Sachinnnn Sachin! ThumpThumpThump! Sachinnnn Sachin!

This column is pointless because Sir Lord Jedi King Of The World Mother of Dragons Sachin Tendulkar has retired and nobody cares about anything anymore, including my editors, which means that any rubbish I write will be printed MY HUMPS MY HUMPS MY LOVELY LADY LUMPS.

Before I proceed, I’d like to reaffirm my allegiance to the Church of Sachin and assure you that as a mark of respect, I am wearing my abdomen guard at half-mast today. In fact, I’m going to go out and have some kids right now, just so I can sacrifice them at the Altar of Aila.

Having said that, it was a little sad to see Sachin go out the way he did. He began his career in Pakistan, with Wasim and Waqar gunning for his head, and ended it against Whatshisname and Whatshisface from a team whose current ICC Test ranking is LOL. It’s like having Michael Schumacher end his career with a race against female drivers from Saudi Arabia.

But even so, Sachin’s last match was about something glorious, something much bigger than you and me: celebrities. Aamir Khan turned up and said that he’d love to play Sachin on screen. In fact, Aamir has already started preparing by having really whiny childhood friends. Rahul Baba was at the Wankhede too, where – and this is true – the crowd taunted him with chants of “Modi Modi”. There are two possibilities here:

a)     The chant is indicative of a real shift in voter sentiment across the country.

b)     The Wankhede crowd just wanted someone to mess with. These are the same people who, in the golden days, threw Nagma chants at Ganguly, so really, this bunch of overgrown sixth graders is hardly indicative of voter sentiment. However, they wouldn’t have taunted Modi with a chant, because it’s really difficult to put a beat to “Kodnani Amit Shah Godhra US Visa Hashtag Fail”.

Another celeb who received a lot of footage was Ultimate Sachin Fan Sudhir Gautam aka the bald guy with the tri-colour body paint, who attends all of India’s matches and looks like a malnourished Vinod Kambli. You can call him nuts, but I’m a little jealous of his enthusiasm. I wish I was as crazy and passionate about something, anything, as Gautam is about going out there day after day and getting lead poisoning from all that paint.

This is also the perfect time to catch up on Sachin trivia. My favourite nugget is that when Sachin made his debut in 1989, most of his current teammates were in diapers. For example, Virat Kohli was just a year old. But even at that age, his talent shone through as he picked up his little plastic bat and said, “TERI BLEEP KI BLEEP, BLEEP-BLEEP!” and then stalked the baby in the next pram.

(My own connection with The Master was forged at age six, when I asked for my first, proper big-boy bat and got one that just happened to have a legend’s autograph on it. I wasn’t really aware of player names then, but I was still over the moon, showing it off to the older boys in the park, whose reaction was, “Meh. Now go field.” That’s because it was a Sanjay Manjrekar autograph, which, as I realised, was like having a guitar signed by a groupie who’d once bumped into Ringo Starr.)

At Wankhede, the West Indians were just glorified bowling machines. Their job was to deliver balls to Sachin, who hit them sky-high, where they blossomed into unicorns and vomited rainbows all over the city. I’m okay with missing that, but I wish I could’ve been there for that farewell speech, because it has been a while since I bawled in public.

And of course, I wish I could be there for the after-parties. After a career marred by propriety and political correctness, I want to see Sachin go nuts the way he’s supposed to. I want to see him get sloshed and run around the room pretending to be a train. I want to see him hug Ganguly again while saying, “TU MERA BHAI HAI, BHAI!” thirty times in one night. I want to see Sachin scrunch up his face, bite his lower lip and do a tapori dance to Sapne Mein Milti Hai, just like every Maharashtrian man at a party ever. But most of all, I just want him to read the following: Dear Sachin, thank you for a lifetime supply of warm and fuzzy feelings in my happy place. Also, could you please autograph this old bat I have lying around?

(Note: This is my HT column dated 17th Nov 2013.)

My Last Match Brings All The Moochers To The Yard

On the 18th of November, 2013, Sachin Tendulkar will retire from cricket for the 46th time, leaving a crotch-shaped hole in the hearts of die-hard fans who will no longer have the pleasure of cribbing about how “yaar he should retire only what does he think he is Advani or what.” Well-wishers say that this will be a welcome change for Sachin and that he’ll get to spend some time at home with his kids because really, that’s what teenagers want – their dad to be home all the time.

Just like everybody else my age, I will make this retirement about me, and feel sad about how a permanent fixture from my childhood might now be relegated to a studio full of forced smiles and earplugs, as Sidhu blares on about how GURUUU THE PITCH IS BOUNCY LIKE A COKED UP PUNJABI IN A NIGHT CLUB ON A TRAMPOLINE OYE! Adding to this are reports about Sachin’s supposed demands for his last test at Wankhede, like a commemorative painting, free tickets and slow full-tosses down the leg side.

Some sections of the press had reported that Sachin wanted a portrait, which would have been difficult for any artist. Think about it. Could Da Vinci have painted the Mona Lisa if the model kept fidgeting and making a gentleman’s adjustment every six seconds? No, Da Vinci would have chosen a different subject and as a result, people at the Louvre today would spend hours staring at a painting of a bowl of fruit. (Okay fine, a bowl of fat naked fruit.) And if there was ever a portrait of Sachin as done by the BCCI, it would just be a picture of a pile of gold-plated dollars, painted using the tears of Vinod Kambli.

In addition to this, there will be cut-outs all over the premises, highlighting key moments from Sachin’s career, so you can expect one of Shane Warne in a ballerina outfit because nyah nyah nyah Desert Storm. Also, Sachin has reportedly asked for 500 tickets, 300 of which are in the North Stand, where fans will offer tributes by singing about Pakistani anatomy. Not that there will be too many fans buying tickets in the first place. Out of the 33,500 seats at Wankhede, only 4000 will be allocated to the general public, with the rest reserved for MCA officials, BCCI officials, VIPs, celebrities and their support staff i.e. agents, stylists, spotboys, drug dealers, plus the clubs associated with the MCA (of which there are 367 – apparently the criteria for association is that you must own a functioning hand which you can pretend is a bat).

It’s the same for Sachin’s 199th test at Eden Gardens, where only 5000 tickets will be made available to the general public. Ridiculous. You’ll find that many cricket fans standing outside an electronics store on any given day. And that’s just during the toss. At a Liberia-Somalia match.

I can’t imagine so much drama and effort going into any other player’s farewell. This will never happen with, say, Virat Kohli, because you can’t have a stadium decorated with giant cut-outs of middle-fingers. And you’d never, ever see this royal treatment for non-cricketing sportspeople. For example, it’s going to be different when Dhanraj Pillay hangs up all his boots:

Government: As a celebration of your fine career, we hereby gift you one bottle of water.


Government: Kidding!

Dhanraj: Phew.

Government: It’s actually a bottle of Dhoni’s sweat.

It’s nice how the reports make it sound like Sachin’s last five cricketing days are going to be a party. They’re probably not. It’s a test match, and sure, once in a while, test matches are glorious goosebump-inducing battles (usually on the evening of the fifth day, when Pakistan or Steve Waugh is in town, and the whole game has been directed by Michael Bay). But otherwise the most exciting part of a test match is when you stave off sleep by injecting caffeine directly into your eyeballs. (Note: This does not work if Manjrekar is in the commentary box.)

But everything said and done, Sachin will always be considered god, especially in Mumbai, which means that his team mates will parade him on their shoulders while dancing to Sheela Ki Jawaani and then dunk him in the sea. The only difference is that he won’t return next year. I think.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 27th Oct, 2013.)

A Spot-Fixer Always Knows Where His Towel Is

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in some remote medieval outpost like, say, Kolkata, you’re aware of the latest blow inflicted upon the noble character of the IPL by Rajasthan Royals bowler and part-time item number, Sreesanth. He was arrested by the Delhi police earlier this week for his role in an international spot-fixing scandal, which is unprecedented because we’ve never, ever heard of Mallus taking orders from people in Dubai.

On a serious note though, I couldn’t believe the news when I first heard it. It’s shameful that Sreesanth would be in touch with bookies through BBM. Seriously, BBM? What next – topping your i’s with hearts and licking One Direction posters? The news was also met by anguish from Sreesanth fans across the world. Or as he likes to call them, Mom and Dad. It was a bit scary to watch Sreesanth being taken away by the Delhi police. Then again, he’ll be fine, because he’s used to being whacked by North Indian men.

(I’m just glad that the Delhi Police hasn’t issued a statement saying that spot-fixing wasn’t Sreesanth’s fault, and that it was the fault of the money for being out late at night in the wallets of strangers, and none of this would’ve happened had it stayed at home locked in a Godrej cupboard like good Indian cash.)

Two more Royals bowlers were arrested with Sreesanth, namely Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, who reportedly went for 40 lakhs. Sreesanth allegedly received 60 lakhs, thus confirming once and for all that the IPL is a hotbed of mind-altering substances, because it takes a special kind of mouth-breather to throw away his career for what is essentially the ability to buy six tiles worth of real estate in a Bhayander leper colony. The last time the Rajasthan royals were associated with something this stupid, it was called sati.

Also, as a bookie, how desperate do you have to be to pay Sreesanth to bowl badly? It’s like paying pigeons to poop on your car. But happen it did, and the circus that followed was hugely interesting. First came the response from that fount of virtue, the BCCI, with Messrs Pawar and Srinivasan basically saying that corruption is the worst thing to hit the sport, second only to police investigations. Then came the denials from Sreesanth’s family members, with his brother-in-law claiming that the entire plan had been hatched to sabotage his upcoming marriage plans. You know what really upsets marriage plans? Being told that you’re marrying Sreesanth.

But apparently, he does fancy himself as quite the ladies man. Reports suggest that investigators lured him to a plush Bombay pub with the promise of “some female company”. How optimistic. I mean if Sreesanth had been around instead of Adam, Eve would’ve suddenly gotten a headache and said that “we should just be friends because I’m really looking to focus on my snake-charming career right now”.

The Delhi police then described the signalling system used by the players to help bookies identify the fixed overs. For example, a towel tucked into Sreesanth’s pants meant that he was ready to throw an over, and a smile meant that he’d probably rubbed the same towel all over Harbhajan’s lunch. There are other signals that give spot-fixers away, such as wearing a specific wristband, doing the Nagin dance step with an abdomen guard on your head, being Pakistani etc.

This could only have happened in the gold-plated world of the IPL. You’d never see something like this in, say, Indian football. That expose would be weird:

Cop: Yes, we’ve uncovered a massive fixing syndicate in the Indian Football League. Players are being paid a whopping eighteen rupees to mess up free kicks, and if they manage to flub a penalty, bookies reward them by allowing them to sleep on the railway platform least soaked in urine.

I’m sure this latest scandal will put cricket fans off the game, seeing as how we stopped watching after the Azharuddin expose. Having said that, there are still hard-working men left in the game – men who come in day after day, and do the job they were born to do. They’re called bookies.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 19th May 2013. Cross-posted from here.)