Monday, July 23, 2007

India vs. England, First Test, Day 5

Instead of writing my stupid U.S. visa post, I’m spending today watching the India-England test and reporting on what I see in real time. Bill Simmons, eat your heart out.

3:01 – Michael Atherton tells us all three results are possible. What about a tie? Shouldn’t he be saying all four results are possible? Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, an Indian win is not possible. Not with Dravid gone. Just letting everyone know.

3:02Anderson opening to Karthik. I’ve been impressed with this Karthik fellow. He plays pretty straight and can bat.

3:03 – My mum is calling me downstairs because someone has come over to our house.

3:06 – It was an Auntie wanting to congratulate me on my engagement. Hopefully this won’t happen again the rest of the day.

3:08 – Atherton and Botham are discussing the events of yesterday’s last over, when Ganguly turned down an easy single, forcing Karthik to play out the over (Karthik did eventually get a single off the fourth ball). They’re talking like Ganguly intentionally turned down the run because he prizes his wicket more than he prizes Karthik’s, and that he didn’t want to face up any of the last over before the close. Has it occurred to either of them that Ganguly may just be a crappy runner?

3:12 – You know I hate Ganguly as much as the next guy but the guy’s batting on 36 right now, which is more than Dravid’s and Tendulkar’s combined score. He was also India’s highest run scorer in South Africa. Ganguly: India’s Crisis Man.

3:14Anderson keeps bowling down the leg side to Ganguly. He did this yesterday too. I think he’s trying to get him bowled behind his legs because Ganguly shuffles a bit when he’s playing behind square on the leg side. Either that, or Anderson is just misfiring and pretending like he has a plan. Now he gets glanced for four. 238 to go!

3:20 – Ganguly caught plumb in front by Sidebottom. As Botham says, “You’re in trouble, Sourav.” So are India. Four down, and in comes Laxman.

By the way, I’d like to say something quickly while the ads are on. When their careers are over, Ganguly will probably have a better record than Laxman. In fact, for a guy with his talent, Laxman has a pretty disappointing record: an average of 42 in an era when everyone decent averages around or above 50, and less than 5000 runs in 80-odd matches. But for as long as Laxman’s career is discussed, I really would like anyone doing the discussing to mention how badly screwed he has been by Indian administrators, captains, coaches and the like. The guy’s never been treated fairly, been shunted around the batting order like he’s Shoaib Malik, and has always taken it with his mouth shut. Now at 6, he gets to bat with the tail in another lost cause. How many more runs would he have scored in his career if he wasn’t always batting with the tail? How many fewer would Ganguly have scored if he was forced to do what Laxman does? We’ll never know.

3:31 – Laxman plays a beautiful forward defensive off Sidebottom to mid-off for no run. It really is too bad he wasn’t born in the Pakistani Hyderabad. We really could have used this guy over the last ten years.

3:33 – Karthik caught at slip, playing a shot that can be best described as “loose and needless.” India five down. God, I feel bad for Laxman. Now he gets to bat with stalwarts like Zaheer, R. P. Singh and Sreesanth. For that to happen, Dhoni has to first play a retarded shot outside off-stump to leave Laxman completely alone. Wait, it’ll probably come around by the time of the first commentary change.

3:36 – Being beckoned downstairs again. This sucks.

3:40 – It was an Uncle, the husband of the aforementioned Auntie. He wanted to commiserate me on my engagement. He says he thought I was sensible and that I would learn from his and my father’s example how foolish marriage is. Funny dude, that Uncle. Anyway, this Sidebottom and Anderson shit is boring. Bring on Monty!

3:41 – Sidebottom softens Dhoni up with a couple of bouncers and then beats him outside off. Yeah, haven’t seen the two-bouncers-followed-by-the-one-outside-off trick before.

3:44 – Laxman gets it through mid-off for three; next ball Anderson sprays it down the leg-side for five wides. That’s eight runs off one legal delivery! Basically for that one ball, India’s run rate was 48.

3:49 – I think even Atherton would concede right now that only two results are possible: an England win, or rain. He’s not commentating though. It’s Gower and Holding, with the latter talking about his career and aiming bouncers “between the heart and the shoulder” to make batsmen “uncomfortable.” Whispering Death, indeed.

3:52 – Dhoni gets off the mark, after 14 balls and 20 minutes. Hey, at least he’s still there.

3:54 – Well Dhoni’s retarded shot outside off certainly came, though he got away with it. He kind of jabbed at one close to him, exactly the way he got out in the first innings, but gets it over the slips for four. He plays an even more retarded shot next ball because he’s angry at looking retarded from the first one.

3:56 – Laxman flays one over gully for four. Nice shot.

3:59 – They show a guy in the crowd reading the new Harry Potter book. That should be the ICC’s new slogan: Cricket Is So Much Fun, You’ll Never Put Your Book Down While Watching It.

4:02 – Lunch. Not for the players, just for me. Hopefully nothing important happens in the next twenty minutes.

4:18 – Collingwood in to the attack. Nasser Hussain thinks it’s to bring about a change of ends for Monty and Tremlett. Let’s see.

4:20England’s over-rate for this session so far is 12.2. Somewhere, Geoff Boycott is bawling his eyes out.

4:21 – Guess Nasser was right. Tremlett on from Monty’s end.

4:25 – Prediction: Monty’s getting Dhoni before lunch. It just looks like it’s going to happen, you know?

4:28Ravi and Nasser are talking about the possibility of Karthik keeping wicket, Yuvraj coming in and Dhoni being dropped. This is all well and good in theory, but could someone please remind me of the last successful keeper/opener in test cricket? Stewart didn’t keep when he batted in the top three, Sangakarra’s average went to shit when he kept in test cricket, Kamran Akmal was a complete disaster as test opener, and none of the other major sides have had a keeper batting higher than 6. My advice? If you want to keep Karthik’s productivity as an opener, don’t make him keep.

4:32 – Dhoni flashes Monty to Collingwood’s left at first slip. My 4:25 prediction almost came true. Anyways, Laxman and Dhoni have somehow batted out an hour. For India to have a chance at a draw, these two need to play at least until one hour after lunch and then hope for rain.

4:36 – Dhoni drives Tremlett for four through mid-off. First boundary in a while. On that note, I’m going to the bathroom.

4:45 – Laxman plays a gorgeous back-foot punch through the covers. Suddenly India need 187 more. These guys stick around for a while and things could get reeealll intriguing.

4:48Anderson on for a burst before lunch. Important passage of play here. If Laxman and Dhoni get through to lunch, we may have a game on. I mean, there are still a ways away, but it will get interesting.

4:50 – Just as I’m talking about Dhoni surviving until lunch, he edges one. Falls just short of first slip. Which reminds me, Andrew Strauss has got to be one of the ugliest players in international cricket. He’s got quintessentially British teeth. Thank God for him he can bat.

4:59 – Dhoni top-edges a hook off Anderson for two, then glances him a couple of balls later for four. India’s 200 is up. 178 more needed.

5:01 – Ooooooh. Loud appeal from Anderson for caught behind. On the first look, it didn’t look like Dhoni hit it. Replays and hot spot show it hit his arm. As usual, I was right. So was Simon Taufel.

5:03 – Laxman plays a classical pull in front of square off Sidebottom for four. Guess he’s not worried about this whole “last over before lunch” crap.

5:06 – They show Dravid sitting in the dressing room, playing catch with himself like a kid. You have to love Dravid. You can tell he’s one of those guys who really loves the game. And that’s lunch.

5:52 – We’re back. Anderson and Monty starting after lunch. First 30 minutes here will be crucial. And while we’re on the subject of Monty bowling to Laxman, I’m racking my brains thinking of a better player of spin than Laxman. I guess Lara’s a better player of spin. Ok, what about a better right-handed player of spin? None, I imagine.

5:55 – Four slips for Anderson to Dhoni. He responds by bowling it way down the leg-side. Goes for four. Taufel signals byes. How was Prior supposed to get his hands on that? Umpires can be pretty stupid at times.

6:01 – Laxman plays that wristy shot through mid-wicket that he’s so good at against spinners. Two more, and the partnership is up to 79. Hmmm. If I was an Indian blogger, this would be the point at which I start to banish all thoughts of a win, in order to not jinx us.

6:03 – BANG! Dhoni smashes it through backward point off a short ball from Anderson. Shot of the day so far.

6:08 – Monty bowling over the wicket into the rough to Dhoni, testing his patience. Dhoni tries a few ungainly sweeps, pads one away, and then closes the over trying another ungainly sweep. He’s going to feel really dumb if he top-edges one to the guy at 45.

6:10India reach another little milestone: 150 more to win. I’m going to add an “m” to my “hmmm”. Here we go: Hmmmm.

6:12 – Looks like I jinxed India. Tremlett bowls Laxman with one that kind of stays low. It sort of reminds me of the Asif-to-Tendulkar dismissal in the second innings at Karachi, except for two things. One, I didn’t jump for joy and start yelling like crazy when Tremlett got Laxman. Two, Laxman didn’t try to exaggerate how low the ball stayed by getting on his knees like Tendulkar. I am now subtracting all the m’s from my “hmmm”. Here we go: H. This game is over.

6:18 – Gower informs us there’s rain in the air. There’s hope for India yet.

6:20 – You know the game’s at a boring point when Botham and Gower start talking about the photographers they know that have covered cricket matches in England over the years. Some guy is doing his 300th test today apparently. He got to ring some bell in commemoration. No, I don’t understand Lords either.

6:24 – I’m bored. Come on, Dhoni. Do something. India need 142 more by the way.

6:28 – As Gower worries about bad light, Vaughan takes the new ball as soon as it becomes available. Sidebottom into the attack.

6:33 – Didn’t this Sidebottom fellow make his debut against us? I seem to recall him playing his first test in that 2001 series where we lost at Lords and were about to lose at Old Trafford too. England needed something like 100 more with 8 wickets in hand. Then Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain did their thing and that was that. I remember Botham getting damn pissed off because Saqlain kept getting his wickets with no-balls that weren’t being called. Yeah, Beefy, Saqlain stepping back six inches would really make a difference in Caddick’s ability to read the doosra, right?

6:38 – Kumble looks pretty solid. Not as solid as he looked when he had a broken jaw in the West Indies a few years ago and looked like he’d just been in a car accident, but solid nonetheless.

6:40 – If I was either English or Indian, I’d be pretty nervous right now. They just showed one of those panoramic views across London and it looks pretty grey. The light’s really bad and it looks like rain might be around. If life was fair, England would win this match comfortably. They have played by far the better cricket and they deserve to win. But, as they say, it doesn’t always work out that way and India might yet escape from this.

6:41 – Uh, maybe not. Now that was a real exercise in jinxing. I finished typing that sentence and Kumble got LBW to Sidebottom. Sorry, Indians! Seven down, three to go for England.

6:47 – Meteorologist Nasser Hussain tells us he thinks the rain is an hour away. Well, he was right about the whole Collingwood-being-used-to-change-ends thing, so he may be right about this too. Meanwhile, Dhoni gets a single off the last ball of Tremlett’s over to keep the strike.

6:50 – So much for keeping the strike. Dhoni takes a single off Sidebottom’s first ball. Zaheer Khan to face Sidebottom with the new ball. This could get ugly.

6:52 – The commentators tell us that both dressing rooms are getting up-to-the-minute satellite reports on the weather. Atherton says that it reminds him of Brisbane 1999, when David Lloyd, coach at the time, was in the groundsman’s ear every three minutes asking about the weather. Nasser tells us that asking about the weather was the only thing Lloyd was good for as coach. Lloyd is, of course, sitting right there as third man for the day, Sky’s version of the BBC analyst. For the record, the rain did show up in Brisbane.

7:04 – Nasser Hussain: “News from the middle…it’s getting darker, and it’s just starting to rain.” The entire Indian dressing room is looking at the sky.

7:05 – Tremlett gets Zaheer. It was a fairly innocuous delivery but those always seem to be effective against tailenders. It was kind of short, heading down the leg-side, and Zaheer tried to help it on its way with a half pull, half swivel. Got a glove and Prior took a simple catch. Eight down, and it’s the English bowlers against the English weather now. My money’s on the English weather, if only because it’s the English weather.

7:14 – Umpires get together to discuss the light. Vaughan gets scared, brings himself on. It’ll be Monty from the other end. Dhoni pulls a short one from Vaughan for four. Before I finish typing the sentence, Vaughan’s done with his over. You think he’s in a hurry to get Monty bowling?

7:18 – I think it’s safe to say R. P. Singh does not know how to play Monty Panesar. He looks mighty confused out there.

7:19 – That was predictable. R. P. Singh tries to drive Monty off what was essentially a yorker and gets bowled. Ravi’s pissed in the commentary booth. “He won’t be a popular man in the dressing room,” he says. It was quite an atrocious shot, to be fair. Holding pipes in: “I think he thought that India needed four to win.”

7:22 – Sreesanth comes in and Vaughan immediately tries getting in his head. Sreesanth of course fires back. Not on strike right now though. It’s starting to drizzle again by the way. Dhoni gets another couple of fours off Vaughan, who’s really racing through his overs. Dhoni has quietly moved on to 69.

7:24 – Dhoni chips one, but it’s wide of the fielder at cover. Gets the single that he wanted. Keeps the strike, Monty to bowl. The light’s getting worse, and the England side is scampering around and trying to get this done as quickly as possible. They could go off at any moment now. Can you feel the tension?

7:26 – Beauty. Monty spins one past Dhoni’s outside edge and off-stump. If anyone needed reminding, Monty can bowl. He can really, really bowl.

7:28 – Lose or draw, you’ve got to commend India here. They’ve gotten to 273 so far, which is a pretty good fourth innings total. They haven’t played that badly in this test, England have just played better.

7:30 – Dhoni gets another four off Vaughan, but it’s off the last ball of the over. Sreesanth to face Monty.

7:31 – Oooooooh. That was close. Monty appeals for LBW against Sreesanth. I have to say, that looked out. Bucknor says no. Hawkeye agrees with me.

7:33 – The field for Monty to Sreesanth: Slip, gully, silly point, silly mid-off, short leg and leg slip. I guess Vaughan’s in an attacking mood.

7:37 – Umpires get together and offer the light to the batsmen. Even on the TV screen you can see it’s incredibly dark. But if the spinners are on, how is there a physical danger to the batsmen? I don’t understand. Anyways, the umpires have taken tea.

8:33 – Supersport 7 is showing highlights. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be any more play. Well, I guess what goes around, comes around. Remember last year when the Windies escaped with a draw against India primarily due to rain? I think it was the first test of that series. Anyways, the weather screwed India then and saved them here today.

9:43 – I’m officially calling this. It’s done and the series is still at 0-0. If I was English, I’d be fucking pissed off right now, but I’m not, so I’m not.

Next post: the U.S. student visa application process.

On Canada (Or At Least, Toronto)

I’m writing this post while keeping one eye on the cricket between India and England (preferred scenario at the start of the fifth day: no forecast for rain, India on 100-2 with Dravid and Tendulkar at the crease) so forgive me if there are typos or grammatical errors.

Anyways, I was in and around Toronto for a couple of weeks in June. Though I usually don’t blog about personal stuff, I’m doing so here in case people want to know about the area in general. Think of this post as a very amateur travel review, free of cost.

The start
The trip got off to a great start at The Crappiest Place on the Planet, or as it is better known, Terminal 3 of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. I was in line waiting to go through the metal detector thingy. I had taken off my belt and my shoes and put my cell phone, ipod and wallet in the little plastic container that they give you. My carry-on bag had absolutely no metal in it, unless you consider flip-flops and t-shirts metallic. I’m usually very careful about this stuff. Because I’m brown, I’m over cautious in trying not to arouse any suspicion, if only to avoid delays and checks. Anyways, so I pass through the stupid machine, don’t set it off (as usual), and prepare to walk to my departure lounge. There’s a security dude standing a couple of feet back of the machine, checking ID and making sure it matches the name on the boarding pass. So he says to me, “Boarding pass and ID please.” I hand him my passport and boarding pass. He took one look at the words “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” on the front of my passport, circled something on my boarding pass, and said, “Sir, you have been randomly selected by American Airlines for a security check. Please step to the side.”


I had not set off the beep at the stupid machine. My bag had absolutely nothing in it. I am a normal looking person, and was wearing normal looking clothes. I was functioning on a severe lack of sleep and had been carrying two heavy bags all across Chicago over the previous 24 hours. I was, in short, not in the mood to be racially profiled. But I was anyway. That’s the thing with people in uniforms (police officers, airport security, even the idiot in Saddar who gives you your passport). They have unbridled power over you. They can do anything they want, because they’re wearing a goddamn uniform. Because that dumbass was wearing a uniform, he could decide that I had to be patted down and my backpack had to be searched for weapons, explosives and porn. So I was, and it was. It took less than two minutes, and in those 120 seconds, I was deemed a non-threat to the security of The Homeland.

But, honestly, having to go through a superfluous security check is not even what pissed me off the most. No, what pissed me off the most was the fact that the jackass in uniform used the words “randomly selected.” Randomly selected? Randomly selected? Are you fucking kidding me? I was not fucking randomly selected, ok? I was selected because of my Pakistani passport. Please do not cause me unnecessary delays and insult my intelligence. If you want to pat me down, pat me down. But when doing so, just use the words, “Sir…actually, wait scratch that. I’m not calling you ‘Sir’. I’m calling you BP, for Brown Person. BP, we’re going to pat you down, even though you didn’t set off the stupid beep. We’re going to go through your bag, even though it has three t-shirts and a pair of flip-flops and the guy behind the computer knows that. BP, we want you to know that we’re going to do this because you’re brown, and all brown people are security threats. Please step to the side. And wipe that exasperated expression off your face, unless you want your country to be bombed to the stone age. Thank you. Actually, wait, scratch that. There’s no reason to say ‘Thank you’. Just step to the side and wipe that exasperated expression off your face.”

YYZ airport
This is something I just didn’t understand. The airport code for the Pearson airport in Toronto is YYZ. There is no other airport that I am aware of whose airport code has nothing to do with either the city’s name or the airport’s name (KHI is Karachi, JFK is John F. Kennedy airport in New York etc). I sought an explanation for this but no one I knew provided a satisfactory one. I could google it, but I’m too lazy. Maybe later.

Yonge street
This is apparently the longest street in the world. Guinness Book of World Records and everything. It’s also pronounced “Young” though its spelling suggests it should rhyme with “sponge”. Anyways, I was given a tour of this street in the downtown Toronto area a couple of times by my fiancée (I got engaged on this trip, by the way) who’s been to Toronto practically ever summer since 1997. The downtown area seemed pretty normal except for two things: there were an abnormal number of guys walking around with their shirts off and there were an abnormal number of pregnant women. These two facts could be related, I don’t know. All I know is I’ve never seen that many guys with their shirts off and that many pregnant women in one general area.

I actually preferred this street called Queen Street (please save the gay jokes). It gets quite bohemian and funky at one stage, though I forget where. I think it was around this street called Ryerson. Yeah, I think it was Ryerson. So if you’re ever in Toronto and don’t want to be in the clean cut areas of the city, head to the intersection of Queen and Ryerson. It’s about as rugged as Toronto gets.

I got my token “Canadians Being Really Nice To You” experience in this area. My fiancée and I sat down at this coffee shop for a break from all the walking. About 45 minutes after leaving, I realized I had left my backpack on one of the chairs at the coffee place. As am I quite wont to do, I got quite panicky, especially considering the backpack had my ipod, keys and camera. I ran back and it was right where I had left it, more than an hour after I had done so. When I found it, I heaved a sigh of relief, and then asked myself why I was so worried. These people have the nicest friggin’ reputation in the world. I don’t even think tourists are surprised anymore when Canadians are really nice to them. I mean, if someone had taken that bag, they could have made $600 on ebay, plus have access to the abject destitution that is my room in Chicago. But they didn’t, because they’re Canadians. This was perfectly predictable, and much appreciated. Thanks, Canadians!

United States of Canada
In many ways, Canada was just a higher-priced America. Seriously, almost everything else is the same. I mean, there’s a Canadian Idol, a Canada’s Top Model and a Good Morning, Canada. They have all the same stores and listen to the same music. Same cars, same traffic laws. Same everything. Well, their accents are different. Their politics too. Which brings me to…

Aren’t They Supposed to be a Environmentally Conscious Country?
I was completely and utterly shocked to discover the cost of public transport in Toronto. You need a token for each subway ride, and each token is $2.75 (Canadian currency, of course). Given the exchange rate is almost 1-to-1, I was stunned. In Chicago, I can take a bus ride for $1.75 and a subway ride for $2. In New York, both cost $2 (from what I understand, public transport costs may be changing in both those cities pretty soon). I don’t remember the price in Paris, but it was much cheaper than Toronto. So, how do you explain the fact that big cities in the U.S., the biggest and most unapologetic polluter in the world, have cheaper public transport systems than the biggest city in Canada, ostensibly one of the greenest countries in the world? Suburban travel is also very expensive. I just don’t get it. It’s almost like they want people to drive their cars to work every day. For people who have guaranteed parking, and for some who don’t, commuting by road is simply the smarter option. Anyways, if you’re ever considering visiting Toronto, I suggest getting a place right downtown. You’ll save in convenience and travel costs what you lose in hotel price.

Niagara Falls
One word of advice: Go. Just go. Ok, that was three words, but whatever. This was honestly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The sight of the falls itself is unbelievable, what with the rainbows and everything, but they have a thing for tourists where they put you on a boat and take you right under the falls. You’re just a few meters away from billions of liters of water crashing down. It’s one of those things in life that you simply have to do, provided of course you have the opportunity to do so. Trust me on this.

Oh, and go from the Canadian side. Apparently the American side is much crappier. That’s what everyone says.

Next post, maybe tomorrow: applying for my U.S. student visa this summer. Though this will be yet another personal post (my last for a while, I promise), it will contain information that is important for anyone applying for a U.S. student visa from Pakistan. I think of providing this information as a public service.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I've been back in Pakistan for about 10 days, but since my internet sucks and it's bloody hot and I don't feel like I have a coherent opinion on anything important, I haven't written since getting back. However, I am slowly recovering the need/desire to blog, and will start posting fairly regularly from this weekend onwards. There is a lot of stuff that needs to be discussed. Stay tuned.