Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Masters Sunday

The 82nd masters is already a memorable one with so many stories. Starting from Jack Nicklaus grandson holing in one in par-3 contest on Wednesday, Tiger Woods returning to masters after 3 years, Vandini Sharma putting up stories about her brother in the associated press, Tony Finau shooting 4 under in his very first round in the masters after having to go through MRI scan in the morning, Phil Mickelson hovering around the cut line and the defending champion Sergio Garcia shooting 8 over on par-5 15th.

It has been amazing week in Augusta. The champion will be crowned tomorrow. Who will slip into the green jacket? We will know that tomorrow but by looking at the leaderboard it looks like whoever wins it, it will be his first masters win as two times masters champion Bubba Watson is 8 shots off the lead.

Patrick Reed and Rory Mcliroy are at the top of the leaderboard with Reed going into the final round having 3 shots leads. Will we be witnessing another Ryder Cup duel? Will Rory be able to avenge his Ryder Cup loss? After these two at the top, there is Rickie Fowler who had a great outing on Saturday shooting bogey free 7 under and currently sitting at solo third and then one shot off the lead is John Rahm. Can John Ram give back to back masters title to Spain?

Everyone eyes will be on Reed and Mcliroy. They have a great rivalry and patrons love to watch these two whenever they play each other. Reed hasn’t been this close in the masters while Rory can understand the feeling as he was in a similar situation in 2011 but blew it up on Sunday. The pressure will be on both. It will be a matter of nerves. They cannot afford to get carried away or look too far ahead. It will be a great spectacle of golf tomorrow.

Rooting for Rory!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

First of many masters for Shubhankar

I haven’t waited this anxiously for a Thursday morning before. The excitement is over the roof as the young Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma will be teeing off for the first time at the coveted masters alongside two local boys Rusell Henrey and Larry Mize.

After great 4 months and terrific play at world golf championship in Mexico last month where he led through 54 holes, Sharma got the invitation to play in the masters, the first of four majors. He is only the fourth Indian player to play in the masters. It is a dream of any golfer to play in this tournament and then getting to play this early in life is indeed a special moment for him and for the entire nation.

While all the attention will be on resurgent Tiger woods, Phil Mickelson who is vying to become the oldest masters champion at the age of 47, Rory Mcilroy who will have an opportunity to complete the career grand slam or Sergio Garcia who will try to defend his title after Tiger Woods did 16 years back. Each one of them is chasing greatness.

The field consists of some great past champions and some exciting young guns, but there is man who can inspire billion people back home if he does well. It will help increase games popularity in Asia like Tiger was able to do for US and for rest of the world.

Sharma is playing well and he is high on confidence. He is calm and composed and is not stupefied by grandeur of the occasion or is overawed by seeing his childhood hero Tiger Woods.

I hope he starts well on Thursday and carries on the momentum. He has got the great caddy in Mitch Knox who has experience of caddying a major winner and have walked on the greens umpteen times which will help him making better and informed decision while hitting the shots or rolling the putts.

Asian golf is in good hands but we need more players and role models to draw more people into this sport. A masters winner here can open the doors for this change.

Hoping for a strong finish from Shubhankar Sharma on his first masters tournament. All the best!
Go Shubhankar!

He tees off at 12:32 EST or 22:02 IST on Thursday.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Three events that changed Indian cricket

I am going to list down three events in chronological order which in my option changed Indian cricket: -

1.       Eden gardens – India vs Australia, 2001

2.       Sourav Ganguly taking off his jersey at Lord’s – Netwest trophy final, 2002

3.       Inception of IPL - 2008

Rahul Dravid in the book titled “Rahul Dravid: Timeless steel” says, we could both sense that we had done something unique, something that would define our careers from then on, irrespective of what we achieved or didn't achieve after that. Indeed, they did something which can never be forgotten.

Australian team arrived in Kolkata riding high on 16 consecutive test matches victories. Indian team was up against a mighty opposition again, having lost the first test match in Mumbai within 3 days. 2nd test match also going the same way, even worse as India were following on after being bowled out for 171 against 445. There was no hope, only a miracle could rescue India. And miracle did come in the form of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman who stood firm against all odds. They batted whole day taking India from 254/4 at the start of day 4 to 589/4 at the end of day 4 adding 335 runs without losing a wicket with Laxman unbeaten on 275 and Dravid on 155. India declared on 657/7 midway in morning session on fifth day. Indian fans started to sense something. Victory was not easy from here on too but they knew that they had surely averted the defeat. Australia were none for 12 at lunch and 161 for 3 at tea. India needed 7 wickets in last session. Thanks to Sachin and Harbhajan’s great bowling that Australia were bowled out for 212. India won the match by 171 runs.

It was a great team victory. This win provided a self-belief that no team is unbeatable if everyone stood up to their task. Prior to that, there were individual brilliances but mostly as a team we ended up losing.  

The second event came a year later at Lord’s when India was asked to chase a mighty total of 326 against home team at the mecca of cricket. England captain Nasser Hussain and Opener Marcus Trescothick scored centuries. India started well reaching 100 under 15th over without losing a wicket. Ganguly and Sehwag took advantage of power play and toyed the English bowlers. But some poor shot selection found them wobbling at 146/5 losing five wickets in just 40 runs. And because of flurry of wickets in no time, asking run rate was also going up. In came two young lads Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif and played the match of their lives taking India home. Need to mention here that Kaif debuted in the same year in January and it would have taken a lot to remain calm and to take calculated risk in this undisclosed territory he was in. I still remember the overthrow which sealed the win for India with 3 balls to spare. It was India’s one of the greatest ODI victory.

What happened after that at Lord’s balcony was a statement by Ganguly, and it infused aggression into young Indian side. I do not think anyone would have had audacity to take off his shirt and swirl at Lord’s balcony. This win also made Indian fans believe that there is world beyond Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid. Coincidentally Ganguly was the captain in both the occasions at Eden Gardens and at Lord’s.

Nasser Hussain at SAP Labs leadership talk in 2011 in Bangalore said, “Indian team used to get bullied by class fifth students whenever they used to tour England”. It was Sourav Ganguly who changed that. He infused passion, aggression and new energy in Indian team. World started looking at Indian team differently not just from within 22 yards but beyond it. It indeed was Ganguly who built the new team and provided them a platform to express themselves.

In this series, I think inception of IPL in 2008 changed the game. BCCI started getting more money, youngsters from all over India started to dream to play with best of the best in the world and learn from them. Many purists would argue that IPL ruined the real cricket and they may well be right but I think it changed the cricket in India for good. Good facilities started reaching to remote places. It became the game for masses now which was only for select few big metropolitans before 2008. Now you can see players from all over India playing IPL and getting noticed. It united India in a way. It also gave a good quality life to cricketers. You play well for 2 months and then you can enjoy the whole year. Most players still aspire to represent India but if they don’t make it to the highest level they can still feel satisfied and lead a good life.

No one would have imagined that the entire tournament can be shifted to a different country because of general election in India in 2009. South Africa hosted 2009 edition of IPL which was won by the then Deccan Chargers Hyderabad. Game changed dramatically after the advent of IPL. Players attitude changed too. Now the match is not over till the last ball is bowled or last run is scored.

I remember Harsha Bhogle in one of the Ted Talk mentioning that Dwayne bravo was called in to play one match for Mumbai Indian against Deccan Chargers Hyderabad in Hyderabad and then use Private corporate jet to send him back to represent West Indies. Never would we have imagined that we will get a player for one match all the way from Jamaica and send him back via private jet. We have arrived somewhere.

In my opinion, these are three events that largely changed Indian cricket. India was destined to be no 1 test team after the hard work put in by Ganguly in shaping the team. 2011 world cup victory was also the result of the preparation done in last decade under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly. But I would concede that 2011 world cup victory was the most special moment for the Indian team and the fans.

I hope to see India reaching new heights in world cricket and bring more joys to everyone’s life.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Logic Vs Compassion

In this age of rapid technological advancement and cut-throat competition there is no time for looking back. Everyone wants to outrace others in this never-ending race.
In our personal and professional life, we are largely driven by logic. We want to appear the most logical in front of our peers and sometimes that is a very dangerous thing. We want to assimilate everything in that tiny logic of ours. If the logic doesn’t fit into our scheme of things we start feeling stressed. However, if we work together towards a common goal and help each other in that process, we not only achieve it but also have fun doing it.
Not everyone is same. Some people are talented, some are hardworking, some are technically sound and some are not so good also and they just need a little push to get going. If we take everyone along, things get done easily.
Logic is important too otherwise there will not be any set standards and there will be chaos all over. If logic separates us, compassion brings us together. If compassion shows a blurry path, logic gives a decisive direction. Logic makes you arrogant, compassion makes you empathetic. It is easy to get bogged down when you fail but it is hard to stand up again if there is no support.
So, let us be little more compassionate towards each other in our professional and personal life. We can make this world more beautiful.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Meeting a CEO

Generally, I web check in advance to get a seat of my preference in a long flight but this time I forgot to web check-in and was sandwiched between two passengers on my flight from Delhi to Toronto.

As my connecting flight took off from Amsterdam to Toronto, I started chatting with an elderly gentleman sitting to my left to stay awake and to avoid jet lag as I had to be in the office next day.

The conversation grew from general to more specific. He was so attentive whenever I spoke, occasionally composing emails in between. We spoke about variety of topics including how US is different in Trump era, how India is changing in 21st century, harsh winters in Canada, Niagara Falls, The Taj Mahal, how some countries are averse to English and which is the best country to live in right now. We settled in for our home countries to be the best in the world and why wouldn’t it be as India is the most beautiful country and Belgium sells best waffles and chocolates.

We joked about how India is different from entire Europe put together as in India everything changes in about 200 KMs from food to language to custom to dressing sense.

When it was time for the meal, I even asked him to opt for Indian meal and told him the benefit of serving yogurt in Indian meals as we eat spicy food and it helps digest the food faster.

After a long flight of 11 hours which took more than the expected, when it was time to say good bye I asked him for his email and instead he game me his business card which read ‘Patrick Gerard, CEO, Rompa Group’.

I was amazed to see how a CEO of more than 100 years old company is flying in economy and talks like a simple man, is always eager to know more and to learn something new.

I understood a couple of things after that conversation that as you go up in the ladder, more than anything else it is your humility that matters the most and listening matters more than talking. He gave me lessons that always speak with humility, spend wisely and help others in need.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fedal XXXVII Preview – Miami Final

Whenever there is a match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, GOAT debate starts making headlines and it is no different this time when they meet for the 37th time for Miami title on Sunday. Rivalry started back in 2004 in the very same venue when 37th ranked teenager from Mallorca defeated the then no 1 player in straight sets to announce his arrival in the biggest stage. Since then rivalry has just gone bigger and better with each meeting.  Tennis being a tough sports and to remain at the top of the game for such a long time is itself an incredible achievement. Nadal played his 1000th ATP match against Philipp Kohlschreiber which did not start the way his fans would have wanted. He was fed bagel in the opening set and then fought his way back to win the match like he always does. This is the only set he lost so far in the tournament so he must be feeling good before coming to the final. But for Roger it wasn’t an easy road to reach yet another Miami final as he had to save couple of match points against Tomas Berdych and then was pushed to limit against flashy Australian Nick Krygios in three sets tie break battle which lasted for 3 hours. 

Nothing gives us more joy than watching Nadal Federer Final. Nadal will do everything possible to win the title here to add one of the few master trophies which is missing in his shelf, other being WTF and BNP Paribas Paris title. Nadal holds 23-13 in head to head count but he has been in receiving end in last 3 meetings so that may start playing in his head. If he passes through this hurdle, he will feel home as clay season is starting after this tournament. 

All the best Rafa!!:)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A trip to Cancun and Chichen Itza, Mexico

When you do not know something, your opinion then is driven by your ego. This is what our tour guide told us when we were going to Chichen Itza from Cancun in the tour bus. And this is very true.
Before visiting Mexico I had different opinion about the country but after staying there for 6 months I got to see different Mexico. Mexico is not about drug cartels, theft, kidnapping it is about beautiful beaches, ruins, old civilization, its lovely people and of course tequila.
In our first trip we were scared to venture out alone after 6 PM in evening as local people instilled fear in us that it is not safe. But that is not true. If you go out and do not try to be mischievous you are safe. Rare incidents keep happening everywhere around the world but we cannot treat that as a phenomenon.
I too was scared to go all the way to Cancun on my own in first thought but then I thought this is the best opportunity to remove the fear, going alone in a country which doesn’t speak my language, doesn’t eat my type of food and having no one by my side if I get into some trouble. At least my one fear is gone after going to Cancun that I can manage myself anywhere in any situation. You should also try to do that if you get any opportunity like that. But the only disadvantage of going alone is that you don’t get good photos. :D
I was there in Cancun for 3 nights, I thought 2 days will be sufficient but after reaching there, I found there are so many things to do and many places to visit. One needs at least 5 days to cover all the places. I could only manage to see Cancun City, Playa Del Carmen beach, Conzumel island and Chichen Itza (one of the seven wonder of the world). I would have loved to go to Tumul and Xel-Ha beaches and party at Cocobongo. It was a shame that I went in rainy season. It was raining almost all the time since I landed in Cancun so couldn’t walk and see much which I would have loved to do.
There are some photos I clicked while I was in Mexico in particular order
                              Coming back from Cancun to Toluca (City where I was put up)
                                                    On the way to Chichen Itza
                                                          Mexican Folk Dance
                   Good to go in cold water after humid day, coming back from Chichen Itza

                           Chichen Itza - Structure is not as great but history is very powerful

                                       On cruise from Playa Del Carmen to Conzumel
                                                               At Conzumel
                                                            Playa Del Carmen
                                                                Playa Del Carmen

                                                                       On Cruise
        They stamp the sweets on the table, you can choose from here whatever dessert you want
                                                       Friday night party scene

                                Floating restaurant in Valley de Bravo. I love the blue sky
                                                        Lagun at Volcano, Toluca
                                                  Pyarmid of the Sun - the tuacahn
                                                     Liga MX Cup
                                                  Zocango Zoo, feeding the giraffe