Ha! The joys of Test Cricket …

After being spoon-fed an overdose of meaningless and forgotten-the-next day ODIs and T20s, I can safely say that I have truly re-discovered the simple joys of Test Cricket. Since it is a given that Indian Cricket Team will always shine and wipe out opponents in double-quick time on Indian dust-bowl wickets, I love watching only matches being played in Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand. I am leaving out India, Pakistan (where matches do not happen any more), Sri Lanka, UAE and Bangladesh.

Following are some of my thoughts over the past 4 years of Test Cricket:

  • Batting exploits of Michael Clarke, Faf du Plessis, A B Devilliers Etc., especially that wonderful drawn series in Australia in 2012
  • Absolute control and craft shown by bowlers from England, South Africa and Australia. Over long days, pitching the balls in the right areas most of the time is never easy and bowlers like Ryan Harris and James Anderson really show what discipline means (Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron should pay attention and learn)
  • Rahul Dravid’s remarkable centuries in England, when the whole team was failing badly, in 2011. His batting against tremendous swing bowling by James Anderson and company was a real treat to watch
  • The battle of attrition: ODI and T20 are slam-bang-thank-you kind of games where a players endurance is not tested as severely as in Test Cricket. Imagine standing at attention in the slips for 6 hours a day in the hot sun! Test Cricket truly tests one’s resolve and patience
  • Positive impact by T20s/ODIs on Test Cricket: I believe it is the “attacking nature” fostered by ODIs/T20s that is causing a lot more Test Results than in the past. Imagine the days of real boring draws. Those days are long gone and nowadays teams play to win. Case in point, India versus Australia Test Match at Sydney in 2015
  • “Who blinks first”: When the bowlers are sticking to laser-like line and length or when batsmen are taking on the bowlers, it is a game of “who blinks first”. Unlike in ODIs/T20s, where there is a limit to the “torture”, in Test Cricket, it can go for hours on end. Murali Vijay, lately, has been showing a lot of patience (as data from Star Sports indicate) and he is one of the best in leaving balls alone when it is far wide of the stumps
  • Technique: In the Sydney test mentioned above, for the last few overs, there were 10 fields around the bat! Ajinkhya Rahane and Bhuvaneshhwar Kumar had to display very good technique to survive. When Rahul Dravid made those Test Centuries in England in 2011, it was all about his superior technique in countering the tremendous swing English bowlers were getting
  • In Test Cricket, one has to deal with more fielders up close, in the slip cordon or in short-leg silly-point areas, and some of the catches being taken were brilliant, like the one Steve Smith took to dismiss Rohit Sharma in the India-Australia Sydney test of 2015
  • Rowdy-ism on the field: I feel that abusing the batsman after he has been dismissed is totally uncalled for, for example. Same goes for unnecessary sledging. Australians are especially notorious for it. Looks like India has got some training watching them …
  • Bowlers are unshackled: In ODIs/T20s, there are far too many restrictions on the bowlers, because bowlers are meant to be slaughter-ready poultry in ODIs/T20s. They are just meant to throw the call such that batsmen can smash them  for boundaries. In Test Cricket, Mitchell Johnson, for example, can be at his menacing best
  • Batting Technique: Faulty technique is easily brought out in Test Cricket, for the reasons mentioned above. Wild heaves and cross-batted slogs are not a great idea in Test Cricket

Alas! Indian Cricket Fans have to wait for another 6-7 months before another Test Series begin. Even longer for a series in Australia/England/South Africa/New Zealand/West Indies.

Few thoughts from the India-Australia 2014-15 Test Series:

  • Quite flat pitches … But yet, each team strove for results with some sporting declarations and chases
  • The moment in Sydney Test when Murali Vijay hit Ryan Harris uppishly and Shaun Marsh dropped him at short-cover. The very next ball, Vijay defended the ball back to Harris and in a moment of pure frustration, Harris unnecessarily threw the ball at the stumps and gave 4 runs overthrow … Watching it on TV, it is easy for fans like us to mock Harris for this lapse. But imagine his frustration at toiling away for hours and finally getting a chance and the fielder dropping it
  • Sports is a great leveller. Every day offers an opportunity to make a fresh beginning. Take thecase of K.L.Rahul. After a disastrous debut at Melbourne, he made some solid amends in Sydney, with a very patient century
  • Love the energy and passion Steve Smith, David Warner Etc. bring to the game (should back off from the idiotic over-aggression, though) … These guys never slack off and come at you with 110% effort all the time. Fielding, Batting Etc. They are ON all the time
  • In an effort to gain any little advantage they can, it is amusing to watch fielders like Shaun Marsh trying to claim a catch when clearly it is not one. Gentlemen’s Game does not appear too gentlemanly in such cases ….

Yes, India lost the 2014-15 series to Australia 2-0. But India was clearly not humiliated. One loss was by 48 runs which could have been different if a couple of batsmen showed a bit more application. The other one was by 4 wickets. Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay Etc. have been scoring solid runs in South Africa, New Zealand, England and now in Australia. The young batting lineup looks solid. Bowling? Well, therein lies the problem.

Adios!

France (Paris, Nantes …)

If you love art, Paris is a great city to visit. There was fantastic weather the first couple of days and thereafter it got progressively colder, not surprising, considering it was November.

* Paris is truly multi-cultural, with Africans, Chinese, Arabs …

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.

* Louvre is just AMAZING. Great brochure with directions (easy to navigate), spotlessly clean and just some mind-blowing pieces of art. I just had 6 hours to spare there and could barely touch upon the main highlights. It definitely warrants further visits in future

Venus de Milo: From around 100BC ... (Louvre Museum)

Venus de Milo: From around 100BC … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0459

The gallery of Marble artwork … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0481

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, a 2nd-century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0507

An art that needs no introduction. Mona Lisa, by Leonardo di Vinci’s masterpiece. In a huge hall, this painting is the star attraction and the sheer number of people in this hall is testimony to its appeal … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0509

The crowd milling around Mona Lisa and other artwork …. (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0517

One of the many ornate ceilings of Louvre Museum …

DSC_0532

“The coronation of Napoleon I”, a painting by David from 1807 … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0578

“The Seated Scribe”: Department of Egyptian Antiquities. From the late prehistoric period to the late Middle Kingdom (1710 BC) (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0625

“Self portrait with a thistle”: By Durer … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0636

“The Lacemaker”: The famous painting by the Dutch artist Vermeer … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0660

One of the many fantastic exhibits from the Napoleon Quarters at Louvre Museum …

DSC_0663

Horses restrained by grooms, known as The Marly Horses: France, 17th and 18th centuries (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0690

Fayum Mummy Portrait, Egypt, 130AD (approximately). Paintings like these were painted on wooden boards attached to mummies from the Coptic period (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0708

Basin known as the “Baptistere of Saint Louis” – From Egypt or Syria … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0738

Saint Mary Magdalene … (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0756

“Cheat with the ace of diamonds”: A painting by the French artist Georges de La Tour …. (Louvre Museum)

DSC_0767

Compelling entrance to the Louvre Museum …

DSC_0793

Well, the famous pyramid at the Louvre Museum. The ticket counters and souvenir shops are beneath this pyramid …

* Since I visited Musee Orsay after Lovure, it was a little underwhelming, but still definitely worth a visit for the fans of Monet, Manet, Sisley, Van Gogh, Cezanne Etc. My favourite was the works of Alfred Sisley. Visit is free the 1st Sunday of the month

Musee Orsay, from Seine River ...

Musee Orsay, from Seine River …

Musee Orsay, from the top floor. Compared to the humongous Louvre, Orsay is a tiny museum.

Musee Orsay, from the top floor. Compared to the humongous Louvre, Orsay is a tiny museum.

* Baguettes! Loved it … Had it whenever I could

Baguettes ... Yum!

Baguettes … Yum!

* Eiffel Tower: The elevator ride up was superb. Eiffel Tower is much taller than it looks. Once you reach the very top, that is when the height strikes you. The views all around was well worth the long queues. It took roughly 1.5 hours just to get to the ticket counter. If you get to plan the trip well ahead of time, it is definitely better to buy the tickets online, well in advance. I wish they allowed people to climb up the stairs (Stairs in the 3rd stage are for repair work and not meant for folks with Vertigo). I wonder how long it would take me to climb a 100-storey tower like the Eiffel

DSC_0011

Eiffel Tower, the face of Paris. A remarkable structure. As you can see there are 3 stages. Stage1 has elevators and stairs. Stage 2 and Stage 3 requires elevators. It does not look tremendously tall from the bottom. But man, from the top, it sure is 100 storey+

DSC_0019

The queue at Eiffel Tower. It took us 1.5hr to get to the counter!

DSC_0388

Eiffel Tower at dusk … Taken from the boat during the Seine River Cruise

DSC_0190

View from the top … Eiffel Tower. The garden area where I returned the next day early in the morning

DSC_0172

I love this picture showing the view from the top of Eiffel Tower, for the shadow you can see in the foreground …

DSC_0129

View from the top of Eiffel Tower …

DSC_0094

View of Palais de Chaillot from atop Eiffel Tower

* If you love pastries, I guess France is a must visit. I do not eat much pastries and could not go beyond tasting a few items …

Pastries galore ... Calorie-free I am sure ;-)

Pastries galore … Calorie-free I am sure 😉

* The Paris Metro network is pretty good, though quite tacky and ill-maintained in a few areas … The multi-day passes come handy

The Paris Metro train ... There are several lines within the Paris Metro. It will take a day or so to get used to it ...

The Paris Metro train … There are several lines within the Paris Metro. It will take a day or so to get used to it …

* One of the highlights of the trip for me was the (very) early morning visit to Eiffel Tower from the Hotel. It was part jogging and part brisk walking … It was surreal to be alone in an area, where just hours earlier, thousands of people were crowded together

* The area around Notre-Dame Cathedral, as expected, is quite historic and you can make it out from the ornate roads and bridges

DSC_0908

Notre Dame Cathedral … You can also catch a unique view of the Cathedral from the Seine River, during the River Cruise

DSC_0920

A close-up of the kind of work on the Notre Dame façade …

DSC_0961

The Pont de l’Archevêché spans the Seine just behind Notre-Dame Cathedral … Also called the “Love Bridge”. Notice all the locks …

* The River Cruise on Seine was well worth it. You get to see all those ornate bridges up close

DSC_0256

Notice the bridges spanning Seine … Each bridge had some unique work on it …

DSC_0225

You can see the floating restaurants getting ready for the dinner crowd … During the Seine River Cruise

* Sacre Coeur Basilica sure has a prime location. The views from the Basilica was awesome … There were tremendous crowds in and around the Basilica. Amazingly, a mass was going on, while tourists were happily clicking photographs

DSC_0858

The view from Sacre Coeur Basilica … As I said, the Basilica is on top of a hill, and the roads to it are filled with souvenir shops

DSC_0836

Sacre Coeur Basilica, in all its glory …

* TGV, like other high speed trains in the other countries I have visited (Germany, South Korea, Japan Etc.) was pretty nippy. And it was right on time. For 15.20 train, the doors closed at 15.19!

* Nantes is a historical city with a Chateau and a Cathedral right at the centre of the Town. Roaming the streets of Nantes was a fun experience. Though it was quite cold, I also managed to do an early morning jog in the downtown area

The mechanical elephant in Nantes ... When I visited, it was not operational. Kids would love it, I guess ...

The mechanical elephant in Nantes … When I visited, it was not operational. Kids would love it, I guess …

DSC_0078

Chateau in Nantes … Entrance was free. Did not get a lot of time for exploring, though …

DSC_0049

Cathedral in Nantes … As expected, very ornate and central to the Town

Downtown Nantes ...

Downtown Nantes …

France is a country which requires multiple visits. Paris is just the start. I hope to be back soon for more explorations.

Adios!