scaled new heights, winning Test matches abroad and reaching the World Cup Finals. People said that he's got a very good team, it's nothing to do with him but the fact remained that on paper India always had a very good batting line up and so what couldn't be done by Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Azhar and Laxman in 2000 was done by the same team with a few changes in 2003 in Australia.
The point I am trying to question is why do so many people hate Ganguly so much even after all he has given to Indian cricket. Agreed he has his flaws, and over the past two years he has been out of sorts but I am surprised to see people actually booing him. What's amazing is nobody wants him to succeed, most want him to fail and rub his nose in the dust. So even at a comeback Ranji match he gets a green top to bat on! People just love making a fun of Ganguly. I also do at times jeer at him for the awkward way he fends at the short pitched delivery, for the way he gets out and his running between the wickets but I want him to do well which very few people do. If a Sachin or a Viru goes out of form we pray for him but I haven't seen anything of the sort happening for Dada except in Kolkata. I am yet to fathom the reason for this collective hatred that he is subjected to. Surely he's not the worst cricketer to have played for India but he is by far the most hated one. One very interesting viewpoint on anti-Gangulyism is this.
So is this the end of the road for Dada? Does he still have the stomach for a fight? Is this the last we have seen of Sourav Ganguly the batsman or will he make another comeback? For all those who miss his cover drives and lofty sixes, I just hope he has one last hurrah.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A,B,C,F and the wonder of the D

It's amazing how such elementary letters assume such mammoth proportions when seen in a particular context. Here in my college, love them or hate them but you simply can't get them out of your system and so even after four and a half years of Cs and B negs, peppered with a dash of D here and a B or an A there (hard to believe but true!), these letters and the power they seem to hold on us still continue to amaze me. As hard as I might try to convince myself that I am a member of the "yeh sab moh maya hai" club yet at the end of the semester, a missed B neg still hurts albeit only for a moment and a surprise A neg (only happened this sem) still manages to bring a smile and a spring in my step.
Cs and B negs being the most prominently featuring grades in my grade sheet demand that I start with them. When you are a six pointer like me, it's mostly because you got a C where your batchmate, who was doing just as well before the majors, ended up getting a B neg by virtue of cracking the majors; which sadly is a thing I have never managed to accomplish. Occasionally when you do get a B neg, it turns out that the course was way too easy for the others who end up getting a B. A C, therefore turns out to be the most significant grade in the scheme of things for those who lie in the 6 to 7.5 range who in turn form the majority of the population, becoming the habit for the lower half and an aberration for the later. At first when at the end of the semester I found myself in this peculiar predicament where I ended up getting a C when I knew I could easily have got a B neg, it used to upset me a lot and I ended up cursing the system, but nine semesters and several courses later, the sting is almost negligible and the system is no longer blamed mostly because as the semesters go by you tend to care less and less about the grades and partly because in the overall picture, things even out and you do get some Bs and B negs even when you don't deserve them.
Then there is the A family comprising of two members, A and A neg. Now, according to me there are three types of people who get these grades. The first ones are the stereotypical maggus, the boring kind who grind their way to an A and make life tough for everyone. The second are the studs, the ones who don't seem to do much work but somehow manage to get the maximum marks in the class. There's nothing much you can do about both these types although you tend to hate the first ones more and forgive the geniuses amongst us by praying to the almighty "Forgive them, O Lord for they know not what they are doing". Finally there is the third and the most interesting species of which I am a proud member. These species have a peculiarity which makes them outshine the others in a particular field whereas they continue to lower the class average in other more important courses. So you have new terms being coined like the Hukka Stud, MA Stud or the Lab Phodu and so on. From personal experience I must confess it's an unique feeling just for once to be the best in the class, to feel what the nine or even an eight pointer feels day in day out, course after course. So when I got my first A in a Humanity course and followed it up with another in the next semester, I instantly became the Hukka Stud and even after a few A negs and an "aberration" the tag still persists. But then again the toppers probably feel differently because for them it's the way of life and not something meant to be celebrated or get excited about. Who knows.
And so finally we come to D, the most important of all grades. People who get it tread the very thin line between pass and fail. The relief and happiness associated with D is something you have got to feel to know anything about it. So when at 29.6 the Prof gives you an E (which by the way happens to be the first in you otherwise unblemished carrer) which is followed by 15 minutes of pleading with complete disregard to self esteem, the ground beneath your feet seems to have vanished. And then when you play your last card and say "Sir, 29.6 rounded off is 30..." and the Prof waits for 5 seconds which seem like eternity and says "OK, I will give you a D"; the elation is unparalleled, the relief unprecedented, it's more than any A could ever give you.
The real value of a D however is realised only when your very degree is at stake. I have been witness to two such cases and watching their fortunes swing, from close quarters made me realise the power D could have on our lives. So a D in a PH course paved the way for a PhD for someone last semester and only a few days back when I rang up one of my dear friends from in front of the Prof's room who was teaching the one course on which his degree hung and said "Dost, tera Dikka lag gaya...." the voice at the other end almost cracked out of a mix of relief and ecstasy for no one would ever have been happier on getting a D, in fact no one would have ever experienced the kind of joy D brought to my friend by even getting an A in a course; for it heralded the end of more than a mere course. He had finally earned his B.Tech degree from IIT Delhi, he was finally an engineer, the thing he had set out to become four and a half years earlier and it is, I hope the begining of a new phase in his life. To him this blog is dedicated. Congratulations my friend.