Friday, December 31, 2010

Indian batsmen under pressure to get a historic overseas series win in Newlands against the South African pacers.

Photo source:

India go into the decider 3rd test match against South Africa at the Newlands ground, Capetown day after tomorrow backed by a convincing win two days back at Durban riding on Laxman's confident 96 in the second innings.
Newlands, one of the 25 cricket-grounds(including an oval at a local university &  a rugby ground) in Cape Town, is said to traditionally favour batsmen who can stroke well on a "tennis-ball-bounce" pitch. However it is said to provide sufficient assistance to the spinners in  later stages. The Indian team , whose batting in Centurion & Durban against the pace attack of Proteans led by Steyn has often looked fragile in the early overs and sometimes also during the close of play , will be under some sort of dilemma to include a second spinner Ojha along with Bhajji in place of the Ishant Sharma, whose outing till now has been ordinary, to say the least. But most probably, the management will like to go with the winning combination from Durban hoping that the momentum will carry Indian through.
Past records at Newlands show South Africa, since their readmission 18 years back, have lost only 3 of the 21 matches played here and all of them against the Australians. They have not lost a test match here since May 2006 and inspite of the assistance to the spinners, pacemen like Steyn,Pollock, Nel & Ntini have won 4 matches for the Proteans. Kumble in 2007 took a haul of 4 wickets but he bowled twice the average number of overs  bowled by  rest of the Indian bowlers. Slow bowlers like Bravo have performed well here and hence Indian team should probably give Shehwag & Tendulkar a bit of bowling practice at the nets and hope that Ishant will keep his line & length intact throughout while using his cutters sparingly but thoughtfully. But more importantly it is time for all the top 6 of the Indian batting line up to strike form simultaneously on a pitch that favours them and not be afraid to give it back to Steyn & Morkel in equal measures.
For Dhoni, it will be a historic moment , if he can lead his team to the first ever series victory in South Africa and end the season as number one in test cricket. He has been getting out in the eighties and the nineties and time has come for him to score a ton. Maybe shifting Dhoni up in place of Pujara, whose performances have not yet measured up to his much-hyped "potential," could give the Indian captain more number of overs to keep the fire burning. Graeme Smith , who is smarting from the recent defeat and his lacklustre display with the bat, will be happy to gun for a big score at a ground, which has given him plenty of runs always. Smith will also be under pressure to get in young pacer Parnell in place of Tsotsobe and hope that the pace-trio stretch themselves a bit more to get the Indians' on the back foot with their snorters and short-ones.

All in all, 2011 should start with an exciting test at Newlands between the two top test teams and although all indications point to a draw, Indian batsmen need to live up to the halo  that surrounds them and not rest the blame solely on the bolwers, like they did at the Centurion after the innings-defeat in the first test.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PCL, a radical reply to IPL

As soon as the news floated in that Pakistani cricketers will once again be ignored at IPL 4, the Pakistani cricket board official reached out to his desk , unlocked it and took out a file marked 'Top Secret'. In it were blueprints of a cash rich twenty-20 cricket tournament among nations who feel distinctly marginalised by the fight that countries around the globe are engaged against terrorist violence. Pakistan , Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afganistan were natural entries while Iran, Nepal and North Korea were given special entries against an endowment of 100 nuke heads or 5000 crores in fake Indian currency. The Pakistani official was worried about the venue earlier. But now that Pakistan players have got banned from legally making loads of money from IPL, he had no problem in staging it in Pakistan. Even the opening ceremony was planned out in great detail in the secret document. 100 trained jihadis will fight commandos from Iran leading to the destruction of a model place of worship and it's hostages. The marchpast will figure bazookas as flag holders. The ceremony will be declared open by ,a retired general from Pakistan. The general , known for his passion for cricket ,had agreed to fire 3 rounds from his revolver and declare the game open withholding the drag from a dangling cigarette in his mouth. 5 players from each team were auctioned to the match-fixing bookies , in advance ;while team endorsement contracts were tendered out to the biggest arms dealers of the middle east. Television and cheerleaders were strictly forbidden. The ban was enforced in order to accomodate special requests from some of the fundamentalist teams. However, mega proxy-servers were specially created to handle large volumes of data of online gambling. Efforts were on to get the indisposed & octagenarian leader from North Korea for the closing ceremony and for popularising the game of cricket, betting and fixing in the far east. The Pakistani official christened his pet project, PCL. The world will soon come to know the premier criminal league as Pakistan Cricket League as it will unfold from the file he was holding in his hand.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Annual Salty Blog Award ,2010 for the Best Indians

The annual 2010 Saltyblog Awards for significant contribution to the country in each of the following fields (sorted alphabetically) are here:

Best Bureaucrat : PJ Thomas, Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) for refusing to see the irony that a charge sheeted government employee ( like himself)  can't occupy even a peon's post leave alone a CVC's  and for refuting all moves to step down and save the sanctity of  CVC's post in our scam-ridden country.

Best Corporate Chairman : Ratan Tata for setting a leader's  example of hard-work by keeping his phone lines working with his PR agent to manipulate government formation at all times in day &  night; when he should have been sleeping for having admittedly refused to pay a bribe of 15 crs. to an aviation minister a decade back.

Best Economist : Pranab Mukherjee. For inflating the  general price level of food, commodities, white & brown goods to a mark where it will overcompensate the loss of demand due to downturn and still keep the balance sheets of companies at a healthy level giving the perception of wholesome growth in GDP.

Best Eligible Bachelor: Salman Khan , for losing yet again another prospective beautiful bride (this time in  Katrina ) but still managing to draw ten petite belles of Bollywood to walk the ramp during the launch of his NGO, 'Being Human' and for still keeping the energy to woo the sultry Pakistani actress, Veena Malik in the Bigg Boss show..

Best Engineer(s) : From Kolkata  Metro , who demonstrated that even a guided slow moving train on  a straight track can derail itself and make travelling in Metro an unsafe prospect.

Best Friends: Niira Radia's friends in media, corporate & politics who work night and day as information brokers, power brokers, scripted storywriters without seemingly for any consideration. True friends in need.

Best Marketing Manager: The Wholesaler/Distributor mafia network.  For successfully demonstrating that hoarding stock indefinitely during scarce times is an art of business that adds value to their bottom line at the cost of millions of producers & consumers of goods. edible & non-edible.

Best Politician : Dr. M Karunandihi  , for refusing to take off his black glasses while viewing the scam money repatriated by his comrades in union ministry of telecom.

Best Sportsman : Dr. MS Gill for demonstrating that his sports ministry is all about showing & encouraging champion-like skills in playing the best game in the country. And that is  'money-making from large projects' such as Commonwealth games.

Best Social work : Adarsh Society for creating a society with stakeholders from serving army generals, top bureaucrats, top politicians , fixers (and the like) that rewards ill-gotten land, dubious sanctions & government approvals with valuable real estates in  a prime location and all  with the noble intention of benefiting war-widows of Kargil.

Also See2009 Saltblog awards and  2008 Saltyblog awards

Sunday, November 28, 2010

With unethical leaders, can the Indian Media be ever trusted?

Picture Source: See end
The Transparency International, an independent international watchdog on perception of corruption in public services lists India at the 87th position, one that is almost unchanged since the last 2 decades. So, it does not come as a surprise when functionaries of government including ministers and government officials are accused of graft in this land-of-plenty-though-limited-to-a-few. The recent emergence of the Radia tapes in public domain now implicates journalists and a couple of doyens at that; doing everything that a code of ethical conduct bars them from. For a long time, media persons have been able to hide behind the cover thanks to the “immunity” that “seekers of truth” deserve from the powerful vested interests in the government. The Radia tapes is important because for the first time it demonstrably reveals the equally corrupt face of the media behind their masks of journalistic vanities.

The media’s greed for gifts and free services have been known for a long time. I have personally watched some IPOs of companies where the rush by media persons , at the end of the press briefing, to collect the freebies stacked near the entrance puts to shame even the rush of hungry & poor beggars at a free-meal event hosted by a charity. Secondly the issue of “paid news” is an age-old one where any one person or company can list their points of views or propaganda in return for gifts or largesse of advertisements in print media. The lower hierarchy of media was anyway always immersed into such quid-pro-quos just like constables in the police forces across the country are. But people take notice only when a senior police officer gets embroiled in such activities. Similarly the Radia tapes too made the country take notice of two of the leading journalists in the country- Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi when they were perceived in their conversations to be “asking for instructions” or “promising to relay message” or even to “disclose an opponent party’s viewpoint” while talking to a lobbyist.

In the past week, both Barkha and Vir have come out publicly in their own defence , the crux of which rests on the phrase of “stringing along a lobbyist for qualified information .” They have asked the readers to judge them not on their conversations but on their columns in the print media. But both Vir and Barkha forget a few premises which must be present for the readers to pass judgement on their unethical conducts. Here are four such premises and counterpoints to their defences for them to ponder over in their impending retirement, one that seems to be looming over their power broking careers.

1. Vir claims in his latest Sunday column in HT that his column reaches 3.4 millions of people. More the reason for a senior columnist like him to exercise utmost caution and demonstrate journalistic ethics to everyone (including a lobbyist) that he will not be compromised. Otherwise , he will forever be considered as somebody who’s making money by fooling the 3.4 million readers by touting the highest bidder’s viewpoint in his column. The viewpoints may be of gas companies or of hotel chains or of anybody.

2. If the conversations point to “stringing a source” for exclusive information where have the information been used? Barkha Dutt did not even run any show to inform the public about which corporate wants which DMK party member as the next minister of telecommunications. Vir appears to have  written a Sunday column in HT after talking to both the competing Ambani brothers on the dispute over allocation of natural gas. Vir says in his latest column that he had been convinced by Radia’s viewpoint that national resources should not be allocated based on private agreements . This is exactly the spin Radia and her client Mukesh Ambani. wanted to give to the issue. Otherwise Anil would be having his way and all power companies including NTPC, ADAG and the rest will be paying a lower rate for buying the gas from Mukesh’s Reliance Petroleum. If power companies buy gas at a cheaper rate then consumers all over India too will not feel pinched at the exceptionally high rate of natural gas that Reliance wants to push on to India to further its profits and to quickly recover the investment made after excavation of wells. Cheaper price of gas for everybody, Mr. Sanghvi, is national interest and not a dispute over private agreements. For that matter, vir could have suggested the Government to scrap the agreement but maintain a lower price. What prompted you to forget that & instead ask a lobbyist,“What kind of article do you want?”

3. Continuing on the issue of “stringing”, one would assume that the person who is getting stringed along has an IQ of 0 and does not understand that he/she can get stringed along. On the contrary, PR professionals and lobbyist recognise that the senior journalists have their foots on the doors of leading politicians and can harmlessly slip a personal message in the course of an interview. In these tapes, Radia , is not even requesting Vir or Barkha to do as per her dictum , she is stating her points in a matter of fact and obvious kind of way. A tone which reflects of an unsaid agreement of exchange of considerations for every “honest” work done in favour of her clients. If she thought that she will be get stringed along , she will not waste her precious hours talking to Vir or Barkha at ungodly hours. Rather she would , knowing her way of operation, do the same with somebody else who she can trust to deliver.

4. Media persons clamour for resignations of any powerful politician or businessman who is accused of a wrong doing at the drop of a hat. Why aren’t Vir and Barkha doing the same ? Vir has at least promised to give his infamous propaganda column “Counterpoint” a break from today. Will Barkha , at the minimum, follow suit with “We the people?”

Reputations do take long time to make and the fall from them also take an equally long time. Unethical practices do not happen as one-off kind of incidents. Rather they get embedded in a person’s routine affairs as he/she looses the power to distinguish the fine demarcating line that exists between use and abuse of powers that are accredited to senior officials in any organisation in the course of their meteoric rise . Reputations are not broken by one single exposure like the Radia tapes rather they are demolished when routine unethical conducts assume monstrous proportions and surface in the public domain for every one to take notice.

Can I trust the print or television news media any more after hearing several times these revealing tapes? The answer is a resounding No, unless both Vir and Barkha are shown the exit doors by their management. I am sure , each of the 3.4 million readers/viewers will have the same view as mine.

Picture Source : Manjul's Cartoons

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Power Broking in India has only one edge: Industry

DoT acquires & sells telecom licenses & spectrum on behalf of the Govt. of India to private operators for expansion of telecom service. West Bengal government buys & sells land (in Singur & other places)  on behalf of its farmers to private corporate for expansion of industry. The answer to the principal question as to  which partner's interest  will the DoT/WB govt. look after in its working can depend only on the existing power equation (which in India equates to wealth generating capability).
Pre-1991 , Government ruled industry . Now after 2 decades of liberalisation , Industry rules government. 
The only major difference between Government and Industry is while  government is a single entity, Industry is a block of competitive entities. One disgruntled & powerful industrial entity can bring down an unfavourable minister. Maybe , cartelisation of all competing members (for example.. sugar lobby, cement lobby etc..) in a industry will make matters easier for the government. Mergers  and acquisitions too help in reducing the number of  business houses. But finally a cartel has to be in place.
The only contrary view to this is to stall the progress of government which , the opposition political party demonstrated in West Bengal in the case of Singur. But doesn't that  defeat the entire process of governance  ?  Maybe it changes the framework under which government has to function but with out doubt it slows down the lives of its citizens.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Saina lights up the CWG2010 leaving the Omni-Corrupt (OC ) way behind in world class accomplishment.

The omni-powerful organising committee (OC) of the just-concluded Commonwealth Games in Delhi has been rewarded with a probe-order from none lass than the Prime Minister himself. Allegations of large scale financial irregularity, corruption &  shoddy work had been levelled earlier by all sections of the media in the run up to the games. The chairman of the OC had appeared indifferent to them then and now he's playing not only the "victim" card (inappropriate reward for a 'successful' event) but also throwing stones with equal ease at other people (like the Delhi Chief Minister), who allegedly also live in glass houses.

It remains to be seen whether  an enquiry committee headed by a government  officer will be able to cut any impression against the oft-repeated  alibi of "transparency & accountability"  thrown around by the Chairman of the OC but the following points if checked by the audit committee could throw up certain unpleasant surprises. Hopefully the committee members are aware that meticulous documentations collected for satisfaction of the audit (like 3-party tender, selection of the lowest bid, contract documents  etc) usually hide more than they reveal.

 What could the enquiry committee look for  in the contracts ?
     1.1:  Large ratio of limited tenders to  open  tenders.
     1.2 : Physical verification of addresses, company documents of all the bidders in a limited tender.
     1.3.  Similarity in handwriting among the  signatures of the limited  bidders.
     1.4 : Small ratio of  total number of individual contractors to total number of contracts.
     1.5:  Large Ratio of contract price to the prevailing market price of other similar government projects\
             (or DGSD rates)

Although the commonwealth games do not get much attention in view of the fact that  number of world records set in these games do not match up to an Olympic  or Asian games; one sportsperson in India made the  nation proud by demonstrating world class talent and skills after beating another world ranker in the final of the  Women Badminton single final.

It was a joy watching Saina Nehwal, winning the gold medal & justifying her World no. 3 ranking . A joy so powerful (of realising that one is watching  a future world champion in play) that it lets you brush aside, if only for a day,  the allegations of loot-fest  committed by the OC members in these games.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What You See Is NOT What You Get- Cricket fans taken for a ride in the match fixing saga.

The recent news item on match-fixing by the English paper, News of the World, literally shook the cricket world when it demonstrated the spot-fixing incidents to cricket fans all over the world. It showed a video interview , secretly recorded, of the bookie predicting the specific moments during the penultimate day of the Lords test match between England and Pakistan when the match will be fixed. Besides proving beyond doubt that spot-fixers have also the ability to fix the entire match with the help of a skipper and some key players (if not all) walking that extra mile to under perform; the video also demonstrated reality television at its very best where it reveals the machinations behind the glamour & glitz of a "gentleman's game" like Cricket. For the cricket fans , its a saga of 'What you see is definitely not what you get,'; an opaque system of administration that hides more than it reveals, a con game that makes money out of the naive fans just like the toxic mortgage-loan derivatives that wall street banks sold to unsuspecting pension funds & others during the financial crisis.
When the scandal broke out 4 days earlier, the Prime Minister of Pakistan expressed his nation's deep anguish & shame that the 3 Pakistan cricketers have brought about. But today, the Pakistan High Commissioner in London , announced his decision to defend the accused cricketers to the end unless they are proven guilty after investigations by the Scotland Yard comes to a close. A very nice somersault ! Diplomatic camouflage of a blatant corrupt act hinting at a forthcoming political power-play between International Cricket Council (ICC) & Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). All except one of the offenders have been charged earlier with other misdemeanours including doping but the PCB decides to close its eyes to reality & takes refuge under the umbrage of lack of "credible legal evidence." Even after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai , Pakistan government did not find similar evidence to prosecute militant groups operating from within Pakistan against India in spite of the fact that the Indian government handed over dossiers of dossiers of evidence, vetted by the US government, against such organisations.
Experts in Britain point out as to how , under British law, charges will be difficult to frame against the cricketers , irrespective of the Scotland Yard investigation, as the alleged act of fixing has not caused any "material loss" to any body or at least that there are no official complaints to that effect. Hopefully some sensible fan or a body representing viewing fans should file a public interest litigation claiming damages for being cheated on the ground. At the least , this body should ask for refund of all the gate money from English Cricket Board (ECB) for the test matches , in the current series, held till date. That's substantial material loss for ECB to file a complaint.
More worrisome to PCB's non-action is cricket's supreme body, ICC's wait-and-watch policy. The Anti-corruption Security Unit (ACSU) of the ICC has devised a detailed code about anti-corruption relating to players and their support personnel. Under its provisions, a player can be provisionally suspended under Article 4.6 of the code ,by the Anti Corruption Tribunal of ICC only after issuing a "notice of charge " under Article 4.5 to the offending players. This notice can be issued only after ACSU completes its own investigations or it can stay its investigations pending the outcome of an investigation by the national cricket federation (PCB in this case) or other relevant authorities (Scotland Yard in this case).
From the nature of ICC's responses till date, it is becoming increasingly evident that ICC ( just like PCB) is waiting for the London detectives to complete their investigations. And since Scotland Yard will find it difficult to frame charges , for want of material loss suffered by a third party, the outcome is becoming crystal clear . Neither PCB nor ICC will be able to do anything worthwhile. And this is further compounded by the Article 3 of the code which defines "Standard of Proof & Evidence." Under this law , ACSU expects "proof beyond reasonable doubt" for serious offences . Video & Photographic evidences will fall short of such standards. Of course, "admissions" by offending players will be accepted as proof. That is precisely how Hansie Cronje of South Africa got himself charged a decade back (incidentally ACSU quotes this case as their 'prized' work). But the Pakistanis are clever. They have already stated their innocence in the matter through the High Commissioner and it is not expected for any of them to admit guilt of any sort later.
So, what can the ICC do to restore the reputation of the game back and to assure fans that the matches they are viewing are not spot fixed partially or totally? The role & power of the ICC is extremely limited in bilateral series like the present one between England & Pakistan. But it can wield its disciplinary sword in tournaments that fall solely under its jurisdiction, chiefly the World Cup and the Champions trophy. ICC has already taken out Pakistan from the host body of the 2011 World Cup. No matches will be played in Pakistan . Now it can go one step further and provisionally suspend the PCB from registering their team in the WC 2011 unless they clean up the rot of corruption from among its officials and the players. Habitual offenders need to be kept behind the line of murk to restore confidence among the fans.
But such an action will be difficult for ICC to take . Even South Africa lost its membership (due to its apartheid regime) not because it got sacked by ICC but only because it left the commonwealth thus automatically nullifying it's membership in ICC. In those days, commonwealth membership meant ICC membership.
So then what is the recourse left to the cricketing fans to ensure that action needs to be taken against match fixing? Will fans in India , Sri Lanka & Bangladesh now stage demonstrations specifically at all the playing centers where Pakistan is slated to play in WC 2011 and generally at all other playing venues, demanding that they will boycott the WC 2011 matches if Pakistan plays?
The way things are now , large scale protest by fans remain the only way to drill a sense into ICC's toothless administrators that "public confidence in the authenticity and integrity of the game has been repeatedly undermined (by offences committed by Pakistani cricketers) and they have shaken the very essence of Cricket to the core;" the last quote having been deftly articulated under Article 1.1.2 of the Anti Corruption code of the ICC.

Picture Source: News of the World

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dressing down on hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is a human virtue that may have its origin in the sartorial preferences of mankind. Mankind (along with womankind) could have well lived along without clothes.Witness a nudist colony for example where families with kids in tow move around with an indifferent air that can only be compared to that noticed in rush hour metros. But nudist colonies, alas, have now become museum pieces much demanded for the voyeuristic pleasure of the dressed up tourists.
Humanity clothes itself in fashionable fabrics not only to boost sales of the textiles factories but also to make statements of style,status & attitude that are markedly different from that achieved through wearing of birthday suits. If that is not being a hypocrite, what is ?
But this is only the first level.The second level of hypocrisy exists in adorning the type of dresses. While African nations take pride in wearing their traditional frocks, aprons instead of the western pants, shirts & suits; Asian nations still prefer the western outfits over their national ones. Even in a country with rich heritage like India; its citizens fail to notice the white dhoti & chadar worn by the no-nonsense, Harvard educated,articulate home minister, Chidambaram. Majority of Indians still prefer to be wrapped up in western outfits. A dhoti-clad Jyoti Basu in Bengal too could not change this mindsets. Gandhi's loin cloth was of course meant to be a snap shot for the history books. Indians are masters of adopting such hypocrisies in their daily lives. Office going Indians would discard their western dresses and slip into lungis once they reach home at the end of the day. Chappals will be tucked out if one has to visit a club. A new pair of socks will always be presented along with the leather shoes for the school kids, be it in urban or rural India. This ancient ,dialectic schizophrenia about sartorial hypocrisies make Indians just that much more misunderstood by Westerners although the argument could well have been tied to a renewal of nationalistic zeal by adopting traditional clothing, specially on the eve of the 63rd Independence day of the Indian republic.

Friday, April 30, 2010

3rd T20 World Cup

28 more Twenty20 internationals? From the point of view of the viewer , it's both an overkill after the recent conclusion of 56 matches in IPL plus a bit of yawn too. For the cricketers who joined their respective teams from the IPL, it must be tiring to reach the end of a long year of international cricket and risky too in terms of freak injuries. Bret Lee injured his bowling arm in a warm up match and promptly quit the Australian team thereafter. The weather in the scenic Caribbeans is hot and humid promising to sap the extra energy from the players. The pitches are slow, the grounds bigger. Only the teams that stay completely focused & energetic during the three hour duration on a consistent basis will make it to the last four stage.
MS Dhoni appeared jet lagged during his press conference. As a captain of the only team that did not play any warm up matches , Dhoni tried to sound confident of taking on the hardworking Afghanistan in the first match as a regular international. However, his confused statements indicate that India is going into the first match on first May with zero preparation. Hopefully, the conditions & pitch here will be similar to that at home enabling Dhoni's men to quickly adapt & win the first match before playing the bigger battle with the Proteans a day later.
The opening match between New Zealand & Sri Lanka should be a good contest between Mcculum & Malinga & hopefully Mahela will not disappoint his fans after playing a classic century knock against KKR at Eden gardens in the IPL But New Zealand look to be the more focused & energetic side for a win.

Picture : Fort James Beach, Antigua from

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Honey, money is so funny: (A poem on the IPL 3 saga)

A sultry kashmiri drops her pallu,
(to) Get the attention of a snooty mallu;
Blood starts throbbing in the mallu's vein,
He pulls a piece of paper & a pen;

"It swells my heart with pride, dear Lallu,"
Wrote the suave & articulate Mallu
"(to) Know of your beta in the team nai dilli
(Though he seems to be there only as a maali;)
But I have plans for a team in Kochi
Where all are welcome from mollah to mochi;
Remember to support me in the people's house,
While I prepare to call this haughty Mouse."

Snooty dials M to get his 'sweat' heart some money,
And talks in a voice dripping with diplomatic honey;

"Kochi must win the bid
Let us all now plant the seed.
Ask not who owns what shares
Lest it be hard to hold on to your chairs.."

M, the sleazy gujju, in a fit of cunning
Kept his secret recorder running
Then tweeted it all out on the Internet
And that's how the first fish got nabbed in the net.

Other fishes scampered to the left and the right
The mighty sarkar slipped in, for a fight,
(into) This world of yachts & tycoons
While the blogger laughs & lampoons
At the actors in this sizzling story
Of sleaze & all other things monetary.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rainy Session Review :4th Day Eden Garden Test Match, 2010

Kolkata woke up this morning with a gloomy sky , an after effect of the unseasonal rain that hit the city last night. The wet outfield has delayed the start of the match but India has the luxury of time besides a 347 run lead to accommodate minor delays. In spite of an eventful test match in Eden Gardens where spectators got to see 2 centuries per day over the last 3 days, the front page of the local dailies here in Kolkata portrayed gory pictures of the after effects of a dastardly Maoist attack on a temporary police camp in West Medinipur district in West Bengal. 24 para military jawans were killed by the outlaws in a guerrilla "hit-run-and-disperse" tactics. It might be a good idea to have a minute's silence in the honour of the departed jawans before the start of the day's play. While cricket is entertaining the largely unemployed (direct or hidden) audience in Kolkata, its a war zone in the south-western districts and what better way to suggest that the citizens condemn the attack & mourn the deaths but life will not stop because of such terror tactics.
The DG of Bengal police has reportedly stated that the attack was" unexpected." With precedents of similar ambushes in the neighbouring states from the same marauding outlaws , how can the top cop say that the attack was unexpected , is unimaginable. Maybe the attitude of the men in uniform is the same at all levels, everywhere. Even in Eden gardens, one can see uniformed policemen are keeping a passionate watch on the game from the club house stands instead of watching the crowd.
The match started on Day 1 with the Proteas winning the toss and electing to bat but their carefully compiled first innings total , (thanks to a ton each by Hashim Amla & debutant Peterson,) crumpled like a pack of cards in the session after tea when they crashed from 228/2 to 296/9. Day 2 & 3 belonged to Indians . A century each from Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman Dhoni and a matured knock of 28 by night watchman Amit Mishra ensured that India get a commanding lead as they declared at 643/6 nearly half an hour before close of play on the 3rd day. South Africa's complacency after a resounding victory in the first test in Nagpur showed up in their sloppy batting & fielding. Predictably, they choked in the big stage and injuries to Boucher & Smith added to their woes.
South Africa now have to chase a 347 run deficit before they can make the Indians bat again and for sure , Indians will have only themselves to blame if they lose from such a commanding position and hand over in a platter the number one ranking in test cricket to South Africa.

Unless of course , the nature in the form of 'unseasonal rain' decides to play her role too by returning.

Picture Source: The Telegraph, Kolkata

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eden Gardens in Kolkata get ready to host the best of test cricket.

After a gap of more than 2 years , Eden Gardens in Kolkata , once again gets a chance to host a cricket test match. Since the memorable test match victory in the spring of 2001 , when the mighty Australians under Steve Waugh lost the match even after enforcing the follow on, Eden Gardens has been deprived of its annual test match thanks to some step motherly treatment by the BCCI management who were at loggerheads with the local association. Of course the move was disguised under a "rotational policy" where Nagpur & Mohali got more than their share of annual quota. It is yet another matter that test matches at both these new centers are often played in front of empty stadiums while Eden Gardens has nearly always presented a full house of knowledgeable spectators.
However, this time around , Eden Gardens seem to be lucky as they get ready to host the second & final test match between the topmost test match sides. South Africa dominated the first test match at Nagpur on all 4 days & closed the match giving the injury-struck Indians a thumping innings defeat .
The Eden Gardens test match , to be played from 14th to 18th February, has all the ingredients of a competitive battle as Indians will look to square the series by winning this match and thereby hang on to their number one ICC ranking by a thread. South Africa has only to play for a draw to move up to the top spot.
The compositions of both the teams are also top class.
South Africa has Darrel Steyn, top ranked pacer who alone bundled out India in the first innings of the Nagpur test & took the man of the match award. Hashim Amla who made his debut at Eden Gardens in 2004, intends to carry on from his 253 n.o. in the first test. Kallis, the veteran & scorer of a century at Eden Gardens in 2004, is in sparkling form both with the bat & the bowl. Kallis's 173 in the first test, was a picture of matured aggression. Paul Harris, the left-arm leg spinner has a nagging length and got Dhoni & Tendulkar's prized scalps in both the innings in the first test. Graeme Smith is a proven world class captain and save for his inexplicable vulnerability against Zaheer, is expected to lead this "absolutely-professional" side to a victory.
India has Gambhir, current top ranked batsman in the world, partnering the blistering Shewag in the opening pair just as in 2004 match at Eden Gardens. The ever-young Tendulkar will have the 2001 double-centurion veteran , VVS Laxman, for company in the batting line up. Suresh Raina & Dinesh Karthik should bolster the middle order's strength while Sreesanth's comeback might add a zing to his partner Zaheer's swinging ones. Of course Indian captain , Dhoni, will like his trump card Harbhajan, to come out a winner just like Bhajji had done in the 2004 match at the same ground.
Who will win the match and wear the number one crown ? Cullinan, a centurion in the 1996 test match at Eden and now a commentator, feels its a dream for the South Africans to play in Eden and do well. Eden Gardens has hosted the South Africans twice before. In the 1996 test, India lost by 329 runs in a match where the current Indian coach, Kirsten, scored a century in each of the innings. Of course , India squared their result in 2004, with a eight wicket win. More significantly, India has never lost a test match at Eden Gardens starting from the 2001 victory against the Aussies.
May the spectators have their money's worth & I sincerely wish, Eden Gardens has a lively but sporting wicket for this mega-duel.

Picture Source :

Monday, January 25, 2010

A & N islands: Immense potential and neglect at the garden of Eden

A much too familiar story for all beautiful but underdeveloped places in India. In the case of Andaman & Nicobar islands, this post on "Tourism" captures the ills that plague the administrative leadership. Tourism happens to be a significant economic activity of the islands.
At the fag end of the development spectrum lie the tribes of A & N islands. Jarawas, Onge & Sentinelese. Some of them like the Sentinelese are completely isolated from civilisation. A fantastic video on the first-contact (as claimed) made with them shows up in this informative post from Mathilda's Anthropology Blog . Mathilda comments on Sentinelese tribals' liking of coconuts and on the couple's preference for holding hands. Some readers talk of exploitation of Jarawas (pictured here and taken from Mathilda's blog) at the hands of greedy tour operators & administrative accomplices.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

10 reasons why IPL 3 is more or less interesting: Pros & Cons

5 reasons why IPL3 is more interesting:
  1. Its back in India after it was driven to South Africa for an year by the Indian elections. The Indian ambiance of media gossip, fan frenzy etc. were missing.

  2. Some good recruits have moved in from the parallel ICL league. Shane Bond in particular.

  3. On home pitches, one expects the in-form Tendulkar to be present in all of his swashbuckling glory. And it does seem like a set stage for Ganguly's swan-song performance.

  4. It should serve the familiar heady mix of Bollywood & Cricket starlets to the crazy Indian fans, who would definitely find it a more wholesome entertainment than watching 3 Idiots for the umpteenth time at the same cost.

  5. It will see a deluge of new Indian adverts & hopefully they will do their part in generating want,need & demand that the Indian economy needs badly. For that the commercials need to be really Creative & incisive.

5 reasons why IPL3 is less interesting:
  1. Although the dopey, match-fixing Pakis will be out of this year's edition; one would surely miss their bowlers. Md. Asif, Shoaib, Sohail Tanvir were delightful performers in the first edition.

  2. Conflict with the political establishment is expected to increase now that IPL3 is back in India. It will be a challenge for the organisers to keep at least one Indian tournament away from the clutches of Indian politicians .

  3. Burgeoning inflation & unemployment will become major dampeners for ticket sales if the prices of tickets are not brought down.

  4. The under current of a security-scare will continue to remain and the organisers need to tighten their plans preempting any threat, however trivial it may seem.

  5. Cheerleaders might wear shalwar-kamiz in this edition in order to satisfy the moralists.