Monday, April 03, 2006

Silver!!! And the story behind it...

We just lost the finals of the inter-hall basketball tournament to RP, a gold that they truly, truly deserved. Congrats to Anand, Rachit, Recca, Jitesh and Ravi and thank you for showing us what it takes to win a gold. We'll remember the lessons. For the first hour or so after the tournament, my mood was sombre to say the least and the cold silver medal in the hand was not feeling all that great. A hundred congratulations, 'you-tried-well's, 'hard-luck's and a heavy dinner later, the feeling as I cling to the medal is very very different.

On the face of it, it is just another silver medal that just another hall won, just another year in just another game. What I am attempting to do is add a little background to it, 'coz it sure as hell is not "just another" for me. I am sure that every medal has its own story, I am just trying to put mine and for that I try and quote a few incidents.


- Feb. 2005. Inter-hall basketball tournament. There was never much practice that the team had in the first place. We had been coming 4th place the last three years but then this year we had Deepak Rathee, to put simply, the Kobe Bryant of this place, and that was it. That was enough for some people. That was all that was needed and mattered. The way I looked at it, we had had Himanshu Parmar, another such guy who had passed out, but we still had come fourth then, hadn't we??

- Feb, 2005: Deepak Rathee of RK Hall is adjudged the player of the inter-hall basketball tournament for the year 2004-'05 but RK comes fourth, again, for the fourth consecutive year. Having sat on the bench for most of the tournament and watched him play, I wonder if, in his place, I wouldn't wish for that one second that I had a better team to support me, that I was in a hall, a different hall maybe, that could just support me for what I was.

- Inter-hall volleyball tournament, 2003, 2004 and 2005: This one is about a legend called Krishna Nittala. He was like Rathee to volleyball. I watched him build a team that came fourth in '03, was a close third in '04 and had six inter-iit players playing and one inter-iit player sitting out in '05. Gold then, needless to say.

- April, 2005. Soap-box of the candidates of General Secretary, Sports, RK Hall common room: As always, both the candidates Raghav and Anupam are asked to present their views on the next year's general championship. Both candidates have identical predictions and both candidates are absoulutely sure that RK stands at no position in basketball for the forthcoming year.

- September, 2005: Semi-final of Open-IIT basketball tournament. Deepak Rathee is sitting out injured and the five people that are playing inside are redefining "making-an-ass-out-of-oneself"

- Feb, 2006. Scholar's Avenue's GC predictions. "Sports: Nehru Seem Set to Lift the Trophy" "Nehru with a strong basketball team has a good chance for the gold in basketball."

- Sometime in 2005: RK Hall, IIT-KGP community on Orkut. Discussion on this year's GC. Karan Gupta, alumnus, writes, "Basky - one-man army rathi .. ab to pandey aur lambu bhi khelne lag gaye hain ...". Krishna Nittala writes, "basky not a one man army??? I dont think so... niraj you did you ask a few others before vouching for them???"

The silver then, goes to a truly amazing team that it has been my absolute privilege to play with. A team that mostly consisted of second years with little or no experience of basketball. To a team of underdogs. Between busy academic schedules and a hundred other extra-academic activities that each single day at Kharagpur is filled with, a team that practised at literally every possible slot in a twenty-four hour day. A team that very importantly was willing to learn when anyone taught anything. A team that took a hundred and one criticisms from me, their worse player, when all I really told them was to keep their heads down and fight. Not much basketball that I could teach them anyway. A team that towards the end would readily rise at 5 A.M. in the morning or be ready at 11:30 in the night to practice with their captain for that was the time that he could find for them.

-To Pedro and Pandey then, who made the inter-hall volleyball final look like a joke and then made their way to the basketball court that night to practice for the basketball tournament starting the next day. To Pandey specially, for practising and playing despite his various back-aches and leg-aches and head-aches and hand-aches and hair-aches that nowadays are creeping to Pedro too.

-To Kothari for, quite simply, giving Rathee a run for his money.

-To Chochu, the star of our team, the best debutante of the tournament this year. Have ball, will steal. Steal, steal and steal. And then steal some more.

-To Rajaram, Mohapatra, Karan, Srikanth, Chirag and Aditya, the future of our team. To Prateek, for finding himself practising in the court at 10 PM in the night in his fifth year and thereby, almost shocking himself to death.

-To around 300 people of my hall, RK Hall, who believed us this time, who cheered us to victory and to mute and soar throats, who hoped that we could break the jinx and that we could win the tournament. The honour was always ours, and it's written right across our jerseys.

-To my personal cheerleaders, Roly and Aalu.

-To three hundred other people who mocked, ridiculed, looked down and thus challenged us.

-And above all, to Deepak Rathee, my captain, Kshitij head, basketball fanatic, dunk maniac, SN Hall's hero and newly elected Vice-President, IIT Kharagpur. Words fail me here. All I can say is that he didn't win that "Player of the Tournament" award this year and we won the silver. God help the opponents when he bounces back.

Yo Rathee!!! And of course...

Yo RK!!!