Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Barefoot Coach - Paddy Upton

Paddy Upton was the mental conditioning coach and strategic leadership coach for the Indian cricket team when the team won the World Cup in 2011 - an interesting job description that caught my eye then. He was with Gary Kirsten who was the Chief Coach of the Indian team. Paddy worked with the Rajasthan Royals after that and one could see that he shared comfort with Rahul Dravid. Paddy has a PhD in Sports Science and is well-read and a seeker constantly pushing his own boundaries.

The Search for Meaning
The book begins where it should begin - when he was part of the South African team as a fitness coach in the Woolmer and Hansie Cronje era. He talks of the addictive life in the limelight but then he chucked it all up one day when he found no meaning there. Paddy is a big one for meaning - which is a wonderful thing. Then he takes off for a four-month trip of Asia, living in the cheapest places and traveling third class. Back in South Africa, a couple of failed businesses, and then a big twist. He worked with Linzi, a young journalist, and the street children in Cape Town for three years to bring the kids off the streets and into the mainstream. He tells a poignant story of how a young man with several dangerous crimes associated with him almost cut him up with a knife when he saw Paddy witnessing him stabbing his girlfriend - but then the boy breaks down and confesses. Paddy says it only happened because his own energy shifted from fear to love for the boy - and that shift transforms the energy between them. Beautiful story. The boy seeks help and meets a therapist and comes out of the situation. To me this was a bigger story than the Indian team winning the World Cup.

Surrender - Give up the need to succeed always
Paddy next talks of surrender, of finding the authentic part of ourselves. He gives the example of Gary Kirsten (when Gary was still a player) in a bad phase in his career and about to give up. That night he surrenders to God and next day plays an innings of a lifetime that prolongs his career by six years. Paddy feels that the search for the authentic Kirsten, the one who let go of the need to succeed, one who worried about failing was what did the trick. Gary was ok with himself as he was, even as a failure and that helped him win. There's a nice line by Paddy - that the person who is in good space is one who can receive praise fully and express gratitude in full proportion. Hmm!

Aims for TEAM India
Kirsten and Paddy head out to Mumbai to coach the Indian cricket team in March 2008 - stint that would end with the World Cup 2011. On the flight they make their aims - 1) Make India the No 1 Test side 2) Win the 2011 World Cup 3) Create a happy team environment and 4) Help players become better players. I think most coaches can take the last two in all teams. They both lacked coaching experience in their respective areas - why then did the Board pick them one wonders. But they are clear that their job is to learn, to practice a servant leadership model where the leader serves, be humble, stand back and focus on empowering and make the athlete accountable. The idea is to collaborate and to be athlete-centered. Fantastic. He quotes Leonard Cohen's song Anthem - Forget your perfect offering/There's a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in. Beautiful. (Leonard Cohen - Anthem)

Role modeling behavior, Building trust
The two coaches then figured their way along in a country full of paradoxes, armed with the best of intentions, a learning mindset, lots of preparation and good intent. They shared their ideas, got the team to share their feedback, role-modeled preparation. Slowly things changed as the team trusted them and their intent.

Play to strengths
Paddy talks about how one must play to their strengths. Excessive focus on weaknesses is what holds back the majority of the people. He cites the following formulae

 - Talent+Smart work = Strength
 -  Non-talent +smart work =learned skill

 - Strength+Regular application = Excellence
  - Learned skill+regular application = Good performance.

He talks of the 10000 hours to expertise theory but puts in a caveat - it only works for areas where one had natural-born talent. and has a learning mindset. Playing to strengths engages people 6x times on the job - so clearly fixing weakness is not a good idea to begin with.

India at war
Paddy makes an interesting comparison of the Indian cricket team and India's history at war - and makes the presentation to the team so they understand their history as a nation when it comes to war.  The characteristics deal with - home and away performance (we are lousy at away), attacking first (never did), fight back (good at that), handing back the advantage gained (most commonly done), susceptible to divide and conquer (we are), individualism (yes) and talk vs action (guilty). It's abroad understanding of the way we think but its brilliant because he helps them think and be aware of the history and how they may have to change a few things if they wanted different results. They create an acronym called TEAM India where T stands for Team first, E stands for Excellent entertainers, A stands for Attitude of winners and M stands for Mature individuals. Nice!

Question everything 
The coaches inculcated a culture of questioning everything - why should practice sessions be fixed and be the responsibility of the coaches? The answer - optional practice sessions where players take responsibility for their own time and game and what they want to practice on. The idea is wonderful - if you want the cricketers to be responsible and mature, treat them like they are. The coaches also empowered the players by treating them as experts in their own lines.

Enable the player to figure it out himself
There's a small example of how coaches at one level are best when not giving the ward advice and instead making the ward figure out thins for themselves - something straight out of Gallwey's method of being non-judgmental, focusing on the feelmage, quieting the chatter in Self 1 and trusting Self 2. - Gautam Gambhir is struggling to get his extra cover drive right. Sachin, Gary Kirsten, and Eric Simmons all have their inputs but nothing changes. And then Paddy tells him to figure out what he is doing whenever he is doing it right - and Gautam figures after a while that he had been looking at his shoes twice before hitting the ball and that was what helped him hit it exactly right. It's such an individual thing. Paddy says, as Gallwey does - don't give advise, ask questions, show videos of the player doing his thing - and the player will figure it out himself. Give them the end result and let them figure out their story. Reminds one of Eisenhower's quote - tell them what to do and not how to do it and they will surprise you. Coaches, listen!

Unconventional ideas, being transparent and building ownership
On fitness tests also the coaches had unconventional ideas. They told the players that they needed the players to be uninjured and to deliver their skill in order to be continually selected to play. Simple. Another example of trusting and empowering a senior players was when Rahul Dravid was undergoing a lean patch and no one knows what to do - Gary simply asks Rahul if he felt he was ready. Rahul said he was and will let Gary know if he wasn't and goes ahead and scores a hundred in that game. How many times don't we include the person concerned in the discussion!

Add some strength to the weak links
Another neat tactic used by Gary and Paddy with their team that had a strong batting line up and not so strong bowling was this - they got the bowlers to bat better with some extra batting and coaching. In a time when the average total of batsmen from 8-11 across the world was 43, the Indian team got their average up to 83 and gave themselves more runs to bowl against. Smart!

Values and humility
On values two stories stand out - one of Anil Kumble coming from Mumbai all the way to Chennai to attend a function that he had promised he would - the flight got canceled so he took the flight to Bangalore and drove six hours to be present. Kumble is brilliant at this - I heard other such stories too about him. Another when Ishant Sharma kicks the ball in frustration and Sachin tells him that the ball is what made him what he was and one must respect it. On being humble there's a story of Sachin who said that the most important lesson he learned was when his teammates told him after his early success as a sixteen year old that he could be a better player than them but he was acting as if he was more important than them/ Kept his ego in check after that.

Talk the walk (and then walk the talk)
The Coaches unveiled their World Cup strategy by first talking the walk - every meeting started with - When we play in the World Cup final in Mumbai on...I like the idea of talking the walk.

Focus and Concentration
There is an interesting chapter on focus (past, present and future, broad vs narrow, and internal vs external). Paddy also distinguishes between focus (which is about breadth) and concentration (which is about depth). He gives the WIN formula - what's important now! To focus Sehwag used to sing, Kallis would say "watch the ball" and Gary would say "Trust" as the ball is being delivered so the Self 1 mind is quietened. There is a formula A+B= C (A is your A game, B is all the things that you cannot control and C is Results).

Mental toughness and Gambhir
Paddy says there is no such thing as mental toughness. I guess that's open to debate. I liked the study that said one out of twenty corporate managers in the USA is a psychopath. Paddy I fully agree. Maybe more. Gautam Gambhir was one of the most insecure people he says. Interestingly Paddy worked on getting him to be positive until he realised it will not work. So he told Gambhir to accept his feelings and he was ok with it. That shifted things. Important lesson - accept what you cannot change and it changes. All said and done - to me it was Gambhir and Kohli who shifted the balance in 2011 - Gambhir specially who in my opinion should have hit the winning shot if he did not get carried away.

Dealing with failure
Paddy talks about dealing with failures and asserts that everyone fails. He gives the example of Team Hoyt and says don't give up when you fail. (I feel one should never give up when you are down, always leave when you are on a high. Come back, stay on top and then resign.) If you lose Paddy's mantra was - behave normally, focus on what worked, be responsible, plan to improve, be fully present.

Mike Horn's immense wisdom
Perhaps the most impactful thing about the book was when Mike Horn comes on. He is an explorer and adventurer who swam 7000 kms fo the Amazon, walked to the North Pole in winter, circumnavigated the earth around the equator and climbed four 8000 meter peaks without supplementary oxygen. He has a lovely TED talk which I watched after I read this book.

Horn says that to achieve complex things he kept his life simple. His definition of commitment is that you will only win if your will to win is bigger than your fear of losing. (It makes immense sense when you are between life and death - a situation he must be highly familiar with on a moment to moment basis in his chosen way of living life.) One needs to bring that kind of intensity to the big moment.

You are where you are, he said. because you can deliver, don't doubt yourself. When everything is dark focus on what you can do. He says how he sees the degree of difficulty and then assesses his strengths and tries to improve out his weak areas. In moments of crisis he says its not about doing it 20 times but about doing it the first time.

Horn spoke of his preparation - of how he uses his imagination - photos, videos, feel, sense, temperature, sound, and lives the experience several times before he actually undergoes it. Before being in an unknown situation he says, feel it, sense it, take your best moment with you.

To the Indian team he said - play a bigger role. Play as a team - use the expectations of a billion people for you. He tells that he does not use supplementary oxygen when he climbs 8000 metre mountains because he feels that is cheating the mountain. A classic line - he tells that in a true team the pressure gets offloaded and distributed amongst everyone.

After Horn left the team changed their talk from "playing the final" to "winning the final". Paddy's final speech to the team was short - it's like a Bollywood movie, we know our scripts, go and win it. And they won. (Mike Horn TEDx Pearl River)

Using collective intelligence
Paddy is a big one for using the collective intelligence available. When working with Rajasthan Royals Paddy says he needs no excessive support staff because he would use the collective intelligence of the team and that he does.

Horn again
Mike Horn comes back in the chapter when the South African team is led by him on a few days of mountain climbing and other stuff. Another gem form him - if the dream does not scare you, it's not big enough. Another one - don't be obsessed with the result that it actually works against the desired result. South Africa badly needs to understand that.

The Greatness of the Greats
Paddy ends with a nice note on how Madiba Nelson Mandela almost ruined a precious photo of Paddy and him while signing on it by dropping some ink on it and before he realised it, Madiba wiped away the ink with his sleeve so it does not spoil the photo.

It's a fine book with a lot of fine points. Paddy is a seeker and will always remain one. His coaching career is still midway so perhaps he will write another one much later. 'The Barefoot Coach' is filled with stories and examples, and showcases his attitude, honesty and keenness to share his craft generously. Though I had some problems with the flow (more because I found the content extremely good), I strongly recommend it to all coaches - sports and executive. There is much to learn here. I am also waiting for the next one, ten years later. Thanks Vijay Lokapally for suggesting this book.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Nice Talk - The Art of Storytelling

Ameen Haque - Nicely delivered.

1) Use stories to speak to emotions
2) Build common ground ('we' and not 'I')
3) Build contrast - what is and what can be, paint a picture and offer them citizenship to that world

Story is truth well told. Use of metaphor.
When you make presentations don't state the obvious. Remove, don't add.

The 3 parts of a story - a character, conflict and resolution

1) Imagine a world where...(use contrast/metaphor)
2) Failure stories/ success stories

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Faster than Lightning - Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt left a legacy as mind-boggling as his running was - nine Olympic golds in 100 m, 200 m and 4x100m in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro. All of them in his signature style - no close finishes nothing. He'd actually celebrate before the race was over. Ridiculous! I wanted to know how anyone could become so good, so I bought this book.

Bolt's book begins with an accident he had while driving his BMW (rather speedily) sometime after the Beijing Olympics with two young ladies. It was a serious accident and no one died but it was an incident that changed his life for good - he realised he had a mission to fulfill, to take his god-given ability to fulfill potential. I notice that biographers do this - pick one defining incident and then go back to the story.

Bolt's childhood in Jamaica were spent with his parents and two siblings - from his father's earlier relationships - a sister and a brother. Tall for his age, he could never stay quiet and when he ran, he was quick. Bolt loved cricket and was a good fast bowler.

His mother worked hard and so did his father. They taught him values - to respect everyone was one big thing. There's interesting story of how he had to say hello to everyone on the road whether they responded or not - if he did not wish anyone his father would whack him. Another story of how he would eat off the trees when he was hungry - healthy stuff. And another when he was assigned the job of fetching water in buckets because there was no running water at home - Bolt decided to carry two buckets at the same time to reduce the number of trips (forty) and built a lot of strength that way. Else, his father would whack him.

Bolt's early talent shone through as he won athletic events for his school and earned a scholarship to go to William Knibb High School which had a sporting culture. He ran ridiculous timings in 200m and 400m. However Bolt hated the 400 m training - the consecutive reps of 500/600/700 and 700 sit ups to strengthen the core. It was his school coach at William Knibb who told him that he had serious potential if he took athletics seriously.

Sore Loser and the Making of a Dream
One thing that Bolt hated was losing, and he was losing to a boy called Keith Spence. Spence's father pushed him hard to train and to win, training that made Keith strong. Bolt took his training seriously with the single purpose of beating Spence and beat him in their next race. Bolt made one of his famous mantras for himself that day - If I beat anyone in a big meet, they'll never beat me again. His next inspiration to dream big came when he watched a video of Michael Johnson winning gold at Atlanta and Don Quarrie running the 200m in the Olympics. A dream arose - of winning an Olympic gold. While he trained hard Bolt was also tactical. Both he and NJ, his school friend and now his manager, would strategise on how to prepare for each race - he ran smart and was aware. He also was flexible about changing his game.

Fear of Failure
When the World Junior Championship was coming closer Bolt found himself slacking off training. He did not want to compete, did not want to lose. That was when his mother told him to give his best -she'd be proud of him anyway. That assurance took a load off Bolt and he began training seriously, without stress, a 15 year old running the Under 20s. So big was the occasion and so nervous was he that he tried to wear the wrong shoes on the wrong foot. He couldn't even stand he says and was unable to move. But once he got going in the race (he took his time at the start), no one could catch Bolt. He realised how mental strength played a big part in the process and made a mental note that there will never be a negative thought in his mind ever again. Even a distraction for the hundredth of a second could cost him.

The High Performance Centre, Kingston
Bolt's parents hired Mr Peart to teach academics and also manage him at Kingston where Bolt joined the High Performance Centre, an initiative of the IAAF and the JAAA. He was assigned to Coach Coleman there. Bolt was not too pleased with Coach Coleman's tactics which he felt were inflexible. He suffered a lot of pain in his spine and when he brought that to the Coach's notice it was felt that he was slacking off. When the pain continued he consulted a famous German doctor he told him that he had a condition called scoliosis - a condition of the spine - and he could not correct that with physiotherapy. It was bad news. More bad news followed when he came in 4th at Athens and hit a low spot with criticism in the media about his junk food binges and partying.

Change the Coach
Bolt changed coaches and got himself Glen Mills and they hit it off immediately. Mills gave him a three-year plan to prepare for Beijing Olympics. They needed to do a lot of strengthening to overcome the scoliosis issue and strengthen his back and abs. Gym was vital, sit ups, core, stretching. Bolt followed everything his coach said - he fully trusted Mills who was like a father figure to him. Mills shortened his strides while running and improved his performance some.

Though Coach was happy with Bolt showing signs of having the heart of a champ, Bolt, his doubts if he was good enough. He'd come in fourth in the World Championship. When he returned home to Jamaica another significant thing happened - the same crowd that made him a hero booed him. Bolt decided that he would do it first for himself and no one else. He would not think of the public, just do. Coach also asked him to aim for something so he had a goal - Bolt thought he would buy a washing machine for his mother and a good car for himself. He had seen Asafa Powell and his fancy cars.

New Agent
They signed on a  new agent Ricky Simms and Simms told Bolt how his earnings were related to winning big races. Bolt pictured himself with a fancy car, clothes, about what he wanted the most to motivate himself? And then he trained - beyond what the Coach called the "moment of no return "- a point when the body told you to quit - at tipping point. If you stopped then, all the pain and the effort was pointless, and the muscles would not increase their current strength. If you worked through that moment of no return, did a couple more reps, ran through the pain, then you added strength.

When Bolt loses to Tyson Gay, Coach tells him bluntly that it's the result of his slacking off in the gym. Bolt feels he had done enough but the penny drops. He decides that he will not be beaten by Tyson again. He realised that the smallest slacking off showed up on the big stage and he focused seriously on his training.

Let's Try 100m Also
Bolt running the 100  m came as a freak decision. He was only a 200 m runner till then. Coach Mills decided that if Bolt needed to improve the form in 200 m it might help if he ran another race to complement the 200m. This decision was made a year before the Beijing Olympics. Coach decided on the 400 m because it looked like a natural for Bolt who was tall and good over longer distances. The 100 m was too technical where a poor start or a loss in concentration could cost you big time. Someone like Bolt who was 6'5'' was at a disadvantage as he untangled himself off the blocks compared to someone like Tyson who was 5'10'' and was at the ideal height to get off the blocks fast.

Bolt hated the 400m and he asked his Coach for one chance to run the 100 m. If he gets a time of 10.30 secs he should be allowed to compete in 100m. Coach agreed - but put a smart condition - that Bolt break the 200m at 19.86 secs. Bolt promptly broke the 36 year old record held by Don Quarry with a 19.75 sec run. And then he ran the 100m at 10.03 sec!

A New Possibility - 100 m Champ
Bolt trained hard through 2008 - followed everything that the Coach told him without cutting corners. No junk food, no parties, lots of rest. They figured that he had his advantages in 100 m too - he ran the 100m in 41 strides whereas others took 43, 44 and 45 strides. The bad start was offset by the monstrous finish Bolt had.

Bolt's mantra for the 100 m 
Keep body forward, head down, push hard, get tall as I run, head comes up, knees are high and shoulders go down.

In the next race, Jamaican Invitational Bolt ran the 100m in 9.76 secs. No one believed it - especially in the USA. The 21 year old couldn't be bothered less despite one bad timing in the next race and at the New York Grand Prix where he ran against Tyson Gay, he ran 9.72 secs, a new world record. To keep him grounded So focused on his process and such high standards did he set for himself that there were races when Bolt actually let the other guys take it because he felt he had a bad start and didn't deserve to win.

Olympic Golds - Beijing Olympics 2008
After three years of intense training with Coach Mills, Bolt arrived at Beijing for the Olympics. Before he landed, he left a message to himself on his phone - "I will win three gold medals and come home a hero".

Before the 100m final, Coach Mills merely told him 'You're ready', words that gave him great assurance. Bolt told himself not to panic, got off to a bad start as usual, relaxed and then bolted. 10m before the tape he threw up his hands in celebration and pounded his chest with no one else in sight. He won the gold and broke the world record with a timing of 9.69secs to be the fastest man on earth. Someone told him later that he had run the whole race with his laces undone. Bolt remembers that he only experienced joy, a rush, sense of freedom, fun, excitement, intense energy all rolled into one. It was heavenly he said.

Before the 200m final Coach said again 'Don't worry. you're good.' 200m was his race and with 50m to go Bolt was way ahead of the pack. Another new world record wit 19.30 secs. In the 4x100m final, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater and Bolt set a new world record again with 37.40 secs.

No Drugs
Bolt won with no drugs. He says how the officials would follow them everywhere, even into the bathroom and looked at his crotch while he gave them their samples. He talks of how he became a big celebrity after Beijing. When he went back home the Prime Minister was there to receive him. An evening out with Heidi Klum and Sandra Bullock in the USA where nothing "happened" though he wished. In Jamaica he says, they view sex differently and are not too uptight about it.

The Hard Work Starts Here
But Coach was there to push him again - he told him that the hard work starts here. Bolt has to run fast and even faster. No more fooling around. Once he told him to avoid sex, no fast food. Bolt was a superstar now with his personality. Then came that 2008 car crash and Bolt saw his survival as God's message to him. He realised that someone was looking out for him. He appreciated the chances he got and wanted to make the most of out it. He started mentoring and coaching younger kids. More work and more world records - he ran 100m in 9.58 secs and 200 m in 19.19 secs at the World Championships.

Doubt-Ridden and Finding the Authentic Bolt - Relax and Have Fun
In 2010 Bolt wanted to rest but the Coach pushed him. He got back to his partying mode and then lost a race to Yohann Blake.  There were injuries and he started doubting himself. In the World Championships in Korea against a weak field he got disqualified because of a bad start - thanks to stressing himself about it. Before the 200 m he decided - 'To hell with it. I'll have fun. Being relaxed made me a champ. Stop worrying and be yourself.' He won the 200m and the 4x100 m medal with a new world record at 37.04 secs.

London Olympics - 2012
Bolt's belief came from the arena, the buzz of the crowd fed him. Three more golds in London Olympics and he knew he would be a legend. A defining moment that kindled the spark in hiSs preparation fro London was when he was beaten by Yohann Blake in the Olympic trials in Jamaica - Bolt sees Blake silencing the critics with a finger on his lips - something Bolt finds disrespectful. Bolt decided then that he would never let that happen again. In London for the Olympics again against Blake and Justin Gatlin, Asafa and Tyson, Bolt ran home in the 100m final with a 9.63 secs timing  In fact, he slowed down at the end, else he would have done 9.52 or 9.49 even. In the 200m final, he was done with 70 m to go - that's how far ahead he was. Again the 4x100 m he and Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Blake won the gold.

Another 3 Olympic golds and he was officially a legend. The one thing Bolt wanted after the Olympics was baton of the 4x100 m that an official did not want to give him until a voice over the loudspeaker instructed him to give it.

The book ends there with Bolt wondering bout life after running. Cricket, football - he even spoke to some about it, played some cricket in Australia too. Rio Olympics was still 4 years away. Could he? As the story continues Bolt goes to Rio and picks up three more medals after this book had long ended. Truly a legend. (watch all his Olympic golds in this video)

The work ethic, the going through the pain barrier, his hating losing to others and how he decided to not let that happen again, the many moments of no return, the sheer joy of running, winning and celebrating, the smartness that accompanied his talent and hard work, the desire to fulfill his potential, the purpose he got after his accident and belief that someone was watching over him, all of those made Bolt the champion he was. It's that heart of a champion, of the one who loves the big stage, the one who comes into his own and loves winning, that makes him different unlike those who train hard but lose their heart on the big stage. For Bolt it was hard work, a point to prove and to run while having fun and being relaxed (he'd joke on the track, even in the race in the way he celebrated!).

The book ticked all the boxes that the book 'Mindset' talks about - a good coach who set high standards and showed process to achieve it, supportive parents who facilitated growth, a demanding work ethic and a learning mindset. I got what I was looking for in the book. Check out his races in all three Olympics and you get a sense of why Bolt was called Lightning.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Hyderabad Jersey Tales - Mani

This is a delightful book of short stories and poems written by R. Subramanyam or Mani (his second). Mani is an engineer and mixes the analytical head of one with the romantic heart of an artist. He was born in Nagpur, studied in Hyderabad and Delhi, completed his engineering in Hyderabad and worked for the TATAs in Jamshedpur. He became and entrepreneur and then travelled to Abu Dhabi and Jordan before he settled down in Hyderabad. He shifts between his homes in Hyderabad and New jersey where his son lives and now writes full time. He first book was on his father Shri Ramamoorthy called "It Happened". His wife Valli is a ghazal singer, so art runs in the family. His joy for life comes through in his activities of choice – experimenting in the kitchen, driving or spreading joy around.

The stories are delightful and untarnished by the heaviness of a serious, adult mind. His thoughts are fresh as a child’s and he writes with the gay abandon of someone who is just enjoying the joy of expressing himself and his thoughts. The book had this lovely energy to it, puts the reader in touch with that aspect of herself and leaves one with a smile on her face.

The first story ‘From Fantasy Planet’ is set in New Jersey where the protagonist Bose is on a vacation. On his regular walk one day he chances upon a UFO and ends up having a conversation with aliens. Mani’s engineering mind, his deep love and knowledge of science is fascinating. The story gives one the sense that he is open minded about possibilities beyond what humans know (which is a great thing because most engineers and scientists believe they know all the answers). ‘Half-Knowledge’ is also set with science in its background but this one is in Hyderabad. Young Zee develops a machine that can read human thoughts and he uses his machine to solve a murder and uncover a sinister terror plot. The story of full of twists and turns.

Mani stays away from science in his third story about ‘Himalayananda’ where a ‘Guide’ like character from RK Narayan’s famous book makes an appearance with a benign smile and simplistic answers. Soon he is conferred a godman status. Conmen, businessmen, a beautiful actress and even college kids try to exploit the situation. The irony is not lost – on how we exploit the concept of god and do anything in god’s name. ‘The Card Game’ is a complex story, again veering away from science but staying true to the mystery genre – a dead body, a gang, a foreign couple, a bunch of card players. When the police arrive they find a lot more than they bargained for. ‘The Banjara bungalow’ deals with the Kirchoff’s law ‘when several feeders carry current to a junction, the algebraic sum is zero.’ The insensitivity and ingratitude of people is brought out in a classic tale that's as relevant today as it must have been for a long time – the pitfalls of having an ancestral house in the prime area of the city.

‘The Oldman Case’ is a story based in Hyderabad  – another ancestral property, two brothers who inherit it and how things sour and create problems for them. Again very contemporary! ‘The Unfinished thesis’ bridges the scientific and the spiritual and it appears that they will meet somewhere finally  – a robot is improvised by a young scientist to see the future. How it helps add substance to his sister’s thesis on Karma is an interesting twist. ‘Driver’s Seat’ is again set in New Jersey and a wonderful tale about judgment and what we see may not always meet the eye. It’s got a nice twist with AI making its entry this time.

I read and enjoyed the poems – 'New Jersey', 'God and Alien', 'Adieu, Morning Sleep', 'Friendship', 'How Important are You' and 'The Electric Pole'.

The child-like enthusiasm, the joy of expressing himself in an unrestrained and uninhibited approach gives 'Hyderabad Jersey Tales' a rare freshness. The imagination is fertile and the scientific insights quite fascinating. Mani should write many more stories weaving science and engineering concepts into stories that explain the concepts to both the serious student and the amateur - I felt I understood a couple of concepts better after I read this book. I really think there is a market for that and Mani is uniquely placed with his scientific knowledge, his storytelling ability and his boundless energy. Something like the Feynman series but with fiction. That would be lovely!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas - Jules Verne (translated by William Butcher)

It's a fascinating book and takes you on an underwater tour across continents. The application of scientific knowledge, the conversations of men of knowledge and the unimaginable extent of nature's bounty underwater stuns you. To top it all we also have human drama in the dilemmas of the main characters.

It starts with the sighting of a huge sea monster or so they believe - in oceans across the world. It perplexes experts because it seems to move very quickly from one place to another. An expedition is arranged to deal with this giant narwhal on board a ship called Abraham Lincoln. Our protagonist Dr. Arronax, an expert on the oceans and all things pertaining to it is invited to join the expedition and he does so with his Man Friday Conceil. Ned land, a harpooner is also on board.

The creature is spotted finally and soon they realise it is no monster but a huge underwater ship that rams and sinks the Lincoln. Dr. Arronax, Ned and Conceil manage to stay afloat and are picked up by the underwater ship the Nautilus. They meet the captain of the Nautilus Captain Nemo who tells them that they will be treated well on board but will never get back to land. The captives are then taken on a fascinating journey where they visit exotic islands, underwater treasures, travel across the globe and encounter all sorts of dangers. Even go to the South Pole and back. Dr. Arronax is intrigued by the intelligence and intensity of Captain Nemo who seems to have some deep hatred for people on land, but still has a deep sensitivity to people.

It's fascinating to read because it effortlessly merges human intelligence, science and drama and takes the reader to a world she may not ever explore otherwise. I do not remember where I got this book but I suspect it was a book gifted to me by the VNR VJIT students at their Free Book Initiative during their TED event. It was enthusiastically recommended by a young man and I am glad he did.

I must also mention the wonderful library that my school All Saints High School had put together, probably at the initiative of Mr. Dhruvaraj, our Social Studies teacher. In the library they had a collection fo all these classics in animated form - stuff that could be read in half an hour. I got exposed to all the classics in those lunch periods and I distinctly remember this book and its author too.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Deep Work - Cal Newport

This is a significant book for me. I realised that after reading the first couple of pages itself. Cal Newport begins by telling a story about Carl Jung who built a retreat for himself in Bollengen, a Swiss town, in 1922. He called it the Tower. After returning from India where he observed that people had meditation rooms in their homes he included a private office.  No one is allowed into the office and the key to it was always with him. Jung would wake up at 7 am, have a big breakfast, go into the distraction-free tower and write for 2 hours, meditate and take long walks in the evening. Newport says he did this not to escape from work but to advance his work. Especially since it was the period when he came up with ideas that disagreed with those of Freud - ne needed to stay sharp, deep and careful thought. Such an atmosphere helps in deep work, a word coined by Newport.

"Deep Work - Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate." - Cal Newport

Deep Work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity says Newport. He gives examples of Mark Twain (who wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in  a barn), Woody Allen, Bill Gates (famous of his Think Weeks twice a year) and several others. Clearly, you need a distraction-free space where you can engage in intense work.

While there here is the definition of shallow work. 'Shallow Work - Non-cognitively demanding, logistical style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.- Cal. If we spend enough time in a state of shallow work we might permanently reduce our capacity to perform deep work he says.

Cal says that the future belongs to three types of people - 1) those who can work well and creatively with Intelligent Machines, 2) those who are the best at what they do and 3) those with access to capital. he gives the examples of Nate Silver, David Hansson and John Doerr to substantiate his case. The first two can be accessed through Deep Work.

One needs two core abilities for thriving in the new economy (any economy I feel) - 1) the ability to quickly master hard things and 2) the ability to produce at elite level, in quality and speed. Simply put if you can't learn you can't thrive. If you don't produce, you won't thrive, no mater how talented or skilled you are. So one must learn and one must produce continuously. These depend on your ability to perform Deep Work he says. Deep Work helps you to quickly learn hard things.

Attention and Happiness
Winfried Gallagher who dealt with a rather aggressive form of cancer. felt that the disease wanted her attention. So she decided to focus on her life instead, the good things in it, the walks, the movies and by doing so passed through that period quite happily. She demonstrated that there was a connection between attention and happiness.  Says Gallagher - I'll live the focused life. Deep Work is all about focused life, work.

Skillful management of attention is absolutely essential for the good life. Our world view depends on what we pay attention to.

The 4 rules to perform Deep Work.

Rule No 1 - Work Deeply.
Cal he talks about seeing a design for a place called Eudaimonia, designed by an architect friend of his. Eudaimonia is a state where you'r achieving your full human potential. The place was designed in such a way that one goes into a deep place, passing through well designed layers, until one gets the right atmosphere for Deep Work. The idea is that we have a finite amount of will power - and it depletes as we use it. So create methods to overcome this weakness.

The two philosophies for practicing Deep Work are the Bimodal Philosophy (where one switches off for periods of time like a few days or weeks and immerses oneself into Deep Work cut off from all else and return to attend to their jobs or whatever) and Rhythmic Philosophy (where one sets apart a time everyday and religiously immerses oneself into deep work in those pockets of time). There is nothing like inspiration - it's hard, regular work where you push yourself to produce intense work. 'Anyone trying to do creative work would do well to ignore inspiration.'

Creating rituals helps to sustain this hard practice - 1) like where and how long are you going to perform your deep work, how 2) will you perform deep work and 3) how will you support yourself in those times of loneliness and intense work.

Cal gives us the 4 disciplines of execution
1) Focus on the wildly important - pick only a small number of wildly important goals and focus on them
2) Act on the lead measures (not lag measures eg. customer satisfaction scores which are not good because it happens after the customer experience) - Lead measures are those measures that will drive success on the lag measures (figure behaviors that drive expected customer response)
3) Keep a compelling scoreboard - being result driven not activity driven
4) Create accountability - Be accountable to others

Cal encourages us to be lazy. Downtime aids insights, recharges energy and moreover the work that normally gets replaced by downtime is not really important.

Rule No 2 - Embrace Boredom
Don't take breaks from distraction. Take breaks from focus. Keep your shallow distractions out - like the Internet - by creating blocks of time in which to access the net. Be wary of distractions and structure your deep thinking.

Rule 3 - Quit Social Media

Rule 4 -Drain the Shallows
As work expands to fill time, we allow ourselves to do a lot of shallow work to appear busy if we have more time. There was an experiment in the company 37 Signals (now Basecamp) to reduce their working days from five to four. The idea was not to increase hours to 40 in 4 days. It was to do 8 hour days in four days. The results were favourable - shallow work was drained, the deep work got done!

To drain shallow work, Cal advises us to schedule every minute of the day, finish work on time and be hard to reach if you want to engage in deep work and produce.

I fully endorse the idea and would like to start implementing it right away. There's much work to do and it had better be good stuff. Thanks Cal Newport and thanks Suresh for recommending it to me. Fully recommended!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Pitch Anything - Oren Klaff

This is a wonderful book not just on pitching, but on the way we communicate, live. 'Pitch Anything' is about understanding the psychology of what happens when we speak, when we act and how to gain control over the situation with this knowledge.

Oren Klaff says that most pitches fail because there is a disconnect between the way we pitch and the way the audience receives it. He should know - he has over 10,000 hours of practice of pitching and he raises on an average 2 million every week.

Oren advises his STRONG method of pitching
  • Setting the story
  • Telling the story
  • Revealing the intrigue
  • Offering the prize
  • Nailing the hook point
  • Getting the deal
He says the biggest problem of every presenter is getting the attention of his audience. To do that Oren says we need to 1) Own the room with frame control 2) Drive emotion with intrigue pings and 3) Get to the hook point fairly quickly. This is pretty much what the book is about.

The Psychology of the human brain - Getting your messages past the Croc Brain
Why what we say is not received by the audience requires a basic understanding of the brain. The brain is made of three parts  - the inner core, middle brain and an outer ring.
The oldest part of the brain is the inner core, the Croc Brain which filters all incoming messages and generates flight or fight responses. This part of the brain produces strong and basic emotions. It's all about survival. It is also bad at decision making. 
The middle brain determines meanings of things and special situations.
The outermost part of the brain is the neo Cortex - the one with the problem solving ability, the one that thinks about complex issues, produces answers using reason.

We pitch from the neo cortex in an organised fashion, thinking that the neo cortex of the audience receives it. But actually it goes to the croc brain first which filters all incoming messages. Primarily the croc brain ignores if its boring, has a fight or run response if it perceives danger, radically summarises things if its complicated and passes on a severely truncated form. In the crioc brain 1) anything that is not a crisis is spam, 2) it ignores it, if it is not dangerous or not new or exciting 3) if it's new, it quickly summarises it and forgets the details and 4) does not send anything up to the neo cortex for problem solving until it has a situation that's unexpected and out of the ordinary. 90% of our messages are discarded in the croc brain. (And if there's one thing you don't want to activate, it's the amygdala which contains the fear circuitry.) With an understanding of this, we need to pitch in such a way that we get past these challenges.

Which means that your messages should not trigger alarms, should have a pleasant novelty (positive, unexpected and out of the ordinary). To pass the croc brain you must clearly explain the facts, help it choose between two clear options and get to the point fast. Be aware that the croc brain  will ignore if possible, is focussed on the big picture, is emotional and in the here and now with its short attention span.
Your message must be made very sexy.

Frame Control
Oren says that when two people meet they come with their own frames or points of view. These frames collide and square off and the stronger frame absorbs the weaker. It's not a numbers game he says - its a frame game. When you control the frame it promotes social dynamics, stacks things in your favour. 
Own the frame and win the game he says. A frame is the instrument you use to package your power, authenticity, strength, information. Winning frames govern social interactions. Strong frames activate basic desires. If you have to explain your authority, power, position, leverage and advantage you do not hold the stronger frame. 

The three basic frames one encounters are Power frame (it uses power of position to dominate), Time frame (uses time to dominate) and Analyst frame (uses needless details to dominate). 

To counter a Power frame Oren suggests you do it with disruptions and small denials and acts of defiance. You could also use the Prize frame to reframe events (in a prize frame your audience says or does as if they are trying to win you over. You're saying there's only one like me!) 
To counter time frame (when others are putting time constraints on you), understand that when you are reacting, they own the frame. When others are reacting, you own the frame.
When you see attention begin to bottom out, you are done. You've exceeded the time span. Running longer signals weakness, neediness and desperation. Set your own time constraint and leave. Crush time frames with a stronger time frame.  
Counter Analyst frames with Intrigue frames. Analysis frames are about cold cognitions - problem solving stuff, numerical calculations, statistics etc. You can counter that with hot cognitions - which are about feelings of wanting or desire or excitement. The two do not co-exist - the emotional narrative versus the analytical mind. To counter an analytical frame, when asked for details give high level stuff and focus on the business relationship. Go from cold to hot cognition.

Telling the story
Understand that no one takes a meeting to hear something they already know. Break analysts frame with strong intrigue story. Be brief. Tell the story, but keep the subject of the narrative relevant to pitch. Always keep yourself at the center of the pitch. As in any good story, introduce danger and uncertainty, create time pressure, tension, and show a serious consequence. Oren gives the scene from Jaws as an example - if the shark had a GPS would it have been as interesting? 

Prizing frame - when your target is trying to win your attention and respect you are the prize (if you are trying to get his attention, he is the prize). Croc brain is about curiosity and desire, fear or dislike. Understand the 3 basics - 1) we chase what moves away from us 2) we want what we cannot have and 3) we only place value on things that are difficult to obtain. Instead of you needing money, money needs you. Instead of Always be closing he says, Always be leaving!

Status - Being nice reduces status. Figure who is alpha. Can we switch out of beta and take the alpha. Create situational statuses like French waiters. Create local star power by using your domain (like a golf pro does against the cardiac surgeon). To elevate social status, always be on time. Momentum is the key. Avoid social rituals that reinforce the others status. Have fun. Enjoy your work.

Pitching your big idea
The presentation on the discovery of the DNA molecule structure took five minutes says Oren. We must finish our pitch in 20 minutes max. First let the audience know that it will only take 20 minutes (relaxes the croc brain). Introduce yourself and the big idea in 5 minutes. Explain budget and secret sauce in 10 minutes. Stack frames for hot cognition in 3 minutes.

Start with a track record of your successes. Stop with one great thing. Create the 'why now' frame.
Focus on 3 market forces - economic, social behavior an technology. Tell the back story of your idea.
Movement is the key to keep the brains attention. 

(- For those dissatisfied with the current offering.. my idea...provides,,,unlike competitions, my idea is..

To hold Attention - we notice anything that has movement through space and time because they are likely to be important.
  • Pitch short - 20 minutes
  • Background, successes
  • Idea not stats
  • Movement - old market to new
  • Big idea
Budget and secret sauce
Time the message to the mind of the market. Time to croc brain that receives them. To get attention understand what it consists of 

Attention = Desire (dopamine) + Tension (Norepineprine)
To create desire - create reward +  To create tension take something away
(Pleasure activities, novelty, unexpected gains, something new to hear all create desire)

The normal attention span is 3 minutes - stay off the details - rich be in high level details. Remember the most important deliverable is you.

Frame stacking for hot Cognitions
We all decide things before we fully understand it. Our Decision Making happens in the gut. We tend to like/dislike before we know. We can therefore influence decision making by creating hot cognitions. Hot cognitions are primal / unavoidable, instant and enduring. Hot cognition is 'knowing' through feeling.

Oren says we can create hot cognition by stacking frames - Intrigue, Prizing, Time and Moral authority. through this process you create wanting 

The narrative pattern for building an intrigue frame
  • Put a man in the jungle
  • Have beasts attack him
  • Will he get to safety
Its 's not what happens to you that's interesting, it's what you do about the situations you are in.

Eradicate Neediness
To eradicate neediness, follow the formula!
  • Want nothing - eliminate desire. 
  • Focus on things you do well - be excellent
  • Announce your intention to leave the social encounter - withdraw
Case Study 
A whole chapter is dedicated to a case study of how he won a pitch against two eminently qualified competitors by using these methods. It's a wonderful read.

How to get started
To those who want to get started on the process he suggests the following steps.
  • Recognise Beta traps, step around them
  • Identify and label social frames
  • Initiate frame collisions
  • Small acts of defiance and denial
  • Frame control
  • Work with other frame masters.
It's a fantastic book. I loved the basic understanding of how we lose attention and consequently pitches, his ideas about frame control, pitching, hot cognitions, neediness and the STRONG method of pitching. Eradicating neediness is a great lesson.

Thanks Suresh. Thanks Oren.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Column in The Sunday HANS - Climate Change!

Imperfect - Sanjay Manjrekar

For someone obsessed with perfection to write a book titled 'Imperfect' is itself a great story. In his acceptance of his imperfections Sanjay Manjrekar elevates the book from the rest of the books in its category - cricketer biographies and autobiographies. Even as you read the book, and sometimes as he commentates, one sees him struggle with his analytical mind, his desire to find that one thing that sometimes to the viewers is not there or is too inconsequential to bother so much about (he even writes about this when he refers to Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akthar in the commentary box who ask him to chill a bit). But that's Sanjay Manjrekar for you, imperfect, and therefore, hugely relatable.

The book started off brilliantly and I could hardly wait to read more, page after each page, and it pretty much sustained the same energy throughout. His writing is as honest as his bat was when he played. There is also the same precision in the way he uses his words, as he goes about organising his book - much like his batting again. And I enjoyed reading the book as much as I enjoyed watching him bat. I could not put it down as so many familiar names and situations and tropes flashed by. Sanjay was my vintage.

The book starts with this palpable feeling of fear of his father, which is wonderfully described. Sanjay is the son of a successful test cricketer and a brilliant batsman, Vijay Manjrekar, who was also an angry man who would frequently get into bouts of road rage. But at the same time, there was this gentle side to him. Sanjay says that his father never interfered with his cricket and was chiefly responsible for instilling the belief that Sanjay was destined to be a test cricketer (whereas with Rajdeep Sardesai, a member of the same Bombay University team that won the Rohinton Baria Inter-varsity tournament with Sanjay in 1986, his father Dilip Sardesai was the one who asked him to pursue other careers). Thanks to that belief, Sanjay never thought that his life was destined for anything else but cricket. There is a scene where his mother once tells Sanjay who was in school then, that he could choose another option, and he gets so angry that he walks all the way home from Wankhede stadium. I can picture that! He writes tenderly about his mother.

Exposed to great cricketing minds visiting his home often, seeing older, respected cricketers often, Sanjay imbibed the nuances of the game early. Gavaskar, Vishwanath and even Rohan Kanhai he says. He fell in love with those pleated creams that were every cricketer's dream. (Sanjay also fell in love with the way the flap of the pads fell, an interesting confession.) Vijay Manjrekar liked what he saw of Sanjay's game and even told him that he would turn out to be a better batsman than he had been. VM once went to get a friend of his from Dadar to watch Sanjay bat - a journey that takes an hour and a half - believing Sanjay would be at the wicket when he came back - and guess what, he was. Beautiful story. What stayed with me of Vijay Manjrekar was this - he was passionate, romantic, vulnerable - and a great father in the way he let them be. That Errapali Prasanna found him the best batsman he had bowled to and that Mansur Ali Khan Patuadi said he was the best Indian batsman he had seen was another thing.

The days at Krishna - Kamal at Dadar are very evocative and so are the words he uses to describe his days at Moonreach, the place where they had shifted after his father's benefit match. I would so love to see these places. Sanjay Pednekar is a person one will not forget after reading the book, the generous witty jeweller friend who paid everybody's bills as if it was his responsibility and who died at an age of 36 to bone cancer. Wonderful tribute to his friend. Two other cricketers from Moonreach, Raju Kulkarni and Subhash Kshirsagar also feature. Raju played for India and Subhash for Bombay as an opener. I loved the way he describes the contribution of umpire Vijay Gaundalkar who told Sanjay to take his picture to Times of India after he scored a century. Sunil Gavaskar coming to Cross Maidan and sending word for him while he was playing a match - he had bought him a Gray-Nicolls bat from England. That Gavaskar was great enough to come personally and hand over the bat was one thing but Sanjay also reminds us of another detail - about how Gavaskar;s handwritten replies to his fan mail. (I have a handwritten letter from him when I sent him a copy of 'The Men within' in 2007). Wonderful stuff.

Sanjay was making waves, carving his own name through school and college cricket, working at his game, when two incident happened. The first was the video recording of his batting that Salil Datar's father made which upset Sanjay - he did not like what he saw. Second, that he was bowled by English fast bowler Mike Hendrick, who was over the hill and bowling off  a short run up, in an exhibition game at Muscat. Sanjay remembers crying for a long time after that dismissal. Egged on by his shortcomings, when he believed he was already ready, he went and practiced hard, the first to be at the Poddar College nets at 7 am.

The work paid off and Sanjay roared into national headlines when as captain of the Bombay University he scored six centuries consecutively and was a huge factor in Bombay University winning the Rohinton Baria title, in 1985 perhaps. Everyone in India heard of this prodigy then and soon after he played first class cricket. Sanjay gives credit to the Bombay brand of cricket for his growth. The khadoos attitude, which is primarily the attitude to grind opponents down in wars of attrition, look ugly even, but not give up and get the job done, win. How players, especially seniors would caution juniors when they were relaxing by saying khadoos ho ja. It was about Bombay cricket, not about the individual. How everyone would always push batsmen to score, 50 then 100 and then 150. Batsmen who threw their wicket away were treated like outcasts. Generous seniors, the entire eco system loved cricket, stood for good cricket. Coaches like Subhash Bandiwadekar, Bhor, VS Patil and his stint with Dilip Sardesai as part of a Mumbai camp when Sardesai would insist on their playing every ball with conviction, give no chance to the bowler. Sanjay talks about a chat he had with Milind Rege who once advised him to concentrate more and Sanjay asked him what it meant. Milind explained that it was to play every ball as if your life depended on it, and play each ball like that. Not give your wicket away. He talks of the talks he had with Sandeep Patil who would pick him up and drive him to the Ranji nets and back and how valuable those talks were.

From then on it is all about how he went on to fulfill his destiny and played for India and then as he says - self-destructed. Sanjay won the man of the match award on debut on a spinning wicket against Haryana, quickly progressed to Test cricket and got his maiden hundred against the West Indies, then some wonderful knocks against a full fledged Pakistan attack with Waquar, Akram and Imran. (You read the book 'The Big Leap' and you understand what Hendricks means when he says Upper Limit Problem.) Whatever upset Sanjay's equilibrium, made him self-destruct is not known, perhaps things were not as he thought they would be, but he did and never found his way back. Though he wonders if he would have benefited from a personal coach then, we also realise that it is not the availability of advise but our ability to receive that stops it.

Some fine cricketing insights come through, and I am sure there are so many more. One that he simply watched the ball closely and played it late, without committing early, and this technique was good enough to handle swing and reverse swing without knowing what they were really. The idea of looking at the shiny side etc did not bother him and he did very well without. Watch the ball closely is what Bradman also said. Another thing was Wadekar's coaching - everyone would take 100 catches a day, would bowl to three batsmen (Kapil included). Once Chandu Borde advised him that a knock before the inning always helps - he had just got out without caring to knock before this inning. Also how Borde's advise to open his stance helped get runs on the leg side and opened up options. Or Chappell talking about him pulling Merv Hughes - something Gavaskar also advised. Gavaskar showing Sanjay how to play the West Indian fast bowlers, sitting in a chair, elbow up, when Sanjay asked him if it was true that one cannot sight the ball when the West Indians bowl. Of course you can see it! Stuff that every cricketer can learn from. (I remember the two times I played international bowlers - Raju Kulkarni and Eddo Brands - I felt I might not see the ball but I could and even clipped both to the boundary in classic Hyderabadi fashion! The third, Robin Singh, hit me on the box.)

Sanjay does not hold back the ugly parts which is what makes the effort beautiful. How he tried to make Azhar feel small, how he was arrogant in his first stint as captain, how he had a showdown with umpire Patil in a Ranji game and was sent off. how he confronted Ramakant Desai when he was dropped leaving the great man in tears later, how he was abrasive to a journalist in Sharjah, how he hid when his father wanted to come to his nets and appeared only after the evening passed. Sanjay lays bare the frailties, his shortcomings brutally, almost as if he wants to inflict pain on himself, and by doing so absolves himself of the burden of carrying them. It is this vulnerability that enables him to connect to the reader as someone human and genuine. Not surprisingly the book has been received with great warmth by the book reviewers - we are not used to seeing honesty in celebrity bios.

Sanjay is equally gracious and honest when he talks about Kiran Mokashi's helpful nature, Shastri telling him to bat for the team, Azhar's giving nature, his friendship with one of the sweetest people he knew, Venkatapathi Raju, with Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Jadeja. The gloom of the semi-final loss to Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup after beating Pakistan in a tense match in Bangalore.

His playing or not playing to his potential does not really matter to us, not to me. I have seen him bat and absolutely loved its precision. To me the joy he gave was enough - whether it was over a 100 tests or more does not matter. I cannot say Tendulkar is greater or Azhar is greater or Laxman is greater because they have all given the same pleasure in different ways in different times. But to me that kind of perfection or precision, only Sanjay Manjrekar offered, not Dravid, not Gavaskar not anyone else. Rajan Bala also was a huge fan of Sanjay and I remember how highly he would speak of him and his batting.I do not see him as a failure, or anyone else as a greater success.

My first run in with Sanjay was during a Buchi Babu match in 1985 when he just came after his six consecutive centuries, and I remember reading about it. He played well for Nirlons but got out edging Rajesh Yadav to slip. I found it fascinating to see how late he left my deliveries so late. My second interaction with him was that same year, 1984. when we went to play the Arlem Torophy at Goa and he came once again with the Nirlon side. One evening on a cruise dinner on the boat he sang on the mike and he sang wonderfully well. A Pankaj Udhas number of I am not mistaken but he was comfortable as the performer. The third time I met him was when he launched my book 'The Men Within' in Mumbai in 2007. He was kind enough to give me time, come on his own, though he did not know me and give me a little push with my first book. I will always remember that act of kindness from Sanjay. I bother him once in a while with some request or the other. A few years later, 2011, or so, I was once again with him in CCI Mumbai where he was Chief Guest and I was a special guest to speak at the launch of Rajan Bala's last book, an event that Rajan Bala missed because he had passed away a couple of months before. I send Sanjay copies of my books when they get published.

There are so many things I relate to in this book and people.  Kshirsagar, to whom I bowled twice, while playing against Nirlon in Arlem and in Buchi Babu. Raju Kulkani, whom I faced for one ball, and hit him for a four on the last ball of the 50 over game - a flick to midwicket, just after Raju returned from Australia. Ditto with Shastri who I bowled one ball to - I got Milind Gunjal out lbw against Tatas and Shastri walked in and did his chapathi shot first ball and promptly got bowled to Venkatapathi Raju next over. Rajdeep Sardesai whose book event I moderated at the Hyderabad Literary Festival a couple of years ago and with whom I share stats books and cricket wise (four books and seven first class matches). Salil Datar was from the IDBI and in some way related to my wife Shobha. Venkatapathi Raju and I grew up through the junior cricket and up to Ranji trophy (and who released my first book 'The Men Within' in Hyderabad. Chandu Borde, who released 'The Men Within' in Pune in 2007. Azhar was my senior at school (he released the book 'The Renaissance Man - Doc MV Sridhar)' this year. Of course I know Parag Paigankar and Jaideep Pal, both of whom played with Sanjay at Poddar, perhaps at Dadar Union too, and were my team mates at IDBI - Jai was my skipper. Both helped me when Sanjay was the chief guest at the book release function.

Sanjay significantly says that he never touched the bat after he retired at the age of 32. I feel only those who really loved the game so much do that - you hate it as much as you love it. He feels he self-destructed because cricket to him meant a lot. It was all he lived for. One can understand the charge behind that. Hopefully he has let go of the intensity that drove him (the negative aspect of it), and enjoys his singing now and his commentating and his writing.

Wonderful effort Sanjay. Now to get it autographed by him next time I meet. Buy and read to get an insight into what goes into the minds of those who aspire for excellence, who play at the highest level.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Baig saab and Me - Thanks for the picture Aditya

The other day the trainees at the ML Jaisimha Academy gifted me a plant (actually Aditya did). It was an honour to receive it from my coach from 1982, when I was in my tenth class at All Saints High School, Mr. Rehmat Baig and to seek his blessings.

Baig saab comes even today, at 6 am sharp and nudges his wards towards perfection in the basics of cricket - not wanting a single rupee in exchange. Unbelievable passion for the game of cricket. Like someone was saying at the academy today - they don't make people like him anymore.

What a journey!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thought for the Day - Judgement Kills the Flow

If life were a clear stream - then judgement is the filter that messes the flow of the stream.

For a smooth flow, keep judgement out.