Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Jumbo Legacy

Here is an excerpt from an article I read on cricinfo….


“…..In many ways, it's also the start of a new era. As Dhoni said at the press conference, modern-day Indian captains had grown so used to Anil Kumble being there as a perennial Plan B [A when it was a turning track] that the idea of going into a series without him seems almost bizarre. Both Amit Mishra and Yuvraj Singh are stepping into large boots, and the best thing they can do is chart their own course. The minute Mishra worries about 600 wickets, or Yuvraj about 7000 Test runs, then they're lost….”


Ok Ok, fine, I wont let my blog become an online shrine to Kumble.

PS: If you are reading this, Jumbo, Please come back for one more match , please.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The clock has begun to tick....

          Everybody who knows me knows how much I revere Anil Kumble, both as a cricketer and as a person. This, is my third post on the old wizard (Here are the earlier ones - 1 & 2). 
              I just watched the Australian innings fold at Bangalore, Zaheer finished with 5 wickets; Ishant Sharma finished with 4 wickets and Harbhajan had his bunny, Ponting's wicket. 
        The Indian Captain, Anil Kumble had figures of 43-6-129-0. Surprsing.....Just a couple of months ago, in Sri Lanka, Jumbo finished with figures of 37-4-121-0.  Not often does Anil Kumble go wicketless. Whats more....this was the 56th time he had conceded more than 100 in an innings, surpassing the previous record holder, Muttiah Muralidharan who has had 55 such expensive outings. 
        When stats show that Kumble has claimed only 25 wickets in his last 9 matches.....When debutante batsmen begin picking up Kumble's googly...........When tail enders are able to survive an entire Kumble over without a decent lbw shout, let alone losing their wicket.....when the famous Kumble 'rocket' flipper doesnt get wickets consistently......Thats when, I'm afraid, its time to go.
         As I get all teary eyed reminsicing about 6/12 vs West Indies and the unbelievable 10/74 ,   and as much as it will shatter me to see you go,Anil Kumble, I think the clock has begun to tick. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The GRAND ex-'PRIX'-ence!

It just was one of those moments..when I read that the first F1 night race was to be held in Singapore, I immediately made up my mind to go and watch it. People tried to dissuade me saying, “The cars would go past in a second…what could you possibly see?” and "Why do you want to see these cars which keep on going around in circles?" Well, it’s really difficult to answer these kinds of questions especially to the same ‘knowledgable’people who later on ask questions like “Is ‘Shoe-maker’ still racing?” and “Is Murali Karthik driving for Kingfisher*”. After resisting myself from responding violently to these questions, I moved on… nothing could change my mind and finally with big holes in all my pockets, I was on my way to Singapore.

From the moment I landed at Changi airport, it was obvious that this city had

been possessed by the F1 spirit. Hoardings, banners, advertisements, discounts if you showed

up with your F1 ticket and so on were all over the place. One could sense a palpable

national pride involved here; a pride in showcasing a world class city – the perfect stage for

hosting a first of its kind event.

Clarke Quay by night

Although perfect in every way to suit European television viewers, the challenge of setting

Singapore up for a night race was something the authorities certainly overcame and

how! Each and every aspect of the city – its roads, its bus network, the underground train

service, the restaurants – everything was geared up to handle this rush of nearly

120,000 people during these three days. And nothing at all seemed like a last minute

preparation – it simply looked like the culmination of something perfectly pre planned years

ago with everything falling right into place.

At the venue (note the pass hanging around my neck :) LOL! ) and below,

The Old Supreme Court Building.

The first thing I did in Singapore was to collect my tickets from the F1 office – they came in a

cool sleek black case with glossy slick plastic bar coded cards neatly tucked inside. I suddenly

felt after seeing these ├╝ber cool tickets that almost having to sell off my right kidney in the

black market to pay for these tickets was worth it after all! I mean look at the silly paper

tickets we get for our cricket matches and look at these F1 passes....these were

beautiful…! (sigh) Coming back to reality…I spent the rest of the day meandering through the

streets of Singapore….Everyone around seemed to be in the F1 mode. Once at the circuit,

much like Monaco, it was difficult to imagine that this circuit too was actually a part of the

city…and mind you, not some far flung suburb but the heart of the city.

Giancarlo Fisichella in his Force India and below Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen appears to be staring right into the camera!

The facilities at the venue – the entry, the security checks, the seating – everything went off

smoothly. And what’s more, we had clear TV screens right in front of our seats across the

track with speakers which blared out live commentary. The more I saw the immaculate micro

management of the arrangements, the more difficult it got for me to imagine an

Indian Grand Prix anytime in the near future. The circuit park was dotted with numerous

merchandise shops and many food outlets serving Thai, Indian, Indonesian, Korean cuisines and

of course Singapore’s most famous Tiger Beer!

The view from my seats....the cars slowly turn in and the blast off towards turn 10. (Below) An absolutely crazy Japanese Ferrari fan

It was not just formula one that was on show here; there was a whole bunch of support races – The Porsche Carrera Asia Cup, The Aston Martin Cup and Formula BMW Asia Series. To go with the on track excitement, there were a whole range of musical performances which were played out live during the breaks .

David Coulthard in his super sleek Red Bull and below, The most beautiful beast on track..The Safety Car

Friday practice and Saturday qualifying gave us photo-buffs enough photo ops, but it was the Sunday race that we had all come here to watch and we weren’t disappointed (the results are for you to see - all pics posted here have been shot by me!). Fuelled with delicious southeast Asian food and having downed a couple of Tiger beers (Sorry Mr. Mallya) watching the race under lights was an absolutely surreal experience, with cars zooming past, the smell of burning rubber wafting through the air, the ear drum shattering scream of the beastly engines, the gorgeous Singapore nightscape around and the stars above – I realized I was at a place where history was being created.

Nick Heidfeld overtakes Sebastian Bourdais and below, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

While the race itself was expectedly punctuated by a couple of safety car periods,

Renault’s out of the box thinking ensured Alonso leapfrogged the rest to secure a comfortable

win. Ferrari’s collective clumsiness ensured that they had a forgettable race. A few laps saw

Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella bravely hold off a host of drivers behind as he held P2 for a

while. I was the only one cheering each time Fisichella passed by the stand where I was; but

after pitting he too fell to the wayside and finally as street circuits have in the

past, Singapore too threw up a few surprises on the podium with Nico Rosberg claiming

second place.

Toyota's Timo Glock (My favourite pic) and the race Winner (below) - Fernando Alonso (Renault)

The whole journey had certainly been a thoroughly enjoyable one. All in all, Singapore is easily the best Grand Prix to attend from India (Sepang doesn’t even come close to a thrill of a street circuit). While it may not be the cheapest, it certainly has a lot to offer.

With a race marshal , after the race and (below) Riding over the kerbs at turn 5 (literally)!!

The meticulous arrangements, the beautiful lighting, the drama, the safety car trips, the crashes, the heart breaks and of course the unique language –‘Singlish’ made it an unforgettable experience!

*The question, I am guessing was meant to be “Is Narain Karthikeyan driving for Force India F1?”

PS: Special thanks to my friends Aditya Naik, Amit Masurkar, Aditya Pandit and Medha Naik for making this trip a special one.

For higher resolution images, visit :

No image or any part of this article may be reproduced or quoted. © 2008 Akshay Gopinathan Nair.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm only happy when it rains!


 Two articles of mine (one is an interview and the other one is an article on how wet weather races differ from dry weather races)   featured in Chequered Flag, India's only Formula One magazine...

Cant wait for Singapore !!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Tiger Trail

After having visited Jim Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal last year , we had zeroed in on Ranthambhore as the next national park on our list and in early February, we finalized our travel plans to Ranthambhore National Park (RNP), Rajasthan which is a mere 12 km from the nearest railway station, Sawai Madhopur..
Like most tourists in Ranthambhore, we had booked our safaris online at the Rajasthan Tourism website and this made it very easy for tourists by eliminating touts and agents. But with several high end and budget hotels in Sawai Madhopur, finding easy accommodation was no problem for us when we reached there on a rather chilly April morning.
With the magnificent Ranthambhore fort and Jogi Mahal, an erstwhile royal palace in the backdrop, the central area of Ranthambhore has a chain of perennial lakes as compared to the drier peripheral area which is dotted by a few seasonal ponds and watering holes. And a trip to both these starkly different areas gives us two completely different stories. The area around the lakes is bustling with life – aquatic birds, ungulates, reptiles, and a host of other mammals including the tiger enjoy lush green surroundings which has deserted forts, ruins, dilapidated citadels all around. In contrast, the peripheral zones have the classical ‘dry deciduous’ forest with stunted ground cover in a different terrain consisting of steep slopes, narrow valleys and flat plateaus, with a lesser density of animals; the difference is so stark that you almost wonder if it’s a different national park altogether.
RNP is divided into five routes on which the vehicles are allowed to run. A fixed number of vehicles are allowed on every route and the allocation of the route to vehicles is by lottery.
Our 4 day long stay in Ranthambhore saw us make 7 trips into the park with at least one safari on each of the five routes and a guide accompanying us on every trip. The guides pay attention to every sound that comes from the wilderness since amidst the dense vegetation it is only the warning calls made by langurs, deer and peacocks that give an indication to the location and movements of tigers. Armed with our cameras and zoom lenses, we set out to find the big cat who rules the jungles of Ranthambhore. But sadly, apart from a ten second long glimpse of a tigress running into the bushes at the end of day 1 and a radio collared tiger sitting in the shade of a tree about 100 meters away seen on day 2, we were yet to see a tiger up close in its full glory. On our way out of the park, we spotted a leopard which appeared to be startled at being noticed and quickly sped into the bushes.
Although we hadn’t had a ‘good’ sighting of the tiger on days 1& 2, the cool hazy morning of day 3 made up for it in a way and gave us a beautiful sight – of a peacock with its entire plumage spread out, rhythmically swaying its feathers in a graceful dance to woo a peahen. Ranthambhore boasts houses nearly 300 species of birds and we managed to spot quite a few of them such as the the painted grouse, the crested serpent eagle, the beautiful Asian Paradise flycatcher and the near threatened Oriental Darter.
We also spotted a few crocodiles lazing around near ponds, basking in the sunlight and then stealthily slipping into the water only to stay afloat while being so still, one could easily mistake it for a log. Although we had enjoyed our visits into the park, I would be lying if I said our visit had been complete since we were yet to see a tiger from close proximity. After our last planned safari into the park on the morning of day 4, we decided we had to do something about having not seen a tiger the way he had wished to. Acting on Shashank’s idea, Siddharth, Shashank and I went to the Forest Office with the intention of meeting the Divisional Forest Officer of Ranthambhore National Park (DFO - an officer of the IFS cadre). We met the DFO - Mr. B S Shekhawat, who heard us very patiently and then asked us to arrange for another safari and he would ensure that the vehicle would be made ‘zone free’, i.e it would not be restricted to any particular zone. But not before making it clear that what he was doing was not the usual practice and was an exception. We were ecstatic and immediately cancelled out train tickets for 4 p.m. and luckily managed to book seats in a train that left Sawai Madhopur at 10 p.m. But the biggest challenge was getting a vehicle for the safari. After enduring two hours of the mid noon heat, standing in a long queue and seeing the ugly face of government administration - how every level of the bureaucracy can be manipulated, we were lucky enough to have been able to arrange a 6 seater vehicle. The frenetic activity had already left us tired but it was all worth the trouble as we found out.
Later in the afternoon, within seconds of entering the park, under a tree beside a lake, laid a splendid looking two year old tigress barely twenty feet from us. And if that wasn’t enough, she stood up and walked right past us. Seeing a tigress barely 4 feet away from our vehicle gave all of us goose bumps – what an awe inspiring sight it was! We stayed close to her for nearly an hour tracking each and every movement of hers and capturing her beauty in our cameras. Everything about that one hour was surreal: the grace, the arrogant yet regal walk, the beauty of the black stripes draping her orange body giving her the perfect camouflage and the imperial Ranthambhore fort in the background as she walked into the dense vegetation and into the fading sunlight.
What a perfect end to four wonderful days in Ranthambhore. The tiger might certainly be the most exquisite and royal of all creatures, but in our quest to see a tiger in the wild, we had discovered that there is so much more to the National parks in India than just the tiger.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

lingua mallua

My Favourite movie ever (that is after Borat) is ‘Company’. Yes, I know it’s a surprising choice, but it genuinely is a good movie. (click here) Apart from being a well made Ram Gopal Varma movie, the reason it is so special to me is the presence of Mohanlal. Now, even though I have the classical mallu surname ‘Nair’, I can safely say my maternally dominated upbringing has not let much mallu influence seep into me.(FYI, my mom is a tam-bram) All the same, I have made enough trips to Kerala, watched enough Asianet and even drunk kallu (locally brewed toddy made from..What else. COCONUT!) to know my Mallu roots well enough.
Coming back to ‘Company’, the mallu drenched accent of Mohanlal made the movie watching experience even more entertaining. Try this – in the movie, the police under the Commissioner – Mohanlal, raid the goons’ hide out but they seem to have been tipped off and have flown off to Hongkong…..
Mohanlal to his sub ordinate : “Suna haim woh log Hong-gong gaya haim. Chalo unko pekadne mein to hemara plan flob ho gaya, lekin kam se kam ungo kundry ke bahar to bhech diya!”
(I have heard they have fled to Hong Kong. We may have flopped in our plans to catch them but at least we have made them leave the country.)
The above dialogue epitomizes the Mallu diction : The uniqueness of Malayalees is that they speak all languages in Malayalam.
By the way there are a few people who have taken this mallu accent thing far too seriously. Check this out.
Now even the non observant non south Indian can pick the regular ‘sero’ , ‘zimbly’ or ‘comblete’ but it takes a true mallu to notice the subtle nuances of Malayalish (Malayalam+English…well, it sounds better than Engalayalam!)
Speaking of Hong-gong (Hong Kong), apart from the regular Mus-kett and Thupai (Muscat & Dubai) , there are quite a few places/countries which have been rechristened by Mallus. As I have learnt from a few uncles and my father too,
Zimbabwe is now – Simbaagway
Switzerland is now- Syusserlent
Bangladesh is now – Bengeladesh
And for some odd reason, all – I mean ALL Mallus – even my cousins who are as old as me , are in a time capsule in 1972 and refuse to acknowledge the fact that Sri Lanka is no longer known as Ceylon (or See-lone).

Another Mallu quirk is the prounounciation of the ‘qu’ syllable. It is clear to me that getting this pronounciation right is impossible for anyone from Kerala.
All of us have heard the Saddam Hussein attacking Kuwait joke, so I wont go there again. But the other words have never ceased to amaze me.
Exquisite – es-kyus-sit
Quickly – kyuk-lee
Quintal – kyun-del
All ex students from SVJC (Swami Vivekanand Junior College) will agree with me that back in college, we had an overdose of Malayalee professors in college – from Babu Saar and Unnithan in Maths to The Sir John in Biology, Mr. George who taught in the commerce (‘com-airs’ for Mallus!) , Rama and finally Mrs. George for Chemistry!
And one particular memory of Mrs. George was her pronounciation of the Avogadro’s number. I would always look forward to the way she would reel off the Avogadro’s number ….6.023 x 1023
Here it comes…...”Six poind sero two three…..into….tendrupaar tondy three”.
The part of ‘ten to the power of twenty three’ was kyuk-lee (quickly) compressed into what we heard as ‘tendrupaar tondy three’. Mindblowing!

No south Indian can ever not hear the name of the suburb ‘Sion’ being pronounced as ‘Sa-yawn’ at home. And I still snicker and giggle when I hear my granny say “mu-lend” for ‘Mulund’. (Im still pervertedly smiling as I am typing this part!)

Sigh….if only I was a true bred mallu who had not been corrupted by the silly ways of English schooling in Mumbai.