Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Weeding Out The Story

Now Matthew Hayden has gone and called Harbhajan Singh an “obnoxious little weed”! Whether you agree with that sentiment or not is immaterial. What isn’t, is the sense of making the statement at all.

The Australians (and the Indians to a lesser extent) have made this a summer to remember with their big mouths. And that’s been useful for us newsmongers. But at some level, you do wish it would stop now. There’s been enough. Not any more! At least the unwarranted ones. The ones that don’t come with a provocation.

But that’s never going to happen as far as the Aussies are concerned, see. Because this is the Australian way, and that’s not about to change.

First of all, Hayden’s statement, or Symonds’ statements since the incident with Ishant Sharma, does have a provocation – a common one. That India have reached the final. So India have reached the final of the tri-series – that’s the action, the provocation. That the Aussies must now talk, is the reaction, the retaliation.

Secondly, what can anyone do about Hayden calling Harbhajan an “obnoxious little weed”? Nothing. The ICC has no jurisdiction over what a player does off the field, in an interview. The only thing that can, logically be done, is that Harbhajan can file a defamation suit against Hayden. But surely no one is going to take things that far!

And what the inability to react is going to do, is to make Harbhajan more and more agitated as the days go by and he has to wait before having a go at Hayden on the field – on the 2nd of March in Sydney. Harbhajan also knows that being a spinner, he is probably not going to have a bowl at Hayden anyway. Hayden is going to get out well before that (going by Hayden’s recent form). And that’s going to frustrate Harbhajan more.

Now the Australians have perfected this art, haven’t they? Harbhajan is the worst behaved cricketer in history, because all his little tantrums on the field down the years have been carried out stupidly. He hasn’t figured out how to misbehave without being caught. Which is exactly what the Australians have done so successfully. Is Harbhajan worse than McGrath? Or Lehmann? Or some of the others? No, but he’s not smart enough. No Indian is. Ganguly was. Which is why Symonds says what he does to Ishant and nothing happens. But Ishant reacts by openly pointing to the pavilion. Who gets the wrong end of the stick? Obviously Ishant.

That’s being Aussie. They never play by the rules, but they never break the rules either. They will find loopholes in the law. They will stretch the law far as possible. Like the Chappell Brothers’ Underarm Show, or the Lillee Aluminum Bat Show, or all the McGrath Shows. None of these were illegal. They were against the spirit of the game. But the spirit is intangible. It doesn’t stop you from being the best in the world in terms of collecting trophies.

And now, Harbhajan’s going to pick up another reprimand in the final – you mark my words.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In pretty Hobart

Difficult to believe obnoxious-ies like Ricky Ponting come out of Tasmania, it's so picture perfect.

This ship is the oldest vessel at the waterfront, over 150 years old.

Little sight to remember at the St David's Park.

Off the Masonic Church.

And at the Bellerive Oval - this is the view out of the Press Box, made even more beautiful because of the dark clouds.

And the game itself. Gautam Gambhir is getting set to take India home against Sri Lanka.

The Indians at practice...

Got a mail from old friend Bhaskar the other day, saying that he wanted to see pictures of the Indian team at training. Don't know if these photos will make him happy, but here they are anyway...from the SCG.

Tendu stretching...Yuvraj walking away...can't figure out the kids towards the left, but I can see Dhoni's face.

Everyone wants to pick things up from Tendu. Robin Uthappa for example.

And Virender Sehwag, who can't really figure out how to get back in the playing 11.

Sreesanth is hot property with the fans around here. Everyone loves him, and he's a great playactor as well. But more importantly, and I say this seriously, Sree is probably the one player who takes every single practice session very, very seriously. I don't recall ever seeing him fool around. Never. The others do. Sree doesn't.

Uthappa sitting on the ice boxes. Gambhir hanging around. Sehwag talking to Tendu in the background.

And wherever the Indian players are - especially Pathan and Yuvraj and Dhoni - there'll be a fair bit of glam around. Nice photo, isn't it?

The captain and the vice-captain in conversation during practice.

And finally, the latest big star of the team - the six-and-a-half feet Ishant Sharma...already a favourite of the autograph hunters.

If you're in Oz for long enough...

They say that if you stand long enough at Times Square, you see the entire world passing by. British Airways uses the flavour of that line in their ads as well...

Across Australia - easily impressed by things as I am - the number of nationalities being represented has been an eye-opener. And it's been the drivers' seats of the taxis that have been the most illuminating.

I've met people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh obviously. Add to that Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Italian, Polish, Senegalese, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Ukrainian, Czech, Serbian, Chechen, Eritrian, Fijian, Russian, Iranian, Korean, Thai, Jordanese people, and it's been fascinating.

Now I get rather touristy (read curious and questioning) when I meet new people in new countries, so I have been doing a lot of talking to each of these people and getting political insights; about their countries, about the United States - about which everyone has something to say, and about India - about which everyone has something 'educated' to say as well.

Now, most of these people were in Melbourne. That's the city that draws most immigrants. Unfortunately I didn't have my 8.1 megapixel Pentax there, otherwise I would have put together a bit of an album. But here's Noor Mohammad Ashani from Peshawar, who drove us from our hotel to the airport in Sydney.

A common thread between most of these people who have spent between 4 months and 27 years in Australia among them: they hate Australians. They want Australia to lose every sporting event. They think the Aussies are racist. They think the Aussies are haughty and pricey and abusive to outsiders.

My observation: Most taxi drivers are cheats. Definitely all the ones from other countries.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Around Sydney...

Incidentally, I've bought an 8.1 megapixel Pentax digital camera - life's smoother!
Seagulls flocking to the cookie-man at the Darling Harbour promenade.
The Sydney Opera House - the cheapest programme tickets are A$60 - not sure the experience will be commensurate to the money spent.

Also on the promenade - the deep baritone of the didgeridoo, which lots of Aussies spell as 'dijeridu'.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

We took a ride on the pedapod as well - it's pretty much the same as a rickshaw, but comes with 18 gears and a highest speed of 20kmph! And goras ride/drive them, making it a rather interesting experience...

The Phantom is not playing at the SOH. In fact, it's not playing anywhere in Sydney at the moment. But busses carry the posters on them, and do so around the year even if it's not really relevant.

Boomerangs! And the boomerang man with the Sundowner.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

At the Sydney Wildlife Park

Joeys soaking in the sun on a warm summer afternoon at the Park.

An adolescent kangaroo - not quite fully grown, by which time it would be more than double the current size.

The koala! Bloody sleepy animals. They hardly move at all. And they are either sleeping or chomping on leaves. They never do much else. Even if you pick them up, they hardly react. It's almost as if they don't even realise they have been woken up from their slumber. Aussies love koalas, and I suppose these creatures are so confident that they won't be hurt, that they just don't open their eyes for anything.

This one's a full blown kangaroo. It wants to sleep, but is keeping an eye on its joeys because of all the people around.

Birds. Bijoy might know what they are called.

Another koala. A different one. It's sleeping as usual despite being perched rather precariously.

Another bird. Again, Bijoy might know what it's called.

Another bird. I can tell Bijoy that this one's a seagull. If there's a fancier name by which they go, I have no idea.

Chameleons. Aussie chameleons.

This one's part of the monitor family. It loves being photographed. And strikes different poses as you click away.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wine-tasting in Adelaide

Pics courtesy: Rohit Mahajan of Outlook

Every once in a way, in the middle of a hectic work trip, you need a bit of time off. Time where you take off on a little trek to see or do something that you haven't seen or done before. Such it was today, when the South Australia Cricket Association plotted a little trip for us journos to the wine-production area on the outskirts of Adelaide.

South Australian wine is famous across the world...and we got a taste of why that's so during our trip today.

It was blazing hot. Blazing, blazing hot. Hotter than an afternoon in the peak of Delhi's summer. But that's part of the reason why the wine is as good as it is.

The destination was the Grant Burge Winery in the Barossa Wines Area, which also houses the Jacob's Creek variety, which is so popular in India. We saw both green grapes and purple grapes - which lead to the wines being white and red respectively, though white wine can be made from either variety because the wine is made from the pulp, and when you want red wine, you just proceed to use the purple grape-skin more. However, you can't make red wine from the green grapes - that's just so...

The hat has made its way to The Indian Express' GS Vivek's head.

Remembered A Walk In The Clouds from the early days of Star Movies, but in Australia at least, there's no erotic dance on top of the grapes to make the wine happen. It's all mechanised. A lot of the grapes are picked by hand, granted, but most of it is machine-picked and processed. The end result is fantastic. Especially for the whites, of which I tasted three varieties. The two reds I tried weren't particularly good, though truth is that I don't have a taste for wine.

Of course, there was a bit of work involved as well, and I've managed to put together a fairly decent colour story for the office.
PS: And yes, we finally spotted a live kangaroo. It ran alongside our bus for a while, and then once we stopped for it, it rushed across the road right in front of us.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bradman, prettiness and walking around

There's no better way to figure out a new city than by walking around in it. It's something I've always done wherever I've gone. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it in the city I have fallen in love with so much - Melbourne. For reasons mentioned in previous mails, I had very little time in Melbourne and had to use taxis and trams more often than I would have wanted to.

But here in Adelaide, things have been different, and while it is practically impossible to walk-explore an entire city while on a business tour, we've done a fair bit of exploring here.

It doesn't have Melbourne's city feel, but it certainly has a lovely relaxed feel to it, and is certainly the prettiest city around these parts.

And the Adelaide Oval is also the prettiest big ground I have seen during my travels...there are lots of small grounds, like the one in Canberra, the one in Kuala Lumpur, small grounds in England, etc, which are very pretty. The problem with big grounds is that commercial interests force massive rebuilding and a whole lot of concrete, which rob the ground of its beauty. Adelaide's managed to reach a compromise, and while it does seat over 35,000 people, it remains very old world. A lot of wood. Lots of history scattered around. All over.
Like the scoreboard. It's the oldest functioning scoreboard in the world, and the people here prefer it to the electronic scoreboard-cum-video screen adjacent to it.
In a most memorable tour, the South Australia Cricket Association historian Bernard Whimpress took us inside the massive four-storey scoreboard, where up to six people work at any given time during a match. I've seen scoreboards function in other parts of the world as well, and the processes are pretty similar. But the size of this one, and the impressive woodwork within makes this one stand out.

Apart from that, I've picked up a local Sundowner.

It's the traditional Aussie hat - made of Kangaroo leather. Soft. Very soft. And very stylish. Which proves that useful animals are useful in many ways, kangaroos being very tasty as well, like cows.

The hat's already done its tour of journalists' heads as well...senior colleague Ashish Shukla's for example...

And we also spent a bit of time at the Bradman Collection, a room in the South Australian Museums complex. Some photos are common, like the one of Bradman being bowled by Eric Hollies for a duck in his last Test innings, and some shots of Bradman batting. But there are a few priceless photos...rare ones.
And some of his personal stuff, which his family donated to the collection.

Manoj Tewari was also around, checking out The Don's collection on his off day.

Friday, February 15, 2008


A couple of photographs of the house Don Bradman died in...

Pix: Courtesy Vijay Tagore of DNA
It's an interesting story that not too many Adelaiders like Bradman. He was apparently a miser. A cranky old man, who reported schoolkids for creating a noise outside his house.

His son of course changed his surname once, and his grandchildren don't really like to associate themselves with the great man.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Canberra and Adelaide

It's been such a mad whirl that it's been difficult to note down stuff and figure out what can be blogged about and what can't be. But then, that's how it is, and that's how things will stay.

I've made my way across to Bradmantown now, from Canberra - the political capital of the country, and easily the worst centre in the world. I've been to many terrible places around the world - none of them are as tourist-unfriendly as Canberra is. We were there for only two days and though the Manuka Oval is rather beautiful, the city itself is crap. And I'm not even getting into the lack of Internet facilities, which all of Australia is pointless about. In Canberra, all you get is McDonald's shit to eat, because restaurants shut by 1.00pm for lunch and 7.00pm for dinner. Booze shops shut by 7.00pm as well. Taxis don't ply, or answer to phone calls. There are no people on the streets - day or night. It's all a big pile of shit.
But then, as always, the next stop is worth the wait, and Adelaide is quite like that. Quite like the word 'Adelaide' itself, like a beautiful Victorian damsel.

It's green as green can be. Spacious roads. More space than Melbourne, primarily because Adelaide is also a planned city, unlike the more Calcutta-esque Melbourne. They have 'a' tram here as well. Only one straight journey from the centre of the city to the beach out in the outskirts of the city. It plies to and fro. And it's all really convenient. The area around the really small Torrence River is also very beautiful, and some of us spent a nice lazy afternoon sleeping on its banks the other day.
But the big deal about Adelaide is, of course, Donald Bradman. And it's fascinating to note how the people of the city feel about the greatest batsman in the world. But first, let me tell everyone that I visited Bradman's house at #2, Kensington Avenue. I also visited the Bradman Museum around the centre of the city. And there are little bits of Bradman scattered around the streets in the form of statues and little plaques and the at the Adelaide Oval, which is worth signing paeans about forever - it's so incredibly stunning. Beautiful. Really beautiful.

Anyway, people here hate Bradman. John Tiles, the taxi driver, told us about 'that bastard' who would report little kids who made a noise returning home from school. A member of the Adelaide/South Australian cricket community told us about how Bradman was the worst cricket chief Australia ever had, and how he forced many good cricketers to leave the game, because he refused to spend a cent on anything. People bitch about the cricket legend's miserly ways. Neighbours bitch about Bradman's grandchildren scrapping over his estate. In essence, Bradman is not a liked man. Another man I met on the road told me, "Oh he could bat, couldn't he? But he was a nasty piece of work. Not one nice bone in his body."

That's that then - but he's The Don, isn't he?

Anyway - more about Adelaide as we spend a bit more time here...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aussie pictures

Some stray pictures from the Australian tour so far. All these are taken from Outlookman Rohit Mahajan's digital camera. Old travelmate Atreyo (Hindustan Times) has also taken a number of pictures involving me, but hasn't bothered to give them to me yet.

Outside the lawyers' chambers in central Adelaide. This is very close to the court where the Harbhajan Singh racism hearing was carried out by Justice John Hansen after the fourth Test.

Being photographed by Headlines Today cameraperson Subodh Saxena outside the Aussie war memorial in Adelaide.

With the bearded and learned Atreyo Mukhopadhyay of The Hindustan Times in the stands at the Manuka Oval in Canberra. It's a small ground with a capacity of around 8,000 people, and there's space for only about 7 people in the official press box. Which is why we were seated in the general stands. Made watching the game that much more fun.
Not much has changed, eh, Ajitha? Washed my clothes in Brisbane. Ironed them in Melbourne. Good as new by the time the next PTC happened.

Lasith Malinga crosses the frame at the Manuka Oval...he 'bowled' badly, but Sri Lanka beat India in the rain-affected game.

Subodh (left), myself and the ponytailed Nagraj Golapudi of cricinfo striding out to get a gauge of the Manuka Oval in Canberra. It's a beautiful ground. Very picturesque. Low stands. Lovely breeze as a result. Quite large though. The curator Marcus Pamplin claims the playing area is larger than the MCG, which may or may not be true.
Rohit (Left), me and Subodh on the banks of the Torrence River in Adelaide.
The shot I had mentioned in a previous post - this is the footbridge we walked when going from Flinders Street to the MCG or the other way round. The buildings are around the Flinders Street area, which means we were walking back to town from the MCG.