The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Up the ante

Sports is no longer about “what matters not if you win or lose but how you played the game”. It is about win only, and win at all cost.

Not surprisingly, there is no quarter given, and opponents (and their supporters and promoters, too), often up the ante through mind games, aggressive build-ups, etc. This is, sometimes, given martial overtones, as well.

Aggression is not something new. Douglas Jardine’s England team played what became known as the “Bodyline series” in 1932-33 when the prime target was Australia’s Don Bradman. Many referred to the series as “war”.

Steve Waugh’s touring team to India attempted to conquer the “Final Frontier”.

Football fields have, on occasion, become battlegrounds where (often drunk) spectators have pitched battles with fans of their opponents, leading to injury, and, as has happened before, death, as well.

The New Zealand rugby team performs the Haka (Maori war dance) before every game – symbolic of war.

And sledging on the field has only gotten worse.

A badly battered Indian cricket team, hammered in all formats of the game on their recent tour in the summer, now prepares to take on England in a few days’ time, and everyone is asking the same question – how will the team fare?

Some players have spoken about “revenge”. The sponsors of the ODI zeries have called it the “Payback Series”.

And the media has not been shy of calling it a war, either.

The BBC website carried an article (click here) that spoke, amongst other things, of a full-page advertisement that seems to have appeared in an Indian newspaper that carried the headline, “Time for Vengeance – The war between India and England resumes from 14 October.” It showed some of the Indian players, all dressed in combat fatigues, holding bats and stumps as if they were weapons.

Sport is meant to be all about entertainment. To be sure, passions do get aroused as supporters egg their teams on. Yes, there is big money involved because of the television coverage and sponsorship.

Yet, at the end of it all, it is all about a game.

The use of the word “war” in sport might be an example of creative license – a copywriter letting his pen run riot.

It is in poor taste, though.


October 13, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket, Football, Other Sport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections …

The final scene in the Guru Dutt film “Kaagaz ke Phool” shows a film director, Suresh Sinha, sitting in semi-darkness in an empty movie studio, his mind reflecting on successes and, ultimately, failures.

His past counted for nothing. He was all alone, a completely broken man. All that remained were memories.

And, his life ebbs away as he sits on a chair in the studio.

This image flashed loudly through the mind, as I reflected on life.


October 12, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Human Behavior | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Buck stops here !!!

“Don’t mess around on my home turf,” seemed to be the message from this antelope in the savannah of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa.

I am not sure whether to be amused by it all, or feel sorry for the man, the beast, or both.

A 17 year old mountain biker, Evan van der Spuy, was competing in a bike race, and was ambushed by Red Hartebeest buck that charged across the plain right into him. The animal crashed into the unsuspecting biker, knocking him over, and what saved the young man from more serious injuries was his helmet that was badly dented – this will, perhaps, earn the helmet’s manufacturer enormous bragging rights (antelope-proof helmets???)!!!

The Red Hartebeest is a large, reddish-fawn antelope that possesses an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but has very poor eyesight. It can reach speeds of around 50 km miles per hour and males weigh around 150kg. What made this particular animal bring down the hapless biker will never be known.

The incident was captured on video by a fellow cyclist following close behind, who, on spotting the beast, had actually yelled, “”watch the buck”.

The biker escaped with minor concussion and whiplash, while the antelope got up, brushed itself off, and galloped nonchalantly away into the savannah.

I guess this yet another example of the old adage of “The Buck stops here”.

Watch the video of the antelope’s charge here :

I understand this video has received over two million hits on YouTube.


October 12, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Human Behavior | , , , | Leave a comment

The wings to win

I read a comment made by Sebastian Vettel in a documentary that makes a compelling statement. “When I was a little boy I tried out lots of things, football, tennis, beach volleyball. But I wasn’t the best, so I stopped.”

He chose Formula One, instead.

There was no fuss, no needless histrionics. It was purely clinical efficiency, a determination to win, and clear thinking. Coupled, of course, with a car that performed well, and backed by a team that had the belief that it could be done.

Not easy when you consider that the Red Bull F1 team was up against formidable rivals such the legendary Ferrari and the well-oiled machine that is McLaren.

It was no surprise that Sebastian Vettel is the Formula One World Champion once again, with his back-to-back title coming with four races yet to go in the calendar.

He might not have won in Suzuka, but it did not matter – all he needed was a solitary point, and his third place in Japan gave him fifteen. All that remains now is to determine who takes the other places.

Vettel does not, perhaps, have the aura that the legends before him such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher possessed. He might be lower in profile compared to recent winners such as Mika Hakkinen and the mercurial Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Yet, Vettel now owns records that are truly enviable – youngest at pole position, youngest on the podium, youngest winner of a GP race, youngest world champion and, now, the youngest back-to-back double champion.

His world title last year was marked by inconsistency, but 2011 win has been exceptional and emphatic – nine race wins in the fifteen completed so far, with twelve pole positions is testimony.

Red Bull gives you wings, says the brand’s tag line. Sure did, in Sebastian Vettel’s case.


October 9, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Formula 1 racing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of various hues …

Watching sports can be fun, be it cricket, football, tennis or athletics. And, apart from the action on the playing field, there are other aspects that add charm and entertainment value – the crowds, the fans, the side-shows, and the atmosphere.

Speaking of fans, there are some who add their unique style and personality, in their own colourful way, that contributes to enhancing the enjoyment.

There are two faces that regular cricket watchers would surely recognize – Chaudhry Abdul Jalil (affectionately known as Chacha Cricket) and Percy Abeysekera.

Chacha Cricket, with his distinctive white beard and green shalwar kameez, can be seen waving the flag at cricket stadia all around the world. He has been following the Pakistan team from the days when matches were held at Sharjah, and is now a regular presence wherever the team plays. Having given up his job, he has now been hired, I understand, by the Pakistan Cricket Board that sponsors his travels all over the world following the national team.

Percy Abeysekera, who is a one-man cheering squad for the Sri Lankan cricketers, has been following the team for sixty years. He has always been known for his distinctive way of holding the national flag above a batsman as he walks to or back from the wicket.

There is another familiar body/face I have noticed on television over the past couple of years – one who has his entire torso, face and head painted in the colours of the Indian flag, and also has the name “Sachin Tendulkar” painted on his chest.

His name is Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, he hails from Muzaffarpur in Bihar State, and is an ardent fan of Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian team.

Chaudhary does not have a job, I understand, but regularly receives match tickets from his idol Tendulkar, which ensures that he is able to watch matches everywhere in India. He has been a regular feature in the IPL, as well.

I was amused to learn that this die-hard fan has been travelling to Bombay each year since 2004 to present 1,000 litchis to Tendulkar. “Sachin has promised me that he would provide me with the tickets of all international matches played in the country, and he is living up to his words. He is like a god to me,” says Chaudhary.

He has now begun presenting the fruit to some other cricketers like Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh.

Considering the state of Indian cricket at the moment, the team needs more fans like Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary.


October 8, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket, Human Behavior | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If …

The British Nobel laureate, Rudyard Kipling, wrote the poem “If—” in 1895, and this poem has been parodied, adopted, and used in several ways over the past decades.

It is brilliant and truly inspirational.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the poem’s line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” is written on the wall of the Centre Court players’ entrance at Wimbledon.

This is the poem.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

October 7, 2011 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Firing blanks

Thousand of Arsenal fans across the globe (me included) must be scratching their heads in sheer frustration wondering what’s happening to the club in the current Premiership season.

They have managed only seven points from seven games, are a mere two points above the relegation zone, and have played their eighth successive away game without a win.

Is this the club that earned the nickname of “The Invincibles” a few seasons ago when they went 49 league matches unbeaten?

Where are those glory days of Denis Bergkamp, Ian Wright, and Theirry Henry, when Arsenal could rip the stoutest of defences to shreds? Where are the days when a midfield patrolled by Paul Merson, Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour and David Platt created openings for the forward line to exploit? Where are the days when the back four consisting of, amongst others, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon, offered an impenetrable wall that blunted most attacks, and, if rarely breached, had a David Seaman in goal to provide the final protection?

The current Arsenal squad leaks goals with an unfailing regularity that is alarming (16 goals in seven league matches), if not shocking.

“When I first came to Arsenal, I realized the back four were all university graduates in the art of defending. As for Tony Adams, I consider him to be a doctor of defence. He is simply outstanding,” said manager Arsene Wenger some years ago.

As an English writer put it, “The current crop have a couple of GCSEs between them.”

The forward line has been firing blanks, too, squandering the chances that have been created for them by a yet hard working midfield.

No surprise that Arsene Wenger is frustrated, however hard he might try to conceal this.

The club has not fully utilized the transfer window to buy big name players and has, instead, relied on the players that have come through the Youth Academy.

Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have made their exit, and while players such as Theo Walcott have the legs, the fluidity visible in the midfield does not convert those opportunities up front.

The Gunners performed brilliantly for several years after Arsene Wenger took over as Manager in 1996, and finished in either first or second place in the league in eight of Wenger’s first eleven seasons at the club. It has been a sad decline, by the club’s lofty standards, ever since, though the club did well enough to qualify for the Champions League even in 2011.

Questions are now being asked about how much longer Wenger will continue even if the owner of the club declared his confidence and announced that the Wenger would leave only when he chose to and nothing else.

Wenger is a purist, and has always maintained that his club plays attractive and technically pleasing football. He has handled criticism well, and, as an English sports writer recently penned, adopts the approach befitting of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but then make allowance for their doubting too…”

However, it has been an ominously poor start – the worst in 58 years – and even the otherwise confident Wenger has conceded that the club’s Premiership title ambitions are over.

The question is whether Arsenal will do well enough to qualify for the Champions League. It appears to be a long shot right now, going by recent performances.

The Gunners have not gained a major trophy since the 2005 FA Cup. The current season, bar a miracle, threatens to leave the cupboard bare once again.

That’s a pity.


October 6, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing a will

“You must write a will,” I have often been told, the logic being that it will make things smooth when I make my final departure, and there will be no ambiguities. Makes sense.

On the surface, legal aspects apart, it should not be too much of an issue, especially when what you leave behind is not worth so much as to cause problems for those who will be the recipients.

“Alright, let me understand how a will is written,” I told myself and started doing some research on the net. That’s when I came across some interesting and, sometimes wacky, wills.

I read about a childless Canadian lawyer and investor named Charles Vance Millar who willed the residue of his estate to the Toronto, Ontario woman who bore most babies in the decade after his death. In what appeared to be a closely fought contest that got known as the Great Stork Derby, there emerged four women who bore nine children apiece, each pocketing $125,000. Not bad at all, since his riches gave at least 36 children a head start in life.

Not all people have been as philanthropic, however.

The poet Heinrich Heine married Eugenie Mirat, a lady who was uneducated, boorish, and vain. While affectionately leaving his entire estate to his wife, he placed one condition – she had to remarry once he was gone, to be able to claim her inheritance. The reason? “Because then there will be at least one man,” he explained, “who will regret my death.”

And, after being banned by his wife from smoking his favourite cigars, a gentleman named Samuel Bratt got even with her later. He left behind a princely sum of £330,000 for his wife. There was one condition, though – she had to smoke five cigars a day.

The search for tips on how to frame a will goes on.


October 5, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Human Behavior | , , , , | 1 Comment

Gibberish or sense?

While looking up the Net for new fonts, I used to often come across examples of gibberish-looking text with that particular font. I used to see something similar when looking at page layouts that carried dummy text matter.

I assumed that it was merely a representation of what the font or the page would look like.

Till it struck me that there was a common thread in most of these – the words Lorem Ipsum.

I was curious about this, searched the net and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered what it meant. What this also told me that most everything in life has a reason, and it’s just that we either do not understand or do not seek to know.

Lorem Ipsum is merely dummy text used by the printing and typesetting industry, and has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. The interesting thing is that this has not only survived for over five hundred years, but has also entered into the electronic typesetting business with little or no change.

The reason for using this also became clear. When looking at the layout of a page, one can often get distracted by the readable content on the page. The use of Lorem Ipsum helps because it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, thereby making it look like readable English. Which is why Lorem Ipsum has become the default model text in many web page editors.

I also discovered that Lorem Ipsum is not just random text and, in reality, has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. It comes a treatise on the theory of ethics called “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) byCicero, written in 45 BC. The first line of Lorem Ipsum, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..”, comes from a line in section 1.10.32 of the book.

This was certainly something interesting I learnt.



October 4, 2011 Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Fantasy rolling out …

A Lego set is a child’s plaything, but I have observed adults, too, patiently spending hours, and enjoying putting together the little, precisely moulded, bricks to form various shapes – houses, cars, animals, bridges, etc.

Which is why I was fascinated when I read that Lego bricks have been used to put together to form a replica of a full size Ford Explorer SUV that will be transported to Orlando, Florida in time for the opening of the new Legoland.

The red Lego-Explorer took 22 designers 2,500 hours to build, weighs about 1,200 kg (more than half of the real car), and is supported by a 350 kg interior aluminum base.

It took 380,000 bricks to build the Lego-Explorer which would, at current cost of Lego sets, work out to almost US$ 40,000, more than the price one would, perhaps, pay for an actual Ford Explorer.

As it travels in a trailer with transparent sides from Ford’s Chicago assembly plant to Orlando in tme for the park’s opening on 15th October 2011 , there will be thousands of curious eyes following this amazing creation.

Child’s play? Perhaps, not. But, it is certainly something that brings out the child in an adult.


October 3, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Human Behavior | , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: