Archive for August, 2011

The Wands of Magicians…Cricket Bats

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Cricket Bats The most fascinating aspect of a game of cricket is it batsmen. They are the ones that make you dose off on your couch or go to a doctor after the match because you have a couple of nails missing. It is their ability with a piece of willow against a 100 miles projectile that keeps us glued to the idiot box, or send a million people in a stadium go into mass hysteria. These are magicians of the game and they spin their magic with their special wands—the Cricket Bat.

I was talking to a dear friend and he suggested that i work on article that details the kind of bats that master batsmen use, specialty of their wands and i thought that it was a good Idea. But when i started researching on the bats, i felt i was unlocking a magical world. There was so much about that piece of willow that i never knew about, i thought will do a longer journey through the knowledge space, from the silent tree on English country side to the deafening  cacophony of a magic wand in the hands of a magician in a packed arena.

I though it would be appropriate to start with the wand of thekrw2bzqt grand wizard of Cricket, Sir Don Bradman, more akin to the elder wand of the “Deathly Hallows fame”. It all started for Don with a “Duke and Sons” light weight,medium grain English willow Wand (Pic On the right). This is the bat that he played his first match. He made 18 Runs and got dropped from the team after that.

He later moved on to use bats made by Sykes and Son from Yorkshire and continued to use the four crowned Sykes bat till he retired.In a local match using bat on the right the wizard hit 100 runs in 3 over’s. This is one record that no mortal can ever break. (Well it technically not possible any more with 6 ball over’s)


So the question, What are these Wands Made of ?


After the COMBAT incident in WACA cricket ground in Perth in December 1979, where Dennis

Lillee used an aluminium bat and was unceremoniously disallowed, ICC ruled that cricket bat must be made from wood. English Willow is now the chosen favourite at test level. The cricket bat willow is a special hybrid of Salix Alba and is called Salix Alba Caerulae which may be a hybrid between white willow and cracked willow. English willow as it is called, is by nature a soft fibrous wood, with a “honeycomb” type cell structure. It is perfect for the manufacture of cricket bats, It is lightwood, strong, does not splinter, has natural moisture and its ability to be pressed in the manufacturing process to give great ball striking qualities. The fact that it grows quickly makes it commercially viable. Almost all of Salix Alba Caerulae population in England is commercially grown to manufacture Cricket Bats.

Kashmir Willow : At test Level English willow is considered a better choice than Kashmir willow. K-willow is considered to be heavy, harder and prone to cracking. It does not have the grain quality and structure of English counterpart. But if a bat is made by a master bat maker there would be no difference in the balance and lift of bat compared to an English willow bat. It is value for money and is considered better than buying a grade 3 or 4 English willow bat. K-Willow is recommended for beginners and enthusiasts but for  more serious cricket, its english cousin is recommended. English willow is whiter in colour and grainy in appearance, whereas Kashmir willow is brownish in colour and less grainy

Most bats are made from English Willow which by nature is a soft fibrous wood, with a “honeycomb” type cell structure. It is perfect for the manufacture of cricket bats because of its natural moisture and its ability to be pressed in the manufacturing process to give great ball striking qualities. Starter and particularly smaller Junior size bats tend to utilise more lower priced Kashmir Willow… this is harder and therefore more resilient but generally gives less ball striking satisfaction


I mentioned Grade above. Grade is the visual quality of the wood. Once the tree is cut they are shaped into clefts. These clefts/blades are examined to determine the grade based on the quality of the grain and the coloration. Once graded, the blades are sent off to the bat-makers who then bring out the most out of the blade as they shape the bat from the cleft.

The grade of Willow has not proved to have affected the playing ability of the bat. It is the visual quality of the bat. A grade A bat is the most attractive bat that you buy, it does not imply that is the best playing bat. But most professional bats are Grade 1 or Grade  2 bats.



Rate of Growth of Tree and grain



The Willow is available in three standards based on the Grain:Wide, Average and Narrow. A wide Grain will have 4-5 grains, an average grain will have about 10-15 and there will more than 20 grains on a narrow grain bat.The grain on the bat is dependent on the rate of growth of the willow tree. Each grain typically indicates one year.If the tree grew rapidly before it is cut  it would have a wide grain. This is the kind of tree that is grown commercially. They have an average life span of 15 years before they reach their maturity. The narrow grain variety is generally cut after 25-30 years of growth. The bats that have a Narrow grain will be quicker and play better than the wide grain bats, but tend to have a shorter life span than the wide grain bats. Since the wood is not old in wide-grain bats they tend to be stronger and will mature to be really good bats.

If you want to read further on the topic there is a good article on it at the blow link. refer to the section Narrow grain or Wide Grain. For the more adventurous who like to understand how are the trees grown, the best reference would be J.S. Wright & Sons website, they are the authority on the subject.

Continued next page…

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Battle of the Bills…Understanding the Lokpal Bills

August 20, 2011 1 comment

 BOBAs the two armies march into the plain fields of Ramlila grounds, the faceoff has just began. One armed with an election mandate of a few million, the other with the anguish of a frustrated billion. Close kin fighting a common enemy, fighting to decide the right armoury. Can there be more irony into this entire tragedy, while we fight and live in misery,enemy goes scot free. …………………………………..Sunil Varma

The two Lokpal bills, drafted by the government and the Civil society,  have been receiving some strong reactions from all corners of the country. Everyone seems to be fascinated with the coming of age of Indian public and their fight against corruption. Facebook, twitter and the entire social media are trending; with no one else to fill the empty space of a national leadership, Anna is our new DE-facto leader. But before I take sides I want to know what is prize of the battle, so this is an amateur analysis of the two Lokpal bills.

This is an analysis of the bills not the movement itself. An attempt to understand, if the  Anna’s suicide attempt is worth the cause or is it another of tamashas that we Indians are so found of. To make the post short, I have taken the key points of differences between the two parties and tabulated it with comments. ( I just hope in my zeal to keep the post concise I have not made it unreadable)

Lokpal bill analysis copy

Now that the moral ground to kill clearly in the favor the Jan-Lokpal bill, it is also clear why the Govt is opposing it. Their situation is akin to asking a carceral soul to pick his garroter’s hatchet. I am convinced if left to the GOVT (any one in Power) this bill will never see the light of the day. Even if the bill is passed, Lokpal as an institution will be another govt agency relegated to the caves of bureaucratic Moria.

Even though I like the Jan Lokpal Bill better, I am not sure if I agree with  Anna Hazare tactics of coercing the govt into accepting what the movement wants. This will set a new precedent of having a Jana-bills, for every bill that will be introduced in the parliament. The need of time demands one of the parties  take it up into the Parliament, and debate it like  mature people and pass a bill that can fight corruption. But knowing the level of intellect in our parliament, I know it is pipe dream and would rather have an Anna do that for us.

It is corruption that we are fighting against, in a society where it is part of our daily chore. We bribe everyone and envy the govt officer and his not so legal perks. We can afford to ride without a license, marry at the local park, sell a house at half the legal value, get our kids to the school and colleges and avoid our taxes because of our ability to corrupt people. We are the ones who look for a jack, a push or a pull to get anything done and feel proud that we are able to do it with our so called connections.

But we are the same people who in an alien country are exemplary citizens. We keep the city clean in Singapore, go thru the 10 tests to get a license in UK, do not drink and drive in Dubai, stand in queues everywhere. Reason: We are scared of the law, where as in our own country we know we can bribe our way through. So it is the law… clear, enforceable and incorruptible that will make a difference. So a strong anti corruption Law and a competent enforcing agency is paramount for us to win this WAR! and that is what this is all about. I vote for the Jan-Lokpal Bill or it closest equivalent that has been evaluated, checked and rechecked by a competent group of people with the objective of fighting corruption, even if it not supported by Anna and his billions.

Now The Anna Show….The Great Indian Drama continues

August 18, 2011 2 comments

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Latest Update of cartoon on the net, while the previous compilation;  focused on the supporting actor, this is more on the main protagonist of the tamasha, Anna himself.

The Epic Indian drama continues.. in the Sequel to the Drama Ramdev…the saga continues, which ended with a unceremonious escapade of Drama Dev from the dais from the Ramlila grounds in to a exile to recruit and arm a million men, to fight the establishment. This Screen opens with the lead actor Anna Hazare in a theatrical dictate that he is going to fast on to death from 16th Aug. What Mr Hazare forgot was, according to Indian penal code suicide is an offence and threat to suicide is also an offence and the law can take preventive actions to stop you from committing the mortal sin. so he was debunked and sent to Tihar Jail to share an afternoon launch with Kalmadi and Raja, two of his compatriot well wishers of India.After much hallabulla and a billion Facebook and twitter messages, the govt thought it is just wise to let him fast onto death, it might close the chapter faster. So on the third day of the Drama, he was allowed in his suicide bid.

Me wonder if they were going to let him fast in the end, why did they stop him in fist place. I think this is all a conspiracy by Facebook, twitter and news channels  to generate webhits and TRPs. They were the biggest winners in the entire drama.

Other Article in the series

Battle of the Bills…Understanding the Lokpal Bills

Drama Ramdev……The saga Continues cartoons of Ramdev
The Great Indian Drama…Baba Ramdev Show

The cartoonists showcased are

Satish Acharya :


Times of India : Timescontent

Google Images.

The Builder (short story)

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Came out from “Jazz by the Bay’, a club in Mumbai, into Marine Drive. Called the ‘Queens Necklace’, this area is among the most desirable and expensive real estate in Mumbai. Was approached by a really old bent and gnarled woman begging for some money. I asked her where she came from. ‘Sholapur’ she said, but had been in Mumbai for longer than she can remember. She left her village in search of food and a better life. A better life ?…..

She came to Bombay (as it was then), when some of the buildings were still being built on Marine Drive. She smiled almost with pride as she told me that she was a laborer working at Rs 1 per day in those days. And then her wages went up to Rs 1.50 per day. She swept her hand proudly as she pointed at some of the buildings she had helped build. Suddenly she was no longer a beggar, lost in the mass of people of the street that India prefers to forget in the mass hysteria of India’s new billionaires and stock market (over) valuations. She was an individual that had contributed to society.

I gave her some money, and as I drove away she was still smiling and waving at me. I think I reminded her of a time when she carried herself with pride and hope. Even at Rs 1.50 a day And my last image of her was this frail old woman silhouetted against the large imposing residences. Still waving. And I thought …. Each building must now be exchanging hands at values over $ 100 million. While an old woman that helped build it still begs on the streets.

by Shekhar Kapur


Read that story on the net today and it made me think…there is a story everywhere, it is but our ability to see it and perceive it that makes the difference between people who are sensitive to the world around them and rest of the herd. I see a remarkable resemblance of the story and the city I live in Dubai: A teenage city; strong,  vibrant and erratic. A city in its growth phase, morphing every day and acquiring a personality and creating its own identity. As I see it being built and the workers from different nationalities labor the burning heat of the summer months to make the city look pretty I wonder where they would end up after they finish their contracts and their visas….would they have the privilege of standing on sheik zayed road and say “ that building stands and I helped to build it”

But you were Out.. Mr.Bell

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

By Sunil Varma

 image There is something about the English and their afternoon tea. Mr. Bell was so peevish without his evening tea; he forgot that he had to wait till the ball is officially dead. With his mind set on receiving a well-deserved pat and those Marie biscuits, he got himself run-out in a farcical way. He wandered out of his crease, thinking it is tea time but was stranded midway between his biscuits and the pitch when Praveen Kumar rose from his slumber and sent the ball back to the keeper. After some ado the third empire called Ian Bell out.

Rest of the story is more like a Bollywood drama, a wronged man gets what he deserves because of the good deeds of the another good man. Dhoni comes victorious as the virtuous leader who plays for the spirit of the game rather than to win. He might although have to answer some awkward questions from billion cricket crazy fans back home, if he lost the current test.

Ian Bell deserved to be out, he played sloppy cricket. Is it not in the spirit of the game that he should have said? “Mate, I was sloppy and I got out. Sorry captain (Strauss), but I cannot go back and play. It is bad for the spirit of the game”. He said no such thing but came back running like a kid give a second chance to bat after he got out. Would the English have shown the same philanthropy if it was Dravid on the crease instead of Bell? A little birdie tells me that, they would have shut the dressing room door tight, lest Dhoni might come and ask them to re-consider.

check these clips to find out

It made no sense, Paul Collingwood should have recalled the batsman, it was an accident and was complete gamesmanship to uproot the bails when the runner was biting the dust in the middle of the crease because of the bowler.Check  Tit For Tat from New Zealand, the irony is Paul was part of this.

The interesting part is this is not the first time something as bizarre has happened. In 1974, in a test between England and West Indies at Port of Spain, the same drama was being played. Ian bell was being played by the charismatic Kalicharan and Praveen Kumar was being played by the now famous commentator Tony Greig. The screen unfolded on the last ball of the second day, of the test. The Batsman Julian Bernard ran the ball the pitch to Tony Grieg and Kalicharan assuming it to be end of day was out of his crease. Not wanting to lose the opportunity Tony knocked the stumps down. The empire called “OUT”.

There was huge outcry from the public very similar to the public outcry at Trent Bridge. After a huge protest from the West Indies and a lot deliberations, between the captains (Rohan Kanhai and Mike Dennesse) and the match officials, English team apologized and recalled Kalicharan, who interestingly went on to score 158 runs. (Ian Bell scored 159)

In 1989 series India vs. Pakistan Wasim Akram got Srikanth on the legs and the umpire called him LBW. Kris being Kris show dissent and was very vocal about it, he contested that he nicked the ball. I was watching that match live and even as kid I found it childish at international cricket. Imran the benevolent, called him back to play, and Wasim got him out the next ball caught behind. Kris was out he should not have been called back either.

There was also another incident again with India and England in 1979, a match being played at Mumbai then Bombay. Gundappa Vishwanath recalled Bob Taylor to the crease after he was given caught behind by the umpire. Taylor went on to make 43 in the first Innings and did not need to bat in the second as England won the match by ten wickets. But the difference in this match was the umpire made a wrong call but in the earlier two incidents the batsmen were genuinely out.I am not sure if it is right to recall a batsman who was callous and got himself out.

These incidents are not uncommon in cricket, but I have not come across similar situations in any other team sport being played at national level. Would it not have been great sportsmanship, if Maradona went ahead and let his little secret about his infamous golden hand world-cup goal to the opposition? I have not come across anything similar in any other sport either. I guess other than cricket the game is played to win, in cricket the game is played for the game itself. (Did that make sense?)

It is not that Cricket is always played in spirit of the game. There are two incidents that I can recall, which went against all accepted norms of sportsmanship and sprit of the game.

The first one is the legendary bodyline series between England and Australia in 1932-33, devised to combat the extraordinary batting skills of Bradman. A bodyline delivery was one where the cricket ball was pitched short so as to rise towards the body of the batsman on the line of the leg stump, in the hope of creating leg-side deflections that could be caught by one of several fielders in the quadrant of the field behind square leg. This was considered by many to be intimidatory and physically threatening, to the point of being unfair in a game once supposed to have gentlemanly traditions, but commercialization of the game has subsequently tended to elevate the principle of ‘win at all costs’ above traditional ideals of sportsmanship. England won the series 4-1

The second one is more recent and it involved ourown Chappell. In 1981 Australia playing  against New Zealand in the third match of the five match Benson & Hedges world series cup at MCC, Greg Chappell asked his brother Trevor Chappell to deliver the last ball underarm to prevent New Zealand from scoring a six they need to tie the game. Underarm ball was technically legal like the bodyline ball, but it is totally against the spirit of the game, but Australia won the game.

India lost the match to England, with 30 minutes and a day to spare and a deficit of more than 300 runs. Stanly Ipkiss you were right buddy “nice Guys end last”

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