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Thursday, 31 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 6 [P-R]

P - Priceless Price Scales New Heights

Price is a famous surname in Zimbabwe, what with legendary golfer Nick Price scaling enviable heights in his preferred sport. But nobody would have expected his nephew, a certain Raymond William Price, who was lucky to survive meningitis caught as a baby that resulted in partial deafness and severe coordination problems that took years to return to normalcy, to reach anywhere near his uncle's reputation. But Ray Price himself had other ideas - by the time he walked out of the Zimbabwean Cricket team with other rebels in 2004, he had already established himself as one of the leading spinners in the world, a wicket taking marvel in tests and run containing bowling machine in ODIs.

Ever since his comeback in late 2007 to Zimbabwe fold, Price has played the role of "cheif mentor" for the young and developing Zimbabwe national squad to perfection, and in 2009, he not only continued his stingy run containing habits in ODIs, but took wickets in heaps against teams ranging from Kenya to South Africa. He won a match almost single handedly against Bangaldesh with sensational contributions with both bat and ball at the beginning of the year, and never looked back after that. He scaled new hieghts in ICC ODI bowling rankings by reaching as high as 3rd, and with more cricket against higher quality opposition, his achievements could have been even more glorious. There certainly is no doubting the thought that Price has already reached the legendary status in Zimbabwean Cricket, similar to the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and David Houghton.

Here's hoping for an equally brgiht, if not better, 2010 for this priceless contributor.

Q - Queens Sports Club Roars Back to Life

Ever since Zimbabwe withdrew itself from Tests, little international cricket had been played at the country's second stadium, the Queens Sports Club of Bulawayo. The reason floating around for not organizing matches in the picturesque stadium was that it was not financially feasible. Other stories pointed fingers at lack of facilities and lack of maintenance, which had made the ground unfit for top level compitition. But cricket returned in full flow to Bulawayo this year, with the 5 match ODI series against Bangladesh organized entirely at QSC. The ground also became witness to the world record score of 194* by Charles Coventry, against Bangladesh earlier this year. With franchise cricket making its way in, Matabeleland Tuskers were based out of Bulawayo, making QSC their home ground, as it was the case with the erstwhile Westerns, who won the domestic T20 title of 2008/09 season earlier this year, when the matches were organized at Bulawayo entirely.

R - Ripped Apart in Chittagong

The lowest point of the year for Zimbabwe was certainly the 4th ODI played at ZACS, Chittagong on 3rd November 2009, when the team won the toss, chose to bat first and folded up for a paltry 44. It is one of the lowest totals ever in ODI cricket, and certainly the lowest by any team against Bangladesh. There were arguments that the pitch was not fit enough for an international match, but a lot of blame must anyway go to the Zimbabwean batsmen, most of whom got out for soft dismissals, exposing their inability to handle left arm spin bowling. Captain of the day Hamilton Masakadza did accept that the team management misread the pitch, but the damage had been done. Only saving grace for Zimbabwe on that fateful day was that they managed to snare 4 of Bangladeshi wickets before they could hit their winning runs, thanks to the spin duo of Price and Cremer.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 5 [M-O]

M - Maruma Stakes Claim

There are just too many quality spinners in Zimbabwe at the moment, and the national team fields a three-pronged spin attack of skipper Utseya, Ray Price and Graeme Cremer very often in ODIs these days. Lack of quality seam bowling options could be one reason for this strategy, but inability to leave out one of these three, since none of them deserve to sit out, could well be another. But add to this mix another set of spinning options in Timycen Maruma, John Nyumbu and up and coming Dylon Higgins, and you have luxury. Maruma has sensed the need to step up a gear and be at his best every time he takes the field in domestic competitions, and as a result has done exceedingly well with both bat and ball, thus pushing the selectors to sit up and take notice.

Maruma has played for Zimbabwe before, but due to the spin luxury of the national team, has found it difficult to make the cut for now. He has scored big and quick runs with the bat in the 2009/10 domestic season, and is the leading wicket taker in the Logan cup this year with 48 scalps at an average of less than 16. He has done everything he can to knock on the doors of the national squad, and would be a serious contender to fill an all-rounder spot when the next team selection is made.

N - No Sight, but Great Vision - du Plessis Continues to Impress and Inspire

Those who have followed Zimbabwean cricket in the last decade, especially their home matches, would in all probability, know about a certain Dean du Plessis, and would certainly have loads of respect for the man, and a lot of sympathy and astonishment too. Dean du Plessis is blind from birth, due to tumors developed on the retina of his eyes, and doctors said he would not survive for long. He is in his 30s now, and still going strong, commenting about the game on radio and television. He developed interest in cricket at a very young age thanks to his brother who used to play, and started following radio commentary, and due to enhanced hearing abilities, started understanding the game just by listening to what was going on.

The most astonishing moments of listening to Dean du Plessis in the commentary box for me was when he announced that Dilhara Fernando had probably the most deceptive slower ball among the bowlers going around the world, and again when he said that the pull shot was the favorite shot of Craig Wishart when he pulled one over midwicket for six. He not only understands the game and analyses it, but also remembers many statistics and facts he has realized in the past, and uses this knowledge to dissect the game as it progresses, never lagging behind the pace of the game for a moment, despite his humongous limitations.

du Plessis became more visible to cricket followers around the world in 2009 when the Times featured an article on him. He was also sent to Bangaldesh tour as part of the official touring party of ZC, and did his first commentary stint outside of Africa, thus gaining recognition and respect of people in the subcontinent. Here's wishing the inspirational du Plessis all the very best and hope we can hear his insightful commentary for years to come.

O - Ozias Bvute becomes the Face of ZC

Zimbabwe Cricket, the governing body for cricket in Zimbabwe, has been in limelight for all the wrong reasons over the past few years, especially after the Heath Streak led rebel walkout. Many point fingers at some of the adminsitrators who probably grew too ambitious and looked to bring in too many changes too early, and in many cases, with personal ambitions taking precedence over cricketing successes of the country. Peter Chingoka, the prsident of ZC for almost two decades, has been the most visible face of ZC administration, but in 2009, he took backseat and allowed the CEO Ozias Bvute get a lot of media visibility. Most stories around the rebel walkout period show Bvute as the prime reason behind dissidance, but it seems he is taking a lot of steps towards correcting his mistakes, or at least appears to have been doing so, probably sensing pressure from the unity government at home, and the ICC. Realizing positive action as the need of the hour, the much criticized Chingoka might have taken a wise step to distance himself from the visible administrative activities in an attempt to develop a new outlook for ZC.

Ozias Bvute also might have played a huge part in reconciling differences with former greats like Heath Streak, David Houghton and Co., who have come back into the system in coaching capacity. It would be difficult to analyze the effect this change would bring, as Bvute too has been around for ages now, but one can hope and pray that this new outlook would bring better days for cricket in Zimbabwe.

Monday, 28 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 4 [J-L]

J - Jarvis Junior Jumps in from Nowhere!

Kyle Jarvis, son of former Zimbabwe player Malcolm Jarvis, was picked out of nowhere to represent Zimbabwe in their home series against Kenya. In what is believed to be a masterstroke by the newly appointed bowling coach, the legendary all-rounder Heath Streak, Jarvis was first made to play the 4-day intercontinental cup match for Zimbabwe XI agianst the Kenyans, and was straightaway pushed into the playing eleven for the first ODI. He neither had First Class experience before playing in the Intercontinental Cup match, nor the List A experience before playing in the ODI against Kenya, but did admirably well in his first outing, getting 3/36 in his 7 overs.

Jarvis has since played a total of 9 ODIs including those against the mighty South Africans, and has taken 10 wickets so far. He is seen as the future of the Zimbabwe pace battery, and probably that drove the board to fast track him on to the national scene, to avoid losing him to South Africa, where he was based. Watching him bowl in the South African series, even the likes of Kepler Wessels and Allan Donald expressed hope for the future. One can only eagerly look forward to watching Kyle Jarvis develop under the guidance of Streak and Co.

K - Kenya Marauded - Not Once, But Twice

Zimbabwe got to play their next-door-neighbours Kenya twice this year, a 5 match ODI series on both occasions, and made full use of these to underline their supremacy over the associates. While they marauded Kenya in their own den 5-0 at the beginning of the year, the return leg at home was equally brutal, if we ignore the one slip-up that led to a 4-1 score line.

In Kenya, Chigumbura struck them as lightening, hitting sixes at will, with able support from rookie wicket keeper batsman Forster Mutizwa, who was equally destructive on most occasions. In the Zimbabwe leg, where a 3 match series got extended to a 5 match one, Hamilton Masakadza came up with those world record breaking batting performances. Throughout, spinners excelled too, exploiting and exposing the inability of the Kenyan batsmen in facing quality spinners. Although these performances underlined Zimbabwe's supremacy over Kenya and the progress that is being made, it also exposed how low Kenya have fallen since their impressive run in the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

L- Lock Locked Out

Former Zimbabwe leg spinner Alan Charles Ingram "Charlie" Lock had once terrorized New Zealand batsmen by producing a deadly spell of 5/5 in a span of 11 deliveries to win an ODI for his national team, but he has had turbulent time in the last couple of years, due to the political situation in the country. Lock, who turned professional agronomist after retiring from the sport, had his farm taken away from him from President Mugabe's men, thus locking him out of his own farm and produce, despite conforming to the redistribution regulations. It is a painful story, but Lock wants to fight it out till his last breath.

Here is a CNN report from earlier this year on the situation of Lock and others:

Only hope here is to wish him the very best in his struggle for survival.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 3 [G-I]

G - Graeme Cremer creams Kenya

This was the breakthrough year for the affable leg spinner Alexander Graeme Cremer. He made his much awaited ODI debut in January 2009, four years after making his Test debut against Bangladesh, and created history straightaway. Cremer, who had taken a wicket with his first ball on his T20 International debut against Canada in 2008, took a wicket on the sixth ball of his first over on his ODI debut against Kenya, thus becoming the only bowler in the history of the game to pick up a wicket in his first over in two out of three international forms of the game.

Cremer's year continued to be a bright one, and the icing on the cake came in the second home ODI against the Kenyans at Harare, where he weaved magic to pick 6/46 in his quota of 10 overs, eclipsing the performances of the legendary Ray Price and a more established Prosper Utseya on that day. His all round abilities were on display earlier in the match, as he had scored a breezy 31 of 19 balls to propel Zimbabwe to a respectable total of 263. Cremer finished the year with 32 wickets, and a lot of promise for future.

H - Hamilton's Merry

A man who could score his first test hundred as a 17 year old against the mighty West Indies must certainly have some talent. Hamilton Masakadza, who achieved that feat in the 2000-01 test series, has this year caught the eye of the cricketing world by being in the august company of players who have notched up over 1000 runs in the calendar year in ODIs. Masakadza was in supreme form for most of the year, taking over the role of the most dependable batsman in the line up, and lived up to it, by virtue of producing some huge scores. Finishing the year with 1087 runs at 43.48, with 3 centuries - remember, he did not even have an ODI century against his name at the beginning of the year - must be a satisfying feeling, although he would have loved to end the year on a high in the two match series against South Africa, where he could not score much.

Hamilton Masakadza was in particular severe on the Kenyans, whom he got to face 10 times over the course of the year in the ODI format, and in the home series of 5 ODIs, he plundered 467 runs , a world record aggregate for a bilateral series of any length. He also made two scores of over 150 in the series, 156 and 178 not out, which again is the first time it has ever happened. If the Zimbabwe Vice Captain can carry this form further, he can be one of the batting pillars on whom Zimbabwe Cricket rebuilds itself, along with the likes of Tatenda Taibu, Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor.

I - Injury woes of Utseya and Co.

Injuries ranged from freakish to frustrating to life threatening ones for the Zimbabwean cricketers this year. While skipper Utseya twisted his ankle in an attempt to celebrate the catch he took against Bangladesh and had to remain sidelined for crucial fixtures in the subcontinent, Upcoming all-rounder from Bulawayo, Mbekezeli Mabuza, along with Simba Kusano, survived severe injuries from a huge car crash near Bulawayo. Heartening to note was the fact that Mabuza was back playing first class cricket for his franchise Matabeleland Tuskers towards the end of the year.

Other injuries included the ones to the highly unlucky Sean Williams (during practice and during play), Mark Vermeulen and Edward Rainsford, which kept them out of action at crucial stages of this cricketing calendar. Tatenda Taibu, Ray Price and Elton Chigumbura too had their niggles, which, at times prevented their all round participation in the games they played. With tougher challenges ahead and better facilities expected due to the revival of Cricket, one can hope and expect better fitness management in coming years.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 2 [D-F]

D - Dylon's Dream Domestic Debut

Dylon Higgins, younger brother of former Zimbabwe leg spinner Ryan, is an up and coming leggie and a middle order batsman himself, hailing from the prestigious St. Georges. He will be leading the Zimbabwean Under 19 team in the U-19 world cup early next year in New Zealand, and he probably sealed the captaincy when he made his first class debut for his franchise Midwest Rhinos at the end of October. He had been one of the most consistent performers with the ball with admirable control for a leggie in his U-19 outings this year, which would have convinced the Rhinos to sign him up for their squad. What he achieved on his first class debut, though, was something even the Rhinos management would not have dreamt of.

With most of the Rhinos squad away with national duty or sidelined due to injury, their bowling looked horribly weak without Cremer and Rainsford. Higgins took the field as the lead spinner for the match, and by the end of it, his overall bowling figures read 56.3 - 16 - 151 - 11. He took 6/93 in the first innings and followed it up with a 5/58 to reward Rhinos with a nail-biting 19 run victory in what was probably the most exciting match played in Zimbabwe this year. Considering a performance as strong as this one, it is safe to say that the U-19 team is in able hands. It would be interesting to see how Higgins develops in the coming years, especially in the domestic setup brimming with quality spinners.

Dylon Higgins Image: Courtesy - Zimbabwe School Cricket Community on Facebook

E - England's Ashes Win has Zimbabwean Flavour, Again

The England test team won the Ashes with a scoreline of 2-1 at home again in 2009, similar to the scoreline of their 2005 home victory, thus denying Australian captain Ricky Ponting the opportunity to taste success at the home of Cricket. It is not just the scoreline that looked similar, among other things, one of the major similarities between the 2005 success and that of the 2009 series was that a Zimbabwean was at the helm of affairs, as the coach of the England team. In 2005, it was the former Zimbabwe skipper Duncan Fletcher who inspired the Michael Vaughan led side to victory, and this year, it was the legendary wicket keeper batsman Andrew Flower who played a huge role in helping England achieve the feat.

Flower took over the reins when the much publicized spat between skipper Kevin Pietersen and head coach Peter Moores led to the sacking of both. Having got promoted from assistant coach to head coach position, Flower quickly brought the team together under the leadership of the new skipper Andrew Strauss, and against all odds, managed to forge the team and strategy to outperform the Aussies and win back the Ashes. His influence on the England team is there to be seen, and Strauss did not forget to give due credit to their coach for the unexpected, yet clinical success.

F - Franchise Cricket Brightens Future

Zimbabwe Cricket made sweeping changes to the domestic cricket structure as a step towards implementing the recommendations of the ICC committee, and in the process, moved towards franchise based cricket for the first time in their history. A successful attempt in neighbouring South Africa was reason enough to invest in the new structure, as five franchises, based out of Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Masvingo came into existance. As the year progressed, more details came through, and the franchises got their sponsors and were named as Mashonaland Eagles, Matabeleland Tuskers, Mountaineers, Midwest Rhinos and Southern Rocks.

Schedules for the Logan Cup, the first class competition, Metbank Faithwear domestic one day league, and the domestic 20-20 competitions were all drawn up with the new franchise teams as participants, and these reforms meant that a lot of the former players returned in coaching and playing roles, thus taking the standards of the domestic setup to a new high. Even some overseas players, including Kenyan stars Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo chose to play in Zimbabwe, adding credibility to the leagues. As the year progressed, the investments made started producing results, with some tight finishes and impressive performances, thus strengthening the bench of the Zimbabwe national squad. If the reforms continue in years to come, brighter possibilities await for cricket in Zimbabwe.

Franchise Logo Images: Courtesy -

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 1 [A-C]

This series aims to provide a review of the year that was for Zimbabwe Cricket in 2009. Here is the first part...

A - Alistair and Co. Back in Business

Alistair Campbell, David Houghton, Heath Streak, David Mutendera, Dirk Viljoen, John Rennie: All yesteryear stars, came back to the ZC fold by taking up high profile roles, with one intention - to bring back Zimbabwean Cricket to its glory days. In line with the recommendations made by the ICC and quite possibly to position themselves better in view of the new unity government in Zimbabwe, the ZC officials took many steps in right direction this year, and the legends of the past responded by burying the past and came together to rebuild the game in the country.

While Campbell joined in as the chairman of selectors, Viljoen, Mutendera and Rennie joined him in the panel. Houghton agreed to be the technical advisor and director of national coaching, with Andrew Waller assisting him. Heath Streak too returned as the national bowling coach and romours are rife that he would soon take over as full time head coach of the team. With all this happening in a span of few months, suddenly things have started looking up for the Cricket in Zimbabwe.

B - Business as Usual for "Boom Boom" Chigumbura

It was business as usual for Elton "Boom Boom" Chigumbura, as he continued to increase his sixes tally, terrorizing bowlers all around. Despite injury scares towards the end of the year, he continued his all round contributions to the Zimbabwe team, picking wickets regularly while playing the role of the lead pacer, and hitting ferociously to score quick runs when the team needed them desperately. As if two Man of the Match performances against arch rivals Bangladesh were not enough, in the away series against Kenya, he turned out to be their nightmarish exterminator, hitting their bowlers at will to play a big part in a 5-0 whitewash. If his form is anything to go by, many T20 franchises across the world including the ones in the IPL must be willing to shell out decent contracts to get his services. Chigumbura would have to play a very important role if Zimbabwe have to progress well in the T20 World Cup of 2010.

C - Charles Coventry's Coveted Innings

Charles Coventry's effort of equalling the world record for the highest individual score in an ODI, held by Saeed Anwar of Pakistan (and toppling it by virtue of having remained not out - 194* against Bangladesh at Bulawayo), must go down as the most visible individual achievement of the year for Zimbabwe on the cricketing field in 2009. Taking the Bangladeshi bowlers to the cleaners with utmost brutality, Coventry went from 100 that he reached in the 37th over of the innings to 194* towards the end of it. The innings becomes all the more special when you notice that Coventry was building the Zimbabwean innings for majority of the time, as wickets kept falling at the other end. He deservedly recieved a gaurd of honour from his teammates at the end of the innings, but he would have certainly enjoyed the moment much better if the team had managed to win the match on that day.

Coventry built up to that mammoth knock with some nice scores of 40s and 50s, but post this innings, he suffered a huge slump in form, and failed to impress even domestically for the rest of the year. If he can recreate the magic in the coming years, we can be assured of watching a few more explosive top order knocks from the bespectacled dimunitive wonder.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

An Interesting Story about a Sanskrit Poet

This is a story I have heard from my uncle about a Sanskrit poet (one version refers to the poet in the story as Bhasa and another as Bana Bhatta, so let us not get into who the poet actually was). I was discussing this story with a few of my colleagues recently and thought it is worthy to be blogged about.

So, this poet was writing a novel / mahakavya, which was going to take a long time, and he was getting old with failing health. He was half way through his work and felt that he might not be able to finish it in his lifetime. He wanted someone to finish the epic after his death, but he wanted that person to be worthy enough to do so. He knew both his sons were equally good at writing, so he thought of choosing one of them for the task. So, he called them both, and gave them a small test. He asked them to come up with a poetic sentence that could explain the following statement: "There is a dead tree in front of me".

The first son came forward and said, "शुष्कोवृक्षस्तिष्ठत्यग्रे", which, when expanded, becomes "शुष्कः वृक्षः तिष्ठति अग्रे". The second son, took some time, and came up with this: "नीरसतरुरिह पुरतो भाति", which is nothing but "नीरसः तरुः इह पुरतो भाति". The poet was pleased with the sentence the second son came up with, as he could put even the information regarding a dry tree in a more pleasant way. So, he chose his second son to complete his work.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Astavadhana by Dr. R. Ganesh at Shashvatee

I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the most difficult and "endangered" art forms being performed today, an Astavadhana in Sanskrit and Kannada, by the renowned Shatavadhani, Dr. R. Ganesh. He can perform this art form in three different languages fluently, i.e., in Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu, and according to many, is the only living person today, who can perform this art at least in Sanskrit and Kannada. Without going into the details of both Avadhana and Dr. R. Ganesh's distinguished profile, here is a brief introduction about the two:

Avadhana is a literary performance believed to have originated in Karnataka around 12th century AD, and is very popular in the languages of Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit. Avadhani, the performer of Avadhana, would require to have tremendous abilities of multi-tasking and requires immense memory power too. The multiple tasks that the Avadhani needs to perform range from on-the-spot poetry creation, to identifying the references and details of the poems recited, to keeping count of a bell ringing at random. These activities can be 8, which results in Astavadhana, or 100, which results in Shatavadhana, or even 1000, which results in Sahasravadhana. The Avadhani would have to perform these multiple tasks at the behest of "Pruchchakas" or the Questioners. More on Avadhana on Wikipedia.

Dr. R. Ganesh, one of the very few exponents of this art today, is a literary figure, who has the ability to create poetry in 17 languages including Greek and Latin, and has many books published in different languages. A BE in Mechanical Engineering from UVCE, Bangalore, an M.Sc in Material Science and Metallurgy from IISc bangalore, an MA in Sanskrit from Mysore University and a D.Lit from Hampi University, just show the tip of the iceberg - that is the ocean of knowledge he carries. He had performed 3 Shatavadhanas and 807 Astavadhanas till date, and the one at "Shashvatee", NMKRV College, Jayanagar, Bangalore today was his 808th Astavadhana. This was unique in the sense that he blended the avadhana in both Sanskrit and Kannada very well to keep both the laymen and the learned in the audiences at ease and entertained. More about Dr. R. Ganesh on Wikipedia.

Coming back to today's special Astavadhana at Shashvatee, with eight learned Pruchchakas filling up the roles for "Nishiddhakshari", "Samasyapooranam", "Dattapadi", "Chitrakavyam", Kavyavachanam", "Ashukavita", "Aprastuta Prasangah" and "Sankhyabandhah", Dr. Ganesh was at his sublime best, weaving his magic even as the Pruchchakas tried their all to derail his thoughts throughout. Without going into details, which I certainly am not qualified enough to do (and I do not remember the intricate details anyway), here are some highlights:

The theme for Nishiddhakshari was to create a shloka in Anustup Chandas which could talk about the possibility of a curse of village diety Manchalamma of Mantralaya for the floods that happened recently. The Pruchchaka was very stern in trying to avoid Dr. Ganesh from using any letter that could allow him to form words "Mantralaya", "Yati" "Raghavendra" and the likes. But the genius in Dr. Ganesh shone when he did so much in the first three lines of the four-liner that the Pruchchaka had to concede defeat and allow a free ride for the last line for the Shatavadhani. The summary of the four-liner was that it is incorrect to think of the situation at Mantralaya village as a curse by the local diety Manchalamma on people who worship Sage Raghavendra more than her. It is just the destiny and nature that led to the situation, and that there cannot be enemity among gods. The second line where he skillfully misled the Pruchchaka by starting off with "यन्मञ्चारे..." by conforming to the nishedha of "Ma" and still managing to bring out "Manchala", using "रलयोरभेधः" formula towards the end of it was simply outstanding.

Samasyapoornam saw him completing a funny Kannada line with a four-liner in Skanda vrutta, and in Dattapadi, he acheived the task of describing Lord Shiva's tapas using the sounds "ढुं", "ढं", "ढां", "ढं" with relative ease.

Kavyavachana was out of the world experience, with Smt. Meera treating us with her amazing voice and choice of shlokas and ragas (Ananda Bhairavi, Todi, Darbari Kanada). Pinnacle of Ganesh's performance was when he gave details on the not-so-well-known kriti "Madhura Vijayam" by 14th century Vijayanagara Queen and poet Gangambika Devi.

Chitrakavyam involved creating a verse on Iron Man Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Asustup Chandas, and this is what Dr. Ganesh came up with, in the flower formation:

वर्यधार्यवलद्बल: |
वल्गुफल्गुवचस्पच: ||

Learning the tricks of the Avadhana trade himself, Sri Vasuki, Pruchchaka of Chitrakavyam, had produced a gem of his own about the first home minister of the country, equalling his guru in every sense. This, by the way, was a Mrudangam formation of letters:

द्विजवल्कलसारस: |
नयवल्लभसाधक: ||

Ashukavitas, mainly in Kannada, were excellent too, and Aprastuta and Sankhyabandhas were cakewalk for the genius with amazing wit.

The attendance of the general public for the event though, was disappointing. By the time the performance ended, there were only a few people left in the auditorium, and as a friend pointed out, Dr. Ganesh deserved better. At least a standing ovation. But with that strength, even that would have looked silly. But he doesn't do this for recognition, he does it for his love for the art form, and to learn through the process. This was my second experience of his Astavadhana, having attended it way back in 1998, when he had performed at Channarayapatna. What was heartening there was, for a town as small as Channarayapatna, it looked as if the whole town had gathered at the venue, the Grounds of Navodaya Composite College. There were thousands of them, people even hanging from school building balconies and perched on nearby trees to witness the miracle of Astavadhana. May be times have changed, people here are too busy, or the word did not spread as much as it should have. But no complaints from the attendees though, as they were treated to literary bliss.

Congratulations and kudos to all those at Rastriya Vidyalaya, who were involved in arranging this rare performance.

As a related reference, you can watch the 4-part English video series (about a total of 40 minutes) where Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh shares his immense knowledge about the history and art of avadhana, advaita vedanta and problem solving heuristics with Prof. S. N. Balagangadhara (Ghent University, Belgium).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Sunday, 20 September 2009

An Inspiring speech by Anil Kumble

Here is an inspiring speech given by former India Cricket captain Anil Kumble, which I have tried to translate to Kannada (click on each image to view their larger readable versions of each page):

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Remarkable Resurrection of the Wild and Eccentric Mark Vermeulen

Scene 1: Playing as a batsman in a calm friendly cricket match at his distinguished school in Harare, Zimbabwe, this young prodigy named Mark Andrew Vermeulen failed to control anger when given out leg before wicket by the umpire. He retorted by pulling the stumps out of the ground and by going into the dressing room and locking himself up in there. He then went on to become the captain of the Zimbabwe Under-19 team.

Scene 2, Mid-2003, England: After a disastrous day at the office while playing for his country Zimbabwe against England in a test match, where he had got out for a duck in both innings on the same day, Vermeulen had altercations with the team management and refused to travel with the rest of the team back to the team hotel. Earlier in the series, he had refused to field a ball in the outfield at Hove, citing the weather to be too cold for him to stretch himself. He had actually scored a hundred there a day ago (as can be seen in the picture below)!Team management had enough of his antics and had sent him home in the middle of the test series, only for him to rejoin weeks later as part of the ODI squad.

The two descriptions above might lead you to think that Vermeulen was a spoilt brat who failed to make it big at top level cricket due to attitude problems. But wait, this was just the beginning. What followed was to a large extent simply unbelievable, and extremely unfortunate. And he still managed to emerge out of the mess he had created for himself!

In 2004, while playing club cricket in the Central Lancashire League at UK, his recent failures with the bat had already got to him. While bowling his part time medium pacers later on, he was spraying the ball all around the pitch, for which one of the onlookers asked him to remove his sunglasses while bowling to get better control. That was enough to ignite Vermeulen's anger, as he ran to that section of the crowd, screaming and shouting abuses, and trying to throw at them, whatever he could get hold of. The video below shows the gory details of those ill-fated moments.

For this incident, he was handed a 10 year ban from playing any sort of cricket in the UK, which was subsiquently reduced to 3 years.

As trouble brewed in Zimbabwean Cricket, Vermeulen's troubles too were getting multiplied. During a net session of World Cup 2003, he had been struck on the forehead by an accidental beamer by teammate Travis Friend.

Towards the end of 2004, he recieved another deadly blow to the same area, this time while playing an ODI match against India in Australia. The bowler in question was a young Irfan Pathan.

By the time Vermeulen could recover from this, Zimbabwean Cricket was in tatters, with rebel walkouts and test status suspensions, and he found it difficult to make his way back into the side. Distraught, frustrated and feeleing rejected, on the night of 31st October, 2006, he sensationally set the Zimbabwean national cricket academy on fire. Just hours before, he had tried and failed to bring down the ZCU office boardrooms.

As his former teammates watched the ruins in horror, all the circumstantial evidences were pointing fingers at Vermeulen. Things had become far too serious to consider him just a spoilt brat.

Staring down at a possible 25 years of imprisonment with hard labour for arson, Vermeulen pleaded guilty in the court case in front of the magistrate of Harare.

What came out during the trial was nothing less than startling. The two blows Mark had recieved on his forehead in 2003 and 2004, the latter requiring metal plates to be inserted permanently in his fractured skull, had resulted in a condition medically known as "partial complex epilepsy". This explained the erratic conduct of Vermeulen post injuries. Taking into consideration the fact that he needed immediate medical attention, Vermeulen was released from the case.

Vermeulen, as a man who breathes cricket, then requested the Zimbabwe Cricket authorities to give him a chance to help rebuild the academy he burnt down. He pleaded them to get him into the fold again, saying that cricket was the only thing he knew, and that is the only way he could earn and repay for the rebuilding of the academy. Else, he would remain unemployed in an increasingly strife-torn Zimbabwe.

Given a chance to mend himself, Vermeulen showed that he had not lost any of his class, by piling up huge scores one after another in the 2008-09 first class season in Zimbabwe, and staked claim for a national team call up. One of the most unlikely comebacks of sport history was complete when Vermeulen scored a magnificent 92 for Zimbabwe in the first ODI, representing Zimbabwe against Bangladesh on 9th august, 2009. It remains to be seen if Vermeulen can carry on with this form, fitness and temper to make a better "mark" in Zimbabwean cricket.

Monday, 22 June 2009

My Carnatic Favorites

21st of June is celebrated every year as "World Music Day", ever since it was first conceptualized in France in 1982. You can refer to more information about the significance of the day here.

Carnatic music has been one of the most ancient genres of music, and I have been a follower of it for quite a while now (just as an avid listener, not as a performer, though). In this post, I will try to list down a few of my favorite ragas and renditions, and the corresponding observations I have made.

The raga that first drew me towards Carnatic music was a rare raga called "Jingala", and Smt. Nityashree Mahadevan's rendition of "Anathudanu Ganu" composed by Saint Tyagaraja. You can have a listen to it here. This then paved way to more exploration and I soon became a die hard fan of Raga "Revati", with one of the most popular songs in this Raga, "Nanati Baduku", composed by Annamacharya, making an early impact, thanks to the soulful renditions of Smt. M. S. Subbulakshmi and Mandolin U. Srinivas. Here is a YouTube link to MSS singing this meaningful song:

Soon, I was looking for other compositions of the same raga, and stumbled upon this soulful rendition by Bombay Jayashree, of "Yadava Nee Baa", composed by Saint Purandara Dasa:

After a while, I got attracted to Raga "Jonpuri", with "Eppo Varuvaro", "Rama Mantrava Japiso" and "Hari Chitta Satya" grabbing a lot of attention. Here is a scintillating rendition of the latter composition of Purandara Dasa by the Bombay Sisters. This was followed by the Raga "Ratipatipriya", and here is Ms. Raji Gopalakrishnan with the famous "Jagajjanani Shukapani Kalyani".

Then came the trio of Saramati, Nagagandhari and Natabhairavi. First thing I noticed about these three ragas was that they were so similar, and so heavenly. Only later did I realize that both Saramati and Nagagandhari were "janya ragas" of the "melakarta" raga Natabhairavi, and that explained the similarity. First rendition of Saramati I stumbled upon was the violin extravaganza by V. S. Narasimhan and Co.:

"Mokshamu Galada", composed by Saint Tyagaraja and rendered here by Ms. Dhanya Subramanian is another soul stirring kriti in Saramati:

Here is Ms. Dhanya Subramanian's another rendition, this time, in Raga Nagagandhari:

As for Raga Natabhairavi, here is "Srivalli Devasenapate" by Maharajapuram brothers, Santhanam and Ramachandran, composed by Sri. Papanasam Sivan. As a digression, I have just one curious doubt here. The kriti goes like this:

Srivalli Devasenapate |
Sri Subrahmanya Namostu te ||

But as far as I have studied, in Sanskrit grammar, any salutation must be in Chaturthee Vibhakti (dative case). That means, the second line should ideally have been "Sri Subrahmanyaya Namostu te". Can we classify this as poetic or artistic license?

Anyway, coming back to the topic, let me finish off with my other favorite ragas. Dhenuka and Jayantasri certainly make it to the list, and here are a couple of very famous compositions of these two ragas:

One thing I did notice recently was that most of my favorite ragas, Jayantasri, Jingala, Jonpuri, Nagagandhari, Saramati, and of course Hindola and Darbari Kanada, are all janyas of Natabhairavi. Does it signify anything? Has it got to do anything with human psychology? Does it mirror the state of mind of the listener? A study towards why certain people like certain kind of ragas can be a very worthy exercise indeed.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Kyathanahalli Treasure Hunt

On 3rd April 2009, I could realize a long standing dream, i.e., to travel to Kyathanahalli village, in search of our “Yoga Mestru” at Chaitanya Vidya Shala, Channarayapatna – Mr. K. S. Kantharaju. Kyathanahalli village is near Pandavapura (it is actually 5 kms away from the Pandavapura Railway Station a.k.a. KennaaLu) and I had known for long that it was Mr. Kantharaju’s native place. Long back, that is, just before he left Channarayapatna, probably around 1997-98, he had gifted me a book, and had written his address inside the book. From this, I could get to know that he was from Kyathanahalli. Also, about a year ago, Srikanta, a friend and fellow “Kantharaju admirer” :) had learnt from another source that Kantharaju was running a business at a place called “Arathi Ukkada”, which was also close to Pandavapura. I will come back to the Kantharaju story a little later…

Many a times, I had seen a signboard just after passing Pandavapura Railway Station that said “Way to Vivekananda Tample” while travelling from Mysore to Channarayapatna, and this time, I thought of taking a detour and checking it out by myself. Only after reaching Pandavapura Railway Station, I got to know that the temple is inside Kyathanahalli village itself, and that it is about 5 kms from that place. The temple itself, named “Vivekananda Mandira” is quite large and detailed, and has been built there over the last decade or so, with the funding of the Devine Park Trust, and a few other likeminded people, with importance given to “Sarva Dharma Samanvaya”, peaceful meditation facilities, “Daasoha”, “Upanyaasa” and the likes.

Here are a couple of snaps of the temple, and still-under-construction buildings of the ambitious project:

If anyone is interested in visiting this place, you can get in touch with the person below:

Mr. J. Krishna Kumar,
Public Relation Officer,
“Kripa Sinchana”
Kyathanahalli – 571427
Mobile No: 9900567362

Then, the obvious question came up. After taking a look at the Vivekananda temple and its facilities, I asked Mr. Krishna Kumar about Kantharaju, the Yoga teacher. He said he knew him, and straightaway pointed me to his home at the village. I could not believe that it would be so easy, but there I was, standing in front of the beloved Yogasana expert whom I had last met in 1999!

I could not believe when he could so vividly remember me and most of our schoolmates with their names, their parents and the way we to attend Yoga classes, and even the Asanas most of us were uncomfortable with, which was “Sheershasana” in my case. :)

He had an album of photos which were exclusively set aside for the photos taken during the Yogasana classes and competitions while he was at Chaitanya Vidya Shala. He could recall almost every name in the photos, and regretted that he had lost contact of almost all of them. Here are a few photos of his Yoga teaching days at Chaitanya Vidya Shala, Channarayapatna:

Getting back to Mr. Kantharaju’s story, he left his beloved school in 1998 to pursue TCH and get a regular teacher’s job in one of the government schools in and around his native place. But unfortunately, ridiculous changes to hiring rules coupled with favoritism and corruption meant that he did not get the job both the times he wrote and cleared the exams in 1999 and 2001. He then decided to turn his back towards the teaching profession, and concentrated on his family farms and floated a shamiyana and furniture business on his own at Arathi Ukkada, where people flock day in and day out to get the blessings of the presiding deity Ahalyadevi.

Arathi Ukkada is midway from Pandavapura Railway Station and Kyathanahalli, and his was the first such store in that place. It turned out to be a very successful decision for him, and he now says, the fact that he could not get the teacher’s job was probably a blessing in disguise, as he now has a healthy job at his doorstep. He says that he is confident of leading a satisfactory life with what he is doing, and of course, is now happily married with two kids. Here is him, obliging to have a photograph taken with me. :)

Thus, for me, the “Kyathanahalli Treasure Hunt” became a rousing success.