Friday, May 07, 2010

Practice makes a man perfect

... and apparently, the lack of it makes him suck at it. Fellows, here's the story of my life. The story of how a young little boy didn't get to be what he always wanted to be, but instead ended up being what the society wanted him to be. It's sad, so get your handkerchiefs out and move your cup or tea away from you.

As a kid, I was awesome at cricket. I played for my team back home from the age of 11. That is no mean achievement considering the fact that the next youngest chap in the team was at least 5 years elder to me. I started off fielding for my team, at what I thought was the most awkward position; exactly behind the wicketkeeper - just before the gutter. It wasn't until 3 years later that I realized it wasn't a 'real' position, per se; but hey I love my fielding.

It was one fine day, when I was 13 or something, I guess that I bowled to one of our top batsmen. The ball cut in sharply and had the batsman's stumps flying. Oh, actually the stump just limply fell down because it wasn't fixed properly - but hey, I got our top batsman out. He was 19 and I was 13; and I bowled him over. (Argh! Not like that.) This gave me a break. Like a real one. I was now officially the "practice bowler" for the team. This would ensure our "match bowler" never got tired. One season of dedicated 'nets' bowling and I found my place in the team the next year. I was elated. Oh! By the way, I still possess the pebble on the pitch that made the ball cut sharply in the first place. Anyway.

Now, there was this new problem I realized after some 6 years of playing cricket. I never got a chance to bat. I was the team's designated bowler. I knew I was a good batsman; I had joined the local cricket coaching class for a year and won the best batsman award too. I had played 47 balls, scored 27 runs and stayed not out. I scored 2 boundaries; one a fine late cut through third man and the other a fine glance to fine leg. Sublime. I was a lean guy; I scored a whole 7 runs in front of the wicket. I had the highest average in the team, and it is my honest belief that I deserved the award. So, now I was 20 and hadn't gotten a single chance to prove my batting abilities. I approached the captain, and asked him if I could open the innings. After he stopped laughing, he rose from the floor and sat on the wall he had fallen off laughing, he realized that I was not joking.

And he gave me a chance. Now, fellows, this was the first time I was opening the innings. And we were playing the team from a nearby slum. I was a bit nervous, sweaty hands and all. When I walked back after seeing my leg stump take a walk itself, my captain patted on my 20 year old shoulder and said, you should practice. My eyes gleamed. The walk back from the pitch to the pavilion, which was really a tree at the end of the ground, was long and full of thoughts about nifty come-backs to the team's sarcastic remarks that would have welcomed me. But instead, the captain showed some confidence in me. I was determined to practice.

But friends, if there is anything which is more truer than 'Practice makes a man perfect', it is 'Old habits die hard'. No one would ever bowl seriously during practice matches except me. People would try all sort of weird bowling styles and spins. I never got to bat a real bowler except during matches. And, then we moved grounds. A new construction came up in the ground we used to play and we moved to this area where we could play only on the off side. And then the next 3 years, I would bat only to play on the off side. I practiced, yeah. And I could bat like a gem on the off side. But, except for the paddle sweep - I couldn't play the on side for nuts. And this had to happen to the boy who idolized Mohd. Azharuddin.

Now, I am in California and I play cricket. I could bowl after a hiatus of 5 years with little practice. I could bat on the offside, once I get my touch. But the on side, it simply doesn't exist.

PS: Irrelevant but true. My cousin's apartment housed a girl named Kripa: she was an amazing cricketer. It was she who first prodded my to try and bat up the order (in under-arm) cricket. Any baseless confidence that was instilled in my little mind, is credited to her.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tough Choice

Everyone comes across phases in life where one has to make tough choice. A decision that would potentially change the way you lead your life. Decisions that would affect not just self, but others around.

I had my chance last week. I was checking into the Double Tree Hotel (Hilton Group) in Berkeley for a week's stay. It is a fantastic hotel, right by the bay with scenic look outs. Just when I was checking in, at the reception counter the sweet Philipino lady with a welcoming smile handed over my room key and asked me a question: "Breakfast or internet?"

I was baffled. I thought I didn't hear it correctly. In a parliamentary manner of asking her to repeat, I said 'What the ...??!!' To which she duly replied - one of them is complimentary. Now, this was a choice that would decide my lifestyle for the rest of the week. All week long, client meetings were lined up to start at 8 am in the morning, which meant getting up at 6. So, given that lunch would be no earlier than 12 noon - no breakfast meant 6 hours of no food. On the other hand, no internet meant no evening life.

Giving this a quick consideration, I found myself unable to take the decision. I asked her again, 'Are you serious?', to which she curtly replied "Yes".

I took the keys and went back to the room. Unpacked my stuff, took my laptop and walked over to the lobby for free internet and spent the night up to 2 am working in the lobby. Crazy, right? But hey, in my defense, the breakfast was by the bay and they served good hot tea. So...

Anyway, what choice would you have made: Breakfast or internet?