Sunday, May 8, 2011

SMG - An Era of Indian Cricket

Comparisons are often biased..we all tend to have our heroes. In today's cricket Sachin Tendulkar is the god of cricket. There is no doubt Sachin has left his stamp on every type of cricket played. But one question remains on my mind. is Sachin the best Indian batsmen ever? Is he the best Test batsman India has produced? While Sachin holds the records for highest test runs and centuries my personal vote for best Test batsman goes to Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. I know i am openings a can of worms here..but let's look at it a bit objectively..Gavaskar played in an era where India was an average team. He played in an era that had the best fast bowlers be it the fearsome four from West Indies (Marshall, Holding, Roberts and Garner) or the hunting pairs from Australia (Lillee and Thompson) and England (Willis and Botham) and guile of Imran and Hadlee. The best part was Gavaskar took them on even when the rules of the game were fair (no limit on number of bouncers per over) and no helmets to save your head or face. Yet Gavaskar played them with ease and never looked in trouble against quality fast bowling. He exemplified all the attributes of a great opening batsman - super technique, footwork, very steady balance, great powers of concentration and never say die spirit. And the best part of Gavaskar was adversity brought out the best in him. He was one batsman who put a price on his wicket. Not surprising his knocks have become a part of Cricket folk lore evoking the passion of cricket fans all over the world. His knock of 96 in his last Test innings against Pakistan on a mine field of a pitch was a master class in batting. One could always bet on Gavaskar producing his best where the other batsman failed. His knock of 101 on a seaming pitch at Old Trafford in 1974 was another example of how to play fast bowling. His batting skills earned him the respect of all time greats and his ability to deliver the goods when needed made him a fearsome adversary. His feats brought not only records for Indian cricket but also changed the belief that Indian cricketers had about the game. Gavaskar truly was an era of Indian cricket..we can classify the history of Indian cricket as before Gavaskar and after Gavaskar. His deep knowledge of the game and his keen observations make him a wonderful commentator and student of the game. Gavaskar has also never shunned from sharing his batting tips to greats like Sachin and Dravid during his stint as a batting consultant to the Indian team. Added to his knowledge of the game, Gavaskar has a mighty pen as well and has been sharing his insights of the game and its evolution through his PMG columns. He is also a pioneer in Sports Management and was the first sportsman to set up a Sports Management company, Professional Management Group in the mid 1980's. He is truly an icon of the game and we were lucky to have witnessed his era.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tiger - the dying embers of a wonderful being

The Tiger is a majestic animal..The mention of our National animal evokes mixed responses of fear, awe, respect and appreciation as William Blake immortalized the tiger with his poem 'Tiger Tiger Burning Bright in the Forests of the night'. Legendary hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett referred to the Tiger as a 'gentleman with boundless courage'. The sad state of the Tiger today makes one wonder if these lines hold good in today's commercialized world where every natural resource is being expended without a thought for conservation and sustainable development. Let's look at a few glaring realities -
India had over 30,000 tigers at the start of the 20th century
Tiger shooting was banned in India in 1970
Project Tiger was started in 1973 when the tiger count had gone below 2000.
In mid 1990s the tiger count was around 3500.
The current tiger counts stands at 1411
The reason for the tiger's sad decline has been incessant shooting during the British Raj by both British civil servants and maharajahs of princely states. Post independence there was the rise of jeep and spotlight aided shooters and poachers. Now poaching still continues with tiger bones and other body parts fetching a fortune in the Chinese markets.
Recently the rise in conflicts between humans and tigers are on the rise as boundaries of civilization keep expanding on to tiger habitats. Frequent news of human kills in Sunderbans and the recent man-eating menace in Corbett National Park are grave reminders of how serious the problem of human encroachment is. For the tiger to have any chance to survive and thrill future generations human encroachment into park buffer and core areas must stop. The state governments must do their bit in providing the required funds, decision making agility to make things happen on the ground. Its a now or never effort that must involve corporate houses, governments and people participation. For those who have frequented reserved forests and heard or seen a tiger in its natural habitat would know what a magnificent animal it is.
I sincerely hope that with the Aircel initiative the tiger would get a fresh lease of life and the master of the jungle would get many more years to survey the jungle in the characteristic nonchalant manner. Nothing like the forest reverberate with the call of a tiger on a moonless night. The long guttural call warning all inhabitants of the jungle that the king was on the move.
Hope the future generations have a chance to see the tiger in all its majesty in its natural habitat.