Thursday, June 29, 2006


I reached Delhi almost a month ago and somehow timed it perfectly with the World cup. It took me 3-4 days to get over a little bit of disorientation - a combination of jetlag and the fact that I'd finally packed up and left Boston. Since then the World cup has been dictating my life. The matches have started around 630 in the evening and gone on till almost 3 at night. I've watched almost every match including the postgame and pregame shows. But the last two days have been awful with no football to watch. Even my parents, who have a passing interest in the world cup, have gotten used to having football on the TV through the evening. Can't imagine what it must be like for fans of teams which have made it to the quarterfinals. Tomorrow's game (Argentina-Germany) has received so much hype that even cricketers are on the news channels talking about that game rather than the final test match between India and West Indies which starts tomorrow. If India ever makes it to the world cup, cricket will suffer a huge loss as the national pastime. The sad part is that the intense part of the world cup is over and it's just 7 more games to go. The third place match is always a waste of time.

How are the rest of you coping these days?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bend it like Beckham

1) Finally saw a great curling free kick. Beckham's looked pretty ordinary throughout the world cup but has managed to be instrumental in the crucial goals England have scored. I couldn't find a video of the one he scored last night but here's a link to the one he scored in the dying minutes of the game against Greece to help England qualify 4 years ago. They didn't look too convincing but Ecuador was even worse. They showed no urgency while losing and seemed happy to lose 1-0.

2) Did you know that the German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, lives in California, and even though he's been the head coach for almost 2 years still hasn't moved to Germany. He's also hired an American sports psychologist and judging by the way the Germans are playing it seems to be paying off in spite of all the criticism he's had to endure. The Germany-Argentina quarterfinal is a mouthwatering prospect.

3) Last night's Portugal-Holland match was fun to watch with all the fighting - especially Luis Figo's headbutting. Even funnier is what the Portugese coach, Scolari, said: "Jesus said we should turn the other cheek, unfortunately, Figo is not Jesus Christ." Damn, maybe that could have solved the Da Vinci code.

4) In the comments to my last post, Zico's bicycle kick was being talked about. Here's a link if you want to see the video. It was against New Zealand.

5) The ref in the Australia-Italy match was just shocking. The standard of refereeing has been abysmal and no way was it a penalty. The referee must have been blind. Feel sad for Australia who dominated Italy. Australia clearly missed Harry Kewell and his finishing touches. So many chances went abegging. Oddly enough Italy will probably make it all the way to the semis as neither the Swiss nor Ukrainians have looked worthwhile.

Friday, June 23, 2006

more thoughts on the world cup

1) Brazil finally played up to the hype they've been getting. Ronaldo scored twice but still looks very lethargic and he's being carried by the rest of the team. Robinho, who's subbed for Ronaldo twice, looks fantastic and is clearly a star on the rise. But the man who controls the team is Ronaldinho. He's a midfield general in the mould of Zico and Socrates and his dribbling, passing and shots on goal are a joy to watch. As his is enjoyment of the game with that toothy grin. Ghana will have a tough time against them but if they play without any fear (like the match against Czech republic) it'll be a great game to watch.

2) When did all the footballers start wearing white shoes? I remember Beckham and a few others in the last world cup wearing those awful looking shoes but not too many. Black shoes (or spikes) always seemed more in tune with a tough game. With those knee-length white socks they look even more wimpish. Or like retired 70 yr olds in Florida.

3) There's an Indian presence in the world cup - Vikash Dhorasoo. Though he plays for France and comes on as a substitute only.

4) I still haven't seen a great curling free kick goal. A lot of them have come close but none which leaves everyone (including the goalkeeper) open-mouthed.

5) Fifa's clamped down on hard fouls but still nothing on the fake injuries. De Rossi's been banned for 4 games.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Peaking too early?

The Argentina-Holland game was a big disappointment. Clearly, both teams didn't want to risk injuries and suspensions and play their hearts out. The last time they played in the 1998 cup was a great game and there was a lot of hostility, which for a neutral supporter is fun to watch. Wish I'd seen the Ivory Coast - Serbia game. Even though it was meaningless, the highlights were very exciting.

One of the commentators, at halftime, suggested maybe Argentina had peaked too early. This is a term which I've never quite understood for a team sport. Peaking at the right time is something which makes sense for an individual athlete, like a runner. The idea is to never go all out in your training and preliminary races and keep increasing the intensity with every race and training session and then go all out on the day of the big race. While training for a marathon you never run the whole 26 miles at your race pace. At most about 22 miles and at about 80-90% of your desired pace. But it's the individual athlete who knows exactly how much energy he's expending and if you train hard enough you know how much you can exert.

For a team sport it's obviously much harder to do. Telling each of your players to keep increasing their intensity with each game wouldn't really work. It's possible that some of your key players can control their performance but in a tournament like the world cup where a slight slip can knock you out it would be foolish. Since there is so much coordination and teamwork required (especially in something like football) it's obvious when a player isn't up to the mark. Invariably, that player is substituted - like Ronaldo these days. Each time a team manages to shake off a shaky start to go on and win a major tournament it's called peaking at the right team. But there are more teams which get knocked out because they weren't performing at the right level and they get blasted for a lacklustre showing. In the case of a team winning after a bad start it's more a question of the team gelling together and each player understanding his role - not peaking at the right time.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

In memorium

I recently finished my Phd and the Boston marathon. Both of them were dreams of mine for more than a decade. I started my undergraduate degree in mathematics exactly 11 years ago and in the same year ran my first marathon. Over the next few years, I did miserably as an undergraduate and never got around to running another marathon. I took a year off and then went to Kansas where I wasn't unhappy but desparate to move to a better department and nicer city. Boston was the ideal city for me to do a Phd and also home to the most prestigious marathon in the world. The mathematical world is fairly snooty and moving up from a place like Kansas was harder than I realised. Though I applied to 10 depts I got rejected by 9 of them (2 of them didn't recognize my undergrad degree). Brandeis was the only place which accepted me and had I been turned down by them I doubt if I would have stayed on in Kansas to finish my Phd. The Brandeis admissions committee consists of only the graduate advisor so it was basically only one person who could have rescued me from complete obscurity. I don't know what prompted Jerry Levine to choose me when everyone else rejected me but I'll remain indebted to him forever.

Last year in April I went and saw the Boston marathon and promised myself that I would do it before I left. I hadn't run seriously for years and was very unfit but I started training for it and joined a running club. It wasn't going to be easy to finish my thesis and run a marathon but Steve Burton, the coach, managed to keep tabs on my training though he was the coach for almost 50 people. Even though I was running only 2 days a week, he convinced me I could do it again and told me what pace to follow. I ran 2 marathons in the last year and his advice and encouragement is what kept me training through the bitter Boston winter and the stress of finishing my Phd. Training for a marathon was also a great way for me switch off from my thesis.

Sadly, both of them died recently due to cancer. Jerry died before my graduation and Steve was too unwell to cheer his club during the marathon. I found out about Steve's death yesterday and I know the whole club is still in shock. Not being able to thank them personally will always be one of my biggest regrets but I guess thanking them in cyberspace is what I'll have to do.

These are the links to two websites in their memory - at Brandeis University and the Somerville Road Runners. They were both very accomplished, passionate about their work and extremely kind and generous human beings.

Jerry Levine

Steve Burton

Saturday, June 17, 2006

some thoughts on the world cup

1) In the land of Oktoberfest and 1300 breweries, the official beer of the world cup is Budweiser!

2) Why doesn't Fifa clamp down on all the fake injuries and theatrics? Can't they impose bans or suspensions after the match based on TV replays? Watching these tough guys writh in agony and then get back on the field the moment there's no red card is frustrating. They're highly paid athletes representing their country in the biggest tournament in the world but have no qualms coming across as a bunch of wimps. Remember Rivaldo in the 2002 World cup against Turkey? These guys should be made to watch some American football. If they see the kind of pounding the average NFL quarterback takes from a 350 pound defensive lineman they'll probably realise how ridiculous they look sometimes.

3) The Dutch put on a sick display yesterday against Ivory Coast. One of the halftime commentators called it cheating for all the theatrics and shameless fouls. The Ivory Coast team was vastly superior and it's a pity they're out of the tournament.

4) France, England and Germany have put on the most boring displays in the tournament so far. Though I have a feeling that their tight defense will carry at least one of England or Germany through to the final.

5) Ghana is (till they're knocked) my favourite team now. Their domination of the Czech republic was fascinating to watch and I loved the way they kept attacking and didn't fall back to defend like the Germans or the English.

6) Ever noticed how a goalkeeper behaves when he makes a save? He rushes out, shouts at his players and then waves his arms around. That's his moment in the sun. But after he lets a goal through it's a shrug of the shoulders, nobody to blame and a feeble kick at the football.

7) Are the Italians more concerned about their hairstyles or the game? Each one of those players seems to take a lot of time adjusting their hair the moment they're not near a football. Maybe that's why teams like Brazil and Germany do well - most of their players have short, cropped hair unlike the Italians.

8) The Italy-USA game was pretty dramatic and very open. Maybe referees should hand out red cards more regularly to reduce the number of players on the field and make it more exciting. It also gives the players who are sent off a break towards the end.

Friday, June 16, 2006

ar-gen-tina, ar-gen-tina

Finally, there was one team in this world cup which lived up to the cliches of playing with flair and style. Argentina put on an exhibition today and demolished Serbia and Montenegro and it was a joy to watch them. The first world cup that I followed was in 1986 and Maradona's brilliance meant Argentina was always one of my favourite teams (Brazil and Holland come close). The great man was in the stands himself, cheering like a schoolboy and this might be their year. There were moments in the game where they passed the ball 30 consecutive times with no long balls or crosses, just short passes, trying to build up a move and even that was riveting to watch. Messi, the 18 yr old heir apparent to Maradona, came on as a substitute and showed why he's regarded so highly. A pass through the legs of 3 defenders for a Crespo goal, a few quick turns like Maradona in his prime to run the Serbian defense ragged and finally, a clinical strike for a goal on a pass from Tevez. All this was in a space of 17 minutes and if he's fully fit for the next game against Holland it should be the game of the tournament.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

notes from delhi

1) Went and saw MI-3 a few days ago. The movie was only 2 hours long (mercifully not longer) but still had an interval. During the interval there was an ad of Delhi Police. To contact them you can email them at A huge IT revolution has happened in the country but Delhi Police, inspite of having a website hasn't managed to get its own email address.

2) There's been a big buildup to the world cup on all the news channels. Tonight is Brazil's first match and being everyone's favourite team, CNN-IBN decided to send one of its sports reporters live to cover the match and decided to ask him questions about the Brazillian fans' expectations of the match. For a brief second, I felt envious of the lucky reporter who might have been in Germany or maybe even Rio. A second later I felt sorry for him. He was standing (live) outside the Brazillian embassy in Delhi.

After some stupid questions they decided to make things worse. They chose to go to a second reporter who was in (where else but) Bombay. He was draped in a Brazillian flag sitting on a horse drawn chariot on Marine Drive in Bombay with 2 old, fat and balding (I know I'm getting there) Brazillians. With a huge smile, he asked them how it felt to watch the world cup in India. One of them replied "It feels odd because there's no passion for football in this country." The reporter's smile vanished and he turned to the second Brazillian who seemed more interested in the experience of sitting on a horse drawn chariot in one of the most crowded cities in the world, on a road notorious for traffic. Not getting a response, our happy reporter returned us back to the studios with the message that India is all set for the big game tonight.

3) The last time I was in Delhi was almost a year and a half ago. Since then, the prices of everything have almost doubled. Gas prices, of course, have also risen. The last 2-3 times that I had visited Delhi, it cost me about 50 Rs (after lengthy negotiations with the driver) to take an autorickshaw from my brother's flat to my parents' house. That was a reasonable fare considering the distance. Autorickshaw drivers in Delhi are also notorious for overcharging and when I was a student in Delhi taking an auto was a bigger luxury than taking a taxi in Boston. When I got inside the auto today, I expected a price almost double but with the temperature hovering above 100F I wasn't in a mood to negotiate and was ready to pay 100 Rs as long as I got home fast without a heatstroke. Either he was very honest or hadn't realised how expensive gas is now. But he charged me only 40 Rs (without any negotiating). Left him a 10 Rs tip and he smiled so widely that I felt like a millionaire getting off a strech limo who had just tipped the driver about 100$.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

sehwag and trinidad

Sehwag was back to his brutal best today. The pitch was pretty green and looked like it would help pace bowlers and the windies picked 5 pacers and india picked 3. In hindsight, we should have picked another spinner as it's going to be tough for our medium pacers on a pitch like this. For the first 30 mins, Jaffer and Sehwag took it easy. Jaffer looked very solid and after a 200 in the previous test, his confidence is obviously up and he seemed very comfortable defending and driving. Sehwag took his time to get his eye in. After that, it was mayhem. He treated the bowling like a club attack (which it is). At one point he waltzed down the pitch to Bravo and whacked him over long on as if playing a part time spinner. He looked like he was going to break Richards' record for the fastest century and easily score 100 before lunch. But for the last 30 mins or so, Jaffer had a lot of the strike and Sehwag looked a bit subdued. In the last over before lunch (and the windies only bowled 25 in a session) he tried as if he had to win the match in the last over. When he remained stuck on 99, he looked like he'd gotten out for zero on a rash stroke.

After lunch, Dravid and Sehwag played comfortably and Sehwag looked set for 300.
At this point I switched over to football and watching Trinidad fight it out for a draw was far more entertaining. Their supporters cheered every minute of the second half as if they'd won the world cup final. The moment the ref blew his whistle I switched back to cricket and Sarwan and Lara had huge smiles on their faces. Sehwag was on 150+ and it might have seemed odd to see the opposing captain smiling while his attack was being taken apart. 361/4 at the end of play and with Dhoni and Pathan to come, we should make 500+. Dhoni was even more brutal than Sehwag in the first test and if he comes in to bat with India over 400 and Windies on the defensive he can butcher them. I can see Kaif and Dravid playing without any rush in the first session and trying to get us to 450 without losing a wicket.

The England-Paraguay match was dull, boring and a lot like the England team - overhyped and devoid of entertainment. The Argentina-Ivory Coast game was the most open game I've seen so far and considering Holland is the third team in this group it's definitely the group of death.

Federer-Nadal play in the French open final today. Followed by cricket and then World Cup football.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Finally managed to get my butt moving and went to Lodhi gardens for a run. Lodhi gardens is a park in the heart of Delhi built on the ruins of 16th century monuments and is still my favourite place in the world to go for a run. Since my school and college days this was always the park where I tried to train for a marathon or a long distance race. I know the whole route and park inside out and even though it was over 100F yesterday I forced myself to get out there. Managed to do 2 rounds (about 4km) before the heat and humidity stopped me. Hard to believe that I managed to run 10 times the distance less than 2 months ago. Ran into a childhood friend of mine who was doing his rounds as well and each time I come back to Delhi I always run into him at this park.

The World cup starts today. Also the French Open men's semifinals. And from tomorrow, the second India-West Indies cricket match. Aaaaahhh. So much to see. So much time to waste.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Reached Delhi around midnight. Came home and immediately started to watch the cricket match and stayed up till late watching it. It's 11 am on Tuesday and I have no idea what to do as my parents are away at work. Maybe I'll read. Maybe I'll watch TV. Maybe I'll go back to sleep.........

Saturday, June 03, 2006


I finally infiltrated the corporate prison last night. The first day that I reached London, G didn't want me to come up as it was in the middle of a busy working day. For the last 3 days my backpack had been lying upstairs somewhere as we were too lazy to take it out and bring it back home. I'd been living out of my emergency backpack (which I carry in case my check-in baggage gets lost) and I had a 3 day supply of T-shirts and underwear. By Friday I'd reached the end of my supplies so we'd decided to pick up my bigger backpack later on.

We went out to another pub on Fleet street on Friday and after 5-6 pints G was sufficiently drunk. Went back to the prison at 1130 to pick it up and since he was pretty drunk managed to convince him to take me up. The security guard took my picture, name and gave me a special card. Clearing immigration at Heathrow was much easier. Went up and there were still a couple of people working with a clock showing the time in New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Frankfurt (apparently that's the hierarchy of the top financial cities of the world). A vast sea of cubicles, computers and desks was all I could make out. Since it wasn't crowded we made quite a noise there and I insisted on sitting on his desk with my feet up. Fooled around there like my brothers and I used to as 10 yr old kids in my father's office sometimes. 20 years later things haven't changed too much. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 01, 2006


the send off was slightly different though quite appropriate. S and J came to drop me off. they were the first 2 guys i met in boston (and my first 2 roomates) so it was quite fitting that they were the last 2 guys to see me off. celebrated in the airport lounge with johnny walker.

reached london ahead of time and was supposed to meet G for lunch. G and A are two of my oldest and closest friends from undergraduate days. in january, the day my advisor gave me the green light to finish by may i met G and A in new york. G was on some work and staying at the ritz carlton. A came up from DC and i came down from boston and it was the first time the three of us had met in almost 5 years. we celebrated with champaign at the ritz carlton. a far cry from a dirty dorm room in delhi and cheap beer.

today, i met him on the first day after leaving america. reached the goldman-sachs headquarters on fleet street with my oversized backpack and grubby pants and sweatshirt. the place was full of people in business suits zipping in and out. the receptionist was surprised to see me and G came down looking serious and stressed. left my big backpack and laptop in his office (i wasn't allowed to go up!) and had lunch. met my parents later at the royal festival hall and went for a cruise on the thames to greenwich. hung around the museums and prime meridian, etc followed by beer. on the way back it was a snooze on the thames for me and my father.

met G and his wife, C, for a drink later. one drink led to another and another and the cab we'd called at 11 was cancelled. stayed on in the bar till later. doctor pande in his hiking boots and boston marathon sweatshirt didn't quite fit in with the crowd on the dance floor but after 3 hours of sleep on the flight the night before and 5-6 pints of bitter it didn't matter. got home and slept at 2.