Thursday, December 23, 2004

Pass the peanuts, please

A simple question. How is it that Jet Airways in India is able to serve a hot meal to passengers on the sub-20 minute flight between Mumbai and Pune, yet on the 1 hour flight between Burbank and San Jose, Southwest asks its passengers to "take a peanut and pass the bag along?"

I kid you not - last night on this flight, the passenger in 1A was handed a big plastic bag full of airline peanut packets, and told to take one and pass it along. For the next 20 minutes we were all entertained by the sight of customers tossing the bag over their head to the seat behind them. Perhaps this is the airline's attempt to infuse the Christmas Spirit in all of us. Note to Mr Kelleher - it failed.

Thankfully, the true spirit of Christmas does live in some of us. A couple of things that have kept me mildly amused over the last few days:

  1. An Alternative Christmas Carol - from those clever folk over at the BBC
  2. A wonderfully poignant 2004 Football Quiz - from the equally witty folk at the Guardian.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Henry loses again

If the FA had an award for sore loser, Arsene Wenger would have that wrapped up roundabout now. It seems that he's a wee bit upset that Thierry Henry failed to win the Player of the Year award. Again. Shocking stuff. First Manchester United have the temerity to play his team off the pitch, and now this. Can it get any worse?

Incredible really that the award went instead to Ronaldinho, who has been a delight to watch over the course of the year, with his magical feet sparkling all over the pitch, scoring and creating the big goals, in the big games, for club and country.

Contrast that with Henry, the quintessential flat-track bully of football. He of the much-vaunted languid elegance, and the occasional discreet elbow or concealed kick. We saw it against Portsmouth just this weekend. Those philistines on the South coast. How dare they not stand back and give him the freedom to express himself.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Put the Test back in Test Cricket!

Well, that was a hard one to predict. A maiden Test century for Gambhir, earning him a berth for the home series against Pakistan and beyond, and a humiliating defeat for Bangladesh. And South of the Equator, we have the Australians now firmly in favour of three day Tests.

I've long wondered why it is that fast trampoline-like pitches are considered acceptable, whilst turning wickets are rubbished from all quarters. The truth is that both provide for cricketing entertainment, and we need more of them. Batsmen of the modern era have been mollycoddled for far too long, and we've come to a point where a "good wicket" is synonymous with a batting paradise, and a "poor wicket" is one which helps the bowlers. It's impossible to comprehend what Bradman might have achieved on the "good" wickets of the current generation.

There is a reason that most observers believe that the most watchable Test series' are those played in Australia. Certainly, the Australian team is a major factor, but I would contend that the variation that you see during the course of a 5 match rubber is key for the spectator.

A Brisbane green-top; a batting track at Adelaide; a hard and bouncy WACA; help for the spinners at the SCG; and the typical classic cricket wicket with a bit for everyone at Melbourne. All that's missing is the raging turner. It is precisely this variety that makes the game both entertaining and durable.

Throw in a sharp turner like the recent Mumbai wicket, and over the course of a series, you would see Brett Lee bowling with 5 slips and two short legs, Rahul Dravid and Michael Clarke pulling and driving to all corners, and Anil Kumble bowling with 5 men crowded around the bat. Earn every run, and work for every wicket. Now that's Test cricket.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Opening Gambit

Gautham Gambhir must be licking his chops. He feasted on some lacklustre South African bowling, on a dead track, and clawed his way to 96 uninspiring runs, to make up for the two failures against Australia that preceded that innings, and the two against South Africa to followed. And that's all he needed, because he now finds himself with two Tests against Bangladesh in which he can cement his position in the Indian side - until the next overseas tour, of course. One can only wonder what Sadagopan Ramesh makes of it all. It's quite amusing to go back and read my article from 1999 about India's opening conundrum - apparently absolutely nothing has changed. India have tried, in no particular order, Akash Chopra, Parthiv Patel, Sanjay Bangar, Wasim Jaffer, Shiv Sundar Das, Virender Sehwag, Deep Dasgupta, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Sameer Dighe, Devang Gandhi, VVS Laxman and of course Ramesh since I wrote that article. Two of that list have delivered the goods - Sehwag, who is still in the job, and Ramesh, who should be, but isn't. Yet the merry-go-round continues. What price Barrington Rowland taking over from Gambhir early in 2005?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Return of the Fourth Umpire

I would call myself a forgotten entity in the world of cricketing journalism, but one has to be remembered in order to subsequently be forgotten. Either which way, I'm back on the web, and my horizons have expanded beyond the boundary (with apologies to CLR James). Time will tell how often I actually publish, but with any luck, I'll have something that's interesting, entertaining, and occasionally thought-provoking to say.