Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Should I change my name to 'C'eshava?

While working at Tata Elxsi, we had a client manager whose name is now Chris Malakapalli. He is basically an Indian who went to US for his higher studies and settled down there. His name was Krishnakanth which was later Americanized to Chris.
Now my reason for changing (just thinking ;-) from Keshava to Ceshava is somewhat different. My uncle (@gmsbhat) in one of our twitter conversations suggested this because I have a liking for things that start with letter ‘C’.

Cricket/Cricinfo – I am a diehard fan of cricket which for me is Test Cricket and First Class Cricket. I now read and comprehend all the articles written in cricinfo. I always used to start reading the newspaper from last page where the sports section is covered, unlike others who read the 1st page headlines, political news, Page 3 etc. I wouldn’t just read all the words, I would also read between the lines, analyse, interpret and think about them. I pride myself in remembering the various statistics, records and results. During my school days, I used to play underarm tennis ball cricket from dawn to dusk. In my bid to learn overarm leg spin bowling I developed a unique Paul Adams style of delivery.

Coconut/Cocoguru – The business that I am into is about Coconuts.  The brand and company name is Cocoguru. I entered this sector because of the value Coconut offers. Also it is made easy by the fact that my father has already started coconut oil manufacturing more than 30 years ago. Every part of Coconut tree is valuable and is called ‘Kalpavriksha’. Coconut oil is the most complete oil, edible, cosmetic, medicinal and industrial. In short it is simply nectar.

Computer/’C’ – I am a Computer Engineer by qualification. I used to enjoy the course because my creative juices found good opportunity while programming in it. I used to write simple game programmes, simply browse through linux source code appreciating its beauty. I used to program them in ‘C’ language though I had learnt a bit of C++, JAVA, PERL, Shell script, html etc. Somebody used to call me K&R (K&R stands for Kerninghan and Ritchie, the founders of ‘C’ language), my name being Keshava Ram also has K & R in it. People who were jealous of my programming skills used to criticise saying I was only good at ‘C’. They think it is just about knowing the language, but I think more about understanding the computer hardware, proficiency in mathematics and logic, efficient use of Data Structures and Algorithms and writing clean code using the principles of Software Engineering.

Cycling – I love cycling even if we ignore the fact that it is a good exercise, environment friendly and economical. I had written about it earlier in my blog post.

Chess – I also like Chess and I claim to be an above average chess player. It is a simple game (64 black and white squares, 6 types of pieces with simple movements) with infinite possibilities. It is a game that tests a players’ strategy, tactics and competitive/combative spirit. I pride myself at having those strengths. Game has no dependence on little externalities like weather, location, time of the day, toss etc. Luck has no role, it is all up to how one plays in the given game. My biggest moment in this game is winning the VTU championship for college in 2002 at Ranebennur. I couldn’t pursue this game deeply because of lack of partners, as it was perceived as a boring game. Now I keep getting addicted and withdraw from

CAT – Getting into business has been my dream career. Being from a Science/Engineering background, I wanted a formal education in business i.e. MBA. I always believed in studying at the best colleges hence wanted to have a shot at IIMs by appearing for CAT (Common Admission Test). CAT has 3 sections – Quantitative, Logic and English. I was very good at first two but equally poor at English. I used to prepare for 80% of the time on English, yet achieve poor results. This was because of my lack of aptitude for the subject. I had made 4 attempts at cracking CAT and failed each time. Though my score kept improving from 88 percentile in 2002 to 97.5 percentile in 2006, my below par score in English would prevent me from getting elusive IIM calls. Each year I used to prepare sincerely despite my day job. I had made a lot of sacrifices in those 4 years for this purpose. In the final year I decided that I am definitely going to do an MBA even if it is not from an IIM. Now, I have no regrets about the choices I made.

There will be many more 'C' words that I have been associated with, but the above mentioned words are the ones with which I have deepest association.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

India is really the No.1 Test team

Just before the final Test of the India Sri Lanka series, I had written in my facebook status that India won at least one Test in every series India played since the Pakistan tour in Jan 2006. This includes even the series we lost in South Africa (1-2), Australia (1-2) and Sri Lanka (1-2). We have shown this consistency over a sufficiently long period of 4.5 years.
Even Australia doesn't hold this record as they failed to win a test in India  when they lost the series 0-2 in 2008. In the same period Australia has lost same number of series i.e. 3 to South Africa (1-2), Ashes 2009 (1-2) and India (0-2). Ashes 2005 loss though doesn't belong to the period under consideration.

India's next series is against Australia for Border-Gavaskar trophy in October. India will start the series as favorites, does it ever happen that Australia start a series as an underdog? Such has been India's form and dominance in Border Gavaskar trophy in which India won 10 and lost 10 in 26 matches, more importantly won the trophy 5 times out of 7.

Team composition-vise India has the best batting lineup that can only be imagined in dreams. Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman are those players who complete the lineup. Need I say more about batting? Cool headed, smart, charismatic leader in Dhoni to add to his reliable wicket keeping and batting. Highest wicket taker (355 wickets) among the bowlers still playing in Harbhajan. Mature, accurate, dead wicket bowler in Zaheer Khan. Promising spinners like Prahgyan Ojha. Still bowling needs to improve to consistently get 20 wickets. But great bowlers are rare with any team in the world not just India.

I strongly believe success in Test Cricket is not about having players with great skill, India always had them. It is about how players react to pressure, their patience, concentration, intensity in the contest over 5 days, how team handles situations. India showed enough fighting qualities over the last few years.
Taking example of the last test at Colombo.
  • Arguably the weakest bowling lineup created enough chances at took 20 wickets not by bowling the best deliveries but by forcing errors in batsmen due to sustained pressure.
  • New ball spins and bounces more, but once the ball gets old it is easier to play. Indian batsmen smartly used this fact to their advantage in the run chase.
  • Indian batsmen have this propensity to hit boundaries to score runs but when Sangakkara spread his field, batsmen curbed their natural instincts and collected singles.
  • While chasing a tricky target like 250 and having lost 3 wickets, batsmen generally get into their shell, look to defend and survive, forget about scoring runs. But Tendulkar and Laxman batted positively, scored runs briskly to ease pressure.
This Indian team grabs most opportunities and doesn't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Earlier we have lost to West Indies chasing 120, lost Sydney Test with 5 minutes remaining and lost Chennai Test to Pakistan by 12 runs. Instead now, we have saved Napier test by batting for 7 sessions after following on, won Chennai Test against England chasing 387, just won Colombo Test chasing 256, drew the Lord's test with 1 wicket remaining. But we haven't been able to finish matches that should have been won - against Pakistan at Bangalore, against England at Oval and against New Zealand at Wellington.

Earlier India used to start a series as favorites, win the 1st test with ease, draw another test and somehow lose the final test to share the series that we should have won. Like at home against Pakistan in 2005 and England in 2006. Instead now reverse is true like in England in 2007, in Sri Lanka in 2010.

India does not have the best Win count or percentage as Australia does because India mostly plays in placid pitches or during rainy season when matches usually end in a draw.

Critics can say India reached the top by fluke (after winning home series against Sri Lanka) but India has stayed there for 9 months now maintaining a larger margin from the next best team.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Why VVS Laxman isn’t in the limelight?

It is a good time to talk about Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman.  As he has just helped India win the Colombo Test with an important unbeaten century.

He is always considered to be part of the golden Indian middle order batsmen (Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly being other) but never as an Individual great like others. To me immediate association with Laxman is his monumental 281 and his stylish wristy shots on onside. He doesn’t hold too many individual records like Tendulkar, Dravid or Sehwag. But he is a good player in crisis situations and along with Dravid form among best batting partners in world cricket.

Those who hadn’t realised his value in the team realised it when South Africa toured India for 2 tests in 2010. He missed the 1st test and India lost it, he came back for 2nd test, scored a century and India won it. It is not mere co-incidence; he was the very reason for the difference in result.

Personal records
Unlike Tendulkar, Dravid or Sehwag who have plenty of Individual batting records to their name, Laxman holds no such records. His achievements are severely dwarfed by those of his partners.
  • For a player who has played 113 tests, he has scored only 7415 career runs. To put that in perspective, Sehwag has accumulated 7039 runs in only 79 matches. The main reason for this difference is that Laxman bats at No. 6 while Sehwag opens.
  • Laxman averages only 47, used to average 43 some time back despite 29 not outs. On a stand alone basis it is a very good average an New Zealand/England batsmen would be extremely proud of it. Again putting that in perspective of his peer’s averages – Gambhir – 53, Sehwag – 54 (with 5 not outs), Dravid – 53, Tendulkar – 56.

But he is among the best difficult pitch players and man to handle crisis situation. How deep can a crisis get than trailing 1-0 in the series and being asked to follow on? How has he responded, scored 281 and turned the series from the verge of losing 3-0 to in fact winning it 2-1 and start a cricket revolution in India.

His best knocks otherwise aren’t those big hundreds, they are those short little cameos on difficult pitches. Here is an abridged list of few such match winning knocks that people don’t easily remember.
  • 54 vs South Africa at Ahmedabad on debut in 1996
  • 69 vs Australia at Mumbai in 2004 to setup a stiff 4th innings target of 107!
  • 79 vs Australia at Perth in 2008 to take India’s lead past 400
  • 73 vs South Africa at Johannesberg in 2006 to help India win its first test in South Africa
  • 50 vs South Africa at Kanpur in 2008
  • 69* and 74 vs West Indies at Trinidad in 2002
  • 65 and 66 vs Australia at Chennai in 2001 where he led India to a difficult 4th innings chase of 155
  • 72* vs Pakistan at Delhi in 2007 where his partnership with Dhoni helped India match Pakistan’s 1st innings score

None of these knocks would help in improving one’s records but are an immense benefit to team’s cause. Yet is questioned about his team play as he doesn't bat well with tail.

Test only player
He has been stereotyped as a player who can only play tests. Many don’t remember his series deciding hundred in last ODI at Pakistan in 2004. But one or two innings don’t make you a good player. His poor running between the wickets is his weakness that justifies his omission from one day squad. India plays close to 40 ODIs an year and only 8 tests hence Laxman doesn’t fall into majority of fan’s radar.
Laxman is not known for big hitting as he has hit only 4 sixes in each format his entire career!

Money and Advertisements
He had a disastrous stint in IPL, with him as captain his team Deccan Chargers finished last. He also had an ugly spat with his team-mate Shahid Afridi who no where matches Laxman’s class and stature.
He had an option to be the Iconic player for the team and get about $ 1.5 million but opted out of it for $ 450 K to allow his franchise select players like Symonds for $ 1.35 million.
His reserved nature, lack of individual identity, typical south indian accent, sporadic appearance in Team India hasn’t helped him in getting lot of endorsements too.