The Merchant of India and his Friendly Nemesis

While growing up, I used to be fascinated about the three Vijays of Indian Cricket, namely, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar, drawing parallels with three Ws in my mind. As I grew up, I realised, while Mr. Manjrekar was the better batsman in his family, the other two Vijays were in different class, both in terms of age, as well as batting class and averages.

There are a lot of things, that can be told about the two Vijays, not least Cricket with Vijay Merchant or Mr. Hazare who breached the Don’s defence twice, a feat not many bowlers achieved, leave aside, the person being one of the two best batsmen in the team. But today, the story is different. Merchant is the Indian Numero Uno, the batsman with the highest First Class average after who else but the Don, he was the founder of Mumbai School of Khadoos Batsmanship, a tradition modified only with the arrival of a curly-haired teenager more than 5 decades later. While the biggest tragedy for Indian Cricket according to Merchant was that Hazare (a Test batting average only .07 lower than Merchant) couldn’t be the finest Indian batsman due to captaincy load.

The batting rivalry of the Don Bradman and Wally Hammond is well-known to the cricket literati, their Ashes rivalries where eventually the Don would prevail over Hammond besting Don’s previous efforts. Similar story-line developed in a similar time frame on the grounds of India, most famously in the matches between Bombay and Maharashtra (Baroda later).

The run race for the highest individual innings by an Indian between the two Prima Donnas began in 1941-42. Merchant’s innings of 242(3) for Hindus against Muslims in Bombay Pentangular was the highest score by an Indian till date. A record, duly broken by Hazare in the very next season with a score of 248 in the same championship against the same opponents, for “The Rest” against Muslims.

The next year, the final match featured, Merchant’s Hindus versus Hazare’s The Rest. Hindus batted first, with Merchant yet again breaking the record with a 250 in the team score. Not to be outdone by the other Vijay, Mr. Hazare scored a mammoth 309 out of a team total of 387, a 300 run partnership with his tailender brother scoring 266 out of them. Thus becoming the first Indian triple centurion.

Final saga of the story again came from the Merchant, scoring a 359* almost a week later, settling the debate for one last time. Hazare although scored another 316 but couldn’t best Vijay Merchant, the Indian Numero Uno.

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कहानी मिर्ची की

दुनिया में दर्दनाक अनुभवों की कमी तो नहीं है पर जब कोई अनजाने आपको एक तीखी मिर्ची खिला दे, जिस असीम आनंद की प्राप्ति उस समय होती है, उसका वर्णन संस्कारी शब्दों में करना थोड़ा मुश्किल हो जाता है। मिर्ची नाम से ही अपनी सी लगती है, ऐसा लगता है, और मसाले जिनके लिए भारत का दक्षिणी भाग प्रसिद्ध है, मिर्ची भी उन्ही की विरासत होगी और फिर बाकी मसलों की तरह यूरोपियों ने मिर्ची का स्वाद भी हमारे घाटों पे चखा होगा । पर बड़े आश्चर्य की बात है, कि भारत में मिर्ची का इतिहास कुछ 500 साल ही पुराना है। 15 वीं सदी के अंत में, वास्को डि गामा और उनके साथियों ने ही पहली बार हमारी जीभ जलाई थी। मिर्ची के बारे में ऐसी ही कुछ अनोखी बातें मुझे एपिक टीवी चैनल के एक शो से पता चलीं जो मैं अपनी (बहुत ही कमज़ोर) याददाश्त और विकिपीडिआ एवं अन्य स्रोतों (मुख्यत:) की सहायता से, एकत्रिक करके अपने जैसे कुछ और जिज्ञासु मित्रों के साथ बाँट रहा हूँ।

7500 BC यानी कि आज से 9500 साल पहले से हमारे दक्षिण अमरीकी मित्र मिर्ची का लुत्फ़ उठा रहे हैं। 4500 BC में दक्षिण अमेरिका में इसकी खेती शुरू हुई, लगबघ उसी समय जब हमने चावल उगाना शुरू किया। सन 1492 में कोलम्बस जब भारत की खोज में निकला था, तब उसका एक लक्ष्य काली मिर्च (जिसको ब्लैक गोल्ड कहा जाता था) तक पहुँचने का दूसरा रास्ता ढूंढना था। वो जब अमेरिकी महाद्वीप में पहुंचा तो उसकी मुलाकात मिर्ची से हुई। वहां की स्थानीय भाषा में इसे चिली कहा जाता था, तो रेड इंडियंस की तरह ही पैप्पर की तलाश में मिली चिली का नाम चिली पैप्पर रख दिया। उसके बाद मिर्ची ने दुनिया के कोने कोने तक सफर किया और अब दुनिया की अमूमन हर पाक शैली में इसकी मौजूदगी है। मिर्ची को हमारे भारत की आबो-हवा और हम भारतीयों की मेहमान नवाज़ी इतनी रास आयी कि , आज के समय में भारत मिर्ची का सबसे बड़ा उत्पादक एवं निर्यातक है।

अब मिर्ची का ज़िक्र होते में ज़ेहन में पहला सवाल यही आता है कि दुनिया में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची कौनसी होती और, वो कितनी तीखी होगी? मिर्ची की तीव्रता मापने के लिए स्कोविल्ल स्केल का इस्तेमाल किया जाता है। इस स्केल में चीनी की उस मात्रा को नापा जाता है जिसको मिलाने से इस मिर्ची का तीखापन ख़त्म हो जाये। इस स्केल में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची, अमेरिका की “कैरोलिना रीपर” मानी जाती है जिसका तीखापन 22,00,000 SHU नापा गया है। भारत की सबसे तीखी मिर्ची “भूत ज़लकीया” की तीव्रता 15,80,000 SHU नापी गयी है।

इस पोस्ट का अंत मैं कुछ दिलचस्प मिर्चियों के साथ करता हूँ..

कश्मीरी मिर्च – नाम से ही साफ़ है की ये कश्मीर में होती है , पर इसकी सबसे मज़ेदार बात ये है की ये मिर्ची बस नाम की है , इसकी तीव्रता बस लगबगाह 4000 -5000 तक होती है, इसलिए कश्मीरी खान पान में इसका प्रयोग तीखेपन की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है।

गुंटूर मिर्च – आंध्रा के तीखे खाना का राज़ ये गुँटूरी मिर्च है। यह भारत से निर्यात होने वाली मिर्ची में 30% हिस्सा गुंटूर मिर्च का है। इसकी तीव्रता 50,000 -1,00,000 SHU तक होती है।

मुंडू मिर्च – आंध्रा और तमिल क्षेत्रों में उगाई जाने वाली ये मिर्ची अपने आकार की वजह से अत्यंत दिलचस्प है। अन्य मिर्चियों की तरह लम्बी और पतली होने की जगह यह मिर्ची गोलाकार होती है। इस मिर्ची का प्रयोग भी तीव्रता की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है। मैंने ऐसी गोल मिर्च नहीं देखी पर मेरे आंध्र-तमिल दोस्त ज़रूर खुशनसीब हैं।

Historical T20 XI

Last few months, since the preparation to World T20 cup began with India’s T20 series down under. We have had too much of T20 cricket to be able to actually digest and when you can’t digest properly, you either shit or vomit, me I hope do a little better in the following lines… This underlying is the result of me having too much of T20. A list of players, who played before T20 age but could have been more than a handful in the shortest version. We can only think, fantasise and romanticise but watching this team play a T20 would have been a mouth-watering, eye blinding sight.

I restricted the list taking the God standard, only the people who started and mostly (finished) their careers before Sachin were considered for the compilation.

  1. DG Bradman – He would score daddy hundreds, he would score them at as fast a clip to with the usual shots and he would score them in every innings. The fact that Kohli’s IPL run could be as close as anything we could have seen to the Don, makes you wish. If Only we could have seen his scores in IPL!
  2. Barry Richards – It’s almost impossible to find a cricket ‘What if’ XI with his name not being in a serious contention, all that for a Total of 508 Test runs could seem weird and unfair on some accounts but then Barry was magic cricketified. He once played an entire innings off the outside edge of the bat just for the fun of it. 9 centuries before lunch on day 1 do no harm to his T20 credentials.
  3. IVA Richards – The Universe Boss might be left scurrying if the real swag ever came into play in the T20 cricket. The original blaster could make the huge Australian grounds look like Chinnaswamy with his power hitting if he would have ever come to it. He bullied, brutalised, lorded and owned the bowlers all around the globe. The fact that his record of fastest century in Test Cricket stood the test until Jayasuriya bettered it in ODIs make him the most demanded player for T20s
  4. Graeme Pollock – Judging by the Bradman Gold Standard, he is statistically the Silver of World Cricket, an average of 60.97 puts him next only to the Don in Test Cricket. His batting seems to be an amazing perfection of batting style of the two modern left handed boundary hitters, Yuvraj’s timing and Warner’s power and placement and yet more than the sum of both.
  5. Garry Sobers – Bradman might be the best batsmen ever and forever, but a bigger cricketer is yet to set foot on cricket grounds across the globe than Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He held the record for highest individual innings for 40 years, most career runs for almost 10 years at an average higher than anyone who has scored in excess of 7500 a full 400bps higher than the God, he bowled left arm medium pace, left arm orthodox, left arm chinaman and was the 6th highest wicket taker when he retired. Variety is perhaps the biggest call in T20 cricket and this guy defined variety.
  6. Ian Botham – He was the ultimate prototype for a T20 bowler. Play hard, Party hard, he would have been the ultimate mercenary T20 player plying his trade in different parts of the world. Bowling fast and hitting far without any concern for reputation or situation, he would turn a test match by virtue of his batting or bowling alone, taking a T20 by the cuff of its throat would have been child’s play for Botham.
  7. Imran Khan -Batting average of 40, Bowling average of 19 in the later parts of his career. His reverse swing would have been the biggest asset in the slam bang fest. With Imran Khan also comes the charismatic, Inspring, Uniting leader that any team of such amazingly talented individuals would need.
  8. Alan Knott –  By almost all records, Alan Knott is considered arguably the best wicketkeeper in International Cricket.  5 Test centuries and 30 Half centuries don’t do much harm to the batting reputation of a keeper who played in the 60s n 70s. Best wicketkeeper might be an arguable opinion but best Wicketkeeper-batsmen before the date of 5 November 1999 might not be as easy to find.
  9. Erapalli Prasanna – The off spinner and leg spinner is the one thing you’d desire when you have such talent pool. The very few times when spin had such major an influence before the arrival of flummoxing the batsmen with spin and drift as in T20 was when the Indian Quartet brought teams down with the help of Sunil Gavaskar to take the shine off. Prasanna as the Off Spinner is as canny as any representative you’ll get from the group.
  10. Sydney Barnes – He was fast, he was nasty, he didn’t like giving runs, he liked collecting scalps in heaps. Sydney Barnes was a leg cutter more than a spinner, making cricinfo term him as medium pace. He could be better understood as a mix of Warne and Kumble with the pace of Shahid Afridi. His fast pace might make him an easier target in some views. But you didn’t target Barnes, he devoured you!
  11. Malcolm Marshall   – A fast bowler who can snare wickets at the top with his mean fast bowling is as much an asset for you in T20s as it is desired in Test Match Cricket. Malcolm Marshall is perhaps the best of the WI fast bowling battery. He possessed a mean bouncer which could shock people not attempting to hoick every delivery out of the ground. In T20 cricket, he would have felled many a batsmen trying to smash him out of the ground.

Surrender Not Bannerjee

The pages of History which I go through
One of the biggest gain I find
The joy of marvel, the awe of being humbled
When I get to meet the giants of past

One such super cool, Bearded Suave Rockstar
One whose speeches India first heard
Was our dear old Surendranath Bannerjee
Or as I like to call him, SNB

Raja Rammohan Roy,the first modern Indian
Nehru might after all be the first independent one
But, my dear friends, talk of the Indian who was first free
The one who stood as Indian, our SNB was the one

Surrender Not Banerjee was what the British would call him
A fan of Mazzini, Garibaldi, the first Indian ICS
This was the man who scared Hume
And thus we got our own Congress

He was the one who started mutinies and won them too
Fought and won the post of ICS once
Until they couldn’t but dismiss on whim
And thus was born the first radical

Buried in the pages of Moderatism
The free Indian got blown by Tilak
The Rashtraguru faded into oblivion
But not before he had made the mark

Years countless have passed since your birth
Almost a century since your death
And yet this one son of your nation
And a lover of your extremism

Shall always remember you
The one with poise but too the swag to push it up
The one who started it all for us..
The one great grandfather we all forgot

Admiring Wrong people

While I was growing up, I had read / listened a quote, quite a few times. I am not sure about the origins of the quote, a part of my brain says, it could have been the gyaan doled out by Gautam Buddha, other part says, it’s a basic tenet of Hindu Religion, while the other part of my brain says, it could have been just a general quote uttered by some unknown person, in some unknown text at some unknown time which has persevered through some pages of history. The quote says a very simple thing
“Hate the wrong, not the wrong-doer” or to say in hindi
“घ्रणा पाप से करो पापी से नहीं  “
Many years from then, I have no interest/affinity left for religions, hinduism or buddhism, but this one line has always stayed with me. One of the things I like to abide by in my life.

This, whole background, can be understood as continuation of my earlier post. The reason I can’t hate Hitler, the reason I can’t hate Godse, the reason I can’t hate Saddam or Osama. I will until the day of my death condemn the actions of these man and will argue for long hours with someone who doesn’t consider  these men’s actions wrong, or who appreciates/support their actions (again, not all actions, but my reader would be sufficiently intelligent and aware to decipher which actions I am talking of).

Yet, leave aside Hitler (who I have always been appreciative of in some sense). You ask me to hate the person Osama or you ask me to perhaps kill such a person if they are under my power (which would be a very fitting solution in eyes of many). I shall pull my hands back and strongly disagree with you.  Although I might not have problem with a court of law awarding them death penalty, as it the duty of the court to punish the guilty for their actions.This is one of the points of meeting of my mathematical/scientific philosophies and the humanitarian/historical ideas. I have always been a strong believer in the concept of duality, which in my opinion is one of the very basic fundamentals this universe/existence is based on.

Applying that scientific funda to humans/history is where I (just for myself) exonerate these wrong people from eternal hatred on my side. I consider a person and his actions as the two components of a single unit, which although can’t be separated from each other and shall always define each other. But, it is always possible to analyse the two different components of that unit individually which is, where you will find the support for all these ‘individuals’. Because leaving aside the actions of these people, they are humans, who have some ideas (talking about the ones different from their actions), who have done some deeds, who have achieved something in their life. Who might have been a success, who might have been examples to the future generations to achieve (preferably something else) in their lives.

All these arguments might seem fantasy words to the people who have suffered at the hands of such tyrants, and they have my heart-felt apologies. I will always like to such criminals meted out their deserved punishments. But I, myself would like to follow this funda of not overlooking the good/impressive qualities these ‘Wrong people’ have! Some people hate Nehru for the division of India, the loss of POK and many such things, some people might kill Jinnah for his actions which were instrumental in the partition of India, which resulted in such a horrendous blood bath and separated brothers on either side of the border.

And, as long as I have the belief in the concept of duality, I can always be found admiring a Gandhi, a Hitler, an Osama (perhaps, haven’t found anything very impressive in him yet) and mentioning them all in one single line with some respect, some disregard, some curiosity.

Gandhi, Godse, Hitler

Very often do I have people asking me the question. Why do I admire/appreciate/whatever Hitler? Don’t I agree with the fact that he was a mass murdered and all that. In many words and at various times, I have tried and explain this answer. Yet, more or less, my words fail me when it comes to expressing it. One (of the few ) good things you can find about him is, The Revolution. He was the one, who came who changed, the man of action. One who had ideas and had the guts and ability to steer the course of an entire nation, and almost the whole world.

The second ques, which might arise in the mind of anyone reading this title is, Gandhi & Hitler, def can be used in close proximity, but how does Godse get the honour of being his name taken in such esteemed company. Thats where my point tries to sneak through in midst of these names. Godse, if nothing, is an interesting character in Indian history. There have always been assassins through the history of world. Even India has had its share of assassins, so nothing new in that activity. Yet,

This was the man who killed Gandhi, who killed Mahatma, who killed the biggest apostle of peace, who killed a bapu of a nation, who killed one of the most famous person in human history  and (arguably) most famous Indian ever. He, as an individual, should have been absolutely destroyed in the modern history, as it was written by the followers/fans of the Mahatma.

All this said and done, we never find Godse’s name maligned. We never hear accounts of him being a beastly human with more penchant for blood than feelings. Facts are facts which can’t be changed much, but folk lore or the stories are the part which can be fabricated anytime by anyone, and made to look real by the situations, we have seen enough examples of that. This, very fact combined with the statement of Godse, and whatever I have read of him on net and books, makes me put Godse on the same pedestal as Gandhi and Hitler, in the same sense that I admire history.

They were all revolutionaries, they had some (misguided at times?) set of rules, they had some principles, they thought about things and executed what they wanted to, in the fashion they wanted to. What makes them all different from simple, men of actions, is the effect on society. Agreed, Godse wouldnt stand anywhere near the two, and even if he hadn’t, the old man would have died in a few years if not months, by himself (or the self induced fasts). But, his revolution lay not in, ridding India of Gandhi, which was his purpose. Rather, it can be more understood, as a man standing against the Mahatma.