How to Improve your World Cup Gyaan


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’ll come as no surprise that World Cup madness is truly upon us. Whether you love or hate it, you are going to be bombarded with constant status updates, tweets, news flashes, advertisements and promotions involving anything and everything around cricket. And perhaps, if we are bit too honest, most of us love the game when our team - in this case, India - does well. And touch wood, after what can only be described as a miserable series in Australia, we seem to be finding our groove.  

But here’s a question. How may of you have friends who are from non-cricket playing nations? Probably quite a few of us, isn’t it? Especially so, since as a sport, Cricket is barely talked about outside the 12 odd-nations or so, that it finds takers in. However statistics state that it is perhaps the second-most-watched sport in the world. And predominantly due to the fan following in the subcontinent. Of course, those stats could go well down the drain if India get knocked out in the first round itself, as it so happened in 2007. But here is the thing - have you ever spared a thought about your friends from non-cricket playing nations who happen to be residing in India during the World Cup?


The funny thing is, nether had I. Until rather recently that is. During India’s opening match against Pakistan, we had a few friends over for lunch. They were South American and hence quite outside the ‘mileage’ of the sport and the World Cup. Now, while they were aware about the game, they could hardly differentiate Shahid Afridi from Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And why would they? It wasn’t a sport that they watched or followed. And to be fair to them, even tennis champ Maria Sharapova did not know of cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, despite both of them being greats in their respective sporting fields. But more on that, some other day.


Our friends and we had a great discussion during the match. While I am neither a cricketing guru nor a World Cup expert, I was happy to offer them what ever little gyaan I possessed. So amidst questions such as “What’s Gully or Off-Break?” and “How many teams participate in the World Cup?” to “Who is that smart looking bloke and why is he raising his bat towards the sky?” , we had an enjoyable match.  Of course, it helped that India won too. But it was a question that one of my friends had asked, that made me really think about the topic. He had asked what the best way was to improve his cricket and World Cup knowledge.


The question was pretty simple enough, but it made me think about how a foreigner perhaps in a cricketing mad nation such as ours, where almost everyone has an opinion about the many facets of the game, and where our players are given God-like statuses in society.  Perhaps it is because most of us have grown up either playing, hearing, watching or reading about the game, that it comes as second nature to us. But not to them.


So in the spirit of the game and of being a true friend, I decided to give them a bit of a helping hand. Yes, in today’s day and age almost every bit of information is available for free on the internet. All it takes is a simple search. But instead, as a fan of the sport and a bibliophile by nature, I decided to do the best thing possible. I combined both the worlds in the hope that it would help them get acclimatised to the whole World Cup Madness going on now and help improve their gyaan about the game.


And how did I do that? Simple! I just put in the terms ‘cricket world cup books’  on to my favourite search engine and it led me to an amazing site with a great selection of books that ranged from biographies of cricketing legends - both Indian and International - to ones that explained every aspect of the game, from rules to fans and terminology to gossip.


Needless to say, we’re planning to watch the up coming India-West Indies match together, where I’ll be gifting them the books and we’ll have a much more ‘gyaan-filled’ conversation about the game.


P.S. If at all you were wondering who that ‘smart looking bloke’ that my friends were referring to, it was Virat Kohli. The boy sure knows how to turn a few heads. 


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Paper Scent

David squirmed at the dishevelled aged man across the counter, who was now close enough for him to smell the strong scent of rum that wafted of off his body. The pensioner looked like he hadn’t showered in days, much less brushed his teeth in decades. His teeth were a deep yellow coated with tar stains, probably from years of tobacco addiction. His hair was long and unkempt, almost fully grey, with a few odd brown streaks in there. He also looked like he hadn’t had a shave in weeks, and his bushy beard was coated with left overs of whatever he had probably had for breakfast - pieces of bacon, by the looks of it. The only somewhat distinguishing part of the old man was a pair of gold-rimmed half-moon spectacles, through which his bright, somewhat-boyish, blue eyes peered out.

As the store manager for one of the largest beauty and cosmetic retailers in Britain, David Smith, was accustomed to dealing with difficult customers. The only people he hated dealing with, were the “homeless and poor” who occasionally visited the store in the hope of getting a free sample of a promotional product that they were giving away. Even then, David was extremely careful as to who he let into the store. After all, his store was the biggest and most popular one of the chain, and located on one of London’s premier shopping avenues. Further more, their normal clientele were the who’s who of Hollywood and other high-society kinds, who surely would not take “the homeless and beggars milling about” the store lightly.

With a deep sigh, David cleared his throat. His security chap at the door usually did a splendid job of keeping “these kinds” at bay. But he was running a bit late today, due to the customary delays on the London Underground. And it was just five minutes past 10, when this raggedly old man had walked in. Keeping with the norm, David was behind the counter ensuring that there was enough money in the till to begin trade for the day. “ I’m afraid, I’m going to have to ask you to leave” commenced David, sticking to his well-practiced speech for getting rid of “these lot”.
The old man stared at him for what felt like the best part of five minutes. And then he spoke. “Is that how you treat customers these days, son?” enquired the old man. David was taken aback by the polished accent that accompanied the statement and the accurate enunciation of each word. Suddenly David wasn’t so sure how to respond anymore. Though this old man’s appearance was un-sightly and down-right dirty, his deep baritone and proper articulation was a shocker. “Sir….I…mmm….I…” mumbled David, unable to conceal his surprise. The old man smiled. “I understand your …well…concern. I know I don’t look the part of your usual clientele. Unfortunately I don’t clean up well. Which is why I’m here first thing in the morning, before your business picks up. I’m here to talk about this”, he said dropping a leaflet, that David was familiar with.
A couple of weeks ago, the parent chain had organised a “What do you want to smell like?” promotion, where customers could walk into any of their 200 odd- outlets and experiment with a variety of essences and scents till they got  what they liked. And then once they co-created it, they had to purchase it in either 50, 75 or 100ml bottles. The catch was that the potential client had to put down a £500 deposit, and there was no refund. In spite of the high initial costs, it had been a huge success, but the thought of some of those really questionable scents, still made David nauseate. But it was hugely profitable for the company, and for David’s store in particular. The purchase costs of these “co-created perfumes” were really high and the investment in terms of resources was quite minimum. To make matters more interesting, the company had even put out a challenge - they could re-create any scent. If they couldn’t, they’d not only refund the £500, but they would offer a year’s supply of cosmetic and beauty care products from one of the most reputed brands in the world.
The leaflet that the old man had shoved in front of David was one of the few hundreds that they had personally snail mailed to the who’s who of society. He picked up the leaflet and looked at the name on the affixed label - John Gardiner. Somewhere in David’s head, the name rang a bell, but he wasn’t quite sure where he’d come across it. He excused himself from the old man, and went to a nearby computer set up with Internet access. He brought up the Google home page, and typed in John Gardiner into the search box. And then he smiled. The picture that accompanied the Wikipedia entry for John Gardiner was an identical copy of the person who was standing across the counter from him. He read a bit more of the article, and discovered that John Gardiner was a hugely successful author who had over 20 best-sellers over the 40 decades he had been writing. It also added that recently, Mr. Gardiner had been undergoing treatment for some clinical depression as well as some psychiatric treatment. Apparently he’d been having visions of a world where everything was electronic and there were no more physical books. It even said that Mr. Gardiner had supposedly buried a time capsule somewhere in his garden with collector’s editions of various famous paperbacks, so that future generations could understand how it was to touch, feel and read a real physical book.
David smiled again. Looked like Mr. Gardiner was going cuckoo. Nevertheless the Wikipedia entry said he had a lot of wealth, which meant a sale for David. That’s all that mattered. So he was going to indulge Mr. Gardiner, for the sake of a good sale. David walked back to the counter and said “Ofcourse, Mr. Gardiner. What can I do for you?" “I’d like to have  go at this” replied old man John pointing at the leaflet. “Here’s your cheque for £500”. Mouthing a thank you, David grinned as he picked up the cheque from Mr. Gardiner’s frail hands. He slowly walked Mr.Gardiner over to their make-shift “Essence Lab” where the perfuming process was being tested.
After going through some basics of perfuming and how they were created, David turned around and looked at Mr. Gardiner. So Mr. Gardiner, did you have an idea about what kind of scent you wanted your perfume to have ? Maybe lavender, rose, musk wood ….something a bit more fruity, like orange, or lemons….?”. John Gardiner looked at David, and then burst out with a wide grin. “I was thinking you’d never ask” he said. He slowly slid his hand into the tattered trench coat the he was wearing. For a minute David panicked. What if this crazy old man was pulling out a weapon. As the old man withdrew his hand form the coat, David noticed that he was clutching some books. From the looks of it, they were really old ,and pretty much in the same shape as their owner - raggedy and tattered with yellowing pages. Mr. Gardiner clutched the books really tightly and thrust them in David’s face. “Smell them!” he ordered, his previously blue eyes, now greyish blue with steely determination. David took a whiff. It smelled musty, with an odd faint hint of vanilla. He took another whiff, a deeper one this time around. This time he smelled something completely different ; he could smell “petrichor”, (the smell when fresh rain mixed with dry earth or dust) and dry wood. Looking confused, David asked “What is that smell? I’m not able to identify it precisely.” Mr. Gardiner looked at David with a really blissful smile and said “That my son, is the best smell in the world; the smell that I fear our future generations may not be able to even sample; the smell that has inspired and motivated me to write for over 40 long decades - that, my son, is the wonderful smell of old books, and I intend to capture and stock it for our generations to come."
Image courtesy Google Search and HD Wallpapers
Image courtesy Google Search and HD Wallpapers

 A few un-successful hours later....

David folded his hands and watched Mr. John Gardiner, the esteemed author of over 20 best-sellers, walk out of the door, with his original cheque of £500 and a box full of cosmetic and beauty products for a whole year. "Well, at least he'll scrub up well now" mused David as he watched the door close.


This post was compiled for WriteTribe's Wednesday prompt - The Best Scent, where the prompt was " the smell of old books".

The Kill List - Forsyth at his undeniably best

The Kill List is master storyteller Frederick Forsyth’s latest addition to his long list of cutting-edge suspense thrillers.

The Kill List - Cover Image courtesy of Google Images

Plot Line:

America has a new enemy - The Preacher, who has just made it onto their short top hit list of people who are to be tracked down and killed at every cost. This top secret catalogue is known internally as “The Kill List”. The Preacher is masked figure with blazing amber eyes, who radicalizes young Muslims abroad to carry out high profile assassinations.
To hunt down the Preacher, the United States appoints one of its many classified organisations, blandly named as TOSA or Technical Operations Support Activity, who in turn passes the mission on to their star crusader, only known as the Tracker, who is an ex-marine.
Armed with very little evidence and unable to trust anyone around, the Tracker has his work cut out. And when one such radicalised youth, kills a retired Marine general, whose son happens to the Tracker, the hunt becomes extremely personal.

In my opinion:

It is a typical Forsyth classic - fast moving, action-packed and backed with excellent research. Whilst not in the same league as that of  “The Day of the Jackal” or “The Odessa File”, The Kill List does have its edge-of-your-seat moments.  Forsyth’s detailed research for all his books is what sets him apart from some his contemporaries, and it’s no different with this novel either. What I loved best about the book, apart from the well-paced plot, is the exceptional detail about the military, their impeccable execution under pressure and how the entire premise is very real-world-real-scenario based.
Yes, there are some minute flaws in the story line, the end-result is quite predictable and the final confrontation is a bit rushed. However  as some wise people have said in the past, “ It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey!”. And the “journey” that this book takes us on, from the deep, impenetrable mountains of Afghanistan to the vicious pirate-infested “Horn of Africa”, is an outstandingly well-crafted and enjoyable one.

Final Verdict:

The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth is an excellent blend of well-paced military action, the quintessential real-world hero, enthralling    writing and the archetypal Machiavellian bad guy. A definite read.

Overall Rating : 4 / 5

Bibliographic info:

Title                  The Kill List
Author              Frederick Forsyth
Publisher          Penguin Group US, 2013
Length              352 pages
 Genre                Fiction | Thrillers  | Suspense | Military