Australia Day Long Weekend: A trip to Adelaide, January 29 2017

January 25

I am heading off to Adelaide to spend time with Neethu and her parents as their anniversary was tomorrow. However, Neethu’s dad will be joining us on Friday as he’s working in Melbourne. This was planned a couple of months ago, and I managed to use up my flex leave for Friday without touching my annual leave. The intention was to stay until Friday morning, so I could fly back in time to play against Eastlake as we continued our push towards semi-finals. Now with my brother and his friend coming to Adelaide on Friday, those plans had to be shelved, which meant another week of cricket lost.

I anyways would expect the team to beat Eastlake given our steady improvements across bat and ball, particularly against Weston Creek Molonglo and Queanbeyan, where we competed and won the former but not the latter.  I am looking forward to possibly spending a now free Friday with indoor cricket, then gym as Neethu will be busy with her work the whole day. It would allow me to practice the ‘Early not late’ mantra that Luke was telling me through our past sessions with bowling that will allow me to rotate the trunk efficiently, generating pace, bounce, and swing. These were the things that weren’t coming out in past games were I probably was at best military medium pace. The inspiration came from an old YouTube video from Luke, but I was focused on where his subject, Cody Butler, was loading up before delivery stride. Cody was on the Top Gun Pace Bowling competition in Perth back in the 2012-13 season, where he was clocked in the 130s. Thereby he was a great example to learn from. I had been shadow bowling a few times and found I was going through my action a lot quicker than before, but I really need to actually try with the ball in hand. 

As I was leaving the airport, it was going to be the last time I will see my parents in Canberra before they fly back tomorrow evening. It’s always emotionally gut-wrenching when they leave you after they stay 1-2 weeks with you and do a lot for you in terms of cooking and cleaning. To be honest, I broke down a few times in 2015 when they departed Canberra after staying with me. But the good thing is, they are always at the other end of the line, and they do visit now and then whenever feasible.

On the flight, I continued my travel routine in reading cricket related literature. I had Mark Nicholas’ A Beautiful Game then I had Allan Border’s Cricket as I see it and Adam Gilchrist’s autobiography True Colors. I always like to read these kinds of documents as I always look for ideas that could improve my game. It may be little rich adopting ideas from those who played top-level (domestic and international) cricket. Still, these cricketers were also playing club cricket on turf like me and many others who are currently playing. Reading a chapter on Fast Bowling from A Beautiful Game gave me inspiration when there was talk of short skinny cricketers bowling fast and making an impacting particularly Late Malcolm Marshall who became the greatest West Indian quick (and one of the greatest quicks) of all time who also spent over a decade under Nicholas’ captaincy in Hampshire. I’m no different from Malcolm as I’m under six feet and weigh under 80 kg yet became stronger through the gym. 

I reached Adelaide after 8pm and Akhil Menon, whom I met on Neethu’s birthday, fetched me to took me home. It was good as we can discuss what we could possibly do on Friday as I was keen to practice my bowling as I will not have any other cricket engagements this week. It’s perfect that he sincerely wants to get back into playing club cricket like he used to until a few years ago. While he indicated his interest in wicket-keeping, I suggested to him to work on all aspects of cricket – batting, bowling, and keeping. Having a versatile player will be really good, particularly in lower grade cricket. Not just that, Akhil used to bowl, and it will be useful to rediscover his love for bowling.

January 26

Today’s Australia Day and Indian Republic Day. It’s a dual treat for all Indians living in Australia, including my own. There’s always cricket action for both the Australian and Indian cricket teams every year on this date, and today’s no different. Last year these teams played a T20 match at the Adelaide Oval as preparations for the World T20. This year, India is hosting England in a T20 game in Kanpur while Australia is back at the Adelaide Oval against Pakistan.

Despite the cricket being on TV, it’s good to see on our club’s private Facebook group that the 5th-grade captain Joe Laria has initiated a net session to get some of the 5th graders to train ahead of the match against Eastlake this weekend. I think Joe has been talking about this moment for a while, so he’ll be happy that people have become receptive to his initiative. It has been hard to get all, let alone most the 5th graders to practice, but this is a start if we want to peak leading into the semi-finals.

I usually watch cricket when I’m not playing nor training. But today was not the case. Instead, I’m watching back-to-back  Bollywood movies in Tea Tree Plaza. It is the first time I’m doing this as I only come to watch just one film and go. However, the lure of watching two excellent movies that released simultaneously was too good to pass up.

I actually quite enjoyed watching Kaabil and Raees, which were both released the previous day and indeed won the hearts of the critics. Hritik Roshan was superb in his portrayal of a blind man seeking revenge against those who raped his equally blind wife. I honestly thought the corrupt cops who helped cover up the rape weren’t pursued, but I understood the ones who committed the horrendous crime were punished through the law of karma. It was amusing that the cop who tried to get our hero arrested failed as the STD booth owner was also blind. Nevertheless, justice was served because it was undoubtedly a very cowardly act to attack a helpless woman and push her to suicide. So I’m glad that our blind hero went away scot-free.

Raees was equally a perfect watch. Shahrukh Khan showed his thrills and emotions like his previous movies as he, in his avatar of Raees, battles the authorities while dealing with his liquor business and caring for the innocent in his colony in Gujarat. I also liked the performance of Nawazuddin Siddiqui (a well-known character actor) who tries to rein in King Khan successfully by killing him in the end. It was contrary to my expectations, which was that Raees would serve his time in jail and then released in the end as he surrendered for the sake of his people.

It was a perfect day watching these good movies. I was quite stunned about Australia’s batting, which was too good for Pakistan in a high scoring fixture. David Warner again continued his superb one day form from 2016 with 170 off 128 balls while it was good to see Travis Head make triple figures for the first time during his 128 in front of his home crowd. Despite the high scoring encounter, Mitchell Starc took wickets and kept the runs down too much like Hasan Ali did in his maiden five-for in Sydney. It shows that there’s always hope for bowlers in a batter centric environment in cricket if they execute their skills and plans under pressure.

January 27

As usual, I posted my thoughts of both Raees and Kaabil on Facebook. This has started since last year and has continued on.  Amit Pardeshi commented on my Kaabil review that as I write so well, I should consider a career in writing. Ha! Do a Chetan Bhagat who sacrificed his banking career to pursue a similar career? I don’t think so. I can’t leave my day job, which I really like, especially being in public service.

Furthermore writing is like cricket for me. Both are passions and interests which will remain that way.  Perhaps he was just joking, but that’s me. I occasionally cannot decipher things that were really jokes. Anyways, no harm intended.

Today I’m looking forward to spending a day that wouldn’t be out of place for top-level cricketers. I am on my day off from work, so I have plenty of time to spare as Neethu’s working today. I spent three hours with Akhil and his friends playing cricket in Glenauga in the nets behind their school. There were two turf grounds when we arrived, but we were practicing in the nets. I had the opportunity to use the four-piece balls that Akhil’s friend Jeet Patel provided for the use which was good as I had a white ball in my hand which I was able to get it to swing it considerably but not always consistent due to my constant desire for pace that results in drainage of energy. The consistency came in later in the session when I go for the 3 point movement – right knee left foot kick, right knee combined with the ‘Early not late’ mantra with my hands.

Batting I felt was a bit of a gain once I changed my grip on my bat while following prior advice with my bat swing. I batted all right when I defend my stumps and play shots. I was savage on Jeet whenever he flighted the ball, so I could come down the wicket and hit him over his head. Nevertheless, I was committing the same mistake that international batsmen make, which was to play for the turn but get beaten by one that doesn’t. He had the arm-ball and encouraged him to attempt the cross-seam variation, which was effectively used by wicket-to-wicket finger spinners like Rangana Herath and Ravindra Jadeja to get balls to spin and some to skid with the arm. I also challenged him to bowl in a situation like last two overs against an aggressive batsman like me to help him mentally prepared for scenarios that involve him deciding and manipulating his field. He didn’t do too bad. He got me out in the 12th delivery while conceding just 12 runs.

As it turns out, Jeet also plays turf cricket like I do but more of a batting all-rounder who bowls finger-spin. He had been in a rough trot with the bat, but the way he batted and bowled against me showed he had talent. He just needed to be prepared mentally to succeed. The late Richie Benaud said that cricket is 90% mental and 10% skill, but don’t try it with 10%.  I suggested to him to give himself time at the wicket to build his innings for the first 10-15 balls then rotate the strike before playing expansively. He’s only 19, so he’s got time to shine. But he has the knowledge to pass on to Akhil to help him bat and keeping.

By the time we finished and ate lunch at Hungry Jacks, it was about 4pm when we arrived back home. I decided to head to the nearby gym to get some much-needed gym time after a few days’ absence from Monday. I spent about 1.5 hours in the gym. So basically, I spent almost my full day in physical activity, which was quite rare. I saw the line up for tomorrow’s fixture against Eastlake. Obviously, I was out, and so was Ben (who’s on a cruise) and Govind (due to family reasons). Coming in is Vishal Suresh and the Isons, Michael, and Thomas. On paper, we have an excellent batting line-up, but can we deliver. Despite my absence, we have a decent bowling attack led by Adam O’Connor and Joe Laria with Thomas, Jess Howard, and Sam Anavatti as support. I think we should win, but we must be cautious since Eastlake pushed us to the finish last time, and we were beaten by a bottom four team that was in the last place. I wish not to be disrespectful towards Eastlake, but I back the team to win.

Sachit and his friend arrived in Adelaide after Neethu’s dad arrived from Melbourne. I had an opportunity to drive the family’s Toyota Kluger, which needed care while going around bends and turning as it’s a much bigger car than all the ones I’d driven. I had further experience with it earlier in the day with the anticipation of driving it tomorrow. To finish off the day, all of us watched the semi-final in the Australian Open between Nadal and Dimitrov. Only Sachit, Neethu’s dad, and I stayed right towards the end, which becomes a five-set match that lasted nearly five hours. I compared this to the 2010 World Twenty20 semi-final between Australia vs. Pakistan. After so many twists and turns, Nadal prevailed through which will be between two greats in the final between Nadal and Federer on Sunday evening.

January 28

Today was spent going on a drive to a couple of wineries in Barossa Valley, and the Whispering Wall, followed by dinner at Arya’s. It was a typical stinking hot day, but I didn’t think the weather in Canberra was any different. On the cricketing front, it was a good day for Ginninderra with 3 wins in the five grades. 3rd and 4ths won on the first innings, so did 1sts only to register what was their 11th outright victory ever in 340 games since the 2003-04 season (if the facts are to be correct). Remarkably, the big boys fought back from a setback when I read in the Canberra Times that James Coate who bats in the top-order left-handed and bowls spin was ruled out for the rest of the season courtesy of a freakish injury to his finger which was damaged when the roller shutter of the canteen at Kippax Oval slammed down at a faster pace than he expected. I would have felt that it was a big blow given that it was James’ first season in 6 years (he was making a comeback), and he played a part in mentoring the younger spinners during pre-season. Nevertheless, true character has been on display with this outright victory courtesy of Luke Ryan, who continues to have a superb season with the ball in hand with 6/69.

It’s good to hear that the 4ths finally broke through in 2-day cricket despite being a precarious position last weekend at 8/79 chasing 127. After a strong bowling effort in the first weekend led by Caleb Stevens and captain Chakra Ravinuthala, Amit Pardeshi, I heard made 52 to help win on first innings. At one point, they needed to score 158 in 25 overs, and they were off to a decent start at 0/55 after 9. But had fallen short despite Chakra’s 50. Good game it was and thankfully 4th-grade were the beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, my mates in 5ths couldn’t quite pull through losing by 4 wickets having made 188. Once again, Ian Chattin, who made an unbeaten century against us last time, rode his luck on his way to 95. As the case throughout the season, the catching let us down, which would have helped us seize these kinds of moments. It was the second time we lost to a last-place time this season. It just shows any team can win on any day. It happened for us when we lost against Eastlake and Tuggeranong and when we even defeated Weston Creek Molonglo, who were previously unbeaten. Not to worry, there’s still time to turn it around with five games to go. We only played one perfect game against Wests-UC when I took my five-for, thereby we are yet to play another classic match since. These last five games will allow us to execute at least one classic match.

On another front, I was happy to hear that Jeet has started becoming positive, and he felt good when batting today. He batted for 10 overs and scored about 10 although they intended to save their 2-day match. In that situation, it was good he was positive. Even in any position, scoring 10 runs and batting for 10 overs is a reasonable rate, which means he’s spending time at the crease to score his runs. I am pleased my advice has rubbed off on him, and he appreciated that. Jeet’s only 19; thereby he can make mistakes and learn from them now rather than he’s in his mid to late 20s. I want to be an excellent sounding board to Jeet without interfering with his game. I hope moving forward this innings will be a turning point for him, and consistency will be part of his game like it has been for me on synthetic wickets from late 2014 to early 2016 with the bat and also throughout this season with the ball.

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