Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chennai to Tirumala: A Prime

Tirumala is about 15o to 180 kms from Chennai. There are many a routes that one can take for this journey.

  • Chennai-Naidupet-Kalahasti-Tirupati (196 kms): Longest route but one of the fastest as you stay on a 4 lane, seperated highway where average speeds of 100-120 isn't unheard of. The only glitch is that once you get on NH205, you need to be acutely aware of speed breakers that pop up without warning. I advise first time travelers with limited experience in 'real' Indian road experience to take this road. Better RoI on your BP than fuel!
  • Chennai-Tiruvallur-Thiruttani-Nagari-Puttur-Tirupati (173 kms): The cab driver's favorite route as you spend most of the journey in Tamil nadu rather than in AP. It is also one of the worst road to take as it is riddled with potholes, clumpy bitumen chunks and uneven road. It is any gamer's paradise for 3 hours of driving - just real conditions instead of sitting in front of a PS3! I don't recommend this road at all!
  • Chennai-Sulurpet-Kalahasti-Tirupati (177 kms): Took this route only once, on the way back from Tirupati. NH5 is a bonus while the rest of the route is quite ordinary
  • Chennai-Tada-Kalahasti-Tirupati (174 kms): Of all options, i haven't taken this road at all.
  • Chennai-Red Hills-Periyapalayam-Surutupalli-Puttur-Tirupati: The road that i have been taking quite often these days and carries my recommendation. You stay a lot in AP State Highways than in TN State Highways and that means better road experience. Also, if you are not too anxious to get to Tirumala, there are a lot of not-so-famous but very important & beautiful TTD run temples on the way that falls in this route:
    • Nagalapuram (Lord worshiped as Matysa avatar - has fins instead of legs and is called Vedanarayana Swamy)
    • Narayanavanam where it is said that Lord met Ammavaru. The lord is called Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy here.
    • Tiruchanur (more popularly called Alamelumangapuram’) which has TTD’s second most important temple – the Temple of Padmavati Amavaru. Any trip to Tirumala should include a trip to Tiruchanur. For travelers from Chennai, it is best to organize a trip on the way back.
    • Srinivasa Mangapuram: While one needs to see Lord as equally beautiful anywhere, I find him at Srinivasamangapuram to be quite special. Only decked in flowers (and without any gold, diamond or any other precious metals & stones!), it is said that the Lord stayed here before he got married.
    • Tirupati Kodandaramaswamy Temple: Haven’t been there in a long time. Will go there next time.
    • Tirupati Govindarajaswamy Temple: When you align from your bus or train in Tirupati, this is the closest temple – it is right in the middle of town; yet this isn’t visited often. Pilgrims are in a rush to go to Tirumala and once they are back, too tired to go to this huge temple. Did I say that this temple, consecrated by Ramajunacharya himself, is HUGE? I haven’t visited it in a decade but plan to do so in the next visit.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

All-Time India's Test XI

Cricinfo has started a country specific All-Time Test XI starting with Australia's All-Time Test XI. The process for England's All-Time Test XI is under way. I decided to jumpstart India's All-Time Test XI.

To whittle from the list of 260, i decided to have a minimum stats critieria
  • Wickets (Min): 150 (Post-1950s); 100 (Pre-1950s) 
  • Runs (Min): 2000 @ Ave (Min): 40 (30% leeway for Pre-1950s)
  • WK: 100 Dismissals
  • All Rounder: 75% of Min. Wickets & Runs
There are 6 categories - Openers (2), Middle Order (3), All-Rounder (1), Wicketkeeper (1), Pace (2) & Spin (2)

The following is the list of shortlisted candidates:
  • Openers: V Merchant, P Roy, S Gavaskar, NS Sidhu, V Sehwag, G Gambhir
  • Middle-order: V Hazare, P Umrigar, V Manjrekar, C Borde, D Sardesai, MAK Pataudi, G Viswanath, M Amarnath, D Vengsarkar, M Azharuddin, S Tendulkar, R Dravid, SC Ganguly, VVS Laxman, 
  • Wicketkeeper: S Kirmani, F Engineer, K More, MS Dhoni
  • All-rounder: Vinoo Mankad, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri,  
  • Pace: Srinath, Kapil Dev, Z Khan, 
  • Spin: Subhash Gupte, B Chandrasekhar, BS Bedi, A Kumble, H Singh, EAS Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan
The reasons for leaving out some folks - K Srikkanth (Average below 30; Only 2 Test Centuries); CK Nayadu (no Test Centuries), Lala Amarnath (Average below 25), N Contractor (only 1 century), Jaisimha (Average around 30), C Chauhan (no century)

Some folks don't pass the stats but are in the list: Vijay Merchant (brilliant batsman but played only 10 Tests, 7 as opener), P Roy (Pre-Sunny best Opener?)

Analysis & Selection:

Openers: Only 2 stand out as outstanding. Sunny & Sehwag. Roy & Merchant played in an era where India wasn't dominant and known for brilliant individual but inconsistent overall performances. Sidhu was good but weak against pace attack. Gambhir has the potential to challenge Sunny & Sehwag but has a long way to go.
Verdict: Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag 

Middle-order: Look how packed the middle-order is! There are 14 contenders and from them we get it all - class (Ganguly), grace (Laxman, Azhar), endurance (Dravid), technique (Viswanath). In this list, i think only Laxman & Amarnath never captained the side. As tough as the choice seems, the cream has a way of finding itself seperated from the remaining greats. 
Verdict: Tendulkar (no reasons required), Dravid (stellar record, match winning performances) and G Viswanath (IMHO, Tendulkar in the pre-Tendulkar era!)

All-Rounders: Indian Test cricket has had only 2 great groups - Middle order batsmen, Spinners. But the all-rounder class is the most barren. Ravi Shastri was good but not great. Pajji was the best we ever had and Mankad has stats pretty similar to Kapil Dev. Mankad was a bit better with the bat & Kapil with the ball.
Verdict: Vinoo Mankad, Kapil Dev (Kapil selected as All-Rounder/Pacer)

Wicketkeeper: While Dhoni might look the parts of the winner, i don't think this is as easy a selection. Primarily because Dhoni hasn't achieved his potential in Test cricket. Otherwise, what explains the fact that Dhoni has only 1 century in 37 test matches. Farookh Engineer has the advantage of being an opening batsman while Kirmani was the best pure Wicketkeeper we had. Dhoni has the potential to take this spot down the road.
Verdict: Farookh Engineer

Pacers: The less said, the better. There are just 3 Indian paces with more than 100 Test wickets - Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath & Zaheer Khan. I will go with Srinath for now. Khan has the potential to take this spot in a few years.
Verdict: Javagal Srinath

Spinners: Rich crop here as well. Kumble is a shoo-in because of the fact that he won the most matches for India. The fight amongst the rest is pretty intense. My vote for the present is for Bishen Singh Bedi but Bhajji is already on the rear-view mirror. If Bhajji can perform at the highest level over the next 3-5 years, the spot will be his.
Verdict: Anil Kumble, Bishen Singh Bedi

India's Test XI: Sunny, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Vishwanath, Mankad, Kapil, Engineer, Srinath, Kumble, Bedi.

Just Missed: Dhoni, Kirmani, EAS Prasanna, B Chandrasekhar, Bhajji, Gupte, Vengsarkar!