Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Evaluating Team India's Defeat in Hyderabad

In the '90s and, to an extent, during the 2000s, the common notion—when India toured the SENA countries—was that we were poor travellers because our batters struggled on fast-and-bouncy pitches while their bowlers consistently bounced us out of contention. Our medium-fast bowlers were not up to the mark in threatening the opposition batters and were further hamstrung by the insufficient number of runs to defend. Agarkar's 6-for at Adelaide was a standout performance, and young Irfan and Ishant shone brightly on their debut tours. But these performances were few and far between.

The 2002 tour of England was a turning point. In the unforgettable Headingley Test, the legendary trio of Dravid, Tendulkar, and Ganguly showed the world that India could be competitive on fast-and-bouncy wickets and dominate the opposition. That series, and the tour Down Under in 2003/04, went a long way in dispelling the notion that we are poor travellers. It made us believe we can win against SENA countries on their home turf, irrespective of the pitches they prepare for the visitors. Since then, we have won Test series in Australia (twice), England, and New Zealand. And we have won multiple Tests in South Africa. It's only a matter of time before we win a Test series against the Proteas on their home turf.
Unlike the '90s and the 2000s—when we had just a Srinath or a Zaheer—we now boast of world-class fast bowlers like Bumrah and Shami, who can single-handedly destroy an opposition on a given day. To a lesser extent, Ishant and Siraj have been successful too. After Sachin and Dravid's generation laid the foundation in the 2000s, the next generation of batters built on that success to continue Team India's competitiveness in hostile batting conditions. Today, our top-order is more adept at playing the hook and pull shots. They can comfortably counter the short stuff unleashed by the Aussies, the Proteas, the Black Caps, and the English bowlers.
Although India has always been dominant at home, the pitch became a central topic of discussion in the 2010s and 2020s due to the rank turners that awaited the visitors. Ashwin and Jadeja bamboozled the batters and usually skittled them out in a session or two. The ball started turning a mile from the first session on Day 1, and the batters had no answers to the questions posed by India's world-class spinners. The matches usually ended in two or three days, which gave the opposition an excuse to blame their shortcomings on the pitches.

After a decade of domination on rank turners, Indian spinners are no longer destroying the opposition like they used to. In the recently concluded Hyderabad Test, the English players out-batted us and outshined our esteemed spin trio.
Just like the early 2000s, there is a paradigm shift happening at the moment. The overseas teams are adeptly handling Indian spinners on turning tracks and producing young spinners like Hartley, who recently delivered a match-winning performance. Based on statistics, Indian batters have struggled when facing pitches that offer significant amounts of spin. Therefore, if the opposing teams have high-quality spin bowlers, they stand a good chance of not only being competitive but also succeeding in India, as was demonstrated in the Hyderabad Test.

It remains to be seen if the outcome of the Hyderabad Test will have the same positive impact on England's performance in overseas conditions as the Headingley Test had on India's. If India fails to address the challenges posed by the visitors, it could result in a situation where overseas teams become strong enough to win a Test series in India consistently.

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Final Day of the Streak

Sadly, my amazing walking streak, which began on June 30, 2018, will be coming to an end. It was a tough decision, but it had to end someday.

From June 30, 2018, to February 24, 2023, I walked a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. Walking has helped me overcome various obstacles in the past five years and kept my Avascular Necrosis under control. The pain in my knees, which was at its worst in 2016, disappeared after I started walking actively. A recent X-ray showed that the deterioration in my hip bones has been minimal over the past eleven years.

I have always fought hard to not let pain define me. That's why walking and hitting my daily target of 10,000 steps means everything to me. Ironically, I am pain-free and at peace when I am walking.

Today, I completed 1,700 consecutive days of walking a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. It's a testament to my sheer psychological will that I have persevered despite numerous obstacles.

A few months ago, I started having respiratory issues that were diagnosed as Bilateral Ethmoidal Polyposis. Due to my medical history, I opted for Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS) instead of oral steroids. The surgery is scheduled for February 25th, and I will need to rest and recuperate afterwards, bringing my incredible walking streak to an end.

Although I plan on starting my second streak as soon as I am physically able, I am proud of my accomplishment and amazed by the longevity of the streak. Doing it every day for almost five years is no easy feat.

I wanted to create a new record to make the final day of the streak memorable. I have been trying to walk 10 kilometres in under an hour for over two years. Tonight, I achieved my personal best by completing my fastest kilometre ever at 6'14'' - four seconds faster than my previous best. Although I couldn't keep up the momentum and fell short of my personal best by almost four minutes, I am thrilled to have broken one record on the last day of the streak.

This marks the end of the most significant era of my life, during which I achieved incredible success in my personal and professional lives. I have never felt better—physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.

Thank you, streak. ❤️

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Day of the Operation - Ten Years Later

Date: March 5, 2022

The wind played a gentle but gusty tune on a relatively quiet Saturday night. The dimly lit park, sparsely occupied by a few septuagenarians preparing for their evening walks, couples engaged in public displays of affection on park benches, and parents playing with their kids, created a unique ambience. For over a year, I had envisioned how this day would unfold, and I was mentally and physically prepared for it. Yet, a hint of nervousness lingered as I embarked on something entirely new—a challenge that, if successful, promised to make it one of the finest nights of my life. Conversely, failure would mean risking everything.

Exactly ten years ago, on this day, I endured the most difficult night of my life. Reflecting on the past decade, it's been a journey marked by both trauma and triumph—the initial half marred by despair, failures, loneliness, and chronic depression, and the latter half witnessing a remarkable resurgence of happiness and success.

In the early years of the decade, walking was a painful experience, limited due to the worsening condition of my hip bones. Despite utmost caution, the pain persisted, eventually affecting both my knees with Avascular Necrosis by 2016. Unexpectedly, a minor car accident four years ago, though aggravating the knee condition, served as a catalyst for me to break free from a sedentary lifestyle and embrace active walking. This significant development changed my life forever.

On June 30, 2018, I initiated my 10K streak—committing to walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. As of March 5, 2022, the streak boasts of a record-setting 1,345 magnificent days. I meticulously plan my walks and work diligently to maintain the streak. It is the most significant accomplishment of my life thus far.

Being an active walker for nearly four years now, I understand that the briskness of steps matters more than just the numbers. Progressing from eleven minutes per kilometre in 2018 to slightly over six minutes per kilometre in 2022, my journey has been both gradual and significant. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of my Core Decompression procedure, I set the audacious goal of walking 10 kilometres in under an hour—an endeavour fraught with challenges. Although I fell just over five minutes short of my target after surpassing my 10K records throughout 2021 and early 2022, it stands as a testament to my determination and perseverance.

A second ambitious objective was to complete a distance of 21.0975 kilometres in a single session—a Half Marathon. Until March 5, 2022, I had never walked more than 12 kilometres in one go. Acknowledging the risks of putting my hips and knees under such pressure, I embarked on a breezy Saturday night with the goal of etching this day in my memory forever.

During the Half Marathon, the pace was deliberately slower, gradually increasing as the race progressed. Guided by the inspiring music of the love of my life, I surpassed walkers of various age groups during the initial hour. By 9:30 PM, most park-goers had left, leaving me as the sole occupant.

After an hour and forty-five minutes, I realised this was the longest I had ever walked in a single session. The job, however, was far from done; nearly an hour's walk still lay ahead. The windy conditions spared me from profuse sweating, but fatigue set in. At the two-hour mark, having covered 16 kilometres, exhaustion was palpable. Yet, determined to overcome physical limits, I summoned every ounce of strength to complete the remaining distance through sheer psychological will.

The culmination of this marathon effort occurred after two hours and forty minutes—an overwhelming victory in the form of completing the Half Marathon. Waves of emotion swept over me as I reflected on the pain and disappointment of the past decade.

As the day concluded, fatigue and pain prevailed, but nothing could alter the fact that I had just lived through one of the greatest moments of my life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Squid Game - A Review

"I am not a horse; I am a human."

Amidst the brutality and violence, Squid Game, at its core, is a social commentary on human beings' ethical and moral ambiguity. It makes us question our existence. Who are we? What values do we stand for during our lowest points? 

The theme of Squid Game is not new—we have seen such dystopian themes in films like The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, or 13 Tzameti. But the compelling, diverse, and relatable characters—and the tenderness of their bond—will make you root for them. 

A group of desperate individuals, in dire financial straits, are manipulated into participating in children's games with a cash prize of roughly $40M. But, they leave out one tiny detail—the games have deadly consequences. The commentary on the class divide and the perils of capitalism are apparent throughout the series. 

After the horrors of Red Light, Green Light, the participants unanimously quit. Not only they're compelled to return but are made to believe they did it voluntarily. 

During the course of the series, Seong Gi-hun, a gambling addict in serious debt, tries hard to be honest and self-righteous in a place of continuous moral decadence. 

Oh Il-nam, as Player 001, is delightful. During the initial few episodes, he was my favourite character, and I wished to have his zest for life despite suffering from a terminal ailment. 

Kang Sae-byeok is the most enigmatic character among the main characters. She begins to open up during the latter half of the season after she is paired with another girl with a tragic past, Ji-yeong, who helps her open up. 

Cho Sang-woo is a selfish person who will descend to any depth to survive and win the game. On the other hand, Abdul Ali is a kind-hearted, easily manipulated, but physically powerful immigrant. 

Episode 6, Gganbu, is one of the finest hours in the history of television. This episode wrecked me and moved me to tears. The set-up of Game 4 reminds Il-nam of his childhood home and is disinterested in playing the marble game, but Gi-hun eventually convinces him to play. With Il-nam on the verge of winning, Gi-hun takes advantage of the former's dementia to cheat, even though he feels guilty about it. The scene—where Il-nam reveals he was aware of Gi-hun's betrayal but allows him to win anyway—is absolutely gut-wrenching. 

Meanwhile, Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok discuss their lives before playing the marble game. After their poignant interaction, Ji-yeong loses the game on purpose and makes the ultimate sacrifice as she believes Sae-byeok deserves to live more than her. 

Ali, who unwittingly gets the upper hand in the game, is made to believe by Sang-woo that both can survive the game. He deceives Ali into giving up his marbles. Sadly, Ali's innocence eventually leads to his downfall. 

I loved the tug-of-war episode too, which had one of the best cliffhangers. Despite lacking physical strength, Gi-hun's team comes out on top—thanks to Il-nam's experience and Sang-woo's quick thinking. 

After the sixth episode, the quality of the series dipped a tad due to the introduction of VIPs. Acted horribly, the VIPs sounded like poorly dubbed American characters in old Chinese movies where the dialogues were written by someone with Chinese sensibilities. In this instance, the dialogues of the VIPs were written in English with Korean sensibilities. And, that's why they sounded more like caricatures instead of normal people. Also, the actors playing these characters were horrible, and that didn't help either. 

That twist, in the end, involving Il-nam was unexpected and it ruined that wonderful moment in Gganbu to a certain extent. Overall, I enjoyed the show. It was my first K-Drama, and I had a wonderful experience. 

My Rating: 9/10