Whether to surprise or not

Today, my wife turns twenty five. It hasn’t been a good birthday so far, for she feels depressed that she’s growing old. It doesn’t help matters that I’ve failed to surprise her, while on my birthday six months back she had put together a series of fantastic surprises. In my defence, I treated her to an afternoon of unlimited shopping a couple of days back,which I had assumed was her”birthday gift”.

Anyway, the point is that it had been brought to my notice before I went out somewhere this evening that I’d failed to materialize with a “birthday gift” and I was wondering if I should get something on my way back. It is not like I didn’t have ideas. I had several. But as I went through them one by one I realized that for each of them, there was a credible rebuttal she could come out with for each of them that would make it seem like there was no “thought” behind that gift and the only reason I had brought it was that she was unhappy.

I reasoned that irrespective of what had happened in the intervening couple of hours when I was out, she would still be upset with me at the end of it. Given that she would be upset with me, the odds that the gift I would bring would completely melt her and she would be satisfied would be miniscule. Instead, I would only have to endure more sulking, with the added charge of my trying to bribe her out of her anger.

I guess the big problem with me that I’m too cold and rational most of the time (the few occasions when I get emotional, I go crazy and cry loud enough to bring my whole apartment complex down). So the rationalist in me decided to make the rational decision that the chances of winning over my wife with a superb gift was so low that it would not justify the effort involved in bringing that surprise. So I came home empty handed.

My wife is inside the bedroom now, pretending to read a book that isn’t particularly interesting, while I blog this sitting in the hall, having taken control of the TV and watching the French Open final. I guess I was guilty of not giving myself that chance to turn her over today. But then, I didn’t spend all that mind space in trying to find that superb gift. I told you right, that I’m too cold and rational most of the time. And I write about too many things on this blog.

What the hell was Vettori thinking?

I’m writing this post in anger. In disgust. At the sheer lack of strategic vision shown by Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Daniel Vettori. What the hell was he thinking when he threw the ball to Virat Kohli for the 19th over, with 43 required off two overs? Yes, there had been a miscalculation earlier which meant that one of the last five overs had to be bowled either by part-timer Kohli, or by Raju Bhatkal who had been torn apart in his earlier two overs. While it is hard to pardon miscalculation in a twenty over game, it is nothing compared to the strategic error of the 19th over.

When overs sixteen to eighteen were bowled by Zaheer, Vinay and Zaheer respectively, I thought it was a tactical masterstroke by Vettori to keep the one extra over to the end. Given the skyrocketing required run rate, I thought it was a great idea that he was trying to put the match beyond Chennai Super Kings by the 19th over itself. And it worked well. From 75 needed off 5 overs, the equation was brought down to 43 off the last two overs (now, it is reasonable to expect Zaheer and Vinay to go at around 10 an over in the slog overs). And then what happened?

You have two overs left, 43 runs to win. You have a reasonably experienced medium pacer who is generally good at bowling at death, but is also prone to buckling under pressure. And you know you can’t trust whoever the other bowler is going to be. What you want is to have your good bowler bowl without any pressure on him. Without any pressure, you can expect him to go for about 10-15 in the 19th, leaving the batsmen to score nearly 30 off the last over – which would tilt the odds significantly in favour of the part timer who would bowl that over, since the pressure would be on the batsmen.

Instead, what do you do? Give the part timer the 19th over. He has no answers for Morkel’s slogging and edging, and goes for 28, leaving Vinay to defend 15. Now, it is Vinay (who is vulnerable under pressure) who has to bowl under pressure, and the batsmen know that. It is a miracle that the match went down to the last ball.

Of course you might say that I wouldn’t have reacted so angrily had either RCB won or Kohli had gone for less in his over. That’s not true. The match was in RCB’s pocket, to be won. The probability of victory reduced significantly the moment the ball was thrown to Kohli (for the 19th over). The ultimate result doesn’t matter. I would have blasted Vettori even if we had won.

Now, there is another uncharitable explanation that comes to mind, and I’m not very proud that this comes to mind. Was it mere incompetence or some sense of malice on the part of Vettori to give the 19th over to Kohli? I’m not talking about bookmakers here, I respect him too much for that. But think about it. Just yesterday, both Mint and Cricinfo ran articles talking about IPL 5’s poor TV ratings so far. The BCCI Chairman N Srinivasan (who not so coincidentally owns CSK) said that the answer to increasing TRPs was to play on batting-friendly high-scoring pitches, and to have close games.

The first wish was answered, when RCB set a target of 206. I wonder if there were some kind of instructions from “big brother” instructing that the game go into the last over, as a means to increase flagging TRPs. If Vinay had bowled the 19th and gone for 10 (say), that would have left a near-impossible 33 off Kohli/Bhatkal’s over. Match over by over 19. One more match that is not “close”, which will do nothing to boost TRPs. But keep the contest alive till the last over, TRPs would be boosted?

As an RCB fan, I hereby call for the immediate sacking of Daniel Vettori as captain and his replacement at the helm by one of Kohli or AB De Villiers  (maybe even Vinay Kumar or Zaheer Khan). Maybe I should create an online signature campaign for this purpose, and use my contacts to get the results through to Anil Kumble and other powers-that-are at RCB.