A read of a lifetime: Game of Thrones

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  The first time I ever saw a voluminous book titled Game of Thrones was when my dear colleague Nisanth Thomas (@nisanththomas)  kept reading it during his breakfast everyday at our office’s food court. A glance at the back cover … Continue reading

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Man and Gay

In one of my past assignments, I was part of a team that was working on implementing an European suite of applications in a couple of Asia markets. We had a true cross cultural team, including from US, Germany, UK, China, Thailand & India. The interactions used to be over audio with an occasional video conference, when situation necessitated it.

One of our colleagues in India was a lady, by name, Mangayarkarasi. She was called Mangay, for short. The name is a popular Tamil one, and literally translated, it means Queen amongst women.

In our interactions with teams from other countries, during the initial stages of the implementation, we didn’t know which voice was whose, over audio calls. We always overcame this by saying our name, before we shared anything in the discussion over phone. Something like, “Hi, This is Kamal; I think …….” and I’ll share my point. It is quite possible that the voice was forgotten, but anyway, it was not the voice that was important in these discussions. There obviously were more serious issues. 

Once the work started getting more serious, the teams decided to have a video call once, just to get to know the ‘faces behind the voices’, as they say.

It was a surprise for the team in Europe to see Mangay over the video. They didn’t expect a lady by that name. You know the reason?

The lady that led the European team explained: ” We never expected Man & Gay would turn out to be a woman!”

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I’ll make it quick, XYZ!

I was on an audio call, with a very senior person in the hierarchy of a client organization, from overseas. This was my second telephonic interaction with him.

I wanted to discuss something confidentially only with that senior person, after every other person on the call had left. So, while everyone was departing, I blurted out, “XYZ, Can I have you for 2 minutes?”.

Without realizing what it meant, I thought I had conveyed the message that I wanted him to stay put on the audio bridge for a couple of minutes.

But you know what that meant!

There was a long pause from the other end. Then he started calling out the names of a couple of other participants, just to ensure whether they were still there or left. There were no one else, other than him & me.

“Kamal, you can very well have me, if you can afford; but I am a bit expensive!” he responded. Slowly realizing the blunder I had made, feeling so guilty that I should make an attempt to clarify, I quickly blabbered, “Sorry, XYZ, I won’t even take two minutes, I will try to be very quick!”

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Conversations with my daughter….3

We, (me, wife, daughter & In-laws), were returning from a short trip to a bird sanctuary. The trip was thoroughly enjoyable, sighting so many monkeys, birds and a couple of snakes too. Knowing these were not confined to an aviary or a cell, like in a typical zoo, but were free, was the thrill. 

While returning, I took a road through a reserved forest area. This was well past sunset and obviously very dark. There were no villages around; just a deserted road without any lighting at all. Some in the car, including my kid daughter, started getting uneasy. Because the sign-boards warned of possible wild animals crossing the road.To add some element of thrill, I, every now and then, switched off the headlights of the car and showed what real dark was, in the forest area. There were so many wild cries, from inside the car, than from out!

At last, there was a sigh of relief, when we all spotted a sign-board that said, “Forest area ends”. Everyone started relaxing when my daughter screamed, “We can read that board but will animals do? If they don’t, how do they know they cannot wander beyond this board?”

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Conversations with my daughter….2

My daughter was studying 1st or 2nd standard then. I had admitted her in a reputed school, assuming there will be all-round development without focusing only on traditional studying, but that’s a different story.

The initial years did prove to be satisfying both for us, parents, and the kid, except that there was too much of homework. I wanted my daughter to enjoy life as well as study. But looked like her day wasn’t just sufficient to complete her homework and prepare for the next day. Add to the teachers, there was my wife too putting in her best to keep my daughter always busy, sometimes too busy to even talk to me!

One of those days she came home with a task: Sort of cross-word. She was supposed to work on finding a five letter word that starts with D and ends with S, with the clue, “You open these, when the weather is hot & humid.”.

Well, I don’t think I need to elaborate on the clue to help you get the answer.

I sat doing the most beloved tasks of my life: Work with my daughter. Seating her in my lap, I began to probe her, helping her find the answer herself.

“Kannamma, what happens when the weather is hot & humid?” 

“We all sweat, pa…” Good, I was feeling happy; We were going in the right direction. Then this went awry.

“Ok, tell me what do we do then?”

“We switch on the fan, pa….” Oops, I hadn’t asked the right question.

“Ok, good. But that’s not the question, right? Question is, what do we open, when it is hot & humid, and we sweat? The answer should be a five-lettered word starting with a D and ending with a S”

Promptly she said, “Dress, pa….That’s what we all open, when we sweat. See, that’s five-lettered too, beginning with D and ending with S”

Well, the next time she came home with cross word, I ran away.

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Directionally Challenged – Updated Dec 9, 2011

The crucial Nifty level of 4720 that I referred in my last blog has held firm till today. Looks like that was a false break-out.

But we can’t take heart from that fact because Nifty’s charts in all time frames present a very bearish picture. The only consolation could be that ADX lines are curling together in longer time frames; ( except Daily’s that indicates a clear Down Trend).

From these, I could only infer that whatever happened so far is likely to pause for sometime till we reach a Trend Deciding level shortly ahead. I could also interpret it as we might have trendless noise for sometime ! This also is confirmed by many other indicators like converging volatility bands across time frames.

But before that happens, there might be a move down.

We need to study where the next low falls in comparison to this 4720 so that we could trade accordingly. Till next Low, there could be choppiness ahead in shorter timeframes ! Meaning, whatever you do, ensure the stops are real tight !

Have I made anything any clearer 😉

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Directionally Challenged – Updated Nov 26, 2011

It has been sometime since I posted a blog, as I was busy studying Nifty’s recent Bear move.

And I am not sure whether a post is deserved now, as I post one only when there’s an imminent move or when Nifty comes to an Inflection Point.

Well, I love these moves, be it up or down. But what a sign the charts are giving us now !

To continue from where I left, recall I posted these in my last post on Oct 25, 2011, when Nifty was breaking upwards from a range then:

This Up move will definitely be tested around 5450, if it continues till then !

4700 seems to be a firm bottom for some more time to come. 5011 needs to be tested as a bottom.

Nifty went up till 5399.70 (Oct 28, 2011) and started falling since then but didn’t even care to pause at 5011. But its 4700 that is being tested now.

What Nifty has done in the last couple of days, is it has closed below 4720, both on a Daily as well as Weekly Closing. This is something serious, as I consider the range around 4720 an important level. As such, whether to take this seriously and decide that the outlook is so bearish now because Nifty has closed Daily / Weekly below 4720

or to give it a week more to let it decide whether 4720 has really been violated or might hover around this level in a range for sometime, is your choice. We will soon come to know anyway !

Monthly chart is showing a clear down move; but not sure whether it would be of any use to traders. What’s important to note here is Volatility based bands are beginning to expand on this down move, meaning if you are thinking of shorts, it pays to wait till the next High.

Weekly chart mirrors Monthly one, giving us a sort of confluence.

Daily chart indicates clearly that Trend Followers / Systems would have triggered a Short already. But what a steep fall it has been !

4720 was broken downwards on Nov 23, 2011 with the next day closing above 4720 (Heard of Turtle Soup?) giving 4720 the benefit of doubt. But Friday, it went topsy-turvy again, closing below 4720.

Though all along everything seems Bearish, there are two pointers that might need to be watched that could result in Nifty moving in a range without a clear direction for sometime (Or may even move up) : 1. There is a slight Bullish (Double) Divergence in Weekly MACD-H; 2. Daily MACD-H has just turned up last two days. But you can’t take any trading decisions based on these alone, rather combine them with other pointers referred earlier.

If you are not Directionally Challenged like me, you should get a clear picture that tells you to wait for the next High. Till then, enjoy not trading.

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Directionally Challenged – Updated Oct 25, 2011

Nifty seems to be breaking upwards of its recent range 5169.25 (Sep 8th) – 4720 (Aug 26th) by closing at 5191.60 today. Though there is nothing, as I write this, that makes us suspect this upward break, the following have to be kept in mind if you want to go Long from here:

  • A Close around today’s has to be maintained for a few more days to come, to confirm this Bullish move.
  • Nifty made a Down Gap on Aug 5, 2011, 5323.15 – 5229.65, that still remains untouched.
  • Couple of holidays are intervening and Europe’s turmoil might have an impact when Nifty resumes normal trading.
  • This Up move will definitely be tested around 5450, if it continues till then !

On the positive side, there are quite a number of take aways from today’s action:

  • 4700 seems to be a firm bottom for some more time to come. 5011 needs to be tested as a bottom.
  • Nifty has closed firmly above 50 EMA for the past few days continuously.
  • A firm Close above 5228 will indicate a definite move upwards in the immediate future. Till then, you need to be cautious on your Long positions in Nifty. I doubt whether you can afford to be short now !

If you think I am confusing too much, please recall the title of this blog.

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Directionally Challenged – Updated Oct 3, 2011

Recall my earlier post:

‘Meaning I don’t know yet where Nifty will stop and reverse (or stay) but I do believe that the probability of Nifty going down far lower beyond 4700 are limited, UNLESS THE DIVERGENCES I REFER TO, DISAPPEAR.’

I will have to change that statement and go to the other extreme, IF NIFTY FIRMLY CLOSES BELOW 4820 TOMORROW.

Watch out and trade safe.

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Directionally Challenged – Updated Sep 27, 2011

If you look at the Daily Charts, Sep 8, Nifty made a High of 5169.25 and the next High was slightly lower, at 5168.40 made on Sep 21, 2011.

On the other side, 2nd last Low was 4720 made on Aug 26 and again the last Low was slightly higher at 4758.85 made yesterday.

Combining these with the fact that ADX is below both the +ve as well as -ve lines, it pays to play it safe and reduce positions till a CLEAR TREND emerges.

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Directionally Challenged…..

Sep 26, 2011; 1230 hrs.

As I write this, Nifty is at 4783 and Europe is about to open in a few minutes.

Nifty is currently testing its recent Low of 4720 made on Aug 26, 2011.

Though the action doesn’t inspire confidence to become Bullish and start buying, I do see Positive / Bullish Divergences in MACD Lines, MACD-Histo and RSI.

Meaning I don’t know yet where Nifty will stop and reverse (or stay) but I do believe that the probability of Nifty going down far lower beyond 4700 are limited, UNLESS THE DIVERGENCES I REFER TO, DISAPPEAR.

I can keep you posted about all those here regularly.

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Browsing through: ‘blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell

As an other side of me is a serious trader of Nifty, India’s Stock Market Index, I have been through situations where I enter into a trade, occasionally on intuition or impulse, only to see that that move was right, which I would not have done otherwise going purely by logical / technical analysis.

Now let me add this is dangerous from a trading perspective. One makes a decent return being cool, entering and exiting based only on serious analysis, if s/he is good at it, that is. Or s/he can also trade impulsively and become a millionaire easily, provided s/he were a billionaire to begin with.

If I read great traders’ opinion on this, intuition is really good, if I can separate intuition from other naivete.

You might have noticed similar situations in your life, where you decided something intuitively, without any logical reason as to what prompted you to do that way and that later turned out to be perfectly right.

Well, ‘blink’ is about ‘The Power of Thinking without Thinking’, that we all have, thanks to the adaptive unconscious part of our brain that enables rapid cognition in us.

Now, forgive me if I am trying to put you off by those terminolgy! You’ll learn quite a lot more like these…..thin slicing, priming experiment, Warren Harding Error, improv, snap judgement, deliberate vis-a-vis instinctive thinking, etc. but ‘blink’ uses simple language over all, to explain how we can make best use of this power that we all are endowed with, citing different scientifc researches conducted in the field of psychology.

The incidences referred like Pepsi vis-a-vis Coke, a series of War games called Millennium Challenge, are very very interesting, informative, educating and help pace the book fast.

Its interesting to note that the genesis of the book goes like this.

Let us say someone lets his otherwise short and conservatively cut hair grow wild and long that changes his life in ways not so subtle. Like he starts getting speeding tickets. Like he is targeted not so randomly, frequently for personal checking in airport security queues. And to top it all, one day he is chased by police being mistaken to be a criminal with similar hippy looks. What do you think that someone should have done in that situation?

Well, what Malcolm Gladwell had done was, he brooded over that incident and got the idea for writing ‘blink’. How’s that?

Read it. If you want to capitalize on your ‘blink’ moments.

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Conversations with my daughter….

My daughter was barely two years old then. I used to love taking her in my bike, a 100CC Hero Honda Splendor, seating her on the fuel tank, riding quite roads along Chennai’s East Coast.

Though many of you may frown at the thought of doing this with a child, this was something we, Chennaiites, get accustomed to.

What’s more, she used to love those rides too, so much so that just after 10 minutes she would fall asleep on the tank. I would have covered the tank with soft towels to let her be comfortable and that position was a bit easy for the ride too.

We used to have sort of ‘conversations’, while riding, with her babbling and with me joining those babbles. It was quite normal for me, to have someone stare at me puzzled, seeing me babbling. They don’t normally realize I would have been in the midst of a serious conversation with my kid daughter. Precisely for this reason, I used to frequent  empty stretches. I wanted those converstaions uniterrupted. That was with my kid daughter you see.

It was then this particular one happened.

She was under the impression that whenever we got out of the house on a bike, she would be taken to a shopping area where she could roam around the stores freely, pointing at things she liked and could return with at least one of those things, if not more. To change this impression of hers, I separated shopping trips from my rides with my daughter. Only when I was completely free to entertain her, I would seat her on my bike, and just have a ride and be back home later.

It started like this, one day when we were halfway through one of our rides.

She asked what we were going to buy that time. I said we were not going to buy anything, and we were just having a ride.

I should have kept quite, leaving the topic there, but, I made a blunder. If there’s anything particular she wanted, I said I would consider. Having bungled like this, I was not sure whether I had any more control of the ride and the subsequent course that day.

She wanted to buy a dress she told me, or rather babbled. I paused and then told her we had too many dresses at home and suggested I could buy her a book instead.

This time she paused babbling. May be she was trying to think this through in her little mind. Then told me something I couldn’t logically refute. She said we had a lot of books too, at home, and countered me asking why we couldn’t consider a new dress rather.

Well, you could guess what would have subsequently happened, right? Or you want me to continue babbling?

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Driving around Dearborn

This deserves to be shared with anyone who intends to visit USA and hire a car here…

This is what happens when some foreigner is driving around in USA, without taking the time to understand the local traffic rules; at least one should know how the cops catch us, in case of any possible traffic violations, however minor it may be !

It was a fine morning when I was enjoying driving my Ford Edge on the Ford Road on a week end. Except for me and a couple of other vehicles, the road was empty and I thrust my Edge a bit hard…

 The vehicle was perfect, in spite of its weight. These guys don’t mention the weight in the spec sheet, but my guess is, it should be nothing less than a ton and a half…But it has a V6 pumping out a vigorous 265 hp. Imagine a poor soul like me, used to a meager 47 hp on a Suzuki Alto, getting to lay my hands on, on a 265 hp…Wow….

“Life is best viewed through windshield, rather than through rear view mirror”. In spite of my staunch belief in this philosophy, I did glance at my rear view and noticed a car with a lot of lights on top, that immediately turned out to be a cop’s, tailing me. I wanted to give way and let him pass, but he wouldn’t. Realizing I might be speeding, I slowed down, and he too did…

I wondered. It was a pain to have a cop tailing you, I won’t do that in Chennai or Delhi…And I wasn’t sure he was following me…Had I done something wrong, in India, the cop would have ‘asked’ me to stop or waved, pulling ahead of me, but this guy hadn’t.

I changed lanes, trying to ignore him and, gosh, he did the same too…

 Now I realized that the lights on top of his car started flashing, still tailing me…..Something was amiss and I stopped…what a blunder, being used to driving on the other side of the road back home in India, I pulled over to the left extreme lane and stopped…You guessed it, he too did the same…

 Thank God, some good Samaritan traveling with me stopped me from getting out of my car….(I was told subsequently, had I done that, that cop might have pulled his gun out) So here I was, remaining in the seat, waiting for the cop to come out of his car…And he did, hands on hips, shouted, “You think you’re kidding, right?”

 Then I woke up, as usual…Explaining temporary travel to US, Hertz, B1, and all that story…

While doing so, I tried to get out of the car once, because I thought it was impolite sitting & speaking to a standing cop, only to be reprimanded by the cop and back I was, in driver’s seat, firmly belted…

Well, to cut a long story short, the damage was 100 $…Reason: Overspeeding…But what an experience it was, to pay the fine…Those police guys at the station were more polite than the SuperMarket sales guys I buy a lot of items from…(Well, that deserves another story, sometime later)

While paying that 100 $ at the nearest station subsequently, I was asked to drop that 100$ in a box, that day being a week end. But I requested the cop there for paying to a person and getting a receipt. He obliged. Then again, I requested him to give me a photocopy of the ticket and he was wondering, “What, you are so proud that you want to frame it and hang in your home?” 

 If you ask what’s in this for you, and if you happen to be a foreigner planning to drive around in USA:

 1. If a police car is seen in your rear view mirror, don’t doubt, it is following you. Stop immediately. Like home (I mean, India here), don’t expect him to wave or ask you to stop.

2. When you stop immediately, pull over to your right extreme lane, this is US of A.

3. And remain in your seat, belted, as the cop might pull out a gun if he sees you open your door and get out of your car…You don’t need to. Keep sitting, and the cop would take care of the rest.

4. And last (or shoud this be the first?), always stick to the speed limit, whether the road is full of traffic or empty. If you’re traveling on a free way, mind you, there is a minimum as well as a maximum speed limit. Easiest way to get around this is, always be ahead of the guy tailing you (but not a cop !) and always be behind the guy ahead of you…Meaning, don’t overtake others as well as don’t be so slow that everybody starts overtaking you…

Drive safe and enjoy !

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Visiting Pretoria, watching World Cup finals; Thinking of trading Nifty

It wasn’t news to me, that South Africans are as cricket crazy as us Indians are. I’ve noticed cricket being the subject of many offline conversations, while waiting in the audio bridge for everyone to join in, during scheduled audio conferences that were truly global in my work environment.

But the problem is, whenever some South African tried to pick up a conversation with me, being an obvious foreigner here in Pretoria, I had difficulty explaining that I wasn’t part of that majority Indians whose religion was cricket and hence I couldn’t continue that conversation that had the good intention of striking a firendship. So, in many such instances, I noticed myself being perceived as someone aloof by the other person. That could be true, but normally I wouldn’t allow that to happen, had the subject been somethingelse that I was equally knowledgeable in (Say the stock markets).

So, I used to respond without really adding to the conversation, but, just by encouraging the other person to continue talking, by nodding my head, or by just keeping on saying ‘Yes’ or ‘Yeah’ or the Afrikaan that I have just started picking, ‘Ye….’, so that the ‘conversation’ doesn’t stop. I was pleasantly surprised to realize how good a technique this was, until I started doing this with every person who started talking cricket to me in Pretoria.

Though I don’t want to generalize, most of the guys I talked to in Pretoria, (Or is it the same everywhere?) were so good talking that they continued with (often wihout) all my prompts I referred earlier and enjoyed what I thought was a soliloquy or what they thought was a conversation. I have no reason to complain, as I was the culprit. I seriously doubt whether many of them noticed what a naivete I was, while talking cricket.

It would start with my very friendly taxi guy, Hennie, whom I wouldn’t call a driver, as I am told he was running many businesses like a Motor car franchise, a Petrol station franchise, et al and who had also happened to be selling BMWs earier in his life, but who, of late, has settled to making a living taxiing people visiting Pretoria. The moment I get in his car, he would start talking cricket.

And will continue with the colleagues I meet in office, who anyway will be talking of cricket whether I am there or not. Since I was there, the subject will be Indian cricket team and the latest match that India had just played or about to play next. By now, South Africa was already out of the tournament.

And will continue in the bars in the evening.

And come back to the hotel to retire, the guy at the reception wouldn’t hand over the key without making a comment about the latest match.

So, it was in this background that I chose to watch the World Cup Finals that India played against Sri Lanka.

Coming to think of it, this was the first cricket match that I ever watched from the start to the finish. It surprised myself how I could have done this, because I don’t even go to movies frequently, as I can’t sit continuously for a couple of hours concentrating on the storyline.

But I had no other go, as the only friend that I picked up in this trip, who was also staying in the same hotel as I was, had just left that Saturday for USA.

He was another twist to this story, in that he is a Filipino who is settled in USA and he doesn’t understand cricket. May be we became friends because we both were non-believers in cricket. He always fancied bigger balls. I meant Rugby. Honestly. At the bars, while someone in the next table is seriously saying something about cricket to me, he would be busy watching the bigger balls. Again I meant Rugby. Honest.

So, I had to settle for watching the World Cup finals.

I have to admit one thing. Though I don’t take cricket seriously (Or rather have not taken cricket seriuosly so far), I do understand the game and its nuances. I have two girls at home, one who is gracious enough to remain married to me, in spite of me being me and the other, who was born because the first one did so. These two girls are cricket crazy and their conversations during any match or during the dinner together subsequently (whenever there is a match, we always end up having a dinner together at a restaurant. Cricket brings families together I would say) have helped me get enlightened about cricket.

But once I settled to watch cricket at a Sports bar in Pretoria ( My total concentration was in the match. I was having my eighth Heineken when Dhoni hit that sixer that clinched India’s victory) I realized what a final it was.

Earlier, everyone in South Africa that engaged me in a cricket conversation were damn sure India would win. Because of this ‘indoctrination’ I believed it when I sat for watching the finals. And it was confirmed by how the game was, when Sri Lanka was batting the initial overs before Jayawardene. Then I remember (I was concentrated, remember?) Jeyawardane hitting too many Fours & Sixes at the last 10 – 15 overs that had me blinking. Would India really win such an onslaught?

This doubt was confirmed again during the initial overs that India was batting, that had Sehwag ducked out and Sachin caught. Sehwag ducked out? Shock. Followed by Sachin caught? I seriously thought whether I should continue watching. Then I realized I can’t face any guys back in office who would want to know whether I watched. Leave alone office guys, I can’t face Hennie who takes me to office, who would definitely say something about this match and I would have to respond. I decided to sit it out, ordering my 4th Heineken.

All along, Gambhir was doing great. Then came Dhoni. Wow ! What a game it turned out subsequently !

I was so absorbed, that I realized later, this game had so many lessons for anyone willing to ponder. I was seriously thinking of the take aways that I could use in my trading.

# Life is not won by fours and sixes  but by the slow & steady singles.

Without getting caught or bowled over that is. I recall frequently comparing the then current run rate vis-a-vis the required run rate. The former was always less than the later for the most part of the game. There were not any sixes at all, by Indians that is, till the fag end of the game.

But the fact is, Dhoni & many others (but not all) played solidly, concentrating on staying in the game, at the same time scoring singles & twos whenever possible, with an occasional four. Possible that it was those fours & sixes that helped win, but to score those fours & sixes, one had to stay in the game, settling for a single, or even none sometimes.

Take away: If I am trading, I should aim to focus on staying in the game as long as possible, trying to  make an occasional profit with as low a risk as possible, but try to earn more only when the situation warrants it with the basic objective of NOT LOOSING THE CAPITAL. You can’t try hitting a six everytime, without risking getting caught, remember? Even a naivete like me would know, you can’t score, if you get caught.

# When there is a low risk opportunity, you MUST TAKE IT.

Remember the last ball, that Dhoni hit the sixer on? What did Dhoni risk? Getting caught. But then, why did he do it? He might be out, but the team had enough wickets left, to survive the left over overs. The difference then was easy to risk. But, the catch is, we must risk taking those opportunities. Like Dhoni did. That clinched India’s victory.

Suddenly, I recall reading something from ‘Enhancing Trader Performance’ by Dr Brett  Steenbarger:

Take it slow. Take it steady. Become competent, then expert. Don’t become a casualty.

Posted in Cricket, Nifty, Pretoria, World Cup Finals | 3 Comments