Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Farewell Rajat Bhatia

Rajat Bhatia, after two decades of toil in the domestic circuit has finally called it a day at the age of 40. 

One measure of greatness is longevity and, in this parameter, Rajat Bhatia certainly qualifies with over 100 matches in each of the three formats of the game (only Indian to do so without representing India as well). He was a rare commodity in the Indian circuit – a medium pace all-rounder. Overall numbers were decent (10,000+ runs & 300+ wickets), more consistent than spectacular, but just did not have that extra edge. 

He never played for India. Closest he came to a national call-up was being selected in the probables for the T20 World Cup and an India A call-up for a tour to Israel (yes, you read that right). 

Has won the Ranji Trophy and IPL – a feat which has eluded many India superstars and his last representative matches were in Bangladesh! It was the IPL which got him into the limelight. For serious Fantasy League players, he was a first-choice pick – somebody who could bowl economically and bat a bit - a safe points bet, came in at a low cost and was uncapped! What else did one need! 

And most importantly he seemed a likeable fellow. During the IPL he played the mediator between his Delhi state-mates Gambhir & Kohli who had got into an ugly spat. And there was the news channel sting which showed him in a positive light. And it was telecast moments before being he got hit for a last ball six! 

Farewell Rajat Bhatia, who intends to pursue a career in biomechanics post-retirement. Good way to take care of those sore muscles after two decades of toil. 

P.S. Remember Harsha Bhogle’s comment about Rajat Bhatia having three variations in his bowling – slow, slower, slowest!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Rekindling the Fire in Babylon

After 117 days, international cricket returned. And what a spectacle it was. Showcasing “what is cricket” – on the field and even beyond the boundary over the course of 5 days. It may have been played in front of empty stands but certainly had the eyeballs of most of the cricketing world glued to it.

Cricket (and in general all sports) tend to avoid commenting on social issues. Individual actions are frowned upon (remember Moeen Ali’s wristband, Andy Flower & Olonga’s death of democracy protest), and collective actions are rarely seen (e.g. India’s army fatigue caps). But I guess George Floyd’s brutal televised death has finally shattered bubble. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen this kind of support from the administrators or broadcasters.

The West Indies team taking the knee and doing the Black Power salute with the English joining them. It certainly made a statement, even bigger than the fact that the game itself had returned after such a long gap. And there was Michael Holding’s impassioned speech. Yes, the right education is needed to remove the centuries of systemic prejudices and biases that have become imbibed in all of us. It was great to see that the right noises are being made now.

Coming to the cricket. Remember, there was a time not too long ago, when Holding was not interested in commentating on West Indies games. But in Southampton, his words seemed to have rekindled that dimming Fire in Babylon. Holder & Gabriel both stepped in to knock off the English innings. Funnily, both were injury worries prior to the game. And then Blackwood coming in to play a most un-Caribbean-like knock to ensure a victory despite the early 4th innings wobble.

To be honest, this match had everything for the neutral (or not so neutral) follower
  • Cricket can secure itself against Covid-19 through a bio-bubble but how do we deal with our old enemies - rain & bad light.
  • A game meandered along to a riveting finish in the last session on the final day. What more could you ask for?
  • An English lineup comprising of Rory, Sibley, Denly, Crawley! Sometime during this summer, hope to see Stokes, Foakes, Woakes! Even nursery rhymes do not rhyme so much. 
  • Captains knocking out each other
  • A spell from hell by a riled up Jofra Archer after a Twitter spat with Tino Best (Toothpaste is a sledge)
  • Jermaine Blackwood who scored more runs in the second innings than the number of Twitter followers he had at the beginning of the innings. [Lesson - real world performance gets you social media following]
  • John Campbell living the opener’s dream – Hitting the winning runs in a chase. (albeit he was missing from most of it nursing a smashed toe)
Thanks to all the people who made this game possible in the times of corona. Just to give a scale of the preparations, over 700 people were tested regularly to keep the venue bio-secure! Thank You!

P.S. Lewis Howard Latimer – Remember the Name of the Inventor of carbon filament! (a first step in our collective education)