Name: Rajaraman

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    Phil Hughes’ passing, a reminder of life’s uncertainty

    November 27th, 2017

    A plaque commemorating Phil Hughes outside the home team dressing room in Sydney Cricket Ground

    November 27, 2014: You didn’t have to know Australian batsman Phil Hughes to be shaken by news of his death after a two-day battle in hospital upon being hit by a cricket ball in a Sheffield Shield game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The world of cricket – players, coaches and other support staff, match officials, administrators, media persons and fans alike – will be united in grief.

    Over the past two days, there was hope that the kiss of life that Dr Orchard gave Hughes on the hallowed cricket pitch in Tuesday would have worked in his favour. There was expectation that Hughes’ will to battle for life would be as strong as his determination that fetched him two hundreds in just his second Test. There was faith that the doctors would help him pull through.

    It took but a moment – and a text message from a friend in Australia – for those positive emotions, fuelled by an outpouring of prayers by the cricket world at large, to change to shock.

    Of course, the wise have told us that death is the most certain event in one’s life. But such philosophy comes as little consolation when the end comes as an accident with tragic overtones. More so, if the victim is in the flush of youth. Surely, 25 is no age to die. Surely, a blow received on the cricket field is not a reason to be dead.

    There is no doubt that Hughes’ death will cloud the impending Test series between Australia and India. You can expect players from both sides to have a grave demeanour for quite some time. As we pick up the pieces and try to move on, the players will be the most challenged by paradoxical needs to be aggressive and yet sombre; combative and yet intensely serious.

    We have seen the sceptre of death loom over cricket and the world of sport – some New Zealand left Sri Lanka because of a bomb blast outside the team hotel in Colombo; England played in Mumbai in 1993 weeks after serial bomb blasts; England returned after a short break caused by of a terrorist attack on Mumbai six years ago.

    Other grim memories come flooding back.

    A strange scorecard entry: ‘Abdul Aziz absent dead’ from the Qaid-E-Azam Trophy final in Karachi in 1959. The decline of Hyderabad batsman C L Jaikumar after what seemed to be a good start to a first-class career after he was felled by a Robin Singh bouncer in a 1990 Ranji Trophy game in which he had made 169 in the first innings and was on 42 in the second.

    But the worst recall is that of former India opener Raman Lamba’s death in February 1998. One can feel the shivers down the spine when thinking of a dark, cold, rainy night when Lamba’s body was brought to Delhi from Dhaka. Instead of walking through the arrival hall, he returned in a coffin in the cargo terminal with a few family and friends in attendance.

    Hughes’ death has lessons, not the least being the establishment of emergency response teams at venues. Perhaps, with greater monies coming in to cricket, the international centres go beyond having an ambulance on stand-by to exploring possibilities of instituting a medical centre within the premises so that no time is lost in providing the best aid to an injured player.

    May the world of cricket grieve together as one but long may the game remain beautiful as we have known it. For it is but a reflection of the lives we live, a heady mix of pain and pleasure, agony and ecstasy, joyous and grim and all that lies between. But, above all, may Phillip Joel Hughes’ soul find lasting peace.

    (This piece was written three years ago for a now defunct website)

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    The writers who play with words

    November 6th, 2017

    Throwback to 1993: The portable typewriter and open-air press box are now things of the past. A scene during the Mumbai Test between India and England at the Wankhede Stadium in 1993.

    There are few areas of non-fiction writing that capture of the imagination of the reader like sports writing. With a combination of descriptive skills, intelligent analysis and good presentation, it has the powers to magically transport the reader to distant locations and to invigorating pursuit of excellence called sport.

    And, I dare say, there are few more fortunate pen-pushers than sports writers. One of the greatest privileges of being a sports writer is that he or she gets to travel to places which would never have been on the itinerary. What’s more, the sports writer gets paid to watch sport while everyone else in a stadium has to pay a small fortune for his or her tickets or haggle for complimentary passes.

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    Colourful #memories of an India conquest of the ICC World Twenty20 a decade ago

    September 24th, 2017

    India’s victory in ICC World Twenty20 2007 meant that I had to scrap plans to visit Kruger since I had to write the Cover Story for Outlook magazine — and ended up writing non-stop for a day and a half to meet deadlines!

    Ten years ago, I had no idea of what I was setting myself up for when I accepted an offer from Yahoo! and its associates to travel to South Africa for the inaugural ICC World Twenty20. A votary of the conventional cricket, there was some skepticism at the back of my mind and I allowed myself to be talked into the assignment.

    A journalist friend of mine from Bangladesh, asked me what I would do at T20. It is for P3 reporters, he taunted. But I had made my commitment to watch the cricket for whatever it was worth and enjoy the opportunity of watching the game. Perhaps, pegging expectations low helped and I have a feast that I am unlikely to forget in a hurry.

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