May I Celebrate?

I’m just past my college days which, I guess, added something good to my brain. There is this final phase of college where students would get recruited into companies, “Campus Recruitment”. I still remember my classmates and friends getting placed into their wonderful companies. Some got into their “dream company”. I had seen that twice, too. It is a happy occasion. They (me too) go through a tough time before that – their track record is scanned through, they sit tests and interviews, get shortlisted and scrutinized and at the end of a long, long day (maybe more), few of them are selected. From the moment the result is announced, it is just about celebration; celebration of success. And there is nobody to stop that, why would anyone want to?

While a majority of the cricket fans don’t like the aspect of bowling, they do know that it is one where the player toils a lot for success. A bowler has to bowl 10 or 15 or 20 overs a day in tests, and probably just the max of 10 in an ODI. There may be millions of plans on how to get a batsman out, but the plan needs the bowler to execute it with the help of precise field placement (maybe a bit of sledging too). The efforts made are for just the one thing – the wicket of the batsman. That is what every bowler wants, and it is no secret.

The moment a bowler bags a wicket, (s)he is all smiles (or expletives) over his success. Emotions flow out. They may be very happy ones, or just relieved ones. Some celebrate it with just a wide grin (Christopher Gayle), while some prefer to jog the length of the stadium (Imran Tahir).

The Airplane celebration, Shoaib Akhtar

It is so beautiful to watch. Those emotions are directly linked to the wicket claimed and the efforts put in to claim it. It won’t come again, even if paid to repeat so.

Just like you don’t like to hear “You got the job” and the next day “Please wait, we will go through your documents and confirm if you did get your job.”, no bowler likes to hear “That looks out, but please wait while we confirm if you were over-stepping.” Or, “Oh, stop celebrating. The decision has been reviewed.”

Bowlers are half-way through their celebration when the umpire asks the batsman to wait, while the umpire goes to the TV umpire to check if the bowler landed his foot right. This is not a one-off occasion where the umpire may have missed out on noticing the foot, but has become a rather frequent issue recently.

There is technology for support, but that has made the umpires very lethargic. If they can’t check the bowlers’ feet and the ball thereafter, I don’t know why they are suited up and standing out there.

There is only muted celebration when the team forms a huddle with the man with drinks when the umpire confirms the fall of the wicket 2 minutes after the event. A couple of hi-5s, encouraging words from the captain and then they move on. That looked more like those businessmen shaking hands and posing for photographs after signing an MoU. No fun, just wide grins.

I understand that it is a different case with DRS, where the batsman would challenge the umpire’s decision that went against him. But, to check for no-balls otherwise when a wicket falls seems ridiculous. Also what is ridiculous- they check ONLY when a wicket falls. Many have noticed multiple times bowlers bowling back-foot no-balls, and the umpires not noticing that at all. And who knows how many boundaries were off a no-ball? Shouldn’t those be checked too? Well, yes. There is a word for why it should be checked – “JOB”.

“S.O.S., 3rd Umpire”

If the umpires are so incompetent, then the day is not far when a batsman would be caught at long on, and then the 11 fielders will appeal to the umpire  (who probably has popcorn in one hand, Reader’s Digest in the other) who would then signal to the 3rd umpire, who would then take 3 minutes to determine whether or not the catch is genuine. Or whether or not he has already read that edition of Reader’s Digest.

Dear umpire, when I bag a wicket, I want to celebrate. Don’t knock on my door.

Bagrat

(image courtesy Yahoo! and Daily Mail)

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Aye! Where are me yorkers?

The batsmen are becoming crafty, all forms of the game have seen faster scoring, and pitches are becoming easier to score on. The one thing I can’t see an effort in, is from the bowlers trying to help themselves stop the batsmen treat them as slaves.

In the last few years, the bowlers’ biggest development, or innovation, has only been the slower ball. Why,  it has been used so much that I can’t tell if a bowler is using the faster ‘un as a special delivery (Jade Dernbach). Or worse, the slow medium pace bowlers are banked upon for wickets, like Sammy or Pollard. My eyes go wide if I see an Indian bowler trespass the 85 mph mark. Even Ishant Sharma doesn’t bother trying. Anyway, it is not just about the pace when it comes to pace bowling. It helps if you have lateral movement, and you can cover-up for lack in pace. Asif used to be like that. Praveen Kumar too.

A bowler bowls to the batsman, he has the first right to enforce the theme of a delivery. They have a 6’x4′ board plane 20 yards away to hit, anywhere  in that zone, anywhere that can benefit them as much as possible. And it will be a wrapped X-mas gift to a batsman if you are telling him, “Don’t worry, it’s only going to be a 5’x4’ target map! Cheers!”

Where are the yorkers? Have they been banned? Are the bowlers afraid to use one of the most poisonous weapon they have? Has Malinga patented it? Is there nobody to coach you to bowl one? Do you like the batsman’s toe-nails? Are they marrying the batsman at the other end?

Or is it just too much to ask of a bowler who can bowl to anywhere between the second slip to leg slip and to anywhere from the knee to over the keeper’s head? Batsmen who don’t have three strokes in their book play “lap” or “ramp” or “scoop” shots and act like they are the kings of the world. Well, they will if you bend over like a slave and send them juicy half volleys and just pray they simply mis-hit one of them to the short fine leg fielder.

Eras of bowling units before and after my birth have feasted on batsmen with the yorker as one of their primary weapon. I watched Fire In Babylon, and it was exciting when I heard Andy Roberts say of Joel Garner, “He is either coming at your toes, or up at your neck.” With a wingspan like Garner’s, any batsman would be worried about that fact. Today, batsmen can wear flip-flops to the batting crease so their pink nail-polish can dry without the slightest worry of the ball coming anywhere within half-a-foot of those.

“Grovel Greig” getting his ‘poles knocked over’ by the resurgent West Indians

Australia, in the 2007 World Cup had a plan to bowl really full during the death overs. It is very hard to get under the ball if you are bowling very full, trying to york the batsmen as much as possible. If the batsmen charge, they are only yorking themselves at a ball that was otherwise going to be very full. Either way, it is going to be hard to get away with. Today, bowlers depend on slower balls, wide deliveries, slow bouncers, half-volleys… They try to think too much, try to over-think the batsmen. Why? Keep it simple, build and stick to a plan. A batsman is helpless until the ball comes out of the bowler’s hands. A bowler has got to dictate the line and length.

Is it hard to practice? No. Do you need a coach? No. Lasith Malinga, who is probably the only person who can (well, I have no proof anybody else can) bowl the yorker, says he perfected it by keeping a pair of shoes at the batting crease in the nets and kept bowling at them until he was sure he could do that with his eyes closed; at any pace. Bowling a yorker is rocket science for other bowlers, bowling that at varying pace must be a world away from learning!

Pakistani bowlers were known to come at your toes. Even Umar Gul had good yorkers and was feared in the slog overs. Now, the Pakistani bowling depends more on their spinners than the pacers, even at the death.

I really don’t care about spinners bowling yorkers. It is less of a weapon, than a “I don’t know what to do, you keep hitting me no matter where I pitch the ball” delivery.

Will we get to see more yorkers in the future? I would love to see that. Do I think  so? No. I’ve lost all hopes. I thought of counting the number of deliveries between yorkers (across innings and games), but then I realised I’m barking at a tree that does not exist.

In case you find any yorkers lying around, do return them to cricket. However, if you want to mint money out of it, give it to Sports Online and they will sell it on Channel Nine as Memorabilia.

-Bagrat

Indian cricket Paes for its dilemma!

It has been brought to our notice that in the last few days, several new developments have occurred behind the scenes that will rock Indian cricket in the immediate future. In particular, news has emerged that India players have placed new and unusual demands to the board in response to the lack of publicity they have received in the last few weeks. Sources within 100km proximity of these players indicate that the players are frustrated that other sports of little value to India (meaning tennis, badminton, chess (is that even a sport?)) have hogged the limelight. We at i3j3 can with nearly 1% certainty say that there is a probability that some India may more than likely come out with the following individual demands:

1. Sachin Tendulkar will only one day internationals for India if he is allowed to practice with a bowler who is unlikely to play on the opposing side but knows the opposition’s bowling strengths.
2. Gautam Gambhir will only play if he is given the vice captaincy and Virat Kohli is only considered after Virender Sehwag is given a chance.
3. Virat Kohli will only play if he is referred to as a youngster and Rohit Sharma remains his idol without ver getting a chance to play test cricket.
4. Manoj Tiwary will only play if Laxmi Ratan Shukla is not given captaincy of Bengsl in his absence.
5. Harbhajan’s Singh will only play if R. Ashwin is dropped from the side.
6. Zaheer Khan will only play if his hairstyle is not commented on by Ravi Shastri but is okay if commented on by Harsha Bhogle.
7. Rohit Sharma will only play if Virat Kohli does not consider him his idol and he is allowed to throw his wicket away at least once every two games.
8. V.V.S. Laxman will only if Rahul Dravid will play so that he can discuss quality of modern constructions at first slip.
9. Rahul Dravid will only play until he retires.
10. Dhoni will only play if players place no demands and he can ride his motorcycle at night.

I3j3 is committed to only posting updates to this list as when it’s readers predict future unrealistic scenarios.

The BCCI is extremely concerned that no cricketer has yet written an earnest open letter criticizing it on its administrative capabilities. It has hired Institute of Mathematicsl Sciences in Chennai to solve this complex problem and provide a Mathematicsl solution that it can take to ICC to oppose Duckworth Lewis. Maybe they need a super beta prostate. Math Sciences has demanded that India Cement sponsor this study and that the results be only interpreted by N. Srinivasan. Mr. Srinivasan has requested K. Srikkanth to be his spokesperson.

Updates to follow at infrequent intervals as determined by the mathematical model developed by Duckworth Lewis.

– Srikanth (inspired by twitter posting by Sanjay Subrahmanyan)
9.

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Cheekakai- A revolutionary new product.

For those who don’t dare…to MAKE them dare.

A (suggested) New Schedule for Ranji 2012-13?

In an earlier article on this blog, we suggested an altered group structure for the Ranji Trophy. The suggested new structure involved 4 Divisions A, B, C and D with 6, 6, 7 and 8 teams respectively.

In this piece we attempt a schedule for this new Ranji structure with a view to (a) ensuring feasibility of the schedule, (b) comparing it with Ranji-2011, so as to enable for effective comparison with the existing system.

Group-A: 6 Teams. Each team plays the other 5 twice (once at home and the other away). Thus, a total of 30 games in 10 “rounds”/weeks.

Group-A’s schedule :-

Group-A Schedule

Group-A, match start dates: 1-Nov, 8, Nov, 16-Nov, 23-Nov, 30-Nov, 7-Dec, 15-Dec, 26-Dec, 3-Jan, 10-Jan

Group B: 6 Teams. Each team plays the other 5 twice (once at home and the other away). Thus, a total of 30 games in 10 “rounds”/weeks.

 Group-B’s Schedule :-

Group-B Schedule

Group-B match start dates: 1-Nov, 8, Nov, 16-Nov, 23-Nov, 30-Nov, 7-Dec, 15-Dec, 26-Dec, 3-Jan, 10-Jan

Group-C: 7 Teams. Each team plays the other 6 once (either at home and the other away). Each team plays 4 of the other teams a second time (home or away). Thus, a total of 35 games in 12 “rounds”/weeks.

Group-C’s Schedule :-

Group-C Schedule

The team listed in the 1st column plays the teams in the 2nd column only once.

Group-C match start dates: 19-Oct, 25-Oct, 1-Nov, 8, Nov, 16-Nov, 23-Nov, 30-Nov, 7-Dec, 15-Dec, 26-Dec, 3-Jan, 10-Jan.

Note that because of an odd number of teams in Group-C, one team has a ‘bye’ each round. Thus, games in this group start 2 weeks prior to the season for the other groups.

Group-D: 8 Teams. Each team plays the other 7 once (either at home and the other away). Each team plays 3 of the other teams a second time (home or away). Thus, a total of 40 games in 10 “rounds”/weeks.

Group-D’s Schedule :-

Group-D Schedule

The team listed in the 1st column plays the teams in the 2nd column only once.

Group-D match start dates: 1-Nov, 8, Nov, 16-Nov, 23-Nov, 30-Nov, 7-Dec, 15-Dec, 26-Dec, 3-Jan, 10-Jan

Ranji Trophy “A” playoffs

The top four teams from Group-A compete for the Ranji Trophy “A” (or premier league).

[ W(Gx) is to be read as Winner of Game x, and L(Gx) is to be read as Loser of Game x]

Ranji Trophy “A” Playoffs

It starts on 8th, after other knock-out phases (scroll down) are done. Sole match to end the season.

 Ranji Trophy “B” playoffs

The bottom two teams of Group-A and the top two teams of Group-B compete in a playoffs series.

AR1 and AR2 are the teams that are facing relegation to Group-B for the next season while BP1 and BP2 qualify to play for promotion to Group-A in the next season. Note that BP1 and BP2 may have been in Group-A in the previous season too. This will be an eliminator style Qualifiers. The two eliminated teams will play in Group-B next season, while the two finalists will play in Group-A next season.

Ranji Trophy “B” Playoffs

Ranji Trophy “C” playoffs

The bottom two teams of Group-B and the top two teams of Group-C compete in a playoffs series.

BR1 and BR2 are the teams that are facing relegation to Group-C for the next season while CP1 and CP2 qualify to play for promotion to Group-B in the next season. Note that CP1 and CP2 may have been in Group-B in the previous season too. This will be an eliminator style Qualifiers. The two eliminated teams will play in Group-C next season, while the two finalists will play in Group-B next season.

Ranji Trophy “C” Playoffs

Ranji Trophy “D” playoffs

The bottom two teams of Group-C and the top two teams of Group-D compete in a playoffs series.

CR1 and CR2 are the teams that are facing relegation to Group-D for the next season while DP1 and DP2 qualify to play for promotion to Group-C in the next season. Note that DP1 and DP2 may have been in Group-C in the previous season too. This will be an eliminator style Qualifiers. The two eliminated teams will play in Group-D next season, while the two finalists will play in Group-C next season.

Ranji Trophy “D” Playoffs

Comparison with Ranji-2011/12

The Ranji Season 2011/12 featured a total of 86 games that spread over a total of 12 weeks. In contrast the suggestion above includes a total of 151 games, spread over 17 weeks.

Our suggestion above makes for a tighter season that is quite feasible (in terms of season scheduling). It allows for stiffer competition, particularly in Groups-A and B.

In addition, given the relegation/promotion battles, there is an element of interest for at least 16 of the 27 teams in the competition. The schedule suggested above indicates and proves feasibility. It is up to the BCCI to adopt it immediately.

-Mohan (@mohank) and P. Bharathram (@bagrat15)

Changes to the Ranji Trophy… Not enough

The BCCI’s technical committee, which included former players, Saurav Ganguly and Roger Binny — along with ‘special invitee’, Anil Kumble — recently recommended an overhaul of the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier first-class tournament.

The Ranji Trophy currently has 27 teams divided into 2 Divisions; one called Elite with 15 teams and the other, the Plate, with 12 teams. The Elite league is split into two groups, one with 8 teams and the other with 7. The Plate league is split into two groups with 6 teams in each. A collection of teams from these groups then fight it out at the knock-out stage of the Ranji Trophy competition. The people who decided on this current structure either had a lot of fun, smoked a rare kind of weed or had a gun stuck to their heads (or all of the above)!

Thankfully, the BCCI’s Technical Committee suggested an overhaul of the Ranji structure. They have recommended the scrapping of the Elite and Plate divisions and have suggested a rearrangement of the 27 teams into three groups of nine each. I am sure the BCCI will come up with imaginative names for these three groups although PlateCup and Saucer are my initial offerings.  This is certainly not a bad suggestion by the Technical Committee. Indeed, I campaigned for a somewhat similar restructure nearly 5 years ago.

In my view, this current overhaul is a step in the right direction; but it not quite enough. There are several reasons why this is just not enough, in my view:

  • The Premier Division should contain fewer teams that play each other more often.
  • There is no reason for constructing the knock out competition in the manner suggested unless one is worried about elitism and a complaint from Ram Guha about the lack of adequate representation for the down-trodden.
  • The Ranji Trophy, the primer inter-State tournament in India and the tournament from which India gets to harvest the next generation of talent, lasts a bit over 2 months! The Sheffield Shield involves fewer teams and lasts close to 4 months.
  • There are way too many domestic tournaments that need to be squeezed into the calendar: Challengers, Corporate Cup, Irani Trophy, Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, and the IPL.
  • The pitches should be result-oriented and the points should reward risks and outright wins far more than it currently does.

We have to assume that a league with less than 27 teams is just not feasible. Ideally, the league should have no more than 14 teams in two Divisions of 7 teams each. However, let us accept that, for a variety of political reasons, a league with a fewer number of teams is just not possible.

The best players in the competition ought to play more games against the best opposition. The reason why Australia produces a string of excellent quality players — especially bowlers — who appear to be International match-ready is, in my view, because of the intensity of the battle at the highest level. Australia’s Sheffield Shield has just six teams that play each other home and away.

In addition, the Ranji League ought to see many more result oriented pitches. Home and away games must be the norm. A 9-team league does not provide the luxury of structuring a home-away type competition.

The Technical Committee also made recommendations aimed at providing greater incentives for outright wins in the league matches. The current suggestion is that outright wins will be worth six points (as opposed to the current five) and the bonus point system (for ten-wicket wins or innings victories) will remain. This is not enough in my view. I agree with Aakash Chopra on this suggested change. A team that wins ought to get a purse of Rs 15 Lakh (a lakh per player) and teams that draw ought to receive just Rs 1.5 Lakh, say (ten thousand per player). We might then see teams behaving differently. The reward that is on offer might see teams take on different kinds of risks. I also think that the points system ought to be tweaked much more in favour of a win. I would have made a win worth 10 points.

The current model that has been suggested by the Working Committee is that

  • Nine teams from the three Divisions play each other once only.
  • The 3 top teams from Division-A the 3 top teams from Division-B and the 2 top teams from Division-C play in the knockout phase; a phase during which players from the remaining 19 teams twiddle their thumbs and prepare for the IPL!

There is no real justification for having a knockout stage constructed in this strange manner unless we want to (a) satisfy the romance of another Rajasthan happening, (b) give Aakash Chopra an opportunity to write another book and/or (c) keep Ramachandra Guha from picking up his pen once again in a show of anger at the lack of democratic representation!

The real problem I have with the suggestion that is on the table is that it does not promote a drive to excellence as much and as hard. It just does not go far enough in my view.

A different model:

I would like to see the BCCI Technical Committee consider a totally different model though:

  • Split the current 27 teams into 4 Divisions: Div-A (6 teams), Div-B (6 teams), Div-C (7 teams) and Div-D (8 teams).
  • Each team in Division-A and B play each other at Home and Away (a total of 30 games in A and B played over 10 ’rounds’ or a max of 10 weeks).
  • Teams in Division-C play each other once and 4 of the teams again (schedule constructed in much the same way as the IPL-4 schedule was constructed) thereby resulting in a total of 39 games in C played over 10 ’rounds’ or a max of 10 weeks.
  • Teams in Division-D play each other once and 3 of the teams again (schedule constructed in much the same way as the IPL-4 schedule was constructed) thereby resulting in a total of 46 games in D played over 10 ’rounds’ or a max of 10 weeks.
  • The top 4 teams from Division-A (A1, A2, A3, A4) play for the Ranji Division-A Finals in an AFL-style (IPL-style) finals series where the winner of the league stage gets two bites of the cherry to appear in the Ranji-A finals.
  • A5, A6, B1 and B2 play an elimination-style B-Finals series to decide: (a) The Ranji Division-B Winner and Ranji Division-B runner-up. These two teams will be A5 and A6 in the next year’s Ranji Trophy. The losers play in Division-B for the next season.
  • B5, B6, C1 and C2 play an elimination-style C-Finals series to decide (a) The Ranji Division-C Winner and Ranji Division-C runner up. These two teams will be B5 and B6 in the next year’s Ranji Trophy. The losers play in Division-C for the next season.
  • C6, C7, D1 and D2 play an elimination-style D-Finals series to decide (a) The Ranji Division-D Winner and Ranji Division-D runner up. These two teams will be C6 and C7 in the next year’s Ranji Trophy. The losers play in Division-D for the next season.

In the above format, each team plays the same number of games in the league stage. The league games happen over 10 rounds and the finals series for all four Divisions would involve 3 games (or 3 rounds). So, the overall competition would take 13 rounds or just under 3 months. In the model that I have suggested above, as many as 16 of the 27 teams are involved in the knockout phase of the competition. This retains interest in the competition. This continues the engagement and interest in the results. And the relegation/promotion battles ensure that there are result-oriented matches.

Yes, this makes the Ranji Trophy last a bit longer. But, in my view, this would add to the flavour of competition – particularly in the A and B Divisions.

The best players need to bubble through the system from the best teams. A (limited and controlled) free auto loan calculator movement of players between teams will ensure that we see the best players play for the best teams. The Ranji Trophy should be about the best players being identified, nurtured and prepared. The suggestion made above has a greater chance of identifying such talent than the proposal that is currently on the table.

I would like to see the Irani Trophy, Deodhar Trophy and the Corporate Cup scrapped. These serve no real purpose in my view. In its place, if the format suggested above is adopted, at the end of the season, each Division selects its best players. Players from Division-A, Division-B, Division-C and Division-D teams (respectively) could play a revamped Duleep Trophy; one without ‘zones’. The same 4 teams could play a revamped Challenger Trophy too with teams named Division-A, Division-B, Division-C and Division-D (instead of red, blue, green and yellow).

And that would be it. Oh yes! And I would scrap the IPL too…

— Mohan (@mohank)

IPL – A Corporate Governance Success

Contrary to the beliefs and outcries from critics of the IPL, I have concrete evidence that the IPL is a successful corporation that demonstrates values and practices that meet and exceed global standards in corporate governance. I have tested the practices of the IPL against ISO 31000 (an objective science based international risk management standard developed through global consensus amongst 4 right wing ideologues from Australia and Japan and three Canadian Sycophants) and found them to compliant on all fronts. In the rich tradition of corporate governance consulting, I give you the top 10 reasons for why I believe IPL is an inspirational story for corporations worldwide. These reasons have been determined based on a scientific analysis of data collected from highly subjective, opinionated, and prejudiced minds of experts. Here goes:

1. Environmentally Conscious – Large open spaces were seen in stadiums left by partially constructed stands. These provided for fresh air and enhanced the architectural beauty of the grounds.
2. Diversity in the Workplace – The DD vs CSK playoff game was a case in point. Sunny Gupta moonwalked into the side as a like for like replacement (brown replacing brown) and was a shining light in IPL’s diversity practices. Additionally, a black guy was brought in place of a white guy who was dropped because a brown guy was injured. Balance of color was restored.
3. Work Life Balance – Players were provided flexible working hours and vacations for getting married, getting divorced, standing in political elections, becoming MPs, shooting ads etc. etc.
4. Social Responsibility – What’s his name who kept wickets and opened the innings for KKR in the finals and score 80 odd runs, was picked up from the streets and given a job when no one else would even care for him.
5. Strong Mentoring Program – Cheteswar Pujara was provided all the necessary tools and forums to talk to players very familiar (read folks from South Africa and India even if Chris Gayle was seated a couple of chairs away) with West Indian pitches even if he did not get to play an IPL game. Look at the outcome, Pujara has just won a game for India A against West Indies A.
6. Eliminating Age Discrimination – If Brad Hogg’s success story as a cricketer turned commentator turned IPL hero is not inspirational enough, I am not sure what is. Dermot Reeve, who last played for Warwickshire in the 16th century and was a successful commentator this year is gearing up for a season with Pune Warriors next year. I am 43 and happened to played with Harsha Bhogle in my childhood. Do I have a shot?
7. Fostering Innovation – Players were encouraged to employ innovative methods to supplement their earnings and were rewarded handsomely for advancements in Fix Laws of Probability and game theory.
8. Zero Tolerance of Sexual Harassment – CSK’s zero tolerance policy was in full effect as players were able to successfully avoided any untoward advances made by Suresh Raina on and off the field. His string of failures was an added advantage as he did not have much to cheer about anyway. Luke Pomersbach’s faith in India’s justice system and his subsequent settlement was removed from the evidence as it was deemed as an outlier.
9. Commitment to Regional Cooperation – The bailout of CSK by Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore was clearly an evidence of a bond and cooperation between regional partners that is unparalleled.
10. Producing Strong Leaders – The fact that the finals was played between two teams with the two best leaders in the game is a testimony. Their faith in high value employees in Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan certainly paid off! Or did it?

– Srikanth