Monday, September 25, 2006

Done with KL

Yes, am done with the Kuala Lumpur leg of my career as a TV journalist...and I have to say that it's not a trip I will look back upon with any great affection. There was far too much work as I have mentioned in one of my previous posts from here. And when I say 'far too much work', I mean far too much work even for someone like me who loves to work. So that's saying something.

The distances were unnecessarily great and the whole thing was badly organised in the sense that there were three teams with separate practice and press briefing timings in three different parts of the city and its outskirts. Taxis aren't easy to access in some of these parts and have to be radioed; and they often take hours to finally arrive after a lot of no taxis, laa messages from bored sounding incoherent local women on the phone. Plus, the lack of any gaps between matches meant we were previewing the next match after just having finished reviewing one. And so on and so forth and yada, yada, yada...

The second big negative about KL is that there isn't much to do here if you are not too kicked about spending the late evenings in nightclubs (or pick up joints or whatever)...which is fine, because it's not like Delhi, for example, offers anything more. But when you come out of India, you sort of expect something different, which is not the case with Malaysia. Unexpected. Something you would be fine with in Singapore or Hong Kong I suppose... And oh, of course, you can shop here if you want and get all the sandwich massages you please.

Now the shopping part troubles me anyway. Because of my colour-blindness and because of my inherent impatience with things, it's very difficult for me to walk around for hours in shopping complexes/areas looking for exactly what I want. And in KL it was made worse because I had to spend half my money on a new cellphone after the one I brought with me was stolen.

But then it's not all bad and I have to admit it. The options when it comes to food are immense. And watching cricket at the Kinrara Oval was quite fascinating as well. Plus, of course, the fact that we managed to do more constructive work than any other channel was a good thing.

We leave today...stop by at The Aquaria before checking out. That's the place I had mentioned about earlier. It's just next door to the hotel, and having checked out the Shark's Fin Soup here on one of the nights out, we'll get to meet the fin's owner now.

So not all bad. But certainly not a place that I would recommend to anyone looking for a short flight out of India. Choose Sri Lanka instead. It's waaay more beautiful. And dirt cheap.

Selamat tinggal to all of you then, till I blog again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When the cricket becomes totally pointless

People like me at the Kinrara Oval do this.

It's great fun . In case anyone wants to try it, will leave out the hints. You might have to Google your way around a bit here and there...

Collapso deja vu

Back at the Kinrara idyllic as ever.

There's a seriously intense sun out today, though we'll let the players suffer that. Am nice and cool in the press enclosure.... Aaah! The pleasures of not having to burn the butt to watch cricket anymore.

But the beauty of the Kinrara Oval has been heightened today by the surreal batting of the Indian team. Two trundlers called Dwayne Smith and Corey Collymore have managed to send back the Indian top order for next to nothing. Sachin Tendulkar looks set to score another hundred against what remains - despite the performance of the other Indian batsmen - a rather pedestrian bowling attack.

And India look set to lose.

This is what makes tours like these worthwhile.

The moment India loses, the pressure on the reporter wears off somewhat. We'll just get lots of former cricketers/experts to trash the side. Not much to be done from out here in the field. Which might finally give me some time to explore this city.

It is, like I have mentioned in the past, a rather unattractive city. But it has its high points. A lot of the animals remain unconsumed. Sites like the world famous aquarium is less than a 10-minute walk from the hotel, but remains unchecked.

So all that can be done. Some DVDs can finally be bought. And a good time might yet be had.

Only the Indian team has to back me up and not let me down.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My experiments with animals

Continues. Unabated.

Time constraints have forced me to leave out a lot of beautiful looking species of fish so far, as well as the reptiles and the amphibians. But have managed to get some constructive work done in the food area.

Firstly, I have finally eaten Shark's Fin Soup. Have never been to this part of the world before, and the trip around Europe was done on a shoestring budget, which forced us to survive on fruits and broths of various hues for the best part. Now that I am in the Far East - or somewhere around there - got a chance to try some Shark's Fin Soup. Was delighted about it.

But, truth be told, I didn't understand the hype. Admittedly, it was an interesting texture. And the taste was perfectly fine. No complaints. But it wasn't special.

Then I got my teeth into some fine Argentine venison preparations. This was delightful. Really, really good. Shredded venison in some sort of red/brown sauce...dry for the most part. But very, very nice. Had a Chinese version as well. Not as good.

And there have been different varieties of fish here and there. Some long thin ones. Some roundish things. Some crab. Some prawns. Good stuff on the whole.

The last thing I am targetting before leaving is some frog. It's available. And looks perfectly edible. The only problem is that they sell it by the weight, and you can't buy less than a kilo. And I can't eat a kilo of it by myself, can I? Heck, maybe I can and I will. If I can't get someone (no one wants it) to split a kilo with me, I'll go it myself.

Watch this space for a possible update.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Of Pidge, Thommo and Thommo on Pidge

Watching a truly great player - especially a truly great pace bowler - in good form is something that can't be matched.

Along with Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath has easily been the greatest fast bowler in the recent past. He has been out for a while, playing the good husband to Jane. But he's back. His comeback match wasn't as hot as, say, Sachin Tendulkar's comeback. But then players like him raise their game depending on the opposition. Chanderpaul might be in good form, but what's it worth bowling at full tilt to that frog-in-a-fruit-basket!

Put him in front of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, as is happening in front of my eyes right now, and then you'll know who we are talking about. And this is just 15 minutes after I have finished speaking to Jeff Thomson about McGrath. Can it ever get better than this?!

Thommo's of the opinion that McGrath has at least another five years of top class cricket left in him if he can take off from meaningless one-day tournaments and Test series against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe once in a way. Fair enough. That means till he is 40-41.

I will agree with him, because if there's one bowler I have seen who knows eactly what his body is capable of, it's McGrath. To some extent that's also true of Richard Hadlee and Akram. But not too many others. Certainly not my other favourite recent pacer - Allan Donald. And certainly not Shane Bond. And since he started getting slightly older, he's suddenly become more cunning, definitely shrewder, and that impeccable control over the corridor of uncertainty has suddenly become extra-impeccable if that were possible.

I love the man. And this trip will be memorable not because I saw Sachin Tendulkar come back after a long break and play one of his best one-day knocks ever, but because I got a chance to see a Glenn McGrath who has spent the last many months brooding over not being able to bowl and has come back stronger and better. And even more because I got to hang around with Thommo in a corner for around half an hour - no camera or mike to worry about - and talk about two of my favourite cricketers ever...McGrath and Shane Warne.

Totally unplugged. Totally unrigged. Totally beautiful.

If only Viv Richards was around to talk about the frog-in-a-fruit-basket...and then maybe Brian Lara for a bit.

PS: That's my second post in a day!!! Must be the goddamn rain!

Battlefield Kuala Lumpur...

...just what we call our cricket show at Headlines Today; the violence has been practically rained out in reality!

It really has been ages since I last blogged. No reason really. Just tired of it. Have little time after work, so decided to use it in more fruitful pursuits such as spending time with Ajitha watching as many movies as we can. The DVD collection is becoming more and more formidale with each passing day and I can honestly say that we have almost all the movies we want to possess now. 'Almost', of course means we are less than halfway home, but that's not too bad.
And since there hasn't been much to write about except put together another of those lists of 'movies seen', chose to opt out.

Anyway, thought it made sense to put together some vague uncollected thoughts now that I am sitting here at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur (actually just outside KL; much like Gurgaon and Delhi), watching Phil Jaques and Shane Watson hitting quite a few decent one-day shots against the rather pathetic Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel. Irfan Pathan is being protected from the Aussies, as is RP Singh.

Have to say that watching cricket here at the Kinrara Oval has been a really nice change. It's an almost idyllic setting. A beautiful smallish ground. Room for just about a couple of thousand people to come and watch. Everything is at ground level, which helps in the breeze circulating around the stadium, unlike, say, Kochi, which is a dustbowl with incredibly high walls. A lot like one of those Death Traps or whatever you call the pits where bikers zoom around at tremendously high speeds. Daft. And dangerous.

Phil Jaques has just gotten out, and all the people around me appear incredibly excited about it. We'll let that pass for the moment...

To get back to Kinrara, it's also been a nice experience as a journalist because you have surprisingly good access to the players. Makes life a lot better for TV journos like us even if it has nothing to do with stories. And the whole lack of security makes like a lot more comfortable for everyone - players, journos, the public.

The big problem though has been the fact that it's a triangular series, with three teams who all have separate practice timings, at separate venues (there are three practice centres) and all of them are miles away from the hotel from where we sent the footage back home. As a result, it's been impossible to catch the sights and sounds of the city. Not that there's much barring huge shopping complexes and stuff. But there are a couple of neat places like a really stunning aquarium, which we found out courtesy our colleagues who have come to Malaysia at the same time to do some touristy shoots.

The Petronas Towers - the locals call it the Twin Towers in a hope-inducing but morbid take - are quite intimidating, but rubbish in terms of architecture. Which is pretty much the case with all the huge buildings in KL. Huge structures, but with incredibly bad design sense - protruding disk-like appendages, some shaped like beer bottles, a furniture market with a HUGE red plastic chair at the entrance with the people having to go in between the chair's legs.... It's an endless assembly line of some of the biggest and ugliest structures I have ever seen anywhere in the world.

The roads are good, the cars travel at fantastic speeds for the most time...but what do you do here? Just my luck to be stuck in yet another dumb place with a whole lot of work to do!

On the flipside, the food's great. A wide array of birds and sea creatures and four-legged animals to choose from. With spice options from Argentina to Crete, Kerala to 'Black Africa' and everything in between. Have been doing a bit of interesting eating; haven't had time to stuff my face much.

So that's pretty much it. Three channels competing for airtime featuring me. A lot of Hindi-talking, which hasn't gone as badly as I thought it would. A lot of stories sent two-and-a-half hours back to India. And yes, a phone stolen. My beautiful, loyal, trustworthy, taped-up Nokia cameraphone (don't know what number) was phonenapped while I was interviewing Jeff Thomson. Sad.

To end, Australia have reached 80 for 1 and the beautiful Ricky Ponting is out there just settling in. Ciao!