Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Lessons to Learn from Harmanpreeet Kaur's Magnificent Semi-Final Knock

There are times when we face situations that require us to do something extra ordinary to win. When you could seize the moment and make it yours, when you could create a win out of a potential loss. When you display Personal Leadership at its best. These situations throw themselves at us on a regular basis. Just like it happened to Harmanpreet in the Women's World Cup semi-final. Can we convert a probable loss into a win? By design?

Much has been written about Harmanpreet's innings of 171 from 115 balls that knocked Australia out of the Women's World Cup semi-final and is still being written. That it is the best knock in women's cricket, that it takes women's cricket to a new level, that it is the best World Cup knock by an Indian etc.

Let me analyse the lessons to learn from it - on how to turn in a match winning performance when the heat is on. More so when it is a match your team has to win against a tough and supremely confident opponent. You have to turn in something superlative, something out of the world, and she did it. Here's my understanding of what she did right.

Lesson No 1. Understand the situation, Play Yourself In
Harmanpreet knew the significance of the game. India had lost badly to Australia in the earlier round and though they bounced back and beat New Zealand to get into the semis, the team was visibly wary of the strong Australian side. The loss of two early wickets for 36 and some disciplined bowling by the assured Aussies meant that she and Mithali Raj had to build the road, slowly, brick by brick. She did not try and dominate right away. She got her bearings first and understood the situation. In the first 39 balls she scored 19 runs.

Patience. You cannot get runs if you are back in the hut despite the grandest of intentions. To make a difference you must be out in the middle.

Lesson No 2. When You Start Seeing the Ball, Hit it
Once Harmanpreet started seeing the ball and realised that there were no demons in the bowling nor the wicket nor the weather, she started hitting the ball hard. Clean cricketing shots mind you. Fully in control. She adjusted her shots intelligently to find the fence more than once but always played correct cricketing shots that had low chances of getting her out. Full face of the bat, high backlift, watch the ball and smack it.

Play safe. Play hard. Push hard from safety.

Lesson No 3. Don't Take the Foot Off The Accelerator
Many great innings are marred by the slowdown near the hundred. Like her idol Sehwag, Harmanpreet did not slow down. But she went one better. Where Sehwag gets it over with a six, she hit hard shots along the ground. Not for a moment did she slow down for her hundred; she still stepped out as aggressively and hit the ball as hard as she could. No slow single, then another for her hundred. The ball was there, the team needed the runs and she was going for it.

Don't slow down the momentum for personal targets. Keep going. It's the same bowling, the same wicket, the same situation.

Lesson No 4. Keep the Partnership Going
Harmanpreet stitched a brilliant partnership with Deepti Sharma who played a wonderful supporting role. The moment she got strike the left hander dutifully took a single and gave the strike back which apparently was the plan and a very sensible one too. Such a wonderful partnership, such self less play, I have not seen in years. Harmanpreet went for a stretch two on 98 and was livid that Deepti almost got herself run out on a reluctant second. No celebration for the hundred, just livid that such a crucial partnership almost got cut short because of a bad judgment call by her partner. The two put on 137 runs that put Australia out of the game, Deepti got 25 of those.

Build partnerships. Nurture them. Care for them (even if you have to shout at them). Then put your arms around them. It's all about partnerships. You cannot do it alone.

Lesson No 5. Don't Be Easily Satisfied
Many greater players have been guilty of giving up their wickets after reaching the 100. Satisfied that they did their part. That a 100 in a world cup semi-final is a big deal and especially under these circumstances. A casual smile, a big shot, a cute reverse sweep - how many times have we seen these show off tactics in men's cricket that ended their innings. But no such cuteness from Harmanpreet. She was fully focussed. There was a job to be done and it was far from over. She knew the Australians could always threaten whatever the score - and they did. She knew she had to bat them out of the game.

Don't be easily satisfied. When you are in, keep going. Keep building. Good is not good enough. Go for great. What will make the difference is what you do after that 100.

Lesson No 6. Keep Going Through the Pain, Glory Does Not Come Easy
One inside edge and she hurt herself. The slight hobble was evident. The fatigue certainly should be showing now. One false shot was expected. One foolish shot. One small loss of concentration. But despite the pain, fatigue, sheer number of balls she was facing, she kept going, on and on.

There will be pain when you want glory. No excuse. Pain, rain, whatever. Keep going through it.

Lesson No 7. You Have Not Finished the Job Until You Have Dominated the Opponent Out of the Game
It is easy to go for a big shot and get out after her 150, when the job was almost done. No one would have minded. She was tired, she was in pain, she had done more than enough. Not for her. There is a difference between almost done and fully done. The job was still to be done. India was well past 200 and going to 250. But she still hit correct cricketing shots. She did not lose her concentration.

By now she had in some parts achieved what she set out to do. She had pushed the Aussie team into confusion; their body language was down, their confidence shattered. They had no answers. She had beaten them mentally. She still did not let go. She did not take the luxury of dragging the off side ball to midwicket - she still hit the ball through cover for four. Even in the last couple of overs.

Dominate the opponent, beat them into dust when you can. Don't let them get up. Show no mercy. Always be wary that the one extra run could make the difference.

Lesson 8. Balance Aggression With Caution
It was not pure aggression. Aggressive she was but this knock was more about how she blended it with an amazing amount of caution. No false shot, no unnecessary risks, just pure clean hitting. Nothing fancy ever, no deVilliers like fancy footwork though it must have been tempting.

Aggression with caution. Push without losing your position of safety. Don't over reach and yet don't take the pressure off.

Lesson No 9. Do What You Know, Do Not Attempt What You Don't
Harmanpreet backed her strengths, her strong areas and kept going. She never tried things she did not know, never played those net shots you do once in a while when ego and pride takes over after you piled up a big score and you desperately want to show the world your expertise.

Follow the process. Do what you can do. Don't do what you cannot. Remove all that is not you.

Lesson 10. Always the Team, Never Herself
Harmanpreet, if anything, played for the team and not for herself. Clearly that was the only thing on her mind. Not her six hitting prowess, not her shot selection, nothing. She just wanted enough on the board and did everything she could - hobbling through her uns, hitting through, keeping the partnership going, right till the last ball.

If you play for the team, a bigger purpose, you hit your best form far more often than otherwise. You hit the zone when you go past the ego, the I.

Those are my 10 lessons from Harmanpreet's knock. In times when you are faced with a situation when your team needs you to bail it out, when it needs you to do the impossible, think of what this young lady did, and you could pull it off too and cover your team with glory.

Good luck and go for glory!

Last Holiday - Movie Review

Delightful little movie. Queen Latifah is perfect in the role of Georgia Byrd, a shy unassuming, cookware department salesperson who secretly longs to become a chef - sometime in the future. She is also secretly in love with a colleague who she hopes to hook sometime in the future. But the future comes closer to her than she expects in the form of a rare brain disorder and she is told bluntly that she has four weeks to live.

She liquidates all her assets and heads off to live up her life in some exotic spa in Europe. The rich and mighty are surprised to find the unknown free spender among them who fears nothing - not the casino jinx, not jumping off a huge dam, not skiing off the deepest slopes and landing on a restaurant table. She wins admirers, chief among them the elite chef of the spa, who loves her appetite for food and for life. It has a nice uplifting ending.

Simple. Funny. Charming. My idea of a movie. Don't need much more. I loved her Book of Possibilities. Very interesting.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What Impressed Me About Harmanpreet Kaur's Knock

Big match, big hearts. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. After a bad loss to Australia in the league stage, India needed a big performance to win in the semi final.

The body language of the Aussies was assured when the match began. They somehow believed they would win it seemed. The Indian girls were on the back foot, finding their way for most of the inning until Harmanpreet Kaur decided she was seeing the ball well enough and started hitting it really hard and high.

Deepti Sharma sensibly gave the strike to Harmanpreet and she obliged with a four or two, a six or two. Ok, this cannot last long is what one would think. At some point the Aussies thought that too. But when that did not happen, one could sense them panicking, lacking a plan B. It was clearly evident when they brought in a part time bowler like Villani to bowl in the power play. Harmanpreet had completely demoralised the Aussie mindset by now. That was her first big achievement. What looked like 200 became 281.

The most impressive part was that she knew she had to drive the nail in and deep. She did not give away her wicket after 100. as 99 out of 100 players would have done  (As Villani did on 75 for Australia when she was toying with the bowling.) Harmanpreet went on and on despite the pain and fatigue, not losing an ounce of momentum, hitting proper cricketing shots with minimum risk, until the very last ball. And if we thought 281 was a safe target, think again. Despite a bad start and losing 3 top wickets, Australia came within 30 odd runs of the Indian total.

What was the final difference was the effort Harmanpreet put in after her 100. Every run after that was gold and took it further and further away from the Aussies. The willingness to go on and on, to not be content, to give up hoping that this was good enough was what showed up clearly. Good enough is clearly not good enough for her. She returned only after she got the best score possible and that to me was the most impressive part of her innings. Not a false shot, no silly indulgences after 100, 125 or 150, she was relentless. Now that is something to learn from her. In fact there is something neat and clean about the women's game. They play correct shots and it is pleasing to watch.

As for her hitting the ball, she hits it so powerfully and cleanly. Fabulous to watch. Deepti Sharma and Veda Krishnamoorthy supported her well. It looks like a comfortable and compact unit like Mithali said in her post match interview. Looking forward to the final on Sunday. With three or four players getting important hundreds and bowlers hitting wickets in the tournament already for India, England have a handful to deal with. They will have to come up with something special to stop this train.

Rinse Your Cottage Cheese - Dave Scott

A story I read in 'Good to Great'. Fantastic.
Dave Scott's routine of 17 miles run, 20000 mts swim and bike 75 miles everyday burned 5000 cal/day and helped him to win the Iron Man six times
That did not stop him from rinsing his on

Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence

D.H. Lawrence understands human psychology better than most and has the ability to articulate the most complex human emotions and situations lucidly through his writings. After 'Sons and Lovers' I was keen to read his most controversial work 'Lady Chatterley's lover' and was glad that Abhinay had a copy which he lent to me.

Lady Chatterley is young Constance Reid, married to Sir Clifford Chatterley, into wealth, fame and position. But Sir Clifford, a soldier, suffers a war injury in World War I which leaves him paralysed from waist down. Lady Chatterley dutifully takes care of him, neglecting her own life. Sir Clifford seems to enjoy her attentions and the power he has over her. It is all fine until Lady Chatterley's sister, Hilda, comes to visit and finds her sister looking pale and undernourished. Hilda, on the verge of divorce, tells Clifford to get some help because Connie is wasting away. Despite his reluctance she gets him a  female nurse, the buxom and worldly wise, Mrs. Bolton.  Connie finds time to breathe and also find love in the arms of the impertinent and impudent gamekeeper, Mellors, who is an ex-soldier who served in India, married and separated and somehow seems to have a bone to pick with the world. Lady Chatterley does the unthinkable an has an affair with Mellors and it is like love she has not known. In the backdrop of Clifford wanting her to have an affair (decently) and give him a son for his fortune, it does not seem a bad idea except that Mellors does not belong to their class. Mellors, despite his rough ways, is only pretending, because he is well read, well built and does not give a hoot for the world. His lovemaking also has the same quality, of roughness and tenderness.

The conversations between Clifford and his friends, affected and yet explorative, pitch forth some ideas, while the conversations between Clifford and Connie and even Mellors and Connie, explore all possibilities of love, sex, lust, men and women and their relationship. Connie finds the act of love making especially the man's actions ridiculous and even laughable. Mellors finds women easily but not one who enjoys the act as he does and when he does find one, finds she comes with other aggressive behaviors too.  He thinks nothing of Hilda and tells her that she is the kind who will never have a happy life nor give her man one, tells Connie that she has the perfect body and the sensitivity to her lover (which his wife did not have and who used sex as a power tool), tells Clifford that his incapabilities do not mean that Mellors suffers from any such. A conversation between Mrs, Bolton, who finally draws Clifford to her bosom, and Connie, reveals the nature of her understanding of men. They are like children and you can get them to do whatever you want if you make them feel like they thought of it first - she says. And how she maintained peace when push came to shove with men. Superb insights into the male mind.

Connie risks everything. One wonderful scene where both she and Mellors gambol in the rain, stark naked is brilliantly written and visually evocative. She goes to Venice, by which time most people somehow know of the affair thanks to Mellors combative wife, and Connie comes clean. Mellors works at getting his divorce. Connie works at hers though a revengeful Clifford refuses to give her a divorce and the novel ends with both waiting to live a life out on the farm together.

D. H. Lawrence once again is brilliant at his understanding of the often opposite emotions attached to intense emotions and dips into them effortlessly. What is forbidden is also pleasurable, what is pleasure is also pain, what is love is also hate and what is hate is love and so on. It is almost as if he explored almost all elements of love, lust, sex in this book and discussed all that he had in his mind. The characters are pitch perfect and true to themselves - Clifford, self obsessed and wanting to control despite his lack of control, Connie, somehow feeling guilty about Clifford's condition until she realises that there is a life to be lived, Mellors, brutally honest and intense, constantly fighting  the world. Mellors comes across as a 'real man' as opposed to the other men who are weak in their aspirations and their wants.

As a story it is simple and at times it feels that there is a lot of blatant exposition of certain ideas through the characters but as a theme in 1928 it is beyond bold. He printed it himself, a limited edition, despite the obscenity laws. Penguin fought a famous Obscenity Law case in 1960 when it was first published in UK and won and then some feel, sexual freedom of some sort was allowed. But then these were also men with conviction so they would back up their work with all they had. The writing is insightful providing deep insights into the complex human mind, relentlessly and shamelessly keeps at the love and sex aspects and keeps it as honest as raw as it could be.

In the end it could be seen simplistically as a forbidden love story between an upper class girl and a lower class man. But it is much more than that of course. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Anjali - The Art of Caring

I was down with a slight fever yesterday. But more than the fever the body pains and a bad head ache bothered me. It was not so bad that I had to take medicine but no so easy that I was in comfort. So I twisted and turned under the blanket, feeling cold and achy, needing some TLC.

Somehow Anjali senses the right thing to do. First she came and gave me a hug and told me that I will be okay. Then she went inside and got her blue monkey cap (which does  not fit me at all) and tried to pull it on my head. "For the cold,' she explained. Then she went off again and bought socks. I did not realise what she was doing when she pulled off the blanket. But she struggled and got those two socks on while I lay shivering. Properly got them on.
'Now you won't feel cold,' she said and gave me a hug again.

I think I started to feel better right then. How much trouble and how much thought for a young kid to do all this when all else were comfortably doing their own thing. She sensed it, felt she had to do it and did it. And trust me. I believe she healed it too.

I remember when she was a three year old, I had lost my voice after a strenuous workshop. For five days I could not even get a squeak out of my throat. All I could do was nod yes or no. But all adults would ask me questions which required me to write on paper or gesticulate wildly. They did not even put enough thought to reframe their questions considering my discomfort. Only Anjali had the sense and the thoughtfulness to ask me yes or no questions. Every single one of them. I would hug her each time then. It was incredible to see her perception and thoughtfulness.

And to see it now. Perhaps children are more other-centred. I can clearly visualise adults saying - but you could have told us. Ah, my dear, it is not the same is it?

Two Lovely Gestures I'd Like to Pay Forward

At a time when I was getting cynical about life - I noticed two fine gestures that happened to people I know a few weeks ago. Upon closer inspection I noticed that I was opening up my life to miracles too.

The first when my friend Suresh stepped in while I was struggling with the Hyderabad book event. Landmark bookstore had not confirmed the place (they kept poor Sonal waiting in a most unprofessional manner I must add) so we were struggling to find the right place. I was somehow banking on Landmark so it upset me a bit.

As luck would have it, I was meeting Suresh that day and instead of our usual route, we decided to stop by at the Press Club which was an option. It looked decent. However it was not suitable venue for one  of the guests, so we had to look for another. That's when Suresh simply said - "Leave it to me. I'll book the Park.  My expense." Somehow I could not see this book fitting in with Park Hyatt or Grand Kakatiya (which was his other option) where I felt the grandeur of the venue might take the shine off the book so I went ahead and looked for more. Finally we found the most perfect venue, Saptaparni. Landmark would not have been a patch on this venue - it was so perfect.

But then Suresh insisted on throwing an after-launch party. I remember throwing a party after 'The Men Within' but since then watched out for expenses because there will be more costs concerned with book marketing (even if it is just tickets). So Suresh just went ahead and booked a private place for 30 people without even confirming with me. It was a fun gathering at Sailing club with Venkatapathi regaling us with stories of his cricketing days. AP, Ram, Srikant, Bhasker, Narayana Raju, Pavan, NP and a whole lot of friends came by. When Naresh dropped in later in the evening he was shocked that Suresh had thrown a party for me. 'That's amazing,' he said 'That someone is actually throwing a party for someone else's celebrations.' I think so too. I am not used to anyone doing things like this for me and I can only thank Suresh for his generosity and love. I am also watching keenly at how thoughtful and loving the world is. And how, despite his busy schedules, he is always keeping a watchful and thoughtful eye. I loved the fact that he just went ahead and did it - he did not need my permission for the after-party!

Within a couple of weeks of this event, Anjan came to town. He had been telling me since "50 Not Out" days that he would organise a launch in Delhi (where he was posted then). But this time (Kolkata now), he said he would fix it all up. I thought he meant he would help me with the launch and the logistics etc. But no, he wanted to organise the entire thing himself. He fixed the date, got me to get the publishers Jaico involved, took over from there, blocked the place, got everything organised and took such wonderful care of me that I told him - I don' think my family would do so much for me. He was also my Chief Guest, hosted an after party dinner and just took care of me like he would his own brother. I was overwhelmed to say the least. It was a wonderful experience and once again my faith and belief in humanity and its goodness got firmly asserted.

There is something in the way they just took it up and went ahead with they felt they should do. I am immensely humbled to receive such love and affection from my friends. They are both nonchalant about it and wonder why I am going on about it. But to me its simply wonderful to experience something like this.

And these are stories that I would be able to tell Anjali or so many others, when people may doubt humanity in a particular low moment, that the world has some other shades too. These are real stories. And we could aspire to be just like them. I for one would like to pay it forward, this generosity of spirit, whenever I get the chance, and keep it going and growing. The world needs more Suresh and Anjan.