NASCAR // The Night Out(s)

nascar
nascar (Photo credit: rogerblake2)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet!! This is not about me being out of home and partying hard; this is about yet another day @ work. Last 16 months, I have lived and breathed about another sport NASCAR. I was and am the one of the Architects on a project that Sapient Nitro embarked upon sometime in 2011. We worked with NASCAR – the 2nd most popular sport in USA and we had to re-platform their .com digital property. I was responsible for technology design and implementation on the project.

 

During the course of the project and especially after it went live on Jan 3, 2013, we had to also support the races. Today is one such race day/weekend when NASCAR holds it 9th round of the Sprint-cup-series. I am in office; I didn’t need to be, but we have our Delivery Lead (John Schneider) visiting India first time since launch and he will be in office tonight experience first hand a night out on support. I am in office just to make sure that we don’t end up sharing a superficial experience with John. Out of the 9 races that we have had, I have been in office during weekends and nights for at least 5 weekends and as we have stabilised the platform week on week we have had our share of fun with Fantasy, Raceview, Leaderboard and Live Telecast (if we can find one). And, i want to make sure that we do all of that today as well and not just put up a grandeur show of working and working.

 

We are still about 90 minutes from the green flag drop and in office, I have with me 5 of my team members who are part of Level 2 support and have been responsible

Race Support @ Sapient
Race Support @ Sapient

of running this beast of a platform day in and day out. They are the warriors who hold up the gates while several million fans enjoy the sport out there. The team is in middle of ensuring that the pre-flight checks are done and things are working as they are supposed to. We will check several systems – Feeds for leader board, feeds for lap by lap commentary and cautions, editorial publishing which is used to push all major content, check that all the servers – web and CQ publish servers are in order and the content is in sync with each other.

 

NASCAR’s editorial team is already on ground and the press passes are starting on; I can see updates coming on home page. Today, we will have Matt Kensth lead the field – he was the winner last week as well so a strong start for him. They have already pushed a couple of home page updates. I can see the Home Page hero saying “Ready for Richmond” with a nice picture of a driver that I cant identify – but looks like it is Kenseth. We have the projects up and running – one of them will be projecting the real time analytics telling us the traffic levels on the site and another one that will stream the race directly for us.

 

Three of us – Nitin Tyagi, Kiran and me play fantasy very aggressively and are competing very closely. We all have our teams set and here is a snapshot of my team today.

NASCAR Fantasy Roster Week of April 28
NASCAR Fantasy Roster Week of April 28

 

Leaderboard is not warm yet but this is how it looks today and something that the team is monitoring very closely. This is the page that gets so much traffic today during races.

NASCAR // Leader board

 

Looking for a good day @ office – Oops!! for another good night out!!

 

 

2012 Week 4 in Review

I can summarize this week in a single word – Disaster.

Goals

I was able to keep a consistent pace on the blogging and the readership is on the rise for both Personal and Technical Blog. After 4 weeks, I noticed that there are 2 things that really can get the readership going:

  1. Write about articles relevant on that day/week
  2. Read other blogs and make relevant comments

On the health front, all went for a toss, I had training for 3 days in the week and one day off for republic day meant that Gym went was not an option and I was unable to get my discipline on eating habits. Book reading was put off a little as well and that was because it was the week of Australian Open 2012 and I spent a lot of time watching matches which obviously ruined any heads-up I have had on watching TV. I hope I will be able to bring some of these back on track in coming weeks.

Sports

It was Australian Open 2012 and India vs. Australia 4th test. While AO2012 was superb, Djokovic winning the Slam with some great matches in the end. I for the first time saw Rafa play 2 matches – against Federer and Djokovic and saw what a great player he is and only gained respect for this master athlete. A fellow blogger wrote about Rafa which reflects my feelings very well.

India was again disappointing. Virat Kohli did score a century which was some saving grace – the first century of the tour. Now, that the Test series is over, I am looking forward to the one day series and hope that this will be another story. I do not have any expectation from this series only hope that we will do better and live up to the expectations of a World Champion.

Personal

Well a train-wreck – dont wanna talk about this. I just hope that people understand that it takes time to turn a new leaf – it does not happen overnight. Baby steps need to be encouraged and not slammed.

2012 Week 3 in review

Roger Federer
Image via Wikipedia

2012 has started to settle down now and life in new year is taking shape. Life in office which has been relatively simple continues to be so giving me time to learn technology for an upcoming project.

Goals

Doing relatively well against goals of blog writing, reading book and increasing readership. While the TV is coming back into life especially with the start of Australian Open and most matches being replayed in the evening. Yet, I am still happy on where I am overall. Need to put some more effort into my health especially visiting the GYM for my regular run. Next week also seems to be going down the drain for exercise because of project work. I will just not be able to take out time for exercise. A detailed assessment is sue sometime next week which will show me how I did overall. But, I am satisfied on how it has been till now.

Sports

Cricket took a break because India did not have a match. They start their last test match on Tuesday and things can become interesting once again. However, Australian Open was there to make life interesting. While all the big Guns (Rafa, Federer, Novak, Sharapova, Williams and …) did well weekend had some surprises. interestingly this year there have been a dozen retirals which was unlikely. Some highlights I want to bring out were:

  • Kim beating Li Na aftar a set down and saving 4 match points and that too when Kim had hurt herself in first set
  • Verdasco was thrown out by Tomic in first round
  • Tomic (19 year old Australian) played Federer with some talking about Tomic winning; but he was in for a tennis lesson. After a first set of fight, Roger put his foot on the accelerator and Tomic was asking himself what is he doing on this court
  • Azarenka looks to be in top form playing game of her life beating everyone with disdain
  • Serena Williams was in superb form (she lost on Monday in 4th round)

 

Personal Life

All is going better than expected. Positive energy is showing up everywhere and radiating back as well which is nice for a change :). Sunday was a sligh bump and it was because of TV where I got lazy. I guess TV is the evil in my life and I need to now subside it just enough. No need to kill it, but needs to go down

 

 

Roger Federer: A Player; A Champion « Bizarre Prodigy

Roger Federer - 2007 US Open Champion
Image via Wikipedia

Records speak for themselves, where Roger has scaled the Mt. Everest of Tennis and sits on the top with 16 singles titles across 8 years of span (consider his last title was in 2010); only to be followed by Sampras, Emerson and Laver. Rafa (King of Clay court) already in his 8th year of tennis is 6 title short of Roger and I do not see him equalling him because Djokivic has a say in it now.

via Roger Federer: A Player; A Champion « Bizarre Prodigy.

Where is Indian Cricket Heading

It was in July-Aug 2011, during the Patoudi Series when India lost their #1 ranking to England. They lost the series 0-4 and it was pretty humiliating as it was coming off the famous World Cup win in April 2011. India’s win in World Cup kept India safe from the criticism. However, the dust storm was waiting to unleash itself, yet no one surprisingly saw it. Everyone was hoping that 0-4 loss to England was one off thing. And, then came the Agneepath series (Border-Gavaskar series) and all hell broke loose as India lost first 3 test matches to Australia in a humiliating fashion. As i write this post, yesterday was when India lost their 3rd test match and hence loosing the series as well. And thus started the blame game.

Dhoni is suggesting in a correct diplomatic fashion that after this series he will think about getting the right mix of senior and junior players. What surprises me is that in the article and many others comments he has made, yet there is no mention of how we can improve India’s batting and bowling in the nations where we have fast pitches, which evidently is everywhere else except the sub-continent. This has been the crest of India’s problems since FOREVER and even now after another mini-crisis looms, I do not hear anyone talking about fixing that problem. I will not call myself the best cricket judge over all the talent pool we have, yet I am surprised no one is talking about this or atleast I an not reading about it. I just read this article which finds Gavaskar say:

“I think a lot of soul-searching needs to be done. We need to look at first-class cricket structure, pitches that we play, scheduling of matches, it has to be a really long hard look at everything.” – Sunil Gavaskar

“When Tendulkar and Dravid and those boys retire in a couple of years, where is Indian cricket going to be. Are the youngsters coming through?”
Australian opener David Warner is perhaps mindful of Australia’s badly handled transition

This article summarizes quotes from many great players and I would agree with all of those, it simply suggest one thing – Dhoni and selectors have been waiting too long trying to ride the “luck” Dhoni has had. And, yet their Karma has expired finally. Things do not happen on their own, they happen because someone needs to do something about it. Thinking that everyone will keep doing their job which was half as good as Australia did when they were at their peak was calling for trouble and trouble came calling.

I will quote ESPN from an article

Srikkanth, stuck to his belief that the failure of the batting line-up was behind India’s abject performance on the tours of England and Australia, though he said it was too soon for a post-mortem of the series. “It is the same problem that we had during the England series. In the last two series, the batsmen have struggled to find form. I don’t think too much of a post-mortem will lead us anywhere.

In the same article, Shukla said:

all teams had disappointing periods in cricket, and that the Indian team management would take steps to ensure a better performance on the rest of the tour. “We admit that the team’s performance has not been up to expectations,” he said. “But it happens with all teams. Recently, former world champions Sri Lanka were all out for just 47 [43, against South Africa in Paarl].

“We have won on foreign soil in the past. No one says anything then; all this criticism has been raked up due to defeats in England and Australia. Corrective measures will be taken by the team management so that the team does better in the final Test and the ODI tri-series.”

What Shukla said is perhaps right, we do not say a lot when all is going well, and when things start to go wrong everyone feels it is everyone’s right to critisize. And IT IS. We are fans, who view the sports, who make it what it is. We are the ones who make Cricket what it is. If it was not for us, Cricket may have just faded like Hockey in India (which turns out to be our National Game). Yet, Shukla seems worried about the criticism. I wonder if this is because he was also riding Dhoni’s luck.

Enough of criticism; I believe in the philosophy that if you see a problem, bring at least one solution on the table.

India cricket needs a higher calling; they need to work on getting their home in order. Having spin pitches for international matches is not a bad thing. If Australian curators prepare fast pitches to give their team the advantage, India curators should do exactly the same. But, that should not stop us from getting our international team some practice on fast pitches during Duleep trophy and other domestic formats. I am not sure, how many of our international players play domestic format. But, there has to be a way of bringing up the right talent.

Why can we not have specialists for Test Cricket who can have the edge in foreign soil; time is now to find methods that go beyond the conventional methods. We need to reinvent the way we are selecting players. Pace academies have to be setup. Seeing a little of all matches in recent series, I can say with certainty that Australia’s bowling attack was not invincible like in the past. They won because of their consistency. We need to get our bowlers the same set of consistency – bowl 6 of 6 bowls in the same spot and then we will be what others. Lets have different coaches for each division with a head coach (a strategy followed by many American sports). Let specialist focus on the problem to solve it.

Lets hope someone does something. We can afford letting go of all senior players in a flash. We need the right mix of experience and fresh blood. As Anil Kumble said – we need to have a transition plan to make it work. We are already late by 12 months, but we have to salvage all that we can.

 

2012: Week 2 in Review

Goals

Last week, after I wrote that I am doing well against my goals, Sunday was a train wreck. On Sunday alone, I watched twice as much television as I did the entire week. However, the week following brought back some sanity and it was getting normal yet again. Finances stabilized and as I started to spend more time on my blogs, I started to see readership jump marginally – a positive sign. I was also able to visit the Gym 3 times in the week for my regular treadmill run and was in no time I was cranking up 3K in around 25 minutes. Weekend was a mixed-bag where I got utterly lazy and just did not care of finishing up a couple of my tasks as I had planned, yet I was forth coming when it came to going out and figuring out various things for Aabhya’s coming birthday.

Overall, I am satisfied how I am progressing against my set goals for this year.

Sports

India slumped to a new low, loosing the Border-Gavaskar series to Australia as they lost their 7th straight test overseas. Everyone is now finding faults against the seniors and Dhoni. There have been rumors of Dhoni retiring from test cricket sooner than expected and also some of the senior players like Dravid and Laxman being axed. My emotions tell me that I am so much disappointed with how India is performing and they need to do something. No one, and I mean no one is able to perform in Australia and they have failed just as they did in England. While people talk about letting seniors go, I am wondering if infusion of fresh blood will really solve the problem? I think not, because India is simply unable to negotiate fast pitches and unless there is an effort to fix that, we will be here again – Dhoni or no Dhoni.

Soccer

I became a fan of soccer when I bought FIFA 10 while I was in US. As I started to understand the players and team my interest in the game has ever increased. This year I am following 2 leagues – La Liga and Premier League. And in both the leagues the current leaders are surprised. La Liga not so much because Real Madrid is as strong a team as Barcelona, but Barcelona being second is a bigger surprise. While in Premier League, Manchester City is a surprise as it is 3 points clear of Manchester United. Chelsea and Arsenal not doing so well. Lets see if we see new champions crowned this year.

Personal Life

Could not have asked for a better start to the week. Preeti and Aabhya came back and last weekend’s void was filled with my kiddo’s “Google Talk”. Gosh, I have missed her. Over the week, she was mystified with her new year’s toys and was happy playing with them. It was like an eternity but I was so glad to be seeing Doraemon again. She would come to me and play nice to get the remote for the TV and I guess she is the only one who can do so now 🙂 and yet I love she does that.

Towards the end, time was spent in deciding if we are going to celebrate her birthday this year and also the Lohri on Friday the 13th).

 

 

 

 

India oscillates to number 3

Rahul Dravid
Image via Wikipedia

While the country was carried in the enthusiasm led by Anna Hazarre, half-way around the world, Team India lost 4 test matches against England to loose their #1 position. While England thrashed India in all departments across 4 match series and went ahead to take number 1 spot, India lost not just the matches, but also the series and their pride as as a cricket team.

However, this is the same team, who just a few months back were basking in the glory of World Cup victory. Around that time, when everyone was simply looking at the way India was ruling the Cricket arena, I looked into how India reached at the top. In my article, I wrote about some of the glaring reasons on how India managed to reach at the top:

  • India played less matches compared to others and a lot of them were at home;
  • Australia played bad and even though they were way ahead, they lost a lot of ground;
  • Other teams like South Africa and England were not doing significantly better and were kind of neutral

It was all a time-bomb waiting to explode and it did explode in England, when India were away from home and they did badly. England who were sitting just around the corner, won all the matches against #1 team and hence they jumped to the top. In another article around the same time, I quoted:

I ended up finding that we are where we are because of the fact that Australia failed to achieve the top standards they have been in the past. India’s efforts have only been marginally better than those of Australia between a period of 2008-2010. And, it was so hurting for me to realize that we are just as good as their worst. I do hope that going forward we can do so much more better than we have in the past and take it to the top level cricket. Australia between 2005 and 2008 have had 70% winning percentage and only 15% each of lost and draw. We managed to equal their worst performance to be #1.

During all this there was another just one man who stood like the Wall – Rahul Dravid. He was averaged so much better that the rest of India. In fact, if it was not for him, there would have been innings where India would not have scored even 100 runs. Sachin did not shine as bright as we expected him to. At the start of the series there were talks of Sachin getting his 100th 100, but it never came. In the last test Sachin did come close to when he got out at 92 runs. Samit Bal quotes

It was just as well that Sachin Tendulkar didn’t go on to get his 100th hundred at The Oval. It denied India a distraction, a glimmer of feel-good in their hour of misery. Indian cricket doesn’t need the blow to be softened at this moment; instead it needs to feel the full impact of this devastating loss, feel the pain, look within and ponder the future with a clear understanding of their failings.

I totally agree with him for last many months that India need to look into their own self and find ways to set benchmarks. They just can not be happy to be on the top when they really did not do enough and the position was a gift by others. Next few months can see India slip even below with Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia playing 2 series each and have a good chance of winning and overtaking India.

The next step for India is the one-day series. Lets see how the world’s best team handles the pressure of Test Matches against the newly crowned Kings of the Test Arena