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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Axar Patel's dream debut and Ashwin's provoking thoughts !!

If your Cricket memory is very bright, you may have recalled that ODI at Dhaka on 15.6.2014 when India won by 7 wickets.  Bangladesh made 272/9 and India made 153/3 (no prize for guessing that it was revised target by D/L method)

To many of us, Srirangam Rangarajan (Sujatha) was the most intelligent man and his writings mesmerized us.  Srinivasan Venkatraghavan was a look-alike and perhaps was equally brilliant .. .. among modern day Cricketers, we adore Ravichandran Ashwin (not only for that brilliant double at Chepauk in this Test) – more so, for his Cricketing acumen, the way he speaks and the way he constantly chases changes !!  .. hallmark of a genius.

Looking back, remembered the bespectacled man who debuted in the 1st Test of against Australia at this same venue,  Chepauk.  It was Test no. 855 played in Sept 1979.  Kim Hughes and Sunil Gavaskar were the Captains. Playing first Australia made 390, thanks to centuries by Alan Border [162] and Kim Hughes [100].  From 2 for 75, they had a 222 run partnership.  Kapil Dev bowled well taking 2 wickets; it was the debutant Dilip Doshi who stole the show taking 6 for 103 off his 43 overs.  India replied soundly making 425 ~ surprisingly no centuries but 50s by Gavaskar, Kirmani who came in as nightwatchman, Vengsarkar, Yashpal Sharma and 83 by Kapil Dev.  John Higgs, a leg spinner took 7 wickets.   Australians started their 2nd innings towards the end of the 4th day and ended up making 212/7 with half centuries by Hilditch and Border.  Venkatraghavan took 3 and Doshi got 2 wickets.  The match ended in a tame draw…… that was a 6 match series.   In the next test another good spinner, Shivlal Yadav debuted.

Doshi is one of only four Test bowlers that played their first Test after the age of thirty, yet went on to take more than 100 wickets, the other three being Clarrie Grimmett, Saeed Ajmal and Ryan Harris. ‘Spin Punch’ was his auto-biography. Doshi is probably one of the few cricketers who after retiring from the game chose an entirely different playing field.  He was the Managing Director of Entrack India, a firm that marketted Montblanc pens in India.   

After delivering a dream performance in front of his home crowd, R Ashwin  asked for more positivity, understanding and pride from the cricket community in India. Ashwin's eight-wicket haul and century led India to a series-levelling win in Chennai where the crowd made him "feel like a hero", cheering every move of his on the ground.  However, one of the other heroes of India's incredible success in Australia and here, Rishabh Pant, was not long ago made to feel like a villain in Indian grounds when the crowds chanted MS Dhoni's name whenever he made a mistake. Ashwin compared the opinion around Pant to the one around a young Australia cricketer when asked what he made of Pant's wicketkeeping.

"I didn't think I would say this but I am coming out and saying it," Ashwin said. "But because you are asking me this question, I couldn't think of anything else. About two months ago we had a cricketer called Cameron Green who made his debut for Australia. Even before he made his debut, everybody said he was the next big thing. And as he was playing, I think he got one fifty in the entire series. I don't think he got a wicket through the series. But how much he was built up and how much confidence he was given back in Australia made me reflect and think about how we as a community treat our cricketers when they come through, the young ones. It gave me a massive perspective.  Yes Ashwin’s perspective is correct .. .. youngsters need to be supported and groomed.  There should never be unwanted comparisons and derisive statements.  If Axar had done well, good, even otherwise when a player gets a chance – he needs solid support of all to perform well (there is no point in comments like – Axar would not have played if Jadeja was fit or someother bowler too would have performed in a pitch of this sort)

India cruised to victory in a little over a session on the fourth day at Chepauk, Axar Patel collecting a five-wicket haul on debut as England went down by a crushing margin of 317 runs - emphatic retribution after the tourists had gone 1-0 up on this ground less than a week earlier.  On a classically subcontinental surface, England twice could barely match the individual contribution of India's first-innings centurion, Rohit Sharma, and were left with precious few scraps with which to slink off to Ahmedabad ahead of the day-night encounter, their six-match winning run in away Tests at a halt.

The only slight regret for another enthusiastic crowd came in the absence of another R Ashwin landmark for them to acknowledge - he finished with 8 for 96, narrowly short of becoming only the fourth man to score a century and take ten-for in a Test.  Cannot help the feeling that perhaps Kohli should have continued with him, rather than double left-arm spin attack towards the end !! but .. .. …

England's task on their return to the ground was a near-futile one, but there was the potential to spend time in the middle against India's spinners and salt away knowledge for the battles ahead. As it was, only Joe Root spent any significant amount of time at the crease - even 33 from 92 balls was modest by his recent standards - and barely a shot was played in anger until Moeen Ali  thought of IPL auction and tried showcasing his skills for the IPL franchisees swinging five towering sixes before being last man out, stumped off Kuldeep Yadav.

Pant was a revelation – made runs with the bat, caught a couple flying awy from him and made couple of acrobatic stumpings.  Fittingly,  the game ended with the ball in the hands of Rishabh Pant. This was only the sixth time in Tests that a match had featured five or more stumpings - and India's march to victory on the fourth morning began with another, as Dan Lawrence charged at Ashwin only to be nutmegged, leaving Pant to seal his fate after collecting brilliantly down the leg side.

Axar Patel had a remarkable debut – taking five wickets in an innings in  his first Test.  He joins an elite list.  The first Indian to take a five-wicket haul was Mohammad Nissar in June 1932 against England.  A great classy Vaman Kumar, a leg spinner,  took 5/64 against Pakistan but sadly played just one more test !!   Syed Abid Ali took 6 wickets for 55 runs against Australia.  Then there are - Dilip Doshi, Narendra Hirwani, Amit Mishra, Ravi Ashwin &  Mohammad Shami, in that group. Axar has now registered the seventh-best figures of 5-60 for an India bowler on debut in red-ball internationals. Narendra Hirwani (8-61, 8-75) is the topper.

Way back in 15th June 2014 at Dhaka against Bangladesh, Axar Patel made his ODI debut alongside  Parvez Rasool – in between played IPL, Ranji, T20I and everything else – and at last got his chance at Chepauk. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Monday, February 15, 2021

Ravichandran Ashwin embellishes his 5 for with a ton !!

During India’s recent series Australia, Tim Paine sledged asking whether Ashwin’s team-mates like him ?  - for sure he would be following the 2nd test at Chepauk – and when Ravichandran Ashwin completed his ton – the stadium erupted, many millions were watching on TV and the home dressing room was bundle of joy – the sledger was proved to be far off the mark.     

Ages ago, a fearless Kapil Dev jumped to hit a 6 and reach his maiden 100 at Feroz Shah Kotla, today at Chepauk, Ashwin jumped to hoist the ball over long on for a six when he was on 91 !!  - a stamp and authority a la Viv Richards !!!


At close of play of day 3 – the score card reads : England 134 and 53 for 3 (Lawrence 19*, Root 2*) need 429 more runs to beat India 329 and 286 (Ashwin 106, Kohli 62, Moeen 4-98, Leach 4-100) – and those who criticized the ground calling it a sandpit or a dust bowl – would well have to soul-search to find words on how Ashwin batted and amassed runs.  As India flexed their muscle on day three, moving inexorably towards a series-levelling triumph over England, the second Chennai Test began to take on a carnival feel. Day 2 was Ravi Ashwin, the bowler and day 3 – it was Ashwin the classy batsman.   Notionally, England needed 482 to win or two-and-a-bit days of rearguard resistance. Practically, they were merely searching for scraps of encouragement to accompany them on the road to Ahmedabad.

Ashwin came into this game having not passed 50 in a Test since 2017, but after taking an aggressive approach from the outset, he eventually reached a raucously received hundred during the evening session - achieving the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in the same match for the third time. Going by the decibel levels of support that Ash had, none could say that stadium was half of its capacity  

The 34-year-old  who had clearly steered the match on an irreversible path with the ball on the second day, gutting Joe Root’s side to the tune of 134 all out with figures of five for 43 struck gold with the bat today.  Yesterday it was the off-spinner’s 29th five wicket-haul, and in less than half the 295 innings it has taken Jimmy Anderson to claim 30.  We have seen the likes of Ian Botham, Kapil Dev as all rounders – today,  Ashwin, it transpired, was close to their ranks.   A rare all-rounder’s double with a fine century from No8 - 106 from 148 balls, with 14 fours and one six - to send supporters in his home city of Chennai immensely happy. 

His route to three figures had featured numerous sweeps, and lots of  drama. When India resumed after tea, Ashwin was on 68 and had only the last two batsmen to keep him company; he might have been stumped almost straight away, but the ball eluded Ben Foakes - the brilliance of whose keeping had kept up English spirits earlier in the day - and he was 77 with India at 237/9 when  Mohammed Siraj joined him.  Indians were finally bowled out for 286 and Ashwin had completed a century in style. Expectant spectators were cheering every defence Siraj played as Ash raised the tempo.  Having moved to 90s with a couple of 4s,  he struck clean Moeen Ali,   into the stands before charging down to slice four more to third man and bring team-mates, family and spectators to their feet.

                      The issue on a turning surface has simply been one of skill, and despite a more proactive batting effort England were soon in trouble once again.  In the post innings interview Ashwin was to acknowledge the support of Vikram Rathour, the India batting coach,  who had worked hard with Ashwin, and further added that he has not played sweep shot for decades.

Statistically, Ashwin has scored a century and taken a five-for in Tests – 3 times. He had achieved this twice against West Indies, in Mumbai in 2011, and in North Sound in 2016.  The only  Player who has achieved this double of a century and a five-for in a Test more than Ashwin is Ian Botham  who did it five times in his 102-Test career - twice each in England and New Zealand, and once in India. Four allrounders have achieved this feat two times - Garry Sobers, Mushtaq Mohammad, Jacques Kallis, and Shakib Al Hasan.

In all probability the Test would end in favour of India on day 4 itself – what we wait to see is Ashwin adding another 4 wickets and thereby becoming 4th player after Botham, Imran and Shakib to take 10 wickets in a Test and score a century.

Well done Ravichandran Ashwin


With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Sunday, February 14, 2021

India tightens grip at Chepauk - Ashwin draws closer to 400

15 wickets tumbled on day 2 at Chepauk reminding us of the famous Indian spin quartet spinning the opponents out .. .. but unlike yesteryear’s batting line-up – Rohit Sharma’s brilliance ensured upperhand for the hosts.  The World of Cricket makes instinctive assessment of its heroes in the age of television and social media – if one were to dig deeper into statistics and performances, perceptions might change – for the better too.

Today belonged the offie Ravichandran Ashwin.  Statistically, he is just 9 away from 400 and perhaps can beat Nathan Lyon who is at 399.  Ash has played 75 tests / 140 innings  for 386 (prior to this test) while Lyon has played 100 tests / 191 innings.  The best of the Cricket photos was not seen in ESPN / BCCI or any sports web but from our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji who visited Chennai and posted an aerial photo of the stadium on his twitter. #TNwelcomesModiji

When we grew up there was the famous quartet : Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan (both off spinners), Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (leg spinner), and Bishen Singh Bedi (left-arm spinner). Between them, they played 231 Test matches, taking 853 wickets.  But even those days whence spin ruled, playing  two offspinners was a rarity.  In the last test India did play Ashwin and Washington Sundar.   Many off-spinners have played for India – not all of them with great success – there had been   Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivasan Venkatraghavan, Shivlal Yadav, Arshad Ayub, Gopal Sharma,  M Venkatramana, Ashish Kapoor, Ashok Patel,  Nikhil Chopra, Sarandeep Singh, Romesh Powar – and .. .. .. Ravichandran Ashwin – a real match winner.

An interesting piece of statistics -  Ash has thus far dismissed 200 - Left-hand batsmen. He is the first bowler to reach that mark. Of the 391 Test wickets for Ashwin, 200 are of left-hand batsmen, which is an impressive percentage of 51.2. Next on the list of most left-handers dismissed is Muttiah Muralitharan, but only 23.9% of his victims (191 out of 800) were left-hand batsmen. Ashwin averages 19.55 against left-handers, and 31.24 against right-handers.

This day at Chepauk, India took giant strides towards levelling the series after running through England and then building steadily on a 195-run lead. Fifteen wickets fell in the day, R Ashwin claiming five of them in an innings for the 29th time in Tests, as England's hopes of hanging in the contest on a turning pitch were obliterated in two sessions of skittish batting.

The best of the comments came from a quality Off-spinner who took 255 test wickets – an English man - Graeme Swann.  He tweeted : I have no problem at all with a pitch offering this much spin (hardly a surprise naturally). We prepare green pitches to suit our bowlers at home when deemed necessary so it’s fair game. We should be taking notes on how to excel from Rohit Sharma & Rishab Pant.

England were in trouble from the outset of their reply, losing Rory Burns in the opening over and Joe Root, the batting talisman during three consecutive wins in Sri Lanka and India, before he had managed double - let alone triple - figures. They sneaked past the follow-on mark thanks to a nuggety, unbeaten 42 from Ben Foakes, but India were doubtless content to bat again on a commanding lead, and leave England to worry about facing their demons on days three and four.

India has forged themselves a strong position on the back of Rohit's conditions-defying 161 on day one, and although they could only add 29 runs to their overnight 300 for 6, the bowlers soon ensured that England were dismissed cheaply.  Ishant Sharma trapped Burns lbw third ball for the opener's second consecutive duck and Ashwin struck twice either side the dismissal of Root to leave England in dire straits on 39 for 4 at lunch. Axar Patel, on debut, was the man to deny England's captain and batting bellwether a first-innings hundred for the first time this year, detonating a sharply turning delivery as Root looked to deploy his favoured sweep shot, a top edge safely pouched by Ashwin at short fine leg. Ashwin, on his home ground, gave an exemplary display of how to harness helpful conditions, alternating his pace, lines of attack and method of delivery to keep England's batsman pinned down.  

The ball that took Ben Stokes was a peach – a   beautifully flighted delivery that defeated the batsman in the air and off the pitch to shudder off stump.  Rishab leapt to glory with a couple of great catches.  

Indian Cricket fan has already started dreaming of a quick finish to the Test (not going into the 5th day) and Ashwin drawing closer to 400 .. .. a quality bowler, he is destined for 500 and more and to think that he was not picked for some tests smacks of raw politics rather than any thoughtful selection.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar



Saturday, February 13, 2021

Chepauk test - Rohit ton .. YoYo and more !!

2nd test off to a start at Chepauk today …. .. back to back tests at the same venue .. ..  at the time of posting this (1.25 noon) – Rohit Sharma has scored a century on a pitch which looks not easy to bat on – India 152/3 !!  the man who looks supremely fit – Virat Kohli out for a duck and it was baffling – why he stayed so long after being bowled !

I  remember this guy making  debut against England in Dec 1984 – the bowling lineup missing Kapil Dev read, Chetan Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar, Ravi Shastri, Roger Binny and Rajinder Sing Ghai.   Alongside Ghai, Kiran More, R Robinson and Richard Ellison also made their debuts.  On a condition camp before a tour at Chepauk – players came out – some of them (star Batsmen of India) just moved their hands a few times – while a bunch of pacers did running practice.  After 3 rounds – most of them retired, Kapil Dev, the supreme fit player kept running and Rajinder Singh Ghai matched him running !

A few years back – fitness of players became primary perhaps more so than their playing capabilities.  YoYo test !!!  Every Indian cricketer — not just those who play the energy intensive shorter versions, but even Test cricketers — had to possess a basic level of aerobic endurance prescribed by the Indian team management.  BCCI top official went on record stating that  even if a cricketer happens to be injury-free and in form, failure to meet the mandatory fitness parameters would result in him making way for a fitter player. “The captain, coach and chief selector, along with the other members of the selection committee in consultation with the support staff (trainer and physio), have set the parameters. The fitness parameters set by the team management for athletes to be eligible for selection are non-negotiable,”  

The yo-yo test required players to pace themselves methodically — starting with a modest jog to the eventual gut-busting sprint — as they shuttle back and forth between two rows of cones kept 20 metres apart. Each run needs to be timed with the three beeps that are played in the background. These are the signals for start, turn and finish. With the timing between the beeps constantly decreasing, each subsequent 40m circuit requires more speed. Getting beaten twice by the beep means the end of the test. The final score is determined by the laps completed and the speed gathered.  Well among others, Ravi Ashwin easily passed while Yuvi and Raina reportedly failed !!

This morning at Chepauk, India gave a debut to Axar Patel, whose absence through injury last week had a knock-on effect for the rest of the XI. With Patel fit, India  recalled Kuldeep Yadav for the first time in two years, while Mohammed Siraj replaced Jasprit Bumrah, rested after bowling 42 overs in his first Test on home soil. England had named their XII on the eve of the match, with Stuart Broad, Ben Foakes and Moeen Ali all coming in. The final spot came down to Olly Stone's pace versus the experience (and batting) of Chris Woakes, with Stone getting the nod.  

Olly Stone has only played one first-class match since his Test debut in 2019, but his opening spell on his return to England whites could barely have gone better. Wicket from his third ball, Pujara hurried and hit, pace up to 150kph/92mph, figures of 4-2-8-1. He provided both wicket-taking threat and economy, even as Rohit was latching on to anything overpitched by Broad at the other end.  

Today with Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli bagging duck and Pujawara too failing – a  sparking innings from Rohit Sharma has held India together  .. .. … wonder this field placing of short mid-on and short mid-off as Stuart Broad is bowling to Rohit Sharma. ..  .. . the Q foremost is – is the pitch stable or would be crumble !!

It is no more 16:1. The yo-yo test level for the Indian men's cricketers has been raised to 17:1. In addition, the BCCI has also added a new fitness parameter: run a two-kilometre time trial, which is now a global fitness standard employed by international cricket teams. It is understood that players have the choice to pick either the yo-yo test or the time trial, but the BCCI has made it mandatory to clear one of the two fitness tests. These two elements are part of the BCCI's drive to raise the fitness standards of Indian players and bring them closer to the global standards. It is understood the BCCI finalised the new fitness parameters in tandem with the National Cricket Academy, which is headed by former India captain Rahul Dravid, and the national selectors recently.

While the yo-yo test involves shuttling over a 20-metre distance at increasing speeds, the two-kilometre time trial has to be accomplished in 8 minutes and 15 seconds for fast bowlers, and 8 minutes and 30 seconds for the rest.

To a simple mind – it does not sound great sense.  On that day   RS Ghai ran rounds after round at Chepauk, Vengsarkar just shaked his hip, took a couple of catches and did nothing more – yet he was a stylish cricketer who made runs when mattered.  My perception is players like Vengsarkar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Erapalli Prasanna, Bishan Bedi, Anshuman Gaekwad, VVS Laxman .. ..  and many more like Ashok Malhotra may not perhaps pass these fitness conditions – yet it would be the game, which would be the loser, if we are to keep these players on fitness criteria.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Lanka loses 2nd Test too at Galle ... what caused interruption on day 3 ??

At Galle, in the First test -  Dom Bess and Jack Leach's combined match haul of 14 for 307 ensured an emphatic win for the visitors even as Lankans were roasted for their poor performance in the 1st innings.  Now in the Second test also at Galle, Sri Lanka secured themselves a useful 37-run lead on first innings early on the fourth day.  Jack Leach was the last man out for England, lbw to Dilruwan Perera for 1 on the 11th ball of the morning, having added five runs with James Anderson, whose reverse sweep to the boundary off Lasith Embuldeniya left him not out on 4.

BUT the day went horribly wrong for Lankans as they were bundled out for 126 with spinner - Lasith Embuldeniya  becoming the top scorer with 40.  On an enthralling day when 15 wickets fell, England's frontline spinners came to the fore and opener Dom Sibley scored an unbeaten half-century to help defeat Sri Lanka by six wickets with a day to spare and win the series 2-0.  Lasith Embuldeniya followed his 7 for 137 in the first innings with 3 for 73 to take 10 for the match - not to mention top-scoring in Sri Lanka's second innings - but it was not enough as Sibley, in need of runs, played exactly the innings that was required of him: patient, productive and at times fortunate.  Going into the final session on day four, the tourists still needed 118 runs and they got there via an unbroken 75-run partnership between Sibley and Jos Buttler, who followed his 55 in the first innings, where he played a fine supporting role as Joe Root scored his wonderful 186, with 46 not out. Sibley hit the winning run to end unbeaten on 56. 

After long time, Test Cricket is to return to Chepauk in Feb 2021 with England set to play 2 tests here but .. .. .. there would be no spectators !  .. have seen that in earlier times, during matches, Chepauk turns a virtual fortress … spectators would be  body-frisked and there would be so many items which are not allowed – and that includes whistles, banners, sticks, water bottles, cigarettes  and more.  In olden days, they used to check only cool drink bottles [of colas] checking whether they are mixed with alcohol… for IPL matches, even a water bottle was not allowed ~ one had to buy things at extraordinary rates…. Long ago, fans would run on to the ground to greet their stars when they hit a century – now you have high fences and watchguards… some of the stands are protected with net too… !!   

Interruptions in a Cricket match can arise due to host of reasons – ranging from – wet spots, bees swarming, ball getting out of shape, players injury, rain, bad light and even lightning ....  spectator running into the file (streaking included !) – and animal invasion too.....(this post is on one such intriguing animal interruption !) .. at Chepauk – have seen dogs running helter-skelter – entire stadium would laugh when the marker could not catch the stray dog – with play suspended briefly.  I had posted on a strange incident in Nov 2012 when England toured India and were playing a match for acclamitising  - the stoppage was due to simian invasion - a langur monkey,  running across the pitch, hampering the game and making its way off being attracted  by another female monkey on the boundary edge.


In 2014, a spectator smuggled a pig into the first day of the Ashes cricket Test between Australia and England; and was in news as he was charged with  animal cruelty. Security guards spotted the pig wrapped in a towel and being carried in a baby harness  !! A 33-year-old Australian man was arrested and charged and made to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court. More than the carriage, it appears to be all about cruelty to the animal as according to  spokesperson of  Brisbane chapter of the Royal Society the pig was "really stressed out and dehydrated." The incident was a reprise of the 1982-83 Ashes Test at the Gabba where a group of vets brought in an anaesthetised pig that had "Beefy", for Ian Botham, written on one side and "Eddie", for Hemmings, on the other and let it on to the pitch.

This is one is not all that serious – as ICC posted a tweet stating “ICC is reviewing reports that Sri Lanka used an extra fielder against England in Galle” !!

During the third day of the second Test of the ongoing England’s tour of Sri Lanka in Galle, a monitor lizard became the centre of attraction after it was spotted near the boundary rope.  It all happened in the 64th over of the English innings when a cameraman witnessed the dangerous reptile making its presence felt on the ground at the Galle International Stadium. While there was no untoward incident due to the monitor lizard, it ended up alluring hilarious reactions across social media platforms.

Monitor lizards (உடும்பு)  are large lizards in the genus Varanus. They are native to Africa, Asia, and Oceania, but are now found also in the Americas as an invasive species. About 80 species are recognized.  They have  have long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs.   While most monitor lizards are carnivorous, eating eggs, smaller reptiles, fish, birds, insects, and small mammals, some also eat fruit and vegetation, depending on where they live.  It is believed that their grasp is so strong that they were used in earlier times for invading forts and climbing hills !! 

உடும்பு என்பது பல்லி வகையைச் சேர்ந்த பேரினம் ஆகும். இவை பொதுவாகப் பெரிய ஊர்வன உயிரினங்களாகும், எனினும் 20 சென்டிமீட்டரளவில் நீளம் கொண்டுள்ள இனங்களும் உண்டு. இவை நீண்ட கழுத்து, வலுமிக்க வால் மற்றும் நகங்கள் மேலும் நன்கு வளர்ந்த மூட்டுகள் ஆகியவற்றைக் கொண்டுள்ளன.  

Ever seen ‘Udumbu’ at arm’s length.. .. .. Monitor lizard, touted for its unrelenting grip is the common name of several large lizard species, comprising the genus Varanus. About 30 years ago, in Triplicane, in the morning around 09.00 am, I stood close to the shop entrance, as my friend opened his Watch repair shop in TP Kovil Street.  He hastily retreated from part open door, then before I could realize, a solid black 2 to 3 footer jumped and went into hiding inside the shop’s Name  board.  Later it was revealed that the man had bought Udumbu [for obvious reasons !] and had tied it to the leg of a wooden stool, planning everything for the next day…. In the night, the lizard had shrunk itself with ease, loosened the grip, got freed and was perhaps was waiting for the door to open ! 

With regards – S.Sampathkumar

stuntsman Remy Julienne of Bond Movies fame is no more !

Charlie Croker, upon his release from prison, meets up with the widow of his friend and fellow thief Roger Beckermann, who has been killed by the Mafia in an Italian Alpine tunnel while driving a Lamborghini Miura. Mrs Beckermann gives Croker her husband's plans for the robbery that attracted the hostile attention of his killers, which details a way to steal $4 million in gold in the city of Turin and escape to Switzerland.  .. … .. plot of 1969 movie ‘The Italian Job’    written by Troy Kennedy Martin, produced by Michael Deeley and directed by Peter Collinson.  Could not find the name of  Remy Julienne – though he figured in the movie prominently !! 


In every climax, it would invariably happen ! ~ the hero would perform something impossible, an auto chase, burning car, fast train, jumping from air and more – hero would leap into villain’s vehicle.  Fans would rejoice – would keep discussing that no other hero could fight so well – most know that most of the risk was undertaken by some lesser mortal whose name may not even figure in the cast; worser still, would remain uncared for if involved in an accident and got injured. Certainly not an exhaustive list –   may not be readily recognizable – some of the names, I have heard - Dhilip Subbarayan; Super Subbarayan; Stunt Silva; Kanal Kannan ; Jaguar Thangam; rocky Rajesh; Vikram Dharma, Peter Hein .. .. .. and .. .. ..

Long ago, waiting in an hospital, closer to nighttime, a van arrived and out in the stretcher was a youngman with bleeding injuries all over – some stuntman who had performed breaking a glass door, flying through it !   overheard that the hero in the movie, when a scene of kicking on the face was to be filmed, lifted his foot shortly, asked the camera man to take a shot from a pit ! 

Life perhaps has never been easy for those stunt performers – right from the early days of movie making to modernised methods of date. In India, they are generally uncared for and do not even get proper insurance protection – as this is one excluded risk.  Still, most performers do not have a choice – it is not attitude, but often driven by the only way they know to earn money.  Attitudes to risk are source of income and yet it may not be proportionate or paying all the time.  These are the men who put their lives for the original hero to get applause and rise to greater heights.  They do not get any awards ! – but ensure that the ones for whom they double-up earn millions !! 

A few years ago, in a tragic turn of events, two Kannada actors died after a movie stunt went horribly wrong at Tippagondanahalli Lake in Bengaluru.The actors were filming the stunts for an upcoming film ‘Masti Gudi,’ which stars Duniya Vijay in the lead role. While filming the scene, Vijay and the two actors, Anil and Uday, jumped into the lake from a helicopter. While the lead actor swam ashore, the other two didn’t surface for a long time, post which a search party was immediately dispatched. While a team of expert swimmers tried to recover the two actors, they could not retrieve anything. A safety harness was provided to the lead actor but none were provided to the other two.   

Last year or so, the Tamil cinema industry woke up to the tragic news of three people, on the sets of the Kamal Haasan-starrer Indian 2, being crushed to death after a crane fell on them. Assistant director Krishna, art assistant Chandran and production assistant Madhu were killed in the mishap that occurred at 10 pm on Wednesday. Nine others, who were injured while working on the Shankar directorial, were rushed to a private hospital in Poonamallee.  While the news came as a shock to many, important questions were raised on the responsibility of production houses — in this case, Lyca Productions — towards their employees; the responsibility of the film Directors and that of the Heroes for whom great risks are taken.  Also there are many unanswered Qs  about the way in which Kollywood deals with accidents and mishaps that take place on film sets.

No post on accidents but on stuntmen .. .. one of the world's leading stuntmen, Remy Julienne, who worked on six James Bond films as well as the 1969 classic 'The Italian Job', has died from Covid-19 aged 90, friends and family said on Friday. A veteran of more than 1,400 films and TV commercials as an actor or stunt coordinator, Julienne had been in intensive care in a hospital in his home town of Montargis in central France since early January.

Veteran stunt driver Remy Julienne,  worked on six James Bond movies and was involved in more than 1,400 movies and TV commercials since the 1960s.  One of his most memorable stunts - which made his name in the industry - was this jump across and alleyway between two buildings in the Italian Job. He also arranged this amazing stunt on the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. A French motocross champion, he began his film career in 1964 when he doubled for French actor Jean Marais in the film 'Fantomas', in which he was required to ride a motorbike. 'They needed someone who was very controlled,' he said of this experience. 'It ended up being me. It was the start of a huge adventure.' His career saw him fly over Venice dangling from a rope-ladder suspended from a helicopter, being hit in the face with a pumpkin while riding a motorbike and countless car crashes.

He doubled for some of the world's most famous actors, including Sean Connery and Roger Moore, as well top French names including Yves Montand, Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Both as an actor and a director of stunt sequences, which became the focus of his later career, Julienne won praise from some of the biggest names in cinema for his precision and creativity. A believer in real action rather than special effects, Julienne worked constantly to minimise the risks he took during his shoots, but he badly injured himself early in his career while filming on a Colombian production in Germany. His career low point came during filming for the French film 'Taxi 2' in 1999, which he was overseeing, when a cameraman was killed by a car that missed its landing spot after a jump. He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2007 and handed an 18-month suspended jail sentence, which was later reduced on appeal to six months and an order to pay damages of €60,000 to the victim's family.

Julienne also helped police with crime reconstructions. In 2000, he mounted a reconstruction of the death of a British student, Isabel Peake, to try to establish how the young woman was pushed from a Paris-bound train. Julienne said the work 'was very much like cinema work, only here we are fortunate enough to be using dummies, which takes a certain amount of pressure off us'.

RIP Julienne 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Chennai city gets 2 new parks ... 'Senkanthal park' enraptures with its name and content !!

For the visitor from a village, Chennai might bemuse .. with its choking traffic, Central Railway Station, Fort St George, tall buildings, bustling EMU trains, neat Metro trains and .. .. more n more of complexes, malls and the like – the city has no good rivers nor green space ! .. .. for the early morning walkers – there are some parks and then – there is Marina beach !! – the good news is Chennai’s greenspace has been further augmented by two new (big) parks !!

Flowers have occupied a great space in Sangam literature. குறிஞ்சிப்பாட்டு, எனும் நூலில் - தோழியும், தலைவியும் அருவியில் நீராடி பல்வகை மலர்களைப் பறித்துப் பாறையில் குவித்து வைத்ததாக குறிப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ளது. குறிஞ்சிப்பாட்டில்   மகளிர் கொய்து  விளையாடியதாக 99 மலர்களின் பெயர்கள் தொகுத்துக் கூறப்பட்டுள்ளன. இந்த எண்ணிக்கை அறிஞர்களின் பார்வையில் 103 வரை நீள்கிறது.  அவை யாவை தெரியுமா ??

One may not have watched the Vijayakanth starrer ‘Auto Raja’ of 1982 – but sure would have heard this song sung by Illayaraja himself along with S Janaki, composed by Pulamaipithan. It was as attractive in a jingle for a music video of Saravana Stores too.    The film was a remake of the 1980 Kannada movie of the same name.

சங்கத்தில் பாடாத கவிதை உன்  அங்கத்தில் யார் தந்தது

சந்தத்தில் மாறாத நடையோடு என்  முன்னே யார் வந்தது. .. …

கை என்றே செங்காந்தள் மலரை, நீ சொன்னால் நான் நம்பவோ?

கால் என்றே செவ்வாழை இலைகளை நீ சொன்னால் நான் நம்பி விடவோ


இதற்குமேல் சினிமா பாடல் இங்கே கிடையாது .. .. .. செங்காந்தள் அல்லது காந்தள்  என்பது ஒரு காந்தள் பேரினத்தைச் சேர்ந்த தாவரமாகும்.  கார்த்திகைத் திங்களில் முகிழ்விடும் இம்மலர்க் கொடி இலங்கை, இந்தியா, சீனா, மலாக்கா தீபகற்பம், அயனமண்டல ஆபிரிக்கா முதலான பகுதிகளிலும் காணப்படும். இது வேலிகளிலும், பாதையோரங்களிலும், காட்டோரங்களிலும் படர்ந்து நிமிர்ந்து அழகிய விரல்கள் போலவும், சுடர்கள் போலவும் காட்சியளிக்கும். அனைத்துப் பகுதிகளும் கோல்சிசினே (colchicine) எனும் அல்கலோயட்கள் நிறைந்தது. அதனால் இவற்றை உட்கொண்டால் மரணம் சம்பவிக்கும் வாய்ப்புள்ளது. குறிப்பாக இதன் வேர் மிகுந்த நச்சுத் தன்மை கொண்டது. இதன் இலை மற்றும் தண்டு நம்மேல் பட்டால் தோலில் அரிப்பு உண்டாகும். இது கார்த்திகைபூ என்றும் அறியப்படுகிறது. பண்டைய அரச காலம் முதலே இது அங்கீகார மலராக இருந்துள்ளது. மன்னர்கள் போருக்கு செல்லும் போது காந்தள் மலர் மாலைகளை அணிந்து கொண்டதாக சங்ககால வரலாறு கூறுகிறது.  

The good news is Chennai city got two horticulture parks on Friday 22.1.2021. In Washermenpet, century-old agricultural tools and an imported borewell equipment used to cater to the city’s water requirement will welcome visitors at the Heritage Garden. While in Gopalapuram, around 34,000 varieties of palms, ornamental plants and trees dot the Senganthal Poonga. Both the parks were inaugurated by Chief minister Mr. Edappadi K Palaniswami. The 3.8-acre site where the Heritage Garden has come up was not in use for long, said agriculture secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi.  Mr Bedi said the borewell was used in the 1920s and has been restored to its original condition. It, along with other agricultural tools, is on display in the indoor gardens. The facilities will be garden-cum-museums, the official said. The open garden has around thousand varieties of ornamental and flowering plants, and palm trees.

Senganthal Poonga has been created over an area of 6.83 acres inside the horticultural society premises. The garden can be accessed from Avvai Shanmugam Salai, closer to the Mountroad side.  This park will act as a recreation centre as well as an educational centre for students and botanists, Bedi said. Some of the rare and endangered plants and medicinal herbs have been planted and raised in this park, he said.

Senkanthan is – ‘Gloriosa superba’,  a species of flowering plant in the family Colchicaceae. Common names include flame lily, climbing lily, creeping lily, glory lily, gloriosa lily, tiger claw, and fire lily.  This species is a perennial herb growing from a fleshy rhizome. It is scandent, climbing using modified leaf-tip tendrils, the stem reaching 4 m (13 ft) long. The leaves are mainly alternately arranged, but they may be opposite, as well.  They are generally bright red to orange at maturity, sometimes with yellowish bases.  

Most of you would know that  Senganthal (Gloriosa superba), is the State flower of Tamil Nadu.  The Horticulture Department has created a new spacious park in the land it retrieved from the private Horticultural Society after a legal battle in the Supreme Court.   The new horticultural park is named after the State flower. The 6.3 acre park with a shell-shaped entrance on Avvai Shanmugam Salai has a self-contained waterbody, where rainwater can be collected. It also has solar panels to run the motors.

Before concluding, it is also the  National flower of Zimbabwe.  It is stated that  Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a flame lily diamond brooch as a gift from Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia as it was then) when she visited as crown princess in 1947.

The entry fee for adult visitor is Rs.20/- per person and for Cameras it is Rs.50/-  The park is open from 9 am to 5 pm and also has monthly pass system with with access is allowed from 6 am to 9 am.  The park is certain to become a hit with Chennaites with its large space and variety of trees, shrubs and flowers.   Do visit it early.  Here are some photos of the newly inaugurated ‘Senkanthal Poonga’ taken by me today.


With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Test Cricket returns to Chepauk !! .......... sans spectators

Can you identify this Cricketer, who shot to glory in a Chepauk test ? – post on England’s tour of India.

Making debut, playing for the Nation is a great dream – that way both T Natarajan and Washington Sundar have achieved greatness as they debuted in the Gabba test which would be remembered for posterity for that famous win (Test and the Series).  While Washington is a Chennaite - Natarajan, grew up in Chinnappampatti, a village about 370kms away from Chennai, cricket was escapism from poverty.  Every cricket fan would be familiar with his backstory by now. Natarajan and his protégé G Periyaswamy, who is playing for Tamil Nadu in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, would hop into share autos to the neighbouring towns and villages, yorking oppositions !

In late 1970s Indians had not exactly learnt the art of playing ODI and for the WC – Abid Ali was pulled up from nowhere to open.  When India were to tour Down under in 1980-81, talk was about the lean aggressor Krishnamachari Srikkanth.  Remember a huge team of ours had pooled money to buy tickets and watch the Deodhar Trophy match between West Zone and South Zone  at Chepauk (a premier one day match – a rarity those days).  West had always been a strong team having the likes of Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Sandip Patil, Ghulam Parkar and more.

Almost the whole crowd had come to watch Srikkanth succeeding and getting selected for the tour down under.    In the first few overs, when Cheeka was denied the strike, the crowds were even heckling Thirumalai Echambadi Srinivasan, a stylish batsman.  Things were to change later – all of us saw an innings of a life time – a brilliant 129 by TE carting all the bowlers with disdain and with great cricketing strokes.  He was powerful on leg and caressed shots on the off.  It was a total of around 270 + which in those days was a match winning one.  TE was indeed selected for the 1981 Tour.   On 6th Dec 1980 at Melbourne half of Indian side were new faces with Kirti Azad, Binny, Dilip Doshi, Sandip Patil and TE making their debuts.  TE opened with Sunny and outsurvived him against the likes of Dennis Lilllee, Lenny Pascoe, Graf and Lawson. He scored only 6.    Patil made 64, India mustered  208 and could bowl the mighty Aussies all out for 142.   His next chance came on 10th Jan 1981 against New zealand when he scored 4 getting out to Jeremy Coney this time.   On a juicy track, Richard Hadlee went wicketless but Indians were  totalled poor 112.  Sadly, TE was denied opportunities !

Both the South African and Australian Test squads will quarantine ahead of their yet-to-be-confirmed three-Test series in March, in what will be the strictest bio-secure bubble yet in South Africa. Unlike for the England and Sri Lanka series, where training could begin after the squads had taken their first Covid-19 tests - though social interaction was not allowed until after the third test - for the Australia series, players on both sides will be confined to their rooms for a longer period of time. For that reason, South Africa's Test squad will leave Pakistan on February 9 to begin their quarantine period at home. A separate squad will play the three T20Is in Pakistan on February 11, 13, and 14 in what CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith sees as an inevitable consequence of the times and something member boards will have to work together to ensure the cricket calendar is as unaffected as possible.

Chepauk has hosted matches since 1934 !  .. the first of that was Test no. 232, a 4 day Test  .. .. there was a time when Pongal Tests were so famous ! .. .. now Chepauk would host 2 Tests against England b u t .. ..  the  prospect of them being played behind closed doors has grown stronger after the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association informed its members that no crowds would be allowed at the MA Chidambaram stadium. The TNCA took the decision despite the Indian government recently ruling that outdoor sport could be conducted with spectators at 50% capacity. Chennai will host the first two matches of the four-Test series with the first Test scheduled to be held from February 5 to 9 and the second from February 13 to 17. Both teams will then travel to Ahmedabad for the last two Tests, to be played at Motera stadium. The third Test, to be played under lights, is scheduled from February 24 to 28 and final Test from March 4 to 8.

England's tour of India, which also includes five T20Is (to be played in Ahmedabad) and three ODIs (in Pune), is the first international cricket that India will host since the sport went on a global hiatus last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  On January 20 the TNCA secretary R Ramaswamy sent a circular to the association's members saying the decision to bar crowds was taken in unison with the BCCI as a "preventive measure". "In view of the prevailing Covid pandemic, BCCI has decided not to take any kind of risk with the safety of the players during the forthcoming India-England Test series," Ramaswamy said. "As per BCCI directive, the first two Test matches will take place behind closed doors (No Spectators/Guests/Sub-Committee Members) as a preventive measure." 

Despite the TNCA decision, a senior official at the Gujarat Cricket Association, which runs the Motera ground, remained optimistic of having some section of the ground open to crowds. In 2020 the refurbished Motera was inaugurated by former US president Donald Trump. With a capacity of 110,000 Motera is the biggest-capacity ground in world cricket. The GCA official said that subject to the permission of both the Indian and Gujarat state governments, if not half, at least tickets could be sold to fill the stadium to at least 20-30% capacity. Both squads are scheduled to land in Chennai by January 27 and will straightaway enter a biosecure bubble, which has become the norm in all cricket. After an initial three-day quarantine, teams would start their training while undergoing regular testing.

In Dec 2016  - Not many would have fancied Karun Nair (the man at the start)  –   – he had failed in the 1st two tests … at close of play on day 3 Karun Nair was unbeaten on  somewhat ordinary 71 off 136 balls but next day was to add  232 more in 245 balls.. the triple coming much faster as Kohli declared immediately on his reaching the great landmark.  Nair rocked on to the backfoot and thumped Adil Rashid’s delivery of the 191st over  to  become only the third player in Test history to turn his maiden hundred into a triple.   Thanks to Karun Nair’s triple century, India amassed 759 for seven – their highest ever Test score.  Earlier KL Rahul missed out his double ton by a solitary run.   

With all that glory – Karun Nair  is only 29 years of age now.  He has played 6 tests making 374 runs with 303* as highest.  His scores read :  4; 13; 303*; 26 & 0; 23; and 5.  He last played against Australia in Dharamsala in Test no. 2258 in Mar 2017.  Will he get another chance to bat for the Nation ?? 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar